Christian, Get the Point, Okay? We Do Not Believe!

We have Christians commenting who do not even try to understand us here at DC, so I thought I'd state the obvious. WE DO NOT BELIEVE! I find it humorous that I must continually state the obvious to Christians who fail to grasp this simple fact. Again, WE DO NOT BELIEVE!

Some Christians tell us to have faith, others quote "Scripture" to us, and still others tell us that when we die we'll know the truth. As far as I can tell these Christians are merely venting. None of this affects us at all. Again, WE DO NOT BELIEVE! Get it? No amount of quoting the Bible or telling us to have faith or that we'll know when we die makes a bit of sense to us. When I believed I at least understood this. You must reason with us. That's right. You must reason with us. Show us why we should believe the Bible, for instance, don't just quote it to us.

The next time you think of telling us to have faith just picture an orthodox Jew saying that same thing to you, okay? Does this do any good to you as an outsider? The next time you think of quoting the Bible just picture a Mormon quoting a passage from the Book of Mormon, okay? How does that feel? Does it do any good? And the next time you think to tell us we'll know the truth when we die just picture a Muslim saying the same thing to you, okay? Saying these kinds of things has no affect whatsoever on you as an outsider, so why do you try that with us?

[As an aside, if there is no afterlife then no one will ever know we were right about it when they die because in order to know we were right they would have to regain consciousness, which, if we're right cannot happen.]

40 comments:

Eric said...

"The next time you think of telling us to have faith just picture an orthodox Jew saying that same thing to you, okay? Does this do any good to you as an outsider?"

Hi John

What specifically do you mean when you refer to 'outsiders'? In itself, it's a relative term, yet you seem to presuppose at least some elements that are common to all outsiders. How do you justify these presuppositions?

To clarify:

1. What specifically do you mean when you use the term 'outsider'?

2. Do all outsiders share certain characteristics, values, traits, etc.? If so, what specifically are they, and how do you justify universalizing these characteristics, traits, values etc.?

3. If your conception of an outsider in any way resembles Rawls's amorphous selves in an original position, then doesn't your conception fail to do any heavy intellectual lifting for the same reasons Rawls's fails?

Harry McCall said...

John, the problem stems from the fact that NO WHERE IN THE ENTIRE BIBLE IS THERE SUCH A THING AS AN ATHEIST! This is seen in the Decalogue (Exodus 20) were other gods are acknowledged as real, but they must be subordinate to Yahweh.

Even in the Book of Revelation, the foes of Christ are not atheists, but believers in the wrong religious system! As such, the foes of Christ are STILL RELIGIOUS as they worship the Beast!

The entire Hebrew Covenant and Christian message of salvation is based on the premise that everyone believes in something supernatural be it a god or some gods, but just the WRONG god or gods.

As such, Christians quote their perceived word of their god (the Bible) to convince the non-Christian who is still viewed as basicly a believer that their false god or gods just don’t make sense in light of the superior Christian Biblical logic.

Thus, according to conservative Christian logic, the reason we deny God is because we don’t want to face him at the Judgment and the reason we deny Hell is because we don’t want to go there. Atheists are seen as still down deep very religious who are simply hiding it.

Without this God given truth premise, we atheists have just pulled all the legs off the Biblical spider called God rendering him and his Word totally useless toward us.

Since the Bible has no idea what an atheist is, logic follows that the Biblical Christian’s mindset (as again drawn form the Bible itself) does not understand atheism either.

John W. Loftus said...

Yes, Harry, but that's only one of the many delusions Christians have!

Eric, an outsider is basically an atheist. An atheist is a non-believer depending on the religion in question. Even Christians were called atheists for not believing in the gods of the Roman Empire.

An atheist merely says that the case for the religion in question has not been satifactorily made. I've developed an argument based on this data called the "Outsider Test for Faith" which is not circular, self-defeating nor does it fall prey to the genetic fallacy.

Darrin said...

>>Harry

I think you can cut the argument you present here to the chase more quickly and more definitively: Romans 1:18-23 has a sort of Argument from Design, where Paul at least asserts that God is so obvious from nature that one must consciously choose to suppress this knowledge ... or worse, if you're Calvinist, that experience necessitates an automatic transplant of God in everyone's heads. In either case, Paul's charge that nonbelievers in YHWH are foolish would extend to nonbelievers in all gods (Psalm 53:1). The Bible of course doesn't address atheistic arguments, e.g. those from the Greek philosophical tradition etc., but it at least leaves a deep-seeded insult in Psalms that likely made the ancients think twice, or at least block out, personal doubt about the whole shebang.

Darrin said...

transplant of knowledge* of God

J.L. Hinman said...

you just understand so little John. I think there's a psychological mechanism that when someone gives up faith they automatically have a memory wipe so they can't remember any spiritual insights they learned from when they had faith.

People tell you to have faith because faith is an active process. Its not beyond your control it is something you can make a conscious decision about.

They quote scripture to you, not because they think you believe it, because they thin it has power. It does. everytime they quote it you have to deny your soul to resist the power of the tug that it puts on your heart. (soul = life by the way but in a special say not just life in general--in relation to the divine).

you have forgotten that it's a another world. If you didn't know that (belief is another world from the one you live in) then you never really were a believer.

J.L. Hinman said...

An atheist merely says that the case for the religion in question has not been satifactorily made. I've developed an argument based on this data called the "Outsider Test for Faith" which is not circular, self-defeating nor does it fall prey to the genetic fallacy.


but like most of your arguments you are not going to tell us what it is. All roads lead to Rome, oand all arguments lead to John's book.

Mark Plus said...

Regarding Romans 1:18-23, the Epicurean philosophers (including Lucretius, who wrote a century before Paul) presented an alternative cosmology which did not require a creator god to explain order. Given the primitive state of science at the time, the ancients lacked the knowledge and the experimental method to resolve the issue between naturalist and supernaturalist explanations of the universe. (Now that we have that knowledge and the experimental method, the preponderance of evidence supports naturalism.) But the Epicureans demonstrate that a significant number of thinking people in antiquity did not find arguments for creator gods persuasive.

Eric said...

John, while you have indeed provided arguments in your book responding to various criticisms of the outsider test, I think it's important to remember that it is possible to respond to a response! Sometimes, you speak as if your responses to these criticisms (which only run little more than two pages!) are unanswerable.

For example, you claim that the outsider test doesn't commit the genetic fallacy because you're not arguing from the origin of a belief to its falsity, but from the origin of a belief to the need for skepticism about it.

"There is no fallacy here unless by explaining how believers first adopt a religious faith I therefore conclude that such a faith is false...I'm arguing believers should be skeptical of their religious faith because of how they first adopted it." (pg. 73-74)

Note, however, you're *still* confusing ratio credentis with ratio veritatis, and it is *this* that is at the root of the genetic fallacy, *not* a move from origins to falsity. It seems to me that your response is premised on a superficial understanding of the nature of the genetic fallacy.

You may want to respond by saying that the RDVT provides the ground for the outsider test, and that you're therefore justified in making this move. However, the fact that people disagree that P does not justify skepticism that P, even if we can see that there's some consistent geographic distributions correlated with various beliefs. Ultimately, you *still* have to look at the ratio veritatis, and you have to do much more than present the RDVT to justify the outsider test. (Here, I'd make three distinctions: 1. Arguments for the the outsider test; 2. The outsider test itself; 3. Arguments from the outsider test; I'm concerned with 1.) Hence, the outsider test is, in my opinion, still open to the charge that it commits the genetic fallacy.

Eric said...

"NO WHERE IN THE ENTIRE BIBLE IS THERE SUCH A THING AS AN ATHEIST!"

What about the infamous Psalm 14:1?

Robert_B said...

John's matter-of-fact observation that

"WE DO NOT BELIEVE! Get it? No amount of quoting the Bible or telling us to have faith or that we'll know when we die makes a bit of sense to us. When I believed I at least understood this. You must reason with us. That's right. You must reason with us. Show us why we should believe the Bible, for instance, don't just quote it to us."

is spot-on correct. Christians who attempt to proselytize me assume that their religious fairy tales are not only possible but correct. But to honestly assert that their god is possible, they must first demonstrate that it is as they say. To do that they must define their god and show that definition is in harmony with the facts of reality. Neither of those tasks are they willing to undertake. Christians prefer to sell an amorphous non-definable reified zero as if it were something. Then they go on to presuppose the stories in their book of religious fairy tales are actually true and that those who do not believe instead actually do believe.

The burden of proof is on the Christian to first demonstrate that their god is possible. They, however, wish to shift the burden onto the non-believer as if their case were true by default. But the Christian's case for their god is not true by default as can be discerned from Jeffery Grupp's fine argument for the impossibility of GOD from the impossibility of an unmediated attachment between the spatial and temporal and some A-spatial, A-temporal, transcendent other realm.

God's Spatial Unlocatedness Prevents Him from Being the Creator of the Universe: A New Argument for the Nonexistence of God

Christians often claim that atheists do not have any new arguments against god in the course of imaging their presupposed fantasy world. But there are new arguments in John Loftus' book Why I Became an Atheist: A Former Preacher Rejects Christianity and in The Non-Existence of God by Nicholas Everitt

Christians must first have to show their god is possible. This is a heavy burden of proof. I do not envy them the task as it is a fools errand.

Greg Mills said...

J.L. Hinman --

Do you or anyone else you know have any experience changing a non- or differently believing person's mind about reality by simply quoting scripture at them?

