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rfrobison
07-14-2010, 06:03 AM
Unc. Eb (and anyone else who's not bored to death with this topic by now):

I will start a brief reply here and try to pick up the thread of my argument in a few hours. Not much time at the moment.

Hey RF, thanks for the response. But the natural follow-up question would be: if we admit that nobody can possibly know what God would want, where does that leave the religion? It would seem that the ultimate humility would be admitting that we have no reason to believe God exists, and if it does, we have no idea what it wants (if anything) from us. That is the bottom rung of the ladder of admitting human ignorance. Any next step (assuming God exists, accepting one religion over another etc.) are all huge leaps of Universal assumption based on nothing, and a large forfeit of our humility. Assuming we know anything about God, just strikes me as wrong-footed from the start.

The short answer is that in Christian theology, there are two ways that God is seen to communicate his presence to people. This, it must be said, assumes that God wants to be "found." Presumably any God who resembles the God of the Bible -- omnipotent and all that -- could, if He so chose, remain forever hidden. Moreover, it assumes God is something "like us" and not so utterly other-ly that we would find Him incomprehensible were we to encounter Him.

[MUST RUN, WILL PICK THIS UP LATER. IF YOU COULD HOLD OFF ON ANY REPLY, IT WILL MAKE OUR EXCHANGE EASIER, I THINK]

rfrobison
07-14-2010, 10:20 AM
[Continued from previous]

The two ways God communicates with people are called general and special revelation in theological jargon. General revelation refers to what can be ascertained about God from the natural world c.f. Rom. 1:18-24. (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans%201:18-24&version=NIV).

From creation, Christians (and I presume Muslims and Jews as well) maintain that one can learn many things about God: His orderliness is inferred from the order that we see in nature; His power manifest in the power of the forces of nature; His vastness in the vastness of the universe itself; His aesthetic sense in the beauty of nature; His righteousness in our own moral sensibility (though this is highly distorted by sin). There are other things as well, but you get the idea.

Now, I am well aware that there are non-theistic explanations for all these phenomena; many will find the hints at God's possible existence enumerated here wholly unpersuasive. I must leave them where they are for the moment.

And yes, many of the things that I mentioned are highly subjective: Nature is beautiful, but often strikes us as cruel as well. Nature appears orderly at first glance, but many things also appear random and purposeless. Humans have a moral sense, yes, but they neither agree in every instance on what is good, nor are they particularly capable of living by their own ethics--or those handed down from on high--even when they know what the good is.

So general revelation only takes one so far, even if one is willing to credit the things I mention above to a divine source, which many if not most people in our thoroughly God-less and naturalistic era are not.

At most, general revelation might lead one to a type of deism such as Einstein was reputed to hold to. (I have no idea whether he did or not.) And deism is, in my opinion, a sort of philosophical and theological curiosity; a way station either to a completely naturalistic view of the universe such as was common in the 18th century among intellectuals who, enamored of the science they had just begun to discover, were nonetheless reluctant to shed entirely the "primitive superstition" of belief in a divine Creator, or perhaps on the way back to full acceptance of traditional theism. I have never met anyone who traveled the other direction--from full-fledged atheism, and onto full-fledged belief in the active and personal God of the Bible, via deism. I'm sure there must be someone out there who has, but such a person would be an odd sort of duck.

This is already getting long-winded, so I'll stop here for now. I invite anyone to comment and run in any direction they please, though I may not choose to follow. I fear I'm in over my head already.

More on special revelation later.

AemJeff
07-14-2010, 10:34 AM
...

More on special revelation later.

Ok, but think about whether these are falsifiable propositions. Otherwise they can't achieve your apparent aim, here.

cragger
07-14-2010, 11:17 AM
Well, ahem .... Having started this snowball rolling with my tongue-in-cheek comment about the predictive powers of Paul the Octopus relative to those of BHTV commenters in the World Cup predictions thread -

Should one look at that misbegotten seed crystal of a post, it doesn't really mock or otherwise say anything about either you or any religious belief, even good-naturedly as you (Rfrobison) charitably admit. It is rather specific in address to the faulty-to-the-point-of-abuse misapplication of logic and statistics used by previous Blogginghead Mr. Behe to attempt to prove the existance of a divine power.

In which spirit, considering both the rich tradition of divinely inspired revelatory prophecy across human religions and the fact that goodly chunks of the New Testament were written by and consist of the teachings of Paul, one might ask, could the name of this cephalopod be yet another unlikely coincidence, or should we divine a sign?

rfrobison
07-14-2010, 11:25 AM
...In which spirit, considering both the rich tradition of divinely inspired revelatory prophecy across human religions and the fact that goodly chunks of the New Testament were written by and consist of the teachings of Paul, one might ask, could the name of this cephalopod be yet another unlikely coincidence, or should we divine a sign?

Paul the Octopus/Apostle? Hmm, somehow I doubt that will go over too well with whoever is in charge of the Apostolic Selection Committee these days.

;)

Florian
07-14-2010, 12:14 PM
The short answer is that in Christian theology, there are two ways that God is seen to communicate his presence to people. This, it must be said, assumes that God wants to be "found." Presumably any God who resembles the God of the Bible -- omnipotent and all that -- could, if He so chose, remain forever hidden. Moreover, it assumes God is something "like us" and not so utterly other-ly that we would find Him incomprehensible were we to encounter Him.

There have been Christians, Pascal for example, who thought that God is hidden (absconditus) and that what makes Christianity the only "true" religion is that it reveals this hiddeness, this absence of God, to us. The "passion" of Jesus culminates with the heart-rending words: My father, why hast thou forsaken me?

I am not a Christian, but I have always found the notion of a hidden God who reveals himself by his absence to be a magnificent paradox.

uncle ebeneezer
07-14-2010, 02:44 PM
many will find the hints at God's possible existence enumerated here wholly unpersuasive. I must leave them where they are for the moment.

And yes, many of the things that I mentioned are highly subjective: Nature is beautiful, but often strikes us as cruel as well. Nature appears orderly at first glance, but many things also appear random and purposeless.

That's pretty much where I stand. I have never understood why our level of perception in any way should hint at anything supernatural. In more simple scenarios, does that fact that a sea-worm evolves a patch of light-sensitive cells through genetic mutation that increases it's percetion to include a primitive form of vision, really suggest anything about the supernatural?

For me the biggest stumbling block is the assumption that orderliness, beauty or any other subjective part of our experience bears any connection to an imagined being. Order, beauty etc. could be just as likely to be proof that there IS NO God. The only reason that people default to the former is a bias of wanting to see everything from a perspective that reflects OUR tastes. As I said earlier in a thread about Evolution of God, who says that a "direction" of evolution to higher complexity says anything about God? That sort of logic seems about as useful as a theory that the conservation of mass is evidence of the existence of unicorns (or any other imaginary thing.) We have other data set to suggest that in Universe A we see X and God exists, whereas in Universe B, no X, no God, therefore in Universe C, we see X so odds are that God exists. We have one data set with a whole bunch of X and no evidence of God (unless we make the completely unsupported assumption that X is the evidence, in which case the game is obviously rigged because we could say that ANYTHING is evidence). So the theory that "X suggests the existence of God" seems to me like nothing more than an invented (and very convenient) figment of our very active imagination. The place where deists and theologians start from, seems to me to already be several large steps (assumptions) away from anything that can be taken serious. Once the non-theistic explanations and evidence begin to be taken into account, the position of the Theist/Deist only becomes more obviously rooted in hopeful self-centeredness.

Anyways, thanks for the expansive response. All hail Paul!! ;)

popcorn_karate
07-14-2010, 03:14 PM
the position of the Theist/Deist only becomes more obviously rooted in hopeful self-centeredness.

no, that is your specialty. You are self-centered and unimaginative enough to assume that your view of the universe is based on any kind of rigor - which it is not.

you don't have any way of even accessing any information about the vast majority of the universe, yet claim that you have a representative sample that allows characterizing the situation. it is laughable and denotes a desperation to inflate the importance and magnitude of the little that we do know about the universe - the last vestige of the vain hope that we are the center of creation is manifested in your extravagant faith in the accumulated knowledge of some few beings working for a few centuries in one corner of one galaxy out of millions.

uncle ebeneezer
07-14-2010, 04:09 PM
I see the text you wrote but unfortunately I can't reach any conclusion because there is all this (majority of) blank white space around it and I don't want to unfairly process what is before me, rather than balance it with conjecture about what is absent.

Starwatcher162536
07-14-2010, 05:58 PM
So we know nothing about nothing. What a useful philosophical outlook.

AemJeff
07-14-2010, 06:00 PM
I see the text you wrote but unfortunately I can't reach any conclusion because there is all this (majority of) blank white space around it and I don't want to unfairly process what is before me, rather than balance it with conjecture about what is absent.

:)

TwinSwords
07-14-2010, 06:10 PM
you don't have any way of even accessing any information about the vast majority of the universe ...
Right. And that's why it's intellectually irresponsible to characterize the unknown parts of the universe -- which is what religious people do, and Uncle Eb does not. I haven't asked him directly, but I would guess that if I did, Uncle Eb would freely admit to the theoretical possibility that Dumbo the Elephant invisibly rules the universe. But he doesn't go around living his life on the basis of conjecture that he (the elephant) does. That's the difference between atheists and agnostics, on one hand, and theists on the other: the former group interacts with the universe as it is known to exist; the latter group interacts with the universe on the basis of elaborate and fact-free fantasy.

It's kind of a strange way to go through life, don't you think?

TwinSwords
07-14-2010, 06:11 PM
I see the text you wrote but unfortunately I can't reach any conclusion because there is all this (majority of) blank white space around it and I don't want to unfairly process what is before me, rather than balance it with conjecture about what is absent.

Brilliant.

uncle ebeneezer
07-14-2010, 07:04 PM
the former group interacts with the universe as it is known to exist

Exactly. Buried in my snark, that was my ultimate point. We all base our evaluations on that which we have access to. It's how we approach trying to KNOW anything. That the scope of our knowledge has a current boundary (but always expanding) is no reason to start giving equal measure to every possible fantasy a mind can concoct.

nikkibong
07-14-2010, 07:07 PM
Right. And that's why it's intellectually irresponsible to characterize the unknown parts of the universe -- which is what religious people do, and Uncle Eb does not. I haven't asked him directly, but I would guess that if I did, Uncle Eb would freely admit to the theoretical possibility that Dumbo the Elephant invisibly rules the universe. But he doesn't go around living his life on the basis of conjecture that he (the elephant) does. That's the difference between atheists and agnostics, on one hand, and theists on the other:

Actually, no. You've described agnostics. It's agnostics on the one hand, and atheists and theists together on the other.

AemJeff
07-14-2010, 07:22 PM
Actually, no. You've described agnostics. It's agnostics on the one hand, and atheists and theists together on the other.

That's false, nb. We've had this discussion here more than once - your definition of "Atheist" isn't the one most Atheists use.

Try Bertrand Russell's definition, instead.

http://www.positiveatheism.org/hist/russell8.htm

TwinSwords
07-14-2010, 09:52 PM
Actually, no. You've described agnostics. It's agnostics on the one hand, and atheists and theists together on the other.

I take your point, and I know what you mean. I used to understand "atheist" to mean what you understand it to mean, and in fact, part of me still prefers this definition. But I have been persuaded by a number of atheists that this is not how they themselves understand the term. Ultimately, it's a semantic point, and if I were using your definition of atheism, I would have written my comment exactly as you suggested.

bjkeefe
07-15-2010, 04:40 AM
That's false, nb. We've had this discussion here more than once - your definition of "Atheist" isn't the one most Atheists use.

Try Bertrand Russell's definition, instead.

http://www.positiveatheism.org/hist/russell8.htm

Unless nb has a worse memory than I think he does, I think his (and others') ongoing pigheadness on the whole atheist/agnostic thing is even more annoying than it first appears, because it is these same people (along with the fundies) who are most likely to adopt the equally simplistic outlook of "YOUR ATHEISM IS JUST ANOTHER FORM OF FAITH!!!1!"

bjkeefe
07-15-2010, 04:42 AM
There have been Christians, Pascal for example, who thought that God is hidden (absconditus) and that what makes Christianity the only "true" religion is that it reveals this hiddeness, this absence of God, to us. The "passion" of Jesus culminates with the heart-rending words: My father, why hast thou forsaken me?

I am not a Christian, but I have always found the notion of a hidden God who reveals himself by his absence to be a magnificent paradox.

As has also been said, the smartest thing the Devil ever did was convince the world that He did not exist.

Florian
07-15-2010, 11:11 AM
As has also been said, the smartest thing the Devil ever did was convince the world that He did not exist.

If there is no God, the devil must be a non-entity too. But if God is only hidden, perhaps there is room for another disappearing act.

bjkeefe
07-15-2010, 01:25 PM
[Continued from previous]

The two ways God communicates with people are called general and special revelation ...

Plagiarizing Einstein, or the other way around?

;)

AemJeff
07-15-2010, 01:32 PM
Plagiarizing Einstein, or the other way around?

