Movie Review: “Is Genesis History?” (Part 4)

is genesis history movie critiqueLet’s conclude our critique of this young-earth Creationist movie (part 1).

Proteins in fossils

Next up in our succession of Creationist experts is Kevin Anderson, microbiologist. His argument is the one I responded to in my last post: “Organic Material Found in T-Rex Fossils—Evidence for Young Earth?” Given the two clashing facts—fossils that are 60+ million year old vs. biological material that shouldn’t last that long—he rejects the one that is most inconvenient for his young-earth worldview, even though it has all the evidence. His argument is that with time, you could explain evolutionary history . . . but with this new discovery, you no longer have enough time.

“Your paradigm is that it has to be old,” he said. No—a mountain of evidence says that it has to be old.

Robert Carter is a marine biologist, working in St. Thomas. He rejects evolution, but it’s not like he’s unreasonable. He accepts change. For example, God put the ability to adapt to a changing environment into sharks. They change . . . “but they’re still sharks.”

Let’s study that statement. Sharks are classified as a superorder. There are 12 orders of sharks (an order is the category above family, which is above genus, which is above species). An isolated group of sharks could evolve radically and still be sharks. “But they’re still sharks” sounds pretty deceptive from a guy who must know how meaningless that is when there are over 400 living species of shark.

He said, “Life is so complex that small changes can’t explain it” and said that just like a computer operating system didn’t evolve in small steps, species didn’t either. If his point is that software and life don’t change the same way, I agree, though he gives no reason to accept his claim that evolution is impossible.

He pointed to the similarities between diverse species in the echinoderm phylum—starfish, sea urchin, and sea cucumber, for example.

That sounds like the handiwork of evolution. Evolution creates species with similarities, but God-created life wouldn’t need to. God could’ve created every species from scratch, but he apparently created in the same way that evolution would have.

This biologist wrapped up with the Argument from Incredulity: “It’s impossible to think that all of this could’ve happened just by a series of slow processes over billions of years. . . . I realized that creation in six days makes the most sense from an engineering perspective.”

One wonders how.

Speciation or not?

Todd Wood, biologist, is next. He said that all of the 42 living cat species in the family Felidae have a cat-ness, so they must’ve descended from a single pair on the Ark. He imagines a few thousand “kinds,” each with built-in diversity that was expressed in the 4000 or so years since the Ark landed. (More here.)

It’s discouraging to see a biologist using a word like “kind” when there are grown up, biologist words he could use, like order, though I’ll admit that it’s hard to know what word to use since “kind” is undefined. (There are roughly as many animal orders as he imagines “kinds.”)

He didn’t address the paradox that he rejects evolution and yet imagines rampant speciation at a pace no conventional biologist today would accept. Nor did he explain why, if today’s species are the result of selecting a few features from a profusion of options latent in each Ark pair, you don’t see evidence of that in their DNA.

Wood admitted that there are questions with his view but was confident that answers will be found, but that’s like saying, “Okay, I realize that an asteroid will collide with the earth and destroy all human life next week, but look—I fixed the leaky faucet!” At best, he’s saying that various bits of evidence are compatible with the God hypothesis. The multiple lines of evidence for evolution and lack of evidence for Creationism’s fundamental claims make this a just-so story to satisfy a small group of Christians.

I’ll throw in one more expert who wasn’t interviewed for the movie. Michael Behe is professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University and a darling of the Creationist/Intelligent Design community. He said in his Darwin’s Black Box: “I have no reason to doubt that the universe is the billions of years old that physicists say it is. Further, I find the idea of common descent (that all organisms share a common ancestor) fairly convincing, and have no particular reason to doubt it.” Common descent is the idea that all life on earth has a single common ancestor. I’m sure none of the experts in this movie would accept this idea.

Where does our concept of time come from?

Danny Faulkner is an astronomer. Solar eclipses happen because the moon is just the right size and at just the right distance to just cover up the sun. Ours is the only planet in our solar system on which this happens, and ours is the only planet on which anyone exists to notice. A coincidence??

Yep, a coincidence. If there were a significant message behind it, what would that message be?

He was asked how to explain an enormous universe with objects billions of light years away that was made 6000 years ago. He suggested that things moved abnormally fast in each of the six days of Creation in Genesis. For example, the plants could’ve grown from seeds all the way to mature plants on day 3. Day 4 was star-creation day, and this was also abnormally fast, speeding up the light from distant galaxies.

Apparently, this speed-up varies. While day 3 might’ve needed a hundred years of tree growth, day 4 needed billions of years for the light to travel from distant galaxies. No evidence was given.

He pointed to one clue for a young universe that we see in spiral galaxies. Because the center rotates faster, it should first create the spiral arms but then destroy them after enough rotations. (Conventional astronomers have an explanation of why the arms should continue in an old galaxy here).

Asked about the Big Bang, he thinks it has problems. He cites a 2004 NewScientist article, “Bucking the big bang” (paywall), that has a long list of signatories. This shows that there are a large number of cosmologists who have issues with the Big Bang, we’re told.

I haven’t read it. An internet search shows no reference to the article at science popularizing sites (such as Scientific American, Popular Science, or even Wikipedia) but it is referenced at a large number of Christian sites, which suggests to me that this is not a revolutionary rejection of the consensus but something that is being spun by apologists, perhaps like the Discovery Institute’s nonsensical “Dissent from Darwinism.”

If others have conclusions on this NewScientist article, I’d like to hear about it.

One thing puzzles me. Is it relevant that this astronomer has company in questioning the Big Bang? If so, then I wonder why he doesn’t just go with the consensus. And if he cheerfully rejects the consensus (thinking, perhaps, that if he’s right it doesn’t matter who agrees) then I wonder why he points to a long list of dissenters from the Big Bang.

He says that you can’t reconcile the Big Bang with the Bible. Because science changes, he warns about interpreting Genesis using uncertain science. However, Pope Francis says that the Big Bang and evolution are both real, which makes Faulkner’s view a minority in his own religion.

That reminds me of the observation, “Science changes and that’s its strength; religion doesn’t change, and that’s its weakness.”

TL;DR

I’ll end with a John Trever cartoon that lays bare the agenda of this entire movie. The cartoon contrasts the scientific attitude with the Creationist attitude. The scientist in a lab says, “Here are the facts. What conclusions can we draw from them?” And the Creationist holds a copy of Genesis and says, “Here’s the conclusion. What facts can we find to support it?”

Science is the great antidote
to the poison of enthusiasm and superstition.
— Adam Smith

Image credit: JohnBWilson, flickr, CC

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  • Raging Bee

    “…I realized that creation in six days makes the most sense from an engineering perspective.”

    LOLWUT?! I can’t think of even ONE thing that was created by any engineer(s) in six days or less.

    • GubbaBumpkin

      from an engineering perspective

      LOL Who is trapped in their own paradigm?

    • Greg G.

      You should see the messes I make in a matter of hours!

    • Only Some Stardust

      Pasta? Engineers can cook things in less than a day!

      Obviously, this is proof of the FSM.

  • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

    The scientist in a lab says, “Here are the facts. What conclusions can we draw from them?” And the Creationist holds a copy of Genesis and says, “Here’s the conclusion. What facts can we find to support it?”

    I see, so creationists are only actually interested in issues “in a lab”, and not whether “scientists” with utopian programs[1] are going to try to impose their ideas on the rest of the populace, as the new priests of social order. It’s not like the Bible is almost exclusively about matters covered by the human sciences and philosophy. But hey, instead of investigating whether there is a serious amount of conclusion-first and data-denying activity going on in the human sciences[2], you play motte and bailey.

    If evolutionary biologists and science enthusiasts were to shun the philosophy which so often attends discussion of evolution in the public sphere[3], and were to dial back the claims so that they aren’t humiliated by stuff like The Third Way: evolution in the era of genomics and epigenomics (more mechanisms are probably required to enable evolution than merely mutation + natural selection), “evolution” would not be nearly the threat to creationists that it is right now. Too many evolution popularizers are being terrible scientists and terrible philosophers, providing fodder for creationists.

    But no, apparently it would be bad strategy to be open and honest about the battle of philosophies. Socrates would be ashamed, but Protagoras would be proud. All you need to do is let science subtly overstep its bounds (bounds which allow it to excel) and you get to mooch off of the incredible progress in the hard sciences to bolster some pretty iffy stuff in the human sciences. When others object in an admittedly fumbling manner, the response is not introspection, but invective.

     
    [1] Anthropologist Robin Fox explains one mechanism:

        Finally, however, I am not convinced that the social and behavioral sciences, at least implicitly, do accept the fact-value distinction. I argue that they are committed to a utopian program by their history and by the expectations that keep them alive and funded, namely, that they will help to improve the future prospects of mankind. This is so taken for granted that many people will not see that there is an issue: of course these disciplines are intended for the future betterment of mankind; why else would we have them? One answer might be to look for the truth about human social nature whether or not the ensuing news be good or bad. In other words, it is certainly a logical possibility that there is no improvable future for mankind, that the news is indeed bad. At least the issue must be faced, not assumed to be settled. It is hard for the social sciences to face it, however; it is a poor basis for research proposals. (The Search for Society, 2)

    Another source is sociologist Christian Smith’s The Sacred Project of American Sociology; here, ‘sacred’ is meant in the Durkheimian sense.

     
    [2] Probably one of the most profound examples is that Americans (and other Western countries) pretend that their government is even remotely like the democracy/​representative republic formalisms. Perhaps the proper evidential turning-point would have been Converse 1964 The nature of belief systems in mass publics. But we didn’t want to believe that, even when attempts at falsification repeatedly failed. A full account of this mass self-delusion can be found in Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government.

     
    [3] David Livingstone notes that back in 1917, this was understood by orthodox (non-liberal) Christians:

    The burden of Wright’s contribution to the seventh volume of The Fundamentals was to discriminate between evolution as a scientific theory of species transmutation and evolutionism as a metaphysical worldview. The word evolution, he noted, “has come into much deserved disrepute by the injection into it of erroneous and harmful theological and philosophical implications. The widely current doctrine of evolution which we are now compelled to combat is one which practically eliminates God from the whole creative process and relegates mankind to the tender mercies of a mechanical universe the wheels of whose machines are left to move on without any immediate Divine direction.” Clearly Wright’s dissatisfaction with evolutionary theory centered less on exegetical questions about the early Genesis narratives than on the materialistic reductionism that had shorn natural history of any teleological element. (Darwin’s Forgotten Defenders, 148)

    The critical mistake is to say that because the current theory of evolution has no place for God to act, it is wrong to believe that God could be acting. That would only be the case if the theory of evolution were close to completion, but it manifestly is not. Ockham’s razor dictates that we should not multiply entities unnecessarily, but that only applies to model-building, not considering what actually exists. Philosophizing (pondering what actually exists) which was predicated upon Newtonian physics was rather disrupted by general relativity and quantum physics. The same is easily the case for philosophizing based on the current form of evolutionary theory.

    • Michael Neville

      The critical mistake is to say that because the current theory of evolution has no place for God to act, it is wrong to believe that God could be acting.

      It would be wrong to believe that any god could be acting for the simple reason there’s no evidence to support supernatural intervention in evolution. Wishful thinking is not evidence.

      • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

        On that reasoning, there isn’t even evidence to support agent causation. You, @michaelneville:disqus, never truly caused something. Instead, “Michael Neville” is merely an approximation, sort of like teleonomy. There is no integrated causal center; instead it’s just configurations of matter–energy evolving forward in time.

        By the way, the above is taken quite seriously; see for example @johnnyp76:disqus’s recent blog post With a Lack of Free Will, Do We Still Have Moral Responsibility?, which appears to be a lay version of Bruce Waller’s Against Moral Responsibility. Key to this is that you, the agent, never really make a choice. Instead, the choice is made for you:

        JP: I would say people are faced with a choice, and make a choice, but the choice that they make is determined such that they could not have chosen otherwise.

        What this presupposes is that the true causal powers at play are impersonal—something like differential equations churning away. Now, if you’d like to actually take that presupposition and rigorously impose it on all your thinking, I might find your reasoning respectable. But I suspect it cannot actually be imposed on all thought without massive contradictions—such as “(5) Therefore, truth and falsity of belief is unknowable.”

        • Michael Neville

          All that nonsense you’ve just spouted about the free will controversy has nothing to do with my comment that there’s no evidence, that’s NONE as in zip point shit, to even suggest in the slightest way that any god, not just your favorite deity but any god, was even remotely involved in evolution.

          Instead of tap dancing and hand waving about moral responsibility why don’t you discuss evolution? Or are you too ignorant about it to even attempt to discuss it? That would be my guess.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          The same reasoning machinery you use to guarantee that God could not possibly be the best explanation for any phenomena also guarantees that human agency will never be the best explanation for any phenomena.

          As to why I don’t talk about evolution: the vast majority of my original comment does just that: discuss evolution. So your premise was false from the get-go. What I’ve revealed is that you’d rather not talk about evolution, unless that talk can guarantee—yes, guarantee—that God could not possibly be the best explanation for anything.

        • Susan

          The same reasoning machinery you use to guarantee that God could not possibly be the best explanation for any phenomena also guarantees that human agency will never be the best explanation for any phenomena

          Then, show us that reasoning.

          One of the obvious differences is that we know that humans exist.

        • Michael Neville

          I’ve said nothing about human agency, that’s a red herring you dragged in to try to disguise the fact that you can’t justify your imaginary god as having anything to do with evolution.

          I said there was nothing, that’s not a damn thing. that suggests any type of SUPERNATURAL agency with evolution. As for your god being an explanation for anything, describe how an imaginary, fictitious, non-existent critter can be an explanation for real events. Please be specific.

        • Rudy R

          Theists think they know how the universe was created or life on earth started, but they don’t know how. They claim to know who did these things, but it’s a category mistake in conflating “who” did these things and “how” the things were caused. Theists don’t have an answer on how the things were caused, if you exclude pure fucking magic as a causation.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          I’ve said nothing about human agency

          Absolutely correct.

          that’s a red herring you dragged in to try to disguise the fact that you can’t justify your imaginary god as having anything to do with evolution.

          Absolutely false. You are deploying reasoning that does two things:

               (A) guarantees we cannot recognize any actions by God as coming from God
               (B) guarantees that there is no human agency not reducible to impersonal causation

          This is why I spoke of motte and bailey: as long as you stay within the hard sciences, (B) doesn’t prove to be a problem—at least, not yet. It is within the human sciences that (B) causes all sorts of nonsense. What I’m arguing is that it is thereby invalid to use reasoning which gets you not just (A), but also (B). I refuse to allow sleight-of-hand to obscure (B).

          I said there was nothing, that’s not a damn thing. that suggests any type of SUPERNATURAL agency with evolution.

          Yeah, and I wrote that “the current theory of evolution has no place for God to act”. You seem to want to write something rather stronger than that, which is fine—as long as you admit it is philosophical and not scientific.

          As for your god being an explanation for anything, describe how an imaginary, fictitious, non-existent critter can be an explanation for real events. Please be specific.

          Have you stopped beating your wife, yet?

        • Michael Neville

          You are deploying reasoning that does two things:

          (A) guarantees we cannot recognize any actions by God as coming from God
          (B) guarantees that there is no human agency not reducible to impersonal causation

          What a lot of bovine feces. Only a Luke Breuer could possibly come up with such nonsense. Congratulations Luke, you’ve out-Breuered yourself.

          You admit that we cannot recognize any gods’ actions. I put this down to the fact that gods don’t exist. You probably think it comes from gods’ hiddenness or suchlike hand-waving. No matter, we agree on this and the motivation is trivial to the point.

          However (B) is just not what I’ve even hinted at, let alone espoused. I’ve said and you’ve even admitted that I didn’t say anything about human causation. Dragging in a red herring about “human agency” is something only a complete idiot or a Luke Breuer could do. What does “human agency” have to do with supernatural forces involved in evolution? Nothing at all.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          You admit that we cannot recognize any gods’ actions.

          If by “we” you mean those who use reasoning and philosophy which work for the hard sciences to talk about topics not in the purview of the hard sciences, then yes. I would not want my dentist to use a jackhammer on my teeth. Maybe you’d be ok with that.

          I put this down to the fact that gods don’t exist. You probably think it comes from gods’ hiddenness or suchlike hand-waving.

          I think we like our false beliefs too much. Holding too many false beliefs will limit your ability to explore and understand reality. That’s why Francis Bacon wrote about “idols”. Apparently, you are quite convinced that you could not possibly believe too many false things. Well, the only solution to that is to get enough people together who claim to believe more of what is true and less of what is false, and have them demonstrate some increase in ability or excellence. Oh wait, did I just suggest that evidence be produced? But no, that’s not what Christians allegedly do. So better ignore the evidence which does not fit into your caricature model.

          Notice that I’m not claiming God exists. I’m merely saying that too many false beliefs could easily blind us to God’s existence. Possibly I’m right on the false beliefs, but wrong about God. The nice thing is that if this is the case, sweeping away the false beliefs is still beneficial. If you refuse to sweep away the false beliefs, you’re at a competitive disadvantage, and this will make it easier for me to associate my belief in God with a competitive advantage.

          LB: You are deploying reasoning that does two things:

               (A) guarantees we cannot recognize any actions by God as coming from God
               (B) guarantees that there is no human agency not reducible to impersonal causation

          MN: However (B) is just not what I’ve even hinted at, let alone espoused.

          Irrelevant. It comes as a package deal with (A). The way you accomplish (A) is to adopt the mechanical philosophy, which is precisely what is in the background when you demand ‘evidence’. However, the mechanical philosophy also happens to do (B). Sorry, but that’s the logic of the situation.

        • Michael Neville

          What is it about Christians that they suck at analogies? Do they practice sucking at analogies or does it come naturally?

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          You don’t inspire better ones.

        • Michael Neville

          Or you’re not smart enough to make up better ones. That’s my guess, based on your prior writings.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Erm, I don’t recall the last time I made an analogy in talking to you. But do feel free to pick out the good and bad ones going forward; maybe I can improve. Unless you would hate for that to happen, at least as long as I stay a Christian.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          No one has any idea what the hell a “God” is. No “God” makes any claim to being involved in evolution or even how that would work.

        • David Cromie

          An imaginary ‘god’ can never be the explanation of anything, apart from religiot delusions about a ‘god’ dominated, creationist, world view. In this deistic bubble, agency, in the case of humans, is not possible, since we are also asked to believe that this imaginary ‘god’ knows all about our future life on earth since before we were born, apparently.

          This is, for fundamentalists in particular, predestination, and we humans cannot get away from it by positing ‘freewill’ as an option in human agency, since that would clash with the machinations of an omniscient, omnipresent, ‘god’. It is a moot point if ‘freewill’ is even a possible option in any real circumstance, according to some thinkers.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          An imaginary ‘god’ can never be the explanation of anything …

          Obviously. Do you often define your way to being correct?

          In this deistic bubble, agency, in the case of humans, is not possible, since we are also asked to believe that this imaginary ‘god’ knows all about our future life on earth since before we were born, apparently.

          Careful investigation of the Bible shows that God is most strongly modeled as knowing everything he needs to know to ensure his promises to us will come true. It is easy to imagine this: he could ensure that certain constraints of reality will always be satisfied, and then give us incredible freedom within those constraints. To give us true freedom, he would have to self-limit and not completely determine everything. This certainly goes against some Christian teaching, but not all, not all by far.

          Where you’re going to run into problems is that the very way that causation was understood in the Ancient Near East is very different from how we understand it now. If you really want to plunge into these waters, then you’ll have to explore how you would explain responsible freedom to a young child. Probably it’s going to first look like mommy and daddy are all-powerful and all-knowing. For certain stages in development, this will probably be a good working model. Later on, when the child is ready to exercise more responsibility, the model can be enhanced. It does not seem possible to teach someone about reality in more than bite-size chunks. Unless you’re going to say that this kind of teaching is necessarily wrong and God must have done it differently, I’m going to work within the constraints of the reality I observe.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          “Obviously. Do you often define your way to being correct?”

          ‘God is imaginary’ is a statement for which there is no “God” to agree or disagree with. I’d have doubts, but really more than enough time was given in the composition of this and many previous similar comments.

        • Rudy R

          On that reasoning, there isn’t even evidence to support agent causation.

          Exactly how did you come to that conclusion? Michael Neville is arguing against supernatural causation, not human causation.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          The conclusion comes from how I see naturalists and physicalists reason about evidence. It is presupposed that the ultimate causes are mechanistic, not intentional. This is done somewhat sneakily, by using the broad term ‘deterministic’ to mean something rather restricted. You can see this sneakiness in the following, from @geena_safire:disqus over at EN:

          GS: In a deterministic world, in Carroll’s sense, everything can be said to have a “reason why” in the sense of what it is fundamentally made of and the forces that led to their current configuration. But some theists also posit an even immensely more deterministic world, one in which everything that exists was intended to be just so from the beginning, such that the world will eventually reach a certain state in the future.

          In this way, Vogt is actually positing a hyperdeterministic world.

          This is a denial that intentionality exists as something other than an approximation of states of matter evolved forward in time by something awfully like differential equations. It doesn’t just deny that God could act, it denies that any person could act. Agency—divine or creaturely—always reduces to non-agency.

          There’s a systematic philosophical treatment of this stuff: Theism and Explanation, by atheist Gregory W. Dawes. He asks whether there could possibly be theistic explanations. His answer is yes, if you allow for intentionality to be real instead of an approximation:

          3.4.1 Intentional and Causal ExplanationsA first objection rests on the very character of intentional explanations. It suggests that a theistic explanation could not be both intentional and causal, since these represent distinct and mutually exclusive forms of explanation. No intentional explanation is a causal explanation. But I believe this claim to be wrong, for reasons I shall outline later (Appendix 1.1). I have no argument with the idea, defended by Donald Davidson, that intentions are causes and that intentional explanations are also causal explanations.[76] There is one issue that needs to be clarified here. I have suggested that intentional explanations are not nomological (3.2.1). They do, if you like, depend on something resembling a law, namely the rationality principle. But they do not depend on law-like generalisations linking particular intentions and particular actions. Does this mean that they cannot be regarded as causal explanations? Only if you believe that the citing of causal laws is a necessary condition of a causal explanation. But I shall argue later that it is not (Appendix 3.3.1), that causal explanations do not necessarily involve causal laws.[77] If this is true, then there is no difficulty with the idea that an intentional explanation is also a causal explanation. (Theism and Explanation, 51)

          The key here is that “intentional explanations are not nomological”. The cause is not impersonal mechanism but rationality. Essentially, can teleology dominate mechanism, or does mechanism always dominate teleology (making it teleonomy, instead)? The assumption seems to be that mechanism always dominates teleology. But that means all causation is impersonal, and thus that agents never really, truly, cause anything. That goes for God as an agent and that goes for humans as agents.

        • Rudy R

          The conclusion comes from how I see naturalists and physicalists reason about evidence.

          It’s how you see it, but you would be wrong. It is not presupposed by non-theists that the ultimate causes are mechanistic. It is based on a lack of empirical evidence. Theists apply the same method, only when it doesn’t interfere with their belief in a god.

          It is the theist that presupposes an intentional cause. If there were empirical evidence to warrant belief in the supernatural, theists wouldn’t need to rely solely on logic. Because something is possible, doesn’t make it probable. For every argument for the possibility of a god, there is an argument against. Whose argument is more probable? The one that relies on pure reasoning or the one that relies on pure reasoning and empirical evidence?

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          It is not presupposed by non-theists that the ultimate causes are mechanistic. It is based on lack of empirical evidence for an intentional cause and prior probabilities for mechanistic causes.

          No, I think it’s based on contradictory reasoning and have argued so: if you allow only nomological causation (which I’m pretty sure lines up perfectly with “the ultimate causes are mechanistic”), then “(5) Therefore, truth and falsity of belief is unknowable.” Science absolutely requires what I’ve called “sometimes causation”, where you can maintain everything the same except for sometimes adding exactly one additional cause to the mix. Crucial to this is you have to know that the additional cause does not originate in the system under study. Do you see the problem yet, with scientists claiming that they can study all of reality scientifically, while simultaneously claiming that the universe is causally closed?

          Theists presuppose mechanistic causes too, but only when it doesn’t interfere with their belief in a god.

          You appear to be referring to methodological naturalism, and I probably agree with you to some very high percentage of theists. This is because we are incredibly naive in reasoning about causation. There’s a tremendous amount we don’t know. What we do know is how to think via mechanism—it is our one robust hammer, and so everything looks like a nail. Or, the sufficiently not-nail-approximatable entities simply fall off our radar completely. I can explain how this shows up mathematically if you’d like, drawing from mathematical biologist Robert Rosen’s Life Itself. The basic argument is that ‘mechanism’ refers to a very specific class of mathematical formalisms, a class which is too impoverished to define what ‘life’ is. Rosen provides alternatives for thinking about things which break causal closure (leading to nonequilibrium systems—something we don’t understand very well yet) and introduce robust self-reference (which we are also very bad at formalizing).

          BTW, one of the cool recent scientific discoveries is time crystals, and it was only possible because the system is not closed—it is constantly driven from the outside in a specific way. The same is the case for CCDs, by the way. They operate far from thermal equilibrium. I was told by a Caltech professor in 2005 that most equations electrical engineers learn presuppose thermal equilibrium, and that there was much of nature we could not explore until we get better at noneqilibrium thinking. What does this have to do with God? Well, God punctures our closed system, making it an open system. And he doesn’t need to do it mechanistically.

          It is the theist that presupposes an intentional cause.

          You cannot understand humans without presupposing intentional causation. Again, this is why I spoke of motte and bailey: the hard sciences don’t require intentional causation for the massive advances they’ve made, and so we think that no explanation will ultimately require intentional causation. The problem is that you need intentional causation for the human sciences, and you need non-nomological causation in order to even know the difference between truth and falsity. It would appear that non-nomological causation is closely tied to intentional causation.

          For every argument for the possibility of a god, there is an argument against. Whose argument is more probable? The one that relies on pure reasoning or the one that relies on pure reasoning and empirical evidence?

          Paul indicates that empirical evidence is part and parcel with the kingdom of God:

          But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. (1 Corinthians 4:19–20)

          I agree. If Christians cannot/​will not actively bless others, then God isn’t active. Now, I suspect at least some on CE will deny that there’s any [knowable] truth-aspect to “bless others”. Fortunately, you are in the extreme minority when it comes to human beings on this matter, and thus your opinion is almost certainly irrelevant on the matter. The one case in which you won’t be in the extreme minority is when no real blessing is actually happening, in which case you will suggest some sort of de facto nihilism. And you’ll be right, as long as Christians are lazy and/or oppressors.

