Plantinga’s Unconvincing “Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism”

What better way to respond to atheists but to turn one of their own tools against them? That’s the approach philosopher Alvin Plantinga tries to use with his Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism (EAAN). It’s not a new idea, and both C.S. Lewis and Charles Darwin anticipated it.

In brief, the question is: how can a human mind that’s the result of the clumsy process of evolution be trusted?

About “Darwin’s doubt,” Plantinga argues that only Christians can have confidence that their interpretation of the world is correct. Naturalists can’t prove that minds are reliable until they’ve proven that the source of this claim (the mind!) is worth listening to.

Here’s where Plantinga claims to have turned the tables:

The high priests of evolutionary naturalism loudly proclaim that Christian and even theistic belief is bankrupt and foolish. The fact, however, is that the shoe is on the other foot. It is evolutionary naturalism, not Christian belief, that can’t rationally be accepted.

He says that if evolution is true, human beliefs have been selected for survival value, not truth, so why trust them? And yet our beliefs are reliable, suggesting to Plantinga that something besides evolution created them.

Before we get into the specifics of Plantinga’s argument, let’s first establish a baseline. Plantinga and naturalists agree that humans’ needs and desires are pretty logically matched:

Feelings or desires are on the left, actions are on the right, and the arrow is the belief that a particular action will satisfy that desire.

This is straightforward. A human with the feeling of hunger has the belief that eating food is the action to take. You go toward cuddly things, you run from scary things, you get to clean air if you can’t breathe, and so on. This is the world we all know and understand.

But Plantinga says that naturalists delude themselves. He imagines the naturalist’s world in which these links are jumbled. He imagines a hominid Paul who has some problematic beliefs about predators:

Perhaps [Paul] thinks the tiger is a large, friendly, cuddly pussycat and wants to pet it; but he also believes that the best way to pet it is to run away from it.

So Paul’s instincts toward tigers keep him alive, but only by dumb luck. But unreasonable beliefs don’t stop with tigers. Plantinga imagines the naturalist’s view of the world with beliefs having no connection with reality. That is, he imagines something like this:

Paul’s response to the tiger was just a roll of the dice, and he got lucky. But Plantinga supposes that all of Paul’s beliefs are arbitrary, not just those about tigers. Some actions in this chart are benign, but some are dangerous. When Paul sees something scary, his reaction is to walk toward it. When he’s drowning, he’ll try to sleep. When he’s hungry, he’ll satisfy that need with fresh air, and so on. With his basic desires paired with ineffective methods, this guy is clearly too stupid to live.

This is where natural selection comes in. Natural selection is unforgiving, and belief sets that don’t lead to survival are discarded. Evolution easily explains why Plantinga’s Paul didn’t exist.

An article at Skeptic.com neatly skewers Plantinga’s argument with a familiar example.

If a professional baseball player [incorrectly perceived reality,] that is, if his perception of the movement and location of a baseball was something other than what it actually is, then he would not be able to consistently hit ninety-five mile per hour fastballs.

As an aside, let me admit that I have a hard time maintaining respect for those at the leading edge of philosophy. Do they do work that’s relevant and pushes the frontier of human knowledge? I’d like to think so, but when this is the kind of argument they give, it’s hard to keep the faith.

My advice to philosophers: when you get the urge to play scientist, it’s best to lie down until the feeling goes away.

If we’re made in God’s image,
then why aren’t we invisible, too?
— graffiti

Photo credit: Wikimedia

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  • Phurbiefee

    I have not read Plantinga’s stuff, so probably shouldn’t criticize it based on what his critics say, but I have heard he is amongst the best of the Christian philosophers. Is this seriously a good example of an argument he puts forth? It is just so lame! Are you sure he’s not a mole, operating on behalf of non-believers? And though it is possible that a deistic god is plausible when we look at the world around us, how on earth does a Christian god turn out to be the only logical one? Why aren’t all the religions of the world converging on Christianity, if it’s so obvious?

    Where did he go to school?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      I struggle trying to give philosophers the benefit of the doubt, but it’s difficult not imagining that all Christian philosopher/apologists are following agendas, not facts.

      • MNb

        That’s a bit weird, because when refuting Turek you used quite a few arguments developed by philosophers.
        I think it’s quite simple.
        A) good and relevant philosophers always have been in the minority. In Athens, Greece pagan philosophy continued until the early 7th Century CE. The work largely had been irrelevant for centuries for several centuries. For one Spinoza or Hegel there are at least a dozen disciples which we safely can neglect.
        B) most philosophers these days agree that they should stay out of science. Alas I agree with BNygren above that a good scientist is not by definition a good philosopher (I’m rather underwhelmed by PZ Myers and JA Coyne for instance; Sean Carroll does a good job though). So I would welcome it if philosophers investigated the consequences of scientific conclusions. A simple example: the way physics understands time and space has radically changed the last 100 years. It would be nice if some philosopher tried to understand the modern concepts and reflected on this. Somewhat ironically Augustinus of Hippo is a good start.
        C) the philosophers who seem to be most interested in science these days are philosophers of religion, like Plantinga. They all suffer from the bias you wrote about a few blogposts ago.
        I still have to think it through, but my gut feeling says that Plantinga with his example introduces a teleological element and thus is antiscientific. Jakeithus seems to be right that you misunderstand Plantinga’s example, which basically says that two wrongs still enables homo sapiens to survive. That’s correct.

        “And yet our beliefs are reliable, suggesting to Plantinga that something besides evolution created them.”
        My first reaction is that Plantinga needs to explain why homo sapiens hasn’t developed the scientific method resulting in reliable “beliefs” (I think this is the wrong word, but apologists not too often try to clarify – their most popular method these days seems to be obfuscation) many centuries earlier, especially with the kind help coming from a benevolent sky-daddy. While I grant that Plantinga points out an unsolved problem he fails to point out that his solution leads to even bigger unsolved problems.
        So my provisional conclusion is that Plantinga just presents another god of the gaps argument.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Right. That’s why my challenge is: show me what philosophers have done for me lately.

          If philosophers today are mostly looking backwards, maintaining the history and ideas of the philosophers of the past and passing that along, that’s fine. It’s the going-forward part that I don’t see much evidence of.

          So I would welcome it if philosophers investigate d the co nsequences of scientific conclusions.

          You mean like the ethical consequences? Someone certainly needs to.

          A simple example: the way physics understands time and space has radically changed the last 100 years. It would be nice if some philosopher tried to understand the modern concepts and reflected on this.

          Wouldn’t a physicist or cosmologist be better suited?

          you misunderstand Plantinga’s example, which basically says that two wrongs still enables homo sapiens to survive. That’s correct.

          Yes, Plantinga says this, and yes, I agree that occasionally this happens. Did I say something different?

          While I grant that Plantinga points out an unsolved problem he fails to point out that his solution leads to even bigger unsolved problems.

          Expand on this. I’m not sure what you’re saying here.

        • MNb

          “You mean like the ethical consequences?”
          Amongst others.

          “Wouldn’t a physicist or cosmologist be better suited?”
          They are not necessarily good at philosophy (Sean Carroll does a great job though). At the other hand I don’t see why a philosopher can’t understand the modern concepts of time and space if we omit all the mathematics (which I have forgotten too btw). Math is a language, so those concepts can be translated in English, Dutch and any other language.

          “Did I say something different?”
          Yes, at least what I understood.

          “he imagines something like this:…..”
          No, he didn’t. You have corrected this in your comments above though, so I’m happy. And I’m absolutely not interested in metadebates on what A wrote and what not and what B wrote and what not and what exactly everything meant. Pointing out who misunderstood whom is irrelevant; relevant is we understand each other in the end. So I’m going to leave it at this.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Show me how the second arrow diagram doesn’t represent Plantinga’s position. I’d like to get it straight, because Plantinga’s EAAN will surely come up in the future.

    • http://outshine-the-sun.blogspot.com/ Andrew G.

      You should see some of his other stuff – he tries to make the argument for dualism by means of an absolutely textbook fallacy of composition (neurons don’t have intention (in the philosophical sense), therefore physical minds made of neurons can’t have intention).

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        Well, that makes sense. A single water molecule has no fluidity, so “fluidity” in a collection of trillions of water molecules is nonsense.

        A single neuron can’t think, so an interconnected collection of billions of them can’t think either.

        • RichardSRussell

          My favorite analogy along these lines is “9 women gestating for 1 month apiece do not produce a baby.”

        • RichardSRussell

          Another one is “Just because every individual human being had a mother doesn’t mean the human race as a whole had a mother.”

        • MNb

          This (and the others) is a great example. I didn’t have them in my repertoire yet, so thanks.
          Long live internet, so that I don’t have to figure out everything myself.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          The broader category is “emergent phenomena,” if you want to pursue this.

  • John Evans

    He’s also either anthropomorphizing animals or completely ignorant of subconscious decision making. A flatworm doesn’t ‘want’ to not be in the light. It’s not thinking in its rudimentary nervous system ‘that’s some light, I shouldn’t be here’ (or, by Platinga’s logic ‘that’s some light. I should totally get closer to it by crawling in the other direction’). Reason – the ability to understand and manipulate our reactions to stimuli and environment, developed AFTER the reactions to stimuli and environment.

  • bnygren

    Your response is the very reason you need to read his argument. One of the main problems is scientists are terrible philosophers and think that they do not have presuppositions. They think that it is just them and the facts. They are without bias and can interpret the facts for what they are. If one is to take naturalism seriously, to its logical conclusion, they would realize they have no foundation for knowing that they know anything for certain. You are just chemical reactions. Start dust bumping up against start dust. To say one has knowledge, one is saying “this is what you ought to believe.” Ought does not come from start dust nor chemical reactions. Scientists need to take a few classes in philosophy before they try to do science. There is no brute fact. Every fact is an interpreted fact. The question is how should one interpret that fact. To interpret a fact, one must first have a philosophy by which to interpret that fact..

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Your response is the very reason you need to read his argument.

      Point out a mistake I made in understanding the argument, but don’t tell me I didn’t read it.

      One of the main problems is scientists are terrible philosophers and think that they do not have presuppositions.

      I think that “watch out for your biases” is one of the first things they teach you in scientist school.

      As for terrible philosophers, you might be right. Is that a problem? Is philosophy where the science comes from?

      They are without bias and can interpret the facts for what they are.

      Individual scientists try to control their bias, one hopes, but the scientific community is what keeps things in line.

      they would realize they have no foundation for knowing that they know anything for certain.

      They already do!

      Ought does not come from start dust nor chemical reactions.

      Absolute oughts? I agree with you. But that’s not what we’re talking about. Morality is a human construction.

      Scientists need to take a few classes in philosophy before they try to do science.

      I see a Top Ten List of Cool Scientific Discoveries every year. I don’t remember seeing one for Philosophy last year. Tell me what philosophers have done for me lately.

      • MNb

        “Is that a problem?”
        Only if those scientists start doing philosophy; not for their scientific work.

    • MNb

      “they have no foundation for knowing that they know anything for certain.”
      This is a strawman. No single scientist thinks he/she knows anything for certain. They only claim that the method they have developed works best. The influence the scientific has had the last 200 years justifies that claim.
      Guess what? Not taking anything for certain is an essential part of that method. Find a cat fossil that’s 80 million years old and you’ll be world famous long after you have died. Build a perpetuum mobile and the same will happen. Develop a material that allows superconductivity and you’ll receive the Nobel Price within a year. Wait – that actually happened in the 80′s.
      This is btw the reason BobS shouldn’t look down on philosophy. That department formulated these principles: Descartes (and the critique he received) for deduction, Hume for induction and Popper (and the critique he received) for the synthesis of the two. His falsifiability principle is founded on the very idea of not knowing anything for certain. All scientific books and all scientific articles are full of falsifiable statements.

      “Every fact is an interpreted fact.”
      Postmodern woo. Go tell the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that the consequences of the nuclear bombs are interpreted facts, that the question is how to interpret those consequential facts and that they need a philosophy to do so.
      Your stuff is the kind that gives philosophy a bad name.

      • MNb

        please read: allows superconductivity at relatively high temperatures.
        Also I wish you success interpreting the forthcoming facts just after you jumped off a tower.

      • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

        Popper’s falsification is overrated; he didn’t realize that it’s a special case of what he referred to as Simplicity. While he was correct to note the use of both, he didn’t correctly pin down the rigorous philosophical justification that unifies them.

        The math for it is tedious, however.

        • MNb

          That’s why I added “the critique he received”. Fact remains that Popper was the first to formulate a synthesis of deduction and induction. That synthesis (with eventual improvements and corrections) is the core of the scientific method and makes clear why it is superior to philosophy and theology. But a philosopher was needed to point this out.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          But there was a scientific method before Popper.

          I assume you’re saying that his new and improved version is universally used and an important step forward than what Einstein (say) used?

        • MNb

          No, I’m saying that Popper was the first to try to formulate what exactly the scientific method is. In other words: before Popper scientists more or less intuitively used the scientific method. Popper made it explicit (and the critiques he received were aimed at improving what he formulated). This is a valuable product of philosophy, like the idea of the social contract for instance. It makes it possible for laymen like me to understand what we (in this case scientists) exactly are doing. It also enables me to make clear why so many economists do a lousy job without concluding that economics isn’t a science. It even enables me to argue that the humanities and especially the study of history are branches of science as well.
          I think this confirms what Bertrand Russell wrote in his History of Western Philosophy: that philosophy depends on social circumstances and thus must be understood in this context (I paraphraze, so I likely some details wrong). This implies it’s impossible what you seem to demand: that philosophy comes before or even predicts scientific results.

        • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

          Which comes “before” depends on whether you’re talking about science as philosophical ideal or as historically practiced. Popper improved the demarcation between the types of practices as to which did and did not accord to the abstract method he suggested, but almost all of the practices were around before.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Since decent science was being done before his time, I hope we don’t exaggerate the contribution Popper made.

          Perhaps you’re saying that scientists put on a philosopher’s hat when they break new ground in some instances? I’m thinking of Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle or Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem. But then these guys were scientists first and philosophers second.

          Maybe philosophers were able to make more advances in centuries past when less foundation had been laid and when science wasn’t as formalized. But that gets back to my question: what have philosophers (that is, plain old philosophers, not scientists) done for me lately?

        • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

          If you’re dividing into camps, it seems dubious to class Popper as a philosopher. His doctoral degree was in psychology — one of the softer sciences, but still a science.

    • GubbaBumpkin

      One of the main problems is scientists are terrible philosophers and think that they do not have presuppositions.

      As I recall, Plantinga mocked Dawkins’ grasp of philosophy in his review of The God Delusion, The Dawkins Confusion.

      Now despite the fact that this book is mainly philosophy, Dawkins is not
      a philosopher (he’s a biologist). Even taking this into account,
      however, much of the philosophy he purveys is at best jejune. You might
      say that some of his forays into philosophy are at best sophomoric, but
      that would be unfair to sophomores; the fact is (grade inflation aside),
      many of his arguments would receive a failing grade in a sophomore
      philosophy class.

      Which makes it very ironic that Plantinga turns out to be a shit-poor excuse for a biologist. His understanding of evolution and selection is cringe-worthy. it is mockable.

    • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

      Naturalism does not preclude the existence of abstractions; and in particular, science presupposes the existence of an abstract language, generally mathematics. As such, your characterization seems a strawman oversimplification of your actual opposition.

      It also seems your philosophical fencing would benefit from reviewing Hume some more. EG: Asserting that something IS true does not necessarily imply that it OUGHT to be believed without an additional premise. However, you seem unlikely to be interested in how mathematics can allow OUGHTs to abstract from IS. Philosophers prescribing study courses for scientists seems ironic given how modern philosophers tend to use Gödel as an excuse to neglect mathematics. They appear to fail to grasp the nuance between showing something must have a property and showing that some particular thing must have the property.

      I’d also suggest reviewing the Riddle of the Ship of Theseus, and considering it in light of reading through Claude Shannon’s “A Mathematical Theory of Communication”.

  • Jakeithus

    You seem to be misunderstanding Plantinga’s argument and use of the Paul and Tiger analogy. In his example, Paul doesn’t survive by dumb luck, he survives because his desire to pet the Tiger is follow up with the incorrect belief that the best way to pet something is to walk away from it. It shows that an incorrect belief or irrational way of thinking can lead to an advantageous behaviour to be passed on through natural selection.

    It simply shows that evolution does not always lead to rational thought, which Plantinga argues poses a problem for a strictly naturalistic way of thinking. There are a number of philosophers who pose counterarguments to Plantinga, many of which can be found on the wikipedia pages you link to, but to brush it of as irrational as you have is simply incorrect.

    Personally, I’m not of the belief that it disproves naturalism, it just goes to show that naturalists hold to unprovable assumptions about reality (the accuracy of human reasoning) of the same type that they think less of believers for.

    I do find it interesting that you end up being so hard against philosophers. Such a large number of professional philosophers are atheists I assumed they would have higher support, as they are at the forefront of the attack against theism, rather than science which is by its nature silent on metaphysical questions.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      I agree that our brains are fallible. In fact, I summarized a long list of examples of its fallibility just recently.

      What I think we agree we have is a fallible brain that bumbles along pretty well through reality. It gets things mostly right but does make lots of errors. Few of those errors are fatal.

      Plantinga wants to take this to an extreme. His Paul example is of someone whose beliefs are the result of the roll of the dice. Any that help with survival are there only by dumb luck. And this is the hypothesis that fails.

      Paul doesn’t survive by dumb luck, he survives because his desire to pet the Tiger is follow up with the incorrect belief that the best way to pet something is to walk away from it.

      Sounds like dumb luck to me. He does survive, but in spite of his beliefs, not because of them.

      It shows that an incorrect belief or irrational way of thinking can lead to an advantageous behaviour to be passed on through natural selection.

      Once in a great while, sure.

      It simply shows that evolution does not always lead to rational thought

      I agree. It’s Plantinga’s ridiculous extreme (the conclusion of which is “the brain is useless”) that I object to.

      to brush it of as irrational as you have is simply incorrect.

      Poor word choice? You might be right. Suggest a better one.

      it just goes to show that naturalists hold to unprovable assumptions about reality (the accuracy of human reasoning)

      We all agree that the brain is pretty good, not perfect. This fits well with naturalism. I missed the problem.

      I do find it interesting that you end up being so hard against philosophers.

      I chalk that up to immersing myself in the works of philosophical charlatans. I do seek out good philosophy, though my study is admittedly not thorough. If you have a philosophical advance (that’s not also a scientific advance) in the last few decades, please mention that. I do want to give philosophy its due.

      • Jakeithus

        I see the extreme that Plantinga gives more as a type of thought experiment, rather than any sort of conclusion he is leading towards.

        If I were to change “irrational” in your title, I would probably change it to “unconvincing”, as that better describes your issue with it.

        I see science and philosophy contributing in different ways to the advancement of human society. A world of just scientists would certainly come up with plenty of evidence and understanding of how the world works, I’d just worry about their application and interpretation of their findings without philosophical work to go along with it.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Plantinga’s nutty Paul with all the crossed belief arrows is his view of the inevitable result of naturalistic thinking. He’s obviously not arguing for it, but he says that naturalists must face up to this as the inevitable conclusion of their thinking.

          I changed the title.

          The value in philosophy IMO is simply that we call certain thinking philosophical—logic and morality, for example. There is no analog that I see to science where philosophy is opening new doors. If that’s happening, perhaps it’s just happening so infrequently that, compared to science, it looks like nothing.

        • MNb

          “where philosophy is opening new doors.”
          The obvious next question is: should philosophy try and should we demand that from philosophy, especially if we already have science for this?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          If philosophy is actually something fundamentally different from what science does, then let’s encourage that avenue toward truth as well. I suspect instead that every time you point to an important advance thanks to philosophy, I’d see a scientist. That doesn’t mean that either of us is wrong but simply that we have a labeling problem. My seeing science where you see philosophy could easily be a failing on my part.

      • avalon

        “It shows that an incorrect belief or irrational way of thinking can lead
        to an advantageous behaviour to be passed on through natural selection.”

        Sounds like a good explanation for religious belief. The incorrect or irrational belief in God led to less mental stress and better social cohesion.

        “It simply shows that evolution does not always lead to rational thought”

        Indeed.

        • MNb

          “Sounds like a good explanation for religious belief.”
          Good point.

      • MNb

        “a fallible brain that bumbles along pretty well through reality.”
        Whether the ancient Greeks were the first or the Egyptians and the Babylonians, only some 5 000 years ago some fallible brains actually started to bumble along through reality. Compared to the 200 000 years that homo sapiens wanders around the Earth, not to mention the age of the Earth and the entire Universe, I’d say that those fallible brains do very well. I don’t think those Greek, Egypt and Babylonian ancestors could imagine that little car driving around on the planet Mars.
        If I don’t beware I derive an actually solid apologist argument from this observation.

    • GubbaBumpkin

      It shows that an incorrect belief or irrational way of thinking can lead
      to an advantageous behaviour to be passed on through natural selection.

      A couple problems here. One is the bit about beliefs being passed on through inheritance.
      Another is that a true belief is more likely to hold up in a variety of conditions, whereas a false belief that happens to be favourable in one set of conditions is less likely to be generally favourable.

      • Machintelligence

        A couple problems here. One is the bit about beliefs being passed on through inheritance

        What are instincts, if not beliefs (or more simply, stimulus — response) passed on by inheritance?
        And it is behaviors which are selected for, not the beliefs or rationalizations which explain the behavior. We are rationalizing animals.

    • phantomreader42

      No, in Plantinga’s example, Paul survives because while his perception of reality is completely disconnected from the real world, his actions are simultaneously completely nonsensical in response to his perceptions in a way that, by sheer blind dumb luck, happen to cancel out the absurdity of his faulty perceptions. In other words, Plantinga is positing a completely nonsensical and wrong filter between reality and sensory data, and a separate, independently evolved, ALSO completely nonsensical and wrong filter between sensory perception and action, that somehow cancels out the first filter perfectly. Plantinga’s example is ridiculous. It gets slashed to ribbons by Occam’s Razor before it can miserably fail basic biology. Plantinga either knows nothing about the subject he’s talking about, or he’s lying. Given what I’ve seen from creationists, most likely both.

      • MNb

        “Plantinga’s example is ridiculous.”
        Of course. But if we don’t want to be as intellectually dishonest as the vast majority of (if not all) apologists we have to grant Plantinga that he only uses this example to make a point clear: that correct assumptions and beliefs are not necessary for survival and getting offspring. I agree with Plantinga that this point needs explanation; I just think it’s not very hard (Plantinga seems to think so) and that Plantinga attaches faulty logic to this point.
        I share your conclusion though. I find it harder and harder to distinguish creationists from “sophisticated” philosophers of religion, even if the latter are more intelligent and better educated than me (I’m thinking especially of my compatriot Emanuel Rutten). The more I try to understand apologists like Plantinga the more it seems to me that they make the same mistakes as hardcore YECers. In fact I begin to appreciate the honesty of Ken Ham a little better: “if science contradicts my interpretation of the Bible, then f**k science”. Plantinga and Rutten f**k science but don’t want to admit it.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          It’s odd to imagine any non-Luddite, non-Amish person in the 21st century having that f**k-science attitude. They’ll happily use GPS or PCs or the internet but then dismiss biologists as a bunch of agenda-driven fools. Compartmentalization, I guess.

    • avalon

      “Paul doesn’t survive by dumb luck, he survives because his desire to pet
      the Tiger is follow up with the incorrect belief that the best way to
      pet something is to walk away from it. It shows that an incorrect belief
      or irrational way of thinking can lead to an advantageous behaviour to
      be passed on through natural selection.”

      No, it won’t be passed on. When Paul wants to pet (or hold) his offspring he’ll run away! The abandoned child become tiger food.

      • guest

        And if he’s hungry he’ll run away from food. And how will he even have offspring if he runs away from attractive women?

      • MNb

        Yeah, but this is not really fair. Plantinga’s observation is that incorrect beliefs actually can be beneficial in terms of evolution (ie getting offspring). That observation is correct. There is something very logically wrong with his deductions from this observations. As we cannot expect apologists to do it it is our task where he gets off the rails. Laughing at his example doesn’t help in this respect.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    And yet our beliefs are reliable,..

    Are they now? Perceptual and cognitive illusions are abundant. Consider the ‘Monty Hall problem’ as an example of a cognitive illusion. Many people, including a few professional mathematicians, hold false beliefs about the Monty Hall problem, and have publicly embarrassed themselves by refusing to change their beliefs even when presented with the true answer and the reasoning behind it.

    As an example of a perceptual illusion, I choose the well-known checker shadow illusion. Most people incorrectly perceive
    that the two squares are different colours. I personally can rationally
    assure myself that the squares are the same colour (input into any
    graphics program, output RGB values), and yet I still experience the
    illusion. It is apparently hard-wired into our visual system upstream of
    the rational thought centers.

    If atheists are correct, then a large majority (80+%) of people in the world incorrectly believe that their imaginary friends are real.

    And so false beliefs are widespread.

    Other things Plantinga got wrong:

    * Not all beliefs are selected for with equal force. Believing you can pet a tiger and believing your imaginary sky friend is real do not have the same real world consequences.

    * Just because selection is indirect (mutations at gene level are selected at the level of the organism) does not mean it is nonexistent.

    • http://outshine-the-sun.blogspot.com/ Andrew G.

      Our visual processing seems to be strongly adapted towards producing the same subjective experience of colour/shade with as little influence from lighting conditions as possible. This makes sense from the point of view of object identification – having things look significantly different at sunset than they do at noon would be confusing.

      This does in fact lead us to believe a lot of false things about colour and colour perception, but those have no likely survival impact by comparison. So this is just one of the many cases where we find that in fact the brain’s reliability and unreliability follows a pattern predicted by evolution (and NOT predicted by theism).

    • Greg G.

      Other things Plantinga got wrong:

      * Not all beliefs are selected for with equal force. Believing you can pet a tiger and believing your imaginary sky friend is real do not have the same real world consequences.

      * Just because selection is indirect (mutations at gene level are selected at the level of the organism) does not mean it is nonexistent.

      It doesn’t matter why you run away from the tiger, it only matters that you survive long enough to reproduce. If the reason you run from a tiger has genetic components, one’s offspring will benefit from them, too.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        Not all beliefs are selected for with equal force. Believing you can pet a tiger and believing your imaginary sky friend is real do not have the same real world consequences.

        You can believe that sitcoms are real or not know where or how grocery stores get their food. Modern society has a lot of padding so that people can hold their delusions without dying.

  • MNb

    Two other thoughts I just forgot:
    1. The scientific theory that describes evolution best is the result of the same methodological naturalism Plantinga criticizes; he doesn’t seem or want to realize that he is threatening to contradict himself.
    2. Criticizing the scientific method, ie methodological naturalism is OK, but rejecting it like Plantinga aspires requests to bring forward something better. Apologists usually neglect that part.
    In other words: methodological naturalism might be imperfect, for the moment we don’t have anything better.

  • Ron

    “He says that if evolution is true, human beliefs have been selected for survival value, not truth, so why trust them?”

    Because if we survive long enough to actually test those beliefs, they can be safely discarded once they turn out to be false. That’s why reason, empiricism and the scientific method have replaced superstition, religious dogma and divine revelation as the primary tools for gaining knowledge of our universe.

    Apologists might like to call this trust in science a “belief” — but I prefer to call it a reasonable set of expectations based on the outcome of repeat observations.

    • Kubricks_Rube

      Because if we survive long enough to actually test those beliefs, they can be safely discarded once they turn out to be false.

      And depending on how you define “test,” we’re not talking about a very long timescale. That’s the thing I think is missing from Plantinga’s argument (at least as I’ve encountered it): communication. Paul is not operating in a vacuum. Reality is shared. Both verbally and pre-verbally, Pauls throughout the ages would communicate their beliefs about the tiger with other hominids, and together they would assess the accuracy of the belief. Those able to share information and make better choices would have a better survival rate than those unable to interact effectively. Paul doesn’t need God (rhetorically speaking) to tell him that he shouldn’t run away from a tiger he wants to pet; he just needs Tina or Bob to tell him that 1) he didn’t actually succeed in petting the tiger, did he? and 2) didn’t Rene get eaten by a tiger last week? Maybe running was the best move after all.

      • Ron

        Precisely! And if Christian apologists like Plantinga are convinced that their beliefs are founded on God’s truths, then they could easily demonstrate the confidence of their convictions by handling snakes, drinking deadly poison and healing sick people with their hands in accordance with the promises made in <a href="http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mark%2016:17-18&version=NIV.

  • phantomreader42

    The last time I heard of this pitiful excuse for an “argument”, I concluded Plantinga was an idiot. I have seen no reason to reevaluate that conclusion.

    He starts by pretending that mental illness, optical illusions, cognitive bias, and a variety of other well-documented phenomena don’t exist. After denying reality in this way, he declares that his perception of reality is reliable, which it obviously isn’t or he wouldn’t be pretending there’s no such thing as a blind spot, and that the only way that can happen is through the intervention of an invisible man in the sky.

    Then he proposes a ridiculous thought experiment involving a being whose perceptions of reality are completely nonsensical, but who somehow survives because his responses to those nonsensical perceptions are ALSO nonsensical, in such a ridiculous and precisely calibrated way that they exactly cancel out his nonsensical perceptions. He pretends that such a being is just as likely to evolves as one who act sensibly on accurate perceptions. For Plantinga’s “Paul” to exist, all his organs for collecting and processing sensory data (eyes, ears, nose, skin, nerves, brain) would ALL have to be malfunctioning, in EXACTLY THE SAME WAY, despite the fact that they evolved from different structures in different species through different environments. For the example to work, he’d not only have to SEE the tiger wrong, he’d have to HEAR it wrong and SMELL it wrong, and those involve different sensory inputs processed in different regions of the brain. And then, on top of that, ALL his organs for ACTING on this information (different parts of the brain, different nerves, voluntary muscles, involuntary muscles) would ALSO have to be malfunctioning, again in EXACTLY THE SAME WAY as each other, but in a DIFFERENT way than the sensory organs, in such a way that the malfunctions all cancelled each other out, despite the fact that these systems have different functions and origins than the others, and interact in complicated ways, and despite the fact that any ancestor with mutations causing these malfunctions would be competing with non-mutants who had better perceptions of reality and didn’t NEED the cancellation.
    Occam’s Razor tears Plantinga’s nonsense to shreds. So does any understanding of biology.

    Of course, in humans beliefs and actions are not primarily instinctive, and are not transmitted genetically but culturally. For “Paul” to exist, the genetically-inherited biological structures that handle his perceptions, and those that handle his instinctive actions, would have to be totally wrong, and his culturally-inherited thought processes would have to be totally wrong in such a way as to cancel the other malfunctions out, despite the fact that they evolved and were transmitted by completely different methods, yet his distant ancestors who lack the defective culture would have to be able to function with the defective perception even though “Paul” can only survive with BOTH.

    Since Plantinga is too busy pretending documented errors of reasoning and perception don’t exist because his imaginary friend told him so, he utterly fails to address methods of CORRECTING for those errors. For example, the fact that there is more than one person, and they can compare their perceptions to see if they agree, because if they’re all perceiving the same thing, it’s not likely they’re all having the same hallucinations. Then again, Plantinga may just be a solipsist, but if that’s the case his attempt to argue for solipsism fails because the act of arguing involves admitting that someone else exists to hear the argument. He obviously has no interest in understanding science.

    Then, as is standard procedure for those who reject reality in favor of their imaginary friends, Plantinga claims that his shitty argument for a totally undefined god somehow magically proves his particular version of the abrahamic god. He doesn’t address the possibility that god might be lying, or screwing with people for his own amusement, or that god might be indifferent, malicious, incomprehensible, or one of the millions of gods imagined up by non-christians throughout history. He proposes something that makes no sense, has no connection to reality, and is vanishingly unlikely to exist, then tries to explain it with something else that makes no sense and is even LESS likely to exist, all while ignoring other options because they’re inconvenient.

    • RichardSRussell

      “The last time I heard of this pitiful excuse for an ‘argument’, I concluded Plantinga was an idiot. I have seen no reason to reevaluate that conclusion.”

      His other stuff isn’t any better. He seems to be an graduate of the school that says “If you can’t dazzle ‘em with your brilliance, baffle ‘em with your bullshit.”

      I wrote him off about the same time I made it a personal crusade to encourage anyone referring to THE LIAR David Barton to always use his correct title, which is THE LIAR David Barton.

      • randomfactor

        Isn’t Plantinga’s argument easily applied to his own position? He’s arguing that illusions and mistaken ideas may accidentally have survival value (run away from the fluffy, pettable tiger kitty).

        So embrace the concept of the loving genocidal deity and you’re suddenly allowed to trust the validity of your everyday experiences?

        • MNb

          Since when does an apologist apply all arguments made against atheism, naturalism and materialism to his own positions? It’s this kind of intellectual dishonesty that has made my atheism more radical since I began to read apologists some five years ago. I know I’m not the only one.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Ditto. I do want to be a bit humble, both because indeed I don’t have it all figured out, and because it’s easier to back away from a moderate position than a dogmatic one when I make a mistake.

          Still, becoming a hard atheist becomes more and more tempting when I keep searching for solid apologetics and keep getting crap.

        • MNb

          So as an antidote I have asked a Dutch theologian which I have met in the virtual world more than five years ago and whom I always have respected to write down his views. The reason is obviously I want to apply my skepticism to myself as well.
          The search for an intellectually honest apologist continues.

        • TheNuszAbides

          is that [still] an ongoing exchange?

        • http://superman-news.com/ Greg

          Nuz, I am intellectually honest apologist.

        • Pofarmer

          You haven’t show the slightest inkling of being intellectually honest, unless, you really are that stupid. Then, you’re just bad at it.

        • Greg G.

          He hasn’t shown an inkling of being intellectually anything.

        • MNb

          An intellectually honest apologist wouldn’t ask an insinuating question like “why are you so obtused”
          You did.

          An intellectually honest apologist would not accuse someone of propagating hate and violence when he presents a scenario to illustrate a point that has nothing to do with violence.
          You did.

          An intellectually honest apologist would consider all the implications of “all natural explanations have been rejected, hence we MUST consider the supernatural explanations”.
          You refuse to do so.

          You’re a funny guy, Greg, and I am pretty sure you’re a good guy in daily life. At least on internet you’re way nicer and more civil than me.
          But you’re far from intellectually honest – so far that I doubt that you understand what those words mean.

        • http://superman-news.com/ Greg

          I’ve got one now, the rest later, hopefully tonight when I am free, and thank you and I find you awesome, don’t put yourself down in any way – ok, what I don’t get is the Gaps argument. Here in the U.S., our government relies on majority rule, 2/3rds majority, etc. to solve problems. It’s not scientific, but it’s a confidence in the human race, that down deep we know what is right and what is wrong – I haven’t googled this but, I would bet my bottom dollar that
          you have majority rule that says “God” exists. So you have the atheist saying, no, no, answer disqualified, you didn’t arrive at the answer through the scientific tests, we say yeah, but it meets our needs, it fills gaps!! I get Pofarmer, Greg G, saying, it don’t meet my needs and it don’t make me happy! Then also, you have Pofarmer, saying and making you happy is a bad reason. There’s someting big time wrong with the Gaps argument.

        • Greg G.

          Kevin Osbourne was arguing recently that if enough people believed something, it would become real. brmckay agreed with him on most points though I didn’t see that he agreed with that particular point. You should have been here when they were here.

          You can vote on things you can change. You don’t get to vote on the nature of reality. Five hundred years ago, the majority would vote that the world was flat if the question was read to them. The most educated of the Bible authors would have probably voted with them.

          If you don’t consider the evidence, there is no way to distinguish what is possibly real from what is completely imaginary. Since there is no unambiguous evidence for a god, it makes no sense to make one up to explain things. It is just one more thing you need to explain.

          The following list are alternatives to the God of the Gaps. They explain just as much. All you need is faith.

          Fairies of the Gap
          Angels of the Gap
          Flying Spaghetti Monster of the Gaps
          Dream of Vishnu of the Gaps
          Deceitful Demon of the Gaps
          Karma of the Gaps
          Committee of the Gaps
          Santa Claus of the Gaps

          The scientific explanations don’t need faith. Faith is an admission that your belief lacks rational justification.

          The theological problem of the God of the Gaps is that today’s gap may not be a gap tomorrow. That makes God a shrinking deity. The theist response is that if science explains something in the gap, there are then two gaps. Science seldom explains something that is completely separate from other explanations. It would be very unlikely that there would be two gaps. Scientific knowledge just closes in from the sides. The gap gets smaller until it disappears.

        • http://superman-news.com/ Greg

          Ok, Greg G. will take you as the self-apppoined representative for all atheists, granted, you are funnier, better looking and more intelligent than most of the atheists, but that being said – really? – listen to you

          “…..The following list are alternatives to the God of the Gaps. They explain just as much. All you need is faith.
          Fai ries of the Gap
          Angels of the Gap
          Flying Spaghetti Monster of the Gaps
          Dream of Vishnu of the Gaps
          Deceitful Demon of the Gaps
          Karma of the Gaps
          Committee of the Gaps
          Santa Claus of the Gaps”

          So you are really saying these alternatives, meet your needs, make you happy, answer all the questions about the after life than the God as defined in the Bible? You would not only be outvoted in Congress, you would foisted out with two hands by your proverbial boot straps in to the alleyways of D.C.

        • Greg G.

          Any of those are just as good to “meet your needs, make you happy, answer all the questions about the after life” as the God of the Gaps. They give made up answers based on wishful thinking. They are better than the GotG because the worst outcome is a lump of coal every year.

          We are trying to explain a logical fallacy you are making and you are defending the logical fallacy.

          It might make you feel better if you are told the dog you had when you were five went to live on the farm where he could be happy but that doesn’t mean your folks didn’t have the dog put down. You can’t vote on it now.

          You may think you feel better thinking you will live forever but when you realize this is the only life you get, you value every day more. If you think you have an infinite number of days, each day is of infinitesimal importance, your greatest joy in life is shit compared to a day in heaven. You should really value this life more.

        • http://superman-news.com/ Greg

          I’m really surprised at the naivete of this response, Greg G.. because I thought you were once a christian. You think faith in God is all about euphemisms? This is the happiness Christians feel? What, when you were a kid, (last year) your mommy put your I love Jesus bathing suit on you and as you went running down the beach to the Ocean of Faith Hope and Charity,you put your big toe in, yelled too cold and went running back up the beach to your warm atheist towel.

        • Greg G.

          What is naive about it? You are arguing for faith, which is the worst possible truth claim. If you have reason and evidence in favor of a proposition, you have a claim with standing. If your claim goes beyond the reason and evidence for it, that is the faith portion.

          Your subjective feelings have no basis in whether a proposition is true.

        • MNb

          “So you have the atheist saying, no, no, answer disqualified, you didn’t arrive at the answer through the scientific tests,”
          Very, very few atheists disqualify “god exists” because that answer is not arrived at through scientific tests. I would love being able to say that science can disprove god, but it just can’t. A priori it’s totally possible to accept science and believe in god.
          The God of the Gaps fallacy simply is the specific non-sequitur “science can’t explain hence god”. That’s all. It’s a logical fallacy because history has provided sufficient examples of things that were attributed to one god or another first and later were totally explained by science.
          From a different angle: “science can’t explain hence god” is a false dichotomy. It considers only two options: 1. science explains it and 2. god did it. There is a third option: science might very well explain it in the future. There is even a fourth option: the relevant empirical data to enable science explaining it are lost forever. Maybe there are some more options.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_of_the_gaps

          “saying and making you happy is a bad reason.”
          When you want to increase your knowledge and understanding the criterium “I accept what makes me happy” is a bad standard indeed. Happiness is not objective.
          It makes X happy to think that the Earth is flat. Do you think he/she has a good reason to think so?

        • MNb

          No, unfortunately not. He is retired (must be 70 now), has received some serious and nasty opposition from the RCC (he is a catholic) and prefers to enjoy a well deserved retirement.
          In case you’d like to ask him yourself, you can find him here:

          https://godenenmensen.wordpress.com/2015/06/30/pleidooi-voor-een-moderne-visie-op-de-profeet/

          Joost Tibosch sr., sixth comment from underneath. You two might like each other. You can use my name as a reference if necessary; I’m pretty sure he’ll remember the Dutch atheist from Suriname.

        • A Philosopher

          My argument for taking the hard/strong atheist position, at least with respect to the Abrahamic god on whom morality depends:

          (1) If the Abrahamic god exists, then Divine Command Theory is true.
          (2) Divine Command Theory is false.
          (3) Therefore, the Abrahamic god does not exist.

          If you believe (1) and (2), then you are justified in believing (3). (1) is definitional, and most theists would agree morality depends on their god. (2) seems quite believable, since moral facts, if they exist, don’t seem to be the kinds of things that can be dependent upon the whims of any particular entity (Euthyphro dilemma and what not).

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I wouldn’t have thought that 1 was definitional. Abraham argues with God about Sodom and Gomorrah. “Surely a god will do the right thing” or something like that.

    • MNb

      “He starts by pretending that mental illness, optical illusions, cognitive bias, and a variety of other well-documented phenomena don’t exist.”
      Do you have a reference for this, preferably on internet? If this is true Plantinga is an idiot indeed, even worse than WLC. It wouldn’t surprise me, as I have concluded that every single apologist in the end must become antiscientific one way or another. But it’s always nice to see this confirmed.

      • phantomreader42

        The bit about “our minds are reliable because jeebus” requires ignoring all the known and documented ways in which they aren’t perfectly reliable, along with the ways we’ve figured out to compensate for those issues.

        And my experience with apologists has lead me to the conclusion that apologetics is nothing more than a fancy way to say “lying for jesus”.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        That is the problem, isn’t it? If Plantinga argues that God made our minds perfect, he stumbles over the obvious fact that it’s not (I recently summarized a bunch of examples of our fallible brains here).

        But then if our minds are fallible, then what is he complaining about? Evolution is where you find things that work good enough but not perfectly.

        I suppose he’d be arguing that our brains are absolute crap, but of course evolution doesn’t say that.

  • JohnH2

    Nearly all of the comments appear to be missing the point, especially the ones that talk about mental illness etc. Nature selects actions that lead to survivability and couldn’t care less about the accuracy of the beliefs leading to the actions. I would have thought that this point would be blatantly and unmistakably obvious to a bunch of atheist living in a world populated with theists. Or that we live in a largely Newtonian universe instead of Aristotelian.

    The argument does suffer from problems of how does one believe in the argument in the first place if the argument is correct and at what point does it matter about the correctness of belief: one could postulate that science is all wrong about why and how things happen but science is primarily concerned with what happens; meaning that it doesn’t matter greatly if the why and how is wrong as long as the what is reproducible and reliable.

    So his Paul is easily selected for; Pauls beliefs can be way out of whack and Paul’s reasoning can be severely compromised all that is needed is that Paul’s actions lead to survival. Paul’s beliefs and reasoning only needs to be minimally accurate to allow for correct action other then that it is open to being utterly wrong.

    Physicists that think that perhaps the universe is not actually understandable by humans are now making Plantinga’s argument in a physics setting. There is no naturalistic reason to think that ones logic and ability to understand things is actually correct or that the universe is understandable: there is just reason to think that ones logic and ability to understand will aid in survival under the normal range of parameters to which ones species is exposed.

    • MNb

      “There is no naturalistic reason to think that ones logic and ability to understand things is actually correct or that the universe is understandable”
      If I understand Plantinga correctly (my compatriot Emanuel Rutten has argued along similar lines) he states that homo sapiens foster beliefs which actually are correct and that this fact needs explanation, which naturalism can’t provide, hence god.
      Which sounds in my ears quite like fine-tuning, ie a god of the gaps.

      • JohnH2

        It seems that without either a full knowledge of everything in the universe or without some way of determining that everything that can be known is and that this knowledge doesn’t cover everything in the universe that any argument for or against homo sapiens having true beliefs (especially outside of areas that impact survival) is based itself on a belief.

        Any Christian that is part of a sect which accepts the creeds who is making an argument for an understandable universe can only be doing so as an intellectual mercenary. Given the creeds the more natural position is that the universe is not understandable, meaning if that position becomes popular then expect arguments in favor of God because of the universe not being fully understandable.

        That said, I am a Mormon and so reject the creeds and explicitly believe based on revelation recorded in scripture that the universe is in principle understandable by humans. Using the belief that the universe is understandable to suggest the existence of God may be useful in some settings in order to get someone to seek a further knowledge of God; but for me the belief goes the other direction.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          That said, I am a Mormon and so reject the creeds and explicitly believe based on revelation recorded in scripture that the universe is in principle understandable by humans.

          Why get revelation involved here? That sounds like arguing how many teeth a horse has instead of just going down to the paddock and looking inside a horse’s mouth.

          We ask ourselves, “Gee, I wonder if the universe is understandable?” and then we try to understand it. That’s how we find out what’s understandable. If science said one thing about reality and revelation another, then science would win (and I’ll bet “revelation” would gradually morph so that it agreed with science!).

        • JohnH2

          Bob;

          In this case I expect and have seen it go the other direction, where science thought things was probably one way and further observation moved its position closer to what revelation said.

          I agree we shouldn’t ever give up on trying to understand the universe; even if it doesn’t look understandable and it may be unclear to proceed.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          But then science is the final arbiter in all cases.

        • MNb

          “any argument for or against homo sapiens having true beliefs is based itself on a belief.”
          Typical apologist nonsense, based on an ambiguous meaning of the word belief. Two hundred years ago some people have developed something called the scientific method. That includes all kind of assumptions indeed. But it is simply a logical fallacy to equate them with relious beliefs.
          The difference is quite simple.
          A) a religious person can’t say a priori which observations would disprove his/her belief system. That’s exactly what revelations are about.
          B) every single scientist can tell you a priori which observations would disprove his/her assumptions. Example: if you manage to observe that in some obscure corner of our Universe gravity actually attracts instead of repels you’ll win the Nobel Price, will be mentioned in the same breath with Archimedes, Newton and Einstein exactly because we very well may have to abandon the assumption that the Universe is consistent and fully understandable indeed.

        • JohnH2

          Sorry if I was unclear. I am not talking about the assumptions that are behind a particular scientific theory, but about the assumptions that are behind science itself, such as the principle of induction and Occam’s razor for examples.

          What observation would lead you to rejecting induction from observation? What would lead to rejecting Occam’s razor and accepting a convoluted theory over a simpler one that also explains the facts?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      I would have thought that this point would be blatantly and unmistakably obvious to a bunch of atheist living in a world populated with theists.

      I don’t know why you’re surprised. Atheists are all idiots. Why would they pick up on something obvious?

      So his Paul is easily selected for; Pauls beliefs can be way out of whack and Paul’s reasoning can be severely compromised all that is needed is that Paul’s actions lead to survival.

      I’m trying to figure out why you think my analysis is wrong, but all I’m reading here is a restatement of Plantinga’s argument.

      Physicists that think that perhaps the universe is not actually understandable by humans

      Physicists say that the Newtonian middle world that we live in is not understandable? I certainly haven’t heard that. Seems pretty understandable to me. This middle world is where evolutionary survival matters (like tigers) live.

  • Paul King

    Of course, te whole idea that beliefs as such are the direct product of evolution is silly. It is the mechanisms by which we acquire beliefs that evolve. If we consider just this basic point, Plantinga’s argument looks even sillier.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      We do have programming that hardwires us with some cause-and-effect beliefs, no? Instinct is pretty important in animals. I assume that we have some rules like this–maybe “loud noises are made by scary things.”

      • Paul King

        I don’t think that many instincts rise to the level of conscious belief. But fear of tigers is, I suppose, likely to be instinctive (and this is another problem for Plantinga).

        But here’s an example of what I mean. The ability to judge distance is obviously useful. So how do we deal with Plantinga’s idea of “Paul” reversing “near” and “far” with respect to the tiger? It seems obvious to me that judging distances would likely be a general ability applied in the same way to everything – because that’s the simplest way to do it. But Plantinga’s argument practically demands that tigers are a special case. How can this be considered likely ?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          A similar example is that of throwing a ball (mentioned to someone else recently). Which is likelier: that I actually am decent at judging the physics of ball throwing, or that I’m deluded–I think that I’m throwing a ball, but I’m not really.

          That everything works to give us our brains an good approximation of reality explains things pretty well.

  • staircaseghost

    “As an aside, let me admit that I have a hard time maintaining respect for those at the leading edge of philosophy.”

    Plantinga (retired) was never “at the leading edge of philosophy”. He was earl of a tiny backwater-within-a-backwater of the discipline, and his impact on the actual fields of e.g. epistemology and modal logic is essentially nonexistent.

    Shame you had to put up an otherwise beautiful sonata of a post and then end it with this little fart noise.

    • MNb

      With Swinburne Plantinga is at the leading edge of philosophy of religion. Chriss Hallquist has taught me that that is a rather ill-respected subdivision of philosophy – ill-respected by other philosophers.

    • Rayndeon

      I thought Plantinga made some decent headway in modality back when he was working in that area. He did a lot to try to vindicate the notion of de re modality.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      “those at the leading edge of philosophy” was meant to refer to whoever’s at the leading edge. I don’t have a good view of the whole field, so that’s an interesting data point that Plantinga is off in a corner somewhere.

    • Eric Sotnak

      One of the values of philosophy is that it reminds us that we often understand and can explain things less well than we may think (Socrates traded on this to the point where it got him killed). Plantinga, I think, is a very good philosopher who raises some good questions deserving of answers. He is done a disservice, I think, both by those who unreflectively agree that he has provided a disproof of naturalism and by those who unreflectively snort at the questions he asks, assuming that they are uninformed and trivially easy to answer. I happen to think his argument goes wrong in a number of ways, but it is still instructive (even, or maybe especially, apart from the religious implications). What are the details of how the human belief-forming system works? How well does it work? Why does it work as well (or as badly) as it does? How much of it is due to biology? How much of it is due to culture?
      And for those inclined to agree with Plantinga that there is a supernatural influence involved: How did God implement the design for reliable belief-formation? What specific neurophysiological fiats were necessary for God to cause so that humans would have generally reliable beliefs? Do animals have beliefs? If not, then how do they manage to navigate the world successfully? If so, then are their beliefs also divinely bolstered (so that lions regularly prey upon gazelles and not Rhinos or unoccupied motor-vehicles)?

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        These are good questions, but I don’t think that Plantinga is bringing them to the attention of biologists or psychologists. I think they figured them out all by themselves.

        I don’t see Plantinga’s value here. He can’t answer the questions and he isn’t even the first to pose them.

        If I’m missing any validity in Plantinga’s Paul example, point it out. I don’t see it.

        To your final paragraph, I agree that “God did it!” explains nothing. It simply pats the believer on the head and assures him that he’s a good boy and has backed the right horse.

  • Ron

    On Darwin’s doubt…

    Plantinga has misinterpreted Darwin’s point. In his letter to William Graham (July 3rd, 1881), Darwin rejects the claim that the existence of natural laws implies purpose, and he expresses doubt only in the trustworthiness of such convictions of purpose. not naturalism itself.

    You would not probably expect any one fully to agree with you on so many abstruse subjects; and there are some points in your book which I cannot digest. The chief one is that the existence of so-called natural laws implies purpose. I cannot see this. Not to mention that many expect that the several great laws will some day be found to follow inevitably from some one single law, yet taking the laws as we now know them, and look at the moon, where the law of gravitation—and no doubt of the conservation of energy—of the atomic theory, &c. &c., hold good, and I cannot see that there is then necessarily any purpose. Would there be purpose if the lowest organisms alone, destitute of consciousness existed in the moon? But I have had no practice in abstract reasoning, and I may be all astray. Nevertheless you have expressed my inward conviction, though far more vividly and clearly than I could have done, that the Universe is not the result of chance.* But then with me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind? [...]

    * The Duke of Argyll (‘Good Words,’ Ap. 1885, p. 244) has recorded a few words on this subject, spoken by my father in the last year of his life. “… in the course of that conversation I said to Mr. Darwin, with reference to some of his own remarkable works on the ‘Fertilisation of Orchids,’ and upon ‘The Earthworms,’ and various other observations he made of the wonderful contrivances for certain purposes in nature—I said it was impossible to look at these without seeing that they were the effect and the expression of mind. I shall never forget Mr. Darwin’s answer. He looked at me very hard and said, ‘Well, that often comes over me with overwhelming force; but at other times,” and he shook his head vaguely, adding, “it seems to go away.’”

  • Greg G.

    Plantinga’s argument gets weirder the more I think about it. We are nowhere near omniscient so our intellect is limited, either by the contingencies of evolution or God’s plan to make just smart enough to condemned to Hell. Thus we can’t be sure we’re smart enough to know whether AP is right or even capable of being right. Appealing to God as the source of our limited intelligence doesn’t give us any reason to think it’s actually reliable in any way.

    However, evolution provides us an explanation for some reliability. Evolution works by inheritable factors that facilitates survivability and reproduction. A brain that can assess reality better will help with that survivability. The abilities to assess realities add up.

    Computers are better explained by evolutionary produced brains than imperfect handiwork of a maximally great god.

    • MNb

      “Plantinga’s argument gets weirder the more I think about it.”
      That’s how I feel as well.

  • erikcampano

    There are plenty of brilliant philosophers of science who know both disciplines very well. Plantinga is one of very few influential theist academic philosophers. Many of the rest would not make this argument, and some of their work is magnificent. He’s not representative.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      I don’t know how well a philosopher can know physics if he’s not a physicist, but this may be a quibble.

      Are you arguing that philosophers are making important and relevant contributions to knowledge today?

      • erikcampano

        Sure. For example, in my undergraduate field of study, cognitive science, new technology and scientific discoveries have challenged old philosophical arguments about such topics as epistemology, consciousness, and free will. Philosophers examine the implications of this technology for the continuing dialogue that is Western philosophy, and often have to come up with novel responses to old questions, as well as new questions.

        It’s a quibble. Some people specialize in both fields. Physics and philosophy is indeed a dual major at Yale, for example, and many people continue onto Ph.D. programs linking the two fields. They’re required to have deep knowledge of both. There’s a lot of burning the midnight oil.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          such topics as epistemology, consciousness, and free will

          Sorry to put it bluntly, but why is this more than just mental masturbation?

          often have to come up with novel responses to old questions, as well as new questions.

          Like what?

          Let me hasten to say again that my poor regard for philosophy is due to being bludgeoned by silly arguments by philosophers like Wm. Lane Craig. He likes to pretend that he walks into a room of befuddled scientists, grappling with the problems at the edge of science, and says, “OK, fellas, the cavalry’s here.” And then (in this dream) the scientists breathe a sigh of relief when Craig pretends to answer questions that his discipline couldn’t even formulate.

          So maybe I just need to broaden my perspective.

          Are these useful responses and questions? Are they within science?

        • erikcampano

          As to why (or, indeed, whether) they are mental masturbation, I can’t answer that question, really. It sounds as if you have a distaste for philosophy. That’s normal. Some people do. I, personally, love the subject area. It’s made me, and a number of others I know, a better person. So the questions and responses have been useful; yes, I think so.

          What do you mean by, “within science?”

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          As a mental discipline, philosophy might be great. I’m focused on one narrow deliverable: What have philosophers done for me lately?

          I ask for “within science” because Wm. Lane Craig talks about plenty of stuff within science (time, what caused the Big Bang, and so on). If he wants to blather on outside of science, that’s fine. I’m wondering how much rationale he has to argue that he has something useful to contribute to science.

  • http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/ Lothar Lorraine

    I agree, as a Christian, that his argument is unconving, but I believe there is actually no way to really verify if the beliefs if proposed would have been compatible with evolution or not.

    But he clearly has the burden of proof.

    That said, people pretending to know that evolution most often select true beliefs are equally misguided.

    I believe that reductive materialism is false because there are many real things which are not identifcal with a bunch of interacting particles.

    Greetings from continental Europe.

    Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son
    http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      people pretending to know that evolution most often select true beliefs are equally misguided.

      If we agree that evolution selects traits beneficial for survival, one easy way for a trait to benefit survival is for it to accurately reflect reality. Yes, we do have counterexamples. Religion may be a biggie.

      Is it likelier that I am tossing a ball with someone (and that I really have mastered the skill of catching a ball), or is it likelier that this is just a delusion and I’m really not catching the ball but just imagining it somehow?

  • Stephen Krogh

    Could you say a word or two regarding what pushing the frontier of human knowledge looks like? Cashing that out might help you (and your readers!) work through whether philosophy, or at least the top philosophers, are doing something of the sort.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Nothing much useful comes to mind, I’m afraid. I can only think of examples from science–the annual lists of the top cool discoveries science/math have made each year and so on.

      • Stephen Krogh

        It seems, then, that you’ve defined philosophy out of contention for pushing the frontiers. Maybe that’s justified, but regardless it seems that you shouldn’t wrestle with maintaining respect for those in a field that isn’t math or science given your answer here.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Part of the problem certainly is definitional. When I bring this up, someone will quickly point out that logic is useful, and logic is philosophy. Fair enough, which is why I ask, What have philosophers done for me lately?

          If I’m forgetting or ignoring important useful contributions philosophers make today, I need to be reminded of that. If the “important contributions” are largely providing a smokescreen to maintain a fiction that religion is viable, however, I don’t have much use for that.

        • Stephen Krogh

          It’s a fair question. When you ask whether something is doing something for you, what sorts of things do you have in mind? Obviously scientific advances fall before the transom, but do you think only scientific advances do? Perhaps the arts, or literature, poetry, or music offer some sort of knowledge, or at least serve as a gateway to a sort of knowledge?

          Also, you say that you’re not interested in contributions that are nothing more than smokescreens to legitimize religious belief. Do you think any attempt to legitimize religious belief is prima facie a smokescreen, i.e., it is beyond legitimization, or do you particularly object to weak or lazy attempts to legitimate religious belief?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Yes, art, literature, etc. sounds good. I’m sure there are Top Ten lists in those fields, for example. So, back to the point: where is the Top Ten list for philosophical contributions each year?

          Maybe it’s a difference of opinion. I don’t know if Wm. Craig actually thinks that he’s doing good philosophy and breaking new ground. It all looks elementary to me, especially since most of his arguments is woven from quotes taken from scientists.

          This is the best they’ve got, and the arguments are no better than this? I hesitate to draw hard conclusions–I’d hate to be informed that I simply haven’t heard of this or that argument, which is certainly possible–but I have very little material supporting any respect for present-day leading-edge philosophy.

        • A Philosopher

          Moral philosophy and political philosophy are the most obviously practical fields. Logic, metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of language, and philosophy of mind also contribute to an accurate view of reality. But I agree that philosophy of religion provides cover for some pretty terrible philosophy. Please don’t hold the bullshit arguments of some philosophers against all of us. Thanks.

  • Dean Young

    I think the writer has fatally underestimated Plantinga’s argument. It is subtle, but most people should understand it. The fundamental premises of a naturalistic worldview is survival and reproduction. If seeing the world upside down enhances your survival and reproductive chances, it really doesn’t matter what beliefs you hold as long as they keep you surviving and reproducing. This doesn’t prove that you see reality as it actually is. Instead, wrong beliefs could select the most wrong-headed to survive. If this is so, then (unless naturalists can prove otherwise) naturalism is self-refuting and can make no claims on truth or reality. In such a case, the metaphysics is self-defeating and science (as a truth seeking enterprise) would fail to obtain. Childish arguments in the vein of “I saw the ball and I hit it” are embarrassingly clumsy and without any philosophical understanding or sophistication. This argument against Plantinga’s argument is an abject failure.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Your summary of EAAN is just as I tried to summarize it above. So where’s the problem? You say that it’s a failure, but you haven’t engaged with my argument.

      And, as I mentioned above, I’m allergic to celebrations of philosophical sophistication, not having seen anything fruitful come out of such sophistication.

      You say the argument is wrong? Cool–show me and I’ll modify it accordingly. I don’t like to have my name attached to crappy arguments.

      • Dean Young

        Hey Bob – I did. Read my summation again. I can’t make it any clearer or simpler. The problem is you never engaged Plantinga’s argument. I can’t re-fashion the jacket and pants to suit Bob now, can I?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I can’t make it any clearer or simpler.

          Dang! A missed opportunity, I guess. Oh well–it can’t have been that important if no alternate ways of highlighting my error came to you.

        • Dean Young

          A missed opportunity for whom, Bob?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          For me. My post is full of holes but I’ll never know why.

        • Dean Young

          Bob, you remind me of Jack Sparrow. You shoulda been a pirate and I shoulda been a teacher. Alas, my life and body are also full of bones and holes.

        • Dean Young

          Bob you didn’t frustrate me mate. That dubious prize goes to the word salad of MNb. Okay, let’s give it a bash. On naturalism, the content of the belief is not as important as the behaviour that’s selected for survival. Thus, whether my belief is true or false is unimportant; what is important is the belief causing the behaviour that aids survival. It is quite possible, on naturalism, for a wrong belief to have survival value. I don’t think anyone can dispute that it is a possibility. If it’s possible, then the question must be asked: why do we have true, or mostly true, beliefs? And common sense confirms that we do. But, naturalism cannot affirm that. You cannot invoke natural selection as the brute mechanism for selecting out false beliefs because beliefs are not material things. Furthermore, if immaterial beliefs have effects in the material world, then materialism and naturalism fail to explain anything. Remember, on materialism, only physical causes obtain and the universe is causally closed.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          You’re restating Plantinga’s EAAN. It’s a clear and simple outline of the challenge, though I already understood all that. And I responded to it in the post above.

          You think the post is wrong. Fair enough–tell me (hopefully in clear and simple English like this) what the problem is.

        • Dean Young

          You wrote: “Natural selection is unforgiving, belief sets that don’t lead to survival are discarded.” You are conflating the material with the immaterial. Natural selection operates on body plans, not beliefs. Finch beaks don’t vary in size because the finch believes a bigger or smaller beak is better. It varies because environmental pressures select among the range of naturally occurring beaks for the fittest beak in the niche.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Someone whose biological programming gives them the belief that to satisfy hunger they should take a nap is too stupid to live.

        • Dean Young

          Biological programming implies a programmer, Bob. But, there are children who are born almost in a vegetative state. I know one mother whose child is completely non-responsive after the father repeatedly kicked mom in the belly in a drunken rage. Is she too stupid to live and be loved? Is that natural selection, Bob? Now, your mask slips. I see your teeth mate and I’ve seen them before.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Biological programming implies a programmer, Bob.

          Evolution explains it naturally. No need for the preposterous idea of a supernatural being.

          Is she too stupid to live and be loved?

          No.

          Apparently you see how I’ve completely lost this argument, but you’ll have to explain it to me. I’m too stupid to understand what you’re talking about.

        • Dean Young

          Stop acting, Bob. You are not too stupid to understand anything. You are quite capable.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Give me a straightforward argument, and I’ll probably understand. What you’ve given me so far isn’t that.

        • Dean Young

          Bob, you’re putting words in Plantinga’s mouth. He never said that biological drives remain unsatisfied. He’s arguing that the beliefs that attend those drives cannot be assumed true beliefs on the basis of naturalism. The key point here is “on the basis of naturalism.”

          Why is he saying this? Because, naturalism is not concerned with true beliefs, but with survival and reproduction. There is no “mechanism” in naturalism that requires true beliefs to aid organic survival. If naturalistic evolution is true, it seems it got along pretty well for hundreds of millions of years without recourse to true beliefs.

          If we evolved, then on naturalism there’s nothing to explain why true beliefs would predominate over false beliefs. The material process doesn’t care whether or not people have true beliefs. More importantly, it doesn’t care whether humans evolve or not. It is blind, meaningless and purposeless. Therefore, whatever belief gets our bodies to do A,B or C to survive and reproduce is completely irrelevant in the naturalistic scheme of things.

          Naturalists are making a huge, unproven assumption by arguing that true beliefs will automatically attend biological drives. Plantinga is merely pointing this out. But, what do the skeptics offer as rebuttal? “Paul is hungry so he takes a nap,” and “I saw the fastball and I hit it.” That’s completely off point and a misrepresentation of Plantinga’s argument.

        • MNb

          “then on naturalism there’s nothing to explain why true beliefs would predominate over false beliefs.”
          Still clinging to your false dilemma, I see. Have you already decided whether Flat Earth Theory is a true or a false belief? Or do you prefer to keep EAAN abstract and meaningless, avoiding any concrete application in scientific practice? I bet the latter.

