Home » Ethics » I keep having to remind myself that science is self-correcting …

I keep having to remind myself that science is self-correcting …

I have often been wearied by legends in their own lunchroom huffing that science differs from other endeavours because it is “self-correcting.”

To which I reply: Aw come off it, fellas. Any system that does not go extinct is self-correcting – after it collapses on its hind end. This is true of governments, businesses, churches, and not-for-profit organizations. I’ve seen enough of life to know.

Here’s a classic: At The Scientist’s NewsBlog, Bob Grant reveals (May 7, 2009) that

Scientific publishing giant Elsevier put out a total of six publications between 2000 and 2005 that were sponsored by unnamed pharmaceutical companies and looked like peer reviewed medical journals, but did not disclose sponsorship, the company has admitted.

Elsevier is conducting an “internal review” of its publishing practices after allegations came to light that the company produced a pharmaceutical company-funded publication in the early 2000s without disclosing that the “journal” was corporate sponsored

[ ... ]

The allegations involve the Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine, a publication paid for by pharmaceutical company Merck that amounted to a compendium of reprinted scientific articles and one-source reviews, most of which presented data favorable to Merck’s products. The Scientist obtained two 2003 issues of the journal — which bore the imprint of Elsevier’s Excerpta Medica — neither of which carried a statement obviating Merck’s sponsorship of the publication.

The linked related stories and comments are most illuminating, and bear out my critique of “peer review” here. Let’s just say that peer review started out as a good idea, but …

(Note: There is no paywall, but you may need to register to view the story, .)

Also, today at Colliding Universes

Neutrinos: Sudbury Neutrino Observatory does the sun’s bookkeeping

Origin of life: The live cat vs. the dead cat

Cosmology: Wow. It takes guts to wage war with Stephen Hawking … he appeared in Star Trek

Universe: Arguments against flatness (plus exposing sloppy science writing)

Origin of life: Latest scenario gives RNA world a boost

Colliding Universes is my blog on competing theories about our universe.

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491 Responses to I keep having to remind myself that science is self-correcting …

  1. One of the most interesting classes I took in grad school (for Mechanical Engineering) was a Rehab Engineering class – basically studying different types of injuries and physical states that cause people to be disabled and the equipment that is engineered to aid them to live life as uninterrupted as possible. As we were required to produce a journal-style article at the end of the semester, 3 or 4 times throughout the class we reviewed a peer-reviewed article from maintstream rehab journals, then had a class discussion of the article. It was amazing what was published, and these were in the most respected journals of their field. They were filled with horrible statistics, poorly designed (or at least poorly described) experimental procedures, vague, inconsistent logic and highly questionable (and many times self-fulfilling) results.

    And this is an analytical science! That is, it’s testable, repeatable, observable, realisticially falsifiable [i.e., we could falsify Darwinism if we found a 60 million year old chicken, but no one is positing that], etc. It’s hard to imagine the amount of corruption and flat out bad science that exists in journals that study historical science, like evolutionary theories. Evolution itself is highly observable from the fossil record, but its driving mechanism (RM+NS) was accepted decades ago, under a materialist mindset, when we thought the cell was a simple blob of organic matter.

    Yes, in a way, it’s self-correcting, because it will change its mind on given issues and theories. There is no a more frequently self-correcting science than evolutionary biology. Why? Because it is the most noble? No. Because accepted evo. bio. ideas are wrong at a much higher rate than in other sciences. How many “junk” DNA articles were reviewed and accepted for decades? Hundreds? Oops!

  2. Uh, the cell was never assumed to be a simple blob of organic matter. The idea investigators could reproduce cellular events in vitro from supernatant was still inconceivable 50-60 years ago, as the cell was held undecipherable. Much of cell/molecular biology is in states of flux regarding roles and functions of proteins or non-coding RNA, but such fields do not receive as much criticism as evo-devo by IDists. Bottom line: it’s easy to argue against a caricature…

  3. Denyse O’Leary writes:

    Any system that does not go extinct is self-correcting – after it collapses on its hind end.

    Denyse,

    A simple experiment will falsify your claim.

    Take a sample of scientists from every continent on the globe and ask them these questions:

    1. Do atoms exist?

    2. What are they made of?

    3. Why does the sun shine?

    4. How old is the earth?

    5. Are perpetual motion machines possible?

    6. From a given point on the moon’s equator, how much energy is required to put a 10 kg rock into a circular orbit with a radius of 70 kilometers?

    You will get stunning agreement on the answers, including the precise numerical value called for by question #6.

    Now take a sample of holy men, religious “experts” and theologians from every continent on the globe. Ask them the following questions:

    1. Does God exist?

    2. Is there more than one God?

    3. What characteristics does God have?

    4. Does God meddle in the world?

    5. Is there an afterlife?

    6. What is God’s plan for humanity?

    It would take you days to catalog the discordant answers you’d get to these questions.

    Now imagine the answers you would have gotten to both sets of questions, religious and scientific, if you had asked them in the year 1700. A cacaphony of disagreement.

    So in 300 years, science has gone from complete disagreement to a consensus. Meanwhile, religion has gone from complete disagreement to complete disagreement.

    Which one is making progress? Which do you think is self-correcting?

  4. 4

    beelzebub,

    —-”So in 300 years, science has gone from complete disagreement to a consensus. Meanwhile, religion has gone from complete disagreement to complete disagreement.”

    You’re joking right? There is no singular voice of science now, not by any stretch of the imagination. Phlogiston, alchemy, ether, evolution, multi-verse, memes…yeah, that’s agreement, sure thing. Radio waves were once considered supernatural. The point is that in the future advances may or may not correct a misunderstanding now. The question is what misunderstandings are we currently living in? Alchemy was considered real by folks in that time. If you’re going to talk about a “progression of science”, it must be remembered that that trend is also wrought with abandoned scientific endeavors, which seemed valid at the time, but weren’t. If you put all you’re faith into it, you won’t necessarily know how you’re being deceived, until it’s too late, for the correction, even if there is one, lies in the remote future, long after you’re dead.

  5. eligoodwin, Google bathybius haeckeli, if you think no one ever thought the cell a simple blob of organic matter. It was members of the prophet Darwin’s exalted circle who thought that – as it happens.

    Beelzebub, try applying your theory to global warming – or any current issue – and see what you come up with.

  6. beezlebub:

    What is your point? That religion sucks because people disagree? An odd conclusion since you started with an experimental design to falsify a claim that did not exist (Denyse never said science is not self-correcting, just that she had to remind herself that it is because of all of the corruption involved in the system). But here’s some other thoughts:

    What do religious disagreements have to do with this discussion? Another attempt to oppose religion with science (when they really have nothing to do with each other, unless your religious belief hinges on a scientifically-falsifiable claim, like the Earth is 6,000 years old)

    You seem to believe science is the search for consensous instead of the search for truth. If ID is true, materialist science will be blind to the truth, and that couldn’t be more obvious in modern day science. I don’t know how much brilliant complexity we would have to discover to convince materialists that ID is correct. At this point, it seems like it would never happen; they would just keep evoking “deep time” and an infinitude of universes until our current state of brilliant design is a statistical requirement by chance and necessity alone. Here is a clear example of the dogmatism of materialist science in field of evolutionary biology (from a recent issue of New Scientist, in an article titled “Darwin Was Wrong”):

    If anyone now thinks that biology is sorted, they are going to be proved wrong too. The more that genomics, bioinformatics and many other newer disciplines reveal about life, the more obvious it becomes that our present understanding is not up to the job. We now gaze on a biological world of mind-boggling complexity that exposes the shortcomings of familiar, tidy concepts such as species, gene and organism.

    None of this should give succour to creationists, whose blinkered universe is doubtless already buzzing with the news that “New Scientist has announced Darwin was wrong”. Expect to find excerpts ripped out of context and presented as evidence that biologists are deserting the theory of evolution en masse. They are not.

    “We were wrong, but we’ll continue to be right.” …Hmm, sounds open-minded to me. Again, if the current discoveries in biological systems aren’t enough to even evoke doubt (meta-information in the genome, sections of DNA being used for multiple, different “programming” functions [like programming in 3 or 4 dimensions instead of just one like us simple humans do]), then nothing will ever penetrate that dogmatism

    ID was ruled out on purely philosophical grounds when methodological naturalism morphed into metaphysical naturalism in the natural sciences. Dogmatic concensus, morphing scientific discovery to fit a worldview, is not what I would call progress. For the 6 scientific questions you posed above, they are purely analytical science, and do not fall into the areas where worldviews are called into question. It is historical science, like origin of life, NDET, multiverse theory where dogma can hinder true progress. See the ignorance of “junk” DNA for decades since materialism required it to be “junk”.

    Of course dogma does/has existed within religious circles for millenia. There has also been dissent in religion, just as there has been in science over the centuries, which led to progress. Most disputed religious claims are not scientifically verifiable, thus a concensus is much less likely. What does that mean? That we should not pursue theology because it’s impossible to scientifically verify many claims? If that’s the case, then I hope you also despise multiverse theory on the same grounds.

  7. Clive-

    Exactly. That is why it is foolish to claim something as “fact” without being thoroughly, scientifically validated. As stated many times before, this is usually glossed over because people honestly think Darwinism and evolution are the same thing (i.e., if you prove evolution to be true, that proves Darwin/atheists are right)

  8. 8

    beelzebub,

    I should also mention Darwin’s belief in “gemmules”. Indeed.

  9. beelzebub @3:

    2. What are they [atoms] made of?

    It is not true that scientists know what atoms are made of. They may have identified some constituent particles (electrons, protons, quarks, etc.) by their interactions but they would be hard pressed to tell you what they are made of.

  10. Clive,

    Did you even read my comment? The scientific consensus I’m referring to is on the six questions I posed:

    1. Do atoms exist?

    2. What are they made of?

    3. Why does the sun shine?

    4. How old is the earth?

    5. Are perpetual motion machines possible?

    6. From a given point on the moon’s equator, how much energy is required to put a 10 kg rock into a circular orbit with a radius of 70 kilometers?

    Second, if you think that scientists haven’t yet resolved the disputes over phlogiston and alchemy, then you need to crack open a few issues of Scientific American. From 1900.

    If you’re going to talk about a “progression of science”, it must be remembered that that trend is also wrought with abandoned scientific endeavors, which seemed valid at the time, but weren’t.

    Of course. Humans are imperfect creatures operating on imperfect information. They’re bound to make mistakes. The genius of science is that it provides a systematic way of detecting and reversing these mistakes. The six scientific questions above demonstrate this beautifully.

    Contrast that with religion, which tends to enshrine its mistakes as dogma instead of seeking to correct them.

    If you put all you’re faith into it, you won’t necessarily know how you’re being deceived…

    That’s why blind faith is such a bad idea. Hold all of your beliefs provisionally and never cease questioning them.

    …until it’s too late, for the correction, even if there is one, lies in the remote future, long after you’re dead.

    Welcome to the human condition. We can do the best we can, but no better. Science is wonderfully self-correcting. Religion doesn’t even come close.

  11. Several of you have mentioned past scientific mistakes or current areas of scientific disagreement as if they somehow show that science is not self-correcting.

    That makes no sense.

    The fact that we are even aware of past scientific mistakes is precisely because science is self-correcting. How else, besides using science, did we figure out that phlogiston doesn’t exist or that alchemy is a forlorn hope?

    Nobody is claiming that science is immune to error. After all, to claim that science is self-correcting is to presuppose the existence of error. Isn’t that obvious?

  12. 12

    Off-topic: has anybody been listening to Barbara Bradley Hagerty’s series about the science of spirituality on NPR this week? It covers some territory along the lines of The Spiritual Brain (though I prefer both Hagerty’s writing and her approach). She’s got a new book, Fingerprints of God: The Search for the Science of Spirituality, that seems kind of interesting.

  13. beelzebub (why don’t people just give their real names?*), most self-corrections came at immense cost to the scientists who had laboured to discover the facts and correct the record.

    Usually, the persecutions were brought on them by fellow scientists whose careers were threatened.

    Science is rarely self-correcting except under the gravest threat – for the same reasons as a drug addict doesn’t decide on rehab until he wakes up from a coma in some hospital whose name he doesn’t recognize – and he doesn’t even remember how he got there. But he is informed that a detective superintendent wants to interview him as soon as his doctor feels he is well enough.

    *Note re real names: I have been over this ground before, but maybe not with the same people:

    Denyse O’Leary is my real name.

    Like any traditional journalist, I post under my own name. I am a Canadian citizen who lives in Toronto, and I vote and pay taxes here. I am in the Toronto phone book. I am part of my community.

    I will take you more seriously if you say who you really are and where you live and what you do.

  14. uoflcard asks:

    What is your point? That religion sucks because people disagree?

    My point, contra Denyse, is that religion is not self-correcting in the way that science is.

    What do religious disagreements have to do with this discussion?

    Everything. Denyse is the one who brought up religion as an example of a self-correcting system.

    You seem to believe science is the search for consensous instead of the search for truth.

    Where did you get that idea?

    For the 6 scientific questions you posed above, they are purely analytical science, and do not fall into the areas where worldviews are called into question.

    The six scientific questions I posed are basic scientific questions. Science has answered all of them in a few hundred years. The six religious questions I posed are basic religious questions. After thousands of years, every one of them is as fiercely debated as ever.

    Most disputed religious claims are not scientifically verifiable, thus a concensus is much less likely. What does that mean? That we should not pursue theology because it’s impossible to scientifically verify many claims?

    For the purposes of this thread, we should conclude that Denyse is wrong and that religion is not self-correcting in the way that science is. The self-correcting nature of science really does set it apart from other means of seeking the truth.

  15. Denyse writes:

    I will take you more seriously if you say who you really are and where you live and what you do.

    Denyse,

    I find that the decision to take someone seriously is better based on the quality and cogency of their ideas than on their location and occupation. After all, a good idea remains good even if it comes from a Canadian journalist with no scientific training, and a bad idea from someone with two PhD’s, four masters degrees and a BA is still a bad idea, isn’t it?

    …most self-corrections came at immense cost to the scientists who had laboured to discover the facts and correct the record.

    Actually, most corrections (and there are thousands every year) happen with little fanfare and no damage except to the ego of the correctee. In any case, the issue here is not the cost of the corrections but the fact that they happen routinely in science but not in religion.

    Science is rarely self-correcting except under the gravest threat – for the same reasons as a drug addict doesn’t decide on rehab until he wakes up from a coma in some hospital whose name he doesn’t recognize…

    Again, not true. Science corrects itself all the time, and the only threat it is usually responding to is the “threat” that an existing idea is wrong.

  16. O’Leary, on bathybius haeckeli, why are you mentioning things prior to the advent of molecular biology and biochemistry? I can say with great confidence, at the beginning of the Neo-Darwinian synthesis no one was proclaiming the cell a “simple blob of organic material.” Maybe you should also mention how Darwin thought “genes” just blended together, that would realllllly disprove evolutionary theory….

    Also, I am not aware of the grave circumstances which shifted the paradigm of Gal80 Gal4 inhibition– did the disassociationists issue a Fatah against the associationists? We all remember the holocaust of PrPSc viral origin advocates… I think I get it now. Maybe, you mentioned bathybius haeckeli, to illustrate how science is self correcting, considering Huxley wrote a letter recanting his “discovery.” But, we don’t know the nefarious circumstances which compelled him to do so.

  17. Denyse:

    most self-corrections came at immense cost to the scientists who had laboured to discover the facts and correct the record.

    I’m curious to learn about the incidents from which you derive this conclusion. In what cases has an actual (not just attempted) correction resulted in an overall negative outcome for the corrector? I’m guessing that for every such case you report, we can point out dozens of cases in which the outcome was the opposite.

  18. beezelbub

    I think religion is a broad category of human endeavor for to grasp at what is ultimately beyond our grasp, hence all the attendant confusion and discord. I would say that in similar fashion, Richard Dawkins appearing on TV and being asked (as really transpired) as to how did matter come into being, confusion is the result. With much feigned confidence, Dawkins assured the audience that science is on the verge of a breakthrough on the ultimate cause behind matter, and hence the cause of the universe. Thus materialism is as confused a religion as any other, as this laughable ( or pitiful, your choice) episode in the Dawkins saga reveals, to the point of faked hubris.

    To grasp at what will remain forever unfalsifiable is the mostly unintended intersection of science and religion.

  19. beelzebub @15:

    Science corrects itself all the time, and the only threat it is usually responding to is the “threat” that an existing idea is wrong.

    I believe O’Leary is talking about scientific paradigms, not run-of-the-mill experimental results. Thomas Kuhn had a lot to say about scientific revolutions.

    In the context of paradigm shifts, it has been known for over a century that the spacetime of relativity does not exist because nothing can move in spacetime by definition. This is the reason that Sir Karl Popper compared spacetime to Einstein’s block universe in which nothing happens (Conjectures and Refutations). Nobody has dared to contradict Popper.

    And yet, you still see physics textbooks by reputable physicists (e.g., Brian Greene and Kip Thorne)that explain gravity in terms of bodies following their geodesics in curved spacetime. Thorne (a friend of Stephen “black hole” Hawking) even goes so far as to argue with no fear of criticism (i.e., correction) from his peers that one can travel back in time via wormholes. Crackpottery in high places.

    How often do scientists gracefully correct their flawed paradigms? Not very often, it would seem.

  20. 20

    beelzebub,

    —-”Did you even read my comment? The scientific consensus I’m referring to is on the six questions I posed:”

    Right. I read your cherry picking of examples, and the following non sequitur of the singular coherence among all of science.

    Philosophy and religion is self-correcting. Science is based on philosophy, just as we find philosophy in religion. What you are expressing to me now, is your philosophy. Your scientism is a philosophy—a philosophy which judges that science is better than philosophy. Now surely, this is a contradiction, to which there can certainly be no self-correction by mere science. Any progress has within it an unchanging element, otherwise it is not progress, but merely change.

    “A theorist about language may approach his native tongue, as it were from outside, regarding its genius as a thing that has no claim on him and advocating wholesale alterations of its idiom and spelling in the interests of commercial convenience or scientific accuracy. That is one thing. A great poet, who has ‘loved, and been well nurtured in, his mother tongue’, may also make great alterations in it, but his changes of the language are made in the spirit of the language itself: he works from within. The language which suffers, has also inspired the changes. That is a different thing—as different as the works of Shakespeare are from Basic English. It is the difference between alteration from within and alteration from without: between the organic and the surgical. In the same way, the Tao [natural law] admits development from within. There is a difference between a real moral advance and a mere innovation. From the Confucian ‘Do not do to others what you would not like them to do to you’ to the Christian ‘Do as you would be done by’ is a real advance. The morality of Nietzsche is a mere innovation. The first is an advance because no one who did not admit the validity of the old maxim could see reason for accepting the new one, and anyone who accepted the old would at once recognize the new as an extension of the same principle. If he rejected it, he would have to reject it as a superfluity, something that went too far, not as something simply heterogeneous from his own ideas of value. But the Nietzschean ethic can be accepted only if we are ready to scrap traditional morals as a mere error and then to put ourselves in a position where we can find no ground for any value judgements at all. It is the difference between a man who says to us: ‘You like your vegetables moderately fresh; why not grow your own and have them perfectly fresh?’ and a man who says, ‘Throw away that loaf and try eating bricks and centipedes instead.’

    Those who understand the spirit of the Tao and who have been led by that spirit can modify it in directions which that spirit itself demands. Only they can know what those directions are. The outsider knows nothing about the matter. His attempts at alteration, as we have seen, contradict themselves. So far from being able to harmonize discrepancies in its letter by penetration to its spirit, he merely snatches at some one precept, on which the accidents of time and place happen to have riveted his attention, and then rides it to death—for no reason that he can give. From within the Tao itself comes the only authority to modify the Tao.”
    C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man

  21. 21

    beelzebub,

    —-”That’s why blind faith is such a bad idea. Hold all of your beliefs provisionally and never cease questioning them.”

    Excepting, of course, the belief that you should hold all of your other beliefs provisionally. Or do do you hold that belief provisionally? In which case, you still have a standing belief that you should hold all beliefs provisionally. This, again, is a contradiction, in which no progress can be made by science.

  22. 22

    beelzebub,

    You would do well to read this essay in its entirety:

    “It is a common reproach against Christianity that its dogmas are unchanging, while human knowledge is in continual growth. Hence, to unbelievers, we seem to be always engaged in the hopeless task of trying to force the new knowledge into moulds which it has outgrown. I think this feeling alienates the outsider much more than any particular discrepancies between this or that doctrine and this or that scientific theory. We may, as we say, ‘get over’ dozens of isolated ‘difficulties’, but that does not alter his sense that the endeavour as a whole is doomed to failure and perverse: indeed, the more ingenious, the more perverse. For it seems to him clear that, if our ancestors had known what we know about the universe, Christianity would never have existed at all: and, however we patch and mend, no system of thought which claims to be immutable can, in the long run adjust itself to our growing knowledge

    That is the position I am going to try to answer. But before I go on to what I regard as the fundamental answer, I would like to clear up certain points about the actual relations between Christian doctrine and the scientific knowledge we al ready have. That is a different matter from the continual growth of knowledge we imagine, whether rightly or wrongly, in the future and which, as some think, is bound to defeat us in the end.

    In one respect, as many Christians have noticed, contemporary science has recently come into line with Christian doctrine and parted company with the classical forms of materialism. If anything emerges clearly from modern physics, it is that nature is not everlasting. The universe had a beginning, and will have an end. But the great materialistic systems of the past all believed in the eternity, and thence in the self- existence of matter. As Professor Whittaker[1] said in the Riddell Lectures of 1942, “It was never possible to oppose seriously the dogma of the Creation except by maintaining that the world has existed from all eternity in more or less its present state.” This fundamental ground for materialism has now been withdrawn. We should not lean too heavily on this, for scientific theories change. But at the moment it appears that the burden of proof rests, not on us, but on those who deny that nature has some cause beyond herself…..

    No. It is not Christianity which need fear the giant universe. It is those systems which place the whole meaning of existence in biological or social evolution on our own planet. It is the creative evolutionist, the Bergsonian or Shavian, or the Communist, who should tremble when he looks up at the night sky. For he really is committed to a sinking ship. He really is attempting to ignore the discovered nature of things, as though by concentrating on the possibly upward trend in a single planet he could make himself forget the inevitable downward trend in the universe as a whole, the trend to low temperatures and irrevocable disorganization. For entrophy is the real cosmic wave, and evolution only a momentary tellurian ripple within it.

    On these grounds, then, I submit that we Christians have as little to fear as anyone from the knowledge actually acquired. But, as I said at the beginning, that is not the fundamental answer. The endless fluctuations of scientific theory which seem today so much friendlier to us than in the last century may turn against us tomorrow. The basic answer lies elsewhere.

    How can an unchanging system survive the continual increase of knowledge? Now, in certain cases we know very well how it can. A mature scholar reading a great passage in Plato, and taking in at one glance the metaphysics, the literary beauty, and the place of both in the history of Europe, is in a very different position from a boy learning the Greek alphabet. Yet through that unchanging system of the alphabet all this vast mental and emotional activity is operating. It has not been broken by the new knowledge. It is not outworn. If it changed, all would be chaos. A great Christian statesman, considering the morality of a measure which will affect mil lions of lives, and which involves economic, geographical and political considerations of the utmost complexity, is in a different position from a boy first learning that one must not cheat or tell lies, or hurt innocent people. But only in so far as that first knowledge of the great moral platitudes survives unimpaired in the statesman will his deliberation be moral at all. If that goes, then there has been no progress, but only mere change. For change is not progress unless the core remains unchanged. A small oak grows into a big oak: if it became a beech, that would not be growth, but mere change. And thirdly, there is a great difference between counting apples and arriving at the mathematical formulae of modern physics. But the multiplication table is used in both and does not grow out of date.

    In other words, wherever there is real progress in knowledge, there is some knowledge that is not superseded. Indeed, the very possibility of progress demands that there should be an unchanging element. New bottles for new wine, by all means: but not new palates, throats and stomachs, or it would not be, for us, ‘wine’ at all. I take it we should all agree to find this sort of unchanging element in the simple rules of mathematics. I would add to these the primary principles of morality. And I would also add the fundamental doctrines of Christianity. To put it in rather more technical language, I claim that the positive historical statements made by Christianity have the power, elsewhere found chiefly in formal principles, of receiving, without intrinsic change, the increasing complexity of meaning which increasing knowledge puts into them.

    For example, it may be true (though I don’t for a moment suppose it is) that when the Nicene Creed said ‘He came down from Heaven’, the writers had in mind a local movement from a local heaven to the surface of the earth — like a parachute descent. Others since may have dismissed the idea of a spatial heaven altogether. But neither the significance nor the credibility of what is asserted seems to be in the least affected by the change. On either view, the thing is miraculous: on either view, the mental images which attend the act of belief are inessential. When a Central African convert and a Harley Street specialist both affirm that Christ rose from the dead, there is, no doubt, a very great difference between their thoughts. To one, the simple picture of a dead body getting up is sufficient; the other may think of a whole series of bio chemical and even physical processes beginning to work back wards. The Doctor knows that, in his experience, they never have worked backwards; but the negro knows that dead bodies don’t get up and walk. Both are faced with miracle, and both know it. If both think miracle impossible, the only difference is that the Doctor will expound the impossibility in much greater detail, will give an elaborate gloss on the simple statement that dead men don’t walk about. If both believe, all the Doctor says will merely analyze and explicate the words ‘He rose.’ When the author of Genesis says that God made man in His own image, he may have pictured a vaguely corporeal God making man as a child makes a figure out of plasticine. A modern Christian philosopher may think of a process lasting from the first creation of matter to the final appearance on this planet of an organism fit to receive spiritual as well as biological life. But both mean essentially the same thing. Both are denying the same thing — the doctrine that matter by some blind power inherent in itself has produced spirituality.

    Does this mean that Christians on different levels of general education conceal radically different beliefs under an identical form of words? Certainly not. For what they agree on is the substance, and what they differ about is the shadow. When one imagines his God seat in a local heaven above a flat earth, where another sees God and creation in terms of Professor Whitehead’s philosophy[7], this difference touches precisely what does not matter. Perhaps this seems to you an exaggeration. But is it? As regards material reality, we are now being forced to the conclusion that we know nothing about it save its mathematics. The tangible beach and pebbles of our first calculators, the imaginable atoms of Democritus, the plain man’s picture of space, turn out to be the shadow: numbers are the substance of our knowledge, the sole liaison between mind and things. What nature is in herself evades us; what seem to naive perception to be the evident things about her, turn out to be the most phantasmal. It is something the same with our knowledge of spiritual reality. What God is in Him self, how He is to be conceived by philosophers, retreats continually from our knowledge. The elaborate world-pictures which accompany religion and which look each so solid while they last, turn out to be only shadows. It is religion itself — prayer and sacrament and repentance and adoration — which is here, in the long run, our sole avenue to the real. Like mathematics, religion can grow from within, or decay. The Jew knows more than the Pagan, the Christian more than the Jew, the modern vaguely religious man less than any of the three. But, like mathematics, it remains simply itself, capable of being applied to any new theory of the material universe and out-moded by none.”
    ~C.S. Lewis, Dogma and the Universe, from God in the Dock.

    http://www.mwainc.net/rod/Dogm.....iverse.htm

  23. I wrote:

    That’s why blind faith is such a bad idea. Hold all of your beliefs provisionally and never cease questioning them.

    Clive responded:

    Excepting, of course, the belief that you should hold all of your other beliefs provisionally. Or do do you hold that belief provisionally?

    Of course. There’s no reason to make an exception for it.

    In which case, you still have a standing belief that you should hold all beliefs provisionally. This, again, is a contradiction, in which no progress can be made by science.

    That’s a complete nonsequitur. Why should provisional beliefs impede the progress of science?

  24. Beelzebub,

    Are you saying you have two PhD’s, four Masters and a BA?

    If you are and your point about having a bad idea is correct, then anyone can be wrong, including you.

    Based upon your point, that should lead us to ask questions.

    Is materialist evolution a bad idea? Can scientist in the world forming consensus opinions about materialist origins be wrong?

    Why can they be wrong about origins? Why do some atheist believe in Panspmermia? Why did Francis Crick; a DNA Double-Helix, Nobel Prize winning discoverer appeal to Seeding on planet earth as a possibility?

    Ps. Denyse specified “churches” not multiple religions including atheism. You expanded the argument to shoot down your own strawman.

    There has been no argument in mainstream Christian churches that God exist for over 2000yrs since its beginning. With the exception of #4, all other arguments you listed are eliminated as well.

    Also, God’s existence is not exclusive to Christianity. It is a philosophical question to atheist as well. Atheist admit they cannot disprove a Creator and change their minds. Likewise, they do the same on materialist evolution.

    Materialist evolution contains in it a belief that God does not exist. Therefore, it is a belief system. There are different beliefs and churches within the Evolutionary realm. Atheist and Theist float in and out of the system at different times of their lives based upon scientific discovery, increased knowledge, philosophical changes and experience.

    I think her point is valid with more consideration. She included business and non-profits. Science does not have any exclusivity to self-correction. Denyse noted each area, including churches do go “extinct” without self-correction. A good example of extinction is Mars, the Roman god of war. You seem to have glossed over that point. Churches, beliefs and different religions have in fact gone extinct. She is correct in her observations. Arguments today can eventually be self-corrected or face future extinction.

    Scientific “churches” go extinct as well. Some think the Darwinian Church is dogmatically marching to the abyss of exinction today.

    Why else do Darwinist appeal to churches for survival? Last Rights? Are they appealing to science or a god?

    A reformation took place in Christianity long ago. Some argue that a revolution is taking place in biology today. But a reformation needs to take place in the churches of academia. Universities need to shed their one sided, atheistic, materialist vision. If you can have courses on astrobiology and SETI, then universities must have courses in Design of Life. You cannot recognize possible Intelligence off the planet without recognizing it on the planet. It is hypocritical and prejudice by academia.

    Darwin is dead. RM & NS are not the only mechanisms for change. NS has been reduced to a weak force. The Darwinian Tree of Life is dead. Endosymbiosys and HGT obscure any real historical data of such a tree if it ever existed.

    New conjectures and hypotheses of FrontLoading, Bushes, Forest(multiple TOLs), etc., pop up and are being discussed today by evolutionary scientist. Even some atheist have recognized ID’s right to be at the table.

    Was TOL a belief? Or science? How can TOL be science if it is wrong? Is it science until scientific observations and discovery make it a wrong belief? How so? If the theory is wrong, then it was wrong from the beginning and only a belief to start with in the individuals mind.

    If theory starts in the mind, isn’t it a belief until scientifically observed? Can one observe past origins 3.7 billion years ago?

    Is SETI a belief or science? Why are courses allowed to be taught in universities?

    Cosmic Search, SETI courses

    What do you believe Beelzebub? Can you be wrong?

  25. 25

    beelzebub,

    ——That’s why blind faith is such a bad idea. Hold all of your beliefs provisionally and never cease questioning them.

    Clive responded:

    Excepting, of course, the belief that you should hold all of your other beliefs provisionally. Or do do you hold that belief provisionally?

    ——”Of course. There’s no reason to make an exception for it.”

    You don’t see the contradiction here? You hold a belief that you should hold all beliefs provisionally. But you don’t hold that belief provisionally, now do you?

    ——”Why should provisional beliefs impede the progress of science?”

    You switched what I wrote. I wrote that you hold a contradictory philosophy which science can never progress. Science cannot progress your philosophy. You have it backwards. Your scientism isn’t based on science, it’s based on a contradictory philosophical position, of which no increase in scientific progress can help. Science cannot tell us that we ought to practice science, nor can it tell us that science is preferable to and can stand in judgment of philosophy, because it is your philosophy that ultimately concludes this. A philosophical judgment on science that science judges philosophy, is surely ridiculous.

  26. Clive writes:

    You hold a belief that you should hold all beliefs provisionally. But you don’t hold that belief provisionally, now do you?

    Yes, I do, which is exactly what I told you the first time you asked. Clive, please slow down and read my comments.

    I wrote that you hold a contradictory philosophy which science can never progress. Science cannot progress your philosophy.

    Judging from those two sentences, you might also want to slow down and reread your own comments before hitting “Submit”.

    Here’s what you originally asked:

    In which case, you still have a standing belief that you should hold all beliefs provisionally. This, again, is a contradiction, in which no progress can be made by science.

    Why do you think that such a belief precludes scientific progress? That makes no sense to me, particularly because it is a commonplace among scientists and philosophers of science that all scientific knowledge is provisional. They certainly don’t think that this makes scientific progress impossible. Why do you?

  27. 27

    I am a evangelical biblical creationist canadian.
    posters here have made good replys to bad in talking about self correction of evolution science.
    Yet it all comes down to good old fashioned weight of evidence.
    Creationism can show evidence for gods existence in nature and my crowd can interpretate evidence in nature to fit within the witness of genesis.

    So its up to evolution and company to make a case worthy of such great conclusions. Great evidence and not just evolutionists insisting they alone are the authority of truth.
    its time for evidence and if they had half as much as they said there would not be such a great percentage of a intelligent American population in doubt and outright disbelief.
    If there is sceience behind these claims then how hard could it be to make a case.

  28. Robert,

    The case has been made many times.

    You might want to start here.

  29. Mapou @ 19

    And yet, you still see physics textbooks by reputable physicists (e.g., Brian Greene and Kip Thorne)that explain gravity in terms of bodies following their geodesics in curved spacetime. Thorne (a friend of Stephen “black hole” Hawking) even goes so far as to argue with no fear of criticism (i.e., correction) from his peers that one can travel back in time via wormholes. Crackpottery in high places.

    Maybe you would have a more relevant issue from established science instead of differing opinions on something like wormholes – that to me look like little more than speculation at the edge of theoretical physics?

  30. BZ (and co):

    First, if you want to be taken seriously at UD, please do not cite or link Talk Origins as a serious source. For, Talk Origins has no credibility; being sadly replete with strawman misrepresentations and similar misleading tactics. (Cf, True Origins, and Creation Wiki; just to let creationists have their balancing say on the matter.)

    More broadly, you (and others enamoured of the myth of scientific progress) seem to be missing a key point.

    For one instance, there has been no “progress” or ‘self correction” on the idea that the ratio of the diagonal of a square to one of its sides is 1.41 . . . and is thus incommensurate with the length of the side; for some 2,500 years. That is because the truth of that has been adequately warranted since the days of the Pythagoreans.

    So long as the truth is “that which says of what is, that it is, and of what is not, that it is not” (debated but never bettered for 2,300 years . . . ), and so long as knowledge in praxis is well warranted, credibly true belief, if our state of knowledge arrives at the truth on a matter, further progress will stop, for a very good reason. For, progress — if it is to live up to its name — is towards the truth.

    That science sometimes corrects its acknowledged mistakes and so makes progress — too often, reluctantly; as Mrs O’Leary is equally correctly pointing out — is not a sign of its superiority over other aspects of our search for knowledge of the world, but rather of the provisionality of its explanations (and sometimes, fact-claims and calculations too). The point of progress is truth, and the commitment to truth and to seeking it is not a matter for “progress.” (To “progress” away from what is true or right is to undergo deterioration, not improvement.)

    Thus, underneath the vaunted progress and self correction of science, lie key invariants; invariants that come from philosophy, ethics and worldviews, including historically the Theistic, Judaeo-Christian one.

    In that context, if it is true that God is, and that people — millions, starting with 500 eyewitnesses to the resurrection of Jesus (NONE of whom ever recanted, not even in the face of the most horrible deaths) — have met and meet and know him in the face of the risen Christ, then there would be no “progress” away from underlying core truth claims.

    So, please put away rhetoric on progress.

    Instead, address issues of truth and warrant.

    For, the proper object of progress in knowledge is: truth.

    GEM of TKI

  31. Kfocus,

    For one instance, there has been no “progress” or ’self correction” on the idea that the ratio of the diagonal of a square to one of its sides is 1.41 . . . and is thus incommensurate with the length of the side; for some 2,500 years. That is because the truth of that has been adequately warranted since the days of the Pythagoreans.

    You bring up an interesting point, but I would just say that the lesson you draw from this mathematical example does not apply to the empirical sciences, where there is no absolute certainty. Of course we hope that our theories will gradually converge on the truth; that is not guaranteed, however, since we can’t derive the correct answer from a set of axioms.

  32. Herb:

    That is my precise point as stated above — empirical sciences (should) seek the truth and hopefully progress thereto.

    But this brings with it the point that the reason why one “progresses” is because there is an end-point: the truth, and we are not there yet, so on discovering how, we may make progress towards the truth.

    Therefore, just because a particular point or claim has not “progressed” in recent years does not entail that it is in error or is a manifestation of closed-mindedness. For, as the example i gave shows, it just may be well-warranted, credibly believable truth.. (And, that obtains for a great many contingent, empirical claims, e.g. that there was a certain person named Napoleon, who had a certain impact on European history. [Note as well how I have pointed out why Christians believe they need make no corrections to fundamental errors on the existence of God and so forth: if you have personally met God in the face of Christ, then plainly one has no reason to doubt the reality of God; whatever skeptics may want to think or argue. No more than that you would be inclined to doubt the reality of your mother, should someone try to make an objection per clever arguments, that she did not exist. Here, experienced -- millions of cases across thousands of years -- reality trumps rhetoric.])

    So also, when one sees a claim, the real issue is not “progress” or the lack thereof, but truth vs error.

    And, that is where one who is serious about truth should focus.

    So, let us end that particular distractive rabbit trail.

    GEM of TKI

  33. Kfocus,

    So also, when one sees a claim, the real issue is not “progress” or the lack thereof, but truth vs error.

    Ah, I see your point now. Thanks.

  34. kairosfocus writes:

    First, if you want to be taken seriously at UD, please do not cite or link Talk Origins as a serious source. For, Talk Origins has no credibility; being sadly replete with strawman misrepresentations and similar misleading tactics.

    kairosfocus,

    If being taken seriously requires me to state my name, location and occupation (as Denyse demanded above) or to cite only sources that earn the KF stamp of approval, then I decline. Open-minded readers will judge my arguments, and those at Talk Origins, on their merits. Whether you take us seriously is immaterial.

    For one instance, there has been no “progress” or ’self correction” on the idea that the ratio of the diagonal of a square to one of its sides is 1.41 . . . and is thus incommensurate with the length of the side; for some 2,500 years. That is because the truth of that has been adequately warranted since the days of the Pythagoreans.

    That’s right, though getting to that point constituted progress, as did the steady improvement over the centuries in our best approximations of the value of pi.

    It’s telling that you chose a mathematical example and not a religious one. Any intelligent, mathematically trained person (except for a few crackpots) can be convinced that in a Euclidean system, the ratio of the diameter of a square to length of a side is equal to the square root of 2. Mathematics has not merely stumbled upon the correct answer, nor has it been revealed from on high. It has been discovered and justified in a way that convinces people of all nationalities, cultures, and creeds. The Ukrainians accept it, as do the Zulus, the Baptists, and even the Scientologists. Most importantly, I know of no mathematicians who don’t accept it.

    Contrast that with a religious question as basic as this: does the Christian God exist? Christian apologists have attempted to justify their answer to this question, but they haven’t even come close to reaching a consensus among intelligent people across the globe, nor among those who are religiously trained or theologically inclined.

    The Pythagorean insight is not in need of progress, but Christianity surely is, and desperately so.

    That science sometimes corrects its acknowledged mistakes and so makes progress…is not a sign of its superiority over other aspects of our search for knowledge of the world…

    Sure it is. Science corrects its mistakes far more readily, systematically and efficiently than other truth-seeking enterprises such as religion. There is nothing comparable in all of human history to the flowering of scientific knowledge in the past few centuries. As my questions above show, religion is stuck in a rut, while science continues to progress.

    …but rather of the provisionality of its explanations…

    Acknowledging that provisionality openly and wholeheartedly is precisely what makes it possible for science to correct its mistakes. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if religious leaders took the same attitude? Imagine the Pope saying “Well, the Bible tells us that Mary was a virgin who was impregnated by the Holy Ghost, but that’s an extraordinary claim, and we could easily be wrong about it, so let’s ask ourselves how realistic it is and take a hard look at alternative explanations. I encourage everyone in the Church to question this belief.”

    The very thought of Pope Benedict saying something like that makes me laugh.

    if you have personally met God in the face of Christ, then plainly one has no reason to doubt the reality of God;

    If by “personally met God in the face of Christ” you are referring to some kind of religious experience, then you have every reason to doubt its authenticity. People of all creeds have religious experiences that are plainly false and internal to the brain. The depth of your conviction is not a reliable indicator of the truth of your experience. I’ve had conversations with a friend who in the throes of psychosis was absolutely convinced that he was Jesus Christ. When I say convinced, I mean convinced. I’m not claiming that all religious experiences are psychotic episodes, but I am pointing out that experiences — even vivid ones — cannot be trusted uncritically.

  35. Cabal @29:

    Maybe you would have a more relevant issue from established science instead of differing opinions on something like wormholes – that to me look like little more than speculation at the edge of theoretical physics?

    The issue here is not time travel in wormholes (a laughable consequence of the ingrained crackpottery) but the path in curved spacetime explanation of gravity used in textbooks on general relativity. This is mainstream physics. Since nothing can move in spacetime, talking about the path of particles in spacetime is obviously nonsense. It’s all hogwash and it’s been known to be hogwash for a century.

    The question is, why is it taking physicists so long to correct the mistake? And how do people Kip Thorne and Brian Greene manage to publish their crackpottery in peer-reviewed journals?

  36. Mapou writes,

    Since nothing can move in spacetime, talking about the path of particles in spacetime is obviously nonsense.

    Could you explain what you mean by this, or point me to an explanation. I’m curious.

  37. hazel @36:

    Could you explain what you mean by this, or point me to an explanation. I’m curious.

    Spacetime is what Karl Popper called a “block universe in which nothing happens.” He compared it to Parmenides’ (Zeno’s mentor who proclaimed that nothing changes) myth of a block universe. Source: Conjectures and Refutations.

    The reason that nothing can move in spacetime is trivially simple. Velocity in space is given as v = dx/dt. Velocity in time would have to be given as v = dt/dt which is nonsensical. Diehard relativists have several arguments (time dilation, meta-time, proper time, etc.) against this simple explanation but none can withstand scrutiny. I’ve heard them all.

    The hard reality is that there is no such thing as a time dimension. Time does not passes. Changing time is an oxymoron because it is self-referential. There is only the changing present, the NOW.

    PS. The non-existence (abstract nature) of time has revolutionary consequences for the future of physics (besides proving that time travel is bunkum). For one, it explains why nature is probabilistic and why quantum computing is crackpottery. Unfortunately, human nature being what it is, such breakthroughs will have to await a Kuhnian revolution. Coming soon.

  38. Mapou:

    The reason that nothing can move in spacetime is trivially simple. Velocity in space is given as v = dx/dt. Velocity in time would have to be given as v = dt/dt which is nonsensical.

    If “velocity in time = dt/dt” were nonsensical, then how would divorcing the time axis from the spatial axes make it less nonsensical?

    The derivative of an object’s position on the x axis with respect to the the object’s position on the x axis is dx/dx = 1. Should we demote 3D space to 2D?

  39. R0b @38:

    Your post is not even wrong. Besides, it insults my intelligence. See you around.

  40. Mapou, I’m sorry that your intelligence is insulted. Perhaps you can humor me and explain what’s wrong, or not even wrong, with my post.

    BTW, out of curiosity, are you the author of this?

  41. R0b,

    Yep, that’s Mapou’s handiwork.

    It’s interesting to skim. Like lots of fringe ideas, Mapou’s musings on time are based on a germ of truth, but they quickly go off the rails.

    The germ of truth is this: Viewed from the outside, 4-dimensional spacetime is static, in the sense that there is not a fifth timelike dimension across which it can change. Every particle has a world line, and that world line does not move. It just is, now and forever. To say that a particle moves through 4D spacetime gives the incorrect impression that it has a four-dimensional position at each instant of a fifth dimension of time.

    To that extent, it is true that “motion through spacetime” is a sloppy locution.

    Where Mapou goes off the rails is that he somehow interprets this to mean that time actually does not exist, and that it is just a convenient mathematical fiction that makes the equations of relativity work out correctly.

    Reading through his website, you get a feel for why he sees IDers as kindred spirits. Mapou thinks that every physicist who accepts the reality of time is a “crackpot”, hopelessly and stupidly deluded, failing to see something that is right in front of him and obvious. Gil Dodgen has pretty much the same opinion regarding evolutionary biologists. It apparently never occurs to either of them that the problem might be with them and not with the 99.9 percent of scientists who disagree with them.

    Here are some choice bits from Mapou’s site:

    The following is a short list of notorious time travel and spacetime crackpots…

    Stephen Hawking
    Kip Thorne
    John A. Wheeler
    Richard Feynman
    .
    .
    .
    Kurt Gödel
    Paul Davies
    Albert Einstein…

    String theory postulates that time is one of the 10 dimensions of nature and that dimensions can be “compactified” or curled up into tiny little balls, so tiny, in fact, they can never be detected. The brains of string theorists can be described in a similar fashion…

    The only thing Gödel proved, in my opinion, was the incompleteness of his frontal lobe…

    It is important that people see relativity for what it is, a mathematical trick for the prediction of macroscopic phenomena involving the motion of bodies in a spatial coordinate system. Spacetime is an abstract mathematical construct, that is all…

    Should some of you have enough courage to stand up to this crackpottery and want to have your names associated with this effort, do not hesitate to drop me a line. I would gladly attach your name to a list I am preparing. My email address is at the bottom of the page…

    If your name is on my list of spacetime crackpots and you wish to write a rebuttal, or an admission that you were wrong, I will be glad to publish it on this site. Along with my comments, of course…

  42. beelzebub @41:

    To that extent, it is true that “motion through spacetime” is a sloppy locution.

    Where Mapou goes off the rails is that he somehow interprets this to mean that time actually does not exist,

    If the existence of a time dimension forbids change, why should I hold on to a concept that is so blatantly at odds with observation?

    Of course, you are completely impervious to the intrinsic contradiction in your argument. But why doe this not surprise me? With a moniker like beelzebub, you proudfully wear your bias and your hate on your sleeve, don’t you, beelzebub?

  43. Earlier (19) Mapou wrote (and reiterated in 37),

    In the context of paradigm shifts, it has been known for over a century that the spacetime of relativity does not exist because nothing can move in spacetime by definition. This is the reason that Sir Karl Popper compared spacetime to Einstein’s block universe in which nothing happens (Conjectures and Refutations). Nobody has dared to contradict Popper.

    And yet, you still see physics textbooks by reputable physicists (e.g., Brian Greene and Kip Thorne)that explain gravity in terms of bodies following their geodesics in curved spacetime.

    However, I note that in the Popper article Mapou cites, Popper wrote,

    Einstein’s gravitational theory had led to the result that light must be attracted by heavy bodies (such as the sun), precisely as material bodies were attracted. As a consequence it could be calculated that light from a distant fixed star whose apparent position was close to the sun would reach the earth from such a direction that the star would seem to be slightly shifted away from the sun; or, in other words, that stars close to the sun would look as if they had moved a little away from the sun, and from one another. This is a thing which cannot normally be observed since such stars are rendered invisible in daytime by the sun’s overwhelming brightness; but during an eclipse it is possible to take photographs of them. If the same constellation is photographed at night one can measure the distance on the two photographs, and check the predicted effect.

    Now the impressive thing about this case is the risk involved in a prediction of this kind. If observation shows that the predicted effect is definitely absent, then the theory is simply refuted. The theory is incompatible with certain possible results of observation—in fact with results which everybody before Einstein would have expected.[1] This is quite different from the situation I have previously described, when it turned out that the theories in question were compatible with the most divergent human behavior, so that it was practically impossible to describe any human behavior that might not be claimed to be a verification of these theories.

    Obviously, Popper accepted that light was influenced by gravity, although he doesn’’t explicitly mention that space, or spacetime (more on that later) itself is curved.

    Note also that Popper’s example is exactly on target on two issues being discussed here recently. Einstein made a risky prediction: he stated things that would be true if his theory were true, and subsequent experiments confirmed his ideas. The fact that scientific statements lead to testable hypotheses is what makes science correctable, and thus provisional.

    However, I’d like to stay on this topic about motion in spacetime being impossible, because, as Popper wrote (but Mapou didn’t quote) “nothing ever happens, since everything is, four-dimensionally speaking, determined and laid down from the beginning.” (Although, and who knows whether Popper realized this, if motion through time is impossible, referencing a beginning is inappropriate.)

    Making a big but relevant jump, my understanding is that this is the position true theistic evoutionists (TE’s) take about God: since he is omniscient, omnipotent, and most importantly for this discussion, omnipresent, for God there is no flow of time. Everything has already happened – it’s all of a piece through time and space. God had one single act of creation which created all there is, has been and ever will be all at once.

    However, it looks like there is motion through space and time to us because we can only see locally in both space and time: we see motion because we can only look at a part of the world at a time. God can see globally, and to God there is no change because it all already is.

    From this point of view, I can accept what Mapou is saying, although I don’t think this is what he had in mind.

    However, from our point of view, it seems to me that what Mapou is offering is just a version of Zeno’s paradox that motion is impossible, which is an idea that has been dealt with in calculus. Zeno argued, in modern terms, that v = dx/dt had to equal 0 because in a moment dt was 0 and therefore dx had to be 0 also because you couldn’t move a finite distance in a moment of time, and therefore you could move, so v = 0 also. Of course we now know that 0/0 is indeterminate, not 0, and that dx/dt represents the instantaneous velocity.

    Also, if I start with, for instance x = e^(2t) as an exponential growth equation and differentiate in respect to time, I get dx/dt = 2 e^(2t) dt/dt. Here dt/dt =1, which is not nonsensical.

    And last, when Mapou writes dt/dt as a formula by itself in respect to spacetime, I think he is making the mistake of thinking that time is separate from space. In a classical Newtonian framework, time is thought of a separate from space, and motion is in time. From this point of view, I can see why Mapou might want to claim that time itself doesn’t move through time, which might be how he is interpreting dt/dt.

    However, the whole point of the spacetime concept is that space and time are intertangled. I think this is what R0b was referring to (R0b can correct me if I’m wrong) when he wrote, “If “velocity in time = dt/dt” were nonsensical, then how would divorcing the time axis from the spatial axes make it less nonsensical?” We already accept dt/dt as meaningful (or at least, not non-sensical) when we think of time as separate from space. Why is dt/dt all of a sudden non-sensical when time and space are intertwined?

    I hope that my thoughts on these matters didn’t insult anyone’s intelligence, or put me on the crackpot list.

  44. hazel @43:

    I hope that my thoughts on these matters didn’t insult anyone’s intelligence, or put me on the crackpot list.

    It did but you are not important enough to be placed on the crackpot list. Unless your real name is Stephen Hawking, of course. LOL.

  45. Beelzebub

    Imagine the Pope saying “Well, the Bible tells us that Mary was a virgin who was impregnated by the Holy Ghost, but that’s an extraordinary claim, and we could easily be wrong about it, so let’s ask ourselves how realistic it is and take a hard look at alternative explanations. I encourage everyone in the Church to question this belief.”

    The very thought of Pope Benedict saying something like that makes me laugh.

    No, but I can certainly imagine Pope Benedict publicly announcing that because the Catholic Church does not profess to know the precise manner in which Our Lord, Jesus Christ, obtained his Y-chromosome, Catholic theologians are perfectly free to propose speculative hypotheses regarding this question, provided that they loyally adhere to those truths (including the virginal conception of Jesus) which God has deigned to make known to us. Theologians who could not abide by those conditions would of course be free to leave the Catholic fold, and pursue their investigations elsewhere.

    Oh, and by the way, to speak of the Virgin Mary as being “impregnated by the Holy Ghost” is potentially misleading, as it could suggest (to readers who know little of Christian doctrine) that God somehow inseminated Mary. This harks back to the idea (common in pagan myths) of gods having intercourse with virgins. As you are well aware, this is not what Christianity believes, which is that God is by nature incorporeal, and that Our Savior Jesus Christ took flesh from the Virgin Mary without any Divine seed. That is why the Nicene Creed simply states that “by the power of the Holy Spirit, He was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man.” Exactly how this was effected remains a mystery.

    Finally, I would like to point out that the mechanics of the Virginal Conception of Jesus Christ need not trouble any Christian. If God can create a universe, then generating a Y-chromosome for His Son should be a piece of cake. Deists who are prepared to accept that God created the cosmos but who refuse to countenance miracles are guilty of the intellectual sin of straining at gnats and swallowing camels, to borrow a Biblical metaphor.

  46. vjtorley wrote:

    …I can certainly imagine Pope Benedict publicly announcing that because the Catholic Church does not profess to know the precise manner in which Our Lord, Jesus Christ, obtained his Y-chromosome, Catholic theologians are perfectly free to propose speculative hypotheses regarding this question, provided that they loyally adhere to those truths (including the virginal conception of Jesus) which God has deigned to make known to us.

    Therein lies the problem. Any mistakes the Church makes in deciding what God has and has not “deigned to make known to us” get locked in forever. The Church is thus hopelessly unable to correct itself on matters of dogma.

    Theologians who could not abide by those conditions would of course be free to leave the Catholic fold, and pursue their investigations elsewhere.

    And in earlier times they would be encouraged to pursue their investigations in dungeons, on torture tables, or in the next world after having been burned at the stake — the wood having been generously supplied, free of charge, by the Church.

    When a Church refuses to even consider dissenting opinions on matters of dogma, and discourages dissenters with threats of excommunication, torture or death, we can conclude that it is not truly interested in fostering an environment where self-correction is possible.

  47. Folks:

    Let us first of all remind ourselves of the context of this discussion, e.g. by light of that Lewontinian evolutionary materialism that — thanks to imposition of so-called methodological naturalism — is now being pushed on us by institutional power on science, education, policymakers and the public:

    It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.

    In that context of the distortion of science by worldviews level institutional agendas being imposed and enforced by power politics and propagandistic rhetoric at the level of responsible institutions such as the US NAS — of which Mr Lewontin is a member — (and given that VJT has aptly pointed out that theologians are perfectly free in our time to teach what they want, just that if they go beyond a certain limit, they may not properly do so as REPRESENTATIVES of the historic, C1, creedally summarised Christian faith), I find BZ’s attempted turnaround accusation just above to be not just a mere revealing strawman caricature but outright offensively slanderous demonisation:

    When a Church refuses to even consider dissenting opinions on matters of dogma, and discourages dissenters with threats of excommunication, torture or death, we can conclude that it is not truly interested in fostering an environment where self-correction is possible.

    Now, let us next turn to a few notes on points:

    1 –> Above, at 32, I remarked on the point of self-CORRECTION and progress towards truth (in science and in other domains of knowledge), and on the implications of having arrived at length at the well-warranted truth on a matter:

    . . . empirical sciences (should) seek the truth and hopefully progress thereto.

    But this brings with it the point that the reason why one “progresses” is because there is an end-point: the truth, and we are not there yet, so on discovering how, we may make progress towards the truth.
    Therefore, just because a particular point or claim has not “progressed” in recent years does not entail that it is in error or is a manifestation of closed-mindedness. For, as the example I gave [i.e the "non-progress" on the non commensurateness of the sides and diagonals of a square on the scope of 2,500 years or so . . . ] shows, it just may be well-warranted, credibly believable truth.

    2 –> This of course establishes a basic point by undeniably clear instance: non-progress is not as reliable criterion of the credibility of a field of learning or inquiry. So, the argument by appeal to “progress” (or lack thereof) is a fallacy. For, one may have things that do not progress on certain matters because they have arrived at the object of progress in learning — the credible, well-warranted truth.

    3 –> That much is basic, and sets the context for further serious discussion. (At least, with those sufficiently open to reason to be willing to acknowledge its point and relevance.)

    4 –> In its light as well, the relevant epistemological issue is not (i) whether or not a subject has a body of claims that are stable across time, but instead: (ii) whether the relevant claims are well-warranted. So also, the appeal to the notion of progress in a “prestigious” discipline — in our day, Science — to try to dismiss bodies of well established knowledge in other disciplines because they do not “progress” in the way scientific explanations sometimes do is utterly wrong headed; though it may succeed as rhetoric. (Rhetoric being here seen as that art that seeks to persuade, rather than to warrant; far too often by deceptive manipulation.)

    5 –> Moreover, science itself rests on a cluster of other disciplines that in many key respects do not “progress,” i.e. they have more or less definitive findings: mathematics and logic being two key cases in point.

    6 –> It also rests on many issues in philosophy and associated worldviews options where one may only select one’s position in light of comparative difficulties across alternative major views, and so there are underlying issues of schools of thought that are subject to serious objection and commitment in the face of unresolved difficulties. (Indeed, Mr Lewontin exhibits a — poorly instructed — case in point, in his a priori commitment to materialism.)

    7 –> Thus, once we move from Lakatos’ protective belt of models and findings to the worldviews-tinged core of scientific research programmes and associated paradigms, Science takes on many of the characteristics of worldviews, including theistic ones. (In short, above apples and oranges were being compared.)

    8 –> With these points in hand, let us now examine a cluster of claims by BZ, in 34:

    Mathematics has not merely stumbled upon the correct answer, nor has it been revealed from on high. It has been discovered and justified in a way that convinces people of all nationalities, cultures, and creeds . . . .

    Contrast that with a religious question as basic as this: does the Christian God exist? Christian apologists have attempted to justify their answer to this question, but they haven’t even come close to reaching a consensus among intelligent people across the globe, nor among those who are religiously trained or theologically inclined.

    The Pythagorean insight is not in need of progress, but Christianity surely is, and desperately so . . .

    9 –> Here, we see a comparison of apples and oranges working to try to rhetorically undermine a key, well-warranted point — and notice, this IS a warranted point — that BZ actually has to grudgingly acknowledge even as he resists the force of it. For, warranted correctness of a claim is utterly distinct from the question of agreement or disagreement or consensus about it. That is: (i) consensus may exist on error (or worse on Plato’s Cave style power games that manipulate and frankly deceive a relevant community), and (ii) evident and well-warranted truth may be rejected because one accepts worldview level commitments or opinions that make the actual truth seem absurd.

    10 –> Worse, false beliefs (and associated habits of thought and investigation or argument) may distort one’s ability or willingness to objectively assess evidence and reason. That is why, for instance, we sometimes speak of what we know or SHOULD know. (And also, that is why I strongly recommend that we examine our worldviews based on comparative difficulties based on comparative factual adequacy, coherence and explanatory power. [Cf a "primer" here. Onlookers, please notice the specific context: the linked is part of a course reader for Christians studying at College level, and is part of a compulsory course presented at the invitation of the school's leadership. So much for the blanket stereotype of closed-minded dogmatism. And, may I beg to inform us that serious Christians in our day are far more likely to suffer harassment, persecution or even violence than to be the inflicters thereof? (And, that the underlying attitude is based on the EXPLICIT teaching of the NT . . . ? E.g. the well known: "if slapped, turn the other cheek . . ." Indeed, the real challenge in Christian ethics is to find a way to warrant governmental policing and defensive powers in defence of justice and civil peace, the face of determined evildoers. Which balance of difficulties of course reflects the real underlying issue: to keep our sinful, deceptively self-justifying, vengeful impulses in check.)])
    11 –> That is also why I have often brought our attention to the key point raised by Harvard Law Professor and founding father of the theory of evidence, Simon Greenleaf: The error of the skeptic consists in pretending or supposing that there is a difference in the nature of things to be proved; and in demanding demonstrative evidence concerning things which are not susceptible of any other than moral evidence alone, and of which the utmost that can be said is, that there is no reasonable doubt about their truth (I have generalised a bit and then described this error as “selective hyperskepticism,” to underscore that it is the double standard in demanded degree of warrant that reveals its presence and its self-referentially inconsistent character. We may know, but only in the context that we may be wrong at points and so must be open to correction. But in so seeking warrant that makes us confident that we know, we must not inconsistently demand a degree of evidence for claims we are disinclined to accept that we routinely accept on other similar and important matters that we do not find so threatening.)

    12 –> So, in that context, the issue is not (i) whether Christian apologists may or may not seek to find answers to objections to the (in fact, manifestly obvious! . . . ) existence of God; much less (ii) whether they have done so to the satisfaction of critics indulging in selective hyperskepticism, but (iii) whether there is adequate warrant for the key claims of the faith, say as summed up in the 55 AD 1 Cor 15:1 – 11. (And, as I noted to that, here are millions over 2,000 years who have thereby come to know God personally in life-transforming, miracle-working ways in the face of the risen Christ.)

    GEM of TKI
    PS: BZ, there is an obvious distinction between Mrs O’Leary being weary of anonymous hecklers spouting selectively hyperskeptical party line rhetoric, and my pointing out that Talk Origins is — on significant linked evidence — an unreliable site that is demonstratively prone to strawman misrepresentation tactics. That you seem to want to insist on using such a site in the teeth of such evidence of its unreliability speaks volumes about the want of strength of your case on the merits.

  48. Kairosfocus,

    I just want to say keep up the good work. Your term hyper-skepticism will invariably find its way into the popular lexicon and for good reason.

    We see way to much of it as it is. It’s good we have folks like you here defending against such irrational discourse.

  49. Beelzebub never answered my questions…

    I asked these very kindly. Why did you ignore my questions to you?

    Again…

    Are you saying you have two PhD’s, four Masters and a BA?

    If you are and your point about having a bad idea is correct, then anyone can be wrong, including you.

    Based upon your point, that should lead us to ask questions.

    Is materialist evolution a bad idea? Can scientist in the world forming consensus opinions about materialist origins be wrong?

    Why can they be wrong about origins?

    Why do some atheist believe in Panspmermia?

    Why did Francis Crick; a DNA Double-Helix, Nobel Prize winning discoverer appeal to Seeding on planet earth as a possibility?

    Why is it OK to teach SETI courses on university campuses?

    Ps. Denyse specified “churches” not multiple religions including atheism. You expanded the argument to shoot down your own strawman.

    With exception of #4, all items you listed are eliminated as strawmen.

    I’d appreciate a response.

  50. DATCG,

    As a simple matter of time, I can’t possibly respond to every comment or question that is directed my way, so I choose the ones that seem most relevant to the discussion at hand.

    Your comments contain a scatttershot fusillade of questions (20 questions in your first comment and 8 in the second) issued more for rhetorical effect than as a matter of honest inquiry. You stand a much better chance of getting a response from me if you pick one or two things I’ve said, quote them, and explain clearly why you think they are wrong.

  51. As a service to readers of this thread, KF’s lengthy post boils down to the following points:

    1. Fixed beliefs don’t necessarily indicate error or closed-mindedness. Beliefs may be fixed because they are true and in no further need of modification.

    2. Truth and consensus don’t necessarily coincide.

    3. We shouldn’t apply standards of evidence and reason selectively.

    4. Talk Origins is bad. Bad, bad, bad.

    I agree with all of these except, of course, #4, but they don’t have the implications that KF wants them to have. I’ll explain later when I have time.

  52. Mr DATCG,

    Let me assist with some of your questions to Mr Beelzebub.

    On the list of degrees, he was not referring to himself, but indirectly to another UD/ID personality.

    Is materialist evolution a bad idea? No, just a description of reality. It isn’t dependent on anything special about biology, it is what happens in any situation that meets a few basic criteria. That is why evolutionary algorithms work.

    Can a consensus on materialist OOL be wrong? Sure, but we haven’t reached such a consensus yet!

    Why can they be wrong about origins? Because all knowledge is provisional.

    Why do some atheist believe in Panspermia? The mind control laser was malfunctioning that day. Seriously, why not? Atheism and panspermia are orthogonal concepts.

    Why did Crick appeal to seeding as a possibility? (Not sure “appeal” is the right word here.) Again, why not? If someone is going to ask the narrow question – how did life _on Earth_ begin, then an appeal to seeding by comets, space aliens, etc. is on the table. Generaally, it does create a problem of regression if it is taken to mean space aliens.

    SETI university course? I could only find one, globally, taught by a SETI researcher. It sounds like SETI is being used as a framework for a general course in exobiology. The SETI community is clear that the only signals they will detect are from entities similar to ourselves. ID should be as modest – it will only detect a Designer who thinks like we do.

  53. “Is materialist evolution a bad idea? No, just a description of reality. It isn’t dependent on anything special about biology, it is what happens in any situation that meets a few basic criteria. That is why evolutionary algorithms work.”

    Nakashima must be smoking some powerful stuff today. Maybe the Great Nakashima, the Great Denier, should hold forth on the the description of reality he is privy to. No one has been able to explain this reality to us yet but Nakashima the Great, might deign to lower himself to enlighten the masses both here and elsewhere.

    We impeach that you do not deny us this small favor and tell us which evolutionary algorithms work and why.

  54. Mr Jerry,

    You force me to confirm I am a denier by making me deny I am great! :) PM Erasmus ASAP!!

    But really, it is simple. Any situation where

    A population
    with varying traits
    that are heritable,
    in an environment
    with limited resources,
    with reproductive success
    coupled to the environment
    by some of the traits,
    over time
    the change in traits
    of the population
    is called
    “evolution”.

    Extra! Bonus denial in every post: I deny the universe is deterministic. No amount of information available 1 second after the Big Bang could have predicted Bill Buckner letting Mookie Wilson’s ground ball roll between his legs. And if you can’t predict that, what is left worth predicting?