        • Rudy R

          This last claptrap falls under the category of, if you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit. It’s a big nothing burger. And bringing Paul and scripture into the conversation is like bringing Cro-Magnon into the conservation about Calculus. Absolutely meaningless.

          There’s simply no evidence to support supernatural intervention in evolution, because there is no evidence that a supernatural realm exists.

          Theists think they know how the universe was created or how life on earth started, but they don’t know how. They claim to know who did these things, but it’s a faulty comparison in conflating “who” did these things and “how” the things were caused. Theists don’t have an answer on how the things were caused, if you exclude pure fucking magic.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          This last claptrap falls under the category of, if you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.

          You are of course welcome to call whatever you want “bullshit”.

          And bringing Paul and scripture into the conversation is like bringing Cro-Magnon into the conservation about Calculus. Absolutely meaningless.

          Hahahaha, when I cite scripture which says that Christianity is supposed to be about power and not just words, you call it irrelevant. Yeah, you don’t give a shit about the empirical evidence when it isn’t convenient to you.

          There’s simply no evidence to support supernatural intervention in evolution, because there is no evidence that a supernatural realm exists.

          I never said there was supernatural intervention in evolution. Indeed, I said the opposite, from the get-go: “the current theory of evolution has no place for God to act”.

          Theists think they know how the universe was created or how life on earth started, but they don’t know how.

          Some theists do indeed think that the Bible is a hard science textbook. I’m not one of them. Humans don’t seem to have problems making progress in the hard sciences; where they have serious problems is not being terrible to their fellow humans. Here’s an example by Enlightened Westerners:

          Schäuble came under criticism for his actions during the “Grexit” crisis of 2015: it was suggested by Yanis Varoufakis that Schäuble had intended to force Greece out of the Euro even before the election of the left-wing Syriza government in Greece.[77] This was confirmed by former US Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner in early 2014; calling Schäuble’s plan “frightening,” Geithner recorded that Schäuble believed a Greek exit from the Eurozone would scare other countries in to line.[78] Schäuble also received extensive criticism toward his austerity recommendations from Twitter via the hashtag #ThisIsACoup.[79] Such criticism focused on the fact that Schäuble’s insistence on policies of austerity was contradicted both by the empirical evidence that the policies he had insisted on had shrunk the Greek economy by 25%, a degree hitherto paralleled only in wartime, but also by reports from the IMF insisting that only massive debt relief, not further austerity, could be effective.[80][81] (WP: Wolfgang Schäuble § Criticism)

          But no, we don’t give a shit. I mean, nobody died, right? Less violence per capita, right?

        • Rudy R

          Tangent much? You never fail to disappoint your critics.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Shall I attempt another approach at your comment, which involved utterly unsubstantiated claims such as:

          RR: It is not presupposed by non-theists that the ultimate causes are mechanistic. It is based on lack of empirical evidence for an intentional cause and prior probabilities for mechanistic causes.

          We could also explore whether it is actually true that the human sciences never ever presuppose intentional causation, per this bit:

          RR: It is the theist that presupposes an intentional cause.

          I have two major points, here: (i) mechanistic/​nomological causation is antithetical to agency of any kind truly existing; and (ii) mechanistic/​nomological causation logically precludes knowing the difference between truth and falsity.

          The last bit of my big comment might have been an agreement with the following:

          RR: For every argument for the possibility of a god, there is an argument against. Whose argument is more probable? The one that relies on pure reasoning or the one that relies on pure reasoning and empirical evidence?

          But since I quoted Paul in suggesting that Christianity values empirical evidence, you threw a hissy fit.

           
          But maybe you never actually cared about the matters I’ve quoted you saying in the first place. Perhaps you were blowing smoke with that entire comment?

        • Tommy

          Non sequitur jibberish again!

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          That jibberish has spurred quite a lot of conversation from your kind.

        • Tommy

          3 days later and that’s the best you got? It’s over, Luke. Move on.

    • GubbaBumpkin

      Ockham’s razor dictates that we should not multiply entities
      unnecessarily, but that only applies to model-building, not considering
      what actually exists.

      He’s using actual words. With actual syllables! But he’s not saying anything meaningful. What is the distinction between considering what actually exists, and building models to approximate what actually exists? Not a whit. It’s the same thing in different words. Newtonian physics wasn’t a model? LOL.

      If you think relativity is just a model and doesn’t “actually exist” then you need to assure us that you do not use GPS navigation, because GPS satellites rely on relativistic corrections to achieve usable accuracy.
      If you think quantum mechanics is just a model and doesn’t “actually exist” then you need to stop using lasers. The theory of lasers depends on quantum mechanics; there is no classical theory of lasers at all. What’s more, the Internet connections between you and the Patheos server probably utilise fiber optic links which carry laser pulses of information, and all the semiconductors in your computer, the Patheos servers, and all the switching equipment in between rely on quantum bandgaps in order to operate. So if you want to question the status of relativity, quantum mechanics, and other aspects of modern science, you shouldn’t type it out on an Internet-connected computer, you should scratch it in the dirt with a sharp stick.

      • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

        None of what you write makes sense. It’s like the whole “just a theory” thing with evolution has broken your brain. I’ll explain how approximations of reality actually work.

        Newtonian gravity was used quite successfully for a long time, even though it turns out that it was an approximation to general relativity. Most intelligent people suspect that quantum field theory and general relativity don’t perfectly describe reality, because they produce contradictory predictions near black holes. So they too are almost certainly approximations of a deeper reality. There is no reason to think that the next thing we discover will be anything other than an approximation as well.

        The problem that all this presents is that every change in approximation tends to radically shift our understanding of what really exists. This is well exemplified by the developments of general relativity and quantum field theory. Now, unless you’re quite certain that they will never be shown to be approximations, it is rather unintelligent to tie your idea of what truly exists to those theories.

        • Only Some Stardust

          Except any deeper model that is developed is going to have to show how those theories fit inside it as a classical case – that is, all those theories trying to find out what exists are going to have to tie themselves to the old ones in some way. So it IS intelligent to tie your idea of what exists to those old theories; tying doesn’t mean ‘agree 100% with’, and they never claimed that. And if a newer model has been proposed for behavior of a domain and no evidence has been found for it within the domain, that’s a decent indication that’s not a good model.

          General Relativity contains Newtonian gravity equations as a special case. Yes, it’s an approximation, but that doesn’t mean it has no physical existence,that those equations within their proper boundary are not real. The deeper theories are far more like Russian nesting dolls than they are like transforming triangles into circles or turning wood into a real boy. GR is definitely tied to Newtonian Gravity equations. Something doesn’t have to be completely unlike something in every way to shift radically our understanding of the universe. Yes, the Newtonian concept of absolute space and gravity as instant was overthrown entirely – but that concept of space was not the part of Newtonian gravity that was ever vigorously tested! When it was, it became apparent that something was deeply wrong, and special relativity was developed. The parts of the theory that were tested, and were found accurate, were absorbed in to the new theory.

          GR is completely unlike the God hypothesis because unlike God hypothesis, it’s very, very new and already allowed us to build GPS systems off of it, whilst the God-did-evolution hypothesis is as old as the evolution idea itself and still hasn’t manifested any evidence despite many people having a huge incentive to find some. Evolution has, like those parts of Newtonian gravity that were absorbed, actually been tested; we’ve seen animals evolve in laboratories now, via processes that don’t require any active guidance, and we can even write computer programs with evolutionary mechanisms that, again, don’t require us to actively step in at every moment and meddle, but can have you just start the program and let it run without meddling. Things fall, and any theory of gravity is going to have to explain ‘things fall’. Similarly, any new theory of evolution is going to have to explain natural, unguided selection where you set up the basic gene inheriting organism and the environment and let it go do its thing.

          Seriously, the ‘God/aliens/whatever put life down on Earth and then left it alone’ is a much better hypothesis, even if it’s still completely devoid of evidence at least it wouldn’t involve trying to claim that your God is indistinguishable from random mutations and statistical flux, which is a pretty piss-weak God. That’s like me saying I’m directing an orchestra by having them randomly hit notes and then removing all the ones that hit the wrong one – there are wayyyy more efficient ways to do that via design.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          It’s not clear whether you disagree with anything I’ve said about scientific models of reality. Instead, your disagreement seems to be philosophical—about what could possibly count as a good explanation. I get at that in my response to @robrudolph:disqus. Essentially, the dominant way of evaluating evidence (and what counts as evidence—recall Kuhn) is to serve the purpose of increasing our ability to dominate reality, to impose our current wills on reality.

          If you aren’t careful—and I don’t think you are, though not by large fault of your own—you end up requiring God to aid our endeavor to dominate reality, in order to acknowledge his existence. There is zero space for him to challenge our ideas of what it would be good to do and be. Indeed, matters of “what it would be good to do and be” are considered unscientific. Science does not talk about such things; instead, we could call it “telos-neutral”. But we are not guaranteed that all knowledge is telos-neutral. On the contrary, that is an enormous philosophical presupposition I think is dangerously wrong. But as long as it is held, anything not telos-neutral is screened from view, replete with attendant distortions.

          There is a conceit in modernity that our problem is lack of knowledge, lack of scientific knowledge. Were God good, he would give us more scientific knowledge. I think that is hilariously false. I believe the evidence that the greater the power disparity, the less the rationality and the more the rationalizing[1]. Bertrand Russell knew that more power can easily mean less egalitarianism. Now of course, it is presupposed on CE that matters like egalitarianism aren’t matters of truth or falsity. I see that as nothing but an unjustified philosophical presupposition. What’s actually the case is that the human sciences are terrifically harder than the hard science. Sadly, this frequently obscured by motte and bailey games—as I pointed out in my original comment.

           
          [1] Bent Flyvbjerg reports on an empirical study of how power and rationality interact in Rationality and Power: Democracy in Practice. He offers a severe criticism of the Enlightenment, for ignoring the realities of power. We need more Machiavelli, more Thucydides, more Nietzsche, if we are to have a proper model of human nature. And perhaps, of nature as well.

        • GubbaBumpkin

          Now, unless you’re quite certain that they will never be shown to be
          approximations, it is rather unintelligent to tie your idea of what
          truly exists to those theories.

          One could say the same thing about the Bible and other religious texts. But here’s the odd thing: the Bible hasn’t been shown to be an approximation, it’s been shown to be wildly inaccurate. And yet there are still people who claim it is approximately correct, and other people who claim it is literally inerrant, and other people who claim that we can drop the parts that have been shown to be inaccurate but that we should believe what remains.

          So don’t be lecturing science on its small imperfections when religion is doing such a shitty job.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          One could say the same thing about the Bible and other religious texts.

          You mean, like this:

              The life of the Church in the earlier Byzantine period is dominated by the seven general councils. These councils fulfilled a double task. First, they clarified and articulated the visible organization of the Church, crystallizing the position of the five great sees or Patriarchates, as they came to be known. Secondly, and most important, the councils defined once and for all the Church’s teaching upon the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith—the Trinity and the Incarnation. All Christians agree in regarding these things as ‘mysteries’ which lie beyond human understanding and language. The bishops, when they drew up definitions at the councils, did not imagine that they had explained the mystery; they merely sought to exclude certain false ways of speaking and thinking about it. To prevent people from deviating into error and heresy, they drew a fence around the mystery; that was all. (The Orthodox Church, 10)

          ? My one beef with this rendering is that I believe “human understanding and language” can increase in scope. The Orthodox are the most prepared to allow for this, given their stance on theosis. What is key is not to pretend you know what you do not in fact know. Simultaneously, you want to say what you do in fact know. Keeping a tension between these two things is incredibly hard. It is almost certainly one reason Max Planck said the following:

          A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it. (Max Plank)

          We haven’t defeated stagnant orthodoxy in the person, we’ve only kinda-sorta defeated it in the institution. We may not have defeated it much at all in the human sciences; those in power are happy for nerds to do their thing if it will enhance their power instead of undercut it. What scientific research would destabilize the powers that be in the West, today? It is hard to even think of answers, because thinking richly about a topic area requires there to be active progress in that area. Politics is hard, and scientists are notoriously terrible at it. Scientists are also notoriously terrible at some combination of self-knowledge and theory of mind when it comes to people not like them. And yet, so much of religious texts deal with precisely these two areas.

          But here’s the odd thing: the Bible hasn’t been shown to be an approximation, it’s been shown to be wildly inaccurate.

          Stop treating the Bible as a hard science textbook. It was never intended to be that, as any non-prejudiced reading will demonstrate. The problem is that the hard sciences rose to be the paragon of knowledge, and thus Christians scrambled to make it seem like the Bible had excellent things to say in that domain. This is as dumb now as it was then. What the Bible says a tremendous amount about is the human sciences and philosophy which is relevant to practical life. But don’t take my word for it, read Yoram Hazony’s The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture. Unless you want to be prejudiced and accept Greek philosophy which was claimed to be inspired by the gods, but reject the contents of the Bible because of those “Thus saith the LORD”s.

          So don’t be lecturing science on its small imperfections when religion is doing such a shitty job.

          Hahahaha, “small imperfections”. More motte and bailey, eh? After all, you’re implicitly referencing the great successes of the hard sciences while ignoring the status of the human sciences.

        • GubbaBumpkin

          No, I don’t mean like that. I mean something clear and easily understood. Instead of constantly accusing everyone of misunderstanding you, why not deal with the obvious truth: you are a lousy communicator.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          I mean something clear and easily understood.

          Oh, you mean the kind of thing which may [currently] be impossible:

              The assumption that there is an exclusive dichotomy between the formal and the physiological is, in our view, an error of enormous consequence. We shall maintain that the most important metascientific concepts with which philosophy deals, such as cause, law, explanation, theory, evidence, natural necessity, and the like, have not been shown to be capable of adequate characterisation in wholly formal terms. We hold that adequate accounts of those concepts which are neither purely formal nor simply psychological can be achieved by attention to the third element in our intellectual economy, namely the content of our knowledge, content which goes beyond the reports of immediate experience. We shall show in a wide variety of cases that the concepts with which we are concerned, and particularly the concept of Causality, can be adequately differentiated, the rationality of science defended, and the possibility of the world preserved only by attending to certain general features of the content of causal propositions by which they can ultimately be distinguished as having a conceptual necessity, irreducible either to logical necessity or to psychological illusion. In this way we resolve many of the problems which the tradition has bequeathed us. (Causal Powers: Theory of Natural Necessity, 2–3)

          Uh oh. Do you like setting up theists to fail, guaranteeing they will not provide you with what you request?

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Instead of constantly accusing everyone of misunderstanding you, why not deal with the obvious truth: you are a lousy communicator.

          Your definition of “constantly” is p. funny. But just so you know, I am constantly on the lookout for how to better explain my ideas. I make no pretense to be an awesome communicator, or even a decent one. What I find frustrating is when people seem to conveniently ignore or distort what I’ve written, or apply stereotypes to me which they hate when I do back to them. And even ignoring/​distorting isn’t so bad if they’ll admit it quickly and then we can move on. It’s when the pattern of ignoring/​distorting persists for a long time with the same person.

          But hey, properly analyzing someone’s failings so [s]he can improve is hard; potshots are easy.

        • GubbaBumpkin

          Newtonian gravity was used quite successfully for a long time, even
          though it turns out that it was an approximation to general relativity.

          Newtonian equations for gravity are still used, and still taught in the schools. You lose.
          This is because they are not as exact as relativistic formulations for gravity, but they are exact enough for many applications. I.e. Newtonian gravity is not “wrong,” it is just less accurate, with the degree of accuracy depending on the specifics of the application. So whatever “actually exists” must account for the success of the Newtonian model of gravity in many applications (extreme velocities and extreme masses excepted).

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          LB: Newtonian gravity was used quite successfully for a long time [and thereby assumed to be absolutely true], even though it turns out that it was an approximation to general relativity.

          GB: Newtonian equations for gravity are still used, and still taught in the schools. You lose.

          I’ve added what I thought would be obvious.

          This is because they are not as exact as relativistic formulations for gravity, but they are exact enough for many applications.

          Hence “just a model” or “just an approximation” or God forbid, “just a theory”. One of the first things you learn in control theory class is that you can use rather bad models to still control the system in the way you want. For example, you can have the most naive model of car acceleration dynamics, and still produce a usable cruise control.

          Go get yourself Nobel laureate Robert B. Laughlin’s A Different Universe: Reinventing Physics from the Bottom Down. It’s hilarious but also exceedingly insightful. He suggests that what we [sometimes] think are the unalterable laws of nature are actually just properties of a certain organization of matter–energy. All the data we have would be compatible with this new way of understanding things, even though what we took to be a foundation of reality would vanish.

          I.e. Newtonian gravity is not “wrong,” it is just less accurate, with the degree of accuracy depending on the specifics of the application.

          That depends entirely on what you mean by “wrong”. According to general relativity, there is no “action at a distance”, and yet that is intrinsic to Newtonian gravity (and it bothered the hell out of Newton, who wanted mechanistic physics—billiard ball physics). On the other hand, the raw mathematics works just fine in certain domains for certain purposes. And who knows, maybe curved spacetime doesn’t actually cause gravity; maybe general relativity is yet another approximation of some deeper way things work. Mercifully, we don’t have to understand the full picture to get somewhere.

          So whatever “actually exists” must account for the success of the Newtonian model of gravity in many applications (extreme velocities and extreme masses excepted).

          Of course. Nothing I’ve said or necessarily implied contradicts what you’ve said.

        • Tommy

          He has you arguing over Newtonian physics instead of the topic. Classic Luke Breuer!

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          I know; you don’t want it demonstrated that the reasoning you use to discredit Christianity has all these ugly side effects of undermining science and good reasoning. Instead, you want to use one set of reasoning for Christianity, another for the hard sciences, and another for the human sciences. Consistency is overrated, amirite?

        • Tommy

          I get it. Red herring is your favorite dish.

        • Tommy
        • Pofarmer

          You’ll get that a lot with Luke.

          When you point it out, you’ll get another wall of nonsense.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          You can always request less text. For example, I know that you, @oldnewatheist:disqus, tend to fade out if it’s more than a paragraph or two. And so I try to be absolutely succinct, when replying to you. Things are lost with this approach, but life is full of trade-offs.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          Christians claim a super intelligent being who can speak their commandments to humans… then spend the majority of their time deflecting why they are the ones talking instead of the being, cwhich we only ever heard of because the very same Christians made the claim- not the being claimed by them.

    • Halbe

      As usual it is very hard to discern your actual point… However, the scientific Theory of Evolution (including Genetics) has definitely relegated all of Genesis 1-11 to the realm of mythology. This means no literal Garden of Eden, no Adam & Eve, no Fall, no Original Sin, no Flood. Salvaging some sort of Christian doctrine from that wreckage has kept theologians very busy since 1859.

      Sure, the Theory of Evolution is not strictly incompatible with a deistic or theistic worldview, but the role of God in such a worldview would be vastly diminished compared to historical Christian doctrine.

      And then of course there is the small problem of there being no evidence for divine intervention in evolution, but that has of course never stopped apologists to try to cram God into the nooks where science has no clear answers yet.

      • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

        As usual it is very hard to discern your actual point…

        Really, what’s so hard about the following:

        LB: If evolutionary biologists and science enthusiasts were to shun the philosophy which so often attends discussion of evolution in the public sphere[3], and were to dial back the claims so that they aren’t humiliated by stuff like The Third Way: evolution in the era of genomics and epigenomics (more mechanisms are probably required to enable evolution than merely mutation + natural selection), “evolution” would not be nearly the threat to creationists that it is right now. Too many evolution popularizers are being terrible scientists and terrible philosophers, providing fodder for creationists.

        ?

        However, the scientific Theory of Evolution (including Genetics) has definitely relegated all of Genesis 1-11 to the realm of mythology.

        The dichotomy of “literal” vs. “mythology” is a modern construct; it is almost certain that those in the Ancient Near East did not think in those terms. Or do you not care if you are anachronistic? And yes, I realize that some Christians also think in those terms. Their error does not excuse yours. If you want to claim to be led exclusively by the evidence and reason, you would have investigated this stuff instead of taken it on faith.

        This means no literal Garden of Eden, no Adam & Eve, no Fall, no Original Sin, no Flood.

        The idea that humanity could not possibly be “fallen” in some way which meshes perfectly with the whole of the Bible is probably one of the most pernicious beliefs humans have ever adopted. It allows them to deny moral responsibility and scapegoat. Instead of considering that part of the problem might be you, you instead decide that you’re so close to perfectly innocent that it’s the other people who need to suffer. Revisit my excerpt of Robin Fox. Or we could talk about the incredible naïveté one finds in the predictions at Milgram experiment § Results. One of the main messages of the Bible is that humans are not as awesome as they think they are. Do we learn? The evidence indicates a very strong “no”.

        Sure, the Theory of Evolution is not strictly incompatible with a deistic or theistic worldview, but the role of God in such a worldview would be vastly diminished compared to historical Christian doctrine.

        The theory of evolution (dunno why the caps) is also compatible with a very active God. This idea that his activity would need to be “vastly diminished” is simply unsupported by sound reasoning. Instead, it is buttressed by ridiculous notions of the supernatural and miracles. God can be plenty active and also quite lawful in how he acts.

        And then of course there is the small problem of there being no evidence for divine intervention in evolution, but that has of course never stopped apologists to try to cram God into the nooks where science has no clear answers yet.

        Sure, some apologists play god-of-the-gaps, and I critique that when I see it. Such an attitude is utterly antithetical to a God who wants to be increasingly known, which the Bible attests to all over the place. Where you get a problem is when you presuppose that ultimate reality is impersonal, that anything personal is a sort of epiphenomenon, like teleonomy is to teleology. At least, this is a problem for the human sciences—one of the main focuses of the Bible.

        • David Cromie

          High-falutin nonsense! If you are so keen to lever in a supposed ‘god’, would it not be propitious for the success of your thesis to first provide the irrefutable evidence for your favourite ‘god’, if we are supposed to take you seriously?

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          High-falutin nonsense!

          Oh really. I suggest watching a few minutes of Chris Hedges:

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vRl6mkx0KjU#t=3m06

          Here’s the transcript:

          3:06 So I actually came towards these New Atheists fairly predisposed to accept the tradition that they said they represented. Upon reading their works, however, and engaging in a debate with them, I was appalled to find that what they had done is essentially replicate the fundamentalist beliefs of Christian conservatives with secular language, in secular garb. They had, like the radical Christian Right, created a binary world view, of us and them, of good and evil, of black and white. They externalize evil, in the same way the Christian Right does. Evil is not something within the human heart, endemic to all of us, something that we must all struggle against, but evil is a force out there that once we eradicate, will allow us to advance forward, morally, if not to a perfect society, to a more perfect society.

          4:10 This kind of utopian vision, wedded to the dangerous belief that violence can be used to advance this vision, to purify the world, is characteristic of most utopian movements. These movements have been the curse of modern societies since probably the Jacobins in France. It goes back of course to the Enlightenment itself. The Enlightenment was a blessing in many ways, a reaction to the anti-intellectualism, oppression, superstition, bigotry of the Church, but it was also a curse. What the Enlightenment did was that it adopted the linear notion of time, which is a peculiar product of the Hebraic and Christian traditions—the idea that we’re moving towards redemption or salvation. This is completely foreign in Oriental religions and completely foreign to the Greeks, who believed that both individual life and societal or communal life is about birth, growth, degeneration, and death. There was a cyclical quality to existence.

          5:32 But what the Enlightenment did is it dropped the wisdom of original sin. It stated, probably most clearly by Augustine in City of God, City of Man—a great work—where he argued that the perfect society or the “City of God” could only be created by God, that it was incapable of being created by humankind because we were endemically flawed. The Enlightenment jettisoned this idea and put their faith in science, rational human beings, and knowledge as a way to advance humankind and create a more perfect world. This belief is extremely dangerous, because it is a short step—as the Jacobins proved with the Committee of Virtue and the Reign of Terror—that once you define certain groups of human beings as impediments to that progress, if you believe that they are incapable of being converted or reformed, then they must be eradicated. And I think the vast killing projects that we saw in the last century by Communists and Fascists is directly tied to that Enlightenment vision.

          Hedges has experienced real life, he has experienced the intense evil of humans. Maybe you haven’t, or maybe you have and are delusional about it. Maybe it’s all the fault of ‘religion’.

          If you are so keen to lever in a supposed ‘god’ …

          Am I? Why don’t you check to see if your hypotheses are supported by the empirical evidence? I hope you don’t merely require your opposition to do so.

        • Halbe

          I have no idea what your point is with the ‘anachronistic’ accusation, so I will not react on that.

          Official RCC doctrine is still that Adam&Eve really existed and that there was a literal Fall event. The RCC leaves the timelines and exact events of the Fall open for discussion in order to avoid the YEC trap. However, if you want to call yourself a Catholic you have to believe all of us descended from a real pair of first human beings that really caused Original Sin by means of a real Fall. This doctrine is clearly absurd in light of modern science. Many Protestant denominations have similar doctrines; some even go the whole YEC nine yards. So, the official doctrines of most of Christianity are completely at odds with modern science; no wonder Christians make such a fuss over the Theory of Evolution (which I capitalize to emphasize that I mean the scientific theory, not ‘just a theory’, or a worldview).

          The view that humans are far from perfect is of course not unique to the Bible, or even to Christianity, or even to religion. You should read a bit more about Hinduism and Buddhism; it is very clear that the “flawed human” idea predates both Christianity and Judaism. Modern secular humanism with its consequential ethics also presupposes a “flawed human” (but maybe not a flawed humanity). Christianity perverted this “flawed human” idea into the massive guilt trip of “original sin”, which has served its political purpose very well through the centuries.

          “God can be plenty active and also quite lawful in how he acts”!? In what way is a lawful God different from an inactive deity that just created the universe and its laws and then leaned back to see how everything unfolds according to these laws? Either God lets the laws do its work (“quite lawful”), or God is very active, all the time doing stuff the laws won’t accomplish (“plenty active”), but not both. The Theory of Evolution has given us a clear mechanism for the emergence of the abundance of life without an active God.

          How are the “human sciences one of the main focuses of the Bible”? Nothing in the Bible has informed the modern sciences of Sociology, Psychology, Economics etc. The Bible and Christianity have rather stood firmly in the way of any progress in these areas.

          And: which problems do you get when you follow the evidence and conclude that there is no reason to insert a personal God into reality? The problem of e.g. Free Will only becomes larger in a theistic worldview imho.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          I have no idea what your point is with the ‘anachronistic’ accusation, so I will not react on that.

          Humans have not always viewed reality the same. Indeed, they have come up with some very different ways to understand things. To pretend that concepts pretty much invented post-Enlightenment are valid ways to talk about the world 2500–3500 years ago is extremely problematic. Unless you don’t care a whit for truth.

