How an Atheist Justifies the Use of Logic

Recently a theist asked how an atheist justifies the use of logic. (The following discussion is primarily drawn from strongatheism.net.)

The context of the question carries a large number of spurious presuppositions that have origin in a broad scoped fallacy not unique to theism. This fallacy is called the epistemological reversal of the subject-object of thought reversal. (Objectivism defines and discusses this fallacy at length.) Theists imagine a strawman that logic and what is fallaciously identified as the “laws of nature” are “an effect of random molecules and chemical reactions that can never give nor validate anything whatsoever.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

Logic arises from material existence and is necessary for human understanding. Logic is ultimately derived from the Law of Identity, A=A. The nature of physical material existence is that every thing that exists has a specific set of characteristics. [*]

Logic (nor the uniformity of nature) transcend existence, for existence is all that exists. Consider the following syllogism.

a. Logic is necessary for human understanding.
b. If theism is true, then divine creation obtains.
c. If divine creation is true, then all in existence is contingent to God’s act of creation, and nothing in existence is necessary.
d. If theism is true, then logic cannot be necessary. (from b and c)
e. Theism is false. (from a and d)

Theists attack premise c by declaring that if logic is part of God’s nature, then its existence is a necessary consequence of divine causation. They may think this an easy escape from the problem, since they imagine God is a necessary entity from a theological standpoint, but it suffers from several unresolvable problems.

1. Theists often assert that non-believers borrow logic from the Christian worldview. This is absolutely irrelevant to the issue at hand, for it does not address the fact that logic becomes subjective if a consciousness creates it. The theist is only specifying the nature of that subjectivity. By so doing he is in fact supporting the argument above. Asserting logic is part of God’s nature does not change the fact that by so doing is to declare it originates from a consciousness, not from objective existence – which is the very definition of subjective. (This is an example of the subject-object reversal. Reality is objective. The imagination is subjective. By claiming logic is subjective, the theist reverses the epistemic priority of objective reality over subjective imagination.)

2. Theistic believers often discuss the nature of their imagined ruling consciousness, but they have absolutely no grounds for discussing the specifics of God’s nature for two reasons.

First, by acceptance of a fantasy God as Sovereign and Creator, the believer cannot assume anything about its properties any more than we can posit “complete entropy” of a system and then try to define physical properties thereof. The theist cannot refute the possibility that a fantasy of an infinite god or a malevolent spirit being is deluding her into believing the statement “God’s nature is logical. Under theism a person can no longer refute arguments based on extreme skepticism. The theist can only refute the idea of an invisible magic entity manipulating their mind, or being the victim of mental illness if her worldview entails self-contained existence.

Second, to discuss what she thinks is God’s nature, she must presume to have knowledge of that nature. Knowledge, however, is rooted in reality and is held in conceptual form.

“To form a concept, one mentally isolates a group of concretes (of distinct perceptual units), on the basis of observed similarities which distinguish them from all other known concretes (similarity is “the relationship between two or more existents which possess the same characteristic(s), but in different measure or degree”); then, by a process of omitting the particular measurements of these concretes, one integrates them into a single new mental unit: the concept, which subsumes all concretes of this kind (a potentially unlimited number). The integration is completed and retained by the selection of a perceptual symbol (a word) to designate it. “A concept is a mental integration of two or more units possessing the same distinguishing characteristic(s), with their particular measurements omitted.” - Leonard Peikoff, “The Analytic-Synthetic Dichotomy”, “Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology”, 131.

The only way to have perceptual knowledge is via our sensory experience. “Man’s senses are his only direct cognitive contact with reality and, therefore, his only source of information. Without sensory evidence, there can be no concepts; without concepts, there can be no language; without language, there can be no knowledge and no science.” – (Ayn Rand, "Kant Versus Sullivan", "Philosophy: Who Needs It", 90.) Since theism’s fantasy of a God cannot be detected by any means of sensory experience or instrumentation, it is impossible for any religious mystic to have perceptual information that can be used as isolated distinct perceptual units that can be the basis of a concept of God. Thus theism’s claim to have knowledge of the nature of God is patently false.

3. The theistic point that “logic is rooted in the nature of God” is a complete ad hoc rationalization: nothing about the notion of a god indicates that it must be necessarily logical or rational. Humans are capable of being both logical and illogical, it is clearly impossible for a more powerful being to not be able to do such a simple thing as make an illogical proposition.

4. Even if it was the case that a God actually existed and its nature was logical, there would be no necessary (in the sense of system K modal logic meaning it is not possibly false) relation between God’s inherent properties and its creation. A burden of proof is upon the God believers to prove their assertion that it necessarily is the case that a relation between what they imagine as God and objective reality obtains such that the basal attributes of their God transfer to objective reality by virtue of a creative action. Without such evidence sufficient to establish the thing as true, the assertion that “logic is rooted in the nature of God” cannot have any weight. The believers would need to prove that powerful beings are restricted in their creations to transferring their basal attributes to that which is created. Were the theist successful in such an endeavor, the religious house of cards would fall to the old rejoinder that a perfect creator cannot create an imperfect creation.

5. It is impossible to make sense of the proposition that “logic is part of God’s nature”. That this is so can be observed by taking note of the Transcendent Argument for God. TAG proposes that “logic is both dependent on God and necessary. ….. If logic is dependent on God it must be contingent. If logic is contingent then it is not a necessary part of human understanding. But logic is a necessary part of human understanding. Thus logic cannot be dependent on God since there is nothing inconsistent about denying the existence of God but there is in denying the principles of logic.” – (Michael Martin: “Butler's Defense of TAG and Critique of Tang” - http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/michael_martin/butler.html). Logic cannot both be an intrinsic part of God’s actions and created by God.

6. Theism’s assertions are self-defeating. If logic existed first as a property of God, then it is a non-material principle, and divine causation is not necessary for its transference at all. All it would prove, at best, is that a non-material principle is involved, but there is a definite lack of specificity in theism’s claim. How is it that some properties of God’s nature are transferred to reality, but others are not? Theism’s claim that “our belief in logic is rooted in the nature of God and evidenced in creation itself” implies that it is logically necessary for one property of the nature of the alleged God to transfer to reality but that other predicated properties do not transfer. Why is that? The theist bears a burden of proof here to show why their case for logic transference does not also entail that their God’s alleged goodness, intelligence, order, morality, self-knowledge, sovereignty, power, justice, etc are also transferred by the creative act. In no sense is the burden of proof fulfilled by simply asserting the contrary position as a mystery.

7. Theism presumes that it makes sense to speak of logic as a non-material entity, which indicates a commitment to idealism. From my perspective, logic is an axiomatic fact of reality, and arises because of the fundamental nature of the material world. It makes no sense to speak of logic dissociated from the material world, any more than it makes sense to speak of immaterial consciousness.

[*] This is a consequence of spontaneous symmetry breaking form Gauge Invariance that occurred during or just prior to the inflationary epoch and cosmic reheating – The Conversion of Inflationary Potential Energy Into Matter. These were random processes as is readily seen from observation of the Cosmic Microwave Background – Blackbody Radiation.

The blackbody CMB and the acceleration of Universal Expansion means that the Big Bang was very much like a black hole singularity in that it was “maximally chaotic involving complete entropy. It implies that the big bang singularity behaves in a completely unpredictable manner in the sense that no physical laws govern its behavior. The unpredictability that pertains to Hawking's principle of ignorance is an unpredictability that is a consequence of lawlessness, not of human inability to know the laws. There is no law, not even a probabilistic law, governing the singularity that places restrictions on what it can emit.
Hawking writes that

A singularity can be regarded as a place where there is a breakdown of the classical concept of space-time as a manifold with a pseudo-Reimannian metric. Because all known laws of physics are formulated on a classical space-time background, they will all break down at a singularity. This is a great crisis for physics because it means that one cannot predict the future. One does not know what will come out of a singularity. – [S. W. Hawking, Breakdown of Predictability in Gravitational Collapse,' Physical Review D, 14 (1976), 2460.]

