May 12 2017

Rational Arguments for God?

BuddhismI honestly don’t care what people choose to believe about unknowable speculations outside the realm of science and human knowledge. As long as they don’t use such belief as justification for public policy or to infringe on the rights of others, believe whatever you want.

However, once someone claims that they have scientific evidence for a supernatural belief, or can prove such a belief logically, then they have stepped into the arena of logic and science and their claims can be examined.

One such claim is that the existence of God can be proven through various logical arguments. I have never seen such an argument that I found even slightly compelling. They all have gaping holes in their logic. The latest incarnation comes from Robert Nelson, who appears to be promoting his 2015 book, “God? Very Probably.”  He claims to have five rational arguments that lead to the conclusion that God very probably exists. Let’s take a look.

Math

He writes:

Despite the many other enormous advances of modern physics, little has changed in this regard. As Wigner wrote, “The enormous usefulness of mathematics in the natural sciences is something bordering on the mysterious and there is no rational explanation for it.”

In other words, as something supernatural, it takes the existence of some kind of a God to make the mathematical underpinnings of the universe comprehensible.

Nelson makes a very muddied argument about math existing, or not existing, separate from physical reality. He argues that mathematicians discover mathematical laws without there ever being any physical analogue. Also, physicists discover mathematical relationships in nature, sometime before the math is worked out.

OK, so what? At no point does he actually address the obvious counterpoint. Math is nothing more than a logical system dealing with numbers. It seeks only to be internally valid. However, of course nature follows the laws of math, because nature cannot be internally inconsistent.

To take a very simple example, in the abstract 2+2=4. But that also means if I have two apples and then add two more apples, I have four apples. The reality of the apples has to obey the abstract math. All of Nelsons examples are exactly analogous to this situation. The only difference is that the math is much more complex.

He uses the example of gravity and calculus. Calculus is an abstract system dealing with numbers, and gravity is a force of nature. Calculus was developed, in fact, to help describe this new aspect of nature that existing math could not deal with.

Sometimes we observe how nature is behaving and then match the math to it. Kepler used accurate observations about the motion of planets and then came up with his mathematical laws of planetary motion to match those observations.

In a universe without a God, what would be the case? Would nature not follow math? How could that possibly work?

Dualism

He writes:

How can physical atoms and molecules, for example, create something that exists in a separate domain that has no physical existence, human consciousness?

It is a mystery that lies beyond science.

This is utter nonsense that I have already dealt with extensively. Nelson is just playing a word game, and relying on philosophers like Plato who struggled to understand the universe prior to any knowledge of science, and specifically neuroscience.

Consciousness is not itself a thing, it is a process of the brain.

He then doubles down on dualism, not sure if he is counting this as a separate argument:

Recognizing that he could not reconcile his own scientific materialism with the existence of a nonphysical world of human consciousness, a leading atheist, Daniel Dennett, in 1991 took the radical step of denying that consciousness even exists.

This is a straw man. Dennett is not simplistically saying that consciousness does not exist, but only that it is not a separate phenomenon of the universe that requires new physics or new dualist phenomena. Consciousness, rather, is simply what the brain does.

Looked at another way, Dennett is saying there is no hard problem of consciousness, it is made of all the easy problems. If you just keep following the activity of the brain it just keeps going, talking to itself, taking in information, etc. That ongoing process is consciousness. There is no separate thing required.

I think that Dennett is probably right, or at least he is close to the truth. Neuroscientists may discover some network in the brain that has some function essentially to consciousness that we are not currently taking into account. But that is the how, not the what. It is clear that consciousness is what the brain does.

Evolution

Here comes a real howler:

In recent years, however, traditional Darwinism – and later revised accounts of neo-Darwinism – have themselves come under increasingly strong scientific challenge. From the 1970s onwards, the Harvard evolutionary biologist Steven Jay Gould, for example, complained that little evidence could be found in the fossil record of the slow and gradual evolution of species as theorized by Darwin.

In 2011, the University of Chicago evolutionary biologist James Shapiro explained that, remarkably enough, many micro-evolutionary processes worked as though guided by a purposeful “sentience” of the evolving plant and animal organisms themselves – a concept far removed from the random selection processes of Darwinism.

With these developments bringing standard evolutionary understandings into growing question, the probability of a God existing has increased correspondingly.

In this argument Nelson is just an evolution denier, and shows he simply has no idea what he is talking about. Creationists have been trying to use Gould to doubt evolution for decades, and they have always been wrong. So Nelson is recycling an old argument debunked decades ago.

Gould was in no way casting doubt on common descent or natural selection. He was simply saying that the pattern of evolutionary change over time is more complex than first imagined by Darwin. Darwin assumed that species would slowly and continuously change over time as they adapted to their environment. That view, however, did not match the fossil record that increasingly came into focus.

Rather, the picture is more complex. Many species reach an equilibrium point with their environment and will be stable over a long period of time, even millions of years. But that equilibrium will eventually break, leading to migration, extinction, or evolutionary change. Small fringe populations adapted to the edge of the range of a species may suddenly find themselves adapted to the changing environment and then become dominant.

Some species do show gradual change over time. Some ecosystems are relatively stable then experience a rapid turnover. None of this complexity calls into question the more fundamental scientific conclusions of common descent or natural selection. In this argument Nelson exposes himself as an intellectual lightweight.

Regarding Shapiro, Nelson is cherry picking a fringe crank as if they are about to overturn a mainstream scientific theory. There are always fringe cranks. Jerry Coyne has been taking him down nicely.

“…there may be some people out there (including the science editor of PuffHo) who think that Shapiro’s lucubrations are scientifically supported. They aren’t: they’re the misguided ideas of a contrarian who thinks that he alone has the key to overturning the modern theory of evolution.”

Evolution is not coming into “growing question.” Creationists have been crying that for decades, and it is still just their own fevered delusion. Evolutionary theory is more solid than ever.

Culture

It gets worse:

In the Axial Age (commonly dated from 800 to 200 B.C.), world-transforming ideas such as Buddhism, Confucianism, the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle, and the Hebrew Old Testament almost miraculously appeared at about the same time in India, China, ancient Greece and among the Jews in the Middle East – these peoples then having little interaction with one another.

His argument is that changing ideas had a profound effect on our civilization, and he is not sure how those ideas spread so quickly, therefore God. Yes, this is a “god-of-the-gaps” argument from ignorance, and a particularly lame one.

There was greater interaction among ancient civilizations than most people realize. It also doesn’t take that much contact to have cultural contamination. Revolutionary ideas especially would tend to spread.

There was actually quite a lot of long-distance trade in the ancient world:

When the first civilizations did begin trading with each other about five thousand years ago, however, many of them got rich…and fast.

Trade was also a boon for human interaction, bringing cross-cultural contact to a whole new level.

There’s nothing miraculous about trade.

Religion proves itself

His last argument is that people believe stuff therefore God:

In several of my books, I have explored how Marxism and other such “economic religions” were characteristic of much of the modern age. So Christianity, I would argue, did not disappear as much as it reappeared in many such disguised forms of “secular religion.”

That the Christian essence, as arose out of Judaism, showed such great staying power amidst the extraordinary political, economic, intellectual and other radical changes of the modern age is a fifth rational reason for thinking – combined with the other four – that the existence of a God is very probable.

First he plays around with definition, making any secular philosophy into just another form of religion. There is an element of truth to this, but that very element serves to debunk his premise.

Neuroscientists do find that there is a general human tendency (not universal, but common) to desire a connection to something greater than ourselves. We have a desire for the profound. Further, when listening to a charismatic leader we actually turn off the critical thinking part of our brains and engage with the emotional and identity part of our brains.

Nelson makes the ultimately circular argument that God probably exists because we have an inherent tendency to believe in stuff. Of course, we believe in God or other ideologies because of that tendency. The real question is, why do we have that tendency?

Nelson just assumes it is because of God, but no deity is necessary to explain why our brains would work that way. Even a chimp will follow their leader into battle and do their death. This requires a certain amount of surrender to a charismatic leader for the benefit of the group.

Humans are a social species. We cooperate. We form social groups, and those social groups find cohesion in complex cultural and psychological phenomena. We are also tribal, and will often make war between tribes.

It is not difficult to imagine why selection would have favored groups made of individuals who would sacrifice for the idea of their group, on the say-so of their leaders, because they believe in something bigger than themselves.

I am not offering this line of reasoning as proof of anything. I am just pointing out that no god is necessary, and therefore it is not evidence that God probably exists, as Nelson claims.

Conclusion

Nelson’s arguments, as with all such arguments I have encountered, are exceptionally thin, logically challenged, and really only represent Nelson’s motivated reasoning.

His philosophy is childish, but when he ventures into anything resembling a factual claim it gets embarrassing. He clearly doesn’t understand neuroscience, evolution, or even history. He displays only the most superficial knowledge of these topics, what he can skim off the surface that seems to support his thesis.

He has not done what a serious scholar would do – to really dig deep and try to challenge his own arguments. In fact, offering arguments (like Gould) that have been thoroughly trashed decades ago is downright intellectually lazy. At the very least you should not put forward arguments that Google can destroy in minutes for anyone with the slightest interest.

281 responses so far

281 Responses to “Rational Arguments for God?”

  1. mumadaddon 12 May 2017 at 8:45 am

    I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that Michael Egnor will grace us with his winning presence on this thread. Also, this quote could quite easily apply to him:

    He clearly doesn’t understand neuroscience, evolution, or even history. He displays only the most superficial knowledge of these topics, what he can skim off the surface that seems to support his thesis.

    He has not done what a serious scholar would do – to really dig deep and try to challenge his own arguments. In fact, offering arguments (like Gould) that have been thoroughly trashed decades ago is downright intellectually lazy. At the very least you should not put forward arguments that Google can destroy in minutes for anyone with the slightest interest.

    He has in fact used that very misrepresentation of Gould.

  2. Justin Wilsonon 12 May 2017 at 8:56 am

    I believe the core of Nelson’s reasoning was missed. He asked himself the question, “how can I sell as many books with the least amount of work?” Writing this garbage was the answer.

  3. n0n4m3on 12 May 2017 at 9:50 am

    Oh, the beauty of apple maths….
    (-4) (apples) * (-4) (apples) = 16 apples.

    “The reality of the apples has to obey the abstract math.”

    If I am very hungry, I have 1 imaginary apple, and can add it to real apples…

    hehehe

  4. Ian Wardellon 12 May 2017 at 9:50 am

    That’s right Steve, stick the boot into those who advance the most naive simplistic arguments. I’m not sure what you guys think this proves..

    I was going to share the article in question yesterday on facebook, until I read it. But there’s much better stuff out there.

  5. Ian Wardellon 12 May 2017 at 9:52 am

    Given that reality exhibits patterns, it should be able to be mathematical described. However, it is not clear why the mathematics should be of such an elegant kind.

  6. mumadaddon 12 May 2017 at 10:09 am

    Ian,

    ” However, it is not clear why the mathematics should be of such an elegant kind.”

    What do you mean — which particular maths are ‘elegant’ and what do you mean by ‘elegant’?

  7. bachfiendon 12 May 2017 at 10:15 am

    n0n4m3,

    A negative number isn’t an imaginary number (which is a real number multiplied by i, the square root of negative 1).

    I also don’t think that you can multiply apples by apples and get a result of apples. You can only add apples to apples to get apples.

    So your example should be (-4)(apples) + (-4)(apples) = (-8)(apples).

    In other words, if you owe someone 4 apples, and then you owe someone else another 4 apples, then you owe a total of 8 apples, which makes perfect sense.

  8. Lobsterbashon 12 May 2017 at 10:39 am

    mumadadd,

    Of course Egnor will weigh in. He’s like a zombie dead horse that keeps returning for more beatings.

  9. BillyJoe7on 12 May 2017 at 10:40 am

    bchfiend, I think you misread n0n4m3’s comment.

  10. BillyJoe7on 12 May 2017 at 10:42 am

    Steven, I think Ian is appealing to you not to stick the boot into him. 😀

  11. Steven Novellaon 12 May 2017 at 10:44 am

    Ian – I addressed it because it’s going around social media.
    Elegance is in the eye of the beholder. The better question might be – why does math seem elegant to us?

    What would non-elegant math look like.

    The multiplying negatives example is just more abstract, but still applies.

    If four people don’t not give you four apples, you do indeed have 16 apples.

    The lesson here is not to use mathematical examples you don’t understand.

  12. BillyJoe7on 12 May 2017 at 10:44 am

    mumadadd, Ian is saying that mathematical equations that reflect reality are elegant therefore god.

  13. mumadaddon 12 May 2017 at 10:48 am

    BJ7 — yeah, that was my expectation; I just wondered if he’d spell it out explicitly.

  14. realsteveon 12 May 2017 at 10:48 am

    Let’s see, if I had 4 IOUs each for 4 apples, and give them all to you. So now you owe me 16 apples. A little tortured, but demonstrates how negative numbers multiply.
    Now imagine I have 2 apples…

  15. mumadaddon 12 May 2017 at 10:56 am

    Lobsterbash,

    “Of course Egnor will weigh in.” I am beginning to wonder if Steve Novella is trying to induce ME to have a stroke: posts on Jesus, AGW, and now god all in the space of a couple of weeks. ME will be apoplectic.

  16. Steven Novellaon 12 May 2017 at 11:02 am

    People tend to assume more deliberate agency than is warranted, and tend to ignore situational or external factors. I know you are joking, but the underlying premise is common.

    In reality I mostly write about whatever pops up in my feed that I find interesting.

  17. mumadaddon 12 May 2017 at 11:10 am

    Steve — yes, I was totally joking. I definitely don’t think you’re choosing topics to induce ME to anything, even a hissy-fit (though they are entertaining to watch). 🙂

  18. edamameon 12 May 2017 at 11:14 am

    It sounds like the author is working under a false dichotomy of materialism versus theism, which is common among the Creationist types. OTOH, being charitable, it is very important culturally for the Creationists to refute materialism because they feel it is the root of many of our cultural ills.

    I know lots of atheists who are Platonists about mathematical objects. If the number one is an object with certain properties like oddness, and this number and its properties are not part of the physical world, how does that bear on gods? There is no logical connection.

    Brilliant, highly skeptical philosophers have advocated for abstract objects, such as Bertrand Russell, Hilary Putnam, and WVO Quine. The indispensability arguments for the existence of abstracta are legion, and go way back:

    https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/mathphil-indis/

    The alternatives to Platonism, some form of nominalism or conceptualism, tend to not be popular among working mathematicians and logicians (i.e., people like Russell, Putnam, and Quine). They want to feel like they are discovering *truths*, not relations among contingently constructed scribbles (nominalism) or human cognitive structures (conceptualism). Within philosophy, anyway, it’s considered an unsettled debate, but it has nothing to do with gods. It’s a red herring.

    Similarly, many (if not the majority) of property dualists like Chalmers are not theists. Most hard-core Christians tend to be substance dualists, which is the worst position to hold because it has pretty much already been empirically refuted (as much as Ptolemaic astronomy anyway).

    Interestingly, one of the big problems with Platonism about mathematical objects is the same as the problem with substance dualism: how is the physical brain supposed to interact with this nonphysical abstract objects like the number 1? How are we to engage with this “third realm” of abstracta, and make discoveries about it? How would the world be any different if Platonism were false?

  19. Skepticoon 12 May 2017 at 11:22 am

    How can physical atoms and molecules, for example, create something that exists in a separate domain that has no physical existence, human consciousness?

    Nelson is making a common mistake. His argument is that consciousness is “not physical” (ie operates in some realm outside the brain), and therefore is beyond science. To demonstrate this, he asks, rhetorically, how can the physical brain create something (consciousness) that is not physical? But this is circular reasoning. In his argument to show that consciousness is not physical, he assumes his conclusion with the premise that consciousness is not physical.

    Circular reasoning, begging the question – whatever you want to call it. It is astonishing just how many people make this argument without realizing its fundamental flaw.

  20. SteveAon 12 May 2017 at 11:34 am

    “In reality I mostly write about whatever pops up in my feed that I find interesting.”

    Just like my horse and his food blog…

  21. Sophieon 12 May 2017 at 11:55 am

    Oh great Egnor,

    Domine deus meus. Guardian of the holy. Lion amongst sheep, I invoke you. Mighty archangel. May your Glorious majesty bless this haunted thread. Rise and be heard, for you are the invincible one. The voice of the unheard. We cherish the wake of your turbulence.

    By the dreadful terror, which shall not be spoken, by the horrific beasts which doom our world. I conjure your spirit, come and show yourself, pure of form, graceful in elegance.

    Come to my aid.

  22. mumadaddon 12 May 2017 at 12:03 pm

    Sophie, did you remember to throw tumour enchanted chicken entrails on the floor?

  23. mumadaddon 12 May 2017 at 12:03 pm

    *your* enchanted chicken entrails…

  24. Pete Aon 12 May 2017 at 12:12 pm

    “(-4) (apples) * (-4) (apples) = 16 apples”

    Nope: 4 apples times 4 apples = 16 apples², not 16 apples; and the square root of 16 is ±4, not +4.

  25. Ian Wardellon 12 May 2017 at 12:18 pm

    edamame
    “[Substance dualism] has pretty much already been empirically refuted”.

    What empirical evidence do you believe refutes it?

    It’s in a better position than all types of materialism anyway since they’re all unintelligible. So somewhat worse than substance dualism.

    However, I’m happy to espouse idealism if I were to be convinced that substance dualism has problems.

  26. Ian Wardellon 12 May 2017 at 12:21 pm

    Skeptico said:

    “he assumes his conclusion with the premise that consciousness is not physical”.

    Since consciousness has no material properties, what is meant by labelling it as physical? By *definition* consciousness is non-physical.

  27. Skepticoon 12 May 2017 at 12:40 pm

    Since consciousness has no material properties,

    And your evidence for this is….?

    what is meant by labelling it as physical?

    Where did I label consciousness as physical?

    By *definition* consciousness is non-physical.

    So your argument to show that consciousness is non-physical, is to say that you’ve defined consciousness as non-physical? To repeat my earlier argument (that apparently went over your head), that is a purely circular argument.

    Please provide an argument that shows consciousness is non-physical. Your argument cannot be anything in the form: ‘consciousness is defined as non-physical, therefore consciousness is non-physical.’

  28. SimonWon 12 May 2017 at 12:41 pm

    I’ve made the argument for a while that in Maths (and Logic) we use are the schemes that work.

    Mathematicians and Philosophers have long generated different maths systems and different logics.

    Non-euclidean geometry is the poster child of these schemes, but there are infinitely many such schemes.

    Because we are in a world where 2 apples and 2 apples makes 4 apples, a maths systems where 2+2 isn’t 4 isn’t useful for counting Apples.

    It is possible to imagine 2 clouds in the shape of an apple making a bigger cloud in the shape of a banana, and in that world people would favour the maths where 1 apple + 1 apple = 1 banana.

    There are things that don’t follow these simple rules, like animals that tend to reproduce, but because they are made of smaller things which do obey the rules, the rules still help up understand the world.

    I think there is a deeper question of why is there is any order in the Universe, but it suffers from anthropic principle like weaknesses, if the universe didn’t have order, at least temporarily in the bit I am in, I couldn’t possibly exist to ask the question.

    On the other hand most of the Universe is empty, sterile and cold, as befits a world created by a loving and benevolent creator. Of course our bit is comfortable or we wouldn’t be here to have the discussion.

  29. Eric is Lateon 12 May 2017 at 12:50 pm

    omg marry me

  30. Eric is Lateon 12 May 2017 at 12:55 pm

    4 * 4 = 16, not 16 squared.
    4 * 4 = 4 squared.
    (If there’s a way to type exponents on my iphone I am unaware of it)

  31. Kabboron 12 May 2017 at 12:58 pm

    Just out of curiosity, is thinking non-physical in the same way that jumping is non-physical? It’s not a thing, just something the person does? The ‘physicality’ of body functions seems to be more of a semantic game than an argument for or against dualism. You see me jumping, I see you thinking about me jumping.

  32. Ian Wardellon 12 May 2017 at 1:06 pm

    Skeptico
    “Please provide an argument that shows consciousness is non-physical. Your argument cannot be anything in the form: ‘consciousness is defined as non-physical, therefore consciousness is non-physical.’”

    If something is the case *by definition*, then no argument is required or is necessary.

    Consciousness has no material properties i.e it has no mass, no electric charge, no position, no dimensions. So what is mean by asserting it is material?

  33. Sophieon 12 May 2017 at 1:19 pm

    Ian Wardell,

    With all due respect your arguments are very weak. You flip back and forth from attacking materialism to claiming consciousness is non-physical.

    Non-physical and immaterial are not the same thing. Consciousness can be an emergent property of a mostly material enterprise and still be physical.

    Also physicalism takes into account a non-traditional consciousness. When I first met you in the long term memory comment thread you kept saying that you were attacking a 17th century definition of materialism. Well. To save everyone 300 comments. Physicalism is the relevant modern philosophy. And it totally can explain consciousness.

  34. Pete Aon 12 May 2017 at 1:26 pm

    I’ve never been able to understand the meaning of the terms “abstract” and “abstract objects” from a philosophical perspective. My work in applied science has always relied heavily on models which use clearly-defined abstraction layers[1] therefore I baulk at wooly uses of the terms.

    [1] Perhaps the most well known model which uses abstraction layers is the Open Systems Interconnection model:
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/OSI_model

  35. Skepticoon 12 May 2017 at 1:39 pm

    If something is the case *by definition*, then no argument is required or is necessary.

    OK, I’ll play. Consciousness *by definition* is physical. That means consciousness is physical and no argument is required or is necessary to support that claim. Hey, this is easy.

    You see, that’s the problem with “proving” something by definition. Anyone can literally prove anything.

    I note that you cannot provide an argument that shows consciousness is non-physical. As someone once said, that which is asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.

    Consciousness has no material properties i.e it has no mass, no electric charge, no position, no dimensions.

    Pure assertion backed by nothing.

    So what is mean by asserting it is material?

    Where did I assert that consciousness is material? (Except in my rhetorical response above, obviously.)

  36. Pete Aon 12 May 2017 at 1:56 pm

    Sophie,

    Dr Novella wrote in his article “Consciousness is not itself a thing, it is a process of the brain.” with which I agree.