    Double extra bonus fortune cookie wisdom: You cannot replace a random variable by its expected value.

  55. —-beelzebub: “Therein lies the problem. Any mistakes the Church makes in deciding what God has and has not “deigned to make known to us” get locked in forever. The Church is thus hopelessly unable to correct itself on matters of dogma.”

    Excuse me, but it doesn’t really make much sense to say that the Church “cannot” correct itself on matters of dogma. If it declares something as truth that can be corrected at a later date, then either the early statement is false or the latter statement is false. In either case, there would be no way of knowing which statement was truthful. That is why defined teachings never change. The whole point about defining a dogma is to speak for God—to provide an clear, reliable, and unchanging truth so that God’s creatures need not run around forever reinventing the wheel, either theologically or morally.

    In keeping with that point, it makes little sense to complain about a Pope who would present in dogmatic form, any such thing as an unchanging truth about man’s purpose or role in the cosmic plan. A changing truth, even if it was not a contradiction in terms, would be of no value to anyone. What good is a “changing truth” concerning mankind’s purpose and destiny?

    How is this for a scenario:

    ["Go ahead and allow the Romans to feed you to the lions if it means denouncing the Trinitarian God."]

    [Oops, sorry I changed my mind about God's nature. For all those who have yet to become martryed, please tell your persecutors that headquarters has finally decided on a more generic definition for God. Meanwhile, we sincerely apologize to the families of those who gave their lives for our prematurely announced doctrine.]

    A man either shapes his behavior according to a philosophy of life, or else he will find a philosophy of life to rationalize his behavior. Life’s big question is, “how should we live?” If, as it turns out, there are no dependable, unchanging truths on which one can rely, or in which we can become “locked in,” then all inquiries, scientific, philosophical, and theological are a total waste of time. Why search for something that isn’t there? The purpose of the mind is to pursue truth, which can consist of reasoning toward natural truths or assenting to supernatural truths. Therefore, any declaration by anyone that there is no such thing as truth is, by definition, an act of war against human intelligence.

    On the other hand, a mind that is perpetually open on all matters is like a manhole or a toxic waste dump. It isn’t easy to sift through all the worlds truth claims without becoming cynical, but that is precisely the kind of burden that each of us has been entrusted with. Indeed, it is the mind that is responsible for choosing from among all the world’s belief systems which one, if any, is true.

    As Chesterton once remarked, the purpose of opening the mind is the same as the purpose for opening the mouth, namely to close it on something solid—truth! The task of wisdom, an attribute more important than knowledge, is to know when to keep the mind open and when to close it. For most things, our mind should remain open indefinitely, but there are a few principles of right reason around which we should close our minds once and for all. We should, among other things, agree that we have rational minds, that we lived in a rational universe, and that there is a correspondence between the two. We should, by extension, close our minds to the proposition that effects can occur without causes, or that a thing can be both truth and false. Even if such things were possible, which they obviously aren’t, then all our searches for truth would be futile and time wasting.

    Indeed, many on this blog open their minds when they should be closed, and close their minds when they should be open. On the one hand, for example, several bloggers have closed their minds to the self-evident truths that define rational discourse, attempting to use quantum physics as a means of escaping the law of non-contradiction and advancing the proposition that “effects” can occur without causes. They are completely closed to the idea that the Creator’s handiwork could be manifest in nature’s patterns. So closed are their minds on this matter that they come here trying to contest the principles of intelligent design without even bothering to learn the relevant terms and definitions. They dismiss it rhetorically without confronting it scientifically, as is clear from the fact that they cannot, even after being challenged, provide a formal definition of a design inference. Only a closed mind rejects as implausible that which has not yet been understood even in the most basic sense.

    On the other hand, their minds are “open” to some of the most irrational propositions ever conceived by the mind of man. Many, for example, accept of the ridiculous proposition that art, music, poetry, and love are products of random variation and natural selection. Make no mistake about it, that proposition is, indeed, ridiculous. Others have “opened” up their minds to the idea that an unfathomable universe, measured at thirteen-13.7 billion-light years, needed no cause. Still others posit infinite multiple universes as a means of avoiding the evidence for a fine-tuned universe. Still others come here denouncing free will, even as they attempt to turn adversaries and onlookers away from positions “willfully” held. Because they refuse to close their minds on something solid, they cannot even detect their own contradictions.

    In a broader sense, reason cannot logically claim there is no such thing as truth. No only does is it a cheap way of debating, it is a self contradictory proposition, since it is also a claim about truth. Such a formulations is always the fruit of a mind that doesn’t know when to open and when to close.

  56. Correction: Such a [formulation] is always the fruit of a mind that doesn’t know when to open and when to close.

  57. The Great Nakashima has become a pro ID advocate. By agreeing to micro evolution the Great Nakashima has taken the ID position that the only evolution that is explainable is micro evolution. When given the chance to proceed further he didn’t and effectively denied anything else existed and in essence denied macro evolution.

    And it also seems that Nakashima the Great is a Red Sox fan and a true believer in the supernatural. How else could that ground ball have ever evaded Buckner. And how else could the Red Sox be down three games to none and behind in the 9th inning in the 2004 AL Championship series and facing the best closer in baseball and expect to win except with the interference of the supernatural. The odds were vanishingly small but prayers to the Great Designer in the beyond changed a quantum event in our universe and the curse was gone.

    Welcome oh Great Nakashima to the ID fold.

  58. jerry,
    nice attempt at a gotcha on Nakashima. too bad his definition includes both micro- and macro-evolution. for example, think of the evolution of a novel, complex trait: feathers. the first feathers were simple hollow tubes of keratin. These tubes then branched off once to resemble modern down feathers. the tips of these down feathers then branched off again to allow the previous branches to connect, allowing them to function as simple airfoils. all of the stages of the evolution of feathers occurred through the process described by Nakashima: variation, heritability and selection. microevolution adds up to macroevolution.

  59. —-beelzebub:

    “Contrast that with a religious question as basic as this: does the Christian God exist? Christian apologists have attempted to justify their answer to this question, but they haven’t even come close to reaching a consensus among intelligent people across the globe, nor among those who are religiously trained or theologically inclined.”

    Where did you ever get an idea like that? Do you understand the argument in favor or Christianity? If so, state it briefly. I will not penalize you for brevity. Let’s see if you do, indeed, understand that which you are criticizing. I can do it in about five paragraphs, and my version will be consistent with what all knowledgeable Christian apologists argue, regardless of sectarian affilition.

  60. khan,

    Couple things:

    The process you explain is only speculation but may be how it happened. In the end it will have to be explained by changes in the genome which by way ID would not dispute if it happened. But until then it makes a nice story.

    And it may be still micro evolution under our understanding. Again all the necessary systems would have to be identified at the genome level and the information changes evaluated.

    Glad to see you still lurking and ready to pounce even if it is premature.

  61. 61

    DATCG,

    —–”Beelzebub never answered my questions… ”

    Nor mine…

  62. It a fact, as bz says, that “they [Christian apologists] haven’t even come close to reaching a consensus among intelligent people across the globe, nor among those who are religiously trained or theologically inclined” about the existence of the Christian God.

    It is also true that “Christian apologists have attempted to justify their answer to this question,” as Stephen has done, and is willing to do again, but his sense of the certainty of the arguments is a different matter than whether those answers are in fact compelling.

    The fact that there is not a consensus, and no agreed upon method among mankind for working towards a consensus, is evidence that Stephen’s sense of certainty, while interesting as a psychological phenomena, does not translate to truly having convincing arguments. If they were convincing, more people would be convinced.

  63. 63

    —-beelzebub:

    “Contrast that with a religious question as basic as this: does the Christian God exist? Christian apologists have attempted to justify their answer to this question, but they haven’t even come close to reaching a consensus among intelligent people across the globe, nor among those who are religiously trained or theologically inclined.”

    Yes, they have, because all of the intelligent people across the globe are the ones doing Christian apologetics :)

  64. Mr Jerry,

    I’ve already discussed with you my position on macro-evolution, but if you’d like to go into it again, we can! However, it isn’t necessary to answer Mr DATCG’s question about whether “materialistic evolution” is a bad idea.

    But if you will allow me a question, I did not know you were deeply learned about ancient Greece. Why did the Pythagoreans throw Hippasus overboard when he revealed his discovery of irrational numbers?

  65. Clive,

    My invitation remains open. If you have an actual argument regarding memes, then present it. I will respond, just as I responded to (and refuted) your arguments regarding the supposed consciousness (!) and self-referential incoherence of memes.

    What I won’t do is to teach you, step by painful step, what memes actually are. That is your responsibility, and one that you would have been wise to undertake before you started the Tragic Tale of Memes thread. Had you done so, the thread might not have played out so embarrassingly for you.

  66. Religion should be dogmatic. Science should not.

    If an institution should adopt a dogma it would become an institution of religion, not science :-)

  67. If you have an actual argument regarding memes, then present it.. .

    Beelzebub, the point you are missing is that you haven’t established that you know what memes are.

  68. StephenB writes:

    Excuse me, but it doesn’t really make much sense to say that the Church “cannot” correct itself on matters of dogma. If it declares something as truth that can be corrected at a later date, then either the early statement is false or the latter statement is false.

    Exactly! That’s why the Church would be wise to follow science’s lead and regard all of its “truths” as provisional.

    In either case, there would be no way of knowing which statement was truthful.

    If the Church can’t decide what is true and what isn’t, then what business does it have declaring any dogma whatsoever? You’ve just admitted that the Church has no basis for its claims.

    The whole point about defining a dogma is to speak for God—to provide an clear, reliable, and unchanging truth…

    How can you “speak for God” if, as you’ve admitted, you have no way of knowing which statements are truthful?

    The problem with dogma is that if you get it wrong, it’s wrong forever. Lots of religions and churches presume to speak for God. In doing so, they contradict each other. Therefore, at least some of them are mistaken. If they foolishly enshrine their mistakes as dogma, then they are locked into error. And according to you, we have no way of knowing which (if any) are right.

    Dogma would make sense only if we could be absolutely, 100.0% certain of our tenets. That kind of certainty is not possible for humans. Science recognizes this and leaves the door open for future corrections. Dogmatic religions slam the door shut, lock it, and throw away the key. They are stuck forever with their beliefs, even if they turn out to be false.

    A changing truth, even if it was not a contradiction in terms, would be of no value to anyone.

    Who said anything about “changing truth”? It’s our conception of the truth that changes, not the truth itself.

    Oops, sorry I changed my mind about God’s nature. For all those who have yet to become martryed, please tell your persecutors that headquarters has finally decided on a more generic definition for God. Meanwhile, we sincerely apologize to the families of those who gave their lives for our prematurely announced doctrine.

    In other words, we owe it to past martyrs to stick to our beliefs even if they are wrong. That way future martyrs can die for the same mistaken beliefs. Makes sense to me.

    A man either shapes his behavior according to a philosophy of life, or else he will find a philosophy of life to rationalize his behavior.

    The smart ones shape their behavior according to a philosophy of life, but they revise their philosophy as they become older and wiser. Why perpetuate the mistakes of youth?

    If, as it turns out, there are no dependable, unchanging truths…then all inquiries, scientific, philosophical, and theological are a total waste of time. Why search for something that isn’t there?

    Again, who claimed that there are no unchanging truths? Our conceptions of the truth may change, but that doesn’t mean that the truth itself is changing beneath our feet.

    On the other hand, a mind that is perpetually open on all matters is like a manhole or a toxic waste dump.

    That’s why it is so important to question everything, including our religious beliefs.

    Indeed, it is the mind that is responsible for choosing from among all the world’s belief systems which one, if any, is true.

    I agree wholeheartedly. And since the mind is imperfect, it is crucial that we recognize this and provide ourselves a way of detecting and reversing our mistakes. Dogma closes off this possibility.

    Only a closed mind rejects as implausible that which has not yet been understood even in the most basic sense.

    That’s an apt description of Clive’s performance on the Tragic Tale of Memes thread.

    Still others come here denouncing free will, even as they attempt to turn adversaries and onlookers away from positions “willfully” held.

    I see you’re still laboring under the misconception that determinism precludes the possibility of persuasion.

    In a broader sense, reason cannot logically claim there is no such thing as truth.

    Nor do I. My claim is that it is foolish for an imperfect human mind or an imperfect human institution to think that it has arrived, without any possibility of error, at the final, absolute truth.

    Look at some of the claims the Church makes, apparently with a straight (institutional) face:

    Mary was a virgin who gave birth to the literal Son of God, and we cannot possibly be wrong about that. We are 100 percent sure of it, and if you disagree, then be gone. You are not one of us.

    The bread and the wine of the Eucharist are transformed into the actual body and blood of Christ. They are truly transformed, even though they continue to appear, in every respect, as if they were ordinary bread and wine. We are absolutely sure that they are transformed, despite the fact that there is no way, even in principle, of demonstrating this. There can be no doubt on this issue. If you disagree, then there’s the door (or the stake), heretic.

    Why would the Church even suspect that these beliefs were true, much less declare them to be absolute certainties? It’s ludicrous and embarrassing.

  69. —Hazel: “It a fact, as bz says, that “they [Christian apologists] haven’t even come close to reaching a consensus among intelligent people across the globe, nor among those who are religiously trained or theologically inclined” about the existence of the Christian God.”

    But beelzebub is wrong as you are wrong. That neither of you understand or can replicate the argument for Christianity is evidence of that fact. My quess is that neither of you are even remotely familiar with it.

    —”It is also true that “Christian apologists have attempted to justify their answer to this question,” as Stephen has done, and is willing to do again, but his sense of the certainty of the arguments is a different matter than whether those answers are in fact compelling.

    What sense of certainly are you talking about. Have I presented the arguments for Christianity in your presence. I think you are confusing the arguments for the existence of God in general with the arguments for Christianity in particular.

    —-”The fact that there is not a consensus, and no agreed upon method among mankind for working towards a consensus, is evidence that Stephen’s sense of certainty, while interesting as a psychological phenomena, does not translate to truly having convincing arguments. If they were convincing, more people would be convinced.”

    The fact that you are simply repeating beelzebub’s comments [and your earlier paragraph] without adding any thoughts of your own, suggests that you have nothing to say on the matter. Why, then, are you trying to say it.

    Attacking someone’s psychological orientation, as you are trying to attack mine, is not a counter argument. That is doubly true when an argument has not yet even been presented. The question persists: Do you know the rational argument for Christianity, or do you, like beelzebub, argue against that which you know nothing about?

    Your proclivity, indeed your obssession, over others’ “psychological certainly” is based either on an attempt to argue on the basis of an ad-hominem attacks or on a prior committment to relativism which rules out absolute truth in principle, or both. On the one hand, you regard my conviction that truth exists as a kind of pathology, even though that view harmonizes with what almost all people at all times have believed. On the other hand, you interpret your equally firm conviction that truth doesn’t exist, a minority position, as a normal human reaction. That should tell you something about your own capacity to be fair and weight the relative merits of competing world view.

  70. 70

    beelzebub,

    My questions still stand.

    —–”My invitation remains open. If you have an actual argument regarding memes, then present it.”

    I cannot argue against phantoms. Once you answer my questions, we can begin to discuss, for we will have something to discuss. If you won’t answer my questions, there is nothing to be discussed. I can only argue against something once it is a “thing.”

  71. nor among those who are religiously trained or theologically inclined” about the existence of the Christian God.”

    And what does Scripture predict with regard to the consensus as to the acceptance of Christ?

    It’s becoming more and more clear that the rejection of God is going be based on will guided by emotion rather than reason.

  72. bz writes, “The problem with dogma is that if you get it wrong, it’s wrong forever.”

    Good line, and true.

  73. Clive,

    The problem is not that I won’t answer your questions, it’s that you refuse to educate yourself on the subject of memes. That is the reason we have nothing to discuss.

    I can point you to the source material, but I’m not going to spoon-feed it to you.

    Try these:

    1. Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene
    2. Daniel Dennett, Darwin’s Dangerous Idea
    3. Susan Blackmore, The Meme Machine

    The following books are also about memes, though I haven’t read them and can’t vouch for their clarity or accuracy:

    4. Richard Brodie, Virus of the Mind
    5. Aaron Lynch, Thought Contagion
    6. Robert Aunger, The Electric Meme
    7. Robert Aunger, Darwinizing Culture

    When you’ve read enough to understand the concept, come back and present an argument. Then we can have an actual discussion rather than a one-sided tutorial.

  74. I wrote:

    Contrast that with a religious question as basic as this: does the Christian God exist? Christian apologists have attempted to justify their answer to this question, but they haven’t even come close to reaching a consensus among intelligent people across the globe, nor among those who are religiously trained or theologically inclined.

    StephenB asks:

    Where did you ever get an idea like that?

    Um, by looking around. Do you doubt that there are huge numbers of intelligent, educated people in the world who aren’t persuaded by the arguments for the Christian God? If so, you need to get out of your cloister more often.

    Do you understand the argument in favor or Christianity? If so, state it briefly… I can do it in about five paragraphs, and my version will be consistent with what all knowledgeable Christian apologists argue, regardless of sectarian affilition.

    Yes, I do, but stating it would be utterly beside the point, because the bottom line is this: Millions of intelligent, educated, religiously sophisticated people reject the arguments for the Christian God. You won’t find millions of intelligent, educated, mathematically sophisticated people rejecting the Pythagorean theorem. Geometry is justified in a way that Christianity can only envy.

    Speaking of sectarian affiliation, how many sects of Euclidean geometry are there? Which has progressed more over the last few millennia, religion or geometry?

  75. —-beelzebub: “Exactly! That’s why the Church would be wise to follow science’s lead and regard all of its “truths” as provisional.”

    I am afraid you are missing my point. Truth can never be “provisional.” If it is provisional, it isn’t truth; if it is truth, it isn’t provisional. One can lead only if one has the truth. Science, which deals only with observation and measurement, cannot speak on matters of ultimate truth, and therefore, cannot lead. If must follow truth. If, on the other hand, it arrogates to itself its own moral principles, it has become corrupt.

    —-“You’ve just admitted that the Church has no basis for its claims.”

    I have just said that IF the Church changed a teaching, there would be no way of knowing which teaching was true. That is why the Church doesn’t change teachings. If truth can change, it isn’t truth.

    —-How can you “speak for God” if, as you’ve admitted, you have no way of knowing which statements are truthful?

    Please, don’t take up extra space to emphasize the same error. I did not just admit that we cannot know truth. The point is we would not be able to know a “revealed” truth, if the revealer, or whoevere was speaking for the revealer, kept changing his mind on the matter.

    —-“The problem with dogma is that if you get it wrong, it’s wrong forever.”

    That’s right. That is why we want our dogmas coming from God and not from men. Get the dogma wrong, and you have everything wrong. The dogmas of materialism and “Sharia Law,” for example, have caused untold harm. Both violate the inherent dignity of the human person. That, by the way, is one of those “unchanging truths.”

    —-Lots of religions and churches presume to speak for God. In doing so, they contradict each other. Therefore, at least some of them are mistaken. If they foolishly enshrine their mistakes as dogma, then they are locked into error. And according to you, we have no way of knowing which (if any) are right.

    Again, I said that we would not know which one was right if the teaching was changed. If a presumed dogma is changed, then one can say that its earlier version was wrong or else the current version is wrong. In either case, we wouldn’t know which one was true. You were referring to the Catholic Church, which has never changed a dogma. So, that problem does not exist for Catholics, at least for those who have a clue about what they are doing. It was you who introduced the Pope, so I was responding to that context.

    —-Dogma would make sense only if we could be absolutely, 100.0% certain of our tenets. That kind of certainty is not possible for humans. Science recognizes this and leaves the door open for future corrections. Dogmatic religions slam the door shut, lock it, and throw away the key. They are stuck forever with their beliefs, even if they turn out to be false.

    That you think that religious dogma and science have anything at all to do with each other demonstrates the fact that you have yet to probe this matter in any depth at all. Science is ALWAYS provisional; truth is NEVER provisional. Indeed, Darwinists actually try to make naturalistic evolution a dogma, violating the very principle that we both agree on, namely that science is provisional. They should not be doing that, which is why this blog exists. Are we in agreement that Darwinism is provisional and that ID ought to be given a fair hearing?
    .

    —–“The smart ones shape their behavior according to a philosophy of life, but they revise their philosophy as they become older and wiser.

    They apply their unchanging principles to changing circumstances, adapting them to the current situation without changing the core truth. If the principle is changeable, it is worthless.” Consider once again the “inherent dignity of the human person.” Do you believe in that principle?

    —-“That’s why it is so important to question everything, including our religious beliefs.”

    Do you question your current the anti-religious beliefs?

    —-“And since the mind is imperfect, it is crucial that we recognize this and provide ourselves a way of detecting and reversing our mistakes. Dogma closes off this possibility.”

    It is only the dogma that tells you which actions are mistakes. The trick is to choose the right dogma. How, for example, do you know that your anti-religious posture is not a mistake? You base that conviction on another dogma, namely, that no one should ever accept a dogma. Think about it. You cling to the dogma that no one should hold a dogma.

    —-I see you’re still laboring under the misconception that determinism precludes the possibility of persuasion.

    I am eminently familiar with determinism and all of its offshoots, combinations, permutations, rationalizations, and trendy reformulations. To persuade in an environment in which persuasion has no practical effect is not to persuade. True persuasion implies the possibility of a changed life, that is, a change from that which determinism had in store for it.

    Rather than defend Catholicism, which I am prepared to do any time and any place (except as an exercise in self-indulgence on a non-denominational UD blog), I would rather return to your claim that Christian apologetics is not unified. You have not yet persuaded me that you are familiar with the arguments and you are getting a bit far afield. Your original claim was that Christians cannot get together on a reasoned defense of their faith and I was hoping to disabuse you of that notion. Catholics and non-Catholics pretty much agree on the basics of reasoned Christianity. They are not, as you suggest, all over the map. That you think otherwise confirms my suspicion that you are not acquainted with Christian apologetics at all.

  76. —beelzebub: “Yes, I do, [understand Christian apologeticss] but stating it would be utterly beside the point, because the bottom line is this: Millions of intelligent, educated, religiously sophisticated people reject the arguments for the Christian God.”

    Not one “sophisticated person” in ten has heard anything resembling those arguments, maybe not even one in a hundred. So, they are hardly in a position to reject that to which they have never been exposed. In any case, you have moved the goalposts. Your original argument was that Christians are unduly varied in their rational defense of Christianity. Now you are arguing that sophisticated people reject those arguments.

    My point was that you seem to think that the arguments are unduly varied from rational Christian to rational Christian. They aren’t. That error leads me to believe that you don’t know the arguments. Also, you informed me on another thread that you have spent a good portion of your life examining this proposition. I would think that you could do it in your sleep. I’m sorry, but I am persuaded that, in spite of your earlier affiliation, you were never given the rational explanation.

  77. —-tribune 7: “It’s becoming more and more clear that the rejection of God is going be based on will guided by emotion rather than reason.”

    Very clear.

  78. Earlier I distilled KF’s long post down to four points that I will now address.

    1. Fixed beliefs don’t necessarily indicate error or closed-mindedness. Beliefs may be fixed because they are true and in no further need of modification.

    True, but how do we know when we have reached the truth and that no further modification is necessary? We’re never absolutely sure, which is why we should always continue to question our beliefs, even the most fundamental ones.

    We can convince almost any intelligent, educated person of the truth of the Pythagorean theorem. Not so of the existence of the Christian God. The Pythagorean theorem is unlikely to require further modification. The concept of the Christian God does (or, at the very least, the arguments in its favor do).

    Some beliefs are fixed because they are universally recognized as true. Others are fixed because they have been fossilized as dogma.

    2. Truth and consensus don’t necessarily coincide.

    Correct. That means that mere consensus is not a foolproof indicator of truth. However, we ultimately depend on our own imperfect minds to decide what is true and what is false. Because our minds are imperfect, we can be convinced of things that are false.
    Suppose that you believe something, you find that it matches your observations, you can find nothing wrong with arguments in its favor, and you notice that intelligent, educated people from every demographic (including experts in the field) agree on its truth. Wouldn’t you agree that it’s more likely to be true in that case than if every intelligent, educated person you’re aware of disagrees with you?

    In the latter case, the odds are that you are mistaken, and you had better figure out why nobody agrees with you. Even if you remain convinced that you are correct, there is certainly progress left to be made in coming up with arguments that are capable of persuading intelligent people of the truth of your position.

    As I wrote earlier regarding Mapou and Gil Dodgen:

    Reading through his website, you get a feel for why he sees IDers as kindred spirits. Mapou thinks that every physicist who accepts the reality of time is a “crackpot”, hopelessly and stupidly deluded, failing to see something that is right in front of him and obvious. Gil Dodgen has pretty much the same opinion regarding evolutionary biologists. It apparently never occurs to either of them that the problem might be with them and not with the 99.9 percent of scientists who disagree with them.

    Perhaps they’re right and everyone else is wrong. It’s at least possible. But don’t you think it would be wise for them to take a long, hard look at why others (including experts in the relevant fields) see things differently?

    3. We shouldn’t apply standards of evidence and reason selectively.

    True, which means that we should examine religious questions with the same critical scrutiny that we would apply to scientific questions or questions in any other area of life. Religion doesn’t get a pass.

    4. Talk Origins is bad. Bad, bad, bad.

    KF is notorious for his bias on this subject. Interested readers can visit the site and judge for themselves.

  79. tribune7 writes:

    It’s becoming more and more clear that the rejection of God is going be based on will guided by emotion rather than reason.

    In which case it should be possible for you to point out the many logical errors in my emotion-riddled arguments. Why isn’t that happening?

  80. StephenB, to hazel:

    On the one hand, you regard my conviction that truth exists as a kind of pathology, even though that view harmonizes with what almost all people at all times have believed. On the other hand, you interpret your equally firm conviction that truth doesn’t exist, a minority position, as a normal human reaction.

    Stephen,

    I wasn’t aware that hazel held this opinion. She certainly hasn’t expressed it in this thread. Please link to the comment or comments that have led you to that conclusion.

  81. Beelzebub

    It’s becoming more and more clear that the rejection of God is going be based on will guided by emotion rather than reason.

    In which case it should be possible for you to point out the many logical errors in my emotion-riddled arguments. Why isn’t that happening?

    Others have been but you seem rather impervious to assault by reason.

    But consider this from post 3:

    So in 300 years, science has gone from complete disagreement to a consensus.

    There is no bais for that. It is pure wishful (i.e. emotion-based) thinking. You imagine a time when there wasn’t a “scientific consensus”. There is always a scientific consensus. It just is inevitably shown to be wrong and those who show why become the heroes in the history books.

  82. Re 69:

    When I wrote, “It a fact, as bz says, that “they [Christian apologists] haven’t even come close to reaching a consensus among intelligent people across the globe, nor among those who are religiously trained or theologically inclined” about the existence of the Christian God,”

    Stephen replied,

    But beelzebub is wrong as you are wrong. That neither of you understand or can replicate the argument for Christianity is evidence of that fact. My quess is that neither of you are even remotely familiar with it. …

    What sense of certainly are you talking about. Have I presented the arguments for Christianity in your presence. I think you are confusing the arguments for the existence of God in general with the arguments for Christianity in particular.

    Given what I know about Stephen’s sense of certainty about other issues we have discussed, I am certain :) that he would offer the arguments for Christianity in the same vein.

    Also, I have read some remarks in other threads on which I lurked without participating. I think I remember Stephen offering arguments based on over 400 fulfilled prophecies from the Bible, and those are arguments that I know are not convincing to me as well as many others, including many Christians. That’s like seeing camels in the clouds, or astrology: people are demonstrably prone to seeing meaning after the fact and/or in ambiguous situations.

    I also know there are arguments concerning witnesses to Jesus’s resurrection. There was a thread on this recently and someone (someone taylor, perhaps) did a good job, in my opinion, in discussing why that argument is not compelling.

    But the bigger issue is the one that beezlebub and I have both mentioned: there is no method for people reaching consensus on religious beliefs. People from every religion are convinced that their religion is right, and there is no methodology by which to test the correctness of anyone’s belief.

    I had written, “The fact that there is not a consensus, and no agreed upon method among mankind for working towards a consensus, is evidence that Stephen’s sense of certainty, while interesting as a psychological phenomena, does not translate to truly having convincing arguments. If they were convincing, more people would be convinced.”

    Stephen responded,

    Attacking someone’s psychological orientation, as you are trying to attack mine, is not a counter argument…. Your proclivity, indeed your obssession, over others’ “psychological certainly” is based either on an attempt to argue on the basis of an ad-hominem attacks or on a prior committment to relativism which rules out absolute truth in principle, or both.

    I look at religious belief, and belief in general, from an anthropological perspective. The need to build, and the mechanisms for building, belief systems are part of our nature. However, we are extremely pliable in this regard, so people’s belief systems, and indeed major fundamental parts of our cognitive functioning, are learned in the context of the culture we grow up and live in. Of course through education and personal experience we grow to be more aware of that context, embracing much of it more consciously but also altering or even rejecting some of what we originally took for granted.

    So I am interested in what kinds of beliefs people have, how they interact with people with differing beliefs, and how, if at all, they change from such interactions. I mention my psychological interest in Stephen’s sense of certainty, which I don’t see as an attack or an obsession, as coming from two places. The first is that, indeed, I don’t believe in the kind of truth he thinks exists and I am interested in defending my own view. Secondly, I am interested in how his view utterly precludes constructive discussion with someone of differing views – discussion that might lead to even a small meeting of the minds.

    So here we have a little microcosm of exactly the problem that bz and I are highlighting: there is no method for people to test their religious beliefs that is analogous to the way that science has led to so much consensus about the nature of the material world. When it comes to religious belief all we can do is offer our ideas for others to consider, and perhaps both by what we have to say and the way we approach the discussion broaden each other’s perspective and open the door to growth.

    But if one is certain that one is right, and thus others are wrong, then that type of discussion can’t happen, and so people are just stuck – divided and at odds. Under the circumstances, then, there is no wonder that we have radically different religious beliefs in the world.

  83. —-beelzebub to tribune 7: “In which case it should be possible for you to point out the many logical errors in my emotion-riddled arguments. Why isn’t that happening?”

    Are you asking for a list? Here are a few that you can chew on.

    1. Arguing that the Church should follow the example of science. In fact, theology and philosophy illuminate science, not the other way around. Science, which is a lower science, gets its ethics and its first principles from a higher science.

    2. Embracing the dogma that we should not embrace dogmas.

    3. Believing that church Dogma, which cannot change, is comparable to science’s findings, which are always changing.

    6. Holding that truth can or should be “provisional.”

    5. Arguing that a man can logically base his behavior on an ever-changing philosophy of life.

    7. Arguing that we should question everything, but then refusing to apply that same standard to your own beliefs.

  84. StephenB writes:

    Truth can never be “provisional.” If it is provisional, it isn’t truth; if it is truth, it isn’t provisional.

    Stephen,

    That’s why I put scarequotes around “truths” in my statement:

    That’s why the Church would be wise to follow science’s lead and regard all of its “truths” as provisional.

    Truth is not provisional, but beliefs are. Beliefs (including statements of dogma) are never guaranteed to be true, so a wise person will hold her beliefs provisionally.

    One can lead only if one has the truth.

    That makes no sense.

    Science, which deals only with observation and measurement, cannot speak on matters of ultimate truth…

    Nor can religion. Science at least approximates the truth. Religion is all over the map.

    I have just said that IF the Church changed a teaching, there would be no way of knowing which teaching was true.

    If so, then you have no way of knowing that the Church’s current teachings are true.

    That is why the Church doesn’t change teachings. If truth can change, it isn’t truth.

    Yes, but it doesn’t follow that a belief is true simply because it doesn’t change.

    The point is we would not be able to know a “revealed” truth, if the revealer, or whoevere was speaking for the revealer, kept changing his mind on the matter.

    Nor can we know for sure that a revealed “truth” is true even if the revealer or his mouthpiece doesn’t change his mind. The problem here has nothing to do with the fact that someone’s mind is changing.

    I wrote:

    The problem with dogma is that if you get it wrong, it’s wrong forever.

    You replied:

    That’s right. That is why we want our dogmas coming from God and not from men. Get the dogma wrong, and you have everything wrong.

    Okay. Then please explain to us how you know, with 100.0% certainty, that the dogmas of the Catholic Church come from God and not from men, with no possibility of error.

    I wrote:

    Lots of religions and churches presume to speak for God. In doing so, they contradict each other. Therefore, at least some of them are mistaken. If they foolishly enshrine their mistakes as dogma, then they are locked into error. And according to you, we have no way of knowing which (if any) are right.

    You responded:

    You were referring to the Catholic Church, which has never changed a dogma. So, that problem does not exist for Catholics, at least for those who have a clue about what they are doing.

    As I explained already, the truth may be unchanging, but that does not mean that every unchanging belief is true. How do you know, with absolute certainty, that Catholic dogma is true?

    I wrote:

    That’s why it is so important to question everything, including our religious beliefs.

    You asked:

    Do you question your current the anti-religious beliefs?

    Yes. And not only that, I put them to the test by posting them in this den of theists, where they are examined by a group of, shall we say, highly motivated critics.

    It is only the dogma that tells you which actions are mistakes. The trick is to choose the right dogma.

    How do you, using your imperfect mind, choose a dogma that is guaranteed to be completely true, with no possibility of error — especially when there are so many false dogmas out there?

    How, for example, do you know that your anti-religious posture is not a mistake?

    I don’t know that with absolute certainty. Like I said, that’s why I question my beliefs and test them by presenting them to hostile audiences such as this one.

    You base that conviction on another dogma, namely, that no one should ever accept a dogma. Think about it. You cling to the dogma that no one should hold a dogma.

    No, I’m not dogmatic about not accepting dogmatic statements. If the neutrino flux of the universe should ever shift so that all dogmatic statements become perfectly true and reliable from that point forward, then I will amend my stance.

    I am eminently familiar with determinism and all of its offshoots, combinations, permutations, rationalizations, and trendy reformulations.

    If so, then you’re missing something very fundamental about it.

    To persuade in an environment in which persuasion has no practical effect is not to persuade.

    Persuasion does have a practical effect. When successful, it changes minds. It makes no difference whether this occurs in a deterministic or nondeterministic environment.

    True persuasion implies the possibility of a changed life, that is, a change from that which determinism had in store for it.

    No, true persuasion just means that a mind is changed because of the persuasion. If the persuasion hadn’t happened, the mind would not have changed in that way.

    Your original claim was that Christians cannot get together on a reasoned defense of their faith…

    No, my original claim was that science is self-correcting in a way that dogmatic religion is not. My subsidiary claim was that Christians have not succeeded in convincing the world of the existence of their God in the way that mathematicians have persuaded the world that the Pythagorean theorem is true.

    Not one “sophisticated person” in ten has heard anything resembling those [Christian apologetic] arguments, maybe not even one in a hundred. So, they are hardly in a position to reject that to which they have never been exposed.

    Have you heard all of the best arguments for Zeus, Ahura Mazda and Atutahi? No? Then by your own logic you are hardly in a position to reject them. To the stake, infidel!

  85. tribune7 writes:

    But consider this from post 3:

    So in 300 years, science has gone from complete disagreement to a consensus.

    There is no bais for that. It is pure wishful (i.e. emotion-based) thinking. You imagine a time when there wasn’t a “scientific consensus”. There is always a scientific consensus.

    Fascinating. You’ve quote-mined me in exactly the way that Clive did, and on the same thread!

    See my response to him here.

  86. StephenB [with the numbering corrected]:

    Are you asking for a list? Here are a few that you can chew on.

    1. Arguing that the Church should follow the example of science. In fact, theology and philosophy illuminate science, not the other way around. Science, which is a lower science, gets its ethics and its first principles from a higher science.

    The question isn’t whether theology “illuminates” science (though I think you’re wrong about that). The question is whether the Church should follow science’s lead in treating its beliefs provisionally. I have explained why it should.

    2. Embracing the dogma that we should not embrace dogmas.

    I don’t. See my previous comment.

    3. Believing that church Dogma, which cannot change, is comparable to science’s findings, which are always changing.

    No. They’re not comparable. That’s the whole point. Science is self-correcting. Dogmatic religions are not.

    4. Holding that truth can or should be “provisional.”

    No. Beliefs should be provisional. See my previous comment.

    5. Arguing that a man can logically base his behavior on an ever-changing philosophy of life.

    Sure, if the changes themselves are logical. What would be illogical would be to commit oneself prematurely to a philosophy that might turn out to need modification or replacement.

    6. Arguing that we should question everything, but then refusing to apply that same standard to your own beliefs.

    Nope. See my previous comment.

    You’re 0 for 6. Want to try again?

  87. beelzebub, there was a consensus 300 years ago as to the age of the earth and why the sun shined. It changed.

    And the consensus accepted the existence of atoms 300 years ago (and long before) albeit the consensus also was that they couldn’t be split.

    With regard to today’s scientific consensus you will find scientifically accomplished and credentialed people who believe in a young Earth.

    And if you believe in a multi-verse, you believe in a perpetual motion machine.

  88. Beelzebub–

    2. Embracing the dogma that we should not embrace dogmas. I don’t. See my previous comment.

    Are you saying we must never embrace dogma or do you accept that it is appropriate to do so at times?

    4. Holding that truth can or should be “provisional.” No. Beliefs should be provisional.

    What if your belief is true? Should it continue to be provisional?

  89. —Hazel: “I think I remember Stephen offering arguments based on over 400 fulfilled prophecies from the Bible, and those are arguments that I know are not convincing to me as well as many others, including many Christians. That’s like seeing camels in the clouds, or astrology: people are demonstrably prone to seeing meaning after the fact and/or in ambiguous situations.”

    Right you are, Hazel. What does seeing camels in the clouds after the fact have to do with predicting 400 events before the fact? Shall I tell you? Nothing.

    —–“I also know there are arguments concerning witnesses to Jesus’s resurrection. There was a thread on this recently and someone (someone taylor, perhaps) did a good job, in my opinion, in discussing why that argument is not compelling.”

    All Taylor did was question the Christian, Jewish, and Roman historians and their account of what went on. He simply dismissed their report. That doesn’t take too much intellectual exertion. In any case, I don’t think that you would find any argument “compelling.” You have made up your mind firmly against all evidence and all arguments supporting ID, morality, or God. You have never once hesitated for any reason, yet you say that I am the one who is certain of MY position. The difference is that I bring arguments to the table and you bring skepticism to the table. Which approach do you suspect is more intellectually demanding? How much effort does it take to say, “I’m not convinced?” None.

    —-“But the bigger issue is the one that beezlebub and I have both mentioned: there is no method for people reaching consensus on religious beliefs. People from every religion are convinced that their religion is right, and there is no methodology by which to test the correctness of anyone’s belief.”

    Yes, there is. That method is called reason. Unfortunately, most religions reject the compatibility of faith and reason, so there is no way to sustain a meaningful and deep dialogue with them.

    —-“Secondly, I am interested in how his view utterly precludes constructive discussion with someone of differing views – discussion that might lead to even a small meeting of the minds.”

    It is not my purpose to offend. On the other hand, I am well aware that most here are not the least bit interested in the rational arguments being presented. Most people, after hearing that the Old Testament contained 459 prophecies about Jesus Christ, all of which became manifest in time/space/history, would be flabbergasted by the mere improbability of it all. They would demand that I offer a few examples, and, once satisfied that they were legitimate, would be impressed by that astounding fact. Your response, on the other hand, was to shrug it off without another thought or to mischaracterize it as you did as an “after the fact” event—as if Scripture writers had taken New Testament events and redacted them back into the Old Testament records, which is impossible. Such a response can only be the result of a firm and enduring disdain for the truth and a resolve to resist it at all costs.

    —-“When it comes to religious belief all we can do is offer our ideas for others to consider, and perhaps both by what we have to say and the way we approach the discussion broaden each other’s perspective and open the door to growth.”

    The kind of dialogue you hope for would be a beautiful thing indeed. I would love to engage an atheist, or an atheist sympathizer, who really is open to the idea that ID is valid, that God exists, that morality is objective, and that faith and reason are compatible. But alas, all who come here have made up their mind to the contrary as is evident from the almost comical dodges that they use to evade, obfuscate, and deflect reasoned arguments. Why? I don’t know. Perhaps, they have been so brainwashed in post-modernism that they cannot even conceive of the idea that truth is something that we discover rather than something we “create in context.” Perhaps they just don’t want God to exist so that they can be a law unto themselves. One thing I am sure about is this: If an effect can occur without a cause, or if a thing can be true and false at the same time, there is no rationality.

    —-“But if one is certain that one is right, and thus others are wrong, then that type of discussion can’t happen, and so people are just stuck – divided and at odds. Under the circumstances, then, there is no wonder that we have radically different religious beliefs in the world.”
    I am just as open to a reasoned argument as the next man. You must understand, though, that ID critics do not come here to argue for anything, they come here to argue against what others are arguing. To your credit, you did, once or twice, try to explain your own views. Still, for the most part, you challenge what everyone says without putting up any real arguments for an alternative position. Atheists and anti-ID partisans stay on offense and avoid defense like the plague. Why is that? It must be because they have no arguments and must, therefore, spend all their time demanding accountability from others while exempting themselves from that same accountability. That is not my idea of dialogue.

  90. tribune7 writes:

    beelzebub, there was a consensus 300 years ago as to the age of the earth and why the sun shined. It changed.

    And the consensus accepted the existence of atoms 300 years ago (and long before) albeit the consensus also was that they couldn’t be split.

    Yes, science is self-correcting. That’s my point. I’m glad you see it.

    With regard to today’s scientific consensus you will find scientifically accomplished and credentialed people who believe in a young Earth.

    Only a tiny number, and you will invariably find that they came to their scientific beliefs for religious reasons, not the other way around.

    And if you believe in a multi-verse, you believe in a perpetual motion machine.

    Only if you define “perpetual motion machine” rather loosely. The ones I’m talking about violate the laws of physics and are therefore impossible.

    Are you saying we must never embrace dogma or do you accept that it is appropriate to do so at times?

    Here’s what I wrote to StephenB on the subject:

    No, I’m not dogmatic about not accepting dogmatic statements. If the neutrino flux of the universe should ever shift so that all dogmatic statements become perfectly true and reliable from that point forward, then I will amend my stance.

    You ask:

    What if your belief is true? Should it continue to be provisional?

    As an imperfect human, you can never be absolutely certain that a particular belief is true. All beliefs should therefore be held provisionally.

  91. 91

    beelzebub,

    What you don’t seem to understand is that memes are fiction regardless of what literature they appear in, just as fairies are. I could give you a long list of books that discuss fairies if you’d like. I’m asking for an explanation of what memes are, and you simply won’t give it. This means either that you don’t know, or you know that their definition is ludicrous, and can be knocked down like the rest of your arguments. This business will end at some point, but I will not budge until you have answered my questions. So you can stop stalling at any time, give me answers to your figments, and we can then progress in the discussion. Like I said, I have read parts from Blackmore, Dennett, and Dawkins. You’re evasive maneuver isn’t working, I know what these folks say, but I’m not talking to those folks. If you really grasp what memes are, then answer my questions.

    You’re not educating me as you like to claim ad nauseum, but rather for the purpose of demonstrating your own understanding of this fiction, which will also have the added benefit of exposing memes as indeed fictitious. Your efforts at condescension don’t bother me, they’re really obvious evasive techniques to avoid the obvious conclusion that you cannot, or will not, answer my questions. And it doesn’t matter if you cannot or will not answer my questions, for both refusals lead me to the same conclusion, and that is, that memes are pure fiction, in which actual definitions cannot be given. It’s okay that you cannot or will not answer my questions. It really is. I would feel badly, and I cannot in good conscience press you too hard to define and defend such nonsense as memes. The whole exercise is to help you, enlighten you to the nonsense, which can only begin once the nonsense has been defined, which starts with answering my questions.

  92. StephenB writes:

    I am just as open to a reasoned argument as the next man. You must understand, though, that ID critics do not come here to argue for anything, they come here to argue against what others are arguing.

    As if an argument against someone’s position couldn’t be a “reasoned argument.”

    Atheists and anti-ID partisans stay on offense and avoid defense like the plague.

    Arguing against theism is the same thing as arguing for atheism, Stephen. And if you haven’t noticed, there’s as much discussion of evolution here as there is of ID.

    It must be because they have no arguments and must, therefore, spend all their time demanding accountability from others while exempting themselves from that same accountability.

    If you truly think that we have no arguments, then your capacity for self-deception is vaster than I ever imagined. Try reading the thread again, dispassionately, and you will see how absurd that is.

  93. 93

    beelzebub,

    ——”As an imperfect human, you can never be absolutely certain that a particular belief is true.”

    You’re absolutely certain that as an imperfect human you can never be absolutely certain. Nice.

    ——”All beliefs should be held provisionally.”

    You don’t hold that belief provisionally. Wonderful again.

    Did your memes get a hold of you again and provide these contradictory and self-referentially incoherent beliefs?

  94. Clive,

    See this and this.

    When you have an actual argument regarding memes, present it (on the Tragic Tale of Memes thread, where it belongs) and I will respond.

    Questions do not constitute an argument.

  95. 95

    beelzebub,

    ——”When you have an actual argument regarding memes, present it (on the Tragic Tale of Memes thread, where it belongs) and I will respond.”

    Oh I have plenty, but I won’t chase phantoms that only exist in your mind. Once the terms are defined, then the argument can begin.

  96. Clive writes:

    You’re absolutely certain that as an imperfect human you can never be absolutely certain. Nice.

    Clive,

    You would save yourself some embarrassment if you read the thread first. I hold that belief provisionally.

    You don’t hold that belief provisionally.

    Yes, I do. Read the thread.

  97. Oh I have plenty, but I won’t chase phantoms that only exist in your mind. Once the terms are defined, then the argument can begin.

    The terms are defined in the books I recommended. Let’s hear your arguments, if you have any.

  98. 98

    beelzebub,

    Lets hear your definitions and criteria for being memes, if you have any.

  99. 99

    beelzebub,

    I don’t know how else I can get you to see the contradiction.

    The belief that you should hold all beliefs provisionally cannot be, itself, held provisionally. This is a matter of common sense in general. I’m not in the least embarrassed. It would be embarrassing if I were the only who couldn’t see something this obvious.

  100. Clive writes:

    The belief that you should hold all beliefs provisionally cannot be, itself, held provisionally.

    Sure it can. To hold a belief provisionally just means that it is subject to revision in light of new evidence. Where’s the contradiction in that?

  101. 101

    beelzebub,

    Because the negation, that you should not hold all beliefs provisionally, means that you hold a belief firmly. In the same way, the belief that you should hold all beliefs provisionally, is also held firmly. It is a guiding belief, that is held firmly, that tells you that you should hold all other beliefs provisionally, except that belief. In both instances you’re holding a belief firmly. I don’t know why you can’t see this.

  102. Clive,

    For a belief to be held provisionally does not mean that it isn’t held confidently. I’m quite sure that Barack Obama is the president, but I still hold the belief provisionally. If you provide adequate evidence to the contrary, I will revise my belief.

  103. 103

    beelzebub,

    But you won’t revise your belief which guides you that you should revise your other beliefs if necessary. This is your guiding belief, and it dictates how you should handle all other beliefs, excepting, of course, itself.

  104. 104

    beelzebub,

    And I’m really not sure that adequate evidence will convince you, you seem to not even understand that logic is, itself, evident, but you seem to disregard it. You hold the belief that you should hold beliefs provisionally. This is a contradiction. What you’re saying is that you’re absolutely sure that you shouldn’t be absolutely sure.
    And, you hold your belief firmly that your position should be held. You hold your belief firmly that what you’re even claiming makes sense. There are a lot of things that you have to believe in firmly, and not provisionally, even to get started on what criteria you hold to be counter evidence. I’d be willing to bet that you also believe firmly that you’re a human. You also believe firmly that there is some “you” to be convinced or not convinced. You also hold the belief firmly that “evidence”, and the act of “convincing”, are real things. You also believe firmly that they should determine other beliefs. I could go on and on…..

  105. Clive writes:

    But you won’t revise your belief which guides you that you should revise your other beliefs if necessary.

    Sure I will. If the evidence warrants a revision, then I will revise it. In that respect, it is no different from any other belief. I hold them all provisionally, and there is no contradiction in doing so.

    This is your guiding belief, and it dictates how you should handle all other beliefs, excepting, of course, itself.

    No, it applies to itself as well as to other beliefs.

    Take some time and think this through.

  106. Clive writes:

    I’d be willing to bet that you also believe firmly that you’re a human. You also believe firmly that there is some “you” to be convinced or not convinced. You also hold the belief firmly that evidence and convincing a real things. I could go on and on.

    Again: for a belief to be held provisionally does not mean that it isn’t held confidently. I am confident of all of the beliefs that you listed, but I still hold them provisionally. If you provide sufficient evidence, I will revise them.

    Think about it.

  107. 107

    beelzebub,

    Wow.

  108. Do you get it now?

  109. 109

    beelzebub,

    Your very declaration “If you provide sufficient evidence, I will revise them [beliefs].” is a belief that is not held provisionally.

    If it is held provisionally, then you’re lying about changing your beliefs. Again, self-referential incoherence.

  110. Clive writes:

    Your very declaration “If you provide sufficient evidence, I will revise them [beliefs].” is a belief that is not held provisionally.

    It’s a statement of intent, not a belief, so your objection makes no sense.

    However, let’s suppose for the sake of argument that I say the following:

    I believe that if you provide sufficient evidence, I will revise my beliefs.

    Further suppose that you do provide sufficient evidence but that I do not revise my beliefs in response. What does that show? That my belief was wrong. Since I hold it provisionally, I can revise it in the face of this new evidence.

    No contradiction. No self-referential incoherence.

    Clive, your desperation is showing. Why not concede gracefully or at least think things through before posting again?

    Meanwhile, it’s bedtime in California. Good night.

  111. Folks:

    Quite an onward exchange, especially thanks to SB’s intervention. (Nice job, Steve!) A few footnotes.

    Let’s start with truth claim no 1, courtesy Josiah Royce: “Error exists.” Let’s call it E, for short.

    This happens to be an undeniably true claim, as, to try to deny it ends up implicitly affirming it. (Not-E means that E is false, i.e. E would be an error. But, that would instantiate an example of just what E affirms. So, (a) truth exists (as what we may be in error about), and (b) it is in some cases knowable beyond reasonable dispute. Similarly, the core principles of right reason are undeniably true on pain of reduction to self-referential absurdities. So also, for instance, while our knowledge of many truths is indeed provisional, we may only embark on the voyage of knowledge and reasoned communication about knowledge by implicitly accepting such core principles as firm and unalterable guiding stars. (For instance to attempt to deny or dismiss the principle of non-contradiction — even by reference to Mr Schroedinger’s poor cat — requires us to affirm that certain things are so, implying that their opposites are NOT so. So, one is int he position of having to implicitly assume what one explicitly seeks to deny. Selective hyperskepticism, reduced to absurdity.)

    And, while we are at it, it is important to reiterate a couple of key points that were suppressed in the lamentably strawmannish summary presented by BZ — who BTW, has not admitted that he has seriously overstepped the bounds of basic civility above:

    1] Truth: that which says of what is, that it is; and, of what is not, that it is not. (Paraphrased from Aristotle’s Metaphysics 1011b, 2300 years ago. Often objected to, but never bettered. As a direct result, TRUTH is never provisional, though of course our degree of knowledge of it may be . . . )

    2] Knowledge: Classically, justified, true belief. In the aftermath of Gettier counter-examples on the difference between subjective justification and objective warrant (etc.), and in light of the fact that our knowledge is often imperfect, we apply Plantinga’s terminology and distinguish two relevant senses: (i) well-warranted, credibly true belief [what we study in bodies of knowledge], and (ii) warranted, true belief. (A third sense, (iii) knowledge of persons, is by encounter, interaction, observation, reflection and relationship.) The first two senses must be distinguished in any case, and we rely on known truth in sense (ii) to identify and correct errors that crop up in bodies of knowledge in sense (i). For instance, to accept the undeniable reality of error is a premise on which we build any recognition of the provisionality of our bodies of knowledge. So is the acceptance in practice of the principle of non-contradiction. And, of course, sense (iii) is as legitimately a kind of knowledge and provides as effective a process of warrant as any other.

    With these in hand, let us now deconstruct an error or two, with particular reference to no 78 above; bearing in mind that “boiling down” a step by step argument too often ends up constructing and knocking over strawman misrepresentations:

    a] how do we know when we have reached the truth and that no further modification is necessary

    This hinges on not properly and consistently recognising the distinction between truth and knowledge, as has just been underscored. And, the answer is that we have criteria of warrant that are beyond reasonable dispute, and there are some truths that are knowable to that degree of warrant. Indeed, were there no such truths, we would be unable to correct bodies of knowledge that are prone to error.

    However, let us also notice what BZ is forced to acknowledge as “True” — yes! TRUE . . . — namely: Fixed beliefs don’t necessarily indicate error or closed-mindedness. Beliefs may be fixed because they are true and in no further need of modification. This is a somewhat strawmannish over-simplification of what I actually said at 32 and 47, but even so, it directly entails the point that the appeal to progress as a criterion of epistemological superiority is a fallacy. Also, to fix the strawman, it is worth noting what was actually said at 32:

    the reason why one “progresses” is because there is an end-point: the truth, and we are not there yet, so on discovering how, we may make progress towards the truth.

    Therefore, just because a particular point or claim has not “progressed” in recent years does not entail that it is in error or is a manifestation of closed-mindedness.

    So, the proper forcus for inquiry is what we do not see in 78: what is being claimed to be true, and how it may be (or may fail to be) adequately warranted.

    This also leads back to a key aspect of Mrs O’Leary’s point: too often, among those claiming the prestigious label “sceince” for their opinions, we see improper, and often unacknowledged dogmatism. (Lewontin’s a priori materialism is a classic case in point; though of course he actually admits to it, even while erroneously imagining that his materialism has cornered the market on discovery of the truth.)

    As to the issue of whether INSTITUTIONS or SYSTEMS OF THOUGHT are self-correcting, I would think that her point — “Any system that does not go extinct is self-correcting – after it collapses on its hind end. This is true of governments, businesses, churches, and not-for-profit organizations” — is also well warranted.

    For instance, there have been many reformations and renewal movements in and around the Christian faith, and quite often the most important corrections are by way of calling back to first principles and first commitments that are ever so easily forgotten or self-servingly perverted.

    Genuine corrective progress by going back to the sound roots and pruning away what has got cut off from the roots (and is withering as a result), or removing that which has come in from without and has become parasitic on the tree.

    Often, that’s the best kind of progress, too. (In science, revolutions historically have required precisely that kind of going back to the roots. Consider the revolutionary impact of Einstein’s thought experiment reflections on what it means for two events to be simultaneous. In our day, what is revolutionary is to ask, based on what we know about the origin of information-based complex functional systems, whether there are empirically reliable signs of intelligence.)

    b] We’re never absolutely sure, which is why we should always continue to question our beliefs, even the most fundamental ones.

    Observe the self-referential absurdity on knowledge: We’re NEVER absolutely sure.

    Also, note the assertion of a claimed duty that is held to be without exception: we SHOULD always continue to question our beliefs, even the most fundamental ones

    In short, we here see a classic illustration of how selective hyperskepticism ends in self-referential inconsistencies and absurdity. Also, how relativist schemes of thought rely on implicit adherence to the concept of universally binding obligations. In short, so soon as BZ begins to be articulate his views explicitly, self-referential incoherences begin to crop up. That is, the underlying system of thought — it seems, some variety of ultra-modern, relativist evolutionary materialism — self-destructs.

    c] We can convince almost any intelligent, educated person of the truth of the Pythagorean theorem. Not so of the existence of the Christian God.

    This “rebuttal” depends on the strawmanisation imposed by the “summary.” For, what I actually pointed out in 47 above was:

    . . . the relevant epistemological issue is not (i) whether or not a subject has a body of claims that are stable across time, but instead: (ii) whether the relevant claims are well-warranted . . . .

    science itself [the "progressive standard" that Christian thought is accused of failing to meet . . . ] rests on a cluster of other disciplines that in many key respects do not “progress,” i.e. they have more or less definitive findings: mathematics and logic being two key cases in point . . . . It also rests on many issues in philosophy and associated worldviews options where one may only select one’s position in light of comparative difficulties across alternative major views, and so there are underlying issues of schools of thought that are subject to serious objection and commitment in the face of unresolved difficulties. (Indeed, Mr Lewontin exhibits a — poorly instructed — case in point, in his a priori commitment to materialism.) . . . . once we move from Lakatos’ protective belt of models and findings to the worldviews-tinged core of scientific research programmes and associated paradigms, Science takes on many of the characteristics of worldviews, including theistic ones . . . .

    warranted correctness of a claim is utterly distinct from the question of agreement or disagreement or consensus about it. That is: (i) consensus may exist on error (or worse on Plato’s Cave style power games that manipulate and frankly deceive a relevant community), and (ii) evident and well-warranted truth may be rejected because one accepts worldview level commitments or opinions that make the actual truth seem absurd . . . .

    Worse, false beliefs (and associated habits of thought and investigation or argument) may distort one’s ability or willingness to objectively assess evidence and reason. That is why, for instance, we sometimes speak of what we know or SHOULD know. (And also, that is why I strongly recommend that we examine our worldviews based on comparative difficulties based on comparative factual adequacy, coherence and explanatory power . . . )

    In short, I gave detailed reasons why we should not expect consensus among “educated” people on the Christian World view and its core claims. For, consensus or willingness to accept a claim is not a reasonable test of truth or even of reasonableness, especially on worldviews. Reasons that are ignored at our peril.

    [ . . . ]

  112. d] Re BZ, 78: Some beliefs are fixed because they are universally recognized as true. Others are fixed because they have been fossilized as dogma.

    Universal recognition is not a valid criterion of warrant. And, many warranted and in fact true beliefs are rejected not because they are “fossilised” [i.e. failed to "progress . . ." ] but because they do not fit in with with the preferences of those who reject them; preferences that may well not stand up to comparative difficulties as well as what is being rejected. (A classic example is the law of non-contradiction, which is being dismissed today by many of the most learned, but which lands such in a morass of the most patently self-referential absurdities.)

    In context, the implied rhetorical appeal is: well, the Christian gospel is not the consensus of my preferred reference group, so I dismiss it without fair consideration on the merits.

    This is of course an instance of the classic fallacy of the improper appeal to modesty in the face of alleged (here, collective) authority.

    The issue, then, is not whether one adheres to a “dogma,” but whose.

    For excellent reason, I reject the dogmas of Lewontinian a priori materialism; having not only examined the evidences and reasoning, but more importantly having met God in the face of Christ and had my life miraculously transformed thereby [including witnessing and/or experiencing the odd miracle of physical healing or two through prayer in the name of Jesus under Isaiah 53, BTW], I have every confidence that the core creedal summary of the historic, Apostolic C1 NT Christian faith is correct and that I have no reason to expect hat the core matters will be corrected; though my degree of understanding and experience on many points has grown over time, i.e. there is room for renewal and reformation. And, there are and have been many millions over the past 2,000 years in the same boat.

    e] we ultimately depend on our own imperfect minds to decide what is true and what is false.

    We have no power “to decide what is true or what is false.”

    We do have a power to recognise or to examine whether things as true or false; to a relevant degree of warrant. We have a duty to accept what is well-warranted as credibly true. We have a <i.duty to reject what is credibly an error. But, these are very different things.

    f] Wouldn’t you agree that [a claim is] more likely to be true in that [consensus of the educated] case than if every intelligent, educated person you’re aware of disagrees with you? In the latter case, the odds are that you are mistaken, and you had better figure out why nobody agrees with you.

    First, in the case of the core Christian faith, many thousands of highly educated people — including a significant number of the leading minds in our civilisation’s intellectual history — do agree with me, now and across time, so, immediately the notion that “nobody agrees with you . . .” is simply false. So, this is effectively an appeal to the now all too common slander that Christians are ignorant, dogmatic, violently oppressive bigots; a point that underscores the force of my rebuke to BZ’s ascription of violent persecution of dissent to the church as an existing reality. (And BTW, BZ, FYI, I am not a Roman Catholic, but fair is fair.)

    And, of course, his specific argument reats on a repetition of the fallacy of false, prejudicial appeal to the consensus of the reference group.

    Perhaps, amplified by the “No true Scotsman” fallacy: i.e one rather suspects that despite abundant evidence that I and others like me are in fact by any objective measure intelligent, educated and informed people on the subject, in the minds of BZ and his ilk, simply the fact that we happen to be Christians is enough to get us read out of the communion of those who are “intelligent, educated person[s].”

    Worse, we are approaching the end of no 78 and have yet to see a summary of the actual core case made by Christians, and a serious addressing of the matter on the merits; much less, one that warrants the rejection of the core claim I and millions have made across 2,000 years: we have met and so have come to personally know God in the face of the prophesied, crucified and risen Christ, our Lord and Saviour.

    g] we should examine religious questions with the same critical scrutiny that we would apply to scientific questions or questions in any other area of life. Religion doesn’t get a pass.

    Now, of course, this relies on quietly skipping over a little inconvenient fact from 47:

    I strongly recommend that we examine our worldviews based on comparative difficulties based on comparative factual adequacy, coherence and explanatory power. [Cf a "primer" here. Onlookers, please notice the specific context: the linked is part of a course reader for Christians studying at College level, and is part of a compulsory course presented at the invitation of the school's leadership. So much for the blanket stereotype of closed-minded dogmatism.

    Let us see if BZ is able or willing to step up to the plate of comparative difficulties and articulate the live options, then identify core warranting arguments, and apply the test of comparative difficulties effectively to say Judaeo-Christian theism and his evident Scientism multiplied by ultra-modern relativist thought. (He certainly has failed to do so so far. If you want to see why I have reason to believe that evolutionary materialism is fatally incoherent and unable to address the credible facts on the origins of a fine-tuned, information rich world in which life forms are based on informational macromolecule nanomachine implemented digital information processing systems, cf the always linked; including Appendix 8.)

    Or, to apply what BZ said to what seems to be his own position: Religion [ultra-modern, relativistic evolutionary materialism in the name of science] doesn’t get a pass

    GEM of TKI

    PS: And, of course, BZ insists on using a site that is manifestly prone to strawman misrepresentations of what it opposes, to the point where it has little or no credibility. (I have already linked rebuttals at 30 above — cf. here and here — that tell a bit of the balancing side of the story on the notorious site TalkOrigins.)

  113. Beelzebub –So in 300 years, science has gone from complete disagreement to a consensus. . . .Yes, science is self-correcting. That’s my point.

    I’m glad to see that you now understand that your claim that science was in complete disagreement 300 years ago is a logical error :-)

    With regard to today’s scientific consensus you will find scientifically accomplished and credentialed people who believe in a young Earth. . . .Only a tiny number.

    Only a tiny number 300 years ago rejected aether.

    And if you believe in a multi-verse, you believe in a perpetual motion machine. . ..Only if you define “perpetual motion machine” rather loosely.

    I mean literally. If you believe in the multi-verse you believe in something that violates the laws of physics.

    Are you saying we must never embrace dogma or do you accept that it is appropriate to do so at times? . . .If the neutrino flux of the universe should ever shift so that all dogmatic statements become perfectly true and reliable from that point forward, then I will amend my stance.

    Why would a shift in the neutrino flux have anything to do with the reasonableness of a particular statement of dogma?

    What if your belief is true? Should it continue to be provisional? As an imperfect human, you can never be absolutely certain that a particular belief is true.

    IOW, faith is necessary for everybody. Unless, of course, you are perfect. If you were prefect could you be certain your belief is true?

  114. PPS: re BZ just above: A statement of intent, if genuine, so directly rests on a belief that it is tantamount to it. [WHY do you intend that X? Well, because I believe a certain state of affairs in the world, B, and value V as a binding goal; an ought. both the state of affairs and the ought are beliefs.]

  115. In comment 58 Khan mentions the alleged evolution of feathers.

    So tell us Khan what gene, genes or DNA sequence(s) were modified in order to get feathers from the feather-less?

    How can we scientifically test such a premise?

  116. Clive, your argument about whether one can provisionally hold that all beliefs are provisional reminds me of Bertrand Russell’s logical paradox about the barber:

    The barber in a town cuts the hair of everyone who doesn’t cut their own hair. Who cuts the barber’s hair?

    Beezlebub and I believe in provisionally held beliefs. I think you are playing word games rather than trying to understand. People have different kinds of beliefs. Some are factual and almost certainly without doubt within a certain level of accuracy: e.g., the earth is approximately a sphere with a diameter of about 8000 miles. In theory I hold this belief provisionally but from a practical point of view I think the chance that this is wrong is infinitesimally small.

    Other beliefs are about values and choices, which are a very different kind of thing: I believe that one should treat others as we would like to be treated is a moral belief which cannot be investigated empirically like the fact about the earth, but rather a value judgment that in part is a matter of choice on my part.

    My belief that all beliefs should be held provisionally is a belief of the latter sort, and I hold it provisionally. I am aware that I could at some time become convinced otherwise. I see no contradiction in believing this. Human beings are fallible and limited in scope. Even those things that I am most certain about are certain only from a human perspective – there are ways that different types of beings might see the world that are utterly beyond my comprehension but might be true from their perspective.

    Of course we all have a practical understanding of this – we don’t expect people to start every statement with a disclaimer that they are only sure of what they are saying to a certain extent, that extend being in part related to what kind of belief is being stated.