          “Naturalists are making a huge, unproven assumption by arguing that true beliefs will automatically attend biological drives.”
          Perhaps some people do, but you won’t find this in any book on Evolution Theory.

          A sophisticated and detailed answer to EAAN can be found here:

          http://stephenlaw.blogspot.com/2012/12/plantingas-evolutionary-argument.html

          Note that it includes probabilism too.

        • Dean Young

          Nope, no need for me to cling to any false dilemma. Plantinga’s argument does not enhance my belief in God or creation or anything of that matter. I’m just fascinated how naturalists willfully misrepresent his argument. Stephen Law makes the same mistake on two counts and one magic trick. You would think that an evolutionist would understand this:

          (1) Stephen Law conflates the immaterial with the material and believes natural selection operates similarly for beliefs as for body plans. This is absurd.

          (2) Stephan Law assumes that biological drives on false beliefs produce wrong behaviour. As I pointed out to Bob, this is not what Plantinga is arguing. The biological drive is satisfied even attended by false beliefs.

          (3) As for Law’s conceptual constraints…. well, what are they and how does he value load them? He doesn’t explain. He might as well have pulled a white cat out a black hat!

          So, um, ceteris paribus, mate – my previous post stands.

        • Dean Young

          Yeah, the flat earth myth again. You got me there MNb. What can I say…?

          Check wikipedia for Myth of the Flat Earth

          According to Stephen Jay Gould, “there never was a period of ‘flat earth darkness’ among scholars (regardless of how the public at large may have conceptualized our planet both then and now). Greek knowledge of sphericity never faded, and all major medieval scholars accepted the Earth’s roundness as an established fact of cosmology.”Historians of science David Lindberg and Ronald Numbers point out that “there was scarcely a Christian scholar of the Middle Ages who did not acknowledge [Earth's] sphericity and even know its approximate circumference”.

          Historian Jeffrey Burton Russell says the flat-earth error flourished most between 1870 and 1920, and had to do with the ideological setting created by struggles over evolution.Russell claims “with extraordinary [sic] few exceptions no educated person in the history of Western Civilization from the third century B.C. onward believed that the earth was flat”, and credits histories by John William Draper, Andrew Dickson White, and Washington Irving for popularizing the flat-earth myth.

        • Dean Young

          Please note, MNb, that Stephan Jay Gould dismisses the flat earth myth from the atheistic arsenal. He’s an evolutionist (sadly passed), but if Plantinga had said it was bullshit you wouldn’t have believed him. The fact is, there is no proof for the belief of a flat earth by Jews, Christians or any other ancients. Don’t use pathetic arguments that make you look like a plonker.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          He’s arguing that the beliefs that attend those drives cannot be assumed true beliefs on the basis of naturalism.

          Yes, I understand that that’s Plantinga’s point. Yes, that is how it works within naturalism.

          Because, naturalism is not concerned with true beliefs, but with survival and reproduction.

          Yes.

          If naturalistic evolution is true, it seems it got along pretty well for hundreds of millions of years without recourse to true beliefs.

          No. There’s no certainty that a belief is true; it just (likely) aided survival. However, the point of the post is that beliefs are continually honed by reality. You could falsely believe that you’re hitting fast balls, but much more plausible is that you actually are well adapted to interact with things in this world and that, with practice, you can hit fast balls.

          If we evolved, then on naturalism there’s nothing to explain why true beliefs would predominate over false beliefs.

          Aaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

          As the post illustrates, beliefs aren’t just conjured up in a vacuum with no connection with reality. Every individual has tiny programming variations from its parents. These are tested in reality. If they’re a bit better, that might confer a survival advantage. A bit worse (like the distant ancestor of Paul who wasn’t all that bothered by a tiger’s roar) and they’re out of the gene pool.

          Do you reject evolution?

          whatever belief gets our bodies to do A,B or C to survive and reproduce is completely irrelevant in the naturalistic scheme of things.

          Read the post.

          Naturalists are making a huge, unproven assumption by arguing that true beliefs will automatically attend biological drives. Plantinga is merely pointing this out.

          Good ol’ Plantinga–keeping those scientists honest.

          Plantinga’s Paul example is ridiculous. It don’t work that way.

        • Dean Young

          “Aaaaaaaaaaaaaah!”

          Don’t be disingenuous, Bob. You’ve known all along that I believe in God.

          “beliefs aren’t just conjured up in a vacuum with no connection with reality. Every individual has tiny programming variations from its parents. These are tested in reality. If they’re a bit better, that might confer a survival advantage.”

          Then, explain the connection with reality. I get 50% DNA from dadda and 50% DNA from mamma. But, that just accounts for my matter, not my beliefs. If dadda is an atheist and mamma is a Christian how does this work?

          “Do you reject evolution”
          Absolutely. I’m not as forgiving as Plantinga.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          You’ve known all along that I believe in God.

          It’s not the God thing. You were making a bit of sense and then you came out with that.

          that just accounts for my matter, not my beliefs.

          Instinct comes from DNA. So does other programming like basic morality (the Golden Rule, for example).

          From Wikipedia: “Other examples include animal fighting, animal courtship behavior, internal escape functions, and the building of nests. All of these are examples of complex behaviors and are thus substantially different from simple reflex behaviors.”

          Absolutely. I’m not as forgiving as Plantinga.

          (1) I don’t understand your point about Plantinga.

          (2) Kind of hard to imagine a non-biologist (correct me if this assumption about you is wrong) rejecting the consensus in the field of biology.

        • Dean Young

          Thanks Bob. That’s very gracious of you. Normally, I am called a fool or a creatard for believing in God.

          My reference to Plantinga is that he seems non-committal to the idea of evolution, however, I may be wrong. Perhaps, he thinks arguing directly for or against it does not add anything more to the philosophical issues being debated. Perhaps, that’s wise in his field. On the other hand, WL Craig is an evolutionist, although he believes God directed the whole process. I believe it was Chesterton who noted that a leisurely or fast miracle is still a miracle. Still, we all have to make up our own minds and for my part, a fast miracle satisfies.

          I do not believe you can conflate the mind (or consciousness) with the brain. That’s pure materialism and I do not believe materialism to be correct. But, there are many others with different worldviews who also find materialism to be a self-defeating philosophy, so you don’t have to take my humble word for it. I’m going to copy and paste here, which is not something I like to do, but time is an issue, so please bear with me.

          (1) Philosopher Mary Midgley, among others, (Baker, Reppert, Seidner, Boghossian) argues that materialism is a self-refuting idea, at least in its eliminative form.

          (2) “Quantum physics undermines materialism because it reveals that matter has far less ‘substance’ than we might believe. But another development goes even further by demolishing Newton’s image of matter as inert lumps. This development is the theory of chaos, which has recently gained widespread attention.”
          [Paul Davies and John Gribbin, 'The Matter Myth', Chapter 1]

          (3) “As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clear headed science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as a result of my research about atoms this much: There is no matter as such. All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent Mind. This Mind is the matrix of all matter.”
          [Max Planck, 'Das Wesen der Materie', 1944]

        • adam

          “I do not believe you can conflate the mind (or consciousness) with the brain.”

          Really?

          Where can we observe a mind (or consciousness) WITHOUT the brain?

        • Dean Young

          You’ve just shared your opinion with me (mind) and your brain is nowhere to be seen :)

        • adam

          But all you see are the words that show up on the screen, no consciousness. It could easily be generated by a computer program as a bot.

          Where can we observe a mind or consciousness WITHOUT the brain?

        • Dean Young

          Well, Adam, I think it’s a fair assumption to make that you are someone with a mind. Currently, I don’t know of any bots interested in philosophy. But, if there were, the bot would have to be programmed by a human. So, there’s something of the mind of the creator in the created bot anyway. Does that answer your question?

        • adam

          Not at all:

          “I do not believe you can conflate the mind (or consciousness) with the brain.”

          Really?

          Where can we observe a mind (or consciousness) WITHOUT the brain?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          My reference to Plantinga is that he seems non-committal to the idea of evolution

          I’m not certain either, but he seemed to clearly reject evolution with his EAAN.

          An aside on that: Plantinga’s evaluation of evolution—a subject outside of his domain of expertise—carries zero weight with me. I have no respect for laymen’s conclusions about a scientific field for which there is a clear consensus.

          WL Craig is an evolutionist

          WLC rejects evolution. Which, of course, makes me laugh at any scientific evaluation he makes (and he makes plenty).

          I do not believe you can conflate the mind (or consciousness) with the brain.

          Is there evidence that the mind can’t be explained by simply the natural actions of the brain?

          many others with different worldviews who also find materialism to be a self-defeating philosophy

          They might well have valid quibbles with wording, and yet these people are happy to use the fruits of science.

          argues that materialism is a self-refuting idea, at least in its eliminative form.

          Is this an interesting topic? Seems like a tangent.

        • Dean Young

          Nope, Bob, Plantinga’s argument is the Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism. But, perhaps, he was just having some tongue-in-cheek fun. What do you think?

          Yip, William Craig is an evolutionist. He made this quite clear on public radio. Obviously, he rejects the naturalistic part of the process, but there it is. Perhaps, you should examine that claim before laughing too loudly at his other claims. You may find that you have an uncomfortable bedfellow.

          As for the mind, is there any evidence that the mind can be explained simply by natural actions of the brain? If there are, I would be open-minded enough to hear them. So far, you’ve said nothing to convince me.

          Qibbles with wording don’t swat the objections to materialism away. The fact that I gave you a diverse sample of thinkers who do believe materialism is a pot of hooey can’t just be waved away as semantic quibbles simply because you believe materialism is true.

          Assuredly, we have gone on a tangent, but the path was not chosen by me alone. Nevertheless, you have been a gracious host and I thank you for that.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          perhaps, he was just having some tongue-in-cheek fun. What do you think?

          I’m certain that he wasn’t.

          Yip, William Craig is an evolutionist. He made this quite clear on public radio. Obviously, he rejects the naturalistic part of the process

          Does he accept evolution as biologist define it or not? Sounds like not.

          As for the mind, is there any evidence that the mind can be explained simply by natural actions of the brain?

          That’s not the question. That the brain operates purely by natural processes is the null hypothesis. If you want to overturn that, I’m curious to see your evidence.

          Qibbles with wording don’t swat the objections to materialism away.

          Again: is this an interesting question?

          What is your definition of materialism and what is its self-defeating nature?

          we have gone on a tangent, but the path was not chosen by me alone.

          I don’t remember bringing up materialism.

          you have been a gracious host and I thank you for that.

          My pleasure. The attitude of my response usually mirrors that of the other party.

    • MNb

      “If this is so, then …”
      First of all you are fighting a strawman.
      1. You fail to distinguish between philosophical and methodological naturalism. We have very good reasons to assume that methodological naturalism, aka the scientific method, works: internet is one of them. The nuclear bomb another.
      2. In the contintental (European) interpretation of philosophical naturalism “truth” has become meaningless. No naturalist makes any claim on truth, if truth is defined as absolute 100% certainty. Still Plantinga uses the word in that very meaning.
      In the second place you (and Plantinga) fail to explain why exactly methodological naturalism is so successfull. That explanation is simple: it uses two objective methods to study reality, namely deduction and induction. So science fails sometimes and is limited, but in principle it is capable of weeding out mistakes and fraud. The very fact that scientific claims are temporary and tentative is a strength, not a weakness.
      Finally Plantinga’s argument is founded on a false dichotomy. It assumes that claims on reality are either true or false. That’s not how science works. You (and Plantinga) might be amazed how well Flat Earth Theory works within narrow prerequisite constraints – like you driving your car to your work every morning.
      On the contrary, Plantinga’s argument is not sophisticated, it’s crude and shows lack of scientific understanding.

      • Dean Young

        How delightful! You’ve just given the perfect example of how a strawman is constructed. Plantinga is not arguing against the possibility for truth and knowledge. And, from where I come from, truth is not a dirty word. If truth is a meaningless concept on the continent for postmodernists, so what? I can’t think of anything worse than being a postmodern naturalist (is such a creature even possible?) unless you are very comfortable with the idea of never saying anything ever again without the accompanying caveat that all your claims are meaningless. As it appears that you are venting this absurd point of view, how can anyone believe you?

        • MNb

          The strawman is yours.

          “Plantinga is not arguing against the possibility for truth.”
          That’s not what I wrote. I am the one arguing against the possibility for truth in science, not because it’s a dirty word but because it’s meaningless the way Plantinga and you use it.

          “If truth is a meaningless concept on the continent for postmodernists, so what?”
          I’m not a postmodernist, sorry for you. Reality is not a story, is not subjective. It’s just impossible to know the truth with absolute 100% certainty. It’s conclusive proof of Plantinga and you fighting a strawman that you both neglect this important point. I’m happy to repeat it though.

          “unless you are ….”
          One logical fallacy always leads to another. Here you’re presenting a false dichotomy. That we can’t be 100% absolute certain of something doesn’t mean that all statements about reality have equal probability of being correct. I’m pretty, but not 100% sure that two physical bodies always attract each other (provided that they are not electrically charged etc.). We cannot entirely rule out that somewhere in the future an experiment is devised which shows that they may repel each other. Such things have happened in the past in physics and they may happen again. There are some famous examples.
          There are more flavours than truth the way Plantinga and you use it and never saying anything again. If you two don’t accept this you are antiscientific. What’s more – you haven’t understood Descartes, Hume and Popper.
          It’s simple. Deduction alone is not enough to gain knowledge. Neither is induction. Comparing the results of both methods though (ie the scientific method ie methodological naturalism) justifies accepting or rejecting a hypothesis. That’s why physics is divided in Theoretical Physics (deduction) and Experimental Physics (induction). The more often a hypothesis (found by means of deduction) is confirmed by empirical data (ie induction) the more likely it is that the hypothesis is correct. But we never can be entirely sure, a claim Plantinga and you – I won’t get tired repeating it – wrongly attach to the scientific method.
          Thanks for confirming my refutation of EAAN in every single respect, DY.

        • Dean Young

          Nah, I don’t want your strawman. You keep him. But, I’m fascinated! May I break the confusion down into meaningful chunks? Thanks. (a) What is your definition of the truth? Please give me the meaningful one, not the meaningless one that you say I use. (b) Also, why do you keep using the phrase “false dichotomy” when it doesn’t apply? A dichotomy is a contrast between two things represented as being different. So, what am I falsely joining together? Can we start there, otherwise I fear I will never get to the bottom of your story and will have wasted both your time and my time. Lastly, if you find confirmation of your “refutation of EAAN” in my response, you are completely deluded. So, please explain (this is my last question) (c) how Plantinga’s evolutionary argument against naturalism fails?

        • MNb

          Problems with comprehensive reading? I adressed all three points above.

          a) oh wait – you say at beforehand that “the way Plantinga and you use truth implies 100% absolute certainty” is meaningless. Well, that’s it then.
          b) claiming that a scientific statement is either true with 100% absolute certainty or false is a false dichotomy. There are many more options.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_dichotomy

          c) it’s based on said false dichotomy, one you keep on clinging to, thus confirming my refutation of EAAN.

          “This doesn’t prove that you see reality as it actually is.”
          Here it is. You wrote it yourself. Science, ie methodological naturalism doesn’t claim it sees reality as it actually is. It tries to improve the way it describes reality by collecting more empirical data. The fact that Plantinga and you prefer to ignore that, call it meaningless or whatever doesn’t change it a tiny bit.
          Now I have a question for you. Consider Flat Earth Theory, is it a wrong belief or not? In the first case the next time you calculate the time you need to travel from home to work you should include the curve of the Earth plus you should use Einstein’s Relativity. If FET is true though you should explain me why Sigma Octans is not visible on the Northern Hemisphere. That’s to say – if you take EAAN seriously.
          FET is an excellent example of a hypothesis that is somewhat correct, largely wrong and in certain circumstances still helps to survive (and subsequently to reproduce). Still we know when it becomes wrong thanks to methodological naturalism.
          So your third option is to reject EAAN, like I do.

        • Dean Young

          Somewhat correct, largely wrong and still surviving. Yeah mate, I get it now. Let mama tuck you in and go doodoos now.

        • MNb

          The great DY has spoken. For the rest of mankind only silence remains. Hence it’s not necessary for you to answer my question – someone as superior like you doesn’t have to discuss on base of equality.
          And of course f**k science, let’s not forget that one either.

        • Dean Young

          Ag, NMb, you are such a sweet talker. How could anyone take offence?

        • MNb

          Thumbs up, DY.

        • J.Clark

          I know you mean well but how can you tell us with 100% certainty that we cannot be 100% certain? “It’s just impossible to know the truth with absolute 100% certainty.”
          Are you certain? If not then it is possible?
          “Oh, naturalism, oh naturalism, where is thy sting?”
          “Why dost thou refute thyself?”

        • MNb

          “Are you certain?”
          Of course not. I will change my mind as soon as you show me a way to achieve 100% certainty. “If my information changes my decisions change. How about you, sir?”
          Sorry for ya – that refutation only exists in your overheated but limited imagination.
          The big mistake you guys make is thinking that naturalism some way or another is based on unchallengable dogma’s. That’s not the case. The assumptions naturalism is based on bear the uncertainty, the possibility of refutation in itselves. But the possibility to refute is not the same as the refutation itself; it just tells you what to do if you want to refute – a hypothesis, a scientific theory or indeed naturalism itself. Take for instance my favourite example again: superconductivity at relatively high temperatures. It refutes Nobel-price winning BCS theory. But know what? Until today physicists still use it, bewaring its limitations, because they don’t have anything better yet.
          It’s the same with naturalism itself. It’s not enough to point at some (in this case imaginary) contradiction. You have to show up with something better. You can’t. DY can’t. Plantinga can’t.
          So try better next time. Naturalism is not self-contradictory. It recognizes its own limits; they are build in.

  • Joe

    Have to agree with Dean Y.

    I have a much better conclusion for Mr S.

    My advice to scientists: when you get the urge to play philosopher it’s best to lie down until the feeling goes away.

    Scientists are hardly the epitome of reason that blind and gullible atheists etc. think they are.

    The ” professional baseball player” argument mentioned, is quite glaringly another example of just how poor Darwinians have become in attempting to reason away the obvious.

    I’m not surprised that the neither the expounder of such sophism nor Mr Seidensticker both to fail see the “plain as the nose on your face” fatal flaw in it.
    The argument “neatly skewers” itself.
    Hint: The very phrase “not be able to consistently hit ninety-five mile per hour fastballs” is glaringly itself yet another supposition that you are seeing reality correctly!! ie the fast balls, their movement etc….

    Once again we witness the ubiquitous circular thinking of atheists – I wouldn’t call it reasoning.
    Does he really do the fastballs?
    Do the balls even exist outside his head?
    How do you know that fastballs at 95 mph, are not yet another misconception of reality created by unreliable faculties?

    “The spoon doesn’t exist”, comes to mind.
    Duh.
    Like all atheist “arguments” it implodes upon itself in short order.
    Another example of how atheists think they can test their brain, using their brain.
    Another Duh.
    Especially since atheists are always harping about how you can’t prove the bible using the bible. They want their cake and eat it too; sadly believing they can test the reliability of their brains, using their brains.

    But they never see such, because they don’t want to and because their own faculties of reason are defective; acute cognitive dissonance does this to their brain circuits.
    Atheists like these are always chasing their own tails. ;-)

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Have to agree with Dean Y.

      Dean Y gave up in frustration after one comment didn’t convert me to his position. Perhaps you have more patience.

      My advice to scientists: when you get the urge to play philosopher it’s best to lie down until the feeling goes away.

      Good advice, though I rarely get that urge.

      I’m not surprised that the neither the expounder of such sophism nor Mr Seidensticker both to fail see the “plain as the nose on your face” fatal flaw in it.

      Ouch! Zinger after zinger. Nice! I’m sure I’ll be sore for a week.

      Unfortunately, I’m no wiser about the many, many embarrassing flaws in my post.

      Suggestion: drop the hints and the condescension and the Duhs. List the worst errors that I’ve made and give plain English explanations of the errors. I’m too stupid to see the truth through your blather. I need to have it spelled out.

  • Philolinguist

    The problem with most of the objections to Plantinga’s EAAN (including yours) is that they judge naturalistic evolutionary theory to be true by criteria that presuppose the theory (‘our cognitive faculties are reliable because they’ve evolved to be reliable, so we can use those faculties to verify that naturalistic evolutionary theory is reliable’). That simply doesn’t fly. It’s a classic circular argument. Period.

    On a related issue, much misunderstanding can be avoided by distinguishing between the pragmatic value of a theory and the veracity of that theory. Most scientific theories are considered ‘true’ based on their pragmatic value, the fact that they make accurate predictions and help us get stuff done (predict the weather, launch rockets, etc). For such theories (judged on their pragmatic value), the reliability of our cognitive apparatus is not an issue. Even if we are all brains in a vat, such theories could still be valid within the realm of human experience (e.g. Newton’s Laws can still apply in the experience of a brain in a vat, even if they don’t apply outside the vat)

    It’s a whole different ball-game (excuse the pun) when you’re judging a theory on its veracity, whether it tells us what the world is ‘really’ like in the absence of observers (or to a properly functioning observer). Theories that attempt to explain the origin of the human cognitive apparatus (such as naturalistic theories of biological evolution, the origin of the universe, or even atomic theory, all of which purport to account for human cognitive functions) are usually claimed to have veracity, alongside any pragmatic value they hold. The problem with such theories (judged on their veracity) is that they run into the observer effect. You’re using your cognitive faculties to check the veracity of a theory of the origin of your cognitive faculties. See the problem? You can’t account for distortions caused by your cognitive faculties, because you have to use those faculties to check for distortions.

    This kind of observer effect is only a problem for the veracity of theories that purport to explain the origin of human cognitive faculties (I call them ‘global theories’). It is not a problem for the pragmatic value, if any, of such theories (e.g. atomic theory has practical applications within human experience). So the veracity of global theories, and indeed any other empirical theory, is very much in question (though it rarely matters in the latter case). The only way around the dilemma, as Plantinga argues, is to make assumptions (about the reliability of our cognitive faculties) that do not rely on empirical verification. So from a pragmatic point of view, yes, our cognitive faculties are reliable (enough). On the question of veracity, all bets are off. However, veracity rarely matters to us, as long as we can get things done. In other words, we usually don’t care that we might be brains in a vat, as long as we can get through the day. Unfortunately, our lack of concern is based on what our cognitive faculties tell us, and those faculties could be unreliable (in terms of veracity). Bummer.

    • Pofarmer

      Once a writer makes the first glaring error I tend to stop reading. I didn’t get past the first sentence where you say scientists “presuppose” the theory of evolution th be true. I am seeing theists use this argument quite a bit lately, and they, and you, are doing violence to the language here. Evolution by natural selection was initially based on an accumulation of evidence by Darwin, but also others. Archaeology, geology, biology, and others have added evidence and reinforced and expanded the theory. So if someone says they believe in evolution, they are no way presupposing anything any more than they are presupposing that the earth revolves around the sun. Also see Mnb response about two below about inductive and deductive reasoning.

      • Philolinguist

        I suggest you read the rest of my comment, it’s not long and addresses your concerns. Whatever you observe is irrelevant to the question of whether your cognitive faculties reliably arrive at veracity. From a pragmatic point of view (i.e. for most of science) it doesn’t matter, as long as you can make accurate predictions and get stuff done (so your faculties are ‘reliable’ for that purpose). For the purpose of explaining the origin of your cognitive apparatus, pragmatic reliability isn’t enough.

        You could just be a brain in a vat, and believe your cognitive faculties are reliably telling you that you’re seeing an external world (which is really fed to your brain by a computer). That’s not a problem if you’re just doing applied chemistry in the simulated world (e.g. making plastic or testing gold), but it is if you’re attempting to explain the origin of the cognitive faculties through which you see that world. In the latter case, you’re stuck in a vicious circle, if you’re relying solely on the cognitive faculties you’re trying to explain the origin of. It’s called the Observer Effect. It you’re a scientist, I assume you know what that is.

        • Pofarmer

          MNb handles this about three posts down.

        • Philolinguist

          MNb writes: “1. We have very good reasons to assume that methodological naturalism, aka the scientific method, works: internet is one of them. The nuclear bomb another.”

          My reply: Sure, methodological naturalism works fine for pragmatic, practical ends (e.g. the internet, medicine). But it doesn’t get around the circularity of trying to explain the origin of your cognitive faculties by relying solely on your cognitive faculties. For all you know, you could be a program in a computer, and methodological naturalism won’t help you verify if that’s the case.

          MNb writes: “In the continental (European) interpretation of philosophical naturalism “truth” has become meaningless.

          My reply: Great. So if my doctor tells me it’s true I have hepatitis, I’ll just laugh in his face and say “‘truth’ has become meaningless’. Thanks, I feel so much better now.

        • Pofarmer

          “For all you know, you could be a program in a computer, and methodological naturalism won’t help you verify if that’s the case.”

          Even if that were true, why would it matter? Methodoligical naturalism allows us to formulate hypothesis and test them to find out information about the world that we inhabit,and has allowed us to develop tools test for our own biases and senses.

          “. No naturalist makes any claim on truth, if truth is defined as absolute 100% certainty.”

          Everything is a probability. If your Dr. says you have hepatitis, and you ask him how certain you are, he will more than likely give you a probability. With the right test, he may be very close to 100% sure.

        • Philolinguist

          “Even if that were true, why would it matter?”

          It wouldn’t matter in everyday life (e.g. if you’re making computers or launching a rocket), but it matters if you’re attempting to explain the origin of the human cognitive faculties. Any such theory would have to rule out alternative explanations with some probability (as you mentioned, that’s how science is done). But you can’t attach a probability to whether you’re a computer program or a brain in a vat, both of which would rule out that you (and the organisms you observe) owe their existence to Darwinian evolution, for example.

          Of course, you can add the usual disclaimer ‘this theory is based on observables’, but that doesn’t get round the Observer Effect caused by trying to explain the origin of your cognitive faculties using your cognitive faculties (since you can’t check for distortions in your cognitive faculties, given that you have to use the faculties to do the checking). So you can’t attach a probability to whether the Observer Effect is operating in such cases (hence the indeterminate probability of you being a computer program).

          So you have to attach a 2nd disclaimer to all such theories, ‘this theory cannot rule out the Observer Effect with any probability’. In practice, I’m sure most scientists are aware of the problem (Charles Darwin was, as Plantinga mentioned), but they prefer not to add the disclaimers. Doing so would ‘water down’ the significance of their theories, since anyone can point to the great big gaping hole caused by the Observer Effect (that’s already happening in Quantum Mechanics, where there’s some debate on the role of consciousness v. instrumentation in altering the data).

          Like I said, it’s not a big deal for everyday applied science (electronics, medicine, etc). It’s just a problem for the veracity of ‘global theories’ that incorporate an explanation of the origin and functioning of our cognitive faculties (e.g. biological evolution, origin of the universe, atomic theory, etc).

        • Pofarmer

          Do you understand what you are saying here? You are saying that postulation, deduction, induction, cross collaboration and checking with other sciences, cross collaboration and checking with other disciplines who’s scientists cross check in those disciplines is not sufficient. You say that we can use these methods to have knowledge, of say, basic physics, but not knowledge of the big bang? We can use these methods to observe and control hybridization in plants, but not deduce methods of human and animal procreation and change? We can use these methods to understand how the brain works, how it stores memories, what causes it to project emotions, but can’t know anything of the origin of those processes? And you find this somehow comprehensible?

        • Philolinguist

          Your examples are very sloppy, but yes I am arguing (not just “saying”) that we cannot demonstrate the veracity of ‘global theories’, which incorporate an explanation of the
          origin and functioning of our cognitive faculties (e.g. biological evolution, origin of the universe, atomic theory, neuroscience, etc). That doesn’t rule out such theories having pragmatic or practical value (e.g. the role of atomic theory in nanotechnology, or neuroscience in treating mental illness), where theoretical veracity is not an issue.

          In practice, when we say a theory is ‘true’ we just mean it makes good predictions. Most science is concerned with practical outcomes (making predictions, getting stuff done) rather than epistemic veracity. Nor am I arguing that we shouldn’t follow the observable evidence to the best global conclusions that science allows (e.g., that the brain is the primary mechanism of human cognition). It’s only natural to want to see where the observable evidence leads. But any global conclusions always carry the implicit caveat that they are subject to the Observer Effect (e.g. we might not have brains at all. Maybe we’re just a program running on a computer. Some scientists are actually trying to verify that, but unfortunately their findings would still be subject to the Observer Effect).

          Most scientists don’t bother with signposting the caveat (though many of them are aware of it). After all, it’s tedious to attach it to every statement of a global theory. I don’t blame them, though I wish they’d do it more often. Because without knowing the caveat, a lot of people get taken in by the ‘gee whiz’ factor, and think we’re making real progress in answering the ‘big question’ of where we came from. It’s a shocker, but going on observables alone, we are no closer to answering the ‘big question’ than our Neanderthal ancestors half a million years ago (and will never be). It’s one of those thoughts that takes a while to sink in. Then we watch TV and forget about it.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          we are no closer to answering the ‘big question’ than our Neanderthal ancestors half a million years ago

          You’ve lost me. How do you dismiss cosmology and biology? Or are you splitting hairs about direct observation vs. not and how that changes the scientific conclusions that result?

        • Philolinguist

          I’m not “dismissing cosmology and biology” (I notice the replies to my comments tend to exaggerate my claims. Are my arguments so difficult to follow, or are the respondents not reading them carefully?). All I’m essentially saying is when you attempt to explain the causal origin of your cognitive faculties by relying on those faculties, you run into the Observer Effect. You can’t check your cognitive faculties for distortion without using those same faculties.

          The scientific implications depend on whether you’re interested in the veracity or the pragmatic implications of a theory. ‘Global’ theories (as defined above) tend to make claims to veracity, which are groundless due to the Observer Effect. Any pragmatic claims (predictions about what happens in human experience) are unaffected. Most findings in cosmology and biology are therefore unaffected, as is most science (as long as the issue of veracity isn’t raised). I’m basically just repeating myself here, because I can’t make it any simpler.

          I think a lot of people find this hard to accept because they’re used to scientists saying “We’re really made of atoms”, or “All that exists originated in the Big Bang”. Scientists use more modest language when writing research papers, but they often ‘talk up’ the veracity of their theories when addressing the lay public. Just take it with a pinch of salt and relax. The scientists aren’t hot under the collar about it, why should anyone else be?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          All I’m essentially saying is when you attempt to explain the causal origin of your cognitive faculties by relying on those faculties, you run into the Observer Effect. You can’t check your cognitive faculties for distortion without using those same faculties.

          And?

          The post was about Plantinga’s EAAN. He rejects evolution and gives Paul the nutty hominid as the example to make his case. I’m not clear how your point fits into Plantinga’s argument.

        • Philolinguist

          I’m giving you the potted version of EAAN. Just to be on the safe side, I emailed it to Plantinga and he replied “Sounds right!”, so I can’t be interpreting him too wrongly. Naturalistic evolutionary theories are ‘global’ theories (as defined below). Plantinga is basically arguing that in terms of veracity, they succumb to the Observer Effect. Paul the Nutty Hominid is just one scenario for how the Effect might play out (there’s also Paul the Fish Who Thinks He’s Human, Paul the Computer Program, Paul the Brain in a Vat, etc).

          To save readers the trouble of scrolling up for the definition of ‘global theory’, here it is: ‘Global theories’ incorporate a causal explanation of the origin and functioning of our cognitive faculties (e.g. evolution-of-all-life theories, origin-of-the-universe cosmologies, atomic and quantum theory, neuroscience, etc). Claims to veracity are often made on behalf of global theories, but some of them (e.g. neuroscience and atomic theory) also have practical implications that are unaffected by the Observer Effect.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          First, I’m not seeing any rebuttal to the post above. Plantinga’s claims about Paul make no sense. If you disagree, I’d be curious to hear why.

          Second, this hasn’t convinced the people who actually understand the data, the biologists. They’re still on board with evolution. When it comes to Biology, I don’t much care what a philosopher thinks.

        • Philolinguist

          The objections to Plantinga I’ve seen generally judge naturalistic evolutionary theory to be true by criteria that presuppose the theory (‘our cognitive faculties are reliable because they’ve evolved to be reliable, so we can use those faculties to verify that naturalistic evolutionary theory is reliable’). It’s a classic circular argument.

          Let’s assume that if Darwinism is true, our beliefs are shaped by natural selection. So if Darwinism is true, Paul the Nutty Hominid couldn’t exist. What makes anyone think Darwinism is true? What our cognitive faculties tell us. Why do we think our cognitive faculties are reliable? Because Darwinism is true. Why? Round goes the circle . . .

          None of this has any relevance to biology. If you’re not interested in philosophy, don’t discuss philosophy. But sometimes scientists make philosophically ambiguous claims like “we’re really primates”, “we’re really atoms” or “everything came from the Big Bang”. Someone should tell them to stick to science.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          We have fallible cognitive faculties. Why trust them for anything? That’s Plantinga’s point. They’re not reliable for deducing evolution; they’re not good for much of anything.

          But you seem to be saying that you accept that they’re imperfect but useable.

          And your response to the fact that those people who understand the evidence (which certainly doesn’t include me; I don’t know if you’re a biologist or not) overwhelmingly accept evolution is … ?

          So if Darwinism is true, Paul the Nutty Hominid couldn’t exist.

          The Paul hypothesis doesn’t even get out of the gate. That’s the point of the post. Plantinga assumes evolution true, argues that Paul is a consequence, and shows that Paul is ridiculous. Trouble is, Paul is impossible.

          Someone should tell them to stick to science.

          Idea! I’ll tell the scientists to avoid philosophy if you tell the philosophers to avoid science.

        • Philolinguist

          Your pattern of exaggerations in (mis)representing my views is starting to look suspicious.

          “That’s Plantinga’s point. [Our cognitive faculties are] not reliable for deducing evolution; they’re not good for much of anything.”

          Pretty sure he didn’t say that. Otherwise, no point getting out of bed.

          “Trouble is, Paul is impossible.”

          I already answered that (circular argument, remember?). So why just repeat yourself, couldn’t think of a non-circular reply?

          “Idea! I’ll tell the scientists to avoid philosophy if you tell the philosophers to avoid science.”

          Sounds good to me. Problem is, who tells who where science ends and philosophy starts?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Your pattern of exaggerations when it comes to (mis)representing my views is starting to look suspicious.

          Well, I can’t address them squarely, can I? My tissue of arguments would crumple to nothing. I’d be exposed for the fraud that I am.

          But while we’re tracking down clues, I’m a bit suspicious of your continued ignoring the questions that I raise. What do you think, Miss Marple? Is that evasion or what?

          Pretty sure he didn’t say that. Otherwise, no point getting out of bed.

          You could, I dunno, make clear what you think he did say. As for what gets us out of bed, he’s simply saying that evolution is nonsense and that a God-grounded reality is how it actually works.

          I already answered that (circular argument, remember?). So why just repeat yourself, couldn’t think of a non-circular reply?

          I’m talking about something different. But as for going around in circles, I know what you mean. It’s probably time to get off this merry-go-round.

          Sounds good to me.

          Ah—good to see that we’re on the same page. Be sure to tell Plantinga and Wm. Lane Craig that their amateur speculations about science aren’t helpful.

        • MNb

          “they’re not good for much of anything”
          Which is of course a false dilemma, after you have shown they can be unreliable.

          “But you seem to be saying that you accept that they’re imperfect but useable.
          Which is enough to justify the scientific method and which makes the concept of truth meaningless within the scientific method, because truth demands infallibility.

          “Because Darwinism is true.”
          See? BenG uses the word true in an ambiguous meaning. Now it implies infallibility again, when it does not for Coyne. He specifically makes this clear in his book.
          I think it was Wittgenstein who stressed the importance of unambiguity of language when doing philosophy (scientists have understood this for ages). BenG hasn’t learned this yet and thus is about 100 years behind.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Yeah, but don’t take away the word “Darwinism”! It’s so much fun to use! It brings to mind Stalinism and Maoism and Marxism and other ideas named after really bad people. Y’know–bad people like Darwin.

        • MNb

          Ah, I would like to turn “Darwinism” into a geuzennaam – the Dutch word for

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reappropriation

          Some Spanish Noblemen called the rebellious Dutch beggars (les gueux in French) in the 16th Century, so the Dutch rebels from that moment on called themselves “geuzen”.
          Alas modern Evolution Theory is so much more these days than what Darwin had found it still would be inappropriate.
          Scientism though ….

        • MNb

          This is just a strawman. Yes, the scientific method is bases on several assumptions. The justification is simple: the scientific method works. This very much leaves room for the option that in the future something will developed that works better. Until then we’ll do with the scientific method.
          Now if you claim that some scientists make too strong claims (Galilei, Coyne with “Why Evolution is True”, but only in the title of the book) then I agree. That’s the mistake of those scientists though and doesn’t pose a problem for the scientific method, which implies it’s own limits.

        • MNb

          Don’t bother. Plantinga doesn’t like philosophical naturalism, hence wants to show problems with methodological naturalism and is more than willing to twist the meaning of well known concepts of natural science for this. This time it’s the Observer Effect.
          Remember? When science conflicts with philosophy science wins. When philosophy adapts to science, ie uses the definitions as actually used by science the vast majority of philosophical “problems” just disappear. Logical positivism, albeit dead for several decades, already had pointed this out many decades ago.

        • Pofarmer

          You are doing some violence to the Oberver Effect here. The observer effect, as generally understood, states that by the act of measuring something, we change what we measure. A common example given would be checking the air pressure in a tire, although with modern internal sensors we have eliminated it. Aother example is checking voltages in circuits. You seem to be using og in a different way. You seem to be saying that we can’t be sure of what we are observing because of the nature of what’s being observed.

        • Philolinguist

          I’m using the term ‘Observer Effect’ to refer to the possibility that in using your cognitive faculties to check for distortion in your cognitive faculties, the observer may affect the thing purportedly observed in ways not knowable to the observer, thereby rendering some or all of the observations false or unreliable (which is pretty much within the standard definition of the term).

          E.g., if I’m really a computer program, then I can be running code that makes me think I’m looking at my (really non-existent) brain in a CAT scan. So the ‘observer’ (the computer program) is affecting the thing ‘observed’ (my virtual ‘brain’) in ways that the ‘observer’ cannot know (because the computer isn’t programmed to know that). In this scenario, I cannot know that I’m generating the virtual reality that makes me think I’m seeing my own brain. So I end up thinking (erroneously) that the brain is controlling my cognitive faculties.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I was confused as well. This Heisenberg-style problem is what it means to me. What I thought you were saying was that using the imperfect brain to understand the brain gets us into particular problems that you don’t get when we analyze something else.

        • MNb

          Ah, the way BenG uses Observer Effect is just some fancy irrelevant philosophical interpretation of a well understood concept in physics. The name Observer Effect is a bit unfortuntate in physics, because it has nothing to do with the person observing the experiment, but everything with the instruments he/she uses. Fancy philosopher can’t get his terminology straight once again.

        • Pofarmer

          Isn’t this rather a useless semantics game? Not only can I check my cognitive abilities. I can check yours, as well. You can check mine. Not only that, but we can use various machines to also check and analyze our cognitive abilities. Large groups of researchers can check each others world. Granted, we can’t use an electric meter to check itself, but we can us another electric meter to check it. The other thing, is that the entire world around us is perceived by our cognitive abilities. If we can’t use our cognitive abilities to check our cognitive abilities, then we couldn’t use our cognitive abilities to study anything in our environment. The whole exercise devolves into futility. But even assuming that you are correct(which I’m not) then we really couldn’t know anything about cognition or origins, at ALL. Revelations would most certainly be suspect as coming from outside the experiment, so you basically come down to the idea that we can’t know anything about it because we can’t be 100% sure that our cognition is real? The reason that you don’t see these disclaimers, I think, is because it is a baseless concept. As I said before, it really wouldn’t matter if we WERE brains in a jar(which we’re not) because what we would be testing would be how the world around us is perceived, and the world includes US, so we devolve into another dark ages of not knowing anything.

        • Philolinguist

          Yes, we can check the output of our cognitive faculties (what we say and do), but it’s a lot trickier to check input (what we think and perceive). We can only check input indirectly by analyzing output (e.g. asking the subjects “what do you see/feel/think?” or inferring from their behavioral /physiological reactions). So it’s possible that someone could be thinking/perceiving one thing and (unbeknown to them) saying/behaving otherwise.

          So we could be a computer program, happily running virtual CAT scans on our virtual brains, thinking our output is controlled by those brains (when the brains are actually output too). Or we could be fish swimming in the ocean, happily thinking we’re humans filling out psychological questionnaires, but that’s just a script running in our fishy brains as an artifact of natural selection.

          “But even assuming that you are correct (which I’m not) then we really couldn’t know anything about cognition or origins, at ALL. ”

          There’s that exaggeration again. As far as practical knowledge goes, we can know plenty about cognition (in terms of being able to make predictions and do stuff, like diagnose and treat autism). We can know plenty about the origin of homo sapiens within the realm of human experience. But we can know zip about the veracity of our experiences (from empirical data). In the case of applied cognitive science, veracity doesn’t matter as long as we can make predictions.

          In the case of empirical human origins research, the impetus for much of that is the ‘big question’ of ‘where we come from’. We can’t know the latter by doing the former. It’s important to distinguish between the origin of homo sapiens (known within human experience) and the origin of ‘us’. We are not necessarily homo sapiens, e.g. we could be other kinds of being playing a computer game in which homo sapiens are our avatars.

          “it really wouldn’t matter if we WERE brains in a jar (which we’re not) because what we would be testing would be how the world around us is perceived, and the world includes US”

          I refer you to the distinction I made above between ‘homo sapiens’ and ‘us’. Homo sapiens are not brains in jars, but ‘we’ are not necessarily homo sapiens. You’re right about it not mattering for practical purposes. It only matters if you’re interested in veracity, which we rarely are. It doesn’t follow that we shouldn’t be interested, since our lack of interest is premised on what we know, and we don’t know how much we don’t know.

          “Revelations would most certainly be suspect as coming from outside the experiment”

          Revelation, when true (if at all), is a special case of knowledge, because it is the kind of knowledge you don’t know that you know. E.g. a dog could know when it’s feeding time, but he doesn’t know that he knows. Obviously, that’s a problem if the ‘revelation’ is false (as many of them are, since they contradict one another).

          However, if ‘revelation’ contradicts itself, then that’s one way of verifying that it’s false. If ‘revelation’ tells us something is true in human experience when human experience confirms otherwise (e.g. that if you’re sick, you just need to say “howdy doody” to get well), then that’s another reason to reject it.

          If people only believe the ‘revelation’ when they’ve been ‘brainwashed’ in a cult-like environment, or are otherwise in a less-than-optimal state to make sensible decisions, then that’s a reason to question if the ‘revelation’ is anything other than arbitrary dogma. If the guy giving the ‘revelation’ seems to have ulterior motives, that’s another reason. So there are ways to weed out at least some ‘suspect’ revelations.

          As you pointed out, if I’m right, the problem cuts both ways. In terms of veracity, many of our empirically-grounded beliefs could turn out to be false too. But because science appeals to the lowest common denominator (what most of us agree is ‘rational’, including the scientific method itself, which is really just a logical extension of ‘common sense’) it’s a great unifying and organizing force. Science owes it popularity to it’s predictive, technological and organizational efficacy, not it’s veracity. It’s terribly useful, but that doesn’t make it veridical.

          Many of us assume that we build our beliefs ‘from the ground up’, starting with nothing and adding beliefs based on autonomous reason (without arbitrary inputs like culture, religion, genes, etc). I think we can safely say that isn’t true in human experience (based on empirical research in history, sociology, psychology and genetics). We start with some arbitrary baggage, and that baggage (along with situational factors along the way) to some extent determines what beliefs we choose to add, change or jettison as we go through life.

          So any ‘religious’ input along the way is part of the baggage we have to sort out as we go. Some of us choose to throw it out, others choose to modify it, etc. But I can’t think of a good reason to assume that none of us has baggage, or that baggage we choose to call ‘religious’ is somehow automatically rubbish. After all, ‘religion’ is a very broad and contested term with vague boundaries.

          So ‘providence’ (for want of a more ideologically neutral term) plays a part in whether we end up with beliefs that have veracity. If you believe our sole guide is autonomous reason, that makes it a lottery. If you believe in God (of a particular sort), you may assume he has given you the cognitive faculties and moral principles to make the right decisions, and the motivation to avoid self-deception.

        • Pofarmer

          “Science owes it popularity to it’s predictive, technological and
          organizational efficacy, not it’s veracity. It’s terribly useful, but
          that doesn’t make it veridical.”

          If science isn’t truthful, it isn’t useful. Science is, in basic usage, a continuing quest for not only what is useful, but what is true, because false beliefs, while they may be useful, will ultimately be culled out by other scientists and scientific theories. In this way, science is really the only actual search for truth that there is.

        • MNb

          You use a lot of words saying that Truth cannot be known. Learn to live with it. It’s a basic assumption of the scientific method.

          ” Some scientists are actually trying to verify that, but unfortunately their findings would still be subject to the Observer Effect
          Then it’s only a problem for you, not for any scientist as it can’t be falsified.

        • MNb

          “as you mentioned, that’s how science is done”
          Thanks for admitting that truth is an irrelevant concept in science. You see, truth implies 100% certainty.
          Do you have designed a test for the option of me being a computer program? No? Please call William Ockham for me. No problem at all.

        • MNb

          False dilemma. What the doctor means is “as far as I can see and as far as all the empirical data derived from my tests tell me you have hepatitits. There is a margin error and I might be wrong for tons of reasons. That margin error is very small though”.

          “and methodological naturalism won’t help you verify if that’s the case”
          Methodological naturalism uses Ockham’s Razor in that case. What’s more – it doesn’t care because it’s unfalsifiable. So the only appropriate reaction is “shrug”. Methodological naturalism only gets interested as soon as you have designed a test for your hypothesis.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      The problem with most of the objections to Plantinga’s EAAN (including yours) is that they judge naturalistic evolutionary theory to be true by criteria that presuppose the theory …

      My starting assumption is that evolution is correct. It is the scientific consensus, after all. Plantinga doesn’t agree (it’s weird that anyone should much care, since he’s not a biologist), and I’m assuming evolution to explain the difference in viewpoints.

      It’s a classic circular argument. Period.

      I’m not trying to justify or rationalize evolution. I’m assuming it. Nevertheless, we can consider Plantinga’s argument to see if it makes sense.

      See the problem? You can’t account for distortions caused b y your c ognitive faculties, because you have to use those faculties to check for distortions.

      I see some problems, though I’m not sure if we’re completely on the same page.

      A single scientist is a pretty inept instrument. But when you have peer review and motivation to find errors then we can (largely) rule out errors such as confirmation bias, greed or desire for fame, etc. If you’re saying that humans are inherently fallible and that errors remain, I agree.

      You’re saying that evolution is inherently suspect as a result? I’m missing this.

      The only way around the dilemma, as Plantinga argues, is to make assumptions (about the reliability of our cognitive faculties) that do not rely on empirical verification.

      And how does this respond to the ridiculous example of Paul and the tiger?

  • Junior Bakiny

    That is an incredibly weak refutation of the EAAN! Not only does it get Plantinga’s views wrong, it just completely and thoroughly fails to get to the bottom of the argument.

    “He says that if evolution is true, human beliefs have been selected for
    survival value, not truth, so why trust them? And yet our beliefs are reliable, suggesting to Plantinga that something besides evolution created them.”

    Plantinga isn’t arguing that at all. His argument isn’t that:
    1. If evolution is true, our cognitive faculties are not reliable
    2. Our cognitive faculties are reliable
    3. Therefore, evolution is not true.

    The fact is, while we naturally assume that our cognitive faculties are reliable, we can never prove they are. Any attempt at trying to prove the reliability of our cognitive faculties would rely on our cognitive faculties being reliable, thus arguing in a circle. But certain beliefs we acquire can rightly cause us to doubt the reliability of our cognitive faculties. Plantinga is arguing that evolution is such a belief.

    His argument goes as follows:

    1. If evolution and naturalism are both true, the probability that our cognitive faculties are reliable is low.
    2. Since the probability that our cognitive faculties are reliable is low given the truth of evolution and naturalism, anyone who accepts both evolution and naturalism has a defeater for the proposition that their cognitive faculties are reliable.
    3. Anyone who has a defeater for the proposition that their cognitive faculties are reliable also has a defeater for any belief they take to be produced by their cognitive , including in this case the beliefs the person started with, namely evolution and naturalism. Naturalism therefore becomes self defeating.

    Now, to defend the first crucial premise (the other ones really just follow from the first one), Plantinga basically argues that evolution is a process that is interested in producing in us cognitive faculties that help us survive through adaptive behavior. If we take it that belief causes behavior, this means that evolution is likely to favor certain beliefs, but not based on whether or not the beliefs are true, but based on whether or not they are adaptive and help organisms survive. But false beliefs are just as likely to be adaptive as true beliefs (Paul thinking the Tiger is a big pussycat, and thinking the best way to pet it is to run away from it), which means that any belief will have roughly a one in two (50%) chance of being true. Now if we say about 2/3 (66%) or 3/4 (75%) of our beliefs have to be true for our cognitive faculties to be deemed “reliable”, and we take it we have about say, a thousand belief, in each case, the probability that our cognitive faculties are reliable is indeed very low (it is essentially zero for all practical and most impractical purposes in each case).

    Now this is where your objection comes in. You are basically saying that while Paul can get away from danger in one or two instances because he had a false belief that happened to be adaptive, he will never survive with an entire system of false beliefs, probably because in order to survive in a given context, he will have to interact with the world around him and form accurate representations of what surrounds him, which will lead to survival. This is not true, and Plantinga explains how an entire system of false beliefs can be adaptive. For example, suppose Paul believes in God. He believes every thing was created by God: trees, animals, planets, etc. According to the atheist, Paul’s belief that the tiger was created by God is false. In fact, every belief Paul holds about everything is fundamentally false. yet this does not stop Paul from interacting with the world around him and forming accurate representations, which leads to survival. This is but one of the ways Paul’s entire system of beliefs can be false while still being adaptive. This is why your objection fails, and you didn’t even bother articulating it thoroughly. Not that it matters however, the first premise of Plantinga’s argument works! If evolution and naturalism are both true, then the probability that our cognitive faculties are reliable is indeed low, but if it is, then anybody who accepts the truth of both have a good reason to doubt the reliability of their cognitive faculties. They therefore also have a good reason to doubt any belief they take to be produced by these cognitive faculties, including evolution and naturalism.

    Now the conclusion of the argument isn’t that either evolution or naturalism is false. The conclusion is that naturalism is self defeating, such that, it isn’t rational to accept the truth of naturalism. This isn’t the same as saying it is false, it could still be true. Nonetheless, it isn’t rational to accept that it is. Furthermore, Plantinga is very careful with this argument. It’s not called the evolutionary argument against atheism; it is called the evolutionary argument against naturalism. While he doesn’t expand on why he restricted it to naturalism, it is probably because while the argument necessarily works if you are a naturalist, naturalism and atheism aren’t the self-same This argument also applies to the overwhelming majority of atheists, but it doesn’t necessarily apply to all. Plantinga rigorously calls it the evolutionary argument against naturalism for that reason.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      That is an incredibly weak refutation of the EAAN!

      Good thing we have you to set things straight.

      The fact is, while we naturally assume that our cognitive faculties are reliable, we can never prove they are.

      The fact is, we know that our cognitive faculties are unreliable. They’re not bad, but they’re far from perfect. We don’t need evolution to understand biases, illusions, mental illness, or even loss of mental performance when we’re hungry or tired.

      And you’re going to build what on this imperfect foundation? That we can trust our faculties when they say “God exists”?

      Naturalism therefore becomes self defeating.

      “All things have a natural cause” (or whatever proposition you were referring to) is certainly hard to prove. Fortunately, no one tries to prove it. That could still be where the evidence points.

      But false beliefs are just as likely to be adaptive as true beliefs (Paul thinking the Tiger is a big pussycat, and thinking the best way to pet it is to run away from it), which means that any belief will have roughly a one in two ( 50%) cha nce of being true.

      Perhaps you missed the post I wrote on this. (It’s the one above.) Evolutionary beliefs aren’t simply pulled out of a hat. If a belief is false (“drinking water is a good response to hunger”), evolution selects against it.

      This is not true, and Plantinga explains how an entire system of false beliefs can be adaptive. For example, suppose Paul believes in God. He believes every thing was created by God: trees, animals, planets, etc. According to the atheist, Paul’s belief that the tiger was created by God is false. In fact, every belief Paul holds about everything is fundamentally false.

      So what’s his belief about how to address hunger? Something false, apparently. One wonders how he managed to become an adult.

      You’re imagining a world in which every belief is both wrong but successful, like his “tigers are cuddly pussycats and I should run away from them if I want to pet them.” But that’s not what you said—you said that they’re simply wrong. By tremendous luck, he might have some that are wrong but successful. Why imagine that they all will be?

      This is why your objection fails, and you didn’t even bother articulating it thoroughly.

      Golly, I feel privileged to have so great a teacher.

      the first premise of Plantinga’s argument works! If evolution and naturalism are both true, then the probability that our cognitive faculties are reliable is indeed low

      If “reliable” = perfect, obviously. No one disagrees. The only claim is that our faculties are good enough.

      The conclusion is that naturalism is self defeating, such that, it isn’t rational to accept the truth of naturalism.

      That’s not my conclusion (but I’m apparently an idiot, so don’t trust what I say). I say: our faculties are imperfect, so let’s not imagine that naturalism is certain.

      • Junior Bakiny

        Okay, you’re still missing a lot of the argument. First of all, when Plantinga talks about reliable cognitive faculties, he does not mean “perfect” cognitive faculties. His point as I mentioned in my post that you must have missed (it’s the one above yours) is that for our cognitive faculties to be deemed reliable, they have to have be able to produce significantly more true beliefs than false. He estimates that roughly 75% of our beliefs must be true for our cognitive faculties to be deemed reliable. So our cognitive faculties could be “imperfect” and yet reliable. Now the question is: is unguided evolution likely to produce in us a system of beliefs that is mostly true? Or to use your own terminology, is unguided evolution likely to produce cognitive faculties that are good enough? The answer is simply no. As some people already said, this argument is very subtle. To argue that the probability of our cognitive faculties being reliable is low is not to argue that all the beliefs they produce are false. It is not even to argue that our cognitive faculties are certainly unreliable. It is to argue that there is good reasons to think they are unreliable, and no good reasons to believe they are reliable, although they still could be. So nobody is saying that if evolution is true, all our beliefs are false. We are saying that if evolution is true it is unlikely that our cognitive faculties are trustworthy. I already explained how an entire system of beliefs could be false while being adaptive. Paul can have accurate perceptions of reality while having false beliefs, which will still leads to survival. Just because he matches the feeling of hunger with the desire to eat (from which follows a behavior that is obviously adaptive), doesn’t make his beliefs true. Maybe he thinks he is hungry because he did something bad and God punished him, and in order to appease God’s anger he has to eat. I am sure you think that belief is false, it still leads to adaptive behavior. I can come up with a million ways to show how an entire system of beliefs could be false but adaptive. This isn’t to say that if evolution is true then all of our beliefs are false, it is just to show that our beliefs could be false and be as likely to be selected by evolution as any true belief, from which it follows that our cognitive faculties are unlikely to be reliable if unguided evolution is true. I am not sure why you get the feeling that Plantinga is arguing that naturalism is false. That’s not what he is arguing at all. His point is that naturalism is self defeating. But from the final sentence of your original post, I get why you’re having trouble grasping this argument, with all due respect. You seem to think philosophy is useless and that scientists are the bearers of truth. Someone who thinks that will always have trouble wrapping their minds around such a deceptively sophisticated argument. It isn’t because you aren’t smart, it’s because you aren’t even willing to take the argument seriously. That was your biggest mistake. You seriously underestimated Plantinga along with this argument. All the objections you’ve brought up and many more were brought up against the argument before, and Plantinga took them all down in the book “Naturalism defeated? Essays on Plantinga’s evolutionary argument against naturalism”. I suggest you pick up a copy!

        • MNb

          You are the one who misses the point. The scientific method, aka methodological naturalism, doesn’t require reliable cognitive faculties. Plantinga just reformulates the false dilemma: either reliable or unreliable cognitive faculties. He doesn’t want to address how the scientific method, including Evolution Theory works: gradually decreasing unreliability.
          A simple example suffices. We know that the Flat Earth Theory is wrong. Still within strict limits it’s reliable enough to use it. The results hardly differ from more sophisticated theories. Outside these limits we will account for the Earth’ curvature and use Newtonian Mechanics. Withing certain limits this is reliable enough too. Outside these limits we will prefer General Relativity. We already know that that doesn’t always work properly either. That’s why physicists are looking for a Grand Unified Theory.
          No, GUT won’t be totally reliable either. But it will be more reliable than Flat Earth Theory simply because it will describe a much larger set of empirical data correctly.
          In short: Plantinga doesn’t account for Popper’s Falsifiability (yes, I know there is more to it, but that’s irrelevant for my point) and fails to address that scientific theories never are static, have a temporary character and always are open for improvement. We have an objective, quantifiable standard for this improvement: the amount of empirical data. Thus Plantinga’s argument is irrelevant. It has been addressed by Stephen Hawking in chapter 1 of his Brief History of Time. Now we have to choose who understands better how science, ie methodological naturalism, works better, Hawking or Plantinga. It is an easy pick.

          “It is to argue that there is good reasons to think they are unreliable”
          There is your false dilemma. As Hawking put it: why don’t we accept the theory of the old lady who postulates that the Earth rests on an infinite series of turtles? You like Plantinga neglect that essential question. I suggest you to pick up a copy of A Brief History of Time before continuing to repeat your irrelevant points. Because it’s Plantinga (and you) who make the mistake of not addressing the relevant stuff, not BobS.

        • Junior Bakiny

          What exactly are you arguing in this post? It’s not clear. Are you saying that our cognitive faculties are slowly but surely (by a process of trial and error) discovering “truth” (whatever that is)? There is no false dilemma there. Either your cognitive faculties are reliable, or they aren’t. Plantinga never argued that just because your cognitive faculties are unreliable they cannot be helpful within certain limits. He knows they can, and that is actually one of the main points of his argument.

        • MNb

          “He knows they can”
          Then EAAN falls flat on its face as philosophical naturalism doesn’t need reliable cognitive faculties in the meaning you use the word reliable – only helpful ones that enable us to improve our scientific theories, just like has happened last 500 years.

          http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/naturalism/

          “Either your cognitive faculties are reliable, or they aren’t.”
          Or they are partially reliable. Or they are sometimes reliable and sometimes not. Do you know Richard Feynman’s famous quote?
          “The first rule is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.”
          This is what scientific skepticism is about: don’t assume your cognitive faculties are reliable, but test, test, test, let other people test and let them do more tests. If you can’t repeat the test (archeology, atronomical events), make sure a whole team of experts observe and compare. Also test the tests (like CERN observing neutrino’s travelling faster than light, but it applies to historical methodology as well). Then you may assume some reliability, but not even then total reliability.
          Philosophical (or ontological) naturalism totally recognizes this.
          Plantinga and you are addressing a problem that’s not there. So false dilemma indeed.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          when Plantinga talks about reliable cognitive faculties, he does not mean “perfect” cognitive faculties.

          So Plantinga claims what everyone already knows, that human cognition is imperfect. OK, got it.

          As some people already said, this argument is very subtle. To argue that the probability of our cognitive faculties being reliable is low is not to argue that all the beliefs they produce are false.

          You said before, “Plantinga explains how an entire system of false beliefs can be adaptive.” Are we talking about all the beliefs being false or not?

          And I’m still mystified that someone who is too dumb to live could actually, y’know, live.

          there is good reasons to think they are unreliable, and no good reasons to believe they are reliable

          Evolution selects beliefs that perform well, and being correct is a good way for a belief to perform well.

          nobody is saying that if evolution is true, all our beliefs are false.

          It sounded like you did. I’m a bit confused now.

          We are saying that if evolution is true it is unlikely that our cognitive faculties are trustworthy.

          At all? They can’t tell us anything true? Or just that they’re not trustworthy enough for something complicated like science?

          I already explained how an entire system of beliefs could be false while being adaptive.

          I missed that part. I’ll buy Plantinga’s example about Paul. Yes, you could have two beliefs (“I love tigers!” + “To pet tigers, run away”) that mesh together in a life-supporting manner. Sure, I can imagine a small number of these curious combinations of life-supporting but false beliefs. Indeed, religion may be one of those. It’s when you propose that these reality-defying beliefs are a majority that I think your argument goes off the rails.

          And BTW, I haven’t heard your explanation about how we’re to supposed to use our fallible brains to reliably conclude that God exists. Is this your claim?

          Just because he matches the feeling of hunger with the desire to eat (from which follows a behavior that is obviously adaptive), doesn’t make his beliefs t rue. Maybe he thinks he is hungry because he did something bad and God punished him, and in order to appease God’s anger he has to eat.

          If beliefs are just pulled out of a hat, why imagine that he’ll pull out an adaptive one? Most will be maladaptive, like believing that drinking water will satisfy hunger.

          I can come up with a million ways to show how an entire system of beliefs could be false but adaptive.

          Not while being realistic.

          our beliefs could be false and be as likely to be selected by evolution as any true belief

          This is the part I’m missing.

          I am not sure why you get the feeling that Plantinga is arguing that naturalism is false.

          So then he thinks that it’s true? I don’t think so.

          You seriously underestimated Plantinga along with this argument.

          Perhaps I got off on the wrong foot with Plantinga critiquing evolution when he’s not a biologist. Sure, a smart outsider can provide food for thought, but biologists have concluded that evolution is an adequate explanation for why life is the way it is. Plantinga has an uphill battle.

        • Junior Bakiny

          I’m going to start by responding to your last paragraph. Plantinga isn’t arguing against evolution. He is arguing against naturalism. I can’t figure why you guys keep on behaving as if the two are somehow interchangeable. That is your first mistake.

          Plantinga’s aim in this argument is as follows: to show that if evolution and naturalism are both true, then the probability that our cognitive faculties are reliable (PR/E&N) is low. Maybe I wasn’t clear before, but here is what this means: his point isn’t simply that our cognitive faculties are “imperfect”. Everyone knows they are, as you said. His point is that given E&N our cognitive faculties are likely to produce mostly false beliefs. He says that our cognitive faculties can be deemed reliable if about 75% of the beliefs they produce are true (I think this is a fair assessment), notice this is far short of 100%. But then he asks the question: given E&N, what is PR? What is the probability that 75% of our beliefs are true if they were produced by an evolutionary process in a universe in which naturalism is true (which means the process must have been unguided)? Here is where Paul comes in play. When I say that I can easily show how an entire system of false beliefs can be adaptive, I am not insisting that for this argument to work all the beliefs produced by Paul’s cognitive faculties must be false; I am merely showing you how an entire system of beliefs could be false while still being adaptive. The lesson to draw from that is this: if an entire system of beliefs can be false but still adaptive, there is no reason to believe that natural selection is more likely to select true beliefs over false beliefs; whichever belief is produced by evolution will be either true or false. Evolution will select beliefs on the basis of their survival abilities regardless of whether or not they are true. The way by which evolution selects beliefs therefore becomes a stochastic process. We can then conclude that every belief that will be selected by natural selection because of its survival ability will have a 1 in 2 chance of being false. This gives us the ability to actually deduce PR given E&N. Suppose we have 1000 beliefs, all of which were produced by evolution, what is the probability that 75% (or 750) of them are true? Basic probability allows us to deduce a probability of exactly 1/2^750. That number will come out as zero in all basic calculators, and in a lot of scientific calculators. The point is PR/E&N is extremely low. Now at this point I just developed the argument, I didn’t really defend it. All I would need to prove is that an entire system of beliefs can be false while still being adaptive, therefore showing that false beliefs are just as likely to be selected by evolution as true beliefs are. I already showed you how this can be possible though, if you want I’ll do it again. Suppose I believe the most fundamental elementary particle that makes up
          atoms is a magical tiny invisible unicorn. I believe everything in the
          universe including life forms and other things on earth are just
          different arrangements of this magical tiny invisible unicorn.
          Obviously, this belief is false (or at least ridiculously unwarranted),
          and it affects all other beliefs I have. My belief that everything is
          made up of this fundamental particle renders my beliefs about anything else
          false. But this does not prevent me from interacting with the world
          around me and having correct representations of things in my environment,
          which leads to adaptive behavior, and survival. You think that is a ridiculous belief? I
          agree. But you need to show me why a process that merely blindly
          rearranges matter into more and more complex structures (and that’s how
          we supposedly got our brains) could not come up with such absurd
          beliefs. As long as it’s even logically possible that it does (and it is), the argument stands. Now the argument concludes by saying that if PR/E&N is low, anybody who accepts the truth of E&N have a good reason to doubt the reliability of their cognitive faculties, and every belief they take to be produced by these cognitive faculties, including E&N. That’s why naturalism is self defeating. This doesn’t necessarily imply that it is false. It could still be true. But it is self defeating in the sense that to accept it is true causes one to doubt it is true. It’s like believing that nobody holds any beliefs at all, which could be true, but since that is itself what we commonly refer to as a belief, it becomes a self defeating belief. A belief that causes the one who accepts its truth to doubt this same belief.