    It seems to me that some processes are obviously physical, such as changing the wheel on a car because the tire has a puncture; whereas some highly-complex processes are usually described in only abstract terms because this makes them far easier to conceptualize than would describing their underlying physical process(es).

    I’m wondering if these two very different ways of describing processes frequently leads to arguments about materialism, dualism, science, etc. I’d appreciate your feedback.

  37. RickKon 12 May 2017 at 2:10 pm

    Steve said: “People tend to assume more deliberate agency than is warranted”

    In terms of explaining natural events, this is a assumption that has a staggering failure rate throughout history.

    People have spent millennia assuming supernatural agency for all manner of natural events, only to have the supernatural explanation replaced with some unguided natural explanation.

    If your starting assumption before you open your eyes is that the bear will be pink, and if after looking at thousands of bears your assumption is proved wrong every time, eventually the only reasonable response is to change your starting assumption.

    It’s this consistency of failure that makes the “God” assumption so unreasonable. How many more examples of “natural phenomena having natural causes” must people see before they change the starting assumption?

  38. Creeping Malaiseon 12 May 2017 at 2:12 pm

    “Steve — yes, I was totally joking. I definitely don’t think you’re choosing topics to induce ME to anything, even a hissy-fit (though they are entertaining to watch). ”

    I’ve been wondering all week if Steve’s just trolling Egnor at this point 😀

  39. michaelegnoron 12 May 2017 at 2:19 pm

    … so much to say, and so little time.

    First, Steven said:

    [Consciousness is not itself a thing, it is a process of the brain.]

    A fine example of verbal content without mental content. What could you possibly mean?

    That consciousness doesn’t exist–only the brain exists? That’s eliminative materialism.

    That consciousness is a function of the brain, like software runs on hardware? That’s computer functionalism, which is a kind of dualism. It’s wrong, but it is dualism.

    That consciousness is the same thing as the brain, understood under a different aspect? That’s identity theory, of which there are several types, all of which have been pretty well discarded over the past half century, for good reason.

    ‘Consciousness is not itself a thing, it is a process of the brain.” is just gibberish. If you seriously mean to argue it, you need to explain just what you mean.

    And we haven’t even gotten to God…

  40. hardnoseon 12 May 2017 at 2:21 pm

    “Regarding Shapiro, Nelson is cherry picking a fringe crank as if they are about to overturn a mainstream scientific theory. There are always fringe cranks. Jerry Coyne has been taking him down nicely.”

    Shapiro is not a fringe crank. Coyne and Shapiro are on opposite sides of the controversy, and neither side has scientific proof. Coyne is a fanatical leader of Dawkins’ New Atheists, so there is no reason to take his opinion as scientific fact.

    Denying that evolution was caused by chance and natural selection is NOT denying evolution! Using the word “evolution” to mean Darwinian evolution is trickery.

    The theory of evolution was around long before Darwin hypothesized about what may have caused it. We have no reason to assume Darwin’s theory explains evolution adequately.

  41. hardnoseon 12 May 2017 at 2:26 pm

    Nelson’s arguments do sound stupid, at least as they are described in this post.

    It does not follow that arguments against God are any better.

  42. michaelegnoron 12 May 2017 at 2:26 pm

    Regarding proofs for God, my own view is that there are proofs and there are demonstrations. By demonstrations I mean things that logically fall short of proofs, but are convincing to reasonable people who aren’t predisposed to atheism.

    I consider Nelson’s arguments to be demonstrations–any reasonable person who was not closed to God’s existence would look at his arguments and say “yea, there does seem to be pretty good reason to imfer transcendence, and therefore God.’

    As far as proofs–rigorous logical arguments– go, there are a number of them, including Aquinas’ Five Ways, the Ontological Argument, the Moral Argument, the Argument from Universals (from St. Augustine), the Rationalist Proof, which is the argument for God from the principle of sufficient reason.

    They are all strong proofs, and I think they are conclusive to any reasonable person who is open to logic on the question of God’s existence.

  43. mumadaddon 12 May 2017 at 2:35 pm

    Yay! Here he is!

  44. Sophieon 12 May 2017 at 2:35 pm

    Pete A,

    I don’t think he’s talking about using abstraction to make it easier to conceptualize. I think he literally means it’s just what does.

    Abstraction: In the tire example, the abstract would be to say “the punctured tire ruined my day.” It didn’t really ruin anything, it just lost air. But I simplified the technical aspects to describe how it impacted my day.

    When we describe consciousness in abstract ways we talk about feelings of love and qualia. But I think Steven sides closer to Dennett and just denies that qualia exist.

    I think Steven was saying that consciousness is just the process and that the fluffy philosophical abstract doesn’t really exist or it’s not relevant to the specific discussion. I’m sure he feels love, but I don’t think he would use love to argue for some magical understanding of consciousness. If that makes any sense.

    In the tire example: Consciousness is more like the air escaping the tire, than the ruined day.
    The puncture is just an opening that allows for air to pass from a high pressure area to a lower pressure area. It follows physical laws.
    Much like an action potential traveling down an axon, and other properties of the wetware of your brain. It’s just physical stuff that does things. The emergent property from the sum of electro-chemical activity, and all physical processes including those presently unknown, is consciousness. The brain does that
    stuff, so what it does is this process known as consciousness.

    About the two different ways of thinking leading to arguments I would say yes. But there is just a lot of intellectual dishonesty, like look at Ian Wardell, he conflates material with physical, he just doesn’t know what he is talking about. There’s many physical things that are not material. Modern Philosophers moved onto physicalism, precisely because traditional 17th century materialism that Ian attacks, has so many problems. So imagine someone like Ian but with multiple PhDs, from prestigious universities and you have the anti-materialist position today. They start with the same simplified and abstract concepts that Ian starts with but they write an Ivy League defense.

    Like in the Dennett vs Chalmers dust up. Chalmers clearly is very intelligent but he hides behind tautologies and many unjustified assumptions. Chalmers is the philosopher of mind for Deepak and new age people. Dennett is for hardcore science nerds. That’s just the way it breaks down. Chalmers routinely writes takedowns of materialism, talks about idealism like it might be real, and flirts with so many bad scientific ideas.

    I would say be careful, there are some really intelligent people out there who write extensively on consciousness, and they are totally full of crap. It won’t be revealed that they are wrong for many years, and you need to do a lot of research before you can truly understand their arguments. In my experience you don’t read thousands of pages by Chalmers and walk away thinking he is wrong. Humans have a need to justify the time they invested into projects.

    I ranted too much I think. Read this if you are interested.

    http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/03/27/daniel-dennetts-science-of-the-soul

  45. Skepticoon 12 May 2017 at 2:41 pm

    Michael Egnor, where would you be without Argument From Ignorance? (Also known as God of the Gaps – and I know you don’t understand why this is a fallacy although it has been explained to you numerous times.)

    I see you also like arguments from definitions, like Ian Wardell, above. For example the Ontological Argument (short version: I define god as something that must exist, therefore god exists.), which I deconstructed here:

    http://skeptico.blogs.com/skeptico/2009/08/ontological-argument-for-god-rebuttal.html

  46. Sophieon 12 May 2017 at 2:44 pm

    Egnor,

    My summoning ritual worked! Next time I’ll add eye of newt and I should be able to perfect this ritual.

    Nelson cherry picked those arguments and they are filled with errors. They only demonstrate that he doesn’t know what he talks about. This is the problem with theists, they side with anyone who supports them, no matter how flawed they are.

  47. RickKon 12 May 2017 at 2:50 pm

    I knew we’d get to Aquinas.

    If you start with the assumption of “God”, then Aquinas offers 5 ways to support that assumption, 3 of which are flavors of the same argument. Aquinas does not prove “God” in the absence of the starting assumption of “God”.

    Aquinas is absolutely useless and meaningless in this discussion. Time to move past the 13th Century and apply some arguments developed by people who knew the Earth wasn’t the center of the universe.

    I wish Aquinas was alive today. He was a clever guy and an avid reader. He’d love the knowledge we enjoy today that he lacked in his day. And he’d scoff at the ossified dogmatists that parrot obsolete arguments and yearn for a more ignorant time.

  48. michaelegnoron 12 May 2017 at 2:50 pm

    [My summoning ritual worked! Next time I’ll add eye of newt and I should be able to perfect this ritual.]

    I did feel an odd compulsion to check Steven’s blog around the time that comment was posted…

    😉

  49. mumadaddon 12 May 2017 at 2:51 pm

    The ontological argument? Being able to conceive of the greatest possible being means it exists… To paraphrase Matt Dillahunty: surely a being that can be the greatest possible without even existing is more impressive. (And, sadly, more pervasive in its influence).

    The greatest possible chicken nuggets in my house… I checked — there are no chicken nuggets! 🙁

  50. Sophieon 12 May 2017 at 2:52 pm

    Egnor,

    Well I just calculated that You post around lunch time, and you haven’t posted in a few days. So I guessed I’d have a statistically sound chance of predicting your entrance. And given the subject matter it was almost guaranteed, either that or you were on vacation lol.

  51. mumadaddon 12 May 2017 at 2:53 pm

    Michael,

    “I did feel an odd compulsion to check Steven’s blog around the time that comment was posted…”

    That could have been my ritual involving chicken entrails and reading the lord’s prayer backwards. Given that mine is more difficult, I feel confident that it was that which arose you from your slumber.

  52. michaelegnoron 12 May 2017 at 3:08 pm

    muma:

    Re the Ontological Argument:

    It goes like this:

    1) It is possible that an all-surpassingly great being exists.

    2) An all-surpassingly great being exists in one possible world.

    3) If an all-surpassingly great being exists in one possible world, it exists in all possible worlds.

    4) Our world is a possible world.

    5) An all-surpassingly great being exists.

    6) This is what all men call God.

    An argument holds if the premises are true and the logic is sound. The logic of 2-6 is sound. The only real point of attack on this argument is the 1- the premiss, which I think is unassailable.

    People have been trying to pick apart this argument since St. Anslem, without much success. It may be unsatisfying, but it is devilishly difficult to refute.

    Interestingly, Aquinas didn’t accept it, because he believed that the Divine Attributes were such that we could not know them in such a way that we could reason to His existence.

  53. mumadaddon 12 May 2017 at 3:10 pm

    “1) It is possible that an all-surpassingly great being exists.”

    How did you get to this? Can you demonstrate that physics allows for it?

  54. Karl Withakayon 12 May 2017 at 3:10 pm

    Ian Wardell on 12 May 2017 at 1:06 pm

    “If something is the case *by definition*, then no argument is required or is necessary.”

    Ian Wardell is, *by definition*, wrong. I win.

  55. mumadaddon 12 May 2017 at 3:11 pm

    “2) An all-surpassingly great being exists in one possible world.”

    How did you get to this? See 1.

  56. Sophieon 12 May 2017 at 3:11 pm

    Egnor,

    As fans of science, we know many good arguments for it. But we also know about pseudoscience and bad arguments.

    You love theology right? Can you give me a list of bad Christian theological arguments?

  57. Karl Withakayon 12 May 2017 at 3:14 pm

    “1) It is possible that an all-surpassingly great being exists.”

    Unsupported assertion.

    Try this:

    1) It is possible that no all-surpassingly great being exists.

    2) No all-surpassingly great being exists in one possible world.

    3) If no all-surpassingly great being exists in one possible world, it doesn’t exist in all possible worlds.

    4) Our world is a possible world.

    5) No all-surpassingly great being exists.

    6) This is what all men and women call no God.

  58. Karl Withakayon 12 May 2017 at 3:18 pm

    I consider Nelson’s arguments to be demonstrations–any reasonable person who was already predisposed to God’s existence would look at his arguments and say “yea, there does seem to be pretty good reason to infer transcendence, and therefore God.” ergo Jesus is risen.

  59. Karl Withakayon 12 May 2017 at 3:23 pm

    Regarding proofs and demonstrations for God, my own view is that there are things only convincing to people who are predisposed to theism.

  60. Karl Withakayon 12 May 2017 at 3:24 pm

    Typo in 2 comments up: “I consider Nelson’s arguments to be demonstrations–any person who was already predisposed to God’s existence would look at his arguments and say “yea, there does seem to be pretty good reason to infer transcendence, and therefore God.” ergo Jesus is risen.”

  61. Skepticoon 12 May 2017 at 3:35 pm

    Egnor:

    You forgot to show that this premise is true:

    2) An all-surpassingly great being exists in one possible world.

    By your own definition then, this argument does not hold.

  62. Skepticoon 12 May 2017 at 3:36 pm

    “People have been trying to pick apart this argument since St. Anslem, without much success. It may be unsatisfying, but it is devilishly difficult to refute. ”

    Actually, childishly easy to refute.

  63. Pete Aon 12 May 2017 at 3:52 pm

    Sophie,

    Thank you very much indeed for taking the time to write your thoughtful reply, and for providing the link to the article by Joshua Rothman.

    My sincerest thanks and best wishes,
    Pete

  64. Sophieon 12 May 2017 at 4:08 pm

    Pete A,

    No problem. I think you will like it, it even addresses some of the stuff theists get stuck on forever. Like this:

    Some objects are mere assemblages of atoms to us, and have only a physical dimension; when we think of them, he says, we adopt a “physicalist stance”—the stance we inhabit when, using equations, we predict the direction of a tropical storm. When it comes to more sophisticated objects, which have purposes and functions, we typically adopt a “design stance.” We say that a leaf’s “purpose” is to capture energy from sunlight, and that a nut and bolt are designed to fit together. Finally, there are objects that seem to have beliefs and desires, toward which we take the “intentional stance.” If you’re playing chess with a chess computer, you don’t scrutinize the conductive properties of its circuits or contemplate the inner workings of its operating system (the physicalist and design stances, respectively); you ask how the program is thinking, what it’s planning, what it “wants” to do. These different stances capture different levels of reality, and our language reveals which one we’ve adopted. We say that proteins fold (the physicalist stance), but that eyes see (the design stance). We say that the chess computer “anticipated” our move, that the driverless car “decided” to swerve when the deer leaped into the road.
    DANIEL DENNETT’S SCIENCE OF THE SOUL. New Yorker.

  65. Pete Aon 12 May 2017 at 4:09 pm

    “Re the Ontological Argument:
    It goes like this:
    1) It is possible that …”

    Is it logically possible that a human could beat the current high jump record by 50 metres? Yes!

    Is it physically possible that a human could beat the current high jump record by 50 metres? No, not on planet Earth!

  66. bachfiendon 12 May 2017 at 4:54 pm

    Michael,

    1. It is possible that unicorns exist.

    2. Unicorns exist in one possible world.

    3. If unicorns exist in one possible world, they exist in all possible worlds.

    4. Our world is possible world.

    5. Unicorns exist.

    6. This is what all men call quadruped ungulates with a single horn.

    Yeah! I’m going down to go down to my local pet store to put in my order. I’ve always wanted my own pet unicorn.

    Premise (1) is unassailable. People have been writing about unicorns for centuries if not millennia. And the logic of (2) to (6) is sound, so therefore unicorns must exist, right?

    Somehow, I think that there’s a flaw in the logic of the basic argument, even accepting that ‘world’ actually means ‘universe’ and ‘all possible worlds’ means some version of the Multiverse – which you deny as existing.

    Your ‘all-surpassingly great being’ could possibly be an extremely technologically advanced extraterrestrial intelligence in a galaxy ten billion light years from the Milky Way Galaxy, which – if we ever met them – would have powers we couldn’t understand and would regard as ‘God-like, so at best you’ve ‘proved’ the existence of super ETIs in all universe.

  67. Sophieon 12 May 2017 at 5:01 pm

    Egnor has a lot in common with pseudoscientists and conspiracy theoriests. They love to use confirmation bias to collect evidence and arguments. They can argue for days and still have more to say. The problem is their standards are so low that any positive result is evidence. They can’t give you examples of bad Christian theologians, because none exist, anyone who says God is real, is to be championed far and wide as an brave intellectual.

    One of the biggest possible blows science can deal to Aquinas’ 13th century arguments is just to show how dramatically the idea of cause and effect has changed. I’ve brought this up before and I’ve yet to see any creationist acknowledge how central causality is to their arguments and how that concept has changed so much since (Aquinas) Aristotle’s day.

    The definition of time itself has changed. We no longer live in world with simple cause and effect. The fabric of reality now must include some solution for all the problems we have discovered with traditional causality. All things Aristotle and Aquinas did not see coming. There world was much simpler, time was an easy concept.

  68. BenjaminLon 12 May 2017 at 5:03 pm

    I never liked Logic as a subject; in fact it was the only college level course I ever failed, but this seems very weak to me. I AM though a big fan of Alternate History and fully understand the concept of Alien Space Bats.

    Re the Ontological Argument:
    It goes like this:
    1) It is possible that an all-surpassingly great being exists.

    Perhaps, but it would almost certainly require major changes to the laws of physics as they exist in this “reality.”

    2) An all-surpassingly great being exists in one possible world.

    Why? You can have an infinite number of apples without a single banana being involved.

    3) If an all-surpassingly great being exists in one possible world, it exists in all possible worlds.

    Again, Why? There is no direct evidence for any sort of “all-surpassingly great being” existing within our observable reality so I see no reason this assertion is at all valid.

    4) Our world is a possible world.

    Sure, we exist. I’ll give him that.

    5) An all-surpassingly great being exists.

    We’re just invoking Alien Space Bats at this point aren’t we?

    6) This is what all men call God.

    Which god? I might play along if you meant all gods, but I’m betting you only mean this to work in respect to your special god.

  69. Pete Aon 12 May 2017 at 5:14 pm

    “[Sophie] Egnor has a lot in common with pseudoscientists and conspiracy theoriests.”

    Plus a vested interest in non-materialist neuroscience:

    Non-materialist neuroscience is a reactionary, anti-science movement, like creationism and intelligent design. Rather than a hypothesis that leads to predictions and experiments, it is simply a catalog of things modern neuroscience supposedly cannot yet explain.

    Computational modeling and non-invasive imaging of living brains has allowed researchers to begin describing how complex thought emerges from the firing patterns of neurons. Modern neuroscience is rapidly reducing much of human thought, emotion and behavior into component pieces of neuronal interactions.

    When materialist causes become both necessary and sufficient to explain all of human thought then parsimony dictates that references to a soul or other supernatural entities can be tossed out. In a way, neuroscience is the death knell of dualism.

    The primary proponents of the movement are Michael Egnor [my emphasis], a neurosurgeon and recent contributor to the Discovery Institute blog, Denyse O’Leary, a Canadian “journalist” who runs her own blog dedicated to non-materialist neuroscience and likes to copy and paste these entries over on William Dembski’s blog as well, and Mario Beauregard, the author with O’Leary of a recent book on the subject of non-materialist neuroscience: The Spiritual Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Case for the Existence of the Soul.

    http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Non-materialist_neuroscience

  70. Sophieon 12 May 2017 at 5:32 pm

    I’d love to see his list of bad arguments for the existence of God. Or bad theologians. He only has like 2000 years of Christianity to choose from. But he can’t name any. Because none exist. Anyone who starts with the premise that the Christian god is real, is right. By definition as Ian would say.

  71. davidron 12 May 2017 at 5:42 pm

    Steve, near the end of your post, you make a group selection argument. You can’t do that. Most evolutionary biologist would argue that, except in special cases, group selection doesn’t work. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Group_selection

  72. hardnoseon 12 May 2017 at 6:37 pm

    Scientific, logical, sensible ideas about gods, or super-physical entities:

    It is pretty obvious that the universe is made out of information, not little bits of “matter.”

    It seems very likely that there are higher order dimensions.

    What we call “gods” might be information entities on higher dimensional levels.

    Add that to the direct personal experiences many of us have every day of some kind of higher being involved in our lives.

    Add that to the weak and irrational arguments for atheism.

    And there you have it, we can all agree that there are gods.

  73. bachfiendon 12 May 2017 at 6:46 pm

    Egnor claims that the ontological argument is a strong proof and that any reasonable person would accept it. He then goes on to say that Aquinas didn’t accept it. So Aquinas isn’t a reasonable person?

    Logic isn’t one of Egnor’s strong points.

    I notice that no one has taken hardnose up on his misunderstanding of natural selection as being a cause of evolution instead of it actually being a mechanism of evolution. His persistent misunderstanding that natural selection is a guiding or directing force of evolution not a driving force.

  74. Sophieon 12 May 2017 at 6:53 pm

    Hardnose,

    Okay let’s run through this.

    (1) It is pretty obvious that the universe is made out of information, not little bits of “matter.”

    Not obvious, not universally believed by scientists and modern philosophers of science or metaphysics. Find me any experimental physicist that supports this. Please give sources. (False appeal to “obviousness”)

    (2) It seems very likely that there are higher order dimensions.

    Sure. String theory is pretty cool. And we have the math for all those higher dimensions. Problem is no experimental data that these things exist, till then it’s just fancy fluffy ideas.

    (3) What we call “gods” might be information entities on higher dimensional levels.

    See (2). Also please give experimental data or proof that these gods have interacted with us and explain the mechanisms by which they would do so, you’ll find a nobel prize awaiting you because in order to that you’ll have to be the first to give experimental evidence for string theory or whatever these higher dimensions you speak of are.

    (4) Add that to the direct personal experiences many of us have every day of some kind of higher being involved in our lives.

    See Atheism. Also I personally have never had a personal religious experience. So I guess it’s not real? Since this is the weak logic we are allowed to use.

    (5) Add that to the weak and irrational arguments for atheism.

    This just hurts my feelings. Did you even read the article up there? Doesn’t it outline some irrational theist arguments? Also please give some examples of bad arguments for atheism. Please start with the problem of evil, which is atheism 101.

    (6)And there you have it, we can all agree that there are gods.

    No. You can agree that their are gods. You are totally allowed to do that. Just be aware that your argument is deeply flawed.

  75. bachfiendon 12 May 2017 at 6:59 pm

    Sophie,

    Golly, there must be something in this idea that trolls can be incanted to appear as if by magic.

    I make a comment about hardnose and before I can press the ‘submit comment’ button, he reappears.

    The universe is made up of information, not little bits of ‘matter’? So the Large Hadron Collider is banging together little bits of information?

    It seems very likely that there are higher order dimensions? Maybe, if String Theory is correct.

    ‘Gods’ might be informational entities on higher dimensional levels? Conjecture.

    And many have the subjective feeling that some kind of higher being might be involved in their lives? Anecdote, and vague meaningless anecdote.

