Sunday, July 28, 2013

Why does the theist have the burden of proof?

From James Chastek at Just Thomism:

Why is it that if we are unsure whether God exists or not we tend to think we don’t need to worship him?... Hopefully, we don’t try to defend our link between agnosticism and practical atheism on the flimsy premise that the positive claim has the burden of proof. Even if arguments came with proof burdens a priori (they don’t), the claim that the positive one always has the proof burden would allow us to shoot bullets into a place so long as we didn’t know if there were any persons inside.

I like the analogy. If we assume that the positive assertion necessarily has the burden of proof, we can shoot into any building in which we do not see people, or drive at 90 miles per hour through our neighborhood, as long as we see no one in the street.

On what basis do atheists claim that the positive claim--theism-- has the burden of proof?

There is of course nothing about the theist-atheist debate that requires that. The view that the universe came from nothing is no more fundamental and no less in need of justification than the view that the universe came from  something. I would suggest that the-universe-came-from-nothing is in more need of justification than the-universe-came-from-something, especially if one understands "something" to be supernatural.

The assertion that "the universe came from nothing" is a logical error. "From nothing" is illogical. "Nothing" is not an agent nor a place, so it is impossible that something can come from it.

The assertion that "the universe came from something" is in need of explication (e.g. the Five Ways), but contains no error.

There is no justification for exempting atheists from burden of proof. The standard in the theist-atheist debate should be inference to best explanation and deductive proof based on obvious premises.

Russell's "teapot orbiting the sun" argument makes the theist, not the atheist, point. The burden of proof in the argument on whether "there's a teapot orbiting the sun" is on the man who argues that there is such a teapot, because experience argues against it and it is illogical to argue that the teapot would appear in orbit uncaused. In just the same manner, the argument that the universe came from nothing has the burden of proof, because experience argues against things coming from nothing, and "from nothing" isn't even a coherent concept.

There is no justification for the atheist assertion that atheism is the default belief, only to be rejected if incontrovertible "evidence" for theism is demonstrated.

Universe-from-nothing is not even coherent, let alone a default. 

85 comments:

  1. Plato was right saying that atheism causes "an error of understanding"!

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  2. Adm. G Boggs, Glenbeckistan NavyJuly 28, 2013 at 10:00 AM

    Let's not forget the practical benefits of being an atheist in the temporal realm. I can see at least three...

    (1) Infinitely flexible moral structure: Atheism obviously opens the door to lying, cheating, stealing, and relationship abuse. In fact, you can literally get away with mass murder and feel good about it. Today's abortion industry is a perfect example, but so was the Nazi Holocaust and the Soviet Dekulakization. All have been widely viewed at one time or another as benefits to society as a whole, and by many more as a "necessary evil" (an oxymoron if there ever was one).

    (2) Politics: Almost without exception, atheism is the Religion of the Left. In fact, the more intense one's leftist tendency, the more important it is to have faith in Nothing. This is because Leftist theories are anti-human (cf., #1, above). It is not uncommon for Leftists to argue for their amoral, anti-human behavior on the basis that "dogs do it" or "chimps do it". It is also why they hide behind the cloak of calling themselves "humanists", a corruption of the original meaning of the term that was pushed by the French Revolutionists, a band of merry men who caused the Parisian streets to run with blood. I think we can all agree that it hardly matters whether a bull harbors lust for the heifer next door, and if you buy into the claim that you're just a temporarily animated piece of meat, then governing becomes more like ranching. "Morals" are reduced to keeping the herd happy, fed, and bred at or below the carrying capacity of the property (this "moral" view is technically known as utilitarianism). Oh yes, and it's also important to cull the troublemakers for the benefit of the herd (see #1, "Dekulakization", above)

    (3) Attention-seeking: The 2010 World Fact Book claims that approximately 10% of the global population are either atheists (2%) or "non-religious" (8%). This provides a perfect setting for attention-seeking. Individuals like Dawkins and Serrano can distinguish themselves and transition a solid bourgeois "herd" lifestyle and relative public anonymity into the realms of minor wealth and celebrity, simply by producing work that is "transgressive", "shocking", or "disturbing" in the eyes of the 90%. It's not even necessary that the work have literary, historical, intellectual, or artistic merit. It's only necessary to Gaga-ize the transgressive aspect to juice the "buzz factor" and get the garrulous media chattering.

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    1. Let's see.

      (1) This is a lie.
      (2) This is a lie.
      (3) This is a lie.

      But why should I be surprised? Theists believe things that have nothing to do with the real world.

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  3. This is a rather narrow perspective. It's not just Christianity v. atheism. There are many religions claiming the existence of gods or God. From that wider perspective, atheism is the default position in the usual sense of the word default (not making a choice).

    From that vantage point, the burden is on the purveyors of every religion to demonstrate that it is their gods or God that exists. Shifting the burden of proof onto the default position makes no sense as this would be attempting to prove a negative. That is what Russell's teapot illustrates. The vast space around Jupiter is the space of all religions. No one is going to look through all of it in order to disprove the existence of gods. If you are sure where the teapot is just let us know and we will look.

    Hoo

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    1. Hoo:

      Why would the illogical ("universe came from nothing") view of an exceptionally violent fringe minority (2%) be the "default" position?

      Why isn't the view held by 2 billion people-- that Christ is God, or the view held by 1 million people-- Allah is God, or the view held by 3 million people-- there are many Gods-- be the default position?

