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Posted by on Jul 10, 2014 in Atheism, Creationism, Evolution, Featured, Psychology, Science and religion | 462 comments

On theists believing ridiculous, unscientific things, and Terror Management Theory

Over at another post of mine, we have been discussing whether religion can and should be destroyed. During that conversation, the idea came up that Christians, in all probability, hold more ridiculous beliefs which are unscientific in nature; and also arose the connected idea that Christians, in a generalistic sense, are not as good at doing science, because they have a higher propensity to give up searching for answers. As The Thinker stated:

If more theists are YECs than atheists, as is clearly the case, then theism does increase the tendency to give up searching for natural answers, and that hurts science…

Theism by definition means you believe in a god who supernaturally intervenes in the world, therefore it is logically impossible that theism does not increase the tendency for one to jettison natural explanations in favor of supernatural ones. You simply want to argue against a strawman I’m not making here.

In philosophy of religion, we have the term “God of the Gaps” for a reason. It is because there is a high frequency of believers inserting God into the causal chain where they cannot imagine, find or hypothesise any other causal entity. This was hotly contested by Luke Breuer, with comments like:

And who says YEC doesn’t happen to protect against some sort of stupidity, like sickle cell anemia protects against malaria? Furthermore, you continue to assume that thinking you have a bead on the final cause means you stop looking for the efficient cause. You have been unable to establish this claim with evidence; you attempted with Newton and failed miserably…

Surely you can show that more good science came out of some region as the religious rate went down? You’re claiming that if religion is dropped, better science is done. I just gave some possibilities for why this wouldn’t be the case.

In another comment, The Thinker stated:

I don’t base my objection to theism and desire for it to be destroyed solely on the fact that it increases scientific illiteracy and the tendency to seek supernatural explanations over natural ones, which we all know is harmful to science. There are other reasons which may have nothing to do with science.

Luke countered:

Can you show me either:

(1) upon ‘theist’ → ‘atheist’ conversion, a scientist becomes better
(2) upon ‘atheist’ → ‘theist’ conversion, a scientist becomes worse

? Can you demonstrate either (1) or (2), directly, with causation and not just correlation? What I’m saying here is that if what you say is true, then(1) and/or (2) ought to happen, in reality. Furthermore, if what you say is true, then (1) or (2) should be pretty prominently true. Do you agree, or disagree?…

Jonathan Pearce, do you have a single shred of evidence that e.g. Christians make worse scientists?

The Thinker pointed out that certain scientists have given up searching for answers when the God of the Gaps does the trick, for them:

Newton also thought that angels pushed the planets in their orbits to correct for his inability to predict their orbits properly. Every attempt to invoke the supernatural that was explained was explained naturally. Theism increases the tendency to give up searching and invoke supernatural explanations without any evidence. Look at all the folks down at the Discovery Institute if you want evidence…

In a letter to the Reverend Dr. Richard Bentley in 1692 Isaac Newton wrote: “To your second query I answer that the motions which the planets now have could not spring from any natural cause alone but were impressed by an intelligent agent.”…

What kind of evidence would convince you that “statistically, theism hurts science more than atheism.” When you consider that, “White evangelical Protestants have the highest denial rate (55 percent) [of evolution], closely followed by the group across all religions who attend services on average at least once a week (49 percent).”* It definitely shows that the more religious you are, the more likely you will reject natural explanations over supernatural ones. This situation is also apparent in the Islamic world, where larger numbers of people reject evolution than in the more secular countries.

Luke responded with a version of the No True Scotsmen fallacy and raising the bar unrealistically high:

Now, that being said, you haven’t shown that “theism hurts science more than atheism”; at best, you’ve shown that “one form of theism hurts science more than ???“. What I suggest you do, The Thinker, is tabulate all of the actual evidence you have, and note a few things:

1. What group was sampled? (e.g. just US?)
2. What groups were being compared to what groups? (e.g. Protestants? all those who believe in religion?)
3. What was the sample size?
4. How big was the impact? (note the mean and the standard deviation)
5. What was the p-value?

Flippantly, I chimed in:

Shall we have a game of “how many theists and atheists believe humans have been able to live to 930?”

Now, I could list the denominations which explicitly and officially deny evolution. That is to say that despite and in spite of the evidence, these people are presuppositionally opposed to one of the most defensible scientific theories. That is grossly unscientific. And YEC’s are not a small segment of, say, the US Christian population. How many Americans deny evolution? I think it is about a 1/3 now. Are these people atheistic? Not a chance, in the main. Such denial is the remit of religionists. It is clear, to me at least, that religion predisposes someone, probabilistically, to believe in or adhere to more ridiculous ideas. I looked at this in my post “Why do normal people believe ridiculous things?” which takes to task the utterly proposterous idea of a global flood as reported in the Bible.

We could look at causality here. Is it religious content which causes this, or is it a third cause? Well, there are certainly denominations and groups who actually dogmatically and doctrinally, if you like, rule out evolution. But if you, as a Christian, were to say that there is something else, perhaps a thinking style, which causes both religious belief and adherence to silly ideas, then you are letting in determinism into causality of belief. And that is not comfortable for the theist!

Luke made a tirade of points, many of which I do not have the time here to delve into:

Precisely. And if you cannot show me either:

     (1) upon ‘theist’ → ‘atheist’ conversion, a scientist becomes better
(2) upon ‘atheist’ → ‘theist’ conversion, a scientist becomes worse

, then all the data in the world that you gather will make me deeply suspect that:

     (3) ceteris paribus, being a theist makes you worse

, and then, I will doubt the following claim

     (4) the world would be better off without religion

And yet, the very title of your blog post implies (4). Yeah, you and The Thinker have collected quite a few facts. And yet, when you attempt to put them all together to assert (4), your case falls apart if you cannot showcausation, like in (1) or (2).

Remember, the question here is not:

     (5) being a theist can lead to some badness

That fails to make a comparison. We must ask instead whether the following is true:

     (6) being a theist leads to more badness than being an atheist

For we know that humans in general do and think a lot of stupid things. Can you show (6)?

Finally, in the strongest terms possible, I assert:

     (7) level of fundamentalism ≠ level of seriousness about religious belief

Causation is problematic, for sure, because ultimate causation is the Big Bang r whatever notion you have of what happened at that (nn) singularity.

But, in simple terms, as mentioned, a highly religious person may have other reasons for being highly religious, and very conservative. But the denial of evolution is clearly driven by religious and theological dogma. Luke has admitted as much about himself. He used to deny evolution, for religious reasons.

Psychology and Belief

I have had children tell me that evolution can’t be true because of X or Y religious reasons. I have never, ever heard such reasoning from a secular position. My own sister, a nurse living in New Zealand, denied, to me, evolution. I asked her why. She didn’t know. It came from her church. It turns out that she did not have enough knowledge of evolution to be able to deny it properly, yet she still did on religious grounds.

One of my talks for my God on Trial talk had a vocal fundamental Christian who denied evolution. It was great getting him to understand he did not have enough knowledge of evolution to be able to do that.

One of my best friends is a theologian who started the Tippling Philosophers. In our early days, he was a more conservative Christian (his theological evolution is a fascinating topic) and denied evolution. We argued massively. I put point after point across. He countered it with typical Christian-based shite. Eventually, he contacted Conway Morris, a Christian evolutionary biologist who convinced him of its truth by email using exactly the same arguments as me. The old authority from an in-group member, eh!

But it was his religious belief which drove him to deny it. With every step towards liberalism, he has become a better scientist. Literally, to the point that he is now studying for another degree, in psychology. I could talk to you at great length about him, and he would be a great example of how someone’s mind can become less muddied by the need for religious adherence. He is so much more likely now to follow evidence, causality and sound philosophy in his thinking. It’s great to see. He still, very tenuously, holds on to his faith, and has his doubts, but…

I can give, time and again, anecdotal as well as statistical evidence to suggest and support such claims as have been made here. I know of no evidence that can remotely suggest that atheists deny something like evolution on account of, well, anything. Look a the Texas Board of Education and tell me that is not driven by religious zeal. Zuckerman and Silberman’s work is also interesting to refer to concerning intelligence and religious belief, though, again, causality is key.

You could look at the many studies into scientists and religiosity, and draw many conclusions, such that religious people are less likely to become scientists etc.

It’s a simple game of probability. I think Luke is flapping here.

Here is another nugget to add into the mix.

“Darren Sherkat of Southern Illinois University analyzed the results (paper in Social Science Quarterly —behind a firewall). He threw out questions relating to hot-button issues for religious conservatives, like evolution, but kept in questions on the big bang and continental drift. Even when they got a pass on evolution questions, Sherkat found that sectarian Protestants (that is, evangelicals), Catholics, and fundamentalists scored significantly lower than secular Americans on the basic science literacy quiz. He controlled for variables like low educational attainment, income disadvantages, ethnicity, and regional effects (like being in the South), and still found that conservative religious affiliation drove scores down. Josh Rosenau of the National Center for Science Education found the same thing.” http://qideas.org/articles/sci… [my emphasis]

And finally, given that analytical thinking is closer to science and the scientific method than intuitive thinking, it is important to note that there is good research to suggest that religious people are more likely to be the latter and less likely the former.

For example, Shenhav et al’s research shows that cognitive styles influence belief in God.

Gervais and Norenzayan show that:

Individual differences in the tendency to analytically override initially flawed intuitions in reasoning were associated with increased religious disbelief. Four additional experiments provided evidence of causation, as subtle manipulations known to trigger analytic processing also encouraged religious disbelief. Combined, these studies indicate that analytic processing is one factor (presumably among several) that promotes religious disbelief. Although these findings do not speak directly to conversations about the inherent rationality, value, or truth of religious beliefs, they illuminate one cognitive factor that may influence such discussions.

So it doesn’t really matter which way causality goes, or whether, say, thinking styles determine religiosity AND scientific literacy. The end result is the same.

The core idea that we were looking at was, does religion more generally lead to a greater tendency to believe silly things and be unscientific (qua obtain worse scientists)?

Well, I have shown some research to show that a certain way of thinking can lead to belief in religion and can be misappropriated to believe in 930-year-old people and a denial of evolution, often on behest of the religious movement and this is something which does not happen in the atheist movement. But we can take this one step further.

Terror Management Theory

fearofdeath.head

As Wiki states:

In social psychologyterror management theory (TMT) proposes a basic psychological conflict that results from having a desire to live but realizing that death is inevitable. This conflict produces terror, and is believed to be unique to human beings. Moreover, the solution to the conflict is also generally unique to humans: culture. According to TMT, cultures are symbolic systems that act to provide life with meaning and value. Cultural values therefore serve to manage the terror of death by providing life with meaning.[1][2] The theory was originally proposed by Jeff GreenbergSheldon Solomon, and Tom Pyszczynski.[1]

The simplest examples of cultural values which manage the terror of death are those that purport to offer literal immortality (e.g. belief in afterlife, religion).[3] However, TMT also argues that other cultural values – including those that are seemingly unrelated to death – offer symbolic immortality. For example, value of national identity,[4] posterity,[5] cultural perspectives on sex,[6] and human superiority over animals[6] have all been linked to death concerns in some manner. In many cases these values are thought to offer symbolic immortality by providing the sense that one is part of something greater that will ultimately outlive the individual (e.g. country, lineage, species).

Because cultural values determine that which is meaningful, they are also the basis for self-esteem. TMT describes self-esteem as being the personal, subjective measure of how well an individual is living up to their cultural values.[2] Like cultural values, self-esteem acts to protect one against the terror of death. However, it functions to provide one’s personal life with meaning, while cultural values provide meaning to life in general.

TMT is derived from anthropologist Ernest Becker‘s 1973 Pulitzer Prize-winning work of nonfiction The Denial of Death, in which Becker argues most human action is taken to ignore or avoid the inevitability of death. The terror of absolute annihilation creates such a profound – albeit subconscious – anxiety in people that they spend their lives attempting to make sense of it. On large scales, societies build symbols: laws, religious meaning systems, cultures, and belief systems to explain the significance of life, define what makes certain characteristics, skills, and talents extraordinary, reward others whom they find exemplify certain attributes, and punish or kill others who do not adhere to their cultural worldview. On an individual level, self-esteem provides a buffer against death-related anxiety.

The idea is that religious belief is very much affiliated with a belief in immortality in some way, and so reminders of our mortality (mortality salience) affect our religious beliefs and vice versa. Threats to our belief aggravate ideas of mortality, and vice versa.

Let’s look at this in a particularly religious context with regard to what is being talked about here. Can this TMT give credence to the notion that religious people are more prone to being irrational and thus slightly less scientific in their approach to claims about the world? Well, it turns out that biblical literalists who have their worldview challenged or threatened have not only their anxieties stoked (such that their views are wrong etc), but their own immortality challenged.

In other words, there is something deeply, deeply problematic with challenging preconceived ideals and conclusions that such fundamentalists hold. You aren’t just challenging abstract ideas about how their god works; you are challenging their immortality, their infinite and perfect future existence. There is literally nothing more amazing you could challenge, in conception. The stakes are enormous. Thus the process of being challenged and changing their minds based on evidence is fraught with issue. This goes some way to explaining why it is so difficult to convince YECs of the incorrectness of their views. You are essentially saying they won’t live forever. That’s a really big barricade to rational thought.

YEC and Christian scientists are human. They have these same thought mechanisms. Challenging their conclusions, in relevant fields, might very well challenge their feelings of immortality. And, likewise, if they can find conclusions which bolster their worldview, this will also bolster their feelings of self-esteem and immortality. There is so much on the line here, not just science for science’s sake.

As a real world example, the work of ex-atheist John Sanford, in his scientific endeavours, has gone rather leftfield, precisely (it seems) because of his newfound religious views. It’s not just about the scientific research of these people, but the way that these ‘scientists’ go about promoting their views. The Discovery Institute and AiG and similar organisations have such nefarious and underhand ways of promoting their pseudoscientific bullshit as to really damage people like Luke’s cases.

The idea with TMT is that it becomes a whole lot more than an appraisal of facts, it becomes an emotional decision as it is their ticket to immortality which raises their own feelings of death when those facts are challenged.

Work has been done on what happens to beliefs where creationism and evolution are involved. Evolution becomes a threat to their actual immortality and they reject ideas that they are connected  to other animals and species under mortality salience.

See the Reasonable Doubts podcast on TMT for more information on the actual research alluded to here.

Conclusion

Although I haven’t been able to comprehensively look at all of the points here out of the need to be concise, it seems clear to me that there are some conclusions which are reasonable to infer.

It is certainly the case that atheists and non-theists are disproportionally represented in science (83% of general US public believe in God, 33% of scientists). Thus there is a correlation of being scientifically minded, I posit, and disbelief. Thus in general terms, one can claim, I believe, that it is more likely that an atheist will be a better scientist. That is not to say that an atheist scientist is better than a Christian scientist. That is a different question which I think Luke took on in a sort of straw man equivocation.

Together with ideas that atheists have a more ratio-analytic thinking style than believers, and that they, in general, believe less crazy things (percentage of atheist young earthers compared to religious), we start getting a picture that being religious predisposes one to believing crazier things. Or certain thinking styles predisposes someone to being both religious and believing certain things.

And I think this is the issue for Luke. To us, that differentiation is not that important, since the end result is the same.

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

    My discussion with Luke over the past few days enlightened me even further into how incoherent his worldview is. A few months back we were having a discussion and he rigorously defended his belief that god cannot have divine foreknowledge because god cannot know the future actions of first-cause agents (humans).

    This belief that Luke holds to is in direct contradiction to Luke’s preference for Leibnizian miracles over Humean miracles because believing in Leibnizian miracles prevents the possibility of god creating a universe that “naturally” responds to human actions that are freely willed. For example, how can god plant miracles in certain people’s lives via some sort of natural process that doesn’t require god’s intervention, if god does not know the choices and future whereabouts of first-cause agents? The two are incompatible.

    Is it just me, or is Luke’s entire worldview highly inconsistent? It makes these kinds of deep metaphysical and philosophical discussions so difficult because he’s unable to be consistent.

    • Luke Breuer

      A few months back we were having a discussion and he rigorously defended his belief that god cannot have divine foreknowledge because god cannot know the future actions of first-cause agents (humans).

      Yes, I insisted on logic. If it is the case that humans are to be truly free, then some of the causes for their choices must be not-caused by God. This is just a definition. If God is the cause of all human choices, then they are not free. You appear to prefer illogic when it suits you, The Thinker!

      This belief that Luke holds to is in direct contradiction to Luke’s preference for Leibnizian miracles over Humean miracles because believing in Leibnizian miracles prevents the possibility of god creating a universe that “naturally” responds to human actions that are freely willed.

      You have not demonstrated this. Furthermore, there is this gem:

      LB: Why don’t you generate a formal, numbered argument, which moves from premises to conclusions?

      TT: I’m not sure a formal argument would be right for this kind of debate.

      There you have it, folks. The Thinker is happy to make claims that lead to him concluding:

      Is it just me, or is Luke’s entire worldview highly inconsistent?

      And yet, when you ask him to support such intense accusations with formal logical arguments, he says “I’m not sure a formal argument would be right”. Bullshit. Either defend your claims, The Thinker, and do it rigorously, or give up the high ground you so desperately want to pretend that you occupy.

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

          I have never, ever, seen such a tabulation, a general ledger as it were, of harms and goods and what % causation one can draw between some particular form of some particular religion, and the harm/good. And yet, atheists are plenty happy to allege that:

               (1) If religion were utterly removed from the world at some points tT, history would look better from our current perspective.

          This is simply a more technical version of:

               (2) Sans religion, the world would be a better place.

          Critically, I am requiring my interlocutor to compare ¬religion not with some ideal, but with actual reality, with actual human nature. Idealism is useless if it does not match reality, if a true bridge can be built between reality and itself. I have seen many idealisms for which nobody has a possible bridge, and yet they cling to the idealism as if it were true. No, such idealism is dogma, according to the worst connotation.

          So, it would seem that the only justifiable position is:

               (3) Religion, qua ‘religion’, may, on average be a non-neutral force.

          For the only thing you happen to know is:

               (4) Particular forms of particular religions lead to badness.

          And yet, you’ve generalized from the particular to the universal, despite the fact that you don’t even subscribe to realism of universals! The irony here is enormous.

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

            My original point was less about whether the world would be a better place and much more to do with the actual rather psychological question: can religion be destroyed. You took way off in your own direction.

          • Luke Breuer

            Do you have no position of your own on whether religion ought to be destroyed? I find this hard to believe, but I will attempt to take you at your word (as I read more of what you say in the future) if you say you were not at all leaning in the direction of believing that religion ought to be destroyed.

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

            But why ought religion not be destroyed?

          • Luke Breuer

            Because I don’t believe in destroying anything without positive, well-supported reasoning and evidence. If only the finger is demonstrably gangrenous, then I opt to amputate only the finger. False generalization is the enemy of life.

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

            Positive, well-supported reasoning and evidence for why religion is good is what you refuse to provide. In your example, religion is the gangrenous finger. We don’t need religion, and unless you can provide me with a religion or version of religion that has nothing bad about it, I have no examples of good religions to work with.

          • Luke Breuer

            What do we need? Pare it down completely. What do we need—not want?

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

            We don’t need religion, that’s my point. Plenty of things that we want have negative consequences.

          • Luke Breuer

            Do we need knowledge? Wisdom? Why do we need anything more than the giraffes I got to feed at San Diego’s Safari Park?

            Rom 3:23 contains the clause “fall short of the glory of God”: the point is that you can always define a small telos, follow it, and die. No, you don’t appear to need an infinite being for that.

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

            Of course we need knowledge and wisdom. Even animals need to know what foods to eat and not eat and what areas are safe and unsafe to go to. Survival of the fittest often is survival of the smartest.

          • Luke Breuer

            Ok, some finite baseline is required. Why do we need more knowledge and wisdom?

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

            Because a baseline is not enough to keep millions of us from dying of preventable natural and human induced causes. So many of our lives require much more than a baseline.

          • Luke Breuer

            Where do the needs stop and the wants begin?

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

            At religion.

          • Luke Breuer

            Remind me, have you yet been able to figure out how to define that term rigorously, using your own words? Can you make it avoid describing what Peter Berger describes in Facing Up to Modernity?:

            Even if it were true that socialism is the only rational conclusion, this would not explain its dissemination among specific social groups. Modern science, for example, may also be described as the only rational conclusion for certain questions about nature—and yet it took millennia before it came to be established in specific groups in a specific corner of the world. Ideas neither triumph nor fail in history because of their intrinsic truth or falsity. Furthermore, the affinity between intellectuals and socialism is clearly more than a matter of rational arguments. It is suffused with values, with moral passion, in many cases with profoundly religious hope—in sum, with precisely those characteristics which permit speaking of a socialist myth (in a descriptive, nonpejorative sense.) (58)

            “The socialist myth promises the fulfillment of both the rational dreams of the Enlightenment and the manifold aspirations of those to whom the Enlightenment has been an alienating experience. Such a promise inevitably grates against its imperfect realization in empirical reality, frustrating and often enraging its believers. This is nothing new in the long history of eschatologies, which is inevitably a history of the psychology of disappointment. (62–63)

            Oh, and let’s throw in this from A Far Glory:

                Another exaggeration may have been the conventional view of the reach of scientific rationality. One does not have to look at religion only in order to find this thought plausible. It is amazing what people educated to the highest levels of scientific rationality are prepared to believe by way of irrational prejudices; one only has to look at the political and social beliefs of the most educated classes of Western societies to gain an appreciation of this. Just one case: What Western intellectuals over the last decades have managed to believe about the character of Communist societies is alone sufficient to cast serious doubt on the proposition that rationality is enhanced as a result of scientifically sophisticated education or of living in a modern technological society. (30)

            So yeah, let’s see how you truly describe ‘religion'; let’s see if you can offer a natural kind-type definition which targets precisely what you think it targets, and nothing that you wouldn’t want to target. Oh, I forget you started doing this; let’s pick up where you left off:

            LB: What, precisely, do you mean by the word ‘religion’?

            TT: I define religion as the belief in a worship of at least one god. But you are correct that there is no consensus on the definition of religion.

            LB: What’s a “god”, in your view? And what do you mean by “worship”? I’m not sure how many Christians could define “worship”.

            TT: Worship means propitiated in some manner. What that manner is is open to many practices.

            LB: One of Christianity’s explicit claims is that God sacrifices of himself for our well-being, not vice-versa. [...] So, either this form of Christianity isn’t a religion, or you need a new definition of ‘worship’.

            TT: Christianity has tons of rules, 613 commandments (not all of which are current) that Christians are to obey. God is worshiped in the sense he’s admired, sung for, praised endlessly (in fact, that’s what heaven is said to be for eternity), and sacrificed for when it comes to the austerity measures god commands. So the god of Christianity is certainly propitiated in a number of different ways.

            LB: It is commonly thought that “love God” + “love your neighbor” did away with the OT law; Jesus said that it is the OT law. Romans 10:4 says that “Christ is the telos of the law”, which matches up nicely with him being the Logos. So I think you’re partially right, here.

            What you don’t seem to want to fully grapple with is that it could be the case that:

            LB: (1) chosen physical laws ⇒ moral laws

            At least, I thought I had presented you with this option. Anyhow, if God is good, he will tell us the moral laws, even though we could independently verify them. Indeed, the “independently verify” sounds awfully close to the Torah’s 2–3 witnesses. Is it wrong to admire God if he is good? Is it wrong to sacrifice for what one believes is good?Via your terminology, everyone worships a source that determines what is good and what is evil, what is kalos vs kakos (the words ‘good’ and ‘evil’ seem so small these days). That source can be oneself, that source can be one’s family, that source can be one’s nation, the world, principles, or even YHWH.

            It looks like the conversation died there. So:

                 (1) You never defined what a “god” is.
                 (2) If you say “supernatural”, define it, too.
                 (3) Do you admire nothing?
                 (4) If no to (3), how do you not worship?

            That should push us forward in getting an actual definition of ‘religion’ out, instead of working with… dun dun dun… vagueness. Sorry, couldn’t help it, with your history with me. I want to see how belief in socialism and communism, as Peter Berger outlines, don’t qualify as “religion”. If they do, that will be interesting and could lead some interesting places.

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

            My comment really was a joke mostly because it was late and I was tired. I didn’t expect it to elicit such a long comment. So before I go to bed…

            It looks like the conversation died there. So:

            (1) You never defined what a “god” is.
            (2) If you say “supernatural”, define it, too.
            (3) Do you admire nothing?
            (4) If no to (3), how do you not worship?

            Yes I totally forgot about this thread. With my other debates going on and work and life, sometimes this gets boring. So, a definition of something is not supposed to define all the words used in it. If you expect that standard, then every definition of every word will be a paragraph long. Just kindly ask me to define my terms and I will.

            1. God is a supernatural person, a person that is not fully part of nature but can affect nature and violate its laws. People are often worshiped as gods in many religions and they are given supernatural traits. Such a person would be a supernatural person and would classify as a god.
            2. The supernatural is that which is not subject to the laws of physics, or more figuratively, that which is said to exist above and beyond nature.
            3. No I admire things.
            4. I don’t worship a god. That’s the main point Luke. I am not a theist; I am not religious.

            I want to see how belief in socialism and communism, as Peter Berger outlines, don’t qualify as “religion”.

            The North Korean version of communism is a religion, because Kim Jung Il is said to be the reincarnated spirit of his father, and the “illustrious commander born of heaven.

            Secular socialism isn’t aimed at acknowledging and pleasing a god, that’s why it’s not a religion.

          • Luke Breuer

            Just kindly ask me to define my terms and I will.

            Apparently this takes multiple requests, which is fine—sometimes it takes multiple requests of me, too. Our conversations can get windy, as any long, quote-choppy ones do.

            1. God is a supernatural person, a person that is not fully part of nature but can affect nature and violate its laws.

            And if he actually does not violate its laws, but can still affect it? Do you still reject this as contradictory (pushing us back to pursing that conversation)? If not, what happens to the term ‘supernatural’ if no law-violation happens?

            Note that the growing block universe model may allow for the spontaneous eruption of new laws. Or, as Sean Carroll describes, there may be regions in our universe where the laws work quite differently. There may be an important restriction on the eruption of new laws or the change in laws: it may have to happen sufficiently gradually.

            2. The supernatural is that which is not subject to the laws of physics, or more figuratively, that which is said to exist above and beyond nature.

            So mathematics is supernatural?

            4. I don’t worship a god.

            That’s only if you define ‘god’ in the way you have. It may be the case one can widen it slightly and get something like this, with the result being that the word ‘god’ is used in approximately the same way, and yet that you do in fact worship a ‘god’. We can discuss that, if you’d like. The key here is whether you’ve given necessary components of a definition for ‘god’, to match people’s actual behavior. For example, what is the difference between worshiping a personal being vs. a set of impersonal principles? If you cannot establish a significant difference in people’s behaviors, then I claim you’ve overdefined ‘god’, to allow yourself to do things that you don’t want other people to be allowed to do. Although, pending your response to my question about mathematics, principles themselves may be supernatural. And then we could talk about whether principles are universals; Jonathan Pearce doesn’t think universals are real. Are you a nominalist/conceptualist, yourself?

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

            And if he actually does not violate its laws, but can still affect it? Do you still reject this as contradictory (pushing us back to pursing that conversation)? If not, what happens to the term ‘supernatural’ if no law-violation happens?

            If a non-physical mind could change the determined course of the universe with its will, then yes that would be a violation of the laws.

            Note that the growing block universe model may allow for the spontaneous eruption of new laws.

            I fully grant that there might be other universes for example that might have different laws. Let me put it this way. Suppose in the US the speed limit is 50 and in the UK it’s 55. In the US I can’t go faster than 50 but I can in the UK. So going 55 in the UK is not breaking the laws because I can do so in the UK. But if I went 55 in the US I’d be breaking the law. So if the laws vary throughout all of spacetime anything that could violate the law where the law applies would be a violation of the laws.

            So mathematics is supernatural?

            No math is not above nature. The burden of proof is on you to show it is.

            That’s only if you define ‘god’ in the way you have.

            The word ‘god’ has to mean something. If you dilute it to mean anything from a rock to a cloud then it ceases to have any meaning. Otherwise everything is a god. The reason why I prefer the definition of religion I do is because it differentiates it from political beliefs and philosophies. Otherwise everything is a religion. I once debated a guy who told be secularism is a religion. If secularism is a religion, then it’s a religion to separate politics from religion. And if politics can be a religion too, then it’s a religion to separate religion from religion. That’s why these diluted definitions are absurd.

            Although, pending your response to my question about mathematics, principles themselves may be supernatural. And then we could talk about whether principles are universals; Jonathan Pearce doesn’t think universals are real. Are you a nominalist/conceptualist, yourself?

            Yes, I lean much more towards nominalism and I’m very skeptical of platonism.

          • Luke Breuer

            If a non-physical mind could change the determined course of the universe with its will, then yes that would be a violation of the laws.

            “If my assumption is sound, then my conclusion follows.” And who said nature has a determined course, that it isn’t something closer to a growing block universe than a block universe? Or are you unwilling to consider this until you’re given evidence? If so that’s fine—we could just terminate this line of discussion.

            I fully grant that there might be other universes for example that might have different laws.

            This is not what the growing block universe would allow. It might allow for e.g. new laws to arise in this universe. I really do need to read up more on the concept of a GBU, though.

            So if the laws vary throughout all of spacetime anything that could violate the law where the law applies would be a violation of the laws.

            Then just change the law. There’s a great Star Trek episode where Q, the omnipotent being, is asked how he would solve the problem of a moon’s orbit having been destabilized, such that it was going to crash into the planet. He said, “change the value of G“. That isn’t so much changing the laws of the universe as changing a constant, but this alone seems to allow more variability than you wish to allow. But perhaps I am wrong?

            No math is not above nature. The burden of proof is on you to show it is.

            Well, this is how you defined ‘supernatural':

            TT: 2. The supernatural is that which is not subject to the laws of physics, or more figuratively, that which is said to exist above and beyond nature.

            How is math “subject to the laws of physics”? Do you wish to change your definition of ‘supernatural’?

            The word ‘god’ has to mean something. If you dilute it to mean anything from a rock to a cloud then it ceases to have any meaning.

            You yourself have said that gods are worshiped. That restricts quite a lot, it would seem.

            The reason why I prefer the definition of religion I do is because it differentiates it from political beliefs and philosophies.

            Oh, I understand your purpose for defining ‘religion’ the way you do quite well. It just happens that I think you have not established it as a natural kind. Indeed, Steven D. Smith’s The Disenchantment of Secular Discourse would argue that there are no secular reasons in political discourse, that one always smuggles in one’s worldview, one’s particularities. From Smith:

            No one expects that anything called “reason” will dispel such pluralism by leading people to converge on a unified truth—certainly not about ultimate or cosmic matters such as “the nature of the universe” or “the end and the object of life.” Indeed, unity on such matters could be achieved only by state coercion: Rawls calls this the “fact of oppression.”[36] So a central function of “public reason” today is precisely to keep such matters out of public deliberation (subject to various qualifications and exceptions that Rawls conceded as his thinking developed). And citizens practice Rawlsian public reason when they refrain from invoking or acting on their “comprehensive doctrines”—that is, their deepest convictions about what is really true—and consent to work only with a scaled-down set of beliefs or methods that claim the support of an ostensible “overlapping consensus“.[Political Liberalism, 133-172, 223-227] (14-15)

            You seem to want to allow certain “comprehensive doctrines”, but not others. This seems completely ad hoc.

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

            And who said nature has a determined course, that it isn’t something closer to a growing block universe than a block universe?

            Yes I need evidence please.

            This is not what the growing block universe would allow.

            My comment was not predicated on the growing block universe.

            It might allow for e.g. new laws to arise in this universe.

            Same thing basically applies. The laws in our universe may change over long periods of time but this is really just the values of the parameters changing. It would be due to the natural evolution of the universe.

            Then just change the law.

            If you’re proposing the idea of an omnipotent being changing the law at will, that would be a violation of the law.

            How is math “subject to the laws of physics”? Do you wish to change your definition of ‘supernatural’?

            Mathematics is defined as “the systematic treatment of magnitude, relationships between figures and forms, and relations between quantities expressed symbolically.”

            I see math as a construction, not something that exists independently of minds. As such, it is completely within nature.

            You yourself have said that gods are worshiped. That restricts quite a lot, it would seem.

            Not all concepts of god need worship. A deistic god need not be propitiated in any way and never communicates to anything in the universe. Thus I wouldn’t consider deism an actual religion. All theistic gods require a religion.

            It just happens that I think you have not established it as a natural kind. Indeed, Steven D. Smith’s The Disenchantment of Secular Discourse would argue that there are no secular reasons in political discourse, that one always smuggles in one’s worldview, one’s particularities.

            I never said one’s worldview cannot be smuggled into political discourse. Where did I ever say that? If your worldview doesn’t contain a theistic god, like naturalism, then it is secular. If it does, then you need to find secular reasons for supporting what you want politically. This is similar to the Lemon Test That’s why I define the terms the way I do, it makes sense. It allows me a clear distinction between a religion and a philosophy.

            You seem to want to allow certain “comprehensive doctrines”, but not others. This seems completely ad hoc.

            Like I said, if your “Comprehensive doctrine” is that we are all to do what Yahweh or Allah wants us to do, you better scale down your set of beliefs to get rid of that theistic shit if you want to pass a law in a secular democracy. There’s nothing ad hoc about it.

          • Luke Breuer

            Mathematics is defined as “the systematic treatment of magnitude, relationships between figures and forms, and relations between quantities expressed symbolically.”

            I see math as a construction, not something that exists independently of minds. As such, it is completely within nature.

            So you’re going a circuitous route: mathematics is “subject to the laws of physics” because what we can think of is “subject to the laws of physics”? You might like The Partially Examined Life podcast Episode 95: Gödel on Math. There, the idea is put forth whether math is really just a construct of mind. Surely you know that there is philosophy of mathematics which disagrees with you?

            Not all concepts of god need worship.

            Red herring. Your complain was that anything can be a ‘god’, under my definition; I argued that this is not so, because anything is not worshiped. If we restrict ‘god’ to that which/whom is worshiped, we may well get a natural kind which is better than your definition of ‘god’. After all, what your argument really seems to do is say that we can worship things and principles but not people. Secular discourse could appeal to things and principles for justification of “this would be good” claims, but not people.

            I never said one’s worldview cannot be smuggled into political discourse.

            Correct. But you have affirmed my suspicions on what you want to ban from political discourse. It is, I claim, completely arbitrary, a natural kind violation. Incidentally, it utterly depends on your chosen philosophy of mathematics, which I find fascinating. If mathematical truths were mind-independent, they would be ‘supernatural’, by your definition. And then, we couldn’t appeal to them in secular political discourse.

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

            Surely you know that there is philosophy of mathematics which disagrees with you?

            Yes, I’m well aware that there are many platonists and I think naturalism can work with platonism and nominalism. So, why don’t I add to my definition of the supernatural to include this:

            2. The supernatural is that which is not subject to the laws of physics, or more figuratively, that which is said to exist above and beyond nature and is not an abstract object.

            I argued that this is not so, because anything is not worshiped.

            Well how do you define supernatural?

            But you have affirmed my suspicions on what you want to ban from political discourse. It is, I claim, completely arbitrary, a natural kind violation. Incidentally, it utterly depends on your chosen philosophy of mathematics, which I find fascinating.

            No not at all. Like I said both platonism and nominalism work under naturalism. Numbers aren’t conscious, they aren’t sentient beings with a will. That’s what makes them distinct from a non-physical god.

          • Luke Breuer

            2. The supernatural is that which is not subject to the laws of physics, or more figuratively, that which is said to exist above and beyond nature and is not an abstract object.

            This is getting dangerously close to God properly being an abstract object. The trick, of course, is that from your view, abstract objects are figments of our imagination, whereas for the mathematical Platonist, abstract objects are very much real. Heraclitus might even say that they are more real than always-in-flux matter and energy! It may even be possible to develop a case that abstract objects can be modeled as exerting forces on individuals’ thoughts and the thoughts of societies. And if the model models and predicts well, then it seems invalid to object on the basis that it is “not like other scientific models”.

            Well how do you define supernatural?

            Start here. Also this on spiritual reality. And then these three bits on ‘supernatural’. Basically, I am going off of Not even wrong: The many problems with Naturalism and something like essentialism, in saying that (i) reality is infinite in description; (ii) the ‘supernatural’ can only rationally be used to describe that which we have not yet well-modeled with a formal system—it is “the excess” so to speak. As I articulate in those links, this is in stark contrast to the impenetrable barrier form of ‘supernatural’, which I repudiate.

            No not at all. Like I said both platonism and nominalism work under naturalism. Numbers aren’t conscious, they aren’t sentient beings with a will. That’s what makes them distinct from a non-physical god.

            So what you don’t want is appealing to the union of the following?

                 (1) non-physical
                 (2) sentient being with a will

            It’s ok to appeal to (1) ∧ ¬(2) or ¬(1) ∧ (2) or ¬(1) ∧ ¬(2), but not (1) ∧ (2)? Please tell me how this isn’t arbitrary.

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

            This is getting dangerously close to God properly being an abstract object.

            Gods are sentient, abstract objects are not.

            The trick, of course, is that from your view, abstract objects are figments of our imagination, whereas for the mathematical Platonist, abstract objects are very much real.

            Like I said, if platonism were true, that in no way is incompatible with naturalism.

            Start here.

            You wrote in your description (not definition) of the supernatural:

            I am actually unsure……I don’t see much of a barrier to keep ‘natural’ separated from ‘supernatural’. I’m not even sure I can sustain both terms!

            So according to you the two can blend into the same thing? If there were no non-physical sentient beings that existed outside of spacetime, would you say that the supernatural could still exist?

            It’s ok to appeal to (1) ∧ ¬(2) or ¬(1) ∧ (2) or ¬(1) ∧ ¬(2), but not (1) ∧ (2)? Please tell me how this isn’t arbitrary.

            Please explain this to me without the symbols.

          • Luke Breuer

            Gods are sentient, abstract objects are not.

            You’ve given me no reason to think this is true. I do recall your question about how God could think and my non-interest in responding. But that’s ok; the proper starting point is ‘unknown’, not ‘true’ or ‘false’. At least, wouldn’t you say so?

            So according to you the two can blend into the same thing?

            This seems precisely to be my (ii).

            If there were no non-physical sentient beings that existed outside of spacetime, would you say that the supernatural could still exist?

            Under my attempt at a rigorous, non-vague, consistent, non-natural-kind-violating definition, yes. Feel free to provide a better definition. Perhaps we can work together and make a fantastic one that has all the good attributes that both of us want in a definition.

            Please explain this to me without the symbols.

            Good grief man, you call yourself “The Thinker” and you don’t understand that:

                 ∧ = logical conjunction = ‘and’
                 ¬ = negation = ‘not’

            ? And so:

                 (1) ∧ ¬(2) = (1) and not (2)
                 ¬(1) ∧ (2) = not (1) and (2)
                 ¬(1) ∧ (2) = not (1) and not (2)
                 (1) ∧ (2) = (1) and (2)

            Which, incidentally, is the precise, non-vague version of:

            LB: So what you don’t want is appealing to the union of the following?

                 (1) non-physical
                 (2) sentient being with a will

            I guess you don’t like precision if you have to learn two simple logic symbols, eh? You’d prefer me have to use clumsier language and possibly be vague due to its clumsiness, so that you can lodge your favorite criticism of me?

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

            You’ve given me no reason to think this is true.

            Really? Gods aren’t sentient? Name one god that is not sentient.

            This seems precisely to be my (ii).

            What is your (ii) again?

            Under my attempt at a rigorous, non-vague, consistent, non-natural-kind-violating definition, yes.

            Give me an example of this.

            Good grief man, you call yourself “The Thinker” and you don’t understand that:

            I know what those symbols mean but one you wrote incorrectly ¬(1) ∧ (2) = not (1) and not (2). It should be not (1) and (2) which is the same as the one above it. Your mistake was confusing me. But yes, (1) ∧ (2) = (1) and (2) would be the one I deny. Naturalism allows for platonism but not for (1) and (2). This is why Sye Ten StupidFaith’s ridiculous Proof that god exists is utter nonsense.

            You’d prefer me have to use clumsier language and possibly be vague due to its clumsiness, so that you can lodge your favorite criticism of me?

            There goes that persecution complex again. I was not trying to make you a fool, just to be more incomplex.

          • Luke Breuer

            Really? Gods aren’t sentient? Name one god that is not sentient.

            I’m sorry, you’ve given me no reason to believe that abstract objects cannot be sentient.

            What is your (ii) again?

            You really cannot take the effort to back to the previous comment I’ve made? I’m actually not going to do the work for you; I’m going to threaten to stop talking to you if you’re going to be so ridiculously lazy. I put a lot more effort into my comments than yours, and I’m honestly getting a little sick and tired of your laziness.

            Under my attempt at a rigorous, non-vague, consistent, non-natural-kind-violating definition, yes.

            Give me an example of this.

            Good grief:

            TT: Well how do you define supernatural?

            LB: Start here. Also this on spiritual reality. And then these three bits on ‘supernatural’. Basically, I am going off of Not even wrong: The many problems with Naturalism and something like essentialism, in saying that (i) reality is infinite in description; (ii) the ‘supernatural’ can only rationally be used to describe that which we have not yet well-modeled with a formal system—it is “the excess” so to speak. As I articulate in those links, this is in stark contrast to the impenetrable barrier form of ‘supernatural’, which I repudiate.

            The Thinker, pick whether you want to be lazy and talk to other people, or expend more effort and talk to me.

            I know what those symbols mean but one you wrote incorrectly ¬(1) ∧ (2) = not (1) and not (2). It should be not (1) and (2) which is the same as the one above it. Your mistake was confusing me.

            Yeah, a copy & paste error which did not exist in the original, symbols-only comment. So it is impossible for it to have confused you until you requested a non-symbol form. And thus, your excuse is bullshit, utter bullshit. You were merely lazy, given that you admit you understood those symbols—a claim I now doubt.

            But yes, (1) ∧ (2) = (1) and (2) would be the one I deny. Naturalism allows for platonism but not for (1) and (2). This is why Sye Ten StupidFaith’s ridiculous Proof that god exists is utter nonsense.

            How is it not special pleading to exclude only (1) ∧ (2)?

            There goes that persecution complex again. I was not trying to make you a fool, just to be more incomplex.

            You (a) ignored the criticism; (b) attempted to shift the blame on me. No, you simply throw out whatever ad hominem attack you can, both when you don’t understand what the other person is saying, and when the other person has a valid criticism of you. This is despicable, and increases my desire to stop interacting with you until you change your behavior.

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

            m sorry, you’ve given me no reason to believe that abstract objects cannot be sentient.

            If you think they are make an argument. The burden of proof is on you.

            I put a lot more effort into my comments than yours, and I’m honestly getting a little sick and tired of your laziness.

            I don’t know what you do for a living but I have a day job and I am sometimes in a rush.

            The Thinker, pick whether you want to be lazy and talk to other people, or expend more effort and talk to me.

            Your (ii) is simply a placeholder for human ignorance, i.e. a supernaturalism of the gaps. You’ve also described it in a way that makes it unfalsifiable and precisely the same way that Rauser criticizes naturalism that it’s not even wrong.

            You were merely lazy, given that you admit you understood those symbols—a claim I now doubt.

            OK fine I was lazy. There you happy now. I have a job to do.

            How is it not special pleading to exclude only (1) ∧ (2)?

            Because all empirical evidence shows that sentience relies on physical matter (e.g. brains). And we know that conscious states are caused by brain states, and there is no good evidence that consciousness exists outside a brain. There’s no special pleading. The burden of proof is on you to show (1) and (2).

            You (a) ignored the criticism; (b) attempted to shift the blame on me.

            You don’t actually have valid criticism of me, you just think you do. And that’s the point. The burden of proof is on you to show (1) and (2).

          • Luke Breuer

            If you think they are make an argument. The burden of proof is on you.

            No. The neutral starting point is ‘unknown’, not ‘false’. You said ‘false’. Therefore, you defend it. Else, retreat to ‘unknown’.

            If you think they are make an argument. The burden of proof is on you.

            Then we could discuss fewer things per unit time, and you could spend the same amount of time, on less argument. How does that sound? P.S. You asked what I did for a living; that you don’t remember indicates to me that you didn’t actually care, or perhaps even that you asked for a nefarious purpose. But perhaps you simply forgot.

            Your (ii) is simply a placeholder for human ignorance, i.e. a supernaturalism of the gaps.

            And what is wrong with that definition of ‘supernatural’? You treat it as if it’s wrong, but alluding to god-of-the-gaps. But you actually have to make an argument.

            You’ve also described it in a way that makes it unfalsifiable and precisely the same way that Rauser criticizes naturalism that it’s not even wrong.

            Actually, I’m not ignoring ignorance, which you tend to do. See: Ignoring Ignorance Is Ignorant. As to it being falsifiable, metaphysics is unfalsifiable, by definition. Randal was not talking about falsifiability in Not even wrong: The many problems with Naturalism. See, specifically, his first paragraph in which he starts off a sentence, “More generally”.

            Because all empirical evidence shows that sentience relies on physical matter (e.g. brains).

            It sounds like we should spend some time discussing eliminative materialism, and kill off some of our other tangents, given your limited time. Sound like a plan?

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

            No. The neutral starting point is ‘unknown’, not ‘false’. You said ‘false’. Therefore, you defend it. Else, retreat to ‘unknown’.

            Who says what the starting point is? Given our background data it is not neutral, it is false. If you refuse to make a positive case for your belief then let’s just end this now because I’m not going to play games.

            Then we could discuss fewer things per unit time, and you could spend the same amount of time, on less argument. How does that sound?

            Time permitting, I am open to evolving this to other things and filtering it down to fewer topics.

            But perhaps you simply forgot.

            As far as I recall you’re a programmer. Do you work from home?

            And what is wrong with that definition of ‘supernatural’? You treat it as if it’s wrong, but alluding to god-of-the-gaps. But you actually have to make an argument.

            Because defining the supernatural as what we don’t yet know is a god of the gaps. Many theists try hard to avoid that but you seem to embrace it.

            Actually, I’m not ignoring ignorance, which you tend to do. See:Ignoring Ignorance Is Ignorant.

            So you’re really just an agnostic then. That’s the way I see you. If you’re open to the possibility of the supernatural, that’s a kind of agnosticism/soft atheism.

            As to it being falsifiable, metaphysics is unfalsifiable, by definition.

            Depends on how you see or define metaphysics. So god is unfalsifiable?

            Randal was not talking about falsifiability in Not even wrong: The many problems with Naturalism. See, specifically, his first paragraph in which he starts off a sentence, “More generally”.

            But if you read the rest of his post, he accuses Lowder of defining naturalism in such a way where it could incorporate the soul, and that’s supposed to be why it’s not even wrong, or at least a major reason why. And your definition of the supernatural is human ignorance. Well we’re always going to have some level of ignorance. It doesn’t allow us to have any idea what the supernatural is. It’s such a crappy definition it’s not even worth considering wrong.

            It sounds like we should spend some time discussing eliminative materialism, and kill off some of our other tangents, given your limited time. Sound like a plan?

            Fair enough.

          • Luke Breuer

            Who says what the starting point is? Given our background data it is not neutral, it is false. If you refuse to make a positive case for your belief then let’s just end this now because I’m not going to play games.

            Well, I did say “neutral”. If you admit that your starting point is not “neutral”, that’s A-OK with me! What “background data” are you talking about?

            As to a positive case, start here. It is the first thing that’s anything close to a systematic attempt to do what you’ve requested.

            As far as I recall you’re a programmer. Do you work from home?

            Programming is one of the things I do, and what I am doing now, yes. And yep, I work largely from home.

            Because defining the supernatural as what we don’t yet know is a god of the gaps.

            False: ‘supernatural’ ≠ ‘god’. Just try and make a formal, numbered argument to defend that sentence of yours. Give it a shot. I doubt you’ll be able to make one, but perhaps you’ll surprise me. Perhaps you’ll even convince me that my attempt to define ‘supernatural’ logically entails god-of-the-gaps. Bare assertions won’t.

            So you’re really just an agnostic then. That’s the way I see you. If you’re open to the possibility of the supernatural, that’s a kind of agnosticism/soft atheism.

            No. Agnostics generally see the supernatural as impenetrable; I do not.

            Depends on how you see or define metaphysics. So god is unfalsifiable?

            In a sense; see my quotations of Michael Polanyi on crystallography. Polanyi says that crystallography is unfalsifiable, and yet can match reality to better or worse extents. See also my difference between ‘fact’ and ‘truth’. Can you give me an example of falsifiable metaphysics?

            But if you read the rest of his post, he accuses Lowder of defining naturalism in such a way where it could incorporate the soul, and that’s supposed to be why it’s not even wrong, or at least a major reason why.

            Yes, he does. Do you think his accusations obtain? If no, why not?

            And your definition of the supernatural is human ignorance.

            It’s not just ignorance. See, for example my unarticulated background. If you’re going to caricature my views like this The Thinker, I’m going to be less willing to discuss them with you.

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

            Recently it occurred to me. I don’t know many people who are as serious about their faith as you, who are able to hold an intelligent conversation. Let’s say we also branch out into regular dialogue not aimed to disprove one another but simply to explore one’s worldview and the relationship it has with us. The few people in my life who self-identify as “Christian” have no interest in talking about religion or philosophy whatsoever. And the only people I can talk about these kinds of things with mostly agree with me, although we of course have our disagreements. I am interested in learning more about you from your relationship with your religious beliefs and you perhaps could do the same with me. You seem like a very sincere Christian and I consider myself a very sincere atheist.

          • Luke Breuer

            Sadly, I have found the same of Christians; the same might be the case for atheists I’ve encountered outside of the self-selected set that is internet discussion forums, but my sampling is pretty noisy. So sure, let’s do this. What do you want to know?

            Two questions for you:

            1. To what extend do you think humans can ever-increasingly overcome cognitive biases, The Unreliability of Naive Introspection, and failures in affective forecasting?

            2. What books/people/other sources have had the most profound impact on you when it comes to your atheism, moral foundations, and anything else you find relevant?

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

            Awesome. I have a few questions too.

            1. Do you think of heaven in a somewhat metaphoric sense to represent the ideal future we could have, or do you see it has a specifically Christian kingdom of heaven something similar (but not necessarily exact) like the one described in popular Christian theology (with god and Jesus at his side, etc.)?

            2. Were you raised religious or did you pick it up later? What were the main influences if you picked it up later in life? What denomination and theology influenced you most?

            To your questions:

            1. I think we can increasingly overcome our cognitive biases but I have no idea if we will ever fully overcome them. I’m open to both possibilities. Nonetheless, our true knowledge of the brain is still practically in its infancy and so it seems one day, given enough time, we will understand everything about the brain, inside and out, and we will then be in a position to know a lot more about this matter.

            2. It’s hard to say. I’ve never been a true believer, but I’ve always kind of found the deep questions fascinating. I guess when I first studied philosophy I started considering metaphysical questions, and that lead me to explore my atheism a bit more. Most mainstream books about science and history are so secular today that they pretty much assume a kind of naturalism, or to put it another way they just ignore god and religion as truth. And I was really into astronomy when I was a kid. I guess what made me really take my atheism seriously was when I became obsessed about the creationism vs. evolution debate. The single most influential book or person I’d say on the way I treat my atheism was Christopher Hitchens’ God is not great. That book and his debates made me into an anti-theist. As far as morality, I studied ethics in college and have been deeply intrigued ever since. I still have my old text book. It’s hard to pick a single book/person that had a profound moral impact but I was searching for the “perfect” ethical philosophy for a time and driving myself crazy. I attended a lecture on ethics and got to hear Massimo Pigliucci who I was very impressed with. That drove me even further. That should be it for now. I’m tired.

          • Luke Breuer

            1. Heaven: I employ the maxim that the further my imagination deviates from what I know and have experienced and thus could test, the fuzzier my confidence can possibly be. And so, I can imagine things being better in various ways; for the things I want to be better but for which I don’t have a way, I cannot imagine very ‘far’ before the likely error builds up way too much. This is largely informed by my experience building medium size software, noting where imagination was able to align with reality and where it most definitely was not able.

            One book that had a huge influence on me was N.T. Wright’s After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters. Wright claims that obeying God actually sets the groundwork for heaven; we aren’t just here doing “tryouts”, with all we have done being wiped away before heaven is created. This makes sense of 1 Cor 3:10–15 in a way that many conceptions of heaven do not. That passage actually accords quite well with 2 Pe 3:8–13, which is often taken to mean a complete wiping away of the old, instead of a purification. A common metaphor for purification is the process whereby precious metals are refined, by liquifying them and scraping off the dross. The precious metals are not wiped away, but persist, in this process. And thus the “your labor is not in vain” of 1 Cor 15:58 can be true. Indeed, one of the worries of fighting for what one believes is right, is that maybe the evil people will win and utterly destroy that fighting, nullifying all the pain and suffering.

            This comment is incredibly germane, and perhaps this one. Note that I am banned from the latter site.

            2. Religious influences: By and far, my father influenced me most. He challenged me to constantly compare “God’s way” with “the world’s way”. He didn’t caricature either; he always left room for and encouraged exploration of both ways. If something is not grounded in truth, it is irrelevant if not evil.

            Next to my father is a long-time mentor of the Christian fellowship I attended at college. He fought off an attempt at a hostile takeover by a Christian campus ministry, which did two things (a) attempted to turn the fellowship into an authoritarian structure where a small cabal elected the leaders of the next generation; (b) attempted to focus more on spreading the gospel and less on e.g. helping out suicidal people. As a result, he got slandered and demeaned, time and time again. This was quite eye-opening to me, although my father had taught me enough previously to destroy the idealism that is common to young men.

            I have primarily gone to non-denominational churches, and I cannot identify any denomination which has particularly influenced me. Neither can I think of a particular theology which has influenced me; I was exposed to a lot of Calvinism early on, then Arminianism later on. I was raised to connect ideas to reality, which biases me toward what fundamentalism used to be (back when The Fundamentals were written) and away from liberalism. However, I am of the attitude that all these traditions have deep truth to them, and probably deep error, as well. And so, I am attempting a vast constraint-fitting project, to attempt to see the good in everything, and the bad when necessary.

            1. Overcoming bias: What would you say are some of the best ways you have discovered to do this?

            2. Morality/ethics: I would really suggest reading Alasdair MacIntyre, especially his After Virtue. It is hard going, but he basically goes through the evolution of morality, from heroic societies, up through today. One way to get into his book would be to first read Steven D. Smith’s The Disenchantment of Secular Discourse, and then ask, “How did we get to this point?”

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

            1. Overcoming bias: What would you say are some of the best ways you have discovered to do this?

            By rigorously analyzing our assumptions, presuppositions through philosophy, psychology and all other related disciplines and by understanding our evolutionary past and current neuro-biological make up as best we can.

            2. Morality/ethics: I would really suggest reading Alasdair MacIntyre, especially his After Virtue. It is hard going, but he basically goes through the evolution of morality, from heroic societies, up through today. One way to get into his book would be to first read Steven D. Smith’s The Disenchantment of Secular Discourse, and then ask, “How did we get to this point?”

