Are logical arguments evidence?

It is said that an argument will convince a reasonable man, and a proof will convince even an unreasonable man. So why do so-called atheists insist upon evidence? In a previous discussion, a claim was made that logical arguments are not evidence. Here I want to unpick that comment and see if we can find a way of thinking about the relationship between evidence and logical arguments that is helpful.

First I want to draw a distinction between two different types of evidence. First there is physical-evidence. This would be material stuff, such as bullet shells, exit wounds, DNA, photographs, lab results, etc. All of these would be available, either directly or indirectly to the five senses.

I take it that it was this type of evidence that was meant by the claim logical arguments are not evidence – that is, physical-evidence. Such as an arrowhead in cave can be said to be evidence for human habitation of that cave. Or that a shivering of a body can be said to be evidence it is cold.

What is troubling is that if physical-evidence is a necessary for knowledge, then we should know nothing of moral truths, aesthetic values, and meta-physical intuitions. Yet surly we do know that torturing babies is wrong, open graves are macabre, waterfalls are sublime, that the past is objective and other minds do exist. The Achilles heal of this particular epistemological theory is it is self-referentially incoherent. If its reasonable, then its unreasonable by its own merits. For no physical evidence is able to to reveal that evidence is required for reasonable belief. If it could be rationally affirmed and were true, then the Christian would be in an awkward position, for a further implication would be there is no hope for reasonable belief in non-physical entities. In fact the criteria, if adopted, would rule out the possibility of attaining reasonable belief in non-physical entities before any discussion or debate began.

There must therefore be something terribly wrong then with the criteria. Which is why I’d like to draw our attention to another type of evidence called argument-evidence. Evidence is broadly speaking that which lends support to a proposition or claim. Argument-evidence is any reason given for believing something is true or false. That is not to say that all argument-evidence is good evidence. That is just to say that arguments can count as evidence, in that they too give support for believing some proposition or claim. There can of course be counter-evidence that could dissuade belief.

For those not inclined to accept this distinction I have drawn between and physical-evidence and argument-evidence, and those who disagree with me that arguments can count as evidence, it will be useful to consider the following.

Physical evidence doesn’t speak. That is to say, all physical-evidence passes through the filter of an interpretative lens, and, perhaps unnoticed by the advocate, acquires certain meaning that was not intrinsic to the object or event itself. More colloquially, material objects have no voice to tell you what they signify. Everything is interpreted by a person who brings with them additional premises from their world view and store of experiences.

We have all gone through what its like to say one thing, and for two people to hear totally different things. A fossil will tell a paleontologist one thing. The same fossil will tell the next paleontologist another thing – sometimes even used to support mutually exclusive theories. Yet if physical-evidence was all there was available for investigation, how is it then that disparate theories can arise over the same object or event?

What happens is that somewhere between an objects discovery and its interpretation additional premises are added. These premises combine to form arguments. One hopes of course that these arguments are logical. Different premises given by different perspectives lead to different conclusions. Thus, in a way, all evidence is argument-evidence, for the physical-evidence, if left to itself, remains silent and tells us nothing.

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  1. OriginalSimon
    OriginalSimon says:

    This is silly Stuart. No one believes that only physical evidence is evidence.

    Contrast the argument for the arrowhead in the cave being the work of humans with an argument for the existence of god. The difference between the two is the tangibility of the evidence. As a result, in the field of archaeology there is very little dissonance. But when it comes to the topic of god there are just as many arguments against a god's existence as for – and there is no way to determine which is correct. Why? Because of a near complete dearth of evidence. The dissonance within a field is a result of the quality of the evidence.

    I can see why it is advantageous to you to make straw-man claims about physical evidence, and to attempt to boost the importance of logical argument (for that is virtually all you have). But the fact remains; dissonance exists where evidence is poor. We all do it to a degree, but you are only kidding yourself.

  2. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    No one believes that only physical evidence is evidence.

    I'm glad you think so. So why do you say

    Because of a near complete dearth of evidence. [for the existence of God]

    ?

    – and there is no way to determine which is correct

    That's simply untrue. Illogical arguments should be dismissed.

  3. TheCraftMan
    TheCraftMan says:

    @OriginalSimon,

    But when it comes to the topic of god there are just as many arguments against a god’s existence as for – and there is no way to determine which is correct.

    Which arguments would those be? To my knowledge, the only original "argument" is that there is no evidence. The rest are simply rebuttals of the various theistic arguments.

  4. OriginalSimon
    OriginalSimon says:

    Stuart,

    That’s simply untrue. Illogical arguments should be dismissed.

    Oh, yes, sure. But all arguments against god's existence are not illogical. The fact that people – intelligent people – lie on both sides of the debate show that the evidence is weak and/or non-existent; in stark contrast to the spear head in the cave.

    The cross-section of opinions on a topic is an extremely good datum. In fact, I think it is the most objective. I guess the move to exclusivism is the opposite; a move away from the objective.

  5. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    OriginalSimon,

    The fact that people – intelligent people – lie on both sides of the debate show that the evidence is weak and/or non-existent.

    If you insist on this, we part company. I admit that that is one possible conclusion (the evidence is weak), but it's definitely not the only one. I think an objective look at the issue – even a common-sense one – will tell you that there are many factors which influence different people's evaluation of the different arguments. Not everyone is a hard-nosed logician. People are human after all.

    One of the ways to evaluate the arguments for and against God's existence is logic -and that is the key one for determining if the arguments are really sound (have true conclusions), but other factors can be emotional, perhaps they have been given misinformation about the arguments, perhaps they are mistaken on some of the facts utilized by the arguments so the issue is clouded, perhaps they are not aware of the responses available and think they have a slam-dunk argument or counter-argument when they do not, perhaps they think the arguments are really good but they lie to themselves because they recognize if such and such is true they will have to make changes in their life they are unwilling to make, perhaps they don't see how they can be refuted but maintain hope they will be, perhaps they may simply stubbornly choose not to believe despite their good opinion of the arguments. Others may not have put a great amount of thought into the arguments, but pontificate as though they have. Others may not even be aware of the arguments.

    You see there are whole hosts of reasons how someone could lie on one side of the debate without that indicating that the evidence is weak. This should expose the lie…

    The cross-section of opinions on a topic is an extremely good datum

    It's a hopeless datum! In fact, its a strange cross-section of two fallacies; appeal to authority and argument ad populum.

    Now all those possible reasons given above, of course, apply to both sides. The main point is this; no one should be able to get away with dismissing logical arguments as good evidence on the grounds there is disagreement concerning them. The secondary point is this; we should therefore give our close attention to the reasons why we dismiss certain arguments and favor other. We should evaluate those reasons as best we can with the resources of logic and rules for right thinking, in a clear and considered way.

    (I think it was you OtherSimon, (perhaps not) who has made the similar claim elsewhere that there is wide disagreement on the cogency of the arguments for God's existence among professional philosophers. If that was you, I would be interested in where you get your data for this.)

  6. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    The Craftman,

    OriginalSimon likes to point people to Wikipedia entries, but refuses (at least in the past) to advocate any particular argument. He has emphasized the one reason you mentioned – "theres no evidence" – (which as it stands is hardly an argument), which the above article makes a step towards totally undermining, for logical arguments can be considered to be evidence, and physical evidence needs logical arguments to "speak."

  7. OriginalSimon
    OriginalSimon says:

    I think an objective look at the issue – even a common-sense one – will tell you that there are many factors which influence different people’s evaluation of the different arguments. Not everyone is a hard-nosed logician. People are human after all.