          Now this is not really part of the argument, but as I said before; while we naturally assume that our cognitive faculties are reliable, it is something we can’t prove. Certain beliefs can however cause us to doubt this assumption. Plantinga argues that naturalism is such a belief, while theism isn’t. This is because if theism as defined is true, then God created human beings in his image, and gave us the ability to rationally understand the world around us. That’s just part of the definition of theism. Unlike naturalism, theism is therefore not self defeating, at least not in this respect. But this has very little to do with this argument.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I’m going to start by responding to your last paragraph. Plantinga isn’t arguing against evolution. He is arguing against naturalism. I can’t figure why you guys keep on behaving as if the two are somehow interchangeable. That is your first mistake.

          OK, thanks, I’ll try to focus on naturalism.

          While we’re sharing, I can’t figure out why you can’t simply respond to my points. I need to tackle these lo-o-ong essays from scratch each time. You need to respond to where I’ve left it rather than going back to the beginning and facepalming because you must go back to the beginning.

          His point is that given E&N our cognitive faculties are likely to produce mostly false beliefs.

          But they don’t, hence naturalism is false. Is that right?

          I am merely showing you how an entire system of beliefs could be false while still being adaptive.

          And I’m losing interest in trying to find out how this works. But I don’t know how this works. As I’ve already said.

          Evolution will select beliefs on the basis of their survival abilities regardless of whether or not they are true.

          And (as I’m getting tired of saying) that a belief is true is a darn good reason for it to be selected for by evolution.

          We can then conclude that every belief that will be selected by natural selection because of its survival ability will have a 1 in 2 chance of being false.

          Wow. I missed how that works. Perhaps your answers to my questions above will give me the background information.

          I already showed you how this can be possible though, if you want I’ll do it again.

          I’m trying to meet you halfway. Instead of ignoring my questions and attempts at understanding and going back to the beginning, I suggest you pick things up from where I leave them. You’re becoming a lot of work.

          Paul is hungry. “I should eat food” and “I should eat water” are equally likely beliefs for him to hold about how to satisfy this feeling. Is that right?

          But you need to show me why a process that merely blindly rearranges matter into more and more complex structures (and that’s how we supposedly got our brains) could not come up with such absurd beliefs.

          How does this apply to animals? Are their beliefs each as likely to be false as true as well?

        • Junior Bakiny

          “But they don’t, hence naturalism is false. Is that right?”

          No, not all. He isn’t arguing that our cognitive faculties are reliable, therefore naturalism is false. Arguing that as a professional philosopher would be suicide because other philosophers would just butcher such a weak argument. While we can’t prove our cognitive faculties are reliable, belief in naturalism gives a good reason to doubt this proposition. That’s what he is saying.

          “And (as I’m getting tired of saying) that a belief is true is a darn good reason for it to be selected for by evolution.”

          I explained at least 3 times why this isn’t the case at all. As I said, while that’s mostly true, false beliefs are just as likely to be selected b evolution.

          “Wow. I missed how that works. Perhaps your answers to my questions above will give me the background information.”

          If false beliefs are just as likely to be selected as true beliefs, every belief that is selected will be either true or false. Hence why there is a 1 in 2 chance that any single selected belief is false. But for this to work, you need to understand my example of how belief in God causes an entire system of false beliefs while still being adaptive, hence showing that true beliefs do not have an advantage over false beliefs at all.

          “Paul is hungry. “I should eat food” and “I should eat water” are equally
          likely beliefs for him to hold about how to satisfy this feeling. Is that right?”

          Not quite. “I should eat water because I am hungry” happens to be a false belief that isn’t very adaptive at all, so it won’t be selected by evolution. In this example, the true belief is clearly more likely to be selected, but I can come up with a million false beliefs that are just adaptive in this situation. Sticking to my belief in God analogy, maybe he even thinks “I am hungry therefore I should eat”, but also thinks every time he is hungry it is because he committed a sin against God, and by eating, he will appease God’s anger. Again, accurate feeling/behavior combination, but fundamentally false belief. Again, I can give you examples like that ad infinitum. There is no way to prove that true beliefs are more likely to be selected as false ones.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Arguing that as a professional philosopher would be suicide because other philosophers would just butcher such a weak argument.

          Sounds no worse than what other Christian philosophers have proposed, but whatever.

          “I should eat water because I am hungry” happens to be a false belief that isn’t very adaptive at all, so it won’t be selected by evolution. In this example, the true belief is clearly more likely to be selected

          So your statement, “false beliefs are just as likely to be selected as true beliefs” is false?

          Sticking to my belief in God analogy

          Is this central to your argument? It’s not helping. Plantinga didn’t have God belief in his argument. Let’s not muddy things further.

        • Junior Bakiny

          “Sounds no worse than what other Christian philosophers have proposed, but whatever.”

          That’s just because, as this discussion has showed, and I mean that with all due respect, you seem to simply not understand these arguments.

          “So your statement, “false beliefs are just as likely to be selected as true beliefs” is false?”

          No….how could you possibly get that from what I wrote?

          “Is this central to your argument? It’s not helping. Plantinga didn’t
          have God belief in his argument. Let’s not muddy things further.”

          The example isn’t central, but what it shows is, and as I am getting tired of explaining it over and over again, I’ll skip it this time.

        • Paul B. Lot

          “an entire system of beliefs could be false while still being adaptive.”

          Eg. Religion.

        • MNb

          Plus he refuses to recognize that science enables us to minimize the probability of that option, unlike religion.

        • Junior Bakiny

          Now let me respond to specific points:

          “Evolution selects beliefs that perform well, and being correct is a good way for a belief to perform well.”

          While this is not always true, I am willing to concede this much. You are right, being correct is a good way for a belief to perform well, but so is being incorrect a lot of times, as I showed.

          “At all? They can’t tell us anything true? Or just that they’re not trustworthy enough for something complicated like science?”

          They could tell us what is true, they just aren’t likely to do so. Therefore, why trust any belief produced by cognitive faculties designed by evolution in a universe in which naturalism is true? It could be true, but given that your cognitive faculties are very likely to be unreliable in this case, you have a good reason to doubt any belief that is produced by them. All beliefs aren’t going to be false; you just have no way of telling which is true and which if false, hence why you can doubt any of them. To try to test this in reality would of course not work, since you would be assuming that your cognitive faculties are reliable while trying to prove they are. You’d therefore be reasoning in a circle.

          “If beliefs are just pulled out of a hat, why imagine that he’ll pull out an adaptive one? Most will be maladaptive, like believing that drinking water will satisfy hunger.”

          And that’s the point. He is actually assuming that evolution is true. Most beliefs will be maladaptive, you are right, but some will be adaptive. That’s why it’s called survival of the fittest. (You atheists are usually very big on how much of a species have to die for it to evolve). Those that are adaptive will be just as likely to be true or false.

          “I missed that part. I’ll buy Plantinga’s example about Paul. Yes, you
          could have two beliefs (“I love tigers!” + “To pet tigers, run away”)
          that mesh together in a life-supporting manner. Sure, I can imagine a
          small number of these curious combinations of life-supporting but false
          beliefs. Indeed, religion may be one of those. It’s when you propose
          that these reality-defying beliefs are a majority that I think your
          argument goes off the rails.”

          You seem to miss the point that religion generally creates an entire system of false beliefs (in your opinion). You can give me any combination of “true” belief and adaptive behavior, and I will show you how belief in God if false simply poisons this belief.
          Fire is hot, therefore I should not stick my hand in there….fine, but fire was created by God, and so was my hand. You see? You can do this literally ad infinitum. For that matter, it is part of the definition of God in the Christian tradition that he literally sustains everything in existence, such that if he as much as stops “thinking” about everything that exists (so to speak), everything would literally instantly cease to exist. If this is not an entire system of false beliefs (if it is indeed false), then I don’t know what is.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Now let me respond to specific points:

          Brevity is a virtue.

          Most beliefs will be maladaptive

          Why??

          That’s why it’s called survival of the fittest.

          Not according to you. It’s survival of the insanely lucky. They’re not fit at all. They’re buffoons laughably wrong in their beliefs that by some sort of cosmic joke are still able to survive.

          You atheists are usually very big on how much of a species have to die for it to evolve

          And what are you? Evolution supporter? Atheist? What?

          You seem to miss the point that religion generally creates an entire system of false beliefs

          Uh, yeah, I guess that was my bad for giving you a shiny thing to attract your attention. If you could respond to the prior part of my point, that’d be great.

          You can give me any combination of “true” belief and adaptive behavior, and I will show you how belief in God if false simply poisons this belief. Fire is hot, therefore I should not stick my hand in there….fine, but fire was created by God, and so was my hand. You see? You can do this literally ad infinitum.

          No, I don’t see. I have no idea what you are talking about. However, this looks like an important example that explains your position, which I’d like to understand. Expand on this, if you could.

        • Junior Bakiny

          “Why??”

          You said in your post if beliefs are pulled out of a hat, then most will be maladaptive. I was merely agreeing with you. The reason why seems to me to be obvious. After all, evolution is a process that blindly rearranges matter into more and more complex structures. Whatever belief arises it is either going to lead to adaptive or maladaptive behavior depending on the environment. Considering the ratio of maladaptive behaviors to adaptive ones is definitely heavily in favor of the maladaptive ones, beliefs that cause maladaptive behavior will be “pulled out of the hat” more often.

          “Not according to you. It’s survival of the insanely lucky. They’re not
          fit at all. They’re buffoons laughably wrong in their beliefs that by
          some sort of cosmic joke are still able to survive.”

          When evolutionary biologist speak of fitness, they aren’t talking about beliefs at all. They are talking about certain characteristics that lead to survival and the ability to reproduce better than the other guys. Whatever belief (if any) causes this is besides the point, but that is precisely the point I am making. It doesn’t matter what causes this element of “fitness” within organisms so long as certain organisms end up being more fit, and end up reproducing more (and passing on their genes to the next generations). If this is caused by true belief, fine; if it is caused by false beliefs, that’s also fine. This is a critical point in the formulation of the argument. Again, they do not necessarily always hold false beliefs. There just isn’t any good reason to believe that the majority of the beliefs they hold are true. So survival of the insanely lucky? I personally tend to agree.

          “And what are you? Evolution supporter? Atheist? What?”

          I am not an evolution supporter nor am I an atheist.

          “No, I don’t see. I have no idea what you are talking about. However,
          this looks like an important example that explains your position, which
          I’d like to understand. Expand on this, if you could.”

          You are right, this is very important in the argument. What I am trying to show is how an entire system of belief can be false bu adaptive. The conclusion isn’t to be drawn from that isn’t that evolution is necessarily going to create an entire system of false beliefs, just that false beliefs are just as likely to be adaptive as true ones, and therefore, evolution is just as likely to select false beliefs as it is true beliefs. How does belief in God create an entire system of false beliefs? Simple! If I believe in God, then I believe everything was created by God; everything that happens is because of the will of God. If God does in fact not exist, then it makes my belief about everything false. I may run away from tigers because they are dangerous, but I will be thinking in my head: “that tiger that was created by God is chasing me, an other being created by God because God willed it”. Even if my representations about the world around me are accurate, my fundamental beliefs for everything, every event will still be false. That’s the point.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          You said in your post if beliefs are pulled out of a hat, then most will be maladaptive. I was merely agreeing with you. The reason why seems to me to be obvious. After all, evolution is a process that blindly rearranges matter into more and more complex structures. Whatever belief arises it is either going to lead to adaptive or maladaptive behavior depending on the environment.

          ?? And the ones that are maladaptive won’t be passed on. Do you not understand evolution?

          When evolutionary biologist speak of fitness, they aren’t talking about beliefs at all.

          You’re talking about beliefs that are programmed into DNA, aren’t you?

          If this is caused by true belief, fine; if it is caused by false beliefs, that’s also fine. This is a critical point in the formulation of the argument.

          And the critical part of evolution that I’m missing here is that maladaptive beliefs (beliefs that come from DNA) are selected against. Paul is too dumb to live.

          false beliefs are just as likely to be adaptive as true ones

          Haven’t I already asked for an explanation of this incredible statement? “When I’m hungry, I should drink water” is maladaptive and would be selected against by evolution.

        • Junior Bakiny

          “?? And the ones that are maladaptive won’t be passed on. Do you not understand evolution?”

          Right, and the point is the ones that are adaptive will be passed on, and they do not necessarily entail true beliefs at all.

          “You’re talking about beliefs that are programmed into DNA, aren’t you?”

          Not necessarily. We are at the base talking about adaptive behavior. In the more sophisticated version of this argument (that is beyond my power to thoroughly explain) Plantinga considers 5 different possible relationships between beliefs and behaviors if naturalism is true, and shows that the argument works for each of them. Since most people believe however that beliefs cause behavior, that’s what we tend to focus on.

          “And the critical part of evolution that I’m missing here is that
          maladaptive beliefs (beliefs that come from DNA) are selected against.
          Paul is too dumb to live.”

          Are you saying beliefs that come from DNA are necessarily maladaptive? Not that it would affect the argument at all. It doesn’t matter where a belief comes from, as long as it causes adaptive behavior.

          “Haven’t I already asked for an explanation of this incredible statement?
          “When I’m hungry, I should drink water” is maladaptive and would be
          selected against by evolution.”

          and I explained at least 5 times why false beliefs are as likely to be adaptive as true beliefs.

        • Paul B. Lot

          “After all, evolution is a process that blindly rearranges matter into more and more complex structures.”

          Unsurprisingly to me, you badly misunderstand the E in E&N.

        • TheNuszAbides

          how we’re to supposed to use our fallible brains to reliably conclude that God exists.

          Revealed Wisdom, duh! not that Plantinga is about to doctor up a treatise on revealed wisdom. (please, please, we hope.)

    • MNb

      Call me stupid, but I don’t see the difference between

      1. If evolution is true, our cognitive faculties are not reliable
      2. Our cognitive faculties are reliable
      3. Therefore, evolution is not true.

      1. If evolution and naturalism are both true, the probability that our cognitive faculties are reliable is low.
      2. Since the probability that our cognitive faculties are reliable is low given the truth of evolution and naturalism, anyone who accepts both evolution and naturalism has a defeater for the proposition that their cognitive faculties are reliable.
      3. Anyone who has a defeater for the proposition that their cognitive faculties are reliable also has a defeater for any belief they take to be produced by their cognitive , including in this case the beliefs the person started with, namely evolution and naturalism. Naturalism therefore becomes self defeating.

      Of course you use more fancy language and the way BobS formulates is sloppy, but it’s essentially the same. That means his answer remains relevant. Yes, in philosophy class BobS would get an F (1 in the rest of the world) and would be send home to rewrite his article. But this is not philosophy class. So if you were honest you would focus on the content.
      One example of your dishonesty: you end with “naturalism therefore becomes self defeating”. Great. Evolution Theory is totally a naturalistic theory and hence according to Plantinga is self defeating, read “not true” as well.

      • Junior Bakiny

        NO! Evolution is not a naturalistic theory; evolution is a scientific theory. Do not confuse methodological naturalism with metaphysical naturalism. Methodological naturalism basically says that only naturalistic explanations are accepted as scientific, since saying an intelligent agent (supernatural or otherwise) created life on earth does not answer the question the way science is supposed to. Science looks for mechanisms that make the universe go round (so to speak), and evolution is such a mechanism. Metaphysical naturalism says there is no such person as God, or anything at all like God, or put differently, nature is all there is; there is nothing beyond nature. When you say that evolution is totally a naturalistic theory it seems to me you’re saying evolutionary theory must necessarily be coupled with metaphysical naturalism. But you seem to not realize that “metaphysics” is one of the four main areas of philosophy, it isn’t science at all. Metaphysical naturalism is a philosophy, and those who insist that evolution necessarily implies metaphysical naturalism aren’t strictly speaking doing science; they are doing philosophy. The problem is a lot of scientists nowadays are also naturalists, and they make this same mistake, but because they are scientists, people just sit there and listen to them as if anything they say is necessarily true. That is actually what very often creates atheists. It baffles me how people going around promoting the “intelligent design theory” are told their theory isn’t science, but people going around saying god definitely didn’t do it are praised as being great scientists. Plenty of biologists who believe in evolution happen to also believe in God. The two are in no way mutually exclusive. The fact is, it isn’t the job of science to say whether or not God did something. The moment you start saying God did it or God didn’t do it, you are no longer doing science. You are imposing your own metaphysical beliefs on a scientific theory. So to say that if evolution and naturalism are both true the probability that our cognitive faculties are reliable is low is not the same as saying that if evolution is true, the probability that our cognitive faculties are reliable is low. Plantinga’s quarrel in this argument isn’t with evolution; it is with naturalism.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          people going around saying god definitely didn’t do it are praised as being great scientists.

          I’ve never heard of such a scientist. Perhaps you’re more aware of the terrain than I am.

          Plenty of biologists who believe in evolution happen to also believe in God. The two are in no way mutually exclusive.

          And where are you and Plantinga on the evolution question?

          The moment you start saying God did it or God didn’t do it, you are no longer doing science.

          No? People make claims that God did particular things. Those claims are, at least in principle, investigatable through scientific methods.

          to say that if evolution and naturalism are both true the probability that our cognitive faculties are reliable is low …

          What are the options? Is it just (1) our faculties are perfectly reliable or (2) they’re unreliable? Seems like more options are possible than that—like the one I favor, that they’re unreliable but decent enough that we can do decent science (though we must be on our guard for our own fallible cognition).

        • Junior Bakiny

          “I’ve never heard of such a scientist. Perhaps you’re more aware of the terrain than I am.”

          Sure you have. They are just usually a lot more subtle than that. Dawkins, Krauss, Hawkings, Tyson are four guys who clearly promote metaphysical naturalism even when they are talking science.

          “And where are you and Plantinga on the evolution question?”

          Plantinga is notoriously skeptical about the theory of evolution. He does however think there is no contradiction between the scientific theory of evolution and Christian theism. I am also extremely skeptical of the theory, and I am not sure I share Plantinga’s views on the coherence of the theory of evolution with Christian theism.

          “No? People make claims that God did particular things. Those claims are,
          at least in principle, investigatable through scientific methods.”

          Right, but science as defined (at least in modern culture) only allows for strictly naturalistic mechanisms. God did this or God did that will never make it as a scientific theory in today’s day and age.

          “What are the options? Is it just (1) our faculties are perfectly
          reliable or (2) they’re unreliable? Seems like more options are possible
          than that—like the one I favor, that they’re unreliable but decent
          enough that we can do decent science (though we must be on our guard for
          our own fallible cognition).”

          Plantinga defines “reliable cognitive faculties” as those that produce mostly true beliefs. He says roughly 75% of the beliefs they produce most be true for them to be deemed reliable. 75% is not an unreasonable figure at all, it is still far short of “perfect”. So if 75% of the beliefs our cognitive faculties produce are true, our cognitive faculties are reliable, although still very much imperfect. If they produce less, they are unreliable.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Plantinga is notoriously skeptical about the theory of evolution.

          Unfortunately, I’m notoriously unimpressed by non-biologists dismissing a field they don’t understand.

          I am not sure I share Plantinga’s views on the coherence of the theory of evolution with Christian theism.

          Not that we’re deciding truth on a majority vote, but most Christians have no problem with evolution.

          Right, but science as defined (at least in modern culture) only allows for strictly naturalistic mechanisms. God did this or God did that will never make it as a scientific theory in today’s day and age.

          You avoided my point. “God did X” is a testable claim. That’s science. Seeing through opaque objects was supernatural until x-rays.

        • Junior Bakiny

          “Unfortunately, I’m notoriously unimpressed by non-biologists dismissing a field they don’t understand”

          …He is not dismissing evolution at all…..

          “Not that we’re deciding truth on a majority vote, but most Christians have no problem with evolution.”

          I…..don’t care..????

          “You avoided my point. “God did X” is a testable claim. That’s science.
          Seeing through opaque objects was supernatural until x-rays.”

          You’re the one not getting my point. Testing a supernatural claim and using the supernatural as scientific explanations are not the same thing. The first one is science, the second one, isn’t, at least as they define science nowadays.

        • MNb

          “…He is not dismissing evolution at all…..”
          No, he only says naturalism including Evolution Theory (and every single scientific theory ever formulated) defeats itself …..

        • Junior Bakiny

          …..no; just, no!

        • MNb

          Ah, those are the better arguments – a defeater as there never has been one before.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          You’re the one not getting my point.

          And I’ve lost interest in trying. But I do appreciate your thoughts. Next time, a more focused conversation would be better.

        • MNb

          I don’t confuse methodological naturalism with philosophical naturalism – Plantinga and you do. Like you wrote Evolution Theory says exactly nothing about god. I’m not one of those atheists who postulate it refutes god. It refutes quite a lot of religious claims about our reality, but that’s not the same.
          Plantinga and you use Evolution Theory to postulate something about naturalism, whether methodological or philosophical. But Evolution Theory says exactly nothing about anything outside the natural and/or material domain. There is no place within Evolution Theory for anything supernatural and/or immaterial, whether positive or negative.
          “It follows from Evolution Theory that the probability that our cognitive faculties are reliable is low” applies equally to both methodological and philosophical naturalism, simply because we use those cognitive faculties and nothing but those cognitive faculties to formulate and test Evolution Theory and any other scientific theory.

          For more detailed discussions along these lines:

          http://rationallyspeaking.blogspot.com/2013/07/plantingas-evolutionary-argument.html

          “as Michael Ruse has pointed out in his own response to the EAAN, Plantinga fails to make the crucial distinction between methodological and philosophical naturalism.”
          Isn’t it weird? I have noticed this before actually reading Pigliucci’s article. Either your god must have planted this in our heads or there is something wrong with Plantinga’s argument.

          http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Alvin_Plantinga#Evolutionary_argument_against_naturalism_.28EAAN.29

          You can’t have it both ways. If you maintain that EAAN doesn’t defeat the scientific method you can’t use Evolution Theory to defeat philosophical naturalism either, simply because it says nothing, zero, nada about it, just like it says nothing, zero, nada about god.

        • Junior Bakiny

          I am surprised to hear that was Michael Ruse’s response to the argument. Methodological naturalism, is just an assumption scientists make. They are assuming only naturalistic explanations count as scientific explanations. They are not saying that naturalistic explanations are the only kinds of explanations that act in the universe, just that when we are doing science, only those count. Metaphysical naturalism is the positive assertion that there is no such person as God or anything at all like God; nothing exists beyond nature. That is also saying only naturalistic explanations are the only kinds of explanations that act in the universe, not just as a matter of definition such as with methodological naturalism, but as a matter of fact. Methodological naturalism isn’t something that can be true or false , but metaphysical naturalism is, and if it is false, unguided evolution (or something much like it) must be true. That is when the EAAN applies. You are right that evolution doesn’t say anything about metaphysical naturalism (despite what the likes of Dawkins have to say), but Plantinga is basically imagining a universe within which naturalism and evolution are both true, because, well, the naturalist happens to think we live in one of those universes. While evolution says nothing about naturalism, if both are true, then evolution must be a blind, mindless, unguided process. That’s the background of the argument.

        • MNb

          Thanks for not addressing my points, especially

          -”It follows from Evolution Theory that the probability that our cognitive faculties are reliable is low” applies equally to both methodological and philosophical naturalism, simply because we use those cognitive faculties and nothing but those cognitive faculties to formulate and test Evolution Theory and any other scientific theory.

          and

          -”If you maintain that EAAN doesn’t defeat the scientific method you can’t use Evolution Theory to defeat philosophical naturalism either, simply because it says nothing, zero, nada about it, just like it says nothing, zero, nada about god.”

          Let me make one thing crystal clear here. I’m not arguing against god at the moment. When I do I don’t use Evolution Theory or any other scientific theory, though Quantum Mechanics is incompatible with the vast majority of god images, including the Abrahamistic ones.
          What I’m arguing is that EAAN fails. It does and you don’t seem to be capable of repairing it.

          “While evolution says nothing about naturalism, if both are true, then evolution must be a blind, mindless, unguided process.”
          Yes and for the reasons I already gave that’s not a problem at all for naturalism, whether the methodological or the philosophical version. In fact you’re providing a philosophical argument against god here. Theistic evolution assumes teleology – god guides the process with a specific goal in mind. As such theistic evolution should be capable of making testable predictions: how will the still existing species evolve?
          I have never met one.
          Pure naturalistic evolution at the other hand doesn’t provide such predictions.

        • Junior Bakiny

          It’s like you didn’t read my post, but anyways..

          “”It follows from Evolution Theory that the probability that our
          cognitive faculties are reliable is low” applies equally to both
          methodological and philosophical naturalism, simply because we use those
          cognitive faculties and nothing but those cognitive faculties to
          formulate and test Evolution Theory and any other scientific theory.”

          That’s absurd! Philosophical naturalism says evolution is definitely a blind, mindless and unguided process, Methodological naturalism says no such thing. Therefore, methodological naturalism does not say our cognitive faculties definitely evolved through a blind, mindless, unguided process while philosophical naturalism does. How you think the EAAN applies to both is quite frankly beyond me.

          “”If you maintain that EAAN doesn’t defeat the scientific method you
          can’t use Evolution Theory to defeat philosophical naturalism either,
          simply because it says nothing, zero, nada about it, just like it says
          nothing, zero, nada about god.”

          I mean…..how did I not address this in my post? “The scientific method” is not a belief system, and it is definitely not one that includes anything such as “men evolved through a blind, mindless, unguided process”. Philosophical naturalism is. So the EAAN applies to philosophical naturalism. You can’t “defeat” methodological naturalism. It’s just a convention invented by human beings, it isn’t meant to be objectively true at all. Again, how you think something that was just defined for the sake of convenience and practicality is the same as a belief system that included there is no such person as God and there is nothing beyond nature is just beyond me.

          “Let me make one thing crystal clear here. I’m not arguing against god at
          the moment. When I do I don’t use Evolution Theory or any other
          scientific theory, though Quantum Mechanics is incompatible with the
          vast majority of god images, including the Abrahamistic ones.
          What I’m arguing is that EAAN fails. It does and you don’t seem to be capable of repairing it.”

          I never said you’re arguing against God, and if you think this objection is somehow good, I could still say (as you seem to wish) that the EAAN does also apply to the scientific method. Then what would you say? (I am curious to know). In order to defeat a deductive argument, you have to either show it isn’t valid, or that one of the premises is either false, or at least unwarranted. You haven’t even begun to do this and you claim it fails. Bob’s refutation wasn’t that bad at all, it is the most obvious refutation to make against the argument. What made it bad was the fact that he just stated it so poorly, but at least he attacked the first premise of the argument.

          “Yes and for the reasons I already gave that’s not a problem at all for
          naturalism, whether the methodological or the philosophical version.”

          wait…what reasons?????????????

          “In fact you’re providing a philosophical argument against god here.
          Theistic evolution assumes teleology – god guides the process with a
          specific goal in mind. As such theistic evolution should be capable of
          making testable predictions: how will the still existing species evolve?
          I have never met one.
          Pure naturalistic evolution at the other hand doesn’t provide such predictions.”

          I have already been criticized for writing long essays. There is so much wrong here if I actually covered it all, I’d be here all night. Let me just say one point briefly: If God has a certain goal in mind as to how the species he guided through the process of evolution up until now will evolve some more, why suppose the theist should be the first one to know? And if he doesn’t, how does that serve as evidence against God?

        • MNb

          “Philosophical naturalism says evolution is definitely a blind, mindless and unguided process, Methodological naturalism says no such thing.”
          Yes, it does. More precise: the scientific method says that to understand evolution we don’t need any of such guidance. That’s what Pigliucci meant when he wrote that Plantinga and you mix up methodological and philosophical naturalism.

          “Therefore, methodological naturalism does not say our cognitive faculties definitely evolved through a blind, mindless, unguided process”
          So in the end EAAN is a god of the gaps argument …. because that’s exactly what scientists head for.
          After these two howlers you will understand I haven’t read on. Instead I recommend you to actually read something about Evolution Theory: Talkorigins, Jerry Coyne and Donald Prothero.

          “It’s like you didn’t read my post”
          It’s rather like you haven’t read mine – and it’s obvious you haven’t read the links I gave, especially the one to Pigliucci.
          You’re just another believer who tries to use science to “prove” god. Unfortunately for you these attempts get lamer and lamer.

        • Junior Bakiny

          “Yes, it does. More precise: the scientific method says that to understand evolution we don’t need any of such guidance. That’s what Pigliucci meant when he wrote that Plantinga and you mix up methodological and philosophical naturalism.”

          smh….and this is what you and your friend Pigliucci seem to not understand: God in an agent, evolution is a mechanism, and the two are not at all mutually exclusive. Just because you can understand evolution without appealing to such guidance (which btw I am not convinced this is true) does not mean there was no such guidance. Maybe God set up the first life in order for it to unravel on different evolutionary paths, and from then on, he just sat back and watched everything happen. I am not endorsing such a view (although many scientists do), I am just saying that your logic is pathetic. As John Lennox would point out, to say that we don’t need God to understand evolution is like saying with don’t need Henry Ford to understand how the motor of an automobile works. You are right, we don’t, but it does not follow that therefore Henry Ford did not create it.That’s why methodological naturalism says nothing about whether or not an agent, supernatural or otherwise had anything to do with it. The fact that we can understand it without appealing to a God (which is what methodological naturalism says) does not mean a God was definitely not involved (which is what metaphysical naturalism says). You are the one confusing the two. An agent may or may not have been involved, neither option is fundamentally incompatible with evolution taken as a strictly speaking scientific theory.

          “So in the end EAAN is a god of the gaps argument …. because that’s exactly what scientists head for.
          After
          these two howlers you will understand I haven’t read on. Instead I
          recommend you to actually read something about Evolution Theory:
          Talkorigins, Jerry Coyne and Donald Prothero.”

          sheesh….and these people think they are smart.

          It’s not a God of the gaps argument, it has nothing to do with trying to prove God at all. It is an argument against philosophical naturalism, and it isn’t even arguing that it is false. It is arguing that it is self defeating. How many times does one need to say that? And for the fifth hundredth time, it is not an argument against evolution.

          “It’s rather like you haven’t read mine – and it’s obvious you haven’t read the links I gave, especially the one to Pigliucci.
          You’re just another believer who tries to use science to “prove” god. Unfortunately for you these attempts get lamer and lamer.”

          I did read your posts (for some reason). You’re damn right that I didn’t read your links. Why should I? Defend your own argument, why do you need outside help against me? Anyways, don’t pretend my attempts at proving God (which is not what I am trying to do at all once again) keep getting lamer when you haven’t even tried to refute any premise of the argument, nor have you tried to attack it’s validity. In other words, you aren’t even close to refuting it.

        • MNb

          “your friend Pigliucci”
          It’s a recurring theme: when discussions don’t go the way the apologist likes it his christian love turns sour.

          “… not understand … the two are not at all mutually exclusive”
          Next time you write this I’ll call you a liar. I specifically wrote above that the two aren’t. Reread slowly and closely the quote you provided yourself:

          “the scientific method says that to understand evolution we don’t need any of such guidance.”
          Don’t need.
          I repeat: don’t need.
          In case you’re not a liar and have problems with comprehensive reading: don’t need.
          Which is not the same at all as mutually exclusive. Don’t need means B (guidance) can be combined with, but superfluous to A (evolution).
          Anyway your comment is not worth reading further.

        • Junior Bakiny

          I am not sure you understand your own posts tbh…

          “Don’t need.
          I repeat: don’t need.
          In case you’re not a liar and have problems with comprehensive reading: don’t need.
          Which
          is not the same at all as mutually exclusive. Don’t need means B
          (guidance) can be combined with, but superfluous to A (evolution).
          Anyway your comment is not worth reading further.:

          EXACTLY! With methodological naturalism, guidance may be superfluous, but not necessarily excluded, but with philosophical naturalism, guidance is non existent. Hence why the EAAN works with philosophical naturalism, but not with methodological naturalism. In the first case, or cognitive faculties may or may not have evolved through a blind process, in the second, they definitely did! I mean, it’s so simple….

        • MNb

          From which Plantinga and you draw a wrong conclusion: that evolution theory defeats philosophical naturalism (which also implies that evolution theory is defeated, something you don’t get either). Yeah, cognitive faculties have evolved through a blind process. So nothing. Oh wait – Plantinga and you postulate that this means those cognitive faculties are not reliable (not that you two make clear why they would be reliable in case of non-naturalism, but whatever). Well, as I have written about a thousand times before philosophical naturalism doesn’t need reliable cognitive faculties. After which you put me (and Pigliucci) the words in the mouth that according to us Evolution Theory disproves god or non-naturalism or whatever, which is a lie.
          Simple indeed – but I am not the simpleton.

          OK – let me go back to first grade math: set theory.
          Evolution Theory is a subset of methodological naturalism.
          Methodological naturalism is a subset of philosophical (or ontological) naturalism.
          So if you maintain that philosophical naturalism is defeated because of unreliable cognitive skills (a property of the set called philosophical naturalism according to you) then Evolution Theory is defeated for the same reason as well, as subsets have the same properties.
          Elementary logic which can be grasped by 13 years old. But not Plantinga and you.
          And you don’t accept it because of the wrong assumption that philosophical naturalism requires reliable cognitive skills. Well, I refer you again to

          http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/naturalism/

          Oh wait – you don’t read my links. Yeah, you might learn something, an inadmissible thought.

        • Junior Bakiny

          we don’t conclude that they are unreliable, just that they are unlikely to be reliable. If you think philosophical naturalism doesn’t need reliable cognitive faculties, that’s fine. You don’t seem to understand the implications of this, but whatever rocks your boat. I never said you think evolution disproves god, you said it doesn’t, but when you keep equating philosophical naturalism with methodological naturalism, it just seems you are contradicting yourself.

          “Evolution Theory is a subset of methodological naturalism”

          What? No it’s not! methodological naturalism is not a belief system

          “Methodological naturalism is a subset of philosophical (or ontological) naturalism.”

          This is equally misleading. Methodological naturalism isn’t just a “method” if ontological naturalism is true, in which case, it becomes necessarily true. But again, methodological naturalism is just an arbitrary convention that does not presuppose any belief system (theism or naturalism). That’s just how they decided to conduct scientific inquiry.

          “So if you maintain that philosophical naturalism is defeated because of
          unreliable cognitive skills (a property of the set called philosophical
          naturalism according to you) then Evolution Theory is defeated for the
          same reason as well, as subsets have the same properties.”

          I am gonna say the same thing about this paragraph Plantinga said of Dawkins’ book, The God Delusion: The fact is, grade inflation aside, this argument would receive a failing grade in a sophomore philosophy class. The amount of sloppy nonsense in here is just astounding. To make a long story short, again, evolution is not a subset of methodological naturalism!!!

          “Elementary logic which can be grasped by 13 years old. But not Plantinga and you.
          And
          you don’t accept it because of the wrong assumption that philosophical
          naturalism requires reliable cognitive skills. Well, I refer you again
          to”

          Being insulted by someone who displays such philosophical ineptness…..

          “Oh wait – you don’t read my links. Yeah, you might learn something, an inadmissible thought.”

          I wish they were links of Plantinga (or other defenders of the argument) that deal with your refutation.

        • MNb

          “just that they are unlikely to be reliable”
          Doesn’t matter for philosophical naturalism for exactly the reasons I gave.
          Look, unlike you I get tired of running around in circles. What we have had:
          1. you lied that I use Evolution Theory to disprove god;
          2. you maintain the false dilemma reliable vs. unreliable, neglecting that cognitive skills can be partially reliable (when I look outside of my window the Earth looks flat, which is approximately correct), sometimes reliable and sometimes unreliable;
          3. you maintain the strawman that philosophical naturalism requires reliable cognitive skills;
          4. as such you maintain the non-sequitur that Evolution Theory defeats philosophical naturalism;
          5. you didn’t withdraw your statement that a blind process can’t produce reliable cognitive skills, which is a god of the gaps, but preferred not to repeat it;
          6. you refuse to read links which clarify and add to what I write.

          You’re just another intellectually dishonest apologist, illustrating what Chris Hallquist wrote: regular philosophers don’t take philosophers of religions seriously.
          Now I never thought there was even the smallest chance to convince you. Everything needed to bury EAAN has been said; the imaginary neutral bystander can judge for him/herself. There is no point anymore arguing with you. The clear conclusion is that you failed to bring up a positive argument for non-naturalism. BobS’ title is correct: EAAN is unconvincing.
          React if you please or don’t – in the first case I won’t read it anymore. In both cases I won’t care.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          As John Lennox would point out, to say that we don’t need God to understand evolution is like saying with don’t need Henry Ford to understand how the motor of an automobile works. You are right, we don’t, but it does not follow that therefore Henry Ford did not create it.

          Not one of Lennox’s cleverest observations.

          Yep, you’re right. Atheists haven’t proven that God doesn’t exist. Of course, very few atheists make that claim or even pretend that they could provide such a proof. But Lennox saying, “Well … well, you haven’t proven that God doesn’t exist! So I am still entitled to hold that belief! So there!” is pretty weak.

          I haven’t proven that leprechauns don’t exist either. You could cling to that belief with the same argument.

          The fact that we can understand it without appealing to a God (which is what methodological naturalism says) does not mean a God was definitely not involved (which is what metaphysical naturalism says).

          But since the natural explanation is preferable to the supernatural one (since we’ve seen countless of the former and zero of the latter), the natural explanation wins.

        • Junior Bakiny

          Not one of Lennox’s cleverest observations.

          Yep, you’re right.
          Atheists haven’t proven that God doesn’t exist. Of course, very few
          atheists make that claim or even pretend that they could provide such a
          proof. But Lennox saying, “Well … well, you haven’t proven that God doesn’t exist! So I am still entitled to hold that belief! So there!” is pretty weak.

          I haven’t proven that leprechauns don’t exist either. You could cling to that belief with the same argument.”

          For God’s sake….

          That isn’t his point at all. His point is that arguing against God by using the fact that science discovers mechanisms that are active in the universe (which a lot of atheists use that argument) is horrible reasoning. He is not using that line of reasoning to prove the existence of God. You have just taken down one hell of a straw man.

          “But since the natural explanation is preferable to the supernatural one
          (since we’ve seen countless of the former and zero of the latter), the
          natural explanation wins.”

          lol…NO, you obviously didn’t get the point John Lennox often makes. You really should have tried to understand his point instead of raising a straw man. His point is that God is an agent, evolution is a mechanism. Both are explanations, but on a different level. One is not competing with the other; the two actually compliment each other. What you’re arguing (or rather should be arguing) is that evolution could have happened without the need of an intelligent agent, just like Dawkins argued in the blind watchmaker. Just because it could have happened doesn’t mean it did, but then you can do away with the God hypothesis by appealing to Occam’s razor.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          His point is that arguing against God by using the fact that science discovers mechanisms that are active in the universe (which a lot of atheists use that a rgument) is horrible reasoning. He is not using that line of reasoning to prove the existence of God.

          Never said or thought that he did. As a wise man once said, “You have just taken down one hell of a straw man.”

          But then I guess I don’t understand what your concern is. Scientists answer puzzles and find natural explanations. I’m sure we’re on the same page here. So what is the problem that we must avoid?

          lol…NO, you obviously didn’t get the point John Lennox often makes. You really should have tried to understand his point instead of raising a straw man.

          I’ve listened to an hour-long interview and I’ve seen him in person and I’ve written three post about these. I’ve read his God and Stephen Hawking.

          If you’re going to call me an idiot, at least get your target straight. I’ve already given his thinking far more consideration than it deserves. If I’ve made a mistake, it’s in understanding his point, not in giving his point too little consideration.

          His point is that God is an agent, evolution is a mechanism.

          Uh, OK. I’m still missing the egregious error I made. Perhaps you’ve already explained it in response to my questions above.

        • Junior Bakiny

          “Never said or thought that he did. As a wise man once said, “You have just taken down one hell of a straw man”

          Huh? Let me quote you….

          “Not one of Lennox’s cleverest observations.
          Yep, you’re right.
          Atheists haven’t proven that God doesn’t exist. Of course, very few
          atheists make that claim or even pretend that they could provide such a
          proof. But Lennox saying, “Well … well, you haven’t proven that God doesn’t exist! So I am still entitled to hold that belief! So there!” is pretty weak.

          I haven’t proven that leprechauns don’t exist either. You could cling to that belief with the same argument.”

          ^^That’s an exact quote from you! If you’re not arguing here that Lennox is basically using that line of reasoning, to prove the existence of God is warranted then I don’t know what you’re doing!!!

          “If you’re going to call me an idiot, at least get your target straight.
          I’ve already given his thinking far more consideration than it deserves.
          If I’ve made a mistake, it’s in understanding his point, not in giving
          his point too little consideration.”

          Not to call you an idiot, but you gave me the impression you didn’t understand his point, and you can hardly blame me. I mean, you saying this (in addition to the quote above):

          “But since the natural explanation is preferable to the supernatural one
          (since we’ve seen countless of the former and zero of the latter), the
          natural explanation wins.”

          Kinda hints at the fact that you didn’t understand his point. I already explained in my previous post why this is flawed and how Lennox’s analogy with Henry Ford and the automobile utterly destroys this kind of reasoning. The point isn’t to prove that God exists, but to show why the belief in God isn’t even remotely threatened by the mechanisms science discovers. Now I am not saying you necessarily argue it is, but I don’t even remember why I brought this up in the first place. It was as a response to the other guy.

    • Patrick Withee

      The whole problem with the first premise is that belief is not a necessary a factor in actions that would support survival, neither in humans, nor, more importantly, in much simpler animals. Take, for instance, an ant; the ant can gather food, build an ant-hill, avoid predators, etc., but in order for this argument to work, you’d also have to prove that it has the ability to do these things as a result of beliefs. Can you really expect me to believe that an ant can believe anything? On the contrary, it is not our beliefs–which are mentally integrated from concepts–but our instinctual, irrational, and sub-conscious, or unconscious motivations that help us to survive in every one of these instances, given evolution. If an ant can get shelter without the ability to form any meaningful beliefs, then it follows that beliefs are not necessary for such actions. In humans, they can be sufficient, but they are logical and temporal consequences of our innate, unconscious, irrational reactions to stimuli such as tigers, hunger, heat, etc. Our beliefs, as aforementioned, only become a factor after we can obtain sensory input, form a concept, and then integrate that concept with already understood ones into a belief. The efficacy of this process is irrelevant in the context as provided by the EAAN. As a side-note, the charge against a mind crafted by natural selection as being unreliable by the EAAN is no better than something a radical skeptic could say. Further, theism does not necessarily protect against such an unreliable mind, for an assumption that God is not a deceiving God is necessary for this theism to be any more likely to produce reliable minds than naturalism. Ultimately we make assumptions about our rationality, and whether one is a Metaphysical Naturalist, a theist, or anything in-between is inconsequential to that fact.

      • Junior Bakiny

        “The whole problem with the first premise is that belief is not a necessary a factor in actions that would support survival, neither in humans, nor, more importantly, in much simpler animals. Take, for instance, an ant; the ant can gather food, build an ant-hill, avoid predators, etc., but in order for this argument to work, you’d also have to prove that it has the ability to do these things as a result of beliefs”

        Actually the argument does not presuppose that at all. First of all, you have to remember that this is an argument against naturalism, not against evolution. The question is: if naturalism and evolution were both true, what would things be like? In the original version of the argument, he distinguishes between five possible relationships between beliefs and behavior, including cases in which beliefs do not causally impinge on behavior or do so by virtue of their neurophysiological (NP) properties and not by virtue of their content.

        In newer versions of the argument, he argues that if naturalism is true, then materialism about human beings is also probably true (indeed, most naturalists are materialists). If materialism is true, then mental states in biological organisms have certain NP in the brain, and in some species (like us, allegedly), these NP are complex enough to generate belief content. It is these NP properties that cause muscle contraction and eventually behavior (at least in part), so NP properties that will be selected by evolution will be adaptive. But evolution does not care whether the content of the belief is true, so long as the NP in the brain causes the right behavior. These NP can be as a response to a predator, but the content of the belief does not need to be about the predator, and hence does not need to be true. It is as likely to be false as it is to be true. So each independent belief will have a 50% chance of being true. Therefore, given 1000 beliefs, what is the probability that our cognitive faculties are reliable (that they produce a preponderance of true beliefs, two thirds for example)? The probability is extremely low indeed. Hence, anyone who believes evolution and naturalism has a strong reason to give up the natural assumption that their cognitive faculties are reliable.

        “As a side-note, the charge against a mind crafted by natural selection as being unreliable by the EAAN is no better than something a radical skeptic could say.”

        Again, it is not an argument against evolution; it is an argument against naturalism. A radical skeptic might stand there and simply claim that evolution could not produce reliable cognitive faculties (I along with Plantinga very much doubt that it could), but that isn’t the claim here. The claim here is given naturalism and evolution, our cognitive faculties are most likely unreliable. The claim also happens to be followed by an argument, so you can’t just dismiss it by saying “that sounds like something a radical skeptic would say”. The fact is, Plantinga isn’t being a radical skeptic at all. He is claiming that naturalism construed as including materialism about human beings and the claim that these human being (along with all other animals) were crafted by evolution leads one to doubt the reliability of their cognitive faculties, because when this claim is properly understood, then one can (or at least should) see that it is very unlikely given all those things that our cognitive faculties would be reliable. He isn’t the first person to say something along those lines, he cites the likes of Darwin, Nagel and Churchland, all non theists, who have all said something similar in their writings.

        “Further, theism does not necessarily protect against such an unreliable mind, for an assumption that God is not a deceiving God is necessary for this theism to be any more likely to produce reliable minds than naturalism.”

        God not being a deceiving God is part of the definition of the theistic God. There is nothing wrong with making assumptions about the reliability of our cognitive faculties. Plantinga’s point is that this natural assumption is defeated on naturalism, that is, naturalism as defined by naturalists themselves.

        • MNb

          “It is as likely to be false as it is to be true.”
          How do you know that? It might be the case that correct beliefs improve the chances of getting offspring. Then evolution favours brains with more reliable faculties, leading to a better chance to get offspring.
          Plus it’s nice to see that you still neglect a point I have already made: our cognitive faculties are not one big lump. There are in fact two relevant ones which must be distinguished: thinking and using our senses. Exactly systematically comparing the outcomes of the two increases the probability that they are correct. That’s exactly how science works – and that it works is something Plantinga doesn’t deny either. This is not an argument against god though; it only shows that EAAN fails.

          “The claim here is given naturalism and evolution, our cognitive faculties are most likely unreliable.”
          You’re nicely contradicting yourself. The previous quote claims a probability of 50% that our cognitive factulties are reliable: now you suddenly suggest a much lower probability.
          Thanks for confirming that EAAN fails.

        • Junior Bakiny

          “How do you know that? It might be the case that correct beliefs improve the chances of getting offspring. Then evolution favours brains with more reliable faculties, leading to a better chance to get offspring.”

          A fair question! More generally, I think you mean true beliefs tend to favor survival, and I happen to agree with you. It is also irrelevant to the question at hand because what we are talking about is *how things would be if evolution and naturalism were both true, not how things are*. The crucial thing to see is this: If naturalism is true, then materialism is also probably true. On this view, what is a belief? A belief is generated by a bunch of neurons firing at each other in the brain. It is these neurons that work in concert to send signals to the rest of the body to cause muscle contraction, and eventually, behavior. So a belief (on naturalism construed as including materialism) is a complex neurophysiological structure in the brain, all mental states are. To generate belief content some NP just need to be complex enough.

          Also, evolution will select for adaptive behavior. That means that whatever NP causes the right behavior will be selected by evolution. As you pointed out in your first reply to me, belief content is not necessarily needed to cause adaptive behavior. Some animals clearly don’t have anything we can properly call a belief, but these animals still behave in an adaptive way precisely because the activity in their brains in the right situations causes adaptive behavior. Nonetheless, as the NP get more and more complex, at some point, it becomes complex enough to generate belief content. But why should that content be true? Say a certain NP arises in response to a tiger approaching and causes me to run away. This NP also happens to be complex enough to generate belief content. Clearly, this NP is adaptive and will be selected by evolution; but what reason do we have to suppose that the belief content this NP generates by virtue of its complexity is about the tiger? It is by virtue of its content that a belief is true or false. If the content of a belief expresses a certain proposition that happens to be true, then the belief is true, and vice-versa. In this case, there is no reason why the content of the belief generated by this NP that causes adaptive behavior has to be true. It could be true, but it is just as likely to be false. So that is why each independent belief (on naturalism construed as including materialism) will have a 50% of being true.

          “Plus it’s nice to see that you still neglect a point I have already made: our cognitive faculties are not one big lump. There are in fact two relevant ones which must be distinguished: thinking and using our senses. Exactly systematically comparing the outcomes of the two increases the probability that they are correct. That’s exactly how science works – and that it works is something Plantinga doesn’t deny either. This is not an argument against god though; it only shows that EAAN fails.”

          The question is whether or not our cognitive faculties are reliable. You can’t possibly show that they are reliable by using your little experiment here because in doing so, you are using your cognitive faculties. You are assuming that they are reliable when you are willing to test them, but if you wanna test them to check if they are reliable you obviously can’t start by assuming that they are indeed reliable. That’s just arguing in a circle. You are right that some of our cognitive faculties are more relevant here than others. The claim here is those faculties that are more relevant will likely be unreliable because there is no reason why (on naturalism) belief content needs to be true in order for a belief to cause adaptive behavior. For those that are not immediately relevant, the case is even worse. One can try to refute this argument by claiming that the belief that “there is a tiger approaching” will cause the right adaptive behavior by virtue of its content, indeed, many have tried to refute the argument by using such lines of reasoning. But for those beliefs that are not at all relevant to accurately perceiving the world around us in order to cause adaptive behavior, why suppose that they would be true considering they are generated by a NP that just happens to be complex enough? So whether or not all our cognitive faculties are relevant here, the conclusion to draw is that if naturalism is true, then our cognitive faculties are most likely unreliable.

          “You’re nicely contradicting yourself. The previous quote claims a probability of 50% that our cognitive factulties are reliable: now you suddenly suggest a much lower probability.
          Thanks for confirming that EAAN fails.”

          You are mistaken. I said that the probability (on naturalism) that a single belief would be true is 50%. If we grant that our cognitive faculties are reliable if 75% of the beliefs they produce are true, then if we have 1000 beliefs (we have way more), then the probability that 75% of them are true (on naturalism) is indeed extremely low (1/2^750). So that would clearly make our cognitive faculties unreliable (again, on naturalism).

        • MNb

          “More generally, I think you mean true beliefs tend to favor survival, and I happen to agree with you.”
          Nope. Evolution is not about survival. It’s about getting offspring. And of course it’s relevant for the subject – if evolution manages to increase the reliability of our cognitive features EAAN fails.

          “as the NP get more and more complex”
          I’ll let you get away with this, but complexity is a meaningless concept in Evolution Theory, so you are in grave danger of pulling off a strawman. At least it shows your lack of understanding, confirmed by this question:

          “why should that content be true?”
          That’s not how evolution works. If I’m correct it means that humans with incorrect contents have a smaller chance to procreate and Evolution Theory unambiguously shows that this feature will spread among a population rapidly. It’s not about one single isolated example like that tiger of yours. It’s about many subsequent events like that. Law of Large Numbers.

          “You can’t possibly show that they are reliable by using your little experiment here because in doing so, you are using your cognitive faculties.”
          Irrelevant. My argument – btw it’s not my little experiment; it’s about how science has worked since at least 200 years – doesn’t require complete reliability. It recognizes the possibility of errors and mistakes and just describes a method to minimize them. Given how much our circumstances on Earth have changed last 200 years due to that method I think it’s safe – but yeah, there remains a small probability that this is wrong – to say that it works. And that means that EAAN fails.

          “That’s just arguing in a circle.”
          Nope. It’s based on a simple observation: science has changes how Earth looks like dramatically since 200+ years. I recognize you can deny that, but then you have lot more to explain than me. What’s your pick? Do you accept this observation? If yes EAAN is done, because you the scientific method, including our cognitive faculties, a reliability of more than 50%. Do you reject it? I’m waiting for your explanation. You can begin with you using internet. You don’t answer? Then you’re a hypocrite every time you turn your computer on.

          Thanks for demonstrating that you don’t understand probability calculation. That number of 0,5 ^ 750 is based on the assumption that every produced belief must be true before we can accept that the method is reliable, which is obviously incorrect.

          “the probability (on naturalism) that a single belief would be true is 50%”
          The probability if a single belief would be true is based on the same cognitive faculties you’re criticizing, so you’re also incoherent.

        • Junior Bakiny

          “Nope. Evolution is not about survival. It’s about getting offspring. And of course it’s relevant for the subject – if evolution manages to increase the reliability of our cognitive features EAAN fails.”

          Are you kidding? Merely getting offsprings means nothing in the evolutionary process. What’s important is passing on a trait to your offsprings that help them survive better than the members of the specie that do not have said trait. Eventually, natural selection will work its magic and spread this trait through the entire population. Then, another member of the specie gains another trait (through a random genetic mutation or something like that), can survive better than the other guys, passes it on to its offsprings, etc. That’s how evolution works; it is all about being able to survive better, and, true, getting offsprings and passing that trait that helps you survive better on to them. But just getting offsprings does nothing in evolutionary theory.

          “I’ll let you get away with this, but complexity is a meaningless concept in Evolution Theory, so you are in grave danger of pulling off a strawman. At least it shows your lack of understanding, confirmed by this question”

          At this point I have very little confidence in your knowledge of evolutionary theory, but here I was not talking about evolution at all, so you are the one who pulled the strawman. On naturalism (construed as including materialism), belief content arises when neurophysiological structures in the brain get to a certain level of complexity. That’s all I meant here really. I did not come up with this, naturalists did.

          “That’s not how evolution works. If I’m correct it means that humans with incorrect contents have a smaller chance to procreate and Evolution Theory unambiguously shows that this feature will spread among a population rapidly. It’s not about one single isolated example like that tiger of yours. It’s about many subsequent events like that. Law of Large Numbers.”

          Except what makes you think you are correct? You aren’t exactly getting the argument. Evolution simply works by selecting adaptive behavior. Whatever NP causes adaptive behavior will be selected for by evolution, period! The point is this: on naturalism, certain NP cause adaptive behavior. They also happen to be complex enough to generate belief content. But why should the content of the belief be true? What reason do we have to suppose that the proposition it expresses will be a true proposition? We know the NP causes adaptive behavior in many cases without even generating belief content, such as in animals with less developed brains. Why think it needs to generate true belief content in us in order to cause adaptive behavior?

          “Irrelevant. My argument – btw it’s not my little experiment; it’s about how science has worked since at least 200 years – doesn’t require complete reliability. It recognizes the possibility of errors and mistakes and just describes a method to minimize them. Given how much our circumstances on Earth have changed last 200 years due to that method I think it’s safe – but yeah, there remains a small probability that this is wrong – to say that it works. And that means that EAAN fails.”

          What method? You are saying our cognitive faculties seem to work pretty well therefore they are reliable. I agree that our cognitive faculties seem to be reliable. At least if they weren’t, I doubt we would know that. But again, we aren’t talking about how things are; we are talking about how things would be if naturalism were true. Our cognitive faculties are reliable, therefore that defeats the EAAN? That presupposes that naturalism is true, and obviously you can’t do that here. You are arguing in a circle.

          “Nope. It’s based on a simple observation: science has changes how Earth looks like dramatically since 200+ years. I recognize you can deny that, but then you have lot more to explain than me. What’s your pick? Do you accept this observation? If yes EAAN is done, because you the scientific method, including our cognitive faculties, a reliability of more than 50%. Do you reject it? I’m waiting for your explanation. You can begin with you using internet. You don’t answer? Then you’re a hypocrite every time you turn your computer on”

          Like I said already, I agree that our cognitive faculties seem to be reliable. But again, we are not talking about how things are; we are talking about how things would be if naturalism were true. Our cognitive faculties being reliable does not defeat the EAAN. It only would if we knew for a fact that naturalism is true. You can’t simply assume that naturalism is true, look at how well we have performed using our cognitive faculties thus far, and therefore conclude that this argument fails. That’s just a textbook example of a circular argument.

          “Thanks for demonstrating that you don’t understand probability calculation. That number of 0,5 ^ 750 is based on the assumption that every produced belief must be true before we can accept that the method is reliable, which is obviously incorrect.”

          It is based on the assumption that 75% of our beliefs need to be true for our cognitive faculties to be deemed reliable. That seems to me to be a reasonable estimate. We can bring it down to 66% if you like, same result. I think any lower than that would be unreliable. This is an important point though. By reliable cognitive faculties, I don’t mean that they must produce only true beliefs, but a preponderance of true over false beliefs. I said this twice already.

          “the probability if a single belief would be true is based on the same cognitive faculties you’re criticizing, so you’re also incoherent.”

          Did you miss the “on naturalism” part of that quote? I will just let you figure out why this is nonsense

        • MNb

          Probability calculation is notoriously tricky because it’s counterintuitive. So only now, after a day, I have my answer fully worked out.

          Let’s first pick a proper terminology. Naturalism is hard to describe according to the website of Stanford University. So let me try, then you can avoid strawmen. Naturalism supposes all phenomena in our reality are natural (duh). Imo that means that all phenomena in our reality can be researched by science (hence methodological naturalism – dualists can use the scientific method as well). It does not mean that all beliefs can be researched by science. Two examples: “it’s OK to kill your mother” and “it’s beautiful to kill your mother” can’t – it’s an ethical and esthetical statement respectively. However “X thinks it’s OK and/or beautiful to kill your mother” totally is a scientific statement indeed. Hence ethics and esthetics belong to our natural reality as well according to naturalism. Of course so does evolution.

          You’ll have to accept this – or something similar – if you want to show that evolution some way or another undermines naturalism or you will be begging the question. Plus “true belief” is typical for philosophy, but not that useful for science exactly because it may refer to ethics and/or esthetics as well. Evolution Theory (which is accepted by EAAN) is a scientific theory so I’ll replace “belief” by “scientific statement”, which can be “correct” or “incorrect”.

          To get probability calculation correct it’s very handy to use the “throwing dice” analogy. Fortunately it’s very easy in your specific case. Let’s say that the odd numbers (1, 3 and 5) represent correct scientific statements (CSS) and the even numbers (2, 4 and 6) the incorrect ones (iCSS).
          Now your first assumption is that the dice aren’t loaded. I already have disputed that (1) but will go along for the time being. Then the probability of getting an odd number (ie CSS) is 50% per definition.
          Your next assumption is that for naturalism being valid (science can’t show that either hence I won’t use “correct”) 750 out of 1000 throws need to produce odd numbers (ie CSS). That number comes out of thin air and hence needs to be addressed as well (2). Again I’ll accept it for the time being.

          Your first mistake is that you demand exactly 750 odd numbers. Correct for you argument of course is at least 750 odd numbers. If all 1000 outcomes would have an odd number (ie CSS) then science would be perfect, so it’s wrong to neglect that option.

          Your next mistake is this. According to you the probability of getting 750 odd numbers is 0,5 ^ 750. That’s simply wrong. The probability of any series of outcomes is 0,5 ^ 1000. But there are many combinations with 750 or more desired outcomes (odd numbers ie CSS). If we want to find out how many and what the probability is we can consult a diagram of a normal distribution. I haven’t, but on top of my head I think it’s somewhere between 1% and 10%. Let’s assume the former (1%); I’ll get back to it later as well (3).

          First I get back at that 75% (2). Why this demand for 75%? Why not demanding 25% even numbers (iCSS) before concluding that naturalism is invalid? This normal distribution I was talking about is symmetrical; if you take that 75% as your standard the fair approach is declaring that everything between 25% and 75% is indecisive and only everything below 25% invalidates naturalism. This makes clear that probability calculation does not support EAAN – you can’t get rid of the symmetry.

          Now I get back at (1). The scientific method is all about weeding out iCSS – ie throwing away even numbers. It’s throwing loaded dice. As a result the a priori probability of CSS is not 100% (some even numbers may slip through), but clearly higher than 50%. Physicists have for instance calculated that there is a probability of 99,9995% (I may have missed a 9) that they have found the higgs-boson – ie that “the higgs boson exists” is a CSS.

          That results in an asymmetrical distribution, which raises the probability of your 75% standard considerably.

          Still all this is pretty irrelevant. Now I get back at (3) and assume that somehow you manage to show that the probability of 75% odd numbers (CSS) is 1% indeed. The problem is that on dualism no single method has been developed to surpass that 1%. No matter how low the probability of CSS, I can easily maintain that statements derived from other methods have a probability of exactly 0%.

          As a result the step from “evolution questions the validity of naturalism” to “we must assume dualism” is a non-sequitur. Hence EAAN fails.

          The only way to escape this is arguing that EAAN does not address methodological naturalism, but philosophical naturalism. That doesn’t work either though. I already made clear that philosophical naturalism just states that every phenomenon in our reality is natural and hence, when properly formulated, can be investigated by science. One important argument is, like I already wrote, that there is no method that can investigate non-scientific statements (like “God created the Universe”) with a probability that they are correct higher than 0%. And EAAN by no means addresses this problem; it doesn’t even try.

        • Junior Bakiny

          Okay then, let’s start by defining what naturalism.

          First of all, the argument is intended to attack metaphysical naturalism. You are right that it isn’t easy to come up with a definition of metaphysical naturalism that everyone agrees with. I think it is however very useful to define it as anti-supernaturalism. Metaphysical naturalism holds that there aren’t any supernatural entities like God, or anything at all like God. A naturalist will usually hold that nature is all there is, hence, only natural processes are at work within the universe. Methodological naturalism is therefore necessarily true if metaphysical naturalism is true, but in the scientific community, methodological naturalism is not something that is meant to be true or false, or for that matter, that stems from metaphysical naturalism. It is just a useful convention that the scientific community decided to adopt. This argument is not meant to attack methodological naturalism.

          The argument is basically that if metaphysical naturalism is true, then our cognitive faculties are not reliable because they are not aimed at truth but at survival. Our cognitive faculties are responsible for the beliefs we hold (and not science; we use our cognitive faculties to conduct scientific inquiry), and we typically think our beliefs are true. Now obviously, some beliefs can’t be true or false because they come down to a matter of personal taste. Still, we commonly believe most of the beliefs we hold can be (and are in fact) true. For example, I believe I am typing on my computer right now. I believe I do not live in France, and I believe my cell phone vibrated less than two minutes ago. Many (indeed most) of our beliefs aren’t at all “scientific statements”. In fact, “all phenomena can be researched by science” doesn’t at all follow from metaphysical naturalism”. Truths of logic can for example not be proven by science, or properly basic beliefs, such as those we hold on the basis of our memory. So replacing belief with scientific statement just confuses the whole thing.

          Plantinga suggests that for our cognitive faculties to be deemed reliable, they need to produce mostly true beliefs. He suggests that perhaps our cognitive faculties are reliable when 75% of the beliefs they produce are true. The argument however does not hinge on this suggestion, it just seems like a reasonable estimate. We can bring it down if you like; perhaps our cognitive faculties are reliable if two thirds of the beliefs they produce are reliable, or even 60%. It does not change much for the conclusion of the argument. But it seems to me any lower than that and your cognitive faculties are not reliable. Would you really trust cognitive faculties that produce true beliefs only 55% of the time? Would that be reliable? At some point you ask: “why demand 75%?Why not demand 25%?” Do you actually thing cognitive faculties that produce only 1 true belief out of 4 can be deemed reliable? You can’t be serious!