            I’m definitely open to reading these works as well as other sophisticated POVs that I do not hold. I’m just so broke at the moment.

          • Luke Breuer

            By rigorously analyzing our assumptions, presuppositions through philosophy, psychology and all other related disciplines and by understanding our evolutionary past and current neuro-biological make up as best we can.

            So I get this; I’m looking for detail though. What are the best resources you’ve found for this, for example?

            I’m definitely open to reading these works as well as other sophisticated POVs that I do not hold. I’m just so broke at the moment.

            I would be happy to buy those two books for you. If you’re alright with Amazon, how about you add those to a card and then go to checkout, and see how much everything is with shipping. Then I can email you an Amazon gift card.

            The above are good enough to own, but I wonder if you have a library nearby with a good interlibrary loan system?

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

            What are the best resources you’ve found for this, for example?

            I just read Michael Shermer’s The Believing Brain which is all about this subject. It’s an interesting read. Other resources include examining religion from both the believers and non-believers POV and examining their explanations. Learning the science behind our behavior which is mostly dependent on our evolutionary past. And debate is also something I frequently use to understand our biases more, especially our confirmation biases, which I’ve become more adept in recognizing in other people, and myself.

            I would be happy to buy those two books for you.

            That would be most kind of you. However, I found a free version online of After Virtue while googling it. As far as Steven D. Smith’s The Disenchantment of Secular Discourse the total price comes to $32.95.

            —–

            I have another question for you. What is it that motivates you as far as religion is concerned? Is it help to construct a world like the heaven you believe in? I want to know what really motivates you and why you spend so much time interacting with others on matters of religion.

          • Luke Breuer

            I just read Michael Shermer’s The Believing Brain which is all about this subject.

            Sweet, my library had 8-10 copies so I’ll be getting one soon.

            Learning the science behind our behavior which is mostly dependent on our evolutionary past.

            How careful are these folks to make falsifiable claims which are then tested? My impression is that a lot of evopsych is not done this way, but that perhaps that is how it has to be for now, given that lots of science has to pass through the Baconian stage of just collecting lots of data, before the falsifiable phase can be entered. What I’m looking for is some fascinating prediction about human behavior, which nobody knew about, until the evopsych people predicted it and then found it. Given that we know a crapton about human behavior, I can imagine this could take some doing.

            As far as Steven D. Smith’s The Disenchantment of Secular Discourse the total price comes to $32.95.

            Sure; I just need your email address now. And if you would prefer After Virtue in paper form, I’m happy to cover that too.

            I have another question for you. What is it that motivates you as far as religion is concerned? Is it help to construct a world like the heaven you believe in? I want to know what really motivates you and why you spend so much time interacting with others on matters of religion.

            I think Christianity is closer to the truth than anything else out there. Powerful signs of this have come from thinking about why Milgram experiment § Results are so bad, Steven Pinker’s claims that scientists went all tabula rasa around the beginning of the twentieth century, and Donald E. Polkinghorne’s Narrative Knowing and the Human Sciences, in which he exposes the epic failures of the mechanistic model of humans to help psychology and sociology (and perhaps even economics) past a certain point. (Google books preface)

            Science is all about objects, not subjects. Indeed, it attempts to utterly eliminate the subject: hence objectivity. The perfect scientist is the scientist who is not biased, is perfectly neutral. Except, Michael Polanyi shows this to probably be a specious idea in Personal Knowledge. There is a kind of emptiness and anomie that comes from the mechanistic model; Jacques Ellul discusses this and related issues in Hope in Time of Abandonment. I personally can emulate a robot quite well, with very good analysis abilities. But to live all of life this way? Terrible! Does even the scientist have to do all of his/her science this way? Probably not.

            Further support comes from books like Edward Feser’s The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism, Steven D. Smith’s The Disenchantment of Secular Discourse, Richard M. Weaver’s Ideas Have Consequences, and R. Scott Smith’s Naturalism and Our Knowledge of Reality. These all explore what happen when you take nominalism and/or naturalism to its logical conclusions. As best I can tell, those conclusions are terrible. So what do people do? They are inconsistent. But piecing together all those arguments and attempting to show them to be sound is a project upon which I have only begun.

            I think we in the US are headed toward a new age of serfdom. How? Compare the quality of education of the many to the few. The gap, as far as I can tell, is widening. The many are taught facts and memorization; the few are taught analysis and other things. Why is this happening? I think it is because there is no longer a stronger vision, held by enough people, which can fight this “lower energy state” of humanity. Richard Weaver would call it a “metaphysical dream”, which is kind of like “construct a world like heaven”, but not really. Stalin, Hitler, and Mao were doing that more directly. I find heaven at ∞, not at some finite point. I find heaven at self-sacrifice, not murdering millions of other people.

            I could go on, but perhaps this is enough for now.

          • Andy_Schueler

            I think Christianity is closer to the truth than anything else out there. Powerful signs of this have come from thinking about why Milgram experiment § Results are so bad, Steven Pinker’s claims that scientists went all tabula rasa around the beginning of the twentieth century, and Donald E. Polkinghorne’s Narrative Knowing and the Human Sciences, in which he exposes the epic failures of the mechanistic model of humans to help psychology and sociology (and perhaps even economics) past a certain point. (Google books preface)

            Science is all about objects, not subjects. Indeed, it attempts to utterly eliminate the subject: hence objectivity. The perfect scientist is the scientist who is not biased, is perfectly neutral. Except, Michael Polanyi shows this to probably be a specious idea in Personal Knowledge. There is a kind of emptiness and anomie that comes from the mechanistic model; Jacques Ellul discusses this and related issues inHope in Time of Abandonment. I personally can emulate a robot quite well, with very good analysis abilities. But to live all of life this way? Terrible! Does even the scientist have to do all of his/her science this way? Probably not.

            Further support comes from books like Edward Feser’s The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism, Steven D. Smith’s The Disenchantment of Secular Discourse, Richard M. Weaver’s Ideas Have Consequences, and R. Scott Smith’s Naturalism and Our Knowledge of Reality. These all explore what happen when you take nominalism and/or naturalism to its logical conclusions. As best I can tell, those conclusions are terrible. So what do people do? They are inconsistent.

            This is very odd. What you are presenting here is what you consider to be support for the claim that “Christianity is closer to the truth than anything else out there”. And I have not read any of the books you refer to, but based on the content description, none of this is can be a positive case for christianity (not even Feser´s book – If I am correctly informed, he gets to the five ways, but those do not prove that the christian God is real, even if we´d assume that they are indeed sound). It is all about how something “not christianity” has allegedly failed something . And even if all of those instances are indeed cases of positions other than christianity failing at something, this would not support the truth of christianity in any way. It would be like creationists pretending that an argument against evolution is logically equivalent to an argument FOR their particular version of creationism. It isn´t – not in any way, shape or form. You don´t need to show that others are wrong, you need to show that you are right. I´m also highly skeptical that these sources indeed do conclusively show what you think they are showing. Based on personal experience, the alleged conclusions that naturalism and nominalism lead to and which I “ought to believe in if I were consistent” are absolutely ridiculous and completely illogical.

          • Luke Breuer

            It is all about how something “not christianity” has allegedly failed something .

            It sounds like we need to address the topics Jonathan brings up in Top down or bottom up?, plus perhaps my answer to the Phil.SE question Could there ever be evidence for an infinite being?

            It would be like creationists pretending that an argument against evolution is logically equivalent to an argument FOR their particular version of creationism. It isn´t – not in any way, shape or form.

            Actually, it’s more like the most powerful reply an ‘evolutionist’ ever gave me when I was a creationist and when I was an ID advocate: “Give me a better theory; until you do, I will work with this one instead of just accepting nothing.”

            You don´t need to show that others are wrong, you need to show that you are right.

            No, I merely need to show that I am working with the best I know, and that I’ve done a decent job exploring the alternatives. Unless perhaps you believe that it is possible to gain direct access to the noumenal realm, to the Ding an sich?

            Based on personal experience, the alleged conclusions that naturalism and nominalism lead to and which I “ought to believe in if I were consistent” are absolutely ridiculous and completely illogical.

            Perhaps this is true. I have not analyzed the issues well enough, nor submitted them to enough cross-examination by people like you, in order to come to the conclusion you have. As it is, I find them compelling. Because those topics are so large, I believe that some technical aid, like I described in the last week or three, is absolutely necessary if non-scholars like you and I are to actually get somewhere in this domain. If you would like to help in such an endeavor, it will happen sooner. Otherwise, it will happen when I gain sufficient motivation.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Actually, it’s more like the most powerful reply an ‘evolutionist’ ever gave me when I was a creationist and when I was an ID advocate: “Give me a better theory; until you do, I will work with this one instead of just accepting nothing.”

            1. Depending on what arguments you used, that is a very irrational reply, because accepting no alternative actually is better than accepting explanations that are as false (and positively misleading!) as evolution is according to most creationists, despite you knowing that they are that bad and that misleading.
            2. You are not giving us a better theory, what I quoted from you in the previous comment is 100% negative and 0% positive. And based on previous interactions with you, you have nothing positive that is a mature idea or system of ideas which could survive critical scrutiny. So it seems as if you are overplaying your cards, you certainly hope that christianity is closer to truth than anything else you know, but actual arguments that would make this a warranted conclusion, seem to be lacking.

          • Luke Breuer

            1. Yep, the test of course is whether one’s MacIntyre-tradition is bearing any fruit. I believe mine is, and so I continue. There is no need for you to believe that it is.

            2. No, I don’t have “a mature idea or system of ideas”. Not by your definition of ‘mature’, at least. And so, you attempt to kill off what I have by saying it is nothing. I reject this attempt. If you don’t want to hear about my non-mature ideas, then say so. Remember, The Thinker asked what was motivating to me, not to you. If you don’t find it motivating, then you don’t and that is that.

          • Andy_Schueler

            In what sense do you consider yourself to be “no longer an ID advocate”?

          • Luke Breuer

            My understanding is that ID sets itself up as against the scientific theory of evolution. I take no issue with the science. I take issue with the philosophy that is commonly attached. For example, the reasoning that goes “randomness in model” ⇒ “ontologically unguided” is strictly philosophical.

          • Andy_Schueler

            So what about all the validated predictions of ID and its successes and further potential as the science of agency detection? Why did you consider yourself to be an ID advocate but now not anymore?

          • Luke Breuer

            all the validated predictions of ID and its successes

            To what do you refer?

          • Andy_Schueler

            Things like exposing the flawed logic behind the Myth of Junk DNA and predicting groundbreaking scientific results like pervasive functionality in the human genome. Surely you are aware of such examples given that you considered yourself to be an ID advocate and how much you read. So why do you no longer consider yourself to be an ID advocate?

          • Luke Breuer

            I’m not in the mood to be mocked.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Why is it mockery to ask you why you considered yourself to be an ID advocate but now no longer do that? I am just wondering what possible reason you could have to become disillusioned with ID.

          • Luke Breuer

            Then I retract my statement about mockery and merely say that I have no interest in further discussing ID at this time.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Interesting, very interesting…. ;-)

          • Andy_Schueler

            And could you at least say what you a) now believe about evolution that you didn´t believe when you were an ID advocate (if anything changed in this respect) and / or b) what you now believe about ID that you didn´t believe when you were an ID advocate?

          • Luke Breuer

            No; my engagement on this issue would inevitably spur clarifying questions, etc. etc. I am more interested in getting back to discussions of ours I have let languish than spend any time on this one.

          • Andy_Schueler

            That is a little puzzling because usually, you are more than happy to answer such questions for clarification. And there is a very simple reason why I am asking that – it is because it seems to me that if one would simply substitute “Intelligent Design” by “purpose in nature” (for example), you actually do agree with what ID means to a great many ID proponents (in the sense that common descent is true but that the evolutionary process is guided) and that you also agree with at least one of the main goals of the ID movement (to introduce a discussion of such a putative purpose into the scientific discourse). And that is why it further seems to me that there actually is nothing that you now believe about evolution that you didn´t also believe when you were an ID proponent.

          • Luke Breuer

            You are wrong, but you are not going to drag me into a discussion by hypothesizing beliefs I hold and getting me to correct them. I will link you to a previous comment of mine; you may pursue that discussion with me if you’d like: gratuitous evil ≈ irreducible complexity.

          • Andy_Schueler

            You are wrong, but you are not going to drag me into a discussion by hypothesizing beliefs I hold and getting me to correct them[1]. I will link you to a previous comment of mine; you may pursue that discussion with me if you’d like: gratuitous evil ≈ irreducible complexity[2].

            1. Well, no answer is also an answer.
            2. We already did discuss that issue. What you suggest is completely disanalogous because:
            a) How evolutionary processes lead to “irreducibly complex” structues is understood theoretically and has been demonstrated empirically (note that Behe provides two superficially similar but actually very different definitions of IC and switches between using one or the other for tactical reasons, IC systems according to one definition (IC = you remove any component and the current main function is lost) actually do occur in nature, IC systems according to the other (IC = you remove any component and the system loses all functionality) have never been observed).
            What is lacking is a detailed explanation for all systems in question, in principle however, the problem has already been solved. This is completely unlike your ability to explain gratuitous evil – you neither have specific explanations for how things like developmental disorders, killer viruses and earthquakes do not actually cause gratuitous evil, nor do you have an idea for how such explanations could theoretically look like (at least you have never provided such theoretical or actual explanations).
            b) Irreducible complexity is all about what you do NOT know, but that is not the case for the evidential problem of evil – no atheist would reason “I do not know why this happens, so there must be no rhyme or reason to it and all the suffering it produces is gratuitous” – on the contrary, we say that the suffering due to earthquakes (for example) is gratuitous because we DO know what is going on there, we DO know why this happens and that is why we say that the suffering they cause is gratuitous.

          • Luke Breuer

            1. Okay.
            2. I simply think there is more to it than you do. I think there is a larger model which contains both efficient and final causes, instead of merely efficient causes. I think that reality is fundamentally morally rational; you think reality is fundamentally morally irrational (or simply non-moral). You therefore will not look for ever-more moral order, because you believe there is none.

          • Andy_Schueler

            I think that reality is fundamentally morally rational; you think reality is fundamentally morally irrational (or simply non-moral).[1] You therefore will not look for ever-more moral order, because you believe there is none. [2]

            1. The differences being that for me this is a conclusion based on the evidence while for you it is hope despite the evidence. And further – I´m just interested in what is actually the case / what is true, I have no strong preferences either way and could easily accept either one of the two alternatives if the evidence would support them (if anything, I would prefer it if nature were NOT indifferent wrt our wellbeing), while for you, one option is ruled out a priori because it is incompatible with other beliefs that you hold and want to be true.
            2. And you are not looking for it either, because you don´t even begin to have an idea where to look for it. Despite you implying that there is ongoing progress (ever-more moral order), there is not even the tiniest hint of a trace of evidence supporting the claim that there is a moral dimension to anything other than sentient beings. It´s not as if you had a research program or anything like that here – you have no evidence for a moral dimension that is independent of the actions of sentient beings and you do not even know how such evidence could conceivably look like!

          • Luke Breuer

            1. Nope, not giving you this one. The very way you look at “the evidence”—scientifically—excludes morality from the get-go. Drag the ocean with a net with 4cm x 4cm holes and you aren’t going to catch 1cm objects. Physicalism/naturalism is your conclusion. From it flows no morality except that constructed by contingent beings.

            2. I never said I had a “moral dimension that is independent of the actions of sentient beings”; generally God is considered to be a sentient being. Without reality being created by a moral sentient being, I don’t see how it could be ‘moral’. There is a fundamental difference between morality coming from creator of reality, and morality coming from contingent beings.

          • Andy_Schueler

            1. You are contradicting yourself. Either I am excluding morality from the get-go or I am not. If I am, then I cannot conclude that there is such a thing as morality, anywhere – If I am not, then I can indeed conclude that, and that is what I do.
            “Drag the ocean with a net with 4cm x 4cm holes and you aren’t going to catch 1cm objects.”

            => Right, because you use a totally different “net” with which you have “caught” totally cool objects that I cannot find because I am excluding them from the get-go. No wait… Actually you don´t have such a “net” and you haven´t “caught” anything.
            2. That´s just a word game, then just substitute “nature” by “goddidit” and my point still stands – you are not looking for such “moral order” because you have no idea where to look and you don´t even know how such “moral order” could conceivably look like.

          • Luke Breuer

            1. How am I contradicting myself? You seem to be confusing (a) morality that is a construct of contingent beings; and (b) morality that is encoded into reality via a creator. Under physicalism/naturalism, (b) cannot exist.

            2. I’m pretty sure that the four triads I keep posting are a place to start looking:

                 • Mt 5:43-48, Jn 13:34-35, Jn 17:20-23
                 • Mt 5:23-24, Mt 18:15-20, Eph 4:25-27
                 • Mt 7:1-5, Mt 23:1-4, Gal 6:1-5
                 • Mt 7:15-23, Mt 13:24-30, Mt 25:31-46

            The challenge is: tune your moral compass to these and see whether the resultant reality is morally better. As to what happens after one masters the above, see 1 Thess 4:1–2,9–10. The telos, of course is ‘life’, which we can define better and better as we pursue it more and more. Get the basics wrong and you’re screwed.

          • Andy_Schueler

            1. Cool, so lets assume for the sake of the argument that physicalism is false – which instances of “morality being encoded into reality” are you then aware of?
            2. “I’m pretty sure that the four triads I keep posting are….”
            – about human beings doing stuff, completely different subject. You were actually talking about “morality being encoded into reality in a way that is incompatible with physicalism”, you know, the kind of “moral order” that you allegedly look for while I am not. So where are you looking for it, how do you do that and what have you found so far?

          • Luke Breuer

            1. This segues into the moral entropy discussion. If there is an accessible external source of infinitely low moral entropy (viz., Jesus), that changes things from how they would otherwise be. There’s a much simpler term which is often used: grace.

            2. Any actions predicated upon the above are radically different from actions predicated upon a closed system. If it’s either that I suffer or you suffer (think: Syria, Ukraine, Iraq, Egypt, Israel–Palestinians), I’m going to do my best to ensure that I suffer less than you. Contrast to what MacIntyre has to say about charity in After Virtue:

            There is no word in the Greek of Aristotle’s age correctly translated ‘sin’, ‘repentance’ or ‘charity’.
            [...]
            Charity is not, of course, from the biblical point of view, just one more virtue to be added to the list. Its inclusion alters the conception of the good for man in a radical way; for the community in which the good is achieved has to be one of reconciliation. (174)

            And so, the questions of how I receive grace and how I can channel grace to others means operating within an open system. It means when someone hits me, I don’t have to hit back, and the most important part of me does not lose out in the process. This can only be true if evil can be redeemed.

          • Andy_Schueler

            1. Alright, so I assume that physicalism is false and I further assume that everything that the Bible says about Jesus is true. Now, the Bible describes Jesus as a dude doing stuff – but that is not what you were talking about, you were talking about “morality being encoded into reality in a way that is incompatible with physicalism” – what instances of that stuff are you aware of then? (and why do I have to ask so often until you finally answer this?)
            2. You are still talking about PEOPLE doing stuff and ONLY people doing stuff, stop trying to change the subject.

          • Luke Breuer

            At this point, I have no idea what you’re asking for. Rocks don’t receive and process grace, people do. You seem to want some science experiment you can do, where you study objects, and somehow see morality. No, this is not possible. You must study subjects, and for this you need people. As far as I understand, Jesus’ sacrifice sans any fallen moral agents wouldn’t change a thing.

            You yourself have mentioned that the only way to have utopias is for them to be homogeneous and isolated from the world. If you see some state of affairs that bucks this trend, surely you would recognize that something is different from standard? One such option is grace, extended from members in the community to other members in the community, not based on merit. Tensions do not have the opportunity to grow except within people who themselves refuse to receive/channel grace.

            Physicalism does not permit the concept of grace to even be constructed. Why would the concept even arise? Why would beings evolve who could take advantage of it? All this would be is one organism being disadvantaged for the benefit of another. It might benefit the species, but it’s not going to benefit the individual. Maybe we just say screw the occasional individual who has to be sacrificed “for the greater good”? This is not grace.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Dude, this started with gratuitous evils and your claim that you “think that reality is fundamentally morally rational” while I “therefore will not look for ever-more moral order“.
            So what I keep asking you again and again and again is where this alleged “moral order” is that I am not looking for and how it means that the gratuitous evils in question are not actually gratuitous.
            The suffering caused by a child being born with anencephaly doesn´t cease to be gratuitous because Jesus is an awesome guy – the latter has literally nothing to do with the former. To explain such gratuitous evils away, you need a reason to say something like “it was actually a great thing that your child was born with anencephaly because [insert reason here]“. You would need a reason for why this event was necessary, for why it was part of a “moral order” and not just nature being indifferent, for why it led to a greater good that could not have been obtained in a less evil way. You can talk about how great Jesus is all day long, it still is a completely different ballpark, it has nothing to do with the evidential problem of evil and it has nothing to do with a “moral order” that is “incompatible with physicalism” because people being moral ISN´T incompatible with physicalism.

          • Luke Breuer

            Evil isn’t necessary, it is the result of free choices. Evil is contingent. A question is whether the consequences of evil can be redeemed; I say yes always, you say sometimes no (if not always no). That is, I claim we live in a universe with the resources to redeem evil—any evil. I don’t have to explain a very hard instance of what appears to be gratuitous evil in order to hold this position, just like you don’t have to immediately explain some system that some ID advocate claims is irreducibly complex.

            My case relies on there being a MacIntyre-tradition where more and more complex evils can be redeemed over time, as the tradition progresses. I can start small, for example by helping someone with alcoholic parents break with the cycle and instead of subconsciously manifesting the statistical result of being parented by alcoholics, learn the mechanics of it and fight it. Or I can help a recently graduated student make use of the bad treatment she received from grad school in order to bless others’ lives in a way she wouldn’t be able to, had she cruised through grad school.

            The fact that humans can be ‘moral’ is irrelevant if that ‘moral’ has the kind of entropic upper bound that an closed system has. If there isn’t enough grace, you get situations like Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, and Egypt. Those humans are being ‘moral'; the results are atrocious.

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

            Si now the amount of evil is predicated on the amount of grace. Which means God can control the amount of evil. Which then prompts the question as to why God decides to under-provide grace. If he could, but doesn’t for no good reason, then this is your gratuitousness.

          • Luke Breuer

            If “the amount of evil is predicated on the amount of grace”, does that mean grace causes evil? That would be very odd. Suppose instead that evil causes God to dispense grace, because he is good (this is actually scriptural). The grace still must be freely accepted.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Evil isn’t necessary, it is the result of free choices.

            Cool, so I guess that means you retract this:now:
            “You seem to want some science experiment you can do, where you study objects, and somehow see morality. No, this is not possible. You must study subjects, and for this you need people.”
            => and now I would be interested in how you propose to research the basis of the sentience of things like rocks – which they need to have in order to make choices.

            I don’t have to explain a very hard instance of what appears to be gratuitous evil in order to hold this position

            Cool, then explain an easy instance.

            just like you don’t have to immediately explain some system that some ID advocate claims is irreducibly complex.

            Like talking to a broken record…. Your ability to practically instantly forget arguments against things you want to be true is amazing.

            The fact that humans can be ‘moral’ is irrelevant if that ‘moral’ has the kind of entropic upper bound that an closed system has.

            You still talk as if “moral entropy” were a coherent idea, yet you have done nothing to establish that such a thing exists at all and you have also done nothing to dismantle my arguments for why such a concept makes no sense – you just dropped out of the discussion where we talked about moral entropy but keep pretending that “moral entropy” is a coherent idea anyway. That is precisely the opposite of what you ought to do if you want anyone to take your idea at all seriously.

          • Luke Breuer

            Cool, so I guess that means you retract this:now:

            “You seem to want some science experiment you can do, where you study objects, and somehow see morality. No, this is not possible. You must study subjects, and for this you need people.”

            I’ve said otherwise that natural evil must be the result of moral agents which we cannot currently see. I said natural evil is the dark matter to the Standard Model of moral evil. I thought I had said this to you, but perhaps it was only to The Thinker. However, you seem to so carefully follow my comments to people ¬you that I would have thought you’d seen it.

            The only thing that is relevant for whether it is gratuitous is whether there was a good reason for why it happened or not – for whether it was the only or the least evil way to accomplish a good goal that overcompensates for the evil it produced.

            You are speaking as if there isn’t actual free choice, that it’s more like a block universe and God set everything up beforehand. Otherwise, it would appear that “good reason” can merely be that some person made choices to bring about the current state of affairs. God of course could restrict what choices can be made.

            Then explain an easy instance, I doubt that you can explain any instance at all.

            The intellectual and emotional abuse of a friend of mine in grad school taught her things and gave her abilities to help and bless people which she wouldn’t otherwise have had. Please explain how the world would evolve such that these abilities weren’t necessary for human thriving.

            You still talk as if “moral entropy” were a coherent idea,

            Yes, yes, I haven’t continued this discussion with you. I will get to it; the relevant Disqus comments are starred in my Gmail. I’ve been quite busy as of late, and the way you choose to interact requires a lot of my emotional energy.

          • Andy_Schueler

            I’ve said otherwise that natural evil must be the result of moral agents which we cannot currently see.

            So you say that plate tectonics and pretty much all of geophysics plus all of virology and developmental biology, is completely false and you propose the “satan is a dick” theory as an alternative explanation, which I suppose boils down to invisible demons causing killer viruses, tsunamis and volcano eruptions, in a way that is curiously scientifically understandable and predictable with theories that don´t involve omni-hidden demons?
            Is that what you mean? If not, what do you mean?

            You are speaking as if there isn’t actual free choice…

            No, that would be yet another completely different ballpark. You don´t seem to understand what “gratuitous evil” actually means.

            The intellectual and emotional abuse of a friend of mine in grad school taught her things and gave her abilities to help and bless people which she wouldn’t otherwise have had.

            So we ought to intellectually and emotionally abuse people because that is the best and least evil way to teach them important things and to enable them to “help and bless others”?
            Yes or no? Don´t avoid the yes or no question – if you think this is a leading question, explain WHY it allegedly is a leading question among the line of “have you stopped beating your wife recently”. Otherwise – Yes, or no?

          • Luke Breuer

            So you say that plate tectonics and pretty much all of geophysics plus all of virology and developmental biology, is completely false [...]

            No. You are confusing efficient causes with final causes. Furthermore, none of the above needs to be predicated upon pure randomness; each would run as we model it on pseudorandomness.

            You are speaking as if there isn’t actual free choice…

            No, that would be yet another completely different ballpark. You don´t seem to understand what “gratuitous evil” actually means.

            Do tell me how “gratuitous evil” meshes with free choices which God does not determine. For example, ought God always prevent the free choices that would lead to rape?

            So we ought to intellectually and emotionally abuse people because that is the best and least evil way to teach them important things and to enable them to “help and bless others”?

            No. There are better ways available by free choice, but we often do not choose them. And so the pain & suffering route is the one that will [eventually] lead to knowledge and wisdom.

            I attended a two-day intensive suicide prevention training course and it was really neat to see how much of an acid test it was to the stupid-ass things people often say to cheer each other up. You see, being suicidal gives one a clarity that is otherwise sadly lacking. Certain nice little sayings are actually prone to make someone more suicidal. It is in this realm that small signals are vastly amplified, for they lead more quickly to life or death. Sadly, we often do not choose to take the wisdom gained from this and apply it to non-suicidal people. And so, signals have to amplify before we see them for what they are.

          • Andy_Schueler

            No. You are confusing efficient causes with final causes.

            No, I don´t, I know perfectly well what efficient and final causes are supposed to be – and it has nothing to do with what you said, which was:
            “I’ve said otherwise that natural evil must be the result of moral agents which we cannot currently see.”
            – so, again:
            What moral agents do you have in mind here and what do they do?

            Do tell me how “gratuitous evil” meshes with free choices….

            I´ll answer that as soon as you answer who exactly chooses to cause earthquakes, viral infections and developmental disorders.

          • Luke Breuer

            The thing about dark matter is that we know virtually nothing about it. Well, at least we didn’t when it was first proposed. The same goes with these “moral agents which we cannot currently see“. I am positing that behind what you call “natural evils” are moral agents responsible for said evils. This doesn’t negate any science at all behind earthquakes etc.

          • Andy_Schueler

            I am positing that behind what you call “natural evils” are moral agents responsible for said evils[1]. This doesn’t negate any science at all behind earthquakes etc.[2]

            1. And which moral agents exactly and on what basis do you propose this? No physicist ever said “guys, lets make some shit up out of thin air for no reason whatsoever”, what they say is stuff like “visible matter is not sufficient to account for the degree of gravitational interactions that is observable, therefore we think that there is “dark” matter in addition to “normal” matter that does interact with light” – what is your reason for inferring the actions of moral agents?

            2. Of course it does – and completely so, all of this science must be complete and utter bullshit if what you say is true, the only thing that could still be true would be trivia like the size of an ebola virus. How those viruses actually work and what they do can be erased and replaced by “some designer choses to do some magic shit here”.

          • Luke Breuer

            1. Physicists could easily have thrown up their hands and declared reality irrational. They did not. You encounter what you see as gratuitous evil and throw up your hands. I do not. I infer moral agents when there are goods or evils which appear out of moral-nowhere.

            2. You’ve not come close to convincing me of what you claim. Care to articulate precisely why my claims lead to the necessary rejection of “all this science”?

          • Andy_Schueler

            1. Physicists could easily have thrown up their hands and declared reality irrational. They did not.[1] You encounter what you see as gratuitous evil and throw up your hands. I do not. [2] I infer moral agents when there are goods or evils which appear out of moral-nowhere.[3]

            1. Erm, that was precisely my point….
            2. False, you make stuff up out of thin air, stuff that has no explanatory power whatsoever and stuff that contradicts actual explanations that are supported by evidence. We don´t throw up our hands, we have actual explanations for why things like earthquakes happen, you just don´t like those explanations.
            3. That is not an answer, physicists have evidence for why something like dark matter most likely exists – you seem to have nothing at all except for a strong desire that those things should be the result of moral agents doing stuff.

            2. You’ve not come close to convincing me of what you claim. Care to articulate precisely why my claims lead to the necessary rejection of “all this science”?

            Example: The accuracy of DNA polymerases in producing copies of DNA molecules depends on a variety of factors, one of those is the presence of DNA repeats in the template – this influences the likelihood of events like unequal crossing over which in turn causes some particular DNA mutations to happen. This is all chemistry, predictable chemistry. And if what you say is true, it is also bullshit, complete and utter bullshit – because what would actually go on if you are right is that some “moral agent” choses stuff to happen. If the moral agent wants to create some extra copies of CAG repeats in the Huntingtin gene of some guy, then that is what will happen. And by sheer dumb luck this happens to be predictable with scientific theories that are intrinsically ateleological because the moral agent for some reason acts in a completely predictable fashion.
            Whether you like it or not, pretty much all of science has to be complete bullshit for you to be right about this.

          • Luke Breuer

            A. What was the original evidence “for why something like dark matter most likely exists”? My recollection is: “our equations don’t work as-is without making it up out of thin air”. Is this incorrect?

            B. Who says that moral agents can make whatever they want to happen, to happen? You are assuming that in your DNA example. What if all that a moral agent can do is influence the noise?

          • Andy_Schueler

            A. How the hell is that “making stuff up out of thin air”? There were completely logical reasons for postulating dark matter, and I keep asking you what your reason is for postulating the work of moral agents when it comes to earthquakes (for example), because you wanting that to be true seems to be the entire bases for that.
            B. I guess that would depend on whether there are more than 2.7 angels that can dance on the head of a pin or less.

          • Luke Breuer

            A. Please list the “completely logical reasons”.

            B. Tangent terminated, I guess?

          • Andy_Schueler

            A. If the observed degree of gravitational attraction is way above what should be observed given the amount of visible matter that can cause such attraction, then either the theoretical account of how gravity works is flawed in this respect or there must be additional matter beyond what can be detected. It would have made sense to explore both choices and that is what has and is happening. What wouldn´t have made sense is to observe that the observations match precisely what should be observed given the available scientific explanations and then say “well, maybe its still magic and some omni-hidden demons are doing some shit here and stuff” – but that is what you are doing, you have no reason for postulating the actions of moral agents at work except that you want that to be true.

            B. Dude, you are proposing that an unknown number of unknown moral agents with unknown motivations and unknown powers choose to cause things like earthquakes, viral infections and developmental disorders for unknown reasons. Discussing that is about as productive as me denying that there ever was a historical Jesus and providing the alternative explanation for the origin of christianity “an unknown number of unknown natural causes led to the emergence of christianity in an unknown way”. Can you specifially say in what sense your “unknown moral agents somehow choose to cause earthquakes in an unknown way for unknown reasons” idea is even just an iota more meaningful than a debate on how many angels could dance on the head of a pin?

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

            Great debate guys.

            Luke it seems that your dark matter analogy is precisely like a “supernaturalism of the gaps” that I’ve accused you of. When we figure out dark matter, you’ll just use another mystery of science to make another analogy. And when we figure out dark matter, what do you think the likelihood will be that it has a supernatural explanation, opposed to a natural one? And how does a universe filled with unseen moral agents causing havoc on us fit in with your Leibnizian view on miracles? If earthquakes and disease couldn’t happen naturally without the interference of said moral agents, aren’t these law breaking events?

            I honestly cringe when I read your answers to some of Andy’s questions. I have a real fear of people thinking this way and it’s one of my motivations for why I want to eradicate religion. So I struggle to see how your sophisticated theological views give me any reason why I shouldn’t oppose them.

          • Luke Breuer

            When we figure out dark matter, you’ll just use another mystery of science to make another analogy.

            No, you completely misunderstand the analogy if you think this.

            And how does a universe filled with unseen moral agents causing havoc on us fit in with your Leibnizian view on miracles?

            Perfectly.

            If earthquakes and disease couldn’t happen naturally without the interference of said moral agents, aren’t these law breaking events?

            Was your choosing to make this post a law-breaking event?

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

            No, you completely misunderstand the analogy if you think this.

            It’s really hard to understand you sometimes. Dark matter is to physics as invisible moral agents are to evil. That’s it, correct?

            Perfectly.

            Since it is these very “natural evils” that lead to our evolution, might these unseen agents by responsible for our existence and not god? It seems to me that the universe god created wouldn’t have lead to our evolution if not for these unseen agents mingling in the universe. That doesn’t seem consistent with LMs.

            Was your choosing to make this post a law-breaking event?

            I don’t see myself as anything other than a part of the physical universe completely determined by the laws of physics. If I were an immaterial agent, not part of the universe and I could make things happen in the universe, like earthquakes, that wouldn’t have otherwise happened, then I’m not sure I can think of that as anything but a law breaking event.

          • Luke Breuer

            It’s really hard to understand you sometimes. Dark matter is to physics as invisible moral agents are to evil. That’s it, correct?

            Yes, that’s it. Now tell me why dark matter being solved makes it a bad analogy. Are you saying that dark matter would get solved but gratuitous evil would not? But this is precisely what I avoid by requiring a MacIntyre-tradition which is making progress on solving gratuitous evils. And hence I have no idea what your objection is. You shouldn’t be surprised if it’s hard to understand a discussion you jump in on.

            That doesn’t seem consistent with LMs.

            Three questions:

            1. Is a growing block universe consistent with LMs?
            2. Is the Big Bang consistent with LMs?
            3. Could the programmers of The Matrix change it in lawful ways? Or does every change require something like deja vu, like the movie has it?

            I don’t see myself as anything other than a part of the physical universe completely determined by the laws of physics.

            So you’re just really fortunate that the laws of physics are such that we can learn ever more physics and other science? I mean, it’s not like you chose to do science, chose to understand things better and better, etc. A scientist doesn’t pick what experiment to run, the laws of physics do.

            This is more indication that we need to have a chat about eliminative materialism, which means I need to read some more philosophy of mind.

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

            Are you saying that dark matter would get solved but gratuitous evil would not?

            No. I was thinking more in terms of how dark matter is a mystery now, and a current mystery in science is being used as an analogy to compare it to evil spirits. My take on your definition of supernaturalism is that it is similar to the god of the gaps, it’s just a supernaturalism of the gaps. Do you think I’m wrong, and if so why?

            But this is precisely what I avoid by requiring a MacIntyre-tradition which is making progress on solving gratuitous evils.

            Your attempt to solve gratuitous evils is as far as I can tell, to posit invisible, undetectable and perhaps also, unfalsifiable, demons who cause natural evils. Is that correct?

            1. Is a growing block universe consistent with LMs?

            2. Is the Big Bang consistent with LMs?
            3. Could the programmers of The Matrix change it in lawful ways? Or does every change require something like deja vu, like the movie has it?

            I don’t think LMs are consistent with science or physics, so no to 1 and 2. For no. 3, the programmers of the matric could do whatever they want, so long as it was consistent with the laws of physics in their universe, but they’d have to break the laws of physics in our universe to do such a thing.

            So you’re just really fortunate that the laws of physics are such that we can learn ever more physics and other science?

            Yes, I am lucky, but the the billions of sentient beings who suffered under these same laws who didn’t ever get to appreciate any of the science that underpins it, they unfortunately lucked out.

            A scientist doesn’t pick what experiment to run, the laws of physics do.

            Yes, and I have an almost spiritual understanding of this. One of my favorite philosophers as of late, is Alan Watts. Watts said, “Man is nature become conscious of itself.” He was actually a practicioner of Zen Buddhism but many of the views of Zen are perfectly consistent with naturalism. He also said, “You are an aperture through which the universe is looking at and exploring itself.” It made me really think for a moment about how true this is, and also how poetic it is.

          • Luke Breuer

            My take on your definition of supernaturalism is that it is similar to the god of the gaps, it’s just a supernaturalism of the gaps. Do you think I’m wrong, and if so why?

            You appear to have not responded to this comment, in which I said:

            LB: You haven’t fully captured god-of-the-gaps. The reasoning goes: (i) we cannot explain how X happened; (ii) therefore God did X; (iii) therefore God exists. I am doing nothing of the sort with the supernatural. Here, try it out: (a) the supernatural exists; (b) ???. Where do you think I am going with (a)? Fill in a (b) that makes my definition of ‘supernatural’ get anywhere close to god-of-the-gaps. Unless you disagree with what I presented as a necessary component of god-of-the-gaps?

            Your attempt to solve gratuitous evils is as far as I can tell, to posit invisible, undetectable and perhaps also, unfalsifiable, demons who cause natural evils. Is that correct?

            This does not “solve” gratuitous evils any more than dark matter “solved” the problem of missing mass/erroneous laws.

            For no. 3, the programmers of the matric could do whatever they want, so long as it was consistent with the laws of physics in their universe, but they’d have to break the laws of physics in our universe to do such a thing.

            So you really do seem to be operating under a block universe, deterministic paradigm, and anything which violates that paradigm is immediately ‘law-breaking’. Is this accurate?

            He also said, “You are an aperture through which the universe is looking at and exploring itself.”

            This makes no sense to me. The universe doesn’t act any more or less than you do.

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

            The reasoning goes: (i) we cannot explain how X happened; (ii) therefore God did X; (iii) therefore God exists. I am doing nothing of the sort with the supernatural. Here, try it out: (a) the supernatural exists; (b) ???. Where do you think I am going with (a)? Fill in a (b) that makes my definition of ‘supernatural’ get anywhere close to god-of-the-gaps. Unless you disagree with what I presented as a necessary component of god-of-the-gaps?

            It would work like this:

            1. We cannot explain gratuitous evil without supernatural demons.
            2. Therefore supernatural demons cause gratuitous evil.
            3. Therefore supernatural demons exist.

            This sounds to me your exact reasoning process regarding demons and evil. If not, then please propose a formal argument at how you logically arrive at the existence of supernatural demons.

            This does not “solve” gratuitous evils any more than dark matter “solved” the problem of missing mass/erroneous laws.

            Well your attempt to solve or explain gratuitous evil by positing supernatural demons doesn’t work, and not only that, it might be not even wrong. However, dark matter does have something going for it, we can calculate it and we have pending experiments that could verify its existence. Does your hypothesis offer anything like that?

            So you really do seem to be operating under a block universe, deterministic paradigm, and anything which violates that paradigm is immediately ‘law-breaking’. Is this accurate?

            Not so. Although I am an eternalist and a determinist myself, I don’t presume this in my answer. Suppose we live in a growing block universe that is inherently indeterministic and the same thing applies.

          • Luke Breuer

            1. We cannot explain gratuitous evil without supernatural demons.
            2. Therefore supernatural demons cause gratuitous evil.
            3. Therefore supernatural demons exist.

            And therefore… what? In the god-of-the-gaps version, there is a 4.: obey God as he commands in holy book X. Here, it’s just: there is a way for no evils to be gratuitous. The difference between this and god-of-the-gaps seems enormous to me.

            However, dark matter does have something going for it, we can calculate it and we have pending experiments that could verify its existence. Does your hypothesis offer anything like that?

            It’s not really the #1-#3 which helps here, it’s making the choice to attempt to redeem evil that matters. This requires attempting to understand why evil happened, how that evil works, and how to make it less likely to happen in the future. As this is done, more and more wisdom and understanding will be gained. Maybe at some point it will become useful to collect some set of evil causes and give that set a name. Whether this is called a ‘demon’ or just an abstract set seems irrelevant. A key goal is to reduce the amount of evil, which requires some model which has utility.

            Suppose we live in a growing block universe that is inherently indeterministic and the same thing applies.

            In a growing block universe, states of affairs can come into being which do not exist yet; see Problem of future contingents. I do need to read up more on the growing block universe; sadly my library does not have Tooley 1997 Time, Tense, and Causation. My intuition is that the growing block universe allows first causes to happen at any time; determinism of course requires all first causes to exist at the beginning of time. An agent’s actions would be a set of first causes. I don’t see how first causes being spread across time requires laws to be broken, and it does seem like first causes spread throughout time could alter the course of the future in ways that could not be predicted.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Here, it’s just: there is a way for no evils to be gratuitous.

            So the logic is:
            1. Earthquakes, developmental disorders, volcano eruptions etc.pp. happen because demonsdidit.
            2. ???
            3. Therefore, there are no gratuitous evils.
            Seems to be pretty enormous logic gap in the middle.

            It’s not really the #1-#3 which helps here, it’s making the choice to attempt to redeem evil that matters.

            You still seem to believe that you are addressing the PoE with “but but, we could try to help those people!” – you just don´t get it, what you are talking about has no relevance for the PoE whatsoever.

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

            And therefore… what? In the god-of-the-gaps version, there is a 4.: obey God as he commands in holy book X.

            You didn’t include a no.4 and it is not necessary. The argument need not include a conclusion that advocates DCT.

            Here, it’s just: there is a way for no evils to be gratuitous. The difference between this and god-of-the-gaps seems enormous to me.

            I’m sorry Luke but you make no sense to me here. Either you’re being vague again, you’re not explaining yourself as best you can, or something else. I asked you for a logical argument how you get to the existence of invisible supernatural demons that cause natural evils and you failed to provide one.

            This requires attempting to understand why evil happened, how that evil works, and how to make it less likely to happen in the future.

            That’s exactly what I’m trying to probe here with you. Why does natural evil happen? How does that evil work? And how to make it less likely? I would add, how does your explanation of evil help make it less likely?

            A key goal is to reduce the amount of evil, which requires some model which has utility.

            I would agree. How does your model help us reduce evil?

            My intuition is that the growing block universe allows first causes to happen at any time; determinism of course requires all first causes to exist at the beginning of time.

            I know a guy who is a ardent determinist and I’ve been talking with him about determinism lately. He argues that everything in the universe has a cause or an explanation. Do you agree with that or not?

            I don’t see how first causes being spread across time requires laws to be broken, and it does seem like first causes spread throughout time could alter the course of the future in ways that could not be predicted.

            It depends, can those first causes be disconnected from the universe? If so, they might violate the conservation of energy. Can these first causes make things happen in the universe that couldn’t naturally, like make matter travel faster than light? If so, that violates a basic law of physics.

            This makes no sense to me. The universe doesn’t act any more or less than you do.

            We are the universe. Humans are not separate from it. That’s the whole point.

          • Luke Breuer

            You didn’t include a no.4 and it is not necessary. The argument need not include a conclusion that advocates DCT.

            Alright, but then you mean something vastly different than I do with the term ‘god-of-the-gaps’. To me, it is a correct criticism against certain arguments for the existence of God. It is the fact that it says, “lack of evidence, therefore believe/do X” that I see as very bad. If, instead, it is merely a placeholder for as-of-yet-undetected phenomena, phenomena which we don’t care about until they become detectable, then it loses all of this ‘badness’. The difference in connotation between your use of ‘god-of-the-gaps’ and my use of ‘god-of-the-gaps’ is immense.

            I asked you for a logical argument how you get to the existence of invisible supernatural demons that cause natural evils and you failed to provide one.

            The argument goes like this:

            1. Goods and evils are caused by moral agents. (Assume moral rationality.)
            2. When you cannot find the moral agent behind a good or an evil, it does not mean no moral agent caused it.
            3. Some goods and evils don’t seem to be caused by moral agents.
            4. Therefore, there are moral agents other than humans at work.
            5. God does not do evil except e.g. like this.
            6. Therefore, there are moral agents other than humans and God.

            You can always deny #1. Then you can assign arbitrarily much good/evil to non-moral agents. It ends up being very convenient to do this, because nobody’s on the hook for the evils not committed by a human (God being out of the equation by this point). And hey, who knows if it were actually human error, let’s blame it on nature! (Or is it ‘Nature’?)

            Why does natural evil happen? How does that evil work? And how to make it less likely? I would add, how does your explanation of evil help make it less likely?

            Here’s an example: we seem to be seeing a rise in autism. Our culture is pretty ossified these days; if people don’t fit into a predetermined slot according to predefined demographics (# people per given slot), they are wrong. Autism seems like a great way for God to screw with such ossification: let a failure mode of humans be that some simply refuse to conform, perhaps not even of their own volition. I’ve seen fantastic work done with autistic kids whereby they open up more than their doctors ever said they would, when they were given the opportunity to be creative in the ways they wanted to be creative.

            None of the above says to stop looking for material and efficient causes; we should still do science. But perhaps autism is a sign of a failing of our culture, a failing to let individuals make it bigger and better. Maybe if we fully understood how to not be giant dicks, we would understand how to cater to autistic children, and then they could lead pretty good lives. They would have their differences from the ‘normal’ person, but who said that ‘normal’ is good anyhow? I want someone who is OCD to be the one who writes or verifies the software that runs the airplanes I fly.

            I know a guy who is a ardent determinist and I’ve been talking with him about determinism lately. He argues that everything in the universe has a cause or an explanation. Do you agree with that or not?

            I’m inclined to say that yes, everything has a cause or an explanation.

            It depends, can those first causes be disconnected from the universe? If so, they might violate the conservation of energy. Can these first causes make things happen in the universe that couldn’t naturally, like make matter travel faster than light? If so, that violates a basic law of physics.

            Neither of those needs to happen for my case to hold together.

            We are the universe. Humans are not separate from it. That’s the whole point.

            You couldn’t observe or interact with the universe if you were 100% isolated from it. On the other hand, our current method of doing quantum computation requires really good isolation from reality for periods of time. So I’m not sure what the deep point behind that statement is.

          • Andy_Schueler

            I wonder if I am the only one who finds it utterly hilarious that a theist would write such a comment on a post called “On theists believing ridiculous, unscientific things…”…

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

            LOL. Andy, you’re right on the money!

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

            Genius.

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

            It is the fact that it says, “lack of evidence, therefore believe/do X” that I see as very bad. If, instead, it is merely a placeholder for as-of-yet-undetected phenomena, phenomena which we don’t care about until they become detectable, then it loses all of this ‘badness’.

            Wow. You have no idea that the as-of-yet-undetected phenomena exists, and it is being posited because of a perceived mystery. That is a supernaturalism of the gaps.

            The argument goes like this:

            1. Goods and evils are caused by moral agents. (Assume moral rationality.)
            2. When you cannot find the moral agent behind a good or an evil, it does not mean no moral agent caused it.
            3. Some goods and evils don’t seem to be caused by moral agents.
            4. Therefore, there are moral agents other than humans at work.
            5. God does not do evil except e.g. like this.
            6. Therefore, there are moral agents other than humans and God.

            You can always deny #1. Then you can assign arbitrarily much good/evil to non-moral agents. It ends up being very convenient to do this, because nobody’s on the hook for the evils not committed by a human (God being out of the equation by this point). And hey, who knows if it were actually human error, let’s blame it on nature! (Or is it ‘Nature’?)

            Thanks for coming through with the argument.

            You seem to assume your conclusion in the first premise, partially. I see no reason to assume this. And premise 2 seems a lot like my premise 1, “We cannot explain gratuitous evil without supernatural demons”. And premise 5 is interesting. The natural evil I speak of is what lead to our evolution. If god had nothing to do with it, then are you saying demons caused and/or guided our evolution and not god? All in all, this is not a good argument. And remember, the title of this post is about theists believing ridiculous and unscientific things. Irony.

            Our culture is pretty ossified these days; if people don’t fit into a predetermined slot according to predefined demographics (# people per given slot), they are wrong.

            Yes Autism seems to be on the rise, probably because of better diagnosis. Are you telling me god invented autism and chooses who gets born with it so that it will make us change our ways of thinking about demographics?

            Autism seems like a great way for God to screw with such ossification:

            Yes you are pretty much saying that. God punishes some people to teach other people lessons. And this is a more reasonable explanation than science’s explanation (which doesn’t include your faith based final-cause) how exactly?

            But perhaps autism is a sign of a failing of our culture, a failing to let individuals make it bigger and better.

            So it’s all our fault? Humans screwed it all up, and god is perfect? Correct?

            Maybe if we fully understood how to not be giant dicks, we would understand how to cater to autistic children, and then they could lead pretty good lives.

            But under your explanation if we weren’t giant dicks, that alone would stop the growth or existence or autism, since god is creating it because we are apparently dicks. That’s pseudoscience.

            Iwant someone who is OCD to be the one who writes or verifies the software that runs the airplanes I fly.

            What about someone with severe CEREBRAL PALSY or Down Syndrome?

            I’m inclined to say that yes, everything has a cause or an explanation.

            Then you have to be a determinist. What causes, under SELO, an idea to spontaneously erupt one way rather than the other? It has to have a cause or an explanation. And that cause or explanation has to have its own cause or an explanation. You will get a regress going back before the person was born.

            Neither of those needs to happen for my case to hold together.

            Your case is that immaterial beings cause things to happen in the universe. If something not part of the universe does something to the universe, that is an injection of energy. How does that not violate the conservation of energy?

            So I’m not sure what the deep point behind that statement is.

            It’s not suppose to be a anything other than an observation of man’s relationship in the universe.

          • Luke Breuer

            And remember, the title of this post is about theists believing ridiculous and unscientific things. Irony.

            You just cannot help but piss on people’s ideas, eh? My response is that which I recently provided to Andy:

            LB: I think I’m going to take a long break, and attempt to learn how to do the bad things you criticize me of doing much less frequently if and when I return. I tire of my supposed faults being pointed out in ways that are not easy for me to correct. I am tired of others justifying their behavior based on how I appear to be acting. The only solution I know is to discipline myself into a higher level of perfection. I would prefer to do this with other people, in the “iron sharpens iron” sense. Sadly, that is frequently not the case—I am made out to be the terrible person, significantly more terrible than the person accusing.

            I have had to do the above before. It is painful to do alone, but it is possible. Goodbye for now.

            There’s also a follow-up. What I’m going to do, The Thinker, is learn how to expose only the part of me which you find ‘acceptable’, as I recently described to Andy. You saw me do this re: ‘vagueness’. I’m sick and tired of your constant stream of demeaning remarks. Since you apparently have no intention of altering that stream, I will either (a) not talk to you, or (b) do my best to talk to you about issues which do not attract said remarks. Goodbye for now.

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

            You just cannot help but piss on people’s ideas, eh? My response is that which I recently provided to Andy:

            Luke, I apologize if I was rude. It is just very hard for me to deal with the some of your beliefs, which in my opinion seem absurd, when I know that you are a thoughtful person who is intelligent. I am honestly scared that millions of people think the way you do and I’ve had to think long and hard about whether or not your style of theism is more harmful than good.

            Sadly, that is frequently not the case—I am made out to be the terrible person, significantly more terrible than the person accusing.

            You’re not a bad guy, it’s just that your ideas/beliefs seem absurd to a bunch of atheist bloggers on a website dedicated to criticizing religious belief. I’m not sure what your goals or intentions are in commenting so often on secular/atheist websites, but if trying to provide a reasonable, coherent theistic point of view is one of them, you’ve failed miserably. My advice to you, if you care, is to really take your time to think about what it is that you believe in and why it is more plausible, reasonable and more truthful than opposing views.

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

            Evil isn’t necessary, it is the result of free choices.

            Then Luke, how do you interpret Isaiah 45:7?

            I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.

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

            But that link acknowledges that god is the creator of evil. Do you agree?

          • Luke Breuer

            The point is that this verse is likely a polemic against Zoroastrianism. Otherwise you effectively have YHWH saying “I am ha-Satan”, which makes no sense.

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

            But is evil created by god, yes or no?

          • Luke Breuer

            I trust the Hebrew more than the English translation: God בָּרָא (creates) רַע (evil/distress/calamity/…). A passage to attempt to constraint-fit along with Is 45:7 is Hos 6:1–2. What would it mean if God just let us stay in a mediocre state forever? So some sort of disturbing the status quo seems necessary; is said disturbance רַע, by chance?

            The Thinker, if you really want to understand the verse, you’re going to have to do digging and scriptural analysis; my understanding is that you’re more interested in scoring a quick win. Correct me if I’m wrong, but prove that I’m actually wrong if you’re going to do that. And if your attempt was to make me 100% your research assistant, I think you know how I feel about that.

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

            my understanding is that you’re more interested in scoring a quick win.

            I’m really just interested in your opinion. I want to know how you view this passage given all of your positions about other things.

            What would it mean if God just let us stay in a mediocre state forever?

            I’d really just like a simple yes or no answer and then perhaps an explanation. What I’m getting from your is a bit vague. I have no idea if you answer yes or no on this question.

            And if your attempt was to make me 100% your research assistant, I think you know how I feel about that.

            No it is not. I didn’t know you personally had to do research on this. I actually assumed that you had a very definite position on this verse. If I do the research, that does not tell me what your thoughts are on it, and that’s what I want to know, your personal view on this.

          • Luke Breuer

            I don’t interpret verses in isolation, and thus, while I’ve certainly come across atheists and agnostics asking about that verse, I’ve never done the kind of detailed study required to: (a) have a strong opinion; (b) be able to provide something that passes your non-vagueness requirements.

            Consider this: I have little idea of what you think when you think the word ‘evil’. Surely that is connected to a concept, but what is the precise nature of that concept? The less I know about what you mean, the less I can give you a “yes” or “no” which can even be called ‘communication’. Surely you understand that there is a great variety of concepts which all go by the name ‘evil’. And this is the English word; what we’re really interested is the range of meanings of the ancient Hebrew word רַע. Did you look at the variety of ways it has been translated in the Bible?