Deterministic or even probabilistic laws cannot obtain on the quantum level in the singularity, since there is no quantum level in the singularity; the space-time manifold that quantum processes presuppose has broken down. The singularity is a violent, terrifying caldron of lawlessness.” – “A Big Bang Cosmological Argument For God's Nonexistence” (1992) Quentin Smith; http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/quentin_smith/bigbang.html

(This also means that no ordering was applied to existence from outside of existence in the time after the Big Bang. But such ordering is required for the theist to assert the anthropic coincidences are evidence of an intelligent creator/designer. Classic hot big bang cosmology was, therefore, the death knell for theism.)

46 comments:

Evan said...

Great article. I am going to take some issue with a few points and see if we can clarify our thoughts on this a bit more.

First you say:

Logic arises from material existence and is necessary for human understanding.

I would say that logic arises from brains doing transformations of perception in predictable ways that have been of evolutionary benefit in the past. The actual reasons for people's actions are often illogical. Subsequent to doing an illogical act, people will try to create a logical explanation for them ex post facto. We have all seen this happen repeatedly. The impulse to act comes before the justification in many instances however and this calls into question that our brains necessarily use logic to "understand" what to do in all situations.

Any individual human does not require logic to be successful and so I don't know that I can agree with its necessity, but it is necessary for the intelligible explanation of human ideas and this is the project of science and learning and so in that respect I would agree that it is necessary for that societal function.

Logic is ultimately derived from the Law of Identity, A=A.

Logic is derived from the way our brain abstracts perceptions. To show this ... does A=a? In some contexts it does. It depends on your frame of reference. While formal logic is derived from premises formulated by logicians, actual logic as it exists from minute to minute in the average human being comes from brains (and they are very fallible).

The nature of physical material existence is that every thing that exists has a specific set of characteristics.

This is scale-dependent. Things become multifarious as they become smaller. In addition, as relates to most objects, their existence depends also on their surroundings.

A given boulder was at one point part of a rock layer or lava flow that was dislodged from it's surroundings. Yet the structures within the boulder are largely the same as they were when the boulder was part of a larger layer.

As relates to life; all life depends on the milieu that it survives in and will cease to exist when separated from that milieu. In addition, it constantly exchanges material from within itself to the outer milieu and vice versa.

So while we can designate a crystal, a rock, a balloon or a living organism, it is a matter of convention that we do so and when examined closely these "things" are not nearly so coherent as they appear to be on our scale.

Logic (nor the uniformity of nature) transcend existence, for existence is all that exists.

I think you're missing a word here. My guess is that the word is cannot and it comes after Logic. If that's what you mean, I agree.

Finally, as to logic's centrality to understanding, I certainly agree that it is necessary for scientific and analytic understanding, and I would give these primacy to other forms of understanding. However I don't know that it is necessary for all forms of understanding, but I really don't have the background to be able to say that for sure.

What seems indubitable is that a child is born without logic. Thus, there can be no transcendent logic that is gifted that child at birth. The child interacts with the world and its own internal and external milieu to create a cognitive topogram of the structures that its brain deems worthy of attention.

That brain comes into being and is changed in significant ways by both the child's genetic heritage and its internal and external milieu.

Over time the brain begins to see patterns that repeat and cohere in specific ways and those patterns become concepts in the brain. Those concepts can be manipulated within the brain in ways that are sometimes fruitful and over time the child becomes more adept at doing these internal mental conceptual manipulations.

This process can be seen happening by anyone who watches a child develop, and is undeniable.

Thus, if there were a deity who had gifted a transcendent logic as a part of his nature to the structure of the universe, the child should find this immanent in the very neural structures of his/her brain.

Illogic, bad thinking, poor choices, heck even disagreement itself should not exist if there is a transcendent logical function that was the ground substance of the universe.

The fact that theists constantly bicker among themselves about the nature of their imaginary friends is simply the best refutation of the Transcendental argument.

klas_klazon said...

I'd suggest to anyone interested in this discussion to read what a guy calling himself Jade writes in this formal debate (cancelled after a few posts) between him and a "presupper": http://iidb.infidels.org/vbb/showthread.php?t=80583

John W. Loftus said...

One thing is for sure, our notions of what is logical developed slowly over time, just as did our notions of morality, law, history, math and science. Case in point for me is how the New Testament writers used the Old Testament in so-called fulfillment of prophecy, along with the reasoning skills of Jesus and Paul themselves. It's simply amazing to me that given the evolutionary nature of our understandings that someone can sit back and say morality and logic is based upon God. The evolutionary development of logic, morality, science and historiographical notions belies that claim.

Evan said...

John it's even better than you suggest.

Remember that Christians think Jesus was God incarnate and that logic is the manifestation of God's nature.

So theoretically it should be impossible for God to make an illogical analogy. Therefore, if someone makes an illogical analogy they cannot be God.

Thus, Jesus of Nazareth either didn't exist or was not God.

goprairie said...

Is it logic that a dog sees a treat go into a box and cannot see it and knows it still exists but sees it go into the mouth of another being and that it is gone and to stop begging? A was still A in the box but not in the mouth. What other animal behaviors can be called logic and how far down the evolutionery tree do they go? Certainly chimps exhibit some understanding of logic. Do mice, earthworms, ameoba?

CD-Host said...

Sometime next year I think I'm going to do a series on presuppositional apologetics. As far as I can tell the 1800 year old apologetic for reason (non-theistic) from sextus empiricus (as in the first empiricist) seems to be to kill that one dead.

You can get logic and from there all of empiricism without any premises other than my consciousness is aware of what seem to be sense impressions.

Lee Randolph said...

I think robert handled the question better than I would have since I see it as a 'stupid question' along the lines of "how do you justify your use of english".

I see logic as the observance of relationships between two things whatever they are. Understanding the relationship enables making reliable predictions about them. The better the understanding, the better the prediction.

as far as hawking and quantum physics goes, I think that when it is better understood, the relationships will become apparent and its "logic will emerge".

one observation about christians and their use of 'logic', they tend to be stuck in absolutes, and have are hard time dealing with uncertainty. In my view formal logic play only a small part in representing the world, and informal logic, or defeasible reasoning plays a much bigger role, but I, for example, only learned that informal logic was a discipline a couple of years ago.

You see them getting stuck here all the time, right along with the straw man, demanding impossible precision and special pleading.

heck in the triablogue "sargon" debate, it was laughable how they kept strawmanning me by saying that I did such things as 'demand a widespread literacy among everyone in the near east' when I explicity talked about scribes. Unless everyone was a scribe, he was stuck in that 'absolute' mode.

Good job robert.

tigg13 said...

I'm with Evan.

I've never found logic to be necessary (heck, I can go weeks without using it).

Logic is a tool; its a system used to build abstract models of reality through the use of observasion, definition and inference in order to better organize and understand reality.

But no abstract model can ever fully define reality.

Take for example that so called "law" A=A. Here's an experiment to test this law. Go to a beach down by an ocean and find a tree near to the water. Take a measuring tape and measure the distance between the tree and the shoreline. Let this distance equal 'A'. Now measure the distance again. Whoops! The water moved didn't it? 'A' is no longer 'A' is it? A=not A, doesn't it?

Not happy with that? Lets try another. Let A = 1 apple. By definition for two things to be equal they must be completely the same in all respects such that one could replace the other without changing anything. But apples, like everything else that exists, are unique unto themselves having, among other things, their own position within the space-time continuum. An apple can only be equal to itself and nothing else. Therefore A cannot equal an apple. So A=A and A=not A at the same time.

Logic may be very useful when dealing with abstract concepts (that was, after all, what it was created to do) but when applying it to to the real world you will always be left with either a conclusion that doesn't quite fit with reality or a reality that doesn't quite fit your conclusion.

Lee Randolph said...

better yet, I see logic as the discovery of principles that result from the interactions between items
and there is evidently a biological algorithm built in to understand them.

even fish, lions and other animalshave been observed using simple logic, so when evan says
What seems indubitable is that a child is born without logic.
I have to disagree.

There is lot to learn from probability and game theory of which I am constantly conflating with Informal Logic when I write. To me they effectively use the same principles.

and
but when applying it to to the real world you will always be left with either a conclusion that doesn't quite fit with reality or a reality that doesn't quite fit your conclusion.
This depends on how well you've represented your problem. In chaos theory, you may not be able to account for all variables, but you can make predictions that turn out better than chance. It boils down to understanding the problem.