;)

Damn! I'm forced to confess my utter blockheadedness. I totally missed that (perfectly cast) joke.

popcorn_karate
07-15-2010, 02:54 PM
I see the text you wrote but unfortunately I can't reach any conclusion because there is all this (majority of) blank white space around it

not true. but the estimation of irregular areas is known to be a weak spot for most people.


and I don't want to unfairly process what is before me, rather than balance it with conjecture about what is absent.

again, you are too self-centered to make a reasonable statement. a more proper analogy would be if you presumed to completely understand me intellectually and emotionally from that one post - something BJ does to people quite regularly, but as with your atheism, that requires both hubris and faith, luckily you're well endowed with both.

popcorn_karate
07-15-2010, 02:57 PM
So we know nothing about nothing. What a useful philosophical outlook.

more like we know a lot, enough to know that there is even more that we don't know.

the more you know, the more you know you don't know.

bjkeefe
07-15-2010, 02:59 PM
... luckily you're well endowed ...

Who can resist making a dick joke? Not me, that's who.

popcorn_karate
07-15-2010, 03:20 PM
That's false, nb. We've had this discussion here more than once - your definition of "Atheist" isn't the one most Atheists use.

Try Bertrand Russell's definition, instead.

http://www.positiveatheism.org/hist/russell8.htm

from the link:

I never know whether I should say "Agnostic" or whether I should say "Atheist". It is a very difficult question and I daresay that some of you have been troubled by it. As a philosopher, if I were speaking to a purely philosophic audience I should say that I ought to describe myself as an Agnostic, because I do not think that there is a conclusive argument by which one prove that there is not a God.

On the other hand, if I am to convey the right impression to the ordinary man in the street I think I ought to say that I am an Atheist, because when I say that I cannot prove that there is not a God, I ought to add equally that I cannot prove that there are not the Homeric gods

so, according to bertrand russel, one should misidentify their agnosticism as atheism in order to make a political statement. One would not want the uneducated rubes to have the mistaken impression that your disagreement with them is less sharp than it is.

this goes along well with BJ and Uncle Eb's attitude of contempt towards religion, but it puts politics ahead of accuracy and truth.

It actually closely parallels the dispute between Wonder and Twin I read earlier today. my take is that Twin thinks its better to keep your mouth shut about your disagreements with Obama because its all about the politics. Wonder thinks its ok to speak your mind, and your sense of the truth regardless of the political ramifications.

so, is it better to have discourse as discourse with the value based on truth and accuracy, or is all discourse thinly veiled politics with the ends justifying the debasment of the discourse?

on that question, I am not agnostic. I'll take accuracy over politically contrived rhetoric any day.

bjkeefe
07-15-2010, 03:35 PM
from the link:



so, according to bertrand russel, one should misidentify their agnosticism as atheism in order to make a political statement.

Best misreading of a passage of text by anyone on this site ever (whose name does not rhyme with bile).

chiwhisoxx
07-15-2010, 03:41 PM
As has also been said, the smartest thing the Devil ever did was convince the world that He did not exist.

Keyser Soze!

nikkibong
07-15-2010, 03:43 PM
(whose name does not rhyme with bile).

LMAO

AemJeff
07-15-2010, 03:46 PM
Best misreading of a passage of text by anyone on this site ever (whose name does not rhyme with bile).

Noted philosopher Popcorn Karate advances devastating critique of formerly respected mathematician and erstwhile "writer" Bertrand Russell's uncertain grasp of the fundamental nomenclature of epistemology.

uncle ebeneezer
07-15-2010, 03:54 PM
And our endowments were provided "luckily" rather than by some sort of divine bestowal. Darwinist!!1!

bjkeefe
07-15-2010, 04:05 PM
And our endowments were provided by "luckily" rather than by some sort of divine bestowal. Darwinist!!1!

Actually, I was waiting for rfr or p_k to fire back with a point about my suddenly believing in the existence of something that wasn't really there.

But I suppose I should say that I am agnostic about the intent of the double entendre.

Florian
07-15-2010, 04:35 PM
For me the biggest stumbling block is the assumption that orderliness, beauty or any other subjective part of our experience bears any connection to an imagined being. Order, beauty etc. could be just as likely to be proof that there IS NO God. The only reason that people default to the former is a bias of wanting to see everything from a perspective that reflects OUR tastes.

That is a very strange statement, uncle ebeneezer. Orderliness and beauty only exist because there is a human mind to understand and appreciate them (through science and art), but the fact that they are dependent on us for their existence doesn't "prove" that there is no God. The fact rather suggests that the mind is in tune with the universe, and, who knows, with the "mind" or 'intelligence" that governs it. As many philosophers and scientists, including Einstein (mentioned later in this thread) have said in one way or another, the mere fact that we are able to understand the orderliness, and appreciate the beauty, of nature should instill in us a sense of wonder in the power of mind.

TwinSwords
07-15-2010, 05:19 PM
my take is that Twin thinks its better to keep your mouth shut about your disagreements with Obama because its all about the politics

Your take is wrong.

As for the agnostic/atheist question, you have a couple of options. You can pursue the actual underlying philosophical questions, which are presumably what the debate should really be about, or you can endlessly and pointlessly quibble about semantics. You've chosen the latter approach. Instead of telling other people what they mean when they call themselves "atheist," why don't you let them tell you what they mean by it? Wouldn't they know better than you what they mean when using a particular word to describe their philosophical outlook?

uncle ebeneezer
07-15-2010, 07:06 PM
Florian, I totally agree. Perhaps I worded my example poorly. Beauty, and all the other wonders of the brain suggest only that the brain has the capacity to experience beauty etc. It says nothing of the supernatural. The statement I made was meant to show that the idea that the qualitative aspect of our experience doesn't tell us anything one way or another in regards to God. If somebody said "life is wonderful, that means there must be no God" I would brand that as ridiculous. But I also find the inverse (much more common) statement that "life is wonderful, therefore God must exist" to be equally ridiculous. I share Einstein's sense of wonder about the Universe and our ability to understand/perceive/make sense of it to whatever extent we can. But I don't think our wonder can be used as "evidence" that some higher being exists.

popcorn_karate
07-15-2010, 07:33 PM
Your take is wrong.

noted. how do you explain your castigation of wonder?

As for the agnostic/atheist question, you have a couple of options. You can pursue the actual underlying philosophical questions, which are presumably what the debate should really be about,

and on the underlying philosophical question Mr. Russell and I agree that agnosticism is the only rational position, as he states:
I ought to describe myself as an Agnostic, because I do not think that there is a conclusive argument by which one prove that there is not a God.

wow. that was easy. philosophical question dealt with. i think we all agree.

or you can endlessly and pointlessly quibble about semantics.

i'd rather not. I'd prefer to simply agree with BR that agnosticism is rational and atheism is not, and leave it there. however, that is not his position, nor that of BJ, Uncle eb, AEMjeff etc., all of whom want to quibble about semantics to:
convey the right impression to the ordinary man in the street

which is that:

when I say that I cannot prove that there is not a God, I ought to add equally that I cannot prove that there are not the Homeric gods

which seems to me entirely uncontroversial and is in fact exactly what is communicated to me by the term agnostic.

But those with a christianity hangover are not satisfied that the average man in the street understands that it is not only jehova, but also juno and quetzacoatl (misspelled) etc that are all on the playing field. which is why i think it is a political act to use atheist rather than agnostic - the usage recommended by BR only makes sense in the context of an overwhelmingly christian context (or any context with one overwhelmingly poular religion), where one would expect that everyone has inordinate respect for one version of "god" but not others, and one wants to highlight their lack of reverence for that particular conception of "god".

JonIrenicus
07-15-2010, 09:18 PM
I think the definitive proof for the non existence of god, or at least a just and loving god is the following.


https://www.edulink.networcs.net/sites/teachlearn/science/Image%20Library/Lamprey%20mouth.jpg



Oh such a wondrous example of gods creations.. the sea lamprey.

uncle ebeneezer
07-15-2010, 09:52 PM
I think the important distinction is that there is a wide range of Agnosticism/Atheism. Imagine a teeter-totter where one one extreme is absolute belief that God exists, the other end is absolute certainty that it doesn't. Most of us feel that on the "doesn't" side there's a natural bumper that doesn't really allow anyone to get right up to the edge. Complete certainty is impossible. Therefore technically, all of us on that side are "Agnostic." But there is a big difference between the people who are just above the fulcrum and can go either way, and those of us who are much further out towards the edge. The ones on the fulcrum refer to themselves as "agnostic" and they refer to us as "atheists." So while me, AemJeff, BJKeefe etc. have all repeatedly admitted to being technical agnostics, we also have no problem with being considered atheists. Like Dan Dennett when he was asked (by Bob Wright I believe) how sure he was that there is no god responded, "as sure as I can be of anything else." This is a decidedly different stance than the squishier I-could-go-either-way stance. Frankly, it's just semantics to me. I could not care less which label we wear. We have every right to take our stance and obviously feel that it is entirely justified by rational investigation.

bjkeefe
07-16-2010, 10:10 AM
Good post. I've bolded a couple of bits that I want to quibble with.

I think the important distinction is that there is a wide range of Agnosticism/Atheism. Imagine a teeter-totter where one one extreme is absolute belief that God exists, the other end is absolute certainty that it doesn't. Most of us feel that on the "doesn't" side there's a natural bumper that doesn't really allow anyone to get right up to the edge. Complete certainty is impossible. Therefore technically, all of us on that side are "Agnostic." But there is a big difference between the people who are just above the fulcrum and can go either way, and those of us who are much further out towards the edge. The ones on the fulcrum refer to themselves as "agnostic" and they refer to us as "atheists." So while me, AemJeff, BJKeefe etc. have all repeatedly admitted to being technical agnostics, we also have no problem with being considered atheists. Like Dan Dennett when he was asked (by Bob Wright I believe) how sure he was that there is no god responded, "as sure as I can be of anything else." This is a decidedly different stance than the squishier I-could-go-either-way stance. Frankly, it's just semantics to me. I could not care less which label we wear. We have every right to take our stance and obviously feel that it is entirely justified by rational investigation.

I don't know about anybody else (except now for you, obvs.), but I prefer to be called an atheist, I do care about what label other people try to slap on me, and I strongly dislike being called an agnostic. An agnostic to me -- especially on the question of "Does this monotheistic God, as described by the concept that we're culturally familiar with, exist?" -- is properly defined as "someone who does not have the courage of his own convictions," as someone more clever than me once said.

As an aside: I am not at all happy about p_k's dumbassery here -- there is a world of difference between making a technical distinction when people of good faith (heh) are noodling over a philosophical matter where utter precision and pedantry count, and the connotations words carry in everyday speech. I am particularly unhappy in light of p_k's past concession regarding these points -- that most of us self-described atheists (1) do not, actually, say we are 100.000000000...% convinced there is no God and (2) do think it is better to say we are atheists because we are a-theists (non-theists), and not fence-sitting quiverers.

AemJeff
07-16-2010, 10:20 AM
Good post. I've bolded a couple of bits that I want to quibble with.



I don't know about anybody else (except now for you, obvs.), but I prefer to be called an atheist, I do care about what label other people try to slap on me, and I strongly dislike being called an agnostic. An agnostic to me -- especially on the question of "Does this monotheistic God, as described by the concept that we're culturally familiar with, exist?" -- is properly defined as "someone who does not have the courage of his own convictions," as someone more clever than me once said.

As an aside: I am not at all happy about p_k's dumbassery here -- there is a world of difference between making a technical distinction when people of good faith (heh) are noodling over a philosophical matter where utter precision and pedantry count, and the connotations words carry in everyday speech. I am particularly unhappy in light of p_k's past concession regarding these points -- that most of us self-described atheists (1) do not, actually, say we are 100.000000000...% convinced there is no God and (2) do think it is better to say we are atheists because we are a-theists (non-theists), and not fence-sitting quiverers.

Yeah. Words matter, and I care quit a bit about this. There's a modern tradition of Atheism that traces itself to Russell, and which is very much about the evidentiary aspect of this debate. The sort of "Atheism" that concerns itself with infinite surety is a paltry point of view, weak tea (heh) that very few people take seriously. The distinction with agnostiscism is about getting off the fucking fence - either you think the teapot has a finite chance of existence (maybe on the back of an orbiting unicorn?), or you don't.

bjkeefe
07-16-2010, 10:27 AM
Yeah. Words matter, and I care quit a bit about this. There's a modern tradition of Atheism that traces itself to Russell, and which is very much about the evidentiary aspect of this debate. The sort of "Atheism" that concerns itself with infinite surety is a paltry point of view, weak tea (heh) that very few people take seriously. The distinction with agnostiscism is about getting off the fucking fence - either you think the teapot has a finite chance of existence (maybe on the back of an orbiting unicorn?), or you don't.

Well, not finite. I can surmise what you mean, because I know where you're coming from, but as long as we're trying to nail down words, I'd prefer non-trivial or not vanishingly small.

AemJeff
07-16-2010, 10:39 AM
Well, not finite. I can surmise what you mean, because I know where you're coming from, but as long as we're trying to nail down words, I'd prefer non-trivial or not vanishingly small.

