Based on This Argument Alone The Best Any Believer Can Claim is Agnosticism

That's right. For even if some kind of god exists the believer has no reasonable way to know anything about such a god, hence a theistic kind of agnosticism. dguller expressed this cogent argument very well in the comments:
One question that I have for religious believers is how they would distinguish between the following:

(1) An all-powerful deity created and guides the universe ultimately towards a good purpose;

and

(2) An all-powerful deity created and guides the universe ultimately towards an evil purpose, but have chosen to maliciously presented himself as benevolent to play a trick on created beings.

I mean, since believers are big on creating conceptual space to make their positions logically POSSIBLE, then it is also possible that God is a Cosmic Trickster who takes pleasure in fooling them.

How could one refuse (2)? Only based upon one's religious beliefs that (1) must be true. The problem is that one's beliefs that (1) must be true could be part of the cosmic joke in scenario (2), and thus there is no real way to differentiate between (1) and (2) for a religious believer.

Link.
Believers can say "I know that I know that I know all they want to," but their knowing can be accounted for by (2) since such a possible god is a trickster. Likewise, any claim of a true religious experience according to Plantinga's Reformed Epistemology cannot overcome scenario (2).

And so my friends there can be no reason given scenario (2) to think that it won't be skeptics like ME who will be rewarded in heaven rather than believers like YOU! As far as we know believers like YOU will end up in hell.

Christians, better switch sides now while you can. Hurry before you die. It could be today.

Pascal's Wager anyone?

To read a follow-up post click here.

246 comments:

dguller said...

Just to add to this idea.

One could create an infinite variety of scenarios to justify the appearance of an all-powerful deity who has the best of intentions towards his creation.

This creator could be a facade of an Evil Deceiver, as I mentioned.

He could also be a separate being from the more powerful Evil Deceiver, which is why evil continues to exist despite the good-intentioned God.

He could also be a weak and flawed creator who simply projects to his creation that he is all-powerful and benevolent for the sake of his ego, but in reality is nothing of the sort.

He could also be supporting by an infinite number of fairies whose totality appears to be a unified being, much like our personality is the byproduct of billions of cells working together.

He could also be the leftover remainder of a group of deities, the more powerful of which have destroyed each other in a power struggle, and have left their good-intentioned weaker and inferior sibling in charge, apparently overwhelmed by the task.

He could essentially be anything the human imagination can come up with, which begs the question of whether God himself is a concoction of the human imagination, just like any of above contrived examples.

The bottom line is that if someone feels the need to postulate an entity that creates and sustains our empirical world by standing behind it, then this entity can be imagined to be anything at all, and there is NO WAY to tell between the alternatives.

Hell, he could be a giant unicorn who has created us to recognize him as an infinite being, because unicorns are kind of sensitive about being perceived as they truly are, you know, horny and all. :P

Zach the Lizard said...

You beat me to the idea that you can have an infinite number of these gods put forth. Darn you!

Here's another one I thought of, in line with the evil trickster line:

1) There is a god who hates us, but appears to be benevolent because he derives a sick pleasure from seeing us suffer and still believe in him. This is what restrains him from killing us all off immediately.

2) All of the religions that man practices do not lead to heaven; in fact, this god has made it such that all of them go to hell, because he hates us so much.

3) He hates the believers so much that he has made it so that only atheists go to heaven, just to spite them.

Richard said...

"Believers can say "I know that I know that I know"

I find this the same as the famous line....I know in my heart it is true.
I had to fight to overcome my desire to believe that my slavery to Jebus, was a source to true happiness.
I came to realize that was a statement of want not a statement of fact.
I had made the statement; "I know in my heart it is true" many times.
Then I read Jeremiah 17:9
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?

And thought awe Fuck, now what do I do?

This quote seems appropriate.
"I think they are able to block out any doubt in what they believe because they've internalized their indoctrination, no longer viewing it as specific ideas that have been drilled into them. They begin to experience the ideas they've been taught as feelings, which evolve into powerful emotional conviction. I think that is the trick to the process. They are convinced within there own minds that they are experiencing original thought rather than those descrete ideas that have been taught to them as they grew up."

Reasonably Aaron said...

I like the thought process behind this idea but I was wondering why (classical) theists believe God must be Good?

Swinburne claims "Necessarily, if Omniscience, and Perfect Freedom, then Perfect Goodness". Therefore God is always Good, and (2) is logically incompatible with the characteristics of God. The theist can then be confident that God is not deceiving them and this argument does not defeat theism.

dguller said...

Aaron:

God has to be good, because if he were not, then the universe would have a benevolent purpose that believers could take solace in while struggling with daily life. As far as I understand it, the main purpose behind faith is the provision of hope that good will triumph over evil, that the dawn follows the darkness, and that whatever difficulties believers find themselves in, they can take trust that they are in the hands of someone who loves them.

Without this, what is left for believers? The worship of a capricious deity who doesn't give a shit about human beings? And who would want to spend their time praying to someone like that!?

No, I think that it is absolutely essential for believers to believe in an ultimately good God. Just look at the contortions that they go into to justify a good God in the face of the horrific injustice and evil in the world! It would be logically simple to just say that God doesn't care, but -- as I said -- they wouldn't be caught dead worshipping something like that.

dguller said...

Aaron:

And regarding the notion that absolute goodness is an essential characteristic of God, precluding any of the fantastical hypotheses that my thought experiment concocted.

What a crock of shit.

One can easily reply that what we view as necessity is simply the Divine Trickster's presentation of consistency and regularity for the sake of us created dupes. It appears that goodness is necessary, but that is how he likes it! Otherwise, the deception would be flawed, and he wouldn't take the pleasure in it.

You see, I can make up whatever b.s. I want to justify my position, which is identical to what believers do to justify theirs. The problem is that making crap up is not the same as justification, which requires evidence. And the sad truth is that believers lack any evidence that could differentiate between (1) and (2) that I described, or any other divine scenario, as well.

Bud said...

God has to be good, otherwise what kind of world would we have? We'd have all kinds of natural disasters, diseases running rampant, famine and abject poverty abundant in our world. We'd have a history of people killing each other over religious differences because only a god who is not good would give unclear, ambiguous or conflicting messages to humanity. Praise god we don't live in that kind of world.

Reasonably Aaron said...

dguller:
"The problem is that making crap up is not the same as justification, which requires evidence. And the sad truth is that believers lack any evidence that could differentiate between (1) and (2) that I described, or any other divine scenario, as well."

The believer would say they are justified through logic vis-a-vis Swinburne, and that provides the internalist "evidence". Until someone refutes Swinburne (unless he has already been refuted), the objection remains and the theist has an intellectual back door to credibility.

Rob R said...

Based on that argument alone, and an unnamed assumption on a requirement of no epistemic risk for knowledge, you are absolutely right we can only claim agnosticism.

Of course, based on number 2, everyone is in the same boat as well. Nothing in science or logic can eliminate this possibility for skeptics. And to number 2, lets also add other possibilities that cannot be disproved such as solipsism.

So what is the Christian response? Trust. We trust God, we trust his revelation, we trust those who have lived a life in consistency with the teachings of Jesus. Such a possibility cannot be eliminated, but we have faith in God that such is not the case, and it is a reasonable faith.

How can the skeptic get out of these problems as well? How can the religious skeptic claim to still be a realist? Trust. Trust in their mental capacities, trust in that their perceptions really are reliable in their conveyance of an external reality, trust in their reasoning that the supernatural doesn't exist.

So have you become a real skeptic John, denying that we can know anything about reality?

Furthermore, we Christians have reasons to believe in a loving Creator God who is involved in the world (of course even though they are controversial). Just because the the God you suggest can explain this doesn't mean we have reason to believe in that picture. We can also choose to trust parsimony here. There is no reason to add this layer to God, that we have these reasons to believe in him and yet he is entirely different from the scriptural, and experiential considerations would suggest.

ZDENNY said...

The problem of evil is really an illusion. The argument actually begs the question.

The Bible clearly says that God is love; however, all atheist deny that love is a reality being only a good feeling. An atheist love of a good sandwich is the same as loving his wife (just a good feeling).

If you define love as only a good feeling, that is the only time a conflict results.

If you begin with the premise that God is love, then you never run into a problem because God forcing us to love is a contradiction. In other words, forced love is not love.

As a result, the problem of evil is only a problem if you begin with an atheistic premise to begin with which is begging the question.

Of course, don't expect any atheist to deal with the question honestly...

The fact that love is merely a good feeling towards something means that a bad feeling provides justification for hate, anger, abuse and mocking...

I am not surprised that Dawkins recommends that his critics be mocked and ridiculed. It is part of his worldview providing a justification for hating those who critic his ideas.

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

I think this post is a sad commentary on how very little grace is expressed and understood.

Jesus clearly displayed no ulterior motive in expressing God's love for humanity (rejecting ulterior agendas of materialism, ego, political social, cult following, etc. etc), only that His love for us was superior to our own and that it was for sharing - not abusing.

:-(
3M

Bud said...

@Rob R,

I'm inclined to think everyone is an agnostic about just about everything, if we're talking about *knowledge* in its strictest sense (i.e., we have absolute proof for both the truth of X and the falsity of everything ~X). Sure, we make reasonable or at least pragmatic assumptions. I think I'm actually typing at my computer right now. I don't think I'm being deceived by Descartes' malignant demon. But I could be wrong.

But the fact that we have "properly basic" beliefs (as Plantinga would say) does not mean we should accept whatever we want as true, and justify it by claiming we have faith. I guess you could say I have faith that the sun will rise tomorrow. That's a reasonable belief to hold. You say your faith in Christ is reasonable. What makes it reasonable?

What reasons do you have "to believe in a loving Creator God who is involved in the world"? I used to be a Christian apologist, so I'm wondering if you have found some evidence or argument I missed.

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

Thank God that the divine does not conform to the corruption of human projection.

dguller said...

Aaron:

This was exactly my point.

Believers have become enamoured with the notion that all they have to do to justify their beliefs is to demonstrate that they are POSSIBLE. I showed that a whole number of beliefs are also possible that clearly contradict their own. The challenge for the believer is to demonstrate what evidence they would rely upon to justify their possibilities over the hypothetical scenarios that I envisioned. The problem is that there is no evidence available, because the only evidence is empirical and has no bearing upon supernatural entities, and that it, therefore, all comes down to personal preference. And personal preference that X is true has NO BEARING on whether X is TRUE or FALSE.

In fact, if I believe X, and one of the reasons is that X is preferable to me, then I should scrutinize X all the more closely and have a higher standard of proof, because I am so liable to deceive myself to justify my preferences. This is all well known in psychology as cognitive dissonance. The fact that believers do not do this at all implies, to me, that they are using the language of justification and evidence in bad faith. The use it when it suits them, and discard it when it doesn’t. The irony is that the use of evidence, justification and so on are humanity’s best routes to discovering the truth about any matter.

So, no matter what Swinborne claims to have proven, as if you could prove anything about an entity that is utterly transcendent and beyond our conceptual powers, one could easily come up with another fairy tale that nullifies his “proof” along the lines that I did above. And he would have no way of justifying his version over mine, except by invoking something like Occkam’s razor. However, that would lead to a self-refutation, as I will show below with Rob.

dguller said...

Rob:

You justify your belief in (1) over (2) on two points.

First, you argue that you “trust” that God is consistent to (1) and not to (2). See my points above to Aaron about that option, and add to that the idea that anyone can have trust in anything. Sam Harris raised the possibility of someone who found great solace in the firm belief and faith that Angelina Jolie was going to leave Brad Pitt and marry him instead. He revolved his entire life around that possibility, which he viewed as an utter necessity. What would you say to such a person? That he was deluded and should get psychiatric help? That would be impermissible, given what you said above. He could just say, as you do, that he trusts that his beliefs are true, and that would end your conversation. Do you HONESTLY put his belief in the same category as yours? If not, then why not?

Second, you invoke Occkam’s razor in the sense that there is no need to add the extra features to the theistic universe that I invoked. That is a tactic that I would avoid if I were a believer like yourself. I mean, if you truly believed in using Occkam’s razor in situations in which there are multiple hypotheses that all explain various empirical phenomena and there are no empirical ways of differentiating between them, then you would abandon the God hypothesis altogether. The God hypothesis does not explain anything about how the empirical world works over and above the scientific account. Because “God did it” explains everything, it explains nothing at all, and is useless.

I think that the most honest thing for believers to do is to just admit that they do not believe because of evidence or logic, but because they find solace in such beliefs, have been raised to believe them to the point that they are essential to their worldview, and/or are unable to give them up on pain of losing their membership in the community of believers. There are probably other reasons, but they have little evidence to justify the truth of religious beliefs.

Finally, your point that ultimately human beings have to “trust” in our cognitive capacities, our rational faculties, and our perceptual apparatus is true in a superficial sense. We have NO CHOICE, but to trust in them. They are ALL WE HAVE to get around in the world without DYING. Feel free to try to live a single day without trusting your reason, perception and any other cognitive faculties. I will weep at your funeral.

There is a WORLD of difference between trusting our senses, our reason, and our evidentiary practices (including the scientific method) and trusting in a supernatural being. The former is necessary for survival, the latter is not. The former provides the very structure of our ability to know anything at all, and the latter is just a hypothesis generated by the former. If anything the God hypothesis shows that those faculties that you mentioned are imperfect, flawed and corrigible. That does not imply that they are dispensable. They are not.

Cole Houx said...

dguller,

Christians like Plantinga are showing that the aruments from evil aren't demonstrations by showing that certain premises are possible. I don't think he thinks his beliefs are true because of this. Once you show that the arguments from atheists are only probable then you can counter their arguments with the arguments for Christian Thesim. They're looking at the overall balance of probabilities on the total evidence.

Cole Houx said...

When you work out the probabilities for the total evidence you are left with agnosticism. I personaly believe because I have experienced God. It's possible that I'm being decieved but it's not likely. My God doesn't trick or decieve.

Rob R said...

Bud,


I'm inclined to think everyone is an agnostic about just about everything, if we're talking about *knowledge* in its strictest sense (i.e., we have absolute proof for both the truth of X and the falsity of everything ~X).

I take issue with that idea from enlightenment philosophy that such absolute certainty is or ought to be a hallmark of knowledge.

But the fact that we have "properly basic" beliefs (as Plantinga would say) does not mean we should accept whatever we want as true, and justify it by claiming we have faith.

I don't believe that just anything we want to be true can be justified by claiming that we have faith. However, I do believe that something that we have reason to believe cannot be discarded just because that reasoning does not amount to absolute proof. I don't think you can take one possibility for which we have little to no reason to believe that also lacks parsimony and use it to cast doubt on on it that has plenty of evidence.

You say your faith in Christ is reasonable. What makes it reasonable?

What reasons do you have "to believe in a loving Creator God who is involved in the world"? I used to be a Christian apologist, so I'm wondering if you have found some evidence or argument I missed.


Nothing stands on it's own and nothing is non-controversial, but I continue to believe what I believe because I believe that from the top down and from the bottom up, it provides both a good explanation of the world, hope for the world and a trajectory for human behavior that is in line with that hope for the world.

Bud, I answered the topic here and adequately so. What you are asking me is a huge question that can't be covered in one post. You ask why I believe in Jesus? Not all of my thinking will come out here nor can it be judged in the space of this discussion.

But perhaps one thing can some it up (and I would never claim that this is evident objectively speaking though most people could see it) is that it provides a framework for the depth and greatness of humanity. It provides a framework for understanding also why humanity is at the same time so horrid and fails it's own greatness.

There is nothing greater than personhood and it seems to me that that greatness combined with our finitude points beyond ourselves. With the tremendous value that we place on humanity, no chemical equation or physical law can explain it, and the survival value of that belief does not support it as true. It is far more fitting that our greatness is due to our transcendence, and that transcendence deep value and worth is most fitting of the claim that we are divine in the pattern of personhood and deeply sacred. We are created in the image of God.

Of course, I'm not covering all angles of that claim here, but I'll tell you that I think one of the most fruitful expressions of this is in N. T. Wright's book "Simply Christian".

Furthermore, if personhood, that which is at the heart of the divine image, if God is the exemplar of what it is to be personal, then the Judeo-Christian narrative fits this very well as history is a principle means of revealing personhood.

I used to be a Christian apologist

I long ago concluded that a focus on Christian apologetics was myopic and not sufficient. To really be impressed with the power of the Christian faith, you have to step back from the question of if it is true and delve deeply into the issues of the nature of that truth. But that's not all, this isn't just about a world view. It's about living a life with a community committed to God. To focus on the world view especially with the aim of always asking "is it true" is to have a stunted Christian growth.

Brad Haggard said...

d,

I was going to give some of my standard answers at first, like (2) is based on pure speculation, not even purported revelation, or it doesn't take into account personal experience (Part of Plantinga's epistemology), or that it sounded too much like Spencer Lo.

But I think Aaron hinted at the real problem with this argument:

You just laid the modal base for the first (and the only controversial) proposition in the ontological argument.

Rob R said...

dguller,

First, you argue that you “trust” that God is consistent to (1) and not to (2). See my points above to Aaron about that option, and add to that the idea that anyone can have trust in anything.

You did not read what I said closely enough. We don't just trust in God. We trust in light of reasons that make that trust reasonable.

Second, you invoke Occkam’s razor in the sense that there is no need to add the extra features to the theistic universe that I invoked.

i wasn't addressing what you said. I don't know what you said. I was addressing the topic posted by John loftus.

I mean, if you truly believed in using Occkam’s razor in situations in which there are multiple hypotheses that all explain various empirical phenomena

I don't take occam's razor to be the ultimate criteria for multiple explanations. It provides one significant reason for accepting one thing over another, but there are other considerations such as existential import (how effectively do the views support the apparent meaningfulness of life, beauty, the intrinsic worth of persons, morality etc. many views deal with these things, but not all are equally satisfying and I insist that these considerations ought to be treated just as epistemically relevant as our perceptions that we trust to convey a world external to the mind).

I think that the most honest thing for believers to do is to just admit that they do not believe because of evidence or logic, but because they find solace in such beliefs, have been raised to believe them to the point that they are essential to their worldview, and/or are unable to give them up on pain of losing their membership in the community of believers.

No, that wouldn't be honest. I believe what I believe because of everything you said including considerations of reason and evidence. It is not after all an either or issue. And a well supported world view is one that is richly supported by many epistemic considerations.

We have NO CHOICE, but to trust in them. They are ALL WE HAVE to get around in the world without DYING.

I suppose then you've never heard of solipsism, anti-realism, nihilism or idealism.

There are many choices out there, many of them are absurd, and if faith is a bad thing, then you cannot defend against the possibility of such absurdities that are based upon embracing the highest standards for knowledge.

I will weep at your funeral.

Bless your heart. my mother will be touched.

There is a WORLD of difference between trusting our senses, our reason, and our evidentiary practices (including the scientific method) and trusting in a supernatural being.

There is a difference. that it is a world of difference is an unobjective unprovable assertion.

The former is necessary for survival, the latter is not.

We aren't just intenstines to be filled. An epistemology that only serves suvival and says nothing of our near universal apprehension of human worth and dignity is not a fully human epistemology and cannot speak to our whole situation.

The former provides the very structure of our ability to know anything at all,

The former cannot support this very statement of yours, hence your statement is self defeating.

If anything the God hypothesis

Belief in God isn't a hypothesis. It's a paradigm and paradigms do not follow the same rules as hypotheses.

That does not imply that they are dispensable.

well I would never dream of dispensing with them. I love em thank God.

John W. Loftus said...

dguller, I hope you don't get frustrated here. I think you're doing excellent! Keep in mind that all you can do is make your case well and you have. Christians cannot bring themselves to consider that you might be right because it would upset their mental world.

But you're definitely making them think, and for that I congratulate you. It's all we can do.

Bud said...

