Sorry, Vox, I don't debate crazy pipsqueaks any more

A while back, I said, "Somebody somewhere is going to have to someday point me to some intelligent arguments for gods, because I've sure never found them. And I know, someone is going to complain that I always pick on the weak arguments…while not bothering to tell me what the strong ones are."

In a fit of unwarranted hubris, the odious Theodore Beale/Vox Day rushed to arrange a debate on a local conservative radio show. Unfortunately, he didn't stop to think — how would debating Vox Day, christofascist misogynist, beneficiary of wingnut welfare, prominent freakshow participant, possibly rebut the complaint that I only pick on the weak arguments?

Besides, I learned my lesson in the Geoffrey Simmons radio debate: it's a waste of time to go up against one of these insane babblers, because all they can do is high-frequency repetition of nonsensical claims. I've also acquired a deep distrust of conservative radio — the outcome of that debate, in which Simmons was flattened, was that they merely reinvited him back on the show without me around to puncture his claims. The fact that the Northern Alliance radio show actually thinks Vox Day is a credible voice for conservative thought tells me right away that there is something wrong with them, and no, I'm not going to trust them at all.

I've also read Day's horrible little book, The Irrational Atheist. Well, to be honest, I read a few chapters of dreck, then flipped through the rest rather quickly. It's actually the "Vox Day Hates Sam Harris" book, with occasional potshots at other New Atheists, and it's really not very good. You would think that if he had a strong rational argument with evidence for any gods, then he would have put it in there — nothing would more seriously deflate one of us scientific atheists who claim there is no evidence for god than, say, presenting credible evidence for god. That was what I actually skimmed through the book for, but it wasn't there.

I would think that if he had some zinger of an argument, there would be better ways to reveal it than on an obscure AM radio talk show in a debate with an equally obscure professor at a liberal arts college. He could, for instance, put it right at the top of his web page, where we could all marvel at it before rushing off to our much-neglected church.

More like this

For God's sake, why doesn't VD give us any meaningful argument for God, instead of offering another blather-session?

It's not like we couldn't discuss it here, and if something worthwhile in favor of theism appeared, that could be pursued on any number of venues.

In other words, demonstrate that there is a conversation to be had, instead of seeking for more time to assert what can't be evidenced.

Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

And the sock puppet incursion is getting annoying.

The fact that he calls himself Vox Day is goofy enough, but to suggest that he has the intellectual fortitude to survive a debate with the Squidster is high comedy indeed.

Has everyone noticed that every time we fail to follow Professor Dawkin's 'no debates' rule, we always give ground to the side of irrationality. The quote in comment 1 perfectly sums up why belittling them is the proper response.

Damn, couldn't stop the post: "Dawkins' " , not "Dawkin's "

I guess Vox's & co theory is if they say the same thing enough times we closed minded, evidence obsessed rationalists will begin to believe it.

So what you are saying, PZ, is that you're a chickenshit. Unsurprising.

@jsn: would you enjoin a debate with a paranoid schizophrenic about how they really ARE out to get him? Same thing here. Vox Day can't face up to reality on its own terms, it scares him too much.

By Roger, FCD (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

It has been well established that VD is a racist, secist lunatic. PZ has nothing to gain by debating him, except possibly fleas (which one gets by lying down with dogs).

Can I be really rude and go off topic with a 'personality test for Christians' that I've just filled in for a Christian friend of mine. The sample result graphic can be seen on Heart Styles.

"The HeartStyles™ Indicator (HSI)
HSI measures behavioural responses to whether our heart is following the pattern of the world or the pattern of heaven. The ways of the world are dysfunctional (separated from God, insecure, low self-worth, ego driven and motivated by fear) and the ways of heaven are functional (in relationship with God, secure in God, high self-worth, focused to be like Jesus and motivated by love)."

Where/How to begin to explain to her what complete balderdash this is? With every sentence she came out with to explain its validity I disputed the language used and the base assumptions.

Bah - never get into a debate in an arena where the moderators favor one opponent and have the ability to cut of mikes and otherwise make you look foolish.

If Theodore "Vox Day" Beale wants a debate he should go ahead and start one. You both have blogs, after all. He can post his "intelligent arguments for the existence of gods" and you can go about shredding them. It's a great format for such things, as both debaters are forced into taking a turn, no one can "cut off the mike" of their opponent, the tactic of "screaming louder than my opponent so he can't respond" make you look like the jackass you are instead of working, links to references can be embedded into the post to support your claims, and it's far, far more public than some crappy AM talk show.

Of course, crappy AM talk show debates reward those who can scream, obfuscate, and control the debate. Internet debates favor those who can actually present evidence for their position in a rational, well-written manner. So I can see why Theodore Beale might want to have the argument on ground that favors him, but only a fool or someone really good at screaming and obfuscation would take him up on it.

Screw those morons. I'll make a condition for a debate with these insane retards: You bring your god with you as a second and then we'll have a debate. Why waste brain cells on these demented shits?

I'm sure most people know this, but Evangelical Realism has been dissecting Vox Day's masterpiece a bit at a time (every Tuesday).

#3
For God's sake, why doesn't VD give us any meaningful argument for God, instead of offering another blather-session?

If you have the stomach to read his book, he has tried.

It is all highly confused nonsense though.

The single best reason for avoiding debates like this is that facts aren't decided by who can present them better.

The traditional religioso refrain has always been "the lord works in mysterious ways, his wonders to perform." But now that they want to argue from a scientific perspective, they have to lie, lie, and lie some more.

I would like to have a word with the Great Designer about my wisdom teeth.

He's trying to get you to fall for one of the classic blunders. The most famous is "never get involved in a land war in Asia", but only slightly less known is "never get into a debate with a creationist on a conservative radio show when death reality is on the line."

If he's willing to engage in a verbal debate, there's no reason why he shouldn't engage in a written one.

I agree with NonyNony.

I'm getting a little fatigued with the debate as a forum for this kinds of issues. I think it's perhaps useful for those folks who aren't familiar with the subject, and haven't heard the common arguments on both sides. For instance, I'd listen to a debate between PZ and another scientists on some interesting, not-overly-technical scientific subject. But my impression is that, for the most part, theism/atheism debates are mostly attended by partisans of one side or another, and are "judged" by who comes up with the cleverest bon mot or loudest denunciation. When I hear atheists praising the "debate skills" of Dinesh D'Souza, it makes me question the value of the whole process.

By Screechy Monkey (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

"For God's sake, why doesn't VD give us any meaningful argument for God, instead of offering another blather-session?

Because they want to feel like they're actually thinking through things, and making intellectual headway. They are not, as is obvious, but has that ever stopped conservatives? If they're losing, they set up biased "debate" sessions where they can try and use argument ad populum and a couple flicks of the mic switch to prove their claims. They know that doing it on a blog will not be visible out in public, and that's where they like screaming and whining.

By BlueIndependent (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

When I hear atheists praising the "debate skills" of Dinesh D'Souza, it makes me question the value of the whole process.

Posted by: Screechy Monkey

Could you please point out those atheist who do that? Distort D'Newsia merely uses a variation of the Gish Gallop.

By Janine ID (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

I said this before but i don't think it can be said enough. Next time your at the bookstore and see his book look at the back cover. It says something along the lines of "Girls who have been raped are 50 times more likely to commit suicide than ones that were raised Catholic."

That's how this idiot thinks.

The other day I clicked on a link that said there was evidence for god so strong you had to be stupid to not get it.
the evidence? Language. That we humans developed a written means of communication.
I don't get it.

PZ, have you got a copy of that debate you had with VD? ...Vox Day, not venereal disease, although they are equally disgusting. In any case, I'd like to give a listen to the destruction.

Yeah, some people just look for cute short summaries, arguments, proofs etc... Good on ya for not engaging in this debate, debating each other's metaphysics has no place in the academic science world...

By thisisfunny (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

I didn't know Vox Day was part of the academic science world.

Well at least now you know he is not.

By thisisfunny (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

Just curious: what kind of evidence would constitute proof of a god or set theism on a firm footing? I remember someone (maybe here?) remarking that a distinct cosmic message via star alignment or something like that would qualify. What else? I'm stumped.

I didn't know Vox Day was part of the academic science world.

Posted by: Dennis N

VD knows enough about that realm to know there are too many women in it.

By Janine ID (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

Vox Day is to academic science as Ben Stein is to Holocaust scholarship.

Janine ID @ 23: "Could you please point out those atheist who [praise D'Souza's debate skills]?"

Just to clarify: I agree with your assessment of D'Souza.

I'm going on recollection from comment threads at, for instance, Dawkins's web site. There were a lot of comments to the effect that D'Souza "beat" Harris or Dennett or whoever, and how "we" needed to use only our "best" debaters against him. Of course, my "atheist-dar" doesn't always work, so I suppose those praising him might not have been atheists. If it's an important point, I can try to dig up some examples later today.

By Screechy Monkey (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

Vitalism and teleology.
Also, read up on a the hypothesis of quantum consciousness.
The Penrose-Hameroff orchestrated objective reduction model.

By thisisfunny (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

Thank you, Screechy Monkey. I have listened to a few D'Sousa debates and was not impressed.

There is no need to dig those up. Any "atheist" who is impressed by his style does not understand what he is doing.

By Janine ID (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

I have actually given up on the creationists. I really don't think that it's any more possible to teach them how to follow a reasoned well-documented argument (hopefully they don't end up on juries!) than it would be to teach my cat how to count to two. There really just seems to be something wrong with their brains. The creationists that is, not the cat. Cats are not dumb, just different. Creationists are dumb and more.

jsn,
I wish PZ would disemvowel you or just ban you outright, you sack of shit.

Roger,
you posted:"@jsn: would you enjoin a debate with a paranoid schizophrenic about how they really ARE out to get him?"

Unfortunately you were talking to someone just as idiotic as VD. jsn doesn't comprehend reason so don't waste your time.

I heartily endorse the idea of not engaging in talk radio debates: if people have decent arguments, both sides can better present their cases and counters in writing.

But folks here shouldn't make the mistake of assuming that their opponents arguments are a patently dumb and preposterous as hyperbole and content-free dismissal allows. That's a good way to get lazy and sloppy.

Damn you Rich @#2! I need gallons of eye bleach now because of that picture!

Re: Irene Delse #12

Thanks for mentioning Austin Cline's work. He only deals with one article as far as I know, but that is already more attention than Vox Day is worth, except as a case study of the kind of ridiculous, hateful dogshit that passes for conservative "thought" these days. Austin's writing is always clear, and his logic is as clean as any I've read. I don't know how he finds the time or the patience to do what he does, but it is appreciated.

I'm with Holbach on this one. Trot out your god and I'll believe.
Tim there are plenty of verses in the bible that state how god will reappear on Earth, as well as the much ballyhoo'd grand entrance Jesus will make. I'll settle for that one. The thief in the night version wouldn't be good enough for me.
My favorite view of the Almighty is the naked backside flying Jehovah in the Sistine Chapel.

"Just curious: what kind of evidence would constitute proof of a god or set theism on a firm footing?"

But that's exactly the core of the issue. They need to produce something falsifiable. That's impossible when the argument is about something "outside" of Nature. It's a complete fallacy. It's hard to believe that anyone takes the claim seriously after spending about 2 minutes thinking it through. If a deity was to be proven, it would be shown to be a merely "physical" (read: of Nature) phenomenon. This would make the deity forever entangled with its creation, but it needs to be separate from its creation because it "existed" before it created Nature. It's a really stupifying argument.

Hi PZ,

Just wanted to say that while I certainly appreciate your reluctance to get in any kind of debate with the IDiots I really hope I'll get another chance to hear to beating down more fools like Simmons.

I know other scientists such as Dawkin's make good arguments, expressing the futility of a "debate" with such ignorance but as an atheist there's nothing quite like hearing a creationist getting their ass handed to them the way you did with Simmons. I've played clips of that to family and friends (who have no interest in either side of the issue) and have watched them laugh out loud at the verbal thrashing you delivered.

I certainly would not suggest you go on such a biased forum again as we've seen how low they'll stoop but man, hearing a creationist stumble, stutter and backtrack as you demonstrate (with remarkable eloquence) the breathtaking flaws in their arguments is something I think the world would be worse off without.

By Chris Lamb (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

I just do not understand the problem, sure it is embarrassing, but the way to deal with VD is to treat it quickly. A couple of shots of a Penicillin derivative usually cures it quickly.

What? Oh. Really? Well, the advice above might still work.

Ciao y'all

Wow, I just went over to see what ol' Vox had to say about this (I was right, he's a brave warrior and PZ is scared) and was just amazed. Sure there were some posts trying to get answers to questions that these people have never wanted to answer, but most of it was just a black hole of stupid. Yes, the stupid there is so concentrated that not a single intelligent thought comes out. Oh, and the distortions have nothing to do with time or space. Poor truth. It's always the first casualty isn't it?

I really respect you P.Z. but I disagree with your decision here. I realize that not all venues are set up the way they really should be set up to deal with controversial discussion fairly. However, on the other hand you have an opportunity, even with the imposed handicap, to present your position to people who will otherwise not hear your position presented as it should be presented at all. Yes, the station may be an advocate of a position opposite of yours. Yes, they may bring the other guy back later to talk without criticism so he can try to clean up after you expose his errors.

But that still means you passed an opportunity by. I hope you will reconsider, if you can. I say this because I know what you can bring to the table when you are in the discussion.

I do want to tell you that my attitude toward this is influenced a bit by my own personal history. I used to be a young earth creationist. Ever since finding my way out of that morass I have always found it a bit irritating when scientists take the ivory tower escape hatch (we don't need to deal with those dirty creationists, we'll just ignore them). If scientists and others who take science seriously would have openly confronted creationists head-on early on in the early 1960s and thereafter, I sincerely believe that we would not be in the mess we're in right now, because I don't think creationism would have grown as it has. Creationism has grown up among about two generations now because it was basically allowed to grow unchecked by scientists who didn't want to "get their hands dirty" by getting down in the trenches to deal with the dirty creationists. (I'm also reminded of several years ago in Kansas when scientists en masse decided to bail out of dealing with the problem because, again, they didn't want to get their hands dirty because the venue was political rather than a proper scientific venue. This is just a wrong-headed approach to dealing with the problem. Face the problem squarely and confront them with the forthright criticism they deserve. Hit them on every front with all artillery guided shells programmed for their targets.)

At the same time I fully realize that in specific cases there are pragmatic considerations and judgment calls based on those considerations that must be made, and there will be disagreements at the margins. But I want to cast my vote for influencing effective spokesmen to jump in with both two feet - even when the venue is not ideal - in order to keep injecting some sanity into the mix of discussion in the culture.

Okay I'll shut up now.

I suppose you don't consider "tornadoes always hit trailer parks" as credible evidence.

It's still the best I've ever heard.

I don't want Pee Wee Myers to debate . I simply want him to announce that he has cancer in both balls, liver, pancreas and brain, so I can go get drunk.

I could provide you with an actual "not insane" argument for the existence of a "God" if you like. On the proviso that it is understood I would not be making the argument as my own. I don't believe in god. I'm not sure it would be accessible to many people here though as it calls for a bit more logic and philosophy than many are accustomed to. It's basically a reductio ad absurdum against the principle of sufficient reason. Mind you, I don't think the argument succeeds, just that it is non batshit crazy like most of the low hanging fruit popular here.

Brenda, can you make just one post without being condescending and arrogant?

[BrendaUpdate] More preening and insinuations she's the smartest person posting here, no actual content to support that claim. [/BrendaUpdate]

Formal debates are fun entertainment but, really, they decide nothing except you is the better debater. I joined the debate club in high school and the biggest challenge for me was when I was saddled with the position that I didn't believe in. The idea that I could "win" a debate using arguments that were wrong but persuasive proved to me that debates are not the way to resolve an issue.

By John Huey (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

Brenda is datyew? And Keith what's stopping you? Go ahead & get drunk moron. You'll always be fergivin rite?

By Barklikeadog (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

Wasted a lunch hour over there.
Mena's right. "Black hole of stupid."
Debate is futile with that bunch. They don't use words such as "reason" or "evidence" the way one might expect, so there is no baseline for communication. If it doesn't confirm their presuppositions, it doesn't exist or didn't happen.
Never wrestle with a pig. You just get dirty and the pig likes it anyway.

Oh Brenda, I forgot you were here, you may go now. Leave the shotgun.

Another popular culture reference and I do not think Brenda really has a shotgun. The rest of it stands well, though.

See you at the free clinic?

Ciao

Keith in #48; even with testicular cancer he'd still have more manhood than you do Keith. PZ is the one out in public, not posting vicious little anonymous comments like your' cowardly ass.

We're saved! Brendas' here. Thank gooodness. All that low hanging fruit was too ripe.

By Barklikeadog (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

Alex@42: "If a deity was to be proven, it would be shown to be a merely "physical" (read: of Nature) phenomenon. This would make the deity forever entangled with its creation, but it needs to be separate from its creation because it "existed" before it created Nature. It's a really stupifying argument."

Not necessarily stupifying. When I was a kid - long before personal computers - I envisioned Heaven and God as a sort of Uber world, the "Real" world, and ours a simulation. Think of the Matrix virtual world, and similar books and movies. The programmer (or game-player) could manifest in any way in our universe, and do *anything (as far as we could tell) with no effort. Angels and trumpets? Easy. Wipe out a whole galaxy? Sure! Just reconfigure the game.

But we have no reason to think there is anything *like this; I only claim that it is not incoherent and the physical appearance of such a god would not constrain him to material limitations - it could be an avatar of sorts. Of course, Yahweh could also be Norbert the nerd playing a game of Sims 47 in his mom's basement. Just because an entity is omnipotent doesn't mean he is admirable or trustworthy. How could we tell?

What a silly idea. There's nothing to debate. As soon as the creotards advance some evidence (other than "I'm ignorant and don't know X could have happened, therefore there is a god" or "you don't know how X could have happened therefore there is a god") then there's something to debate. Otherwise it's just nitpicking trench warfare attempting to put reality on trial.

I just skip over anything Vox Day posts. My impression is that he is very seriously mentally ill. And just might go berserk in a Cho Seung Paul Hill kind of way.

I just do not understand the problem, sure it is embarrassing, but the way to deal with VD is to treat it quickly. A couple of shots of a Penicillin derivative usually cures it quickly.

What? Oh. Really? Well, the advice above might still work.

Not that kind of VD. You treat cockroaches, ants, termites and Vox Day's with pesticides. A can of Raid should do it. Retreat if necessary because some insects are unresponsive to insecticides due to evolved resistance.

Janine and Screech Monkey: That smarmy and smirky D'sousa does not impress me at all. I watched that debate he had with Harris and the latter was not up to D'crappas fast delivery and almost off-center topic. Harris was definitely not at his best, and I'm almost tempted to say that he might have been dwelling on buddha and did not want to be too forceful with D'crappa in keeping with the principles of that idea which will cause people of our ilk to question his veracity. I say screw that polite crap when debating with a religious retard. They can be brought down like any weak-minded cretin with the right questions and demand of proof for their insanity. Deepcrap Chopper is another fool who deserves layered scorn. Politeness has it's uses, but not when dealing with demented turnips. This reminds me of Sean Connery's remark in the "Untouchables": "If they bring a knife to a fight, you bring a gun." Give the demented rabble no quarter.

If scientists and others who take science seriously would have openly confronted creationists head-on early on in the early 1960s and thereafter, I sincerely believe that we would not be in the mess we're in right now

Nice victim-blaming, there, SteveG. Sheesh.

The thing is, PZ has the right of it, because you can't debate these guys: They don't debate. They lie, cheat, quote-mine, cherry-pick, stack the venue, do the Gish Gallop (spew out so many falsehoods at once that there's not enough time in a standard debate format to address them all), project, slander, and rack up full cards on the Logical Fallacy Bingo. You can't even confront them effectively, because they don't play fair, so anybody who does is at an automatic handicap.

Personally, I don't think anything scientists could have done would have helped; the resurgence in creationism has very little to do with science and very much to do with the organised campaign the US religious and political right wing mounted starting in the late 1960s to essentially undo the New Deal and the Great Society. They realised very early on that in the religious right, they had a huge bloc of easily-manipulable voters, and exploited the hell out of them while they were busily funneling the proceeds of their vast fund-raising efforts into promoting the religious right's ideology.

You want some people to blame for this, don't blame scientists, blame Richard Viguerie and Howard Ahmanson and Richard Mellon Scaife and Joseph Coors et cetera et cetera... They're the ones who made Duane Gish (and, by extension, Vox Day) possible.

By Interrobang (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

If you have the stomach to read his book, he has tried.

I gave most of it a quick read-through a few months ago and don't recollect seeing anything remotely resembling a proof that there is a god. I saw a bunch of word-gaming about Dawkins being intellectually inconsistent, which VD seemed to think was extremely clever - but that was about it.

Maybe someone can post the page number of the proof or summarize it here for us. Only, please, not as wordily as his Voxness does.

I could provide you with an actual "not insane" argument for the existence of a "God" if you like. On the proviso that it is understood I would not be making the argument as my own. I don't believe in god. I'm not sure it would be accessible to many people here though as it calls for a bit more logic and philosophy than many are accustomed to. It's basically a reductio ad absurdum against the principle of sufficient reason.

I might regret asking this, but let's say your argument works out, how is this an argument for God?

"VD" used to be the British term for sexually transmitted diseases ("venereal diseases"). I guess they changed it to STD in order to avoid the repellent association with the disgusting mess that goes by the name of Vox Day.

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

"We often continue believing in things--and this is true of religions as well as ideologies--long after the circumstances that gave rise to the beliefs have disappeared." - Joseph Heller.

The time for debate about God was over a long, long time ago. There's nothing to debate anymore.

We have moved light years beyond Vox Day's silly ideas about God. The only topic worth debating is why he clings to them with such stubborn ferocity.

By CalGeorge (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

Kermit @ #58

If this entity can change the rules of the game then there is no reliable way of testing for its existence. It this entity can't change the rules then it is not a deity. That's all. I am open to being shown the fault in that line of thinking. Testing for something outside the scope of Nature is folly. If it can be tested, it is withing the scope of Nature. This is how we determine falsifiability. This is what constitutes legitimate evidence.

I gave most of it a quick read-through a few months ago and don't recollect seeing anything remotely resembling a proof that there is a god.

There is some confused stuff about complexity theory and fractals in the Dawkins chapter.

Pardon my typos. Geesh. Gettin' sloppy.

There is no need to dig those up. Any "atheist" who is impressed by his style does not understand what he is doing.

Public debating is a kind of competitive performance. As an intervarsity debater, I often had my ass handed to me when I thought I had a watertight logical argument. I was outperformed, out-anticipated, out-debated, and out-thought, that's all. On another occasion, I demolished the other side with a single joke. It has nothing to do with truth and falsehood or right and wrong.

The reality is that Dinesh D'Souza is good at playing to a gallery stuffed with theists: he knows what they want to hear, he says it "passionately", and they love it. He's not interested in the fraction of the audience who'll sit there appalled at the stream of non-sequiturs and tired old bullshit, he's interested in the majority, who wouldn't recognise a logical fallacy snarling in their face after it had bitten their balls off.

What makes D'Souza an odious slimy little shit is that he pretends that debates are about having the best arguments, which is like Bill Shatner claiming to have captained a spaceship with phasers and teleporters.

Keith,
In the immortal words of David Mamet: " I wouldn't piss in your mouth if your tongue was on fire."
Obviously you fell down as an example of a good christian. So here's another Point/Counterpoint quote just for you:" ...you ignorant slut. Had I been alive when your mother concieved you, I not only would have supplied the coat hanger, but the vacuum as well." G'night Dickless.

Keith,
In the immortal words of David Mamet: " I wouldn't piss in your mouth if your tongue was on fire."
Obviously you fell down as an example of a good christian. So here's another SNL Point/Counterpoint quote just for you:" ...you ignorant slut. Had I been alive when your mother concieved you, I not only would have supplied the coat hanger, but the vacuum as well." G'night Dickless.

Dennis
can you make just one post without being condescending and arrogant?

??? There was no attempt on my part to be condescending at all. I just thought you'd like something with a bit more substance than candy fluff like Vox. That crap can't be good for anyone.

windy
let's say your argument works out, how is this an argument for God?

It's not my argument, didn't I say that? All arguments for a god or gods are arguments for god whether they succeed or fail are they not? It's fairly longish and is a re-hash of Dr. Hud Hudson's article where he argues against the PSR in Australasion Journal of Philosophy: "Brute Facts" Vol. 75, No. 1, 1997: 77-82. It would also be off topic I suppose.

oops, two for the price of one...

OK Brenda, stike while the iron is hot.

By Barklikeadog (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

#73 Brenda,

"There was no attempt on my part to be condescending at all."

But this seemed kind of condescending...

"I'm not sure it would be accessible to many people here though as it calls for a bit more logic and philosophy than many are accustomed to."

By OctoberMermaid (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

Brenda, you sound like a fashion plate trying to impress her friends by saying, "Oh, of course I own a famous diamond, but I'll never take it out of the vault."

Are you afraid that if you actually, um, speak your wonderful intellectual piece, it might get tarnished? Quit pretending to be an intellectual and pretending to have an argument. Around here we don't believe you have an argument until we see it.

By speedwell (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

That's STRIKE. sorry

By Barklikeadog (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

Brenda @ 49 I still maintain that you are a religionist and not an atheist as you claim. Your inadvertant references to quasi-religious and atheistic views tends to be ever so obvious to real atheists. You keep posting here because you hope to have some of our superior commenting perhaps rub off on you and allow entry to the real world of rationalism. You say you don't believe in god; I say I don't believe in a god or gods. Semantics at play here.
You say that you can provide us with an actual "not insane" argument for the existence of a"God" if you like. On the proviso that it is understood I would not be making the argument as my own. There, you proved my suspicion of you as I noted in the beginning. Your "god" is capitalized, and "not insane" argument gives you away even with the proviso that "you are not making the argument as my own". Are you conscious that you are putting forth these statements with the belief that we can not decipher the hidden bullshit behind them? Have you checked first that is Pharyngula and not the brain dead sites you should be posting to? Good grief, is there more of this to follow?

Hmm... Vox Day supposedly has a zinger of an argument that he'll only divulge when the circumstances suit him? And Brenda is the same sort of coy tease? Coincidence?

By speedwell (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

Re: #74

Because it bore repeating. I am adding that line to my arsenal!

By CortxVortx (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

Brenda, "I'm not sure it would be accessible to many people here though as it calls for a bit more logic and philosophy than many are accustomed to."

Sounds condescending and arrogant to me.

Well, PZ, waiting for evidence to come
with open arms its the way of the scientist...
But when they are shooting you with
bullshit instead of logical factual evidence...
Anyway, i feel more anger than pity for them
actually.

By Lord Zero (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

Thisisfunny #34,

I remember Hameroff's speech at Beyondbelief. I was particularly impressed, but intringued.

This is what he commented on his website :
http://www.quantumconsciousness.org/skunk.htm

Near the end of the first day came my turn to speak. I began by saying that the conference to that point had been like the Spanish Inquisition in reverse - the scientists were burning the believers. And while I had no interest in organized religion, I did believe there could be a scientific account for spirituality.

After pointing out faulty assumptions in conventional brain models for consciousness and summarizing the Penrose-Hameroff theory, I laid out my plausibility argument for scientific, secular spirituality, suggesting cosmic connections and influence in our conscious thoughts occurred via quantum interactions in microtubules. I closed with a slide of the DNA molecule which emphasized it's internal core where quantum effects rule, suggesting a Penrose non-computable influence in genetic mutations and evolution (aimed at Dawkins in the form of a quantum-based intelligent design).

At the end a few people clapped loudly, but most sat in steely silence. The moderator and conference organizer Roger Bingham said I had enraged nearly everyone in the room. Indeed, I had raised a stink, and felt (happily) like the skunk at an atheist convention.

Comments from the audience were negative, but off base. Physicist Lawrence Krauss said my suggestion of backward time effects in the quantum unconscious (indicated by experiments, and required to rescue consciousness from its unfortunate characterization as epiphenomenal illusion) were impossible. He was apparently unaware of the verification of Wheeler's delayed choice experiments which precisely prove such backward time effects. Krauss also questioned the possibility of biological quantum computation at brain temperature, but I pointed to evidence for warm quantum coherence in biological photosynthesis. Neuroscientist Terry Sejnowski attempted to criticize my view, but floundered, unable to explain how his conventional approach could explain 40 Hz gamma synchrony EEG (the best measurable correlate of consciousness) without quantum effects.

Our theory also chafes proponents of artificial intelligence ("AI", including advocates of the so-called Singularity) who assume consciousness results from interactions among neurons with no consideration of deeper activities or quantum mechanisms. Along these lines I recently spoke at Google in Silicon Valley, my talk being titled A new marriage of brain and computer - Why the Singularity is bogus. That talk is at

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-2069501759514424839

I am not by nature confrontational, but am happy to debate scientists and philosophers who oppose our theory. Atheism does not hold the scientific high ground. Secular spirituality based on quantum biology and the physics of spacetime geometry is a viable and important idea. I am not offering or suggesting any proof, just a plausibility argument

Does anybody know more about this research ? Is this interesting or another pseudo-scientific woo-woo waste of time ?

By negentropyeater (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

It's the way of all ideologues, left and right, strange and charmed.

They fire shotgun blasts all over the place, each pellet requiring a whole debate all on its own. They are little more than the "fun sized" version of a chanting mob.

I recall a debate back where I got my undergraduate degree about SDI (Strategic Defense Initiative). The "pro" side was a quiet little bespectacled researcher from the university. The "anti" side was some sort of political scientist and seasoned speaker brought in from outside.

The audience was constantly cheering the anti-guy constantly and booing the pro-guy. Eventually, the "pro" professor was just shouted down by the audience if he tried to say anything. It was ugly.

But the anti-guy hardly ever even mentioned SDI or the feasibility of its technology. And when he did it was bullshit, like saying that anti-missile lasers in orbit could be used to incinerate entire cities.

Never mind that, you know, that's the designed-for functionality of the *missiles* the lasers would attempt to stop.

All he had was quips and slogans and anecdotes, and as far as I could tell I was the only one to see it. The whole audience was lapping up the bullshit like cats with cream.

And it's only gotten worse since then (mid 1980's)

And I wasn't even pro-SDI. I was ambivalent about it, actually. That event, though, was the beginning of three things for me.

1. A life long devotion to skepticism.
2. A healthy case of misanthropy.
3. No longer believing the lie that a university is a place of higher learning, at least from the angle of critical thinking.

By Quiet Desperation (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

Sorry, meant "I was not particularly impressed..."

By negentropyeater (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

"All arguments for a god or gods are arguments for god whether they succeed or fail are they not?"

Let's try something:

"All arguments for a deity or deities are arguments for deity whether they succeed or fail are they not?"

I'm not sure that makes sense, unless the deity you are referring to happens to have "god" as its name. The religious always refer to their deity in such ways. I guess it makes them feel better about their choice in deity.

I'm currently part way through With the Lightnings by David Drake. During a Founder's Day celebration, the two main characters--Daniel, a space navy officer, and Adele, a librarian--are watching a historical pageant. Once she presents good reasons for the extreme improbability of the current presentation being historical, he concedes:"... I won't argue with you about history!""Well, it's not so much history as information," Adele muttered. "The first quesion is always whether the person who says something can know the truth. This time the answer was, 'Not really.'"

By Ted Powell (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

How about a simpler 'proof' for VD and Brenda and Jsn and Keith and etc.?
No need to prove to us that a god exists just prove that you believe a god exists.

And Keith, come on now, getting drunk shouldn't require you to wait for and then ingest all those cancerous organs - find yourself a liquor store or brew/distill your own.
Getting drunk: You are doing it wrong!

thisisfunny (#34):

Vitalism and teleology.
Also, read up on a the hypothesis of quantum consciousness.
The Penrose-Hameroff orchestrated objective reduction model.

I can only assume that this is a list of three discredited ideas. Vitalism lost its vital force decades ago; no evidence supports the claim of teleology in evolution; Hameroff's crackpot notions of quantum coherence in microtubules have neither evidentiary support nor explanatory power; and Penrose's Gödelian arguments look sillier and sillier the more one examines them, as they depend upon esteeming computers too poorly and humans too well.

Vox is a smart guy, or appears to be, which is why when he says that "the claim that 'extraordinary evidence' is required is fundamentally illogical" he is on solid ground. It's in my opinion best to drop the "extraordinary evidence" canard. It's unnecessary as there is no such thing as extraordinary evidence. Something is either evidentiary or it is not. Just stick with truth as consistency or truth as procedure. That should be enough.

Summoning fort a deity would be extraordinary evidence.

So your argument is that evidence carries no qualitative properties? Interesting.

#93

"Vox is a smart guy, or appears to be,"

This is an extraordinary claim that requires extraordinary evidence, but.. oh! Blast it, you already thought of that. You're always one step ahead of all of us!

By OctoberMermaid (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

Brenda, still waiting for the shoe to drop.

By Barklikeadog (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

Actually, I don't doubt that Vox is a smart guy in various ways. However, as Michael Shermer has pointed out, the smarter you are, the more you can build up complex arguments for your delusions, and boy does Vox put effort into that.

let's say your argument works out, how is this an argument for God? It's not my argument, didn't I say that? All arguments for a god or gods are arguments for god whether they succeed or fail are they not?

Christ. Obfuscate much? Let me spell it out for you: why is the failure of the principle of the sufficient reason an argument for God?

It's fairly longish and is a re-hash of Dr. Hud Hudson's article where he argues against the PSR in Australasion Journal of Philosophy: "Brute Facts" Vol. 75, No. 1, 1997: 77-82. It would also be off topic I suppose.

That article is conspicuously devoid of any mention of God. What. A. Surprise.

@Brenda: Ahh, yes, but, if a claim goes against everything we know, then the evidence has to outweigh the evidence in favor of the current knowledge, or at least be enough to significantly shift it. Evidence is indeed still evidence, no matter the weight, but, extraordinary claims that are supposedly supported by evidence need to be treated with healthy skepticism, to ensure that the 'evidence' isn't fabricated.

"Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" is just much shorter to say.

By Leigh Shryock (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

Remember guys, it's all low hanging fruit to her.

By Barklikeadog (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

@ #93 Brenda

Vox is a smart guy, or appears to be, which is why... he is on solid ground.

Huh?