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    2. Argumentum ad populum is an old and well-known fallacy.

      Hoo

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    3. @Hoo:

      So "consensus" science is a fallacy?

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    4. Before you change the subject, Egnor, admit that your argument was silly. Then open a new thread and we can discuss how science works. But first, let's deal with this shit.

      Hoo

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    5. Atheism isn't the default. A complete agnosticism might be, but it isn't sustainable for very long. Agnosticism also brings a form of Pascal's wager into play. While having a positive belief that there is no God would make it rational to make no further efforts in determining which God might be the right one, if one takes a default position of complete neutrality and determines that the evidence is non-conclusive, then it makes more sense to assume that there is a God and try to find out more about Him than it does to assume that there isn't one, just as it makes more sense always to assume a gun is loaded until one has determined otherwise or (in the example from the OP) a house contains people in it.

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    6. Agnosticism also brings a form of Pascal's wager into play.

      Pascal's wager is a joke.

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    7. [Pascal's wager is a joke.]

      The question is whether you'll be laughing when you find out whether it's true or not.

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    8. Pascal's wager isn't a joke, it's just frequently misunderstood and thus misused. Pascal thought that reason and evidence could tell us nothing about the existence of God. That's when the wager is relevant. Most people don't believe that, which is why Pascal's wager is not relevant to them. But then we move away from the default position, which is one of strict agnosticism, and into a position where the evidence either points to the existence of God or away from it. It doesn't have to point strongly; there isn't a burden of proof for the atheist or the theist to overcome, it's just a matter of which way the evidence points.

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    9. Holy shit, mregnor. You make me sick. Your lies are incredibly hateful and moronic. You are a disgusting individual.

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  4. Adm. G Boggs, Glenbeckistan NavyJuly 28, 2013 at 10:31 AM

    Like gravity, the most compelling evidence regarding atheism is its effects.

    Anyone willing to look, can see.

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    1. What the fuck does Holodomor have to do with atheism?

      Oh, that's right. Nothing.

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  5. Atheism, as I have encountered it - and when attempting any sort of coherence, relies on one of three basic ideas.

    The first is a sort of x created x bootstrap. That is the ex nihilo explanation. These atheists accept the finite age of the universe and suggest that the universe created itself. Pop goes the world. Stuff happens etc. The universe came from nothing and will return to a semi-nothingness via an extremely slow motion heat death. Unfortunately, this kind of 'nothing' is actually a something. Agency of some form is logically required but totally ignored. This atheism is self contradictory (x creates x, presupposes X) and utterly incoherent. This atheism is based on a category error: Agency is confused with mechanism.

    The second is slightly more consistent in that these atheists conceded that something from nothing does not work. They postulate that there was never a state of 'nothing', but always something. That something is usually described in terms of some form of energy, matter, or laws of nature. These atheists appeal to all sorts / forms of eternity and mathematical abstracts of infinity. Multiverses, emergent universes from quantum vacuums etc. that have always existed and are eternal because simply because they would have to be (in order to avoid regression). The universe, then is simply a 'brute fact' that always was in some form or another. Others in this category still cling to a contracting and expanding, ever cycling universe(s). Big bang to big crunch to big bang ad infinitum.

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    1. CNTD

      These atheists argue that in their model there is no 'need for a God' - even if in such a model everything is possible (required to explain away God?).
      Of course this nonsense can be reverse. There is 'no need' for a universe (of any sort) that supports life, either. There is 'no need' for anything just because it is possible in an infinite universe(s) that simply is -for no reason/purpose at all. A 'need' for anything implies purpose.
      If there is a purpose of any sort, this would imply agency, and that implication is 'streng verboten' in such a belief system. In fact, in such a faith based nihilistic infinity model, the first casualty is purpose and thus reason and with it any sort of objective truth and hence the very validity of the argument (and all arguments) itself. Once again, this is nakedly self-refuting (if slightly more complex than the first) and when the test of coherence is applied it fails. Further and finally this concept is not a scientific one as it pretends to be. It is untestable and non falsifiable and appeals to abstractions that are infinitely (pun intended) less sensible, logical, reasonable and than any sort of Theism or Deism.
      This sort of Atheism is an ideological cause, not a scientific position. The cause? To pit science against against reason and faith in order to diminish all concerned in order to subjugate morality for some lesser cause de jour. It is an idol known as 'scientism'.

      The final form of atheism is the least rational, but the also most understandable. It is atheism that is founded on the concept of 'natural evil'. A kind of appeal to theodicy as disproof. The idea being that there cannot be a God (that is omnibenevolent etc) because innocent people (and creatures) suffer and die horrible deaths. Many of these atheists will accept there is some validity in the fine tuning and arguments from reason (theistic), but are stuck on 'natural evil'. This final position presupposes an elimination materialism stance. That is to say: All we are is matter and consciousness is limited to the body - that the brain creates consciousness, not facilitates it. So, in such a reality, why would (an immaterial, eternal??!!) God allow people to suffer and die unnecessarily? What eludes these folks are missing entirely is that from the theistic perspective that ALL life has purpose and that death is a kind of transition - not an ultimate end. That justice can be found beyond the grave, and that suffering can be relieved and even reversed or rewarded by the divine will in another more real reality beyond the threshold we call 'death'. This kind of thinking is discarded by this category of atheist simply due to the source: Revelation. This final category is no less self retuing and no more coherent, but far more understandable and less pretentious than the first two. It is an emotional appeal combined with a sceptical acceptance of materialism.