@Rob R,

You wrote: "I don't think you can take one possibility for which we have little to no reason to believe that also lacks parsimony and use it to cast doubt on on it that has plenty of evidence."

Fine, but whether there is "plenty of evidence" for the other possibility is at the very least debatable. The question raised in this post, "how [religious believers] would distinguish between the following..." is based in part on the premise that there is no real evidence for possibility (1), thus no way to determine whether (1) is true and (2) is false.

You said yourself that "the Christian response" is trust. In other words, you accept (1) and reject (2) on faith. The Christian response (as you call it) simply isn't good enough.

You wrote: "To really be impressed with the power of the Christian faith, you have to step back from the question of if it is true and delve deeply into the issues of the nature of that truth. But that's not all, this isn't just about a world view. It's about living a life with a community committed to God."

In other words, instead of questioning whether it's true, I have to *assume* it's true? If I take it on faith, I'll see how wonderful it is? Fideists of all religions can tell me the same thing.

Perhaps you're not a fideist, but a relativist. What you wrote suggests one or the other.

You wrote: "To focus on the world view especially with the aim of always asking "is it true" is to have a stunted Christian growth."

Indeed, critical thinking and seeking the truth has been known to hinder the influence of Christian thought.

Gandolf said...

MMM --Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...
"Thank God that the divine does not conform to the corruption of human projection."

Oh yeah hallelujah..now lord help us if that ever happen hmm ..oh lordy ..no no goodness gracious me..Hell no if that happen why we might even have folks getting killed as witches or being sacrificed etc ..Or put through exorcisms to rid demons,when all they really ever needed was medication for mental illnesses etc.And folks being stoned to death for or manner of silly little reasons,because of humans corrupt projections that it was supposedly will of the gods.Or father dividing from son or brother from brother, because human corruption projected gods supposedly came like some sword to divide us

Yeah right ...just so damm lucky devine gods never happened to "conform" to the "corruption" of "human projection".Might have been a bit bloody dangerous if they did.

Bud said...

"I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen; not only because I see it, but by it I see everything else." -C.S. Lewis

Poetic, but it still boils down to this: "I'm biased, and will interpret everything through the lens of my bias."

dguller said...

ZDENNY:

What do you mean "God is love"? I can think of about a dozen possible meanings, but I'm wondering which one you mean.

dguller said...

Rob:

First, what are the “reasons that make that trust reasonable”?

Second, there may be aspects of a theory that appeal to your sense of meaning, your aesthetics, and your morality, but those have no bearing on whether or not it is true or false. Who says the truth has to be moral, meaningful or aesthetically pleasing?

Third, I have heard of those ridiculous philosophical positions. Again, try living them in the real world, and see how long you last assuming that no-one else exists, that reality is not real, or that reality is simply a byproduct of our ideas. Just because some philosophical positions have been postulated and analyzed for centuries does not make them true. No more than the fact that religions have been around for millennia make them true.

Fourth, epistemology does not serve survival, aesthetics, morality, or whatever. It serves truth. Nothing more, nothing less. You are bringing all these other factors into the equation, because you cannot stand on reason and empirical evidence alone.

Fifth, how can reason and evidence not support reason and evidence? There are self-supporting, because you cannot make a case for ANYTHING without them, including the case against them. This is one area in which scepticism simply eats itself.

Bud said...

@Cole Houx,

You wrote: "I personaly believe because I have experienced God. It's possible that I'm being decieved but it's not likely. "

What makes you think it's not likely? Millions of people believe they've experienced all kinds of different gods. Do you consider a Muslim's experience valid, or is he being deceived? What's more likely, that you're having a genuine encounter with the real god, or that you are being deceived - or have deceived yourself?

You wrote: "My God doesn't trick or decieve."

How do you know?

Cole Houx said...

Bud,

I know my God doesn't trick or decieve because He's perfect. He may allow such things to happen for morally good sufficient reasons but He doesn't do so Himself. I know my experience is real because my mind clears and I get a sense of God's love and holiness. The things of God just seem beautiful to me. When the Muslims work out an epistemological model showing how their beliefs may have warrant than I'll consider it. Maybe some Muslims do experience God. I don't know. All I can do is tell you what works for me and what I've experienced. Besides they don't have anything like the historical evidence for the resurrection like the Bible does. Not that it's proof or anything.

Cole Houx said...

Also,

Only Christ is sinless. Only Christ has provided an atonement.

Cole Houx said...

Only Christ died for me. Muhammad didn't die for me.

Walter said...

Only Christ is sinless. Only Christ has provided an atonement.

This is pure speculation. You cannot know if Jesus led a sinless life or not. You cannot know with any certainty anything about Jesus.

Bud said...

@Cole Houx,

You wrote: "I know my God doesn't trick or decieve because He's perfect."

Do you realize that, for the purposes of our conversation, you've simply restated what you've already said? You might as well answer, "How do you know god doesn't lie?" with "God doesn't lie because he is honest."

So my question remains: how do you know?



You wrote: "I know my experience is real because my mind clears and I get a sense of God's love and holiness. The things of God just seem beautiful to me."

You sound more like a Buddhist than a Christian here.

You wrote: "When the Muslims work out an epistemological model showing how their beliefs may have warrant than I'll consider it."

Muslims have the same epistemological model Christians have: cosmological arguments, appeal to a holy book, alleged historical events. Keep in mind the most popular version of the Cosmological Argument for god's existence is the "Kalam."

You wrote: "Maybe some Muslims do experience God. I don't know. All I can do is tell you what works for me and what I've experienced."

Fair enough. Just keep in mind personal experience isn't reliable.

You wrote: "Besides they don't have anything like the historical evidence for the resurrection like the Bible does. Not that it's proof or anything."

The claim that Muhammad slept in a cave while god caused a spider to weave a great web across the mouth of the cave to hide him from soldiers is as historically verifiable (or not) as the resurrection of Jesus.

Bud said...

@Winston,

You wrote: "How do we know JOHN LOFTUS is not a deceiver who has lied about everything about why he said left Christianity IN THE FIRST PLACE?"

Even if he is lying about why he left Christianity, so what? All we have to consider is the strength of his arguments.

And no one is saying you must believe in John Loftus' testimony or you will go to hell. So while I believe John isn't lying, I'm not going to demand he prove it to me without a doubt, because it's not a big deal if I'm wrong about him.

Two questions: (1) why would John lie about that? and, (2) how is your question relevant at all?

John W. Loftus said...

Sorry Bud, but Winston has been previously banned. He's a troll.

Eric said...

Aquinas's arguments show that the very notion of an evil god is incoherent. Simply put (not much time), in classical theism God is a purely actual being (n.b. this is the conclusion of rigorous argumentation, not a postulate), and metaphysically, evil is (ultimately) a privation of being. The contradiction is obvious: an evil god would be a purely actual being with a complete privation of being.

But if you're still interested in this sort of argument (i.e. the argument that God may just as likely be an evil being as a good being), the best development of it I've come across can be seen in Stephen Law's God of Eth argument.

Cole Houx said...

Bud,

But they deny the resurrection of Jesus. Only Jesus was sinless. Muhammed was a sinner. He didn't die for me. Only Christ has provided an atonement. The thing that is unique about Christianity is grace. As C.S. Lewis has stated:


During a British conference on comparative religions, experts from around the world debated what, if any, belief was unique to the Christian faith. They began eliminating possibilities. Incarnation? Other religions had different versions of gods appearing in human form. Resurrection? Again, other religions had accounts of returns from death. The debate went on for some time until C.S. Lewis wandered into the room. "what's the rumpus about?" he asked, and heard in reply that his colleagues were dicussing Christianity's unique contribution among world religions. Lewis responded," Oh, that's easy. It's grace."

"What's so Amazing About Grace " by Phillip Yancey. It is at the beginning of Chapter 4. His source isas follows:Lewis:Cited in Scott Hoezee, The Riddle of Grace. GrandRapids: Eerdmans, 1996, pg 42


Also, I was referring to an epistemological model like the one Plantinga has developed in Warranted Christian Belief. Muslims don't have such a model. If I'm not mistaken.

Gandolf said...

Rob R--"How can the skeptic get out of these problems as well? How can the religious skeptic claim to still be a realist? Trust. Trust in their mental capacities, trust in that their perceptions really are reliable in their conveyance of an external reality, trust in their reasoning that the supernatural doesn't exist. "

My opnion is atleast some intellectual dishonesty must be being used in the above statement.Seems to me it implys that both the sceptic and the faithful make their decisions based on much the same terms.

I dont see how that can be quite so real.We have much more evidence freely available that suggests most likely seems the supernatural is very unlikely to exist.Scientifically so far no evidence of the supernatural is able to be found.

So the sceptic can atleast claim evidence + trust of evidence, in his decision.

The way i see it seems to me the faithful cant even claim "trust" yet,because trust should relate more to whats being able to be "proven".Trust deals more with whats deemed to be a "surety" or confidence in the "certainty".

I suggest most faithful remain stuck making their decisions based almost entirely on mere "faith"!, rather than what could honestly be called anything about the certainity of trust.A trust account is something thats been "proven" to work!,not about something we just hope like hell will hopefully work with a bit of luck by keeping our fingers crossed faithfully that it hopefully will do.

Rob R likes to try to simply shuffle in and sneak a place in the queue and simply claim rights to "equal ground" here with the sceptics,claiming folks have enough evidence to say that its about "trust" in god.

Yet the ground of trust cannot honestly be claimed yet!...Because so far there is no more evidence available than faith decisions being based on simple faith.

Walter said...

@Eric

Maybe there is a God and 'he' is just indifferent to human beings, ie neither good nor evil?

Maybe there is so much suffering in the world because this supreme deity just doesn't give a rat's ass about human suffering?

If Old Testament Yahweh is this being, then I can definitely see him as not caring about human suffering.

Bud said...

@John,

Thanks for letting me know. :)

Eric said...

Walter, no, if Aquinas is right, then speaking of an evil god is as sensible as speaking of a married bachelor, i.e. it's a contradiction in terms. But then, this all rests on Aquinas's rather complex metaphysics, so it's not easy to spell it all out in a combox response (you can read Aquinas himself on God's pure actuality and the nature of evil here).

Bud said...

@Cole,

You wrote: "But they deny the resurrection of Jesus. Only Jesus was sinless. Muhammed was a sinner. He didn't die for me. Only Christ has provided an atonement."

I understand this is what you believe. I don't see how that answers any of my questions or addresses any of the concerns raised.

You wrote: "The thing that is unique about Christianity is grace."

Even though C.S. Lewis said it and we all know he's right about just about everything, that's not entirely true. Grace was a concept in certain forms of Buddhism long before Jesus hit the scene. Grace is not a foreign concept to other religions as well. Even if it were true, that's no indication that Christianity is the correct path.

You wrote: "Also, I was referring to an epistemological model like the one Plantinga has developed in Warranted Christian Belief. Muslims don't have such a model. If I'm not mistaken."

Alvin Plantinga doesn't speak for all Christians. Most don't even know who he is. And what kind of epistemic model did Christianity have before Plantinga?

Walter said...

Eric, if God must be perfectly good, then he is not the God described in the bible.

Plus, I assumed a deity that was indifferent, not evil.

Cole Houx said...

Bud,

Since Jesus is sinless then He doesn't decieve. The model shows that one can be warranted in believing certain truths of the gospel. Of corse one doesn't have to be aware of the model in order to be warranted. It doesn't change anything about the model or the fact that Muslims don't have one. Again, only Christ has provided an atonement. We are saved by grace. It's based on what Christ has done for us.

Bud said...

@Cole,

Remember what I said about how you restated what you've already said? You've done it again. Jesus doesn't deceive because he's sinless. God isn't bad because god is good.

I can see that you are no longer interested in actual conversation, because now you're just preaching.

Thanks anyway.

Cole Houx said...

Bud,

I can't write two chapters on a blog for you. Get this book by Plantinga:

Warranted Christian Belief

for details on the model.

Bud said...

@Cole,

Plantinga is a side note in our conversation. I didn't want you to get into what he said. I'd rather you address what's already been mentioned.

Cole Houx said...

Bud,

Read the model and you will see how I'm justified in believing that Christ was sinless. Since Christ is my God and He is sinless then He doesn't decieve me. My God doesn't decieve His people.

Cole Houx said...

Bud,

God by definition is perfect. He's holy and He doesn't decieve His children. Satan is the one who decieves. Yes God allows it. But He has good sufficient reasons for doing so.

Jonathan said...

People believe other things too.

1. Christianity: 2.1 billion
2. Islam: 1.5 billion
3. Secular/Nonreligious/Agnostic/Atheist: 1.1 billion
4. Hinduism: 900 million
5. Chinese traditional religion: 394 million
6. Buddhism: 376 million
7. primal-indigenous: 300 million
8. African Traditional & Diasporic: 100 million
9. Sikhism: 23 million
10. Juche: 19 million
11. Spiritism: 15 million
12. Judaism: 14 million
13. Baha’i: 7 million
14. Jainism: 4.2 million
15. Shinto: 4 million
16. Cao Dai: 4 million
17. Zoroastrianism: 2.6 million
18. Tenrikyo: 2 million
19. Neo-Paganism: 1 million
20. Unitarian-Universalism: 800 thousand
21. Rastafarianism: 600 thousand
22. Scientology: 500 thousand

I understand this is a blog that debunks Christianity. But there are other gorillas in the room.
Arguing over the issue if Jesus was or wasn’t sinless is moot. You might as well be arguing over who was a better starship captain Picard or Kirk. I don’t find this argument any different. You can’t prove God is good, evil or indifferent unless you already have come to the conclusion already.

As a non-theist I know there tons of religions out in the world. Some which are being practiced and the others that are not. (Egyptian, Sumerian, Roman, Greek, Incan, etc.)
Debating which one is correct is like debating which comic book hero is the strongest. It becomes pointless. Unless God arrives at the UN to call a press meeting it’s all a bunch of bunk.

If you want to have debates of whether or not Jesus was sinless or not, or he walked on water, virgin birth, and rose from the dead. You in perfect company with those Scientologists who think Aliens souls were flown on DC10’s and dump in volcanoes on earth.

My only one question is: “Do I have a right not to have a faith?” or “Do I have a right not to be a Christian?” And “Would a Christian support my right not to be forced by hook or crook into the Christian fold?”

Thanks.

Bud said...

Picard all the way.

dguller said...

Cole:

First, you claim that your God is perfect. What makes you believe this? Upon what grounds do you believe that God is not a flawed deceiver?

Second, you claim that your religious experiences provide you with evidence that God exists. However, it is well known that temporal lobe epileptic seizures generate religious and spiritual experiences by virtue of the electrical activity of the brain. Perhaps your experiences are just products of your neurobiology. And just so you know, those who have these experiences are forever changed and become virtuous and compassionate individuals who are inspired with meaning, even those whose experiences are purely neurobiological. After all, how do you know that you are not just hallucinating?

Third, why do Muslims require evidence for Jesus’ resurrection to justify their faith? What does his resurrection have to do with anything? I mean, it’s an open question whether he was resurrected. And even if he was, he would not be the first spiritual figure in history to have done so, and it does not follow that his resurrection has anything to do with you or me. Maybe he was just playing a joke on his followers?

dguller said...

Eric:

First, an evil God is incoherent only if you assume that he must be good as part of his essential nature. Why assume this? There are multiple empirical events that contradict this hypothesis. And if you look are other myths, there have been evil gods without any inherent contradiction.

Second, the patrician idea that goodness = fullness of being, and evil = deprivation of being, is based on ludicrous religious metaphysical concepts that were invented to give some hope of responding to the argument from evil with redefinitions and sophistry. Personally, I think that they fail miserably, because I see no reason to accept this characterization of good and evil. I mean, how does one measure the amount of being in a substance? How much being does a substance have to have before it tips over into the “good” category? How much being does a substance have to be deprived of before it tips over into the “evil” category?

dguller said...

Cole:

You state that since Jesus was sinless, it follows that he would not deceive. However, God deceives his creation on numerous occasions in the Bible. Does that mean that he is sinful? Whoa, that would be pretty messed up, no?

Cole Houx said...

dguller,

Those scripture that talk about God decieving are refering to God allowing men to be decieved. He hands them over. He doesn't cause the deception He allows it to happen.

dguller said...

Cole:

First, you should consult these passages:

-- Now, therefore, behold, the Lord hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of these thy prophets (2 Chronicles 18:22).

-- Ah, Lord GOD! Surely, thou hast greatly deceived this people (Jeremiah 4:10).

-- O Lord, thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived (Jeremiah 20:7).

-- And if a prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the Lord have deceived that prophet (Ezekiel 14:9).

-- For this cause, God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie (2 Thessalonians 2:11).

It seems pretty clear that he deceives and lies to people, according to the Bible.

Second, even if he did facilitate deception by omission, then he is complicit in the lie. This is true if I am in the presence of someone lying to someone else, know it is a lie, and fail to speak the truth. It follows that I am partially responsible for the lie’s effects. I think that would count as a sin, no?

dguller said...

And I’d like to point out that not one believer has answered my question above. How would you be able to differentiate between the two hypothetical situations (1) and (2) that I mentioned above? That is the whole point of this post, after all.

I mean, whatever concept of God a believer can present, I can present an infinite variety of other concepts that are consistent with theirs in terms of our experience of the divine. They can say that God is infinitely benevolent, and I can say that he is merely acting that was as part of a cosmic joke. The point is that there is NO WAY to differentiate between these two concepts of God, and that is because our experience of God and of the world would remain exactly the same, irrespective of which one is true.

Now, if there is ultimately no objective way of deciding between an infinite number of conceptions of God, then how can any believer know that their conception is true? Sure, they can use faith or trust or personal preference, but that makes religious truth subjective, and thus robs them of any grounds of criticisms the faiths of others, or of those without faith at all. It certainly robs them of any justification in damning others for adhering to different beliefs.

If the objective evidence is that there is no way of deciding between a number of concepts of X, then the best position is agnosticism about X. Now, one can bring extraneous factors, such as aesthetics, preference, parsimony, symmetry, and so on, to add justification for one conception of X over another, but these do not lead to certainly, and the ultimate truth is that we do not know the truth about X unless there is some way to pin down the concept.

Cole Houx said...

dguller,

The Bible talks like that when God allows the deception. God allows it but He has good intentions with a morally sufficient good reason for doing so. So, He doesn't sin. The Bible also says it's impossible for God to sin or lie.

dguller said...

Cole:

God DOES lie on numerous occasions.

He stated that the universe was created in six days. This is false.

He stated that the first woman was created from the rib of the first man. This is false.

He stated that he annihilated all life on the planet with a great flood. This is false.

He stated that he stopped the sun in the middle of the sky during a battle. This is false.

I mean, come on. There are plenty of lies that God has told in the Bible, assuming that he is the author or responsible for the content. And this is just example that are demonstrably false, according to modern science. It doesn’t include the contradictions in the Bible in which God says one thing and then says the opposite in another part of the Bible. He must be lying about one thing, no? He might be lying about the impossibility of his lying or sinfulness!

Cole Houx said...

dguller,

I hold to a framework interpretation of Genesis or a day age interpretation with the days referring to a local creation. Either one is fine with me.


The text says God made Eve from the side of Adam. either way God could still make out of a rib.

The flood can be interpreted locally.

God didn't lie. It's a matter of interpretation or perspective on these particular issues.

Cole Houx said...

The sun stopped from the perspective of an earth observer. That doesn't mean it litterally stoped. It's relative.

dguller said...

Cole:

You’ve got to be kidding me. Noah’s flood a “local event”?

The extent of the flood is described in the Bible as follows: “the face of the earth (i.e. planet)” (6:1); “end of all flesh… the earth is filled with violence … I will destroy them with the earth” (6:13); and “destroy all flesh wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven, and everything that is in the earth shall die” (6:17).