          The argument isn’t trying to invalidate naturalism, at least not in the way you think. The argument is that it is very improbable that our cognitive faculties would be reliable if naturalism was true, and hence, the naturalist has a good reason to doubt that his cognitive faculties are reliable. Most importantly, the argument isn’t for the conclusion that we must therefore assume dualism. Who ever argued a thing like that? You are right, that would be a non-sequitur.

          Now I have already argued that if naturalism (construed as including materialism) is true, then each belief we hold will be about as likely to be false as it will be to be true. So each belief will have a 50% of being true. If each belief has a 1 in 2 shot at being true, then if we have 1000 independent beliefs, the probability that 75% of them are true is indeed 1/2^750.

          You attacked my probability calculations in this post, but it seems to me you are the one making a mistake. I specified that if we have 1000 independent beliefs. Let’s take your dice example. Assume we have a fair dice with 6 sides. Since there is 3 even numbers and 3 odd numbers, the probability of getting an odd number on a single roll is 1 in 2. Now what is the probability that you will roll an odd number in 2 independent rolls of the dice?
          it’s just 1/2*1/2 or 1/2^2.
          for 3 independent rolls, it will be 1/2*1/2*1/2 or 1/2^3. For 750 rolls, it will be 1/2^750. I don’t see what’s wrong with the math here. Even if there is something wrong with the math, the fact is, the probability that 750 rolls out of 1000 are odd numbers is very low, whether or not I did the math right. The important thing to see is that the same thing applies to our beliefs if naturalism is true. Each independent belief will have a 1 in 2 shot at being true, and hence, if we have 1000 beliefs, the probability that 75% of them are reliable is so low as to be negligible.

          Frankly much of your post was either irrelevant or incomprehensible.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          The argument is basically that if metaphysical naturalism is true, then our cognitive faculties are not reliable because they are not aimed at truth but at survival.

          Right, but consider how difficult it would be to have a belief that was survival-worthy but incorrect. There are big survival points taken away if you have incorrect beliefs about reproduction, food, water, shelter, and so on.

          In fact, “all phenomena can be researched by science” doesn’t at all follow from metaphysical naturalism

          Is that a problem? It’s a claim that can be tested. “Where does the evidence point?” should be our guide.

          He suggests that perhaps our cognitive faculties are reliable when 75% of the beliefs they produce are true.

          We already know that our cognitive faculties are imperfect—biases, memory confusion, poor understanding of basic things like probability, and so on.

          The argument is that it is very improbable that our cognitive faculties would be reliable if naturalism was true, and hence, the naturalist has a good reason to doubt that his cognitive faculties are reliable.

          (1) Every thinking person doubts their cognitive faculties.

          (2) Nature is a harsh mistress. You stumble across an incorrect belief about how getting food works, and your survival isn’t so good.

          Now I have already argued that if naturalism (construed as including materialism) is true, then each belief we hold will be about as likely to be false as it will be to be true.

          Did you justify this? Few beliefs are binary. “I should treat a stranger like X” or “Food with color Y are edible” are more messy than that.

        • Junior Bakiny

          “Right but consider how difficult it would be to have a belief that was survival-worthy but incorrect”

          Actually, I don’t think this would be difficult at all, but it is also irrelevant to this version of the argument. Like I told the other guy: We are not talking about how things are, but how things would be if naturalism (construed as including materialism) was true. As I have already explained, on naturalism, mental states amount to complex electrochemical or neurophysiological structures in the brain. It is these NP structures that send signals from the brain to the rest of the body to cause behavior. Some of these NP structures will cause adaptive behavior, and will be selected for by evolution. In certain organisms (like us, allegedly), these NP structures will also be complex enough to generate belief; a certain proposition will come to be associated with a NP structure. But why on earth does that belief have to be true? As another guy pointed out, much simpler animals behave adaptively, for example by running away from predators and gathering food without having anything we can properly call a belief. They simply do so because the activity in their brains causes adaptive behavior, without this activity being associated with a certain proposition, and much less a true proposition. Why think that in the case of homo sapiens, complex NP structures in the brain that happen to cause adaptive behavior has to be associated with a true proposition? It could come to be associated with a true proposition, but it could also be associated with a false one.

          “Is that a problem? It’s a claim that can be tested. Where does the evidence point? Should be our guide”

          Nope, not a problem at all. But the point is science does not have access to all truth claims.

          “We already know that our cognitive faculties are imperfect. Biases, memory confusion, poor understanding of basic things like probability, and so on”

          I could add philosophical incompetence to that list, but that’s not the point. You are right, our cognitive faculties are imperfect. But we usually think they are reliable (produce a preponderance of true over false beliefs) when they are functioning properly, not at the limit of their potential and given the appropriate environment/context. What this argument would show is that we have a good reason to doubt that our cognitive faculties can generally be reliable. Instead of thinking they are imperfect but still to be relied upon, this argument would establish that given naturalism, our cognitive faculties are not to be relied upon.

          “(1) Every thinking person doubt their cognitive faculties”

          Did you come up with that using your cognitive faculties? If you doubt them then how can you be sure this is true? Like I already said, nobody thinks their cognitive faculties are perfect, we all recognize that they are imperfect, especially when not operating under the right circumstances (trying to see in the dark would be a good example). But we still believe they are to be relied upon given the right circumstances. Again, this argument would establish that given naturalism, they are not to be relied upon at all.

          “(2) Nature is a harsh mistress. You stumble across an incorrect belief about how getting food works, and your survival isn’t so good.”

          Right, and you stumble across an incorrect belief that causes you to get food and your survival is fine, but again, this is irrelevant. As things stand, if I am hungry, and I believe that there is food in my refrigerator, the belief content expressed by the proposition “there is food in my refrigerator” seems to be what causes me to stand up, walk towards the refrigerator, open it, get some food, and eat it. But again, how things stand is not at all relevant. What’s important is how things would be on naturalism (construed as including materialism). As I said before NP structures in the brain can send the right signals and cause the right muscles to move to cause the appropriate adaptive behavior without these NP structures even generating belief content. The claim that these NP structures (that cause adaptive behavior) are complex enough to generate belief content that happens to be true in a certain species of primate is at best gratuitous.

          “Did you justify this? Few beliefs are binary”

          I tried to justify it (read my recent comments above), but you are right, few beliefs are binary. Perhaps then we might say that if naturalism is true, we cannot know what the probability that our cognitive faculties are reliable is. This probability is inscrutable. Fortunately, the argument works just as well in this case.

        • Greg G.

          It could come to be associated with a true proposition, but it could also be associated with a false one.

          And we do have some that are associated with false beliefs. The fear of a monster under the bed may be an adaptive behavior from our ancestors who slept in trees because there were monsters under their beds in the form of various night predators.

          Religion itself may be one of the false ones.

          “Is that a problem? It’s a claim that can be tested. Where does the evidence point? Should be our guide”

          Nope, not a problem at all. But the point is science does not have access to all truth claims.

          That does not justify the truth claims of ideas that science cannot access.

          Our brains take shortcuts, often based on risk-reward probabilities, honed by natural selection. Leaving the safest area is dangerous but necessary. Reacting to strange noises as if it could be a predator is usually wrong but it is prudent.

          But we need to be able to prioritize our fears and beliefs in order to meet other needs which means making assessments that are more accurate than not. That means we have reason to think our faculties have some reliability.

          Our brains do appear to come from naturalistic processes.

          The Greeks, or their predecessors, were able to distinguish mental shortcuts that were usually true from those that are always true. The former were labelled “fallacies” and the latter, “logic”. By developing methodologies to eliminate error and biases, we can compensate for our natural tendencies.

          Does that work? We may not be able to tell a priori but we can make a posteriori judgements. When human culture tried to explain the world around them in terms of religion and stifled thought that didn’t go along with it, the knowledge of humans barely increased. That was the Dark Ages. When humans embraced explanations that didn’t rely on gods and magic, human knowledge has grown exponentially.

          500 years ago, an educated person could know almost all there was to know about science. Nowadays, it is hard for a specialist to keep up with the increasing knowledge of his own field.

          Our workings of our brains are consistent with natural development. Our understanding of the world increases when we focus on natural understanding while taking steps to diminish our fallabilities.

          Religion exploits human fears and fallacious thinking which stagnates the growth of human knowledge while logic and science eliminates them with methodologies that produce results.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          We are not talking about how things are, but how things would be if naturalism (construed as including materialism) were true.

          And, as my comment was supposed to suggest, things do indeed look like humans are the result of evolution.

          But why on earth does that belief have to be true?

          It doesn’t have to be. But see it another way around: how on earth could it not be true? If I’m catching a ball (or dodging a spear or sidestepping a tiger swipe), I believe that I know how something will move over time. If I start slowly as a baby, I can improve my skill at this. If I’m wrong, that might make me dead—and there’s your selective pressure.

          Why think that in the case of homo sapiens, complex NP structures in the brain that happen to cause adaptive behavior has to be associated with a true proposition?

          Why accept that other animals have beliefs shaped by reality and natural selection but not humans? We’re animals, too. We have beliefs that are reasonably correct because our animal ancestors did.

          It could come to be associated with a true proposition, but it could also be associated with a false one.

          Right. And often there’s selective pressure against false propositions. Evolution, remember?

          But the point is science does not have access to all truth claims.

          But reality does. You match up reality with your beliefs about reality all the time. Where you get it wrong, bad things sometimes happen.

          I could add philosophical incompetence to that list, but that’s not the point.

          No, philosophy isn’t the point. We’re talking about biology.

          You are right, our cognitive faculties are imperfect.

          Which evolution neatly explains.

          What this argument would show is that we have a good reason to doubt that our cognitive faculties can generally be reliable. Instead of thinking they are imperfect but still to be relied upon, this argument would establish that given naturalism, our cognitive faculties are not to be relied upon.

          And, given evolution, your argument makes no sense. You do know that evolution doesn’t propose that beliefs aren’t adopted by rolls of dice, right?

          Did you come up with that using your cognitive faculties? If you doubt them then how can you be sure this is true?

          I’m not. But I could ask you … and find that you agree. I’ll ask other people. I’ll crowd-source the question, and find that we’re on the same page—you know how science works.

          But we still believe they are to be relied upon given the right circumstances.

          Through experience, we find many of our limitations and then respond.

          Again, this argument would establish that given naturalism, they are not to be relied upon at all.

          Again, you have not made your case. Show me that naturalism suggests that beliefs are adopted through the equivalent of dice rolls.

          Right, and you stumble across an incorrect belief that causes you to get food and your survival is fine

          I’m saying that beliefs are honed by reality. They’re not perfect, but pretty good.

          What kinds of incorrect beliefs do you think would naturalism would suggest? As I made clear in the post, I think Plantinga’s Paul hypothesis is ridiculous.

        • Junior Bakiny

          “And, as my comment was supposed to suggest, things do indeed look like humans are the result of evolution”

          Fair enough, except this is not an argument against evolution; it is an argument against naturalism.

          “It doesn’t have to be. But see it another way around: how on earth could it not be true? If I’m catching a ball (or dodging a spear or sidestepping a tiger swipe), I believe that I know how something will move over time”

          Right, and frogs flick their tongues and are able to catch a fly with it as it is flying by. Ants are able to gather food in a very organized way, and even build complex shelters. Bed bugs run for their lives when a human is trying to kill them. All of these creatures behave adaptively and yet they do not have anything we can properly call a belief. But what I am asking is this: NP structures are proven to cause behavior (and adaptive behavior at that) without being what we would properly call a belief. Why think that these NP structures have to become associated with true beliefs to cause adaptive behavior for the case of human beings? Clearly enough, belief content (much less true belief content) is not necessary to produce adaptive behavior. Why think it is by virtue of these belief contents that the NP structures in our brain causes behavior (again, on naturalism construed as including materialism)? That’s why I keep saying we aren’t talking about how things are but how things would be if naturalism was true. It seems to me it is by virtue of their content that beliefs cause behavior in my case. I could be wrong, but the point is, why would that be the case on naturalism considering beliefs are essentially reducible to NP structures in the brain that send signals to the rest of the body to cause behavior? Especially because we know for a fact that these NP structures do not even need to be associated with certain propositions at all, and much less true propositions to cause adaptive behavior, I do not see any reason to believe that.

          “Why accept that other animals have beliefs shaped by reality and natural selection but not humans? We’re animals, too. We have beliefs that are reasonably correct because our animal ancestors did”

          You misunderstood what I was trying to say. At any rate, most of our animal ancestors probably did not have anything we can properly call a belief, and that only makes my point because they still behaved adaptively. Why think we need actual true beliefs (on naturalism) to behave adaptively? That goes back to what I said in my second paragraph.

          So I am just going to skip all your other comments that make the same mistake.

          “No, philosophy isn’t the point. We’re talking about biology”

          This is a philosophical argument we are debating, and a complex one at that.

          “Which evolution neatly explains”

          Okay….so what?

          “And, given evolution, your argument makes no sense. You do know that evolution doesn’t propose that beliefs aren’t adopted by rolls of dice, right?”

          We aren’t given evolution, we are given naturalism (which entails certain things about human beings) and evolution. That paints a different picture! Besides, evolution is not interested in beliefs; it is interested (so to speak) in adaptive behavior; that’s the point. Whatever belief causes adaptive behavior will be selected by evolution. What I am saying is given naturalism, these beliefs are merely NP structures in the brain and causes adaptive behavior by sending signals to the rest of the body. Its content (if it even has one, for many animals it doesn’t and yet they still behave adaptively) is entirely blind to the evolutionary process. So again, why think that (on naturalism) NP structures need to be associated with true beliefs to cause adaptive behavior in a certain species of primate? There is no reason to think that, so whatever NP structure causes adaptive behavior will be selected for by evolution. If it comes to be associated with a true belief, that’s great. If it comes to be associated with a false belief, that is also fine as far as evolution is concerned. It simply does not care because on naturalism, belief content would be blind to the evolutionary process and it is by virtue of this content that a belief is true or false. That’s why on naturalism, beliefs are adopted through the equivalent of dice rolls.

          “What kinds of incorrect beliefs do you think would naturalism would suggest? As I made clear in the post, I think Plantinga’s Paul hypothesis is ridiculous”

          Again, this is actually irrelevant. But if you really want, I can show you how an entire system of false beliefs can still cause adaptive behavior.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          this is not an argument against evolution; it is an argument against naturalism.

          Isn’t an argument for evolution also an argument for naturalism?

          All of these creatures behave adaptively and yet they do not have anything we can properly call a belief.

          What animals have beliefs? If you say that it’s just humans, you’ll need to back that up.

          The if “running this trajectory will intercept prey” is a belief for humans, it’s a belief for tigers and wolves as well.

          This is a philosophical argument we are debating, and a complex one at that.

          I’m pretty sure that explaining why humans act certain ways falls squarely into biology.

          why think that (on naturalism) NP structures need to be associated with true beliefs to cause adaptive behavior in a certain species of primate?

          We’re making zero progress, aren’t we? This is the spot where I (yet again) say that a belief being accurate is often a really, really good reinforcer of a belief.

        • Junior Bakiny

          “Isn’t an argument for evolution also an argument for naturalism?”

          Not at all! Metaphysical naturalism holds that there is no such person as God or anything at all like God. The theory of evolution (or any scientific theory for that matter) says no such thing. You can certainly try to argue that if evolution is true then metaphysical naturalism is also true, but naturalism does not necessarily follow from evolution. So again, this is an argument against a certain metaphysical position, not against a particular scientific theory.

          “What animals have beliefs? If you say that it’s just humans, you’ll need to back that up. The if “running this trajectory will intercept prey” is a belief for humans, it’s a belief ror tigers and wolves as well”

          I don’t agree with that, but it isn’t straight to the point so it does not matter. I was not trying to suggest that no animals other than human beings have beliefs. Clearly some do (elephants certainly do). But I think it is also clear that some don’t, and yet they behave adaptively. Before I give you a specific example of this, I will try my best one more time to tell you exactly why I am mentioning this. The point is if naturalism is true then materialism is also probably true. The materialist holds that human beings are not connected to an immaterial soul, or have no immaterial minds or something like that. On this view, human beings are just matter; indeed, they could not exists without their bodies (or some part of their bodies). So if naturalism construed as including materialism is true, then a belief is nothing more than some bio-chemical activity in the brain, indeed, all mental states are. What makes a particular activity in the brain a belief is the fact that it achieves a certain level of complexity and comes to be associated with a certain proposition. This activity in the brain is also what causes behavior by sending signals to the rest of the body, and if we add that (in addition to naturalism construed as including materialism being true) biological organisms have come to be by way of biological evolution, then it is likely that this activity in the brain causes adaptive behavior. Now consider an example (which I am going to quote directly from Plantinga’s book “Where the Conflict Really Lies?”):

          “Anaerobic marine bacteria (so the story goes) contain magnetosomes, tiny internal magnets that indicate magnetic north; in the oceans of the northern hemisphere, this direction is down towards the oxygen-free depths. These indicators are connected with propulsion devices of the bacteria in such a way as to cause these creatures, which can’t flourish in the oxygen-rich surface water, to move towards the deeper water. But this in no way requires that the bacteria form beliefs”.
          The point of that example is that here is an animal that behaves adaptively because of some mechanism within its body, and yet this animal does not form a belief about any of the stuff that is even remotely related to what is going on; indeed, I doubt bacteria hold any beliefs at all. The bigger point is that it is entirely possible that there be purely material mechanisms at work within a particular organisms that cause adaptive behavior with no belief content involved. Hence the question: why do you suppose that (on naturalism construed as including materialism) the mechanisms at work with our brains that cause adaptive behavior necessarily need to be connected with true beliefs for them to cause adaptive behavior? If (as the materialist holds) beliefs are nothing more than highly complex bio-chemical activity in the brain, and if it is by virtue of these bio-chemical activity in the brain that behavior is caused, what does true belief content have to do with it?

          “I am pretty sure explaining why humans act certain ways falls squarely into biology”

          That isn’t what we are trying to do at all; at least that’s not the point of the argument. I don’t know about you…

          “We’re making zero progress, aren’t we? This is the spot where I (yet again) say that a belief being accurate is often a really, really good reinforcer of a belief”

          Well, if we aren’t making progress it is clearly your fault. Again, what evolution is interested with is adaptive behavior. Whatever activity in the brain causes adaptive behavior will be selected by evolution. This activity in the brain can cause adaptive behavior without even being associated with belief content. So it certainly does not need true belief content to cause adaptive behavior. Hence whatever belief will come to be associated with a particular bio-chemical reaction in the brain by virtue of its complexity will (on naturalism) not need to be true because (again, on naturalism), the content itself does not enter the causal reaction leading to behavior. Since it is by virtue of its content that a belief is either true or false, on naturalism, while this bio-chemical reaction in the brain could come to be associated with true belief, it would be nothing more than a happy coincidence. It could just as well come to be associated with a false belief. Hence the probability (on naturalism) that a single independent belief we hold (assuming we have come to be by way of evolution), will be about as likely to be true as it will be to be false; it will have (roughly) a 50% chance of being true. Please get it this time.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Metaphysical naturalism holds that there is no such person as God or anything at all like God.

          Not my position.

          why do you suppose that (on naturalism construed as including materialism) the mechanisms at work with our brains that cause adaptive behavior necessarily need to be connected with true beliefs for them to cause adaptive behavior?

          Must we go over this repeatedly? I don’t think that. As any doofus knows, the brain has loads of problems—poor memory, poor reasoning, biases, etc.

          If (as the materialist holds) beliefs are nothing more than highly complex bio-chemical activity in the brain, and if it is by virtue of these bio-chemical activity in the brain that behavior is caused, what does true belief content have to do with it?

          Must we go over this repeatedly as well? Comporting with reality is a really good way to get a green light with natural selection. Being in conflict with reality is a good way to get you dead.

          “I am pretty sure explaining why humans act certain ways falls squarely into biology”

          That isn’t what we are trying to do at all; at least that’s not the point of the argument. I don’t know about you…

          Then let me make it clearer: I have little interest in philosophy, and my goal is to stay within biology.

          Well, if we aren’t making progress it is clearly your fault.

          Excellent! I’m glad we got that sorted and blame was appropriately assigned.

          Since it is by virtue of its content that a belief is either true or false, on naturalism, while this bio-chemical reaction in the brain could come to be associated with true belief, it would be nothing more than a happy coincidence.

          If a belief was acquired by chance, it would be selected by not chance.

          It could just as well come t o be associated with a false belief. Hence the probability (on naturalism) that a single independent belief we hold (assuming we have come to be by way of evolution), will be about as likely to be true as it will be to be false; it will have (roughly) a 50% chance of being true. Please get it this time.

          Nope—I must be too stupid.

          We’ve made zero progress since Plantinga tried to make the argument. Take an organism that now has a belief that its ancestors zillions of generations ago did not have. After all that honing through reality, you’re saying that the likelihood that it’s actually true (comports with reality) is 50%? This is why injecting philosophy into science gets people annoyed.

        • Junior Bakiny

          “Not my position”

          Then this argument does not affect you, not directly anyways. I do think it could be modified to affect anyone who believes in unguided evolution, but that would take a hell of a lot of work.

          “Must we go over this repeatedly? I don’t think that. As any doofus knows, the brain has loads of problems. Poor memory, poor reasoning, biases”

          Apparently we do do because once again, that’s not the point. Of course the brain has lots of problems, but like I already said, we still think it can be reasonable relied upon. What I meant (and what I have been trying to say) is that given naturlism, our brains wouldn’t just be imperfect. They would be entirely unreliable.

          “Must we go over this repeatedly as well? Comporting with reality is a really good way to get a green light with natural selection. Being in conflict with reality is a good way to get you dead”

          Again, apparently we do because, again, this is irrelevant. I do agree that true beliefs are conducive to survival. I am not convinced that an entire system of false beliefs couldn’t be adaptive, but that is irrelevant. The point is you keep thinking when I see a tiger approaching, the belief expressed by the proposition “there is a tiger coming, tigers are dangerous, I have to run away” is what causes me to run away. Well, as far as I can tell, it is, but we aren’t given how things are; we are given how things would be if naturalism (construed as including materialism) was true. On this view, the belief expressed by a certain proposition is merely a by product of what actually causes behavior, namely bio-chemical activity in the brain. Belief content is reducible to the matter in the brain, which causes behavior by sending signals to the rest of the body. It isn’t by virtue of its content, or at least of its propositional content such as “tigers are dangerous” (since content is on materialism reducible to mere electrochemical activity in the brain) that adaptive behavior is caused on this view. So whatever proposition comes to be associated with it is entirely besides the point. That’s why it does not matter (on this view) whether beliefs are true or false. They do not need to be true to be adaptive because the proposition that they are associated with (and its by virtue of this proposition that a belief is either true or false) is not what causes adaptive behavior. I hope this helps; this is a crucial point.

          “Then let me make it clearer: I have little interest in philosophy, and my goal is to stay within biology”.

          You are failing at your goal then. This is a philosophical argument that has been debated by some very eminent philosophers.

          “If a belief was acquired by chance, it would be selected by not chance”

          If it is acquired by chance and adaptive, and if it does not matter on naturalism (construed as including materialism) whether or not the belief is true (as I have already argued), then it will be as likely to be true or false. If it is selected, then it will spread through the entire population.

          “We have made zero progress since Plantinga tried to make the argument”

          I don’t know who we is, but I have made some progress since I have come across this argument. I thought naturalism was a pretty hopeless worldview before, now I am convinced it is am entirely irrational one. Of course, that’s just my opinion.

          “Take an organism that now has a belief that its ancestors zillions of generations ago did not have. After all that honing through reality, you’re saying that the likelihood that it’s actually true (comports with reality is 50%?”

          On naturalism, yes! Simply because (as I have already argued) a belief if true if the propositional content it is associated with is true, and false otherwise. On naturalism (and materialism) the propositional content of a belief isn’t what causes behavior; what causes behavior is the electro-chemical activity in the brain (which beliefs are reducible to on this view). Hence why whether or not the belief content that will be associated with this electro-chemical activity will be as likely to be true as false (roughly); it is not at all shaped by reality. This can’t be the first time you hear this, I said that like 15 times up there.

          “This is why injecting philosophy into science gets people annoyed”

          Why because they don’t understand the philosophy? Or is it because they are too naive to see that there wouldn’t be such a thing as the “scientific method” without philosophy? There is a reason why Phd stands for “doctor of philosophy”. In my opinion, any aspiring scientists should take at least a couple of philosophy classes (preferably some logic and epistemology courses). Otherwise you create scientists (like Dawkins or Krauss) that don’t even know how to construct a valid deductive argument (something I can teach my 10 years old nephew to do). Anyways, this rambling is besides the point. At least you are sticking to the argument. That other guy is clearly confused.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          You are failing at your goal then. This is a philosophical argument that has been debated by some very eminent philosophers.

          Sounds like Wm. Lane Craig’s opinions about cosmology.

          I thought naturalism was a pretty hopeless worldview before, now I am convinced it is am entirely irrational one.

          You’ll have to explain why evolution is orthogonal to this discussion. That’s my interest, not naturalism.

          This can’t be the first time you hear this, I said that like 15 times up there.

          And it’s been gibberish all 15 times.

          Why because they don’t understand the philosophy?

          Because the topic is evolution.

          Otherwise you create scientists (like Dawkins or Krauss) that don’t even know how to construct a valid deductive argument

          Hyperbole? Or are you sure this is the case?

          At least you are sticking to the argument. That other guy is clearly confused.

          If “that other guy” is MNb, maybe you have more in common than you think. He has a lot more respect for philosophy than I do. After reading philosophy as Wm. Craig practices it, I see it now as just a smokescreen to avoid the difficult topics.

        • Junior Bakiny

          “You’ll have to explain why evolution is orthogonal to this discussion. That’s my interest, not naturalism”

          Because on naturalism, biological organisms (and their cognitive faculties) have come to be by way of biological evolution, a process interested in survival, not truth. Now obviously plenty of other people believe in evolution, but naturalism specifically entail certain things about human beings, things which Plantinga uses to argue against naturalism.

          “And it’s been gibberish all 15 times”

          No, it’s been gibberish to you. First time I read Plantinga on this, sounded like gibberish too. Of course the guy is a very eminent philosopher. The problem was not him, it was me. Considering my exposition of the argument roughly stays true to his, I am thinking the same thing is going on here. Other philosophers (presumably) had a much easier time understanding him.

          “Because the topic is evolution”

          No, it’s really not. Why did you think it was called “the evolutionary argument against naturalism”?

          “Hyperbole? Or are you sure this is the case”

          Have you read “The God Delusion”? Dawkins clearly isn’t familiar with deductive validity, at least he was not when he wrote that book. If he was then he has to tell me why his central argument was so obviously invalid. As Plantinga said, “many of his arguments would receive a failing grade in a sophomore philosophy class” (that is not a hyperbole).

          “If that other guy is MNb, maybe you have more in common than you think. He has a lot more respect than philosophy than I do. After reading philosophy as Wm. Craig practices it, I see it now as just a smokescreen to avoid the difficult topics.”

          MNb does have some respect for philosophy, I can tell, except he could use less red herrings and more rigor in his posts. Most of what he’s said has been either irrelevant or just not clear at all. I can’t believe we are still talking about methodological naturalism. It does not have anything to do with any of this.

          Ah, the arrogance of the philosopher. You’re reminding me of the many ways philosophy can pollute a good conversation”

          In my experience, people pollute good conversations, not philosophy. Besides, scientists in my experience are the arrogant ones; they have this “we are the bearers of truth” mentality. Remind me of arrogant religious leaders. I like science as much as the next guy, I just recognize the usefulness of philosophy.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          As Plantinga said, “many of his arguments would receive a failing grade in a sophomore philosophy class” (that is not a hyperbole).

          You’ll have to read some Wm. Lane Craig. That’s certainly true about him, and he’s got a doctorate in philosophy.

          scientists in my experience are the arrogant ones; they have this “we are the bearers of truth” mentality.

          Hmm. I haven’t noticed that. I don’t much care what they say; I care instead of what they say in aggregate. When there is a scientific consensus (arrogantly stated or not), that’s something to take notice of. Unfortunately, religion can’t say the same thing.

          I just recognize the usefulness of philosophy.

          I don’t. I fear that I’ve been polluted with too much childish thinking masquerading as philosophy from agenda-driven thinkers like WLC. But maybe you’re right and there’s good stuff there, and I’ve just been focused on the bad.

        • Junior Bakiny

          “You’ll have to read some Wm. Lane Craig material. That’s certainly true about him, and he’s got a doctorate in philosophy”

          Coming from the guy who has very little interest in philosophy? Sorry, not convincing, especially considering the fact that the arguments Craig defends have been defended by other eminent philosophers. In my experience (and as this discussion about Plantinga’s argument shows), people don’t get an argument and they go back to their flock claiming that the argument is stupid. Just because you do not find an argument compelling does not mean it’s a bad argument, much less that it would get a failing grade in a sophomore philosophy class. Dawkins’ central argument would because
          1.) It is trvilially invalid
          2.) Ignores literally all of the best contemporary work on the topic
          3.) Is not even new or innovative in any way shape or form. It’s actually a poorly thought out version of a 2000 years old argument.
          4.) I believe in God and I could come up with an infinitely better argument against the existence of God.

          Anyways, I guess we aren’t talking about the EAAN anymore, but seriously, you did not understand the argument. I don’t know why you seemingly thought it is an argument against evolution, it isn’t.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Coming from the guy who has very little interest in philosophy? Sorry, not convincing, especially considering the fact that the arguments Craig defends have been defended by other eminent philosophers.

          I’m not talking about which arguments WLC defends but how he defends them. I’ve written more about WLC’s poor thinking here.

          Just because you do not find an argument compelling does not mean it’s a bad argument, much less that it would get a failing grade in a sophomore philosophy class.

          Not being compelling is one thing, but being demonstrably bad is another.

          Dawkins’ central argument would [fail] because

          1.) It is trvilially invalid

          2.) Ignores literally all of the best contemporary work on the topic

          3.) Is not even new or innovative in any way shape or form. It’s actually a poorly thought out version of a 2000 years old argument.

          4.) I believe in God and I could come up with an infinitely better argument against the existence of God.

          Tell me more. What is his argument?

        • Junior Bakiny

          “I’m not talking about which arguments WLC defends but how he defends them. I’ve written more about WLC’s poor thinking here.”

          Yeah I read that. You are badly underestimating the man, like badly.

          “Tell me more. What is his argument?”

          Here is Dawkins’ central argument:

          1. One of the greatest challenges to the
          human intellect has been to explain how the complex, improbable
          appearance of design in the universe arises.

          2. The natural temptation is to attribute the appearance of design to actual design itself.

          3.
          The temptation is a false one because the designer hypothesis
          immediately raises the larger problem of who designed the designer.

          4. The most ingenious and powerful explanation is Darwinian evolution by natural selection.

          5. We don’t have an equivalent explanation for physics.

          6. We should not give up the hope of a better explanation arising in physics, something as powerful as Darwinism is for biology.

          Therefore God almost certainly does not exist.

          Now if I have to tell anyone how bad that argument is….I dunno

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          You are badly underestimating [WLC], like badly.

          Which, as usual, isn’t helpful. Thanks for trying.

          Now if I have to tell anyone how bad that argument is….I dunno

          I’m missing your point. You seem to have a problem getting beyond the facepalm and actually explaining your point. If facepalming is your best thing, maybe just get a few more in and then leave. Or, if you actually have evidence of any of the points you allude to, you could make them. Simon says.

        • Junior Bakiny

          “Which, as usual, isn’t helpful. Thanks for trying.”

          Yeah, I wasn’t trying to help, so that’s that. Craig has published extensively on these arguments, you are barely scraping the surface here. There is a lot more to be said, and that was my point. I don’t want to defend his arguments (or what he’s said), his body of works is there for that, and I am guessing you aren’t familiar with his published work. If you want direct responses to what you have said, read it. This is just a wild tangent, whatever happened to the EAAN.

          “I’m missing your point. You seem to have a problem getting beyond the
          facepalm and actually explaining your point. If facepalming is your best
          thing, maybe just get a few more in and then leave. Or, if you actually
          have evidence of any of the points you allude to, you could make them.
          Simon says.”

          Well, my point was that Dawkins’ argument would indeed get a failing grade in a sophomore (or for that matter a freshman) philosophy class. I really don’t wanna expand much on this, because again, wild tangent, so I’ll just mention the most obvious shortcoming of his argument: the fact that it is clearly, trivially invalid. I once took a freshman intro to logic course. As part of our midterm and final, among other things, we had to construct valid arguments. Had Dawkins’ taken that class and presented that argument as a valid one, he would have failed at least that portion of the exam. Plantinga’s isn’t at all exaggerating when he says that many of Dawkins’ argument would get a failing grade in a sophomore philosophy class (the other philosophical points he makes in the book aren’t better). There are other problems with it, but I won’t discuss them here. I just don’t understand how someone who has essentially made it clear that he thinks is smarter than religious people by virtue of him being an atheist (along with his body of followers) can come up with stuff like this. I can indeed write a much better book attacking the rationality of belief in God. The book from which that argument is taken from is one of the best selling books ever on atheism.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Yeah, I wasn’t trying to help

          No, you never seem to be.

          Craig has published extensively on these arguments, you are barely scraping the surface here.

          I’ve written other posts about WLC. Take a look if you’re curious.

          I am guessing you aren’t familiar with his published work.

          Wrong again.

          Plantinga’s isn’t at all exaggerating when he says that many of Dawkins’ argument would get a failing grade in a sophomore philosophy class

          I’ve said that about WLC in other posts—what a small world!

          I’ve made a note of this very point. At some point, I’d like to see what Plantinga’s concerns are. If you know of a page where he explores this in depth, let me know.

          The book from which that argument is taken from is one of the best selling books ever on atheism.

          You’ve got the secret formula for the bestselling atheist book? I’d be interested to hear that. Mine haven’t been bestsellers so far.

        • Susan

          Yeah I read that. You are badly underestimating the man, like badly.

          Nice response.

          Here is Dawkins’ central argument:

          Can you link me to the argument he makes from which you derive what you call his ‘central argument’? Also, did anyone else actually bring up Dawkins? It seemed to come out of left field. It is disqus, so there’s an excellent chance I missed some key comments.

          Now if I have to tell anyone how bad that argument is… I dunno.

          It sounds like a strawman but I could be wrong. Do you have a link to his argument?

        • Junior Bakiny

          “Can you link me to the argument he makes from which you derive what you
          call his ‘central argument’? Also, did anyone else actually bring up
          Dawkins? It seemed to come out of left field. It is disqus, so there’s
          an excellent chance I missed some key comments.”

          The argument is from the book “The God Delusion”, chapter 3 if I remember correctly. Oh and you didn’t miss much. This literally came out of left field. I think I was saying something about the importance of philosophy.

          “It sounds like a strawman but I could be wrong. Do you have a link to his argument?”

          No it’s an exact quote actually. But I don’t know if there is any point in providing a link to it. Like I said, it’s from his book. Whatever link I give you would not be the original source of it.

        • Susan

          No it’s an exact quote actually.

          I found a pdf of The God Delusion here.

          I don’t find anything like your “exact quote” and the argument you described as “Dawkins’s central argument” is not his argument at all. It seems to be a strawman.

          I provided the pdf, if you’d like to locate where the exact quote is. That would help this discussion immensely. I would be happy to concede your point if you provide support for it.

          I’m not saying he wouldn’t get a failing grade for his actual argument I’m not a philosophy professor and Dawkins doesn’t claim to be a philosopher.

          I don’t think you’d get high marks for simply declaring his argument trivially invalid without producing it word for word and showing your work.

          Who brought up Dawkins? I’m curious.

        • Junior Bakiny

          The argument is on pages 157-158. It was chapter 4 actually, I guess it’s been a while since I read it.

          I know Dawkins does not claim to be a philosopher, but his book clearly ventures into the field of the philosophy of religion. He could have done a bit more research, I am just saying.

          Well, the conclusion (God almost certainly does not exist) simply does not follow from the premises, even if they were all true, that conclusion wouldn’t follow. What that argument would prove (if successful) is that the famous teleological argument for the existence of God is unsound; but there are many more arguments for God. Maybe we should believe in God on the basis of these other arguments, or maybe (As Plantinga has argued), belief in God can be perfectly rational even without propositional evidence for it. Maybe all these other options also fail, but the point is, debunking one argument for God (which he didn’t) does not get you to the conclusion “therefore God almost certainly does not exist”. I hope this is fleshed out enough.

          I brought up Dawkins to highlight the importance of philosophy. I was saying that I think aspiring scientists should have to take at least a couple of philosophy courses. Otherwise you create Dawkins, a scientist who apparently can’t build a valid argument. I think this is unacceptable because hypothesis building in science often requires you to make inferences from a body of observed facts (evidence). How does one make correct, reliable inferences without being familiar with the basic rules and laws of logic? But again, this much is just my opinion.

        • Susan

          Well, the conclusion (God almost certainly does not exist) simply does not follow from the premises, even if they were all true, that conclusion wouldn’t follow.

          As I mentioned, you aren’t addressing the actual argument. You are addressing a strawman.

          I just read Chapter 3 and 4 in that pdf and that is NOT his argument. I asked you to show me where it was a direct quote and then you mumbled something about it being a while since you read the book and then proceeded to tear down NOT Dawkins’s argument.

          And you’re lecturing Bob and Dawkins about philosophy.

          THIS is why Bob hates philosophy.

          _________

          (Edit: See Bob? This is why you should like philosophy. It means Junior has to do it, not just preach about it.)

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          You’re saying I should like philosophy because that’s how I respond to Junior’s blatherings?

          But your prior point was correct: this kind of obfuscating bullshit is what I hate about philosophy. If there is a light side to philosophy (aside from obvious things like using logic or definitionally placing it as the antecedent to science) it hasn’t had much of an impression on me.

        • MNb

          Well, I don’t know if you should like philosophy, but it’s a bit odd to write that you don’t like it while you use it all the time – “clear thinking about christianity” involves philosophy indeed.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          The parts that I’m OK with (logic, philosophy as the grounding for science, even “hard thinking” if you want to define philosophy that way) I assumed were obviously distinct from those I don’t (using philosophy to obfuscate rather than illuminate, a la WLC).

        • MR

          using philosophy to obfuscate rather than illuminate, a la WLC….

          …SteveK, et al….

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Here is Dawkins’ 6-point summary at the end of chapter 4:

          1 One of the greatest challenges to the human intellect, over the centuries, has been to explain how the complex, improbable appearance of design in the universe arises.

          2 The natural temptation is to attribute the appearance of design to actual design itself. In the case of a man-made artefact such as a watch, the designer really was an intelligent engineer. It is tempting to apply the same logic to an eye or a wing, a spider or a person.

          3 The temptation is a false one, because the designer hypothesis immediately raises the larger problem of who designed the designer. The whole problem we started out with was the problem of explaining statistical improbability. It is obviously no solution to postulate something even more improbable. We need a ‘crane’, not a ‘skyhook’, for only a crane can do the business of working up gradually and plausibly from simplicity to otherwise improbable complexity.

          4 The most ingenious and powerful crane so far discovered is Darwinian evolution by natural selection. Darwin and his successors have shown how living creatures, with their spectacular statistical improbability and appearance of design, have evolved by slow, gradual degrees from simple beginnings. We can now safely say that the illusion of design in living creatures is just that – an illusion.

          5 We don’t yet have an equivalent crane for physics. Some kind of multiverse theory could in principle do for physics the same explanatory work as Darwinism does for biology. This kind of explanation is superficially less satisfying than the biological version of Darwinism, because it makes heavier demands on luck. But the anthropic principle entitles us to postulate far more luck than our limited human intuition is comfortable with.

          6 We should not give up hope of a better crane arising in physics, something as powerful as Darwinism is for biology. But even in the absence of a strongly satisfying crane to match the biological one, the relatively weak cranes we have at present are, when abetted by the anthropic principle, self-evidently better than the self-defeating skyhook hypothesis of an intelligent designer.

        • MNb

          Ah, great. I don’t think very high of The God Delusion, as you already know, and here’s just another example.

          “The temptation is a false one, because the designer hypothesis immediately raises the larger problem of who designed the designer.”
          That’s a non-sequitur. If the analogy is correct it’s correct, larger problem or not. And of course apologists have written lots of stuff addressing the problem.
          Fortunately it can be easily shown that the temptation is false indeed. Man-made artefacts assume material designer (namely men), who use material means (raw materials, instruments) and follow material procedures (do this with raw material X, put instruments Y there and use it such and such way).
          Every single Design argument (whether its’ IDiocy, Fine Tuning or Cosmological) concludes an immaterial Designer (blessed be Him/ Her/ It). It’s an excellent example of Nieuwenhuis’ “to derive a divine world from the concrete one requires a salto mortale”. It’s typical for Dawkins’ poor level regarding the subect that he doesn’t recognize this.

          I’m not going to address Dawkins’ equally poor usage of the word “luck”. I have done that elsewhere.

        • Paul B. Lot

          “That’s a non-sequitur. If the analogy is correct it’s correct, larger problem or not.”

          How many formal-logic-textbooks sell in the USA or EU, per annum?

          I’m guessing not many.

          I don’t think Dawkins’ goal was to write a precise, accurate, and dry accounting of his arguments against god.

          In the section you’re quoting here, Dawkins is *summarizing* the argument against Design. If one assumes that [apparent complexity] => [intelligent designer], as almost everyone did before Darwin, and many still do today, and if one then concludes that the universe, with its apparent complexity, necessitates an intelligent designer — then the sentence you have a problem with comes into play.

          “The designer hypothesis” he refers to is the hypothetical answer to the question “why is the universe apparently complex”….and you want to take issue with him because it’s not logically necessary to jump from the “a Grand Designer designed it” answer, to the immediately apparent follow-up question “whence that Grand Designer?”

          Why shouldn’t the question logically follow, anyway? If we’re granting that [apparent complexity] => [intelligent designer]….why would the Grand-Designer, presumably complex per se, NOT imply the need for its own designer?

          I don’t know….even if you’re correct that it DNF (I’m not convinced), it seems like a very small nit to pick with a man writing a book aimed at people who currently really believe the designer hypothesis.

        • MNb

          “I don’t think Dawkins’ goal was to write a precise, accurate, and dry accounting of his arguments against god.”
          I don’t think that’s an excuse for logical fallacies.
          As for the issue we discuss I think I have provided a precise, accurate and not dry accounting of the argument against god I quoted. Of course I didn’t think it up myself; I got it from

          http://www.amazon.com/God-Age-Science-Critique-Religious/dp/0199697531

          I’ll concur though that this one is dry if dry is synonymous with difficult.

          “Dawkins is *summarizing* the argument against Design.”
          Yes. And I showed where the summary went wrong; moreover I showed how he should have summarized it – assuming he recognized the problem I raised in the first place.

          “…. then the sentence you have a problem with comes into play ….”
          I didn’t deny this. I explicitely wrote “of course apologists have written lots of stuff addressing the problem.”
          The non-sequitur is “The temptation is a false one”. This doesn’t logically follow from the rest of the sentence. Dawkins by no means has shown that the temptation is false. So I did it for him.

          “it seems like a very small nit to pick”
          It’s just one example. I already mentioned another one. Once I analysed the Introduction (What is it? Seven pages?) and needed the equivalence of five of BobS’ blogposts to point out and explain all his errors and cheap tricks..
          Plus I don’t think it a small nit. If you claim to be committed to logic and skeptic you should apply that to yourself in the first place or your skepticism is worth nothing. If it were only one of few I wouldn’t have raised it, but it isn’t.
          I don’t know about you, but I rather leave the idea that a correct conclusion (anyone who believes in god deludes him/herself) justifies bad arguments to believers.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          If the analogy is correct it’s correct, larger problem or not.

          If an analogy raises an uncomfortable question, you can’t keep the analogy but ignore the question.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          You’re worried about a scientist having a sound analysis? Scientists have deliverables. Their work is judged by others. Yeah, I think Dawkins knows how to make a sound argument.

          Do philosophers make practical, testable deliverables? I’m guessing not.

          I’ll give these pages another read.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          The chapter is 50 pages long. This 6-point list is meant just as a summary.

          I just reread the list, and I’m too stupid to see the problem. Perhaps you can explain your position to me.

          Your summary before was, “Now if I have to tell anyone how bad that argument is….I dunno.” That doesn’t explain it for me.

          Is this what Plantinga was referring to with his, “You might say that some of his forays into philosophy are at best sophomoric, but that would be unfair to sophomores” line?

        • Paul B. Lot

          The way Dawkins *actually* worded *the summary of* his argument, as opposed to your shoddy paraphrasing of same:

          1 One of the greatest challenges to the human intellect, over the centuries, has been to explain how the complex, improbable appearance of design in the universe arises.

          2 The natural temptation is to attribute the appearance of design to actual design itself. In the case of a man-made artefact such as a watch, the designer really was an intelligent engineer. It is tempting to apply the same logic to an eye or a wing, a spider or a person.

          3 The temptation is a false one, because the designer hypothesis immediately raises the larger problem of who designed the designer. The whole problem we started out with was the problem of explaining statistical improbability. It is obviously no solution to postulate something even more improbable. We need a ‘crane’, not a ‘skyhook’, for only a crane can do the business of working up gradually and plausibly from simplicity to otherwise improbable complexity.

          4 The most ingenious and powerful crane so far discovered is Darwinian evolution by natural selection. Darwin and his successors have shown how living creatures, with their spectacular statistical improbability and appearance of design, have evolved by slow, gradual degrees from simple beginnings. We can now safely say that the illusion of design in living creatures is just that – an illusion.

          5 We don’t yet have an equivalent crane for physics. Some kind of multiverse theory could in principle do for physics the same explanatory work as Darwinism does for biology. This kind of explanation is superficially less satisfying than the biological version of Darwinism, because it makes heavier demands on luck. But the anthropic principle entitles us to postulate far more luck than our limited human intuition is comfortable with.

          6 We should not give up hope of a better crane arising in physics, something as powerful as Darwinism is for biology. But even in the absence of a strongly satisfying crane to match the biological one, the relatively weak cranes we have at present are, when abetted by the anthropic principle, self-evidently better than the self-defeating skyhook hypothesis of an intelligent designer.

          ~ Richard Dawkins The God Delusion (pgs. 157-158)

          *Edits for clarity and style*

        • MNb

          BobS gave the quote underneath. I commented on it there. Spoiler: I’m not impressed – that’s something I agree on with JB. Dawkin’s treatment of philosophy is poor and superficial.

        • Paul B. Lot

          “BobS gave the quote underneath.”

          Indeed, I wish I’d seen it before taking the time to copy/paste/format it myself.

          “Spoiler: I’m not impressed”

          I can see that :) I’m open to having my mind changed on the subject; but I plan to push back a bit until it is!

          “Dawkin’s treatment of philosophy is poor and superficial.”

          For now I’m going to want to claim that: while it is informal, and appropriately so for his target audience, it is not substantively erroneous.

        • MNb

          “I wish ….”
          Just blame Disqus instead.

        • Junior Bakiny

          My shoddy paraphrasing? Hardly! I got it off some website. I guess I didn’t pay attention to whether or not it was actually complete. Thanks for providing the complete argument.

        • Susan

          My shoddy paraphrasing? Hardly!

          You’re right. It’s William Lane Craig’s shoddy paraphrasing.

          I got it off some website

          You got it from :here.

          I guess I didn’t pay attention to whether or not it was actually complete.

          I would suggest checking the original source in the future. Craig shamelessly erected a strawman to pummel. There is a difference between apologetics and philosophy and Craig provides countless examples of this.

        • adam

          “I believe in God and I could come up with an infinitely better argument against the existence of God.”

          Even with an ‘infinitely better’ argument against the existence of ‘god’ you STILL believe?

          An ‘infinitely better’ argument FOR ‘god’ would convince me.

          So why dont you give that here?

        • Susan

          I don’t.

          I think you do.

          I fear that I’ve been polluted with too much childish thinking masquerading as philosophy from agenda-driven thinkers like WLC.

          Yep. When you hear the word “philosophy”, it’s usually uttered by an apologist.

          maybe you’re right and there’s good stuff there, and I’ve just been focused on the bad.

          Hard to avoid when you run a site on Patheos called Cross Examined that challenges christian claims.

          Philosophy does not equal woefully inadequate rationalizations.

          I don’t blame you for thinking it does.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          A few of the Patheos atheists have philosophy backgrounds. I hold out the hope that they could show me how to apply philosophy for useful ends. “Every man is your teacher,” as they say, but when buffoons like WLC or Frank Turek or Greg Koukl are my teachers … well, you can imagine the result.

        • Susan

          I hold out the hope that they could show me how to apply philosophy for useful ends.

          You already do.

        • MNb

          “naturalism does not necessarily follow from evolution. So again, this is an argument against a certain metaphysical position, not against a particular scientific theory.”
          It’s more. It tries to use a result of methodological naturalism against a philosophy that claims said methodological naturalism is the only method to do research.

          “Well, if we aren’t making progress it is clearly your fault.”
          BWAHAHAHAHA!
          Says the guy who refuses to get his probability calculation right.
          Says the guy who refuses to recognize that philosophical naturalism explicitely recommends a method that is developed to increase the a priori chance of a scientific statement being true.

          “Please get it this time.”
          BWAHAHAHAHA!
          Says the guy who refuses to discuss the basic assumptions of the argument and hence can’t get it right himself.
          Says the guy who even if he’s right can’t provide a method that’s more reliable than the scientific one – the only one, according to philosophical naturalism, that yields at least some amount of correct statements. Says the guy who instead of addressing this rather prefers to repeat his errors.
          You’re funny.,

        • Junior Bakiny

          Okay then, I will try to focus on what is relevant, what is important, and what is comprehensible (which not much).

          My probability calculations were not wrong! Please google this, and I am going to make it easier for everyone. What I was saying was that on naturalism, each belief has a 50% chance of being true, kind of like flipping a coin. Say we assign “true” to heads and “false to tails. We assume that each coin flip is independent, and we flip the coin a thousand times. What is the probability that 75% of the time it will fall on heads (or true)? That same probability is the probability that if each belief we have is as likely to be true as false (50% chance of being true), and we have 1000 independent beliefs, 75% of them will end up being true. Now you may argue that our beliefs are in fact not independent, but that was not your point at all. Your point was frankly incomprehensible. You also asked why 75%, and I answered that. The point is it seems to me for our beliefs to be deemed reliable they need to produce a preponderance of true over false beliefs, and 75% sounds like a nice round figure. We do not have to use 75%. We can use 70%, 65%, etc.

          At any rate, whether or not my probability calculations were wrong is in fact not even that important. The fact is, if each belief we hold has a 50% chance of being true, even given a small number of beliefs, it is very unlikely that 75% (or 70% or 65%) of them are true. You do not need to be a probability theorist to see this.

          Now it does not matter that philosophical naturalism recommends a method that is developed to increase the a priori chance of a scientific statement being true. Whatever method that a naturalist comes up with will be a product of his cognitive faculties, the very faculties this argument calls into question. The argument claims that the naturalist has a defeater for the belief that his cognitive faculties are reliable, and hence also a defeater for any belief he takes to be produced by them. This method you speak of would be subject to that defeater.

          The argument does not dispute that true beliefs are likely to be adaptive. It is simply irrelevant to this version. I tried (once again ) to explain why in my latest reply to Bob. For the love of God, actually read it this time. This argument is not attacking anything like the scientific method, that is absurd! But more to the point, whether or not I can come up with a philosophical worldview that can do better than naturalism is not strictly speaking to the point. If a certain position is irrational (which is what this argument tries to show about naturalism), then it is irrational; the end. If you want to keep it, good for you. But you are irrational in doing so. Claiming that I can’t come up with a better position won’t make yours any less irrational.

        • Greg G.

          Metaphysical naturalism holds that there is no such person as God or anything at all like God.

          No, it doesn’t. It just doesn’t appeal to the supernatural for explanations.

          How has it worked out? Compare the rate of increase in knowledge of the last few hundred years where metaphysical naturalism has been employed with the previous millennia. Even where the knowledge of the previous millennia increased using supernatural explanations, the supernatural component was superfluous.

          That doesn’t mean there isn’t a Hide&Seek playing god, though. It doesn’t mean we are not a brain in a vat or that we weren’t created last Thursday with intact memories.

          The reason we don’t think there is a god is the lack of evidence for one.

        • Junior Bakiny

          That’s methodological naturalism you are describing, not metaphysical naturalism. Google it, please. I am not willing to waste more time on mere definitions. The rest of your post is pretty irrelevant.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Ah, the arrogance of the philosopher. You’re reminding me of the many ways philosophy can pollute a good conversation.

        • MNb

          “it is also irrelevant to this version of the argument”
          So you deliberately ignore one major problem of your version indeed. It is relevant exactly because it disputes your a priori 50%. It’s much higher in many cases.

          “We are not talking about how things are, but how things would be if naturalism (construed as including materialism) was true.”
          And you can only maintain that there is any difference by ignoring the quite likely option that evolution actually might raise your a priori probability well over 50%. That’s what your “we are not talking about” means. Congratulations, like every single apologist I have ever met you fall back on intellectual dishonesty, this time by handwaiving objections to the basic assumptions of your argument.

        • MNb

          Just repeating your errors does nothing to remedy them. I’ve addressed them extensively in my other response, especially on probability calculation; here I’ll only address

          “This argument is not meant to attack methodological naturalism.”
          I didn’t claim this. In my other response however I showed that according to philosophical naturalism all phenomenons belong to our natural reality and that hence by definition philosophical naturalism implies that methodological naturalism (ie the scientific method) is the only way to achieve any reliability – ie correct claims with a probability higher than 0%. Moreover Evolution Theory is a product of methodological naturalism. So indirectly EAAN talks about methodological naturalism indeed.

          What EAAN does is trying to argue that methodological naturalism undermines the validity of philosophical naturalism. While I already showed that your probability calculation is wrong, even if you were correct and even if methodological naturalism indeed undermined the validity of philosophical naturalism the conclusion “hence dualism” remains a non-sequitur.
          Philosophical naturalism doesn’t need to be perfect. It only has to be better – ie less inconsistent and incoherent – to be the preferred choice. This is something fans of EAAN, including Plantinga, always close their eyes for, delibarately or not. And in that other comment I also already showed you that that is the case indeed, exactly because dualism doesn’t have a method at all to separate “true beliefs” from “untrue beliefs” – here the terms are appropriate indeed. Hence I can conclude that dualism produces exactly 0 true beliefs about an eventual supernatural reality, while on philosophical naturalism we at least have a flawed method to do so.
          A flawed method is better than no method. Even if it follows from Evolution Theory that only 1% of the scientific claims are correct (which is disputable) that’s still better than anything dualism has to offer regarding an assumed supernatural reality.
          Hence EAAN fails.

        • Junior Bakiny

          This post confirms that first of all, you don’t really understand the argument, and second of all, you did not read my post. I am going to say this for one last time: this argument is not for the conclusion that dualism should be preferred over materialism. It is an argument against philosophical naturalism, not for substance dualism. So your bit about dualism not being able to produce true beliefs (your argument was not very good by the way) is just irrelevant; I said this much in my last post.

          I don’t know why you keep talking about methodological naturalism. It doesn’t have anything to do with anything here. I will try to clear up some of your mistakes. Methodological naturalism is not the scientific method. The scientific method lists a number of steps to take when trying to come up with accurate descriptions and explanations of natural phenomena (gather evidence, build a hypothesis, test the hypothesis, etc.) Also, methodolical is a mere convention in the scientific community. If philosophical naturalism is true, then methodological naturalism is not just a convention; it also necessarily follows. But the scientific community is not assuming that philosophical naturalism is true at all. Finally, evolution is a scientific theory. The argument claims that this particular scientific theory undermines naturalism because if naturalism and evolution are both true, then our cognitive faculties are very unlikely to be reliable. It isn’t saying the convention of methodological naturalism undermines philosophical naturalism, not directly or indirectly for that matter.

          Nobody is claiming that philosophical naturalism needs to be perfect, we are claiming that our cognitive faculties would likely not produce a preponderance of true over false beliefs if naturalism was true, and hence, if naturalism is true, our cognitive faculties are very likely not reliable (notice once again I am not claiming that for our cognitive faculties to be reliable they need to produce only true beliefs, but rather that they need to produce mostly true beliefs). Finally, this argument is not meant to compare philosophical naturalism with theism. The conclusion is that naturalism is self defeating and hence is not rational to hold, period.

        • Patrick Withee

          My point was that belief and action are fundamentally divorced, at least at first, and probably at all times–yes, I lean near to Epiphenomenalism. Now, to further clarify my point, let us ponder how beliefs are formed in the context of the tiger situation; person x has the sensory perception of a tiger, which is objective and infallible–seeing as his eyes are physiologically determined and cannot err, at least in the sense that it is seeing something, and that that something is a tiger. His brain immediately releases various chemicals and has processes that produce a “fight or flight” reaction. He flees, and takes shelter. Later, once he’s calmed down, he sits and ponders his encounter. Let us assume that he has never seen a tiger before. He would then begin to form the concept of a tiger, and associate it with other concepts which he almost certainly understands already, namely danger, fear, survival, and etc. This association leads to the integration of those concepts into a belief, which may go something like: “This animal has caused me to fear it to the point that I fled from it, and as such it is probably dangerous and would be best for my survival to avoid it.” I do not see how this chain could lead to a false belief about the tiger. Due to the physiologically determined nature of his sensory organs and his non-cognitive brain functions, viz, the release of hormones, and other such chemicals, and the fact that his belief is formed and based off of previously understood concepts, he is able to rest assured that his belief is accurate. The only way that his belief would be inaccurate is if the concepts that he had previously formed did not correspond to reality to a degree which would render them relevantly false. If this were the case, then there would have to be some defect with his ability to understand the sensory information adequately such that he could form concepts that correspond with reality, however, this would not be likely, seeing as concept-formation is simply a mental integration of two or more units of perceptual data (which are objective and the efficacious due to the physiologically determined nature of our sensory organs or the physical processes in the brain) into a single idea which includes the similar trait that they have. So, for example, let us isolate one of the concepts that he would need to understand to form the aforementioned belief: fear. He has felt fear before, perhaps in a thunderstorm, or any number of fearful situations, and that feeling is one of the determined, necessarily objective parts of the process. So, when he has that feeling again, this time with the tiger, he later forms the concept that he should avoid the tiger in the future so that he can be safe. To sum up, it progresses as such: He is afraid of the tiger, and flees from instinct; he then gets to safety, and ponders the situation. We know that he really saw a tiger, and that he really was afraid due to the fact that physiological processes cannot err in the same sense as the mind can in the classification of concepts into beliefs. Because we know he was afraid and that he saw a tiger, we also know that if he can has the cognitive ability to associate fear with a tiger, and fear with danger, then he can associate a tiger with danger, eventually allowing him to form the belief that tigers are dangerous, and that he should avoid them. As such, we can assume that if we can properly analyze the sensory data which we receive, then we can form true beliefs every time. Even more importantly, this shows that beliefs are not individual traits that can be passed on to promote survival. In the context of humans, natural selection does not select for beliefs that promote survival. They are not logically or temporally prior to action that would promote survival, and the only way that they are associated to survival is if they are the product of a mind that can properly understand what the senses are signaling to it.

        • Junior Bakiny

          ugh finally an interesting comment on this argument.

          You make some great points, but I think you are assuming quite a lot. Let me show you what I mean (I am of course talking here about a world in which naturalism is true).

          Suppose I perceive a tiger coming from afar, and as a direct consequence of seeing the tiger, there is a reaction in my brain that causes adaptive behavior (I run away). The point is on materialism (and that concerns you personally since you lean towards epiphenomenalism, and as Plantinga has argued, epiphenomenalism or semantic epiphenomenalism is inescapable on naturalism construed as including materialism), what causes adaptive behavior here isn’t the property content of the belief; that much we agree on. Where we disagree is on the relationship between my perception and the rise of belief content. The thing is, I think all that follows from:
          1.) I perceive a tiger, which causes an electro-chemical reaction in my brain that in turns causes me to run away (adaptive behavior) is:
          2.) The tiger is a trigger for a particular neuro-physiological property in my brain that happens to cause adaptive behavior.
          Even if this NP is sufficiently complex for the rise of belief content, why should my perception of the tiger be related to the rise of belief content (on materialism)? The belief (and its content) is reducible to its NP. But why should the belief content that arises be identical to the properties of the object which causes the NP? I don’t see any reason to believe that.

          A second point I want to make is the following: when the NP causes adaptive behavior in this case (running away), it does not follow that the feeling it created was fear. All we know is that the NP sent the appropriate signals to the rest of the body and caused me to run away. You might say that whatever feeling causes one to run away in a situation like this can be labelled as “fear”, but then what if in a similar situation, a different NP arises in the brain and causes me to run away while creating a different feeling? That is another problem with your argument.

        • Patrick Withee

          I know I haven’t responded for a long time, and for that I’m sorry. As I see it, your response can be summed up in the last two sentences of the second-to-last paragraph, and my response is as follows: as I previously argued, the senses are physiologically determined, so, even though they may have a limited scope, they are reliable in the fact that what it appears that they can do, they actually do. From this, I can divine that as one sees a tiger, he or she really sees it as it is, within the breadth of possibilities of things that the eye can perceive. Now, let us assume that the eyes saw a figure that is associated in the mind of the observer with a tiger, but it is really just figure x. In this scenario, let us assume also that the observer realized that figure x is different from a tiger before he can turn and run away. Now, given these assumptions, it is clearly seen that the false belief that figure x was a tiger had the potential to cause him to run away, but before that false belief could cause his running to go from potential to actual, he corrected his belief, because he was given time to fully interpret what he had seen. As far as I can tell, this is the only way that I could see false beliefs arising, through improper interpretations of sensory data. Because senses are capable of giving real and reliable information within their limited scopes, it does not seem possible that a false belief about sensory data could arise randomly or without the arena of the observer’s own volition, but through an incorrect, yet intentional mental integration of concepts. Aside from this, I think there is an even more pressing point to be made, one that I made previously, but did not put into words as well as I think I can now. Plantinga’s argument requires an assumption that we act based off of beliefs about sensory information, but this clearly contradicts nature. I previously used ants as an example of an organism that “know” what to do when they are hungry, but do not hold beliefs about them. Neither do plants consciously choose to photosynthesize, nor do infants drink their mother’s milk based off of beliefs, but off of billions of years of instinct that is seemingly inherent in all animals, if not all life. The EAAN assumes that humans have to question “what ought I to do about this odd rumbly pang in my belly?” when in reality that problem has already been answered through both biological and social evolution. The same goes with the tiger example, heat and cold examples, or any other example that have to do with survival instincts. As far as other situations are concerned, for example, my choice to respond after a month of the debate being cold, the only way that my belief that this conversation could have some merit still could only be false because of a fault in my reasoning abilities, not some involuntary, fundamental, random problem with the way thoughts are formed–a topic which I have already discussed at length. To conclude, I don’t assent to the notion that concept-formation based off of sensory information can be fundamentally flawed in the way that Plantinga says, and even if it could, it wouldn’t even matter, because belief and survival are irrelevant, seeing as belief is unnecessary for survival.

    • Susan

      Hi Junior,

      Thank you for providing an argument.

      I appreciate that you provided this:

      His argument goes as follows:

      1. If evolution and naturalism are both true, the probability that our cognitive faculties are reliable is low.
      2. Since the probability that our cognitive faculties are reliable is low given the truth of evolution and naturalism, anyone who accepts both evolution and naturalism has a defeater for the proposition that their cognitive faculties are reliable.
      3. Anyone who has a defeater for the proposition that their cognitive faculties are reliable also has a defeater for any belief they take to be produced by their cognitive , including in this case the beliefs the person started with, namely evolution and naturalism. Naturalism therefore becomes self defeating.

      Now, we have something to talk about. That’s important. You wouldn’t believe the theists who show up around here (and elsewhere I’ve been). Most of them make no attempt at an argument. They just quote scripture.

      Now, to defend the first crucial premise

      Good.

      The other ones just follow from the first one.

      Not necessarily. Forgive me if I don’t take your word for it.

      evolution is a process that is interested in producing in us cognitive faculties that help us survive through adaptive behavior

      Forgive me if I sound pedantic but I just want to be sure that you don’t mean ‘evolution is interested’. Evolution is the most accurate model we have of how life behaves on our planet. I can’t concede that it’s interested in anything. It doesn’t seem to be.