In some cases, logic accurately represents the world very well.

CD-Host said...

tigg13 --

I think the whole concept of thought is taking the stream of data that comes into us via. the senses and intellectually abstracting it so it can be analyzed. Even the senses themselves do this.

Take your examples. To talk about an "apple" you were dependent on the notion of classifications of similar objects. That is you depended on me to have been able to separate a particular fruit food from all the other objects in the universe based on an abstract understanding of what properties it must hold. That is the ability to apply a logical hierarchy of objects based on an abstract classification scheme. And "1 apple" was dependent on me being able to apply mathematical abstraction from the real of ideals on a real object.

Logic is thought, and thought is logic. I see no reason to lose any claim to logic.

Evan said...

Lee I agree there are rudiments of logical thought built into the brains of infants so to that extent I would agree with you.

I just don't see any way for an infant to manifest that in its first few hours of life. It might be a distinction without a difference here.

Certainly we both agree that a child's ability to think logically dramatically expands as it ages.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Evan,
I think we are in agreement, and since I know a little about your background I'll take your word on when infants manifest it.

Lamar said...

tigg13,

A=A simply means that things are identical to themselves. 1 particular instance of an apple will always be identical to itself, meanwhile two seperate apples can be different in many ways.

You can't "test" logical principles because you use the logic itself to draw the inferences from whatever emperical tests you perform. Logic must therefore always be antecedent to any emperical testing, by definition. After all, if you're trying to prove or disprove logical principles, then by what logic would you do this if logic itself is the thing brought into question? I think the very idea of testing the truthhood of things presupposes certain logical principles anyways.

Secondly, I'm sure you use logic all the time. You couldn't get up in the morning without assuming that things are identical to themselves, or that the statement "if it rains then I get wet," means that since it is raining outside, you need to bring an umbrella or you will get wet.

Also, I don't think logic can be equated to thought, because it is very possible to think illogically. Trust me, I teach logic and there are just some hopeless cases. What we think is true based on certain premises is not necessarily the logically correct thing.

By the way, this whole argument reminds me of this disproof of God:

1. If God exists, then math is arbitrary.
2. Math is not arbitrary.
3. Thus, God cannot exist.

Also, here's a good one:

1. If God exists then morality is arbitrary.
2. Morality is not arbitrary.
3. Thus, God cannot exist.

Evan said...

Lamar I agree that crude forms of logic are used all the time, however there are plenty of people who see that it's going to rain and still don't get an umbrella ... ella ella eh heh heh.

However when you say:

A=A simply means that things are identical to themselves. 1 particular instance of an apple will always be identical to itself, meanwhile two seperate apples can be different in many ways.

But there you face the problem of the boulder.

Is it the same boulder once the wind erodes a face of it down a bit.

Is it the same apple after someone takes a bite out of it, or is it a different apple?

Most people would say it's the same.

You face the same problem with people.

Joe at age 40 is Joe. But Joe's certainly not Joe at age 10 when he's 40.

Yet people refer to what Joe did when he was 10 and agree generally that there's continuity there, even though there are now almost no molecules in Joe(40)'s body that were present in Joe(10)'s body.

This is what I mean by scale determining the statement. Certainly someone who is a human and understands human development or even mammalian development could easily see that Joe(10) was in some sense the same as Joe(40), but that understanding depends on much more than simple identity.

Lamar said...

Evan,

Now you're getting into a metaphysical notion called "essential properties." An apple is no longer itself when it loses its essential properties. Here's an example: being a human is an essential property for me to be called me. But having brown hair is not. If I dye my hair, I'm still me. But if I become an ape, I'm no longer called me. (Or so the theory goes.) What those essential properties happen to be, I happen to believe, are psychological, not metaphysical.

Either way, 'A=A' means that a thing is identical with itself, which is never false. It simply can't be. A bitten apple might not be called the same apple as it was before it was bitten (depending on your psychological tendencies); nonetheless, a bitten apple surely is still itself.

You're making the mistake of thinking that when we say 'A=A' we are comparing two different things. The point of the claim 'A=A' is that there aren't two different things. There is one thing, and it is itself.

I know it sounds tautological, but that's what logic is!

Lamar said...

To follow up, I think a way for atheists to counter the claim that they have no basis for logic is that logic is just a bunch of tautologies. There's really no information (in the objective sense) in a purely logical statement, i.e., one that can be made purely a priori.

For example, here is a tautology:

"If, if it rains then I get wet, then, if it rains, then I get wet."

This tells you nothing about whether or not it is raining, or whether or not you're wet. Or anything. It can be proven, however, using pure logic. I can sit in an armchair and make a proof of that statement without knowing anything about the world. It is true in every possible world.

Evan said...

Lamar, I completely agree that "essential properties" are the product of human psychology as it has evolved over the course of the history of life on earth. But our inherent logical faculty brain circuitry (to the degree that we can use it properly) works entirely on an "as-if" basis and is not really based on premises that are provably true in either a deductive or inductive sense.

The propositions of our logic circuits in the brain are to some degree (in my opinion) pragmatically true (in the Jamesian sense) in most circumstances and for our brains that is good enough. Dennett goes over this at length in many different spots in his work, as does Pinker.

As to the tautology I think you are correct.

Without empirical data that can verify premises, logic is a self-enclosed system and thus is a tool that can be useful but can never be the summum bonum, in much the same way that mathematics is a tool but can't by itself prove something in physics. To prove something you need empirical data.

Einstein predicted on the basis of his math that light would bend around the sun, but it wasn't proven until people actually saw light bending around the sun.

In the same way, I can believe that my category "apple" includes all fruits that appear a certain way and that are nutritious to eat. But if I run into a fruit that looks like an apple and tastes like an apple but that makes me violently ill after I eat it repeatedly, I will change my category "apple" to include some fruits that are poisonous.

The data always has primacy over the idea. History is replete with examples of failures of beautiful theories when they came up against the facts of the world as it is.

M. Tully said...

"How Can an Atheist Justify the Use of Logic"

Uh, because it works.

Logic, coupled with evidence (a qualifier that theists frequently leave out), has proven, over and over and over again, to be the absolute best method of explaining what has happened in the past and in making predictions about what will happen in the future.

Given, it is not perfect, it occasionally needs to be revised as new evidence becomes available, but still it is the best we have found to date (that is logic and EVIDENCE together).

"How Can an Atheist Justify the Use of Logic"

Because it works. If it ever breaks down (it has in the past, please research Russell's paradox), we discard those rules of logic and move on.

Silly question.

david said...

m. tully,

I would argue with you about pragmatism but there's "no use"....

:)

J.L. Hinman said...

as usual you have created a straw theist that thinks what you want him to think.

If you think A = A then you are just right the door for belief in God. if you accept that premise you buy into the basic premise for God.

laws of physics are real. The idea that they are only descriptions of general tendencies is clearly fallacious and contradictory. It's a total contradiction because there's no world to have tendencies before universe exists, or "beyond event horizon."

I'm going to do a blog thing on this soon.

this is a very fallacious post. objectivism is itself a total fallacy.

Evan said...

Joe you fuss and fuddle about a lot but you don't really say much. I would say you oughta at least read the comment thread since there is some degree of agreement with you in here.

But whatever, you want to have a vendetta rather than interact. Have fun with it.

tigg13 said...

CD-host said, "Logic is thought, and thought is logic."

Do insane people think? Are their thoughts logical?

CD-Host said, "I see no reason to lose any claim to logic."

You, my friend, are obviously a bachelor.

Lamar said, "if it rains then I get wet," means that since it is raining outside, you need to bring an umbrella or you will get wet.

You may not believe this, but I swear its true. Once, while I was living in South Florida, I looked out my back door and saw it was raining. I imediately turned and walked out my front door without an umbrella and did not get wet - it was raining in the backyard but not in the front yard!

You are right that I probably use logic more often than I realize. I use a hammer a lot too, but that doesn't mean I should try to use it to solve all of my problems.

Logic works very well when we are dealing with things that are easily defined or don't require specific discriptions. (The more variables that have to be accounted for, the less likely you are going to arrive at a usable solution.)