    So I think your protestations about the provisional nature of the belief that all beliefs are provisional is counter-productive and misses the mark. It seems like it would be better to try to understand and to explore the nuances of the nature of belief rather than play around with word puzzles like Russell’s barber problem.

  117. Stephen, can you point me to a reference, preferably a website, that discusses these 459 fulfilled prophecies, or even some of them?

  118. The barber in a town cuts the hair of everyone who doesn’t cut their own hair. Who cuts the barber’s hair?

    Someone accepting that as an unsolvable paradox would never learn that the barber is bald.

  119. I don’t know whether Russell dealt with that possibility or not. :)

    Although I think one could argue that the question “Who cuts the barber’s hair” implies that he has hair.

    I assume, your remark about baldness notwithstanding, that you understand the paradox.

  120. If it is held provisionally, then you’re lying about changing your beliefs. Again, self-referential incoherence.

    If I may (and having first read the bulk of this thread): Some remarks concerning Clive’s assertion that Beelzebub’s system of belief of necessity collapses into irrationality due to self-referential paradox.

    It seems to me that elements of this discussion are running afoul of apparent contradictions that result from the failure to acknowledge that many levels of logical of description are possible. The failure to acknowledge such levels is typically what generates apparent loops of self-reference and self-referential paradox.

    Specifically, “beliefs about the world” and “beliefs about beliefs” (meta-beliefs) occupy different levels of logical description and therefore may be both applied and justified in different ways (think of logical types as described by Russell, Whitehead, Gregory Bateson, etc.).

    Clive thinks he finds paralyzing self-referential paradox in Beelz’ assertion that beliefs are provisional because that is itself a belief, therefore must also be provisional. He therefore asserts that Beelz’s position collapses into irrationality and incoherence. But Beelz’ is asserting a belief about beliefs about the world, which is an assertion at a different logical level than the assertion of a belief about the world. Beliefs about belief serve a different purpose than beliefs about the world and are justified in different ways. Specifically, beliefs about the world are inductive and subject to empirical test (and there therefore always provisional), while beliefs about belief occur at a higher level of abstraction, have a different logical and conceptual basis, and serve a different purpose.

    While each level has implications for the other, assertions about the lower logical level, such as “beliefs about the world are provisional due to their empirical and deductive nature” may not be appropriate when applied to the higher level (beliefs about beliefs, which may have inductive components). It is the placement of “beliefs about beliefs” into the class of “beliefs about the world” that results in the self-referential paradox.

    Clive’s assertion that Beelz’ beliefs collapse into incoherence fails to recognize these distinct levels of belief, application, and justification. Beelz’ defense can be made more secure by doing so.

    An extension of this basic notion into Beelzebub’s exchange with StephenB is also likely to be clarifying, as it is obvious that “belief” in the context of scientific assertion and “belief” in the context of religious systems clearly have different referents, different systems and norms of justification, operate at different levels of description, and serve different purposes. While it may appear that they are discussing commensurate phenomena (beliefs – scientific on one hand, religious on the other ), they are not.

  121. hazel:

    Other beliefs are about values and choices, which are a very different kind of thing…I don’t know whether Russell dealt with that possibility or not.

    An approach that is very similar to mine above.

  122. that you understand the paradox.

    I don’t really believe in paradoxes :-)

    If contradicting things seem true there is a problem with the presumption or observation.

  123. —-beelzebub: “Arguing against theism is the same thing as arguing for atheism, Stephen.”

    No, it isn’t. Atheism is not an argument for anything, it is an argument against something. The theist tries to explain existence and the atheist simply denounces the explanation without offering an alternative. How hard can that be?

    —beelzebub: “If you truly think that we have no arguments, then your capacity for self-deception is vaster than I ever imagined.”

    You have no argument on behalf of any positive principle. Explain the beginning of the universe and the origins of life. Tell us what happened without attacking someone else’s argument. Go for it.

  124. StephenB writes:

    The theist tries to explain existence and the atheist simply denounces the explanation without offering an alternative.

    Stephen,

    If an argument is wrong, it’s wrong. It doesn’t matter whether the person who refutes it offers an alternative.

    If I demonstrate that 3 is not equal to 2, then 3 is not equal to 2 even if I don’t provide a new theorem to compensate.

    Isn’t this obvious to you?

  125. If an argument is wrong, it’s wrong. It doesn’t matter whether the person who refutes it offers an alternative.

    LOL. I think we should carve this one in granite :-)

  126. —-Diffaxial: But Beelz’ is asserting a belief about beliefs about the world, which is an assertion at a different logical level than the assertion of a belief about the world. Beliefs about belief serve a different purpose than beliefs about the world and are justified in different ways. Specifically, beliefs about the world are inductive and subject to empirical test (and there therefore always provisional), while beliefs about belief occur at a higher level of abstraction, have a different logical and conceptual basis, and serve a different purpose.”

    Once one makes a categorical statement about anything, induction has left the building. To assert as dogma that there should be no dogmas is self refuting. To assert as absolute truth that there is no absolute truth is self refuting. To assert that truth, which by definition is unchamging, is “provisional,” is self refuting. There is no way around that.

    Also, you are making a lot of assumptions that not everyone here can accept, such as the notion that “beliefs about the world are inductive and subject to empirical test (and there therefore always provisional)….”

    You seems to be relying on an empiricist account of knowledge, which reduces knowledge to sense impressions. Not all of us are prepared to accept that account. Indeed, some would argue on behalf of realism, a theory of knowledge in which both mind and sense work together as complementary organs of knowledge, rejecting rationalism [mind only] and empricism [sense only] as extremes.

    If your comments are based on an epistemology grounded in the latter extreme [radical empiricism], as they appear to be, your account about logic, its limits, and its applications will be duly influenced.

  127. tribune7 writes:

    LOL. I think we should carve this one in granite.

    Sure, why not? In the extremely unlikely event that a counterexample arises, we can always take a chisel to it.

    Would you object to seeing the Pythagorean theorem carved in granite?

  128. 128

    Note that ID supporters here have taken beelzebub and others to task for negative argumentation against theism in a blog devoted to negative argumentation – against evolutionary science.

  129. If an argument is wrong, it’s wrong. It doesn’t matter whether the person who refutes it offers an alternative. . . LOL. I think we should carve this one in granite. . . .Sure, why not?

    I think we should. That way the next time an evo demands that ID spell out an alternative explanation for bio-diversity we can point to it, right?

  130. Oh, Adel, you beat me to the post by a minute. Of course, negation is only one part of ID but I’m glad to see it be recognized as legitimate :-)

  131. 131

    StephenB:

    To assert as dogma that there should be no dogmas is self refuting. To assert as absolute truth that there is no absolute truth is self refuting.

    On the other hand,

    To assert as dogma that there should be dogmas is arbitrary.

    To assert as absolute truth that there is absolute truth is self-referentially incoherent.

  132. hazel writes:

    Clive, your argument about whether one can provisionally hold that all beliefs are provisional reminds me of Bertrand Russell’s logical paradox about the barber.

    hazel,

    Yes, that is the sort of paradox that Clive is hoping to expose in my beliefs.

    Russell’s paradox is reminiscent of the problem with the so-called “verification principle” of logical positivism, which holds that “statements are meaningless unless they can be empirically verified.” The verification principle itself cannot be empirically verified, so it inadvertently holds itself to be meaningless.

    Neither of those logical problems applies to the the belief in question.

    This statement is perfectly coherent:

    I provisionally believe that all beliefs should be held provisionally.

    Diffaxial writes:

    Clive’s assertion that Beelz’ beliefs collapse into incoherence fails to recognize these distinct levels of belief, application, and justification. Beelz’ defense can be made more secure by doing so.

    Diff,

    I don’t think that’s necessary. As I just explained to hazel, it is coherent to hold all beliefs provisionally, with no exceptions, including the belief that all beliefs should be held provisionally.

    Also, I have to disagree with what you wrote here:

    …it is obvious that “belief” in the context of scientific assertion and “belief” in the context of religious systems clearly have different referents, different systems and norms of justification, operate at different levels of description, and serve different purposes.

    I can see no reason why the norms of justification should differ for religious questions. Truth in any realm of discourse has the same properties: it is logically consistent and conforms to reality. Justification is just a matter of confirming to the best of our ability that a belief has these properties, regardless of the subject matter. Genuine truth has nothing to fear from critical scrutiny. The more rigorous, the better. No belief should be shielded from this kind of examination.

    Indeed, a double standard regarding religious beliefs is what allows someone like Ken Miller to think rigorously and critically all week as a scientist but then to affirm groundlessly, on Sunday, that the bread and wine of the Eucharist are changed into the body and blood of Christ.

    hazel, to Clive:

    So I think your protestations about the provisional nature of the belief that all beliefs are provisional is counter-productive and misses the mark. It seems like it would be better to try to understand and to explore the nuances of the nature of belief rather than play around with word puzzles like Russell’s barber problem.

    I agree. Even if Clive were actually able to demonstrate a contradiction, it could easily be remedied by simply adjusting the belief to this:

    I believe that all beliefs should be held provisionally, except for this one.

    All of the other points that have been made in this thread regarding self-correction and dogma would still apply.

    I think Clive is still stinging from the memes thread and is looking to score points, not to contemplate the issues being raised here.

  133. tribune7 writes:

    I think we should. That way the next time an evo demands that ID spell out an alternative explanation for bio-diversity we can point to it, right?

    You’re free to criticize evolutionary theory without offering an alternative, but doing so just makes you a critic of evolution.

    If you want to be an ID proponent, then give us a theory of ID.

  134. Perhaps the examination of a specific doctrinal point would be useful and illustrative.

    StephenB,

    As a Catholic, how do you know, beyond any shadow of doubt and with absolute certainty, that the bread and wine of the Eucharist are transformed into the body and blood of Christ?

    Remember, we are not just looking for your reasons for believing this point of doctrine — we are looking for your reasons for believing it absolutely, with no possibility of doubt whatsoever.

  135. —-beelzebub: “If an argument is wrong, it’s wrong. It doesn’t matter whether the person who refutes it offers an alternative.”

    To attack a wrong argument is not the same as, nor as intellectually demanding, as proposing the right argument. It’s easy to tear down; it is hard to build. What is it about that point that you don’t understand.

    —-If I demonstrate that 3 is not equal to 2, then 3 is not equal to 2 even if I don’t provide a new theorem to compensate.

    Apples and Oranges. Atheism is not an alternative explanation to Theism. It is a mere negation of an explanation.

    My positive proposition: God created a rational universe and rational minds to comprehend it.

    Your negative proposition: No he didn’t.

    So, what happened? What is your positive proposition?

  136. Once one makes a categorical statement about anything, induction has left the building.

    And once I use a hammer, my screwdriver and pliers no longer work?

    Induction, deduction, categorization are conceptual tools that are not mutually exclusive.

    To assert as dogma that there should be no dogmas is self refuting. To assert as absolute truth that there is no absolute truth is self refuting.

    Who here asserted either? So far as I can tell, no one here has dogmatically asserted that there should be no dogmas. The only assertions I’ve seen regarding the undesirability of dogma have themselves been offered provisionally and backed by reasonable argumentation. Dogma is backed by reference to rigid authority. Indeed, the provisional nature of those assertions prompted Clive’s (not well taken) assertion that Beelz’ position was incoherent and self-refuting, because itself provisional. So which is it?

    To assert that truth, which by definition is unchamging, is “provisional,” is self refuting. There is no way around that.

    But to recognize that our best approximations are provisional, and are subject to change, is not self-refuting, so long as one doesn’t claim for them “Truth,” with a capital “T”.

  137. —-beelzebub: “As a Catholic, how do you know, beyond any shadow of doubt and with absolute certainty, that the bread and wine of the Eucharist are transformed into the body and blood of Christ?”

    An assent of faith is not the same as knowledge. Is this not clear?

  138. tribune7 writes:

    I’m glad to see that you now understand that your claim that science was in complete disagreement 300 years ago is a logical error.

    I’m neither glad nor surprised to see that you are still sticking to your quote-mine and ignoring the fact that my statement referred not to disagreement in general, but to disagreement on the six scientific questions I listed in my comment.

    T7 had written:

    With regard to today’s scientific consensus you will find scientifically accomplished and credentialed people who believe in a young Earth.

    I replied:

    Only a tiny number, and you will invariably find that they came to their scientific beliefs for religious reasons, not the other way around.

    T7 responds:

    Only a tiny number 300 years ago rejected aether.

    True, but they didn’t have to ignore the evidence and reject fundamental findings from every field of science in order to do so, as modern YECs do.

    If you believe in the multi-verse you believe in something that violates the laws of physics.

    Evidence?

    Why would a shift in the neutrino flux have anything to do with the reasonableness of a particular statement of dogma?

    No reason that I can think of. That’s my point. I don’t anticipate any reason to amend my belief that dogma should never be accepted unquestioningly. If such a reason arises, however, then I will revise my belief.

    I wrote:

    As an imperfect human, you can never be absolutely certain that a particular belief is true.

    T7 responded:

    IOW, faith is necessary for everybody.

    Perhaps it’s necessary on a few fundamental issues, such as the belief that reason is possible. (Even then it’s not clear, as you could hold such a belief provisionally, without faith, and see how things worked out.) In any case, the necessity of taking a few fundamental beliefs on faith would not justify taking other things on faith, such as the existence of God or the virginity of Paris Hilton.

    Unless, of course, you are perfect. If you were prefect could you be certain your belief is true?

    Sure. I would say that perfection for a sentient being would require, among other things, not holding any untrue beliefs.

  139. Beelzebub:

    Also, I have to disagree with what you wrote here:

    …it is obvious that “belief” in the context of scientific assertion and “belief” in the context of religious systems clearly have different referents, different systems and norms of justification, operate at different levels of description, and serve different purposes.

    I can see no reason why the norms of justification should differ for religious questions.

    I don’t disagree, but you are speaking in a deontological mode, where I am making a descriptive observation. The norms do differ whether or not they should, and indeed the referent of the word “belief” often differs, sometimes radically. As an example, in some Christian systems “belief” denotes not just one’s doxology, but also denotes a decision that (within that system of belief) determines one’s eternal destiny. At less radical removes, “belief” is thought to be personally transformative – what Dennett has aptly called “belief in belief.” Similarly, in many such systems “faith” is elevated to a form of justification that trumps all others, and that again (in some systems) determines one’s eternal fate.

    There are no corresponding predicates for “belief” in the sense of “scientific belief,” no corresponding role for faith as justification in within the scientific world picture, and certainly neither determines anything eternal within that framework. So, although we are using the same words (“truth,” “belief,” “justification,” etc.), those words often seem to pick out rather radically different psychological and cultural operations.

    As a result we wind up talking past each other.

    cf: the thread above.

  140. I asked StephenB:

    As a Catholic, how do you know, beyond any shadow of doubt and with absolute certainty, that the bread and wine of the Eucharist are transformed into the body and blood of Christ?

    Stephen replied:

    An assent of faith is not the same as knowledge. Is this not clear?

    Stephen,

    Are you admitting that you believe it, but that you don’t know if it is true?

    Wow.

  141. —-Diffaxial: “But to recognize that our best approximations are provisional, and are subject to change, is not self-refuting, so long as one doesn’t claim for them “Truth,” with a capital “T”.

    Our best approximations are provisional; truth is not provisional. Our best approximations are always changing; truth never changes. Our ever changing approximations are arrived at only upon tacit acceptance of self-evident, unchanging truths. Atheists assume [unwittingly] these unchanging truths every time they try to reason in the abstract, even as they renounce [irrationally] those very same truths.

    —-Diffaxial: The only assertions I’ve seen regarding the undesirability of dogma have themselves been offered provisionally and backed by reasonable argumentation.

    All dogmas were rejected categorically. What is provisional about that?

  142. StephenB writes:

    To attack a wrong argument is not the same as, nor as intellectually demanding, as proposing the right argument.

    Stephen,

    If an argument is wrong, then it’s wrong, whether the attack on it was easy or hard.

    You seem determined to paint atheists as being intellectually lazy, but so what if we are? Our arguments still stand or fall on their merits, as do yours.

    To say “I may be wrong, but it doesn’t count, because I worked harder than you did” is just laughable.

  143. —-beelzebub: “Are you admitting that you believe it, but that you don’t know if it is true?”

    I cannot know with apodictic certainly that which I must believe without the confirmation of ‘reason or evidence. [Unless, of course, I get a heavenly visitation]. On the other hand, I can establish good reasons for taking a leap of faith based on reasons testimony about the credibility of that faith. Do you, in fact, know the difference between faith and reason? Do you understand the importance of a faith/reason synthesis?

  144. StephenB writes:

    Our ever changing approximations are arrived at only upon tacit acceptance of self-evident, unchanging truths.

    If they were self-evident, we wouldn’t have to approximate them.

    Atheists assume [unwittingly] these unchanging truths every time they try to reason in the abstract, even as they renounce [irrationally] those very same truths.

    You keep clinging to this like a lifeline, but there’s nothing about atheism that requires one to deny the existence of unchanging truths. I, for one, do not.

    All dogmas were rejected categorically. What is provisional about that?

    Stephen, we’ve been through this already. You wrote:

    You base that conviction on another dogma, namely, that no one should ever accept a dogma. Think about it. You cling to the dogma that no one should hold a dogma.

    I replied:

    No, I’m not dogmatic about not accepting dogmatic statements. If the neutrino flux of the universe should ever shift so that all dogmatic statements become perfectly true and reliable from that point forward, then I will amend my stance.

  145. —-beelzebub: “You seem determined to paint atheists as being intellectually lazy, but so what if we are? Our arguments still stand or fall on their merits, as do yours.”

    What positive argument are you making? Are you prepared to make your case for the origins of the universe?

    —-”To say “I may be wrong, but it doesn’t count, because I worked harder than you did” is just laughable.”

    What is laughable is that sentence and its pretense to summarize anything that has been said.

  146. —-beelzebub: “You keep clinging to this like a lifeline, but there’s nothing about atheism that requires one to deny the existence of unchanging truths. I, for one, do not.”

    What unchanging truths do you accept? Perhaps there is a potential here for a meeting of the minds.

    —-”No, I’m not dogmatic about not accepting dogmatic statements. If the neutrino flux of the universe should ever shift so that all dogmatic statements become perfectly true and reliable from that point forward, then I will amend my stance.”

    So, let me get this straight. You are not absolutely dogmatic about not accepting dogmatic statements, yet you are conditionally dogmatic about not accepting dogmatic statements, and you will amend that dogmatic position if cosmic conditions change.

  147. StephenB wrote:

    On the other hand, I can establish good reasons for taking a leap of faith based on reasons testimony about the credibility of that faith.

    Stephen,

    Please reread my question:

    As a Catholic, how do you know, beyond any shadow of doubt and with absolute certainty, that the bread and wine of the Eucharist are transformed into the body and blood of Christ?

    Remember, we are not just looking for your reasons for believing this point of doctrine — we are looking for your reasons for believing it absolutely, with no possibility of doubt whatsoever.

    Do you believe this bit of Catholic dogma absolutely, with no possibility of doubt whatsoever?

  148. I wrote:

    To say “I may be wrong, but it doesn’t count, because I worked harder than you did” is just laughable.

    StephenB replied:

    What is laughable is that sentence and its pretense to summarize anything that has been said.

    In that case, perhaps you can explain why you made this irrelevant statement:

    To attack a wrong argument is not the same as, nor as intellectually demanding, as proposing the right argument.

    What’s your point, given that a wrong argument is just as wrong whether or not the attack on it is intellectually demanding?

  149. Stephen asks:

    What unchanging truths do you accept? Perhaps there is a potential here for a meeting of the minds.

    I think they exist, but I don’t think that we can know with certainty that we’ve arrived at one.

    So, let me get this straight. You are not absolutely dogmatic about not accepting dogmatic statements, yet you are conditionally dogmatic about not accepting dogmatic statements, and you will amend that dogmatic position if cosmic conditions change.

    I would put it this way: Unless and until I am given a reason to think otherwise, I believe that we should question all dogmatic statements and refuse to accept them uncritically.

  150. kairosfocus writes:

    Observe the self-referential absurdity on knowledge: We’re NEVER absolutely sure.

    It would only be incoherent if I wrote “I’m absolutely sure that we’re never absolutely sure.” As it stands, it’s a perfectly coherent, provisional belief.

    Also, note the assertion of a claimed duty that is held to be without exception: we SHOULD always continue to question our beliefs, even the most fundamental ones.

    Provisional, just like the last one.

  151. beelzebub: —-“Do you believe this bit of Catholic dogma absolutely, with no possibility of doubt whatsoever?”

    You have changed the question from one of knowledge to one of belief, so this is not really a follow up from your original question. On matters of faith, yes, I accept that bit of Catholic dogma absolutely. However, the level of faith one has in any truth can vary because it is the nature of faith that it must be nourished. Also, religious faith is a gift, which means that if one does not value faith, he will probably lose it. So, there is no guarantee that anyone who believes in a religious dogma will always believe it. Intellectual knowledge is not like that. If you know a truth, you can’t lose faith in it because it is part of your intellectual inventory.

    —-“What’s your point, given that a wrong argument is just as wrong whether or not the attack on it is intellectually demanding?”

    The point is that it is harder to make a positive case for anything than it is to snipe away at it. It was harder, for example, for St Thomas Aquinas to present five arguments for the existence of God than it is for some third rate philosopher to criticize them with idiotic and wrong statements such as, “The cosmological argument depends on the ontological argument.” It’s hard to build a perfectly proportioned mansion; it is easy to throw rocks through the window from the outside. Atheists are good at throwing rocks, but they never build anything. They tell us nothing how we got here, why we are here, or where we are going. They never tell us how to build a well-ordered society. They never tell us what is worth valuing or loving. They just challenge truth, life, beauty, unity, and goodness wherever they find it. They offer nothing.

  152. —-beelzebub: “I think they exist, [unchanging truths] but I don’t think that we can know with certainty that we’ve arrived at one.”

    So, you think [but are not sure] that unchanging truths exists, yet you hold that we cannot know them. Is that it? So for you, the problem is solely epistemological? So, you hesitate to say that [A] an effect cannot exist without its cause or [B] that something cannot come from nothing, or [C] a thing cannot be true and false at the same time? Is it your position is that we have not arrived at the point where we can affirm these things with confidence?

  153. StephenB:

    To assert that truth, which by definition is unchanging, is “provisional,” is self refuting. There is no way around that.

    And,

    Our ever changing approximations are arrived at only upon tacit acceptance of self-evident, unchanging truths. Atheists assume [unwittingly] these unchanging truths every time they try to reason in the abstract, even as they renounce [irrationally] those very same truths.

    Here, once again, the crux of the matter is your acceptance of tautological statements as a “self-evident.” Truth itself is unchanging by definition – anyone who asserts otherwise is mistaken, by definition – and all of your subsequent assertions flow from that, tautologically.

    But as you learned in previous threads, arguments that advance “self-evident” truths strike many of us as contrived and unconvincing, logical (or illogical) clockworks with no real bearing on anything outside themselves. This is not helped by your apparent inability or unwillingness to address yourself to that observation. Unpack the tautological pseudo-reasoning and all you are left with, once again, are bare assertions. Worse, they are bare assertions masquerading as “Truth,” with a capital “T.”

    From a pragmatic perspective, provisional assertions with knowable forms of justification (including scientific justification) are more valuable than bare assertions disguised as “Unchanging Truths,” and are, in my view, all we’ve got in any event.

  154. Apples and Oranges. Atheism is not an alternative explanation to Theism. It is a mere negation of an explanation.

    Then you, at least, will agree that the assertion that “atheism is a religion” is nonsense, given this lack of positive content.

    Good.

  155. Diffaxial,

    “Then you, at least, will agree that the assertion that “atheism is a religion” is nonsense, given this lack of positive content.”

    Atheism is a religion, it’s asserting the negative as a matter of faith, saying “A sentient entity was absolutely not involved in creating the universe.”

    The derivation is “without god” not “without religion”

  156. 156

    beelzebub,

    You would do well to listen to StephenB, who, from his own good nature, is trying to help you. And please, I will only ask once, stop attributing mannerisms to me, I have not been embarrassed, I am not stinging, I have not been desperate, etc. etc. All this is ridiculous pathos, and certainly not logos. It’s the last vestige of a man who, when he cannot provide argument, wants to assert how the argument is going. It’s juvenile and it’s insulting to me. Do not try to paint me and my emotions and reactions in your fictitious picture of the argument. You don’t know me, and you can’t speak, even though you do like to speak a lot, about what I am feeling or how I am reacting. All this is self-serving rhetoric. This is the sort of ploy that screams of desperation, to be frank. If you keep it up, I will delete your comments in which they appear. I have no problem with you making arguments, but leave your silly notions of my reactions and emotions out of it, or your comments will be deleted. I have been patient with this particular problem that you have, hoping that you’d grow out of it, you don’t seem to be growing out of it.

  157. 157

    hazel,

    I’m not playing around with word puzzles, I’m sorry that is how you take it.

    ——”My belief that all beliefs should be held provisionally is a belief of the latter sort, and I hold it provisionally. I am aware that I could at some time become convinced otherwise. I see no contradiction in believing this. Human beings are fallible and limited in scope. Even those things that I am most certain about are certain only from a human perspective – there are ways that different types of beings might see the world that are utterly beyond my comprehension but might be true from their perspective.”

    I do see a contradiction, regardless of the “sorts” of beliefs that you’re interested in categorizing your beliefs into. Are you certain that human beings are fallible and limited in scope? Then that qualifies as a belief that is not held provisionally. So does the remark “Even those things that I am most certain about are certain only from a human perspective.”

    The protestations about the provisional nature of belief that all beliefs are provisional, is not a provisional belief, in reality. That’s where you miss the mark. You seem quite a bit more articulate than beelzebub, but I still find you just as much in error. It doesn’t matter whether we categorize our beliefs into sections about either the world or other beliefs, the mere fact that they are beliefs is what is at hand. And the belief that one should hold their beliefs provisionally is a belief about beliefs, to be frank, in which case the external world becomes a second thing. And that, of course, answers Diffaxial’s objection too.

  158. 158

    beelzebub,

    —–”I believe that all beliefs should be held provisionally, except for this one.”

    By all means, state it that way, and illustrate your self-referentially incoherent special pleading.

  159. Clive to hazel:

    The protestations about the provisional nature of belief that all beliefs are provisional, is not a provisional belief, in reality.

    Clive,

    The only way that it isn’t a provisional belief is if hazel is unwilling to change it in the face of sufficient evidence. How do you know that she isn’t? How do you know that I am not?

  160. Clive writes:

    beelzebub,

    I believe that all beliefs should be held provisionally, except for this one.

    By all means, state it that way, and illustrate your self-referentially incoherent special pleading.

    Nice quote-mine.

    What you fail to notice is that neither the original belief nor the hypothetical modified belief is “self-referentially incoherent.” Indeed, the modified belief could not be since it excludes itself.

    Also, I notice that my comments are now “awaiting moderation.” What’s up with that?

  161. Clive @ 157:

    The protestations about the provisional nature of belief that all beliefs are provisional, is not a provisional belief, in reality. That’s where you miss the mark…It doesn’t matter whether we categorize our beliefs into sections about either the world or other beliefs, the mere fact that they are beliefs is what is at hand. And the belief that one should hold their beliefs provisionally is a belief about beliefs, to be frank, in which case the external world becomes a second thing. And that, of course, answers Diffaxial’s objection too.

    I disagree. And you are missing an opportunity to clarify your thinking.

    The protestations about the provisional nature of belief that all beliefs are provisional, is not a provisional belief, in reality.

    Here you grasp somewhat intuitively that meta-beliefs – beliefs about beliefs – are different in kind than ordinary beliefs about the world precisely because they are meta-beliefs. While ordinary beliefs are potentially defeasible by means of simple observations (e.g. by counting, weighing, measuring, etc.), beliefs about beliefs (and what we believe we ‘know about knowing’) are not so easily disconfirmed. That is because, in a scientific context, they summarize hard-won experience derived from countless individual instances of premature belief fixation and the results of same. Moreover, the belief that “all beliefs should be held provisionally” is itself actually a value with prescriptive content that reproduces and furthers the scientific attitude, a tradition held not just by individuals, but by the scientific community generally. Hence, because foundational to one of our most valuable human institutions, it is held closely and indeed likely to be difficult to dislodge. It doesn’t follow that it is considered “absolutely true” – it is the value component as much as the belief content that prompts us to hold it so close – but rather our reluctance to surrender that value reflects its integral place within the very powerful and hard-won way of knowing known generally as “science,” which experience tells us we should nurture and develop.

  162. —-Diffaxial: “Here, once again, the crux of the matter is your acceptance of tautological statements as a “self-evident.” Truth itself is unchanging by definition – anyone who asserts otherwise is mistaken, by definition – and all of your subsequent assertions flow from that, tautologically.”

    You do continue to press that point, [which is natural since I keep making my point] but as I tried to explain previously, I suspect that your personal epistemology rules out self evident truths in principle. (Read my extended comments further down)

    —-But as you learned in previous threads, arguments that advance “self-evident” truths strike many of us as contrived and unconvincing, logical (or illogical) clockworks with no real bearing on anything outside themselves. This is not helped by your apparent inability or unwillingness to address yourself to that observation. Unpack the tautological pseudo-reasoning and all you are left with, once again, are bare assertions. Worse, they are bare assertions masquerading as “Truth,” with a capital “T.”

    Truth is simply the correspondence between the mind and reality. So, a self evident truth is one which already reflects reality by definition. Consider the statement, “an effect cannot exist without a cause.” That is not just a statement about logic, as you would have it; it is also a statement about metaphysics. It is true tautologically, and it is true metaphysically. If it was not a true statement about the real world, the entire rational enterprise would break down. We have rational minds, we live in a rational universe, and there is a correspondence between the two. You seem to want to deny that correspondence [indeed also the dual realms] and fall back into a kind of logical subjectivism, as if the logic of the mind was somehow divorced from the logic of the universe. A self evident truth reflects reality by definition. If it doesn’t reflect reality, then it isn’t true. If it is a “mere tautology,” and most of them are indeed that way, it tells us nothing about the world and is, therefore, trivial. Not all tautologies are like that.

    There are multiple theories of knowledge that one could speak of, but, in a general sense, the three big ones are “realism,” [knowledge comes from mind and sense experience], “empiricism,” [knowledge comes only from sense experience], and “rationalism.” [knowledge comes only from mind]. Both rationalism and empiricism are extremes because each perspective leaves out something important. I suspect that you have a problem with self evident truths because you embrace what I perceive to be a kind of radical empiricism. If your epistemology precludes the possibility that the mind is an organ of knowledge, that is, if you think knowledge comes only from sense experience and in no other way, naturally you are going to dismiss anything as knowledge [or truth] that cannot be observed or somehow verified empirically.

    Under the circumstances, you could not accept the proposition that the mind can present to the observer a truth about the real world. Naturally, if the mind can’t apprehend any truth at all, then it certainly cannot apprehend a self-evident truth. So, I could never convince you that the mind can perceive a self evident truth until I could first convince you that the mind is an organ of knowledge capable of perceiving anything at all. As I perceive it, the problem is not in the laws of logic, but rather in a carefully chosen theory of knowledge [empiricism] calculated to keep pace with an atheistic metaphysics [materialism] design to keep pace with an elevated status for science [scientism].

  163. Beelzebub

    I’m glad to see that you now understand that your claim that science was in complete disagreement 300 years ago is a logical error. . . I’m neither glad nor surprised to see that you are still sticking to your quote-mine and ignoring the fact that my statement referred not to disagreement in general, but to disagreement on the six scientific questions I listed in my comment

    I’m neither glad nor surprised you fail to comprehend that I explicitly referred to your questions (well, 5 of the 6) in my Post 87

  164. Beelzebub

    Only a tiny number 300 years ago rejected aether. . . True, but they didn’t have to ignore the evidence and reject fundamental findings from every field of science

    They would have had to “ignore the evidence” and reject the fundamental finding of every field of contemporaneous science. That’s the point. A forward thinker sees a flaw in conventional wisdom and picks at it until in unravels. OTOH, I’ll grant that there are ignorant cranks who reject CW also but differentiating them from the visionaries might not be possible within one’s lifetime.

    If you believe in the multi-verse you believe in something that violates the laws of physics. Evidence?

    What do the laws of physics say about order and energy? What would the multi-verse have to add to this universe to create it? What would the multi-verse have to add to the mulit-verse to create itself, for that matter?

    Why would a shift in the neutrino flux have anything to do with the reasonableness of a particular statement of dogma? .. .No reason that I can think of.

    In which case I’ll point that out as another logical error in your emotion-driven argument :-)

    That’s my point. I don’t anticipate any reason to amend my belief that dogma should never be accepted unquestioningly. If such a reason arises, however, then I will revise my belief.

    It sounds like you are saying you accept dogma but don’t want to say you accept dogma.

    Unless, of course, you are perfect. If you were prefect could you be certain your belief is true? . . .Sure. I would say that perfection for a sentient being would require, among other things, not holding any untrue beliefs.

    Can a perfect being exist?

  165. Testing to see if my comments are still “awaiting moderation”…

    lamarck writes:

    Atheism is a religion…

    As some wag put it, “atheism is a religion like not collecting stamps is a hobby.”

    …asserting the negative as a matter of faith…

    Quite the opposite. Most atheists are atheists because they lack the faith necessary to believe in God despite a lack of evidence.

    …saying “A sentient entity was absolutely not involved in creating the universe.”

    The atheists I know don’t make absolute statements about God’s non-existence. We just don’t see sufficient evidence to believe.

  166. Folks,

    Some classics, thanks to BZ, 150:

    1] On NEVER being absolutely sure:

    BZ, 78 (asserting): We’re never absolutely sure, which is why we should always continue to question our beliefs, even the most fundamental ones.

    GEM, 111 (correcting): Observe the self-referential absurdity on knowledge: We’re NEVER absolutely sure.

    BZ, 150 (backtracking . . . ): It would only be incoherent if I wrote “I’m absolutely sure that we’re never absolutely sure.” As it stands, it’s a perfectly coherent, provisional belief.

    Of course, this is a case of “don’t believe yer lyin’ eyes” as the very statement, We’re never absolutely sure, is of course quite plainly of undeniably universal negative — i.e. absolute — form. So, the onward attempt to declare the patently self-refuting assertion a “mere” provisional belief, is plainly an attempt to rhetorically rewrite the record after the fact of having been duly and properly corrected in self referential absurdity.

    But also, does it work to now try to say in effect that BZ is provisionally confident that “We’re never absolutely sure“?

    Nope.

    For, such a universal negative is not within the empirical remit of a finite, fallible creature: to claim to KNOW that X is NEVER the case on limited and fallible empirical data and equally limited and fallible principles of reasoning is absurd. For, a counter example or counter argument might emerge beyond our current scope of beliefs or opinions or intents (“knowledge” has now vanished . . . ); which would overturn the confident claim — if we were willing to heed it (but, the “correction” could be wrong too . . . ). As, such “mere opinion,” in turn could just be wrong too. [The root of the problem is hastily extending the provisionality of SCIENTIFIC knowledge-claims to all claims, even claims where this does not work; e.g. the foundations of logic. We must accept those as self-evidently true, or end up in absurdity of mere clashes over opinuions and perceptions -- or, is that perceptions of clashes over opinions, none of which can in the end be warranted beyond "who gots the bigger guns" . . . or "who controls the mikes and presses" and so makes up the "consensus" Plato's Cave shadow shows for the benefit of the gullible public? In short, the very foundations of science, knowledge, reason, justice and liberty are implicitly at stake in this exchange.]

    Ouch, too: all along (i) we have been actually saying/implying that certain things are so, and also implying that (ii) they are known to be so; thus warrantable and warranted. Ouch: we cannot — oops there goes a raft of universal state of affairs declarations again — ouch, yet again, — and, yet again . . . ad infinitum.

    That is, the vicious infinite regress just pointed out makes the self-referential absurdity of BZ’s “revised” position painfully plain.

    All of us end up assuming or asserting or implying that certain things are knowable in my sense (ii) from 111: warranted, true belief.

    And in turn, such things rest on the self-evident start-points of reasoning and knowing; so that if we reject that first step of trust in self-evident truth, we end up in a morass of absurdities: reason and faith cannot be disconnected, for reasoning is a matter of trust in its starting points.

    therefore, as minded, understanding, experiencing creatures, we can and do know far beyond what we may deductively prove or define tautologically as a basis for such proof. [And don't let me start on Godel's incompleteness theorems and their import that even mathematics is a subject that is irreducibly complex and deeply rooted in faith commitments!]

    So, the claim — at best — would reduce to a statement about personal wishes and speculations or psychology, not an assertion about our epistemic capacity and its limits. That is, in effect: in BZ’s humble estimation and desire, he is of the personal opinion that we are never absolutely sure about our knowledge claims. (And notice how materially different this is from what ever so boldly appears at 78!)

    Now, too, others (with far better warrant . . . ) are quite confident that — once we understand the import of self-evident claims based on our undeniably real experience of the world as minded creatures — we can be sure about certain claims [e.g. (a) that error exists or (b) that A and NOT-A cannot both be true in the same sense at the same time]. Such, on grounds of self-evident logical truth and the nature and impact of our experience of the world. (BTW if you wish to deny the reality of our experience of the world as minded — though of course finite and fallible — creatures, pray, tell us who is making the denial: lucky noise somehow magically poofing contextually responsive arguments into — oops — existence?)

    Indeed, those who bwelieve that self-efvident truths ground our knowledge of the world are for excellent reason quite confident, and can offer good warrant per illustrative cases in point, that those who disagree with them, tacitly — i.e. implicitly — accept these very same absolutes and self-evident truths, even as they try to deny them or what they point to about the underlying nature of a reality in which such full form knowledge of truth is possible. (Of course, that is just what happened here at no 78 above: BZ affirmed that he knows a universal negative absolute, in attempting to deny the possibility of knowable absolutes. OOPS.)

    [ . . . ]

  167. 2] On the import of “we SHOULD ALWAYS . . . ”

    BZ, 78 (declaring confidently): we should always continue to question our beliefs, even the most fundamental ones . . .

    GEM, 11, (correctively): note the assertion of a claimed duty that is held to be without exception: we SHOULD always continue to question our beliefs, even the most fundamental ones

    BZ, 150 (backtracking): Provisional, just like the last one [i.e. as just addressed].

    Of course, here, BZ first tried to exert the moral force of OUGHT, on an evident worldview [he has been remarkably coy on embarking on open discussion of worldview alternatives on comparative difficulties, but we may draw out a few implications . . . ] that only permits IS.

    (NB: An ought can only be grounded in an is, if that is already entails the oughtness of such things. For instance, God, who knows perfectly and loves perfectly — and is perfectly holy — has made a world in which oughtness is just as inextricably embedded as it is in his character; a world that BTW, has in it minded creatures capable of virtue, so necessarily of real — though obviously not unlimited — choices and consequences. But, such a ground for “ought” is utterly unacceptable to evolutionary materialist atheists . . . who (unsurprisingly) struggle in vain to ground oughtness in a world their worldview limits to the merely material is. Oops, they are now backing away from is, too . . . )

    I duly pointed out that the view is incoherent, as it seeks to extract universally binding moral force from premises that only permit of in effect manipulation of impulses and feelings.

    In response, we see that “provisionally” BZ holds that “we should always continue to question our beliefs, even the most fundamental ones . . . ”

    But, a provisional ought is no ought at all. It is at best a personal recommendation relative to “how things seem to me just now . . . ” which in turn implies yet another vicious cascade of affirmations of states of affairs that “are” so. (And the absurdity of such is so destructive to morality, a condition of survival as a human race, that BZ now tries to keep the force of ought, even while denying its binding nature.)

    ______________

    In short, the situation is just as I pointed out in 111:

    we here see a classic illustration of how selective hyperskepticism ends in self-referential inconsistencies and absurdity. Also, how relativist schemes of thought rely on implicit adherence to the concept of universally binding obligations. In short, so soon as BZ begins to be articulate his views explicitly, self-referential incoherences begin to crop up. That is, the underlying system of thought — it seems, some variety of ultra-modern, relativist evolutionary materialism — self-destructs.

    GEM of TKI

    ++++++++++

    PS: On barber paradoxes, Trib is right to raise the possibility of a bald barber who has no facial hair. But, also, the point of the paradox is that sets must be coherently definable — or, at least, recognisable — collections, so that one may meaningfully say “A is B”; which is what “A is a member/subset of B” is about:

    a –> For instance, if we say “Socrates is a man,” we are making a claim about (a) existence, and (b) set membership, so that when we go on to saying “men are mortal,” we affirm a certain form of set inclusion in a context of existential import. (Thus, in the context of this classical syllogism, we have constrained the implications to exclude the case of null or empty sets. [This, of course, does not imply that we may not properly consider that more general case, where we do not confine ourselves to sets that have actual members; but it does draw out the implications of dealing with affirmations concerning a real world of existent objects.])

    b –> Thus also, when we conclude “Socrates is mortal,” we are asserting transitivity of membership from a certain individual being a man to his being a mortal.

    c –> When Hazel therefore tries to say: Beezlebub and I believe in provisionally held beliefs, we are not merely playing silly word games when we point out that this is an affirmation of the reality of specified states of affairs, i.e., of membership of certain things in recognisable and distinct classes — thence, again, the vicious regress on “is.”

    d –> In short, Hazel’s attempt to rebut ends up in just the same problem as BZ’s back-track: sooner or later, such a claim ends up affirming some things as so beyond mere provisionality — starting with the assertion of provisionality itself. (By contrast, when I say that SCIENCE has provisional — sense (i) of 111 — knowledge, I do so in a context that recognises that there is a second class of knowledge that allows provisional, correctable warrant of scientific claims. But, in the end, that rests on sense (ii) knowledge,things that are not merely provisionally known, but are self-evident or otherwise undeniably or incorrigibly true, on pain of absurdity.)

  168. StephenB @ 162:

    You’ve made several guesses regarding my “personal epistemology” and some motives that flow therefrom. My personal epistemology, you suspect, is one of radical empiricism – while I simultaneously fall back into a kind of logical subjectivism (you’ll have to explain to me sometime how those descriptors cohabit within your brain pan). It is a carefully chosen theory of knowledge calculated to keep pace with an atheistic metaphysics (materialism) and an elevated status for science (scientism). I don’t see your self-evident truths due to this epistemology and theses motives because I can’t.

    None of this addresses the content of my objections.

    Moreover, as though to reinforce my argument, you reproduced your errors once again in particularly stark form. Anyone advancing any reasonable epistemology will see them.

    Truth is simply the correspondence between the mind and reality. So, a self evident truth is one which already reflects reality by definition…A self evident truth reflects reality by definition. If it doesn’t reflect reality, then it isn’t true.

    (My emphases.)

    We’ll set aside problems with a naive “correspondence theory of truth,” long regarded as obsolete within philosophical literature for good reasons. For the purposes of this discussion we’ll accept it.

    That said, it is astounding to me that you can’t discern how incoherent and self-contradictory your argument is, as encapsulated above. Indeed that incoherence is captured in a single sentence:

    A self evident truth reflects reality by definition.</blockquote

    Propositions that are true “by definition” (tautologies) are precisely those statements that are true WITHOUT correctly picking out something correct about the world – that are true WITHOUT content that refers to something outside of themselves at all. They are devoid of content other than the contents of their definitions, and are true BY DEFINITION (as you repeatedly emphasize), not by virtue of their correspondence to anything outside themselves. You seem to understand this when you state,

    If it is a “mere tautology,” and most of them are indeed that way, it tells us nothing about the world and is, therefore, trivial. Not all tautologies are like that.

    The tautological component of ALL tautologies – the entirety of the “self-evident” component of such statements – IS like that. What remains is the content of the definitions themselves, which reduce to bare assertions, not self-evident truths, once the tautological component is squeezed out.

    I expected an explanation of why “not all tautologies are like that” to follow, but it never came.

    If it was not a true statement about the real world, the entire rational enterprise would break down. We have rational minds, we live in a rational universe, and there is a correspondence between the two.

    These are bare assertions, assumptions and hopes, really, that need to be argued, not simply asserted.

    My actual epistemology, if I can be said to have one, is more or less one of pragmatic realism, with a lower case “r.” I often recommend Wittgenstein’s little volume On Certainty (really just posthumously published notebooks, available on line) which is very penetrating. I also very much admire the later Hilary Putnam, particularly his book The Many Faces of Realism, as well as Representation and Reality.

    Coincidently, I am now reading a later Putnam work, the threefold cord – mind, body, and world (there are no caps in the title), a series of lectures he delivered in 1994 and 1997 at Columbia and Brown. He opens with the following:

    “The besetting sin of philosophers seems to be throwing the baby out with the bathwater. From the beginning, each “new wave” of philosophers has simply ignored the insights of the previous wave in the course of advancing its own. Today we stand near the end of a century in which there have been many new insights in philosophy; but at the same time there has been an unprecedented forgetting of the insights of previous centuries and millenia.

    “At the same time, it would be absurd to make the reactionary move of trying to believe what philosophers who lived two hundred or two thousand years ago believed. As John Dewey would have told us, they lived under wholly different conditions and faced wholly different problems, and such a return is impossible in any case. And even if it were possible to go back, to do so would be to ignore the correct criticisms of the abandoned positions that were made by later generations of philosophers.”

    If those of us guilty of “scientism” need attend to the first paragraph (and Putnam would argue that we do), you should give attention to the second. I’d suggest that you take up the threefold cord, where you will find that the issues surrounding a simple realism are, in fact, far from simple or self-evident. In Putnam you will recognize a brilliant thinker who is clearly struggling to get it right rather than grind an axe.

  169. With apologies for the repetition, let me repost the preceding with the tags corrected:

    StephenB @ 162:

    You’ve made several guesses regarding my “personal epistemology” and some motives that flow therefrom. My personal epistemology, you suspect, is one of radical empiricism – while I simultaneously fall back into a kind of logical subjectivism (you’ll have to explain to me sometime how those descriptors cohabit within your brain pan). It is a carefully chosen theory of knowledge calculated to keep pace with an atheistic metaphysics (materialism) and an elevated status for science (scientism). I don’t see your self-evident truths due to this epistemology and these motives, because I can’t.

    None of this addresses the content of my objections.

    Moreover, as though to reinforce my argument, you reproduced your errors once again in particularly stark form. Anyone advancing any reasonable epistemology will see them.

    Truth is simply the correspondence between the mind and reality. So, a self evident truth is one which already reflects reality by definition…A self evident truth reflects reality by definition. If it doesn’t reflect reality, then it isn’t true.

    (My emphases.)

    We’ll set aside problems with a naive “correspondence theory of truth,” long regarded as obsolete within philosophical literature for good reasons. For the purposes of this discussion we’ll accept it.

    That said, it is astounding to me that you can’t discern how incoherent and self-contradictory your argument is, as encapsulated above. Indeed that incoherence is captured in a single sentence:

    A self evident truth reflects reality by definition.

    Propositions that are true “by definition” (tautologies) are precisely those statements that are true WITHOUT correctly picking out something correct about the world – that are true WITHOUT content that refers to something outside of themselves at all. They are devoid of content other than the contents of their definitions, and are true BY DEFINITION (as you repeatedly emphasize), not by virtue of their correspondence to anything outside themselves. You seem to understand this when you state,

    If it is a “mere tautology,” and most of them are indeed that way, it tells us nothing about the world and is, therefore, trivial. Not all tautologies are like that.

    The tautological component of ALL tautologies – the entirety of the “self-evident” component of such statements – IS like that. What remains is the content of the definitions themselves, which reduce to bare assertions, not self-evident truths, once the tautological component is squeezed out.

    I expected an explanation of why “not all tautologies are like that” to follow, but it never came.

    If it was not a true statement about the real world, the entire rational enterprise would break down. We have rational minds, we live in a rational universe, and there is a correspondence between the two.

    These are bare assertions, assumptions and hopes, really, that need to be argued, not simply asserted.

    My actual epistemology, if I can be said to have one, is more or less one of pragmatic realism, with a lower case “r.” I often recommend Wittgenstein’s little volume On Certainty (really just posthumously published notebooks, available on line) which is very penetrating. I also very much admire the later Hilary Putnam, particularly his book The Many Faces of Realism, as well as Representation and Reality.

    Coincidently, I am now reading a later Putnam work, the threefold cord – mind, body, and world (there are no caps in the title), a series of lectures he delivered in 1994 and 1997 at Columbia and Brown. He opens with the following:

    “The besetting sin of philosophers seems to be throwing the baby out with the bathwater. From the beginning, each “new wave” of philosophers has simply ignored the insights of the previous wave in the course of advancing its own. Today we stand near the end of a century in which there have been many new insights in philosophy; but at the same time there has been an unprecedented forgetting of the insights of previous centuries and millenia.

    “At the same time, it would be absurd to make the reactionary move of trying to believe what philosophers who lived two hundred or two thousand years ago believed. As John Dewey would have told us, they lived under wholly different conditions and faced wholly different problems, and such a return is impossible in any case. And even if it were possible to go back, to do so would be to ignore the correct criticisms of the abandoned positions that were made by later generations of philosophers.”

    If those of us guilty of “scientism” need attend to the first paragraph (and Putnam would argue that we do), you should give attention to the second. I’d suggest that you take up the threefold cord, where you will find that the issues surrounding a simple realism are, in fact, far from simple or self-evident. In Putnam you will recognize a brilliant thinker who is clearly struggling to get it right rather than grind an axe.

  170. kairosfocus,

    I would respond in detail, except that my comments are currently being held in moderation for 12 hours or more. It’s no longer a dialog when one party’s replies remain hidden until the conversation has moved on to other topics.

    I will point out that your lengthy argument is undermined by a fundamental confusion: you believe that a universal statement cannot be held provisionally.

    This is easily refuted by a well-known example. Suppose I state the following:

    All swans are white.

    You show me one of Australia’s famous black swans. I revise my belief accordingly.

    All of this is perfectly coherent. I really did believe that all swans were white. It was a universal belief. I amended my belief in response to contrary evidence. Thus it was a provisional belief.

    No incoherence. No contradiction.

    It works the same way with the following statement of mine that is the focus of so much of your interest:

    We’re never absolutely sure, which is why we should always continue to question our beliefs, even the most fundamental ones.

    Is this a universal belief? Yes, because I do think that we’re never absolutely sure. Is it a provisional belief? Yes, because I will amend it if you demonstrate that we can be absolutely sure at times.

    No incoherence. No contradiction.

  171. —-Diffaxial: “These are bare assertions, assumptions and hopes, really, that need to be argued, not simply asserted.”

    No, they are self evident truths which were responsible for launching Western Civilization and the modern scientific enterprise. The logic of the mind corresponds to the logic of the universe. Our intellectual notion of causation [subjective] reflects nature’s causative events [objective]. The subject apprehends the object; the investigator approaches the object of the investigation. That is why there is any such thing as a “sound” logical argument. If, for example, you begin with a false premise about the real world and reason perfectly, you are doomed to arrive at a false conclusion about the real world. I am amazed that you do not get this.

    I am happy that you have read many books on philosophy, just as I have read many books on philosophy. If you like, I, too, could name drop and allude to hundreds of philosophers, many famous, and others not so famous. For that matter, I don’t judge a philosopher by his fame or his modernity but rather than by his capacity to reason well. Yes, some things about the world are always changing, but some things always remain the same. The philosophers that you allude to, especially Dewey, [Putnam to a lesser extent] obsess over the first part and ignore the second part, so I don’t share your admiration for them.

    That task at hand, however, is to apply the principles, not simply to allude to them. If we can’t apply what we know, then we must question what we know. In fact, truth either exists or it doesn’t. Either we can know it or we cannot. Most of modern philosophy is an extension of Kant’s attempt to destroy the correspondence between the mind and reality. Reid refuted that error in Kant’s own day and Adler refuted it again in the 20th century. Still, skeptics continually revisit that fiasco, which is why so many of them are busy chasing down rabbit trails. Once again, I appeal to my example. Do you believe that the statement, “an effect cannot exist without its cause,” is a statement about the real world? Please address this issue.

    As I stated earlier, that is not just a statement about logic, as you would have it; it is also a statement about metaphysics. If it was not a true statement about the real world, the entire rational enterprise would break down. If you disagree with that statement, please explain why. Tell me how the reasoning process could be of any use to us under any other conditions or circumstances.

    We obtain knowledge through the intellect, and through sense experience. Do you agree or disagree? If you disagree, then do you understand the implications of that disagreement? If all our knowledge comes from sense experience, and no other place, then we cannot know truth in any way. Do you understand why this must be the case? If, on the other hand, knowledge comes from both the intellect and sense experience, then our intellect can apprehend truth. What is happening on this thread is not hard to discern. On the one hand, truth exists and we can know it. On the other hand, many would prefer to avoid the point by constructing diversionary philosophical systems as a means of escaping the obvious.

    Truth: A thing cannot be and not be at the same time and under the same formal circumstances. Truth: From nothing something cannot come. Truth: An effect cannot exist without a cause: Truth: The whole is always greater than any one of its parts. Truth: We have rational minds, we live in a rational universe, and there is a correspondence between the two. Truth: Error exist, therefore truth exists. There are plenty more where those came from, and these are all statements about the real world. We cannot verify these truths by way of scientific investigation, we must assume them apriori. We do not reason our way TO these truths, we reason our way FROM them.

    If you disagree with these statements, why would you even come to this site to engage in some semblance of reasoned discourse? Indeed, you question the very foundations of reason itself? How can one rationally argue, in the name of truth, that truth doesn’t exist? Answer, one cannot. Most skeptics do not reject self-evident truths because they are not self evident; they reject them because they are true.

  172. StephenB,

    This comment is unlikely to appear for a while, so I hope you see it.

    In earlier comments, you

    1) confirmed that you accept Catholic dogma concerning the Eucharist as absolutely true;

    2) confirmed that you do not know that it is true, but that you assent to it by faith;

    3) stated that dogma must not be subject to revision, period, regardless of the weight of contradictory evidence.

    In so doing, you make my point for me: You don’t know that the dogma is true, and your decision to assent to it by faith doesn’t magically make it true. Therefore it could be false. Yet, as a good Catholic, you refuse to revise your belief in light of reason and evidence to the contrary. If it is false, you have locked yourself into error. Catholic dogma is not self-correcting.

    Any scientific finding, no matter how fundamental, is subject to revision in the light of sufficient evidence. Science is self-correcting in a way that dogmatic religion is not.

    Dogmatism is a serious flaw, and it is one of the reasons that religion has made so little progress over the millennia.

  173. StephenB: at 169:

    Diffaxial: “These are bare assertions, assumptions and hopes, really, that need to be argued, not simply asserted.”
    No, they are self evident truths which were responsible for launching Western Civilization and the modern scientific enterprise.

    Then follow several more bare assertions. But however stentorian your tone, it does not follow from the fact that you have declared something that it must be so.

    I am happy that you have read many books on philosophy, just as I have read many books on philosophy. If you like, I, too, could name drop and allude to hundreds of philosophers, many famous, and others not so famous…

    You attempted to characterize my “personal epistemology,” and address my position vis imagined motivations arising therefrom rather than address my observations directly. I cite these authors to better locate my thinking for you.

    Once again, I appeal to my example. Do you believe that the statement, “an effect cannot exist without its cause,” is a statement about the real world? Please address this issue.

    “An effect cannot exist without a cause” is necessarily true in the same sense that “A doughnut cannot exist without a hole” is necessarily true (where a doughnut is defined as fried cake of sweetened dough baked into a ring.) It is literally the definition of an effect that it is “a change that is a result or consequence of an action or a cause.” Therefore it is true by definition that effects necessarily entail causes.

    What does NOT follow is that “effect” is the only or the best descriptor of all events, because the dictionary can’t tell us whether and how the conceptual tool “cause and effect” actually attaches to objects in the world, or to the universe as a whole. While generally applicable and helpful vis-a-vis macroscopic events with which we have direct experience, it clearly breaks down at the quantum level, and it may also break down with respect to the universe as a whole. Its status as “tautologically true,” the only sense in which it is “self-evidently true,” doesn’t help with that question. Therefore, while the statement that “all effects have causes” is true, by definition (and is therefore tautologically true), it does not follow that the application of this conceptual tool in every instance is necessary or helpful.

    “Unchanging Truth” (with a capital T) is similarly a tautologically defined conceptual tool, as you repeatedly demonstrated above. While of considerable importance in the history of the development of the “view from nowhere” (Thomas Nagel’s beautiful description of the ideal of objective description that is entirely independent of viewpoint, crucially important in the emergence of western science), it doesn’t follow that rigid application of this conceptual tool is always appropriate in the present.

    In essence, you conceive of human thinkers as children who aren’t ready to take the keys to their own conceptual vehicles. On your view, were we to regard your so-called self-evident truths as something other than self-evident, we of necessity must collapse into gibbering irrationality and incoherence. Vjtorely similarly believes that I should quail over tomorrow’s sunrise, because I am not entitled to a rational expectation that it will occur. And you think it is somehow self-contradictory for me to employ the tools of of rationality and logic if I happen to believe that they are human inventions rather than inscribed in the foundations of reality. Yet claw hammers are human inventions, not inscribed in the foundations of reality; how is that I can use them to drive nails?

    Yours is a strikingly nihilistic view of human thinking. This nihilism is abetted by obsolete and rigid epistemological categories: “sense experience” versus “intellect,” for example, which are problematic in more ways than can be recounted here, and are patently unrealistic in light of what we know from developmental psychology about the social embeddedness and embodiment of the emergence of individual human cognition. And it is accompanied by unattractively absolutist and dichotomous declarations: either truth is or isn’t, either we can know it or we can’t, etc.

    But perhaps “He who is not with me is against me” is the operative dichotomy here.

  174. 174

    “What does NOT follow is that “effect” is the only or the best descriptor of all events, because the dictionary can’t tell us whether and how the conceptual tool “cause and effect” actually attaches to objects in the world, or to the universe as a whole. While generally applicable and helpful vis-a-vis macroscopic events with which we have direct experience, it clearly breaks down at the quantum level, and it may also break down with respect to the universe as a whole.”

    Stephen I will reiterate what I posted on another thread only replacing your name for mine. I think it is an excellent description of the basic difference between you and Diff on this issue :)

    StephenB: :“…. one can’t believe impossible things.”

    Diff:”I dare say you haven’t had much practice. When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

    Vivid

  175. —–Diffaxial: “An effect cannot exist without a cause” is necessarily true in the same sense that “A doughnut cannot exist without a hole” is necessarily true (where a doughnut is defined as fried cake of sweetened dough baked into a ring.) It is literally the definition of an effect that it is “a change that is a result or consequence of an action or a cause.” Therefore it is true by definition that effects necessarily entail causes.

    I asked you a simple question and you refused to provide a credible answer. Perhaps if I repeat it again, you will not waste several paragraphs talking around it. Here it is again: Is the statement, “an effect cannot exist without its cause,” a statement about the real world?

    —-““Unchanging Truth” (with a capital T) is similarly a tautologically defined conceptual tool, as you repeatedly demonstrated above. While of considerable importance in the history of the development of the “view from nowhere” (Thomas Nagel’s beautiful description of the ideal of objective description that is entirely independent of viewpoint, crucially important in the emergence of western science), it doesn’t follow that rigid application of this conceptual tool is always appropriate in the present.”

    Yes, you have stated this many times, but that is precisely what is being challenged, which is why repeating it will not help matters in the least. In any case, I said nothing at all about “rigid rules.” You are the one who has established all the arbitrary rules while failing to apply them in even one instance. I am summarizing hundreds of philosophers, having internalized their concepts sufficiently that I can put them in my own words and apply them to a particular situation. Do you understand your philosophers well enough to do that? If so, then please proceed accordingly.

    You are quick to define the rules of logic on your own terms, but slow to apply them to the problems being discussed. That is why I have made the subject more concrete so that you can address the particulars which, so far, you have refused to do. The one thing I have not done, and will not do, is start lecturing everyone on the philosophy of Aquinas, Adler, Maritain etc, while refusing to apply their principles in a meaningful way and using the occasion to dodge honest questions. It is of no value whatsoever to compare reading lists as a means of establishing credibility. Credibility is established not by claiming knowledge but by putting it into practice. If you understand your subject thoroughly, you can do that.

    —-“In essence, you conceive of human thinkers as children who aren’t ready to take the keys to their own conceptual vehicles. On your view, were we to regard your so-called self-evident truths as something other than self-evident, we of necessity must collapse into gibbering irrationality and incoherence. Vjtorely similarly believes that I should quail over tomorrow’s sunrise, because I am not entitled to a rational expectation that it will occur.

    I conceive human thinkers as adults who are capable of understanding the truth and following it. You evidently do not.

    —-“And you think it is somehow self-contradictory for me to employ the tools of of rationality and logic if I happen to believe that they are human inventions rather than inscribed in the foundations of reality. Yet claw hammers are human inventions, not inscribed in the foundations of reality; how is that I can use them to drive nails?”

    You strawmen are starting to pile up. I have never suggested that human inventions are inscribed in the universe. You, on the other hand, have suggested that human intellectual constructs are the only reality worth considering.

    —-“Yours is a strikingly nihilistic view of human thinking.

    Are you familiar with the definition of “nihilism.”

    Nihilism: [Webster] “A viewpoint that traditional values and beliefs are unfounded and that existence is senseless and useless b: a doctrine that denies any objective ground of truth and especially of moral truths.”

    Is this an example of postmodern, newspeak, turning everthing and everyone into its opposite?

    —–”This nihilism is abetted by obsolete and rigid epistemological categories: “sense experience” versus “intellect,” for example, which are problematic in more ways than can be recounted here, and are patently unrealistic in light of what we know from developmental psychology about the social embeddedness and embodiment of the emergence of individual human cognition. And it is accompanied by unattractively absolutist and dichotomous declarations: either truth is or isn’t, either we can know it or we can’t, etc.”

    My view is the same as the one held by 90% of all people who have ever lived right up to the present moment. Yours is, sociologically speaking, an aberration. Once again, you claim that epistemological realism is problematic. If you understood the subject well enough to explain your objections in summary form, I could refute it in summary form. Instead, you simply make the claim that it has problems and allude to general concepts such as, “developmental psychology,” “social embeddedness,” and “embodiment of the emergence of individual human cognition.” So now you have replaced name dropping with concept dropping. Is that supposed to compensate for a reasoned argument?

    —-But perhaps “He who is not with me is against me” is the operative dichotomy here.

    This is what happens when postmodernists cannot engage in meaningful dialogue. They always try to paint their adversaries as closed-minded reactionaries. It’s a lot easier that providing reasoned arguments.

    To sum up: I wrote the following and you evaded the matter entirely. Here it is again:

    Truth: A thing cannot be and not be at the same time and under the same formal circumstances. Truth: From nothing something cannot come. Truth: An effect cannot exist without a cause: Truth: The whole is always greater than any one of its parts. Truth: We have rational minds, we live in a rational universe, and there is a correspondence between the two. Truth: Error exist, therefore truth exists. There are plenty more where those came from, and these are all statements about the real world. We cannot verify these truths by way of scientific investigation, we must assume them apriori. We do not reason our way TO these truths, we reason our way FROM them.

    Do these statements tell us anything about the real world or are they mere “conceptual tools,” as you put it. If they are mere conceptual tools, how do you know that they are useful in any practical sense? If they are more than conceptual tools, why will you not acknowledge the point, and we can dispense with any further discussion?

  176. 176

    beelzebub,

    ——”Is this a universal belief? Yes, because I do think that we’re never absolutely sure. Is it a provisional belief? Yes, because I will amend it if you demonstrate that we can be absolutely sure at times.”

    You obviously won’t amend it, because it’s been illustrated to you that this belief, your belief about belief, is not provisional, yet you don’t amend it. And by “amend”, I mean admit that it is actually not provisional. You being absolutely sure that you’re never absolutely sure is an outright contradiction, it shows that you do believe something in spite of contrary evidence, because the contrary evidence has been shown to you ad nauseum, yet you don’t amend your belief. It’s ironic, really, for the fact that you keep claiming an open mind about amending your beliefs with evidence, while the opposite is true.

  177. 177

    Diffaxial,

    ——quoting Putnam ““At the same time, it would be absurd to make the reactionary move of trying to believe what philosophers who lived two hundred or two thousand years ago believed. As John Dewey would have told us, they lived under wholly different conditions and faced wholly different problems, and such a return is impossible in any case. And even if it were possible to go back, to do so would be to ignore the correct criticisms of the abandoned positions that were made by later generations of philosophers.”

    That’s philosophical Darwinism, the notion that the past is automatically outdated, or in this case of philosophy, wrong, by virtue of merely being old, as if there were some inevitable progression that corrects and supersedes the past. Just wait a little while and this paragraph will die the same fate :) in which case we have no reason to consider it now knowing it will be outmoded by the inevitable progress it assumes as its basis. It’s ironic, no?

  178. Beelzebub

    You wrote:

    Any scientific finding, no matter how fundamental, is subject to revision in the light of sufficient evidence. Science is self-correcting in a way that dogmatic religion is not.

    Dogmatism is a serious flaw, and it is one of the reasons that religion has made so little progress over the millennia.

    I would generally agree with what you wrote in the first paragraph. I would not agree with the second paragraph, however.