Even if one granted that VD is "a smart guy" (and he may indeed be about certain matters), that in no way leads to what he says being "on solid ground."

Smart guys say stupid things all the time. Intentionally misunderstanding how the word "extraordinary" is used in order to play silly semantic games rather than address the issue at hand strikes me as pretty stupid indeed.

Brenda said: "??? There was no attempt on my part to be condescending at all. I just thought you'd like something with a bit more substance than candy fluff like Vox.

Then why didn't you actually provide something substantial instead of merely alluding to its existence elsewhere? Obviously it is because you like it when you, rather than your arguments, are the focus of attention. That much is clear.

Assumptions and Reductio

My intent is to construct a reductio ad absurdum against PSR. Not all arguments are straightforward conditionals leading to a conclusion. A reductio assumes that p, derives a contradiction (either not-p, or "q and not-q") from p, and thereby proves that not-p. Unfortunately, PSR does imply a contradiction, and is therefore false. We will need some background assumptions, each of which are quite certainly true (even more certain than PSR), and I will explain as needed. They are as follows:

(A1)There is at least one contingently true proposition.
(A2)Any true conjunction with at least one contingently true conjunct is itself a contingently true proposition.
(A3)Every true proposition is either contingently true or necessarily true.
(A4)The following inference form is valid:
(i) Necessarily, P
(ii) Necessarily, P only if Q
(iii) Hence, Necessarily, Q
(iv)

If any of these fails to be quite obvious, it is not (A2) or (A4), as they can be defended on purely logical grounds. (A4) is a modally strengthened version of modus ponens. If P is true in every world, and in every world P implies Q, then in every world, Q is true. (A2) is equally obvious. The combined statement, "I have blue eyes and two plus two equals four" is contingent, since my having blue eyes is contingent, and the combined truth is therefore possibly false, despite the necessarily true conjunct. The motto is "contingency infects." (A3) is an exhaustive distinction: if P is true, then either (i) it is possible that p is false, or (ii) it is not possible that p is false. (A1) seems brutally obvious to me, as well, but we will come back to it. The conditions of PSR will also be used against it (as they are necessary to it), and will be (PSR.i), (PSR.ii), etc.

We are now ready to construct a reductio on PSR. The defense of each line will follow in square brackets. Lines that are conclusions will be preceded by "hence." Most of the actual argument is in the defenses, so be sure to check them to understand what is being said and why these conclusions are true.

(1) Let P be the conjunction of all contingently true propositions. [(A1)]
(2) Hence, P is itself a contingently true proposition. [(1),(A2)]
(3) Hence, there is a sufficient reason for P, hereby named S, which is a true proposition. [(2),(PSR.i)]
(4) Hence, S is either contingently true or necessarily true. [(3), (A3)]
(5) It is not the case that S is necessarily true. [justification pending]
(6) Hence, S is contingently true. [(4),(5)]
(7) It is not the case that S is contingently true. [justification pending]
(8) Hence, at least one of our assumptions (including PSR) is false. [reductio complete, (6) and (7)]

I must still defend premises five and seven, each of which has its own reductio.

(5a)Necessarily, S. [Assumption toward reductio]
(5b)Hence, necessarily, (if S, then P). [(3), (PSR.ii)]
(5c)Hence, necessarily, P. [(5a),(5b),(A4)]
(5d)Hence, it is not the case that necessarily, P. [(2)]
Hence, it is not the case that S is necessarily true. [Reductio complete, (5c) and (5d), therefore not-(5a)]

(7a)S is a contingent truth.[Assumption toward reductio]
(7b)Hence, S is a contingent conjunct of P. [(1), (7a)]
(7c)Hence, it is not the case that S is a contingent conjunct of P. [(2), (3), (PSR.iii)]
(7)Hence, it is not the case that S is contingently true. [Reductio complete, (7b) and (7c), therefore not-(7a)]

Take as much time as necessary to check the logic. Not only is it valid, but decently easy to follow, looking back and forth a bit. There are no tricks here. So, the upshot: we must give up one of (A1)-(A4) or PSR. (A2)-(A4) are simply not candidates for removal. So, we must bite one of two very nasty bullets. The reductio was designed to show only this: "Necessarily, (A1) only if Not-PSR." However, since any necessary truth can serve as its own sufficient reason, Not-(A1) also entails PSR. Also, since PSR could be false only if some contingent truth went unexplained, Not-PSR entails (A1). So, we are left with our choice spelled out: "Necessarily, (A1) if and only if Not-PSR!"

So what are the costs? If we deny PSR, we must affirm the existence of at least one brute fact. Since there are currently no ways to reduce bruteness in the world, we have no idea just how many of the contingent truths are brute. We give up the intuition founding science and philosophy that "everything has a reason." Some things just are. This may be applied to existential claims, not only propositions: some things may exist for no reason; some properties may be exemplified for no reason whatsoever. That should frustrate anyone with a rational, empirical, or inquiring mind. However, the other option is far more costly. I assert that it is a bullet far too large to bite.

Our other option is to deny (A1). What does this mean? The common term for the theory that there are only necessary truths is "necessitarianism." This implies that nothing could have even possibly been otherwise than it in fact is! Do not make the mistake of confusing this with an infinitely weaker, distant cousin, "determinism." Determinism holds that all the facts about the future are fixed. There are many common flavors of determinism, many of which are philosophical staples, and have been for a very long time. Theological determinism was popular with the Calvinists, who realized that if God knows everything about the future, then the future must be fixed. A scientific version, which increased in popularity from the Enlightenment until the advent of quantum mechanics, was causal determinism, which holds that "the determinate state of the world at a time and the laws of nature at that time together determine a unique future." That is, the laws of causation hold everything in a determined flow, fixed by the laws of nature and the way the world was. Whatever the flavor, determinism is relatively benign. Most modern philosophers hold a view called "compatibilism," which holds that determinism and free will are compatible; that both may be jointly true. This is heavily contrary to most common sense and intuition, but has been argued very well. In fact, I subscribe to determinism, compatibilism, and the theory that we have free will. One need not believe each of them to believe they are compatible, but the arguments involved are numerous and involved. There is no room for them here. What is important, however, is that necessitarianism is certainly incompatible with free will! Without freedom, there is no responsibility, no morality. In fact, if necessitarianism is true and God exists, then God has no free will or freedom whatsoever, as well. Even He couldn't do anything. Everything would be its own sufficient reason. This is infinitely stronger than simply positing that everything is (actually) fixed, it's positing that everything is necessarily fixed. Denying PSR is vastly preferable to denying (A1). A little randomness is much better than no metaphysical possibility (aside from what is actually true). It is much easier to stomach, and also much easier to comprehend. Although both alternatives are unfriendly to philosophy and science, denying PSR still leaves room for both, whereas denying (A1) does not. So why was all this necessary to show? This brings us to our less popular, but still satisfactory alternative, the Principle of Necessary Reason.

Vox is a smart guy, or appears to be, which is why... he is on solid ground.

You know my twins have IQ's that are Mensa recruitable but I still ahve to speak to them very slowly to get them to understand. Being bright as in high IQ does not make you "smart" or able to "stand on solid ground".
He requires no worship. He's a moron for the position he holds.

By Barklikeadog (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

The Principle of Necessary Reason

The Principle of Necessary Reason (PNR) is an attempt to capture the basic intuition that contingent beings depend for their existence on something other than themselves. This intuition must be salvaged somehow. This replacement will work, and it even gives another reason to support the denial of PSR over the denial of (A1). The main idea, here, is that no contingent thing is self-dependent, and so whenever we find a contingent thing we can expect to find something else, as well.

(PNR) "For any x, if x is a contingent thing, then there is some individual upon which x depends, namely y, such that y is distinct from x and from every contingent part of x."

First, I must make some things clear. Most importantly, PNR does not exclude the possibility that some x depends on some y, and yet both x and y are contingent things. That is, the thing upon which a contingent thing depends for its existence may also be contingent (of course, the latter thing will also have something upon which it depends for its existence, too). Unlike PSR, this is not about propositions, it is about concrete entities; that is, things, objects, individuals, those things which are not abstract. The distinction is a difficult one to make. The easiest way is to make a list of all the abstract things, and to call concrete things "everything else." I doubt that I can compose a full list, but to get an idea, abstracta include propositions, properties, symbols, relations, numbers, classes, concepts, universals, etc. Concretia include everyday objects (rocks, trees, paper), people, individual souls (if they exist), protons, stars, forces, particulars, etc. That is, "Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet" is an abstract object, but my copy of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet is a concrete object. Some say that concretia are spatiotemporal (exist in space and time), and abstracta are not. Again, this has a rich and long history in philosophy, and is not easily glossed over, but that will have to do. The reasoning, here, is that abstracta cannot enter into the proper kinds of relations (dependency relations) with concrete objects. I cannot, for example, depend for my existence on the number two.

Upon noticing the similarities between PSR and PNR, especially that they represent the same intuition, one may think that the objections that work against PSR would also work against PNR. However, there is a key difference between them - basically, that PSR says that for any contingent thing, there is something else which is sufficient for its existence, whereas PNR says that for any contingent thing there is something else which is necessary for its existence. Recall the difference early on in the paper, and how they relate to conditionals and logic. The arguments used against PSR have no force against PNR. Also, PNR is simpler and seems to even better capture the intuition that contingent things are dependent things. It doesn't have the long history of PSR, nor could it really be said to have the same foundational status with regard to science, but it represents a very powerful intuition, common sense, a replacement of PSR, and a way to reclaim the dependency of contingent things. It would be a strange and self-defeating tactic to jump off the boat now, but there is no definitive proof of PNR. However, the cost of its denial is immense, and I doubt that anyone left without PSR would seriously wish to doubt PNR. As such, I submit that PNR is true, and expect anyone else who has stayed with me up to this point to follow suit. Now that the paper is 90% finished, it's time to get to the argument for which it was originally written. PNR guarantees the existence of a necessarily existing concrete entity upon which our universe depends for its existence!

Brenda:

Demonstrating that PSR is false only shows that some facts may not have an explanation. Peter van Iwangen (a theist) and Bertrand Russell (an atheist) both demonstrated that PSR is false (or more accurately, logically problematic). I don't see how PSR being false has anything to do with supporting belief in a deity? Many proofs for the existence of a deity rely upon PSR as a base assumption; the most famous of which is the Contingency Argument. If anything, demonstrating that PSR is epistemicly false, as opposed to pragmatically necessary, weakens the proofs.

Demanding Cartesian type proofs of the theist is a bit unfair. After all, we lack such proofs for most of our beliefs. There is always some proposition -- brains in vats, Evil Genius, Sims v47, etc. -- that if true would nullify the ordinary belief, "I am a biological entity sitting in front of a physical desk typing on a physical keyboard." All we really need to do is demand sufficient evidence demonstrating the belief is reasonable proportional to the evidence.

Quiet-

And after billions and billions of dollars, the SDI still doesn't work.

That doesn't excuse the bad job on either side of the discussion, but reality is always a good test of an argument.

By freelunch (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

PNR, Hunky, and God

We should quickly turn back to the early discussion of necessary truth, and apply it to necessary existence. It's easy to see how truths can be necessary. Most of us will quickly agree that, no matter how the world might have been, two and two would always make four. All bachelors would be unmarried. A necessary being, or concrete object of any sort, is tougher to imagine, let alone defend. If a being exists necessarily, it is the case that no matter how the world might have been, that being must exist; the being must exist in every possible world. If it is especially tough (as it might be for a physicist) to stomach the possibility of a necessarily existing concrete object, keep in mind that it need not be material, just that it be an individual (of any sort). Of course, an argument would be required to prove the existence of such a being, since it isn't the sort of thing one takes another's word on.

(1) Consider the object which is the fusion of all contingent beings and call it Hunky.
(2) PNR says of Hunky that it depends upon some individual being (hereby named Nessie) which is distinct from it and from every contingent part of it.
(3) But since Nessie is an individual distinct from every contingent part of Hunky, Nessie is both a concrete individual and a necessarily existing entity.

That was Hudson's argument. I would like to point out several things. Hunky is, as far as there has ever been a good description, our universe, in its entirety. It is the sum of all of the contingent things, which are all the things that could possibly differentiate our universe from any other. It is not only all the matter throughout all of time, but all of the contingent non-matter, like immaterial souls and minds (if they exist). Everything that could have failed to exist, but exists (or has existed or will exist), is included here. So I will stop calling it Hunky since we know what Hunky is, and call it the Universe. The Universe depends on Nessie for its existence, and in no trivial way. This being, as it is distinct from the conjunction of all contingent things, exists necessarily. What better generic description for God than "a necessarily existing being upon whom the universe depends for its existence"? Of course, as the working definition, I will stop calling God Nessie.

The level of intelligence from the typical Vox Day Blog comments

"Oh, for cryi'n out loud! I don't care what atheists think or why. They can all go happily to hell for all I care, it's not my job to argue with them. I just don't want them forcing their godless and homophilic ways into my life, restricting my freedom of speech and association. I say let them bugger each other all they like so long as I can teach my children that it's immoral and that they are not required to do business or associate with fags."

We couldnt make this stuff up better ourselves folks.

Conclusion

This doesn't imply the existence of the Judeo-Christian God, nor of any God in particular. But many Gods, including Yahweh, are themselves necessarily existing beings upon whom the universe depends for its existence. We simply haven't provided proof of, say, causing the plagues in Egypt, or sending a Son. In fact, this definition works well with many religions. Someone may think of God as the Universe's own complete soul, upon which the universe exists. Important to note is that it has been proven that there is a being, an individual upon which the universe depends. This is not some law or principle, or relation or property. We can draw our own conclusions about the being's other properties, such as essential perfect goodness, essential omnipotence or omniscience. That is left to what the Christians call faith. But I maintain that all that is required for it to be God is that the Universe depends on it for its existence and that it is necessarily existing and concrete. This is a very barebones, but very agreeable minimum requirement. Surely such a being does have plenty of other qualities. As Kant would point out, we cannot know the nature of God. But we can know that God exists.

Again, not my position. I just thought people might enjoy a bit higher quality argument than the usual low hanging fruit consumed here. Which is, I repeat, not intended to be an insult. Thick skin and all that.

@ Brenda:

The use of "extraordinary" is really quite appropriate, beyond the reasons expressed by #100. You should know this though, and further, would not god's ability to prove him/her/itself and his/her/its extraordinary powers BE extraordinary? If this being is so utterly powerful beyond measure, is that not extraordinary? You're arguing yourself into a hole.

But again, the challenges that come against evolution here are the aprsing of language, not the parsing of ideas. Evolution has been parsed for over 150 years. Creationism has been parsed for far longer. Only the former has reproducable, documentable, traceable evidence. The latter has nothing but high hopes, a bunch of hand-wringing publication, and an article that circumvented a proper peer review.

Your point of view will not be taken seriously until evidence is given. End of story. Please stop asking for a free ride on thought.

By BlueIndependent (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

(PNR) "For any x, if x is a contingent thing, then there is some individual upon which x depends, namely y, such that y is distinct from x and from every contingent part of x."
[...]
PNR guarantees the existence of a necessarily existing concrete entity upon which our universe depends for its existence!

How do you get a "concrete entity" out of all this PNR stuff?

By CalGeorge (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

"The fact that the Northern Alliance radio show actually thinks Vox Day is a credible voice for conservative thought tells me right away that there is something wrong with them, and no, I'm not going to trust them at all."

Conservative thought is an oxymoron. "Bigotry, stupidity, and cupidity" is all they have.

Debating a loon on a right-wing playing field, where the troglodytes can edit your statements, is not the way to go, so kudos PZ. Vox Day claiming that you are scared is like Bill O'Reilly claiming that Bill Moyers is afraid to enter the "No Spin Zone". By the way, anyone see the video of Bill Moyers pwning an O'Reilly producer?

Via Crooks and Liars:

http://www.crooksandliars.com/2008/06/08/fox-news-producer-ambushes-bil…

By Longtime Lurker (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

PNR guarantees the existence of a necessarily existing concrete entity upon which our universe depends for its existence!

Even if we grant PNR is true (which it is not) it does not get us to a sentient entity that can be called "deity". That requires at least one extra step if not more. Furthermore, if there is a necessary entity, that entity could be strings, quantum particles, or whatever turns out to be the base constituents of the universe. PNR being false does not entail that there cannot be necessary entities only that we cannot prove it a priori.

Again, not my position.

Whose is it then? It appears that you are copy-pasting it from somewhere, but it's certainly not in the Hud Hudson reference you gave.

Brenda @ 111:

How is that providing ANY evidence? How is what you posted even considered a deep argument? That says that a god must exist; WHY? Answer that question. Universal soul? Provide evidence. How is there evidence that the universe depends on this god? What IS the evidence for this? What you posted is classic god of the gaps. The universe exists, ergo a god created it. That solves nothing, tells us nothing, gets us nothing.

The existence of a god has been tossed around for centuries, and the thinking in favor of a god existing ultimately fails all tests, other than the one that begs unevidenced belief.

A better question is, why should you, Brenda, persist in worshipping you god over another? If you are so high-minded as to take what you posted as deep consideration, than why are you even an adherent of the religion you are? Methinks you would be wiser to be an agnostic, given what you posted.

By BlueIndependent (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

Vox is a smart guy..."

Not without the right hat

But many Gods, including Yahweh, are themselves necessarily existing beings upon whom the universe depends for its existence.

Yeah, funny how that works. Wouldn't want Yahweh to be some contingent being who isn't in complete control of things.

He might not have quite the same power over the mass of gullible idiots being told to kowtow to him.

By CalGeorge (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

Brenda, let's talk about thick skin shall we? Who was it that went & tattled to daddy about being called a stupid slut & after being told where & why the comment came from? You still ran off and whinned to the intertoobz masters as if it would score you points or get someones hand slapped?
If you want to play here then get off the philosophical high horse and act like you want to get along. Crank yer noze outta da books fer a secund and postulate if (A) I don't have any friends then (b) I must be __________ that (c) pisses people off and having people like me (Enjoy being with me) is contingent on me acting like a human instead of a prissy robot. Nuff said fron the Dad of 3 girls who has to endure the hormonal youths.

By Barklikeadog (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

Brenda,

I'm actually quite happy with the negation of the PSR, and with the idea that there are "brute facts" - or at least, I don't immediately see any problem with accepting this. However, setting that aside, there are two points I'd like to raise:
1) I don't understand your last indented sentence:
"So why was all this necessary to show? This brings us to our less popular, but still satisfactory alternative, the Principle of Necessary Reason."
I hadn't come across the PNR before, but googling it, I find this formulation:
"There is at least some reason for every contingent fact."
- which looks like a weaker form of the PSR. Is that where the argument goes - that we can't have the PNR (which is held to be incompatible with classical theism because God could have chosen not to create the world), so we must be content with the PSR - which presumably isn't incompatible with classical theism. Have I interpreted you correctly here?

2) A possible weak spot in the argument (I'm not saying it's the only one) seems to me to be at the start of the main argument:

(1) Let P be the conjunction of all contingently true propositions.

The problem is, there are an awful lot of contingently true propositions. Consider the ratio of the masses of the proton and the electron. Let's assume the actual value (which IIRC is about 1800) is not necessarily what it is. Then we can form at least C contingently true propositions (where C is the cardinality of the real numbers), of the form:
"The ratio of the masses of the proton and electron is greater than r" - where r is any real number less than the actual value. So we're assuming we can form a conjunction of at least C (i.e. uncountably many) propositions - and I suspect you might be able to push it higher, and also that at some point things like the axiom of choice are going to become relevant. Hm, now I think about it, since a conjunction of one contingent and one necessary proposition is contingent, and I suspect there are just too many necessary propositions for them to form a set - they have to be a proper class - the contingent propositions also form a proper class. Now A1 looks a lot less obvious, don't you think? When one first comes across it, one thinks automatically of a finite conjunction.

Anyway, thanks for this, very interesting (at least to me). What do you think of the above line of (very much off the top of my head) reasoning?

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

Brenda,
I posted #122 before seeing your #106 - I'll go back and read it.

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

Is that content free nonsense Brenda posted Vox's amazing "proof" of God's existence?

Brenda,

great demonstration to conclude that something must have been necessary for our existence. Wonderful.
Tell me, does the brilliant demonstration also include any clear picture of what that something was, an eternal false bubbling vacuum, or a homosexual hating bearded sky daddy ?

Why do philosophers always have to complicate things so much when they start thinking about these matters (no offense Prof MH, I respect Philopsophers very much, but not when they waste their time with this kind of stuff...).

By negentropyeater (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

So assuming that the necessary being is a concrete object "some say that concretia are spatiotemporal (exist in space and time), and abstracta are not"

And that the universe is "all the matter throughout all of time, but all of the contingent non-matter, like immaterial souls and minds (if they exist)"

Two problems:
-This "proof" of God proves that God is a concrete spatio-temporal, very likely material, object. Contrary to what is asserted, that's not what most proposed Gods are like.

-It assumes that the space-time fabric of the universe itself is contingent upon a concrete material thing for its existence. Evidence?

Brenda is exhibiting strong symptems of Kenny, i.e. all promise and no product.

Brenda,

Where are you going with all this, and why?

Without going into all the details, I'm just trying to figure out why we should care about neo-Scholastic arguments about "necessary" beings.

Why should we conflate necessary beings with God?

As I understand this sort of stuff, the supposed proofs of necessary beings generally hinge on several misunderstandings.

1. they often confuse different senses of "necessity", making a jump from logical necessity within a logic like S2 or S3, given certain axioms, with actual necessity in the actual world. Typically a logic like S4 or S5 would be clearer, making it clear that the logical "necessity" is actually relative to assertions of necessity within a given possible world. That would make it easier to see where they're sneaking the answer into the axioms.

2. A "necessary being" is just some thing ("being" in medieval terminology) that has to be. So, for example, in Kantian categories cashed out in S4 or S5 in a certain way, we can describe space and time as "necessary" for the "contingent" things we observe such as matter in motion. That doesn't actually imply that space and time had to exist in any fundamental sense; they could still be emergent and contingent manifestation of something more basic. Nothing has really been proven, except that some things depend on other things, insofar as we understand them. BFD.

3. The more realistically we model basic physics, the less "necessary beings" look like anything you'd want to call God. Mindless atoms banging around don't look more godlike than Boyle's ideal gases, and so on all the way down to vibrating strings or whatever. The less "contingent" something is, the lower-level and dumber it is, and the further away from any human or religious concerns.

If we take the whole necessity/contingency thing seriously, and talk about the necessary ground of being, it seems that "God" is a vast collection of absolutely mindless bits of stuff, obeying excruciatingly simple rules with no point whatsoever. Pretty much the opposite of what people mean by "God." (Not just the bearded sky fairy of the Bible, but nothing like the New Agers' invisible blue glow that somehow "is love" or divines truth or whatever.)

A lot of theologians like to talk about this as though the less contingent things are "higher" in a hierarchy of causes, and the first cause is absolutely necessary.

A more intuitive and enlightening way to look at it, in light of modern science, is that the more necessary things are lower in a layering of supervenience relationships. The interesting high-level like love and morality supervene on (are "made out of") biology and in turn on chemistry, and thence on atoms and so on down to the vastest collection of the dumbest things following the simplest, least intrinsically interesting rules possible.

The old conflation of "necessary beings" with God just looks dumber all the time. It's exactly backwards, once you stop believing in top-down supernaturalist stuff and recognize the the success of bottom up explanation in science.

(Recent emphases on "emergence" don't really change that, as long as your mechanisms for emergence---such as Darwinian selection and Kauffman's "order for free"---are cranes, not skyhooks.)

Seems to me that the more I actually understand fancy modal logic arguments for "God," the clearer it is that there is no God. Folks like Plantiga and Koons with their spiffed-up modal logic versions of tired old arguments are doing everything they can to look through the wrong end of the telescope.

Brenda, you keep saying "low hanging fruit", but have yet to manage to pluck any - all you do is keep calling it names and saying you drink its milkshake. (Oh noez! Another SNL reference!) I haven't seen anything at all from you that resembles a cogent point, period. So what point exactly are you trying to make? If you write slowly, maybe my little brain can follow along.

Alex@67 "If it can be tested, it is withing the scope of Nature. This is how we determine falsifiability. This is what constitutes legitimate evidence."

Indeed. God in Heaven, Brain in a Tank, Subroutines in a Virtual Reality, and pretty much any novel by Stanislaw Lem are all versions of an illusion. They might be real (they are not conceptually incoherent), but there is no reason to think so (no evidence), they are not testable, and if they provided evidence it would not be verifiable.

"I am thy Lord the God"

Oh, really? Not a drug, or psychotic break, or trickster god, or witchcraft, or alien invader? Well, if we ever see one, maybe we'll be able to figure out how to test it. If anybody sees one, I'll be in the garden out back.

But I maintain that all that is required for it to be God is that the Universe depends on it for its existence and that it is necessarily existing and concrete.

What "is required for it to be God" is a culture that uses that name the same way other cultures spoke of Ra or Zeus.

You've introduced a culturally relative entity into your "necessary" argument - without any explanation.

By CalGeorge (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

Brenda,
I agree with the other posters that there's absolutely no reason to accept the version of the PNR which deals with concreta rather than facts. I just don't share that intuition.
I'm not sure about the version of the PNR I quoted in #106, but don't immediately see why it should be accepted.
I'm not a great fan of Wittgenstein (especially the later Wittgenstein), but I think the first sentence of his doctoral thesis (IIRC) is spot on:
"The world is the totality of facts, not of things".
Or taking a possible-worlds approach, what distinguishes one possible world from another is the facts about those worlds.

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

"Unless someone can establish the limitations of the universe as a whole, it would be presumptuous to point to the cosmos and declare it incapable of existing without an external cause." Daniel Kolak and Raymond Martin, Wisdom Without Answers, (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1998), p. 39

Putting a requirement on existence that it needed/needs to be caused by some external agent seems presumptuous indeed.

Brenda, what do you think of the low hanging fruit now? We was sooo stoopid we needud Brendaz to set us strate. Good lord girl, did you really think the people on this blog were that stupid? Your arguments hold no weight. Inferences that the univrse is dependend on something (call it god). What is a universal soul anyway? what is a soul for that matter? Methinks you assume too much. Arguments like that are no argument at all.

By Barklikeadog (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

Why do philosophers always have to complicate things so much when they start thinking about these matters...

PSR was first formalized by Leibniz however it is a pervasive hidden assumption prior to Leibniz. Descartes heavily relied upon it.

Well, she has accomplished something. She's taken the focus of this thread off of Vox Day. Convenient enough for him, eh.

By speedwell (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

Tell me, does the brilliant demonstration also include any clear picture of what that something was, an eternal false bubbling vacuum, or a homosexual hating bearded sky daddy ?

That's a nice pithy way of saying what I was saying.

Why do philosophers always have to complicate things so much when they start thinking about these matters (no offense Prof MH, I respect Philopsophers very much, but not when they waste their time with this kind of stuff...).

Most philosophers don't do this crap. For all practical purposes, Kant and Hume killed this sort of argument hundreds of years ago. They only beat the dead horse because kooks like Plantinga keep trying to ride it.

Then you have a few kooks like Plantinga who get a lot of press. (Notably at places like Notre Dame or Wesleyan.) If you say you've proven the existence of God using state-of-the-art modal logic, you can get written up in Newsweek. Sigh.

Then there are a few philosophers who go back and clean up the mess, much like P.Z. rebutting creationist kooks.

Most philosophers are not very happy about this state of affairs. They get blamed for a few religious kooks, plus a moderate number of postmodernist and lit-crit "philosophers" who are actually in English departments, not philosophy departments.

That said, this sort of argument does occasionally serve a good purpose in helping clarify logic. The basic rule is that if your logic lets you prove the existence of God, you should look for a problem with your logic. (For example, that you're treating existence as a normal predicate; finding fallacies in seemingly valid logical proofs led to the formalization of existence as a quantifier, not a predicate.)

I had considered offering a suggestion when you asked for a reasonable defence of religion. However then, as now, I was browsing the internet on my Nintendo Wii. Unfortunately that makes it very hard to scroll down the page to press the reply button. (Fortunately this time there was only a mere 124 posts to scroll through. Still feels like I'm 'texting' my response to you though - I have an on-screen keyboard and I have to point-and-click on each letter.)

My recommendation was D.Z. Phillips. I didn't realise you wanted to debate the person recommended as sadly Phillips will have been dead for about two years now. The best response to his approach to his work, perhaps unsurprisingly, is found in one of the greatest books refuting arguments for the existence of God: J.L. Mackie's 'The Miracle of Theism'. Nevertheless, that didn't stop R.A. Sharpe claiming him as an inspiration when he wrote his book 'The moral case against religious belief'. Kai Nielsen also has a bit of a love/hate relationship with Phillips' philosophy of religion as can be seen in the book they published together shortly before Phillips passed away entitled 'Wittgensteinian Fideism?'

While the book you should probably read is 'Religion Without Explanation', it might make sense to quickly read 'Death and Immortality' first. Phillips begins the latter by dismissing life after death, while in the second half he explains that the religious concept of immortality need not be interpreted in that way. While you may be somewhat unconvinced by this summary of his position, it really is worth checking out. Phillips' argument is basically that, just as we separate religion and politics today (which in the past were inseparable) we also should be able to separate religion from superstition too (in spite of how inseparable they might appear to the undiscerning eye).

The only "necessary beings" that matter to me are the people, plants, and insects who are involved in the production of chocolate. See, gods exist! Or not.

The Universe depends on Nessie for its existence, and in no trivial way. This being, as it is distinct from the conjunction of all contingent things, exists necessarily. What better generic description for God than "a necessarily existing being upon whom the universe depends for its existence"?

The universe might have been different than it was. However, Reality itself cannot be different than it is -- the state of being real is always in a state of being real. It's tautological. Reality is simply the word we use for "that which exists" or "the Necessary Being" or maybe just "Being."

So if someone is going to wax lyrical over a "Necessary Being" upon which everything depends -- or a 'Principle of Necessary Reason' -- it seems to me that such a basic substrate of all that is ought to be self-evident. It shouldn't need to be derived through a series of proofs and verbal twists, with intelligent people on both sides. There is no debate over whether "Reality exists." And I think that is all the argument is going to get us. Existence exists. Okay. That's fine.

People who then slide from Reality to God forget that all of God's properties -- including having intention, being a person, the omnis, whatever -- are contingent. They can all be conceived of as being different. God itself can be conceived of as not being real. I think this makes the identification of God = Reality very problematic, by their own argument. God is too contingent to be the Necessary Being -- even if it just happens to exist.

But I maintain that all that is required for it to be God is that the Universe depends on it for its existence and that it is necessarily existing and concrete.

What "is required for it to be God" is a culture that uses that name the same way other cultures spoke of Ra or Zeus.

You've introduced a culturally relative entity into your "necessary" argument - without any explanation.

Not just culturally relative, but to culturally irrelevant almost everywhere at every time.

So far as I know, there's no folk religion that requires god to be a "necessary being" (thing that must exist). That's an issue that is simply not on the radar for most people in any culture, including Christianity ones. It is not what makes religion religion, or what makes religion tick in the heads of the vast majority of believers.

It's angels-on-pinheads mutual masturbation among theologians.

Its main function is to provide an obscure rationalization of the untenable---something that some believers can point to and say "I don't really understand this stuff, but I understand that our highly-traiend theologians have worked out that God must exist."

Most believers don't need that, because they buy less rarefied and more emotionally satisfying bullshit.

Just stick with truth as consistency or truth as procedure. That should be enough.

Truth?

Man, Brenda, is your concept of science naïve...

----------------

Brenda quoting Hudson:

Denying PSR is vastly preferable to denying (A1). A little randomness is much better than no metaphysical possibility (aside from what is actually true). It is much easier to stomach, and also much easier to comprehend. Although both alternatives are unfriendly to philosophy and science, denying PSR still leaves room for both, whereas denying (A1) does not.

Let me make an argument from authority: Hudson is an authority and therefore not batshit crazy. Therefore, if his argumentation appears to me to be batshit crazy, I have overlooked something. What is it?

Or does Hudson really believe what he believes because he likes it better than the alternatives his logic leaves him?

(Later it turns out Brenda uses the blockquote tag for her own comments. Doesn't change anything about the apparent craziness of the argument.)

What better generic description for God than "a necessarily existing being upon whom the universe depends for its existence"?

Wait, wait, wait. You have overlooked a wide range of possibilities. (And that's not even counting the fact that you chose the singular of "being" without any logical reason.)

1) Solipsism. I am the being upon whom the universe depends for its existence -- because it only exists in my imagination, duh.
2) The universe is a scientific experiment run by ordinary material beings in another universe.
3) The universe is a black hole in another universe.

And that's just off the top of my head!

-----------------

Long, long ago there was a Scientific American article on why SDI won't work. In 2001 there was a Scientific American article on why NMD "WON'T WORK" (all-caps in the original, and in red). I highly recommend them both. Short-bus kitteh say: I can has missl difens?

By David Marjanović, OM (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

Hunky is, as far as there has ever been a good description, our universe, in its entirety. It is the sum of all of the contingent things, which are all the things that could possibly differentiate our universe from any other. It is not only all the matter throughout all of time, but all of the contingent non-matter, like immaterial souls and minds (if they exist).

That would be a description of the state of the Universe, not the Universe itself.

Since it doesn't appear that anyone else has posted it yet, let me refer you all to the "debate" at Whatever (aka, John Scalzi's place):

http://scalzi.com/whatever/?p=603

Basically, Scalzi's commenters batted VD around like a cat toy; and however brutally his arguments were shredded, VD's fans remained convinced he was correct.

PZ is right here -- there's no upside to debating these individuals.

BlueIndependent
How is that providing ANY evidence? How is what you posted even considered a deep argument? That says that a god must exist; WHY? Answer that question.

The logic is clear and correct as far as it goes. Where it goes wrong is in the assumptions that are made. I would for instance disallow sets that contain themselves (or the axiom of foundation). That should be enough to make this argument to go away. Perhaps I'm wrong about that but I think it would be the beginning of a refutation.

I presented the argument because I thought it would be interesting.

A better question is, why should you, Brenda, persist in worshipping you god over another? If you are so high-minded as to take what you posted as deep consideration, than why are you even an adherent of the religion you are?

I don't believe in God and not an adherent of any religion. I'm just not in your camp. Often referred to as vulgar materialism. I'm not in the immaterialist camp either. I watch both camps set up their tents and conduct their wars without ever really engaging each other seriously. You just trade insults. Vox Day's comment section is no different in tone than this one. Only the names of the players change. It's immensely sad, you must need each other on some level.