But when one is dealing with issues like truth, belief, reality, thought, knowledge and spirit; things that may not be defined or described the same by everyone, then using the hammer of logic may make one feel like they've reached a valid conclusion, but only to those who already agreed with the premises in the first place.

Evan, thank you. You stated what I was trying say and did a much better job than I.

J.L., you really need to speak to the nurse about your dosage, man. I haven't a clue as to which side of this discussion you're on - I just hope its not mine.

Lamar said...

Logic isn't about propositions. It's about inferences. You cannot prove a proposition unless you have empirical data. If the proposition is atomic, then pure data is enough. But if it is not, then logic must be used to make an inference from the atomic propositions (which we know to be true from the raw data) to the molecular one you are hoping to prove as part of a scientific theory.

So for example, the raw data tells me that “it is raining” and also that “the sun is out.” (Both atomic sentences.) Thus, I can logically conclude the conjunction of those two things. Now that I have the conjunction (a very simple molecular statement) I can pull out one conjunct whenever I want by using the logical inference rules.

So, logic isn't about proving statements true, it's about proving them true assuming certain premises that are only got by empirical observation.

It would simply be absurd to ask, "how do we know that logic is correct?" because that very question antecedently assumes the correctness of all the inference rules of logic. It assumes that logic is logic (a=a), and that logic can either be true or false but never both (which is another logical rule) etc...

There are a few people in the empiricist camp who thought that the principle "P or not P, but not both," would have to be thrown out since that's not what seemed to be true according to the "data." They were doomed from the start since the only way they could prove the proposition "P or not P, but not both" false, was if they embedded the proposition "P or not P, but not both" into itself, thus forcing them to assume the very thing they are trying to prove wrong in order to prove it wrong! (How can you prove, after all, something false or true without assuming that things can either be false or true but not both?)

You can't "prove" or "disprove" logic. Logic is the thing that helps us to do the proving and the disproving. Empirical data is one thing, but unless you apply inference rules to that data, one can never infer something from the data except atomic sentences (and even inferring atomic sentences requires one to antecedently assume that things are themselves and that a proposition cannot both be true and false).

As we know, science is not just a bunch of data and atomic sentences. It’s composed of a lot of molecular statements about the world (“if X then Y”, “if X and Z, then not Y,” “Y and Z and T,” and so on.) that help us to make more predictions based on that. (For example, if “if X then Y” is true, then that means we should be able to do a test in which we supply X and get Y. If we don’t get Y, then by modes tollens – a logical inference rule - X must be false. This is thus an interplay of empirical observational and data whereby the empirical data supplies the premises and logic is conducted over them to crank out the necessary conclusions.)

The idea that God created logic totally perverts what logic is. Logic cannot be created because it would have to be antecedent to God for God to have even been himself! Also, how could God have made logic “true” unless it was already true that things can either be true or false but not both? The point is that logic is not arbitrary and is necessarily true, by definition. If God created it, it would then have to be arbitrary. I don’t have to believe in God to know that things are identical to themselves, and that a proposition can only be either true or false but not both. Or that if, if it rains then I get wet, then if it rains then I get wet.

John W. Loftus said...

You realize, of course, that nominalists believed God could've created any type of logic and rules of inference that he wanted to. That is, as illogical as it appears, God could've made A not equal to A simply by virtue of the fact that God created logic!

J.L. Hinman said...

Joe you fuss and fuddle about a lot but you don't really say much. I would say you oughta at least read the comment thread since there is some degree of agreement with you in here.

But whatever, you want to have a vendetta rather than interact. Have fun with it.

why do you think my comments aer a vendeta? why can't they just bebe comments?

what am I supposed to do with agreement? throw a tantrum and shout "I will not allow agreement!"?

Evan said...

why do you think my comments aer a vendeta? why can't they just bebe comments?

what am I supposed to do with agreement? throw a tantrum and shout "I will not allow agreement!"?(sic)


Joe, your comments are definitely a vendetta. I refused to publish one of them just now because it was a curse-filled screed of no value. The reason they aren't comments is because you rattle off bizarre unexplained, unlinked concepts. Nobody can have the slightest idea what you are talking about and they have no idea how to check what exactly you are thinking.

If you agree with something in one spot and disagree in another, one of the things you can do is show where you part company and why. What you do is list a bunch of random, incoherent stuff and cursing.

To be honest, I have zero idea what evidence or logic you have for what you believe on the basis of your posts here. Some of that may be my fault, but it should make you reconsider your style.

John W. Loftus said...

Joe, I agree with Evan on this. It's as if you're looking for a disagreement and if you expect everyone to know exactly what you believe. I think I have a fairly good idea of what you believe, but remember hardly anyone else does. In any case your posts aren't clear about it. And what's with the cussing, anyway? Keep it civil my friend.

tigg13 said...

Lamar said, "So, logic isn't about proving statements true, it's about proving them true assuming certain premises that are only got by empirical observation."

First, I conceed that you know a lot more about logic than I do.

Second, it was never my goal to support the christian idea that god created logic. My challenge was to the premise that logic is necessary.

The reason I made this challenge was because it seems to me that atheists tend to use logic in the same way that christians use the bible - as an unquestionable evidence that they alone own the "truth".

They tend to forget that they are "assuming certain premises" and that these are limited to what can be observed.

Third, I don't think I was trying to "disprove logic" so much as I was trying to show its limitations. It does require that everyone agree as to how all of the terms involved are difined, and the inferences are all abstract in nature and therefore may not resemble reality in any way.

Oh, and as for "P or not P, but not both", are you familiar with Schodinger's cat?

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

I'm still flabbergasted by "Theists often assert that non-believers borrow logic from the Christian worldview." I had no idea that Socrates, Plato, And Aristotle along with their contemporaries were Christians! That's amazing! Did they create an ancient time machine and go forward to become Christians?

commoner51 said...

I'm sitting here astounded at the play of words and the mercurial types of minds that goes into forming them. This is a philosophers Eden. But it seems overwrought. Logic is logic. Belief is belief. If one wants to make more of that than it already is then it's OK. But there's no need in doing that. I've come to the conclusion that change is constant and it will not abide absolutes. This is a good website.

Lamar said...

commoner51,

what?

Drew Lewis said...

The following is posted on my blog.

Hi, Robert. I read your post and see that you’ve sought what appear to be two main goals. First, a positive presentation of the atheistic account of logic, and second, a critique of the Christian theistic account of logic. There seem to be some major problems in both areas, though. That your own account of logic is guilty of at least a couple of logical fallacies, and that your critique suffers from either a simple misunderstanding of the Christian position, or a blatant use of the straw-man fallacy. But let’s start with your positive presentation:

Logic arises from material existence and is necessary for human understanding. Logic is ultimately derived from the Law of Identity, A=A. The nature of physical material existence is that every thing that exists has a specific set of characteristics. [*]

Logic (nor the uniformity of nature) transcend existence, for existence is all that exists. Consider the following syllogism.

a. Logic is necessary for human understanding.
b. If theism is true, then divine creation obtains.
c. If divine creation is true, then all in existence is contingent to God’s act of creation, and nothing in existence is necessary.
d. If theism is true, then logic cannot be necessary. (from b and c)
e. Theism is false. (from a and d)


Ok, so I read the entire post, but this seems to be your atheistic account for logic in its entirety. The entire rest of the post is devoted to arguing against the theistic account, not explaining your own account. Even this contains within it an argument against theism, but I’m trying to get everything in context.

For starters, you say that logic arises out of material existence, but you don’t really say how. How exactly does material existence lead to logic? You say that logic is derived from the law of identity, but there are a couple of questions I have about that. Isn’t the law of identity part of what we mean when we say “logic”? I understand from some of the comments that a lot of people are using that word to describe a lot of things, but since you are responding to the theist’s request for your account of logic, I’m assuming that you are using logic in the formal sense, which includes other laws besides identity, such as non-contradiction, modus ponens, modus tollens, etc.

So, are you saying that all of logic is derived from the law of identity? If you are, then you are saying that logic is derived from itself, since the law of identity is a law of logic. If you are not saying that the law of identity is contained in all of “logic”, then what sort of law is it?

Also, is it part of material existence, since you said that logic arises from material existence? If it is material, then where is it? Is the law of identity a material thing are a material process? If a thing, then how big is it? If a process, then how long does the law of identity take? If this sounds like nonsense, that’s because it is. Of course you don’t mean to say that the law of identity is material.