    Definitely.

    but other factors can be emotional, perhaps they have been given misinformation about the arguments, perhaps they are mistaken on some of the facts utilized by the arguments so the issue is clouded, perhaps they are not aware of the responses available and think they have a slam-dunk argument or counter-argument when they do not, perhaps they think the arguments are really good but they lie to themselves because they recognize if such and such is true they will have to make changes in their life they are unwilling to make, perhaps they don’t see how they can be refuted but maintain hope they will be, perhaps they may simply stubbornly choose not to believe despite their good opinion of the arguments. Others may not have put a great amount of thought into the arguments, but pontificate as though they have. Others may not even be aware of the arguments.

    You see there are whole hosts of reasons how someone could lie on one side of the debate without that indicating that the evidence is weak.

    Ooops. Methinks you have written all of this and not considered that it applies, very aptly, to yourself.

    This would be fine, of course, if you had some substantive evidence. But you don't. You largely have logical arguments and internal-historical textual arguments, for both of which there are plently of counter-arguments.

    It’s a hopeless datum! In fact, its a strange cross-section of two fallacies; appeal to authority and argument ad populum.

    If I were to take a poll of people and ask them whether pluto has green rocks at its core I'm going to get random results. Certainly it is necessarily true or false that pluto has green rocks at its core. But nobody the hell knows! And a poll of people reflects that fact; that there is no good data.

    Exactly the same is true with logical arguments for or against a god. And the spread of opinion belies this fact.

    We should evaluate those reasons as best we can with the resources of logic and rules for right thinking, in a clear and considered way.

    But, of course, people who conclude that there is no god havn't done this, eh Stuart? Lol!

    -( I don't know if it was me ) I assume that the religious views of any philosopher will be a direct consequence of their opinion on the arguments for and against. I do not recall looking at the religiousness of philosophers, but my guess is that there is a good spread. The question is, Stuart, are you prepared to admit that the opinions of philosophers are a good reflection of the data in the philosophical field? Or will you (still) descend into condescending and laughable narrations of how you are more objective than those philosophers?

  8. OriginalSimon
    OriginalSimon says:

    TheCraftMan,

    "There is no evidence" is a perfectly valid argument just as it is applied to homeopathy and fortune-telling. We have standards for evidence, which much of religion hardly meets.

    What Stuart cannot compute is that I advocate all sensible arguments against a god, and further, I also advocate all sensible arguments FOR a god. Stuart cannot see that people who advocate one side only are blind.

  9. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Other Simon,

    Ooops. Methinks you have written all of this and not considered that it applies, very aptly, to yourself.

    No. Did you miss it when I wrote "Now all those possible reasons given above, of course, apply to both sides." ?

    You largely have logical arguments and internal-historical textual arguments

    Having logical arguments is usually considered a virtue. I do have internal-historical textual arguments but I don't recall ever making them here at TM. Could you enlighten me on what these arguments are you are referring to? And the "counter-examples" for them you mention?

    And a poll of people reflects that fact; that there is no good data.

    Exactly the same is true with logical arguments for or against a god. And the spread of opinion belies this fact.

    Its actually totally different, and your illustration makes the difference clear. Regarding God's existence, the arguments and evidence is laid out on the table, so to speak. While with Pluto's core's rocks being green there is no data at all to base that on.

    Stuart: We should evaluate those reasons as best we can with the resources of logic and rules for right thinking, in a clear and considered way.

    Other Simon: But, of course, people who conclude that there is no god havn’t done this, eh Stuart? Lol!

    I can't speak for others, and I don't deem to. It certainly appears though, based on this and previous conversations that you haven't.

  10. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Other SImon

    The question is, Stuart, are you prepared to admit that the opinions of philosophers are a good reflection of the data in the philosophical field? Or will you (still) descend into condescending and laughable narrations of how you are more objective than those philosophers?

    That is a false dichotomy. I maintain that disagreeing with someone's conclusions does not mean that I become disrespectful and self-concieted. Please, OtherSimon, restrain your less nobel impulses and keep the dialogue civil!

    In answer to your first question; I'm not sure what you mean by "data in the philosophical field." I will admit that when a majority of professional philosophers hold a certain opinion that that is a good indication of the relative strengths and weaknesses of arguments or idea. I will not however say that majority opinion should sway me to disregard the task of carefully considering arguments that oppose majority opinion. Neither will I say that the majority opinion of professional philosophers has a direct-dial to the truth of a matter.

    Neither will I say that if there is relatively even split that the evidence is weak on both sides. That is because i do not assume ""that the religious views of any philosopher will be a direct consequence of their opinion on the arguments for and against." As I mentioned above, there are other factors involved. You admitted this yourself.

  11. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Other Simon,

    “There is no evidence” is a perfectly valid argument just as it is applied to homeopathy and fortune-telling.

    Actually, its at most only a premise in an argument against God. And a hopeless argument at that, as I have argued before.

    What Stuart cannot compute is that I advocate all sensible arguments against a god, and further, I also advocate all sensible arguments FOR a god.

    I'm only going from memory here, but I don't ever recall you actually advocating an argument for God. You have made gestures of advocating arguments against God, but thats not really advocating. So as far as I'm concerned, you don't advocate arguments. You do point people to Wikipedia pages. I'm not sure if that is what you consider to be advocating an argument.

    Stuart cannot see that people who advocate one side only are blind.

    Is this another back-handed insult? Tut tut.

    Of course its possible that people who advocate one side only have carefully considered the arguments for and against as best they can, as honestly they can, and have come to the conclusion that one side is right and the other wrong.

    When one advocates an argument, that usually means one thinks its a good argument that is evidence in favour of their opinion. By advocating sensible arguments from both sides of the debate, does that mean you are double-minded as to the existence/non-existence of God, or does that mean your opinion is that God does and does not exist? Do you know that these are mutually exclusive positions?

  12. OriginalSimon
    OriginalSimon says:

    Its actually totally different, and your illustration makes the difference clear. Regarding God’s existence, the arguments and evidence is laid out on the table, so to speak. While with Pluto’s core’s rocks being green there is no data at all to base that on.

    Nice attempt to derail, Stuart. By "laid out on the table" all I can gather that you mean is that "noone has ever made arguments about the colour of the rocks in the centre of pluto".

    So what?

    The scenario is exactly the same. People could use 'data' from all over the place to make arguments – the colour of rocks on earth, the colour of rocks on pluto, the probable chemical makeup of pluto….. – but the available data is weak. Exactly the same is true for arguments for god.

    I can’t speak for others, and I don’t deem to. It certainly appears though, based on this and previous conversations that you haven’t.

    Hehe. Nice try. I am not the one with Grand Delusions about the mental faculties of millions.

    Actually, its at most only a premise in an argument against God. And a hopeless argument at that, as I have argued before.

    Lol. Maybe if you keep saying it……

    We can dispense with god just as we can with homeopathy and other quackery. Double-blind testing. The result is always null. Do you think that the homeopath lets this sway them any more than it does you?

    I’m only going from memory here, but I don’t ever recall you actually advocating an argument for God.

    Your five year old insists that the rocks on pluto are green. You take up an opposing argument that they are red. After much discussion he is confused when you tell him that you don't really think that the rocks on pluto are red; you don't really know. What do you tell him? Insert that answer here.

    I think there are some good arguments for a god. Just as good as ones against, anyway (neither are very good ultimately, as there is no good data!)

    Do you know that these are mutually exclusive positions?

    Again, there is no good evidence in the realm of logic (though there is in empiricism).

  13. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Other Simon

    The scenario is exactly the same. People could use ‘data’ from all over the place to make arguments – the colour of rocks on earth, the colour of rocks on pluto, the probable chemical makeup of pluto….. – but the available data is weak. Exactly the same is true for arguments for god.

    So if I understand you, its not the arguments for God's existence that are weak, but something called "the data." What is the data? Would that be things like "Whatever begins to exist has a cause." or "The universe began to exist." Are these weakly evidenced?