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    2. Sorry typos, folks. In a hurry this AM. A wedding today!

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  6. There is only one way for what exists to be real, which is the way it actually is, but there is an infinite number of ways to imagine otherwise and to be wrong about it. So when you make a claim that something unverifiable exists, the odds are infinitely greater to be wrong than to be right, hence the need to reject the gratuitous claim unless it can be demonstrated. That's why people who postulate imaginary beings have the burden of proof.

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    1. [So when you make a claim that something unverifiable exists, the odds are infinitely greater to be wrong than to be right]

      Why do you claim that God's existence is unverifiable? His existence is the most verified entity there is. He is verified with each change in nature, each thing that exists, each thing that is greater or lesser according to a standard, each thing that manifests teleology. Haven't you ever heard of demonstrations of God's existence, such as Aquinas' Five Ways?


      [That's why people who postulate imaginary beings have the burden of proof.]

      People who postulate illogical things (the universe came from nothing) have a much greater burden of proof.

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    2. Haven't you ever heard of demonstrations of God's existence, such as Aquinas' Five Ways?

      They are all utter failures at demonstrating that God exists.

      People who postulate illogical things (the universe came from nothing) have a much greater burden of proof.

      Saying that the universe cannot have come from nothing exhibits a fundamental misunderstanding of nothing. Putting a characteristic on nothing by saying it cannot produce anything, results in a description of something that is by definition not nothing.

      You cannot say that nothing cannot produce anything, because to do so, you have to give "nothing" a characteristic, at which point it is not nothing.

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  7. Our very existence proves that this imaginary, yet difficult to imagine, absolute nothingness does not, and cannot exist. No Cosmologist claims it does. Even Laurence Krauss, author of “A Universe From Nothing“, has been criticized by conservatives for not starting from the “real” absolute nothing. Claiming Atheists believe the Universe came from nothing is a straw man.


    Why there is something rather than nothing (whatever that is), is, and may always remain, a great mystery. Krauss and others have argued, the universe appears to have 0 net energy, with the positive energy of matter and radiation perfectly balanced against the negative energy of gravitation, and that a zero net energy universe is what one would expect from an inflationary cosmology. Amazingly, assuming a Zero energy inflationary universe predicts the angular power spectrum observed in the CMB. In other words, our entire visible universe and beyond may have resulted from a planks length sized quantum fluctuation giving rise to an inflation field.



    -KW

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    1. @KW:

      [Our very existence proves that this imaginary, yet difficult to imagine, absolute nothingness does not, and cannot exist.]

      Nothing, by definition, does not exist.

      [No Cosmologist claims it does.]

      If a Cosmologist did, he'd be claiming nonsense.

      [Even Laurence Krauss, author of “A Universe From Nothing“, has been criticized by conservatives for not starting from the “real” absolute nothing.]

      Krauss claims that the universe comes from nothing. He claims that a quantum field is nothing. He's an idiot.

      [Claiming Atheists believe the Universe came from nothing is a straw man.]

      Atheists have repeatedly claimed that the universe came from quantum "nothing". That is not a straw man.

      [Why there is something rather than nothing (whatever that is), is, and may always remain, a great mystery.]

      Perhaps. Perhaps you will find out after you die. All we can do for now is use our reason and try to understand it.

      [Krauss and others have argued, the universe appears to have 0 net energy, with the positive energy of matter and radiation perfectly balanced against the negative energy of gravitation, and that a zero net energy universe is what one would expect from an inflationary cosmology. Amazingly, assuming a Zero energy inflationary universe predicts the angular power spectrum observed in the CMB. In other words, our entire visible universe and beyond may have resulted from a planks length sized quantum fluctuation giving rise to an inflation field.]

      Which has no bearing whatsoever on why there is something rather than nothing, and it still leaves the cosmological proofs, either Aquinas' or Leibniz', untouched.

      Therefore, the argument from the quantum field has nothing to do with the question of atheism vs theism. Why then do atheists invoke it?

      Book sales, perhaps.

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    2. “Therefore, the argument from the quantum field has nothing to do with the question of atheism vs theism. Why then do atheists invoke it?”

      The argument from the quantum field demonstrates that it’s conceivable that very complex systems can arise from simple initial conditions, thus obviating the need for a creator god. What’s wrong with your brain that you can’t see this obvious point?

      -KW

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    3. What causes the quantum field? What causes the simple initial conditions? What causes the laws by the complex systems emerge? What holds everything in existence?

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    4. The cause-and-effect framework is way past its due date. Take electromagnetic induction. Should one think that a time-dependent magnetic field causes an electric field? How about an electromagnetic wave? Does its magnetic field cause the electric field and vice versa? Maxwell's equations do a much better job describing it than any cause-and-effect relations.

      Hoo

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  8. M.Egnor: "The view that the universe came from nothing is no more fundamental and no less in need of justification than the view that the universe came from something. I would suggest that the-universe-came-from-nothing is in more need of justification than the-universe-came-from-something, especially if one understands "something" to be supernatural."

    The reader may find my old post old interest -- The First Question.