So what is it, then? Leaving questions of the existence of immaterial things aside for the moment, could you at least give an account of just how logic arises from material existence, since saying it’s derived from the law of identity does not begin to do that?

Later, in a point against theism, you do make this statement:

From my perspective, logic is an axiomatic fact of reality, and arises because of the fundamental nature of the material world.

I see no problem, per se, with saying that logic is axiomatic. Every system of understanding has to have its unsupported starting point, its “given”. That would explain why such a long article has so few words of positive defense for your own position. If logic is axiomatic in your system, there’s no way you could point to some justification for it, since that contradicts the nature of an axiom. That would also explain why, even though this is the second time you’ve written of “arising” from the “material world”, you still haven’t given any sort of account of how it does so.

Next you employ a syllogism that supposedly gives an argument for why logic doesn’t transcend existence. At the point of introduction, you’ve fallen prey to one of two fallacies. Either you’ve equivocated, or you’ve made a circular argument. Let me show you exactly how. You’ve replaced “material existence” with “existence”. It is your contention, no doubt, that logic does not transcend material existence, but if you were to make that statement, you’d be guilty of a circular argument, because you’d be assuming the theistic position--that logic does transcend material existence--false in order to prove it’s falsehood. Or perhaps the switch in terminology is deliberate. If so, then you are guilty of equivocation. I realize that you believe that material existence is identical with all of existence, but you’re statement “existence is all that exists,” while agreed upon by theists, carries a different meaning to theists than to you. You have to stick to one definition.

We haven’t even gotten to the syllogism. This is the point in your article where you shift your focus from an account of atheistic logic to an attack on theistic logic. You’re correct in noting that theists would attack premise c, but not for the grounds they’d attack it on. The problem with c is that it’s false. It is false because it is self-refuting. If divine creation is true, then created existence is not all of existence. It has never been the Christian position that “all existence” in the sense you need to use it here, is contingent on God, since God’s existence is not contingent. Also, if God exists, which is a necessary condition of divine creation, then something is necessary. It’s generally a bad idea to include a self-refuting premise in your arguments.

This section is followed by a litany of arguments against the theistic account of logic. Let’s look at those.

Theists often assert that non-believers borrow logic from the Christian worldview. This is absolutely irrelevant to the issue at hand, for it does not address the fact that logic becomes subjective if a consciousness creates it. The theist is only specifying the nature of that subjectivity. By so doing he is in fact supporting the argument above. Asserting logic is part of God’s nature does not change the fact that by so doing is to declare it originates from a consciousness, not from objective existence – which is the very definition of subjective. (This is an example of the subject-object reversal. Reality is objective. The imagination is subjective. By claiming logic is subjective, the theist reverses the epistemic priority of objective reality over subjective imagination.)

Aside from the fact that this argument doesn’t address borrowing logic from the Christian worldview or giving an account for logic in the atheistic worldview, this argument is a perfect example of a straw-man or misrepresentation of Christian belief on three counts: (1) Being created by consciousness does not make something subjective. It merely means that something is deliberately created, as opposed to coming about accidentally or without guidance. Every man-made thing you see every day fits that description, and none of it is subjective. (2) In point of fact, logic, according to the transcendental argument, is part of the nature of God, making it uncreated, just as omnipotence and omniscience are uncreated. This makes “created by consciousness” talk completely irrelevant. (3) Finally, the Christian position is that God’s attributes are objectively so. It is not that God “made up” logic. It is that logic is inherent to God in the same way that “running on diesel” is inherent to a diesel engine.

Next, we have the charge that Christians “have absolutely no grounds for discussing the specifics of God’s nature.” We are given two reasons.

First, by acceptance of a fantasy God as Sovereign and Creator, the believer cannot assume anything about its properties any more than we can posit “complete entropy” of a system and then try to define physical properties thereof. The theist cannot refute the possibility that a fantasy of an infinite god or a malevolent spirit being is deluding her into believing the statement “God’s nature is logical. Under theism a person can no longer refute arguments based on extreme skepticism. The theist can only refute the idea of an invisible magic entity manipulating their mind, or being the victim of mental illness if her worldview entails self-contained existence.

Now, ignoring the use of the poisoning-the-well fallacy by use of a term like “fantasy”, this entire point is either question-begging or irrelevant. It is the theists position that what we know of God is what has been revealed to us. (Now I know this will lead to questions on the veracity of the Bible and such, and those questions are good. But I think they’re best addressed on another thread. Suffice it to say, that if there is a God and if He has revealed knowledge about Himself, then it is not at all inconsistent with theism to appeal to revealed knowledge.) If you want to deny the appropriateness of such sources for the theist then you’ll have to do more than make a bald, unfounded assertion that no one can have such knowledge. You’re statements about extreme skepticism are irrelevant, because no one can, with absolute certainty, refute such postulations. That puts us both in the same boat on those questions. Theism doesn’t need to refute these speculations any more or less than you do.

Second, to discuss what she thinks is God’s nature, she must presume to have knowledge of that nature. Knowledge, however, is rooted in reality and is held in conceptual form.

This statement is somewhat incoherent. Why is it that discussion of what one “thinks” requires “knowledge”? Your second statement I agree with completely. I just disagree with you on what constitutes “reality”.

Your Peikoff quote and subsequent paragraph about sensory experience are interesting, and, I assume, contain your view of how we know things and what counts as knowledge. In their entirety, however, they simply an assertion of belief in empiricism. Namely, you only count as knowable that which can be ascertained by the senses, and that which can be derived by logic from whatever the senses discover. You can believe in empiricism if you like, but you have two difficulties to overcome in that case. (1) Christians aren’t empiricists, so you must give some evidence available to the Christian that empiricism is true. (2) Much more difficult, you must give an account of why empiricism isn’t self-refuting in your case, whereas it was in the case of the early twentieth century philosophers who invented it. They could never overcome the fact that, if you only allow for knowledge that is ultimately derived from the senses, you can never know that empiricism is true. You can never know that only that knowledge is allowed, because it is not derived from some sensory experience. Dawkins, Harris, and Dennett make this same mistake. It seems they haven’t read of the logical positivists. I have a full article you could read as a primer on the subject here.

You finish your point with this statement:

Since theism’s fantasy of a God cannot be detected by any means of sensory experience or instrumentation, it is impossible for any religious mystic to have perceptual information that can be used as isolated distinct perceptual units that can be the basis of a concept of God. Thus theism’s claim to have knowledge of the nature of God is patently false.

No theist I know of would acknowledge the consequence you state here. It is the Christian position that people throughout history have had sensory experience of God. Many heard God speak. Moses saw God. Jacob wrestled with God. It is not that God cannot be sensed with the five senses, only that God decides when he will make himself hearable, or seeable. I understand that this does not constitute evidence for you as an empiricist, but it does count on the Christian worldview, which means that, on that worldview, your statement here is patently false.

The theistic point that “logic is rooted in the nature of God” is a complete ad hoc rationalization: nothing about the notion of a god indicates that it must be necessarily logical or rational. Humans are capable of being both logical and illogical, it is clearly impossible for a more powerful being to not be able to do such a simple thing as make an illogical proposition.

Now, I thought you were trying to refute theists. Which theistic notion of God doesn’t include rationality? God is all-wise. Christian theists have always thought so. The only evidence you’ve attempted to give for why the theist’s position is ad hoc is to simply contradict the theist’s position. That is circular reasoning at its worst. And saying that God should be able to be illogical because He’s “powerful” is straw-man fallacy at its worst. If you want to refute theism, you actually have to aim your critiques at theism, not some very unusual belief system that says that logic is part of the nature of God while also saying that it is not part of the notion of God. Your argument is against them, though I’m not sure you’ve met anyone like that. Also, your argument is against another unusual belief system that ostensibly says that God is all-wise and by nature incapable of making mistakes, and yet is able to be illogical. If all you mean by “make an illogical proposition” is “utter an illogical sentence”, then God does that all the time when mocking idols and such. If, however, you mean that God must be “powerful” enough to actually be illogical, then you’re just contradicting theism, not refuting it.