  76. Sophieon 12 May 2017 at 7:05 pm

    Bach,

    Can you do me a favor and check out the free speech bias comment thread? I feel like I didn’t give it a fair treatment. And I’m honestly too frustrated to do it now. It’s fine if you disagree with me.

  77. Pete Aon 12 May 2017 at 7:09 pm

    “[hardnose] It is pretty obvious that the universe is made out of information, not little bits of ‘matter.'”

    Not to those of us who’s work demands a thorough understanding information theory, and many other fields of applied science 🙂

  78. Steve Crosson 12 May 2017 at 7:10 pm

    1) It is possible that a definitive proof of the existence of God exists.

    2) There are thousands of different definitions of God.

    3) No men can agree which definition is foremost.

    4) Almost all men hope that God exists.

    5) If a definitive proof exists, then almost all men would be convinced that one (and only one) specific God exists.

    6) There is no definitive proof of God.

  79. chikoppion 12 May 2017 at 7:20 pm

    So, we have…

    “Consciousness is non-physical.”

    Present for us a consciousness without also presenting a physical thing.

    “It is possible that an all-surpassingly great being exists, therefore it does.”

    Not proven impossible is not the same as possible, which is not the same as actually existing.

    “It is pretty obvious that the universe is made out of information, not little bits of matter.”

    Incoherent. “Information” describes a thing or things. Without the practical or conceptual things to be described there would be no “information.”

    I say we lock these three in a room until they come to a shared conclusion about their mutually exclusive “obvious and irrefutable” positions.

  80. Sophieon 12 May 2017 at 7:22 pm

    chikoppi,

    lol I never realized that they have mutually exclusive ideas. That’s so funny.

  81. Pete Aon 12 May 2017 at 7:25 pm

    “[chikoppi] I say we lock these three in a room until they come to a shared conclusion about their mutually exclusive ‘obvious and irrefutable’ positions.”

    They already are locked in a room: their room of choice is NeuroLogica Blog!

  82. hardnoseon 12 May 2017 at 7:38 pm

    “Please start with the problem of evil, which is atheism 101.”

    It is not a problem at all, it only seems like a problem if you have been confused by those philosophers and theologians that Egnor loves so much.

    You have to think about the word “evil,” first of all and figure out what you mean by it. Chances are you don’t even know.

    Could there be any concept of goodness if we didn’t also have a concept of evil. No, of course not, because the meaning of each depends on the other.

    Atheists are always wondering how a god who is absolutely perfectly good could make a world that is not absolutely perfectly good.

    Well all those words are undefined and the whole thought process is meaningless and stupid.

    Who said gods are perfectly good anyway, whatever that might mean? Think about the Hindu gods, for example, where some of them are pretty nasty. Or ancient Greek gods, or gods from any society that ever existed.

    If you are hung up on the irrational stupid idea that Jesus is the one and only god and is absolutely perfectly good, etc., then you won’t understand. But since you are an atheist, maybe you could consider that just possibly Jesus is NOT god. And furthermore, Jesus wasn’t always “nice,” to everyone, but most people don’t know that because they never read the bibles.

    All the modern progressive ideas about “niceness” are basically nonsensical BS.

    Stop worrying about the “problem of evil,” Sophie, it is not and never was a problem. We don’t know what any of the gods are thinking, there is no need for us to judge them as not being nice enough, according to our stupid standards of goodness and niceness.

  83. hardnoseon 12 May 2017 at 7:41 pm

    “I never realized that they have mutually exclusive ideas.”

    Why is it funny? Why would I agree with Egnor? You think that if I disagree with you, that means I have to agree with everyone who disagrees with you.

    That is pretty stupid.

  84. hardnoseon 12 May 2017 at 7:46 pm

    “1) It is possible that an all-surpassingly great being exists.
    2) An all-surpassingly great being exists in one possible world.
    3) If an all-surpassingly great being exists in one possible world, it exists in all possible worlds.
    4) Our world is a possible world.
    5) An all-surpassingly great being exists.
    6) This is what all men call God.”

    The above is proof that human beings are perfectly capable of wasting their entire lives thinking and writing absolute nonsense.

  85. Sophieon 12 May 2017 at 7:47 pm

    Well no, Egnor has explicitly agreed with you on multiple occasions.

  86. TheGorillaon 12 May 2017 at 7:55 pm

    What am I actually reading here? This is basically what I would write if I were trying to satirize atheism (or accurately characterize New Atheists).

    “One such claim is that the existence of God can be proven through various logical arguments. I have never seen such an argument that I found even slightly compelling. They all have gaping holes in their logic.”

    This is basically a meme repeated by people who don’t actually understand the arguments at all. Whenever any of these “gaping holes” are asked for, you continue to get some vague handwaving OR a clear demonstration that the person making the statement has no idea what they are talking about. This is basically the red flag of “talking about something I don’t know anything about.” Do you know why? Because nobody with a clue — WHETHER THEY FIND THEM SOUND OR NOT — would say that the classical arguments for God’s existence have “gaping holes” in them. Somehow I doubt Dr. Novella has an in-depth understanding of actuality/potentiality and the Aristotelian metaphysics used in Aquinas’ arguments.

    Of course it’s absolutely fine to not be well-versed in philosophy of religion, just as I would suspect Dr. Novella would find it absolutely fine for someone to not know much neurology —– but I also suspect he would find it insulting and ridiculous for such a person to vehemently attack, from a place of ignorance, his entire medical field.

    Let’s move on to the debunking of these religious arguments! Of course, instead of addressing anything serious, ***Let’s look at a book written by an economist.*** Because why deal with serious thinkers when we can just fight with strawmen?

    [MATH]

    Let’s ignore whether or not Nelson’s argument is (1) characterized properly by Dr. Novella and/or (2) actually a coherent/reasonable argument at all. This entire section is… curious.

    First of all is that it seems quite possible that Dr. Novella is misunderstanding the arguments for mathematical platonism, with a “so what?” attitude to the idea that mathematicians are *discovering* mathematical truths — my suspicions are especially raised by the classic “muh empirical mathematics” talk of adding up apples/pebbles/whatever. I’m just surprised that an article full of Scientistic attitudes would find the existence of non-spatiotemporal (and therefore mind-independent) objects to be a more serious claim.

    But, secondly, and this is most important: this entire section is not only question-begging, but there’s a certain beauty in New Atheism arguing from incredulity. According to Dr. Novella, whose interpretation of Nelson I will just assume to be accurate, Nelson is arguing:

    (1) The universe matches up with mathematics
    (2) This is match would be impossible without grounding in God.

    Dr. Novella obviously agrees with (1). So what is the argument against (2)? Let’s look at some quotes:

    “However, of course nature follows the laws of math, because nature cannot be internally inconsistent.”

    “In a universe without a God, what would be the case? Would nature not follow math? How could that possibly work?”

    Huh, strange. It seems that the “argument” is an unsubstantiated assertion that “nature cannot be internally inconsistent,” which is literally just assuming the falsity of Nelson’s position. I mean, I guess we do have some substantiation for this assertion: Dr. Novella simply can’t imagine how such a thing is possible. As we all know from reading this blog, the imagination of the human mind is the best way to determine what’s true.

    Let me use an analogous example of what often happens after a theist argues for a “ground of existence” non-interventionist sort of God — an atheist asks that question, “so how would the universe be different without God?” It presupposes the falsity of the theist’s argument, according to which there *could not be a universe* without God.

    Let’s move on to the next section!

    [DUALISM]

    It starts off happily with some facepalm of “and relying on philosophers like Plato who struggled to understand the universe prior to any knowledge of science, and specifically neuroscience.” Because everyone knows ScienceTM is the solution to philosophical problems.

    But let’s not forget the sheer hilarity of accusing Nelson of playing semantic word games and offering a refutation of “consciousness is not itself a thing, it is a process of the brain.” That does absolutely no work, and I am unsure why Dr. Novella thinks reframing the question in this way could possibly do any work, unless he just thinks that every non-materialist, contemporary philosopher is somehow unaware of the relationship between consciousness and brain processes. Yet he says this in post after post, comment after comment.

    Obviously the way to defeat those dirty people who use philosophy and semantic word games is to replace “thing” with “process” and pretend that you’ve addressed the substance of the issue. Is this real life??? I’m curious to see how this fixes the issues surrounding intentionality, for example.

    But it gets better! For some strange reason Dr. Novella always has to mention Dennett — despite not having the slightest understanding of Dennett’s position. Let’s look:

    “This is a straw man. Dennett is not simplistically saying that consciousness does not exist, but only that it is not a separate phenomenon of the universe that requires new physics or new dualist phenomena.”

    The problem is that Dennett *does* deny the existence of consciousness, and he makes it absolutely explicit what he is doing not only in Consciousness Explained, but in his famous paper, Quining Qualia. Quote from the latter:

    “The verb “to quine” is even more esoteric. It comes from The Philosophical Lexicon (Dennett 1978c, 8th edn., 1987), a satirical dictionary of eponyms: “quine, v. To deny resolutely the existence or importance of something real or significant.” At first blush it would be hard to imagine a more quixotic quest than trying to convince people that there are no such properties as qualia”

    […]

    “That is to say, whenever someone experiences something as being one way rather than another, this is true in virtue of some property of something happening in them at the time, but these properties are so unlike the properties traditionally imputed to consciousness that it would be grossly misleading to call any of them the long-sought qualia.”

    I’m not sure how it gets much more clear than claiming that one resolutely denies the existence of the “properties traditionally imputed to consciousness.” It is perfectly accurate to say Dennett denies the existence of consciousness when one takes into account the history of the conversation.

    Dr Novella also does not seem to understand that Dennett is not just advocating for a materialist position, his position is seriously strong: if someone says “I am in pain,” it is not that they are mistaken about the nature of pain, which is *in fact* just part of brain activity, it is that ****they are, quite literally, not referring to anything at all.****

    Luckily this section concludes with the fascinatingly deep insight that has not been known by any non-materialist over the centuries: “It is clear that consciousness is what the brain does..” Wow. Powerful stuff right there.

    [EVOLUTION]

    Not much to say here. But you can tell how sophisticated and not a strawman Nelson is by his support of creationism. Everyone knows the true intellectuals are creationists. /s

    [CULTURE]

    Another sophisticated argument for God’s existence with a totally-super-massively-amazing-existing long history in the philosophical and intellectual tradition. Taken down by one Dr. Novella.

    On a more serious note, presumably Nelson offered a thought process as to why this “miraculous” appearance of ideas was related to God. Yet none of this is mentioned by Dr Novella — we are supposed to just take his word for it that there’s nothing there. This is just sloppiness.

    [RELIGION PROVES ITSELF]

    This is another weird section. It completely does not mention the actual argument quoted, which is not “people believe things therefore God,” but that Christianity (and Christian values) has had a specific staying power (which, presumably, according to Nelson, suggests its truth). I don’t know if he quoted the wrong paragraphs, but nowhere does Nelson appear to be arguing that because human beings naturally want to be a part of something bigger that God exists.

    [CONCLUSION]

    “Nelson’s arguments, as with all such arguments I have encountered, are exceptionally thin, logically challenged, and really only represent Nelson’s motivated reasoning.”

    Hm, you know, as someone who respects serious scholars, I wonder if Dr. Novella has considered that the reason all the arguments he encounters are so weak is because he is dismissive of philosophy and engages with esteemed religious experts like this creationist professor with an economics background.

    Of course, one could not be into New Atheism if they were informed and a critical thinker.

    I genuinely don’t know what’s going on here, this post is absolutely ridiculous.

    OH, and the obligatory, because the skeptic/atheist community is super smart and can’t fathom anyone but a theist defending theist arguments: I DON’T FIND THEM SOUND. BUT I DO CARE ABOUT NOT BEING A DISMISSIVE BUFFOON ABOUT SUBJECTS YOU HAVE NO CLUE ABOUT.

  87. hardnoseon 12 May 2017 at 8:06 pm

    “Well no, Egnor has explicitly agreed with you on multiple occasions.”

    So … if Egnor has agree with me, that means I should agree with him about everything? Sophie, you are awfully confused.

  88. Lightnotheaton 12 May 2017 at 8:11 pm

    When “logical” arguments for the existence of some kind of God are brought up they always seem very post hoc and unconvincing to me. On the other hand, arguments based on subjective experience seem both more sincere and more solid. For example, there are the intense mystical experiences many people have had which they perceive as being qualitatively much different from what we would describe as simply psychological. I would imagine that these kinds of experiences cause people to switch from atheism to some variety of religious faith much more often than intellectual argumentation does.

  89. hardnoseon 12 May 2017 at 8:19 pm

    Yes, intellectual argument about gods is kind of a waste of time. Except for trashing the atheist arguments, that is useful I think.

    But we just are not smart enough to explain or describe things that go on above our level. We can get a sense of them, though.

    Most of our thinking is subconscious, and either intuitive or super-rational. That is where our information about the higher levels comes from.

    It is extremely common for people to have some kind of communication with higher levels. Atheists say it’s all imaginary because THEY have never experienced it. Right, everything that I have not personally experienced must be fake.

    This is because atheists are narrow-minded and authoritarian. If Dawkins makes a statement, it has to be true. Don’t bother trying to find out for yourself.

  90. Steve Crosson 12 May 2017 at 8:31 pm

    hardnose:

    It is extremely common for people to have some kind of communication with higher levels. Atheists say it’s all imaginary because THEY have never experienced it. Right, everything that I have not personally experienced must be fake.

    Not necessarily fake, but also without any good reason for anyone else to believe you. Millions, even billions of people have different, often incompatible “communications with higher levels”. Seems likely that many, perhaps most or even all, are untrue. Without some way to independently verify someone else’s experience, reserving judgement seems to be the prudent course.

  91. Pete Aon 12 May 2017 at 8:32 pm

    “[TheGorilla] I genuinely don’t know what’s going on here …”

    As usual.

  92. hardnoseon 12 May 2017 at 8:38 pm

    “Without some way to independently verify someone else’s experience, reserving judgement seems to be the prudent course.”

    Yes, absolutely. Reserve judgement, have an open mind, be skeptical, that is how to be scientific.

    I have very seldom seen anyone at this blog reserving judgement on this subject.

  93. Steve Crosson 12 May 2017 at 8:42 pm

    TheGorilla:

    OH, and the obligatory, because the skeptic/atheist community is super smart and can’t fathom anyone but a theist defending theist arguments: I DON’T FIND THEM SOUND. BUT I DO CARE ABOUT NOT BEING A DISMISSIVE BUFFOON ABOUT SUBJECTS YOU HAVE NO CLUE ABOUT.

    Just curious, how is it that you “DON’T FIND THEM SOUND” [the arguments in the post], presumably because you DO HAVE A CLUE ABOUT them, but are unwilling to accept that others may have looked into the subject as deeply as you?

  94. Sophieon 12 May 2017 at 8:46 pm

    Someone is really angry.

  95. Sophieon 12 May 2017 at 9:04 pm

    TheGorilla,

    Please offer up some good arguments for god. Also please explain why no modern metaphysics philosopher cares about Aristotle’s arguments or logical system? Oh wise and great one. If you can’t do that then start with a good defense of mathematical Platonism. I know these topics well. I’ll stand toe to toe and debate you. Let’s do this.

  96. Sophieon 12 May 2017 at 9:08 pm

    There is a massive difference between modern philosophy and Christian theology. You can be the world’s greatest theologian and still not give a good argument that modern philosophy would accept. These are two different realms. One deals with magic and fantasy. The other deals with rigorous thought and hardcore logic. I’m ready when you are. Let’s do this.

  97. Lightnotheaton 12 May 2017 at 9:23 pm

    “… atheists are narrow-minded and authoritarian. If Dawkins makes a statement, it has to be true. Don’t bother trying to find out for yourself.”

    The ever-popular “skeptics are biased/narrow-minded trope. The thing is, OF COURSE skeptics are biased, but so is everyone else! The point shouldn’t be WHETHER you are biased, but how AWARE you are of that bias, and what you do to COMBAT its effects when examining evidence and arguments. And the skeptical toolkit is exactly the thing that helps skeptics to be more aware of their bias than are non-skeptics, and better able to mitigate its effects in their reasoning. A biased Steven Novella is going to get logically derailed a lot less often than will a biased Hardnose or Michael Egnor.

  98. Sophieon 12 May 2017 at 9:29 pm

    TheGorilla,

    Let me use an analogous example of what often happens after a theist argues for a “ground of existence” non-interventionist sort of God — an atheist asks that question, “so how would the universe be different without God?” It presupposes the falsity of the theist’s argument, according to which there *could not be a universe* without God.

    So this is the big error you found in that passage? The point of the atheist argument isn’t that it presupposes anything, the point is that you can’t tell the difference between a “non-interventionist-ground-of-existence-god” and no god.

    That’s the point. If you can’t tell the difference then god could be a magical unicorn that sprinkled dust at the beginning of time and then magically evaporated and became the universe.

    Or maybe there is no unicorn and the universe just is this way. This atheist argument is about eliminating assumptions that we don’t need in order to explain things. If your god is everything and doesn’t interact with the universe then there is no logical difference between that and no god. It’s really obvious that this type of God — that no one prays to btw — is just a foot in the door argument for other more logically indefensible god arguments. Who cares if this god exists? It can’t intervene it does nothing, it’s not the basis of the world’s religions. Smallest victory ever. But it wouldn’t end there. I’ve seen Catholics uses this argument in debates. If we can’t detect any evidence of him being some supernatural thing. If he is matter and energy itself, the fabric of the universe then he is everything. But also nothing.

    Explanations that explain everything also have a tendency to explain nothing. This is why no Prophet wrote about the new world or anything outside a few miles from where they were born. They didn’t know anything. But somehow they claimed to know everything.

    Everything you wrote is equally problematic. You must be a religious scholar or something. Modern philosophy laughs at all your attempts to justify religion logically. If you could do it, it would be part of modern philosophy, not some antiquated garbage that explains nothing. Sophie out.

  99. Sophieon 12 May 2017 at 9:33 pm

    Didn’t Steven Novella and people disinvite Dawkins for something he said that they disagreed with? Um…. this is what defeat tastes like…

  100. Sophieon 12 May 2017 at 9:35 pm

    http://www.breitbart.com/tech/2016/01/28/atheist-civil-war-angry-feminists-get-richard-dawkins-disinvited-from-skeptics-conference/

    lol it even made it to breitbart. Hardly seems like we all agree with Dawkins….

  101. Lightnotheaton 12 May 2017 at 9:40 pm

    But back to mystical experiences, I’m interested in what the skeptical response is to this idea that such experiences are qualitatively different from regular psychological experiences. And is it indeed the case that this kind of thing converts skeptics more than argumentation does? What data do we have on that? I guess Susan Blackmore (not sure I have the name right) is a goid example of someone who was temporarily converted due to this kind of experience, but came back to a skeptical view when she couldn’t find convincing evidence.

  102. Steve Crosson 12 May 2017 at 9:48 pm

    Sophie,

    If you actually get TheGorilla to engage (which I doubt — he tends to hit-and-run), I suggest you challenge him on:

    “Somehow I doubt Dr. Novella has an in-depth understanding of actuality/potentiality and the Aristotelian metaphysics used in Aquinas’ arguments.”

    He has made similar statements on many occasions while simultaneously claiming to be an atheist, or at least strongly implying it.

    I’m curious how his superior understanding of Aquinas’ arguments can make them both compelling yet not worthy of belief at the same time.

  103. Sophieon 12 May 2017 at 9:51 pm

    Lightnotheat,

    What about LSD? Are the experiences under that drug just some other run of the mill psychological experience? Many people are radically affected by experimentation with LSD.

  104. Sophieon 12 May 2017 at 9:56 pm

    Steve Cross,

    I think if you see the problems in that one analogy he gave. You can see deep into TheGorilla’s soul. He doesn’t understand that there
    is not real difference between that non-interventionist god and no god. He thought atheists were just presupposing that the theists were wrong about that argument.

    Fine. Suppose that god exists. Now explain the difference between that and no god. The best defense anyone can give is basically advocating changing the words “matter, energy, space, physical” to “God”

    He thinks us atheists are silly for trying to minimize assumptions. I want to scream intellectual dishonesty. But I honesty think he just doesn’t understand. Which is okay. But at the same time it’s not?

  105. Lightnotheaton 12 May 2017 at 10:02 pm

    Sophie,
    Yes, the experiences with LSD are one thing I would point to as evidence that these mystical experiences, no matter how qualitatively different they may feel, are due to ordinary, non-supernatural causes.
    Again wishing I had a lot more time to devote to this…

  106. Sophieon 12 May 2017 at 10:07 pm

    Lightnotheat,

    I think I would argue that LSD experiences aren’t mystical but rather chemical. If you can induce one of these experiences with drugs then it seems like it takes away from the mysticism and religiousness. So yeah I guess we are in agreement. If you have more time and want to discuss it, I’ll put the time in.

  107. Steve Crosson 12 May 2017 at 10:23 pm

    Sophie,

    Looking at TheGorilla’s past comment history, it seems apparent that he doesn’t understand either skepticism or how to construct an actual logical argument. Or, if he does, he is not very good at getting his point across. Most of his comments are borderline incoherent.

    I had to laugh when you accused him of being a religious scholar — it would explain a lot.

  108. chikoppion 12 May 2017 at 10:33 pm

    [Lightnotheat] But back to mystical experiences, I’m interested in what the skeptical response is to this idea that such experiences are qualitatively different from regular psychological experiences.

    I don’t know that there is an agreed upon definition of attributes that qualify an experience as “mystical.” I tend to regard these claims through two possible translations.

    One translation is the construction of “literary truth.” People seem inclined to construct narrative frameworks to help organize their understanding of the world. For some, the narrative is the truth. Once some element or experience becomes integrated with the narrative it takes on literary significance. I’d liken this to the powers attributed to objects that have sentimental value, such as the lucky game-day t-shirt or grandmother’s wedding ring.

    The other translation is “accidental” cognitive associations. That is, perceptual associations that wouldn’t be made during normal states of cognitive function. I would think that if a person could experience synesthesia it would seem “mystical,” as objects, sounds, numbers, or colors would trigger associations and meanings not normally experienced.

    Combine the two, with “accidental” cognitive associations becoming integrated into an over-arching narrative, and it would seem all the ingredients for mysticism are present.

