Should Atheists Take the Outsider Test for Faith?

I've written a lot about this question already, but let me add a few things.

Assuming an outsider position in order to defend what we think is true is incumbent on everyone on every issue. It's the attempt to be as objective as humanly possible with regard to our disagreements. It's to have a disinterest in the outcome as best as possible.

But it applies more forcefully to religious faiths, that's why it's called what it is. Why? Because religious believers do not dispassionately evaluate their faith. Why? Because they have such a vested personal interest in defending what they believe. Why? Because they assume what needs to be proved. Why? Because they do not have any good evidence for them. Why? Because they amass many possible arguments together in a pile then conclude they have a probable case, which is a huge non-sequitur.

By contrast atheism is not about faith. I think I explained that in my chapter for The Christian Delusion. Atheism is based on the probabilities. And I explained there is little or nothing we can know about an atheist simply because he is an atheist, except that said person does not believe in supernatural beings and forces, nor does he think supernatural explanations have the weight of evidence for them.

The sciences are the paragon for outsiders. Show me the math and we agree. Show me the experiment and the argument is over. Show me the scientific poll and the case is closed. Show me what we learn from brain science and there can be no dispute.

Is this a double standard, one for religious faiths and another one for atheists? No! Religious people have the double standard. Why do they evaluate other religious faiths with a level of skepticism that they do not apply to their own culturally inherited one? Why? Answer me that! The OTF is a way to examine all religious faiths. If this is a bad test then how do Christians propose we decide between religious faiths? I’ve proposed the OTF. What’s the alternative? Answer this question too.

So let’s contrast this carefully and precisely. Can theists legitimately say that if I do not collect stamps I still have a hobby? How does that make sense? Let’s say someone tells me I believe in the supernatural realm even though I don’t believe in ghosts? Now let’s say someone asks me to subject my non-ghost view to the skepticism of an outsider. What can that possibly mean? I DO subject the ghost view to skepticism, that’s why I conclude there are no ghosts!

Is it enough to ask people to be objective, fair, and openminded? I've previously addressed this question but let me add that if human beings reason so badly that we implicitly adopt what we were taught to believe in our respective cultures so much that they become like blinders on our eyes, and if we’re that bad at weighing the claims of beliefs that have little or no evidence for them to decide between differing ones, then we cannot offer a milquetoast test that asks people to be objective, fair and openminded about that which they were raised to believe and defend. What we are enculturated with is who we are. We cannot see the water we swim in. We cannot pluck our eyes out and look at them. So we cannot simply ask people to be objective, fair and openminded. Believers already think they are being objective because they can't see that they are not! Just look at how confident some Muslims are that they are being objective. Some of them are so certain they're objective about their faith they are willing to fly planes into buildings. Ask them if they’re objective and it would be a no brainer for them. But ask them to subject their own faith to the same level of skepticism they use to reject other faiths and THAT will get their attention. Since we cannot pluck out their eyes we must offer them a shocking test, one that may help get them out of their dogmatic slumbers like nothing else can do. And they will object as strenuously as they can to the OTF because they know their faith does not pass that test. That’s why Christians argue against it just like Muslim scholars would do so for their faith.

What about people raised as atheists in Sweden? Were they enculturalted? Probably so.

Should these atheists test what they were taught by being objective, fair and openminded? Sure, yes.

Should they test what they were taught as outsiders? How can they? What is the outside perspective for them? Is it the perspective of a young earth Christian creationist or a young earth Jewish orthodox perspective? Any scientist would scoff at it because science produces repeatable evidence that convinces. Is the outside perspective that of a Wiccan, or a Scientologist? How can atheists choose the correct outsider perspective from the many available? Which religious perspective do objectors to the OTF propose we use when being outsiders?

The OTF is a reasonable fair and objective one to judge religious faiths. The whole reason Christians object to it is because they know their faith will not pass the test, even if they admit no other religious faith can do so either. So cognitive dissonance requires them to nitpick at it and point out any small loophole to avoid taking it, even though this is how they judge the other faiths they reject. THEY have the double standard.

So on the front side of the fence, the fact that no revealed religion can pass this test is not the fault of the test. Again, it's a reasonable, fair and objective one. If no revealed religion can pass the OTF then it's the fault of religious faiths, not the test. It means they cannot be justified.

On the back side of the fence, there is no worthy religious contender from out of the myriad number of religions for an atheist to examine his own views on religion as an outsider. But that is not the fault of the test either. The fact that there isn't one religion that succeeds in being the one lone contender over all of the other religions as the rightful outsider position from which to judge my atheist conclusions about religion is not the fault of the test itself. They cannot put up one and only one religion which they all agree would be an outsider's perspective for the atheist. Again the test is a fair and objective one. The fault is with religious faith.

As I said I see no reason why a religion could not pass this test. A religion could pass the test. The fact that no religion can pass the test is not the fault of the test. The test is a reasonable, fair and objective one. Whether on this side of the fence or the back side of it, the fact that Christians object to the test because no revealed religion can pass it on the one side, and that there is no worthy religion that can legitimately be considered as an outside perspective for the atheist, is not the fault of the test.

It's the fault of religion.

132 comments:

Eric said...

John, I have a couple of questions (I left it on Randal Rauser's latest blog post, but it hasn't shown up yet; I also mentioned it Victor Reppert's blog):

If a convinced and informed atheist -- one who has a good understanding of all the arguments for and against theistic belief -- becomes, through reflection and experience, a theist (whether Christian, Muslim, Jew, etc.), could it be said that such a person has taken the OTF, even if he had never heard of it? It seems to me that the answer is yes, since he once viewed all religions as false (he was a convinced atheist), and thus approached his reflection as an outsider, and he understood the reasons for his atheism (he was informed). So that's question one.

Now question two presupposes that you agree with mt about question one. Assuming this, is the former atheist turned theist I just referred to still obligated, as a theist, to take the OTF, or is it now sufficient he exercise the intellectual virtues Professor Rauser advocates? If he is obligated to take the test, how many times? Is once sufficient, or must he continue to take it throughout his life?

John W. Loftus said...

Eric, whether someone successfully has taken the OTF is ongoing. I would say any atheist who claims to have embraced a religion did not do so for justifiable reasons. But that has nothing to do with the test itself. The act of justification is a personal one. At that point there would still be a debate. I would argue he was wrong to claim the OTF leads him to any particular religion while he would argue otherwise. Still, the test would be the standard.

So if said convert would want to continue to see if his conversion was warranted then he would continually want to use the OTF as the standard, since he would be claiming his conversion passed the test.

So the OTF, if taken responsibly will be the standard for any ongoing revisiting of whether or not he made the correct decision.

But, that doesn't say whether or not a person can take it once, conclude something and live the rest of his life without revisiting it. Such a decision again is person related. For instance, I would never in my life consider the bizarre claims of Scientology. It fails the OTF. Why in the world would I be required to revisit that faith every day or month or year. For me my conclusion about it would be so strongly held that I could be justified in never giving it another thought.

GearHedEd said...

John said,

"...if human beings reason so badly that we implicitly adopt what we were taught to believe in our respective cultures so much that they become like blinders on our eyes, and if we’re that bad at weighing the claims of beliefs that have little or no evidence for them to decide between differing ones..."

The answer here is obvious: Most Christians (I see you lurking there, Eric!) never examine what they believe, even in the 'light' of the Bible. They just accept it and assume that it's correct.

Then they tell the rest of us where it is that we went wrong in our lack of belief...

Chuck O'Connor said...

Practicing skepticism requires an outsider test but since we've evolved to survive through socialiazation it is very painful to stand apart from the groups that make us feel safe. It goes against our evolved means for species survival. John both you and Luke (of Common Sense Atheism) practice the OTF on atheist claims consistently - you on the atheist assertion of Jesus Myth and Luke on the Moral Question. The OTF is not an event it is a methodology. The Christians I see who oppose it either fail to challenge the communal benefit religion provides or equate it with a salvation experience and don't consider methodological and provisional truth.

GearHedEd said...

...DM is a textbook example.

DM said...

gearheded..


am I am going to give you a GOOD KICK IN THE HEAD also...


as you fuckers DESERVE...

Ryan Anderson said...

Eric; was this former "informed" atheist an Ayn Rand reading teenager at the time they converted to theism? Not that it matters for the question but just curious...

GearHedEd said...

Careful, DM, you're taking the lord's name in vain...

Romans 12:19

GearHedEd said...

am I am skeert.

Eric said...

No, my question was prompted by someone else's story.

Evilspud said...

When someone claims that atheism is a religion, it's important to understand what they mean by "religion." It's not unusual for someone to misunderstand a statement because you do not agree on the definition of a word or phrase. In analyzing the reasoning and context of statements that claim atheism is a religion, I feel that the common response of not collecting stamps being a hobby is a misunderstanding of the position.

If atheists being religious refers to the cultural response that is publicly observed, then the statement holds some water. Atheists do make statements that provoke the same reaction as statements from public religious figures. In other words, the statements put forward by atheist and agnostic individuals take a stance on the concept of God. When sorting these statements, a person would have two sets: Statements that they agree with, and statements they disagree with. It is reasonable to group the comments of atheists with religious figures in this way.

It is additionally reasonable to say that one appeal of religion is the association amongst a community. This association comes from people who would agree with the same statements made on the question of God. It is further reasonable to say that this appeal and community is what some people believe religion to be.

So, I would say that in this context at least, the statement that atheism is "religious" isn't false.

Unfortunately, while people may view atheism as a religion in this sense, they may jump to the conclusion that atheism is a religion when defined differently. It's a simple mistake to make after all, because one's own religious beliefs may match all the definitions of a religion, the jump is made that atheism is also a religious belief in all senses of the term.

When this hidden shift in the meaning of a word or phrase occurs on purpose, it is called weasel wording, and it can be difficult to catch, and once made, can be very awkward to communicate the fallacy to an audience.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric,

I wonder if Lewis would be a Christian in our current age. His moral law argument would be defeated by the discovery of DNA, the Amygdla's impact on socialization and animal ethics.

What presuppositions within naturalism drove Lewis to conclude the truth of the faith claims he embraced?

Again, the OTF is not an event. It is a methodology and that is why if properly applied it should lead an honest person to adopt agnosticism (as John says). It supports the application of provisional truth and exposes absolute assertions to truth (Jesus is God) as circular.

Dustin said...

The sciences are the paragon for outsiders. Show me the math and we agree. Show me the experiment and the argument is over. Show me the scientific poll and the case is closed. Show me what we learn from brain science and there can be no dispute.

Not too familiar with philosophy of science, huh? Or string theory? Or quantum mechanics? Or...


I wonder if Lewis would be a Christian in our current age. His moral law argument would be defeated by the discovery of DNA, the Amygdla's impact on socialization and animal ethics.