          Official RCC doctrine …

          I’m not Catholic.

          So, the official doctrines of most of Christianity are completely at odds with modern science …

          Yeah, I’ll require evidence of that, not you comparing your little model of how science work to your little model of what the doctrines mean, finding contradictions in the process. For example, show me someone (i) believing the doctrines; (ii) doing worse science as a result. If you can’t—if whenever this situation happens you have to appeal to something like cognitive dissonance—then I’ll point out that your little theory is unfalsifiable and thus completely unscientific.

          … no wonder Christians make such a fuss over the Theory of Evolution (which I capitalize to emphasize that I mean the scientific theory, not ‘just a theory’, or a worldview).

          And I claim that by heavily implying there must be so large a fuss, you are making philosophical claims, masquerading as scientific claims. (IMO, the caps make it seem like a replacement for God.)

          The view that humans are far from perfect is of course not unique to the Bible, or even to Christianity, or even to religion.

          Sure; there were many smart people before Enlightened moderns got extraordinarily dumb in some key ways. A major problem moderns have is that they seem constitutionally incapable of admitting appreciable error within themselves. The Bible has multiple words for this, including ‘pride’, ‘stubbornness’, and ‘blindness’. I would be quite happy to compare & contrast the implicit psychology (or psychologies) in the Bible to those available in other holy texts. I do maintain that we seem to need God much more in the realm of self-knowledge than scientific knowledge.

          Modern secular humanism with its consequential ethics also presupposes a “flawed human” (but maybe not a flawed humanity).

          It makes no sense to suggest that humans can be flawed but humanity cannot. Or rather, it is an ideological tool of oppression. Because some folks are going to claim to have direct, unmediated access to God True Humanity. But no, all those OT stories about a corrupt priestly elite are unreliable hogwash.

          Christianity perverted this “flawed human” idea into the massive guilt trip of “original sin”, which has served its political purpose very well through the centuries.

          From what I have learned of Roman Catholicism, this seems true of major swaths. A book I haven’t managed to get into is Jean Delumeau’s Sin and Fear: The Emergence of the Western Guilt Culture, 13th–18th Centuries. On the other hand, becoming a scientist requires a lot of evisceration of prior ways that one thought the world works, especially when your starting point is pretty bad. Could the kind of beating up on oneself which Catholicism apparently encouraged help pave the way for sound scientific thought? I say it’s worth investigation. And of course, we can research better ways to deal with sin, fear, and guilt. I don’t think I like the fact that it is so easy for politicians to feel guilt-free for some of the shenanigans they pull.

          How are the “human sciences one of the main focuses of the Bible”?

          Does the Bible care more about physics and chemistry or psychology and sociology? Does it care more about how the stars move or how political power operates? Anyone who has read much of any Bible knows the answer. A compelling explanation for why we’re stupid about this is provided by Orthodox Jew Yoram Hazony, in The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture. It’s those “Thus saith the LORD:”s which throw people off. There are plenty of “a goddess taught me X” in Greek philosophy, but we give that a pass or even omit that part in our translations. It’s blatant prejudice, but I know of no empirical evidence that secularists are less bigoted and prejudiced than the religious.

          Nothing in the Bible has informed the modern sciences of Sociology, Psychology, Economics etc. The Bible and Christianity have rather stood firmly in the way of any progress in these areas.

          That’s nothing but rank prejudice and bigotry. To give a fascinating counterexample, you can explore René Girard § Influence, nothing that the influencing ideas came from his study of great literature, especially including the Bible. Two of the sub-categories are “Psychology and neuroscience” and “Economics and globalization”. More generally, the impact of liberal Protestantism on modernity is well-understood by anyone interested in the empirical evidence. (I’m not a liberal Protestant, but I don’t see that defeating my point.)

          And: which problems do you get when you follow the evidence and conclude that there is no reason to insert a personal God into reality? The problem of e.g. Free Will only becomes larger in a theistic worldview imho.

          The problem I’m focusing on is that it appears that you destroy the possibility of true human agency, agency which does not ultimately reduce to impersonal causal laws doing their thing. That in turn will lead to the denial of causation, because an agent needs to have causal powers to test hypotheses. To build intuition on that, see the two-kitten basket experiment.

          Another problem is that based on the dominant models of causation deployed by scientists today—as well as at least some naturalist philosophers—is that they result in the self-contradictory conclusion that “(5) Therefore, truth and falsity of belief is unknowable.”. The only way out I see is to suppose that not all causation is ‘nomological’, a term Gregory Dawes brings into play in his Theism and Explanation (relevant excerpt at the (5) link). But supposing that there is “not nomological” causation doesn’t immediately get you to God. But that doesn’t really matter, because if the metaphysics of causation adopted by my interlocutors self-destructs, I can rightfully criticize that.

          It may help to know that our understanding of causation is extremely muddled. Evan Fales makes this quite clear in Divine Intervention: Metaphysical and Epistemological Puzzles. (Both Dawes and Fales are atheists, btw.) If you think this is only a philosophical matter, I suggest looking at Nancy Cartwright’s work on evidence-based policy making:

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zD0nf6k1qHY

          She also wrote a book: Evidence-Based Policy: A Practical Guide to Doing It Better. The science version of this starts with How the Laws of Physics Lie, but it’s easy to dismiss that kind of thing as only interesting to philosophers.

        • Pofarmer

          The idea that humanity could not possibly be “fallen” in some way which
          meshes perfectly with the whole of the Bible is probably one of the most
          pernicious beliefs humans have ever adopted.

          Uhm, no, best we can tell, it’s the truth.

          It allows them to deny moral responsibility and scapegoat.

          Uhm, no, it allows us to realize both who and what we are on this planet.

          We are evolved primates, with all that that entails. We never were perfect, and probably never will be, but some of us are trying.

          “But we were born of risen apes, not fallen angels, and the apes were armed killers besides. And so what shall we wonder at? Our murders and massacres and missiles, and our irreconcilable regiments? Or our treaties whatever they may be worth; our symphonies however seldom they may be played; our peaceful acres, however frequently they may be converted into battlefields; our dreams however rarely they may be accomplished. The miracle of man is not how far he has sunk but how magnificently he has risen. We are known among the stars by our poems, not our corpses.”
          ― Robert Ardrey

          The Fall doctrine is a fundamental misunderstanding of what we are.

        • Jim Jones

          > We are evolved primates,

          We’re not as evolved as we think.

        • Pofarmer

          I was reading some quotes the other day talking about finding other intelligent life in the universe. And I think it was either Carl Sagan or Stephen Hawking said they weren’t sure there was intelligent life here.

        • adam

          ” And I think it was either Carl Sagan or Stephen Hawking said they weren’t sure there was intelligent life here.”

          And this was before Trump was elected?

        • Kodie

          Humans like to take credit for the most intelligent of ourselves, but we’re fucking dumb as shit for the most part.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          I just love when people connect evolution in the scientific sense to moral or intellectual progress. (Criticism probably not meant for you.)

        • Jim Jones

          Evolved has connotations of ‘better’. Koalas and Pandas are evolved – but they’re down dead end streets.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Yes, that’s partly because of the etymology of ‘evolution’, which had the sense of agent contribution which is perhaps why Darwin deliberately avoided using the word in On the Origin of Species and elsewhere. We used to think there were such things as agents; things are becoming different, now.

          It might also help to note that some amount of advancement in complexity can come from warfare between organisms, where they have to model each other to some extent in order to better compete. I will bet that such warfare produces certain kinds of advancements, just like it does with human–human warfare. Hmm, that makes me think about Civilization and SMAC, where I loved to build up peacefully with lots of science and production and then crush the AI. Funny how that’s not actually the course of human history—it’s as if people don’t have as much will to make research beakers as my simulated citizens—unless their survival is on the line.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          We’ve been over this ground many times; the only rational next step seems to be for each of us to test the empirical adequacy of our differing views of reality. The one snag is that I hold to a conception of “blessing people” or “loving people” which involves making them more than they were before, in a way they approve of from start to finish. It is likely that you would see such a procedure (of building identity) as having nothing whatsoever to do with truth. Fortunately for me, virtually nobody will actually care about your limited conception of truth if I am successful. And while reigning conceptions of “blessing” are really oppression in ever-thinning disguise, [my guess of] your stance on what could possibly qualify as ‘true’ is probably helpful.

          Anyone interested in being less hard-line than you can consult Chris Hedges on original sin; Hedges in an atheist (or liberal Christian who thinks God is made-up) who nevertheless believes that hewing to something awfully like original sin is the only way to prevent humanitarian disaster. This is from someone who routinely saw children killed by preventable war in Sarajevo (52:26 in the video embedded in the linked comment). One could also consider that original sin is empirically testable, as argued by Alistair McFadyen in Bound to Sin: Abuse, Holocaust and the Christian Doctrine of Sin. Getting a bit more theological, one could investigate Josef Pieper’s The Concept of Sin, especially the distinction between mortal and venial sins as being whether you have self-justified the sin and thus integrated it into your very judging faculty—making it impossible to then judge it to be a mistake, on pain of a splintered consciousness. But wait, theology and religion are necessarily nonsense, amirite?

        • Pofarmer

          YOu really are a dumb ass.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Fascinating; I say that we should adjudicate things by the empirical evidence, and your response is to call me a dumb ass.

        • Raging Bee

          This idea that his activity would need to be “vastly diminished” is simply unsupported by sound reasoning.

          Maybe not, but it IS supported by the utter lack of evidence for any such activity.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          You’re trying to see color with only monochrome receptors. Maybe there is no color to be seen, but you have to be able to see it and recognize it as not being black-and-white. This, I claim you cannot do—or at least, will not do.

          Put differently, you are the instrument with which you explore reality. If it has defects or limited sensitivity or calibrations errors or lack of detection in some regimes (e.g. gravity waves), there will be aspects of reality you cannot possibly detect. Not without adjustment of the instrument.

        • Michael Neville

          You’re right, as atheists we lack the god-goggles to “see” god. Of course the compete lack of evidence for any gods is also a hindrance to seeing gods.

        • Greg G.

          You need a god-shaped clean spot in your goggles so everything looks like a god.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          But they’re not “god-goggles”, they’re “agency-goggles”. Agency of God or humans. Your own goggles do not allow you to really acknowledge that humans truly cause anything. Just like the mechanical philosophy reduces teleology → teleonomy, your goggles make human agency just an approximation.

        • Susan

          they’re not “god-goggles”, they’re “agency goggles”

          Then, demonstrate that your agent exists. It’s simple. Be specific about what agency is and show us that Yahwehjesus is an agent.

          There is no reason to only regard humans as agents in all of the species that exist and have existed on this planet.

          Please define “agent”.

          If you accept agency exists in the form of humans (and it seems, only humans) in nature, then show us how Yahwehjesus exists.

          Also, why only humans? At what point in the continuum of life forms on this planet did “agency” suddenly poof itself into existence?

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          You know Susan, you sometimes ask really good questions. But when I start engaging with you, it turns out that you have higher standards for my position than yours, and disallow yours from being examined overmuch. And you don’t always flesh out your questions with enough detail on what would satisfy you, such that you essentially guarantee that I will not match up to your exacting standards. I’m going to try again, hoping against hope that I was wrong and/or that you will change or have changed.

          Then, demonstrate that your agent exists. It’s simple. Be specific about what agency is and show us that Yahwehjesus is an agent.

          Not until I am convinced that my interlocutors can acknowledge human agency as being something other than an epiphenomenon, something more than teleonomy is to teleology. Until then, I have grounds to suggest that they have set me up to fail, absolutely guaranteeing that any possible “evidence” will have a superior explanation to “an agent did it”, whether the agent is human or divine.

          There is no reason to only regard humans as agents in all of the species that exist and have existed on this planet.

          Yes and no. Probably we have a bad understanding of even non-human animals. But the ways humans use language is different in kind from how any other known animal uses language, and I claim it is likely that the precise way we do (or can) uniquely use language allows for ‘dual rationality’:

              Finally, consider the libertarian notion of dual rationality, a requirement whose importance to the libertarian I did not appreciate until I read Robert Kane’s Free Will and Values. As with dual control, the libertarian needs to claim that when agents make free choices, it would have been rational (reasonable, sensible) for them to have made a contradictory choice (e.g. chosen not A rather than A) under precisely the conditions that actually obtain. Otherwise, categorical freedom simply gives us the freedom to choose irrationally had we chosen otherwise, a less-than-entirely desirable state. Kane (1985) spends a great deal of effort in trying to show how libertarian choices can be dually rational, and I examine his efforts in Chapter 8. (The Non-Reality of Free Will, 16)

          This is not mysterious; in order to do excellent science, you have to be able to balance conflicting hypotheses and see how multiple different hypotheses could possibly fit the evidence. Non-human animals do not do science. Doing science requires much more than a mouse’s ability to distinguish cheese from not-cheese.

          Please define “agent”.

          An agent is an originator of causal chains, where those causal chains are not a purely random perturbation on top of external causal chains which have impinged on the agent. This is the only way that “I” can be truly causal, that I can cause things. On any other explanation, “I” am merely an epiphenomenon, an approximation to truly impersonal causation (e.g. differential equations churning away, evolving state forward in time).

          If you accept agency exists in the form of humans (and it seems, only humans) in nature, then show us how Yahwehjesus exists.

          My acceptance of agency is 100% irrelevant as to what I can possibly “show” you. Once again we must revisit some science: Grossberg 1999 The Link between Brain Learning, Attention, and Consciousness (partial tutorial). If there is a pattern on your perceptual neurons which does not well-match any pattern on your non-perceptual neurons, you may never become conscious of that pattern. Stated differently, the qualities of the instrument determine what it can possibly detect.

          Also, why only humans? At what point in the continuum of life forms on this planet did “agency” suddenly poof itself into existence?

          Interpreting this as the kind of agency humans have which other life does not (see my note on language use, above), this is a huge open question for humanity. Mark Turner suggests that language originated as a certain kind of story (The Literary Mind: The Origins of Thought and Language); Michael Tomasello thinks it might be when humans engaged in a kind of “shared intentionality” which required differentiation of action which needed coordination (A Natural History of Human Thinking). Walter Percy was entranced by Helen Keller‘s sudden realization that the “drawing” of a certain symbol on her hand represented the abstract concept of “water” (The Fateful Rift: The San Andreas Fault in the Modern Mind). Charles Taylor harshly criticizes the idea that language is merely an iteration on top of a certain cry meaning that dangerous predators are near (Philosophical Arguments, The Language Animal: The Full Shape of the Human Linguistic Capacity). David Braine has much to say in his magnum opus, Language and Human Understanding: The Roots of Creativity in Speech and Thought. This well runs very deeply.

          Did you somehow expect that if I don’t have a satisfactory answer to your questions, that everything else I have said on this matter cannot possibly be relevant? If so, then the criticism that theists need complete explanations with no unknowns will rebound.

        • Raging Bee

          What evidence do you have to prove that “there is color to be seen” that I’m not seeing? It’s not enough to say my senses aren’t perfect; you have to point out something specific and relevant that I’m missing, and prove it exists. (And you also have to explain why your imperfect senses see something mine don’t.) If you can’t do that, all you have is a bluff. Put up or shut up.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          What evidence do you have to prove that “there is color to be seen” that I’m not seeing?

          I need not provide a shred of that evidence. All I need to demonstrate is that when you say “I cannot see X”, that is only interesting if you could see X were it there.

          It’s not enough to say my senses aren’t perfect;

          Not being able to account for agency—human or divine—as anything but an approximation of nonrational, impersonal causation, is not merely your senses being imperfect.

          you have to point out something specific and relevant that I’m missing, and prove it exists.

          No, I don’t. I can point out that the reasoning you use to conclude that “there is no evidence for God” also happens to damage our ability to understand human agency.

          (And you also have to explain why your imperfect senses see something mine don’t.)

          I’ve already done this in one way, via “(5) Therefore, truth and falsity of belief is unknowable.” The argument is not that complex; it criticizes any reliance solely on nomological causation (see the excerpt at that link for details). And yet, the mechanical philosophy—which is how you’re interpreting any and all evidence—is nomological. The mechanical philosophy is fine for understanding anything without agency. Indeed, it’s really helpful to prohibit ourselves from attributing agency to things which don’t have agency. But it’s positively damaging to pretend that nothing (and nobody) truly has agency. And yet, that’s exactly what you’re doing—you and everyone else who plays motte and bailey by importing the successes of the hard sciences into the human sciences.

          If you can’t do that, all you have is a bluff. Put up or shut up.

          You can try to distract from the weaknesses of your understanding of reality all you want. As long as you pretend that the kind of reasoning which is good for understanding anything without agency is good for understanding all of reality, I’m going to criticize.

        • Raging Bee

          I need not provide a shred of that evidence.

          In that case, your arguments remain unsupported, and I need not take any of it seriously. Buh-bye.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          What arguments?

        • Susan

          You’re trying to see color with only monochrome receptors. Maybe there is no color to be seen, but you have to be able to see it and recognize it as not being black-and-white. This, I claim you cannot do—or at least, will not do.

          The Emperor’s New Clothes defense again, Luke?

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          I tire of people setting me up to fail.

        • Kodie

          You’re finally tired of you too? Finally!

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          The thing is it is strange that you and other believers believe this rests on you. If I accept that a “God” is at least capable of saying what Luke is saying to argue for the existence of a “God”, then I can cut believers loose so to speak. “God” makes anything you could argue for their existence redundant, but in absence of “God” you think your own argument are a good enough substitute. No.

        • Susan

          I tire of people setting me up to fail.

          Sort of like when one person accuses another person of lacking the ability to see something that exists without doing a thing to show that thing exists?

          Standard christian apologetics.

          Asking someone what they are claiming and how they support it is not setting someone up to fail.

          That it can expose the weakness of their position is something they might have to consider.

    • Raging Bee

      To put it mildly, your footnotes [1] and [2] do not support your allegation of “conclusion-first and data-denying activity going on in the human sciences.”

      And why are you calling it “human sciences?” To distinguish them from Klingon sciences?

      • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

        LB: … whether “scientists” with utopian programs[1] are going to try to impose their ideas on the rest of the populace, as the new priests of social order. … there is a serious amount of conclusion-first and data-denying activity going on in the human sciences[2]

        RB: To put it mildly, your footnotes [1] and [2] do not support your allegation of “conclusion-first and data-denying activity going on in the human sciences.”

        To properly support those allegations, I would have to produce a mountain of research. Instead, I produced two exemplars which I think obviously bear further investigation. I don’t need to establish my points beyond a reasonable doubt to start a conversation; instead, I merely need to demonstrate plausibility. Or do you want the initial comment to be 100x as long as it already is?

        And why are you calling it “human sciences?” To distinguish them from Klingon sciences?

        Because of this phenomenon:

            The time seems ripe, even overdue, to announce that there is not going to be an age of paradigm in the social sciences. We contend that the failure to achieve paradigm takeoff is not merely the result of methodological immaturity, but reflects something fundamental about the human world. If we are correct, the crisis of social science concerns the nature of social investigation itself. The conception of the human sciences as somehow necessarily destined to follow the path of the modern investigation of nature is at the root of this crisis. Preoccupation with that ruling expectation is chronic in social science; that idée fixe has often driven investigators away from a serious concern with the human world into the sterility of purely formal argument and debate. As in development theory, one can only wait so long for the takeoff. The cargo-cult view of the “about to arrive science” just won’t do. (Interpretive Social Science: A Second Look, 5)

        • Raging Bee

          I don’t need to establish my points beyond a reasonable doubt to start a conversation…

          Oh, I get it — you’re only trying to “start a conversation,” not make any actual points or back up any arguments. I hear lots of cranks and idiots say the same thing as their excuse for making stupid or insulting statements they can’t (or won’t) back up.

          Because of this phenomenon:

          Pure fucking word-salad that doesn’t even pretend to answer my question. Are you sure that’s not another Sokal hoax you’re quoting?

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          LB: I don’t need to establish my points beyond a reasonable doubt to start a conversation; instead, I merely need to demonstrate plausibility.

          RB: Oh, I get it — you’re only trying to “start a conversation,” not make any actual points or back up any arguments.

          You’ve radically distorted what I actually said; that is made clear by my inclusion of the rest of the sentence, which you chose to omit. Let’s return to what you wrote:

          RB: To put it mildly, your footnotes [1] and [2] do not support your allegation of “conclusion-first and data-denying activity going on in the human sciences.”

          What do you think my footnotes [1] and [2] do support? Or what evidence would minimally suggest that my claims of [1] and [2] happen? I’m at a loss, because I would think that a book which argues that the entire field of political science has been in denial of key facts would support “conclusion-first and data-denying activity”. Perhaps you could tell me why it does not.

          RB: And why are you calling it “human sciences?” To distinguish them from Klingon sciences?

          LB: Because of this phenomenon: [excerpt about how the human sciences are never going to be remade in the image of the hard sciences]

          RB: Pure fucking word-salad that doesn’t even pretend to answer my question. Are you sure that’s not another Sokal hoax you’re quoting?

          First, I’ll note that there exists WP: Human science. Somehow, I suspect that won’t be good enough for you.

          The book has 1200 ‘citations’. You are incredibly naive if you think that the human sciences, which have to deal with all the ick and grit of people and their hopes and fears and expectations and beliefs (true or false), can be remade in the image of the hard sciences. And now you have descended to the level of irrational insult instead of reasoned engagement. There has been a long, long history of seeing the hard sciences as very different from the human sciences. There has also been a long history of thinking that the human sciences would become like the hard sciences when they “grow up”. This was foreshadowed by the very term social physics.

          I’ll expand upon that point with an excerpt from a psychologist who spent half his time seeing patients and half his time in academia. He and others noticed two severe problems. One was that academia and clinical practice were growing increasingly separate. Another I shall quote:

              The second concern is an apparent devaluation, even loss of faith in the ability of research in the human disciplines to deliver on their original promise of helping to solve human and social problems. In this regard Seymour Sarason’s Psychology Misdirected made a striking impression on me. He talked about the disenchantment he and others had with the field of psychology because of its lack of progress. Whereas medicine could point to its success in conquering smallpox and polio and in the development of new surgical techniques and medicines, the social sciences could not provide illustrations of similar public accomplishments. Despite the large sums of public funds invested in the human disciplines during the era of the Great Society, little headway was made in solving social problems. The solutions to these problems clearly involve more than just insights from the social sciences; nevertheless, our inability to provide the promised “scientific” knowledge that would contribute to this project is noteworthy. Our advice on how to reduce criminal recidivism or teen pregnancies, or even on how to lose weight, has had little appreciable impact on the problems at hand. (Narrative Knowing and the Human Sciences, ix)

          Here is his diagnosis:

              The criticism by practitioners and funding agencies of social science research raises the question of the adequacy of its methodological assumptions. Although personally defending the significance of the contributions made by present methods of social science research, I find that our traditional research model, adopted from the natural sciences, is limited when applied in the study of human beings. I do not believe that the solutions to human problems will come from developing even more sophisticated and creative applications of the natural science model, but rather by developing additional, complementary approaches that are especially sensitive to the unique characteristics of human existence.

              What I found was that practitioners work with narrative knowledge. They are concerned with people’s stories: they work with case histories and use narrative explanations to understand why the people they work with behave the way they do. I was encouraged by the fact that other people were starting to reach conclusions similar to mine. (Narrative Knowing and the Human Sciences, x)

          That book has 7500 ‘citations’. It bolstered the discipline of narrative inquiry, which is predicated upon the fact that there is only so much you can understand by accumulating numbers and models. That is, you have to deviate from the model of the natural sciences, aka the hard sciences.

        • Michael Neville

          It’s true that psychology and the other “soft” sciences are not at the stage where the hard sciences are. So what? The interaction of humans is much more complex than f=ma. However despite what Polkinghorne may claim, psychology is past the witch-doctor shaking a rattle over the patient to frighten the demons stage.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          It’s true that psychology and the other “soft” sciences are not at the stage where the hard sciences are. So what? The interaction of humans is much more complex than f=ma.

          The problem is assuming that the human sciences (btw, there exists the wiki article Human science) will ever become just like the hard sciences. What do I mean by “just like”? Describable by the same mathematical formalisms, with the same kinds of causation.

          However despite what Polkinghorne may claim, psychology is past the witch-doctor shaking a rattle over the patient to frighten the demons stage.

          Polkinghorne claims nothing like your little straw man. As it turns out, talking about things can really bring about mental health. It’s not only about the models, numbers, and drugs. And yet, a hard science approach would try to eliminate the talking, in the end.

        • Raging Bee

          …a book which argues that the entire field of political science has been in denial of key facts would support “conclusion-first and data-denying activity”.

          The ENTIRE FIELD? As in EVERY ONE in it? That over-generalization is absolutely beyond ridiculous, and can easily be discounted out of hand.

          I do not believe that the solutions to human problems will come from
          developing even more sophisticated and creative applications of the
          natural science model, but rather by developing additional,
          complementary approaches that are especially sensitive to the unique
          characteristics of human existence.

          Additional complimentary approaches such as…?

          The idea that social sciences are trying to act like natural sciences is an old strawman I’ve seen knocked down before. It may have been true back in the days of B.F. Skinner and other extreme naive technocrats, but that was long ago and the social sciences have changed a bit since then.

          Finally, I have to note that you were originally trying to question the theory of evolution; and then, when I called you out on it, you changed the subject to a vague, over-generalized, obsolete critique of SOCIAL sciences. Your change of subject is noted, as is the dishonesty driving it.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          LB:

          LB: I don’t need to establish my points beyond a reasonable doubt to start a conversation; instead, I merely need to demonstrate plausibility.

          RB: Oh, I get it — you’re only trying to “start a conversation,” not make any actual points or back up any arguments.

          You’ve radically distorted what I actually said; that is made clear by my inclusion of the rest of the sentence, which you chose to omit. Let’s return to what you wrote:

          RB: To put it mildly, your footnotes [1] and [2] do not support your allegation of “conclusion-first and data-denying activity going on in the human sciences.”

          What do you think my footnotes [1] and [2] do support? Or what evidence would minimally suggest that my claims of [1] and [2] happen? I’m at a loss, because I would think that a book which argues that the entire field of political science has been in denial of key facts would support “conclusion-first and data-denying activity”. Perhaps you could tell me why it does not.

          RB: The ENTIRE FIELD? As in EVERY ONE in it? That over-generalization is absolutely beyond ridiculous, and can easily be discounted out of hand.

          No, it was a slight bit of hyperbole. But it now seems clear that the only possible evidence you would accept is if in fact EVERY ONE of an ENTIRE FIELD were in denial. This is ludicrous and demonstrates that you were being unreasonable from the very get-go, when you said my footnotes [1] and [2] demonstrated nothing like what I claimed they did.