  109. chikoppion 13 May 2017 at 2:00 am

    [hardnose] Most of our thinking is subconscious, and either intuitive or super-rational. That is where our information about the higher levels comes from.

    It is extremely common for people to have some kind of communication with higher levels. Atheists say it’s all imaginary because THEY have never experienced it. Right, everything that I have not personally experienced must be fake.

    Michaelegnor claims to have received just such a “revelation,” yet hardnose believes he is wrong.

    Apparently, revelations are only true if 1) they are your own and 2) they confirm existing biases.

    “Intuition” is the origin of the argument from ignorance/incredulity. It’s a fine place to start, but it is worthless unless subjected to epistemological rigor.

  110. Sophieon 13 May 2017 at 2:20 am

    Intuition is also where you start your journey not where you should end it.

    All serious learning exists to change how you initialy feel about things, to shift your understanding so you can see new things. It’s so nativist, naive and wrong to just accept things the way they are and refuse to move on. Egnor relies on a view of reality first described by Aristotle almost 2400 years ago. He uses this system to attack modern philosophy and claim his superiority.

    This would be like me telling him I know more about neurosurgery, that his modern tools and techniques are foolish, and all we need to do is use the ancient technique of drilling a hole in someone’s skull.

    Hardnose acts like the Problem of Evil isn’t a real issue. Meanwhile it’s very real, and extensively debated. He does all this while pushing a god that literally no religious people pray to. It’s just like Ian. Insisting that his god concept was the right concept, and we had foolish ideas about god. Ahh I’m just ranting now.

  111. Johnnyon 13 May 2017 at 8:52 am

    “In the Axial Age (commonly dated from 800 to 200 B.C.), world-transforming ideas such as Buddhism, Confucianism, the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle, and the Hebrew Old Testament almost miraculously appeared at about the same time in India, China, ancient Greece and among the Jews in the Middle East – these peoples then having little interaction with one another.”

    I don’t get what the argument from the Axial Age is supposed to prove. Of the philosophies he mentions, Confucianism is secular. Not necessarily atheistic, but secular in the sense that gods are irrelevant. It is a secular moral philosophy (but also rather hierarchial and authoritarian, and doesn’t have much appeal in the Western world).

    Buddhism has naturalistic versions, but it also supernatural forms.

    However, during the time period stated for the Axial Age, also explicitly irreligious philosophies arose. You have Epicureanism in ancient Greece. It was a deistic philosophy in that it asserted that the gods are unconcerned with human affairs, but also naturalistic in that it asserted that everything (including the gods) is made up atoms, and subject to natural laws.

    There is also the Charvaka movement in ancient India that had an empiricist epistemology, asserted that humans do not survive their own deaths in any way, that pleasure was the greatest good in life, that the gods don’t exist, and that religions are frauds.

    By Nelson’s argument, do the Epicureans and Charvakas (who emerged in different cultures) demonstrate the incorrectness of religious beliefs?

    Below is the position of the Charvakas, preserved by their philosophical opponents (their original works are unfortunately lost). It’s encouraging that at least some people in 600 BCE saw things so clearly:

    “There is no other world other than this;
    There is no heaven and no hell;
    The realm of Shiva and like regions,
    are invented by stupid imposters.”

  112. Sophieon 13 May 2017 at 9:57 am

    Johnny,

    Just to piggyback on your excellent points check this out:
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magi#In_Greek_sources

    The ancient Greeks around that same time misinterpreted what were essentially Persian fire priests as magic, they called them magi possibly from a similar sounding Persian word for their priestly class. This is where the word magic comes from. The ancient Greeks would also think that the standard prayers of that Persian belief system had magical powers they would take them and try to use them.

    Additionally Nelsons comments ignore a well known phenomenon known by most serious scholars of the ancient world:

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_syncretism

    This has been well documented and studied. Cultures mix and mash all the time. But religions also do it. We even have a special term for it. Nelson’s ignorance of this and description of it as “miraculous” is so embarrassing. Yes if you don’t know history, I’m sure everything appears miraculous. You could walk up the Great Wall of China and tell yourself god made it.

  113. hardnoseon 13 May 2017 at 12:59 pm

    “Hardly seems like we all agree with Dawkins….”

    You all agree with everything he says about religion. On other subjects, sometimes Dawkins isn’t politically correct enough for his liberal followers.

  114. hardnoseon 13 May 2017 at 1:03 pm

    “there is no real difference between that non-interventionist god and no god”

    The idea of a non-interventionist god is and old idiotic idea. If god(s) is/are infinite and nothing exists outside of god(s), then how could god(s) not intervene?

    That non-interventionist thinking goes back to when people were entranced by clockworks, and thought the universe works the same way. Clockworks also were the inspiration for the idea that life could evolve by chance. They thought life could be explained by simple mechanics.

  115. hardnoseon 13 May 2017 at 1:08 pm

    “Hardnose acts like the Problem of Evil isn’t a real issue. Meanwhile it’s very real, and extensively debated.”

    Sophie,

    Instead of explaining WHY you think the problem if evil is a real issue, you state that it is extensively debated.

    You have no answer! You just assume that the modern philosophers you love so much wouldn’t debate something if it was nonsense.

    Philosophers, of any age, are very good at finding nonsensical subjects to debate endlessly. As long as they stay obsessed with stupid questions that can’t be answered, they will still have jobs.

  116. hardnoseon 13 May 2017 at 1:11 pm

    “Michaelegnor claims to have received just such a “revelation,” yet hardnose believes he is wrong.”

    chikoppi,

    WHERE did I ever say that Egnor was wrong about having a revelation?? You really are crazy, I hope you realize.

    I said I disagree with Egnor’s “logical” arguments about god. So to you, that means I think everything Egnor ever says is wrong.

  117. Pete Aon 13 May 2017 at 1:15 pm

    hardnose,

    “You all agree with everything [Richard Dawkins] says about religion.”

    A straw man is a common form of argument and is an informal fallacy based on giving the impression of refuting an opponent’s argument, while refuting an argument that was not advanced by that opponent.[1] One who engages in this fallacy is said to be “attacking a straw man”.

    The typical straw man argument creates the illusion of having completely refuted or defeated an opponent’s proposition through the covert replacement of it with a different proposition (i.e., “stand up a straw man”) and the subsequent refutation of that false argument (“knock down a straw man”) instead of the opponent’s proposition.[2][3]

    This technique has been used throughout history in polemical debate, particularly in arguments about highly charged emotional issues where a fiery “battle” and the defeat of an “enemy” may be more valued than critical thinking or an understanding of both sides of the issue.
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straw_man

  118. Pete Aon 13 May 2017 at 1:23 pm

    hardnose,

    “Philosophers, of any age, are very good at finding nonsensical subjects to debate endlessly. As long as they stay obsessed with stupid questions that can’t be answered, they will still have jobs.”

    Hardnoses, of any age, are very good at finding nonsensical subjects to debate endlessly. As long as they stay obsessed with stupid questions that can’t be answered, they will troll blogs devoted to critical thinking skills.

  119. Sophieon 13 May 2017 at 1:44 pm

    Hardnose,

    I don’t have to sit here and explain the Problem of Evil. It’s super well known. It’s a famous problem that is at the core of atheism. All you have to do is google it and see the centuries of work on it. It states that that there is a problem with a god being omnipotent, omniscient and good. Why would a god like that allow for evil? Why would he not answer prayers. Of the three of you, only Egnor has acknowledged the validity of this argument. Ian Wardell said it’s stupid and we are attacking a silly conception of god, he advanced his non interventionist god. Problem is, that’s not what people pray to, that’s not what I was taught in catholic school. You, hardnose, did the same basic thing but less consistently.

    So for as much as we like to disagree with Egnor, at least he has the guts to actually admit that this giant thing The problem of Evil is a serious issue and a real challenge for theists. So it’s you hardnose and Ian that aren’t paying attention and googling things.

  120. Immuno4831on 13 May 2017 at 5:22 pm

    The basic arguments are this:
    The universe is ordered and therefore requires an orderer
    The universe is ordered but this is the result of random chance.
    Everything else is commentary.

    The universe is based on information. How does the information become physical?
    DNA is a physical vessel for transmitting information.
    We look to the most basic fundamental points of the universe (the quark) and we can go no further.
    What does the quark do? It makes information real.

    The cell; even the simplest cell has incredibly sophisticated machinery and these machinery appears to have been present almost if not at the beginning of life.

    The transformation of single cell organisms to multicellular life is an astonishing feat. 2% of the DNA is used for cellular proliferation. 98% is used to control the 2%. If the 2% is not controlled the result is cancer.

    Every cell of a multicellular organisms contains the same DNA and yet the multicellular organism consists of 300 or 400 specialized cells that perform a huge number of functions, from forming the intestine and hear to the brain and kidneys.

    Multicellular life commands a sophisticated army of immune cells that can differentiate self from non self.

    Even advanced multicellular life is an amalgamation of unicellular organisms and multicellular organisms in a symbiosis of life.

    From a fitness point of view, unicellular life is far more fit (in terms of numbers and niches) then the more advanced multicellular life known as animals.

    Everything contains the fingerprint of intelligence, information and design Certainly no one would find a castle in the middle of the desert and assume random forces put it together.

  121. Johnnyon 13 May 2017 at 5:26 pm

    Sophie,

    Thanks for the links. If I remember correctly, when the Greeks during the Alexandrian conquests encountered Magis, they thought they were Sophists.

    As for religious and cultural syncretism, in the wake of Alexander’s conquests, several Greek-speaking kingdoms were established. One was the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom, located roughly in modern-day Afghanistan. Due to its close location to the Indian cultural hemisphere, a cultural syncretism of Hellenistic culture and Buddhism arose. It was to last for centuries. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greco-Buddhism

    Contra what Nelson apparently thinks, I think some human ideas and concepts are universal. For example (poly)theism among agricultural peoples, as evidenced by that the Meso-American civilizations had elaborate mythologies of their own, without European influence. (Hunter-gatherers appear to be more inclined to animism than to theism.) Likewise, in many cultures it appears that there were also those who doubted the mainstream supernatural beliefs, for example the Charvakas and the Epicureans.

  122. RickKon 13 May 2017 at 6:20 pm

    “For example (poly)theism among agricultural peoples, as evidenced by that the Meso-American civilizations had elaborate mythologies of their own, without European influence.”

    In fact, it appears that some of those societies had quite rich and interesting philosophies, some providing sophisticated points of view unique from either European or Asian philosophies. But we only have tiny hints and a few scattered clues due to the deliberate and systematic destruction of Native American writings, theology and philosophy by the invading tribe called “Catholics”.

    When Mr. Egnor is attributing his religion’s dominance to its theological superiority, he does tend to overlook that a key success factor in Christianity’s spread was its robust campaign of eradication-by-force of any potential competitors. But hey – all’s fair in tribal warfare. And Bishop Diego de Landa was just “maintaining domestic peace”.

    For those interested in a current assessment of the sophistication of pre-Columbian cultures, the book “1491” by Charles Mann is accessible and engrossing.

    It’s interesting to consider what different arguments for the existence of god(s) we might be discussing had so many rich and varied theologies not been erased.

  123. chikoppion 13 May 2017 at 6:28 pm

    [hardnose] WHERE did I ever say that Egnor was wrong about having a revelation?? You really are crazy, I hope you realize.

    I said I disagree with Egnor’s “logical” arguments about god. So to you, that means I think everything Egnor ever says is wrong.

    No, I’m just psychic.

    That’s a pretty neat trick for you to agree that his revelation is true, considering the conclusion of the “revelation” and the “logical” argument are, in Egnor’s case, the same. According to his revealed truth, your concept of God is blasphemous and wrong and you will be eternally condemned for it.

    What you mean to say is that you believe he had “an experience” that he has “misinterpreted” in a way that led him to the wrong conclusion. My critique stands. Apparently, revelations are only true if 1) they are your own and 2) they confirm existing biases.

  124. Lightnotheaton 13 May 2017 at 8:13 pm

    In line with the trope that skeptics are just another biased tribe, and indeed more narrow-minded than many because they are less receptive to spiritual ideas, is the claim that the more “enlightened” and open-minded scientists are starting to come around and see the light, and eventually the scales will fall from the eyes of the others and they’ll see that the New Agers were right all along.

    Obviously there is a group of scientists who do tend to agree with the Chopra-ites, and we can debate how enlightened they are and whether they represent the leading edge of where science is going. But what I’d like to know is if there are any surveys out there indicating how large this group is and whether it is growing. If it is not all that small and is growing significantly, that would be evidence that some denialism is occurring.

    I would guess that the dissenters are the same small group that are always around. If denialism were a serious, widespread problem in science, why would scientists so quickly have accepted the radical, counterintuitive stuff we see in quantum mechanics and Einstein’s relativity.

  125. hardnoseon 13 May 2017 at 8:14 pm

    “I don’t have to sit here and explain the Problem of Evil. It’s super well known. It’s a famous problem that is at the core of atheism. All you have to do is google it and see the centuries of work on it. It states that that there is a problem with a god being omnipotent, omniscient and good. Why would a god like that allow for evil? Why would he not answer prayers. Of the three of you, only Egnor has acknowledged the validity of this argument. Ian Wardell said it’s stupid and we are attacking a silly conception of god, he advanced his non interventionist god. Problem is, that’s not what people pray to, that’s not what I was taught in catholic school. You, hardnose, did the same basic thing but less consistently.”

    You don’t need to explain it Sophie and I don’t need to google it. I know exactly what the “problem” of evil is, and I know why atheists love it.

    It is stupid and illogical, and I don’t care how many centuries philosophers wasted working on it.

    Who decided god is “omnipotent, omniscient and good?” What do the words even mean?

    When you have a naive and superficial concept of religion, then you might think god is just a big Santa Claus whose job is to give you everything you want. And if he doesn’t, then you get mad and say he isn’t really god. Because you know better, because your little human brain is just so awesome.

  126. Lightnotheaton 13 May 2017 at 8:20 pm

    Wow Hardnose, that was a remarkably ignorant post. Try reading over what you’ve written before you hit “publish”

  127. hardnoseon 13 May 2017 at 8:22 pm

    “What you mean to say is that you believe he had “an experience” that he has “misinterpreted” in a way that led him to the wrong conclusion.”

    Religious revelations are beyond logic. Egnor tries to rationalize and make sense of his religious experiences, and it is not possible.

    Religion is the acknowledgement and acceptance that there are things infinitely beyond our ability to rationally comprehend. It is openness to experiences that go beyond the world of our senses and the world of our little egos.

    And I don’t mean just the big ecstatic mystical experiences. There are religious experiences everywhere everyday if you are open.

    Religion is much more than Jesus or the bible, or even all the great world religions. It is the acknowledgement of our being a small part of something infinitely beyond ourselves.

    It’s fine with me if people want to be atheists. It is not fine with me if they claim to be atheists because of science and logic. Atheism is a philosophical preference, a desire to feel separate, and to identify with your ego and its limited and feeble logic.

    Atheism is NOT based on any kind of scientific evidence.

  128. hardnoseon 13 May 2017 at 8:25 pm

    “Wow Hardnose, that was a remarkably ignorant post.”

    If you don’t like an idea, but you have nothing logical to say about it, just state that it’s ignorant. People at this blog will usually be satisfied with that.

  129. Lightnotheaton 13 May 2017 at 8:44 pm

    It’s not that I dislike your ideas necessarily or feel I have nothing logical to say about them, there’s often something of interest in there. I just feel that your inconsistency and disjointedness shows that using logic would be a waste of time. I mean exactly what I say, which is that you are ignorant. Who came up with the omniscient, good God idea??? Try reading a Bible.

  130. Johnnyon 13 May 2017 at 8:52 pm

    RickK,

    I’m not familiar with the exact details about the philosophies of the Meso-American civilizations, so I can’t comment further on that point. But I think it is very likely correct. What I know is that they had polytheistic mythologies, which seems to be a unversal in agricultural societies.

    hardnose,

    “It’s fine with me if people want to be atheists. It is not fine with me if they claim to be atheists because of science and logic. Atheism is a philosophical preference, a desire to feel separate, and to identify with your ego and its limited and feeble logic.

    Atheism is NOT based on any kind of scientific evidence.”

    Atheism is a position on a (philosophical) question. People can hold that position for various reasons, some more scientifically informed than others.

    Why am I an atheist? First, I grew up in a culture largely indifferent to religion, so growing up I was never religious, and religion was not a big or important issue. But as I became older I gave the question a little thought. And all religions are so unlikely to be true, there is no evidence for any of them being true, and likewise there is no evidence for any of the gods either. This applies both to the petty tribal gods (Yahweh in the OT) as well as the most sophisticated “god of the philosophers”. God is simply not needed to explain anything, nor does postulating God serve any other worthwhile purpose either.

  131. bachfiendon 13 May 2017 at 9:13 pm

    Hardnose,

    ‘Atheism is a philosophical preference, a desire to feel separate, and to identify with your ego and its limited and feeble logic’.

    Exactly. That’s the reason why atheists deny that the Universe is is 13.82 billion years old, and the visible universe is at least 90 billion light years across with at least 10^11 galaxies and at least 10^22 stars.

    Atheists don’t have any problem with the existence of evil and suffering. It just results from living in a universe that basically is indifferent to humans (and all Life on Earth).

    It’s a problem for theists who believe that the universe was manufactured for the benefit of humans. Theodicy was developed to explain why a good deity could create an imperfect world, including the explanation in Job, with his suffering being the result of a bet between God and Satan.

    Theists have the problem explaining why the 1755 Lisbon earthquake and tsunami happened killing the devout worshipping in the cathedral on All Saints’ Day. Atheists don’t have any problem – it was just the result of living on a planet with tectonic plate geology and oceans (and both may have been necessary for Life to have developed on Earth in the first place).

    Christians love the illusion of free will as a free get out of gaol card to explain away evil and suffering (although it doesn’t help with natural suffering due to earthquakes). And some Christians reject free will, such as Calvinists with predestined salvation. God, being omniprescient, knows who’s going to be saved in advance (the small minority of Christians who are Calvinists), and their actions are irrelevant, being predestined in advance too.

  132. chikoppion 13 May 2017 at 9:23 pm

    [hardnose] Religion is the acknowledgement and acceptance that there are things infinitely beyond our ability to rationally comprehend. It is openness to experiences that go beyond the world of our senses and the world of our little egos.

    No. It isn’t. What you are describing is mysticism.

    If you don’t believe Egnor’s revelation of a specific, knowable God is true then you don’t actually believe in revelation as a source of knowledge.

    Atheism is NOT based on any kind of scientific evidence.

    Neither is not believing in fairies. Do you believe fairies (tiny, magical, winged humanoids) are real or not? Do you operate on the premise that fairies are real? Do you account for the influence of fairies or actively try to mitigate their influence in your daily life? Do you presuppose that a suitable answer to an unknown question is “fairies did it?”

    What is your scientific basis for not believing in fairies?

    Let me guess…there is insufficient evidence to adopt the premise as true?

  133. Lightnotheaton 13 May 2017 at 9:23 pm

    Johnny-

    “all religions are so unlikely to be true, there is no evidence for any of them being true, and likewise there is no evidence for any of the gods either. ”

    I would say “there is no evidence that mainstream scientists would find reasonable” rather than the flat “there is no evidence.” For almost any claim there is an assertion that there is some kind of evidence for it, and a counter-assertion that the evidence is not reasonable. With AGW for example, denialists claim that the climate evidence is misinterpreted or even downright fraudulent (Egnor). I’d say that in the case of AGW rejection of the evidence is unreasonable, while in the case of atheism rejection of evidence like mystical experiences and miracle cures is reasonable, but it is evidence of some sort..

  134. Sophieon 13 May 2017 at 10:32 pm

    If I’m honest with myself, I’m way too harsh and dismissive of religious arguments. But why? I like to think it’s because I choose my battles. Like Ian and hardnose are advancing mild arguments for god. But why? Is it just because they really believe in an non interventionist god? Unlikely. It’s more like they are using it to defend their beliefs, which don’t stop at a ground of existence silly idea of god that no one prays to.

  135. mumadaddon 14 May 2017 at 4:44 am

    “It’s more like they are using it to defend their beliefs, which don’t stop at a ground of existence silly idea of god that no one prays to.”

    I don’t have too much of a problem with this strategy. If you could demonstrate that, for example, reality had to have been caused my a timeless being existing outside of physical reality, you could then use other lines of reasoning to demonstrate that this being was the god of the bible. You could say it laying the groundwork for a multi-step argument.

    The major problem is that these arguments themselves fail, so the groundwork isn’t laid. E.g. the kalam cosmological argument doesn’t get you to a ‘being’ even if you accept all its premises. First cause arguments rely on you accepting weird metaphysics that don’t comport with our current scientific understanding etc.

  136. Ian Wardellon 14 May 2017 at 5:47 am

    Sophie
    “[L]ook at Ian Wardell, he conflates material with physical, he just doesn’t know what he is talking about”.

    I’ve explained this before. Granted it was a different thread, but do I have to explain my position yet again in every new thread? This is why I started a blog, so I don’t have to continually keep repeating myself.

    As I said before, I believe a radically new scientific theory will incorporate consciousness, although consciousness would have to be considered fundamental. See my http://ian-wardell.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/neither-modern-materialism-nor-science.html

    Now, in a sense, that would be “physicalism”, but clearly it bears no relationship to modern materialism i.e the materialism that has pertained since the birth of modern science in the 17th Century.

    So, I regard materialism as being false by definition, but not “physicalism” (but depending how one defines physicalism).

    OK, wrote this in notepad. I think I should save it and maybe paste it in the next time some clown says I don’t know what I’m talking about on this issue. Or simply read my bloody essays!

  137. Ian Wardellon 14 May 2017 at 5:54 am

    Sophie:
    “There’s many physical things that are not material. Modern Philosophers moved onto physicalism, precisely because traditional 17th century materialism that Ian attacks, has so many problems”.

    I’m attacking the idea that science as currently conceived describes *all* of reality. Materialists think it does. But clearly it does not. It only describes *part* of reality. It describes a reality devoid of colours, sounds, smells . .or yes, and consciousness (again, people would understand my position if they only could be bothered to read my damn essay I linked to in my previous post. I don’t mind people not reading it, what I object to is dimwits like Sophie who don’t bother reading anything I write, then claims I don’t understand stuff!).