I don't know that he would be especially bothered by an evolutionary explanation of ethics. The question is just whether unguided evolution can account for our moral impulses reflecting any sort of binding truth. As Alex Rosenberg says:

"There is no room in a world where all the facts are fixed by physical facts for a set of free floating independently existing norms or values (or facts about them) that humans are uniquely equipped to discern and act upon. So, if scientism is to ground the core morality that every one (save some psychopaths and sociopaths) endorses, as the right morality, it’s going to face a serious explanatory problem. The only way all or most normal humans could have come to share a core morality is through selection on alternative moral codes or systems, a process that resulted in just one winning the evolutionary struggle and becoming “fixed” in the population. If our universally shared moral core were both the one selected for and also the right moral core, then the correlation of being right and being selected for couldn’t be a coincidence. Scientism doesn’t tolerate cosmic coincidences. Either our core morality is an adaptation because it is the right core morality or it’s the right core morality because it’s an adaptation, or it’s not right, but only feels right to us. It’s easy to show that neither of the first two alternatives is right. Just because there is strong selection for a moral norm is no reason to think it right. Think of the adaptational benefits of racist, xenophobic or patriarchal norms. You can’t justify morality by showing its Darwinian pedigree. That way lies the moral disaster of Social Spencerism (better but wrongly known as Social Darwinism). The other alternative—that our moral core was selected for because it was true, correct or right–is an equally far fetched idea."


What presuppositions within naturalism drove Lewis to conclude the truth of the faith claims he embraced?

You know he wrote some books answering that question, yeah?

Chuck O'Connor said...

What moral core?

Your quote proves too much. The fact that racism supported slavery as objectively moral indicates that there is no moral core but morality is a cultural product.

I am specifically concerned with Lewis' argument from "Mere Christianity" that matter can't inform matter. But DNA does.

He was making his argument without the knowledge of genomics or the interdependent process of different brain states (e.g. the frontal lobe being informed by the Amygdla and the process of socialization).

Additionally, I don't know what "scientism" is. I do know that methodological naturalism is and how falsification provides applicable provisional truth.

The discovery of chimp ethics and group behavior predicated on reward and shame exactly mirroring our own indicates that evolutionary theory is more parsimonious to consider the moral question where ethics become adaptive moves to allow for heritable gains.

Your quote indicates you don't fully grasp how evolution works or what the theory states.

Apply the OTF to your presupposition of Lewis' moral question in "Mere Christianity" with current brain science of Jerry Coyne's book "Why Evolution is True" and you will see that Lewis' moral argument fails.

leftycapuchin said...

Eric; not sure if you are talking about CS Lewis or Victor Reppert, but either way, at the risk of committing the no true scotsman, I think anyone from our generation or before who grew up in the west is naturally biased to theism due to enculturation.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Lewis' own admission that the Christian writings of George Macdonald had particular sway over his scholarship (from 16 on - 1 year after Lewis asserted his "atheism") render his "outsider" status dubious.

If Eric were to assert Lewis OTF then he would be disappointed to realize that the good man of Oxford found Eric's own Roman Catholicism failed that test. He chose the Church of England over his friend Tolkien's Roman Catholic faith.

One must wonder if his OTF calculus concluded the Roman Church false.

Ryan Anderson said...

Leftycapuchin is me. Not sure what happened there...

Breckmin said...

The OTF is completely evasive to the reality of personal relationship and personal experience with the Creator.

Question everything...but when you question...don't be foolish enough to deny what you know to be real through interaction and continued personal relationship...(the Creator for the Christian).

That is why I always say "Question everything, but when you question - pray for protection." Why? Because God is concluded NOT assumed. The Creator is experienced...NOT just assumed.

This is the whole problem with those who are blind to the things of God because they have no real relationship to Him. Just look at all of the hate groups like Christian Identity or Westboro Baptist church. They don't sing praises of LOVE the way born-again Christians do in churches like Foursquare or non-denominational evangelical. They sing songs to the world in a mocking way. Christian Identity spends more time singing songs about Patriotism then they do joyfully singing to Jesus Christ for saving them from themselves.

Bottom line. If you want to see the real difference in behaviors... look at where there are praise songs. This is just one place/area where God is experienced...

and it is *unique* to born-again Christianity.

Indeed, question everything. It just might help lead you to observe real prasie and worship.

Eric said...

"Lewis' own admission that the Christian writings of George Macdonald had particular sway over his scholarship (from 16 on - 1 year after Lewis asserted his "atheism") render his "outsider" status dubious."

Chuck, Lewis didn't become a Christian until he was in his early thirties. Yes, he was influenced by MacDonald (initially through MacDonald's fiction), but he was also influenced by Freud. We are all influenced by a large number of diverse thinkers, whether we know it or not (and Lewis said that he didn't understand, at the time, the sense in which MacDonald had influenced him, but only saw it retrospectively).

John, let's grant, for the sake of argument, that there isn't a corresponding outsider test for atheism, given the attenuated definition of atheism so many contemporary atheists defend. Is there a corresponding outsider test for naturalism? Unlike atheism, naturalism has a positive content, and granting one's assent to it requires a move akin to the sort of faith exhibited by religious folks. I take faith to be 'belief in' -- that is, a programmatic commitment to the truth of a claim that moves just beyond the evidence -- and not merely 'belief that,' which is to say an assent to the truth of a proposition.

Now you can't prove naturalism any more than you can prove that God exists, so a commitment to naturalism, like a commitment to theism, requires the sort of move -- belief in -- beyond where the evidence takes you (though, like theism, it's a move made in the direction of the evidence, as each of us evaluates it). Notice that it does no good to say, "But I'm not committed to naturalism, since I'm open to revising my naturalism if some new evidence or argument falsifies it" (I think the evidence of intentional states, and the argument from intentionality does just that, but never mind that for now), because a theist can say the same thing (many do), and this doesn't mean that they now lack faith (in the sense of 'belief in').

So, since no one is just an atheist, and since today most atheists are naturalists, and since all naturalists are atheists (naturalism entails atheism), and since naturalism is by far a minority position in the history of Western philosophy (and is thus almost as much a product of our time and place in the world as religious belief is), must the naturalist consistently take an outsider test throughout his life? (I would add that many naturalists too have a vested personal interest in defending naturalism, as is evident from many quotes from many contemporary naturalists, most of which I'm sure you're familiar with.)

It seems to me as if, by parity of reasoning, we need an outsider test for naturalism.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric,

Lewis was raised in The Church of Ireland with a devout family. He reasserted his Christian commitment in his 30's. You revise history when you act as if the man had no Christian commitments prior to his affirmation of the Anglican Faith in his 30's. It is silly.

Eric said...

Chuck, here's what I just wrote on Vic's blog:

Chuck, you need to read his pre-conversion letters and his poetry. He was very much an outsider, or at least as much as anyone could expect him to be. You seem to be suggesting that only someone who approached religious belief after having come right out of a Skinnerian Box, or someone who in the end comes to believe a religious faith not endemic to his place of origin, could be a 'true' outsider; I see no reason to think either is the case.

Chuck O'Connor said...

We do have an outsider test for naturalism.

It is called the scientific method.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Breckmin,

You dismiss the OTF by affirming your insider standards conclude God.

That seems incoherent.

Eric said...

"Lewis was raised in The Church of Ireland with a devout family. He reasserted his Christian commitment in his 30's. You revise history when you act as if the man had no Christian commitments prior to his affirmation of the Anglican Faith in his 30's."

Chuck, when I said he became a Christian in his thirties, I was referring to his reconversion. I wasn't clear about that, though, and I can see how you might have supposed I was suggesting that he wasn't raised a Christian. Perhaps I'm so familiar with Lewis's story that I blithely assume others know it well too, and so didn't express myself clearly.

Randal Rauser said...

John writes: "the whole reason Christians object to it [the OTF] is because they know their faith will not pass the test...."

John, the very ground level of intellectual engagement with others is to listen to what they say and respond to it. Not keep reiterating the same statements like a stuck record player. I have offered numerous arguments to show why the development of intellectual virtue is necessary for all people and if people pursue it then a one-off OTF is otiose.

I have also argued that if one does demand an OTF of others, it applies to themselves as well.

You didn't respond to the Swedish atheist case. I understand an outsider test to be an objective testing of the set of propositions you accept and do not accept to consider from the outside, as much as possible, whether that set of acceptings and withholdings is plausible or implausible, rational or irrational. That is a test that an atheist can engage in as surely as anybody else. Indeed, any rational agent can and should engage in that exercise.

You also haven't responded to my range of criticisms regarding the application of the outsider test to people from minority doxastic opinions (e.g. atheists or Jews in New Jersey, Mormons in California, et cetera) and how that affects the obligation to pursue your test.

Nor have I seen a response to the requirement to pursue such a rigorous test in other areas including the testing of party loyalty within a democracy or one's broader commitment to one political system over another, both of which are also largely distributed on geographic lines with most Swedes being atheists and most Idahoans (?) being republican.

One more thing. You haven't provided a response to the relativity of the extraordinary. As I said, most people find the notion that the universe sprung into existence out of nothing uncaused to be pretty extraordinary. All the more so when extraordinary fine-tuning is thrown in, fine-tuning to such a degree that it can produce atheistic internet bloggers who ignore criticisms of their position, and to do all this through undirected processes.

So it is for all those reasons that I find the outsider test a waste of time, and not because I lay awake at night worrying about it.

Eric said...

"We do have an outsider test for naturalism.
It is called the scientific method."

No, the scientific method *presupposes* naturalism methodologically. You can't presuppose naturalism and test naturalism.

For example, it's possible, though highly improbable, that, given a certain jostling of molecules, a statue of the Virgin Mary might step off its pedestal, walk into a bookstore, pick out a Bible, hand it to you, and walk right back to its pedestal. There's a perfect naturalistic explanation for it -- normally, the random jostling of molecules cancel one another out, and the statue remains still, but in this case, though it's highly improbable, the molecules randomly jostles in just such a way to bring about the statue's movement. Now, you'd have to be a fool to believe this, but it is a possible naturalistic explanation, and, given science's commitment to methodological naturalism, one a scientist *qua scientist* would have to prefer given alternative supernatural explanations.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric,

I suggest you do an OTF of naturalism and step in front of a bus while praying for deliverance from God.

Report back and let us know what occurs.

You run your life by naturalism yet deny it to practice your philosophical studies.

How about this, don't write a paper that is assigned but simply make petitionary prayers to the Holy Mother and then see what grade you get.

The scientific method would not rule out a priori a supernatural null hypothesis but would collect natural data to conclude falsification.

What method would you recommend to have a Naturalist step outside of nature to practice the OTF? Do you have a key to the fourth dimension?

Chuck O'Connor said...

Oh and Eric, "reconversion" means that his outsider christian credentials where dubious seeing as his collegial environment contained a strong believer in Tolkien and he was subject to the Church of England. He continued to presuppose the supernatural in some form his entire academic career and never opted for metaphysical naturalism as a primary option. He simply incorporated Christian doctrine in his reading of the world until he became comfortable to publicly affirming this. His apologetics seem to indicate that given current data his ongoing OTF would lead him away from concluding Christianity and he might have become an atheist like John. Especially the poor science driving his moral law argument post genomics.

Russ said...

Randal,
You're highly intellectually dishonest in your critiques of the OTF. As an evangelical it is your mission in life to force others to see the error of their religious ways so you may shine upon them the light of your particular Christianity's imagined "truth." You insist that potential converts, Christians other than your preferred type as well as non-Christians, take the OTF relative to where they currently are so that they can be more easily infused with some variety of Christianity. Then, when someone suggests that Christians apply the OTF to themselves, you call it out of play.