The Bible clearly says that all life on earth was wiped out, except for what Noah managed to save. I mean, you are going against the clear meaning of the text, because the clear meaning is ludicrously false on the basis of modern science. Sure, you can interpret it to be local, but that would require a twisting of the meaning of the text. Then again, if you can do that, then I can reinterpret texts where the Bible says that Jesus is God as being metaphorical hyperbole, and you won’t object, right?

Also, I find it interesting that you are willing to go against the clear word of the Bible, because science obviously contradicts it. I thought the Bible was the sole source of truth, and everything else is products of human folly and finitude? Why put science above the clear meaning of the Bible? And if you are willing to do so in this case, then why not do so in other, more controversial cases, as well?

Cole Houx said...

dguller,

The population of the human race was in a localized area at the time. Also, the eart can be interpreted as "the land"

Either way all the animals in the world of Noah were wiped out. You're taking the passage out of it's intended context. The scientific method tells us to first establish the frame of reference.

dguller said...

Cole:

Again, regarding the sun standing still, the Bible says that “The sun stopped in midheaven, and did not hurry to set for about a whole day” (Joshua 10:14). My point about this passage is that it is false for two reasons. First, it adheres to a false geocentric view of the cosmos, but you can argue that the Bible was being metaphorical. Fair enough. Second, the passage says that the sun stood still “for about a whole day”. That is obviously false, unless you want to redefine what “a whole day” means, which you might do, since you already did so with regards to the creation story.

Cole Houx said...

dguller,

You're not establishing the correct frame of reference before you interpret the passages. We still talk like this today when we refer to the sunset or sunrise. It doesn't mean the sun is literally rising or setting.

dguller said...

Cole:

First, you claim that the human population during the time of the flood was very localized, and drowned in it. This is ridiculous.

The year of the flood is supposed to be around 2100 B.C.

At that time, the Middle Kingdom existed in Egypt, the Xia Dynasty existed in China, the Akkadian Empire existed in Mesopotamia, the Hittites existed in Anatolia, and other civilizations existed in Africa, Europe, and America.

The human population was NOT localized, but was scattered all over the planet.

Second, how can the passages in the Bible be interpreted so that the flood was a local event? The passages clearly state that it was a global catastrophe. This is clearly false, and so you are switching to a metaphorical interpretation. Why? Why should science trump the Bible? If it does so in this instance, then you will have to admit that it can do so on other occasions, and that therefore, science, and not the Bible, is the better arbiter of truth.

dguller said...

Cole:

If you are saying that the passage in Joshua just means that the sun appeared to sit still for a period of time during a battle, then why is it considered such a miracle? What’s the big deal if the sun did something that it does every day, i.e. appear not to move in the sky if you look at it during a brief period of time? Who gives a damn?

Cole Houx said...

dguller,

There are gaps in the geneologies. So, we can't fix a precise date for the flood from the Bible. It's not a metaphorical interpretation. Go back and re-read what I said.

A miracle did happen at the time of the sun. I'm saying that the earth stopped rotating. It was a miracle.

dguller said...

Cole:

First, you are claiming that the earth stopped rotating, and yet no other civilization on the planet noticed or bothered to record such a momentous event? They recorded eclipses, comets, and other astronomical phenomena, but the entire earth STOPPING was too pedestrian to mention? Seriously?

Secondly, there may be gaps in the Genesis genealogies, but the fact remains that humanity was not localized, but was widely distributed around the world for tens of thousands of years.

Third, you are avoiding my point that you are choosing science over the Bible in your interpretation of the flood. If you chose the Bible over science, then you would follow the clear meaning of the text, which is a worldwide flood. Since you follow science, you interpret a local event. Why not just keep following science? ;)

Cole Houx said...

"First, you are claiming that the earth stopped rotating, and yet no other civilization on the planet noticed or bothered to record such a momentous event? They recorded eclipses, comets, and other astronomical phenomena, but the entire earth STOPPING was too pedestrian to mention? Seriously?"

Seriously

Again the geneologies have gaps. So, we can't fix a precise date for the flood. It's clearly possible to interpret the passages to support a local flood if you identify the correct frame of reference first. You must apply the scientific method correctly.

Cole Houx said...

dguller,

Also, when you follow science you end up with a beginning to the universe. If there was a beginning then there must have been a Beginner.

Jonathan said...

Answers in Genesis Kurt Wise

Despite believing that science supports his position, Wise has written that "if all the evidence in the universe turns against creationism, I would be the first to admit it, but I would still be a creationist because that is what the Word of God seems to indicate."

so much for science

@Cole
The Bible also says it's impossible for God to sin or lie.

Is this a exact quote?

So is the Bible God? It sounds like you think so. Did God tell you Godself?

Closed mind
Scripture, reason, then experience

Open Mind
Experience, reason, then scripture.

So Cole, do I have a right not to be a Christian, what do you think?

John W. Loftus said...

dguller, you are doing a wonderful job! Cole cannot think because he's defending what he was raised to believe in a Christian culture. It would literally turn his world upside down like it did to me to cease believing.

This is a test case here for blindness. What a brainwashed man he is. Remember brainwashed people don't know they're brainwashed.

Some people cannot be helped.

Steven Bently said...

dguller, you have made beyound excellent points here, but it's almost next to impossible convince someone whom is afraid of eternal hell fire and has been confirmed (publicly hazed), by baptism, as John said, brainwashed.

I personally wonder what my life would be like had I never heard of god or jebus or of any other myths or beliefs. I think my life would have been marvelous!

I wish I had never heard of a god or jesus or any man made myths, anyone else feel that way here?

dguller said...

Cole:

First, how do you account for the fact that the earth stopped moving, and no-one, but the Jews happened to notice? I mean, if you are saying that X happened, and X has expected consequences, then the fact that the consequences did not happen implies that X did not, either. You must account for the absence of any evidence of this immense astronomical event being recorded anywhere, except in a book of Bronze Age mythology.

Second, how do you identify the proper “frame of reference” for a text? Say you have a text whose clear meaning is X. What additional criteria would you bring to bear on identifying whether the clear meaning of the text is actually false and a metaphorical or hyperbolic reading is necessary?

Third, by what possible argument on earth can you demonstrate that if the universe had a beginning, then it must have had a “Beginner”? I suppose that you are assuming that everything that begins to exist must have a cause, right? How do you know that? Nothing in the universe “begins to exist”. It is assembled from pre-existing subatomic particles and energy into organized collections of matter. We have experience of the organization of matter into complex entities having causal antecedents, but we have no experience of whether matter itself requires causal antecedents.

To make that claim is to commit the fallacy of composition. In other words, just because the components of X have properties P does not imply that X must also have properties P, and vice versa. For example, just because the employees of a company are human does not imply that the company is human. See? Same thing with the matter in the universe. Just because the components WITHIN the universe require causes to get them to do things does not imply that the universe itself requires a cause to get IT going. Fallacy of composition. See?

You could show that this fallacy does not imply, because you have evidence that the whole does possess the properties of its parts. Do you have any experience of universes being created? Does anyone else that you know (other than God)? I doubt it.

Perhaps you can argue that the universe needed a cause to stop an infinite regress. I think this is silly, because you are obviously comfortable with a deity that stretches back into infinity without any discomfort about him requiring a cause. I can easily transfer that comfort onto the universe itself, which may also have stretched back to infinity. After all, we know nothing about what happened “before” the Big Bang. There may have been multiple Big Bangs and Big Crunches that have stretched back to infinity. They may be a multiverse.

The point is that there are other possibilities that make the need for a creator unnecessary. And I am not saying that I believe any of these other possibilities, because there is no evidence for them. I am actually an agnostic about whether the universe needed a creator, because that is what is epistemically warranted in this case. I am not obliged to make a leap of faith in this matter. However, I do lean more towards the “no creator” position, because of other considerations, but it would be stupid of me to claim certainty about a matter that there is not the sliver of evidence about.

Cole Houx said...

dguller,

I'm not sure why we haven't found other recordings of the event yet.

The population of humans was in a localized area at the time of the flood. This was the whole world to Noah. The whole world of civilization. The purpose was to destroy sin and all the animals that were associated with that sin. There was no reason to flood te entire globe. Humanity hadn't spread that far out at the time. Moreove the words "the earth" can be interpreted to mean "the land"

Christianity is alo unique in tha it teaches creation out of nothing. This is what science has come to confirm. If you wan't to believe the entire universe came from nothing that's fine. I see that as a miracle. If God can do that surely He can raise the dead.

Walter said...

@Cole

How can you know that your favorite holy books are reliable?

How can you know that Jesus was sinless, or that Jesus was God?

I don't believe that Plantinga ever argued that belief in the veracity of the Christian bible is considered "properly basic"?

All you have are unverifiable stories written down in an age of superstition, and no way of knowing whether any of the events narrated in the bible ever actually happened.

I agree with the OP. At best a theist should be agnostic towards whatever god they believe in.

Cole Houx said...

Walter,

I know it's true by the testimony of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit has sealed certain truths of God's Word to my heart. I am convinced by the inward testimony of the Holy Spirit that the gospel of Christ is true. Christ and His teachings are lovely and beautiful to me. The Spirit has moved upon my heart to surrender to the clear teachings of God's Word and opened my eyes to see Christ as lovely and beautiful. The Holy Spirit bears witness to my spirit that I am a child of God confirming His Word to me so that the Holy Spirit inwardly assures me that the Bible is His Word. Not only that but it assures me that Jesus is the Word made flesh.

For more on this see:

Warranted Christian Belief by Alvin Plantinga

Also, the fact that science has come to confirm Christianity's unique teaching of creation out of nothing leads me to believe that Christianity is the most plausible.

dguller said...

Cole:

You seem quite cavalier about the fact that not a single shred of evidence exists for the earth stopping its orbit around the sun during the Israelite battle other than an ancient book of mythology. Now, it is one thing for a religious text to make a specific claim that is impossible to empirically verify, such as the existence of an afterlife, but it is another thing altogether for it to make a claim that has empirical consequences that should be detectable. The absence of those consequences implies the falsity of the text itself. That is true of any theory, including scientific ones.

I mean, what would you say to a religious text that stated that in 1950, the moon turned bright orange? You would obviously conclude that that text was false, because the moon did NOT turn bright orange in 1950. Someone who believed in that text would then try to squeeze its meaning into metaphorical territory to try to maintain its integrity. They could say that “bright orange” can be interpreted to mean “illuminating”, and the moon does illuminate during the evening.

Would you buy that explanation? I sure hope not, because that means that you are endorsing the principle that religious texts that make empirical claims should be believed even if those claims are false. In other words, if a religious text states that Christians are really Hindus who believe in Shiva, then you would be forced to accept that text as valid, even though Christians are not Hindus who believe in Shiva. You could say that it is a false text, because what it claims to be true is actually false due to a lack of evidence.

Another implication is that one should not listen to the Bible when it makes empirical claims at all. In other words, if it states that those who pray and have faith will be healed of their physical ailments, then people should not take those passages seriously. I wonder how that would impact the church’s attendance and coffers.

Yet another implication is that you have zero grounds any longer for criticizing evolutionary theory for gaps in the fossil record. After all, that argument is based upon the idea that there should be lots of transitional fossils, and their alleged absence is evidence against evolution. It appears that you do not believe in this argument. Of note, there ARE hundreds of fossils that confirm the truth of evolution anyway.

I think it’s quite clear that there is a multitude of problems with your position. The simplest is that the Bible should not be trusted on its own authority for empirical propositions. Where its empirical claims have supporting evidence, then they should be accepted as true. Where its empirical claims have opposing evidence, then they should be rejected as false, and either interpreted metaphorically or just rejected outright. The bottom line is that it is still empirical evidence that is supporting the Bible in this case, which is as it should be anyway.

dguller said...

Cole:

Two more things.

First, your comment that humanity was localized at the time of the flood is peculiar for a number of reasons. One, you stated that it is impossible to determine WHEN the flood took place, and so no-one knows where human beings were at the time. Two, it is clear from archaeological evidence that human beings have been dispersed all over the planet for about 50,000 years or so. Three, you still cling to the idea that when the Bible describes the flood as destroying ALL living things and ALL the earth, that it was really saying SOME living things and a PART of the earth. If the Bible can be so dramatically imprecise about something as clear as this, then how can you trust it about anything at all? I mean, if it says that God CANNOT lie, then maybe it really means that God SOMETIMES lies, right?

Second, you state that Christianity states that creation occurred out of nothing, and that science has confirmed this. I’m afraid that it hasn’t. The science contains a great deal of speculation about what happened “before” the Big Bang, but there is no convincing empirical evidence to support any of the speculative theories, including the one that there was nothing “before” the Big Bang. The best that people can be is agnostic about this matter, at least if they are intellectually honest. If someone already has beliefs about this matter, then they will naturally project them onto the unformed and ethereal concepts that exist, but that is a byproduct of their underlying psychology, and not based upon any epistemic factors.

Cole Houx said...

dguller,

The event happened so fast that it wouldn't have left behind any evidence. It was also a miracle.

Your views on the Big Bang are wrong. As the non-theistic physicist Allan Guth is on record stating that the Big Bang is a solid pece of science. Those who deny it are considered by the scientific community to be crack pots. Your free to believe like Guth and others that the universe came from nothing. But I don't believe that way. I also don't think it's coincidence that Christianity is unique in it's teaching of creation out of nothing.

dguller said...

Cole:

You state that the testimony of the Holy Spirit confirms the veracity of the Bible, but I wonder where the testimony of the Holy Spirit is contained. If it is contained within the Bible itself, the you are involved in circular reasoning: The Bible is true, because the Bible says it is true. That is silly.

But you do not make this claim, which is good, because it implies that you have some measure of logic to you. You state that the Holy Spirit has moved your heart to submit to the truth of Christianity by virtue of the warm, fuzzy feeling that you get when exposed to Christ’s teachings.

Does that imply that any teaching that has a powerful, visceral, and positive impact upon someone is proof of its truth? That would imply that ALL religions are true, because there are millions and millions of people who have been moved by their respective religious teachings as you have by Christ.

What would you say to a Muslim who has been so moved by his love of the Prophet Muhammad that the truth of Islam is confirmed in his heart? Would you have a battle of subjective religious intensity so that whoever’s heart is moved the most has their faith confirmed? Or would you bring OTHER factors to bear, because you know that subjective truths are insufficient to demonstrate truth.

I wonder what those other factors would be?

dguller said...

Cole:

First, you are saying that the earth stopped its orbit around the sun “so fast” that it did not leave behind any records. However, the Bible says that it happened for the duration of “a whole day”. The Bible contradicts your version of events.

Second, I find it incredible that you believe that the fact that there is no evidence for your claim is evidence of a miracle. Wow. I suppose I can believe ANYTHING at all with that rationale. For example, even though there is no evidence at all that the Bible was written by an invisible and very powerful unicorn, then that is just evidence of how miraculous this unicorn is. Or, even better, even though there is absolutely no evidence that you are really unable to connect to the Internet, that is just evidence of how miraculous it is that you can still post online despite being unable to be online.

Third, the Big Bang is a solid piece of science. I never doubted the Big Bang. I questioned what happened “before” the Big Bang. Those theories are merely speculative, because there is no evidence to decide between them. Maybe there was nothing, and the universe spontaneously came into existence in the Big Bang, or maybe there was a creator who started the whole process, or maybe there are multiple universes that are constantly being created during the collapse of quantum wave functions, or maybe there have been multiple Big Bangs and Big Contractions, or any number of other theories. My point is that we do not know how to decide between any of them, and so we should just be agnostic about it.

dguller said...

Cole:

You state: “the fact that science has come to confirm Christianity's unique teaching of creation out of nothing leads me to believe that Christianity is the most plausible”.

It appears that you are basing your religious beliefs upon the conclusions of science. This is good! However, there are a few problems here.

First, science has not confirmed creation ex nihilo. As I mentioned earlier, science has no idea what happened “before” the Big Bang, including whether there was nothing “before” it, or an infinite string of past universes.

Second, what would you do if one scientific theory supported your religious beliefs (e.g. the Big Bang), but another scientific theory refuted your religious beliefs (e.g. the theory of evolution)? Would you still follow the science, or would you be selective? I think that you would be selective in your invocation of science, which is highly hypocritical. You either follow science and reason, or you don’t. You can’t use it haphazardly, because that is a manifestation of bad faith.

I mean, what would you say about someone who justified their life of compassion by the example of Jesus Christ based upon the Biblical account of his life, but rejected his resurrection and divinity? You would say that you have to follow all the Bible, and not just be selective about it. Otherwise, that person is not using the Bible to justify their compassion at all, but rather are using another standard, above and beyond the Bible, which is impermissible in Christianity.

Same thing with science. You either accept that science is the best, albeit flawed, way for us to uncover the workings of ourselves and the world, or you do not. It’s really that simple.

Anthony said...

Kind of off topic, but after becoming a non-believer, I've always found it grating that a non-believer could look at the world objectively, with its terrible conditions, endless suffering, and seemingly purposeless nature, and were they to concede that they see no reason to believe in a loving god, they are evil, close-minded, bigoted and deserving of punishment. Were a believer to walk into an unkempt house where the children are malnourished and riddled with disease, would the believer dare infer that these kids had a good and loving mother?

I dare say, they would reviled should they come to such a conclusion, and quite possibly institutionalized were they to try to defend that proposition to any degree.

If you believe in a good god, a priori, you can always rationalize this world or any possible world to fit that description, but were we toc ome to this world objectively; to assume that there is a good god would be ludicrous. The most we can ever infer, given the nature of comfort and suffering that coexist in this world is that there is an indifferent god or no god at all.

But, were I to be convinced that a supernatural power does exist without any knowledge of its nature, I'd probably lean more to an indifferent or evil god, because the evidence points that way globally.

Scott said...

Aaron wrote: Swinburne claims "Necessarily, if Omniscience, and Perfect Freedom, then Perfect Goodness". Therefore God is always Good, and (2) is logically incompatible with the characteristics of God. The theist can then be confident that God is not deceiving them and this argument does not defeat theism.

First, that goodness would be the result of these properties doesn't seem to necessarily follow. Why is it that a being with these properties would know exactly how to maximize evil, have the ability to maximize evil and be perfectly free to actualize evil in every situation?

Second, if we assume this was correct for the sake of argument, this assumption might deflect [2]. However, conceding that God's goodness is due to specific properties he exhibits seems to have rather significant consequences for Christianity.

For example, if goodness is result of omnipotence, omniscience and perfect freedom, it would suggest that one of the reasons why human beings are NOT perfectly good is because God failed to give us all of these properties. Given that we did not create ourselves, it would seem that God's decision to give his creation only a subset of his properties is ultimately the source of evil.

To suggest otherwise, you'd need an alternate way by which God's standard of goodness could be met without these properties. I'd also ask how their absence could be considered "good" by God, as suggested by Genesis, if they are necessary for goodness?

Given that God himself is supposedly omniscient, he'd realize these properties were necessary for goodness. So it would seem God has unreasonable expectations and has set us up to fail.

Scott said...

dguller,

I've been down this road with Cole before. From what I can tell, his view that God must be good seems to be significantly based on the definition of Grace as found in the Bible.

However, it seems that theists have simply decided to call the act of God doing absolutely anything good "Grace", then claim that grace is unmerited. This has the effect of God needing to take no action or do anything at all to be good.

While this is a necessary step if God to be good given the universe we observed, this conclusion does not necessary follow.

Example?

Let's assume that a small number of human beings have evolved to no longer need physical bodies and can manipulate matter and energy with their thoughts. Since these beings are unique, we could call any act of goodness by these beings "super evolved goodness", then turn around and say super evolved goodness is not merited.

But, again, this does not follow. It's merely using a fancy word to describe "doing good things" so the act can be subtly redefined to absolve them from needing to do anything to be considered good. It's a fallacy.

Walter said...