    The gist of the post is that the question of whether the world/cosmos:
    1) on the one hand, "just happened" for no reasons (and likely no cause), as atheism *asserts* (and *must* assert);
    2) on the other hand, was intentionally created, as Judeo-Christianity have always *argued*;
    is the "First Question" -- every other question one may even ask about the world/cosmos follows from the answer one gives to that question. Thus, if one answers it incorrectly, one's view of the world is necessarily warped and false.

    And dogmatic so-called agnostics notwithstanding, *no one* lives his lfe as though the answer were unknown and unknowable.

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  9. In any respectful conversation between decent people, the burden of proof is on the person attempting to do the convincing. Saying "You're wrong unless you can convince me you're right" is a terrible argument, no matter who it's coming from.
    -JH

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    1. JH:

      I agree. Providing no coherent argument, and then asserting that you win the argument because your opponent, who provides a rigorous argument, failed to meet his "burden of proof" is risible.

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    2. I agree. Providing no coherent argument, and then asserting that you win the argument because your opponent, who provides a rigorous argument, failed to meet his "burden of proof" is risible.

      So why do you do that all the time? You've never provided a single coherent argument for any of your claims.

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  10. The Universe didn't come from 'nothing'. It came from the Big Bang. The Big Bang occurred. That it occurred is as certain as the truth of evolution. If god(s) exist and were the causal agency of the Universe, then presumably it was through the mechanism of the Big Bang.

    Now whether the Universe arose naturally as a result of instability in the precedent of the Universe (the Multiverse) or supernaturally as a divine command of god(s) are rival hypotheses.

    Even if I concede for argument that god(s) caused the Universe, then it's still up to theists to prove that it's their concept of God that did it - otherwise they're just deists. You can't get from god(s) who created the Universe to a God who takes great interest in humans, listens to prayers and gets very angry at their misuse of their sexual organs.

    Science's concept of the Universe has changed over time, going from one consisting of just the Milky Way Galaxy in the early 20th century to one that's spatially infinite and 13.82 billion years old. A Multiverse isn't that much of an extension.

    Religion's concept of God has also changed over time, going from one that walks through the Garden of Eden looking for Adam and Eve, having a meal with Abraham, appearing to Moses in a fire column (and physically from behind because his visage is unable to be behold) to one that's currently invisible.

    The trouble is; something that's invisible without measurable effects in the world is almost always non-existent.

    It's up to theists, and Christians in particular, to make their case for their concept of God. And first of all, define your God. Egnor can't make up his mind, whether God is a person he can ask questions ('did the Garden of Eden literally exist?') or something nebulous, such as Thomas of Aquinas' concept of God.

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    1. Adm. G Boggs, Glenbeckistan NavyJuly 28, 2013 at 6:29 PM

      backfire: "It's up to theists, and Christians in particular..."

      Why Christians in particular, as opposed to, say, Muslims? Just curious.

      Anyway, Christians have made their case. But many atheists refuse to participate in the process required to experience the effects.

      For example, if you disbelieved in ionizing radiation, I could offer you a Geiger counter or other instrument to show the existence of the particles. If you refused to use the Geiger counter, refused to listen to its clicks or even look at its meter, there would be little I could do to convince you of the correctness of my argument, since the particles are invisible, tasteless, odorless, soundless entities that do not stimulate the sense of touch.

      Of course, in the end, the True Disbeliever, the Committed Aparticlist, will always say the machine was rigged, or that the noises were just the result of random static.

      The argument for God is also out there for all to see and hear, but you must participate in the process. How many hours have you prayed? Attended a worship service? Without participation in the process, there is little anyone can do to convince you of the correctness of the argument. What you are asking for is a demonstration that meets your demand while you sit on your ass wearing a grumpy face.

      It's odd, really, that atheists would focus on the absence of a god with CGI capabilities, or a material entity like a teapot of a spaghetti monster when faced with the witness testimony of billions of people who have found peace and joy in an ineffable, loving God. Oddly, they choose to believe the billions are crazy, misguided, or foolish, and only they, the Anointed, the intellectual elite, the supra-human Eloi, can see through the veil to the truth.

      Do you realize how silly you look?

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    2. [Now whether the Universe arose naturally as a result of instability in the precedent of the Universe (the Multiverse) or supernaturally as a divine command of god(s) are rival hypotheses.]

      The "two hypothesis" are not rivals. The classical conception is that God creates via both primary and secondary causes.

      [Even if I concede for argument that god(s) caused the Universe, then it's still up to theists to prove that it's their concept of God that did it - otherwise they're just deists.]

      The inference from Prime Mover to the God of monotheism has been the subject of massive philosophical work. Much can be known about God by reason-- His simplicity, His being, His omnipotence, His omniscience, His goodness, His truth, etc (ie interconvertability of Transcendentals). The Transcendentals can be demonstrated by reason.

      The leap to Christ, the Trinity, etc are matters of revelation.

      [You can't get from god(s) who created the Universe to a God who takes great interest in humans, listens to prayers and gets very angry at their misuse of their sexual organs.]

      Yes you can. Aquinas devoted tomes to it. Transcendentials. Feser has a great section on it in Aquinas chapter 2, and Gilson goes into it in considerable depth in The Christian Philosophy of St Thomas Aquinas (Chapter 5), and Copleston Aquinas in chapter 2.

      [The trouble is; something that's invisible without measurable effects in the world is almost always non-existent.]