Even if it was the case that a God actually existed and its nature was logical, there would be no necessary (in the sense of system K modal logic meaning it is not possibly false) relation between God’s inherent properties and its creation. A burden of proof is upon the God believers to prove their assertion that it necessarily is the case that a relation between what they imagine as God and objective reality obtains such that the basal attributes of their God transfer to objective reality by virtue of a creative action. Without such evidence sufficient to establish the thing as true, the assertion that “logic is rooted in the nature of God” cannot have any weight. The believers would need to prove that powerful beings are restricted in their creations to transferring their basal attributes to that which is created. Were the theist successful in such an endeavor, the religious house of cards would fall to the old rejoinder that a perfect creator cannot create an imperfect creation.

Here, as before, your language creates a false dichotomy between “what they imagine as God” and “objective reality”. This is a minor point, but you can’t successfully demonstrate an inconsistency in a worldview or belief if you can’t even accurately describe it. As stated before, it is not the theist’s position that every attribute of God “necessarily” transfers to creation. Creation is a free act; not all of Gods attributes are necessarily found in what has been created. Whether logic itself necessarily transfers is an interesting question, about which I don’t currently have an opinion. That logic actually transfers I do believe, but that doesn’t require anything more than that the logical laws actually hold and describe the relations they purport to describe.

It is impossible to make sense of the proposition that “logic is part of God’s nature”. That this is so can be observed by taking note of the Transcendent Argument for God. TAG proposes that “logic is both dependent on God and necessary. ….. If logic is dependent on God it must be contingent. If logic is contingent then it is not a necessary part of human understanding. But logic is a necessary part of human understanding. Thus logic cannot be dependent on God since there is nothing inconsistent about denying the existence of God but there is in denying the principles of logic.” – (Michael Martin: “Butler's Defense of TAG and Critique of Tang” - http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/michael_martin/butler.html). Logic cannot both be an intrinsic part of God’s actions and created by God.

Robert, if you want to make a credible case, you probably shouldn’t cite an atheist in order to define the transcendental argument, or any Christian view for that matter. Go to the source, then try to refute that source. Straw-man argumentation robs your credibility and makes your position look weak. Martin’s statement that TAG proposes that logic is both dependent on God and necessary is ambiguous at best. He’s fallen prey, much like you did early in your post, to a dilemma where he’s guilty of one of two fallacies. You’ve been incorrectly saying thus far that theists who say that logic is rooted in God’s nature also say that it is created. Whether that’s what Martin means is unclear by your citation, though it seems to be what you think by your closing comment. If that is indeed what he means, then he has committed the straw-man fallacy, attributing to his opponents a weaker view they don’t hold and then refuting that view.

However, if all Martin means is that logic is dependent in the sense that it is one of His attributes, then he’s simply expressed a non sequitur. One could say, I guess, that one’s attributes are in some way dependent on oneself, at least for their expression, and that one’s essential attributes are those that one could not fail to have. Even those attributes would be dependent in this sense. Since the Theist believes that logic is one of the attributes of God that He could not fail to possess, it also follows that it is every bit as necessary as He is. If God is a necessary being, and logic is an essential attribute of God, then logic necessarily exists. So, Martin’s statement that something dependent must also be contingent either (a) speaks of creation and thus does not apply to logic at all, or (b) speaks of attributes, and is false with respect to the essential attributes of a necessary being.

Theism’s assertions are self-defeating. If logic existed first as a property of God, then it is a non-material principle, and divine causation is not necessary for its transference at all. All it would prove, at best, is that a non-material principle is involved, but there is a definite lack of specificity in theism’s claim. How is it that some properties of God’s nature are transferred to reality, but others are not? Theism’s claim that “our belief in logic is rooted in the nature of God and evidenced in creation itself” implies that it is logically necessary for one property of the nature of the alleged God to transfer to reality but that other predicated properties do not transfer. Why is that? The theist bears a burden of proof here to show why their case for logic transference does not also entail that their God’s alleged goodness, intelligence, order, morality, self-knowledge, sovereignty, power, justice, etc are also transferred by the creative act. In no sense is the burden of proof fulfilled by simply asserting the contrary position as a mystery.

On the Christian view, some of God’s attributes are communicable, which means that they, at least in part, are expressed in creation. Some are incommunicable, applying to God alone. As far as I know, the attributes that do transfer and the ones that don’t are ascertained based on what we see in the world and what God has revealed of Himself. In fact, I (and I believe most theologians) would say that every attribute on your list transfers to creation, just not superlatively as it applies to God. I would say that logic transfers in the same way. No one is perfectly logical all the time, just as no one is perfectly good all the time. Objective logic and goodness still exist. Those attributes that don’t transfer at all are those that simply cannot be had by created, finite, temporal things, such as being eternal, or transcending time; being unchangeable, which requires eternality, since moving through time is a sort of change in itself; and aseity, the attribute of being self-existent, an attribute that no created thing could possibly have.

Theism presumes that it makes sense to speak of logic as a non-material entity, which indicates a commitment to idealism. From my perspective, logic is an axiomatic fact of reality, and arises because of the fundamental nature of the material world. It makes no sense to speak of logic dissociated from the material world, any more than it makes sense to speak of immaterial consciousness.

Okay, that is your perspective. I’m not sure I’d agree that the theistic account of logic requires a commitment to idealism, but maybe it does. Either way, you haven’t actually argued against idealism here, only given your opinion, so as there is no argument to address, I move on.

The rest of your post, which, I think, is a footnote to an earlier point, is a very interesting trek through what Stephen Hawking and Quentin Smith believe about the big bang. I’m no physicist, so I won’t attempt to argue with the physics. I would only take issue with your concluding point:

(This also means that no ordering was applied to existence from outside of existence in the time after the Big Bang. But such ordering is required for the theist to assert the anthropic coincidences are evidence of an intelligent creator/designer. Classic hot big bang cosmology was, therefore, the death knell for theism.)

The theistic position does not require that there were actual laws ordering the universe at the big bang. It only says that God was in control of things. That control need not have taken the form of laws. When I draw a picture, I do not apply laws to the pencil and paper. I manipulate them directly. The Christian position is that God created directly. Don’t be confused here. I’m not actually trying to convince you with this that God is the creator. I’m just trying to correct your written misperceptions about Christianity and theism.

Drew Lewis said...

Keep fighting the good fight. I'm proud to be your friend.

Evan said...

The theistic position does not require that there were actual laws ordering the universe at the big bang. It only says that God was in control of things. That control need not have taken the form of laws. When I draw a picture, I do not apply laws to the pencil and paper. I manipulate them directly. The Christian position is that God created directly. Don’t be confused here. I’m not actually trying to convince you with this that God is the creator. I’m just trying to correct your written misperceptions about Christianity and theism.

Wait, hold on. Just a sec.

I wanna get that one again.

You are saying that the theist does not postulate that there are laws of nature that are a necessary part of God's universe, is that right?

Doesn't that right there refute the TAG?

Earlier you say:

If God is a necessary being, and logic is an essential attribute of God, then logic necessarily exists.

So God created logic at some time after creating the universe? Is that your position?

david said...

Evan,
You should post questions on Drew's blog. He may not be receiving email updates from this article.

From my perspective something remains unclear:

Drew:
If God is a necessary being, and logic is an essential attribute of God, then logic necessarily exists.

evan:
So God created logic at some time after creating the universe? Is that your position?



How could an essential attribute be created?

Drew Lewis said...

Just a note on my little follow-up. If anyone is confused, that was my wife posting to be encouraging to me. :)

Antipelagian said...

Here is an example of atheistic materialism being self-defeating:

Since theism’s fantasy of a God cannot be detected by any means of sensory experience or instrumentation, it is impossible for any religious mystic to have perceptual information that can be used as isolated distinct perceptual units that can be the basis of a concept of God. Thus theism’s claim to have knowledge of the nature of God is patently false.

Why would it be necessary for a theist's knowledge of God to be detected by instrumentation or by sensory experience?

If it is true that true knowledge must be sensory based and measured by instrumentation...how do you know the truth of that statement?

Humans are capable of being both logical and illogical

Can a human act against what he is materially determined to do?

If so, logic and intentionality transcend material causes.