I know it's true by the testimony of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit has sealed certain truths of God's Word to my heart. I am convinced by the inward testimony of the Holy Spirit that the gospel of Christ is true. Christ and His teachings are lovely and beautiful to me. The Spirit has moved upon my heart to surrender to the clear teachings of God's Word and opened my eyes to see Christ as lovely and beautiful. The Holy Spirit bears witness to my spirit that I am a child of God confirming His Word to me so that the Holy Spirit inwardly assures me that the Bible is His Word. Not only that but it assures me that Jesus is the Word made flesh.

I interpret this as you saying: I feel that I am right in my doctrinal beliefs and this feeling must come from God, and so this feeling validates my belief. Seems a little fideistic to me. It sounds like Plantinga is simply trying to place Christian belief beyond ANY criticism.


BTW, Mormons also tend to stress subjective personal experience of the Holy Spirit as validation of their doctrinal beliefs as well. Yet Mormon theology is significantly different from mainstream 'orthodox' Christianity. I guess the Holy Ghost does not discriminate? All religions may be validated by this subjective experience, no?

dguller said...

** John & Steven:

I realize that persuading Cole, or any other person utterly devoted to their faith, that they may be wrong and actually lack any justification for their beliefs is largely pointless. What can you say to someone who eschews reason and evidence, except when it supports their position? I think that with all our cognitive biases and distortions, we all have to careful in terms of what we believe, especially regarding what we desperately want to believe is true. In that case, we have to redouble our efforts to minimize biasing our conclusions by lowering our standards of evidence.

** Anthony:

I totally agree with what you wrote. Very persuasive.

** Scott:

I slightly disagree.

I think that Cole’s view of grace is that EVERYTHING that God does is necessarily good, and grace is when we are blessed with that realization. In other words, our perception of events have happen to us as being divided between good, evil and neutral is an illusion due to our corrupted nature and narcissistic egos. The reality is that since God created all events, they are absolutely good, and that inner peace and salvation is evident by opening our eyes to the truth of our immersion in the goodness that permeates our lives.

Now, that is a lovely story, and it would be very reassuring to some degree if it were true. However, the fact that it makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside does not validate it in the least. In fact, there are a number of reasons to reject this view, including the notion that those who suffer and are in pain are to be criticized for being unable to see the good in their pain and suffering. That seems to be an incredibly callous and inhuman position to take, but it follows from the above account.

Anyway, I find that religious systems contain small sections that, taken on their own, are actually reasonable and defensible, but also contain larger sections that are incoherent and unjustifiable. It all gets very confusing and muddled, keeping track of the dissonant thoughts that must be simultaneously held together: God is responsible for everything good, but not for evil, because we are free, except that he made us that way, but he did it for a good reason, but I have no idea what that reason may be, but that is part of the mystery of faith, but then how do I know that my faith is true, because I know it is true, and on and on.

Cole Houx said...

dguller,

Science has confirmed creation out of nothing. It has also established that a contraction is impossible. Let me recommend Lawrence Krauss. Your science is not up to date. The big bang is now beyond reasonable doubt. All of physical reality had a beginning at the big bang. Time itself had a beginning. Only the Bible describes such a thing.

When I said that there wouldn't be any evidence for the long day I meant physical. The event happened too fast.

Also, when I referred to gaps in the geneologies I was refering to the Biblical geneologies. We cannot set an exact date for the flood based on the Bible.

When Muslims come up with an epistemological model of how their beliefs can have warrant then I'll consider what they say. In the mean time let me reccomend to you Alvin Plantinga's book "Warranted Christian Belief" and the model that is presented there.

Cole Houx said...

Also,

I wasn't saying that there would be no evidence because the long day was a miracle. I was just making the statement that it was a miracle.

Rob R said...

Fine, but whether there is "plenty of evidence" for the other possibility is at the very least debatable.

It surely is and I do debate that. But that matter is the subject of John Loftus' blog not this topic. As far as the context of this topic is concerned, John's argument has failed as long as the evidence is reasonable and faith is reasonable (which it better be or else we can't know anything as virtually nothing is absolutely provable which means some degree of faith is always necessary).

is based in part on the premise that there is no real evidence for possibility

You misinterpreted the topic then. You see, It's not that there is no evidence for 1. it's that there is no evidence for 1 (such as religious experience which was explicitely mentioned in the topic) that 2 cannot explain.

You said yourself that "the Christian response" is trust. In other words, you accept (1) and reject (2) on faith. The Christian response (as you call it) simply isn't good enough.

then it's not good enough for the skeptic either for all of the other assumptions about reality that are necessary for knowledge of the world (including reasonable belief that we are not decieved by a malicious deity).

In other words, instead of questioning whether it's true, I have to *assume* it's true? If I take it on faith, I'll see how wonderful it is? Fideists of all religions can tell me the same thing.

I'd never say that. The truth of our view is a legitimate question. But an obsession with the truth of our view is also limiting if one never advances beyond that to see greater elegance.

Perhaps you're not a fideist, but a relativist. What you wrote suggests one or the other.

A fideist says not to question the truth at all. A relativist says that what matters is what is true for you. I assert neither.

Indeed, critical thinking and seeking the truth has been known to hinder the influence of Christian thought.

to always be on the cusp of skepticism and to assume that's what critical thought is is itself an uncritical. there is a difference between being consistently critical and consistently skeptical. The two are not co-extensive.

Rob R said...

post 2 of 3


dguller,

First, what are the “reasons that make that trust reasonable”?

i'm not sure that trust isn't properly basic. For the belief that a world external to the mind exists for example, i could talk about the consistency of my senses as a basis for trust, but i can always step back and say that extensive consistency is something that i trust.

Second, there may be aspects of a theory that appeal to your sense of meaning, your aesthetics, and your morality, but those have no bearing on whether or not it is true or false. Who says the truth has to be moral, meaningful or aesthetically pleasing?

Who says it? me. Who's says I am wrong? What may be most important about the world may be just a jumble of illusions which are not in reality connected in a reality reflecting way. But why must I be that kind of a skeptic? It seems to me that the best epistemology is the one that carefully takes advantage of all of our epistemologically pointing faculties and does not rest on any single one. We cannot move by reason alone. Reason tells us nothing about reality in and of itself. We cannot move on experience alone. Experience must be interpreted. But we have to consider these because we have nothing else, so why not also consider a special kind of experience, those that are relevent to existential import (those that are positive to meaningfulness, morality, beauty, etc)

If we are to bother with truth at all, then it must have some utility. I would assume that you might agree, but I bet that you are minimalistic about that utility. But why shouldn't the usefulness that we expect of truth also extend to that which makes life meaningful?

you know, there are many Christian apologists who would point out that atheistic materialism leaves us with no morality (course, that's not my approach). And if they are right, then we should oppose atheism as an inhuman barbaric perspective that cannot help humanity. The brutal savagery which moral anti-realism must stand silent in the presence of tells us of the poverty of such anti-realism. The thing is, so many atheists fight tooth and nail to insist that they can indeed support morality because they know that if they cannot support immorality, there perspective is worthless. So if you cannot support such things as human worth and morality, there is no point at all to what you are doing. You're doing it, just because you are doing it and there is no meaning to it. You could admit that I'm right and that there is a God while fully disbelieving it and it wouldn't matter one iota because meaning and value according to you has no bearing on truth.

Ironically, you are telling me how I ought to think about these things. How can you tell me how I ought to think when oughtness has no bearing on truth?

Rob R said...

Third, I have heard of those ridiculous philosophical positions.

They are ridiculous and if you oppose any amount of faith no matter how (subjectively concieved to be) small, then you have no means to oppose them. The possibility of such ridiculous positions isn't my problem. It is yours.

Again, try living them in the real world, and see how long you last assuming that no-one else exists, that reality is not real, or that reality is simply a byproduct of our ideas.

There's no reason to think you can't function in such a way because even with solipsism (the idea that there is no world external to the mind), one may approach that existence as a game with rules. I see no problem with the idea of functioning in a world that came into existence 5 minutes ago with our memories, the appearance of age of the world and so on and all the rules of the world, nature, society etc. as we percieve them. There's no reason that you can't just continue on in a world with a malicious God that is exactly like the one we live in as described by your scenario. All of these have a common problem. They have poor existential import. But they don't suffer from a problem that you can consistently apply if you deny a place for faith or existential import.

Fourth, epistemology does not serve survival, aesthetics, morality, or whatever. It serves truth.

epistemology doesn't serve truth. it is to serve us to give us truth about morality, survival, meaning, as well as epistemology itself and so on. It has to be human centered or else it is none of our business. Otherwise, it is a pointless endevor. And it's very odd for you to handicap epistemology by suggesting that it cannot serve to give us the truth on such things.

There are self-supporting, because you cannot make a case for ANYTHING without them, including the case against them. This is one area in which scepticism simply eats itself.

YES IT DOES EAT ITSELF DOESN'T IT! caps were for excitement, not cause I'm screaming at you. Did I say that in this thread? You took the words out of my mouth! But to your first statment, the thing is, there is no law of logic that proves logic. There is no law of logic that says the world has to be logical. And evidence has to be interpreted as it does not yield truth passively. You could say that the evidence of the world provides support for logic, but this is just not something that is objectively demonstrable and in fact, there are scientific problems we could solve right now by simply giving up on logic (such as the disagreements between qm and relativity).

Jonathan said...

@ dguller

Arguing over if the sun did or didn’t stop at a particular point of time is… pointless.

If Cole wishes to believe that he and the other Christians have a special relationship with God, that’s fine with me.

It seems a better use of this blog would be not to argue about whether the bible is correct or not, but to enforce the separation of church and state.

To me, anyway it doesn’t matter whether or not Cole can or cannot prove any of the statements he has made on his blog. It matters to me more how far Cole is willing to push his beliefs on others.

This to me is more important
Creation and evolution in public
wikipedia.org/wiki/Creation_and_evolution_in_public_education#Recent_developments_in_state_education_programs
education than any discussion of if Noah’s ark had dinosaurs on board.

@Cole My only question is I am willing to fight for Cole’s rights to be a Christian but is he willing to fight for my rights, not to be one?

Cole Houx said...

Jonathan,

All I can do is tell you what works for me. I can't change anybody's mind. I don't try to force my God beliefs on others.

I can't prove there's a Creator but I think the evidence for a beginning to physical reality is consistent with a Creator. Especially the God of the Bible.

Eric said...

"First, an evil God is incoherent only if you assume that he must be good as part of his essential nature. Why assume this?"

Hi Dguller

As I said in my earlier post, this is a conclusion, not an assumption. That is, it follows from a series of rigorous arguments concerning the nature of pure act.

"Second, the patrician idea that goodness = fullness of being, and evil = deprivation of being, is based on ludicrous religious metaphysical concepts that were invented to give some hope of responding to the argument from evil with redefinitions and sophistry."

Can you provide a refutation of those "ludicrous religious metaphysical concepts"? And note that your series of questions is irrelevant, since it confuses epistemology, which we're not discussing, with ontology, which we are discussing. For example, it may be that Aquinas is right about the nature of evil (the ontological question) *and* we cannot answer any of your questions (which were all epistemic) satisfactorily.

Rob R said...

Bud,


I did not address my first of 3 posts to you (only the first is to you above and not the following two) but you are it's intended recipient.

dguller said...

Rob:

First, when I asked you about “that trust”, I was referring to your “trust in God”.

Second, there is a world of difference between trusting our senses and trusting in God, and you are committing the fallacy of equivocation by conflating the two. Yes, they are both a form of “trust” in the sense that there is the absence of total certainty involved in them, but there is a world of difference between trusting our senses, which consistently demonstrate that they are reliable by virtue of adequately representing the world around us sufficiently, and trusting in God, which has very little to justify his reliability.

Third, I agree that truth is useful, because we have to know how the world is in order to survive and flourish in it. However, the reverse is not true. In other words, just because something is useful and comforting does not make it true. For example, it might be useful and comforting to me to think that Angelina Jolie will break up with Brad Pitt and marry me, but that does not make it true. This is too obvious to bring up, and is a basic point of logic, i.e. the fallacy of affirming the consequent.

Fourth, I do support human dignity and worth, but I also support uncovering the truth. I am mature enough to recognize that not all ideas that support human dignity and worth are true, and that not all truths support human dignity and worth. They are different categories that often conflict, and it is not an easy answer which would take precedence during such conflicts.

Fifth, you say that “oughtness has no bearing on truth”. That is a very ambiguous statement that would need to be made more precise before it was true. A superficial sense in which that proposition is false is that in order to discover the truth we have to utilize epistemic standards and values, including logic, which are certainly normative practices. Another sense in which it is false is that once we have discovered a truth, then the world OUGHT to operate according to that truth. And the Humean idea that one cannot derive an “is” from and “ought” can be partially overcome by virtue of the fact that we have evolved to be organisms that behave according to normative values, which is a truth about us. So, as I said, you would have to be far more precise in this proposition.

Sixth, I need a minimal amount of trust in order to overcome those “ridiculous” positions. I do not need the maximal amount of faith that is required of religious belief.

Seventh, I really am not going to waste my time debating those ridiculous philosophical positions. Yes, one can twist and contort one’s life to remain as it is, but within the background of one of those theories. However, the justification for doing so would have to be immense, and the minor paradoxes that are uncovered when reason detaches itself from the empirical world are insufficient in my opinion.

Eighth, we actually agree that epistemology serves to help us uncover the truth. Naturally, this would be the truth ABOUT different subjects. I do not know what the Truth is.

Ninth, I do not understand this need for absolute foundations for things like logic. Logic is a tool that is incredibly useful, because without it, we would be dead. I do not know what the absolute foundation for a tool that we use for a specific purpose would be, except that it has served to be incredibly useful to us, and in the case of logic, absolutely essential.

dguller said...

Eric:

First, what the hell is a “pure act”? And what are the “rigorous arguments” that flow from this odd concept to some profound truth about God?

Second, why do I have to refute the idea that goodness = fullness of being and evil = deficiency of being? You are putting the idea forth, and thus the onus is upon you to argue for their meaning and their truth. I honestly have no idea what this means, except in a metaphorical way in which goodness is like water in a bucket. But why does goodness have to operate according to that analogy? I can come up with other analogies for goodness that has nothing to do with fullness or emptiness. So defend how this is a meaningful and true concept, if you can.

Third, ontology is intimately related to epistemology. How can you talk about “what is” without talking about how you can know it? Otherwise, you can just be making crap up without any ability to ground it in anything real. I can start talking about unicorns and fairies as ontological realities, and the next question you would rightly ask is how I could possibly know all this stuff about unicorns and fairies. And the answer is that I cannot know anything about them, and thus this ontological claim is bogus.

Eric said...

"First, what the hell is a “pure act”? And what are the “rigorous arguments” that flow from this odd concept to some profound truth about God?"

Dguller, if you don't understand these very basic, first-week-of-101 level concepts, then on what grounds did you claim to have rejected Aquinas's arguments with respect to God's and evil's nature?

"Second, why do I have to refute the idea that goodness = fullness of being and evil = deficiency of being? You are putting the idea forth, and thus the onus is upon you to argue for their meaning and their truth."

Um, because you said, "the patrician idea that goodness = fullness of being, and evil = deprivation of being, is based on ludicrous religious metaphysical concepts that were invented to give some hope of responding to the argument from evil with redefinitions and sophistry." I wanted to see what reasons you had for these claims.

"Third, ontology is intimately related to epistemology. How can you talk about “what is” without talking about how you can know it?"

Sure, but this is a degreed notion, e.g. I don't have to know everything about something to talk about it. Aquinas has arguments (see them in the link I provided) concerning the nature of evil, so he isn't saying nothing about it. My only (uncontroversial) point was that he could be right about the ontological question *even if* he had no answers to your questions, and this makes the questions themselves a very weak tool for determining whether Aquinas was right. And it is for this reason your specific questions confused the epistemological question with the ontological question.

Walter said...

The "Perfectly Good" God of the Philosophers is not the same being that is portrayed in the bible as being God.

Aquinas's God is not Yahweh.

Jonathan said...

@Rob R

So, Rob do you think I have a right not be Christian? Do you think that this right should be protected even by Christians?

Thanks

Steven said...

Cole, with regard to the big bang, you're saying the words, and you do seem to understand to a certain degree what they mean, but you are missing quite a lot.

Our universe started with the big bang (as best as we can tell), and you are right that time, space, and energy were confined within an infinitesimally small space. However, this infinitesimally small confined space is not "nothing," as you call it, and no cosmologist questions this notion.

The bigger problem, and where your understanding seems to be the most lacking, is that the laws of physics as we currently understand them break down before the universe reaches that point of an infinitely small, infinitely dense mass (eg approaches nothingness, if that is even appropriate), and as such, we don't know what was going on prior to the point when our physics breaks down.

In other words, you are misinterpreting Guth and other cosmologists, if you think that your interpretation "nothingness" at the start of the big bang is the view of modern cosmology. It isn't. There are a whole host of different ideas out there about how the big bang started, and not a single one of them posit that it started from nothing. These are not crack pot theories either, highly speculative, yes, but they are not being put forward by crackpots who deny that the big band happened. These are people who are trying to figure out how it happened, and your concept of nothingness is not on the table.

Cole Houx said...

Steven,

Type in Alan Guth and read what he believes. He believes the universe came from nothing.

Wikipedia:

According to Guth’s theory of cosmic inflation, the universe originated from a false vacuum filled with high energy. The existence of a repulsive gravitational field caused the universe to enter a great period of exponential expansion. He realized that the expansion was so quick that in only 10−33 seconds, it was 1050 times the original size. Due to the fact that the false vacuum is not stable, the expansion will not continue forever. Instead, quantum tunneling will cause the false vacuum to decay into a low-energy true vacuum. When it decays, bubbles suddenly appear to fill in the space. Although the bubble universes start out small at first, many of them will quickly become fairly large. The ultimate conclusion was that, on the contrary to popular belief, it was possible for the universe to suddenly appear from nothing.

Cole Houx said...

"It is said that there's no such thing as a free lunch. But the universe is the ultimate free lunch". — A. H. Guth

dguller said...

Eric:

First, you still have not explained to me what a “pure act” is. If it’s so basic and obvious, then you should have no trouble clarifying this idea for me.

Second, I thought that those ideas were ridiculous metaphysical concepts, because they are based on nothing more than an analogy. The analogy is that just as a bucket with more water in it is considered good, an entity with more being in it is considered good. I know! Isn’t that totally persuasive? That’s the most sense that I can make of this idea, which is why I thought it was silly. However, if you think I’m wrong, then I would love for you to provide me with some kind of argument or evidence that the amount of goodness in X is directly proportional to the amount of being in X.

Third, you are correct that someone may believe ontological propositions that are true without any ability to justify or even know them proper. For example, it might be a truth about ontology that every atom in the universe is supported by an invisible unicorn, but we have no way of knowing whether it is true, and so why bother bringing it up at all? Similarly, why bring up ontological propositions when we have no way of determining whether they are true or not.

And that comes to the heart of my argument that started this post. What is the point of adhering to a set of propositions when it is impossible of knowing whether they are true at all?

dguller said...

Cole:

First, that is a nice theory about how the universe came from nothing, but it is nothing but speculation, which is exactly my point. It is like superstring theory. It makes a lot of sense, but it is impossible to empirically verify, and thus is just speculative physics. Until there is an experiment or some kind of empirical evidence to ground the theory of what preceded the Big Bang, it is all just fancy guesswork, and thus we should be agnostic about it.

Second, I didn't see anything in that account about the need for a creator.

Cole Houx said...

dguller,

The new Borde-Guth-Vilekin theorem establishes that any universe which has on average over it's past history been in a state of cosmic expansion cannot be eternal in the past but must have a space-time boundary. Theorist who have tried to avoid the beginnig of the universe have tried to previously take refuge to the period prior to the plank time cannot do so any longer. The new Borde-Guth-Vilenkin theorem does not depend on any particular physical description prior to the Plank time. It does away with the attempts to avoid the absolute beginning to the universe.