  138. Ian Wardellon 14 May 2017 at 6:02 am

    Sophie quoted DEnnett

    Daniel Dennett
    “[T]here are objects that seem to have beliefs and desires, toward which we take the “intentional stance.” If you’re playing chess with a chess computer, you don’t scrutinize the conductive properties of its circuits or contemplate the inner workings of its operating system (the physicalist and design stances, respectively); you ask how the program is thinking, what it’s planning, what it “wants” to do. These different stances capture different levels of reality, and our language reveals which one we’ve adopted. We say that proteins fold (the physicalist stance), but that eyes see (the design stance). We say that the chess computer “anticipated” our move, that the driverless car “decided” to swerve when the deer leaped into the road”.

    Language is not being used literally in this instance, where as it is in the case of conscious beings like humans. But of course Dennett doesn’t believe in the existence of consciousness. The man’s barking mad and I have no idea why anyone would want to read him or quote him.

  139. Ian Wardellon 14 May 2017 at 6:36 am

    Sophie
    “I think I would argue that LSD experiences aren’t mystical but rather chemical. If you can induce one of these experiences with drugs then it seems like it takes away from the mysticism and religiousness”.

    It seems to you that this is so since you are presupposing the brain creates all experiences. In other words you are begging the question. And DMT experiences are somewhat more compelling I’ve heard.

  140. mumadaddon 14 May 2017 at 7:40 am

    “And DMT experiences are somewhat more compelling I’ve heard.”

    Drug induced changes in consciousness are a slam dunk for consciousness as brain activity. Take the example of hallucinogens: you can observe changes in brain activity in specific regions, and a neurochemical mechanism for bringing about those changes. And you can build this into a model which is PREDICTIVE.

    What you won’t be able to observe is any changes to anything outside the brain that correspond with the changes to your perception of things outside the brain.

    So it seems that people who cite subjective experiences of profundity or whatever as evidence for the existence of something magical hit the exact same wall as with substance dualism: no mechanism, and no observable evidence outside of brain activity.

    So are we just supposed to be somehow impressed that people have mystical experiences, and take these at face value as though they are direct experiences of something mystical that actually exists? That’s a big ask.

  141. bachfiendon 14 May 2017 at 9:20 am

    Ian,

    Despite your repeated assertions to the contrary, materialism does describe a reality containing colours, sounds, smells… and consciousness. All are done by the material, the physical brain.

    They might be illusions, but they’re very real convincing illusions. And very useful and often very reliable ones, similar to the illusion that people have high resolution colour vision right out to the edge of the visual fields, whereas high definition colour vision only occupies an area the size of the thumbnail with the thumb held at arms length, and the remainder being a monochromatic blur.

    The human brain is the most complex structure in the universe (that we know of). It’s perfectly capable of achieving amazing results, and it should be given its deserved credit. There’s no need to add ineffable unexplainable non-material somethings, which you insist are present – but have no idea of what they are or how you’d go about finding.

    There’s no need to add some non-material something or another, whether you call it ‘consciousness’ as some fundamental property of the Universe or not, when qualia and consciousness are clearly produced by physical brains.

    I’m not interested in reading your blog yet again. It’s just the Wardell Waffle^3

  142. Ian Wardellon 14 May 2017 at 10:02 am

    OK, as usual nothing relevant being said to my posts.

  143. Ivan Groznyon 14 May 2017 at 10:55 am

    “In the Axial Age (commonly dated from 800 to 200 B.C.), world-transforming ideas such as Buddhism, Confucianism, the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle, and the Hebrew Old Testament almost miraculously appeared at about the same time in India, China, ancient Greece and among the Jews in the Middle East – these peoples then having little interaction with one another.”

    And obviously, in his infinite power and wisdom the same God created Buddhism during the same period and let it spread throughout Asia, including India, China and Japan – a religion teaching that God does not exist and that the very belief in God is a delusion and “unwholesome mental state” that diverts individuals from the path of enlightenment. Makes sense…

  144. BillyJoe7on 14 May 2017 at 11:14 am

    Ian Wardell,

    “But of course Dennett doesn’t believe in the existence of consciousness. The man’s barking mad and I have no idea why anyone would want to read him or quote him”

    You are a liar.
    I’ve corrected you repeatedly in other threads.
    You repeating it once again makes you an outright liar.

    And that goes for TheGorilla upthread as well.

  145. chikoppion 14 May 2017 at 11:15 am

    [Ian Wardell] As I said before, I believe a radically new scientific theory will incorporate consciousness, although consciousness would have to be considered fundamental.

    Now, in a sense, that would be “physicalism”, but clearly it bears no relationship to modern materialism i.e the materialism that has pertained since the birth of modern science in the 17th Century.

    So, I regard materialism as being false by definition, but not “physicalism” (but depending how one defines physicalism).

    It would be really helpful if you’d stop making up your own definition of words. What you are describing is “substance dualism,” as distinct from “property dualism.”

    “Physicalism” is a form of monism, which expressly denies substance dualism.

    “Opposed to substance dualists (aside from monists) are property dualists, who argue that the mind emerges from the arrangement of the physical as a property of it. Property dualists also place an ontological distinction between mind and body, but deny that they are separate, independant substances.”

    Neither physicalism nor monism is “false by definition.”

    You can believe that “one dayTM” all scientific understanding will be overturned. But in order for that to happen it would have to occur via the scientific process, because science is a methodology, not a philosophy. Unless this hypothesis can be scientifically demonstrated it will remain a dead-end conjecture born of incredulity.

    Do you understand these distinctions? Unless substance dualism can be methodologically and objectively investigated it cannot and will not fall within the domain of science. If you believe it can be investigated then design and conduct the experiment. No argument is necessary. If your hypothesis is scientifically valid it can be demonstrated experimentally.

    OK, wrote this in notepad. I think I should save it and maybe paste it in the next time some clown says I don’t know what I’m talking about on this issue. Or simply read my bloody essays!

    Your “essays” are filled with these sorts of sophomoric misconceptions.

  146. michaelegnoron 14 May 2017 at 11:41 am

    [because science is a methodology, not a philosophy.]

    A methodology is a philosophy, or at least depends on philosophy.

    The methodology of science depends on several things: the belief (faith) that nature is rational, behaves according to rules (for the phenomenon studied), and, most importantly for our discussion, that it is in fact necessary to discover the reason for the particular state of nature being studied scientifically.

    This last is the Principle of Sufficient Reason, recognized for millenia as a fundamental philosophical precept. It states that every state of affairs exists for a reason sufficient to it–in other words, that nothing happens in nature for no reason at all. A being either exists because of something else that caused it, or it has the principle of existence in itself. Of course, for most things we do not know the reason in detail, but eveything has a reason for why it is the way it is, even if we don’t know the reason.

    The reason this is important is twofold: first, science is nonsensical if the PSR is not true. After all, why embrace the theory of evolution, if “the animals just happened” is a viable explanation? Why find out why a particle moves in a magnetic field if the answer is “it jsut does, for no reason”.

    THe PSR makes science doable, and if it is denied, the scientific enterprise becomes pointless.

    The second reason the PSR is essential is that it points to God. The fundamental atheist argument is that the universe exists “for no reason”–it just is. This of course violates the PSR, and many people (eg Leibnitz) used this as a proof for God’s existence.

    Of course, you’ll say “what’s the reason for God’s existence”, but that won’t work, because God, as understood by the scholastics, has the principle of existence in Himself.

    The PSR is a big problem for athests who want to uphold the centrality of science in understanding nature. If you believe in science, you endorse the PSR, but then you endorse the argument from the PSR for God’s existence.

  147. michaelegnoron 14 May 2017 at 12:33 pm

    Sophie:

    [“the universe is made out of information, not little bits of “matter.” is not obvious, not universally believed by scientists and modern philosophers of science or metaphysics. ]

    Yes it is obvious, and yes it is universally believed by scientists.

    Consider what “information” means.

    The root of information is “form” (in-form-ation)

    This is from the Aristotelian concept of form. Form is the intelligible principle in a thing–the aspects of the thing that can be known.

    “The aspects of the thing that can be known” are precisely what scientists study. So every scientist that studies an aspect of the natural world is studying it’s form– the form in it–it’s in-form-ation.

    In the scholastic view, form (information) is in fact what makes something actual (real), not just possible.

    Everything scientists study is made of information, not “little packets of matter”.

  148. Steven Novellaon 14 May 2017 at 12:39 pm

    Immuno4831 – you are committing a false dichotomy. There is another option, the one that scientists actually accept, that nature contains processes that allow for self-organization.

    So, you sand castle analogy does not work. That is a failed creationist argument that has been refuted for over a century. Try to keep up.

  149. michaelegnoron 14 May 2017 at 12:47 pm

    Steven:

    [So, you sand castle analogy does not work. That is a failed creationist argument that has been refuted for over a century. Try to keep up.]

    It’s a very good analogy. When you look out into the parking lot, and see cars, do you infer that they were manufactured, or that they “self-organized”?

  150. Sophieon 14 May 2017 at 12:57 pm

    Egnor,

    No it’s not universally believed by scientists and philosophers that the universe is ultimately little bits of information. Like I said find me any experimental physicist that believes that. Show me your references. Science doesn’t show the ultimate nature of the universe it just makes models.

    Ian Wardell,

    I read some of your blog. It’s not that great. Sorry? All the errors you make here are magnified over there because you have no quality control. Self publishing is a double edged sword. You get lost in your own world with your own language. A lot of your definitions for words are not how they are commonly defined by other philosophers. Also you don’t understand Dennett and have strawmaned everything about him.

  151. chikoppion 14 May 2017 at 1:07 pm

    [michaelegnor] A methodology is a philosophy, or at least depends on philosophy.

    THe PSR makes science doable, and if it is denied, the scientific enterprise becomes pointless.

    There it is in your own words. “Science,” being something that is “doable,” is a methodology. If a hypothesis cannot be subjected to the methodology it is not “scientific.”

    It’s a very good analogy. When you look out into the parking lot, and see cars, do you infer that they were manufactured, or that they “self-organized”?

    Is a manufactured object manufactured?

    When you look at a self-organized object, is it self-organized?

  152. Pete Aon 14 May 2017 at 1:20 pm

    BillyJoe7,

    Ian Wardell is consistent in proving himself to be a liar. Ian stated on 14 May 2017 at 6:02 am[1]: “But of course Dennett doesn’t believe in the existence of consciousness. The man’s barking mad and I have no idea why anyone would want to read him or quote him.”

    It is, I think, becoming increasingly obvious to the readers that Ian Wardell is barking mad and we have no idea why anyone would want to read his blog.

    [1] http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/rational-arguments-for-god/#comment-314436

  153. Pete Aon 14 May 2017 at 1:44 pm

    “[Egnor] Consider what ‘information’ means.”

    Yep: a random string of characters contains far more information than does the same length string of human-readable information. The Discovery Institute and its affiliates describe their ‘information theory of the universe’ in a manner which is diametrically opposed to science, and the vast majority of scientists.

    I have highlighted this fundamental error in my previous replies to both you and “hardnose”.

  154. Sophieon 14 May 2017 at 1:47 pm

    Chikoppi,

    In the article I linked to in the New Yorker way up there. There is a summary of the different “stances.” Egnor and friends are trapped in their stances with no knowledge of how they got there. They think their chosen methodology and ideological perspective is the only correct one. This is what the author said about some of Dennett’s ideas about this:

    When it comes to more sophisticated objects, which have purposes and functions, we typically adopt a “design stance.” We say that a leaf’s “purpose” is to capture energy from sunlight, and that a nut and bolt are designed to fit together. Finally, there are objects that seem to have beliefs and desires, toward which we take the “intentional stance.”

    There is no absolutely correct stance to take. The different stances give us different types of information. Egnor is trapped in “purpose,” with no idea just how limited, and dependent on a specific frame of reference.

  155. Skepticoon 14 May 2017 at 4:09 pm

    Egnor:

    When you look out into the parking lot, and see cars, do you infer that they were manufactured, or that they “self-organized”?

    If you examine those cars for any period of time, you will not see them reproduce, and create little cars that grow up to be big ones. This is completely different from living objects, which do reproduce. In fact, the theory of evolution, which you have demonstrated that you do not understand, requires reproduction, or it will not happen.

    So it’s your analogy that fails.

  156. Skepticoon 14 May 2017 at 4:12 pm

    Egnor:

    Of course, you’ll say “what’s the reason for God’s existence”, but that won’t work, because God, as understood by the scholastics, has the principle of existence in Himself.

    Please define “understood.”

  157. michaelegnoron 14 May 2017 at 6:48 pm

    Skeptico:

    [if you examine those cars for any period of time…]

    In other words, you draw rational inferences based on experience and incomplete information. Species evolve, cars are manufactured, although you did not personally witness each specifically.

    I carry my inference one step farther: things that behave as if they have purpose do indeed have purpose- in natural things, I infer supernatural purpose.

    You infer evolution. I infer purpose. We are both men of deep faith.

  158. Skepticoon 14 May 2017 at 7:42 pm

    In other words, you draw rational inferences based on experience and incomplete information.

    I’m not inferring anything, I’m just exposing your false analogy.

    We have all seen animals (including humans) have offspring. That’s not inferred. You can watch those cars until the end of time and they won’t have offspring. That is why this ridiculous analogy of yours (cars, a watch, a tornado in a junkyard – there really is no end to the different ways you can flog this dead horse) doesn’t work. No matter how cleverly you try to blow a smokescreen over this silly argument, it is still nothing more than an argument by analogy. And like all analogies, it falls down somewhere. Yours fails spectacularly in a rather obvious way. Evolution requires reproduction (offspring) for it to work. Cars don’t reproduce.

    If you’re arguing that we don’t know for sure if cars reproduce or not because we have “incomplete information” then there really is no point talking to you.

    btw, are you going to define “understood”?

  159. Lightnotheaton 14 May 2017 at 7:53 pm

    Michael,
    Making inferences is not an act of faith. So if you are really arriving at your belief in purpose through inference, neither you nor Skeptico are men of deep faith.

    Or conversely, if your definition of faith is correct, there is no such thing as reason and we should give up arguing about anything. The answer to any statement about reality that you disagree with becomes “Well, you just have a faith that is different from mine.”

  160. hardnoseon 14 May 2017 at 8:11 pm

    # chikoppion 13 May 2017 at 9:23 pm

    [hardnose] Religion is the acknowledgement and acceptance that there are things infinitely beyond our ability to rationally comprehend. It is openness to experiences that go beyond the world of our senses and the world of our little egos.

    “No. It isn’t. What you are describing is mysticism.”

    Mysticism is the foundation of all religions.

  161. hardnoseon 14 May 2017 at 8:12 pm

    “It’s a problem for theists who believe that the universe was manufactured for the benefit of humans.”

    You are assuming that is what theists believe.

  162. hardnoseon 14 May 2017 at 8:13 pm

    “Theists have the problem explaining why the 1755 Lisbon earthquake and tsunami happened killing the devout worshipping in the cathedral on All Saints’ Day.”

    That is just silly. Theists know that people will die eventually one way or other.

  163. hardnoseon 14 May 2017 at 8:14 pm

    “And some Christians reject free will, such as Calvinists with predestined salvation. God, being omniprescient, knows who’s going to be saved in advance”

    backfiend,

    It is easy to find ridiculous things that people believe whether related to religion or not. So what?

  164. hardnoseon 14 May 2017 at 8:21 pm

    “Who came up with the omniscient, good God idea??? Try reading a Bible.”

    Lightnotheat,

    I have read the western bibles. They were written by humans, who were advocating a particular brand of religion, saying their god is the best. I don’t feel I have to take it seriously.

  165. Sophieon 14 May 2017 at 8:40 pm

    Show me the book written by God.
    Please. Explain how pointing out that the Bible was written by humans means anything? We are talking about religion, a human construction. Thanks for reminding us?

    The Christian god is a god many people believe in, so as atheists we build arguments to explain how that god makes no sense.

  166. chikoppion 14 May 2017 at 8:42 pm

    [hardnose] Mysticism is the foundation of all religions.

    Non-sequitur. Religion (e.g., Catholicism) is not mysticism.

  167. Lightnotheaton 14 May 2017 at 8:46 pm

    Hardnose,

    “I have read the western bibles. They were written by humans, who were advocating a particular brand of religion, saying their god is the best. I don’t feel I have to take it seriously.”

    As usual you are missing the point. The all-powerful and good God is indeed just one “brand” of religion, but when skeptics talk about the problem of evil they are talking about that particular brand, rather than making an argument about spirituality/religion in general. I’m glad you don’t feel you have to take the Bible seriously, but people like Egnor do, thus the discussion.

  168. hardnoseon 14 May 2017 at 8:51 pm

    “The Christian god is a god many people believe in, so as atheists we build arguments to explain how that god makes no sense.”

    You build arguments against things that are obviously nonsensical. It’s easier than arguing against things that are logical.

  169. Lightnotheaton 14 May 2017 at 8:57 pm

    Chikoppi,
    Hardnose’s meaning is often hard to discern, but I think he means that the belief systems we call religions come into existence as a response to subjective experiences he calls mystical.

  170. Lightnotheaton 14 May 2017 at 9:06 pm

    Hardnose,

    Of course we argue against nonsensical ideas rather than logical ones; we like logical ideas. So if you think there are logical reasons to have certain spiritual/mystical/religious beliefs, logical reasons we are avoiding talking about, please CLEARLY indicate what those are, so we can either refute the idea that they are logical, or be enlightened.

  171. bachfiendon 14 May 2017 at 9:34 pm

    Hardnose,

    ‘Theists know that people will die eventually one way or other’.

    Then why go through the pain and bother of living a full life and risk dying horribly in a 1755 Lisbon earthquake and tsunami type disaster? You’re going to die anyway, aren’t you? Why not have midwives strangle the newborn at birth and get it over with quickly and relatively painlessly.

    It just seems to be a theistic argument for nihilism.

  172. chikoppion 14 May 2017 at 9:42 pm

    @Lightnotheat

    [Lightnotheat] Hardnose’s meaning is often hard to discern, but I think he means that the belief systems we call religions come into existence as a response to subjective experiences he calls mystical.

    No, it’s all a poor attempt to justify the assertion that “truth” is something discovered through intuition because “the universe” is an agent that communicates via the subconscious. It’s a silly notion that is refuted by even a cursory examination of evidence. He knows this, which is why he’ll run down any semantic rabbit hole that might offer shelter.

    Neither revelation nor intuition is a path to truth. “Feels true” and “is true” are not the same thing. The fact that our brains have evolved cognitive heuristics is neither evidence of an external agent nor evidence that those heuristics are accurate when relied upon, especially when applied to tasks they were not evolved to address.

  173. hardnoseon 14 May 2017 at 11:01 pm

    Logic and intuition are both necessary. Creative ideas always come from intuition, never from logic. Logic can help weed out the bad ideas, but it does not generate ideas.

    Logical thought is linear and has trouble with complexity. Intuition is better than logic when dealing with complexity, but intuitive ideas cannot be communicated.

    Even if you believe intuition is worthless, you still use it all the time.

  174. bachfiendon 14 May 2017 at 11:55 pm

    Hardnose,

    Intuition doesn’t just deny facts as you do. Intuition relies on the unconscious, not conscious, processing of facts, which then ‘pops out’ a solution, often after a good night’s sleep during which the brain has been left to consider the problem concerned at its leisure unconsciously.

    The conscious mind (and brain) then, when it reexamines the facts, determines that the unconscious ‘intuitive’ decision or idea was correct. Or not.

    Intuition doesn’t determine that the universe is conscious, because there are absolutely no facts supporting that contention, besides your gut feeling – and most people use their guts for other purposes. You’re the only person who seems to use it for thinking.

  175. Steven Novellaon 15 May 2017 at 6:53 am

    And we go around in circles.

    Michael – as has been pointed out to you in previous threads, cars are not living things. Living things use energy to grow, maintain homeostasis, they use energy, and they reproduce. All of those abilities taken together provide the potential to self-organize and to evolve.

    Cars are not alive. They cannot self-organize.

    Here is the part where you point out -well, then how did life start? That is a completely separate question. Evolution is the study of what happens and has happened once you have living things.

    How living things first arose is a separate question. We have some viable hypotheses and tantalizing experiments, but we currently don’t have a solid theory on how that happened exactly. You will want to fill that gap with your God. But that is ultimately an argument from ignorance, based on the conflating of currently unexplained with unexplainable and impossible.

    The one thing that isn’t evolving is this conversation.

  176. RickKon 15 May 2017 at 7:02 am

    We see this form of argument repeated over and over again by hardnose.

    It is clearly important to him to consider himself educated and intelligent. But his arguments lack structure, citations and the other hallmarks of informed opinion, particularly when compared to Steve. His recent (and recurring) emphasis on intuition is just one example.

    Therefore hardnose is faced with a dilemma – he wants to appear informed but he isn’t. So instead of concentrating on reducing his own ignorance, he instead throws his energies into increasing and exaggerating everybody else’s ignorance. He downplays what science understands and focuses on the unanswered questions.

    When that isn’t enough, he resorts to inventing mysteries, and then takes comfort in the thought that science hasn’t addressed his invented mysteries. So in the face of a massive and continuing advances in neuroscience, hardnose embraces the mystery of the “conscious universe” and supports his position with a simple “it’s obvious”.

    Now he can sit back and take smug comfort in the fact that, while Steve and other scientists know a lot about neuroscience, they are ignorant of the conscious universe. Therefore hardnose’s ignorance isn’t so bad by comparison, and he can maintain his self-image of informed wisdom.

    The above portrayal of hardnose may be wrong and should be tested. One way to test it is as follows: if hardnose’s motivation is to reduce ignorance, then he should be eager to propose ways of testing the “conscious universe” hypothesis so we can learn its characteristics, mechanisms and limits. On the other hand, if hardnose just wants to boost his ego by inventing and maintaining fields of ignorance, then he will avoid trying to test the “conscious universe” and will just spend his time criticizing “materialists” and focus on “accepting the mysteries of the universe”.

    By this simple observation of hardnose’s behavior, we can determine whether his motivation is to reduce ignorance or increase it, and whether he is driven to advance human understanding, or just to advance his own ego.

  177. RickKon 15 May 2017 at 7:29 am

    Michael Egnor said:

    “I carry my inference one step farther: things that behave as if they have purpose do indeed have purpose- in natural things, I infer supernatural purpose.
    You infer evolution. I infer purpose. We are both men of deep faith.”