          Additional complimentary approaches such as…?

          Complementary approaches such as narrative inquiry. Narrative inquiry only makes sense for agents. Now, do there exists agents? The mechanical philosophy says no, except in approximation; I say that is a tendentious philosophical claim, not a clearly, evidentially supported fact.

          RB[2017-05-11 16:14 PT]: The idea that social sciences are trying to act like natural sciences is an old strawman I’ve seen knocked down before. It may have been true back in the days of B.F. Skinner and other extreme naive technocrats, but that was long ago and the social sciences have changed a bit since then.

          Hmm, I wonder if I acknowledged that before you wrote this:

          LB[2017-05-11 14:46 PT]: And that book is way too old for students to need to read it by now anyway. The human sciences have gotten past that problem; it’s people like you who haven’t and need education about it.

          Oh. As to your claim of when it was true, you’ve provided exactly zero evidence for your claim, while I’ve provided a well-cited sociological work saying it was still a problem as of 1987.

          Finally, I have to note that you were originally trying to question the theory of evolution; and then, when I called you out on it, you changed the subject to a vague, over-generalized, obsolete critique of SOCIAL sciences. Your change of subject is noted, as is the dishonesty driving it.

          No, I was never trying to question the theory of evolution. Furthermore, you’re wrong in saying you called me out on it in “this thread”; here’s the comment which sparked this particular tangent.

          RB: To put it mildly, your footnotes [1] and [2] do not support your allegation of “conclusion-first and data-denying activity going on in the human sciences.”

          And why are you calling it “human sciences?” To distinguish them from Klingon sciences?

          You appear to be confusing that comment with the following:

          RB: The critical mistake is to say that because the current theory of evolution has no place for God to act, it is wrong to believe that God could be acting.

          That’s not a mistake at all. There is no evidence of a god acting, therefore we have no reason to believe there is a god acting, or to base any real-world decisions on such a belief. Same goes for vampires, werewolves, zombies, unicorns, and every other god ever imagined by any humans ever.

          You might want to get your facts straight before accusing others of dishonesty.

        • Raging Bee

          What facts did I not get straight?

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          What facts did I not get straight?

          Virtually everything in the following paragraph:

          RB: Finally, I have to note that you were originally trying to question the theory of evolution; and then, when I called you out on it, you changed the subject to a vague, over-generalized, obsolete critique of SOCIAL sciences. Your change of subject is noted, as is the dishonesty driving it.

          1. I was never questioning the theory of evolution. I was certainly questioning philosophy which often masquerades as science in the evolution realm, but I was absolutely clear about this.

          2. You did not call me out on the thing I did not do in this sub-thread. That was a different sub-thread. This voids the claim of “dishonesty”.

          3. In that different sub-thread, I didn’t even mention the human sciences (I’ve been using that term instead of ‘social sciences’). Here’s how that sub-thread started:

          LB: The critical mistake is to say that because the current theory of evolution has no place for God to act, it is wrong to believe that God could be acting.

          RB: There is no evidence of a god acting …

          LB: When the philosophical foundation for saying what you’ve said denies not just the possibility of “God did X” being the most probable explanation, but also the possibility that “human did X” is anything other than a rough approximation of ultimately impersonal causal forces really causing things to happen, such claims are much less potent than you make them out to be. It’s like converting a photo to black-and-white and then asserting that there is no color. Well, duh.

          There is nothing vague, over-generalized, or obsolete here. It is a tried and true method to find that reasoning is bad if it attacks too much, if it eats away too much. For example, the logical positivists had a “meaningfulness criterion”, whereby a statement is only meaningful if it makes an empirical observation. The problem is that this invalidates the meaningfulness criterion itself. In your case, you have insisted on evaluating evidence in a way which denies that humans exert any true agency. I’ve pointed out that it is ridiculous to try and see God acting with a way of evaluating evidence which cannot even show that humans are acting. Now I have to be a bit careful here, because the retort may be that it’s only an approximation that humans are acting; in truth it is only the impersonal forces of nature or something like that. But that’s precisely the same logic used to say God doesn’t exist: it might seem that he does, but in truth it is only the impersonal forces of nature.

          It’s simple: you cannot get true personal agency from impersonal causation. All you can get is a simulacrum, an epiphenomenon, something like teleonomy is to teleology. And along the way, by insisting on nomological causation (via the mechanical philosophy), you actually destroy the ability to know what is true vs. false. You’re welcome to question the logic behind that link if you’d like. The instant you allow not-nomological causation in the door (as Gregory Dawes thinks is necessary to possibly have theistic explanations which truly explain anything), you make a major step towards allowing true, irreducible causal agency to exist. (Whether anything else is required I do not yet know.)

        • Andy_Schueler

          It’s simple: you cannot get true personal agency from impersonal causation.

          Maybe you can’t, but you’ve presented precisely nothing to demonstrate this to be certainly, or even just plausibly true. And I’ll predict that when challenged, all you’ll be able to come up with is apologist boilerplate of the form:
          An individual i doesn’t have property p, so a compound c that is made up out of many i cannot have property p either – so we need magic m to explain why p exists.
          Which is both a complete non sequitur and also flat out wrong for plenty of real world examples (e.g. individual H2O molecules and fluid water or ice (both of which have properties that individual H2O molecules do not have))

          And along the way, by insisting on nomological causation (via the mechanical philosophy), you actually destroy the ability to know what is true vs. false.

          Wow, you still use that shit “argument”? Let me guess, you also still pretend that you’d like people to “critically examine” it even though you will ignore demonstrations that this “argument” is BS anyway, correct?

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Long time no see.

          LB: It’s simple: you cannot get true personal agency from impersonal causation.

          AS: Maybe you can’t, but you’ve presented precisely nothing to demonstrate this to be certainly, or even just plausibly true.

          I’ve presented my argument ending in “(5) Therefore, truth and falsity of belief is unknowable.”, which I suspect depends precisely upon the acceptance of nomological causation, the mechanical philosophy depends precisely on nomological causation. And the mechanical philosophy is precisely what is being used to evaluate evidence and find that “God” isn’t possibly the best explanation.

          Now, I believe you first encountered that argument here, where you claimed that “Your argument is flawed on multiple levels:”; you also compared making “the distinction between beer and not-beer” with distinguishing truth from falsity. Apparently mice, which can distinguish cheese from not-cheese, have all they need to distinguish truth from falsity. Or … not. Anyhow, shall we revisit this argument? I’m happy to thoroughly review everything you wrote in the old thread on SO.

          I have also pointed out that the human sciences have been unable to have as much success by modeling themselves after the hard sciences as by including things such as narrative inquiry. And yet, “evidence for God’s existence” is almost certainly being judged by the standards of the hard sciences. This, I have [repeatedly] claimed, is problematic. It doesn’t rise to a logical proof of my claim under question, but it heavily suggests that we should not believe it to be possible when many people have tried hard at it and failed. In other words: “There is no known way to get true personal agency from impersonal causation.” That version is plenty damning.

          And I’ll predict that when challenged, all you’ll be able to come up with is apologist boilerplate of the form:
          An individual i doesn’t have property p, so a compound c that is made up out of many i cannot have property p either – so we need magic m to explain why p exists.

          I’m happy to talk emergence, as well as it isn’t in the form “God Emergence works in mysterious ways”. Examples of non-mysterious ways are Massimo Pigliucci’s Essays on emergence, part I and Robert B. Laughlin’s A Different Universe: Reinventing Physics from the Bottom Down. I would also want to talk about Sean Carroll’s reductionist Downward Causation, and what precisely that means for emergence.

          Wow, you still use that shit “argument”? Let me guess, you also still pretend that you’d like people to “critically examine” it even though you will ignore demonstrations that this “argument” is BS anyway, correct?

          Actually, nobody else has had nearly the problems you had with it. Maybe they’re not as perceptive as you, maybe they’re not as patient as you, or maybe you’re just wrong. But I cannot recall the last time you have admitted even a slight error in your understanding of what I’ve said or the issues at stake. I doubt you’re right that much of the time, which makes it hard to take your viewpoint and extract the maximum amount of truth from it. But do please go on and spin whatever narrative you’d like about me. You seem to rather like doing that.

        • Andy_Schueler

          Now, I believe you first encountered that argument here, where you claimed that “Your argument is flawed on multiple levels:”; you also compared making “the distinction between beer and not-beer” with distinguishing truth from falsity. Apparently mice, which can distinguish cheese from not-cheese, have all they need to distinguish truth from falsity.

          I actually never said or implied that distinguishing truth from falsehood is the same as distinguishing beer from not-beer.
          I rather pointed out that “beer” and “not-beer” can be substituted for “truth” and “falsehood” in your argument without changing anything about the logical connections (or lack thereof) between the sentences. So, if your conclusion indeed would follow from your argument, this would still be true with that substitution. But since you do not believe in that conclusion, you evidently do not trust your own reasoning.
          This by itself completely eviscerates your “argument”, and you never even tried to come up with a response that rises above the level “but, but….. truth vs falsehood is something totally different than beer vs not-beer!!”. A response which is as true as it is irrelevant, because what matters is only if making that substitution changes the logic of your argument, if it does not – then the validity and soundness of your argument cannot possibly be affected by my substitution.
          I already explained that to you, and you will again ignore it and try to come up with another red herring or simply repeat the same red herring.

          I’m happy to talk emergence…..

          And I’m happy to again point out that your confidently stated “It’s simple: you cannot get true personal agency from impersonal causation” – is actually nothing but a mere assertion, a mere assertion that you cannot defend at all. And no, just posting a lot of links without explaining how exactly any passage in any of them supports your assertion does not change that in the slightest.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          I actually never said or implied that distinguishing truth from falsehood is the same as distinguishing beer from not-beer.
          I rather pointed out that “beer” and “not-beer” can be substituted for “truth” and “falsehood” in your argument without changing anything about the logical connections (or lack thereof) between the sentences. So, if your conclusion indeed would follow from your argument, this would still be true with that substitution. But since you do not believe in that conclusion, you evidently do not trust your own reasoning.

          If I substitute root beer for gasoline in my car’s engine, it won’t work.

          I already explained that to you, and you will again ignore it and try to come up with another red herring or simply repeat the same red herring.

          I already offered to go over what we’ve argued and analyze it carefully before continuing the discussion. If you recall, I actually did abandon LFW after my long discussions with you and others—except in the attenuated form of LFW = ¬(CW ∨ DW). It took me a long time, but then again I was working with a subset of determinism as if it were all possible kinds of determinism. So you have empirical evidence that I do actually pay attention.

          And I’m happy to again point out that your confidently stated “It’s simple: you cannot get true personal agency from impersonal causation” – is actually nothing but a mere assertion, a mere assertion that you cannot defend at all.

          According to you yes, because you do not accept the argument ending in “(5) Therefore, truth and falsity of belief is unknowable.”

          But then I offered a slightly modified version that has a lot of the same properties in the arguments I’ve been making: “There is no known way to get true personal agency from impersonal causation.” I see you’ve conveniently ignored this. Why?

          And no, just posting a lot of links without explaining how exactly any passage in any of them supports your assertion does not change that in the slightest.

          Feel free to explain what I am supposed to do to support “There is no known way to get true personal agency from impersonal causation.”

        • Andy_Schueler

          If I substitute root beer for gasoline in my car’s engine, it won’t work.

          Yes, because it’s largely water and thus couldn’t be used in a combustion engine even if it did contain a large fraction of substances that would burn quickly enough and would produce sufficient energy (which it also doesn’t).
          Too bad that you cannot provide a similar explanation for why the logic of your argument changes even in the slightest by my substitution.

          Feel free to explain what I am supposed to do to support “There is no known way to get true personal agency from impersonal causation.”

          People typically try to use arguments for that. You seem to think that your distinguishing truth from falsehood one somehow entails this conclusion here, why you think that is a mystery to me.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Too bad that you cannot provide a similar explanation for why the logic of your argument changes even in the slightest by my substitution.

          My argument is about making not just any distinction, but a distinction between truth and falsity. Here, let me grant you your contention:

          LB: Physical laws are operating precisely the same when they produce in you a false belief and when they produce in you a true belief. You need some other causal power to point out the distinction between true and false.

          AS: Cute. Let me try that: “Physical laws operate precisely the same when they cause the fermentation of malt to produce beer and when they do NOT cause the fermentation of malt to produce beer, therefore we could not recognize beer if physicalism is true. We would need some other causal power to point out the distinction between beer and not-beer.” That is exactly as ridiculous as your claim about rationality and physicalism.

          What you found is that we can distinguish between causal powers. The rat can distinguish between cheese and not-cheese. But if we back up to the root argument I was making, you require a causal power associated with “truth”, and a causal power (or lack thereof) associated with “falsity”. That is precisely what you do not have—at least, not with nomological causation. You broke my logic in a degenerate, ultimately irrelevant manner. Which is precisely what I did with the root beer analogy. If it’s wrong for people to do it to you, it’s wrong for you to do it to them.

          LB: Feel free to explain what I am supposed to do to support “There is no known way to get true personal agency from impersonal causation.”

          AS: People typically try to use arguments for that.

          Patently false. In this very thread, people have asked repeatedly for evidence of God’s existence, saying that we should default to “there is no evidence” if none has been advanced. Now, if you want to say that there’s a reason Feuerbach insisted on explaining the persistent belief in “God” despite lack of evidence, then you could ask me to explain the persistent belief in human agency by people who idolize nomological causation. But I don’t need to do that, with folks like Sam Harris denying agent causation and Jonathan Pearce denying moral responsibility. They’re already taking nomological causation to its logical conclusions. I can heap on Robert Rosen’s Life Itself that nomological causation doesn’t even suffice for distinguishing life from non-life.

          Folks have a simple choice: admit that human agency is nothing but a simulacrum, or come up with new ways to evaluate whether or not God is acting in reality. And if you want to pursue emergence, I insist on dealing with Carroll’s Downward Causation. As long as that umbilical cord is not cut, simulacrum is the perfect word.

          You seem to think that your distinguishing truth from falsehood one somehow entails this conclusion here, why you think that is a mystery to me.

          Your reading comprehension is terrible. Here:

               (a) “cannot” ∼ logical argument
               (b) “no known way” ∼ lack of evidence

          What I said is that those two versions “[have] a lot of the same properties in the arguments I’ve been making”.

        • Andy_Schueler

          You are not even trying.
          You keep asserting that you need some special “truth-associated causality” to distinguish truth from falsehood. But you have nothing even remotely resembling an argument for why that doesn’t entail that we need some special beer-associated causality to distinguish beer from not-beer (similarly for distinguishing ANY other x from not-x). You are just special pleading and hope that you’ll get away with it by repeating it ad nauseam.

          Regarding the rest of your comment – I don’t believe in agent causation and I also don’t think that you or anyone else can even coherently define what that is supposed to mean. It seems that your conception of “human agency” still entails libertarian free will although you now refer to that self-refuting conceptual mess by a different name.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          You are not even trying.

          False. And how about we just cut this shit out? It has proven to slow down our conversations, almost every single time. And yet you keep doing it. Why? Do you actually like conflict more than getting somewhere? You know I’m not going to give you all the potshots you want without incurring a cost.

          You keep asserting that you need some special “truth-associated causality” to distinguish truth from falsehood. But you have nothing even remotely resembling an argument for why that doesn’t entail that we need some special beer-associated causality to distinguish beer from not-beer (similarly for distinguishing ANY other x from not-x).

          What? I’m saying that to draw distinctions there must be differing causal powers at play. That is the case with beer and not-beer, while it is not the case with truth and falsity, at least with nomological causation.

          Regarding the rest of your comment – I don’t believe in agent causation and I also don’t think that you or anyone else can even coherently define what that is supposed to mean.

          I can start by saying that nomological causation is either (i) unscientific or (ii) not the only possible kind of causation. From here we could talk about what alternatives to nomological causation would be. One way to slice this up is to talk about ‘singular’ vs. ‘general’ causation, which Gregory W. Dawes does a little in Theism and Explanation and which Caltech’s Christopher Hitchcock does in 1993 The Mishap At Reichenbach Fall: Singular vs. General Causation. Furthermore, I can point out that our understanding of causation is seriously deficient, by referencing Evan Fales’ Divine Intervention: Metaphysical and Epistemological Puzzles and other works. And I can tie it into Charles Taylor’s criticism of moral philosophy, with the tl;dr that we Moderns have a strong tendency to talk about “what it is right to do” than “who it is good to be”:

              Dame Iris’s work had meaning for me partly as someone involved in the world of analytic philosophy. This world has lots of good qualities. But one of its drawbacks is a tendency to narrowness on certain questions. And one of the most marked sites of this narrowness was in moral philosophy. The narrowness concerns more than just the range of doctrines considered, though it also consists in that. But, more fundamentally, it has restricted the range of questions that it seems sensible to ask. In the end it restricted our understanding of what morality is. I have tried to sum this up by saying that Anglo-Saxon moral philosophy has tended to see morality as concerned with questions of what we ought to do and to occlude or exclude questions about what it is good to be or what it is good to love. The focus is on obligatory action, which means that it turns away from issues in which obligation is not really the issue, as well as those where not just actions but ways of life or ways of being are what we have to weigh. Another shorthand way of putting this point is that this philosophy tended to restrict itself to the “right” at the expense of the “good.” If issues of the good life were allowed, independent of the issue of what is right, they were seen as a second zone of practical consideration, lacking the urgency and high priority of the moral. (Jürgen Habermas has formulated this priority, which shows that this philosophical temper has gone beyond the Anglo-Saxon world.) (Dilemmas and Connections, 3–4)

          What this means is that we suck at understanding “identity formation” or “character formation”. We suck at understanding the history of persons. Why? One reason is that we think persons can be understood apart from their narratives, as if narrative is somehow not ontological (e.g. “all stories are false”). Even though F = ma is “just an approximation”, it is allowed to be importantly real, while stories, even though they are also approximations, are importantly unreal. It’s a bald contradiction in thinking, but it’s there at the core of Enlightenment thought.

          What this means is that we are terribly prepared to understand what the hell agent causation could possibly be. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist nor that it is necessarily incoherent, but it does give us pause as to how competent we should expect to be at understanding it, for it to be a “live option”. Here’s more evidence that we suck in this area:

              Personalist theory claims that all adequate understandings of human life must take seriously the fact that human beings are persons and not something else. This requires that we understand what persons are, what distinguishes them from nonpersonal entities. It is not enough to know something about human bodies or genetics or social interactions. We need to understand more of the fullness of what it means to be a person. Only by understanding the personhood of human beings will we adequately be able to understand and explain people and their social relations, because humans cannot be properly understood apart from their personhood.[15] To ignore personhood is to evacuate the central and most important features of the basic unit that social science studies.[16] That creates a major blind spot that prevents us from seeing important facts we must observe if we wish to adequately understand human life. To ignore human personhood is to self-compromise our own ability—as social theorists, social scientists, and persons trying to negotiate ourselves and life—to understand ourselves as particular kinds of beings in the larger order of reality. (To Flourish or Destruct: A Personalist Theory of Human Goods, Motivations, Failure, and Evil, 8–9)

          [15] The psychologists Jack Martin, Jeff Sugarman, and Sarah Hickinbottom (Persons: Understanding Psychological Selfhood and Agency [New York: Springer, 2010]) correctly observe that “the concept of the person has all but vanished from psychology” and “while psychologists lavish their attention on the study of personality, they devote surprisingly little to the question of what is a person” (57, back cover).
          [16] Margaret Archer correctly notes that “sociological imperialists ha[ve] labored long and hard with a vacuum pump on humankind, sucking out the properties and powers of our species-being, to leave a void behind to be filled with social forces” (Being Human: The Problem of Agency [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000], 315–16).

          Before I continue, I’ll ask whether you are willing to take such sociological work (Christian Smith is a senior sociologist) seriously, or whether you’re more inclined to dismiss it out-of-hand and instead practice lay sociology in its stead. I will note that this excerpt asks whether persons really have ontologically distinct causal powers from non-humans.

        • Andy_Schueler

          “What? I’m saying that to draw distinctions there must be differing causal powers at play. That is the case with beer and not-beer, while it is not the case with truth and falsity, at least with nomological causation.”
          – Mere assertion yet again. And yes, you are not even trying. You keep *saying* that there is a relevant difference (wrt your argument) here between truth vs falsehood and beer vs not beer (or any other x vs not-x) but you never *argue* for that.
          You still have precisely nothing to show that the logic of your argument changes even in the slightest with my substitution.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Mere assertion yet again.

          I don’t know what more you want. You are always incredibly opaque as to what would make you happy; it’s almost like you enjoy having obscure requirements for what will satisfy you, so that you can tell others that they have failed time and time and time again.

          You keep *saying* that there is a relevant difference (wrt your argument) here between truth vs falsehood and beer vs not beer (or any other x vs not-x) but you never *argue* for that.

          False; I made a simple argument:

               (1) beer has different causal powers from not-beer
               (2) truth does not have different causal powers from not-truth

          If you disagree with (2), then show your work. The important thing here is that distinguishing between truth and falsehood is not the mere sum of distinguishing between beer and not-beer, cheese and not-cheese, etc. Those things don’t automagically ’emerge’ into knowing truth from falsity. Or if you think they do, show your work. You don’t get to default to your view of the world being correct. It must be justified.

          You still have precisely nothing to show that the logic of your argument changes even in the slightest with my substitution.

          Your argument breaks precisely this aspect of my argument:

          LB: Physical laws are operating precisely the same when they produce in you a false belief and when they produce in you a true belief. You need some other causal power to point out the distinction between true and false.

          But it breaks it in a degenerate way. There really is such a thing as the causal powers of beer. On the other hand, there is no demonstrated way to think of ‘truth’ having causal powers. Until you can demonstrate such a way, you don’t get to presuppose it.

        • Andy_Schueler

          So you think you can turn a mere assertion into an argument by just splitting it into two sentences and adding numbers in front of them? Logic really isn’t your strong suit.
          And now I’m supposed to “show my work” eh? Alright, I’ll put in *exactly* as much work and will reason *exactly* as rigorously as you:
          ” (1) truth has different causal powers from falsehood
          (2) beer does not have different causal powers from not-beer”

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          So you think you can turn a mere assertion into an argument by just splitting it into two sentences and adding numbers in front of them? Logic really isn’t your strong suit.

          I have no idea what you want. When atheists demand evidence of the existence of God, they don’t have to “argue” it; they merely state/​ask it. But when I say that there is no known way that truth has different causal powers than not-truth, you think I need to somehow do more. Or is the problem really that you’re slicing between:

          (A) truth does not have different causal powers from not-truth
          (B) we do not know how truth could have different causal powers from not-truth

          ? We’ve already run into this problem once, and you seemed to not understand the difference between (A) and (B), even though for many intents and purposes, they are indistinguishable. Unless somehow I am supposed to magically grant you that there is a way to separate between truth and not-truth, while you are completely warranted in saying that God does not exist? You get the freebie premises while I must earn all of mine?

          And now I’m supposed to “show my work” eh? Alright, I’ll put in *exactly* as much work and will reason *exactly* as rigorously as you:

          Actually, why don’t you present the amount of work and reason that you think ought to be done? Show me the standard to which you want me to adhere. Or are you utterly unwilling to do such a thing, because the standard you can exemplify is pitifully low—at least in comparison to what you demand of me?

        • Andy_Schueler

          Is simply not engaging in special pleading really so hard?
          It seems to be for you, because special pleading is the only strategy you have for defending your pet argument.
          Your argument is toast and your claim that you are honestly interested in critically examining it is laughable.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          All I can say is that you successfully argued me out of LFW (agent causation is not LFW), and it would have been much easier if you hadn’t been a dick left and right. Same here. And maybe this time I’ll show that you’re wrong. Then again, when is the last time you’ve admitted error to me in any way, shape or form?

        • Andy_Schueler

          Yes, LFW cannot be reduced to agent causation, but agent causation is what LFW proponents typically propose as a means to make LFW work – and this proposal is invariably a self-refuting mess (feel free to try to explain why an agent would start causal chain A and not some other causal chain B, without contradicting yourself or positing impossibilities –
          i.e. without resorting to either a) external causes as an explanation or b) an infinite regress of internal causes or c) proposing a model that is 100% indistinguishable from pure randomness).

          But that’s a side issue anyway – it still remains true that you are engaging in special pleading wrt truth and causality. You are wholly unable to explain how your argument wouldn’t also entail that it is impossible to distinguish beer from non-beer (or any other x from not-x). All you keep doing, again and again and again and again, is merely asserting that “truth” is somehow different in this respect, a textbook example of special pleading.
          Face it, either your argument entails that no x (be it “truth” or “beer” or any other thing) can be distinguished from its negation, or your argument entails none of those things (hint: it’s the latter).

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Yes, LFW cannot be reduced to agent causation, but agent causation is what LFW proponents typically propose as a means to make LFW work – and this proposal is invariably a self-refuting mess (feel free to try to explain why an agent would start causal chain A and not some other causal chain B, without contradicting yourself or positing impossibilities –
          i.e. without resorting to either a) external causes as an explanation or b) an infinite regress of internal causes or c) proposing a model that is 100% indistinguishable from pure randomness).

          Ummm, the problem here is a philosophical one: what are the allowable stopping points for explanations? On the mechanical philosophy, the only allowable stopping points are mechanism. Whatever looks like agents and values must reduce to mechanism, to the equivalent of differential equations and state vectors. So for example, here are two options:

               (1) I did X because I thought it was good.
               (2) I did X because of my neuronal state.

          These days, it seems like (1) is never an acceptable answer, regardless of how much it can be further articulated. It is assumed that really, when it comes down to brass tacks, (1) is just an approximation of (2). What this is, is a fundamental denial that agent causation could possibly be ontological. It is not an empirical discovery but a philosophical choice. It also makes “I think, therefore I am” pretty hilarious.

          But that’s a side issue anyway – it still remains true that you are engaging in special pleading wrt truth and causality. You are wholly unable to explain how your argument wouldn’t also entail that it is impossible to distinguish beer from non-beer (or any other x from not-x).

          You seem to have forgotten:

          AS: You still have precisely nothing to show that the logic of your argument changes even in the slightest with my substitution.

          LB: Your argument breaks precisely this aspect of my argument:

          LB: Physical laws are operating precisely the same when they produce in you a false belief and when they produce in you a true belief. You need some other causal power to point out the distinction between true and false.

          But it breaks it in a degenerate way. There really is such a thing as the causal powers of beer. On the other hand, there is no demonstrated way to think of ‘truth’ having causal powers. Until you can demonstrate such a way, you don’t get to presuppose it.