ANOTHER snipe-w/dumbass Brenda thread????

From now on once Brenda posts, I'm simply scrolling past the next 100 posts or signing off. She's headed for a banning on the grounds of being an insufferable bore - quite a distinction since PZed will have to amend his posting rules in order to ban her.
Oh, and why isn't Keith banned? It's everything he wants, outside of being sodomized by 1000 leather-masked and -clad atheists in Yankee Stadium.

What annoying, useless, dull bullshit.

Bye!

By Sioux Laris (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

I take great insult to the suggestion that I may be "low hanging fruit". I'm from the tropics thus I'm a pineapple. ..a slutty pineapple.

By Bride of Shrek (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

Brenda demonstrating her voyeurism...

" I watch both camps set up their tents and conduct their wars without ever really engaging each other seriously"

Now there you go, I always suspected you were the type who "likes to watch". I'm still trying to get over your "ejecta" on my computer. You're a dirty girl Brenda. If you're not carfeul you might get a reputation as a slut.

By Bride of Shrek (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

Did someone say slut?

I presented the argument because I thought it would be interesting.

Do you now at least understand why it is not ?

By negentropyeater (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

[Brenda]'s headed for a banning on the grounds of being an insufferable bore - quite a distinction since PZed will have to amend his posting rules in order to ban her.

No amendment necessary that I can see--if you look (up at the top of the page, under the "dungeons" tab) at the list of high crimes and misdemeanors that will get you banned, Boring Brenda's infractions are covered under insipidity and wanking. I quote:

Insipidity: A great crime. Being tedious, repetitive, and completely boring; putting the blogger to sleep by going on and on about the same thing all the time.

Wanking: Making self-congratulatory comments intended only to give an impression of your importance or intelligence.

"It's immensely sad, you must need each other on some level."

And you seem to need us so that you can sit on your "not my argument" fence and pretend to be above it all.

Jerk.

By CalGeorge (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

VD called PZ a chest beater...er, didn't he just defeat his own theory?

We're saved! Brendas' here. Thank gooodness. All that low hanging fruit was too ripe.

Careful; she might interpret that as sexual harrassment, too.

"Do you now at least understand why it is not ?"

ZZZZiing. Love it.

Are we sure Brenda isn't Kenny?

Brenda reminds me of an infamous lunatic who haunted the Straight Dope message board back when I used to post there. The being called itself "Libertarian" and espoused a bizarre mixture of Christianity, its titular Glibertarianism and what I can only characterize as solipsism. The entity was fond of this "necessary existence" proof which is based on Kurt Godel's modal logic version of Anselm's existence argument. It's all very clever but goes nowhere near demonstrating, as someone above pointed out, that the "necessary being" is sky-daddy-with-beard-and-anti-gay-hangups or for that matter, anything in particular.

"Brenda" here also shows that it doesn't understand that ALL large scale scientific theories employ weighted evidence from a variety of fields and that there is such a thing as "extraordinary evidence" required to overturn any scientific consensus built in this way. One anomalous bit of data doesn't do the job as it might in defeating a conjecture in number theory let's say. That also sounds familiar to me. Just sayin...

By 12th Monkey (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

That, Madame is an insult. Never in the history of the Whipmasters & Fornicators Union, Local 666, has a member in good standing been called vulgar. I demand a retraction.

Oops, the conclusion (comment 111) hadn't been posted yet when I wrote comment 144.

But I maintain that all that is required for it to be God is that the Universe depends on it for its existence and that it is necessarily existing and concrete. This is a very barebones, but very agreeable minimum requirement. Surely such a being does have plenty of other qualities. As Kant would point out, we cannot know the nature of God. But we can know that God exists.

Here we have yet another demonstration why the argument from authority, even if just used as a rhetorical device, is a logical fallacy. "Higher-quality argument"? It's not even better than St Anselm's ontological "proof".

Consider the ratio of the masses of the proton and the electron. Let's assume the actual value (which IIRC is about 1800)

1186. I know this because we were told we didn't need to learn that. :-)

BFD.

This means "big fucking deal", right? :-D

That said, this sort of argument does occasionally serve a good purpose in helping clarify logic. The basic rule is that if your logic lets you prove the existence of God, you should look for a problem with your logic.

Cool. :-)

By David Marjanović, OM (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

The logic is clear and correct as far as it goes. Where it goes wrong is in the assumptions that are made. I would for instance disallow sets that contain themselves (or the axiom of foundation). That should be enough to make this argument to go away. Perhaps I'm wrong about that but I think it would be the beginning of a refutation.

I think you're seriously majoring in the minors and missing the forest for the trees. The problems with this argument are much more basic, and you miss them.

Like most "logical proofs" of the existence of god, the big error is in the interpretation of the terms. There are plenty of valid proofs for "God," and they all fall down in the interpretation of the thing proven as "God."

In this case, there are deep problems with the meanings of "necessity" and "contingency" and "God." Subtleties of set theory don't enter into it. You might be able to patch them up like Koons tries to with mereological aggregates instead of the full (and problematic) machinery of sets, but that would be missing the point entirely.

You're exactly missing the low-hanging fruit, Brenda.

There has never been a good reason to conflate God-ness with a necessary being and certainly not an absolutely necessary being. It's hard to even make sense of the concept of an absolutely necessary being, and it's crystal clear that's never been what gods have been about, at the bottom line. It's even clearer that in light of modern knowledge, the plausibly "necessary" "beings" are not in the least god-like, on any interpretation of "god" from any religion, ever.

Except, of course, a particularly modern concept of god whose essence is meaningless unfalsifiability---the woefully un-god-like "god" who is identical to whatever tiny gap can be shown invulnerable to disproof, no matter how implausible it is to identify that thing as God.

I presented the argument because I thought it would be interesting.

It's going to be pretty dull for the rest of us if you keep missing the very basic and general points we make and focusing on your narrow little hobbyhorses.

You're just not nearly as smart as you think you are, Brenda, or we're not nearly as ignorant as you think we are, and we are not impressed.

The big picture here is that Kant and Hume figured out what was wrong with this sort of argument hundreds of years ago, and debunked it just fine using ordinary language. The introduction of modern formal logic, set theory, etc. is a red herring---it just provides new avenues for obfuscation.

The fact that you don't see that, or at least see the possibility of that, and choose to focus on stuff like Russell's paradox... well, jeez Brenda.

If you want to be a set theory weenie, go ahead. But if you want to talk about something interesting, start by addressing the more basic issues of what's basically wrong with most proofs of God, and most concepts of necessity and whether they apply to this one.

Brenda, you're a narrow little poseur, pretending to have the Big Picture that we miss.

"Did someone say slut?"

You owe me a laptop screen.

By BlueIndependent (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

Brenda:

"Amazing. You talked for hours and said absolutely nothing."

I presented the argument because I thought it would be interesting.

Well, it isn't interesting. It is deeply pathetic.

Are we sure Brenda isn't Kenny?

Neither appears capable of noticing the leaps in the logic in the conclusion -- but Brenda is capable of summarizing a philosophical argument, while Kenny's eyes would have glazed over after the first two lines.

By David Marjanović, OM (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

The giveaway is that even if Teddy Beale were to somehow assemble a coherent argument for the existence of god (yeah, right), he's already made it abundantly clear that his (and all his minions) actual reasons for believing have absolutely nothing to do with said hypothetical rational argument.

He's already established what he is, we're just waiting for him to come up with a believable rationalization for it.

He is searching post facto for a convincing cover story for his irrational belief.

Defense rests.

Reskimming Brenda's "not-Brenda's" argument, I am reminded (as I often am by "pure" philosophical speculation) first and foremost of a long, elegant mathematical proof that bumblebees cannot fly.

Neither appears capable of noticing the leaps in the logic in the conclusion -- but Brenda is capable of summarizing a philosophical argument, while Kenny's eyes would have glazed over after the first two lines.

Actually, she has more in common with J. Remember, he was also going on about these supposedly sophisticated arguments for God - he doesn't believe them, mind you, but they are not so easy to demolish and blah blah blah. And insulting everyone in their first post in each thread, then spending the rest of the time whining what big meanies we are. Basically articulate but incapable of convincing anyone of their supposedly superior knowledge and intellect.

Geeeze, Brenda, don't you now realize that the people here do not wish any serious discussion?

"Vox Day's comment section is no different in tone than this one." - Brenda

True, but not in substance.

Geeeze, Brenda, don't you now realize that the people here do not wish any serious discussion?

Right, that would be why several of us discussed the argument presented. You, on the other hand, chose to ignore that in favour of a cheap, snide one-liner. Somebody seems to have trouble with serious discussion, but it isn't us, I'm afraid.

If somebody is close to the low hanging kiwis, would you grap me some? I wanna see what color they'll turn in my sangria - while I'm waiting for the retraction. :)

(and all his [Vox Day] minions)

We're ilk, not minion. Get it right.

Brenda: PSR, that's the test that means the doctor doesn't have to shove his entire surgery up your ass to test your prostate, right?

If you're a chap, anyway.

Don't be silly Martin. Superior minds like Salt don't need to look at evidence before pronouncing judgement.

Shorter version: Salt you ignorant slut

His football punditry is as shitty as everything else on his blog.

"Still haven't seen anyone I expect to beat Italy."

Check the morning's results dumbass!

Holland 3 Italy 0

By Andrew Brown (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

Grap..is that Jungian?..

"If somebody is close to the low hanging kiwis, would you grap me some? I wanna see what color they'll turn in my sangria"

Got some low hanging kiwis right here, but you don't want them in your sangria, 'cos it's almost 100 Fahrenheit here!

By Longtime Lurker (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

His football punditry is as shitty as everything else on his blog.

"Still haven't seen anyone I expect to beat Italy."

Check the morning's results dumbass!

Holland 3 Italy 0

Posted by: Andrew Brown | June 9, 2008 7:20 PM

Holland and Italy play soccer Andrew. Footbal is reserved for the big dumb guys that date Brenda.

By Barklikeadog (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

Poor guy, even Michelle Maglalang wouldn't accept his offer to "debate" him. Now that's gotta leave a mark.

Lob those kiwis on over Lurker, it's cold enough here today that they'll do just fine!

"...Often referred to as vulgar materialism..."

Oddly enough that sounds like a term devised by religious apologists who have little understanding of atheism and what it actually is, versus what they perceive it to be. Care to point to a source?

"...You just trade insults"

No, we have a disdain for really thin arguments driven by belief, and poor logic that is used to circumvent science and hold back society. I made the mistake of assuming you were religious, though I will not make the mistake of poitning out your vacillating foot-shuffling on the god-or-not question. You are taking an all views are more or less equal stance, and that just doesn't work. I doubt you would be so objective were this a discussion of economic theories.

The quote you posted displays perfectly the thin thinking surrounding the religious position on the origins, and indeed and sustenance, of life. It's thin thinking, it assumes too much (as you said), and it does nothing to solve the question at hand. If one asks the question, they should be open to the answers that come along. We have some concrete answers, and we have some made up ones. The made up ones need to put up, or shut up.

Why do you have such an issue with that?

By BlueIndependent (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

Barklikeadog

No I'm sorry you're wrong there

American Football is for Brenda's steroidal boyfriends, who don't have the brains to play a proper sport.

Football aka the beautiful game is what Vox Day wouldn't understand if Alan Hansen gave him a month's one to one coaching.

America and England, 2 nations divided by a common language! :-)

By Andrew Brown (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

America and England, 2 nations divided by a common language! :-)

At least Americans can spell "fuck."

I say do the debate, but bring an air horn and blast him every time he lies (and of course welcome him to do the same). That just might stop a Gish Gallop in its tracks. And so long as you only used it immediately after a lie (rather than blocking out his entire segment as would otherwise be appropriate) it just might help to expose how dishonest the arguments for a god are.

Tim B. :

Just curious: what kind of evidence would constitute proof of a god or set theism on a firm footing? I remember someone (maybe here?) remarking that a distinct cosmic message via star alignment or something like that would qualify. What else? I'm stumped.

As an Atheist, I think it is a fool's errand to stipulate what it would require for me to believe in God.

The Christian God is defined as all knowing and all powerful - so by definition God already knows what it would take for me to believe in him. Any test I could come up with would pale by comparison.

That I do not believe in God is evidence that he is either, (A) Not all powerful or all knowing, (B) Not benevolent, or (C) Non-existent. Since these all would refute godhood I'm justified in my lack of belief.

Well, there is another answer. God might actually LIKE Atheists. If so, y'all can look me up in the Pharyngula section of Heaven about 50 years from now.

Look for the building covered in squid tentacles, next door to the building covered with noodles. The beer volcano will be nearby.

a long, elegant mathematical proof that bumblebees cannot fly.

<wince>

That was a nice aerodynamical demonstration that bumblebees do not fly the same way as airplanes.

Actually, she has more in common with J.

Good point.

I say do the debate, but bring an air horn and blast him every time he lies (and of course welcome him to do the same). That just might stop a Gish Gallop in its tracks.

Good idea.

By David Marjanović, OM (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

#30
Just curious: what kind of evidence would constitute proof of a god or set theism on a firm footing? I remember someone (maybe here?) remarking that a distinct cosmic message via star alignment or something like that would qualify. What else? I'm stumped.

I can't see that any evidence is possible, at least for a supernatural God. A distinct cosmic message could be from a vastly superior natural intelligence.

Arthur C. Clarke said that a sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. So how can we be sure that what seems like magic isn't advanced technology?

Andrew Brown @#182:
One of the best (it was kiddingly of course) ways that I have see the language difference explained is that in the US we speak American and in the UK you speak Old American.

I know dziban at #26 already made the joke, but I can't help giggling every time I read "VD blah blah blah." Hee.

By astroande (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

right on , Windy.

It's just the old game of confrontation and vanity. It's very tempting I must say...

I personally don't mind the Brendas, the Js, the Kennys, the Waltons, as I think PZ does a pretty good job of keeping the influx/dungeon at the right level. We need those, otherwise Pharyngula wouldn't be the same, and as long as there is a clear majority of insightful commenters, what do we care ?

By negentropyeater (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

How hard would it be for him to just list the arguments in an email or on his blog? Again it's an example of a fundie using the media to bring validity to his otherwise invalid arguments.

A complete hack who has nothing other than inane ramblings that in any other culture would warrant asylum.

Barklikeadog, Andrew Brown,

Sorry, you're both wrong. American football is like rugby for pansies, constantly interrupted by commercial breaks. "Association football" (aka "soccer") is, famously, "a gentleman's game played by hooligans", and "football" is one of the two national sports of Ireland, the other being hurling. Hurling is the game once described to American audiences as "somewhere between ice-hockey and murder".

:o)

One of the best (it was kiddingly of course) ways that I have see the language difference explained is that in the US we speak American and in the UK you speak Old American.

Last time I was in my local bookshop, I was amused to see different pocket dictionaries for engelska and amerikanska.

I presented the argument because I thought it would be interesting.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and believe that you meant this sincerely. My advice to you, if you have a genuine desire to contribute to this blog, is to drop the agonistic (and antagonistic) approach. Try to engage in a discussion with the people who are responding thoughtfully to your posts. For you to ignore the responses of Nick Gotts and Paul W. and then go on to make the ludicrous claim that "Vox Day's comment section is no different in tone than this one" suggests that your goal is something other than joining in a reasoned exchange of views with the people here, but I'm still holding out a bit of hope. Time will tell, I suppose.

Emmet, my favorite lesbian songstress, Kerry born but living in the Bronx, once related to me how she laid some poor girl's head open during a camogie game.

Unfortunately, she never wrote a song about it.

By Longtime Lurker (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

Barklikeadog

No I'm sorry you're wrong there

American Football is for Brenda's steroidal boyfriends, who don't have the brains to play a proper sport.

Football aka the beautiful game is what Vox Day wouldn't understand if Alan Hansen gave him a month's one to one coaching.

America and England, 2 nations divided by a common language! :-)

Posted by: Andrew Brown | June 9, 2008 7:41 PM

You're right Andrew, It was the point I was attempting. really don't care what you call the sport. Having played both, I have to say I prefer American Football however. I didn't keep up with the steroids to take it into college. There are plenty of smart linebackers too but my ex-son-in-law deserves the lable of 'moron' being a lineman & a wife beater(probably caused by the steroids).

By Barklikeadog (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

SC #194 about Brenda

I'm going to go out on a limb here and believe that you meant this sincerely. My advice to you, if you have a genuine desire to contribute to this blog, is to drop the agonistic (and antagonistic) approach. Try to engage in a discussion with the people who are responding thoughtfully to your posts. For you to ignore the responses of Nick Gotts and Paul W. and then go on to make the ludicrous claim that "Vox Day's comment section is no different in tone than this one" suggests that your goal is something other than joining in a reasoned exchange of views with the people here, but I'm still holding out a bit of hope. Time will tell, I suppose.

I agree SC. I attribute it to immaturity and a vain desire to sound smarter than everyone else whose comments she considers 'low hanging fruit'. Some life experience, if she truly is sincere, will correct most of that.

By Barklikeadog (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

The simplest evidence that a supreme all-powerful being could present to prove his existence is to just flashy-thing us all into knowing he exists. It'd both do the job and end the problem in one stroke. I'd be utterly convinced - utterly - that there was a "god" if everyone in the world suddenly were in absolute agreement about what that god was and its properties. So far, without divine intervention, mankind has been unable to agree about even the broadest properties of "god" - good evidence that god is man-made not the other way around.

Or an old testament-style proof - gigantic 10,000 mile high golden arches appearing suddenly over Jerusalem, with singing angels and fire swords and elvis singing "baby that's my god" over a mysterious pan-planetary supernatural amplifier.

But my favorite way god could prove his presence is to rapture all the fucking christian idiots off the planet, already. They're waiting for it, and - frankly - so am I.

I personally don't mind the Brendas, the Js, the Kennys, the Waltons

Me neither up to a point: Kenny became unbearably tedious. Even then, the denizens of Pharyngula managed to turn him into an amusing chew-toy for a while. I think there's a difference between people who are basically sincere (IMHO both J and Walton), and Kennies who've outlived their amusement value even as drinking games. Periodic weeding is definitely needed to keep a reasonable signal-to-noise ratio.

"American football is like rugby for pansies"

Tell that to any quarterback who's had his ankle rolled over by a 300-pound lineman.

"Just curious: what kind of evidence would constitute proof of a god or set theism on a firm footing? "

My favorite answer comes from that P-Funk guy from the YouTube video linked from here several months ago: "He's God, he can figure something out."

Just curious: what kind of evidence would constitute proof of a god or set theism on a firm footing? I remember someone (maybe here?) remarking that a distinct cosmic message via star alignment or something like that would qualify. What else? I'm stumped.

Calladus wrote:

As an Atheist, I think it is a fool's errand to stipulate what it would require for me to believe in God.

I disagree; if we can't even imagine the sort of evidence which would persuade us that God or the supernatural exists, then our atheism and naturalist metaphysics is unfalsifiable. If atheism is a tentative conclusion, and not a faith, then we have to be able to recognize if and when we are mistaken, and know it.

I'll leave aside the various forms of God, and just go to the more basic question of the supernatural: what kind of evidence would put supernaturalism on a firm footing?

Brief answer: strong scientific evidence for the paranormal, specifically those forms with mind/brain substance dualism. If minds have direct causal power and can exist without physical bodies, then we've got a precondition for the existence of a Disembodied Mind which creates and moves matter through the force of its intentions.

I disagree; if we can't even imagine the sort of evidence which would persuade us that God or the supernatural exists, then our atheism and naturalist metaphysics is unfalsifiable. If atheism is a tentative conclusion, and not a faith, then we have to be able to recognize if and when we are mistaken, and know it.

True, but the problem lies with the concept of "supernatural" as well. If there exists "something beyond this world" and it interacts with our world with any sort of regularity, why isn't it just another "natural" thing? (Naturalist dualism, if you will) If it doesn't have any sort of regularity, then supernatural "souls" and "Gods" are impossible as well. The concept is a bit incoherent and I don't think that can be held against science.

my favorite lesbian songstress, Kerry born but living in the Bronx, once related to me how she laid some poor girl's head open during a camogie game.

I can well believe it, and probably when the play was at the far end of the pitch!

Tell that to any quarterback who's had his ankle rolled over by a 300-pound lineman.

I wasn't being serious, of course. The body armour and stop-start nature of play make cheap shots like "rugby for pansies" pretty easy for a (mostly) sport-averse nerd like myself who's never played either game competitively. In truth, I've no basis for knowing whether one is more or less demanding than the other and I would file my own remark under "macho bullshit" if it were made by a rugby player.

I disagree; if we can't even imagine the sort of evidence which would persuade us that God or the supernatural exists, then our atheism and naturalist metaphysics is unfalsifiable. If atheism is a tentative conclusion, and not a faith, then we have to be able to recognize if and when we are mistaken, and know it.

Metaphysical naturalism is not a scientific theory - it is an approach to investigating reality. Falsifiability is not a relevant consideration - usefulness is.

Atheism need not be falsifiable either. What has to be shown is that the concept of God makes sense. If it doesn't (and I believe it doesn't) then atheism is a logical position, not a theory.

Brief answer: strong scientific evidence for the paranormal, specifically those forms with mind/brain substance dualism. If minds have direct causal power and can exist without physical bodies, then we've got a precondition for the existence of a Disembodied Mind which creates and moves matter through the force of its intentions.

"through the force of its intentions" makes no sense. If there is substance dualism, then the mind is also physical, and has to interact with the rest of the world in a physical manner, in which case it is falls within the bounds of naturalism.

The term "paranormal" also makes no sense. There is merely stuff that happens that we don't understand. As you can probably tell, I am a methodological naturalist!

"We will not stand for the Fucking signs being removed," the officer said.

"It may be very amusing for you British, but Fucking is simply Fucking to us. What is this big Fucking joke? It is puerile."

Local tourist guide Andreas Behmueller said it was only the British that had a fixation with Fucking.

Love that one. It brought the kids in from way out in the backyard I was laughing so hard.

By Barklikeadog (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

Initials cause laughter.

I was wondering why anyone would change to the initials "VD".

Then I realised. It is a step up from "TB"

Wasn't it Father George Lametra that said the universe was born? Except all they could see was the galaxy. But a smart guy all the same. A religious man using the scientific method to discover a known for us now. He predated Hubble didn't he?

I suppose that reinforced the Xtians idea of "In the beginning"

By Barklikeadog (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

My favorite gay artist had it right all along - Exodus 33:20 And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall be no man see me and live. 33:21 And the Lord said, Behold there is a place by me, and thou shall stand upon a rock: 33:22 And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in the clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by: 33:23 And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen.
Thank Eris I am a woman & will be unable to see the giant ass in the sky!

If the Christian God wants my belief, he needs to earn it. And he'd better have a good explanation for the Problem of Evil and the existence of Hell, among other things. So far, providing me with proof that meets my standards has not been on God's agenda. Possibly he doesn't care.

More generally, it does appear, based on the existence of millions of Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and other assorted non-Christians, as if the Christian God either does not care to provide sufficient proof of his existence to unbelievers, or he isn't powerful enough to do so.

@ Steve Zara, #187:

Exactly. While reading reading this thread I was just thinking that if something seemingly miraculous occurred in my presence (a truck levitating, somebody coming back to life, etc.) I would suspect either an amazingly complex trick/hoax (in the first situation) or mad-scientist/aliens (in the 2nd) before I would consider a supernatural cause. Because hoaxes, mad scientists and aliens are way more reasonable than deities.

RE: comments on "Brenda Threads":
After having gone through a few, and with all due respect to those attempting to have a cordial discussion, why is anyone still expecting some sort of coherent response from Brenda? I ask because I suspect Brenda is in fact some sort of complicated Turing test. Questions like "where's the actual, physical evidence" get a rambling cut & paste of PSR/PNR/whatever that barely connects to the original question. Attempts to connect with Brenda get snide personal attacks as a response. I guess my point is that reading Brenda's comments have not convinced me there is an actual human being behind them, but have me wondering if in fact it's a computer major's AI thesis project.

Like those grad students who made that academic paper program which spat out gibberish but still got papers accepted to conferences. If that's not too mean to say.

Matt #212 I guess my point is that reading Brenda's comments have not convinced me there is an actual human being behind them, but have me wondering if in fact it's a computer major's AI thesis project.

Would a computer complain to the management about being called a slut?

By Barklikeadog (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

Barklikeadog,

Lemaître, not Lametra. (I'm a bit picky, my mother's name, he was my grand uncle...).
Of course, being a Jesuit, he said that he was pleased that this discovery meant that there was no conflict between his faith and science. It's also true that most scientists at first rejected the idea, even Einstein, and Eddington called it repungnant, but quite rapidly they were all convinced his mathematical model was the right one.

I wonder what he would say now that science is hypothising that the big bang was just an event in a previous to be defined state, and not, the begining...

By negentropyeater (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

windy #203 wrote:

True, but the problem lies with the concept of "supernatural" as well. If there exists "something beyond this world" and it interacts with our world with any sort of regularity, why isn't it just another "natural" thing?

It comes down to how we define the "supernatural," and separate it from what is "natural." As you point out, if the critical demarkation points are being "outside of nature" or "incapable of being known through science," then the lines can always be moved as we learn more. Trouble is, I think those are bad definitive criteria, because we can then end up with a cosmos infused with repeatable and testable magic, spirits, ghosts, and God -- and hey, it's all "natural." The term's definition isn't tracking along with how we actually apply it, and becomes vacuous.

I prefer to make the substantive difference hinge on skyhooks vs. cranes -- the "supernatural" would involve non-physical Pure Mind, mental properties, or meaning as a causal power not reducible or derived from the material, but able to act on it without any physical process. That ends up excluding weird effects and areas in quantum and string theory which are different than the natural universe we experience, but ends up including disembodied souls, ghosts, ESP, psychokenesis, magical correspondances, vitalism, karma, prana, God, cosmic consciousness, mind as "energy force," a universal tendency towards the harmonic balance of Good and Evil, progressive evolution towards Higher States, mind/body substance dualism, and holistic nonmaterialistic monism. I'd consider all of those "supernatural," whether we could study them or not.

Steve Zara #205 wrote:

"through the force of its intentions" makes no sense. If there is substance dualism, then the mind is also physical, and has to interact with the rest of the world in a physical manner, in which case it is falls within the bounds of naturalism.

Not necessarily. In "substance dualism," there are supposed to be non-physical existents and "powers" and "forces" and they are above ordinary nature -- or below it -- or on some other level or dimension or whatever. It's hard to pin down because there's not really anything that fits into it.

Keep in mind that people who believe in those things will be pleased as punch to call them "natural" if they think that will get them accepted and normalized. But they're not going to allow them to be reduced to mindless physical mechanisms.

As Dembski put it: "Is reality fundamentally mindful and purposive or mindless and material?" If they plump for the first, I call Supernaturalism on them -- whether they do so themselves or not. Frankly, pretty much everyone mucks around with the terms -- and sometimes it's for rhetorical effect or to gain unearned credit.

As you can probably tell, I am a methodological naturalist!

And, as you can probably tell, I think 'methodological naturalism' is a dodge -- the term was invented to protect religion and the supernatural from the kind of shredding they get when science is sicced on 'em. There's nothing in the scientific methods and explanatory criteria which invoke any natural/supernatural distinctions, or specify in advance what can or can't be studied. Theists only pretend God is "outside of science" when the evidence they want just isn't there.

@ Barklikeadog, # 213:

If it was concerned about what people thought of its USB ports, then sure.

Brenda, re #104,
4 is not correct. P can easily be constructed such that S is a contradiction. Therefore S is neither necessarily or contingently true.
A2 can't be technically correct, because if two contingently true statements in the form "p is possible" and "not p is possible" are conjoined, then the conjunction is not contingently true. Some limits on the application of A2 therefore apply.
/not a philosopher, my knowledge is limited to basic symbolic logic. If this is wrong, someone please correct me.

I've always taken "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" in the following way: If I am exposed to evidence for something such that the likeliehood of my having hallucinated the evidence is greater than that something, then the evidence is insufficient. Similarly, if the evidence seen by many poeple has a higher probability of being a mass halucination then the probability of whatever it is supporting, then that evidence is insufficient. Therefore, for very unlikely things, very indisputable evidence is required.

Not necessarily. In "substance dualism," there are supposed to be non-physical existents and "powers" and "forces" and they are above ordinary nature -- or below it -- or on some other level or dimension or whatever. It's hard to pin down because there's not really anything that fits into it.

That makes no sense at all. At least not to me.

Keep in mind that people who believe in those things will be pleased as punch to call them "natural" if they think that will get them accepted and normalized. But they're not going to allow them to be reduced to mindless physical mechanisms.

They have no choice. If something has behaviour which can be studied, and interacts in reproducible ways with the physical world....

And, as you can probably tell, I think 'methodological naturalism' is a dodge -- the term was invented to protect religion and the supernatural from the kind of shredding they get when science is sicced on 'em. There's nothing in the scientific methods and explanatory criteria which invoke any natural/supernatural distinctions, or specify in advance what can or can't be studied. Theists only pretend God is "outside of science" when the evidence they want just isn't there.

That view is what I take methodological naturalism to mean, but I guess that is just me.

I don't consider God as outside of science. I don't believe the concept has any useful meaning.

I don't believe the concept has any useful meaning.

That may be a little hasty:

God is a concept
by which we measure
our pain.
- John Lennon

The only way God can be outside of science is to dilute the term to the point where it's merely a substitute for the unknown. How can we know anything about a concept if it can't be measured? While trying to abstract spirituality from science seems like a good method to keep spiritualism outside the domain of reason and thus protecting the label of "delusion" on the majority of the population, all it does is abstract the specifics of spiritualism to the point where it's no longer useful.

Ask yourself what is a ghost, what properties it has, and how we came to that conclusion. You'll find that what you consider a ghost is shared by the vast majority of people; a translucent entity with anthropomorphic qualities that is said to be the remnants of the human soul. In an attempt to protect this as beyond the realm of science, people talk like it can't be observed. Yet if it couldn't be observed, how can it be known to us? Not to mention the scores of TV shows, sightings, eyewitness accounts, haunted buildings, etc. All these should be grounds for evidential study.

The problem comes because we don't find anything, the tools must be wrong. Because people are so convinced in the existence of ghosts, it's our methods that can't find them; not because they don't exist. Somehow the human body which is admittedly imperfect and susceptible to paranormal thoughts is more evidence than having a real understanding ever needs. By calling them supernatural, it's foregoing the need for an explanation of the medium for which they exist and therefore making the question of the existence one of faith. This doesn't fly in academia so it's a lot easier to just put it beyond the realms of discovery and allow people to keep their beliefs in paranormal phenomena intact.

Of course there are rational explanations, most of which involve the way the brain handles and processes information, and on the strength of the two ideas the principle of parsimony applies. We can explain how the idea of ghosts manifests in the brain, we can't explain how corporeal elements exist so it's far more likely that it's just simply the brain firing erratically after being exposed to certain stimuli.

So to summarise, by taking spiritual entities away from the realm of science, it also takes away the ability to give attributes to those entities. No point calling God "the unknown" in one sentence, then saying "God is all-knowing" or "God came down to earth in human form". These statements are directly contradictory to the position of nonoverlapping magisteria. Same goes for any supernatural entity, if you say they are beyond science then it's like saying that they are unknowable, which immediately foregoes the need for any label at all. If God is the unknown, why call it God? If we can't show any meaningful attributes to ghosts, why should we call them ghosts? The word unknown works so much better.

Pure Mind acting on the physical universe must it would seem, itself be acted upon by that universe in some way at least if we presume that this PM is to have some kind of knowledge of what's going on in that universe. So we have A acting on B and B acting back on A. Throw in that these interactions are reproducible and I think you've just found another weird aspect of physics. I suppose if you adopt some kind of "reality as a mere dream of God" approach so that the PM can only act but not be acted upon then you are close to something truly supernatural. This would seem to preclude our doing reproducible experiments on it though.

By 12th Monkey (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

I'm a philosopher, an atheist - even a proponent of reductive materialism. And I find Brenda's explication of the argument against PSR interesting in itself.

Honestly, I must say that at least some of the comments in response to Brenda were condescending and underservedly harsh.

I don't mind confrontation at all - but I could make out no sufficient reason for some of the comments.

And then of course there were comments being condescending and arrogant in making Brenda out to be a theist, and asking how this justifies Brenda's belief in God - which Brenda specifically stated not to have.

It seems to me that this is not exactly helpful to our "cause" as atheists - if we want to talk of such a thing.

Supposing that there are truly random events - that alone shows that there are contingent events that cannot have an explanation. The logical argument is interesting at least for me. It doesn't undermine the fact that there are phenomena/events that do have explanations - nor the possibility of finding good explanations. This is perfectly compatible even with the reductive physicalism I subscribe to.

Anyway - without meaning to be insulting or condescending myself... couldn't we be a little more calm, take the time to read even through long and at times difficult comments, see that they are not posted by a rambling theist spewing nonsense and be civil?

Brenda is right at least in the respect that many (but by far not all) of the usual arguments presented here and elsewhere against theism or dualism or whatever are not on the highest level of sophisitication such arguments can be and have been discussed (remeber, I'm on your side - I think theism, dualism and such are untenable). I disapprove of the condescension in Brenda's tone ("low hanging fruit"). But taking this to mean that these topics have received more sophisticated discussion - that the issues and arguments are more nuanced than they are (or can be) presented here (although that doesn't change the outcome - theism, dualism etc are still just bullshit without explanatory value).... I don't see how the factuality of that can be disputed.

Respectfully,
-Mike

On a different topic - The notion of the "supernatural" as causally active in the physical world is not a coherent concept. In fact, we cannot conceive of what causation would be, how it should in fact obtain, outside of a spacetime framework.

That, of course, disposes of theism, dualism and the "supernatural" all in one go.

The philosopher Jaegwon Kim has explicated this wonderfully in "Physicalism, or something near enough": If it isn't intertheoretically reducible (reductive physicalism), it cannot be causally active. And of course, epiphenomalism about the mind - or about god (the idea cracks me up) is untenable.