In all seriousness do those you play your version of the Christianity game with accept the dreck you've dumped out in this and other posts as valid argument. I have to agree with your self-assessment "alas, he is not half as smart or as good or as right as he thinks he is," since you have impeccably demonstrated it here. Perhaps a laudable admission if it is honest, but, then, what you write says, "just kidding, I'm really twice as smart and twice as good and twice as right as anyone else. No expert in any field can provide data or argument that I can't destroy. I can refute 'em all."

You appear not to understand that even the longest held philosophical traditions and conceptions fail against simple empirical results. Evidence led Brahe, Kepler, Copernicus, and Galileo to realize that Ptolemaic and Aristotelian conceptions of the natural order were badly flawed. That same evidence became the standard from which a new conception could be proposed and against which it could be assessed. Only by getting outside the torturously constraining intellectual box Christianity sought to keep everyone in -- violently, when the mood struck -- could they move toward a more accurate reflection of the cosmos.

You yourself contrived your own personal version of a distinct Christian god using the OTF when, as you recounted:

It was careful reflection and an evaluation of all the data -- biblical, theological, philosophical, et cetera -- that led me to reject doctrines like eternal conscious torment and divinely commanded genocide.

Obviously, "all the data" is, to be charitable, pure hyperbole, but clearly you had no compunction whatsoever about remaking your own god in an image you preferred as you applied the OTF to your old one. You will no doubt wax apologetic saying something like, "I came to a better understanding of god," where "better" is your culturally-derived subjective notion, and where your whole statement constitutes a denouncement of those Christians whose god is the same as your previous version. Many Christian's cherished god promises them the simple gruesome pleasure of watching sinners burn forever from their perch in happily ever after.

You're a manifest failure at applying rationality to your critique of John Loftus' book, The Christian Delusion. You'll flail about denying it here, but I've outlined it at DC.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Randall,

I have no skin in the game with you and John but think that one should always practice an OTF on the things you assert.

The difficulty is we don't want to because that means we must admit an outsider status and we are more emotionally comforted be aligned with a group or cause.

Yes all people making some sort of assertion should at least periodically ask themselves what that assertion would look like outside of their personal context.

Scientists do it all the time using falsification to theories. I recently sat in a conference where Oncologists working for years on targeted therapies took an Outsider Test via brain scans to see that their hypothesis that VEGF moderates Glioblastoma tumor growth was inconclusive to the data. This was especially true when tumors that existed but not seen via conventional die methods were then examined via fMRI. This brilliant and brave men fighting to extend human life admitted in the face of the VEGF question agnosticism on that molecular relationship but, are willing to look further.

In your world of religion you'd have people tithing to the altar of VEGF regardless if it was part of the mechanism of disease or not and those dying from Glioblastoma Multi-forme simply didn't believe in VEGF enough.

Eric said...

"I suggest you do an OTF of naturalism and step in front of a bus while praying for deliverance from God.
Report back and let us know what occurs.
You run your life by naturalism yet deny it to practice your philosophical studies."

Chuck, I don't think you quite understand what naturalism and supernaturalism are. A supernaturalist doesn't deny the reality of objects like buses or of events like being run over; indeed, Christian supernaturalists take very seriously the reality of the world God created, because God created it. So you haven't actually said anything whatsoever against supernaturalism, or for naturalism.

"He [Lewis] continued to presuppose the supernatural in some form his entire academic career and never opted for metaphysical naturalism as a primary option."

Chuck, I'm sorry but you don't have a clue here. Are you making this stuff up as you go along?

From the book "The Question of God":

"These early experiences with formal religion played no small role **in Lewis's later repudiation of his nominal childhood faith**, his seeing the spiritual worldview as "silly" and his embrace of a *materialistic* alternative."

"Lewis considered that "all religions, that is all mythologies, to give them there proper name, are man's own inventions. Lewis believed the New Testament to be like other pagan myths about a god coming to earth, dying and rising again."

From Lewis: "Superstition of course in every age held the common people, but in every age the educated and thinking ones have stood outside it..."

"As an atheist, Lewis agreed with Freud that the universe is all that exists -- simply an accident that just happened."

"[Lewis's] materialism took definite form soon after he entered his teens."

John W. Loftus said...

Eric, so after applying the OTF to Catholicism and finding yourself to be an agnostic the next question becomes whether it applies to naturalism. At this point you're an agnostic, you see. What do you affirm? That was particularly difficult for me but I decided to be an agnostic/atheist as you know.

Remember, agnosticism is the default position. You must first feel the force of agnosticism.

Now how does one decide whether there is a supernatural realm at all? As Chuck just said that's what the sciences do. At this point you will no longer lean on your religion but seek answers that can be confirmed by the sciences. Your grip will be loosed from defending what you were raised to believe and you'll actually be a disinterested person who merely wants to learn all that the sciences can tell us. You may actually conclude that there is a supernatural force or being--the philosophers god--or deism. Some do. Most others don't and for good reasons, the lack of evidence.

There is nothing quite like being freed from the ever-watching omniscient eye of a mind-reading god who will throw you in hell for doubting what you were raised to believe. At that point you will be as much of a disinterested person as you can ever be. You will be an outsider at that point. You will only trust the sciences at that point. The religious mumbo jumbo will no longer hamstring your efforts to understand.

John W. Loftus said...

Randal, I'm surprised by your coming here and spouting off that you have answered me at every turn and suggesting I never responded to much of anything you wrote.

I did.

Gandolf said...

"I suggest you do an OTF of naturalism and step in front of a bus while praying for deliverance from God."

Personally,i have a strong feeling maybe this "properly basic belief" could be wrong!

John W. Loftus said...

The reason I'm surprised Randal is that it looks to me like a lot of chest beating.

Let's see, the person who goes around beating his chest and proclaiming victory won the argument.

So here's another reason I think you are delusional.

But let's rehearse, shall we?

The question is whether the OTF is a good standard that minimizes the cultural and emotional factors as best as any person can possibly do, not whether it can do this perfectly.

If someone refuses to take the OTF I merely ask them why they have such a double standard.

Since most Christians realize very quickly that by taking the test their faith fails they are forced into arguing for one of two things: (a) they do not have a double standard after all, or (b) such a standard is flawed at some important point.

To defend (a) seems incredibly unlikely and implausible, while defending (b) is a clear sign of cognitive dissonance reduction as the defender must kick against the goads of what is a powerful argument.

I'm claiming that we instinctively know that if there is a conflict of interest we cannot be impartial when deciding between the religious faiths available to us, given as they are in distinct geographical locations and learned in their respective cultures.

Look at it this way. A judge must recuse himself from judging a case id there is a known conflict of interest. If he doesn't he would face the judicial association ethics committee (or some such entity).

So why wouldn't it be wise in the interests of truth to be just as disinterested when examining one's religious faith? Why not?

Now Vic Reppert says this is impossible. So what? Let's agree that it is. What better way to approach this standard but the OTF even if enculturated people cannot be like the hypothetical Spock. In fact, it's precisely because we are not Spock-like we should place ourselves as best as possible in the a disinterested neutral posion as we can. And the OTF helps us do this...helps us see this...helps us better evaluate the faith given to us.

Randal sit in silence, 'cause that's all he's got 'cept some heavy handed chest beating.

Eric said...

"Now how does one decide whether there is a supernatural realm at all? As Chuck just said that's what the sciences do."

John, are you saying you would conclude that my Virgin Mary statue example is an instance of the random jostling of molecules? It works perfectly as a naturalistic, scientific explanation -- all it requires you to believe is that a highly improbable natural event occurred, and that we mistakenly attached some religious meaning to it.

This is key, John: here we have an example of an event for which there is a perfectly sensible, if improbable, scientific explanation that makes no appeal to the supernatural, so we could not, via scientific methodologies, move to a supernatural alternative explanation. Yet I think almost everyone would concede that the supernatural explanation is the better one. Hence, we have a case in which a supernatural explanation would be preferable to a natural explanation, but in which science would have nothing to contribute to the supernatural explanation. So it cannot be the case that it's science that "decides whether there's a supernatural realm."

You're caught in a dilemma here: either you must bite the bullet and claim that you'd conclude that the natural explanation is the better one (a conclusion almost no one would accept for a moment), or you must admit that in cases in which a natural explanation is available -- which, I would argue, includes just about every case imaginable (especially given quantum weirdness and our modern conception of scientific laws as statistical regularities only) -- it's the better explanation simply because it's a naturalistic one, which of course is a huge problem for the notion that science tests supernatural claims.

Papalinton said...

@ Breckmin

You say: ..."This is the whole problem with those who are blind to the things of God because they have no real relationship to Him."

I say: god, dog, ogd, dgo, pick one, they are all meaningless, have no substance. I would be happy for you elucidate what 'real relationship to him' means, in plain language. How does one have a real relationship with a nothing, a zilch, zero?
Cheers

Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric,

CS Lewis own words from "The Great Divorce" where his fictionalized self meets George MacDonald on the road to heaven, "...I tried, trembling, to tell this man all that his writings had done for me. I tried to tell how a certain frosty afternoon at Leatherhead Station when I had first bought a copy of Phantastes (being then about sixteen years old) had been to me what the first sight of Beatrice had been to Dante: Here begins the new life. I started to confess how long that Life had delayed in the region of imagination merely: how slowly and reluctantly I had come to admit that his Christendom had more than an accidental connexion with it, how hard I had tried not to see the true name of the quality which first met me in his books is Holiness."

Doesn't sound like me the man psychologically rejected Christianity at all but considered opposing views finally resting with the original one that captured him at 16.

Also I find it laughable that someone who enjoys the fruits of naturalism while espousing some sort of special privilege in supernaturalism will not provide a version of the OTF to assess naturalism relative to supernaturalism. You and I are both grounded by naturalism yet I have the humility to admit it is all we know whereas you reach for some sort of special pleading in being able to straddle both worlds yet not offer a falsifiable standard to confirm supernaturalism.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric,

When has a statue behaved as you explain ever within the natural world. Throwing up hypotheticals to defend your argument places you once again firmly in the realm of possibility when real adults who try to solve real problems (and not get good grades in school) deal in probabilistic truth. If a statue behaved that way then of course we could consider supernatural considerations and we can put a call out to the Ghostbusters too and they can cross their streams and send the gate-keeper of Zool to oblivion. When you resort to these silly hypotheticals to defend your supernatural world-view you expose yourself as the narcissistic and silly little man you are.

John W. Loftus said...

Eric, as I told Dr. Rauser, offer ME a relevant analogy. All of these "ifs" don't make a case for a triune incarnational atoning God 2000 years ago. I do not claim such explanations as supernatural ones are impossible.

Eric said...

Chuck, did you actually read the quote?

"I started to confess how long that Life had delayed in the region of imagination merely"

That is, MacDonald influenced initially his enjoyment of a certain kind of fictional work.

"how slowly and reluctantly I had come to admit that his Christendom had more than an accidental connexion with it,"

That is, he didn't think until just before he became a Christian that MacDonald's Christianity had anything to do with Lewis's enjoyment of his work!

