Professor David Eller Responds to Randal Rauser

Below is Eller's response to what Professor Rauser said in this post about chapter one in The Christian Delusion
This is David Eller, author of the chapter on the culture(s) of Christanity(ies). As an obvious amateur reviewer, Randal Rauser can perhaps be forgiven for his lack of knowledge of several subjects in the review.

1. Honest theist philosophers have admitted that the "arguments" for god(s) are inconclusive at best and futile at worst. I am talking here about the familiar arguments like the ontological argument or the cosmological argument or the teological (argument from design) and so on. See the first chapter of my "Natural Atheism" book on "The 12 Steps to Atheism" on all of these arguments. Take the definitely non-atheistic philosopher Immanuel Kant, who showed explicitly over 200 years ago that the ontological argument fails because "being" is not a quality but rather the precondition of all qualities. In his "Critique of Pure Reason" he authoritatively demonstrated that all "rational" arguments for religion end in contradiction and deadlock. That is obviously why modern theologians like Swinburne and Plantinga are always trying to come up with new arguments and why theists ultimately fall back on "faith"--since no argument proves their point and they want to hold their point anyhow.

2. Rauser is clearly unfamiliar with the abundant literature on the history of missionization and conversion efforts. He pokes fun at my reference to "cunning" missionaries, but from the earliest Jesuits to the most recent missions, professional converters (not all, but the informed ones) have had a very clear notion of what they are doing, what works, and how to implement their plans. As I illustrate in the chapter, missionization studies increasing use the ideas and methods of anthropology--and I would say MISUSE those ideas and methods--in pursuit of their religious cause. If Rauser or other readers would make themselves acquainted with this history and this current work, they would find that my analysis is entirely correct, because I am not making any original statement but merely summarizing the knowledge on the question.

3. Rauser also willfully fails to see the implications of my cultural argument. No one, not even Rauser and certainly not the missionary theorists that I quote in the chapter, rejects the suggestion that religion, including Christianity, is cultural. If Rauser and others are not familiar with the official concept of "inculturation" as promulgated by the Catholic Church as well as Protestant proselytizers, they really should learn about it. The idea is to use and absorb the local culture in order to spread the Christian message. Therefore, my fundamental point, that religion saturates culture and that culture saturates religion, is absolutely correct.

If we accept, then, that Christianity is cultural too, the only real question is, Is Christianity cultural ONLY? If theists accept the idea that their religion is cultural, then it is their burden to prove that it is something MORE than culture. Beyond a doubt, Christianity emerged in the first place as a historically and socially contingent movement in the context of late ancient Judaism and the Roman occupation. Over the years and around the globe, Christianity has changed to fit its local circumstances; that's why there is no such thing as "real" Christianity but rather many (and often incompatible) Christianities. If the "periphery" of Christianity--all the little flourishes and details--is cultural, and it indisputably is, then what is to convince us that the "core" of Christianity is not just cultural too? In other words, I hold that Christianity (and every other religion) is cultural through and through--that it holds no "truth" but merely cultural thinking. Like the anecdote about the religion that believes the world stands on a turtle, and that turtle on another turtle, with "turtles all the way down," so I assert, and see no argument to disprove, that Christianity is "cultural all the way down."

--
David Eller

106 comments:

3g.nursing said...

I was raised Muslim, and this still rings very true.
I believe Islam is "nothing but culture", either.

Eric said...

"Honest theist philosophers have admitted that the "arguments" for god(s) are inconclusive at best and futile at worst."

This is misleading at best. Such arguments are "inconclusive" in two senses: (1) they don't in fact persuade everyone who rationally evaluates them, or (2) they aren't rationally coercive. But in the sense of either (1) or (2), almost every argument is "inconclusive" -- including the arguments supporting Eller's claim -- so, since this obviously isn't such a big problem for Eller, I don't see why it should be a big problem for theists.

"I am talking here about the familiar arguments like the ontological argument or the cosmological argument or the teological (argument from design) and so on..."

If you mean they are inconclusive in the sense of (1) or (2), then I agree, but I don't think this gets us anywhere. If you mean that such arguments are significantly weaker than most other philosophical arguments -- say, in the areas of moral or political philosophy, or even in the more fundamental areas of metaphysics and epistemology --then I disagree. Can you provide me with one argument in any of these areas that reaches a substantive conclusion that's significantly stronger than the better formulations of the arguments you referenced above?

"Take the definitely non-atheistic philosopher Immanuel Kant, who showed explicitly over 200 years ago that the ontological argument fails because "being" is not a quality but rather the precondition of all qualities."

There are sundry formulations of the ontological argument, from Plantinga's to Maydole's, that are immune to this criticism (to the extent that Kant's criticism succeeds, which is itself a matter of debate, and is not, as you suggest, a matter that has at all been settled).

"In his "Critique of Pure Reason" he authoritatively demonstrated that all "rational" arguments for religion end in contradiction and deadlock."

Kant "authoritatively demonstrated" that this is the case with respect to "all rational arguments"? I'm quite familiar with Kant's "Critique(s);" would you care to lay out his argument for me, as you understand it? This is a very strong claim (as all your claims in the quote above are), and I'd like to see how you defend it. (Here's one line of thought I'd like to pursue: Kant's arguments rests on presuppositions I seriously doubt you hold; and, if you do hold some of the more essential of them, you almost certainly cannot support the notion that the arguments that support them are stronger than the theistic arguments you claim are inconclusive at best; are you beginning to see the problem here?)

Eric said...

The first sentence of my last paragraph should read, "Kant "authoritatively demonstrated" that this is the case with respect to "all rational arguments for religion"?

John W. Loftus said...

Eric, don't expect Dr. Eller to respond. You know the relevant literature, okay?

Given the fact that these arguments are not rationally coercive then Eller's cultural explanation is a better one for the fact that people believe in their respective gods.

Listen, tell me why the Ontological Argument, which Kant argued is the most fundamental one, does not lead an Easterner to conclude the ONE exists given that she will conceive of THAT as the being greater than which none other can be thought. And what if the Easterner simply says, as she will do, that the ONE cannot even be conceived? Where does Ontological argumentation get you from there?

So you have a big problem that Eller doesn't. Produce one argument that is rationally coercive or surrender to the fact that your branch of Christianity is "cultural all the way down."

Eric said...

"Given the fact that these arguments are not rationally coercive then Eller's cultural explanation is a better one for the fact that people believe in their respective gods."

John, first I don't think that follows at all. It may both be the case that the common theistic arguments aren't rationally coercive, and Eller's cultural explanation is problematic.

But second, are you really willing to accept the implications of the argument you just defended? For if so, it follows that your most deeply held moral and political beliefs are in the same epistemic boat as theistic beliefs.

"Listen, tell me why the Ontological Argument, which Kant argued is the most fundamental one, does not lead an Easterner to conclude the ONE exists given that she will conceive of THAT as the being greater than which none other can be thought."

If we take Hinduism as an example (and we must be specific, since the "Eastern religions" vary enormously, even within specific traditions), the conception of Brahman in the later Vedic Upanishads is quite consistent with the God that the modern versions of the ontological argument lead to. But I don't see the problem here: the ontological argument, if successful, proves a thin slice of God; why would we not expect there to be some significant overlap here with respect to various religious traditions?

However, I didn't bring up the ontological argument to defend it, but to question Eller's understanding of the philosophy of religion. Frankly, he said things in the opening post I would expect to read on a "Rational Response Squad" quality website, not in the work of a serious scholar.

Personally, I don't think the modern versions of the ontological argument "prove" that such a god exists, but not because they're subject to Kant's criticism; rather, there's no way to prove that the relevant premises concerning the possibility that such a being exists. However, I do think that the argument(s) show that we're forced to conclude either that (1) God exists necessarily, so if it's even possible that God exists, he exists, or (2) God necessarily doesn't exist, so it's not even possible that God exists (with the term 'God' understood as the sort of being these versions of the ontological argument are concerned with).

"And what if the Easterner simply says, as she will do, that the ONE cannot even be conceived? Where does Ontological argumentation get you from there?"

I think most Christian theists would agree: Ultimately, God cannot be conceived. We can speak about God, primarily analogically, but God himself is ultimately mysterious.

"So you have a big problem that Eller doesn't. Produce one argument that is rationally coercive or surrender to the fact that your branch of Christianity is "cultural all the way down.""

John, it clearly doesn't follow that if the truth of a claim cannot be *demonstrated* in such a way that all rational agents must accept it, it's therefore "cultural all the way down"!