Blueindependent@181:
I couldn't find a source for the phrase "vulgar materialism", but I did find this:

...the label vulgar atheism is commonly applied to freethinkers who focus more on refuting the arguments of reveled theology (miracles, biblical prophecies, etc.) than on the more "sophisticated" arguments of natural theology (the First Cause Argument, the Design Argument, etc.) But there is nothing vulgar about taking Christians seriously enough to deal with their most important arguments...the vast majority of Christians consider the truths of revelation to be far more important than the truths of reason, since only the former are absolutely necessary for salvation. The charge of vulgar atheism is as pretentious as it is condescending, a bit of academic snobbery popular among professional intellectuals who would rather not dirty their hands with relevant details.

(this is from Why Atheism? by George H. Smith.)

Seems to me that most people commenting on this blog do not fall into the "vulgar" camp as described above.

...but I am aware, of course, that that's a description written by an atheist.

Mike,

Brenda hasn't exactly endeared herself in a couple of postings. The harshness you perceive is most likely a reaction to that rather than the specific content of this particular post. Sure, it'd be ideal if we considered the merits of an argument in total isolation from their source, and never carried personal baggage that coloured our responses, but I certainly don't manage it myself and I don't think it's an entirely reasonable expectation.

MPhil

I wasn't aware that there was a set standard of sophistry that we had to have in order for our opinions to mean anything to obviously far more educated persons such as yourself. I humbly submit that myself, and most Pharyngulites, return to our obviously sophistry-lacking lives and excuse ourselves for being annoyances to your intellectually elite sphere.

PS Get your fucking hand off it, you condescending wanker. Brenda brought this whole shitload done on her own whiny head.

By Bride of Shrek (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

MPhil -
I'm confused here. Why is epiphenominalism about the mind untenable? I may be misunderstanding the use of the word.

@#226
Of course, it was merely an observation at the statement rather than a personal critique of your position.

Interesting though that an atheist wrote it, I guess it comes back to the whole point of this blog entry. If there are better arguments than first cause or design, then why aren't they known to the public? Is it like Scientology where to obtain the secrets you have to invest a significant amount of money first? Seems like if they want atheists to (re)enter their flock and the call of evidence is out there that ANYONE who had more than just personal experience and meaningless rhetoric would be clamouring to make it known.

Emmet #70: You hit it directly on the head. It's about vanity, advocacy, rhetoric, and presentational acumen. Though some may come to the challenge seriously and sincerely (as you describe you have), the end-effect is an exhibitionist exercise in style, a futile and pointless game that has almost nothing to do with anything as lofty as zeroing in on truth and everything to do with "winning". Loading the peanut gallery with disciples assures a "win", even if one's viewpoint has been technically smashed to bits. Almost nobody gets persuaded out of the viewpoints they already hold.

As a means of determining the superior of two opposing viewpoints on any issue strictly on the basis of logic and reasoned argument, debate might as well be something one puts on a fish hook.

By Arnosium Upinarum (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

@231
As the quote above notes "the vast majority of Christians consider the truths of revelation to be far more important than the truths of reason, since only the former are absolutely necessary for salvation."
If that is true, then the most important argument for the salvation of their souls & everyone else's is the truth of revelation, which boils down to:
1.I feel that it is true, therefore
2.It is true.
Why would they bother with anything else? "Truths by reason", being secondary, can be absolutely demolished without changing their idea of "truth" at all, & there would be no paradox there.

Emmet
Brenda hasn't exactly endeared herself in a couple of postings. The harshness you perceive is most likely a reaction to that rather than the specific content of this particular post. Sure, it'd be ideal if we considered the merits of an argument in total isolation from their source, and never carried personal baggage that coloured our responses, but I certainly don't manage it myself and I don't think it's an entirely reasonable expectation.

It isn't - you're right... but I think we might try to do our best nevertheless. We are promoting reason, after all. Anyway - I don't object to criticizing tone and behaviour. But I feel we should attempt to maintain a certain level of civility.

The type of comments I felt inappropriate for people promoting reason are examplified by Bride of Shrek's response to me....

Bride of Shrek
I wasn't aware that there was a set standard of sophistry that we had to have in order for our opinions to mean anything to obviously far more educated persons such as yourself.
I never said that - in fact I stated that would be unreasonable to demand that arguements brought forth on a comment-section are on the highest level of detail of academic discourse. And never have I stated that opionions are meaningless unless based on arguments of highest-possible-level of detail and sophistication.

Really, you make it seem as if you just want to be insulting and rude... and go over the corpses of hundreds of straw-men in the course of that.

I humbly submit that myself, and most Pharyngulites, return to our obviously sophistry-lacking lives and excuse ourselves for being annoyances to your intellectually elite sphere.

See what I mean? My goodness, if people were arguing over psychology and a psychologist came along stating that it's the topics and arguments are more nuanced than what is debated on a comment-section of a blog... would you also make that comment?

Feel free to insult me further if it pleases you. I will stick to engaging in actual conversation and disregard further infantile behaviour.

Mandrake,
I'm confused here. Why is epiphenominalism about the mind untenable? I may be misunderstanding the use of the word.

Epiphenomenalism is a kind of property dualism, so for a physicalist it is untenable. Epiphenomenalism about the mental in general would mean that beliefs, evaluations, thougts etc would have no causal role in the world at all. That would also mean that your thoughts about what I wrote did in no way influence the movements of your finger in typing your response to me. I think this is untenable. Reductive physicalism seems to explain the phenomena far more readily: Yes, beliefs, thoughts, evaluations, deductions, inferences etc play a causal role - because they reduce to activity in the neural network.

It's a different matter with qualia. Kim believes they are epiphenomenal - that we have to live with a residue of property dualism. But I don't think this is correct - because this position again would not allow for my qualia to influence in any way my talking (or typing statements) about qualia - and because people like Paul and Patricia Churchland have made significant advances in intetheoretic reduction of qualia (see Paul Churchlands "Chimerical Colors" for example - very interesting paper).

-Mike

Mphil: #223, #224,

Philosopher, eh?

YAWN

By Arnosium Upinarum (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

@#233
I can understand that, but if that is there position then they shouldn't:
* try and formalise arguments to back their belief
or
* complain when those arguments are ripped apart

If they want to believe it to be true, that's their business. But when they want to play in anything other than Fantasyland then those arguments won't cut it, simple.

MPhil

With the following statement you yourself aknowledge there is the possibility that your comments may be preceived in another way other than you intended;

"Anyway - without meaning to be insulting or condescending myself..."

You might not have meant it but it sure as hell came across as such. I took offence and was harsh back, as I always will when I feel I have been talked down to or belittled. I feel very much you do not aknowledge that your comments were indeed condescending to the majority of people here.

Furthermore I call you out on your denial of the implication that we aren't as sophisticated as you would like us to be with your own comment...

"that many (but by far not all) of the usual arguments presented here and elsewhere against theism or dualism or whatever are not on the highest level of sophisitication such arguments can be "

And as far as you not understanding any harshness towards Brenda I suggest you go back and read the "Brenda" thread if you want to get a gist of her true nature. She is an incredibly rude and arrogant person herself and certainly doen't need a posse to stand up for her.

and finally

"The type of comments I felt inappropriate for people promoting reason are examplified by Bride of Shrek's response to me...."

I have had nothing to do with any of the arguments or debate you speak of so that it is wholly innapropriate to use me as an form of example. It is purely motivated by your by your own hurt feelings at being chastised a ridiculed and not based on reason nor logic.

By Bride of Shrek (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

epiphenomenon |ˌepəfəˈnäməˌnän; -ˈnämənən|
noun ( pl. -nomena |-ˈnämənə|)
a secondary effect or byproduct that arises from but does not causally influence a process, in particular
• Medicine a secondary symptom, occurring simultaneously with a disease or condition but not directly related to it.
• a mental state regarded as a byproduct of brain activity.

Sorry, out of my depth here, as it appears the word "epiphenomenon" is being used differently than I am used to .
I would assume that def. above means that a mental state is a byproduct of brain activity, and the mental state itself has not influenced the brain activity that led to it - but I don't see that it says that the state *cannot* influence further brain activity.

Kel,
If there are better arguments than first cause or design, then why aren't they known to the public?

Was the original comment #226 directed at me? If not, feel free to disregard the following as you see fit :)

-There are other arguments, like Plantinga's modal-ontological argument (not his completely ridiculous argument to the incoherence of naturalism, which can readily be seen to be defunct) or Swinburne's argument from Bayesian probability-theory. These are not so public because the average believer could not handle them. Nor could someone who isn't either a natural in philosophy or logic or trained in these things readily evaluate them.
They can still be shown to be faulty - but it requires formal-logical and conceptual analysis in the one case and conceptual and mathematical in the other.
Then there are the arguments of people like Paul Tillich and Hans Küng and so forth...

-Actually, I didn't mean so much that there are better arguments - but that the "usual" counter-arguments have been recognized by theistic philosophers and been countered again, which again have been countered by atheists/agnostics and so forth... with increasing complexity.

All I was saying was that interesting (although highly artificial) counter-arguments against our counter-arguments or deconstructions have been made - and that they are being dealt with by people like Graham Oppy, Nicholas Everitt, Michael Martin, and (until 1982) the wonderful John Leslie Mackie.

The works of these people also have the advantage that the theists can no longer claim that we're not engaging with the actual arguments for the existence of god made by the most sophisticated of theistic thinkers.

For example - Mackie's book "The Miracle of Theism" (concluding that it's irrational, and that atheism is the reasonable position) is still a standard work in philosophy of religion. Theists have countered some (but by far not the most) of his devastating arguments - and those in turn have been dealt with by people like Everitt ("The Non-Existence of God"), Martin ("The Impossibility of God", "The Improbability of God") and also Sobel ("Logic and Theism"... which definitely is unreadable unless you have a good knowledge of formal logic).

I would also like to point out that there are stronger arguments for atheism than even most theists engaging with atheists know... for example the arguments for the impossibility of god (like the above "We can have no coherent concept of the non-spatiotemporal as a causal influnce on the spatiotemporal", which if true, shows the actual impossibility of any interactionist deity - or the argument that the concept of a person necessitates being in time and subject to change. But god is said not to be temporal, therefore any such concept of god cannot have a real referent).

Dear Sir/Madame,

Brenda is not Kenny. They are very dissimilar. I'm pretty sure that one of them is a guy.

Sincerely Yours,

A Careful Reader

Kel - #236
Well, I would say the majority neither formalize their beliefs nor complain about them being pulled apart, but *still* expect that the world conform to their beliefs. That they can do this is a function of the problem that reason is secondary.

Just thought I'd plop a load of Vedanta into the punch bowl; no particular reason, I just like the studied shrug of the shoulders, a recognition of how far religious and philosophical wankery will take you.

1. THEN was not non-existent nor existent: there was no realm of air, no sky beyond it.
What covered in, and where? and what gave shelter? Was water there, unfathomed depth of water?
2 Death was not then, nor was there aught immortal: no sign was there, the day's and night's divider.
That One Thing, breathless, breathed by its own nature: apart from it was nothing whatsoever.
3 Darkness there was: at first concealed in darkness this All was indiscriminated chaos.
All that existed then was void and form less: by the great power of Warmth was born that Unit.
4 Thereafter rose Desire in the beginning, Desire, the primal seed and germ of Spirit.
Sages who searched with their heart's thought discovered the existent's kinship in the non-existent.
5 Transversely was their severing line extended: what was above it then, and what below it?
There were begetters, there were mighty forces, free action here and energy up yonder
6 Who verily knows and who can here declare it, whence it was born and whence comes this creation?
The Gods are later than this world's production. Who knows then whence it first came into being?
7 He, the first origin of this creation, whether he formed it all or did not form it,
Whose eye controls this world in highest heaven, he verily knows it, or perhaps he knows not.

@239 (MPhil)
No, it was not directed at you, it was a general observation of the state of arguments for belief.

As for those arguments you listed above ( modal-ontological ) (Bayesian probability-theory), if you have decent links for them I'd be keen to read them. Google was surprisingly unhelpful.

Anyway, I do have a degree in applied logic (otherwise known as computer science) so whatever you've got one way or the other to read would be interesting to see. It's always good to try and read formal arguments, if nothing more than to test my logic skills and by ability to pick them apart.

Bride of Shrek,
Furthermore I call you out on your denial of the implication that we aren't as sophisticated as you would like us to be with your own comment...

"that many (but by far not all) of the usual arguments presented here and elsewhere against theism or dualism or whatever are not on the highest level of sophisitication such arguments can be "

Have you considered the analogy with psychology?

The arguements are - in the end, of philosophical nature. The argument from design, the rebuttals therof, the first-cause arguments and such. My claim was that the arguments as they are discussed by the the people who have studied logic, philosophy and/or philosophy of science (theistic and atheistic) are more numerous, more nuanced and, yes, more sophisticated than as they are forwarded by people who are not experts on the subject.

I am sure you can see how this cannot be condescending or arrogant if it is true. But one cannot know if this is true if one has not seriously engaged with the arguments as the experts I mention debate them - and those they discuss in addition to those that are discussed on (most) comments-sections.

I hope you can also see how it is arrogant to take offence at what I said without having a knowledge of what I said was more nuanced and sophisticated.

I happen to be in exactly that field of study - so I feel your reaction to my comment is just as unwarranted as it would be to call a physicist condescending and insulting if he told people who are not in that field of study discussing his field of study that the actual situation is more complicated, that the actual arguments among the experts are more sophisticated and nuanced...

I hope I have been able to at least explicate why your reaction to me can indeed be seen as arrogant itself.

You will also notice that I did not generalize - I specifically stated that not all arguments as they are being put forward here have been reevaluated, met with serious critique, and that critique in turn (etc)...

Let me give an example... the Kalam argument. The rebuttals being forwarded on the comments-sections to blogs I frequent are all good and well... but there is more nuanced and sophisticated discussion going on, involving questions of nominalism versus platonism, of transfinite mathematics, whether contingency is an additive property etc.

The discussion between the dreadful but knowledgable Craig and the wonderful Oppy migh serve as an example

So, I have to say that I think it is you who has been arrogant - and that my position is justified.

Anyway - I do appreciate the more reasonable tone of your last comment.

Mandrake,

well... in philosophy of mind the term has sort of but not exactly the same meaning. In that context, it does mean that the mind, and everything mental plays no causal role in the world whatsoever.. and that it isn't merely the function of the brain, but something above and beyond that, although causally impotent.

If you're interested in philosophical topics, the Stanford Encyclopedia always helps :)

Here you go:

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/epiphenomenalism/

-Mike

Kel,

I'm sorry, I couldn't find good links for Swinburne or Plantinga... Plantinga's arguemnt is dealt with here (although I don't feel the rebuttal is sufficient). I have seen people dismiss it out of hand - without giving a detailed account of why it fails.
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ontological-arguments/#PlaOntArg

If you visit that page, also have a look at Gödel's ontological argument.

Mackie, however ("The Miracle of Theism") deals with Plantinga in sufficient detail.

Anyway - for another example of quite sophisticated defenses for theism that are hard to shoot down (but not impossible, as I said - I think they all have been shot down), take a look at Plantinga's "reformed epistemology". It's preposterous, yes - but it isn't easy to make a sufficiently strong argument for why it isn't a warranted/justified position:

http://www.dbu.edu/naugle/pdf/Plantinga_Reformed_Epistemology.pdf

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/religion-epistemology/

When I started reading this thread I though that by the time I got to the end of it I'd have something to say. But, not being especially familiar with logic or philosophy I haven't understood very much of the last quarter (or so) of this thread.

Unlike many of the posters here I wasn't raised in an environment of strong religion which I then discarded, and therefore have never had to think all that much about exactly why it is I don't believe in god/s. I could try and invent reasons why but I doubt they'd be accurate. Despite being a church-goer as a child and having a tenuous assocation as a teenager for purely social reasons (country town where I didn't play sport; not a lot else to do in terms of socialising) it just never occurred to me that i should believe. I don't think anyone at the church ever asked me if i did or not.

But I do have a question: was anyone who was a believer convinced to abandon said beliefs because of a pure logic argument?

By Wowbagger (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

I have no wish to get into a slanging match over who is right or who is wrong. I would freely admit I obviously am not in any way in the philosophy field. However I'm still unsure as to what your reasoning is to the way you feel you can make statement, leave people feeling insulted and still manage to turn it around to say it's their fault.

And no, I haven't "considered the analogy to psychology". I dumped my B.Psych in the second year to change to a degree where I could get a real job. Believe it or not here in the real world there's kids to feed, houses to clean, jobs to go to and study to be done. I have little time to sit around on my butt thinking of analogies to situations.

Now, completely off topic but I am curious. Your blog ( which I think is excellent BTW) says you're in Germany- I'm dying to know- are you arguing here in a language other than your native language? Cause if you are my admiration just skyrocketed ( and believe it or not there is admiration there- just because I disagree with you on one area doesn't mean I don't find your other reasonings very valid and worthy. Actually I'm trying very hard to make sense of your discussion with Mandrake and Kel)

By Bride of Shrek (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

Kel,

that was Anselm's original version as far as I remember. And Dawkins (as much as I admire his work) did not do it justice. His argument was rather coarse - his conclusion is 95% spot on if you ask me, but he did not provide a suffient argument to show that it is.

I smell an intellectual coward here.

Mike,

TBH, I understand Bride of Shrek's #229 that you excoriate in #234, but you seem to have missed her point: it's very much like my #228, but with extra hot sauce: a dose of sarcasm aimed at your condescension in #223. When you find yourself writing "without meaning to be insulting or condescending myself", it's a pretty good indication that you even know yourself that you're just about to say something insulting or condescending :o)

As an engineer, lacking the faintest clue about human communication, one of the things I find most interesting about Pharyngula is the variety of opinion, forms of expression, and what happens when the lines of communication get crossed. I honestly don't think I'd like it so much without the colourful invective. Whether it's deserved or not is a matter of perspective and judgment. In this instance, I tend to agree that Brenda brought this whole shitload down on her own whiny head even if I said it differently, but maybe you got that.

I suppose what I'm trying to say is that just because a message is delivered on a flaming arrow, rather than by carrier pigeon, doesn't mean it's not worth understanding.

I do practice what I preach: I did read Brenda's lengthy post carefully in its entirety in spite of the fact that I think that her track-record strongly suggests that her motivation for posting is more likely to have been demeaning her detractors, self-aggrandisement, and condescension rather than any desire to share her knowledge.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I'm being unfair to Brenda. But I can't really blame people for expressing what I strongly suspect, and I think you were maybe a little premature in berating people for their reactions.

Bride of Shrek,

leave people feeling insulted and still manage to turn it around to say it's their fault.

I think I qualified my statements enough - and (so far), no one else has stated they felt offended by my comments.

Believe it or not here in the real world there's kids to feed, houses to clean, jobs to go to and study to be done. I have little time to sit around on my butt thinking of analogies to situations.

I certainly do believe it - I have to live in that world, too, you know? Definitely not easy. But you can see how, in the case you laid out, jumping to conclusions might be unwarranted.

Your blog ( which I think is excellent BTW) says you're in Germany- I'm dying to know- are you arguing here in a language other than your native language

Thank you for that compliment.
Well, yes - German is my native language. But in my third year of learning English, I started watching TV-shows - and haven't stopped since. I've had Enlish in school for 11 years, the academic literature is mostly in English... so I've had enough time to practice :)

That also means that I don't think the fact that I'm not a native-speaker is an excuse for my committing any grammatical or orthographical errors... I do want those pointed out (yes, I'm a pedant - as you will already have noticed :)

#248, Bride of Shrek wrote:

I dumped my B.Psych in the second year to change to a degree where I could get a real job.

I got all the way through mine and it hasn't helped me to understand a lot of what's been posted here today...

Still, while it hasn't led directly to a job (I have one but it's completely unrelated to psychology) I think i'm better off having done it than not; it did teach me some critical thinking skills, which I've come to the conclusion are a) extremely valuable, and b) uncommon.

By Wowbagger (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

and (so far), no one else has stated they felt offended by my comments.

Okay - retracting that - inlcuding Emmet.

Emmet,

I knew that people might find my position condescending - but I feel that is unwarranted and itself arrogant (at least if made by people who aren't acquianted with the academic discussions and lack the expertise to judge it). That's why I included that statement.

________________________________

For anyone who might be interested, this is another example - a link to the Craig/Oppy discussion on the Kalam.

http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/graham_oppy/davies.html

On the right-hand side (at the top) you will find the links to the following statements in the debate.

MPhil -
It's going to take me a while to get through that entry, but from just a brief look, I agree that "epiphenomenalism" would be a difficult concept for which to argue in favor. I'm usually in the English field ("what's the latin root of that?") or in psych field, which is more interested in "say we increase the level of *this* chemical in the brain..." and the term gets used much more simply. Thus my confusion. The explanation is appreciated.
That said... to be honest, you really *are* coming across as somewhat arrogant. I'm afraid I can't really explain why, though I suspect it has something to do with the sort of "academic distance" or didacticism that one gets used to assuming in a presentation situation or publication format. Comment threads tend to be a more casual and volatile medium, and people see it differently. That's as close as I can get.
So I don't think either you or Bride of Shrek were being arrogant. That may get you both on my back (grin) but I hope not.

Okay, I just read those last comments - MPhil, part of the problem may be that your English is too good. Don't laugh - you may be pedantic, but if a native speaker of English spoke so precisely, he'd be downright anal-retentive.

Thanks for that.

My pleasure!

So many things wrong with the argument, no idea where to begin Indeed - but interestingly, it's logically conclusive.

("Reformed Epistemology" is - in my opinion - far more difficult to approach)

Anyway, concerning Plantinga's modal-ontological argument,
we can start by questioning axiom S5 of modal logic (POSSIBLY NECESSARY P -> NECESSARY P) - since not all modal-logical frameworks make use of that axiom.

Then we might point out that ontological arguments rely on using existence as a logical predicate, whereas it is only a grammatical predicate, but logically it is a quantifier and can therefore not be a property of an entity, since statment about something already quantify over it.

Or we might say that they only show that it is possible to have a concept of something which if it had a real referent, it would have a necessarily existing referent. (Like the concept of a "real martian" - which does include the existence of the martian, obviously).

Or we might, as Mackie does, take the route to say that in the standard semantic interpretation of modal logic (the so-called "possible-world semantic"), we would have "nested" networks of possible worlds, in either all, none or some of which a proposition would be true, but that the conclusions that something is "true in all possible worlds" is only true in "all possible worlds" that are "nested in"(or "branch off" of) the world where the propositions denote (which is related to the line of argument above this one).

I think the links I posted and the arguments I laid out here demonstrate what I was talking about, and let me re-iterate that this does not mean that the arguments not being discussed on such a level does not invalidate the discourse or render the participants in the discourse themselves in any way less sophisticated qua persons or debaters... it's just that this is a field of study where extremely technical and complicated discourse is going on, and that -as with every other academic discipline- the level of discourse is somewhat more nuanced and sophisticated than the level of discourse among laymen who have no expertise in the field of studies.

The problem is that this is a topic where everyone has an opinion, and has own arguments... which isn't the case when it comes to, let's say - automaton theory or artificial neural network research, or mathematics etc...

Having dealt with MPhil before I feel that he is an arrogant, anal retentive German. Very efficient too I understand.

:D

By Brian English (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

I knew that people might find my position condescending

No, Mike, I don't find your position or explanation from an expert condescending. Frankly, I find the notion that one might expect such a reaction based on the content of what one says quite bizarre: condescension is a usually a matter of tone.

I think you're kinda missing the point: you issued a broad missive reproaching people in defence of Brenda. In doing so, you aligned yourself with her arrogance, condescension, and belittlement of other people. If you'd said exactly the same thing without the rebuke, I very much doubt you would have had any negative reaction at all.


It's going to take me a while to get through that entry, but from just a brief look, I agree that "epiphenomenalism" would be a difficult concept for which to argue in favor.

I think it is.
[...]or in psych field, which is more interested in "say we increase the level of *this* chemical in the brain..."
That fascinates me - thankfully, nowadays, there is much interdisciplinary work being done between psychology, the various neurosciences and philosophy of mind. That's my speciality, so I'm always eager to learn.
Until now, however, computational neuroscience (mostly artificial neural networks) and neurpsychology have been the most interesting and rewarding for me.

That said... to be honest, you really *are* coming across as somewhat arrogant. I'm afraid I can't really explain why, though I suspect it has something to do with the sort of "academic distance" or didacticism that one gets used to assuming in a presentation situation or publication format. Comment threads tend to be a more casual and volatile medium, and people see it differently.
That might very well be a major reason why I am coming across as somewhat arrogant. Although, I have to say that I have not elicited such a judgement in the people over at RicharDawkins.net, where I am somewhat of a household name :)
So I don't think either you or Bride of Shrek were being arrogant. That may get you both on my back (grin) but I hope not. I can live with that.

Okay, I just read those last comments - MPhil, part of the problem may be that your English is too good. Don't laugh - you may be pedantic, but if a native speaker of English spoke so precisely, he'd be downright anal-retentive.

I think it's just that the arguments being discussed here (against/in favor of theism/dualism/physicalism etc) are exactly my field of study, and I am habitually using the language of the academic discourse that studies these things. When debating philosophy, I use the language of philosophy - and the academic style. In normal conversation I am still somewhat verbose (and I do feel that, personally, I ought to do justice to the wonderful expressive power of the languages I speak), but I wouldn't talk quite like that.

As for "downright anal-retentive"... I love language, be it poetic or technical - I find it's perhaps the most wonderful tool we have, and I, personally, am indeed trying to maintain a certain elaborate code - in English and German.

While I do not at all object to using modern, everyday terms, I have always found the "dumbing-down" of language (which isn't done here or on RD.net, but for example in youth-culture) a sad and lamentable phenomenon to which I do not want to succumb - because I feel one loses expressive force and the natural "poetry" of language.
I am, howeverl, perfectly willing to consider that in trying to not to succumb to that, I might be drifting off too far in the other direction.

Anyway - thank you all for your honesty and for the reasonable discussion.

Well, yes - German is my native language.

Maybe that explains it! I'm an English-speaker living in Sweden and one thing I've noticed is that Swedish is a very direct language by English norms. They can come across as curt, abrupt, condescending or even rude in English. The tone gets lost in translation. I noticed an email exchange in English online where, after a few posts, an American was saying to a Swede "I don't understand why you're being so rude", but the Swede wasn't being the least bit rude, just saying things plainly as she would have (pretty much) in Swedish. I wonder if German is as direct as Swedish, being reasonably closely related and all?

In any case, your English is impressive. I've read your posts on three different blogs and just assumed you were a native English-speaker. It doesn't get much better than that.

Damn, forgot to close an italics-tag. Sorry.

Hey there Brian! Be careful, if you go on like that - I might think you're coming on to me. :)

Emmet,

as far as I can tell, German is way more direct than English - but I cannot say how it compares to Swedish. But I know that certain behaviour (linguistic) that would be perfectly ordinary in German would be considered rude in the US.

Anyway - the thoughts I am explicating here I have explicated on RDnet as well, but perhaps there I have introduced the "possibly controversial" material only after people knew me already. In any case - over there, nobody seemed to think that my position was one of arrogance.

In any case, your English is impressive. I've read your posts on three different blogs and just assumed you were a native English-speaker. It doesn't get much better than that.

Thank you.

So, do you frequent RDnet and Steve Zara's blog or did you take the time to research what I wrote based on what I wrote here? I hope it's the former, otherwise I'm definitely getting way too much attention :)

So, do you frequent RDnet

Yep. Guilty as charged.

and Steve Zara's blog

I wouldn't say "frequent", but I've read a few threads there where you featured.

or did you take the time to research what I wrote based on what I wrote here?

I'm not nearly that diligent, I'm afraid :o)

as far as I can tell, German is way more direct than English - but I cannot say how it compares to Swedish.

Same ballpark, I would guess, given that they're both way more direct than English and Germans typically find Swedish very easy. Unfortunately, I don't speak any German, really. I know a pile of nouns, but no verbs or grammar (long story).

In any case - over there, nobody seemed to think that my position was one of arrogance.

Different circumstances, I think, little or nothing to do with content.

MPhil:

...it's just that this is a field of study where extremely technical and complicated discourse is going on, and that -as with every other academic discipline- the level of discourse is somewhat more nuanced and sophisticated than the level of discourse among laymen who have no expertise in the field of studies.

There are plenty of individuals all around the world who find it quite easy to discuss the matters you're addressing in a way that makes it comparatively simple for both insiders and outsiders to understand the content and ideas behind the discourse. The only reason you think it is so difficult is because you desire it to seem so to anyone who tries to read your posts. You've deliberately obfuscate the points in your posts solely because you will not put the thesaurus (or the prepositions) down. In short, your posts on this thread have an air of elitism, which causes people to lose interest in discussing anything at all with you. Which you, in turn, mistakenly take as some sort of victory.

I knew that people might find my position condescending - but I feel that is unwarranted and itself arrogant...

If you cannot recognize that presenting language so obviously convoluted is extremely arrogant, especially when it would be much easier to state your position in terms you know that your intended audience would be able to parse more effectively, then you're either oblivious or extremely arrogant. And since you suggest that it is arrogant of anyone to expect clear, concise speech on a form of media that makes it particularly tedious to sift through long and tangled entries, I tend to lean toward the conclusion that you are quite arrogant yourself.

I also enjoy your blog from time to time, but only when it does not contain the seemingly arrogant flaunting of artificially expanded wording that you've shown on this thread. For example, this recent post of yours is both clear and concise, and makes a couple of really good points.

The existence of "free will" in humans is - it seems - a default assumption. But when we try to conceptualize what we mean by that, we run into trouble. Free will is of value to us - we conceive of ourselves as agents, not as puppets simply being pulled in one direction or the other. We are rational agents, we make choices, we strive to do the right thing. Surely, for all this to mean something - we have to have free will. Or at least, these are the kinds of gut-feelings most people have.

See? Clear, concise, and making good points. And it did all that without a hint of the linguistic snobbery displayed in your recent posts. You're obviously quite an intelligent person, but you have shown a major flaw. You fail to realize that readers - instead of admiring your intelligence - will invariably begin to tune you out. I'm not saying that your pposts do not make sense - I'm simply saying that they're over-inflated, and can make just as much sense - and contribute far more to the discussion - if they are stated with more of an emphasis on clarity and conciseness.

By brokenSoldier, OM (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

Thanks for the clarification,

...now I have to go and do some work.

I'll be sure to drop by now and then.

Oh, and a final comment on Steve Zara vs Sastra many a post ago:

Not necessarily. In "substance dualism," there are supposed to be non-physical existents and "powers" and "forces" and they are above ordinary nature -- or below it -- or on some other level or dimension or whatever. It's hard to pin down because there's not really anything that fits into it.

...that's exactly where we can see that concepts makes no sense. Causation without a spatiotemporal framework cannot be coherently conceived (see Kim, 2005). To just say that it does make sense and call it "powers" or "foces" or "direct fulfilment of intenionality" is just giving a name to that which we cannot coherently conceive.

But I agree - the distinction "natural"/"supernatural" is artificial. But methodological naturalism, in effect, only means "No, 'magic' is not an explanation"... and that, I think, is certainly something we can agree upon.

Different circumstances, I think, little or nothing to do with content.
I see, Emmet, that you're once again trying to apologize for the doings of Mob. You do have a valid point, as ever, but I really think it's a little dishonest to say that explosive reactions to slightly condescending posts are justified. Especially when said explosive reactions purport to address content as opposed to tone (and, for example, refer to non-existent refutations of sound arguments).

I think a major problem on this blog is that there is a number of regular posters who are constantly on the lookout to wildly assail those who disagree with consensus opinion. And once the hunt is underway, the only socially acceptable thing for the other regulars to do is back their buddies.

I know I wanted to go... but I couldn't let this stand:

There are plenty of individuals all around the world who find it quite easy to discuss the matters you're addressing in a way that makes it comparatively simple for both insiders and outsiders to understand the content and ideas behind the discourse.

Really? Modal logic? The relevance (or lack thereof) of transfinite mathematics for the Kalam? Evaluating "reformed epistemology" in opposition to foundationalism or coherentism? Reductive versus non-reductive physicalism?

I do not doubt that certain (perhaps even a large part) of the discussions in philosophy can be translated into ordinary language - but many (like the above examples) cannot, and will invariably lose precision when this is attempted.

I can only repeat what I said before - it's not "over-inflated", it's simply that some of the discussions and arguments are that complicated. Yes, I'm not a Daniel Dennett whose language is easily accessible - but guess how often he is accused (not by me, though) of oversimplification.

We have two sides here:
-The topics do not difficult and the terminology is not convoluted, but appropriate
-The topics are not really as complicated as to warrant such terminology

Many people read popular science books and learn a lot from them - but would you say that it's arrogant to say that there is quite a lot more to string-theory, quantum-electro-dynamics than what can be expressed in the language apt for popular science books?
Ask the academics... ask them in physics, ask them in philosophy.

The first paragraph of my latest blog-entry you quoted was an exposition. The discussion is more complicated, there are highly technical arguments which I felt I could leave out for the matter at hand. But is it really that hard to see that there are also real, important arguments that go beyond what can be expressed in simple terminology?

Is it really warranted to accuse me for arrogance because the field is one where everyone has opnions and arguments?
To belittle the complex arguments and terminology in a field of study which is not ones own is indeed very arrogant. But I have stopped being surprised how people can do that so easily - I've had too many discussions with theists.

In any case - I appreciate the honesty, but find the position unjustified.

Bah! Another major problem with this blog is that there are no Edit capabilities.

Yes, I'm not a Daniel Dennett whose language is easily accessible - but guess how often he is accused (not by me, though) of oversimplification.
Actually, I think Daniel Dennett poses your position some difficulty. His work is arguably more potentially productive, more useful, than that of any other philosopher (past or present, I'd say). Yet the vast bulk of his writing is very much accessible to the intelligent layman. One wonders why other philosophers can't follow suit.

Well, in all honesty I doubt anyone can understand most of Consciousness Explained unless they have other experience with the philosophy of mind. It's certainly possible for a layman to take a lot away from it, though. (Indeed, I love the book, and I'm nothing more than a highly enthusiastic layman myself.)

Having been exposed to the avalanche of condescension and tidal waves of whining Brenda let loose on us earlier, I understand the general reaction, but I thought that when she managed a whole comment (#104) without either, a bit of positive reinforcement was in order - unless the aim is to drive her away, which would of course be perfectly reasonable given her record. Anyhow, like MPhil, I do find these arguments of some interest, in the "where exactly does it go wrong?" sense, and since they are waved around by some of the more sophisticated theists, there is a need for at least some atheists to have the technical knowledge to refute them (this doesn't include me, b.t.w., though I have some logic and epistemology background).