Actually I'd argue that "finite" is the right word. I think what we're talking about here are uncalculable probabilities with values best described in terms of the asymptotic limit of a series approaching zero. Something like the following (if p==1):

http://upload.wikimedia.org/math/2/d/4/2d4131cff1e0d481c16ea49761c55b04.png

Whatfur
07-16-2010, 10:58 AM
Yeah. Words matter, and I care quit a bit about this. There's a modern tradition of Atheism that traces itself to Russell, and which is very much about the evidentiary aspect of this debate. The sort of "Atheism" that concerns itself with infinite surety is a paltry point of view, weak tea (heh) that very few people take seriously. The distinction with agnostiscism is about getting off the fucking fence - either you think the teapot has a finite chance of existence (maybe on the back of an orbiting unicorn?), or you don't.

Is it wrong to find the passion of athiests off-putting, and its energy misplaced? They seem so often like the 1st-grader who just discovered that Santa is really Dad and is determined to tell every classmate.

And "fucking fence" and "unicorns"? Come on...

AemJeff
07-16-2010, 11:02 AM
Is it wrong to find the passion of athiests off-putting, and its energy misplaced? They seem so often like the 1st-grader who just discovered that Santa is really Dad and is determined to tell every classmate.

And "fucking fence" and "unicorns"? Come on...

"Fucking fence" I'd give you, but the emphasis is there for a reason and I'm willing to defend it. (And I will if asked.) The Unicorn is a specific symbol of exactly the point I'm making, not some arbitrary slam.

Whatfur
07-16-2010, 11:08 AM
"Fucking fence" I'd give you, but the emphasis is there for a reason and I'm willing to defend it. (And I will if asked.) The Unicorn is a specific symbol of exactly the point I'm making, not some arbitrary slam.

I won't ask and you are free to choose insult with your reasoning. (There are symbols and there are symbols.)

Ocean
07-16-2010, 11:53 AM
Good post. I've bolded a couple of bits that I want to quibble with.



I don't know about anybody else (except now for you, obvs.), but I prefer to be called an atheist, I do care about what label other people try to slap on me, and I strongly dislike being called an agnostic. An agnostic to me -- especially on the question of "Does this monotheistic God, as described by the concept that we're culturally familiar with, exist?" -- is properly defined as "someone who does not have the courage of his own convictions," as someone more clever than me once said.

As an aside: I am not at all happy about p_k's dumbassery here -- there is a world of difference between making a technical distinction when people of good faith (heh) are noodling over a philosophical matter where utter precision and pedantry count, and the connotations words carry in everyday speech. I am particularly unhappy in light of p_k's past concession regarding these points -- that most of us self-described atheists (1) do not, actually, say we are 100.000000000...% convinced there is no God and (2) do think it is better to say we are atheists because we are a-theists (non-theists), and not fence-sitting quiverers.

Oh! Be glad I´m not around and I have no access to internet to be able to defend the technicality of agnosticism! ;)

I´ll just say this. I have lived my life as an atheist. I have no religion and no belief in God. However, considering myself agnostic is not meant to be indecission, but a statement that acknowledges, very actively and assertively that there´s an abstract concept of all things unknown that escapes our ability to prove its existence or lack of. The main part of insisting in such subtle distinction is, for me, not about creating a wrong impression, but a statement of lack of dogmatic thinking. I´m not intending to initiate a long discussion about whether the latter is necessary or not. I think it´s a about one´s individual preference. To me that distinction, from a conceptual perspective is important. I allows me to keep my mind open while in practice I live by the usual standards of scientific evidence.

Enjoy! I won´t be able to follow up on this discussion. So, relax!

Cheers!

Whatfur
07-16-2010, 11:56 AM
Oh! ...

Enjoy! I won´t be able to follow up on this discussion. So, relax!

Cheers!

Good...then I will agree with you.

bjkeefe
07-16-2010, 12:41 PM
Actually I'd argue that "finite" is the right word. I think what we're talking about here are uncalculable probabilities with values best described in terms of the asymptotic limit of a series, approaching zero. Something like the following (if P==1):

http://upload.wikimedia.org/math/2/d/4/2d4131cff1e0d481c16ea49761c55b04.png

You've convinced me. Objection withdrawn.

bjkeefe
07-16-2010, 12:49 PM
Is it wrong to find the passion of athiests off-putting, and its energy misplaced?

Certainly it is not wrong. You're entitled to your opinion, and it is worth just as much as anyone else's.

However, I would point out two things. First, not everyone who considers him- or herself an atheist is vocal about it. Many, and I'd wager most, consider the subject settled to their own satisfaction, and have no interest in discussing it any further. They may think it's a private/individual matter, they make think it's hopeless to try to "win" any such arguments, they may feel the risk of offensiveness outweighs any potential benefits, etc.

Second, in light of this ...

They seem so often like the 1st-grader who just discovered that Santa is really Dad and is determined to tell every classmate.

... I would observe that belief in Santa has not so far presented any serious threats to the well-being of society. It has not caused any wars, impeded any policy-making, prevented qualified people from being elected to office, etc.

I would also observe that, in light of your objection to Jeff's tone ...

And "fucking fence" and "unicorns"? Come on...

... your characterization in the previous blockquote seems needlessly belittling; indeed, even intentionally abrasive. You are therefore unlikely to win much sympathy for what I trust is your larger point.

bjkeefe
07-16-2010, 01:03 PM
Oh! Be glad I´m not around and I have no access to internet to be able to defend the technicality of agnosticism! ;)

I´ll just say this. I have lived my life as an atheist. I have no religion and no belief in God. However, considering myself agnostic is not meant to be indecission, but a statement that acknowledges, very actively and assertively that there´s an abstract concept of all things unknown that escapes our ability to prove its existence or lack of. The main part of insisting in such subtle distinction is, for me, not about creating a wrong impression, but a statement of lack of dogmatic thinking. I´m not intending to initiate a long discussion about whether the latter is necessary or not. I think it´s a about one´s individual preference. To me that distinction, from a conceptual perspective is important. I allows me to keep my mind open while in practice I live by the usual standards of scientific evidence.

Enjoy! I won´t be able to follow up on this discussion. So, relax!

Cheers!

In case you ever check back on this, I'll say a few things in response.

First, you should of course call yourself whatever you like.

Second, your sense of the word agnotic is a good and healthy one, and you make a fine argument on that behalf.

Nonetheless, I find your sense to mirror what I and others have argued against elsewhere in this thread. As with Russell, there is an appropriate occasion to prefer the precision of what you mean by agnostic, but as a matter of common parlance, I find the term misleading.

Finally, I object strongly to the association of dogmatic with atheist. Again, to me and a lot of others, the leading letter is merely a prefix indicating absence; i.e., we do not consider ourselves theists, because we do not believe in God or gods, because we have so far seen no evidence to persuade us that this would be a reasonable belief.

Now, if you want to say it's dogmatic to require evidence for adopting a belief in something that has rather significant implications, I guess I can't really object. It again comes down to what one connotes by a word. But for me at least, dogmatic carries a sense of mindless adherence to a creed, and I do not like to think that being skeptical equates thus. My mind is not bolted shut against the possibility that God might exist, anymore than it is bolted shut against the possibility that we might figure out someday how to go faster than the speed of light. Or end human misery. Or any of a number of things I'd kind of like to be true. I merely find it more useful in my day-to-day life to act as though what I might hope for is not the same thing as what I expect to happen anytime soon.

Ocean
07-16-2010, 03:00 PM
In case you ever check back on this, I'll say a few things in response.

First, you should of course call yourself whatever you like.

Thanks.

Second, your sense of the word agnotic is a good and healthy one, and you make a fine argument on that behalf.

Yikes! I left my other glasses in my lost suitcase! What the heck? Did I miss an "s" or did I exceed the allowable "esses"? My spell check here is for Spanish!

Nonetheless, I find your sense to mirror what I and others have argued against elsewhere in this thread. As with Russell, there is an appropriate occasion to prefer the precision of what you mean by agnostic, but as a matter of common parlance, I find the term misleading.

Finally, I object strongly to the association of dogmatic with atheist. Again, to me and a lot of others, the leading letter is merely a prefix indicating absence; i.e., we do not consider ourselves theists, because we do not believe in God or gods, because we have so far seen no evidence to persuade us that this would be a reasonable belief.

Now, if you want to say it's dogmatic to require evidence for adopting a belief in something that has rather significant implications, I guess I can't really object. It again comes down to what one connotes by a word. But for me at least, dogmatic carries a sense of mindless adherence to a creed, and I do not like to think that being skeptical equates thus. My mind is not bolted shut against the possibility that God might exist, anymore than it is bolted shut against the possibility that we might figure out someday how to go faster than the speed of light. Or end human misery. Or any of a number of things I'd kind of like to be true. I merely find it more useful in my day-to-day life to act as though what I might hope for is not the same thing as what I expect to happen anytime soon.

Yes, I know all the above arguments, and certainly respect them. I think we are giving the word "dogmatism" a slightly different connotation. Being agnostic helps me also understand certain forms of belief, but it´s mostly a technicality.

Please indulge in editing. I won´t be able to read it until a couple of days from now. Bye. :)

bjkeefe
07-16-2010, 04:02 PM
Yikes! I left my other glasses in my lost suitcase! What the heck? Did I miss an "s" or did I exceed the allowable "esses"? My spell check here is for Spanish!

No S oblige! (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noblesse_oblige)

Oh, Jeus Chrit. How did I make that mitake? Now you'll forever be identifying me with that guy (http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20100416162815AASN3aV).

Yes, I know all the above arguments, and certainly respect them. I think we are giving the word "dogmatism" a slightly different connotation. Being agnostic helps me also understand certain forms of belief, but it´s mostly a technicality.

Please indulge in editing. I won´t be able to read it until a couple of days from now. Bye. :)

I think I'm done straining at this gnat. I pretty much just wanted to register my objections for the record.

Shorter: yes, it's purely a semantic distinction, but unfortunately, the real world is not always so pure.

Have fun AFK!

uncle ebeneezer
07-16-2010, 04:06 PM
Yeah, for Paul's sake Ocean, turn that computer off and get back to those beautiful Puerto Rican beaches!! ;-)

rfrobison
07-16-2010, 07:46 PM
I'm less than halfway into my intended exposition and I seem to have lost Uncle Eb already. Nevertheless I will press on in the hope that it may be of interest to someone, or at least a chance for me to clarify my own thoughts.

Before moving on to the question of special revelation, I want to try and throw a bit of sand into the gears of the naturalist steamroller that's in danger of squashing me and other believers.

One commenter characterizes the position of agnostics and atheists as "freely admit[ting] to the theoretical possibility that Dumbo the Elephant invisibly rules the universe," but withholding judgment on the matter pending incontrovertible (i.e., measurable by the senses) proof of an almighty, chapeau-wearing elephant. The skeptics are credited with looking reality squarely in the face, of dealing with the universe as it is. Theists, by contrast, are said to be more credulous--a good deal more. They live, it is claimed, in an "elaborate and fact-free fantasy."

This characterization serves two purposes, so far as I can tell. One is to present atheists/agnostics as humble and open-minded: They are open to new information. The other is to discredit the other side: Believers are deluded and impervious to logic; they reject anything that contradicts their "fantasy."

I dispute this characterization. The atheist/agnostic position as presented above rests on the doctrine of empiricism: Only those things that can be perceived with the five senses (as enhanced with modern tools) are held to be real. All else is mere conjecture.

But empiricism, too, makes assumptions--assumptions that cannot be tested by empirical means. There is no way to test "from the outside" the claim that the only things that are real are those phenomena that are measurable by the senses. Why? because there is no "outside," outside. The empiricist rejects as out of court any thing or Thing he/she can't measure. Such things are unknowable by definition and not worthy of serious discussion. But that is a supposition; one can't prove it in the sense that the empiricist demands empirical proof for God's existence. Empiricism thus fails its own test and yet, for reasons that have never been explained to my satisfaction, empiricists give themselves a free pass on their foundational and faith-based assumption.

[CONTINUES]

rfrobison
07-16-2010, 08:30 PM
[CONTINUED FROM PREVIOUS]

At this point, the agnostic/atheist/empiricist is apt to object along the lines of: "Well, we don't make metaphysical truth claims regarding our methods. They are merely models that help us to explain what we see. They are practical tools for understanding, not sacred doctrines. Those are for the obscurantists on the other side. Moreover, our models are open to revision. Give us new evidence and we'll revise them."

That's fine as far as it goes, but it doesn't go far at all. If there is something or Someone super-natural "out there somewhere," sitting around waiting for scientists to find It/Him/Her/Them by strictly empirical means won't get us anywhere.

There is at least one more epistemological (if I'm using the term properly) problem with the naturalistic worldview outlined above. C.S. Lewis, in his book Miracles, sums it up better than I ever could, so I'll let him speak for me:

"If all that exists is Nature, the great mindless interlocking event, if our own deepest convictions are merely the by-products of an irrational process, then clearly there is not the slightest ground for supposing that our sense of fitness and our consequent faith in uniformity tell us anything about a reality external to ourselves."