            I’ll give a few more thoughts, just to let you know how complex the process of truly understanding a text can be. One of the first things to do is to look for other texts which might be talking about a similar thing. For example:

                “Come, let us return to the LORD;
                    for he has torn us, that he may heal us;
                    he has struck us down, and he will bind us up.
                After two days he will revive us;
                    on the third day he will raise us up,
                    that we may live before him.
            (Hosea 6:1-2)

            Here God is certainly doing something which causes pain and suffering; should we call it ‘evil’? Well, if you’re an Epicurean, you see aponia, the absence of bodily pain, as very important. And thus, you will likely describe YHWH as ‘evil’ in Hos 6:1. If, on the other hand, you value truth and excellent life more than pain and suffering, and the striking down/tearing is required to correct your path, you won’t call this ‘evil’.

            So, does Isaiah 45:7 have any overlap with Hosea 6:1?

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

            I’ve never done the kind of detailed study required to: (a) have a strong opinion; (b) be able to provide something that passes your non-vagueness requirements.

            Have you seriously considered that that verse in the Bible was written completely by man with no inspiration from god? Is this not ever a serious option with you and the Bible?

            I have little idea of what you think when you think the word ‘evil’. Surely that is connected to a concept, but what is the precise nature of that concept?

            I thought I gave you a definition in a thread a month ago. Let’s say that evil here is defined as lacking empathy and compassion to a sentient being. Under that definition, does god create evil, yes or no?

            So, does Isaiah 45:7 have any overlap with Hosea 6:1?

            Yes. Sounds a bit like battered wife syndrome. Is there anything god can’t do because of his moral perfection?

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

            Luke, I just finished my response to Rauser’s post that naturalism is not even wrong. If you’re still interested, I’d love for you to give me your thoughts and any criticism you deem worthy.

            Naturalism: Not Even Wrong?

          • Luke Breuer

            Cool; I’ve responded. I’m going to try talking about this without doing a complete reevaluation on how I interact with you; we’ll see if it works, or if I really do need to e.g. take several weeks off, review our interchanges, etc.

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

            Arm wrestle!

          • Luke Breuer

            I’d prefer foot or bike race; my upper body strength is pitiful.

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

            Well said.

          • Andy_Schueler

            By the way, I could now say a) that earthquakes cause gratuitous evil, b) that this is a conclusion based on the evidence, based on understanding what earthquakes are and where they come from, c) that the gratuitous evil is a consequence of nature being indifferent wrt human wellbeing and d) that you actually realize that and have effectively just conceded it:
            Rocks don’t receive and process grace, people do. You seem to want some science experiment you can do, where you study objects, and somehow see morality. No, this is not possible. You must study subjects, and for this you need people.”
            => Indeed. The very idea of trying to find a “moral order” in the movement of rocks due to plate tectonics is absurd, rocks don´t give a fuck about whether we suffer or thrive, people and only people give a fuck about that.

          • Luke Breuer

            A. So either the law is wrong, or the observations are wrong. What was never questioned was the assumption that reality is rational. And yet, moral rationality is precisely what you question when you use the term ‘gratuitous evil’. GMm/r^2 wasn’t known to work everywhere, it just worked enough places that it was suspected that it was still working when it came to those spurious-seeming observations.

            All I’m doing is assuming moral rationality. You can claim I don’t have sufficient basis for doing so, and when it gets down to it, the definition of ‘sufficient’ is entirely telos-relative. What I will say is that I am much more likely to find increasing moral rationality than you. Similarly, those who thought nature was rational were more likely to discover natural laws than those who thought it was capricious.

            B. I can say virtually nothing about the ‘dark matter’ moral agents. Virtually nothing could be said about dark matter itself for a while.

            Discussing that is about as productive as [...]

            You wanted another extended discussion with me. You were begging for one. Shall we stop this one? It seems like its productivity has crossed the zero level.

          • Andy_Schueler

            All I’m doing is assuming moral rationality. You can claim I don’t have sufficient basis for doing so

            No, I can claim that you have no basis at all for doing so – because no matter how often one asks you for such a basis, you are unable to provide anything what-so-ever. It does seem to boild down entirely to you wishing it to be true.

            What I will say is that I am much more likely to find increasing moral rationality than you.

            Ah, you needed that to feel superior didn´t you? Hmm, lets look at your earlier comments to see whether this is actually the case:
            “Rocks don’t receive and process grace, people do. You seem to want some science experiment you can do, where you study objects, and somehow see morality. No, this is not possible. You must study subjects, and for this you need people.”
            => Nope, I guess you are just as likely to find “increasing moral rationality” for rocks as the next guy.

          • Luke Breuer

            I have no idea how either bits of what you said follow from our conversation, and I’m starting to not care. Once you start imputing motives like wishing for it to be true and needing to feel superior, you pretty much destroy any semblance of an enjoyable conversation.

          • Andy_Schueler

            “Once you start imputing motives [...] you pretty much destroy any semblance of an enjoyable conversation.”
            – Aha, self-awareness doesn´t seem to be your strong suit.

          • Luke Breuer

            Why did you even pursue this conversation, starting from poking me about ID? Let’s see you come 100% clean with your own motives.

          • Andy_Schueler

            “Why did you even pursue this conversation, starting from poking me about ID?”
            – I already told you that, at least two times IIRC.

          • Luke Breuer

            In this conversation, or in general? I see you would prefer I go through all the comments in this thread in detail rather than repeat, so I want to ensure I’m actually going to find what you claim.

          • Andy_Schueler

            You are really bad at remembering conversations, this is not ancient history – we are talking about a conversation that took place over the last days. I asked you because it was puzzling to me why you stopped considering yourself to be a Cdesign proponentsist – because your beliefs seem to fit ID perfectly.

          • Luke Breuer

            That’s a surface question; why are you engaging me? Why do you care in the slightest what I think about ID? Time and again, you end up concluding that you are right and I am wrong. Why expect things to be any different this time?

          • Andy_Schueler

            “why are you…”
            – Every fucking time… Go ahead, now ask “what have you ever learned from me??”

            “Time and again, you end up concluding that you are right and I am wrong.”
            – You don´t say! A very curious asymmetry since you conclude that I am right while you are wrong practically all the time. No, wait…

          • Luke Breuer

            You already answered with something that you’ve learned: that I come up with a novel argument which was still wrong. You didn’t give a comprehensive answer, so maybe there’s something positive you did learn from me. So far though, it’s only in the negative.

            That being said, you didn’t answer the root question of why you are engaging with me. I don’t believe that the answer bottoms out in you being interested in my ID beliefs. Do you say that it does?

          • Andy_Schueler

            “you didn’t answer…”
            – Yes, because you ask the same stupid questions at the end of every conversation, if you want to know the answers to them, look them up in your DISQUS history.

          • Luke Breuer

            “This user’s activity is private.”

          • Andy_Schueler

            “look them up in your DISQUS history”

          • Luke Breuer

            Yeah, that requires finding all instances of “learn”, opening the pages, then loading all the comments (because of how Disqus does threading), and then re-scrolling to where my comment was, and seeing if you responded to that section. That’s a lot of work, when I (or you) could just search your comment history, find all instances of “learn”, and not have to do any of that nonsense. Or you could just remind me; surely your answer is pretty short? I’ll even save a link to the comment you make and put it in my big file of interesting comments.

            We could just pause talking to each other until I make something that scrapes the Disqus comments from all articles I’ve ever posted on. How about we do that? Then I could always easily search everything you and I have said, and you’ll be less annoyed about repetition. You will have to wait a while and have significantly less opportunity to find new ways to prove to yourself that you’re right and I’m wrong, but surely that’s a small price, compared to giving me a representative list of what you’ve learned from our many exchanges, plus telling me the root reason for why you are so eager to discuss things with me.

          • Andy_Schueler

            You could have just said “go fuck yourself”, because that is what you actually mean, and that is how everyone parses this comment of yours – and it is so much shorter to write.

          • Luke Breuer

            But that’s not what I mean. I am truly fascinated by why you continue to talk to me so much, when I am apparently so irritating to you. I’ve yet to hear from you an answer I find remotely believable, unless I’m forgetting an answer other than “I just wanted to know what you thought w.r.t. ID”.

            I recall nothing other than an absolutely pathetic answer to what you’ve learned from me, and given how interested I am in hearing why, I would think I would have remembered.

          • Andy_Schueler

            “But that’s not what I mean”
            – Lying is a sin.

            “when I am apparently so irritating to you”
            – You are engaging in projection again, it´s not me who is whining after every conversation about how you never learn anything from me or how you are a “deathbringer to my ideas”, that would be you.

            “I’ve yet to hear from you an answer I find remotely believable”
            – I don´t give a fuck about what you find believable or not.

          • Luke Breuer

            Now you’re no longer conversing with me, but a projection you have that you’re calling “Luke Breuer”. Tell me if and when you’re interested in talking to the English-“Luke Breuer”, instead of the Christianese-“Luke Breuer”.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Hint1: The word “projection” doesn´t mean what you think it does.
            Hint2: Neither does the word “christianese”.

          • Luke Breuer

            I was referring to Christianese-relationships vs. English-relationships. Tell me if and when you want to talk to Luke Breuer, instead of the version of Luke Breuer you have in your head, the one who has all the evil motives you’ve listed.

          • Andy_Schueler

            “the one who has all the evil motives you’ve listed”.

            – Yeah, right, all those evil motives like…. erm…..

          • Luke Breuer

            I have no interest in talking to you while you impute these motives to me. Doing so has allowed you to behave pretty much however you want to behave, and thus the chance of truth-seeking has basically tanked. After all, you can accuse me of merely believing what I want to believe whenever you feel like it. It’s very convenient.

          • Andy_Schueler

            And now you are being a hypocrite. You are imputing such motives on others all the time (examples: a) I argue with you because I want to feel / prove my superiority over you; b) we deny LFW because we don´t want to take responsibility for what we do; c) accepting that there are gratuitous evils is done because it is convenient to do so etc,pp.)
            And you do this much more often than I do. I´ve done it precisely once here – I´ve accused you of having no other reason for believing that there are “unseen” moral agents accept that you want that to be true. And I´ve only done so after ruling out the alternatives, by asking you many times just what your reason is for presupposing that such agents exist. You never answered, so I conclude that you have no reason beyond wishing it to be true.

          • Luke Breuer

            There is a difference between saying that your motive is X, and saying that the motive X well-explains your behavior. The former claims inner knowledge of your motives, while the latter is an explicit judgment by appearance, which allows for corrections by you, given that you very likely know your inner states better than I. To the extent that I have not done the former version of what I explain and not the latter, I apologize. I do think you will find that I sometimes did do the latter, even if I sometimes erred and did the former.

            Furthermore:

            “I’ve yet to hear from you an answer I find remotely believable”
            AS: – I don´t give a fuck about what you find believable or not.

            If this is how you operate with regard to me (perhaps it was just in that one instance?), we cannot effectively communicate. For effective communication depends on providing the other person arguments he/she does find believable.

          • Andy_Schueler

            There is a difference between saying that your motive is X, and saying that the motive X well-explains your behavior. The former claims inner knowledge of your motives, while the latter is an explicit judgment by appearance, which allows for corrections by you…

            And I said that you desiring the unseen moral agent thingy to be true seems to be the case, and I asked many times to provide an alternative to that explanation.

            For effective communication depends on providing the other person arguments he/she does find believable.

            No, it doesn´t. The only requirement is intelligibility, not believability.

          • Luke Breuer

            Correct, you did say “seem”:

            AS: It does seem to boild down entirely to you wishing it to be true.

            Then again, there is no “seem” directly following:

            AS: Ah, you needed that to feel superior didn´t you?

            Perhaps this is all my fault. I’m getting the idea, though, that I need to start doing explicitly the thing that 1 Cor 13:5 says not to do with the word logizomai: keep account of perceived wrongs. That is, you appear to be doing some sort of accounting, and finding that I am doing worse than you on all counts. I don’t have the same impression, but to support this would require me to start keeping track of stuff you say that is ‘bad’ in the same sense in which you have been critiquing me. I would need to amass evidence, against e.g. your a)–c).

            I’m not sure I’m up for the above. And yet, I tire of how you interact with me without doing something like the above. Too often, I perceive you as intending to demean me (my telling you this has not changed your behavior as far as I can perceive), and if I’m not getting enough out of our discussions, that in and of itself is reason to stop interacting with you.

            No, it doesn´t. The only requirement is intelligibility, not believability.

            Then I would doubt that ‘communicating’ is the correct word to describe what is going on. Generally, communication indicates properly describing one’s internal mental state, such that the other person can increasingly well-simulate it. But if you don’t care if that happens—if you merely want to convince yourself that what you said should be intelligible to a ‘rational’ person—then you aren’t doing this.

          • Andy_Schueler

            That is, you appear to be doing some sort of accounting, and finding that I am doing worse than you on all counts.

            I´m not accounting, I just remember conversations very well. And note that I only pulled this info out after you accused me of engaging in such behaviour.

            Then I would doubt that ‘communicating’ is the correct word to describe what is going on. Generally, communication indicates properly describing one’s internal mental state, such that the other person can increasingly well-simulate it. But if you don’t care if that happens—if you merely want to convince yourself that what you said should be intelligible to a ‘rational’ person—then you aren’t doing this.

            ??? Are you now contradicting me or agreeing with me?

          • Luke Breuer

            I think I’m going to take a long break, and attempt to learn how to do the bad things you criticize me of doing much less frequently if and when I return. I tire of my supposed faults being pointed out in ways that are not easy for me to correct. I am tired of others justifying their behavior based on how I appear to be acting. The only solution I know is to discipline myself into a higher level of perfection. I would prefer to do this with other people, in the “iron sharpens iron” sense. Sadly, that is frequently not the case—I am made out to be the terrible person, significantly more terrible than the person accusing.
            I have had to do the above before. It is painful to do alone, but it is possible. Goodbye for now.

          • Andy_Schueler

            “I am made out to be the terrible person…”
            – Dude, what happened is that I asked you why you propose x, and from your inability to give any reasons for proposing x, I inferred that the only reason there is seems to be that you want x to be true. And you translate this into “I am made out to be the terrible person…”?

          • Luke Breuer

            I am taking the sum total of your comments in reply to my comments, into account. It is a cumulative case, over a long period of time. Either you are not interested in helping me to become a better person, or you insist on attempting this in a way I see as too arduous, too painful. And so, since you seem completely uninterested in changing how you interact with me, I have the choice of just not interacting, or changing myself. I choose the former at least temporarily, with the hope that the latter may become possible.

            I willfully take all culpability, all fault, on my own head. Nothing obligates you to change behavior. It is completely my fault that I find out current way of interacting unacceptable. I will learn how to make it acceptable without requiring anything of you, or we will stop talking permanently—unless you yourself have a change of heart. I do not ask for such a change. You may consider me to be ‘weak’ for not liking the status quo; I would not be offended by such a statement.

            P.S. Some of this is clearly my fault; I’m pretty sure that at least some of your accusations of hypocrisy are correct. Since I find your methods for helping me become less hypocritical unacceptable, I will try to become less hypocritical on my own, during my vacation from talking to you, and perhaps commenting on Jonathan’s blog, and perhaps even on blogs in general. Perhaps I will become a different person, a better person, in the process. This has worked before.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Either you are not interested in helping me to become a better person, or you insist on attempting this in a way I see as too arduous, too painful. And so, since you seem completely uninterested in changing how you interact with me…

            Well, my impression of why discussing on atheist / skeptic blogs is sometimes arduous for you, is that you take everything personal. You make no or little distinction between someone being harshly critical to your ideas and someone being harshly critical to you as a person. The two concepts can not be completely seperated of course, and I understand that seeing one of your pet ideas being attacked is not a nice experience (believe me, I know – I just went through an extremely painful peer review process that involved more than a year of ongoing revisions to a manuscript until it was finally accepted for publication) – but the two concepts are still not the same, and, at least IMO, you´ll have to learn how to not take criticism of your ideas personally, or at least not too personally, if you have novel ideas and want to expose them to scrutiny from others. I also told you that I believe that there is an aristotelian golden mean between a) hyperskepticism and b) reckless gullibility. Both extremes destroy any opportunity of intellectual progress, they just do so for different reasons – in one case, novel ideas have no chance of ever being accepted even if they are true, and in the other case, the few good ideas vanish in an ocean of Bullshit. I don´t doubt that my behaviour does not correspond precisely to this golden mean, but I also don´t think that I lean way too far towards hyperskepticism. If we take your ideas re gratuitous evil ~ irreducible complexity for example, I certainly didn´t reject it out of hand – I asked you for clarification several times to make sure I understand what you mean, and only after you repeatedly did nothing to address my objections, I concluded that your idea is misguided. So now I can either grant you the validity of your gratuitous evil ~ irreducible complexity idea and thus grant it to you as an acceptable premise for further discussion of related / more advanced topics, or I can reject the idea because it is, afaict, a misguided one. You however take a rejection of this idea personally. If I say that the idea is wrong / misguided / terrible, you interpret that as me saying that you are a buffoon / a terrible person / an idiot. You talk about me changing my behaviour, changing what exactly? Would it ever be justifiable and reasonable for me to reject an idea of yours or should I always keep it to myself when I come to the conclusion that one of your ideas is false? To be specific – how much more would I need in your opinion to reasonably and justifiably reject your gratuitous evil ~ irreducible complexity idea?

          • Luke Breuer

            I’m not sure what you consider a person to be, if ideas he/she presents ought to be so divorced from his/her person—connected by a thin thread, I suppose. My suspicion is that many people don’t do what you say they ought to do with their ideas—put them at a safe distance. Instead, I suspect that many merely refuse to discuss ideas in their nascent stages, with people who critique as you choose to. I was once told that I am an extremely transparent person, and thus easy to bait and mock. I was given the advice to put up a mask so that people could not have access to the true me. What a terrible state of affairs that encourages.

            I do understand that ideas I have presented to you have seemed contradictory, or if not contradictory, unsound. After a point, I have failed to be able to answer your questions. The irritable thing is that you conclude that they’re false. You don’t say that you cannot make sense of them as-is, you call them wrong. (Or so says my very-possibly-faulty memory.) And yet, many, many ideas have something wrong about them until they are properly nurtured, given opportunity to grow, and then pruned appropriately. You don’t seem to provide such opportunities for my ideas. Or you do and I don’t take them. This is a reason to take some time off.

            I could simply only present tiny bits of myself to you, and hide the rest. I can be a fraction of my true self, in your presence. I suspect this is how many people go through life. Again, I think it is a terrible way to live. And so, I generally refuse to do it. This comes with a cost, and sometimes I step back and ask if I want to pay it. For example, I would probably refuse to ever talk about YEC or ID on Jonathan’s blog again.

            Please realize that I understand the kind of world you describe, in how you suggest that you and I interact. Maybe I’m way off, but it seems to be a world of fractional people, who cover themselves in chain mail, say only the acceptable things, and are careful to not appear to be idiots. It is a world of appearances, not a world of actual human beings being themselves. It is a world of facades. Perhaps it is a world I must learn to live in much more than I currently wish. This is something I will have to decide upon, with respect to posting here on Jonathan’s blog.

          • Andy_Schueler

            I do understand that ideas I have presented to you have seemed contradictory, or if not contradictory, unsound. After a point, I have failed to be able to answer your questions. The irritable thing is that you conclude that they’re false. You don’t say that you cannot make sense of them as-is, you call them wrong. (Or so says my very-possibly-faulty memory.) And yet, many, many ideas have something wrong about them until they are properly nurtured, given opportunity to grow, and then pruned appropriately. You don’t seem to provide such opportunities for my ideas.

            So when is the conclusion that something is wrong an acceptable conclusion? I´m serious – is it ever an acceptable conclusion about any idea? Lets take Boghossian´s ideas about what religion / faith is and about what ought to be done with religion in general and children of religious fundamentalists in particular (cue “interventions”) as an example. Boghossian´s book was treated very harshly by Randal – much more harsh then I tend to go on your ideas. But you seemed to have been fine with that – I remember that you commented on those posts, but you never critcized Randal for his irritable behaviour of calling Boghossian´s ideas false / nonsensical / ignorant / etc. instead of just saying that he can´t currently make sense of them. Do you see a double standard there? If not, why?
            Imagine that you could go even further than Randal did, and show that Boghossian´s ideas are not only poorly researched, they are not even internally consistent but rather rely on self-refuting premises. Imagine that I would acknowledge that, but still keep believing that Boghossian´s ideas are promising, after all, the only way to really test such ideas is to develop them a few centuries or millenia in a MacIntyre tradition and after that. see if they did or did not promote human striving. This is what you have been doing so far, and note how it isn´t about whether something is actually true or not – the only options are a) it is true and we know why or b) it is true but we don´t yet know why. The option that it is false / misguided is not even on the table – and we set it up in such a way that it can never be an available option until many centuries after we have kicked the bucket. Do you really think that this is how we should evaluate ideas? All ideas? Do you really think we should just ignore all the reasons for why Boghossian´s ideas seem to be terribly misguided and instead say “we just can´t make sense of them yet” and give them a few centuries or millenia even of opportunities to see how they work in practice?

          • Luke Breuer

            So when is the conclusion that something is wrong an acceptable conclusion?

            I don’t know. You mention possible hypocrisy on my side; perhaps I am doing just that. Perhaps, when I have the behavior done to me, I gain data I never had before, and that ought alter my whole behavior. I know I’m an outlier in my complaint; I know that the culture just tells me to have a thicker skin. But is the culture right?

            Boghossian´s book was treated very harshly by Randal – much more harsh then I tend to go on your ideas.

            Three differences off the top of my head:

            1. Boghossian claimed to write authoritatively from a professional strength of his.
            2. Boghossian wrote a book, and thus it was ostensibly screened and found strong.
            3. Boghossian advocated potentially awful treatment of certain people he does not like.

            It strikes me that all three of these warrant sterner criticism than some random guy on the internet being asked what he thinks on issues when he is not a scholar, is not writing a book, and is not suggesting that people be subjected to forced medical treatment. I could be wrong, but these do seem to be relevant differences.

            This is what you have been doing so far, and note how it isn´t about whether something is actually true or not – the only options are a) it is true and we know why or b) it is true but we don´t yet know why. The option that it is false / misguided is not even on the table – and we set it up in such a way that it can never be an available option until many centuries after we have kicked the bucket.

            I think this is a false representation of what has been going on. You are perfectly within your rights to say that you don’t see how a given idea could be made alive. What I dislike is when you state, as if you were God himself, that the idea is dead and cannot be made alive. Now this is a bit of exaggeration, but I do not think it is too much of one. Once again I emphasize, I’m talking about nascent ideas, here. I’m not talking about Plantinga’s ontological argument, which he has put out there for the best criticism it can get, no holds barred, and no need for anyone to help him give the idea life.

            You are making a choice, by choosing to deal with nascent ideas in the way you do. My own choice, in response, will be to no longer expose you to mine. You will find me unwilling to talk with you about nearly as much as I have in the past. I do not judge you for this, I merely adapt my behavior more intentionally. I can be Gumpy and do all the twisting and contorting; you need not change a single thing.

          • Andy_Schueler

            I think this is a false representation of what has been going on. You are perfectly within your rights to say that you don’t see how a given idea could be made alive. What I dislike is when you state, as if you were God himself, that the idea is dead and cannot be made alive. Now this is a bit of exaggeration, but I do not think it is too much of one. Once again I emphasize, I’m talking about nascent ideas, here.

            “Nascent” does not only mean that something is novel, it also means that something shows signs of potential. A “nascent idea” would be an idea that works in at least some respects, it might still have problems, many problems maybe, but it does work / does have potential.

          • Luke Breuer

            I agree. What I disagree with is that if you cannot see any potential, that there is no potential. And yet, my recollection is that you often speak in this way, which is precisely what I said in the text you quoted.

            The solution is simple: I will merely hide parts of myself—perhaps much of myself—from you, so that you only see the ‘acceptable’ bits. I can virtually guarantee you that if you treat others as you’ve treated me, they’ve already done this, and probably better than I (I really have to work to not be transparent).

          • Andy_Schueler

            I agree. What I disagree with is that if you cannot see any potential, that there is no potential. And yet, my recollection is that you often speak in this way, which is precisely what I said in the text you quoted.

            Alright, lets take your ideas re gratuitous evils ~ irreducible complexity again as an example, and lets set aside all the objections to this idea that I came up with for the moment.
            Now, what potential does this idea have? It is certainly not the case that it allows you to explain things that remain inexplicable without it – quite the opposite actually, because natural evils like earthquakes do have actual explanations supported by mountains of evidence, you just don´t like those explanations because they cause trouble for your christian worldview. So you deny those explanations and propose that the actual explanations (which you don´t have, you just propose that those will be found eventually) will involve choices of “unseen moral agents”, but you don´t even have the tiniest hint of a trace of evidence that supports the existence of such unseen moral agents, no historical precedent for a natural evil turning out to be the result of previously unseen moral agents, and not even something like a concept of what those unseen moral agents you propose could look like or anything even remotely resembling a “research plan” about how such agents and their work could be detected. Do you disagree with anything I have just said? (if so, what exactly have I mischaracterized?) The point is, if what I just said is an accurate description of your gratuitous evils ~ irreducible complexity idea, then it has no potential beyond its utility in dismantling a standard objection to the existence of the christian God. In other words, the sole potential that this idea has is that it makes christian apologetics more convenient – it is a cop out that makes it possible to ignore the evidential problem of evil for christianity instead of facing it.

            The solution is simple: I will merely hide parts of myself—perhaps much of myself—from you, so that you only see the ‘acceptable’ bits. I can virtually guarantee you that if you treat others as you’ve treated me, they’ve already done this, and probably better than I (I really have to work to not be transparent).

            That´s fine. I don´t see that as problematic at all. Maybe you think that it would be a good thing if every belief were 100% “acceptable” – if every belief could be professed without any cost to pay for that what-so-ever, but have you actually thought that through? Right now, it is costly to profess the belief that “races shouldn´t mix” – there are people who still believe that, but very few dare to say so publicly. Is that a bad thing? Likewise, outing yourself as a geocentrist comes with a cost. Is that a bad thing? Or phrased more generally: how could a good but counterintuitive (at least “counterintuitive” for many) idea possibly outcompete a bad but intuitive idea (e.g. the belief that the edge in technological achievement that europeans had proves that white people are intrinsically more intelligent than others) – if there is no cost to pay what-so-ever for professing the bad idea? Note that this is not about free speech – I absolutely 100% believe that freedom of speech should be protected, but just as we should protect the freedom of a racist (for example) to profess his racist views, we should also protect the freedom of his peers to call him an ignorant bigot for professing his racist beliefs.

          • Luke Breuer

            No, let’s not take anything right now. You’ve made it very clear that you intend to fully justify any and all behavior on your part. To the extent you truly mean to open that justification to question, I’m not interested in attempting to convince you otherwise, given past attempts. So instead, I will change my behavior, before we dive back into talking about things. That will take some time.

          • D Rizdek

            Luke (completely unrelated to this thread)

            You may notice…soon…that I have stopped posting at a couple of sites where I had been posting regularly…at least temporarily. This is not because of anything you’ve posted. It is because I want no part of what’s brewing between the two protagonists. Something has happened and is happening and it could lead to disasterous consequences if it continues the way I see it playing out. I hope you “catch” my drift here. I think someone might feel horrible in the long run if what they are doing actually does irrevocable harm and I wonder if they want to live with that.

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

            Hey there @drizdek:disqus , you know you are always welcome here to generate discussion – your comments at DC are always on the money.

            I don’t really know to what you are referring. Perhaps you could elucidate?

          • D Rizdek

            Thanks John, I appreciate your offer. It’s nothing to do with DC itself…it’s something Luke (I hope) and I understand.

            But I am thinking of starting to post here. I’ve enjoyed my discussions with you at other sites.

            One unrelated thing. I have a question about the Ontological arguments that I can’t seem to get anyone to talk about objectively. The theists I’ve tried to engage are too set on making it work to actually sincerely (IMHO) discuss it’s limitations and what the various parts, phrases and thinking is and atheists just want to debunk it without actually considering with me what it means. I am puzzled, for example, why it is so “special” to call it modal logic. I kind of understand modal logic in everyday usage, but why is it SO special to the ontological arguments? I would discuss more, but this thread is not the place. I was referred to you by Dr Lindsay.

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

            ok, here’s a plan. Do you fancy doing a guest post on the OA. Just what you think about it. It could just be a bunch of questions on the OA.

          • D Rizdek

            I don’t the acronym OA }: but I’d be willing to get the ball rolling with a specific paper I’m trying to read and make sense of…posing some questions in the process.

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

            That one made me laugh out loud.

            You guys were doing so well, too!

          • Andy_Schueler

            Most of the recent comments in this thread made me laugh out loud ;-)
            [rant]I mean, we are now talking about the “idea” that everything that has consequences for the wellbeing of humans, i.e. pretty much everything under the sun, is being caused by “moral agents” (i.e. witches, ghosts, demons, what have you). That there is overwhelming evidence for things like earthquakes to not be the result of some invisible demons fucking with us, is obviously no reason at all to assume that there are not actually such demons – maybe demon magic is hidden within quantum uncertainty after all (one could ask whether demon magic then has an associated Hamiltonian, is local in spacetime, constrained by Lorentz invariance and the laws of thermodynamics etc.pp. – but one should never let all this useless sciencey stuff get in the way of wishful thinking).
            And all that iss obviously not as anti-science as it gets and obviously also not the epitome of braindead irrationality, no, it´s obviously perfectly rational and we are just being closed minded for not taking it seriously. [/rant]

            I can and did grant a lot of weird stuff for the sake of the argument in online discussions over the years, but here, I can now only lean back, observe and stand in awe and amusement at what theism can do to a human mind.

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

            How careful are these folks to make falsifiable claims which are then tested?

            I suppose the further you get away from the hard sciences the more difficult it is to make falsifiable predictions. A lot of evopsych has it critics. Massimo Pigliucci is a prime example. But even he acknowledges, as does, it seems, almost the entire field of psychology, that our evolutionary past is what primarily explains the way we are today.

            What I’m looking for is some fascinating prediction about human behavior, which nobody knew about, until the evopsych people predicted it and then found it.

            Well our study of human behavior greatly precedes our understanding of evolution, but there are reported testable and falsifiable hypothesis in EP. For example, here is a source making such claims. See where is says, “A recent example comes from a research program on “adaptive memory.””

            Sure; I just need your email address now. And if you would prefer After Virtue in paper form, I’m happy to cover that too.

            Let me continue reading the soft version of After Virtue for now. It’s a heavy read, and I’d feel guilty if you bought it for me and I didn’t finish it.

            These all explore what happen when you take nominalism and/or naturalism to its logical conclusions. As best I can tell, those conclusions are terrible.

            OK, so from what you say, Christianity best explains things over all other religions, and naturalism has terrible implications and/or conclusions. What are these bad conclusions about naturalism? Given our acknowledgement of our cognitive biases, is it possible that you being raised in a Christian environment made you confirmationally biased in favor of Christianity, and what methods have you employed to try and prevent that bias?

            I think we in the US are headed toward a new age of serfdom.

            You know I agree with you here. There is a disturbingly wide gap that is getting bigger between the rich and ruling elite and the rest of us.

            Richard Weaver would call it a “metaphysical dream”, which is kind of like “construct a world like heaven”, but not really. Stalin, Hitler, and Mao were doing that more directly.

            Since you are motivated in the construction of this heaven, I want to know more about it. What, generally, would this heaven look like? And why should I want it to happen? I need your brochure-version of “new earth” or whatever it is that it should be called by, to hear its selling points. The heaven that I’m familiar with is not the kind of place I would want to live in. I’d rather cease to exist then be there forever.

          • Luke Breuer

            But even [Massimo Pigliucci] acknowledges, as does, it seems, almost the entire field of psychology, that our evolutionary past is what primarily explains the way we are today.

            Of course; evolution is the reigning dogma, regardless of how accurate it is. Everything will be explained in terms of it until something better comes along, just as everything was explained by “God created” + “original sin” in Christendom. I don’t think this focus on evolutionary past is even wrong; even scripture talks about the sins of the fathers being passed down three and four generations. We see this in victims of abuse being much more likely to abuse others, for example. Alasdair MacIntyre argues in After Virtue that a failure to understand our moral thought-ancestry has led to the confusing state of affairs in meta-ethics today.

            Well our study of human behavior greatly precedes our understanding of evolution, but there are reported testable and falsifiable hypothesis in EP. For example, here is a source making such claims. See where is says, “A recent example comes from a research program on “adaptive memory.””

            I’m sorry, but I’m not sure this is anything close to “fascinating”. It’s good that it was falsifiable, but surely we knew beforehand that people pay better attention to issues related to their continuing survival? This study reminds me of the scientific studies which show certain common sense to be true; it is good to do this, but it’s hardly revolutionary.

            OK, so from what you say, Christianity best explains things over all other religions, and naturalism has terrible implications and/or conclusions. What are these bad conclusions about naturalism? Given our acknowledgement of our cognitive biases, is it possible that you being raised in a Christian environment made you confirmationally biased in favor of Christianity, and what methods have you employed to try and prevent that bias?

            Of course it’s possible, just like it’s possible that you have little exposure to intellectually rigorous Christianity, given your admission that you have few to any people who think about their faith even as not-vaguely as I do. My recollection is that most of the Christian literature you have read is on the popular level, which means it is stuff meant to cater to precisely the not-intellectually rigorous Christian population.

            By and large the major method I have used to try to prevent bias is to talk to atheists and skeptics, on the internet and in person. I critique their ideas and they critique mine, although it usually happens that it is more ideas which get critiqued, despite my attempts to get them talking about their ideas. Alas. Nowadays, I am adding another method: reading books by scholars, written for scholars or at least scholarly laymen. These are people who attempt to think through issues rigorously and not just graze the surface. It takes a lot of work to do this, as you’ll find out if you continue reading After Virtue.

            You know I agree with you here. There is a disturbingly wide gap that is getting bigger between the rich and ruling elite and the rest of us.

            But I thought you believed that we’re in an incredibly good period of history? Are you going to claim that it is not science which has failed us, but something else? Surely science can help rescue us from this mess? And yet, I haven’t seen any indication whatsoever that it will. I suspect this is due to the failure of science to capture human nature very well at all.

            You know, I’m really amused by something. There’s so much great stuff on how to communicate really well—such as The Lost Art of Listening—and yet, so infrequently is it actually employed by the people with whom I discuss online. Even the really basic technique of repeating back the other person’s idea in your own words is frequently not used, or even degraded. It’s as if we are regressing with respect to the problem of other minds, as if we believe that the other person’s mind either works just like ours does, or that it ought to.

            Since you are motivated in the construction of this heaven, I want to know more about it. What, generally, would this heaven look like? And why should I want it to happen? I need your brochure-version of “new earth” or whatever it is that it should be called by, to hear its selling points. The heaven that I’m familiar with is not the kind of place I would want to live in. I’d rather cease to exist then be there forever.

            The first steps toward such a heaven can be found in the last triads 2–4 which I routinely post:

                 • Mt 5:23-24, Mt 18:15-20, Eph 4:25-27
                 • Mt 7:1-5, Mt 23:1-4, Gal 6:1-5
                 • Mt 7:15-23, Mt 13:24-30, Mt 25:31-46

            The first I explicate in relational sin: Christians are recalled to resolve conflicts ASAP and not let grudges and bitterness grow. We know this stuff happens from psychology, and yet we do the stupid-ass thing anyway. The second I discuss in my exegesis of Mt 7:1–5 as well as my writing on judgment: if your purpose is not first to build up and only second to tear down, you’re not doing it in a Christlike fashion. The third is an express rejection of metaphysical tyranny, of saying that you must think and believe precisely as the next guy.

            As you can hopefully see, these aren’t that much of a deviation from how people normally act. This isn’t to say that they’re easy—no, far from it. But they’re not particularly ‘spiritual’ or anything like that; they are quite ‘cognitively accessible’. And yet, I claim that making the switches I articulate above would make a tremendous difference in the world. What are some of the differences?

            1. People would no longer be scared to be themselves. There wouldn’t be a need to pretend to be someone you are not, in order to be accepted. This in and of itself is huge. The ‘tolerance’ movement aims for this, but it fails miserably, as it makes the self extremely shallow.

            2. Personal change is no longer nearly as painful. It would be understood that too much criticism makes all criticism sour. It would be understood that people often need help even seeing the validity in criticism. Instead of me needing to change myself, I would have help from people who truly care about me.

            3. The focus switches from control and death to creativity and life. This does not mean that badness won’t be pruned, but it means that it will be pruned, not stomped into the ground. People can judge others’ activities not by “Did he/she do it the way I would have?”, but by “Is his/her fruit good?”

            Would you want to live in in this kind of world?

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

            I have another questions for you:

            1. Do you think atheists should come out of the closet and be open? And do you think it’s a good or bad thing that atheists are being more open about their atheism?

          • Luke Breuer

            I think they should do whatever their consciences tell them is right. I am grateful for the fact that more atheists are speaking out as atheists. The name of God is blasphemed among the nations by those who call themselves his own, not those who disown him. (Rom 2:24) Some of the time, when atheists are going from the evidence instead of emotion and gross hyperbole, they say things Christians ought to be saying but are not.

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

            What “background data” are you talking about?

            I don’t think anyone to my knowledge thinks abstract objects like triangles and numbers are sentient. Sentience always relies on a physical brain and that’s what the evidence shows. It’s simply not a neutral starting point. And you have the burden of proof as to why abstract objects are sentient.

            As to a positive case, start here.

            You have this tendency to link me to comments that link to other comments and it get kind of annoying. I’d prefer you copy and paste the relevant parts here. That said I saw nothing that argued abstract objects are sentient.

            False: ‘supernatural’ ≠ ‘god’.

            I agree. I wasn’t trying to say supernatural = god. Angels would be supernatural but not god. I was trying to say that a supernaturalism of the gaps is just like a god of the gaps, and your definition of the supernatural is basically that.

            Agnostics generally see the supernatural as impenetrable; I do not.

            But the supernatural to you is our current state of ignorance, and it seems we’ll always have some ignorance. That means under your definition of the supernatural there will always be a hole for it to reside in, and that to me is very similar to the view some agnostics take that god is unknowable.

            Can you give me an example of falsifiable metaphysics?

            The young earth creationist view of the world was falsified, as was many other ancient metaphysical worldviews like the earth is on the back of a turtle, or being held up by Atlas, etc. Metaphysical worldviews can make ontological claims about the physical world, which can be verified or falsified. If eternalism were proved true for example, that would have metaphysical implications. It could falsify all metaphysical worldviews that understand time differently.

            Yes, he does. Do you think his accusations obtain? If no, why not?

            I’m writing a response to it now that’s almost done, I just need to organize it properly. In it, I don’t focus on defending Lowder but rather naturalism in general. There are definitions of naturalism that can prevent souls from being accepted, although I think naturalism requires a description and not just merely a single sentence definition – which is hard to do when defining these complex ideas.

            It’s not just ignorance. See, for example my unarticulated background. If you’re going to caricature my views like this The Thinker, I’m going to be less willing to discuss them with you.

            Again, can you copy and paste the relevant bits?

          • Luke Breuer

            Sentience always relies on a physical brain and that’s what the evidence shows.

            This is a statement of faith in naturalism, in physicalism. The mind-body problem is far from being solved. I’m not interested in doing the kind of legwork you want me to do (that is, you get to assume your position is the default, I have to prove mine from the ground up), so I suggest we kill this tangent.

            You have this tendency to link me to comments that link to other comments and it get kind of annoying. I’d prefer you copy and paste the relevant parts here. That said I saw nothing that argued abstract objects are sentient.

            My apologies, I mistakenly thought you meant “positive case for your belief” meant belief in Christianity, not in abstract objects being capable of sentience. As to my general behavior, I’m not sure I’m willing to change too much: remember that if you’re going to be too lazy, I will spend more of my time reading books and/or talking to others. Surely you realize that there is not much chance of us discovering anything new if we are as lazy as just about all the other internet debaters out there?

            I was trying to say that a supernaturalism of the gaps is just like a god of the gaps, and your definition of the supernatural is basically that.

            Please draw out specifically how my [tentative] definition of the supernatural is like god-of-the-gaps. In particular, god-of-the-gaps has bad connotations to it, whereby the existence of God is proved by the absence of explanation. I do not see how I am doing that in any way, shape or form. See, for example, my answer to the Phil.SE question Could there ever be evidence for an infinite being? Briefly, the idea is to use induction to arrive at the existence of an infinite being, not god-of-the-gaps.

            But the supernatural to you is our current state of ignorance, and it seems we’ll always have some ignorance.

            What, precisely, do you see me as predicating upon this [tentative] definition of the supernatural? I sense a deep misunderstanding between us on this topic. If you think I’m arguing “ignorance, therefore God!”, I say I am not doing that, and require a formal argument from you showing that I am, if you think I am.

            The young earth creationist view of the world was falsified

            I’m not sure it’s valid to call YEC 100% ‘metaphysics’. Would you explain what precisely you mean by the word ‘metaphysics’, and how it is different from ‘physics’?

            I’m writing a response to it now that’s almost done,

            I look forward to it; please link me to it when you’ve done so. Penelope Maddy’s Second Philosophy: A Naturalistic Method would probably be a great resource for you; do you not have a decent public library near you, with an interlibrary loan system?

            Again, can you copy and paste the relevant bits?

            Just read the first three paragraphs of What is an “unarticulated background”? for starters. I repeat my statement above: if you wish to be lazier than a certain amount, I wish to do things other than take the time to cater to your whims. I’m in this to discover new things, and I have found that if my interlocutor is not even willing to check out a hyperlink, he/she is highly unlikely to be willing to put in the required work to successfully pursue truth.

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

            This is a statement of faith in naturalism, in physicalism.

            When all the evidence points towards one thing, it isn’t a statement of faith. What is a statement of faith, is believing, on no evidence, that sentience exists with no physical component.

            On top of that, what predictions does it make, and what tests could be made to confirm this belief and what could falsify it?

            Surely you realize that there is not much chance of us discovering anything new if we are as lazy as just about all the other internet debaters out there?

            What’s lazy is you not willing to copy and paste a sentence or a paragraph or two that answers the question. I understand that this can’t always be done, but where it can, it should be done.

            Please draw out specifically how my [tentative] definition of the supernatural is like god-of-the-gaps.

            Your tentative definition of the SN was:

            the ‘supernatural’ can only rationally be used to describe that which we have not yet well-modeled with a formal system—it is “the excess” so to speak.

            The traditional god of the gaps posits that what we cannot explain was done by god. Your definition of the SN exists in what we cannot yet explain. Both will get smaller as knowledge grows. To me these two look exactly the same: where our knowledge breaks down, exists god/supernatural.

            I’m not sure it’s valid to call YEC 100% ‘metaphysics’. Would you explain what precisely you mean by the word ‘metaphysics’, and how it is different from ‘physics’?

            YEC is a claim on the fundamental nature of reality and the cosmos that does not have any empirical evidence backing it up. To me that is what metaphysics is.

            do you not have a decent public library near you, with an interlibrary loan system?

            Not really. But I haven’t been to the library in years, so maybe I’ll check it out.

            I’m in this to discover new things, and I have found that if my interlocutor is not even willing to check out a hyperlink, he/she is highly unlikely to be willing to put in the required work to successfully pursue truth.

            When you have 10 hyperlinks per response it gets a little difficult! I totally forgot about what this question was about so maybe we can drop it.

          • Luke Breuer

            When all the evidence points towards one thing, it isn’t a statement of faith. What is a statement of faith, is believing, on no evidence, that sentience exists with no physical component.

            On top of that, what predictions does it make, and what tests could be made to confirm this belief and what could falsify it?

            If you went to someone in Europe in the middle ages, he/she would tell you that all the evidence points to God existing. Why would he/she say this? Because that is how he/she interpreted sense-experience. You are normalizing your interpretive framework, instead of accepting that it is an interpretive framework. I think we’ve hit an impasse, at least until I really dig into eliminative materialism and see if it can uproot your confidence in your current interpretive framework.

            As to the request for falsification, how can you ask me for it with a straight face if you simultaneously respond to one of my requests for falsifiable claims with:

            TT: I suppose the further you get away from the hard sciences the more difficult it is to make falsifiable predictions.

            ? Instead, I merely point you to the problem Sean Carroll has, whereby he simultaneously denies that quantum fluctuations happen, and says that the only way to kick off a system (like the universe) is for an observer (defined) to observe it. And yet, where is that observer? Apparently he thinks it is reheating, but I don’t see how that solves his problem. He appears to need an external cause. Physicalism expressly prohibits this.

            What’s lazy is you not willing to copy and paste a sentence or a paragraph or two that answers the question. I understand that this can’t always be done, but where it can, it should be done.

            I will consider doing more than my fair share of the work. But if you don’t make that extra work worth it, I will stop engaging in conversation that requires you to click links, which you [apparently] refuse to do. That’s fine; we can vastly reduce the amount we converse.

            The traditional god of the gaps posits that what we cannot explain was done by god. Your definition of the SN exists in what we cannot yet explain. Both will get smaller as knowledge grows. To me these two look exactly the same: where our knowledge breaks down, exists god/supernatural.

            You haven’t fully captured god-of-the-gaps. The reasoning goes: (i) we cannot explain how X happened; (ii) therefore God did X; (iii) therefore God exists. I am doing nothing of the sort with the supernatural. Here, try it out: (a) the supernatural exists; (b) ???. Where do you think I am going with (a)? Fill in a (b) that makes my definition of ‘supernatural’ get anywhere close to god-of-the-gaps. Unless you disagree with what I presented as a necessary component of god-of-the-gaps?

            YEC is a claim on the fundamental nature of reality and the cosmos that does not have any empirical evidence backing it up. To me that is what metaphysics is.

            What is ‘physics’ and what is ‘metaphysics’ with respect to YEC?

            When you have 10 hyperlinks per response it gets a little difficult! I totally forgot about what this question was about so maybe we can drop it.

            Do you truly think that my posts require you to click every one of the “10 hyperlinks”?

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

            If you went to someone in Europe in the middle ages, he/she would tell you that all the evidence points to God existing. Why would he/she say this? Because that is how he/she interpretedsense-experience.

            If they didn’t say that publicly, they’d be tortured and killed by the Church. Plus hardly anyone knew anything back then.

            I think we’ve hit an impasse, at least until I really dig into eliminative materialism and see if it can uproot your confidence in your current interpretive framework.

            What makes you so sure that I hold to eliminative materialism?

            As to the request for falsification, how can you ask me for it with a straight face if you simultaneously respond to one of my requests for falsifiable claims with:

            I said it’s more difficult but not impossible. I’ll take your answer that it does not offer anything falsifiable.

            And yet, where is that observer? Apparently he thinks it is reheating, but I don’t see how that solves his problem. He appears to need an external cause. Physicalism expressly prohibits this.

            His hypothesis does not negate cosmic inflation as he says in his video, it works with it. Also, physicalism doesn’t prohibit other physical universes from affecting ours, so you’re wrong.

            Unless you disagree with what I presented as a necessary component of god-of-the-gaps?

            I will simply ask you to produce a logical argument as to how you arrive at the supernatural to explain evil. I’ve offered you logical arguments in the past, it’s only fair you do the same for me.

            What is ‘physics’ and what is ‘metaphysics’ with respect to YEC?

            Within the YEC metaphysical worldview, there is the claim that all of spacetime is <6000 yeas old. That's a claim within science. So, metaphysical beliefs have physical implications. Provide me with your definition of metaphysics if you have a problem with mine.

            Do you truly think that my posts require you to click every one of the “10 hyperlinks”?

            So you’re adding hyperlinks with the intention that no one click on them?

          • Luke Breuer

            [1] If they didn’t say that publicly, they’d be tortured and killed by the Church. [2] Plus hardly anyone knew anything back then.

            [1] 100% irrelevant. [2] I’m not convinced you know enough more than they did, to justifiably make the claims you are making.

            What makes you so sure that I hold to eliminative materialism?

            Nothing. What I am curious about is whether physicalism/naturalism ⇒ eliminative materialism. Edward Feser is convinced that the implication holds, but I’ll have to read his philosophy of mind book plus some others before I can say the same thing with any confidence.

            His hypothesis does not negate cosmic inflation as he says in his video, it works with it. Also, physicalism doesn’t prohibit other physical universes from affecting ours, so you’re wrong.

            This is complete gibberish if it is meant to be in response to what I said. The big bang cannot be a quantum fluctuation if Sean Carroll is correct in saying that quantum fluctuations do not happen. What he needs is an observer, as he defines it. I claim that there is no good candidate for an observer.

            Within the YEC metaphysical worldview, there is the claim that all of spacetime is <6000 yeas old. That’s a claim within science. So, metaphysical beliefs have physical implications. Provide me with your definition of metaphysics if you have a problem with mine.

            You have yet to give me a definition of ‘metaphysics’ with which to agree or disagree.

            So you’re adding hyperlinks with the intention that no one click on them?

            Is the word ‘optional’ not in your lexicon?

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

            [1] 100% irrelevant. [2] I’m not convinced you know enough more than they did, to justifiably make the claims you are making.

            [1] Partially relevant because fear and intimidation forced people to “believe”. [2] Really? You don’t think I know more about the world than the average person of the Middle Ages? I know more than many of the smartest people at that time, all of whom still thought the earth was the center of the cosmos.

            What I am curious about is whether physicalism/naturalism ⇒ eliminative materialism.

            OK well when you’re ready to make an argument whether it is or isn’t, kindly let me know.

            The big bang cannot be a quantum fluctuation if Sean Carroll is correct in saying that quantum fluctuations do not happen. What he needs is an observer, as he defines it. I claim that there is no good candidate for an observer.

            His hypothesis is too new and needs additional analysis. I don’t recall Carroll saying an observer is needed. He holds to the MWI where there is no need for consciousness to collapse the wave function.

            You have yet to give me a definition of ‘metaphysics’ with which to agree or disagree.

            Yes I have:

            a claim on the fundamental nature of reality and the cosmos that does not have any empirical evidence backing it up.

            You could replace ‘claim’ with ‘belief’ or ‘philosophy’ and it’s pretty much the same thing. Now what’s your definition?

            Is the word ‘optional’ not in your lexicon?

            Yes but let’s drop this since it’s a waste of our time to bicker about trivial things. Let’s focus on the things that are important.

          • Luke Breuer

            [1] Partially relevant because fear and intimidation forced people to “believe”. [2] Really? You don’t think I know more about the world than the average person of the Middle Ages? I know more than many of the smartest people at that time, all of whom still thought the earth was the center of the cosmos.

            [1] And people today are shamed into believing things too. Don’t believe in evolution? Shame, shame, shame, no hire, etc. Even when there’s zero scientific evidence that said person’s lack of belief in evolution will hinder his/her research in any way. There are other ways that pressure and intimidation are applied, on topics utterly disconnected from evolution.

            [2] You may know more facts, but there is zero evidence you are wiser, and knowing more facts does not immediately guarantee that you can justifiably make the claims you are making.

            His hypothesis is too new and needs additional analysis. I don’t recall Carroll saying an observer is needed. He holds to the MWI where there is no need for consciousness to collapse the wave function.

            This is one of those times that the links I give you are relevant. Here’s a reddit for Quantum Fluctuations in de Sitter Space (do not happen), and here’s where Sean Carroll explains what he means by ‘observer’. But I’m not sure any of this is needed; all you probably need is the claim that all of reality is deterministic, and you open yourself up to all the infinite regress arguments. Unless you want to say that outside of our universe it could be indeterministic (and thus our universe could have randomly fluctuated into existence)? But then you would have to explain why everything is now deterministic.

            You have yet to give me a definition of ‘metaphysics’ with which to agree or disagree.

            Yes I have:

            a claim on the fundamental nature of reality and the cosmos that does not have any empirical evidence backing it up.

            Oh right, that ‘definition’. It sounds very Logical Positivist, as in the LPs wanted to eliminate all metaphysical discussion by declaring it ‘useless’ via their “criteria of meaning”. Generally, there is zero notion of there being “empirical evidence” which could back up a given metaphysic. Instead, it is through the metaphysic that you view reality. There is no such thing as ‘raw’ perception; by the time that percepts make it to your consciousness, they have been interpreted. And so, you don’t get to call things which you think are unevidenced “metaphysics”/

          • Andy_Schueler

            Don’t believe in evolution? Shame, shame, shame, no hire

            That is a lie. An ancient lie that has been debunked so often, it´s really not funny anymore. And you are helping to keep it alive by retelling it.

          • Luke Breuer

            Really? Are you saying it never happens, or that it simply infrequently happens?

          • Andy_Schueler

            Of course it could have happened somewhere, but every single case that has been reported by creationists, cdesign proponentsists and other liars for Jesus turned out to be complete BS. Every single one. And given that said groups of people have a strong interest in finding such a case for propaganda purposes, their inability to find even just one is very strong evidence that this phenomenon does not exist.

          • Luke Breuer

            Then I stand corrected; I cannot support “no hire” bit with sufficient evidence. Is the “shame, shame, shame” bit likewise wrong? Will you also acknowledge that it is possible to discriminate against people in ways that cannot be easily put in a scholarly study? That is, people can game any system in order to discriminate and make people feel like shit, such that they are not breaking any rules meant to prohibit such discrimination.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Is the “shame, shame, shame” bit likewise wrong?

            Let me answer that with a question. It is a popular myth that the medieval church taught that the earth was flat. It didn´t do that at all and church authorities were a) perfectly aware of the classic arguments for a round earth as put forth by Aristotle and b) accepted those arguments as conclusive (as they did with pretty much everything that Aristotle argued for). Despite the overwhelming evidence for this myth being false, it survives because it is so often retold. Now imagine that you meet an atheist who believes this myth and you demonstrate to him that the myth is false, but he doesn´t believe you at all – he desperately looks for tiny bits of evidence that are compatible with his belief that the medieval church taught a flat earth and ignores the mountains of evidence that disproves it. In order words, he is behaving exactly like a creationist. Can you say with utter confidence that you would not consider this to be shameful behaviour and would say something to this effect (I would call it “willfully obtuse” for example – because it IS willful obtuseness) in such a situation? (Note that “shaming” and “bullying” are not the same)

          • Luke Breuer

            What you say here would be more relevant if I had not said:

            LB: I cannot support “no hire” bit with sufficient evidence.

            As it is, The Thinker is attempting to say that now (in the West) there aren’t the kind of influences which would cause people to believe things for any reason other than that they are likely the best bead on truth which we have. Back in the middle ages, the Church was forcing people to believe all sorts of things, and so obviously we can’t trust what they have to say. But now, we’re well into being Enlightened, and therefore the background knowledge which is available is trustworthy, and need be defended! Instead, it is the challenger who must undertake all the work, both to construct a cogent argument for what he is criticizing, plus a critique of that argument. This, despite the fact that the argument is not his.

            My point, then, is simply that shame and coercion are still very much alive, including in the sciences. My wife is a scientist at a good school and my best man is a longtime tenured faculty member at an MIT-level institution. Yes, they provide only anecdotal evidence, but I’m not sure one can really get anything other than anecdotal evidence on such matters.

          • Andy_Schueler

            I am not weighing in on your discussion with TT, I only corrected the creationist trope you sprinkled in.

          • Luke Breuer

            Well, I’m just explaining that I carried over some of the thrust of my discussion with TT, to you, perhaps incorrectly, but you did jump in on the conversation so I don’t feel too bad. So do you still think your hypothetical is relevant?