"how hard I had tried not to see the true name of the quality which first met me in his books is Holiness."

That is, not only did it take Lewis a long time to see that connection, but Lewis *did not want* to make the connection between Christianity and MacDonald's work once he saw it!

Now if you think you have something new to add to Lewis biographies, publish it, because every biographer I've read disagrees with you.

Eric said...

"Throwing up hypotheticals to defend your argument places you once again firmly in the realm of possibility when real adults who try to solve real problems (and not get good grades in school) deal in probabilistic truth... When you resort to these silly hypotheticals to defend your supernatural world-view you expose yourself as the narcissistic and silly little man you are."


Chuck, you must be kidding. Do you have any idea how many scientific discoveries were prompted by such "silly hypotheticals"? Are you aware that Einstein was prompted to formulate the Special Theory of Relativity by imagining what it would be like to look at a clock while riding on the end of a beam of light? Do you have any idea how many philosophical insights have been prompted by similar thought experiments? Again, you must be kidding me.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric,

Why do you appeal to authority in such a smug way "every author I've read . . ." it is tiresome.

My interpretation of the quote (supported by Lewis love for MacDonald his whole life. MacDonald being the known Christian author of "Diary of an Old Soul") concedes that Lewis did not reject whole-cloth a Christian world-view but wrestled with opposing world-views until he settled on a Christian worldview.

As you say, we are influenced by multiple lines of thinking but to say Lewis rejected Christianity simply because he entertained other possibilities yet conceding the man's love for a noted Christian author (whose Diary was a standard Christian text) is to be be selective (and self-contradicting) in your use of evidence.

I'm sure Lewis did agree with Freud but that does not mean he rejected MacDonald - in fact his own words concede he did not reject MacDonald but emotionally wrestled with the man's Christian ideas. Therefore Lewis was never really an outsider was he?

Now, if you want to appeal to all the authors you read do so. I will appeal to the man's words and actions. First person evidence is more appealing to me than the interpretation of biographers.

On a separate note, why are you claiming Lewis as your own in the first place. He rejected Roman Catholicism for the Church of England much to Tolkien's disappointment. He didn't believe what you believe and remains an "Outsider" to your faith.

Eric said...

"I do not claim such explanations as supernatural ones are impossible."

But John, the point of my thought experiment wasn't so suggest that you think supernatural explanations are impossible, but to show that science cannot adjudicate among natural and supernatural explanations in cases where (1) supernatural explanations are live options, and (2) highly improbable natural explanations are available.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric what is silly is to compare your "thought experiment" to Einstein's.

Are you serious?

What scientific discovery can come from imagining an animated statue? And are you considering this imagined circumstance to solve a scientific problem or defend your superstitious thinking that a supernatural realm exists?

Stop being an arrogant ass and admit that your academic posturing has little real world application.

I find your comparison of yourself to Einstein very very laughable.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric,

Why should we consider your supernatural explanation a "live option" when your scenario is unrealistic?

Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric,

Enjoy the rest of your Sunday.

You've convinced me that you are a bright young man with serious emotional problems.

I wish you well and hope that you will reconcile the cognitive dissonance between your faith and logic.

I now will go make my wife dinner.

Gandolf said...

Randal Rauser said..."One more thing. You haven't provided a response to the relativity of the extraordinary. As I said, most people find the notion that the universe sprung into existence out of nothing uncaused to be pretty extraordinary."

How much "fine tuning" do you suggest was involved, in reasons why the eartquake decided to go hit Haiate especially.

Caused or uncaused ?.

Eric said...

"I'm sure Lewis did agree with Freud but that does not mean he rejected MacDonald - in fact his own words concede he did not reject MacDonald but emotionally wrestled with the man's Christian ideas. Therefore Lewis was never really an outsider was he?"

Chuck, read the darn quote again: he said *clearly* that (1) MacDonald's work initially influenced his imaginative enjoyment of a certain kind of fiction, and (2) he didn't make the connection for the longest time between this enjoyment of MacDonald's fiction and MacDonald's Christianity! Yet, you come here and claim that he wrestled with MacDonald's Christian ideas, when it wasn't MacDonald's ideas that initially influenced him (go ahead, read the book Lewis is referring to, "Phantastes" -- you haven't actually read it, have you? -- and tell me where it's obvious Christian themes are), and when he says explicitly that he didn't see any "Christian" ideas for the longest time!

Second, look again at all my Lewis quotes. I'm quoting from Lewis biographies and from Lewis's letters, both of which make it clear he was a materialist who thought religion was ridiculous, while you're (badly mangling) a quote from a fictional character in one of Lewis's stories who merely represents Lewis; he isn't Lewis, you know, by definition -- it's a work of fiction.

Do you honestly think that appealing to what a representational fictional character says in a story written many years after the fact (and which in fact doesn't support your claioms at all, as I have shown) is preferable to an appeal to contemporary letters and the considered conclusions of well researched biographies? Are there any other authors you'd apply this methodology to?

Eric said...

"Stop being an arrogant ass and admit that your academic posturing has little real world application."

It only has no real world application if the philosophy of science has no real world application.

"I find your comparison of yourself to Einstein very very laughable."


Chuck, that's pathetic, and it exposes you as being patently intellectually dishonest. No one who read what I wrote would think for a moment that I was comparing myself to Einstein.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric,

Taking a break from dinner.

You aren't practicing philosophy of science are you? You are apologetically defending your irrational choice of Roman Catholicism.

Yet Lewis rejected your faith.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Also Eric are you arguing that a distinguished professor of Literature like Lewis was completely unaware of MacDonald's work "Diary of an Old Soul" and its influence on popular Christianity?

That is laughable.

Ryan Anderson said...

Eric said "1) MacDonald's work initially influenced his imaginative enjoyment of a certain kind of fiction, and (2) he didn't make the connection for the longest time between this enjoyment of MacDonald's fiction and MacDonald's Christianity!"

Seems like an argument for how religion is culturally imprinted... Just saying.

Eric said...

"are you arguing that a distinguished professor of Literature like Lewis was completely unaware of MacDonald's work "Diary of an Old Soul" and its influence on popular Christianity?"

No Chuck, I'm arguing that, *as Lewis said in **your quote**, Lewis did not make any connection between MacDonald's Christianity and his works of fiction, which just happens to be *perfectly consistent* with the quotes I provided concerning Lewis's atheism and materialism. You said Lewis was always a supernaturalist, and you were wrong, as both my quotes and your quotes demonstrate.

As usual, I'm now bored debating the obvious with you. Go for it: have the last word...

Breckmin said...

"You dismiss the OTF by affirming your insider standards conclude God.

That seems incoherent."

No. I dismiss the OTF because it is meaningless when it comes accumulative case argument as well as ongoing relationship. Do I need an outsider test for faith for chemistry or medicine? Does it matter that other children might grow up in a culture of witch doctors? It is completely meaningless to discovering the truth about the Creator as well as meaningless to an ongoing relationship.

How you are raised has nothing to do with determining whether or not you were raised among the people who "got most of it right" when it comes to the Holy Creator or the meaning of life.

Look at it this way: How you were raised has nothing to do with the objective history of whether or not Jesus died on a Cross at the hands of Roman soldiers.

How you were raised has nothing to do with the objective reality of whether or not there is a Creator or not.

How you were raised has nothing to do with whether or not God made a covenant with Abraham because of Abraham's faith or whether God favored his descendents by chosing the Nation of Israel to be His model for the individual believer in the future church age (after the birth/death/resurrection of Christ).

How you were raised has nothing to do with the objective reality of God's Omniscience or whether or not Jesus Christ is Lord, Savior, God or Rightful King.

These things are either true or untrue regardless of what family you grow up in.

That is why the OTF is so meaningless.

Chuck O'Connor said...

So Lewis, a distinguished professor of literature would not know of MacDonald's Christianity despite the latter's well known and popular Christian devotional, "Diary of an Old Soul".

You are silly.

And Lewis rejected your faith. You still haven't done with that consequence of his OTF.

Eric said...

Sorry, but I can't resist -- From "The Most Reluctant Convert":

"Materialism was the philosophy that dominated [Lewis's] boyhood after the two years at Wynyard. Indeed, one of his friends from his prep school days described him as "a riotously amusing atheist." The same friend said he was "staggered" years later when he learned that the C.S. Lewis who wrote 'The Screwtape Letters' was the same foul mouthed Jack Lewis he had known as a teenager."

"[Lewis's] adolescent atheism was further reinforced by his reading in the natural and social sciences. From the former he gained a sense that life on earth is just a random occurrence in a vast, empty universe, that all human history is no more than a teardrop in the vast ocean of eternity. From the latter he concluded that all the world's religions, **including Christianity**, could be best explained not as claims to truth, but as expressions of psychological needs and cultural values."

"From Schopenhauer's books, [Lewis] gained a sense that the universe was a random cosmic event, and that *all religions* were futile attempts by fearful humans to control the great forces of nature before which they felt so powerless. From [Frazier's] 'The Golden Bough...Lewis came to feel that religion was simply an expression of culture, that all peoples had their own myths and legends, just as they had their own customs, **and that no one system of beliefs, such as Christianity, was any more "true" than any other**."

"After dismissing the supernatural 'tomfoolery' which had attached itself to the historical Jesus...[Lewis] said that he doesn't feel the need to believe in a "happy life hereafter," explaining sarcastically, "I'm quite content to live without believing in a bogey who is prepared to torture me forever and ever if I should fail in coming to an almost impossible ideal." He concludes that he finds more comfort in unbelief than in belief..."

"When Lewis first read [MacDonald's 'Phantastes'] in the spring of 1916, he wrote enthusiastically to Greeves that he'd had a "great **literary** experience" that week, and the book became one of his lifelong favorites."

"As Lewis explained it, "Phantastes did *nothing to my intellect nor at that time to my conscience*. Their turn came **far later** and with the help of many other books and men."

It sounds to me as if the young Lewis could've been a guest poster on Debunking Christianity, not some lifelong advocate of supernaturalism who always considered Anglicanism to be true.

John W. Loftus said...

Eric, stop it, I can't stop laughing. Give me a specific realistic scenario. Nothing you say hits pay dirt. All you talk of are possibilities and I grant you those possibilities, I have always done so.

Give me a real live option, i.e., something you think isn't just possible but probable and tell me why, from an outsiders perspective, (1) that a supernatural explanation is a live option, and (2) highly improbable natural explanations are available.

No, please, do not revert to natural theology. That prospect died before the time of Karl Barth.

Chuck O'Connor said...

I never argued that Lewis was a life-long Anglican. I argued that he was a big fan of the noted Christian author George MacDonald who had a sustained influence on his perspective from 1916 forward. You need to stand on the absurd notion that the same curious mind that dedicated himself to the social sciences would somehow over-look MacDonald's famous Christianity and only stumble upon it later in life.

My argument is that Lewis wrestled between belief and disbelief even harboring a love for a well-known Christian author whom he refereed to as his "master".

Your argument is that the same intellect that considered nuanced atheistic arguments and had a hungry mind was somehow ignorant of MacDonald's Christianity and was therefore only accidentally appreciative of it.

Your theory is a stretch.