          Given this, what is the referent for “your argument”?

          All you keep doing, again and again and again and again, is merely asserting that “truth” is somehow different in this respect, a textbook example of special pleading.

          Again, you fail to distinguish:

          LB:
          (A) truth does not have different causal powers from not-truth
          (B) we do not know how truth could have different causal powers from not-truth

          (A) is a logical claim
          (B) is an empirical claim

          You’ve supposed that I am stuck on (A), while my acknowledgment of what your beer vs. not-beer rebuttal does to my argument shifted me to (B).

          Face it, either your argument entails that no x (be it “truth” or “beer” or any other thing) can be distinguished from its negation, or your argument entails none of those things (hint: it’s the latter).

          Actually, it revealed that I should have been speaking in terms of causal powers, and that beer and not-beer have different causal powers. On the other hand, it’s not clear what it means to say that truth and not-truth have different causal powers. More precisely, it’s not clear what it means to say that truth has any causal powers if one is a naturalist. But perhaps I just don’t see it. Which is why I have presented this argument to many people. Maybe I’m as dumb as you think I am and you’re as smart as you portray yourself to be. :-)

        • Andy_Schueler

          (1) I did X because I thought it was good.
          (2) I did X because of my neuronal state.

          These days, it seems like (1) is never an acceptable answer, regardless of how much it can be further articulated.

          It’s actually exactly the other way around. If I asked you to come up with dialogues from contemporary novels, movies or TV series that contain something like 1, you could come up with thousands of examples, it’s a completely generic line that is used in roughly that form all the fucking time. Yet I can’t think of even a single time that line #2 has been used in contemporary culture. Provide three examples of characters from contemporary movies, TV series or novels who say something like line #2 – and after you’ve failed to to do that, you might want to reflect a little on why your ideas are so hilariously out of touch with what the real world is actually like.

          You seem to have forgotten:

          No, I didn’t mere. Mere assertions, unthinking repetition and special pleading. You have nothing and you are not even trying.
          You might as well just write a bot that just copy-pastes this over and over again:
          “There really is such a thing as the causal powers of beer. On the other hand, there is no demonstrated way to think of ‘truth’ having causal powers.
          This is not a mere assertion but an argument if I copy it at least a thousand times!”

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          LB:
               (1) I did X because I thought it was good.
               (2) I did X because of my neuronal state.

          These days, it seems like (1) is never an acceptable answer, regardless of how much it can be further articulated. It is assumed that really, when it comes down to brass tacks, (1) is just an approximation of (2). What this is, is a fundamental denial that agent causation could possibly be ontological. It is not an empirical discovery but a philosophical choice. It also makes “I think, therefore I am” pretty hilarious.

          AS: It’s actually exactly the other way around. If I asked you to come up with dialogues from contemporary novels, movies or TV series that contain something like 1, you could come up with thousands of examples, it’s a completely generic line that is used in roughly that form all the fucking time. Yet I can’t think of even a single time that line #2 has been used in contemporary culture.

          Your “in contemporary culture” caveat could not be less relevant to the philosophical framework brought to bear when an atheist asks, “Show me evidence that God exists.” Why? There are two very different rationalities being used. One allows agent causation. The other does not.

          Provide three examples of characters from contemporary movies, TV series or novels who say something like line #2 – and after you’ve failed to to do that, you might want to reflect a little on why your ideas are so hilariously out of touch with what the real world is actually like.

          Show me where TV is grappling with stuff like @johnnyp76:disqus’s With a Lack of Free Will, Do We Still Have Moral Responsibility? (see also Bruce Waller’s 2011 Against Moral Responsibility). Show me where in contemporary culture, the full consequences of 100% mechanical/​nomological causation are explored, where that form of causation and only that form of causation is taken to its logical conclusion. Can’t? Oh, perhaps that’s because there are two distinct rationalities at play.

        • Andy_Schueler

          Your “in contemporary culture” caveat could not be less relevant to the philosophical framework brought to bear when an atheist asks, “Show me evidence that God exists.”

          So your “These days, it seems like (1) is never an acceptable answer, regardless of how much it can be further articulated” only and exclusively applies to God, and never does in literally any other context, you might have just said so.

          Why? There are two very different rationalities being used. One allows agent causation. The other does not.

          Please point me to the atheist who told you something that might be fairly characterized as “show me evidence for your God doing anything but you are not allowed to present evidence that involves your God doing something”.

          Show me where in contemporary culture, the full consequences of 100% mechanical/​nomological causation are explored, where that form of causation and only that form of causation is taken to its logical conclusion. Can’t? Oh, perhaps that’s because there are two distinct rationalities at play.

          Show me where that causation BS leads to some sane people concluding that a human person is imaginary while other sane people conclude that the human person is real?
          Can’t? Oh, perhaps that’s because this is a complete non-issue when it comes to persons that actually exist.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          So your “These days, it seems like (1) is never an acceptable answer, regardless of how much it can be further articulated” only and exclusively applies to God, and never does in literally any other context, you might have just said so.

          No. I was talking about when we talk about why people did X from a scientific angle. Again, see what happens when we take seriously that there is no free will, that there is no agent causation, that no [non-random] causal chains originate in a person. Most contemporary culture does not take these things seriously. And yet, when I am to produce evidence of God, I must take them seriously. Two rationalities.

          Please point me to the atheist who told you something that might be fairly characterized as “show me evidence for your God doing anything but you are not allowed to present evidence that involves your God doing something”.

          You’re confusing ontology (God doing something) with epistemology (ability to detect an agent doing anything as the agent doing that thing).

          Show me where that causation BS leads to some sane people concluding that a human person is imaginary while other sane people conclude that the human person is real?

          Watch the TV show Humans and observe that the debate is about whether or not the androids are “conscious”. It’s not a debate about whether there exist androids, but whether they have personhood instead of just being sophisticated machines. Likewise, the question is whether God is a person or whether Spinoza was right. For purposes of this discussion, I think I can say that Spinoza’s God is like the Christian God except the personhood is shorn free. Agent causation as ontological goes POOF. It is now a mere approximation for impersonal causation.

        • Andy_Schueler

          Again, see what happens when we take seriously that there is no free will, that there is no agent causation, that no [non-random] causal chains originate in a person.

          Why? And what exactly do you have in mind here – I should read that book by Waller that you’ve never read and tell you what happens when I take his conclusions seriously?

          Most contemporary culture does not take these things seriously.

          Wrong. The overwhelming majority is rather not aware of the existence of ‘these things’.

          And yet, when I am to produce evidence of God, I must take them seriously.

          I’d be willing to bet that the only one who told you to take this seriously is you yourself, and that no atheist ever even so much as mentioned them to you when they asked you for evidence.

          Watch the TV show Humans and observe that the debate is about whether or not the androids are “conscious”. It’s not a debate about whether there exist androids, but whether they have personhood instead of just being sophisticated machines.

          How unrealistic! Why does the show only feature people who already agree that androids exist and merely disagree about what exactly they are? Why doesn’t it also feature people who don’t believe that androids exist at all? (and, also, since the show doesn’t feature them, why do you think it is of any relevance to the issue at hand?)

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Why? And what exactly do you have in mind here – I should read that book by Waller that you’ve never read and tell you what happens when I take his conclusions seriously?

          Are you seriously not aware of what happens when you take the models of causation used in e.g. physics and try to apply them to humans? Do you not have any knowledge of all the bickering that has gone on about whether the human sciences will become just like the hard sciences when they mature? Here:

              The time seems ripe, even overdue, to announce that there is not going to be an age of paradigm in the social sciences. We contend that the failure to achieve paradigm takeoff is not merely the result of methodological immaturity, but reflects something fundamental about the human world. If we are correct, the crisis of social science concerns the nature of social investigation itself. The conception of the human sciences as somehow necessarily destined to follow the path of the modern investigation of nature is at the root of this crisis. Preoccupation with that ruling expectation is chronic in social science; that idée fixe has often driven investigators away from a serious concern with the human world into the sterility of purely formal argument and debate. As in development theory, one can only wait so long for the takeoff. The cargo-cult view of the “about to arrive science” just won’t do. (Interpretive Social Science: A Second Look, 5)

          Are you oblivious to this? Do you dismiss it somehow? It doesn’t seem like it exists in your conceptual lexicon. (I am surprised by this, so perhaps there is a better explanation.)

          Wrong. The overwhelming majority is rather not aware of the existence of ‘these things’.

          Fine. The overwhelming majority doesn’t know that individual quarks have never been observed because of strong confinement. What’s your point? The people who use the handwavy rationality (to deal with agency, which frequently cannot be perfectly formalized) are not relevant here. I’m supposed to produce hard evidence that God exists which will be evaluated by hard science rules.

          I’d be willing to bet that the only one who told you to take this seriously is you yourself, and that no atheist ever even so much as mentioned them to you when they asked you for evidence.

          Oh they’re not so bold or self-aware as to mention them explicitly. But they’re the only way I can possibly make sense of their requests. I’ve been at this for a while, I’ve pushed and poked and tested various different possible background assumptions.

          How unrealistic! Why does the show only feature people who already agree that androids exist and merely disagree about what exactly they are? Why doesn’t it also feature people who don’t believe that androids exist at all? (and, also, since the show doesn’t feature them, why do you think it is of any relevance to the issue at hand?)

          Why did your ancestors believe that God exists, but you don’t?

        • Andy_Schueler

          I’m supposed to produce hard evidence that God exists which will be evaluated by hard science rules.

          If you’d claim that you have a friend who is the most genius mathematician ever – someone who makes Leonhard Euler, David Hilbert and Terry Tao look like imbeciles in comparison – most people would not readily believe you. They’d reasonably conclude that you have made this guy up, or are exaggerating your friends abilities beyond recognition. But, if you indeed did have such a friend, you could probably produce evidence that would convince everyone that he exists. For example by introducing your friend to someone and having him show off the Fields Medal that he won as a ten year old, the million dollar paychecks he got for solving the Millenium Prize Problems a few years later, followed by solving ludicrously hard differential equations in his head faster than you can start Mathematica on your laptop.
          It would work, even the most diehard atheistic eliminative-materialist ever would eventually conclude that this absolutely exceptional person you claimed exists in fact does exist.

          Your problem isn’t those nebulous “hard science rules”, your problem is rather that you are just bluffing wrt evidence for your God.

          Why did your ancestors believe that God exists, but you don’t?

          I don’t see that as relevant to my point (that the show fails to be relevant as an analogy because the analogy would lack someone who represents atheists).
          And I also reject the premise of your question. The Germanic Gods, or nature and ancestor spirits, or even just the conception of “God” that a medieval farmer would have had (who knew virtually nothing about your Bible because he couldn’t read and couldn’t process the sunday smoke-and-mirrors show full of latin incantations on an intellectual level) are not your God.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          If you’d claim that you have a friend who is the most genius mathematician ever …

          Are you under the impression that I think God utters sentences to me?

          If you’d claim that you have a friend who is the most genius mathematician ever – someone who makes Leonhard Euler, David Hilbert and Terry Tao look like imbeciles in comparison – most people would not readily believe you. They’d reasonably conclude that you have made this guy up, or are exaggerating your friends abilities beyond recognition. But, if you indeed did have such a friend, you could probably produce evidence that would convince everyone that he exists.

          Good analogy. The first step to showing that such a friend might exist would be to present remarkable results in mathematics. I wouldn’t have to show the friend, just the results. That would be enough to pique interest. In everyone but you, apparently.

          It would work, even the most diehard atheistic eliminative-materialist ever would eventually conclude that this absolutely exceptional person you claimed exists in fact does exist.

          Oh I see, so all the bits in the Bible about people not admitting YHWH was the God, or that Jesus was who he said he was, are just patently unrealistic. People would just be so much more respectful of the evidence! Nice pipe dream. Have some evidence: Motivated Numeracy and Enlightened Self-Government. People believe what they want to believe and the smarter you are, the better you are at rationalizing away conflicting evidence.

          LB: Why did your ancestors believe that God exists, but you don’t?

          AS: I don’t see that as relevant to my point (that the show fails to be relevant as an analogy because the analogy would lack someone who represents atheists).

          The evolution toward atheists was slow and often multi-generational. The point you are assiduously avoiding is that humans across Europe used to have experiences they connected with God acting. I claim that’s relevant data for … experiencing God. Maybe they weren’t and maybe they were conflating some God with some not-God. We can maintain a nice superposition of all those possibilities. But you don’t seem up for this. You seem to want to default to the current atheist position. It’s curious, how often default positions dominate debates—often without anyone explicitly noticing.

          And I also reject the premise of your question. The Germanic Gods, or nature and ancestor spirits, or even just the conception of “God” that a medieval farmer would have had (who knew virtually nothing about your Bible because he couldn’t read and couldn’t process the sunday smoke-and-mirrors show full of latin incantations on an intellectual level) are not your God.

          Is the analogous person today, to the medieval farmer, statistically likely to be an atheist?

          Also, there can be a lot of fuzz in how they understand God (he seems very tolerant of us having a lot of mistakes), just like your average [not evolution-denying] layperson can make a lot of mistakes in understanding evolution.

        • Andy_Schueler

          Good analogy. The first step to showing that such a friend might exist would be to present remarkable results in mathematics. I wouldn’t have to show the friend, just the results. That would be enough to pique interest. In everyone but you, apparently.

          And after that, let me introduce you to my friend who knows more about the Bible than anyone else on the planet – and I’ll prove to you that he indeed does know more about the Bible than anyone else by arranging a meeting with him, where we’ll talk about everything except for stuff that might be in any way related to the Bible.

          Oh I see, so all the bits in the Bible about people not admitting YHWH was the God, or that Jesus was who he said he was, are just patently unrealistic. People would just be so much more respectful of the evidence! Nice pipe dream.

          You are of course right. And that’s also why you don’t believe in the doctrines of Scientology. Scientology teaches that people like you are confused by the presence of body thetans in them. What, all the bits in L. Ron Hubbards writings about that are just patently unrealistic??? That’s exactly what a body thetan infested person like you would say!

          The point you are assiduously avoiding is that humans across Europe used to have experiences they connected with God acting. I claim that’s relevant data for … experiencing God. Maybe they weren’t and maybe they were conflating some God with some not-God. We can maintain a nice superposition of all those possibilities. But you don’t seem up for this. You seem to want to default to the current atheist position. It’s curious, how often default positions dominate debates—often without anyone explicitly noticing.

          And many people still today have experiences that they connect with witchcraft, which is of course relevant data for….. experiencing witchcraft! Because we all know that believing x caused y is actually the same as experiencing x.

        • https://patheos.com/blogs/tippling Jonathan MS Pearce

          Aah, here you are, gents!

          >>>>>>libertarian free will although you now refer to that self-refuting conceptual mess by a different name.

          Nice.

        • Pofarmer

          Just Remember. LB is a dumbass. Repeat it until you get it. All he is doing is a sophisticated version of gaslighting.

        • Raging Bee

          Yeah, that’s pretty much it. Gaslighting with more and bigger words.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          What, like “nomological”? Not sure what other “bigger words” I’ve used. That one actually has a careful meaning: it means that things change according to a very specific class of formalisms. One way to approximate it is to think of all causation as being differential equations churning away.

        • Susan

          Luke is a dumbass.

          He’s not dumb. Not saying he’s especially smart either. But he’s not dumb.

          All he is doing is a sophisticated version of gaslighting.

          Yes. I recognize every one of his arguments (which rely almost entirely on shifting the burden).

          For all of his tens of thousands of comments, he’s produced exactly nothing on behalf of the existence of Yahwehjesus.

          Nothing.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          For all of his tens of thousands of comments, he’s produced exactly nothing on behalf of the existence of Yahwehjesus.

          Nothing.

          I don’t ever recall trying with atheists, because I don’t ever recall getting conditions for what could possibly convince them that some phenomenon or series of phenomena is best explained as God acting. Even the stars magically realigning to say “John 3:16” could easily be an extremely advanced alien civilization.

          Furthermore, if you’re evaluating all evidence through the methodological naturalism employed by the hard sciences, you cannot possibly detect agency of any kind, human or deity. Everything would always reduce to impersonal causation not because that’s where the evidence points, but because that’s what was presupposed from the get-go.

          Do you often set people up to fail, or do you only do it to theists?

        • Andy_Schueler

          Furthermore, if you’re evaluating all evidence through the methodological naturalism employed by the hard sciences, you cannot possibly detect agency of any kind, human or deity.

          Riiiight. Which is why scientists would look at video footage of you shooting your wife and conclude “well, that guy or at least someone who looks exactly like him shot his wife, but since we are scientists and since that random Christian on the internet insists that we presuppose that agency doesn’t exist, we’ll probably have to conclude that that Lady clearly died from impersonal causation”.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Nope, you can treat agent causation like teleonomy treats teleology. I’ve said this time and time again on this page.

        • Andy_Schueler

          I don’t ever recall trying with atheists, because I don’t ever recall getting conditions for what could possibly convince them that some phenomenon or series of phenomena is best explained as God acting. Even the stars magically realigning to say “John 3:16” could easily be an extremely advanced alien civilization.

          If you can show that there is a being which appears to be, from our human vantage point, supremely wise, knowledgeable, benevolent and powerful, then it seems to be nothing but an utterly inconsequential matter of personal preference if you call that being Xenu or Jesus or anything else – Namen sind Schall und Rauch.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          What does wisdom have to do with science and evidence?

        • Andy_Schueler

          What does that question have to do with the comment you are replying to?
          You said that no atheist has ever given you conditions for when God is a better explanation than an “extremely advanced alien civilization”. And I pointed out that, if you had evidence for the existence of a supremely wise, knowledgeable, benevolent and powerful being – it would be just a matter of personal preference whether you’d call that being “God”, “super advanced alien” or “grmbljfryx”.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          LB: … I don’t ever recall getting conditions for what could possibly convince them that some phenomenon or series of phenomena is best explained as God acting.

          AS: If you can show that there is a being which appears to be, from our human vantage point, supremely wise, knowledgeable, benevolent and powerful …

          LB: What does wisdom have to do with science and evidence?

          AS: What does that question have to do with the comment you are replying to?

          I have not been asked to merely “show” that God exists; I have been asked to produce “evidence” that God exists. Evidence, as we moderns know, is 100% value-free. It stays to one side of the Berlin Wall that is the fact/​value distinction. A critical portion of wisdom, on the other hand, lives on the other side (or just disrespects the distinction altogether).

          The reason this is important is that God, as a person, doesn’t necessarily just want to give us more power to get more of what we currently want. Indeed, that would seem to be a very bad thing, because we desire some very bad things, very strongly. More scientific knowledge can easily mean less egalitarianism, as Bertrand Russell knew. And yet, science doesn’t really do anything but give us more power to get more of what we already want. (Maybe it occasionally tells us we can’t get what we want.) So if someone asks for “evidence” of God’s existence, what is really being said is: “Show me a force which can help me get more of what I want—or which can dominate and subjugate me.” It’s raw voluntaristic power. It’s not a being with agency, it’s just a force.

          Once you transgress the fact/​value distinction and allow wisdom to come into play, I can all of a sudden ask how God would possibly show you superior wisdom, such that it would alter what you want. And I can ask to what extent God can show superior wisdom to passive recipients versus ask humans to take a step of faith and then see if the step of faith was worth it. (The prototype is Abram’s father leaving his nice situation in Ur, with his son being the one to actually benefit from the intervening decrease in well-being.) But the idea that action to test ostensible wisdom might be required to evaluate it is anathema to the demand for “evidence”. Evidence can be evaluated by couch potatoes. Wisdom has to be lived.

        • Andy_Schueler

          When I would ask you for some evidence that your wife is a real person and not just your imaginary friend, you could just invite me over to​ your place for dinner. It would never occur to you to reinterpret a simple request for evidence into the “you just want more power!!11!” BS when we are talking about something that demonstrably exists, like your wife. You only do that for things you believe in that do not demonstrably exist.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          When I would ask you for some evidence that your wife is a real person …

          We’ve been over this already. I can be in the same room physically with my wife, while being 100% closed to her mentally. I mean that in precisely this way: I could have a model of her which I refuse to allow to be updated in any fashion except to reinforce that model. People seem to treat each other this way not infrequently. When this happens, there is a very important sense in which “the other” ceases to exist. You become closed to anything truly different from what your current conceptual schemes can handle. This is almost certainly what the OT means by a “hardened heart”—or part of what it means. You’re done learning, although you can always collect more data. More strictly, you have a limited mathematical vocabulary and will never expand beyond its limitations. Some patterns you will never, ever be able to even detect.

          The idea that you need a physical body to be presented to you in order to make a mental change is a category mistake, pure and simple. On the contrary, before the instrument is modified to detect a certain kind of signal, that signal can be strong as daylight and the instrument will be 100% blind to it. And what I’ve been saying is that closing oneself to the possibility of detecting divine agency also closes oneself to the possibility of detecting human agency. The situation has gotten so bad that many people are anti-realist about the very possibility that human agency could exist; you’re an exemplar:

          AS: Regarding the rest of your comment – I don’t believe in agent causation and I also don’t think that you or anyone else can even coherently define what that is supposed to mean.

          This, despite the fact that you almost certainly don’t have the same kind of “clear and distinct” idea of non-agent causation that you demand of me. Unless you can refute the following:

              The assumption that there is an exclusive dichotomy between the formal and the physiological is, in our view, an error of enormous consequence. We shall maintain that the most important metascientific concepts with which philosophy deals, such as cause, law, explanation, theory, evidence, natural necessity, and the like, have not been shown to be capable of adequate characterisation in wholly formal terms. We hold that adequate accounts of those concepts which are neither purely formal nor simply psychological can be achieved by attention to the third element in our intellectual economy, namely the content of our knowledge, content which goes beyond the reports of immediate experience. We shall show in a wide variety of cases that the concepts with which we are concerned, and particularly the concept of Causality, can be adequately differentiated, the rationality of science defended, and the possibility of the world preserved only by attending to certain general features of the content of causal propositions by which they can ultimately be distinguished as having a conceptual necessity, irreducible either to logical necessity or to psychological illusion. In this way we resolve many of the problems which the tradition has bequeathed us. (Causal Powers: Theory of Natural Necessity, 2–3)

          To throw wood on the fire:

          Epistemic Values are Values Too
          The classical pragmatists, Peirce, James, Dewey, and Mead, all held that value and normativity permeate all of experience. In the philosophy of science, what this point of view implied is that normative judgments are essential to the practice of science itself. These pragmatist philosophers did not refer only to the kind of normative judgments that we call “moral” or “ethical”; judgments of “coherence,” “plausibility,” “reasonableness,” “simplicity,” and of what Dirac famously called the beauty of a hypothesis, are all normative judgments in Charles Peirce’s sense, judgments of “what ought to be” in the case of reasoning.[7]
              Carnap tried to avoid admitting this by seeking to reduce hypothesis-selection to an algorithm—a project to which he devoted most of his energies beginning in the early 1950s, but without success. In Chapter 7, I shall look in detail at this and other unsuccessful attempts by various logical positivists (as well as Karl Popper) to avoid conceding that theory selection always presupposes values, and we shall see that they were, one and all, failures. But just as these empiricist philosophers were determined to shut their eyes to the fact that judgment of coherence, simplicity (which is itself a whole bundle of different values, not just one “parameter”), beauty, naturalness, and so on, are presupposed by physical science, likewise many today who refer to values as purely “subjective” and science as purely “objective” continue to shut their eyes to this same fact. Yet coherence and simplicity and the like are values. (The Collapse of the Fact/Value Dichotomy, 30–31)

          To be very clear, the mechanical philosophy is almost certainly 100% algorithmic. Exactly how it is related to the ideas of digital physics I’m not sure—adding infinite precision to variables does violate the Turing machine formalism—but people certainly speak as if all of reality is computable.

          Now, because some dick will probably try and blather about “the supernatural” at this point, or accuse me of hewing to Cartesian dualism, I will say that I do not believe that in the end, when science has “finished” (perhaps as t → ∞), there will be “jump discontinuities” in understanding. The major worry about both the supernatural and dualism is that there is a lawful realm juxtaposed to a lawless realm with no way of comprehending the interaction. This is a defeatist way to view things; it is like supposing that God wants to keep us perpetually ignorant, like the Goa’uld ensured that no planet surpassed the most basic of technology (see also Lord of Light). It is a fundamental denial of theōsis. It imprisons humanity within a sliver of reality. It’s as if the following verse went this way:

          For the earth will be filled sparsely populated
              with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD
              as the waters cover deuterium populates the sea.
          (Habakkuk 2:14)

        • Andy_Schueler

          So you are saying that I could come over to your place, have dinner with you and your wife, and still believe that you don’t have a wife at all – she’s just in your imagination, all while I’m having a conversation at her over the dinner table.
          If that isn’t what you mean, then you are not addressing my comment at all.
          And if it indeed is what you mean, then you should be institutionalized.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          So you are saying that I could come over to your place, have dinner with you and your wife, and still believe that you don’t have a wife at all …

          No, I’m not saying that. I was quite clear:

          LB: … I could have a model of her which I refuse to allow to be updated in any fashion except to reinforce that model.

          If that isn’t what you mean, then you are not addressing my comment at all.

          Actually, it does. The longer you fail to enhance your model of a person, the more likely you are to treat him/her as more of a thing than a person. Your understanding mechanizes, formalizes, and hardens. You are no longer open to newness. You can get more data to confirm what you’ve always believed, and you can get ostensibly falsifying data which you integrate back into your model in precisely the way conspiracy theorists operate. This process is depersonalizing, and the result is that you start thinking that only impersonal causation exists. God disappears from the picture as does human agency. Everything becomes mechanism, and there is no one—human or divine.

        • Andy_Schueler

          “Actually, it does. The longer you fail to enhance your model of a person…”
          – Irrelevant from the get go because I have no model of the alleged person and in fact am convinced that there isn’t even a personality to model because the person in question is imaginary.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Irrelevant from the get go because I have no model of the alleged person and in fact am convinced that there isn’t even a personality to model because the person in question is imaginary.

          You don’t, but your forebears did. That’s because the process I described has gone to the logical conclusion wrt God. It’s taking longer wrt humans, but it is getting there.

          The standard narrative is that people used to think nature was populated with spirits, so that not only did God act, but other nonhuman agents also acted. Science slowly eroded away all that stuff by explaining things more simply and clearly—without agent causation. This worked really well with the things which were things and not agents. Now there was also a shift from openness to reality to domination of reality. This closed us to much of any new wisdom (as I already told you), meaning that we could not learn anything new about God qua agent. God became mechanism as a result. And this is what happened: theism → deism → atheism.