Vilenkin states:

It is said that that an argument is what convinces reasonable men and a proof is what it takes to convince even an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past eternal universe. There is no escape, they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning.

Vilenkin, Many Worlds in One, 176.

Gandolf said...

Jonathan said... "@Cole My only question is I am willing to fight for Cole’s rights to be a Christian but is he willing to fight for my rights, not to be one?


Jonathan said...@Rob R So, Rob do you think I have a right not be Christian? Do you think that this right should be protected even by Christians?"

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

Yeah me too, id be interested to know whether faithful folks think humans deserve rights to be (protected against faith).

At present its much like Russian Roulette.We have laws to protect rights to total freedom of religious faith, and russian roulette it often is when depending on the persons personal ability of deciphering the faith,it can often be a lot like issueing firearm licences to babies.

Cole replied -> "Jonathan,

All I can do is tell you what works for me. I can't change anybody's mind. I don't try to force my God beliefs on others.

I can't prove there's a Creator but I think the evidence for a beginning to physical reality is consistent with a Creator. Especially the God of the Bible."

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

I feel this is not a very decent answer Cole.The question is, are you willing to fight for rights of humanity, to not have christianity or faith imposed upon them?.Do you think its very humanatarian to allow laws of total freedom of religious faith, that historically like Russian Roulette often ends up with some kids being born into a abusive cults or getting killed as witches in Africa for instance?.

Never mind whether you personally happen to "try to force my God beliefs on others" ..Thats beside the point.

What do you say about the injustice of the "freedom of religious faith laws" we have at present?,that you as a faithful person also have some responsibility for!.Does it worry your concience at all??, that these (injust laws) (allow for) all manner of faith abuse worldwide to simply happen like Russian Roulette! under the disguise of old laws of "religious freedoms".

Cole Houx how do you and Rob R and MMM and others, seem to simply feel you can wipe your conciences free of having any part in these witch murders happening in Africa?.Do you or your church actively ralley for change of laws and some protection of those abused by laws of total freedom of religious faith/superstitions ...Or do you simply see it as some type of statistic, that dont matter so much or cant be helped?.

Like Jonathan i couldnt really care less if faithful folks want to have faith in any type of madness they like.

But i am concerned!! and think i have a right to be concerned, when their madness becomes a possible danger to others.And i think if you really have any worthwhile morals that are honest,that maybe we atheist should be seeing faithful show some concern about this situation as well!.

But we dont see it.Rob R`s church might do all sorts of charity,but i doubt it does anything active to bring about a end of barbaric laws that allow for opression and murder by rights of faith

At present barbaric laws for rights to total freedoms of faith cause danger to many.

In this thread

http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2009/12/i-think-many-christians-just-do-not.html

Rob R says --> "if you speak of John Loftus's post here, I'll tell you that perhaps nothing he has written is more poorly thought out than this post where he virtually tramples on the real pain and grief of real people who are Christians and have lost loved ones yet persevere in their faith and find strength in that faith."

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

Yet the question remains .."do you think I have a right not be Christian? Do you think that this right should be protected even by Christians?"

Do humans deserve to be protected against faith?

And if you think people should be protected ...What are you actively doing about it?

While you and your church folk do nothing about this ...Humans are continually being abused and even killed by faithful every day.

Rob R said...

post 1 of 2


dguller


First, when I asked you about “that trust”, I was referring to your “trust in God”.

when I brought up the issue of trust, it was to highlight that this very scenario you wrote is of the same type of scenarios that is at the root of the kind of radical skepticism that goes further than denying religion but questions our other basic beliefs about reality. So you don't want to take the time to deal with these philosophical absurdities, but you want us to deal with a theological absurdity which is in many ways of the same character and exactly as impossible to disprove as the others. You realize of course, before you wrote the argument, the idea of the supernatural deceiver was one of those philosophical absurdities dreamed up by Descarte, the evil genius, only back in those days, his concern was more about confusing mathematicians than Christians.

Second, there is a world of difference between trusting our senses and trusting in God, and you are committing the fallacy of equivocation by conflating the two. Yes, they are both a form of “trust” in the sense that there is the absence of total certainty involved in them,

I'm not equivocating because I know exactly what the difference is. It is in terms of degree and not quality. That quality you recognize and have named and there in lies the problem with your dilemma. You recognize that we can't have total certainty and that is the only thing that your dilemma establishes. What's the answer? Faith. not reasonless faith but rational faith as we have more reasons to accept 1 than 2, more powerful ones as a matter of fact because of the existential import of the first as well as the parsimony of the first over the second (and of course we have faith that parsimony is an epistemic indicator in metaphysical matters, just like existential import).

but there is a world of difference between trusting our senses, which consistently demonstrate that they are reliable by virtue of adequately representing the world around us sufficiently

There is a difference and yet the type of philosophical problems are still exactly parallel. You believe that our senses faithfully communicate an outside world. And yet a solipsistic mind for which there is no external world may perceive exactly the same consistency.

and trusting in God, which has very little to justify his reliability.

From your perspective... not mine. Not someone for example who is a member of the persecuted church who has been sustained powerfully inspite of terrible suffering. But hey, if that's your argument, that's what you should've posted because the idea that God as we Christians concieve of him is not reliable is a different problem than the one above.

Third, I agree that truth is useful, because we have to know how the world is in order to survive and flourish in it. However, the reverse is not true. In other words, just because something is useful and comforting does not make it true.

Consider that both of your claims are not absolute. Not all truth is useful. And likewise, it is not always true that just because something is useful or comforting, that it is also true. I would never claim that usefulness nor comfort is an absolute indicator of truth nor do my claims rest on it. As I said (maybe not to you but I thought I said it somewhere) none of these considerations are sufficient in and of themselves, but they deserve to be considered carefully in the grand scheme of things. (not that everything that under the consideration of existential import could be classified as comforting).

Rob R said...

post 2 of 2



Fourth, I do support human dignity and worth, but I also support uncovering the truth.

So, are you open to the idea that human dignity and worth are pure illusions? Are you open to the idea that there is no real moral truth, that the holocaust for example just wasn't really an evil and unspeakably tragic event? If you are not open to this, then dignity, worth and moral intuitions are epistemic indicators for you.

I am mature enough to recognize that not all ideas that support human dignity and worth are true, and that not all truths support human dignity and worth.

me too.

They are different categories that often conflict, and it is not an easy answer which would take precedence during such conflicts.

There is no need to worry about the conflict if these categories have no epistemic pull. Any time they conflict, you just side against human dignity and worth. If human dignity and worth are epistemic indicators, then our beliefs about them have to be reconciled with other epistemic indicators which may mean a compromise on either side.

Fifth, you say that “oughtness has no bearing on truth”.

That wasn't my view. That was my interpretation of your view.

That is a very ambiguous statement that would need to be made more precise before it was true. A superficial sense in which that proposition is false is that in order to discover the truth we have to utilize epistemic standards and values, including logic, which are certainly normative practices.

All that says to me is that ethical categories, that is the way we ought to behave (in this case, how we ought to behave in our thought life) is in this instance, more or at least equally basic to logic. In other words, it is intertwined in an epistemology that utilizes logic.

Sixth, I need a minimal amount of trust in order to overcome those “ridiculous” positions. I do not need the maximal amount of faith that is required of religious belief.

To your weighing of this trust as minimal which is purely on subjective grounds, I agree. But the thing is, there is no objective way to measure that trust, neither is there a way to measure how much faith is reasonable and unreasonable even though most beliefs of even a physical realist will have varying degress of faith that is required. The proposition that thinking is taking place requires no faith. The truthfulness of math and logic takes more faith, that logic applies to the world takes more, and science takes even more than that. That humans have worth and dignity as well as moral realism takes more than science or perhaps that is even more certain than science. I can't decide that one. And certain religious pictures take more than worth, dignity and morality.

I do not understand this need for absolute foundations for things like logic.

The issue wasn't absolute foundations (whatever that is... was that a typo of mine? I don't always proof read). The issue is absolute proof. The truth of logic doesn't have it. We can't concieve that it is wrong but the best we can do is demonstrate it to be self coherent. This is not a problem if faith is not a problem.

I do not know what the absolute foundation for a tool that we use for a specific purpose would be, except that it has served to be incredibly useful to us, and in the case of logic, absolutely essential.

Take an analytic philosopher who specializes in logic and an uneducated supersiticious native and place them in the jungle, the difference in skill and quality of logical thought between the two will not help you predict who will survive. But it would be amusing to watch. Call the fox network. I think this'd make a great reality show.

dguller said...

Rob:

First, the problem with radically sceptical arguments is that they are a perfect example of what happens when reason is allowed to operate in a vacuum. All kinds of possibilities are dreamt up, each more elaborate and provocative than the last, but none of them have any validity unless they can be grounded in empirical reality. You are correct that I would dump theological apologia in with anti-realism, solipsism, idealism, and the other ridiculous positions that philosophers have held in their studies, and abandoned when they have to relate to real people and real issues. As I said earlier, I can make up whatever I want, and justify it with all kinds of abstract reasons and arguments, but unless I can show how my ideas relate and can be experienced in the real world, then they are nothing but idle speculation that is best ignored.

Second, I still think you are equivocating on the nature of “trust”. There is a huge difference between a belief that is dubitable, but is regularly verified by empirical experience, and a belief that is dubitable, but is never verified at all. That is like saying that the belief in an external world differs from the belief in invisible unicorns only in kind. Perhaps in a technical sense that is true, but you are trying to argue that they are on par with one another, and that if one rejects doubts about the former, then one must reject doubts about the latter. The reality is that my acceptance of an external world, albeit provisional and dubitable, does not imply that I must accept the reality of invisible unicorns at all.

Third, emotional sustenance and inner peace are not proofs of God’s existence.

Fourth, I stand by my contention that all truth is useful, because it is useful to know what is truly going on in the world in order to navigate it appropriately. That is a different proposition than saying that all truth makes us feel good. That is obviously false.

Fifth, I do not know what a “pure illusion” means. If you mean that dignity and worth are concepts that are secondary to how human beings happen to operate, and not primary aspects of the universe, then yes, they are illusory. However, why does this have to bother people? Does something have to be woven in the necessary structure of the universe in order to have value?

If scientists uncover the neurobiological underpinnings of love and affection, then does that eliminate the feelings generated by those neurocircuits? The individual still experiences love and affection, and all the beauty and pain associated with them. It is similar to the blind spot in our vision. I may know that it is there, but I still cannot help but be unable to see it. Remember, in ancient Greece, people believed that love was caused by being shot in the butt by Cupid. I doubt that love ceased to exist in a meaningful way once the Greeks abandoned that myth.

Sixth, it is not that easy to side with truth every time and against dignity and worth when they conflict, and it has nothing to do with epistemic pulling. It has to do with human psychology. It is often difficult to accept a hard truth, especially if it affects our previous self-image and threatens our self-esteem. However, it remains true nonetheless.

Seventh, the logician and the uneducated superstitious native BOTH use logic, for God’s sake. If the uneducated superstitious native did not use logic at all, then he would be unable to survive. He would have no idea that an animal cannot be a two places at once, that if an animal has left tracks, then it has probably been there, and so on. I did not say that logic was the ONLY tool, but only that it was essential. Oxygen is also essential for survival, but that does not mean that we do not need food, too!

dguller said...

Cole:

Would you care to elaborate on what exactly the hell you are talking about regarding the creation of the universe from nothing?

Personally, I didn't understand a word of it, but that's because I'm not a physicist or a mathematician.

But one thing that I did notice was that there was nothing in your post that referenced the need for a creator. :)

And it's interesting to me that you use with full approval speculative scientific theories that are empirically impossible to test, but refuse to accept the theory of evolution by natural selection, despite it having more empirical verification than superstring theory and what happened before the Big Bang.

Hmmmmmm. Bad faith use of science, again?

allenmarkelly said...

But isn't agnosticism the best that atheists can claim? It seems like both theism and atheism assume infinite knowledge of all things seen and unseen. Actually, it would seem the only intellectually honest perspective in this case would be to say "I know that I know that I do not and can not know everything." And it seems perfectly reasonable to me to say that it seems unlikely (based on your life experience up to this point) that a God exist. However, to say empirically that no God exists seems as arrogant and unthinking as theism (logically speaking, of course).

Just surfing and thought I'd chime in.

Cole Houx said...

dguller,

Now that I have given you the proof of the new theorem would you agree that all of physical reality had an absolute beginning? The theorem applies the the Cyclic Ekpyrotic Scenerio as well. It cannot be past eternal. The formulation of the stronger theorem of Borde, Guth, and Vilenkin extends to the other models as well.

Borde, Guth, and Vilenkin, "Inflation is not Past Eternal," 4.

Alexander Vilenkin, "Quantum Cosmology and Eternal Inflation,"11

dguller said...

Allen:

I think that most atheists would agree that there is no absolute certainty that God does not exist, just like there is no absolute certainty that Zeus does not exist, that Mithra does not exist, that Santa Claus does not exist, and so on. Absolute certainty is a red herring, because it is virtually impossible to achieve it, except for a small number of propositions, if even for that many.

The point is that not all positions are equal in epistemic weight. Some have more evidence and support than others, and we should move our assent to those dubitable and uncertain propositions that the evidence justifies, knowing that it falls short of full certainty.

I personally believe that there is no God, because there is a preponderance of evidence against his existence, but I do not claim to know this for a fact. I am open to evidence to shift me back to a believing position, but thus far, all the evidence in support of God’s existence has been wanting.

And you specifically mentioned the atheist claim that there is no empirical evidence for God’s existence. This is where I would take issue with you. The fact is that there is no empirical evidence for God’s existence. It can all be explained by naturalistic scientific theories, and what cannot be explained by science is even less explained by religion. The only wiggle room that I will leave for God’s existence being potentially true lies in the realm of abstract philosophy and metaphysics, neither of which is ultimately grounded in the empirical world, which is why I find them so disreputable.

Anyway, thanks for sharing. :)

dguller said...

Cole:

I have no expertise to evaluate the derivation of the theorem that you cited.

However, I will say this. What is the empirical evidence that the theorem is true? Einstein derived multiple theorems in the relativity theory, but they were only accepted as true once there was experimental evidence. Before that, they were interesting and brilliant manipulation of symbols that made sense. However, making sense does not imply being true.

If there is no empirical evidence, no falsifiable and observable consequences of the theory, then it remains speculative to me. But I will hold it in higher regard than my theory that the universe came into existence in the wake of the thundering hooves of invisible unicorns being ridden by fairies!

And regardless, so what if it was an established fact that the universe had a beginning? That does not imply that there was a creator. Just because everything that we experience WITHIN the universe requires causal antecedents does not imply that the universe ITSELF required a cause. That would commit the fallacy of composition. Unless you have some special experiences of the transition from nothingness to the beginning of a universe?

So, who cares?

Jim said...

Allen,

Yes, I think agnosticism is the best claim from a "knowledge" perspective. But that doesn't rule out the ability to form a "belief" that there probably (like 99.999999% or more) is no god, either, because there is insufficient evidence.

Everyone is born and spends the first few years of their life as an atheist and an agnostic. Only when the knowledge and realization that OTHER people have this thing called "belief in a deity" appears, does a child have to start figuring out what they believe.

In the end, though, even the Christian God himself would have to be agnostic as to whether he is really an all-powerful being. Perhaps another more powerful God has given the Christian God the illusion that he is all powerful by providing him a limited set of powers (the ability to create this universe and create life within it, for example) as well as PLANTING "conscious knowledge" in God's "mind" that he is ALL-powerful.

Christians DEFINE God as all-powerful, and that is the way they try to win the debate. But the argument by definition has become transparent and tiresome to me. It's just begging the question on a grand scale. You define God so that He fits the logical dilemma you've created for yourself--yawn.

Is existence a problem? Define God as "being!"

Is morality a problem? Define God as all Good!

It's insanity listening to good people try to defend a baby-killing God. What really amazes me is that Christians want to spend an eternity with a God who kills kids when the parents piss him off. If I did that, I couldn't call myself a man . . .

Bud said...
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Bud said...

You wrote: "John's argument has failed as long as the evidence is reasonable and faith is reasonable (which it better be or else we can't know anything as virtually nothing is absolutely provable which means some degree of faith is always necessary)."

So faith (or at least your faith) must be reasonable or we can't know anything? We live life according to probability more than certainty. Proof is usually only found in mathematics and bottles of liquor. What evidence is there to suggest that a person's religious experience is either (1) due to a god who's really there, or (2) due to a god who isn't being deceptive?


You wrote: "You misinterpreted the topic then. You see, It's not that there is no evidence for 1. it's that there is no evidence for 1 (such as religious experience which was explicitely mentioned in the topic) that 2 cannot explain."

Take my phrase "no real evidence" to mean, "no compelling reason to believe." Do you consider fallacious arguments, speculation, circumstantial evidence and emotional reactions to be "real evidence"? If so, then there's more evidence for Christianity than any other worldview in the history of mankind.


You wrote: "The Christian response (as you call it) simply isn't good enough... then it's not good enough for the skeptic either for all of the other assumptions about reality that are necessary for knowledge of the world (including reasonable belief that we are not decieved by a malicious deity)."

Great, we agree then. Let's go get a beer and toast our mutual agnosticism. The difference between assuming "there is a god" (religious faith) and assuming such things as, "the world is real and not an illusion" is that the contrary to the latter isn't livable. If I believed such things as gravity or fire were an illusion, I might not last very long. We don't really *know* anything (as far as I know). I can't really prove in the strict sense that I'm not plugged into The Matrix or being fooled by Descartes' evil demon; however, the best explanation for the facts and evidence that are available to me currently is that I'm not in the Matrix, and this world around me is, in fact, real. Until I discover sufficient evidence to the contrary, that's what I will continue to think.


You wrote: "The truth of our view is a legitimate question. But an obsession with the truth of our view is also limiting if one never advances beyond that to see greater elegance."

How should one interpret your words, "advances beyond," except to mean "assume it's true and stop asking questions about it?"


You wrote: "to always be on the cusp of skepticism and to assume that's what critical thought is is itself an uncritical. there is a difference between being consistently critical and consistently skeptical. The two are not co-extensive."

Great, we agree again. Let's go get that beer. A skeptic is one who withholds judgment about a truth-claim until sufficient evidence and argumentation is discovered to support that claim. A skeptic does her best to "follow the argument wherever it leads" without allowing one's bias to cloud her judgment.

Bud said...

Above response is @Rob R.

Steven said...

Cole, what did I say about speculation? dguller's response is correct, and you are reading way too much into Guth's theorem. I very seriously doubt that Guth himself holds to his theory as strongly as you do. Guth presents a potentially plausible way to get the universe going, and ideas like his have been around a long time.

The are equally plausible ideas that come from brane theory and other speculative physics that are equally likely in the absence of any evidence pointing to one of these over the other. If you're going to read up on cutting edge theory, you also need to be very aware that nearly all of that stuff has never been experimentally verified, especially when it comes to cosmology. There are number of things in cosmology that have been "accepted" that haven't really been verified, inflation theory, for example, is one of them.

Jonathan said...

@ Rob R

Not someone for example who is a member of the persecuted church who has been sustained powerfully in spite of terrible suffering.

For the record what is the name of this persecuted church you keep mentioning?


@Cole & Rob

I am willing to fight for your right to be a Christian are you willing to fight for my right not to be one?

Yes or No?

I think this is the heart of the matter. Debunking Christianity is is pointless. We need to create a environment that allows a person to Choose whether or not they wish to become Christian or in that fact any religious belief.

This endless debate on the nature of good, evil, trust, faith, bible, and whatever-ism seems to be interesting but its also seem to be a big distraction.

I find studies like this disturbing.

Evolution Less Accepted in U.S. Than Other Western Countries, Study Finds


@ Gandolf This is the 2nd time you have plugged me in, so thanks!