Keep providing proof-texts for your claims but MacDonald wrote "Diary of an Old Soul" in 1880 and so you will need to argue that a 36 year noted history of an author with a very popular Christian devotional somehow escaped the attention of the curious and diligent mind of CS Lewis.

Too much.

But please continue . . .

Also, on a separate subject, why do you insist on holding up Lewis as a defense of your faith. His determination of Christianity found your denomination lacking as evidenced by his Anglicism.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric can't give a live option to his supernaturalism because there isn't one.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric,

The bigger question is what should I as an atheist make of your fellow Christian DM?

Eric said...

"And Lewis rejected your faith. You still haven't done with that consequence of his OTF."

Lewis was not a Catholic, but you'd be surprised to learn how much of what he believed in consonant with Catholicism (e.g. Purgatory, confession, etc.). Lewis's wasn't a Catholic primarily because he couldn't resolve issues concerning the Church's ahthority, not because he didn't accept most Catholic doctrines. See Pearce's "C.S. Lewis and the Catholic Church."

Eric said...

"Eric, stop it, I can't stop laughing. Give me a specific realistic scenario. Give me a real live option, i.e., something you think isn't just possible but probable..."

John, now you've got me laughing: you're asking me for an example of a probable, realistic event that is best explained by a supernatural explanation?! How can a supernatural event be probable, and what would possibly count as "realistic" for a naturalist like yourself?

"The bigger question is what should I as an atheist make of your fellow Christian DM?"

The same thin I make of him: He's an idiot.

"Your theory is a stretch."

It's not "my theory": it's what Lewis himself said, and it's what every Lewis biographer I've ever read has concluded. You're the one with a theory. But as I said, if you have think you've come up with something new, write it up and publish it in "In Pursuit of Truth" or some other peer reviewed journal with an interest in Lewis studies. Do you think your theory will pass peer review?

Eric said...

Chuck, you're correct, you didn't say Lewis was a lifelong Anglican. I should have written that you claimed he was a lifelong advocate of supernaturalism whose only experience with anything resembling an outsider test came when he had to determine whether to accept Anglicanism or some other form of Christianity. ("Lewis was never one to reject supernaturalism." "The most I will concede is that he assumed Anglican doctrine true when applying the OTF on other live Christian options.")

Word verification: hater!

Chuck O'Connor said...

Well played Eric.

Now write out 100 times "Lewis was not a Catholic and he didn't share my faith".

You might get a half step closer to honesty.

Chuck O'Connor said...

At least we agree DM is an idiot but he's a product of your faith my friend.

I'll look into submitting my theory if you start your blog.

I fail to accept that Lewis knew nothing of MacDonald's Christianity. That is the claim you support. I will grant that you believe it and grant the sources you cite say it but it seems like prepostorous mythologizing to strengthen the case for Lewis' atheism and subsequently his "reconversion". I also believe Lewis assisted it making this myth.

Eric said...

"Now write out 100 times "Lewis was not a Catholic and he didn't share my faith"."

I never claimed Lewis was Catholic. But he certainly did share most of the essential elements of my faith. He'd agree with every part of the Nicene Creed, the profession of faith we Catholics recite every Sunday.

So, while Lewis was not a Catholic, the notion that he didn't "share my faith" is misleading. We would have disagreements, primarily over the authority of the Catholic Church and our understanding of the Eucharist, but we'd be in agreement on many, many more things.

John W. Loftus said...

Eric, let me basically reword and yet repeat myself, okay? But I'll capitalize the proper words this time.

Present me with one realistic case FROM AN OUTSIDER"S PERSPECTIVE where (1) supernatural explanations are live options, and (2) highly improbable natural explanations are available. Again, FROM AN OUTSIDER"S PERSPECTIVE. And remember that the supernatural explanation must be YOUR particular Christian sect's supernatural explanation.

I just can;t take it. LOL Sorry, but you really do not understand do you?

Chuck O'Connor said...

So Lewis shared your faith except for the theological understanding of the central event tied to the Mass.

Man you have a great career as an apologist or a politician Eric. Do you hear your dishonesty as truth somehow?

Eric said...

"I fail to accept that Lewis knew nothing of MacDonald's Christianity. That is the claim you support."

No, that's not what I said. I said Lewis never made the conncetion between his (Lewis's) enjoyment of MacDonald's works and MacDonald's Christianity. In other words, Lewis didn't think that in enjoying MacDonald, he was assenting to anything remotely Christian; he believed he could keep the two separate (as Lewis later said, just before his conversion: "All the books were beginning to turn against me. Indeed, I must have been as blind as a bat not to have seen, long before, the ludicrous contradiction between my theory of life and my actual experiences as a reader. George MacDonald had done more to me than any other writer; of course, it was a pity that he had that bee in his bonnet about Christianity. He was good in spite of it.")

Here's what I wrote earlier in this thread: "That is, he didn't think until just before he became a Christian that MacDonald's Christianity had anything to do **with Lewis's enjoyment** of his work!"

John W. Loftus said...

What DM does not realize, because he's basically a mentally challenged imbecile, is that people like him motivate me. What he's doing is pouring gasoline on the fire of my passion. It's people like him that motivate me to destroy the Christian faith. Thanks DM, you idiot.

DM said...

I am going to DESTROY YOU...fucker...

Chuck O'Connor said...

And DM is one of the reasons I have such disdain for people like Eric. They're intellectualization of superstition enables psychos like DM to rest in their irrationality. It is also one of the many reasons I dropped my faith. DM has as much right to proclaim his nonsense as Eric does his - neither has a methodology for their assertions beyond appeals to faith. Intellectually there is no difference. Both rely on superstition buoyed by tradition and do so to simply defend themselves and their fragile egos.

Eric said...

"Present me with one realistic case FROM AN OUTSIDER"S PERSPECTIVE where (1) supernatural explanations are live options, and (2) highly improbable natural explanations are available. Again, FROM AN OUTSIDER"S PERSPECTIVE. And remember that the supernatural explanation must be YOUR particular Christian sect's supernatural explanation."

Well, you can't get much more outside Christianity, or any religion, than Richard Dawkins, and you can't get much more Catholic than the Virgin Mary, so I'll use Dawkins's example (actually, I was using a modified version of Dawkins's example) from "The Blind Watchmaker": A statue of the Virgin Mary waves at you. Yes, it's really a statue, and yes, it's arm really moved on its own. Dawkins says that while this is highly improbable, there's a perfectly legitimate naturalistic explanation for it (in terms of the improbable motion of the molecules in the arm all in one direction, and then in another, thus making it look like the statue waved at you); yet, he concedes, he'd still accept the supernatural explanation over the natural explanation, and conclude that a miracle has occurred. Note, he would reject the natural, scientific explanation in favor of a supernatural explanation, and I'm arguing that it follows from this that science could not adjudicate between natural and supernatural explanations, since the scientific explanation here is merely improbable. But almost everyone would reject the improbable naturalistic and scientific explanation in favor of the supernatural explanation, even though the former in no way violates any scientific principles or laws.

Now do you understand?

John W. Loftus said...

Would everyone from the viewing page click on the date time stamp permalink to DM's last comment, copy that URL, then click on the very top banner where it says "Report Abuse," then click on "Hate/Violence" then "Continue" and "Continue" again. Paste that URL in the box and send.

Do it a hundred times if you want. Let's get Blogger's attention, please, now.

Thanks.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric

And I don't believe Lewis when he writes that seeing as MacDonald was a well known Pastor and Christian. For Lewis to admit that would be to contradict his career as a literary critic. It seems like protestation a bit too far. He obviously said it but if he were alive I would call bullshit on him and I would do this based on the cultural milieu Lewis was reading MacDonald.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Thanks Eric for that OTF for Naturalism illustration. I will apply it. Does it go for all Catholic icons or just statues of the Virgin Mother?

Dustin said...

Chuck, Alex Rosenberg is himself a metaphysical naturalist and an extremely respected philosopher who frequently deals with the interplay of philosophy and science. That you think he doesn't understand how evolution works is quite frankly hilarious, and indicative of how utterly clueless you are here.

And again, the moral argument still works if naturalism can provide an account of how we wound up with our moral impulses, but not how they track objective moral values. If--as you seem to think--there are no objective moral values, this question does not arise. But since there are, that is not a particularly promising position.

Gandolf said...

Breckmin said.." Do I need an outsider test for faith for chemistry or medicine?"

Yes Brekmin ...It usually has to atleast work!, or show it has some real honest use for something!.Otherwise people tend to start to lose! their "faith" in it double quick.

zenmite said...

Eric said:

For example, it's possible, though highly improbable, that, given a certain jostling of molecules, a statue of the Virgin Mary might step off its pedestal, walk into a bookstore, pick out a Bible, hand it to you, and walk right back to its pedestal.

If a leprechuan flew in on his pegasus and met Harry Potter at a bar and went to the restroom and peed strawberry Koolaid, stupid scientists would probably be looking for a naturalistic explanation. It's obvious that the most likely explanation would be supernatural and not natural.... therefore this proves God.


Evilspud said:

If atheists being religious refers to the cultural response that is publicly observed, then the statement holds some water. Atheists do make statements that provoke the same reaction as statements from public religious figures. In other words, the statements put forward by atheist and agnostic individuals take a stance on the concept of God. When sorting these statements, a person would have two sets: Statements that they agree with, and statements they disagree with. It is reasonable to group the comments of atheists with religious figures in this way.

In other words, if you completely change the definition of religion to include those who simply speak or write about a religious issue, even to criticize or debunk it, then atheists are religious and atheism becomes a religion.. So when skeptics speak out against astrology this means that being skeptical of astrology makes you an astrologer. Writing a book or making a statement criticizing or debunking witchcraft makes one a witch. Since people would sort both the statements of those claiming witchcraft is true and those claiming it is superstitious nonsense into two sets, those they agree with and those they disagree with it is reasonable to group the comments of those skeptical of witchcraft with witches in this way. Oh..such rigorous logic.

Breckmin said;

Because God is concluded NOT assumed. The Creator is experienced...NOT just assumed.
This is the whole problem with those who are blind to the things of God because they have no real relationship to Him


Because little green men are concluded and NOT assumed. ET's are experienced ..NOT just assumed.
This is the whole problem with those who are blind to the actions of ET's in our midst. They speak to me everyday when I don't wear a tinfoil hat but woe unto the skeptics who have no real relationship to Them.

Rob R said...

John, I must say that I am confused in your confidence in science's ability to settle metaphysical matters. With my meager studies in indeterminism/determinism/free will, as well as in the nature of time, the philosopher's axiom was demonstrated vividly to me: Science underdetermines these things. It seems no different here.

How do you dismiss the statue example as "unrealistic" when your notion of realistic vs. unrealistic is informed by the very thing that is contested here, naturalism. But what does it matter whether it is realistic or not? The purpose is to test the conceptual limits and nature of a claim, such as yours that science can always adjudicate these matters, or that a naturalistic explanation, if possible is always to be preferred to a supernatural.

To say it's unrealistic might be a relevant criticism against a thought experiment, but we do thought experiments in philosophy because sometime unrealistic descriptions of situations, objects, entities, whatever are very useful in refining some very pragmatic concepts.

descartes evil genuis and other silly ideas set the modern world on a quest for what makes a good epistemology.