      God has "measurable effects" in the world. Everything is His effect. Goodness by His Creation. Evil by privation of Good. Change. Teleology. Causation. All are His effects. All are observable. Most are measurable.

      [It's up to theists, and Christians in particular, to make their case for their concept of God.]

      We've been doing it for 2000 years. Using the most profound rigorous beautiful philosophy in the history of man.

      [And first of all, define your God.]

      God is not confined to a species or genus, so He cannot be "defined" . By analogy, He is that in which essence is existence.

      [Egnor can't make up his mind, whether God is a person he can ask questions ('did the Garden of Eden literally exist?') or something nebulous, such as Thomas of Aquinas' concept of God.]

      Aquinas demonstrated that attributes we ascribe to God can only be discussed by analogy. God is not nebulous. He is metaphysically simple, but he transcends nature. He is of one Nature and of three Persons. He Loves, and can be known by man through reason and through revelation-- by Scripture, by Church teaching, and by prayer and personal experience of Him.

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    3. bachfiend: It's up to theists, and Christians in particular, to make their case for their concept of God.

      Egnor: We've been doing it for 2000 years. Using the most profound rigorous beautiful philosophy in the history of man.

      Color me unimpressed. Philosophy is overrated.

      Hoo

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    4. "The Big Bang occurred."
      Sure looks that way.

      "That it occurred is as certain as the truth of evolution."
      Truth? Evolution is a materialistic biological theory on mechanism, not a philosophical or metaphysical aim or goal. Get real, Bach. Truth? Come on. We know you like Darwin's theory, but this is just silly.

      "Now whether the Universe arose naturally as a result of instability in the precedent of the Universe (the Multiverse) or supernaturally as a divine command of god(s) are rival hypotheses."
      Nonsense. If we follow your Multiverse idea through logically and apply the theist model, then God (the creator, not created straw man) would have been the originator and is the current agency of the Multiverse. He is the reason it began and continues to exist.
      The actual 'rival' is ex nihilo (self refuting, but at least something like honest) or a regression game to avoid the inevitable question of agency. Both 'rivals' fail the most basic tests of logic, reason, science, and lack the overall cohesion required to be taken as anything more than science fiction/fantasy.

      Here are some interesting questions about the multiverse theory:
      What exists beyond it's borders?
      When did it come into being?
      What is the function of this mechanism (remember it has 'laws'!)?
      Does anything transcend the multiverse?
      Is any sort of being capable of moving through or manipulating (say feeding into the system) the multiverse?
      Why did consciousness arise in our part of the multiverse?

      "Religion's concept of God has also changed over time, [...]to one that's currently invisible."
      God is invisible? The God you don't believe in is not the same one billions do believe in.

      "The trouble is; something that's invisible without measurable effects in the world is almost always non-existent."
      Irrelevant. God is neither invisible or His agency unmeasurable. Because a blind man does not see colours does not mean they do not exist.

      "It's up to theists, and Christians in particular, to make their case for their concept of God. And first of all, define your God."
      Again you make a gross mistake. It is up to us (Christians and Theists in general) to come to understand God and His will better. That is an ages old effort and is still underway.
      He DEFINES us, we do not define Him.
      Our God is the creator, not the created.

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    5. Hoo,

      "Philosophy is overrated. "
      Much of it is, indeed. Aside from the fundamental stuff, a lot of it is more akin to sophistry. Certainly much of the post modern stuff is pretty dull, and the modernist philosophy of nature (often labelled as 'science') has sure been blown out of all proportion and placed on a very high pedastle. When it comes down - and it will - it will no doubt be with a very big CRASH. (Shame for the real sciences, that.)
      In fact, this post modern variant of 'science' has become almost a kind of pagan or animistic religion. Consider Hawking's philosophical/metaphysical work ('The Grand Design') where the Titans are revived and made into the agency by which our universe came into being. Laws of nature (Gravity in Hawking's case - which I am sure Freud or Jung would have a field day with!) as agents unto themselves etc.
      Less complex versions (eliminative materialism, for example) have matter and energy as self creating ('emergent') realities - hence the ref to animism.
      Gravity or rocks in the place of a Creator.
      How the arts of enquiry have regressed!
      Almost makes one believe in Devolution.
      But personally, I think it has more to do with the modern malady of 'affluenza'. Idle time, idle minds and all that jazz...

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    6. @Hoo:

      [Color me unimpressed. Philosophy is overrated.]

      That's your philosophical viewpoint, which is certainly overrated.

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    7. What have philosophers figured out in the last few centuries that is worth writing home about? Nothing, as far as I can see, since natural philosophy left the realm of philosophy.

      Hoo

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    8. Adm. G Boggs, Glenbeckistan NavyJuly 28, 2013 at 9:16 PM

      Key phrase: "as far as I can see".

      In your case, I'm sure that's true.

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    9. @Hoo:

      I'm no defender of modern philosophy-- I think things went seriously wrong beginning with Descartes-- but there has been extraordinary work done that has shaped much of the modern world. Hume was a sophist-- I detest him-- but he has been very influential. Kant revolutionized epistemology and ethics. Husserl's Phenomenology is astonishingly powerful and is I think the most important modern advance. John Paul II was a passionate student of it. Wittgenstein has contributed enormously to philosophy of language.