          • Andy_Schueler

            “So do you still think your hypothetical is relevant?”
            => Relevant to your question re “shaming”, absolutely. Because there is such a thing as justified shaming.

          • Luke Breuer

            Justified by what standard? By an objective one? Too often, I have fallen on the wrong side of such ‘standards’. And so, I learn to characterize them, and then expose only the part of myself which is deemed ‘acceptable’. It is a terrible thing to force other humans to do this, but it is also very powerful to be able to “be all things to all men”.

          • Andy_Schueler

            If I believe and publicly say that you are a rapist – without any factual basis to do so, would that be “shameful” behaviour? Would that be “reckless disregard of the truth” (i.e., libel)? Should I be called out for such shameful behaviour (only if you agree that it would be shameful of course) and be held accountable for it?

          • Luke Breuer

            You know what, I have zero interest in changing what you consider shameful, so I’m going to end my part in this conversation. If and when I learn to interact with you in ways I find ‘acceptable’, you will hear more from me.

          • Luke Breuer

            I find it curious that in most cases, deep investigation of the question “can X be destroyed” would be seen as genocidal. Indeed:

            Raphael Lemkin, in his work Axis Rule in Occupied Europe (1944), coined the term “genocide” by combining Greek genos (γένος), “race, people” and Latin cīdere “to kill”.[15]

            Lemkin defined genocide as follows: “Generally speaking, genocide does not necessarily mean the immediate destruction of a nation, except when accomplished by mass killings of all members of a nation. It is intended rather to signify a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves. The objectives of such a plan would be the disintegration of the political and social institutions, of culture, language, national feelings, religion, and the economic existence of national groups, and the destruction of the personal security, liberty, health, dignity, and even the lives of the individuals belonging to such groups.” The preamble to the CPPCG states that instances of genocide have taken place throughout history,[4] but it was not until Raphael Lemkin coined the term and the prosecution of perpetrators of the Holocaust at the Nuremberg trials that the United Nations agreed to the CPPCG which defined the crime of genocide under international law.

            That is, destroy religion and you destroy identities. Restricting genocide to merely flesh and blood is probably irrational—that is, I will bet that it violates a natural kind by falsely separating a natural kind into two arbitrary groups. However, perhaps without formal causes, one cannot even claim this?

          • josh

            Can polio be destroyed? Can hunger be eliminated? Can you give me something to kill this rash?

            Try harder Luke.

          • Luke Breuer

            Can we nuke the world to oblivion? As it turns out, we need morality as well as operational knowledge (that is, Baconian knowledge).

          • Luke Breuer

            Oh, this comment on OT violence and culture destruction is relevant. If it’s ok to destroy religion, it’s ok to destroy culture. Or we might want to say some religion and some culture.

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

            I think religion is far from neutral. I would still like to hear a case by you Luke why religion is good or why your religion is good. I have nothing from your point of view to highlight what you think are the positives or religion.

          • Luke Breuer

            I need offer no argument, other than claim we ought to start at ‘neutral’ or ‘unknown’, and only assume another position based on empirical evidence, and sufficient empirical evidence at that.

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

            Why should believing false ideas about reality be neutral right from the start?

          • Luke Breuer

            Do you accept that if you start at radical skepticism, you cannot ever escape from radical skepticism? If so, do you accept that the principle of indifference is radical skepticism, if adopted 100% as your universal Bayesian prior probability?

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

            Regular skepticism will do just fine.

            Is it the case you that you will flat out refuse to make any positive cases to support your views?

          • Luke Breuer

            Then you must start with a belief not supported by evidence, in order to learn anything. Shall I prove this to you, formally? Belief must precede knowledge. But it can be tentative belief, and it can be shown to be wrong!

            As to positive claims, I have made them. I am, however, careful to generally make claims I believe I can rigorously support, especially with you. You really have brought this on yourself, with how you have treated me. Now accept the consequences of your actions, or choose to interact with me differently. Your choice.

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

            Skepticism comes from the fact that most beliefs throughout history have been false. It seems we always get the wrong answer before we get the right answer. Therefore skepticism is justified by empirical data.

            Where have you made the positive claims? Care to reiterate or link them?

          • Luke Breuer

            How is

            TT: Skepticism comes from the fact that most beliefs throughout history have been false. It seems we always get the wrong answer before we get the right answer. Therefore skepticism is justified by empirical data.

            a response to:

            LB: Then you must start with a belief not supported by evidence, in order to learn anything. Shall I prove this to you, formally? Belief must precede knowledge. But it can be tentative belief, and it can be shown to be wrong!

            ?

            Where have you made the positive claims? Care to reiterate or link them?

            Sigh; I’ve linked you to this comment multiple times now. I’m getting tired of it. Read it, or stop asking me for anything it contains. I’ve also listed these triads before:

                 • Mt 5:43-48, Jn 13:34-35, Jn 17:20-23
                 • Mt 5:23-24, Mt 18:15-20, Eph 4:25-27
                 • Mt 7:1-5, Mt 23:1-4, Gal 6:1-5
                 • Mt 7:15-23, Mt 13:24-30, Mt 25:31-46

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

            How is…a response to…?

            I interpreted your response to mean that skepticism has to be taken on faith and there is no evidence to justify it.

            I’ve linked you to this comment multiple times now. I’m getting tired of it. Read it, or stop asking me for anything it contains. I’ve also listed these triads before:

            In your comment you said:

            …do you accept that the kind of society and world the NT claims to make possible could be pretty awesome?

            The answer is no. Although certainly some of what the NT describes is good, the good has to be cherry picked. The NT as a whole is not a prescription for an awesome society. And besides, anything good in the NT can be done without Christianity or religion.

            From discussions in the past, you know I am deeply skeptical that the Christian world of heaven is even coherent or possible.

          • Luke Breuer

            I interpreted your response to mean that skepticism has to be taken on faith and there is no evidence to justify it.

            No. I said/inferred that before you can know something you must believe it. Belief precedes knowledge. More here.

            Although certainly some of what the NT describes is good, the good has to be cherry picked.

            Ahh, yes. You think the NT supports slavery. You refuse to believe that it provides the explicit thinking required to erode the foundations of slavery—which is 100% different from merely legislating against it. As if legislating against something solves everything. As if there is no inside to a person, which can obey law by the letter but rebel against it in spirit.

            And besides, anything good in the NT can be done without Christianity or religion.

            It would be interesting to see your response to my comments on charity (B.), to which I can now add this research.

            From discussions in the past, you know I am deeply skeptical that the Christian world of heaven is even coherent or possible.

            Yes. And I argue that in order to think properly about heaven, we must trace a logical route from here to there, instead of just starting there, declaring “Contradiction!”, and claiming that we are done.

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

            No. I said/inferred that before you can know something you must believe it. Belief precedes knowledge. More here.

            Well then you should have been more clear on what you were trying to write.

            Ahh, yes. You think the NT supports slavery.

            It’s also anti-gay and anti-women. It’s kinda anti-all the things we’ve fought so hard for as a society. Some of the NT is harmful and is antithetical to modern liberal values and that’s why I could never accept it.

            You refuse to believe that it provides the explicit thinking required to erode the foundations of slavery—which is 100% different from merely legislating against it.

            Oh really, in order to make slavery illegal 1,900 years later? Great job. Forget about legislation, the Bible could have simply said “Human slavery is wrong.” It’s obviously a man made book written at a time when our moral development was in it’s tween years. That’s why you have to cherry pick it, as all religions.

            As if legislating against something solves everything. As if there is no inside to a person, which can obey law by the letter but rebel against it in spirit.

            No it doesn’t, but allowing slavery as part of your moral framework certainly doesn’t help make for an awesome society.

            It would be interesting to see your response to my comments on charity (B.), to which I can now add this research.

            I think your interlocutor might have said it best. Also, “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”

            Yes. And I argue that in order to think properly about heaven, we must trace a logical route from here to there, instead of just starting there, declaring “Contradiction!”, and claiming that we are done.

            The world can certainly get better. But the “New Earth” envisioned by many Christians is impossible. So I’m with you on making this world a less shittier place, but a growing number of people like me are not going to use the NT or any other religion’s antiquated beliefs to guide us. Doing that would in some ways be taking a step back.

          • Luke Breuer

            Well then you should have been more clear on what you were trying to write.

            Let’s compare my initial response:

            LB: Then you must start with a belief not supported by evidence, in order to learn anything. Shall I prove this to you, formally? Belief must precede knowledge. But it can be tentative belief, and it can be shown to be wrong!

            To my subsequent response:

            LB: No. I said/inferred that before you can know something you must believe it. Belief precedes knowledge. More here.

            As it turns out, I didn’t infer, I said it. “Believe must precede knowledge.” The Thinker, I tire of your simple failing to read what I read, followed by a refusal to admit error.

            It’s also anti-gay and anti-women.

            Is this from your careful analysis of how the NT was read by the people who existed when it was first written down? If so, please show your work. If not, please admit that you are in danger of having anachronistically having read it. Or I could point you to a version in Islam: Islamic feminism § History:

            During the early days of Islam in the 7th century CE, reforms in women’s rights affected marriage, divorce and inheritance.[9] Women were not accorded such legal status in other cultures, including the West, until centuries later.[10]

            There is much more in that section you would do well to read. I suggest reading it. You appear to be laboring under atheistic dogma, atheistic mythology.

            Oh really, in order to make slavery illegal 1,900 years later?

            You appear to have no idea of abolition of slavery, by Christians, much earlier. Yep, the New World slavery was a regress, that’s for sure. But you don’t seem to know it was a regress: e.g. Dum Diversas.

            the Bible could have simply said “Human slavery is wrong.”

            So, have you bought anything which came from a sweatshop?

            I think your interlocutor might have said it best. Also, “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”

            So if there are able-bodied people who refuse to work, in spite of there being nothing keeping them back but their own free choice, they should get food? After all, the word is ‘unwilling’.

            But the “New Earth” envisioned by many Christians is impossible.

            Because it violates the second law of thermodynamics? I mean, why not just stop at that? Entropy must increase or stay the same. It seems that this “New Earth” would violate that, doesn’t it?

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

            As it turns out, I didn’t infer, I said it. “Believe must precede knowledge.” The Thinker, I tire of your simple failing to read what I read, followed by a refusal to admit error.

            I thought you were specifically referring to skepticism, which could exist within an epistemological framework that grants some basic assumptions without evidence, like that your senses are capable of being accurate.

            Is this from your careful analysis of how the NT was read by the people who existed when it was first written down? If so, please show your work.

            What the Bible simply does is it takes male/female relations that existed at the time and it puts it into the texts. Gays were tortured and killed throughout Christian lands for centuries by people justifying it via the Bible. Fred Phelps is a modern day example of how awful this is.

            If not, please admit that you are in danger of having anachronistically having read it.

            The Bible and NT itself are out of order. Mark is the first gospel not Matthew and the epistles came 20 years before the gospels. Read in proper order you can clearly see the embellishment of legend growing from Paul’s writings to John in the NT.

            Or I could point you to a version in Islam: Islamic feminism § History:

            Heard that a million times. Don’t forget the Koran states, ‘Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other” – Surah 4:34

            Hooray for equality!!

            I suggest reading it. You appear to be laboring under atheistic dogma, atheistic mythology.

            As one of your critics said:

            Here, the only difference being that their Bible checkbook remains full of unused checks meaning their promissory notes are held out as guarantees from God that the Bible is full of golden nuggets of eternal truths which, if only it can be exegeted correctly by anyone wanting to know what God really wants (Luke Breuer, especially), than theology would make perfect sense.

            This is so true of you.

            You appear to have no idea of abolition of slavery, by Christians, much earlier.

            Oh I’m aware. You seem to be unwilling to admit that the Bible contains harmful morality in it. Just as your critic above, you want to whitewash it and brandish it as if it’s this amazing book of revealed moral wisdom. When all you’ve got is a man made book, far from perfect, that amounts to a regression of morality today.

            So, have you bought anything which came from a sweatshop?

            That is not relevant. I’m a strong critic of cutthroat capitalism that preys on the weak to make itself rich. In my opinion, they’re the second biggest evil in the world to radical Islam.

            So if there are able-bodied people who refuse to work, in spite of there being nothing keeping them back but their own free choice, they should get food?

            For a limited time yes.

            Because it violates the second law of thermodynamics?

            Not for that reason. Because a perfect world is impossible. Conflict will always exist.

          • Luke Breuer

            I’m beginning to want to not talk to you any more, or at least take a hiatus. Can you guess why?

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

            Hmm. Because you’d rather be commenting on secular blogs in the hopes that you’ll convince someone Christianity isn’t absurd?

          • Luke Breuer

            No. Because you interpret uncharitably, and when it turns out that you really screwed up, you still blame it on the other person. You are almost constitutionally unable to admit you are wrong, at least when you are talking to a theist. This makes discussion with you incredibly frustrating, because you actually do end up being wrong, at least from time to time.

            Si enim fallor, sum. Tell me if and when you believe that.

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

            I’m no more perfect than the Bible is. No wait, maybe I am. I think we do misunderstand each other from time to time and that leads to false accusations of being wrong. However, I think the great majority of times you think I’m wrong is because you misunderstand me.

          • Luke Breuer

            This is precisely one thing that makes discussing with you infuriating at times. You’re incredibly arrogant, as this comment of yours illustrates.

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

            Oh right. It could never be the case that you misunderstand me. That’s crazy talk.

          • Luke Breuer

            So the choices are either:

                 (1) It’s almost always Luke’s fault.
                 (2) It’s never Luke’s fault.

            That’s not how I think; I don’t reason that ¬(1) ⇒ (2). No, the above is a false dichotomy.

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

            Never said it was a dichotomy. Didn’t you read me saying “from time to time”. Yet another strawman.

          • Luke Breuer

            On what objective basis do you assert (1)?

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

            From the fact that I have to explain why you’ve miscontrued me over and over again.

          • Luke Breuer

            Hmmm, and I haven’t had to do the same for you? Oh wait…

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

            Well when you’re consistently vague it kind of makes it hard for someone else to understand you, don’t you think Luke?

          • Luke Breuer

            I’ve been particularly vague, as of late? IIRC, you’ve stopped those accusations; I thought I had adjusted properly to suite your requirements. Indeed, you’ve been complaining that I haven’t been giving you enough data to support claims you want to make about me. I responded: this is because of your criticisms of vagueness.

            So pick, The Thinker. Don’t be contradictory. Have I continued my vagueness at the same levels as before? Or have they actually gone down?

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

            Your vagueness has decreased Luke, and that is a good thing, but it’s still ever present. What’s increased is your strawman attacks on me and your utter failure to understand what I’m trying to tell you. It’s like you want to hear me say something that I’m not, so that you can paint me into some kind of corner and label me.

          • Luke Breuer

            You know, I would describe you precisely as you just described me. What do you think of that? I’m reminded of:

            “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. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Mt 7:1–5)

            Here I exegete the above, and I’ve also written on judgment in general. And in case you aren’t already aware of it, Jesus is talking about psychological projection in the second half of that passage. Will you admit that you are possibly suffering from psychological projection, or are you convinced that you do not suffer from The Unreliability of Naive Introspection?

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

            You know, I would describe you precisely as you just described me.

            I’m not saying I’m perfect, but when it comes to strawmans and misunderstandings you’re clearly the worse.

            Will you admit that you are possibly suffering from psychological projection, or are you convinced that you do not suffer from The Unreliability of Naive Introspection?

            A dichotomy for me? With you Luke, I know for sure that it’s not all me, so your Jesus analogy is bullshit. I can see several of your other interlocutors saying the same thing about you that I am.

            I will admit that I am sometimes extremely pugnacious and polemic because I really enjoy debating. Perhaps with you I will refrain from these tendencies and write more like a dialogue since you don’t like to debate and seem more interested in exploring ideas for the sake of exploring ideas.

          • Luke Breuer

            I’m not saying I’m perfect, but when it comes to strawmans and misunderstandings you’re clearly the worse.

            Bullshit, you’re saying that you are so close to perfect that the difference from where you are and perfect is ir-fucking-relevent. As to your “clearly”, I don’t know how you could possibly know that, given (a) how terrible you demonstrably are at modeling Christians; (b) previous instances where you told me that people who largely share your presuppositions tend to agree with you.

            With you Luke, I know for sure that it’s not all me, so your Jesus analogy is bullshit.

            Straw man: I never said that it is all you. See, you do straw mans all the time, according to the definition of ‘straw man’ whereby I do it all the time. I wouldn’t personally define ‘straw man’ that way, but I can play by your definitions, once you’ve used the terms enough for me to back out a definition.

            I will admit that I am sometimes extremely pugnacious and polemic because I really enjoy debating. Perhaps with you I will refrain from these tendencies and write more like a dialogue since you don’t like to debate and seem more interested in exploring ideas for the sake of exploring ideas.

            Surely you know that debating qua debating is terrible at truth-seeking? Debating for the sake of debating is what the Sophists did; see my comments here. Debating for the sake of debating can only ever establish validity, not soundness. Furthermore, pure deductive discussion can never discover new ideas, can never make one’s world bigger. All it can ever do is derive theorems from established axioms, as well as discover contradictions.

            So I really would appreciate the shift in emphasis that you mention. It doesn’t mean there will be no more debating, but it means that debating will take a subservient role.

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

            Bullshit, you’re saying that you are so close to perfect that the difference from where you are and perfect is ir-fucking-relevent.

            I sense extreme hostility coming from you. Why so agitated?

            As to your “clearly”, I don’t know how you could possibly know that, given (a) how terrible you demonstrably are at modeling Christians; (b) previous instances where you told me that people who largely share your presuppositions tend to agree with you.

            (a) It is you Christians that make up your own religion on the fly however it suits you, so it’s hard to model something that is constantly morphing into a million different branches. That said, the word “Christian” today has been rendered practically useless. (b) What does this have to do with anything?

            Straw man: I never said that it is all you.

            You tried to force me into a dichotomy Luke. A false one at that. You were trying to accuse me of judging you on something I do way more than you. The exact opposite is true.

            Surely you know that debating quadebating is terrible at truth-seeking?

            Debating is one way to truth-seek, but certainly not the only way. As they say….Truth springs from argument amongst friends.

            Furthermore, pure deductive discussion can never discover new ideas, can never make one’s world bigger.

            Non-sense. Prove this with empirical evidence.

          • Luke Breuer

            I sense extreme hostility coming from you. Why so agitated?

            If you have to ask the question…

            (a) It is you Christians that make up your own religion on the fly however it suits you

            Yeah, not gonna believe that without evidence. Maybe you just aren’t very good at seeing how various verbalizations actually share deep commonalities. When I hear Christians speak about their beliefs, I can often detect deep connections with orthodox tradition.

            (b) What does this have to do with anything?

            “These other people, who are very similar to me, agree that it I generally characterize you properly, while you generally don’t characterize me properly.” Can you not see how ridiculously parochial such a claim is? Of course people similar to you in presuppositions are going to see reality similarly!

            You tried to force me into a dichotomy Luke.

            Bullshit. Not once have I said that the fault is exclusively yours, or close to that. In general, I would guess that we share about equally when it comes to misrepresenting each other’s views. You, however, wish to push most of the blame onto me. I see no objective reason to accept this judgment of yours; it seems much more parochial than objective.

            As they say….Truth springs from argument amongst friends.

            Do you treat your friends the way you treat me? I’m honestly curious. Maybe it’s just the case that all the insults and deprecations you throw my way are normal for you. In my experience though, you much prefer giving than receiving when it comes to insults.

            Non-sense. Prove this with empirical evidence.

            LOL. You want me to do two things:

                 (1) prove a claim about logic with evidence
                 (2) prove a negative with evidence

            That’s just precious. No, The Thinker, I argue that merely deducing new theorems from known axioms doesn’t net you truly new ideas. When Douglas Osheroff was supercooling He-3, he didn’t learn anything new until the He-3 started acting very differently than prediction. This behavior forced him to accept a new axiom into his system, or the equivalent of that: superfluidity. What I am talking about is the difference between being open to a bigger world existing, and being closed to a bigger world existing; this is II in my Intersubjectivity is Key.

            Just try to do science without inductive logic, The Thinker. I’d love to see you try. If you’re going to quibble that finding new theorems discovers new ideas, I suppose I could agree, but with an important qualification: strip reality of inductive logic and we ultimately lock ourselves in a philosophical dome we cannot smell, taste, see, touch, or hear. It is that which I really care about.

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

            If you have to ask the question…

            Yes. I do.

            Yeah, not gonna believe that without evidence.

            40 thousand+ denominations that disagree over some of the most fundamental aspects of the religion prove my point. Find anything one Christian believes to be true, and another will believe it to be false. Let me ask you, what is the definition of a Christian?

            Of course people similar to you in presuppositions are going to see reality similarly!

            OK now I see what you mean. It didn’t quite fit make sense how you put it. There are many Christians who would agree with some of your presuppositions who would disagree with you, and likewise to me. I disagree with many atheists on the importance of philosophy for example. Some atheists deny determinism, or my ontological views on spacetime, so there are many disagreements. We don’t claim to have any supernaturally revealed truth, and so that’s what sets us apart.

            Do you treat your friends the way you treat me? I’m honestly curious.

            Yes. I’m a polemicist. I like to debate all people on the things I’m interested in regardless of whether they are my friend or not. However, I don’t just verbally attack people on the street. There is a time and a place for debating.

            No, The Thinker, I argue that merely deducing new theorems from known axioms doesn’t net you truly new ideas.

            Who says that’s all debate is? The axioms themselves can be debated.

            Just try to do science without inductive logic, The Thinker. I’d love to see you try. If you’re going to quibble that finding new theorems discovers new ideas, I suppose I could agree, but with an important qualification: strip reality of inductive logic and we ultimately lock ourselves in a philosophical dome we cannot smell, taste, see, touch, or hear. It is that which I really care about.

            What exactly are you accusing me of doing here? Can you please put your accusation of me into one coherent sentence?

            When it comes to (1) quantum mechanics did falsify pre-Einsteinian logic about the universe with empirical evidence, as did relativity, and they resulted in paradigm shifts.

          • Luke Breuer

            Yes. I do.

            Being dehumanized does make me less than happy; you are correct. And yes, you asserting your superiority over me is dehumanizing. The wisest, smartest people have no need to assert the fact; it’s only the wannabes who do.

            40 thousand+ denominations that disagree over some of the most fundamental aspects of the religion prove my point. Find anything one Christian believes to be true, and another will believe it to be false.

            Usually a denomination is a little more than “made up on the fly”. Indeed, I went to a church that only broke from its denomination on a lot of deep thought and prayer. So you’re actually going to have to make a point with your 40k+ number, an argument. Numbers mean nothing all by themselves.

            Yes. I’m a polemicist.

            That’s not what I was talking about. You find many ways to assert your superiority over me. Do you do this to your friends?

            Who says that’s all debate is? The axioms themselves can be debated.

            Yeah, tell me the next time you see a new idea, which came from inductive logic, pop out of a debate. In my experience, such ideas are very fragile and just about any debate will destroy them or force the person to retract the idea. I say this out of much experience putting forth nascent ideas. I am much more guarded about this, and you are a cause of it, with your repeated accusations of vagueness, as if it were a terrible thing. It’s the normative aspect of your accusations which resulted in this, not the descriptive aspect. You are clearly asserting your superiority when you accuse me of being vague. It gets tiring.

            What exactly are you accusing me of doing here? Can you please put your accusation of me into one coherent sentence?

            Thinking that the kind of debate you love is good for generating new ideas. By ‘good’, I mean anything close to optimal. Some Jews found reason to be joyful in Auschwitz.

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

            The wisest, smartest people have no need to assert the fact; it’s only the wannabes who do.

            I haven’t dehumanized you. I may have strongly criticized you, but it’s not like I’m calling you what the Koran calls us non-believers:

            Surely the vilest of animals in Allah’s sight are those who disbelieve, then they would not believe. (8:55)

            And your “good ‘ol Bible” calls us fools and wicked in our hearts without any evidence. It does to us the very thing you claim I’m doing to you. Hypocrisy.

            Usually a denomination is a little more than “made up on the fly”.

            A great deal of denominations come from ideas that pop into people’s heads, dreams and sudden “reinterpretations.” And this is basically what you all look like to us.

            That’s not what I was talking about. You find many ways to assert your superiority over me. Do you do this to your friends?

            It depends.

            Yeah, tell me the next time you see a new idea, which came from inductive logic, pop out of a debate.

            Why are you so insistent that debate does not allow for truth to spring? Do you think truth comes from faith? If so how is that shown?

            In my experience, such ideas are very fragile and just about any debate will destroy them or force the person to retract the idea.

            Debate forces you to see criticism of your views and they can either force you to reformulate and rethink them or jettison them altogether. Debating with theists confirms what I’ve always suspected about theism, which is that it is incoherent and held on faith.

            with your repeated accusations of vagueness, as if it were a terrible thing.

            Yes it is. Because why on earth should I take your religious beliefs seriously if you have no idea what they even are when pressured? And why should a secularist like myself let such vague and incoherent ideas determine policy that affects billions of people? Beliefs have consequences Luke, and until you can put forth a well thought out coherent worldview and support it with evidence, no one should let it dictate matters of importance.

            Thinking that the kind of debate you love is good for generating new ideas. By ‘good’, I mean anything close to optimal. Some Jews found reason to be joyful in Auschwitz.

            It actually can. I’ve learned many new counter apologetic arguments via debating. And personally, I’ve gotten a lot smarter in science, history, religion and philosophy. Debate helps us all sharpen our arguments and examine the best criticisms of it.

          • Luke Breuer

            I haven’t dehumanized you.

            By making this very claim, you are asserting superiority over me.

            And your “good ‘ol Bible” calls us fools and wicked in our hearts without any evidence.

            Please flesh this out: both the passages you’re talking about, and what would constitute ‘evidence’ in the contexts of those passages.

            A great deal of denominations come from ideas that pop into people’s heads, dreams and sudden “reinterpretations.”

            Please define “A great deal” and support this claim with evidence.

            And this is basically what you all look like to us .

            This brings up something I’ve been meaning to discuss: I could generate a similar diagram of the genetic differences between humans. One thing this would illustrate is that despite the many differences, there are a terrific number of commonalities. I wonder if you know of anyone who has done this with Christianity? If not, I question the claim that 40k+ denominations means that there is as much difference as is usually inferred, but virtually never stated. For example, it could actually mean that there are at most 100 main streams of thought, with all the rest being minor differentiation, where ‘minor’ is defined as “amount we disagree on” / “amount we agree on” being sufficiently small.

            It depends.

            I thought that was pretty clearly a yes/no question. Perhaps you realize that people don’t like being treated the way you treat them, and thus have resorted to a vague answer? Perhaps you realize that you don’t like being treated the way you treat others?

            Why are you so insistent that debate does not allow for truth to spring?

            I partially overstated my case; I will illustrate with an example from evolution. One of the ways that DNA can change is through a frameshift mutation. This is an extremely radical mutation; it is very unlikely to result in a beneficial or even neutral genetic result. It is claimed that nylon-eating bacteria got their ability through a frameshift mutation, but that is questioned. Even if they did, it is very strongly believed that evolution could not survive on only frameshift mutations.

            Debates are hamstrung in the same way that evolution-with-only-frameshift-mutations is hamstrung. One could possibly discover new things, but if this is the only or even primary way to discover new things, very little will be discoverable.

            Note that I’m not the only one who has observed this weakness in debate. I’ve seen more than a few atheists/skeptics comment that debates between Christians and atheists tend not to do a whole lot to advance the state of art of knowledge—often they do nothing of the sort. Part of this is due to the standard in-person format, but part is just that debates in and of themselves have limited use.

            Debate forces you to see criticism of your views and they can either force you to reformulate and rethink them or jettison them altogether.

            You have completely ignored my point. If you cannot see why people would not wish to develop new ideas in your presence, I have failed to illustrate my point and have no hope that I can, to you.

            Because why on earth should I take your religious beliefs seriously if you have no idea what they even are when pressured?

            Your use of “no idea” is an insulting hyperbole.

            It actually can. I’ve learned many new counter apologetic arguments via debating. And personally, I’ve gotten a lot smarter in science, history, religion and philosophy. Debate helps us all sharpen our arguments and examine the best criticisms of it.

            So debate helps you believe what you already believe, but harder. When is the last time you’ve been proven wrong on anything possibly significant, such that you had to reformulate your views?

          • Andy_Schueler

            If not, I question the claim that 40k+ denominations means that there is as much difference as is usually inferred, but virtually never stated. For example, it could actually mean that there are at most 100 main streams of thought, with all the rest being minor differentiation, where ‘minor’ is defined as “amount we disagree on” / “amount we agree on” being sufficiently small.

            Many of those 40k are virtually identical (to the degree that outsiders are completely unable to distinguish them). But even if you could collapse the 40k to, say, 100 classes based on similarity of doctrine, that would still lead to the conclusion that theology is absolutely unique in this respect. No other field of inquiry is like that, because every other field of inquiry has methods to resolve disagreements.

          • Luke Breuer

            Hmmm, let’s ignore the many interpretations of QM which exist.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Quantum physics, physics in general, and science as a whole is not in any way analogous to theology in this respect:
            1. For science, the number of different opinions about one issue sometimes increases (usually when new phenomena are discovered) and sometimes decreases (when one competing explanation outperforms the others based on explanatory power and evidential support). For theology, the number of different opinions only ever increases, but never decreases.
            2. The sheer number of different opinions on pretty much any theological issue is at least an order of magnitude more than the number of different opinions on even the most controversial scientific issues.
            3. The best predictor for theological opinions, including that of scholars, is the accident of birth – where did the scholar grow up, while this doesn´t predict scientific scholarly opinions in any way.

            In summary, theology is completely disanalogous to every other field of inquiry in this respect, and this would be perfecty explained / predicted by the claim that theology has no method.

          • Luke Breuer

            1. [...] For theology, the number of different opinions only ever increases, but never decreases.

            Yeah, that didn’t ever happen with the ecumenical councils, no, never. It couldn’t be the case, either, that The Fundamentals established any sort of unity. And it’s not possible that the ecumenical efforts of e.g. Kallistos Ware could be an instance of this. Or let’s take Vatican II, which started bridging the gap between Protestants and Roman Catholics, among other things.

            2. The sheer number of different opinions on pretty much any theological issue is at least an order of magnitude more than the number of different opinions on even the most controversial scientific issues.

            Yep, and I have argued elsewhere why this is to be expected. I once attended a conference where a psychology professor spoke, and someone asked why psychological theories kept multiplying, instead of converging. She answered: because they keep explaining more and more—humans are complex! Well, if that’s true of psychology, then surely it is true of theology, which is only more complex than psychology, since it deals with not just the whole person, but the whole person in community, embedded in a possibly-hostile context, in relation with God.

            3. The best predictor for theological opinions, including that of scholars, is the accident of birth – where did the scholar grow up, while this doesn´t predict scientific scholarly opinions in any way.

            See Tomas Bogardus’ The Problem of Contingency for Religious Belief.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Yeah, that didn’t ever happen with the ecumenical councils, no, never. It couldn’t be the case, either, that The Fundamentals established any sort of unity. And it’s not possible that the ecumenical efforts of e.g.Kallistos Ware could be an instance of this. Or let’s take Vatican II, which started bridging the gap between Protestants and Roman Catholics, among other things.

            Indeed, that did never happen with the ecumenical councils – if you disagree, then point to one instance of them leading one group to the conclusion that another group was right about some theological issue while they were wrong.

            Yep, and I have argued elsewhere why this is to be expected. I once attended a conference where a psychology professor spoke, and someone asked why psychological theories kept multiplying….

            Not analogous at all, example: the belief that there are significant and innate differences in intelligence between ethnic groups used to be a consensus while the denial of that view is the consensus today, and this shift in consensus opinion is not just the result of political biases, but rather largely the result of evidence produced by intersubjectively agreed upon methodology.
            Show me such an example in theology.

            See Tomas Bogardus’ The Problem of Contingency for Religious Belief.

            See this map of world religions:
            http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a6/Religion_distribution.png

          • Luke Breuer

            Indeed, that did never happen with the ecumenical councils – if you disagree, then point to one instance of them leading one group to the conclusion that another group was right about some theological issue while they were wrong.

            Before I do this, I want to know your evidential base and what I would gain out of proving you incorrect. I say this because your starting point is not ‘unknown’, but ‘false’. I have currently checked out of the library Alister McGrath’s Heresy: A History of Defending the Truth. But I get a little tired of your assertions which I have to go and then disprove with evidence. I feel a bit like your research assistant, and I feel like I’m the only one actually doing work like this in our dialogues. I don’t like that, and I think this is a completely acceptable response.

            Show me such an example in theology.

            You want an example based on evidence; while Heresy may have one, there is good reason to be skeptical that evidence would be useful in the way you describe. I appeal to F. A. Hayek’s Studies on the Abuse and Decline of Reason and Jacques Ellul’s Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes as arguments for why it is terribly hard to use evidence in the way you suggest, when it comes to economics and sociology. The reason seems to be due to these being emergent systems, with “the evidence” being something akin to micro-structure of particles, which are separated from the emergent phenomena by a fairly impenetrable barrier; the emergent phenomena are phase changes in matter in Massimo Pigliucci’s Essays on emergence, part I.

            It is my general conception that many heresies were identified as heresies based on the terrible behavior which resulted from them. I can, of course, test this against the evidence. There is, however, another way to identify heresies: by being a sufficient expert that you can imagine how some deviation from the [MacIntyre-]tradition would go, and declare that deviation as “too dangerous”. A software architect can do this when a developer comes to him with some idea on where to take a given project. It is not that such identification of heresy is un-evidenced, so much that it is predicated upon quite a lot of wisdom- and tradition-informed intuition.

            Now, lest the above appear to be a dodge to your question, I would point you to the massive failure of the social sciences as pointed out by Donald E. Polkinghorne’s Narrative Knowing and the Human Sciences (Google books preface). I will request that you show me economics and sociology which have been successful in the way you request I be successful, else I maintain that your request may be too great (for the extant maturity level) if not irrational, to make of these areas, and theology as well.

            Note that I would like theology to be more connected to the evidence than it is, and have talked to Roger Olson in his blog comments at moderate length about this. I think I’ve made it pretty clear by now that the Bible makes quite a few predictions about where certain belief and behavior lead. The variety of possible interpretations is irrelevant; any given interpretation can still be tested against the evidence. Indeed, I think such testing is necessary for the advance of theology. For more, see Olson’s What’s New in Theology? (Some Musings about Novelty–Or Not) and So What’s Left for Theology to Do? Some Musings about Theology’s Future.

            See this map of world religions:

            Relevance? Bogardus’ argument seems to cover that quite well. To be explicit: you are implicitly making an argument with your “accident of birth” claim that Bogardus attempts to make explicit in various different ways; he fails in all of them, and thus concludes that no argument can be made. But perhaps you can provide a good argument. If so, you could probably publish in the philosophy of religion—it would be that much of an innovation. Somehow, I doubt that you’ve actually innovated that much (just based on statistics; IIRC you also claimed to not have any ideas particularly unique to me). But I’m always open to being surprised!

          • Andy_Schueler

            But I get a little tired of your assertions which I have to go and then disprove with evidence.

            This is a very dishonest claim of you because you insinuate that this happens all the time, IIRC, it happened exactly once. If anything it is precisely the other way around.

            I don’t like that, and I think this is a completely acceptable response.

            Your prerogative. Then I´ll just point out that it is very telling that you can´t think of a single instance of that ever happening in theology without doing research while I (and you probably as well) could easily write up a very long list of such instances in pretty much all fields of inquiry other than theology. Given that, my point (theology being disanalogous to every other field of inquiry in this respect) would thus still stand even if you would find ONE instance of that happening in theology (it would be refuted if you´d find a dozen or so).

            It is my general conception that many heresies were identified as heresies based on the terrible behavior which resulted from them.

            :-D How much do you know about european history from roughly the third century to now? Declaring something a heresy had NOTHING to do with terrible behaviour, because they all acted terribly and they all killed each other whenever they had enough political power to do so. Hell, it took just a few years after the protestant revolution until protestants started burning other protestants on the stake for “heresy” – the only groups that never systematically murdered other christians for “heresy” were those that never had the numbers and the political power to do so (e.g. the anabaptists).

            Relevance? Bogardus’ argument seems to cover that quite well. To be explicit: you are implicitly making an argument with your “accident of birth” claim that Bogardus attempts to make explicit in various different ways; he fails in all of them….

            Alright, I started reading it and he construes the argument from religious diversity as:

            “1) If you had been born and raised elsewhere, else when, you wouldhave had different religious beliefs.
            2) Your religious beliefs don’t count as genuine knowledge”

            And he refutes it thusly:

            “But the argument does so at the expense of validity. In his response, Plantinga points out that he believes he was born in Michigan. Yet had he been born elsewhere and else when—in Madagascar, say—he would not have believed he was born in Michigan.”

            Now, I have to point out that the refutation does not work because a guy being born in Michigan believing that he was born there does not contradict in any way the claim that a different guy who was born in Madagascar was actually born there. On the other hand, a guy being born in New Dehli believing in some variant Hinduism and a guy being born in Rome and believing in Roman Catholicism does lead to many irreconcilable theological beliefs. So the refutation is completely beside the point. And even if it were not, it still would not be a counter to what I said because the argument as construed here is not the argument I made, I claimed that this shows that there is no method to resolve theological disagreements, I could further claim that this shows that either all or at least most of religious people did not arrive at their religious beliefs based on rational evaluations of the available options. Neither one of those conclusions seems to be countered by the paper you link to, so my point stands.

          • Luke Breuer

            This is a very dishonest claim of you because you insinuate that this happens all the time, IIRC, it happened exactly once. If anything it is precisely the other way around.

            Then I will not make that accusation again until I have built up a list. How many items need be in that list, Andy, before it becomes a “very dishonest claim”? How many items before it becomes even a “dishonest claim”? As to it being “precisely the other way around”, I fail to see how this is any less dishonest, until you actually provide evidence.

            Then I´ll just point out that it is very telling that you can´t think of a single instance of that ever happening in theology without doing research while I (and you probably as well) could easily write up a very long list of such instances in pretty much all fields of inquiry other than theology.

            There is a difference between having no instances at all, and no instances which would survive the kind of rigorous analysis which you bring to bear. There are ideas I do not dare communicate to you, not because I think they are wrong, but because you will only criticize them and attempt to destroy them unless I make them more robust. That’s fine; I can play that game. And there is a sense in which people’s ideas can be pretty useless when they’re only tenth-baked.

            :-D How much do you know about european history from roughly the third century to now? Declaring something a heresy had NOTHING to do with terrible behaviour, because they all acted terribly and they all killed each other whenever they had enough political power to do so.

            Not as much as I would like, but enough to know that your utter lack of nuance is very likely wrong. It sounds like we should resume this conversation once I have read more of McGrath’s Heresy. But before I do that, I would like you to not ignore the following:

            LB: Before I do this, I want to know your evidential base and what I would gain out of proving you incorrect. I say this because your starting point is not ‘unknown’, but ‘false’.

            I want to know what it is in your belief structure which leads to a default position of ‘false’, and what the evidence base is for that part of your belief structure. If I can demonstrate you are wrong, I want to know how much that will actually change in what you believe. If nothing but the bare claim that heresy accusations in Christianity were never based on the evidence is overturned, I think you can see why I would have little motivation to heighten the priority of learning more about heresy.

            I claimed that this shows that there is no method to resolve theological disagreements,

            And you think there is a method to resolve rational disagreements? I quote from Alasdair MacIntyre’s Whose Justice? Which Rationality?:

                One of the most striking facts about modern political orders is that they lack institutionalized forums within which these fundamental disagreements can be systematically explored and charted, let alone there being any attempt made to resolve them. The facts of disagreement themselves frequently go unacknowledged, disguised by a rhetoric of consensus. And when on some single, if complex issue, as in the struggles over the Vietnam war or in the debates over abortion, the illusions of consensus on questions of justice and practical rationality are for the moment fractured, the expression of radical disagreement is institutionalized in such a way as to abstract that single issue from those background contexts of different and incompatible beliefs from which such disagreements arise. This serves to prevent, so far as is possible, debate extending to the fundamental principles which inform those background beliefs. (2–3)

            I can explain the examples mentioned if you’d like. MacIntyre also provides some such examples in After Virtue. For something a bit more recent, see Steven D. Smith’s The Disenchantment of Secular Discourse:

            No one expects that anything called “reason” will dispel such pluralism by leading people to converge on a unified truth—certainly not about ultimate or cosmic matters such as “the nature of the universe” or “the end and the object of life.” Indeed, unity on such matters could be achieved only by state coercion: Rawls calls this the “fact of oppression.”[36] So a central function of “public reason” today is precisely to keep such matters out of public deliberation (subject to various qualifications and exceptions that Rawls conceded as his thinking developed). And citizens practice Rawlsian public reason when they refrain from invoking or acting on their “comprehensive doctrines”—that is, their deepest convictions about what is really true—and consent to work only with a scaled-down set of beliefs or methods that claim the support of an ostensible “overlapping consensus“.[Political Liberalism, 133-172, 223-227] (14-15)

            Yes, I took a bit of a right-angle turn in the conversation (see? I can learn, and notice when I am doing this), but it is an important one: if the alternatives to theological disagreement also have no method for resolution, then this is not a reason to discard theology, unless you wish to be consistent and also discard rationality. I doubt you do.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Then I will not make that accusation again until I have built up a list. How many items need be in that list, Andy, before it becomes a “very dishonest claim”? How many items before it becomes even a “dishonest claim”? As to it being “precisely the other way around”, I fail to see how this is any less dishonest, until you actually provide evidence.

            The way you phrased it, you insinuated that it does not just happen occasionally, but rather is characteristic for our interactions, so you´d need quite a few examples to establish that. However, I´d already be surprised if you find two, because I can only remember one. How many do you remember? But if you retract your accusation, I´d be happy to retract mine as well because this would essentially be a pissing contest and I´m neither interested in one nor would I be proud of winning one.

            There is a difference between having no instances at all, and no instances which would survive the kind of rigorous analysis which you bring to bear.

            Look, one of your examples was Vatican II – and it is not hypercritical to point out that Vatican II did not result in any denomination conceding that they were wrong while others had been right.

            Not as much as I would like, but enough to know that your utter lack of nuance is very likely wrong.

            This is not a lack of nuance – this is completely mundane mainstream history. The east-west schism was not about declaring beliefs heretical because the believers “acted terribly”, it was about political power. And the many accusations of “heresy” in the time of turmoil following the protestant reformation were also about political power and not about the alleged heretics “acting terribly”. The Anabaptists for example were hardcore pacifists who didn´t hurt a fly, but they committed the crime of disagreeing about some doctrinal issues (particularly regarding the role of baptism) and were thus slaughtered like cattle by fellow protestants.

            I want to know what it is in your belief structure which leads to a default position of ‘false’, and what the evidence base is for that part of your belief structure.

            This is not a “default position”, this is based on what I learned in my history classes in school.

            And you think there is a method to resolve rational disagreements?

            For all scholarly disciplines except for theology, yes there is.

            if the alternatives to theological disagreement also have no method for resolution, then this is not a reason to discard theology

            Note that you are talking about some very particular disagreements here, namely disagreements about “ultimate” and “purpose” questions (e.g. some form of teleology or the categorical denial of final causes). Science cannot answer such questions. Theologians claim they can answer it, but they in fact cannot – they can only make stuff up out of thin air and have no method to demonstrate that they are right while other theologians are wrong (well, they have one method to resolve disagreement, but only disagreements between people who already agree on the premises of the belief system, a method to test and compare such premises doesn´t exist).
            And that is no reason to discard theology, it is only a reason to deny that theology has any authority whatsoever when it comes to such questions because no one has such authority.

          • Luke Breuer

            However, I´d already be surprised if you find two, because I can only remember one. How many do you remember?

            What I most strongly recall is you defaulting to the position of ‘false’, instead of ‘unknown’. For now, I retract the accusation, and will instead start collecting data.

            Look, one of your examples was Vatican II – and it is not hypercritical to point out that Vatican II did not result in any denomination conceding that they were wrong while others had been right.

            I guess I’m not sure why your analysis is relevant, if tensions were eased. But I’m inclined to suspend this discussion until I’ve done more reading of history. Suffice it to say that I am skeptical of your history classes being unbiased, given my own experience with history classes. It’s not even clear that there is such a thing as unbiased history, unless it is merely a list of dates and events. But that’s probably a discussion for another thread, after I’ve read more on bias & history.

            And you think there is a method to resolve rational disagreements?

            For all scholarly disciplines except for theology, yes there is.

            As it turns out, I just happen to have Feldman and Warfield’s Disagreement checked out from the library, which has some compelling essays that militate precisely against the idea that all disagreement can be resolved. Now, this does not critique your precise claim—the existence of a method—but it argues that on the “bleeding edge”, there can well be irreconcilable disagreement. But perhaps you agree with this? The discussion would then move to what qualifies as the “bleeding edge” in theology.

            Note that you are talking about some very particular disagreements here, namely disagreements about “ultimate” and “purpose” questions (e.g. some form of teleology or the categorical denial of final causes). Science cannot answer such questions. Theologians claim they can answer it, but they in fact cannot – they can only make stuff up out of thin air and have no method to demonstrate that they are right while other theologians are wrong (well, they have one method to resolve disagreement, but only disagreements between people who already agree on the premises of the belief system, a method to test and compare such premises doesn´t exist). And that is no reason to discard theology, it is only a reason to deny that theology has any authority whatsoever when it comes to such questions because no one has such authority.

            1. A MacIntyre-tradition has ‘authority’ for those who choose to embed themselves within it.
            2. Theology is necessarily teleological, so the fact that there will be irreconcilable conflicts is a boring result, I suppose?
            3. Only Baconian-knowledge (+Feser) appears to have this characteristic of “a method to resolve rational disagreements”.

            It’s looking like your claim that theology has no means of resolving disagreement is based on the fact that people sometimes seem to believe and want fundamentally different things. But then this doesn’t seem to be much of a ding against theology. So would you rephrase your complaint, in the light of discussion to-date?

          • Andy_Schueler

            I guess I’m not sure why your analysis is relevant, if tensions were eased.

            Imagine that physicists would never manage to resolve their scientific disagreements but occasionally gather to pat each other on the back and agree on how much they love science. That would be the scientific equivalent of ecumenical efforts within Christianity. And my point was simply that different religious denominations never manage to do what routinely happens in fields of inquiry other than theology – rationally resolve intellectual disagreements and move on to other questions.

            As it turns out, I just happen to have Feldman and Warfield’sDisagreement checked out from the library, which has some compelling essays that militate precisely against the idea that all disagreement can be resolved. Now, this does not critique your precise claim—the existence of a method—but it argues that on the “bleeding edge”, there can well be irreconcilable disagreement. But perhaps you agree with this? The discussion would then move to what qualifies as the “bleeding edge” in theology.

            When a new idea is being introduced, lets take continental drift as an example, then it is absolutely possible that what started out as a personal idiosyncracy can turn into an unanimous consensus, and that by gathering data, conducting experiments, thinking about the implications of the results and debating them with your peers. The history of all fields of inquiry has such events, but what has never happened is an event like Mormon theologians coming to realize that Joseph Smith was full of shit after all, or Lutheran theologians coming to realize that the Anabaptists were right about the pointlessness of infant baptism, or Catholic theologians coming to realize that praying to the Blessed Virgin Mary is actually sinful.

            1. A MacIntyre-tradition has ‘authority’ for those who choose to embed themselves within it.
            2. Theology is necessarily teleological, so the fact that there will be irreconcilable conflicts is a boring result, I suppose?
            3. Only Baconian-knowledge (+Feser) appears to have this characteristic of “a method to resolve rational disagreements”.

            1. And that is why we keep it out of public discourse, because it doesn´t belong there – it is indeed your choice if you want to debate how many angels can dance on the head of a pin in your church, and it is also your choice to consider some church tradition as an authority, but public discourse in a non-tyrannical society can only be based on common denominators that do not require any doctrinal commitments.
            2. Yup.
            3. No, this is not really about empirical vs a priori knowledge. Mathematics for example rests on axioms that cannot be refuted or proven to be “correct”, but in Mathematics, this is also not necessary because different geometries (for example) based on different axioms can happily co-exist – non-euclidean geometries are just as “true” as euclidean geometry is, while Catholicism and Hinduism cannot be simultaneously be true because they make claims about what actually exists, not about abstracta.

            It’s looking like your claim that theology has no means of resolving disagreement is based on the fact that people sometimes seem to believe and want fundamentally different things. But then this doesn’t seem to be much of a ding against theology. So would you rephrase your complaint, in the light of discussion to-date?

            I just to scroll up to see what my original complaint even was – it was about the 40k denominations thingy and my claim based on that was that theology is unique as a field of inquiry, and not unique in a good way, but that is indeed a personal preference. As long as you agree that no theology demonstrably has authority on questions regarding putative final causes (those who choose to submit themselves to this authority excluded), then I guess we are in agreement here.

          • Luke Breuer

            Imagine that physicists would never manage to resolve their scientific disagreements but occasionally gather to pat each other on the back and agree on how much they love science.

            To my knowledge, this is never a sustained pattern over centuries, when people fundamentally disagree. Fundamental disagreements seem to always cause conflict. Since I am not an historian nor have I studied this topic in general, I can only say that this is an impression. But it would make your claim here irrelevant over the long term. We would also have to see what fruit Vatican II bears over the next several centuries.

            And my point was simply that different religious denominations never manage to do what routinely happens in fields of inquiry other than theology – rationally resolve intellectual disagreements and move on to other questions.

            The United Church of Christ was formed when two Protestant churches, the Evangelical and Reformed Church and the Congregational Christian Churches united in 1957.”

            The history of all fields of inquiry has such events, but what has never happened is an event like Mormon theologians coming to realize that Joseph Smith was full of shit after all, or Lutheran theologians coming to realize that the Anabaptists were right about the pointlessness of infant baptism, or Catholic theologians coming to realize that praying to the Blessed Virgin Mary is actually sinful.

            Are you forgetting the Reformation, itself? Or are you going to claim that was 100% political, despite the fact that Martin Luther didn’t want to break with the Roman Catholic Church? I’m recalling an act of denominational repentance on some issue other than slavery or antisemitism or treatment of the Native Americans, but I couldn’t find it with five minutes of searching.

            I will note, that the difference between “rarely” and “never” is huge. “rarely” can be amplified; “never” may well stay never.

            1. And that is why we keep it out of public discourse,

            And yet, if we keep it out of public discourse, what is left over? That is the critical question that MacIntyer and Smith ask.

            3. No, this is not really about empirical vs a priori knowledge.

            Can Baconian-knowledge be defined that way? It seems better to say that it rejected Formal and Final causes, in preference for Efficient and Material causes. Unless you’re saying that Formal and Final causes are a priori? I could possibly see that case being made. But then I’d begin asking whether you can even have human rights without Formal causes (this is spurred by Feser).

            Catholicism and Hinduism cannot be simultaneously be true because they make claims about what actually exists, not about abstracta.

            Why is the modified version not also true?

            I just to scroll up to see what my original complaint even was – it was about the 40k denominations thingy and my claim based on that was that theology is unique as a field of inquiry, and not unique in a good way, but that is indeed a personal preference.

            And how do you model governments, other than based on aggregate functions over personal preference?

            As long as you agree that no theology demonstrably has authority on questions regarding putative final causes (those who choose to submit themselves to this authority excluded), then I guess we are in agreement here.

            What do you mean by “authority”? The way MacIntyre uses it, I don’t think it is in any way connected to truth. A MacIntyre-tradition is merely a way to extend inquiry across multiple people and multiple generations, to see where ideas go that could never be properly tested by one person or in one generation. MacIntyre-traditions provide a kind of inertia, as it were.

          • Andy_Schueler

            To my knowledge, this is never a sustained pattern over centuries[1], when people fundamentally disagree. Fundamental disagreements seem to always cause conflict. Since I am not an historian nor have I studied this topic in general, I can only say that this is an impression. But it would make your claim here irrelevant over the long term. We would also have to see what fruit Vatican II bears over the next several centuries[2].

            1. For most fields of inquiry, it cannot be a sustained pattern over those time scales because they are not older than a few centuries at most, this applies to practically everything except for the trivium (grammar, logic, rhetoric), the quadrivium (astronomy, arithmetic, music and geometry) and theology.
            2. You can deny every factual claim like this, I could also say that communism might actually work just great several centuries in the future, it would be completely unreasonable to say so but you couldn´t possibly prove it wrong.

            “The United Church of Christ was formed when two Protestant churches, the Evangelical and Reformed Church and the Congregational Christian Churches united in 1957.”

            Interesting example, yet they didn´t actually resolve any doctrinal disagreements, they just declared the disagreements to be of no significant importance. Quote:
            “There is no UCC hierarchy or body that can impose any doctrine or worship format onto the individual congregations within the UCC.”
            – Anything goes theology is of course one solution, if anyone can believe pretty much whatever they want, then there is of course also no reason to resolve any disagreements.

            Are you forgetting the Reformation, itself?[1] Or are you going to claim that was 100% political[2], despite the fact that Martin Luther didn’t want to break with the Roman Catholic Church?[3]

            1. As I said, plenty of events increasing divergence of opinion, but not convergence of opinion.
            2. Oh I don´t doubt that Luther (and Calvin and Zwingli and the other guys) sincerely believed what they claimed to believe in, but their success was 100% political (it would not have been possible at all had the papacy not lost much of its power in the preceding centuries (well, and the printing press was extremely important because it allowed small groups of people to quickly distribute their ideas and gain followers and allies against the RCC)), the RCC labelling them “heretics” was 100% politically motivated and the early protestants labelling later protestant offshoots as “heretics” was also 100% politcally motivated.
            3. ?? Where did you get that from? Luther´s main focus was the indulgence scam initially, but he and his followers eventually declared the papacy itself to literally be the Antichrist!

            And yet, if we keep it out of public discourse, what is left over?

            Plenty. Take the two of us, we could hardly disagree more about metaphysics and teleology specifically – so, imagine that we would both be politically interested US citizens and discuss a particular proposed legislation on which we disagree. If we would use arguments that logically depend on our metaphysical beliefs being true, then we might as well not argue at all, it would be an utter waste of time. If we identify common denominators, then, and only then, we could have a potentially productive conversation.

            Can Baconian-knowledge be defined that way? It seems better to say that it rejected Formal and Final causes, in preference for Efficient and Material causes. Unless you’re saying that Formal and Final causes are a priori? I could possibly see that case being made. But then I’d begin asking whether you can even have human rights without Formal causes (this is spurred by Feser).

            “Knowledge” is a notoriously ill-defined term, but the a priori vs a posteriori (or “empirical”) dichotomy is widely acknowledged as a meaningful distinction between two qualitatively different kinds of “knowledge”. Whether there are final and material causes in the first place and what they are ontologically, would belong to the category of a priori knowledge.

            Andy: Catholicism and Hinduism cannot be simultaneously be true because they make claims about what actually exists, not about abstracta.

            Luke: Why is the modified version not also true?