Anyway, my main point in my first post was that Eller's philosophical claims are uninformed and naive at best.

John W. Loftus said...

Eric, why are you bringing up the same objections to the OTF that I've already answered with regard to political and ethical truths?

You speak often by using the words "this may be the case" or that something "clearly doesn't follow" (in the sense of not being certain). The problem with this is you are reverting to what's possible, or what's not impossible at every turn. That's a nice place to hang your faith on, isn't it: what's possible rather than what's probable.

Listen, Dr. Eller is not a trained philosopher, but then you are not a trained anthropologist either. He speaks from his expertise. As far as I know you don't yet have one (sorry). For every argument he speaks about there are trained atheist philosophers who will back him up with the sophistication you require, and you know this.

Eric said...

"Eric, why are you bringing up the same objections to the OTF that I've already answered with regard to political and ethical truths?"

For the same reason you bring up objections to theistic arguments that others have answered: I don't find the answers satisfying.

"The problem with this is you are reverting to what's possible, or what's not impossible at every turn."

But John, when someone makes a particularly strong claim, all I need to do is show that an alternative is possible to refute it.

"Listen, Dr. Eller is not a trained philosopher, but then you are not a trained anthropologist either. He speaks from his expertise."

Right, which is why you won't find me making very strong anthropological claims.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric

I think Dr. Eller defines his meaning of "inconclusive" as related to the observation that realities of god ultimately resort to assertions of faith. I also disagree that all thinking Christian theists would point to god's reality as "mystery" because cultural christians of the biblical inerrant stripe would point to god as real in a systematic theology predicated on biblical hermaneutics. Your Catholic apologetics seem to confirm Dr. Eller's other thesis of how we see with culture and how that blinds us to other ways of seeing.

Saint Brian the Godless said...

The problem with this is you are reverting to what's possible, or what's not impossible at every turn. That's a nice place to hang your faith on, isn't it: what's possible rather than what's probable.
----------------
Brilliant!

Saint Brian the Godless said...

the ontological argument, if successful, proves a thin slice of God;
-------------
And the unicorn argument, if sucessful, proves.......

Eric said...

"I think Dr. Eller defines his meaning of "inconclusive" as related to the observation that realities of god ultimately resort to assertions of faith."

Hi Chuck

I don't think this is what Eller meant, since he used the term "inconclusive" while referring to theistic arguments, and not to "assertions of faith."

"I also disagree that all thinking Christian theists would point to god's reality as "mystery" because cultural christians of the biblical inerrant stripe would point to god as real in a systematic theology predicated on biblical hermaneutics."

Oh, I agree that not "all" Christians would support this, which is why I said that "most" Christians would agree that God is ultimately mysterious.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric

I think you are sloppy in your reading of Dr. Eller. He clearly indicates that the arguments for god are inconclusive because ultimately they rest on assertions of faith.

Care to define "most"?

Eric said...

"I think you are sloppy in your reading of Dr. Eller. He clearly indicates that the arguments for god are inconclusive because ultimately they rest on assertions of faith."

Chuck, no, Eller says that it's *because* the arguments are 'inconclusive' that 'theologians' like Swinburne and Plantinga (who are not theologians -- another of Eller's errors) "come up with new arguments and why and why theists ultimately fall back on "faith"."

"Care to define "most"?"

Most Christians -- more than half -- are Catholics, Orthodox and Anglicans, and all three traditions affirm what I said about the ultimate mysteriousness of God. (Just under to 2/3 of all Christians today are Catholic, Orthodox or Anglican.)

Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric

You are correct. I was wrong. Eller does argue that the deadlock engendered by theological imaginations leads to theists resorting to faith when their arguments prove rationally inconclusive.

Your second point in defining "most" christians by your sacramental standard seems to prove too much and indicates support to Dr. Eller's hypothesis that christianity is a cultural choice and not an absolute truth. The gap between the christians pleading mystery and those pleading revelation have no test to close their distance and therefore the faith resembles fashion.

Ignerant Phool said...

John said: "The problem with this is you are reverting to what's possible, or what's not impossible at every turn."

Eric said: "But John, when someone makes a particularly strong claim, all I need to do is show that an alternative is possible to refute it."

Eric, it seems John is aware of your stance. But one wonders how much faith one must muster to be a believer while at the same time having their beliefs hang by a thread of mere possibilities. From your point of view, if I showed an alternate possibility that refutes the claim of the existence of God, would your existing God respect my conclusion since all I needed to do was show this possibility? And if he would respect my stance, this I think would undermine his demand for belief in him, no?

Andre

DM said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
GearHedEd said...

I'm just watching from the sidelines for now...

Chuck O'Connor said...

Does the Boobquake argument work where the others failed?

Randal Rauser said...

My response to Eller can be found at my blog "The Tentative Apologist".

Gandolf said...

John said: "The problem with this is you are reverting to what's possible, or what's not impossible at every turn."

Eric said: "But John, when someone makes a particularly strong claim, all I need to do is show that an alternative is possible to refute it."

Most "Probably" its highly unlikely that mosters do actually ever exist under our childrens beds ,even though the question is obviously still quite complex, seeing so very many children do! often seem to feel just maybe? monsters may actually honestly exist under childrens beds.

However maybe its not entirely "impossible" that invisible monsters might actually happen to take up their residence under our childrens beds.

So if Erics idea that showing a "alternative is possible" is actually honestly more than enough to refute whats thought most probable.Then just maybe? we humans do also have "good reason" to also considder having some need to be very concerned about the complex matter, of children who fear the possibility of monsters that reside underneath our childrens beds.

By using Erics line of thinking, it soon becomes quite obvious, we do have some reasonable need to be quickly forming some specialized groups of underbed monster busters.

It might also be advisable! that all our stripped-for-cash governments all start prospecting for gold! again at the end of all rainbows.Though its most probable gold doesnt actually ever exist at the end of rainbows,its still never! completely impossible either.

We will soon be forming one hell of a crazy world.The realistic possibilitys soon will almost become thought utterly endless.Common sense attitude will no longer provide us any limits.

Papalinton said...

@ John
Hi John,

You say in discussion with Eric, ..."The problem with this is you are reverting to what's possible, or what's not impossible at every turn. That's a nice place to hang your faith on, isn't it: what's possible rather than what's probable."

I say: Theists sometimes say that their god is possible [as indeed Eric is], but no one goes to church to worship a possibility. [This little aphorism actually comes from David E.] So one has to be mindful of the contorted mental gymnastics that theists exercise in striving to shoehorn their particular beliefs into areas of philosophical discipline to accord it some measure of respectability. This is the underlying tenet of the Templeton Foundation's attempt to inveigle its bona fides on the coat-tails of the hard work of science. The Foundation needs science but science has no need of the Foundation. It is interesting to note that much of the current debate in universities and institutes of higher learning is whether theology requires a pre-commitment of faith by its practitioners, and whether such a commitment conflicts with academic freedom. Again it seems to me that current OT and NT analysis and advances in modern textual criticism is slowly but inevitably exposing the bible, as a cohesive worldview, is found wanting. It simply does not have the sophistication and nuance needed to meet the demands of the great challenges confronting humankind in the future. We should not be looking back to basics; rather, we as a species, should be looking forward to fundamentals now being discovered in science, anthropology, medicine, sociology, psychology, environmental studies etc. etc.
We live is interesting times.

Cheers

Eric said...

Let me respond quickly to John's "possibility" point, since I see many on this thread are running with it:

"The problem with this is you are reverting to what's possible, or what's not impossible at every turn. That's a nice place to hang your faith on, isn't it: what's possible rather than what's probable."

John, I think you've confused what we might call a 'defense of X' with what a 'positive argument for X.'

If I hold X, and you provide an argument against X that you think shows that X is impossible or almost certainly false, all I have to do to refute your argument is show that X is possible. This is a defense of X. Now, I certainly don't "hang my faith" on such defenses; rather, in addition to such defenses, I think I have good reasons to believe what I do. Defenses play a role in one's overall case for belief, insofar as they clear away objections (and here I'm only referring to certain kinds of objections, i.e. impossibility objections, or objections that X is almost certainly false), but they are only a necessary part of such a case, and are not alone sufficient (which you seem to take me, and many other theists, to suppose).

Gandolf said...

Eric said..."Now, I certainly don't "hang my faith" on such defenses; rather, in addition to such defenses, I think I have good reasons to believe what I do."

Some kids also often honestly feel they have "good reasons" to be scared of monsters living under their beds.They dont feel they hang their faith on the defence of the possibility either.To them its more than a possibility ,its about a "real fear" that they actually feel.To them that "real fear" equals "good reason".