      If we take it that belief causes behavior

      Are we talking about evolution or the fingernail dust of human behaviour in our very, very, VERY brief place in it?

      this means that evolution is likely to favor certain beliefs, but not based on whether or not the beliefs are true, but based on whether or not they are adaptive and help organisms survive.

      All it means is that some species capable of having beliefs, (which is an undefined term but I’m not going to nitpick as for now, it’s clear enough) would survive, unlikely or not, with an ability to study external responses and rely on enough of those to make predictions that can be demonstrated to be true accurate about the world it lives in.

      _________

      Edit: Struck ‘true’ and replaced it with ‘accurate’.

      • Junior Bakiny

        “Now, we have something to talk about. That’s important. You wouldn’t
        believe the theists who show up around here (and elsewhere I’ve been).
        Most of them make no attempt at an argument. They just quote scripture.”

        Theists do that all the time, this is true. But in my experience, the average atheist isn’t much better. It’s time we recognize this.

        “Not necessarily. Forgive me if I don’t take your word for it.”

        It seems to me, if I come to believe that the probability that our cognitive faculties are reliable is low (the first premise), that gives me a good reason to doubt the reliability of my cognitive faculties (the second premise). Now some philosophers have indeed argued that this does not necessarily follow for one reason or another. Some have argued that even if the probability of our cognitive faculties are reliable is low on naturalism (P(R/N)), maybe this probability would be higher if we conditionalize on other information, or that even if this is low it does not necessarily give us a defeater for R. You’ll have to tell me if you think the other premises for any of these (or other) reasons so I can address them.

        “Forgive me if I sound pedantic but I just want to be sure that you don’t
        mean ‘evolution is interested’. Evolution is the most accurate model
        we have of how life behaves on our planet. I can’t concede that it’s
        interested in anything. It doesn’t seem to be.”

        Well, yeah, I didn’t mean that literally. Evolution clearly isn’t the kind of thing that can be interested in anything.

        “Are we talking about evolution or the fingernail dust of human behaviour in our very, very, VERY brief place in it?”

        Actually, we are talking about naturalism, and how things would be if it were true. An important point.

        “All it means is that some species capable of having beliefs, (which is
        an undefined term but I’m not going to nitpick as for now, it’s clear
        enough) would survive, unlikely or not, with an ability to study
        external responses and rely on enough of those to make predictions that
        can be demonstrated to be true accurate about the world it lives in.”

        Accurate doesn’t mean true, another important point. Something can be proved useful and accurate (at least within certain given limits) and be false (Newton’s gravity equation). What you say here is actually the point of the argument. The argument isn’t saying we wouldn’t be able to say all those things you mention if naturalism was true; indeed, we probably would. It is saying our cognitive faculties wouldn’t be likely to produce very many true beliefs. Since naturalism itself will be a produce of these cognitive faculties, naturalism undermines itself and cannot rationally be accepted.

        • Paul B. Lot

          “Accurate doesn’t mean true, another important point.”

          The more you talk, the less obvious the connection between what you think is “important” and what, upon rational investigation, actually seems to be.

          What definition of “accurate” are you using, pray tell? Because to me it looks like you’ve picked a fight with Webster:

          Full Definition of ACCURATE
          1 : free from error especially as the result of care
          2 : conforming exactly to truth or to a standard : exact

          Of course, you might have been attempting to say something interesting about “precision”, or about the “margins of error” that any given framework/model is bounded by in its attempts to accurately predict/reproduce experiment.

          But, no.

          You are wrong.

          The word “accurate” simply does mean “true”, and you were inaccurate and imprecise when you rated your mi-statement as “important.”

        • Junior Bakiny

          “What definition of “accurate” are you using, pray tell? Because to me it looks like you’ve picked a fight with Webster”

          A fight with webster? Won’t be the first time!

          “The word “accurate” simply does mean “true””

          If it did, there would be no need for two different words. No two different words mean the exact same thing in every possible situation. Otherwise, there would be no need for two different words.

          I mentioned Newton’s gravity equation. It is perfectly accurate within certain limits even though it is false.

          “and you were inaccurate and imprecise when you rated your mi-statement as “important.”

          Okay, maybe I was. The point was, the argument isn’t claiming that if naturalism was true we wouldn’t be able to form a model of the world that allows us to get around. I am sure we would (actually I am not, but it doesn’t matter), and that model would (for our purposes) be accurate. The argument is claiming that it is extremely unlikely that most of our beliefs would be true as opposed to just being a helpful way for us to survive. It is an important point (in my opinion) because a naturalist could simply dismiss this argument by claiming that naturalism (as far as he can tell) provides a very accurate account of the world (indeed, I have encountered this refutation). Well, even if it does, that’s not the point.

        • Susan

          If it did, there would be no need for two different words.

          Language doesn’t work like that.

        • Paul B. Lot

          You could’ve just said “yes, I misspoke: what I meant to say was _______”.

          Instead we witness the infamous double down – tool of tools, everywhere.

          If it did, there would be no need for two different words. No two different words mean the exact same thing in every possible situation. Otherwise, there would be no need for two different words.

          1) “If it did, there would be no need for two different words.”

          This is simply false.

          We often have two (or more) words which mean the same thing….that’s why they came up with “synonym”.

          2)”Accurate” is listed as meaning “conforming exactly to truth”.

          Con-forming — having the same shape, matching — conforming exactly to truth.

          You’re wrong, and too much an ass to admit it. :) Oh how I love watching tossers get hoisted by their own potatoes.

          “The point was, the argument isn’t claiming that if naturalism was true”

          Yes yes, I’ll get into the meat of your regurgitation of Plantinga later this week when I have some more free time to devote to my hobby: internet-wrong-prover.

          For now, rest assured:

          I don’t care what your point was.

          That’s not, currently, my point.

          My point, currently, is to point out to you, and others, that while you’re doing the whole philosophy-pedant act…you’re doing English wrong.

          *EDIT*
          For punctuation and style.

        • Junior Bakiny

          Dude, you aren’t the first guy to stumble upon the concept of synonyms. My point was that there are no “perfect” synonyms, or if there are, I certainly haven’t seen them yet. Accurate and true are however definitely not it. I will expand more on what I mean by those words in my response to Susan. You are welcome to stick around for that discussion.

        • MNb

          Good job. JB gets condescending underneath. That’s a pretty sure since he feels cornered.

        • Susan

          Actually, we are talking about naturalism, and how things would be if it were true.

          I got that.

          But you said:

          evolution is a process that is interested in producing in us cognitive faculties that help us survive through adaptive behavior

          You were using evolution to develop your point about naturalism. You stated that evolution was “interested in producing in us cognitive faculties that help us survive through adaptive behaviour”.

          I asked:

          Are we talking about evolution or are we talking about the fingernall dust of human behaviour in our very, very, very, VERY brief place in it?

          I’d like to know what you and Plantinga are basing your numbers on, what you consider a ‘low probability’ in that context.

          Accurate doesn’t mean true

          People use the word ‘true’ to mean ‘accurate’ all the time.

          If that’s not how you mean it in this discussion, that’s fine.

          Something can be proved useful and accurate (at least within certain given limits) and be false (Newton’s gravity equation).

          If Newton’s gravity equation is false, then how did we land a lab on Mars?

          What do you mean by ‘true’ as distinct from ‘accurate’?

        • Junior Bakiny

          “I’d like to know what you and Plantinga are basing your numbers on, what you consider a ‘low probability’ in that context.”

          A fair question. In responding to this, I will focus on the later versions of the argument, and not the one originally attacked by Bob (although he didn’t fully develop the argument). Plantinga is arguing that if naturalism (construed as including materialism) is true then the probability that our cognitive faculties are reliable is low. By “reliable cognitive faculties” he means faculties that produce mostly true beliefs (75% of the beliefs they produce must be true for them to be deemed accurate). Now this probability is low because on naturalism, beliefs are nothing more than chemical reactions in the brain that send signals to the rest of the body to cause behavior. Thus, on naturalism, beliefs do cause behavior, but by virtue of their neurophysiological (NP) properties, not by virtue of their propositional content, so it does not matter whether they are true or not. Bob’s point to me was that while it may be true that evolution is not directly interested in true beliefs, by crafting organisms towards better fitness, natural selection can produce in these organisms reliable cognitive faculties because true beliefs are often necessary for better fitness/adaptive behavior. My point to him was that that’s irrelevant because on naturalism, beliefs do not cause behavior because of their propositional content.

          I’ll take an example. Suppose I am singing and I hit a really high note that causes a glass to break. It is by virtue of the sound that the glass broke, not by virtue of whatever words I uttered. If I had uttered different words and hit the same high note, the glass would have broken the exact same way. Whatever the words were, they seem to be impotent as far as breaking the glass is concerned. Similarly, on naturalism, NP properties in the brain may cause behavior, perhaps even adaptive behavior, but not because of their propositional content, just because they happen to send the right signals to the rest of the body to cause adaptive behavior when it is necessary. But it is by virtue of its propositional content that a belief is true or false. While the belief content that comes to be associated with this NP property could end up being true, it would be dumb luck if it that happened. It doesn’t look like it is any more likely to be true than it is to be false. So on naturalism, every belief will have roughly a 50% chance of being true, and given even a small number of beliefs, the probability that 75% of them will be true is very low. (I don’t know if you already knew some of that).

          “If Newton’s gravity equation is false, then how did we land a lab on Mars? What do you mean by ‘true’ as distinct from ‘accurate’?”

          I don’t keep up with NASA stuff, but Newton’s law of universal gravitation was replaced by Einstein’s general relativity. This is however a good way to explain what I mean by “true” and “accurate”. Newton’s law, although it’s been proven to be false is still perfectly valid within certain limits. It accurately accounts for what it is supposed to account for within these limits, but what it says is simply not true. It isn’t true that “any two bodies in the universe attract each other with a force that is directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them”. When the effects of gravity get stronger (is that the right word to use?), one has to switch to Einstein’s equations. So one can say “Newton’s law of universal gravitation is accurate within certain limits”. A certain model can be accurate and/or useful without being true (Ptolemy’s earth centered model of the universe accurately predicted certain things and was very useful for centuries while being wildly false).

          Now I will take an example that’s more related to this discussion, an example taken by Plantinga himself (from the book “Naturalism Defeated? Essays on Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism” page 260):

          “Suppose naturalism is true and in fact there is no such person as God. Now several naturalists (E. O Wilson and Michael Ruse, for example) have argued that belief in God, while false, is nonetheless adaptive. So suppose a tribe of cognitively gifted creatures believe that everything (except God Himself) has been created by God; they therefore think everything is a creature, something created by God. Suppose further that their only way of referring to the various things in their environment is by way of such definite descriptions as the ‘the tree creature before me’ or ‘the tiger creature approaching me’. Suppose still further that all their beliefs are properly expressed by singular sentences whose subjects are definite descriptions of expressing properties that entail the property of creaturehood, such sentences as ‘The tiger creature approaching me is dangerous’ or ‘The tree creature before me is full of apple creatures’. Suppose, finally, that their definite descriptions work the way Bertrand Russell thought definite descriptions work: ‘The tallest man in Boston is wise’, for example, abbreviates ‘There is exactly one tallest man in Boston, and it is wise’. Then from the naturalist perspective all their beliefs are false. Yet these can still be adaptive: all they have to do is ascribe the right properties to the right ‘creatures’.”

          This example kind of illustrates what I mean. These creatures will be able to accurately predict certain things, danger for instance; ‘the tiger creature approaching me is dangerous’ is (on naturalism) a false belief while being an accurate perception of what is going on in front of you.

        • Susan

          by virtue of their neurophysiological behaviour, not by virtue of their propositional content

          Why should neurophysiological behaviour be utterly divorced from propositional content? It’s not an either/or. Your lead-in doesn’t show this.

          I don’t keep up with NASA stuff, but Newton’s law of universal gravitation was replaced by Einstein’s general relativity. This is however a good way to explain what I mean by “true” and “accurate”.

          Not really. Einstein’s theories break down too. Are you saying one is true and the other is false? This seems to be a complete misapplication of the terms ‘true’ and ‘false’.

          No. You’ll have to define ‘true’ as distinct from ‘accurate’. Your Einstein/Newton example doesn’t clarify anything.

          hese creatures will be able to accurately predict certain things, danger for instance; ‘the tiger creature approaching me is dangerous’ is (on naturalism) a false belief while being an accurate perception of what is going on in front of you.

          I don’t see the problem. They err about the source of the tiger, but not about the behaviour of the tiger and the consequences of trying to pat the tiger.

          I don’t think we will make progress until you explain exactly what you mean by ‘true’ as distinct from ‘accurate’.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          But in my experience, the average atheist isn’t much better. It’s time we recognize this.

          I live for good arguments, and I’ve been trying to get you to give us good arguments for God’s existence. You whined about the “Then who created God?” argument. I said that “God” needed vast amounts of evidence, and then you responded by saying, duh, that you simply hadn’t provided the evidence. Fine: provide it.

        • Paul B. Lot

          “You whined about the “Then who created God?” argument.”

          Whined about it, while claiming that “if this was any good of a refutation, professional philosophers would have figured it out by now”.

          When presented with the fact that

          at minimum three “professional philosophers” have done so

          , this [coward? idiot? troll?] @Junior Bakiny didn’t even acknowledge his error.

          Without blinking an eye, he typed “unsubscribe”, and moved on.

        • MNb

          LOL! And the quest for a honest apologist moves on.

        • Greg G.

          He spelled it “unsuscribe” to you and to me. I was wondering if it was an English word I was unfamiliar with.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Well, yeah. When you’ve said “unsubscribe,” you’ve said it all.

        • MR

          Damn those typos! I could have slipped away quietly.

          DAMN them!

  • Tyson Guess

    The really entertaining thing about this refutation is he seems unaware that Plantinga enjoys the support of atheist philosophers such as Thomas Nagel who openly admit their position isn’t based on a rational argument since Atheism invalidates reason but a preference.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      You’ve lost me. Atheists have no use for reason?

      Plantinga rejects the scientific consensus on evolution–it’s kinda hard to have much respect for him after that point. Everything is suspect if his conclusions must answer to some sort of religious test.

      • Tyson Guess

        “Atheists have no use for reason?”

        No, Atheism invalidates reason. When an atheist tries to use reason to justify their position it is self-refuting.

        “Plantinga rejects the scientific consensus on evolution”

        Define ‘evolution’. If you mean the the creation of semiotic information by nothing then He is quite right. Evolution only explains variation, not existence.

        Until you provide even one example of Semiotic Information (which is found in all life forms) that originated from some source other than a mind, then you cannot claim to have a rational position.

        All the evidence we have and our entire unified human experience demonstrates that semiotic/specified information Only comes from minds.
        There is no evidence to the contrary.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Atheism invalidates reason. When an atheist tries to use reason to justify their position it is self-refuting.

          Because reason in a godless world is inconceivable? You’ll have to explain this.

          Define ‘evolution’. If you mean the the creation of semiotic information by nothing then [Plantinga] is quite right.

          I’ll get my facts about evolution from the experts, not a philosopher, thanks.

          Evolution only explains variation, not existence.

          You mean that abiogenesis isn’t part of evolution? Uh, yeah. And …?

          Until you provide even one example of Semiotic Information (which is found in all life forms) that originated from some source other than a mind, then you cannot claim to have a rational position.

          Biologists have examples. I presume they don’t count.

          All the evidence we have and our entire unified human experience demonstrates that semiotic/specified information Only comes from minds.

          All the evidence we have and our entire unified human experience demonstrates that minds reside in brains. You’re imagining a mind in a brain that sourced the information in DNA?

        • Tyson Guess

          “Because reason in a godless world is inconceivable? You’ll have to explain this.”

          Sure. I understand it like this.
          If Atheism is true then Naturalism is true
          If Naturalism is true then Determinism is true.
          If determinism is true then we are automatons.

          There are 3 positions by atheist philosophers, each one attests to the above conclusion.
          1. The consistent atheist (ie Dan Dennett) – Truth and consciousness are an illusion. This is the position of the consistent atheist. The consistent atheist admits that atheism invalidates reason but it is a self-refuting position. Dan’s latest book was about how truth is an illusion. Yet he expects you to buy the book to learn that truth.

          2. The compatibilist – this is the belief that in some way Free will and determinism are compatible. There is no known logical defense of this position so it has to be taken on blind faith. The author of this position, Antony Flew, has refuted it by demonstrating that it violates the law of non-contradiction. This position affirms the above conclusion because there would be no reason to claim compatibilism unless atheism invalidated reason.

          3. The honest position – This is where many Atheist philosophers are turning. This would be the Thomas Nagel position where the philosopher admits that his belief in atheism is not based off of rational argumentation (because atheism invalidates reason) but is instead based on a preference. This position affirms the above conclusion that atheism invalidates reason.

          To understand the above syllogism in a less formal way here is a brief explanation.
          If thoughts are reducible to the physical brain then that means chemicals are responsible for our thoughts. If chemicals are responsible for our thoughts then those chemicals are subject to the laws of nature (which are external to ourselves). If the chemicals that cause our thoughts are controlled by an external force (ie the laws of nature) then Determinism is true and as Dan Dennett claims, consciousness, truth, science, the Will are all illusory.

          “I’ll get my facts about evolution from the experts, not a philosopher, thanks.”

          Are you claiming to have an empirical source for Semiotic Information (found in the genetic code) other than a mind? Furthermore, evolution has never even attempted to explain origin. Evolution (by definition) can only take place once Semiotic Information exists.

          “You mean that abiogenesis isn’t part of evolution? Uh, yeah. And …?”

          All you need to do is provide one single example of Semiotic/Specified information arising from some source other than a mind. If you can’t, and still choose to believe that claim regardless, then you cannot claim to have a rational position when all of the evidence suggests otherwise.

          “Biologists have examples. I presume they don’t count.”

          Please provide one. There has been a long standing challenge to the scientific community with a 3 million dollar prize to anyone that can provide such an example.
          http://cosmicfingerprints.com/solve/

          “All the evidence we have and our entire unified human experience demonstrates that minds reside in brains.”

          You are begging the question in favor of naturalism because the very thing you assume to be true (that minds only exist in conjunction to brains), you only assume to be true. Furthermore, there is very good evidence from near death experiences that say otherwise. There are documented accounts of people traveling out of state, recalling what people were wearing, what they said and who the person was talking to. Now whether you accept these stories or not are beside the point. The fact is that if there is an immaterial reality to this world then science (by its very nature) can tell us nothing about it. That would be akin to declaring Gamma Rays don’t exit while using a device that detects X-rays.

          “You’re imagining a mind in a brain that sourced the information in DNA?”

          No I am positing an immaterial mind, external to the universe that is responsible for the logic in the universe, the laws, the constants and the semiotic information found within life.

        • MNb

          “If Naturalism is true then Determinism is true.”
          Then apparently according to you Modern Physics rejects naturalism, because it’s not deterministic but probabilistic. That or you’re pulling off a non-sequitur.

          “Dan’s latest book was about how truth is an illusion. Yet he expects you to buy the book to learn that truth.”
          Now I haven’t read any of Dennett’s books, but this is simply a silly mistake.
          First of all you’ll have to define “truth”. I suppose you mean “eternal, neverchanging, 100% absolute certainty”. If you don’t your argument already falls apart by itself. Science rejects that meaning as you for instance can read in chapter 1 of Hawking’s A Brief History of Science and also in Why Evolution is True. And that postulation doesn’t need to be “eternal, neverchanging, 100% absolutely certain” either to be workable. Ie “truth is a meaningless concept” doesn’t need to be true itself. The self-refutation only exists in your closed-minded framework and is based on another false dilemma: something is either true or false. That’s not the scientific position. The scientific position is that something is incorrect or not shown to be incorrect yet. And some things are extremely unlikely – but still not impossible – to be shown to be incorrect: like gravity being an attracting and not a repelling force, for instance.

          “the belief that in some way Free will and determinism are compatible.”
          Irrelevant. Free will may be compatible with probabilism very well. Of course we will have to redefine free will, but that’s the problem of the dualist, not of the materialist. Neurobiology will find out after it has settled on a model of the human brain. Arguments against that one only are variations on the god of the gaps.

          “This is where many Atheist philosophers are turning.”
          Yeah, just like many scientists are turning to creationism, as the Dishonesty Institute from Seattle never ceases to repeat.

        • Tyson Guess

          “Then apparently according to you Modern Physics rejects naturalism”

          No, I would say that naturalism leads to self-refuting positions as I demonstrated.

          “Now I haven’t read any of Dennett’s books, but this is simply a silly mistake.”

          I want you to pay attention to what you did here. You admit that you have no knowledge of Dennett’s conclusions and then inform me that the conclusion that truth is illusory is mistaken. The very thing you claim not to know you then claim to know.

          “First of all you’ll have to define “truth””

          something that we have good reason to believe is factual about reality

          “”eternal, neverchanging, 100% absolute certainty”

          No one uses ‘absolute certainty’. Straw man comment. Science is based on inductive reasoning so we arrive at the inference to the best information based on evidence, data and logical argumentation.

          “truth is a meaningless concept”

          This is a self-refuting assertion since it asserts the statement is true.

          “The self-refutation only exists in your closed-minded framework and is based on another false dilemma: something is either true or false.”

          So are you claiming that the law of non-contradiction and the law of excluded middle are false?

          “Irrelevant. Free will may be compatible with probabilism very well.”

          You just made an assertion and failed to provide any reasons for it. Please demonstrate logically how free-will can be compatible with Determinism. So far, any attempt has been shown to be a violation of the law of non-contradiction.

          “Neurobiology will find out after it has settled on a model of the human brain. Arguments against that one only are variations on the god of the gaps.”

          Interesting claim considering that you are guilty of a Science of the Gaps argument. There is no philosopher that has been able to demonstrate that the above argument I provided concerning Determinism to be false. It is true that most atheist philosophers claim compatibilism but there is no known defense for such a position. It seems you have to take this on blind faith. In addition, it still doesn’t solve the problem that if your thoughts are the result of chemicals then those chemicals are subject to the laws of nature which are external to the will. What necessarily follows from this point is that if naturalism is true then determinism is true. If determinism is true then our minds, consciousness and truth are all illusory as Dennett claims. However, if we claim to know anything at all, and have good reasons supporting that belief then atheism is necessarily false.

          Well, so far I see that you have strong opinions but if you want to sway me to your side then strongly asserting your position will only lead me to believe that you have an emotional position as opposed to a rational position. If you have good reasons for some of your claims I’ll be glad to go over them.

          have a good weekend

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Interesting claim considering that you are guilty of a Science of the Gaps argument.

          This is a declaration that science will surely find an answer? I didn’t see MNb make that claim.

          If the claim was instead that science may or even will likely find an answer, that’s just a conclusion from science’s track record.

          Too bad we get zilch from religion. It’s not like it hasn’t had thousands of years to try.

        • Tyson Guess

          “If the claim was instead that science may or even will likely find an answer, that’s just a conclusion from science’s track record.”

          Basing a conclusion on a gap in knowledge, whether appealing to God or Science, is a gap argument. When the poster concluded his position was correct because some day science will figure it out then he is guilty of a gap argument. He tried to say I was using a gap argument when I explained that the claim I made was not based on a lack of evidence but the entire body of evidence that we do have. We have no evidence that semiotic information can arise from any source other than a mind. Until one provides even a single example to the contrary, then it cannot be said to be a rational position if one claims nature is responsible for the semiotic information in the universe.

        • MNb

          “When the poster concluded his position was correct because some day science will figure it out.”
          I didn’t make such a claim and if you think I did you only confirm that you badly need to improve your comprehensive reading skills. You are the one who wants science to be perfect according to your (and not scientific) standards, not me.

          “We have no evidence that semiotic information”
          I didn’t write anything about semiotic information, hence you’re strawmanning me.
          Must I conclude that you’re not only silly, but also a liar?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          When the poster concluded his position was correct because some day science will figure it out then he is guilty of a gap argument.

          And I didn’t say that.

          We have no evidence that semiotic information can arise from any source other than a mind. Until one provides even a single example to the contrary

          We’ve been over this. You get a copy error, which gives new information. That is tested in the crucible of natural selection. If it turns out to be meaningful (semiotic information), it’s kept.

          Doesn’t it seem ridiculous to you that we two non-biologists are arguing about biology? I suggest we just leave the nice scientists to do their work and not criticize science we don’t understand.

        • MNb

          “then inform me that his conclusions are mistaken.”
          Definitely lacking comprehensive reading skills. I did not inform you such a thing at all. I informed you that this

          “Dan’s latest book was about how truth is an illusion. Yet he expects you to buy the book to learn that truth.”
          is a silly mistake whether these words are yours or Dennett’s. Given your poor comprehensive reading skills my bet is that you misrepresent Dennett, but to find out I would have to read his books, which I won’t.

          “something that we have good reason to believe is factual about reality”
          Excellent. We have good reasons to accept that “truth, meaning 100% sure absolute everlasting unchanging certainty” is unobtainable. “Good reasons” implies that this is not a “100% sure certain absolute everlasting unchanging certainty” statement. Anyone remains invited to invalidate this statement by providing a method that does guarantee such certainty. Moreover naturalism doesn’t need such certainty. So naturalism is not self-refuting; it emphasizes that there is a chance, no matter how small, still always bigger than 0, that it’s wrong and also tells you what to do to show it’s wrong. Like I already wrote your argument that naturalism is self-refuting falls apart by itself.
          Hence the rest of your comment is not worth reading – especially not as BobS underneath points out that you misread what I write again.
          My my Ritchie Blackmore, even if you try to get into a rational discussion you are not capable of having one.

          “No, I would say”
          Then you don’t understand what you write yourself.

          TG: “If Naturalism is true then Determinism is true.”
          Modern Physics (Hawking A Brief History of Science ao): Determinism is incorrect.
          Conclusion: Modern Physics rejects Naturalism.

          That’s your claim or you’re simply wrong.
          It’s the latter of course.
          The correct statement is (I spell it out for you, because at this point I only can assume you’re not capable of formulating it yourself:

          “If naturalism is true then probabilism is true”.
          Except that the continental philosophy of science (and you suggest, but perhaps again incorrectly, that Dennett takes this position too) doesn’t have any use for the word “true”. Like I already wrote the two possible categories on naturalism are “demonstrated to be incorrect” and “not demonstrated to be incorrect yet”. So the accurate formulation is

          1. If there is no method to obtain 100% sure absolute everlasting unchanging certainty then naturalism cannot claim to provide this either, but only increase its probability.
          2. If naturalism is unlikely incorrect then probability is likely correct.
          3. If probability is likely correct we still are automatons, but there also may still be room for free will, provided that it’s formulated in natural terms.
          4. Nothing of this contradicts Homo Sapiens’ consciousness and ability to use reason as long consciousness and reason are formulated in natural terms as well. And there is no reason to assume that that’s impossible.

          Guess what? The question has been asked if robots can have consciousness and free will. Such a nice confirmation!

          Neither atheism nor naturalism is self-defeating.
          They still may be wrong, but you’ll have to attack them from the outside, not from the inside.
          However dualism seems to be self-defeating indeed.

        • MR

          These kinds of appeals (to truth, meaning, purpose, etc.) all seem to have a kind of pathetic quality about them. An appeal to our desire to be important. I’m reminded of the cliché of an aging actress trying to remain relevant.

          “But, but…, if there isn’t absolute truth, meaning and purpose…, why, that means we’re ultimately nothing!” And what if we are? We’re still going to get up tomorrow and eat our breakfast, live our lives, love our wives, watch the game…; and to what end? Does everything have to be imbued with eternality?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I’ve never understood the fascination with absolute meaning (etc.) that Christians have.

          I’ve never felt it, perhaps because Christianity was never an important part of my life, but it seems like such a transparently empty claim–”But … but if there’s no absolute meaning, then what’s the point??”

          Who needs absolute meaning to, as you say, get out of bed every morning and live satisfying lives?

        • MR

          At root it’s a base selfishness to matter, to be important enough to some deity or force or immaterial reality, or whatever, to be important enough that you have a shot at immortality. At heart, it’s not about truth or meaning or purpose, it’s about me, me, me.

        • MNb

          “At root it’s a base selfishness to matter”
          In my view this is the ultimate failure of christianity, because it goes against everything Jesus preached according to the Gospels.

        • Tyson Guess

          “a silly mistake whether these words are yours or Dennett’s.”

          Not at all. Dennett takes the 1st position I described. He argues that truth is illusory.

          “Moreover naturalism doesn’t need such certainty. So naturalism is not self-refuting;”

          Naturalism claims a natural beginning to the universe which is logically impossible and also becomes self defeating because despite your formulation below, if naturalism is true then determinism is true.

          “1. If there is no method to obtain 100% sure absolute everlasting unchanging certainty then naturalism cannot claim to provide this either, but only increase its probability.”

          Premise 1 is self-refuting.

          “2. If naturalism is unlikely incorrect then probability is likely correct.”

          You beg the question here.

          “3. If probability is likely correct we still are automatons, but there also may still be room for free will, provided that it’s formulated in natural terms.”

          Begging the question again.

          “4. Nothing of this contradicts Homo Sapiens’ consciousness and ability to use reason as long consciousness and reason are formulated in natural terms as well. And there is no reason to assume that that’s impossible.”

          And again, begging the question.

          You assume naturalism is true (or probably true) and since you also believe your mental capacities you believe reason and consciousness must have arisen naturally, yet, the very thing you assume is the thing in question.

          “Neither atheism nor naturalism is self-defeating.”

          Well, so far, neither you nor any other atheist philosopher has put forth a successful argument to support such a premise. In fact, as demonstrated with the 3 positions of atheist philosophers, they confirm the conclusion of the argument.

        • MNb

          “Naturalism claims a natural beginning to the universe which is logically impossible.”
          Not at all. Quantum fluctuations are observed, logical possible and can describe the natural beginning of our Universe. You deny science here. Confirmed here:

          “if naturalism is true then determinism is true.”
          We have good reasons to accept naturalism and we also have empirical evidence that forces us to reject determinism. No matter how often you repeat this, it remains wrong.

          “Premise 1 is self-refuting.”
          Just because you say so? Now you’re an arrogant science denier. Because this is what science does – increase the probability that hypotheses are correct by empirically testing them. That probability (of Evolution Theory for instance) may approach 100% (or 1) very closely, it will never get there. Saying that premise 1 is self-refuting hence means saying that the scientific method is self-refuting. I wonder why you ever turn you computer on.

          “You beg the question here.”
          Just because you say so? Your arrogance increases.

          “the very thing you assume is the thing in question.”
          Yeah, that’s the point and that’s exactly why your mistake is so silly. Naturalism allows to question everything and anything, including itself. That’s not a weakness, as your silly mistake implies, that’s a strength and anyhow not self-defeating at all. On the contrary, I’d even say it’s mandatory that a philosophy that makes such a claim (truth defined as 100% absolute etc. certainty is beyond our reach) applies that claim to itself. As long as you don’t accept that you will remain silly.

          “neither you nor any other atheist philosopher has put forth a successful argument to support such a premise.”
          BWAHAHAHAHA!
          My dear, go study some math. Begin with Euclidean geometry. Axioms are axioms exactly because they are not supported by anything resembling deductional logic. The same for premises. If you could argue for a premise it would cease to be one and that argument you would use to support the no-longer-a-premise would be based on other premises. That’s how deductional logic works. That’s one reason science only can rise probabilities and not obtain 100% sure absolute eternal unchanging certainty. That’s, I suppose, why Dennett claims that truth is illusory. I would prefer to say it’s useless, but soit.
          This quote simply shows you don’t understand what you’re talking about. You have asked for something that you have made impossible at beforehand yourself. That’s even worse than the demand that the claim that 100% sure eternal etc. certaintly is beyond our reach must be 100% sure eternal etc.
          If you want to show that naturalism is self-defeating you have to accept the very premises it’s build upon and then show that it contradicts itself by using deductional logic and deductional logic alone. You have failed miserably to do so. Instead you try to smuggle stuff into your argument that doesn’t apply to what you try to demonstrate being self-defeating. Plantinga does the same btw with his EAAN.
          Let me give you a funny example. You may know that there is a Flat Earth Society. Now it’s totally possible to develop a coherent mathematical Flat Earth model. Now what you’re trying to demonstrate is that it’s self-defeating because it doesn’t account for earthly curvature – the very thing it rejects. Same for naturalism and truth. If the latter doesn’t have a place in naturalism you can’t complain it doesn’t use it for its premises. But still you do and that makes you look silly.

          Now I agree that all this is not sufficient reason to accept naturalism, just like mathematical coherence is not enough reason to accept Flat Earth. But as long as you cling to your silly mistake it’s a waste of time to tell you what the good reasons to do so actually are (or tell you why we should reject Flat Earth). Of course they don’t come from deductional logic.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Axioms are axioms exactly because they are not supported by anything

          … except evidence. Seems to me that they’re continuously tested.

        • MNb

          Evidence by definition is not deductional, but inductional. That’s how we raise the probability that a hypothesis and/or theory is correct: by comparing it with lots and lots of all kinds of empirical data; the more and the greater the variety the better. Due to the Problem of Induction by Simple Enumeration we still won’t obtain absolute certainty. But it seems sensible to me not to bother TG with this as long as he can’t get deduction and especially self-defeat (which is purely deductional) right. And it will get really complicated for him when I’ll have to explain that induction uses logic as well ….

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          So you’re saying that axioms are supported by evidence, though that merely makes them very trustworthy, and we can’t have 100% certainty in them. Sounds right to me.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          It’s a theory in crisis, I tell you!!

        • Rudy R

          Just for the sake of argument, if we are automatons, does it change the human experience? Will Donald Trump act any differently knowing he is an automaton? Funny thing about philosophy; logical arguments only seem to be important to philosophers. There are theist and atheist philosophers that both have compelling arguments, so who is right? It takes a good argument AND empirical evidence to tip the scales either way.

          The fact is that if there is an immaterial reality to this world then science can tell us nothing about it.

          Like BobS repeats countless times, show the evidence. Evidence from near-death experiences are not “facts” and most cases have been soundly refuted. You are on very shaky ground relying on those personal experiences to buttress your position that minds are separate from the brain.

        • MR

          If science can tell us nothing about an immaterial reality, how much less so anyone else?

        • Tyson Guess

          “Just for the sake of argument, if we are automatons, does it change the human experience?”

          Yes, it would mean that consciousness, truth, the Will are illusory.

          “Will Donald Trump act any differently knowing he is an automaton?”

          If anyone was an automaton they would not be able to discover that point. So as it goes, if you believe something, and have good reasons for that belief then Atheism is necessarily false.

          “Funny thing about philosophy; logical arguments only seem to be important to philosophers”

          So why is science important?
          (keep in mind the moment you begin to answer you are engaging in philosophy)

          “It takes a good argument AND empirical evidence to tip the scales either way.”

          Correct. So where is the evidence that Laws, constants, logic and semiotic information can arise from some source other than a mind?

          “Evidence from near-death experiences are not “facts” and most cases have been soundly refuted.”

          False. I’d suggest investigating it. However, the proposition doesn’t depend on NDE’s. The proposition is properly basic in that I am perfectly within logic to assume that other minds like mine exist. If other minds exist, then those minds are immaterial realities because if the mind is the product of the brain then we would never be able to discover that fact because determinism would be true.

          “You are on very shaky ground relying on those personal experiences to buttress your position that minds are separate from the brain.”

          Saying it’s ‘shaky ground’ is not an argument. Do you believe in information? All information is invisible and immaterial. Not to mention, logic, consciousness, emotions, art, beauty…etc.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          “Just for the sake of argument, if we are automatons, does it change the human experience?”

          Yes, it would mean that consciousness, truth, the Will are illusory.

          So then human experience would not be changed. OK.

          if you believe something, and have good reasons for that belief then Atheism is necessarily false.

          I believe in fairies. My good reasons: I saw Tinker Bell return to life on TV when I was a kid.

          Damn! I just disproved atheism …

          “It takes a good argument AND empirical evidence to tip the scales either way.”

          Correct. So where is the evidence that Laws, constants, logic and semiotic information can arise from some source other than a mind?

          DNA copying error gives information. Natural selection decides if it’s useful information or not.

          I’m surprised you didn’t know that.

        • Rudy R

          So where is the evidence that Laws, constants, logic and semiotic information can arise from some source other than a mind?

          Our minds didn’t invent Laws, logic… Our minds discovered them. If the laws and logic weren’t embedded in the universe, then there is a high probability the universe wouldn’t exist. The Laws of Light, for instance, describe light will travel at the same speed. This law does not require an observer. Light existed billions of years before the human eye was able to take advantage of its properties. Reductio ad absurdum, the logical form of the principle of non-contradiction, also exists without a mind, since the universe can exist and not exist, but not both. So where is the empirical evidence that these things require a mind?

        • Tyson Guess

          “Our minds didn’t invent Laws, logic… Our minds discovered them.”

          So then the laws of logic are transcendent since human minds are not responsible for them?

          “The Laws of Light, for instance, describe light will travel at the same speed.”

          Sure, light is part of the mechanism that is the universe. Logic also describes how a combustion engine works. Both the universe and the combustion engine are mechanisms and display logic. It seems you are willing to attribute the logic of 1 of those mechanisms to a mind but not the other. Why the inconsistency?

          “So where is the empirical evidence that these things require a mind?”

          Where is the evidence that something that displays logic can come from anything but a mind?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          So then the laws of logic are transcendent since human minds are not responsible for them?

          Seems to me that the laws of logic are human inventions. Logic is a trait of reality, but the laws are inventions.

          We can see this with time. We didn’t invent time, but we invented “10 o’clock” and “2015″ and “September.” Or physics: Newton didn’t invent gravity, but he did invent Newton’s Law of Gravity. The property that it describes would, of course, have existed before Newton, but his Law didn’t.

        • Dys

          Presuppositionalists love TAG. Be prepared for the argument to quickly devolve into circularity. Accompanied by arrogance and childish condescension.

        • Dys

          The laws of logic are semantic descriptions describing physical reality. Minds are responsible for the descriptions, not physical reality. So they don’t transcend reality.

          Logic also describes how a combustion engine works.

          No, logic doesn’t do that. Physics does.

          It seems you want to insist that there’s this magical floating notion of ‘logic’ somewhere in the aether that requires a god-mind to account for. But the law of noncontradiction and the rest are conceptual statements describing reality. No god-mind needed.

        • Tyson Guess

          “The laws of logic are semantic descriptions describing physical reality.”

          So if all human minds disappear, does the universe still display logic?

          “Minds are responsible for the descriptions, not physical reality. So they don’t transcend reality”

          So if the laws of logic don’t transcend the universe what necessarily follows from that claim is that if the universe just disappeared then ‘nothing’ could be ‘something’ and ‘nothing’ at the same time and in the same sense.
          However, if you agree that ‘nothing’ can’t be ‘something’ and ‘nothing’ at the same time then it seems fair to conclude that the laws of logic transcend the universe. Logic always being a process of mind leads us to grounding these laws in the mind of God. This is supported by the fact that the universe is describable in terms of mathematics. Mathematics is a function of logic and logic is always a process in the mind. Unless you have an example of something other than a mind displaying logic. If you do not have an example of something other than a mind using or displaying logic other than a mind then you cannot claim to have a rational position when all of the evidence suggests that logic is something that originates in minds.

        • Dys

          Try reading what I wrote again. Because you seem to have completely missed the point.

        • MR

          So below he just ignores your point and equivocates back to his strawman. Sigh….

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Christians like to declare that God grounds logic, but my question to them is, Would a godless universe have no logic? Could something be “rock” and “not-a-rock” at the same time, for example?

        • Dys

          As MR pointed out, Tyson completely ignored what I said and then repeated his false dilemma. He’s confusing the semantic statements with the physical reality they describe, and is pretending they’re the same thing. It’d be like thinking that someone had to write down “a can’t be not a” in a magical book somewhere, otherwise reality would collapse. It’s silly, but he’s insisting on it nonetheless.

          Plus it would be obvious by Tyson’s understanding of the laws of logic that they would have to transcend God as well. Otherwise God could be God and not God at the same time.

          But if they don’t play that game, they can’t go on pretending that atheists have to steal from their worldview, and that’s their entire strategy.

        • MR

          He’s confusing the semantic statements with the physical reality they describe, and is pretending they’re the same thing.

          As someone else noted, mistaking the map for the terrain. It seems so obvious that it’s hard to believe it’s not intentional, especially when he completely sidesteps your point.

        • Rudy R

          So then the laws of logic are transcendent since human minds are not responsible for them?

          Laws of logic are non-contingent. Logic is reasoning, and it’s validity does not depend on any contingent features of the world, even minds.

          Logic also describes how a combustion engine works.

          Logic does not describe how an engine works; humans with brains describe how an engine works.

          Where is the evidence that something that displays logic can come from anything but a mind?

          If by “displays logic” you mean applying reason, then a brain-mind does that. I’m not making a claim that brain-mind doesn’t apply reason.

        • Tyson Guess

          “Laws of logic are non-contingent.”

          I agree.

          “Logic is reasoning, and it’s validity does not depend on any contingent features of the world, even minds.”

          So what source do you posit for the logic displayed in the universe other than a mind?

          “Logic does not describe how an engine works; humans with brains describe how an engine works.”

          So a combustion engine doesn’t display the logic of the one who designed it?

        • Rudy R

          So what source do you posit for the logic displayed in the universe other than a mind?

          You agreed that logic is non-contingent, so it requires no source. The universe would operate within the laws of logic, even if the brain-mind did not create the model for the laws of logic.

          So a combustion engine doesn’t display the logic of the one who designed it?

          A combustion engine does not apply reason; it only operates within the properties of physics.

          So far, you’ve provided no empirical evidence that a mind can exist without a brain.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          3. The honest position – This is where many Atheist philosophers are turning. This would be the Thomas Nagel position where the philosopher admits that his belief in atheism is not based off of rational argumentation (because atheism invalidates reason) but is instead based on a preference.

          Whew! It sure is lucky we have you here to tell the atheists here what they should conclude.

          I have little interest in the free will debate.

          Are you claiming to have an empirical source for Semiotic Information (found in the genetic code) other than a mind?

          Evolution.

          Furthermore, evolution has never even attempted to explain origin.

          Yeah. Abiogenesis is different from evolution. I get it.

          Evolution (by definition) can only take place once Semiotic Information exists.

          And then you get a copying error and bingo—new information.

          All you need to do is provide one single example of Semiotic/Specified information arising from some source other than a mind.

          What would the people who actually understand the evidence say when you present them with this challenge?

          all of the evidence suggests otherwise.

          And yet evolution is still the scientific consensus. I’d be an idiot to argue, “Even though I’m not a biologist and so therefore don’t understand the evidence, I declare that the scientific consensus in this field that I don’t understand is crap.” So I don’t.

          There has been a long standing challenge to the scientific community with a 3 million dollar prize to anyone that can provide such an example.

          What do the biologists say about this prize?

          “All the evidence we have and our entire unified human experience demonstrates that minds reside in brains.”

          You are begging the question in favor of naturalism because the very thing you assume to be true (that minds only exist in conjunction to brains), you only assume to be true.

          Is what I did confusing? I thought it was obvious: I was recasting your own sentence into a way that you wouldn’t like.

          You think that “there is no other example” is powerful? Cool—then “there is no other example of a mind without a brain” must be a slam-dunk argument against God. QED.

          Furthermore, there is very good evidence from near death experiences that say otherwise. There are documented accounts of people traveling out of state, recalling what people were wearing, what they said and who the person was talking to.

          Take one out of the realm of anecdote and we might have something interesting to talk about.

          Kidding—even in that case, I would demand that the analysis be outsourced to experts. Show me that and I would take notice.

          Now whether you accept these stories or not are beside the point.

          One wonders why you brought them up.

          The fact is that if there is an immaterial reality to this world then science (by its very nature) can tell us nothing about it.

          We either live in a world where the supernatural intrudes or one where it doesn’t. If the former, then you’re wrong.

          No I am positing an immaterial mind

          … without evidence. Fun!

          We’ve been over this. Ever instance of a mind that we know of resides in a brain. Either admit that this challenge defeats your point or withdraw the point of the same structure that you tried to use on me before (“All the evidence we have and our entire unified human experience demonstrates that semiotic/specified information Only comes from minds”).

        • Tyson Guess

          “Whew! It sure is lucky we have you here to tell the atheists here what they should conclude.”

          I’m not telling anyone what to believe, per se, but I am demonstrating what necessarily follows from Atheism which is further supported by all of the positions that atheist philosophers take.

          “I have little interest in the free will debate.”

          Well if atheism is true then you have no free will. So do you thin you have free will?

          “Evolution.”

          I asked you if you had empirical evidence of some source other than a mind creating semiotic information. You replied with ‘evolution’. However, your conclusion is simply Begging the Question because the very thing in question (naturalism) you assume to be true. So, again, if you have some source other than a mind that creates semiotic information then put it forward and I’ll be the first person to champion it with you.

          “And then you get a copying error and bingo—new information.”

          Copying errors does not account for the epigenetic information required for new body plans. DNA is not responsible for epigenetic information, nor is it stored in the genetic code. We have mutated fruit flies for over 30 years, accounting for millions of years of evolution and there has never been a new body plan. In fact, the most common result is devolution, not evolution. However, before all this even comes into play we have to account for the semiotic information before a copying error could even possibly happen which brings us right back to the original point. If you have some source capable of creating semiotic information other than a mind then put it forward.

          “What do the biologists say about this prize?”

          I’m not sure what they say ‘about the prize’ but I do know that no one has put forth evidence that anything but a mind can create semiotic information.

          “And yet evolution is still the scientific consensus. ”

          So? Evolution isn’t an argument against God In fact, I use it as an argument for God.
          Evolution (if true in the macro sense) is a mechanism. It is not logically possible to formulate an argument against an agent that designed a mechanism. In fact, the more intricate evolution becomes, the more it demands an agent responsible for it’s function and existence.

          “there is no other example of a mind without a brain”

          How do you know? You’re only assuming this to be true because you assume naturalism to be true which makes the assertion guilty of begging the question.
          First, the mind is immaterial. Are you going to try and explain the immaterial reality of your brain by reducing it to the chemicals in your mind? If you do, then the very thing you’re trying to explain wouldn’t exist. You would be an automaton, not a free-will contingent existent.

          “Take one out of the realm of anecdote and we might have something interesting to talk about.”

          Well there are plenty to choose from. You may be interested in J.P. Moreland’s book ‘The Soul’ where such an experience is discussed.

          “… without evidence. Fun!”

          False. The only evidence there is demonstrates that semiotic information (among other realities) only arise from a mind. If you claim naturalism or atheism, then you are the one positing an assertion without any evidence. All of the evidence points to God, not an infinite number of causes.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Well if atheism is true then you have no free will. So do you thin you have free will?

          I don’t care.

          I asked you if you had empirical evidence of some source other than a mind creating semiotic information. You replied with ‘evolution’. However, your conclusion is simply Begging the Question because the very thing in question (naturalism) you assume to be true.

          Doesn’t sound like begging the question to me. You asked for a source of semiotic information and I gave you evolution—where’s the circularity?

          Copying errors does not account for the epigenetic information required for new body plans.

          That’s nice.

          Copying errors are new information, like I said.

          DNA is not responsible for epigenetic information, nor is it stored in the genetic code.

          Having a hard time staying on topic? Why bring up epigenetics?

          We have mutated fruit flies for over 30 years, accounting for millions of years of evolution and there has never been a new body plan.

          Golly. Within human time we have never seen any new phyla. That’s so weird—evolution predicts we should see new ones all the time.

          (Or does it?)

          before all this even comes into play we have to account for the semiotic information before a copying error could even possibly happen which brings us right back to the original point.

          What??? You’re changing the subject to now demand to know how the environment that created the copying error came to be?

          Look—if you have some sort of mental problem that causes you to lose the train of thought, please let me know so that I don’t mock you for something you can’t help.

          If you have some source capable of creating semiotic information other than a mind then put it forward.

          Fun! Ignore what I say, repeat the same demand (I suggest adding a bit more shrillness every time), and then you can pretend you win!

          I’m not sure what they say ‘about the prize’ but I do know that no one has put forth evidence that anything but a mind can create semiotic information.

          My guess is that they say that this prize is bullshit because the organizers have made it a no-win situation. Hence the importance of evaluations by the biologists who are encouraged to participate.

          “And yet evolution is still the scientific consensus. ”

          So?

          It’s not that hard a concept, honestly.

          You don’t have a doctorate in biology (correct me if I’m wrong). Therefore, no one cares about your evaluation of a field that you don’t understand.

          Evolution isn’t an argument against God In fact, I use it as an argument for God.

          Evolution (if true in the macro sense) is a mechanism. It is not logically possible to formulate an argument against an agent that designed a mechanism. In fact, the more intricate evolution becomes, the more it demands an agent responsible for it’s function and existence.

          Blah blah blah Argument from Incredulity blah blah—is that it? I honestly couldn’t make much sense out of this, so if you want to recast your point, I’ll have another go.

          “there is no other example of a mind without a brain”

          How do you know?

          Huh? You’re saying that you know of one? Don’t keep us in suspense.

          I’m as certain of this as you are of your claim that there is no other example of semiotic information without a mind.

          you assume naturalism to be true which makes the assertion guilty of begging the question.

          Wrong again. I don’t assume naturalism.

          Tip: enough with the accusations of logical fallacies. What’s your batting record so far? Not so good by my count.

          First, the mind is immaterial.

          Courage is immaterial—so what? So therefore the supernatural world exists? I don’t think so.

          The mind is what the brain does.

          The only evidence there is demonstrates that semiotic information (among other realities) only arise from a mind.

          (1) Evolution is the answer you were struggling to remember.

          (2) Yet again, I am forced to recast your argument and force you to deal with it: the only evidence there is demonstrates that a mind only arises from a brain. Stop dodging the issue.

          All of the evidence points to God, not an infinite number of causes.

          All of what evidence? Are you holding back the good arguments for God?

        • Tyson Guess

          “I don’t care.”

          If you don’t care, that implies you have free will. So how do you have free will if atheism is true?

          “Doesn’t sound like begging the question to me. You asked for a source of semiotic information and I gave you evolution”

          Evolution doesn’t exist until semiotic information exists which means evolution can’t explain existence, only variation.

          “Copying errors are new information, like I said.”

          False. Copying errors are the expression of already existing information.
          Leonard Brillouin states the following:
          “A machine does not create any new information, but it performs a very valuable transformation of known information” (Science and Information Theory)

          “Having a hard time staying on topic? Why bring up epigenetics?”

          Because it demonstrates that copying errors alone cannot account for new life forms.

          “What??? You’re changing the subject to now demand to know how the environment that created the copying error came to be?”

          Incorrect. I’m pointing out that the very thing you assume to be responsible for life requires life to exist, which makes your assertion self-refuting. Again, Evolution cannot take place until semiotic information exists. If you don’t have any other source capable of creating semiotic information other than a mind, then it is not rational to claim that it is a product of nature or evolution.

          “You don’t have a doctorate in biology (correct me if I’m wrong). Therefore, no one cares about your evaluation of a field that you don’t understand.”

          Genetic Fallacy again.

          “Courage is immaterial—so what? So therefore the supernatural world exists? I don’t think so.”

          At the least immaterial realities exist which falsifies materialism.

          “Huh? You’re saying that you know of one? Don’t keep us in suspense. I’m as certain of this as you are of your claim that there is no other example of semiotic information without a mind.”

          Here you assume that there are no minds without brains. However, if God exists then this proposition is false. There are good reasons for God’s existence and no good reasons to suggest naturalism is true. Unless, that is, you have some evidence that suggests that logical systems can arise from some source other than a mind.

          “The mind is what the brain does.”

          Begging the question. Furthermore, if the mind is the product of the brain then determinism is true. If determinism is true then the very thing you are trying to explain by way of the brain doesn’t exist!

          “All of what evidence?”

          The evidence that demonstrates that code, laws, constants, mechanisms, logical systems all arise from minds. There is no evidence to the contrary. You seem to think otherwise but seem to be with holding your empirical data that supports your position.

        • Dys

          If you don’t care, that implies you have free will.

          Translates to: Tyson has no understanding of the debate over free will at all.

          False. Copying errors are the expression of already existing information.

          Wrong. Copying errors can and do result in new information. A reorganization of existing data is still new information, especially if an error in replication is introduced.

          At the least immaterial realities exist which falsifies materialism.

          The existence of courage as an attribute does not, in any way, establish the existence of immaterial realities. It’s yet another valuation that exists within human minds, with a physical basis.

        • Tyson Guess

          “Tyson has no understanding of the debate over free will at all, and it continues to sail over his head.”

          Not an argument.

          “Someone saying they don’t care about something doesn’t demonstrate they have free will. It doesn’t demonstrate they don’t either. It says absolutely nothing about whether they actually have free will.”

          Explain how someone can care about an argument if determinism is true.

          “Wrong. Copying errors can and do result in new information.”

          Not according to information theory.
          ‘A mechanism does not create any new information, but it performs a very valuable *transformation* of known information’ – Leonard Brillouin

          “Pointing out that you lack expertise (and therefore are probably not anywhere near as informed on the subject as actual experts) on a topic that you’re attempting to discuss is not a genetic fallacy”

          When you discredit the source instead of address the argument, it is, by definition the genetic fallacy.

          “The existence of courage as an attribute does not, in any way, establish the existence of immaterial realities. It’s yet another valuation that exists within human minds, with a physical basis”

          Do you believe information exists? Information is invisible and immaterial.

        • Dys

          Not an argument.

          Neither was yours. Tired of the stupid game yet? I swear you have the mentality of a 12 year old on this.

          Explain how someone can care about an argument if determinism is true.

          And you continue to demonstrate you don’t have a clue as to what you’re talking about when it comes to the free will debate. Someone can care about an argument if they don’t have an actual choice about it. That’s the entire point of the free will debate, and it keeps sailing over your head because you arrogantly believe you can resolve one of the big issues in philosophy with silly word games and bad reasoning.

          Not according to information theory.

          I looked up your quote. Not only is it actually a misquote (machine, not mechanism), you’re using it out of context. In actuality, information theory actually supports the notion of dna gaining information in the genome through natural means. Brillouin was discussing a hypothetical machine (a computer), not biological processes. Besides which, a simple alphabet example demonstrates the problem with your assertion: “The cat is black” is quite different information than “btc hka sa ilcet” same letters, different information.

          When you discredit the source instead of address the argument, it is, by definition the genetic fallacy.

          You appear to be using this excuse to dismiss expertise out of hand.

          Do you believe information exists? Information is invisible and immaterial.

          Um, no it isn’t. It can definitely be invisible, but it’s certainly not immaterial.

        • Tyson Guess

          “Someone can care about an argument if they don’t have an actual choice about it.”

          So how does one mind, programmed to think ‘A’ (and only ‘A’) can care, ponder or argue against point ‘B’ that nature put in someone elses mind? What I think you’re missing is that your assertion necessarily implies that determinism is false because the first person can’t contemplate, ponder or even know the slightest bit about ‘B’. That is the implication of determinism. Determinism and Free Will are competing claims. You are claiming that a choice can be free and not free at the same time. So I have to side with Antony Flew here because this is a violation of the law of non-contradiction.

          “I looked up your quote. Not only is it actually a misquote (machine, not mechanism), you’re using it out of context.”

          Machines are mechanisms…I typed that quote from memory so forgive the misrepresentation, however, it doesn’t change the meaning at all.

          “Brillouin was discussing a hypothetical machine (a computer), not biological processes.”

          They’re both mechanisms and therefore in the same category.

          “The cat is black” is quite different information than “btc hka sa ilcet” same letters, different information”

          The only difference is one is semiotic, so you’re playing my hand here. There is no new syntactic information, only semiotic. So the question then returns to the main point: Give me one example of semiotic information coming from some source other than a mind. If you cannot, and you can’t, then you cannot claim to have the rational position when all the evidence suggests this kind of information comes from minds.

          “Um, no it isn’t. It can definitely be invisible, but it’s certainly not immaterial.”

          So if I handed you a menu you could tell me the meaning of the symbols in terms of the ink and paper?

          I know you are trying to, but no on argues against this point. All information is invisible and immaterial. It can have a material carrier but the message is invisible and immaterial.

        • Dys

          What I think you’re missing is that your assertion necessarily implies
          that determinism is false because the first person can’t contemplate,
          ponder or even know the slightest bit about ‘B’.

          *Sigh*…no, it doesn’t.

          You are claiming that a choice can be free and not free at the same time.

          And no I’m not. The transfer of information from one person to another does not invalidate determinism in the slightest, nor does it violate non-contradiction. You can’t seriously believe that you’ve managed to solve the free will debate with such logic. The argument of free will is one of choice. In order to truly invalidate determinism, you would have to establish that a choice could be freely made, and that a different choice could have been made. You haven’t. So going on about how a mind could possibly receive an idea from another mind doesn’t get you to where you need to go.

          Give me one example of semiotic information coming from some source other than a mind

          BobS already stated that evolution can. But then you waffled and said that didn’t count. However, since you’ve stated outright that semiotic information is basically just your preferred name for complex-specified information, I would think the onus would be on you to demonstrate it. Especially since ID isn’t scientific, and Dembski’s concept of CSI was roundly criticized for bad math.

          Not only that, but your arrogant assertion that you can’t be given any examples leads me to the fairly logical conclusion that you’ve once again begged the question on this, which is pretty common in the intelligent design community. You define things in such a way as to eliminate any possibility other than your desired conclusion.

          So if I handed you a menu you could tell me the meaning of the symbols in terms of the ink and paper?

          No, but since the meaning associated with the symbols are stored materially in my brain, I can interpret them.

          I know you are trying to, but no on argues against this point. All
          information is invisible and immaterial. It can have a material carrier
          but the message is invisible and immaterial.

          You have yet to demonstrate that information is immaterial. And if you haven’t found anyone who argues against it, you don’t get out much.

        • MR

          “The cat is black” is quite different information than “btc hka sa ilcet” same letters, different information.

          Considering that most changes to the genome are made up of precisely that kind of gibberish, which never get passed on, you end up imagining a God trying to direct evolution who is a kind of bumbling magician mumbling nonsense words that fail repeatedly until he finally stumbles across one that sticks. “Plazam! Samooch! Kopeldorf! Flagellum…! Woo hoo, it worked!”

          Evolution doesn’t happen in a smooth, perfectly transitioned construction of a living being. A God-directed evolution conveniently ignores the fits and starts and failures.

          This is just one of the problems with trying to marry science and religion. You have to cherry pick the parts that seem to support the idea, distort others and ignore the rest. It seem to me more honest just to throw out the whole idea and claim God magic. It’s certainly more believable.

        • Dys

          Tyson’s just reiterating the common intelligent design argument from ignorance – insisting the specified complexity is a real thing and that only god can account for it. In this particular case, Tyson’s using presuppositional apologetics to dismiss any contrary evidence out of hand.

          And his insistence on the semiotic information thing doesn’t sound like anything more than the erroneous insistence that DNA is a language or a code. And the fact that all that really comes up on a google search for semiotic information and dna is links to organizations peddling the pseudo-science of ID leads me to believe Tyson’s not on firm scientific ground with his assertions concerning it.

          I’ve given up on him with his attempts to use TAG, since he doesn’t actually understand the criticisms that have been raised against it. And his silly attempts to refute determinism are equally inept. He seriously thinks he can resolve the issue of free will by asking if someone decided to do something.

          Add in the fact that he defines counter-evidence out of existence in order to pretend his points can’t be refuted and it’s pretty a much a waste of time to engage him. The fact that he largely doesn’t know what he’s talking about won’t phase him in the slightest, no matter how many times he insists on demonstrating it. Whether he realizes it or not, Tyson’s most definitely engaging in circular reasoning.

        • MR

          …since he doesn’t actually understand the criticisms that have been raised against it.

          This is the big one for me. The criticisms that have been raised are so basic, so natural if one has seriously considered them, that while not being able to address them is one thing, clearly not even understanding them belies how strongly his presupposition is and how little thought he’s given to an alternative view.

          I’m fine with the concept of a loving God looking after his creation, don’t insult me by saying I prefer otherwise, but show me that it’s true. To play semantic games to “prove” someone else’s point is wrong while providing no evidence for your own stance is just schoolyard bullshit. Not understanding the basic criticisms is laziness at best but more likely willful ignorance. He doesn’t even attempt to address the very real criticisms.

        • MNb

          “if one has seriously considered them”
          Yeah. How determinism argues against free will is very simple to understand. “You had no choice when making that decision; you could not have decided otherwise than you did.”

        • MR

          …his insistence on the semiotic information thing doesn’t sound like anything more than the erroneous insistence that DNA is a language or a code.

          Because some scientist once used it as a metaphor and they cling to such things as a fact. It belies their lack of understanding.

        • MNb

          Provide evidence that DNA is not a language and he simply ignores it.

        • MNb

          “He seriously thinks he can resolve the issue of free will by asking if someone decided to do something.”
          Worse – he is not even capable, willing or both to imagine what a determinist would reply. I am not; my bet is the consensus neurobiologists will reach still will allow for free will in a meaningful sense. I found myself in the weird position explaining this to him.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          In the previous comment, you accused me of question begging. I’ve seen no response to my correction. I conclude that my correction stands.

          So how do you have free will if atheism is true?

          I don’t care (but I repeat myself).

          “Doesn’t sound like begging the question to me. You asked for a source of semiotic information and I gave you evolution”

          Evolution doesn’t exist until semiotic information exists which means evolution can’t explain existence, only variation.

          So you’re saying that given the world now, evolution would indeed explain semiotic information. And you’re now asking, How did evolution get started?

          Sure, we can talk about that, but let’s first get past the failure of your point, and acknowledgement that I have indeed given you a non-mind source of information.

          “Copying errors are new information, like I said.”

          False. Copying errors are the expression of already existing information.

          Wrong again. Say you have the fragment AGGT. Through a copying error, a new base is inserted: AGCGT. Bingo—new information.

          I’m pointing out that the very thing you assume to be responsible for life requires life to exist, which makes your assertion self-refuting.

          Are you talking about abiogenesis? Don’t. Stay on topic. We can get to that once we’ve made sense of your current argument.

          Again, Evolution cannot take place until semiotic information exists.

          Evolution needs abiogenesis beforehand. Yeah, we all get it. Your eagerness to change the subject smells like cowardice. If that’s not your intention, I suggest you argue more honestly.

          If you don’t have any other source capable of creating semiotic information other than a mind

          (1) Evolution gives new information, as I’ve made clear.

          (2) Minds? Why bring up minds? You’ve not shown us any examples of minds that don’t have brains. If a brainless mind is what you’re talking about, better make that a top priority.

          “You don’t have a doctorate in biology (correct me if I’m wrong). Therefore, no one cares about your evaluation of a field that you don’t understand.”

          Genetic Fallacy again.

          “Ref! He’s being mean to me! Make him stop!”

          No, not the genetic fallacy, silly person. The genetic fallacy would say that a statement is false because of the origin of the statement. I don’t say that—indeed, I never said that your conclusion is certainly false—if you’d think for a moment before thumbing through your Big Book o’ Logical Fallacies.

          At the least immaterial realities exist which falsifies materialism.

          Immaterial reality? Who doesn’t believe that courage or other abstract nouns like curiosity or fear exist?

          You’ve falsified nothing.

          Here you assume that there are no minds without brains. However, if God exists then this proposition is false.

          And if I can call up the Legion of Darkness to do my wicked bidding, you’d better be wary of the next knock on your door.

          Seems like both of us have a lot evidence to provide if we’re going to stick with these outrageous claims.

          There are good reasons for God’s existence and no good reasons to suggest naturalism is true.

          And yet we still have the uncomfortable fact that science has told us myriad things about reality, while religion has taught us nothing (at least nothing more than wishful thinking).

          You just walk into these things, don’t you?

          you have some evidence that suggests that logical systems can arise from some source other than a mind.

          You mean besides evolution?

          “The mind is what the brain does.”

          Begging the question.

          Another imagined fallacy! I’m lovin’ it.

          This was my attempt at a definition. You can dislike it if you want, but your hilariously misplaced fallacies aren’t doing your cause any good.

          I think I’m hearing baby Jesus cry …

          “All of what evidence?”

          The evidence that demonstrates that code, laws, constants, mechanisms, logical systems all arise from minds. There is no evidence to the contrary.