      Philosophy of the mind has been perhaps the most intense discipline, much of it misguided, but brilliant and fascinating, and very important.

      Of course, one cannot leave out philosophy with political implications-- Locke, Hegel, Marx and Neitzsche come to mind.

      Your own view-- that God is dead to our culture-- is a philosophical innovation of the 19th century. Darwinism itself would not have been taken seriously had not philosophers of a materialist (and idealist) bent not laid the groundwork for it.

      We are philosophy's children, Hoo. We are immersed in it.

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    10. If you have to go all the way back to Descartes to find a meaningful advance in philosophy, you are agreeing with me. Philosophy of mind has been a dismal failure. If that is "the most intense discipline" in philosophy, I rest my case.

      Hoo

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    11. Hoo:

      I do agree that much of analytic philosophy since Descartes has been substantially misguided. But I believe that the misguided parts are those that you (unknowingly) embrace.

      The Scholastics were the pinnacle of philosophy, although Phenomenology and Neo-Scholasticism are genuine advances, and we're still in the middle of the story.

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    12. Wake me up when the story comes to some sort of a conclusion. In the meantime, philosophy will remain a discipline that has outlived its usefulness.

      Hoo

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    13. You may have no interest in philosophy, Hoo, but philosophy has an interest in you.

      You will continue to live your life immersed in it, and largely blind to it.

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    14. Too bad for philosophy! It has been playing catchup with science for too long.

      Hoo

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  11. science-hater bachfiend: "The Big Bang occurred. That it occurred is as certain as the truth of evolution."

    He's denying the Big Bang. He's an anti-science "fundy".

    Need one say more?

    Actual scientists never say things like "the theory of gravity is as certain as the theory (ha!) of evolution."

    Actual scientists rely on reason and evidence: they argue of their theories on the merits of the theory. It's only the bug-collectors of "evolution" who try to co-opt the general reliability of another disciple (which is scientific, as theirs is not) as being "proof" that their theory (ha!) is The Truth.

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    1. "Actual scientists rely on reason and evidence: they argue of their theories on the merits of the theory."

      No. Theories in science are tested not on their theoretical merits but by comparing them against experiments. Write that down.

      Hoo

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    2. @Hoo:

      [Theories in science are tested not on their theoretical merits but by comparing them against experiments. Write that down.]

      Nonsense. Scientific theories are tested by both theoretical merit and experiment. They are really tested by aesthetics-- the beauty or ugliness of a scientific theory have a great deal to do with its promulgation and acceptance.

      The Copernican system predicted experiment (planetary motion) less accurately than the Ptolemaic system did-- Copernicus assumed circular orbits. But the Copernican system caught on for its elegance and simplicity, as much as anything. It wasn't until Kepler in the 17th century that the Copernican system became more experimentally accurate than the Ptolemaic system.

      The same is true of Special and General Relativity, which took decades to achieve solid experimental confirmation, but which were accepted widely very early because of elegance and on theoretical grounds.

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    3. A theory must be consistent, that is true. But that is only a minimal requirement, a qualification if you will. The ultimate judge of theory is experiment.

      The Copernican system won over the Ptolemaic one not because it is more beautiful theoretically but because it provides a better description of physical reality.

      Same with relativity. It was not accepted until it was verified experimentally (Mercury's orbit precession and light bending near the sun).

      Hoo

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    4. @Hoo:

      Does experimental evidence support Darwin's theory?

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    5. Oh yes.

      And if you wish to be up-to-date on theory of evolution, Darwin's theory has been extended to include genetics. Feel free to speak of neo-Darwinian synthesis.

      Hoo

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    6. Could you describe the evidence against Darwin's theory?

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    7. Certainly.

      Darwin surmised that evolution proceeded via natural selection. We know now that genetic drift is also important. The former is a deterministic component, the latter is a random one. One dominates in large populations, the other in small.

      Hoo

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    8. "Darwin surmised that evolution proceeded via survival of survivors. We know now that 'shit happens' is also important. The former is a tautological component, the latter is a trivial one. Tautology dominates in large populations, 'shit happens' in small"

      Quite a theory ya' got there.

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    9. Dr. Egnor,

      I am sorry that you lack the understanding of evolutionary theory, even in Darwin's original (and thus simplest) form. Your attempts to apply theory of kin selection were valorous, if entirely misguided. I suggest taking a short course in evolution, which is surely offered by your colleagues at Stony Brook. That would go a long way towards disabusing you of some silly notions.

      Cordially,

      Hoo

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    10. And I suggest you take a short course in philosophy and logic. Pay particular attention to the lecture on "tautology".

      A course in marketing would be of help in understanding evolutionary theory as well. It's been a vehicle for peddling atheism for a century and a half.

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    11. This is a typical retort I get from conservatives: take a course in philosophy, or formal logic, or something. They assume that they had a better education than I did. Invariably, their assumptions are wrong.

      Fun fact. When they refer to "logic," they usually mean the bullshit also known as informal logic.

      They are also fond of critical thinking. They don't seem to know that the concept came from some progressive educators, the ones they would ordinarily bash with a baseball bat.

      Fucking losers.

      Hoo

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    12. [They are also fond of critical thinking. They don't seem to know that the concept came from some progressive educators]

      Socrates was a progressive educator?

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    13. Hoo:

      Add History of Philosophy to the courses you should take.