Again: it doesn't matter to me if you believe everything in the bible as historical facts. That's fine with me. Its when you start forcing your beliefs on others as historical facts then it becomes a problem.

Rob & Cole if you don't support my right not to be a Christian all you are doing is allowing the more radical forms of Christianity to thrive like Christian reconstructinists as an example.

Mike Love said...

Cole, Cole, Cole,

What do you think you're doing?

You're supposed to insult/deride, insult/deride, claim superior scholarship, throw out red-herrings, insult/deride, dismiss as god-hating bigots, send over to theologyweb for a whoopin', insult/deride, invent childish name derivations, and insult/deride.

You will never reach their enemy-deluded hearts.

When you let them go on for this long, it gives the appearance they actually have valid arguments. That sets the stage for the soul murder of current believers.

You don't want to be a party to that, I'm sure.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Rob you said,

"If human dignity and worth are epistemic indicators, then our beliefs about them have to be reconciled with other epistemic indicators which may mean a compromise on either side."

What is your take on Barb's perspective that homosexual Americans should not be allowed their 14th amendment rights? You are a collaborator at the "BarbWire" and her stance is violently anti-homosexual, equating it with child-rape? What epistemic indicators do you compromise to either endorse or deny homosexual human dignity and worth?

Also, you claimed to be part of a persecuted church but I wonder how you reconcile that with being a citizen of a country that constitutionally protects your right to worship?

Lastly, I think Jonathan gets at the heart of dguller's argument. Your faith commitment to entrust revealed truth equal to (or greater than?) empirical evidence as a basis for decision making leaves open the question of human rights. Does your faith allow equal rights to those who don't share your faith-based world-view or do you not allow equal rights to those whose world-view might disagree with your god-centered perspective? Your collaboration with Barb at "BarbWire" insinuates that you would fight in opposition of those who would like to extend equal rights to all without deference to a biblical sanction.

Cole Houx said...

Steven,

The theorem has been proven. It's not speculation. To quote Vilenkin one last time:

It is said that that an argument is what convinces reasonable men and a proof is what it takes to convince even an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past eternal universe. There is no escape, they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning.

Vilenkin, Many Worlds in One, 176.


Jonathan,

Yes

Mike Love,

Are you serious or joking?

Cole Houx said...

Jonathan,

I don't force my beliefs on others through threats of eternal punishment. I've recently done some more study on this and it seems to me that Satan and his angels will be tormented forever. While humans are thrown into the eternal fires of everlasting shame and contempt of the demons they will suffer awhile but eventually go extinct.

Matthew 10:28

Do not fear them who can kill the body and not the soul. Rather fear Him who can destroy both the soul and body in hell.

Jude 7

just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

2 Peter 2:5-9

If by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly.

Sodom and Gomorrah serve as an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly. They will be punished with eternal fire and go extinct. The lake of fire is the second death for humans.


Revelation 20:13-14

Death and hades gave up the dead who were in them and they were judged each one of them......Death and hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.

You are free to choose eternal life or death.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Cole,

How was the theroem proven?

Cole Houx said...

Chuck,

The new Borde-Guth-Vilekin theorem establishes that any universe which has on average over it's past history been in a state of cosmic expansion cannot be eternal in the past but must have a space-time boundary. It applies to all models.

Cole Houx said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cole Houx said...

A theorem is a proposition that has been or is to be proved on the basis of explicit assumptions.

Steven said...

Sigh! Cole, you're still not getting it. What we have in the Borde, Vilenkin, Guth theorem are a set of premises about the universe, that if true, mean that the conclusion of this theorem is true. In other words, the theorem was proven true in the mathematical sense, but not in the this-theorem really-models-the-real-world sense. We don't know if the premises of the theorem are applicable to our universe. For example, if the universe is such that "localized" big bangs can occur within a larger space-time framework, then this theorem doesn't describe our universe and it is not applicable.

The more you try to beat us over our heads with this, the more you show that you really don't understand what is going on in cosmology. It's like you took all your rhetoric from the reasons to believe website or something similar, and then try to spout it back at people who *really* do know this stuff, and hope that you'll fool us into thinking that you have some profound knowledge, well, I'm not fooled by it.

All I see here is another case of a foolish theist trying to take some interesting but speculative scientific findings, and then trying to turn them around to support their theism. The thing is, and as dguller has pointed out, even if the Borde, Guth, Velinken theorem is applicable to our universe, it still doesn't give us any reason to think that your conception of God has any basis in reality.

Cole Houx said...

Steven,

Vilenkin disagrees. It has been proven:

It is said that that an argument is what convinces reasonable men and a proof is what it takes to convince even an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past eternal universe. There is no escape, they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning.

Vilenkin, Many Worlds in One, 176.

Steven said...

Oh, come on, Cole! Tell me, in your own words, how this theorem was proven in the sense that I mentioned. There is nothing in that quote from Vilenkin that indicates anything other than a mathematical proof. The language that he's using here even makes it clear that he's talking in terms of mathematics and not in terms of empirical evidence.

Now you're just resorting to sophistry.

Sinful Theology said...
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Sinful Theology said...

This is a very interesting thought experiment.

I cant say i am convinced that we are all talking about the same thing when we use the term good or evil but thats another debate - lets go with the terms for now..

The problem i see with it is we could apply it to all situations. Does my partner love me? etc etc or is it all an elaborate plan to make something bad happen latter. I am not sure its possible to live with highly attuned doubt in all things at all times - some things we do need make a call on - okay i believe my partner loves me although equally s/he could be faking it.

The question then seems to be is the character of God in being 'good' or 'evil' something which we should constantly question on the basis it may be fake and accept we can never really know whether its good or bad, and should we do this with just God (special pleading) or should we approach all relationships in this manner?

I think for the most part we make a call based on evidence presented, a feeling, even a hope. Sometimes that is miss placed, sometimes we are correct in our call.

This returns us to the issue of evidence - which is another argument again and one addressed on this site well - however i think this particular argument doesn't stack up.

(reposted to correct repetition i had left in the post!!)

Cole Houx said...

Steven,

You're blind man. Reread what Vilenkin said. THERE IS NO ESCAPE. YOU HAVE TO FACE THE PROBLEM OF A COSMIC BEGINNING.

dguller said...

Cole:

I will provide you with my Unicorn Theorem:

(1) If all unicorns love Jesus, then the Devil will cry.
(2) All unicorns love Jesus.
(3) Therefore, the Devil will cry.

There.

I have proven that the Devil will cry, according to the Unicorn Theorem.

That is all a "theorem" is. It is a collection of premises or assumptions, and the logical implications of those premises into conclusions. However, it does not follow that a theorem is true.

For a theorem to be true, it would have to have EVIDENCE for its premises. For example, my theorem would require evidence to support both (1) and (2). Without that evidence, this theorem is just empty speculation, although it is kind of funny.

Similarly, if the theorem that you cited lacks any empirical evidence to support its premises, then it is just speculative, and no more true than my Unicorn Theorem.

Got it?

dguller said...

Cole:

How do you justify your acceptance of a theorem that lacks any empirical validation and is merely speculative, and yet you reject the theory of evolution by natural selection, which not only has logical consistency, but also has mountains of empirical support of its premises and conclusions?

Cole Houx said...

dguller,

There is evidence. Go back and reread what I said. It's a solid piece of science.

THERE IS NO ESCAPE. YOU HAVE TO FACE THE PROBLEM OF A COSMIC BEGINNING.

dguller said...

Cole:

First, what are the premises involved in the theorem that you cited, and what is the evidence for them?

I find it highly doubtful that the only premise is that the universe is expanding on average during its history. There must be additional premises in their theorem.

What are they?

Second, what do other physicists and mathematicians say about this theorem? Or were you able to analyze it yourself and found it both valid and sound? Do you have a background in astrophysics and mathematics? That's really impressive!

Third, as I said many times before, even if the universe had a beginning, that does not imply the need for a creator. So, all of this is really a non sequiter anyway. :)

Gandolf said...

Mike Love said... "When you let them go on for this long, it gives the appearance they actually have valid arguments. That sets the stage for the soul murder of current believers.

You don't want to be a party to that, I'm sure."

Lo and behold he said unto them, brethren let us escape out into the desert of theologyweb land, so that we may separate excomunicate and interbreed.

Pfftttttttttt!!

And check out the classic cult type warning/threat language used.

ML -->"You don't want to be a party to that, I'm sure"

Interpretation : .."Beware" the gods might send you to "hell" ... You will likely be held responsible ... You are putting yourself in grave danger of being held responsible of (harming everyone else as well).

Ahhh ..dont it seem strange fear alway needs to be such prime factor of faith?

Mike Love could be the next Jim Jones type apocalyptic priest,ushering the faithful fold off into the corner confines of waco theologyweb desert land.

Maybe Mike believes he needs to quickly try to convince faithful people, that the problem is not about lack of evidence.No Mike hopes to convince them the problem is simply more about them daring to mix it in with the wrong devilish crowd.

Yet fact remains!, the amount of evidence honestly always remains the same whether people be inside or outside the walls of some cult like Jim Jones built...Running somewhere or putting your head in the sand,dont change factual evidence....And if the evidence for the presence of gods was actually so freely available for everyone to see, and it really could honestly be thought such a educated, informed reasoned and logical decision to have "trust" in gods...Then what Mike Love seems to be suggesting needs to be done seems very illogical! .Because if there actually is so much evidence available that points towards gods,why should? there be any need at all for faithful to be feeling so vulnerable like they often do?..

The only difference is,within the walls of faith type cults, discussion can be controlled and manipulated and managed and thats what Mike is thinking about.And moods within the walls of the confines of these places can be controlled by creation of certain types of atmospheres.Because these groups often work just like many gangs do!.But just because a type of "brotherly buzz" is sourrounding you somewhere, doesnt do anything to actually "prove" you are factually onto anything extra specially different does it.

No, all it does is serve the purpose of keeping the coffers of faith funds overflowing into the bank acounts of priests and clergy and all the folks who have made it their business to make a earn off it....All it does is keep promotion of superstition alive on planet earth, and the fate of some kids somewhere in this world sealed.With chances of being born into some abusive faith,being wrongfully butchered as witches! or refused medicine in preference of prayer! which i suggest only serves the selfish selfcentred pride of deluded parents gambling on faith for "their own" salvation.

Mike -->"You will never reach their enemy-deluded hearts"

Hey atleast we still have a heart.Atleast we can say we are not willing to simply sit by quietly anymore, and let kids lives be wasted by deluded faith believers who are even quite willing gamble with the lives of (their own children) ...Atleast we can say we WILL keep seeking some honest justice!! until we get it...We will NOT allow faithful folk to continue to simply QUIETLY write these things off like its some exceptable statistic .

Yes Mike please feel free to try to hide everyone wherever you wish.. ..But i can promise you!! (a time is fast aproaching) when humanity will NO LONGER allow faith to injustly equal total freedom to treat people however you please.And no matter where you try to run and hide ...i cant see its going to do anything much to help you in the long run

Gandolf.

Steven said...

Cole, and you have yet to show that you have the slightest inkling of what Vilenkin's saying, nor what I've been saying here. Let me put it in simplest terms. Inflationary theory is the best we've got right now in cosmology, and it looks like it is probably right, but it has not been proven empirically, and it is possible that it's wrong. And if inflation is wrong, then Vilenkin's theorem does not apply to our universe. Period. End of story. However, even if BGV does apply: Have you heard of Paul Frampton? He's already worked out that it is possible, even in light of the BGV theorem for there to have been an infinite cycle of universes within an arbitrarily long length of time. In other words, even if BGV theory is right, and there was a definite t=0 moment (whatever that means in the context of infinitely cycling universes), it is still possible for an infinite number of universes to have cycled.

However, it really doesn't matter if any of this is right or wrong! Are you getting this through your head yet? You're still using a scientific theory that has absolutely nothing to do with your faith, in a vain attempt to prop it up. If this is the best that you can do to support your faith, then you seem to have latched on to something that doesn't justify your faith very well at all.

And finally, Cole. You keep saying that there is evidence, but all you keep pointing to as "evidence" is your quote of Vilenkin. I am quite familiar with the current state of the observational support of modern cosmology. Since you keep pressing this on us, just name one piece of observational data that supports the inflationary cosmological models. Do you even know what the evidence is that suggests that inflationary models are required?

Unless you provide some evidence that you really know what you are talking about, I'm going to consider this conversation closed. Go ahead, quote Vilenkin again, but that is not acceptable evidence!

Jonathan said...

@ cole

THERE IS NO ESCAPE. YOU HAVE TO FACE THE PROBLEM OF A COSMIC BEGINNING.

We still use modified bottle rockets to launch satellites and steam engines to generate electricity. The combustion engine is about 100 years old.

I think its pretty naive for us to think with the present technology to come to any conclusion the universe had a beginning or was always here.

Cole Houx said...

Steven,

I realize that this theorem applies to the Inflationary Models. But with the formulation of their stronger theorem Borde, Guth, and Vilenkin were able to generalize their earlier results on inflationary models in such a way to extend their conclusion to other models. Indeed, the new theorem implies that any universe which has on average been globally expanding at a positive rate is geodesically incomplete in the past and therefore has a past boundary. Their argument can be straightforwardly extended to cosmology in higher dimensions. Specificaly to brane-cosmology like Steinhardt's. It follows from their theorem that cyclic universe is past complete. The need for a singularity has not been avoided. Steinhardt has come to recognize this implication of the theorem.

Cole Houx said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gandolf said...

"@ Gandolf This is the 2nd time you have plugged me in, so thanks!


Again: it doesn't matter to me if you believe everything in the bible as historical facts. That's fine with me. Its when you start forcing your beliefs on others as historical facts then it becomes a problem.

Rob & Cole if you don't support my right not to be a Christian all you are doing is allowing the more radical forms of Christianity to thrive like Christian reconstructinists as an example."

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

Jonathan its no problem at all, i happen to agree with you.Its mostly fine by me too!, what people have faith in.I only take issue with it being legally allowable that these faiths are able to continue to cause harm!.

Faithful folks often waffle on and on about how they supposedly care lots about matters and suggest they know all about comapassion etc blah blah from having a relationship with their friend Jesus.They are pro life so they tell us,and not only dont get involved in abortion themselves personally but try to force laws to stop any other people doing so either.

Yet they are involved in the wider group of faithful folk, who at present are seen to be doing absolutely nothing about barbaric old (laws of freedom of faith) that continually promotes the ability of many faithful to continue to abuse quite legally.

And they offer pitiful suggestions of not being "personally" involved in abuse,when asked if they and their church group will be helping in removing these injust barbaric laws of faith freedoms which allow for such abuse.

They have no need of being personally involved in any abortion either,yet strangely? they still seem very inclined to ralley for laws against abortion !?

Why the double standard ?? ...Why the pitiful gutless faithful cop out of such worthless excuses!, that simply allows faithful to continue to abuse! and even get away with (murder by exorcism) ??

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/wainuiomata/news/
article.cfm?l_id=500692&objectid=10590771

For those faithful who bleat cry and wail about persecution because of the "new atheists" movement, and feel sorry for themselves about the broad total dislike and disgust of faith in general that is (growing in great momentum) DAILY on planet earth today.

I ask what else do you really expect? ...You collectivly do nothing ! ...You dont seem to care if your old faith freedom laws even kill folks ! ....Your so called commpassion and caring is factually shown by your combined (lack of action) ,to often be quite worthless and in any honest reality to be total bullcrap.

The likes of Dawkins have it quite correct ...Collectively you faithful are bunch of stinking abusers who collectively by your colective lack of action to help finally put a stop to this long standing injustice, righteously deserve your well earned title of the thoughtless deluded and ignorant!.

Cole Houx said... "You are free to choose eternal life or death"

Well thats very nice Cole ...But can you and Rob R and MMM and other faithful folk please answer this without any bulll.. Are you and your group of faithful friends all fully prepared to work in with non believers to help finally bring about a final end! to the old injust laws of rights total freedom of faith, that have longtime (historically always) allowed for faithful to abuse ?

Because these injust laws mean some folks dont even get to choose to live their (life on this earth) !.

Freedom laws sourrounding faith, which most faithful at present bother doing absolutely nothing about,rob them of their right to even a normal life on planet earth

dguller said...

Cole:

Let us assume that it has been conclusively proven beyond any reasonable doubt that the universe had a beginning, and that prior to its existence, there was nothing.

SO WHAT?

It does not follow that there had to be a creator behind the conversion from nothing to the universe. That would require you to demonstrate some personal knowledge about the creation of matter from nothingness, which no-one has, and thus is nothing but idle speculation.

I'm sorry to say -- for you -- that whatever points you think you're scoring with this discussion about speculative astrophysics, you really aren't making them at all.

Cole Houx said...

dguller,

It's not speculation. It's beyond reasonable doubt that the universe had a beginning. Would you agree?

I don't think it proves there was a Creator. But it is consistent with the Bible's teaching of creation out of nothing.

John W. Loftus said...

Cole, you are having a mental break down. You sound just like your former self known as Calvin right now. You are desperately trying to hang on to some semblance of faith but deep inside you know you're in denial.

That tug you feel is real. It's called cognitive dissonance, You're doing everything you can to reduce it and your brain is being fried to a crisp.

I've seen you go from a Christian to a deist to an atheist and now you're back to Calvin again.

That's right. I've watched you over three years now. You've read my book. Go read it again. You cannot continue to kick against the goads here any more.

You believe because you think you have to believe. You defend those beliefs because you must do so for your identity's sake.

But I have found my identity and it is not to be found in wishful thinking. It's found in evidential reasoning.

Come back to reason before it's too late my friend. I'll help you. Just stop the masquerade, the sham, the denial.

Cheers.

Cole Houx said...

John,

I don't believe like I use to. I'm just saying that the fact that the universe had a beginning is consistent with the Bible's teaching of creation out of nothing. That's all. I realize I can't prove that there's a God. I use to believe that way but I don't anymre.

John W. Loftus said...

Cole the Bible no where has a creation ex nihilo. Read pp. 278-79 in my book and then go read those resources I footnoted.

Again, the Bible does not have an ex nihilo doctrine in it. It was fashioned from the polytheistic tales where the gods fought the chaos monster which called forth the earth from the watery abyss.

So there's nothing to defend for you. Now listen to the experts. they may be right, they may be wrong. But to defend it as if this is cut and dried with your fingers in your ears and your eyes closed is a mark of someone who has his mind made up because the Bible says so. But the Bible does NOT say so.

Cole Houx said...

John,

These scriptures seem to teach it:


Hebrews 11:3 Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

Romans 4:17 I have made you father of many nations-in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.

John W. Loftus said...

Cole, we must read things in the culture context of that day. Read the resources to get a better picture of what I'm saying. Maybe they can be found online somewhere. I'm going to bed but when I wake up I'll look for them.

One thing for sure is that creation ex nihilo is not found in the OT anywhere.

Hebrews 11 says: "worlds were "framed" by the word of God..."

Romans 4:17 "calls into existence the things that do not exist."

To frame things is to frame them out of something.

To call into existence is something God did when he made things new. To create a pot is to make it anew. It's new even though the materiel was there.

In any case St. Augustine probably did not believe in a creation ex nihilo so how can you be sure?

Look those articles up for me while I sleep if you want. Post a link here and we'll read them together.

It's a debate, that's for sure. But here you are deciding between two debates 1) What the Bible teaches; and 2) What science has concluded. Since there are four possible outcomes of each debate for you to be right means the odds that you are equals 25%. The Bible could teach this but science denies it, or science confirms this while the Bible does not, you see.

Why are you so sure you're so right you capitalize for emphasis your sentences? Be humble. you're neither a Biblical scholar nor a scientist. So humility is in order I think. Learn, grow, listen, inquire. That's the only way to come to the truth on the matter. It doesn't come by shutting your ears and eyes with your mind already made up, okay?

dguller said...