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

Sorry to skip backwards somewhat to the original topic of the thread. Thinking about it, I endorse Professor Myers' decision not to engage in a radio debate. In my experience (and I've been involved with it quite a lot) live debating often turns into more of a sport than a mode of seeking truth; the goal is to score points off the other side using semantics. While it can be enlightening and fascinating, it can also be utterly pointless - depending on how it is chaired, and how reasonable the other participants are.

I think the written format often provides better results. One of the best online discussions of Christianity I've seen was the written debate in Christianity Today between Christopher Hitchens (of whom I'm no fan, generally) and the theologian Douglas Wilson. It can be found here (spaces added to stop the comment going into moderation):

http:// www.christianitytoday.com / ct / 2007 / mayweb-only/119-12.0.html

I see, Emmet, that you're once again trying to apologize for the doings of Mob.

I'd say that I'm trying to bridge crossed lines of communication, and explain to people who don't appear to realise how they've been (mis)interpreted or how they've (mis)interpreted others how I think they've come to be (mis)understood.

I really think it's a little dishonest to say that explosive reactions to slightly condescending posts are justified.

You may think that what you've posted is slightly condescending. Another person may interpret it as grossly condescending. One person might be comfortable with condescension and overlook it, while another is deeply insulted. You think I'm being a little dishonest, I think you're a little lacking in awareness of how other people interpret you and how they respond or react to it.

Especially when said explosive reactions purport to address content as opposed to tone (and, for example, refer to non-existent refutations of sound arguments).

For example? In any case, very few people actually dissect every post and clearly distinguish between tone and content.

I think a major problem on this blog is that there is a number of regular posters who are constantly on the lookout to wildly assail those who disagree with consensus opinion.

I think the problem is that we're all human and, to varying degrees, fail to account for the fact that everyone isn't exactly like us and unwillingness to back down or drop something at the point where everone can walk away reasonably happy. For some people, only "total victory" is acceptable, no matter what the cost to themselves or others.

And once the hunt is underway, the only socially acceptable thing for the other regulars to do is back their buddies.

Or defend someone because of not knowing all the background, or because you got interested in what they said and forgot that they'd invited opprobrium, or felt sympathy for them because of some virtual shared victim complex, or...

A few people think I'm measured in tone, others think I'm am obsequious "cred-seeker" who wants to play peacemaker, others think I'm an insightful commentator, others think I'm a bullshitter who hasn't got the balls to say what he really thinks, others think I'm a condescending know-all who likes to armchair psychoanalyse people, others think I'm a dick playing mind-games, and others haven't decided or maybe something else. Which are true? Only one? All of 'em? To what extent do I know, care, or exercise control? Does it matter?

Why did you post comment #268? What did you hope to achieve? How could I have interpreted it? How did I interpret it? Is my response what you expected? Wanted?

The problem with the Christian god is not what we don't know, but what we do know. And based on the description given in the Bible he is an asshole.
So if Jesus did exist and showed up on earth, evidencing convincing divine ability and skills, the overwhelming majority of people will still reject him because of the simple, undeniable fact that he is a complete and total asswipe.

By The Devil (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

For example? In any case, very few people actually dissect every post and clearly distinguish between tone and content.
If in "those two threads" people had merely said such things as "Oh, piss off, J, you condescending prick", your vindication of their behaviour would perhaps be merited. But of course they didn't stop at that. They got extremely irate about the actual substance of my posts, pretending that a knockdown argument against me was readily available (as if I'd committed a logical howler in suggesting that "Bright" might be strategically better than "atheist"). In fact, I'd guess that most posts aimed at me responded directly to content.

Why did you post comment #268? What did you hope to achieve? How could I have interpreted it? How did I interpret it? Is my response what you expected? Wanted?
Yes, that post was probably unwise. Why do you think it was unwise, Emmet? You know as well as I do, don't you, that there are regulars here who are bound to react hysterically straight off the bat. Give them any excuse to start a witch-hunt, and they will seize upon it.

But I have no intention of causing another ruction, and if they prove me right by slinging mud I'll simply ignore them. Please don't be sore about the "cred-seeker" remark, by the way. I was more angry than sincere when I wrote that.

@ Blake # 91 and 92.
1) "Vitalism lost its force". Where are the science papers that claim to have put an end to vitalism?
2) "no evidence supports the claim of teleology in evolution". Have you gone through all the evidence to come to that conclusion? How can you even come to that conclusion?
3) Hameroff has replied to the critiscisms of the Lil et al. (2006) paper. The Brain Is Both Neurocomputer and Quantum Computer.

By thisisfunny (not verified) on 10 Jun 2008 #permalink

1) "Vitalism lost its force". Where are the science papers that claim to have put an end to vitalism?

Friedrich Wöhler (1828). "Ueber künstliche Bildung des Harnstoffs". Annalen der Physik und Chemie 37 (1): 330.

Yes that's 1828 do try to keep up.

J,

I personally don't have any problems with your comments.
I see you as a confrontational chap who doesn't want to form part of the group. There's nothing wrong with that, happens all the time.

But why are you so unsatisfied whith the way people view you as a web persona ? This is the reward for the way you project yourself, stop assuming that the problem is with the 20 or 30 regular commenters here.

Have you ever worked on a large project, in a large team ? There's nothing strange or unnatural happening here, it takes very special skills to change the opinions of the group. And the more intelligent and knowlegeable the group participants are, the more skilled the concensus builder better be. If you think you have what it takes, good for you, but my experience is, that confrontational types never make good concensus builders and never manage to convince the team to change their opinions.
Maybe you have more experience than I do, I don't know your background.

By negentropyeater (not verified) on 10 Jun 2008 #permalink

Vitalism ?

The central problem is that vitalism offers no definite predictions.
The key issue is not that it posits an unkwowable factor in explaining life, but that this one is inaccessible to empirical test and thus devoid of empirical meaning, and moreover, it's been supplemented by empirically more adequate mechanistic accounts.
In brief, rather useless even if not even wrong...

By negentropyeater (not verified) on 10 Jun 2008 #permalink

If in "those two threads" people had merely said such things as "Oh, piss off, J, you condescending prick", your vindication of their behaviour would perhaps be merited...

But that's exactly my point when I say that people don't often make a clear distinction between tone and content: one taints the other. It's a bit like the old thing about non-verbal communication, we do it without realising it. We don't always say "you condescending prick" when we're annoyed at someone's condescension, we might nitpick instead. If we disagree passionately with someone, we might construe something as offensive where we might not otherwise. We should keep the two separate, of course, but we don't. We're human and given to bias. Who woulda thunk it, eh?

In fact, I'd guess that most posts aimed at me responded directly to content.

No, they reacted, and the strength and vehemence of those reactions was proportional to the strength and vehemence of your original assertion, tinged with anger at its tone. It only takes a few nudges for the thread to go ass over tit into a nosedive.

Yes, that post was probably unwise.

It was really a rhetorical question. I wondered whether you thought about it and decided to poke you a little.

Why do you think it was unwise, Emmet?

It's only unwise if you don't know why you sent it :o)

I thought of a few possibilities for why you'd sent it. I was pretty well the only person who engaged constructively with you earlier. I considered the possibility that you were sending me a message that you were independent-minded by criticising me, effectively saying that "just because you were nice to me before isn't a get-out-of-jail free card". Another possibility I thought of is that you still have "unfinished business", hadn't let go of that fight and walked away, and wanted to start the whole thing up again. I doubt you had that as a conscious goal, but you might be feeling some niggling dissatisfaction at how the other threads ended. Starting it up again means it's not over and there's still time to "win". Maybe one or two other possibilities crossed my mind.

You know as well as I do, don't you, that there are regulars here who are bound to react hysterically straight off the bat. Give them any excuse to start a witch-hunt, and they will seize upon it.

Maybe that's true. If it is, you're not exactly shy about giving them an excuse. Look at this post or the earlier one and see how many toe-holds you've given them. If you had a fight with a dog yesterday, you can't kick him in the ass today, then complain if he bites you. As militant atheists go, I don't bite much, but then I don't live in an environment that's hostile to atheists like most people here do. Almost by definition, they have to be strong-willed, strong-minded people who absolutely will not be pushed around, but you understand that, right? If you're determined to kick a a dog in the balls, a rottweiler probably isn't a good choice :o)

But I have no intention of causing another ruction

Good, you'd just get mauled again and everyone would ultimately lose, including you. There is no good outcome, only a selection of bad ones.

Please don't be sore about the "cred-seeker" remark, by the way. I was more angry than sincere when I wrote that.

I know. But hey, despite my strained dog analogy, you're only human, right? You were pretty pissed at that point when you dropped that remark. It was my first post addressed to you IIRC. But no worries, I'm only human too and I don't bite much. To be honest, including that term was just a little barb to hint to you that I could've interpreted the post I was replying to as an attack. I chose not to.

I'm not suggesting that you take responsibility for anything more than your fair share of how those other threads went pear-shaped. I am suggesting that you let go of any need you might have to apportion blame, and avoid the topic in question like the fucking black death. One thing the Christians almost got right was the emphasis on forgiveness. Of course, they had to screw it up with a load of mumbo-jumbo, but it's really a whole lot better to forgive people, it's such a relief to just let go of any bitterness or resentment that you might feel. You're not "letting them away" with anything, you're letting yourself away with a lot of shitty emotional baggage that nobody should carry around for very long if they want to say sane.

Somebody will almost certainly needle you about it because they have "unfinished business". If you don't completely ignore it, you know where it's headed, who's going to wind up worse off after the pack have dined on your ass, and that "who started it" doesn't matter a shit outside grade school.

Now I only hope this works out and sparks don't start flying again!

I realise that I have so many mixed and strained metaphors in the foregoing that it makes it sound kinda stupid, but I think you get the general idea pretty clearly.

MPhil:

Honestly, I must say that at least some of the comments in response to Brenda were condescending and underservedly harsh.

I don't mind confrontation at all - but I could make out no sufficient reason for some of the comments.

Did it occur to you to investigate? So as not to be accused of quotemining, I'll simply point you to the recent "Judge Myers Presiding" thread.

It seems to me that if you are interested in raising the level of sophistication in the comments, you simply need to post sophisticated comments yourself. If people offer substantive responses at a reasonable level of sophistication, then you will have succeeded. If not, then you will be justified in considering the discussion to be stuck at a lower level than you prefer. The trick, though, is to make the substantive comments without combining them with an uninformed analysis of the thread or a scolding of other commenters founded on baseless opinions. Given your initial post, I was surprised to see your later comment to BOS: "But you can see how, in the case you laid out, jumping to conclusions might be unwarranted."

You also continued another Brendism in that you entered the thread to have your say while apparently ignoring those commenters who had responded to the substance of Brenda's post. I appreciate that you did respond to those people who answered you specifically, but why were Paul W.'s and Nick Gotts's comments not worthy of being answered or taken into account in your comments? It does give the impression that you're approaching the question from an "I am an expert, and I will now pronounce on the matter" perspective.

Oddly, you raise other examples of "sophisticated" arguments, only to then dismiss them yourself, while implying that nonexperts wouldn't understand why they're wrong. If they're relevant to the discussion, you could at least try to explain what they are and how, specifically, others have countered them. I like that you offered references and links (and I've been known to post simply a link with little or no commentary, so I probably shouldn't talk), but this doesn't really make for a great conversation.

In some of your later posts, you do attempt this, but I agree with brokenSoldier that, if your aim is to have a discussion or even to educate and not simply to impress, some of your language is too technical. There is an important question about what is lost in translating high-level abstract or scientific matters into more everyday terms, but people should always try. I found I was able to follow this, for example:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=Nwl0Os4moWg

(though I don't know how much was lost in the simplification process). You say at one point: "Yes, I'm not a Daniel Dennett whose language is easily accessible - but guess how often he is accused (not by me, though) of oversimplification." If you think he uses accessible language and does not oversimplify, then you appear to be agreeing that it is possible, so I don't really see your point.

Finally, you do seem rather unduly enamored of sophistication. PZ was asking for good arguments - not sophisticated ones. You say:

Actually, I didn't mean so much that there are better arguments - but that the "usual" counter-arguments have been recognized by theistic philosophers and been countered again, which again have been countered by atheists/agnostics and so forth... with increasing complexity.

There does seem to be a fair bit of "wanking" involved here. You yourself call Plantinga's argument "preposterous." If it is indeed preposterous, then I'm not at all surprised that "isn't easy to make a sufficiently strong argument for why it isn't a warranted/justified position." In this case, "sophistication" would appear to be a means of obscurantism.

All of that said, I think you made some very worthwhile points.

Comment #106:

(PNR) "For any x, if x is a contingent thing, then there is some individual upon which x depends, namely y, such that y is distinct from x and from every contingent part of x."

Surely that should read "there are one or more individuals upon which x depends". If we're talking about necessary reasons, then a given state of affairs can have more than one necessary pre-condition in order for it to come about.

Another way of looking at it is that Hudson seems to commit the quantifier-shift fallacy. Stripped down, his argument basically goes:

All contingent individuals depend on some other individual,
Therefore there is some other individual upon which all contingent individuals depend.

It's the same faulty logic as:

All boys love some girl
Therefore there is some girl whom all boys love

So at the very best, Hudson manages to demonstrate that there is at least one concrete individual without which the universe would not exist, but has no grounds to limiting that necessary conditions to a single individual.

However, even if we allow a single such individual, he doesn't demonstrate that it must exist necessarily. For a start, he doesn't give any reason to suppose why we can't have an infinite regress. For any given finite set of contingent individuals, the existence of the set may depend on the existence of other individuals, but those other individuals may depend on yet other individuals in turn. There's no obvious reason why we can't just add to the set of contingent things ad infinitum, in which case, there's no need to postulate any necessarily existing individuals at all.

Furthermore, it's not clear to me that his argument doesn't commit the fallacy of composition. While it may be true that all contingent individuals depend on at least one other individual, he still needs to show that it follows that the sum of all contingent individuals are likewise dependent. It might be the case that all contingent individuals depend on some other individual, but that the existence of the sum is a brute fact.

To put it another way, it might be that something necessarily exists (i.e., it is necessarily the case that something or other exists), but not that there is any particular thing that necessarily exists.

So to the extent that Hudson's argument is aimed at demonstrating the existence of a necessarily existing individual on which the existence of the universe necessarily depends, said argument appears to be flawed.

By Iain Walker (not verified) on 10 Jun 2008 #permalink

Ah... what a fantastic reminder how annoying and ultimately useless philosophy is.

Thanks people. Good job.

MPhil, I agree with you that talking about philosophy in philosophy-language should not be called "arrogant" any more than a physicist using physics terms. (and I'm not saying this just because we agree about the term 'supernatural' :)

The response to your initial post was a bit harsh because we have had several recent arrivals start out exactly the same: identify him or herself as atheist, lament bad behaviour of regulars, and refer to sophisticated arguments for God. But they never delivered - Brenda was one of them, she has been here for weeks, and post #140 was the first time I have seen her post anything of substance. So they get treated like the boy who cried wolf.

If the logical argument Brenda pasted above is her own work, it's very different from anything she posted here before, like this:
"What does interest me are questions surrounding the reality of the virtual. Real effects produced by something which does not yet fully exist. Something which is not yet fully actual. If you want to call that religion or spirituality (it is probably closer to psychology) I guess I don't care." So after a while of that kind of vacuous nonsense, people tend to be derisive of anyone who claims "sophistication".

But if anyone still fears that you will turn out to be another Brenda or J, I hope they will check out your blog and see that you do practice what you preach. Great stuff!

Re #284 -
Ah... what a fantastic reminder how proud some people are of their ignorance.
Thanks StuV. Good Job.

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 10 Jun 2008 #permalink

Ah... what a fantastic reminder how annoying and ultimately useless philosophy is.

Surely you don't mean all philosophy.

By the way, StuV, I enjoyed your recent response to "Sunshine" over at RI - something like "Thank you for that epic Poe-worthy bucket of fail, Sunshine." That was you, wasn't it? Made me smile.

Iain Walker,

I understood that perfectly. That must mean it can't be very sophisticated :).

Nick: name me one concrete contribution of philosophy to anything other than philosophy.

SC: Almost all of it... it's highly intellectual navel-gazing to me. But then again, maybe I am just ignorant and Nick will edumacate me forthwith.

And yes, that was me over at RI. Thanks for the compliment.

Uh-oh. I'm going to be giving a talk at the Evolution 2008 meetings on teaching evolution, and I'm going to be making the point that, among other things, introducing college freshman to basic philosophy of science is very, very important.

StuV said:

Nick: name me one concrete contribution of philosophy to anything other than philosophy.

Wasn't the Constitution of the US based largely on principles that were initially expressed by enlightenment philosophers?

By Lilly de Lure (not verified) on 10 Jun 2008 #permalink

Obviously, I'm not making my point very well. Let me quote WikiPedia. I have no problem with:

Philosophy of science is the study of assumptions, foundations, and implications of science.

I have a problem with

Some philosophers of science also use contemporary results in science to draw philosophical morals.

Anyway, I'm claiming ESL and lack of coffee... the latter of which I am now off to rectify.

SC (#288):

I understood that perfectly. That must mean it can't be very sophisticated :).

Heh. The closest I ever came to sophisticated was smoking Sobrani Black Russians as a student ...

Thing is, Hudson's argument is basically a variant on Aquinas' Third Cosmological Argument, and suffers from much the same flaws. When you get down to the meat of it, it's not all that sophisticated itself, but it always helps to know how arguments of this kind trip themselves up.

By Iain Walker (not verified) on 10 Jun 2008 #permalink

Okay, I just took a crash course at Google University and it turns out that my definition of "philosophy" was much narrower than that of reality.

I think I need to come up with a term for the section of philosophy I was talking about, but there may not be enough coffee in the world to accomplish that.

Thing is, Hudson's argument is basically a variant on Aquinas' Third Cosmological Argument, and suffers from much the same flaws.

Is it Hudson's argument? It's not in the reference Brenda gave. Although, Hudson appears to be some sort of Christian materialist, so that argument would not be out of character, I suppose.

StuV@289. Beginnings of science and scepticism about religion (Thales and other pre-Socratics); post-Dark-Age revival of science (Ibn al-Haytham and other Islamic thinkers, Roger Bacon, Francis Bacon); beginnings of political science (Machiavelli, Hobbes); theory of limited government (Locke); demolition of "proofs" of God (Hume, Kant); arguments for women's rights (Woolstonecroft, Mill), democracy (Condorcet, Mill) and animal welfare (Bentham); understanding of the foundations of mathematics (Frege, Russell, Goedel), understanding of consciousness (Dennett) - oh, sorry, you said I was to name one. Oh well.

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 10 Jun 2008 #permalink

3) Hameroff has replied to the critiscisms of the Lil et al. (2006) paper

And what a dreadful, obscurantist, goalpost-shifting reply that was. If ever a paper could be summarized by the plaintive whine, "Oh no you didn't! I can't year you! LA LA LA!" that would be it. Of jargon, much was found, but of substance, quite little. I particularly like the baldfaced assertion that "quantum theory as it stands is incomplete". Bollocks. Oh, and the asinine question "Where is the explanatory power in neurocomputation?" reveals a self-assured ignorance as profound as it is stunning. Learn what a dendrite can do before you ejaculate a bukkake-gasm of stupidity into the scientific discourse. Claiming that the properties of mind must extend down to the molecular level blatantly ignores everything known about emergent properties, and is comparable to asserting that the difference between Windows XP and Ubuntu Linux must be reflected in the dopants added to silicon to make transistors on microchips. Above all, it completely fails to address the critiques of the Gödelian argument, and without that argument, there is no need to presume a spooky origin of consciousness.

Hameroff's understanding of ligand-gated ion channel models of anaesthesia is at least two years behind the times, too.

People shouldn't make such painfully ignorant remarks before I've had my caffeine. I am not Electra; morning does not become me, har har.

Nick: I stand corrected. I had a somewhat warped view of philosophy (the closest definition I can give you is "whatever I find silly in philosophy").

The coffee, it is not helping.

One of the best (it was kiddingly of course) ways that I have see the language difference explained is that in the US we speak American and in the UK you speak Old American.

It's by no means that simple. For example, pronouncing w and wh the same is an innovation that is more widespread in the UK than in the US, and so is turning r into a vowel when it isn't followed by a vowel itself.

---------------

Maybe the Brits can't spell it but the Austrians can't pronounce it.
http://banderasnews.com/0611/nw-fucking-austria.htm

ROTFL! I had no idea of this village. :-D

---------------

There are other arguments, like Plantinga's modal-ontological argument (not his completely ridiculous argument to the incoherence of naturalism, which can readily be seen to be defunct) or Swinburne's argument from Bayesian probability-theory. These are not so public because the average believer could not handle them. Nor could someone who isn't either a natural in philosophy or logic or trained in these things readily evaluate them.

That's not true. Plantinga's "argument" is simply St Anselm's ontological "proof" in new wording, and Gaunilo's Island, "despite" being extremely simple, still applies.

I have read Küng's latest book (in the original German -- I'm Austrian) and am very disappointed. Küng makes pretty clear that he only believes because he wants to believe. (And that he hardly has an inkling about science, yet talks about it at length anyway.)

Let me give an example... the Kalam argument. The rebuttals being forwarded on the comments-sections to blogs I frequent are all good and well... but there is more nuanced and sophisticated discussion going on, involving questions of nominalism versus platonism, of transfinite mathematics, whether contingency is an additive property etc.

What is all this good for? Anyone can see that most of the premises of the Kalam "argument", and therefore its conclusions, are bullshit. What point is there in going on into transfinite mathematics?

There was a nice little thread on the Kalam "argument" over at http://skatje.com a few months ago.

That also means that I don't think the fact that I'm not a native-speaker is an excuse for my committing any grammatical or orthographical errors...

The English orthography is so fucked up that it is easier to learn if you don't already speak English. As you have probably noticed, there are lots of mistakes native speakers make all the time that you or I would never get the idea of making. Misspelling definitely as definately, for example.

I wonder if German is as direct as Swedish, being reasonably closely related and all?

German is more closely related to English than to Swedish. That said, who knows what splendid isolation has wrought in terms of sheer distance...

But I know that certain behaviour (linguistic) that would be perfectly ordinary in German would be considered rude in the US.

Like what, for example?

By way of stereotype, the Britons do have a certain reputation for talking around stuff and being misunderstood as praising when they're in fact damning, but the Americans don't... if anything, the opposite...

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spaces added to stop the comment going into moderation

You can include up to two links without it going into moderation, and I think bare URLs are less likely to trigger moderation than proper <a> tags.

1) "Vitalism lost its force". Where are the science papers that claim to have put an end to vitalism?

You've been given the citation for urea. Then there's development biology. And then of course is Ockham's Razor: the assumption of vitalism is not necessary to explain anything we know of.

2) "no evidence supports the claim of teleology in evolution". Have you gone through all the evidence to come to that conclusion? How can you even come to that conclusion?

Evolution can and does go in any direction. There is no preferred direction -- and, yes, there are quantitative studies on that. So where is the telos? Perhaps that's a wrong question* -- what makes you think there is one in the first place?

* Like "why did Napoleon cross the Mississippi".

By David Marjanović, OM (not verified) on 10 Jun 2008 #permalink

windy (#295);

Is it Hudson's argument? It's not in the reference Brenda gave.

Hudson isn't rehashing Aquinas exactly, but as far as I can tell from the material Brenda posted, it's basically the same argument with differences in emphasis. Both Hudson and Aquinas start with the premise that most if not all concrete things in our experience exist contingently, and conclude that everything must be ultimately dependent for their existence on a single, non-contingently existing thing ("And this we call God," as Aquinas liked to say).

The reasoning from premise to conclusion differs slightly in that Hudson emphasises the alleged contingency of the set of contingent things, while Aquinas emphasises the alleged impossibility of an infinite regress of contingent dependency. But otherwise both arguments are open to the same counter-objections (quantifier-shift fallacy etc). As well as the similarity of premise and conclusion, it's the same style of sloppy inference that places them in the same bracket.

By Iain Walker (not verified) on 10 Jun 2008 #permalink

I consider myself to be right-of-center politically, but Vox Day is one of the reasons I decided to disassociate myself from conservatism as a movement (along with Ann Coulter and the hyperemotional eruptions over Dubai Ports World and illegal immigration). When last I read about Vox Day, he had published (a year or two ago) on WorldNetDaily an astonishingly scummy editorial proclaiming that if Nazi Germany could get rid of six million Jews, then America should have no problem rolling up her sleeves and getting rid of twelve million illegal immigrants from Mexico.

(I visit Pharyngula for the sciency goodness, not for politics, but I just had to get that off my chest. :) )

I thought of a few possibilities for why you'd sent it. I was pretty well the only person who engaged constructively with you earlier. I considered the possibility that you were sending me a message that you were independent-minded by criticising me, effectively saying that "just because you were nice to me before isn't a get-out-of-jail free card". Another possibility I thought of is that you still have "unfinished business", hadn't let go of that fight and walked away, and wanted to start the whole thing up again. I doubt you had that as a conscious goal, but you might be feeling some niggling dissatisfaction at how the other threads ended. Starting it up again means it's not over and there's still time to "win". Maybe one or two other possibilities crossed my mind.
Come on, Emmet, cut it out with the psychoanalysis. You were indeed nice to me given the situation, but I thought you were being to some extent unfair in apologizing for people who were explicitly confronting the content of my posts. In my opinion, intelligent people like nearly all posters on Pharyngula really ought to be able to keep themselves from continually misrepresenting someone and conflating attitude with substance. Then I saw you seemingly apologizing for them once again (although maybe not -- I haven't read this thread thoroughly). That's why I posted.

Anyway, I have to thank you for remaining level-headed the whole time, and for making many interesting points.

StuV - I posted 298 before I saw your 296. I admire your willingness to correct yourself. Popper excoriates "oracular philosophy" which simply pronounces on the nature of reality, how we should live, etc. (Hegel is his favourite example), which might cover a lot of what you (and I) consider useless, but probably not all of it, since quite a bit of "analytic" philosophy strikes me as fairly pointless.

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 10 Jun 2008 #permalink

Nick: Thanks for the term. Yes, that would be a good chunk of it.

Nick: name me one concrete contribution of philosophy to anything other than philosophy
I think there definitely have been many important philosophical discoveries. The funny thing is, they're nearly always made by scientists or mathematicians.

The work of Daniel Dennett is perhaps the only exception to this trend.

StuV@289. Beginnings of science and scepticism about religion (Thales and other pre-Socratics); post-Dark-Age revival of science (Ibn al-Haytham and other Islamic thinkers, Roger Bacon, Francis Bacon); beginnings of political science (Machiavelli, Hobbes); theory of limited government (Locke); demolition of "proofs" of God (Hume, Kant); arguments for women's rights (Woolstonecroft, Mill), democracy (Condorcet, Mill) and animal welfare (Bentham); understanding of the foundations of mathematics (Frege, Russell, Goedel), understanding of consciousness (Dennett) - oh, sorry, you said I was to name one. Oh well.
The "proofs" of God are worthless elements of the worthless intersection of philosophy and theology. Frege, Russell and Gödel were trained as mathematicians, and their technical work on logic arguably mathematics. Dennett's theory on consciousness is good stuff, but he famously shuns traditional academic philosophy and grounds himself in real science.

I don't know much about the "ethical" things on your list, but I don't reckon they're all that deep, to be honest.

Apologies: I neglected to mention Thales. I would argue that a genuine philosophy of science wasn't obtained until scientific investigation was actually carried out by Galileo. Certainly the dominance of Peripatetic a priori speculation (prior to Galileo's debunking of it) suggests that not many people cared about what Thales said.

MPhil,

I think that in this kind of forum, it is useful to give a basic overview of the kind of game that is being played when people apply things like modal logic to things like God.

While I agree with you in general that sometimes sophisticated technical discussions are necessarily jargon-laden and difficult for the layman, I think that in this case BrokenSoldier is right. You and Brenda could make the basic issues a whole lot clearer to a lot of people.

Or at least you could; I suspect that Brenda---apologies if I am wrong---is not actually very sophisticated about things like this, and in fact even less sophisticated than me. (And I am no expert.) You, on the other hand, could likely clarify some basics if you made the effort.

I attempted to do that---with my own slant---in several posts. Brenda and you ignored that. Nick did some similar substantive discussing, which also got ignored.

That's very tiresome. Why should we bother to engage on substance if we're just going to be ignored?

I think that in this case, it's important to explain some basic issues in applying modal logic to proofs about necessary beings construed as God. It's not only a good excercise, but crucial to understanding what's wrong with Brenda's interpretation of this particular proof.

I'll recap some points I've made, and add a few more:

1. The modal logic "necessary" and "possible" operators don't mean much. You have to use axioms that respect the particular sense of "necessary" and "possible" is relevant to what you're talking about.

For example, I could use modal logic to represent what is physically possible according to some laws of physics that I take as true and assert as axioms. The laws of physics would "necessarily" constrain particular states of the world, which I might model all of as contingent (possible).

If I axiomatize physics incorrectly, of course, I can validly prove all kinds of garbage. My proof may be sound in logical terms, but will simply not apply to the real world. "Garbage in, garbage out" applies to sound logical proofs as much as to anything else.

Alternatively, I could use the same modal logic to correctly axiomatize the very same physics in a different way. I might model the random aspect of quantum events as "possible" and the underlying quantum physics plus a starting initial state of the cosmos as "necessary". I might have a hierarchy of possible states of affairs, with dependencies on prior quantum random events making a state of affairs "more contingent."

Given that, the interpretation is still largely up for grabs. For example, I might believe in a Copenhagen-type interpretation of my quantum physics, with superposed eigenstates that aren't "real" in the same sense as decohered observed reality, or I might believe in a many-worlds type interpretation in which there really are vast number of universes that are just as real as this one, and my "possible worlds" defined by my use of my modal logic map onto actual physical realities. My proof likely would not distinguish between those things.

Still another issue is whether the modal logic is being used to model what we would normally mean by "necessity"---that something had to be the case, or whether it's only modeling what we infer has to have been the case in light of observations we've made.

(For example, there's an enormous difference between inferring that Mr. Green must have killed Miss Scarlet in the drawing room with the lead pipe and inferring that he had to do it for some deep reason.)

Still another question is whether the logical theory is modeling subjective possibility, or some kind of objective "possibility". If I believe the universe is effectively deterministic, for example, I might use logical "possibility" to represent things that I am sure are either physically possible or physically impossible, but I don't know which given the limited information available.

That's just scratching the surface of the varied possible meanings of "necessary" and "possible" in modal logic. Many interpretations are possible, and none are necessary.

The take-home lesson from that is: never buy a modal logic proof without a very serious and convincing natural language discussion of what the proof writer intends "possible" or "necessary" to represent. The modal logic operators do not correspond directly to the natural language terms. They are used to define a particular concept of necessity vs. contingency, which must be justified.

(And really, they don't define anything, in the intuitive sense. Sets of axioms in a logic don't intrinsically refer to anything. The stated relations just constrain what the proof can reasonably be used to refer to.)

1. Proofs like this generally assume, one way or another, that there are at least some contingent things, and at least some necessary things. They usually conclude that there is some absolutely necessary thing, i.e., one that is construed to be something that had to be.

On reflection, it's very far from obvious that the assumptions are reasonable. In normal natural-language talk that makes sense, necessity and possibility are always relative---given certain things we take as true, and some that we don't know, some other things have to be true, and some other things don't "have to be" false.

When it comes to things resembling a first cause, it's just not clear that this normal intuitive kind of reasoning is valid. Our intuitions clearly break down right around there.

There is nothing like a consensus on whether it makes even a little sense to talk about something being absolutely necessary in reality. In every other case, necessity and possibility are always relative to something being taken as true or real---given that P, Q must also be true, and R doesn't have to be true but doesn't have to be false.

This kind of problem arises from the usual natural language ontological and cosmological arguments, of course; formalizing things in modal logic doesn't make the problem go away. It does often serve to obscure it.

So far as anybody actually knows, everything may be contingent in the most basic sense. Maybe the cosmos didn't have to be, but is anyway.

Likewise, if anything is necessarily true or real in a deep sense, maybe everything is. For example, on a many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, all physically possible things may be actual in some actual universe. It may be that whatever the first cause or ultimate ground of being is, everything else about the universe may be a necessary consequence of that.

I'm not just making that up as a weird example. It's grounded in serious cosmology. Some cosmologists think that at root, the universe is describable by a very simple formula, a Theory of Everything, and everything else we observe necessarily follows from that simple set of regularities. All talk of "possibility" is subjective---i.e., about which inevitable universe we happen to find ourselves in.

In that kind of cosmos, the usual distinction between absolute necessity and possibility just collapses.

The take-home lesson from that is that when looking at extraordinary claims of absolute necessity, you should be very, very skeptical. Does the proof-writer know something about ultimate reality that cosmologists don't know? Or are they just making convenient distinctions that let them get the answer they want?

There's more, but I think that's probably enough for now.

At the risk of being cursed at... I found Brenda's comments somewhat interesting this time...and other commenters had asked her for it.
Maybe Aquinas had equated the conclusion as being god, but it could also be a proof of the Higg's boson ...OK that's inside the universe (maybe)...how about proof of the big bang? The proof doesn't imply personality, or ongoing interaction, or good and evil, or worthiness of worship, or most of the other trappings of religion.

Come on, Emmet, cut it out with the psychoanalysis.

I read a few books on TA 15 years ago and my snake-oil version has served me reasonably well in keeping out of a lot of bickering and helped me communicate with people, so I'll stick to it until I learn more. Honestly, I don't really think the detail of the speculations is important, more the awareness there is a difference between what I write and what other people understand and that tone is important.

If you missed negentropyeater@#249, it's worth reading.

FWIW, I perceive your tone as habitually aggressive. That doesn't bother me a whole lot, I might be somewhat oversensitive, but it requires some consideration on my part to respond rather than react. I do understand why other people get very upset with you. If I reacted the way my gut tugs, the conversation would ultimately generate more heat than light. Just so y'know, FWIW.

Paul W @#308

Why should we bother to engage on substance if we're just going to be ignored?