But either way its still very lacking in any proper good evidence for the probability of monsters to actually honestly be living under childrens beds.

Ryan Anderson said...

I don't know, I'd still need a positive argument and not meerly a defense to hand over 10% of my income and a couple hours of my week to some belief. Not to mention I'd need more than that to choose one belief over all the religions in the world.

Who cares if Christianity is 1% or even 10% more probable then Islam or Hinduism. It's like saying Gnomes are more probable then Lepruchans so I'll devote my life to Gnomes.

Seems to me, this boils down to Eric being predisposed to wanting to believe X, so he lowers the bar so it can be rationally defended.

Gandolf said...

I should have added i noticed it seems the phenomenom of ideas of monsters living under childrens beds ,is kind of quite a global type phenomena too.Rather like the idea of Gods is often seen as a global type thought.

Im wondering does this help us humans proving the probabilty of the presence of under bed monsters too?

John W. Loftus said...

Okay, Eric, since you persist I wrote this post for you.

Eric said...

"I don't know, I'd still need a positive argument and not meerly a defense to hand over 10% of my income and a couple hours of my week to some belief."

Right, which is why I said defenses are necessary but not sufficient.

John, let me clarify my position with an example: Atheists often raise some of the may versions of the problem of evil when discussing belief in God with Christians -- and rightfully so, since it's a very serious problem.

Now some atheists make quite strong claims here, averring that given the existence of evil and God's purported nature, God cannot exist.

Theists have (at least) two options here: (1) they can present a defense, in which they show *only* that there is a possible world in which both evil and a God of that nature exist, or (2) they can present a theodicy, in which they make a positive case in an attempt to show why evil and such a God's existence are in fact compatible. A good example of (1) is Plantinga's free will defense, and a good example of (2) is Swinburne's very thorough theodicy.

Now no theist "hangs his faith" on Plantinga's defense, though it may certainly play a part in his overall case for his faith by knocking down the logical problem of evil (I know a few philosophers question this, but most by far think Plantinga was successful here). Rather, most theists have independent reasons for concluding that their beliefs are true, and those reasons may include, with respect to the problem of evil, a theodicy like Swinburne's.

So it's simply not the case that we "hang our faith on a possibility," though it certainly is the case that we must sometimes respond to certain kinds of arguments by defending possibilities. But this isn't a defect; rather, it's determined by the nature of the sorts of arguments atheists defend! Generally speaking, the stronger the claim an argument makes, the less it takes to refute it, and very strong claims can often be refuted by referring to mere possibilities.

So, if you don't like possibility defenses, moderate your claims and they'll have no purchase! ;)

John W. Loftus said...

Eric, there's much I agree with you here. But did you read my recent post where I put it all in context?

Ryan Anderson said...

Eric said "Right, which is why I said defenses are necessary but not sufficient."

But you've always shied away from nailing down for us what would be sufficient. I think that's probably because nothing is, if you look at it honestly.

You also said "If I hold X, and you provide an argument against X that you think shows that X is impossible or almost certainly false, all I have to do to refute your argument is show that X is possible. This is a defense of X."

This should apply to any fantastic claim made by a religion as well (specifically, the resurrection). By claiming the resurrection happened, you are also claiming that all possible alternative natural explanation did not happen (a VERY strong claim). So all we have to do is show that any one of the myriad of natural explanations is possible. Easy peasy.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric

What is sufficient?

Saint Brian the Godless said...

Theists have (at least) two options here: (...)
-Eric
-----------------
Three, if you count admitting it when you're wrong.

But you don't, do you?

Hey dude, I get it. It's all a game, and as long as you're not absotively proven wrong with hard evidence (which is admittedly impossible given the topic) you're still 'right' as far as you're concerned, regardless whether all your side has is 'possibility' and the other side has reams and reams of 'probability.' This is apparently enough for you. It's pretty paltry as far as I can see, but hey, whatever floats your boat, right? It's a free country, so you're free to put wishful or even magical thinking above logical thought processes which consider all the possibilities holistically and not just your favorite one.

Eric said...

"But did you read my recent post where I put it all in context?"

John, I read your post, and while I agree that some Christians may often make such moves to possibility, I don't see those who are exemplars of rigorous thinking about Christianity doing so, except in situations where the arguments they are responding to warrant such a response (as I explained in my post above). And, just as I think that when I respond to atheism I should look to people who are exemplars of rigorous thinking about atheism, such as yourself, Quentin Smith, Michael Martin, etc., and not to the village atheist, I think atheists should respond to Christians on a similar intellectual rung. I mean, if I refute the arguments of a guy who knows next to nothing about the serious arguments for atheism, I haven't in fact touched atheism itself, but have merely demonstrated one atheist's ignorance. If I'm going to make a dent in atheism as such, I need to target its strongest arguments. It's the same with Christianity.

So, I suppose my question is, since I'm unaware of sophisticated cases for the truth of Christianity that rely on the possibility move at "almost every turn," do you have any in mind that you can point me to?

"What is sufficient?"

Chuck, what is "sufficient" will differ from person to person, as is the case with nearly every claim that cannot be strictly demonstrated. Not all atheists are atheists for the same reasons; for some, it's the problem of evil, or what they see to be a lack of evidence, or religious intolerance, and so on (or some combination of such factors). For example, Dawkins claims to have become an atheist after learning about evolution, while Ehrman became an agnostic after seriously considering the problem of evil.

For Christians, what is sufficient may be a particularly strong religious experience, or exposure to good arguments, and so on (or some combination of such factors).

Obviously, we can make judgments about whether something is in fact sufficient: for example, I take Ehrmans's reasons for agnosticism to be sufficient, but not Dawkins's reasons for atheism. But this is in a sense the main terrain of the whole debate between informed Christians and atheists: we're asking and evaluating whether our respective reasons can be reasonably be judged to be sufficient.

Now, if you're asking what's sufficient for me, well, that's a large question. It took John over 400 pages to explain why he became an atheist, so I hope I can be excused if I can't present an adequate answer to the question of why I became a Christian in a combox.

John W. Loftus said...

Eric, thanks for the compliment!

As you know my focus is on conservatives, evangelicals. I think they do indeed resort to possibilities at every turn. But it would be a case by case basis since Craig doesn't argue for the Penal substitutionary theory.or the reliability of the NT, but others do. Catholics have a different way of handling such issues but I'll bet they do too on the major questions.

Ignerant Phool said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ignerant Phool said...

Again Eric, I'm aware (and I'm sure others are also)that it would be "possible" for you to say all that you have said, which is why I went the route that I went. You can and will always respond in the way you do, because it satisfies your thinking as long as you feel you have a response. And this you somewhat seem to be aware of and purposely do. This is evident in your choosing not to directly address what I posted above.

If I'm wrong about you, and since you specialize in defending possibilities, how about putting your confidence to the test. You see, I've always taken notice of your absence on most of the topics you would normally see people like Marcus, Breckmin, Harvey, and Lvka try to defend. How about you show us that your faith doesn't really hang on mere possibilities and that you don't revert to it at every turn (and you don't need to take "at every turn" so literally) by commenting on the topics you intentionally avoid. I would really want to see this, let's really see what you're made of, and show us the "absolutely right" and "absolutely true" Catholic's view. Once again, I'm aware of possible reasons you may have, so you don't need to just reply with the reason and then leave it at that. Because you Christians have a tendency to reply in this manner thinking you're actually responding to the issue when you're not.

Andre

Eric said...

"Catholics have a different way of handling such issues but I'll bet they do too on the major questions."

John, I guess I just don't see that it's nearly as prevalent as you suppose, or, indeed, prevalent at all, among Catholic philosophers. Take some of the best Catholic philosophers of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries: Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, Ralph Mcinerny, Etienne Gilson, Jacques Maritain, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Bernard Lonergan, John Haldane, etc. I don't see them relying on this sort of move; do you?


"This is evident in your choosing not to directly address what I posted above."

Ignerant Phool, I did respond to your post above when I clarified my position. You wrote:

"But one wonders how much faith one must muster to be a believer while at the same time having their beliefs hang by a thread of mere possibilities."

As I said when I distinguished a defense from a positive case, your premise is false: My beliefs don't "hang by a thread of mere possibilities."

"If I'm wrong about you, and since you specialize in defending possibilities, how about putting your confidence to the test. You see, I've always taken notice of your absence on most of the topics you would normally see people like Marcus, Breckmin, Harvey, and Lvka try to defend. How about you show us that your faith doesn't really hang on mere possibilities and that you don't revert to it at every turn (and you don't need to take "at every turn" so literally) by commenting on the topics you intentionally avoid."