    I am not the one with Grand Delusions about the mental faculties of millions.

    I'm not sure how this responds the point I made about how "I can’t speak for others, and I don’t deem to", but I am pretty sure you're saying that I have "grand delusions." Once again, do try and keep a civil tongue – You're name calling is tiresome. About what do you think I have delusions? and what is the argument?

    In the comment above all I see is thoughtless pushback. Your responses fail to engage with mine, your examples don't bring clarity at all, only confusion. Perhaps you should restrict yourself to what you want to redress in the article above. Remember to think carefully, write calmly and articulate respectfully.

  14. TheCraftMan
    TheCraftMan says:

    @OtherSimon,

    I am not the one with Grand Delusions about the mental faculties of millions.

    Why do conversations with atheists always seem to include such comments? They always seem to have a need to prove something to themselves that they are superior to others. I mean, really, do all atheists have inferiority complexes? Why can't they simply leave the comments at the door and simply present their case? Or is it that their case rests less on logic and reason than presumed?

  15. OriginalSimon
    OriginalSimon says:

    TheCraftMan,

    Atheists don't really have to make a case. It is theists that need to make a convincing case for a god.

  16. TheCraftMan
    TheCraftMan says:

    @OriginalSimon,

    Atheists don’t really have to make a case.

    Amongst other atheist fantasies, right?

    You see, most theists will readily accept the theist's responsibility in discussions about the existence of God. Sadly, atheists fail to realize their own responsibility and attempt to shift the entire responsibility onto the theist.

    I have not yet decided if it results from ignorance, dishonesty, or a combination of both.

  17. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Original Simon

    Atheists don’t really have to make a case.

    I think you missed the article "What does Atheism really mean?" that I wrote. There I argued that

    … Atheism is not the default position or a position of intellectual innocence/neutrality. As rational agents we should be able to give account for the justification of our beliefs and the Atheist must accept this fact, no less than the Theist.

    <a href="http://thinkingmatters.org.nz/2010/04/what-does-atheism-really-mean/

    ” target=”_blank”>http://thinkingmatters.org.nz/2010/04/what-does-atheism-really-mean/

    You say,

    It is theists that need to make a convincing case for a god.

    As an evidentialist I agree with the sentiment, but thats not exactly correct in at least two respects. First, one could not bother with trying to convince others, but fell he is warranted on the basis of personal experience and/or testimonial evidence. Second, one could adopt a Reformed Epistemological model such as Plantinga has developed, where belief in God is Properly Basic.

    You say;

    I think there are some good arguments for a god. Just as good as ones against, anyway (neither are very good ultimately, as there is no good data!)

    Please explain. Here are some questions that would be helpful for me to understand this. In particular, please note Number 5.

    1) What conditions are necessary and sufficient to create a "good" argument?

    I have answered this for myself here: http://thinkingmatters.org.nz/2009/01/what-makes-… so whenever I call an argument "good" you may know what I mean.

    2) In your opinion, will a good argument lead to the truth of some proposition? or if not that, will it make the belief in said proposition more reasonable than its contradictory?

    3) What arguments for God do you consider "good," and if they meet your criteria for a good argument, why do you not accept that God exists or probably exists?

    4) What arguments against God do you consider "good," and if they meet your criteria, why are you, unlike the arguments you answer for 3), persuaded by these ?

    5) Especially please answer this triple-barreled question; What conditions are necessary and sufficient for "data" to be "good"? What do you consider this data to be (examples please)? And what is the relation between this data and the arguments for and against God's existence?

  18. OriginalSimon
    OriginalSimon says:

    So if I understand you, its not the arguments for God’s existence that are weak, but something called “the data.” What is the data? Would that be things like “Whatever begins to exist has a cause.” or “The universe began to exist.” Are these weakly evidenced?

    I do think that the arguments for god are weak, and I also think that the arguments against god are weak.

    I mean, really. An argument? To convince me of the creator of the universe? Or the contrary? Hardly! That would have to be the most errant extrapolation ever! (excluding empiricism, remember)

    But that's a minor point. Here's the point: The data is not the argument. The data is the empirical part. So, to use your example of "what begins to exist", the datum is the empirical observation that whatever exists begins to exist. Does this prove a god? Hell no! Or take the Omnipotence Paradox (Wiki), the 'data' this uses is the definitions of omnipotence. Does this prove that there is no god? No! These things are a million miles off proing that a god exists.

    And because they are miles off there is no obvious winner; there are merits to both sides; and even the field of pholosophy will be split.

    Now, move closer to empiricism, get much richer data – like the age of the earth for instance – and we see a very one-sided field. And for good reason: The empirical data for the age of the earth is extremely good. There are exceptions to this, where there is aparently good empirical data, which turns out not to be quite so simple, like global warming.

    Anywho, I'm sure you can see that the data for the rocks in pluto is rather like the data on god – it is very removed. To get good data we have to go empirical, like actually going to pluto or actually observing god.

    Now, I know well that theists have all sorts of resons why god is not empirically observable, but those reasons should ony be taken as seriously as the likes of homeopathy, astrology, water-divining, and other conspiracy theorists. The arbiter of quackery is empiricism. And it is no fluke that empiricism has been naturally selected till it stands as the peak of epistemology.

  19. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Other Simon

    So the data is the physical-evidence, or that which is available to the empirical senses. Thus, data can be used to form premises, which make arguments. I get that. But then you stray.

    Or take the Omnipotence Paradox (Wiki), the ‘data’ this uses is the definitions of omnipotence.

    Now the data is a definition. Definitions are not Empirical. But then you rally.

    Now, move closer to empiricism, get much richer data – like the age of the earth for instance

    So the better the data, the more accessible it will be to the five senses. Ok. Apart from your brief confusion, I think I understand.

    [For the KCA] the datum is the empirical observation that whatever exists begins to exist. Does this prove a god? Hell no!

    No. Your dead wrong. The evidentiary support for this premise would include the empirical observation that everything that beings to exists has a cause. What you say doesn't prove God – you are right on that score. First, you would need to plug that into some sort of argument. Second, you would need to state the metaphysical intuition, which for you I guess would be an inductive extension of the the empirical observation, correctly.

    Does this [the omnipotence paradox] prove that there is no god? No! These things are a million miles off proing that a god exists. [brackets mine] [sic]

    You are right. It would simply prove that you have the wrong definition of omnipotence. That's why the Omnipotence paradox is a millions miles off proving that God does not exist. Thats why you'd struggle to find anyone in a professional journal in the last forty or so years who would advocate it. But the KCA on the other hand, does it prove that God exists? Admittedly not to a logical certainty, but for what reason do you say a "million miles"? Rhetorical reasons?

    Anywho, I’m sure you can see that the data for the rocks in pluto is rather like the data on god – it is very removed.

    Now, I'm sure I don't see the comparison. Green rocks in the core of Pluto are very far removed, yes. But is the so-called "datum," whatever begins to exists has a cause very far removed from us. No, I don't it is at all. In fact it is based on a very strong metaphysical intuition that nothing comes from nothing. Or the datum,the universe began to exist. Is this far removed from us? Only in the sense of time. Try suggesting to a cosmologist that the datum "the universe began to exist" is weak simply because of the distance of time between the beginning and now. You wouldn't get much respect from the scientific community.

    Now, I know well that theists have all sorts of resons why god is not empirically observable, but those reasons should ony be taken as seriously as the likes of homeopathy, astrology, water-divining, and other conspiracy theorists. The arbiter of quackery is empiricism.

    Is that really a fair comparison? The reason that God is not empirically observable is because he is an immaterial being. Is that comparable to the reasons given for why astrology is not empirically observable?