FYI, you post 2 minutes after Eric's last post. I just mention this because you can miss a post otherwise. I've done it.

Rob R said...

Let's get Blogger's attention, please, now.

Done it.

John W. Loftus said...

Rob said: "FYI, you post 2 minutes after Eric's last post. I just mention this because you can miss a post otherwise. I've done it."

Yeah, I think I was stressed last night and may have even misunderstood Eric. Ain't gonna revisit it though. Moving on.

Eric said...

"But what does it matter whether it is realistic or not? *The purpose is to test the conceptual limits and nature of a claim,* such as yours that science can always adjudicate these matters, or that a naturalistic explanation, if possible is always to be preferred to a supernatural.*"

Rob R, precisely.


"Thanks Eric for that OTF for Naturalism illustration. I will apply it. Does it go for all Catholic icons or just statues of the Virgin Mother?"

Chuck, not so precisely. That was not an example of an outsider test for naturalism, but an argument against the notion that we can appeal to science to determine all supernatural claims. I provided an example in which a perfectly possible naturalistic claim via scientific methodologies is available, but in which next to no one would accept it. But if science could provide us with an explanation of some phenomenon that next to no one would accept over and against an alternative supernatural explanation, then you cannot blithely claim that science can determine these questions, which is what you claimed in the first place.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Dustin

Please provide examples of objective moral values with consistent application under divine command theory and please define "scientism" for me. You did not address my rebuttals to your assertions and only dismissed me because I don't hero worship the authority you cited. There are no objective moral standards that I can see consistently applied within any given ethical model.

EssEff said...

Christianity's basis is an appeal to authority. Question one, they're going to find another. Gospels, Paul, C.S. Lewis, their local pastor, their parents, whoever has convinced them is their source of "knowledge." Those who have some kind of ecstatic experience at a fundy event never seem to have an answer to the question of why people of other religions have similar experiences at their fundy events.

Very few atheists were brought up that way, and even if they were, they're outsiders within their culture. So daily life is an outsider test.

GearHedEd said...

Breckmin said,

"...The OTF is completely evasive to the reality of personal relationship and personal experience with the Creator."

Paraphrased, this statement says,

"I don't waaanna expose my faith to doubt. (pout)".

GearHedEd said...

Eric said,

"...here we have an example of an event for which there is a perfectly sensible, if improbable, scientific explanation that makes no appeal to the supernatural, so we could not, via scientific methodologies, move to a supernatural alternative explanation. Yet I think almost everyone would concede that the supernatural explanation is the better one."

I have to point out that the hypothetical Virgin Mary statue passing out Bibles is so farfetched as to render the argument void. No such thing has ever happened, nor is lijkely to ever occur. Appealing to the statistics of "extremely unlikely" is of no use here either.

GearHedEd said...

Oops.

I hadn't read down to Chuck's response...

My bad.

Steven said...

"But what does it matter whether it is realistic or not? *The purpose is to test the conceptual limits and nature of a claim,* such as yours that science can always adjudicate these matters, or that a naturalistic explanation, if possible is always to be preferred to a supernatural.*"

Rob R, precisely.


But that only gets you into the realm of possibility, not probability. To ask the question of weather or not a naturalistic explanation will always be preferable implies that you have a real, honest to goodness case where the supernatural explanation really is preferable. You're just blowing smoke otherwise.

That was not an example of an outsider test for naturalism, but an argument against the notion that we can appeal to science to determine all supernatural claims.

Scientific methodologies may underdetermine phenomena, but I don't see where that gives supernatural explanations much of an out. The problem is that we are stuck in the natural realm, with only natural devices to apply to such claims in the first place. As such, supernaturalist claims lead to a vicious circle with no way to emerge from it without a supernatural epistemology. Let's just assume for a second that we do have a waving statue and we agree that there is no plausible natural explanation for it. Where do we go from there? What methodology do you propose to use to try to determine what the waving statue signifies? In other words, you're not any closer to justifying your religious beliefs than you were before, all you've got a is a waving statue.

Chuck O'Connor said...

I will second Ed on this one Eric.

Your example is ludicrous and your intellectual victory is in your head.

It has NO application and although there might be a history of this type of thought experiment (e.g. your mention of Einstein and Rob's mention of Descartes) it does not mean that your execution of the form is worth anything.

You remind me of all those contestants on American Idol warbling off-tune thinking because they can croak in public they are "singers".

Thought experiments with value have some approximation to solving real conundrum. Yours exist to satisfy your immature ego.

You want us to pause and nod and mutter, "Boy that Eric he sure knows technical philosophy" but, NOTHING you offer relates to real world application.

Okay you win. When I see a waving statue then I will say Eureka we don't have a naturalistic explanation for that.

Whoopdey Doo!!!!

Now go try my test and step in front of a speeding bus you pretentious clown.

Eric said...

"But that only gets you into the realm of possibility, not probability."

Steven, but as I said before, if I'm dealing with a universal claim, such as "science is the OTF for naturalism," then all I have to do, as a matter of simple logic, to refute it is to provide an example (indeed, a single successful example suffices) of a situation in which science would *not* be able to adjudicate between competing naturalistic and supernaturalistic explanations.

"To ask the question of weather or not a naturalistic explanation will always be preferable implies that you have a real, honest to goodness case where the supernatural explanation really is preferable. You're just blowing smoke otherwise."

Steve, I take you to mean by "a real, honest to goodness case" a factual case, or one that's probable. But then your implication (i.e. "if you don't have a real case, then you're just blowing smoke") isn't true at all. As Rob pointed out, in philosophy we use outlandish thought experiments all the time to help us think clearly about our concepts by logically pushing them to their limits. (For instance, you referenced "underdetermination" in your post, but consider the importance of Putnam's famous 'Twin earth' thought experiment in informing how we think about underdetermination.) This isn't "blowing smoke" at all, but is rather serious logical and intuitive analysis of the conceptual equipment that every field of study depends upon.

"Let's just assume for a second that we do have a waving statue and we agree that there is no plausible natural explanation for it. Where do we go from there? What methodology do you propose to use to try to determine what the waving statue signifies?"

Steve, one thing to notice is that in such a case we're free to consider the sort of teleological explanations that were abandoned when what we now call modern science truncated Aristotle's analysis of causation. So, if it's a statue of the Virgin Mary that moves, we may reasonably attach, within the framework of a teleological explanation that allows us to consider not mechanism alone but agency as well, some significance to the fact that it happened to a statue of the Virgin Mary, and not to a statue of Zeus (and, of course, the same would apply if it happened to the statue of Zeus).

But I think it's important to note that if *all* we had was a moving statue, I'd agree, we couldn't conclude much from that. Since events that require supernatural explanations would be causally unique (using the term "cause" here in its broader, classical sense to include final causes), I'd say much would depend on the specific circumstances surrounding such an event (e.g. if, as at Fatima, there were a prediction, or accompanying messages, etc.). After all, in such a case we're not dealing with events we can predict or with which we have any real experience, so we can't, as we do with science, derive general principles from them, but must rather pay careful attention to the specific circumstances of each case. So, the only answer to your question, "Where do we go from there?" has to be "It depends on the specifics of each case. Maybe we go nowhere, and maybe not."

"In other words, you're not any closer to justifying your religious beliefs than you were before, all you've got a is a waving statue."

Well, first, my example was not meant to justify any religious beliefs, but was rather meant merely to show that Chuck's claim was false.

But second, as I said above, it depends if it's true that all we have is a waving statue.

Note that none of what I've said here is relevant to my initial point concerning my providing a counterexample to Chuck's claim; rather, I'm here addressing a different set of questions.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric,

Like I said, show me a waving statue and then we can decide if the scientific method is applicable.

It could be.

We could test the quality of the experience and confirm or disconfirm its known properties based on the circumstances involved.

But, lets try my test. Have your parish pray an intercessory prayer to St. Christopher while you step in front of a bus.

Eric said...

"You remind me of all those contestants on American Idol warbling off-tune thinking because they can croak in public they are "singers"."

"Yours exist to satisfy your immature ego."

"Now go try my test and step in front of a speeding bus you pretentious clown."

Chuck, why do you insult me? I was under the impression that we were having a discussion here.

Now you expressed some dissatisfaction with DM's approach earlier in this thread; and what is his approach? Well, it involves no making no arguments, providing no reasons, and piling on insults and threats. You're descending to DM's level, you know, with the petty insults; what's next, threats?

Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric I'm sorry if my honest assessment of your endeavours here is considered insult by you. My intention is honest criticism of your form. I don't suffer self-satisfied people who practice pretense while hanging their morality on a religion that colluded to abuse children.

Your character as represented by your defense of your Roman Catholic faith supported by outmoded models of problem-solving (teleological explanations) and allusions to real probelm-solvers like Einstein reminds me of a fart in a hot elevator.

I work as a strategist for the health sciences and men like you obscure real solutions to human suffering with your poorly imagined moral puzzles connected to authoratarian-worship and tradition.

You only consider it insult because my estimation of your worth is far below your own.

Kel said...

I think the answer to this question is "yes, if..." because of what atheism is. It's the negative position, it's not a faith in itself but the negation of it. The simple illustration is someone born in Greece 2500 years ago would be an atheist if they rejected the Athenian deities, saying Zeus and Appollo and the rest are merely constructs of the mind.

One thing that bothers me is because of that contingency, being an atheist in our modern society is a choice between Christianity or nothing. Whereas that contingency makes the choice of religion we have quite arbitrary! What's to distinguish between Christianity (and it's ~42,000 sects), Islam, Jainism, Hinduism, Scientology or any of the other religions people adhere to? In our society, we're placed into a false dichotomy.


But I can see one reason to take the test. If a religion can pass the outsider test, then that would give cause to explore it. Until that, an atheist who doesn't understand Christianity is as relevant as an atheist who doesn't understand Tibetan Buddhism. That one can believe so strongly in one religion without considering them all (and indeed all possibilities that have not yet been thought of) is symptomatic of the problems people have with the burden of proof and the expectation to prove a negative instead of making a case for the positive.

Eric said...

"Eric I'm sorry if my honest assessment of your endeavours here is considered insult by you."

Gee, I wonder why I didn't think that your calling me a "pretentious clown" was an "honest assessment of my endeavors" and not an insult.

As I've said before, are you for real?

And don't think that your insults bother me; they don't. I just find it psychologically interesting whenever a self proclaimed rational atheist turns to insults the moment he encounters an argument he's not capable of refuting. (And this sort of thing seems to happen all the time, by the way, and not just to me.)


"I work as a strategist for the health sciences and men like you obscure real solutions to human suffering with your poorly imagined moral puzzles connected to authoratarian-worship and tradition."

Health sciences, eh? What do you make of this? Sounds to me as if the people doing the real work in health care have more in common with me than with you.

And what do you make of this? The gritty, ever pragmatic world of business seems to disagree with you about the value of philosophical ways of thinking about problems.

"I don't suffer self-satisfied people who practice pretense while hanging their morality on a religion that colluded to abuse children."