          Wait—doesn’t this parallel a claim you’ve made? What was it … ?

          Oh yeah: the evidence demonstrates that minds reside in brains. There is no evidence to the contrary.

          You just walk into these things, don’t you?

        • Tyson Guess

          Did you delete your comment where you admitted that mechanisms necessarily imply an agent?
          If so, how come?

          “In the previous comment, you accused me of question begging. I’ve seen no response to my correction. I conclude that my correction stands.”

          I’ve seen no correction. If you want to show that you’re not begging the question then go ahead. Until then it stands (unless you deleted it)

          “I don’t care (but I repeat myself)”

          You only don’t care because it forces you to face a self-refuting belief you hold…therefore you dismiss it. I can only conclude here that you are not interested in what logically follows from proposition if they refute your a priori position.

          “So you’re saying that given the world now, evolution would indeed explain semiotic information. And you’re now asking, How did evolution get started?”

          No, i’m not sure your confusion here. You claim that evolution explains semiotic information, but semiotic information is necessary for evolution so evolution cannot (by definition) be responsible for it’s existence. Furthermore, the only evidence we have suggests this kind of information only arises from a mind. You posit evolution, which makes your assertion self-refuting. Evolution explains variation, that’s it.

          “Sure, we can talk about that, but let’s first get past the failure of your point, and acknowledgement that I have indeed given you a non-mind source of information.”

          I would if you had, but you haven’t so I can’t.

          “Wrong again. Say you have the fragment AGGT. Through a copying error, a new base is inserted: AGCGT. Bingo—new information.”

          How is ‘C’ a new base when it already existed?
          You’re arguing with information theory:
          “A mechanism DOES NOT create any new information, but it performs a very valuable transformation of KNOWN information” – Leonard Brillouin
          A, C, G, T, all have to already exist to miscopy from one to the other.

          “Are you talking about abiogenesis?”

          You claim evolution explains semiotic information. I have pointed out that’s logically fallacious. I’m not changing the topic, i’m addressing your claim. Evolution does not explain existence, only variation. For evolution to even happen, semiotic information has to exist. For semiotic information to exist it has to come from a mind, unless you have an example of another source of semiotic information (which you say evolution) and then I point out the fallaciousness and then you say i’m switching topics.

          “1) Evolution gives new information, as I’ve made clear.”

          you’ve asserted this, not demonstrated it. Furthermore it is in direct conflict with information theory.

          “2) Minds? Why bring up minds? You’ve not shown us any examples of minds that don’t have brains.”

          If God exists then there’s good reason to suggest immaterial, brainless minds do exist. So that begs the question, is there good reason to believe in God. At which point I say yes. Semiotic information is one of these good reasons.

          “Ref! He’s being mean to me! Make him stop!”

          Oh i don’t mind, It’s fascinating to me watching atheists confronted with the fact that their arguments always depend upon logical fallacies.

          “You’ve falsified nothing.”

          For materialism to be falsified all we need is one example of something that is immaterial. Information is immaterial and invisible. Materialism then is necessarily false.

          “And yet we still have the uncomfortable fact that science has told us myriad things about reality, while religion has taught us nothing ”

          Do you include the religion of atheism here?
          Theism predicted a world of order, with laws that govern it that also began in the finite past. If anything, atheism has given us nothing, while christian theism along with science and logic has given us good grounds to understand reality and God.

          “Another imagined fallacy! I’m lovin’ it.”

          Positing the mind is a product of the brain is begging the question because you assume naturalism to be true when naturalism is the question. Furthermore, if the mind is emergent from the brain then determinism is true. If determinism is true then the very thing you are trying to explain from the brain doesn’t exist making the claim self-refuting.

          “Oh yeah: the evidence demonstrates that minds reside in brains. There is no evidence to the contrary.”

          Not if God exists, so again, it begs the question on whether God exists or not. Laws, constants, semiotic code and mechanisms all only originate in minds. As you quipped earlier, these things attest to the ‘ineptitude’ of the designer at the least. Which, gave the bag away because you conceded the point….and I can’t find that post so i’m still curious as to if it is still up or not since I can’t seem to find it. Furthermore, your claim relies upon a underlying claim of ‘immaterial realities cannot affect the physical world’. However, this is easily shown false because information is invisible and immaterial and affects the material world so there is no reason to thing that a disembodied mind could not affect the material world (especially the one that created it).

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Did you delete your comment where you admitted that mechanisms necessarily imply an agent?

          I’ve deleted nothing. If you can’t find a comment, it may not have loaded. Scroll to the bottom and load more.

          I’ve seen no correction.

          Then you don’t read my comments. Here it is:

          Tyson: I asked you if you had empirical evidence of some source other than a mind creating semiotic information. You replied with ‘evolution’. However, your conclusion is simply Begging the Question because the very thing in question (naturalism) you assume to be true.

          Bob: Doesn’t sound like begging the question to me. You asked for a source of semiotic information and I gave you evolution—where’s the circularity?

          Until then it stands (unless you deleted it)

          Yeah, I probably deleted it. Your withering barrage is too much for me to take honestly, so I must be deceptive to pretend that I’m winning.

          “I don’t care (but I repeat myself)”

          You only don’t care because it forces you to face a self-refuting belief you hold…therefore you dismiss it.

          I wish I had your gift for mind reading.

          I have read enough of the free will debate to know that there’s far more information than my interest. That’s why I don’t bother reading, which is why I don’t care.

          I can only conclude here that you are not interested in what logically follows from proposition if they refute your a priori position.

          Open your mind and consider more options.

          You claim that evolution explains semiotic information, but semiotic information is necessary for evolution

          We’ve been over this. If you want to discuss precursor(s) for evolution, let’s postpone new conversations until we’ve resolved something. Anything.

          so evolution cannot (by definition) be responsible for it’s existence.

          Uh, yeah. Abiogenesis preceded evolution. I think we’re on the same page.

          the only evidence we have suggests this kind of information only arises from a mind

          Ignored out of boredom until you confront the fact that minds only come from brains.

          “Wrong again. Say you have the fragment AGGT. Through a copying error, a new base is inserted: AGCGT. Bingo—new information.”

          How is ‘C’ a new base when it already existed?

          … it’s new because it wasn’t there before? Or is this a trick question?

          A, C, G, T, all have to already exist to miscopy from one to the other.

          No idea what you’re talking about. If you could respond directly to my example, telling me why this never happens, that would clarify your point.

          You claim evolution explains semiotic information. I have pointed out that’s logically fallacious.

          In your mind.

          Sounds like we’re talking past each other. I doubt this conversation will be fruitful much longer.

          Evolution does not explain existence, only variation.

          No one wants to talk about existence but you. You’d brought up the question of information. Let’s resolve that first before we move on. Don’t tell me that we must talk about existence; we start with givens, and from that point, information comes through copying errors and mutations.

          For evolution to even happen, semiotic information has to exist.

          I’m saying that given the status quo, new information is easily explained by errors.

          For semiotic information to exist it has to come from a mind

          Yeah, this conversation has run its course.

          “1) Evolution gives new information, as I’ve made clear.”

          you’ve asserted this, not demonstrated it.

          Ah, wouldn’t it be nice if I could learn why this fails? Alas, I fear I’m destined to always wonder.

          “2) Minds? Why bring up minds? You’ve not shown us any examples of minds that don’t have brains.”

          If God exists then there’s good reason to suggest immaterial, brainless minds do exist. So that begs the question, is there good reason to believe in God. At which point I say yes.

          Bam! I think I just got my ass handed to me.

          You find a necessary precursor to your desired outcome, you assert that it exists, and you win! Damn—I don’t know how you do it. It’s like I’m looking at a 3-card monte guy.

          Oh i don’t mind, It’s fascinating to me watching atheists confronted with the fact that their arguments always depend upon logical fallacies.

          You probably should bone up on your logical fallacies. None have held up.

          For materialism to be falsified all we need is one example of something that is immaterial.

          So immaterial things like courage and envy exist. Who could disagree? Since this doesn’t contradict materialism, yet another of your bold pronouncements fails.

          Information is immaterial and invisible. Materialism then is necessarily false.

          You’ll have to share with us the definition you’re using.

          Do you include the religion of atheism here?

          The what?

          Theism predicted a world of order

          Not with capricious gods.

          If anything, atheism has given us nothing, while christian theism along with science and logic has given us good grounds to understand reality and God.

          Atheism is a lack of god belief—that’s it. You’re right—it doesn’t overlap with science, morality, or much else.

          Christianity on the other hand does. It says a lot about morality, and much of that sucks.

          But why lump Christianity in with science? Except, of course, to admit that science, not Christianity, teaches us about reality.

          Positing the mind is a product of the brain is begging the question because you assume naturalism to be true when naturalism is the question.

          You getting tedious. I’m saying that we have zero examples of minds without brains. You want to posit one? That’s fine, but you need to give us a reason to believe that such things exist. An example would be nice.

          No fallacies here, despite your squeezing your eyes tight and wishing hard.

          Not if God exists, so again, it begs the question on whether God exists or not.

          Yes, you are begging the question. Stop.

          Laws, constants, semiotic code and mechanisms all only originate in minds. As you quipped earlier, these things attest to the ‘ineptitude’ of the designer at the least. Which, gave the bag away because you conceded the point

          You’re thinking of someone else. I don’t remember conceding anything.

          and I can’t find that post so i’m still curious as to if it is still up or not since I can’t seem to find it.

          I’ve already tried to help you with this.

          there is no reason to thing that a disembodied mind could not affect the material world (especially the one that created it).

          I never said otherwise.

        • MR

          so I must be deceptive to pretend that I’m winning.

          He does seem to project his worst sins on others.

        • MNb

          Creationists are not completely stupid. They understand that attack is the best defense: accuse your opponents of what you’re guilty of yourself and hope that nobody notices that you are.
          That’s why I have developed a method to identify creationists (those like TG are not honest enough to admit it from the outset). Then the default position immediately becomes that they will use such lousy tricks. I have yet to meet the first one who doesn’t.

        • MR

          Because tactics and tricks is just what Jesus would do. :

        • Paul B. Lot

          “No, Atheism invalidates reason. When an atheist tries to use reason to justify their position it is self-refuting.”

          I’m confused. :-/

          I’m an atheist, and I use reason all the time – what am I doing wrong?

        • Tyson Guess

          Hi Paul,

          The argument isn’t that Atheists can’t use reason. The argument is that IF Atheism is true then what necessarily follows from that point is that reason is not attainable by humans. There is a bit of an elaboration to this point below in response to Bob.

        • Paul B. Lot

          ” what necessarily follows from that point is that reason is not attainable by humans”

          I’m not sure I understand what you mean. I read your response to Bob, and it didn’t help me much. :-/

          In particular, I’m not sure I understand what you mean by “atheism”, “reason”, and “true”.

          Let me tell you what I mean by them, and we’ll see if we disagree?

          I take “atheism” to mean, in the negative, “not holding the belief in any god(s)/”supernatural” phenomena”, or put positively, “believing that no convincing evidence has been provided for the existence of god(s)/”supernatural” phenomena.

          I take “reason” to mean those linguistic/rhetorical structures which adhere strictly to the best understanding of arithmetic. (Ie. “A chicken is not a not-chicken, because 1 != !1.”)

          I take “true” to mean “believed to have no counter example.”

          Can you help me understand your claim given my starting points?

        • Tyson Guess

          Atheism is the asymmetrical claim of theism.
          reason is the logic behind a conclusion or claim.
          true is what seems verifiable in fact or reality.

        • MNb

          Ah – you have changed the definition of true.
          In science nothing is definitely and conclusively verifiable. Hence naturalism doesn’t need to be verifiable either. Your claim that naturalism is self-refuting is still incorrect.

        • Tyson Guess

          “Ah – you have changed the definition of true.”

          False, I provided the classic definition.

          “In science nothing is definitely and conclusively verifiable.”

          Sure, however, I provided a metaphysical argument based off of logic. It’s true that science cannot ‘prove’ anything. However, proofs are applicable to logic and mathematics.

          “Hence naturalism doesn’t need to be verifiable either.”

          So you prefer to blindly believe it….or have faith shall I say, that someday science will demonstrate a natural beginning to the universe? So you prefer to believe in an infinite number of previous causes then?

          “Your claim that naturalism is self-refuting is still incorrect.”

          Well you haven’t demonstrated this and the claim that naturalism is self-refuting is still supported by the 3 positions of atheist philosophers. So until you provide a logical argument with true premises following to a conclusion that is valid then I don’t see why I should think you have the correct position.

        • MNb

          So now you’re a liar. Call me unsurprised. Your first defintion of “true”: good reasons to accept. Your second one: “true is what seems verifiable in fact or reality.”
          Those are not the same. Hence you changed the definition.

          “However, proofs are applicable to logic and mathematics.”
          And here proof doesn’t mean what you think it means. Every year I convincingly prove to my third graders that Pythagoras’ Theorem is true. Just as easily I can prove, with just one example, that it’s false.

          “So you prefer to blindly believe it”
          So you prefer to stick to your false dilemma: something is either true or false. I already told you that in science something either is demonstrated to be incorrect or not demonstrated to be incorrect yet. You not only lack comprehensive reading skills, you are also not capable of learning something new.

          “Well you haven’t demonstrated this”
          Yes, I did. Of course you refuse to accept it – that’s what your a christian apologist for. Your attempt to address my little demonstration – it’s in this very same subthread – was ridiculously bad.

          “So until you provide a logical argument with true premises”

          BWAHAHAHAHA!
          Confirming that you’re not capable of learning something new. My dear, since at least Descartes (and we should have understood since Euclides) it cannot be demonstrated with deductional logic alone whether a premise is incorrect or not. If you want to show that a philosophy defeats itself you have to accept its premises without any further do and arrive using deductional logic at a conclusion that directly contradicts one of those premises.
          You have totally failed to do so, so now you try to save your position by shifting the goal post, by demanding that I show that the premises of naturalism are true (whatever that means, because you’re ambiguous, if not dishonest).

        • Paul B. Lot

          I asked you two questions (or 1 and a half?) in my previous post, both of which you seem not to have wanted to answer.

          Q1: Do you disagree with the definitions I posted? I am not sure from this response.
          Q2: Can you help me understand how these definitions fit in with your claims?

          The argument is that IF [the asymmetrical claim of theism] is [what seems verifiable in fact or reality] then what necessarily follows from that point is that [the logic behind a conclusion or claim] is not attainable by humans.

          See….that sentence doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.

          A) I’m not sure what “the asymmetrical claim” to “theism” is….did you mean to say “the opposite claim”?
          B) I’m not sure it’s coherent to talk about atheism “seeming to be fact“, although that might depend on how we end up defining “the asymmetrical claim to theism”, but if it DOES seem so….what’s the next step in the argument to arrive at “the logic behind a conclusion or claim” is “not attainable”?

          You seem to have left out a step. :-/

        • Tyson Guess

          “Q1: Do you disagree with the definitions I posted? I am not sure from this response.”

          I agree with what I posted which are the classic definitions of the terms.

          “Q2: Can you help me understand how these definitions fit in with your claims?”

          Sure, I don’t really understand your misunderstanding of them however so please specify.

          “A) I’m not sure what “the asymmetrical claim” to “theism” is….did you mean to say “the opposite claim”?”

          Theism and Atheism are asymmetrical claims. This means if we can falsify one it verifies the other. Either Theism or Atheism is true (law of excluded middle)

        • Paul B. Lot

          Theism and Atheism are asymmetrical claims. This means if we can falsify one it verifies the other. Either Theism or Atheism is true (law of excluded middle)

          I have never heard of “asymmetrical claims” at all, let alone in the context you seem to be using the term. I must have had a bad logic professor. Unfortunately, google isn’t helping me out much; when I searched for the phrase in conjunction with “law of excluded middle”, the first two hits which returned logic/philosophy related results were searches which omitted the word “asymmetry”. http://i.imgur.com/yKFpUqO.jpg

          “Asymmetric claim” seems like an especially poor phrasing, it would imply that there was something unbalanced about atheistic truth claims as compared with theistic truth claims.

          Instead your phrasing “if we can falsify one it verifies the other”, which seems to imply a teeter-totter proposition/!proposition situation balanced around a central logical/factual question, makes it seem quite likely to me that you are attempting to say something close to what I (and everyone source on logic I can find) would’ve called “opposite claims” or “contradictory claims” or “negation” or “inverse”. I could be wrong about this; since you seem to be confused by the terms of logical discussion, it is difficult to determine what exactly what content you believe.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contraposition
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contraposition_(traditional_logic)

          “I agree with what I posted which are the classic definitions of the terms.”

          I am sorry, but I cannot agree, at least on the one term that I decided to put in the effort to check: atheism.

          http://i.imgur.com/aPEZKzs.png

          In order of appearance, that’s:
          1) google’s “atheism” return result
          2) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atheism
          3) https://carm.org/atheism
          4) http://www.britannica.com/topic/atheism
          5) http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/atheism
          6) http://www.thefreedictionary.com/atheist
          7) http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/atheism
          8) http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/atheism

          None of the above-eight arbiters of definitions define “atheism” in anything like the terms you’ve provided, so not only is your “asymmetric” idea opaque to me, your arrogant argument-by-”classic definitions”-authority is meritless.


          “Q2: Can you help me understand how these definitions fit in with your claims?”

          Sure, I don’t really understand your misunderstanding of them however so please specify.

          I did specify.

          Let me help you re-read, and hopefully comprehend this time, my previous post:

          The argument is that IF [the asymmetrical claim of theism] is [what seems verifiable in fact or reality] then what necessarily follows from that point is that [the logic behind a conclusion or claim] is not attainable by humans.

          See….that sentence doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me….
          B) I’m not sure it’s coherent to talk about atheism “seeming to be fact”, although that might depend on how we end up defining “the asymmetrical claim to theism”, but if it DOES seem so….what’s the next step in the argument to arrive at “the logic behind a conclusion or claim” is “not attainable”?
          You seem to have left out a step. :-/

          I re-stated your own, prior, argument using your subsequently-provided definitions. My “B)” address my specific problem with what you’re saying.

          You, it seems to me, are making the following argument:

          P= [the opposite/inverse/negatory/contradictory asymmetrical claim of theism] is [what seems verifiable in fact or reality]

          Q= [the logic behind a conclusion or claim] is not attainable by humans

          If P, then Q

          You are making that claim, but I don’t see anything about P which logically entails Q.

          *Edits for clarity and format*

        • Dys

          Long story short, he’s going to take way too many words to insist that a god is needed to account for reason, logic, etc. Since atheism rejects god, we therefore can’t account for reason.

          He’s just presenting the transcendental argument for god in his own particular way. It’s nothing new, and atheist philosophers and counter-apologists have raised numerous counter-arguments and flaws with it.

        • MNb

          Indeed I’ll never claim I bring up something new when discussing apologists here at Cross Examined.

        • Tyson Guess

          “It’s nothing new, and atheist philosophers and counter-apologists have raised numerous counter-arguments and flaws with it.”

          Claiming there are flaws in the argument isn’t an argument. Furthermore, no philosopher alive has demonstrated what you claim. If you have a counter argument to the fact that all the evidence support the claim that semiotic information, laws, constants and logic only arise from minds then please formulate it into an argument and give the missing empirical data to support your claim.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          And the ridiculous nature of this conversation doesn’t give you pause? Several non-biologists hanging out and arguing about whether a theory within biology is correct or not?

          Those people who understand the evidence (that is, not you or me) have rendered judgment. Evolution is the consensus view. Deal with it.

        • Tyson Guess

          “Those people who understand the evidence (that is, not you or me) have rendered judgment. Evolution is the consensus view. Deal with it.”

          That’s a fairly anti-scientific position you take. Why do you hate science?
          Furthermore, there is no consensus on macro-evolution but even if there were that wouldn’t matter because evolution is a mechanism. A mechanism isn’t capable of offering an argument against an agent that designed it. To even attempt to do so would be a categorical error in logic between mechanism and agency.

        • Dys

          Furthermore, there is no consensus on macro-evolution

          The theory of evolution encompasses what creationists tend to label as macro-evolution. And yes, it is the consensus view. Saying so is not anti-scientific.

          evolution is a mechanism.

          Nope. Evolution is not a mechanism. Natural selection, genetic drift, mutations, etc. are mechanisms of evolution.

          A mechanism isn’t capable of offering an argument against an agent that
          designed it. To even attempt to do so would be a categorical error in
          logic between mechanism and agency.

          It does, however, provide an argument against the intelligence level of the supposed agent. Specifically, their ineptitude at design.

        • Tyson Guess

          “The theory of evolution encompasses what creationists tend to label as macro-evolution. And yes, it is the consensus view. Saying so is not anti-scientific.”

          I agree that micro-evolution is empirically supported. Yet, macro-evolution is not and is a philosophical position with no supporting evidence. Regardless, even if it were true, that isn’t an argument against God because Mechanisms always have an agent behind them. That is, unless, you have an example of a mechanism that doesn’t have a mind behind it. If so, submit it.

          “Nope. Evolution is not a mechanism.”

          If evolution isn’t a mechanism then what is it?

          “Natural selection, genetic drift, mutations, etc. are mechanisms of evolution.”

          So evolution is comprised of mechanisms but evolution is not a mechanism? Is that what you are saying?
          Can you provide an example of something else that is comprised of mechanisms that is itself, not a mechanism?

          “It does, however, provide an argument against the intelligence level of the supposed agent. Specifically, their ineptitude at design.”

          Ah, you just gave the bag away. If it is not possible to construct an argument from a mechanism against an agent but it is possible to use it as an argument of (inept) design, then you have just conceded that evolution and nature are necessarily dependent upon an agent. You just don’t like the design by the agent. It doesn’t really matter if you like or dislike the design as that is not an argument against design.

        • Dys

          Yet, macro-evolution is not and is a philosophical position with no supporting evidence.

          Once again, you’re simply wrong. But I’ve noticed you don’t let pesky things like that get in your way.

          If evolution isn’t a mechanism then what is it?

          I suppose if one were feeling magnanimous, you could call evolution a mechanism of change.

          Ah, you just gave the bag away. If it is not possible to construct an
          argument from a mechanism against an agent but it is possible to use it
          as an argument of (inept) design, then you have just conceded that
          evolution and nature are necessarily dependent upon an agent.

          You’re too funny, and more than a bit delusional, because I’ve conceded no such thing. Apparently the notion of constructing a hypothetical is far too nuanced for you to comprehend.

          It doesn’t really matter if you like or dislike the design as that is not an argument against design.

          Where did you get the notion that personal preference entered into it? You really do attempt to dictate people’s positions to them far too much – please temper your childish arrogance. IF (I capitalized it to make sure it’s abundantly clear to you that this is a hypothetical, so you don’t get confused again) there was an agent responsible for designing evolution, then the fact is that they’ve done an incredibly inefficient and imperfect job of it.

          Personally, I’m still waiting for a coherent argument for design. So far, all the intelligent design community has managed to construct are badly flawed probabilities about how unlikely it is for some such feature to occur naturally, all while being completely unable to offer a competing probability of their own. Which is because ID proponents assume (even though they won’t admit it to continue the charade that ID is scientific) that the probability that god did it is 1.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Evolution is false; therefore God.

          It’s easy once you drop an interest in evidence or logic.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I agree that micro-evolution is empirically supported. Yet, macro-evolution is not and is a philosophical position with no supporting evidence.

          Weird. The people who understand the evidence (that is, not you) say that your position is bullshit.

          I think I’ll go with those who understand the evidence.

          Mechanisms always have an agent behind them. That is, unless, you have an example of a mechanism that doesn’t have a mind behind it. If so, submit it.

          What’s a mechanism?

          You just don’t like the design by the agent.

          You’re right. I don’t like it because the evidence doesn’t point there. I dismantle the Argument from Design here.

        • MNb

          “That’s a fairly anti-scientific position you take.”
          BWAHAHAHAHA!
          It’s accepting that people who have studied and researched the issue know and understand it better than we amateurs. It’s exactly the opposite of anti-science.
          You’re the anti-science guy with your refusal to accept probability.

          “Why do you hate science?”
          Why do you rape children?

          “there is no consensus on macro-evolution.”
          Thanks! You qualify as an IDiot with blaring sirens.

          1. You reject Evolution Theory here.
          2. You use the god of the gaps for consciousness.
          3. You use Paley’s False Watchmaker Analogy for information.

          That explains how come you are a lying hypocrite. Only that way IDiocy can be maintained.

        • Tyson Guess

          “1. You reject Evolution Theory here.”

          Evolution only explains variation, not existence. So even if macro evolution is true you still have no evidence for it. It’s a philosophical position, not a scientific one. Since it’s a philosophical position then I am quite within my rights to ask for the evidence that semiotic information can come from some source other than a mind. If you cannot produce any empirical support for your position, and if the evidence also suggests otherwise, then you cannot claim to have a rational position.

          “2. You use the god of the gaps for consciousness.”

          You claim this but fail to demonstrate it. Furthermore, i’m making a claim on the knowledge we do have, not the knowledge we don’t which makes this assertion false.

          “3. You use Paley’s False Watchmaker Analogy for information.”

          False, i’m pointing out your categorical error in logic when you attribute the attributes of an agent to that of a mechanism. It is not logically possible to construct an argument based on a mechanism against an agent that designed it. That would be similar to declaring that Steve Jobs doesn’t exist because you understand how a Mac works. Such an attempt is a categorical error between agency and mechanism.

          “That explains how come you are a lying hypocrite. Only that way IDiocy can be maintained.”

          It’s statements like this that lead me to believe that you have an emotionally invested position and not a rational one. In the case of a disagreement all that is necessary is an exchange of information. You feel the need to be pejorative in speech and that betrays, in my mind, your position on the matter.

        • MNb

          “Evolution only explains variation, not existence. So even if macro evolution is true you still have no evidence for it.”

          1. Nice non-sequitur. Evolution correctly describes variation between all forms of Earthly life.
          2a. “If macro evolution is true” is meaningless because, like I already have told you a gazillion times, “true” the way you use that word doesn’t have any place in any scientific theory (read the first chapters of Coyne’s Why Evolution is True for a proper usage of this word).
          2b. It’s also meaningless because macro evolution doesn’t mean anything.
          3. The fossil record, mutations and observed speciation provide evidence for evolution.

          “It’s a philosophical position, not a scientific one.”
          BWAHAHAHAHA! Evolution Theory is coherent, it’s consistent and correctly describes tons of very diverse empirical data. Also it makes testable predictions. How more scientific do you want to have it?
          The very fact that you use the meaningless word “macro evolution” and the very fact that you claim that it is disputed shows that you reject Evolution Theory.

          “You claim this but fail to demonstrate it.”
          Of course I did not demonstrate it. You did yourself – and that’s the whole point of my inductive definition: you have to demonstrate it, not me – when you claimed that science – ie Evolution Theory – cannot explain consciousness. That’s a nice god of the gaps. It doesn’t matter how often you deny it, it remains a firm one.

          “False”
          Your denials become more and more empty every time.

          MNb’s messages on Cross Examined come from his brains and intelligence (which both belong to our natural reality).
          DNA contains a message hence comes from a supernatural intelligence.

          Replace “message” with “watch” and you have Paley’s False Watchmaker Analogy. It’s false because you make, like deconverted theologian Ferdinand Domela Nieuwenhuis already pointed out at the end of the 19th Century, “a salto mortale from the concrete world to the divine world”.

          So you qualify on all three points for creationism. The fact that you don’t use any Holy Book to back up your position makes you an IDiot. Creationists only can maintain their position by mine-quoting and lying, which you both have done and now are nicely explained. That makes it impossible to have a rational discussion with you. If you were rational you would be capable of changing your position when your incoherence is pointed out and when falsifying empirical evidence is presented. Instead you prefer to simply repeat your errors plus do some poo eeeehhhh fallacy flinging. That all results from your IDiocy.

        • Tyson Guess

          “1. Nice non-sequitur. Evolution correctly describes variation between all forms of Earthly life.”

          Saying something is a non-sequitur is not the same as demonstrating it. Until then I don’t see why I should believe that charge.

          “2a. “If macro evolution is true” is meaningless because, like I already have told you a gazillion times, “true” the way you use that word doesn’t have any place in any scientific theory (read the first chapters of Coyne’s Why Evolution is True for a proper usage of this word).”

          This statement is self-refuting. You just told me ‘true’ has no place in this discussion but went on to describe why your position was ‘true’.

          “2b. It’s also meaningless because macro evolution doesn’t mean anything.”

          Macro-evolution is simply a term used to describe evolution of a species from one species to a totally different species.

          “3. The fossil record, mutations and observed speciation provide evidence for evolution.”

          It accounts for micro-evolution, not macro nor existence.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Macro-evolution is simply a term used to describe evolution of a species from one species to a totally different species.

          I think what MNb is asking for is that we use the words that the big boys (the ones who understand this) use and avoid the ones they don’t.

          No Creationist-only words here, please.

        • MNb

          “Saying something is a non-sequitur is not the same as demonstrating it.”

          That’s why I added “Evolution correctly describes variation between all forms of Earthly life, IDiot. What I forgot to mention is that Evolution Theory doesn’t describe the origin of existence. That’s for Abiogenesis.

          “but went on to describe why your position was ‘true’.”

          I didn’t, liar. I went on to describe why my position is highly likely correct. Something we already went over, which is why you’re a liar.

          “Macro-evolution is simply a term used”
          by IDiots and other creacrappers to argue that there is a problem that isn’t there. If you want to show scientifically that Evolution Theory is incorrect you’ll have to do that on scientific conditions and one of them is only using scientific terminology. Macro-evolution doesn’t qualify.

          “It accounts for micro-evolution, not macro nor existence.”
          Evolution Theory doesn’t claim to explain the origin of life, only the origin of species. So strawman.
          Micro-evolution remains a meaningless term invented by IDiots and other creacrappers.

          “evolution of a species from one species to a totally different species.”
          It’s totally meaningless because you can’t specify “totally different”. It’s a vague, non-scientific standard. That’s why you like it so much of course.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          “Those people who understand the evidence (that is, not you or me) have rendered judgment. Evolution is the consensus view. Deal with it.”

          That’s a fairly anti-scientific position you take. Why do you hate science?

          You’re a funny guy. I’m just lucky you had the discretion to not ask about the wife beating.

          Explain what’s anti-scientific.

          Furthermore, there is no consensus on macro-evolution

          Wrong again. Evolution is the consensus view. A few quotes to back up this claim here.

          You’re not a biologist. As a result of this painful truth, you have no platform on which to stand by which you can criticize the consensus within biology.

        • Tyson Guess

          “Explain what’s anti-scientific”

          Saying there is no debate and to move along because you happen to agree with what you think is a consensus. Science is based on dialogue and questioning. Considering that there is virtually no evidence for macro evolution, and good evidence against it, it seems fair to conclude that the subject, regardless of your opinion, is not closed or settled.

          “Wrong again. Evolution is the consensus view. A few quotes to back up this claim”

          Consensus means agreement. Are you saying there is no disagreement in existence? And how can there be a total consensus when science has not, and cannot demonstrate that life giving code can be generated by anything but a mind? Seems to be begging the question again in favor of naturalism.

          “You’re not a biologist. As a result of this painful truth, you have no platform on which to stand by which you can criticize the consensus within biology”

          Genetic Fallacy

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          “Explain what’s anti-scientific”

          Saying there is no debate

          Within the scientific community (that is, the part that matters) there is no debate. The Creationists have done an impressive job sowing discord among ordinary people, but that changes the issue not at all. Their votes aren’t counted.

          Science is based on dialogue and questioning.

          And so your questioning needs to be factored in? Guess again. When it comes to the scientific consensus, no one cares what you think. This is a meritocracy, not a democracy.

          Considering that there is virtually no evidence for macro evolution, and good evidence against it

          … said by the guy who’s not a biologist, despite the fact that evolution is accepted by the people who actually are biologists.

          … it seems fair to conclude that the subject, regardless of your opinion, is not closed or settled.

          Your vote doesn’t matter. Sorry.

          Consensus means agreement. Are you saying there is no disagreement in existence?

          There are people with biology doctorates like Jonathan Wells who have an agenda to not follow the evidence but undermine biology. And there are others like Michael Behe who quibble about evolution but accept major tenets of evolution such as common descent.

          If your point is that there are other biologists who reject evolution, sure, I guess they’re a few. But the consensus is overwhelming. And once again, my point carries.

          science has not, and cannot demonstrate that life giving code can be generated by anything but a mind?

          Minds? You mean the minds that only come from physical, natural brains?

          Genetic Fallacy

          Do you ever watch soccer? One amusing bit is to see a player fall down in agony after bumping into an opposing player in the hopes that the ref will call a penalty on the other guy. That’s you. “Ref! His argument is invalid! Tell him he can’t use it so I don’t have to respond!”

        • Rudy R

          Only theists make the artificial distinction between what is called “microevolution” and “macroevolution”, and now we know where you stand.

        • Dys

          Claiming there are flaws in the argument isn’t an argument

          Friendly tip: stop pretending people are saying things that they aren’t. All it does is make you look foolish. If you really feel the need to point out that something isn’t an argument, try asking yourself if anybody really thought it was an argument in the first place. You’ll save yourself some embarrassment when someone has to reply to you with “No shit, who said it was?”. You’ve made this blunder a few times now.

          Furthermore, no philosopher alive has demonstrated what you claim.

          If you don’t think people have come up with counter-arguments to the transcendental argument for the existence of God, then it can only be due to your own ignorance. Because you’re quite simply wrong, and apparently haven’t bothered looking very hard.

          And then you follow up with a demand for evidence for an argument I didn’t make. Do yourself a favour, and go read up on some of the problems people have pointed out with TAG. I’ll help:

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D8dePAhDMh4&list=PLC494E2C093CDF2E1

          http://wiki.ironchariots.org/index.php?title=Transcendental_argument

          http://infidels.org/library/modern/michael_martin/martin-frame/tang.html

          semiotic information

          Are you really going to keep bringing up Intelligent Design bunk? It’s not science.

        • Tyson Guess

          “stop pretending people are saying things that they aren’t. All it does is make you look foolish. If you really feel the need to point out that something isn’t an argument, try asking yourself if anybody really thought it was an argument in the first place.”

          I’m not really worried about your opinion, which is why I point out what is and is not an argument. It’s more prevalent in my experience that the confirmation bias of atheists is so strong that all it takes is a snide comment or a strongly asserted opinion on the part of the atheist to wave off an argument, which is exactly what many are doing here. I’m perfectly within my rights to point out that such strongly worded opinions do not reach the level of argumentation. So until I see a rational argument countering anything i’ve said then I cannot conclude that you or anyone else with a differing opinion has the rational position.

          “Do yourself a favour, and go read up on some of the problems people have pointed out with TAG”

          I’m quite familiar with all of the arguments against it and none have been successful so waiving your hand and claiming i’m ignorant of something isn’t an argument either =)

        • Dys

          I’m quite familiar with all of the arguments against it and none have been successful so waiving your hand and claiming i’m ignorant of something isn’t an argument either =)

          How convenient that you’ve personally decided that none of them count as successful counters to TAG, allowing you to hand wave them away. Unfortunately (for you), that’s also merely your opinion. Which none of us are really concerned with either.

          So it seems you’re really not here for much more than to keep spouting out things about TAG, and insist that, based on your personal opinion, no one has ever found a valid flaw in it.

          If you’re content to continue looking like an idiot by pointing out that things that aren’t meant to be arguments are not, in fact, arguments, be my guest. It really just looks like you’re feeding your ego with childish behaviour.

        • Tyson Guess

          Well you can settle the debate simply by providing one example of a mechanism (which by definition displays logic) that is not contingent upon an agent that designed it. So far, all of the evidence we have suggests otherwise but I remain open to any suggestions to the contrary.

        • Paul B. Lot
        • Tyson Guess

          Snow flakes are code? or a pattern?
          Nature can most definitely create patterns….marks in the sand from the tide, snowflakes etc. However, patterns are not code unless those patterns carry a message, like this sentence, or DNA.

          Let me ask you a question. If you walked out side and the planets aligned in such a way to say, ‘Paul, I really do exist so quit being so silly’. You pull out your telescope and confirm…’yep, those really are the planets’. You turn on the news and there are headlines confirming the event. So the question I have for you under this scenario is this: If such a thing happened would you believe in God and why?

        • Paul B. Lot

          You can choose to attempt to move the discussion about other things to avoid acknowledging this fact; I will not follow you.

          1) You asked for an example of an un-directed/not-agent-designed mechanism.

          2) I provided you one.

          3) Deal with #2, or don’t.

        • MNb

          Snow flakes (and many more) code patterns. They are called fractals.

          http://www.wired.com/2010/09/fractal-patterns-in-nature/

          “not code unless those patterns carry a message, like this sentence, or DNA.”
          DNA doesn’t code any message. I already told you so, but you being an IDiot never will accept it. This is just another version of the tired out Paley’s False Watchmaker Analogy.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetic_code

          The analogy is of course false because we concerning DNA know which means are used and which procedures are followed. Yet you refuse to tell us how the supernatural agency you call god does so. And you refuse because you can’t. Thus you refute your own argument. Hence dualism is wrong, naturalism is highly likely correct and so is atheism.

          “‘Paul, I really do exist so quit being so silly’.”
          Why English? Is that the only language your Grand Old Designer speaks?

        • Tyson Guess

          “Snow flakes (and many more) code patterns”

          so do snow flakes carry a message? If not, then they are not semiotic. Patterns, without semiotic direction from an agent do not carry messages.

          “DNA doesn’t code any message”

          So DNA doesn’t carry a message? How then do you account for the number of functions it directs in a cell unless it carries a message instructing these things?

          “Why English? Is that the only language your Grand Old Designer speaks?”

          You didn’t answer the question.

        • Paul B. Lot

          1) You have so far ducked the point of my having posted the snowflake video at all.

          Gee.

          Being an online-apologist must be much easier if, instead of admitting a mistake or a problem with your logic/argument, you re-frame the discussion or simply ignore your opponent’s responses.

          2)

          so do snow flakes carry a message? If not, then they are not semiotic. Patterns, without semiotic direction from an agent do not carry messages.

          The better way to phrase your question would-have been “do dust grains carry a message?” or “do bacteria carry a message?” or “do snowflake-nuclei carry a message?”, as [the snowflake] is the resultant complexity, it IS the message.

          The answer, then, is the same for both DNA and snowflake-nuclei: the bacterium suspended in the upper atmosphere which gets surrounded by water molecules that subsequently begin to freeze and align themselves into seemingly-complex-patterns….that baterium doesn’t “carry” a pattern for a beautiful and multifaceted snowflake-design….the design emerges from the mechanical action of the molecules involved in the system.

          In exactly the same way deoxyribose nucleic acids do not “carry” a pattern for transcription or replication or gene expression or metabolism regulation, the molecules qua molecules are simply acted on by the mechanical actions of the surrounding molecules in the system….and out of that action emerges apparent complexity.

        • MNb

          Patterns are not messages, stupid IDiot.

          “How then do you account for the number of functions it directs in a cell.”
          Functions are not a message. They simply work according to pretty well understood biochemistry. If you want to understand how ask an expert.

          “You didn’t answer the question.”
          No. I asked a related one out of curiosity. You didn’t answer it. That tells us some more about your poor attitude.
          Though at the other hand I can tell you exactly
          a) what would make me convert and
          b) what would make me convert to christianity.
          It isn’t a poor example as you have provided, but well within the supposed means of your Grand Old Designer.

        • Tyson Guess

          “Functions are not a message. They simply work according to pretty well understood biochemistry.”

          Can you name a function that doesn’t require a message (instructions) on how the function should be performed? And are you making the further claim that DNA does NOT contain a message?

          “No. I asked a related one out of curiosity.”

          The question I asked was this: If the planets and stars aligned in such a way that said something meaningful to you in regards to God. You confirmed they arranged that way…the media confirmed it with scientists….the question is would you believe in God if something like that happened ….and why?

        • MNb
        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Far better example would be some sort of weird amazing message that everyone gets, like a shared dream.

          But even in that case, how can you rule out advanced aliens?

        • MR

          I wonder what kind of evidence a Christian would require in order to be convinced that polytheism is in fact true, or the old myths, or that, say, Satan is really God and their God is just a facade, or even what kind of evidence would be necessary for them to believe that UFOs or ghosts or Bigfoot exist. I suspect the evidence they’d require is similar to mine, yet they expect us to believe their own myth without even bothering to offer an ounce of empirical evidence.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          And then they excuse this by saying that God provide faith to whomever he chooses, so it all makes sense. You didn’t get any faith, but who’s to argue with God’s logic?

        • MR

          Which is what makes his question to Paul so farcical. It makes God out to be an unfair little shit. Or…, just another indication that God doesn’t exist and that people will cling to irrational beliefs in spite of the obvious.

        • Tyson Guess

          Aliens by definition would be contingent beings so even if we posit aliens as an explanation for our dna codes we would still be asking the same question in regards to their biological origins making ‘aliens’ not an answer at all in that regard.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Huh? Don’t change the subject. You asked what would it take for me to believe in God.

        • Paul B. Lot

          It’s more prevalent in my experience that the confirmation bias of atheists is so strong that all it takes is a snide comment or a strongly asserted opinion on the part of the atheist to wave off an argument, which is exactly what many are doing here.

          You complain about atheists waving-off arguments with insults….and yet I’m still waiting for you to fill in the logical gap in your argument that I outlined here. :-/

          It seems like you are not immune to the charge of avoiding serious argumentation.

        • Tyson Guess

          “You complain about atheists waving-off arguments with insults.”

          I haven’t complained at all. In fact, it’s expected. I simply pointed out that such pleadings do not address the argument.

          “.and yet I’m still waiting for you to fill in the logical gap in your argument that I outlined here. :-/”

          link didn’t work.

          “It seems like you are not immune to the charge of avoiding serious argumentation.”

          If you’re referring to your claim of probabilism then perhaps you should expand upon it. I didn’t see any reason to think it were true, nor, does any atheist philosopher I know of, at least, use that argument. Furthermore, you did not bring any supporting premises, you simply assumed your premise true without secondary support. Without that information how could I consider it an argument?

        • Paul B. Lot

          “link didn’t work.”

          The link works, but @BobSeidensticker:disqus is trying out “World Table” as a comments-provider in-addition-to “Disqus”, and the page doesn’t automatically load the “Disqus” comments. That means that when you follow “Disqus” links, you’ll have to scroll to the bottom of the article/top of the comments-section and click on the “Disqus” tab to be able to see/interact with that comment system.

          Or, if you’re not interested in all that IT stuff, just follow this disqus-link.

          “I haven’t complained at all. In fact, it’s expected.”

          Uh….yes you have. The definition of “complaint” does not entail or even imply that the referent be “unexpected”. You’ve noted a grievance you have with atheists; you made a charge of their perpetual non-argumentation…thus you’ve “complained.” Come on, @tysonguess:disqus, this isn’t rocket-science.


          If you’re referring to your claim of probabilism then…how could I consider it an argument?(emphasis mine)

          I am not referring to anyone’s “claim of probabilism”, let alone my own: I haven’t used the word even once in our dialogue. Because I have not, the rest of this section of your comment is irrelevant.

          *Edits for clarity/style*

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          If you’re an expert on TAG, you’re welcome to read and correct my version.

        • Tyson Guess

          I reviewed your 5 comments on TAG. Do you think those are good reasons?
          I see errors in all 5 with the exception of [1] – which I agree with. Tag isn’t meant to bring someone to christianity, per se, but it does get us to the point of needing an agent responsible for reality.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I reviewed your 5 comments on TAG.

          The post is titled, “A Dozen Responses to the Transcendental Argument for God.” It’s in 3 parts, with a convenient link from one to the next at the bottom.

          Do you think those are good reasons?

          Are you a psychiatrist now? Why do you suppose I’d write about them if I didn’t find them compelling?

          Tag isn’t meant to bring someone to christianity, per se, but it does get us to the point of needing an agent responsible for reality.

          Tell me that after you’ve dismantled the dozen reasons.

          The success of TAG is that it’s confusing, not that it’s right. It works when you leave your opponent scratching his head, thinking, “Wow–I never thought of that.”

        • MNb

          “Claiming there are flaws in the argument isn’t an argument.”
          BWAHAHAHAHA!
          Writes the guy who throws with logical fallacies like a monkey with poop.

          If you can show that semiotic information, laws, constants and logic can arise from supernatural intelligences then please demonstrate how – tell us which means are used and which procedures are followed.
          Like we do with semiotic information, laws, constants and logic coming from natural minds like the ones residing in human brains.
          As long as you don’t your position is irrational.

          Also notice that Dys writes exactly the same as me: you lack comprehensive reading skills. When are you going to work about them? It’s you who makes a rational discussion impossible, not anyone of us.

        • Tyson Guess

          “If you can show that semiotic information, laws, constants and logic can arise from supernatural intelligences then please demonstrate how”

          Why couldn’t they? You only assume they can’t because of your prior commitment to either atheism or naturalism. I posit a mind, which is empirically supported. You seem to think that it is rational to posit code, laws, constants coming from ‘nothing’. Lets lay it out like this. Which is the more rational option?

          The (ultimate) source of Semiotic Information is:
          A) Nothing – which sounds an awful lot like the magic charge usually levied on theists.
          OR
          B) A mind – which is empirically supported.

          We have evidence that minds can create such a thing as code. Where is the evidence that anything else (or nothing) can create code?

        • MNb

          “Why couldn’t they?”
          No no. It doesn’t work that way. You make the claim, you have to do the work. If you don’t I call for Ockham’s Razor and cut your assertions away.

          “You only assume they can’t …..”
          Nope. I assume this because no apologist – and by now I have asked many – could answer these questions. But we can take it a step further. The only ways to interact with our natural reality we have evidence for are natural themselves. Hence a supernatural agent would have to use natural means and follow natural procedures to interact with our natural reality, which is incoherent.

          “You seem to think that it is rational to posit code, laws, constants coming from ‘nothing’.”
          Define nothing. If it’s “nothing” a la physics then this has totally has been observed. See electron-positron production. First there was nothing, then there are an electron and positron. The mechanism describing it is called quantum fluctuation.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_fluctuation

          It’s a totally probabilistic mechanism and hence consistent on atheism and naturalism (duh – quantum fluctuation is a scientific concept, ie the product of methodological naturalism).
          If it’s philosophical “nothing” then the meaning is incoherent, because the word “nothing” and its meaning are not nothing themselves. Then your argument doesn’t make sense.

          “Where is the evidence that anything else (or nothing) can create code?”

          http://www.wired.com/2014/11/darpa-pliny/

          Unless you argue that computers have minds. Then you confirm that humans are automatons and undermine your own position as well.

        • Tyson Guess

          “No no. It doesn’t work that way. You make the claim, you have to do the work”

          I was responding to your claim that those things cannot originate from a mind. We have no evidence to the contrary.

          “Nope. I assume this because no apologist – and by now I have asked many – could answer these questions.”

          What questions? You made a statement but provided none of the questions. You claim that information can arise naturally. I point out that the only source we have evidence for capable of creating semiotic information is a mind. So you go against the evidence in favor of naturalism here but fail to explain why and ignore the body of evidence. Why?

          “The only ways to interact with our natural reality we have evidence for are natural themselves. ”

          So are you claiming materialism here?

          “First there was nothing, then there are an electron and positron.”

          False, they arise from an energy field which is not nothing.

          “It’s a totally probabilistic mechanism”

          Provide evidence that there can be a mechanism without the mind of an agent behind it.

          “http://www.wired.com/2014/11/d…”

          Thank you for this. This is an excellent example of my position. The computers mentioned in this article are designed which means they are mechanism, designed by a mind. So, again, where is the evidence that code can be generated by anything other than a mind? You just provided evidence that a code generating mechanism is necessarily dependent upon a mind for existence and operation. So what other example do you have?

          “Unless you argue that computers have minds.”

          computers are contingent upon minds. Great article. I’ll be bookmarking it.

        • MNb

          “We have no evidence to the contrary.”
          There can’t be evidence pro or con because the entire concept of an supernatural intelligence (SI) interacting with our natural reality is incoherent. As soon as such an SI does so he/she/it ceases to be supernatural, because the capability to use natural means and follow natural procedures, which itself is natural, becomes a feature of that SI. I gave you an example above with Rowling’s ghosts, who at the same time cannot interact with molecules (floating through bodies) and can (producing sound).
          So you have no choice but sticking your head into the sand and refuse to provide any evidence for any SI interacting with our natural reality. At the other hand we have tons and tons of evidence of natural agencies interacting with our natural reality. You typing on your keyboard are just one example. You use your brains, your neural system and finally your fingers. All belong to our natural reality.
          If you can show me an SI typing on a keyboard or something similar wake me up. Until then your position refutes itself.

        • Tyson Guess

          “There can’t be evidence pro or con because the entire concept of an supernatural intelligence (SI) interacting with our natural reality is incoherent.”

          You claim it is incoherent but I believe you only claim this because of a prior commitment to atheism (or naturalism). Which means that, just because you claim or believe that doesn’t actually make that claim true. Science already tells us the universe began to exist and that it came from ‘nothing’ (no space, no time, no matter, no energy). If we simply apply the principle of sufficient reason (which science is based upon) it definitely infers a supernatural cause.

          “At the other hand we have tons and tons of evidence of natural agencies interacting with our natural reality. You typing on your keyboard are just one example. You use your brains, your neural system and finally your fingers. All belong to our natural reality.”

          It seems your underlying premise is that you believe consciousness is explained entirely by the brain. Yet, you don’t know that and we have good reason to believe it is false because if our thoughts are reducible to the brain then the very thing in question (consciousness) wouldn’t exist, making the belief self-refuting. So, I don’t really see how your claim that supernatural forces cannot partake in the universe. Is it because they would be invisible or immaterial? Information is invisible and immaterial and interacts with the physical world. Do you Will your arm to move or do chemicals decide that for you? If you will your arm to move then it seems to make more sense that the mind uses the brain as an interface for interacting with the world.

          I see there are some more responses from you but I think most of them are repeats of what we are already discussing here. I won’t be able to respond to all of them as my time is limited. I’d really be interested in hearing your answer to the planets aligning question.
          ciao

        • MNb

          “I believe”
          What you believe or not believe can still oxidate at my bottom. I already explain above why an SI interacting with our natural reality is incoherent and you totally neglect it. That’s the popular strategy of IDiots who are confronted with a problem they can’t address. So you simply change subject.
          And still are wrong.

          “Science already tells us the universe began to exist and that it came from ‘nothing’ (no space, no time, no matter, no energy).”
          You are contradicting yourself. Modern Physics tells us that our Universe came from quantumfields and that those are not nothing.

          “If we simply apply the principle of sufficient reason (which science is based upon) it definitely infers a supernatural cause.”
          I dispute it’s sufficient reason – there is no reason at all to replace “quantum fields always exist, even beyond space and time” by “quantum fields always exist, even beyond space and time and hence are created by a supernatural intelligence.” But I grant you I can’t refute that claim; science is not interested and philosophy doesn’t see anything wrong with it (except that William Ockham might want to use his Razor).

          So, as I already told you twice above, I am OK with “god created quantumfields”.

          “It seems your underlying premise is that you believe consciousness is explained entirely by the brain. Yet, you don’t know that”
          God of the gaps – science can’t explain consciousness hence god.
          Consciousness is at least partly natural as it emerges from the brain indeed. No brain no natural part of consciousness. You are the one who has to argue for a supernatural component and will run into the usual problems.

          “Information is invisible and immaterial.”
          Nope. Information is an abstract concept that helps us to describe what we observe in our material reality.

          http://www.talkreason.org/articles/stephen-meyers.cfm
          http://www.talkreason.org/articles/information.cfm

          “Do you Will your arm to move or do chemicals decide that for you?”

          False dilemma. One option doesn’t necessarily contradict another; only if you define “will” in religious terms and then you are arguing for what you assume in the first place – ie begging the question.
          Plus chemicals don’t decide anything, so you don’t understand what you’re writing about.

          “If you will your arm to move then it seems to make more sense that the mind uses the brain as an interface for interacting with the world.”
          No problem with that. I already told you that I define mind as something natural and material. And I’m no way taking over your definitions.
          If you’re talking about an immaterial component you should, for the sake of clarity, which you abhor of course, use “soul” or “spirit”. If you do so it immediately becomes clear you are still arguing from what you assume to begin with.

          “the planets aligning question.”
          What planet aligning question? That they are not aligned at all?

          http://functionspace.com/topic/441/Did-the-9-planets-ever-align-
          http://sciencequestionswithsurprisinganswers.org/2013/08/28/when-do-the-planets-in-our-solar-system-all-line-up/

          Hat tip: study something before you make a claim. But as the IDiot you are you probably will neglect this tip.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          writes the guy who throws logical fallacies like a monkey with poop.

          Brilliant!

        • Susan

          What is “Semiotic Information”? Define it precisely enough that you can proceed from there.

          When a commenter capitalizes a fuzzy phrase, it sends up red flags for me.

        • Tyson Guess

          Semiotic or Specified Information is information arranged in a way that carries a message.

        • MNb

          And how exactly does the eventual fact that all information that carries a message comes from a mind show that BobS cannot claim to have a rational position?

        • Tyson Guess

          “And how exactly does the eventual fact that all information that carries a message comes from a mind show that BobS cannot claim to have a rational position?”

          If all the evidence we have and have ever had demonstrates that semiotic information only arises from a mind, then it is not a rational position to assert that semiotic information can arise naturally from some source other than a mind.

        • MNb

          Let me correct this for you.

          “If all the evidence we have and have ever had demonstrates that semiotic information only arises from a mind”

          and that mind belongs to our natural reality then it’s not a rational position to assert that semiotic information can arise from some supernatural source.
          Plus on a proper definition DNA, the example you gave above, is not semiotic information.
          Big, big fail.

          You just showed that your position is the irrational one, not BobS’.

        • Tyson Guess

          “and that mind belongs to our natural reality”

          Categorical Error between mechanism and agency (falsifying your assertion)

          “Plus on a proper definition DNA, the example you gave above, is not semiotic information.”

          You assert this but fail to defend it. Your defense is simply your opinion, making you guilty of question begging. If DNA is not a quadratic code then what is it?

        • MNb

          BWAHAHAHAHA!
          Throwing randomly with logical fallacies doesn’t falsify anything.
          When properly defined (which you, lying hypocrite as you are, of course abhor) mind belongs to our natural reality. What you are arguing for is the supernatural component. Call it soul or spirit if you like.

          “Your defense is simply your opinion.”
          BWAHAHAHAHA!
          It’s what science says. I gave you the links above, which you, as the lying hypocrite you are, totally ignored. Here they are again:

          http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CB/CB180.html
          http://www.rationalresponders.com/forum/the_rational_response_squad_radio_show/general_conversation_introductions_and_humor/11799
          http://livinglifewithoutanet.com/2009/07/05/dna-is-not-a-code/

          This quote from the last link is specifically for you:

          “As usual, this argument comes down to using words improperly.”

        • Susan

          information arranged in a way that carries a message.

          That’s still very vague. What do you mean when you say that “information contained in all life forms” carries a “message”?

          Please be specific.

        • Tyson Guess

          “That’s still very vague.”

          I don’t see how. Explain your difficulty in understanding it.

          “What do you mean when you say that “information contained in all life forms” carries a “message””

          DNA

        • Susan

          Susan: That’s still very vague.

          Tyson: I don’t see how.

          You seem to be making an ontological claim and think “information carries a message” is sufficient to claim teleology is necessary.

          If I order a pizza, is it the same as DNA?

        • Dys

          It’s Intelligent Design speak. He’s creating a false dilemma – either you have to definitively demonstrate how DNA came into existence without his preferred magical spirit playing a role, or you don’t get to be rational and he wins with godidit by default.

          It’s silly, and obviously false, but that’s what cdesign proponentsists have at their disposal.

        • Tyson Guess

          “and think “information carries a message” is sufficient to claim teleology is necessary”

          Well what word would you prefer. Those in biological sciences tend to use ‘specified information’. Others use ‘semiotic information’ and some use the word ‘code’.

          “If I order a pizza, is it the same as DNA?”

          Well, in the sense that you are relaying instruction, DNA does the same.

        • MNb

          “Those in biological sciences tend to use ‘specified information’.”
          BWAHAHAHAHA!
          Only IDiot use “specified information”. No biologist ever does.

          “in the sense that you are relaying instruction”

          And again you rely on ambiguous usage of words. Regarding DNA “instruction” does not mean the same at all as regarding “Susan ordering a pizza.”
          Do you accept common descent of Homo Sapiens and all other animal and plant species? I ask because I strongly suspect by now that you’re an IDiot indeed. If you don’t answer I’ll take it as no, you don’t accept common descent and then you fully qualify.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Michael Behe, the darling of the Creationist community, accepts common descent. My guess is that Mr. Guess will reject this, deciding that Behe’s expertise can be waved aside when convenient.

        • MNb

          BWAHAHAHAHA!
          Messages need languages. DNA is not a language and hence doesn’t carry any message. It doesn’t communicate anything.

          http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CB/CB180.html
          http://www.rationalresponders.com/forum/the_rational_response_squad_radio_show/general_conversation_introductions_and_humor/11799
          http://livinglifewithoutanet.com/2009/07/05/dna-is-not-a-code/

          This quote from the last link is specifically for you:

          “As usual, this argument comes down to using words improperly.”

          You did it before with “truth”; now you do it with “message”.

          Plus you pull off a false analogy. Language is the product of brains and minds and hence belongs to our natural reality. You want to jump from DNA to a supernatural, bodyless, ie brainless, ie mindless intelligence (call it spirit or soul if you like). Here the quote from a Dutch ex-theologian applies:

          “To derive a divine world from the concrete world requires a salto mortale.”
          Ferdinand Domela Nieuwenhuis, end of the 19th Century.
          Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.
          Apologists are doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over again and many are silly.

        • MR

          The DNA argument is simply replacing the metaphor for reality and hoping your audience doesn’t notice. Semantic games. If God did actually exist, I’m sure he’d frown on such tactics. Apologetics, gotta love ‘em. Sigh….

        • MNb

          His argument is just another version of Paley’s False Watchmaker Analogy.

    • MNb

      The even more entertaining thing is that Thomas Nagel is largely irrelevant for atheist philosophy.

      • Tyson Guess

        Claiming that Thomas Nagel is irrelevant for atheist philosophy, when Nagel is one of the most brilliant philosophers alive right now, and an atheist is not an argument. In fact, it seems to fall foul of the Genetic Fallacy. Have you read his book or do you simply dislike the fact that he openly admits that Atheism invalidates reason?

        • MNb

          “is not an argument.”
          I didn’t claim it was. Neither is

          “one of the most brilliant philosophers alive right now”
          so you are guilty of the same you accuse me of.

          “Have you ….. or do you”
          And that’s a false dilemma.
          I don’t care about Nagel exactly because he is irrelevant.
          As for his relevance show me that the majority of atheist philosophers does care about his stuff. Then we’ll talk. Your personal opinion of him can oxidate at my bottom as long as you don’t tell me what interesting things he has to say. Spoiler: his arguments for dualism aren’t any better than those of apologists.

        • Tyson Guess

          “I didn’t claim it was. Neither is”

          Okay, so you admit your conclusion isn’t based off of a rational argument.

          “And that’s a false dilemma.”

          How so? If you are claiming the rationale Nagel puts forth (as well as other atheist philosophers) is invalid but neither are aware or familiar with his reasoning then it’s a valid question.

          “I don’t care about Nagel exactly because he is irrelevant.”

          Genetic Fallacy

          “As for his relevance show me that the majority of atheist philosophers does care about his stuff. Then we’ll talk. ”

          Band Wagon Fallacy

          “Your personal opinion of him can oxidate at my bottom as long as you don’t tell me what interesting things he has to say”

          I’m not basing anything on my opinion of him, rather, the arguments he puts forth…which you disregard.

          “Spoiler: his arguments for dualism aren’t any better than those of apologists.”

          Red Herring – Stating your opinion on his thoughts on dualism is not an argument without providing reasons for your conclusion. Disregarding an argument because of your personal feelings is also not an argument. An argument contains at least 2 premises that lead to a conclusion that logically follows. Now if you want to discuss his dualism that is fine but I’m not able to agree that you have the correct position on the matter when all you provide is your opinion.

          For example, any idea you put forth I could respond in the same way you have by declaring it irrelevant or that it isn’t a good idea but I wouldn’t be engaging in a rational discussion. I would simply be making assertions based off my opinion without any regard for the rationale that leads to those conclusions.

        • MNb

          “you admit your conclusion”
          I don’t admit anything, as I didn’t conclude anything in my previous comment.

          “How so?”
          Problems with comprehensive reading? I gave a third option besides the two you presented.

          “Genetic Fallacy”
          “Band Wagon Fallacy”
          “Red Herring”
          The juggling with fallacies Fallacy.

          “Stating your opinion on his thoughts on dualism is not an argument.”
          I never claimed it was an argument. I claimed it was a spoiler. You indeed lack comprehensive reading skills. Now do you have something substantial to offer? I asked you before with

          “what interesting things he has to say”
          which you carefully neglect. Which means that this

          “I wouldn’t be engaging in a rational discussion.”
          is just an empy phrase. Thus far you have not brought up anything that could give rise to any rational discussion. That’s utterly boring, so I will ignore you until you answer the simple question:

          What has Nagel to offer us atheists that is worth paying attention to, besides the silly error you made underneath?

        • Tyson Guess

          “So where is the empirical evidence that these things require a mind?”

          He affirms that atheism invalidates reason and explains that his atheism is based on his preference, not reason since atheism invalidates reason. That point was stated from the very beginning.

        • Susan

          He affirms that atheism invalidates reason and explains that his atheism is based on his preference.

          I’ve read some Nagel but not enough to evaluate your claim about what he affirms.

          You saying that a single philosopher somewhere “affirms” that atheism invalidates reason isn’t an argument.

          What have you read by Nagel? Where does he affirm this? What specific argument does he make?

          In your own words, please.

        • Tyson Guess

          “It is no longer legitimate simply to imagine a sequence of gradually evolving phenotypes, as if their appearance through mutations in the DNA were unproblematic- as richard dawkins does for the evolution of the eye…..the coming into existence of the genetic code – an arbitrary mapping nucleotide sequences into amino acids, together with mechanisms that can read the code and carry out its instructions – seems particularly resistant to being revealed as probable given physical law alone.”

          Nagel – “Mind and Cosmos”

          “You saying that a single philosopher somewhere “affirms” that atheism invalidates reason isn’t an argument.”

          No, I demonstrated that all 3 positions of atheist philosophers affirms the conclusion that Nagel elaborates upon.

          “What have you read by Nagel? Where does he affirm this? ”

          “Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False”

          “What specific argument does he make? In your own words, please.”

          I provided the argument in my own words in previous posts.

        • Susan

          Your quote doesn’t show Nagel’s argument. It’s an assertion. That didn’t help.

          I demonstrated that all 3 positions of atheist philosophers

          All 3? Wow. That’s thorough.

          Mind and Cosmos

          Have you read anything else of his? I’ve noticed a trend of christians quoting Thomas Nagel as though a single philosopher who doesn’t understand the fields of science which he suggests must be almost certainly false moves things along for your yahwehjesus claims. Please explain the central points of his arguments and the justification for them.

          I provided the argument in my own words in previous posts.

          I haven’t seen you provide one yet. I mean this respectfully though you might not take it that way.

        • MR

          I haven’t seen you provide one yet.

          So far I’ve only seen assertions, equivocation and non sequiturs.

          And, apparently the idea that free will might be an illusion is supposed to frighten us into the arms of theism; yet Romans 9.17-23 would seem to indicate to me that free will isn’t exactly a given from a Christian standpoint either.

        • Susan

          So far I’ve only seen assertions, equivocation and non sequitirs.

          Same here. Disqus seems even worse now that it has to share its space with World Table so I can’t tell if there is an argument somewhere and I just can’t find it or if it’s just another christian alluding to Thomas Nagel’s Mind and Cosmos as though it’s taken seriously in the fields it pretends to address.

        • Pofarmer

          If I remember right, there are some philosophers in the Amazon comments that pretty much rip that book a new one. Nagel seems to be a particularly sloppy thinker.

        • Susan

          Nagel seems to be a particularly sloppy thinker.

          I have not read the book. There seems to be a free PDF here

          I read enough excerpts a few years ago that gave me the impression it wasn’t worth reading (unless one has limitless reading time). One of the main criticisms is that he doesn’t understand the science he attempts to address.