Cole:

According to Genesis, in the beginning there was God cruising over some primordial waters. So, the Bible does not say that in the beginning there was only God, but God PLUS water. Sorry, no creation ex nihilo. :P

Steven said...

Cole,

You didn't answer my question. Please state one piece of observational evidence that shows why inflationary models are needed in the first place. And no, the theorem has not been generalized for the case I'm suggesting.

Do you really know what you're talking about or not?

And once again, this still doesn't have anything to do with showing your conception of God to be correct.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Rob,

Can I take your silence in regards to my questions that you share Barb's perspective and homosexuals don't deserve the same rights as heterosexuals? Is that the compromise your religion suggests in regards to common human dignity?

Cole Houx said...

John,

Go here:


http://xxx.lanl.gov/PS_cache/gr-qc/pdf/0110/0110012v2.pdf

http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/gr-qc/pdf/0204/0204061v1.pdf

John W. Loftus said...

You do not understand the math and neither do I Cole.

Why would you say for certain something is the case if you cannot understand it?

Or, you could show us all that you do.

Cole Houx said...

You will find this:

Whatever the possibilities for the boundary, it is clear
that unless the averaged expansion condition can some-
how be avoided for all past-directed geodesics, inflation
alone is not sufficient to provide a complete description of
the Universe, and some new physics is necessary in order
to determine the correct conditions at the boundary [20].
This is the chief result of our paper. The result depends
on just one assumption: the Hubble parameter H has a
positive value when averaged over the affine parameter
of a past-directed null or noncomoving timelike geodesic.
The class of cosmologies satisfying this assumption is
not limited to inflating universes. Of particular interest is
the recycling scenario [14], in which each comoving region
goes through a succession of inflationary and thermalized
epochs. Since this scenario requires a positive true vac-
uum energy v, the expansion rate will be bounded by
Hmin = p8Gv/3 for locally flat or open equal-time
slicings, and the conditions of our theorem may be satis-
fied. One must look carefully, however, at the possibility
of discontinuities where the inflationary and thermalized
regions meet. This issue requires further analysis.
Our argument can be straightforwardly extended to
cosmology in higher dimensions. For example, in the
model of Ref. [15] brane worlds are created in collisions
of bubbles nucleating in an inflating higher-dimensional
bulk spacetime. Our analysis implies that the inflating
bulk cannot be past-complete.
We finally comment on the cyclic universe model [16]
in which a bulk of 4 spatial dimensions is sandwiched
between two 3-dimensional branes. The effective (3+1)-
dimensional geometry describes a periodically expanding
and recollapsing universe, with curvature singularities
separating each cycle. The internal brane spacetimes,
however, are nonsingular, and this is the basis for the
claim [16] that the cyclic scenario does not require any
initial conditions. We disagree with this claim.
In some versions of the cyclic model the brane space-
times are everywhere expanding, so our theorem imme-
diately implies the existence of a past boundary at which
boundary conditions must be imposed. In other versions,
there are brief periods of contraction, but the net result of
each cycle is an expansion. For null geodesics each cycle
is identical to the others, except for the overall normal-
ization of the affine parameter. Thus, as long as Hav > 0
for a null geodesic when averaged over one cycle, then
Hav > 0 for any number of cycles, and our theorem would
imply that the geodesic is incomplete.

Cole Houx said...

John,

I don't understan alot of things about the big bang but it's still a scientific fact.

I don't understand alot about dating methods either but I know they are scientifically reliable.

To quote Vilenkin one last time:

It is said that that an argument is what convinces reasonable men and a proof is what it takes to convince even an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past eternal universe. THERE IS NO ESCAPE. THEY HAVE TO FACE THE PROBLEM OF A COSMIC BEGINNING.


Vilenkin, Many Worlds in One, 176.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Cole,

I am not a cosmologist so, could you explain to me in lay-man's terms why the assumption you cite defines an absolute beginning of the universe?

Thanks.

And if you can't then aren't you just appealing to an authority you don't fully understand to make your biased case?

Steven said...

Cole, even within that quote from the paper, it is clear that there is disagreement on this issue.

To wit:

The internal brane spacetimes,
however, are nonsingular, and this is the basis for the claim [16] that the cyclic scenario does not require any initial conditions. We disagree with this claim. (emphasis added)

You don't need to understand all the math to see that this is not at all as cut and dried as you are trying to make it. I'll also note, that this is not the sort of evidence that I was talking about Cole. It's obvious that you really don't understand the issues being discussed here, nor the framework of the observational data that it is based on.

Cole Houx said...

Chuck,

I already have. I pasted it above. Go to the references and links that I have provided. The theorem I was refering to applies to the Inflationary Models. But with the formulation of their stronger theorem Borde, Guth, and Vilenkin were able to generalize their earlier results on inflationary models in such a way to extend their conclusion to other models. Indeed, the new theorem implies that any universe which has on average been globally expanding at a positive rate is geodesically incomplete in the past and therefore has a past boundary.

Borde, Guth, and Vilenkin, "Inflation is not Past Eternal," 4.

Alexander Vilenkin, "Quantum Cosmology and Eternal Inflation,"11

Links to the papers:

http://xxx.lanl.gov/PS_cache/gr-qc/pdf/0110/0110012v2.pdf

http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/gr-qc/pdf/0204/0204061v1.pdf

Cole Houx said...

Chuck,

To quote:

This is the chief result of our paper. The result depends
on just one assumption: the Hubble parameter H has a positive value when averaged over the affine parameter of a past-directed null or noncomoving timelike geodesic.The class of cosmologies satisfying this assumption is not limited to inflating universes. Of particular interest is the recycling scenario [14], in which each comoving region
goes through a succession of inflationary and thermalized
epochs. Since this scenario requires a positive true vac-
uum energy v, the expansion rate will be bounded by Hmin = p8Gv/3 for locally flat or open equal-time slicings, and the conditions of our theorem may be satis-
fied.

Dmitry said...

Cole:

Now, I'm no professional physicist, but I was doing a bit of reading around this issue, and I have a few questions:

What if the geodesic space is consistent with the Planck equilibrium? Doesn't that change the whole dynamic of the theorem?

Also, doesn't an inflationary universe imply P --> (x|y = infinity)? And doesn't that argue against a beginning of the universe?

What are your thoughts?

Cole Houx said...

Dmitry,

The assumption of the new theorems holds for all REASONABLE models. There are some models that have no beginning to them but they all make physical life impossible.

Dmitry said...

Cole:

Why aren't the points that I raised reasonable?

Jonathan said...

Hi Cole

Astrophysics or cosmology is this a area of your expertise?

You seem very hopeful of Alex Vilenkin research but in your search of a "beginning" are you blinding yourself towards a goal that is already accepted by you?

If the univese did have a beginning in consideration of other faiths dead and alive on just our planet alone it doesn't push Christianity (even your version of it) any closer to the goal post.

The discussion over the universe had or had not a beginning is a distraction. Since is deals with information that is still wildly not understood. We are still in our infancy of understanding on the origins of the cosmos. It doesn't matter how many Phds you want to add at the end of the
astronomers name.

In 2009 the US spent in 2009
2009 Gross which was about 9 Billion dollars. Which counted only for Movies only, not games, dvd, netflix, cable, or sports.

We have two space probes Voyager 1 & 2 which heliosheath, while New Horizons is on its way towards Pluto in 2015. The two Voyagers are 33 years old. The Hubble is 20.

Does this have any relevance? Sure! we rather spend 9 Billion on watching Aliens in fiction, rather than actually look for them in fact.

Personally I would rather focus on the past 2000 years of recorded history of how religions effected society which the information is documented to some level then to be mesmerized in hopeful search that is billions of years ago.


ps thanks for answer my question a 2nd time.

Barb said...

This is off topic, but just a comment for clarification since Chuck alluded to me: Chuck says I equate child rape with homosexuality. This is a misunderstanding. Of course pedophilia is worse because of the age and innocence of a child, so I don't equate it with homosexuality between consenting adults.

I say that the homosexual and the pedophile --and the adulterer, serial fornicator, porn addict, transvestite, incestor --all claim that they feel compelled to fulfill their abnormal OR illicit appetites --would not "choose" to be this way, but just "are." And all these compulsions start with a first thought, a first attraction, a first temptation.

It's a question: can we resist such thoughts when they first occur --as nearly all people do with incestuous ideation and as most people do with adulterous lust?

I think we can --and should encourage ourselves and our children to "flee temptation!" and abnormal fixations. I think it's really worth a try!

dguller said...

Barb:

Why should homosexuals resist their urges to be with other consenting adults and experience relationships of love, affection and bonding?

Because some people think that their feelings are abnormal and unnatural?

Who defines what is normal?

What do you mean by "natural"?

Jonathan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jonathan said...

@barb

“I say that the homosexual and the pedophile --and the adulterer, serial fornicator, porn addict, transvestite, incestor --all claim that they feel compelled to fulfill their abnormal OR illicit appetites --would not "choose" to be this way, but just "are." And all these compulsions start with a first thought, a first attraction, a first temptation.”

You say you don't equate homosexuality with child rape but then you do lump it with pedophiles and everything else you find objectionable.

Are you a professional physiologist or physiatrist?
Do you have any experience in the fields of mental heath?
There is a big difference between pedophile and having addiction to porn.
Can you tell me is incest a major problem facing the United states?
Are men and women rushing out to have their sex changed?
Adultery? The same as pedophilia?

Where did you get your data "they all would not choose to be that way"do you have a paper in a journal.

Serial fornicators Huh?

Sheesh lady.

Rob R said...

Chuck and Jonathan,

I have responded to Chuck at "the Barb Wire."

Human rights and homosexuality is really far out of the scope of this blog topic and i am very serious about dealing with the topic and will do so when I have time.

Gandolf said...

http://thebarbwire.blogspot.com/

From Rob Rs post on his mums blog the Barb wire reply to Chuck O`connor it states.

Rob R -->"Christianity does not provide support for denying anyone human rights."

Old barbaric laws of (rights to total freedom of faith),deny plenty of people their human rights.Under these old barbaric laws all manner of abusive faiths and cults are continually formed,and made quite legal.Many humans suffer daily their human right being abused,because of these old barbaric laws that were invented long ago to protect ignorant nasty abusive folks of faith who wished to have the right to abuse through faith belief and be protected by the laws of our lands.

Christians and faithful folks suggestions of "caring" and "compassion" etc are utter lies and little more than worthless dribble,while these old barbaric laws still exist and continue to allow for faith abuse to continue to be made quite legal.

I realize Rob R and MMM and Cole cannot really afford to answer this subject!,i havent found many faithful who are really that interested in dealing with it.Grace who posts here hopefully is busy discussing it.But i doubt that Brad Haggard or Reverend Phillip Brown or many other so called "compassionate christians" or "faithful folks" here will show much interest in caring to address this matter.Ive noticed seems it makes them squirm, and want to sort of quickly sweep it away under the carpet where it can quietly hopefully just be forgotten.

Rob R -->"Christianity does not provide support for denying anyone human rights"

Rob R what a load of crap!.Intellectual dishonesty !,like others here also have suggested happens.

Christianity has not done anything about working on removing these abusive old laws of rights to total freedom of faith...Christians and other faithful were amongst those who voted for these barbaric laws in the first place!.

If Christians and faithful want to claim they dont support denying anyones human rights...When will we be seeing them and all their groups getting actively involved in working on repealing these injust and incompassionate laws?

Faithful trying to suggest they dont --> "provide support for denying anyone human rights"

Richard Dawkins is quite correct using a broad brush!!,ignorant abusive uncaring attitudes is very widespread amongst faithful folk ...Even in the year 2010 !! there seems to be (absolutely none) christian or faithful groups that are even bothering to be publically seen to be doing anything about this longstanding "abuse of human rights" that is continually (sanctioned) by these old laws that their church/faith group founders first helped invent long ago.

Christianity and faith in general has been (supporting denying human rights for years!),by not doing anything to repeal these incompassionate laws they were all involved in inventing ...How the bl**dy hell do you think Jim Jones got legal right to form a abusive faith that ended up being the death of many folks Rob R?.

Did he find the licence to do so in his cornflake packet at breakfast?...No faithful folks voted and invented the laws of the land that allow it to happen.

How can faithful folk be thought so intelligently honest when claiming to be "caring" and "compassionate", while the blood of this right to faith abuse continually drips from all their fingers ?


If the after lifes going to include any judgement ....It will sure be real fun and rather interesting seeing how this long standing "compassionate faith" abuse gets tried to be explained away by them all.

Rob R ,Brad Haggard,Cole Houx,MMM,Feeno,JD Curtis,William Lane Craig,Ray Comfort and all the rest of them faithful will all be there...All putting their case forward for how they supposedly was`nt involved in... "providing support for denying anyones human rights"

Chuck O'Connor said...

Rob,

We are discussing the veracity of a belief in a bible-based god as a decision-making tool. You brought up the notion of human dignity and worth as epistemic indicators and the potential for compromise relative to theology. I gauge the veracity of a bible based god on what I can reason and what I experience (not unlike your criteria) and, I wanted to understand the specific defintion of human dignity you hold relative to a real-world concern to better estimate the compromises you make in service of you bible-based world-view. My interactions with the host of the blog where you operate as a contributor indicates that she doesn't fully believe in due process rights or equality under the law (both human rights). I'd like to gauge the veracity of the god you say reduces epistemic risk and understand if you agree with her definition of "human dignity and worth". This is a real conflict going on now Rob where your religion is standing in the way of human rights and I want to know how you reconcile it with your belief in scenario 1 as laid out by dguller. Thanks.

Jonathan said...

"Based on This Argument Alone The Best Any Believer Can Claim is Agnosticism"

I am going to assume for a moment that I am a complete idiot. I hope no one thinks after this my being a complete idiot lasts longer than a moment.

If you do. :p

Anyway.

There is story with Alexander the Great and in order for him to conquer Asia he must untie this knot. I guess you know how it goes, he says "screw this" and cuts it in half, adding, "I don't have time for this "*hit" and conquers Asia anyway.

To me its pretty obvious solution.

Make God appear.


Ask, make, suggest, command, "your choice" appear on to this earthly plane.

Maybe this is plainly crude, or just plainly obvious.

I think God should make God's presence known back to the world, us, uh, God's children.

I understand there are probable tons of scripture to explain why God doesn't just show up, and say "Hi".

Or Boo.

I really don't think under "Christian management" for the last 2000 years is any example of God's handwork. I couldn't think of anyone looking back and say "I would do this over again in a heartbeat", nadda big time

If you can prove God exists, make God appear. (In front of cameras, of course). Otherwise its...

Rob R said...

Chuck,

I have refuted dgullers argument for three reasons. 1)faith is a reasonable response as virtually all knowledge entails faith 2)occams razor supports that faith against his suggestion (as dishonesty adds a layer of complexity not merited by the evidence), 3) existential import supports that faith. I think I may have also suggested explanatory power as a view that commends the traditional view over dgullers suggestion. (and I say refute in the technical sense, I have yet to handle some his refutations of my refutation, but I really ought to be at work right now!(I set my own hours, but I still have to get enough in))

You are not attacking the validity of existential import. You are attacking how I have worked it out in specifics. If I am wrong about it's implications for homosexuality, that doesn't mean I am wrong that it can serve as an epistemic indicator that points us to knowledge.

Barb said...

I am very sad for a child who doesn't feel like a normal guy who could group up to be a father and husband. Who so admires same sex friends, and longs to be affirmed by them, and is denied --because he's "different."

But his difference doesn't have to be that he's gay --even though that's what today's society pushes him to conclude. He longs to be what he fears he is not --and admires those who are what he wants to be --manly, handsome, appealing, macho MEN. Or he has GID and wishes he were female and thinks like one in his interests and attractions.

To be intimate emotionally and romantically with a man is the next best thing to being one --or the next best thing to being female to attract such a man. Either way, it becomes an obsession.

The illicit, abnormal sex, once experienced, becomes addictive. Many cruise public parks and rest rooms just to have a brief encounter because they are libido driven --not always in search of relationship, but in search of sexual release. The first couple to "wed" in New Jersey said they had no expectation of fidelity.

This is a highly promiscuous and dangerous lifestyle --that no parent desires for his kids --not really. And thus we don't want to see it promoted as desireable and normal.

I believe we can parent intentionally to help kids avoid the pitfalls and lies of fulfillment in both hetero-promiscuity and homosexuality.

dguller said...

Rob:

First, you have committed the fallacy of equivocation, AGAIN. Your argument is that if someone rejects faith in God, then they must reject their faith in science, because they both hinge upon faith.

Yes, “faith” -- and “trust” -- imply belief in the absence of certainty, and thus faith in science is similar to faith in God in this respect. However, there is a HUGE difference between believing in something that has OFTEN demonstrated its usefulness and reliability on countless occasions (without the guarantee that this will continue into the future) and believing in something that has RARELY demonstrated its usefulness and reliability on any occasion (and only promises to do so at a future date after death).

Do you see the difference? It is the same difference between trusting that my parents love me, because they have nurtured and supported me, sacrificed their needs for me on countless occasions, and have expressed their love and affection to me often, and trusting that my parents love me, because they physically abuse me, berate and humiliate me, and probably molested me, too.

Yes, it is POSSIBLE that the former scenario was a huge conspiracy on my parents’ part to only make me THINK that they love me when really they hate me, and it is POSSIBLE that the latter scenario was also a huge conspiracy to do the opposite. Therefore, I cannot be certain, and therefore in both scenarios have “faith” in their love, but do you REALLY think that they are equivalent? That having faith in the former’s love is equivalent to having faith in the latter’s love?

They differ in more aspects than they share, and thus you are equivocating between two DIFFERENT meanings of the words “trust” and “faith”. Therefore, one can have faith1 in science (in the former sense of an uncertain belief that has demonstrated its reliability often) but lack faith2 in God (in the latter sense of an uncertain belief that has rarely, if ever, demonstrated its reliability) without any contradiction whatsoever. It follows that faith1 is often a reasonable attitude towards a belief, but that faith2 is rarely a reasonable attitude towards a belief, especially when the beliefs generated by faith1 utterly contradict the beliefs generated by faith2.

Second, you appear to endorse Occkam’s razor, which essentially argue that when confronted by an empirical state of affairs X that can be explained by multiple hypotheses (H1, H2, … Hn), then (all things being equal), then one should choose the hypothesis with the lower level of complexity. So, why postulate the existence of a God at all? Science has uncovered a great deal of knowledge about how the world works by exclusively relying upon the natural and excluding the supernatural. Yes, there are gaps in our knowledge, but saying “God did it” does not add to our knowledge, because we do not know WHAT he did or HOW he did it. It is a classic use of Underpants Gnome logic. So, since we have a natural world that requires explaining, why add a layer of complexity by virtue of adding a supernatural realm populated by an infinite divine being, his multitude of angels, an oppositional Devil, an army of demons, and so on? Why not just use the razor and cut all this crap out of the explanation since it adds NOTHING to it and multiplies the complexity by a factor of infinity (since God is infinite)?

Third, I have a light workload nowadays. :)

Rob R said...

First, you have committed the fallacy of equivocation, AGAIN.

I have no confidence in your understanding of this fallacy as your usage of it would make any usage term equivocation when it is relevent to more than one context and concept. Your usage greatly handicaps normal language usage. I'm not beyond equivocating, but your examples from me hardly fit your "bitch" example where the difference is where the term is used quite literally in one instance and purely metaphorical in the next.

I'd respond more but I have to get going.

Rob R said...

One mroe thought on that, I just don't think you know where some definitions end and begin and that is essential to identifying actual instances of equivocation.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Rob,

Hate to pile on but, it seems that your use of "faith" does apply to a switch reference theory of equivocation.

Faith in science would simply determine our best estimation based on readily available data and implies falsification. It is evidential and open to change.