    It’s not “faith” if your starting assumptions are based on extensive testing. It is not faith that drives my confidence that stuff is made of atoms even though I’ve never seen them – it’s the degree to which I can rely on the assertions and products of atomic theory every day.

    Fortipunately on the question of supernatural guidance of the material world, we’ve had extensive testing. Millions of times throughout history, natural events have been attributed to supernatural causes, from the motion off the stars to the causes disease, volcanoes, earthquakes, floods, tides, weather, lightning, mental illness, etc. And yet we’ve seen these events repeatedly and reliably explained by natural, not supernatural, causes.

    So Michael, with such extensive testing, it takes no faith to assume that natural events have natural causes.

    But we all understand this is not an intellectual debate for you, it is tribal. So your faith position is not in question or doubt. And as you’ve stated, you’ll happily use deadly force to promote it. So we understand how critical it is for you to cast everybody else’s positions as equally tribal, no matter how evidence-based or reasoned their beliefs might be.

  178. RickKon 15 May 2017 at 7:29 am

    “The one thing that isn’t evolving is this conversation.”

    🙂

  179. Ian Wardellon 15 May 2017 at 8:57 am

    J. M. E. McTaggart has said:

    “If a man is shut up in a house, the transparency of the windows is an essential condition of his seeing the sky. But it would not be prudent to infer that, if he walked out of the house, he could not see the sky because there was no longer any glass through which he might see it. (Some Dogmas of Religion p105)”.

    In order to see the sky whilst in a house then the sky has to exist, but also the house needs windows. *Both* these conditions need to be fulfilled. If I am unable to see the sky then this need not entail I am blind, it could simply be the case the curtains are drawn. And if I were to venture outside I would be able to see the sky.

    Now, materialists claim that from the fact that mental capacities vary according to the intricacy and condition of one’s brain, this demonstrates that consciousness, or the mind, could not exist without the brain. But this view implicitly holds that a dysfunctional brain could not possibly affect one’s mind. Perhaps the capacity to perceive, think, feel, and deliberate is intrinsic to the self, but that whilst the self is “housed” within its brain, a dysfunctional brain prohibits their manifestation? And when the self becomes detached from one’s dysfunctional brain, these abilities will be restored? In fact, just as the man who ventures outside his house will have an *enhanced* view of the sky, then one might expect one’s various mental capacities to be actually enhanced in a disembodied existence.

  180. chikoppion 15 May 2017 at 9:34 am

    [Ian Wardell] Perhaps the capacity to perceive, think, feel, and deliberate is intrinsic to the self, but that whilst the self is “housed” within its brain, a dysfunctional brain prohibits their manifestation? And when the self becomes detached from one’s dysfunctional brain, these abilities will be restored?

    Should we kill the mentally disabled, victims of severe head trauma, and children born with cognitive defects, thereby mercifully “liberating” their consciousness from a dysfunctional bodily organ? If not, why not?

    P.S. “Materialists” see no evidence of minds existing in the absence of brains. If you have evidence that demonstrates such a thing it would be quite easy to change their position, but vague notions about the brain as maybe being a meat-based ghost antenna are unlikely to be taken seriously.

  181. michaelegnoron 15 May 2017 at 9:47 am

    Steven:

    [All of those abilities taken together provide the potential to self-organize and to evolve. Cars are not alive. They cannot self-organize… well, then how did life start? That is a completely separate question. Evolution is the study of what happens and has happened once you have living things.]

    None of these questions about self-organization are “separate”.

    The question of self-organization in nature gets to the heart of the question of God, and it is on this issue of self-organization that the arguments for God’s existence are based.

    The question is this: is self-organization in nature, in a radical sense, really possible? Can unthinking matter really organize itself, ultimately, or is some deeper explanation necessary?

    Atheists say yes, self-organization in nature is possible in a radical sense, where nature itself is the brute fact, the ground of existence. Theists argue that a deeper Fact is necessary to ultimately explain natural self-organization.

    That is where the logical argument for God’s existence hinges.

    The cosmological arguments (Aquinas’ Prime Mover, First Cause, and Necessary Existence) and the teleological argument (Aquinas’ Fifth Way) are detailed examinations of the question of the sufficiency of natural self-organization, and they are quite strong arguments that nature cannot, ultimately, self-organize.

    There are in nature primary and secondary causes. Secondary causes are the normal natural laws and causation from within nature itself. Primary cause is transcendant cause, by God. Secondary causes depend on primary cause for their existence and operation.

    While there are laws of nature that contribute to self-organization, the cosmological and teleological arguments point out that a Transcendant Cause is necessary to ultimately cause the process.

    Now of course, you can disagree with the individual cosmological or teleological arguments–many philosophers of the first rank have (eg Kant) have disagreed– but many excellent philosophers affirm the arguments as well, and many of the philosophers who have questioned the arguments are firm theists who base their belief on other arguments or considerations (Kant based his theism on the argument from moral law).

    What atheists today fail to do is engage these arguments with anything approaching cogency. I dare say that no New Atheist can even give a coherent description of the Prime Mover argument, or First Cause argument, or Necessary Existence argument, or the Teleolgical argument. Dawkins famously butchered the cosmolgical arguments, and Dennett–one of the rare actual philosophers in the New Atheist armory–has never offered a professionally rigorous refutation of any of the classical arguments for God’s existence.

    Theists believe that self-organization in nature requires a transcendant cause. It is a viewpoint supported by millenia of careful detailed reasoning. You need not agree, but your disagreement can only be taken seriously if you seriously engage the arguments.

  182. trumpproctoron 15 May 2017 at 9:52 am

    I challenge any theist to name one instance where we once had a scientific explanation, where now the best explanation is a supernatural religious one?

    Go.

  183. michaelegnoron 15 May 2017 at 9:54 am

    RickK:

    [So Michael, with such extensive testing, it takes no faith to assume that natural events have natural causes.]

    Natural events do have natural causes. Every event has a series of causes, like dominoes. The question is: how far back do the dominoes go? Do the dominoes go beyond the natural world?

    The fact is that neither personal experience nor science can tell us how far back causes go with certainty. We must use logic and careful reasoning to try to know, and all of this requires real faith–faith in things we can’t see, faith in logic, faith in inferences drawn from life.

    You have faith, and so do I. We have faith in different things. And I have detailed carefully reasoned arguments to support my faith.

    I haven’t seen your carefully reasoned arguments to support yours. In fact, you won’t even admit your faith.

  184. michaelegnoron 15 May 2017 at 9:58 am

    trump:

    [I challenge any theist to name one instance where we once had a scientific explanation, where now the best explanation is a supernatural religious one? Go.]

    All natural events have natural causes. These are called secondary causes. No one doubts that they exist.

    Theists argue that secondary causes require a primary cause, and we identify that primary cause with God. Our arguments are detailed and rigorous. If you disagree with our arguments, you need to engage them, which starts with understanding them.

    I see no evidence that you understand the cosmological or teleological arguments for God’s existence.

  185. michaelegnoron 15 May 2017 at 10:04 am

    trume:

    [I challenge any theist to name one instance where we once had a scientific explanation, where now the best explanation is a supernatural religious one? Go.]

    There are some historical situations in which secondary natural causes were presumed to be primary causes (“God did it”). Science has helped us understand the secondary causes better. That does not mean that primary causes don’t exist. That’s a separate argument.

    For example, the fact that we now know that epilepsy is caused by an uncontrolled electrical discharge in the brain (secondary cause) doesn’t mean that we have an explanation for how it is that matter and electricity exist in the first place, and how it is that they behave as they do. And if cosmology shows us how matter and electricity emerged from the big bang, we still have no fundamental explanation for the big bang or for existence itself.

    This is not a “God of the Gaps” argument, any more than it is a “Science of the Gaps” argument. Detailed accumulation of knowledge about secondary causes does not obviate the need to prove or disprove the need for primary cause.

    It is primary cause we are debating here, and science has little traction here. Logic and reason are the methods needed to explore primary cause, and I don’t see much of that from your side.

  186. trumpproctoron 15 May 2017 at 10:05 am

    Egnor – “Theists believe that self-organization in nature requires a transcendant cause. It is a viewpoint supported by millenia of careful detailed reasoning. You need not agree, but your disagreement can only be taken seriously if you seriously engage the arguments.”

    And yet when pushed to the wall, I would bet that many of these arguments are not what convinces scholar theists. I would bet many would say, when push comes to shove, it’s some “personal revelation” that actually convinces them. They just know that personal revelation isn’t good evidence to convince others, so they resort to these word salad philosophical arguments.

    However this “personal revelation” is the same thing that leads billions of people worldwide to believe in contradictory religions, morals, gods, etc.

  187. michaelegnoron 15 May 2017 at 10:07 am

    Trump:

    [I challenge any theist to name one instance where we once had a scientific explanation, where now the best explanation is a supernatural religious one? Go.]

    And I point out that the classical arguments for God’s existence (By Aristotle, Augustine, Anslem, Aquinas, etc, etc) were all about primary cause, not secondary causes.

    So using science to explain secondary causes does nothing to touch the real arguments for God’s existence, which are all about primary cause.

  188. trumpproctoron 15 May 2017 at 10:08 am

    Egnor, “I see no evidence that you understand the cosmological or teleological arguments for God’s existence.”

    I’ve seen and heard them all.. none of them are compelling. Like the Kalam cosmological argument… it only gets you to “therefore the universe had a cause”. Period. It does not get you to a god.. and it certainly doesn’t get you to a specific god.

  189. trumpproctoron 15 May 2017 at 10:12 am

    Egnor, “It is primary cause we are debating here, and science has little traction here. Logic and reason are the methods needed to explore primary cause, and I don’t see much of that from your side.”

    No.. that is exactly the god of the gaps argument. You may be convinced by all this philosophical arguments, even when you are shown that premise 1 and 2 are not demonstrable.

    You can give a logical argument for anything if you are allowed to just make shit up for item 1, and say well “IF X is true, then 4 steps later Y must be true”. You can’t just do that, you FIRST have to prove that X is true, not just presuppose it’s true.

  190. Ian Wardellon 15 May 2017 at 10:14 am

    Trump said:

    “[Theists] resort to these word salad philosophical arguments”.

    Aye, let’s not think about things, God forbid. Let’s just passively soak up the “wisdom” of the prevailing modern western metaphysic.

  191. michaelegnoron 15 May 2017 at 10:14 am

    trump:

    [And yet when pushed to the wall, I would bet that many of these arguments are not what convinces scholar theists. I would bet many would say, when push comes to shove, it’s some “personal revelation” that actually convinces them. They just know that personal revelation isn’t good evidence to convince others, so they resort to these word salad philosophical arguments. However this “personal revelation” is the same thing that leads billions of people worldwide to believe in contradictory religions, morals, gods, etc.]

    Who cares what theists’ motives are? What we are discussing here is logic and reason and God’s existence.

    We all have motives–theists and atheists. Many of our motives are not rational. Theists may want eternal life. Atheists may want to keep fornicating or believing that they are a different sex than they were born, and want no interference from God in their activities.

    We all have motives, and few of our motives are based in logic.

    But here, we’re talking about logic. Ad-hominem arguments don’t really get us anywhere.

  192. michaelegnoron 15 May 2017 at 10:20 am

    trump:

    [Like the Kalam cosmological argument… it only gets you to “therefore the universe had a cause”. Period. It does not get you to a god.. and it certainly doesn’t get you to a specific god.]

    The Kalam argument doesn’t claim to get you to a particular understanding of God. It’s not meant to. But it’s a solid argument, which hasn’t been successfully refuted.

    Aquinas addresses the characteristics of God that can be rationally inferred from the cosmolgical arguments in Summa Contra Gentiles (chapter 14-102). It’s dense detailed reasoning, demonstrating God’s Omnipotence, Benevolence, Omniscence, Simplicity, Pure Actuality, etc. Further than that, you need revelation, for example from the bible. But just by reason you can know a lot about God.

  193. trumpproctoron 15 May 2017 at 10:28 am

    Egnor, – “But here, we’re talking about logic. Ad-hominem arguments don’t really get us anywhere.”

    Stating that many theorist scholars most likely actual believe because of “personal revelation” and yet “Personal revelation” is exactly what leads billions of people to believe contradictory gods/morals/beliefs is not an ad-hom attack. It’s a refutation of “personal revelation” being good evidence for anything when it leads people to believe in contradictory beliefs.

    Or do you not follow that logic?

  194. michaelegnoron 15 May 2017 at 10:30 am

    trump:

    [You can give a logical argument for anything if you are allowed to just make shit up for item 1, and say well “IF X is true, then 4 steps later Y must be true”. You can’t just do that, you FIRST have to prove that X is true, not just presuppose it’s true.]

    For the Ontological Argument, to which it seems you are referring, the only premis consistently attacked is the first: “it is possible that a being than which none greater can be concieved exists”.

    By “it is possible” is meant that there is no logical contradiction in the concept. And there doesn’t seem to be–it certainly seems that the proposition is true. It is possible that such a being exists.

    The rest of the argument, which is very tight straightforward logic, shows that if it is possible for this specific kind of being to exist, than it must exist.

    In what way do you argue that it is impossible for such a being to exist?

  195. trumpproctoron 15 May 2017 at 10:31 am

    Egnor – “The Kalam argument doesn’t claim to get you to a particular understanding of God. It’s not meant to. But it’s a solid argument, which hasn’t been successfully refuted.”

    Umm.. who is refuting that the universe had a cause? The question is what was the cause? Are we part of a multi-verse? Did the universe simply come from a physical state that we have no understanding of?

    The only correct answer to the question is “we don’t know yet”… not “god did it”.

  196. michaelegnoron 15 May 2017 at 10:33 am

    trump:

    [It’s a refutation of “personal revelation” being good evidence for anything when it leads people to believe in contradictory beliefs. Or do you not follow that logic?]

    Personal revelation is a different matter from logical arguments for God’s existence. Why do you keep switching the arguments?

    I certainly agree that personal revelation is not rigorously logical. No one thinks that it is. It is of varying reliability, and is not a logical matter.

    But we have been arguing here about logical arguments for God.

  197. trumpproctoron 15 May 2017 at 10:35 am

    Egnor, “In what way do you argue that it is impossible for such a being to exist?”

    Many others in this very thread have demonstrated the fallacy in this argument. I don’t need to add another one. Insert ANYTHING for “being which none greater can be conceived” and you would say the argument would still hold? And no, we don’t know if that’s possible. So none of the rest of the argument even matters.

    If premise one can’t be demonstrated.. then it doesn’t matter what the rest of the argument states.

  198. michaelegnoron 15 May 2017 at 10:39 am

    trump:

    [Umm.. who is refuting that the universe had a cause?]

    The atheists on this thread.

    [The question is what was the cause? Are we part of a multi-verse? Did the universe simply come from a physical state that we have no understanding of? ”.]

    From the cosmological arguments, one can draw inferences about the Cause, as Aquinas and countless others have. Those inferences entail Omnipotence, Metaphysical Simplicity, Omniscence, etc. It’s not unreasonable to connect the traditional religious understanding of God to such properties.

    [The only correct answer to the question is “we don’t know yet”… not “god did it]

    The point of the cosmological arguments is that the Cause transcends the universe, and is not a “physical state”, which would itself need a cause.

  199. trumpproctoron 15 May 2017 at 10:41 am

    Egnor – “I certainly agree that personal revelation is not rigorously logical. No one thinks that it is. It is of varying reliability, and is not a logical matter.”

    Yet just the other day you said:

    “Personal experiences are powerful evidence–it is the evidence most important in our daily lives. We don’t do scientific research on 99% of the things we do and believe.”

    So which is it? Is it “powerful evidence”? Or is it “not rigorously logical.. of varying reliability”?

  200. chikoppion 15 May 2017 at 10:45 am

    Only the mind and sprit are not physical. (A = B)
    Fire is not physical. (C = B)
    Fire must be composed of mind or spirit. (Therefore: C = A)

    Can anyone doubt this syllogism is correct? Is correct the same as true?

  201. michaelegnoron 15 May 2017 at 10:47 am

    trump:

    [Insert ANYTHING for “being which none greater can be conceived” and you would say the argument would still hold?]

    The common fallacious retort to the Ontological argument is to substitute some one thing for “it is possible that a being than which none greater can be concieved exists”.

    For example, “it is possible that a jelly sandwich than which none greater can be concieved exists”.

    But this is a error. No individual natural thing can be “a being than which none greater can be concieved”. A jelly sandwich, to be greater, would have to have peanut butter, etc, and then wouldn’t be a jelly sandwich…

    The premise of the Ontological argument refers to a maximal Being, not to some designated maximal thing in nature, which of course would not be a “being than which nothing greater can be concieved”.

    And for the first premise to be valid, all that is needed is that it does not contain a contradiction.

  202. michaelegnoron 15 May 2017 at 10:49 am

    trump:

    [Yet just the other day you said: “Personal experiences are powerful evidence–it is the evidence most important in our daily lives. We don’t do scientific research on 99% of the things we do and believe.”So which is it? Is it “powerful evidence”? Or is it “not rigorously logical.. of varying reliability”?]

    I can’t tell if you’re being honest here or deliberately saying something silly.

    Powerful evidence does not have to be logical.

    What about that don’t you understand?

  203. michaelegnoron 15 May 2017 at 10:52 am

    chi:

    [Only the mind and sprit are not physical. (A = B)
    Fire is not physical. (C = B)
    Fire must be composed of mind or spirit. (Therefore: C = A)
    Can anyone doubt this syllogism is correct? Is correct the same as true?]

    The point is that “physical” in modern terms is taken to mean “extended in space, with mass, etc”.

    The mind has no spatial extension, no mass, etc.

    So it’s perfectly reasonable to say that “the mind is not physical”, given that it has no physical properties.

  204. trumpproctoron 15 May 2017 at 11:08 am

    Egnor – “What about that don’t you understand?”

    Because to me, what you are doing is indistinguishable from cherry picking. If someone’s personal experience/revelation agrees with you, it’s “powerful evidence”. If someone’s personal experience/revelation is contrary to your beliefs, then it’s “not rigorously logical and of varying reliability”.

  205. trumpproctoron 15 May 2017 at 11:09 am

    Egnor – “I can’t tell if you’re being honest here or deliberately saying something silly.”

    ANd what is being silly about quoting two contradictory statements that YOU made?

  206. edamameon 15 May 2017 at 11:16 am

    chikoppi wrote:

    vague notions about the brain as maybe being a meat-based ghost antenna are unlikely to be taken seriously

    Drop the mic. You have won the internet.

  207. Willyon 15 May 2017 at 11:29 am

    I’ll have to read this entire thing later, but I was VERY amused to see the old “Steve Gould had doubts” trope. Somehow, I suspect Nelson is more than a few books short of a good library.

  208. chikoppion 15 May 2017 at 11:34 am

    [michaelegnor] [Only the mind and sprit are not physical. (A = B)
    Fire is not physical. (C = B)
    Fire must be composed of mind or spirit. (Therefore: C = A)]

    The point is that “physical” in modern terms is taken to mean “extended in space, with mass, etc”.

    So you’re saying that although the syllogism is logically constructed it is not true, because it uses outdated conceptual models as premises?

  209. michaelegnoron 15 May 2017 at 11:48 am

    chi:

    [So you’re saying that although the syllogism is logically constructed it is not true, because it uses outdated conceptual models as premises?]

    You’re imprecise about what is meant by “physical”.

    I tried to be more precise (physical=extended in space).

    You should try to be more precise, too.

  210. Pete Aon 15 May 2017 at 11:48 am

    Michael,

    “And for the first premise to be valid, all that is needed is that it does not contain a contradiction.”

    Deductive arguments are evaluated in terms of their validity and soundness.

    An argument is “valid” if it is impossible for its premises to be true while its conclusion is false. In other words, the conclusion must be true if the premises are true. An argument can be “valid” even if one or more of its premises are false.

    An argument is “sound” if it is valid and the premises are true.

    It is possible to have a deductive argument that is logically valid but is not sound. Fallacious arguments often take that form.

    The following is an example of an argument that is “valid”, but not “sound”:

    1. Everyone who eats carrots is a quarterback.
    2. John eats carrots.
    3. Therefore, John is a quarterback.
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deductive_reasoning

  211. michaelegnoron 15 May 2017 at 11:54 am

    Pete:

    The Ontological argument is valid.

    I think it is sound as well, but, as I noted, Aquinas did not accept it because he believed that inferences about God’s nature cannot be made with sufficient specificity to establish the truth of the premise.

  212. Ian Wardellon 15 May 2017 at 12:11 pm

    A house with windows is not comparable to an antenna.

  213. Pete Aon 15 May 2017 at 12:26 pm

    Michael,

    As I’ve mentioned before, I used to be religious. When I started having doubts, I watched debates between Christian apologists and atheists — especially William Lane Craig. It was the lack of soundness of the arguments by the apologists which I found really surprising, and that, combined with the plethora of errors and contradictions in the Bible, is why I’m no longer religious.

    I don’t know what caused the universe to exist, and currently, neither does anyone else. I’m an atheist because I have zero belief in gods. As I’ve also mentioned before, belief is not on a scale from 0 to 100%; it is on a scale from -100% to +100%; from total disbelief, through zero belief, to total belief.

  214. chikoppion 15 May 2017 at 12:29 pm

    [michaelegnor] [So you’re saying that although the syllogism is logically constructed it is not true, because it uses outdated conceptual models as premises?]

    You’re imprecise about what is meant by “physical”.

    I tried to be more precise (physical=extended in space).

    So the syllogism is true if the premise is construed in a particular way, but not true if it is construed in another. In this case, the more modern conceptual model of “physical” is necessary for intended purpose of the syllogism.

    Although…is your mind not spatially bounded (extended in space)? Can you project your mind across space and time to visit places you have never been? I can’t. My mind is therefore physical, if the concept is to be construed as you suggest.

    What method could we use to determine if a premise is construed in the appropriate way?

  215. chikoppion 15 May 2017 at 12:31 pm

    [Ian Wardell] A house with windows is not comparable to an antenna.

    Neither are comparable to a brain.

  216. trumpproctoron 15 May 2017 at 12:36 pm

    Egnor – “The Ontological argument is valid.”

    You can keep stating this over and over again.. doesn’t make it true. Don’t know how to state it more clearly than if steps 2-100 are as logically rock solid as it’s possible to be, but they all must follow from step 1, and step one can not be demonstrated or is a fallacy.. then it doesn’t matter how solid steps 2-100 are. End of story.