All that the empiricist perceives, including her own cogitating brain, is the product of an irrational (or non-rational) evolutionary process. There is no "Grand Design" to the universe, and certainly no Grand Designer. (Or at least none that our intrepid scientists can detect). Yet we act as if our senses tell us something, nay, the only things that are real.

How can we know that what we assume to be true is actually describing "a reality external to ourselves"? We can't. We are forced into the uncomfortable position of believing that our own "rational" thought processes--which in the end are down to a mindless chain of electrochemical reactions--are capable of telling us something true, despite the fact that the prime mover--God-less evolution--is, by definition, non-rational.

That seems to me to be at least as great a leap of faith as any believer in God is required to make. Ironically, by empiricizing God further and further out of the picture, the naturalist/agnostic/atheist has fatally undermined any basis for trusting what his senses are telling him.

More irony: Only the believer in God has a solid foundation for belief in science. Her science, her faith in rationality, derives from the God who orders the universe according to His plan. God Thinks, we think. God Creates, we create; God Acts, we act.

The point is, any system of thought starts from certain assumptions that are themselves untestable. I find that the world as I perceive it to be at least as plausible--and yes, a good deal more emotionally satisfying--with my theistic assumptions as any world that an atheist like Russell or Richard Dawkins asserts describes reality.

[ADDED]: More on special revelation, later. Honest!

AemJeff
07-16-2010, 10:34 PM
... (part1)

That's a lot to digest at once, Rob. Can we start by taking a glance at your characterizations of skeptics and empiricism?.


The skeptics are credited with looking reality squarely in the face, of dealing with the universe as it is
Believers are deluded and impervious to logic
That's false dichotomy. Firstly skeptics don't assert that they're "looking at reality" or anything remotely like that. A skeptic isn't even sure what "reality" means. And honest skeptics don't think that believers are deluded and illogical. This is about choosing your axioms, not about analytic ability.


Only those things that can be perceived with the five senses (as enhanced with modern tools) are held to be real.

That's a caricature of the actual position of an empiricist. Firstly, it's an ontological assertion, and empiricism is an epistemic tool. Only those things for which we have evidence are held to be knowable is a far better rendering of an empirical point of view. Anyone can make any claim they want to, whenever they want to. How do we sort through all of those claims and decide which are deserving our attention? We know that some are likely to be true, some false, and some just inconsistent. Logic helps us to sort out the inconsistent claims. But where's the reliable test for truth versus falsity? What other tools do we have besides our senses? If a claim has no extension into the parts of the world actually available to our senses, what point is there in devoting time and energy to evaluating it? "If I can't see it, then it isn't real" is not what a skeptic believes.

Also, let's be clear. Skeptics and empiricists are no more likely to be personally "humble" than anyone else. But empiricism is all about humility in regard to what we believe. The first thing an honest skeptic learns is that he doesn't know very much; and compared to what there is to know - he never will know very much. Ultimately all being a skeptic really means is to repeatedly ask "What can you show me?"

rfrobison
07-16-2010, 11:12 PM
That's a lot to digest at once, Rob. Can we start by taking a glance at your characterizations of skeptics and empiricism?.


[Your characterization of skeptics versus believers is] a false dichotomy. Firstly skeptics don't assert that they're "looking at reality" or anything remotely like that. A skeptic isn't even sure what "reality" means. And honest skeptics don't think that believers are deluded and illogical. This is about choosing your axioms, not about analytic ability.

I accept that as your position, Jeff. But I took my quotes from an actual commenter (e.g., "fact-free fantasy." etc.) You may feel that the dismissive view of religious belief and believers embodied in those comments not to be the norm among committed non-believers, I respectfully disagree.

Firstly, it's an ontological assertion, and empiricism is an epistemic tool. Only those things for which we have evidence are held to be knowable is a far better rendering of an empirical point of view.

And the only thing that qualifies as "evidence" is that which can be measured empirically. In other words, empiricism is empiricism.

Anyone can make any claim they want to, whenever they want to. How do we sort through all of those claims and decide which are deserving our attention? We know that some are likely to be true, some false, and some just inconsistent. Logic helps us to sort out the inconsistent claims. But where's the reliable test for truth versus falsity? What other tools do we have besides our senses? If a claim has no extension into the parts of the world actually available to our senses, what point is there in devoting time and energy to evaluating it? "If I can't see it, then it isn't real" is not what a skeptic believes.

I can only respond to this by saying there are different types of knowledge that are useful for addressing different types of problem. I know my wife loves me. Can I demonstrate it empirically? No, I can't. Can I test it in a laboratory? Nope. So how do I know? Because she tells me so and I find her to be credible. There are all sorts of propositions whose truth even non-believers take to be axiomatic without requiring an empirical demonstration, yet we are told that such things cannot be regarded as--I don't know--truly true. I find that odd, and oddly limiting.


Also, let's be clear. Skeptics and empiricists are no more likely to be personally "humble" than anyone else. But empiricism is all about humility in regard to what we believe. The first thing an honest skeptic learns is that he doesn't know very much; and compared to what there is to know - he never will know very much. Ultimately all being a skeptic really means is to repeatedly ask "What can you show me?"

Skeptics (and again I'm speaking broadly, here, this is not a characterization of you or any other individual) make a great show of admitting that they know very little about the universe. Fantastic. We all should start by acknowledging our limitations, believers most of all.

But then, in the same breath, many of them pooh-pooh the thought that anything beyond the natural universe might exist. (E.g., almighty elephants, etc., etc. etc.) People can and do believe whatever suits them, but my point was merely to say that there are other ways of looking at "reality" that might be both intellectually and morally sound.

uncle ebeneezer
07-16-2010, 11:31 PM
I can only respond to this by saying there are different types of knowledge that are useful for addressing different types of problem. I know my wife loves me. Can I demonstrate it empirically? No, I can't. Can I test it in a laboratory? Nope. So how do I know? Because she tells me so and I find her to be credible. There are all sorts of propositions whose truth even non-believers take to be axiomatic without requiring an empirical demonstration, yet we are told that such things cannot be regarded as--I don't know--truly true. I find that odd, and oddly limiting.

I don't understand this. You know your wife loves you because she tells you (audio data) and probably also through your assessment of the history of your physical interaction (tactile) and the way she probably looks at you (visual cues.) All of these are based around your perceptions and using the data you collect to form an opinion as to the factual nature of whether she loves you or not. Moreover we could have other people ask her and compare the data for consistency to evaluate the likelihood that she's being honest. Even the credibility you give her is no doubt based on information as you have received and interpreted it (ie- she's probably got a history of telling you things that are demonstrably true or false. If she often lied to you or acted randomly, I doubt you would find her credible.)

PS you haven't lost me (my interest at least, I'm just not always good at responding point-by-point, so I don't always try.)

AemJeff
07-16-2010, 11:38 PM
...

And the only thing that qualifies as "evidence" is that which can be measured empirically. In other words, empiricism is empiricism.



I can only respond to this by saying there are different types of knowledge that are useful for addressing different types of problem. I know my wife loves me. Can I demonstrate it empirically? No, I can't. Can I test it in a laboratory? Nope. So how do I know? Because she tells me so and I find her to be credible. There are all sorts of propositions whose truth even non-believers take to be axiomatic without requiring an empirical demonstration, yet we are told that such things cannot be regarded as--I don't know--truly true. I find that odd, and oddly limiting.


If I told you how your wife felt about you, you'd be unlikely to take what I said seriously. If her mother told you the same thing, there's a greater chance you'd put some stock in what she said. Why? I have no way of knowing anything about you and your family, but your wife's mother is far more likely to know something true. Your wife's claim is strongest of all, because she's in the best position to know how she feels; and you're in position to compare the substance of her claim with her behavior. You can't ever know for sure if any of us was telling the truth - but there is an empirical basis on which to judge all of the above hypothetical claims.




Skeptics (and again I'm speaking broadly, here, this is not a characterization of you or any other individual) make a great show of admitting that they know very little about the universe. Fantastic. We all should start by acknowledging our limitation, believers most of all.

But then, in the same breath, many of them pooh-pooh the thought that anything beyond the natural universe might exist. (E.g., almighty elephants, etc., etc. etc.) People can and do believe whatever suits them, but my point was merely to say that there are other ways of looking at "reality" that might be both intellectually and morally sound.

I "pooh-pooh the thought that anything beyond the natural universe might exist" because I see no reason to make such a distinction. "Supernatural" is just a word with no palpable meaning - if something exists, by definition it's a part of the natural world. I'm sure that there are many valid ways to look at "reality." Empiricism is just the one that seems to work best. What it has that most other approaches lack is a way to independently verify conclusions by means of process. That's not objectivity; and I'm pretty sure it isn't the key to every door - but, I have no reason to believe that there is a key to every door. So far, I don't know of any other method that can claim even a tiny fraction of its success.

rfrobison
07-17-2010, 03:02 AM
I "pooh-pooh the thought that anything beyond the natural universe might exist" because I see no reason to make such a distinction. "Supernatural" is just a word with no palpable meaning - if something exists, by definition it's a part of the natural world. I'm sure that there are many valid ways to look at "reality." Empiricism is just the one that seems to work best. What it has that most other approaches lack is a way to independently verify conclusions by means of process. That's not objectivity; and I'm pretty sure it isn't the key to every door - but, I have no reason to believe that there is a key to every door. So far, I don't know of any other method that can claim even a tiny fraction of its success.

Jeff: I don't want to belabor this point because I have others to make--later. But "supernatural" is a pretty definable term. It means: beyond nature. The Abrahamaic faiths start from the proposition that there is a Creator who made the universe that we perceive--and, of course, those things in the universe that remain beyond our perception due to our intellectual, technological, physical, and/or moral limitations.

This Person (and again, I'm speaking of the Theos familiar in the West) created nature like an artist creates a painting. He isn't part of the painting Himself; it is His workmanship. God, as He is understood in the Abrahamaic faiths, is thus separate from nature, and beyond it in the sense that without Him it would not exist, just as the painting wouldn't exist without the painter. Further, Christianity (and I assume Judaism and Islam as well) teach that God created the universe from nothing ex-nihilo for you Latin fans. He and only He is the self-existent, eternal Fact.

Now, you may not agree with that proposition. You may say there is "no evidence" to support belief in such a Being. And you could be right. Nature may, in fact, be All There Is.

But at the risk of beating a dead horse, I'll repeat: Any attempt to find such a Being, if He exists, solely by empirical methods is bound to be futile. But neither is that proof that He isn't there. So we reach a stalemate.

That's where special revelation comes in and if I can summon up the time and energy, that will be the next part of my little essay.

Comments? Criticisms? Jokes? All are welcome...

Starwatcher162536
07-17-2010, 03:14 AM
Do you see prayer as something distinct from meditation/introspection?

rfrobison
07-17-2010, 03:28 AM
Do you see prayer as something distinct from meditation/introspection?

Short answer: Yes. Though meditation in the Christian sense--reflecting on God's character and attributes: Love, Mercy, Holiness, Power, etc. is an important part of prayer--there's more to it than that.

Likewise, introspection is the first step in confession, which in turn is another piece of the prayer puzzle for the Christian.

But I would define prayer most simply as an ongoing conversation with God. I'm sure there are other, better definitions out there.

And I don't do near enough of it, either.

bjkeefe
07-17-2010, 05:20 AM
I accept that as your position, Jeff. But I took my quotes from an actual commenter (e.g., "fact-free fantasy." etc.) You may feel that the dismissive view of religious belief and believers embodied in those comments not to be the norm among committed non-believers, I respectfully disagree.

Take that word respectfully and throw it in the garbage, because you've just ruined it.

Look, rfr, believe what you want, about God or the godless or whatever. But as long as you're going to hold up "an actual commenter" as representative of the millions of people who don't share your faith-based thinking, you're not being at all respectful. You're doing, again, what I've called you on before -- treating others as you would not have them treat you.

You've also persuaded me to stop reading whatever else you have to say on these matters, for whatever that's worth.

rfrobison
07-17-2010, 07:23 AM
Take that word respectfully and throw it in the garbage, because you've just ruined it.

Look, rfr, believe what you want, about God or the godless or whatever. But as long as you're going to hold up "an actual commenter" as representative of the millions of people who don't share your faith-based thinking, you're not being at all respectful. You're doing, again, what I've called you on before -- treating others as you would not have them treat you.

You've also persuaded me to stop reading whatever else you have to say on these matters, for whatever that's worth.

I'm sorry to hear that--on both counts.

SkepticDoc
07-17-2010, 09:07 AM
Do you see prayer as something distinct from meditation/introspection?

Meditation is completely different from prayer, sometimes repetitive prayer or chanting can change your state of mind and even relieve pain.

http://scan.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2010/03/12/scan.nsq023

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r364h19dXio&feature=PlayList&p=467ED599B52E893F&playnext_from=PL&index=1

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-c9-XaA2f00&feature=PlayList&p=467ED599B52E893F&playnext_from=PL&index=0

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jqkMbk8eX6Y

I'll try to expand later, consider looking at my URL list in my Apollo diavlog.