    You complain that God's existence is not able to be subjected to double-blind testing, such as water-divining. But what reasons do you have for thinking God would be, given that he is an immaterial being? You get the impression that God is quackery only because naturalism is true.

    And it is no fluke that empiricism has been naturally selected till it stands as the peak of epistemology.

    As I've argued before, Empiricism as an epistemology is wholly inadequate to explain vast amounts of human knowledge (moral knowledge, and metaphysical knowledge), and at root is self-refuting. That is why it failed scrutiny, I believe, in the Seventeenth Century.

    Now we are don't with those distrations perhaps you can get to my last comment.

  20. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Other Simon,

    An argument? To convince me of the creator of the universe? Or the contrary? Hardly! That would have to be the most errant extrapolation ever!

    Now why does the Kalam Cosmological Argument for instance commit an "errant extrapolation?" The conclusion flows from the premises, each of which are entirely plausible on the evidentiary support (both empirical and non-empirical) given for them.

    And why not an argument, as there is not data that can 'speak' for itself, and for all data, if it is to 'speak,' must be plugged into some sort of argument?

  21. TheCraftMan
    TheCraftMan says:

    @Stuart,

    You get the impression that God is quackery only because naturalism is true.

    You have hit the nail on the head. I think atheists play fast and loose with the term atheism because it's convenient. It allows them to shelter themselves from a responsibility to the discussion (i.e., burden of proof) while maintaining a stronger perspective on the non-existence of God. It also prevents people from actually engaging in the root of the discussion which is a naturalistic worldview in comparison to other worldviews.

    As I noted before, I'm not sure if atheists do so out of ignorance, dishonesty, or a combination of both.

  22. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    As I noted before, I’m not sure if atheists do so out of ignorance, dishonesty, or a combination of both

    Its an interesting psychological question. My impression is that Christopher Hitchen's brother has written a book on this topic.

  23. OriginalSimon
    OriginalSimon says:

    Stuart,

    For the KCA and the omnipotence paradox, all you have done is (shown again that you are unable to detatch from your worldview and) used your own definitions of 'god'(isn't subject to causality) and 'omnipotence'(a ridiculous definition).

    First, no one has ever shown anything that defies causality so your notion of god is completely removed from reality. Second, your definition of omnipotence is not the definition of omnipotent. It stands that god is not omnipotent.

    But at base, everything has an empirical component. Even 'definitions' such as 'omnipotent', for for them to have ANY meaning whatsoever they have to relate to the world in which we live. There are those things which are very empirical, like scientific evidence, and there are things which are very non-empirical, like logical arguments for god.

    You complain that God’s existence is not able to be subjected to double-blind testing, such as water-divining. But what reasons do you have for thinking God would be, given that he is an immaterial being? You get the impression that God is quackery only because naturalism is true.

    Sorry, but there is no real-world correspondence (meaning) to the word 'immaterial'.

    I think it's the other way round: Naturalism is true because god is quackery. So much rubbish has been tolerated through our history (and the god of the bible is only a tiny part of this) that we have learned how to filter it. I think it's quite beautiful, really. Which views of relity are going to come to the fore and prove their worth? Answer: the one's which correspond with reality; it's natural selection. That is how we ended up with modern science and a very empirical demand on evidence.

    No explanation is needed for knowledge like morality.

    I deny that empiricism is self-refuting. I think we arrived at empiricism via empiricism. It is an openness to experience, not an axiom.

  24. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    there is no real-world correspondence (meaning) to the word ‘immaterial’

    Thats obviously false. In at least two respects.

    First, there are some real-world things that have correspondence to reality. For instance; Truth is immaterial. Love is immaterial. Laws of logic are immaterial. Moral facts are immaterial. Worth is immaterial. Persons are in part immaterial.

    Second, immaterial does have meaning. Two points support this. One, how could we dialogue about the attribute if it didn't have meaning. Second, there is an established definition (just look it up in a dictionary), that is, the negation of materiality. To God to be Spirit, as the bible declares, this implies immateriality (or incorporeality) and personhood.

    There is one way in which your statement could be correct. That is, if materialism is true. But that obviously suffers from circularity and so in no obstacle for the Theist or the Christian.

    No explanation is needed for knowledge like morality.

    Thats because if materialism is true there are no such things as moral facts. However, that view of the world is contra to experience, and so its totally legitimate to seek for an explanation for our shared knowledge of moral experience.

    I deny that empiricism is self-refuting. I think we arrived at empiricism via empiricism. It is an openness to experience, not an axiom.

    To respond in kind; I guess saying it over and over makes it true so you can convince yourself. To respond seriously; you're sliding all over the place. First its an epistemology, then its "not an axiom." Now please, explain how you can have both at the same time?

    Did you know that a true "openness to experience" would allow data like our moral experience, and disallow the moral non-realism you espoused earlier. You would also have to allow the premise "everything that begins to exist has a cause" for this is grounded in experience, being empirically verified and never falsified.

    For the KCA and the omnipotence paradox, all you have done is . . . used your own definitions of ‘god’ (isn’t subject to causality) and ‘omnipotence’ (a ridiculous definition).

    Well what definitions would you prefer I use? The ones which you can argue against? But these aren't just my definitions. They are the traditional definitions. And they are the ones accepted by professional philosophers and those publishing in the Philosophy of Religion.

    your definition of omnipotence is not the definition of omnipotent. It stands that god is not omnipotent.

    Sure. I'm willing to accept that if we're using your erroneous definition of what omnipotence entails.

    for them to have ANY meaning whatsoever they have to relate to the world in which we live.

    Well God is related to the world we live in so there's no inherent problem there. It is striking how your arguments only pass muster if naturalism is true. But since that is exactly the thing your trying to prove the argument is obviously circular.

    Your necessary condition for P to have meaning is erroneous. For if, P is meaningful iff (if and only if) P corresponds to the actual world, is true, then possible world semantics are meaningless, imaginative fiction novels are meaningless and therefore incomprehensible, and – stunningly – vast amounts of scientific hypotheses were just gibberish. Something must be wrong with your definition.

    no one has ever shown anything that defies causality so your notion of god is completely removed from reality.

    My first observation is that the conclusion doesn't follow. I have not shown you my love for cookies and cream ice-cream. That does not mean it is false. Lack of showing A does not mean not-A.

    My second observation is its possibly self-refuting. You see it took free-will to type and say this in the first place. Since free-will defies causality, namely the biological and neuro-chemical constraints on the brain that determine behavior and feeling, then we do have something that defies causality. If that observation is correct, then the statement is therefore false.

  25. TheCraftMan
    TheCraftMan says:

    @Stuart,

    Agreed. You have adequately handled the critique, and so there is little more to add. I simply figured, based upon my experience with atheists online and your own repeated remarks on the issue, the presumption of materialism really only needs on response — the one given. I'll grant the response isn't convincing, but until atheists are ready to actually engage on the topic (i.e., own up to their responsibility to present and defend and alternative point of view) then there really is little use in engaging them.

    Side track: What I find odd is how adamant atheists are about their "lack of belief" and/or responsibility to the discussion, and yet they still insist on engaging in some mode of pseudo-discussion. (In reality, what they're doing is actually arguing against theism under the guise of being neutral.)

  26. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    The CraftMan,

    On the side track, Yeah, I know what you mean. My last post was kinda addressing that, showing that the non-theist variety of atheism still has a burden of proof to carry if informed of theistic arguments. I agree that what you pointed out above – that they may disagree with even that but just arguing about it is entering into a rationalizing process to prop up themselves and make them feel better about their worldview. Ron Krumpos usually says silly things, but I think he was onto something when he said,

    If so-called atheists are convinced that God does not exist, let them move on to something which does interest them. It’s usually best to ignore matters which you don’t believe in . . .