These are texts, written by men, and they are frequently incoherent. If you think you and your coreligionists are in way "armed" for debate because you've spent hours of study wringing out some kind of relevant knowledge out of some ragtag twice told tales, well, this site wouldn't exist. Every knee would have already bowed and the fevered, grasping field of apologia would not exist if the texts had the universal power you claim for them.

As it is, you are commenting on site run by people who were at one point steeped and believing in that text and came to find it wanting. You are left churlishly accusing people you don't know of having a specific frame of mind in their prior life.

"You were never a believer!" you say, but from what I've read, your hosts initially struggled with their crisis of faith. This totalist theology that you seem to subscribe to was their lives.

So what WAS their belief, since you know what their frame of mind was? Was it the same as yours? Probably not. Everybody invariably writes their own private creed.

When you make that accusation, it is an insult, I'm sure made from "love", because now you can deny the validity of John's and co. experiences. You are essentially saying "You can't even handle the gift of reality, you're THAT screwed up." So they become less that lifelong atheists.

They have retarded, defective souls, that can't even "believe" in what you've been socialized to think is a self-evident truth, granted one that require hours of study and "interpretation" of theologians, because, let's face it, if you read it cold without the careful intercession of other humans, it doesn't really make a whole lot of sense.

I'm not sure what sort of points you think you're making when you lessen the experience of others, but it looks to an "outsider" (apologies to Loftus) you just don't have any game, so you ain't bringing it.

Robert_B said...

Mr Hinman: here is a fine review of Loftus' book wherein The Outsider Test is discussed.

The book is quite inexpensive and well worth the read. You would do yourself service by acquiring a copy.

Robert_B said...

Mr. J.L. Hinman wrote: "it's a another world."

Mr. Hinman has accurately identified the key to theism. It is faith that there is existence and reality other than that which we experience via our senses or the extension of our senses via instrumentation. But all that exists is existence. Reality actually is real. Existence really does exist. What mystics like Mr. Hinman take as only apparent existence is in fact reality.

The Abrahamic religions presuppose that their god made existence by wishing it to obtain. The Abrahamic religionists imagine their god as a form of primordial consciousness. It is axiomatically obvious that consciousness is a process that results in awareness of existence. Processes require cause and effect that results from the specific identity of instantiated extant existing things. Without identity there can be no cause and effect; without cause and effect there cannot occur any processes; without processes there can be no awareness. Even if somehow consciousness could occur without existence, cause and effect, or identity, then still it would be the case that without something to be aware of there could not then be any awareness and consequently no consciousness. Therefore God is just as impossible as it is impossible for motion to occur divorced from anything actually being in motion.

Harry McCall said...

Eric, your problem is, like most everyone who must depends on an eclectic English text, you are all to often mislead in you interpretation.

If we accept the LXX here over the MT, your view of Psalm 14: 1 may have some substance. “ειπεν αφρων εν καρδια αυτου ουκ εστιν θεος διεφθειραν

But your view is totally shot down in the Hebrew of Psalm 14:1 as the word אלהים or the Hebrew plural for El is used: We read: אלהים


But yet in Psalm 14: 2 we read: יהוה which is more in agreement with the LXX.

So, the Hebrew point is (as I have stated in my first comment on this post) that those who deny all the ancient polytheistic Near Eastern of gods are fools just as the second part of the Psalm states as they have no deity to guide them and are a fool נבל.

This is not what we here at DC call or know as modern atheists. As opposed to the ancient person or fool who denies polytheism and shows to have no divine kingship guidance in his life, thus doing “abominable deeds; There is no one who does good.” (Psalm 14: b), modern atheist are almost all ways very ethical and moral and not simply foolish in their moral and ethics.

In short; the fool of Psalm 14:1 and modern atheist are two entirely different things and for your claim of Psalm “14:1a” to be correct, then the second part, Psalm “14: 1b” must agreed also; which it does not.

Robert_B said...

Eric wrote: “Note, however, you're *still* confusing ratio credentis with ratio veritatis, and it is *this* that is at the root of the genetic fallacy, *not* a move from origins to falsity. It seems to me that your response is premised on a superficial understanding of the nature of the genetic fallacy. “

I'll take a shot at this one.

Ratio credentis a reason or explanation why something is believed. Ratio veritatis means reason or justification why something is true. The genetic fallacy has been recognized as using reasons for belief as though they are reasons for truth. By assuming that the origin or cause of proposition is taken to have some bearing on its truth, the religious believer commits the genetic fallacy. They simply presuppose their religious story to be true because they were taught the story by their parents or loved ones. There is a large difference here between what the religious believer does and Loftus' Outsider test. Loftus respects the difference between RV and RC. This is at the heart of the Outsider Test the point of which is not to show that any particular religion is false but rather to show that religionists employ a double epistemic standard in dismissing the claims of all religions other than there own while claiming their religion is true. Use is such epistemic double standards is dishonest and results from the religionists' delusion. The point of the Outsider test is to prompt the religious person to honestly consider her own faith claims in the same skeptical light she would shine on some other faith's story. But more to the point here is the thesis that Loftus does not commit the genetic fallacy, for he is not saying the religions are false because people accept their faith due to the source of their religious teaching. Loftus and most atheists say instead that religion is false because it does not conform to or occur in harmony with the facts of reality. But religionists presuppose by way of unstated enthymeme that their religious claims are in fact ratio veritatis by virtue of where their teaching came from. In reality, however, all religious claims, Christian or otherwise, are believed ratio credentis because doing so makes the beleiver feel good. But belief or feelings do not make truth, and that is the pivot that the Outsider test turns upon. That it does so is due the fact that existence actually does exist in contradistinction to the teachings of theism. Since humanity knows axiomatically the fact that existence does in fact exist by virtue of sensory perception and by extension of our senses via instrumentation, we can have certitude, ratio veritatis, that religon actually is false.

John W. Loftus said...

Thanks Robert B. Exactly. Why the double standard? When scientists test something they do not use a double standard. Why should anyone do so?

Eric said...It seems to me that your response is premised on a superficial understanding of the nature of the genetic fallacy.

The informal genetic fallacy is committed when the origin of someone’s belief (ratio credentis) is used to show the falsity of the truth (ratio credentis) of what that person believes. The outsider test does not do this at all, as I argued, for the reasons I argued.

Nonetheless, I don’t think the genetic fallacy is as much of a big deal as you think it is. If someone has a paranoid belief about the CIA spying on him and we find that the genesis (or origin) of his belief comes from him taking a hallucinogenic drug like L.S.D., then we have some really good evidence to be skeptical of his paranoid belief, even though we have not actually shown his belief to be incorrect in any other way, and even though by doing so you could say we have committed the genetic fallacy. Neither Keith Parsons nor I think that's as bad of a thing as you think it is. Furthermore, if all of our beliefs are completely determined by our environment then that’s the case regardless of the fact that by arguing for this it commits the genetic fallacy, and regardless of the fact that our own arguments are completely determined by our environment.

Eric said...the fact that people disagree that P does not justify skepticism that P, even if we can see that there's some consistent geographic distributions correlated with various beliefs.

The amount of skepticism warranted depends on the number of rational people who disagree, whether these people who disagree are separated into distinct geographical locations, the nature of those beliefs, how they were arrived at, and the kinds of evidence that can possibly be used to decide between them.

I think I’ve addressed those kinds of concerns in my book as a whole. Rational people don’t bet against gravity, for instance, because there is evidence for it that was learned apart from a person’s upbringing. So the amount of skepticism we should have with regard to it is nearly zero, since skepticism about beliefs can best be expressed on a continuum.

When it comes to ethics, politics, and economics, there are disagreements between rational people but the amount of skepticism warranted depends on the criteria I just laid out, and we’d have to take them on a case by case basis. Alien abductions, ghosts, UFO claims and religions must likewise be subjected to these sorts of questions to determine how much skepticism is warranted. Some beliefs will warrant more skepticism than others.

When it comes to religions they are almost exclusively learned from one’s parents, separated into distinct geographical locations and based upon ancient superstitious pre-scientific beliefs. Without evidence anyone can build an intellectual castle in the sky. When it comes to historical religions like those derived from theism then the only evidence you have is historical evidence. But I’ve argued that historical evidence is poor evidence and that’s all you have. Science and reason more than adequately debunk such superstitious beliefs as the trinity, incarnation, atonement, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, as I do in my book.

Eric said...(Here, I'd make three distinctions: 1. Arguments for the outsider test; 2. The outsider test itself; 3. Arguments from the outsider test; I'm concerned with 1.) Hence, the outsider test is, in my opinion, still open to the charge that it commits the genetic fallacy.

I think I’ve addressed your concerns already, but you must deal with the problem of religious diversity and reconcile to yourself why you were so privileged to be born in a Christian culture and others were not so privileged if what you believe is the truth. Why is it that you just happen to believe what you were raised to believe in a Christian culture? You cannot dispute, can you, the sociological fact that had you been born somewhere else you would be defending something else. This is why you should consider some high level of acceptable skepticism to take the outsider test.

James said...

Can I tell you how clueless some Christians are? I post the most outrageous, satirical statements under a pseudonym on various Christian blogs, and the most common response is "AMEN!"

Some of the stuff is pulled directly from Landover Baptist, other stuff I make up but is equally as absurd.