Florian
07-17-2010, 12:18 PM
This Person (and again, I'm speaking of the Theos familiar in the West) created nature like an artist creates a painting. He isn't part of the painting Himself; it is His workmanship. God, as He is understood in the Abrahamaic faiths, is thus separate from nature, and beyond it in the sense that without Him it would not exist, just as the painting wouldn't exist without the painter. Further, Christianity (and I assume Judaism and Islam as well) teach that God created the universe from nothing ex-nihilo for you Latin fans. He and only He is the self-existent, eternal Fact.

Now, you may not agree with that proposition. You may say there is "no evidence" to support belief in such a Being. And you could be right. Nature may, in fact, be All There Is.

But at the risk of beating a dead horse, I'll repeat: Any attempt to find such a Being, if He exists, solely by empirical methods is bound to be futile. But neither is that proof that He isn't there. So we reach a stalemate.

That's where special revelation comes in and if I can summon up the time and energy, that will be the next part of my little essay.

Comments? Criticisms? Jokes? All are welcome...

You are right, "special revelation," as opposed to "natural theology" (which you call "general revelation"), would be necessary to sustain the belief in God as the creator of the universe "ex nihilo." Even before Kant demonstrated, in the first antinomy of Pure Reason, that by reasoning à priori we can both prove and disprove that the universe has a beginning in time (and therefore can never know which thesis is true), philosophers and theologians were aware that the idea of creation ex nihilo was repugnant to human reason: the idea of nothingness is either nonsensical or so deep that only a few mystics and philosophers have ever understood it.

As for the "argument from design" you allude to (in the analogy of God to the artist who creates a painting), I am afraid that natural theology (or "general revelation") is no more successful in demonstrating God's existence by the evidence of his works than it is at demonstrating the creation of the world from nothingness. This argument was so thoroughly demolished by Hume (in his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion) that Kant was driven almost to despair....

AemJeff
07-17-2010, 08:56 PM
Jeff: I don't want to belabor this point because I have others to make--later. But "supernatural" is a pretty definable term. It means: beyond nature. The Abrahamaic faiths start from the proposition that there is a Creator who made the universe that we perceive--and, of course, those things in the universe that remain beyond our perception due to our intellectual, technological, physical, and/or moral limitations.

This Person (and again, I'm speaking of the Theos familiar in the West) created nature like an artist creates a painting. He isn't part of the painting Himself; it is His workmanship. God, as He is understood in the Abrahamaic faiths, is thus separate from nature, and beyond it in the sense that without Him it would not exist, just as the painting wouldn't exist without the painter. Further, Christianity (and I assume Judaism and Islam as well) teach that God created the universe from nothing ex-nihilo for you Latin fans. He and only He is the self-existent, eternal Fact.

Now, you may not agree with that proposition. You may say there is "no evidence" to support belief in such a Being. And you could be right. Nature may, in fact, be All There Is.

But at the risk of beating a dead horse, I'll repeat: Any attempt to find such a Being, if He exists, solely by empirical methods is bound to be futile. But neither is that proof that He isn't there. So we reach a stalemate.

That's where special revelation comes in and if I can summon up the time and energy, that will be the next part of my little essay.

Comments? Criticisms? Jokes? All are welcome...

I look forward to next part of your essay, Rob. Meanwhile I still have significant issues with the above. The proposition of that a "super," or perhaps "meta," level outside nature exists is certainly something you can say. But, all you've done here is invent a category ("God") which has no extension into the world we know, so far as we can perceive, and then defined it such that our inability to perceive it is a special attribute pertaining to that category. (Supernatural > natural, therefore natural rules [the rules that we understand to govern our existence] don't apply to this thing we don't perceive.) Why would I be wrong to say that that sounds awfully arbitrary and convenient?

Invoking deus ex machina as an explanation for everything we do see is terribly unconvincing. "It's turtles all the way down."

And - attempting to find God empirically is something we can agree is pointless. But that's beside the point. Trying to show the existence of God via the Ontological Argument is also pointless. (The assumption that the rules of causality hold in every domain is a pretty weak basis to sustain such an important proposition.) I await your explication of "special revelation" and how it succeeds where these other methods certainly fail.

rfrobison
07-17-2010, 09:14 PM
You are right, "special revelation," as opposed to "natural theology" (which you call "general revelation"), would be necessary to sustain the belief in God as the creator of the universe "ex nihilo." Even before Kant demonstrated, in the first antinomy of Pure Reason, that by reasoning à priori we can both prove and disprove that the universe has a beginning in time (and therefore can never know which thesis is true), philosophers and theologians were aware that the idea of creation ex nihilo was repugnant to human reason: the idea of nothingness is either nonsensical or so deep that only a few mystics and philosophers have ever understood it.

As for the "argument from design" you allude to (in the analogy of God to the artist who creates a painting), I am afraid that natural theology (or "general revelation") is no more successful in demonstrating God's existence by the evidence of his works than it is at demonstrating the creation of the world from nothingness. This argument was so thoroughly demolished by Hume (in his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion) that Kant was driven almost to despair....

I really like hearing your perspective on these matters, Florian, because of your grounding in philosophy--though it makes me wish I had read Kant and a bunch of other thinkers that I've never seemed to have time for. I did read a Hume essay once for a sort of "current affairs in biology" class (i.e., science for dummies) that I took in college to fulfill a graduation requirement. As you can imagine, I found him a bit hard to swallow!

As you pointed out, the reference to the "argument from design," was an oblique one. My concern was to underscore God's separateness from nature, rather than to argue that because the universe has a design (apparently), there must be a Designer.

I may take a break before taking the plunge on special revelation. These things tax me greatly as I have little to no formal schooling in theology, let alone philosophy.

Also I have been rebuked for being unkind to people who don't share my views. This stings, and I should probably reassess what my goals are. I shudder to think that at the end of it all, due my vanity, I am making people less inclined to consider God and whether He still speaks.

bjkeefe
07-17-2010, 11:58 PM
I look forward to next part of your essay, Rob. Meanwhile I still have significant issues with the above. The proposition that a "super," or perhaps "meta," level outside nature is certainly something you can say. But, all you've done here is invent a category ("God") which has no extension into the world we know, so far as we can perceive, and then defined it such that our inability to perceive it is a special attribute pertaining to that category. (Supernatural > natural, therefore natural rules [the rules that we understand to govern our existence] don't apply to this thing we don't perceive.) Why would I be wrong to say that that sounds awfully arbitrary and convenient?

Invoking deus ex machina as an explanation for everything we do see is terribly unconvincing. "It's turtles all the way down."

Exactly right. I don't get how you, Rob, can say things like this, for example ...

But empiricism, too, makes assumptions--assumptions that cannot be tested by empirical means. There is no way to test "from the outside" the claim that the only things that are real are those phenomena that are measurable by the senses. Why? because there is no "outside," outside.

... or this ...

How can we know that what we assume to be true is actually describing "a reality external to ourselves"? We can't. We are forced into the uncomfortable position of believing that our own "rational" thought processes--which in the end are down to a mindless chain of electrochemical reactions--are capable of telling us something true, despite the fact that the prime mover--God-less evolution--is, by definition, non-rational.

... yet so blithely fail to consider the problem that could be simply put as: What made God? And what made the thing that made God? And what made the thing that made the thing ...? (Jeff's turtles point.) And to restate his other point: just saying, well, God has all the properties I require, has always existed, will always exist, knows everything, in advance to boot, is the beginning and the end of it all, etc., is indistinguishable to me from an all-purpose wild card, the ace of trumps times infinity. And more to my point here: your belief rests on the assertion that God gets to be outside of it all, even though you keep saying people who don't believe in God aren't permitted to go there, because it's impossible.

Awfully convenient.

Unless I'm missing something, you get to declare, at every sticky point you find yourself, This Is Just How God Is, but you do not accept, and in fact, caricature and misrepresent, those who have no need of the God hypothesis when they at some point also have to throw up their hands and say This Is Just How It Is.

Again, awfully convenient.

It's like a cosmic game of Calvinball, you ask me.

Therefore, your attempt to sound logical or even reasonable about your faith -- or at least its starting points -- strikes me as rickety at best. (And not just you -- all theological discussion eventually gets to this point with me.) If you want to believe just to believe, because it makes you feel better to do so than not to do so, or because you share with so many other people the belief that faith in things unseen is somehow superior to being some blinkered empiricist, fine. Whatever. I think it's silly to be this way, childish even, but then to try to tart it up the way you seem to be trying to do makes it worse: it's utterly intellectually unsatisfying. It's like ending every story with and then the little boy woke up.

But whatever; maybe it's just a matter of taste. All that said, though, I'll come back to the one point I really want to emphasize here: you're not applying the same standards to your own beliefs as you are to those you seek to belittle. Or at least, it's not coming across to me that way.

==========

P.S. I was also going to say something about your neglect of the reality that people, by and large, who do not believe in God also do not believe we yet know everything we someday might. Far from it. However, I'm already sounding crabbier than I want to, and I do appreciate your partial acknowledgment, here (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?p=170358#post170358), of my earlier complaints, so I'll leave it there for now.

uncle ebeneezer
07-18-2010, 12:21 AM
Religion: the original "just so" story.

Ocean
07-18-2010, 12:28 AM
Yeah, for Paul's sake Ocean, turn that computer off and get back to those beautiful Puerto Rican beaches!! ;-)

For octopus' sake, uncle! I'm in Uruguay and it was 32ºF this morning!

I still had Dulce de Leche and Dutch chocolate icecream a while ago...

rfrobison
07-18-2010, 09:02 AM
Jeff, BJ, Eb (and whoever else is on the "other side" in this discussion):

As I said to Florian earlier, I may need awhile to gather my wits before my next foray. I should like to emphasize here a point that really bears no mention at all in discussions of this nature:

This stuff is really hard. It's hard for anyone to get a handle on and I'm no great theologian, philosopher or saint, just a fairly run-of-the mill Christian who likes to talk--probably way too much for my own good. So I appreciate your forbearance as I struggle to make my case.

There are Christian thinkers whose books you could read, certainly, and plenty of believers standing out in front of your average church on Sunday morning who could put that case millions of times more eloquently and forcefully than I. Nevertheless, I shall do what I can.

I shall also try to treat all of you and your views, thoughts, questions, struggles, vociferous objections, ideals, and the rest with the respect and even reverence they deserve. Thoughts are important. People, invaluable.

If we can learn something from one another through these exchanges and come away with a better understanding of ourselves and our interlocutors, that's good enough for me.

At least for the moment. I continue to live in hope that I'll be seeing you in the next pew over in the not-too-distant future! ;)

I do enjoy hearing what you all have to say, and though I've never met you in the flesh and may never get that chance, I'd like to think of you as friends.

Talk to you soon,

Rob

SkepticDoc
07-18-2010, 09:42 AM
Your post is very nice, harmonious and well intended, but...

What evidence do you accept/believe in, that proves the existence of Jesus?

I have been enlightened by former fundamentalist Christians ( Shermer (http://www.michaelshermer.com/), Ehrman (http://www.bartdehrman.com/), etc.) and others http://www.centerforinquiry.net/jesusproject.

I question the past, present or future existence of any prophet or revelation/manifestation.

Robin Williams had a phrase: "Reality, what a concept!", I believe that we can't grasp the understanding of everything, I am agnostic of what happens after death and the evidence so far is that if humans are nice to one another and behave ethically the World/Universe will be a better place to live.

uncle ebeneezer
07-18-2010, 10:56 AM
32?!!! Aye de mi! You WERE in PR though right? Or am I just imagining things...

Hope your having a great trip. I'm sure we'll settle this God question once and for all by the time you get back ;-)

rfrobison
07-18-2010, 12:21 PM
Exactly right. I don't get how you, Rob, can say things like this, for example ...


But empiricism, too, makes assumptions--assumptions that cannot be tested by empirical means. There is no way to test "from the outside" the claim that the only things that are real are those phenomena that are measurable by the senses. Why? because there is no "outside," outside.

... or this ...


How can we know that what we assume to be true is actually describing "a reality external to ourselves"? We can't. We are forced into the uncomfortable position of believing that our own "rational" thought processes--which in the end are down to a mindless chain of electrochemical reactions--are capable of telling us something true, despite the fact that the prime mover--God-less evolution--is, by definition, non-rational.

... yet so blithely fail to consider the problem that could be simply put as: What made God? And what made the thing that made God? And what made the thing that made the thing ...? (Jeff's turtles point.) And to restate his other point: just saying, well, God has all the properties I require, has always existed, will always exist, knows everything, in advance to boot, is the beginning and the end of it all, etc., is indistinguishable to me from an all-purpose wild card, the ace of trumps times infinity. And more to my point here: your belief rests on the assertion that God gets to be outside of it all, even though you keep saying people who don't believe in God aren't permitted to go there, because it's impossible.

Awfully convenient.

Unless I'm missing something, you get to declare, at every sticky point you find yourself, This Is Just How God Is, but you do not accept, and in fact, caricature and misrepresent, those who have no need of the God hypothesis when they at some point also have to throw up their hands and say This Is Just How It Is.

Again, awfully convenient.