            Because there can be infinitely many different “worlds” filled with abstracta without leading to a contradiction – the “world” of euclidean geometry and claims about it cannot contradict the “world” of a non-euclidean geometry and claims about it, for example, both “worlds” can happily co-exist because no claim about one can (by definition) apply to the other.

          • Luke Breuer

            2. You can deny every factual claim like this, I could also say that communism might actually work just great several centuries in the future, it would be completely unreasonable to say so but you couldn´t possibly prove it wrong.

            I could deny every factual claim like this, but if I say that I try to do this only with issues that are related to MacIntyre-traditions, then the denial actually could get embedded in a tradition, and thereby be tested in the future. This is precisely one good aspect of MacIntyre-traditions: they allow very long-term testing, which is absolutely required when it comes to long-term phenomena, like the political and social organization of human beings.

            Interesting example, yet they didn´t actually resolve any doctrinal disagreements, they just declared the disagreements to be of no significant importance.

            Ok, so what you require is agreement, not the ability to live one amongst the other. This helps me make sense of what you’ve already said, indeed to interpret it as you likely meant it. The requirement of unity you place is a very curious one. I would claim that precisely what we need is the ability to live one amongst the other, even when we hold to vastly different doctrines. Two alternatives to this are to squash difference in doctrinal beliefs, and repress the impact of doctrinal beliefs to the private sphere. Both I see as giving up on humans being able to live together despite having great differences. The consequences of them I think would become drastic, given enough time.

            Again, I will agree that I think theology sucks at testing itself against the evidence. Roger Olson and I have gone back and forth over this, with me pushing the evidential testing, and him resisting. I found it a fascinating interchange, and will continue to so-push theologians as I encounter them. I want to know why they don’t value testing against empirical reality, for it does seem very common. I cannot say it is universal (indeed, I hear that the Catholics have at various times tested a person’s doctrine against his/her ability to live it out), but it does seem common.

            I will stay on the look out for doctrinal unification. Should I find it, how would your web of beliefs change? You seem to be making a bit of a big deal out of it; is that simply because you find it curious, or because other beliefs depend on this fact-claim?

            1. As I said, plenty of events increasing divergence of opinion, but not convergence of opinion.

            Actually, two of your three instances in that paragraph involved rejecting beliefs perceived to be false, not convergence of opinion.

            3. ?? Where did you get that from? Luther´s main focus was the indulgence scam initially, but he and his followers eventually declared the papacy itself to literally be the Antichrist!

            My apologies, I meant to include ‘initially’. Bite the hand that feeds you and you discover the nature of the hand.

            If we identify common denominators, then, and only then, we could have a potentially productive conversation.

            But this depends on non-guaranteed overlap of “common denominators”. Indeed, our overlapping consensus could slowly be lessening. Arguably, this is precisely what is happening with America being so polarized.

            Because there can be infinitely many different “worlds” filled with abstracta without leading to a contradiction – the “world” of euclidean geometry and claims about it cannot contradict the “world” of a non-euclidean geometry and claims about it, for example, both “worlds” can happily co-exist because no claim about one can (by definition) apply to the other.

            But this is not solely what I was discussing; when various people are trying to ‘pull’ various abstracta into reality (e.g. divine right of kings vs. something else), they are reifying contradictory abstracta. Beliefs get turned into reality. Put differently:

                 “what actually exists” → “what should exist”

            The claim of “what should exist” is often so largely in the realm of abstracta that the actually-existing part does nothing to differentiate between the competing, contradictory abstracta beliefs.

            tl;dr What you believe wrt abstracta is incredibly important, and there can most definitely be contradictions between people’s beliefs in that domain, just as there are contradictions between people’s beliefs in the domain of “actually exists”.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Ok, so what you require is agreement, not the ability to live one amongst the other. This helps me make sense of what you’ve already said, indeed to interpret it as you likely meant it. The requirement of unity you place is a very curious one.

            No it is not curious at all, because that is precisely the deficiency of theology that I keep pointing out.

            I would claim that precisely what we need is the ability to live one amongst the other

            Physicists (for example) can “live one amongst the other” (that is: don´t kill other physicists for disagreeing with them) and they can also resolve disagreements – that is true for all fields of inquiry except for theology.

            Actually, two of your three instances in that paragraph involved rejecting beliefs perceived to be false, not convergence of opinion.

            You must have misread what I said, I pointed out that it is convergence of opinion that is lacking while divergence of opinion happens frequently, not the other way around as you seem to have understood it.

            But this depends on non-guaranteed overlap of “common denominators”.

            True. If there would be no such common denominators, then we would have nothing to discuss or debate. My point is that the only alternative to arguing based on common denominators is tyranny.

            But this is not solely what I was discussing; when various people are trying to ‘pull’ various abstracta into reality (e.g. divine right of kings vs. something else), they are reifying contradictory abstracta. Beliefs get turned into reality. Put differently:

            “what actually exists” → “what should exist”

            The claim of “what should exist” is often so largely in the realm of abstracta that the actually-existing part does nothing to differentiate between the competing, contradictory abstracta beliefs.

            tl;dr What you believe wrt abstracta is incredibly important, and there can most definitely be contradictions between people’s beliefs in that domain, just as there are contradictions between people’s beliefs in the domain of “actually exists”.

            You say “What you believe wrt abstracta is incredibly important” – it isn´t very important, as you said, they matter when we claim that they are not just ideas but actually do exist, so what is incredibly important is what you believe about the real world.

          • Luke Breuer

            No it is not curious at all, because that is precisely the deficiency of theology that I keep pointing out.

            My point was that I think you undervalue the ability to get along despite strong doctrinal differences. One of the reasons that ‘tolerance’ is so powerful these days is that humans have generally lost the ability to tolerate people who are significantly different from them. And so, the solution tends to be: destroy the “significantly different”. This, I hold, is an absolutely terrible solution.

            The above being said, I see that this was not your main point. The badness is when the connection to reality is lost. I claim that this is a failure mode of a MacIntyre-tradition, and not a property inherent to this kind of tradition. Indeed, without this kind of tradition, one loses the ability to stably test ideas and beliefs which only manifest over multiple generations. I do think much of Christianity has either lost tradition (Protestants are especially bad at this) or had its tradition ossified.

            Physicists (for example) can “live one amongst the other” (that is: don´t kill other physicists for disagreeing with them) and they can also resolve disagreements – that is true for all fields of inquiry except for theology.

            This cannot possibly be a valid comparison, given that killing also goes down with sufficient fulfillment of Maslow’s Hierarchy. When is the last time a Protestant killed a Catholic over theology? And lest you bring up Ireland, I shall remind you of the person who was asked whether he was a Protestant atheist or Catholic atheist.

            True. If there would be no such common denominators, then we would have nothing to discuss or debate. My point is that the only alternative to arguing based on common denominators is tyranny.

            I believe we are headed in precisely that direction. It is, however, not the precise kind of tyranny which existed in the past. From Charles Taylor’s The Malaise of Modernity (first chapter):

                But there is another kind of loss of freedom, which has also been widely discussed, most memorably by Alexis de Tocqueville. A society in which people end up as the kind of individuals who are “enclosed in their own hearts” is one where few will want to participate actively in self-government. They will prefer to stay at home and enjoy the satisfactions of private life, as long as the government of the day produces the means to these satisfactions and distributes them widely.
                This opens the danger of a new, specifically modern form of despotism, which Tocqueville calls “soft” despotism. It will not be a tyranny of terror and oppression as in the old days. The government will be mild and paternalistic. It may even keep democratic forms, with periodic elections. But in fact, everything will be run by an “immense tutelary power,”[9] over which people will have little control. The only defence against this, Tocqueville thinks, is a vigorous political culture in which participation is valued, at several levels of government and in voluntary associations as well. But the atomism of the self-absorbed individual militates against this. (9)

            I could also quote from Jacques Ellul’s Hope in Time of Abandonment, where he discuses the anomie in France and the resultant loss of hope in much of a future, except for the Idea of Progress, which has turned out to be quite the Myth, as long as one doesn’t think that iPhones are the epitome of progress.

            I suppose this is another right-angle turn in the conversation, but it is an issue I am terribly interested in. It’s up to you whether we pursue it specifically.

            You say “What you believe wrt abstracta is incredibly important” – it isn´t very important, as you said, they matter when we claim that they are not just ideas but actually do exist, so what is incredibly important is what you believe about the real world.

            How can you possibly say that people’s ideas of what should exist—which not yet existing, is abstracta—isn’t “incredibly important”? If anything, we live in an age in which false abstracta are promoted to sell a policy, such that the real thing falls entirely short of what is promised. This even shows up in food advertising. We are used to promises not being fulfilled. Surely you can see how this eviscerates language itself? No, abstracta are incredibly important.

          • Andy_Schueler

            This cannot possibly be a valid comparison, given that killing also goes down with sufficient fulfillment of Maslow’s Hierarchy. When is the last time a Protestant killed a Catholic over theology?

            Touché. That was a bad analogy.

            I believe we are headed in precisely that direction. It is, however, not the precise kind of tyranny which existed in the past.
            ….
            I could also quote from Jacques Ellul’s Hope in Time of Abandonment, where he discuses the anomie in France and the resultant loss of hope in much of a future, except for the Idea of Progress, which has turned out to be quite the Myth, as long as one doesn’t think that iPhones are the epitome of progress.

            I suppose this is another right-angle turn in the conversation, but it is an issue I am terribly interested in. It’s up to you whether we pursue it specifically.

            I guess we are pretty much in complete agreement when it comes to this new direction, I´ve read Tocqueville´s “Democracy in America” and liked it very much – I remember his thoughts on “soft despotism” and I completely agree that this is a real and plausible danger (worse than that actually because in some aspects, it has already happened, and particular in europe it got much worse in the aftermath of the last financial crisis). I´m also very interested in that issue but I have not much to contribute to it because I´ve read way too little about it.

            How can you possibly say that people’s ideas of what should exist—which not yet existing, is abstracta—isn’t “incredibly important”? If anything, we live in an age in which false abstracta are promoted to sell a policy, such that the real thing falls entirely short of what is promised. This even shows up in food advertising. We are used to promises not being fulfilled. Surely you can see how this eviscerates language itself? No, abstracta are incredibly important.

            “Reification” does not literally mean that you turn something abstract into something concrete – it means that you treat something that is abstract as if it were something concrete. A divine right of kings, for example, either does exist in the real world (“exist” in the sense that it is not just as an idea, rather something that exists independently of a mind that thinks about it) or it doesn´t exist in the real world, but you cannot actually “create it” in the sense that you imply with “what should exist—which not yet existing, is abstracta”. You can treat it as if it were real and act on it, even if it isn´t real – and that is what can be problematic, but the problem is then a (false) belief about reality, not a false belief about something abstract.

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

            By making this very claim, you are asserting superiority over me.

            Prove it.

            Please flesh this out: both the passages you’re talking about, and what would constitute ‘evidence’ in the contexts of those passages.

            Romans 1:18-21 and Psalm 53:1. Evidence would be psychological, behavioral and scientific evidence showing that atheists “suppress the truth by their wickedness”. There are millions of atheists who behave better than theists and there are millions of atheists who want there to be a god but can’t find any evidence, and there are millions of theists whose theism doesn’t do anything to prevent them from being indulgent and selfish and wicked.

            Please define “A great deal” and support this claim with evidence.

            A lot. 40K+ denominations don’t lie.

            I question the claim that 40k+ denominations means that there is as much difference as is usually inferred, but virtually never stated. For example, it could actually mean that there are at most 100 main streams of thought, with all the rest being minor differentiation, where ‘minor’ is defined as “amount we disagree on” / “amount we agree on” being sufficiently small.

            The problem is even worse now because as as organized religion wanes, many Christians are simply customizing their own beliefs based on their own preferences. It almost seems as if Christianity is dependent at the individual level. Certainly all the Christians I know believe whatever is convenient to them.

            I thought that was pretty clearly a yes/no question.

            No I treat people in my life differently. So it all depends on who, when and where and me.

            Perhaps you realize that you don’t like being treated the way you treat others?

            When it comes to debating I like being challenged. I want theists to debate me. So specifically here I do to others what I want done to me. But that might highlight a flaw in the golden rule, since others may not want to be challenged. One of the main goals of atheists today is to knock down the stigma against challenging one’s religious beliefs.

            One could possibly discover new things, but if this is the only or even primary way to discover new things, very little will be discoverable.

            I’m certainly not saying that. It’s just one of many different ways, and I wouldn’t even say it is the best way.

            Your use of “no idea” is an insulting hyperbole.

            Perhaps.

            So debate helps you believe what you already believe, but harder.

            So many people have changed their mind on their religious views during the course of debate.

            When is the last time you’ve been proven wrong on anythingpossibly significant, such that you had to reformulate your views?

            I recently because a determinist only about 7 months ago after debating it and then looking into the evidence. That’s a major change in one’s worldview.

          • Luke Breuer

            TT: the Bible could have simply said “Human slavery is wrong.”

            LB: So, have you bought anything which came from a sweatshop?

            TT: That is not relevant.

            How you don’t see this as verging on hypocrisy is a mystery to me. Is it ok as long as they aren’t property, by some technical definition of the word? This, precisely, is why it would be utterly useless for the Bible to contain some law against slavery. Suppose it did; then you could use it as justification to do something that isn’t quite slavery.

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

            How you don’t see this as verging on hypocrisy is a mystery to me.

            Because I don’t support what corporations do and I try to buy American. It’s just really hard. If I was a supporter of this stuff like many libertarians and free-market types are, then you’d have a point.

            Is it ok as long as they aren’t property, by some technical definition of the word?

            No it isn’t, that’s why the indentured servitude argument from theists like you doesn’t work as a defense against the Bible’s allowance of slavery.

            This, precisely, is why it would be utterly useless for the Bible to contain some law against slavery.

            Bullshit. I expect a man made book written 2000 years ago to condone slavery, not a morally perfect god. The Bible spends verse after verse going over circumcision and useless neurotic dietary and clothing regulations and injunctions against gay people and women but it can’t contain a single verse against slavery. I’m beginning to tire of theists like you who simply refuse to admit the Bible contains harmful morality.

          • Luke Breuer

            Because I don’t support what corporations do

            So you don’t buy from any corporations who contribute to institutions which are like slavery, even if they’re less-bad (no treating people as property, for example)?

            It’s just really hard.

            That’s my point. You can’t just legislate things and be done. You have to provide a consistent system in which the laws make sense, and you have to motivate people to actually follow them—they don’t do this automatically, either. You really seem to live in lala land as to what you want the Bible to say, from my understanding of the actual historical circumstances, circumstances you demonstrably ignore, even when asked point-blank about them.

            I expect a man made book written 2000 years ago to condone slavery, not a morally perfect god.

            And what is the evidence of your skill at:

                 (1) jurisprudence
                 (2) human psychology

            ? If you don’t have enough skill at both of these, then you are completely unqualified to say what would have been a good route from whatever the social system was at the time, to something better. Honestly, you sound like a thoroughgoing idealist, The Thinker. The trick is, if idealists cannot build bridges between their ideals and reality, they’re largely useless.

            I’m beginning to tire of theists like you who simply refuse to admit the Bible contains harmful morality.

            You could stop talking to us. You have zero evidence whatsoever that my views on the Bible are causing a single shred of damage to the world. Or shall I say, you haven’t a single shred of evidence that my views are any worse than yours, in their impact on reality.

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

            So you don’t buy from any corporations who contribute to institutions which are like slavery, even if they’re less-bad (no treating people as property, for example)?

            Of course I do because I have no choice. Damn near everything in America is made in Chinese sweatshops. I’m forced to support a system I don’t like. Put an American made product right next to the Chinese one and I’d buy the American one.

            That’s my point. You can’t just legislate things and be done.

            Yes you can. When America passed laws protecting workers, their conditions improved. So corporations just took the jobs to countries where those laws didn’t exist. The law does indeed make a significant factor. And when slavery was made illegal in the US, it stopped. But what matters here is the moral principle. The NT is a book of moral principles, not necessarily laws to be enforced. It’s the moral principles of the Bible that are defective.

            You really seem to live in lala land as to what you want the Bible to say, from my understanding of the actual historical circumstances, circumstances you demonstrably ignore, even when asked point-blank about them.

            This is exactly what you and all other apologists I’ve heard defending the Bible do. Wanna see someone in lala land? Look in the mirror. You will just never admit that the Bible contains harmful morality that should be completely ignored. I’ve learned enough about slavery in the ANE to know the Bible condones something horribly inhumane that no modern society should want to emulate.

            If you don’t have enough skill at both of these, then you are completely unqualified to say what would have been a good route from whatever the social system was at the time, to something better.

            And you the skeptical theist do? Human psychology supports the view the the NT is a completely man-made book. I don’t see the NT as you do as a kind of divinely inspired forward step in an ongoing improvement of morality. I see is as the reported teachings of people who claimed divine inspiration but who were making it all up in their head. You essentially concede that god is a moral compromiser and that most of his revealed morals in the Bible are just plain outdated and substandard for the 21st century.

            Honestly, you sound like a thoroughgoing idealist, The Thinker.

            No I sound like someone who accepts the point of view that the NT is supposed to be timeless objective moral wisdom from god as pretty much every Christian that I’ve ever encountered argues. Sorry if your customized view isn’t significant enough.

            You have zero evidence whatsoever that my views on the Bible are causing a single shred of damage to the world.

            Well be more open about your positive views and I’ll have more material to work with. Also, you cherry pick from the Bible, as I already mentioned one has to do in order to not be harmful, and yet you still won’t admit the Bible has any harmful morality. This is lunacy.

          • Luke Breuer

            Of course I do because I have no choice. Damn near everything in America is made in Chinese sweatshops. I’m forced to support a system I don’t like. Put an American made product right next to the Chinese one and I’d buy the American one.

            Ahhh, so only if it’s sufficiently easy will you do the right thing, where ‘right’ is defined by you. Or should we say, you say one thing and do something that seems a bit different. And even if it’s only a bit different, I say that’s a problem, if that bit is not shrinking in size.

            You essentially concede that god is a moral compromiser

            And the above behavior of yours is not a moral compromise, how?

            That’s my point. You can’t just legislate things and be done.

            Yes you can.

            I’m almost tempted to ping some of my lawyer friends and ask them to comment on your simple answer. But I don’t think it’d be worth it; from what I know of you, you’d be likely to just ignore them and assert your correctness.

            I’ve learned enough about slavery in the ANE to know the Bible condones something horribly inhumane that no modern society should want to emulate.

            It’s almost as if getting people to a state like today took multiple steps, and that of course it would be bad to regress. But surely that couldn’t be the case. Yes, I know you think that stoning of homosexuals does not fit into this scheme: what else do you think doesn’t fit into this scheme? More specifically:

                 (1) what would be bad to implement today
                 (2) which would be good back then,
                 (3) as a step toward today

            ? Or was every single commandment of the Bible which is (1), also ¬(2), when judged by (3)?

            And you the skeptical theist do?

            I reject that label. The skepticism you are talking about is predicated upon a static knowledge base that seems like it ought to erode; my experience is predicated upon a growing knowledge base—specifically, growing ability to redeem evil. It is this life that justifies science, and it is this life that justifies my own tradition.

            Well be more open about your positive views and I’ll have more material to work with.

            You know the preconditions for me being more open.

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

            Ahhh, so only if it’s sufficiently easy will you do the right thing, where ‘right’ is defined by you.

            Who defines ‘right’ then? God?

            Or should we say, you say one thing and do something that seems a bit different. And even if it’s only a bit different, I say that’s a problem, if that bit is not shrinking in size.

            You’re analogy here to biblical slavery is not working.

            And the above behavior of yours is not a moral compromise, how?

            I don’t claim to be morally perfect, your god does. Big freakin’ difference.

            For your criticism to work you’d have to be conceding that god is not morally perfect and that his morality is similar to us fallible mortals.

            But I don’t think it’d be worth it; from what I know of you, you’d be likely to just ignore them and assert your correctness.

            Oh right, passing laws have no effect whatsoever. Let’s wipe our asses with the Bill of Rights.

            Yes, I know you think that stoning of homosexuals does not fit into this scheme: what else do you think doesn’t fit into this scheme? More specifically:

            (1) what would be bad to implement today
            (2) which would be good back then,
            (3) as a step toward today

            ? Or was every single commandment of the Bible which is (1), also ¬(2), when judged by (3)?

            Most of the Bible’s morals do not fit into the scheme, and would fall under (1), and would not be (2) or (3). Some of the Bible’s rules are a step backwards even back then. I’m not aware of any other ANE culture that prescribed death for homosexuality.

            I reject that label. The skepticism you are talking about is predicated upon a static knowledge base that seems like it ought to erode; my experience is predicated upon a growing knowledge base—specifically, growing ability to redeem evil.

            Do you really think that we will know the correct theodicy one day without any divine revelation?

          • Luke Breuer

            Who defines ‘right’ then? God?

            Well, the only way you and I can agree on what is right is if we spontaneously come up with the same conception of ‘right’, or whether we get that conception from outside of ourselves. Is there any alternative to these two?

            For your criticism to work you’d have to be conceding that god is not morally perfect and that his morality is similar to us fallible mortals.

            No, all I need to assert is that we cannot be perfect in one single step, and that the intermediate steps will look very imperfect once we progress well beyond them. This seems like an easily defensible assertion.

            Oh right, passing laws have no effect whatsoever.

            Straw man.

            Most of the Bible’s morals do not fit into the scheme, and would fall under (1), and would not be (2) or (3).

            What is an example of a moral in the Bible which does fit under (1) ∧ (2)?

            Do you really think that we will know the correct theodicy one day without any divine revelation?

            I am inclined to say that all creativity and discovery of knowledge no human yet knows has an element of divine revelation, making your question moot.

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

            Well, the only way you and I can agree on what is right is if we spontaneously come up with the same conception of ‘right’, or whether we get that conception from outside of ourselves.

            Since you don’t buy into the moral argument, we might actually have a lot more in common on our meta-ethics than we think.

            No, all I need to assert is that we cannot be perfect in one single step, and that the intermediate steps will look very imperfect once we progress well beyond them. This seems like an easily defensible assertion.

            “We” are finite mortals who lack omnibenevolence. So I’d fully expect man-made morality to improve incrementally. A being that provides compromised morality that is also asserted to be morally perfect isn’t logical, and at the very least is useless and at the worst is harmful.

            Straw man.

            I beg to differ:

            …it would be utterly useless for the Bible to contain some law against slavery.

            What is an example of a moral in the Bible which does fit under (1) ∧ (2)?

            I can’t think of any.

            I am inclined to say that all creativity and discovery of knowledge no human yet knows has an element of divine revelation, making your question moot.

            All future knowledge is divinely revealed. Really? So no human has ever thought of something on their own without god. Is a divine revelation a law breaking event? If not please explain how.

          • Luke Breuer

            Since you don’t buy into the moral argument, we might actually have a lot more in common on our meta-ethics than we think.

            What is it I don’t buy into?

            “We” are finite mortals who lack omnibenevolence. So I’d fully expect man-made morality to improve incrementally. A being that provides compromised morality that is also asserted to be morally perfect isn’t logical, and at the very least is useless and at the worst is harmful.

            Please be more precise. Does “compromised morality” include or exclude (1) ∧ (2) ∧ (3)? You’ve said that you don’t think (1) ∧ (2) ∧ (3) has any members in the Bible; do you think it has any members in reality? To remind you:

            LB: More specifically:

                 (1) what would be bad to implement today
                 (2) which would be good back then,
                 (3) as a step toward today

            ? Or was every single commandment of the Bible which is (1), also ¬(2), when judged by (3)?

            Straw man.

            I beg to differ:

            …it would be utterly useless for the Bible to contain some law against slavery.

            “have no effect whatsoever” ≠ “be utterly useless”. Perhaps I should have said, “be utterly useless in the final equation“. Surely you know that people can game any system of rules? De facto ownership of human beings can be obtained by means other than explicitly owning them as property. You do understand spirit of the law vs. letter of the law, right?

            All future knowledge is divinely revealed. Really? So no human has ever thought of something on their own without god. Is a divine revelation a law breaking event? If not please explain how.

            Straw man. (I wouldn’t actually normally say this, but you pop it out at pretty much anytime I attempt to restate your point or guess at heretofore-undisclosed claims of yours and get it wrong. See how it’s annoying?) What I said was that (a) this is how I’m inclined to think—vs. I’ve settled on it; (b) “has an element of divine revelation”—which threatens to be overrun by your rephrasing and become “is completely divine revelation”.

            I don’t think divine revelation is an LBE, but if you want to get into why, we ought to resume our previous discussion on the topic. I’m also inclined to ask you to read Evan Fales’ Divine Intervention: Metaphysical and Epistemological Puzzles, lest I end up teaching you the whole thing half-assedly because I am not an expert on it myself.

          • Andy_Schueler

            “growing ability to redeem evil”

            – What do you mean by “redeem” in this context and what would be an example of an instance where evil has been “redeemed”?

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

        Yes, I insisted on logic.

        It is not logical that god creates a physical universe that responds to people’s future actions without knowing what actions they will choose without a law breaking event.

        If God is the cause of all human choices, then they are not free.

        Agreed. What if nature is the cause of all human choices? Same thing.

        And yet, when you ask him to support such intense accusations with formal logical arguments, he says “I’m not sure a formal argument would be right”. Bullshit. Either defend your claims, The Thinker, and do it rigorously, or give up the high ground you so desperately want to pretend that you occupy.

        1. Leibnizian miracles (LMs) are actually law breaking events because they require matter to behave in exceptional ways that are not reproducible and that differ from the way it behaves in all other highly predictable circumstances, unlike all the other laws of physics.

        2. Law breaking events would falsify the very logic supporting Leibnizian miracles because they are deceptive and irrational.

        3. In order to truly not violate the laws of physics LMs would have to be describable scientifically and thus be predicable.

        4. No such knowledge has ever been shown that LMs occur and LMs violate the known laws of physics (conservation of energy, etc.)

        5. It is not logical that god creates a physical universe that responds to people’s future actions in ways that it would never otherwise behave without knowing what actions they will choose and without a law breaking event.

        6. Therefore LMs are not supported with any evidence and are incompatible with a lack of divine foreknowledge.

        There you go Luke. I wrote this in between doing my job so it may need to be polished. Help me make this a better argument.

        • Luke Breuer

          Agreed. What if nature is the cause of all human choices? Same thing.

          Yep. So this begs the question of whether humans are truly responsible individuals, or ultimately nothing more than subroutines in a giant computer. Buddhists seem to believe the latter: Atman is Brahman. I hold that humans are truly responsible individuals. This is not a new position; indeed, I’m not sure I’ve ever found somebody who truly believes that humans don’t bear actual responsibility. Yeah, folks claim this, but so do many people claim to follow Jesus.

          1. Leibnizian miracles (LMs) are actually law breaking events because they require matter to behave in exceptional ways that are not reproducible and that differ from the way it behaves in all other highly predictable circumstances, unlike all the other laws of physics.

          Do you require that ‘law’ be finite—that is, describable by a recursively enumerable set of axioms? Another way of saying this is via “God’s Big Book of Facts”, as described by The Computational Theory of the Laws of Nature: is the book finite in length, or infinite?

          It strikes me that finitude, of the type I describe (quite rigorously!), undergirds your argument. I can articulate this in more detail, if you would like. Your whole argument is predicated upon a conception of “how matter normally behaves”, as well as the precise conception of “reproducible” which you are using. Please read about the no-cloning theorem and the measurement problem, and then tell me if observations can ever be perfectly reproducible, or whether they are always “reproducible within error”. If the latter, then we must look at precisely what this “error” could be.

          Thank you for finally producing a formal argument.

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

            Yep. So this begs the question of whether humans are truly responsible individuals, or ultimately nothing more than subroutines in a giant computer.

            Yes, we know we disagree on free will. I just think that all the evidence in this field points much more strongly towards determinism. And all you’ve got is SELO.

            Do you require that ‘law’ be finite—that is, describable by a recursively enumerable set of axioms?

            I think that laws are describable and predictable. Matter behaves according to physical laws. If you reproduce the same situation, you’re going to get the same results. That’s necessary for science to work. LMs violate this and that’s why I’m not convinced they aren’t LBEs. And also if you’re going to say that LMs are rare one time exceptions to the laws of physics, to me that violates the argument from divine benevolence because we’d be faced with a lot of in principle incomprehensible events.

            Please read about the no-cloning theorem and the measurement problem, and then tell me if observations can ever be perfectly reproducible, or whether they are always “reproducible within error”.

            I definitely don’t think you can ever reproduce the exact circumstances of matter perfectly. If you reproduce a situation you’re using different atoms but they will all behave under the same physical laws and you’d be able to use this reproduction to assess a predicable outcome which we’ve done to eleven decimal places.

          • Luke Breuer

            What, precisely, do you mean by ‘describable’ and ‘predictable’, and are you talking about the true laws of nature, or merely the pictures (models) we make, which are at best approximations?

          • Luke Breuer

            Yes, we know we disagree on free will. I just think that all the evidence in this field points much more strongly towards determinism.

            Really? Quantum fluctuations point toward determinism?

            And all you’ve got is SELO.

            You might like this comment, 2a.

            I definitely don’t think you can ever reproduce the exact circumstances of matter perfectly.

            Ok, then what do you mean by:

            I think that laws are describable and predictable. Matter behaves according to physical laws. If you reproduce the same situation, you’re going to get the same results.

            ? Here’s how I would fix what you’ve said:

            I think that laws are approximately describable and approximately predictable. Matter behaves approximately according to physical laws. If you reproduce approximately the same situation, you’re going to get approximately the same results.

            This is, of course, a major strike against determinism, except for determinism up to a point.

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

            Really? Quantum fluctuations point toward determinism?

            “Quantum mechanics is not indeterministic as many people think, it’s a completely deterministic theory. It’s second order differential equations with boundary conditions and they’re completely determined. Once you give the initial conditions the wave function of a particle after some time is completely determined, so there’s no indeterminacy. Now what happens when you measure the properties of that particle based on its wave function that’s probabilistic,” as Lawrence Krauss recently said in a lecture.

            You might like this comment, 2a.

            Sorry Luke, but I read nothing there that makes SELO any more plausible. You also failed to provide the syllogism that Andy was asking for.

            Here’s how I would fix what you’ve said:

            As per Lawrence Krauss’ statement above, the apparent indeterminacy of QM is epistemological, not ontological. Yes we’ll never know with 100% certainty the outcome of a quantum event, but that doesn’t mean that matter behaves “approximately according to physical laws.” They always behave according to physical laws, and to believe in Leibnizian miracles would require you to believe that since you cannot believe any physical laws are ever broken. The problem you face is that LMs make no sense given our physical laws and would be violations of them if they actually occurred.

          • Luke Breuer

            “Quantum mechanics is not indeterministic as many people think, it’s a completely deterministic theory. [...]” as Lawrence Krauss recently said in a lecture.

            Tell me what method Krauss offers for attempting to falsify his ideas, and what experiments he did to try to falsify them. Otherwise, I’m going to suspect that the claim of his which you cite is unfalsifiable. Indeed, he says that the thing you measure is probabilistic, but somehow he knows that underneath—where nobody can measure and thus nobody can observe—it’s deterministic. Talk about an act of Boghossian-faith2: “pretending to know what you do not know”!

            I do thank you for transcribing that bit of what he said, and linking to the precise spot in the video.

            As per Lawrence Krauss’ statement above,

            Surely you know his position is not the majority opinion? How to interpret QM is a wide open question at the current time. You’ve just picked your own interpretation, which is fine. But you don’t get to pretend that the scientific establishment has decided on it.

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

            Actually, Copenhagen Interpretation is now no longer the orthodox. I believe the MWI is now the most prevalent (it is deterministic).

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

            I’m not sure the MWI is the majority yet but it’s the most rapidly growing interpretation.

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

            I have seen data from one conference of quantum physicists where MWI came out no. 1.

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

            Elvridge., Jim (2008-01-02). The Universe – Solved!. pp. 35–36. ISBN 978-1-4243-3626-5.OCLC 247614399. “58% believed that the Many Worlds Interpretation (MWI) was true, including Stephen Hawking and Nobel Laureates Murray Gell-Mann and Richard Feynman”

            However, it changes entirely, depending on which polls you look at and where they were taken (sample bias etc).

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

            Tell me what method Krauss offers for attempting to falsify his ideas, and what experiments he did to try to falsify them.

            If you falsify Schrodinger’s equation, then you can falsify this view on QM.

            Talk about an act of Boghossian-faith2: “pretending to know what you do not know”!

            Doesn’t that characterize your whole worldview, particularly SELO?

            Surely you know his position is not the majority opinion?

            Technically there is no majority opinion on QM, but the Copenhagen view which you seem to favor is quickly falling out of style as many physicists think it is not coherent and the many worlds view is gaining steam along with others like the hidden variables view, both of which are deterministic.

          • Luke Breuer

            If you falsify Schrodinger’s equation, then you can falsify this view on QM.

            You didn’t actually fulfill my request. Let me repeat it:

            LB: Tell me what method Krauss offers for attempting to falsify his ideas, and what experiments he did to try to falsify them.

            Unless you are alluding to something Krauss explicitly said re: “falsify Schrödinger’s equation”? If so, you still failed to answer the second part of my request.

            Doesn’t that characterize your whole worldview, particularly SELO?

            How is this not tu quoque?

            Technically there is no majority opinion on QM, but the Copenhagen view which you seem to favor is quickly falling out of style as many physicists think it is not coherent and the many worlds view is gaining steam along with others like the hidden variables view, both of which are deterministic.

            That’s what I thought (you ought to have noted this), and no I don’t hold to Copenhagen. I don’t know what I hold to; I think I’ll need to learn a lot more before I form anything close to a strong opinion.

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

            Unless you are alluding to something Krauss explicitly said re: “falsify Schrödinger’s equation”? If so, you still failed to answer the second part of my request.

            Let me provide that by Sean Carroll who recently wrote about the MWI of QM:

            It’s trivial to falsify EQM [MWI] — just do an experiment that violates the Schrödinger equation or the principle of superposition, which are the only things the theory assumes. Witness a dynamical collapse, or find a hidden variable.

            How is this not tu quoque?

            I don’t think it’s truly a tu quoque because SELO has zero evidence nor even a coherent theory that explains it.

            That’s what I thought (you ought to have noted this), and no I don’t hold to Copenhagen. I don’t know what I hold to; I think I’ll need to learn a lot more before I form anything close to a strong opinion.

            It turns out I might have been wrong that there is no majority view on QM as per Jon’s source below. It does seem that a growing number of physicists are lining up behind the MWI as it seems to make sense and some argue it is the only coherent interpretation.

          • Luke Breuer

            Let me provide that by Sean Carroll who recently wrote about the MWI of QM:

            It’s trivial to falsify EQM [MWI] — just do an experiment that violates the Schrödinger equation or the principle of superposition, which are the only things the theory assumes. Witness a dynamical collapse, or find a hidden variable.

            Do you understand the difference between the smallest possible thing that would falsify, and just some random bit that would falsify? The idea is that the way we tend to falsify finite pictures of the world is by exploring where they start not well-matching reality. In order to do this, we must generally need to find something closest to the minimal ‘distance’ between e.g. ceteris paribus (SEP: Ceteris Paribus Laws) and what would falsify the theory. Have you read Karl Popper’s The Logic of Scientific Discovery?

            I don’t think it’s truly a tu quoque because SELO has zero evidence nor even a coherent theory that explains it.

            So then you just made an accusation of me because you didn’t want to actually address my criticism? That’s intellectually honest of you.

            It turns out I might have been wrong that there is no majority view on QM as per Jon’s source below. It does seem that a growing number of physicists are lining up behind the MWI as it seems to make sense and some argue it is the only coherent interpretation.

            Okay then, watch Sean Carroll’s Fluctuations in de Sitter Space—which depends on the Everett interpretation—and then tell me how anything gets kicked off. According to my understanding of Carroll, this universe cannot have fluctuated into existence.

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

            The idea is that the way we tend to falsify finite pictures of the world is by exploring where they start not well-matching reality.

            The scientific search for truth is to provide the best model or theory that explains reality.

            So then you just made an accusation of me because you didn’t want to actually address my criticism? That’s intellectually honest of you.

            No I was merely pointing out that you were falsely accusing me of doing what you actually do all the time.

            Okay then, watch Sean Carroll’s Fluctuations in de Sitter Space —which depends on the Everett interpretation—and then tell me how anything gets kicked off.

            Either the universe fluctuated into existence or it did not. I don’t know what it did. Maybe there is some other mechanism. But the MWI doesn’t imply that the universe shouldn’t have started. Carroll even says that density fluctuations in inflation occur under his model, and mind you, his model is an interpretation of the MWI, it isn’t necessarily true of the MWI as a whole.

          • Luke Breuer

            The scientific search for truth is to provide the best model or theory that explains reality.

            Looking backward, yes. Looking forward, the idea is to find out where the best current models will first crack and fail. I am just not convinced that Carroll’s choice of Shrödinger’s equation is legit. It seems too extreme. Perhaps I’m wrong, but it seems like a cop-out, as if Carroll knows he has to say something, and so he does.

            No I was merely pointing out that you were falsely accusing me of doing what you actually do all the time.

            This is the first time I’m hearing that you think I was falsely accusing you. Let’s refresh our memories:

            TT: “Quantum mechanics is not indeterministic as many people think, it’s a completely deterministic theory. [...]” as Lawrence Krauss recently said in a lecture.

            LB: Talk about an act of Boghossian-faith2: “pretending to know what you do not know”!

            TT: Doesn’t that characterize your whole worldview, particularly SELO?

            LB: How is this not tu quoque?

            How, precisely, was I supposed to figure out that I was falsely accusing you? And you know what, I was actually criticizing Krauss, not you! So yeah, you’ll need to do some ‘splainin.

            mind you, his model is an interpretation of the MWI, it isn’t necessarily true of the MWI as a whole.

            Okay then, MWI appears nebulous enough that it can’t be falsified. Sounds like Randal’s Not even wrong: The many problems with Naturalism.

  • Gandolf

    “But it was his religious belief which drove him to deny it. ”

    That’s the biggest problem with this kind of faith.Theist will discuss faith as ” the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”

    That could even be extended to the Catholic Church reaction. In regard to cases of sex abuse.When the church tried to deny the evidence.

    For they hoped to be assured that sex abuses didn’t happen.Hoping to some how be assured,even against the conviction of how much evidence was available.

    Such faith.

    Other cult leaders,and followers, will convince themselves with this kind of faith too.Jim Jones & co. And so many others like them.

    They can convince themselves so as to faithfully believe, that every things just fine and dandy.For many of them have been very well-trained as highly intelligent fools

    • Gandolf

      Faith can move mountains.Except for mountains of bullshit

  • Luke Breuer

    Luke responded with a version of the No True Scotsmen fallacy and raising the bar unrealistically high:

    Please define “unrealistically high”. I will insist that correlation ⇏ causation.

    Thus in general terms, one can claim, I believe, that it is more likely that an atheist will be a better scientist.

    And yet, a typical person would probably presume from this, that becoming atheist would make you a better scientist, or that becoming a theist would make you a worse scientist. Since neither of these have been established by anything remotely close to sufficient evidence, your statement is true in a way, but is deceptive if taken beyond that, which most people would be tempted to do because of how language such as yours is typically used.

    Actually, can you even support the use of the word ‘better’? What you have seems like circumstantial evidence. If you look at the quality of science produced by actual scientists, can you find that atheist scientists do better work than religious scientists? I doubt it! What you can say is that being certain kinds of religious makes you less likely to become a scientist. But you have attempted to go beyond that, which smells of motivated reasoning. It is fundamentalist to group all people under one category—’religious’—instead of breaking them down: some YEC, some very much not YEC, for example. But you won’t allow this:

    LB: You’re obsessed with YEC. If YEC didn’t exist, would you even have a case? There are plenty of Christians who do not hold to YEC. And yet, you would have their religion destroyed as well. I sense scapegoating.

    JP: Whoah. You CANNOT ignore YEC. That is one of THE most prevalent thought crimes committed by Christians. Together with 930 year old people, global floods, Nephilim and other such nonsense, we have very unscientific thought processes. See my other post on this:http://www.skepticink.com/tipp

    Yup, it just wouldn’t look as good to title a post “Can YEC religion be destroyed?”—you’ve gotta do that ‘some’ ⇒ ‘all’ reasoning. Even if it’s just the finger with gangrene, better amputate the entire arm, just to be safe!

    Together with ideas that atheists have a more ratio-analytic thinking style than believers, and that they, in general, believe less crazy things (percentage of atheist young earthers compared to religious), we start getting a picture that being religious predisposes one to believing crazier things.

    But you have not established any of this, unless you grossly restrict what is meant by ‘believers’. I think a sociologist would be pretty good at analyzing such data. So let’s look at famous sociologist Peter Berger and what he has to say:

        Another exaggeration may have been the conventional view of the reach of scientific rationality. One does not have to look at religion only in order to find this thought plausible. It is amazing what people educated to the highest levels of scientific rationality are prepared to believe by way of irrational prejudices; one only has to look at the political and social beliefs of the most educated classes of Western societies to gain an appreciation of this. Just one case: What Western intellectuals over the last decades have managed to believe about the character of Communist societies is alone sufficient to cast serious doubt on the proposition that rationality is enhanced as a result of scientifically sophisticated education or of living in a modern technological society. (A Far Glory, 30)

    This does not examine religious belief specifically, but Berger has elsewhere noted the extremely low level of religiousity among intellectuals:

    By contrast, there is a burgeoning “new class” of intellectuals deeply antagonistic to virtually all the old norms of respectability. It is consumption-oriented rather than production-oriebted. Its values got private life are ever more radically liberationist. It is pervasively secularized, often evincing a violent antipathy to all the traditional forms of Christian and Jewish religiosity. (Facing Up to Modernity, 66)

    So Jonathan, all you’ve really shown is:

         (1) some religious belief thwarts good scientific thinking

    This is, of course, precisely what I said in a comment of mine you quoted, which includes “at best, you’ve shown that “one form of theism hurts science more than ???“” Guess what? Nobody would contest (1)! It’s when you perform the reasoning ‘some’ ⇒ ‘all’ when alarms start sounding. And when you title posts Can religion be destroyed?, I think ‘all’—was I wrong?

    • josh

      “Please define “unrealistically high”.”

      Irony strikes again. I’m tempted to write down a definition of unrealistically high just so Luke can quibble over whether it’s been ‘proven’ to his satisfaction.

      “I will insist that correlation ⇏ causation.”

      That’s fine if you would do the extra work of explaining the correlation better than the proposed causation theory. But I’ll do some of the work for you: Being an atheist tends to make you a better scientist. It is also true that being a good scientist (read: critical thinker) is more likely to make you an atheist.

      • Luke Breuer

        Irony strikes again.

        Really? Here’s what I’ve found: it is in cults where those in power will say, “You know what I mean; I don’t have to be specific.” The cultic phrase here is “sufficient evidence”, where ‘sufficient’ is never actually defined! Instead, it is supposed to be a general sentiment or something, shared by everyone, such that when the term “sufficient evidence” is uttered, everyone nods in sacred agreement.

        I’m not demanding an algorithm which will take as input evidence and output a “true” or “false” as to whether it is sufficient. But I do want a heuristic that is somewhat well-explicated. Failure to present such a heuristic is a sure sign of motivated reasoning, which is the very conclusion-motivated thinking that Jonathan says he deplores:

        Jonathan Pearce: I think the goal is to have a bottom up worldview, where you establish the building bricks and see what building arises. I think top down approaches are dangerous, and I think this is what many people, particularly theists, do. They start with a conclusion, and massage evidence to fit. I will happily throw out conclusions, as I have done many times in the past, if that is where the path leads.

        As far as I can tell, Jonathan himself has concluded that all religion is false and bad, and doesn’t particularly care whether the evidence only supports that some sects of some religions are false/bad. Here’s how the conclusion-based thinking really shows up: in the assumption that the more serious you are about your religion, the more you’re likely to accept YEC, or something similarly science-stunting. So the only way to become more ‘scientific’ is to become less serious about your religion. Take this to its logical conclusion, and all religion must be destroyed.

        Being an atheist tends to make you a better scientist. It is also true that being a good scientist (read: critical thinker) is more likely to make you an atheist.

        I highly doubt you have the evidence which would show this to be anything more than mere correlation. You, yourself, appear to be engaged in conclusion-first thinking.

        • josh

          “Here’s what I’ve found: it is in cults where those in power will say…”

          Sigh. No, you haven’t found any thing and you probably know jack about cults. No one is ‘in power’ here. It is in everyday life where you will find people say ‘here’s what I think is going on’, and where they give you a funny look when you demand ‘what is the p-value and how is going on rigorously defined?!’. People have given you plenty of evidence, if you want to quantify it more precisely do the work yourself.

          “Failure to present such a heuristic is a sure sign of motivated reasoning…” No, it is just a sign that not everyone is going to take time out of their day to explain what should be obvious points to you.

          “Here’s how the conclusion-based thinking really shows up: in the
          assumption that the more serious you are about your religion, the more
          you’re likely to accept YEC, or something similarly science-stunting.”

          Where is this assumption? For someone in a YEC tradition, the more serious they are about their religion the harder it will be to question the beliefs that come with that particular branch of religion. But this type of problem is general. The more serious Muslim is going to have a harder time admitting that the evidence for Mohammed’s life is scarce and unreliable. The more serious Catholic can’t countenance that Mary wasn’t a virgin or that the ‘apostolic tradition’ is a myth constructed by the victors in a sectarian purge. The more serious Buddhist will have a hard time realizing that meditation hasn’t actually opened his mind to deeper truths. Etc.

          Specific religions have specific beliefs. When those come into conflict with the specific findings of science that is a problem for the specific religion. And since these are pervasive in world religions we can say that religion has a problem with science when speaking generally. But there is a deeper problem: the methods common to religion vs those in science/empiricism/rationalism. The problem with religion generally is that it is totalizing, irrational and authoritarian. If you accept that there is some ultimate authority, some unshakeable core, something that must be accepted on faith and can’t be judged by scientific scrutiny, then you are turning your back on science and there will always be a risk that any specific beliefs will be dragged into the maw of ‘my faith’.

          There is no evidence that there are any non-false religions. There is much evidence of specific harms they do and atheists like myself believe there is an inherent problem, outlined above, of which the harms are symptoms.

          “I highly doubt you have the evidence which would show this to be anything more than mere correlation.”

          ‘Mere correlation’. Spoken like a first-rate science-stunter. What do you propose to explain the observation? You don’t get to just dismiss it.

          • Luke Breuer

            For someone in a YEC tradition, the more serious they are about their religion the harder it will be to question the beliefs that come with that particular branch of religion. But this type of problem is general.

            You are absolutely correct. For example, science experiences this problem, as Max Planck observed:

            A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.

            It is curious that you use the term ‘tradition'; both Alasdair MacIntyre in After Virtue and Michael Polanyi in Personal Knowledge address the issue. For an introduction, I suggest Mark T. Mitchell’s Michael Polanyi, Alasdair MacIntyre, and the Role of Tradition. One of the claims exploded is that tradition, qua tradition, is immune to challenge from within the tradition. This does not mean some particular instantiations of ‘tradition’ end up ossifying and ultimately dying, it just means that they don’t have to ossify and die.

            If you accept that there is some ultimate authority, some unshakeable core, something that must be accepted on faith and can’t be judged by scientific scrutiny, then you are turning your back on science and there will always be a risk that any specific beliefs will be dragged into the maw of ‘my faith’.

            Oh, you mean something like:

            Richard Lewontin: Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.

            Note that I do not claim all atheists hold to the bold portion. However, some do, and exhibit a very interesting behavior, as pointed out by Edward Feser:

            Few materialists are eliminative materialists; it is very definitely a minority view, and most materialists are happy to acknowledge the obvious, viz. that the mind exists. What is interesting, though, is that few materialist critics of eliminative materialism will have any truck with the most obvious and decisive objection to the theory, namely that it is simply incoherent. William Hasker and Victor Reppert have put forward what I think is the correct diagnosis of this phenomenon, namely that materialists want to keep all their options open, even this most extreme one.[11] For there are, for reasons some of which we considered in the previous chapter, very serious problems with any attempt to explain the mind in purely material terms, and most materialists realize this. They hope and believe that these difficulties can be overcome, but in case this turns out to be impossible, they would rather deny that the mind exists at all than give up their materialism. Eliminative materialism thus serves as a last redoubt, a panic button or doomsday weapon they might want to deploy in case the dreaded menace of supernaturalism gets too close. Better for them to deny the mind – and with it rationality, truth, and science itself – than to admit the soul. Once again, the secularist manifests the very dogmatism of which he accuses the religious believer, and in rationalizing it is willing to contemplate absurdities of which no religious believer has ever dreamed. (The Last Superstition, Kindle Locations 4361-4372)

            Yes, there are a not-insignificant number of materialists who would rather deny that the mind exists—with the mind, of course—than give up materialism. Dogmatism is everywhere, as it turns out! And yet, it need not exist in science, nor philosophy, nor religion. Fancy that.

          • josh

            “For example, science experiences this problem, as Max Planck observed:…”

            Sorry, that’s not the same problem and it is a gross exaggeration by Planck. Next you’ll be quoting Kuhn at me. This is not a good way to convince me you actually know how science works. Sometimes people have a hard time grasping new, non-intuitive results. They take some time to persuade and you have to accumulate evidence sufficient to persuade them. That’s science. Quantum mechanics was a new and originally rather vague way of describing reality that took time to develop and prove itself. Classical mechanics was not a holy dogma but a successful paradigm with mountains of evidence in its favor, QM first had to clear the high bar of proving itself useful and compatible with the successes of Newton and Maxwell. There is no comparison with religion.

            “One of the claims exploded is that tradition, qua tradition, is immune to challenge from within the tradition.”

            I suggest you stop referencing a book or quotation as though it is a compelling argument. A tradition should ‘ossify and die’ if it can’t be supported against criticism. But more to the point, can you actually respond to the point I was making? If you can’t allow that the tradition could be wrong, not just misinterpreted but wrong, then you are being anti-scientific. If you won’t subject that tradition to the judgment of empiricism and reason then you are being anti-scientific.

            “Oh, you mean something like: [more argument from authority]”

            No, and Lewontin is thoroughly wrong here. We don’t have an a priori commitment to anything, rather we have no a posteriori evidence for god and much against. We accept the surprising claims of modern science because they are well supported by evidence, it’s not as though superstition works better and we just refuse to allow it on principle.

            “Note that I do not claim all atheists hold to the bold portion. However,
            some do, and exhibit a very interesting behavior, as pointed out by
            Edward Feser:”

            Note that you didn’t actually give an example of any atheists, just a quote from a theist. But Feser really isn’t capable of objectively analyzing anything related to religion, and is, of course, so rabidly dogmatic that he can’t admit modern science was an advance over the 13th century.

            “Dogmatism is everywhere, as it turns out!”

            Well if you say so, I guess I should take that in lieu of any evidence.

            ” And yet, it need not exist in science, nor philosophy, nor religion.”

            Religion without dogma ceases to be religion, it just becomes superstition, which I also recommend reducing if possible.

          • Luke Breuer

            Sorry, that’s not the same problem and it is a gross exaggeration by Planck.

            I know actual scientists at MIT-quality institutions who claim that Planck was not exaggerating. I’m going to trust them over you, a random person on the internet.

            If you can’t allow that the tradition could be wrong,

            And where/how am I not allowing this? Please quite and cite, specifically.

            We don’t have an a priori commitment to anything,

            There is no such thing as standing on neutral ground while you make judgments/observations. By the very fact that you make a judgment, you assert that the thought-apparatus you use to make the judgment is true. Check out the Neurathian bootstrap.

            We accept the surprising claims of modern science because they are well supported by evidence, it’s not as though superstition works better and we just refuse to allow it on principle.

            That you have set up a binary opposition between (a) science; and (b) superstition, which is (i) fundamentalist thinking; and (ii) scientism. But perhaps you have a way of knowing that science produces true results that doesn’t depend on science itself to verify it (and thus is not viciously circular)? I hope you aren’t a logical positivist.

            Well if you say so, I guess I should take that in lieu of any evidence.

            You mean there’s no evidence that you did not choose to reject, such as Lewontin’s claim? Is he not a Real Scientist™?

          • Andy_Schueler

            I know actual scientists at MIT-quality institutions who claim that Planck was not exaggerating.

            Aww, come on, of course this was hyperbole – exaggeration for rethorical effect. Have you ever browsed any peer-reviewed scientific journal? Check out any random issue of Nature from your library and browse the published articles. Spoiler alert: they don´t all say “and thus, we have demonstrated that scientific orthodox was completely right in every respect, nothing new to see here folks”. If anything, it currently is a problem that scientific orthodoxy can be challenged too easily – without looking anything up, I could give you at least a dozen examples for that (“examples” = peer-reviewed articles that a) challenged scientific orthodoxy based on very questionable evidence and b) were refuted very quickly by follow-up studies and c) are now considered as failures of the peer-review process (in the sense that the reviewers were way too generous and should have demanded to see more evidence before recommending the article for publication)) from just the field that I´m working in.

          • Luke Breuer

            Scott Aaronson, I was wrong about Joy Christian:

            I call on FQXi, in the strongest possible terms, to stop lending its legitimacy to this now completely-unmasked charlatan. If it fails to do so, then I will resign from FQXi, and will encourage fellow FQXi members to do the same.

            I wouldn’t be at all surprised if one could make a strong comparison between this, and denunciations of heresy which have gone on in Christianity.

            I have friends working on foundations of quantum mechanics and they have to be extremely careful that they don’t get their work rejected by physics orthodoxy. I cannot say more now, but I am quite happy to gather all sorts of predictions (your comment is a prediction), which, if they are right, will be tested quite nicely. Suffice it to say that if they are right, the philosophy of science will take notice. Very exciting stuff; the [friend-requested] gag order is frustrating. Part of it is due to worries about being scooped, but part of it is due to not wanting ridicule to spoil opportunities. Yes, this stuff is real.

            As another example, my wife is working in biophysics and biochemistry. She’s regaled me about a paper where it was surmised that some particular system worked some particular way, in the discussion section—you know, where the scientists make wild guesses. Not the results section, where they talk about what the data say. She described to me how what was originally surmised became enthroned as orthodoxy, without an attempt at falsification ever being made. I can try and get the details if you’d like.

            My point here is that the allegedly unique-to-religion dogmatic attitude is not unique to religion. It’s not even clear that it’s a whole lot more prevalent in religion than e.g. conceptions about how sociology works (failed secularization thesis, anyone?), history works (failed conflict thesis, anyone?), how psychology works (see bits about Narrative Knowing and the Human Sciences I excerpted and discussed), how economics works (rational actors, really?), etc. If there appears to be a descending level of credulity as one moves from theology → sociology → psychology → biology → chemistry → physics → mathematics, that can be explained in terms other than religion being somehow special and bad.

          • Andy_Schueler

            I have friends working on foundations of quantum mechanics and they have to be extremely careful that they don’t get their work rejected by physics orthodoxy.

            Part of it is due to worries about being scooped

            The fact that they worry about getting scooped means that they know it is a) well possible that their ideas get published in the peer-reviewed literature and b) that they get published by others before their own paper is ready for submission. If your friends simultaneously affirm that Planck was not using hyperbole but rather literally describing what is going on, then they would have no reason to worry about getting scooped until the current generation of scientists dies!