          In my experience, it only gets mentioned in discussion by theists who like to point out that “atheist philosopher” Thomas Nagel agrees with them.

          They like to point to Nagel, Flew and occasionally David Chalmers.

          It’s not about science or philosophy. It’s about Jesus.

          I’ve wasted too many hours following up on reading material by theists that leads nowhere.

          I doubt Tyson has read much on the subject of neuroscience or anything in the field of the philosophy of mind. I even doubt he’s read Mind and Cosmos.

          “Plantinga enjoys the support of atheist philosophers such as Thomas Nagel”. Note that he doesn’t mention any of the other “atheist philosophers” from which he coincidentally chooses Nagel. Nor does he show where Nagel makes a convincing argument but chooses an excerpt that is merely an assertion, and according to critics, an ill-informed one.

          Flew and Nagel are red flags.

        • Pofarmer

          I read enoigh to know that Nagel contradicts pretty much all of the actual science that’s being dome in the field.

        • Susan

          I thought Sean Carroll did a good job addressing it.

          An excerpt from a very thoughtful article:

          Imagine what it would entail to truly believe that consciousness is not accounted for by physics. It would entail, among other things, that the behavior of ordinary matter would occasionally deviate from that expected on the basis of physics alone, even in circumstances where consciousness was not involved in any obvious way. Several billion years ago there weren’t conscious creatures here on Earth. It was just atoms and particles, bumping into each other in accordance with the rules of physics and chemistry. Except, if mind is not physical, at some point they swerved away from those laws, since remaining in accordance with them would never have created consciousness. In effect, the particles understood that sticking to their physically prescribed behaviors would never accomplish the universe’s grand plan of producing conscious life. Teleology is as good a word for that as any.

          So, at what point does this deviation from purely physical behavior kick in, exactly? It’s the immortal soul vs. the Dirac equation problem–if you want to claim that what happens in our brain isn’t simply following the laws of physics, you have the duty to explain in exactly what way the electrons in our atoms fail to obey their equations of motion. Is energy conserved in your universe? Is momentum? Is quantum evolution unitary, information-preserving, reversible? Can the teleological effects on quantum field observables be encapsulated in an effective Hamiltonian?

          This is not a proof that consciousness must be physical (as some folks will insist on misconstruing it), just an observation of the absolutely enormous magnitude of what the alternative implies. Physics makes unambiguous (although sometimes probabilistic) statements about what will happen in the future based on what conditions are now. You can’t simply say that physics is “incomplete,” because on their own terms.physical theories are not incomplete (within their domain of applicability). Either matter obeys the laws of physics, or physics is wrong. And if you want us to take seriously the possibility that it’s wrong, you better have at least some tentative ideas about what would be a better theory.

          Link to full article here.

          I linked it above but it’s worth a relink.

          Truth be told, after all the effort it took to reach your comment and reply, I’m afraid to stop responding.

          I’m starting to think that the only way I can carry on a discussion here is to stay on the page and wait to see if I get a blue “1 commenter replied” link. It’s the ONLY way I am able to go directly to a comment.

          That’s not a good thing at all.

          I asked at the World Table thread what improvements World Table plans to make on the Disqus system but have received no response so far.

          I’m only mentioning it here because I don’t know if anyone will ever find it and answer the question, otherwise.

          _____

          Edit: Adding key phrase by Carroll.

          Of course, Nagel has no such theory, which he cheerfully admits. That’s for the scientists to come up with! He’s just a philosopher, he says.

        • MR

          I asked at the World Table thread what improvements World Table plans to make on the Disqus system but have received no response so far.

          Improvements? At this point I’d be happy for them to get on par.

        • Susan

          At this point I’d be happy for them to get on par.

          We had become quite adept at carrying on discussions in a system that helped in some ways, and made things very difficult in others.

          Of course, I would like to see those problems fixed but I had learned to work around them.

          Other than this strange and fluffy commenting system (which Bob says we are free to ignore if we don’t find it useful), what will World Table do that contributes to discussion? They haven’t said a thing about that yet.

          In the meantime, I swear to The Immaterial Snowflake Fairy if I don’t remain here, right on this page and see if someone responds, It will take me between eight and twenty minutes to find my way back to discussion.

          That makes for terrible discussion. The weight becomes more than most of us can afford. One by one, people drop out because it’s so hard to drop in.

          Heat death.

          Damn it. EN has become infected with a meta-discussion that centres around one individual.

          And Cross Examined has become nearly impenetrable, even for those of us who have gone above and beyond to keep the discussion going.

          What’s a girl to do?

        • Greg G.

          My workaround to linking to a page from an email notice or from Recent Comments is to copy the URL from “#comments-” to the end of the numbers, click the Disqus tab, and append the “#comments” number to the end of the URL that ends with “#disqus_thread”, then hit Enter. This works with a mouse but is harder to do with a hand-held.

        • MR

          Yes, the EN non-discussion has infected my inbox, too, sigh. Navigating on the Disqus side appears to be a little easier for me than you for some reason, but I often have to do a search to get to the comment I’m looking for. Any comments on WorldTable, though, are lost to me. All I ever get is a square that used to spin, but now doesn’t even do that. Maybe others are able to get on. Maybe there are interesting conversations going on now as we speak. I hope they are nice people. Lively yet civil discourse…. Maybe he’ll even be happier without us. I suppose I could go read a book or something…. sniff. I miss Kodie…, but not Greg, F.L., no, not Greg. I’m gonna go now…, and read a book…, or something…. sniff.

        • MNb

          “Maybe there are interesting conversations going on now as we speak.”
          No. In the few weeks since BobS introduced WT I have been tempted to comment (and not about how much WT sucks even worse than Disqus) only twice. As I have decided to boycott WT until my three demands are granted I have resisted the temptation.

        • MNb

          “Of course, I would like to see those problems fixed but I had learned to work around them.”
          You’re speaking for me. I very much doubt if I’m willing to learn to work around of the extra problems of WT.
          What’s an old geezer to do?

          Noticing that the old Disqus, no matter how much it sucks, still attracts more comments than the new WT. And those WT comments mostly are about WT itself, not about BobS’ articles.
          I smell a disaster.

        • Paul B. Lot

          Bah. I think EN is feverish, yes.

          But what’s the point of fever?
          :)

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          We may be interacting with Disqus in different ways. I get email notifications, so I have the comment to which I’m replying up so that I can search for a fragment from it. That’s my workaround.

        • Pofarmer

          If I open the disqus comments page, and hit the comment, I think, think, that it’s going to the right comment. I really don’t know what they thought this World Table thing was supposed to fix, and I really, really, don’t know why the hell they rolled it out before it was clearly ready for, well, anything as far as I can tell. WordPress was a better commenting system 10 years ago. This thing sucks.

        • Pofarmer

          This is way, way OT. But, I can’t believe Geena Safire kicked me off of her followers list for that little spat with Lazarus. I thought that was petty.

        • Susan

          This is way, way OT.

          It is. I would dearly love to discuss it with you and Geena and everyone else involved but I don’t want to be a host to the meta-discussion virus.

          Especially here where we can barely have a discussion. Even if we could, having a discussion here would not help things over there. It would only host the virus.

          I hope you understand. I am not unsympathetic. That’s all I can say.

        • Pofarmer

          Lol. Cool.

        • Susan

          Lol. Cool.

          It’s the best I can do, Po.

          It’s frustrating.

          I wish there were a meta-thread where we could hash it out.

          There isn’t right now.

          There probably never will be.

          If there were, LB would find a way to feast on it.

          We would end up talking about LB.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          If you care to pursue this further, I can connect you two by email, privately.

        • Susan

          Thank you.

          That would be fine with me if Po is interested in the exchange.

        • MNb

          “It’s the ONLY way I am able to go directly to a comment.”
          There is another way – the one I just used. Open the Disqus comments on a page, go the Recent Comments Column at the right and click the one you need. Of course it only works for the 15 comments still visible.
          But yeah, WT has all the downsides of Disqus plus several more. Thus far it’s an excellent example of a solution for a non-existing problem, while neglecting the ones that do exist.

        • Susan

          Thanks. I did things in the wrong order.

          Thus far it’s an excellent example of a solution for a non-existing problem, while neglecting the ones that do exist.

          Agreed.

        • MR

          …and introducing new problems.

          Forwards not backwards, please. ;)

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Yes, using Disqus now is a pain. One workaround: click on the link to open the Patheos page, then click on the Disqus tab to show the Disqus comments, then (once it loads) search for a phrase in the comment you’re replying to.

        • Susan

          Thank you.

        • Greg G.

          Bob’s method will only work if the post you want is in the first one or two dozen comments.

          My method will take you to the message you are clicking on.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Another trick: Click on the Disqus tab to open it. That will change the URL, but go back with your browser, and you get the correct URL with the Disqus tab open now. It doesn’t always seem to want to stay there, so move the scroll bar a bit.

        • Greg G.

          I was experimenting with replacing the “#disqus_thread” hash with the “#comment-” number and getting to the comment that way. While I was watching TV, I began to wonder about hitting the back button, thinking that it may be cookie controlled. You had already suggested that before I tried it. I did it for this comment. When I hit the up arrow, the page jumped to the top of the comments.

          At least it will make sure the comment you are searching for is displayed on the page.

        • Greg G.

          I’ve been experimenting with this method for a dozen pages or so. It seems that sometimes one must wait until it finishes what it is doing before you hit the Back button.

          In this instance, when I hit the Reply link, it went to the top of the Comments section. I hit the browser’s Forward button, then the Back button and it brought me back with the Reply box open. When I hit the Enter key on the keyboard to start a new paragraph, it went back to the top of the comments. I hit the Forward and Back buttons and it came back to the Reply box with the first paragraph still there and the cursor at the beginning of the second paragraph.

          When I started this paragraph, it went back to the top of the comments so I hit the “any key” and it brought me back. It has been jumping while I was typing but comes back immediately with any keystroke.

          I am using Chrome on a laptop.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          To keep it from jumping away, once you’re at the right spot, grab the thumb on the scroll bar and move it a bit. I think that stabilizes it at that spot.

        • Susan

          It might be helpful to set up a thread for this.

          Something like “Temporary Disqus Fixes”. Would that be a pain?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Thanks … but I’d rather not make a bigger deal about Disqus/WT issues than necessary.

          Disqus had problems before, and I had workarounds. I’ve gotten used to the new workarounds to commenting now. Of course, that doesn’t address your point, which is that other people may still have trouble commenting. I think I’d rather address issues and highlight workarounds as needed in the comments.

        • Susan

          Thanks… but I’d rather not make a bigger deal about Disqus/WT issues than necessary.

          I understand that you’re in an awkward position.

          Disqus had problems before and I had workarounds.

          So did I. They don’t work any more. You’re a computer guy. I’m a musician. I assume that many people who want to comment are slower to figure out the workarounds than you and some others here might be. That’s why I asked.

          I think I’d rather address issues and highlight workarounds as needed in the comments.

          It’s a strange sensation that my village has been destroyed and that if I look hard enough, I will find familiar faces who will give me clues that help me find my way to others and that eventually, we’ll rebuild a community but that many of the villagers will be lost forever. But we’ll have a shiny, new, confusing commenting system.

          I understand that you probably have your reasons but I just thought I’d ask.

          Thank you for responding.

        • MR

          It’s a strange sensation that my village has been destroyed…, that many of the villagers will be lost forever. But we’ll have a shiny, new, confusing commenting system

          ^1^1^1^1^1

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          This is a chaotic environment. Most comments are still in Disqus. Thanks for your suggestions. If you have suggestions or ideas for workarounds, feel free to ask or pass them along as appropriate.

        • Susan

          If you have suggestions

          That was my single suggestion. That you figure out a way to clearly deliver workaround strategies that you and others have figured out.

          or ideas for workarounds

          Highly unlikely but if I clumsily stumble across something useful, I will pass it along.

          feel free to ask or pass them along as appropriate

          Should we consider this thread “as appropriate”? It would be useful if this information was centralized somewhere.

          It could be linked to from other threads, if anyone’s confused. “Trouble commenting? See here”(here as a blue link).

          I know your job is to put Disqus to sleep but if we’re going to transition from one commenting system to the next, communication is key. If World Table is inevitable, make sure commenters can communicate and that they can figure out how to have useful discussions under the inevitable system.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Give suggestions or ask questions anywhere, but if you want a centralized location, the opening post on World Table would be the best place to record tips (and search for them).

        • Dys

          He’s also apparently ignoring that particular book of Nagel’s was taken to task by quite a few qualified people.

        • Tyson Guess

          “Your quote doesn’t show Nagel’s argument. It’s an assertion. That didn’t help.”

          If you want ‘his’ argument then read his book. I provided the same argument in my words which is congruent with the same things he discusses.

          “Have you read anything else of his?”

          Of course, but even if I hadn’t that point wouldn’t have any bearing on anything.

          “I haven’t seen you provide one yet.”

          If Atheism is true then Naturalism is true (and vice versa)
          If Naturalism is true then Determinism is true.
          If Determinism is true then we are automatons.

          All 3 positions atheists take at this point confirm the above conclusions:

          1. The consistent atheist (ie Dan Dennett) – Truth and consciousness are an illusion. This is the position of the consistent atheist. The consistent atheist admits that atheism invalidates reason but it is a self-refuting position. Dan’s latest book was about how truth is an illusion. Yet he expects you to buy the book to learn that truth.

          2. The compatibilist – this is the belief that in some way Free will and determinism are compatible. There is no known logical defense of this position so it has to be taken on blind faith. The author of this position, Antony Flew, has refuted it by demonstrating that it violates the law of non-contradiction. This position affirms the above conclusion because there would be no reason to claim compatibilism unless atheism invalidated reason.

          3. The honest position – This is where many Atheist philosophers are turning. This would be the Thomas Nagel position where the philosopher admits that his belief in atheism is not based off of rational argumentation (because atheism invalidates reason) but is instead based on a preference. This position affirms the above conclusion that atheism invalidates reason.

          To understand the above syllogism in a less formal way here is a brief explanation.
          If thoughts are reducible to the physical brain then that means chemicals are responsible for our thoughts. If chemicals are responsible for our thoughts then those chemicals are subject to the laws of nature (which are external to ourselves). If the chemicals that cause our thoughts are controlled by an external force (ie the laws of nature) then Determinism is true and as Dan Dennett claims, consciousness, truth, science, the Will are all illusory. Any line of reasoning that invalidates reason is invalid. Atheism invalidates reason and is therefore invalid.

        • MNb

          “If you want ‘his’ argument then read his book. I provided the same argument in my words which is congruent with the same things he discusses.”
          In that case nobody has to read that book, silly.

          “If Atheism is true then Naturalism is true (and vice versa)
          If Naturalism is true then Determinism is true.
          If Determinism is true then we are automatons.”

          Repeating your mistakes doesn’t do anything to remedy them. I already offered you the correct version:

          If the probability of atheism being correct is high then the probability of naturalism being correct is high.
          If the probability of naturalism being correct is high then naturalism doesn’t need to be true (ie with 100% sure absolute eternal neverchanging certainty) and hence isn’t self-defeating.
          If probabilism is correct we still are automatons and free will (if meaningful), consciousness and reasons are part of it; they can be described in probabilistic terms. Hence atheism doesn’t invalidate any of them.

          But you being a lying hypocrite of course won’t admit your silly error.
          Underneath you began to throw with accusations of logical fallacies like a monkey flings his poop. I bet you will do something like that again.

        • Tyson Guess

          “Repeating your mistakes doesn’t do anything to remedy them. I already offered you the correct version:”

          You failed to defend it. You asserted a different manner but you still concluded that determinism was true even how you constructed your premises. Without a defense of your assertion I don’t see why I should accept it.

          “If probabilism is correct we still are automatons and free will (if meaningful), consciousness and reasons are part of it”

          Begging the question. The very thing you assume to be true is the question. Furthermore, as Antony Flew explains, Free Will and Determinism are opposite claims. They both cannot be true. Probabilism doesn’t refute that point.

          “But you being a lying hypocrite of course won’t admit your silly error.”

          This statement leads me to believe that you are emotionally invested in your conclusion and don’t actually have a rational position – which is illustrated by reliance on a logical fallacy and further evidenced by ad hominem attack. If you have the more rational position then there is no need for you to say ugly things to me. In fact, I think this betrays your position and exposes that you don’t actually have a rational position, but instead, an a priori commitment to a belief that has been made on grounds other than reason.

        • MNb

          “You failed to defend it.”

          The fallacy of hand waiving.

          “You asserted a different manner but you still concluded that determinism was true.”
          backed up by a lie. I did not conclude that at all.

          “Without a defense of your assertion”
          I defended it – even better: I backed it up with Modern Physics. It is probabilistic, not deterministic. You called that a mere opinion and thus further revealed your stupid dishonesty.

          “The very thing you assume to be true is the question.”
          Absolutely not. What I assume is that naturalism is not self-defeating. What I have shown is that on probabilism, which nicely fits in naturalism as Modern Physics has shown, free will, consciousness and reason totally are possible.

          “Furthermore, as Antony Flew explains, Free Will and Determinism are opposite claims.”
          Irrelevant. I am not a determinist. I am a probabilist.

          “They both cannot be true. Probabilism doesn’t refute that point.”
          Of course not, stupid IDiot. I never said so. Probabilism has replaced determinism in science since Heisenberg derived his Uncertainty Principle. Determinism excludes probabilism because the first postulates either 0% or 100% causal relations while the second allows all values from 0% to 100%. Determinists hence can’t be probabilists.
          And as I have conclusively shown a couple of times now your argument falls apart when we, as we should, replace determinism by probabilism. That won’t change no matter how often you deny it and no matter how often you fling your poop – eeeehhh – your logical fallacies.

          “This statement leads me to believe …..”

          I don’t care what you believe. It’s an inductional conclusion. You’re a liar because you changed the meaning of the word “true” and immediately denied it when I pointed it out. You’re a hypocrite because you warned me for handwaiving everything with the word “irrelevant” and yourself handwaive everything by flinging poop – eeeehhhh random logical fallacies.

        • MNb

          “seems particularly resistant”
          So the argument is “a philosopher doesn’t understand biochemistry hence atheism invalidates reason.”
          Yeah, brilliant.

        • Tyson Guess

          “a philosopher doesn’t understand biochemistry hence atheism invalidates reason.”

          Still not an argument.

        • MNb

          Agreed. You – nor Nagel – didn’t offer an argument with

          “the coming into existence of the genetic code -….. seems particularly resistant to being revealed as probable given physical law alone.”

          Because this means just

          “a philosopher doesn’t understand biochemistry hence atheism invalidates reason.”
          which indeed isn’t an argument either. So much for Nagel’s brilliancy.

        • MNb

          Thanks for not answering my question. So apparently besides the silly error you made underneath (you only repeat it here) Nagel has nothing to offer. That again confirms that he is irrelevant.

        • Tyson Guess

          ” So apparently besides the silly error you made underneath”

          Claiming I made an error is not the same as demonstrating it.

          “Nagel has nothing to offer.”

          If you’re only interested in confirmation bias then to you of course he doesn’t since he directly refutes your belief in atheism as rational if you are an atheist.

        • MNb

          I demonstrated underneath that you made a silly error, based on an ambiguous usage of the word “true”. Subsequently you have demonstrated that you are a liar by denying that you changed the meaning just after you exactly did that.

          “If you’re only interested in confirmation bias ….”
          If.
          Based on mine-quoting. I did not write

          “Nagel has nothing to offer.”

          I wrote

          Apparently …. Nagel has nothing to offer.”

          It’s not just that you have poor comprehensive reason skills. You are deliberately dishonest. As you also complained about us making a rational discussion impossible you are moreover a hypocrite.
          In short: you are a christian apologist and likely a creationist.

        • MR

          Ambiguity is the cornerstone of the argument. Dishonest. Tedious.

        • Tyson Guess

          “In short: you are a christian apologist and likely a creationist.”

          Okay, but whatever you think I am does nothing to the arguments and nothing more than appeal to the genetic fallacy.

        • MNb

          It’s a conclusion, IDiot and hence not a logical fallacy.

    • Dys

      Atheism doesn’t invalidate reason – that’s usually just the childish assertion of the presuppositionalist sect.

      • Tyson Guess

        If your thoughts are the product of chemicals then those chemicals are subject to the laws of nature. If the chemicals that cause your thoughts are controlled by the laws of nature then, as some atheist philosophers claim in order to be consistent with what necessarily follows from atheism, free will, reason, consciousness are all illusory.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          “There is no free will within atheism”–is this it?

        • MNb

          Something like that – and it only works on the non-sequitur that all atheists have to be determinists.

        • Tyson Guess

          No one is claiming what atheists have to believe. What is being discussed is what necessarily follows if Atheism is true. All of the positions that atheist philosophers take supports the claim that atheism necessarily follows to determinism.

        • MNb

          And I already told you many times that determinism does not necessarily follow from atheism.

          “All of the positions that atheist philosophers take supports the claim that atheism necessarily follows to determinism.”

          1. If this were correct you are guilty of jumping the bandwagon.
          2. It isn’t – it is a straightforward lie. Many atheist philosophers – Bertrand Russell was one of the first, though he technically was not an atheist – accept the scientific claim that our natural reality is probabilistic.
          3. Even if all atheist philosophers did – but I repeat, it’s a lie – then it would still be correct, because Modern Physics says otherwise and philosophy cannot refute science.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          No one is claiming what atheists have to believe. What is being discussed is what necessarily follows if Atheism is true.

          So then yes, you are claiming what atheists have to believe.

          You really need to proofread.

        • Tyson Guess

          “So then yes, you are claiming what atheists have to believe.”

          So you’re saying that someone forcibly has to believe something once it is demonstrated what necessarily follows?
          I understand what you are saying but that’s not actually true. You’re assuming that all beliefs are based on reason, when atheism is a perfect example of a belief not based on reason…..yet people believe it. If what you claim were true, there would be no atheists…..yet there are, so what you claim is false. People believe things on a wide scale of emotionalism, experience, reason and a prior positions.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Our discussion seems to move onto more and more trivial items.

          So you’re saying that someone forcibly has to believe something once it is demonstrated what necessarily follows?

          Uh, no. I’m not talking about society forcing anyone. You said, “No one is claiming what atheists have to believe. What is being discussed is what necessarily follows if Atheism is true.” Unless “what necessarily follows” from atheism is hard to figure out, yes, atheists have to believe it. If you want to puzzle over what “have to” means here, you can do that on your own.

          You’re assuming that all beliefs are based on reason, when atheism is a perfect example of a belief not based on reason…..yet people believe it.

          That would be weird. Tell me more about how “I have no god beliefs” is not based on reason.

          If what you claim were true, there would be no atheists…..yet there are, so what you claim is false.

          Huh? What do you think I’m claiming?

        • MNb

          “when atheism is a perfect example of a belief not based on reason”
          You descend in circularity.

          Atheism is not reasonable.
          Hence atheists have to be determinists.
          Hence atheists must reject free will.
          Hence atheism is not reasonable.

          You not capable of accepting the glaring errors are the one who is not reasonable.

        • Greg G.

          Do you have a fool-proof method to distinguish real free will from an illusion of free will?

        • adam

          In my free will I want to be invisible at will and be able to levitate and fly at will.

        • Pofarmer

          “All of the positions that atheist philosophers take supports the claim that atheism necessarily follows to determinism.’

          Never heard of Compatibalism, I take it?

        • Tyson Guess

          Why would an atheist philosopher take the position of compatibilism unless atheism necessarily invalidated reason? Since there is no known logical defense of compatibilism (it’s a blind hope), and that the author of the idea has shown that it violates the law of non-contradiction, it seems fair to conclude that there would be no reason to claim compatibilism unless atheism necessarily invalidated reason.

        • Pofarmer

          You seem to be mistaking the map for the territory here.

        • MR

          Too bad the atheist philosopher is still an atheist. Aw-kward.

        • Pofarmer

          Not to mention, the vast majority of philosophers.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Which reminds me of the parallel within biology: biologists might argue about aspects of evolution like punctuated equilibrium (disagreements between Stephen J. Gould vs. Richard Dawkins, say), but they still accept evolution.

        • Tyson Guess

          No. if atheism is true, then free will doesn’t exist.
          I think you have good reason to believe you have free will to make choices, and if that is true, then atheism is necessarily false.

        • adam

          In my free will, I want to be invisible and to levitate and fly.

        • Greg G.

          I have never seen you so you may well be invisible. I can levitate and fly though some people call it jumping. Fifty pounds ago, I had some hang time.

        • adam

          Video evidence demonstrates that I am not invisible even when I will it.

          I want to levitate like the yogi’s in movies and fly like Superman.

          That is my free will.

          Yet it NEVER happens. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/2d7e4bf08369fa9c70930f604a9485c712ffc0a61049c9ea3eb53d387b3afedf.jpg

        • Greg G.

          I would like to do that, too, but I keep remembering the story about the guy who rubbed the genie’s lamp and the genie asked what he wanted for his third an final wish.

          The guy asked what happened to his first two wishes.

          The genie told him that his second wish was to have everything put back the way it was before his first wish and advised him to be careful.

          The guy thought for a while and decided to ask to be irresistible to women.

          “Granted!” said the genie. That was your first wish, too!

        • adam

          So neither of us have free will,

          Only the meager ability to choose from available options.

          Sometimes from the forced option of death.

          Hardly free at at all.

          And where is the free will of the VICTIMS of rape and murder, the bible ‘god’ seems to protect the free will of the agressors over their victims.

        • MNb

          Those victims obviously find themselves back in situations in which they have a will which is not free anymore, because they are robbed of all options but one.

        • adam

          It doesnt matter how many options you have unless you have all the options that you will, it is not free.

        • MNb

          If free will is redefined in probabilistic terms and the model of the human brain neuroscientists will settle on is probabilistic.
          This can be quantified. I for me will put free will in the dustbin if neuroscientists will be capable of predicting decisions of test subjects before they become aware of themselves in about 95% of the cases.

        • adam

          This certainly seems to be where science is headed.

          “Relevant findings include the pioneering study by Benjamin Libet and its subsequent redesigns; these studies were able to detect activity related to a decision to move, and the activity appears to begin briefly before people become conscious of it.[4] Other studies try to predict activity before overt action occurs.[5] Taken together, these various findings show that at least some actions – like moving a finger – are initiated unconsciously at first, and enter consciousness afterward.[6]”

          It has been suggested that consciousness mostly serves to cancel certain actions initiated by the unconscious,[7] so its role in decision making is experimentally investigated.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuroscience_of_free_will

          So if it is probabilistic which ‘actions’ are initiated by the unconscious, then it is really not a free choice, but merely a decision based on this probabilistic ‘bubbling to the surface’ acts of the unconscious.

        • MNb

          “This certainly seems to be where science is headed.”
          One of the few reasons that I still follow Why Evolution is True is that JAC is a stern determinist. According to him the record is 75%, which doesn’t impress me very much.

          “merely a decision based on this probabilistic …..”
          I already told you we will have to redefine free will, so “it is really not a free choice” is silly. I hope you’re smarter than Coyne, who first only accepts a definition of free will that assumes a supernatural reality, then declares that that supernatural reality doesn’t exist and then concludes that free will doesn’t exist either. It is an open door that within a scientific theory free will only makes sense if defined in natural terms.
          Compare “grades of freedom” in physics. It’s meaningful to say that particles in a gas, participating in Brownian motion, have the free choice to go in any direction. Nothing supernatural here. And Brownian motion is totally deterministic. The reason I formulated the options the way I did is that I agree that free will, consciousness and close to total determinism are incompatible indeed.

        • adam

          “I already told you we will have to redefine free will, so “it is really not a free choice” is silly.”

          Sorry, but it seems to me that is exactly what it is.

          I have the will to do things that are not naturally possible.
          That appears to negate ‘free will’, by definition
          So maybe I am not any smarter than Coyne.

          Grades of freedom appear to be the same as available choices.
          Either preferable over the term ‘free will’ which I personally see as the same kind of term used as ‘faith’.

          “The reason I formulated the options the way I did is that I agree that
          free will, consciousness and close to total determinism are incompatible
          indeed.”

          While it seems obvious to me that free will and total determinism are polar opposites – where does being conscious of either enter into the equation or what effect are you alluding to caused by being conscious?

        • MNb

          “That appears to negate ‘free will’, by definition

          So maybe I am not any smarter than Coyne.”
          No. You refuse to accept as well that religious folks don’t get to decide scientific terminology and that that includes free will. So shrug. Just like Coyne you have made yourself irrelevant. It’s highly peculiar though, unless of course you are arguing for a predetermined conclusion (namely that free will can’t exist).

          “which I personally see”
          I don’t care for what you personally see or not see anymore than for what the average creationist personally sees or not sees – or Governor Christie on global warming, to present a topical example. I only care about evidence and consistent, coherent theories. Neither you nor Coyne have shown that free will defined in natural, probabilistic terms cannot have a place in such a theory. Nor is a score of 75% any indication that the scientific model of the human brain must be deterministic.

          “While it seems obvious to me that free will and total determinism are polar opposites”
          I never contradicted that. My point is simply that a score of 75% by no means indicates total determinism. Wake me up when it’s 95% on a regular base.

          “where does being conscious of either enter into the equation or what effect are you alluding to caused by being conscious?”
          That research you referred to yourself above answers this question: the fact that scientists in say 75% of the cases can predict made choices before the test person becomes aware of them. If that doesn’t get any better on long term we’ll have to conclude that free will is responsible for the rest – which only makes sense when defined in natural terms. Don’t tell me you are surprised; you already know that I reject dualism.

        • adam

          “You refuse to accept as well that religious folks don’t get to decide scientific terminology and that that includes free will”

          “Neither you nor Coyne have shown that free will defined in natural, probabilistic terms cannot have a place in such a theory.”

          free will
          noun
          Simple Definition of free will
          : the ability to choose how to act
          : the ability to make choices that are not controlled by fate or God

          Full Definition of free will
          1 : voluntary choice or decision

          2 : freedom of humans to make choices that are not determined by prior causes or by divine intervention

          Again, it is my WILL to be invisible at will and to levitate and fly at will.

          I cannot choose either as these are controlled by fate or prior causes.

        • MR

          The theist concept of free will seems to already presuppose God. Having free will, they think, must objectively mean something and you need something like God in order for it to mean something. It falls into that objective truth, meaning and purpose category. Free will is something that seems obvious, it feels important, and they think it a no-brainer to assume that it must be true and that everyone must believe in it, too.

          The more I look at free will, the more obvious it seems to me that the concept is bogus. I don’t even need to get to probabilistic or quantum discussions. Besides, ultimately nothing I can choose to do is going to have any impact in a universal sense, free to choose or not, so what’s the deal? Shrug.

        • Greg G.

          For quantum effects to account for free will, the will would have to be able to bias the randomness in a way that would result in altering brain waves which would have to affect multiple brain cells. It would be amazing that people could calculate how to do that to achieve a thought or an urge yet have the thought be a mistake.

          If the randomness at quantum level is the free part, it is not will. The will is determined by that if it had any effect at all.

        • MR

          And aren’t we really talking about “competing wills?” I mean, if part of my brain wants to eat cake and part of of my brain tells me I should eat vegetables, aren’t both of those desires, those “wills,” part of the same me? Maybe I’m fatigued and the cake brain wins out, maybe I just left the gym and the vegetable brain wins out. Do I really need to interpolate a separate “will” that makes that decision as opposed to just saying that one part of my brain won out over the other? The idea of “free will” sounds an awful lot like some mystical, magical Platonic form. Maybe free will belongs to the same imaginary world that things like love, courage, goodness and evil belong. They’re just shortcut words, concepts used to describe complex reactions, behavioral traits, etc., but that aren’t in any way real themselves.

        • MNb

          “The idea of “free will” sounds an awful lot like some mystical, magical Platonic form.”
          Only because you unintentionally accept dualist terminology. My advise: don’t.

        • MR

          Only because you unintentionally accept dualist terminology. My advise: don’t.

          I think my point was to gently suggest precisely that. This tendency pervades our culture, and not just in a theistic sense. Courage, joy, love, hate, fear, cowardice…, free will…, they become things in and of themselves. Materialized metaphors. Immaterialized metaphors, whatever. DNA is not a language. Free will is not a thing.

        • MNb

          “For quantum effects to account for free will, the will would have to be able to bias the randomness.”

          Two grave errors.
          Quantum effects are not random.
          Worse – it seems that probabilistic free will can’t be explained by quantum effects. The scale is too large, so the difference between quantum probability and classical determinism disappears.

          “If the randomness at quantum level is the free part, it is not will.”
          Only if you accept the theist definition of will. I find that highly peculiar for an atheist who claims to be committed to science. If your argument is just that the theist concept of (free) will is incorrect my only reaction is Duh.

          “The will is determined by that”
          And that is just plain incoherent. The point of quantum theories is that nothing is determined. The point of probabilism is that we can’t determine. So this statement of yours lacks any sensible meaning.
          My advise: don’t try to decide scientific issues by using philosophy and/or theology like Adam, Coyne and you do.

        • Greg G.

          My point is that in order for free will to affect brain processes by quantum events, a whole lot of them would have to be biased in order to overcome the scale problem between quantum events and brain cells. If the will can organize that many quantum effects to achieve specific brain states to express the will, it is surprising that it cannot make better choices than most people exhibit.

          Only if you accept the theist definition of will. I find that highly peculiar for an atheist who claims to be committed to science. If your argument is just that the theist concept of (free) will is incorrect my only reaction is Duh.

          Well, duh, it’s the topic of the thread.

        • MNb

          “My point is ….”
          moot, as I wrote before, because

          “The scale is too large, so the difference between quantum probability and classical determinism disappears.”

          “Well, duh, it’s the topic of the thread.”
          Well, if you insist on asking the wrong question (“is the theist concept of free will correct”) then you’ll never get the right answer.
          Plus the theist concept of free will is not the topic of the thread. In no single comment of mine I used the theist concept of free will.
          You’re silly again. Are you so much in love with the non-sequitur “the theist concept of free will is incorrect, hence determinism” that you reject at beforehand the option that free will might be meaningful on naturalism, ie have a place in the model of the human brain neuroscientists will arrive at? If yes, so much for your commitment to scientific thinking. If no, you’re discussing the wrong topic.

        • Greg G.

          you reject at beforehand the option that free will might be meaningful on naturalism, ie have a place in the model of the human brain neuroscientists will arrive at?

          BWAHAHAHA! When neuroscientists show that, then I will accept it. It is you who is so much in love with the religious version of free will that you will accept a diluted version of it with hope of evidence in lieu of proof.

          Neuroscientists have already shown that by monitoring a few neurons through the skull that they can predict a person’s choice many seconds before the person is even aware a choice has been made.

          The dendrites that carry brain signals from one cell to another is based on chemistry and is prone to error. If they were larger in diameter, the error rate could be reduced but it would take more space and require more energy and other resources. Natural selection is very good at finding the most efficient balances to such dilemmas. Having narrower dendrites allows for more neurons that can do some error correction. But even the error correction can be wrong. That can account for creativity and the illusion of free will and still be deterministic.

          But even if the universe is indeterministic, and even the workings of the brain is indeterministic, the will, being an illusion, could still be determined by the indeterministic processes. It will still have to be shown that the brain processes that are controlled by will are capable of creating more indeterminacy.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          BWAHAHAHA!

          MNb has copyrighted that phrase. I believe there’s a fee for using it.

        • MNb

          “The theist concept of free will”
          I don’t have any use for theist concepts, only for scientific ones. I just don’t see why free can’t be redefined in scientific, ie natural terms. So shrug.

        • MR

          I don’t have any use for theist concepts

          TG’s tactic seems to be to define these concepts in ways that favor his presupposed view.

        • MNb

          Yeah. It’s quite a common tactic and it’s why I refuse to accept theist terminology so often. An obvious example is “mind”. When a theist like TG talks about “mind” he sometimes implies it’s material and in other cases that it’s immaterial – without making it explicitly clear, of course. That way he can use arguments and evidence for a material mind (which are quite easy to obtain) to support the idea that it’s immaterial.
          TG does the same with “language”, “message” and “information”. Of course what he really does is begging the question.

        • MR

          As has been repeatedly pointed out; and repeatedly ignored. They’re tactics, not arguments.

        • adam

          “I don’t have any use for theist concepts, only for scientific ones.”

          Oh come on, I observed you toying with theists concepts for your own entertainment.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          The more I look at free will, the more obvious it seems to me that the concept is bogus.

          Interesting. Do you have a brief summary of your thinking on this?

          The argument, “if you grant that free will exists, you must accept God as the grounding of it” seems to be gaining popularity. To date, I’ve just dismissed it as something about which I have nothing useful to add.

        • adam

          “The argument, “if you grant that free will exists, you must accept God as the grounding of it” seems to be gaining popularity. ”

          Seems to me that if you accept ‘God’ then there is obviously no free will.

          “God” is the ultimate tyrant

        • MNb

          Very sensible. As I have argued quite often by now the question if a meaningful definition of free will is possible depends on ongoing neuroscientific research. That turns the argument you quoted or paraphrazed into just another version of “God grounds morality/ math/ laws of physics/ beauty/ whatever”. It fails for the very same reasons.

        • MR

          Sorry, Bob, today has been hectic and the best I can do is a disjointed running stream of thought. Otherwise, I’d have nothing for you until the weekend at best. Brief it is not:

          I think the general concept of “free will” carries a lot of baggage that needs to be unpacked and discarded. It seems to imply we have complete conscious control of our choices and often implies that there are objective right and wrong choices to be made. I think the first is seldom, if ever, true, and I think you know where I stand on objective anything.

          There is, of course, also the whole scientific aspect of it, and it is my understanding that the laws of physics don’t appear to allow for “free will.” Is that unsettling? Should it be? If time is illusory, is it surprising that free will would be? Anyway, that path is not where I was going….

          My thoughts were that if I take free will to mean that I am in full, conscious control of my choices, “my will be done,” so to speak, well, yeah…, m’not really buying it.

          How often do my choices really boil down to the razor’s edge, Schroedinger’s-cat-like moment where my choices rely solely on “my free will?” What goes into play in making a choice? Adam and Greg have pointed out some serious obstacles just for starters. The laws of physics limit us and that’s no small thing. The fact I am a human being and the things I desire, the things that I will, are further limited by virtue of my being a homo sapiens, in other words, even my genes, limit me. My subconscious comes into play, and that’s also no small thing…, my emotions, my knowledge base, my religious background, the fact that my foot hurts, the weather…. any number of factors can play into a decision. True “free will” seems to narrow down to a very small track that I rarely if ever use, I don’t have near the control I think I do.

          As a simplified example, if it’s my free will to choose to eat or not eat the cake…. Let’s say all factors are equal on two separate nights except on one night I’m feeling particularly tired and I cave and eat the cake, where does my free will come in to play? Did I really choose? Did I freely choose? If I’m deathly allergic to chocolate and I know that eating a candy bar will kill me, is it really my “free will” that keeps me from eating the candy bar. Am I actively choosing not to eat it, or does the knowledge of what it can do to me prevent me? Can I really say that that is choice in a “free will” sense? How exactly does free will come into play here? “Oh, in spite of what I know, I’m going to eat this anyway.”

          If I could calculate all the factors that converge in a single moment of decision making, is it likely that I would ever be in a situation where if all of those factors were exactly the same I would make a different decision? [This. This.]

          Or how about, do you choose not to believe in God? Can you simply choose tomorrow to believe in God? Do you have “free will” to make such a choice? Doesn’t knowledge of how the world works, of the weakness of theist arguments, the lack of evidence, etc., play more of a role in your decision than, “I choose not to believe. It is my will not to believe.”?

          How many situations am I in where it simply boils down to my “free will,” the will to simply choose, a choice where I’m not factoring in outside influences or information whether consciously or subconsciously, and it boils down to simply my own will? Ever? What does free will even mean, then?

          I think the fallacy on the flip side, though, is that if there is no free will then some other agent must be forcing you to make choices against your will. But aren’t the choices we make simply our will in that moment? If I obtain new information that causes me to make a different choice than I made previously, isn’t that also my will in that moment, under those circumstances? Is will permanent, can it change, and if it can what does that mean for the concept of free will? We use “free will” like it’s something that defines who we are. “I’m the kind of person who makes certain choices.” But if new information or internal or outside influences can influence me to change my mind, then did my “will” change, or I just took new information into consideration and reassessed? If someone else matched my exact knowledge, had the exact same influences, etc., can they come to a different choice?

          It just seems that when I try to pinpoint “free will,” it doesn’t seem to really be what I’ve been taught it is.

          And who is this “I” that is expressing its free will? Is there a little me inside of me that makes the decision? Is it my prefrontal cortex? Haidt would suggest that it’s not the prefrontal cortex that directs things, rather justifies things after the fact. Isn’t the part of me that wants to eat the cake and the part of me that doesn’t want to eat the cake both my “will,” or “wills?” Which is the one that is “free?”

          If free will is real, I’d say it must be extremely rare that we actually employ it, and it certainly doesn’t come into play in the vast majority of decisions that we make.

          And then there is the whole objective meaning of our choices that is really what talk about free will seems to center around. It seems we need the concept of free will to effectively blame people for things.

          Does that mean my choices are not my own? It may seem contradictory, but I think they are our own. I think I make choices based on many factors, though not all of them are in my control, but those unique set of circumstances make them my choice for those set of circumstances. [edit to include: And I'm not convinced that under those exact same set of circumstances I could simply make some other choice.] The more information I have, the more thought I’ve given, the more likely I am to make a good choice (subjectively, of course), but I’m not convinced that “free will,” whatever that means, is really coming into play. At least, I don’t think it means what we’re taught to think it means.

          Sorry, Bob. That’s what I got for ya. It’s not a topic I’m married to, not one I’ve hashed out in fine detail, but those are my off-the-cuff thoughts. I’m open to discussion or feel free to blow me off. :)

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Interesting ideas. Thanks for taking the time to share them.

        • MNb

          “It seems to imply we have complete conscious control of our choices ”
          That is obviously incorrect as advertisements for instance convincingly show. Moreover it’s undesirable as it would mean than our loved ones no way can influence our choices.
          This is a settled issue and not worth discussing – unlike BobS I think it as uninteresting as the question if we should use Aristotelian or Newtonian mechanics.

        • MR

          Yes, thank you, I left out marketing, alcohol, drugs, disease….

        • adam

          Do you have “free will” to make such a choice? Doesn’t knowledge of how the world works, of the weakness of theist arguments, the lack of evidence, etc., play more of a role in your decision than, “I choose not to believe. It is my will not to believe.”?

          Well of course.

          And it seems to me that, at least many if not most of the people I know who claim to ‘believe’ simply are afraid to examine what they really believe and just HOPE that through WISHFUL THINKING, they will live eternally and see dead loved ones etc.

          I.e. they justify a monsterous ‘god’, because that is what they have been indoctrinated to believe that such a ‘god’ is necessary for the promise of eternal life. And that DOUBTING such a ‘god’ excludes them from this ‘promise’.

          So THIS is not a free will choice, as it is done under the threat of DEATH. (Well and of course, according to Jesus torture for all eternity.)

          “Does that mean my choices are not my own? It may seem contradictory, but I think they are our own. I think I make choices based on many factors, though not all of them are in my control,”

          Of course you have the will to choose, but with a lack of knowledge or the consequences or the lack of control of many of the factors how can this honestly be called ‘free will’?

          I have in my mind the notion that I can jump from from very high places and land softly and unharmed.

          No joke, when I visit places like the Eiffel Tower and The Grand Canyon, my mind tells me that I can just leap over the edge and be fine, I can even see in my mind grabbing the hand rail and leaping over and floating gently down. There is something in my psyche that tells me I can fly, but my brain and knowledge assures me that this is not the case. So I keep making the CHOICE not to fly, but certainly my WILL is to fly.

        • MR

          I’m not convinced on the latter part. I’d say you have conflicting “wills”: to fly and not to fly. I think they’re just different parts of the brain with conflicting ideas. One part of your brain dominates, the survival part in this case. I’m not convinced we hand the decision-making portion over to a third party.

        • adam

          No I assure you my will is to fly.
          It is only rational thinking that keeps me from trying.

          “I think they’re just different parts of the brain with conflicting ideas. ”
          That could be very true, desires (will) vs rational thought

          “One part of your brain dominates, the survival part in this case.”
          Which, with evolution makes sense.

          ” I’m not convinced we hand the decision-making portion over to a third party.”

          Of course not, we obviously do make decisions, just not free ones.

          My decision not to fly is very similar to the ones theists use, life over death, except that mine is demonstrable.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falling_%28accident%29

          Of course, one could always CLAIM that those who die just dont have enough ‘belief’ that they could fly….

        • MR

          It is only rational thinking that keeps me from trying.

          Not convinced. See Haidt’s rider and the elephant.

        • adam

          “These two parts are like a rider on the back of an elephant. The rider’s inability to control the elephant by force explains many puzzles about our mental life, particularly why we have such trouble with weakness of will. Learning how to train the elephant is the secret of self-improvement. .”

          I still may be missing something.

          “The mind is divided in many ways, but the division that really matters is between conscious/reasoned processes and automatic/implicit processes.”

          I am very conscious of the will to fly. I can easily see in my mind doing it. Although it obviously not reasoned.
          Perhaps the not flying is the automatic/implicit process?
          Although this seems to be the reasoned process?

        • MR

          Haidt suggests that generally the reasoning part of our brain is post hoc. We tend to rationalize our decisions after the fact.

          If your “will” is to fly, then that “will” must not be your “free will” [edit: if you don't follow through and jump]. What about your will to live? If you pit your will to fly against your will to live, which is your free will?

        • adam

          ” If you pit your will to fly against your will to live, which is your free will?”

          My Free will is to be able to do what I want, to fly.
          But it is not Free under the constraints of certain death.

          So I make a conscious choice, which I apparently rationalize after the fact.
          (Which is better than not being able to rationalized it out dead, well at least the way I rationalize it)

        • MR

          So I make a conscious choice…

          Can you be certain that it’s not a subconscious choice that gets passed on to the conscious?

        • adam

          Not any more than I can discern whether I am the elephant or the rider.

        • MR

          I am the walrus.

          What you said though, I think, hints that this term we use called “free will” is really just a shortcut concept for a very complicated process that involves both the elephant and the rider. And the elephant (subconscious) is a particularly complex part of the puzzle that we really don’t have direct access to. We tend to think that “free will” is directed by an “I” that is the real “me,” that is conscious and somehow separate and which “makes the decisions;” but I tend to see this “I” as more of a subcommittee composed partly of reason, but also a host of other aspects that make up the elephant. And sometimes that subcommittee is at odds with itself. Yes, “I” am making the decisions, but what that “I” is, is very complex. It’s not some pie-in-sky, Platonic-form-like, magical, autonomous , capital-lettered Free Will—which, by the way, fits in very nicely with the Christian concept of “soul.” I think it’s incorrect to separate out an “I” inside “me,” a homonculus, who is in control.

        • adam

          Makes sense, thanks.

        • Paul B. Lot

          Just fall at the ground, and miss.

        • adam

          Thats the idea.

        • Greg G.

          Matt Dillahunty had a good response to that on the Atheist Experience Show last Sunday, 11/29/15.

          He said that of all the universes God could create, God chose to make one where he was an atheist and the caller was a believer. Where is the free will if God exists?

          Can God have free will if he is omniscient? Could he choose to do something he didn’t know he was going to do?

        • Pofarmer

          Yeah, the problem is, we don’t consciously make nearly as many choices as we think we do. We don’t choose where we’re born, our genes, and on and on. But, that doesn’t even matter. Free will, consciousness, reason, religion are processes of the brain. They aren’t something given to us, they are something we developed and that is part of our consciousness. All you are doing is making an argument from ignorance. We don’t fully understand consciousness. So what?

        • Tyson Guess

          “We don’t choose where we’re born, our genes, and on and on. ”

          This would be a confusion between ‘total autonomy’ and ‘free will’.
          Total autonomy is mostly considered an incoherent concept because even IF God exists, not even God could have Total Autonomy as it would entail a violation of the Law Identity and non-contradiction.
          However, Free-Will is simply the ability to make choices in how to act.

          “Free will, consciousness, reason, religion are processes of the brain.”

          This statement seems to be begging the question since the very thing you assume to be true is the question. Furthermore, if consciousness is a function of the brain then consciousness would not exist. So if we reduce our thoughts to chemicals, then the very thing we are trying to explain (consciousness) would not exist at all because we would be automatons.

          ” All you are doing is making an argument from ignorance. We don’t fully understand consciousness.”

          Well, no i’m not making any argument from ignorance. Again, I am reasoning from what we do know, not from what we don’t know. The only reason why science says ‘we don’t fully understand consciousness’ is because it is not equipped or designed to detect, study or discover immaterial realities. Science, assumes (blindly) there are only material causes. This is a circular argument:
          Science cannot discern or test for immaterial realities,
          Therefore those realities cannot exist.
          If a premise (there is no god) leads to a conclusion we know isn’t true (we are automatons) then it seems fair to reject the premise. Atheism and Theism are asymmetrical claims. Falsifying one verifies the other one (and vice versa). So, it seems, there are good cases to make for the existence of God. It really just depends on whether we are open to them or not.

        • Pofarmer

          “This would be a confusion between ‘total autonomy’ and ‘free will’.”

          The way I understand it, the idea that we are at the mercy of our surroundings and our Genes is Hard determinism.

          “This statement seems to be begging the question since the very thing you assume to be true is the question. Furthermore, if consciousness is a
          function of the brain then consciousness would not exist.

          It’s not any more begging the question than saying acceleration, braking, and steering are processes of the car. It’s the result of the action of component parts.

          “If consciousness is a function of the brain then consciousness would not exist.”

          I’m not sure that this follows. Consciousness is a spectrum, not a single thing. Bacteria exhibit some level of consciousness when they move away from harmful gradients and move towards food. Worms exhibit slightly more, and on, and on. What we call “consciousness” is simply how we experience the world. There are philosophers who posit that it is a result of information processing in our brains. Your iphone, on some level, may be conscious. Daniel Dennet says simply, “The mind is what the Brain does. ”

          “So if we reduce our thoughts to chemicals, then the very thing we are trying to explain (consciousness) would not exist at all because we would be automatons.”

          Once again, you need to demonstrate why this is true. And, you also need to demonstrate why human consciousness isn’t just a variation of the consciousness of varying degrees we see all around us in other life on this planet.

          “Science, assumes (blindly) there are only material causes. This is a circular argument.

          Science doesn’t assume it blindly. Science works under the philosophy of Methodological Naturalism. That the things we observe around us have Natural causes. In fact, science would break down if this weren’t true, because we could never be sure what was causing the effects we were seeing. And ya know what? Science has never found a supernatural cause. Weird.

          “Science cannot discern or test for immaterial realities,:””

          Actually it can. if the immaterial/supernatural were interacting with our reality we would see it by it’s effects on our material reality. Since we don’t see these effects, anywhere, then we can discount the possibility that these immaterial causes/realities exist. In short, if we can’t detect them, then they are of no consequence because they aren’t affecting us anyway.

          “So, it seems, there are good cases to make for the existence of God.”

          Not in this argument.

        • adam

          free will
          noun
          Simple Definition of free will
          : the ability to choose how to act
          : the ability to make choices that are not controlled by fate or God

          Full Definition of free will
          1 : voluntary choice or decision

          2 : freedom of humans to make choices that are not determined by prior causes or by divine intervention

          Again, it is my WILL to be invisible at will and to levitate and fly at will.

          I cannot choose either as these are controlled by fate or prior causes.

        • Tyson Guess

          ” it is my WILL to be invisible”

          Free Will does not entail the ability to change one’s nature.
          The ability to become invisible would be entailed by ‘total autonomy’ – which most (if not all) philosophers agree is an incoherent concept as it violates the law of non-contradiction and identity.

        • adam

          “Free Will does not entail the ability to change one’s nature.”

          By definition it does, if one has the ‘will’, which I do.

        • Tyson Guess

          “By definition it does, if one has the ‘will’, which I do.”

          Perhaps Oxford can help here:
          Free-Will – the ability to act at one’s own discretion.
          http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/free-will

          So then, Free-Will, would only entail choices in how to act or behave. Total autonomy, which is what you are conflating with free will would entail such a concept. However, Free-Will is not Total Autonomy (Law of Identity)

        • adam

          My definition is from Merriam Webster

          “So then, Free-Will, would only entail choices in how to act or behave. ”

          Yes, and I would like to act invisibly and act to defy gravity.

          “Law of Identity”
          It states that “each thing is the same with itself and different from another”.

          Yes I am me and no one else is, and not everyone has the will to be invisible or defy gravity.

        • Tyson Guess

          “Yes I am me and no one else is, and not everyone has the will to be invisible or defy gravity.”

          Will and Being are not identical concepts. You can act invisible, as a wall-flower by standing in a corner of a party but ‘being’ invisible is not an entailment of Free Will. To violate your nature would be a violation of the law of identity since you could ‘be’ something other than your nature, which is called Total Autonomy. Yet we aren’t talking about total autonomy. We are talking about the ability to control how you act (free will), not what you are (total autonomy). So we can say that conflating these two terms is a categorical error in logic between them. The Internet Encyclopedia states it like this:
          “Let us then understand free will as the capacity unique to persons that allows them to control their actions.”

          Actions and Being are not identical concepts so we can conclude that since you can’t be invisible does not mean you don’t have free will.

        • Greg G.

          He had you at:

          Free Will does not entail the ability to change one’s nature.

          Being invisible is not an essence of being, it is just a matter of electromagnetic energy being reflected or absorbed. If will cannot have an effect on electromagnetic energy, then it cannot have an effect on the chemical reactions of the brain as chemical reactions and chemical bonds are due to the interactions of electrons that are electromagnetic energy in their nature, or their “Being”, if you prefer.

        • Susan

          the capacity unique to persons that allows them to control their actions.”

          What is it?

          How does it work?

          How is it separate from physical laws?

          Actually?

        • adam

          “How does it work?”

          Seems to work like THIS in reality:

        • Tyson Guess

          “How is it separate from physical laws?”

          Do you think your consciousness is a product of physical law?

        • Susan

          I asked you very clear and respectful questions on the subject of your choosing.

          Please answer them.

        • Tyson Guess

          That is how I am answering them. The reason is because if you are reducing consciousness (the Will) to matter, then the very thing you are trying to explain would cease to exist because determinism would be true. So for me to understand how to answer you properly I responded with a question for clarification.

        • adam

          ” The reason is because if you are reducing consciousness (the Will) to matter, then the very thing you are trying to explain would cease to exist because determinism would be true”

          No it wouldnt and you’ve certainly not demonstrated such.

        • Tyson Guess

          “No it wouldnt and you’ve certainly not demonstrated such.”

          I have elsewhere in this thread but it’s also put forth by atheist and theist philosophers alike. Secondly, I did demonstrate this point using the 3 positions Atheist philosophers take:
          The consistent atheist ( Dan Dennett)
          The Compatibilist (the majority of atheist philosophers)
          The honest atheist (Thomas Nagel)

          All 3 positions affirm that atheism necessarily invalidates reason.

          In short, to recap that point, if your thoughts are the product of chemicals then those chemicals are subject to the laws of nature and not your conscious will. This means determinism is true and free will, consciousness, science, philosophy all become illusory. (which is what Dennett claims, the reason why compatibilists claim compatibilism and the reason why Nagel bases his atheism on preference rather than rationality)

          To the meme: The christian position is that the aspect of ourselves in God’s image is that we have a mind and can make choices as how to behave.

        • adam

          “I did demonstrate this point using the 3 positions Atheist philosophers take:”

          No you CLAIMED it.

          Dishonestly, and your dishonesty was well demonstrated.

          “To the meme: The christian position is that the aspect of ourselves in God’s image is that we have a mind and can make choices as how to behave.”

          Yes, too bad that ‘god’ was just horrible example of how to make bad choices and misbehave. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/3715d1ed1754f0a421d562db4a4d87556ec5530faf653d1290ac22706f3ed0dd.jpg

        • Susan

          for me to understand how to answer you properly I responded with a question for clarification.

          I don’t see how what I think prevents you from answering the questions.

        • Tyson Guess

          hm…ok.

        • Susan

          hm…ok.

          Good. Then answer the questions.

        • Tyson Guess

          In case you haven’t noticed i’ve received quite a bit of attention on this thread. Now, i’m naturally predisposed to answer those who seem to pose the more interesting questions as my time is limited in being able to correspond here. If asking for clarification on you questions, as I did, is beyond the scope of your ability to discuss, and it must go as you determine, then I hope you’ll understand if I move on to more interesting questions. If you can clarify as requested perhaps we can move on.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I’ve noticed that you’ve not bothered responding to my comments. I guess they don’t merit your scarce attention.

        • Tyson Guess

          Actually bob i’ve been looking for your responses. I am not too familiar with this format. I do a lot of discussing on youtube but so far the easiest way i’ve found to see posts is to go to the discussion and then open up the notifications. If there is a specific question you’d like to ask, feel free.

        • adam

          “I don’t see how what I think prevents you from answering the questions.”

          It doesnt.

          It just an impediment to his dishonesty.

        • adam

          “Do you think your consciousness is a product of physical law?”

          Of course, how else can you PHYSICALLY switch it off?

          “Unexpectedly, when the researchers sent high frequency electrical signals to the claustrum, the patient lost consciousness: unlike a seizure, where a person’s activity immediately stops, the patient seemed to “slow down,” speaking more quietly and moving more slowly until she was silent and still, unresponsive to voice or visual stimulation. She was, by definition, unconscious, regaining full consciousness with no memory of the event as soon as the electrical stimulation was turned off.”
          http://gizmodo.com/scientists-find-the-brains-on-off-switch-that-controls-1600783245

        • Tyson Guess

          “Of course, how else can you PHYSICALLY switch it off?”

          Hi adam, this comment begs the question as you assume your premise to be true that mind arises from matter. However, if you try to explain mind by reducing it to matter the very thing you try to explain (consciousness/mind) would not exist because determinism would be true.

          “Unexpectedly, when the researchers sent high frequency electrical signals to the claustrum……”

          There is another view. If there is a God then the immaterial reality we call our ‘mind’ would be like the driver in a car. We can take the wheels off the car and impede the driver from using it just as we can do things to the brain and impede the mind from using the brain to interact with the world. So when you assume that because we can do something to the brain then the brain is the mind is the same as saying because we can do something to a car then the car is the driver. There are good examples of this where individuals who were thought to be mentally handicapped and unable to communicate but when learning how to type we discover there is a rational mind inside, that mind just isn’t able to use the brain in such a way to control the body. Other examples would come from Near Death Experiences where there is documented cases where brain dead people are able to give detailed accounts during times when they had zero brain function.

          So if there is a premise (there is not God) that leads us to a conclusion that we know is false (we are automatons) then it is fair to say that the premise is false.

        • adam

          “Hi adam, this comment begs the question as you assume your premise to be true that mind arises from matter. ”

          No begging necessary, obviously conscious gets switch off when we sleep, a PHYSICAL conditions, when anesthetized, a PHYSICAL condition, or at death, AGAIN another PHYSICAL condition, and now using scientific techniques.

          :”However, if you try to explain mind by reducing it to matter the very thing you try to explain (consciousness/mind) would not exist because
          determinism would be true.”

          Full Definition of DETERMINISM

          1 a : a theory or doctrine that acts of the will, occurrences in nature, or social or psychological phenomena are causally determined by preceding events or natural laws

          This is absolutely TRUE.
          Every CHOICE that you get to make is predetermined by the environment, your knowledge and emotion.

          This is why I can’t fly, even though I will it.

          “Other examples would come from Near Death Experiences where there is documented cases where brain dead people are able to give detailed accounts during times when they had zero brain function.”

          No such thing, as MNb says, you LIE.

          You want to study NDEs?

          http://www.near-death.com/experiences/triggers/gravity.html

          https://duckduckgo.com/?q=dmt&t=ffsb&ia=meanings

          ” If there is a God ”
          Yes IF I were the King of England.

          You and billions of others over THOUSANDS of years have yet to demonstrate that ANY god is anything but IMAGINARY…

          So you can step down from your High Horse…

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          ” If there is a God ”

          Yes IF I were the King of England.

          Yes, exactly. They say, “OK, let’s just explore the possibilities that open up if God exists” without acknowledging that that hypothetical is about the most ridiculous one possible and that whatever consequence comes from it is irrelevant until you show that God exists.

          This stupid argument is far too popular.

        • adam

          Especially when ‘God’ is such a genocidal, cruel asshole.

          I mean if you are posit possibilities………..

          Flying Invisible Pink Unicorns that fart glitter as they fly are much more pleasant.

        • adam

          ” You can act invisible, as a wall-flower by standing in a corner of a
          party but ‘being’ invisible is not an entailment of Free Will. ”

          Of course it is, if that WILL is my nature.

          “”Let us then understand free will as the capacity unique to persons that allows them to control their actions.””

          The Internet Encyclopedia?
          http://www.internet-encyclopedia.org/

          Let’s stick with Merriam Webster, or is THAT the very best that your ‘faith’ prepares you for in dealing reality?

          AGAIN, I want to control my actions so that others may not see me and I can defy gravity.

          The capacity to make a decision that everyone else has the same capacity for is not unique.

        • Tyson Guess

          “Of course it is, if that WILL is my nature.”

          Sorry, but you’re making a categorical error and conflating terms.

          “The capacity to make a decision that everyone else has the same capacity for is not unique.”

          Categorical error.

          Sorry, I see no reason to believe that you, or anyone else can become invisible so there is no possible way to conclude you have the correct position on this matter.

        • adam

          “Sorry, but you’re making a categorical error and conflating terms.”

          No you are to support your imaginary ‘god’

          “Sorry, I see no reason to believe that you, or anyone else can become
          invisible so there is no possible way to conclude you have the correct
          position on this matter.”

          A hundred years ago the same was said about going to the moon.

          What has THAT got to do with Free Will?

        • Tyson Guess

          “No you are to support your imaginary ‘god’”

          2 things here that are interesting. Notice you made the claim that God is imaginary, yet you aren’t able to defend that point (or haven’t at least). The next point is that on a very basic level the argument i’ve used abductively arrives at the most rational conclusion. So, I have supported my belief in God. Semiotic Information exists in this universe. All the evidence we have and our entire uniform human experience demonstrates that semiotic information only arises from minds. This also makes sense of the laws, constants and the rational intelligibility of the universe. We have no evidence that any of these things can arise from any source but a mind. This means we are reasoning from what evidence we do have and arriving abductively at the most rational conclusion. There is a mind behind the universe.

        • adam

          ” Notice you made the claim that God is imaginary, yet you aren’t able to defend that point (or haven’t at least).”
          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/f452983ccf1b416cd3a15381bbcbb447cca4a5ae570b336828e3d6509e21e01b.jpg

        • adam

          ” The next point is that on a very basic level the argument i’ve used abductively arrives at the most rational conclusion. ”

          No, not at all because it ASSUMES the conclusion.

          Sorry, your DNA post has already be discredited, and yet you CONTINUE to LIE about.

          ” We have no evidence that any of these things can arise from any source but a mind.”

          Yes, OUR MINDS, these are just what we observe as patterns that usefully describe our reality.

          There is NO EVIDENCE than ANY of these arose from any source such as a ‘god’ https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/0d84fa61a015eecf0dde2df938acc51fbb67029ec768955b150e7c656f8c7fe2.jpg

        • Tyson Guess

          “No, not at all because it ASSUMES the conclusion.”

          If so then demonstrate this in logical form:

          What I claim is thus:
          1. there are good reasons to believe in God
          a. semiotic information
          b. rational intelligibility of the universe
          c. a universe with a beginning
          d. a moral law
          e. consciousness
          f. personal experience
          2. Atheism does not make sense of reality.
          a. atheism invalidates reason. Any line of reasoning that invalidates reason is invalid.
          b. science abductively infers a supernatural cause.
          c. atheism cannot account for the rational intelligibility of the universe.
          d. cannot account for semiotic information
          e. nor morality
          f. nor consciousness
          3. Theism and Atheism are asymmetrical claims. Invalidating one validates the other (and vice versa)
          4. Atheism refutes itself because it attempts to use reason as it’s defense when if atheism is true reason is not possible.
          5. Theism is validated
          C: Theism is is rationally justified.