  217. Johnnyon 15 May 2017 at 1:13 pm

    How long before the idea of God will be in the dustbin of history, where it belongs?

  218. Ian Wardellon 15 May 2017 at 1:31 pm

    I just thought I’d share the following metaphor which I found interesting. Unknown author:

    In a mother’s womb were two babies. One asked the other: “Do you believe in life after delivery?”

    The other replied, “Why, of course. There has to be something after delivery. Maybe we are here to prepare ourselves for what we will be later.”

    “Nonsense,” said the first. “There is no life after delivery. What kind of life would that be?”

    The second said, “I don’t know, but there will be more light than here. Maybe we will walk with our legs and eat from our mouths. Maybe we will have other senses that we can’t understand now.”

    The first replied, “That is absurd. Walking is impossible. And eating with our mouths? Ridiculous! The umbilical cord supplies nutrition and everything we need. But the umbilical cord is so short. Life after delivery is to be logically excluded.”

    The second insisted, “Well I think there is something and maybe it’s different than it is here. Maybe we won’t need this physical cord anymore.”

    The first replied, “Nonsense. And moreover, if there is life, then why has no one has ever come back from there? Delivery is the end of life, and in the after-delivery there is nothing but darkness and silence and oblivion. It takes us nowhere.”

    “Well, I don’t know,” said the second, “but certainly we will meet Mother and she will take care of us.”

    The first replied “Mother? You actually believe in Mother? That’s laughable. If Mother exists then where is She now?”

    The second said, “She is all around us. We are surrounded by her. We are of Her. It is in Her that we live. Without Her this world would not and could not exist.”

    Said the first: “Well I don’t see Her, so it is only logical that She doesn’t exist.”

    To which the second replied, “Sometimes, when you’re in silence and you focus and you really listen, you can perceive Her presence, and you can hear Her loving voice, calling down from above.”

  219. mumadaddon 15 May 2017 at 1:38 pm

    Ian,

    ““Sometimes, when you’re in silence and you focus and you really listen, you can perceive Her presence, and you can hear Her loving voice, calling down from above.””

    Yeah, come back to me when the babies develop the standard model of physics, QM, cosmology, chemistry and biology and still find no evidence of a mother, and nothing that requires her existence.

  220. Sophieon 15 May 2017 at 1:45 pm

    Ian,

    You story tells us a lot about your hidden prejudices and beliefs. Clearly your ideas don’t stop a noninterventionist ground of existence god. Clearly you think many insane things, as outlined on your blog, that you won’t say here.

    Tell us. Tell us what god is. Tell us if the afterlife exists. Come on. Take a stand for what you believe in.

  221. edamameon 15 May 2017 at 1:48 pm

    As written it is actually not at all clear it is valid in the technical sense. If it doesn’t conform to some obvious logical form that everyone recognizes as valid (and it does not), then you need to put it into such a form, Egnor. Simply saying it is valid doesn’t make it so.

  222. trumpproctoron 15 May 2017 at 1:50 pm

    Ian,

    Nice story that theist would tell each other that sounds “logical” to them and tugs on people’s emotions, but is just a silly story. If the baby did actually sit still for a while, they could demonstrably hear noises coming from outside of their “universe”. Come back when you actually have recordings of a “loving voice” coming from outside our universe.

  223. michaelegnoron 15 May 2017 at 1:50 pm

    PeteA:

    [I’m an atheist because I have zero belief in gods. As I’ve also mentioned before, belief is not on a scale from 0 to 100%; it is on a scale from -100% to +100%; from total disbelief, through zero belief, to total belief.]

    I don’t believe in gods either. What I believe in rationally is the Ground of Existence, which transcends nature and is the First Cause, etc.

    I am sure of that, based on reason and logic.

    The interesting question, I think, is “what is the nature of this G of E?”. Is it a Person, or persons, or a force, or whatever? Can I have a relationship with It or Him? Should I have a relationship with It or Him?

    David Bentley Hart’s “The Experience of God” helped me on this. He is a great writer, first of all, and he shows how this view of God is common to all of the great religious faiths. there are differences of course, but the similarities are striking.

    I have found personally that the Christian view of all of this coincides best with my own experience, and as I search for Him, He seems to find me, daily, and I have a relationship with Him. It’s subtle, rather powerful, and fascinating. And, I think, true.

  224. michaelegnoron 15 May 2017 at 1:56 pm

    Ian:

    A very good and beautiful metaphor.

    I often think of the metaphor of the womb when I think about the afterlife. Death is like birth–frightening, shocking, going from warm darkness into bright light. But it is the beginning of a radical and beautiful new life.

    There’s another metaphor that I like, from Theresa of Avila (the great Carmelite mystic). In the Way of Perfection, she describes life on earth as ‘a bad night in a bad inn’.

    We are travelers here, and something much grander awaits us.

  225. RickKon 15 May 2017 at 2:26 pm

    Egnor said: “I haven’t seen your carefully reasoned arguments to support yours [position that it is wrong to assume an intelligent designer for the universe].”

    I don’t need a complex logical argument. The evidence is clear – humans have a well-documented proclivity to assume intelligent agency in nature where none exists. Examples of this assumption being proved wrong are legion. Examples where this assumption was proved right do not exist.

    Egnor said: “The cosmological arguments (Aquinas’ Prime Mover, First Cause, and Necessary Existence) and the teleological argument (Aquinas’ Fifth Way) are detailed examinations of the question of the sufficiency of natural self-organization, and they are quite strong arguments that nature cannot, ultimately, self-organize.”

    They are not “quite strong” – they are Medieval attempts to fill vast ignorance in a philosophical framework that still assumed the Earth and humanity were the center and purpose of the universe. It is foolish in the extreme to think a mind as active and acquisitive as Aquinas’s would come to similar conclusions based on today’s level of knowledge.

    Prime Mover assumes that the base state of existence is “at rest” and in need of a shove. Of course we now see a universe where nothing is at rest and there is no fixed point of reference. So the base assumption of the Prime Mover argument doesn’t hold.

    The First Cause and Necessary Existence both assume that the un-caused cause must be God and can’t be “the universe” (or whatever the universe sprang from). Introducing “God” is in direct contradiction to parsimony. Any necessity to exist that can be applied to “God” can be applied directly to the universe without need of a middle-deity.

    And of course, all five arguments make a massive leap of faith from “something that started existence” to the God of the Trinity. There is no reason whatsoever to assume that even if there is some extra-universal first cause, that it is an intelligent agent. Quite the contrary – experience tells us that when we assume supernatural intelligent agency, we’re dependably wrong.

    There is no more reason to assume an intelligent agent is needed to organize a universe than to assume one is needed to ensure the pattern of a snowflake is symmetrical. Both are examples of matter that self-organizes, and neither requires an intelligence.

    Finally, there is the very real randomness of the universe that we understand now that Aquinas did not. We see motion and existence without cause as fundamental features of the fabric of spacetime. Seriously Michael, you’ve repeatedly stated your preference for philosophy that developed before modern astronomy or physics, but your staunch refusal to accept any new input from the past 600 years does not make your arguments any stronger.

    Egnor said: “He seems to find me, daily, and I have a relationship with Him. It’s subtle, rather powerful, and fascinating. And, I think, true.”

    And so from this we can take as given that whatever someone hears in their heads represents the objective reality of the universe. And you wonder why Steve and the rest of us find weakness in the rational arguments for God?

  226. edamameon 15 May 2017 at 2:38 pm

    Let’s look at the details to see if this is valid:

    1) It is possible that X [premise]
    2) X holds in one possible world [follows from 1: modal logic]
    3) If X holds in one possible world, then X holds in all possible worlds [premise]
    3′) X holds in all possible worlds [2, 3, modus ponens]
    4) Our world W is one possible world [premise]
    4′) If X holds in all possible worlds and world W is one possible world, then X holds in W. [premise]
    5) X holds in our world [3′, 4′, modus ponens ]

    The inference is indeed valid, if we are being charitable, and take premise 3 as a premise (it doesn’t follow from 1 and 2, so if we are being charitable it must be interpreted as a premise). Premise 1, when it comes to God, is not obvious. Premise 4 is obvious, and premise 4′ is obvious and probably a theorem of modal logic.

    Unfortunately the argument is not sound, because it begs the question.

    The biggest weakness is that premise 3 is preposterous. It is preposterous in ways others have pointed out. Premise 3 is equivalent to: if X is possible, then X is necessary. Is is possible I am wealthy, therefore I am necessarily wealthy (in modal logic, being true in all possible worlds is equivalent to necessity).

    Since ‘X’ is ‘God exists’, then basically premise 3 amounts to ‘If it is possible that God exists, then God necessarily exists.’ Which is at least as controversial as the conclusion you want to establish, so the argument is question begging.

  227. edamameon 15 May 2017 at 2:41 pm

    Correction: justification for 5 should be [3′, 4, 4′: modus ponens]
    The antecedent of the conditional is a conjunction of 3′ and 4.

  228. trumpproctoron 15 May 2017 at 3:57 pm

    Egnor – “I have found personally that the Christian view of all of this coincides best with my own experience, and as I search for Him, He seems to find me, daily, and I have a relationship with Him. It’s subtle, rather powerful, and fascinating. And, I think, true.”

    Sounds like you simply are making up your own version of God.. cherry picking what you like, discarding things that are inconvenient or that you can’t defend.

    This is no different than what every religious person does. I’ve heard countless debates of Christians vs. Christians about almost every topic (is there a hell?, Does the Devil exist?, Is Homosexuality a sin or not?, was their really a flood? Is the earth 6000 years old or 4.5billion? and the list goes on and on). Each one has their own interpretation of the bible and “personal revelation” to back up their position, and claim the other is “not a real christian”. Get any two Christians in a room and throw out enough topics and you’ll often find that the only belief they agree on is Christ was crucified and was resurrected, other than that, all bets are off.

  229. Lightnotheaton 15 May 2017 at 4:54 pm

    One big problem with all of these philosophical arguments for or against God is that there is no empirical experiment we can do to determine truth. The ontological argument and others that Egnor advances seem very weak to me, as do the definitional arguments Ian keeps returning to, and it also seems to me that the logical problems with those arguments have been fully demonstrated, but Egnor at al can always retort that we don’t understand what they’re saying.

    If either side is really interested in changing minds we should focus on evidence. For example there is the argument that there is actually a lot of evidence for such things as, say, consciousness existing independently of the brain, and skeptics are using denialist tactics to explain away the evidence. They could present this evidence (Dran Radin’s supposed scientific evidence for example) and try to demonstrate how the objections to it are unreasonable in the same way that, say, the anti-AGW denialists objections to AGW evidence are unreasonable. (Well, Egnor wouldn’t get very far with that since he IS an AGW denialist to a comical degree, bit others could.)

  230. michaelegnoron 15 May 2017 at 6:13 pm

    ed:

    [3) If X holds in one possible world, then X holds in all possible worlds [premise]

    The biggest weakness is that premise 3 is preposterous. It is preposterous in ways others have pointed out. Premise 3 is equivalent to: if X is possible, then X is necessary. Is is possible I am wealthy, therefore I am necessarily wealthy (in modal logic, being true in all possible worlds is equivalent to necessity).]

    Premise 3 is valid.

    Existence in one possible world means that there is no self-contradiction. “a being than nothing greater can be conceived” may or may not exist, but there is no contradiction in it, so it exists in at least one possible world.

    But to exist in all possible worlds (to necessarily exist) is greater than to exist in less than all possible worlds, so if “a being than nothing greater can be conceived” exists in one possible world, it exists in all possible worlds.

    That is, it necessarily exists, so it exists in our world.

    The argument is valid, and sound.

  231. michaelegnoron 15 May 2017 at 6:27 pm

    Light:

    [One big problem with all of these philosophical arguments for or against God is that there is no empirical experiment we can do to determine truth.]

    Including that statement, which, by your rules, can’t be considered true until an empirical experiment is done to determine it.

    What you’re recycling here is Positivism, which is the belief that nothing can be counted as true that isn’t either a logical deduction (a mathematical proof) or confirmed by experiment. The problem with Positivism is that it contradicts itself: Positivism itself isn’t a deduction nor an experiment, so it can’t be taken as a truth.

    God isn’t a thing in nature nor is he a scientific theory, so science really has very little to say about His existence.

    His existence is demonstrable, or not, by logic and by personal (anecdotal) experience. He isn’t a scientific proposition.

  232. michaelegnoron 15 May 2017 at 6:37 pm

    trump:

    [Sounds like you simply are making up your own version of God.. cherry picking what you like, discarding things that are inconvenient or that you can’t defend. This is no different than what every religious person does.]

    In a sense, you’re right. I, as a very limited creature, don’t and can’t know Him directly, so any knowledge of Him has to be “made up”, in the sense that it has to be composed of my very mortal fallible concepts. I do the best I can, as do other Christians.

    Atheists make things up too, and atheists cherry pick. Atheists pretend that there are objective moral laws and that there is a purpose to life, even though, if atheism is true, our existence is morally meaningless and without any purpose at all.

    Nietzche understood this. He understood that atheism, if taken honestly, is a radical and complete “transvaluation of values”, a total transformation of what it means to be human. He saw that worship of power– of Ubermensch–is the inevitable and logical result of the “death of God”.

    We all cherry-pick. If you really believe atheism is true, and you want to live your life honestly in accordance with it, you need to stop expropriating Christian morality, and live like atheism is true. Like Nietzsche said.

    Like there is no Good or Evil, just Power.

  233. Lightnotheaton 15 May 2017 at 6:39 pm

    There is no contradiction in the statement “I am God.” Therefore, I am God in at least one possible world. If a being than nothing greater can be conceived (i.e. God) exists in one possible world, it exists in all possible worlds. That is, it necessarily exists, so it exists in our world. Therefore, I am God.

  234. RickKon 15 May 2017 at 6:46 pm

    Egnor said: “But to exist in all possible worlds (to necessarily exist) is greater than to exist in less than all possible worlds, so if “a being than nothing greater can be conceived” exists in one possible world, it exists in all possible worlds.”

    Lol… so the same logic applies to any noun, not just “being”.

    It is necessary that there exists in every possible world a chocolate dessert so great that none greater can be conceived. There exists in every possible world a pair of bell bottom jeans so great that none greater can be conceived. The list is endless and entertaining of greatest possible things that necessarily exist in every possible world. I’m riding a commuter train wondering where I can find the greatest conceivable commuter train that necessarily exists in our world.

    It’s a wonder there’s any room left in our world for anything that isn’t the conceivably greatest.

  235. chikoppion 15 May 2017 at 6:54 pm

    [michaelegnor] Existence in one possible world means that there is no self-contradiction. “a being than nothing greater can be conceived” may or may not exist, but there is no contradiction in it, so it exists in at least one possible world.

    A “possible” world is not an “actual” world. The above statement is only true if infinite possible worlds exist (so that anything possibly true, no matter how unlikely, is necessarily true somewhere).

    It is also the case that in such a scenario there necessarily are worlds wherein no such being exists.

    But to exist in all possible worlds (to necessarily exist) is greater than to exist in less than all possible worlds, so if “a being than nothing greater can be conceived” exists in one possible world, it exists in all possible worlds.

    No. The second premise contradicts the first (that there are worlds within which no such being exists).

    The first premise requires infinite worlds. The second premise negates the conditions necessary to establish the first by collapsing infinite possibilities to only one possibility.

    The argument is valid, and sound.

    All this mishmash accomplishes is to reassert the hypothesis, X may or may not exist.

  236. michaelegnoron 15 May 2017 at 6:55 pm

    Light:

    [There is no contradiction in the statement “I am God.” Therefore, I am God in at least one possible world…]

    “I am a being than which nothing greater can be conceived” is untrue and a contradiction (I can conceive two of you), so the argument is unsound and invalid.

    “It is possible that a being than which nothing greater can be conceived exists” is true and is not a contradiction, so a valid argument that follows it is sound.

  237. MosBenon 15 May 2017 at 7:01 pm

    Indeed, it’s all just circular reasoning. A god who we define to require existance must exist because such a god is required to exist.

  238. Lightnotheaton 15 May 2017 at 7:04 pm

    See why I want the discussion to be about evidence? I can conceive of two Gods, so He is not a being than which nothing greater can be conceived, so… and blah blah blah.

  239. chikoppion 15 May 2017 at 7:06 pm

    Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, Plantinga himself agrees: the “victorious” modal ontological argument is not a proof of the existence of a being which possesses maximal greatness. But how, then, is it “victorious”? Plantinga writes: “Our verdict on these reformulated versions of St. Anselm’s argument must be as follows. They cannot, perhaps, be said to prove or establish their conclusion. But since it is rational to accept their central premise, they do show that it is rational to accept that conclusion” (Plantinga 1974, 221).

    It is pretty clear that Plantinga’s argument does not show what he claims that it shows. Consider, again, the argument: “Either God exists, or 2+2=5. It is not the case that 2+2=5. So God exists.” It is just a mistake for a theist to say: “Since the premise is true (and the argument is valid), this argument shows that the conclusion of the argument is true”. No-one thinks that that argument shows any such thing. Similarly, it is just a mistake for a theist to say: “Since it is rational to accept the premise (and the argument is valid), this argument shows that it is rational to accept the conclusion of the argument”. Again, no one thinks that that argument shows any such thing. But why don’t these arguments show the things in question? There is room for argument about this. But it is at least plausible to claim that, in each case, any even minimally rational person who has doubts about the claimed status of the conclusion of the argument will have exactly the same doubts about the claimed status of the premise. If, for example, I doubt that it is rational to accept the claim that God exists, then you can be quite sure that I will doubt that it is rational to accept the claim that either 2+2=5 or God exists. But, of course, the very same point can be made about Plantinga’s argument: anyone with even minimal rationality who understands the premise and the conclusion of the argument, and who has doubts about the claim that it is rationally permissible to believe that there is an entity which possesses maximal greatness, will have exactly the same doubts about the claim that it is rationally permissible to believe that there is a possible world in which there is an entity which possesses maximal greatness.

    https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ontological-arguments/#PlaOntArg

    The ontological argument is only convincing to people who “just like the sound of it.”

  240. bachfiendon 15 May 2017 at 7:07 pm

    Michael,

    A long time ago I did an ontological argument for the existence of unicorns.

    1. It is possible that unicorns exist.

    2. Unicorns exist in one possible world.

    3. If unicorns exist in one possible world, they exist in all possible worlds.

    4. Our world is a possible world.

    5. Unicorns exist.

    6. Unicorns are what all men call quadruped ungulates with a single horn.

    1. Unicorns are possible. Humans have been writing about them and painting them for thousands of years. Heck, I even saw some in the documentary ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ (if the Bible is fact, then so is Harry Potter).

    2. Stands to reason. It follows from (1).

    3. Does this mean you think that the Multiverse is true? If there’s an infinity of universes all the same size of our universe with its at least 10^22 stars then it’s almost certain that Life would have developed somewhere which eventually would have evolved into a quadruped ungulates with a single horn). Although I think it’s also possible that there could be universes in the Multiverse not conducive to Life anywhere, so ‘they exist in all possible worlds’ mightn’t apply.

    4. True. Our Universe is a possible universe, regardless of whether the Multiverse exists.

    5. Unicorns must exist, if you define them as quadruped ungulates with a single horn. The logic is impeccable and follows logically from all the preceding premises which are all true, or at least possibly true. I have some doubt about (3).

    6. Unicorns are what all men call quadruped ungulates with a single horn. Presumably women are far too sensible to fall for the nonsense of the ontological argument.

    It seems to me that all you’ve ‘proved’ is that somewhere in this universe is that there’s a super advanced intelligence with technology that’s far beyond our understanding and which will appear God-like. We have of course no means of determining the nature of this intelligence. The visible universe contains 10^11 galaxies and is at least 90 billion light years across. The entire universe is much larger and most of it we don’t have access, so it’s impossible to disprove.

    And even if it’s valid, it’s not possible to get to your conception of a personal god, who listens to prayers (and occasionally answers them), takes an intense interest in humans and gets very angry at the misuse of their sexual parts. Besides being the ineffable Ground of Being.

    Why is my ontological argument invalid and yours is valid? You claimed that all reasonable people would accept the ontological argument but that Aquinas didn’t. Does this mean you regard Aquinas as not being a reasonable person?

    Time for your Egnor Evasion.

  241. hardnoseon 15 May 2017 at 7:57 pm

    “There is no contradiction in the statement “I am God.” Therefore, I am God in at least one possible world…”

    ?

  242. hardnoseon 15 May 2017 at 8:07 pm

    “If you really believe atheism is true, and you want to live your life honestly in accordance with it, you need to stop expropriating Christian morality, and live like atheism is true.”

    No. Morality did NOT come from Christianity, that is just another myth. All human societies had moral codes. All social animals have moral codes.

    It is western-centric and human-centric thinking that created these myths.

    Moses of the Old Testament did not invent morality, it had already been around since forever. Jesus did not invent morality.

    However, Jesus did extend morality to the point that it was incompatible with life on earth. That was because Jesus had no interest in life on earth, his whole idea was to get the heck out of here as soon as possible.

    I really hate it when Christians think there was no morality before their religion came around.

    There is NO reason to think atheists are any less moral than theists, that is an old worn out obsolete absurd argument for religion.

    And it is so easy for atheists to debunk it.

    If you want to argue with atheists, at least try to be rational.

  243. Lightnotheaton 15 May 2017 at 8:14 pm

    Hardnose,
    Exactly! It’s ludicrous. But I could argue that with my personal definition of the word “contradiction” the statement is valid. These arguments rely way too much on the ambiguities of language..

  244. Willyon 15 May 2017 at 8:52 pm

    Are “possible worlds” the believer’s equivalent of the idea of a multiverse?

  245. bachfiendon 15 May 2017 at 8:54 pm

    Hardnose,

    Golly, that’s two highly sensible statements you’ve made that I know of.

    You better stop now while you’re ahead. I seem to remember that on a previous thread when you made your first sensible statement, it was your last comment on that thread.

  246. michaelegnoron 15 May 2017 at 9:36 pm

    hard:

    [No. Morality did NOT come from Christianity, that is just another myth. All human societies had moral codes. All social animals have moral codes.]

    No animal has a moral code. Animals have instincts and animals have learned behaviors. Moral codes are abstract conceptions that only humans have.