They can't even tell when you're making fun of them because their beliefs are so astounding and contrary to common sense they can't tell the difference between satire and sincerity.

My latest endeavors are on the AFA's new Facebook site. Good fun, but maybe I shouldn't encourage them. They seem to think my ranting posts (along with my "photo" of a half-naked, grossly obese man) are real.

Eric said...

"I don’t think the genetic fallacy is as much of a big deal as you think it is. If someone has a paranoid belief about the CIA spying on him and we find that the genesis (or origin) of his belief comes from him taking a hallucinogenic drug like L.S.D., then we have some really good evidence to be skeptical of his paranoid belief, even though we have not actually shown his belief to be incorrect in any other way, and even though by doing so you could say we have committed the genetic fallacy."

Hi John

I agree that there's a bit of nuance involved when it comes to assessing informal fallacies. For example, two of the most frequently abused fallacies (not by you) are the ad hominem and the ad verecundiam: an insult alone isn't an ad hominem, and all appeals to authority aren't fallacious (though they tend to be somewhat weak). It's similarly the case with the genetic fallacy: not all arguments from the origin of a belief to its falsity (or dubiousness) are fallacious, since sometimes the origin of a belief can be identified with its justification. However, when you conflate the explanation for a belief and its justification, you're guilty of committing the informal fallacy, and it seems to me that you've done so, as the quote I provided in my last post shows. It may be the case that S is a Christian largely because he was born in the U.S., and that he most likely wouldn't be one if he had been born in Afghanistan. However, it's also the case that someone who believes that QM provides an accurate description of how reality operates on the subatomic level would almost certainly not hold these beliefs if he had been born in an isolated tribe in South America. Obviously, however, this says nothing whatsoever about the truth or falsity of QM. Ultimately, as you seem to acknowledge, we must get to the justification of a belief. The outsider test may indeed help us get there, and I see nothing wrong with this at all; however, I do see something wrong with stacking the deck before we ever get to the question of a belief's justification, and it is precisely this that the genetic fallacy -- when it's committed -- does.

John W. Loftus said...

Eric said...The outsider test may indeed help us get there, and I see nothing wrong with this at all; however, I do see something wrong with stacking the deck before we ever get to the question of a belief's justification, and it is precisely this that the genetic fallacy -- when it's committed -- does.

So what exactly are you saying here? How can you agree with me that there is nothing wrong with the outsider test and in the same sentence say that I have committed the genetic fallacy?

There is no attempt at explaining scientific beliefs away because of when are where a person was born, either, so using QM as an example tells me you're not seriously looking at what I've argued.

There is nothing wrong be being skeptical.

There is nothing wrong with arguing against double standards.

There is nothing wong with looking at the wide diversity of religious beliefs around the gloabe and asking the questions I'm asking.

The test itself commits no genetic fallacy at all! It's a test that must be disputed on its own terms given the sociological data.

You are clearly, and I mean clearly, trying to weasel out of the test because you know the result. Try being intellectually honest with what you believe. I bet you cannot do it, so there is this cognitive dissonance within you and it's best to alleviate it by coming up with any far fetched answer that you can come up with, even if it makes no sense at all. You prefer your beliefs. You're resistant to anything that calls them into question because of fear. Is that the honest way to come by your beliefs? This is my explanation for your extremely weak understandings and arguments.

It seems as though you have my book. The rest of the book fills in the details of what I mean. Have you read all of it? Let me know when you do. The justifications used for your beliefs are so far out in la la land that it's amazing to me that all you can say is what you said, and I'm not even sure what you said makes any sense at all. (sorry).

Robert_B said...

Eric: hello. I hope your feeling well. At this time, I assure you that I think your a fairly well educated person and probably quite bright related to topics other than religious faith.

Furthermore, I have to applaud John for his prescient insight that

"You (Eric) are clearly, and I mean clearly, trying to weasel out of the test because you know the result. Try being ntellectually honest with what you believe."

If I may second that by noting you failed to address my assertion that the Christian god is impossible. The most important issue here is not the Outsider test or your approach to your faith, but rather is is possible for the Christian god, Yahweh-Jesus, to exist. That which is self contradictory can no more exist or occur than can a square circle. Consider this very ancient (and true)argument against the Abrahamic theistic GOD.

1.To be GOD, YAHWEH must be an ontological person that is infinite in scope.

2.To be an ontological person is to have a specific identity.

3.To have a specific identity is to necessarily be finite.

4.YAHWEH has a specific identity.

5.YAHWEH therefore is necessarily finite and cannot be infinite.

6.By modus tollens from 1 and 5, YAHWEH cannot be GOD as it cannot
both be infinite and finite.

To refute this argument the Law of Identity must be shown false. If someone were to be successful in showing the Law of Identity false, the implication then would be that there is no material existence for material existence requires the Law of Identity. If what we understand to be the world around us does not actually exist, then it is a fantasy of some sort as are we. Then all the evil in the universe is directly attributable to the source of the fantasy. If that were YAHWEH, then it would be directly responsible for all the suffering, pain, misery, death, affliction, natural disasters, predator-prey and parasite-host relationships. The infliction of suffering for sheer enjoyment of witnessing sentient beings (or fantasies) in misery qualifies as EVIL. If the Law of Identity is false, and if YAHWEH is responsible for what
we think of as reality, then YAHWEH is malevolently EVIL. And all who worship YAHWEH are duped and deceived.

To the best of my knowledge, no religious believer has been able to refute this argument since the time or Aristotle. I doubt you can either. An appeal to encapsulations of existences or realms will fail you because of Jeffery Grupp's observations regarding the impossibility of unmediated attachments between relations in reality versus transcendent realms. See God's Spatial Unlocatedness Prevents Him from Being the Creator of the Universe: A New Argument for the Nonexistence of God

a helmet said...

Harry,

Psalm 14,1 touches on atheism:

Fools say in their hearts, 'There is no God.'

a helmet said...

An atheist merely says that the case for the religion in question has not been satifactorily made.

I'd say that would be an agnostic. An atheist made his case against the religion.

Robert_B said...

Mr. a helmet: Greetings; Harry responded to the Psalm 14:1 issue at this link.

Robert_B said...

Mr a helmet wrote: I'd say that would be an agnostic. An atheist made his case against the religion.

Sir, the a prefix means not or without. Agnostic then means to be without gnosis or knowledge of spiritual matters. This can be taken as to be without knowledge that a god exists. Athesim then would mean to be without theism or without beliefs that gods exist. Generally acknowledged are two flavors of Atheism, strong and weak or positive and negative, or explicit and inexplicit. Weak, inexplicit, or negative Atheism is simply a lack of beleifs regarding gods. Agnostics claim a lack of knowledge. They consequently also lack beliefs regarding the gods if beliefs are based upon knowledge. In that case Agnostics are the same a weak Atheists. If however beliefs are based on fantasy, then a person could claim a lack of knowledge and thus be classed as Agnostic yet still be a theist if they believed despite a dearth of knowledge. When a person claims gods cannot exist for whatever reason, then they are a strong or positive or explicit Atheist. I fall into the later category since I maintain that gods cannot exist and that it is impossible to have knowledge of gods. This makes me both an Agnostic and a Strong Atheist. All atheists are also agnostics, but not all agnostics are atheists.

Eric said...

Hello John

I'm going to assume that the fault is mine, and that I haven't been clear enough. Here's my argument, which I'll lay out step by step.

First, I'll begin with a tripartite distinction:

(1) Arguments for the OT (outsider test), i.e. arguments justifying the outsider test

(2) The OT itself

(3) Arguments from the OT

I'm concerned with (1), which is to say I'm only making a point about how you go about justifying the OT.

Now, the OT is "a challenge to test one's own religious faith with the presumption of skepticism, as an outsider" (page 66). How skeptical should one be? If we distinguish weak, strong and radical skepticism, where WS requires supposing the possibility that one's beliefs are false, SS requires supposing that one's belief's are probably false, and RS requires supposing that one can never know if one's beliefs are true, we can see that you're advocating SS. "She [i.e. an outsider] would have to assume that her culturally inherited religious faith is probably false" (page 67).

Since the OT cannot be understood apart from the presumption of SS -- a point made clear by quotes such as this one: "I'm arguing that she [i.e. an outsider] should adopt the presumption (or presupposition) of skepticism" (page 69) -- it follows that we must look a bit more closely at skepticism itself. Skepticism concerns justification. If we claim that one should be skeptical of a belief, we're saying something about how it has been (or hasn't been!) justified, which is to say we're claiming that it's supposed justification is (at best) dubious. The stronger the form of skepticism we advocate, the stronger the claim we're making about the dubiousness of a belief's justification.

With all this in mind, what is the argument for the OT? "The basis for the OT challenge can be found in a statement by John Hick: '[I]t is evident that in some ninety-nine percent of the cases the religion which an individual professes and to which he or she adheres depends upon the accidents of birth'" (page 67). "The OT is based on the RDVT, which leads us to the RDPT, which in turn leads us to the presumption of skepticism" (page 69). "Skepticism (or agnosticism) becomes the favored (or default) position as a result of the initial presumption -- a presumption that is justified by the religious diversity around the globe" (page 76). Clearly, you are arguing that skepticism is justified by both the diversity and the dependency theses.