    To illustrate my point, let us consider another field of human enquiry, where there are no built-in restrictions on the questions that may be asked, or the conclusions that may be reached: philosophy. In most universities around the world, philosophers are encouraged to question everything – and they do.

    Here’s my question: can you point to evidence that philosophy has made any more progress in the last 2,000 years than religion, with all its dogmas?

    Here’s another question: can you point to any evidence that non-dogmatic religions, such as Hinduism, have made more progress in the last 2,000 years than dogmatic religions such as Christianity?

    In any case, I would put it to you that quite a lot of progress has been made in the last 2,000 years, in religious matters. Some examples:

    1. Nobody takes polytheism seriously any more, anywhere. Even Hindus will strenuously insist that Brahman is one. In Japan, where I’ve lived for the past several years, there are lots of shrines to Shinto gods, but I’ve yet to meet anyone who actually believes in these gods. When Japanese pray at shrines in the New Year, they simply pray to “God” (Kamisama), if they have any spiritual beliefs. In Africa, most people are either Christians or Muslims: polytheism is pretty much in decline there too. In most countries around the world, people joke about polytheism. 2,000 years ago, they didn’t. Nearly everyone was a polytheist.

    2. Almost nobody believes in a corporeal God anymore: the idea is seen as too ridiculous to take seriously. (The only exceptions I can think of are Mormons and followers of the late Herbert W. Armstrong.) 2,000 years ago, most people believed in corporeal gods and goddesses.

    3. Nobody believes in a whimsical God anymore. Even people who believe in sacred texts that apparently depict whimsical acts by a Deity interpret these texts in such a way as to eliminate the appearance of any whimsical behavior, as it is universally understood that such behavior would be unworthy of a Deity. 2,000 years ago, the Greeks and Romans routinely imputed whims and fits of jealous rage to their gods.

    4. Virtually nobody believes in a finite or limited Deity anymore – in particular, a Deity limited by the laws of nature, or by the countervailing power of an opposing Deity. (Even people like Zoroastrians and Mormons, who believe that God has been forever battling against the Devil, still believe that God will prevail in the end.) But 2,000 years ago, very few people believed in the notion of an infinite or unlimited Deity.

    5. Nobody believes in a God who demands human sacrifice. (Even Christians who take the story of Abraham and Isaac literally interpret it as a counter-polemic, directed against the notion that God would ever demand human sacrifice – for at the last moment, Abraham is told to spare his son.) 2,000 years ago, human sacrifice was quite common around the world.

    5. Nobody believes in a God who can overturn natural law – e.g. a God who could decree tomorrow that adultery was OK, or that telling the truth was wrong. Of course, there is some disagreement between religious traditions about the precise content of “natural law” – e.g. whether killing, lying and stealing are absolutely wrong in all circumstances, or permissible in some extreme circumstances. Still, the degree of agreement between religions about the content of natural law is quite impressive.

    6. Almost nobody now believes that it is permissible to kill someone, simply because of their religious beliefs.

    I acknowledge that progress in religious matters is slow, but surely the above list shows that we’ve come a long way. You will have to concede that things could be much, much worse than they are now.

    I will say one more thing on the subject of religion: religious beliefs may be dogmatic, but they are sometimes falsifiable. For instance, the discovery that the cosmos had no beginning would certainly falsify Christianity, as would the discovery that belief in God was triggered by a cluster of genes, or that some non-human animals (e.g. crows) were capable of understanding the Gospel. Religious people are, dare I say it, readier to put their credibility on the line than those of a non-religious persuasion.

  179. Clive quotes me and writes:

    You obviously won’t amend it, because it’s been illustrated to you that this belief, your belief about belief, is not provisional, yet you don’t amend it.

    Clive,

    This is the belief that KF and I are discussing:

    We’re never absolutely sure, which is why we should always continue to question our beliefs, even the most fundamental ones.

    To hold a belief provisionally means that one will change his or her mind in the face of sufficient evidence against that belief. Apart from telepathy, you have no way of showing that I do not hold my belief provisionally except by falsifying it and observing my response.

    As I explained already, to falsify my belief you would have to show that we are absolutely sure at times. No one has done so. Indeed, doing so would be tantamount to demonstrating that human minds are infallible in some respects. If you’d like to make an attempt at demonstrating this, be my guest.

    You being absolutely sure that you’re never absolutely sure is an outright contradiction…

    Except that I haven’t claimed to be absolutely sure. If you disagree, show me where I have made such a claim.

  180. StephenB:

    To sum up: I wrote the following and you evaded the matter entirely. Here it is again:

    Truth: A thing cannot be and not be at the same time and under the same formal circumstances. Truth: From nothing something cannot come. Truth: An effect cannot exist without a cause: Truth: The whole is always greater than any one of its parts. Truth: We have rational minds, we live in a rational universe, and there is a correspondence between the two. Truth: Error exist, therefore truth exists. There are plenty more where those came from, and these are all statements about the real world. We cannot verify these truths by way of scientific investigation, we must assume them apriori. We do not reason our way TO these truths, we reason our way FROM them.

    Do these statements tell us anything about the real world or are they mere “conceptual tools,” as you put it. If they are mere conceptual tools, how do you know that they are useful in any practical sense? If they are more than conceptual tools, why will you not acknowledge the point, and we can dispense with any further discussion?

    They are conceptual tools. Some of them (but not all) may have usefulness in a practical sense that is easy to ascertain: like all tools, one may become skillful in their application, knowledgeable regarding what tools are appropriate to what purposes, and perspicacious vis their effectiveness in a given application. They may, although not necessarily, assist us in learning about the world if utilized effectively. There is no mystery in that.

  181. Clive:

    That’s philosophical Darwinism, the notion that the past is automatically outdated, or in this case of philosophy, wrong, by virtue of merely being old, as if there were some inevitable progression that corrects and supersedes the past. Just wait a little while and this paragraph will die the same fate in which case we have no reason to consider it now knowing it will be outmoded by the inevitable progress it assumes as its basis. It’s ironic, no?

    For the record, although it may not be entirely obvious from the passage I’ve quoted, Putnam’s intention in these lectures is to return and retrieve what remains valuable in these earlier positions.

  182. Clive, this discussion would go more smoothly if my comments weren’t held up in moderation.

    vjtorley writes:

    In most universities around the world, philosophers are encouraged to question everything – and they do.

    Hi vjtorley,

    I’m certainly not claiming that a willingness to question everything is sufficient to ensure progress. That’s why I was careful to state that dogmatism is one of the reasons for religion’s lack of progress. There are others, such as the fact that many religious beliefs are not falsifiable (such as the belief that the bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Christ while remaining bread and wine in all outward appearances).

    1. Nobody takes polytheism seriously any more, anywhere… In Africa, most people are either Christians or Muslims: polytheism is pretty much in decline there too.

    Your statement is far too sweeping. There are still serious polytheists in the world (and not just in Africa), and your admission that polytheism is merely in decline in Africa is inconsistent with saying that “nobody takes polytheism seriously anymore, anywhere.”

    In any case, I would argue that the ascendance of monotheism is due primarily to cultural influences and not to any compelling arguments in its favor. Compare that to the universal acceptance of the Pythagorean theorem, which is based on the solidity of the proof and the theorem’s confirmation by observation.

    Polytheism is just as plausible (which is to say, not very) as monotheism, and I would argue that it is superior to monotheism in providing a ready solution to the problem of evil.

    2. Almost nobody believes in a corporeal God anymore: the idea is seen as too ridiculous to take seriously.

    Christians certainly take the idea of a temporarily corporeal God seriously. Why is that any less ridiculous?

    And is this shift really a sign of progress?

    3. Nobody believes in a whimsical God anymore.

    Not so, I’m afraid:

    I don’t know what creation-scientists may suppose, but it seems to me that the peacock and peahen are just the kind of creatures that a whimsical Creator might favor, but that an “uncaring mechanical process” like natural selection would never permit to develop.

    Phillip Johnson, Darwin on Trial, p. 31

    And:

    Do we really wish to substitute the exuberantly imaginative, even whimsical designer of our actual universe for a cosmic neat freak? Such a deity might serve nicely as the national God of the Nazis, matching Hitler stroke for stroke: Hitler in his disdain for humanity’s sprawling diversity; the tidy cosmic engineer in his distaste for an ecosystem choked and sullied by a grotesque menagerie of strange and apparently substandard species.

    Jonathan Witt, The Gods Must Be Tidy!

    I’ll address the rest of your comment tomorrow. Hopefully this comment will appear before then.

  183. 183

    beelzebub,

    ——-”To hold a belief provisionally means that one will change his or her mind in the face of sufficient evidence against that belief. Apart from telepathy, you have no way of showing that I do not hold my belief provisionally except by falsifying it and observing my response.”

    That’s a lot of firm belief there beelzebub. Are you sure it means that? Are you sure I have “no way” of showing that you do not hold beliefs provisionally? That sounds an awful lot like a conviction, a firm belief, that you usually discredit religion conviction for the same; nevermind that you have the same convictions in other things. This conviction is, quite frankly, the evidence that you keep asking for, that should change your belief that all your beliefs are provisional, yet you won’t change your supposedly provisional belief in how you see this misguided belief that all your beliefs are provisional, and finally assent that your belief about beliefs is not provisional after all. You defeat your own argument. You yourself present non-provisional beliefs so often, namely in the fact of how you claim your belief will be changed by evidence and argument, that there is some “you” to be convinced by evidence and argument, that “convincing” is itself a belief in a criteria that is not provisional, that you’re claim that all beliefs are provisional never even gets off the ground. You have massive amounts of non-provisional beliefs about the very claim that you will change a belief, and the method (evidence, argument) necessary for changing a provisional belief, that are, themselves, not provisional, for if they were, your very system required for changing provisional beliefs would be gone. You can’t have it both ways, you cannot at once have all provisional beliefs, and have a strict criteria of how that change is to be affected in changing a belief. It’s contradictory.

    ——”Except that I haven’t claimed to be absolutely sure.”

    Are you absolutely sure about that?

  184. Clive writes:

    That’s a lot of firm belief there beelzebub.

    Yes, and as I explained to you earlier, one can be quite firm in a belief that is nevertheless held provisionally:

    For a belief to be held provisionally does not mean that it isn’t held confidently. I’m quite sure that Barack Obama is the president, but I still hold the belief provisionally. If you provide adequate evidence to the contrary, I will revise my belief.

    You continue:

    Are you sure it means that? Are you sure I have “no way” of showing that you do not hold beliefs provisionally? That sounds an awful lot like a conviction, a firm belief, that you usually discredit religion conviction for…

    I don’t discredit religion or any other system of thought for embracing firm beliefs, provided that the firmness is warranted. What I do fault religion for is the failure to question all beliefs. By setting some beliefs aside as unchallengeable dogma, religions cut themselves off from the possibility of self-correction.

    You defeat your own argument. You yourself present non-provisional beliefs so often, namely in the fact of how you claim your belief will be changed by evidence and argument…

    That’s a provisional belief. Give me evidence that it’s false, and I’ll change it.

    …that there is some “you” to be convinced by evidence and argument…

    Also provisional, though your evidence had better be persuasive if you want me to revise it.

    …that “convincing” is itself a belief in a criteria that is not provisional

    No. We’re more easily convinced as children than as adults, for example. We modify our criteria as we get older and smarter. They’re provisional.

    You have massive amounts of non-provisional beliefs…

    You haven’t identified any.

    You can’t have it both ways, you cannot at once have all provisional beliefs, and have a strict criteria of how that change is to be affected in changing a belief.

    Sure you can. “Strict” does not mean “unchangeable”. Suppose that Harvard has a strict requirement that 2009 graduates must have taken 6 credits’ worth of basket-weaving. Without 6 credits, you don’t graduate. Now suppose that the requirement is relaxed to 4 credits for 2010 graduates. You cannot graduate without 4 credits. The requirement was strict before, it’s strict now, and yet it changed and continues to be changeable.

    I wrote:

    Except that I haven’t claimed to be absolutely sure.

    You asked:

    Are you absolutely sure about that?

    Show me that I’m wrong and I’ll revise my belief. It’s provisional, after all.

  185. 185

    beelzebub,

    This is amusing. All positive beliefs that you assert about what in necessary to change a belief defeat your own argument. I can appreciate your assertion that they don’t but they do. You ask me to show you non-provisional beliefs, I’ve shown you multiple examples over the last two days, yet you continue to disbelieve that you’re guilty of positive beliefs, convictions, non-provisional beliefs. Maybe because it’s you, you can’t see it…maybe you’re too close or you have too much to lose, that you have to be dogmatic about this. I don’t know.

    Oh, and for the remainder of our conversation, do not quote me in part, line by line, as you’re so fond of doing, and I won’t do it either for what you write. Deal?

  186. —-Diffaxial: “They are conceptual tools. Some of them (but not all) may have usefulness in a practical sense that is easy to ascertain: like all tools, one may become skillful in their application, knowledgeable regarding what tools are appropriate to what purposes, and perspicacious vis their effectiveness in a given application. They may, although not necessarily, assist us in learning about the world if utilized effectively. There is no mystery in that.”

    Inasmuch as I have asked you these question five times, and inasmuch as you have avoided answering them five times, I will answer them for you using your own philosophy. Here’s the list:

    [A] A thing cannot be and not be at the same time,

    [B] An effect cannot exist without its cause,

    [C] The whole is greater than any one of its parts,

    [D] From nothing, something cannot come,

    [E] We have rational minds, we live in a rational universe, and there is a correspondence between the two.

    [F] Error exists, therefore truth exists.

    Here’s the question: Do these statements tell us anything about the real world?

    —– Diffaxial [in a moment of honesty]

    —–“No, as I have stated many times, these so called “laws of logic” are mere tautologies and they tell us nothing about the real world.”

    —–“[A] The law of non-contradiction is only a “logical tool.” It tells us nothing at all about the real world. In the real world, anything is possible, and any contradiction may occur at anytime. The earth could both exist and not exist. In fact, it may not exist right now. I could be both dead and alive, young and old, or oriental and African.

    —–“[B] The statement that an effect cannot occur without a cause is only “tautologically true.” In the real world, effects occur without causes all the time. Water can freeze in hot weather, water can boil in cold weather, and the streets can get wet even when it is not raining.”

    —–“[C] That statement that the whole is greater than any one of its parts is only “trivially true.” It really has no bearing on the real world. In fact, a star may be filled with many galaxies, an atom can be part of a nucleus, and house can be a part of one of its rooms. You cannot extend your stuffy rules of logic into the realm of cosmology.

    —–“[D] To say that something cannot come from nothing is a “mere tautology.” Cement walls appear out of nowhere on the highway, and cars are liable to crash into them and kill the unfortunate driver. Universes appear out of the void with no rhyme or reason. Things just happen. That’s all.

    —–“[E] The notion that we have rational minds, live in a rational universe, and that there is a correspondence between the two is a reactionary throwback from scholastic philosophy. First, we have no minds. Our brain is a mere organ and it functions like any other organ, following the laws of nature and dictating our every action. The universe itself is a cosmic madhouse without purpose or direction. Our brain is simply one small part of the material universe, nothing more. There is no correspondence or any kind of rational connection.

    —–“[F] The statement that “Error exists, therefore truth exists” conflates truth with a Capital “T” with truth with a lower case “t.” Truth with a Capital “T” constitutes a tautology. Truth with a lower case “t” refers to subjective or relative truth, depending on which day of the week it may happen to be. Putting all that aside, there really is no such thing as truth at all. All we have are the provisional findings of science. Much less is there anything like a self-evident truth acting as a foundation for logic. Truth is nothing but a mental construct that humans have invented to unify their thoughts, which as it turns out, are nothing but clanging molecules signifying nothing.”

    There, now. Aren’t you glad you finally owned up to your own philosophy and spoke your mind?

    Welcome to the wacky world of postmodernism.

  187. Clive,

    Simply asserting that I’m wrong won’t cut it. You need to show it.

    I offered my Obama example to show that a belief can be both firm and provisional. Do you have a counterargument?

  188. 188

    beelzebub,

    ——”I don’t discredit religion or any other system of thought for embracing firm beliefs, provided that the firmness is warranted. What I do fault religion for is the failure to question all beliefs. By setting some beliefs aside as unchallengeable dogma, religions cut themselves off from the possibility of self-correction.”

    This is all I want to address in my comment, which is why I’m quoting it.
    Religious dogma would be misguided by self-correction, for religious dogma is divine revelation. Why would you want self-correction, and by what standard, other than yourself, would you use to determine that it is “wrong”, and by what standard, and on whose authority, would you use to “correct” it?

  189. Clive writes:

    This is all I want to address in my comment, which is why I’m quoting it.

    Yes. I too quote the statements I want to address, and so do almost all of the other commenters here (just look around). That’s why your proposal for not quoting each other didn’t make sense to me, and it’s why you found it necessary to ignore your own proposal in the very next comment after offering it.

    Religious dogma would be misguided by self-correction, for religious dogma is divine revelation.

    Religious dogma claims to be divinely revealed, but not all of it can be, because the dogmas of different religions and creeds contradict each other (unless God is deliberately lying to some of us). We therefore cannot assume that any given dogma is correct.

    Why would you want self-correction, and by what standard, other than yourself, would you use to determine that it is “wrong”, and by what standard, and on whose authority, would you use to “correct” it?

    Ultimately it’s up to each of us to decide what to believe. We can gather evidence, consult others, ponder arguments, and so on, but in the end we, with our fallible minds, have to decide what we think is true. That is precisely why it is foolish to declare some beliefs off-limits to questioning, as dogmatic religions ask us to do.

  190. 190

    beelzebub,

    ——”Ultimately it’s up to each of us to decide what to believe. We can gather evidence, consult others, ponder arguments, and so on, but in the end we, with our fallible minds, have to decide what we think is true. That is precisely why it is foolish to declare some beliefs off-limits to questioning, as dogmatic religions ask us to do.”

    Dogma’s do not ask us not to question. They may not provide the answer to a question, but that is only realized after asking a question. However, they may provide the answers, and that, again, is only realized after questioning. You’ll have to be specific in what dogma you’re referring to, otherwise we’re reasoning in the abstract, with no object to consider. An example would help.

  191. 191

    beelzebub,

    Your definition of “firm” and mine are different, just as you misunderstood my usage of the word “strict”. I meant them to mean “unchanging”, or “steadfast”, or the like. So your Obama example is irrelevant.

  192. Folks:

    This thread, sadly — but informatively, is a capital illustration of the reductio ad absurdum-laced morass ultra- modernist thought ["Post modernism" = modernist radical relativism on steroids] has landed us in.

    On a few interesting points:

    1] Diff, 169: The tautological component of ALL tautologies – the entirety of the “self-evident” component of such statements – IS like that. What remains is the content of the definitions themselves, which reduce to bare assertions, not self-evident truths, once the tautological component is squeezed out.

    Nope. The POINT of a “tautology” — as a tool of logical analysis [as opposed to the rhetorical tactic of implying that the repetition involved is "empty" or "circular"] — is that the predicate repeats the substance of the subject (though perhaps in a novel, instructive form). And, through interesting transformations, we may get to yet other novel forms . . . e.g. Boolean Algebraic [etc] transformations of symbolised propositions.

    But the point of interest is just that: to discover novelty, a point of view — often on the REAL world — that one did not recognise beforehand.

    [Well do I recall the case where I saw for the first time (with reference to a real-world context) the significance of the Boolean algebraic result that (R AND S) => Q is formally equivalent to (R => Q) AND/OR (S => Q). BTW, this is not without reference to the way syllogisms work: that Socrates is a man implies his mortality, once we UNDERSTAND that men are mortal. Notice the warranting of the implication based on our understanding of the real world -- illustrating how the world of thought is inescapably linked to that of reality, whether by being correct or by being erroneous. And, on the parallel, set-membership view, we in the end recognise membership in the relevant populated sets, and the part-whole relationships based on our understanding of reality.]

    Those notes on discovery of novelty and on “reference to a real-world context” are vital: it is when we move beyond the logic of equivalence to the experientially conditioned, cognitive dynamic of discovery and understanding of real aspects of the world [SB refers here to metaphysical reality] that self evident truths bite home. That is, we begin to see that not only is a certain thing true, but that — in light of our experience of the real world as minded, knowing, understanding and reasoning creatures whose minds “just happen” to correspond to reality in interesting ways such that we see that at least in part it is intelligible — it MUST be true.

    And, that is why a self evident truth does not “neatly” reduce to a bare unsupported and question-begging assertion repeated uninformatively.

    For, such truths do not merely pop out of the molecular noise of the copper wires and silicon in our PCs and the Internet: we, minded creatures are reflecting on reality in light of our undeniable experience of the world. We understand certain things and in so understanding see that they must be so. For instance, error undeniably exists, so truth MUST exist; on pain of absurdity in trying to deny that.

    Similarly, once we see that to say X is A, one is affirming a reality, one can see also that X cannot be A and NOT-A in the same sense at the same time, on pain of absurdity. Thus also, to say that we may err in our assertion and so may know provisionally, subject to correction, in the end recognises that X is A or X is NOT A, but not both. (Note to BZ: That is, to see that we may err is to recognise that there is something there — a truth — to err about. Thence, we see that not all truth or knowledge claims are provisional; which is why attempting to say that all such are provisional so directly ends up in self-referential absurdities.)

    [ . . . ]

  193. 2] BZ, 170: your lengthy argument is undermined by a fundamental confusion: you believe that a universal statement cannot be held provisionally.

    Nope.

    I believe that CERTAIN universal claims are self evident and/or undeniable on pain of self referential absurdity or vicious infinite regress; and, as such are not provisional.

    For instance, again echoing Josiah Royce: “Error exists.” Thus, as already drawn out at 111 above (but plainly overlooked):

    Let’s start with truth claim no 1, courtesy Josiah Royce: “Error exists.” Let’s call it E, for short.

    This happens to be an undeniably true claim, as, to try to deny it ends up implicitly affirming it. (Not-E means that E is false, i.e. E would be an error. But, that would instantiate an example of just what E affirms. So, (a) truth exists (as what we may be in error about), and (b) it is in some cases knowable beyond reasonable dispute. Similarly, the core principles of right reason are undeniably true on pain of reduction to self-referential absurdities. So also, for instance, while our knowledge of many truths is indeed provisional, we may only embark on the voyage of knowledge and reasoned communication about knowledge by implicitly accepting such core principles as firm and unalterable guiding stars. (For instance to attempt to deny or dismiss the principle of non-contradiction — even by reference to Mr Schroedinger’s poor cat — requires us to affirm that certain things are so, implying that their opposites are NOT so. So, one is in the position of having to implicitly assume what one explicitly seeks to deny. Selective hyperskepticism, reduced to absurdity.)

    (And, BTW, had you attended to the force of the just cited fairly brief discussion from 111, there would have been no need for a “lengthy” corrective argument above.)

    3] But what about “all swans are white”?

    Plainly, “All Swans are white,” is not at all in the same class of universal claim as “Error exists.”

    The former is indeed universal but subject to correction in light of being an inductive genralisation and contingent on examples vs counter-examples. Correction in further light of the very principle that: (a) error exists, so (b) truth exists [as what to make error about], compounded by the further principle that (c) one counter-example suffices to overturn a general claim, and in light of the further point that (d) A and NOT-A cannot be both true in the same sense and under the same circumstances. There are thus no less than four absolute truth commitments lurking under the inductive generalisation from observation of swans in Europe.

    Note as well a key characteristic: we have no reason, apart from accident of observation, to infer that white-ness is an intrinsic and inevitable aspect of swan-ness. So, if we see what looks, acts and sounds like a swan, but it is black, green or red, we have no reason to reject it’s being a swan; though we may insert an arbitrary definition that all swans are necessarily white. That is utterly different from how we see that “error exists” is not merely true in fact (i.e could for all we know have been otherwise), but instead MUST be so on pain of absurdity.

    In short, to think that all your beliefs are held provisionally, you are in fact smuggling in a few absolute ones in the back door. That is why you ran into so much heavy weather once you claimed: “We’re never absolutely sure, which is why we should always continue to question our beliefs, even the most fundamental ones.”

    (To claim this, you are absolutely sure that (a) error exists, and that (b) your declarations do not mean that “We’re never [SOMETIMES] absolutely sure.” that is you imply what you try to deny, i.e have reduced to absurdity via self referential inconsistency.)

    4] I will amend it [the just cited] if you demonstrate that we can be absolutely sure at times.

    Done, cf 2 and 3 just above for the latest presentation of the points that have been there ever since 111.

    In short, on the evidence of the thread, your belief as again cited is NOT being held provisionally . . . but, this is an opportunity for you to correct this contingent observation.

    And also, you are in fact aptly illustrating selective hyperskepticism at work: those beliefs and claims that happen to fit well with where you want to go, you accept without further question. Those that correctively cut across them, you exert the “right” of radical doubt to dismiss, absent someone else or force majeure of reality DEMONSTRATING to your satisfaction, on arbitrarily high standards of proof, that your assertions and assumptions are false.

    Far better ‘twould be, to recognise that some things are self-evidently true on pain of absurdity, and others are only true in fact or accepted by you as true in fact due to one species or another of provisional — thus, defeatable — warrant.

    GEM of TKI

  194. The POINT of a “tautology” — as a tool of logical analysis [as opposed to the rhetorical tactic of implying that the repetition involved is "empty" or "circular"] — is that the predicate repeats the substance of the subject (though perhaps in a novel, instructive form). And, through interesting transformations, we may get to yet other novel forms . . . e.g. Boolean Algebraic [etc] transformations of symbolised propositions.

    I have acknowledged (on another thread) that the definitional components of a tautology may be interesting, novel, and useful in and of themselves. All I am saying is that the interest, novelty, and usefulness of that content isn’t increased by the empty “self-evidence” that is carried in the tautological restatement itself. Simply provisionally “proposing” assertions as premises, and transforming them as you describe, may be equally interesting, novel, and useful, and perhaps less likely to mislead.

  195. —-beelzebub: “In so doing, you make my point for me: You don’t know that the dogma is true, and your decision to assent to it by faith doesn’t magically make it true. Therefore it could be false. Yet, as a good Catholic, you refuse to revise your belief in light of reason and evidence to the contrary. If it is false, you have locked yourself into error. Catholic dogma is not self-correcting.

    What is it about the difference between faith and knowledge that you do not understand? Dogmas have nothing to do with anything that can be verified by science. The assent of intellect to a religious dogma is an act of faith, plain and simple, just as an assent of the intellect to a Biblical truth is an act of faith.

    In effect, you have ruled out all truths, both those that are revealed, biblical, and those arrived at through the use of unaided reason. In any case, they are not at all the same thing.

    To say that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, is a “revealed” truth, or, as it were, a dogma. It is something that a Christian must believe in order to be a Christian. It is believed, not known. If it was “correctable,” the Christian religion would cease to be the Christian religion. On the other hand, to say that an effect cannot occur without a cause is a truth arrived at through the use of unaided reason. It is something that a rational person must know in order to be rational. So, there are different kinds of unchanging truths.

    Indeed, IT IS ON THE BASIS OF UNCHANING TRUTHS, such as the law of non-contradiction, that science can detect its own errors and revise itself. Empirical science is based on observation, analysis, and theory building. Theories come and go; truths do not. Error changes; truth doesn’t. If truth was correctable, it wouldn’t be truth; it would be a wild guess. If the principles of right reason were correctable, science would immediately lose its rational foundation and would cease to be. It is impossible to detect error except from the vantage point of truth. If you have no truths to begin with, you can’t detect anything or correct anything.

    To be sure, some people believe things to be true that are not, in fact, true. When, for example, people believe in false dogmas, great harm does follow. So, there are good dogmas and bad dogmas. A good dogma is based on truth; a bad dogma is based on confusion or on a lie. Here are five things to think about: [A] It is good to believe in a true dogma, [B] It is bad to disbelieve a true dogma, [C] It is bad to believe in a false dogma, and [D] It is good to disbelieve in a false dogma. [E] It is bad to disbelieve in a good dogma because some people believe in bad dogmas. Everyone believes in some kind of dogma. You believe in the dogma that no dogma should be believed. Atheists believe in the dogma of materialism. Christians believe in the dogma that God created man in his own image. So, the trick is to find the right dogmas and believe in them. That is where reason comes in.

    It is reason’s task to differentiate between good dogmas and bad dogmas. It is not reason’s task to reject all dogmas. Indeed, science can help in this matter as well. A good dogma is one that harmonizes with science, the “natural moral law,” and the principles of right reason. Indeed, some dogmas can be “developed,” in that very same sense, meaning that new information can illuminate their meaning and significance, causing us to revisit them in a new light. A bad dogma is one that is unreasonable and violates the natural moral law. Good dogmas are true; bad dogmas are false. Good dogmas liberate; bad dogmas enslave. The teaching that “man was made in God’s image” is liberating. It is a good dogma. On the other hand, the arbitrary impositions of atheistic materialism and “Sharia Law” take away man’s natural freedoms. They are bad dogmas, because they violate the natural moral law and the inherent dignity of the human person. You need to begin with the principles of right reason to make these kinds of calculations. If you refuse to accept certain self-evident truths as your starting point, you will be hopelessly out of touch with your world, helpless in the matter of differentiating between good dogmas and bad dogmas, and vulnerable to skepticism and cynicism.

  196. —-Hazel: “Stephen, can you point me to a reference, preferably a website, that discusses these 459 fulfilled prophecies, or even some of them?”

    Sorry, I just now found your comment sandwiched between other long comments. There probably are some websites that cover maybe 100 or so of those prophecies. One good resource would be “Evidence that Demands a Verdict,” by Josh McDowell. That book and one or two others that I know of list all 459.

  197. Another resource for prophecies would be “Life of Christ,” by Fulton J. Sheen.

  198. Clive writes:

    Dogma’s do not ask us not to question.

    Yes, they do. From the Wikipedia article on dogma:

    Dogma is the established belief or doctrine held by a religion, ideology or any kind of organization: it is authoritative and not to be disputed, doubted or diverged from.

    You said it yourself:

    Religious dogma would be misguided by self-correction, for religious dogma is divine revelation.

    Questioning dogma gets you excommunicated or (historically) much, much worse.

    You’ll have to be specific in what dogma you’re referring to, otherwise we’re reasoning in the abstract, with no object to consider. An example would help.

    I gave a specific example way back here, which Stephen and I have been discussing ever since. Take a look.

    Your definition of “firm” and mine are different, just as you misunderstood my usage of the word “strict”. I meant them to mean “unchanging”, or “steadfast”, or the like. So your Obama example is irrelevant.

    My belief that Obama is the president is unchanging, but not unchangeable. So if you consider my Obama example to be irrelevant, then by “firm” you must mean “unchangeable”, not “unchanging”.

    If so, then you have claimed that the following belief of mine is unchangeable:

    We’re never absolutely sure, which is why we should always continue to question our beliefs, even the most fundamental ones.

    What is your evidence that this belief is unchangeable?

  199. kairosfocus writes:

    I believe that CERTAIN universal claims are self evident and/or undeniable on pain of self referential absurdity or vicious infinite regress; and, as such are not provisional.

    You are making the tacit assumption that we can reason infallibly, at least in some instances, and that our conclusions of “self-referential absurdity” cannot be doubted. You are also tacitly assuming that the world absolutely must be intelligible.

    I think that the world is at least partially intelligible, though I hold that belief provisionally. I also think (provisionally) that human reason gets a lot of things right, but that we cannot assume its reliability on any particular point. Your absolute beliefs regarding these things are unwarranted.

    Royce’s “error exists” example is compelling, but it is only absolutely compelling if the logic behind it is absolutely correct, with no possibility of error. I think that Royce’s logic is correct, but I hold that belief provisionally. You hold it absolutely, which seems unwarranted to me.

    So also, for instance, while our knowledge of many truths is indeed provisional, we may only embark on the voyage of knowledge and reasoned communication about knowledge by implicitly accepting such core principles as firm and unalterable guiding stars.

    Not true. We may embark on this voyage even if those “core principles” are held provisionally.

    There are thus no less than four absolute truth commitments lurking under the inductive generalisation from observation of swans in Europe.

    They needn’t be held absolutely. Holding them provisionally, as I do, works just fine.

    In short, to think that all your beliefs are held provisionally, you are in fact smuggling in a few absolute ones in the back door.

    Not true, as I have explained in this comment. The truths that you claim must be held absolutely can, in fact, be held provisionally.

  200. Continuing my response, begun here, to vjtorley’s earlier comment.

    vjtorley,

    I hope you see this when it comes out of moderation. It may be far upthread by then.

    You write:

    4. Virtually nobody believes in a finite or limited Deity anymore – in particular, a Deity limited by the laws of nature, or by the countervailing power of an opposing Deity. (Even people like Zoroastrians and Mormons, who believe that God has been forever battling against the Devil, still believe that God will prevail in the end.)

    Believing that God will prevail in the end is not the same as believing that God is unlimited. God may be stronger than the Devil but still finite.

    Also, many Christians (and not just Mormons) do think that Satan and his minions are operating in the world, performing evil deeds. If God is omnipotent, why does he allow this?

    Lastly, does growing acceptance of the concept of an unlimited God constitute true progress or just cultural influence? The concept of a finite God makes more sense in many respects. For example, as with polytheism, it provides a solution to the problem of evil.

    5. Nobody believes in a God who demands human sacrifice. (Even Christians who take the story of Abraham and Isaac literally interpret it as a counter-polemic, directed against the notion that God would ever demand human sacrifice – for at the last moment, Abraham is told to spare his son.)

    Yet in Judges 11, God does not intervene to prevent Jephthah from sacrificing his daughter. Taken together with the story of Abraham and Isaac, the message would seem to be that human sacrifice is okay unless God intervenes.

    5. Nobody believes in a God who can overturn natural law – e.g. a God who could decree tomorrow that adultery was OK, or that telling the truth was wrong.

    Sure they do. I’ve encountered them on this very blog. They claim that whatever God says, goes — even if it seems immoral or contradictory to us. They like to talk about the absurdity of the clay questioning the potter.

    Almost nobody now believes that it is permissible to kill someone, simply because of their religious beliefs.

    A large number of Muslims do, and so do their governments. Recall the recent case of Abdul Rahman.

    In the end, even if we were to accept your claims that religion has progressed, it has clearly progressed far less than science. My point about dogma still stands:

    The problem with dogma is that if you get it wrong, it’s wrong forever.

    Dogma rules out the possibility of self-correction. Science is self-correcting in a way that dogmatic religions cannot approach.

  201. StephenB asks:

    What is it about the difference between faith and knowledge that you do not understand?

    I understand it quite well, having been a believer in my youth.

    Dogmas have nothing to do with anything that can be verified by science. The assent of intellect to a religious dogma is an act of faith, plain and simple, just as an assent of the intellect to a Biblical truth is an act of faith.

    I’m glad you admit this. Others on this blog have claimed that faith does not amount to believing something without sufficient evidence for its truth.

    In effect, you have ruled out all truths, both those that are revealed, biblical, and those arrived at through the use of unaided reason.

    Not at all. I’ve simply argued that it’s foolish and counterproductive to accept them unquestioningly. Every so-called truth should be subject to critical scrutiny, including those that are allegedly “revealed” truths. They are as subject to error as any other “truth”, as a survey of world religions will amply demonstrate.

    To say that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, is a “revealed” truth, or, as it were, a dogma…It is believed, not known.

    There are plenty of possible beliefs that aren’t known to be true, such as “Reverend Moon is the second coming of Christ”. You accept some and reject others. Presumably this decision is not arbitrary, which means that you have reasons for accepting the dogmas that you do. The question is, what are those reasons, and given that your human mind is fallible, what justifies your holding those beliefs as absolute truth, not subject to questioning or revision?

    If it [the dogma that states that Christ is the Son of God] was “correctable,” the Christian religion would cease to be the Christian religion.

    Only if you define “Christianity” as “a religion that holds Christ to be the Son of God.” There have been sects of Christianity that denied Jesus’ divinity, and there are people today who do so, yet they call themselves Christians because they model their philosophy and their lives after Christ’s.

    Indeed, IT IS ON THE BASIS OF UNCHANING TRUTHS, such as the law of non-contradiction, that science can detect its own errors and revise itself.

    But unchanging beliefs need not be unchangeable. See my reply to Clive above.

    Empirical science is based on observation, analysis, and theory building. Theories come and go; truths do not. Error changes; truth doesn’t.

    To assume that dogma is truth is to beg the question. Do you believe that Zoroastrian dogma is true? If not, then you acknowledge the obvious fact that dogmas are beliefs that may or may not be true. Absolute truth may not be correctable, but beliefs surely are. Enshrining them as dogma cuts off this possibility. If your beliefs are wrong, it locks you into error.

    So, there are good dogmas and bad dogmas. A good dogma is based on truth; a bad dogma is based on confusion or on a lie.

    How can you tell the difference if you don’t allow yourself to question them? Assenting to dogma by an act of faith doesn’t magically make it true.

    Everyone believes in some kind of dogma. You believe in the dogma that no dogma should be believed.

    No, I hold that belief provisionally, not dogmatically.

    Atheists believe in the dogma of materialism.

    Perhaps some atheists hold that belief dogmatically, but many, including me, do not. If I’m shown that materialism is wrong, I will amend my belief.

    So, the trick is to find the right dogmas and believe in them. That is where reason comes in.

    Reason is fallible, which means that “finding the right dogmas” is prone to error. The real “trick” is to hold beliefs that seem to be true and that hold up under critical scrutiny, but to continue to question them in case your assessment turns out to be wrong. It’s common sense, really. If you continue to honestly question your beliefs, as I recommend, then they are no longer dogmas, at least not to you.

    Good dogmas liberate; bad dogmas enslave.

    Whether a dogma liberates or enslaves is irrelevant to its truth. In any case, the idea that we should obey God hardly “liberates”. Does that make it bad dogma in your opinion?

    You need to begin with the principles of right reason to make these kinds of calculations.

    You can do so while holding these principles provisionally. Dogmatism is unnecessary.

  202. 202

    beelzebub,

    ——” We’re never absolutely sure, which is why we should always continue to question our beliefs, even the most fundamental ones.

    What is your evidence that this belief is unchangeable?”

    Three days worth of denial.

  203. 203

    beelzebub,

    There is a group on facebook called “If Wikipedia said it, it must be true”…being facetious, of course. Dogma is not the notion of believing blindly, as you would like to think in your own dogmatic way. Here is a word you may not be familiar with:

    “Catechize”

    1. To teach the principles of Christian dogma, discipline, and ethics by means of questions and answers. 2. To question or examine closely or methodically.

    It must be your dogma that claims that dogma is unquestionable.

  204. 204

    beelzebub,

    ——”The problem with dogma is that if you get it wrong, it’s wrong forever. Dogma rules out the possibility of self-correction. Science is self-correcting in a way that dogmatic religions cannot approach.”

    “Science is weak about these prehistoric things in a way that has hardly been noticed. The science whose modern marvels we all admire succeeds by incessantly adding to its data. In all practical inventions, in most natural discoveries, it can always increase evidence by experiment. But it cannot experiment in making men; or even in watching to see what the first men make. An inventor can advance step by step in the construction of an aeroplane, even if he is only experimenting with sticks and scraps of metal in his own back-yard. But he cannot watch the Missing Link evolving in his own back-yard. If he has made a mistake in his calculations, the aeroplane will correct it by crashing to the ground. But if he has made a mistake about the arboreal habitat of his ancestor, he cannot see his arboreal ancestor falling off the tree. He cannot keep a cave-man like a cat in the back-yard and watch him to see whether he does really practice cannibalism or carry off his mate on the principles of marriage by capture. He cannot keep a tribe of primitive men like a pack of hounds and notice how far they are influenced by the herd instinct. If he sees a particular bird behave in a particular way, he can get other birds and see if they behave in that way; but if he finds a skull, or the scrap of a skull, in the hollow of a hill, he cannot multiply it into a vision of the valley of dry bones. In dealing with a past that has almost entirely perished, he can only go by evidence and not by experiment. And there is hardly enough evidence to be even evidential. Thus while most science moves in a sort of curve, being constantly corrected by new evidence, this science flies off into space in a straight line uncorrected by anything. But the habit of forming conclusions, as they can really be formed in more fruitful fields, is so fixed in the scientific mind that it cannot resist talking like this. It talks about the idea suggested by one scrap of bone as if it were something like the aeroplane which is constructed at last out of whole scrapheaps of scraps of metal. The trouble with the professor of the prehistoric is that he cannot scrap his scrap. The marvellous and triumphant aeroplane is made out of a hundred mistakes. The student of origins can only make one mistake and stick to it.”
    G. K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man

  205. Beelzebub

    Thank you for your post (#182). I must say you scored well with those quotes on a whimsical God which you dug up; I’ll have more to say on those in a minute.

    You mentioned in passing that Catholic belief (shared by the Orthodox and some Anglicans, by the way) that bread and wine can be changed into the Body and Blood of Christ while retaining all outward appearances is unfalsifiable. Maybe so; but there are rare and impressive Eucharistic miracles, which are publicly available for anyone to check out, which certainly lend evidential support to the doctrine. I refer you to this site:

    http://www.therealpresence.org.....ir/a3.html

    You address three of the points I raised in my post above (#178). Let’s have a look at each of them.

    1. You suggest that the ascendance of monotheism is due to cultural influences rather than rational argumentation, and then you add:

    Polytheism is just as plausible (which is to say, not very) as monotheism, and I would argue that it is superior to monotheism in providing a ready solution to the problem of evil.

    I would reply that it depends what you want from a solution to the problem of evil. If all you want to do is exonerate the deity you worship, then of course polytheism will let you do that. Any god can then complain that he/she would like to stop evil occurring, but that he/she is being continually thwarted by other gods. Fine; but what use is a puny god like that, and why should I worship such a pathetic figure?

    If on the other hand you believe in a God who can smash evil into a thousand little pieces, and who wishes to do so, then you have to confront the awkward fact that evil is flourishing in the world today. In that case, you will have to argue that this is a temporary state of affairs, and that if God has not intervened yet, it is because He/She has a very good reason for not doing so (the free will defense).

    You might not be very impressed with this solution, Beelzebub, but many first-class philosophers are: Alvin Plantinga is a name which springs to mind. The Judeo-Christian theodicy is certainly intellectually tenable.

    2. Regarding what I described as the ridiculous notion that God could be corporeal, you write:

    Christians certainly take the idea of a temporarily corporeal God seriously. Why is that any less ridiculous?

    Christians, like Jews and Muslims, believe that God is incorporeal in nature. Where they differ (most of them, anyway) is in their belief that God (more precisely, God the Son) assumed human nature, living among as a man. According to traditional Christian teaching, that is not a temporary state of affairs; Jesus Christ will always be a Divine Person with two natures: a Divine nature and a human nature.

    The notion of God living among us as a man stands or falls on the notion of whether the Incarnation makes sense, as a doctrine. I have discussed this question elsewhere, and I’ll refer you to this link:

    http://www.angelfire.com/linux.....ncarnation

    3. I have to work in a minute, so here’s a quick answer: if “whimsical” means having personality quirks, then I say God can have none. No Deity worthy of the name could have such quirks. God might have made a lot of beetles, but He does not have an inordinate fondness for them.

    But if “whimsical” means being able to make an arbitary choice from among a range of possibilities where there can be no reason for selecting one over the others – i.e. all are equally good, as measured by any objective yardstick – then of course, God can do that, and He does not demean Himself thereby.

  206. StephenB:

    In 186 you state,

    Inasmuch as I have asked you these question five times, and inasmuch as you have avoided answering them five times, I will answer them for you using your own philosophy. Here’s the list: [list of Truths follows]

    You say you have “asked these questions five times.” But a careful review of the thread shows that you have addressed this list to me twice.

    In 171 you reproduced your list, then referred to it collectively:

    If you disagree with these statements, why would you even come to this site to engage in some semblance of reasoned discourse? Indeed, you question the very foundations of reason itself? How can one rationally argue, in the name of truth, that truth doesn’t exist? Answer, one cannot. Most skeptics do not reject self-evident truths because they are not self evident; they reject them because they are true.

    No question is posed, here, other than one you answer for yourself. There is certainly no request to address them individually, and the questions are obviously rhetorical, as you are much more interested in your own answers than anything else.

    You list next appears in 175. This time you address to me a question that refers to them collectively:

    Do these statements tell us anything about the real world or are they mere “conceptual tools,” as you put it. If they are mere conceptual tools, how do you know that they are useful in any practical sense? If they are more than conceptual tools, why will you not acknowledge the point, and we can dispense with any further discussion?

    Again, no request for my response to each of your putative “Truths.” I provided my response to that question in 180.

    I don’t recall that you have addressed this list to me on any other thread.

    One might conclude that while you strongly advocate that an entity cannot both exist and not exist, you seem perfectly comfortable with the notion that a quantity can simultaneously be both two and five. You also seem content with the notion that making lists is the same activity as asking questions, and that not asking questions and asking questions is also that same activity.

    Now to address some issues in 175:

    I asked you a simple question and you refused to provide a credible answer.

    What you did is demand a yes or no answer. That, in effect, asserts that only two possible descriptions are relevant in this domain: “An effect can’t exist without a cause is a statement about the real world,” or “An effect can’t exist without a cause is not a statement about the real world.” That is an attempt to control the discussion to which I don’t assent, because there are additional alternatives beyond your rigid polarities that I believe better describe this state of affairs. My answer reports one of those alternatives, one that speaks to the inaptness of your polarity:

    “An effect cannot exist without a cause” is necessarily true in the same sense that “A doughnut cannot exist without a hole” is necessarily true (where a doughnut is defined as fried cake of sweetened dough baked into a ring.) It is literally the definition of an effect that it is “a change that is a result or consequence of an action or a cause.” Therefore it is true by definition that effects necessarily entail causes.

    What does NOT follow is that “effect” is the only or the best descriptor of all events, because the dictionary can’t tell us whether and how the conceptual tool “cause and effect” actually attaches to objects in the world, or to the universe as a whole (and so forth)

    Whether you find that answer “credible” makes no never mind to me.

    You continued, vis “Truth”:

    Yes, you have stated this many times, but that is precisely what is being challenged, which is why repeating it will not help matters in the least.

    All I read from you on the matter are monotonously repeated bare assertions, stentorian declarations about the self-evidence of unchanging “Truth.” Don’t be surprised that the response doesn’t vary much. I agree, however, that a contest of bare assertions is of little value.

    You are the one who has established all the arbitrary rules while failing to apply them in even one instance.

    The only “arbitrary rule” I have spoken to is the notion that tautologies, however self-evidently true, do not refer to the world and therefore offer no content other than the content of the relevant, tautologically repeated definitions. I have quite consistently applied that rule, both in that I have continued to identify your tautological trespasses, while simultaneously refraining from uttering tautological statements myself.

    Onward.

    You repeatedly characterize me as “name dropping” philosophers and remark that “It is of no value whatsoever to compare reading lists as a means of establishing credibility.” I’ve actually mentioned three: Putnam and Wittgenstein, by way of referring to titles intended to orient you to my “personal epistemology” (since you seem intent on offering speculative, and garbled, descriptions of same) and Nagel, simply to credit his beautiful phrase “The view from nowhere.” I’ve never cited them as authorities, nor do I pretend to be presenting their views. You, on the other hand, are

    …summarizing hundreds of philosophers, having internalized their concepts sufficiently that I can put them in my own words and apply them to a particular situation…The one thing I have not done, and will not do, is start lecturing everyone on the philosophy of Aquinas, Adler, Maritain etc…

    It is you who is name dropping and list making (a list with “hundreds” of entries, no lest), obviously for the purpose of puffing your credibility. Not content to marshal “hundreds of philosophers” to bolster your credibility, you further claim the assent of the bulk of humanity to back your position:

    My view is the same as the one held by 90% of all people who have ever lived right up to the present moment. Yours is, sociologically speaking, an aberration.

    As though that has any bearing on the quality of your arguments.

    On to this:

    You strawmen are starting to pile up. I have never suggested that human inventions are inscribed in the universe. You, on the other hand, have suggested that human intellectual constructs are the only reality worth considering.

    Of course you haven’t suggested that human inventions (such as tools) are inscribed in the universe. Clearly, they are not. Yet they function nonetheless. But you have asserted that your “Truths” are so inscribed, and are therefore self-evident and beyond question. To deny this, you state, is to descend into irrationality. I say they are more like tools, conceptual tools. Like tools, they are of human devising and are indeed nowhere inscribed. Like tools they function to enable rationality nonetheless, your pessimism about same notwithstanding.

    Are you familiar with the definition of “nihilism.”

    You assert, in essence (although perhaps Clive enjoys pressing this notion more) that bereft of the shepherding of your absolute “Truths,” human beings must descend into cognitive chaos, and are devoid of any ability to think rationally or conduct their affairs ethically. In short, it is your belief that a fundamental nihilism is the necessary result. I think we often do just fine making our way by means of conceptual tools that are necessarily provisional, and not inscribed in the foundations of existence, and argue that this description closer approximates the predicament in which humanity finds itself: on its own and faced with devising responses to its conceptual and ethical dilemmas without external assistance. In so doing we abandon some comforting myths, including the myth that there are absolute, unchanging truths (dogmas, as you say) to be received and “reasoned from.” That is the price of attaining our full human adulthood.

    If all our knowledge comes from sense experience, and no other place, then we cannot know truth in any way.

    More unclothed assertions.

    And so on.

  207. Beelzebub,

    It is strange that you keep strumming this provisional tune as if it is the best thing to hit the charts.

    What seems to fly right past you is the fact that scientific knowledge by definition is a subset of all knowledge.

    Science is always behind the curve confirming what humanity experiences. Shall we always wait patiently for science to devise a testing apparatus or procedure to understand human experience?

    IOW, experience is without question superior to scientific knowledge.

    I feel sorry that you seem to have misread, through your childhood experiences, the path that would lead you to an experience of God.

    Contrary to your experience, personal revelation is attainable but cannot be done as a conditional petition; i.e. “God, if you are there make my boss give me a raise. Then I’ll know you are listening”.

    Rather, the essense of Christ’s message is: to know Me and experience Me, you must draw yourself to Me by seeking with all your being to be as I am.

    In fact, it appears He has already given us the tools to do this. It is the experience emanating from the interplay of reason and love that sets us on the path to understanding and experiencing the Godhead.

    IMO, your provisionalism addresses aspects of reason but fails to understand the totality of human capability. How will you progress in knowledge if you must first demand the measure of reason and the weight of love?

    If you try, it is possible to capture a glimpse of ‘the other side’ right within your own sub-conscious mind. But it will take the shedding of your dogmatic insistence of questioning everything to kickstart the experience.

    FYI, questioning is a hammer, not a house. At the end of the day, we put the hammer away and enjoy a nice evening experiencing ourselves.

  208. —-Diffaxial: “What you did is demand a yes or no answer. That, in effect, asserts that only two possible descriptions are relevant in this domain: “An effect can’t exist without a cause is a statement about the real world,” or “An effect can’t exist without a cause is not a statement about the real world.” That is an attempt to control the discussion to which I don’t assent, because there are additional alternatives beyond your rigid polarities that I believe better describe this state of affairs. My answer reports one of those alternatives, one that speaks to the inaptness of your polarity:”

    Yes, I did demand a yes or no answer because a yes or no answer is appropriate. You have stated many times that there is no such thing as a self-evident truth. You have also stated that certain principles put forth as self evident truths are mere tautologies and can tell us nothing about the real world. On the other hand, when we test this dubious contention of yours, we quickly discover how ridiculous it really is. Your attempt to avoid addressing the matter amounts to an unwillingness to come face to face with the implications of your own philosophy.

    —-Diffaxial: “You say you have “asked these questions five times.” But a careful review of the thread shows that you have addressed this list to me twice.”

    If you count the times I asked about individual self-evident truths or lists of self-evident truths, the number is probably closer to five. Since, you have evaded the question yet again, we can now put the number at six. Still, just to show you what a sport I am, I will give you a special two-evasion discount, and say that you have avoided answering the question only four times.

    Even so, that is not really a problem since I need not wait for you to answer the question. You have, after all, stated very clearly that there are no self-evident truths and, in keeping with that point, anything principle that appears to be a self evident truth is merely a tautology that can tell us nothing about the real world. So, since you will not answer my questions, I can answer them on your behalf using your stated philosophy.

    Here again is the list of the self-evident truths which you claim are not self-evident truths at all.

    [A] A thing cannot be and not be at the same time,

    [B] An effect cannot exist without its cause,

    [C] The whole is greater than any one of its parts,

    [D] From nothing, something cannot come,

    [E] We have rational minds, we live in a rational universe, and there is a correspondence between the two.

    [F] Error exists, therefore truth exists.

    Here’s the question again: Do these statements tell us anything about the real world?

    —– Diffaxial: [Here is how he must answer according to his stated position]

    —–“No, as I have stated many times, these so called “laws of logic” are mere tautologies and they tell us nothing about the real world.”
    Taken in order.

    —–“[A] The law of non-contradiction is only a “logical tool.” It tells us nothing at all about the real world. In the real world, anything is possible, and any contradiction may occur at anytime. The earth could both exist and not exist. In fact, it may not exist right now. I could be both dead and alive, young and old, or oriental and African.

    —–“[B] The statement that an effect cannot occur without a cause is only “tautologically true.” In the real world, effects occur without causes all the time. Water can freeze in hot weather, water can boil in cold weather, and the streets can get wet even when it is not raining.”

    —–“[C] That statement that the whole is greater than any one of its parts is only “trivially true.” It really has no bearing on the real world. In fact, a star may be filled with many galaxies, an atom can be part of a nucleus, and house can be a part of one of its rooms. You cannot extend your stuffy rules of logic into the realm of cosmology.

    —–“[D] To say that something cannot come from nothing is a “mere tautology.” Cement walls appear out of nowhere on the highway, and cars are liable to crash into them and kill the unfortunate driver. Universes appear out of the void with no rhyme or reason. Things just happen. That’s all.

    —–“[E] The notion that we have rational minds, live in a rational universe, and that there is a correspondence between the two is a reactionary throwback from scholastic philosophy. First, we have no minds. Our brain is a mere organ and it functions like any other organ, following the laws of nature and dictating our every action. The universe itself is a cosmic madhouse without purpose or direction. Our brain is simply one small part of the material universe, nothing more. There is no correspondence or any kind of rational connection.

    —–“[F] The statement that “Error exists, therefore truth exists” conflates truth with a Capital “T” with truth with a lower case “t.” Truth with a Capital “T” constitutes a tautology. Truth with a lower case “t” refers to subjective or relative truth, depending on which day of the week it may happen to be. Putting all that aside, there really is no such thing as truth at all. All we have are the provisional findings of science. Much less is there anything like a self-evident truth acting as a foundation for logic. Truth is nothing but a mental construct that humans have invented to unify their thoughts, which as it turns out, are nothing but clanging molecules signifying nothing.”

    As long as you continue to avoid answering my questions, I can continue to answer them for you using your own philosophy.

  209. —-beelzebub: Others on this blog have claimed that faith does not amount to believing something without sufficient evidence for its truth.

    I doubt that others have characterized faith in exactly that way. I suspect that you are either leaving something out that should be there or smuggling something in that should not be there.

    —- “Not at all. I’ve simply argued that it’s foolish and counterproductive to accept them unquestioningly.

    If you don’t accept the law of non-contradiction and several other truths unquestioningly, you cannot reason in the abstract.

    —-“But unchanging beliefs need not be unchangeable.”

    Originally, I stated this: It is on the basis of unchanging TRUTHS, such as the law of non-contradiction, that science can detect its own errors and revise itself. You, on the other hand, changed my clear phrase, “unchanging truths” to the words “unchanging beliefs.” thereby completely misrepresenting my argument and ignoring its force. Did you rewrite my words purposely, or was it an accident? I will make the point a second time: It is on the basis of unchanging TRUTHS, such as the law of non-contradiction, that science can detect its own errors and revise itself. Sometimes, repetition can be helpful.

    You have stumbled into what is called “hyper-skepticism.” It is a trendy posture these days, and it often passes for intellectual sophistication, which it is not. As Chesterton said, “The purpose of opening the mind is to close it on something solid, namely truth.” A mind that has been emptied of all truth, and which remains perpetually open to anything and everything, is like a manhole in which all kinds of garbage can be dumped. In fact, both skepticism and dogmatism can be taken to extremes. At one extreme, closed minded bigots will not budge from their position regardless of the evidence. At the other extreme, perpetually open-minded relativists reject all truths however reasonable they may appear.

    In the end, hyper-skepticism becomes reverse dogmatism, because everyone ends up settling on something, just as you have settled on something. You have settled on the proposition that the religion of your youth, OR ANYTHING THAT RESEMBLES IT, must be false. In order to remain secure in that position, you carry on under the pretext that if only enough evidence was available, you would revert back. On the other hand, you have, by design, set the bar so high that no amount of evidence could turn you around. That is evident in the way that you have misrepresented my arguments and others’ arguments multiple times in order to avoid their implications. Truly open minds don’t do that. Also, as I discovered earlier, you don’t really know the rational case for Christianity, which means that you have been exaggerating the extent to which you have had a “long hard struggle.” So, in effect, you get to have it both ways. You get to settle in with your decision, while, at the same time, creating the illusion that you are open minded on the subject.

  210. Beelzebub

    Thank you for your latest post (#200).

    First of all, I’d like to address your comment:

    The problem with dogma is that if you get it wrong, it’s wrong forever.

    I would see that as a useful quality of dogma, rather than a disadvantageous one. Let’s turn it round:

    The nice thing about dogma is that once you have shown it’s wrong, it’s wrong forever.

    Dogmas can help us weed out erroneous belief systems, in our search for truth. If religion X teaches a dogma which is manifestly untrue, then if I can show it to be such, I can cross it off my list of candidates for the true religion.

    You may object that refutations of false dogmas are rarely decisive; a religion which is attacked can usually offer some sort of comeback. That’s true. But that raises the larger question, which needs to be addressed on this post:

    When an argument rages between two opposing viewpoints, by what process should a rational seeker of truth go about ascertaining whether one side has won the argument and the other side has lost?

    This is a question that deserves a post of its own, and it could be applied to any controverted issue, religious or otherwise – be it the existence of God, libertarian free will, the possibility of genuine artificial intelligence in the future, global warming or ID. I don’t see scientific issues as being especially privileged here; rather the reverse.

    If the hypothesis of anthropogenic global warming being a significant and potentially deadly influence on climate turns out to be mistaken, you can be absolutely sure that it will not die a clean death by Popperian falsification. Rather, the AGW hypothesis will mutate in its death throes, and its scientific refutation will therefore be messy and drawn-out.

    Case in point: the “hot spot” over the tropics. For a while it looked as if this might constitute a decisive test of AGW, but scientific spin doctors have argued that satellite measurements are after all compatible with AGW. Who’s right here? Don’t ask me. The point I want to make is that the absence of dogma is actually hindering the public’s search for truth, as the claims and counter-claims continue to fly.

    Dogmas are at least refutable. The question of how they are effectively refuted is another matter.

    Let’s return to the points on which I argued that genuine intellectual progress had been made in my post at : the general consensus around the globe that if God exists, God must be one, essentially incorporeal, free from quirky irrational whims, and infinite. You suggest that cultural influences are responsible for the ascendancy of these ideas. I would respond that history refutes you here: sociologically speaking, it is extremely hard to get a society to give up polytheism altogether. Even the Jews took centuries to do so. Additionally, it is hard to get people to imagine an Infinite Being. Finally, the problem of evil sticks out like a sore thumb for monotheists, as you note:

    If God is omnipotent, why does he allow this? ……

    …The concept of a finite God makes more sense in many respects. For example, as with polytheism, it provides a solution to the problem of evil.

    So why did monotheism and belief in an infinite God come to seem more rational? That’s easy: people could see the benefits these beliefs offered. An essentially good and infinitely powerful God can smash the power of evil. Polytheism can’t offer that; neither can belief in a finite God.

    However, as I pointed out in #205 above, there is a cost: belief in an Infinite God demands patience and trust. To account for the fact that evil is flourishing in the world today, you have to accept the following propositions: that the world was originally intended to be free from wickedness and suffering; that wickedness and suffering entered the world as a result of evil choices made by moral agents (both human and super-human); that the world is now a giant battlefield between good and evil; that we are foot-soldiers in the battle, and that our lives are a small part of a giant cosmic drama; that total victory by God is assured; and that God has not vanquished the powers of evil yet, for reasons best known to Himself, but having to do with the exercise of free will by His moral agents.

    The discoveries of the last two centuries have shown that animal suffering predates the dawn of humanity by tens of millions of years. That would be a decisive refutation for monotheism if it taught that humans were the only moral agents who could mess with God’s original plans for the cosmos; however, the world’s monotheistic religions have never taught this.

    On the other hand, if future scientists discovered that the way in which animals’ nervous systems work today (including their response to pain) could be explained as a consequence of a few, elegant laws of physics (presumably authored by God), that would indeed make God responsible for animal suffering. This discovery would indeed be a major difficulty for traditional theodicies; but to demonstrate it, one would have to demonstrate the truth of both determinism and reductionism.

    Regarding Jephthah’s vow: I suggest you have a look at this article here, by Rabbi Moshe Reiss: http://www.moshereiss.org/articles/21_jephthah.htm

    As you can see from the article, there have always been Jewish and Christian commentators who criticized Jephthah both for making the vow he did, and for keeping it. An extract:

    Human sacrifice is clearly forbidden by the Torah: Lev. 18:21, 20:2-5; Deut. 12:31, 18:10. However violence is one of the central themes of the book of Judges. The book as a whole seems to suggest that the Hebrews, instead of rejecting the idolatry and pagan morality of the newly conquered population, adopted them. Note the last sections of the Book of Judges; the chopping up of a woman into twelve pieces (19:29-30), the raping of women of Shiloh (21:22-23) and the final verse, ‘everyone did as he saw fit (21:25). One commentator suggests that Jephthah sacrificing his daughter is a quintessential symbol of this moral degeneration (Janzen:35-36).

    The sacrifice of Isaac, often compared to the sacrifice of Jephthah’s daughter took place before the laws given at Mt. Sinai and in any event is introduced as a test of Abraham’s faith (Gen. 22:1). The Mishna (the first code of Jewish law) which was composed approximately 1500 years after the period of Jephthah states that vows to commit an act in direct violation of a halakha (Jewish law) is an invalid vow (Mishna Nedarim 2:1). The Talmud agrees that Jephthah’s vow was invalid (JT Pesah, 9:6), but assumed that nonetheless Jephthah sacrificed his daughter. Why does the text not condemn this vow? Jon Levenson suggests that despite the Torah condemning human sacrifice, the redemption of the first born (Ex. 13:2) was sometimes seen via an appropriate sacrifice (Levenson:16), perhaps especially in the time of the Book of Judges.

    Despite no explicit punishment mentioned in the Biblical text the midrash in fact suggests that Jephthah was indeed punished. In the Talmudic days, the High Priest possessed the power to absolve vows. Thus the High Priest Phineas who served at the time of Jephthah could in fact have saved the daughter by revoking the vow. Phineas however resisted doing so since Jephthah did not come to me him to request a revocation: ‘I am a High Priest, the son of a High Priest, shall I go an ignoramus’? This being an insult to Jephthah, he in turn responded by saying, ‘I am the chief of Israel, shall I go to Phineas?’ (Gen. Rabbah 60:3) Thus the daughter’s life was tragically lost through a male honor’s game. Both Phineas and Jephthah were condemned and punished.

    According to the Biblical text Jephthah dies and ‘he was buried in the cities (plural) of Gilead’ (12:7). That is because according to the midrash his limbs fell off as punishment from God in different cities and were buried in each respective city where they fell (Gen. Rabba 60:3, Lev. Rabba 37:4). The former midrash tells us Phineas lost his divine inspiration as a result of not acting to save Jephthah’s daughter (Ecclesiastes Rabba, 12:15). Augustine assumed the death of Jephthah’s daughter was indeed his punishment (Thompson:126).

    I also seem to recall reading that St. Ambrose taught Jephthah should not have kept his vow.

  211. Folks:

    Several interesting developments.

    I think I can best contribute today by first of all focusing on a few ABC points about truth and first principles of right reason, knowledge and worldviews. (That there is need to do this in a forum of highly educated people is a sign of just how far the intellectual culture of our civilisation has declined in the aftermath of radical skepticism, selective hyperskepticism, radical relativism, scientism and the like over the past 300 or so years, and especially the past 50 or so years. A grim warning: cultures that make shipwreck of principles of right reason, learning and confidence in knowledge are headed for ruin.)

    But, yet, I have hope.

    This classic remark from SB, is a great point of departure on a corrective to the errors we see above:

    IT IS ON THE BASIS OF UNCHANGING TRUTHS, such as the law of non-contradiction, that science can detect its own errors and revise itself. Empirical science is based on observation, analysis, and theory building. Theories come and go; truths do not. Error changes; truth doesn’t. If truth was correctable, it wouldn’t be truth; it would be a wild guess. If the principles of right reason were correctable, science would immediately lose its rational foundation and would cease to be. It is impossible to detect error except from the vantage point of truth. If you have no truths to begin with, you can’t detect anything or correct anything.

    From the first time a child willfully lies, s/he knows that the truth says of what is, that it is, and of what is not, that it is not. Thus, truth endures because reality endures: while beliefs, arguments or views are correctable, that which accurately describes reality is not “correctable,” as to change from what tis accurate is to become inaccurate. Consequently, the proper object of reasoning, argument, research, and thinking and learning more generally, is to discover and find confidence in the truth so that we may live by it.