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    14. You are a fucking idiot, Michael. Truly you are. Here is someone who knows a thing or two about Critical Thinking, writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

      "Although critical thinking first gained its current significance as a mode of interpretation and evaluation to guide beliefs and actions in the 1940s, the term took off in education circles after Robert H. Ennis published "A Concept of Critical Thinking" in the Harvard Educational Review in 1962. Ennis was interested in how we teach the "correct assessment of statements," and he offered an analysis of 12 aspects of this process. Ennis and countless educational theorists who have come after him have sung the praises of critical thinking. There is now a Foundation for Critical Thinking and an industry of consultants to help you enhance this capacity in your teachers, students, or yourself."

      Forget about college education. You've got to go back to high school and relearn the concept of reading reputable writers.

      Hoo

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    15. Critical thinking began in the 1940's?

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    16. That which is called critical thinking in the American education system began in the 1940s.

      Live and learn, my friend.

      Hoo

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    17. @Hoo:

      The Platonic Socratic Dialogues are masterpieces and foundational works of critical thinking. Timaeus, Euthyphro, Meno, Phaedo, Republic to name just a few of dozens. In the centuries before Christ Amexamenus, Phaedo of Elis, Euclid , and Antisthenes employed the Socratic method-- the archetype of critical thinking-- with vigor. Later Boethius and Augustine and Abelard and Albert Magnus and Thomas and Occam and Bonaventure and Duns Scotus employed the formal critical method of Scholasticism-- disputations in which they listed each of their opponents' arguments in detail in their strongest forms, and answered each. The epitome of critical thinking.

      Galileo employed such sharp-edged critical thinking in Dialogue of Two Chief World Systems (he gave the Pope's viewpoint to a guy named Simplicio) that he got into a bit of trouble.

      Modern philosophy is full of masterful critical thinking-- Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, Wittgenstein's Tractatus, the list is endless.

      Your assertion that critical thinking began in the 1940's is hysterical. I'm still laughing.

      Your critical thinking is in need of some serious critical thought.

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    18. Do you mean to say that critical thinking helped bring philosophy to its current state of stupor? That doesn't seem particularly helpful for your argument.

      Hoo

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    19. I might add that the use of Scholasticism as a successful brand of thinking is a masterpiece of dumbfuckery. Scholasticism has been dead for a few centuries, my man. Wake up!

      Hoo

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    20. [Do you mean to say that critical thinking helped bring philosophy to its current state of stupor?... Scholasticism has been dead for a few centuries, my man.]

      Perhaps those two observations are related.

      The move away from Scholasticism was an error. The abandonment of Scholasticism created philosophical conundrums. The problem of the mind is the most obvious. The mind-body relationship was considered a straightforward matter by the Scholastics (Thomistic Dualism). Descartes' segue to substance dualism basically created the problem, which modern mechanical materialism has exacerbated enormously.

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    21. And "dumbfuckery" was a Scholastic term for atheism, if I'm not mistaken.

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    22. Who gives a fuck what the scholastics thought about the mind-body dualism? Philosophy of mind has been brain-dead for centuries. How much of it do you use in your neurosurgical practice, eh?

      Hoo

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    23. I use it all of the time. It forms the scaffolding on which I understand the function of the brain. All neurosurgeons and neurologists have a philosophy of the mind that guides their work. Most simply aren't aware that their perspective is a philosophy.

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    24. [Who gives a fuck what the scholastics thought about the mind-body dualism?]

      People who care about philosophy of the mind care what philosophers have thought about it.

      You clearly don't care. Which is fine, under two conditions:

      1) You should care if you are a neuroscientist
      1) If you don't care, you have no standing to critique any theory of the mind.

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    25. Egnor: "I use it all of the time. It forms the scaffolding on which I understand the function of the brain. All neurosurgeons and neurologists have a philosophy of the mind that guides their work. Most simply aren't aware that their perspective is a philosophy."

      I would be curious about any difference in outcomes that results from a different "scaffolding." I am a bit skeptical.

      Hoo

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  12. [it's still up to theists to prove that it's their concept of God that did it - otherwise they're just deists]

    Deism is not a serious Christian position. Reason (the plethora of cosmological and teleological arguments, moral arguments, etc) show that God holds creation in existence moment by moment.

    Deism is simply a philosophical mistake, and is contrary to the teachings of all Christian denominations.

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  13. Ilion,

    'The Big Bang occurred. That it occurred is as certain as the truth of evolution. "He's denying the Big Bang. He's an anti-science 'fundy'"'

    No, I'm not. I was paraphrasing what George Smoot stated in a news conference after he and his team won the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physics for COBE, when he noted that the evidence for the Big Bang is almost as strong as that for evolution! Real scientists do say what you claim that they don't do.

    Crusader Rex,

    Ionizing radiation is invisible. But it also has effects in the world. We can detect radiation by many ways - including phosphorescence and cloud chambers. Not just with a Geiger counter. There's no way of detecting God.

    Michael,

    Your two replies - need I say any more? Your 'proof' is just thinking about something. Fictional works are often more believable than religion. Which means that the simplest explanation is that religion is fiction too.

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    1. Oop,

      I'm in error. It was Georgie, the sodden delusional toy plastic battleship owner, who made the comment about ionizing radiation, not Crusader Rex. I must be in too much of a hurry to take the dog for his morning walk.