Oh, so now you're claiming that "Catholicism," and not some members of the institutional Catholic Church, is the source of the child abuse we've both spoken out against? Kindly elucidate how you move from my "religion" to a free pass to abuse children. Oh wait, this is another one of those challenge thingies -- I forgot that you almost *never* respond to them.

"Your character as represented by your defense of your Roman Catholic faith supported by outmoded models of problem-solving (teleological explanations)"

Teleological explanations are outmoded models of problem solving? That's news to me. Let me ask you a question (I'm stealing this one from John Lennox): If you put $100 in your drawer at night, and find in the morning that it's gone, do you suppose that the laws of nature have been violated, or the laws of Chicago? If you suppose the latter, which of course we all would, then you're looking at a teleological explanation.

"You only consider it insult because my estimation of your worth is far below your own."

I don't care a bit about your estimation of my worth, only about my estimation of the worth of your responses and arguments (or, in most cases unfortunately, of the lack thereof).

Chuck O'Connor said...

What is your argument? The modern scientific method grounded in naturalism needs to take into consideration imaginary talking statues before it can say it is a superior way of knowing than your ancient mysticism?

You advertise you don't make decisions in the real world with your pompous academic jousting. I doubt the doctors or businessmen you cite would explain the efficacy of a real world problem by impugning modern science and citing supernaturalism.

I do enjoy considering philosophical questions relative to real world behaviors. I'm currently designing a global survey which will assess physician religious values in estimating potential future molecular diagnostics and genomic medicines. But I can honestly say your self-aggrandizing posturing would be cause for me to make you realize that satisfaction is poorly served in simply believing you are right.

And yes the institutional structure of your institutional church moved criminal priests at the expense of child victims to protect its institutional status.

Eric said...

"The modern scientific method grounded in naturalism [huh? no naturalism, but methodological naturalism; 'naturalism' is a philosophical, not a scientific, position] needs to take into consideration imaginary talking statues [huh? not science, but our understanding of the limits of scientific explanations, and not talking statues per se, but thought experiments that test those limits] before it can say it is a superior [huh? not superior, but complementary, if we can think of cases in which science provides us with explanations we find we could not accept, as my example illustrates] way of knowing [huh? no, not necessarily 'knowledge,' but an alternative explanation] than your ancient mysticism [huh? no, philosophical reasoning]?"

I guess you honestly didn't understand the argument at all, despite all my efforts. Oh well...

Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric,

From the study you cited, "Although doctors are more likely than the general population to attend religious services, they are less willing to “apply their religious beliefs to other areas of life,” the researchers found. Sixty-one percent of doctors say they “try to make sense” of a difficult situation and “decide what to do without relying on God,” while only 29 percent of the general population say the same."

You once again prove too much. Modern science trumps your supernaturalism when the true test of efficacy is measured, practicum.

The Businessweek page you linked to is an opinion piece and while I understand how you would believe that is somehow evidential authority, it isn't.

Chuck O'Connor said...

". . . as my example illustrates . . ."

Your example illustrates how you will use your imagination to go to great lengths to attempt academic victory.

It is not a thought experiment worth considering for anything other than trying to prove me wrong in my estimation that naturalism has an OTF in science.

You seek to be told you are right and will stretch credulity to get there. You've been called out on it many times here Eric. You jump to the possible to act as if your world-view has real utility when grown-ups outside of a class-room deal in probability rooted in our understanding of the natural world.

You then seek to gather "gotcha" citations either from your vocabulary list or hyperlinks to articles you think prove you are right but, you only prove your emotional immaturity.

Re-read the article you posted and ask yourself if the cited index of religious belief amongst the doctors surveyed is "consonant" with your religious world-view.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric,

Here is the kind of "Health Science" your theology advocates.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19190916/

Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric,

One more thing, you need to understand that a one time pulse study of attitudes does not capture the complete picture of real world psychology. What you want is an on-going tracker with rolling averages.

I see that the University of Chicago has not repeated their study since 2005 and therefore it might be considered anecdotally interesting but not something that would pass a research hygiene test. A five-year-old study is far from conclusive but when the sample population under-indexes by 25% to the chosen worldview your are looking to advocate I'd say that your case is not made.

Steven said...

Steven, but as I said before, if I'm dealing with a universal claim, such as "science is the OTF for naturalism," then all I have to do, as a matter of simple logic, to refute it is to provide an example (indeed, a single successful example suffices) of a situation in which science would *not* be able to adjudicate between competing naturalistic and supernaturalistic explanations.

Eric, I think that is a misinterpretation of how science is the OTF for naturalism. Science is the OTF for naturalism in the sense that science simply wouldn't work if naturalism were false. Science couldn't even exist without a naturalistic philosophy that didn't mirror reality relatively well. So that is the bridge that a supernaturalist explanation has to cross. Science is contingent upon naturalism being correct, so my point boils down to this: I would say that all empirical knowledge is contingent upon naturalism, and I place knowledge of the supernatural firmly inside the realm of empirical knowledge. I don't see any way for knowledge of the supernatural to have any hope of being shown to be true without an empirical check on its claims. What your example shows, in my opinion, is a limit to what we can actually know in that circumstance, and not an inability to adjudicate between the natural and supernatural.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Oh and Eric, your misuse of technical survey data to try and score a cheap academic victory is one of the reasons I consider you "pretentious" but the fact you didn't understand the implications of the survey is why I think you are a "clown".

Eric said...

"Science is the OTF for naturalism in the sense that science simply wouldn't work if naturalism were false."

Steve, that's not true at all.

First we need to be clear about what we mean by 'naturalism.' I take naturalism to be the view that nature in some sense exhausts reality, and that therefore there is no supernatural agency or being (in the broad sense of the term).

Now all you need for science to "work" is a natural world that (1) is intelligible, and (this is a related but distinct concept) (2) that is orderly (in a broadly mathematical sense). Note, you need a natural world that satisfies both (1) and (2), *but you don't need there to be *only* a natural world*.

A Christian theistic worldview leads us to believe both (1) and (2) are true, and thus satisfies the conditions of the possibility of science. The Christian theistic support for (1) comes from its averring that an intelligent being created the world, and then created us in his image (with the term "created" here used to encompass any account of creation, including theistic evolution). And (2) is supported on a Christian theistic worldview by the fact that God and the world are not the same; God created the world, so it doesn't have a mind of its own, but is rather a product of an intelligent mind.

(N.B. I'm not *arguing* here that the Christian theistic worldview is true; I'm simply demonstrating that it has the conceptual resources to satisfy the two conditions of the possibility of science I elucidated above. It may be the case that theism is false *and* it satisfies both conditions, so my only point here is that it's false that naturalism is a necessary condition of science.)

Further, miracles present no problem for the possibility of science in a theistic world, given both their relative infrequency and the fact that we now understand the laws of nature to represent statistical regularities, and not iron clad rules natural phenomena cannot but follow.

In my opinion, naturalism on the other hand does not satisfy the two conditions of the possibility of science. I think its biggest problem is with (1). A great case can be made with possible worlds semantics that naturalism fails to satisfy condition (2) as well, but I think the case that it fails to satisfy (1) is a bit stronger. But that's another issue; the issue here is whether naturalism is a necessary condition for science, and I think that's demonstrably false.

John W. Loftus said...

Eric, the difference between methodological naturalism and ontological naturalism can be sustained right here by Michael Martin.

The easy connection from methodological naturalism to ontological naturalism is argued for here by Barbara Forrest.

Eric said...

Chuck, you have demonstrated time and time again that you simply lack (1) the education and (2) the maturity required to take part in these discussions seriously. I had some hopes for you given some of your recent posts, but I now consider you unworthy of my time. Respond to my posts all you want; you won't get a response from me anymore unless you demonstrate some serious improvement in the two areas I referred to above.

Adieu!

Ryan Anderson said...

I think the Sir Arthur C. Clark quote regarding advanced technology and magic (should) covers Eric's concerns about science presupposing naturalism. The universe is a big place. There's no reason to assume we've exhausted the scope of naturalism on this tiny speck of rock or with a telescope. And that's not to say that we won't discover "natural" phenomena that make biblical miracles look like a childs play.

Eric said...

John, yes, I'm familiar with both arguments. Here are a couple of my problems:

First, what do you think would be more difficult, deriving an ought or a command from an is, or deriving an is from an ought or a command? I think it's clear that the latter case is much harder to make, and perhaps impossible to justify logically, yet that's precisely the case Forrest makes (and Martin implies; his paper doesn't deal with the move from MN to N, but with whether you can both reject N and accept MN; however, he clearly defines MN as a command, and speaks about it as if it's an ought). MN is a claim about how you ought to conduct, or a command about how you must conduct, an investigation, in this case a scientific investigation; MN is a claim about how the world in fact is. Forrest is attempting to move from an ought or a command (MN) to an is (N), and that move is obviously fallacious. (I think this is why most philosophers, though they are naturalists themselves, reject the conclusion that MN can get you to N).

Here's a second problem: Part of Forrest's case for the move from MN to N rests in the success of N in describing the natural world. But as I argued earlier, the conditions of the possibility of science are satisfied by Christian theism, and MN is perfectly consistent with such a worldview, *even if it were false*; hence, it follows that MN would be just as successful given Christian theism as it would be given naturalism. Simply put, the success of the sciences cannot adjudicate the matter.

(I have other problems with her arguments, but those two will suffice for now.)

Eric said...

Correction*:


"MN is a claim about how you ought to conduct, or a command about how you must conduct, an investigation, in this case a scientific investigation; N* is a claim about how the world in fact is."

Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric

Thanks. I find your rationalizations exhausting. It will be a relief not to deal with you.

When you graduate from school and enter the real world I hope you find a mentor to call you on your pretension. Until then, recognize when you post survey data (my specialty) you should consider research hygiene and do a simple index of the sample to confirm your argument. In this case, doctors rely on god thinking as a complementary decision point when practicing medicine and these doctors use the orthodox christian god to do so.

You were wrong on both counts.

Now go return your library books schoolboy.

ennangal said...

When I first read about OTF, I thought why would someone need to test the obvious! I find two problems in OTF:
1) It assumes atheism does not need OTF; it demands theism to provide a framework for atheism to use OTF. I think the burden is on atheists to define their own OTF and pass it! They need to step into Christian, Muslim, Hindu, etc framework and “objectively” test if atheism still holds! It is obvious, if an atheist step into any theistic framework, from that point of view atheism will not pass the test; this brings to my 2nd point,
2) OTF assumes believers choose their own faith over other faiths based on purely objective framework; the reality is there is a great amount of subjective element why one chooses his/her faith over the other. He/she may use objective framework (OTF) to reject other faiths, but the reason why one sticks with his/her own faith is mostly based on subjective element!

(e.g ) The subjective experiences of John Loftus drove him from theism to agnosticism/atheism. If those subjective experiences had not happened, I am not sure if we would be having “debunkingatheim” blog instead of “debunkingchristianity”!
The same kind of subjective experiences are what help believers to hang on to their faiths; they use OTF to reject other faiths, obviously because they don’t have subjective experiences with those faiths! John Loftus claims he uses objectivity (OTF) to reject other faiths but fails to see he has used subjective experiences to arrive where he is now, and adamantly claim he arrived/swam there by reason!( fail to see the water he swim/swam in!)