    So too, while we may elaborate various tests for and theories about truth, the bottom line remains accessible to a toddler: when we speak truth, what we say agrees with reality, i.e. “saying it like it is.”

    That may be recognisable to some people in some situations, with varying degrees of confidence, but what truth is is plainly distinct from how well we do or can test or know or accept it. (And, if we hold controlling beliefs that are false, they may lead us to reject the truth because it does not comport with our erroneous view of the way things are. So, we need to know two things: sometimes we can reason to or from and/or recognise the truth correctly, and sometimes we fail to do so — hence the value of the art and virtue of careful, critical — but not selectively or radically hyperskeptical — thought towards the virtuous, critically aware but open mind. [Cf my brief note on critical thinking here. Observe its context.] )

    Now, too, let us consider an abstract truth claim, say A. Why do we accept A?

    Because, in general, of evidence and/or argument, B. Immediately: why accept B? Thence, we see C, D, . . . leading to either an infinite regress (which is impossible for us), or else to a set of first plausibles, F. F, we may term, the faith-point. So, we see that our worldviews rest on points of faith, first plausibles that seem to us to ground our experience and understanding and knowing of the world — starting with the sense experiences and common-sense insights that for very good reason you routinely trust as you go about living. However, there are more elaborate faith-point beliefs, such as on the underlying nature of reality, ourselves in it, the origins of the world in which we live, its challenges, our hopes, and how we should then live. A world and life view, worldview for short.

    So we all live by faiths: the issue is, which one, why.

    Or, which dogmas (and by what authority), if you will, not whether dogmas. (NB: It is probably wiser to use less rhetorically loaded terms, e.g. first plausibles or presuppositions or core beliefs or axioms, etc. Among these are certain undeniably true claims, e.g error exists [on pain of demonstrating a case of error by trying to deny that reality], so truth exists, truth that can be so well warranted in cases like this that it is knowable and self-evident.

    Thus, directly: knowledge in the strong sense or “warranted, true belief” exists and is accessible to even finite and fallible minds such as we are — though its subject matter is quite limited and unable to build the whole of a worldview. Similarly, from the distinctions we have to premise the above on, if A is true, NOT-A is false and any form of statement that asserts or implies: A AND NOT-A is necessarily false; on pain of absurdity. Indeed — as we have seen in this and other threads recently — the attempt to deny this first principle of right reason [the law of non-contradiction] must assume it to try to say that it is false or counter-instanced etc. Similarly, when one says “Socrates is a man,” one entails the distinction — noting that Socrates is a known, recognisable, real-world object — that either Socrates is a man or not a man, but not both at the same time in the same sense.

    To reject any or all of these, is to end in absurdity. In fact once we (as minded creatures living in a real world that we find in part intelligible) understand what is being said just above, we see that — starting with “Error exists” — these claims are not only so, but that they MUST be so.

    That is, we have just described and warranted — notice, I do not say, “proved”; the above are premises on which all proofs in the end rest! — in brief a cluster of self-evident truths. (To provide such warrant, I appeal to the absurdity that results from their rejection, and the realities of our experience of a partly intelligible world; that is, I have compared the difficulties and chosen what makes best sense.)

    Wiki has some interesting remarks on self-evident truths:

    In epistemology (theory of knowledge), a self-evident proposition is one that is known to be true by understanding its meaning without proof.

    Some epistemologists deny that any proposition can be self-evident. For most others, the belief that oneself is conscious is offered as an example of self-evidence. However, one’s belief that someone else is conscious is not epistemically self-evident.

    The following propositions are often said to be self-evident:

    * A finite whole [NB the delimitation!] is greater than any of its parts

    * It is impossible for the something to be and not be at the same time in the same manner . . . .

    It is sometimes said that a self-evident proposition is one whose denial is self-contradictory. It is also sometimes said that an analytic proposition is one whose denial is self-contradictory. But these two uses of the term self-contradictory mean entirely different things. A self-evident proposition cannot be denied without knowing that one contradicts oneself (provided one actually understands the proposition). An analytic proposition cannot be denied without a contradiction, but one may fail to know that there is a contradiction because it may be a contradiction that can be found only by a long and abstruse line of logical or mathematical reasoning. Most analytic propositions are very far from self-evident. Similarly, a self-evident proposition need not be analytic: my knowledge that I am conscious is self-evident but not analytic.

    An analytic proposition, however long a chain of reasoning it takes to establish it, ultimately contains a tautology, and is thus only a verbal truth: a truth established through the verbal equivalence of a single meaning. For those who admit the existence of abstract concepts, the class of non-analytic self-evident truths can be regarded as truths of the understanding–truths revealing connections between the meanings of ideas . . .

    Therefore, it is inevitable that we each must have a worldview with an attendant core faith-point that embraces some set of “dogmas,” and equally plainly, such systems vary (some are explicitly “religious,” others, “secular,” yet others “philosophical,” some “scientific,” yet others “rationalistic,” etc etc); but have the common factors that they each and all bristle with difficulties and have some authoritative or authentic core that defines what is worldview X, and why it is not worldview Y.

    So, a wise thinker examines live options across worldviews X, Y, Z etc, and compares difficulties to see which is most factually adequate, coherent and explanatorily satisfactory (simple and elegant as opposed to ad hoc or simplistic) on balance.

    So also, such a wise thinker will recognise that it is undeniably so that error exists, but also, we can in some cases perceive, understand, reason and know correctly and may often be able to tell the difference. And — obviously, but in light of a gross accusatory error just above it has to be stated explicitly — to seek to reason correctly, and to conclude thus on sound principles of reasoning, warranting and knowing in particular cases is not at all to claim infallibility or to be closed minded.
    If one consents to the core principles of X-ity or X-ism, then he is an X-ian or X-ist.

    [ . . . ]

  212. (NB: It is possible to wish — for many reasons, advantages or sentiments — to bear the label, adherent to X, but to hold instead views that would be more accurately labelled Y. Hence the legitimate role of those who stand up and say: “Stop — authentic X is P, Q, R . . . not M, N, . . . — and X’s core warranting argument, V, better stands the test than Y’s core argument, W. So, while you are free to accept Y, you may not do so and properly profess to be X or wish to hold office of trust and authority as a representative or spokesman on its behalf. You are welcome to discuss the comparative difficulties with us, but we have a responsibility to preserve the authenticity of X, unless it can be shown to have failed the test of right reason and credible key fact.” )

    [Of course, what often happens is that the battle is rhetorically cast by the inauthentic as a battle for "progress," too often by imposing standards from Y on X -- sometimes, including rejecting basic principles of right reasoning and suppressing relevant facts to do so. In my opinion, on evidence summarised in brief here, the rise of modernist and post-modernist theologies in Christendom over the past 100 or so years is a case in point. The warranting core of historic Christianity is this: Jesus of Nazareth, who lived c 4 BC - 30 AD, and fulfilled the OT's prophecies of messiah, including especially that in Isa 52 - 53: he who -- as 1 Cor 15:1 - 11 summarises -- died for our sins, according to the prophecies of the Hebrew scriptures, was buried, but rose, with 500+ eyewitnesses [about 20 of which can be named or identified], poured out the empowering Spirit, opening the way for a movement of the Spirit-transformed, and documenting the core history and teachings of the faith through his chosen spokesmen (the chief eyewitnesses of the resurrection); leading to 2,000 years of millions who have come to know and be miraculously transformed by God in the face of Christ, all the real or imagined sins and follows of Christendom notwithstanding. No worldview that does not comport with these facts and 2,000 years of experiences, including that of knowing and being forgiven and transformed by God in the face of Christ, will be acceptable to those of us who have had such experience of the life-transforming reality of the God who knows and loves us enough to redeem us.]

    What does all this have to do with science or the design theory issues and movement?

    Not much, directly.

    However, science does not happen in a cultural or historical vacuum, and we must note that in our time science has been hijacked by the Lewontinian materialists, who want to impose atheism in the name of science, accusing those who believe in God of injecting a chaotic element into the life of the mind.

    But to do so, they have in fact imposed a worldview level censorship on science, that hinders it from being able to freely seek the truth about our world in light of empirical evidence and right reason. In short, they have become a new dogmatic magisterium,using the apparently innocuous (but loaded) concept that science seeks to explain “natural” phenomena by “natural” principles [i.e those tracing to laws of chance and necessity], to enforce a worldview, evolutionary “scientific” materialism, that cannot stand on its own merits on the field of open comparative difficulties analysis. for, they thereby a priori exclude the possibility of reliable signs of intelligence; whenever it is inconvenient to the evolutionary materialist account of the cosmos. But in fact, it is well demonstrated empirically that intelligence exists, that there are strongly supported reliable signs of intelligent action in our world, e.g. irreducible and often fine-tuned complexity and complex specified information, functional algorithms, languages, programs, etc. And, such signs do exist in contexts that point to intelligent action on the origin of life and on the wider origin of our observed cosmos. Therein lieth the rub, for materialists. And, in the words of the US NAS, this is how they have responded:

    In science, explanations must be based on naturally occurring phenomena. Natural causes are, in principle, reproducible and therefore can be checked independently by others. If explanations are based on purported forces that are outside of nature [note the loaded words], scientists have no way of either confirming or disproving those explanations. Any scientific explanation has to be testable — there must be possible observational consequences that could support the idea but also ones that could refute it. Unless a proposed explanation is framed in a way that some observational evidence could potentially count against it, that explanation cannot be subjected to scientific testing. [Science, Evolution and Creationism, 2008 edn, p. 10]

    But in fact, there is an obvious alternative tot he natural/supernatural dichotomy that the NAS has posed: we routinely distinguish the natural and the ART-ificial, or intelligent,a nd indeed in many domains, rely on our ability to distinguish them, for momentous decisions. So, if there are contexts where empirically reliable signs of the artificial are identified, we have every right to insist that science accepts and respects that fact of epistemology, the underlying philosophical investigation of what is knowledge, how we may know and how reliably that undergirds our trust in the scientific enterprise.

    And indeed, such is properly a scientific investigation — hence the validity and value of the design-chance-necessity explanatory filter:

    [i] examine an identifiable aspect of a situation or object etc,

    [ii] see if it exhibits low-contingency regularities (explanation by lawlike necessity and associated forces, e.g gravity causes heavy objects to fall if unsupported)

    [iii] if there is high contingency of outcomes under credibly similar starting points, then see if the outcomes are evidently undirected and stochastic [chance -- identify relevant statistical./probabilistic distributions and driving factors/forces if possible . . . ]

    [iv] If the high contingency shows signs of being complex and specified, by light of various tested signs of intelligence, then the best explanation is design: art, not nature; purpose, not spontaneity. [Reverse-engineer, identify design principles and how they took advantage of natural regularities and stochastic aspects of nature, use in one's own designs.]

    Design is of course compatible with theistic views, but it does not necessitate such: Plato’s system, for instance, hinged on an underlying reality of the world of forms, from which a demiurge has somehow fashioned our imperfect world from primordial matter. Others hold to views in which principles of rationality and ordering are embedded in our cosmos’s underlying laws. And more.

    I will now select just one illustrative error from the above, on Billy Hall’s thesis that “one slice of a cake has in it all the ingredients”:

    BZ, 199: kairosfocus writes:

    I believe that CERTAIN universal claims are self evident and/or undeniable on pain of self referential absurdity or vicious infinite regress; and, as such are not provisional.

    [BZ responds:] You are making the tacit assumption that we can reason infallibly, at least in some instances, and that our conclusions of “self-referential absurdity” cannot be doubted. You are also tacitly assuming that the world absolutely must be intelligible.

    a –> Notice, first, the ad hominem laced strawman: to be able to reason CORRECTLY — and to on evidence have thus correctly reasoned [e.g. cf the argument form error that has appeared several times above, following Royce] — does not at all entail that one is infallible in reasoning.

    b –> Secondly, the self referential absurdity that results from rejecting the claim “Error exists” was DEMONSTRATED, so that all may understand and see why its rejection leads to absurdity. Let us — again — excerpt from 111 [May 23, today is the 27th] above:

    Let’s start with truth claim no 1, courtesy Josiah Royce: “Error exists.” Let’s call it E, for short.

    This happens to be an undeniably true claim, as, to try to deny it ends up implicitly affirming it. (Not-E means that E is false, i.e. E would be an error. But, that would instantiate an example of just what E affirms. So, (a) truth exists (as what we may be in error about), and (b) it is in some cases knowable beyond reasonable dispute. Similarly, the core principles of right reason are undeniably true on pain of reduction to self-referential absurdities. So also, for instance, while our knowledge of many truths is indeed provisional, we may only embark on the voyage of knowledge and reasoned communication about knowledge by implicitly accepting such core principles as firm and unalterable guiding stars. (For instance to attempt to deny or dismiss the principle of non-contradiction — even by reference to Mr Schroedinger’s poor cat — requires us to affirm that certain things are so, implying that their opposites are NOT so. So, one is int he position of having to implicitly assume what one explicitly seeks to deny. Selective hyperskepticism, reduced to absurdity.

    c –> Has BZ ever paused and shown that this argument is an error? No — and to so show would be to assent to its core claim: we cannot successfully deny that error exists, i.e. the reality of error is a universally recognised, self-evidently real claim that so soon as we understand what is being said, we see it is so, and moreover that is is undeniably true — to try to deny the claim instantly provides an instance of its truth. (We may now safely conclude that he has no grounds — other than that Royce’s first truth claim cuts across his preferred dogma — for rejecting the argument he would dismiss.)

    d –> Similarly, to SHOW that in relevant parts the world is understandable or intelligible — a condition of our existence as minded, choosing, communicating and acting creatures in a world of consequences — is not to assume or imply that all that is in the world is within the grasp of the understanding of finite and fallible minds such as our own. That is, we here have again, and ad hominem laced strawman.

    Surely, BZ can do better than this!

    GEM of TKI

  213. PS: BZ, have you ever done a basic algebra course assignment and got some right, some wrong, with corrections shown by the tutor?

  214. If you count the times I asked about individual self-evident truths or lists of self-evident truths, the number is probably closer to five.

    LOL!!

    A thing cannot simultaneously be, and not be. But a question is a question, plus any number of other questions you choose to recruit to rationalize your false statement.

    What you should do is claim that you were really referring to the mereological sum of those questions and the tip of my nose, which does come to something closer to six. You can say that it was self-evident that you were doing so, then attribute my lack of assent to evasion motivated by my carefully calculated atheism, scientism, and desire not to know the Truth.

    (So much for allegiance to the Unchanging Truth.)

    As long as you continue to avoid answering my questions, I can continue to answer them for you using your own philosophy.

    Doesn’t that lead to blindness?

  215. StephenB to Beelzebub @ 209:

    Did you rewrite my words purposely, or was it an accident?

    Stephen, get back to writing my responses to your questions.

  216. Doesn’t that lead to blindness?

    Boy, that leaves me open to some pretty effective rejoinders. Better amend it to, “want a magazine?”

  217. —Diffaxial: A thing cannot simultaneously be, and not be. But a question is a question, plus any number of other questions you choose to recruit to rationalize your false statement.

    I made no false statement. Quite the contrary, I could go back on this thread and others and find at least 25 occasions in which you said [A] There are no self evident truths and [B] Tautologies cannot under any circumstances tell us anything about the real world. On this thread alone, I could certainly find six with no difficulty.

    In any case, your attempt to evade the fact that your sophistry has been exposed by disputing the number of times that it has been stripped bare is hilarious. The point is that it has been stripped bare, and anyone reading my post @208 will understand that fact without any difficulty at all. It was very easy to demonstrate the irrationality of your proposition.

    No amount of damage control on your part will help. You have no case, which means that you need to give it up.

  218. StephenB to Beelzebub @ 209:

    Did you rewrite my words purposely, or was it an accident?

    —-Diffaxial in response: “Stephen, get back to writing my responses to your questions.”

    Diffaxial, I am only too happy to answer my questions for you on your behalf until you demonstrate sufficint ambition to answer them for yourself. I know enough about your stated philosophy to do exactly that. If I had gotten it wrong @208, you would have been able to point that out. You have no case. Give it up.

  219. vjtorley,

    The commentary you cite on the story of Jephthah is an object lesson in how hard believers will work to rationalize the actions of God in the Old Testament.

    Here’s the horrific story as it appears in the book of Judges:

    Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah. He crossed Gilead and Manasseh, passed through Mizpah of Gilead, and from there he advanced against the Ammonites. And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD : “If you give the Ammonites into my hands, whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the LORD’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.”

    Then Jephthah went over to fight the Ammonites, and the LORD gave them into his hands. He devastated twenty towns from Aroer to the vicinity of Minnith, as far as Abel Keramim. Thus Israel subdued Ammon.

    When Jephthah returned to his home in Mizpah, who should come out to meet him but his daughter, dancing to the sound of tambourines! She was an only child. Except for her he had neither son nor daughter. When he saw her, he tore his clothes and cried, “Oh! My daughter! You have made me miserable and wretched, because I have made a vow to the LORD that I cannot break.”

    “My father,” she replied, “you have given your word to the LORD. Do to me just as you promised, now that the LORD has avenged you of your enemies, the Ammonites. But grant me this one request,” she said. “Give me two months to roam the hills and weep with my friends, because I will never marry.”

    “You may go,” he said. And he let her go for two months. She and the girls went into the hills and wept because she would never marry. After the two months, she returned to her father and he did to her as he had vowed. And she was a virgin.

    Judges 11:29-39, NIV

    It’s a huge problem for the believer, because the story is so obviously parallel to the story of Abraham and Isaac. A sorrowful Abraham is about to kill his beloved and innocent son Isaac because he feels he owes this sacrifice to God. God intervenes, and Isaac lives. A sorrowful Jephthah is about to kill his beloved and innocent daughter because he feels he owes this sacrifice to God. God does not intervene, and Jephthah’s daughter dies.

    Why didn’t God intervene?

    Google ‘Jephthah’ and you will find an amazing array of distortions, excuses and rationalizations of the story.

    Some apologists argue that God had nothing to do with Jephthah’s vow or its fulfillment, and that He is therefore absolved of responsibility. But God was intimately involved with the whole saga. His spirit “came upon Jephthah”. He heard Jephthah’s vow. He orchestrated Jephthah’s victory. Why did He not then intervene to save Jephthah’s daughter? It makes no sense.

    Others claim that Jephthah was punished for his actions. This is a fabrication that does not appear in the text. In any case, the punishment, if it happened at all, didn’t do Jephthah’s daughter any good. If God was willing to punish Jephthah, why was He unwilling to save Jephthah’s daugher?

    Still others claim that Jephthah did not go through with the killing. This is plainly contradicted by the text, which states that “he did to her as he had vowed.”

    Others claim that Jephthah didn’t kill his daughter but rather consecrated her to a life in the service of God. Again, the text says otherwise. Jephthah’s vow was explicit: “whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the Lord’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.” And again, the text confirms that “he did to her as he had vowed.”

    Some commentators go so far as to say that the whole story was made up. The problem with that approach, of course, is that the story is presented in Judges as a straightforward historical account alongside other historical accounts.

    All of these attempts to sanitize the story show how nettlesome it is to believers. The fact that they cannot agree on a satisfactory solution to the problem is telling.

    Here’s a thought experiment: imagine that the story ended otherwise, and that God had intervened to prevent the killing. Is there any doubt that believers everywhere would point to the twin stories of Abraham/Isaac and Jephthah and his daughter as evidence of God’s mercy and His abhorrence of human sacrifice?

    If you’d be willing to construe God’s intervention as a sign of his disapproval of human sacrifice, then his nonintervention in the case of Jephthah’s daughter amounts to tacit approval.

  220. 220

    beelzebub,

    ——”It’s a huge problem for the believer, because the story is so obviously parallel to the story of Abraham and Isaac. A sorrowful Abraham is about to kill his beloved and innocent son Isaac because he feels he owes this sacrifice to God. God intervenes, and Isaac lives. A sorrowful Jephthah is about to kill his beloved and innocent daughter because he feels he owes this sacrifice to God. God does not intervene, and Jephthah’s daughter dies. Why didn’t God intervene?”

    It’s not a huge problem, because it’s not a problem. The parallel with Isaac is not a parallel. Jephthah, himself, offered a sacrifice by chance, not knowing who the recipient would be, yet really meaning a sacrifice; whereas God told Abraham to kill Isaac, but just as a test of Abraham’s obedience, not as a sacrifice. The stories don’t even relate.

  221. You’ve jumped the shark, Stephen, with your absurdist reinterpretation of my position. But your interpolations do serve a purpose: they demonstrate that you have very little grasp of the position you are opposing. Let’s take a look at two of your favorite “Truths,” and your absurdist extensions of my position thereof:

    —–“[B] The statement that an effect cannot occur without a cause is only “tautologically true.” In the real world, effects occur without causes all the time. Water can freeze in hot weather, water can boil in cold weather, and the streets can get wet even when it is not raining.”

    —–“[D] To say that something cannot come from nothing is a “mere tautology.” Cement walls appear out of nowhere on the highway, and cars are liable to crash into them and kill the unfortunate driver. Universes appear out of the void with no rhyme or reason. Things just happen. That’s all.

    No no, Stephen. The statement that an effect cannot occur without a cause is not “only” tautologically true. It is indeed tautologically true, and your insistence that it is an eternal, “Self-Evident Truth about the world” mistakes that tautology for the certainty that it speaks to facts in the world. That is exactly backward, of course: the tautological component of a tautology, the only component that confers your desired “self-evidence,” does not establish anything at all outside of itself.

    Fortunately, propositions can be ascertained to be true with great confidence without having to be Self-Evident Truths about the world. They can, for example, be found to be empirically true, some with enough regularity to be regarded as lawful. Moreover, we can empirically observe at a meta-level that the conceptual tool “cause and effect” can be powerful in a great many circumstances, indeed in the vast majority of cases. Does that make it a “Self-Evident Truth?” No, it does not. Do we need the increment of additional certainty that its attaining that status of “Self-Evident Truth” would confer to usefully and correctly apply the concept of cause and effect as we do science? We do not. Can we be confident that our reasoning thereby is almost certainly correct? We can. Should we, having rejected your notion of “Self-Evident Truth” expect walls to leap up and roads to wet themselves? We should not, due to our long experience with the empirical regularities that make these events vanishingly improbable. Does it follow that all events are profitably described as “effects” that necessarily have causes? It does not. In particular, we directly observe that the notion breaks down at the quantum level, and it is also not at all clear that it is applicable to the universe as a whole, because we know that time came into being with that universe. And the notion that universes may appear out of the (quantum) void has genuine scientific currency. Indeed, it is only with respect to these last cases that a meaningful difference arises with respect to the application of the notion of “cause and effect.” Your concern with Self-Evident Truths self-evidently reflects anxieties that arise for you at these very junctures, not out of concern for unexpected walls: you want to hang an air-tight proof of your personal god upon them. Unfortunately, your hook is a sky-hook.

    From the forgoing it should be clear that your caricature of what you think I must believe and expect in light of my philosophical preferences is ridiculous in the extreme, ridiculous assertions that apparently arise from the straightjacket of your dichotomous and absolutist thinking. I don’t need to accept that these two forms of regularity are eternal Self-Evident Truths to expect the world to unfold in much the same manner that it apparently has over the last 13.7 billion years. Your assertion that my philosophical viewpoint requires that I must expect water to freeze on the stove and walls to leap out of the void displays complete ignorance of the fact that there are ways of attaining confident knowledge of the world and its regularities by empirical means. This assertion is similar to Vjtorley’s argument that I should experience anxiety over whether the sun will rise tomorrow, because my similar refusal to embrace his version of these absolute truths leaves me bereft of a rational basis for that expectation. On his view, and by extension from the above on yours, you believe it irrational to expect the sun to rise tomorrow, even though it has risen without fail the last one trillion, six hundred forty-two billion, five hundred million mornings.

    Yours is a private definition of “rational” to which I don’t subscribe.

  222. Clive writes:

    the parallel with Isaac is not a parallel.

    Of course. There are obviously no parallels between

    a) the story of a man who dutifully but sorrowfully prepares to sacrifice his beloved son as a burnt offering to God, and

    b) the story of a man who dutifully but sorrowfully prepares to sacrifice his beloved daughter as a burnt offering to God.

    What was I thinking?

    Jephthah, himself, offered a sacrifice by chance, not know who the recipient would be, whereas with God told Abraham to kill Isaac…

    So God is okay with human sacrifice as long as it is done randomly?

    If that’s not your point, then what is?

  223. 223

    Addressing something that passed by a few hundred posts ago:
    Is religion self-correcting? Should it be? Science is involves the discovery of knowledge. Corrections are also discovered and add to that knowledge.
    Most religion is held to be revealed knowledge. No revelation, no religion. Why should it follow that improvements upon it should result from our corrections? That’s one more reason why it’s pointless to compare religion and science.

    As for the statements that religions and theists disagree on many basic questions, it’s true. God can’t send bad people to hell but also not send them. He can’t save only members of one religion except that he only saves another, or everyone. Gay marriage is okay. Or it’s not.
    No one likes to admit it, but most if not all religions have beliefs incompatible with those of other religions. That includes the major religions and all of their divisions. In order to be intellectually honest and rational, we must admit that if any of them are correct, most of them can’t possibly be.
    If I receive 100 contradictory answers to a question, I know that at least 99 are wrong, even without knowing the correct answer.

  224. ScottAndrews writes:

    Most religion is held to be revealed knowledge. No revelation, no religion. Why should it follow that improvements upon it should result from our corrections?

    Scott,

    If we knew without a doubt that some bit of dogma was genuinely revealed knowledge, straight from God, and that there was absolutely no possibility that we had misinterpreted it or that God was deceiving us, then I would agree that corrections would be pointless, because any “correction” would really be a deviation from truth.

    Unfortunately, most (if not all) “revealed knowledge” is wrong, as you point out in your comment. That means we’d be foolish to believe something just because someone claims that it is “revealed”. That is why we should question all claims, including dogmatic ones.

    In effect, a “revealed truth” is just a hypothesis like any other, subject to acceptance or rejection on the basis of reason and evidence.

  225. 225

    beelzebub,

    Four things are lost in your comparison:
    1. Who ordered or offered the sacrifice?
    2. Was there really a sacrifice at all?
    3. What was the purpose of the act?
    4. The object of who was to be sacrificed was determined how?

    It is the difference of all of these points, is my point. In Jephthah’s case the cause of the sacrifice was himself, and in God’s case the cause of the non-sacrifice was Himself. If you have a problem with Jephthah’s sacrifice, then you have a problem with Jephthah, not God. And notice, that only in Jephthah’s case was there actually a sacrifice. You’re trying to blame God for a promise that a man made. This error should be obvious.

  226. 226

    beelzebub,

    ——”Unfortunately, most (if not all) “revealed knowledge” is wrong, as you point out in your comment. That means we’d be foolish to believe something just because someone claims that it is “revealed”. That is why we should question all claims, including dogmatic ones.”

    Revealed knowledge is wrong? And you know this how? What comparison do you use?

    Another obvious error here, is that you treat your holy proclamation that all claims should be questioned without question. You claim that all claims should be questioned, except the claim that all claims should be questioned, for if you question your claim, then all claims shouldn’t be questioned. You’re back in the old dilemma with your provisional truth fiasco. It becomes self-referentially incoherent—-what it claims for authority, it excludes itself from that same methodology. I don’t think I’ve ever come across someone so dogmatic about not seeing this obvious point as you are.

  227. 227

    beelzebub:

    In effect, a “revealed truth” is just a hypothesis like any other, subject to acceptance or rejection on the basis of reason and evidence.

    In essence, I agree. And my intention isn’t to take sides against religion in its entirety. Rather, I’m pointing out that the whole of religion as we know it is a big, squishy mass of contradictory ideas.
    How many people are willing to claim that their religious beliefs are correct, and that any and all contradictory beliefs are therefore incorrect? How can anyone expect to persuade an atheist with any less certainty?
    (I’m not going to try. I may dance around the edges, but I prefer to leave religious debates one-on-one in the real world.)

  228. So God is okay with human sacrifice as long as it is done randomly?

    Beelzebub, you now seem to be saying that Scripture (and God) condone human sacrifice.

    You can’t be reached through reason. You have a belief and you want this belief to be true you are willing to pretend anything.

    And I suppose risk everything, including your soul, of which you pretend you don’t have.

  229. Hey, Beelzebub! (Or may we call you “Bub” for short?)

    Nice nose for irony there! Jephthah vowed publicly to make a human sacrifice in the manner of his Pagan neighbors—never thinking the first person he met would be one of his own—and is made to pay for this boastfulness literally with his own blood.

    And that compromises the implacable opposition of the Bible to human sacrifice exactly how?

    Funny, we thought Beelzebub would be a little more playful.

  230. 230

    Diffaxial,

    ——”Fortunately, propositions can be ascertained to be true with great confidence without having to be Self-Evident Truths about the world. They can, for example, be found to be empirically true, some with enough regularity to be regarded as lawful. Moreover, we can empirically observe at a meta-level that the conceptual tool “cause and effect” can be powerful in a great many circumstances, indeed in the vast majority of cases. Does that make it a “Self-Evident Truth?” No, it does not. Do we need the increment of additional certainty that its attaining that status of “Self-Evident Truth” would confer to usefully and correctly apply the concept of cause and effect as we do science? We do not. Can we be confident that our reasoning thereby is almost certainly correct? We can. Should we, having rejected your notion of “Self-Evident Truth” expect walls to leap up and roads to wet themselves? We should not, due to our long experience with the empirical regularities that make these events vanishingly improbable.”

    This bit of wisdom may clear up the discussion:

    “It might be stated this way. There are certain sequences or developments (cases of one thing following another), which are, in the true sense of the word, reasonable. They are, in the true sense of the word, necessary. Such are mathematical and merely logical sequences…But as I put my head over the hedge of the elves and began to take notice of the natural world, I observed an extraordinary thing. I observed that learned men in spectacles were talking of the actual things that happened–dawn and death and so on–as if THEY were rational and inevitable. They talked as if the fact that trees bear fruit were just as NECESSARY as the fact that two and one trees make three. But it is not…These men in spectacles spoke much of a man named Newton, who was hit by an apple, and who discovered a law. But they could not be got to see the distinction between a true law, a law of reason, and the mere fact of apples falling. If the apple hit Newton’s nose, Newton’s nose hit the apple. That is a true necessity: because we cannot conceive the one occurring without the other. But we can quite well conceive the apple not falling on his nose; we can fancy it flying ardently through the air to hit some other nose, of which it had a more definite dislike. We have always in our fairy tales kept this sharp distinction between the science of mental relations, in which there really are laws, and the science of physical facts, in which there are no laws, but only weird repetitions. We believe in bodily miracles, but not in mental impossibilities.

    The man of science says, “Cut the stalk, and the apple will fall”; but he says it calmly, as if the one idea really led up to the other…But the scientific men do muddle their heads, until they imagine a necessary mental connection between an apple leaving the tree and an apple reaching the ground. They do really talk as if they had found not only a set of marvellous facts, but a truth connecting those facts. They do talk as if the connection of two strange things physically connected them philosophically. They feel that because one incomprehensible thing constantly follows another incomprehensible thing the two together somehow make up a comprehensible thing. Two black riddles make a white answer.

    A law implies that we know the nature of the generalisation and enactment; not merely that we have noticed some of the effects. If there is a law that pick-pockets shall go to prison, it implies that there is an imaginable mental connection between the idea of prison and the idea of picking pockets. And we know what the idea is. We can say why we take liberty from a man who takes liberties. But we cannot say why an egg can turn into a chicken any more than we can say why a bear could turn into a fairy prince. As IDEAS, the egg and the chicken are further off from each other than the bear and the prince; for no egg in itself suggests a chicken, whereas some princes do suggest bears. Granted, then, that certain transformations do happen, it is essential that we should regard them in the philosophic manner of fairy tales, not in the unphilosophic manner of science and the “Laws of Nature.” It is not a “law,” for we do not understand its general formula. It is not a necessity, for though we can count on it happening practically, we have no right to say that it must always happen. It is no argument for unalterable law (as Huxley fancied) that we count on the ordinary course of things. We do not count on it; we bet on it. We risk the remote possibility of a miracle as we do that of a poisoned pancake or a world-destroying comet. We leave it out of account, not because it is a miracle, and therefore an impossibility, but because it is a miracle, and therefore an exception. All the terms used in the science books, “law,” “necessity,” “order,” “tendency,” and so on, are really unintellectual, because they assume an inner synthesis, which we do not possess.

    I deny altogether that this is fantastic or even mystical. We may have some mysticism later on; but this fairy-tale language about things is simply rational and agnostic. It is the only way I can express in words my clear and definite perception that one thing is quite distinct from another; that there is no logical connection between flying and laying eggs. It is the man who talks about “a law” that he has never seen who is the mystic. Nay, the ordinary scientific man is strictly a sentimentalist. He is a sentimentalist in this essential sense, that he is soaked and swept away by mere associations. He has so often seen birds fly and lay eggs that he feels as if there must be some dreamy, tender connection between the two ideas, whereas there is none. A forlorn lover might be unable to dissociate the moon from lost love; so the materialist is unable to dissociate the moon from the tide. In both cases there is no connection, except that one has seen them together.”

    G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy.

    http://www.cse.dmu.ac.uk/~mwar.....rtho14.txt

  231. Clive asks:

    Revealed knowledge is wrong? And you know this how?

    I said: “most (if not all) ‘revealed knowledge’ is wrong.”

    Scott Andrews explained it just a few comments ago:

    No one likes to admit it, but most if not all religions have beliefs incompatible with those of other religions. That includes the major religions and all of their divisions. In order to be intellectually honest and rational, we must admit that if any of them are correct, most of them can’t possibly be. If I receive 100 contradictory answers to a question, I know that at least 99 are wrong, even without knowing the correct answer.

    Clive continues:

    You claim that all claims should be questioned, except the claim that all claims should be questioned, for if you question your claim, then all claims shouldn’t be questioned.

    Clive, I’m flabbergasted that after so much discussion, you still don’t understand what it means to hold a belief provisionally.

    I think that all beliefs should be questioned, including my belief that all beliefs should be questioned.

    Questioning a belief is not the same as asserting its falsehood.

    I believe that Obama is the President. I can question that belief by asking my friends, checking the newspapers, navigating to whitehouse.gov, visiting Washington, etc. None of that amounts to asserting that Obama is not the President.

    If you understood that, you wouldn’t write things like this:

    …for if you question your claim, then all claims shouldn’t be questioned.

  232. 232

    beelzebub,

    Scott’s quote doesn’t answer my question as to what standard you use to judge “all” revealed truth wrong as being wrong. What standard do you use?

    ——”I think that all beliefs should be questioned, including my belief that all beliefs should be questioned.”

    Which means either that all questions should be questioned, or that all questions shouldn’t be questioned. Either way, you’re making an unquestionable claim. Because the positive and the negative both lead to the same place, and that is “not all questions should be questioned.” Your difficulty lies in the word “all”. You make your position absolute, in which case it exempts itself from its own criterion, but then also defeats the purpose of itself. It’s obvious beelzebub, obvious.

  233. 233

    Which means either that all questions should be questioned, or that all questions shouldn’t be questioned. Either way, you’re making an unquestionable claim. Because the positive and the negative both lead to the same place, and that is “not all questions should be questioned.”

    I really believe we can negotiate a version of the original statement that everyone will agree with. I don’t think this is very controversial.
    What if we say that all religious and claims should be considered open to question? Is that agreeable? (We could throw in “and scientific” after “religious” in the interests of being evenhanded. True, but not relevant.)

  234. 234

    That’s “all religious claims.”

  235. Clive writes:

    Scott’s quote doesn’t answer my question as to what standard you use to judge “all” revealed truth wrong as being wrong. What standard do you use?

    Clive,

    Pay attention. For the third time, I said: “most (if not all) ‘revealed knowledge’ is wrong.”

    How do I know that most of it is wrong? It’s contradictory, as Scott explained.

    What standards do I use in judging individual religious beliefs? The same standards that I use for judging any belief: evidence and reason.

    Your difficulty lies in the word “all”. You make your position absolute, in which case it exempts itself from its own criterion, but then also defeats the purpose of itself. It’s obvious beelzebub, obvious.

    Clive, I explained this to kairosfocus way back in comment 170. Pay particular attention to the role of the word ‘all’:

    I will point out that your lengthy argument is undermined by a fundamental confusion: you believe that a universal statement cannot be held provisionally.

    This is easily refuted by a well-known example. Suppose I state the following:

    All swans are white.

    You show me one of Australia’s famous black swans. I revise my belief accordingly.

    All of this is perfectly coherent. I really did believe that all swans were white. It was a universal belief. I amended my belief in response to contrary evidence. Thus it was a provisional belief.

    No incoherence. No contradiction.

    It works the same way with the following statement of mine that is the focus of so much of your interest:

    We’re never absolutely sure, which is why we should always continue to question our beliefs, even the most fundamental ones.

    Is this a universal belief? Yes, because I do think that we’re never absolutely sure. Is it a provisional belief? Yes, because I will amend it if you demonstrate that we can be absolutely sure at times.

    No incoherence. No contradiction.

  236. allanius: If you’d bother to read the entire chapter regarding Jephthah’s daughter, you’d notice that her sacrifice wasn’t a literal burnt offering.

    It clearly states that other women would visit her annually at the temple, where she rendered service to God. That was her sacrifice: to remain a virgin in an environment that bestowed honor on married women with children.

    Seriously, reaading comprehension can’t be that hard, can it?

  237. tribune7 writes:

    Beelzebub, you now seem to be saying that Scripture (and God) condone human sacrifice.

    I don’t believe that the God of the Old Testament is real, so I’m not saying anything about a real God (if such a thing exists).

    My point is that it is disingenuous for believers to take the story of Abraham and Isaac as evidence that God disapproves of human sacrifice if they are unwilling to see the story of Jephthah as evidence for the opposite conclusion.

    And my larger question is this: What do you make of a God who refuses to intervene to save the life of an innocent girl being sacrificed in His name?

    You can’t be reached through reason. You have a belief and you want this belief to be true you are willing to pretend anything.

    You seem to write that with no sense of irony whatsoever. Remarkable.

    And I suppose risk everything, including your soul, of which you pretend you don’t have.

    All of us risk our souls (if we have them) every day by rejecting a huge number of religious beliefs. What will you do when you die and find yourself facing the judgment of Ma’at?

  238. Barb writes:

    If you’d bother to read the entire chapter regarding Jephthah’s daughter, you’d notice that her sacrifice wasn’t a literal burnt offering.

    It clearly states that other women would visit her annually at the temple, where she rendered service to God. That was her sacrifice: to remain a virgin in an environment that bestowed honor on married women with children.

    I have read the entire chapter (Judges 11) and it says nothing of the kind. What chapter are you referring to? What Bible translation?

  239. allanius writes:

    Hey, Beelzebub! (Or may we call you “Bub” for short?)

    I prefer “Master”, but “Beelz” will do.

    Jephthah vowed publicly to make a human sacrifice in the manner of his Pagan neighbors—never thinking the first person he met would be one of his own—and is made to pay for this boastfulness literally with his own blood.

    It sounds like you take satisfaction in this. That’s creepy. And even if the vow constituted “boastfulness” (though I don’t see how it does), that hardly justifies the death of an innocent girl.

    And that compromises the implacable opposition of the Bible to human sacrifice exactly how?

    Because God didn’t intervene to stop a human sacrifice that was sincerely being offered to Him. How do you explain that?

  240. 240

    beelzebub,

    I’ve shown you the black swan, it is in your statement that you believe that you should question all beliefs, including that belief, which means that you don’t question all beliefs. As soon as you question that you should question, you are no longer questioning, for your conclusion, the negation of questioning all beliefs, means that you don’t question all beliefs, so you’re conclusion is that you shouldn’t question all beliefs. Yet, you won’t revise or amend. This is the irony of the situation; the one person who claims to be ready to revise their beliefs is the least willing to do so, even in the face of a black swan.

    So, if not all revealed knowledge is wrong, as you’re admitting, then you’re admitting that some is right. I agree that some particular truth is indeed revealed truth. And I agree with you that it should be considered by reason, but I would also add experience. Sometimes we need an experience in order to have something to reason about. It would be odd reasoning about love by someone who had never been in love. Also, when we meet a proposition in religion, we meet a personality, which has its own particular ways of being trustworthy, which are separate and apart from scientific endeavors. You would not subject what your loved ones tell you to the rigor of science in a lab before you will believe what they say. This is partly why this business about comparing science with religion is so misguided. In religion you meet another personality, and if we do not subject our loved ones to the scrutinies of science, before we will believe them, why would we think it appropriate to do with another personality in a religious context?

    The point is borne out in this essay, The Efficacy of Prayer, by C. S. Lewis:

    Simply to say prayers is not to pray; otherwise a team of properly trained parrots would serve as well as men for our experiment. You cannot pray for the recovery of the sick unless the end you have in view is their recovery. But you can have no motive for desiring the recovery of all the patients in one hospital and none of those in another. You are not doing it in order that suffering should be relieved; you are doing it to find out what happens. The real purpose and the nominal purpose of your prayers are at variance. In other words, whatever your tongue and teeth and knees may do, you are not praying. The experiment demands an impossibility.

    Empirical proof and disproof are, then, unobtainable. But this conclusion will seem less depressing if we remember that prayer is request and compare it with other specimens of the same thing.

    We make requests of our fellow creatures as well as of God: we ask for the salt, we ask for a raise in pay, we ask a friend to feed the cat while we are on our holidays, we ask a woman to marry us. Sometimes we get what we ask for and sometimes not. But when we do, it is not nearly so easy as one might suppose to prove with scientific certainty a causal connection between the asking and the getting.

    Your neighbor may be a humane person who would not have let your cat starve even if you had forgotten to make any arrangement. Your employer is never so likely to grant your request for a raise as when he is aware that you could get better money from a rival firm and is quite possibly intending to secure you a raise in any case. As for the lady who consents to marry you—are you sure she had not decided to do so already? Your proposal, you know, might have been the result, not the cause, of her decision. A certain important conversation might never have taken place unless she had intended that it should.

    Thus in some measure the same doubt that hangs about the causal efficacy of our prayers to God hangs also about our prayers to man. Whatever we get we might have been going to get anyway. But only, as I say, in some measure. Our friend, boss, and wife may tell us that they acted because we asked; and we may know them so well as to feel sure, first that they are saying what they believe to be true, and secondly that they understand their own motives well enough to be right. But notice that when this happens our assurance has not been gained by the methods of science. We do not try the control experiment of refusing the raise or breaking off the engagement and then making our request again under fresh conditions. Our assurance is quite different in kind from scientific knowledge. It is born out of our personal relation to the other parties; not from knowing things about them but from knowing them.

    Our assurance—if we reach an assurance—that God always hears and some­times grants our prayers, and that apparent grantings are not merely fortuitous, can only come in the same sort of way. There can be no question of tabulating successes and failures and trying to decide whether the successes are too numer­ous to be accounted for by chance. Those who best know a man best know whether, when he did what they asked, he did it because they asked.”
    The Efficacy of Prayer, C. S. Lewis

  241. I wrote:

    Others on this blog have claimed that faith does not amount to believing something without sufficient evidence for its truth.

    StephenB replied:

    I doubt that others have characterized faith in exactly that way. I suspect that you are either leaving something out that should be there or smuggling something in that should not be there.

    Stephen,

    Note the word “not” in my statement, emphasized for your convenience.

    If you don’t accept the law of non-contradiction and several other truths unquestioningly, you cannot reason in the abstract.

    Sure you can. Just accept them provisionally.

    Example: Let’s assume provisionally that the laws of logic are correct and that the wife of the President (if he or she has a wife) is defined as the First Lady. Then we can reason provisionally as follows:

    Given that X has a wife, W, and that X is the President, then we can conclude (provisionally, of course) that W is the First Lady.

    Nothing prevented us from reasoning even though every assumption was made provisionally.

  242. 242

    beelzebub,

    ——”Because God didn’t intervene to stop a human sacrifice that was sincerely being offered to Him. How do you explain that?”

    That’s easy. We cannot move God to intervene by committing evil acts, no matter how heinous. Otherwise, if we could, God would become our puppet, always dancing to our strings of the threat of violence. That’s not to say that God doesn’t intervene, we just cannot provoke it, and even if we did provoke God to intervene, I am not sure we would ever be told by God that He acted as a result of being provoked. So there is the obvious problem of knowing either way why God did or did not intervene, even if we knew there was in intervention, which is not likely. In short, we cannot summon the miraculous by evil acts.

    Besides, we have free will, and God will allow us to use it. The onus and responsibility is on Jephthah, not God, unless the God you have in mind is one that should always intervene in evil acts, or maybe just in acts you consider “evil enough” to warrant God’s intervention. In which case God would constantly be correcting all of His creatures, effectively nullifying free will.

  243. I think that all beliefs should be questioned, including my belief that all beliefs should be questioned.

    I’m going to have to side with BZ on this matter. Even speaking as a Christian, I don’t have any beliefs that I am 100% certain of. So I consider all of my beliefs open to question. Maybe someday I’ll change my mind and decide that I have absolutely certain knowledge on some topics, and hence those beliefs would be beyond question at that point. I doubt that will happen anytime soon, though LOL.

  244. 244

    beelzebub,

    ——”All of us risk our souls (if we have them) every day by rejecting a huge number of religious beliefs. What will you do when you die and find yourself facing the judgment of Ma’at?”

    Why not reject all women if we have to reject all the rest of them but one? Why get married if we reject 99%?

  245. Clive writes:

    I’ve shown you the black swan, it is in your statement that you believe that you should question all beliefs, including that belief, which means that you don’t question all beliefs.

    I’ve already explained why questioning a belief is not the same as asserting its falsehood. If you still don’t understand that, then please ask someone you know to explain it to you. I can’t think of any way to simplify the concept further.

    So, if not all revealed knowledge is wrong, as you’re admitting, then you’re admitting that some is right.

    Clive, this is getting very tiring. For the fourth time, this is what I wrote:

    “…most (if not all) ‘revealed knowledge’ is wrong.”

    That is not an admission that some revealed knowledge is right. Again, please ask someone to explain it to you.

    By the way, why are my comments being held up in the moderation queue?

  246. Clive writes:

    Why not reject all women if we have to reject all the rest of them but one? Why get married if we reject 99%?

    Clive,

    I was hoping I wouldn’t have to spell it out explicitly, but I suppose that was silly of me.

    Tribune7 commented that I was risking my soul by rejecting Christianity. My point in reply is that all of us, including Tribune7 and every other Christian, risk our souls every day by rejecting hundreds of religious beliefs.

    As Richard Dawkins wrote,

    We are all atheists about most of the gods humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further.

  247. 247

    As regards Jephthah and his daughter:
    God punished other nations for such horrendous acts as child sacrifice. It would be inconsistent for him to grant Jephthah victory in return for a human sacrifice. He is mentioned later in the Bible as a faithful man.
    His daughter wept over her virginity, not her death. This indicates that she would live an unmarried life.
    In addition, there were specific instructions for animal sacrifice – what to cut, what to burn, etc. It was impossible to offer a valid human sacrifice.
    One could read that chapter and conclude that he burned his daughter. You have to read the whole book, and keep reading it, not just citations from atheist web sites.

  248. Scott,

    I agree that it would be inconsistent for God to both prohibit and condone human sacrifice. The story of Jephthah is just one of many problematic stories suggesting that the Old Testament is not the inerrant word of an omnipotent, omniscient, loving God.

    You suggest that Jephthah did not sacrifice his daughter. If so, then you are admitting that Judges 11 is in error when it states the following…

    Jephthah made a vow to the LORD : “If you give the Ammonites into my hands, whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the LORD’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.

    …and then concludes:

    …he did to her as he had vowed.

    Either way, it’s a problem for those who believe that the Old Testament is the inerrant word of God.

  249. Beelzebub, you now seem to be saying that Scripture (and God) condone human sacrifice. . . .I don’t believe that the God of the Old Testament is real, so I’m not saying anything about a real God (if such a thing exists).

    I thought you don’t believe in any god? What you don’t address is your implication that scripture — written words easily accessible whether divinely revealed or not — condones human sacrifice.

    If you can convince yourself of this you can convince yourself of anything, which, btw, I suspect you can do.

    Quick quiz: why do we think human sacrifice is bad?

    You seem to write that with no sense of irony whatsoever.

    There is no irony whatsoever. I’m convince you are immune to reason.

  250. —-Diffaxial: “The statement that an effect cannot occur without a cause is not “only” tautologically true. It is indeed tautologically true, and your insistence that it is an eternal, “Self-Evident Truth about the world” mistakes that tautology for the certainty that it speaks to facts in the world.”

    If an effect can occur without a cause in the real world, then the world is not rational and no logical law of non-contradiction would be of any use. Such a state of affairs would leave the law of non-contradiction talking to itself in a world that has nothing to do with rationality. I am amazed that you do not see this.

    —-Diffaxial: “The tautological component of a tautology, the only component that confers your desired “self-evidence,” does not establish anything at all outside of itself.”

    It isn’t the tautology that establishes anything; it is the self evident truth which can be perceived by all rational people. It was you that tried to reduce self-evident truths to “tautologies,” not me. It should be obvious that, in the real world, an effect cannot occur without a cause. If you would stop questioning that fact by trying to reduce it to mere tautological status, all would be well and rationality would be resorted. But, alas, your postmodernism will not permit you to concede that which almost everyone else knows to be the case.

    —-“ Moreover, we can empirically observe at a meta-level that the conceptual tool “cause and effect” can be powerful in a great many circumstances, indeed in the vast majority of cases.

    In which cases would it not be a powerful tool? How do you differentiate between those events which are subject to the law and those that are not? If any event if the real world can, at one time or another, evade the principle of cause and effect, then why cannot all events evade the laws of cause and effect? If there is any exception, the entire rational enterprise breaks down. How would you know whether you were attributing cause and effect when no such law was in effect or whether you had failed to attribute it to an event in which it was operative? It would be a cosmic madhouse. You do not appear to have thought this thing through.

    —-“Does it follow that all events are profitably described as “effects” that necessarily have causes? It does not. In particular, we directly observe that the notion breaks down at the quantum level, and it is also not at all clear that it is applicable to the universe as a whole, because we know that time came into being with that universe.”

    This is precisely what is at issue. The laws of cause and effect DO NOT break down at the quantum level. You do not believe that the principles of right reason apply to the real world, so, immediately, you misapply the principle of logic to quantum mechanics. Indeed, you are trying to use quantum mechanics to provide a rational justification for an irrational position, apparently not realizing that quantum physics, nor any other science, can violate its own foundational logic. All science, including quantum mechanics is based on the laws of cause and effect.

    —-Diffaxial: “And the notion that universes may appear out of the (quantum) void has genuine scientific currency.”

    Yes, I know that you believe that something can come from nothing, but, alas this is must more evidence that you do not comprehend the metaphysical foundations for modern science.

    —-“Your concern with Self-Evident Truths self-evidently reflects anxieties that arise for you at these very junctures, not out of concern for unexpected walls: you want to hang an air-tight proof of your personal god upon them. Unfortunately, your hook is a sky-hook.”

    Your open contempt for self evident truths reflects anxieties about a rational universe that just may have some kind of purpose behind it. In any case, you have already acknowledged that you think at thing can both be and not be, that effects can occur without causes, and that something can come from nothing. By definition, that makes you impervious to reason, which must disallow such possibilities in order to function as a tool. And yes, in spite of your protests to the contrary, it must disallow these possibilities both in the world of though and in the real world.

    —-Diffaxial: From the forgoing it should be clear that your caricature of what you think I must believe and expect in light of my philosophical preferences is ridiculous in the extreme, ridiculous assertions that apparently arise from the straightjacket of your dichotomous and absolutist thinking.”

    It should be obvious that my caricature of your philosophy @208 reflects perfectly your foundational philosophy, which is that the laws of logic do not apply to the real world. There is nothing dichotomous about holding that a rational mind can comprehend a rational universe. There is, however, something seriously wrong with the postmodernist proposition that neither the rational mind nor the rational universe exists.

    —-“I don’t need to accept that these two forms of regularity are eternal Self-Evident Truths to expect the world to unfold in much the same manner that it apparently has over the last 13.7 billion years. Your assertion that my philosophical viewpoint requires that I must expect water to freeze on the stove and walls to leap out of the void displays complete ignorance of the fact that there are ways of attaining confident knowledge of the world and its regularities by empirical means.”

    We have no empirical means of verifying the fact that something cannot come from nothing. It is the basis by which we judge our empirical observations. The understanding of the self-evident truth precedes the observation and not the other way around. Here is the difference: I understand that tomorrow, walls will not leap out of the void, water will not freeze in hot weather, and water will not boil in cold weather. You, on the other hand, cannot say that. On the contrary, you conceive that it may even be possible, which means of course, that you have no rational standard for making judgments about anything that you observe. For you, anything can happen at any time, which means, of course, that, for you, there is no order, rationality, or purpose. At best, you acknowledge “regularity,” which, in the long run, reveals little or nothing. For you, the cosmos is nothing but a giant cluster of molecules bouncing around without direction and purpose. Rationality is not even conceivable in a world like that, and as long as you perceive it that way, well, need I finish the sentence.

    —-“Yours is a private definition of “rational” to which I don’t subscribe.”

    I say that the law of non-contradiction applies to the real world, and you say that it does not. Guess which position is currently held by all rational people and has been held by all rational people since the beginning of time. It is not your position.

  251. —-herb: “I’m going to have to side with BZ on this matter. Even speaking as a Christian, I don’t have any beliefs that I am 100% certain of.”

    It’s not a question of being 100% certain of religious belief, which, by definition does not lend itself to philosophical certitude. It is a question of acquiring sufficient information to make a reasonable judgment about what deserves to be believed and then making that judgment. Everyone makes a judgment and everyone settles on something, even if it is the dubious position of insisting that no one should ever settle on anything—as if we should always be seeking and never be finding. What is rational about that?

  252. 252

    beelzebub,

    ——”As Richard Dawkins wrote,

    We are all atheists about most of the gods humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further.”

    Why not reject all women if we have to reject all the rest of them but one? Why get married if we reject 99% of women? Do you go one woman further and have no girlfriend or wife? Where’s the logic in that? Nowhere.

  253. 253

    beelzebub,

    ——”Clive, this is getting very tiring. For the fourth time, this is what I wrote:

    “…most (if not all) ‘revealed knowledge’ is wrong.”

    That is not an admission that some revealed knowledge is right.”

    You either say that all revealed knowledge, all revelation, is wrong, categorically, or you’re committed to the view that some is right, or that some could be right, or that some might be right in the future, or has been right in the past.

  254. Clive Hayden, I continue to be amazed at your mastery of G.K. Chesteron and C.S. Lewis. To be sure, they are as relevant today as they were in their own time, because it is the nature of truth to be timeless. Still, your capacity to zero in on right passage from the right book at the right time boggles the mind.

  255. vjtorley,

    Moving on to address the rest of your comment:

    I wrote:

    The problem with dogma is that if you get it wrong, it’s wrong forever.

    You responded:

    The nice thing about dogma is that once you have shown it’s wrong, it’s wrong forever.

    That’s true of any belief, dogmatic or not.

    If religion X teaches a dogma which is manifestly untrue, then if I can show it to be such, I can cross it off my list of candidates for the true religion.

    Only if you assume that “the true religion”, if it exists at all, is absolutely guaranteed to reach you in its pure, uncorrupted form. I don’t see how you could justify such an assumption.

    If the hypothesis of anthropogenic global warming being a significant and potentially deadly influence on climate turns out to be mistaken, you can be absolutely sure that it will not die a clean death by Popperian falsification. Rather, the AGW hypothesis will mutate in its death throes, and its scientific refutation will therefore be messy and drawn-out.

    True, and that is how it should be, as long as the “mutated” versions are live possibilities. Truth is not obligated to fit neatly into our preconceived frameworks. It may be that one of the “mutated” hypotheses is actually correct.

    The point I want to make is that the absence of dogma is actually hindering the public’s search for truth, as the claims and counter-claims continue to fly.

    What a strange argument. I would say just the opposite: that the public is best served when disputants modify their positions in response to new evidence rather than digging in their heels dogmatically. After all, it might turn out that neither dogmatic position is correct, in which case dogmatism would altogether prevent us from discovering the truth.

    Dogmas are at least refutable.

    Actually, some dogmas aren’t refutable because they’re not falsifiable. And any falsifiable belief is refutable whether or not it is a dogma.

    You suggest that cultural influences are responsible for the ascendancy of these ideas. I would respond that history refutes you here: sociologically speaking, it is extremely hard to get a society to give up polytheism altogether. Even the Jews took centuries to do so.

    That argument only works if you assume that intellectual influences can work slowly but cultural influences cannot. Why would you think that?

    So why did monotheism and belief in an infinite God come to seem more rational? That’s easy: people could see the benefits these beliefs offered. An essentially good and infinitely powerful God can smash the power of evil. Polytheism can’t offer that; neither can belief in a finite God.

    That’s not rational at all. Believing in something simply because you want it to be true is the height of irrationality.

    Also, it’s not correct to say that polytheism cannot offer hope of an eventual triumph over evil. It can. All that’s required is a good god who, even if finite, is capable of defeating the forces of evil.

    To account for the fact that evil is flourishing in the world today, you have to accept the following propositions: that the world was originally intended to be free from wickedness and suffering; that wickedness and suffering entered the world as a result of evil choices made by moral agents (both human and super-human); that the world is now a giant battlefield between good and evil; that we are foot-soldiers in the battle, and that our lives are a small part of a giant cosmic drama; that total victory by God is assured; and that God has not vanquished the powers of evil yet, for reasons best known to Himself, but having to do with the exercise of free will by His moral agents.

    Or you could believe, much more plausibly, that a) God isn’t perfectly benevolent, or b) that he isn’t all-powerful and thus cannot instantaneously defeat the forces of evil, or c) that he is a deistic God who created the universe and doesn’t meddle with it, or d) most plausibly of all, that God doesn’t exist.

    The discoveries of the last two centuries have shown that animal suffering predates the dawn of humanity by tens of millions of years. That would be a decisive refutation for monotheism if it taught that humans were the only moral agents who could mess with God’s original plans for the cosmos…

    It’s still manifestly unjust unless you somehow see the animals themselves as moral agents deserving of their suffering. But to think that a fawn burning to death in a forest fire deserves to suffer and die seems as bizarre as claiming that all of those Indonesian infants deserved to drown when the tsunami hit Banda Aceh.

  256. —beelzebub: “…most (if not all) ‘revealed knowledge’ is wrong.”

    What is your standard for knowing which revealed knowledge is right and which revealed knowledge is wrong?

  257. 257

    StephenB,

    Thanks very much, I appreciate that. I continue to be amazed at your ability to argue straight from yourself.

  258. Clive @253:

    You either say that all revealed knowledge, all revelation, is wrong, categorically, or you’re committed to the view that some is right, or that some could be right, or that some might be right in the future, or has been right in the past. [emphasis mine]

    Exactly. I’m glad you finally recognized that as a logical possibility. That’s why I wrote (repeating myself for the fifth time, now) that “…most (if not all) ‘revealed knowledge’ is wrong.”

    The phrase “most (if not all)” was deliberate, Clive.

    Also, I’m not “committed to the view” if by that you mean that I hold it absolutely. I don’t. It’s provisional.

  259. 259

    beelzebub,

    It’s good to know that you do not reject the possibility of revelation.

  260. StephenB,

    It’s not a question of being 100% certain of religious belief, which, by definition does not lend itself to philosophical certitude. It is a question of acquiring sufficient information to make a reasonable judgment about what deserves to be believed and then making that judgment.

    I accept that you can and in some cases must make judgments, but I also reserve the right to change my mind if new evidence comes in. So I would have to say these judgments are provisional.

  261. StephenB writes:

    It’s not a question of being 100% certain of religious belief, which, by definition does not lend itself to philosophical certitude.

    StephenB, earlier in the thread:

    The whole point about defining a dogma is to speak for God—to provide an clear, reliable, and unchanging truth so that God’s creatures need not run around forever reinventing the wheel, either theologically or morally.

    How can you reliably “provide a clear, reliable and unchanging truth” if you can’t be certain that it’s true? You’ve undermined your justification for dogma.

    What is your standard for knowing which revealed knowledge is right and which revealed knowledge is wrong?

    Evidence and reason, same as for any other belief. As I wrote to Scott Andrews:

    Unfortunately, most (if not all) “revealed knowledge” is wrong, as you point out in your comment. That means we’d be foolish to believe something just because someone claims that it is “revealed”. That is why we should question all claims, including dogmatic ones.

    In effect, a “revealed truth” is just a hypothesis like any other, subject to acceptance or rejection on the basis of reason and evidence.

  262. Clive writes:

    It’s good to know that you do not reject the possibility of revelation.

    If God exists, I see no reason why he couldn’t choose to reveal truths directly to his creatures. I just don’t see any evidence that he has done so.

    The holy books I’ve seen (including the Bible) all appear to be flawed human creations, not the products of an omnipotent, omniscient God.

  263. 263

    beelzebub,

    Were far afield from the original point of this post.

  264. I asked allanius:

    …God didn’t intervene to stop a human sacrifice that was sincerely being offered to Him. How do you explain that?

    Clive responded:

    That’s easy. We cannot move God to intervene by committing evil acts, no matter how heinous. Otherwise, if we could, God would become our puppet, always dancing to our strings of the threat of violence.

    Not at all. God is free to choose whether to respond. He’s not a puppet unless you believe that he has to respond a certain way, but that would mean that God does not have free will. Surely you don’t believe that.

    God freely chose not to intervene to save the life of an innocent girl. Why?

    Besides, we have free will, and God will allow us to use it.

    Suppose that’s true. Nothing would have prevented God from saying to Jephthah, “Do as you wish, but I don’t want you to sacrifice your daughter to me.” The final decision would still have been Jephthah’s. His free will would not have been denied.

    Getting a message from God doesn’t prevent someone from acting freely. If it did, then God denies free will to humans over and over throughout the Bible, contradicting your assertion.

  265. 265

    Beelzebub:

    The story of Jephthah is just one of many problematic stories suggesting that the Old Testament is not the inerrant word of an omnipotent, omniscient, loving God.

    You suggest that Jephthah did not sacrifice his daughter. If so, then you are admitting that Judges 11 is in error when it states the following…

    Jepthah’s daughter was to be offered “as a burnt offering.” I don’t speak ancient Hebrew. Do you? There appears to be some room for interpretation.
    Even the most careless copyists aren’t going to accidentally throw in a human sacrifice story in stark contrast to the context.
    But I won’t rehash that debate. I believe that how people interpret the evidence is determined largely by what they prefer to believe or disbelieve. You may think that you examine the evidence, but it examines you.

  266. Clive writes:

    Were far afield from the original point of this post.

    Not so far as you might think. It’s quite relevant to observe the contortions that believers will put themselves through in order to salvage a point of dogma, in this case the idea that God could not possibly condone human sacrifice and also that the Old Testament is the word of God.

  267. 267

    beelzebub,

    I observe these atheists maintaining their creeds in convoluted contortions all the time. You have not shown that God condones human sacrifices. But, God does condone Himself as a sacrifice for the sake of humanity. This, you should take literally, for it is literal in the text. Japhthah’s sacrifice being condoned by God exists only in your far-flung speculation, and exists nowhere in the text explicitly.

  268. Beelz(e)bub :): Your statement:

    Science is wonderfully self-correcting.

    is actually not ‘correct’.

    It should read: Science is self-adjusting.

    It is only logical that science’ findings, being provisional, are not true (since provisional truth is an oxymoron), but rather mere mutually acceptable concepts.

    For the statement “The sun shines” is true. But the statement “The sun shines is due to chemical reactions” can never be true.

    For it is altoghether possible that we will discover some time in the future that the ’cause’ of chemical reactions that result in the sun shining is due to Beelzebub and Lucifer fighting it out for top dog in the hothouse.

    Such is the bain of “provisionalism”.

  269. 269

    beelzebub,

    ——”Suppose that’s true. Nothing would have prevented God from saying to Jephthah, “Do as you wish, but I don’t want you to sacrifice your daughter to me.” The final decision would still have been Jephthah’s. His free will would not have been denied.”

    The same argument I supplied before still applies, just modify it a bit to read “suggest” where I put “intervene.” You’re really changing the terms of your original complaint. You asked why didn’t God “stop” Jephthah, not why didn’t God “suggest” something to him. Nothing pleases you. Besides, it could be said that through Jephthah’s conscience, supplied by God, God did urge him not to sacrifice her. Maybe God wouldn’t have minded if he wouldn’t have sacrificed her. Maybe God hated that he sacrificed her. You would have to speculate that God condones sacrifice by not stopping it, but this is a total non sequitur. There are lots of precedents in scripture where God allows things that He doesn’t agree with. To assume that everything that God allows He agrees with and condones is silly.

  270. ScottAndrews wrote:

    Jepthah’s daughter was to be offered “as a burnt offering.” I don’t speak ancient Hebrew. Do you?

    I looked up the passage in all 18 English translations of the Old Testament available at biblegateway.com. 17 of the 18 render the phrase specifically as “a burnt offering,” including Young’s Literal Translation. One (the Contemporary English Version) calls it “a sacrifice.”