          The remaining question, or so I claim, is whether we could open ourselves to new wisdom. Could we open our ears to possibly hearing from God, and hearing something other than answers to the question, “How can I get more of what I want, with less effort”? As long as we define “evidence” mechanistically, we declare that wisdom is not “real”; it’s an artifact of our minds, because value is an artifact of our minds. This means that agency is also an artifact of our minds. And so God could only exist in our minds as an agent—the only “evidence” of him would be the mechanistic aspect of anything he does. And that will be identified not as “God acting”, but “the impersonal laws of nature churning away”.

          Agency was purged from res extensa, shoved into res cogitans, and is disintegrating into nothingness. This means we understand it less and less, which means that people’s wills become less and less intelligible. At some point, at least a remnant will be desperate enough to open itself to new wisdom, wisdom which does not originate within itself. But maybe we’re still a ways away. Maybe a few hundred million people will have to die due to climate change; maybe hundreds of millions more will have to die due to war. If you demand empirical evidence, you’ll get it. You might just not like it. Too bad.

        • Andy_Schueler

          Seriously, have you ever seen a psychiatrist?

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Nope, but I have seen a psychologist. He made an interesting comment: he said psychologists tend to be much better at characterizing mental problems than solving them. That comment, plus the major thesis of Narrative Knowing and the Human Sciences, made a lot of sense to me. We’re dumbshits about human agency and that means ever-increasing mental problems. He also said something else: when I try and simulate other people, do not apply a rationality filter to the results of my simulations of them. When I followed this advice, I found that I actually understood people much better than the terrible I originally thought. [Cue joke about LB-rationality.]

          I will now include in my model of you a superposition of two possibilities:

               (1) you haven’t a clue what ‘wisdom’ is
               (2) you think ‘wisdom’ is purely instrumental

          My evidence for this is twofold:

          LB: [talks about being closed to people and the world being different from one’s conceptual scheme]

          AS: Seriously, have you ever seen a psychiatrist?

          +

          AS: And I pointed out that, if you had evidence for the existence of a supremely wise, knowledgeable, benevolent and powerful being …

          LB: I have not been asked to merely “show” that God exists; I have been asked to produce “evidence” that God exists. Evidence, as we moderns know, is 100% value-free. It stays to one side of the Berlin Wall that is the fact/​value distinction. A critical portion of wisdom, on the other hand, lives on the other side (or just disrespects the distinction altogether).

          AS: [fails to deal with the matter of wisdom at all]

          You are welcome to provide contravening evidence.

        • Andy_Schueler

          Cool.
          So, how often did you meet people and confused them for inanimate objects in your life?
          How often did you meet people who confused you for an inanimate object?
          If the answer to either question is greater than zero, by all means, explain how that happened.

          You are welcome to provide contravening evidence.

          I’m supposed to provide evidence?! Don’t you know that evidence is 100% value-free??

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          So, how often did you meet people and confused them for inanimate objects in your life?
          How often did you meet people who confused you for an inanimate object?

          In the last episode of Westworld, the AI unit/​person Maeve Millay goes “off script” from her programming. Was she “inanimate” before that? Was she “inanimate” after? Let’s see what you really mean by that term. After all, even a Roomba can have a bit of a personality, right? Or do we have to get to a slightly more complex, but permanently limited robot, before it is “animate”? Or perhaps we can talk of a bacterium as “animate”?

          I’m not intending to just mess around; I find this matter quite fascinating, as does Westworld & Humans. There is also the Veritas forum between MIT Rosalind Picard and Josha Knobe, What Makes Us Human?. There is also mathematical biologist Robert Rosen’s Life Itself, which examines whether differential equations are sufficient to rigorously distinguish life from not-life.

          Underneath all this is a suspicion of mine that when folks practice the distinguishing of the animate from the inanimate, they are not relying on the same “rationality” as is practiced in the hard sciences, as is used to define the “empirical evidence” which theists are supposed to present to prove that God exists. It’s motte and bailey, as to what reasoning is allowed in each domain.

          I’m supposed to provide evidence?!

          Dunno; I forget whether you claim that you form beliefs only based on the evidence.

        • Susan

          So, how often did you meet people and confused them for inanimate objects in your life?

          And once again, you divert to a world of fiction.

          When are you going to provide evidence based on clear models?

          Underneath all this is a suspicion of mine that when folks practice the distinguishing of the animate from the inanimate,

          Noone’s interested in your suspicions red herrings.

          What are you claiming and how do you support it?

        • Andy_Schueler

          In the last episode of Westworld….

          So the answer is “precisely zero”. How interesting.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Seriously though, you seem to be working with a completely inappropriate analogy.

          I disagree. But I fear that the only way I can [currently] explain that disagreement is via a wall of text that would cause your eyes to glaze over. So instead, I’ll merely point out that Descartes’ separation of res cogitans and res extensa placed all of the causation in the former; mind was active while body was passive. This led to the following mess:

          Specifically, Descartes speculated that the workings of res cogitans—second substance—may be beyond human understanding. So he thought, quoting him again, “We may not have intelligence enough to understanding the workings of mind.” In particular, the normal use of language, one of his main concepts. He recognized that the normal use of language has what has come to be called a creative aspect; every human being but no beast or machine has this capacity to use language in ways that are appropriate to situations but not caused by them—this is a crucial difference. And to formulate and express thoughts that may be entirely new and do so without bound, may be incited or inclined to speak in certain ways by internal and external circumstances, but not compelled to do so. That’s the way his followers put the matter—which was a mystery to Descartes and remains a mystery to us. That quite clearly is a fact. (Noam Chomsky – “The machine, the ghost, and the limits of understanding”, 9:58)

          This is basically new mysterianism and it is shockingly similar to the following notion of “dual rationality”:

              Finally, consider the libertarian notion of dual rationality, a requirement whose importance to the libertarian I did not appreciate until I read Robert Kane’s Free Will and Values. As with dual control, the libertarian needs to claim that when agents make free choices, it would have been rational (reasonable, sensible) for them to have made a contradictory choice (e.g. chosen not A rather than A) under precisely the conditions that actually obtain. Otherwise, categorical freedom simply gives us the freedom to choose irrationally had we chosen otherwise, a less-than-entirely desirable state. Kane (1985) spends a great deal of effort in trying to show how libertarian choices can be dually rational, and I examine his efforts in Chapter 8. (The Non-Reality of Free Will, 16)

          In the past, I have drawn an analogy to unstable Lagrangian point, which are points where the forces of gravity cancel; a space vehicle which passes through them can radically alter its trajectory with infinitesimal thrust. The Interplanetary Transport Network is built on this; as long as you’re ok with your space vehicle taking a while to get to its destination, it can now do so on very little fuel.

          My analogy to unstable Langranian points, which I have built into my “small Δv model of free will”, is directly connected to “us[ing] language in ways that are appropriate to situations but not caused by them”. The caveat of “but not caused by them” is what differentiates human use of language from any other use of language we know of. It is no mistake that in Gensis 1, God used language to create reality.

           
          Barf, that was still long. Anyhow, current science cannot understand how humans use language in this key way. Simultaneously, I am required to produce “evidence of God’s existence” which science can understand. How do you not see that this poses a problem? You do it this way: you switch what rationality is at play between asking for evidence and asking how I distinguish animate from inanimate. I had to press very hard—into bleeding edge TV shows—to make this clear. You want to back off into the fuzz and then say that I’m not making good points. But if you force me to back off into the fuzz, we should just give up. Knowledge is not gained by hanging out in fuzz.

        • Andy_Schueler

          Simultaneously, I am required to produce “evidence of God’s existence” which science can understand. How do you not see that this poses a problem?

          Because you are making the second step before the first. If want to conclude whether or not some x is a personal being or some inanimate object based on x’s “language”, based on what x is communicating, then all potential problems that might arise from interpretating that communication are completely moot as long as you don’t have any communication to work with.
          It’s as if you want to do a Turing test on some guy called Jim and Jim is not available for communication, just your imaginary friend as anyone else could tell. If someone doubts that Jim is real, it’s absurd to start a discussion about the methodology of evaluating whether Jim is a person or not as long as no one can talk to Jim anyway.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          I see. So while the following demonstrably happens—

          A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it. (Max Planck)

          —that could never possibly happen with God. We would always process sensory input generated by his communication properly. This, despite the fact that you objected when I summarized Grossberg 1999 this way:

               (RBQ) Right Belief Required: If you do not believe the right things, you will never be able to become conscious of the corresponding phenomena.

          You were right to object to that, because “right” was dangerously ambiguous. If my brain interprets cold as hot and hot as cold, it has the right beliefs in one sense and the wrong beliefs in another. If I recall correctly, you never objected to the following summary:

               (SPQ) Some Pattern Required: If there is a pattern on your perceptual neurons which does not sufficiently well-match any patterns on your non-perceptual neurons, you may never become conscious of that pattern.

          The correction from (RBQ) → (SPQ) means that God very well could have communicated with you in the past and your consciousness did “notice”, but it misinterpreted it to be not from God. This, in fact, is a central problem criticized in the OT:

          And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” And he said, “Go, and say to this people:

          “‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand;
          keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’
          Make the heart of this people dull,
              and their ears heavy,
              and blind their eyes;
          lest they see with their eyes,
              and hear with their ears,
          and understand with their hearts,
              and turn and be healed.”
          Then I said, “How long, O Lord?”
          And he said:
          “Until cities lie waste
              without inhabitant,
          and houses without people,
              and the land is a desolate waste,
          and the Lord removes people far away,
              and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land.
          And though a tenth remain in it,
              it will be burned again,
          like a terebinth or an oak,
              whose stump remains
              when it is felled.”
          The holy seed is its stump.
          (Isaiah 6:8–13)

          When Jesus repeatedly talks about those who have “ears to hear”, this is the allusion. The cynical interpretation of the above passage is that the words Isaiah preaches will magically do harm to their hearers. But there is another: when you tell people they’re fucking up, sometimes they retrench instead of honestly considering it. When that happens, the only option other than reprogramming their brains is pain and suffering—empirical evidence that something somewhere is wrong.

          BTW, it may be the case that much or even all of the talk of obedience in the Bible can be reinterpreted as listening and taking it seriously. Obedience is something children do, but the hope is that one shifts to understanding why. Adults can still learn, but it doesn’t have to be via obedience. Orthodox Jew Yoram Hazony advances this in The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture and cites Abel as the first example of someone who listened but didn’t obey. The curse for Adam was to be a farmer and have that life suck; Jared Diamond’s The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race nicely describes the suckage of ANE farming. Abel took God seriously and then said fuck that and became a shepherd, which we now know is much easier than ANE farming. And guess what? His sacrifice was accepted and Cain’s was not. Maybe God wants to be challenged, but in a way that leads to better things for us. Maybe he wants theōsis and hates it when we get stuck.

          But no … the OT couldn’t possibly say such things. I mean, you know what it says and your interpretation couldn’t really be that wrong. The ancient Hebrews got so screwed up on what the “temple of YHWH” was that they thought it would offer cheap forgiveness, but we know better and could never ever be screwed up in that way, right? We have Things Figured Out™. And if we were screwed up and God existed, surely he would correct them with Never Fails Communication™ and we’d be hunky dory. Surely!

        • Andy_Schueler

          The correction from (RBQ) → (SPQ) means that God very well could have communicated with you in the past and your consciousness did “notice”, but it misinterpreted it to be not from God.

          Absolutely. And it could very well be that you promised to send me 1000$ but your consciousness misinterpreted it and perceived it as writing some BS about Cain and Abel instead. I mean, why not? I can make it up, so it’s totally plausible and could very well be true, right?
          So, when will you be doing the necessary SPQ correction here and give me my money?

          But no … the OT couldn’t possibly say such things. I mean, you know what it says and your interpretation couldn’t really be that wrong.

          I don’t know what most of it says because I quickly stopped reading the OT prophets (because they are whiny, repetitive and boring as fuck) and I’m not interested in reading and trying to interpret them myself or hearing your or anyone else’s interpretation.
          I’ll just point out what I pointed out many times already: it’s supremely weird that the only way your ‘personal’ (LOL) ‘god’ is 100.0% inaccessible except for Bible stories that people in antiquity wrote about him. It’s almost as if you are worshipping a book. Strike that, it’s exactly as if you are worshipping a book.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          A while ago, you suggested that if I had a relationship with God other than your relationship with Atticus Finch, I could introduce God to you and you could have a chat. However, when it comes to simpler things, like analyzing the scientific evidence and seeing where it points, some scientists refuse to see it for what it is. Accomplished scientists, who gain a lot of control over their fields because of those accomplishments. I guess we just don’t make those mistakes when it comes to people—only with inanimate stuff?

        • Andy_Schueler

          I guess we just don’t make those mistakes when it comes to people—only with inanimate stuff?

          Here, it is important to clearly spell out what ‘those mistakes’ are. Because, if we do spell them out, I say that it becomes obvious that people generally never make ‘those mistakes’ wrt other people and that ‘those mistakes’ cannot possibly be made, not even in principle, wrt ‘inanimate stuff’.
          ‘Those mistakes’ are:
          Person p1 communicating with another person p2 leading to p1 concluding that a) he has never received any commincation from p2 and b) that p2 does not even exist in the first place.
          Or, to use a concrete example, me coming over to your house for dinner, having a chat with your wife about her job, how the two of you met and so on and so forth – and then immediately and completely forgetting everything I’ve just heard from her and concluding that there is no other person at the dinner table except for you and me.
          As far as I can tell, it is not humanly possible to make ‘this mistake’, our psychology simply doesn’t work that way – I can’t even conceive that happening for a seriously mentally ill person, not even for one that is bugfucking nuts. And I’m sure that you can’t conceive of that happening either – because else you had long given me an example for that.
          To me, this is just armchair apologetics to explain away the empirical fact that your alleged personal God is completely 100% inaccessible for all the personal interactions that are natural between human persons.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          If you’re 100% closed to newness, like this:

          A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it. (Max Planck)

          —or this:

          LB: I can be in the same room physically with my wife, while being 100% closed to her mentally. I mean that in precisely this way: I could have a model of her which I refuse to allow to be updated in any fashion except to reinforce that model. People seem to treat each other this way not infrequently.

          —why would God show himself to you?

          Oh, and there’s the distinct possibility that God could still be as present as ever (something your forebears consciously detected as such), but because we closed ourselves to newness (we became “Enlightened”), agency started to look like mechanism. But when I said this—even though I bet I could get psychologists and psychiatrists to confirm this—you had the impertinence to ask if I’d seen a psychiatrist. (Curiously enough, I’ll bet psychiatrists have a greater tendency to treat people as broken machines in need of fixing with drugs.)

          What’s really funny to me in all this is that I’ve had the experience of being treated as nonexistent. Oh yes, they knew there was another enfleshed being there and they knew he would say things. But they had no interest in what I had to say, unless it was an occasion for mockery. I find it utterly fascinating that you are making such a big deal of enfleshment. Maybe you just have no conception of what it means to be utterly closed to other human beings. Perhaps it has never been done to you, or perhaps you always do it to others. The possible explanations probably abound. Anyhow, this is a terrible way to treat human beings†, and yet it is the treatment Jesus opened himself to, and I think it’s the treatment God is happy to receive while we humans pursue our apparent awesomeness and see where that goes.

          And yes, I realize that a hypothesis with fewer entities is that God does not exist. Very interestingly, that hypothesis does away with two entities:

               (1) we humans are closed to newness, closed to agency
               (2) God

          To humans committed to telling themselves awesome stories about themselves, (1) is very important. It’s probably also important to humans who have settled for mediocrity—because who wants to admit that [s]he settled? So, it would appear that Ockham’s razor happens to sometimes be a way to avoid introspection.

           
          † Jacques Ellul nails it:

              We have to try to understand the meaning of this inhuman insanity. To scorn is to condemn the other person to complete and final sterility, to expect nothing more from him and to put him in such circumstances that he will never again have anything to give. It is to negate him in his possibilities, in his gifts, in the development of his experience. To scorn him is to rip his fingernails out by the roots so that they will never grow back again. The person who is physically maimed, or overwhelmed by mourning or hunger, can regain his strength, can live again as a person as long as he retains his honor and dignity, but to destroy the honor and dignity of a person is to cancel his future, to condemn him to sterility forever. In other words, to scorn is to put an end to the other person’s hope and to one’s hope for the other person, to hope for nothing more from him and also to stop his having any hope for himself. (Hope in Time of Abandonment, 47)

          There are of course disguised versions, where you scorn everything in the other person not like you or your culture. Then you believe that you’re just “healing” them. Hello, Discipline and Punish. Hello, suppression of newness. Hello, new Roman Catholic Church (in the worse sense, perhaps just a caricature sense).

        • Andy_Schueler

          If you’re 100% closed to newness, like this:

          A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it. (Max Planck)

          Yeah, right….
          Tom: “Hey, pigs can actually fly!”
          Harry: “Oh yeah?! Prove it!”
          Tom: “You are just 100% closed to new ideas like pigs being able to fly, that’s why I’ll not give you any evidence for my assertion and just claim victory because [insert completely inappropriate Planck quote here]”

          LB: I can be in the same room physically with my wife, while being 100% closed to her mentally. I mean that in precisely this way: I could have a model of her which I refuse to allow to be updated in any fashion except to reinforce that model. People seem to treat each other this way not infrequently.

          Which is totally relevant because people start forgetting everything that their spouse ever told them and conclude that their spouse is actually imaginary all the time. No wait….

          Oh, and there’s the distinct possibility that God could still be as present as ever (something your forebears consciously detected as such), but because we closed ourselves to newness (we became “Enlightened”), agency started to look like mechanism.

          Well, at least you are wise enough to never spell this idea out in detail with a concrete example, because probably even you yourself realize how stupid it would be to say something like “maybe raindrops are actually God’s tears because he’s really really sad about kids starving in Africa”.

          What’s really funny to me in all this is that I’ve had the experience of being treated as nonexistent. Oh yes, they knew there was another enfleshed being there and they knew he would say things. But they had no interest in what I had to say, unless it was an occasion for mockery.

          If you say that some people would treat you as “nonexistent”, followed by an acknowledgment that they knew you were there, could hear what you say, and even mocked you for what you did say, you are kind of proving that you either don’t have the foggiest clue of what “nonexistence” means, or completely redefine it into its negation on the spot as a dishonest rethorical trick.

          I find it utterly fascinating that you are making such a big deal of enfleshment.

          I don’t. What I am making a big deal out of is the complete and utter absence of ANY personal interactions what-so-fucking-ever.
          By your criteria (i.e. no criteria at all beyond really wishing something to be true), we could as well conclude that rocks are actually people as long as someone out there really wants that to be true.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Yeah, right….
          Tom: “Hey, pigs can actually fly!”
          Harry: “Oh yeah?! Prove it!”
          Tom: “You are just 100% closed to new ideas like pigs being able to fly, that’s why I’ll not give you any evidence for my assertion and just claim victory because [insert completely inappropriate Planck quote here]”

          I don’t see why the Planck quote is inappropriate. The Planck quote reveals an incredibly problematic property of human nature and human society. And yet you seem this is 100% irrelevant. I don’t understand why.

          Which is totally relevant because people start forgetting everything that their spouse ever told them and conclude that their spouse is actually imaginary all the time. No wait….

          People didn’t conclude that God was imaginary, God morphed from being a personal creator (well, there’s definitely fuzz with the “God of the philosophers” on the ‘personal’) to Nature to nature. Providence became the laws of nature + random chance. It’s not like a bunch of sensory neurons which used to be wired to “God” got deleted. No, they got disconnected from “God” and reattached to “Nature”.

          Well, at least you are wise enough to never spell this idea out in detail with a concrete example, because probably even you yourself realize how stupid it would be to say something like “maybe raindrops are actually God’s tears because he’s really really sad about kids starving in Africa”.

          No, I’m really not embarrassed at all to say that we ostensibly enlightened moderns are incredibly benighted and evil. One of the more despicable things we do is pretend that we live in anything like democracies/​representative republics. Why do we do this? Because it’s an excellent way to give people the illusion of choice and thus keep them inside a prison they cannot taste, touch, smell, hear, or see. That God would be unable to correct us because of our stubbornness makes complete sense to me. After all, that’s the pattern over and over and over again in the OT. The reason we don’t like to believe that now is that we think humans are terrifically more rational than they actually are. We’ve told ourselves pretty stories about how righteous we are. Yes, that’s getting eroded a bit by “we’re evolved primates”, but only a bit [so far].

          If you say that some people would treat you as “nonexistent”, followed by an acknowledgment that they knew you were there, could hear what you say, and even mocked you for what you did say, you are kind of proving that you either don’t have the foggiest clue of what “nonexistence” means, or completely redefine it into its negation on the spot as a dishonest rethorical trick.

          Or it means that you don’t want to take what I said seriously.

          LB: I find it utterly fascinating that you are making such a big deal of enfleshment.

          AS: I don’t. What I am making a big deal out of is the complete and utter absence of ANY personal interactions what-so-fucking-ever.

          Sure, because you think personal interactions are more of a flesh thing than a mind thing. Or you can only detect things at the flesh level instead of the mind level. (I cannot help but speak in a way which evokes mind/​body dualism.) You’re just being consistent with the logical conclusions of impersonal causation. Kudos for that.

        • Andy_Schueler

          The Planck quote reveals an incredibly problematic property of human nature and human society. And yet you seem this is 100% irrelevant. I don’t understand why.

          No, I agree, the Planck quote is relevant because it proves that pigs can fly if someone merely claims they can.

          People didn’t conclude that God was imaginary, God morphed from being a personal creator (well, there’s definitely fuzz with the “God of the philosophers” on the ‘personal’) to Nature to nature.

          Which does happen all the time, today you think your wife is your wife, tomorrow you think that she is Rain, and the day after you think she’s just rain. That’s just the way the human mind works…

          No, I’m really not embarrassed at all to say that we ostensibly enlightened moderns are incredibly benighted and evil raindrops are Gods tears.

          FIFY

          Or it means that you don’t want to take what I said seriously.

          Ah, so it’s time to play Humpty Dumpty again, eh? “Non-existent” can totally mean “existent” or “non-existent”, or both, depends on your mood – words mean whatever you want them to mean and sometimes their meaning completely inverts mid-sentence if its convenient for you.

          Sure, because you think personal interactions are more of a flesh thing than a mind thing. Or you can only detect things at the flesh level instead of the mind level.

          Indeed, which is why I think that you don’t exist – I also can’t remember you ever having a conversation with me, and this conversation right now also isn’t happening. That’s obviously so because I’ve never seen your physical body.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          But you fail to explain how that is in any way relevant for why people disagree about the existence of your God. We cannot sit down and have a conversation with your God and try to assess whether this God is a person or an inanimate object. As far as non-Christians can tell, your God is not a cyborg or anything even remotely resembling one, your God is rather a fictional character that has no correspondence in the world outside the Christian’s imagination what-so-ever. And that’s why your analogy fails, completely – if God would be accessible for conducting a Turing test, it would be different, but he isn’t qua being imaginary.

          Yes, there are two competing hypotheses:

               (A) God doesn’t exist.
               (B) We don’t want to hear what God has to say.

          I realize that (A) is more parsimonious. But I claim I can raise a problem for you if I can establish that (B) necessarily blinds you to God in the ways he cares about. Then, we could talk about making the appropriate changes to our instruments so they can detect color, and see if they detect color. Maybe they won’t detect any color.

          The OT sets up a comprehensive model of what happens when God has things to say to humans. The most common response is to tell him to fuck off. The next most common response is to accept all the wonderful things he has to offer while gradually becoming content and not wanting anything more. (See the Tower of Babel folks, who didn’t want to explore all of reality.) The pattern is that great wealth turns to debauchery and ultimately Israel gets conquered. Now, you can say that this is a bad model of humans, that they’re more interested in truth and wisdom than the Bible says. But there’s a lot of empirical evidence that this is false—for example, Motivated Numeracy and Enlightened Self-Government.

          It’s actually largely my discussions with atheists which has driven me to conclude (B), as well as that God desires nothing less than theōsis (which incidentally, C.S. Lewis argues in Mere Christianity, Book IV, Chapter 9). This shifts the focus from expecting God to act regularly and predictably (nomologically) to expecting him to constantly bring newness into existence, to constantly teach us more and help us do grander things. That’s my interpretation of God’s answer to Job—he just didn’t know enough [yet]. I see Job 40:6–14 as an attainable goal, not an unattainable one. But we have to want something more than mediocrity. I’m not sure we do—not in a way other than how children want all sorts of things but have no interest in doing the work it would take to get them.

          Anyhow, not that you care about the above, but I thought I’d let you know. I really do listen to my atheist interlocutors, even though I’m quite slow and need things repeated much more than is your taste.

        • Andy_Schueler

          Yes, there are two competing hypotheses:

          (A) God doesn’t exist.
          (B) We don’t want to hear what God has to say.

          Think about any arbitrary scenario where someone tells someone else something that they really don’t want to hear.
          Example:
          Tom tells Harry straight to his face, “you drink too much Harry, and you are intolerable when you are drunk, all your friends think that but they are too polite to say this to your face.”
          Try as I might, I can’t conceive of an outcome for that example that would end with Harry a) not hearing the words at all and b) thinking that Tom, the guy he is right now having a conversation with, is actually imaginary. Well, at least not without further assuming that Harry is seriously mentally ill, to the degree that he wouldn’t be able to function in society and would need to be institutionalized.
          By all means, feel free to offer a real world scenario including sane people where your B) would actually be a hypothesis worth considering – I certainly can’t think of any.
          Again, you seem to be making the second step before the first, it makes no sense to talk about whether people don’t want to hear what God has to say as long as God (assuming that there is one) is not saying anything in the first place.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Think about any arbitrary scenario where someone tells someone else something that they really don’t want to hear.

          Haven’t there been plenty of times when you tried to tell me something and I just wouldn’t get it, to the extent that you would say I was being “deliberately obtuse”? Now, that was your model, perhaps because you could not believe that people would possibly do that thing unintentionally. But you’ve seen this very thing in interacting with me multiple times, if not many times.

          Example:
          Tom tells Harry straight to his face, “you drink too much Harry, and you are intolerable when you are drunk, all your friends think that but they are too polite to say this to your face.”
          Try as I might, I can’t conceive of an outcome for that example that would end with Harry a) not hearing the words at all and b) thinking that Tom, the guy he is right now having a conversation with, is actually imaginary.

          If Harry lets Tom finish the sentence, yes. But I’ve heard plenty of stories of people—often older people—who just won’t listen to certain criticisms. As they say, “It goes in one ear and out the other.” You’re not taking this possibility seriously enough, or at least, you’re not taking it to the logical conclusion. The right strategy for God to deal with stubbornness like this is not [necessarily] to keep speaking.