            As another example, my wife is working in biophysics and biochemistry. She’s regaled me about a paper where it was surmised that some particular system worked some particular way, in the discussion section—you know, where the scientists make wild guesses.

            No, you are not allowed to make wild guesses in the discussion part, you are only allowed to make educated guesses that are grounded in your own results and the results that are already published. The reviewers are supposed to judge whether the interpretations and predictions in the discussion actually follow from the presented results, if they didn´t do that in this case, then the reviewers have done a crappy job.

            She described to me how what was originally surmised became enthroned as orthodoxy, without an attempt at falsification ever being made. I can try and get the details if you’d like.

            Lets be clear, you argue that what Planck said is not exaggerated, so you say that it is literally true. And it being literally true would mean that this particular scientific orthodoxy here that your wife talks about cannot be overturned until the current generation of scientists kick the bucket! And not only that particular piece of scientific orthodoxy but rather all of scientific orthodoxy!And this is just ridiculous – it is trivial to find countless counterexamples for that.

            My point here is that the allegedly unique-to-religion dogmatic attitude is not unique to religion.

            Yes, scientists can be dogmatic. However, when a scientist refuses to face the reality that some of his or her cherished ideas have been conclusively refuted and are as certainly false as anything can be known to be “certainly false”, and then does not accept that and moves on but rather retires or goes to an institution that also holds on to this false idea come hell or high water, I can tell you one thing about this “scientist”:
            He is almost certainly a religious fundamentalist and the institution he goes to is most likely one of the assorted fundagelical clown colleges like Liberty University or a pseudo “think tank” like the Dishonesty Institute.
            I´d completely agree with you that all people can be dogmatic, this definitely is NOT unique to religion. But particularly when it comes to science, religion is special – religion and only religion can genuinely convince people of ideas that are as obviously BS as flood geology is.

          • Luke Breuer

            The fact that they worry about getting scooped means that they know it is a) well possible that their ideas get published in the peer-reviewed literature and b) that they get published by others before their own paper is ready for submission. If your friends simultaneously affirm that Planck was not using hyperbole but rather literally describing what is going on, then they would have no reason to worry about getting scooped until the current generation of scientists dies!

            Your first sentence is wrong; there are some key ideas which are requiring a lot of effort to work out; most would likely scoff at the key ideas without support and this scoffing would burn bridges (example), but there are some out there who would see them as possibly fruitful, take them, and run with them. As to the Planck quotation interpretation, what did you mean by ‘hyperbole’, other than that some scientists don’t have to die for science to progress? His point was that arrogant, dogmatic scientists frequently hold back the progress of science. It’s not that entire generations have to die every time; c’mon. Are we just totally miscommunicating over the word ‘hyperbole’? I saw that term as an attempt to refute the specific point I was making with the quotation; was this incorrect?

            No, you are not allowed to make wild guesses in the discussion part [...] then the reviewers have done a crappy job.

            I’ll have to get the details. It would appear that you have a rosier picture of how science operates than I do. Given what I heard from the science ethics course my wife recently took, I’m inclined to lean toward my view. Of course this is all anecdotal, but that’s the best I can do. Well, I can point out that the top research fraud US government official recently stepped down over being frustrated about how hard it was to do his job. But that’s a very noisy datum.

            Lets be clear, you argue that what Planck said is not exaggerated, so you say that it is literally true.

            I think we are disagreeing on ‘hyperbole'; see above.

            Yes, scientists can be dogmatic. However, when a scientist refuses to face the reality that some of his or her cherished ideas have been conclusively refuted

            You’re thinking deductively, not constructively. The more insidious dogmatism thwarts new constructions. See my Intersubjectivity is Key: you’re talking type-I errors, while I’m talking type-II errors:

            I claim there are two different ways to err:

                 I. holding to contradictory thoughts about reality
                II. thinking that you understand all of reality that could be

            religion and only religion can genuinely convince people of ideas that are as obviously BS as flood geology is.

            On the contrary, see my Peter Berger quotation (more context at link):

                Another exaggeration may have been the conventional view of the reach of scientific rationality. One does not have to look at religion only in order to find this thought plausible. It is amazing what people educated to the highest levels of scientific rationality are prepared to believe by way of irrational prejudices; one only has to look at the political and social beliefs of the most educated classes of Western societies to gain an appreciation of this. Just one case: What Western intellectuals over the last decades have managed to believe about the character of Communist societies is alone sufficient to cast serious doubt on the proposition that rationality is enhanced as a result of scientifically sophisticated education or of living in a modern technological society. (A Far Glory, 30)

          • Andy_Schueler

            As to the Planck quotation interpretation, what did you mean by ‘hyperbole’, other than that some scientists don’t have to die for science to progress? His point was that arrogant, dogmatic scientists frequently hold back the progress of science. It’s not that entire generations have to die every time; c’mon. Are we just totally miscommunicating over the word ‘hyperbole’?

            I highlighted the relevant part – what you say is something completely different than what Planck says when his quote is read literally. Literally, it is a ridiculous exaggeration that has nothing to do with reality – if you interpret it in a non-literal way, as you do now, it turns into something that is completely unobjectionable (try to find anyone who disagrees with that).

          • Luke Breuer

            I guess I just don’t read in this way, in the way you call “literally”. I saw the claim of hyperbole not as [solely] asserting ¬”literally”, but as defeating my argument. As far as I can tell, ¬”literally” does not, by itself, militate against my argument. But I assume that when things are claimed like your ¬”literally”, that you do so for a purpose, and the only purpose I could find was to argue that my argument was false. Was I wrong?

          • Andy_Schueler

            Josh said it was exaggerated, you say it wasn´t exaggerated because your scientists friends tell you that science actually exactly matches the Planck quote, and I chime in to tell you that the Quote is of course a complete exaggeration – true “hyperbole”, an “exaggeration for rethorical effect”, something that sounds catchy and is highly quotable, but is strictly false, because it is a complete exaggeration.

          • Luke Breuer

            Was my point, predicated upon Max Planck’s claim, refuted by the label of ‘hyperbole’? Yes, or no?

          • Andy_Schueler

            Did I say that it was? IIRC, I said the opposite.

          • Luke Breuer

            It would appear that this is then much ado about nothing [important]. It appears to be a giant-ass distraction from what’s actually being discussed. Or am I missing something?

          • Andy_Schueler

            Yup. But it wouldn´t have been such a giant-ass distraction if you had not so persistently tried to defend an untenable interpretation of the Planck quote you provided.

          • Luke Breuer

            Right. I’ll take the blame for being wrong on ‘hyperbole’. But somebody else must take the blame for bringing that up if it was entirely irrelevant to the main point. And I’m pretty sure it was. I think I’ve done a pretty good job showing that extreme dogma can be held by atheist intellectuals, and moreover, that it can be more damaging than e.g. YEC belief. And yet, Jonathan Pearce and The Thinker want to destroy religion. Well, The Thinker definitely does; Jonathan will only commit to wanting to talk about if religion can be destroyed—as if it’d be ok to ask if Jews could be destroyed.

          • josh

            “If there appears to be a descending level of credulity as one moves from
            theology → sociology → psychology → biology → chemistry → physics →
            mathematics, that can be explained in terms other than religion being
            somehow special and bad.”

            ‘Especially bad’ would seem appropriate. But that’s a hell of a jump from theology to sociology! You, know, where they do studies, and try to control for confounding variables, and findings are accepted, rather than holy.

          • Luke Breuer

            I test theology all the time. I’ll give you an example. The NT claims that following Mt 5:23-24, Mt 18:15-20, and Eph 4:25-27 results in a better state of affairs than not following them. (I sketch these out in relational sin.) I have tried both paths and found the obedient one to be better. I tried to convince my wife that the obedient path is better, but she disbelieved me for a time. Then the evidence started rolling in, and she found that my interpretation was better than hers; it led to a better world in her view. Will you accept this as a legitimate test of some of the Bible?

          • Andy_Schueler

            I test theology all the time. I’ll give you an example. The NT claims that following Mt 5:23-24, Mt 18:15-20, and Eph 4:25-27 results in a better state of affairs than not following them.

            Karl Marx wrote:
            “History calls those men the greatest who have ennobled themselves by working for the common good; experience acclaims as happiest the man who has made the greatest number of people happy.”
            => would it be logical to test this idea by trying whether making others happy actually makes you yourself happier as well, and after successfully testing this concluding that Marx must be right about communism as well? Of course it wouldn´t – it would be a complete non sequitur. Just like it is a non sequitur to conclude that the christian god exists (or that Jesus was divine or that the Bible was divinely inspired or any other theological claim) from observing that a specific moral advice in the NT leads to good results.

          • Luke Breuer

            So what precisely am I doing when I find enough good specific moral advice in the NT, that I suspect that things I don’t quite understand might also be good moral advice, and so I trust those things by acting as if they were true, to see what happens? I suppose I’m just trusting a particular, assembled document?

          • Andy_Schueler

            Essentially, yes – your reasoning is “source x says that a leads to b, I tested that and observed that it worked, so I´ll trust that x is right about everything else it says as well although I have no evidence for that and no idea for how I could possibly test it”.
            And that is as illogical as trusting that communism will work because Marx was right about other things that are independent of communism.

          • Luke Breuer

            Ok; and if the document shows a profound unity, can I surmise that it had some sort of unified source?

          • Andy_Schueler

            If all documents had been written at roughly the same point in time, that would be a reasonable conclusion, if the documents were written successively however, it wouldn´t.

          • Luke Breuer

            Why is time important? Either the documents as we have them now have a profound unity or they do not; why does the timing of their production, their redaction, etc., matter?

          • Andy_Schueler

            If ten people who don´t know each other would publish documents tomorrow that have a “profound unity”, it would be very likely that this unity is the result of them having similar or the same sources. If they publish successively however, and it is further obvious that the later authors have read the earlier ones, then it is no longer obvious that they relied on similar or even the same sources – it is rather more plausible that the later authors used the earlier authors as sources.

          • Luke Breuer

            This still indicates a unified source, no?

          • Andy_Schueler

            John writes a, Peter reads a and writes b, Carl and Sonja read a and b and proceed to write c and d respectively….
            You´d call that a “unified source”?

          • Luke Breuer

            Is there a unity to F = ma and GR which goes beyond F = ma? I’m alluding to what MacIntyre would call a ‘tradition’ or a ‘practice':

            LB: It is curious that you use the term ‘tradition'; both Alasdair MacIntyre in After Virtue and Michael Polanyi in Personal Knowledge address the issue. For an introduction, I suggest Mark T. Mitchell’s Michael Polanyi, Alasdair MacIntyre, and the Role of Tradition. One of the claims exploded is that tradition, qua tradition, is immune to challenge from within the tradition. This does not mean some particular instantiations of ‘tradition’ end up ossifying and ultimately dying, it just means that they don’t have to ossify and die.

          • Andy_Schueler

            I assume that by that you mean that the biblical texts represent successive improvements regarding what God is like. But that seems to be a clear case of motivated reasoning – even if I granted you that there is a God, how would you demonstrate that a) the Bible authors actually did know something about him and b) the later biblical texts are better approximations of what God is like instead of it being the other way around? It seems to me that this is something you have decided a priori.

          • Luke Breuer

            There is a reason that the first triad I post in my list of four is Mt 5:43-48, Jn 13:34-35, Jn 17:20-23.

          • Andy_Schueler

            That doesn´t answer my question as to how you would like to demonstrate that the OT does not provide a better picture of what God is like.

          • Luke Breuer

            We understand what God is like by acting like him.

          • Andy_Schueler

            And why not act like the OT God instead of the NT God?

          • Luke Breuer

            If you think that they’re actually different. You would be with the majority of people in thinking so, and it certainly makes it easy to dismiss the Bible or at least the OT, instead of taking it seriously. I, on the other hand, see too much that is likely true in the OT to be so quick to dismiss. Some of it relies on metaphorizing bits, such as needing to be vicious and merciless not against people, but against certain ideas. But when I do this ‘metaphorizing’ (which has a long tradition, FYI), I try to always remember that it is merely a picture of the thing, an interpretation.

            Really though, I’m just expecting (a) consistency throughout the Bible; (b) matching between the Bible and reality. I do both of these simultaneously, instead of e.g. attempting to do (a) perfectly before I do (b) at all. If I’m not careful, inconsistencies are merely my wrong attempts to interpret texts 2000–3000 years old. The Greeks we are fairly similar to; the Hebrews thought about some things very differently, including what they meant by lev, often translated ‘heart’. The Hebrews did not differentiate between intellect and emotions; this has some pretty profound consequences for how one understands the OT in and of itself.

            I’ll give you an example. According to many models of YHWH, Isaiah 58 simply does not belong in the OT. I believe that one can view the OT as explaining how a people were slowly shifted in their understanding, from ‘gods’ who wanted to be given things (especially sacrificed children), to a God who wanted to give things. It is not a mistake that Eve and YHWH are called עֵזֶר, `ezer, “helper”.

            Anyhow, I suspect you’ll dislike nascent thoughts like the above; just know that they are, and be patient if you want to hear a better-developed form of them, but are either unwilling to help me grow them (and prune them), or unwilling to do so in a way that doesn’t place costs on me which I am not willing to pay.

          • Luke Breuer

            Who is to say that we, as humans in the world, aren’t closer to the “OT God” vs. the “NT God”, according to what I presume is your use of the terms? Let me make a list:

                 1. fail to stop genocide
                 2. murder people by remote control
                 3. invade countries based on lies
                 4. trade with countries with terrible human rights records
                 5. severely economically oppress large groups
                 6. set the scene for a return to feudalism via education
                 7. fail to substantially curb the sex trade
                 8. become deluded about human nature

            Pretty much all of these seem to include a failure of charity, as I describe ‘charity’ here. If there’s one thing that Jesus instigated, it was a culture of ‘charity’. So yeah, Andy, I think we’re actually closer to the “OT God”, and I think we’re getting closer to that conception and further away from the “NT God” conception. And while we’re doing it, we’re patting ourselves on the backs, claiming to be more advanced than the “NT God” conception.

            The scene truly is set for 2 Thess 2:1–12 and Mt 24:23–25. All those people who would believe in a deity if only it could do god-of-the-gaps magic will probably, at some point, get their wish. And it’ll be the remnant of true Christians who refuse to bow down to said magic-worker—or maybe just the Jews who have kept alive the spirit of not worshiping idols. It’s either strong delusion leading to death, or truth leading to life. Those picking the delusion won’t see it coming, because they don’t want to.

            (inspired by God of Peace and Justice)

          • Andy_Schueler

            So your evidence for the NT describing God better is that you like the NT God better – that´s not an argument though, that is a preference.

            All those people who would believe in a deity if only it could do god-of-the-gaps magic….

            Strawman, simply doing what said God allegedly did for years to hundreds of people in 1st century Palestine would be more than sufficient.

            And it’ll be the remnant of true Christians who refuse to bow down to said magic-worker—or maybe just the Jews who have kept alive the spirit of not worshiping idols. It’s either strong delusion leading to death, or truth leading to life. Those picking the delusion won’t see it coming, because they don’t want to.

            Wait, so this magic-working Jesus dude in the NT was actually Satan?! Now that´s a plot twist I didn´t see coming… Pretty weird story though.

          • Luke Breuer

            So your evidence for the NT describing God better is that you like the NT God better – that´s not an argument though, that is a preference.

            Wait, I thought you were a moral realist, or at least I thought you had sympathies in that direction? Also, I’m not sure how you got “you like the NT God better” from what I said. That was a pretty factual comment that I made. Whether we humans are closer to the “OT God” or the “NT God” is an issue of preference, but an issue of interpretation and fact.

            Strawman, simply doing what said God allegedly did for years to hundreds of people in 1st century Palestine would be more than sufficient.

            Hmmm, sounds like the aliens in V (2009 TV series). They turned out to be evil, except for the “Fifth Column” contingent.

            Wait, so this magic-working Jesus dude in the NT was actually Satan?! Now that´s a plot twist I didn´t see coming… Pretty weird story though.

            Sigh.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Wait, I thought you were a moral realist, or at least I thought you had sympathies in that direction?

            So the NT must be the better description because it makes God seem more moral? So how do you know that God is good?

            Hmmm, sounds like the aliens in V (2009 TV series). They turned out to be evil, except for the “Fifth Column” contingent.

            But Jesus will not turn out to be evil because…. Jesus?

            Sigh.

            Srsly, you say that someone who appears now and does exactly what Jesus did must be absolutely evil, while Jesus doing the exact same thing means that he is good. That appears to be the most extreme double standard I have ever seen.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Sigh.

            Again, this is something that I really cannot make any sense of. Somebody doing exactly what Jesus did would be potentially an evil alien, or satan or whatever – while Jesus was obviously a great guy and definitely not an evil alien or satan in disguise. Don´t you see any double standard there at all?

          • Luke Breuer

            Suppose you are correct. Then character does not exist, or is entirely, 100%, unknowable by anyone else. Someone who did what Jesus did could be God and could be Satan. You would simply never know. You could never trust anyone. Instead, you would always have to e.g. hold blackmail on him/her, to ensure that if he/she ever hurt you, you can hurt back, preferably harder.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Suppose you are correct.

            You must have misunderstood me, I didn´t claim anything about which I could have been correct – I just asked a simple question:
            Why do you suspect that someone who´d do what Jesus allegedly did would be an evil alien or Satan in disguise while simultaneously assuming that Jesus was a great guy although he did the exact same thing? I´m not trying to interrogate you here, I really cannot make sense of this and I´m really curious how this does make sense to you.

          • Luke Breuer

            Ahh. In the TV show V, the aliens had secretly done evil on earth already, which some humans had figured out (some of whom had been eliminated). Arguably, there were also indications of evil from the Alien leaders, for those who know how to judge character. So, the comparison is not “exact same”, but only “hugely similar”.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Ok… So what is wrong with not believing that Jesus is real until he starts doing the stuff that he allegedly did in 1st century palestine again?

          • Luke Breuer

            He has given us the responsibility to pick up where he left off, and indeed, do greater things than he did. You can accept the responsibility, or shun it. You can even find a way to rationalize denial of responsibility† (such as denying the constructability of LFW and embracing a block universe); compare Exploring the Illusion of Free Will and Moral Responsibility to Noam Chomsky’s The Responsibility of Intellectuals.

            † By “denial”, I mean removing ontic (or at least objective) foundations. Once you do that, you can assign responsibility however you please. This, of course, opens the doors to scapegoating. Randal’s recent The Atonement in Clint Eastwood’s “Gran Torino” is apropos.

          • Andy_Schueler

            He has given us the responsibility to pick up where he left off[1], and indeed, do greater things than he did. You can accept the responsibility, or shun it. You can even find a way to rationalize denial of responsibility† (such as denying the constructability of LFW[2]

            1. Yeah, well I have no idea where he “left off” and I´m completely agnostic about whether he existed at all, so I´ll neither “accept” nor “shun” this alleged responsibility.
            2. Acknowlediging that LFW is a self-refuting concept has nothing to do with avoiding responsibility, it has only something to do with whether you understand elementary logic or not. I acknowledge that LFW is self-refuting and also acknowledge that people are responsible for what they did or did not do.

          • Luke Breuer

            1. It couldn’t be that we are to promote life and fight death? After all, is there any other difference between ‘good’ and ‘evil’ which makes sense? Note that cancer is not proper life, but death-inducing life. It must be properly pruned/disciplined (e.g. DNA conformation fixed) before it returns to be fully life, instead of part-life, part-privation, with the privation threatening to spread and ultimately kill.

            Surely it’s obvious that Jesus helped the poor, sick, and oppressed, and criticized those who were supposed to be taking care of them and weren’t? Couldn’t you continue this? (I get the sense that actually your job involves this.)

            2. LFW is not self-refuting, it is not constructible to our knowledge. The two are very different. Aristotelian bivalent logic can never give life, it can only kill. Surely you want to prefer life over death?

            How on earth do you ground personal responsibility, given that our ‘choices’ are merely functions of (a) law; (b) initial conditions; (c) noise? Take, for example, a murderer. How do you apportion responsibility between him/her, and the rest of the world (including those who have died)? Do you do this via tracing causal chains?

          • Andy_Schueler

            1. For me and pretty much every non-christian, this difference absolutely does exist, but Jesus is simply not relevant for this difference (or rather – not any more relevant than Aristotle, Gandhi, Marx or ANYONE else).
            2a. That is a cop out. A complete cop out. You reject the law of non-contradiction based on pure convenience in a completely irrational way – show me ONE valid and empirically testable syllogism based on ANY system of logic that denies the law of non-contradiction. Just ONE. Afaict, this is an mathematical exercise that has nothing what-so-ever to do with reality. But feel free to prove me one, just show me ONE valid and testable syllogism based on any system of logic that denies the law of non-contradiction (and while you´re at it, explain how you redefine “truth” given that you propose that A and not A can be be “true” simultaneously).
            2b. I alread told you how to ground personal responsibilty without LFW, you however never told me how to ground personal responsibiltiy WITH LFW – go ahead, explain what LFW even means and explain how it grounds personal responsibility.

          • Luke Breuer

            1. Then we’re back to the discussion where I was going to build up toward the concept of moral entropy.

            2a. No, I don’t reject the law of non-contradiction, I merely say that sometimes we wrongly identify things. For example, say A = { X, Y, ¬Z }, where X = Y = Z = true. But I didn’t know that A had subcomponents. Then I can observe that A has truth and ¬A has truth, without the LNC being broken. Indeed, what way is there to grow, other than finding that what you thought was atomic—A—is actually made up of component parts? I suppose assimilation is another way of growth, but that method is bad when it comes to assimilating other beings. The best growth comes from inside, not from consumption. So SELO becomes A → { X, Y, ¬Z }, then I correct Z, and then X → { Q, ¬R, S }, …

            This growth is kind of like nucleation, which fits in quite nicely with the parable of the pearl, especially if you’re non-retarded and observe that kingdom of heaven = merchant man and unrepentant sinner = pearl (which is the “less common interpretation”, despite it being the grammatically correct interpretation). We are irritants to God until he clothes us further, ad infinitum. Or instead of irritants, enemies.

            The error becomes Atomism as a rigid ontology. I would describe that as idol-worship, in the sense that atoms do not have qualia, and you don’t get qualia from ¬qualia. Ps 115 notes that idols do not see/hear/smell/feel: I take this as idols being at most p-zombies. Those who worship idols (e.g. accept Atomism) become like them (have their innards (see 1.) slowly eviscerated).

            2b. Would you remind me? It is hard to search, especially with your search history private.

          • Andy_Schueler

            1. Still doesn´t explain why Jesus is supposed to be a great guy for what he did while you´d suspect someone doing the sames things nowadays to be evil / Satan.

            2a. Hmm…. let me try that:
            [LogicOff] I claim that a) all people who identify as christians are caucasian. I also claim that b) Martin Luther King identified as a christian and was not a caucasian. This does not mean that my idea of a+b is logically self-refuting. It just means that I cannot logically construct it. Sometimes we wrongly identify things. For example, say A = { X, Y, ¬Z }, where X = Y = Z = true. But I didn’t know that A had subcomponents. Then I can observe that A has truth and ¬A has truth, without the LNC being broken. Indeed, what way is there to grow, other than finding that what you thought was atomic—A—is actually made up of component parts?[/LogicOff]
            How is what I just said here even one iota less rational than what you did? Seriously, if you think that you have been more rational than my intentionally ridiculous example here, explain how the two are any different – because I sure as hell cannot see any difference.

            2b. I said that moral responsibility for an action requires a) that the action was not inevitable and things could have been different and that b) a moral agent chose this action based on internal factors (his convictions, knowledge, emotions, values etc.pp. ) instead of the choice being imposed from the outside (e.g. someone holding a gun to his head and forcing him to do it). I say that a+b are what is required for moral responsibility to make sense. And I further say that LFW doesn´t add ANYTHING meaningful, and certainly not anything that would be required for moral responsibility. If you disagree, then explain what exactly LFW would contribute that would make moral responsibility possible.

          • Luke Breuer

            2a. [...] How is what I just said here even one iota less rational than what you did?

            Because:

            A. Your starting material had a contradiction which arises from deduction.
            B. My starting material, you claim, has a contradiction which arises from failure to construct it.

            As I said before, deductive contradiction ≠ inability to construct. Many mathematical conjectures do not yet have a construction—a proof—for them. They are not thereby false.

            2b. I said that moral responsibility for an action requires a) that the action was not inevitable and things could have been different and that b) a moral agent chose this action based on internal factors (his convictions, knowledge, emotions, values etc.pp. ) instead of the choice being imposed from the outside (e.g. someone holding a gun to his head and forcing him to do it). I say that a+b are what is required for moral responsibility to make sense.

            2bi. Why does “could have been different” matter one iota, if the agent had no ability to make things different than they ended up being?

            2bii. What internal factors were not entirely a result of:
                 • outside (e.g. culture)
                 • genes
                 • noise (is this 2bi.?)
            ? For example, why is the agent responsible for the results of very subtle propaganda?

          • Andy_Schueler

            2a. You are merely asserting that the self-contradicting nature of LFW results from a “failure to construct it”. So I´ll just merely assert the same about my example.
            So again, how is there any difference what-so-ever between what you are doing and my example?
            2bi. Because the reason for why one outcome out of all alternatives was actualized would depend on the agent – the agent had the final say, which makes the outcome his or her responsibility.
            2bii. None. And how is this of any relevance? Again, and this time please answer it, what do you think is missing in order to make the concept of personal responsibility meaningful and how exactly does LFW provide this?

          • Luke Breuer

            2a. You are merely asserting that

            I do not believe that I am “merely asserting”, so it seems that we are at an impasse. I’m fine with that.

            2bii. “What internal factors were not entirely a result of….”
            None. And how is this of any relevance?

            If this is the case, then the assignment of responsibility is arbitrary.

            Again, and this time please answer it, what do you think is missing in order to make the concept of personal responsibility meaningful and how exactly does LFW provide this?

            Causal chains must terminate in an agent, for that agent to be responsible. It is these causal chains which one associates with the agent’s choice. While it is not clear that this entails LFW, LFW seems quite conceptually close to it.

          • Andy_Schueler

            I do not believe that I am “merely asserting”

            You are entitled to your own opinion but not to your own facts. You ignore a clear contradiction by handwaving it away.

            If this is the case, then the assignment of responsibility is arbitrary.

            Pointless gainsaying. You neither say why this would be arbitrary nor do you offer an allegedly non-arbitrary alternative.

            Causal chains must terminate in an agent, for that agent to be responsible.

            No legal system in human history ever considered such a standard. Rather, they always entail something like what we would call a “proximate cause”:
            “Proximate cause is the primary cause of an injury. It is not necessarily the closest cause in time or space nor the first event that sets in motion a sequence of events leading to an injury. Proximate cause produces particular, foreseeable consequences without the intervention of any independent or unforeseeable cause. It is also known as legal cause.” (copy-pasted from the legal dictionary)
            -That is how we assign responsibility for actions. And it has nothing to do with LFW.

            While it is not clear that this entails LFW, LFW seems quite conceptually close to it.

            That is a semantically empty claim – you are not actually saying anything. If you cannot explain what it even is that LFW would allegedly add, then it is obvious that it is nothing but a conceptual appendage at best.

          • Luke Breuer

            You are entitled to your own opinion but not to your own facts. You ignore a clear contradiction by handwaving it away.

            And I say that failure to logically construct ≠ deductive logical contradiction. I pointed out mathematical conjectures which are an example of failure to logically construct, which are demonstrably not contradictions. Please address that point.

            No legal system in human history ever considered such a standard. Rather, they always entail something like what we would call a “proximate cause”:

            Then I can use propaganda, perhaps via the mechanisms Jacques Ellul describes in Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes, to perform the re-engineering of the human condition as prophesied by CS Lewis in The Abolition of Man, and I can get other people to be responsible for evil which I planned and conditioned them toward. When the problem of evil is under discussion, God is responsible for such indirection. According to you, when God [isn't] in the dock, this minor inconvenience can be glossed over. Convenient!

          • Andy_Schueler

            And I say that failure to logically construct ≠ deductive logical contradiction. I pointed out mathematical conjectures which are an example of failure to logically construct, which are demonstrably notcontradictions. Please address that point.

            What does this have to do with LFW?

            Then I can use propaganda, perhaps via the mechanisms Jacques Ellul describes in Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes, to perform the re-engineering of the human condition as prophesied by CS Lewis inThe Abolition of Man, and I can get other people to be responsible for evil which I planned and conditioned them toward.

            What does this have to do with LFW?

            When the problem of evil is under discussion, God is responsible for such indirection. According to you, when God [isn't] in the dock, this minor inconvenience can be glossed over. Convenient!

            ???? What the hell are you even talking about?

          • Luke Breuer

            What does this have to do with LFW? A conjecture is of unknown truth but needs to be possible based on what is known:

            You may be right in what this says about LFW. Let us see if you can ground responsibility in anything reasonable. If you cannot, I will stick to LFW as the best potential option. If you can, I will seriously consider abandoning LFW.

            What does this have to do with LFW?

            It is a reductio ad absurdum of your definition of human responsibility in terms of “proximate cause”. I will also point out that a legal system has to be pragmatic; it has to deal with noisy information and liars. The proper grounding human responsibility, on the other hand, does not suffer from these practical considerations. You have confused theory with practice.

            What does it have LFW? See my first paragraph.

            ???? What “indirection”?

            You don’t see how propaganda makes somebody ¬proximate the true cause?

          • Andy_Schueler

            You may be right in what this says about LFW. Let us see if you can ground responsibility in anything reasonable. If you cannot, I will stick to LFW as the best potential option.

            First of all, your approach then boils down to preferring falsehood over truth because the truth is too inconvenient.
            Second, I keep asking you what exactly it is that LFW would contribute and that you would need to make the concept of personal responsibility meaningful – but you cannot answer this. I find this puzzling, so even if LFW were logically possible, do you even know what exactly is it that you would find desirable / “worth wanting” about it? If you do, what would this be?

            It is a reductio ad absurdum of your definition of human responsibility in terms of “proximate cause”. I will also point out that a legal system has to be pragmatic; it has to deal with noisy information and liars. The proper grounding human responsibility, on the other hand, does not suffer from these practical considerations. You have confused theory with practice.

            What does it have LFW? See my first paragraph.

            Two questions:
            1. How would LFW solve any of these problems?
            2. You say that I am assigning responsibility arbitrarily, then please answer how it is not completely arbitrary to assume that people have LFW and then blame the Columbine shooters because they freely willed to have the will of psychopaths for no reason whatsoever instead of willing to have some non-psychopath will for no reason whatsoever?

            You don’t see how propaganda makes somebody ¬proximate the true cause?

            What I fail to see is the relevance. Before I´d start discussing propaganda I´d like to know how things like propaganda would be different assuming LFW than they would be without LFW.

          • Luke Breuer

            Two questions:
            1. How would LFW solve any of these problems?
            2. You say that I am assigning responsibility arbitrarily, then please answer how it is not completely arbitrary to assume that people have LFW and then blame the Columbine shooters because they freely willed to have the will of psychopaths for no reason whatsoever instead of willing to have some non-psychopath will for no reason whatsoever?

            Why is LFW relevant to my discussing whether your conception of responsibility is sane? Are you going to say that if I cannot present something better, I cannot critique problems? Or perhaps, if I cannot present something better, you’ll accept your model, even if it appears to have flaws?

            What I fail to see is the relevance. Before I´d start discussing propaganda I´d like to know how things like propaganda would be different assuming LFW than they would be without LFW.

            Again, why must LFW be brought in, in order for me to critique your “proximate cause” claim?

          • Andy_Schueler

            Because, based on experience, it will likely turn out that introducing LFW won´t actually change anything wrt how we (yes, “we”, not just “me”) think about the concept of personal responsibility. In others words, everything that you see as a problem without assuming LFW will actually turn out to still be the exact same problem when you do assume LFW.

          • Luke Breuer

            Are you saying that without LFW, I cannot point to any problems in your conception of responsibility?

          • Andy_Schueler

            “…any problems in your conception of responsibility”

            – Relevant word highlighted, I am positively certain that our conceptions of responsibility are a) very similar, b) share virtually the same problems pragmatically and c) are completely and utterly independent of LFW.

          • Luke Breuer

            I’m not talking about pragmatic problems, I’m talking about theoretical problems. Your conception of responsibility appears to let responsibility decay to zero, such that I can influence people’s actions, subtly, and have no responsibility for it. You don’t seem to be able to ground responsibility in such a way as to avoid this.

          • Andy_Schueler

            “Your conception of responsibility appears to let responsibility decay to zero, such that I can influence people’s actions, subtly, and have no responsibility for it.”
            – And when did I actually say that I consider that to be the case?

            “You don’t seem to be able to ground responsibility in such a way as to avoid this.”
            – And how exactly am I grounding responsibility any different than you do it, be precise – where´s the alleged difference.

          • Luke Breuer

            - And when did I actually say that I consider that to be the case?

            Your “proximate cause” allows responsibility to decay to zero. Now, you did say that was pragmatic—the legal system has to be pragmatic. So would you like to offer the theoretic version, of which the legal system is ostensibly trying to match, better and better? That is, there is a Form of responsibility which we can approximate better and better. Do you accept the existence of such a Form, and if so, how would you describe it?

            - And how exactly am I grounding responsibility any different than you do it, be precise – where´s the alleged difference.

            How about you just tell me more about how you do it, instead of asserting that we approach it the same and therefore you don’t need to explicate? In quite a few of our conversations, I have been forced to derive a structure out of what was previously unarticulated background; how about you do some of it as well?

          • Andy_Schueler

            Btw, while it is in general possible to have a reasonable conversation with you – LFW really is an exception to this pattern.
            LFW is about actions being grounded in first causes for which the agent who committed the action can “claim ownership” / “be responsible”. And that is a transparently self-refuting idea because no one can be responsible for a first cause, by the very definition of “first cause” (not even God could be responsible for a first cause, God rather is the first cause in classical theism). You seem to realize that, yet you cannot admit that it is a self-refuting idea, you rather say that you are “merely unable to logically construct it”. But that would be in no way different from me saying that “all self-identified christians are caucasians and MLK is a non-caucasian who self-identifies as a christian” is not self-refuting, I´m just not able to logically construct it at the moment.
            You are being irrational when it comes to the subject of LFW.

          • Luke Breuer

            Btw, while it is in general possible to have a reasonable conversation with you – LFW really is an exception to this pattern.

            Well, I’m glad that LFw is an exception. I will point out, that when you attempt to demonstrate that something I say is ridiculous, you pick an example that’s so far out there that I often have a terrible time finding the common pattern between what I said, and your attempted reductio. That makes talking about anything where you employ this technique very tiring.

            You seem to realize that, yet you cannot admit that it is a self-refuting idea, you rather say that you are “merely unable to logically construct it”.

            I cannot construct responsibility without it. Without it, Exploring the Illusion of Free Will and Moral Responsibility seems to be the next step. Your attempt to assign responsibility seems too arbitrary. People who get dealt with a bum deck of cards are simply screwed, and I cannot accept that. And yet, if you start attempting to trace sociological causes, how precisely does the blame for e.g. Columbine pan out? I claim: arbitrary, without first-cause moral responsibility.

            If I am guilty of motivated reasoning, it is because I believe responsibility exists, meaningfully, non-arbitrarily.

            You are being irrational when it comes to the subject of LFW.

            I prefer that kind of irrationality, to the arbitrary moral responsibility you have constructed. I choose the lesser evil.

          • Andy_Schueler

            I cannot construct responsibility without it.

            Demonstrably false. I specifically and repeatedly asked you what you think this allegedly necessary component for responsibility IS that LFW would add – you cannot do this, ergo, LFW has nothing to do with you conceiving the concept of moral responsibility.

            I will point out, that when you attempt to demonstrate that something I say is ridiculous, you pick an example that’s so far out there that I often have a terrible time finding the common pattern between what I said, and your attempted reductio. That makes talking about anything where you employ this technique very tiring.

            The common pattern is that your reasoning when it comes to LFW is exactly as ridiculous – this is precisely what happens when you see contradictions and embrace them instead of removing them.

            People who get dealt with a bum deck of cards are simply screwed, and I cannot accept that. And yet, if you start attempting to trace sociological causes, how precisely does the blame for e.g. Columbine pan out? I claim: arbitrary, without first-cause moral responsibility.

            Alright, so I will ignore logic for a moment and assume that the Columbine dudes had LFW. How is it then not completely arbitrary to blame them for freely choosing to have the will of psychopaths for no reason whatsoever?

          • Luke Breuer

            Demonstrably false.

            Correct; I ought to have said: “I cannot construct responsibility without something closer to LFW than any alternative I have discovered.”

            The common pattern is that your reasoning when it comes to LFW is exactly as ridiculous – this is precisely what happens when you see contradictions and embrace them instead of removing them.

            This is immaterial to my complaint. If you wish to experience less friction in our discussions of LFW, and indeed if you want me to not terminate those discussions as I have in the past when you’ve gotten sufficiently obnoxious to me, consider not making such huge leaps away from precisely what I said, when you attempt to demonstrate that the overall pattern of my argument is bad.

            Alright, so I will ignore logic for a moment and assume that the Columbine dudes had LFW. How is it then not completely arbitrary to blame them for freely choosing to have the will of psychopaths for no reason whatsoever?

            It is better to blame them for what was not manipulated by others; your “proximate cause” allows this, which I see as utterly terrible. For my impression is that the Columbine dudes were mocked and abused by their fellow classmates over a long period of time. To expect this to have zero negative impact on them is evil. To expect that a human can take an infinite amount of this is evil. What they did is of course still evil, but it may only be in the sense of paying back evil for evil. Under my model, what they chose to do was not hurt the innocent (I forget if there was collateral damage), but pay back evil for evil. Huh. Your responsibility is more mechanical, while mine is explicitly moral in the sense Josef Pieper uses in The Concept of Sin.

            Responsibility needs to be immune to propaganda and other such influences. Otherwise it is a fiction, used by the powerful to impose their will on the weak.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Correct; I ought to have said: “I cannot construct responsibility without something closer to LFW than any alternative I have discovered.”

            That also doesn´t seem to be the case because no matter how often I ask you what it is that LFW or something close to LFW would contribute and that would be lacking without it, you can´t say what this “it” would be.

            This is immaterial to my complaint. If you wish to experience less friction in our discussions of LFW, and indeed if you want me to not terminate those discussions as I have in the past when you’ve gotten sufficiently obnoxious to me, consider not making such huge leaps away from precisely what I said, when you attempt to demonstrate that the overall pattern of my argument is bad.

            When it comes to this issue – it is actually you who is being obnoxious. Discussing LFW with you is like playing chess with someone who will just smash the board with a sledgehammer when he is being checkmated.

            It is better to blame them for what was not manipulated by others; your “proximate cause” allows this, which I see as utterly terrible. For my impression is that the Columbine dudes were mocked and abused by their fellow classmates over a long period of time. To expect this to have zero negative impact on them is evil. To expect that a human can take an infinite amount of this is evil. What they did is of course still evil, but it may only be in the sense of paying back evil for evil. Under my model, what they chose to do was not hurt the innocent (I forget if there was collateral damage), but pay back evil for evil. Huh. Your responsibility is more mechanical, while mine is explicitly moral in the sense Josef Pieper uses in The Concept of Sin.

            Then there is absolutely no difference in how we see those things – IF bullying was a necessary component leading to the shootings, then the bullies absolutely do share at least a part of the responsibility for what has happened. I don´t know anyone who would disagree with this. So again, the question becomes – what difference would LFW make here, I don´t see any.

          • Luke Breuer

            When it comes to this issue – it is actually you who is being obnoxious. Discussing LFW with you is like playing chess with someone who will just smash the board with a sledgehammer when he is being checkmated.

            Then I suggest we stop discussing it. While I am slowly getting things out of our conversations, it would appear that you are getting nothing whatsoever from it. Indeed, when I’ve asked you what meaningful things you’ve learned from me (multiple times), you responded but once and said something about learning how I was wrong in a unique way.

            Sound like a plan? I’m tired of your treatment of me in this domain, once again. You treat me as if I’m an idiot—maybe just in this domain, maybe in more. There is nothing that says I have to take it. If you really want to discuss LFW with me, you can change how you interact to make it more pleasant for everyone, and your doing so will probably make it easier for me to make it more pleasant for you, as well. Otherwise, we can stick to other topics.

          • Andy_Schueler

            I’m tired of your treatment of me in this domain, once again. You treat me as if I’m an idiot—maybe just in this domain

            Has it ever occured to you that maybe, just maybe, you actually are being highly irrational in this domain and what you perceive as being treated like an idiot is the simple outcome of me translating your behaviour into an equivalent scenario in a different domain, where the irrationality becomes immediatly obvious to you because you are no longer emotionally biased?

          • Luke Breuer

            Perhaps it is highly irrational. Even if it is, the way you are interacting with me on the topic is not helping. For you to assume that your method must help, else the problem lies on my end, would be very interesting—if you assume this.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Even if it is, the way you are interacting with me on the topic is not helping.

            So what would help?

          • Luke Breuer

            Remind me whether you think that Gödel’s incompleteness theorems are relevant or irrelevant to epistemology. You seem to be a thoroughgoing rationalist (since you won’t tolerate any irrationality), but I thought at some point you dismissed my attempts to apply Gödel to epistemology as if one’s epistemology were describable by formal system. I say this because I hold that one’s epistemology must be allowed to grow, and such growth may necessarily require an irrational transition state. If that is the case, then your vicious attacks on any and all irrationality are antithetical to growth.

          • Andy_Schueler

            It is things like this that I meant by you smashing the board with a sledgehammer when you are being checkmated. I could compile a list of all the rethoric tricks you came up with so far (this here is a new one) that all boil down to you trying to completely change the rules of a debate when it is about LFW.
            Try the following, imagine that I would defend a Boghossianesque view of what ought to be done with religion, and now imagine that you respond by shredding my arguments and showing that my view re religion is self-contradictory and based on double standards, and finally, imagine that I acknowledge that I cannot rationally defend my views and try to get away with this irrationality and insinuate that you are being closed-minded and an impediment to intellectual growth, by saying something like this for example:
            “I say this because I hold that one’s epistemology must be allowed to grow, and such growth may necessarily require an irrational transition state. If that is the case, then your vicious attacks on any and all irrationality are antithetical to growth.”
            Now try to get a feeling of what you would think of this response, and now you know what I think of it when you used it.

          • Luke Breuer

            You demand logical rigor. Isn’t the logical conclusion of that demand, an epistemology which is a formal system? I can play the logic game, Andy. I’m quite the good software developer and architect. So let’s play this game. Completely.

          • Andy_Schueler

            You demand logical rigor. Isn’t the logical conclusion of that demand, an epistemology which is a formal system?

            I already explained to you why I think that the incompleteness theorems are irrelevant outside the philosophy of mathematics (the proof for the theorems doesn´t work for formal systems that are not designed for arithmetics) but I´ll grant you for the sake of the argument that they apply here. I´ll further grant you that they somehow entail that a contradiction does not necessarily indicate falsehood (although they don´t entail that at all…. they just indicate that a sufficiently powerful mathematical system cannot provide all proofs required to demonstrate that it is internally consistent, self-contradictory sentences are still always false (btw, the incompleteness theorems themselves use proofs by contradiction…))
            Now, if I were to grant you all that, this is apparently what you want to establish:
            1. Gödel´s incompleteness theorems show that a sentence that contradicts itself is not necessarily false (they don´t actually show that, and they actually are themselves based on proofs by contradiction).
            2. Luke should be allowed to use point 1 as a get-out-of-jail-free-card, pulling it whenever he is being checkmated. Everyone else however has to always play by the rules and can´t just change them when a claim that they really really like to be true seems to be false.

            I can play the logic game, Andy. I’m quite the good software developer and architect. So let’s play this game. Completely.

            The problem is that you are not playing the logic game, when it is about LFW – you play Calvinball.

          • Luke Breuer

            I already explained to you why I think that the incompleteness theorems are irrelevant outside the philosophy of mathematics (the proof for the theorems doesn´t work for formal systems that are not designed for arithmetics)

            I would be happy to take a look at epistemology and in particular, the structure of the arguments you bring to bear against me, and see if there actually is a formulation of Gödel’s incompleteness theorems which still applies. I could re-check-out Diagonalization and Self-Reference, which deals with the issue quite extensively. I am very interested in this issue: in particular, which kinds of worlds would suffer epistemically from something like the incompleteness theorems, and which would not?

            Now, if I were to grant you all that, this is apparently what you want to establish:
            1. Gödel´s incompleteness theorems show that a sentence that contradicts itself is not necessarily false (they don´t actually show that, and they actually are themselves based on proofs by contradiction).
            2. Luke should be allowed to use point 1 as a get-out-of-jail-free-card, pulling it whenever he is being checkmated. Everyone else however has to always play by the rules and can´t just change them when a claim that they really really like to be true seems to be false.

            No and no. Instead, what I would argue is that we forever have to grow our base of axioms in order to be able to even describe new truths, new states of affairs in reality. Furthermore, I would dig into what that process of growing looks like, and how much irrationality might be involved, especially if you investigate it in detail. Hell, there might be a good chunk of irrationality which goes on in the very act of hypothesis formation. If this is the case, then your accusations of irrationality need to be checked, they don’t win solely on the basis that I am being irrational.

            The problem is that you are not playing the logic game, when it is about LFW – you play Calvinball.

            And when I ask you to explain your position on something, you tend to be very succinct, or refuse and say that I have to first prove that my position is different from you. This isn’t Calvinball, but it is an asymmetry in our interactions that bothers me. Instead of you telling me cool new ideas that would expand my understanding of reality, it’s like you’re extracting teeth from me. Can you see how this might not be the most pleasant of ways to relate to someone else on the internet?

          • Andy_Schueler

            No and no. Instead, what I would argue is that we forever have to grow our base of axioms in order to be able to even describe new truths, new states of affairs in reality.

            Yeah, cool…. only two issues:
            1. No one disagrees with that.
            2. It has nothing to do with the issue at hand and if this is what you meant, then bringing up the incompleteness theorems was completely pointless.

          • Luke Breuer

            If what seems like hard-line rationalism on your part is antithetical to growth—e.g. to making an actually motivating definition of ‘responsibility’—then it very much is on-point. So Andy, will you let rational systems grow via an irrational stage, or must everything be 100% rational at every point?

          • Andy_Schueler

            1. Yeah, lets do that – for the sake of fairness though, will you concede that we should let the claim “all religion is always bad and never has any good side-aspects, meaning that we ought to strive for removing all religion” stand even though it is contradicted by the available evidence and based on flawed reasoning, because we have to let rational systems grow via irrational stages?
            2. Also, could you point to one particular instance in history where embracing irrational claims (e.g. self-refuting sentences) actually did lead to intellectual progress, an overall “growth” in rationality?
            3. Actually, this “e.g. to making an actually motivating definition of ‘responsibility'” is completely beside the point because you are completely unable to say what LFW even has to do with responsibility in the first place, I asked you more than half a dozen times and you can´t point to anything that LFW would contribute and that would be useful or even necessary for the concept of personal responsibility.

          • Luke Breuer

            1. Yeah, lets do that – for the sake of fairness though, will you concede that we should let the claim “all religion is always bad and never has any good side-aspects, meaning that we ought to strive for removing all religion” stand even though it is contradicted by the available evidence and based on flawed reasoning, because we have to let rational systems grow via irrational stages?

            I don’t understand this response; the clear message seems to be a strong No to my single question, given that you’ve presented something in the style of “If we did what you suggest we’d have to also allow this insane thing to be fair”. But how about you actually answer my question?

            2. Also, could you point to one particular instance in history where embracing irrational claims (e.g. self-refuting sentences) actually did lead to intellectual progress, an overall “growth” in rationality?

            Photons being waves and particles sounds about right.

            3. Actually, this “e.g. to making an actually motivating definition of ‘responsibility'” is completely beside the point because you are completely unable to say what LFW even has to do with responsibility in the first place, I asked you more than half a dozen times and you can´t point to anything that LFW would contribute and that would be useful or even necessary for the concept of personal responsibility.

            I need to know more about how you construct responsibility, and how you ignore the propaganda argument I made, before I can possibly answer your questions. Feel free to either tell me more about how you construct responsibility and let me question you a bit (like you have questioned me many a a time about what I believe), or we can let this tangent die.

          • Andy_Schueler

            I don’t understand this response; the clear message seems to be a strong No to my single question, given that you’ve presented something in the style of “If we did what you suggest we’d have to also allow this insane thing to be fair”. But how about you actually answer my question?

            Wait, so all religion being bad is clearly “insane” but embracing transparently self-refuting claims like LFW is NOT “insane”? Interesting, who gets to decide what is insane and not insane?

            Photons being waves and particles sounds about right.

            Yeah, you already tried that exact one before and as I already told you, this is false, NO ONE has ever suggested that this could be the case and EVERY physicist involved knew that this CANNOT be the case. As soon as physicists figured out that photons have wave AND particle properties, it was obvious to everyone involved that they cannot be either one and instead must be a third category that shares some properties with particles and other properties with waves.
            Could you this time please try to remember this?
            So I repeat my challenge:
            “Also, could you point to one particular instance in history where embracing irrational claims (e.g. self-refuting sentences) actually did lead to intellectual progress, an overall “growth” in rationality?”

            I need to know more about how you construct responsibility, and how you ignore the propaganda argument I made, before I can possibly answer your questions.

            No, you don´t – this is not about my personal idiosyncracies, read this:
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_responsibility

            and tell me how libertarianism per se is of any relevance to anyone´s understanding of the concept?
            Whether determinism is true or not is highly relevant, but what makes libertarianism unique / what distinguishes libertarianism from ALL other positions that deny determinism, is completely and utterly irrelevant – and if you disagree, just say what could possibly be relevant about LFW for the concept of responsibility, except that it denies determinism?

          • Luke Breuer

            Wait, so all religion being bad is clearly “insane” but embracing transparently self-refuting claims like LFW is NOT “insane”? Interesting, who gets to decide what is insane and not insane?

            Are you, or are you not going to answer my question?

            Yeah, you already tried that exact one before and as I already told you, this is false, NO ONE has ever suggested that this could be the case and EVERY physicist involved knew that this CANNOT be the case.

            I’m not going to take your word for this, but I’m happy to suspend this until I can look at what actual scientists said and thought before anyone know how to logically construct something that made sense of the phenomena. Oh hey, I have Jon Agar’s Science in the Twentieth Century and Beyond checked out from the library; here:

                The new quantum theory would result form the merger of two quite distinct, seemingly contradictory streams of work. The first, as we have seen, was the abstract matrix theory, built by Heisenberg, Born, Jordan, and Dirac, which had been a leap away from familiar, visualizable mechanics. The second, known as wave mechanics, which often bears Erwin Schrödinger’s name, was a reflection on continuing experimental work on the statistical thermodynamics of gases and careful measurements of radiation. A good place to start to trace the emergence of wave mechanics is in Paris, where since the end of the Great War the aristocrat Maurice de Broglie had built up a lavish laboratory for X-ray spectroscopy. Maurice’s younger brother Louis—or, to give him his full name, Prince Louis-Victor de Broglie—had followed him into physics. In 1922, the pair were arguing about X-rays, about how sometimes they appeared as particles and sometimes as waves. Louis, with the independence that aristocratic leisure can bring, pushed the argument as far as it could seemingly go. Having written out equations describing material ‘corpuscles’, he found a wave-like component and, rather than dismiss these as theoretical figments, held out that, if matter was accurately represented, mathematically as waves, then matter could indeed be waves. But surely ‘matter waves’ were madness? (123)

            Skipping a paragraph:

                Schrödinger’s wave equation represented matter, for instance an electron, by a wave-like term and showed how it would change over time, for example when placed in an electric field that represented the positive charge of a nucleus. Indeed, Schrödinger’s first paper of 1926 solved the wave equation for a hydrogen atom (the nucleus represented by a potential well—a steep-sided electric field) and derived accurate predictions of the hydrogen emission spectrum. It was a marvelously general but clean equation. Planck wrote, on receiving a reprint, that he had read it ‘like an eager child hearing the solution to a riddle that had plagued him for a long time’, and later as ‘epoch-making work'; Einstein, who received the papers from Planck, wrote to Shrödinger that ‘the idea of your work springs from true genius!’, and tend days later: ‘I am convinced that you have made a decisive advance in the formulation of the quantum condition, just as I am convinced that the Heisenberg–Born method is misleading.’ (124)

            Now, this doesn’t include actual letters, but I think it threatens to undermine your strong claim.

            No, you don´t – this is not about my personal idiosyncracies, read this:

            If you don’t want to explore your personal idiosyncrasies, and possibly expose that you are no more rational than I overall, then I’m not interested in further discussing LFW with you, at least for now. For we are exploring my idiosyncrasies, and you’re trampling all over them. Perhaps you don’t like it when other people do that to your idiosyncrasies?

          • Andy_Schueler

            Are you, or are you not going to answer my question?

            As long as I don´t see any instances of irrationality being productive and leading to intellectual progress, I will certainly not embrace it.

            Now, this doesn’t include actual letters, but I think it threatens to undermine your strong claim.

            No, it doesn´t. Saying that a thing must either a) exhibit particle properties and ONLY particle properties or b) wave properties and ONLY properties is a false dichotomy and always was a false dichotomy – there never was any logical basis for ruling out the possibility of alternatives to a or b. Plenty potential solutions were discussed for puzzling experimental observations in this context, but none of them involved a claim that contradicts itself.
            So, I repeat my challenge:
            “Also, could you point to one particular instance in history where embracing irrational claims (e.g. self-refuting sentences) actually did lead to intellectual progress, an overall “growth” in rationality?”

            If you don’t want to explore your personal idiosyncrasies, and possibly expose that you are no more rational than I overall, then I’m not interested in further discussing LFW with you, at least for now. For we are exploring my idiosyncrasies, and you’re trampling all over them. Perhaps you don’t like it when other people do that to your idiosyncrasies?

            Ah, so this is all about wounded pride? What you actually care about is that you could best me in an argument and not whether what we argue about is or isn´t true? Alright then.

          • Luke Breuer

            As long as I don´t see any instances of irrationality being productive and leading to intellectual progress, I will certainly not embrace it.

            So you’ve never made progress by moving through a state of irrationality, where there seemed to be no alternative route other than through the state of irrationality? You were always able to jump from one 100% logical, consistent system, to the next?

            No, it doesn´t.

            If you are correct, then why on earth is the last sentence of the first paragraph, “But surely ‘matter waves’ were madness?” Is there a reason other than logical contradiction for the supposition of madness? Remember, we have to look at the issue as those scientists did, not ‘cheating’ with stuff we know now, but they did not.

            Ah, so this is all about wounded pride?

            Not sure how you got that idea. You are making yourself out to be better than I, as if you rely on less irrationality than I. It’s almost as if all of my irrationality is focused to a point—LFW—while yours is perhaps more spread about. Well, okay then, if that’s the case. I’m not going to feel particularly bad that mine’s focused. Indeed, I think the focused version is probably better, as it gives a clear route for further examination and discovery. Better to know your Gödel sentences than not to.