Huh? How in the world do you know that I "intentionally avoid" certain topics? I've commented on a number of posts, on a number of topics, on this blog; can you defend your claim that I intentionally avoid certain topics?

Let me tell you what I "intentionally avoid" (and this obviously doesn't include discussions I miss because I don't have time to post, etc.): topics about which I have nothing worth saying. So, are you complaining because I only comment when I think I have something worth saying?

"I would really want to see this, let's really see what you're made of, and show us the "absolutely right" and "absolutely true" Catholic's view."

When have I ever said that Catholicism is "absolutely right" and "absolutely true." I've always said that my only claim is that I have good reasons for believing what I believe, and I've always said that one could disagree with me without violating *any* epistemic duties. So, again, your request rests on a false premise.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric,

If you wrote a 400 page book I might read it.

I find it fascinating that a young man as intelligent as yourself would allow himself to be aligned with the Roman Catholic Church.

I have some very good friends who do the same thing and find their faith as puzzling as yours.

My puzzlement is not a product of ignorance either. I have 14 years of Catholic Education and am pretty well associated with the Roman Catholic Church. I often get schooled by my friends on the Catechism.

It all seems like wishful thinking and objectively fails to produce any marginally better institutional behavior than a godless organization might. Its adherence to hierarchy and tradition however do make it vulnerable to authoritarianism and the abuses attached to that mindset.

I'm sure you believe what you believe as true but fail to trust (yet, based on your postings here) that any of your beliefs are anything more than the wishes of an earnest young man in need of intellectual superiority and metaphysical certainty.

That is why I asked what is sufficient. Your inability to provide a simple answer indicates to me that you are still trying to figure it out.

I can say I am an atheist for similar reasons Ehrman is an agnostic. But, to demand a similar exposition of atheism to your Roman Catholicism is equivocation. An atheist can simply be one because they say no to the question of God. There's no need to have the sophisticated arguments you claim. You are the one making the extraordinary claim and the proof lies with you.

When I witness how societies function and social policies are formed absent of any supernatural tests for gods and interventionist gods at that I can appreciate an atheist's assertion simply for their lack of credulity.

Ignerant Phool said...

"As I said when I distinguished a defense from a positive case, your premise is false: My beliefs don't "hang by a thread of mere possibilities.""

You're not getting the point. Even after you're done with distinguishing a defence from a positive case, your beliefs in the end, do "hang by a thread of mere possibilities" in my estimation.

"When have I ever said that Catholicism is "absolutely right" and "absolutely true." I've always said that my only claim is that I have good reasons for believing what I believe, and I've always said that one could disagree with me without violating *any* epistemic duties. So, again, your request rests on a false premise."

My statement may have come across as more than what I intended for it to. It is the "good reasons" for believing what you do that I'm referring to when I say to show us your Catholic view. The point is I think those good reasons are still only based on "possibilities", as in the absolutely possible right and true view.

As to you intentionally avoiding certain topics (and I'm not if you understand my use of the word intentional), that's my claim. You can always say otherwise and I'll will never really certain, so there's no point in arguing about that. All I'm saying is let’s see some more variety even if you don't think it's worth it, just share your thoughts.

Andre

GearHedEd said...

For all those who didn't bother to look up Plantinga's Free Will Defense:

As Plantinga summarised his defense:[12][13]

"A world containing creatures who are significantly free (and freely perform more good than evil actions) is more valuable, all else being equal, than a world containing no free creatures at all. Now God can create free creatures, but He can't cause or determine them to do only what is right. For if He does so, then they aren't significantly free after all; they do not do what is right freely. To create creatures capable of moral good, therefore, He must create creatures capable of moral evil; and He can't give these creatures the freedom to perform evil and at the same time prevent them from doing so. As it turned out, sadly enough, some of the free creatures God created went wrong in the exercise of their freedom; this is the source of moral evil. The fact that free creatures sometimes go wrong, however, counts neither against God's omnipotence nor against His goodness; for He could have forestalled the occurrence of moral evil only by removing the possibility of moral good."

But wait...

Plantinga's argument is that even though God is omnipotent, it is possible that it was not in his power to create a world containing moral good but no moral evil; therefore, there is no logical inconsistency involved when God, although wholly good, creates a world of free creatures who chose to do evil.[5] The argument relies on the following propositions:

1.There are possible worlds that even an omnipotent being can not actualize.
2.A world with morally free creatures producing only moral good is such a world.

The key phrase there:

"...it is POSSIBLE THAT IT WAS NOT IN HIS POWER to create a world containing moral good but no moral evil..."

Unless I'm a reetard, this says that Plantinga's argument is only (barely) possible IF we take away his OMNIPOTENCE.

I'm not convinced. Maybe there's a hundred pages of preparatory work redefining all the terms that I missed...

Chuck O'Connor said...

Yep Ed

The apologists' works are only impressive in their ad hoc variations.

None of them convince me that they are communicating anything other than their wishful thinking and emotional retardation.

GearHedEd said...

...and / or preaching to their choir, Chuck.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Yes Ed and their choir usually consists of themselves and their fevered insecure delusions.

Papalinton said...

Hi GearHedEd
Talking of the 'big fella's' omnipotence, I wonder if anyone has applied the 'hottest pizza' test yet?
If god is omnipotent [the most powerful ever] then he should be able to make the hottest pizza ever. But if he is able to eat it, it can't be the hottest pizza ever, therefore he is not powerful enough to make one too hot to eat. If, however, he can't eat it because it is too hot, then again he can't claim to be omnipotent.
There's a real contradiction there.

@ Eric
Religion is purely a social construct developed by our forebears in ancient times to make sense of their existence, the world they lived in and of the cosmos. It is culture-specific fabrication that is human developed. That is why there are many thousands of religions in the world. We cannot speak of christianity but only christianities, and there are myriads of them. All claiming that they are the only true way to heaven. Religion is not always wrong. It just has no better chance of being correct than guessing.

GearHedEd said...

Papalinton said'

"...Religion is not always wrong. It just has no better chance of being correct than guessing."

I would take the final step there, even though even John says the 'default position is Agnosticism', and say,

"It has NO chance of being correct."

Eric said...

"For all those who didn't bother to look up Plantinga's Free Will Defense:
As Plantinga summarised his defense:[12][13]"

Ed, first, I at least know that John understands that it's not sufficient to deal with a summary and to pretend you've said anything interesting about the argument:

"You can find several summaries of my new book The Christian Delusion out there. But if you think dealing with a summary of a book is the same thing as dealing with the arguments in it, then think again...When it comes to Guthrie’s criticisms of my arguments keep in mind he’s not actually dealing with my case. He’s criticizing a mere summary of my case. And THAT makes all the difference in the world. I tire of people who criticize my summary who in turn think they have actually dealt with my arguments. If someone truly wants to deal with my arguments then he should read through the 428 pages of my book. A summary is, after all, a summary. I defend that summary in my book."

Second, it's decidedly not the case that you can just point to something God cannot do an conclude, "Aha! If he can't do that, he can't be omniscient!" See, if you actually read Plantinga's book instead of an online summary, you'd see that during his working out of notions like transworld depravity and counterfactuals of freedom and so on he deals with the omnipotence question you're raising.

"Religion is purely a social construct developed by our forebears in ancient times to make sense of their existence, the world they lived in and of the cosmos."

I don't deny that in a sense "religion" is man made. Catholics certainly don't believe that the Catechism, the Bible, sacred tradition, and the liturgy were given to us in their current form by God. But the move from the undeniable premise that "there are aspects of all religions that are man made" to the conclusion "everything -- every belief, practice, etc. -- about every religion is man made" is one I'm quite certain you cannot adequately defend.

"It is culture-specific fabrication that is human developed."

So is architecture; does this mean that neither my house nor the Taj Mahal exist?

"That is why there are many thousands of religions in the world."

My explanation actually fits just as well, if not better: there are many thousands of religions in the world because different cultures, at different times, have felt the need to attempt to understand a supernatural reality they genuinely experienced.

"We cannot speak of christianity but only christianities, and there are myriads of them."

Yes, there are, but there is also a core set of beliefs and practices nearly all would agree with. Just take all that Catholics, Orthodox and Anglicans -- roughly 2/3 of the world's Christian population there -- would agree with. And we could add many Protestant sects and churches to that number.

"All claiming that they are the only true way to heaven."