    Do you speak ancient Hebrew? Are you implying that at least 17 of the 18 translators got it wrong, including one who was deliberately translating as literally as possible?

    There appears to be some room for interpretation.

    What room? Where’s the ambiguity in the phrase “burnt offering”?

    Even the most careless copyists aren’t going to accidentally throw in a human sacrifice story in stark contrast to the context.

    What stark contrast? Jephthah vows that he’s going to make a burnt offering if he wins the battle. He wins the battle. He does as he vowed. What could be more “in context” than that?

    I believe that how people interpret the evidence is determined largely by what they prefer to believe or disbelieve.

    I hope you’re smarter than that and that you’ll examine the evidence with an open mind.

    You may think that you examine the evidence, but it examines you.

    What’s your justification in saying that, apart from your feeling of discomfort at confronting the horrible story of Jephthah’s daughter?

  271. Clive writes:

    I observe these atheists maintaining their creeds in convoluted contortions all the time.

    I can believe that you tell yourself that, at any rate.

    You have not shown that God condones human sacrifices.

    Of course I haven’t, since the Old Testament is clearly not the word of an omniscient, omnipotent, loving God.

  272. 272

    —-Diffaxial: “And the notion that universes may appear out of the (quantum) void has genuine scientific currency.”

    For the record the quantum void is not nothing. To say that the universe came from nothing by making reference to the quantum void is highly misleading and false.

    Vivid

  273. I wrote, “The whole point about defining a dogma is to speak for God—to provide an clear, reliable, and unchanging truth so that God’s creatures need not run around forever reinventing the wheel, either theologically or morally.”

    —-beelzebub asks: “How can you reliably “provide a clear, reliable and unchanging truth” if you can’t be certain that it’s true?

    As I stated earlier, one cannot have 100% intellectual certitude that a dogma of faith is true, but one can accept it unconditionally. You seem to misunderstand something, though. I am not “providing” the dogma. I am choosing to believe the dogma based on the credibility of the one who teaches it.

    —–“In effect, a “revealed truth” is just a hypothesis like any other, subject to acceptance or rejection on the basis of reason and evidence.”

    No, you misunderstand. A “revealed truth” cannot be a mere hypothesis. It can only be one of two things: It is either a truth communicated by God, which means that it is authentic, or else it is a lie from hell or some kind of lunatic, which means it would not be a revealed truth at all. A dogma cannot possibly be morally neutral.

  274. Clive writes:

    The same argument I supplied before still applies, just modify it a bit to read “suggest” where I put “intervene.”

    That doesn’t help your case, because God is still free to suggest or not to suggest. He’s not a puppet. And Jephthah is free to ignore the suggestion if he wishes. He is also not a puppet.

    You’re really changing the terms of your original complaint. You asked why didn’t God “stop” Jephthah, not why didn’t God “suggest” something to him.

    I didn’t change my original complaint, I added another one in response to your argument regarding free will. Are you actually complaining that I’m paying attention to your posts?

    Besides, it could be said that through Jephthah’s conscience, supplied by God, God did urge him not to sacrifice her.

    Do you really think that Jephthah would have killed his beloved daughter if he didn’t think God wanted him to?

    Maybe God wouldn’t have minded if he wouldn’t have sacrificed her. Maybe God hated that he sacrificed her.

    Then why didn’t he say something?

    There are lots of precedents in scripture where God allows things that He doesn’t agree with.

    True, but you haven’t explained why he does that.

    To assume that everything that God allows He agrees with and condones is silly.

    Then why did God allow Jephthah to sacrifice his daughter, in your opinion? So far all of your attempts to explain this have failed.

  275. StephenB @ 250:

    In which cases would it not be a powerful tool? How do you differentiate between those events which are subject to the law and those that are not? If any event if the real world can, at one time or another, evade the principle of cause and effect, then why cannot all events evade the laws of cause and effect? If there is any exception, the entire rational enterprise breaks down.

    I’d start somewhere like here:

    “Regardless of whether it is an electron, a proton, or something else existing on what is considered a “quantum” scale, where it will arrive at the screen is highly determinate (in that quantum mechanics predicts accurately the probability that it will arrive at any point on the screen). However, in what sequence members of a series of singly emitted things (e.g., electrons) will arrive is completely unpredictable. The experimental facts are so highly reproducible that there is virtually no argument about them, but the appearance of there being an uncaused event (because of the unpredictability of the sequencing) has aroused a great deal of cognitive dissonance and attempts to account for the sequencing by reference to supposed “additional variables. ….The electrons (and the same applies to photons and to anything of atomic dimensions used) arrive at the screen in an unpredictable and arguably causeless random sequence , and the appearance of a causeless selection event in a highly orderly and predictable formulation of the by now familiar interference pattern has caused many people to try to find additional determinants in the system which, were they to become known, would account for why each impact with the target appears.” (Bold emphases only mine.)

    From the Wikipedia entry on the double slit experiment, which notes that all efforts to find such additional determinants have failed to date. Here we have a foundational empirical finding at the heart of quantum physics that remains “arguably causeless.” Assuming the accuracy of this passage, you are now in the position of having to await the final interpretation of findings such as these (and you are certainly not alone in finding them disquieting) to learn the fate of the entire rational enterprise.

    Since the balance of your post simply consists of EVEN LOUDER repetitions of your bare assertions, and you are inexorably lapsing into your nasty habit of ad hominem remarks and characterizations, I’ll forgo responding further to it – other than to chuckle at your incorporation of “every rational person who has ever lived” to your list of dropped names.

  276. Vivid:

    For the record the quantum void is not nothing. To say that the universe came from nothing by making reference to the quantum void is highly misleading and false.

    The real significance is that there is no “nothing.” Therefore contemporary physics has rendered the “Truth” that “it is impossible for something to appear out of nothing” inapplicable under any circumstance. That’s a far cry from “applicable in every instance.”

  277. StephenB writes:

    As I stated earlier, one cannot have 100% intellectual certitude that a dogma of faith is true, but one can accept it unconditionally.

    And my point is that it’s foolish to accept a dogma unconditionally if you’re not certain that it’s true. Suppose it’s wrong. By accepting it unconditionally, you’re locking yourself into error. You have closed off the possibility of self-correction.

    I can’t understand why someone who professes to care about the truth would do that.

    I am not “providing” the dogma.

    There are really two questions here: What should the Church (or any institution) promulgate as dogma, if anything, and how should individuals assess the validity of dogma?

    A “revealed truth” cannot be a mere hypothesis.

    We have to treat it like one, because the mere fact that someone calls it “revealed truth” does not mean that it is true. We have to judge for ourselves based on evidence and reason, just as we would with any hypothesis.

  278. The electrons (and the same applies to photons and to anything of atomic dimensions used) arrive at the screen in an unpredictable and arguably causeless random sequence

    Diffaxial, this statement seems an appeal to ignorance.

    As per Beelz’ assertion of the provisional nature of scientific investigation, it is not possible to utter the phrase “arguably causeless”.

    It has yet to be established beyond a reasonable doubt that electron behavior is unpredictable, since we know very little about the ‘nature’ of quantum particles.

    Electrons can only be said to appear to act unpredictably based on the current state of knowledge of the quantum world.

    Therefore, a quantum concept could not be used reliably as a supporting analagy to bolster the validity of a a separate concept.

  279. That should read, “an ‘alleged’ revealed truth cannot be a mere hypothesis.

  280. —Diffaxial: quoting Wikipedia:

    “The experimental facts are so highly reproducible that there is virtually no argument about them, but the APPEARANCE of there being an uncaused event (because of the unpredictability of the sequencing) has aroused a great deal of cognitive dissonance and attempts to account for the sequencing by reference to supposed “additional variables. ….The electrons (and the same applies to photons and to anything of atomic dimensions used) arrive at the screen in an unpredictable and arguably causeless random sequence , and the APPEARANCE of a causeless selection event in a highly orderly and predictable formulation of the by now familiar interference pattern has caused many people to try to find additional determinants in the system which, were they to become known, would account for why each impact with the target appears.”

    Why do you continue to waste so much time and space with irrelevancies. Hundreds of things APPEAR not to have a cause, which means, of course, that we do not yet know what that cause is. The article itself recognizes this. You continue to defend the indefensible position that effects can occur without causes, that things can exist and not exist, and that something can come from nothing. You know the drill by now, the word that expresses that postion begins with the big “I.”

  281. —-Diffaxial: “Therefore contemporary physics has rendered the “Truth” that “it is impossible for something to appear out of nothing” inapplicable under any circumstance.”

    No, it has not. It has shown that something can come from the “unknown,” which is not the same as coming from “nothing.” The source of many things is unknown, but that source has never been nothing nor can it be.

  282. kairosfocus wrote:

    I believe that CERTAIN universal claims are self evident and/or undeniable on pain of self referential absurdity or vicious infinite regress; and, as such are not provisional.

    I responded:

    You are making the tacit assumption that we can reason infallibly, at least in some instances, and that our conclusions of “self-referential absurdity” cannot be doubted. You are also tacitly assuming that the world absolutely must be intelligible.

    KF inexplicably called my reply an “ad hominem laced strawman.”

    He then replied:

    …to be able to reason CORRECTLY…does not at all entail that one is infallible in reasoning.

    KF,

    I haven’t claimed that it does. I pointed out that

    You are making the tacit assumption that we can reason infallibly, at least in some instances, and that our conclusions of “self-referential absurdity” cannot be doubted.

    KF continues:

    Secondly, the self referential absurdity that results from rejecting the claim “Error exists” was DEMONSTRATED…

    And as I explained, that demonstration is only as valid as the logic comprising it. Since we are fallible human beings, we cannot state with absolute confidence that Royce’s argument is correct. It certainly appears correct, and I’d be willing to bet more than a few beers on it, but it cannot be a certainty unless the logic on which it is based is absolutely correct, with no possibility of error. Such certainty is out of the reach of fallible humans (including you, kairosfocus).

    Has BZ ever paused and shown that this argument [the "error exists" argument] is an error?

    Of course not. I think it’s right, and I have never said otherwise. It’s just that I hold that belief provisionally, as any sensible person would. It might be wrong. We’re fallible, after all.

  283. 283

    “No, it has not. It has shown that something can come from the “unknown,”

    Actually the quantum void is not completely unknown. In fact the quantum void is actually something. To quote William Craig.

    “The quantum vacuum ( void) is not what most people envision when they think of a vacuum (void), that is absolutely nothing. On the contrary, it’s a sea of fluctuating energy, an arena of violent activity that has a rich physical structure and can be described by physical laws.”

    Vivid

  284. Hi Beelzebub

    Well, there seems to have been quite a lively discussion of Jephthah during the last few hours. Readers might be interested to know that there is a very good book called “Writing the Wrongs” by John Lee Thomson, which spends about 80 pages covering the way in which Christian commentators explained the story of Jephthah, down through the ages. About half the book (including most of the chapter on Jephthah) can be viewed online at http://books.google.com/books?.....#PPA117,M1 . (To locate the book, I just did a Google search by typing in the words Ambrose and Jephthah.)

    Anyway, the upshot is that the vast majority of Christian commentators condemned Jephthah for his vow. Some, such as Ambrose, went further and said he should never have kept it:

    First of all, what needs was there to swear so lightly, and to vow so confidently something whose outcome he could not know? Second, what was the point of fulfilling such a sad oath to the Lord God, so as to pay off his vow with a bloody funeral? (Apologia Prophetae David 4.16 [PL 14:899]).

    Elsewhere, in his first book of The Duties of Clergy, Ambrose writes that although clergy are bound to faithfully keep their obligations, “it is sometimes contrary to duty to fulfil a promise, or to keep an oath.” As an example, he cites Herod’s foolish promise to the daughter of Herodias, which cost the John the Baptist his head. Another example is Jephthah, who would have done better to make no promise at all, than to fulfil it in the death of his daughter” (De Oficiis Ministrorum, 1.50.254 [PL 16:108]).

    The author of “Writing the Wrongs” (John Lee Thomson) goes on to point out that Ambrose’s treatment of Jephthah’s vow in his other writings is at times casuistical, and not fully consistent with what he wrote in the above-cited passages. Nevertheless, Ambrose is one early example of a Christian Father who tried to interpret a troubling passage of Scripture in an intelligent manner.

    Another example is St. John Chrysostom, who addressed head-on the question you raised, Beelzebub: why didn’t God stop the sacrifice, by telling Jephthah not to go ahead with it?

    I’ll quote from Thomson here (p. 117):

    …[A]ddressing the problems created by rash oaths, Chrysostom’s fourteenth homily discussed several biblical stories, including Herod’s promise to the daughter of Herodias, Saul’s vow that ensnared Jonathan, and Jephthah’s vow. For Chrysostom, there is at work in such utterances a “malignant demon,” but it is equally true that “God did not forbid” the sacrifice of Jephthah’s daughter. Moreover, he is acutely aware of how the tale provokes scandal: “I know, indeed, that many unbelievers impugn us of cruelty and inhumanity on account of this sacrifice” (Homiliae de statuis ad populum Antiochenum 14.3 [PG 49:147, NPNF 9:434]).Chrysostom’s concession here must not be slighted: for whatever else it may represent, his ensuing explanation is surely an attempt to soften the dissonance among his own hearers over the apparent cruelty of Jephthah and, perhaps, God. As Chrysostom allowed this sacrifice to go ahead as a cautionary tale, lest anyone in the future vow to take a life in the expectation that God would intervene as occurred in the case of Isaac. Viewed in this light, the daughter’s sacrifice illustrates God’s care and benevolence (kEdemonias kai philanthropOpias) for the human race. Startling as that may seem, Chrysostom confirms his case with an argument from silence, “for after this sacrifice, no-one vowed such a vow unto God” (Hom. de statuis 14.3 [PG 49:147, NPNF 9:434]).

    Now, I’d like to make some general comments.

    First of all, Beelzebub, the issue you raise is a genuine problem, and it’s far greater than the problem of suffering: for here we have someone keeping a rash vow under the mistaken impression that he is morally obligated to do so. Some greater good can be achieved by allowing some kinds of suffering to occur; and even in cases where suffering serves no purpose and is Satanic in origin, God might still be obliged not to intervene to prevent it, insofar as He is still bound to respect to some degree the moral freedom of His fallen angels, whose evil “sphere of influence” includes the Earth.

    But error is a different matter: it is intrinsically evil, and God’s preventing it does not seem to limit the freedom of fallen angels. To compound the matter, Jephthah’s error is specifically religious: it arises from the mistaken premise that vows to God must be kept, no matter what – an error that we can certainly forgive Jephthah for falling into, and which God was surely bound to correct, you might think. After all, who else could? So why didn’t God do so?

    However, if you wish to argue that God was bound to intervene here, Beelzebub, then logic compels you to argue the same for every other case where human lives were lost as a result of people’s misguided religious beliefs. For example, the parents whose child dies because they took her to a faith healer instead of a doctor; or the monarch who wages war on the people of a neighboring kingdom because he considers them infidels who must be slaughtered; or the misguided Bible-believing doctor who performs hundreds of abortions over his career, because his personal reading of certain Biblical passages, whose context he fails to appreciate, convinces him that the fetus is not a human being. Why doesn’t God intervene in all these cases and say: “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! STOP! DON’T DO IT!”

    I can only conclude that God’s failure to enlighten us in these instances is a consequence of the Fall. The lines of communication that once existed between God and the first human beings, who talked to God “face to face,” have been broken. From time to time God sends messages to the human race, but they are extremely rare, and for the most part, God lets us wallow in whatever error we’ve dreamed up. Why? I can only suppose that Divine intervention, if practiced regularly, would prove too messy – too Deus ex machina. God does of course work some miracles, but we should never count on them.

    I should add that since religious error is ultimately Satanic in origin (Satan is called the father of lies by Jesus), any demand that God rebut all the pernicious religious errors that we fall into is indeed tantamount to expecting God to intervene to stop Satan. That’s presumption on our part, surely.

    The good news for Christians is that God has already sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to redeem the human race. Jews have cause to rejoice as well, for they know that the Messiah is coming. We know that the worst is over now, and that history is in its final phase, however long this phase may turn out to be. Error and confusion abound in this world at the moment, but one day, we shall see God as He really is. In the meantime, we should also remember that God knows our human frailties better than we do, and He shall not judge us harshly in those cases where we are deceived into error through no moral fault of our own.

  285. And something else to consider with regard to Jephthah: Judges is a history. A scribe chose to leave in something unflattering about a hero that he did not have too. Does that make the history more or less reliable?

    And this, btw, would also apply to the records regarding Noah, Aaron, Moses, Samson, David, Solomon and numerous other Hebrew leaders.

  286. vjtorley,

    I hope that I can continue this discussion, but my comments are being held in moderation and two of them were just deleted altogether from the “Faith and Evolution” thread for pointing out errors in the video at the new website. We’ll see how it goes.

    Before I comment on the substance of your post, I should point out an error at a key spot in your Thomson excerpt:

    As Chrysostom allowed this sacrifice to go ahead as a cautionary tale, lest anyone in the future vow to take a life in the expectation…

    Obviously, Chrysostom didn’t allow the sacrifice to go ahead; it was God.

    The passage should read:

    As Chrysostom sees it, God allowed this sacrifice to go ahead as a cautionary tale, lest anyone in the future vow to take a life in the expectation…

  287. Vivid:
    Quoting William Craig:

    “The quantum vacuum ( void) is not what most people envision when they think of a vacuum (void), that is absolutely nothing. On the contrary, it’s a sea of fluctuating energy, an arena of violent activity that has a rich physical structure and can be described by physical laws.”

    I didn’t say that the quantum void was completely unknown. I said that it was not nothing, which is exactly what William Craig is saying. I was making the distinction between nothing and the unknown, not the distinction between the partly unknown and completely unknown. Much about quantum mechanics qualifies as “unknown,” but not everything. So, much so, that skeptics allude to that part which is unknown and call it nothing, which is my point. Still, we agree that something cannot come from nothing, which is the critical issue.

  288. Beelzebub (#287)

    Well spotted. You’re quite right on the quote.

  289. VJTorley,

    I would add that God is more interested in the salvation of our souls, rather than the preservation of our physical bodies.

    It seems atheist take the preservation of the body as the highest good, since they do not believe in a soul.

    This is where the conflict arises.

    As I’m sure you know, Christ said (paraphrasing): It is better to enter the kingdom of God missing a leg, than to enter Gahiana, body intact.

    So God is not worried about our bodies in the least. It is central to what He wished to convey to us; that we are more than the sum of our bodies. So much more.

    Beelzebub, walking toward the edge of a vast ocean, put his toes in the water but declined to take a swim because he could not decide if he is willing to risk the vast unknown of the deep, until such time that he knows the totality of what is contained in it.

    Yet Christ tells us in numerous ways that it is He that knows the Ocean since it is He that is the Ocean. That if we imitate His ways, we could not fear the ocean or get lost in it.

    One great upshot here, though. Beelz will take the best seat in the house, once he comes around to taking a swim.

    Heaven awaits to loudly applaud his courage.

  290. vj,

    First, I appreciate your willingness to acknowledge that the story of Jephthah’s daughter poses a genuine problem for the believer. Though I disagree with your solution to the problem, I applaud your honesty in facing it squarely, unlike others on this thread who have sought to minimize it or rationalize it out of existence.

    You write:

    Anyway, the upshot is that the vast majority of Christian commentators condemned Jephthah for his vow. Some, such as Ambrose, went further and said he should never have kept it…

    To me, the question of whether Jephthah’s action was moral is secondary. After all, we know that humans can do the wrong thing. A more important question, as you acknowledge in your comment, concerns God’s behavior in this sad episode. As for Jephthah, I think we agree that his intentions were good. If he failed, it was largely a failure of understanding, not of character. He made a stupid vow and then compounded his error by following through on it.

    Regarding Chrysostom’s idea that God intended Jephthah’s experience to be a “cautionary tale”, I would agree with Thomson that this is “startling” — and highly unsatisfactory. It paints God as being willing to allow the brutal killing of an innocent girl merely for didactic purposes that could easily have been effected in a less cruel fashion.

    However, if you wish to argue that God was bound to intervene here, Beelzebub, then logic compels you to argue the same for every other case where human lives were lost as a result of people’s misguided religious beliefs.

    I agree, and I do make that argument. God has a lot to answer for, assuming that he exists.

    I can only conclude that God’s failure to enlighten us in these instances is a consequence of the Fall. The lines of communication…have been broken…for the most part, God lets us wallow in whatever error we’ve dreamed up. Why? I can only suppose that Divine intervention, if practiced regularly, would prove too messy – too Deus ex machina.

    He must be an extremely fastidious God to value tidiness over morality.

    I should add that since religious error is ultimately Satanic in origin…

    I would argue that its origin is ultimately Divine, since God knew before he created Satan that all of this would happen. He created Satan nevertheless, which makes him responsible for the consequences.

    …any demand that God rebut all the pernicious religious errors that we fall into is indeed tantamount to expecting God to intervene to stop Satan. That’s presumption on our part, surely.

    Why? Is it really too much to ask of a supposedly benevolent God that he quash evil, particularly when my namesake is supposed to be purely evil? What harm would it do to deny Satan’s free will?

    A completely off-topic aside: When I read your posts, I try to “hear” them in a voice with an Australian accent, since I know from your linked web page that you are Australian. It doesn’t always work, however, because the “default” voices I “hear” have American and British accents (cue jokes from the peanut gallery about hearing voices in my head).

    Out of curiosity, when you read comments at UD, what sort of accent do you “hear” them in, if any at all?

    Good night, all.

  291. Onlookers (and BZ et al):

    Re BZ, 283:

    The slice of the cake that — sadly but instructively — has in it all the telling ingredients, again. Let us therefore put in a few corrective notes:

    ______________

    kairosfocus wrote:

    I believe that CERTAIN universal claims are self evident and/or undeniable on pain of self referential absurdity or vicious infinite regress; and, as such are not provisional.

    a –> Observe, this is in a context where BZ still refuses to address the case in point I have shown: Error exists, which to try to deny only ends up instantiating. From 111, May 23rd, yet again:

    Let’s start with truth claim no 1, courtesy Josiah Royce: “Error exists.” Let’s call it E, for short.

    This happens to be an undeniably true claim, as, to try to deny it ends up implicitly affirming it. (Not-E means that E is false, i.e. E would be an error. But, that would instantiate an example of just what E affirms. So, (a) truth exists (as what we may be in error about), and (b) it is in some cases knowable beyond reasonable dispute. Similarly, the core principles of right reason are undeniably true on pain of reduction to self-referential absurdities. So also, for instance, while our knowledge of many truths is indeed provisional, we may only embark on the voyage of knowledge and reasoned communication about knowledge by implicitly accepting such core principles as firm and unalterable guiding stars. (For instance to attempt to deny or dismiss the principle of non-contradiction — even by reference to Mr Schroedinger’s poor cat — requires us to affirm that certain things are so, implying that their opposites are NOT so. So, one is in the position of having to implicitly assume what one explicitly seeks to deny. Selective hyperskepticism, reduced to absurdity.

    b –> So, there are demonstrable truths that we can understand in light of our experience of the world as minded creatures, and that are deniable only on pain of immediate absurdity. That is, we have here a self-evident truth. (And, this truth is a particularly humbling one — far from being “infallible” we are vulnerable to error; but of course self-evident principles of right reason can help us identify and correct at least some of those errors.)

    c –> Observe carefully how BZ NEVER addresses on the merits this case of a correctly reasoned out instance of an undeniably so, self-evident truth. One that is presented with the steps of reasoning highlighted so we can see for ourselves. Claim is stated, which turns out to be crucially self-referential. Its denial as attempted actually ends up affirming it by providing an instance. So, the claim is undeniably true on pain of immediate absurdity, i.e. it is self evident . . . and it plainly is not words about words but about real world experiences: the reality of being in error, and where that points.

    I [BZ] responded:

    You are making the tacit assumption that we can reason infallibly, at least in some instances, and that our conclusions of “self-referential absurdity” cannot be doubted. You are also tacitly assuming that the world absolutely must be intelligible.

    d –> notice the substitution of “infallibility” for correctness, despite my having pointed out the issue and the distinction above, including the example of a partly correct Algebra assignment.

    KF inexplicably called my reply an “ad hominem laced strawman.”

    e –> Think about how you have substituted reasoning “infallibly” for reasoning “correctly”: strawman misrepresentation.

    f –> Add the context of recent debates and controversies over the term “infallible” and the subtle ad hominem at once surfaces

    He [i.e. the undersigned] then replied:

    …to be able to reason CORRECTLY…does not at all entail that one is infallible in reasoning.

    KF,

    I haven’t claimed that it does.

    g –> BZ has here — AGAIN, despite correction adn relevant counter-example — substituted infallibility for correctness: infallibility means that one is not prone to error at all — precisely what “error exists” denies. Correctness means that on evidence you have got it right in a particular relevant case. (Sometimes you do get your algebra right, including your Boolean Algebra . . . )

    I pointed out that

    You are making the tacit assumption that we can reason infallibly, at least in some instances, and that our conclusions of “self-referential absurdity” cannot be doubted.

    h –> Again, BZ here insists on putting pejoratively loaded words in my mouth that do not belong there, while refusing to address the actual evidential case in point that would show the CORRECTNESS of my reasoning IN A SPECIFIC CASE.

    i –> One that BTW directly entails that reasoning will not be correct in all cases, so that we need reliable principles of reasoning to tell the correct from eh incorrect to a sufficient degree that we may act with wisdom, not mere trial and error.

    j –> Self-evidently true first principles of such right reasoning — as I drew out above following Josiah Royce et al — provide precisely the tools we need: error exists, so truth exists, and we may be able to know the difference in certain relevant cases as shown. So also, in exploring how that happens we see that A and NOT-A cannot be true at the same time and in the same sense, and that something is going to be A or not-A, not both, once A is distinctly recognisable (at minimum on case in point and family resemblance); etc.

    _______________

    In short, we now see that BZ’s “provisionality” of his beliefs is — sadly — in fact a hollow claim. In practice –as shown at length above, he has rejected well-founded corrections. Even on pain of absurdity.

    Let us learn from this case, where rejection of first principles of right reason and knowledge lead us.

    GEM of TKI

  292. Hi Herb:

    I see in 243:

    . . . I don’t have any beliefs that I am 100% certain of. So I consider all of my beliefs open to question.

    pardon, but I think we need to zoom in a bit on that. For, are you certain that “I don’t have any beliefs that I am 100% certain of”?

    Putting it another way: you have here made an affirmation of knowing your state of mind, to try to say all your beliefs are less than certain.

    In so doing, you seem to report in effect a certainty: the state of affairs in my mind IS that “I don’t have any beliefs that I am 100% certain of.”

    Now, do you believe — accept as so — that “I don’t have any beliefs that I am 100% certain of”? If so — and that is the import of your words, this is a belief in your mind.

    Also, do you mean that the state “I don’t have any beliefs that I am 100% certain of” does not also include the state: “I have beliefs that I am 100% certain of”? [If so, you assume the laws of non-contradiction and the excluded middle, as well as identity.]

    So, you have a self-referential belief, that it seems you hold to accurately speak of the state of affairs in your mind. But, if that is so, then it seems that you have a bit more certainty in your beliefs than you think.

    Perhaps, instead, you mean that your overall set of beliefs about the world has in it significant elements of uncertainty, and that you are open to being corrected on points of error. The first is so for all of us, and the second, hopefully so.

    (Recall, undeniable and self-evident truth no 1: error exists. So, there is truth, but we may be mistaken about it. Thus, we need to be humble enough to face the possibility of error; but that does not include that we must accept absurdities in trying to be humble about what we believe and how open we are to correction. E.g. Algebra teachers know full well that errors are possible, but sometimes the calculation and its underlying reason are done correctly.The principles of correctness in reasoning are premised on self-evident truths that once we understand them we will see they are not just so but must be so on pain of absurdities if we try to deny them. Absurdities that we do not have to dig deep to discover — they come out as soon as we use common sense to play around a bit with what it means to “understand.”)

    Hope I have been helpful.

    GEM of TKI

    PS: Coming back to the original focus for a moment, let us note what Mrs O’Leary had to say:

    I have often been wearied by legends in their own lunchroom huffing that science differs from other endeavours because it is “self-correcting.”

    To which I reply: Aw come off it, fellas. Any system that does not go extinct is self-correcting – after it collapses on its hind end. This is true of governments, businesses, churches, and not-for-profit organizations. I’ve seen enough of life to know.

    So the real problem is with pride and power games that make science as well as other institutions hard to correct.

    Recognising that error exists is an undeniable truth is a good step towards correcting that problem. And, as has been pointed out multiple times above — with enough instances to show that it is so on the ground — science is by no means uniquely self-correcting; even by comparison with that much despised idea, “religion.” [Nice, vague term, nuh . . . ] In fact, in our time, the real problem is in part that science is currently largely in the grips of ideologues who are quite resistant to much needed correction. For instance, do you think that Mr Lewontin of the US NAS was really open to correction when he wrote this in the NY Review of Books in 1997:

    It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door . . .

  293. Footnote on Jepthah:

    Here is a case where human responsibility to be prudent and to humbly acknowledge foolishness and correct oneself are aptly illustrated by painfully pointed example in the Bible.

    (Plainly, J should not have sworn foolishly. Having done so, he should have seen that he was proposing in the end to do that which was contrary to the Law . . . as in why “every man did what was right in his own eyes” is NOT a commendatory historical judgement on the time of the Judges [or of our own prone-ness to relativism]. And, of course it is possible that what did in the end happen is the girl was given up to perpetual virginity as a servant of the tabernacle rather than killed.)

    I also find it illustrative that those who are so quick to denounce unbending core principles are here implicitly appealing to just such.

    Even, while all around us, we have a situation where in the US alone since 1973, 45 – 50 MILLION innocent unborn children have been sacrificed on the altar of “right to choose.” (I have seen numbers that suggest the global number since the mid 80′s may be as high as 2 BILLIONS. I hope, desperately, that these figures are wrong.)

    So, I think a bit of looking in the mirror would be helpful for those who want to divert the thread rto camp out on Jepthah. (And, BTW, observe how the case of Abraham and Isaac, marks a point of clear correction and progress in religion. When we come to Jepthah, he is obviously held up as an example of what NOT to do. And, it is worth noting that in a later situation, when Israel was defeating a neighbouring pagan nation, the king of that nation publicly sacrificed his own son. In horror, the army of Israel went home.)

    Sounds like openness to correction to me. And, progress . . .

    GEM of TKI

  294. Orasmus @ 278:

    Diffaxial, this statement seems an appeal to ignorance.

    StephenB @ 280:

    Hundreds of things APPEAR not to have a cause, which means, of course, that we do not yet know what that cause is.

    Cling to that. But you will have to assent to three things: 1) Physics has been presenting your counter example for seven or eight decades, and, the severe consternation it has caused in some quarters notwithstanding, no one has been able to make it “go away” by finding hidden factors or other unknowns to explain the otherwise irreducibly random and uncaused nature of some events at that level. 2) If the current state of understanding of these matters in physics holds, your entire argument collapses, as you have repeatedly stated that even a single counter example renders rationality impossible. 3) It cannot be “irrational” to assert that a claim about the self-evidence of effects and their causes is not universal after all, in light of decades of stable findings in physics that are interpretable otherwise. Indeed, at this point in history “irrationality” attaches to denying those completely secure findings.

    A key observation that will never go away vis results in quantum physics is that the verbal descriptions and pictorial representations of the physical world we derive from experience with macroscopic objects (and perhaps even from sensory systems and conceptual categories adapted to coping with macroscopic objects) are simply NOT APPLICABLE to quantum events. Much of the struggle over the interpretation of these physical and mathematical facts arises from to struggle to translate those findings into macroscopic language. What seems most clear is that such macroscopically derived verbal formula are simply obsolete and inapplicable at the quantum level: these fundamental, empirically completely secure empirical realities at the heart of matter and energy are simply not expressible in the language of macroscopic objects, events, and the causal relaionships between them. Truisms such as “every effect has a cause” and “you can’t be two places at one time” simply DON’T WORK at that level. In other words, these heretofore perfectly serviceable macroscopic conceptual tools are are of no use at the quantum level. It doesn’t follow that the macroscopic world will suddenly become a Daliesque cartoon of dripping clocks, self-raining roads and walls leaping out of the void – after all, we continue to live in a macroscopic world at the level of which statistical averaging of quantum events renders them imperceptible to ordinary experience.

    What does follow is that the claim that these verbal generalizations can be extended everywhere, at every level, is false.

  295. Beelzebub (#255)

    On the subject of animal suffering, you wrote:

    But to think that a fawn burning to death in a forest fire deserves to suffer and die seems as bizarre as claiming that all of those Indonesian infants deserved to drown when the tsunami hit Banda Aceh.

    I agree. The problem you raise is a genuine one. Before I continue, I should like to point out that in Jewish tradition, the Noachide code condemns cruelty to animals; while Christians have the word of their Savior that God marks the fall of a sparrow (Matthew 10:29). Christians are therefore forbidden to think that God is heartless or unfair.

    Here is a list of resolutions that Christian writers of various stripes have put forward in the past:

    1. Non-human animals exhibit nociception (sensitivity to noxious stimuli) but lack subjective awareness altogether. In other words, the fawn doesn’t reacts to the heat of the fire but doesn’t suffer the pain of being burned alive. (Very much a minority view.)

    2. Non-human animals do suffer, but their subjective awareness is merely in the present moment, as they have no autobiographical memory and hence no enduring sense of suffering over time. In contemporary philosophical terminology, they are not “subjects of a life.” Or as neurologists would put it: non-human animals possess primary consciousness but lack higher-order consciousness. They suffer but have no sense of self. Consequently, their suffering is infinitely less odious to them than ours is to us. Because this suffering is so fleeting and transitory, and so utterly insignificant compared to the suffering of creatures who are “subjects of a life”, God is not obliged to prevent it at all costs, even if that means resorting to extraordinary means (miracles). Consequently, God is not necessarily unjust if He sometimes allows non-human animals to suffer.

    3. Non-human animals do suffer, and they may even have a rudimentary sense of self, but they lack the ability to reflect on their suffering, either because they have no “theory of mind” (awareness of other selves) or because they are unable to have the higher-order intentional states required for such philosophical ruminations (e.g. beliefs about beliefs). Although they experience pain, they feel no existential angst along the lines of: “Why is this happening to me? Why, God, Why?” In other words, the spiritual component of their distress is wholly absent. On this account, God does not have an absolute obligation to prevent or alleviate pain and suffering which lacks a spiritual component. Consequently, He does not wrong non-human animals when He allows them to suffer.

    4. Non-human animals do suffer, and their suffering matters to God – so much so that He has prepared some sort of afterlife for them, but this afterlife does not include the Beatific Vision, of which they are naturally incapable. (A novel, 20th century view, popularized by the convert and ex-atheist C. S. Lewis.)

    5. Non-human animals do suffer, and their suffering matters to God – but as they are by nature incapable of surviving death (unlike human beings, who are capable of performing non-bodily acts), God makes it up to them in their final moments, by allowing them to enjoy some sort of terminal state of bliss which wipes the moral slate clean, as it were.

    Hindus would add another option:

    6. Non-human animals were moral agents in a previous life, so any suffering they now endure is deserved.

    I agree with you that option 6 is highly implausible. Human beings (who are, as far as we know, the only moral agents on this planet) are evolutionary Johnny-come-latelies. To say that the fawn sinned in a previous life as a huiman being is incompatible with the fact that animal suffering has been going on for tens of millions of years, at least.

    Descartes favored option 1, but as far as I am aware, none of the Christian Fathers of the Church did so. Nor did Jewish commentators; indeed, the Noachide code expressly prohibits cruelty to animals, so clearly it is part of Jewish belief that animals do suffer.

    I should point out, however, that from a scientific standpoint, it is surprisingly difficult to prove Descartes wrong – although the article Blindsight in Man and Monkey” by Petra Stoerig and Alan Cowey at http://brain.oxfordjournals.or...../120/3/535 makes it appear very likely that monkeys do indeed possess subjective awareness. However, even today there are still a few philosophers and neurologists who maintain that animals lack subjective awareness.

    I should add that people in a persistent vegetative state are capable of an impressive repertoire of reflexive and nociceptive responses, as Professor James Rose notes in his widely cited online paper, The Neurobehavioral Nature of Fishes and the Question of Awareness and Pain , which I would strongly recommend that you read. (By the way, Rose contends that some mammals are capable of suffering pain, but fish are not. However, Rose adds that fish are capable of learning and can engage in a variety of behavioral repertoires. And if the notion of something lacking subjective awareness but nevertheless capable of learning strikes you as counter-intuitive, you’ll just have to read Rose’s paper.)

    Professor Rose also marshals neurological evidence showing that the cognitive-evaluative dimensions of pain are very much linked to frontal lobe structures in the brain – in particular the prefrontal cortex and the anterior cingulate gyrus. The findings add to the plausibility of theological options 2 and 3 (see below).

    The view that animals lack an autobiographical memory remains a very respectable one in the field of animal research. There is strong evidence that some birds (e.g. scrub jays) can recall certain episodes from the past (e.g. where they stored some food, several months ago); but it does not follow from this fact that they have a sense of self, let alone an ability to engage in mental time-travel (e.g. what were you doing in 1986?) For memory researchers, a capacity for episodic memory does not equate to having a “This is your life” autobiographical memory. However, science has not spoken its last word here. Further research may suggest that some animals keep a kernel of biographical information in their heads, throughout their lives. Given that the present state of research into higher-order consciousness in animals is still in it infancy, it behooves us to keep an open mind.

    The notion that non-human animals experience any kind of spiritual distress is even more doubtful. As this lecture on Dr. Moti Nissani’s Web page shows, there is laboratory evidence suggesting that non-human animals lack a theory of mind, although the research remains heavily controverted. But even the discover that non-human animals have an ability to empathize with other animals would not necessarily establish that they have a spiritual dimension to their lives.

    But let’s get back to God. Even if non-human animals lack a sense of self, or a theory of mind, or a spiritual dimension in their lives, does it follow that He is entitled to let them suffer, rather than continually intervening to save them from pain? Most people living in the 21st century would answer with an emphatic “No! That’s unjust!” while most people living in the time of Aquinas would have answered the same question with an equally emphatic “Of course He is! What’s your problem?”

    Who is right here? I happen to be living in the 21st century, but I don’t see that as a reason for giving undue weight to its intellectual prejudices. That’s why I continually try to step out of my own time: the way we see things now might turn out to be totally wrong.

    I should also warn you against the dangers of anthropomorphism. What would it be like to be a conscious fawn, but lack a sense of self, or a theory of mind? We might picture Bambi screaming as the flames consume its flesh, and we might suppose that the flames feel about as painful for Bambi as they do for us. We might be tempted to retort: “Never mind whether Bambi has any high-falutin’ second-order intentional states or cogitations on the meaning of life. A pain is still a pain, and a scream of agony is still a scream, whether it issue from the mouth of a fawn or a child. It’s not fair, and God is a monster for allowing it!” But Professor Rose’s paper (cited above) shows that this way of thinking about suffering will not do. Our sophisticated brains DO enhance the way in which we suffer, and the suffering of non-human animals is likely to be orders of magnitude less than what we would experience, when placed in a comparative situation.

    Before we go on, let me ask you, Beelzebub: do you maintain that it would have been better if God had not created human beings, if the only way of doing so was to make a world where some non-human animals suffered unmerited, unrecompensed pain? I’d just like to know where you stand on this moral question. (We can argue later about whether an omnipotent Being could have placed humans in a world with people but no non-human animals.)

    Finally, I’ll say something briefly about options 4 and 5. Option 5 looks especially unconvincing to me; it wouldn’t achieve its purpose unless the animal were sophisticated enough to realize that it was being recompensed for the pain its suffered, and if it were that smart, it would be surely capable of moral agency, like us. So that leaves 4.

    Option 4 raises problems in relation to individual identity if we imagine the afterlife purely as a resurrection (would a resurrected animal be the same individual as the individual whose atoms it was remade from?) If on the other hand we envisage animals as having immortal souls, this invites the question: on what grounds? Does subjective awareness require a disembodied soul? Descartes would say yes; Aristotle and Aquinas (and the Christian Fathers who wrote on the matter) would not. Or perhaps having a sense of self, or an ability to empathize, is a non-bodily capacity. It is plausible that some mammals and birds have these capacities. I should add that C. S. Lewis endorsed option 4. This was a theological innovation; but it is still perfectly compatible with the long-standing theological tradition that only humans can enjoy the Beatific Vision.

    The correct solution might turn out to be a combination of options 1, 2 and 3 for some animals, and option 4 for others. But it would be unwise to be too dogmatic here, precisely because there are no dogmas on the fate of animals at the present time.

    Enough of my theological rambling. Here’s a link to a Christian writer who used to be an atheist, on the subject of the fate of dead birds: http://www.conversiondiary.com.....jesus.html . Her Web site is well worth having a look at.

    The final point that I want to leave you with is that we simply do not know enough at present about animal awareness to treat the existence of unmerited animal suffering as a good argument (let alone a decisive one) for denying the existence of an infinite and omnibenevolent God. Animal suffering is one area where it definitely pays to keep an open mind.

  296. 297

    You may think that you examine the evidence, but it examines you.
    Beelzebub:
    What’s your justification in saying that, apart from your feeling of discomfort at confronting the horrible story of Jephthah’s daughter?

    Jesus once said that his followers must eat his flesh and drink his blood. Many were so shocked by his speech that they left him. The meaning seemed plain enough. Eat flesh. Drink blood. Disgusting. The end. In their minds, they were making an easy decision based on evidence.
    Other disciples, based on what they knew of Jesus’ teachings, weren’t so quick. They still wanted to know what he meant, but they weren’t in such a hurry to jump ship. As it turns out, Jesus’ words were entirely symbolic.
    By speaking as he did, Jesus revealed what was in the various disciples’ hearts. Those who wanted to leave had their easy excuse.
    Could there be any doubt as to what reaction his words would provoke? Does something like that just slip out?
    The account of Jephthah’s daughter is just that – it’s a way out. It’s an examination of those who read it.

  297. A quick typo correction to post #295:

    The paragraph

    1. Non-human animals exhibit nociception (sensitivity to noxious stimuli) but lack subjective awareness altogether. In other words, the fawn doesn’t reacts to the heat of the fire but doesn’t suffer the pain of being burned alive. (Very much a minority view.)

    should read as follows:

    1. Non-human animals exhibit nociception (sensitivity to noxious stimuli) but lack subjective awareness altogether. In other words, the fawn reacts to the heat of the fire but doesn’t suffer the pain of being burned alive. (Very much a minority view.)

    That is to say, the first “doesn’t” in the paragraph I originally typed was not meant to be there.

  298. Hi Kfocus,

    pardon, but I think we need to zoom in a bit on that. For, are you certain that “I don’t have any beliefs that I am 100% certain of”?

    That’s a good question, and the answer is no. It might be more accurate for me to say I’m not aware of any beliefs I’m 100% certain of, and that statement again is not meant to express certainty.

    I do provisionally accept the laws of non-contradiction, excluded middle, and identity as being useful, but again I can’t say they are universally true. I’ve read that some parts of QM are inconsistent with some of these laws, for example, so I think there’s reason to doubt them.

  299. Returning to matters epistemological:

    Beelzebub (#255)

    My comment (#210):

    If the hypothesis of anthropogenic global warming being a significant and potentially deadly influence on climate turns out to be mistaken, you can be absolutely sure that it will not die a clean death by Popperian falsification. Rather, the AGW hypothesis will mutate in its death throes, and its scientific refutation will therefore be messy and drawn-out.

    Your comment (#255):

    True, and that is how it should be, as long as the “mutated” versions are live possibilities. Truth is not obligated to fit neatly into our preconceived frameworks. It may be that one of the “mutated” hypotheses is actually correct.

    My comment (#210):

    The point I want to make is that the absence of dogma is actually hindering the public’s search for truth, as the claims and counter-claims continue to fly.

    Your comment (#255):

    What a strange argument. I would say just the opposite: that the public is best served when disputants modify their positions in response to new evidence rather than digging in their heels dogmatically.

    You made some valid points in your remarks above. However, the point I wish to reiterate is that a scientific theory which is not tied to any solid claims that it is willing to stake its reputation on, runs the risk of being too slippery to falsify. A theory needs its central dogmas; otherwise it is not a proper theory at all.

    What worries me about both neo-Darwinian evolution and anthropogenic global warming is that both hypotheses are far too flexible, in their ability to accommodate countervailing evidence.

    Darwinism is no longer tied to a mechanism – evolutionists are even willing to consider epigenetic inheritance , which would have been called Lamarckianism when I was growing up. And the family tree of life has gone, it seems. Each gene now has its own family tree.

    Anthropogenic global warming is a pretty slippery customer too. Just ask yourself: supposing for argument’s sake that it were wrong, what kind of measurements, over what period of time, would be needed to discredit it as a hypothesis?

    The result of all this “accommodation” is that both theories have become virtually immune to falsification, except by bizarre lines of evidence. Sure, the sudden discovery of fossil rabbits in pre-Cambrian strata around the world (J. S. Haldane), or for that matter the remains of a crashed UFO with an alien blueprint for every life-form on Earth today, would overthrow Darwinism. And sure, a sudden drop of 5 degrees in global temperatures would suffice to overturn the anthropogenic global warming hypothesis. But most scientific hypotheses are much more straightforwardly testable than this. If proponents of Einstein’s theory of relativity demanded such outlandish refutations before abandoning their positions, people in other the scientific disciplines would laugh at them.

    What needs to be done? I would suggest that instead of trying to keep a cluster of hypotheses under the big tent of neo-Darwinism, biologists should be prepared to “let a hundred flowers bloom,” to cite Mao Zedong out of context. Indeed, open warfare between these rival schools of thought is highly desirable: it’ll sharpen scientists’ wits and give them something solid to attack – rival theories which actually contain disprovable dogmas. And among these many schools of biological thought, ID could also flourish – although it too would have to diversify into several schools, in furious competition with with each other.

    As for AGW: a theory which simply predicts a global temperature rise over the next 100 years isn’t really a theory. It’s far too broad to merit that appellation. Instead, what is needed is a detailed, falsifiable model listing all the parameters that are hypothesized to influence the Earth’s climate, together with the values they are supposed to have. Of course, there may be several such AGW models, but that’s fine, so long as they “nail their flags to the mast” and say what they’re committed to, and what would overthrow them. I would argue that open rivalry between these different models, with their warring dogmas, is the best way forward for science.

    And what about religion? You complain that too many dogmas are unfalsifiable. Nonsense. I’m sure I could think of about 50 ways in which Christianity could conceivably be falsified by scientists, philosophers and/or historians over the next 100 years, and probably more if I tried. So far, however, Christianity has done remarkably well.

    Hinduism, however, would be much harder to falsify – precisely because it has so few dogmas. (For instance, the discovery that animals pre-date human beings hasn’t resulted in any mass defections – in any case, I imagine Hindus could postulate life on other planets to circumvent the problems arising for their doctrine of reincarnation.) To really discredit Hinduism, you’d have to render the idea of reincarnation untenable – perhaps by showing that it presupposes a very extreme form of dualism, which is incompatible with the findings of neuroscience. But I imagine it would take decades of research before scientists could confidently assert this.

    Anyway, the point I wanted to get across was: dogmas are not always a bad thing. They can be stultifying; but they can also be intellectually fruitful, in their own way. The proposed elimination of all dogmas is a drastic step, fraught with peril; if implemented, it would render clear thinking impossible.

  300. vjtorley,

    I’ve long since replied to your Jephthah post (more than 9 hours ago), but my comment is languishing in the moderation queue. When it appears, it will be way back here.

    Regarding your post above on dogma, I would note that the advantages you claim for dogma are not unique to dogma. Provisional beliefs do the job just as well (more on this later when I respond to your post in detail).

    The one thing that distinguishes dogmatic belief from provisional belief — its absolute refusal to question and correct itself — is entirely negative, as far as I can see. As discussed earlier in this thread, such absolutism would only be advantageous in cases where the dogma was known, without the slightest glimmer of doubt, to be absolutely true. In such cases, dogmatism would protect the truth from corruption. Because we are fallible humans, there are no such cases.

    Dogma is a very bad idea.

  301. —–Diffaxial: “It cannot be “irrational” to assert that a claim about the self-evidence of effects and their causes is not universal after all, in light of decades of stable findings in physics that are interpretable otherwise. Indeed, at this point in history “irrationality” attaches to denying those completely secure findings.”

    Anyone who thinks that effects can occur without causes, or that a thing can both be and not be at the same time, or that something can come from nothing is irrational by choice. It has nothing to do with intelligence, but it has everything to do with one’s capacity to draw valid conclusions about the real world.

    —-A key observation that will never go away vis results in quantum physics is that the verbal descriptions and pictorial representations of the physical world we derive from experience with macroscopic objects (and perhaps even from sensory systems and conceptual categories adapted to coping with macroscopic objects) are simply NOT APPLICABLE to quantum events.

    The metaphysical foundations for science have nothing to do with “verbal descriptions” and “macroscopic objects.” They are the self-evident truths through which verbal descriptions and macroscopic events are understood. You are conflating metaphysical truths with physical realities that can be observed and measured, an error, by the way, that stems from rejecting the metaphysical foundations themselves.

    —-“Truisms such as “every effect has a cause” and “you can’t be two places at one time” [he simply DON’T WORK at that level. In other words, these heretofore perfectly serviceable macroscopic conceptual tools are of no use at the quantum level. It doesn’t follow that the macroscopic world will suddenly become a Daliesque cartoon of dripping clocks, self-raining roads and walls leaping out of the void - after all, we continue to live in a macroscopic world at the level of which statistical averaging of quantum events renders them imperceptible to ordinary experience.”

    No one has here said anything one way or the other about being “in two places at the same time,” so that is one strawman that you can throw out right away.

    With regard to the self-evident truths that undergird science, they not only work, they are essential to understanding anything at all about what may or may not be going on. If an event requires certain physically NECESSARY conditions to occur, but if those conditions are not SUFFICIENT for its occurrence, and, if under the circumstances, the event occurs, then that event is [A] unpredictable, [B] spontaneous, and [C] Not uncaused.

    In any quantum event, physically NECESSARY conditions exist that are not SUFFICIENT to make that event occur, meaning that the conditions cannot GUANRANTEE the event. So, when a particle appears in a quantum vacuum, it is spontaneous but not uncaused because it has many necessary conditions. To be uncaused, it must have NO NECESSARY OR SUFFICIENT CONDITIONS whatsoever. In other words, something cannot come from nothing.

    All of the principles of right reason illuminate and confirm one other. The proposition that a thing cannot be and not be is related to the principle that an effect cannot occur without a cause, which in turn, is related to the principle that something cannot come from nothing. This is the big problem of our age. We approach scientific paradoxes as if they were somehow divorced from reason itself, as if we were rational and the universe we are investigating is not rational. It isn’t that complicated: [A] We have rational minds, [B] We live in a rational universe, and [C] there is a correspondence between the two. If we do not understand this vital self-evident truth, we cannot reason in the abstract.

  302. Scott,

    You can persuade yourself to believe anything (and to continue believing it) if you get in the habit of writing off every discrepancy as something that you just don’t understand yet, something that will be resolved if you just give it time.

    Every faithful Muslim, Sikh, Moonie, and Scientologist in the world does exactly the same thing. If your “just give it time” ethos applies to Christianity, why doesn’t it also apply to these other belief systems?

    The account of Jephthah’s daughter is just that – it’s a way out. It’s an examination of those who read it.

    Vjtorley accepts that Jephthah burned his daughter. Do you think that he’s looking for “a way out”? Is there something suspect about his faith since he doesn’t try to doctor the story in the way that you do? Are you this dismissive of everyone who disagrees with you?

  303. Anyone who thinks that effects can occur without causes, or that a thing can both be and not be at the same time, or that something can come from nothing is irrational by choice.

    Which reminds me to chuckle again over your having appropriated “all rational people…since the beginning of time” into your name-drop list in order to bolster your argument by means of the fallacy argumentum ad populum.

    You’ve repeatedly stated that rejection of your argument is inherently irrational, and denotes an irrational person. Therefore your definition of a “rational person” is, in essence, “a person who agrees with my position.” So your assertion boils down to “all people who agree with me, and all people who have ever agreed with me, agree with me.”

    Even your fallacies (argumentum ad populum) have fallacies (another friggin’ tautology!!).

  304. 305

    beelzebub,

    —–”Every faithful Muslim, Sikh, Moonie, and Scientologist in the world does exactly the same thing. If your “just give it time” ethos applies to Christianity, why doesn’t it also apply to these other belief systems?”

    “Just give it time” is the mantra of evolution.

  305. —Diffaxial: “You’ve repeatedly stated that rejection of your argument is inherently irrational, and denotes an irrational person. Therefore your definition of a “rational person” is, in essence, “a person who agrees with my position.”

    It isn’t my argument. I didn’t invent the principles of right reason, nor did I conceive of the metaphysical foundations for modern science. That you reject them is a commentary on your status as a reasonable person. Its called self-condemnation.

    I notice, by the way, that you completely ignored the substance of my post @302, which explains why quantum events are not causeless events. As per usual, once your position is refuted, you hearken back to your well-rehearsed strawman about MY principles of right reason. So it is with postmodern atheists.

  306. 307

    Beelzebub,

    If I drummed up every scary truth and rumor I could think of about doctors (they make you take your clothes off, they stab you with needles, they cut you open with knives) and told them to someone who’d never met one, I could probably convince him never to see one, ever. But I’ve been to a few in my life and experienced the benefits.

    You’re getting a lot of bad information. Maybe that’s what you want. I don’t know. This forum contains awesome information on the scientific exploration of intelligent design, but the Bible is a subject only diminished by public debate. I don’t know if you’re looking for answers or are open to them or just having fun, but there are no answers here.

  307. As per usual, once your position is refuted, you hearken back to your well-rehearsed strawman about MY principles of right reason. So it is with postmodern atheists.

    I happen to have time consuming professional obligations to attend to. I am amused how often discussants of a particular ilk claim by virtue of an interval of non-response that a point or refutation stands. It seems rather over-eager.

    But watch this space.

  308. ScottAndrews writes:

    If I drummed up every scary truth and rumor I could think of about doctors (they make you take your clothes off, they stab you with needles, they cut you open with knives) and told them to someone who’d never met one, I could probably convince him never to see one, ever.

    True, but he might be quite willing to see one if you explained why doctors do those things.

    I assume you see this as analogous to the story of Jephthah’s daughter. If so, what is the explanation that will convince all of us that there is no problem here, and that everything is hunky-dory?

    Telling us that Jephthah didn’t burn his daughter is no good — it contradicts the clear meaning of the text, including the original Hebrew.

    You’re getting a lot of bad information.

    For example?

  309. 310

    beelzebub,

    ——”I assume you see this as analogous to the story of Jephthah’s daughter. If so, what is the explanation that will convince all of us that there is no problem here, and that everything is hunky-dory?

    Telling us that Jephthah didn’t burn his daughter is no good — it contradicts the clear meaning of the text, including the original Hebrew.”

    I’m glad to see that you embrace literalism, beelzebub, it could be considered “dogmatic” even. You don’t seem to be one “open” to interpretation, even though you claim to be the most open-minded. Still, to take the text literally, means that you have a problem with Jephthah, not God. God didn’t command it, nor condone it, literally. Let’s be consistent in our literalism, shall we?

    Do you also see the literal text where God sacrificed Himself for all of humanity?

  310. —-Diffaxial: “I happen to have time consuming professional obligations to attend to. I am amused how often discussants of a particular ilk claim by virtue of an interval of non-response that a point or refutation stands. It seems rather over-eager.”

    Your immediate response to my refutation [at 304] was to ignore it and focus on something else. If, as you suggest, it was not your “real” response, you should have made that clear.
    For what it is worth, no one here believes that you will be rendered speechless by any reasoned argument however compelling that argument may be, or that you cannot fill up cyberspace in defense of postmoden irrationality however ineffective that defense may be, so you need not labor under that concern.

  311. For what it is worth, no one here believes that you will be rendered speechless by any reasoned argument however compelling that argument may be, or that you cannot fill up cyberspace in defense of postmoden irrationality however ineffective that defense may be, so you need not labor under that concern.

    As I said: “inexorably lapsing into your nasty habit of ad hominem remarks and characterizations.”

  312. 313

    “You’ve repeatedly stated that rejection of your argument is inherently irrational, and denotes an irrational person.”

    It does.

    “Therefore your definition of a “rational person” is, in essence, “a person who agrees with my position.””

    No Stephens position is that the definition of a irrational person is one that discards rationality which you do.

    “So your assertion boils down to “all people who agree with me, and all people who have ever agreed with me, agree with me.”

    I smell straw burning.

    Vivid

  313. —-Diffaxial: ‘As I said: “inexorably lapsing into your nasty habit of ad hominem remarks and characterizations.”

    Normally, I would provide a play by play of the events that led up to my comment, which was little more than a snippy response to a snippy comment. On the other hand, I don’t want to distract you from addressing my refutations [@302] of your misguided notion that quantum events are causeless.

  314. —beelzebub: “Dogma is a very bad idea.”

    How about the one that says, “Thou shalt not murder.” Let’s take to practical examples:

    [A] Assume that you are the one about to be murdered, and that you do not live in a well-ordered society that provides legal protection. Assume also that the one who is about to murder you contends that dogmas, such as the fifth commandment, are a bad idea. Are you OK with that?

    [B] Assume that you exist in your mother’s womb, and therefore, have no legal protection. It is OK for the abortionist to rip YOU apart, limb from limb?

  315. Oops, I mean, let’s take [two] practical examples.

  316. How about the one that says, “Thou shalt not murder.”

    That’s a commandment, not a dogma.

  317. StephenB @ 302:

    In any quantum event, physically NECESSARY conditions exist that are not SUFFICIENT to make that event occur, meaning that the conditions cannot GUANRANTEE the event. So, when a particle appears in a quantum vacuum, it is spontaneous but not uncaused because it has many necessary conditions. To be uncaused, it must have NO NECESSARY OR SUFFICIENT CONDITIONS whatsoever. In other words, something cannot come from nothing.

    By “physically necessary condition” you are, one would assume, referring to the characteristics of the quantum vacuum. Given that quantum vacuum is present throughout spacetime (due to Heisenberg uncertainty regarding energy states) and displays characteristics that are contingent on NO other facts, to cite its characteristics as a “necessary condition” of the emergence of a pair of virtual particles is rather like the FAA concluding that the cause of a particular air crash was “the laws of physics.” A satisfactory explanation of such a crash – one that describes what we ordinarily refer to as its “cause” – must cite factors specific to the history of that event: pilot error, failure of the airframe, etc.

    However, in the instance of the emergence of virtual particles, beyond the existence of quantum vacuum itself, there are no further analogous specific conditions or facts of any kind (including particulars within the quantum vacuum itself) with bearing on the the particulars (particle types, energy levels, timing, etc.) of the emergence of a given pair of virtual particles. Those values are, within a given envelope of probability, irreducibly random, reflecting no other unknown factors. Yet those particles are unquestionably real and have empirically detectable consequences that have been affirmed beyond doubt.

    BTW, I’ll be happy to add, “as I understand it.” This is miles from anything resembling an area of expertise for me, and I’d be happy to be educated further. If you have other necessary/sufficient conditions in mind, please describe.

    My specific statements were the following:

    Does it follow that all events are profitably described as “effects” that necessarily have causes? It does not. In particular, we directly observe that the notion breaks down at the quantum level, and it is also not at all clear that it is applicable to the universe as a whole, because we know that time came into being with that universe.

    A similar illustration of breakdown of conventional “cause and effect” at the quantum level is illustrated by particle decay (an example cited earlier in other discussions). The timing of the occurrence of an individual particle decay event cannot be said to have a cause. Such events can be described probabilistically, but individual decay events are irreducibly random in their timing. There are no underlying conditions or hidden variables that determine the moment of a particular decay event or enable the prediction of that event. No external factors account for the decay event. There are no differences between a particle that decays in the next instant relative to another that decays some time later. There are no necessary or sufficient conditions for a decay event, relative to the non-occurence of a decay event in an identical particle (IOW the mere existence of the particle cannot be said to be a “necessary” or “sufficient” condition for a decay event, because an identical particle under identical circumstances may not decay).

    And the notion that universes may appear out of the (quantum) void has genuine scientific currency.

    An illustration (literally) of that scientific currency may be found in an illustration provided by NASA with a press release describing the WMAP satellite may be found at:

    wikipedia.org/wiki/File:CMB_Timeline75.jpg

    Wikipedia reproduces the illustration on the article entitled “Universe” and captions the illustration as “Prevailing model of the origin of spacetime and all it contains.” You’ll notice that the leftmost (earliest) event is designated “quantum fluctuations.” This, of course, doesn’t establish that this model is correct, but it does demonstrate the scientific currency to which I refer above.

  318. Vivid @ 313:

    “You’ve repeatedly stated that rejection of your argument is inherently irrational, and denotes an irrational person.”

    It does.

    “Therefore your definition of a “rational person” is, in essence, “a person who agrees with my position.””

    No Stephens position is that the definition of a irrational person is one that discards rationality which you do.

    “So your assertion boils down to “all people who agree with me, and all people who have ever agreed with me, agree with me.”

    I smell straw burning.

    Congratulations. You’ve faithfully reproduced the tautology to which I refer, apparently unawares, even though it was just pointed out to you.

    Nor do you address the fallacy of argumentum ad populum committed by Stephen’s ridiculous (and tautological) list.

  319. 320

    beelzebub:

    Telling us that Jephthah didn’t burn his daughter is no good — it contradicts the clear meaning of the text, including the original Hebrew.

    You’ve ruled out the possibility of metaphorical speech – “as a burnt offering” – even where it’s overwhelmingly supported by the context and spoken by a man you didn’t know in a language you don’t speak and whose customs are unknown to you. (My guess – in a book you haven’t read.) And this without leaving any room for uncertainty.
    Sometimes I’m dogmatic and I assert that I’m unquestionably right, but I usually try to know what I’m talking about first.

  320. —-Diffaxial to vivid: “Nor do you address the fallacy of argumentum ad populum committed by Stephen’s ridiculous (and tautological) list.”

    This is the third inconsequential post that you have written after telling me that you didn’t have time to address my refutation (@302) of your mistaken notion about causeless quantum events. Is this more symbolism over substance?

    Also, your claim that the metaphysical foundations of modern science are mere “tautologies” has long since been exposed as empty and meaningless pablum. It is impossible to reason without assuming these self-evident truths apriori.

    Also, I did not use argumentum ad populum at [302], so your comment to vivid is inappropirate. I do recall, however, using ad populum argumentum as a fitting counterpoise to your argumentum ad verecundiam.

  321. Beelzebub

    Thank you for your post (#291).

    The argument from evil has reached an interesting point on this thread. For you have put forward the bold claim that at least one kind of evil in the world disproves the existence of an infinite, omnibenevolent God.

    Regarding the question of why God didn’t intervene to stop Jephthah sacrificing his daughter, I wrote (#284):

    However, if you wish to argue that God was bound to intervene here, Beelzebub, then logic compels you to argue the same for every other case where human lives were lost as a result of people’s misguided religious beliefs.

    You responded (#291):

    I agree, and I do make that argument. God has a lot to answer for, assuming that he exists.

    So now we’ve moved beyond Jephthah, to the general question: is the occurrence of evils committed by well-intentioned people under the sway of some religious error, incompatible with the existence of a good, all-powerful God? You maintain that it is; I would argue that it is not.

    In my previous post (#284), I suggested one reason why God was not bound to intervene on each and every occasion to prevent these evils: doing so would require a “voice from above” – in other words, an extraordinary act of Divine intervention. I wrote:

    I can only suppose that Divine intervention, if practiced regularly, would prove too messy – too Deus ex machina.

    You responded:

    He must be an extremely fastidious God to value tidiness over morality.

    After thinking about your comment, I will concede that the massive number of interventions required does not, by itself, constitute a sufficient reason for God not to intervene to prevent eveils caused by religious errors.

    What I would suggest is that perhaps the Fall itself made it impossible for God to intervene. Only, in those rare cases where God personally commanded someone to perform an action would He then be able to follow through and correct any misinterpretation by that person of the Divine command.

    Thus in the case of God commanding Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, God was indeed obliged at the last moment to send an angel to say, “Stop!” (Actually, I’m inclined to think that Abraham trusted all along that something like this would happen at the last moment, which is why he complied with God’s wishes.) But in Jephthah’s case, the sacrifice was not commanded by God, and here I would argue that God was powerless to intervene. Ditto for the Salem witch trials, the slaughter caused by the Crusades, and so on. Why?

    The short answer is: because of the very radical nature of the Fall.

    I’d like you to try a little thought experiment: imagine you’re Adam – an intelligent hominid, endowed with a rational soul, and certainly capable of understanding abstract concepts such as “God,” “immortality,” “obey,” and “happy,” as well as recursive notions like “you and all your descendants.” You’re the head of your clan. You’re also the first member of your tribe to cross the mental Rubicon separating us from animals. All the other members of the tribe look up to you: you’re their appointed spokesperson, and whatever important decisions you make, they will acquiesce in. You’re on talking terms with God. He’s even promised you immortality and never-ending happiness, if you choose to obey Him. There’s just one catch – if you do that, it means acknowledging that God’s number 1, and you’re number 2.