          Well, at least not without further assuming that Harry is seriously mentally ill, to the degree that he wouldn’t be able to function in society and would need to be institutionalized.

          Societies cannot become mentally ill? That’s actually a metaphor used in the Bible:

          Ah, sinful nation,
              a people laden with iniquity,
          offspring of evildoers,
              children who deal corruptly!
          They have forsaken the LORD,
              they have despised the Holy One of Israel,
              they are utterly estranged.

          Why will you still be struck down?
              Why will you continue to rebel?
          The whole head is sick,
              and the whole heart faint.
          From the sole of the foot even to the head,
              there is no soundness in it,
          but bruises and sores
              and raw wounds;
          they are not pressed out or bound up
              or softened with oil.
          (Isaiah 1:4–6)

          Oh, and if you need modern science, go check out Liah Greenfeld’s Mind, Modernity, Madness: The Impact of Culture on Human Experience or see her column on Psychology Today.

          Again, you seem to be making the second step before the first, it makes no sense to talk about whether people don’t want to hear what God has to say as long as God (assuming that there is one) is not saying anything in the first place.

          Unless God has said things and is waiting for us to take them seriously (cf. ‘obedience’) before he has more we can bear to hear. “Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word.” (John 8:43) I can give you the most basic of examples:

          So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23–24)

          What it means to “offer your gift at the altar” is taken care of by Rom 12:1–2. The obvious idea here is to maintain solid relationships. Do Christians actually obey that (or find something better)? Almost universally, my experience is “no”. This, despite the fact that Christians’ love for each other and unity are the two chief evidences Jesus gives to nonbelievers (Jn 17:20–23 and 13:34–35). So, what is God supposed to say to Christians? “Umm hey guys, the one you recognize as my son/me said to do these things, how about you do them? I promise, the result will be good.”

          “hearing” ⇏ “understanding

        • Andy_Schueler

          Unless God has said things and is waiting for us to take them seriously

          Let me just spell out what that means:
          Maybe God really did talk to some people thousands of years ago and then never again spoke so much as a single word to anyone for 2000 years. Maybe the only way to have any idea of what God said is to have a good understanding of ANE culture, be literate, and have a copy of the Bible in a language you can read – or have some guy preach its contents to you and hope that the guy isn’t lying to you or completely clueless and just pretending to be knowledgeable.
          Maybe God did think to himself “that’s a great plan, what better way to reveal myself to a largely illiterate world than to have some random assholes in a totally random part of the world write some stories about me. Guess I can take a nap for a few thousand years now –
          those illiterate fools will be alright now that some of them have these stories chock full of ANE cultural idiosyncracies”.

          And part of what atheists are pointing out to you is that you have nothing to offer that turns the ‘Maybe’ in the above to a ‘Probably’, or even just a ‘Plausibly’.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Maybe God really did talk to some people thousands of years ago and then never again spoke so much as a single word to anyone for 2000 years.

          Not my claim.

          Maybe the only way to have any idea of what God said is to have a good understanding of ANE culture, be literate, and have a copy of the Bible in a language you can read – or have some guy preach its contents to you and hope that the guy isn’t lying to you or completely clueless and just pretending to be knowledgeable.

          Not my claim.

          And part of what atheists are pointing out to you is that you have nothing to offer that turns the ‘Maybe’ in the above to a ‘Probably’, or even just a ‘Plausibly’.

          I test plausible wisdom I find in the Bible which doesn’t seem widely held to in modernity—with all its scientific awesomeness—and I find it reliable. Then I do more. I find it reliable. Let’s see, would I be intelligent or unintelligent to continue this procedure? And what would it indicate if that stuff truly is wisdom, and moderns have no interest in it? Might it show that society is … mentally ill? Or is that impossible in principle, in your understanding of reality?

        • Andy_Schueler

          Not my claim.

          OK, then lets substract the Bible – what else do you have beyond it?

          I test plausible wisdom I find in the Bible which doesn’t seem widely held to in modernity—with all its scientific awesomeness—and I find it reliable. Then I do more. I find it reliable. Let’s see, would I be intelligent or unintelligent to continue this procedure?

          Two problem with that:
          1. You don’t reason like that in any other context. You will find plenty of valuable insights in the texts of Marx if you study them, you could even find gems of wisdom when you read Mao – but you would never conclude from that (and rightfully so) that they are probably also right about everything else.
          2. I’ve never seen you acknowledge that any tidbit of the Bible is anything less than perfect. You try to find excuses for even the most abominable verses. Take slavery for example – you cherry pick the stuff about not returning runaway slaves, apply the most charitable interpretation imaginary to it, and then pretend that that invalidates literally everything else the Bible says about slavery. If I’d simply adopt your approach in reverse and conclude that because Moses is depicted as God’s chosen one and is also a genocidal asshole who commanded boys to be slaughtered and virgins to be raped, the Bible must be wrong about everything else it says, you’d rightfully criticize that.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          OK, then lets substract the Bible – what else do you have beyond it?

          My tests of what I’ve found in the Bible and the results from those tests.

          1. You don’t reason like that in any other context. You will find plenty of valuable insights in the texts of Marx if you study them, you could even find gems of wisdom when you read Mao – but you would never conclude from that (and rightfully so) that they are probably also right about everything else.

          Actually, I frequently try to interpret people extremely charitably. I try to maximize the amount of area where someone like Marx was right. I then try to trace the boundaries of that rightness; where does it start heading toward wrong and where does it end up being quite wrong? And I’ve found not infrequently that just a few false premises that, if inserted into great thinkers’ systems, make the systems quite excellent. I try this out with the Bible from time to time, but I haven’t found a false premise which renders it much more intelligible.

          What I suggest you do, Andy, is not model me like you. The way you approach what people have written seems exceedingly different from how I do so. I can still be hard-hitting, but I try to first do a good job of ruling out all other, more charitable interpretation. There are a few cases in which I won’t do this, such as when I feel under assault by the person/​group. I could stand to improve markedly, there.

          2. I’ve never seen you acknowledge that any tidbit of the Bible is anything less than perfect. You try to find excuses for even the most abominable verses. Take slavery for example – you cherry pick the stuff about not returning runaway slaves, apply the most charitable interpretation imaginary to it, and then pretend that that invalidates literally everything else the Bible says about slavery. If I’d simply adopt your approach in reverse and conclude that because Moses is depicted as God’s chosen one and is also a genocidal asshole who commanded boys to be slaughtered and virgins to be raped, the Bible must be wrong about everything else it says, you’d rightfully criticize that.

          Yes, I recognize that from time to time, atheists will try to get me to condemn even the slightest bit in the Bible. (They generally don’t shoot for mere “less than perfect”.) What I sometimes do as a result is play “knockout verse/​passage”, very much like knockout genes. What happens if I remove that verse/​passage? By the way, this question must be asked empirically, to the best of my ability. Pretty little castles of thought are nigh useless. The result of doing this is almost universally bad or neutral. I cannot recall the result of a knockout ever being good.

          Let’s take slavery. Were it to not show up in the Bible, would there have been less slavery in reality? I’ve never seen a compelling argument with [some sort of] evidence that it would be. My guess is that most/​all people who argue this fall prey to the rationalist delusion[1]. But let’s press further. Globalism supports the continued existence of slavery, in an “out of sight, out of mind” manner. This is what the rich have always done with their oppression. Well, when I point this fact out, that certain products you and I buy indirectly support slavery, the response is not, “Oh shit, I should work really hard to reduce that support to 0 ASAP!!” That reveals flagrant hypocrisy. And without the Bible’s treatment of slavery to spark that discussion, the hypocrisy would probably be less apparent. Oh wait, then knocking out the Bible’s verses on slavery might make things … worse?

          The same happens with the genocide passages (which may never have actually happened). When I bring up Rwandan Genocide § United States[2], pointing out that the US knew that a “final solution” was in place from a reputable source, it refused to even call it genocide because that would place a legal obligation to intervene. The US were afraid of another Battle of Mogadishu, where 19 US soldiers were killed and 73 were wounded. The estimated number of deaths in Rwanda is 800,000. This tells me what those in the West “action-believe” with regard to genocide. We might tell ourselves pretty little stories, but when it comes to practice, this is what happens. It’s despicable. And if there weren’t genocide in the Bible, there would be less opportunity to point out this flagrant hypocrisy. Knockout leads to badness, again.

          Hypocrisy is the vice that vice pays to virtue. But it’s good in this sense: it sets out a standard of goodness which we can realize we fall short of. An alternative to that is Pilate’s “What is truth?”, which I take to be a careless/​realpolitik attitude which seems rather … post-truth. Now, where did our ideas of what would be moral to do come from? How much was because of Judaism and Christianity, how much was independent, and how much was in spite of? I know that there are raging debates on this topic, but when I read stuff like Carl L. Becker’s The Heavenly City of the Eighteenth-Century Philosophers and Dominic Erdozain’s The Soul of Doubt: The Religious Roots of Unbelief from Luther to Marx, it’s really hard to not see a tremendous number of them as rooted in Christianity and Judaism. Ok, so I then try to examine just what the alleged poison is in Judaism/​Christianity, a poison essential to them, not incidental. And I have yet to find it. You can try and help me find it, if you’d like. But I know it requires a lot from you to investigate such issues with me.

           
          [1] An excerpt from Jonathan Haidt’s talk, “The Rationalist Delusion in Moral Psychology”:

          And when we add that work to the mountain of research on motivated reasoning, confirmation bias, and the fact that nobody’s been able to teach critical thinking. … You know, if you take a statistics class, you’ll change your thinking a little bit. But if you try to train people to look for evidence on the other side, it can’t be done. It shouldn’t be hard, but nobody can do it, and they’ve been working on this for decades now. At a certain point, you have to just say, ‘Might you just be searching for Atlantis, and Atlantis doesn’t exist?’ (The Rationalist Delusion in Moral Psychology, 16:47)

          [2] That link is a dated entry with an explicit US section; diff, current.

        • Andy_Schueler

          My tests of what I’ve found in the Bible and the results from those tests.

          So you don’t just have the Bible, you also have the Bible?
          Ok….

          Let’s take slavery. Were it to not show up in the Bible, would there have been less slavery in reality?

          So if Hitler not writing Mein Kampf would not have caused any less violence against and murder of Jews, that means that the stuff that’s written in it is really not that bad?

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          So you don’t just have the Bible, you also have the Bible?

          “the Bible” ≠ “experiences in reality from applying the Bible”

          LB: Let’s take slavery. Were it to not show up in the Bible, would there have been less slavery in reality?

          AS: So if Hitler not writing Mein Kampf would not have caused any less violence against and murder of Jews, that means that the stuff that’s written in it is really not that bad?

          I generally care more about the empirical correlates of a thing rather than doctrinal systems which condemn this or that. And I think the Bible exposes our filth where we’d rather it stay nice and hidden. Humans have long practiced casting aspersions on the one who exposes their filth. This seems no different.

        • Andy_Schueler

          “the Bible” ≠ “experiences in reality from applying the Bible”

          Yes, and don’t forget that you have further evidence from the Bible, and the Bible, and also the Bible.

          I generally care more about the empirical correlates of a thing rather than doctrinal systems which condemn this or that. And I think the Bible exposes our filth where we’d rather it stay nice and hidden. Humans have long practiced casting aspersions on the one who exposes their filth.

          If that were so, and we’d apply your reasoning, then this aspect of the Bible is evidently completely useless:
          “Were it to not show up in the Bible, would there have been less more slavery casting aspersions on the one who exposes their filth in reality?”

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Yes, and don’t forget that you have further evidence from the Bible, and the Bible, and also the Bible.

          “evidence from the Bible” ≠ “experiences in reality from applying the Bible”

          In case it isn’t clear, the former is textual in nature, while the latter is experiential in nature. Very different things.

          If that were so, and we’d apply your reasoning, then this aspect of the Bible is evidently completely useless:
          “Were it to not show up in the Bible, would there have been less more slavery casting aspersions on the one who exposes their filth in reality?”

          Sorry, could you explain that a bit more? I have neither said nor entailed that for every X in the Bible, if you were to remove X there would be more of it in reality.

        • Andy_Schueler

          “evidence from the Bible” ≠ “experiences in reality from applying the Bible”

          Absolutely, which is why can “substract the Bible” from the evidence you got, and then you still have the Bible, and the Bible, and also the Bible (did I mention the Bible?)

          I have neither said nor entailed that for every X in the Bible, if you were to remove X there would be more of it in reality.

          But you think you can handwave bad verses away as long as no one can demonstrate that those verses directly caused more of the shit to happen that’s written in them – they no longer count, they don’t discredit the Bible. If you were consistent (yeah, I know…..) then the exact same reasoning would apply to everything good the Bible says – either you prove that those verses directly caused more of those things to happen, or they are irrelevant.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          But you think you can handwave bad verses away as long as no one can demonstrate that those verses directly caused more of the shit to happen that’s written in them – they no longer count, they don’t discredit the Bible.

          The underlined word is your straw man. You and I both know that there can be plenty of indirection in the results of “knockout genes”.

          If you were consistent (yeah, I know…..) then the exact same reasoning would apply to everything good the Bible says – either you prove that those verses directly caused more of those things to happen, or they are irrelevant.

          Again with the straw man. But you have exposed a bias in me toward exploring goodness, in hoping that there is more, having those hopes verified empirically, and giving me reason to rinse & repeat. I must be such a terrible person to be more interested in seeking empirical goodness instead of obsessing about what my abstract thought-system says is evil. 😀

        • Andy_Schueler

          The underlined word is your straw man.

          Well, if you’re 100% closed to newness, like this:
          A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it. (Max Planck)
          – I can’t help you.

          Again with the straw man. But you have exposed a bias in me toward exploring goodness incredibly bad and dishonest armchair apologetics

          FIFY

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Well, all our active conversations seem to have devolved. Until next time!

        • Andy_Schueler

          Well, all our active conversations seem to have devolved.

          That’s a nice euphemism for your typical strategy of simply ignoring refutations of your claims when you run out of sophistry and then burying them under a mountain of Bullshit.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          You are of course welcome to paint our conversations however fancy strikes you. So much of social life is competitive storytelling, where each group paints itself as the most good and/or most rational. I’ll simply say that I don’t know how to further process your criticisms; when they get too distant from what I’ve said (often in the reductio ad absurdum regime), I just lose track. You are welcome to lump 100% of the blame on me, as per usual.

        • Andy_Schueler

          I’ll simply say that I don’t know how to further process your criticisms; when they get too distant from what I’ve said

          No, you can’t further process the criticism in a way that still makes it look as if your original point is valid.
          Example: your excuse for why you don’t have to present evidence for your God, because this evidence will be allegedly subjected to scrutiny under “hard science rules”, which would be totally unfair because your God is a person!!
          I have totally eviscerated this excuse, which wasn’t very hard because it’s not a good excuse – and your problem isn’t that you don’t know how to process that criticism, your problem is that you like that excuse, don’t want to admit that it’s complete BS, and rather want to keep using it because you sometimes manage to successfully confuse people with it.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Right, you couldn’t/​wouldn’t even continue this conversation, which was in the very beginning:

          LB: … I don’t ever recall getting conditions for what could possibly convince them that some phenomenon or series of phenomena is best explained as God acting.

          AS: If you can show that there is a being which appears to be, from our human vantage point, supremely wise, knowledgeable, benevolent and powerful …

          LB: What does wisdom have to do with science and evidence?

          AS: What does that question have to do with the comment you are replying to?

          LB: I have not been asked to merely “show” that God exists; I have been asked to produce “evidence” that God exists. Evidence, as we moderns know, is 100% value-free. It stays to one side of the Berlin Wall that is the fact/​value distinction. A critical portion of wisdom, on the other hand, lives on the other side (or just disrespects the distinction altogether).

          AS: When I would ask you for some evidence that your wife is a real person and not just your imaginary friend, you could just invite me over to​ your place for dinner. It would never occur to you to reinterpret a simple request for evidence into the “you just want more power!!11!” BS when we are talking about something that demonstrably exists, like your wife. You only do that for things you believe in that do not demonstrably exist.

          The reader can note that you just drop all discussion of wisdom in the context of the first comment I quote, above. So you have no basis to say anything about the validity of my original point—unless, that is, your inclusion of “wisdom” was a complete red herring?

        • Andy_Schueler

          Oh, the “Berlin wall of fact/value distinction”, sounds like those alleged “hard science rules” that skeptics hold you to and which make it just impossible for you to present any evidence for your God because he is a person! And there can never be any evidence for the existence of a person because hard science rules and fact/value distinction!
          No wait…. my bad, that only applies to imaginary “persons” like your God. Those alleged “hard science rules” and “Berlin wall of fact/value distinction” actually don’t hinder you even in the slightest when you are asked to produce evidence for the existence of a person, and you know it. All that you actually need is the person in question to be demonstrably real and not imaginary as far as anyone, including you yourself, can tell.
          You just have absolutely nothing in terms of evidence, and you have zero confidence that you will ever find any evidence, because you focus your energies on building excuses – like your ridiculous straw man of “hard science rules” wrt the existence of personal beings.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          You are again conflating the mere presence of a flesh-and-blood creature (or an android, or a voice talking out of seeming nothingness in the room you’re occupying) with the concept of personhood. In particular, you are not necessarily open to other people existing who are different from you in good ways, instead of different from you as if they were simply bad/​malfunctioning clones of you. And I don’t mean that someone else is able to embody your concepts of goodness better than you—that’s still you locked inside your own notion of goodness, not open to any other. If you are locked in your own notion of goodness, you are not truly open to the “wisdom” of God. Unless, that is, God agrees with you on everything, either at the theorem level or the axiom + rules of inference level.

          Quite simply, plenty of folks did not believe Jesus was in any way worth worshiping. They saw in him ugliness and stupidity and evil. This, even though he was present to them in a flesh-and-blood manner. Unless you think this is entirely unrealistic to human, it is as flesh-and-blood is in no way a sufficient condition. In this whole discussion, you’ve shown no interest in sketching out the full set of necessary conditions. You’ve been stuck on one of the necessary conditions (I might quibble a bit, but I don’t think with the spirit of it).

        • Andy_Schueler

          You are again conflating the mere presence of a flesh-and-blood creature (or an android, or a voice talking out of seeming nothingness in the room you’re occupying) with the concept of personhood.

          No. I didn’t equate those in the comment you replied to. I also never equated those anywhere else or wrote anything that even remotely implies that BS. This is wholly your fabrication.

          In particular, you are not necessarily open to other people existing who are different from you in good ways,

          I never said this explicitly and I never implied this in any way, shape or form. This is simply a lie.

          If you are locked in your own notion of goodness, you are not truly open to the “wisdom” of God.

          Oh, so your God is finally willing to share some of his wisdom with us? Cool, where is he?

          In this whole discussion, you’ve shown no interest in sketching out the full set of necessary conditions. You’ve been stuck on one of the necessary conditions

          The complete, absolute, 100%, utter absence of any interpersonal action of any kind what-so-fucking-ever (yeah, I know you dispute that, and you disputing that will become interesting as soon as you can give a concrete example that shows me to be wrong) could indeed be called a lack of a “necessary condition”.
          And there are no other “necessary conditions” for which you have any evidence to offer because if you had, you’d shout it from the rooftops instead of focussing all your energy on making up excuses for why you got nothing.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          LB: In particular, you are not necessarily open to other people existing who are different from you in good ways,

          AS: I never said this explicitly and I never implied this in any way, shape or form. This is simply a lie.

          What I said is not the kind of thing which requires you to have said or implied it in order to be possibly true. Instead, it merely asserts the lack of a certain class of evidence from being observed—by me. So the characterization of “lie” is fatuous.

          I’m going to stop here, until we clear up this “lie” bit.

        • Andy_Schueler

          What I said is not the kind of thing which requires you to have said or implied it in order to be possibly true. Instead, it merely asserts the lack of a certain class of evidence from being observed—by me.

          You were talking about yourself and hence suggested that you are not “truly open to the “wisdom” of God”?
          Well, that’s a strange thing for a self-proclaimed Christian to say, but in that case I’ll obviously apologize for calling that a lie.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          You were talking about yourself and hence suggested that you are not “truly open to the “wisdom” of God”?

          Now you’re just being willfully obtuse. :-)

        • Andy_Schueler

          Oh, and something else:

          And I don’t mean that someone else is able to embody your concepts of goodness better than you—that’s still you locked inside your own notion of goodness, not open to any other. If you are locked in your own notion of goodness, you are not truly open to the “wisdom” of God.

          That is something that you did not think through. The kind of being “open” that you talk about here actually and necessarily amounts to making completely arbitrary choices about moral issues. I’ll illustrate it with a thought experiment.
          Assuming that two evidently superhuman entities A and B reveal themselves to you, and both would claim that they are the omni-everything alpha and omega of all that is, and that the other one is an evil deceiver that wants to tempt you towards damnation, how would you choose which one of the two is more likely telling the truth? Lets further assume that both tell you that you have to follow one of them, if you don’t decide, the choice will be made for you. And finally, lets assume that one encourages you to follow a path that appears almost unthinkably wicked to you, while the other one encourages you to follow a path that appears to be almost unthinkably noble to you.
          Now, since you want to be “open” to new notions of goodness, ones that are not necessarily just improved and better fleshed-out versions of what you already did perceive as being good in some way, ones that might be evil or even diametrically opposed to what you consider to be good from your current vantage point – how do you decide which one of the two to follow? Whatever decision you make, your “openness” guarantees that it will be a completely arbitrary one.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          LB: And I don’t mean that someone else is able to embody your concepts of goodness better than you—that’s still you locked inside your own notion of goodness, not open to any other. If you are locked in your own notion of goodness, you are not truly open to the “wisdom” of God.

          AS: The kind of being “open” that you talk about here actually and necessarily amounts to making completely arbitrary choices about moral issues.

          That couldn’t possibly be true, unless you say that the moral formation of a person has a “completely arbitrary” quality, from the point of view of the person being formed. Unless you don’t think there’s really moral formation, but that instead it is all anamnesis?

          What you seem to want to say is that at some point you “own” yourself in the sense that no longer can people morally form you without your explicit consent. Any new moral code [fragment], as it were, would be vetted by extant moral code. But there are two categorically different kinds of vetting:

               (1) Does it contradict what I already believe?
               (2) Is it entailed by what I already believe?

          Bracketing (1) for the moment, I can choose to require (2) or not require (2). If I do not require it, then I can be open to concepts of goodness which are different from my own in a very important way. But perhaps you meant to allow for this amount of variation, and are simply worried about too much allowed contradiction with (1)?

          It is nontrivial to fully explore (1), because sometimes the contradiction will be my problem; sometimes I was really wrong. Ostensibly though, there is some sort of weighted consistency test, whereby I try to see whether the proposed moral code [fragment] actually improves my moral code more than the cost of ejecting/​modifying whatever contributed to there being a contradiction. In a key way I maintain my moral code—or so is the hope; whether there is some important “core” which is always maintained after a great number of updates doesn’t seem guaranteed from the outset.

          Thoughts? If the above doesn’t make sense to you or wasn’t where you were going, please explain your thinking some more.

        • Andy_Schueler

          That couldn’t possibly be true, unless you say that the moral formation of a person has a “completely arbitrary” quality, from the point of view of the person being formed.

          I’m not saying that, you are. The trajectory of your “moral formation” as you call it, is arbitrary with the “openness” you have in mind.

          Ostensibly though, there is some sort of weighted consistency test, whereby I try to see whether the proposed moral code [fragment] actually improves my moral code more than the cost of ejecting/​modifying whatever contributed to there being a contradiction. In a key way I maintain my moral code—or so is the hope; whether there is some important “core” which is always maintained after a great number of updates doesn’t seem guaranteed from the outset.

          That completely contradicts what you said earlier. Earlier you said:
          “And I don’t mean that someone else is able to embody your concepts of goodness better than you”

          But now you are talking about “…I try to see whether the proposed moral code [fragment] actually improves my moral code…” – which is precisely what you earlied said you “don’t mean”.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          LB: And I don’t mean that someone else is able to embody your concepts of goodness better than you—that’s still you locked inside your own notion of goodness, not open to any other. If you are locked in your own notion of goodness, you are not truly open to the “wisdom” of God.

          AS: The kind of being “open” that you talk about here actually and necessarily amounts to making completely arbitrary choices about moral issues.

          LB: That couldn’t possibly be true, unless you say that the moral formation of a person has a “completely arbitrary” quality, from the point of view of the person being formed.

          AS: I’m not saying that, you are.

          I don’t see how that follows. I don’t see how I have necessarily implied precisely the form of “open” that you used for your “thought experiment”.

          LB: Ostensibly though, there is some sort of weighted consistency test, whereby I try to see whether the proposed moral code [fragment] actually improves my moral code more than the cost of ejecting/​modifying whatever contributed to there being a contradiction. In a key way I maintain my moral code—or so is the hope; whether there is some important “core” which is always maintained after a great number of updates doesn’t seem guaranteed from the outset.

          AS: That completely contradicts what you said earlier. Earlier you said:

          And I don’t mean that someone else is able to embody your concepts of goodness better than you

          You’ve ignored “(2) Is it entailed by what I already believe?”. Is that because you’ve presupposed a “yes” answer? Because if the answer is “no”, then the paragraph you quoted is only one form of assimilating new moral code into one’s own. Were that the only form, you’d find a contradiction—but it isn’t.

        • Andy_Schueler

          You’ve ignored “(2) Is it entailed by what I already believe?”. Is that because you’ve presupposed a “yes” answer? Because if the answer is “no”, then the paragraph you quoted is only one form of assimilating new moral code into one’s own. Were that the only form, you’d find a contradiction—but it isn’t.

          Ok, so you got caught in a blatant contradiction and now you try your best to emulate Sean Spicer, cute.

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

          I love Sean Spicer! Make him do it again.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          I wonder how often you strategically ignore bits of what I’ve said so that you can obtain little “victories”.

        • Andy_Schueler

          I’m not ignoring anything you said. Your “openness” is just either a) completely arbitrary, exactly as I described, or b) not arbitrary but also completely contradicting what you originally talked about.
          You want to have both and just use whatever is currently convenient, because consistency was never exactly your strong suit.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Your “openness” is just either a) completely arbitrary, exactly as I described, or b) not arbitrary but also completely contradicting what you originally talked about.

          You simply have a false dichotomy. Matching up with my (1) and (2), I can:

               (1′) Be open to new moral code which does not contradict my current moral code [too much],
               (2′) without requiring that it be entailed by my current moral code.

          This is neither completely arbitrary nor is it to be “locked inside your own notion of goodness”.