Well, this needs to be nuanced a bit: for example, Catholics would say that there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church, but they don't understand this to mean that only Catholics are saved -- indeed, we believe that atheists, Buddhists, Muslims, etc. can all possibly be saved. We're not universalists, mind you, but we don't mean what you think we do when we talk about the Church and salvation.

"Religion is not always wrong. It just has no better chance of being correct than guessing."

It "has no chance of being correct than guessing" about what? About God and our relation to him, or about something else, like scientific conclusions?

By the way John, thank you very much for introducing me to Randal Rauser -- what a delightful and intelligent man he is!

Eric said...

"Aha! If he can't do that, he can't be omniscient!"

Yeah, "omnipotent" even...that's what I get for typing out a response while my two year old nephew is asking me question after question after question, about everything under the sun!

Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric

How is architecture equivalent to religion and how is a free-standing structure equivalent to a disicipline that renders plans for that free-standing structure?

Your defense is vague and seems rhetorical.

Apologetics, yes but very unconvincing.

Eric said...

Chuck, is architecture (1) cultural specific, (2) a fabrication, and (3) human developed? Yes, on all three counts. (Note: I don't take him to be using the term "fabrication" to mean a deception of some sort, but to mean something constructed; if he meant the former, and if he meant that proposition to play a role in an argument against the truth of any specific set of religious beliefs, then he's begging the question, so I'm interpreting the term charitably.) But if this is so, and if the Taj Mahal exists, then we cannot conclude from the fact that any X satisfies those three conditions that it's referent or subject or whatever doesn't exist in any meaningful sense.

This isn't sophistry, Chuck: it's a tried and true method in logic and philosophy of using counterexamples to demonstrate that an argument is fallacious, weak, etc..

Ryan Anderson said...

Eric; your house is a product of architecture. Theology is a product of religion.

God doesn't fit into the anology. You've basically just confirmed that religion exists because religion exist. I believe that's a fail, but hey, I'm sure I missed some nuance or technical defininition of a common word.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric,

Architecture (unlike religion) is governed by immutable laws that test the plans rendering and guide its fabrication.

It is a bad counter-example because it doesn't take into consideration all of the propositions that make the example true.

Load-bearing walls are real. Your catechism does not have a similar test.

All I see in your comparison is a clever young man trying to build an Escher house and call it reasonable.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric,

And I don't disagree that using counter-examples to point out fallacies is a proper practice.

I think your practice of it was poor.

Eric said...

"Architecture (unlike religion) is governed by immutable laws that test the plans rendering and guide its fabrication.
It is a bad counter-example because it doesn't take into consideration all of the propositions that make the example true."

Chuck, you have to try to distinguish *relevant* disanalogies from *irrelevant* disanalogies. In this case, the *only* question is whether architecture satisfies all three conditions; if it does, and if this says nothing about the existence of its object, then Pap's argument fails.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric,

Architecture does not satisfy all three conditions.

Please explain how the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame designed by a Japanese architect is culture specific?

Additionally, you didn't satisfy my question regarding the equivalence between architectural renderings and the realization of a free-standing building?

Architecture is not construction therefore your analogy fails in it's illustration to equate the structure of the Taj Mahal or your house as evidence to the reality of religion by the existence of both structures. You break the analogy when you attempt to equate architecture with a building.

Now if you want to say that religion is as real as an architectural drawing then I will agree with that but one can't live within an architectural drawing and an architectural drawing is not building construction. Therefore, architecture is not your house and like religion is a conceptual framework for reality but it is not real. It is merely a guide to building your house. The building itself is distinct.

Bad analogy Eric.

But, of course architecture is not culture specific because it is governed by universal immutable laws of physics and can be practiced cross-culturally to good effect (e.g. IM Pei building the church of American Pop Culture in the Rock and Roll Museum).

It is a bad analogy.

Try another one. I might agree with you if you practice it better.

Eric said...

"Please explain how the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame designed by a Japanese architect is culture specific?"

How is a Japanese Christian culture specific?

Look, we all know that there have been and still continue to be substantial culture-specific differences among Japanese architecture and, say, German architecture, Italian architecture, English architecture, Indian architecture, etc. (of whatever time).

"Additionally, you didn't satisfy my question regarding the equivalence between architectural renderings and the realization of a free-standing building?"

Architecture refers to both the design *and* construction of buildings, both of which are influenced by culture.

"Architecture is not construction"

Well, "religion" is not God. But that aside, you're wrong here: as I said, architecture concerns both the design and construction of buildings. Look it up.

"But, of course architecture is not culture specific"

Are you kidding me? If I showed you a series of unidentified pictures of a Japanese temple, a Gothic cathedral, an Iroquois longhouse and an Islamic Mosque, are you telling me you couldn't identify the culture that the architecture of each building is associated with?

"Through architecture it's possible to gauge many things about a culture, such as lifestyle, artistic sensibilities and social structure” (Mark Damen, "History and Civilization").

Chuck O'Connor said...

And IM Pei uses Japanese influences to commemorate the American art form known as Rock and Roll because the design has cross-cultural meaning.

See, not culture specific.

Additionally.

Also, being the son of a Journeyman carpenter and having set roof joist I know that the architecture (e.g blueprint) is often NOT the construction. What is designed needs modification in practice and the building only becomes an approximation of the imaginary design set down by the architect.

Therefore your analogy is broken.

Like I said, try another one Eric. I might agree with you.

This one fails to consider the depth of meaning your analogy demands.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric,

Additionally, I agree with you that architectural renderings can provide insight into culture but that does not mean that rendering verifies the reality of the building created.

MC Escher's drawings of structures give insight to the culture he inhabited too. Build me something born from his drawings.

You looked to defeat Pap's argument that religion is necessitated by culture and therefore lacks substance by equating it to the substance of building which are a by-product of architecture and therefore because you live in a house architecturally rendered or the Taj Mahal architecturally rendered religion is real like the cultural invention known as architecture.

Your mistake is equating the reality of the building with the imagined rendering of the building. They are not the same thing.

The building exists outside of culture. It is real due to the immutable physical laws of nature, not due to the cultural invention of architecture.

Like I said. I agree with you that architecture as imagined is like religion as imagined but unlike architecture, religion is dependent on cultural bias to be realized where immutable universal physical laws bring buildings to reality. Architecture is real despite culture - physics makes it real; religion is dependent on culture to engender imagined biases as real.

Eric said...

"And IM Pei uses Japanese influences to commemorate the American art form known as Rock and Roll because the design has cross-cultural meaning.
See, not culture specific."

And there are dozens of Japanese born and educated Catholic saints. See, not culture specific. (I in fact think it is culture specific; I'm just providing counterexamples.)

"Also, being the son of a Journeyman carpenter and having set roof joist I know that the architecture (e.g blueprint) is often NOT the construction. What is designed needs modification in practice and the building only becomes an approximation of the imaginary design set down by the architect."

And "religion" is at best an approximation of what ends up, for each of us, being a very specific, modified approach to relating to and understanding God.

Saint Brian the Godless said...

And there are dozens of Japanese born and educated Catholic saints. See, not culture specific.
-------------
If I were a Shinto priest I would think that the fact that I am an American livinig here and not there would not affect the fact that I am still participating in a part of an Eastern culture (and even propagating it within my own Western culture,) and not any tradition from my own western culture. But hey, that's just me. Do go on...

Eric said...

"Your mistake is equating the reality of the building with the imagined rendering of the building. They are not the same thing."

ar·chi·tec·ture (ärk-tkchr)
n.
1. The art and science of designing *and erecting* buildings.
2. *Buildings* and other large structures
3. A style and method of design *and construction*

"The building exists outside of culture."

It is a *product*, and an *identifiable product* of a specific culture. To point to modern cross cultural borrowing in architecture in an attempt to refute my claim is like saying that because I can get a Big Mac in Japan and Italy it follows that there's no cultural difference between Japanese food and Italian food.

I'm not too interested in continuing to defend the obvious, so I'll let you have the last word on this subject (and, unlike Bill O'Reilly, I really will give you the last word on this topic).

Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric,

My illustration of immutable, universal physical laws to realize all architecture countered your analogy that architecture is a product of discrete culture and therefore somehow is the equivalent of religion. You used the physical structures of your house and the Taj Mahal to argue the equivalent reality of religion. I don't see how an artifact realized by universal and testable and verifiable laws is the same thing as culture specific faith stories.

You fail to see that or choose not to see that.