          • Andy_Schueler

            So you’ve never made progress by moving through a state of irrationality, where there seemed to be no alternative route other than through the state of irrationality?[1] You were always able to jump from one 100% logical, consistent system, to the next?[2]

            1 does not entail 2. Even very mature systems of ideas are virtually never completely logically consistent and improving a system of ideas by for example resolving contradictions in it is absolutely rational.
            You however propose that embracing contradictions instead of weeding them out whenever they are found, can actually be a stepping stone to intellectual progress, and that is something which I consider to be absurd on the face of it and something for which I don´t know any historical precedent.

            If you are correct, then why on earth is the last sentence of the first paragraph, “But surely ‘matter waves’ were madness?” Is there a reason other than logical contradiction for the supposition of madness?

            An eyewitness saying that he saw a car driving full speed against a steel wall and then not crashing against it but rather just vanishing and reappearing on the other side of it, would rightly be considered to be mad, observing that on the quantum level however is completely mundane. The quantum world is “madness” from a human perspective. “Madness” however doesn´t mean that A and ¬A can be true simultaneously, the quantum world is weird, but not illogical.

            You are making yourself out to be better than I

            No, that is what you are doing actually. You pride yourself in being “as rational as you can be” and in “strenuously pursuing truth”, but when the rational approach shows that I seem to be correct and you seem to be wrong, then rationality obviously ceases to be a virtue and I must obviously be closed-minded, an “impediment to intellectual growth” and also evil because I am obviously just being rational because the rational answer allows me to avoid responsibility for my actions. What you are doing here is a textbook case of projection.

            Well, okay then, if that’s the case. I’m not going to feel particularly bad that mine’s focused[1]. Indeed, I think the focused version is probably better, as it gives a clear route for further examination and discovery[2].

            1. Of course not, don´t feel bad about because YOU are doing it, so it can´t be bad. Rationality is a virtue unless you want to be irrational upon which irrationality becomes a virtue and rationality a vice.
            2. Indeed! Because it is YOUR idea so it must be a stepping stone for further examination and discovery, while the claim that all religion is always bad and only bad is obviously not a stepping stone for further examination and discovery because it is obviously insane.

            Better to know your Gödel sentences than not to.

            Oh FFS, the incompleteness theorems entail in no way, shape or form the conclusion that self-contradictory sentences are NOT always false – and the incompleteness theorems logically RELY on proofs by contradiction.

          • Luke Breuer

            Even very mature systems of ideas are virtually never completely logically consistent

            What is your measure for ok inconsistencies and not-ok inconsistencies?

            The quantum world is “madness” from a human perspective.

            I interpret Agar as claiming that “madness” is either “deductive contradiction” or “failure to offer logical construction”. You have rejected that interpretation, which means I would have to find something more explicit to arbitrate.

            “Madness” however doesn´t mean that A and ¬A can be true simultaneously, the quantum world is weird, but not illogical.

            Hmmm, how can you have a “matter wave”? Answer this from 1922 knowledge. After all, it’s either a particle OR a wave. I claim that the understanding of propagating as a wave and interacting had to come out of the apparent contradiction of “both matter and wave”.

            You pride yourself in being “as rational as you can be” and in “strenuously pursuing truth”

            No, not really.

            1. Of course not, don´t feel bad about because YOU are doing it, so it can´t be bad.

            So you aren’t irrational, at all?

            2. Indeed! Because it is YOUR idea so it must be a stepping stone for further examination and discovery,

            No, it mustn’t be. It might be. That is all.

            Oh FFS, the incompleteness theorems entail in no way, shape or form the conclusion that self-contradictory sentences are NOT always false

            What I said did not imply this.

          • Andy_Schueler

            What is your measure for ok inconsistencies and not-ok inconsistencies?

            There are no “ok inconsistencies”! Discovering an inconsistency means that there is now work to be done to resolve it. If you discover a claim that turns out to be self-contradictory for example, then the claim needs to go, it is completely irrelevant if this is inconvenient for you because your system of ideas used to rely on this claim as a foundation for other claims or not – if that is the case then you need to find a different foundation for those claims, period. Else you are “building your house on sand” (worse than sand actually, “air” would be more appropriate).

            Hmmm, how can you have a “matter wave”? Answer this from 1922 knowledge. After all, it’s either a particle OR a wave. I claim that the understanding of propagating as a wave and interacting had to come out of the apparent contradiction of “both matter and wave”.

            Key is “After all, it’s either a particle OR a wave” – and that is a false dichotomy, and it always was one, it is a false dichotomy now just as it was one in 1922, there never was a logical basis to conclude that any thing at a specific moment needs to have particle-like and ONLY particle like properties OR wave-like and ONLY wave-like properties. Observing something that seems to have both was weird because this had never been observed before in the world on scales above the quantum level – but that per se is not a contradiction unless you can establish the claim “a thing at any given moment must be a particle OR a wave” and this claim had never been established, it was just assumed that this is the case based on experience. That is most emphatically not an instance of intentionally embracing a self-contradictory claim as you are trying to do with LFW.

            No, not really.

            If you don´t want to be perceived as someone who prides himself for his rationality and truth-seeking, you shouldn´t say so often that you strive to be “as rational as you can” and how much you want to “strenuously pursue truth”.

            So you aren’t irrational, at all?

            I´d say I´m pretty much average in this respect. But I can tell you what I have never done – I never became aware of me believing something that contradicts itself and then stuck with it because I liked it, instead of getting rid of it.

            No, it mustn’t be. It might be. That is all.

            While all religion being always bad and only bad obviously might not be – because it is irrational, but its not you who´d like it to be true, so its clearly insane instead of a potential stepping stone for intellectual growth.

            What I said did not imply this.

            It is really puzzling then why you keep bringing them up in the first place. I could reject the validity of the incompleteness theorems just as easily as you reject the claim that LFW cannot be true by simply doing exactly what you are doing – rejecting that a contradiction necessarily indicates falsehood and thus handwaving the proofs for the incompleteness theorems away.

          • Luke Breuer

            There are no “ok inconsistencies”! Discovering an inconsistency means that there is now work to be done to resolve it. If you discover a claim that turns out to be self-contradictory for example, then the claim needs to go, it is completely irrelevant if this is inconvenient for you because your system of ideas used to rely on this claim as a foundation for other claims or not – if that is the case then you need to find a different foundation for those claims, period. Else you are “building your house on sand” (worse than sand actually, “air” would be more appropriate).

            But I can tell you what I have never done – I never became aware of me believing something that contradicts itself and then stuck with it because I liked it, instead of getting rid of it.

            You have made me want to read much more Feser on eliminative materialism; I am now very interested in seeing if I buy his argument that based on presuppositions you start from, you ought to reject that you have a mind. Suppose I did convince you. Do you have any idea if you would accept eliminative materialism, or start looking for something better and accept a contradiction for the time-being?

            Key is “After all, it’s either a particle OR a wave” – and that is a false dichotomy, and it always was one, it is a false dichotomy now just as it was one in 1922, there never was a logical basis to conclude that any thing at a specific moment needs to have particle-like and ONLY particle like properties OR wave-like and ONLY wave-like properties.

            They did not know to split out propagation and interaction. For them, it was a true dichotomy. That you refuse to acknowledge this, that you insist on answering this with knowledge we have now instead of only knowledge we had in 1922, indicates you aren’t taking my point seriously. Oh, and your mockery of my A = { X, Y, ¬Z } is pretty hilarious in this light, for it was all about assuming that multiple properties go together, that indeed they are only one property. This was the error of those scientists, but it is a very understandable one: much learning of reality comes by finding out that what we once thought was an atom (in the spirit of Atomism) actually has component parts. Indeed, I see no reason to not suppose that this splitting will go on forever. After all, with an expanding universe, the amount of information it can contain tends toward infinity.

            It is really puzzling then why you keep bringing them up in the first place.

            Define “keep bringing them up”. I don’t saying something more than maybe 3–4 times; is that “keep bringing them up”?

          • Andy_Schueler

            Suppose I did convince you. Do you have any idea if you would accept eliminative materialism, or start looking for something better and accept a contradiction for the time-being?

            I would never accept a contradiction as being true.

            For them, it was a true dichotomy. That you refuse to acknowledge this, that you insist on answering this with knowledge we have now instead of only knowledge we had in 1922, indicates you aren’t taking my point seriously.

            I didn´t answer it with any knowledge that was not available in 1922. I actually explicitly said the very opposite – that there wasn´t any logical basis to establish this as a true dichotomy, there isn´t one now and there wasn´t one in 1922. You are just making shit up and ignoring what I say.

            Oh, and your mockery of my A = { X, Y, ¬Z } is pretty hilarious in this light, for it was all about assuming that multiple properties go together, that indeed they are only one property. This was the error of those scientists, but it is a very understandable one: much learning of reality comes by finding out that what we once thought was an atom (in the spirit of Atomism) actually has component parts. Indeed, I see no reason to not suppose that this splitting will go on forever. After all, with an expanding universe, the amount of information it can contain tends toward infinity.

            Absolutely! Which is why “all self-identified christians are caucausians and MLK is a self-identfied non-caucasian christian” can totally be true.

            Define “keep bringing them up”. I don’t saying something more than maybe 3–4 times; is that “keep bringing them up”?

            Define “3”,”4″, “-” and “times”.

          • Luke Breuer

            I would never accept a contradiction as being true.

            So you cannot answer my question more specifically? Or you will not?

            I didn´t answer it with any knowledge that was not available in 1922. I actually explicitly said the very opposite – that there wasn´t any logical basis to establish this as a true dichotomy, there isn´t one now and there wasn´t one in 1922. You are just making shit up and ignoring what I say.

            Yes or no: did the scientists at the time see it as a true dichotomy, at any points?

            Define “3”,”4″, “-” and “times”.

            Wow, ok. Does this end our interactions? You’ve yet to tell me a single thing you have learned from me, which is not “Luke was wrong in an interesting, new way!” So I can only conclude that the reason you discuss with me is the joy you obtain from feeling right where I am wrong. The available evidence supports that conclusion quite well. I’ve repeatedly attempted to falsify that conclusion, but you have been entirely unforthcoming.

          • Andy_Schueler

            So you cannot answer my question more specifically? Or you will not?

            What more do you want?

            Yes or no: did the scientists at the time see it as a true dichotomy, at any points?

            No (see how easy it is to just actually reply with “yes” or “no” when being asked to do so?).

            You’ve yet to tell me a single thing you have learned from me

            It´s not my job to massage your ego, if you want to be surrounded by yes-men who uncritically cheer on everything you say, go to a christian forum.

          • Luke Breuer

            I think, for the time being, we ought to go back to not talking to each other. I usually learn something from pretty much everyone with whom I interact, and not just that they are wrong in some new interesting way. I do not wish to merely be someone you can know is wrong in new interesting ways. I want to interact with people who will promote their own ideas and defend them, so I can learn from them and they can learn from me. The cross-examination going only one way is just getting too much. Thank you for our interactions to-date.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Whatever floats your boat, but if you don´t want to expose your ideas to scrutiny or don´t even care about whether they are actually true or not, then keep them to yourself.

          • Luke Breuer

            No. You do not get to dictate how I behave. If I choose to engage in only those who will both:

                 (1) criticize and tear down
                 (2) criticize and attempt to build up

            , then I shall do so. It is utterly draining to have someone do only, or primarily, (1). I have experienced that most of my life. I am starting to find enough people, in person and online, who are willing to do (2). This means I can increasingly ignore those who do primarily or only (1). You are a death-bringer to ideas, Andy. That means I have to be the sole life-giver for us to have conversations, and I tire of doing that.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Unlike you, I care about truth. Don´t engage me if you don´t want to but you don´t get to tell me that I am not allowed to point out flaws in your reasoning when you post said reasoning in a public forum.

          • Luke Breuer

            Where did I say/imply you weren’t allowed to do something?

            If you think refusing to let your grounding of moral responsibility be cross-examined is compatible with “care about truth”, okay. I find that a bit odd. You seem to care more about logical consistency of that which you are conscious, which is, in my mind, a strict subset of caring about truth. If there is a contradiction lurking in your unarticulated background, you seem quite content to let it stay there, unless another person can infer precisely what it is, which is a very difficult task.

            My discussions with LFW have been almost exclusively concerned with:

                 1. grounding moral responsibility
                 2. grounding personal identity

            Jonathan’s “discontinuous ‘I'” and The “I”, personhood and abstract objects makes it pretty clear that 2. is not a trivial operation. His discussions of causation make it clear that it is a dicey issue, as well. Go ahead and claim I don’t care about truth in my attempting to do 1. and 2. The alternative seems to be fuzziness, which just seems to me like punting to fuzziness and mystery—precisely the thing of which theists are accused of frequently.

          • Andy_Schueler

            If you think refusing to let your grounding of moral responsibility be cross-examined is compatible with “care about truth”

            I didn´t refuse to let it be examined, what I did is not letting you get away with a red herring. You introduced the concept of moral responsibility as a reason for why you would need LFW, because you claim that you find cyourself unable to conceive of LFW without it. I responded by pointing out that this cannot be the case because you a) cannot tell me what it is that LFW and only LFW would offer which would be relevant for moral responsibility (despite me asking you more than half a dozen times) and b) I argued that there is nothing about LFW that is in any way relevant for moral responsibility except for its denial of determinism, which is something that is not unique to LFW, and thus also not a reason for why LFW would be in any way necessary (and this is something that you didn´t address).
            I have no problems discussing moral responsibility but we will not do this unless you either a) acknowledge that it is indeed completely independent of LFW and that you indeed do conceive of moral responsibility in a way that has nothing to do with LFW or b) refute my arguments pointing out that LFW is not relevant for moral responsibility and answer my question what it is that LFW would offer which would be relevant for responsibility.
            Unless either a) or b) happens, moral responsibility is a complete red herring along the line of:
            John: LFW might be logically self-refuting but we, or at least I, need it to make sense of moral responsibility.
            Jim: Erm, no – you don´t need LFW to make sense of moral responsibility and you in fact don´t rely on LFW for conceiving it because [insert argument here]
            John: Yeah yeah whatever, lets talk about how you make sense of moral responsibility.
            Jim: No, not before you address my argument.
            John: So you refuse to let your concept of moral responsibility be examnined then? You are just as irrational as I am!

            All I do is keep you on topic and refuse to let you get away with red herrings, if you want to change the subject, fine, but not before we close the original subject that started this.

          • Luke Breuer

            I have no problems discussing moral responsibility but we will not do this unless you either a) acknowledge that it is indeed completely independent of LFW and that you indeed do conceive of moral responsibility in a way that has nothing to do with LFW or b) refute my arguments pointing out that LFW is not relevant for moral responsibility and answer my question what it is that LFW would offer which would be relevant for responsibility.

            I suspect that moral responsibility requires something closer to LFW than any other grounding I’ve seen. This is based on an admittedly not-well-elucidated conception of how responsibility is grounded. It is a highly intuitive connection, and could well be totally wrong. But I will not agree that it is “completely independent of LFW” because I do not know that for sure. Or more precisely, I am not sure it is completely independent of anything LFWish.

            All I do is keep you on topic and refuse to let you get away with red herrings, if you want to change the subject, fine, but not before we close the original subject that started this.

            I do not think I can make any more progress on LFW without investigating the grounding of moral responsibility and personhood. So if I can switch ‘close’ → ‘suspend’, then I’m game. If you require me to agree that neither LFW nor anything LFWish could possibly be the case in some modified form that is not contradictory, before we continue, then we are at an impasse.

          • Andy_Schueler

            I suspect that moral responsibility requires something closer to LFW…
            But I will not agree that it is “completely independent of LFW” because I do not know that for sure. Or more precisely, I am not sure it is completely independent of anything LFWish…..
            I do not think I can make any more progress on LFW without investigating the grounding of moral responsibility….

            You can suspect and think a lot, but for this to be a discussion, you would need to address what I say – I responded to your suspicion that LFW is relevant with a question and an argument, repeatedly, and you addressed neither the former nor the latter.

            So if I can switch ‘close’ → ‘suspend’, then I’m game. If you require me to agree that neither LFW nor anything LFWish could possibly be the case in some modified form that is not contradictory, before we continue, then we are at an impasse.

            This is not a draw, if you find yourself being unable to answer the question I posed and refute the argument against the relevance of LFW, then you´d have to concede just that – which doesn´t mean that I am right by the way, it just means that I have presented a case against the relevance of LFW that you cannot refute presently, not less and not more. And all that I´m asking is that you acknowledge that before we move on to a different subject instead of ignoring my argument. And I´m not asking a lot here by requesting that arguments which are presented need to be either countered or acknowledged as presently unrefuted – this is absolutely necessary for a discussion to be productive (not to mention that not doing this is simply bad style / impolite)

          • Luke Breuer

            You can suspect and think a lot, but for this to be a discussion, you would need to address what I say – I responded to your suspicion that LFW is relevant with a question and an argument, repeatedly, and you addressed neither the former nor the latter.

            I do not know whether LFW or something LFWish can connect to the grounding of moral responsibility. I work with trivalent logic: { true, false, unknown }. You seem to much prefer bivalent: { true, false }. Well, if you’re going to insist that since I cannot show something to be true, it must be false, I’m going to object. (read to end before responding)

            I apologize for being ADD; I am diagnosed with ADHD inattentive type, but I take full responsibility for not being able to be completely “normal”, completely “acceptable”. I need to learn to better see when I’m attempting to move conversation in a new direction and either not do that, or signal it properly in what I say. Sometimes I run out of gas on a given topic and get the intuition that another topic is related and if I can make some progress over there, I might be led to more progress on the original topic. This is a highly intuitive process and I cannot always explain why. If that means we must cease our discussions, so be it.

            This is not a draw, if you find yourself being unable to answer the question I posed and refute the argument against the relevance of LFW, then you´d have to concede just that – which doesn´t mean that I am right by the way, it just means that I have presented a case against the relevance of LFW that you cannot refute presently, not less and not more.

            As my first paragraph demonstrates, it really has seemed to be the case that ¬”which doesn´t mean that I am right by the way“. I thought I made it clear that I couldn’t answer the question you posed, at least without more information. I can strive to be more clear in such situations, in the future.

            And all that I´m asking is that you acknowledge that before we move on to a different subject instead of ignoring my argument.

            I can strive to become better at precisely this. The art of what to ignore and what not to ignore online is, for me, incredibly difficult. When I try and copy how others behave, I am frequently told that I am wrong. For example, you seem to have your own rubric of what is irrelevant, and have admitted to silently ignoring things under that rubric. But if I do that (obviously, according to my own rubric), I am wrong. This makes it very hard to see how to act properly, to avoid friction.

          • Andy_Schueler

            I do not know whether LFW or something LFWish can connect to the grounding of moral responsibility. I work with trivalent logic: { true, false, unknown }. You seem to much prefer bivalent: { true, false }. Well, if you’re going to insist that since I cannot show something to be true, it must be false, I’m going to object.

            I don´t do that at all. I rarely consider binary truth values in the first place because for most real-world questions (excluding mathematics, metaphysics etc.pp.), binary truth values are close to meaningless, a flat earth model and a spherical earth model would both be strictly false and equally false if you allow for only two truth values instead of for a continuum. Unknown truth values also need to be considered but if an argument for the falsehood of x has been presented, and this argument stands presently unrefuted, then it would be completely misleading to say that the truth of x is completey unknown, it wouldn´t be completely unknown, it would be more likely false than true based on the currently available information with “likely” being a function of the quality of the argument.

            I can strive to become better at precisely this. The art of what to ignore and what not to ignore online is, for me, incredibly difficult. When I try and copy how others behave, I am frequently told that I am wrong. For example, you seem to have your own rubric of what is irrelevant, and have admitted to silently ignoring things under that rubric. But if I do that (obviously, according to my own rubric), I am wrong.

            If I have ignored something that you said and you ask me to address it, then I will address it.

          • Luke Breuer

            I will try and change my model of you, away from bivalent truth values. It seemed to model you very well, but perhaps you are correct.

            As to ignoring things, I apologize, and I will try to do better. I would like to not be the only one trying to do better in making discussions between us involve less friction.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Alright then, so regarding your earlier questions re grounding of moral responsibility, my slightly more exhaustive answer would be:
            I think that the truth of determinism is highly relevant and I must admit that I know of no way to ground moral responsibility assuming that determinism is true and I am skeptical that this is possible at all (I was under the impression that indeterminsm is presently more plausible than determinsm but as Jonathan pointed out, that might be incorrect – my info is not up-to-date in this respect and if it turns out that determinsm is very likely true, than I would have to start over completely with my thoughts on moral responsibiltiy).

            So I start by assuming that determinism is false (caveat see above), then, it seems to me that moral responsibility of moral agent a for event e is a function of three factors:
            1) how significant were the actions of a in the causal chain leading to e (example, did he commit a crime or was he an accessory to a crime).
            2) to what degree where the actions of a grounded in his or her own volition (things like being intoxicated, or having a brain tumor that destroys your ability to control impulses, or being coerced by someone (e.g. by pointing a gun to your head) would affect the degree to which he acted out of his own volition and could potentially reduce it to zero).
            3) to what degree could a have anticipated that e follows from his actions (e.g. if the pediatrician of your kid makes a mistake and prescribes medicine that your kid is allergic to, and you give this medicine to your kid after which it dies from anaphylactic shock, you are not morally responsible for this outcome because you could not have anticipated this result in any way)

            I hope that answers your questions.

          • Luke Breuer

            1) What though, is an “action of A”? Theoretically, something coerced is not an “action of A”, in the sense you mean. Is it an “action of A” if that is the only way of life the person knew (e.g. note that child abusers tend to themselves have been abused)? Which actions were of individual Germans in WWII, and which should really be blamed on those who engineered the culture?

            2) What is an agent’s “volition”? The only way I know to think of the term is through something LFWish, but that’s currently not an option. The only thing left seems to be some subset of the noise (that is, ¬determinism) in the [backwards] light cone of the agent. But how is an agent responsible for noise?

            3) Would you allow this to be modified to allow for gross negligence? That is, maybe an agent didn’t anticipate that E would follow, but he ought to have?

            This old comment of yours may be helpful:

            AS: “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.

            I don’t think we can separate between identity and responsibility; would you agree? Part of what I’m drawing on is social construction, or perhaps more precisely, George Herbert Mead § Self and Other (linked to me by Jonathan). Something else which may be relevant is The Theory of Positive Disintegration.

            One way to think of the above is via the story in Joshua 7 of Achan’s sin being punished by the death of him, his family, his lifestock, and his possessions. Viewed from an individualist viewpoint, this seems heinous and grossly unjust. But suppose that very little individuation had happened, that Achan+people+animals+things were mostly a single moral entity. Then one bit of the entity going terribly wrong could call for radiation treatment of both the part in error, genetically associated bits, plus closely associated animals/things. Maybe my connection between radiation as treatment of cancer and stoning is crazy, but enough times this kind of intuition has led somewhere useful.

            So, I wonder if this idea of the social construction of the self interacts with your conception of moral responsibility, and how. In particular, it seems like one result might be that moral responsibility can be nonlocal, with many people all sharing in it. How exactly to deal with a mob which lynched someone is another issue, but that they should be dealt with seems relevant.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Is it an “action of A” if that is the only way of life the person knew (e.g. note that child abusers tend to themselves have been abused)?

            Of course it is, that´s why you cannot hold a person who grew up knowing nothing but violence and abuse to the same standard as you´d hold someone who didn´t. Just like you cannot hold bronze age barbarians like the OT authors to the same standards as you´d apply to modern societies.

            2) What is an agent’s “volition”? The only way I know to think of the term is through something LFWish[1], but that’s currently not an option. The only thing left seems to be some subset of the noise (that is, ¬determinism) in the [backwards] light cone of the agent. But how is an agent responsible for noise?[2]

            1. Note that you say something like that very often yet you NEVER say why you´d need something “LFWish” and what you would need it for, conceptually. You don´t need something “LFWish” to think of volition just like you don´t need it to think of personal responsibility, and you are in fact not relying on LFW or something like it to think of either one, else you could say what you need something “LFWish” for.
            2. Assuming indeterminism – if you decide to shoot someone, then noise would not have had the final say in the causal chain leading to this event, your will would have had the final say. The only relevance of noise here would be that it is required for choices to be possible.

            3) Would you allow this to be modified to allow for gross negligence? That is, maybe an agent didn’t anticipate that E would follow, but he ought to have?

            Sure.

            One way to think of the above is via the story in Joshua 7 of Achan’s sin being punished by the death of him, his family, his lifestock, and his possessions. Viewed from an individualist viewpoint, this seems heinous and grossly unjust. But suppose that very little individuation had happened, that Achan+people+animals+things were mostly a single moral entity

            I cannot reply to this without insulting your intelligence.

          • Luke Breuer

            It always will be an “action of A” as long as A was the one who actually did it.

            My point in bringing up the social construction of the self/the emergence of the self was to ask whether A is always an individual. For example, when a mob of 100 lynches someone, do we punish each of them in the same way that we would punish a single second-degree murderer who murdered one person?

            1. [...] You don´t need something “LFWish” to think of volition just like you don´t need it to think of personal responsibility, and you are in fact not relying on LFW or something like it to think of either one, else you could say what you need something “LFWish” for.

            Your “else” is incorrect: you are assuming that I am more similar to you than I actually am. I am drawing on intuition, and a deep inability to think as you do in your 2.:

            2. Assuming indeterminism – if you decide to shoot someone, then noise would not have had the final say in the causal chain leading to this event, your will would have had the final say. The only relevance of noise here would be that it is required for choices to be possible.

            See, I have absolutely no idea how noise, which is outside myself, plus determinism, which is outside myself, suddenly makes me able to make choices for which I am morally responsible, when we both agree that determinism alone cannot do this. What I can do is conceive of how noise would set up Lagrangian points in decision space, with the ability of the will to exert ∆v or even dv. That’s how I can technically describe noise actually doing something. And yet, what directs the ∆v or dv? My identity? But how? That seems LFWish to me.

            I cannot reply to this without insulting your intelligence.

            That’s fine, but my purpose was not to defend a Bible passage, but to explore a concept. I am not the only one who takes stuff like George Herbert Mead § Self and Other seriously. I want to know how it interacts with the grounding of moral responsibility. Achan’s sin is one way to do so, but if it doesn’t make sense to you, let’s just ignore it. It is not critical to my overall point.

          • Andy_Schueler

            My point in bringing up the social construction of the self/the emergence of the self was to ask whether A is always an individual. For example, when a mob of 100 lynches someone, do we punish each of them in the same way that we would punish a single second-degree murderer who murdered one person?

            Good question. Legally we most likely wouldn´t – we´d try to identify the ringleader(s) and punish them more severely then the rest, and that seems reasonable to me, all are responsible but not equally. Haven´t given this much thought though.

            Your “else” is incorrect: you are assuming that I am more similar to you than I actually am. I am drawing on intuition, and a deep inability to think as you do in your 2

            So you find yourself unable to think as I do in ‘2’, so what are you thinking then? What does the concept mean to you?

            See, I have absolutely no idea how noise, which is outside myself, plus determinism, which is outside myself, suddenly makes me able to make choices for which I am morally responsible, when we both agree that determinism alone cannot do this. What I can do is conceive of how noise would set up Lagrangian points in decision space, with the ability of the will to exert ∆v or even dv. That’s how I can technically describe noise actually doing something. And yet, what directs the ∆vor dv? My identity? But how? That seems LFWish to me.

            What noise does is open up the possibility for choices – no particular outcome would be predetermined, you are rather now presented with alternatives. And actualizing one out of the potential alternatives would be an “act of will”. And yes, your “will” is part of your “identity”. And if that seems “LFWish” to you, well… it isn´t – it´s just indeterminism. Given noise, you have the freedom to do what what you will, what you cannot do is will what you will – that would require LFW, and that is what is transparently self-refuting.

          • Luke Breuer

            Good question. Legally we most likely wouldn´t – we´d try to identify the ringleader(s) and punish them more severely then the rest, and that seems reasonable to me, all are responsible but not equally. Haven´t given this much thought though.

            See, I think this also applies with (a) propaganda; (b) children. What it means to be an individual and make one’s own choices actually seems like a pretty complex phenomenon. What makes it your choice, and not someone else’s, or rather, what makes it a local choice, instead of a nonlocal choice? It’s not clear to me that it’s always just the ringleaders who are at fault. I think members of a mob share some kind of responsibility for being so easy to manipulate.

            So you find yourself unable to think as I do in ‘2’, so what are you thinking then? What does the concept mean to you?

            I cannot yet articulate it. It lies in my unarticulated background, and one cannot just magically pull stuff out of it. It takes hard work, and often dialogue. I am hoping that the more I learn about your view, the more I can see how mine differs from it.

            What noise does is open up the possibility for choices – no particular outcome would be predetermined, you are rather now presented with alternatives.

            I don’t understand how I am actually presented with alternatives. The noise ends up in configuration N_1 or N_2, neither of which was my choice. All my will is, according to my understanding of your model, is a function, f(B, H, L, N):

                 B: boundary conditions
                 H: history of f evaluations
                 L: laws of nature
                 N: noise

            Why is that noise parameter so special, when I had no more control over it than L or B? Indeed, I have a hard time distinguishing between B and N, and maybe even L.

            Here is perhaps a seed of understanding. We have a conception that N “could have been different”. This allows us to think of how we would have chosen, had things been different. While B and L and H could have been different, it just seems easier to be conscious of N being different. We still aren’t making choices in this ‘seed’ of mine, but we are forming a conception of ourselves as over against what could have taken place. I don’t know if you can do anything with this, but it is my attempt to grow an idea that might match yours, instead of just critiquing yours.

            And actualizing one out of the potential alternatives would be an “act of will”.

            Here is what I don’t understand at all. Every single one of the parameters of f is set by something not-the-person. So there is no difference between ‘actualizing’ and ‘computing’, where by ‘computing’ we understand a computer as having no volition whatsoever. Furthermore, a computer does not gain volition when it computes randomized algorithms, does it?

            Given noise, you have the freedom to do what what you will

            You seem to be setting up a contrast against determinism, whereby you would not [necessarily?] be free to do what you will. But certainly it could be the case that you just always happen to do what you will under determinism, isn’t it?

          • Andy_Schueler

            See, I think this also applies with (a) propaganda; (b) children. What it means to be an individual and make one’s own choices actually seems like a pretty complex phenomenon[1]. What makes it your choice, and not someone else’s, or rather, what makes it a local choice, instead of anonlocal choice? It’s not clear to me that it’s always just the ringleaders who are at fault[2]. I think members of a mob share some kind of responsibility for being so easy to manipulate[3].

            1. Who said it would be simple? Also, it seems to me that both propaganda and “children” (or “maturity” or whatever) are implicitly covered by the three factors I mentioned above.

            2. I didn´t say that that would be the case, I said the opposite – that everyone in the mob is responsible.

            3. Which is precisely what I said.

            Why is that noise parameter so special, when I had no more control over it than L or B?

            You keep assuming that the noise would be relevant because you could control it, you can´t and that is not the point. The noise means that there actually are alternatives in the first place and thus actual choices to be made based on it – not choices about what noise there will be, but rather choices like “do I shoot this guy or not”. Given quantum and thermal noise in your brain, both options (shooting the guy or not shooting the guy) are possible, and the one that will be actualized is chosen by an act of will.

            Here is what I don’t understand at all. Every single one of the parameters of f is set by something not-the-person[1]. So there is no difference between ‘actualizing’ and ‘computing’[2], where by ‘computing’ we understand a computer as having no volition whatsoever. Furthermore, a computer does not gain volition when it computes randomized algorithms, does it?[3]

            1. Indeed. None of these parameters are chosen, they only create the basis for choices to be possible in the first place. Actions can be chosen, choices like “do I shoot this guy or not” – what cannot be chosen are a) the will that makes these choices and b) which alternatives there will be to choose from.

            2. Well there is something like “computation” going on, because you are making evaluations along the lines of “do I want that to happen?” or “is this better or worse than some alternative?” and so on and so forth – that however would be true for any “will” under any “paradigm”, a “will” makes no sense without such evaluations.
            3. The comparison makes no sense. The comparison would only make sense if a computer were conscious, had beliefs and desires and everything else that makes up a “will”.

            You seem to be setting up a contrast against determinism, whereby you would not [necessarily?] be free to do what you will. But certainly it could be the case that you just always happen to do what you will under determinism, isn’t it?

            Given determinism, there would be no choice – you´d always do what you were determined to do.

          • Luke Breuer

            As to the first block, it seems that we violently agreed, at least to a good approximation.

            The noise means that there actually are alternatives in the first place and thus actual choices to be made based on it – not choices about what noise there will be, but rather choices like “do I shoot this guy or not”. Given quantum and thermal noise in your brain, both options (shooting the guy or not shooting the guy) are possible, and the one that will be actualized is chosen by an act of will.

            Whoah, there. Are you saying that the will is what causes (you say: “actualizes”) e.g. collapse of the wavefunction to be |A⟩ vs. |B⟩? I’m not yet sure what you mean by the word “actualize”; would you explain how it differs from “choose” and “cause”?

            3. The comparison makes no sense. The comparison would only make sense if a computer were conscious, had beliefs and desires and everything else that makes up a “will”.

            And yet, what precisely are “beliefs and desires and everything else”, other than H?

            Given determinism, there would be no choice – you´d always do what you were determined to do.

            It strikes me that the difference is actually between:

                 (1) knowing that you have no choice
                 (2) not knowing that you have no choice

          • Andy_Schueler

            Whoah, there. Are you saying that the will is what causes (you say: “actualizes”) e.g. collapse of the wavefunction to be |A⟩ vs. |B⟩? I’m not yet sure what you mean by the word “actualize”; would you explain how it differs from “choose” and “cause”?

            You could use them all synonymously, the point is that a deterministic will selects / chooses / causes to happen alternatives created by stochastic noise.

            And yet, what precisely are “beliefs and desires and everything else”, other than H?

            No one knows (at least not by any reasonable definition of “know”) what they are, ontologically. But what you actually seem to mean is not “what are they?” but rather “where do they come from?” – and here, the answer is actually irrelevant for the issue of hand. I could give you the answer “they are the result of an interplay of your genes, your experiences and randomness”. I could also give you the answer “they come from your soul being kissed by Jesus and sprinkled with fairy dust”. What matters for the issue at hand is that things like beliefs and desires are part of your “will”, and they thus influence what you choose. What also matters is that they themselves cannot be chosen by you – you can do what you will, but you cannot will what you will. And this last sentence would be true for any explanation about where beliefs and desires come from – it couldn´t be any other way, you cannot will what you will anymore than you could pull yourself up by your own bootstraps (meant literally of course).

            It strikes me that the difference is actually between:

            (1) knowing that you have no choice
            (2) not knowing that you have no choice

            Under determinism, that seems to be the case – wouldn´t make any difference in practice though, even if you became convinced that determinism is true, or much more likely true than an alternative, you still couldn´t turn of the illusion (because in that case, it would be an illusion) of being able to choose.

          • Luke Breuer

            You could use them all synonymously, the point is that a deterministic will selects / chooses / causes to happen alternatives created by stochastic noise.

            Would you be willing to describe what the first ‘choice’ of a “deterministic will” is? Honestly, you seem to be getting dangerously close to SELO. My understanding of a “deterministic will” is that it is an expression of local order, lawfulness of the individual that may not be true of another individual. The orderliness shows up in H, as that provides stability, it is the thing that causes one to make [approximately] the same choice, given the same circumstances. What I’m asking here is what that “spontaneous eruption” looks like—if it is actually spontaneous at all. It could be the case that what is going on is individuation from a previous deterministic will. But that still requires there to be a first deterministic will.

            Hmmm, I’m still confused. going back:

            AS: The noise means that there actually are alternatives in the first place and thus actual choices to be made based on it – not choices about what noise there will be, but rather choices like “do I shoot this guy or not”. Given quantum and thermal noise in your brain, both options (shooting the guy or not shooting the guy) are possible, and the one that will be actualized is chosen by an act of will.

            I propose we consider an electron spin which is oscillating between |↑⟩ and |↓⟩. Suppose that I make a different choice based on which state it is in. Then the ‘choice’ is whether to say “Engage” (Picard) when the spin is |↑⟩ vs. |↓⟩. But how would the deterministic will choose which time t to “actualize”?

            Perhaps there is another way to discuss this, via Middle Knowledge: could I slowly mind-control (or at least influence) a person by subtly altering noise? If so, then your argument seems to lead a person getting a large chunk of his/her identity from noise. That seems a bit odd to say or imply.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Would you be willing to describe what the first ‘choice’ of a “deterministic will” is?[1] Honestly, you seem to be getting dangerously close to SELO.[2]

            1. I don´t think that any particular choice can reasonably be picked as the “first one”, because consciousness itself develops on a continuum.
            2. I already told you many times that what you described as “SELO” seems to be what a human will would be given indeterminism.

            I propose we consider an electron spin which is oscillating between |↑⟩ and |↓⟩. Suppose that I make a different choice based on which state it is in. Then the ‘choice’ is whether to say “Engage” (Picard) when the spin is |↑⟩ vs. |↓⟩.

            You still have it ass-backwards. It is not noise that would cause any particular choice to happen, the noise just provides degrees of freedom – in any particular situation, there are alternatives for what could happen next, and it is the will that makes choices and navigates through the ocean of alternative possibilites. And what your will chooses depends on what your will is like – what you want to happen, what you believe in, what you fear and so on and so forth.

            Perhaps there is another way to discuss this, via Middle Knowledge: could I slowly mind-control (or at least influence) a person by subtly altering noise?

            Nope, because that is ass-backwards, see above.

          • Luke Breuer

            1. I don´t think that any particular choice can reasonably be picked as the “first one”, because consciousness itself develops on a continuum.

            2. I already told you many times that what you described as “SELO” seems to be what a human will would be given indeterminism.

            1. This seems dangerously close to circular reasoning.

            2. Perhaps you can now see why I disagreed. I am struggling to understand what a “human will would be given indeterminism”.

            You still have it ass-backwards. It is not noise that would cause any particular choice to happen, the noise just provides degrees of freedom – in any particular situation, there are alternatives for what could happen next, and it is the will that makes choices and navigates through the ocean of alternative possibilites.

            The will has to interact with a causal chain at some point. Given that you have rejected my attempts to figure out how it would, I have no idea how to make sense of ‘choose’, ‘actualize’, ’cause’. And yet, this function is critical to a will. Surely it is the choices/actualizations/causes that constitute a person’s identity, and nothing else?

          • Andy_Schueler

            1. This seems dangerously close to circular reasoning.

            ? You have to be more specific, which conclusion am I smuggling into which premises in your opinion?

            2. Perhaps you can now see why I disagreed. I am struggling to understand what a “human will would be given indeterminism”.

            I don´t really understand it because you cannot pinpoint what it is about your intuition that would contradiction indeterminism.

            The will has to interact with a causal chain at some point[1]. Given that you have rejected my attempts to figure out how it would, I have no idea how to make sense of ‘choose’, ‘actualize’, ’cause’[2]. And yet, this function iscritical to a will. Surely it is the choices/actualizations/causes that constitute a person’s identity, and nothing else?[3]

            1. Of course, it does so all the time – a few seconds ago I made the willed decision to reply to your most recent comment.
            2. Because you have this preconceived idea that indeterminism entails actions being caused by stochastic noise, and every time I tell you that that is ass-backwards, you reverse the order. So again, given indeterminism, it is not noise that selects anything, noise is what creates alternative possibilites. And it is the will, the sum of your beliefs, desires, wants, fears etc.pp. that selects among these alternatives. It would have been an option to not reply to you here, but that was not what I willed.
            3. Also ass-backwards, choices are being made based on your “identity” (because your will is part of your identity).

          • Luke Breuer

            ? You have to be more specific, which conclusion am I smuggling into which premises in your opinion?

            If you cannot describe how the will started, it seems very much like the will causes the will. This is especially the case if we talk about the first will that ever existed. How did that start? My last paragraph and this one seem to connect.

            2. Because you have this preconceived idea that indeterminism entails actions being caused by stochastic noise, and every time I tell you that that is ass-backwards, you reverse the order. So again, given indeterminism, it is not noise that selects anything, noise is what creates alternative possibilites. And it is the will, the sum of your beliefs, desires, wants, fears etc.pp. that selects among these alternatives. It would have been an option to not reply to you here, but that was not what I willed.

            Can you tell me in more detail how it is that noise “creates alternative possibilities”? I would be happy to study TIP’s Alternative Possibilities if you generally agree with it. In particular, I am curious as to how B and L do not create alternative possibilities (f(B, H, L, N)).

            3. Also ass-backwards, choices are being made based on your “identity” (because your will is part of your identity).

            Ok, but in this event, how does something not-you become you? Do you agree that my H ≈ “identity”? I want to understand how the H germinated. And yet, I’m not sure this makes sense given the social construction of self. It seems like H becomes well-defined before the identity associated with H becomes morally responsible. Is perhaps moral responsibility also a function of one’s ability to introspect one’s H?

          • Andy_Schueler

            If you cannot describe how the will started[1], it seems very much like the will causes the will [2]. This is especially the case if we talk about the first will that ever existed[3]. How did that start?

            1. That is a very different question compared to “what is the first choice” though. One obvious way to pinpoint the “start” is the very first action potential in your brain that happened due to stochastic variation between intra- and extracellular ion concentrations (that happened before you were born). That is a reasonable “start” for neural activity, it cannot be considered a “first choice” or “first thought” or anything like that however because of the sorites paradox. If you have a heap of sand, and remove one grain step by step, then there never would be an objective transition when “heap” turns into “non-heap”, because you try to impose a binary switch on a smooth continuum. And the same is true for consciousness, there is no discrete moment in development where one could say that consciousness does now exist fully but didn´t exist a moment ago – a newborn baby is “more conscious” than a lizard, but “less conscious” than an adult chimpanzee. It is not meaningful to pick any particular moment or any particular thought or any particular choice as the “first real one”.
            2. No, what started the will is neural development.
            3. Erm, how is that of any relevance? The will of your mother is not directly causally connected to your own will, your mother didn´t will any action potential in your developing brain into existence.

            Can you tell me in more detail how it is that noise “creates alternative possibilities”?

            Do you know how artificial neural networks work? Brief explanation:

            they are being used to solve classification problems (e.g. speech, face or friend/foe recognition). And they mimic closely many aspects of biological neural networks. The networks have deterministic aspects (their architecture (the input-output connections between nodes), the strenght of each connection, and the “threshold” of input strength required for a node to “fire” / signal to downstream nodes). There is randomness included – the threshold for “firing” is not a static one, but rather a stochastic one (in the sense of the probability to “fire” being a function of the strength of input signals – as the input strength rises, this probability becomes higher and higher). If you provide the same vector of pseudo-random numbers, then the network will always produce the same output (obviously), if there is true randomness in the input however, then the output is not completely determined (although some outcomes can be MUCH more likely than others or even close to being a statistical certainty).
            Now, imagine that these artificial neural networks classify inputs that correspond to the data that your brain receives and produce results that correspond to judgments (e.g. moral judgments) and other things associated with a will. And now imagine that it is not an artifical neural network but rather a real one, and its architecture corresponds to your personality. And then you have an indeterministic will in a nutshell. Input affected by true randomness, thus producing true alternative outcomes, and a deterministic (at least largely) will that translates noisy input into judgments, choices and things like that.

            Ok, but in this event, how does something not-you become you?

            I have no answer to this question that would not be at least three times as long as the answer to your previous question (and also no good answer (“good” as in “at least I find it reasonably intellectually satisfying”) period), sorry, maybe I´ll get to that tomorrow.

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

            Deindividuation
            Cyberspace A loss of self-awareness, decrease in social inhibitions and increase in impulsivity, related to the virtual anonymity andpseudonymity of the e-world and e-communication
            Psychology The loss of a sense of selfness and acquisition of a herd mentality and/or group norms, when one is incorporated into agroup and confronted with arousing external stimulation

            @LukeBreuer:disqus

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

            I have to agree @Andy_Schueler:disqus.

            @LukeBreuer:disqus – possibly the most important thing in this context happened to me last week. The person who started this whole journey off for me, one of my best friends, a committed Christian theologian, admitted something to me this week. Since his journey into qualified theology began, he has become more liberal, theologically, and thus politically speaking.

            Since he has become interested in psychology to the point of starting a degree in it and looking to move from teaching into psychology, his critical thinking has vastly improved.

            He started the Tippling Philosophers, and we used to argue vehemently. Every day.

            He has come to 2 of my talks on free will. He has always taken your approach, or similar, to free will.

            Finally, last week, he admitted, “You know, Johno, I was in the shower last week, and I said to myself ‘Rob, what do you really think about free will. Be honest with yourself, do you really think we have it?’ and I can’t see there being anyway of having it. We are all constrained and do what we do because of who we are. Free will, as I used to think of it, simply doesn’t make any sense.”

            I can’t begin to communicate what this meant to me. After years of trying to convince him, letting him eventually come to his own conclusion has been really important for me to see. It has also coincided with his admission, in the same conversation, that whilst he is still nominally theist, he is agnostic on a whole host of issues. I get the feeling he is losing or has lost his faith. Shame, as he was going to write a book for me on Christianity/Jesus and sex etc. It was a really interesting project.

            Now this is irrelevant to you. But for me, here is someone who has been more and more committed to leaving behind preconceived conclusions, which started from critically assessing the biblical texts, and doing vast amounts of reading. The guy is very learned.

            I think you are where he was some time ago: hanging on to LFW because you have to, otherwise your theism starts crumbling.

            I get that. I really do. Just be warned about putting the cart before the horse. You are at your most ‘irrational’ when LFWing!

          • Luke Breuer

            For “NT God”, I suggest Randal Rauser’s just-posted The Atonement in Clint Eastwood’s “Gran Torino”. I would be fascinated to hear what you think about it.

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

            And why not act like another God and see if that tallies?

          • josh

            “Will you accept this as a legitimate test of some of the Bible?”

            Not of the supernatural parts. See, if you want to be all sciency you need to pay attention to the tests that fail as well.

          • Luke Breuer

            Science cannot discover or characterize the supernatural. It is incapable. It would be like astrology, and nobody wants to call astrology science. The instance science discovers/characterizes, the thing under the microscope is called ‘natural’.

          • Andy_Schueler

            If there appears to be a descending level of credulity as one moves from theology → sociology → psychology → biology → chemistry → physics → mathematics

            I completely agree with josh here – lumping theology together with those other fields is a stretch. There is a huge difference between religious studies and academic theology – the former has a methodology and thus means to intersubjectively evaluate competing ideas, the latter relies on non-negotiable a priori commitments which cannot be tested. In other words, scholars can test competing views about whether a particular book of the NT was written in the early second or late first century, or whether it was likely written by Paul or only in Paul´s name or whether a particular word or sentence in it was likely already in the autograph of the text or not or what exactly the author of the text meant to convey with it etc.pp.
            Theology scholars however have no means to test things like whether the holy ghost really exists and does ensure that the Pope is actually infallible when he speaks ex cathedra, or any other religious dogma. In that sense, theology is unique, and not unique in a good way.

          • Luke Breuer

            Theology scholars however have no means to test things like whether the holy ghost really exists and does ensure that the Pope is actually infallible when he speaks ex cathedra, or any other religious dogma. In that sense, theology is unique, and not unique in a good way.

            I suppose I pursue religion very differently from how you describe. I see it more as akin to directions for constructing negative index of refraction metamaterials: you get directions plus a predicted result, and thus falsification can happen. Maybe I didn’t follow the directions correctly and maybe I didn’t properly evaluate the result, but maybe also the directions are just wrong, or what is predicted to result is not what actually results.

            With this constructivist approach, theological claims aren’t so much true or false, as constructable or unconstructable. Outside of logical impossibility, one cannot know that claims are unconstructable; one can simply know that no approaches known to oneself work.

            The critical difference here is that not all truth values are yet known; sometimes you have to actually build toward them. Too often I see atheists and skeptics assume bivalent truth (true/false) vs. trivalent truth (true/false/unknown).

            This explains how theology could be the queen of the sciences: it constructs or creates ex nihilo, and then hands down to philosophy and the sciences for ‘processing’. :-) Seriously though, I see God as the source of being/life, and this is true not only in terms of particles and fields, but ideas as well.

          • Andy_Schueler

            I see it more as akin to directions for constructing negative index of refraction metamaterials: you get directions plus a predicted result, and thus falsification can happen.

            But none of this has to do with theology. You are talking about ideas regarding specific behaviors leading to specific results – none of this depends in any way on claims about whether something “divine” exists and if so, what it is like.

            With this constructivist approach, theological claims aren’t so much true or false, as constructable or unconstructable. Outside of logical impossibility, one cannot know that claims are unconstructable; one can simply know that no approaches known to oneself work.

            You can certainly construct a system of ideas about the divine and work on making it internally consistent, and that has already been exhaustively done by theologians. What is lacking though is a demonstration that this system of ideas corresponds to something that exists in reality and not just in the imagination.

          • Luke Breuer

            But none of this has to do with theology. You are talking about ideas regarding specific behaviors leading to specific results – none of this depends in any way on claims about whether something “divine” exists and if so, what it is like.

            If no specific behavior leading to a specific result could be evidence of something “divine”, what on earth could possibly provide evidence of something “divine”, given that science is all about specific behavior (and beliefs) leading to specific results?

            You can certainly construct a system of ideas about the divine and work on making it internally consistent, and that has already been exhaustively done by theologians. What is lacking though is a demonstration that this system of ideas corresponds to something that exists in reality and not just in the imagination.

            You apparently didn’t get my point. Theology can surmise about what could possibly be constructed and what the directions might be. This means talking about truths which have values which are completely unknown, because the construction has not yet been attempted. So it is quite impossible to point to “something that exists in reality”, if it doesn’t yet yet exist!

          • Andy_Schueler

            If no specific behavior leading to a specific result could be evidence of something “divine”, what on earth could possibly provide evidence of something “divine”, given that science is all about specific behavior (and beliefs) leading to specific results?

            1. The behaviour + the results you talk about do not logically depend on any theological claim being true or false, they are completely independent of that.
            2. What could possibly be evidence of the divine? Well for your particular conception of the divine, that would be for example working miracles by praying in Jesus name, or Jesus hanging around with people and having actual relationships with them, as he allegedly used to have before he vanished for good.

            You apparently didn’t get my point. Theology can surmise about what could possibly be constructed and what the directions might be.

            So why hasn´t theology ever contributed anything to science then?

          • Luke Breuer

            2. What could possibly be evidence of the divine? Well for your particular conception of the divine, that would be for example working miracles by praying in Jesus name, or Jesus hanging around with people and having actual relationships with them, as he allegedly used to have before he vanished for good.

            Yep, and I claim that God wants us to pursue ‘the good’ because we believe it to be good, not because e.g. there’s a miracle worker from whom we get magical powers if we do what he says.

            As to true relationships, we vastly disagree on what an English-relationship is. You see it as necessarily involving the senses; I see it as necessarily involving communion of souls. By this, I mean at least that if you have a true relationship with someone else, each of you is running a little simulator of the other in his own mind, a simulator which is enhanced as the relationship deepens. And yet, one can do this without the other person being available through the five senses (nor via nociception), as telepathy in Star Trek clearly indicates. In a sense, the truest of relationships is entirely “in the head”.

            1. The behaviour + the results you talk about do not logically depend on any theological claim being true or false, they are completely independent of that.

            I see this as absolutely necessary in the process of learning to simulate the other person in your own mind. In order to do this, you must learn what the other person hopes/dreams/fears/values. This is an entirely intellectual procedure; the senses are utterly irrelevant to it. I do not claim that this is sufficient, just necessary.

            So why hasn´t theology ever contributed anything to science then?

            Deep belief in the rationality of nature is an absolute prerequisite to science. I am with Kenneth Pearce (e.g. Leibniz’s theistic case against Humean miracles) and others in claiming that YHWH and Jesus are perfectly and infinitely rational. The extent to which science bows to irrationality (including the idea that reality ‘bottoms out’ in pure randomness) is the extent to which it will fail. Another form of irrationality is renormalization. Yet another I cannot talk about, but it has to do with a denial that universals and particulars go together. I predict, if my friends are able to do their research, that Jonathan Pearce’s embrace of nominalism will be dealt a fantastic blow.

            For more, we could look at the attack on the foundations of rationality which Feser describes in his The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism, which I really suggest that you read, if you follow Feser’s blog. I’m beginning to buy Feser’s claim that physicalism necessarily implies eliminative materialism, which would be disastrous. What seems to be the case is that theology provided metaphysical foundations for science that have been largely forgotten, today. Hopefully the philosophy of mind will bring them back to consciousness, but perhaps it will not. Perhaps the belief in physicalism will be too strong (see last two quotes).

          • Andy_Schueler

            Yep, and I claim that God wants us to pursue ‘the good’ because we believe it to be good, not because e.g. there’s a miracle worker from whom we get magical powers if we do what he says.

            That is no explanation for divine hiddenness assuming that christianity is true – Jesus was happy to hang out with people and demonstrate that he´s for real, divine hiddenness might be compatible with other theistic views, but it is absolutely incompatible with christianity.

            As to true relationships, we vastly disagree on what an English-relationship is. You see it as necessarily involving the senses; I see it as necessarily involving communion of souls. By this, I mean at least that if you have a true relationship with someone else, each of you is running a little simulator of the other in his own mind, a simulator which is enhanced as the relationship deepens. And yet, one can do this without the other person being available through the five senses (nor via nociception), as telepathy in Star Trek clearly indicates. In a sense, the truest of relationships is entirely “in the head”.

            That is a strawman of my position, I explicitly granted you the possibility of telepathy a la Star Trek over and over and over and over again – but since God does not telepathically communicate with you (telepathy as in Star Trek entails messages in your mind that you can distinguish from your own thoughts, meaning that you can clearly tell what the telepath communicated to you – but you cannot do that with God), that also doesn´t get you anywhere.

            Deep belief in the rationality of nature is an absolute prerequisite to science. I am with Kenneth Pearce (e.g. Leibniz’s theistic case against Humean miracles) and others in claiming that YHWH and Jesus are perfectly and infinitely rational. The extent to which science bows to irrationality (including the idea that reality ‘bottoms out’ in pure randomness) is the extent to which it will fail.

            Nature being intelligible at least to some degree is indeed a necessary presupposition for any form of scientific inquiry, but it is also a universal presupposition that long predates christianity, that does not require theology in any way and that is further also testable.

            For more, we could look at the attack on the foundations of rationality which Feser describes in his The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism, which I really suggest that you read, if you follow Feser’s blog. I’m beginning to buy Feser’s claim that physicalism necessarily implies eliminative materialism, which would be disastrous. What seems to be the case is that theology provided metaphysical foundations for science that have been largely forgotten, today. Hopefully the philosophy of mind will bring them back to consciousness, but perhaps it will not. Perhaps the belief in physicalism will be too strong (see last two quotes).

            Yeah, well, the funny thing here is, is that it is particularly the philosophers of mind who reject religion – if you look at the philpapers survey, atheism and a physicalist attitude about the mind are positions that are enriched, not depleted, among philosophers specializing in the philosophy of mind.
            Regarding Feser, what I know from his blog is that he argues that scientists must affirm the premises that are required to get thomism of the ground – I disagree, we don´t have to (and I for example do not – else I´d be a thomist).