My claim is that you have committed the genetic fallacy here (in your attempt to justify the presumption of skepticism for the OT). First, we must be clear about just what the genetic fallacy is. "[The genetic fallacy] is committed when whenever it's argued that a belief is false because of the origination of the belief" (page 73). Well, yes and no. Yes, this is sufficient to warrant the charge of the genetic fallacy, but it's not necessary. The heart of the genetic fallacy doesn't concern a move from origins to falsity (or truth! you've forgotten that possibility here), but a confusion of the ratio credentis with the ratio veritatis. In other words, it's not necessary to argue that a belief is true or false to commit the fallacy; it's only necessary to confuse the RC with the RV. So, have you done this?

You use the RDVT to support the RDPT, and the RDPT to justify the OT, i.e. the presumption of SS. Now, the RDPT is concerned with the ratio credentis ("religious faith is not merely a matter of independent rational judgment but is causally dependent on cultural conditions to an overwhelming degree" page 69); skepticism is concerned with the ratio veritatis, i.e. with justification (see above). To base skepticism, concerning the ratio veritatis, on the RDPT, concerning the ratio credentis, is as clear an instance of the genetic fallacy as one can imagine, especially when we remember that you're claiming that the RDPT justifies SS (strong skepticism)! In some instances, the RC can be identified with the RV, e.g. where the origin of a belief is its justification; in such cases, SS may be warranted, and no fallacy committed (since the RC is the RV, one is dealing with the RV when considering the RC). However, your argument for the OT isn't directed against such people alone, but against all believers (i.e. even those who have reasons independent of their RC to justify their belief).

So, that's my argument! You can disagree with it, and I'm not saying it's unanswerable, but it's hardly "extremely weak."

John: "You are clearly, and I mean clearly, trying to weasel out of the test because you know the result."

Not even close. I'm studying philosophy at a top ten PGR university, and if you look at them, you'll notice that they're all very secular institutions. Nearly all of my professors and most of my fellow students are skeptics. I live the OT on steroids each day: my beliefs are continually challenged both by those around me and by the texts I'm reading. Also, if you were to take a look at my home library, you'd find a large number of books on atheism by a number of top thinkers (Mackie, Nielson, Russell, Martin, etc.).

Robert B: "3.To have a specific identity is to necessarily be finite."

This premise is false. Take two infinite sets: the set of all odd numbers, and the set of all even numbers. Both are infinite, yet we can distinguish one from the other. We couldn't do this if they lacked identity.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Eric,
you were very nice to clear up the definition of the Genetic fallacy, but then you started talking about
a confusion of the ratio credentis with the ratio veritatis."
and lost me.

Do you mind restating this paragraph
"You use the RDVT to support the RDPT,...."
in common terms (more clearly) please.

I think it MAY be POSSIBLE that the O.Test has the form of a Genetic Fallacy, but not all arguments that have the form of a fallacy actually are. You have to determine if there is a flaw in the reasoning.

Take appeal to Emotion for example, or appeal to force. There are situations where each of those would not be a fallacy.
1. emotion: the case where you should give money to help the kid with cancer.
2. The case where the police officer tells the gun toting bad guy to drop the gun or he'll shoot.

in each case I could formulate an argument that would have the form of a fallacy, however, each is logically justifiable.

This is why rather than "fallacy" you should use the term "reasoning scheme" or "algorithm".

The outsider test is logically justifiable. Don't forget that no-one exists in a bubble. Qualifiers and scope come into play in real life and cross-checking plays a big part in determining the accuracy one or more viewpoints over each other.

in simple terms, when you have two sets of data, you need more data to determine the accuracy of the data in either set.

If one witness says the car was blue, and another said it was green, then you need something reliable to cross-check the testimony with, then you have to decide what the heirarchy of preference is for the third data set. We should choose video surveillance over another witness.

One thing that i sense in these arguments over philosophy, is the neglect for the participants to periodically "check their bearings" as they float along on the sea of argument.

I'm thinking Rene De Cartes for one, and all the arguments for the existence of God that I know of.
Some of them are beautiful, but they are not grounded in reality. They do not accurately reflect real world states. True, they may one day when we get better information, but at this point, we have to commit to what we know to be more likely.

In my view, this is the key difference between Argumentation and Rhetoric.

John W. Loftus said...

Eric thanks for the detailed argument. Some of your distinctions are important ones, so thanks. Okay, you are educated and smart.

I’ve already argued with Keith Parsons that the genetic fallacy is not particularly troubling to me even if I commit it, so by continually trying to stick that label on me doesn’t bother me even if you could, okay? But you cannot do that without creating other difficulties.

If ethical relativism is the case, then ethical relativism is the case, even if by arguing for it I commit the genetic fallacy, okay? Why should I even be concerned?

To illustrate, I maintain that wherever the buck stops there are problems with regard to objective moral standards and the basis of reason and logic itself. Theists are quick to point out my problems as a metaphysical naturalist, but I turn it back on the theist and use the Euthyphro dilemna to show that any theist who thinks God solves the problem better doesn’t understand their own problem. So likewise I think when it comes to the genetic fallacy the theist has the same problem if they think they can escape the problem by reference to God. This has to do with the problem of how God acquired his knowledge, otherwise known as the problem of divine simplicity and whether God has a nature. What kind of knowledge does God have? Dr. Craig bites the bullet when he says God does not have propositional knowledge. What that even means is troublesome to me. But furthermore we must ask how God acquired his knowledge and I maintain that since God cannot be free with respect to the knowledge he has that what he knows is determined out of necessity. Did God choose his own nature? If so then could he have chosen a different nature? [This takes us far a field of this discussion, but I use it to illustrate that even if relativism commits the genetic fallacy then so does God]. We are in the same boat, so to speak, so it matters not to me when a believer like you throws that charge at me since I can throw it back on you.

However, I don’t think you understand the genetic fallacy, and I would like to see some reference that backs up what you specifically said apart from you saying it. But for now let’s say you are correct about it, okay?

So what? What does it matter that you’ve labeled an argument strategy with the phrase “genetic fallacy”? You’re merely saying that whenever we see X we should think Y. You've got to show that Y is bad, wrong, and false. There are many arguments between us that would be labeled as informal fallacies which are persuasive to the other side. If human understanding is as fallible as I think it is then all we have is persuasion, not sound arguments, anyway. In such a scenario the only thing that matters is whether we can persuade someone to see things our way.

Furthermore, the way you define the genetic fallacy would mean that people commit it almost all of the time. It’s too lax of a definition such that using a genetic fallacy in your sense wouldn’t be seen as a problem. If the genetic fallacy no longer specifically refers to the attempt to argue that a belief is false because of how one believes, but instead refers to the attempt to show one should be skeptical of one’s justifications for a belief because of how he came by that belief, then it no longer has any teeth to it. Surely you've heard of the Bayesian Theorem and the background knowledge that forms the background beliefs for what people use to justify something. And surely you know that most of our background beliefs have never been critically analyzed for logical flaws. Most of what we believe is based on a logical fallacy known as ad populum, and/or simply based on what people we respect have told us. This is something we know! There are many psychological studies that show we cannot trust our own justifications for what we believe. Just ask Lee Randolph who specializes in that sort of thing. Ask him about “Cognitive Dissonance,” “Impression Management Theory,” and "Psychological Reactance Theory.” Read up on persuasive psychology. Check out Robert B. Cialdini, "Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion," and Richard E. Petty and John Cacioppo, "Attitudes and Persuasion: Classic and Contemporary Approaches."

Should this cause us to be skeptical of our justifications for what we belief? Certainly it should--without question. If that’s committing the genetic fallacy then everyone does it all of the time and there is no teeth left in charging that someone has committed it.

You see, you are asking people to be what they cannot be by asking them to be living and breathing Spockian people.

John W. Loftus said...

I want to revise the following statement since I am NOT a relativist. I said:

If human understanding is as fallible as I think it is then all we have is persuasion, not sound arguments, anyway. In such a scenario the only thing that matters is whether we can persuade someone to see things our way.

Let me revise it as follows:

If human understanding is as fallible as I think it is then most all we have is persuasion, not sound arguments, anyway. In such a scenario the only thing that matters is mostly whether we can persuade someone to see things our way.

Robert_B said...

Eric responded to Robert B’s argument by asserting that:

[Robert B: "3.To have a specific identity is to necessarily be finite."]

[[This premise is false. Take two infinite sets: the set of all odd numbers, and the set of all even numbers. Both are infinite, yet we can distinguish one from the other. We couldn't do this if they lacked identity. ]]


The premise in question is true. Sets are rules used to categorize a grouping of things, ideas, concepts, or notions. Rules are finite even if the magnitude of the quantity of elements categorized by the rule can be counted forever. Measurement criteria used to discriminate differences and similarities between elements that are assigned to rules that are used to categorize groupings of things, ideas, concepts, or notions into sets are finite. Rules may apply to an infinite quantity, yet rules are finite. Additionally, if we consider the set of all odd or even numbers and ask which number is the collective whole ensemble of all even or odd numbers, there can be no specific answer because the whole assemblage of elements has no identity. Consequently, the Law of Identity is recognized as applying to rules that categorize numbers into sets as well as to specific numbers, but not to an infinite quantity of numeric elements categorized by a rule into a set of numbers. Therefore that which is infinite has no specific identity. The argument holds and the Abrahamic God is impossible.


Best Regards and Wishes

Eric said...