        • adam

          What I claim is thus:
          1. there are good reasons to believe in God
          Propaganda is not a good reason to believe in the supernatural
          a. semiotic information
          Already discredited
          b. rational intelligibility of the universe
          Only made possible by those rational enough to determine, which is everything alive.
          c. a universe with a beginning
          No demonstration that it takes an intelligent being to create a universe
          And no demonstration of where such a being derives it’s ‘intelligence’
          d. a moral law
          Created by human beings
          Of course animals have morals as well, they just dont codify into law -
          Deuteronomy 17

          If there be found among you, within any of thy gates which the LORD thy God giveth thee, man or woman, that hath wrought wickedness in the sight of the LORD thy God, in transgressing his covenant; 17:3 And hath gone and served other gods, and worshipped them, either the sun, or moon, or any of the host of heaven, which I have not commanded; 17:4 And it be told thee, and thou hast heard of it, and enquired diligently, and,
          behold, it be true, and the thing certain, that such abomination is wrought in Israel; 17:5 Then shalt thou bring forth that man or that woman, which have committed that wicked thing, unto thy gates, even that
          man or that woman, and shalt stone them with stones, till they die.Read more: http://www.atheistrev.com/2005/03/bible-commands-christians-to-kill.html#ixzz3tOAsxVPC

          e. consciousness
          I have already demonstrated that consciousness is purely physical and can be switched off scientifically.
          f. personal experience
          Delusional thinking
          2. Atheism does not make sense of reality.
          Of course not, atheism is the disbelief in deity
          a. atheism invalidates reason. Any line of reasoning that invalidates reason is invalid.
          Of course not, atheism is the disbelief in deity
          b. science abductively infers a supernatural cause.
          Nope, absolutely not, Mnb clarified that well for you.
          c. atheism cannot account for the rational intelligibility of the universe.
          Of course not, atheism is the disbelief in deity
          d. cannot account for semiotic information
          Of course not, atheism is the disbelief in deity
          e. nor morality
          Of course not, atheism is the disbelief in deity
          f. nor consciousness
          Of course not, atheism is the disbelief in deity
          3. Theism and Atheism are asymmetrical claims. Invalidating one validates the other (and vice versa)
          By definition
          4. Atheism refutes itself because it attempts to use reason as it’s defense when if atheism is true reason is not possible.
          Of course not, atheism is the disbelief in deity
          5. Theism is validated
          Nope it’s MAGIC and SUPERNATURAL has NEVER been validated, even with BILLIONS of FOLLOWERS over THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS of years.
          C: Theism is is rationally justified.
          Believe in MAGIC and SUPERNATURAL is not rational justified, only EMOTIONALLY justified with PROPAGANDA and INDOCTRINATION. It is a product of Hyper Active Agency Detection, that is evolutionarily based. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/9b0e7f516872a5d3c5e736b25a7e4f16ccccde110b71c2e962d0fa0878b70cf7.jpg

        • Tyson Guess

          Hi adam,
          Since I saw no arguments I am going to refrain until you give me one to examine. Also, you did not quote my words to separate them from your own. Please try to do that in the future to help anyone reading the conversation follow it correctly. Lastly, simply making claims like:

          “I have already demonstrated that consciousness is purely physical and can be switched off scientifically.”

          or

          “Delusional thinking”

          are not demonstrations. To demonstrate something you have to provide an argument that consists of at least 2 premises that are true leading to a conclusion that follows. So far you have only given me single premises as your answer (which is just an opinion) without rational justification. Until I see something like that I cannot conclude fairly that you have a stronger position.

        • adam

          I’ve seen no demonstrations from you based on YOUR DEFINITION or on Merriam Websters.

          But I do see your attempts at dishonesty, AGAIN.

        • MR

          He’s given nothing but discredited or unsupported assertions and non-sequiturs, but you’re the one who’s supposed to come up with arguments that consist of at least 2 premises that are true leading to a conclusion that follows… BWAH-HA-HA!!!!

          Oops, sorry, MNb, checks in the mail.

        • adam

          “He’s given nothing but discredited or unsupported assertions and non-sequiturs,”

          He IS giving us the VERY BEST that his ‘faith’ in his ‘god’ prepares him for in dealing with Reality…………..

          Deception.

        • MR

          This is a helpful list of your fallacies. Thank you for distilling them in one place.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I appreciate the comprehensive list. I’m tempted to follow up, but given the futility of our previous conversations, I’m pretty sure how this would go.

          Maybe other readers have stronger constitutions.

        • Greg G.

          It is a list of how theism damages the mind. He can no longer count past 5.

          5. Theism is validated
          C: Theism is is rationally justified.

        • MNb

          Like Susan, you mean? Just look here what she got out of him?

          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2013/08/plantingas-irrational-evolutionary-argument-against-naturalism/#comment-2394238759

          “Good. Then answer the questions.”

          For the fifth time – and counting.

          (Also – do you enjoy that linking to other comments doesn’t work anymore?)

        • Greg G.

          That link worked for me on Chrome on a Windows laptop.

          I copied the URL to Internet Explorer and World Table said it needed to be upgraded (I can’t because applications for work require this version of IE) but when I clicked the Disqus tab, it went directly to Susan’s post.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          (Also – do you enjoy that linking to other comments doesn’t work anymore?)

          Not really. Why? Is there an obvious solution available?

        • MR

          Is there an obvious solution available?

          Drop WT until they have a product that is a step forward instead of several steps backward?

        • Susan

          Drop WT until they have a product that is a step forward instead of several steps backward?

          I’m guessing that’s not an option. While it hasn’t been stated explicitly, enought hints have been provided that I think Bob S. understands that Patheos is committed long-term to WT.

          He offered, for reasons he felt were good, to use his site to get it off the ground, so that they could get it working and sort through the bugs.

          Having made that commitment, he’s… well.. you know… committed.

          I looked into WT’s long term plans to improve discussion (which you can find in the link in the WT introduction thread). There don’t seem to be any. Just the new rating system.

          It looks like Patheos went out and got themselves a commenting system to fix a mostly imaginary problem, that does nothing to address that part of the problem we might agree is real and that makes no improvements on Disqus.

          It also looks like Bob is trying to do his part to get it running as smoothly as possible because it’s a done deal.

          I could be wrong about any of this. I’m doing my best to connect the clues that Bob keeps dropping like breadcrumbs. I’m not sure why clear, specific explanations are difficult for Bob but they must be in this situation because his responses aren’t as direct on this subject as they generally are.

          I assume there are reasons for this as well.

          The catholics must be behind it. ;-)

        • Greg G.

          The catholics must be behind it. ;-)

          I think that is the problem. Religious folk try to make their religion a part of themselves so when you say something about the concept of religion, they feel you are attacking them.

        • Susan

          I think that is the problem. Religious folk try to make their religion a part of themselves so when you say something about the concept of religion, they feel you r are attacking them.

          This is a problem no matter where you go.

        • Pofarmer

          It’s more than that, they become emotionally invested in it. I know we’ve discussed this before, but when you pray, the speech areas of your brain are activated. Mto your brain, you are having a conversation. This becomes self reinforcing, and patterns of thinking become reinforced. To the point where it’s virtually impossible for someone to break out of them.

        • MR

          they become emotionally invested in it.

          Patheos, WT or Bob?

        • Pofarmer

          Religious folk making religion part of themselves.

        • MR

          I know, Po. It was a riff.

        • Pofarmer

          Sorry, tired, up too early in deerstand. Going to nap now.

        • Pofarmer

          “It looks like Patheos went out and got themselves a commenting system to fix a mostly imaginary problem,”

          It is, after all. A forum dealing mostly with religious topics.

        • Greg G.

          ^^^^^

        • MR

          I’m guessing that’s not an option.

          I’ve been guessing that, too.

          While it hasn’t been stated explicitly….

          Which is the big question mark.

          Having made that commitment, he’s… well.. you know… committed.

          Clearly, but one wonders why. If I were to hire a subcontractor on a job and the subcontractor made things worse, well….

          because it’s a done deal.

          Is it?

          I’m doing my best to connect the clues that Bob keeps dropping like breadcrumbs. I’m not sure why clear, specific explanations are difficult for Bob but they must be in this situation because his responses aren’t as direct on this subject as they generally are.

          As always, you get to the heart.

          I assume there are reasons for this as well.

          Somewhere behind the veil.

          The catholics must be behind it. ;-)

          You must not know about the R*sicruci*ns.

          It’s Bob’s blog, of course, he can do what he wants (or maybe not), but as you’ve pointed out, a kind of community has been created here and suddenly that community has been uprooted and members have fled or are being ousted, and nary a town meeting was called, and we have no clear answers or reasons or even hopes for the future…, and, well, some of us are still futily throwing ourselves in protest in front of the bulldozers.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I’ve requested that both commenting systems be enabled.

        • MR

          Woo-Hoo! You’re awesome!

          Or mob rules and we’ll still complain anyway. Why do you listen to us, Bob? We are such a fickle, fickle bunch. :P :S :)

          But, thank you! =D

          I promise I’ll give the new system a chance once I can get on it. Thank you for the reprieve.

        • Greg G.

          Excellent. Once WT is ready for prime time, if it is better than Disqus, commenters should move over naturally.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          If the software gods smile on us, this should be done within 24 hours.

          WT says they’ve gotten good information from our little Petri dish. And you’re right–changing the experiment to be an A/B preference will give them (and Patheos) new and useful information.

        • Susan

          It’s Bob’s blog, of course,

          Absolutely. And it’s the Patheos site.

          some of us are still futilely throwing ourselves in protest in front of the bulldozers.

          It might be misguided (clearer information would show us why) but it’s done out of love. :-)

          (sigh) Back to the metadiscussion at EN. It’s going better but it’s still going. :-(

        • Greg G.

          1. there are good reasons to believe in God

          Actually, any reason to stop believing in gods is a good reason.

          a. semiotic information

          You have shown that this is a circular argument by your definition. Just because humans can do something, doesn’t mean that it cannot come about naturally. Humans can make ice but that is no reason to blame humanity when I have to shovel my driveway.

          b. rational intelligibility of the universe

          That does not imply a god.

          c. a universe with a beginning

          That does not imply a god. The Kalam is a horrible argument.

          d. a moral law

          That is a figment of the theistic imagination.

          e. consciousness

          That does not imply a god.

          f. personal experience

          You mean confirmation bias.

          2. Atheism does not make sense of reality.

          You wouldn’t know.

          a. atheism invalidates reason. Any line of reasoning that invalidates reason is invalid.

          Wrong.

          b. science abductively infers a supernatural cause.

          Wrong again. Science has repeatedly refuted religious claims and has never confirmed a single one.

          c. atheism cannot account for the rational intelligibility of the universe.

          You have that backwards. If we lived in an unintelligible universe that was incapable of supporting evolution, then you might have a case for the existence of a god.

          d. cannot account for semiotic information

          Why? Nobody has shown any semiotic information that has not come from a mind. DNA is not semiotic information.

          e. nor morality

          Actually, evolution can account for morality.

          f. nor consciousness

          The Bible teaches that consciousness resides in the heart and in the kidneys. Science tells us that consciousness is in the brain and has identified the areas of the brain that perform various functions. Religion can’t explain consciousness except to handwave.

          3. Theism and Atheism are asymmetrical claims. Invalidating one validates the other (and vice versa)

          Sure. Just present a god and you refute atheism. But you still don’t prove any particular theism. In fact, all forms of human theism could be completely wrong if there was a real god.

          4. Atheism refutes itself because it attempts to use reason as it’s defense when if atheism is true reason is not possible.

          That is flat out stupid. Reason can exist whether there is a god or not. Intelligent life couldn’t evolve unless reason was possible. If intelligent life existed in a universe without reason, then a god would be required. A god is not required in a universe with intelligent life and reason.

          5. Theism is validated

          Theism is a brain disease and you have a chronic case.

          C: Theism is is rationally justified.

          Take off your God Goggles and look at reality with reason.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          b. rational intelligibility of the universe

          That does not imply a god.

          And the universe is not intelligible. The stuff scientists discover at the frontier of science—black holes, causes events, and so on—are largely unintelligible (certainly not intuitive). And who knows what fraction of reality is knowable by humans? Maybe much of it is too complicated for us to ever understand.

          d. a moral law

          That is a figment of the theistic imagination.

          The Old Testament shows was an SOB Yahweh is. Not a lot of moral wisdom there.

          a. atheism invalidates reason. Any line of reasoning that invalidates reason is invalid.

          Wrong.

          What is he even trying to say here? Atheism is impossible without God to ground it, so therefore there is no atheism?

          b. science abductively infers a supernatural cause.

          Wrong again. Science has repeatedly refuted religious claims and has never confirmed a single one.

          I wonder why we get this confirmation of God’s existence from a Christian and not from the community of scientists who’ve discovered this thing.

        • MNb

          If he did so he would cease being an IDiot.

        • Tyson Guess

          “Just because humans can do something, doesn’t mean that it cannot come about naturally.”

          I’m not claiming that it is impossible to arise naturally. I am pointing out that it is not a rational option because the only evidence we have demonstrates that Agents, not nature can create semiotic information.

          >>>b. rational intelligibility of the universe

          “That does not imply a god.”

          Do you have an example of something other than an agent can create something with rational intelligibility? The universe is a mechanism according to science and philosophy. A car is a mechanism. You would look at a car and declare the rational intelligibility of how it operates came from a mind. Being in the same category, why do you withhold the same conclusion to the mechanism of the universe since we have no evidence that rational intelligibility can arise from any source but a mind? So, until there is evidence that rational intelligibility can arise from another source it isn’t rational to say that it can come from another source.

          “Why? Nobody has shown any semiotic information that has not come from a mind. DNA is not semiotic information.”

          DNA is not information arranged in such a way to carry a message (or instructions)? How then do you account for the instructions it gives to the cell for various functions?

          “Take off your God Goggles and look at reality with reason.”

          I generally ignore these statements, but I was disappointed to see that much of your response to me were one word responses such as “Wrong”. Such instances indicate to me that you’re making an emotional argument because I state something you disagree with. However, if you are to make a case you need to provide an argument. Stating your opinion is not an argument and will not be able to convince me that you have the more correct position. Now if you do have good reasons for some of your conclusions I’ll be glad to hear them. Stating your opinion, in stronger and stronger tones doesn’t help your position, in fact, it weakens it.

        • MNb

          “c. theism cannot account for the rational intelligibility of the universe.d. cannot account for semiotic information
          e. nor morality
          f. nor consciousness”
          No, IDiot. What’s more – atheism doesn’t even try. Science does and does such things with remarkably more success than religion.
          This is just one Big God of the Gap.

          Several other points of yours have been thoroughly refuted, ao by me. The fact that you just comprehensively repeat them while ignoring the refutations shows definitely that you’re an IDiot.

          As I already have presented you with one very good argument for atheism and you were not even capable of understanding it, let alone reasonably addressing it I think BobS underneath is very sensible. Any further attempt to react will only descend in more futile conversations.
          That’s what you’re an IDiot for.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          No, IDiot. What’s more – atheism doesn’t even try.

          I used to be into chemistry, but when I realized that it was useless for morality, I gave up my studies. Worthless!

        • Greg G.

          I don’t think you can make a stable molecule at temperatures and pressures compatible with life with nothing but one sulfur atom, one iodine atom, and one nitrogen atom, which would be SIN. So you can get morality from chemistry.

          EDIT: Well, you could make silicon mononitride, which would be SiN.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Dang! What isn’t possible with God goggles?

        • Greg G.

          In case you were wondering, 3.85 moles of SIN would weigh 666 grams.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Much appreciated. It’s good to have that fact handy, just in case.

        • MR

          you were not even capable of understanding it

          I’m not convinced he understands his own argument. He calls for a “demonstration in logical form,” then fails to do so in his own list. Half of that list doesn’t even make sense. He’s been shown the flaws in his argument, his invented terms have been deconstructed, and he either hand waves or completely ignores the fact his arguments have been torn apart. When asked to clarify, he stonewalls…. These are not the marks of a man who knows of what he speaks.

        • adam

          Greg G.
          Tyson Guess
          a day ago

          He had you at:

          Free Will does not entail the ability to change one’s nature.

          Being invisible is not an essence of being, it is just a matter of
          electromagnetic energy being reflected or absorbed. If will cannot have
          an effect on electromagnetic energy, then it cannot have an effect on
          the chemical reactions of the brain as chemical reactions and chemical
          bonds are due to the interactions of electrons that are electromagnetic
          energy in their nature, or their “Being”, if you prefer.

          Look, we all understand WHY you HAVE to LIE and be DECEPTIVE to ‘rationalize’ your ‘belief’ in your MAGICAL Sky Daddy….
          It is the VERY BEST that ‘faith’ allows for you.

        • Tyson Guess

          “Being invisible is not an essence of being”

          The nature of a human being does not entail invisibility.

          “Look, we all understand WHY you HAVE to LIE and be DECEPTIVE to ‘rationalize’ your ‘belief’ in your MAGICAL Sky Daddy”

          I tend to think you posit magic, not I. Here is why:
          What is more rational?
          Semiotic Information (ultimately) arose from:
          A)Nothing – which sounds more like the magic charge levied on theists.
          OR
          B) An Intelligent source – which is empirically supported.

          We have no evidence that semiotic information can arise from any other source, yet, the atheist posits it can arise from ‘nothing’ ultimately. It seems more fair to use the word ‘magic’ in connection with the atheist faith than with the theist faith since we know that agents can create semiotic information (laws, constants and rational intelligibility)

        • adam

          “What is more rational?
          Semiotic Information (ultimately) arose from:
          A)Nothing – which sounds more like the magic charge levied on theists.
          OR
          B) An Intelligent source – which is empirically supported.”

          Semiotics (also called semiotic studies; is the study of meaning-making,https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semiotics

          What is really more rational is that semiotic information comes from pattern recognition derived through EVOLUTION…

          There is no meaning without those who can create meaning.
          Which doesnt imply that all those who create meaning, create the same meaning from the same imput.

          So JUST another DECEPTIVE DUCK from YOU

          “The nature of a human being does not entail invisibility.”

          “Being invisible is not an essence of being, it is just a matter of
          electromagnetic energy being reflected or absorbed. If will cannot have an effect on electromagnetic energy, then it cannot have an effect on the chemical reactions of the brain as chemical reactions and chemical bonds are due to the interactions of electrons that are electromagnetic energy in their nature, or their “Being”, if you prefer.” Greg G

        • Tyson Guess

          “What is really more rational is that semiotic information comes from pattern recognition derived through EVOLUTION…”

          So you claim evolution is responsible for the semiotic information in DNA. This is begging the question since you are assuming naturalism to be true, when naturalism is the question. Additionally, evolution, by definition, only accounts for variation, not existence.

          “Being invisible is not an essence of being, it is just a matter of electromagnetic energy being reflected or absorbed”

          This statement is self refuting: **Being** invisible is not an essence of **Being**.

          ” If will cannot have an effect on electromagnetic energy, then it cannot have an effect on the chemical reactions of the brain ”

          If the immaterial mind is using the material brain as an interface with the material world then this claim is false. There are good reasons to believe the immaterial mind uses the brain since determinism invalidates reason. Any line of reasoning that invalidates reason is invalid. Handicapped persons otherwise unknown to be communicative and NDE’s also give good reason to believe the immaterial mind uses the physical brain to interact with the world.

        • Greg G.

          Handicapped persons otherwise unknown to be communicative

          Are you trying to bring up
          The boy who didn’t come back from heaven: inside a bestseller’s ‘deception’
          or
          Did the Famed Neurosurgeon Who Claims He Saw God and Visited Heaven Lie? Article Exposes Alleged Inconsistencies?
          If you are older than 10, you are too old to be believing this stuff.

          and NDE’s also give good reason to believe the immaterial mind uses the physical brain to interact with the world.

          There has been a test going on for several years in many hospitals with something on top of some of the cabinets in operating rooms to see if people who claim to have been floating above the table can report what is on the cabinets. Get back to us on that when they get a positive hit.

          You should visit reality more often. People have been testing these fantastic claims of gullible people for at least a few centuries and none of them have panned out as real spooky events.

        • Tyson Guess

          “There has been a test going on for several years in many hospitals with something on top of some of the cabinets in operating rooms to see if people who claim to have been floating above the table can report what is on the cabinets. Get back to us on that when they get a positive hit.”

          That’s funny you say that. There is a case I read, i’d have to look up the specific details such as names, places etc. where a woman had been dead for a period of time in the hospital on the table. She floated up….but kept going until she was above the hospital. Upon being brought back she started exclaiming she left her body, was able to account for details during her death and that there was a single blue shoe on the roof of the hospital. The nurse or the doctor (I don’t remember which) sent someone to investigate and found a single blue shoe. Now sure, there are ways around this scenario but your request brought it to mind and there are hundreds of accounts that are even more unbelievable. Accounts where people traveled out of state, heard conversations, learned facts they could otherwise never have known. Not that doesn’t prove anything, I admit. But it certainly points in a direction, especially given the fact that atheism follows logically to determinism, which if true, would preclude the existence of any consciousness.

        • Paul B. Lot

          “There is a case I read, i’d have to look up the specific details such as names, places etc. where a woman had been dead for a period of time in the hospital on the table. “

          There are no “specific” details which bear scrutiny.

          This is a fabrication.

          Lol.

          http://lmgtfy.com/?q=nde+blue+shoe#

        • Tyson Guess

          “This is a fabrication.”

          How would you know this is a fabrication? What I meant is that I would have to look it up as I read it in a book by JP Moreland.

          To say something is a ‘fabrication’ means you are making the positive claim that you know what happened. You cannot disagree with position A without also affirming position B. It seems if you know this is a fabrication, then you would have to know why it is a fabrication. Otherwise, I am left thinking that you really really want this to be true so you will hand wave it away. An open mind inquires, a closed one dismisses because information disagrees with their a priori commitment. Do you think you have the correct position then? and if so, then why?

        • Paul B. Lot

          Of course. My apologies.

          I should’ve said “this seems to be” a fabrication.

          Why?

          Per the resources which pop up immediately upon following my link.

        • Tyson Guess

          So your response to the blue shoe story is that it is a fabrication because of resources that pop up on your link? I posted a link to an article on your link…maybe the 3rd or 4th one down that had the story in question and made some of the same points i’ve been making…yet your response is ‘it doesn’t agree with me so I hand wave it away’?

          Interesting.

        • Paul B. Lot

          I posted a link to an article on your link…maybe the 3rd or 4th one down that had the story in question and made some of the same points i’ve been making…yet your response is ‘it doesn’t agree with me so I hand wave it away’?

          Not at all.

          The SALON article you ‘found’ was discussed in the links I mentioned – I was already aware of it.

          In any case, any-given anecdote’s presence “in an article” is neither here nor there, people went out to investigate the claims and found the claims severly wanting.

          “Interesting.”

          Well, look. You’ve already [feelings+compartmentalization]‘ed your way into religious belief – why shouldn’t you make up a forcing-argument about what I did, agree with that argument, and then call it “interesting?”

          That is precisely the sort of thing I’d expect from someone of your (apparent) intellectual capacity and integrity. :-D

          In any case, more info for you:

          http://infidels.org/library/modern/keith_augustine/HNDEs.html#maria

        • Tyson Guess

          “In any case, any-given anecdote’s presence “in an article” is neither here nor there, people went out to investigate the claims and found the claims severly wanting.”

          This statement isn’t actually true. It seems to be hand waving.

        • Paul B. Lot

          “This statement isn’t actually true. It seems to be hand waving.”

          Lol.

          The SALON article you choose was discussed in my sources – so whether or not you found it elsewhere is immaterial.

          “Seem to be hand-waving.” :-D Irony of the first rate.

          Address the links I’ve provided to you, twice now, detailing the investigation into the shoe claim.

        • Susan

          Address the links I’ve provided to you, twice now, detailing the investigation into the shoe claim.

          It seems reasonable if the claim you’re making (of something else) is based on the claim of the shoe.

          That the shoe claim pan out, I mean.

        • adam

          “That the shoe claim pan out, I mean.”

          Of course the shoe claim doesnt pan out.

          TG is just LYING AGAIN.

        • adam

          “This statement isn’t actually true”

          Yes, the statement about the blue shoe claims being severly wanting IS true.

          “As part of our investigation, Ebbern and Mulligan visited Harborview Medical Center to determine for themselves just how difficult it would be to see, from outside the hospital, a shoe on one of its third-floor window ledges. They placed a running shoe of their own at the place Clark described and then went outside to observe what was visible from ground level. They were astonished at the ease with which they could seeand identify the shoe.

          They easily placed their running shoe on the ledge from inside one of the rooms and it was clearly visible from various points within the
          room. There was no need whatsoever for anyone to press his or her face against the glass to see the shoe. In fact, one needed only to take a few steps into the room to be able to see it clearly. To make matters worse for Clark’s account, a patient would not even need to strain to see it from his or her bed in the room. So it is apparent that many people inside as well as outside the hospital would have had the opportunity to notice the now-famous shoe, making it even more likely that Maria could have overheard some mention of it (32).

          [Maria's shoe] would have been visible, both inside and outside the hospital, to numerous people who could have come into contact with her. It also seems likely that some of them might have mentioned it within earshot….

          [And Clark] did not publicly report the details of Maria’s NDE until seven years after it occurred. It is quite possible that during this interval some parts of the story were forgotten and some details may have been interpolated…. [Moreover], we have no way of knowing what leading questions Maria may have been asked, or what Maria might have “recalled” that did not fit and was dropped from the record (32-33).Furthermore, Clark’s inaccurate account of how difficult the shoe was to see from both inside and out provides evidence that she subconsciously embellished significant details to bolster the apparently veridical nature of the case (33).

          http://infidels.org/library/modern/keith_augustine/HNDEs.html

        • Tyson Guess

          The above did nothing to the eye witness testimony. The data that maria revealed took place during a period of no brain activity. Furthermore, the shoe was not visible from the room maria was in. Your article makes the false claim because the shoe could have been seen from the inside of the hospital then it would have been seen by a person going into cardiac arrest, who died and was in a room where she could not see the show. =)

        • adam

          “The above did nothing to the eye witness testimony. ”

          It DEMOLISHED IT

          “Furthermore, Clark’s inaccurate account of how difficult the shoe was to see from both inside and out provides evidence that she subconsciously embellished significant details to bolster the apparently veridical nature of the case (33). ”

          ” The data that maria revealed took place during a period of no brain activity. ”

          NOPE

          “Your article makes the false claim because the shoe could have been seen from the inside of the hospital then it would have been seen by a person going into cardiac arrest,”

          Nope, not the claim, but you are still stuck on STUPID…

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          You’re trying to shore up this tattered argument? Just let it go.

          The shoe in the middle of nowhere that no one knew about turns out to be easily visible to lots of people … just maybe not from this one place? You still want to stick with this one rather than finding an actual unexplainable event?

        • Tyson Guess

          “The shoe in the middle of nowhere that no one knew about turns out to be easily visible to lots of people”

          That doesn’t seem to be the case for those involved.

        • adam

          “That doesn’t seem to be the case for those involved.”

          “They placed a running shoe of their own at the place Clark described and then went outside to observe what was visible from ground level. They were astonished at the ease with which they could seeand identify the shoe.They easily placed their running shoe on the ledge from inside one of the rooms and it was clearly visible from various points within the room. There was no need whatsoever for anyone to press his or her face against the glass to see the shoe. In fact, one needed only to take a few steps into the room to be able to see it clearly. To make matters worse for Clark’s account, a patient would not even need to strain to see it from his or her bed in the room. ”

          It certainly does.

        • Tyson Guess

          “They easily placed their running shoe on the ledge from inside one of the rooms”

          First of all, Maria was rushed to the hospital under cardiac arrest. Then she gave details from when she was dead. Where is your account of this? All that were there verified the details of when she was dead and what she stated. Secondly, the above is not from the room she was in. They are only demonstrating that it was visible from ‘a’ room in the hospital.

        • adam

          “First of all, Maria was rushed to the hospital under cardiac arrest. Then she gave details from when she was dead.”

          No she gave ‘details’ 7 (SEVEN) years later.

          “They are only demonstrating that it was visible from ‘a’ room in the hospital.”

          Nope, you either didnt read it, can’t comprehend what was written or like usual JUST LIE ABOUT IT. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e00fc912f5dfcadfd79ca1ef7cc51fe6ba7059ef3bcc79a0d1e74376ed8326b0.jpg

        • Greg G.

          Read the link Paul gave you. Maria came to the hospital under cardiac arrest but she was there three days before a second cardiac arrest where she had her experience. She would have been familiar with the hospital equipment by then.

          Read the story in the link. This was said to be “one of most convincing cases of veridical paranormal perception during NDEs on record”, yet it is very poor evidence.

          You keep providing weak evidence for your beliefs. It seems like you are a person who believes things on poor evidence. You should probably change that.

        • adam

          The story has obviously been debunked.

          But you know what is funny?

          Nobody ever comes back from ‘heaven’ with a cure for cancer or a cure for rabid fundamentalism.
          Nobody ever comes back with valid scientific evidence.

          And yet NDEs are studied scientifically, and they are all in the brain.

          http://www.near-death.com/experiences/triggers/gravity.html

          https://duckduckgo.com/?q=dmt&t=ffsb&ia=meanings

        • Tyson Guess

          “The story has obviously been debunked.”

          How so? To me it simply seems you don’t like the philosophical direction it points.

          “Nobody ever comes back from ‘heaven’ with a cure for cancer or a cure for rabid fundamentalism.”

          Why would this be an argument against the existence of an immaterial mind? or heaven? All that needs to be said here is that there is sufficiently moral reason for things to be the way they are right now. However, the christian message is that it will not stay this way indefinitely.

          “And yet NDEs are studied scientifically, and they are all in the brain.”

          This is not an argument. Nor is science capable of making this determination….which means you’re begging the question again.

        • adam

          http://lmgtfy.com/?q=nde+blue+shoe#

          “How so? To me it simply seems you don’t like the philosophical direction it points.”

          No, just looking at the REAL data :
          “As part of our investigation, Ebbern and Mulligan visited Harborview Medical Center to determine for themselves just how difficult it would be to see, from outside the hospital, a shoe on one of its third-floor window ledges. They placed a running shoe of their own at the place Clark described and then went outside to observe what was visible from ground level. They were astonished at the ease with which they could seeand identify the shoe.

          They easily placed their running shoe on the ledge from inside one of the rooms and it was clearly visible from various points within the
          room. There was no need whatsoever for anyone to press his or her face against the glass to see the shoe. In fact, one needed only to take a few steps into the room to be able to see it clearly. To make matters worse for Clark’s account, a patient would not even need to strain to see it from his or her bed in the room. So it is apparent that many people inside as well as outside the hospital would have had the opportunity to notice the now-famous shoe, making it even more likely that Maria could have overheard some mention of it (32).

          [Maria's shoe] would have been visible, both inside and outside the
          hospital, to numerous people who could have come into contact with her. It also seems likely that some of them might have mentioned it within earshot….

          [And Clark] did not publicly report the details of Maria’s NDE until
          seven years after it occurred. It is quite possible that during this
          interval some parts of the story were forgotten and some details may have been interpolated…. [Moreover], we have no way of knowing what leading questions Maria may have been asked, or what Maria might have “recalled” that did not fit and was dropped from the record (32-33).Furthermore, Clark’s inaccurate account of how difficult the shoe was to see from both inside and out provides evidence that she subconsciously embellished significant details to bolster the apparently veridical nature of the case (33).

          http://infidels.org/library/modern/keith_augustine/HNDEs.html

          “And yet NDEs are studied scientifically, and they are all in the brain.”

          This is not an argument. Nor is science capable of making this determination….which means you’re begging the question again.”

          No, I gave you science actually creating NDEs using extreme gravity, or chemically.

          Like MNb pointed out, your DISHONESTY is ASTOUNDING.

          But we understand how you HAVE to be DISHONEST to represent an IMAGINARY ‘god’ as real, it is the VERY BEST that ‘FAITH” prepares you for. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/395f4aa3abb4333d52a79cf57c8f276c35b8f0cde416637ea66d6ecabc0b7bd4.jpg

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Why would this be an argument against the existence of an immaterial mind? or heaven?

          Because you’d be foolish to believe in either without good reason.

          there is sufficiently moral reason for things to be the way they are right now.

          You’re saying that the mix of good and bad in the world is plainly fair and reasonable for God to have created? No, it’s not–not an omnibenevolent god, anyway.

        • Tyson Guess

          As strongly as you seem to feel on these matters bob you’ve not given me any good reasons for your stance. The best you have, it seems, are snide comments….but what good are those? Especially when you can’t provide a line of reasoning for your position? Look at this statement you provided for example:

          “You’re saying that the mix of good and bad in the world is plainly fair and reasonable for God to have created”

          No, i’m saying that all there needs to be is a morally sufficient reason for things to be this way. Consequently, to argue that you know there is no morally sufficient reason is a claim to be god….the very thing you deny.

          “No, it’s not–not an omnibenevolent god, anyway.”

          And you follow up with your opinion – I’ve just not seen any good reasons from you on the matters at hand, but it is clear you feel strongly about your position…yet, you’ve offered no logical defeaters for anything we’ve discussed. If you have some good reasons then be specific and lets see them.

        • adam

          “No, i’m saying that all there needs to be is a morally sufficient reason for things to be this way”

          No there also needs to be this IMAGINARY mind you keep claiming, with ETERNAL KNOWLEDGE that you keep CLAIMING without demonstrating.

          BTW, you’ve FAILED to demonstrate a morally sufficient reason as well.

          So ALL THAT YOU HAVE is the droppings of your Gish Gallop and you keep IMAGINING that gaps in knowledge mean ‘god’.

        • Tyson Guess

          “No there also needs to be this IMAGINARY mind you keep claiming, with ETERNAL KNOWLEDGE that you keep CLAIMING without demonstrating, who has the CAPABILITY to enforce such CRUEL and MONSTEROUS ‘morality’”

          This statement essentially says, ‘because I don’t like somethings about this world, therefore there is no God’. Yet, that conclusion doesn’t follow from it’s precedent. If there is a God, why would one think that there wouldn’t be things you dislike? So essentially, this sentence means that only a God that agrees with your subjective opinion could exist. Yet, if there is a God, it seems fair to think that a contingent being would not always be ‘correct’ (by definition). Which then means that your claim would be demonstrably false.

          “BTW, you’ve FAILED to demonstrate a morally sufficient reason as well.”

          I don’t have to demonstrate this. There only needs to be the possibility. But I can give you a few thoughts in that direction.
          Take for example character growth. It is virtually impossible for us (contingent beings) to experience character growth without some pain and suffering. In fact, certain virtues seem to require it.
          It’s difficult to imagine developing courage without danger.
          perseverance without obstacles
          patience without tribulation
          compassion without suffering
          character without adversity
          trust without need

          So, we can, in fact, see some morally sufficient reasons and if there are ‘some’ then that also means there is justification for morally sufficient reason even if we can not identify them.

          “So ALL THAT YOU HAVE is the droppings of your Gish Gallop and you keep IMAGINING that gaps in knowledge mean ‘god’.”

          While, nowhere, have I appealed to a lack of knowledge and only appealed to known facts I consider your charge of a gap argument a last resort for you to cling to your a priori position. However, what strikes me is that you seem unwilling to see your own blind faith in the matter. You seem to think it is more rational, in some way, to posit that something can come from nothing or no one. We have no evidence that a mechanism that displays rational intelligibility can come from some source other than a mind. Yet, you describe my position as imagination or magic – when, in fact, I’m not the one positing magic. The atheist position is one of magic for it is surely a magical proposition to say that something can come from nothing. Or that semiotic information can come from nothing or no one when all the evidence suggests such things only come from minds. You further try to appeal to reason, but under an atheistic world view, reason doesn’t exist. the act of trying to reason out your claim then is a self-refuting claim. A point that isn’t lost on atheist philosophers from Dennet, compatibilists and those like Thomas Nagel.

          So while I admit you have a strongly held belief. I just can’t see the rational justification (ie…good reasons) for adopting your view.

        • adam

          “This statement essentially says, ‘because I don’t like somethings about this world, therefore there is no God’. ”

          Nope

          It says: “No there also needs to be this IMAGINARY mind you keep claiming, with
          ETERNAL KNOWLEDGE that you keep CLAIMING without demonstrating, who has
          the CAPABILITY to enforce such CRUEL and MONSTEROUS ‘morality’”

          “I don’t have to demonstrate this. There only needs to be the possibility.”

          then I dismiss it on the basis of the possibility you are lying or just IMAGINING such.

          “So, we can, in fact, see some morally sufficient reasons and if there
          are ‘some’ then that also means there is justification for morally
          sufficient reason even if we can not identify them.”

          No, in fact we see no such cause of such morality.

          “While, nowhere, have I appealed to a lack of knowledge ”

          THAT is all that you have done.

          “You seem to think it is more rational, in some way, to posit that something can come from nothing or no one.”

          Nope, you are LYING, once again.

          “However, what strikes me is that you seem unwilling to see your own blind faith in the matter. ”

          No, you’ve been UNABLE or UNWILLING to demonstrate such.

          “Yet, you describe my position as imagination or magic – when, in fact, I’m not the one positing magic.”

          Nope, you are LYING AGAIN

          Full Definition of MAGIC Merriam Webster

          2
          a : an extraordinary power or influence seemingly from a supernatural source

          ” You further try to appeal to reason, but under an atheistic world view, reason doesn’t exist.”

          Sorry, it has already been well demonstrated that this is JUST ANOTHER of YOUR LIES.

          ” So while I admit you have a strongly held belief. I just can’t see the
          rational justification (ie…good reasons) for adopting your view..”

          No surprise to me, because you are not being rational in your beliefs of your Magical Sky Daddy.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          No, i’m saying that all there needs to be is a morally sufficient reason for things to be this way.

          Sounds like just what I said.

          Why is there morally sufficient reason for the bad in our world? What about gratuitous evil—an animal injured in the forest that slowly dies over days, for example. How could an omnibenevolent god allow that?

          Consequently, to argue that you know there is no morally sufficient reason is a claim to be god….the very thing you deny.

          Whew! Good thing that’s not what I’m saying.

          A tip: you love springing kant-fail traps on your antagonists. Problem is, they never work. Next time, think about how I’ll respond so we can move this conversation along.

        • Tyson Guess

          “Why is there morally sufficient reason for the bad in our world?”

          Why could there not be?

          “What about gratuitous evil—an animal injured in the forest that slowly dies over days, for example. How could an omnibenevolent god allow that?”

          Are you making the argument that because evil exists therefore a Good God can’t exist? We can go down this argument if you would like but it has universally been abandoned by virtually all philosophers because evil, if anything, can only exist if there is a Good God. It’s not a problem for the theist as much as it is for the atheist. If there is such evil as you claim, then how do you explain that under an atheist world view? According to atheists evil can’t exist….but…no one lives as if that is true because surely you believe there are people doing things right now that are wrong and under no circumstance should they do them. If you believe that about one thing then it is fair to say evil exists. If evil exists then good exists. If evil and good exists then there must be a moral law to distinguish between them.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          “Why is there morally sufficient reason for the bad in our world?”

          Why could there not be?

          So we assume an omnibenevolent God, then we detect crazy bad shit in the world, and then we assume that God must have morally sufficient reasons, even if he’s the only one who knows it?

          Yes, impeccable Christian bullshit logic.

          Are you making the argument that because evil exists therefore a Good God can’t exist?

          I’m saying that gratuitous evil exists; therefore an omnibenevolent + omnipotent god can’t exist.

          We can go down this argument if you would like but it has universally been abandoned by virtually all philosophers

          Hmm. The last time you used philosophers’ arguments, nothing happened. You ought to check that your ammunition actually works.

          because evil, if anything, can only exist if there is a Good God.

          Oh? Show me that in the dictionary. If it isn’t in the dictionary, then you’re wrong. Again.

          If there is such evil as you claim, then how do you explain that under an atheist world view?

          Shit happens. What’s hard to explain?

          This is where the apologist typically says, “Ah, but I’m talking about objective evil.” Sure, go ahead and talk about it, but I’m not. I’ve never seen evidence that such a remarkable thing exists. Show me.

          According to atheists evil can’t exist

          Wrong again. Remember what I said about thinking before you click Post?

          surely you believe there are people doing things right now that are wrong

          Yes, I do. This is no proof of objective morality.

          If you believe that about one thing then it is fair to say evil exists. If evil exists then good exists. If evil and good exists then there must be a moral law to distinguish between them.

          Sunday school apologetics just get laughs around here. Give us the good stuff.

        • adam

          “Sunday school apologetics just get laughs around here. Give us the good stuff.”

          He IS giving us the VERY BEST stuff that his ‘faith’ prepares for him in dealing with reality…

        • adam

          ” According to atheists evil can’t exist…”

          COWARD

        • Greg G.

          “Why is there morally sufficient reason for the bad in our world?”

          Why could there not be?

          Yes, it could be a natural circumstance in an indifferent universe but if there is an omnipotent being with the capability to prevent such pointless suffering, how can it not do that unless it is indifferent or malicious. There cannot be a being that is both omnipotent and benevolent in a universe where unnecessary suffering exists.

          What can suffering accomplish that an omnipotent being cannot accomplish without the suffering? By the definition of the word “omnipotent”, the answer is nothing. Therefore all suffering is unnecessary if an omnipotence exists. Suffering exists so if an omnipotence exists, the suffering is a choice made by the omnipotence which would make it a malevolent being. Do you really want to spend eternity with a malevolent being?

          Philosophers get around the Problem of Evil by redefining “omnipotent” to mean “not omnipotent”. They have not actually refuted it.

          But the Problem of Suffering is not the Problem of Evil, anyway.

        • MNb

          The argument actually is that because gratuitous evil exists – like lions not killing an antilope before they start to eat it – the probability of an omnivolent god (not just a good one) existing is lower than the probability of no god at all. If you actually had read philosophers that matter iso an irrelevant one like Nagel you would have known this.

          “According to atheists evil can’t exist.”
          Of course you get this one wrong too. Evil is a moral label I put on all kind of events. Hence it exists.

          “If evil and good exists then there must be a moral law to distinguish between them.”
          Ambiguous usage (how typical for you) of the word “law”. Indeed. There are ethical systems that distinguish between good and evil that don’t require god. Daniel Fincke, right here at Patheos Atheism, has done a lot of work to formulate one.
          But if you insist on using the word “law” it’s fine with me. Those laws are formulated by humans, not by your imaginary sky daddy.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Nobody ever comes back from ‘heaven’ with a cure for cancer

          Well, true. But what about that blue shoe? That’s cooler than a cancer cure any day!

        • adam

          http://lmgtfy.com/?q=nde+blue+shoe#

          “How so? To me it simply seems you don’t like the philosophical direction it points.”

          No, just looking at the REAL data :
          “As part of our investigation, Ebbern and Mulligan visited Harborview Medical Center to determine for themselves just how difficult it would be to see, from outside the hospital, a shoe on one of its third-floor window ledges. They placed a running shoe of their own at the place Clark described and then went outside to observe what was visible from ground level. They were astonished at the ease with which they could seeand identify the shoe.

          They easily placed their running shoe on the ledge from inside one of the rooms and it was clearly visible from various points within the
          room. There was no need whatsoever for anyone to press his or her face against the glass to see the shoe. In fact, one needed only to take a few steps into the room to be able to see it clearly. To make matters worse for Clark’s account, a patient would not even need to strain to see it from his or her bed in the room. So it is apparent that many people inside as well as outside the hospital would have had the opportunity to notice the now-famous shoe, making it even more likely that Maria could have overheard some mention of it (32).

          [Maria's shoe] would have been visible, both inside and outside the hospital, to numerous people who could have come into contact with her. It also seems likely that some of them might have mentioned it within earshot….

          [And Clark] did not publicly report the details of Maria’s NDE until seven years after it occurred. It is quite possible that during this interval some parts of the story were forgotten and some details may have been interpolated…. [Moreover], we have no way of knowing what leading questions Maria may have been asked, or what Maria might have “recalled” that did not fit and was dropped from the record (32-33).Furthermore, Clark’s inaccurate account of how difficult the shoe was to see from both inside and out provides evidence that she subconsciously embellished significant details to bolster the apparently veridical nature of the case (33).

          http://infidels.org/library/modern/keith_augustine/HNDEs.html

          But we understand how you HAVE to be DISHONEST to represent an IMAGINARY ‘god’ as real, it is the VERY BEST that ‘FAITH” prepares you for.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Dang! You “internet” experts and the clever things you can do with it!

        • Tyson Guess

          thanks for that google search. I did find an article that mentioned the one I was describing. All of the details are not there but it’s about halfway down. Although the first example is very interesting too, especially, since I know Dr. Spetzler. He saved my dad’s life. I also found the last few concluding paragraphs to be the same points I’ve been trying to make:

          “The scientific NDE studies performed over the past decades indicate that heightened mental functions can be experienced independently of the body at a time when brain activity is greatly impaired or seemingly absent (such as during cardiac arrest). Some of these studies demonstrate that blind people can have veridical perceptions during OBEs associated with an NDE. Other investigations show that NDEs often result in deep psychological and spiritual changes.

          These findings strongly challenge the mainstream neuroscientific view that mind and consciousness result solely from brain activity. As we have seen, such a view fails to account for how NDErs can experience—while their hearts are stopped—vivid and complex thoughts and acquire veridical information about objects or events remote from their bodies.

          NDE studies also suggest that after physical death, mind and consciousness may continue in a transcendent level of reality that normally is not accessible to our senses and awareness. Needless to say, this view is utterly incompatible with the belief of many materialists that the material world is the only reality.”
          http://www.salon.com/2012/04/21/near_death_explained/

        • Paul B. Lot

          As we have seen, such a view fails to account for how NDErs can experience—while their hearts are stopped—vivid and complex thoughts and acquire veridical information about objects or events remote from their bodies.

          Your brain allows your fingers to type these sentences only because you are typing about a subject you do not understand.

          Being deprived of oxygen/glucose does not immediately kill your brain, or instantaneously cause its neurons to stop working. Indeed, the very “impaired brain activity” you mentioned is exactly a neurological state which can give rise to hallucinations.

          ” I did find an article that mentioned the one I was describing.”

          Yes. A “SALON” article.

          “All of the details are not there”

          Indeed they are not, here’s why:

          http://infidels.org/library/modern/keith_augustine/HNDEs.html#maria

          BONUS

          Intelligence^2 Debate on the topic:
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h0YtL5eiBYw

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          there are hundreds of accounts that are even more unbelievable

          You’ve put your finger on the problem.

          When a remarkable story has a mountain of evidence to support it, it’s no longer unbelievable. Unverifiable anecdotes are unbelievable.

          Not that doesn’t prove anything, I admit. But it certainly points in a direction

          It doesn’t work that way. Many individual crappy anecdotes just makes a big pile of crappy evidence.

          There is an enormous mountain of anecdotes of people saying how accurate astrology is.

        • Tyson Guess

          “When a remarkable story has a mountain of evidence to support it, it’s no longer unbelievable. Unverifiable anecdotes are unbelievable.”

          When I said they were even ‘more unbelievable’ it was from the position of one who affirms materialism or naturalism is true; since the mechanism that investigates nature (ie..science) isn’t equipped to investigate immaterial realities. Hence, the circularity in the atheist argument that there is no scientific evidence for immaterial reality when science would never have anything to say about immaterial reality. Imagine declaring gamma rays as non-existent because you don’t find them with your x-ray machine.

          “There is an enormous mountain of anecdotes of people saying how accurate astrology is.”

          True – yet do you disagree that there is a difference between someone making the claim that an intergalactic body affects their agency and an agent being able to recall specific detail and experience when their brain is dead with many of the pertinent details are verified by family members, doctors and hospital staff?
          Essentially your argument would be:
          1. Humans can make things up.
          2. Everything that disagrees with materialism must be made up
          C: NDE’s are just made up.

          Notice that premise (2) does not follow necessarily from premise (1). So we can’t affirm the conclusion based on that argument.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          the mechanism that investigates nature (ie..science) isn’t equipped to investigate immaterial realities.

          It doesn’t need to. It only needs to investigate the supernatural intruding into the natural. And understanding events in the natural is (in principle) precisely what science is good at.

          Hence, the circularity in the atheist argument that there is no scientific evidence for immaterial reality when science would never have anything to say about immaterial reality.

          This would make good sense if the supernatural kept to itself and never entered our natural world. Is this what you’re saying?

          yet do you disagree that there is a difference between someone making the claim that an intergalactic body affects their agency and an agent being able to recall specific detail and experience when their brain is dead with many of the pertinent details are verified by family members, doctors and hospital staff?

          Sure, they’re different, because they’re not the same. Otherwise, they’re both remarkable claims that science rejects. That puts them in the same bin from my standpoint.

          Essentially your argument would be:

          1. Humans can make things up.

          2. Everything that disagrees with materialism must be made up

          C: NDE’s are just made up.

          Notice that premise (2) does not follow necessarily from premise (1).

          Premise 2 is bullshit. So you’re wrong that this is my argument.

        • Tyson Guess

          “It doesn’t need to. It only needs to investigate the supernatural intruding into the natural. And understanding events in the natural is (in principle) precisely what science is good at.”

          How does a mechanism designed to study matter study the supernatural?

          “Premise 2 is bullshit. So you’re wrong that this is my argument.”

          I agree premise 2 is faulty. However, that is the underlying premise you continue to rely upon. If you remove that premise then how does (1) flow to the conclusion without begging the question?

        • adam

          “How does a mechanism designed to study matter study the supernatural?”

          Through the fictional accounts and stories where the supernatural is created, as a product of HUMAN IMAGINATION.

          Just like with ‘fiery serpents in the bible’

        • Tyson Guess

          “Through the fictional accounts and stories where the supernatural is created, as a product of HUMAN IMAGINATION.”

          However, if naturalism is true as it seems you believe, then the thing you are trying to explain (imagination…ie consciousness) would not exist so you’ve constructed a self-refuting position.

        • adam

          “However, if naturalism is true as it seems you believe, then the thing
          you are trying to explain (imagination…ie consciousness) would not
          exist so you’ve constructed a self-refuting position.”

          No, I havent. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c0e93f5919ca792c516f3ad080bb6bd5588638850b5c2bf9b0c5a030db1f613f.jpg

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          How does a mechanism designed to study matter study the supernatural?

          Don’t read so good? I’ll just repeat what I said last time: science is (in principle) good at detecting and studying the intrusion of the supernatural into the natural.

          Despite your best efforts, there is no problem here.

          I agree premise 2 is faulty. However, that is the underlying premise you continue to rely upon.

          Don’t read so good? I just made clear that premise 2 is not my claim. Let’s move this conversation along by you accepting my claims about my opinions, OK?

          If you remove that premise then how does (1) flow to the conclusion without begging the question?

          Your conclusion is, “NDEs are made up.” Not my claim. I’m happy to accept that most NDE reports are honest attempts at describing what happened.

        • Tyson Guess

          “Don’t read so good? I’ll just repeat what I said last time: science is (in principle) good at detecting and studying the intrusion of the supernatural into the natural.”

          How so bob. Saying so doesn’t make it true. If science can study the supernatural then the supernatural exists. Check mate.

          ” I’m happy to accept that most NDE reports are honest attempts at describing what happened”

          Okay, then they are also evidence of disembodied consciousness as there are thousands of examples of people recounting details when they had zero brain activity. A point that is otherwise impossible under a naturalist paradigm.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Saying so doesn’t make it true. If science can study the supernatural then the supernatural exists. Check mate.

          What does God tell you about your greased-pig strategy? Or is that praised in your Liars for Jesus Meetup?

          You’ve conceded my point: that science is indeed relevant to studying intrusions of the supernatural into our world. Which was the point your brought up.

          Okay, then [NDEs] are also evidence of disembodied consciousness as there are thousands of examples of people recounting details when they had zero brain activity. A point that is otherwise impossible under a naturalist paradigm.

          Yes, when you have zero brain activity, you can’t perceive things with your brain.

          Let me make it easy on you. It’s my Christmas present to you: you don’t have to give me thousands of examples. I just want one. Give me one example where science has agreed that a person learned or experienced new things while having zero brain activity. Just one.

        • adam

          “Okay, then they are also evidence of disembodied consciousness as there
          are thousands of examples of people recounting details when they had
          zero brain activity”

          Nope, you are LYING again.

        • Greg G.

          How so bob. Saying so doesn’t make it true. If science can study the supernatural then the supernatural exists. Check mate.

          The supernatural is designed and defined to be immune from science. When a supernaturalist makes a claim about the supernatural that can be investigated by science, the supernaturalist turns out to be wrong.

          Okay, then they are also evidence of disembodied consciousness as there are thousands of examples of people recounting details when they had zero brain activity. A point that is otherwise impossible under a naturalist paradigm.

          There are claims of that but many of these accounts have been debunked. They were debunked because they were the ones that were the best documented cases.

        • MNb

          “the mechanism that investigates nature (ie..science) isn’t equipped to investigate immaterial realities”
          Correct. Problem for you is that there isn’t any mechanism to investigate immaterial realities at all – as if those immaterial realities are made up by humans indeed. Why some christian immaterial reality? Why not the ones held by Papuas from New Guinea, before they got influenced by christian missionaries? Why not fairies tending flowers in my backyard to make them blossom more beautifully?
          According to your own logic you can’t affirm the conclusion that the latter two are made up. Still many claims about immaterial realities contradict each other.

        • Greg G.

          Yes, I remember reading about that. I think that case was one of the reasons they are running the experiment. The blue shoe was visible from her room but she would not have been able to see it. But she may have had a period of semi-consciousness and heard a visitor say something about it which could then have been entered into her memory. So the experiment they are doing will rule out such a possibility.

          I have experienced out-of-body feelings playing football when my concentration was focused on my vision tracking the ball while I was trying to hear where the defender was. I could see the ball coming through my eyes but I felt like I was floating above the action watching myself and the defender.

          One of those events was filmed. I was surprised that what the film showed and what I saw were different. I had constructed two models of my vicinity, one based on vision where I made the catch and one based on sound and touch that was less accurate.

          I think others have OOBs when their eyes are closed, so they form one model based on sounds, touch, and maybe a glimpse of their surroundings. Perhaps our descent from monkeys makes us imagine a view looking down from the trees in our mental maps where they scout where they want to go from above and follow that mental map on the ground.

          When they tell about it, people will fill in details that get incorporated into their memory.

        • MR

          I don’t know too many religious friends who seriously believe in NDEs. Seems to tend to go against their beliefs. My crystal-toting friends or more superstitious types are more likely to consider NDEs a possibility, and even then only a possibility. I’m surprised that someone like TG would throw that out.

        • adam

          “I’m surprised that someone like TG would throw that out.”

          When your ‘god’ is shrinking as fast as TGs, you HAVE to look in every crack and crevice of gaps in knowledge to try and find it and fit it in with this reality.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          So you claim evolution is responsible for the semiotic information in DNA. This is begging the question since you are assuming naturalism to be true, when naturalism is the question.

          So it’s logically impossible for evolution to provide you what you demand.

          What do you call this bullshit argument? It can be used anywhere to cloud any issue. What fun!

          Additionally, evolution, by definition, only accounts for variation, not existence.

          Additionally, Wm. Shakespeare cannot explain the tidal lock of the moon.

          (Since we’re throwing out irrelevant observations about not-evolution, I thought I’d join in. How’d I do?)

          This statement is self refuting

          Love it! I bet you could find a rebuttal to any argument you disliked.

          (I didn’t bother analyzing to see if you were right; I just wanted to congratulate you on your smoke screen.)

        • Tyson Guess

          “So it’s logically impossible for evolution to provide you what you demand.”

          Yes, it is logically impossible for something that came into existence to be responsible for it’s existence. It’s a simple application of a rule of law which all science is based upon; the principle of sufficient reason. Secondly, if you are going to posit blind forces for semiotic information then you would have to come up with at least some evidence, otherwise, what is your rational justification for getting to to your next premise?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Yes, it is logically impossible for something that came into existence to be responsible for it’s existence.

          Whew! Thanks for resolving that. I’m glad we got that irrelevant issue figured out so we get to the actual issue.

          You said, “So you claim evolution is responsible for the semiotic information in DNA. This is begging the question since you are assuming naturalism to be true, when naturalism is the question.”

          You’re tap dancing to avoid confronting the issue. That seems like a rather cowardly approach, especially for a man steeled with the Lord’s Truth, but suit yourself.

          “Is naturalism true?” isn’t the issue. You are asking about information. Evolution explains how new information in DNA got there (mutations and copy errors). Yes, I can see that you want to avoid confronting the issue, but you kinda have to.

          So, no begging of the question. I’m afraid you can’t declare the match invalid so you don’t have to actually engage.

          It’s a simple application of a rule of law which all science is based upon; the principle of sufficient reason.

          I had to look it up: “The Principle of Sufficient Reason is a powerful and controversial philosophical principle stipulating that everything must have a reason or cause.”

          Can you say “Copenhagen interpretation”? Not everything has a cause. Therefore, I can declare your statement null and void so that I don’t have to engage with it. (Say—that is fun!)

          Secondly, if you are going to posit blind forces for semiotic information then you would have to come up with at least some evidence

          Evolution is the scientific consensus, as is the mechanism of new information getting into DNA.

        • Tyson Guess

          “You’re tap dancing to avoid confronting the issue. ”

          Hey sorry, but this comment does not give me anything to work with. You tell me i’m not answering a question when in fact, i’m pointing out where atheism commits a logical fallacy. Unless you explain how it is not a logical fallacy then I don’t see why I should believe otherwise. So, if you posit naturalism as true, and then declare naturalism to be true because it’s true then you are guilty of a logical fallacy and when discovered should be addressed.

          ““Is naturalism true?” isn’t the issue. You are asking about information. Evolution explains how new information in DNA got there (mutations and copy errors). Yes, I can see that you want to avoid confronting the issue, but you kinda have to.”

          Right, I get what you mean. I believe we’ve gone over this before. Information theory clearly states that machines do not account for the generating of new information only variation of existing information. Something would have to already exist in order for it to be mistranslated into a code. Secondly, this theory doesn’t account for new body plans as epigenetic information isn’t stored in the DNA so as a naturalist it leaves you back at square one so to speak. Evolution only explains the variation of already existing information. That information has to previously exist for evolution to even take place.

          “Not everything has a cause.”

          And what does not have a cause?

          “Evolution is the scientific consensus, as is the mechanism of new information getting into DNA”

          Evolution is the consensus in describing variation. By definition alone, evolution cannot account for the existence of semiotic information. That would be the same error as above. You assume naturalism is true, therefore naturalism is true. Which is a logical fallacy…and no…I don’t have to argue against a logical fallacy since they are not capable of arguing for or against anything.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          You tell me i’m not answering a question when in fact, i’m pointing out where atheism commits a logical fallacy.

          Yeah, I know. Your favorite pastime. One of these days you’ll point out a logical error that I actually did make. I’m holding my breath.

          You’re changing the subject. If your goal is to do the greased pig thing so I can’t pin you down, you’re succeeding. But are you sure that should be the goal?

          I get annoyed when I’m charged with a bullshit charge. No, I didn’t beg the question.

          if you posit naturalism as true, and then declare naturalism to be true because it’s true then you are guilty of a logical fallacy

          Yet another obvious statement! Whew—you’ve got a million of ’em, don’t you? That’s a very impressive stunt, but I’d sure appreciate your making an interesting statement and then sticking around to defend it.

          Information theory clearly states that machines do not account for the generating of new information only variation of existing information. Something would have to already exist in order for it to be mistranslated into a code.

          And it does. We’re going into this assuming that DNA exists and wondering how new information comes about. Copying errors give new information.

          Are we going to play our favorite game, “Who’s on first?”? Because if you change the subject again to talk about abiogenesis, “Yeah, but where did the information come from in the first place?!?” I think our conversation will have run its course.

          this theory doesn’t account for new body plans as epigenetic information isn’t stored in the DNA so as a naturalist it leaves you back at square one so to speak.

          “New body plans”? You mean like new phyla or what? I’m pretty sure the information that makes one phylum different from another is stored in the DNA.

          Evolution only explains the variation of already existing information. That information has to previously exist for evolution to even take place.

          Yeah, like I said. You’ve got some information. Copying errors adds new information. Don’t believe me? Go ask a biologist.

          “Not everything has a cause.”

          And what does not have a cause?

          We’ve been over this, Einstein. Look up “Copenhagen interpretation.” Quantum events don’t always have causes.

          “Evolution is the scientific consensus, as is the mechanism of new information getting into DNA”

          Evolution is the consensus in describing variation. By definition alone, evolution cannot account for the existence of semiotic information.

          Are lonely and just like to chat with people? I’m sorry for you, but I don’t have the time. I need to make this brief.

          That DNA mutations and copy errors is where new information comes from is the scientific consensus. And then natural selection finds the best variations.

          You assume naturalism is true, therefore naturalism is true.

          Wrong again. You’re on a roll.

        • Tyson Guess

          ” You mean like new phyla or what? I’m pretty sure the information that makes one phylum different from another is stored in the DNA.”

          Epigenetic information is not stored in DNA. Which means that DNA does not account for new body plans.

          “That DNA mutations and copy errors is where new information comes from is the scientific consensus.”

          Conflation of concepts – Variation is not explanation of existence. The information has to exist prior to it being mistranslated. Hence, information theorists explaining the point that machines (ie mechanisms) like evolution perform a valuable transformation of existing information.

        • adam

          ” The information has to exist prior to it being mistranslated. ”

          RNA https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/7a541266e3e4c1006a8158c37b5a493b61d9c5d9e463c3b844dedcc77b870258.jpg

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Epigenetic information is not stored in DNA. Which means that DNA does not account for new body plans.

          You gonna just repeat your point? Then I’ll do the same: information to make the body is stored in the DNA.

          Conflation of concepts – Variation is not explanation of existence.

          Avoid repeating your stock phrases and clearly explain what you’re struggling to say.

          We’ve been over this as well: we assume DNA. When that DNA is copied, errors and/or mutations make new information. QED.

          If your question is, “Where did the DNA come from in the first place?” then make that explicit.

          The information has to exist prior to it being mistranslated.

          Some information has to exist prior. Then it’s copied with errors, which gives us the new information.

          It is fun to make it more complicated, but that’s not really necessary.

          Hence, information theorists explaining the point that machines (ie mechanisms) like evolution perform a valuable transformation of existing information.

          Are you saying that you’re repeating the scientific consensus? That DNA copying can’t make new information?

        • MNb

          “You assume naturalism is true, therefore naturalism is true.”
          And this shows better than anything else how dishonest you are – ‘cuz god.
          You are the one who claims that naturalism defeats itself, ie is incoherent. Your only argument is “you naturalists assume naturalism to argue that naturalism is true.”
          In the first place this is a straightforward lie, because it has been pointed out to you a gazillion times by now that “true” the way you use the word is meaningless on naturalism.
          In the second place circular arguments are not a sign of incoherence, on the contrary. Euclidean geometry is one big circular argument. According to your illogic Euclidean geometry would be self-refuting too, because “mathematicians assume Euclidean geometry is true, therefore Euclidean geometry is true.” This is blatant nonsense and for exactly the same reason your illogic against naturalism is, no matter how often you repeat it.

        • Tyson Guess

          “In the first place this is a straightforward lie, because it has been pointed out to you a gazillion times by now that “true” the way you use the word is meaningless on naturalism”

          Naturalism makes claims. Which means this statement is self-refuting. Claiming that truth is meaningless while making a truth claim is self-refuting.

          “circular arguments are not a sign of incoherence”

          It’s true that circularity doesn’t necessarily make the claim false but circularity does mean that the argument is not rational. If we are trying to build our beliefs on reasons then circularity would not be one of them. Believing something because you believe something is not a rational argument – which has been my only point.

        • MNb

          Merely repeating your lie does nothing to remedy it.

          “Claiming that truth is meaningless while making a truth claim.”
          I am not making a truth claim, IDiot. Exactly that is your lie. If “true” (the way you use the word) is meaningless than “truth claim” is meaningless as well.

          “circularity does mean that the argument is not rational”
          BWAHAHAHAHA!
          Euclidean geometry is circular.
          The International System of Units is circular.
          You just claimed that they are not rational.
          You’re verily an IDiot.

          Plus the fact remains that Adam (and I and anyone else) are not maintaining that naturalism is true. That’s nothing but your endlessly repeated lie. We maintain that it’s coherent, while you desperately try to sho