It's like a cosmic game of Calvinball, you ask me...

I wanted to respond to this just to clear up any lingering misunderstandings before calling a time out and later moving on to my next point. I've highlighted those points that I think require clarification. And I wish to state for the record that the fault is entirely mine, either because I skipped over some parts of the argument, failed to make my points clearly enough, and/or allowed a defensive tone to creep into my replies, which prevented the respondents from understanding what I was trying to get across.

I'll work backwards. I may have misrepresented the views of those who reject the "God Hypothesis." If so, I apologize. It was not my intention to caricature or insult. I confess that my desire to be taken seriously by people whom I respect intellectually (That's you, guys.) sometimes leads me astray. But my actual purpose was merely to show that arguments for and against God's existence, however well and passionately argued, are likely to be inconclusive. We all have to start from somewhere.

The point entire point of my long-winded discourse on what Christian theologians call "general revelation" was to outline what some Christians consider to be evidence for God's existence, gleaned from the world around us. But most Christian thinkers I've read, and most Christians I know personally and respect, feel this evidence to be equivocal: It might give someone inclined to believe anyway, more reason to believe; it might get someone who wasn't sure, to lean in the direction of belief.

But if all reasonably intelligent people acting in good faith could come to such belief solely through careful observations of the natural world, they would. Since they don't all do so, I'd say its reasonable to conclude that there are limits to how far general revelation can take us.

In my quotes above I wanted to point to what I see as an important difficulty with the non-theistic worldview: rationality derived from an irrational first cause. My intent was not to belittle that worldview, still less those who hold it honestly. Rather, it was to stress that while it is impossible to prove God's existence empirically, and while evidence for Him as found in nature is murky, whatever side we come down on--theist, atheist or agnostic--we have knotty philosophical problems to contend with.

Nobody has yet mentioned the Problem of Evil, by the way, which for me is the most powerful argument against belief in a Good, Omnipotent God. Thank you for sparing me.

Regarding God's eternal and supernatural, er, nature, I'm not sure how to offer half a loaf to my worthy opposition. I have not tried to prove God is beyond nature. It's a supposition. I have simply stated the traditional Christian doctrine that He is.

Perhaps it's because I've been a Christian too long, but it's hard for me to conceive of Him in any other way. Any "god" that was not the Creator of the universe wouldn't be the God I "know." And if He created nature, how could He be it, or a part of it? If God were not eternal, then indeed someone or something would have come first and again, He would not be God.

This may smack of sophistry: "God is that of which nothing greater can be conceived." But any system of thought has certain identities that are not contingent on anything else. For theists, that Identity is God. Maybe someone smarter than I could formulate it better, but I don't have an answer beyond what I've just said.

I have not attempted to deal with Eastern concepts of the Divine (where, as I understand it, the distinction between "god" and nature is less clear cut) because, quite frankly, I don't understand the concepts well enough to talk about them intelligently and I don't have the energy.

The only reason the naturalist/nonbeliever "can't go there," is because for him/her there is only nature. God literally has no place in that universe. Nor can the non-believer hope to find Him with the tools to hand, even if He were present in some "otherly" way. To quote Elton John: "It's like tryin' to find gold in a silver mine/It's like tryin' to drink whiskey from a bottle of wine..."

Hence if God does exist and our perceptions of Him from observations of the natural world are muddled at best, if not downright contradictory, we will need some form of direct or "special" revelation of Him at His initiative.

SkepticDoc
07-18-2010, 02:23 PM
Nobody has yet mentioned the Problem of Evil, by the way, which for me is the most powerful argument against belief in a Good, Omnipotent God. Thank you for sparing me.

Who has spared you?:)

Please share with us your thoughts on "The Problem of Evil", and if you have the time, also on Suffering, Death and Illness from an Adult Christian perspective.

bjkeefe
07-18-2010, 11:10 PM
I'm just going to respond to a couple of minor points, since I think I've said what I have to say about the larger ones.

In my quotes above I wanted to point to what I see as an important difficulty with the non-theistic worldview: rationality derived from an irrational first cause.

You keep saying this as though it were self-evident, but it's not. At least not to me. As far as I'm concerned, the more basic aspects and mechanisms of the universe, as we understand them at the moment at least, strike me as far less irrational than the behavior of human beings. It seems to me that this is the main reason we have been able to understand so many things in such a short time.

Nobody has yet mentioned the Problem of Evil, by the way, which for me is the most powerful argument against belief in a Good, Omnipotent God. Thank you for sparing me.

I do not subscribe to the notion of Evil, or the Problem of it, in capital letter terms. To me, evil is merely a descriptor, like stupid or selfish or psychopathic, and it describes rather mundane acts when considered on a cosmic scale. Long before I stopped believing in any sort of God, I stopped believing in "Evil" as any sort of grandiose force or entity.

But since you ask ... ;) ... I will just say that I've always liked this observation (no idea who said it): None of the monotheistic religions has ever adequately explained the suffering of children.

bjkeefe
07-18-2010, 11:22 PM
Jeff, BJ, Eb (and whoever else is on the "other side" in this discussion):

I appreciate your sentiments as they present in the rest of your post, but I have to say, especially as regards this ...

This stuff is really hard.

... that it's awfully easy to think that the reason it seems hard is because there is no there there, that you're trying to construct an edifice on a foundation that can't pass inspection or bear any weight.

I am not telling you to cease and desist by any means. If it's enjoyable or useful to you to try to express in writing what you are thinking at a less concretely verbal level, by all means, go for it. This is one of the best reasons ever to set pen to paper or hands to keyboard.

As for your hopes that some of us convert, though, I'd say it's probably better to set that one aside. If it happens, it happens, and you can be happy then, but the odds are so heavily against it as to make your evangelizing a Sisyphean task. In fact, at least as far as my mindset goes, the more preaching, the more I am inclined to dismiss. The hard sell is never going to work on someone like me, who has had to spend so much time and energy to get out of where you'd like to drag me back.

Again, do what you want, say what you want. But if you want some feedback, there it is.

rfrobison
07-19-2010, 03:25 AM
I appreciate your sentiments as they present in the rest of your post, but I have to say, especially as regards this ...



... that it's awfully easy to think that the reason it seems hard is because there is no there there, that you're trying to construct an edifice on a foundation that can't pass inspection or bear any weight.

I am not telling you to cease and desist by any means. If it's enjoyable or useful to you to try to express in writing what you are thinking at a less concretely verbal level, by all means, go for it. This is one of the best reasons ever to set pen to paper or hands to keyboard.

As for your hopes that some of us convert, though, I'd say it's probably better to set that one aside. If it happens, it happens, and you can be happy then, but the odds are so heavily against it as to make your evangelizing a Sisyphean task. In fact, at least as far as my mindset goes, the more preaching, the more I am inclined to dismiss. The hard sell is never going to work on someone like me, who has had to spend so much time and energy to get out of where you'd like to drag me back.

Again, do what you want, say what you want. But if you want some feedback, there it is.

Your feedback, Brendan, is always welcome, if not always music to my ears. It may well be that there is no "there" there, with regard to the intellectual foundations of my faith, or any religious faith. Perhaps it would be better to remember Paul's (the apostle, not the octopus) admonition (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20Corinthians%201:18-25&version=NIV) and be silent. But foolhardy or not, I will keep going a bit further, for my own benefit if for no one else's.

My hopes for persuading you or anyone else bothering to read this to "come home to Christ," though real and sincere, are nonetheless expressed with tongue more than halfway in cheek. If there's converting to be done, it won't be me doing it.

And, of course, far more important that any words I say here is the matter of how I conduct myself generally. Since for you and others on this site, that means in my interactions on other topics, I must try to be kind and gentle, where such things are called for, and to speak with integrity and respect for my fellows.

All questions of faith aside, that seems a worthy enough goal in and of itself.

Cheers,
R.

bjkeefe
07-19-2010, 07:57 AM
Your feedback, Brendan, is always welcome, if not always music to my ears. It may well be that there is no "there" there, with regard to the intellectual foundations of my faith, or any religious faith. Perhaps it would be better to remember Paul's (the apostle, not the octopus) admonition (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20Corinthians%201:18-25&version=NIV) and be silent. But foolhardy or not, I will keep going a bit further, for my own benefit if for no one else's.

There are things Paul (is said to have) said that I find worth less than nothing. Add that passage to the list, if it's making you think that you ought to be silent, or that you should worry that discussing what interests you is foolhardy.

My hopes for persuading you or anyone else bothering to read this to "come home to Christ," though real and sincere, are nonetheless expressed with tongue more than halfway in cheek. If there's converting to be done, it won't be me doing it.

Okay.

And, of course, far more important that any words I say here is the matter of how I conduct myself generally.

Would that more Christians, particularly those with secular power, took this admonition to heart.

==========

P.S. Sorry I had to do this (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/member.php?u=10750). I'll understand if from now on you want to call me Pilates.

Oh no, wait. That's that other guy.

;)

SkepticDoc
07-19-2010, 08:12 AM
If we send that user a PM, will we know why he left, or when he is coming back? :)

bjkeefe
07-19-2010, 08:28 AM
If we send that user a PM, will we know why he left, or when he is coming back? :)

Can't you just ask him directly, without the need for communication devices of this world?

. (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/images/smilies/wink.gif)

rfrobison
07-19-2010, 08:57 AM
There are things Paul (is said to have) said that I find worth less than nothing. Add that passage to the list, if it's making you think that you ought to be silent, or that you should worry that discussing what interests you is foolhardy.

No passages from the Pauline epistles for BJ. Check.

Maybe I should put a disclaimer up like they do on TV: "The following contains explicit Christian doctrine. Viewer discretion is advised."


P.S. Sorry I had to do this (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/member.php?u=10750). I'll understand if from now on you want to call me Pilates.

Oh no, wait. That's that other guy.

;)

No. You didn't really ban Jesus from this site, did you? Wait'll I tell Jehovah! Oh, yeah, he already knows. :D

SkepticDoc
07-19-2010, 09:39 AM
Never got an answer in the past...

uncle ebeneezer
07-19-2010, 07:59 PM
Yeah, I've enjoyed reading your sermons Rob, but at the end of it all it convinces me is that the human mind has an amazing capacity for rationalizing something after commiting to it in principle. You rightfully admit that theists start with presumptions that we have no reason to believe or accept, and then the story continues from there and gets more and more tangled and self-reinforcing with each step. As Brendan and Jeff both mentioned, God is defined as being completely off-limits to any standard or perception or empirical evidence. Yet the theist still claims evidence exists. Art, beauty etc. are things that could only be the product of God (natural explanations aside). And the evidence of God are the things that have been defined as the stuff that only could be from God. It's a logical circle.

Moreover, rather than simply accept that the existence of God is nothing more than a personal belief, the theist tries to cross into empiricism by claiming that religion provides knowledge and truth. In fact this seems to be the entire point of the venture, to go beyond belief and try to claim ground in the realm that the epmiricist actually respects. But when the empiricist asks for the details the theist again claims immunity on the basis that these things are a different kind of truth, knowledge etc. I would refer to your wife's love example. Absent all sensory forms of data input (ie- without sight, hearing, touch etc.) how would you "know" anything about your wife (let alone anything about her feelings for you?) You use that as an example of knowledge when it really is a belief.

Again, religion/theism is exempt from any natural investigation. And one can't help but notice how convenient the preferred status that God holds is for avoiding ANY kind of scrutiny beyond purely philosophical excercises. So the million dollar question for this atheist remains: if one were to try to design a concept and make it completely exempt from disputation, isn't this (the presumptive conditions for theism) exactly how one would best achieve it? In other words, what is the difference between the protected status of God and any other imaginary concept that we could devise and define as off-limits to natural inquiry? What makes the existence of God any more likely to be true than 4-sided triangles, or unicorns or what have you? As long as the presumptions are equally set, how can any of them be taken as being more than just cheap parlor tricks or logical sleight of hand? And if you imagine somebody being so emotionally tied to a concept that was in fact imaginary, isn't this sort of rationalization through logical hand-wavery and exemption from natural investigation, precisely the sort of tactical approach you would expect the believer to take? After all they just might be able to convince even themselves (which I would argue is the ultimate goal.)

[added: Can you at least see why people from the other side (atheist) would look at the supernatural element of all major religions, as more likely to be a clever design mechanism that protects the meme (and it's believer) from any real probative challenge, rather than some sort of universal truth from which these memes have all conveniently benefited?]

Sorry if my response is rambling or meandering. Your posts have put alot out there, and it's a challenge to even absorb them (and attempt to see your perspective) let alone explain the sticking points of my own. Either way, it's been a fun thread. I wouldn't hold your breath on conversions, but I admire your energy! ;-) Uncle Eb

rfrobison
07-19-2010, 11:04 PM
Sorry if my response is rambling or meandering. Your posts have put alot out there, and it's a challenge to even absorb them (and attempt to see your perspective) let alone explain the sticking points of my own. Either way, it's been a fun thread. I wouldn't hold your breath on conversions, but I admire your energy! ;-) Uncle Eb

Don't sweat it, Eb. I am doing this as much for myself as for anyone else, and believe it or not, I think it's good to have one's assumptions challenged. I don't think I could ever accept the purely naturalist view of the universe. For me, all roads in that direction lead to nihilism.