    I like Pascal, who said something like, "Only God's existence explains why people hate him."

  27. OriginalSimon
    OriginalSimon says:

    Stuart,

    There is nothing that is immaterial. Everything you mention involves material in some way or another. Further, most things which you would call immaterial I can observe easily. Why is god conveniently not?

    Thats because if materialism is true there are no such things as moral facts.

    Rubbish.

    To respond in kind; I guess saying it over and over makes it true so you can convince yourself. To respond seriously; you’re sliding all over the place. First its an epistemology, then its “not an axiom.” Now please, explain how you can have both at the same time?

    Sorry, but empiricism isn't self-refuting. You're going to have to show it to be to be listened to.

    Did you know that a true “openness to experience” would allow data like our moral experience, and disallow the moral non-realism you espoused earlier. You would also have to allow the premise “everything that begins to exist has a cause” for this is grounded in experience, being empirically verified and never falsified.

    I am completely open to moral experience – I have never espoused any non-relism. I think the trouble that you are having understanding my opinions here is your erronious belief that things like morality are immaterial.

    I fully agree that everything that begins to exist has a cause. It is you that claims deviance from this when it comes to 'god'.

    Well what definitions would you prefer I use? The ones which you can argue against? But these aren’t just my definitions. They are the traditional definitions. And they are the ones accepted by professional philosophers and those publishing in the Philosophy of Religion.

    They are definitions invented to (yet again) protect and remove god from otherwise-evidence. As soon as it was realised that the "everything that begins to exist" argument could be applied to god…how to keep believing in god? I know, lets make him immune! The same goes for omnipotence.

    I would suggest that they are the definitions used and accepted by religious philosophers.

    Well God is related to the world we live in so there’s no inherent problem there.

    Sure. And the concept of omnipotence is self-refuting and unobserved, just like god.

    No-one has ever found anything that defies causality, so it is utterly stupid to insist upon something (conveniently unobservable) that does defy causality.

    ——

    I think that logical arguments are evidence only to those that really don't have any. I am now wondering if there is anything that I believe in which has as little empirical evidence as god. ?

  28. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Other Simon

    I heard toady that Francis Bacon said something like, "Shallow thinking leads to atheism, but depth of thinking leads to God."

    Let me explain why your responses display a shallowness of thinking.

    Stuart:Thats because if materialism is true there are no such things as moral facts.

    OtherSimon: Rubbish.

    (Humorously) A well thought out, lengthy and intelligent response, I see. :-)

    Moral facts are true propositions about objective features of the world, independent of any subjective opinion. For instance, "It is wrong to torture babies" is (1) a proposition, (2) is true, and (3) is true regardless of whether I or anyone else believes it or not. This kind of moral fact is immaterial, and inaccessible to the scientific method. A materialist therefore has to deny there are such things as moral facts. Therefore, he or she must be committed to some form of moral non-realism.

    Sorry, but empiricism isn’t self-refuting. You’re going to have to show it to be to be listened to

    Well this doesn't at all answer the question I posed to you. But I will answer this.

    Empiricism is the view that we can only know that which is accessible to the five senses. It is self-refuting, because the proposition "we can only know that which is accessible to the five senses" is not knowledge delivered by the five senses. As an axiom of an epistemological view it is a statement about knowledge: a meta-statement which "looks down upon," and evaluates how we come to know. It is something the five senses could not give you.

    Now if in your mind all empiricism is, is an openness to experience, (1) I don't know why you'd call it empiricism, but (2) it would not be self-refuting, and (3) we'd all be empiricists. It would also be mystifying why you'd think that empiricism somehow rules out the possibility of God existing, as (A) no amount of not experiencing something could rule out the possibility of that something, and (B) it is possible to experience God. Humbly approach him with an open heart and mind, and let him reveal himself.

    I am completely open to moral experience – I have never espoused any non-relism.

    My mistake then. Moral non-realism was one way of interpreting your comment, "No explanation is needed for knowledge like morality." Its difficult to see how moral knowledge could escape the need for explanation if this statement of yours isn't interpreted as moral non-realism.

    I fully agree that everything that begins to exist has a cause. It is you that claims deviance from this when it comes to 'god'.

    No I don't! God does not need a cause, for God did not begin to exist. The two propositions "everything that begins to exist has a cause" and "God does not have a cause" are totally and fully compatible.

    They are definitions invented to (yet again) protect and remove god from otherwise-evidence. As soon as [a problem arise] I know, lets make him [God] immune [to the problem]!

    I think you mean from counter-arguments. And I don't think so. The definitions of omnipotence and self-existence are arrived at by a systematic study of the scriptural material regarding the nature of the God revealed there. Its not Christianity's fault that its struck upon an unfalsifiable description of what God is like. Subsequent philosophical reflection on these things may have refined those concepts to be more robust, but in principle as long as they still fall within the bounds of what the scripture describes, that doesn't constitute a retreat of the Christian view. But in fact, I think what you'll find if you care to study these issues is that the so-called problem arises after the philosophical reflection about the nature of God.

    I would suggest that they are the definitions used and accepted by religious philosophers.

    Yeah. Thats what I suggested as well. I think you mean "only religious philosophers." And if so, thats just untrue. Plus, if you think about it, if a non-religious philosopher chooses to critique a conception of God that is not the conception of God that religious philosophers hold to, then that's not really a problem for what religious philosophers believe is it? In order to not argue against straw men, the non-religious philosopher must accept the religious philosophers definitions.

    Sure. And the concept of omnipotence is self-refuting and unobserved, just like god.

    Let me just repeat back one of your responses: Sorry, but the concept of an omnipotent God isn’t self-refuting. You’re going to have to show it to be to be listened to.

    You complain that it is unobserved. But the KCA reveals that it is observed, or at least something so close to omnipotence that it is nigh indistinguishable from it. Again, its like the idea of God is only rubbish because naturalism is true, and to make it so I'll conveniently ignore the arguments for God.

    I think that logical arguments are evidence only to those that really don’t have any.

    Its this kind of statement that my article above makes steps towards undermining. First, there is no such thing a physical-evidence that speaks by itself. To tell us something it must be conjoined to another premise (perhaps from past experience) to form a logical argument. Second, it follows form this that all evidence is argument-evidence: or else what we have been calling "logical arguments."

    So theres no reason to exclude logical arguments from what counts as evidence. To do so would be to eradicate science. But in any case, some arguments for God's existence do include premises that are supported by physical-evidence, such as "the universe began to exist" and "everything that begins to exist has a cause."

  29. OriginalSimon
    OriginalSimon says:

    Stuart,

    I hold that there are moral facts, and that there are no immaterial things. Morality is as permeable to the scientific method as anything else.

    It is something the five senses could not give you.

    There are things that we are wired to know and believe innately – which makes sense as we are a product of the universe. And all the rest of our knowledge is built up via the senses. All of the innate things are observable with the senses as well.

    I disagree with your statement above. Our senses and our experience with our senses tell us that empiricism is the standard. And it tells us to be sceptical about claims which are not accessible to the senses.

    Now if in your mind all empiricism is, is an openness to experience, (1) I don’t know why you’d call it empiricism, but (2) it would not be self-refuting, and (3) we’d all be empiricists. It would also be mystifying why you’d think that empiricism somehow rules out the possibility of God existing, as (A) no amount of not experiencing something could rule out the possibility of that something, and (B) it is possible to experience God. Humbly approach him with an open heart and mind, and let him reveal himself.

    An openness to experience is empiricism because an openness to experience is the willingness to learn from your senses.

    I don't think we are all open to experience. For instance I think that you are not open to impartially evaluating the evidence for a god.