John, I don't have access to my old logic texts or notes right now, so I found some online sources on the genetic fallacy that support my understanding (i.e. the genetic fallacy doesn't require a move from origins to a claim of *truth or falsity*, but also comprises most moves from origins to judgments about justification; and that the stronger the claims about justification that follow from the move from origins, the more obvious the fallacy, hence the importance of pointing out your endorsement of strong skepticism). I've enclosed the relevant parts in ** -- **, and added my own comments in brackets.

"This is called the Genetic Fallacy, because it is based on the idea that the original source of an idea is a sound basis for evaluating its truth **or reasonableness** [which obviously includes skepticism, especially strong skepticism]."
"...it should not be assumed from all of the above that there is no point in learning more about the origins of an idea. Those origins **might not have any serious bearing on the validity of an idea** [if they have no serious bearing, then strong skepticism isn't warranted from genetic considerations], but learning about them might help us to understand it better."
http://atheism.about.com/library/FAQs/skepticism/blfaq_fall_genetic.htm

"A Genetic Fallacy is a line of "reasoning" in which a perceived defect in the origin of a claim or thing is taken to be **evidence that discredits** [which can include but is weaker than 'claims is false'] the claim or thing itself. It is also a line of reasoning in which the origin of a claim or thing is taken to be **evidence for** [which is weaker than but includes claiming it leads to the truth of] the claim or thing."

http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/genetic-fallacy.html


"There is a difference between a reason why something is believed (ratio credentis, an explanation) and a reason why something is true (ratio veritatis, a justification). Ideally the latter would be used for the former, but we do often have reasons, even good reasons, for believing things even if we do not know the reasons why they are true. But if reasons for belief are used as though they are reasons for truth, this has been recognized for most of the history of logic as an informal fallacy [1], the "genetic fallacy," in which the origin or the cause of a proposition is taken to have **some bearing on its truth** [which certainly includes strong skepticism]. It doesn't."

http://www.friesian.com/genetic.htm

"The Genetic Fallacy is the most general fallacy of irrelevancy involving the origins or history of an idea. It is fallacious to either **endorse or condemn** [again, these concepts can include claims of truth and falsity and claims of probability or improbability] an idea based on its past—rather than on its present—merits or demerits, unless its past in some way affects its present value."

http://www.fallacyfiles.org/genefall.html

"A critic commits the genetic fallacy if the critic attempts to **discredit or support** [you can discredit a claim by showing that it's dubious, and support a claim without asserting its truth] a claim or an argument because of its origin (genesis) when such an appeal to origins is irrelevant."

http://www.iep.utm.edu/f/fallacy.htm#Genetic

"A Genetic Fallacy is a line of “reasoning” in which a perceived defect in the origin of a claim or thing is taken to be **evidence that discredits** [which is weaker than outright falsification] the claim or thing itself. It is also a line of reasoning in which the origin of a claim or thing is taken to be **evidence for** [which is weaker than claiming the truth of] the claim or thing. This sort of “reasoning” has the following form:
1. The origin of a claim or thing is presented.
2. The claim is true(or false) **or** the thing is supported (or discredited).

http://www.opifexphoenix.com/reasoning/fallacies/genetic.htm

John, I don't have time to respond to your last post in detail right now, but I'll try to get back to it soon. Needless to say, you make some great points, and have given me a bit to think about.


Robert B, if you look at, say, Aquinas' arguments about god's nature and attributes (see especially book one of the Summa Contra Gentiles, chapters 15 - 102), you'll see many analogs to the sorts of 'rules' you're referring to.

John W. Loftus said...

Eric, thanks for the time you put into finding these sources. I was thinking of a more authorative source like Irving Copi's Introduction to Logic, which I looked inside only to find he doesn't discuss it (I have the older 3rd edition).

In The Philosopher's Toolkit Baggini and Fosl (Blackwell Pub., 2003), we read: "Be careful, however, not to conclude that the origins of a thing, claim or belief are always irrelevant to its justification or current character. Sometimes the origins of a thing or belief are telling." (p. 91).

"Telling." That's an interesting word, something I used when discussing some arguments from silence.

I think I have made my case with regard to the Outsider Test. The origins of one's belief are telling on the justifications for said belief.

That's why I said you must dispute the OTF on its own terms.

Cheers.

Robert_B said...

Eric: Hello, I hope your well. In defense of my argument from the lack of identity of the infinite showing God impossible, I submit the following from Leonard Peikoff's “Objectivism: The Philosphy of Ayn Rand”

“The ideal of the ‘supernatural’ is an assault on everything man knows about reality. It is a contradiction of every essential of a rational metaphysics. It represents a rejection of the basic axioms of philosophy (or in the case of primitive men a failure to grasp them.)
This can be illustrated by reference to any version of idealism. But let us confine the discussion here to popular notions of God.
Is God the creator of the universe? Not if existence has primacy over consciousness.
Is God the designer of the Universe? Not if A is A. The alternative to ‘design’ is not ‘chance’. It is causality.
Is God omnipotent? Nothing and no one can alter the metaphysically given.
Is God infinite? ‘Infinite’ do not mean large; it means larger than any specific quantity, i.e.: of no specific quantity. An infinite quantity would be a quantity without identity. But A is A. Every entity, accordingly, is finite; it is limited in the number of its qualities and in their extent; this applies to the universe as well.As Aritotle was the first to observe, the concept of ‘infinity’ denotes merely a potentiality of indefinite addition or subdivision. For example, one can continually subdivide a line; but however amny segments one has reached at a given point, there are only that many and no more. The actual is always finite.
Can God perform miracles? A ‘miracle’ does not mean the unusual. If a woman gives birth to twins, that would be unusual; if she were to give birth to elephants, that would be a miracle. A miracle is an action not possible to the entities involved by their nature; it would be violation of identity.
Is God purely spiritual? ‘Spiritual’ means pertaining to consciousness, and consciousness is a faculty of certain living organisms, their faculty of perceiving that which exists. A consciousness transcending nature would be a faculty transcending organism and object. So far from being all knowing, such a thing would have neither means nor content of perception; it would be non-conscious.
Every argument commonly offered for the notion of God leads to a contradiction of the axiomatic concepts of philosophy. At every point, the notion clashes with the facts of reality and with the preconditions of thought. This as true of the professional theologians’ arguments and ideas as of the popular treatments.”

“Objectivism: The Philosphy of Ayn Rand”, p.31-32, by Leonard Peikoff, ISBN 0-525-93380-8


Over the weekend, I'll have some free time to further defend the argument.

Robert_B said...

Greetings Eric: I had a few thoughts and remembered a few points from a book I read a few years ago that are cogent to the discussion related to the argument I presented showing God cannot exist.

As a further response to your objection that infinite groups established by a Set rule segregating even and odd numbers into ensembles it should be recognized that infinity does not mean a number of greater absolute value than any other number. Instead infinity means that one can continue counting to an exponentially large number for any arbitrarily long time period and then continue counting for any additional long time period and then continue counting still further without ever reaching an end. There does not occur a single largest number. Consider two cases.

1. Any grouping of numbers established by a specific Set rule that contains an infinite quantity of numeric elements will continuously be changing as new additional large numbers are added to the ensemble by the Set rule. An infinitely large grouping would require an infinitely long time to be formed because causality is necessary to vivify a relation's unmediated attachment between a Set rule and potential group elements. Since the contents of the grouping would then be continuously changing forever, the grouping cannot have a specific identity despite that all the numeric elements sharing a common attribute. This is so because an object is all that it is. If a person defines a grouping established by a Set rule as an object, then the grouping's identity must metaphysically be all of its attributes simultaneously. Those attributes would include the ensemble of the identities of all the numeric elements. As those ensemble identities would constantly change and because the individual ensemble elements would all be different, the group can have no fixed specific identity.

2. If the process of adding numbers to the ensemble is paused or stopped, then the grouping is finite.

In the first case, the group ofnumbers can have no specific identity. In the second case the group of numbers cannot be infinite. Eric's objection from infinite Set Groupings to the very ancient argument from the impossibility of an infinite having a specific identity is insufficient to overcome the argument.

The following text is paraphrased from George H. Smith's book, “Atheism: The Case Against God” p.41.

To exist is to exist as something. To be something is to have a specific nature. That is to have a particular identity. The Laws of Identity A=A and Non-Contradiction A =/= ¬A entail that any ontological being must posses specific determinate characteristics. To have such characteristics is a consequence of being part of nature. But the theistic God is asserted to be super-natural, and that is to be exempt from the uniformity of nature. Herein lies the contradiction fatal to any claim of knowledge about God. Having specific determinate characteristics imposes limits, and those limits would restrict the capacities of the alleged super-natural being. Such restriction then renders the alleged super-natural being subject to the causal relationships that denote the uniformity of nature in actual existence and disqualify it from being God. To escape this contradiction, the religious mind proposes to somehow imagine a God lacking any definite attributes or properties. But a postulated existent devoid of properties or attributes is indistinguishable from nothingness and is incompatible with the concept of existence. For God to have characteristics necessarily means God must have definite characteristics. That is to say that God would then necessarily be limited, for to be A is to also not be ¬A. Any being with characteristics is then subject to the uniformity of nature imposed by those capacities. For a super-natural being to differ from natural existence, it must exist without a limited identity and nature. This amounts to existing without any nature or identity at all. If humanity is to have meaningful discourse about God, we must presuppose it to have properties by which is can be identified. By asserting that God is super-natural theism stipulates existence apart from the uniformity of nature and eliminates any possibility of assigning definite characteristics to God. But by assigning definite characteristics to God, theism brings its God within the natural realm and renders it not-God. Something cannot be both A and ¬A. God then cannot exist, and any claim of knowledge of God is indistinguishable from fantasy of God.