    But something gnawing at you inside your head makes you doubt the wisdom of this proposal. You think to yourself: even if the terms and conditions are very favorable, do I really want to play second fiddle to anyone forever? Do I really want to submit to someone else’s will, for all eternity? For that matter, why should I trust this Being, anyway? So when your time of testing comes, you boldly and defiantly declare, as Lucifer did billions of years earlier: “No! I will not serve!”

    When you made your choice, there was a heavy responsibility resting on your shoulders. God had already told you that whatever choice you make would bind the rest of the human race, and that if you rejected Him, you would be shutting off the voice of God, not only for yourself, but also for every other member of the human race. God could still, if He chose, intervene on special occasions, but when you chose to reject Him, you and all your descendants forfeited the right to demand His intervention. For all practical intents and purposes, the heavens would be silent from now on. God was off the air.

    You had no problems convincing your clan that you had made the right choice. Humanity’s Independence Day, you called it. The heavens might be darker now; but everyone was now free from the continual demands of a nagging Deity. You had freed them. The voice of God was gone; from now on, there would be just one voice in the land: the human voice.

    Death and pain ensued; but you had expected that. What you hadn’t expected, however, was confusion. People could no longer agree on the right thing to do, and fighting broke out on a regular basis. Shocked, you tried to restore some sort of order by re-instituting some sort of religion. You built altars. But you soon discovered that people couldn’t agree on what Deity to worship, let alone what the Deity’s commands were. All sorts of bizarre rituals started to appear; and humanity descended into a moral and religious cacophony. One of your own sons then murdered his brother because of some religious squabble they had, about the right way to offer up sacrifices to the Deity. Now, as the full weight of what you have done hits you, you repent of your proud choice to defy God.

    Now, Beelzebub, let’s take a step back from this scenario. Were God’s original terms and conditions unreasonable? Was He being grossly unfair to Adam’s descendants? I don’t think so. The human race is one. There is a deep bond of brotherhood uniting all of us. We’re all in this together. The Earth is not our eternal home; it’s a waystation. However, it’s where we were all born, and it’s the only home we know. It’s where we all live, for the time being. Either people living on Earth are on talking terms with God or they’re not. You can’t have a human race, half of whose members talk to God “face to face” and enjoy perfect bliss on Earth, while the other half are cut off from God and wallow in death and misery on the same Earth. That wouldn’t be one human race any more; that would be two races. So I would say: necessarily, Adam had a very fateful choice to make. Necessarily, whatever he chose would bind him and all his descendants. Once Adam defiantly rebuffed God, God had no choice but to reply, “Well, if you want me to go, then I will. Your race will have to live with the consequences.”

    But even these considerations do not let God entirely off the hook. After all, God created Satan, who has wreaked havoc in the natural world, as well as being responsible for many moral evils – including the origination of the multitude of religious errors which have beset the human race, such as the vile notion that God is pleased by human sacrifice. Why did God create such a nefarious fiend in the first place, if He knew what Satan was going to do?

    I suppose this is what you had in mind when you wrote above (#291) that:

    …God knew before he created Satan that all of this would happen. He created Satan nevertheless, which makes him responsible for the consequences.

    Two comments. First, just as Adam had his “sphere of responsibility” as leader of the human race, so too Satan had his own little “sphere of influence,” as an intelligent being responsible for implementing God’s plans in one sector of the cosmos, in a way befitting a creative agent. That sector is, of course, our Earth. For God to curtail Satan’s creative freedom after making him would be tantamount to a violation of the terms and conditions under which he was originally created – and thus a breach of contract on God’s part. There will come a time, of course, when Satan will be chained up forever – but by that time, the Earth as we know it will have passed away.

    Second, you seem to envisage Satan as one of many possible angels whom God might have created, and you seem to then argue that an omniscient Deity should have been able to “pre-select” the good ones and refuse to create the bad ones. But that argument rests on a misconception. Another contributor, Seversky (whose last comment on a previous thread I stumbled upon only this morning), had the same misconception in mind when he wrote here at http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-302797 :

    If God creates or designs as we do then He forms a mental model of the intended creation before giving it physical form. An omniscient God would presumably be aware of the complete potential future ‘history’ of any creation when that ‘model’ is complete and before it is ‘materialized’.

    That objection works perfectly well if the behavior of the entity you are creating is deterministic. Libertarian agents are, however, not deterministic: their bahvior cannot be predicted by a set of rules or principles, however complex. Satan is a libertarian agent.

    What I am suggesting is that once God decides to create Satan, God knows everything Satan will do, because God knows what will happen at any time in the universe. However, God cannot know what a hypothetical (uncreated) libertarian agent would do, if it were created. For that kind of counterfactual knowledge presupposes that for any situation X that the agent might find itself in, God knows what it would do (Y) if it were in that situation – which in turn means that the agent’s behavior can be described by a system of deterministic rules, which is contrary to our original supposition that the agent has libertarian free will. Not even an omniscient Being can know the unknowable.

    Another problem I have with Seversky’s “mental model” objection is that it assumes that imaginary particulars exist “out there,” like Pegasus, in a realm of Platonic Forms. Now, universals can certainly be said to exist in the mind of God (and in our own minds) as possibilities, even if they are never created. There might never be a single atom of element 126, but we can still form the general concept of this element, and talk meaningfully about its chemical properties. But we cannot meaningfully talk about possible atom X of element 126. Concepts are general; there can be no concepts of particulars. Professor David Oderberg explains why at further length in his paper, “Concepts, Dualism, and The Human Intellect,” which you can read here.

    In other words, God has no concept of Satan as an individual prior to His act of creating him. (By “prior to” I mean ontologically prior, not temporally prior, of course.) God has the general concept of “cherubim” (the order of angels Satan belonged to, if Ezekiel 28 does indeed refer to him), but He has no concepts of any particular hypothetical cherubs that He could either choose to create or refrain from creating.

    In other words, God has to actually make Satan before He can know what Satan will do.

    Finally, regarding God’s foreknowledge, I have to say I find the proposal by the atheist-agnostic philosopher David Misialowski that God is omnitemporal to be quite a sensible one. God is the sort of Being who is capable of occupying all points in space and time. Thus He can know the future without violating my libertarian free will – or Satan’s. You can read Misialowki’s arguments here at http://www.galilean-library.or.....stid=43827 , http://www.galilean-library.or.....stid=43828 and http://www.galilean-library.or.....stid=43829 . I have to say I find it funny that the best work being written on omniscience is by an atheist, but I’m grateful nonetheless.

    Anyway, here’s God’s creation scenario, as I envisage it:

    1. At T-zero (13.73 billion years ago), God creates a universe.

    2. God creates various angels, and assigns them spheres of responsibility, to assist Him with His creative work – put the finishing touches to the cosmic picture, as it were. Among these angels is a bright young thing named Lucifer. Lucifer’s sphere is our Earth.

    Now here’s where I’m not sure.

    EITHER:

    3A. Satan and his minions have NO POWER to interfere with events occurring on this Earth, prior to the appearance of the first human beings.

    Thus:

    4A. There are NO unpredictable contingencies in the course of evolution. At the very outset, God has the intention of intervening at a fixed point in time, and endowing some of these animals with rational souls (Adam, Eve and their little hominid clan, whom God has already chosen to create).

    5A. Having created Lucifer, God (who can see all points of space and time – see the articles above by Misialowski) knows instantly that Lucifer will: (a) rebel; (b) bring down a third of the angels with him (Rev. 12); (c) tempt our first parents (Adam and Eve).

    Please go to step 6.

    OR:

    3B. God gives each angel virtual carte blanche – aside from tampering with the laws of physics and chemistry, each angel can pretty much do what it likes with whatever sphere of influence it is assigned to.

    4B. There are many contingencies in the course of life’s evolution, because it is guided by intelligent agents who may be either benevolent or malevolent. God has the intention of intervening at a fixed point in time, and endowing some of these animals with rational souls (Adam, Eve and their little hominid clan, whom God has already chosen to create).

    5B. Having created Lucifer, God (who can see all points of space and time – see the articles above by Misialowski) knows instantly that Lucifer will: (a) rebel; (b) bring down a third of the angels with him (Rev. 12); (c) wreak havoc with the biosphere, causing a great deal of animal suffering, as God’s design for His creatures’ nervous systems to shut down when subjected to extremely painful stimuli are thwarted by Satan; (d) wreak havoc with animal evolution, as Satan seeks to thwart God’s plan to create intelligent animals. However, God in His Providence guarantees that the order of primates is preserved and that some of these primates evolve into hominids. At a certain point in time (but NOT one planned at the creation of the cosmos), God picks two hominids and ensouls them. At a subsequent time, He ensouls the rest of their clan.

    Step 6. Having created Adam and Eve’s immaterial souls, God automatically knows that they will listen to Satan and reject God. God also knows that Satan, the father of lies, will corrupt the human race with all manner of pernicious notions, including child sacrifice.

    7. God has however foreseen the possibility that the cosmic rebellion of Satan and the subsequent Fall of Adam and Eve might occur; if He had not foreseen at least the possibility of this occurring, He would be incompetent. His “Plan B” therefore goes into effect. God plans to send various messengers and finally, His own son, to redeem the human race.

    (I’ve already discussed the possibility of immortality for non-human animals in an earlier post (#296 and #298, which corrects a typo of mine), so I won’t rehash it here.)

    Anyway, I hope that my scenario vindicates God’s goodness and answers your questions on Satan. (As if you needed to ask, anyway!)

  322. Sorry about the indents on my previous post (#321). Unfortunately the computer I was working on wouldn’t let me preview my input!

  323. ScottAndrews:

    You’ve ruled out the possibility of metaphorical speech – “as a burnt offering” – even where it’s overwhelmingly supported by the context and spoken by a man you didn’t know in a language you don’t speak and whose customs are unknown to you.

    Scott,

    If there were such an easy explanation, don’t you think biblical scholars would have jumped on it? For most of history, biblical scholars have been believers who, like you, would much prefer to believe that Jephthah did not sacrifice his daughter. The fact that so many people have agonized over this (including Ambrose and Chrysostom, as vjtorley pointed out) should give you a clue that the easy way out is not available. If it were, they would have taken it already.

    As Gordon Wenham explains:

    Then, inspired by the Spirit of the Lord, he rallies the tribe of Manasseh and the Gileadites to enlist in his army. Then he makes a vow to the Lord that if he is successful in battle, ‘whoever comes forth from the doors of my house to meet me…I will offer him up for a burnt offering’ (11:31). This translation reflects the consensus of most commentators ancient and modern that Jephthah was promising human sacrifice if he was victorious.

    You then accuse me of not having read the book I’m criticizing:

    My guess – in a book you haven’t read.

    You’re mistaken. I’m an ex-Christian who has read the entire Bible multiple times (both before and after my deconversion), and parts of it (particularly the Gospels) many more times than that. I told my story on on another thread, so I won’t repeat it here.

    Scott, the story of Jephthah is far from being the only problematic one in the Bible. It’s just the tip of the iceberg.

    Do you think that refraction didn’t occur before Noah’s flood, after which God placed the rainbow in the sky? The Bible says that God did this not to signal his promise to humans but to remind himself of his promise. Do you believe that God is forgetful, and that he needs reminders?

    Is the following story plausible to you?

    Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.
    They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”
    But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. The LORD said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”
    So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel — because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth. Genesis 11, NIV

    Do you believe that God was worried that “nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them”? Do you believe that there was only one language at that point, and many thereafter?

    Do you think the following is a good test for adultery?

    Then the LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘If a man’s wife goes astray and is unfaithful to him by sleeping with another man, and this is hidden from her husband and her impurity is undetected (since there is no witness against her and she has not been caught in the act), and if feelings of jealousy come over her husband and he suspects his wife and she is impure—or if he is jealous and suspects her even though she is not impure- then he is to take his wife to the priest. He must also take an offering of a tenth of an ephah of barley flour on her behalf. He must not pour oil on it or put incense on it, because it is a grain offering for jealousy, a reminder offering to draw attention to guilt.
    ” ‘The priest shall bring her and have her stand before the LORD. Then he shall take some holy water in a clay jar and put some dust from the tabernacle floor into the water. After the priest has had the woman stand before the LORD, he shall loosen her hair and place in her hands the reminder offering, the grain offering for jealousy, while he himself holds the bitter water that brings a curse. Then the priest shall put the woman under oath and say to her, “If no other man has slept with you and you have not gone astray and become impure while married to your husband, may this bitter water that brings a curse not harm you.But if you have gone astray while married to your husband and you have defiled yourself by sleeping with a man other than your husband”- here the priest is to put the woman under this curse of the oath-”may the LORD cause your people to curse and denounce you when he causes your thigh to waste away and your abdomen to swell. May this water that brings a curse enter your body so that your abdomen swells and your thigh wastes away”
    ” ‘Then the woman is to say, “Amen. So be it.”

    “‘The priest is to write these curses on a scroll and then wash them off into the bitter water. 24 He shall have the woman drink the bitter water that brings a curse, and this water will enter her and cause bitter suffering. The priest is to take from her hands the grain offering for jealousy, wave it before the LORD and bring it to the altar. The priest is then to take a handful of the grain offering as a memorial offering and burn it on the altar; after that, he is to have the woman drink the water. If she has defiled herself and been unfaithful to her husband, then when she is made to drink the water that brings a curse, it will go into her and cause bitter suffering; her abdomen will swell and her thigh waste away, and she will become accursed among her people. If, however, the woman has not defiled herself and is free from impurity, she will be cleared of guilt and will be able to have children. Numbers 5, NIV

    Does that sound like the word of God to you, or more like the superstitious belief of a primitive, scientifically illiterate desert tribe?

    I could go on and on. It is baffling to me that anyone would mistake the Bible for the word of an omniscient, omnipotent God.

  324. Folks:

    VJT at 300 — excellent. I loved this “spin” on the principle of falsifiability/ testability as a criterion of epistemic virtue of scientific theories:

    . . . a scientific theory which is not tied to any solid claims that it is willing to stake its reputation on, runs the risk of being too slippery to falsify. A theory needs its central dogmas; otherwise it is not a proper theory at all. . . . . both theories have become virtually immune to falsification, except by bizarre lines of evidence. Sure, the sudden discovery of fossil rabbits in pre-Cambrian strata around the world (J. S. Haldane), or for that matter the remains of a crashed UFO with an alien blueprint for every life-form on Earth today, would overthrow Darwinism. And sure, a sudden drop of 5 degrees in global temperatures would suffice to overturn the anthropogenic global warming hypothesis.

    What worries me about both neo-Darwinian evolution and anthropogenic global warming is that both hypotheses are far too flexible, in their ability to accommodate countervailing evidence . . . .

    And what about religion? You complain that too many dogmas are unfalsifiable. Nonsense. I’m sure I could think of about 50 ways in which Christianity could conceivably be falsified by scientists, philosophers and/or historians over the next 100 years, and probably more if I tried. So far, however, Christianity has done remarkably well . . . .

    [T]he point I wanted to get across was: dogmas are not always a bad thing. They can be stultifying; but they can also be intellectually fruitful, in their own way. The proposed elimination of all dogmas is a drastic step, fraught with peril; if implemented, it would render clear thinking impossible.

    In short, dogmas — AmhDict: “An authoritative principle, belief, or statement of ideas or opinion, especially one considered to be absolutely true” — provide points where a worldview or theory “chooses a hill to die on,” exposing it to challenges that it cannot retreat from and remain true to what it is in its core. So, to object to dogmas as such in the case of the Judaeo-Christian tradition or the “glorified common-sense” [Should I say Thomas Reidian?] view of reasoning and knowledge, while holding out empirico-logical testability and falsifiability as key epistemic virtues of science that make it “superior” is selectively hyperspkeptical.

    Delicious irony!
    Now also, overnight, I was thinking I needed to go to alpha decay and frustrated total internal reflection as illustrative of causality and Q-mech. The exchange betwen SB and DA confirms this.

    But first, a further note to Herb on “provisionality.” (This will also answer to BZ’s objections.)

    In effect, H, look at how you are speaking, e.g.:

    I do provisionally accept the laws of non-contradiction, excluded middle, and identity as being useful, but again I can’t say they are universally true. I’ve read that some parts of QM are inconsistent with some of these laws, for example, so I think there’s reason to doubt them.

    In steps:
    ________________

    a –> Notice, first, how Q-mech (nice, complex “blind ‘em with science” stuff, that . . . ) is a root factor in the confusion. More on this, below . . strictly 101 level, folks but good enough to give you “one eye in the land of the blind.”

    b –> Zoom in on what H is saying: “I do provisionally accept . . . ” That is, he is able to recognise that he is in a definite state of affairs, that of “provisionally accepting X.”

    c –> So, even in trying to deny assertions of states of affairs beyond mere provisional perceptions and views, he is at the very next level asserting that certain states of affairs are so . . . and, thus, as opposed to not being so.

    d –> So, he is in a state of inconsistency at the second level of his argument: asserting what IS so, not just what may be/seems to be so. (And, even if he tried to rework this to be a perception, he would face an infinite regress or else assuming what he is loathe to outright accept: that he is able to say or see at least some things that are indeed so.)

    e –> That kind of direct self-refutation or infinite regress challenge warn us of what is going on: the attempt to deny the knowability of truth, or the reality of truth, ends in self-referential incoherence.

    f –> In short, something is trying to tell you, H, that truth is real, and that at least sometimes you see it — and may even say it — accurately. (Whether or not that is fashionable in a radical relativist world. But then you can have fun pointing out the incoherences that result from saying what boils down to “It is true that there is no truth,” and “we know that we cannot know the truth even if it exists.” In both cases, in teh end, one assumes or implies what one tries to deny.)

    g –> For even more telling instance, following Josiah Royce, try out: error exists. (Let’s call it E for short.) Almost all of us would immediately assent per our experience of the world as minded creatures [even relativists are trying to "correct" those "ignorant absolutists" out there . . . ], but more lurks here than is obvious.

    i –> That is, if we try to deny this claim, i.e. assert NOT-E, then we see that we are immediately implying that E is . . . an error.

    j –> So, to try to deny E only ends up showing that it is correct. E is UNDENIABLY TRUE, once we consult our experience and understanding of the world as minded creatures. (And BTW, provisionality, if it is to have serious teeth as “my beliefs and views are correctible and so changeable on evidence and reason,” has to have guidestar principles that allow us to recognise error, i.e. some things have to be fixed — core undeniable (on pain of absurdity) principles of right reason — if we are to navigate on the sea of knowledge. Otherwise, it becomes a matter of arbitrariness on what I choose to accept or reject, leading of course to selective hyperskepticism. Alas, some are not even embarrassed by being seen as exerting intellectual double-standards. but, we can see that for ourselves and avoid their relativistic pitfalls.)

    k –> Other things follow from a case of knowable, undeniable truth: Truth exists (as what we may be in error about), and has this distinction — it accurately describes reality: “that which says of what is, that it is; and of what is not, that it is not.” [Aristotle, Metaphysics 1011b.] In some cases, truth is knowable in the strong sense: warranted, true belief — not just “currently credibly true belief.”

    l –> Further to this, truth is distinct from its opposite, error: that which is true is not an error, and that which is an error is not true — it says of what is not, that it is, and of what is, that it is not.

    m –> those who try to deny this, end up immediately or at length affirming or exemplifying what they try to deny by how they speak. that tis, they are plainly in error and cannot consistently live by their declared principles; a strong sign of fundamental error: incoherence in statement and in matching up against the facts of reality.
    _____________

    So, H, do not let yourself be intimidated!

    And, SB at 302 raises a very key point on the difference between the roots of thinking (which must be there for us to analyse observations and compare alternative explanations, picking which we find to be currently best on factual adequacy, coherence and explanatory elegance) and the observations, descriptions, explanations and predictions (or, retrodictions . . . ) of science:

    The metaphysical foundations for science have nothing to do with “verbal descriptions” and “macroscopic objects.” They are the self-evident truths through which verbal descriptions and macroscopic events are understood. You are conflating metaphysical truths with physical realities that can be observed and measured, an error, by the way, that stems from rejecting the metaphysical foundations themselves . . . .

    If an event requires certain physically NECESSARY conditions to occur, but if those conditions are not SUFFICIENT for its occurrence, and, if under the circumstances, the event occurs, then that event [I add: relative to our state of understanding , ability to predict and ability to observe] is [A] unpredictable, [B] spontaneous, and [C] Not uncaused.

    In any quantum event, physically NECESSARY conditions exist that are not SUFFICIENT to make that event occur, meaning that the conditions cannot GUARANTEE the event. So, when a particle appears in a quantum vacuum, it is spontaneous but not uncaused because it has many necessary conditions. To be uncaused, it must have NO NECESSARY OR SUFFICIENT CONDITIONS whatsoever. In other words, something cannot come from nothing.

    Correct. Bearing this in mind, let us now turn to Q-mech and alpha decay and cause-effect bonds; starting with a simpler case to illustrate key concepts, a fire:

    ++++++++++++

    1 –> As the “fire triangle” teaches us, when we have a fire, we must have (i) fuel (which is of course a substance capable under the circumstances of the heat-evolving chain reaction we call burning), (ii) heat and (iii) oxidiser (often, air . . . 21% O2). [Fires can burn in other media; indeed, in some cases already burning metals can dissociate water and burn on the released oxygen!]

    2 –> Look closer: each of these is necessary, i.e. should any one be removed, the fire will cease.

    3 –> They are jointly sufficient (esp. when we note on the nature of a fuel as observed . . . Halons break up the chain reaction “under the circumstances”); i.e. so soon as and so long as all three factors are present, we will have a fire. (“Each is necessary and they are jointly sufficient.” {Heat + Oxidiser + Fuel} is necessary and sufficient for {Fire}.)

    [ . . . ]

  325. 4 –> We thus see that causal bonds may be of: (a) necessity, (b) sufficiency [including "overkill"], and (c) necessity + sufficiency of circumstances or factors associated with an event or object, etc.

    5 –> Going back to the classical analysis: (i) there are material factors that must be present or there is no “stuff” for things to happen to, (ii) once sufficient actuating factors are present, we will have initiation or continuation, (iii) if there is agency involved, there may be a goal and there may be an overarching conceptual category that he event etc conforms to. (I am not assuming that agency is involved, note the IF.)

    6 –> Now, SB correctly points out the necessary-sufficiency distinction, and highlights that if we identify necessary factors only for a given situation, we may not spot the specific actuating trigger factors. (And indeed, that is one way o get a “chance” or random outcome: set up a situation where initial and intervening circumstances and factors vary and/or are hard to trace or correlate the one to the other, e.g. in tossing a die or in using a phone book as a random number table.)

    7 –> Now, in nuclei of atoms, we have electrostatic repulsions between protons [p], which are quite high because of the small separations. But, the strong nuclear force sticks nucleons together [think of it as swapping mesons around between nucleons while still having a grip on the opposite ends of the tiny "balls" . . . aka exchange particle forces], and with a suitable dilution of neutrons [n], we get stable atoms . . . there is a well-known “belt of stability.”

    8 –> For some atoms, emitting alpha particles = 2 p + 2 n [a helium-4 nucleus] will dilute the proton repulsions, as the number of neutrons is much in excess of the number of protons for heavy elements.

    9 –> In effect, we see a potential well, with a fairly thin wall to the outside. For a “classical” particle, the well would have to be climbed, then the escaping particle would be able to run down the outside wall, and get away; releasing energy relative to the metastable state of the bound-together nucleus. (if you climb over the parapet wall and fall off eh roof, you are heading for a crash when the head meets the ground far below.]

    10 –> However, that requires a lot of “climbing” energy, but in fact in Q-mech we see particles that have lower than the wall-climbing energy escaping. We call this “Q-mech tunnelling.”

    11 –> What is happening — on a simple analogy — is that the wall is a bit “porous,” and there is a finite probability that without climbing the wall, some particles may escape, “at random,” but in a process with a definite probability distribution leading to a definite half-life for a reasonable mass of the radioactive material. (The energy will still be released by the tunnelling particle; only, the amount is too weak to climb the well. Also, the fact of a definite probability distribution implies that there are underlying — unobserved, and at Q-mech level perhaps unobservable — factors that set it and its parameters up. BTW, binding energy is what appears in the mass-defect of a nucleus relative to the arithmetically added up masses of its constituent particles. Down that road lies the source of nuclear energy by fission.)

    12 –> Is this a “causeless” effect?

    13 –> Providing a good answer to that crucially depends on understanding what “cause” means. And, once we note with SB that NECESSARY conditions are distinct from SUFFICIENT ones, the answer becomes obvious at once: there are many necessary conditions for alpha decay to occur, and we are looking at the overall outcome without knowledge of the specifically SUFFICIENT ones that would “guarantee” that a given alpha particle would escape a given atom at a given time.

    14 –> More interestingly, on energy-time uncertainty [Einstein] and position-momentum uncertainty [Heisenberg], we know that WE cannot observe closely enough to know all the factors we would like to know. (In effect, think about a very light ball in a black box that you have to prod with a stick that sticks out, to “feel” where it is — oops, you bounced it so you only know where it more or less WAS, and also have no good way to know how fast it WAS moving . . . )

    15 –> So, we have strong reason to believe that we are not going to OBSERVE the causally sufficient conditions for such Q-mech level outcomes.

    16 –> But, that does not prevent us from observing many causally necessary conditions; e.g. the existence of an unstable nucleus because of the balance between long range repulsions and short range attractions as we move to the upper end of the periodic table, the dilution of p’s by excess n’s so that loss of a matched pair: 2p + 2n will tend to dilute repulsions while leaving the short range “contact force” that sticks nucleons together intact (increasing stability), the “porosity” of potential walls at that scale [which is linked to energy-time uncertainty -- as long as the time is "short enough," you can get away with large energy spikes . . . dE* dt >/~ h/2 pi ] etc.

    17 –> Even, that space itself exists and has many definite, measurable properties that constrain what happens in space-time; e.g c as the “cosmic speed limit.” And, indeed, c is classically defined by the electrical and magnetic properties of free space, so that we can measure the permittivity of free space and the permeability of free space and deduce the value of free-space electromagnetic waves. (That is how Maxwell ralised that his electromagnetic waves were related to light.) Not to mention, space has dimensions — length, breadth, height, etc and exists in time etc. So, even, in classical physics, space or the vacuum, is not to be seen as “nothing”!

    18 –> Then, when we bring up quantum/vacuum fluctuations we may note:

    Quantum fluctuation is the temporary appearance of energetic particles out of nothing, as allowed by the Uncertainty Principle. It is synonymous with vacuum fluctuation.

    The Uncertainty Principle states that for a pair of conjugate variables such as position/momentum and energy/time, it is impossible to have a precisely determined value of each member of the pair at the same time. For example, a particle pair can pop out of the vacuum during a very short time interval.

    The uncertainty principle . . . [was extended by Einstein (during a major intellectual duel at the Copenhagen conference . . . ) to include] “uncertainty in time” and “uncertainty in energy” (including the rest mass energy mc^2). When the mass is very large (such as a macroscopic object), the uncertainties and thus the quantum effect become very small, classical physics is applicable once more.
    In classical physics (applicable to macroscopic phenomena), empty space-time is called the vacuum. The classical vacuum is utterly featureless. However, in quantum mechanics (applicable to microscopic phenomena), the vacuum is a much more complex entity. It is far from featureless and far from empty. The quantum vacuum is just one particular state of a quantum field (corresponding to some particles). It is the quantum mechanical state in which no field quanta are excited, that is, no particles are present. Hence, it is the “ground state” of the quantum field, the state of minimum energy. The picture on the left illustrates the kind of activities going on in a quantum vacuum. It shows particle pairs appear, lead a brief existence, and then annihilate one another in accordance with the Uncertainty Principle.

    19 –> In short, there is a lot of cause-effect going on around quantum phenomena (including vacuum fluctuation phenomena . . . note all that stuff on quantum fields and energy levels and excitation states . . . ), just we often fail to notice that we are dealing with necessary but not in themselves sufficient factors, multiplied by uncertainty issues as fundamental constraints on our ability to observe.

    20 –> Directly, this undercuts DA’s attempted rebuttal at 317: a q-theory “observationally empty” space is replete with energy that becomes a necessary underlying condition for fluctuations. This is NOT at all like saying that the bare statements of laws is causing effects, but observing instead that space itself has properties and available energy states to trigger effects. (Compare, on cosmology, the cosmological constant that leads to a yeast-bubbler term that makes space itself expand [which accounts for how superluminal inflation is possible . . .], leading to the — observed — red shift etc effects of an expanding universe.)

    21 –> This discussion by Puthoff here is also helpful, note esp the remarks on the Casimir effect which is of course an observed phenomenon, hence th term “effect.” That is, looking at he E-M field, we can imagine it settling to its zero point, and having tiny possible fluctuations in its various modes, but then when modes begin to add up across possible directions and frequencies, the total resulting energy per unit volume is appreciable, indeed comparable to nuclear energy densities – hence we have a ready source for subatomic particles to pop up within the Einstein energy-time uncertainty constraint. (Mystery of “something from nothing” now vanishes: poof!)

    22 –> So, Q-mech as such is not so much undermining the LOGIC of causality, as showing and underscoring the limits of our ability to apply it in relevant empirical situations.

    ++++++++++++

    In short, SB is right.

    GEM of TKI

    PS: On the problem of evil, it would be useful to look at Plantinga’s free Will Defense, starting perhaps with a short, almost simplistic, summary here.

  326. PPS: “Absolutely true”: the truth, the whole relevant truth and nothing but the whole relevant truth.

  327. kairosfocus @323 and 324, excellent! For anyone who wants to understand the ways in which all the major themes on this thread are related, I highly recommend these posts.

    KF is often accused of writing unnecessarily long posts, but anyone who takes the time to read them will find that he doesn’t waste words. Further, he always provides scientific facts in the context of a comparative world view analysis, something very few scientists are willing or even able to do.

    On the contrary, most scientists are clueless about the metaphysical foundations of the very discipline that they practice. Thus, it is refreshing to read someone who can put it all together, details and all. All these complaints about KF’s “wordiness” constitute little more than “sour grapes” from those who have little to say in the form of rebuttal and are too closed minded to consider relevant facts in the context of the “big picture.”

  328. Sorry, kairosfocus’ posts are @325 and 326, not @323 and 324.

  329. StephenB:

    To be uncaused, it must have NO NECESSARY OR SUFFICIENT CONDITIONS whatsoever.

    I’m curious whether this is your long-standing position, or if you thought it up recently. Have you always conflated causes with conditions?

    The occurrence of any event is contingent on the necessary condition that nothing prevent it from occurring. But it seems a little strange to say that this condition caused the event.

  330. 331

    beelzebub, mauka, ribczynski, kieths,

    I have to wonder why you are so fixated on commenting, under your various sock-puppets, when you are so disdainful of the programme here. I can’t understand why someone would be so interested in something that they thought so awful and wrong. It would be like eating something that you couldn’t stomach, everyday, over and over. Now run on home to your AtBC buddy’s, find some comfort in clinging to the legs of daddy Dawkins, and cry about how you’re so mistreated here. :) I’m sure I’ll see you soon under another masochistic sock-puppet.

  331. —-Diffaxial: “By “physically necessary condition” you are, one would assume, referring to the characteristics of the quantum vacuum. Given that quantum vacuum is present throughout spacetime (due to Heisenberg uncertainty regarding energy states) and displays characteristics that are contingent on NO other facts, to cite its characteristics as a “necessary condition” of the emergence of a pair of virtual particles is rather like the FAA concluding that the cause of a particular air crash was “the laws of physics.”

    Rather than reinvent the wheel in inferior fashion, I will simply refer you to kairosfocus’ posts at 325 and 326. Unlike most scientists, he understands the philosophical principles involved and can explain their relationship to the details of physics in the language of physics.

    Beyond that, I will try to state the obvious in yet another way. If the principles of right reason were negotiable in any way, we could not even have arrived at our present understanding of quantum mechanics. For that matter, we could not have even made the transition from Newton’s conception of physics to Einstein’s conception of physics. We can only make corrections based on logical principles that are, themselves, immune from correction. If reason is correctable, it cannot be used to correct. In other words, Einstein can correct Newton only on the condition that the law of non-contradiction [A] applies to the real world and [B] is non-negotiable.

    If a thing can both be and not be at the same time and under the same formal circumstances, then Newton’s conception of physics and Einstein’s conception of physics can both be true at the same time and under the same formal circumstances. Under those conditions, there is no potential for correction and science cannot correct itself. Only on condition that the corrective principles of right reason are, themselves, immune from correction, can they correct.

    Similarly, only because first principles are unchangeable and are NEVER provisional, can they illuminate science’s findings, which are ALWAYS provisional. Only the unchangeable can illuminate the changeable. That is not MY truth, that is simply the way things are.

  332. —Rob: “I’m curious whether this is your long-standing position, or if you thought it up recently. Have you always conflated causes with conditions?”

    Conflated? If the conditions for freezing water are such that the temperature must be O degrees centrigrade, then when those conditions are present, water will freeze. When those conditions are not present or when they change, that is, when the temperature rises above zero, water will unfreeze. Are you suggesting that these conditions are not causes?

  333. Folks:

    Couple points — and thanks, Stephen.

    First, I forgot to mention frustrated TIR, which is relvant to tunnelling.

    In effect, when angles of incidence are beyond critical, light undergoes total internal reflection instead of being bent and passing through from a more to a less dense optical medium.

    BUT, a “tunnelling effect” happens, where there is an exponentially decaying amplitude function — an evanescent wave — that projects beyond the border of the first medium, so that if another block of glass, say, is brought close [up to several wavelengths) but not actually touching, there is transmission instead of reflection: tunnelling through the “forbidden zone.” So, tunnelling is clearly a real, observable phenomenon.

    Next, I see that Rob is unwilling to accept that there are necessary — as opposed to sufficient — causal factors.

    I therefore suggest the does the experiment of going to a gas stove and trying to light it from a fire-lighter while keeping the gas off. then, try to turn it on with the fuel on. (Fuel is a necessary but not sufficient causal factor for a fire.)

    Having done that, I suggest he then reflects on the fire triangle, where by oxidiser, fuel and heat are each necessary and jointly sufficient for a fire.

    GEM of TKI

  334. StephenB:

    Are you suggesting that these conditions are not causes?

    No, I didn’t say that no conditions are causes. I’m suggesting that it’s a little strange to say that Russia caused the Celtics to fall out of the 2009 playoffs by not nuking Boston 20 years ago.

    But “cause” is a not a technical term, so you can use it any way you wish, as long as we understand your usage. If your usage dictates that any necessary or sufficient condition is a cause, then I can go with that.

  335. I suggest he then reflects on the fire triangle, where by oxidiser, fuel and heat are each necessary and jointly sufficient for a fire.

    I hesitate to ask, Mr. M., but what has the concept of the fire triangle (well-known to anyone in firefighting, health and safety etc) to do with the theological argument of first causes?

  336. Rob:

    Go pull Copi’s Logic, and look up cause in it.

    You will see a discussion of the fire example.

    Necessary factors are causes.

    (And that the Celtics must exist and Boston must exist for the Boston Celtics to be in the Basketball leagues, is no stranger than that you must have fuel, oxidiser and heat to have a fire.)

    GEM of TKI

  337. Mr Fox:

    The above is sufficiently explanatory on what it addresses (which is not a discussion of “first causes” but of quantum mechanics and cause): oxidiser, fuel and heat are each necessary and are jointly sufficient for a fire.

    So, we see that necessary and sufficient causal factors are relevant in the real world and may profitably be distinguished.

    Thus also, once we identify that necessary factors are manifest in Q-mech situations, it is not proper to say that these phenomena are not caused. In particular, you will see a discussion on the nature of space as a real, measurable, energy-rich entity; and on the implications of Einstein’s energy-time uncertainty. There may be other unobserved or even unobservable factors; but these are not going to transform Q-mech phenomena into causeless ones, once we already see that there are necessary causal factors at work. (Thus Herb needs not be intimidated by appeals to Q-mech, and Diff and BZ need to stop makingthe appeal to Q mech as though that does away with the reality of cause-effect bonds: “that which has a beginning has a cause,” and “from nothing, nothing comes.”)

    Next time, please avoid strawman misrepresentations.

    GEM of TKI

  338. 339

    beelzebub:

    Does that sound like the word of God to you, or more like the superstitious belief of a primitive, scientifically illiterate desert tribe?

    ‘How something sounds’ can be a useful test, particularly if we possess a wealth of relevant knowledge and experience. But it’s hardly reliable, as it provides purely subjective judgments filtered through our opinions and prejudices. It’s a great way to pick music we like, but a lousy way to measure reality.

    (The thought crossed my mind that I first appreciated this site because it primarily addressed science and not religion. And now I find myself debating the Bible. I’m not complaining – who do I have to blame?)

  339. kairosfocus:

    Next, I see that Rob is unwilling to accept that there are necessary — as opposed to sufficient — causal factors.

    I don’t see that. Can you provide a quote?

    Regarding the “no uncaused events” idea, events can be defined with necessary conditions included as givens, leaving a non-deterministic remainder. For instance, we can define event E as: This particular Carbon-14 atom decays within the next 5700 years, given the laws of physics, and given that this atom was just created. P(E) is .5, that probability being unconditional since the conditions are given, according to the definition of E. So if E occurs, is it caused?

  340. Rob:

    Cf Above at 330, on the relevant causal factors:

    [citing] StephenB:

    To be uncaused, it must have NO NECESSARY OR SUFFICIENT CONDITIONS whatsoever.

    [Rob objects:] I’m curious whether this is your long-standing position, or if you thought it up recently. Have you always conflated causes with conditions?

    The occurrence of any event is contingent on the necessary condition that nothing prevent it from occurring. But it seems a little strange to say that this condition caused the event.

    I point out, again, that causal conditions or factors come in the necessary for and sufficient for flavours. And the fire example shows them at work; there we see individually necessary factors that combined give a sufficient cause.

    As to the probability of decay of a C-14 atom, the point is that unless it exists and has in it the cluster of nucleons that are unstable, it will not have the probability of decay that gives rise to the well-known half-life. That there is a definite, measurable probability shows that there is an underlying definite driving set of conditions, but of course since this is well within Heisenberg and Einstein’s limits, we will not be able to directly observe. (Cf “my” stirring a black box with a stick that sticks out illustration — actually, M N McMorris’ lecture illustration from way back.)

    SB is quite correct to say that only if there are no necessary and no sufficient conditions can we attribute the event in question to uncaused process. Unfortunately, it is common to suggest that since the quantum events in RA are stochastic on our observation they happen without a cause.

    That makes no more sense than to say that just because the uppermost face of a fair die is stochastic, it has no cause.

    GEM of TKI

  341. @ ScottAndrews

    Unfortunately you will not receive a reply form Beelzebub, as Clive has banned him. (See #331 above.) The more eloquent ID critics seem to get weeded quite regularly, notwithstanding Barry Arrington’s new broom.

  342. Next time, please avoid strawman misrepresentations.

    Well I did hesitate! I should have known better. I share Marx’s view of philosophy, and also think that the Aristotelian first cause argument as developed by Aquinas unconvincing. But what do I know?

  343. 344

    Alan Fox,

    There’s a long history with our friend beelzebub, otherwise known by a host of other names, trying to begrudge the Lord of hosts. :)

  344. Alan Fox,

    There’s a long history with our friend beelzebub, otherwise known by a host of other names, trying to begrudge the Lord of hosts.

    I have followed Keith’s obsession with UD since 2005. I think he sharpens up the discussions here. It’s your loss.

  345. kairosfocus:

    And that the Celtics must exist and Boston must exist for the Boston Celtics to be in the Basketball leagues, is no stranger than that you must have fuel, oxidiser and heat to have a fire.

    So you don’t find it strange to say that Russia caused the Celtics’ loss. Potayto potahto, I guess. As I said in 335, as long as I understand the usage, I’m fine with it.

    As to the probability of decay of a C-14 atom, the point is that unless it exists and has in it the cluster of nucleons that are unstable, it will not have the probability of decay that gives rise to the well-known half-life.

    Yes, that’s the point I addressed in 340, albeit poorly. We commonly refer to unconditional probabilities, P(E), where E is defined relative to a set of assumed conditions. But I guess you could argue that the conditions are still there, even if they’re built into the definition of E, so the argument is poorly formulated. But consider that the all of the existent conditions may be nowhere near sufficient to explain the occurrence of E. See my questions after the following quote…

    And the fire example shows them at work; there we see individually necessary factors that combined give a sufficient cause.

    Certainly, in the case of sufficient cause, the event is caused. But what if there isn’t sufficient cause? Is the event caused, uncaused, or partly caused? If it’s partly caused, can we refer to the uncaused portion as an event? If not, does the problem inhere in nature, math, or simply the English language?

    That makes no more sense than to say that just because the uppermost face of a fair die is stochastic, it has no cause.

    That’s surprising. Do you disagree with the notion that Bell-type inequalities falsify either determinism or locality? This is a sincere question from a non-physicist to a physicist.

  346. At the bottom of KF’s account of alpha decay is a quantum tunneling event (in ‘particle talk’). Those events, vis the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, display irreducible randomness (with a probabilistic distribution) regarding which particular particle tunnels when, other conditions being equal. There are no local hidden variables that determine why this particle tunnels, rather than that identical particle, and hence why this nucleus decays, rather than that. In that respect tunneling events are similar to the appearance of pairs of virtual particles from the quantum vacuum and spontaneous particle decay, the timing and particulars of which may be said to be uncaused.

  347. —-Rob: “Certainly, in the case of sufficient cause, the event is caused. But what if there isn’t sufficient cause? Is the event caused, uncaused, or partly caused? If it’s partly caused, can we refer to the uncaused portion as an event? If not, does the problem inhere in nature, math, or simply the English language?”

    Return to the example in which 0 degrees centrigrade constitutes the conditions which cause water to freeze. Ask yourself all the same questions in that context and see if they make any sense. Try to stay away from Boston, NBA basketball, and Russia nuking Boston.

  348. —-Diffaxial: “At the bottom of KF’s account of alpha decay is a quantum tunneling event (in ‘particle talk’). Those events, vis the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, display irreducible randomness (with a probabilistic distribution) regarding which particular particle tunnels when, other conditions being equal. There are no local hidden variables that determine why this particle tunnels, rather than that identical particle, and hence why this nucleus decays, rather than that. In that respect tunneling events are similar to the appearance of pairs of virtual particles from the quantum vacuum and spontaneous particle decay, the timing and particulars of which may be said to be uncaused.”

    This is just another version of your earlier argument. The point is still the same: spontaneous + unpredicable does not = uncaused.

    To be uncaused, there can be no necessary or sufficient conditions at all.

  349. StephenB:

    To be uncaused, there can be no necessary or sufficient conditions at all.

    Consider a scenario that refers to your notion that, in light of my irrationality, I should expect cement walls to appear out of nowhere on the highway. Imagine that I approach you with a surprise proof that effects CAN occur without causes: I point to a concrete wall in the highway and state that it appeared out of nowhere.

    Would you reply as follows? “The appearance of the wall is not uncaused. We know a variety of necessary conditions for this event may be enumerated. The chemical properties of cement that permit it to act as a binder in concrete is a necessary condition. Ditto for the properties of water that is mixed with the cement. The existence of a highway is a necessary condition. Gravitation, which holds the wall in place, is a necessary condition. The emptiness of the space into which the wall was to materialize was a necessary condition. Therefore we have explained the sudden appearance of the wall, and know it is not uncaused.”

    I think not. Rather, I would expect that you would assert that the cause of the appearance of the wall had yet to be identified, and equally confident that one exists, whether or not it is ever found. You would remain confident even were many walls to materialize, and a the probability of that event calculated. Perhaps I caused them to appear through some elaborate apparatus. Perhaps they are holographic projections. Perhaps I have found a way to suspend the consciousness of all observers while the walls are constructed, or used a flashy thingy to induce amnesia for the event. Whatever the cause of the walls’ sudden appearances, I would expect that it was only once those proximal factors were discovered that you would say that we had identified the cause, and he had directly refuted my claim.

    At the quantum level, “necessary conditions” for quantum events may be listed (e.g. tunneling is possible under certain specific circumstances pertaining to the contrasting media and relative energy levels of the particle and the barrier). Yet there are no further facts that determine the specifics of the occurrence of tunneling events (why this particle rather than that?), the appearance of virtual particles and particle decay (why now rather than later?), facts analogous to the facts that you would demand and expect with regard to the sudden appearance of walls. It is not that there are hidden facts or facts unknown to us, or even facts that exist but are inherently undiscoverable; There simply are no such further facts in quantum mechanics underlying specific events that display quantum indeterminacy and the associated irreducible randomness. Therefore facts analogous to the further facts establishing the “cause” of macroscopic walls simply don’t exist for these events. This is why quantum theory is sometimes said to be “acausal.”

    Now, we can skirmish verbally ’till the cows come home over the question of whether this “really” makes quantum physics acausal. But that goes to my point that the “verbal descriptions and pictorial representations of the physical world we derive from experience with macroscopic objects (and perhaps even from sensory systems and conceptual categories adapted to coping with macroscopic objects) are simply NOT APPLICABLE to quantum events. Much of the struggle over the interpretation of these physical and mathematical facts arises from to struggle to translate those findings into macroscopic language.” Utterances such as “every effect has a cause” no longer usefully correspond to what we know (from decades of beautifully precise experimental confirmation) to be the underlying reality. And, of course, these macroscopically strange events are also prime candidates for a scientific model of an uncaused emergence of the universe from quantum fluctuations.

  350. Onlookers:

    Here in Montserrat, one of the road traffic law offenses is “driving without due care and attention.”

    Looks like we have a problem now with ID-objecting commenters who — on the charitable interpretation — seem to comment on strawmannish versions of points raised, having “read without due care and attention.” (In some cases, it must be asked whether there is an intent to distract through red herrings led out to strawmen soaked with ad hominem oil and duly ignited to cloud and confuse the issue, sometimes also poisoning the atmosphere for serious discussion.)

    One hopes that it is the former, not the latter at work above.

    Now, let us therefore remind ourselves of first the primary issue in this thread, and the secondary one that has come up, which set up the context for my remarks yesterday in support of SB on why it is that quantum events are not properly viewed as “uncaused.”

    (For, it seems there is a common “blinded with science” appeal to various Q-mech phenomena to suggest or declare that non-contradiction etc are now empirically disproved. [But the very fact that we see an appeal to a counter-example and to statements that declare that he state of the world is NOT-A, as opposed to A, already hint that the whole objections exercise is self-referentially incoherent. BTW, in former years, there was a similar appeal to the theory of relativity to try to suggest that relativism was supported by science. Of course, as Francis Schaeffer was fond of pointing out, special relativity starts with certain key invariants as its key postulates: c holds the same constant value in any inertial frame of reference, and the laws of physics take their simplest form in such a frame. Could we call these the "central dogmas" of special relativity? [And thus the points where it is maximally committed to being exposed to direct test and refutation . . . as should be familiar to anyone who has read 1 Cor 15:1 - 20 "with due care and attention."] )

    1] Review . . back to the beginning:

    At the top of the thread, Mrs O’Leary of Toronto observed:

    I have often been wearied by legends in their own lunchroom huffing that science differs from other endeavours because it is “self-correcting.”

    To which I reply: Aw come off it, fellas. Any system that does not go extinct is self-correcting – after it collapses on its hind end. This is true of governments, businesses, churches, and not-for-profit organizations. I’ve seen enough of life to know . . .

    I add to that, that Santayana and other historians have a biting corollary: History teaches us two main things: (i) those who refuse to learn from it are doomed to repeat its worst chapters, and (ii) by and large, we refuse to learn lesson (i); thus of course the reason why “history repeats itself.”

    For instance, those who now refuse to learn from the mistakes a certain Mr Maffeo Barberini made in handling Galileo, and insist on imposing Lewontinaian materialism as a philosophical straitjacket on on science today, will find themselves dismissed with contempt tomorrow. [And, this goes beyond debates on points as to where design theory may be right or wrong. Galileo's iconic status shines through in the teeth of (i) his own scientific errors (G did not take on board Kepler's 3 laws of planetary motion [1609 - 19] and his theory of the tides was plainly nonsense and counter to what you could see in your friendly local harbour, say in Venice) and (ii) his terminal social and political ineptness that made him think it appropriate to put a friendly and embattled Prince’s warnings on the limitations of science in the mouth of a simpleton bested in a dialogue. (Warnings that in essence are correct BTW; never mind the rationalist spin so often put on them: scientific explanations are inherently provisional, not absolute . . . [More later.])]
    In short, the course if the history of significant ideas and institutions is that if they survive they have to recognise and recover from drifting into errors.

    But usually, power holders committed to dominant schools of thought and their conventional wisdoms of the day resist corrections and tend to abuse power in their own defense [shades of the parable of Plato's Cave . . . ], so that it takes a pratfall or two to wake them up.

    In time, if they are lucky.

    (If not, the fate is like Britain and France in the 1930′s: it would have been easy in 1934 to stop Hitler — indeed, Italy did so when Hitler menaced Austria that year, murdering its president and threatening a Nazi coup: Mussolini sent several divisions to the Brenner Pass, and personally visited and comforted the widow of the murdered Dolfuss; she had fled to Italy. Hitler backed right down. But, people were bent on saying “peace, peace, when there was no peace.” [Guess which "barbarous book form barabrous tribes that comes from . . . ] So, by the time it got to 1939 by which time Hitler had a huge air force and a large army with the stolen Czech trucks and tank force to reinforce his own [he had produced hardly any medium or heavy tanks to speak of by that time so T 35s and T 38s, and the trucks seized from that vainly sacrificed country thrown under the bus at Munich in 1938 . . . hint, hint . . . made all the difference], France was doomed, Britain was going to have to fight for its life against long odds, and dozens of millions would pay with their lives. Parallels to our own day are NOT accidental.)

    And, given the frailties and foibles of human nature, it should be utterly unsurprising that just as churches and governments have a persitent, endlessly repeated problem with being self-correcting, so also does science. It DOES correct itself in the end — like other institutions that have endured for centurties — but usually after it has been sharply reminded of the high price of insisting on sticking to error.

    This much is obvious to any historically literate or observant educated person.

    So, why then has there been a 300+ comment tread?

    [Hint: think, Santayana's second main lesson of history as applied to the currently dominant school of origins science . . . ]

    2] The issues of self evident truths and of “dogmas”
    Once we see — thanks to Josiah Royce — that error exists, and that this is an undeniably true claim; we immediately should acknowledge that it demonstrates through key example how self-evident truths exist. This also of course entails that such truths accurately describe the real world; “say[ing] of what is that it is, and of what is not, that it is not.” Further to this, such truths can be warranted: so soon as we understand them in light of our experience of the world as minded — understanding, not merely defining — creatures, we see that they do not just happen to be true, but they must be true.

    Of course, one of those self-evident truths is that we sometimes go off the rails into error, so we need to have solid guide star principles to correct us.

    Such include that if a claim reduces itself to affirming and denying the same thing, it is obvious confusion, absurdity and falsehood: non-contradiction is a premise of all reasoning and knowing, and for that matter discussing. Otherwise we are free to interpret a statement as meaning as well its opposite, or anything that strikes our fancy! (The resulting chaos from having that spread across just a discussion, much less a society should show us that such radical relativism is utterly incoherent and destructive, to the point that it fails Kant’s Categorical Imperative and is thus exposed as actually immoral.)

    But soon enough, such truths were dismissed as “dogmas,” with the plain intent being that not only were they being held as being self-evidently so “absolutely” [purely and fully] true, but that instead the claimed truths were being held closed mindedly and in the teeth of counter-evidence. (Notice how in the above it is the Christians who have been arguing on logic and common sense in light of our common experience of the world as minded creatures [i.e. this goes beyond any one worldview and its claims], and who it was above who consistently tried to drag in dogmas of Christian religion etc. Unsurprisingly, this “injection of religious dogma” objection is also a main objection to design thought, never mind its actual history of ideas roots and current status as a science that infers from empirically reliable signs such as functionally specific complex information to the best — empirically warranted — explanation of such signs: intelligence.)

    But, VJT has set the record straight: scientific theories NEED core dogmas that they lock into heir core and expose to REALISTIC empirical test, otherwise they become unfalsifiable, being almost infinitely pliable in the face of evidence that may today point to A and on the morrow point to its opposite.

    3] But, Quantum theory says . . .

    Above, it has been claimed that Q-theory for some 70 years has been a standing refutation to the laws of reasoning by inference to cause and effect: there are Q -theory phenomena that happen without cause, that come out of nothing and just happen, spontaneously. For instance, radioactive decay is random: e.g. we cannot predict that this particular atom will emit an alpha particle just now, because conditions A, B, C . . . have been satisfied. It “just happens,” in effect.

    Since this is a matter of a fairly technical and hard to understand science, such an appeal backed up by the general authority of “Science” has had a very strong intimidatory effect.

    That is why I took it up, step by step at 325 – 6 above [with a later pick-up on frustrated total internal reflection that slipped my mind first time around -- tunnelling through forbidden zones is real and as observable as your friendly neighbourhood touch-screen]:

    [ . . . ]

  351. a –> As the fire triangle shows, causal factors — or “constraints” or “conditions” if you will — come in two flavours: necessary, and sufficient: and in some cases, we have factors that are individually necessary and jointly sufficient. If you try to light a gas stove with the gas flow tuned off, you will be unsuccessful. Fuel is a necessary condition and in the presence of oxidiser and heat, will provide a sufficient cause for a fire. (Similarly, Boston and the Celtics must exist to have the Bostion Celtics be part of the NBA playoffs in a given year. Thus, tying this condition down to one of the many underlying remote causal factors [causes usually come in chains . . . ] — there was no massive nuke exchange between the USSR and the USA during the Cold War era — is irrelevant. But, it sure makes room for ridicule and contempt-filled dismissive rhetoric.)

    b –> As SB remarked, if we only see certain necessary factors of a situation, we may see what is spontaneous, highly contingent [very different outcomes on rather similar observed initial conditions] and even stochastic, i.e. following random law statistical distributions. (BTW, this is not unrelated to the point that design theory explains high contingeny by appeal to chance circumstances as the DEFAULT, distinguishing purposefully directed contingency by its ability to target narrow functional zones in the config space that on simple chance would be maximally improbable, being overwhelmed by the statistical weight of the non-functional macrostate. E.g. most random strings of 805 ASCII characters, the length of this point, do not make contextually responsive remarks in recognisable English.)

    c –> Now, taking Alpha decay as a case in point, we see that due to the mutual repulsions of protons confined to within about 10^-14 m, atomic nucleii “should” be unstable. What holds them together is a short-range force, the strong nuclear force, which in effect occurs by pairs of neighbouring nucleons exchanging mesons that they both grab on to. However, as proton number rises, neutron number must rise disprtportionately,and so for large and unstable nucleii, shedding alpha particles [2p + 2n] will move them back towards the belt of stability. So, already, we see many causal factors at work in triggering alpha decay.

    d –> But, a complication: many emitted alpha particles have insufficient energy to climb the potential wall to get out of the nucleus. So, we come to the notion that potential hills are porous, because of tunnelling. In turn tunelling raises the energy-time uncertainty constraint, which links to the sea of energy sitting in space itself [which let us note from current cosmology, is held to be expanding based on an energy density of space parameter . . . ] — so, space is another causal factor inplicated, along with the uncertainty limit on our ability to observe. Space, BTW, which is NOT to be equated to “nothing” as it has properties and constrains events, e.g. c as the cosmic speed limit.

    e –> In short, quantum effects like radioactive decay do not show “something coming from nothing,” but instead show a case where we know certain causal factors, see that we cannot observe beyond a certain limit, and also see that we have a definite stochastic pattern reflecting hidden to us but nonteheless real constraints.

    f –> And all through, we are relying on guidestar principles of reasoning and warranting knowledge, which we ignore on pain of at once faling intot he most patent absurdities and confusions.

    4] The latest red herring track . . .

    What about “theological debates on first causes”?

    First, they were never an issue in the thread until raised by those interested in objections to the above.

    Second, the idea of a first cause is secondary to the idea of a cause, which is secondary in turn to the issue of self-evident truths that form a key part of our ability to approach science and other important endeavours with solid guidestars. And, thse are of course derivative from our primary point: self-correction is a challenge in common to all sorts of institutions, so science should not be held up as uniquely authoritative because it does in some cases — too often after too long — correct itself. That is a commonality with all institutions that survive across time — including churches.

    It will help to briefly define a first cause: the first link in the causal chain, or from a different view, the foundation on which all other causes sit. (The former is temporal, the latter does not require pre-existence.)

    Going back to our fire triangle: (a) so soon as fuel-oxidiser-fuel come together, we get the fire, (b) so long as they are still together, the fire continues to exist.

    So — simplifying to a toy universe with a begining in which a fire is all that exists — the first cause of the fire is whatever brought the factors into existence and co-joined them, triggering the fire we see with the mind’s eye. but equally, by the logic of necessity and sufficiency, if there the fuel-oxidiser-heat triangle had ALWAYS been present, so would have been the fire. But the fire would still be caused, as we may see from a simple observation: each of its sufficient causal factors is not only present but also NECESSARY.

    The controversy that Mr Fox is trying to raise is the issue that classically, one of the arguments to God is that the universe plainly had an initationg or foundational cause, who most credibly is God. of course, given the issue that all argumets trace to starting points,and that big arguments as a rule trace to points where people will differ on premises, such an argument is not a deductive proof that answers to all and any objections.

    To which, the answer is: so what?

    In science and many other fields of endeavour, we infer to best current explanation. [This approach to warrant is logically "opposite" to a proof: we reason by comparing alternative explanations that more or less entail the observed facts, so the facts cannot establish the explanations, they are inherently provisional and selected on a best of live options basis. (After all IF "Tom is a cat," THEN "Tom is an animal," AND "Tom is an animal," do not demonstratively establish that "Tom is a cat." But, substitute "theory" and "Observations," and we will see that science similarly stricvlty affirms the consequent. That is why inference to best explanation is a provisional, defeatable type of warrant! And so, Mr Barberini had a point after all . . . ]

    Notwithstanding the inherent provisionality we routinely put heavy weight of trust on such theories and associated wordviews. (For instance, US NAS member, Mr Lewontin in his notorious 1997 NY Review of Books article, actually thinks that “Science, [is] the only begetter of truth.”)

    So, on pain of selective hyperskepticism, we ought not to put evolutionary materialist metaphysics and its handmaiden scientific origins theories up on an epistemological pedestal, without permitting level playing field comparative difficulties critical analysis. And, once such artificial, censoring barriers are knocked down, there is plenty good reason to see that a first intelligent cause of our observed cosmos is just as viable today as it was in Newton’s day when he wrote in his General Scholium to his Principia, that:

    . . . This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being. And if the fixed stars are the centres of other like systems, these, being formed by the like wise counsel, must be all subject to the dominion of One; especially since the light of the fixed stars is of the same nature with the light of the sun, and from every system light passes into all the other systems [i.e there is a common electromagnetic order tothe cosmos, supporting that there is a common law of nature . . . the very opposite of a God of the gaps argument] . . . .

    This Being governs all things, not as the soul of the world, but as Lord over all; and on account of his dominion he is wont to be called Lord God pantokrator , or Universal Ruler . . . And from his true dominion it follows [in of course the context of a best explanation] that the true God is a living, intelligent, and powerful Being; and, from his other perfections, that he is supreme, or most perfect. He is eternal and infinite, omnipotent and omniscient; that is, his duration reaches from eternity to eternity; his presence from infinity to infinity; he governs all things, and knows all things that are or can be done. He is not eternity or infinity, but eternal and infinite; he is not duration or space, but he endures and is present. He endures for ever, and is every where present; and by existing always and every where, he constitutes duration and space. Since every particle of space is always, and every indivisible moment of duration is every where, certainly the Maker and Lord of all things cannot be never and no where. Every soul that has perception is, though in different times and in different organs of sense and motion, still the same indivisible person. There are given successive parts in duration, co-existent puts in space, but neither the one nor the other in the person of a man, or his thinking principle; and much less can they be found in the thinking substance of God. Every man, so far as he is a thing that has perception, is one and the same man during his whole life, in all and each of his organs of sense. God is the same God, always and every where. He is omnipresent not virtually only, but also substantially; for virtue cannot subsist without substance. In him are all things contained and moved [i.e. cites Ac 17, where Paul evidently cites Cleanthes]; yet neither affects the other: God suffers nothing from the motion of bodies; bodies find no resistance from the omnipresence of God. It is allowed by all [circa 1700 . . . ] that the Supreme God exists necessarily; and by the same necessity he exists always, and every where. [i.e accepts the cosmological argument to God.] . . . [.]

    We know him only by his most wise and excellent contrivances of things, and final cause [i.e from his designs and their evident purposes]: we admire him for his perfections; but we reverence and adore him on account of his dominion: for we adore him as his servants; and a god without dominion, providence, and final causes, is nothing else but Fate and Nature. Blind metaphysical necessity, which is certainly the same always and every where, could produce no variety of things. [i.e necessity does not produce contingency] All that diversity of natural things which we find suited to different times and places could arise from nothing but the ideas and will of a Being necessarily existing. [That is, implicitly rejects chance, Plato's third alternative, and explicitly infers to the Designer of the Cosmos.] But, by way of allegory, God is said to see, to speak, to laugh, to love, to hate, to desire, to give, to receive, to rejoice, to be angry, to fight, to frame, to work, to build; for all our notions of God are taken from the ways of mankind by a certain similitude, which, though not perfect, has some likeness, however. And thus much concerning God; to discourse of whom from the appearances of things, does certainly belong to Natural Philosophy. [Which in the C17 view was the active exercise that when successfully applied yielded knowledge of nature, i.e "science."]

    Notice, Newton’s focus on the first cause being known from the evident purposefulness and cosmic order of the universe that we live in, observe and think about; asking “what best explains . . .?”

    GEM of TKI

  352. PS: Above, I have provided a step by step explanation of how the key cirted process, RA decay, illustrates how Q-mech is NOT a “causeless” or “acausal” explantion. We have seen relevant dynamics and factors that give rise to a stochastic pattern of behaviour, so that we EXPECT to see a population of a given element subject to alpha decay showing a half-life, i.e a stable [more or less . .. ] probability of decay, due to tunnelling. Moreover, given teh uncertainty limits on position-momentum and energy-time,. we know that we wil have to be content with a population level stochastic explanation. DA’s latest reiteration of objections boils down to saying unless a causal factor or cluster is sufficient it is somehow not “really” a cause. But the fire example shows just why that fails. By contrast, a concrete wall is well above the Heisenberg and/or Einstein observability threshold [they are related] so a concrete wall appearing “out of nowhere and/or nothing [no pre-existent materials or construction process -- which last is intelligent . . . ]” WOULD be a violation of quantum explanations, and so could properly be said to be without cause. We do not see that, but on the quantum levels we do see phenomena consistent with virtual particles popping up from the sea of energy that populates space at large, e.g. the Casimir effect. SB remains right.

  353. StephenB:

    Return to the example in which 0 degrees centrigrade constitutes the conditions which cause water to freeze. Ask yourself all the same questions in that context and see if they make any sense. Try to stay away from Boston, NBA basketball, and Russia nuking Boston.

    You’re asking me to focus on a case involving sufficient conditions, and ignore a case involving insufficient conditions. But my whole point is that it seems strange to say that an event is caused by woefully insufficient conditions.

    Your usage of “cause” renders your “no uncaused events” claim rather weak. We could say that all events we observe are caused by the existence of the universe, or by the existence of an meta-universal context. Or we could say that all events are caused by the condition that nothing prevents them from occurring.

    If your claim is consistent with any conceivable state of affairs, is it really telling us anything?

  354. Rob:

    Passed back for a moment.

    Have you tried lighting a gas stove with the gas turned off yet?

    If you have, you will understand why necessary causal factors are indeed vitally important causal factors. (In fire fighting, the idea is to cut off a necessary causal factor to break the fire chain reaction.)

    As Copi notes in his Logic, we tend to focus on sufficient factors when we want to make something happen, and on necessary ones when we want to prevent something from happening.

    In either case the cause-effect bond is real.

    GEM of TKI

    PS: Onlookers, observe how objectors to the reality of necessary causal factors seem to always stay strictly away from discussing a concrete, familiar example that shows what is going on. No prizes for guessign why.

  355. Again, I must remind both Rob and Diffaxial, that if the principles of right reason are negotiable, we would never have arrived at our present knowledge about quantum mechanics in the first place. If a thing can be true an false at the same time, for example, [and both of you are OK with that proposition in some circumstances] then pre-quantum mechanics could never have been corrected by quantum mechanics.

    Indeed, if the princples of non-contradiction [or causation, or "not something from nothing"--- (all related)] were negotiable, we could not even have made the transition from a geo-centric to a helio-centric conception of the solar system. Copernicus’ adversaries could simply have said, [in the name of a flexible law of non-contradiction] “but the earth and the sun could, under some circumstances, both be the center of the solar system. Under the circumstances, we cannot replace the former theory with the latter theory because we cannot rule out the former on the grounds that it is inconsistent with the later.” (Would Rob and Diffaxial have been sympathetic to that proposition. It would appear so.)
    It is only because we know without doubt that such cannot be the case, that we can correct geo-centrism with helio-centrism. In the same way, it is only because we know without doubt that effects cannot occur without causes that we can replace earlier conceptions of physics with quantum physics.