John W. Loftus said...

ennangal, with me Christianity failed the Insider Test for Faith so how much more does it fail the OTF.

Breckmin said...

"Because little green men are concluded and NOT assumed. ET's are experienced .."

Neither of these are a logical explanation for the Intelligence necessary for biological information in the identifiable sequences in the genome or the complex mechanical working systems of a living cell nor the IF-THEN programming in two part control mechanisms for gene regulation.

Theistic implication in science first points to agnostic theism. Little green men and ET are folly in such discussions and are "conceptually"(if they were real) made up of matter and therefore would NOT be the explanation for the creation of matter.

If you surrender all wisdom and sink to the depths of foolishness like pink unicorns and flying spaghetti monsters which have NOTHING to do with arguments for agnostic theism then the discussion becomes folly.

Question everything (especially the origin of the arrangments of codons and amino acids).

Chuck O'Connor said...

Breck

What do you know of the human genome?

What study have you done of genomics (and no reading "The Signature in the Cell" doesn't count).

Chuck O'Connor said...

ennangal

You will find many atheists here were once professing believers.

If you are a christian then I ask why you feel compelled to form a relationship with a character in a book to give your life meaning?

Chuck O'Connor said...

Breck

You should form your own religion and call it "Gapology" where we all get to worship the god of the gaps.

ennangal said...

John,
Yes! I read that in your WIBA book. My point is exactly what you have just said. You cannot discount your
subjective experience of Christianity in your journey towards atheism. My basic point is how can you
dicount the subjective experience of millions of believers?. I think discounting subjective experience
from the equation is a flaw in OTF. That is, even if OTF fails, people will still believe because
of this subjective experience!

GearHedEd said...

Eric said,

"...Now all you need for science to "work" is a natural world that (1) is intelligible, and (this is a related but distinct concept) (2) that is orderly (in a broadly mathematical sense). Note, you need a natural world that satisfies both (1) and (2), *but you don't need there to be *only* a natural world*."

I think that naturalism satisfies both (1) and (2), and that anything beyond that is extraneous, and has no business elbowing its way into the world of naturalism.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Now watch it Ed, Eric will question your education if you disagree with him.

GearHedEd said...

ennangal said,

"...how can you discount the subjective experience of millions of believers?"

Substitute "jumping off a cliff" for "subjective experience" and "lemmings" for "believers", and then read the question again.

GearHedEd said...

Eric knows I don't accept anything he says just because he said it.

LOL!

Word verification = "prove"

No shit.

GearHedEd said...

I'm assuming the current definition of underdetermination is

"a term used in the discussion of theories and their relation to the evidence that is cited to support them. Arguments from underdetermination are used to support epistemic relativism by claiming that there is no good way to certify a theory based on any set of evidence. A theory (or statement or belief) is underdetermined if, given the available evidence, there is a rival theory which is inconsistent with the theory that is at least as consistent with the evidence. Underdetermination is an epistemological issue about the relation of evidence to conclusions. (sometimes called indeterminacy of data to theory)"

Eric said (to Steve),

"...(For instance, you referenced "underdetermination" in your post, but consider the importance of Putnam's famous 'Twin earth' thought experiment in informing how we think about underdetermination.)

Now, flame me if you must, but the summary of Putnam's famous 'Twin Earth' thought experiment didn't seem to address underdetermination at all. It said Putnam's 'Twin Earth' was a highly improbable thought experiment about perception, unless I'm retarded.

Rob R said...

ennangal, with me Christianity failed the Insider Test for Faith so how much more does it fail the OTF.

As surely as there is no one outsider's perspective, neither is it true that there is just one insiders' perspective. And not all outsiders' perspectives nor insiders' perspectives are equal. Not all are static as any perspective has room to grow and improve.

I recall taking a world religions class from an orthodox Christian and through it all, the emphasis was there to be cautious as an outsider and know the disadvantage that it entails. And if criticism was to be made, there was a sort of permission to be saught, to make sure from the insider that we got the picture right to begin with.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Rob R.

No permission need to be sought by those of us who have been insiders in the Christian religion and have found it false.

Our conception is from the inside-out.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Why do they evaluate other religious faiths with a level of skepticism that they do not apply to their own culturally inherited one? Why? Answer me that!

Well, they don't. Your garden-variety Christian's skepticism about other faiths is typically as superficial as the reasons they have for believing their own faith. They just need to be generally more critical about all theological matters, not just their own.

Kel said...

ennangal wrote:
"I think the burden is on atheists to define their own OTF and pass it!"

But atheism is not a faith, it's a negative position. If you're arguing that atheists should carefully consider their position and try to come to the best possible (and tentative) conclusion they can, then I'm all for it. But you must realise that the burden of proof in terms of the existence of gods is on those proposing the gods.

The logic for this is simple. In the case of astrology, is the burden on those saying it's true or those denying its possibility? In other words, what is the role of who express doubt? In the case of astrology, as far as I can see the burden of proof lies with the astrologer. They are the ones making positive claims, they need positive evidence. The non-astrologer is in the position of critiquing those positive claims. Because no positive claims looks exactly like nothing at all...


As atheists, the best we can ever do is argue against the positive claims that theists make. This isn't just specific claims but conceptual ones too. Critiquing astrology because a horoscope someone is claiming to be true is vague and nebulous barely rates a mention, but arguing that the whole concept is flawed because there's no causal relation between the relative position of the stars and planets to the earth and the affairs of humanity is much better. The astrologer has to demonstrate that there is such a link, not just that there is a seeming link if interpreted in the right way. As a non-astrologer, I find this completely unconvincing.

Likewise, the atheist needs to address what people conceptualise as the concept for gods and look at the case theists of all sorts make. The "OTF" (hate the f-word) for atheists are conceptions of the gods that can pass the OTF. If there is a good case for the OTF, please let me know.

Chuck O'Connor said...

I agree Blue Devil.

As I have encountered believing friends since my deconversion I've found most of them don't rely on God but rest in a general idea of God because it makes them feel good. When I bring up the problem of evil almost all of them relate a theology that is best defined as impotent Deism.

Eric said...

"But atheism is not a faith, it's a negative position."

Hi Kel

I agree in a sense, but it's important to remember that no atheist is just an atheist; indeed, most atheists today seem to be atheists largely *because* they are naturalists, and naturalism is a 'positive' position -- a positive philosophical claim about the nature of reality (in other words, it's a metaphysical claim). Atheists qua atheists may not assert anything, but atheists whose atheism is informed by their naturalism do make a very big claim indeed. (Note, while atheism is entailed by naturalism, the converse is not the case, i.e. atheism doesn't entail naturalism. So, one cannot justifiably say he's a naturalist because he's an atheist.)

Since naturalism is a claim that moves beyond the available evidence, and since in a scientific context it implies a programmatic commitment, it can indeed be described as an instance of faith (where 'faith' is understood as a programmatic commitment to a proposition that is not proportional to the evidence for its truth; so, we may think that, given the evidence, it's probable that people are contributing to global warming, but the move from assenting to this truth and committing to becoming an environmentalist involves faith, as previously defined).

"But you must realise that the burden of proof in terms of the existence of gods is on those proposing the gods."

This is not necessarily true. Burden of proof issues concern informal logic, and in informal logic the specifics of each case are vital (see this and this for some clarification).

Kel said...

Hey Eric,
"I agree in a sense, but it's important to remember that no atheist is just an atheist; indeed, most atheists today seem to be atheists largely *because* they are naturalists, and naturalism is a 'positive' position -- a positive philosophical claim about the nature of reality (in other words, it's a metaphysical claim)."
But this is a different issue. The positive claim there is not atheism but naturalism. That atheists are naturalists is shifting the goalposts.

From my experience personally, I was an atheist long before I was a naturalist. I didn't know what naturalism (as opposed to supernaturalism) was, and in any case my doubt against gods wasn't because I had some rival metaphysical construct to fight against it. I just couldn't see how the claims people were making could possibly be true.


I'm not sure how typical my experience was, but I can assure you that my atheism came before my naturalism. Naturalism is the only tenable philosophical position in my mind because supernaturalism is incoherent. It's indistinguishable from what is not yet known, and in effect an anything goes approach where one doesn't need to justify anything. Of course as a child, I didn't know such things. My thoughts were "what do you mean Jesus came back to life?"

"Since naturalism is a claim that moves beyond the available evidence, and since in a scientific context it implies a programmatic commitment, it can indeed be described as an instance of faith"
This is where I think I get muddled up with the way theists think, and as a result the use of the word faith confuses me. In your case with Global Warming, it's not a matter of faith but the best position proportional to the evidence. It's not about certainty, but what's the best available position proportional to the data. If there's no data one way or the other, it would be a faith position. But how is it faith to follow the path that is best supported by the evidence? To me that's conflating the word faith from the taking a leap beyond evidence to the inherent uncertainty of contingent knowledge.

If tomorrow AGW were to lose its scientific consensus with new data that contradicts the scientific model, the reasonable thing to do would be to abandon the model. Faith would be believing despite the evidence. The enterprise of human knowledge is uncertain by definition, where anything could be revised. Yet in this use of the word faith, there is no functional difference between calling evolution a faith and calling a literal creation event in the Garden of Eden a faith.

This is why I object to the word faith, I can't think in such terms. I want to follow whatever is the most reasonable course, if my beliefs are unreasonable then I will abandon them. Faith is claiming that nothing could shake you out of a belief. I don't have that commitment to anything beyond the cogito, 2+2=4 and that all bachelors are unmarried. Beyond all that, tentative conclusions that are based on the best possible reason and evidence are all I can commit to!

Kel said...

One more thing, Eric. Consider the question of the origin of life. At present, we don't know how life began. There's plenty of promising work and many seemingly important steps have been reproduced in the lab, but still the answer is not there. At that point, what can we say about the origin of life?

We don't know.

And that's an important point, we don't know. So because we don't know, does that mean that life began by unicorn sneezes? Should we even consider it a possibility? After all we can't rule it out! But why rule it in to begin with? If we're being honest, there's an infinite number of possibilities. Yet the scientific establishment is finding processes involving hydrothermal vents, panspermia, or growing complex structures on the back of crystals and not even considering the unicorn sneeze hypothesis. Perhaps science is barking up the wrong tree because of it discounting unicorn sneezes...

But why consider unicorn sneezes in the first place? And this is where burden of proof lies. It's all well and good to talk about the positive claims of naturalism, but the question of atheism is the existence of gods. Is positing the existence of God - the Judeo-Christian construct - any more valid than positing unicorn sneezes? If so, why? That's what I meant by burden of proof, the theist is making a claim about existence that until a positive case is made is nothing more than a bare assertion.

What is meant by God? How can we possibly know this? This is the positive case that needs to be argued by a theist, because otherwise God is indistinguishable as a concept from sneezing unicorns or even nothing at all. An undefined God, the lack of a positive case for God, it's saying nothing meaningful at all. The theist without a positive case is making a bare assertion, the burden of proof is on the theist to define and demonstrate the existence of God in such a way that it's distinguishable from the null hypothesis and thus put on the atheist to consider.