(Sat. 01-31-09, 14:08 GMT: I noticed a typo in the first version of this message and so replaced the text.)

Eric said...

Hello Robert B

I used to be an Objectivist -- quite an ardent one. In fact, I credit Rand with introducing me to philosophy. I was an atheist before I began to read Rand, and I found that my atheism was reinforced by her work. Later, when I came to reject Objectivism (for a host of reasons, all associated with my academic study of philosophy), I further reinforced my atheism through the works of Mackie, Russell, Nielson, etc. So I'm very much familiar with Rand's arguments, and with Objectivism as a whole.

I would warn you against using Rand as a source when it comes to thinking about infinity. Rand never studied mathematics beyond basic algebra (which she learned in her fifties, if I remember correctly), so her ideas about infinity are -- well, let's just say 'uninformed.' For example, sets are 'countable' in mathematics if they can be put in a one to one correspondence with either the natural numbers or with some subset of the natural numbers. Clearly, my examples are therefore countable even though they are infinite (in your first sense).

Another example: the set of all real numbers (the cardinality of the continuum)
is greater than the set of all natural numbers, *even though both are infinite*. Again, if what you're saying is true, we could not know this, since we couldn't properly define these sets in the first place.

I'm no mathematician, so perhaps Darrin could elaborate on this topic. (I think I read somewhere that Darrin is a grad student in mathematics.)

Finally, it's not at all clear in what sense mathematical objects such as sets 'exist.' Some very prominent mathematicians (such as Penrose, most famously) are Platonists, i.e. they think that numbers exist, but not in space and time. Hence, here's another way that infinite sets can exist in your first sense with a specific identity.

Robert Bumbalough said...

Good Morning Eric.

It is my hope you someday find the courage to face reality and acknowledge that there are not gods. I am deeply sad that a person possessing a fine intellect such as your mind appears would purposefully turn their back on reason and rational philosophy and choose to become a Christian. The vile filth of Christianity and the vast evil it has wrought on western civilization sickens and disgusts rational reasoning people. If Yahweh does exist, I certainly would not want to continue with whatever this that we take for reality may then be, for if Yahweh exists the primacy of existence is false. In that case there is no fixed reality and this is some sort of sick illusion such as postulated by Descartes and the primacy of consciousness mystics. Nothingness or Hell would be preferable to being a slave to the monster before which you crawl on your belly, prostrating yourself, and worshiping what is arguably the most evil character in all of fictional literature while surrendering your moral autonomy. Shame on you for crouching down and licking the imaginary hand of a heinous delusion. But luckily it is such a remote impossibility that Yahweh might exist that I need not be concerned, for your god is a lie, and your religion is contemptible nonsense.

I erred in asserting that a Set was the rule by which elements were segregated into groupings. Although I distinctly remember the instructor in class making that point. Wikipedia defines a set as a group of elements. The remainder of the article fails to discuss the disposition of any rules used to define the set grouping. The role of rules used to perform segregation of elements seems to be generally dismissed. That is a mistake. For it leaves open the door to the insidious Analytic-Synthetic dichotomy fallacy. But first there are reasons why a group of an indefinitely and continuously increasing quantity of elements consisting of either of all even or all odd integers cannot have a certain identify.

I previously wrote: ”Rules are finite even if the magnitude of the quantity of elements categorized by the rule can be counted forever. Measurement criteria used to discriminate differences and similarities between elements that are assigned to rules that are used to categorize groupings of things, ideas, concepts, or notions into sets are finite. Rules may apply to an infinite quantity, yet rules are finite.”

The above observation is salient and cogent to the proposition that an infinite Set can have no specific identity because the rules used to instill meaning into an algorithm that is in turn used to segregate numbers from their native domain on the Real Number Line into an infinite Set as an ongoing process that continues for all time is not part of that Set. This means the definition of Even or Odd are not part or the infinite Set of all evens or odds.

In my prior missive, I further noted that: ”Additionally, if we consider the set of all odd or even numbers and ask which number is the collective whole ensemble of all even or odd numbers, there can be no specific answer because the whole assemblage of elements has no identity.”

Likewise this observation is cogent and salient. Consider the finite set {a,b,c}. What single letter of the alphabet is the set? As an ensemble the set is not the same as the identity of any one of its members. The set is the union, U, of all its proper subsets, but union, U, is a rule algorithm and is not part of the set {a,b,c,}. Consequently union, U, cannot be the identity of {a,b,c}. {a,b,c} could be thought of as the intersection, I, of two other set that each contain a, b, c in common, but intersection, I, is a rule algorithm and is not part of the set {a,b,c,}. The question, what single letter of the alphabet is the set?, cannot be answered. We can say that {a,b,c} is a and b and c, but we cannot say {a,b,c} is any certain letter. What can be done, however, is apply an arbitrary label to the set grouping that entails it is the group of the first three letters of the alphabet.

Consider a bowl containing three marbles, one blue, one red, one yellow. It can be asked, what color is the group of three marbles?, but no certain specific answer can be forthcoming as the group has no specific color. The group does have three marbles and each one has a specific color, but the other two do likewise have their own specific color. The group has all the properties of all its elements, so the group is red, yellow, and blue simultaneously. But the set {blue marble, red marble, yellow marble} also has the property of marble. If the marbles are composed of glass, then the group also has the property of glass. Marbles are spheroidal; the set {blue marble, red marble, yellow marble} would then also have the property of being spheroidal. By which property shall we identify the set? If we were being truthful in the sense laid out in ITOE

”Truth is the product of the recognition (i.e., identification) of the facts of reality. Man identifies and integrates the facts of reality by means of concepts. He retains concepts in his mind by means of definitions. He organizes concepts into propositions—and the truth or falsehood of his propositions rests, not only on their relation to the facts he asserts, but also on the truth or falsehood of the definitions of the concepts he uses to assert them, which rests on the truth or falsehood of his designations of essential characteristics.” - p.63

How do we decide which essential characteristic is most appropriate to defining what color is the set {blue marble, red marble, yellow marble}? Is the set not defined by all of its properties that are inherited from its elements? Its seems clear that is the case. Thus {blue marble, red marble, yellow marble} is blue, red, and yellow. What if instead of three marbles, there was and infinite quantity of marbles of all different varying shades and hues? What color would then the set {∞ x all different colored marbles} be? Plainly, the color would then be indescribable for there is no such entity as actual infinity. The fantasies of math geeks notwithstanding. I posted Peikoff's take on the matter of infinity previously and its worth revisiting.

‘Infinite’ do not mean large; it means larger than any specific quantity, i.e.: of no specific quantity. An infinite quantity would be a quantity without identity. But A is A. Every entity, accordingly, is finite; it is limited in the number of its qualities and in their extent; this applies to the universe as well. As Aristotle was the first to observe, the concept of ‘infinity’ denotes merely a potentiality of indefinite addition or subdivision. For example, one can
continually subdivide a line; but however many segments one has reached at a given point, there are only that many and no more. The actual is always finite.
- “Objectivism: The Philosphy of Ayn Rand”, p.31, by Leonard Peikoff

And I also pointed out George H. Smith's brilliancy on this issue.

To exist is to exist as something. To be something is to have a specific nature. That is to have a particular identity. The Laws of Identity A=A and Non-Contradiction A =/= ¬A entail that any ontological being must posses specific determinate characteristics. To have such characteristics is a consequence of being part of nature ..... Having specific determinate characteristics imposes limits, and those limits would restrict the capacities of the .... being. Such restriction then renders the .... being subject to the causal relationships that denote the uniformity of nature in actual existence .... - “Atheism: The Case Against God.”, p.41 (paraphrasing), by George H. Smith

To be subject to causality is to operate in harmony with the nature of existence. Causality is the law of identity applied to action. All actions are caused by entities. The nature of an action is caused and determined by the nature of the entities that act; a thing cannot act in contradiction to its nature. The algorithms the segregate odd and even numbers from their native domain on the real number line filters numbers that are an integer of the form n = 2k + 1, where k is an integer into the odd Set and filters numbers having the form n = 2k where k is an integer into the even Set. Casualty is recognized as applying to algorithm rules that categorize numbers into sets as well as to specific numbers, but not to an infinite quantity of numeric elements categorized by an algorithm rule into a set of numbers. For if infinite were to exist, they would not have specific natures. This is because a concept, {the set of all even or odd numbers} for instance, means the existents which it subsumes, including all their characteristics and properties.

The rule algorithm entity that operates in finite fashion to segregate integers into the even or odd Sets is not part of the set. The definition of even or odd is then not part of the set. Therefore that which is infinite has no specific identity, for the identity consists of all the properties of the set inherited from all of its elements and subsets. Your claim that the alleged infinite set of all evens or odds can have an identity is pure hogwash. You are simply parroting the math geeks who are fallaciously applying an arbitrary even or odd label to the sets in question while ignoring all of the set's other properties that go into making up its actual identity. That is Set Theory commits the Analytic-Synthetic dichotomy fallacy. I discuss this further at the end of the essay.