    All science is based on the metaphysical proposition that the rules of right reason are non-negotiable. If they are negoatiable for any reason, the entire rational enterprise collapses and science goes with it.

  356. Mr M. writes (among other things):

    Onlookers, observe how objectors to the reality of necessary causal factors seem to always stay strictly away from discussing a concrete, familiar example that shows what is going on. No prizes for guessign why.

    Even there’s no prize at stake, I’ll tell you the reason you are not hearing from me is I just spent nearly an hour responding in detail to your posts 351, 352, 353 quoting you and adding my comments. (This to demonstrate the ridiculous length of your posts and their inconsequential digressions.) On reviewing the preview there were some tag errors, which did not resolve on correction and I made the mistake of refreshing the page. The post has been eaten and I have not the time or inclination to repeat the exercise. So the answer to why no responses to your screeds is indeed obvious! The loss of my post is a divine indication to me that it is a monumental waste of time to engage with you, time that could be better spent. I knew this before I started that post, too. An hour of precious life wasted. Let that be a lesson to one and all.

    No more comments to G. from me!

  357. Mr Fox:

    Passed by again.

    I note that, complaints and computer difficulties — for which you have my sympathies (I have had a few posts eaten myself . . . ) — aside, neither you nor any other objector to the principle of causality has to date specifically responded to the fire example as a simple and familiar case in point on the reality of necessary and sufficient causal factors. (And, BTW, you are not primarily in mind, as the remark on lighting a gas stove with the gas knob at “off” illustrates.)

    That, if you may pardon a direct comment, is indeed highly significant and noteworthy for onlookers.

    For, what is at stake at this point is basic rationality: nothing that begins, does so unless [a] all necessary causal factors are in place, and [b] sufficient cause is there for it to occur. For specific instance, [a] is how you prevent or extinguish a fire, and [b] is how you start one or keep it going.

    In the case of a population of atoms subject to a given alpha decay, certain factors give rise to a predictable stochastic pattern of behaviour, so that t1/2 = ln2/lambda, lambda being the decay constant, a measure of probability of decay per unit time.

    The same also obtains in principle for a universe that is habitable for life, for life within it, for diverse life in it, and for minded creatures such as we are. (In turn, this speaks to the issue you have raised on first causes twice above, which I responded to several posts above, and for which your onward comment was unfortunately eaten.)

    GEM of TKI

  358. KF:

    PS: Onlookers, observe how objectors to the reality of necessary causal factors seem to always stay strictly away from discussing a concrete, familiar example that shows what is going on. No prizes for guessign why.

    In that spirit, map your analysis of necessary conditions onto a simpler quantum indeterminacy, such as the timing of particle decay – the type of decay event I originally cited. You’ve described radioactive decay (of a complex nucleus), which introduces many complexities that obscure the issues.

  359. kairosfocus:

    Onlookers, observe how objectors to the reality of necessary causal factors seem to always stay strictly away from discussing a concrete, familiar example that shows what is going on.

    I’ve been talking about necessary conditions since my very first post on this subject (330). If you equate “causal factors” with “conditions”, which I assume you do, then your claim that I’ve denied the reality of necessary causal factors is pretty bizarre.

    As I’ve said repeatedly, the problem is semantic. The assertion that all events have causes seems to be saying one thing, but it’s really saying something else, or, more accurately, saying nothing.

    To me the assertion would imply that all events are, if not determined by, at least made probable by antecedent conditions. But StephenB says that this is not what he means. Events may, in fact, occur with any probability from almost zero to one. The only thing that the assertion rules out is the occurrence of an event with probability 0 — that is, every event has a necessary condition of nothing preventing the event from occurring. If StephenB is okay with a claim that tells us nothing, then I’m okay with it.

  360. Diffaxial and kairosfocus, I was the one who introduced C-14 decay, as I thought it was a good example of quantum indeterminacy. If I was wrong about that, then please pardon my ignorance of the relevant physics.

  361. Diff and Rob:

    About to close off, having just done 1st pass on a client need.

    I would like to see you both address the fire triangle example.

    This would set a baseline for common ground on sufficient, necessary and N & S causal factors.

    I cited alpha decay as it is a reasonably accessible instance of a quantum phenomenon, which brings to bear the typical factors that affect such a decay. (Way back, that is how we took a first case study. More exotic decays are much more inaccessible and subject to a lot more interpretation, with bubble chamber tracks and whatnot. Remember, Rutherford proved alphas were He nucleii by collecting them and testing the He. Originally, they were counted with scintillation screens — ZnS flashes; the statistics of which first established that the atomic nucleus is a dense core positive charge, ~ 10^-14 m, through large angle deflections on shooting alphas at thin Au foil. [A lot less is being assumed or inferred in such cases.])

    Particles do decay or transform themselves, e.g. photon to electron-positron pair if above the energy threshold. As the gamma photon transformation case shows, there are energy constraints [enough to form the mass of the e+/e- pair; with issues of symmetries (particle/antiparticle, charge balance), energy conservation, etc as well], and of course there are evident spontaneities.

    Again, we see necessary causal factors [here: enough photon energy] and constraints on the reaction [here, energy conservation, charge, particle/antiparticle etc . . . constraints, not causal forces], as observed, and we see that there are other factors that may set up a stochastic distribution in a population.

    Bottomline: The quantum event is stochastic but that does not translate into being causeless. No more than the stochastic nature of the uppermost side of a tossed die — effectively a random outcome across the range of possibilities — is causeless.

    Beyond that, of course there are particles that exhibit multiple pathways of behaviour [we do not have to go to decays to get that, electrons shot at a double slit or the equivalent are good enough . . interference showing wave-particle duality] and we see superposed wavefunctions and indeed onward interesting particle entanglement issues. But again the central issue turns on observability/ uncertainty, thence also stochastic distributions.

    We still do not see things that happen without necessary or sufficient causal conditions. (And, it is those conditions that give us analytical handles that we may do science, not magic.)

    GEM of TKI

  362. 363

    Sorry to butt in here, but it appears that kairosfocus isn’t getting the question that R0b and Diffaxial are trying to ask.

    Perhaps this will help.

    kairosfocus, imagine that you begin observing a single atom of radon-222 (half-life roughly four days) at 9 AM tomorrow. It decays after 15 hours, 6 minutes and 49 seconds. What causes it to decay then and not at some other time?

  363. KF:

    Bottomline: The quantum event is stochastic but that does not translate into being causeless. No more than the stochastic nature of the uppermost side of a tossed die — effectively a random outcome across the range of possibilities — is causeless…But again the central issue turns on observability/ uncertainty, thence also stochastic distributions.

    Many classical processes result in stochastic outcomes, the results of many tosses of a fair die being one of them. However, if you are asserting that the indeterminate and hence random outcomes observed in quantum phenomena are comparable to that of a the outcome of tosses of a die, and hence at least in principle determined and knowable at some level (albeit difficult or impossible to discern at a practical level), you are profoundly mistaken. As the late Heinz Pagels put it, even “the perfect mind of God” cannot predict the specific outcome of individual quantum events.

  364. —-Diffaxial: “As the late Heinz Pagels put it, even “the perfect mind of God” cannot predict the specific outcome of individual quantum events.”

    That quote, and the principle it tries to support, is complete nonsense. One would not expect an atheist physicist like Pagels, who knows nothing of theology, to comprehend the concept of an omnisicient God. By definition, the perfect mind of God knows the outcome of all events.

  365. —-Rob: “As I’ve said repeatedly, the problem is semantic. The assertion that all events have causes seems to be saying one thing, but it’s really saying something else, or, more accurately, saying nothing.”

    No. The problem is that you, like Diffaxial, are rejecting the metaphysical foundations that underlie science. If causeless effects can occur in any context, then you can rule out nothing. One important way we reason in the abstract is to eliminate possibilities. Unless the principles of right reason are non-negotiable, it is impossible for science to correct itself because, under the circumstances you both propose, one could not say that the earlier theory is incompatible with the latter theory. If a thing can both be and not be, or if an effect can exist without a cause, Newton would never have given way to Einstein and Heisenburg. All apparently contradictory theories could be reconciled, and we could rule out nothing. There would be no progress because no one would have honored the standards of right reason. Both of you think that you are being progressive, but you are really suggesting that we go back to the stone age—a time when magic explained everything and logic had no currency.

  366. StephenB:

    That quote, and the principle it tries to support, is complete nonsense.

    Surely, whether or not you accept the conclusions of quantum physics, you are not disputing that it entails profound indeterminacy of individual subatomic events – which is the principle Pagels sought to illustrate.

    (He died accidently in 1988).

  367. StephenB

    If causeless effects can occur in any context…

    The only assertion at hand is the irreducibly indeterminate nature of events within extremely specific contexts – those within which quantum description departs from that of classical physics. No one is making an assertion about “any context.”

  368. 369

    “It is not that there are hidden facts or facts unknown to us, or even facts that exist but are inherently undiscoverable; There simply are no such further facts in quantum mechanics underlying specific events that display quantum indeterminacy and the associated irreducible randomness.
    Therefore facts analogous to the further facts establishing the “cause” of macroscopic walls simply don’t exist for these events. This is why quantum theory is sometimes said to be “acausal.”

    This is rich!! Difff is using the law of non contradiction to refute the law of non contradiction!!!!

    Vivid

  369. Diffaxial: “As the late Heinz Pagels put it, even “the perfect mind of God” cannot predict the specific outcome of individual quantum events.”

    I think Ed Freidkin said something similar in his book Digital Physics. That even an omniscient being could not predict a future state of the universe from its laws and initial conditions, but would actually have to run it to find out.

  370. —Diffaxial: “Surely, whether or not you accept the conclusions of quantum physics, you are not disputing that it entails profound indeterminacy of individual subatomic events – which is the principle Pagels sought to illustrate.”

    I am not disputing the scientific conclusions of quantum physics, which would, in itself, be an irrattional response to facts in evidence. On the other hand, I certainly dispute the notion that the events are causeless or that an omniscient being, who established the physical laws in the first place, could not predict how they would play out. Such things would be child’s play for one who could know future history, which would entail calculating the impact of all human thoughts, words, deeds, and intentions, in conjunction with everyone else’s thoughts, words, and deeds, in combination with all the biological, psychodynamic, environmental factors that tend to pull us in one direction or another.

    If an omniscient God could calculate the final result of all human decisions, who have the power to resist his will, he could much more easily calculate the final result of a law that he designed to behave according to his will. I am sorry, but Pagel’s statement was thoughtless and uninformed. And, paying tribute to Nakashima, if Ed Freidkin said something similar, then he is equally misguided.

  371. —-Diffaxial: “The only assertion at hand is the irreducibly indeterminate nature of events within extremely specific contexts – those within which quantum description departs from that of classical physics. No one is making an assertion about “any context.”

    By “any context” I mean any conceivable context. In other words, the principles of right reason will not permit you to posit causeless effect in any context at all. In other words, the door is closed on a causeless effect apriori. Again, I remind you that quantum mechanics could not correct pre-quantum conceptions of physics if the principles of right reason were negotiable. I went into more detail on that matter in an earlier post, but everyone conveniently ignored the point.

  372. 373

    kairosfocus, StephenB and vividbleau,

    My impression is that all of you share the misconception that to entertain the notion of limited acausality in specific quantum situations is tantamount to abandoning logic altogether. Not so.

    Quite the contrary, in fact. The conclusion of limited acausality in quantum mechanics is a consequence of the strict application of logic to the results of quantum experiments. It depends on logic and does not undermine it.

    It seems odd to me that you are uncomfortable with the idea of limited acausality, for as theists you seem comfortable with the idea of God as an uncaused cause and with the notion that both God and humans can make free choices which are themselves uncaused.

  373. 370 should read, “I am not disputing the scientific conclusions of quantum physics, which would, in itself, be an [irrational] response to facts in evidence.”

  374. Mr StephenB,

    Again, I remind you that quantum mechanics could not correct pre-quantum conceptions of physics if the principles of right reason were negotiable.

    I wouldn’t so much use the word negotiable as revisable. To the extent that the PRR (sorry for the abbreviation) are connected to the real world and not just logical procedures, they are provisional. The parallel postulate was a provisional part of the geometric system which has not proved effective on the surface of the Earth, near heavy stars, and might not apply to the universe as a whole. LNC, the same.

    The point is that when the need to revise these provisional understandings occurs, we don’t assume the world is all chaos and cats and dogs will be living together. The revision to the PRR is like the revision to our understanding of the laws of physics – at the edges, in circumstances we haven’t encountered before. I’m fine with the idea that LNC can be violated by small particles but not by statistically larger ensembles of particles, such as macroscopic entities.

    BTW, just to make sure I understand the terminology correctly, the PRR being discussed now are the same PRR that you told me about on the Shermer thread? Your personal, non-axiomatic private list of logical rules which might not agree with the universe but that is ok? I just want to make sure no revision of what PRR means had taken place between threads.

  375. 376

    “Quite the contrary, in fact. The conclusion of limited acausality in quantum mechanics is a consequence of the strict application of logic to the results of quantum experiments. It depends on logic and does not undermine it.”

    Well I can think of nothing that would undermine logic more than claiming that we know that things can exist before they exist, that A can be A and non A at he same time in the same relationship or that something can come from nothing can you?

    Secondly the uncertainty principle is not the NON determined principle. Indeterminacy does not mean NON determinacy. Why is QM called the indeterminacy principle rather than the NON determinacy principle?

    “It seems odd to me that you are uncomfortable with the idea of limited acausality, for as theists you seem comfortable with the idea of God as an uncaused cause…”

    Because there is nothing illogical about a being that is aseitic. It is only anything that begins to exist that requires a cause. To postulate that something that begins to exist requires no cause requires that existence to exist before it exists.

    To paraphrase William Lane Craig “To assert that something can come from nothing is worse than magic. At least with magic you have a magician!! and you have a hat!!!

    If you want to believe in magic have at it.What I find interesting is that it is the “irrational” theists defending rational thought and the atheists “escaping from reason” The so called “irrational” theists are the rational ones and the atheists embracing and being irrational?

    “and with the notion that both God and humans can make free choices which are themselves uncaused.”

    Well I cant speak for every theist but this theist does not think either Gods or humans choices free choices are uncaused. Thats absurd!!

    Vivid

  376. —-Nakashima: “BTW, just to make sure I understand the terminology correctly, the PRR being discussed now are the same PRR that you told me about on the Shermer thread?”

    Nothing has been revised, but I have zeroed in on the three that should be the most obvious, mamely, that something cannot come from nothing, an effect cannot exist without a cause, and that a thing cannot be and not be. There is no reason to go into the more subtle foundations if my adversaries are going to deny even the ones that should be clear.

  377. —-Nakashima: “I wouldn’t so much use the word negotiable as revisable. To the extent that the PRR (sorry for the abbreviation) are connected to the real world and not just logical procedures, they are provisional.”

    If they are provisional or revisable, they are useless. We begin with the principles of right reason to illumniate our research, we do not use our research to illumniate the principles of right reason. The order cannot be reversed.

  378. —-serendipity: “It seems odd to me that you are uncomfortable with the idea of limited acausality, for as theists you seem comfortable with the idea of God as an uncaused cause and with the notion that both God and humans can make free choices which are themselves uncaused.”

    In all honesty, I don’t understand the connection you are making. The principles of right reason apply to the rationality of the universe, one aspect of which is the fact that all effects have causes. What does all of that have to do with free will, which refers to God and man’s capacity to BE causal agents?

  379. 380

    StephenB,

    First I’ll note that since effects are defined as the result of causes, your “principle of right reason” holding that “all effects have causes” is equivalent to stating that “all things that have causes have causes.” True enough, but does this really qualify for special mention as a “principle of right reason”? If so, there are an awful lot of principles of right reason, including “all frilly shirts are frilly shirts.” Perhaps it would be better to have a general principle that “all things that are X are X” and leave it at that.

    As for the connection between free will and causality, read the question I pose to kairosfocus here, and then imagine that instead of watching a radon atom you are watching a living human being who has been instructed, over the next four hours, to write an X on a piece of paper whenever she wants to, or not at all. Suppose that after 1 hour and 27 minutes, she writes an X on the paper. As in the radon experiment, the question is: why did it happen then, and not at some other time? Was her choice causally determined or not?

  380. Folks:

    The onward developments show just how sadly broken our culture now is, when it comes to basic reason.

    before I try to address specific points, I will pause and ask some basic things once again:

    Case A: The reality of truth and error

    Let us go back to the Error Exists example — notice, onlookers, how this has been studiously passed over in silence. Let’s excerpt from 325:

    g –> For even more telling instance, following Josiah Royce, try out: error exists. (Let’s call it E for short.) Almost all of us would immediately assent per our experience of the world as minded creatures [even relativists are trying to "correct" those "ignorant absolutists" out there . . . ], but more lurks here than is obvious.

    i –> That is, if we try to deny this claim, i.e. assert NOT-E, then we see that we are immediately implying that E is . . . an error.

    j –> So, to try to deny E only ends up showing that it is correct. E is UNDENIABLY TRUE, once we consult our experience and understanding of the world as minded creatures.

    We plainly have a case where a knowable undeniable — on pain of absurdity — truth exists, so truth and knowledge of truth exist. Also, such truth exists by way of a contrast between what accurately corresponds to reality [truth] and what does not [error].

    Without such basic, we simply cannot think straight.

    Case B: the fire triangle

    This is a second exercise in basics of rational thought. here, consider a fire, and observe that it has three necessary causal conditions: unless we have [a] fuel, [b] heat and [c] oxidiser, no fire is possible. Also, so soon as we have a, b and c jointly acting, we have a fire, i.e a, b and c are each CAUSALLY necessary and are jointly CAUSALLY sufficient for a fire to begin and be sustained.

    In short, cause-effect bonds are real, and that which begins credibly has a cause; that which is contingent and is sustained in existence, has a causal foundation for that ongoing existence. [Put simply: to extinguish the fire under the pot, turn off the gas. Or, dash it out with water. Or, smother it with CO2.]

    All of this should be simple enough.

    The fact that it plainly is not, is a wake-up call for our civilisation.

    C: Now, a few remarks on follow-up points:

    1 –> Diff, I cited the case of a die to underscore the point that stochastically distributed outcomes may happen even in cases where classical determinism may be presumed to be as good a model of the dynamics as anything else. (Dice — thanks to 12 edges and 8 corners — are sensitively dependent on initial and intervening conditions, so they are in practice unpredictable as to specific outcome, but nicely fit the random distribution mathematical model.)

    2 –> As a consequence, just because we see a stochastic distribution cannot logically imply that the actual outcomes are not influenced by necessary and even sufficient causes. (That the initial and intervening situations, parameters, boundary conditions and dynamics may be in principle or in practice hidden to us, is besides the point.)

    3 –> In the case of quantum phenomena, we already know that there are many necessary factors at work, so we have no good grounds to infer from stochastic distributions of outcomes to absence of cause. For, a necessary cause is just that: a cause.

    4 –> As well, Baryons are composite particles, so the objection to alpha decay as similarly [though quantitatively moreso] complex is a bit question-begging. That protons and neutrons are in effect states of a common nucleon, with slight shifts, so that [citing wiki for convenience] we may see a decay path n –> p [and the inverse path . . . ] as follows:

    Because the neutron consists of three quarks, the only possible decay mode without a change of baryon number requires the flavour changing of one of the quarks via the weak nuclear force. The neutron consists of two down quarks with charge -1/3 and one up quark with charge +2/3, and the decay of one of the down quarks into a lighter up quark can be achieved by the emission of a W boson. By this means the neutron decays into a proton (which contains one down and two up quarks), an electron, and an electron antineutrino (antineutrino).

    Outside the nucleus, free neutrons are unstable and have a mean lifetime of 885.7±0.8 s (about 15 minutes), decaying by emission of a negative electron and antineutrino to become a proton:[6]

    n0 ? p+ + e? + ?e

    This decay mode, known as beta decay, can also transform the character of neutrons within unstable nuclei.

    Bound inside a nucleus, protons can also transform via inverse beta decay into neutrons. In this case, the transformation occurs by emission of a positron (antielectron) and a neutrino (instead of an antineutrino):

    p+ ? n0 + e+ + ?e

    5 –> Observe the many causal constraints that impose certain necessities on outcomes [e.g. the neutrons inside a non RA atomic nucleus are more or less stable . . . ], and the resulting decay curve that yields a half-life for free neutron decay of ~ 10.3 minutes, which yields average lifespan ~ 15 minutes or about 900 s; which is a reasonable “typical number”. In short, the neutron decay process is not radically different from the alpha nuclear decay process, just that we have now stepped up to quarks and gluons, and have shifted over to weak force changes in quarks to get the decay.

    6 –> And, just as similarly, there is no good reason to say that just because we see a stochastic process and a following of a random decay law, we have acausal behaviour.

    7 –> As to the notion of “limited acausality,” this ignores the fact that we have already identified that there are certain necessary conditions that have causal force. For instance, neurons inside most atomic nuclei are stable, thank you.

    8 –> As to the God’s-eye view, the problem here is that we seem to be thinking in a box: on relevant worldviews, God is not temporally or spatially bound: in him, we live and move and have our being. So, the outcomes are immediately accessible to him, i.e, the question is irrelevant.

    9 –> Similarly, unless you know God’s purpose, you cannot legitimately object to his “failure” to provide evidence that meets your arbitrarily — and selectively hyperskeptical — high standard of demand for “proof.” (And in fact the same relevant traditions hold that his life is a test: we have sufficient information to test our thoughts and intents, and to be responsible for what we do know or should know. [Just one instance: every cell in our bodies with a nucleus contains a small embedded, molecular nanotech digital computer to process DNA information. Is it credible that a computer created itself out of molecular noise, in light of our experience of what noise and random walks can do to get us TO first functionality in the sea of available configurations, and what intelligent designers can do? (Until you have first function, you cannot cumulatively select for superior differential function by whatever performance filter strikes your fancy.)])

    GEM of TKI

  381. PS: Serendipity, Ra 222 is an alpha decaying atom. This case was examined by me at 325 – 6 above, with discussion of tunnelling and related stability of nucleus factors as well as the energy-time uncertainty and the sea of available energy in space itself. That is, we know there are many necessary causal factors at work, so the Ra 222 decay is not acausal; even down to a single atom.

    (That we do not — and given uncertainty probably never will — know the SUFFICIENT factors that trigger a particular alpha decay of a particular atom at a given time do es not imply that the resulting population level stochastic pattern is acausal. Indeed, statistical distributions are driven by underlying model dynamics factors that lead to the specific model, and not to another. Think, for instance, of the distribution pattern for two dice tossed at random: essentially Newtonian, and yet stochastic following a peaked distribution with 7 as total at the peak, because of distribution of relative weight of the 2, 3, 4 . . 12 states, even though each [fair] die may select any one face with flat probability of 1/6.)

  382. PPS: those eqns look a lot better in preview than in the post. Hopefully this will be clean enough:

    n-0 –> p+ + e- + ~nu-0

    p+ –> n-0 + e+ + nu-0

    Notice that a necessary condition of an outcome is the starting particle. Similarly, outcomes are constrained to conserve energy, charge and various particle type numbers etc. E.g in both cases, you start with a particle and end with the same net charge. A particle on decaying if it gives rise to an antiparticle will also give rise to a “balancing” particle, etc. (And of course underneath this level, quarks are changing under weak force within nucleons — composite and complex context.)

  383. KF:

    Classical processes that also give rise to stochastic results have no bearing upon the fundamental indeterminacy of many quantum phemonena. Quantum indeterminacy is fundamentally incommensurate with those classical processes. If you don’t get that, you don’t get quantum theory.

    Similarly, no quantity of necessary conditions for and associated constraints upon quantum events can obscure the fundamental indeterminacy observed given those conditions and constraints. That neutrons bound within nuclei are stable has no bearing whatsoever on the quantum indeterminacy that characterizes the variability of the interval prior to free neutron decay. Neither does an appeal to the internal composition of particles that are capable of decay.

    No one is claiming that quantum mechanics requires the abandonment of all causality.

  384. Mr StephenB,

    If they are provisional or revisable, they are useless.

    Since this is simply an assertion, should I take it that this is an axiom of your thought? (Or is the proof to large to fit in the margin? ;) )

    If some result had been arrived at using LNC, and then the experimenter heard that LNC was not applicable in their situation, they would have to go back and review the experiment to see if there was another line of evidence or reasoning that could confirm the same conclusion, or admit their conclusion needs to be revised. Then in the future, only apply LNC where applicable.

  385. Diff:

    First, let us be clear: once there are necessary conditions at work, Q-mech processes are not acausal, however many may want to look at them. Just because on current theory we can only determine up to a probability/ stochastic distribution does not mean that that distribution means that there is no deeper pattern at work [i.e. in the metaphysical sense, chaos -- no order] — just the opposite: e.g. there is a definite probability that a free neutron will decay, on average in about 15 minutes, with t1/2 ~ 10 minutes.

    That speaks of underlying stable processes of order [cosmos] that drive the distributions that we can see; processes we are blind to on current theory. [Yes, there is a statistical distribution that is all we can see to. but, its very stability and predictability under the constraints of say a free neutron, speak to an underlying order: stochasticity does not entail that beyond that, there is no underlying order that gives rise to the stochastic behaviour.]

    Here is wiki’s in brief 101:

    Quantum indeterminacy is the apparent necessary incompleteness in the description of a physical system, that has become one of the characteristics of the standard description of quantum physics. Prior to quantum physics, it was thought that (a) a physical system had a determinate state which uniquely determined all the values of its measurable properties, and conversely (b) the values of its measurable properties uniquely determined the state. Albert Einstein may have been the first person to carefully point out the radical effect the new quantum physics would have on our notion of physical state.[1]

    Quantum indeterminacy can be quantitatively characterized by a probability distribution on the set of outcomes of measurements of an observable. The distribution is uniquely determined by the system state, and moreover quantum mechanics provides a recipe for calculating this probability distribution.

    I am well aware that in Q-mech, we have wave functions that are probability distributions [subject to a determination of modulus], locked away behind walls of further unobservability to us. That does not make them acausal, it makes them stochastic. Stochastic — as the die example underscores by way of a counter-example (and, please: no, I am not thereby implying that Newtonian dynamics applies to quantum phenomena . . . ) — does not imply acausal.

    For instance, that we cannot trace cause within Q-mech beyond a certain distribution does not entail that we can have no future theory that supplies a deeper insight; nor, for that matter, that observers not constrained by our constraints may see the situation very differently. (In short, a wee bit of humility and provisionality are in order . . . after all this is science, not logic.)

    Next, so soon as we can identify that there are necessary causal conditions and factors at work, causal conditions and factors are at work. We are not getting something from nothing, out of nowhere and no-one.

    (That we do not see sufficient causal conditions may lead to the situation that we see that we can determine things only up to a certain distribution, but that is not the same as establishing that there are no sufficient conditions, and/or that no sufficient cause is acting.)

    So, accepting that here is a statistical pattern in q-theory level nature, does not force abandonment of causality even in such phenomena, just a little humility about what we don’t know and perhaps cannot know.

    As to the case of a person acting, raised by serendipity, we can determine that evidence of purpose and of functionally specific complex information etc point to intelligent cause: directed as opposed to stochastic contingency. (And I guess this is yet another point on why ID theory is so important and so hotly resisted by the materialism-dominated scientific establishment.)

    To suggest that a person’s decision and action are not a cause or that such are equivalent to random stochastic behaviour are absurd; indeed, self-referentially absurd.

    (For instance, am I to infer that the post above that raised this terminates the physical causal chain that led to a message at UD on random noise up to some statistical distribution or other, or is there not plainly an intelligent intent — as we are familiar with from our own minds and conscious mental lives, as well as from observing other similar creatures — to send a given message? If the former, then apparent meaning reduces to noise . . . [cf. the discussion here.])

    It is ever more painfully and sadly clear that basic rationality itself is what is at stake in our civilisation.

    GEM of TKI

    PS: Onlookers, please carefully observe that, still, the issues of truth and its knowability vs error, and of necessary and sufficiency of causal factors remain to be addressed specifically by objectors.

  386. Nakashima-San:

    Why not simply address the claim “error exists” as discussed above?

    Show us that it is not undeniably true and knowable, on pain of absurdity.

    And, in so doing, avoid implying of each claim you make, of each state of affairs that you describe, of each inference that you draw, that A is so as opposed to that NOT-A is also so, at the same time and in the same sense.

    (In short, I am also saying that the law of non-contradiction is undeniably true on pain of absurdity — to try to deny it forces us to use it to say the state of he world is C; as opposed to NOT-C, this last being a world in which non-contradiction obtains.)

    That should make the sense of saying that such principles of right reason being undeniably true — thus unrevisable — guidestars for reasoning plain enough.

    GEM of TKI

  387. KF, great points.

    If one does not believe truth to be findable and absolute then there is not much point to science.

  388. Mr Kairosfocus,

    I am tempted to ask, “what is the definition of error” but I am afraid that the question would cause howls of protest! :)

    We have just been saying that LNC could be perfectly valid at a macroscopic level, while failing at a quantum level. Therefore, I have no problems with invoking it in a discussion of “error exists”. of course, a quantum sized experimenter might have a very different experience of the concept of error. I don’t have enough facility in quantum reasoning to say. But this is why I had a non-specious, non-humorous reason for asking what the definition of error was.

  389. —-Diffaxial: “No one is claiming that quantum mechanics requires the abandonment of all causality.”

    To submit that effects can even sometimes occur without causes is to abandon causality. If it can happen in one context, there is no reason to believe it may not happen in another context. Under the circumstances, there would be no way of knowing where or when those exceptions apply. It is the same the the principles about the part/whole, non-contradiction, and something out of nothing. If there are any exceptions at all, there is no rationality.

  390. —-Nakashima: We have just been saying that LNC could be perfectly valid at a macroscopic level, while failing at a quantum level.

    To submit that effects can even sometimes occur without causes is to abandon causality. If it can happen in one context, there is no reason to believe it may not happen in another context. Under the circumstances, there would be no way of knowing where or when those exceptions apply. It is the same the the principles about the part/whole, non-contradiction, and something out of nothing. If there are any exceptions at all, there is no rationality.

  391. —-Nakashima: “Since this is simply an assertion, should I take it that this is an axiom of your thought? (Or is the proof to large to fit in the margin? )”

    How can the LNC be of any use to us if we can’t be sure when and where it applies? According to you, it does not apply at the subatomic level. How do you know that it even applies at the macroscopic level? Since the LNC cannot be proven, why accept it in any context? Why not just deny it outright and be done with it?

  392. —-kairosfocus writes, “It is ever more painfully and sadly clear that basic rationality itself is what is at stake in our civilisation.”

    Sadly, you are right. To hate truth, which is the destination, is also to hate reason, which is the vehicle by which we arrive at the destination.

  393. 394

    StephenB, recently rejected Texas education chair candidate and young-earth creationist Don McLeroy seems to be teaching your proof of God to fourth-graders:

    “Everything that had a beginning we can say had a cause,” he tells his class of fourth-graders at Grace Bible Church. “And now science definitely says that the universe had a beginning. Therefore, the universe had to have a cause. And that cause is God.”

  394. KF:

    Just because on current theory we can only determine up to a probability/ stochastic distribution does not mean that that distribution means that there is no deeper pattern at work [i.e. in the metaphysical sense, chaos -- no order]…That speaks of underlying stable processes of order [cosmos] that drive the distributions that we can see; processes we are blind to on current theory

    …that we cannot trace cause within Q-mech beyond a certain distribution does not entail that we can have no future theory that supplies a deeper insight; nor, for that matter, that observers not constrained by our constraints may see the situation very differently. (In short, a wee bit of humility and provisionality are in order . . . after all this is science, not logic.)

    Ultimately, your position hangs on the hope that the current quantum picture will prove mistaken, and hidden local factors accounting for quantum indeterminacy will be identified after all.

    Humility in such matters is a good thing. Indeed, and throughout this thread several of us have underscored the provisional nature of all conclusions – even these metaconclusions vis causality.

    However, your plea for humility rings hollow. Your position, as Stephen articulates it, displays the opposite attitude:

    In other words, the principles of right reason will not permit you to posit causeless effect in any context at all. In other words, the door is closed on a causeless effect apriori.

    In short, when the scientific and empirical consensus forces conclusions that are inconvenient to your rigid, tautological formulations, the plea for humility rings out. These findings are provisional, and there may be an underlying metaphysical order to which our current theory is blind! Have some humility! After all, science is self-correcting, and there may well be an error in the current formulation awaiting such a correction. Hence we have the irony that your dogmatism hangs on hoped-for future self-corrections of science – self-correction the opening post disdainfully dismisses.

    However, this newfound appreciation for the provisional, and the associated humility, is forgotten upon resuming your positions. Truths are again self-evident, conclusions are specified by definition, doors are closed a priori, there is nothing within our Self-Evident Truth to correct (because then it wouldn’t be Truth), and those who disagree are, by definition, irrational. Rinse and repeat.

    So we end where we started, with science self-correcting and others…not.

  395. KF:

    To suggest that a person’s decision and action are not a cause or that such are equivalent to random stochastic behaviour are absurd; indeed, self-referentially absurd.

    The far more interesting question is, “do you regard human decisions and actions as effects?”

  396. Folks:

    Babysitting friend PC for a while . . .

    A few quick notes:

    1 –> Error vs truth: truth hits the mark of accurately describing reality, error misses that mark — something toddlers understand well enough so soon as they figure out how to fib. Aristotle said it very well, 2,300 years ago:

    “To say of what is that it is not, or of what is not that it is, is false, while to say of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not, is true” [Metaphysics, 1011b]

    2 –> So, let’s get back to Josiah Royce: error exists — true or false, deniable or undeniable, self-evident or not? Why?

    3 –> Is one pinning the flag to a forlorn hope, that somehow Q-mech may be wrong? First, whether or not Q-mech is wrong has no bearing on whether observed phenomena have causes — we already have seen that for alpha decay, beta decay, etc: save certain things are in place a given decay will not happen — it is caused. (Whether or not we identify SUFFICIENT causes, or will ever be able to do so. And, if something happens — and was not always there — it has a sufficient cause that enabled it to happen.)

    4 –> Is “what begins has a cause” an empty platitude? Not at all: there is a sufficient reason why something happens now and here, but not then and there — and we may be able to identify things that will block it from happening, i.e necessary causal factors. [That is why I keep asking for a serious look at the fire example -- it has much to teach us about the logic of cause.]

    5 –> Are human etc decisions and actions mere effects? Insofar as there are influences and constraints our decisions are in part effects. however, unless they are minded causes that transcend “[physical and genetic] nature plus nurture”, we run into serious difficulties in grounding the credibility of mind. (As a result, evolutionary materialism is inescapably self referentially incoherent.)

    6 –> So, back over to you: is reasoning more than Crick’s nothing but electrochemical impulses in neural networks? That is, is there room for ground and consequent, rather than just physical cause-effect chains?

    7 –> As to self evidence and truth: again Diff, kindly work your way through a given sample: error exists. then, we can discuss why I am perfectly willing to accept that a great many knowledge claims are defeatable [adn that ALL worldvews of consequence bristle with difficulties that should serve to humble us admirably . . . ], but some few key ones are self evident and undeniable, on pain of absurdity.

    8 –> Again: error exists . . . true or false, deniable without absurdity or undeniably and self evidently true on pain of absurdity?

    Gotta go . . .

    GEM of TKI

  397. —-David Kellogg: “StephenB, recently rejected Texas education chair candidate and young-earth creationist Don McLeroy seems to be teaching your proof of God to fourth-graders:”

    [A] We are not discussing first causes on this thread. [B] I am not a young earth creationist, [C] The argument for first cause is independent of YEC vs. Intellent design. therefore, [D] Your attempt to argue on the bases of guilt by association is misguided.

    The issue on the table right now is whether one is to accept rationality by embracing reason’s first principles or to embrace irrationality by renouncing them. You have already weighed in on that and have chosen the latter.

  398. Oh yes, DK:

    First, the existence of God can be warranted to best current explanation, but it — along with a great many other things (including scientific results and other matters of fact) — cannot be proved to an arbitrarily high [selectively hyperskeptically high] standard. But then, such selective hyperskepticism is its own refutation — a double-standard of evidence: such a skeptic cannot live consistent with his or her standard of proof in cases s/he does not wish to accept. A better rule is: “extraordinary things require extraordinary [adequate] evidence.”

    For that matter, mathematics cannot be proved beyond all dispute these days, post Godel: we do not know that axiomatic systems are complete or coherent. And, there are debates over alternative sets of axioms. relative to any coherent set there are undecidable but true claims — mathematics is — surprise — irreducibly complex (in a different but related sense . . . ).

    As to the argument you wish to dismiss by labelling it in effect “creationist” — an ad hominem by association fallacy — it is not a proof of God, nor is it meant to be. It is a widely accepted and well supported axiom of reasoning about cause and effect.

    Have you ever seen something that began to exist — and so is a contingent being — that did not have a sufficient reason for that beginning, i.e. a cause? (And remember, that also means that [a] all causally necessary factors must be in place, and [b] sufficient factors must be in place. Show me a fire that came about without [a] fuel [i.e something capable of the chain reaction called burning under the prevailing circumstances . . . ], [b] oxidiser, and [c] heat, or a case where with the three necessary and jointly SUFFICIENT factors, no fire emerged.)

    This of course says nothing about the other category of being: a necessary being — one that is existent in itself — as opposed to self caused [which requires existing before one exists]. Some have proposed a wider cosmos for that being, others propose God.

    Bring forward evidence and then let’s decide which makes better sense.

    But this is a bit afield . . .

    Can we take it as well shown that Mrs O’Leary is right: Science is not an epistemologically privileged domain, insofar as it is self-correcting. (And indeed,the principles by which scientific knowledge is warranted are philosophical principles. Going further, the older usage seems better: natural philosophy, leading to science — knowledge — on well-established (but correctable) findings.

    Just like other domains, it gets its wind knocked out every now and then, and has to eat some humble pie. (AKA the very first undeniable and self-evident truth is: error exists.)

    Welcome to the world of defeatable reasoning and provisional warrant to best current explanation.

    GEM of TKI

  399. —-Diffaxial: “After all, science is self-correcting, and there may well be an error in the current formulation awaiting such a correction.”

    You continue to avoid the issue. How does science correct itself without a reasonable standard for correction?

    Current conceptions of science displaced earlier conceptions of science on the strength of the principle that both concepts could not be true and false at the same time. Explain how the new replaces the old if, in some circumstances, both can be true?

    To submit that effects can occur without causes is to abandon causality altogether. If it can happen in one context, there is no reason to believe it may not happen in another context. Under the circumstances, there would be no way of knowing where or when those exceptions apply.

    Tell me by which standard you decide when effects can occur without causes and when they cannot. Please explain why, if this principle can be abandoned once it cannot be abandoned a second time or third time. Under those circumstnaces, what good is the principle at all?

  400. —-Diffaxial: “Humility in such matters is a good thing. Indeed, and throughout this thread several of us have underscored the provisional nature of all conclusions – even these metaconclusions vis causality.”

    On the contrary, you have stated categorically that we cannot know self evident truths. Indeed, you insist that they don’t even exist. Humility acknowledges truth and conforms to it; hubris rejects truth in the name of non-conformity.

    Science doesn’t begin with observations. It begins with a recognition that [a] self evident truths will [b] illuminate observations, which will [c] lead to new truths. As a matter of principle, you reject {a] and [c], as if [b] alone could yield anything at all.

  401. 402

    StephenB, I realize you haven’t offered that “proof” in this thread: here you and kairosfocus are beating your other favorite dead hobby horses. I just mention it because (a) I thought the 4th grade in Bible school an appropriate forum for that kind of proof, and (b) I thought you might want to sue the dude for plagiarism.

  402. KF:

    Again: error exists . . . true or false, deniable without absurdity or undeniably and self evidently true on pain of absurdity?

    “Error exists.” True or false. Here goes. One, two, three…

    Wait. Before I continue, I’ve called the police, as I have absolute proof that KF either has been or still is beating his wife. To deny it is to deny what is self-evidently true on pain of absurdity. My proof? Work through the following:

    “Kairosfocus has stopped beating his wife.” True or false.

    Come clean KF. True or false? And I don’t want to hear any mealy-mouthed evasions, qualifications or postmodern equivocation. A statement is either True, or it is False.

    Now, where was I?

    Oh yes. “Error exists.” True or false.

    This needs disambiguation, as one possible reading of the statement reifies the modifier “in error” (as in “statement in error,” better known as a “false statement”) into a noun, namely “Error.” Another possible reading, “statements in error exist,” omits this reification.

    Like my statement regarding KF’s problem with domestic violence, “Error exists” in the first sense smuggles in an unjustified premise: an object or thing, designated by a noun, is being said to exist. It is this smuggled premise that forces your conclusion: that Error (and hence Truth) is something that exists objectively, quite apart from individual statements and their verification.

    These reifications are, of course, encouraged by English usage, as using “the truth” and “error” as nouns is commonplace. Nevertheless, when Daniel Kaffee demands of Colonel Jessup “I WANT THE TRUTH,” what he really wants him to do is to stop lying and utter true statements.

    That said:

    I certainly accept that there are true statements and there are statements in error (false statements), as reasonably verifiable by our employment of various conceptual (e.g. logical) and empirical tools. I don’t believe that commits me to the existence of “Error” and “Truth” as transcendent objects.

    However, if you intend “Error exists” in the sense that reifies “Error,” then I reject that as a false statement – a statement in error in the sense I DO accept – due to the unjustified reification. That rejection of your assertion as a statement in error in the sense I DO accept in the immediately preceding paragraph does NOT paradoxically affirm that “Error exists” in the reified sense. And I also certainly reject Royce’s silly verbal trap, and continue to be mystified that anyone takes reasoning of that kind seriously.

  403. 404

    Diff: “So we end where we started, with science self-correcting and others…not.”

    Earth to Diff the only way science can be self correcting is if the the foundational principles of logic are true for all circumstances. Otherwise science is finished.

    Oh the irony…the so called defenders of science are once again the thiests while the atheists on this thread undercut the very foundations of the scientific eneterprise.

    Vivid

  404. —-David Kellogg: “StephenB, I realize you haven’t offered that “proof” in this thread: here you and kairosfocus are beating your other favorite dead hobby horses.”

    It really hurts when you have nothing to say, doesn’t it?

    —- just mention it because (a) I thought the 4th grade in Bible school an appropriate forum for that kind of proof.

    Children in the 4th grade who understand that something cannot come from nothing would seem to be one up on you.

    Actually, really good arguments are easily understood by children.

    Only a cynic like yourself would bristle at the prospect of a 4th grade child learning about first causes. In terms of taking someone to court,

  405. —David: In term of taking someone to court, I don’t need legal action to make my arguments. Its the atheists and atheist sympathizers like yourself who must sue to get heard.

  406. —-Diffaxial: “I certainly accept that there are true statements and there are statements in error (false statements), as reasonably verifiable by our employment of various conceptual (e.g. logical) and empirical tools. I don’t believe that commits me to the existence of “Error” and “Truth” as transcendent objects.”

    What is a true statement? —and can you give me a specific example?

  407. 408

    Diffaxial writes:

    And I also certainly reject Royce’s silly verbal trap, and continue to be mystified that anyone takes reasoning of that kind seriously.

    Hi Diffaxial,

    I do take Royce’s reasoning seriously, and I think it can be restated in a way that avoids any implication that error is a transcendent object.

    To wit: “At least one false statement exists.” That is, itself, a statement, and by the logic of Royce’s argument it cannot coherently be asserted to be false.

    That said, kairosfocus is nevertheless wrong to claim that such statements cannot be doubted. In order to make such a claim, he would have to know that the logic Royce employs is correct, with absolutely no possibility of error. kairosfocus does not know this, and so the statement must be held provisionally, not absolutely.

    One obvious counterargument would be to point out that if Royce’s logic is incorrect, then that incorrectness itself constitutes an instance of error, which means that Royce’s conclusion holds absolutely after all.

    The problem with this gambit is that for it to work, we would have to know that the foregoing meta-argument is absolutely correct, with no possibility of error.

    And so on, from meta-argument to meta-meta-argument, to meta-meta-meta-argument, ad infinitum.

    At some point kairosfocus must accept one of the meta-meta-…meta-arguments as true without being able to demonstrate its truth. In other words, he must accept it purely on faith, and he therefore might be wrong. His claim of absolute certainty is unjustified.

    The odd thing is that kairosfocus has already admitted the necessity of taking certain fundamentals on faith:

    Now, too, let us consider an abstract truth claim, say A. Why do we accept A?

    Because, in general, of evidence and/or argument, B. Immediately: why accept B? Thence, we see C, D, . . . leading to either an infinite regress (which is impossible for us), or else to a set of first plausibles, F. F, we may term, the faith-point. So, we see that our worldviews rest on points of faith, first plausibles that seem to us to ground our experience and understanding and knowing of the world — starting with the sense experiences and common-sense insights that for very good reason you routinely trust as you go about living. However, there are more elaborate faith-point beliefs, such as on the underlying nature of reality, ourselves in it, the origins of the world in which we live, its challenges, our hopes, and how we should then live. A world and life view, worldview for short.

    So we all live by faiths: the issue is, which one, why.

    So his own position is inconsistent. On the one hand, he wants to take certain beliefs as absolute certainties; on the other, he admits that they rest on “faith-points” that must be assumed and cannot be shown to be absolutely true.

  408. 409

    A second point: even if we could be sure that “error exists” is an absolute truth (and we cannot, as I explain above), kairosfocus has not shown how to derive other “self-evident truths” from it.

    Conclusions: KF’s argument is incorrect, as well as being inconsistent with his prior statements regarding “faith-points”, and even if it were correct, it cannot carry the burden he has placed on it of justifying other so-called “self-evident truths”.

  409. 410

    Diffaxial,

    ——”However, this newfound appreciation for the provisional, and the associated humility, is forgotten upon resuming your positions. Truths are again self-evident, conclusions are specified by definition, doors are closed a priori, there is nothing within our Self-Evident Truth to correct (because then it wouldn’t be Truth), and those who disagree are, by definition, irrational.”

    I reckon those of us who would disagree with your assessment would be irrational to you. I disagree with you wholeheartedly, but by your system of negating all of the above, I am still perfectly rational in doing so. Otherwise, if you claim that I’m irrational for disagreeing with you, then you’re setting the same trap that you’re begrudging KF for setting. You can’t have it both ways my friend.

  410. —serendipity: “At some point kairosfocus must accept one of the meta-meta-…meta-arguments as true without being able to demonstrate its truth. In other words, he must accept it purely on faith, and he therefore might be wrong. His claim of absolute certainty is unjustified.”

    Of course. That is the whole point. The self-evident truths that underlie science cannot be proven. One either accepts them as a rational person or rejects them as an irrational person.

    Since no one else has taken up my challenges, perhaps you will venture forth.

    Current conceptions of science displaced earlier conceptions of science on the strength of the principle that both concepts could not be true and false at the same time. Explain how the new replaces the old if, in some circumstances, a proposition can be both true and false at the same time. How does science correct itself with anything other than unchanging self-evident truths?

    To submit that effects can occur without causes is to abandon causality altogether. If it can happen in one context, there is no reason to believe it may not happen in another context. Under the circumstances, there would be no way of knowing where or when those exceptions apply.

    Tell me by which standard you decide when effects can occur without causes and when they cannot. Please explain why, if this principle can be abandoned once it cannot be abandoned a second time or third time. Under those circumstnaces, what good is the principle at all?

  411. 412

    Clive, “I reckon those of us who would disagree with your assessment would be irrational to you.” I can’t speak for others, but that is not the case for me. I hold with the great thinker Protagoras that “there are two logoi, or accounts, to be given about everything” (trans. Kerferd).

  412. Clive:

    I reckon those of us who would disagree with your assessment would be irrational to you. I disagree with you wholeheartedly, but by your system of negating all of the above, I am still perfectly rational in doing so. Otherwise, if you claim that I’m irrational for disagreeing with you, then you’re setting the same trap that you’re begrudging KF for setting. You can’t have it both ways my friend.

    I try to refrain from characterizing participants in discussions like this, and don’t believe I have above. So I don’t want to have it both ways.

  413. Serendipity:

    Hi Diffaxial,

    I do take Royce’s reasoning seriously, and I think it can be restated in a way that avoids any implication that error is a transcendent object.

    To wit: “At least one false statement exists.” That is, itself, a statement, and by the logic of Royce’s argument it cannot coherently be asserted to be false.

    Your version is better, as it removes the unjustified reification to which I referred in my post. But, as you say, it also removes the transcendent consequences. (And who needs proof that false statements exist?)

    The unjustified reification in the original version is obvious, as is the purpose of that reification: to move forthwith to “Truth exists” in the reified sense, do not pass Go and do not collect $200. I find those moves unjustified for the reasons I stated in my original post on this.

  414. BTW: Are human behaviors “effects?”

  415. 416

    StephenB writes:

    self-evident truths that underlie science cannot be proven. One either accepts them as a rational person or rejects them as an irrational person.

    The idea that time flows at the same rate everywhere and in every circumstance used to be considered a self-evident truth that only an irrational person could deny. Do you think Einstein was irrational to reject it?

    Current conceptions of science displaced earlier conceptions of science on the strength of the principle that both concepts could not be true and false at the same time. Explain how the new replaces the old if, in some circumstances, a proposition can be both true and false at the same time.

    I personally accept the law of non-contradiction even in the context of quantum mechanics. It is the law of the excluded middle that fails in QM, in my opinion. For example, if it is true that the wavefunction of Schrödinger’s cat remains uncollapsed, then I think it should be considered neither dead nor alive.

    How does science correct itself with anything other than unchanging self-evident truths?

    By reference to provisional beliefs rather than to “unchanging self-evident truths”.

    To submit that effects can occur without causes is to abandon causality altogether.

    If anyone has suggested that “effects can occur without causes” then I would disagree, for the simple reason that “every effect has a cause” is a tautology. It reduces (as I explained earlier) to stating that “all things that have causes have causes.” No tautology such as this is ever false unless the underlying logic itself is false.

    However, I do think that the evidence suggests that events, not effects, can happen without being fully caused.

    If it can happen in one context, there is no reason to believe it may not happen in another context…Please explain why, if this principle can be abandoned once it cannot be abandoned a second time or third time. Under those circumstnaces, what good is the principle at all?

    You seem to think that if a principle doesn’t hold in all cases that it means that the principle can be arbitrarily abandoned. Not so.

    In physics, the conservation of parity was once considered an inviolable principle. In the mid 1950′s, exceptions to this principle were discovered.

    According to you, physicists should have asked “why, if this principle can be abandoned once it cannot be abandoned a second time or third time. Under those circumstances, what good is the principle at all?”

    The answer, of course, is that the conditions under which the principle does and does not hold are specified. The same is true of the idea that events have causes.

  416. 417

    Diffaxial asks:

    BTW: Are human behaviors “effects?”

    My answer is “yes”. However, I’m interested in how KF and StephenB would respond. As I remarked to KF, StephenB and Vividbleau:

    It seems odd to me that you are uncomfortable with the idea of limited acausality, for as theists you seem comfortable with the idea of God as an uncaused cause and with the notion that both God and humans can make free choices which are themselves uncaused.

  417. Folks:

    Sigh!

    Diff’s largely distractive outburst at 402 above would be funny, if it were not so sadly revealing of the peril a rising tide of relativist irrationality, toxic rhetoric and outright contempt-laced incivility pose for our civilisation.

    I guess, too — since that is where he started [talk about a thinly veiled subtext of contempt!] — I now need to start with a footnote on his outrageous and utterly unwarranted — he could very easily have made a simple distinction if that was his real intent — fallacy of the complex question:

    I, the undersigned, freely confess to being a serial insomniac ["clap on the irons y'r honour; mebbe they will help me sleep . . . "], but have not now or at any time indulged in spousal abuse.

    So, I remark: one cannot stop what one has never started; i.e the answer to such complex question fallacies is obvious; and, I must immediately add: such an abusive question is utterly not parallel to the issue that “error exists” is self-evidently true, and that this claim is no mere verbal trick in support of allegedly dubious metaphysics. [In any case, I am on repeated, strong record in this blog and indeed in this thread, that worldviews as a whole (and scientific theories within them) are only warranted to best explanation, and that they all bristle with difficulties, so that the proper approach is comparative difficulties, not "proofs." Diff has raised a strawman; one laced with thinly veiled ad hominems.]

    Now, back on the merits of the issue.

    1 –> Is error about reality, or merely a matter of a term that appears in sentences? Let’s see: from toddlerhood [and echoing Aristotle as long since cited above], we know that the truth says of what is, that it is, and of what is not, that it is not. So also, error misses that mark of accuracy of claims to reality, whether by accident or by intent. (That was not so hard, was it; nor does it commit us to any “reification” etc., i.e. to any particular metaphysical scheme. Just to a longstanding, plain old common sense consensus. It may contribute, later on, to clarifying which metaphysics makes best sense, but that is another story for another day.)

    2 –> For now, we face a much more modest issue: “Error exists” is a candidate self-evident truth; which — note, onlookers — is precisely what Diff ducks addressing in his haste to rage over alleged complex questions and alleged verbal tricks. H’mm: Lost in the rhetoric of a red herring dragged across the track of the truth, then led out to a strawman soaked in a gratuitous and utterly irrelevant ad hominem and ignited to choke, poison and cloud the atmosphere. [BTW, notice also how hard some must labour to avoid the hint of a shadow of an implication that Truth exists (y'know, like propositions, numbers etc . . . and even, evil); and see, there is an easy way to see the difference! (Hint to Diff: it is a basic principle of serious civil dialogue that one speaks with reasonableness and takes a reasonable reading, not thinly veiled contempt or hostility, and twisting of issues into patent strawmen.) ]

    3 –> Next, do such statements that fail to be accurate to reality exist? ANS: Yes, by general consensus. Indeed, Diff is at pains to try to correct what he perceives as errors. (And BTW Diff, there are many who wish to infer from alleged acausal quantum phenomena to general acausality; per “blind ‘em with science.” Just as, it used to be common to try to argue from the theory of relativity to the position of radical relativism on both knowledge and ethics.)

    4 –> Is Josiah Royce making “a silly verbal trap”? Not at all, he — a most distinguished American Philosopher, BTW — was using the consensus about and the self-referential nature of the stated claim: “Error exists,” to bring out a key (and often overlooked) implication of said general consensus that error is a reality we have to face. (And, I have given an in-brief, 101 level summary.)

    5 –> Namely, to try to deny that error exists necessarily includes in its reference, the statement that “error exists” [if you will, as statements that are inaccurate to reality], so the attempted denial instantiates the claim; warranting it as undeniable.

    6 –> That is, it is an undeniably true statement that “error exists.” Putting that another way, denying that “statements exist that are inaccurate to reality” implies that this just last is an error, but in so doing frustrates the attempt by instead actually exemplifying its truth; i.e. ends up confirming it by immediate instantiation.

    7 –> Thus, we see a case of a statement that is undeniably true, on pain of self-referential absurdity. It is a true statement, so truth exists, indeed, objective [beyond merely mental or subjective] and I daresay absolute [pure and unadulterated] truth. It is not only objectively true that error exists, but it is absolutely and undeniably true that error exists.

    8 –> Also, the statement “error exists” is a case of warranted, true belief: knowledge in the strong sense exists, warranted as self-evident truth — on pain of immediate absurdity immediately following from the attempted denial that as a matter of reality not mere words, error exists. (Notice, self evident truths are those that once we — as minded creatures living in a common real world — understand, we see are not just so, but that they must be so; on pain of patent absurdity, inconsistencies of various kinds and confusion. As a rule as well, as Adler aptly pointed out in his sobering essay on little errors in the beginning, such truths contain terms that strongly interact; so that we must spiral in on understanding through interaction with real-world instances; for example, unless we understand parts and wholes together, we can understand neither. But, once we do, we see immediately that a finite whole is and must be more than any of its proper parts.)

    9 –> Moreover, the statement underscores the confusion that follows once we admit into our reasoning the idea that {A AND NOT-A} can both be true in the same sense at the same time. That is, it warrants the principle of non-contradiction by apt illustrative instance.

    10 –> Then, finally, let us zero -in on the truth that is shown as real-world “truth no 1″: error is real, especially for us finite and fallible thinkers. So, we need to be open to the possibility that we may in part be in error, and so need reliable guide-stars to get out of the morass of confusion triggered by errors.

    11 –> So, once we see that his case warrants to self-evidence on pain of absurdity, a cluster of key points and principles of common-sense, right reason; we find that we have some warranted, true beliefs — known, indeed, self-evident truths — that serve as guide stars that will help us. Truths that we may deny only on pain of descent into incoherence, confusion and irrationality. Truths that we would do well to heed.

    12 –> In this regard, let us observe carefully: in the end, even with qualifications, even while putting it in terms of “my truth” [i.e in effect "this seems true to me" . . . a characteristic problem of radical relativists is that they expect us to live by their personal standards without explaining why such personal truths are somehow generally applicable . . . ] and while still ducking the issue on the table, self evidence, Diff cannot deny the truth that error exists:

    I certainly accept that there are true statements and there are statements in error (false statements), as reasonably verifiable by our employment of various conceptual (e.g. logical) and empirical tools. I don’t believe that commits me to the existence of “Error” and “Truth” as transcendent objects.

    That should tell us a lot on the force of Josiah Royce’s point.

    GEM of TKI

  418. PS: Serendipity:

    I have pointed out that so soon as there are necessary causes at work in Quantum phenomena, they are not properly “acausal.”

    The notion that things begin to happen out of nowhere and nothing [space is not nothing, it has measurable properties and bubbles with energy . . . thus becomes a causal constraint, e.g. c is set by the measurable electrical and magnetic properties of space] for no reason with no dynamics [which can include forces of necessity, stochastic undirected contingency or intelligently directed contingency, in the general case], is not even magic; it is chaotically absurd; i.e. irrational.

    Why not take time to look specifically at the fire triangle example to see the reality and force of necessary (and not just sufficient) causal factors?

    Let’s put it this way: [a] nothing can begin to happen unless all necessary causal factors are in place, and [b] nothing will begin to happen unless sufficient causal factors are in place — which can include the overkill case. At the point of balance, we can define necessary and sufficient causal factors that are just enough to causally explain an effect. And, this obtains by force of self-evident logic, whether or not we have identified the sufficient causes or all necessary causes for any given case.

    Even, when we have reason to believe that our attempt to observe will itself become a sufficient cause to drastically and irretrievably alter the situation so that we may not observe the ab initio circumstance; as obtains thanks to the Heisenberg-Einstein principles of uncertainty on position-momentum and energy-time.

    GEM of TKI

  419. PPS: To expand a bit — unless a causally necessary factor is in place, the event will not happen. Unless causally sufficient factors are in place, it will not happen. In the case of a fire, fuel, oxidiser and heart are each necessary and jointly sufficient for a fire. Take any away, and the fire will go out (or never get started). Put all three in place and a fire WILL start.

  420. PPPS: Einstein showed that on experiential evidence, it is not incoherent to see that spatially limited observer experienced time — and particularly simultaneity of events — is relative to the observer and his frame of reference. It is not and has never been the case that on denial of the idea of common global God’s-eye time, incoherences immediately follow. (Try working out a physics in which there is a way in which absolute time exists, and see where that leads . . . [See, physicists can be a lot less doctrinaire than you think . . . ) So, given self-evident truth no 1, that error exists, that one may mistakenly think a particular claim is self-evidently true does not at all entail that all claimed self evident truths are not so. And indeed, a chain of warrant for a certain cluster of such truths is provided. All you have to do, now, is show the reasoning at 418 above to be incorrect . . .

  421. 422

    David Kellogg,

    ——”I hold with the great thinker Protagoras that “there are two logoi, or accounts, to be given about everything””

    Why not 3? Why not 17? Why not 42? And what’s the second account to be given about giving second accounts?

  422. 423

    kairosfocus,

    I’m heading to bed, so I won’t be able to respond in detail until tomorrow. However, I notice that you haven’t addressed the key points I raised in my earlier comments:

    1. Your argument is incorrect. As I explained above:

    At some point kairosfocus must accept one of the meta-meta-…meta-arguments as true without being able to demonstrate its truth. In other words, he must accept it purely on faith, and he therefore might be wrong. His claim of absolute certainty is unjustified.

    2. Your argument is also inconsistent with your earlier statements about “faith-points”.

    3. Despite your claim, you have not provided a “chain of warrant” linking “error exists” to other so-called “self-evident truths”. If you disagree, please quote the portion of your comment that supports your claim, in your opinion.

    4. You haven’t answered Diffaxial’s question:

    Are human behaviors “effects”?

    Please address these issues.

  423. 424

    Serendipity,

    If you study quantum physics you will see that the Uncertainty Principle did away with absolute mechanical necessity. Human minds exist in the present just as much as they are connected to the past and into the future. Consciosuness allows for the unique action of self awareness. Unpredictable particle events allow for action that is not traceable back to an exact mechanical action. Human behaviors are therefore in a state of flux. They are effects and causalities- and the casualties of their effects are not able to be fully formally expressed- as Godel showed with his incompleteness theorem we cannot prove where the original axioms being and end. Therefore mechanical necessity and “effect”- especially effect of the mind- may be an illusion. As human behaviors are connected to the mind they are at least partially liberated from any formal proof of their necessity as purely mechanical effects.

  424. Serendipity @ 416:

    To submit that effects can occur without causes is to abandon causality altogether

    If anyone has suggested that “effects can occur without causes” then I would disagree, for the simple reason that “every effect has a cause” is a tautology. It reduces (as I explained earlier) to stating that “all things that have causes have causes.” No tautology such as this is ever false unless the underlying logic itself is false.

    Diffaxial @ 173:

    “An effect cannot exist without a cause” is necessarily true in the same sense that “A doughnut cannot exist without a hole” is necessarily true (where a doughnut is defined as fried cake of sweetened dough baked into a ring.) It is literally the definition of an effect that it is “a change that is a result or consequence of an action or a cause.” Therefore it is true by definition that effects necessarily entail causes.

    Serendipity @ 416:

    However, I do think that the evidence suggests that events, not effects, can happen without being fully caused.

    Diffaxial @ 173:

    What does NOT follow is that “effect” is the only or the best descriptor of all events, because the dictionary can’t tell us whether and how the conceptual tool “cause and effect” actually attaches to objects in the world, or to the universe as a whole…Its status as “tautologically true,” the only sense in which it is “self-evidently true,” doesn’t help with that question.

  425. Serendipity:

    In brief:

    1 –> You are attacking a strawman. Self-evident truths are not proved (no-one has argued that they are proved — and “warrant” [cf. Plantinga etc.] is very different from proof), they are accepted as seen true on understanding (and on pain of absurdity on rejection). They are first principles of right reason, taken as start points for warranting other things.

    2 –> As you may see from me at 211 above as you allude to [and many other places, e.g. here], I am very familiar with the need for first plausibles as the feasible alternative to the absurdity of infinite regress.

    3 –> Such first plausibles include self-evident truths, in which we may safely repose full confidence. However, to construct a full worldview, we cannot just rely on such points, save as guide-stars that help us find and fix errors. So, please stop setting up a strawman. (And merely to assert an objection is not to warrant it or to shift the burden of proof. Such an attempt is classic selective hyperskepticism.)

    4 –> Next, look, again, at “error exists,” to see why we can be fully confident in its truth. Namely, the attempted denial promptly lands one in self-refutation and thus absurdity. On understanding that, as minded creatures living in a common world, we see that we have every good reason to repose full confidence in it and in the cognates that attach to it. That is an exercise in trust, indeed, but it is warranted (as opposed to blind) trust; warranted on pain of absurdity on its attempted denial. (Similarly, as one who — like millions of others — has met God in the face of the risen, living Christ, I have no deductive proof of the existence of God on premises acceptable to all rational entities; but my trust in him as a person I know as I know my mother is as well-warranted as any other belief I may have. I — and millions of others — can no more doubt the reality of God than the reality of my mother. Of course God’s existence is not self-evident; but it is evident to me — and millions of others — to full confidence. by contrast, my confidence in Newtonian dynamics is constrained by its known limitations, and my confidence in q-mech is provisional. But, I routinely risk life and limb on these theories; as do you — if you drive [in] a modern, computer controlled car. To have a faith point is not to have a point that is not warranted as reasonable. Other wise, ALL of us would be by definition unreasonable! [For, we all have faith points.])

    5 –> You also merely assert that I have not provided a chain of warrant from “error exists” to that it is an instance of truth so that truth exists, indeed, truth that is warranted — thus known in the strong sense, and that it exemplifies how self-contradictory claims end in absurdity and confusion. But as I have just summarised, you are looking at just such a chain of warrant in the face, as has been already given in more details above.

    6 –> Finally, bodily events — including human bodily (which includes the physical organ called the brain) events — are just that: things that have a beginning and so are caused. This, I pointed out already, in speaking of three main causal factors: mechanical necessity, stochastic undirected contingency, and intelligence.

    7 –> The intelligent mind or agent — per our self experience and observation of other similar creatures — evidently transcends the merely physical and acts in light of reason, volition and purpose. The attempted reduction of mind to matter in motion, a major and intellectually fashionable alternative in our day, ends in self referential incoherence. (Cf discussion