If not, then logic, being materially based, is a misnomer. We have *logics*. Someone that acts in an "irrational" fashion is merely acting according to the logic his material gave rise to. It may not meet your materially determined criteria for rationality, but what makes you right and him wrong? So really, no one can act "irrationally"...if you'd like to argue otherwise, you have the little problem of universalizing logic.

Lee Randolph said...

antip...
if you want to say god only exists in your head I'll go along with that, but if you want to say he manipulates the universe, then you need some hard data to support that.

you conflating reality with ideas.

Antipelagian said...

Lee Randolph-

I fail to see the connection between what I wrote and how you responded.

What was I conflating? And please be specific since I'm not following you.

Thanks.

Shygetz said...

Can a human act against what he is materially determined to do?

Determinism is dead. Physics killed it. So, since a human cannot be determined to do anything, your question is incoherent, which unfortunately renders your later dilemma false. I do see that you are getting at saying that, if "free will" is material in nature, then it nothing is really ever anyone's fault that they are irrational. To this I would reply that, even if materialism means there is no such thing as classical free will (and by the way, an omniscient God also requires that classical free will not exist), to use that as an argument against materialism is to commit the fallacy of appealing to consequences.

It may not meet your materially determined criteria for rationality, but what makes you right and him wrong?

Simple...the fact that rational inquiry works in successfully predicting the future, which irrational inquiry does not. As an aesthetic matter, there is nothing "wrong" with irrationality, but as a pragmatic matter it is objectively ineffective at accurately describing the universe and predicting the future.

Why would it be necessary for a theist's knowledge of God to be detected by instrumentation or by sensory experience?

Because empirical rationalism is the only "way of knowing" that is proven to be reliable. If you have another "way of knowing" that you wish to appeal to, provide evidence of its reliability.

If it is true that true knowledge must be sensory based and measured by instrumentation...how do you know the truth of that statement?

I don't know that knowledge must be empirically determined, I do know that there is no other "way of knowing" that has proven reliable over any period of time, while science has been famously reliable. Again, if you have a new way of knowing, provide evidence that it is reliable and I will entertain it.

Antipelagian said...

Shygetz
Determinism is dead. Physics killed it. So, since a human cannot be determined to do anything, your question is incoherent, which unfortunately renders your later dilemma false.

If I'm following the gist of this post (not your comment, but the actual post), something material determines consciousness and logic.

Following from your comment (and not the post), all you can argue is that what causes consciousness and logic to arise from material is indeterminate and random...so now you need to explain how indeterminism produces a reliable set of unchanging laws (i.e. logic).

To this I would reply that, even if materialism means there is no such thing as classical free will (and by the way, an omniscient God also requires that classical free will not exist), to use that as an argument against materialism is to commit the fallacy of appealing to consequences.

No, it is simply stating an epistemic reality: if material determinism is true, you can't know that it is true. This is especially confounded by your appeal to indeterminism...now, not only do you have material determinism, you have random non-rational processes producing what you thing are reliable, unchanging laws.

That *is* the reality of materialism...whether it is to my liking or not had nothing to do with my comment.

FWIW, I'm a compatabalist...not your run of the mill "Free Willer".

Simple...the fact that rational inquiry works in successfully predicting the future, which irrational inquiry does not.

You're just trusting your senses and reasoning...which is a product, apparently, of indeterminate material causes...you would be begging the question at this point...since now the reliability of deduction and sensory experience would be highly suspect.

I don't know that knowledge must be empirically determined, I do know that there is no other "way of knowing" that has proven reliable over any period of time, while science has been famously reliable.

See my comments above...clearly empirical knowledge cannot be assumed reliable...in fact, indeterminism makes the problem of induction that much more difficult for your brand of atheism...further, your assertion that empirical knowledge is more trustworthy flies in the face of philosophy...deductive reasoning is considered more reliable because inductive inference is not terribly reliable...especially given what you've just written. Unfortunately, you've also undone the reliability of deduction as well.

That's too bad.

Antipelagian said...

I'm not trying to be bothersome...but was one of the contributors wanting to respond to my comment from several days ago?

Evan said...

AP,

I didn't find anything you said much worth the effort to talk about. It seemed pretty pedantic and what I'm used to from you, but if you're itching for a response ...

Following from your comment (and not the post), all you can argue is that what causes consciousness and logic to arise from material is indeterminate and random...so now you need to explain how indeterminism produces a reliable set of unchanging laws (i.e. logic).

What causes consciousness and logic to arise from material is human bodies that have arisen from Darwinian natural selection. Those bodies have brains that can compete effectively with other humans and survive harsh environments. To say that this process is random is of course to fully misunderstand natural selection.

Natural selection chooses for differential reproduction rates. Those people that reproduce the most effectively within our species are often those who are best able to manipulate both other people and the environment around them.

So since the world operates according to certain predictable patterns, those people with brains that can correctly identify principles and use those principles to gain access to more resources are usually able to get more mating opportunities.

In just the same way, I might ask you how it is that a concept of food with simple laws of digestion arises "randomly". The laws of digestion are MUCH more universal than the laws of logic, affecting all vertebrates and many invertebrates, but I doubt there will be a digestional argument for the existence of God.

But of course, the "laws" of digestion arise because organisms that can't eat and can't digest food die, or at least reproduce at a lower rate.

There's nothing the least bit sophisticated in this by the way. A child could understand it.

As if to emphasize this you add:

You're just trusting your senses and reasoning...which is a product, apparently, of indeterminate material causes...you would be begging the question at this point...since now the reliability of deduction and sensory experience would be highly suspect.

No. Natural selection is not indeterminate. Natural selection is not random. Imagine a person who still believes in Santa Claus as an adult, or worries about leprechauns stealing his/her underwear. How many members of the opposite sex will want to mate with that person?

Is that really random? I imagine you don't think so, or you don't have much intercourse.

The reliability of sensory input, induction and deduction are based entirely on what has been effective in the past for organisms that were human as well as structures that existed long before there were humans.

I suggest you read the following books (I hope you do, anyway).

The Moral Animal

The Accidental Mind

Consciousness Explained

Breaking the Spell

How the Mind Works

Descartes' Error

The Feeling of What Happens

Each one is a treasure trove of valuable insight into how your own body works and will be of immense benefit to you.

You will also learn how your logic faculty works as only a part of you and is actually turned off if your perceived survival is at risk.

Bottom line, you've never once given me a reason on this board or on your old board to suggest that there is anything remotely like an objective independent moral source that is reliably interpreted in the same fashion by all humans everywhere.

Given that such a thing does not exist, all judgments about morality are to some degree subjective, and to some degree based on the culture in which the moral perceiver and judge are from. Thus there is variation within wide limits.

Hope that answers you.

Antipelagian said...

Evan,

I should have been more specific...I had Shygetz and Lee Randolph in mind...possibly the original author of the post, as well. But I'd like to make a couple of observations.

Those bodies have brains that can compete effectively with other humans and survive harsh environments.

Survival says nothing about truth...the law of the excluded middle, for example, has very little to do with survival.

Even if it did, that really doesn't say anything about it's "validity". Do you assume your survival lends merit to any of your claims? Further, is there a connection between the sperm count of a professor of logic and a brick-layer?

So since the world operates according to certain predictable patterns, those people with brains that can correctly identify principles and use those principles to gain access to more resources are usually able to get more mating opportunities

The people with the most mating opportunities seem to be people with lots of time, and no job. Survival of the "fittest" doesn't give any reason to think the fittest are also the most logical.

Maybe you're right, though...the biggest proponents of birth control, abortion, and population control tend to be atheists...perhaps atheists are the pawns of natural selection selecting themselves out?

You will also learn how your logic faculty works as only a part of you and is actually turned off if your perceived survival is at risk.

I'm confused...so you agree, logic has little to do with survival? Seems like you basically denied everything you said previously with this statement.

As to your comments re: morality...that's a different topic. I remember our discussion became a bit monotonous...I'll let that dog keep snoozing.

Evan said...

AP I'm not surprised you are confused but I'll try to sort it out.

If you are not threatened and are thinking for fun your logical faculties may be fully engaged and active, just as your eyes are open during that time.

There are other times when you feel threatened or frightened where your survival instincts take over and your ability to process facts dispassionately and logically is impaired.