Your analogy once again proved too much. Your house is the product of universal physical laws as much as it is a product of cultural influence. Religion has no equivalent physical test to assess its reality so it can only be a product of cultural imagination and has no realistic substance to bind it.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric,

Also, resorting to a dictionary definition to debate the reality of an analogy seems a bit pedestrian for you.

I expect better.

Do so next time.

Gandolf said...

Eric said.."Architecture refers to both the design *and* construction of buildings, both of which are influenced by culture."

Eric.. yes Architecture might "refer" to both design and construction of buildings.But never the less architecture is still "theory" until the building has actually been proved by being completed.


Eric said.."ar·chi·tec·ture (ärk-tkchr)
n.
1. The art and science of designing *and erecting* buildings.
2. *Buildings* and other large structures
3. A style and method of design *and construction*"

The minds of many children worldwide have designed and visualized how to create monster that live under beds.So the "architecture" part has been completed !, and whats more! with all these children worldwide -> "there is also a core set of beliefs and practices nearly all would agree with" ....about these underbed scary monsters.. Eric

Does this like religion/Gods, also do anything to help prove the real existence of childrens underbed scary monsters ?.

Dont forget Eric these children have all completed the architecture ,they have obviously already worked out the exact design and exactly how to go about the fabrication also.

After we sort this particular wordwide phenomenom out thats long been a bit of a worldwide worry.Should we also try to approach the "worldwide" phenomena of Ghosts ? ,worldwide the achitecture has already been done for Ghosts also, people have already designed and worked out exactly how they should be fabricated.And like kids undebed monsters , the presence of Ghost is so honestly real! that its also quite a global thing that so many peoples! skin DOES actually! grow goose bumps whenever in the presence of these Ghosts.

Hendy said...

This discussion was quite the skim-through...

I particularly liked the bit about possibilities and especially about what is convincing to various people.

Eric, how do you explain the existence of non-believers, like myself, who used to believe but deconverted due to investigation?

How could god allow that? If free-will or stubbornness/hard-heartedness is your answer, then how do you explain 'imprinted' morals/instincts in light of free will?

For example, no matter how 'hard-hearted' I am, I cannot fathom a time when murder will ever seem appealing to me. Or what about contemplating eating feces. Can you imagine that being appealing? I surely can't.

But I did nothing to 'earn' these instincts/senses or 'work at them.' I don't have to have faith in them. They are a reality in my life. Is my free will compromised?

If not, then why not a sense that Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords in all people across the entire world? We share so many natural occurrences like anti-violence senses and repulsion toward feces... why not a sense of the same good and loving god?

Moreso, why would god allow his case to rest on probability? Despite your pushing for a kind view on free-will defense or other arguments as not conclusively refuted because there are possible loopholes... you have to admit that god let this be the case. We have direct words from his son who thought it was better to tell parables or talk about worms that never die and such than to let it be known for all time what the morally sufficient reason for evil and suffering is in the world. Think about how many things god could have told us through Jesus that he didn't.

Makes no sense given omniscience. Makes perfect sense if Jesus' words were tailored with only a limited view of one small culture in one small place in the world in one narrow window of time.

GearHedEd said...

Eric,

My point in summarizing Plantinga's Free Will Defense wasn't to "prove" that it was wrong; it was to point out that it's not UNIVERSALLY accepted, and that there ARE serious disagreements out there. Just because I didn't state one of those objections explicitly in front you doesn't mean they don't exist.

And in case you didn't catch it, most of what I posted from the "online summary" was quoted from Plantinga hisself.

You have said before (many times!) that to shoot holes in some proposition or other, it's only sufficient to raise the "possibility" that there are other VALID explanations. But when I attack Plantinga on THOSE VERY TERMS, you sputter and backpedal, and pooh-pooh my use of an online summary.

Dishonest.

GearHedEd said...

This part:

"Plantinga's argument is that even though God is omnipotent, it is possible that it was not in his power to create a world containing moral good but no moral evil; therefore, there is no logical inconsistency involved when God, although wholly good, creates a world of free creatures who chose to do evil.[5] The argument relies on the following propositions:

1.There are possible worlds that even an omnipotent being can not actualize.
2.A world with morally free creatures producing only moral good is such a world."

I'll be charitable here, and agree with Plantinga for a moment, to show that I DO understand the argument:

I get it, that what 1. above is saying does not NECESSARILY imply impotence on God's part; it could be reworded

1'. 1.There are possible worlds that even an omnipotent being would not actualize in order to accomplish some desired end.
2.A world with morally free creatures producing only moral good is such a world.

Still works, but doesn't take away God's omnipotence.

the formulation they gave on transworld depravity,

"A person P suffers from transworld depravity if and only if the following holds: for every world W such that P is significantly free in W and P does only what is right in W, there is an action A and a maximal world segment S´ such that

1.S´ includes A's being morally significant for P
2.S´ includes P's being free with respect to A
3.S´ is included in W and includes neither P's performing A nor P's refraining from performing A
4.If S´ were actual, P would go wrong with respect to A."

My criticism(s):

S' seems to be an artificial construct, used only to advance the argument.

'A' being an action, how does "neither performing A nor refraining from performing A impact P morally? Are we talking thought crimes here?

What gives?

GearHedEd said...

And just so you know (you probably guessed anyway) I haven't read Plantinga's work. I don't think I want to, if his work is as tucked into the cracks of logical possibility as the summary seems to indicate.

GearHedEd said...

This part bugs me:

"...though God is omnipotent, it is possible that it was not in his power to create a world containing moral good but no moral evil; therefore, there is no logical inconsistency involved when God, although wholly good, creates a world of free creatures who chose to do evil."

God created us, but it's somehow OUR fault that evil exists?

See Genesis 2:17.

GearHedEd said...

Oh, wait.

I forgot, you Catholics don't read the Bible literally.

My bad.

Eric said...

Hendy, here is your argument, as I understand it:

(1) Instincts and moral drives prod us in a particular direction without compelling us.

(2) Hence, given (1), instincts and moral drives are compatible with free will.

(3) God is a being who wants all people to come to know him and to love him, and to know him and love him fully.

(4) If (3), we should expect a an instinct or moral drive in all human beings to know and love God fully.

(5) We don't find that instinct in all human beings.

(6) Hence, either (3) is false, or God isn't omniscient.

(7) The Christian God is both omniscient and the sort of God described in (3).

(8) Hence, given (6), the Christian God does not exist.

Is that an accurate formulation of your argument?

Eric said...

"My point in summarizing Plantinga's Free Will Defense wasn't to "prove" that it was wrong; it was to point out that it's not UNIVERSALLY accepted, and that there ARE serious disagreements out there."

Ed, almost no argument is universally accepted; further, I said as much in the post you were responding to: "[regarding Plantinga's free will defense], I know a few philosophers question this, but most by far think Plantinga was successful here."

Are you in the habit of raising points that have already been conceded as if you're saying something new?

"And in case you didn't catch it, most of what I posted from the "online summary" was quoted from Plantinga hisself."

Yes, I caught it, but apparently you didn't catch the fact that John's critic was responding to a summary written by John "hisself."

"You have said before (many times!) that to shoot holes in some proposition or other, it's only sufficient to raise the "possibility" that there are other VALID explanations. But when I attack Plantinga on THOSE VERY TERMS, you sputter and backpedal, and pooh-pooh my use of an online summary.
Dishonest."

No, what's dishonest is your conveniently forgetting that all important modifier "universal" proposition, or "a proposition that claims X is impossible," or something similar. I've *never* said that "to shoot holes in *some proposition or other*, it's only sufficient to raise the "possibility" that there are other VALID explanations."

Further, I don't even know what a "'valid' alternative explanation" is.

"I'll be charitable here, and agree with Plantinga for a moment, to show that I DO understand the argument"

Ed, no, you almost certainly do not understand the argument, especially if, as you admitted, you haven't even read Plantinga. For example, Professor James Sennett has reviewed articles for submission to academic journals that deal with issues in philosophy of religion, and he has said that nearly every submission from professional philosophers (who are thoroughly familiar with Plantinga's work) that attempts to knock down Plantinga's free will defense misunderstands, and often quite badly misunderstands, Plantinga's argument. Sennett, himself a professional philosopher, in addition to reading and rereading Plantinga's work, had to communicate with Plantinga a number of times before Plantinga finally said, "Yes, now you understand it." See, Plantinga's argument is renown for is rigorous, high level use of modal logic. So don't give me this "Hey man, I read the summary and googled a few terms, so I understand it, and I don't need to read the actual texts in which the argument is laid out!" nonsense. And your incredibly uninformed and frankly naive criticisms bear this out. If you want to actually work your way through the argument, get back to me in a month or two (that's how long it takes most of us to get a good handle on it, *with* help from our professors *after* having studied modal logic).