          • Luke Breuer

            That is no explanation for divine hiddenness assuming that christianity is true – Jesus was happy to hang out with people and demonstrate that he´s for real, divine hiddenness might be compatible with other theistic views, but it is absolutely incompatible with christianity.

            Jesus will be real if you want to communicate with him instead of at him. The same works for humans: you can talk at the person without ever truly communicating with the person. Again, the external senses are not in any way required for true communication.

            Divine hiddenness, when it comes to Christianity, just means Jesus doesn’t force himself on us. If we want him, he’s there; if we don’t, then he’ll happily not intervene. You could probably see the OT as God forcing himself on humans; that was clearly a failed enterprise (and we need to know it would fail).

            That is a strawman of my position, I explicitly granted you the possibility of telepathy a la Star Trek over and over and over and over again

            My apologies; I forgot.

            but since God does not telepathically communicate with you (telepathy as in Star Trek entails messages in your mind that you can distinguish from your own thoughts, meaning that you can clearly tell what the telepath communicated to you – but you cannot do that with God), that also doesn´t get you anywhere.

            This is why I forgot: you denied small signals that were possibly evidence of this. You did not say “those signals are too small, they could easily be something else instead of from God”; instead you said “those signals are not from God”. That is a false statement; you do not know that. You are rounding a small quantity to zero. I said this was fine; we can talk about the signals when they’re not so small. This is still true.

            Nature being intelligible at least to some degree is indeed a necessary presupposition for any form of scientific inquiry, but it is also a universal presupposition that long predates christianity, that does not require theology in any way and that is further also testable.

            You did not ask whether theology was required, you asked whether it contributed. Also, “intelligible at least to some degree” ⇏ “deep rationality”. As to this alleged “universal presupposition”, I’m not so sure how deeply it ran. What are your sources on this? I know a bit about the Greek conception of logos (the difference between Sophists and Socrates on it is fascinating), and a bit about luck vs. fate.

            Yeah, well, the funny thing here is, is that it is particularly the philosophers of mind who reject religion – if you look at the philpapers survey, atheism and a physicalist attitude about the mind are positions that are enriched, not depleted, among philosophers specializing in the philosophy of mind.

            This is on my list to read. Sadly, too many things are above it.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Jesus will be real if you want to communicate with him instead of at him.

            Ok, that is a testable hypothesis – I want Jesus to communicate with us to resolve this question.
            How long do we have to wait and observe how nothing happens until this can be considered to be empirically false?

            Again, the external senses are not in any way required for true communication.

            I never claimed that they were.

            Divine hiddenness, when it comes to Christianity, just means Jesus doesn’t force himself on us. If we want him, he’s there; if we don’t, then he’ll happily not intervene.

            You cannot want what you do not know. You don´t want “Jesus”, you want “Luke´s conception of who “Jesus” is based on reading a book about Jesus”. And it doesn´t get you anywhere, Jesus is exactly as hidden to you as he is to everyone else.

            You could probably see the OT as God forcing himself on humans

            You have a very strange conception of what “forcing yourself on someone” means. My mother interacts with me frequently, and she often gave me advice, and as long as she doesn´t coerce me into doing what she says, that has absolutely nothing to do with “forcing herself on me”. But even if I´d accept your highly idiosyncratic understanding of what “forcing yourself on someone” means, you still have no explanation for why Jesus “forced himself” on hundreds of people over a timespan of many years in 1st century palestine but completely stopped doing that.

            This is why I forgot: you denied small signals that were possibly evidence of this. You did not say “those signals are too small, they could easily be something else instead of from God”; instead you said “those signals are not from God”. That is a false statement; you do notknow that. You are rounding a small quantity to zero.

            Nope, I didn´t say “these signals are not from God”, I said that you have no signals to begin with. You assert that some of your thoughts are not just “Luke´s thoughts” but rather “Luke´s thoughts that have been influenced in some way by God” – and I consider your reasoning for concluding that to be a complete non sequitur, so I am not “rounding down to zero”, I say that you have exactly zero.

            Also, “intelligible at least to some degree” ⇏ “deep rationality”.

            “Deep rationality” is not a required presupposition, you can be completely agnostic on that.

            As to this alleged “universal presupposition”, I’m not so sure how deeply it ran. What are your sources on this?

            If you try to learn anything that is not a purely mental activity, you are automatically presupposing that the world is at least to some degree intelligible – when our earliest human ancestors mastered the art of tracking for example, they did silently presuppose that they actually can learn and understand something about the world outside of their own minds.

          • Luke Breuer

            Ok, that is a testable hypothesis – I want Jesus to communicate with us to resolve this question.

            Ahh, I see, so you believe that merely wanting things is all that’s required to make them happen? Or is it the case that actually communicating with another being requires… more than that?

            I never claimed that they were.

            For some reason, you gave me the impression they were. Alas.

            You cannot want what you do not know.

            So knowing must always come before wanting? This seems like it might be somewhat problematic, but I haven’t thought of the issue in quite these terms before.

            You have a very strange conception of what “forcing yourself on someone” means.

            Oh, actually I’m quite used to people who don’t want to talk to me, don’t want to hear anything I have to say. It happened all the time in middle school and high school. Indeed, the OT frequently talks about humans not wanting to hear anything he has to say. Jesus has a refrain in the NT: “He who has ears, let him hear.”

            Nope, I didn´t say “these signals are not from God”, I said that you have no signals to begin with. You assert that some of your thoughts are not just “Luke´s thoughts” but rather “Luke´s thoughts that have been influenced in some way by God” – and I consider your reasoning for concluding that to be a complete non sequitur, so I am not “rounding down to zero”, I say that you have exactly zero.

            Yes, you assumed all of this without saying it. Not helpful for communication.

            “Deep rationality” is not a required presupposition, you can be completely agnostic on that.

            I suppose we shall have to disagree.

            If you try to learn anything that is not a purely mental activity, you are automatically presupposing that the world is at least to some degree intelligible – when our earliest human ancestors mastered the art of tracking for example, they did silently presuppose that they actually can learn and understand something about the world outside of their own minds.

            So if one simply calls something a ‘gratuitous evil’, one will not try and redeem it, right? So failing to think there might be order/rationality/lawfulness presents one from even conceiving that it might be there. Delusion often strikes this way.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Ahh, I see, so you believe that merely wanting things is all that’s required to make them happen? Or is it the case that actually communicating with another being requires… more than that?

            So we can´t just ask Jesus because he´s hidden, and to come out of hiding, we have to “want him” first, but wanting is also not enough because we also have to do…. What exactly?

            So knowing must always come before wanting? This seems like it might be somewhat problematic, but I haven’t thought of the issue in quite these terms before.

            Consider this strawman dialog:

            John: Hey Jim, there is this guy called Jesse, he´s really great and he told me that he´d love to be your friend!
            Jim: That´s cool, how about we go out for a few beers together?
            John: Hmm…. that´s not possible, Jesse never meets with more than one person at the same time.
            Jim: Alright… ok, so how about I just go out with him alone?
            John: Good idea!
            Jim: So, can you give me his number?
            John: He doesn´t have a cell, but he´ll visit you if you want him.
            Jim: ??? What does that mean “want him”?
            John: You have to want him in your life, else he won´t come.
            Jim: But…. how am I supposed to “want him” when I´ve never even met the guy in the first place?!
            John: Well…. i have this book about Jesse, I can lend it to you if you want.
            Jim: WTF? Have you actually ever met Jesse?
            John: Well… he doesn´t really “meet” with people, but I feel in my heart that he´s there for me and cares for me.

            => How is what you propose re Jesus any different than my strawman dialog here?

            Oh, actually I’m quite used to people who don’t want to talk to me, don’t want to hear anything I have to say. It happened all the time in middle school and high school. Indeed, the OT frequently talks about humans not wanting to hear anything he has to say. Jesus has a refrain in the NT: “He who has ears, let him hear.”

            There are plenty of people I´d love to never hear from again – Ann Coulter for example, but the stupid c**t just won´t stop vomiting her worthless opinions on an innocent internet. I don´t have to listen to what they say or read what they write, but I can´t pretend that they do not exist, I know they do and I can easily start listening to them right now. So your objection here is completely baseless.

            Yes, you assumed all of this without saying it. Not helpful for communication.

            No, I explicitly told you why I considered your reasoning for concluding that some of “Luke´s thoughts” are not just “Luke´s thoughts” to be a non sequitur.

            So if one simply calls something a ‘gratuitous evil’, one will not try and redeem it, right?

            Redeem? Ok, please tell me how you could look the poor traumatized parents of this:
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anencephaly#mediaviewer/File:Anencephaly_side.jpg
            – in the eyes and tell them “It was actually great that your baby had anencephaly because [insert reason for making this a good thing here]“?
            I´m curious.
            I personally think that it is much more reasonable and compassionate to actually help them instead of trying to figure out excuses for why a benevolent God would let this happen.

            So failing to think there might be order/rationality/lawfulness…

            Who does that?

          • Luke Breuer

            So we can´t just ask Jesus because he´s hidden, and to come out of hiding, we have to “want him” first, but wanting is also not enough because we also have to do…. What exactly?

            You would have to want to have an actual relationship with him, one where you simulate him inside your head, with ever-increasing accuracy. As I recently said:

            LB: As to true relationships, [I say they] necessarily involve the senses; I see it as necessarily involving communion of souls. By this, I mean at least that if you have a true relationship with someone else, each of you is running a little simulator of the other in his own mind, a simulator which is enhanced as the relationship deepens. [...] In a sense, the truest of relationships is entirely “in the head”.

            Furthermore, I claim that the Bible gives you the initial raw material for spinning up that initial simulation of Jesus, so that you know what you are wanting. True Christians (a term which I will not define, nor even include myself in the group) might also be able to give you an idea of what Jesus is like, so you can decide whether or not you actually want to get to deeply know him.

            So your objection here is completely baseless.

            I don’t see how referencing Ann Coulter makes it baseless. If anything, Jesus is ¬Ann Coulter, in precisely the sense you’re talking about. If you don’t want him, he doesn’t mess with you like Ann Coulter does. After all, isn’t it bitchy of her/other people to do that to you? Wouldn’t the world be better if, upon your not wanting to hear from someone ever again, it just magically happened?

            Redeem? Ok, please tell me how you could look the poor traumatized parents of this:

            I’ll get on that right after you unify QFT and GR, and maybe some other things, too.

            I personally think that it is much more reasonable and compassionate to actually help them instead of trying to figure out excuses for why a benevolent God would let this happen.

            Why do you think redeeming ⇒ ¬helping?

            Who does that?

            Anyone who asserts he/she can know that a given evil is gratuitous.

          • Andy_Schueler

            You would have to want to have an actual relationship with him, one where you simulate him inside your head, with ever-increasing accuracy.

            I can´t help but point out how perfectly this is predicted by my Jesus-is-imaginary model.

            I don’t see how referencing Ann Coulter makes it baseless. If anything, Jesus is ¬Ann Coulter, in precisely the sense you’re talking about. If you don’t want him, he doesn’t mess with you like Ann Coulter does. After all, isn’t it bitchy of her/other people to do that to you? Wouldn’t the world be better if, upon your not wanting to hear from someone ever again, it just magically happened?

            Things that go away if you do not think about them are usually called “imaginary”. Also, it isn´t “bitchy” to exist – I can ignore her after all if I don´t like her, what I cannot do is pretend that she is not real.

            Anyone who asserts he/she can know that a given evil is gratuitous.

            That is not a mere assertion, it is a conclusion based on the evidence, a conclusion that you cannot accept due to a priori commitments.

          • Luke Breuer

            I can´t help but point out how perfectly this is predicted by my Jesus-is-imaginary model.

            Yes, because what I am calling a true relationship with true communication, you call 100% imaginary. It logically follows from what you’ve said.

            Things that go away if you do not think about them are usually called “imaginary”.

            I guess all thoughts that aren’t permanent are also “imaginary”. Curious.

            Also, it isn´t “bitchy” to exist – I can ignore her after all if I don´t like her, what I cannot do is pretend that she is not real.

            Wouldn’t you consider it a better world if you could merely pretend her away, and then not have to deal with or even think about her nonsense?

            That is not a mere assertion, it is a conclusion based on the evidence, a conclusion that you cannot accept due to a priori commitments.

            Yep, and it’s a conclusion that the assumption of deep rationality would rebuff. This is what happens when your assumption of rationality can bottom out into irrationality.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Yes, because what I am calling a true relationship with true communication, you call 100% imaginary. It logically follows from what you’ve said.

            No, the it-all-being-in-your head simulating stuff without any communication is what is predicted by my Jesus-is-imaginary model.

            I guess all thoughts that aren’t permanent are also “imaginary”. Curious.

            Yes, ALL thoughts are “imaginary”, if you think of a car – there will be no car popping out of nowhere that matches the thoughts going on in your mind, and existing only in the mind is what “imaginary” means. You seem to assume that “imaginary” means “not real” – it doesn´t, it means that it only exists in your mind.

            Wouldn’t you consider it a better world if you could merely pretend her away, and then not have to deal with or even think about her nonsense?

            That would mean that I could literally murder (or even “erase out of existence”) people with my thoughts, cool power for a comic book supervillain, but I´d say the world is infinitely better off with NO ONE having this ability. Also, I DO NOT have to “deal with her”, I also don´t have to think about her – but I cannot pretend that she is not real, what is so hard to understand about that?

            Yep, and it’s a conclusion that the assumption of deep rationality would rebuff.

            Yeah, just like the assumption that the world is flat would rebuff the conclusion that the world is not flat.

          • josh

            “I know actual scientists at MIT-quality institutions who claim that
            Planck was not exaggerating. I’m going to trust them over you, a random
            person on the internet.”

            I am an actual scientist at a respected research university, although I’m not sure we’re ‘MIT-quality’. But don’t trust me, just go looking for examples of scientists who changed their minds. In my own lifetime people who once believed neutrinos should be massless have conceded that they aren’t, technicolor is essentially dead. Particle Dark Matter and Dark Energy are accepted pieces of standard cosmology now. MOND on the other hand is gasping it’s last. I could go on indefinitely.

            “And where/how am I not allowing this? Please quite and cite, specifically.”

            I was speaking of the generic ‘you’ in my example, not you Luke, and I said ‘If’. Nonetheless, in my interactions with you specifically I have only ever seen you argue that people have misunderstood the words of Jesus, or the Bible. Never that they could in fact be wrong.

            “There is no such thing as standing on neutral ground while you make judgments/observations.”

            The fact that we don’t come from nowhere doesn’t mean we can’t strive for objectivity. Of course my brain could be faulty but that doesn’t mean I should ignore the problems I am aware of. You are confusing a commitment with a working model. The religious have a commitment, not scientists qua scientists. In fact, the materialist model we have now is not where science came from. It was arrived at with great struggle against the prejudices of an earlier time.

            “That you have set up a binary opposition between (a) science; and (b)
            superstition, which is (i) fundamentalist thinking; and (ii) scientism.”

            Nope. Fundamentalists think that science and their particular superstitions are in exact agreement. That’s why they call it creation science. But you are so eager to contradict me that you didn’t think about what I said, I set up no opposition. The things we call superstition: ghosts, gods, magic, etc., if they worked we would include them in science.

            “But perhaps you have a way of knowing that science produces true results
            that doesn’t depend on science itself to verify it (and thus is not
            viciously circular)? I hope you aren’t a logical positivist.”

            But if you proved that logical positivism was circular you would have done so deductively, but how do you justify deductive reasoning? Anything you propose will be a vicious circle relying on deduction! Did I blow your mind?! No? Then lets avoid this sophism. Nothing is guaranteed to produce true results. Science is a method, by construction, to avoid mistakes as much as possible. If you want to doubt science, go right ahead, but if you’re honest you will just end up back at science, which begins with doubt.

            “You mean there’s no evidence that you did not choose to reject, such as Lewontin’s claim?”

            No, I mean the proffered evidence doesn’t support your claim. Maybe you are still confused: Quotes from random people that might be construed as agreeing with you aren’t actually strong evidence for your position. I explained why Lewontin was wrong, repeating him won’t add to your ‘evidence’.

          • Luke Breuer

            But don’t trust me, just go looking for examples of scientists who changed their minds.

            I do not deny that there are plenty such examples. Many biblical scholars have done the same; see Peter Enns’ series, “aha” moments: biblical scholars tell their stories; he’s up to #9, and may keep going for a while.

            Nonetheless, in my interactions with you specifically I have only ever seen you argue that people have misunderstood the words of Jesus, or the Bible. Never that they could in fact be wrong.

            Can I ever know, with 100% certainty, that my interpretation of Jesus or the Bible is 100% correct? If not, then I cannot state, with 100% certainty, that they are wrong. Of course they could be wrong. But it could just as easily be that I have misinterpreted. I must be careful not to trust my own conceptions too strongly, else I will be misled. There is a word for this: humility. The more I assume that I am wrong instead of the Bible, the more I discover new, excellent nuggets in the Bible. And so, I employ logical induction.

            The fact that we don’t come from nowhere doesn’t mean we can’t strive for objectivity.

            Objectivity is great for looking at what is, at least as long as it’s so big that observing it doesn’t appreciably change it (compare to trying to ask “which slit” in the two-slit experiment). Objectivity isn’t so great when you consider yourself as a responsible agent in the universe, able to change it, and in need of guidance about what changes would be good, and what changes would be not so good.

            The Christian is most effective when he/she is most objective, because in order to change the world, you currently need to understand the world, as it is. So in fact, the Christian should be most interested in understanding the world precisely as it is, and most willing to use whatever models best serve this endeavor. It must be remembered, however, that a picture of the thing is not the thing. Ceci n’est pas une pipe.

            Nope.

            Ok, is there an option other than (a) science; and (b) superstition?

            But if you proved that logical positivism was circular you would have done so deductively, but how do you justify deductive reasoning? Anything you propose will be a vicious circle relying on deduction! Did I blow your mind?! No? Then lets avoid this sophism.

            I accept deductive reasoning to be valid via intuition. Logic is actually just the easiest branch of intuition. But deductive logic is not what you use when you determine whether a given argument is sound, only whether it is valid. Other, faculties must be used in order to judge soundness. So I don’t see any circular reasoning, here. Deductive reasoning is not my god; I do not found all reasoning on it or anything like that. FYI, the being most associatable with deductive reasoning is ha-satan: the accuser. Life cannot come from deductive reasoning, only death.

            I explained why Lewontin was wrong, repeating him won’t add to your ‘evidence’.

            Lewontin being wrong doesn’t make him not-evidence, unless you’re going with No True Scotsman.

          • josh

            “I do not deny that there are plenty such examples.”

            So concede the point. You were full of it about science only changing with the death of the old guard. Learn from your mistakes.

            “If not, then I cannot state, with 100% certainty, that they are wrong…”

            I’m not asking for 100% certainty. That doesn’t mean all interpretations are valid and that one cannot reasonably judge against the Bible.

            “The more I assume that I am wrong instead of the Bible, the more I discover new, excellent nuggets in the Bible. And so, I employ logical induction.”

            That’s not logical induction, that’s just biasing yourself more and more. You are like those people who concoct numerical coding schemes and go looking through the bible for secret messages. The more they look the more they find.

            “The Christian is most effective when he/she is most objective, because in order to change the world, you currently need to understand the world, as it is.”

            So objectivity is desirable if you consider yourself a responsible person, in contradiction with your sentence right before this one. That’s the problem Luke. I think you sincerely care about trying to be an ethical person, but you won’t accept the responsibility of honestly doubting your ‘guide’. Objective Christians eventually leave Christianity behind.

            “Ok, is there an option other than (a) science; and (b) superstition?”

            If you want to be a reasonable person, science is your option. You could also retreat into a kind of Buddhist non-judgment, non-contemplative pure passivity, but I doubt you’ll be successful and I don’t know why you would want to.

            “But deductive logic is not what you use when you determine whether a given argument is sound, only whether it is valid. Other, faculties must be used in order to judge soundness. So I don’t see any circular reasoning, here. ”

            Circularity is a criticism of an arguments validity, so yes, you would have to rely on deduction. (A circular argument may still have a correct conclusion.) But notice that you are suddenly appealing to a vague intuition to get out of this, so you really have no argument against logical positivism. You’re appealing to a double standard. I’m not going to give you a whole rundown of better epistemology here, but in future let’s have no more ‘Logical positivism is circular. QED. Ha!’ moments here. It is just a red herring one throws out rather than seriously consider the merits of evidence.

            “FYI, the being most associatable with deductive reasoning is ha-satan:
            the accuser. Life cannot come from deductive reasoning, only death.”

            This is very silly.

            “Lewontin being wrong doesn’t make him not-evidence, unless you’re going with No True Scotsman.”

            Lewontin being wrong on the topic at hand exactly makes a quote from him not evidence on the topic at hand. His opinions would be evidence if we couldn’t point out anything wrong with what he said and we had no better way to judge the issue than his opinion. Neither is the case here.

          • Luke Breuer

            So concede the point. You were full of it about science only changing with the death of the old guard. Learn from your mistakes.

            The point I was really trying to defend is that there’s nothing inherent to religion, qua religion, which makes one more susceptible to [bad] dogma than science, unless you want to define ‘religion’ weirdly, such that maybe Judaism and Christianity aren’t ‘religion’. Feel free to offer an attempt at a definition of ‘religion’, though. And I reject your “Religion without dogma ceases to be religion, it just becomes superstition, which I also recommend reducing if possible.”—unless you want to offer a connotation-neutral definition of ‘superstition’.

            Oh, I’m curious. Do you think there is any objective ‘the good’, or is it pretty much everyone wants whatever he/she wants, it is somewhat to exclusively determined by genes/culture, and that’s it? If yes to ‘objective’, do you think science can access it?

            That doesn’t mean all interpretations are valid and that one cannot reasonably judge against the Bible.

            Who said or implied “all interpretations are valid”? I would never say such a thing. Some things said about Hamlet are just wrong.

            That’s not logical induction, that’s just biasing yourself more and more. You are like those people who concoct numerical coding schemes and go looking through the bible for secret messages.

            So it’s biasing myself to discover that e.g. obeying Mt 5:23-24, Mt 18:15-20, Eph 4:25-27 leads to better results than not obeying? As far as I can tell, you have zero evidence that I am actually “like those people”, but feel free to attempt to support your character assassination attempt with evidence.

            LB: Objectivity isn’t so great when you consider yourself as a responsible agent in the universe, able to change it, and in need of guidance about what changes would be good, and what changes would be not so good.

            LB: The Christian is most effective when he/she is most objective, because in order to change the world, you currently need to understand the world, as it is.

            So objectivity is desirable if you consider yourself a responsible person, in contradiction with your sentence right before this one.

            Contradiction? Please explain—or perhaps your response to my second paragraph of this comment will elucidate.

            Objective Christians eventually leave Christianity behind.

            You sound… quite confident about that. Evidence?

            If you want to be a reasonable person, science is your option.

            Say hello to scientism!

            But notice that you are suddenly appealing to a vague intuition to get out of this, so you really have no argument against logical positivism.

            Ummm, if I attempt to appeal to logic, that’s what gets me into logical trouble. As to no argument against logical positivism, that’s hilarious. The meaningfulness criterion is, by its standard, meaningless. I suggest you examine the Phil.SE questions Logical positivism today and What are/were the main criticisms of logical positivism?

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

      Unrealistically high:

      Now, that being said, you haven’t shown that “theism hurts science more than atheism”; at best, you’ve shown that “one form of theism hurts science more than ???”. What I suggest you do, The Thinker, is tabulate all of the actual evidence you have, and note a few things:

      1. What group was sampled? (e.g. just US?)
      2. What groups were being compared to what groups? (e.g. Protestants? all those who believe in religion?)
      3. What was the sample size?
      4. How big was the impact? (note the mean and the standard deviation)
      5. What was the p-value?

      Then, you could put this online somewhere and point people to it. Use imgur if you have to, or formulate it in fixed-width font and stick it on a pastebin.

      As for the general point about scientists and atheist/theists, I provided you some sources to look atm from Gervais to Shenhav etc.

      But again, you are still conflating mhy can question with a should question. This whole discussion has misappropriated the original OP.

      “But you have not established any of this,”

      I actually have referred to sources that you have not commented on. Also, how many atheists deny evolution? Believe in 930 year old people?

      • Luke Breuer

        Unrealistically high:

        My apologies, I would like to know what the line is between “sufficent evidence” and “unrealistically high”.

        Also, how many atheists deny evolution? Believe in 930 year old people?

        Please address my Peter Berger quotations.

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

      I do not equate some to all, but some is a subset of al. Thus theism, as opposed to atheism, has a higher prior probability of being concerned with more ridiculous beliefs.

      • Luke Breuer

        Thus theism, as opposed to atheism, has a higher prior probability of being concerned with more ridiculous beliefs.

        But you do not know this! After all, you have no evidence whatosever that atheists believe fewer ridiculous things than theists. You do know that atheists are less likely to believe YEC, but YEC is not the only ridiculous belief out there. Furthermore, I’m going to re-quote Berger, because you’re acting as if I didn’t quote him in the first place:

            Another exaggeration may have been the conventional view of the reach of scientific rationality. One does not have to look at religion only in order to find this thought plausible. It is amazing what people educated to the highest levels of scientific rationality are prepared to believe by way of irrational prejudices; one only has to look at the political and social beliefs of the most educated classes of Western societies to gain an appreciation of this. Just one case: What Western intellectuals over the last decades have managed to believe about the character of Communist societies is alone sufficient to cast serious doubt on the proposition that rationality is enhanced as a result of scientifically sophisticated education or of living in a modern technological society. (A Far Glory, 30)

        • Andy_Schueler

          Furthermore, I’m going to re-quote Berger, because you’re acting as if I didn’tquote him in the first place

          I think Berger chooses a very poor example – communism does sound great on paper, but didn´t exactly work as Marx has imagined it, to put it at its mildest (you could substitute “communism” with “christianity” and “Marx” with “Jesus” and it would still be true IMO). What would be highly irrational would be to look at the various experiments with communism and say “See, it works great! Nothing bad to see here, move along people.”, being enthusiastic about the idea before seeing how spectacularly it fails in practice however doesn´t sound irrational at all.
          Or to phrase it differently – no western intellectual today, not even the most hardcore leftwing radicals among them, would try to defend Stalin or Mao, creationists however still try to defend ideas that have been as conclusively refuted as it is possible to refute anything, and they´ve done so for centuries (hell, flood geology has been conclusively refuted more than two centuries ago).
          So, while I wouldn´t at all disagree with the claim that intellectuals can and do believe crazy shit, what you quote here is a very poor example for that and one that does not at all compare to the crazyness of creationism.

          • Luke Breuer

            I think Berger chooses a very poor example – communism does sound great on paper, but didn´t exactly work as Marx has imagined it,

            This is 100% irrelevant to the point that Berger made, which is that many Western intellectuals bought the USSR as a working, good instance of Communism, in the teeth of available evidence. He provides reasoning for why this kind of dogmatic behavior would happen in Facing Up to Modernity:

            Even if it were true that socialism is the only rational conclusion, this would not explain its dissemination among specific social groups. Modern science, for example, may also be described as the only rational conclusion for certain questions about nature—and yet it took millennia before it came to be established in specific groups in a specific corner of the world. Ideas neither triumph nor fail in history because of their intrinsic truth or falsity. Furthermore, the affinity between intellectuals and socialism is clearly more than a matter of rational arguments. It is suffused with values, with moral passion, in many cases with profoundly religious hope—in sum, with precisely those characteristics which permit speaking of a socialist myth (in a descriptive, nonpejorative sense.) (58)

            The socialist myth promises the fulfillment of both the rational dreams of the Enlightenment and the manifold aspirations of those to whom the Enlightenment has been an alienating experience. Such a promise inevitably grates against its imperfect realization in empirical reality, frustrating and often enraging its believers. This is nothing new in the long history of eschatologies, which is inevitably a history of the psychology of disappointment.
            [...]
            It was Lenin who, in 1920, characterized Communism as “Soviet power plus electrification”; over fifty years later, Russian reality could be described as “Middle Ages plus intercontinental missiles” (62–63)

            F. A. Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom may apply (I have only read about it; I’m working on his Studies on the Abuse and Decline of Reason right now); I also recently encountered Alasdair MacIntyre and F. A. Hayek on the Abuse of Reason:

            MacIntyre and Hayek, starting from very different political, philosophical, and religious viewpoints, conclude that the Enlightenment’s misunderstanding of rationality has sent the West in the wrong direction. For MacIntyre, that false road leads to emotivist ethics and nihilism, whereas for Hayek it leads to social engineering and serfdom.

            Berger and Hayek talk about idolization of ‘rationality’, as if that would be the salvation of mankind if only it could be beneficently imposed on them; the Jews have probably done this the most thoroughly, via rigorous legalism. Of course, the rationalism so-promoted provides the mirage of allowing people to be whatever they want to be, while simultaneously damaging the ability to gather into opinionated “mediating structures” with a ‘common good’ which would be discriminatory and therefore intolerant and therefore bad, according to secularization theory/political liberalism. So this example is actually utterly fantastic, because the faith that was put in Communism is still alive and kicking.

            So, while I wouldn´t at all disagree with the claim that intellectuals can and do believe crazy shit, what you quote here is a very poor example for that and one that does not at all compare to the crazyness of creationism.

            You are measuring badness as “amount of time believed”; I prefer to measure badness as “number of lives allowed to be destroyed, either physically or via destroying dreams/the ability to dream”. I think my metric is obviously better than yours.

          • Andy_Schueler

            You are measuring badness as “amount of time believed”

            I´m not even talking about “badness”, I say that stuff like creationism and western intellectuals supporting communism are very different when it comes to dogmatism and sheer irrationality. Western intellectuals eventually “got it” – the results are in and not a single western intellectual today argues that Stalinism and Maoism were actually a great success. The results are also in regarding creationism, the results were in centuries ago – and it doesn´t make any difference for religious fundamentalists. In other words, there is a clear threshold of evidence that has to be met in order to convince secular intellectuals of the falsehood of an idea, even when it is an idea that they would like to be true, and in the case of communism, this threshold was met within a single generation. Creationists however dogmatically hold on to creationism being true even now centuries after it has been refuted.

          • Luke Breuer

            Ultimately, we must make the comparison based on ‘goodness’ vs. ‘badness’. Your metric is: time believed and apparent inability to be corrected (which is partially falsified by those who do reject YEC, fyi). My metric is: damaged caused to human thriving. I claim my metric matters more, and that via it, YEC is peanuts compared to what atheist, ‘skeptical’ intellectuals have done/allowed to happen.

          • Andy_Schueler

            But then you are changing the subject from “how irrational are beliefs” to “how much suffering did this believe cause”. Those are two very different subjects – believing in a flat earth is much more irrational than believing in the intellectual superiority of caucasians, but the former belief has caused virtually no suffering while the latter has caused incredible suffering – and Jonathan clearly talks about the former and not the latter.

          • Luke Breuer

            But then you are changing the subject from “how irrational are beliefs” to “how much suffering did this believe cause”.

            No; I am worried that “irrational” does not necessarily mean lack of soundness. Something with contradictions which well-matches reality may well be better than something which is perfectly consistent and yet is off in the clouds. See:

            LB: I accept deductive reasoning to be valid via intuition. Logic is actually just the easiest branch of intuition. But deductive logic is not what you use when you determine whether a given argument is sound, only whether it is valid. Other, faculties must be used in order to judge soundness. So I don’t see any circular reasoning, here. Deductive reasoning is not my god; I do not found all reasoning on it or anything like that. FYI, the being most associatable with deductive reasoning is ha-satan: the accuser. Life cannot come from deductive reasoning, only death.

            LB: Rationality is useless if it is not sound. This is what Martin Luther meant when he called reason a “whore”. Pick the wrong premises, and rationality is utterly screwed. Therefore, merely that someone is “rational” means absolutely nothing about whether that person is well-connected to reality.

            Which is better:

                 (1) an argument which is sound but not valid
                 (2) an argument which is valid but not sound

            ? The answer, of course, is neither/unknown.

            Those are two very different subjects – believing in a flat earth is much more irrational than believing in the intellectual superiority of caucasians, but the former belief has caused virtually no suffering while the latter has caused incredible suffering – and Jonathan clearly talks about the former and not the latter.

            This is not clearly true. Jonathan is speaking of YEC as if it has extremely damaging consequences to humanity. If he means solely to science, then I will apologize for misconstruing. But he very much seems to be pushing that e.g. the destruction of religion is higher priority than the destruction of terrible ideas I claim are still with us.

            If “dogmatic” has no connection at all to total amount of terribleness toward humanity, then I want to know, so I can pick a different term which means “total amount of terribleness toward humanity”.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Also,
            “which is partially falsified by those who do reject YEC, fyi”
            – that was not the point however, the point was rather that the examples of people stubbornly holding on to long refuted beliefs is clearly associated with fundamentalist religion. Or in other words, not everyone who is religious holds on to long refuted scientific beliefs despite being presented with overwhelming evidence to the contrary, but those who do that are virtually always religious fundamentalists (I can think of very few counterexamples, like Immanuel Velikovsky and his fanbois).

          • Luke Breuer

            Also,

            “which is partially falsified by those who do reject YEC, fyi”

            – that was not the point however, the point was rather that the examples of people stubbornly holding on to long refuted beliefs is clearly associated with fundamentalist religion.

            No, Jonathan is obssessed with YEC, which can be seen by his refusal to consider religion sans YEC.

            LB: You’re obsessed with YEC. If YEC didn’t exist, would you even have a case? There are plenty of Christians who do not hold to YEC. And yet, you would have their religion destroyed as well. I sense scapegoating.

            JP: Whoah. You CANNOT ignore YEC. That is one of THE most prevalent thought crimes committed by Christians. Together with 930 year old people, global floods, Nephilim and other such nonsense, we have very unscientific thought processes. See my other post on this:http://www.skepticink.com/tipp

            So far, the evidence is well-modeled by the following:

            LB: My analogy definitely has it confined to a small bit, but suppose that in fact the hand is gangrenous. Are you going to suggest still amputating the whole arm? From my perspective, Gandolf, I see you and others finding truly gangrenous bits, and then generalizing from ‘some’ → ‘all’. It is this generalization which is fallacious when not done with “sufficient evidence”. Jonathan Pearce and The Thinker appear to predicate their ‘some’ → ‘all’ upon YEC pretty much only YEC. You seem to have your own version of a finger.

            And then I need to address the presumed scale of “religious devoutness”:

            LB: As far as I can tell, Jonathan himself has concluded that all religion is false and bad, and doesn’t particularly care whether the evidence only supports that some sects of some religions are false/bad. Here’s how the conclusion-based thinking really shows up: in the assumption that the more serious you are about your religion, the more you’re likely to accept YEC, or something similarly science-stunting. So the only way to become more ‘scientific’ is to become less serious about your religion. Take this to its logical conclusion, and all religion must be destroyed.

            It’s a pretty tight case that Jonathan and The Thinker have made. It is also based on false generalization.

            Or in other words, not everyone who is religious holds on to long refuted scientific beliefs despite being presented with overwhelming evidence to the contrary, but those who do that are virtually always religious fundamentalists (I can think of very few counterexamples, like Immanuel Velikovsky and his fanbois).

            I disagree. Milgram experiment § Results has such terrible predictions that I find it completely untenable that the MacIntyre-‘tradition’ of psychology was continually heeding evidence to the contrary of its dogma. Narrative Knowing and the Human Sciences (Google books preface, my discussion) is evidence that this denial of reality ran very deeply. The mechanization of man, exemplified by Enlightenment thinker Julien Offray de La Mettrie‘s 1748 Man a Machine, is even today very much alive, very much damaging, and very much a denial of evidence that is being shoved in our faces, day in and day out.

            Furthermore, if Feser is right, that materialism/physicalism is lethal to a grounding of reason, then the very metaphysical underpinnings of modern science are sand in the Mt 7:24–27 sense, and it’s not just evidence that is being ignored, it is reason herself who is being violated, egregiously. No, this idea that religion is so flawed compared to the alternatives needs serious investigation. It is very easy to be insane, in the sense I describe by quoting and expounding upon GK Chesterton’ in Intersubjectivity is Key, and not be able to detect it, except for the smallest of signals. It is possible to build a world-expanding-proof sphere around yourself or a group, and it is only due to the mercy and grace of God that the sphere can be punctured.

          • Andy_Schueler

            I disagree. Milgram experiment § Results has such terrible predictions that I find it completely untenable that the MacIntyre-‘tradition’ of psychology was continually heeding evidence to the contrary of its dogma.

            Even if that were the case, it still proves my point – there is a threshold of evidence after which secular science will admit that the established wisdom was flawed and needs correction. This would be analogous to creationism if researchers would have looked at those results and said “our models are infallible, the results must be wrong”, and then after replicating the results keep repeating how the models are infallible and the results must be wrong ad nauseam. But this is precisely not what happened, science eventually always corrects model based on the evidence, creationism on the other hand always cherry picks the evidence that doesn´t immediatly refute it and ignores or lies about the rest.

            Furthermore, if Feser is right, that materialism/physicalism is lethal to a grounding of reason

            Yeah, “if” – and as soon as he is demonstrably and unambigiously correct and we keep handwaving his ideas away, then you will have a point.

          • Luke Breuer

            But this is precisely not what happened, science eventually always corrects model based on the evidence, creationism on the other hand always cherry picks the evidence that doesn´t immediatly refute it and ignores or lies about the rest.

            I’m starting to not care, if it is the case that creationists don’t cause very much actual damage. Furthermore, some creationists do stop being creationists after looking at the evidence: you’re talking to an ex-creationist who did exactly that, after arguing rigorously for creationism on the internet. I am analogous to the scientists who submit to the evidence after seeing enough of it. The creationists to whom you refer are like the scientists who Planck said had to die in order for science to move forward.

            So… what’s the problem? There are dogmatic individuals on every side. It’s almost as if being dogmatic, and refusing to be corrected by evidence, is entirely a human attribute.

            Yeah, “if” – and as soon as he is demonstrably and unambigiously correct and we keep handwaving his ideas away, then you will have a point.

            “and we keep handwaving his ideas away”—what?

          • Andy_Schueler

            I’m starting to not care, if it is the case that creationists don’t cause very much actual damage.

            It´s all relative, those views are very damaging, particularly if they are coupled with endtime beliefs that entail that this world will soon come to an end – this is frequently cited as a reason by fundamentalist policy makers for why we do not have to take climate change seriously for example. That´s pretty damaging, not Stalinism level damaging, but still.

            Furthermore, some creationists do stop being creationists after looking at the evidence: you’re talking to an ex-creationist who did exactly that, after arguing rigorously for creationism on the internet. I am analogous to the scientists who submit to the evidence after seeing enough of it. The creationists to whom you refer are like the scientists who Planck said had to die in order for science to move forward.

            Well, the point I keep repeating is that even if one would take Planck literally and science only progresses after one generation of researchers died – creationism doesn´t even rise to this level, it doesn´t die. Flood geology should have died seven generations ago and it is still being kept alive and kicking by fundamentalist religion.

            “and we keep handwaving his ideas away”—what?

            The metaphysical system that Feser says we have to presuppose in order to conduct science or any endeavour similar to modern science.

          • Luke Breuer

            It´s all relative, those views are very damaging, particularly if they are coupled with endtime beliefs that entail that this world will soon come to an end – this is frequently cited as a reason by fundamentalist policy makers for why we do not have to take climate change seriously for example. That´s pretty damaging, not Stalinism level damaging, but still.

            Ok, but:

                 (1) creationism ⇏ climate change denial
                 (2) climate change denial ⇏ creationism

            Indeed, verses like Gen 1:26,28, and Rom 8:20–21 could be interpreted as it being important to take care of the planet. Francis Schaeffer, who is often called a fundamentalist, argued for precisely this in Pollution and the Death of Man. BTW, he also wrote A Christian Manifesto, which is credited for accelerating the Religious Right in the US. Finally, he wrote Whatever Happened to the Human Race? with Everett Koop, which is credited for getting Christians up in arms about abortion.

            The idea that Christians can do whatever they want with the planet as long as they don’t touch other humans is shockingly reminiscent of Satan’s first go at Job. Huh, that’s interesting—thank you for provoking that connection! There’s also the Parable of the Wicked Husbandmen.

            Well, the point I keep repeating is that even if one would take Planck literally

            You’re starting to sound fundamentalist with your use of ‘literally’. When I hear someone say something, or read something, I try to make it true and meaningful; I extend that grace to the other person, although sometimes it’s actually humility when I was initial wrong and self-corrected. I could do this to Planck, and still maintain that there is a non-trivial amount of dogmatism in science. Also dogmatism among intellectuals who are ostensibly rational to the max.

            Flood geology should have died seven generations ago and it is still being kept alive and kicking by fundamentalist religion.

            The fact that very smart scientists cannot figure out how to minimize the impact of flood geology says something about how hard they suck at understanding human nature, IMHO. I would tell flood geologists to try and predict new phenomena, and not repeatedly tell them that they’re wrong. I’d just say, “help me figure out new things about reality with what you’re doing”. I would measure the trustworthiness of MacIntyre-traditions by how much they’ve increased our understanding of reality and morality. But no, there are all these people who have to go around pointing out everyone who is wrong. What an epic tactics failure. Too bad those people don’t learn from their mistakes and change tactics.

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

            OK, hjow would YOU explain the causality which undergirds the correlation between Christianity/Creationism and climate change denial;?

            You might want to look at leaked Heartland Institute documents (strong Christian-influenced lobbying thinktank, funded by people like the Templeton Foundation) – http://www.theguardian.com/environment/blog/2012/feb/15/leaked-heartland-institute-documents-climate-scepticism.

            Or perhaps this might shed some light:

            “Who is behind these programs of de-education?

            The group writing much of the legislation is the American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec), a “nonpartisan” consortium of state legislators and business interests that gets plenty of money from the usual suspects. But the legislation has also received vital support from groups associated with the religious right. For example, the perversely named Louisiana Science Education Act, which opens the door to climate science denial in the classroom, was co-authored by the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based creationist thinktank. That act also received crucial support from the Alliance Defending Freedom, the well-funded Christian legal advocacy group that has described itself as “a servant organization that provides the resources that will keep the door open for the spread of the Gospel”, and which promotes a radical religious agenda in public schools.

            What does religion have to do with climate science? Radical religious activists promote the anti-science bills, in part, because they also seek to undermine the teaching of evolution – another issue that supposedly has “two sides”, so schools should “teach the controversy”. Now, you don’t have to believe that Earth was created in six hectic days in order to be skeptical about climate science, but a large number of climate science deniers also happen to be evolution deniers.

            What exactly is the theology of climate science denial? The Cornwall Alliance – a coalition whose list of signatories could double as a directory of major players in the religious right – has a produced a declaration asserting, as a matter of theology, that “there is no convincing scientific evidence that human contribution to greenhouse gases is causing dangerous global warming.””

            http://www.alternet.org/environment/how-religious-right-fueling-climate-change-denial

          • Luke Breuer

            OK, hjow would YOU explain the causality which undergirds the correlation between Christianity/Creationism and climate change denial;?

            I don’t have the relevant information. My (1) and (2) were simply a logical analysis, I do not know if climate change denialists are predominantly creationist, and I don’t know if creationists are predominantly climate change deniers. BTW, I am a creationist in the sense that I think God created the world and is intimately involved in its continuing existence, but I do think he used evolution to do it, in a way that is 100% compatible with the evidence.

            Anecdotes are not enough; if you’re going to firmly place the blame of climate change denial on YEC, you need more than anecdotes for me to take anything close to strong action.

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

            OK, take Kahan’s paper. He finds that how much you know about science doesn’t necessarily affect your opinions on science-related matters related to public policy. In the case of evolution, this was because no matter how much people know about science (and about evolution), they tended to reject evolution if they were religious.

            For climate science, it is more complex (because libertarians usually deny AGW, and the variables are more complex) BUT religion plays a part:

            http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2459057

          • Luke Breuer

            OK, take Kahan’s paper.

            From the paper:

            The source of the climate-change controversy and like disputes is the contamination of education and politics with forms of cultural status competition that make it impossible for diverse citizens to express their reason as both collective-knowledge acquirers and cultural-identity protectors at the same time.

            This is not at all surprising. Yoram Hazony discusses this in his The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture; see Farmers vs. Shepherds: The Really Old Story, for example. The rough idea is that:

                 (a) farmers are primarily culture-protectors
                 (b) shepherds are primarily life-promoters

            Note that in the ANE, farmers lived close to cities (no shipping apples from New Zealand). Hazony’s claim is that God has always been on the side of the shepherd when there was conflict: he says this goes all the way back to Cain vs. Abel. Cain was the farmer and was protecting his way of life from threatening Abel. Now of course this is supposition (well, he might be going off of extra-Bible resources; I haven’t finished his book yet), but it matches later, more-fleshed-out patterns in the Hebrew Bible.

            Peter Berger talks extensively about the conforming powers of society and how the Christian is called to challenge them; see his A Far Glory and The Precarious Vision: A Sociologist Looks at Social Fictions and Christian Faith. Jacques Ellul also talks about this in The Subversion of Christianity. He notes how Christianity is often subverted into protecting the status quo, but that true Christianity is shepherd-like, not farmer-like:

            If we tried to abolish the word Christianity, what would we have to say? First, the revelation and work of God accomplished in Jesus Christ, second, the being of the church as the body of Christ, and third, the faith and life of Christians in truth and love. Since we cannot keep repeating this long triple formula, we shall now use X to denote these three aspects. (11)

            We can find subversion of cultural norms right in Genesis 1: instead of the perfectly good Hebrew words for “sun” and “moon”, the terms “greater lamp” and “lesser lamp” were used. Why? Probably to demote the sun and moon gods. Or we can look at the almost-sacrifice of Isaac. My guess is that the country from which Abraham hailed was used to sacrifice of children. So YHWH played into this, but subverted it at the end. Subversion, subversion, subversion, of extant culture. So either culture subverts Christianity, or Christianity subverts culture.

            Make sense? Here, I’ll give you a wonderful example of Judaism subverting culture:

            There turned out to be enormous ethical implications to this proto-individuation. It is very clearly expressed in the dramatic confrontation between King David and the prophet Nathan recounted in the twelfth chapter of the Second Book of Samuel. David had caused the murder of Bathsheba’s husband in order to incorporate her in his harem—a perfectly acceptable expression of royal prerogative in terms of oriental conceptions of kingship. After Nathan cleverly leads David to condemn a man who shows no pity in destroying what another man loves, the prophet tells David that he is just such a man—”You are the man.” This sentence sovereignly ignores all the communal legitimations of kingship in the ancient Near East. Indeed, it ignores all the social constructions of the self as understood at that time. It passes normative judgment on David the man—a naked man, a man divested of all the trappings of a community, a man alone. I believe that this view of the relation between God and man, and therefore among men, continues to be normative for a Christian understanding of the human condition. (A Far Glory, 99–100)

            I would like to see you fully engage this comment, Jonathan. It seems to be on an issue very close to your heart, and it seems to offer a significant challenge to your current views. In particular, it challenges what seems to be a presupposition of yours, that the more devoutly ‘religious’ one is—for any definition of ‘religious’ I can figure out which comports with your use of the term and its relatives—the worse one’s impact will be on the world. I think this is entirely unproven and the evidence points to a gangrenous finger at most, not a gangrenous arm/person.

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

            I might have to respond to this as a blog post!

          • Luke Breuer

            That would be neat! Berger, Hazony, and Ellul have significantly enhanced my view of Christianity and Judaism. There is also the innovation of charity (B.), which may be traceable to Jesus. Most religion can be bad, and be utterly irrelevant to my points. Evidence is relevant, but it could just mean that to get it right, you have to do it right. Without a sound, valid argument that religion is necessarily bad, we ought not pretend that it is, lest we be… irrational.

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

            And then, of course, there is a further complication by looking into which way causality goes for politics and religion!

          • Luke Breuer

            Yep; Keith Ward explores the religion angle in Is Religion Dangerous? It’s complicated, and tends to have to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. Perhaps some generalizations (but not universals, right?) can be derived from the particulars, but I don’t think anyone has done the required studying and analysis to do this—despite all the claiming that “all [serious] religion is dangerous”, or actions which are de facto predicated upon such a claim. (Nobody would talk about how to destroy the Jews unless he/she thought it might be a good idea.)

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

            Actually, you should care, and it does do damage. That the Texas Education Board can manipulate text book decrees such that actual science is eroded in favour of nonsense, that the most powerful country in the world is seeing its science curriculum and science standing become embattled and diminished, is not good for the future of us all.

            And these things are spreading to other countries. I don’t think you realise the extent of the power of the Discovery Institute who have paid shed loads of money to attempt to get THEIR innocuous LOOKING text books into our schools. We now have creationist Christian schools where 20 years ago they were’t even on the radar.

            http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/2013/06/16/creationism-science-denialism-and-other-childhood-indoctrination-and-intellectual-abuse/

            Look at writers like Jonny Scaramanga to see the damage being done.

          • Luke Breuer

            I find it hard to connect the textbook thing to creationism qua creationism. It seems much larger: the attempt to keep society from changing. Example: Texas GOP rejects ‘critical thinking’ skills. Really. Now, they may have had two bad choices:

                 (1) undermine all authority
                 (2) allow parents full authority

            Neither of these promotes moral and intellectual maturity, or at least, neither of them allows children to surpass their parents, unlike the model in the Bible where children most definitely do surpass their parents. In contrast to this, my father, a creationist, gave me the critical thinking skills to reject YEC. He taught me what I needed to know (most critically: compare the world’s version to the Bible’s version, and do it properly) in order to surpass what he had attained in life—well, hopefully: he owns a software company and I do not, hehe.

            Now, I do not disagree that this is a problem. But I see other problems, too. See, for example, James Davison Hunter’s The Death of Character: Moral Education in an Age Without Good or Evil. I see advertisements around SF of how “integrity matters” in business. Uhhh, duh? The Italian banking families only managed to do what they did because of intra-family integrity, and I’m told it’s likely that they were responsible for heading toward capitalism.

            Let’s take school shootings, which I am pretty sure are on the rise in the US. Can you really trace the reason for that, to YEC? I doubt it. The world cannot survive on science alone! And yet, you seem to either think that there is no problem here, or you’re somehow blaming religious folks for this, too. No, no, no. Check out Rwandan Genocide § United States. Read that fully. Tell me if our problem is only scientific, or even primarily scientific.

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

            Actually, school shootings and the lack of gun control flies directly in the face of science and evidence-based policy making. An interesting choice of analogy.

            Shall I also point out the correlation of right-wing religious types and gun ownership?

            You DID reject YEC, but late. There were wasted years there.

          • Luke Breuer

            You ignored quite a bit of my comment; please revisit it. I’m starting to sense that there is a specific pattern to the bits of my comments which you address, and the bits you ignore. There’s still a lot of noise, but you seem to not-infrequently shy away from the bits which possibly pose problems for your established and clearly-highly-valued positions.

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

            Surely, @LukeBreuer:disqus , you see this. There is clear presuppositional adherence by YECs AND other theists to the point of amazement. Take WLC who freely admits, as an evidentialist, that if the evidence ever wholly points towards the falsity of theism, his inner witness to the Holy Spirit will ALWAYS win out, end of discussion.

            This is just, to me, a sign of certitude, and thus of dogmatic adherence regardless. He can’t even entertain the notion that that inner experience could be wrong, misappropriated or whatever; that other people from other religions have similar experiences which lead to mutually exclusive conclusions…

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

      You need to deal with the claim that atheism is more associated with ratio-analytic thinking styles. Now you can argue about the order of causation, but that is, in some sense, superfluous to the general point that religious people are more prone to thinking silly things.

      Now, if we go back to my original original point, the idea of thinking styles IS TOTALLY important and was actually where I wanted the debate to go. Can we rid ourselves of religious belief if all the evidence pointed to its nonexistence (as a thought experiment)? Well, if it is being defined by thinking styles which is itself defined by brain states and neurological set ups, then we would struggle to be able to do so.

      But eviently you wanted to argue about something else!

      • Luke Breuer

        You need to deal with the claim that atheism is more associated with ratio-analytic thinking styles.

        Rationality is useless if it is not sound. This is what Martin Luther meant when he called reason a “whore”. Pick the wrong premises, and rationality is utterly screwed. Therefore, merely that someone is “rational” means absolutely nothing about whether that person is well-connected to reality.

        Which is better:

             (1) an argument which is sound but not valid
             (2) an argument which is valid but not sound

        ? The answer, of course, is neither/unknown.

        Now, if we go back to my original original point, the idea of thinking styles IS TOTALLY important and was actually where I wanted the debate to go.

        Alright; how about we contrast my ‘fact’ vs. ‘truth’ ideas with your:

        Jonathan Pearce: I think the goal is to have a bottom up worldview, where you establish the building bricks and see what building arises. I think top down approaches are dangerous, and I think this is what many people, particularly theists, do. They start with a conclusion, and massage evidence to fit. I will happily throw out conclusions, as I have done many times in the past, if that is where the path leads.

        ? This bottom-up vs. top-down discussion does seem to be very important to thinking style, no? I would also point out Wikipedia’s top-down and bottom-up design for your consideration. I have quite a bit of knowledge about that, being a software architect. I could also throw in Richard Feynman’s “What I cannot create, I cannot understand.”—a favorite quotation of mine.

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

          missed this one, sorry!

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

          It is only neither/unknown because you have not defined better, which s a goal oriented idea.

          • Luke Breuer

            Ok? Then give me a goal which any reasonable person would accept, which prefers (1) over (2) or vice versa.

            Would you address the second part of my comment? After all, you were complaining that I was not addressing the crux of your argument, then I tried to do so, and then you just ignored it, twice now.

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

            The first part of your comment is really about justified truths. Is it better to have a conclusion which is correct but to which you poorly reason, or an incorrect conclusion to which you have argued very well (but perhaps an axiom is incorrect)?

            This is why I ask what does better mean? What is the goal?

            If it is about finding the cure to a disease which is predicated upon correct truths, then having a poorly argued correct conclusion is better. If it is about fostering better critical thinking etc then perhaps the other option.

            Personally, I prefer the other option of well-argued valid and sound conclusions.

            The next part you already k now. I prefer bottom up because this is about making sure everything from the bottom up is sound, leaving only the axiomatic foundational brick unable to be fully (deductively) rationalised.

            Conclusions are hierarchical. In other words, objective morality, for example, depends upon several other levels, including whether objective ideas in general can and do exist, and whether anything exists outside of our own heads.

            Just like Descartes, I reason from what I indubitably know to be true and build from there.

            Anything else opens you up more probably to cognitive biases.

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

            Awesome; I left a preliminary comment. This is a fascinating topic, especially since I have Penelope Maddy’s Second Philosophy: A Naturalistic Method and R. Scott Smith’s Naturalism and Our Knowledge of Reality checked out from the library, although I have to return the former soon. I can always get it again.

      • Luke Breuer

        Hi Jonathan, I made a comment attempting to follow your “original original point”:

        Now, if we go back to my original original point, the idea of thinking styles IS TOTALLY important and was actually where I wanted the debate to go.

        Did I get it right? If so, may we continue this conversation?

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

      Also, as you are not rss -ing anymore, you might like to know that i have edited a new book!

      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2014/07/15/the-bloggers-at-the-skeptic-ink-network-just-published-their-first-book/