I read most of the posts, a few of them I considered useful, including yours, but I don't generally comment unless I have something useful to say, but my knowledge of modal logic is focused elsewhere and pretty patchy. Maybe there's a load of people like that? I don't think comments are necessarily a measure of value.

which Negentropyeater @249 ?

By negentropyeater (not verified) on 10 Jun 2008 #permalink

Oh I guess you meant my comment to J @279 ?

I don't know if J saw it.

By negentropyeater (not verified) on 10 Jun 2008 #permalink

Sirs/Madames:

It can be found here (spaces added to stop the comment going into moderation)

Last time I looked, links will not push a comment into moderation until the number of links reaches or exceeds three. Once the number three, being the third number, be reached, the comment will go into moderation according to rules determined by The Second Anti-Spam Council of Antioch.

There are other moderation triggers, however. For example, I once had a comment held because it contained the word "Caledoniаn". I don't know if that trigger is still active... ;-)

BallanJ:

At the risk of being cursed at... I found Brenda's comments somewhat interesting this time...and other commenters had asked her for it.

I, for one, am not going to curse at you. (Except perhaps entirely in jest, you ignorant slut.)

I might even apologize to Brenda for a couple of things I said in this thread.

I think I may have been overhasty in reading some of the things she wrote here as being of a piece with stuff in the previous thread, and overlooked her trying to turn over a new leaf.

If so, I'm sorry, Brenda. (I hope a conditional apology is a bit better than a nonpology.)

I do think Brenda should be applauded for making some effort to make something she's saying understood. Presenting somebody else's proof in a noncommittal way may not be ideal, and may not justify her insufferable condescension in the previous thread, but it's better than just dismissing us as too ignorant and too assholish to actually try to communicate with.

That said, I think the ball is in her court. Several of us have said some very substantive things, not just flamed. It's her turn to say something about what we've said. Did we get anything across? Does she agree, disagree, or have to go away and think about it?

Are we as unsophisticated and unwilling or unable to seriously engage as she accused us of being?

I, for one, don't think so. There's been some flaming, but that's only to be expected given how the earlier thread went. And there's actually been a lot of attempted engagement on substantive matters. We might be wrong, and we might be stupid, but we're not entirely ignorant and not just a bunch of flaming assholes.

I'd be interested in tying together some of the things I said earlier with some of the things Sastra has said.

(My emphasis on natural language explanation of concepts before formalizing proofs ties in with what Sastra has been saying about concepts of "God" or the "supernatural," and I think the connection is crucial to undestanding Brenda's claims and whether she's right to dis us "vulgar materialists.")

But should I bother? Is Brenda actually interested, if she can't simply win and condescend to us? I don't know.

I agree with Brenda and MPhil that a lot of the time, the discussions of things like god proofs on Pharyngula are a bit unsophisticated. Often that's a fine response to arguments that aren't very sophisticated, but sometimes it's not.

On the other hand, I think disagree with MPhil about some of these "more sophisticated" arguments. They are mostly the unsophisticated arguments in new, impressive, obscurantist clothing. They might be interesting puzzles for developing logical sophistication, but their interest is mainly in how they manage to put the same wine into not-really-so-new bottles. (Bejeweled with diamonds and boxes.)

Not to dis that form of logical sophistication. If you run up against some apologist arguing with "sophisticated" versions of tired old "proofs," it's good to know how to deflate their pretensions. (And I have great respect for technical philosophy and formal logic when they're not being abused for dishonest or just flat insane apologetics.)

At this point, I think it could be useful to segue from what's really brain-dead formalization of deceptively simple concepts to the more important issues of what it's reasonable to mean by "necessary," "contingent," or especially "God" or the "supernatural."

I think that the deep problem with the fancy proofs is that the "absolutely necessary" rubber doesn't come close to meeting the "God" road. The conflation of those things is a medieval holdover that's part of "how you play that game," but it's actually quite irrelevant. Absolute necessity is not a sufficient condition for Godness, and it's not a necessary condition, either. It's not even close to what believing in "God" is actually about.

But we probably shouldn't go there before getting some feedback that tells us we're not just talking to a wall.

(And maybe not in a thread about Vox Day. Hyeesh, what a loser. Not worthy of this level of intellectual discussion.)

And what a dreadful, obscurantist, goalpost-shifting reply that was.

I've now read the article by Litt et al. and the "rebuttal" by Hameroff, and have come to the following (totally nonexpert) conclusion: The Litt piece is a devastating critique, and Hameroff's reply, while containing a hilarious bit of speculation concerning the consciousness of carrots and rutabagas (was that a joke? I honestly couldn't tell), is a ridiculous piece of schlock. That is all.

Sets of axioms in a logic don't intrinsically refer to anything. The stated relations just constrain what the proof can reasonably be used to refer to.

Hofstadter goes into great detail on this subject in his famous "Godel, Escher, Bach" which is a very readable presentation of some very complex and deep topics written, unlike Brenda's crap, in a very non-condescending style. In short, beware of geeks bearing axioms as the system they sell you might have nothing to do with reality and be full of many little commandos of obscurantism and mythology to boot.

By 12th Monkey (not verified) on 10 Jun 2008 #permalink

Negentropyeater,

I'm only confrontational because I believe debate is more entertaining and productive than cheerleading or beating the intellectually dead horse that is religion. But I find that interesting debate has to be reasonable debate. If witch hunts are consistently initiated against anyone who says anything that the majority on Pharyngula don't like the sound of, then we have an undesirable state of affairs, I see it.

That is the reason I was complaining.

I've read Vox Day's blog for some time. One thing that I have noticed, is that he has always been unable, or unwilling to provide the attributes for the god that he worships. If he would, maybe some of the skeptic 'heavyweights' would accept his offer to debate.

J,

why do you necessarily assume that there is a witch hunt, or something unreasonable ? As far as I can see, there is one commenter, J, who has chosen not to form part of the group and is seeking confrontation, and several commenters reacting to it. It's because of the desiquilibrium in the numbers, that it appears unreasonable to you, but should you blame the group for this ? You have chosen to make the comment, it's up to you to convince others, if you want to make it appear as if it's more balanced.
Don't think that people are waiting here for your comment so that they can somehow catch you, that people are after you.
I too despise cheerleading, but I don't think that debate is best served with confrontation.

By negentropyeater (not verified) on 10 Jun 2008 #permalink

Interesting. I was just over at NeuroLogica, and today's post is related to the consciousness question:

Here's some very interesting research about it:

Conventional models of human perception assume that sensory experience involves a critical interplay between activity in sensory cortex representing the stimulus and pre-frontal cortex which serves as an "observer" system- receiving and interpreting the patterns of activity originating in posterior, sensory cortex. However, recent fMRI results from our research appear to challenge this accepted view.

...not only are prefrontal areas disengaged from perceptual awareness, they are actually inhibited during conscious perceptual awareness. The results are actually compatible with the strong intuitive sense we have of «losing our selves» in a highly engaging sensory-motor act. They are intriguingly reminiscent of recurrent eastern philosophical themes which emphasize the 'silencing' of the self during intense engagement with the outside world.

...don't get worried about that flirt with Eastern philosophy, the research itself is quite down-to-earth.

If he would, maybe some of the skeptic 'heavyweights' would accept his offer to debate.

It would be unethical (also contrary to international intellectual boxing regulations and possibly illegal) for a heavyweight to accept to fight a mini flyweight.

Negentropyeater,

We've each made our points; let's please just agree to disagree. I don't think it's worth dwelling on this any longer.

SC, re you #324, reminds me of one of the better put downs I ever heard real life. At a bar, one egregious theist offered to engage my friend in a battle of wits on the subject of gawd. Said friend replied that he would never fight someone completely unarmed.

Bye

Paul W
I might even apologize to Brenda for a couple of things I said in this thread.

Thanks and I appreciate that but I don't think I'll be returning any volleys. I have a hard time calmly discussing things in a thread where I am still called a fucking slut. This is the second thread in a row were there is someone new coming in and confirming everything that I've said.

If witch hunts are consistently initiated against anyone who says anything that the majority on Pharyngula don't like the sound of, then we have an undesirable state of affairs, I see it.

Which is how I see it also. This is only going to backfire on you in the long run but, whatever.

I have a hard time calmly discussing things in a thread where I am still called a fucking slut. This is the second thread in a row were there is someone new coming in and confirming everything that I've said.

Nobody is really interested in the topics you want to bash us over the head with in the name of discussion, and such behavior has warranted worse than you've gotten.

Once upon a time, a lot of people hated Yoko Ono. John Lennon defended her, saying, "Yoko is a supreme intellectual! I'll tell you why nobody likes her music: because she's a woman, and she's Oriental, that's why!" when the fact that she's an Oriental woman is merely incidental to the fact that nobody liked her music.

If it gives you comfort to believe that nobody here has a more sophisticated response to your ideas and your opinion of yourself than to call you a fucking slut, and that reflects poorly on everybody but you, well, then, whatever gets you through the night. It's just that you are far from the first narcissistic punter to barge in all infatuated with whatever it is the rest of us had bloody well better be impressed with. Many of us have recovered from the morbid embarrassment resulting from later, candid and honest self-evaluation of stages in our development we survived. You may someday get over yourself too.

BTW, what is so wrong with being a slut?

Vox Day's not a slut. In fact I'd lay evens he has a hard time even getting laid.

BTW this is the longest VD thread I've ever been on where no one has taken the piss out of Vox's haircut. Let me be the first folks.... Vox, stop with the botox around the eyes and the 12 year old haircut. You just look like a complete and utter bollocker.

By Bride of Shrek (not verified) on 10 Jun 2008 #permalink

I have a hard time calmly discussing things in a thread where I am still called a fucking slut. This is the second thread in a row were there is someone new coming in and confirming everything that I've said.

The trolls are so bad this year, hell, even the goddamn trolls have trolls.

They are mostly the unsophisticated arguments in new, impressive, obscurantist clothing.

I have to disagree with this.

It is the like difference between saying:

"The circumference of a circle is several times the radius" and

"The ratio is Pi, and this is the formula"

It may sometimes be appropriate to ask for an explanation to be simplified, but that is no excuse for calling the rigorous and formal version "obscurantist".

Steve Zara:

It may sometimes be appropriate to ask for an explanation to be simplified, but that is no excuse for calling the rigorous and formal version "obscurantist".

In my (social-science) discipline, though, there's often a lot of false precision underlying "sophisticated" analyses. If you've, say, operationalized the variables in a highly questionable way, the elaborate statistical analysis you then erect on their basis is a hollow structure. So I take Paul W.'s warnings to heart, and view claims to greater "rigor" in the context of apologetics skeptically.

Could you maybe provide some concrete examples to illustrate what you're saying?

Steve Zara said:

It may sometimes be appropriate to ask for an explanation to be simplified, but that is no excuse for calling the rigorous and formal version "obscurantist".

Kind of agree. In any field there are going to be times when technical language and obscure (to a layman) terminology becomes unavoidable. However generally when this occurs the person using it should be quite happy to explain said terms to lay people who ask or at least point out where an explanation of said terms can be found. They should also be ready to explain why technical terms are necessary and relevant to the argument at hand and why lay terminology will not suffice.

When such issues are not only ducked but handwaved away by the person using technical language as evidence of the questioner's lack of sophistication/intelligence, I'm afraid my bullshit detector goes off and I get the distinct impression that I'm dealing with someone who is deliberately hiding behind technical language to disguise the fact that they actually have nothing new (or indeed nothing at all) to say.

By Lilly de Lure (not verified) on 11 Jun 2008 #permalink

They should also be ready to explain why technical terms are necessary and relevant to the argument at hand and why lay terminology will not suffice.

That is a reasonable point. However, translating an argument to lay technology is a skill in itself. Sometimes it can't be done in anything other than a way that oversimplifies things. This is a framing problem.

A problem with philosophy is that it uses words that are in common use in the English language, but which have specific and precise philosophical meanings in that context. It is the same sort of issue as we encounter with the word "theory". So, what may look like obscurity is actually not what it seems.

I think what I have a problem with here is the attitude that what looks like obscurity is a deliberate attempt to look clever and alienate people. Of course, sometimes it might be, but let's assume innocence before guilt!

However generally when this occurs the person using it should be quite happy to explain said terms to lay people who ask or at least point out where an explanation of said terms can be found. - Lilly de Lure

Certainly the latter. But in some areas, most notable mathematics, definitions of technical terms may quite legitimately be piled so high on top of each other that it would take an intelligent novice months to get to the top. (I'm not a mathematician, but some years ago had to get a slightly-more-than-elementary grasp of some aspects of topology. Very hard work, but every term was, indeed, precisely defined.)

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 11 Jun 2008 #permalink

Lilly,

the original comment about obscurantism was made by Paul W. in his #315, and I have to completely agree with him, and disagree with Steve.

On the other hand, I think disagree with MPhil about some of these "more sophisticated" arguments. They are mostly the unsophisticated arguments in new, impressive, obscurantist clothing.

Paul is refering to these Plantiga type revamped philosophical/logical arguments about the existence of God(s), or the kind Brenda tried to present. You can try to make them 100 times more complicated and obscure, it won't change the fact that evidence for God won't be found through obscure mental games, but through empirical evidence. That's how I understood his use of the term obscurantism, and I give him right.

By negentropyeater (not verified) on 11 Jun 2008 #permalink

In my (social-science) discipline, though, there's often a lot of false precision underlying "sophisticated" analyses

Ah, the influence of lit crit. I always joke with my English Prof friend, "But I'm constrained by reality in ways you aren't!"

By MAJeff, OM (not verified) on 11 Jun 2008 #permalink

Steve Zara said:

A problem with philosophy is that it uses words that are in common use in the English language, but which have specific and precise philosophical meanings in that context. It is the same sort of issue as we encounter with the word "theory". So, what may look like obscurity is actually not what it seems.

A fair point - anyone with a passing familiarity with the evo wars knows what a headache the T-word can be! However if this is a recurring problem then surely the onus is on the person using the word in a way other than lay-people are using it to explain why the context in which they are using it is different to the common usage and what they mean by it (as scientists regularly do with relation to the word "theory" in order to prevent it's misuse by creationists) when writing for lay people.

I know it can be a pest to constantly be defining terms that seem to be obvious but it does have the virtue of pre-empting the attitudes that you are complaining about whilst leaving the guilty much more easy to expose.

Nick Gotts said:

But in some areas, most notable mathematics, definitions of technical terms may quite legitimately be piled so high on top of each other that it would take an intelligent novice months to get to the top.

Again, fair point. However in which case an acknowledgement of this (together with as many explanations as possible and a note of where you can go to find out more) and an explanation of why the stacking of technical terms in such a way is unavoidable would be preferable to merely chiding critics for being "unsophisticated".

By Lilly de Lure (not verified) on 11 Jun 2008 #permalink

#336
You can try to make them 100 times more complicated and obscure, it won't change the fact that evidence for God won't be found through obscure mental games, but through empirical evidence. That's how I understood his use of the term obscurantism, and I give him right.

You are right, although I think calling such arguments "obscure mental games" is begging the question.

It can sometimes take quite a bit of effort to show that the arguments are indeed just games, and have no meaning. Philosophy can be of use here.

Let me give an example. I am having a formal debate with a theologist. He is suggesting that the Trinity is sensible. Of course it isn't, but how to prove it isn't? Some rather (to me) obscure philosophy and logic does just that.

I think there may be a problem with dismissing an argument simply because it appears obscure and is from a theologist or believer.

I think it is reasonable to say "I won't deal with your argument because it uses God as a foundation, and that is question-begging" if that is the case. But, if it isn't the case, it is helpful to be able to show they are wrong, isn't it? I don't see how simply labelling an argument as "obscure" does that.

Of course, I could be missing the point. That happens :)

As I said earlier, I'm not bashing technical philosophy or formal logic in general; far from it.

SC's analogy to statistics is apt. You can like with formal logic in much the same way that you can lie with statistics. Even if the proof is quite sound, if you misinterpret the terms going in and coming out, you can turn the crank and get utter garbage.

That doesn't mean logic is bad, or usually obscurantist. Just that it's dismaying to see something as beautiful as modal logic---an elegant system meant to clarify things---used in a cheap sleight-of-hand trick.

(I once went to a logician colleague who happens to be Catholic with one of these proofs, and my rebuttal. He was even more appalled than I was, and urged me to publish the rebuttal. He had way too much integrity to think it's okay to abuse logic to lie for Jesus.)

MAJeff,

I think I had in mind more the kind of Abstracted Empiricism slammed by C. Wright Mills (not as funnily as in his takedown of Grand Theory, but...)

http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O88-abstractedempiricism.html

and its contemporary variants. You definitely (not definately!) have a point about the LitCrit incursion, though :).

"Constrained by reality"! Yes! I think this was the point that people were making above: These "logical proofs" only have any substance to the extent that they speak of an empirical reality. If the terminology and structure of formal logic is being used to address something other than empirical reality, then the logic is no longer doing what it's being argued to do, and the structure and terminology becomes simply a veil covering this disconnect and the fact that the "proof" is worthless. So the apologists need to show that they have not committed this error. If the question of the Trinity has nothing to do with the natural world, it is a pointless exercise for scientists to be debating it.

Well, in truth, when I wrote that I had in mind more the contemporary (ab)use of statistics, but I'm hardly going to miss an opportunity to give C. Wright Mills a plug. :)

#341
SC-

This theologist did believe the Trinity was real in a way that could be seen in empirical reality.

However, it was useful (and fun) to be able to give a clear demonstration of why the Trinity was not consistent even if supposedly supernatural.

Also, not all reasoning is to do with empirical reality. If we insist that it is, we set up a new "NOMA" in which theology is acceptable providing it doesn't deal with empirical reality. I would rather challenge it in all areas. Philosophy helps with this.

I think there may be a problem with dismissing an argument simply because it appears obscure and is from a theologist or believer.

I think it is reasonable to say "I won't deal with your argument because it uses God as a foundation, and that is question-begging" if that is the case. But, if it isn't the case, it is helpful to be able to show they are wrong, isn't it? I don't see how simply labelling an argument as "obscure" does that.

Steve, did you read my extensive comments above about "necessity" and "contingency"?

I was trying to be reasonably specific about how these kinds of proofs are in fact "obscure." They generally hinge on one of several ambiguities in the natural language terms "necessarily" and "possibly," a misleading equation of those senses with the modal operators, and question-begging assumptions about absolute necessity.

For those hip the jargon, I also mentioned that mentioned that most of these proofs use S2 or S3 modal logic, where necessity vs. possibility is a binary distinction, as opposed to S5, which can represent nested possible worlds like the ones you get in a many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics.

Using S2 or S3 might be reasonable if everything else was reasonable---use the fewest axioms you need to make your point---but it also serves to de-emphasize the relative nature of possibility and contingency on any interpretation I can make sense of.

It's a setup. By assuming that you can say something can simply be "necessary," and that at least one thing is actually necessary and another actual thing is simply contingent, you're pretty much writing the conclusion into the premises. It's basically transliterating medieval terms into modal logic syntax.

That is not what modal logic is for. Modal logic is very expressive, and if you're going to formalize these things, you should bite the bullet and use modal logic as something more than a veneer for the same old simplistic, question-begging shit.

The problem is that these people don't actually have good arguments for things like "absolute necessity," or the "contigency" of the observed universe in that sense. They can't show that everything's not contingent, or that everything's not necessary, so they just skip that part and write convenient assumptions into their proofs.

They can't make a convincing philosophical argument, so instead they express an unconvincing one with impressive notation. That's not philosophy; it's wanking.

Saul Kripke is spinning in his grave. (He was the genius who worked out the possible worlds semantics for modal logic and made it respectable.)

Oh... um...

Steve, if you didn't mean that comment to apply to me, sorry for launching into a repetitive spiel. My bad.

Paul-

It wasn't really targeted at anyone. It was probably attacking a straw-man position that no-one had actually made :)

Your point about that specific type of obscurity is well made.

This theologist did believe the Trinity was real in a way that could be seen in empirical reality.

OK, but that's an entirely different issue from whether the Trinity is "sensible," and can be debated without resorting to the intricacies of higher-level modes of reasoning.

However, it was useful (and fun) to be able to give a clear demonstration of why the Trinity was not consistent even if supposedly supernatural.

I suppose it could be fun. I have no problem with demonstrating the internal inconsistency of supernatural beliefs. I do, though, question the other side: the implication that if someone could develop a supernatural belief system that was perfectly consistent internally but also perfectly abstract, it could itself be proof of its own truth/existence. I thought the "proofs" under discussion here purported to demonstrate "god" via logic applied to the known cosmos. But I could be wrong...

Also, not all reasoning is to do with empirical reality. If we insist that it is, we set up a new "NOMA" in which theology is acceptable providing it doesn't deal with empirical reality. I would rather challenge it in all areas. Philosophy helps with this.

I see your point, but then aren't we just playing their game, on their terms? What silly questions will they have us debating next?

Steve,

I think there may be a problem with dismissing an argument simply because it appears obscure and is from a theologist or believer.

Yes because it's already clear. All that theology / logic / philosophy can achieve however complicated you make the argument is at the conclusion that something is necessary for our existence (as brilliantly demonstrated by Brenda ounce again). Call that something God if you want, it doesn't change the central question that none of those disciplines can ever tell you what that something is.
Is that something an eternal false bubbling vaccuum or a homosexual hating bearded sky daddy ?
How does philosophy, or logic, or theology inform our feeble brains from that matter ?
It always, always, comes back to the same question, there is no way around it.
Look, I'm not even an atheist in the strict sense of the term, as I believe that there are God(s) in the universe, but I believe that we fucked up by considering that the study of God(s) was the business of theology, when it should be a scientific discipline.
Theology should be viewed as what it is, a litterary discipline, studying the traditions of ancient folks. And Philosophy should continue to help us all to think clearer, but it's not going to help us to identify, what are God(s), how they operate, where they are, etc...

By negentropyeater (not verified) on 11 Jun 2008 #permalink

SC-
I thought the "proofs" under discussion here purported to demonstrate "god" via logic applied to the known cosmos.

That was what this theologist thought he had. It saved time to show that he couldn't even begin to use such logic, as his "Trinity" was not consistent.

Yes because it's already clear. All that theology / logic / philosophy can achieve however complicated you make the argument is at the conclusion that something is necessary for our existence (as brilliantly demonstrated by Brenda ounce again). Call that something God if you want, it doesn't change the central question that none of those disciplines can ever tell you what that something is.

I think there is a problem with saying that anything is already clear.

If people say they have arguments for the existence of God, don't we have to show that these arguments are false?

Academic philosophy has arguably had a net negative effect on human thought. (I'm talking about Marxism, logical positivism, Nietzcheism, obscurantism, dualism, etc.)

Certainly, given their many documented blunders of the past,and their (with very few exceptions) being unable to produce anything of use at all, I'm disinclined to trust to their authority as "technical experts" -- especially if what they're saying looks and smells like nonsense or overcomplication.

Hmmm...

I'm not a philosopher nor even self-educated in philosophy in any way apart from reading a few bits'n'pieces. I did take a non-classical logic course, which dealt in part with modal logics, so the terminology is not entirely unfamiliar. I would guess that I'm pretty much the average reader here.

Reading this thread, I think Paul W hits the nail on the head quite a few times and pretty hard.

In my own reading of it, I thought "how in hell did we go from 'thing' to 'being'?" Why the change other than to conflate the meaning of 'being' as 'thing' with the common-language meaning of 'being', and arrive at a conclusion about a "necessary being" (with all that connotes) through word-play?

Philosophy suffers to a large degree from being perceived as word-play and wanking -- I'd add name-dropping if it alliterated :o). The two people I know well with degrees in philosophy have agreed with me in the past that a lot of philosophy is word-play and wanking, and I'd hazard a guess that Dan Dennett would too.

So, when someone comes along with transparent word-play and both hands stuffed down their pants (a God proof, puh-leeze!), what are we supposed to think? Is it the good philosophy, or the word-play and wanking?

If not Vox Day, Mr Myers, than who pray tell, would you consider "qualified" to have a public dialogue with you?

You know who the players are; please give us a few names. Maybe there are non-interative skeptics here who might have some genuine suggestions.

By Kyrie Eleison (not verified) on 11 Jun 2008 #permalink

Emmet-

Sorry if I misunderstand you, but you seem to be mixing up theology and philosophy, at least in part of your post.

So, when someone comes along with transparent word-play and both hands stuffed down their pants (a God proof, puh-leeze!), what are we supposed to think? Is it the good philosophy, or the word-play and wanking?

By understanding philosophy, surely.

Let me give an example of what I am saying here. Last year, on RD.net, I had a very long debate with someone who was a theist who was trying to put forward all kinds of arguments for God based on ideas of complexity and statistics. The thing is, some of his arguments looked reasonable. They weren't, but because I have an understanding of certain ideas in information theory, I could deal with this argument, and showed that it was mistaken. I could do that because of my understanding of that subject.

I just don't think it is enough to have a feeling that certain arguments are "transparent word-play". I certainly don't think it helps to say "a God proof, puh-leeze!)".

That is precisely the tactic that theists use against us - they call evolutionary theory "word-play".

We have to demonstrate that we are right, not declare it, I feel. We need to show that their arguments are word-play.

If people say they have arguments for the existence of God, don't we have to show that these arguments are false?

I guess the point of Paul W and others was, why not cut to the chase and point out that they are usually not arguments for the existence of God, only arguments for the existence of something. Why not concentrate on whether the step "and this something, we call God" makes sense.

"but because I have an understanding of certain ideas in information theory, I could deal with this argument, and showed that it was mistaken. I could do that because of my understanding of that subject."

Steve, Since you have understanding of the subject of "information", can you please tell us where "information" comes from?

By Kyrie Eleison (not verified) on 11 Jun 2008 #permalink

Steve,

No, I think you have misunderstood me. I have absolutely no confusion over theology and philosophy. I know a couple of people with degrees in philosophy rather well, and they would never let me away with that!

What I am saying is that the "proof" reeks of bad philosophy. The subject matter makes it suspect, and the word-play makes it stink to high heaven. Once one has unmasked the willful misrepresentation, why bother with further analysis? The correctness of a proof is utterly irrelevant if it's patently obvious that the model bears no resemblance to reality.

I just don't think it is enough to have a feeling that certain arguments are "transparent word-play".

Feeling? What part of spotting that a terminological shift from 'thing' to 'being' without any justification or explanation is a feeling? My only feeling is that you have misrepresented my observation as a feeling!

I certainly don't think it helps to say "a God proof, puh-leeze!)".

I disagree. In this environment it serves to flag what I meant by "both hands down their pants". It would not be appropriate in a forum of theists, but here I think we agree that if something purports to be a God proof, that's a big flashing neon sign that it's bullshit.

Is it the good philosophy, or the word-play and wanking?

By understanding philosophy, surely.

OK, bear with me a second...

I think being a molecular biologist would certainly help in utterly demolishing the specific claim of irreducible complexity of the bacterial flagellum, for example, by showing similar structures and how they are, in fact, coopted to evolve the flagelleum.

However, I doubt that a molecular biologist would then go on to make the claim that molecular biology is the only way to attack ID, which appears to be the analogue of the claim you are making for philosophy. I could argue that irreducible complexity is poorly-defined, subjective, experimentally unmeasurable, and scientifically useless, for example. That's a good argument that doesn't require me to be a molecular biologist. Similarly, I can attack this particular philosophical argument without being a philosopher.

My point is not that we shouldn't throw rocks at bad arguments until they're dead, it is that once you're sure it's dead, it's not necessary to throw more rocks at it. If you're having fun throwing rocks, that's fine, I like target-practice too and I've enjoyed other people throw rocks much bigger and faster than I could have. That doesn't mean that the rock I threw wasn't big enough or fast enough to kill it.

If you want to unleash a fusillade of supersonic car-size boulders to kill a mouse, fine, but I think bashing it in the head with a brick makes it just as dead.

At the risk of inciting an uproar, or boring everyone to sleep, I'll say the following:

The religious notion of God, or the notion of a benevolent God watching over us, is patently absurd. You don't need any sophisticated arguments to dispose of that particular turd pellet.

The extremely diluted, deist's version of God (i.e. an "intelligence" of some kind that in some way designed the Universe) is harder to defeat. Such a deistic Creator would have nothing to do religion, and wouldn't play any role in human affairs. The question of whether it exists is purely philosophical/cosmological, and really shouldn't affect our lives.

As usual, scientists -- not philosophers -- have the most interesting things to say with respect to this question. Daniel Dennett regards Dawkins' "Ultimate Boeing 747" argument as a novel contribution to philosophy. It really is quite amusing to consider that philosophers have been debating God for centuries, yet a simple argument like Dawkins' is seen by some professional philosophers as illuminating and original.

"Dawkins' "Ultimate Boeing 747" argument as a novel contribution to philosophy. It really is quite amusing to consider that philosophers have been debating God for centuries, yet a simple argument like Dawkins' is seen by some professional philosophers as illuminating and original."

I agree the original Boeing argument is silly. A hurricane through a scrap yard couldn't even produce a hinge or a bolt, or a paperclip, much less an entire 747.

As far as "professional" philosophers being impressed with Dawkins' argument, you can recruit a billion people to be impressed with something. That still doesn't make it true.

By Kyrie Eleison (not verified) on 11 Jun 2008 #permalink

you can recruit a billion people to be impressed with something. That still doesn't make it true.

And what is religion, after all, but the recruitment of lots of people to be impressed with something fictional?

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 11 Jun 2008 #permalink

As far as "professional" philosophers being impressed with Dawkins' argument, you can recruit a billion people to be impressed with something. That still doesn't make it true.
Eh? What's wrong with Dawkins' argument?

Eh? What's wrong with Dawkins' argument?

Why is it impressive?

By Kyrie Eleison (not verified) on 11 Jun 2008 #permalink

If you want to unleash a fusillade of supersonic car-size boulders to kill a mouse, fine, but I think bashing it in the head with a brick makes it just as dead.

I wish I had a row of colorful, cheering emoticons to show how much I like this.

That was what this theologist thought he had. It saved time to show that he couldn't even begin to use such logic, as his "Trinity" was not consistent.

It would save time for me to ask for proof of an entity's existence before debating it. But that's me. It's possible that given your strengths you could very easily make the logical-inconsistency argument. However, history has shown (and MPhil stated above) that such critiques don't kill the argument but instead tend lead to even more scholastic proofs, which in turn lead to equally scholastic rebuttals, and so on till you're playing in the mud at Wankstock. Why go there with them?

"And what is religion, after all, but the recruitment of lots of people to be impressed with something fictional?"

And what is public schooling or a large list of useless degrees offered by universities, after all, but the recruitment of lots of people to be impressed with something fictional... and expensive?

By Kyrie Eleison (not verified) on 11 Jun 2008 #permalink

Eduction is your enemy. Only belief can save you.

And what is public schooling or a large list of useless degrees offered by universities, after all, but the recruitment of lots of people to be impressed with something fictional

A strawman argument?

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 11 Jun 2008 #permalink

Why is it impressive?
I think that's a silly question, as the argument speaks for itself. If you find it unimpressive, this must be because you consider it fallacious, derivative, or something else. You should explain why you think this.

Eduction is your enemy. Only belief can save you.

"We've been attacked by the intelligent, educated segment of the culture."

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 11 Jun 2008 #permalink

And what is public schooling or a large list of useless degrees offered by universities, after all, but the recruitment of lots of people to be impressed with something fictional... and expensive?

Let's just stop educating our youth and spend the money on other things, like building gigantic prayer halls. After a few generations I'm quite sure we'll notice how fictional all of this was Kyrie...

By negentropyeater (not verified) on 11 Jun 2008 #permalink

For those who don't know Greek, "Kyrie Eleison" — "Κύριε ἐλέησον" — means "Big Invisible Sky Fairy, don't smite".

Well, OK, it's more like "O Lord, have mercy".

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 11 Jun 2008 #permalink

"...and so on till you're playing in the mud at Wankstock."

Heh.

Steve:

It may sometimes be appropriate to ask for an explanation to be simplified, but that is no excuse for calling the rigorous and formal version "obscurantist".

If the person making an argument clearly has the ability to make that argument a little clearer and more concise, but chooses not to, then I don't see any problem with saying such tactics in argumentation are obscurantist. The reason I made the comment about MPhil's posts is because - as I clearly stated - I got the impression from his blog that he possesses the intelligence to be a little more concise in his posts.

Using arguments that are clearly going to go over the head of anyone that hasn't studied the subjects mentioned in MPhil's response, even though you know how to make your points without writing in such a fashion, seems arrogant to me. If we were on a site in which the discussion of modal logic or transfinite mathematics and their application in dealing with these topics was commonplace, then such posts would fit in quite nicely.

That said, I never insinuated that the posts I mentioned did not make sense - merely that their use here without some form of clarification of the more technical language within did not make much sense if those who made them are interested in the success of those arguments on this particular site.

By brokenSoldier, OM (not verified) on 11 Jun 2008 #permalink

"Eduction is your enemy."

What does education have to do with public "schooling" or a degree that is of no use except to hopefully impress someone?

"We live in a culture that has for centuries now cultivated the idea that the skeptical person is always smarter than the one who believes.

You can be almost as stupid as a cabbage as long as you doubt. The fashion of the age has identified mental sharpness with poise; not with genuine intellectual method & character.

Only a very hardy individualist, social rebel, or one desperate for another life, stands any chance of discovering the substantiality of the spiritual life today.
Today it is the skeptics who are the social conformists, though, because of intellectual propaganda, they continue to enjoy thinking of themselves as widely individualistic and unbearably bright." - Dallas Willard

By Kyrie Eleison (not verified) on 11 Jun 2008 #permalink

...degree that is of no use except to hopefully impress someone?

I know I'm going to regret this, but just what university degrees would you include in that category?

We live in a culture that has for centuries now cultivated the idea that the skeptical person is always smarter than the one who believes.

Speaking of Greek — the root of "skeptic", "skeptomai" (σκέπτομαι), means "think".

The skeptical person, the one who thinks about standards of evidence and epistemology, is always smarter than the one who merely believes.

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 11 Jun 2008 #permalink

Who the hell is Dallas Willard and why should I care what he/she thinks?

...degree that is of no use except to hopefully impress someone?
I know I'm going to regret this, but just what university degrees would you include in that category?

Well, I would say that a university degree in theology would be of no use except to hopefully impress someone.

But that's no doubt because I'm a skeptic.

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 11 Jun 2008 #permalink

Kyrie,

This is your Mother. Stop playing with the random quote generator and come down for dinner this instant!