Surely you'll come back complaining that if it's that complicated, there's something wrong with it. But try reading, say, Tooley's development of the problem of evil: it too is very complex, and requires some serious study to master. Does it follow that Tooley's argument against God's existence must be flawed or hiding some sophistical trick, merely because it's complicated

GearHedEd said...

Eric said, in response to me:

"I've *never* said that "to shoot holes in *some proposition or other*, it's only sufficient to raise the "possibility" that there are other VALID explanations."

Earlier, to John Eric said (on this thread, no less!):

"But John, when someone makes a particularly strong claim, all I need to do is show that an alternative is possible to refute it."

June 16, 2010 7:22 PM


I call BULLSHIT on you, sir!

GearHedEd said...

Eric said,

"...Yes, I caught it, but apparently you didn't catch the fact that John's critic was responding to a summary written by John "hisself.""

Wrong. I read it long before you thought you were pointing it out to me.

"For example, Professor James Sennett has reviewed articles for submission to academic journals that deal with issues in philosophy of religion, and he has said that nearly every submission from professional philosophers (who are thoroughly familiar with Plantinga's work) that attempts to knock down Plantinga's free will defense misunderstands, and often quite badly misunderstands, Plantinga's argument. Sennett, himself a professional philosopher, in addition to reading and rereading Plantinga's work, had to communicate with Plantinga a number of times before Plantinga finally said, "Yes, now you understand it."

And you still think Plantinga is right, when a plethora of dudes with PhD's already in hand find his work less than understandable?

Maybe they weren't holding their mouth 'just right' while they were trying to puzzle through it.


You're *never* wrong, are you, Eric?

GearHedEd said...

I'm going to prophesy here:

Eric is winding up an argument to say to me that the two statements

"I've *never* said that "to shoot holes in *some proposition or other*, it's only sufficient to raise the "possibility" that there are other VALID explanations."

"But John, when someone makes a particularly strong claim, all I need to do is show that an alternative is possible to refute it."

are somehow relying on a subtle semantic difference that I didn't get because my comprehension is bad or some such...

GearHedEd said...

"Further, I don't even know what a "'valid' alternative explanation" is."

To puit it in words you've used recently, it is

"an alternative".

GearHedEd said...

Or more 'charitably',

"a possible alternative".

Eric said...

"Eric said, in response to me:
"I've *never* said that "to shoot holes in *some proposition or other*, it's only sufficient to raise the "possibility" that there are other VALID explanations."
"Earlier, to John Eric said (on this thread, no less!):
"But John, when someone makes a particularly strong claim, all I need to do is show that an alternative is possible to refute it.I call BULLSHIT on you, sir!"

Ed, I don't know if you're playing games, or if you're genuinely obtuse.

Can we identify "some proposition" with "a particularly strong claim"? And what did I say in my *clarification* of my possibility point *in this very thread?:

"Let me respond quickly to John's "possibility" point, since I see many on this thread are running with it...If I hold X, and you provide an argument against X that you think shows that X *is impossible* or *almost certainly false* [in other words, X is "a particularly strong claim"] all I have to do to refute your argument is show that X is possible. This is a defense of X."

Bullshit indeed.

"You're *never* wrong, are you, Eric?"

Yeah, all of us former Christians-turned-atheists-turned-agnostics-turned-Christians are never wrong, except when we admit that we've been wrong about the biggest issues in our lives multiple times in the past, and except when we say, on numerous occasions, as you know I have, that I may be wrong about all this.

Are you for real?

GearHedEd said...

Prophecy fulfilled.

GearHedEd said...

Pardon me if my use of language is less precise than yours, but the point is STRENGTHENED by your objection.

"Can we identify "some proposition" with "a particularly strong claim"?"

Which is stronger? And if we can refute "a particularly strong claim" by coming up with "show(ing) that an alternative is possible", how much easier to refute "some proposition"?

If we set aside the "less than precise language" I admit I have some difficulty with (and you KNEW what I meant due to context!) where pray tell are those two statements sematically different?

I'm not obtuse, nor am i attempting to muddy the waters here, but it seems to me you have some reconciling to do, without throwing the ball into my court and saying I got it wrong.

"If I hold Plantinga's Free Will Defense, and you provide an argument against Plantinga's Free Will Defense that you think shows that Plantinga's Free Will Defense *is impossible* or *almost certainly false* [in other words, Plantinga's Free Will Defense is "a particularly strong claim"] all I have to do to refute your argument is show that Plantinga's Free Will Defense is possible. This is a defense of Plantinga's Free Will Defense."

Your counterexample verbatim, with "Plantinga's Free Will Defense" substituted for 'X'.

I agree. But the converse is therefore true too:

"If I hold Plantinga's Free Will Defense is false, and you provide an argument against Plantinga's Free Will Defense is false that you think shows that Plantinga's Free Will Defense is false *is impossible* or *almost certainly false* [in other words, Plantinga's Free Will Defense is false is "a particularly strong claim"] all I have to do to refute your argument is show that Plantinga's Free Will Defense is false is possible. This is a defense of Plantinga's Free Will Defense is false."

Impasse.

Eric said...

"Prophecy fulfilled."

You're as bad at prophesying as you are at reasoning.

Since when is the distinction between "some proposition" and "a particularly strong claim, such that X is impossible or almost certainly false" a "subtle semantic difference"?

Is there a difference between "some S is P" and "all S are P"? Let's try it: some people named Ed are mass murderers, all people named ed are mass murderers. Big difference, eh? Yes, and almost as big is the difference between "some proposition," which means a proposition of any sort, and "a particularly strong claim" (not just a *strong* claim, but a *particularly* strong claim).

Tell me you can see this, Ed.

GearHedEd said...

Discussing this stuff with you, Eric, is like trying to walk through a room whose floor is covered with eggs while trying to reach the door on the other side.

To you, it doesn't matter that I got to the door, you concentrate on the yolk on my socks.

Eric said...

Plantinga's free will defense makes a "particularly strong claim"? Are you kidding me? *It makes claims that are among the weakest sorts of claims one can possibly make*. If I claim that X is 'possible' in the same sense Plantinga uses the term -- and by "possible" he means "broadly metaphysically possible" (one of those small but important details you miss if you comment without reading the text) -- all I'm claiming is that there is a possible world in which some state of affairs X obtains, i.e. X isn't contradictory. That's among the *weakest* claims one can make!

GearHedEd said...

I can see it, but you're still hung up on the semantics.

GearHedEd said...

OK, if Plantinga's Free Will Defense makes weak claims, then why are you defending it?

Ignerant Phool said...

Okay, I'll grant Plantinga's possibility. What I don't understand is, why do I need Jesus as a savior from that conclusion? I would suppose it follows that not only could he not "create a world containing moral good but no moral evil", but he also could not have created it without the need of Jesus' death and resurrection to atone for our "sins", right? I say this because it is ironic that God hates this moral evil or sin so much and had no choice any other way, yet he also has a solution by way of Jesus' crucifixion/sacrifice. Obviously, if what I say follows, there are many other inconsistencies and contradictions involved with the teachings and doctrines of Christianity(ies) that must be discussed. For example, I don't see how it can be said that God could have morally "possible" good reasons for "allowing" evil, or that it was out of his goodness he gave us free will, if it is the possibility that he could not create the world without moral good and evil.

Eric, do you mind helping me to understand what is I may be missing in your point of view.

Andre

GearHedEd said...

Because it's "possible"?

Eric said...

"Discussing this stuff with you, Eric, is like trying to walk through a room whose floor is covered with eggs while trying to reach the door on the other side."

Hey, this is big: for once one of us has said something we can both agree with! Ed, don't you realize that I'm in that same room with you, carefully navigating my way among the fragile eggs? Ed, this is what *all* rigorous reasoning, about anything is like! There are always *far* more ways to go wrong than right, since in the end, there's only *one* way everything in fact is, and it's that that we're reasoning about.

Eric said...

"Okay, I'll grant Plantinga's possibility. What I don't understand is, why do I need Jesus as a savior from that conclusion?"

Andre, "that conclusion" is only that the logical problem of evil is refuted, i.e. there is no contradiction in claiming both that God is good (morally perfect, omnibenevolent, or whatever) and that there is evil in the world. It does not follow from Plantinga's argument that God exists (since, while the logical problem of evil may fail, other arguments may succeed, such as the evidential problem of evil), that Jesus is God, that you need a savior, etc. None of this follows from Plantinga's defense.