    I certainly don't think that empiricism would rule out the possibility of a gos existing! I'm not sure why you said that(?) What I do think is that empiricism shows that there is no evidence for a god. Remember that I have experienced god – or what I thought was god, when I was younger. But later discovered it to be simple psychology. Here is an empirical observation which I can explain but which you must deny: All religions have experiences like the christian experience of god that you have experienced.

    No I don’t! God does not need a cause, for God did not begin to exist.

    Oh, okay. But god is the only thing that didn't begin to exist, then. That is bad empiricism and special pleading

    The definitions of omnipotence and self-existence are arrived at by a systematic study of the scriptural material regarding the nature of the God revealed there.

    Heh. "Revealed there" is simply people musing about what god could be like. Upon banging up against the reality that he would have to be the only thing that is un-created and that omnipotence is self-contradictory I am not surprised that these things might be "revealed there". But I'd be interested to get some verses from you. I imagine they'll be tortured!

    You complain that it is unobserved. But the KCA reveals that it is observed, or at least something so close to omnipotence that it is nigh indistinguishable from it.

    The KCA reveals that omnipotence is observed?!!! Crickey. Now you are smoking something. I can't believe that you used the word 'observed' in the same sentence as the KCA! I am honestly flabbergaseted. If that's your standard for an observation you are lost!

    Its this kind of statement that my article above makes steps towards undermining. First, there is no such thing a physical-evidence that speaks by itself. To tell us something it must be conjoined to another premise (perhaps from past experience) to form a logical argument. Second, it follows form this that all evidence is argument-evidence: or else what we have been calling “logical arguments.”

    So theres no reason to exclude logical arguments from what counts as evidence. To do so would be to eradicate science. But in any case, some arguments for God’s existence do include premises that are supported by physical-evidence, such as “the universe began to exist” and “everything that begins to exist has a cause.”

    Yes, of course logic has to be used along with physical evidence – it is merely a matter of degree.

    And when it comes to quality of evidence the KCA is at the complete opposite end of the spectrum to the observation that there is no evidence for god.

  30. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    I'm continually surprised at the patience I manage to harness when responding to you, Other Simon. To be honest, most of your comments are quite idiotic.

    I hold that there are moral facts, and that there are no immaterial things. Morality is as permeable to the scientific method as anything else.

    How can a true, non-subjective, proposition be material? You should publish up a paper on this, because if you could demonstrate this, it would be a watershed in the history of philosophy.

    I don’t think we are all open to experience. For instance I think that you are not open to impartially evaluating the evidence for a god.

    I don't see how your example addresses your point.

    Oh, okay. But god is the only thing that didn’t begin to exist, then. That is bad empiricism and special pleading

    If empiricism is simply an openness to experience, then I don't know how God being something that did not begin to exist is an example of bad empiricism.

    Its not special pleading either. Conceptual analysis of what it means to be the first cause of the universe reveals a being that is immaterial and timeless, therefore changeless and necessary. That which is necessary does not have a cause.

    There are things that we are wired to know and believe innately – which makes sense as we are a product of the universe. And all the rest of our knowledge is built up via the senses. All of the innate things are observable with the senses as well.

    Do you not know that innate beliefs and empiricism as an epistemological view is incompatible?

    Heh. “Revealed there” is simply people musing about what god could be like. Upon banging up against the reality that he would have to be the only thing that is un-created and that omnipotence is self-contradictory I am not surprised that these things might be “revealed there”.

    Its really obvious that you're taking the last 1800 or so years of philosophical speculation about God and imposing that onto the authors of the biblical text. To think that Paul or Moses were concerned with the philosophical problem arising from what it means to be omnipotent – thats just sloppy hermeneutics.

    But I’d be interested to get some verses from you. I imagine they’ll be tortured!

    Pick up any book on systematic theology and read it. Or go to the source itself and do a study.

    Stuart: [if empiricism was simply an "openness to experience"] It would also be mystifying why you’d think that empiricism somehow rules out the possibility of God existing, as (A) no amount of not experiencing something could rule out the possibility of that something,. . .

    Other Simon I certainly don’t think that empiricism would rule out the possibility of a gos [sic. God?] existing! I’m not sure why you said that(?) What I do think is that empiricism shows that there is no evidence for a god.

    Ok. I take your correction on board. Still, you make the same blunder. Consider (A) and you will see that that addresses what you say you do think that empiricism shows. Your argument; "(1) As an empiricist I have an openness to experience. (2) I have not experienced evidence for God. Therefore, (3) there is no evidence for God." Your conclusion is a non sequitur. Moreover premise 2 is false because there is evidence. The following is also a non sequitur.

    Remember that I have experienced god – or what I thought was god, when I was younger. But later discovered it to be simple psychology. [Therefore, God does not exist] [brackets mine]

    So while on the psychological level I can see why that would be upsetting, I don't see how on the logical level that qualifies as a defeater for Christian Theism. Moreover, it could be (now, don't read this as necessarily what I'm saying is the case – I don't know you or your situation) that your latter experience of finding out your experience was only psychological, was only psychological. This would mean you've allowed your earlier experience to be stolen from you, when it actually was veridical.

    Here is an empirical observation which I can explain but which you must deny: All religions have experiences like the christian experience of god that you have experienced.

    I do not deny the ubiquity of religious experience. I do not see how you could possibly know that all religious experience is like the Christian experience of God, you never having experienced the Christian experience of God. I do deny that religious experience is a sufficient condition for warranted religious belief.

    Stuart: You complain that it is unobserved. But the KCA reveals that it is observed, or at least something so close to omnipotence that it is nigh indistinguishable from it.

    Other Simon: The KCA reveals that omnipotence is observed?!!! Crickey. Now you are smoking something. I can’t believe that you used the word ‘observed’ in the same sentence as the KCA! I am honestly flabbergaseted. If that’s your standard for an observation you are lost!

    Well if logical arguments are evidence, then the KCA does provide a way in which we can see (not literally) that God is omnipotent, or at least close to it. Why split hairs when you use such language yourself elsewhere?

    And when it comes to quality of evidence the KCA is at the complete opposite end of the spectrum to the observation that there is no evidence for god.

    But the KCA is evidence for God! The observation there is no evidence for God is false. And a non sequitur from your empiricism. What is this spectrum you speak of? I argue (and you agree) that all physical-evidence, if it is to tell us something, must become argument-evidence. How then do establish the quality of the evidence? Is this based entirely on your subjective opinion? or do you have a list in mind of necessary and sufficient conditions for what passes as "quality" evidence?

  31. OriginalSimon
    OriginalSimon says:

    Stuart,

    How can a true, non-subjective, proposition be material?

    I really don't get you. Show me a true….nay, show me ANYTHING that is not material. You can't.

    -Positing that god is the only thing that didn't begin to exist is bad empiricism, period. You cannot get further away from 'experience' if you tried. And it most certainly IS special pleading because it is the one and only thing that you have to plead isn't like everything else in the universe.

    Conceptual analysis of what it means to be the first cause of the universe….

    I just cannot believe I am having this conversation. You….."conceptual analysis"? Of the beginning of the universe? I'm speechless.

    Do you not know that innate beliefs and empiricism as an epistemological view is incompatible?

    Strictly, yes. But I don't think you'll find anyone who holds that we are a completely blank slate when we're born. In any case, any innate ideas which we do have are still accessible to the empirical method.

    Its really obvious that you’re taking the last 1800 or so years of philosophical speculation about God and imposing that onto the authors of the biblical text. To think that Paul or Moses were concerned with the philosophical problem arising from what it means to be omnipotent – thats just sloppy hermeneutics.

    I thought it came from a "systematic study of the scriptural material". Now it is "philosophical speculation" from the past 1800 years.