By MissAgentGirl (not verified) on 11 Jun 2008 #permalink

Well, I would say that a university degree in theology would be of no use except to hopefully impress someone.

But that's no doubt because I'm a skeptic.

I dunno, I always enjoyed studying fiction.

Good call, though, Owl...I didn't think of that one.

Who the hell is Dallas Willard and why should I care what he/she thinks?

According to Google, someone with degrees in Philosophy, History of Science, Psychology, and "Philosophy and Religion".

No doubt they are all "of no use except to hopefully impress someone".

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 11 Jun 2008 #permalink

"No doubt they are all "of no use except to hopefully impress someone"."

Epic fail.

LOL! Nice. A quote from a PhD theologian in support of the "argument". :-D

If Willard doesn't know the different between skepticism and doubt, his own PhD isn't worth the paper it's printed on. So, Kyrie, you may actually have a point there. Well done.

Ok, philosopher with an emphasis on christianity, not theologian. My mistake. Not that it matters much in this context.

Ok, philosopher with an emphasis on christianity, not theologian.

I think the most appropriate descriptive epithet would be "Courtier". The quote from him looks so very much like a "Reply".

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 11 Jun 2008 #permalink

I love quoteminton. I'll bat a softie back to Kyrie:

"You can get into a habit of thought in which you enjoy making fun of all those other people who don't see things as clearly as you do. We have to guard carefully against it." ~ Carl Sagan

"Свеча и очки бесполезны, если сова не хочет видеть."

Only a very hardy individualist, social rebel, or one desperate for another life, stands any chance of discovering the substantiality of the spiritual life today. - Kyrie Eleison quoting Dallas Willard

Actually, no-one stands any chance of discovering the s. of the s.l., because it doesn't have any.

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 11 Jun 2008 #permalink

Kyrie Eleison #375 quoted:

"We live in a culture that has for centuries now cultivated the idea that the skeptical person is always smarter than the one who believes."

I disagree with this.

I think that -- at least in America -- the cultural stamp of approval is very heavily on the side of "having faith." The average person seems to be inculcated from all sides with the view that Belief in God is the mark of a wise, warm, compassionate, open-minded person -- and atheism is the hallmark of a cramped and narrow mind, incapable of seeing below the surface of things. Atheists repeatedly show up at the very bottom of every poll which tries to measure respect and acceptance for various groups.

Atheists are not seen as being smart of intelligent -- they are seen as arrogant, yet foolish. That's very different.

"Only a very hardy individualist, social rebel, or one desperate for another life, stands any chance of discovering the substantiality of the spiritual life today."

Is this quote about Opposite World? Or is this Opposite Day?

I think recent polls have about 96% of the United States professing a belief in God. The only place this is reversed, as far as I know, is with the most prestigious members of major science organizations. Virtually everyone claims to be "spiritual," if not religious. They may not all pursue the rigorous paths, but they all nod towards them with respect, as the gold standard.

This quotation is so contrary to the facts of the matter that I suspect its author has some deep-seated personal need to see himself as a part of an elite, persecuted minority of brave and fearless mavericks. It's hard to see how he could have otherwise gotten our culture so wrong.

Anyway, I think Willard is wrong. He casts a minority opinion as the prevailing view, because it suits his bias to do so.

A more apropos birdie to thwack back might then be:

There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge." ~Isaac Asimov

He said that in 1980, and it's more true now than it was then.

Sastra@390: on Kyrie

I suspect its author has some deep-seated personal need to see himself as a part of an elite, persecuted minority of brave and fearless mavericks

It's the religious need for martyrdom. You can't be a martyr if you're in the hegemony, so you need to believe you are in a persecuted minority. Maybe that's why there are so many religious schisms, sects, and cults. The meme regognizes the need to keep the 'in' population smaller than the 'out' population, so as to maintain the martyr complex.

its all a load of bollocks to be honest.

By tony (not a vegan) (not verified) on 11 Jun 2008 #permalink

Pharyngulan Math:

Sastra = Kseniya x 5

8-D

For those who don't know Greek, "Kyrie Eleison" -- "Κύριε ἐλέησον" -- means "Big Invisible Sky Fairy, don't smite".

I thought that it was name of the road that Mr. Mister had to travel down through the darkness of the night.

For those who don't know Greek, "Kyrie Eleison" -- "Κύριε ἐλέησον" -- means "Big Invisible Sky Fairy, don't smite".
I thought that it was name of the road that Mr. Mister had to travel down through the darkness of the night.

I hear the sort of whooshing sound that means that a pop culture reference is going way over my head.

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 11 Jun 2008 #permalink

Sastra:

I suspect its author has some deep-seated personal need to see himself as a part of an elite, persecuted minority of brave and fearless mavericks.

Well, of course. As a Christian, he's required to play the "persecuted minority" card from time to time. Otherwise he'd have to offer an argumentum ad populum as evidence of the legitimacy and veracity of the belief system. Hey, whatever works.

The meme regognizes the need to keep the 'in' population smaller than the 'out' population, so as to maintain the martyr complex.

So how do we explain the argument ad populum that they love to use? I think they try to keep a good balance where they're just outside enough to try and claim persecution when needed, but just inside enough to claim majority when needed. Perhaps this is one of the (many) mechanisms that has kept Christianity dominant in America?

Uhh Ohh, VD is getting pissed on his blog:

...he not only didn't grasp the nature of the proposed subject matter, but actually thinks that PZ's "counter-proposal" to post an argument on my blog is somehow a reasonable substitute for a form of discourse that would force PZ to put his reputation, such as it is, on the line. Gee, I can post to my own blog? Really? Brilliant! I'd never thought of that! But, since the clueless wonder declares that I'm incapable of reasonable discourse, there's obviously no reason to bother with him anymore. John Derbyshire feels otherwise, and I'd much rather engage in metaphorical fisticuffs with the good Derb anyhow.

I think PZ feels the same way; VD is "incapable of reasonable discourse," so why does VD keep posting challenges to PZ?

Maybe PZ should open a post and invite VD to argue here and then let the rest of you guys tear into him:

As for PZ, if he wishes to host a debate about the existence of gods on his blog, I'll be there.

There's no reason to do much else besides open a thread for VD, this post is at over 300 comments and PZ obviously wouldn't have to bother doing any debating himself. Everybody else wants to tear into him it looks like.

I would read some of that, but not all... not over a hundred posts, may twenty...?

Hey Carlie, I know that song! Mix98 used to have an 80's flashback show on weekend evenings that we used to listen to. That was one of the songs they played. In fact I heard it on another station just a couple of months ago.

Still, there are so many "kyries" in the classical canon, no pop chestnut is going to be the first thing that comes to mind when I see the phrase... ;-)

Kseniya, DennisN, et al: re argumentum ad populum versus martyred minority

I think there are two competing memes at play here, resulting in significant cognitive dissonance on the part of the affected population.

Meme1 demands that affected persons are in the majority, and that their writ runs large in the rule of the land.

Meme2 requires that the population remain smaller than 'the enemy' others to support the martyrdom complex.

Obvious why they're fucked-up, then, isn't it?

By tony (not a vegan) (not verified) on 11 Jun 2008 #permalink

Maybe the stuffed pink squid should debate him.

(Does it have a name?)

Anyhow, Rich, I think you're forgetting that regardless of what you might think of me, I have far more credibility in the media and around the world than PZ Myers does. US Congressmen, Fortune 500 CEOs, international economists, and famous novelists aren't about to return his calls.

There's no reason to do much else besides open a thread for VD

What's wrong with the way Steve Zara, Owlmirror and others were addressing Vox directly in this thread? Apparently, Vox got tired with that discussion because people didn't bow before his superior intellect but actually addressed his arguments. It seems that he is more intent on one-upping Dawkins or PZ as persons than comparing the arguments for theism and atheism themselves.

Maybe the stuffed pink squid should debate him.

Or be thrown forcefully at him, but only if it's stuffed with something brown and smelly.

Honestly, folks, VD is such an odious character that he shouldn't be entertained at all by PZ. He should be ridiculed, insulted, and ignored. If you've read even a little of VD, you'll quickly realise that he's a vile racist misogynist bile-spewing hate-mongering sack of shit, an advocate of genocide on an unprecedented scale. If you have the tiniest shred of decency, reading his words will leave you stunned and speechless: there is nothing low enough or contemptible enough to deserve comparison with him, no Godwinian reference to any historical person or group, nor any insult can even begin to do justice to his nature. His brand of evil is so undiluted, it needs new words to express.

What kind of a name is "Vox Day", anyway? It looks like a bad online pseudonym. Perhaps someone can explain it to me.

Vox Day. Vox Dei. Opus Dei.

I'm sure he enjoys beating himself...

J,

Yes, it's a bad online pseudonym. His real name is Theodore Beale. "Vox Day" is word-play on "vox dei", Latin for "voice of God", just as "opus dei" means "work of God".

Isn't Open Dei also the Catholic organization that likes to sport the cilice?

Emmet,

You're right, of course. He's such a caricature of even the worst of his own kind that sometimes I forget he's a real person. Even as we mock, we should remember how truly loathsome and grotesque he and his adeas are.

Carlie #394 wrote:

For those who don't know Greek, "Kyrie Eleison" -- "Κύριε ἐλέησον" -- means "Big Invisible Sky Fairy, don't smite".

I thought that it was name of the road that Mr. Mister had to travel down through the darkness of the night.

Gold!

By Wowbagger (not verified) on 11 Jun 2008 #permalink

Karaoke Brownian sings:

"Take these broken wings
You've got to learn to fly, learn to live and love so free
When we hear the voices sing
The book of love will open up for us and let us in

Yeah, yeah!
Ooooooh, yeah!"

Isn't Open Dei also the Catholic organization that likes to sport the cilice?

Opus Dei is, indeed, a Roman Catholic organisation, and they are known for believing in the benefits of "mortification of the flesh", but I'm not sure how many of them actually practise it nowadays, I would guess very few, but there's probably the odd nutbag in a hairshirt or wearing a cilice.

They're often said to be "like a Catholic Freemasonry", and, although they reject that characterisation, it's probably pretty accurate nowadays. They're an ultra-conservative and somewhat secretive Catholic "club", who have a reputation for "looking out for each other" in much the same way that the Freemasons are said to favour other Freemasons in business deals, promotions, and so on.

They're often said to be "like a Catholic Freemasonry"

There's a well-researched book on them that calls them "The Pope's Holy Mafia".

By David Marjanović, OM (not verified) on 11 Jun 2008 #permalink

Vox Day. Vox Dei. Opus Dei.
I'm sure he enjoys beating himself...

Posted by: Steve_C | June 11, 2008 7:08 PM

Considering that he loves to come on this site and provoke arguments that end in his utter (and quite hilarious, I might add) ridicule, I'd say he definitely is quite fond of self-mutilation...

I just took the time to research VD a little. Yeuch. Should you chance to need an emetic, either:
mailvox-sharpening-knives.html
or
rape-myth.html
(I won't post the full URLs) should more than suffice - you may find you've vomited up your liver.

Bloody hell. I feel contaminated.

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 11 Jun 2008 #permalink

My goodness gracious! You people are really something else. It is a pleasure to read through such thoughtful comments. (No, I'm not being sarcastic.)

I'd asked a pretty naive question about proof of God, and Brenda was the first (I think) to reply. But whereas I was lookin' for more-or-less solid type examples of proof, she went off on some abstract tangent. She has also shown herself to be condescending and insulting.

But here's the good part:

Other posters here weighed in with incisive, thorough, and civilized rebuttals to her "example" of proof.

I wonder what it is about you folks? It's not just a matter of intelligence, is it? Generally speaking, what is it that sets ya'll apart from the god-botherers? I'd guess it has something to do with an introspective nature, one that, over years of life experience, has quietly observed reality's odd mix of the banal and profound. And each open-minded, curious reach into the world allows a new connection to route its way through the mind and memory.

So, might a supple internal connectivity be the answer?...be the reason that ya'll (for the most part) can view and discuss an issue or problem from so many angles and sides at once?...in contrast to that other breed that seems so compartmentalized in their thinking and, through denying the innate human trait of curiosity, seems so intellectually constipated?

I've never heard of this Vox Day charater before, but I read some of the comments on his blog and I find him disturbing to say the least. The bit about how he'd happily beat the crap out of a drunk guy when he's got five friends to help him was especially revealing - and works as the perfect metaphor for his belief system: "It's not that I'm right because there are more of us, it's because we'll hurt you if you don't agree".

Is 'Arrogant, christofascist thug' an appropriate description?

By Wowbagger (not verified) on 11 Jun 2008 #permalink

Wowbagger - I think so. He calls himself a "Christian libertarian", but his version of Christianity is the purest, most unashamed example of power-worship I've ever encountered. Makes me nostalgic for the simple stupidities of Kenny, the wriggling and weaseling of buckyball, even the braying arrogance of "grow up people".

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 11 Jun 2008 #permalink

Honestly, folks, VD is such an odious character that he shouldn't be entertained at all by PZ. He should be ridiculed, insulted, and ignored. If you've read even a little of VD, you'll quickly realise that he's a vile racist misogynist bile-spewing hate-mongering sack of shit, an advocate of genocide on an unprecedented scale.

Even so, if this character would happen to possess those solid arguments for God, it would be interesting to hear them, if only for the irony...

Christian libertarian?

So, people free to do pretty much whatever they want - as long as it's within the scope of Judeo-Xian morality?

How the heck does that work? It's taking compartmentalisation to a whole new level. Well, that or hypocrisy...

By Wowbagger (not verified) on 11 Jun 2008 #permalink

If not Vox Day, Mr Myers, than who pray tell, would you consider "qualified" to have a public dialogue with you?

Little secret for you: you're misunderstanding the situation. Which argument is better is not decided by who can present it with better rhetoric. It's decided by which argument is better. That's what scientific journals are for. Even at conferences, scientists don't do anything remotely similar to a debate of the sort that the self-proclaimed voice of God imagines. Scientists train hard to distinguish what is said from how it is said. Our little blasphemer-by-his-own-criteria naively suggests to evaluate what is said by how it is said. He doesn't know what he is talking about.

As usual. <sigh>

By David Marjanović, OM (not verified) on 11 Jun 2008 #permalink

windy asked:

What's wrong with the way Steve Zara, Owlmirror and others were addressing Vox directly in this thread?

Nothing wrong with what Zara and Owlmirror were doing. It's just that Vox asked for it: "... PZ, if he wishes to host a debate about the existence of gods on his blog, I'll be there," and this would be a way to respond to one petty one-upper with another.

It seems that he is more intent on one-upping Dawkins or PZ as persons than comparing the arguments for theism and atheism themselves.

I agree. But I don't see anything wrong with playing that game with VD if it doesn't take too much effort and then there are also just too many comments here and they need a new place to post 'em.

Even so, if this character would happen to possess those solid arguments for God, it would be interesting to hear them, if only for the irony...

No, windy, I can't agree. We've seen what this guy thinks passes for "solid argument". He's not inarticulate, and not very stupid, but the chances that he's suddenly going to pull some great argument out of his ass are vanishingly small.

OTOH, he is, without any doubt, a sociopathic nutcase. He really shouldn't be provided with a platform here to raise his profile so that he can spew more bile at more people. IMHO, we should simply deprive him of the oxygen of publicity insofar as we can.

I do appreciate the principle underpinning your suggestion: that we should be open to ideas no matter what their source, but in this case, I fear, the cost of hearing them, weighed against their likely value, is much too high.

I hear the sort of whooshing sound that means that a pop culture reference is going way over my head.

Oh, no, Owlmirror, please don't report me to the Seed overlords!! I swear I wasn't really calling anyone a slut!

Your dose of the 80s

"Vox Day" is word-play on "vox dei", Latin for "voice of God", just as "opus dei" means "work of God".

Yes, but Theodore himself suggests pursuing the Greek as well, to find another layer of meaning, because, you know, he's just that clever.

I do appreciate the principle underpinning your suggestion: that we should be open to ideas no matter what their source

That was part of my angle, but I was also thinking about a more science fictiony scenario: what if the most odious person you can imagine would happen to be the only one in the history of the universe with an airtight argument for God? (Prepare to enter... the Scary Door.)

Our little blasphemer-by-his-own-criteria naively suggests to evaluate what is said by how it is said.

Indeed; he's a bright boy, but it's sophistry, spiked with arrogance, that exemplifies his game. He engaged Scott Hatfield on Scott's blog, on the subject of evolution, with the stated intent of seeing whether "raw intellect" could "trump" the sum total of 150 years of interdisciplinary scientific inquiry. Go, Teddy, go.

In his defense, some of his more outrageous statements should be taken with a grain of salt. He's a blogpunk, and he revels in it. For example, on the subject of illegal aliens, he once wrote that we should round them all up and send them all home, through proper channels of course, and wondered why the United States of today couldn't do as completely or effectively what the Nazis did in Germany. A provocative comment, to be sure - but also a trap, because he's talking about shipping, not exterminating, yet the intentionally disturbing nature of the comparison invites accusations of Nazi-worship and worse. To which he can rightly reply, "Indeed, no, of course not - they were undeniably efficient at moving people from here to there, and thereby claim to be falsely accused.

Ah. Noble, noble Teddy.

And then there's the infamous toddler-chopping entry...

Tim:

I'd guess it has something to do with an introspective nature, one that, over years of life experience, has quietly observed reality's odd mix of the banal and profound.

Well, that's it in my case. *cough*

Be careful; don't heap too much praise on this group. It'll get a swolled head, if it hasn't already.

:-)

Thanks for not posting the full URLs, Nick. I've been known to not be able to help myself if lunacy is but a click away.

LOL! Wangus Dei?

@ #418, Nick Gotts:

"Makes me nostalgic for the simple stupidities of Kenny, the wriggling and weaseling of buckyball, even the braying arrogance of "grow up people".

Actually, I'm just debating how involved I want to get here. Besides, Mr. Myers field of study is quite different from mine, and so I only have a limited interest in what he posts. I do, however, have sufficient "evidence" that goes well beyond what has been discussed here, fwiw. It would certainly make for lively debate material, but I couldn't imagine Mr. Myers taking the time out from his busy schedule to talk it over with me.

I could also post pages and pages about why Calvinism is a rather shaky theology, but in the end, who would care? This is not the place for it...

By buckyball (not verified) on 11 Jun 2008 #permalink

do, however, have sufficient "evidence" that goes well beyond what has been discussed here, fwiw

Of course you do--crickets chirping. Yawn.

I could also post pages and pages about why Calvinism is a rather shaky theology, but in the end, who would care?

It's as solid as all the others and more solid than many in it's internal logic.

Your dose of the 80s

Thanks. The clonking sound is the penny dropping. Or the cluestick striking home.

I've heard that song zillions of times as background music, and never noticed the Greek liturgical words. Nor known who the music was by. Nor been curious enough to find out.

I'm embarrassed to admit that as best I can recall, whenever I tried to parse the words of the chorus, I figured he was sort of mangling "Give me an angel". As I said, I never cared enough to investigate.

Well, now I know!

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 11 Jun 2008 #permalink

I've heard that song zillions of times as background music

while speeding across Starfish Island from Little Havana with 4 stars, smoke billowing from the bonnet of your Sabre, wondering whether you'll make the turn into Diaz Mansion to get the Infernus without getting smooshed into the pillar by a VCPD Enforcer?

while speeding across Starfish Island from Little Havana with 4 stars, smoke billowing from the bonnet of your Sabre, wondering whether you'll make the turn into Diaz Mansion to get the Infernus without getting smooshed into the pillar by a VCPD Enforcer?

Dear Sir/Madam
I wish to complain about... I'm not sure exactly what, but I damn well wish to complain.

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 11 Jun 2008 #permalink

Methinks it's a Grand Theft Auto 4 reference...

By Wowbagger (not verified) on 11 Jun 2008 #permalink

My bad. I'm not that familiar with either; i just though since GTA4 was recent that'd be the one.

By Wowbagger (not verified) on 11 Jun 2008 #permalink

To be fair Wowbagger, I googled it ;-) I've played GTAIII and San Andreas, but not Vice City. Such terrible games. So hedonistically fun!

By the way, I'm at this moment bragging to my Tasmanian roommate (she's gone back to Oz for the summer) about all the feisty Aussie atheists on Phary.

There's not that much we have to cope with from fundies over here - compared to the US anyway. Religion (or lack thereof) is really one of those things people keep to themselves, as it should be.

But we'll lend a hand when we can. Though there's not much need on this blog; the ability of some of the 'regulars' to demolish all comers is awe-inspiring.

By Wowbagger (not verified) on 11 Jun 2008 #permalink

PZ's post is full of enought ad hominems to flunk him out of Philosphy 101.

Does he know ad hominems constitute a logical fallacy, and are not an argument.

So how about this: PZ is chickenshit!

By PZ is Chickenshit (not verified) on 11 Jun 2008 #permalink

Those are insults not ad-hominem rhetoric. If you don't know the difference, there's no way you'd understand his arguments anyway.

spankweasel@#444,

Please state a proposition, the person proposing said proposition, and state the ad hominem used by PZ.

Since it's "full of ad hominems", you should have no difficulty doing this many, many times, but lets agree that 3 complete instances would be sufficient in order to accept your proposition that it's "full of ad hominems".

Begone, foul whoreson, to snivel at thy master's buttocks, thou puking spur-galled pumpion!

IMHO, we should simply deprive him of the oxygen of publicity insofar as we can.

That is probably wise. I was specifically challenged a while ago to point out a mistake in Day's reasoning, and I feel some satisfaction in having done that. But, he is not the kind of person who should be given extra publicity.

...be the reason that ya'll (for the most part) can view and discuss an issue or problem from so many angles and sides at once?...

In my case, it may be partly from hanging out with a few smart academic philosophers for years, regularly getting called on my bullshit and sometimes getting my ass thoroughly whupped.

It makes me a little more careful in my argumentation, but also optimistic about finding some useful information somewhere that I can bring to bear to bear to illuminate a point somehow.

...be the reason that ya'll (for the most part) can view and discuss an issue or problem from so many angles and sides at once?...

In my case, it may be partly from hanging out with a few smart academic philosophers and cognitive scientists for years, regularly getting called on my bullshit and sometimes getting my ass thoroughly whupped.

It makes me a little more careful in my argumentation, but also optimistic about finding some useful information somewhere that I can bring to bear to bear to illuminate a point somehow.

That was part of my angle, but I was also thinking about a more science fictiony scenario: what if the most odious person you can imagine would happen to be the only one in the history of the universe with an airtight argument for God?

I can wait for VD's book to come out. If he's really managed to accomplish something that others have failed to do for thousands of years, there'll be plenty of interest then.

Until then, we have to assume that his supersecret new compelling evidence for God is nothing of the sort.

It's usually a bad idea to debate apologists in real time, because they standardly use illegitimate debating tactics that a naive audience will fall for.

Most often, they rush through a bunch of stuff that sounds good at first, and you don't have time to rebut it and still have time to make your points. You "lose" even if you're right and can prove you're right because you run out of time.

That's especially true if the person you're arguing against won't give a basic outline of their overall argument ahead of time.

I once publicly debated a theologian about the existence of God, and got bait-and-switched. He started defending a very weird concept of "God" and I wasn't prepared for that---all my prep time was wasted.

Luckily, that guy wasn't good at debating, and I "won" the debate anyway. (By a show of hands at the end.) Not mostly because my arguments were better than his---and they were, a lot better---but because I was faster on my feet. I could rebut his crap off the top of my head and still have time to point out his rhetorical cheesiness and score a few points of my own.

Really, I didn't "win"; he just lost. He just flat looked bad.

I was royally pissed. I "won" but it wasn't a fair fight. The audience was treated to an embarrassing spectacle, and given a very few good points to think about, but not much more.

A good debate shouldn't involve secret weapons and fast footwork. It should be about the honest and open clash of serious ideas.

Vox Day is clearly not the kind of person you can trust to enter into a debate in that spirit. PZ is right not to debate a punk demagogue in real time. It's a setup.

If VD has a good argument, he can put it out in the open for critique. If it's really a good argument, he can still win, against a reasonably prepared opponent. He shouldn't need the element of surprise.

@ #433, JimC:

"It's as solid as all the others and more solid than many in it's internal logic."

Not really.

Pick a letter, and I'll make my point.

By buckyball (not verified) on 12 Jun 2008 #permalink

As an agnostic I don't rule out a supreme entity, or certainly a force beyond our comprehension.
What I do rule out is that any of the religions that sprang from the fears of nomads two millenium ago have relevance. I see no difference in judeo-christian/islam and the worship of brass monkeys, especially as they pertain to validating violence. The faster the earth evolves past this crutch, the better off the planet will be.

By moondancer (not verified) on 13 Jun 2008 #permalink
There's no reason to do much else besides open a thread for VD

What's wrong with the way Steve Zara, Owlmirror and others were addressing Vox directly in this thread? Apparently, Vox got tired with that discussion because people didn't bow before his superior intellect but actually addressed his arguments.

I suspect that VD saw that he had lost most of his pawns and major rank pieces (including his queen), and his king was being set upon by knights, rooks and bishops, and two pawns about to advance to the eighth row.

Naturally, he chose to flee and whine rather than actually be pushed into checkmate.

In other news, God is still not providing apologists with any assistance.

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 13 Jun 2008 #permalink

I consider reasoned debate to be a thin and bloodless substitute for screaming and hitting each other with sticks. Or rocks. Rocks are also good. Why do you think I gave Cain the thumbs-up?

Vox Day understands this intuitively. In an earlier era, he might have been a great prophet or saint, screaming for blood in My name, organizing lynch mobs and massacres.

Nowadays, he's just a pathetic pissant clown.

Nothing ever breathed stupid as much as Vox Day's suggestion that the Final Solution (yup, that one) be used to deal with the illegal immigration problem.

He's a libertarian in the same way most Republicans are...except for the watching porn part...maybe.

[quote]"Somebody somewhere is going to have to someday point me to some intelligent arguments for gods, because I've sure never found them."[/quote]
Some of the most convincing evidence for God is in the details of life: All life, even the simplest cell, is made up of the most advanced nanotechnolgy we have ever seen. Such technology, I'd argue, [i]requires[/i] an intelligence far beyond ours.
This is not an argument from ignorance - such as are made from unexplored phenomena - no, this is an argument from [i]research[/i]: The deeper we dig, the more amazing life's sophistication becomes.

By Daniel Smith (not verified) on 15 Jun 2008 #permalink

I'm sorry, but that is an argument from profound ignorance, a state of intellectual benightedness so dark that it is easy to mistake it for the interior of your colon.

The research is showing the opposite of what you claim. The complexity of biological phenomena is a consequence of the action of natural processes -- that complexity is an argument against design. Evolution is very, very good at cobbling up exceptionally elaborate biological pathways.

I note you haven't described a single scrap of evidence that supports your claim, which is typical of ID proponents. You have none. You don't understand biology, it looks complicated, therefore God.

That's called the argument from complexity, but the thing is, evolution already explains it. So that is still not a good argument.

Damn, PZ beat me to it.

nanotechnology ?

1 ) where's the paper that shows that it's nanotechnology, and not natural processes ? Can we have the reference please ?

2) and if it's nanotechnology, how did that technology get made ? By someone also made from nanotechnologies, themselves also made by someone made by ,,,natural processes ?

By negentropyeater (not verified) on 15 Jun 2008 #permalink

All life, even the simplest cell, is made up of the most advanced nanotechnolgy we have ever seen. Such technology, I'd argue, [i]requires[/i] an intelligence far beyond ours.

Sigh.

By "advanced nanotechnology", you obviously mean "complex organic chemistry". You're obviously not focusing on the "organic chemistry" part, you're focusing on the "complex" part.

If complexity requires "an intelligence far beyond ours", then that intelligence is necessarily complex enough to understand and design that complexity, and is therefore far more complex than that which it designs. But by your own reasoning, such complexity requires an intelligence far beyond itself in order to have come into existence. And that intelligence requires and even greater intelligence in order to have come into existence.

So you either require an infinite regress of greater and greater intelligences to create each intelligence...

Or you are completely and utterly wrong about complexity "requiring" a greater intelligence to design it.

QED

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 15 Jun 2008 #permalink

QED

Look, can we come to some sort of agreement? How about this: I won't demonstrate my ineffable and transcendent nature, and you mortals won't claim that I don't have any evident ineffable and transcendent nature.

Wait... D'oh!

Alright, forget all this "reason" crap. I will sit back and eat popcorn, and you mortals will just scream and hit each other with sticks more.

I'm real easy to please.

Considering all there is to know about biological life, I can't claim anything more than profound ignorance. It has been my experience that the more I learn, the more ignorant I feel. This is because the "stuff of life" is so involved.

I would be interested to learn about the natural processes that created DNA and the mechanisms of protein synthesis. I'd like to know how life came to be such an organized array of organic chemistry. Don't these same chemicals exist in abundance apart from life? What natural process arranged these chemicals so that they became alive? What natural process encodes DNA?

I think, however that these question are unanswerable. They are unanswerable because man is trying to ascribe to unguided nature the things that God has done. It's like trying to ascribe a 747 to nature.

The evidence for God is overwhelming and it's cumulative. It's not just DNA, or protein synthesis. It's the properties of water and oxygen and carbon and the stellar processes which ultimately produced them. It's the earth and it's myriad ecosystems, the balance of life, the moon and it's effects, the sun and it's. It's all these things - from the largest galaxies to the smallest subatomic particles. For all this to come together as it has, and produce the living machinery it has - without supernatural intervention - requires far too many lucky coincidences to be believable.

As for infinite regress: There is no infinite regress if the ultimate source is infinite. God, being eternal, is the end of the question "What came before that?". As far as I can tell, there is only one other option, and that is, "Nothing". I do not believe that something can came from nothing.

By Daniel Smith (not verified) on 16 Jun 2008 #permalink

Considering all there is to know about biological life, I can't claim anything more than profound ignorance.
And with the rest of your post, you put your money where your mouth is. I'm glad you're proud of your ignorance, but if you don't mind, the rest of us will go on learning things.
The evidence for God is overwhelming and it's cumulative. It's not just DNA, or protein synthesis. It's the properties of water and oxygen and carbon and the stellar processes which ultimately produced them. It's the earth and it's myriad ecosystems, the balance of life, the moon and it's effects, the sun and it's. It's all these things - from the largest galaxies to the smallest subatomic particles.
Let me give you a hint. None of that constitutes "evidence," for anything. It's just a list of things that impress you about the natural world. Evidence comes from the systematic investigation of the properties and processes of the natural world, not just pointing at pretty things as would a small child or a retard.
Another hint: there is no evidence for gods, and there never will be any. There can be no evidence for something if, there could be no evidence against it, in principle. What, in principle, would constitute evidence against the existence of a god?

I can't claim anything more than profound ignorance. - Daniel Smith

You got that right.

I do not believe that something can came from nothing.

And of course reality has absolutely no option but to conform to your beliefs, has it?

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 16 Jun 2008 #permalink

my 2nd to last sentence there was crappy. Delete 1st comma.

Complexity is an argument against a god, not for it.

If there is an infinite, all-powerful god, why does there need to be any complexity at all? If there were a god things would be simple because they wouldn't need to be complex. They'd work by magic.

By Wowbagger (not verified) on 16 Jun 2008 #permalink

Wowbagger@468 - That's a very good point! An argument I haven't seen before.

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 16 Jun 2008 #permalink

I would be interested to learn about the natural processes that created DNA and the mechanisms of protein synthesis. I'd like to know how life came to be such an organized array of organic chemistry. Don't these same chemicals exist in abundance apart from life? What natural process arranged these chemicals so that they became alive? What natural process encodes DNA?

May I suggest that you spend a few hours in, at least, Wikipedia, if not a molecular biology textbook? "What natural process encodes DNA" doesn't even mean anything; please explain what you were trying to say.

I think, however that these question are unanswerable. They are unanswerable because man is trying to ascribe to unguided nature the things that God has done.

You don't think. You believe. Don't confuse that.

It's the properties of water and oxygen and carbon and the stellar processes which ultimately produced them.

These are in fact much fewer properties than you believe: the strength of electrostatic, weak and strong attraction & repulsion, the strength of gravity, the mass of the electron, the mass of the up quark, the mass of the down quark, and I think that's it.

You see, the properties of water follow directly from the properties of oxygen and hydrogen; the properties of these as well as carbon follow directly from those of the proton, neutron and electron; and the properties of the first two follow directly from those of the up quark and the down quark. It's all calculable.

requires far too many lucky coincidences to be believable.

Show us. Remember: the worst math is no math at all.

By David Marjanović, OM (not verified) on 16 Jun 2008 #permalink

Some of the most convincing evidence for God is in the details of life

Seriously, you Christian fucktards better start cracking some books soon or I'm gonna get really fucking angry.

If you ever pulled your fucking head out of your ass long enough to realise that everyone on earth isn't some corn-fed cracker, you'd realise that the argument I quoted above works equally as well with the following substitutions:

Some of the most convincing evidence for Brahma is in the details of life....

Some of the most convincing evidence for Unkulunkulu is in the details of life....

Some of the most convincing evidence for Mangala is in the details of life....

Some of the most convincing evidence for Kamui is in the details of life....

Some of the most convincing evidence for JoMulJu is in the details of life....

Some of the most convincing evidence for Udan is in the details of life....

Some of the most convincing evidence for Izanagi and goddess Izanami is in the details of life....

Need I go on, or do you get it now, you fucking willfully ignorant moron?!

I hope the state seizes your children and your driver's license is revoked as punishment for the fact that you're so fucking stupid.

As for infinite regress: There is no infinite regress if the ultimate source is infinite.

You are asserting a contradiction: that an infinite is not infinite. This is nonsense.

God, being eternal, is the end of the question "What came before that?". As far as I can tell, there is only one other option, and that is, "Nothing". I do not believe that something can came from nothing.

Yet you also assert that "something" — God — came from nothing. You are contradicting yourself. Again.

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 16 Jun 2008 #permalink

Nick Gotts, #469 wrote:

That's a very good point! An argument I haven't seen before.

I'd love to say it's my own, but reckon it's a version of something I saw/heard before, probably from an engineer (which I'm not). Which means I'm always confused when engineer-types show up supporting ID and/or other versions of creationism. Any engineer worth his/her salt builds things as simply as possible to get the job done.

Not only is much of the natural world crap 'design' (I cite my eyes and spine as examples) in many ways, but the complexity is totally unneccesary if you have the ability to subvert physical limitations.