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    2. Bach,

      While I appreciate your correction, the Adm. point still remains. Equipment is the key word, not the type of equipment.
      Imagine God as your matter in wave form. Pre particulate potential. In order for you to properly measure the effects of that wave-come-particle you need to collapse it's reality. You need to observe it. In order to do so, you have to accept it is there. God has accepted you, and hence you have collapsed into existence. He has seen that life is Good. Yours included. Now it's your turn. The ball (or wave) is in your court. You want to experience God? Let Him in. You want to hide from the light? God permits this too. That is the very raison d'etre of free will.
      Now, I will admit this is an imperfect (rough) analogy. We are talking about something immeasurably more important than a single atom (ie you and God) and something far more complete, simple, and self-evident than a particle (ie God). But, it may serve as a model to illustrate to you what Adm. is positing. The equipment has to be turned on, the experiment made, and the results considered PRIOR to discounting the obvious results of billions of others.
      What, you may ask, is the equipment? The equipment is the MIND. An algorithm within the mind, if you like. Once it is activated (properly)the results are pretty much assured.

      Aside from all that, I hope you had a nice walk with the pooch. I had a lovely long stroll with my dogs today after returning from a wedding. We went along the woods and the shore for a good 12 kms. Saw all sorts of wildlife and even a rainbow out over the bay. Just what I needed after all that formality and all those handshakes! Gorgeous day for it here. 22C and breezy.
      Just curious... what breed of dog do you have? Mine are Goldens. Brother and sister.

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    3. Adm. G Boggs, Glenbeckistan NavyJuly 28, 2013 at 9:11 PM

      Blinkfast, there most certainly is a way of detecting God. I'm surprised you missed the point of the analogy. You avoid God, deliberately.

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    4. Georgie,

      I don't avoid God deliberately because there is no God. There's no evidence for the existence of God. All your 'evidence' is wishful thinking.

      Delete
  14. What?! "A theory must be consistent, that is true. But that is only a minimal requirement, a qualification if you will. The ultimate judge of theory is experiment."

    SO, 'Hoo' agrees that 'modern evolutionary theory', aka 'Darwinism', isn't an actual scientific theory. For, not only is it not consistent, but there are no experiments by which to judge it.

    ALSO -- and this is an important point -- 'Hoo' seems not to understand that it's pointless to speak of science, actual science, considered scientifically, as being true. To put the issue into a sound-bite short enough to fit into the attention-span of folk like 'Hoo' ... Modern science doesn't 'do' truth.

    What?! "The Copernican system won over the Ptolemaic one not because it is more beautiful theoretically but because it provides a better description of physical reality."

    This isn't actually true, it's the opposite of the truth.

    The Copernican system had won over the Ptolemaic system *long* before it was possible to experimentally differentiate them; that is, it won over the other system long before it was possible to know that it did, indeed, "provide a better description of physical reality". And it won over *precisely* because it was "more beautiful theoretically" ... it made the calculations simpler.

    Goodness! but 'Science!' fetishists are an ignorant and gullible lot, aren't they?

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    1. Ilion,

      'Darwinism' does do experiments. Whenever paleontologists look for fossils in sedimentary rocks of the right age and right type. Paleontologists could easily perform an experiment which disproves evolution by finding a fossil rabbit in Precambrian rocks.

      The Copernican heliocentric model didn't replace the Ptolemaic model. The accepted model at the time of Galileo was Tycho Brahe's model, with the Earth at the centre, the Sun (with Venus and Mercury orbiting the Sun) and the other planets orbiting the Earth.

      Tycho Brahe's model and the Copernican model are equivalent but with different perspectives.

      The Copernican model didn't make the calculations easier. It required as many, if not more, 'fudges' as the Ptolemaic model. Kepler's eventual model won because elliptical not circular orbits agreed with observations - right up to the times in which anomalies had crept in. Such as in the orbit of Uranus (and a further planet Neptune was predicted and successfully found where it was predicted to be) and Mercury (similarly another planet was predicted - Vulcan - but the anomaly was later explained by General Relativity).

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    2. Ilion,

      The discovery of Galilean moons in 1610 was the first serious blow to the Ptolemaic system. These planets were clearly orbiting Jupiter, not the Earth. Kepler's empirical laws of planetary motion and Newton's derivation of them finished off the Ptolemaic picture.

      So yes, experimental confirmation was key in convincing astronomers to switch.

      Hoo

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  15. "Nothing" is not an agent nor a place, so it is impossible that something can come from it.

    That's not a description of nothing. That's a description of something that cannot create something. Saying "nothing cannot create anything" is logically impossible, because you're not describing nothing when you do so.

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    1. I was speaking analogically, not equivocally. You know precisely what I mean.

      I love sophists.

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    2. You were speaking out of your ass. It doesn't matter if nothing is not an agent or a place, and you have no basis for saying it is impossible for something to come from it. You actually cannot say that it is impossible for something to come from nothing, because that's not nothing you are describing then. Your house of card argument falls apart entirely.

      Not only can something come from nothing, something has to be able to come from nothing, or it isn't nothing.

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  16. "Critical thinking began in the 1940's?"

    I expect he's confusing critical thinking with (Marxist) "critical theory". You know how leftists, and atheists, are about these things.

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  17. It is really simple.

    Theists make shit up, therefore theists have to provide evidence. Otherwise rational people have absolutely no reason to listen to them.

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