You, being a Christian mystic, may wish to appeal to a Universal form emanating from the transcendent realm of your god that confers evenness or oddness on the Set. Since the rule that segregates the evens or the odds into the Set is not part of the Set, then your unstated enthymeme of a Universal cannot apply to the members of the Set because the definition rule EVEN or ODD is not part of the Set. Additionally, per Grupp (as I previously mentioned and provided a link to his paper) a relation cannot occur between that which is wholly spatial and temporal ie: existence and that which is non-spatial and A-temporal, ie: transcendence. No Universal form of EVEN-ness or ODD-ness can influence the hypothetical groupings. It is an arbitrary action to assign a label of even or odd to the Set, as the most essential characteristic of the elements in the set are their numeric magnitude.

You may wish to protest that the individual numbers within the ensemble each have the property of EVEN or ODD. But this will not do because a thing is all that it is. The Set is all its elements, then it must also be all of its element's properties and all of its subsets. Each number can be considered a proper subset of the main set. Not only is then each number different, but it is composed of an infinite number of fractional rational and irrational divisions and summation sequences each of which is a proper subset of its integer. All of the numbers within the main Set are also members of other Sets that can be defined and that are proper subsets of the main Set. An infinite number of encapsulated Sets occurs within any give sequence of numbers, and since Sets are defined as objects by Set theory, they must exist. If they exist they have properties even if we do not know what they are. Thus there is a vast multiplicity of Sets with their own properties within the main Set. The main Set's identity must include all its properties and those of all its proper subsets and not just EVEN or ODD. That math geeks wrongfully and arbitrarily apply the EVEN or ODD rule labels to these imaginary structures does not actually identify the Set any more than calling me Robert identifies me. I am all that I am and the arbitrarily applied label stuck on me by my parents is not my identity. It is my label. The Sets identity is like mixing all colors of the marbles together. What color then results? Why, no color at all, for black is not a color. What magnitude of quantity is the ensemble of the main Set?, why no specific magnitude of quantity at all for all numbers taken together in a group cannot be any certain number.

Consider Pure Sets. A set is pure if all of its members are sets, all members of its members are sets, and so on. For example, the set containing only the empty or Null Set is a non-empty pure Set. If the Set containing the Null Set is non-empty, then the Null set must be something according to Set theory. But the Null Set is the grouping of its members. In the Null set resides its member, nothingness. A grouping of nothingness is nothingness. Yet Set Theory reifies nothingness into somethingness. Let W = a Pure Set that is an sequential encapsulation of an infinite quantity of instances of Null Sets like Russian Babushka dolls. Each order of successively encapsulated Null Sets is assigned a ranking with its ordinal number. As the sets are encapsulated each set will contain its own powerset. The main Set will then have cardinality greater than Aleph 0. Now imagine, (F), a one-to-one injective function correspondence between W and the Set of all evens. Since W contains its own powerset, it has 2^(Aleph 0) more elements than does a non-Babushka doll-sequentially-encapsulated Pure Set containing an Aleph 0 quantity of Null Sets. After (F) is applied, then the remaining |2^(Aleph 0)- Aleph 0| Russian Babushka doll Null Sets in W will still be uncountable and still be equivalent to nothingness. Yet the remnant of W will have a greater quantity of elements than the Set of all Evens. This is absurd. How can nothingness be greater than infinity? It can't be. But it is indicative of a basic contradiction that renders the notion of an infinite Sets incomprehensible and incoherent and thus non-identifiable, but math geeks can arbitrarily apply those EVEN or ODD labels to the indeterminate groupings so stipulated by way of the Analytic-Synthetic Dichotomy fallacy.

Consider a Set of all even numbers {E} that results from a bijective functional mapping, f, such that each element is the product of {N}={2,4,6,....,n(sub ∞)} and (Aleph 0^(Aleph 0)) as follows: {E}=f(n)=n * (Aleph 0^(Aleph 0)). Each element in {E} is the product of one of the even natural numbers X (Aleph 0^(Aleph 0)). Plotted on a number line each element of {E} would be separated by (Aleph 0 raised to the (Aleph 0) exponential power) quantity of numeric points. The reciprocal of (Aleph 0^(Aleph 0)) or 1/(Aleph 0^(Aleph 0)) is the LIM of x as x→0 . The cardinality of the total number of elements of in {E} would then be the (LIM of x as x→0) * (The cardinality of the total number of elements of {N}). The cardinality of {E} then would be very much like zero, But a bijective functional mapping of a one-to-one correspondence between elements of {N} and {E} was established. Both sets are countable, but {E} has Aleph 0 cardinality while {N} has LIM of x as x→0 cardinality. Here is a definite relationship between Zero and ∞. But zero is nothingness, and a definite relationship between nothingness and somethingness cannot occur. (See Grupp.) The concept of infinity (or eternity) is incoherent and incomprehensible and cannot actually exist.

Whoever asserts that the fantasy of an infinite set (Yes, it is a fantasy as there can be no actual infinity.) of even or odd numbers to have the identity of even or odd is committing the Analytic-Synthetic Dichotomy fallacy.

An analytic proposition is defined as one which can be validated merely by an analysis of the meaning of its constituent concepts. The critical question is: What is included in “the meaning of a concept”? Does a concept mean the existents which it subsumes, including all their characteristics? Or does it mean only certain aspects of these existents, designating some of their characteristics but excluding others?
The latter viewpoint is fundamental to every version of the analytic-synthetic dichotomy. The advocates of this dichotomy divide the characteristics of the existents subsumed under a concept into two groups: those which are included in the meaning of the concept, and those—the great majority—which, they claim, are excluded from its meaning. The dichotomy among propositions follows directly. If a proposition links the “included” characteristics with the concept, it can be validated merely by an “analysis” of the concept; if it links the “excluded” characteristics with the concept, it represents an act of “synthesis.”
- ITOE, p.127 Peikoff

The Objectivist theory of concepts undercuts the theory of the analytic-synthetic dichotomy at its root .... Since a concept is an integration of units, it has no content or meaning apart from its units. The meaning of a concept consists of the units—the existents—which it integrates, including all the characteristics of these units. Observe that concepts mean existents, not arbitrarily selected portions of existents. There is no basis whatever—neither metaphysical nor epistemological, neither in the nature of reality nor of a conceptual consciousness—for a division of the characteristics of a concept’s units into two groups, one of which is excluded from the concept’s meaning ....The fact that certain characteristics are, at a given time, unknown to man, does not indicate that these characteristics are excluded from the entity—or from the concept. A is A; existents are what they are, independent of the state of human knowledge; and a concept means the existents which it integrates. Thus, a concept subsumes and includes all the characteristics of its referents, known and not-yet-known. - ITOE, p.131 Peikoff

On pages 98-101 of Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology Expanded 2nd Edition, Meridian Penguin Books, April 1990, Leonard Peikoff demonstrate how the Objectivist theory of concepts defangs and neuters the Analytic-Synthetic Dichotomy. By a fine example of reasoning Peikoff notes the following:

I)Metaphysically, and entity is: all of the things which it is. Each of its characteristics has the same metaphysical status: each constitutes a part of the entity's identity.

II)Epistemologically, all the characteristics of the entities subsumed under a concept are discovered by the same basic method: by observation of these entities.

III)... a concept subsumes and includes all the characteristics of its referents, known and not-yet-known.

IV)....a concept is an open-end classification which includes the yet-to-be discovered characteristics of a given group of existents. All of man's knowledge rest on that fact.

V)Whatever is true of the entity, is meant by the concept.

VI)It follows that there are no grounds on which to distinguish “analytic” from “synthetic” propositions. Whether on state that “A man is a rational animal” or that “A man has only two eyes” - in both cases, the predicated characteristics are true of man and are, therefore, included in the concept “man”. The meaning of the first statement is: “A certain type of entity , including all its characteristics (among which are rationality and animality) is: a rational animal.” The meaning of the second is: “A certain type of entity, including all of its characteristics (among which is the possession of only two eyes) has: only two eyes.” Each of these statements is an instance of the Law of Identity; each is a “tautology”: to deny either is to contradict the meaning of the concept “man,” and thus to endorse a self-contradiction.


When someone labels a so-called infinite Set defined by the rules EVEN or ODD they are denying that the sequence of numbers is all that it actually is. Placing a label on something that is incomprehensible, incoherent and which does not actually exist is to deny (I-VI). By assuming that a Universal transcendence form of Even or Odd somehow crosses from a transcendence to our reality, the delusional believer violates (III). No certain identity can be ascertained from an infinite set. An arbitrarily applied label can be suck on it to give an impression of an identity, but such labels are no more identity than is my name, my identity. But labeling an infinite set with one of its characteristics while ignoring the remaining characteristics is constructively a lie, a falsehood, a deceit.

Robert Bumbalough said...

Hello Readers and to the thread, Good (insert time of day)

It is my hope all are feeling fine and are in good health and that you prosper by virtue your labor and intelligence.

A few additional thoughts on the impossibility of God argument I offered up occurred to me this morning.

Eric’s objection that a person can recognize that an infinite set of numbers may be either Even or Odd carries no argumentative weight because it lacks any merit. That this is so is quite obvious when it is understood that the Set is considered an existent object. If the Set is what is under scrutiny, then the elements of the
Set are not. To derive information about the Set via inspection is to examine the Set qua Set without regard to the contents of the Set or to any algorithm that may have been used to discriminate and segregate elements into the grouping.

What Eric has been doing, or so it seems to me, is to identify the algorithm that was used to discriminate and segregate odd or even numeric elements into the grouping Sets. Subsequently Eric then claimed to have recognized the Set as being Even or Odd as if even or odd properties could be identified apart from any number.