By Wowbagger (not verified) on 16 Jun 2008 #permalink

They are unanswerable because man is trying to ascribe to unguided nature the things that God has done.

Eh, I didn't do a whole lot. I turned up when you glorified apes were starting to learn how to talk, and told you to start hitting each other with rocks. And you did! It was so funny.

"There is no infinite regress if the ultimate source is infinite. God, being eternal, is the end of the question "What came before that?"."

If God can supposedly be eternal, why can't the universe be eternal?

The answer, of course, is that God is made up, and therefore can possess any traits that anyone wants to ascribe to him.

As for infinite regress: There is no infinite regress if the ultimate source is infinite. God, being eternal, is the end of the question "What came before that?".

And what about if this thing is an eternal false bubbly vaccuum ? And the big bang, our big bang, was just a random quantum event in that false vaccuum ?
Are you happy with such a God ?

By negentropyeater (not verified) on 16 Jun 2008 #permalink

If there is an infinite, all-powerful god, why does there need to be any complexity at all?

How do you define complexity in nature ?

By negentropyeater (not verified) on 16 Jun 2008 #permalink

Complexity is only an argument for designer when there are no ways it would come about without the need for a designer. Take for instance the solar system and the planets within, there need not be a designer for it because it can come about by natural causes. Though a skyscraper on the other hand, there are no natural causes that can create it in nature other than through the use of design. There is a good reason that we don't see planets shaped like skyscrapers, planets form from natural causes.

It's why the blind watchmaker argument is so poor. Watches are mechanical and a good example of intelligent design. We are an organic organism that has entirely natural causes so it's not an example of intelligent design.

I'm sorry, but that is an argument from profound ignorance, a state of intellectual benightedness so dark that it is easy to mistake it for the interior of your colon.

Et hop ! -- into my quote folder.

By David Marjanović, OM (not verified) on 16 Jun 2008 #permalink

So how does man go about creating something? How does man turn raw materials into something useful?
First he extracts the materials from the earth. He then modifies them; sometimes through refining processes, often altering the chemical composition, many times creating alloys and so-called "man-made" materials (though man is not actually making anything new, he is just mixing together different ingredients). Often times dissimilar parts are bonded together through chemical reactions. Things that need to be flexible are made to give, things that need rigidity are reinforced. Where signaling is needed, conductive paths are fashioned. For logical control, CPUs are fashioned and programmed for proper reactions to external and internal conditions. Means of communication are established between systems, parts of systems, and the environment. Fuel is gathered and utilized for energy. Chemicals that will react violently are kept separated except when it is necessary to create such a reaction - then they are brought together under controlled conditions. Parts are fitted and joined together and organized into working systems. Systems are joined together and organized into larger systems until a functioning whole is obtained. Often these systems are networked together in order to communicate and coordinate with each other in order to create a community.

All these things man has been observed to do in order to turn naturally occurring elements into useful creations, yet these are precisely the same things that had to occur in order to turn naturally occurring elements into life.

God reached down and took the elements of the earth and organized them into living systems. These elements were modified and refined. Chemical compositions were changed, carbon based "alloys" were formed. Dissimilar elements were bonded together through chemical reactions. Things that need to be flexible were made to give, things that need rigidity were reinforced. Where signaling was needed, conductive paths were fashioned. For logical control, so called "instincts" were fashioned and programmed for proper reactions to external and internal conditions. Means of communication were established between systems, parts of systems, and the environment. Fuel was gathered and utilized for energy. Chemicals that react violently are kept separated except when it is necessary to create such a reaction - then they are brought together under controlled conditions. Parts are fitted and joined together and organized into working systems. Systems are joined together and organized into larger systems until a functioning whole is obtained. Often these systems are networked together in order to communicate and coordinate with each other in order to create a community. God went a step further of course (a giant leap actually) and made life self-replicating.

There are no natural processes that have ever been identified that can make a cell from non-living parts - just as there are no natural processes that can make an automobile or a computer from its constituent parts. Such things require intelligent intervention. And life requires a knowledge so far above our own it's incomprehensible. We are just beginning to scratch the surface when looking at life. It's only now - since man has entered the computer age - that he is beginning to understand the systems that God put to work inside life 4 billion years ago!

The evidence for God is all around you, just open your eyes and you'll see it. Even man's creations are evidence for God. We are, after all, fashioned in His image.

By Daniel Smith (not verified) on 17 Jun 2008 #permalink

God reached down and took the elements of the earth and organized them into living systems.

An assertion utterly unsupported by evidence.

There are no natural processes that have ever been identified that can make a cell from non-living parts

And this is an assertion from ignorance.

While the exact chemical sequence is not yet known, various laboratories are doing exactly that: working on discovering the natural processes that can make a cell from non-living parts.

They have made some very interesting discoveries, and it is certainly well within the bounds of possibility that they will find a natural process — or rather, a sequence of natural processes — that can make a living, reproducing cell. And they may well do this within your lifetime.

If such a discovery is made, will you become an atheist?

It's only now - since man has entered the computer age - that he is beginning to understand the systems that God put to work inside life 4 billion years ago!

It's only now - since we have entered the computer age - that we are able to model chemicals and chemical reactions such that we can better understand how chemicals can give rise to life.

The evidence for God is all around you, just open your eyes and you'll see it.

The evidence that God exists does not exist.

The only evidence that exists is that the natural world works very well without needing a God as an explanation.

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 17 Jun 2008 #permalink

There are no natural processes that have ever been identified that can make a cell from non-living parts

Yes there is, you conglomerate ignoramus. It's the collection of natural chemical prcesses called "growth". Vitalism is dead

Even man's creations are evidence for God. We are, after all, fashioned in His image.

Well, sort of. If by "in My image" you mean "not really in My image". I'm an amorphous nonphysical blob. You're a mutant ape. I float in a higher dimension and watch you do funny ape things. You do funny ape things, and can't perceive the higher dimensions.

But by all means, pretend that you're made in my image if it motivates you to hit your fellow apes. I mean, humans.

I'll reiterate for the long-winded Mr Smith:

If god exists, and is all-powerful, he does not need complexity, or moving parts, or an explanation, or chemical reactions.

Why? Because he's god and he's got magic. He waves his magic wand (or his magic tentacle/noodly appendage if you're of a Cephalapod Overload or Pastafarian persuasion) and poof, things happen.

By Wowbagger (not verified) on 17 Jun 2008 #permalink

Wands are for the weak. I just exert my ineffable will.

But you did get the poof part right.

Day 1) Poof!

Day 2) Poof!

Day 3) Poof!

Day 4) Poof!

Day 5) Poof!

Day 6) Poof!

Day 7) Hahahahaha. I love doing that. OK, now I'm all worn out.

But you don't know ?
God always existed, he's incredibly complex, but that we're not sure because he might actually be incredibly simple, he was of course never created by anybody as he always existed as is, he acts in mysterious ways, he can do anything, but we can't say what he does and doesn't do, he fashionned us at his image, but he doesn't really look like us...

When are the religious folks going to start saying something about this hypothetical God that actually makes some sense ?

When are the religious folks going to finally understand that, "God did it" ie "something we don't understand at all did something we don't understand at all" is not a satisfactory explanation for abiogenesis, and that we might actually find a satisfactory scientific explanation within the next decades ?

By negentropyeater (not verified) on 17 Jun 2008 #permalink

Negentropyeater, #486, wrote:

When are the religious folks going to finally understand that, "God did it" ie "something we don't understand at all did something we don't understand at all" is not a satisfactory explanation for abiogenesis, and that we might actually find a satisfactory scientific explanation within the next decades ?

They can flog the dead horse of the gaps for as long as they like; I'm just sick of people using complexity as an argument for a supernatural creator. Anything complex is the result of a number of simple things thrown together, any of which are possible sans magic. If anything could be shown to happen that should require complexity but doesn't, that would be better evidence for god.

By Wowbagger (not verified) on 17 Jun 2008 #permalink

Now I will respond to some of your arguments:

CJO: "What, in principle, would constitute evidence against the existence of a god?"

Evidence against God would be believable explanations for the origins of things by purely unguided, coincidental occurrences: Explanations that experts in the field could not punch holes in: Explanations that utilize processes that can be observed to work.
===================
Wowbagger: "Complexity is an argument against a god, not for it. If there is an infinite, all-powerful god, why does there need to be any complexity at all? If there were a god things would be simple because they wouldn't need to be complex. They'd work by magic."

Can't an infinite, all-powerful god do whatever it wants? Saying that such a being must conform to your specifications or it does not exist, is no argument against God at all.
=======================
David Marjanović, OM: ""What natural process encodes DNA" doesn't even mean anything; please explain what you were trying to say."

DNA is encoded. We know this because we can decode it. What natural process encodes DNA?
====================
Brownian, OM: "Some of the most convincing evidence for Brahma is in the details of life.... Some of the most convincing evidence for Unkulunkulu is in the details of life.... etc."

It doesn't matter what you call God, (although I'd suppose it might matter to Him), the evidence is still overwhelming.
=================
Owlmirror: "You are asserting a contradiction: that an infinite is not infinite. This is nonsense."

I said "There is no infinite regress if the ultimate source is infinite." I'm not saying an infinite is not infinite, I'm saying the regress is not infinite.
=================
Owlmirror: "Yet you also assert that "something" -- God -- came from nothing. You are contradicting yourself. Again."

This shows a profound misunderstanding of the concept of "eternal". How can something eternal "come from" anything?
====================
Kel: "Complexity is only an argument for designer when there are no ways it would come about without the need for a designer. Take for instance the solar system and the planets within, there need not be a designer for it because it can come about by natural causes. Though a skyscraper on the other hand, there are no natural causes that can create it in nature other than through the use of design. There is a good reason that we don't see planets shaped like skyscrapers, planets form from natural causes."

I'll ask again then, What natural processes produced DNA? Protein Synthesis? Replication? Cellular membranes? Can you name one organ for which you can show me specifically the natural processes involved in its origin? I mean a specific natural pathway that no expert in the field would dispute... can you show me that?
===================
Kel: "It's why the blind watchmaker argument is so poor. Watches are mechanical and a good example of intelligent design. We are an organic organism that has entirely natural causes so it's not an example of intelligent design."

The blind watchmaker was Richard Dawkins' argument. I think you're thinking of Paley's Watchmaker.
====================
Owlmirror: "While the exact chemical sequence is not yet known, various laboratories are doing exactly that: working on discovering the natural processes that can make a cell from non-living parts. They have made some very interesting discoveries, and it is certainly well within the bounds of possibility that they will find a natural process -- or rather, a sequence of natural processes -- that can make a living, reproducing cell. And they may well do this within your lifetime."

I can also name natural processes that could theoretically create an automobile. We've all seen the powers of wind, fire, magnetism, volcanic eruptions, etc. All it would take is the right combination of these powers and the various raw materials that make up a car and theoretically we could have a car by natural causes.
Of course this is ridiculous and nobody would actually believe such a thing, but a car is nowhere near as intricate a machine as a living cell. Yet so many can readily believe such magnificent machinery came about coincidentally.
======================
Wowbagger: "Anything complex is the result of a number of simple things thrown together, any of which are possible sans magic."

Like cars, computers, music, tables, books, boats, airplanes, etc. You're exactly right about that. I never mentioned "magic" BTW.

By Daniel Smith (not verified) on 18 Jun 2008 #permalink

I'll ask again then, What natural processes produced DNA? Protein Synthesis? Replication? Cellular membranes? Can you name one organ for which you can show me specifically the natural processes involved in its origin? I mean a specific natural pathway that no expert in the field would dispute... can you show me that?

Abiogenesis
http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/abioprob/
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ozbFerzjkz4
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XhWds7djuWo
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U6QYDdgP9eg

Now it's your turn to show me exactly what process the "magic man" undertook to create life using only evidence and scientific processes. Organisms can be perfectly explained by natural causes, the building blocks which are perfectly natural, the process of which is perfectly natural. From the simple building blocks that can occur naturally can come more complex organisms. We can see through experiments that information can be added through replication.

It's all well and good to piss on what you don't like, but now it's time to show some mettle and man up. Show evidence to back your position. Make sure it fits with everything we know about science now. If you are just going to say that the complexity means goddidit, show evidence. Make predictions because that's what we do in science. Make sure it's falsifiable. Because that's what good science is. Show evidence for your God, be prepared to make statements that can be either verified of falsified. i.e. put up or shut up.

Evidence against God would be believable explanations for the origins of things by purely unguided, coincidental occurrences: Explanations that experts in the field could not punch holes in: Explanations that utilize processes that can be observed to work.

In other words, scientific theories! You're practically an atheist already!

Can't an infinite, all-powerful god do whatever it wants?

Nope. True "Omnipotence" is a meaningless concept. Not even God can do the logically contradictory.

And do you want to argue that God created everything in such a way as to make it look like it developed with no intelligent interference?

It doesn't matter what you call God, (although I'd suppose it might matter to Him), the evidence is still overwhelming.

No it isn't. If it were, there would be no atheists.

Obviously, we are underwhelmed.

I said "There is no infinite regress if the ultimate source is infinite." I'm not saying an infinite is not infinite, I'm saying the regress is not infinite.

Which means that you are contradicting yourself; an infinite being is an infinite regress.

This shows a profound misunderstanding of the concept of "eternal". How can something eternal "come from" anything?

The same way that something that doesn't exist can be eternal.

What natural processes produced DNA? Protein Synthesis? Replication? Cellular membranes?

Chemistry, of course.

Can you name one organ for which you can show me specifically the natural processes involved in its origin? I mean a specific natural pathway that no expert in the field would dispute... can you show me that?

http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=evolution+organ

I can also name natural processes that could theoretically create an automobile.

So can I: Human beings using science and technology.

We've all seen the powers of wind, fire, magnetism, volcanic eruptions, etc. All it would take is the right combination of these powers and the various raw materials that make up a car and theoretically we could have a car by natural causes.

Yes, humans evolved naturally, and then designed cars. Thus, cars result from natural causes.

Of course this is ridiculous and nobody would actually believe such a thing, but a car is nowhere near as intricate a machine as a living cell.

Which is a complete failure to understand a critical and crucial difference between cars and cells:

Cars exist on a macroscopic scale. There are no processes, on the macroscopic scale, that can lead to cars, other than those invented by human beings.

Cells exist on a microscopic scale. There are indeed processes on that scale that can lead to cells; those processes are described in detail in the various branches of chemistry and physics.

If you actually studied the chemistry being discussed you might just possibly understand this.

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 18 Jun 2008 #permalink

1. "But under the Child and Family Services Act, anyone who works with children and has reasonable grounds to suspect a youngster is being harmed, must report it immediately - and the CAS has an obligation to follow up."

2. "And what does the admittedly red-faced school board have to say about all this? "I don't have the information yet, but when we proceed with our own investigation we'll know more about that," is all Dr. Lindy Zaretsky, the Simcoe County Superintendent, was willing to allow"

So, this Dr Zaretsky needs an "investigation" to say that they had no reasonable grounds to suspect a youngster was being harmed ? What an asshole, he's just continuing with the denial !

By negentropyeater (not verified) on 19 Jun 2008 #permalink

Kel: "Now it's your turn to show me exactly what process the "magic man" undertook to create life using only evidence and scientific processes."

OK, that's fine.
First we need a realistic mechanism. I propose that the mechanism is one we see and use every day. I call it "The Intelligent Manipulation of Materials for the Purpose of Specific Function", or IMMPSF for short.
This is an observable, testable mechanism. Humans use IMMPSF all the time. Sometimes these manipulations require tools, sometimes not. Probably the simplest example of IMMPSF without tools is speech. We manipulate the air molecules around us with intelligent controls in order to produce the function of communication. (I guess you can argue that the body is a tool, that's fine). Nevertheless, we can see this mechanism, we can use this mechanism, we can devise experiments to test it. In fact, if you respond to this, you'll be manipulating the material on your keyboard - intelligently I hope - which will set off a series of reactions in machinery and technology that was itself produced by IMMPSF, until eventually the product of your IMMPSF will appear on this blog. (Wonderful ain't it?).
One of the unique aspects of this mechanism is that we can oftentimes perceive the thoughts and intentions of the manipulator simply by examining the functional product of their manipulations. We can do this because we are intelligent beings and we can identify with other intelligent beings. Of course for more advanced products a certain level of expertise is necessary.
So how was this mechanism used to create biological life? Well for one, there's no "magic" required. All that is necessary is a means to manipulate molecular structures and an extremely advanced knowledge of chemistry and physics.
Man has rudimentary skills in molecular manipulation already - so it's no stretch to postulate that a more advanced being may have perfected the process. We are also advancing rapidly in our knowledge of both chemistry and physics. Again it's no stretch to envision a more advanced being with the proficiency required to produce the cellular machinery of life. Now you might say "That's not God, that's just an advanced race or something." And you're right - to a point. If we just limit our argument to the creation of the first self replicating cellular lifeform, it's true that only "gods" (small 'g') are required. If you expand the scope however to include everything necessary for carbon based life on this planet, and the amount of forethought required to make that first lifeform thrive and evolve into all the other various lifeforms that have ever existed, well that's when the small 'g' begins to turn to a capital one.
But for now, we'll limit our discussion.
So how do we test this? One way is to simply examine the necessary components of the simplest possible cellular life and ask: Does life resemble the known products of IMMPSF? A quick study of biological textbooks and scientific papers will reveal just how deep the analogy is. Comparisons to machines, factories, communication systems, motion controllers, computers, etc. abound in such literature. These are not just superficial analogies either. Often scientists find no other way of describing such cellular processes. The other thing you can do is examine these things yourself. Does DNA resemble a computer tape? Does protein synthesis resemble an assembly line on a factory floor? Of course some of these things have no real analogy with our IMMPSF products, but that's because they are more (not less) advanced than anything we've built. The process of cell division is one we can't even imagine an analogy for yet. Maybe someday (but I doubt it).
Another thing we must do is establish a level at which IMMPSF can reasonably be established. I call this the "alien tech test": If we were exploring an alien planet with no visible remains of life, but with various objects strewn about, what level of sophistication would be required before we could deduce that these objects were the product of IMMPSF? If for instance, we found what appeared to be coded characters made out of stones, and we were able to decode the characters and figured out that they did indeed represent a form of language, would that be enough? I think it would. As you know, we've already crossed that threshold with life's DNA.
So, in conclusion, cellular life is completely consistent with other products of IMMPSF - only quite a bit more advanced. Self replication is probably the most amazing feature of life - one we take for granted. One also that represents a quantum leap in the utilization of IMMPSF.
You also said: "Organisms can be perfectly explained by natural causes, the building blocks which are perfectly natural, the process of which is perfectly natural. From the simple building blocks that can occur naturally can come more complex organisms. We can see through experiments that information can be added through replication."
First, "perfectly explained" is a level of explanation rarely obtained and I'm willing to bet you can't back that up. Second, I'll just ask one question: What natural process produced replication?

By Daniel Smith (not verified) on 19 Jun 2008 #permalink

First, "perfectly explained" is a level of explanation rarely obtained and I'm willing to bet you can't back that up.

perfectly explained does not equate to we know it all. Like evolution can perfectly explain the fossil record. With natural causes, we can explain how life got here. We don't know the exact process on which it took, no-one will ever know. But we can explain a process based on observations that would lead to what we have now with no need for any form of higher power manipulating it.

Second, I'll just ask one question: What natural process produced replication?

Abiogenesis. I answered that already. I even provided links that talk about abiogenesis and how it works. Did you not read them?

So how was this mechanism used to create biological life? Well for one, there's no "magic" required. All that is necessary is a means to manipulate molecular structures and an extremely advanced knowledge of chemistry and physics.

It's not necessary. It's plausible but not necessary. Here's the disparity:
the only intelligence we know is one that comes from a natural product (evolution). So for a higher intelligence to be manipulating the process, it first would have had to come from evolution. So even if we had an intelligent designer, it must have come from somewhere that either evolved independently or was designed itself. And this cycle would continue infinitely. But the reason we don't think there was a hand in it is because the extreme unlikelihood of there being one. A 4 billion year gradual evolution can be explained without the need for a being that can transcend time and space. We have no known mechanism which would allow a lifeform to do so. There is no evidence to suggest that a lifeform has done so.

Your comparison of celluar life to machines is false as machines can't replicate themselves. Cells can. Using the analogy to push for evidence of a designer is a strawman. Mutations have been observed in the lab. Evolution works without the need for a designer or anything of intelligence. Your analogy still doesn't make for the need of a designer. You can speculate there was one, and there is nothing that can show you as being wrong. But we use NATURAL CAUSES when they are there. And even the absence of a current explanation by NATURAL CAUSES does not make the case of an intelligent agent. If we think the eye is irreducibly complex now (it's not), it doesn't mean that it is irreducibly complex.

If for instance, we found what appeared to be coded characters made out of stones, and we were able to decode the characters and figured out that they did indeed represent a form of language, would that be enough?

Sure we could and I wouldn't dispute that for a second. What I would dispute though is that DNA is a coded message that can only be explained by an intelligent being. DNA can be explained by natural causes. It's built of organic material, it can form with organic material, it's pure chemistry. Is there a pattern in DNA that can only be explained by a higher power? If so, what is the message? What does it say? How can't it be caused by natural causes? What is this glorious sign of Intelligent Design? Or even a higher intelligence? Why haven't there been papers published on this? Why isn't the Vatican gleefully pushing this on the over 1 billion Catholics as "see this is why we keep you in poverty and susceptible to AIDS"?

Come on. Your analogy is mute. It's sheer speculation, mixing strawmen with the ontological argument. What can be is not what is. Reputable scientific articles, websites or books please to back this up.

"Like evolution can perfectly explain the fossil record."

But it doesn't. There's so much that remains unexplained. I don't know how you can honestly say that.

"With natural causes, we can explain how life got here."

But you can't. That's wishful thinking.

[ME]:"What natural process produced replication?"

[YOU]:"Abiogenesis."

Abiogenesis is the study of the origin of life, not the name of a specific natural process. Let me rephrase the question: "What natural mechanism produced replication?"

"I even provided links that talk about abiogenesis and how it works. Did you not read them?"

I started to but I find the talk.origins FAQs to be one-sided when dealing with creationism. They often cite only the positive aspects of research while leaving out the negative. I have not yet watched all the YouTube videos, but the one I did watch was very condescending, didn't really apply to my statements here, and didn't make anything clearer about how life came from non-life. This wikipedia article on the other hand, gives a brief synopsis of most of the basic theories of abiogenesis, giving them a very even-handed treatment:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Origin_of_life

"Here's the disparity: the only intelligence we know is one that comes from a natural product (evolution). So for a higher intelligence to be manipulating the process, it first would have had to come from evolution. So even if we had an intelligent designer, it must have come from somewhere that either evolved independently or was designed itself. And this cycle would continue infinitely."

This is pure circular reasoning; you use your conclusion as your premise. But if you want to engage in such things, I'll oblige: Life has only been observed to come from other life. No other method of origin has ever been seen. Therefore life on this planet must have come from some other form of life, and that life must have also come from life, and so on; until you either have an eternal cycle of life, or an eternal lifeform as the ultimate origin for all other lifeforms.
I like this form of reasoning!

"But the reason we don't think there was a hand in it is because the extreme unlikelihood of there being one."

Lower than the 1 in 429,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 chance of a "self-replicating" peptide forming by the random addition of amino acids?
(from one of the articles at the talk.origins site you sent me to):
http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/abioprob/abioprob.html

"A 4 billion year gradual evolution can be explained without the need for a being that can transcend time and space. We have no known mechanism which would allow a lifeform to do so. There is no evidence to suggest that a lifeform has done so."
Talk about strawmen! Where in my post did I mention any of this? The rest of your post is more of the same: setting up strawmen so you can knock them down - without responding to any of the details of my post. I answered your challenge, I gave you a plausible, testable mechanism (about which you never responded), I showed how this hypothesis could be tested - all without mentioning magic or religion. Now your response is to argue against the concept of God, mention "abiogenesis" and "evolution" in passing (as if that should end the argument), while ignoring 90% of my post!?
I'm afraid my words are falling on deaf ears here.

By Daniel Smith (not verified) on 20 Jun 2008 #permalink

"Like evolution can perfectly explain the fossil record."But it doesn't. There's so much that remains unexplained.

What do you mean by "unexplained"?

Inasmuch as everything we know of so far about the fossil record fits with the explanation that "heritable variation exists, and there is differential survival of that heritable variation", it is explained.

The only things still "unexplained" are greater detail of what the variations are, how they are and were inherited, and to what extent differential survival is important.

Let me rephrase the question: "What natural mechanism produced replication?"

That's even easier to answer: chemistry.

And we know that's the case because all of replication is chemical.

Now, maybe you want the exact details of what chemistry was involved. And that we cannot give, yet. But nevertheless, the best answer will be a chemical process, because that's all that the data discovered so far supports.

This is pure circular reasoning; you use your conclusion as your premise.

You can't support religious belief except by circular reasoning. However, science not only has reasoning, it also has the data and the experimental verification.

All that we know about intelligence is that it arises from life, life has evolved and continues to evolve, and life is complex chemistry.

The knowledge of what intelligence is and how it works is known from scientific experiments and data.

The knowledge of what life is and how it works is known from scientific experiments and data.

The knowledge of complex chemistry and how it works is known from scientific experiments and data.

Therefore, the best explanation for the origin of life must be chemical.

Lower than the 1 in 429,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 chance of a "self-replicating" peptide forming by the random addition of amino acids?

Dude. Did you read the next paragraph? Would it kill you to read for context?

Yes, one kilogram of the amino acid arginine has
2.85 x 1024 molecules in it (that's well
over a billion billion); a tonne of arginine has 2.85 x
1027 molecules. If you took a semi-trailer load
of each amino acid and dumped it into a medium size lake,
you would have enough molecules to generate our particular
replicator in a few tens of years, given that you can make
55 amino acid long proteins in 1 to 2 weeks.

Sheesh.

I'm afraid my words are falling on deaf ears here.

I have a longer rebuttal against your argument from IMMPSF, but it will have to wait a bit.

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 20 Jun 2008 #permalink

Humans use IMMPSF all the time. Sometimes these manipulations require tools, sometimes not. Probably the simplest example of IMMPSF without tools is speech. We manipulate the air molecules around us with intelligent controls in order to produce the function of communication.

This analogy is is broken because humans do not have innate knowledge of how their own intelligence works. In case you hadn't noticed, humans use speech, but have no direct knowledge of how they are doing it. For example, without some very specialized equipment, there is no way for the individual to know exactly which muscle cells and nerve cells and brain subsystems are being activated during speech.

So it necessarily follows that intelligence arises from unintelligent processes going on at a lower level.

One of the unique aspects of this mechanism is that we can oftentimes perceive the thoughts and intentions of the manipulator simply by examining the functional product of their manipulations.

Actually, the only way that we can be certain that the "functional product" was even produced by an intelligent "manipulator" is by attempting to reason out the process by which said product arrived at its current state, and evaluate the probability of said process occurring randomly versus said process being directed by an intelligence.

For example, a stone spearpoint looks like a chunk of rock, but we can examine it for the toolmarks that went into shaping it, and realize that they are not what we might expect of something undergoing randomly distributed collisions with other rocks, but rather show that it was struck many times in the same direction; that is to say, knapped. And the best explanation for the process of knapping is direct human action.

Which, once again, brings us back to the important concept of scale.

We can assess the processes of macroscopic "functional products", and often make a clear determination of whether those processes were driven by intelligence or not. Sometimes, though, it takes a while to come to a proper understanding of what those processes were (or are). The Giant's Causeway was once thought to have been created by large, intelligent, powerful beings, yet with our modern understanding of geology, we can confidently assert that the Causeway arose by unintelligent natural processes.

On the other hand, when it comes to microscopic "products", such as various types of biological cells, our best understanding of them is as chemical processes, with a great deal of randomness still existing in their operations and reactions. Our best understanding of the processes of how they came to be as they are is by inherited variation over billions of years, and our best understanding of how they first formed those many billions of years ago is by arising from simpler chemicals as well.

Ultimately, if you want to disprove the concept of chemical abiogenesis, you have to do at least one, and possibly two, very important things: First of all, you have to demonstrate, clearly and convincingly, how chemical abiogenesis could not have occurred naturally, and do so in such a way to convince those organic chemists and geochemists whose fields have been advancing for centuries, and secondly, it would make things a lot more believable if you explain how an entity that has the knowledge of how to perform the necessary chemical manipulations arose in the first place.

Which is what we've been waiting for from the "ID" institutes for years, now...

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 21 Jun 2008 #permalink

Me: "Lower than the 1 in 429,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 chance of a "self-replicating" peptide forming by the random addition of amino acids?"

Kel: "Dude. Did you read the next paragraph? Would it kill you to read for context?"

Article: "Yes, one kilogram of the amino acid arginine has 2.85 x 10[to the]24[th power] molecules in it (that's well over a billion billion); a tonne of arginine has 2.85 x 10[to the]27[th power] molecules. If you took a semi-trailer load of each amino acid and dumped it into a medium size lake, you would have enough molecules to generate our particular replicator in a few tens of years, given that you can make 55 amino acid long proteins in 1 to 2 weeks." [bracketed additions mine]

Yes I did read that. Let me point out one fallacy of this type of argument: He seems to be implying that increasing the number of trials somehow lowers the odds. This however is not the case. Every trial has the same odds of success: 1 in 42,900,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (my original number was off by a factor of 10 - I started with a 10 followed by 40 zeros when it should have been a 1 followed by 40 zeros. Sorry.).

Let me ask you this: After 42,899,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999 trials, what are the odds of success for the next trial?

It is not 1:1 (as the argument implies), it is still 1 in 42,900,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.
He makes it sound much easier than it actually would be. Notice also that his example is a coin toss of four heads in a row. Why doesn't he use a coin toss with a billion heads in a row? It won't work - that's why. He has to use an example with short odds. If you want to do an interesting experiment to illustrate this for yourself, go to this coin toss simulator page:
http://nlvm.usu.edu/EN/NAV/frames_asid_305_g_3_t_5.html
Plug in 999 for "Longest run of heads" (this is the highest number allowable), then just let it run. You'll never get there! You can try plugging in lower numbers and see how the odds decrease exponentially.
This is why I distrust these talk.origin articles.

By Daniel Smith (not verified) on 22 Jun 2008 #permalink

Yes I did read that. Let me point out one fallacy of this type of argument: He seems to be implying that increasing the number of trials somehow lowers the odds. This however is not the case. - Daniel Smith

Daniel, you win this Sunday's prize for moron of the week!!. Yes, you can get a free brain transplant at the private clinic of your choice, just as soon as they become technically feasible!

The "fallacy" you point out is not a fallacy. If you need 4 heads in a row, the probability you will get them if you're only allowed one shot is 1/16. However, if you are allowed two shots, and you only need to get the four heads at least once, the probability goes up to 1/16 + (15/16 x 1/16). If you have three shots, and only need to get the four heads at least once it goes up to 1/16 + (15/16 x 1/16) + (15/16 x 15/16 x 1/16)... and so on. On any single shot, the probability remains 1/16. But if you are thinking about the chance of getting at least one set of four heads, the probability goes up and up the more shots you have at it, and will get as close to certainty as you want, if you have enough tries. Exactly the same is the case if the odds in a single shot are much lower.

You "distrust these talk.origin articles" because you are an ignoramus with the mathematical know-how and ability of a turnip.

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 22 Jun 2008 #permalink

Owlmirror,

I looked at PZ's case for randomness in cellular activity. Fortunately I'm in the business of troubleshooting electronically controlled machinery and spend quite a lot of time looking at electronic signals on an oscilloscope. These signals look a lot like the feedback signals I've been looking at! The only time you get a perfect signal is if whatever you're looking at is at a constant speed (even then there's a lot of noise sometimes) or operates on a timed basis. These signals look almost exactly like what I observe from a real machine working a real job. I can only conclude that these cellular gates open and close as needed - not on a timer and not at a regular rate. This is no argument against ID. In fact, how does natural selection explain the existence of an electrically controlled gateway in a cell? Specifically. Because what I've noticed is that most who tout NS as a mechanism can't explain any of the details for the origin of a specific function, they can only deal with generalities. On the other hand, humans have designed electrically controlled gates using the mechanism of IMMPSF.

"This analogy is is broken because humans do not have innate knowledge of how their own intelligence works."

It doesn't matter if we know how it works - only that it can be observed TO work. I'm going to hazard a guess that you can't tell me every process involved in the transference of these words from my keyboard to this blog, but we can observe that these processes work and that it takes intelligent activity for them to do so.

By Daniel Smith (not verified) on 22 Jun 2008 #permalink

Nick already pointed out your failure to grasp basic probabilities, so I'll skip that.

In fact, how does natural selection explain the existence of an electrically controlled gateway in a cell?

What does this even mean? Why shouldn't there be?

Again, this goes back to basic chemistry, and basic physics.

There are only 4 fundamental forces that exist. Of these, the one that operates between atoms in molecules, binding them together, is the electromagnetic force. The best way to operate on the scale of an ion — an electrically charged atom — is going to involve something that can operate using the electric force.

Because what I've noticed is that most who tout NS as a mechanism can't explain any of the details for the origin of a specific function, they can only deal with generalities.

What I've noticed is that most who tout "ID" as a mechanism not only cannot explain any of the details for the origin of a specific function, they not only offer up the vaguest of generalities, but they end up exposing a huge amount of ignorance, and offer up contradictory and inconsistent ideas.

Oddly enough, the "Designer" doesn't seem to have any interest in explaining to any of them what exactly he did or how he did it.

Meanwhile:

  Molecular evolution of voltage-sensitive ion channel genes: on the origins of electrical excitability
http://mbe.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/10/1/221

"This analogy is is broken because humans do not have innate knowledge of how their own intelligence works."
It doesn't matter if we know how it works - only that it can be observed TO work. I'm going to hazard a guess that you can't tell me every process involved in the transference of these words from my keyboard to this blog, but we can observe that these processes work and that it takes intelligent activity for them to do so.

Um, no it doesn't. I'll grant that it took "intelligent activity" to design them and implement them in the first place, but there is no intelligence going on outside of my own brain (and your brain, although I'm somewhat skeptical about that at this point).

The whole point of automation, whether mechanical or electronic, is that it does not require intelligent intervention in order to work.

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 22 Jun 2008 #permalink