As for the rest, I'm not quite done yet. As I told Jeff a year and half ago or so, I'm fundamentally an optimist (or an optimistic fundamentalist, if you prefer) ;) regarding such questions. For I believe God is truth and that all truths, whether moral, scientific, or otherwise are ultimately found in Him. I see no particular conflict between a rational mindset, a love and respect for science, and even a healthy skepticism on the one hand, and a life of faith on the other.

I would argue for a sort of bounded empiricism, if you will, one that leaves room for things that may be beyond the reach of the human intellect--unaided, that is, by God. (The special revelation half of this presentation, which if I don't come up with it fairly soon, will undoubtedly fail to live up to its advance billing.)

Until then.

bjkeefe
07-20-2010, 11:55 AM
I don't think I could ever accept the purely naturalist view of the universe. For me, all roads in that direction lead to nihilism.

At least as I understand what those two terms connote, I object. A "naturalist view of the universe" would seek to understand and explain how things work in terms of observable phenomena, would use logic and reasoning and ongoing testing to create and adjust internally consistent theoretical frameworks, and so on, and would eventually develop confidence, if always somewhat provisional, in the trustworthiness of such approaches and the results that they yield.

By contrast, nihilism is the view that, to first approximation at least, nothing can be known, and so therefore, there's little point in even trying. Others (http://www.google.com/search?q=define%3Anihilism) use the term to mean even bleaker things, such as the view that nihilism "advocates destruction of the social system for its own sake," involves "rejection of all moral principles," "believes in the truth of nothing," etc.

Perhaps you have a different sense of what these two terms mean.

rfrobison
07-20-2010, 06:46 PM
At least as I understand what those two terms connote, I object. A "naturalist view of the universe" would seek to understand and explain how things work in terms of observable phenomena, would use logic and reasoning and ongoing testing to create and adjust internally consistent theoretical frameworks, and so on, and would eventually develop confidence, if always somewhat provisional, in the trustworthiness of such approaches and the results that they yield.

By contrast, nihilism is the view that, to first approximation at least, nothing can be known, and so therefore, there's little point in even trying. Others (http://www.google.com/search?q=define%3Anihilism) use the term to mean even bleaker things, such as the view that nihilism "advocates destruction of the social system for its own sake," involves "rejection of all moral principles," "believes in the truth of nothing," etc.

Perhaps you have a different sense of what these two terms mean.

Objection overruled. (Just kidding.)

I was using these terms loosely. By "naturalism" I mean the view that only nature exists (i.e. a universe without God). This is usually called atheism, but to my mind the terms are not synonymous.

Nihilism, as I use it here, it is the "philosophy" that nothing ultimately has any meaning and, to me at least, is simply the naturalist worldview taken to its logical conclusion: We are all products of a cosmic accident, we have no ultimate basis for knowing anything (for reasons I have already stated); we have no basis for ethics because our actions are ultimately determined by forces of nature beyond our control or completely random; our existence as a species (again, entirely accidental) ultimately has no purpose and the universe won't "care" when we (and it) meet our inevitable end. I could go on, but you get the idea.

I suspect you will object to that as well, but that is where a universe without God leads me.

bjkeefe
07-20-2010, 10:03 PM
Objection overruled. (Just kidding.)

I was using these terms loosely. By "naturalism" I mean the view that only nature exists (i.e. a universe without God). This is usually called atheism, but to my mind the terms are not synonymous.

Nihilism, as I use it here, it is the "philosophy" that nothing ultimately has any meaning and, to me at least, is simply the naturalist worldview taken to its logical conclusion: We are all products of a cosmic accident, we have no ultimate basis for knowing anything (for reasons I have already stated); we have no basis for ethics because our actions are ultimately determined by forces of nature beyond our control or completely random; our existence as a species (again, entirely accidental) ultimately has no purpose and the universe won't "care" when we (and it) meet our inevitable end. I could go on, but you get the idea.

I suspect you will object to that as well, but that is where a universe without God leads me.

Eh, you're very close to being guilty of (1) intentionally using a word you knew to be loaded and then (2) walking it back a little too hastily. Or at least, squishing out, and then trying to retain the core of your earlier intent by assigning what most other people would call elements of a nihilistic attitude to what you choose to call naturalist.

However you slice it, the gist as I read it is the same old same old: you don't see how others can find meaning in life without believing in your god, so therefore, none of us can possibly be finding meaning.

It's a little offensive. And the only reason it's not more than a little is that it's just as easy to view your superstitions with contempt, and to ask what it's like to go through life without ever standing on your own two feet.

See how it feels when it's merely multiplied by -1 and handed back to you?

rfrobison
07-20-2010, 10:59 PM
Eh, you're very close to being guilty of (1) intentionally using a word you knew to be loaded and then (2) walking it back a little too hastily. Or at least, squishing out, and then trying to retain the core of your earlier intent by assigning what most other people would call elements of a nihilistic attitude to what you choose to call naturalist.

However you slice it, the gist as I read it is the same old same old: you don't see how others can find meaning in life without believing in your god, so therefore, none of us can possibly be finding meaning.

It's a little offensive. And the only reason it's not more than a little is that it's just as easy to view your superstitions with contempt, and to ask what it's like to go through life without ever standing on your own two feet.

See how it feels when it's merely multiplied by -1 and handed back to you?


I'm not exactly sure what you mean in your first paragraph.

As for the rest of your complaint, I make no claim about how others derive meaning from a universe without God. To be clear, I am not saying people who don't believe in God are "bad," or that they find no meaning in life, merely that I don't understand how.

I would go a bit further and say that those who have banished God from the universe have not fully thought through the implications of that effort, or choose to overlook them. I'm sorry if you find that offensive, but I don't see any way around it. Please feel free to point out my errors if you like, but I don't think you'll have much more chance of persuading me than I have of persuading you.

Re: "superstition," I am well aware that belief in God is regarded by many atheists as a species of primitive or childish superstition, wish-fulfillment, or out and out mental illness. Does that bother me? Yeah, sometimes. I guess it depends on who's making the charge and why, but it kinda comes with the territory.

As far as "standing on my own two feet" goes, I make no bones about saying that I cannot. I leave it to you to decide whether that constitutes a moral failing on my part.

bjkeefe
07-21-2010, 12:57 PM
I would go a bit further and say that those who have banished God from the universe have not fully thought through the implications of that effort, or choose to overlook them. I'm sorry if you find that offensive, but I don't see any way around it.

As long as you are aware that it is. I will probably remind you of this from time to time, since this struck me more as a non-apology apology than anything else, with an additional insult thrown in to boot.

How nice for you to think that you are the only one who thinks through things, and that those of us who think we have thought through things and found we have no need to believe in God are actually just dolts, or kidding ourselves.

He said sarcastically.

This, I believe, is why we call it The God Delusion.

uncle ebeneezer
07-21-2010, 01:41 PM
those who have banished God from the universe have not fully thought through the implications of that effort, or choose to overlook them.

Rob, This seems like an awfully biased framing for defining people who don't accept a myth that you happen to believe in. Again it starts from a presumption that God exists and proceeds to cast negative light on those who don't accept the starting premise.

Alot has been said by both sides and I think it would be silly to demand response to every point. But I would be curious to hear your response to my early summation:

And one can't help but notice how convenient the preferred status that God holds is for avoiding ANY kind of scrutiny beyond purely philosophical excercises. So the million dollar question for this atheist remains: if one were to try to design a concept and make it completely exempt from disputation, isn't this (the presumptive conditions for theism) exactly how one would best achieve it? In other words, what is the difference between the protected status of God and any other imaginary concept that we could devise and define as off-limits to natural inquiry? What makes the existence of God any more likely to be true than 4-sided triangles, or unicorns or what have you? As long as the presumptions are equally set, how can any of them be taken as being more than just cheap parlor tricks or logical sleight of hand? And if you imagine somebody being so emotionally tied to a concept that was in fact imaginary, isn't this sort of rationalization through logical hand-wavery and exemption from natural investigation, precisely the sort of tactical approach you would expect the believer to take? After all they just might be able to convince even themselves (which I would argue is the ultimate goal.)

[added: Can you at least see why people from the other side (atheist) would look at the supernatural element of all major religions, as more likely to be a clever design mechanism that protects the meme (and it's believer) from any real probative challenge, rather than some sort of universal truth from which these memes have all conveniently benefited?]

rfrobison
07-21-2010, 06:32 PM
As long as you are aware that it is. I will probably remind you of this from time to time, since this struck me more as a non-apology apology than anything else, with an additional insult thrown in to boot.

How nice for you to think that you are the only one who thinks through things, and that those of us who think we have thought through things and found we have no need to believe in God are actually just dolts, or kidding ourselves.

He said sarcastically.

This, I believe, is why we call it The God Delusion.

Hmm, well, it appears I have allowed myself to get off track yet again. This whole thing may have been ill-conceived from the beginning. It strikes me, though, that since you've already dismissed the points I made or was trying to make as so much smoke and mirrors, that I was bound to "lose" no matter what.

With the "when you're in a hole stop digging" principle firmly in mind, I will suspend this line of discussion until such time as I can find a way to deal with it without it turning into a mutual recrimination-fest.

That's not what I had in mind.

Ocean
07-21-2010, 06:33 PM
32?!!! Aye de mi! You WERE in PR though right? Or am I just imagining things...

I just had a stopover.

Hope your having a great trip.

Thanks!

I'm sure we'll settle this God question once and for all by the time you get back ;-)

Yes, I'm completely certain about that. I have great news! ;)

bjkeefe
07-21-2010, 07:06 PM
Hmm, well, it appears I have allowed myself to get off track yet again. This whole thing may have been ill-conceived from the beginning. It strikes me, though, that since you've already dismissed the points I made or was trying to make as so much smoke and mirrors, that I was bound to "lose" no matter what.

With the "when your in a hole stop digging" principle firmly in mind, I will suspend this line of discussion until such time as I can find a way to deal with it without it turning into a mutual recrimination-fest.

That's not what I had in mind.

Okay.

If it matters to you: Don't feel as though I took the things you've posted recently so personally that I am now holding a grudge or anything. I reply heatedly on these topics, but it is intellectually heatedly, if that is not too much of an oxymoron.

Seems like you've already figured this out for yourself, but in case not, I'll say it: From here on out, if you'd like to continue trying to clarify your own thinking and beliefs by writing them out -- often a useful and admirable exercise, as I said before -- you might challenge yourself to do so without allowing yourself the easy route of contrasting them to (your rather unfortunate view of) the proverbial Other Side.

AemJeff
07-21-2010, 07:07 PM
Hmm, well, it appears I have allowed myself to get off track yet again. This whole thing may have been ill-conceived from the beginning. It strikes me, though, that since you've already dismissed the points I made or was trying to make as so much smoke and mirrors, that I was bound to "lose" no matter what.

With the "when your in a hole stop digging" principle firmly in mind, I will suspend this line of discussion until such time as I can find a way to deal with it without it turning into a mutual recrimination-fest.

That's not what I had in mind.

Rob - withstand the heat! You strongly believe something with which others have equally strong disagreements. Throw your ideas into the ring, really! Remember, your interlocutors aren't Christians and aren't constrained by WWJD. And if I remember my catechism, WJWD would be to stand alone in the face of opposition and deliver his message while taking no notice of the slings and arrows.

I'm not ridiculing you - I'm interested in your point of view. Arguing helps me to sharpen mine. It may help you to do the same.

bjkeefe
07-21-2010, 07:14 PM
Rob - withstand the heat! You strongly believe something with which others have equally strong disagreements. Throw your ideas into the ring, really! Remember, your interlocutors aren't Christians and aren't constrained by WWJD. And if I remember my catechism, WJWD would be to stand alone in the face of opposition and deliver his message while taking no notice of the slings and arrows.

I'm not ridiculing you - I'm interested in your point of view. Arguing helps me to sharpen mine. It may help you to do the same.

You see (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?p=171002#post171002), Rob? Even we who disagree with you can't agree!

;)

AemJeff
07-21-2010, 07:19 PM
You see (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?p=171002#post171002), Rob? Even we who disagree with you can't agree!

;)

I disagree. I think we're in closer agreement than it might first appear.

rfrobison
07-21-2010, 07:23 PM
Yes, I'm completely certain about that. I have great news! ;)

You've decided to declare me the "winner" in this discussion and BJ and Eb have to go to church with me and listen to a 3 1/2 hour sermon...and like it? ;)

uncle ebeneezer
07-21-2010, 07:34 PM
Agreed. Though you haven't convinced me, you have argued your case admirably.