    Of course non-Christian cultures have moral codes, but we’re not talking about them. We’re talking about the West, which is where modern atheism has arisen, and the West’s (dying) moral code is very definitely Christian.

    If you have a beef with the fact that atheists expropriate Christian moral codes while denying the Source of those codes, take it up with Nietzsche.

  247. michaelegnoron 15 May 2017 at 9:39 pm

    hard:

    [I really hate it when Christians think there was no morality before their religion came around.]

    Since no Christian believes that, you’ll have to find something else to hate. Shouldn’t be hard.

    [There is NO reason to think atheists are any less moral than theists…]

    Except Communism and every atheist government in history.

    [If you want to argue with atheists, at least try to be rational.]

    Tryin’ my best…

  248. chikoppion 15 May 2017 at 9:56 pm

    [michaelegnor] If you have a beef with the fact that atheists expropriate Christian moral codes while denying the Source of those codes, take it up with Nietzsche.

    Which moral precept did Christianity introduce?

    Do unto others? No. Do not steal? No. Do not kill? No. Do not lie? No. Do not gossip? No. Do not enslave others? Definitely not.

    Exactly who expropriated what?

  249. edamameon 15 May 2017 at 10:04 pm

    Willy: possible worlds go way back, but nowadays they are one way logicians try to flesh out the semantics of claims about what is possible, what is necessary (i.e., modal claims). It is indeed some esoteric, weird stuff and has led to some very odd theories:
    https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/possible-worlds/

  250. michaelegnoron 15 May 2017 at 10:05 pm

    chi:

    I don’t understand your obsession with denying the Christian moral code.

    All moral codes have points of mutual contact, and none are wholly original.

    Yet it is a simple historical fact that the moral code of the West is, and has been since 500 AD or so, basically Christian.

    Neither Confucius nor Siddhartha nor Shango nor Quetzalcoatl have had a lot of cache in Western moral philosophy.

    When Western atheists expropriate moral codes, they generally expropriate the moral code in which they were raised and reside– Christian moral code.

    What’s your problem with such an obvious fact?

  251. edamameon 15 May 2017 at 10:06 pm

    It predates, and is not a direct ancestor of, the multiverse, theory in physics. But there may be more to that than I know, as I’ve got little knowledge of either field frankly.

  252. chikoppion 15 May 2017 at 10:10 pm

    [michaelegnor] Except Communism and every atheist government in history.

    Ah, good. That ol’ chestnut of a strawman again. Maybe now you can get around to answering my question from your last flailing.

    http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/jesus-mythicism-revisited/#comment-308926

    [michaelegnor] What role did Stalin and Pol Pot’s atheism, and the atheism of the communist movement, play in their crimes?

    [chikoppi] The enforcement of an ideological purity test contrived for the purpose of consolidating power and eliminating competing social institutions.

    What role did religion play in the inquisition and the Thirty Years War?

    I can condemn both as examples of ideological tyranny enacted by the state for the purpose of social and political oppression. You either can’t or won’t.

    As Rickk succinctly observed above, ‘totalitarians are your people, not mine.’

    And, lest we forget who the true champion of totalitarianism is:

    http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/jesus-mythicism-revisited/#comment-308587

  253. michaelegnoron 15 May 2017 at 10:12 pm

    ed:

    I agree that the “possible worlds” framework can be confusing, but it has its uses. Of course Anslem didn’t state the argument using such terminology (and it probably wasn’t even his argument originally, although he was the first to state it explicitly).

    The possible worlds framework for the ontological argument is basically Craig’s, and it seems to be a good fit, in that it lays out the logic rather clearly.

  254. michaelegnoron 15 May 2017 at 10:14 pm

    chi:

    Christianity in power is a mixed bag.

    Atheism in power is pure as hell.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_atheism

    Stop running away from the consequences of your religion.

  255. chikoppion 15 May 2017 at 10:17 pm

    [michaelegnor] What’s your problem with such an obvious fact?

    That it’s not true.

    I’ll ask again, what moral precept did Christianity introduce that did not exist in the world already?

    The fact that Christianity acknowledged or adopted moral precepts does not confer authorship.

  256. michaelegnoron 15 May 2017 at 10:19 pm

    chi:

    [The fact that Christianity acknowledged or adopted moral precepts does not confer authorship.]

    The Author of all morality gave us the Christian moral code, in person.

  257. chikoppion 15 May 2017 at 10:27 pm

    [michaelegnor] Stop running away from the consequences of your religion.

    Stop drawing false equivalencies.

    All state-imposed ideological tyrannies are bad; religious, political, or otherwise. “Atheism” can be used as an ideological weapon in exactly the same way religion can and has been used. The commonality is totalitarianism, as atheism makes absolutely no claims regarding political ideology (quite unlike theocracies).

  258. chikoppion 15 May 2017 at 10:31 pm

    [michaelegnor] The Author of all morality gave us the Christian moral code, in person.

    Well it seems he was late to the party and brought only leftovers, as those precepts already existed.

    Next time, tell him to stop copying us.

  259. michaelegnoron 15 May 2017 at 10:31 pm

    chi:

    there have been many state establishments of religion–Christian, Muslim, Atheist, etc.

    England, Denmark, Sweden etc have or have had established state Christianity.

    Saudi Arabia, Iran, etc have established state Islam.

    Soviet Union, Communist China, North Korea, Communist Cambodia have or have had state Atheism.

    Compare them.

  260. Lightnotheaton 15 May 2017 at 10:47 pm

    Michael Egnor,

    North Korea and Sweden standing in for atheism and Christianity respectively. Yep, no confounding variables there, let’s go! Next I’ll compare Japan and the U.S. to examine the effects of gun control laws..

  261. bachfiendon 15 May 2017 at 10:54 pm

    Michael,

    ‘No animal has a moral code. Animals have instincts and animals have learned behaviours. Moral codes are abstract conceptions that only humans have’.

    Laboratory monkeys become obviously upset when a companion monkey in an adjoining cage is given a piece of cucumber instead of the preferred grape if they’re being given grapes (it would be understable if, as does happen too, monkeys being given cucumber when their fellow monkeys get grapes become upset).

    Rats will go out of their way to release distressed trapped fellow rats, despite it being of no benefit to them.

    Both sound to me like part of a moral code in non-human animals, which you insist doesn’t exist.

    You also insist that empathy and altruism doesn’t exist in non-human animals. Even bacteria show altruistic behaviour, which you’ve insisted previously should occur if ‘Darwinism’ is true. It does, so what do you say about ‘Darwinism’ now?

    Now that’s two topics for you to engage in your Egnor’s Evasion, the other being the ontological argument for the existence of unicorns (I want to know whether to go down to the local pet store and put in my order – I’ve always wanted a unicorn).

    You’re a coward.

  262. chikoppion 15 May 2017 at 11:02 pm

    [michaelegnor] Compare them.

    Sure.

    Where there are totalitarians there is the imposition of ideology as a means of extorting social and political control, whether that ideology be political or religious.

    Saudi Arabia and Iran excercise power by consolidating religious authority into the body politic. They are de facto theocracies.

    Sweden is not a theocracy, it is very much a secular nation. So much so in fact that it statistically falls on the atheist side of the scale (1). What a “pure hell!”

    In communism, the state itself claims to be the ultimate source of ideological authority. All competing institutions, including religions, are expunged. The point of enforcing atheism was not for the sake of atheism, but to eliminate social institutions that compete with the state.

    Neither communism nor totalitarianism is a result of atheism, which makes absolutely no claims regarding political ideologies. Communist tyrants utilized atheism only because state religion was not a tool available to them.

    (1) Despite that, religion in Sweden plays a limited role compared to the European average, and even many church members participate in religious activities for only cultural reasons, and do not believe in Christianity. Atheism and agnosticism are widespread in Swedish society. In a Eurobarometer Poll in 2010, just 18% of Swedish citizens responded that “they believe there is a god”, although a further 45% answered that “they believe there is some sort of spirit or life force”. In a 2009 Gallup poll, 17% answered yes to the question “Is religion an important part of your daily life?”. A survey found that only 15% of Church of Sweden members actually believe in Jesus, while another 15% identified as atheists, and a quarter as agnostic. Less than 4% of the Church of Sweden membership attends public worship during an average week; about 2% are regular attendees. Some scholars consider the nation to be a place where religion is regarded with “benign indifference”. [https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_Sweden]

  263. trumpproctoron 15 May 2017 at 11:43 pm

    Egnor – “That is, it necessarily exists, so it exists in our world.
    The argument is valid, and sound.”

    If that helps you sleep at night, great, but you just keep saying it over and over again doesn’t make it true. As others have pointed out, you could use the same logical argument to “prove” anything. But it doesn’t matter, if premise number 1 can not be demonstrated, none of the rest of the argument matters.

    Egnor – “Atheists make things up too, and atheists cherry pick. Atheists pretend that there are objective moral laws and that there is a purpose to life, even though, if atheism is true, our existence is morally meaningless and without any purpose at all.”

    Again.. that’s not true. Moral codes/laws existed long before your bible. I have no idea why theist have a hard time wrapping their mind around the whole question of “morals”, as in without God that somehow morals would not exist. We evolved as an empathetic social species, who discovered that it was more advantageous to work together than to go it alone. Once that ball started rolling, and we reached a point of division of labor and then agriculture, we were off to the races. People in groups came together during all this and said “I would rather not be beaten, raped, murdered or have my stuff stolen.” Everyone else agreed. Boom. It’s really that simple (in broad brush strokes). No god necessary. But by all means, if the only thing keeping you from raping, murdering and stealing is your belief in a magic sky man and a book, then by all means, please keep believing.

    It’s also utterly ridiculous to say that without God there is no purpose in life. Your purpose is what you make it, nothing more. Most people find purpose in finding a light of meaning in the midst of mere being. Again, no god necessary.

    I would go a step further and say that every one of us here is more moral than the God that YOU worship. Take out “don’t use god’s name in vain” and replace it with “Thou shall not own another human being as property”. Boom, right there you’ve increased the morality of the bible by an entire order of magnitude. You already know this, thus you are more moral than the book and god you worship. Also, if a human did even a fraction of the things God has done in the bible, at the very least you would lock him up and throw away the key for a long time as being inhumanly evil, yet God does more evil x1000 and you worship him AND you give him credit for morals? WTF? But even then you probably would not condemn any human to an eternity of suffering for a finite crime, yet that’s exactly what your god supposedly does to anyone who commits the one unforgivable sin… unbelief.

    And as a side note, there are quite a few Christians who don’t like this aspect of god, so they reject all the parts in the bible regarding “hell” and substitute something that they feel is more fitting a “loving god”, and that is that unbelievers who die go on living in some other “plane”, just separated from god (no lakes of fire, torturing, suffering, etc.). It’s pick and choose Christianity, whatever makes sense to you and makes you all warm and fuzzy, however, I care about if what I believe is an accurate model of our reality or not. None of these classical philosophical arguments are compelling in the least.

  264. bachfiendon 15 May 2017 at 11:51 pm

    chikoppi,

    Putin’s Russia, which is an authoritarian country with a de facto tyrant as head of government and state, is almost a theocracy with even maybe-dissidents being prosecuted for blasphemy.

    Leaders with a totalitarian inclination often use religion to further their aims. ‘Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers as useful’.

    I won’t go into which group I’d place Michael Egnor.

  265. chikoppion 16 May 2017 at 12:19 am

    @bachfiend

    Ripped from today’s(ish) headlines:

    MOSCOW May 11 2017 — A Russian blogger was convicted on Thursday of inciting religious hatred by playing Pokémon Go in a church and posting a video of it online. He received a suspended sentence of three and a half years.
    (…)
    Judge Yekaterina Shoponyak convicted Mr. Sokolovsky, who had been in detention since October, of inciting religious hatred, the same offense for which two women from the protest band Pussy Riot were sent to prison in 2012.
    (…)
    Russia, once officially atheist, has changed drastically since the fall of the Soviet Union, and a majority of Russians now identify as Orthodox Christians. Although most Russians are not religiously observant, the Kremlin has sought to use faith to promote its agenda. Last month, the Supreme Court banned Jehovah’s Witnesses, describing the denomination as an extremist organization.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/11/world/europe/pokemon-go-ruslan-sokolovsky-russia.html?_r=0

  266. edamameon 16 May 2017 at 1:42 am

    Egnor: the only people that believe premise 3 are people who already believe in God. Sorry, but an argument is supposed to actually be compelling. If a premise of an argument requires you to believe the argument’s conclusion to buy in, then it is a piece of junk.

    The old Cartesian assumption of existence being better than nonexistence still doesn’t buy you God. It also buys the greatest possible unicorn. Because after all, the greatest possible unicorn is one that actually exists. You need to show why the argument isn’t blocked by such counterexamples.

    (And I’ve ignored the problems with premise 1 for now, but haven’t forgotten).

  267. bachfiendon 16 May 2017 at 7:17 am

    edamame,

    Actually, I hope that the Ontological Argument is valid. I really want my proof of the existence of unicorns to be true since I desperately want one.

    My desire is tempered by the fact that my proof only demonstrates that my unicorn is somewhere in this Universe. Not only could it be ‘in a galaxy far far away’, but it could be in a galaxy so far away that it’s receding faster than the speed of light.

    I’ll restrict myself to just the visible universe since examining all its stars is doable. There’s only around 10^22 stars in the visible universe so if I spend 1 minute examining each star system it would only take me around 2 x 10^16 years to examine each and every one. Plus the travelling time to get from star to star. I might have to backtrack occasionally to reexamine stars with planets showing promise if they have only simple bacteria in case in the meantime they’ve evolved my unicorn.

    So all I need to do is to develop immortality in the next year or so. And then FTL travel in the following 4 years… perhaps it might be easier to go in for genetic engineering?

  268. michaelegnoron 16 May 2017 at 10:14 am

    [Leaders with a totalitarian inclination often use religion to further their aims.]

    You left out the preceding sentence:

    “Leaders with atheist inclination often use totalitarianism to further their aims.”

    Which is true, except “often” is really “always”.

    All State Atheism is totalitarian.

    Most State Christianity is not.

    Ever wonder why?

  269. SteveAon 16 May 2017 at 10:49 am

    michaelegnor: “All State Atheism is totalitarian. Most State Christianity is not.”

    How many ‘Christian’ states are there? I can’t think of any that would fit a reasonable definition of the term.

    The only one that comes close to qualifying, IMO, is Vatican City. Which, as it happens, is also totalitarian.

  270. chikoppion 16 May 2017 at 11:23 am

    [Michaelegnor] “Leaders with atheist inclination often use totalitarianism to further their aims.”

    Which is true, except “often” is really “always”.

    The degree of self-delusion you have to engage in is embarrassing.

    “Atheism” is not a political body. It is an individual person’s rejection of religious belief. “A Religion,” complete with hierarchy of institutional authority, is a political body. “Atheism” can be used by the state, but it cannot be the state.

    Now, let’s examine your assertion that “leaders who are atheist are always totalitarian.”

    Julia Gillard, former prime minister of Australia (2010-2013)
    “I’m not a religious person,” Gillard said before her 2010 election. “I’m, of course, a great respecter of religious beliefs, but they’re not my beliefs,” she continued, noting that, if elected, she would place “the national interest, about doing the right thing by Australians” above everything else. Gillard isn’t even the first non-religious Australian prime minister — 11 of the 12 preceding prime ministers had no religious identity, which is not wholly surprising, since Australia’s constitution defines the nation as secular.

    Alexis Tsipras, prime minister of Greece
    In January, Tsipras became the first prime minister of Greece to not identify with any religion; in fact, he broke tradition by insisting his oath of office be stripped of all religious references. NPR reported Tsipras “said he promised to uphold the constitution and look out for the welfare of Greeks” — again, matters of state trump matters of religion. Perhaps Tsipras knows that it’s going to take a lot more than prayer to salvage Greece’s economy.

    Francois Hollande, president of France (2012-2017)
    “I have reached a point where what is clear to me is the conviction that God doesn’t exist, rather than the contrary,” Hollande said in 2002. The French president was born Catholic but dropped his religious identity later in life, which seems somewhat consistent with the French: The Christian Post reports nearly 40% of French people do not believe in a God.

    Zoran Milanovic, prime minister of Croatia
    Milanovic was elected in 2011 as an atheist even though, Quartz notes, approximately 90% of Croatians identify as Catholic. In fact, Milanovi? “said that as an atheist he did not want to go to the church on state holidays, as Catholics in Croatia usually do, including all former Croatian presidents and prime ministers,” according to Balkan Insight.

    John Key, prime minister of New Zealand
    Key has been in office since 2008, and while he seems to embrace both agnosticism and atheism, he has not yet clarified which position he identifies with most. Prior to his election, in a 2004 interview cited by the New Zealand Herald in 2007, he hesitated in answering questions about his religion. He said, “if you’re asking me if I’m religious it depends how you define religion. I look at religion as doing the right thing … I go to church a lot with the kids, but I wouldn’t describe it as something that I … I’m not a heavy believer; my mother was Jewish, which technically makes me Jewish. Yeah, I probably see it in a slightly more relaxed way.”

    Elio di Rupo, former Prime Minister of Belgium (2011-2014)
    Di Rupo’s election was significant for a number of reasons: As a son of Italian immigrants he was the first non-Belgium elected as prime minister, he’s openly gay and he’s an atheist. In a 2008 interview, cited by the BBC, di Rupo self-identified an “atheist, rationalist and free mason.”

    Milos Zeman, president of the Czech Republic
    The first “publicly elected” president of the Czech Republic in 2013, the Wall Street Journal reported that Zeman identifies as a “tolerant atheist,” choosing to participate in official religious events as a public figure, while personally not identifying with any religion.

    Where are the actual theocracies? Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Sudan, and Yemen, not to mention theocratic terrorist organizations like ISIL and the Taliban (Islam) and the Lord’s Resistance Army and Anti-Balaka (Christian).

    All theocracies are bad. Government should be democratic and secular. “Atheism” does not determine the political position of an individual.

  271. Johnnyon 16 May 2017 at 2:06 pm

    @Egnor etc:

    The idea that atheism leads to totalitarianism is a testable claim. Let’s have a look at it.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wuDqEGlKOus

    I recommend everyone to watch the above short trailer from a documentaty called “The Norden” of a Georgia pastor visiting the Nordic countries, and he is blown away by how irreligious people are, and that even the priests are much more tolerant than he is used to.

    As a Swede, the intro stats outlining how many people view religion as important in the various Nordic countries and in the USA is a stunning revelation. I already knew that the social and religious climate in the USA is very different compared to daily life here, but this is an illuminating illustration of that fact.

    And looking at totalitarianism, look no further than the Democracy Index: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democracy_Index

    The Nordic countries are all in the top 10. Where is the USA? At place 21, on par with Italy. So much for atheist totalitarianism.

  272. hardnoseon 16 May 2017 at 2:20 pm

    ‘No animal has a moral code. Animals have instincts and animals have learned behaviours. Moral codes are abstract conceptions that only humans have’.

    Just ridiculous. Human morality is based on instincts and learned behaviors, the same as the other animals.

  273. hardnoseon 16 May 2017 at 2:22 pm

    “The Author of all morality gave us the Christian moral code, in person.”

    Yeah, and wouldn’t give it to the animals, only the humans, and only the ones who are Christian. So they can feel oh so special.

  274. MosBenon 16 May 2017 at 3:50 pm

    edamame hit on it with his reference to Decartes. The “possible worlds” bit means “Can I imagine a world in which this was true?” So you start by imagining an all-powerful being, greater than all others. Then you imagine that being existing in a world in your mind. Then you think “Would an all-powerful being who exists in the real world be better than the one that exists only in the world of my mind?” Then you answer “yes” and ask yourself “So to truly be all-powerful this being is REQUIRED to exist in the real world.” And thus you’ve backed yourself into a shoddy argument for “Therefore, God!”

  275. bachfiendon 16 May 2017 at 4:12 pm

    Hardnose,

    You’re up to at least 6 highly sensible comments so far. You’re not an impostor, are you? What have you done with our hardnose? We want our hardnose back!

    Although on reflection – it isn’t difficult to make a highly sensible comment on this blog. You just take whatever Michael Egnor writes, reverse it completely and then you’ll be almost guaranteed to be 100% right.

    With Egnor, you’ll hardly ever go wrong assuming that he doesn’t have a clue what he’s writing about.

  276. BillyJoe7on 16 May 2017 at 5:43 pm

    MosBen,

    “The “possible worlds” bit means “Can I imagine a world in which this was true?” So you start by imagining an all-powerful being, greater than all others. Then you imagine that being existing in a world in your mind. Then you think “Would an all-powerful being who exists in the real world be better than the one that exists only in the world of my mind?” Then you answer “yes” and ask yourself “So to truly be all-powerful this being is REQUIRED to exist in the real world.” And thus you’ve backed yourself into a shoddy argument for “Therefore, God!””

    Thanks for the belly laugh! 😀

    A brilliant take down of “Sophisticated Theology”, which we are all REQUIRED to read lots of books on in order to refute.

  277. Pete Aon 16 May 2017 at 5:58 pm

    Sophisticated Theology:
    http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Courtier%27s_reply

    Sophisticated Theology™:
    http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Sophisticated_theology

    Notable statements of the argument from design:
    http://wiki.ironchariots.org/index.php?title=Notable_statements_of_the_argument_from_design

  278. bachfiendon 16 May 2017 at 11:05 pm

    Actually, all Egnor’s Ontological argument ‘proves’ is that there’s a super-intelligent alien species somewhere in our universe with technology and science of such a level to our current understanding that it appears god-like.

    It can replace ‘all-surpassingly great being’ in all locations and be equally valid.

    And it has much greater explanatory power. Perhaps around 2,000 years the super-intelligent ET decided to mess with our minds with an experiment to see if they could start a new religion? And then lost interest completely with God becoming invisible to the point of being absent.

    Or perhaps they’re going to return, perhaps soon, to see what has happened with their experiment…

  279. BillyJoe7on 17 May 2017 at 8:32 am

    …and thanks to Pete for the relevant references.

  280. Willyon 17 May 2017 at 9:55 am

    edamame My “possible worlds” comment was my (poor? lol) idea of a joke.

  281. Johnnyon 22 May 2017 at 2:09 pm

    A summary of the discussion:

    – Are there rational reasons to believe in God?
    – No.

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