    Your conclusion is a non sequitur.

    Any empiricism is going to be a non-sequitur to you. If you expect me to consider that there might be a god because no lack of evidence can disprove one, then I expect you to consider that there might be Russell's teapot. The FACT is, we all extrapolate empirical observations. Why would you listen to someone harping on about how you, Stuart, can't disprove Russell's teapot? You just don't concern yourself with it. And I shouldn't concern myself with the 'god'.

    More 'logical' shenanigans:

    So while on the psychological level I can see why that would be upsetting, I don’t see how on the logical level that qualifies as a defeater for Christian Theism. Moreover, it could be (now, don’t read this as necessarily what I’m saying is the case – I don’t know you or your situation) that your latter experience of finding out your experience was only psychological, was only psychological. This would mean you’ve allowed your earlier experience to be stolen from you, when it actually was veridical.

    Would you listen to a person going on about how you can't logically defeat the toothfairy? That your earlier experiences of the toothfairy might actually be the correct ones? Of course not.

    More evidence that your adherence to logic is wholly absurd and inadequate. We work empiricially. Everyone.

    Well if logical arguments are evidence, then the KCA does provide a way in which we can see (not literally) that God is omnipotent, or at least close to it. Why split hairs when you use such language yourself elsewhere?

    Yep, I do agree that logical arguments are evidence (and evidence has to be woven into logic). The key, though, is the quality of the evidence (assuming logic to be sound). I have a question for you, then: Can you think of a more arcane, more obscure, less observable piece of evidence than the KCA and the beginning of the universe?

    I submit that there is virtually nothing, if anything at all, that is worse evidence than the evidence in the KCA.

  32. TheCraftMan
    TheCraftMan says:

    @OtherSimon,

    Have you bothered to establish empiricism and materialism yet, or are you still blowing smoke based on you preconcieved ideas? I'm inclined to believe the latter.

  33. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Other Simon,

    Though there is no improvement in the substance of your reply, I chose to respond anyway – albeit in a short and snappy way.

    Show me a true….nay, show me ANYTHING that is not material. You can’t.

    A moral fact is immaterial. If you can't 'see' those, you are just morally blind.

    -Positing that god is the only thing that didn’t begin to exist is bad empiricism, period. You cannot get further away from ‘experience’ if you tried.

    You mean its bad empiricism in the sense that we cannot experience with the 5 senses this self-existent being? Ok, thats fine. What's the problem? Empiricism as an epistemological view in wholly inadequate, for by it you cannot even know moral facts, like 'torturing babies is wrong,' and it is self-refuting.

    But it is good philosophy. And we're really not positing the existence of a self-existant being. We are arriving at a self-existent being from the premises of the KCA.

    And it most certainly IS special pleading because it is the one and only thing that you have to plead isn’t like everything else in the universe.

    Why do you expect the cause of the universe to be like the universe? And its not special pleading, its an inference derived from plausible premises.

    I just cannot believe I am having this conversation. You…..”conceptual analysis”? Of the beginning of the universe? I’m speechless.

    Incredulity is not refutation.

    But I don’t think you’ll find anyone who holds that we are a completely blank slate when we’re born.

    Aristotle, Aquinas, John Locke. (All theists by the way.)

    If you expect me to consider that there might be a god because no lack of evidence can disprove one, then I expect you to consider that there might be Russell’s teapot.

    The two are obviously not comparable. For with God, there is reason to think there is such an entity. (See for instance the KCA, the moral argument, etc.) While there are no such arguments for Russell's teapot being in orbit.

    Would you listen to a person going on about how you can’t logically defeat the toothfairy?

    I have no reason to think the Tooth-fairy exists. Where as I do have reason to think that God exists.

    The key, though, is the quality of the evidence

    And again I ask how you evaluate the quality of evidence? What necessary and sufficient conditions determine the attribute of "quality" for any evidence E?

    Can you think of a more arcane, more obscure, less observable piece of evidence than the KCA and the beginning of the universe?

    Yes, I can actually. Very easily.

    But why think that the beginning of the universe is arcane and obscure? It isn't. And it is 'observed' in the sense that the hypothesis has received scientific confirmation from empirical evidence.

    I repeat: What necessary and sufficient conditions determine the attribute of "quality" for any evidence E?

  34. TheCraftMan
    TheCraftMan says:

    @Stuart,

    To be fair, so long as an atheist hides being the popular (read: Internet) definition of atheism, we cannot engage them in meaningful ways because their "stance" is merely "without belief" or better stated as "without substance." Such atheism is equivalent to the sound produced by a one-armed man clapping.

  35. Chris
    Chris says:

    Hide behind what definition? The definition of "atheist" as one who does not believe in any deities? You're right that it's a non-belief, just like your disbelief in unicorns—there's just no evidence for unicorns, so you don't believe. I'll bet you'd likely give thought to telling a group of people who believed in them how wrong them were, though. Even if you wouldn't, many would. Just consider atheists the kids in your class who figured out Santa Claus wasn't real before everybody else did—some stayed quiet to avoid being ostracized, others thought their classmates quite foolish and teased them, others tried to open the eyes of their fellows.

    Logic is a great tool, as if you start with correct premises you cannot arrive at an incorrect conclusion. You discover some of these premises as you grow up, like "you can hold incorrect beliefs" and "evidence for a belief makes it more likely to be correct". I don't think many people would disagree with these premises, and they lead to the conclusion of "I will hold fewer incorrect beliefs if I demand evidence for them first."

    You don't ask for evidence of everything, of course. If a friend tells you there's a concert on Saturday, you'll believe him. First of all, he's an obviously trustworthy person (hopefully, or you wouldn't be hanging out with him) who has had easy occasion to see advertisements for this concert. Second, it's quite reasonable as there are concerts all of the time that you *do* know occurred. Third, the belief that there is a concert on Friday doesn't really change anything if you believe it falsely; if you decide to go you need to procure tickets, and you'll find out there is no such concert long before you have expended much effort.

    A religion, on the other hand, makes no claims that its adherents receive good evidence for their beliefs (beyond subjective feelings of wellness that everybody, regardless of beliefs, receives). They posit the existence of mighty, worldshaking things which are simultaneously hidden from the world and whose actions also have natural explanations. Finally, you're going to spend decades investing a lot of effort in this thing before you die and receive any confirmation of whether you were right or not.

    When faced with many mutually contradictory beliefs, none of which have any valid evidence for them (and in fact whose holy books show evidence of being manufactured in a different way than they claim to be), what are you supposed to do? When the world with the deity or deities they propose to exist is indistinguishable from a world without their deity or deities, what should we do? Choose our favorite deity-not-in-evidence and devote our lives to him? Or live out our lives as we otherwise would have, every so often trying to free our fellows from superstition?

    We're not so different, really: I only believe in one less god than you do.

  36. TheCraftMan
    TheCraftMan says:

    @Chris,

    You’re right that it’s a non-belief, just like your disbelief in unicorns—there’s just no evidence for unicorns, so you don’t believe.

    I believe unicorns do not exist. I have a clear and unambiguous stance on the existence of unicorns. Some atheists claim to have nothing more than a "non-belief" in the existence of God. Their engagement in discussions on the matter suggest otherwise. They simply appeal to a non-belief because it conveniently absolves them of an obligation to the discussion.

    We’re not so different, really: I only believe in one less god than you do.

    You realize what unicorns, Santa, and Roberts scream? "I have not through the issues, and do not know what I am talking about." So, tell me why I should bother engaging you?

  37. Chris
    Chris says:

    Twist the words however you want, but atheists regard your god as being no more real than a unicorn; the only difference between your god and a unicorn is that nobody runs around trying to convince people unicorns are real. Just because atheists express their disbelief in different words than you want them to doesn't make their lack of belief any less real.