Faith in a biblical God (or what seems your inerrant evangelical interpretation thereof) demands absolute knowledge and settled knowledge. It is revealed and timeless.

Faith in the first reference is not the same term in the following.

dguller said...

Rob:

Listen, don’t complain to me about the fallacy of equivocation. I’m just telling you what it is. Of course applying it would limit lots of arguments, but that is a good thing, because it would weed out the fallacious arguments, which is kind of the point, no? The rule of an argument is that the meaning of the terms must remain CONSTANT. If the meaning of some words changes, even subtly, then that introduces uncertainty and vagueness, which would compromise the integrity of the deductive logic. This is just the rules of logic, man.

In the case that you are arguing, you are equivocating between significantly different senses of the words “justified”, “rational”, “faith”, and “trust”. I have really tried to point out those different senses, and if you really cannot see those differences, then I do not know what else to do.

It would be like you arguing that the theory of evolution by natural selection is “just a theory”. That’s another example of the fallacy of equivocation, because it is confuses two different senses of the word “theory”. Richard Dawkins nicely explains the difference in his recent book on evolution. Yes, both senses imply the lack of total certainty in the theory in question, but there is a difference between a mere hypothesis (theory1) and a well-validated scientific theory that is supported by internal consistency and external empirical data (theory2). The “just a theory” argument confuses theory1 and theory2. You are doing the exact same thing, my friend.

I understand that it is hard to believe that arguments that you find very persuasive and have devoted a lot of time and energy on are fallacious, but hey, it happens.

Gandolf said...

dguller said... "However, there is a HUGE difference between believing in something that has OFTEN demonstrated its usefulness and reliability on countless occasions (without the guarantee that this will continue into the future) and believing in something that has RARELY demonstrated its usefulness and reliability on any occasion (and only promises to do so at a future date after death)."

Take gravity, at first we had faith there was gravity.Then we observed it proved it with science etc and thats how we came to be able to say we now have a "trust" belief of gravity.

If someday we observed it seemed gravity no longer existed,we might no longer have our "trust" belief of gravity anymore.Any belief that remained would be connection to a faith belief.

Knowledge of gods does not even come anywhere near matching the knowledge of gravity that we have available to prove gravity.We can hold a rock above Rob Rs beany,and "trust" that when we drop it,it falls and he will quite likely end up with a nice lil headache to cope with..We can "trust" this....We can also pretty much "trust" that any amount of "faith" in prayer by Rob R wont likely do very much to help stop the headache caused by gravity and falling rock either!.

dguller i do tend to agree with you.Somehow it seems to me,you are correct! quite likely the differences really are "HUGE"!

Religion hass only ever been about faith yet.Even the fact (so very many)ideas of differing gods and faiths have existed in our world for thousands of years now, is pretty good proof it seem it has not reached anything (yet) that can be claimed to be called anything really about what we know as "trust".

The best anybody being very honest with themselves could ever honestly do, is claim agnosticism

Barb said...

In a nutshell, you fellows deny the reality of the experiences of the faithful.

There's an inner knowing --beyond factual, scientific data --that cannot be quantified or verified to the ones outside the experience.

Aren't you filled with awe at the marvels of the universe --and the brain --and our bodies --and life generally?

When we seek someone to praise for those marvels, I believe He makes Himself known to us. When we, like children, simply believe that He is.

2And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them,

3And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

4Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Barb,

You said, "In a nutshell, you fellows deny the reality of the experiences of the faithful."

I don't.

I just don't see any predictable consistency amongst that collective experiences.

Some faithful people are wonderful folks and some are simply horrid monsters looking to impose their unprovable ideas of right and wrong (steeped in fear and guilt) upon the world.

The lack of consistency causes me to distrust the efficacy of faith experiences.

Sinful Theology said...

I must appolagise if i get my comment wrong at this stage, and dont cite the person who brought it up - its way of topic but someone raised the question as to whether christians belive the universe came about from nothing, or from pre-existent material? Just to say there isnt a clear answer to this, it has been a matter of debate among theologians since the 3rd century, when Origeon (c.185-254) argued that God fashioned the universe from pre-existent material and Tertullian argued that there was not pre existent matter. There is no single belief on this within Christianity nor has there ever been.


Dguller - you took Rob up on a point i made, which was that its possible our parents or loved one is lying to us about the affection they feel for us and that it doesn't follow that its illogical to believe that they do indeed care for us. I said in my original post mentioning this that while this shows that it is not necessarily illogical to believe this evidence, consideration would need to be given of the weight of this evidence.

The original thought experiment suggested that it is unreasonable to believe that someone who appears good is good no mater what the evidence. I disagree, and have shown that this is something that humans habitually do.

A better question and one covered else where is, what is the evidence for supposing that there is a God who is benevolent?

This particular thought experment doesnt bring us any closer to answer that question and i think is a bit of a red hearing.

dguller said...

Barb:

You seem to put a great deal of weight on the religious experiences of the faithful as providing reliable evidence for the existence of God.

There are two possible explanations for these experiences.

One, they are truly caused by coming into contact with God and are direct experiences of his presence.

I have a number of problems with this account. First, different individuals from different religious traditions all manage to believe that their experiences confirm their particular religious tradition to the exclusion of all others. Second, one would have to differentiate between these genuine religious experiences and the religious psychosis that occurs in various neurological diseases and when the temporal lobe is stimulated with electrodes. Third, one would have to explain how these experiences are triggered. In other words, since all our subjective experiences are secondary to brain processes, one would have to explain how a spiritual and immaterial entity, such as God, can influence our material brains to generate these experiences.

Two, they are generated by the underlying neurobiology of the individual.

There are many lines of evidence in support of this possibility. It is well known that intense, transcendent and religious experiences occur in those who suffer from temporal lobe epilepsy, as documented by EEG findings. A wide variety of psychoactive substances can also generate such experiences, such as mescaline, for example. And it seems very plausible that participating in intense spiritual and meditative disciplines can generate them, too, but in the same way that some people have psychotic experiences after running excessively and becoming dehydrated and feverish. The bottom line is that the experiences themselves are fully real, but the underlying causes are purely natural.

So, I would prefer the second explanation, because it actually has empirical evidence in support of it, and the first explanation appears to run into many difficulties.

Any thoughts?

dguller said...

Sinful Theology:

You are right that my thought experiment does not help us to decide if God is benevolent or not. I was trying to demonstrate something else entirely.

Jonathan said...

Ah, huh?

1) Faith is a reasonable response as virtually all knowledge entails faith
2) Occam's razor supports that faith against his suggestion (as dishonesty adds a layer of complexity not merited by the evidence)
3) Existential import supports that faith.

Existential Import

All unicorns have horns.

Faith is a reasonable response as virtually all knowledge entails faith

So what is the is the difference between your statement and “all unicorns have horns?”

Faith in use by general conversation as belief without the requirement of proof or evidence.

I have faith my car will start in the morning.
I have faith I will solve this calculus problem.

Rob: I am pretty sure when you studied for classes you didn't say I have faith that I would acquire the knowledge for my exams, but I am going to study for my exams. I don't think you said order for me to read this book it requires faith.

Occam's razor the simplest explanation is the best explanation?

In evoking Occam's razor I am pretty sure faith is not the best explanation. Since the majority of the time in the majority of situations you wouldn't use faith in everyday speech.

3) I don't get it.

@barb

Homosexuality. I find it odd that one should concern themselves with the sexual orientation of others. If two consenting adults wish to have a formal or informal relationship it is up to them and no else. You can make gay relationships illegal or you can ignore it. But it seems you personally have some attraction to this subject for some reason to keep bringing it up.

The first couple to wed in New Jersey had no expectation of fidelity.
1)Who cares. How does it effect you?
2)Heterosexuals do the same its called a open marriage. Or do it anyway.
3)Its 2010 add links to your statements so they may be verified.

In a nutshell, you fellows deny the reality of the experiences of the faithful.

You deny the experience of Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and anyone who isn't a Christian (your denomination).

Aren't you filled with awe at the marvels of the universe --and the brain --and our bodies --and life generally?

Think of all the things on our planet that try to kill us. Disease, natural disasters, animals, bacteria, and other humans. What about Miscarriages and birth defects? Did you forget so quickly the tsunami a few years back in Indonesia?


What does Neil Tyson think of Intelligent Design?


6 die from brain-eating amoeba after swimming

What about the past extinctions , no tears for dinosaurs. Look at the moon or mars, someone has been taking pot shots at them. Yes, meteorite hits, they are on earth too, they are just harder to find.
The marvels of the universe. Whatever.


When we seek someone to praise for those marvels, I believe He makes Himself known to us. When we, like children, simply believe that He is.

You may wish to reconsider some of those marvels.

Rob R said...

In the case that you are arguing, you are equivocating between significantly different senses of the words “justified”, “rational”, “faith”, and “trust”.

So lets try this from another angle.

here's the example from IEP:

"Brad is a nobody, but since nobody is perfect, Brad must be perfect, too."

If my point on faith, science and God were parallel, it would look like this:

1. faith in science is justified because in science we can perform experiments to support our scientific claims.

2. Belief in God entails faith

3. Thus belief in God is verifiable because we can perform experiments to validate that belief.

For one thing, that isn't equivocation. There is no shift here in the definition of faith. What there is is an association of faith whith a justification behind it and that association just doesn't hold. It's similar to the fallacious logic that also utilizes equivocation that we see going on in the example from IEP, but it isn't equivocation itself. It is definitely fallacious. But I don't know what that fallacy would be called.

But this isn't even remotely close to my point. This isn't my argument. At all.

I have really tried to point out those different senses

I have really tried to communicate to you that I am 100 percent aware that there are differences with faith in terms of faith in God and faith in science. And yet you want me to ignore that the fact that there is also sameness, the fact that both faiths qualify as faith to begin with because what is believed cannot be absolutely proven. And there lies the problem with your argument above. It tries to take that absolute unrprovability and deny that it is reasonable that we should have any knowledge of God whatsoever.

Rob R said...

2nd post,

@ Jonathan,


Your link was garbled, I managed to figure out where it was supposed to lead though, my reaction:

Good grief, existential import had a use before i coined the term?!

That will not help you with what I meant and will confuse you. Existential in that sense is that which pertains to existence. That is not what I meant by that. Existential import as I have defined it is that which pertains to a special kind of questions about our existence in terms of meaning, significance, human worth. They are more emotional considerations that go to the core of what we are as humans and I insist that they deserve to be treated as epistemic indicators, that is that they can help point us to the truth.

That is all I have time for and in theory, I will be very busy the next two days.

Jonathan said...

I thought this was interesting


The Presumption of Atheism: A Project
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jY1gEXYhfIM

The Presumption of Atheism: A Project


Corrected links
Existential Import
www.wwnorton.com/COLLEGE/PHIL/LOGIC3/ch8/import.htm%E2%80%9D

What does Neil Tyson think of Intelligent Design?
www.youtube.com/watch?v=rPLn9nv26NM%E2%80%9D

6 die from brain-eating amoeba after swimming
www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21034344/%E2%80%9D

Chuck O'Connor said...

Rob you said:

"I have really tried to communicate to you that I am 100 percent aware that there are differences with faith in terms of faith in God and faith in science. And yet you want me to ignore that the fact that there is also sameness, the fact that both faiths qualify as faith to begin with because what is believed cannot be absolutely proven. And there lies the problem with your argument above. It tries to take that absolute unrprovability and deny that it is reasonable that we should have any knowledge of God whatsoever."

Isn't faith in science faith because it can be probabilistically estimated within a confidence level that estimates a standard error?

And faith in God is based on revealed knowledge that obviates evidence?

The word has two different meanings.

Ask your dad why anointing with oil is NEVER the standard of care with any disease known to medical science. It is because doctor's have faith that it will not work. How do they have this faith? Is it the same faith you have in your version of god?

dguller said...

Rob:

Okay, let me spell it out for you.

My argument is that if one assumes that there is a supernatural realm that explains phenomena within the empirical world, then one is forced to admit that there are an infinite number of possible supernatural scenarios out there. If one believes in only one of those possible supernatural scenarios, then one must be able to justify that choice independent of information contained within the supernatural scenario itself. That means that one must only use information that exists within the empirical world to justify one’s supernatural choice.

My belief is that no-one will be able to do so, because any justification of one’s supernatural choice ultimately utilizes information present only within one’s chosen supernatural scenario, and thus commits the fallacy of circular reasoning. It follows that since there is no rational justification for choosing one supernatural scenario over another, then it is largely arbitrary and ultimately based upon one’s personal preference. However, it still follows that it is impossible to know which supernatural scenario is true, because there are millions of people who hold different scenarios, and thus personal preference cannot ground one’s belief in one’s specific supernatural scenario.

Therefore, at best, one must stop talking about the supernatural realm by virtue of being agnostic about it.

You responded by saying that this is a radically sceptical argument, which is similar to such arguments against the existence of the external world, of the past, and of other people. In all of these arguments, we start with the intuitive assumption that there DOES exist an external world, a past, and other people, and various imaginary scenarios are described in which it would be possible for our empirical experience to remain the same, but the reality of what we experience be false, instead being something totally different. The solution, you claimed, was that we are forced to admit that we do not know with full and total certainty that the external world, the past, and other people truly exist, and must resign ourselves to “trust” in their existence.

And here is where you commit the fallacy of equivocation! You are implicitly arguing -- mainly because you never actually explicitly made any argument at all – that if it is okay to “trust” our belief in the existence of the external world, the past, and other people, because this is the only solution to the radically sceptical arguments against them, then it must also be okay to “trust” our belief in a specific supernatural scenario. In other words, a proper response to any kind of radically sceptical argument is to trust our intuitions.

Now, I have been arguing, ad nauseum, that you have subtly shifted the meaning of “trust” in the solution to these two radically sceptical arguments. I have pointed out that there is a huge difference between trusting our belief in the existence of the external world, of the past, and of other people, and trusting our belief in the existence of God (i.e. one specific supernatural scenario).

Given these differences, the meaning of “trust” is radically different, and thus your argument that if it is permissible to simply trust our intuitions behind the reality of the existence of the external world, of the past, and of other people (and of the truths uncovered by the scientific method, too), then it must also be permissible to trust our intuitions behind the reality of the existence of God.

The argument collapses by virtue of the fallacy of equivocation.

I really hope that this is very clear.

dguller said...

Rob:

Also note that my radically sceptical argument only gets going IF one assumes the existence of a supernatural realm that explains the material world. For atheists, and probably agnostics, this argument does not apply, and thus it only applies to believers.

On the other hand, the radically sceptical arguments that you cited get their traction from our assumption that our experience of the external world, of the past and of other people are true. These arguments apply to everyone, because everyone makes the assumption that gets the arguments going.

Rob R said...

dguller, there can't be progress in this discussion because you take the meaning of "definition" for granted. If you are wrong about what definitions are, then you are wrong about what equivocation is. Additionally I don't think you are right about other aspects of my approach, but i think something this basic can be dealt with.


So you can repeat yourself. I did not repeat myself in my last post, so please explain why I equivocate when what I did does not fit the pattern of the explanation given at IEP as well as your own.

And here's a further consideration. Chuck's post is great because it demonstrates everything that is wrong with your understanding of equivocation.

Let me suggest we go to a simpler term. Instead of faith, lets consider belief (which can be synonomous with faith, but in this context, it isn't).

So here's Chuck's altered take:


Isn't [belief] in science because it can be probabilistically estimated within a confidence level that estimates a standard error?

And [belief] in God is based on revealed knowledge that obviates evidence?

The word has two different meanings.



except, it doesn't have two different meanings. It means exactly the same thing. No equivocation is going on here to say that it means exactly the same thing. And what does it mean? it just means that something is accepted as true. (faith as I have been using it is only slightly more complex thing, (having confidence that something is true inspite of the fact that it cannot be absolutely proven)

Now there are many different reasons as to why someone accepts God as real and why one accepts the claims of science, but the reasons for faith are not the definition of faith. The cause of faith is not the definition of faith. Cause does not equal definition.


Now look, if you still think I am equivocatating, I'll tell you what, you ask John Loftus if I am equivocating (I doubt he's reading this, there is always his email) and we'll see what he says.

He has critisized this sort of thinking as I have asserted, but equivocation has never been part of the accusation.

dguller said...

Rob:

First, I would like to ask two questions:

One, do you believe that the “faith” that one has in God is the exact same as the “faith” that one has in the existence of the external world, of the past, and of other people?

Two, do you believe that the “faith” that one has in God is the exact same as the “faith” one has in invisible unicorns who generate reality through the magic of their horns?

Second, you say that by “faith”, you mean “having confidence that something is true in spite of the fact that it cannot be absolutely proven”. I have a few problems with this.

One, it means that “having faith” is nothing special at all, because ALL our beliefs require it. So, what is the big deal about it for believers if it happens all the time? The big deal is that religious faith is supposed to be about highly unlikely and implausible beliefs, which is why it requires so much effort and is so impressive to believers. Your definition would reduce it to something people do without any effort at all, and would rob it of its power.

Two, it ignores the distinction between having faith in a belief that has very little likelihood of being true and having faith in a belief that has very high likelihood of being true. Again, there is a huge difference between having faith in the existence of the external world and having faith in the existence of unicorns. In all honesty, I wouldn’t even call the former “faith” at all.

Third, I am fine with having John decide, if he has good knowledge of informal logic.

Fourth, I wonder what your comments are about the fallacy of equivocation in the argument that believers make when they say that evolution by natural selection is “just a theory”, and thus lacks any evidentiary justification meriting their acceptance. Do you even consider this line of reasoning an example of that fallacy?

Rob R said...

post 1 of 3

dguller,


One, do you believe that the “faith” that one has in God is the exact same as the “faith” that one has in the existence of the external world, of the past, and of other people?

dguller, I think this faith is different on some accounts and it is the same on some accounts. It is a very very simple matter on which they are the same. The strict definition of faith as I use it here is one such common ground, confidence that a belief is true that for something that cannot be absolutely proven.

And yes, belief in unicorns is also an example of faith.

Now, WHY these tree different concepts cannot be proven true and why they are believed anyway involves a variety of reasons that are not all the same (and yet some of them, some of those are similar at the general level but again, there are very substantive differences), but the term, the definition of faith still applies to all three equally. Of course, there is also the matter of the level of faith that is required

At the risk of not reading my arguments over from the first to the last of my posts, clearly the unicorn example shows that faith is not enough of a response to this delimma. You might as well ask why one can't have faith in #2 of the topic dillema. But I haven't given faith as a sufficient answer but I said we have reasons for our faith. You disagreed with my reasons, but even if I can't show that my reasons are wrong, it certainly still disrpoves John Loftus' claim that the argument stands on it's own because not only do you have to offer this argument, you have to show that our reasons for our belief are also wrong.

But let me refine my argument with regards to faith and science that I hope will be more clear.

1)The dilemma of this topic only demonstrates a reason why our belief in a benevolent God cannot be absolutely proven (as a malignant deceptive God can explain any evidence that we concieve).

2)There isn't just one possibly reasonable response to a scenario that demonstrates a lack of absolute proof, agnosticism, there is also another, faith.

3)Religious skeptics (who are not also anti-realists on many accounts) cannot cannot consistently call faith an irrational response in principle because they have faith as well.

This doesn't get us all the way home. Even though faith is a possible response as opposed to agnosticism, there is still the matter of getting into specifically why faith is a better response than agnosticism. But as far as the claim of the topic, we are there, the claim John Loftus has made, that this argument ALONE establishes agnosticism does not fly because we can give reasons for faith over reason, and even though no reasons can be given to absolutely disprove number 2, we can still give reasons as to why # 1 is a better belief to hold than number 2 and hence why faith is a reasonable response to this dillema. Now you may argue with the reasons I've given, but in the process of doing so, you have gone beyond the original argument alone. Again, we aren't home in that recognition, but a point has been established and it is possible to recognize that progress has been made as the entire claim of the topic has failed.