A set is defined as a group of elements. It is not defined as the individual elements. A set is an ensemble that obtains as a gestalt of its member elements. When examining a Set in an effort to determine its properties, it is disingenuous to extrapolate from the Set’s elements to the totality of the Set, for the Set is the object of interest rather than its elements. Honest inquiry also means not using the segregation algorithmic definition to back any claim to knowledge of the Set’s property. The Set as a whole ensemble, a total gestalt, an independently existing object apart from any consideration of its constituent component members is the matter of concern.

Consider the following Set.

{SET OF A BIG HONKING BUNCH OF NUMBERS THAT MAY OF MAY NOT BE INFINITE}

In order to determine any properties shared in common by all the numeric elements of the Set that may be intrinsic to the Set, the Set must first be recognized as a number.

Without examining any of the numbers in the Set, {SOABHBONTMOMNBI} to prevent extrapolation from individual elements to the whole set or taking any consideration of any algorithm used to put numbers into {SOABHBONTMOMNBI}, how can a person glean information about the set? What number is {SOABHBONTMOMNBI}?

In order to approach to a possible answer the more rudimentary question of what is a number should be answered. Dictionary.com’s #2 definition says “the sum, total, count, or aggregate of a collection of units or the like.” If a number represents a concept of aggregate of a collection of units, then there must be specificity entailed by the concept of a particular number in order to distinguish various instances of (“the sum, total, count, or aggregate of a collection of units or the like”) one from another. This means recognition of specificity is necessarily required to conceptualize (“the sum, total, count, or aggregate of a collection of units or the like”) into the meaning of a particular number.

Returning to the prior question, what number is {SOABHBONTMOMNBI}? How can specificity of a conglomerate, an ensemble, a gestalt, a Set be ascertained only by examination of the totality of the group without regard to identities of any numeric elements it may contain or to any algorithm that was used to discriminate and segregate elements into the grouping? It seems quite impossible to me for any person to even be able to accomplish such a task. Thus barring rain, it looks to all the world that Eric’s claim that properties of an infinite set can be ascertained is patently false. How could a person even determine if a collection of objects contained and infinite quantity thereof since the very definition of number metaphysically requires specificity. That which is specific is definite and finite. The fantasy of infinity presupposes non-specific and non-determinate instantiation, and that is a contradiction in terms.

So Eric’s objection cannot hold, but the argument does. The Christian God is impossible.

1.To be GOD, YAHWEH must be an ontological person that is infinite in scope.

2.To be an ontological person is to have a specific identity.

3.To have a specific identity is to necessarily be finite.

4.YAHWEH has a specific identity.

5.YAHWEH therefore is necessarily finite and cannot be infinite.

6.By modus tollens from 1 and 5, YAHWEH cannot be GOD as it cannot both be infinite and finite.

Robert Bumbalough said...

Eric wrote: Another example: the set of all real numbers (the cardinality of the continuum)
is greater than the set of all natural numbers, *even though both are infinite*. Again, if what you're saying is true, we could not know this, since we couldn't properly define these sets in the first place.


Cardinality is not a property of a set. Cardinality is the magnitude of the count of the quantity of the elements within a set. The elements cannot count themselves. A conscious mind that is a member of a species that has evolved the cognitive facility to count would have to perform the counting, but an infinite series or sequence could never be fully counted because infinite means no certain quantity. The concept of ‘infinity’ denotes merely a potentiality of indefinite addition or subdivision.

Eric claims humanity knows the set of all real numbers (the cardinality of the continuum)
is greater than the set of all natural numbers.
I contest this claim. Knowledge is derived from reality. Infinite sets are not part of reality; they are fantasies. Mathematical Infinite Set Theory's internal consistency does not make it Truth. To say it does is to commit the analytic-synthetic dichotomy fallacy. Those who insist upon asserting Infinite Set Theory is "Truth" must also by the same sort of epistemic standard accept the "Truth" of String Theory's absolute proof of the impossibility of God.

God is defined as the sole possible and one and only exclusive Creator of any possible Universe in any "possible world." Such that it is impossible for any naturalistic hypothesis of Cosmic origins to be formulated. But String Theory has several valid hypothesis of Cosmic origins, and String Theory holds reality is configured as an arbitrarily, exponentially large collection of Cosmic Domains similar to the one in which we find ourselves. If analytical internal self-consistency is the hallmark of knowledge such that Inifinite Set Theory is "Truth", then String Theory's Multi-verse is also a necessary "Truth". Under the analytic-synthetic dichotomy if a truth is necessary, then its opposite is impossible. The opposite of String Theory's Multi-verse is Divine Creation. If Divine Creation is impossible, so is God.

Eric and his ilk's choice then is to choose which horn of this dilemma upon which to impale themselves. On one side of the dilemma gleams the point of the Law of Identity. If it holds, then there can be no specific identity of an an infinite set. (Note: identity includes all of the entities' attributes and properties and not just the arbitrarily selected definitional characteristics.) Then the argument I defend holds and God is impossible. If the believer chooses the dilemma's other dagger, then String Theory's M-space and Mult-verse rips their ridiculous faith to shreds.

Eric said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cardinality_of_the_real_numbers

Robert Bumbalough said...

A Few Aditional Ideas Why Eric's Objection Related to Infinite Set Properties Fails

Infinite sets do not exist in actual reality. Modern cosmology reasonably speculates that there exists approximately 10^84 subatomic particles in the observable Cosmos. It is speculated that which we can observe stands in ratio to the non-observable Cosmos as a proton is to the portion of the Cosmos we can observe. The ratio of the volume of the observable Cosmos to that of a proton is about 10^50. A very rough estimate of the potential quantity of particles in the Cosmos would then be approximately 10^134. This is a big but finite number and may only be representative of baryonic matter. If dark matter and energy compose approximately 94% of the mass-energy in existence and if they are composed of discrete quanta like that of baryonic matter, then the approximate quantity of particles in existence might be in the range of 2 x 10^135. This is still a very big, but quite finite, number. In light of this there is no basis for speculation that an actual infinity may occur. However, the human imagination can fantasize about infinite sets.

It should be noted that in the supernatural worldview, logic does not work because the alleged ruling consciousness is arbitrary and capricious. The believer in supernatural mysticism has no epistemic right to think anything about anything as in the supernatural worldview there is no uniformity of nature or law of identity. See The Cartoon Universe of Theism. There is no valid or sound basis for inductive inference within a supernatural worldview.

People who imagine up an infinite set for themselves cannot have information about it's properties because the algorithm used to imagine the alleged infinite set is not part of the set. To inductively infer that a set contains an infinite quantity from the algorithm used to imagine the alleged infinite set by extrapolating an inference is to beg the question. Placing a question begging label on a set and calling it infinite preempts any understanding that information was gleaned from the alleged infinite set.

Information cannot be had about the contents of an alleged infinite set by way of inductively inferring infinitude or some other property such as even or odd by sampling. Sampling necessarily mandates finite set operations. Peeking inside a set, taking samples, inductively inferring a conclusion, transferring the conclusion to a label, applying the label to the set, and then pretending the finite set of samples accurately implies infinitude and some property is question begging. When dealing with finite samples of elements within a set, one is dealing with a finite set.

What differentiates a set from a non-set. The set seems to be a grouping containing entities. The non-set is just discrete entities without a grouping. A scattering of unrelated entities can be changed into the members of a set by declarative fiat. The entities do not change in this process. Erection of a boundary converts the disparate objects or entities into set members. In the case of an alleged infinite set, the boundary must also be infinite. Our Cosmic Domain that we commonly call the Universe is thought to be finite. An infinite boundary cannot fit withing a finite space. Nevertheless, the question of how the elements of a set communicate their properties to the infinite boundary is important when thinking of infinite sets. As pointed out above, information about infinite sets cannot be obtained from algorithms or inspection of the alleged set's elements. Only the boundary could potentially provide information to the inquirer. Can this happen? Can the elements within the set's boundary communicate their properties to the set boundary? Numbers are symbols representative of a definition that stands for a concept that integrates discrete units connoting specific occurrences of multiple instances of stand alone entities. The relationship between the symbol and instances of stand alone entities is automatically formed by conscious minds capable of abstract cognition. This relationship occurs in the mind and not in the set. Consequently, the numbers cannot inform the set's boundary of its status or count themselves. This failure of a set's elements to be able to communicate their properties to the set boundary indicates that no information can be had from consideration or inspection of a set boundary.

Therefore no information can be ascertained from an alleged infinite set for the following reasons.

1)Existence is finite. That which is finite cannot contain that which is infinite, but the imagination can generate fantasies of infinite sets.

2)Those who hold a supernatural worldview have no justification for induction as their alleged ruling consciousness is arbitrary and capricious.

3)It is disingenuous and intellectually dishonest to claim infinitude from configuration of an algorithm used to imagine an alleged infinite set via inductive inference because the algorithm is not part of the set.

4)Use of finite samples of contents within a set to inductively infer uniformity or infinitude of an otherwise unknown set's contents necessarily limits the inspector to finite set operations.

5)Numeric elements within a set cannot communicate their properties or status to the set's boundary. Numbers cannot count themselves. The only way to determine what is the situation with a set is to inspect it's contents. Doing so, however, renders any conclusion relative to a finite set.

It is my wish that all who read this prosper and live a long happy life. May you benefit yourself by all means at your disposal.