    And pardon me for using a *fun* quote. Would you rather I do equally trite attacks against the Bible's claim to moral superiority? Or point out how Egypt startlingly failed to realize what a huge blow God struck to it in Exodus? Launch into a tirade about "moral truths"? Or perhaps I ought to take it as a good sign that you completely failed to respond to the bulk of my post about standards of evidence.

  38. TheCraftMan
    TheCraftMan says:

    @Chris,

    Twist the words however you want, but atheists regard your god as being no more real than a unicorn; the only difference between your god and a unicorn is that nobody runs around trying to convince people unicorns are real. Just because atheists express their disbelief in different words than you want them to doesn’t make their lack of belief any less real.

    If atheists "merely lack belief," then why do they engage in discussions about God's existence so often?

    Or perhaps I ought to take it as a good sign that you completely failed to respond to the bulk of my post about standards of evidence.

    I did not respond because they are not relevant to my comments.

  39. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Chris,

    Do you have a non-belief regarding unicorns, or is it that you think unicorns do not exist?

    From your comments it certainly looks like you're a traditional atheist poorly disguising yourself as a non-theist (aka. a reworked definition of atheism; a psycological state of having no belief in God). However, as I have argued on a previous post, not even the non-theist escapes a burden of proof if said "atheist" is informed of the arguments for theism. That is because they implicity (or even explicitly) make the claim that thier state of non-belief is more reasonable than belief. Note your words like "superstition" used with respect to belief in God, and your comparisons to unicorns and Santa.

  40. TheCraftMan
    TheCraftMan says:

    @Stuart,

    Indeed. I suppose the atheist needs fairy tales as well. I think my favorite ones, as the Internet definition was developing in the mid-to-late 90's, was the notion that you can't prove a negative.

  41. OriginalSimon
    OriginalSimon says:

    Yes, I can actually. Very easily.

    I don't think you can. The beginning of the universe is the most, or one of the most, obscure thing that it is possible to behold. The evidence contained within arguments like the KCA are therefore extremely weak.

    And it is ‘observed’ in the sense that the hypothesis has received scientific confirmation from empirical evidence

    No scientist in the appropriate field would let the KCA anywhere near science. Therefore you are completely unwarranted in claiming that there is scientific evidence for it. There isn't.

    I repeat: What necessary and sufficient conditions determine the attribute of “quality” for any evidence E?

    The closer and more observable it is to our senses the better. Again, there is nothing less observable than what happened before the universe began (KCA). The 'evidence' for [the likes of] the KCA is of the worst possible quality, if it should even be deemed evidence at all.

  42. TheCraftMan
    TheCraftMan says:

    @OtherSimon,

    The closer and more observable it is to our senses the better.

    A better definition is "what I want to accept as good evidence." It removes the fuzziness.

  43. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    The Craftman,

    I too once bought the line "you can't prove a universal negative." That was, until I thought about it. :-)

  44. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Other Simon,

    No scientist in the appropriate field would let the KCA anywhere near science. Therefore you are completely unwarranted in claiming that there is scientific evidence for it.

    Most scientists would agree that we cannot in-principle push scientific knowledge beyond the origin of the universe, for science is the study of the nature and the universe is the entirety of nature. The absolute origin of the universe is, therefore, where philosophy can pick up the reigns.

    You need two premises before a "Therefore." Like this;

    There is scientific evidence for the beginning of the universe – the second premise of the KCA. You say there is no evidence for the KCA. Therefore, you are wrong.

    Again, there is nothing less observable than what happened before the universe began (KCA).

    I would agree with you that there is nothing less observable than what happened before the universe began. And not just because the phrase "before the universe began" is incoherent.

    But the KCA does not observe what happened before the universe began. It infers that the universe had a cause, the nature of which bears a striking resemblance to the traditional conception of God.

  45. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    Reaction to Ken's article which was reacting to this article.

    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    Now, I will be the first to recognize that my article above was not outstandingly clear, and has its mistakes in it. Ken Perott has deemed it fit to critique, but unfortunately has misread me and misrepresented me, and generally made mountains out of mole-hills.

    No evidence required?

    Ken makes out I made this claim in my post. Indeed, I did not. I take it the part of sentence he misread is this; "if physical-evidence is a necessary for knowledge. . . " which actually should read "if physical-evidence is a necessary condition for knowledge. . . "

    It would follow then, as I say above, that we should know nothing of moral truths, aesthetic values, and meta-physical intuitions. I then give examples of these things. Ken then comments;

    But I think he is arguing by analogy that because some beliefs may be “properly basic” or axiomatic one can justify any old favourite belief by classifying it that way.

    No, I am not arguing that belief in God is properly basic. I think it probably is, but I'm not assuming that here. Ken goes on;

    He then argues that justifications for evidence are “self-referentially incoherent.. . . For no physical evidence is able to reveal that evidence is required for reasonable belief.”

    This is misrepresenting me. The full sentence he cherry-picked from my article reads "The Achilles heal of this particular epistemological theory is it is self-referentially incoherent." What is the epistemological theory I am referring to? That is the one mentioned in the first sentence of that paragraph, and quoted above, again – ""if physical-evidence is a necessary condition for knowledge. . . "

    Moving on to his next mistake…

    Argument can be sufficient evidence?

    He provides no quotes to substantiate as to where he thinks I said "argument is sufficient evidence." In explaining what I argue for in his introduction he says I argue, "that argument in itself can be sufficient evidence." Now the thrust of what I was actually saying was different – that is, ALL physical-evidence must become becomes argument-evidence if it is to tell us anything. For physical-evidence to 'speak' it needs to be plugged into a syllogism of some sort.

    Thus Ken's comment;

    However, sometimes we have to rely on logic and mathematics to make advances

    is half-way there. We always have to rely on logic to make advances.

    Moving on – from his introduction;

    . . . [stuart argues] that “physical evidence doesn’t speak” so different perspectives inevitable lead to different conclusions from the evidence.

    Now this is, in the main, rightly expressing what I argued above. I just wouldn't say "inevitably." He then ruins his analysis with;

    That is, evidence is unreliable and we must, in the end, rely on argument alone.

    By this I take it he means to attribute to me the idea that "physical-evidence is unreliable and we must, in the end, rely on argument alone."

    No. I would not say physical-evidence is unreliable. I would argue rather that physical-evidence when alone is mute – that is, it tells us nothing. To tell us something, that physical-evidence must be conjoined to another premise to form an argument.

    Physical-evidence has a dependance on argument-evidence if it is to be of any worth. And argument-evidence has a healthy beneficial relationship with respect to physical-evidence. Ken makes out that logical arguments are divorced from reality and practice. But with this understood, that doesn't follow. For physical-evidence forms the premises in logical arguments, thus rendering the truth of them either verifiable to senses or testable to the sciences.

    Finally, he misunderstands and misrepresents me. This took a little while to untangle myself, and I'm the bleating author.

    He exposes his own motives for this with his claim that “Christians would be in an awkward position,” if “evidence is required for reasonable belief.” So “there must therefore be something terribly wrong with the criteria.”

    Allow me to rephrase what he misunderstood so what I'm saying is more clear. “Christians would be in an awkward position, if physical-evidence alone was the requirement for reasonable belief.”

    His misrepresentation of me was here; “there must therefore be something terribly wrong with the criteria.” It was not because Christians would be in an awkward position if such and such that made it the criteria terribly wrong. What made the criteria terribly wrong was the fact that it "would rule out the possibility of attaining reasonable belief in non-physical entities before any discussion or debate began." This a priori limiting of what can be reasonably believed if the criteria was adopted was what I was reacting to.

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