When you evaluate an argument, you have to take care to understand precisely what the conclusion is.

GearHedEd said...

"Hey, this is big: for once one of us has said something we can both agree with! Ed, don't you realize that I'm in that same room with you, carefully navigating my way among the fragile eggs?"

Yeah, but you keep telling us that you got to the other side with no egg on your socks.

Chuck O'Connor said...

I agree with Ed. Eric you don't respect the reasoning of others here but only engage in pedantry when your ideas are challenged.

Also, I once again am amazed by your passion for modal logic when your reasoning abilities could be applied to understanding the crimes perpetrated by the current papacy and deconstructing the faith's claims to authority.

But no, you lecture us on modal logic technicalities while proudly defending your Roman Catholic faith as if it offers moral status despite that institution's recent criminal culpability.

Again I shake my head at an earnest boy defending the wrong things probably due to emotional or psychological defects.

It reads like narcissism and betrays the de facto meaning of philosophy as a discipline in service to the love of wisdom.

Ignerant Phool said...

Thanks Eric, I'll definitely try my best to keep that in mind. John is right about you that you are someone one can learn from.

Andre

Eric said...

"Yeah, but you keep telling us that you got to the other side with no egg on your socks."

Huh? When have I ever said that? Now, sure, I don't think any of the arguments I defend are fallacious (i.e. have logical problems), since, if I did, I wouldn't defend them. I may be wrong about that, of course, but that's where I stand right now. However, I do concede, and have always conceded, that while the arguments I defend are, in my opinion, logically valid, I cannot prove that their premises are true in most cases. The most I can say is that I believe the premises in the arguments I defend are more plausibly true than their denials. So, there's plenty of room for rational disagreement with me; I've always said that you can disagree with me without violating *any* epistemic duties. So, I guess I just don't know what you mean when you say I think my socks are egg free.

Let me put it this way: in logic, there's a paradox called the 'preface paradox.' From the SEP:

"In D. C. Makinson's (1965) preface paradox, an author believes each of the assertions in his book. But since the author regards himself as fallible, he believes the conjunction of all his assertions is false. If the agglomeration principle holds, (Bp & Bq) → B(p & q), the author must both believe and disbelieve the conjunction of all the assertions in his book."

See, we're all in that position: We both (1) believe that the beliefs we're willing to defend are true (or probable), and (2) know that we're fallible, and that we're almost certainly going wrong somewhere. So, with respect to (2), I *know* I have yolk on my socks, but I don't yet know where it came from. These discussions are a small part of my attempt to find that out.

Now Ed, you're an engineer, right? Imagine if I, someone with no experience studying, discussing, practicing, etc. real world engineering came along with a host of strongly held opinions about complex issues in engineering and began to both defend my claims and attack yours. Now, there is one chance in a million that I'm an engineering genius, and that everything I say is right, but you'd have to admit that chances are you'll see right off the bat that I have no idea what I'm talking about, that I couldn't distinguish the sort of engineer you are from a railroad engineer, and that I'm in need of some serious remedial work. So, my question is, why do people have such a hard time understanding that this is *also* the case with a rich, complex field of study like philosophy? (I understand it's also true of literature: everyone tells professional writers, "yeah, I'm thinking about writing a book myself" when they haven't the foggiest notion of what being an author really involves. It's insulting, since it treats that particular discipline as if it's something that anyone, regardless of background, education or intelligence can just jump right into and understand immediately, when in fact it takes years of hard work and a lot of sweat to get a hold of the fundamentals alone.)

GearHedEd said...

"I *know* I have yolk on my socks, but I don't yet know where it came from. These discussions are a small part of my attempt to find that out."

Me too.

"So, my question is, why do people have such a hard time understanding that this is *also* the case with a rich, complex field of study like philosophy?"

I don't really have any objections to your philosophy per se; it's the theology that bugs me. In my opinion, theology is a magnificent house of cards, and I'm trying to figure out: "If I breathe on it, will it collapse?"

As for me writing a book; I've been researching the subject matter for two years now, and haven't written much of anything yet. But like I said in another thread, it's a novel with the "Great Debate" as plot element and background, not a scholarly work.

And yeah, writing is difficult.

Eric said...

"As for me writing a book"

Ed, I wasn't referring to you there. (I can't tell for sure, but it seems as if you think I was, so just in case, I want to clarify that.) I was just providing a further example to support my position, one I've hears many writers comment about.

BTW, good luck with your book!

GearHedEd said...

Thanks, Eric.

If I can write the dang thing, I think it'll be commercially viable. It's a pretty cool idea, and I haven't seen anything like it elsewhere (although that doesn't mean someone DIDN'T beat me to the idea, but I can hope...)

GearHedEd said...

I think it was Chuck that said if you wrote a 400 page book, he'd read it.

GearHedEd said...

I, on the other hand, want a signed hardcover first edition.

:o)

Chuck O'Connor said...

I believe I have egg on my socks too.

And I did say I'd read a 400 page book written by Eric if he explained what seems like a completely illogical move in his constant defense of the Roman Catholic Church.

It would be a fascinating glimpse into the mind of a student of logic devoted to superstition.

The internal tension would be a solid premise.

And yes I am a writer and am using Eric as a model for a character in the play I am currently writing.

The character has sociopathic tendencies.

Eric said...

I get the sense that if either of you read a book I wrote, your experiences would be not unlike those of Nietzsche when he read Paul Ree's "The Origin of Moral Sentiments":

"I have, perhaps, never read anything to which I said 'no,' sentence by sentence and deduction by deduction, as I did to this book..."

But you most certainly would not share the following sentiments Nietzsche expressed:

"...but completely without annoyance and impatience."

;)

Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric,

You just made me smile.

You should write it.

The journey you laid out would be interesting.

"Why I Became a Catholic" (WIBC) would be an interesting read.

GearHedEd said...

Indeed.

Eric said...

Well, I like to think I know my limitations, with respect to skill, education, time, etc. so a book is, for the foreseeable future, certainly out of the question. I have, however, been toying with the idea of a blog (I even have the tag-line, though not the name, picked out: "Ex umbris et imaginibus in veritatem" which means "from shadows and appearances into truth"; I stole it from Newman's epitaph), so who knows. Maybe that would be a good place to write up something like that.

Chuck O'Connor said...

I recommend blogging. I keep one to challenge myself. I try to write a post once a month. It keeps me thinking. Do it. I'd put you on my blog roll.

Gandolf said...

The two properly basic beliefs of "Yahweh" and "Monsters" under childrens beds held lots in common. Specially the two factors of "extreme imagination" and "fear".And the factor of both matters being about human thoughts of what might be happening in the "unknown".

However because the properly basic belief of monsters under beds deals more with whats happening in the "present",while theism is more about "afterlife".

Possibly resulted with why the "properly basic belief" Theism is more often longer lasting.

Because it dealt more with the "present" children were soon able to realize, monsters actually werent out to get them after all.

Making "Yahweh" fear,something thought forever possible.

Gandolf said...

Yahweh. A excellent childhood nightmare for adults.

Gandolf said...

Properly Basic !!

Hendy said...

@Eric

Sorry for the late response. Your argument seems approximately accurate to me. I don't know that I would have made the leap to including omniscience, but perhaps that is the challenged trait.

I think it comes down to me wondering why I struggled in faith and then in seeking answers was unable to find ones that continued to support my faith.

Which leads us to wonder why god wants to play cosmic hide and seek.

Many, many, many, many theists respond that god values free will above all and will not 'force' me to accept him. I think this caraciturizes what many of us would want: not a hand on my shoulder which forces me down onto my knees in worship, but a simple sense or hidden 'knowledge' that god just 'is'. That's it.

So, yes, since morals and instinctual urgings are apparently god given and are not suggested to remove our free will, then it would seem that there is nothing prohibiting him from giving us a sense of himself.

As you only need to show that he didn't have to give us that sense, I suppose my point will fall on deaf ears, though.

It will come to the stand still that so many other questions come to: should god or could god have done better?

Theist vehemently think not, while atheists do.

I have found that atheists can put forth very nice lists of how exactly god could have done better (like giving us a specific 'sense' of himself) whereas all theists can do is provide pure speculation as to why he might not have done so.

This is why I have concluded that (and invented my own definition for) theology is the field of study in which the goal is to convince others that what they would expect to find were an omni-max god to exist is actually completely wrong and that, instead, the world as we find it is the only way this god could have possibly done things.