One other thing that I wanted to mention though in regards to these kinds of discussions that I just realized (clarified to myself) over the last few days. One of the things that irritates me and that I think is hypocritical is when a theist points to empiricism and observation etc., and shoots them down because they are inadequate for these kinds of more lofty discussions (empiricism is limited, nothing can measure the supernatural etc. We hear these arguments all the time) yet the thiests themselves seem perfectly accepting of empirical claims when they support their pov (jesus walked on water, resurrected, water->wine etc. are all empirical observations.) If observations of the natural world can't tell us anything about God (which IS consistent with the whole premise of "supernatural") then how can a theist about-face and claim that a different observation in the natural world DOES tell us something, and even go so far as to say that it is evidence or proof? This seems like an awfully difficult contradiction for an honest arguer to reconcile.

Ocean
07-21-2010, 07:35 PM
I disagree. I think we're in closer agreement than it might first appear.

I agree. Your disagreement is rather agreeable.

uncle ebeneezer
07-21-2010, 07:36 PM
Well maybe I'll go to THIS (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8yeAQ5JPWkM) church!! ;-)

AemJeff
07-21-2010, 07:37 PM
I agree. Your disagreement is rather agreeable.

:) Welcome (temporarily?) back!

rfrobison
07-21-2010, 07:38 PM
You guys are pretty funny. I'm tempted to join the atheists' club (as an honorary member, of course) just for the humor...

Nah, I'll just stick to quoting "Life of Brian." (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SYkbqzWVHZI)

Thanks for your words of encouragement. I will move gingerly forward at some point soon, once I figure out what I'm trying to say...

Added: Currently auditioning for parts to re-enact the scene from the clip above. I get dibs on the pointy-hat guy!

AemJeff
07-21-2010, 07:38 PM
Well maybe I'll go to THIS (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8yeAQ5JPWkM) church!! ;-)

Amen!

Ocean
07-21-2010, 07:41 PM
You've decided to declare me the "winner" in this discussion and BJ and Eb have to go to church with me and listen to a 3 1/2 hour sermon...and like it? ;)

I didn't follow your discussion, but if my memory doesn't fail me, you may not like the news... You may still go listen to the sermon, but what really matters is what you do afterwards. ;)

rfrobison
07-21-2010, 07:41 PM
Okay.

If it matters to you: Don't feel as though I took the things you've posted recently so personally that I am now holding a grudge or anything. I reply heatedly on these topics, but it is intellectually heatedly, if that is not too much of an oxymoron.

Mighty charitable of you. Thanks.

Seems like you've already figured this out for yourself, but in case not, I'll say it: From here on out, if you'd like to continue trying to clarify your own thinking and beliefs by writing them out -- often a useful and admirable exercise, as I said before -- you might challenge yourself to do so without allowing yourself the easy route of contrasting them to (your rather unfortunate view of) the proverbial Other Side.

Sound advice.

AemJeff
07-21-2010, 07:45 PM
Agreed. Though you haven't convinced me, you have argued your case admirably.

One other thing that I wanted to mention though in regards to these kinds of discussions that I just realized (clarified to myself) over the last few days. One of the things that irritates me and that I think is hypocritical is when a theist points to empiricism and observation etc., and shoots them down because they are inadequate for these kinds of more lofty discussions (empiricism is limited, nothing can measure the supernatural etc. We hear these arguments all the time) yet the thiests themselves seem perfectly accepting of empirical claims when they support their pov (jesus walked on water, resurrected, water->wine etc. are all empirical observations.) If observations of the natural world can't tell us anything about God (which IS consistent with the whole premise of "supernatural") then how can a theist about-face and claim that a different observation in the natural world DOES tell us something, and even go so far as to say that it is evidence or proof? This seems like an awfully difficult contradiction for an honest arguer to reconcile.

But some of those objections really do need to be addressed. Empiricism is limited. Ultimately I think it's a useful heuristic, a sieve if you like; but it isn't a provider of ultimate answers. Where I disagree with at least some theists' arguments is in the assumption that there can exist a provider of ultimate answers. The complaint about the limits of empiricism doesn't constitute a de facto argument for religious belief.

SkepticDoc
07-21-2010, 07:46 PM
This one is better... (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1loyjm4SOa0&feature=related)

rfrobison
07-21-2010, 07:51 PM
But some of those objections really do need to be addressed. Empiricism is limited. Ultimately I think it's a useful heuristic, a sieve if you like; but it isn't a provider of ultimate answers. Where I disagree with at least some theists' arguments is in the assumption that there can exist a provider of ultimate answers. The complaint about the limits of empiricism doesn't constitute a de facto argument for religious belief.

I will try to address some of the points both you and Eb raise, but I need more time. Maybe this weekend...

uncle ebeneezer
07-21-2010, 07:58 PM
Jeff, to clarify, I don't think anyone would deny limitations to empiricism. It's when theists want to write off the whole approach (or anything derived from it) because of the incompleteness, that my hackles get raised. It goes back to that idea that because we don't have complete information, there's no point in analyzing the information we DO have. It's a misguided notion in my opinion because it only retards the progress we can make, but it is also selectively enforced, as with the aforementioned examples of where theists suddenly think that observation is worth considering.

rfrobison
07-21-2010, 07:58 PM
Amen!

James Brown did have more than a bit of the preacher in him, didn't he? I wonder if his church was that much fun?

rfrobison
07-21-2010, 08:00 PM
"Always look on the bright side of life..."

Ocean
07-21-2010, 08:13 PM
Jeff, to clarify, I don't think anyone would deny limitations to empiricism. It's when theists want to write off the whole approach (or anything derived from it) because of the incompleteness, that my hackles get raised. It goes back to that idea that because we don't have complete information, there's no point in analyzing the information we DO have. It's a misguided notion in my opinion because it only retards the progress we can make, but it is also selectively enforced, as with the aforementioned examples of where theists suddenly think that observation is worth considering.

Who would you say holds that position? It appears to be an extreme form of anti-science literalism with internal contradictions (no surprise there). Although I know how some religious groups may play those cards to manipulate people who don't have enough knowledge to identify the trick, I wouldn't think that it's very prevalent.

Ocean
07-21-2010, 08:15 PM
:) Welcome (temporarily?) back!

Thanks. It's just a minor relapse due to being at a friend's house with five computers and a wireless network.

SkepticDoc
07-21-2010, 08:24 PM
Do you need an intervention?

How many BA (Bloggingheads Anonymous) meetings have you attended?

How hard was the withdrawal? :)

Ocean
07-21-2010, 08:33 PM
Do you need an intervention?

How many BA (Bloggingheads Anonymous) meetings have you attended?

How hard was the withdrawal? :)

Minor withdrawal, I detoxed from airport to airport.

No meetings attended yet.

The intervention will be needed when I return to the U.S.

Wonderment
07-21-2010, 09:12 PM
¿Ya pasaron 15 días? ¿Ya volviste del invierno? ¿Cómo te fue?

Ocean
07-21-2010, 09:37 PM
¿Ya pasaron 15 días? ¿Ya volviste del invierno? ¿Cómo te fue?

No, apenas pasaron siete días. Estoy en casa de unos amigos con muchas computadoras. Es una tentación irresistible. Aquí continúa el invierno, y por cierto que bastante frío. Esta noche estará a 32ºF otra vez. Mis amigos regresaron hace dos días de unas vacaciones en el oeste de Estados Unidos.

Estoy poco enterada de las noticias mundiales. Dime, ¿hay guerras todavía?

Wonderment
07-22-2010, 02:29 AM
Estoy en casa de unos amigos con muchas computadoras. Es una tentación irresistible.

Contrólate, guapa.


Aquí continúa el invierno, y por cierto que bastante frío. Esta noche estará a 32ºF otra vez.

¿Ya te volviste global warming denier?

Aquí 40 y tantos (C) la semana pasada para que sepas y creas.


Estoy poco enterada de las noticias mundiales. Dime, ¿hay guerras todavía?

Noooo, todo se ha arreglado. Sin embargo, te extrañamos.

listener
07-22-2010, 03:29 AM
Sin embargo, te extrañamos.

¡Es verdad!

Ocean
07-22-2010, 09:29 AM
Contrólate, guapa.

Hago lo mejor que puedo, ¡pero la carne es débil! ;)


¿Ya te volviste global warming denier?

Aquí 40 y tantos (C) la semana pasada para que sepas y creas.

No, no soy negadora de los cambios climáticos. Lo que pasa es que los grados se fueron todos para ahí.

Noooo, todo se ha arreglado.

Ay! ¡Qué suerte! ¡Ahora puedo volver tranquila y feliz!

Sin embargo, te extrañamos.

:) :)

Ocean
07-22-2010, 09:30 AM
¡Es verdad!

:) :)

Ñ=

rfrobison
07-25-2010, 06:06 AM
Agreed. Though you haven't convinced me, you have argued your case admirably.

One other thing that I wanted to mention though in regards to these kinds of discussions that I just realized (clarified to myself) over the last few days. One of the things that irritates me and that I think is hypocritical is when a theist points to empiricism and observation etc., and shoots them down because they are inadequate for these kinds of more lofty discussions (empiricism is limited, nothing can measure the supernatural etc. We hear these arguments all the time) yet the thiests themselves seem perfectly accepting of empirical claims when they support their pov (jesus walked on water, resurrected, water->wine etc. are all empirical observations.) If observations of the natural world can't tell us anything about God (which IS consistent with the whole premise of "supernatural") then how can a theist about-face and claim that a different observation in the natural world DOES tell us something, and even go so far as to say that it is evidence or proof? This seems like an awfully difficult contradiction for an honest arguer to reconcile.

I'm going to try to be brief here, although there is a great deal that could be said on what Christianity teaches regarding how we know what we know.

The first point to make is that in arguing for the existence of God, whom theists define as super-natural by virtue of His status the creator of nature, believers are not (or at least should not be) compelled to argue that empirical observations are of no value whatever.

c.f.,Job 12:7-11 (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Job%2012:7-11&version=NIV) Psalm 139:1-18 (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm%20139:1-18&version=NIV) Psalm 8 (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalms%208&version=NIV).

There are dozens of references from scripture that point to the truth that God is a God of order and that that aspect of His character is revealed in the order found in the physical world.

Of course none of these proves God's existence, but the point is simply that it would be silly to argue that we can believe nothing of what our senses tell us about the world around us, or that we must abandon belief in a God who created nature to do so. To have knowledge of any kind presupposes that we believe that our senses are actually telling us something about the world as it is, even if we can't always believe what we see.

I'm no historian of Western philosophy, but my understanding is that the birth of science as we know it began at least in part as a sort of meditation on the works of God. It was only later that theology became divorced from science. And while I don't begrudge scientists their need to specialize, I believe the two streams of knowledge can be reconciled.

It is only when one argues that empirical data is the sole basis for determining what is real or true that we push science beyond the limits of what can reasonably asked of it, in my view.

"Much would have been gained with the insight that the themes of theology and the reality that the natural sciences describe must not stand side by side without relationship. Rather, it must be possible and meaningful to think of reality as a whole with the inclusion of nature as a process of a history of God with his creatures....It is clear that faith in God has to be gained in other areas of life than that of scientific knowledge, but the significance of the idea of God for an interconnected understanding of nature is just as clear." -- Wolfhart Pannenburg --

Cited in Science and Religion: An Introduction, Alister McGrath, Blackwell Publishing: Malden, MA, 1999, p. 215.

bjkeefe
07-31-2010, 12:52 AM
... united at last, by that true Man of God, Mahmoud Ahmadinnerjacket (http://wonkette.com/417006/friendly-german-octopus-a-sworn-enemy-of-the-islamic-republic).

rfrobison
07-31-2010, 12:55 AM
Glad to see Paul the Octo is in with a shout...

bjkeefe
08-01-2010, 03:43 AM
Glad to see Paul the Octo is in with a shout...

Oh, there's plenty more. Would you believe (http://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=fascist+octopus), for example ...

... this (http://crookedtimber.org/2007/12/20/nominees-for-the-fascist-octopus-award/), from one of our own beloved 'heads?

Nominees for the Fascist Octopus Award


Or this (http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/03/21/the-fascist-octopus-has-sung-its-swan-song-2/) (from a Nobel Laureate, I ask you)?

The Fascist Octopus Has Sung Its Swan Song

Which could only lead to this (http://crookedtimber.org/2010/03/23/the-liberal-fascist-octopus-has-sung-its-swan-song-the-jackboot-is-thrown-into-the-superconducting-super-collider-of-culture-war-melting-pot-calling-the-kettle-black/)?

The Liberal Fascist octopus has sung its swan song, the jackboot is thrown into the superconducting super collider of culture-war melting pot calling the kettle black!

Okay, so that one, in its own defense, is nothing more than ... the inevitable consequence of making the mistake of reading The Pantload. And we should thank Holbo. For doing so, that we did not. Have to.

Curse you, Kieran Healy (http://crookedtimber.org/2010/07/10/every-mixed-metaphor-has-its-fifteen-minutes-in-the-sun/)!

(But the comment thread is to die for. It's snarkopedants on steroids! Talking about octopi!)

[Added] And the comment thread under the previous this (http://crookedtimber.org/2010/03/23/the-liberal-fascist-octopus-has-sung-its-swan-song-the-jackboot-is-thrown-into-the-superconducting-super-collider-of-culture-war-melting-pot-calling-the-kettle-black/) ... well, let's just say Bérubé is in the house, and he's barely holding his own. It's that good.