It's not hard to figure out. Sometimes your eyes are open and they benefit you. Sometimes they are closed. One doesn't cancel out the other.

Shygetz said...

If I'm following the gist of this post (not your comment, but the actual post), something material determines consciousness and logic.

Saying that consciousness has a material foundation is not determinism--saying that, given exact physical parameters A at time B, you will get exact parameters C at time D is determinism, and it is dead. Even if we could determine the exact properties of a person, we could not predict the exact properties of that person at a later time.

No, it is simply stating an epistemic reality: if material determinism is true, you can't know that it is true. This is especially confounded by your appeal to indeterminism...now, not only do you have material determinism, you have random non-rational processes producing what you thing are reliable, unchanging laws.

Your first statement is unfounded...you have not demonstrated that, if materialism is true, we cannot know it is true. You have not even BEGUN to do so. The fact of indeterminacy does nothing to confound this. The indeterminate universe is NOT wholly random...it is statistical, which means that, if I were able to get perfect knowledge about the state of a system and had infinite computing power, I could give a statistical accounting of the probability of a system to be in any particular state at a given time. And this is not an appeal, it is a fact, and I could do it right now with the resouces I have if you give me a system that is simple enough. Study quantum mechanics...the universe is fundamentally indeterminate (although statistical), and I suggest you start adapting your philosophy to account for that fact.

That *is* the reality of materialism...whether it is to my liking or not had nothing to do with my comment...FWIW, I'm a compatabalist...not your run of the mill "Free Willer".

Err...compatibilists believe that free will and determinism are compatible. But you just said that free will and deterministic materialism are incompatible. Which is it?

To give an example, let's say that you believe that existence is made of material and foo (foo being the non-material substance that houses consciousness). And that God is omniscient, and therefore the universe is deterministic...everything will proceed along a predetermined path that can be predicted (in this case, by God) with no chance of digression. You say that such a universe is compatible with free will. However, if I say that the universe is made up of material, and that it is deterministic (only that no one knows what the actual path will be), you somehow say that this is INCOMPATIBLE with free will. And how, exactly, do you come up with this distinction? Both universes are deterministic, both contain the same phenomena, only one has material and the other has material and foo. Explain to me how the foo-universe is compatible with free will while the foo-free universe is not.

You're just trusting your senses and reasoning...

No, I am trusting the senses of all of humanity...I KNOW my senses can be wrong, but it is more unlikely that my senses and the senses of 6 billion other people would be simultaneously wrong in the exact same way.

Science does have one central assumption: that the shared perception of humanity reflects an underlying reality. Everything else is built on that one assumption. Without that assumption, we are left with solipsism.

...which is a product, apparently, of indeterminate material causes...you would be begging the question at this point...since now the reliability of deduction and sensory experience would be highly suspect.

Begging the question? How? Again, in my universe there is material observing material. In your universe, there is material and foo observing material and foo. Why is one reliable while the other is question-begging? If my senses are a product of indeterminate material causes and foo, how does that affect the reliability of deduction and sensory experience one way or another? You have not supported your implication that material is highly suspect...indeed, material is the only substance for which there is evidence for its reliability (or even existence).

See my comments above...clearly empirical knowledge cannot be assumed reliable...in fact, indeterminism makes the problem of induction that much more difficult for your brand of atheism...further, your assertion that empirical knowledge is more trustworthy flies in the face of philosophy...deductive reasoning is considered more reliable because inductive inference is not terribly reliable...especially given what you've just written. Unfortunately, you've also undone the reliability of deduction as well.

A) Empirical knowledge is not assumed to be more reliable...it has been found to be more reliable based on the central anti-solipsist assumption. If you want to debate solipsism, do it by yourself :-)
B) Wrong again, my friend. Pure deductive knowledge ONLY works in formal systems...we are talking here about knowledge of reality, which is NOT a formal system, much to the chagrin of mathematicians everywhere. Outside of formal systems, it requires assumptions (preferably based on empirical induction) to form suitable formal systems in which the deductive reasoning can work, and then more empirical inference to demonstrate the formal systems accurately model reality. Empirical rationalism is the only reliable way to gain knowledge about reality.
C) How does the source of deduction affect its reliability in any way whatsoever? You seem to have invented a property of matter that states that it is inherently unreliable, while the magical substance "foo" is inherently more reliable. I'm afraid I require justification for that assertion.

Survival says nothing about truth...the law of the excluded middle, for example, has very little to do with survival.

False...the ability to perceive reality with sufficient accuracy is a strong survival trait. "The berry is edible or not edible"...I think we can both agree that there would be a distinct survival trait in not thinking that the berry is simultaneously both edible and not edible, and failure to adhere to this principle would lead to numerous fatal errors.

Now, once we get outside of the normal scale of human experience, the reliability of human senses is NOT a survival skill...which is why, for example, we do not intuitively think of the world as indeterminate, as on the scale of human experience the world closely approximates determinism--if I push a cow off a cliff, it will fall with a given acceleration every time. However, if I hold a radioactive atom in a box, it will NOT disintegrate at a given rate...but radioactive atoms in boxes are outside of the human scope during our evolutionary history.

Even if it did, that really doesn't say anything about it's "validity". Do you assume your survival lends merit to any of your claims? Further, is there a connection between the sperm count of a professor of logic and a brick-layer?

A) Not my survival per se; evolution is a statistical process, and with all statistical processes there can be outliers in any given individual. But if we, as a species, observe that potatoes are edible, then yes, that does lend validity to the observation BECAUSE humans have survived for ages by relying upon this observation accurately reflecting reality. Consider our survival the practical result of testing this observation in empirical fashion independently for a large number of replicates.
B) Red herring...no one ever said or implied that sperm count correlated with brick laying ability or profession as a philosopher.

The people with the most mating opportunities seem to be people with lots of time, and no job. Survival of the "fittest" doesn't give any reason to think the fittest are also the most logical. Maybe you're right, though...the biggest proponents of birth control, abortion, and population control tend to be atheists...perhaps atheists are the pawns of natural selection selecting themselves out?

OK, are you stupid or did you just not think before you typed? Do you HONESTLY think that the current standard of living can be extrapolated back into evolutionary history? Do you have anthropological evidence that our ancestors millions of years ago had as much "free time" as we do today, or an effective social safety net to enable the survival and reproductive ability of those unable to sufficiently discern reality? Or does anthropology indicate that early hominids led short, brutish lives fighting predators, starvation, disease, etc. that would really have forced the early hominid to be on his/her toes or die quickly and nastily? Do you think atheism is a genetic trait? Do you think it has been around long enough with a large enough effect to be selected for or against? Or is atheism a social trait that, for much of recorded human history, either didn't matter much or had to be hidden carefully for fear of persecution, and therefore would have had little effect on reproductive success? You know the answers damn well. Debate requires good faith, and those comments did not indicate good faith on your part.

And no, survival of the fittest would not mean that the fittest were the most logical; it would require that those that survived would be sufficiently logical to accurately discern reality and predict the future within the scope of their existence. If a person thought he could fly even once, that person would not reproduce very successfully. If a person could not tell the difference between a lion and a housecat without having to experiment personally through trial and error, that person would not reproduce very successfully. If a person could not tell the difference between the poisonous berries and the non-poisonous ones without having to try them all himself, that person would not reproduce very successfully. If a person could not predict the coming of winter, that person would not reproduce very successfully. Etc., etc., ad nauseum. The capacity for logic had to be sufficient to allow humans to thrive in harsh and varied environments by adapting the environment to the human...this required tool use, which required higher thinking capacity, which improved reasoning skill. Evolution does not seek perfection, it finds the easiest pathway to good enough. Evolution did not require that every person be a Socrates, but it did require that every person be a practical philosopher capable of reliable induction and deduction.

I'm confused...so you agree, logic has little to do with survival? Seems like you basically denied everything you said previously with this statement.

No, logic has much to do with survival, but it requires time and resources that can often not be mustered during acute emergency situations, which is why humans retain the fight-or-flight response.

Do you truly think survival is only a factor during acute crises? Then I suggest you take a leisurely stroll to the top of the nearest office building, and then leisurely (always leisurely) see if you can fly off the roof. No emergency there...but your survival has never been more at risk.