          Perhaps your mistake is to think that all moral codes must be closed systems, such that any proposed addition would either:

               (1″) contradict extant moral code
               (2″) be already entailed by extant moral code

          But I see no reason whatsoever to think that all moral codes must be closed systems. My moral code does not need to cover all possible situations; sometimes I have to learn new things when I encounter new situations, where that learning is not mere computation of logical entailment.

        • Andy_Schueler

          You simply have a false dichotomy.

          Indeed, because you totally have a non-arbitrary way to decide whether or not to change your moral code in some way, a non-arbitrary way other than the one that completely contradicts what you initially said:
          “…I try to see whether the proposed moral code [fragment] actually improves my moral code…”

          No wait…. you actually don’t have that.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Again you are ignoring “(2) Is it entailed by what I already believe?”. The paragraph you quoted is for what to do with cases where the answer to “(1) Does it contradict what I already believe?” is “yes”. But the answer is not always “yes”.

        • Andy_Schueler

          The paragraph you quoted is for what to do with cases where the answer to “(1) Does it contradict what I already believe?” is “yes”.

          I know, and that means that you are now completely contradicting what you initially wrote by saying:
          “…I try to see whether the proposed moral code [fragment] actually improves my moral code…”
          But you are way too proud and dishonest to admit that.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Here’s how you’ve been treating what I wrote:

          LB: Any new moral code [fragment], as it were, would be vetted by extant moral code. But there are two categorically different kinds of vetting:

               (1) Does it contradict what I already believe?
               (2) Is it entailed by what I already believe?

          Bracketing (1) for the moment, I can choose to require (2) or not require (2). If I do not require it, then I can be open to concepts of goodness which are different from my own in a very important way. But perhaps you meant to allow for this amount of variation, and are simply worried about too much allowed contradiction with (1)?

          It is nontrivial to fully explore (1), because sometimes the contradiction will be my problem; sometimes I was really wrong. Ostensibly though, there is some sort of weighted consistency test, whereby I try to see whether the proposed moral code [fragment] actually improves my moral code more than the cost of ejecting/​modifying whatever contributed to there being a contradiction. In a key way I maintain my moral code—or so is the hope; whether there is some important “core” which is always maintained after a great number of updates doesn’t seem guaranteed from the outset.

          As I said:

          LB: I wonder how often you strategically ignore bits of what I’ve said so that you can obtain little “victories”.

          The answer appears to be: “often”.

        • Andy_Schueler

          I didn’t ignore any of your inane ramblings. I merely pointed out the obvious, that this:
          “…I try to see whether the proposed moral code [fragment] actually improves my moral code…”
          is all you have that’s isn’t completely arbitrary and that this also completely contradicts what you initially said.
          And you can yell “but, but but, my (1) could be false or true and my (2) could also be false or true!!11!” until you are blue in the face, that won’t magically change the fact that the only non-arbitrary way to evaluate those possible changes in your moral code completely contradicts what you initially said.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          I merely pointed out the obvious, that this:

          LB: …I try to see whether the proposed moral code [fragment] actually improves my moral code

          is all you have that’s isn’t completely arbitrary …

          Incorrect. For me to accept only moral code fragments which do not contradict my moral code “[too much]” yields neither complete arbitrariness nor complete determination from my current moral code. Which of course is what I already said. I suggest understanding the term “partially determined”, in the sense that there is a continuum, from:

               (A) fully determined
               (B) partially determined
               (C) undetermined

          You have been consistently ignoring the possibility of (B).

        • Andy_Schueler

          For me to accept only moral code fragments which do not contradict my moral code “[too much]” yields neither complete arbitrariness nor complete determination from my current moral code.

          And poof, your initial claim:
          “And I don’t mean that someone else is able to embody your concepts of goodness better than you”
          has magically vanished and been replaced by something that completely contradicts it.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          And poof, your initial claim:

          LB: And I don’t mean that someone else is able to embody your concepts of goodness better than you

          has magically vanished and been replaced by something that completely contradicts it.

          Nope:

          LB: Any new moral code [fragment], as it were, would be vetted by extant moral code. But there are two categorically different kinds of vetting:

               (1) Does it contradict what I already believe?
               (2) Is it entailed by what I already believe?

          Bracketing (1) for the moment, I can choose to require (2) or not require (2). If I do not require it, then I can be open to concepts of goodness which are different from my own in a very important way. But perhaps you meant to allow for this amount of variation, and are simply worried about too much allowed contradiction with (1)?

          You keep ignoring (2).

        • Andy_Schueler

          You keep ignoring (2).

          Oh noes, how could I?! Then please remind me of the totally non-arbitrary additional way of “vetting” possible changes in your moral code. You know, the one that doesn’t completely contradict what you initially said.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          You accept moral code fragments which do not contradict your current moral code “[too much]”, noting that (i) the new bits aren’t necessarily entailed by your moral code, but (ii) the are [sufficiently] consistent with it. That is, the newness you will accept is limited, but not so limited that you’ll only actually accept moral code fragments already 100% entailed by your moral code. As I said before:

          LB: I suggest understanding the term “partially determined”, in the sense that there is a continuum, from:

               (A) fully determined
               (B) partially determined
               (C) undetermined

          You have been consistently ignoring the possibility of (B).

          This is just a slight articulation of what I said before that:

          LB: This is neither completely arbitrary nor is it to be “locked inside your own notion of goodness”.

          Here, I’ll place that in the above schema:

               (A′) “locked inside your own notion of goodness”
               (B′) Andy refuses to admit this category exists
               (C′) completely arbitrary

        • Andy_Schueler

          Cool, you already said all of that many times. But it has nothing to do with my question:
          “Then please remind me of the totally non-arbitrary additional way of “vetting” possible changes in your moral code. You know, the one that doesn’t completely contradict what you initially said.”
          You keep talking about the minutiae of how exactly some change in your moral code could look like. Over and over and over and over and over again. But you have only presented one single way to “vet” possible changes in your moral code before accepting them – one that completely contradicts what you initially said.
          So, why are you so coy about sharing the other way – the one that doesn’t completely contradict what you initially said? Surely you have this other way, right?

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          But you have only presented one single way to “vet” possible changes in your moral code before accepting them – one that completely contradicts what you initially said.

          You appear to not understand what “partially determined” means.

        • Andy_Schueler

          Apparently not, so I guess you’ll have to spell out how this leads you to a different way to “vet” changes in your moral code, one that’s different from the only one you did spell out so far, the one that completely contradicts what you initially said.
          Funny how someone as verbose as you is so incredibly coy about saying even just a single word describing this other way, the one that definitely exists because you are obviously not lying about this.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Something which does not contradict my moral code “[too much]” is necessarily not completely arbitrary.

          You are only “locked inside your own notion of goodness” if you will only accept moral code [fragments] which are already entailed by your moral code.

          It is possible for a new moral code fragment to neither contradict your moral code “[too much]”, nor be merely entailed by your moral code. In that case, you are “open to [some] other [concepts of goodness]”.

        • Andy_Schueler

          Still not a single word about the second way for “vetting” changes in your moral code before you accept them, the one that doesn’t completely contradict what you initially said.
          How curious, it gets harder and harder to explain your refusal to say even just a single word about it without assuming that you have no second way except for the one that does completely contradict what you initially said and were just lying all the time….
          Lets make this as unambiguous as possible. You are vetting a potential change in your moral code, and you could do this:
          1. “…I try to see whether the proposed moral code [fragment] actually improves my moral code…”
          And besides that way of vetting, you allegedly also have a second one that doesn’t completely contradict what you initially said:
          2. ????????????

          Will you now finally say something about this second way or just avoid spelling out what this alleged second way looks like yet again?

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Still not a single word about the second way for “vetting” changes in your moral code before you accept them, the one that doesn’t completely contradict what you initially said.

          Then this is the situation we have to explore:

          LB: Any new moral code [fragment], as it were, would be vetted by extant moral code. But there are two categorically different kinds of vetting:

               (1) Does it contradict what I already believe? no
               (2) Is it entailed by what I already believe? no

          In that situation, it has been partially vetted. How can you not see this?

          What you seem to want is a way to do the rest of the vetting, but there is no more vetting—not beforehand. A key part of being open to others’ concepts of goodness is that you make yourself vulnerable. But that’s what trust necessarily is. You can find that your moral code lines up quite well with the other person’s, find that some increased alignment of yours to his/hers ends up being better, and iterate. And sometimes—horror of horrors—you get hurt. But the alternative, as literature across spacetime makes quite clear, is radical solitude.

          Your error all along has been to say completely arbitrary. What is actually the case in what I’ve suggested is a degree or arbitrariness. But exaggeration—and I know you love exaggeration—destroys all clarity. Your completely has always been incorrect.

        • Andy_Schueler

          Ah, so you finally admit that you never had a second way of “vetting” a change in your moral code before accepting it other than this one:

          “…I try to see whether the proposed moral code [fragment] actually improves my moral code…”

          Which completely contradicts what you initially said:
          “And I don’t mean that someone else is able to embody your concepts of goodness better than you

          Your error all along has been to say “completely arbitrary”.

          That wasn’t an error at all, that “completely arbitrary” was based on the assumption that you actually meant what you initially said – but you don’t. You completely changed your position without admitting it, and that makes you a fucking liar. You’ve been lying about this shit here as brazenly as Trump lies about everything.
          And it was so unnecessary, you could have simply said something along this line for example:
          “Yeah, my “I don’t mean that someone else is able to embody your concepts of goodness better than you” was poorly phrased, what I actually meant was….”
          – that wouldn’t have cost you anything beyond admitting poorly phrasing something. But no, you rather lie as brazenly and as stubbornly as you did here than admit even the tiniest of errors.
          If you sometimes wonder why some people lose patience with you, shit like this is part of the explanation.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          You completely changed your position without admitting it, and that makes you a fucking liar.

          Why don’t you state, in your own words, what you think my original position was, and what you think my final position is. Let’s see how much of the change is in your head, and how much can be reasonably traced to what I’ve actually said.

        • Andy_Schueler

          Since I quoted you verbatim without adding anything, the change can actually be 100% traced to what you actually said. And now you want to play Humpty Dumpty again and pretend that the “I don’t mean” in “And I don’t mean that someone else is able to embody your concepts of goodness better than you” can totally also mean “I do mean” if that is convenient for you.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          So it’s just too hard for you to state the before and after in your own words?

        • Andy_Schueler

          Before: “I don’t”, After: “I do” (hint: the latter is the exact opposite of the former)

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Do what, don’t what? In your own words.

        • Andy_Schueler

          Embodying your conception of goodness better than you currently do.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Where did I ever say that is the only thing I do?

        • Andy_Schueler

          So we’ll just start over fresh and I’ll ask you yet again for the umpteenth time how you’ll vet those possible changes in your moral code, and you will yet again not manage to come up with an answer that doesn’t completely contradict what you initially said?
          Instead of embarrassing yourself with those stupid lies, you could have just admitted that your initial claim was poorly phrased and not what you actually meant, but no, you rather make an ass of yourself than admitting even the tiniest error.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Do you think there is such a thing as “partial vetting”, or is it either “full vetting” or “completely arbitrary”?

        • Andy_Schueler

          Your “partial” BS is just noise. The point is that “vetting” in this context always amounts to you looking for improvements of your moral code (i.e. exactly what you inititally said you don’t mean) – you cannot come up with any other way to “vet” that doesn’t amount to making a completely random choice, and that’s why what you initially said was utter BS and obviously so if you had just thought about it for longer than a minute.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Sorry, do you mean to say that you believe (for whatever reason or unreason) I only ever meant “full vetting” (until I allegedly contradicted myself), or that the very concept of “partial vetting” makes no sense?

        • Andy_Schueler

          Whether you “partially” do the exact opposite of what you initially talked about or “fully” do the exact opposite of what you initially talked about is rather irrelevant.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          How exactly is “partially vetted” inconsistent with what I originally said? It certainly appears inconsistent with your criticisms. And please don’t ignore (2) again, or this conversation is over.

        • Andy_Schueler

          It certainly appears inconsistent with your criticisms.

          Oh really? Then by all means, explain why you are not contradicting yourself if you just “partially” do the exact opposite of what you initially talked about instead of “fully” doing it.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          It’s still not clear what you think I always do. After all, I provided you a schema for when I do one thing and when I do another. One route leads to a full vetting, while another leads to a partial vetting. The route that fully vets does not allow one’s conception of the good to grow in any way other than strict entailment; the partial vetting route does allow such growth—growth which is necessarily risky.

        • Andy_Schueler

          And when you “vet”, and I don’t care whether you “vet” 100%, 50% or π/2%, and you try to evaluate whether some change in your moral code is an “improvement” or not an improvement, do you a) consider an “improvement” to be embodying your moral conceptions better than you did before or b) embodying someone else’s moral conceptions.
          If it is a) then how does it not contradict what you initially said (this is almost verbatim what you initially said, just with a “do mean” instead of a “don’t mean”) and if it is b) what is your non-random assessment of whether you’ll adopt the “someone else’s” vantage point on morality instead of some totally different other persons vantage point on moral matters?

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          And when you “vet”, and I don’t care whether you “vet” 100%, 50% or π/2%, and you try to evaluate whether some change in your moral code is an “improvement” or not an improvement, do you a) consider an “improvement” to be embodying your moral conceptions better than you did before or b) embodying someone else’s moral conceptions.

          Who says that vetting necessarily involves testing to see if a moral code fragment would constitute an improvement as judged from my current moral code? I never said that. I was responding to your worry:

          AS: Assuming that two evidently superhuman entities A and B reveal themselves to you, and both would claim that they are the omni-everything alpha and omega of all that is, and that the other one is an evil deceiver that wants to tempt you towards damnation, how would you choose which one of the two is more likely telling the truth? Lets further assume that both tell you that you have to follow one of them, if you don’t decide, the choice will be made for you. And finally, lets assume that one encourages you to follow a path that appears almost unthinkably wicked to you, while the other one encourages you to follow a path that appears to be almost unthinkably noble to you.
          Now, since you want to be “open” to new notions of goodness, ones that are not necessarily just improved and better fleshed-out versions of what you already did perceive as being good in some way, ones that might be evil or even diametrically opposed to what you consider to be good from your current vantage point – how do you decide which one of the two to follow? Whatever decision you make, your “openness” guarantees that it will be a completely arbitrary one.

          You seemed to be saying that unless I judge any moral code fragment by my current moral code, I am in danger of being misled into following the devil. My response was meant to show how this is not necessarily true, that always and forever remaining within your current moral code (never accepting something not entailed by it) doesn’t seem absolutely necessary to avoiding subversion to evil.

          What you seem unable to understand is that my current moral code can be an open system, so that it does not cover all situations. Such a code could accept additions which do not contradict it and yet grow it in ways that are not entailed by it. If I wanted to be conservative, I could only accept non-contradictory moral code fragments which are mostly entailed by my current moral code, but not entirely.

          P.S. It’s not like you aren’t already the embodiment of an amalgam great number of people’s moral conceptions. And it might be dubious to say that a moral conception can exist at the individual level; it might require at least two people. Not all state exists at the individual level.

        • Andy_Schueler

          Who says that vetting necessarily involves testing to see if a moral code fragment would constitute an improvement as judged from my current moral code?

          That is a stupid question which ignores the entire conversation up to this point. It also proves that I was completely right about my assessment:
          You either “vet” based on your moral code (i.e. you completely contradict your initial point) or you have absolutely nothing beyond making a completely random choice.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          AS: And when you “vet”, and I don’t care whether you “vet” 100%, 50% or π/2%, and you try to evaluate whether some change in your moral code is an “improvement” or not an improvement, do you a) consider an “improvement” to be embodying your moral conceptions better than you did before or b) embodying someone else’s moral conceptions.

          LB: Who says that vetting necessarily involves testing to see if a moral code fragment would constitute an improvement as judged from my current moral code? I never said that.

          AS: That is a stupid question which ignores the entire conversation up to this point.

          I don’t see how it does—unless it ignores a conversation which was going on mostly in your head, based on a stupid reading of what I wrote.

          You either “vet” based on your moral code (i.e. you completely contradict your initial point) or you have absolutely nothing beyond making a completely random choice.

          Do you even understand what it means for a moral code fragment to be:

               (A) consistent with your moral code
               (B) not [fully] entailed by your moral code

          ? Can your brain manage to make both of those true at once, or does one have to be false?

        • Andy_Schueler

          Do you even understand what it means for a moral code fragment to be:

          (A) consistent with your moral code
          (B) not [fully] entailed by your moral code

          ? Can your brain manage to make both of those true at once, or does one have to be false?

          Still as 100% irrelevant as it was when you mentioned this BS the first two dozen times, because it still doesn’t change the fact that you’ll adopt a new “moral code fragment” either in a completely random manner or in a way that completely contradicts what you initially said.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          … you’ll adopt a new “moral code fragment” either in a completely random manner …

          It’s not “completely random” if the moral code fragment must not contradict my moral code.

        • Andy_Schueler

          Indeed, that would not be “completely random” at all! And in that case, what you do is covered by the ‘or’ of the ‘either – or’ construct that you omitted when you quoted me.
          You look at a moral code fragment and you evaluate whether adopting it leads to an “improvement” or not based on your moral code, you try to embody your moral code better than you did before, you do exactly what you initially said you don’t mean. And it’s completely ok for you to do that – everyone does and that kind of “openness” is the only openness that makes any sense here, but it still is exactly the “openness” you initially did NOT mean.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          AS: … you’ll adopt a new “moral code fragment” either in a completely random manner …

          LB: It’s not “completely random” if the moral code fragment must not contradict my moral code.

          AS: Indeed, that would not be “completely random” at all! And in that case, what you do is covered by the ‘or’ of the ‘either – or’ construct that you omitted when you quoted me.

          It’s good to hear that “Indeed”, but the rest is incorrect. I’ll break it up for you:

               (a) Some [new] moral code fragments
               (b) which do not contradict my [unmodified] moral code
               (c) are considered neither an improvement,
               (d) nor a regression,
               (e) by my [unmodified] moral code.

          That is one way you can be open to others’ concepts of goodness without being at risk of having your own moral code subverted.

          You look at a moral code fragment and you evaluate whether adopting it leads to an “improvement” or not based on your moral code, you try to embody your moral code better than you did before, you do exactly what you initially said you don’t mean.

          That is one of the things that I can do, but it is not the only thing I can do. The other thing is above and you have nicely admitted (finally!) that it is not completely arbitrary. By saying “must not contradict”, I ruled out the entire paragraph you like to quote over and over again:

          LB: But there are two categorically different kinds of vetting:

               (1) Does it contradict what I already believe?
               (2) Is it entailed by what I already believe?

          It is nontrivial to fully explore (1), because sometimes the contradiction will be my problem; sometimes I was really wrong. Ostensibly though, there is some sort of weighted consistency test, whereby I try to see whether the proposed moral code [fragment] actually improves my moral code more than the cost of ejecting/​modifying whatever contributed to there being a contradiction. In a key way I maintain my moral code—or so is the hope; whether there is some important “core” which is always maintained after a great number of updates doesn’t seem guaranteed from the outset.

          (I’ve bolded it like you have, repeatedly.) That paragraph presupposes a contradiction. It therefore does not apply when I say things like:

          LB: It’s not “completely random” if the moral code fragment must not contradict my moral code.

          Perhaps you made a mistake? Or does @Andy_Schueler:disqus never do such things?

        • Andy_Schueler

          The other thing is above and you have nicely admitted (finally!) that it is not completely arbitrary.

          I didn’t ‘admit’ anything and unlike you, I’ve been consistent in this thread and always pointed out that you are making a “completely random” choice IF you indeed did mean what you initially said. Most of the time I’ve even been as explicit as possible by using the either-or construct or something similar.

          ….but the rest is incorrect. I’ll break it up for you:

          (a) Some [new] moral code fragments
          (b) which do not contradict my [unmodified] moral code
          (c) are considered neither an improvement,
          (d) nor a regression,
          (e) by my [unmodified] moral code.

          That is one way you can be open to others’ concepts of goodness without being at risk of having your own moral code subverted.

          Which leads to the obvious question (yet again…) why the fuck would you adopt or reject it then in that situation? Present your non-random way to make that choice.
          No, screw that question, I’ll just refer to all the earlier times where I asked you exactly that with you invariably not presenting something that a) applies to THIS situation instead of another one, b) doesn’t contradict what you initially said and c) isn’t random, and thus conclude that you obviously have no answer.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Which leads to the obvious question (yet again…) why the fuck would you adopt or reject it then in that situation? Present your non-random way to make that choice.

          I’ve already said there is an element of determinism and an element of randomness (at least within this model, of moral systems as logic systems). The element of determinism is that new moral code fragments must not contradict your current moral code. The element of randomness is that at least part of the new moral code fragments are not entailed by your current moral code. The combination of { part determinism, part randomness } is not completely arbitrary nor a “completely random manner”.

        • Andy_Schueler

          1. That is not even trying to answer the question. “Q: Why would you accept it into your moral code if you can’t see anything good (or bad) in it? A: Erm, you see, part determinism, part randomness…” that’s yet another Sean Spicer response.
          2. You are a fucking liar.
          3. You obviously rather make a complete assclown out of yourself rather than admit even the tiniest of mistakes – it would have cost you virtually nothing to admit that what you initially said about this matter was poorly phrased and retract it, but this pathetic shit show is costing you a lot.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          1. That is not even trying to answer the question. “Q: Why would you accept it into your moral code if you can’t see anything good (or bad) in it? A: Erm, you see, part determinism, part randomness…” that’s yet another Sean Spicer response.

          That wasn’t the original context. The original context was you proposing a “you’d be in danger of following the devil” danger; I argued that this need not be a danger. If you’re going to propose hypotheticals like that, have the balls to defend them or admit they’re bad hypotheticals.

          2. You are a fucking liar.

          Says the one who couldn’t even state my alleged before and after positions in a remotely decent manner. I suspect a great number of the lies and contradictions you find are located mostly if not entirely within your head.

          3. You obviously rather make a complete assclown out of yourself rather than admit even the tiniest of mistakes – it would have cost you virtually nothing to admit that what you initially said about this matter was poorly phrased and retract it, but this pathetic shit show is costing you a lot.

          I have no idea what this is supposed to mean, given the obvious falsity of your completely arbitrary and “completely random manner”, combined with your refusal to admit that the “completely” was always incorrect. Were the “completely” correct, then I really would be in danger of following the devil in your hypothetical. You’ve cleverly stayed away from that hypothetical, though.

          But I am curious: what has this cost me, other than time?

        • Andy_Schueler

          That wasn’t the original context. The original context was you proposing a “you’d be in danger of following the devil” danger; I argued that this need not be a danger.

          Yes, and you utterly failed, on every conceivable level, to do so. All you can do is completely contradict what you initially said about being “open” to newness in this context or ridiculous BS that amounts to making a completely random choice.

          Says the one who couldn’t even state my alleged before and after positions in a remotely decent manner.

          Since you are demonstrably a lying assclown, no one gives a damn about whether you think that to be true or not.

          I have no idea what this is supposed to mean, given the obvious falsity of your “completely arbitrary” and “completely random manner”,

          It’s not obviously false, what isn’t “completely arbitrary” is the version you came up with after what you initially said, the version that completely contradicts what you inititally said, and you know it you lying little weasel.

          combined with your refusal to admit that the “completely” was always incorrect

          It isn’t always incorrect, it is correct for your initital version of being “open” and incorrect for your later version of being “open” – exactly like I have always maintained in this thread from the get go.

          But I am curious: what has this cost me, other than time?

          You’ve proven yet again beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are unbelievably proud and don’t have a shred of honesty in you – as demonstrated by you rather building this gigantic web of lies than admitting even the tiniest error, no matter how obvious the error is.
          You are pathetic.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Since you are demonstrably a lying assclown, no one gives a damn about whether you think that to be true or not.

          I’ve seen creationists better “demonstrate” that evolution is a farce, than your “demonstrably” here.

          If you have a shred of honesty, you will give a full statement of my alleged “before” position plus a full statement of my alleged “after” position, first in your own words, then supported by my own words, in context.

        • Andy_Schueler

          As if I hadn’t done that multiple times – we’ve been going full circle over and over and over and over again in this thread. And I’ve always quoted your original position verbatim without adding anything to it, and always showed how you are now completely contradicting it – which will then be followed by you coming up with a completely different (and utterly ridiculous) scenario that no longer has anything to do with what we had been talking about before (and for which you can’t even answer the question why the fuck you would accept or reject the “moral code fragment” in question or even give a rats ass about it in the first place since you yourself state that you can’t see anything good or bad in it).
          And now you just want to start over yet again?
          Fuck you.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          As if I hadn’t done that multiple times …

          You did the kind of job that would make a creationist proud.

          And I’ve always quoted your original position verbatim without adding anything to it …

          Creationists often do this, too. It’s called ignoring context. Ironically, it context you set. But we know that you ignore stuff willy-nilly; why should your own words be an exception? You could probably teach creationists some new tricks.

          … a completely different (and utterly ridiculous) scenario that no longer has anything to do with what we had been talking about before

          There is no such scenario. I talked about being open to God’s concept of the good differing from our own; you worried that this would mean me getting suckered into the devil’s concept of the good; I responded that there are safeguards which do not lock me in my own concept of the good. The legit aspect of your response was that there is an arbitrary component to one’s assimilation of others’ forms of the good if (i) they don’t contradict your own; and (ii) they are not entailed by your own. I was very quick to admit this, to note that this is an obvious and necessary aspect of being open to others’ concepts of the good. But instead of taking this seriously (and how I dealt with your hypothetical), you just wanted to find an apparent contradiction in what I wrote, because that’s what you love to do. Perhaps it is your telos.

          … and for which you can’t even answer the question why the fuck you would accept or reject the “moral code fragment” in question or even give a rats ass about it in the first place since you yourself state that you can’t see anything good or bad in it …

          I was always happy to deal with this once you had dealt with my words as a response to your hypothetical. But you wanted to ignore your hypothetical. Why? Perhaps because you hate “admitting even the tiniest error”. That is apparently anathema to your telos.

        • Andy_Schueler

          Creationists often do this, too. It’s called ignoring context.

          Funny how you never even tried to point out any relevant context I omitted. But entirely unsurprising given that this relevant context I allegedly omitted does not exist.

          There is no such scenario. I talked about being open to God’s concept of the good differing from our own;

          And specifically, you said that you “don’t mean” merely embodying your own concepts of goodness better than you currently do yourself. Which was flat out wrong and completely indefensible – changes in your moral code that would lead you to embody your own concepts of goodness better than you did before are in fact the only ones you will accept. You’ll find no way around that – well you do, but only one that completely contradicts what you initially said (edit: well, that and a scenario for which you can give no non-random answer what-so-fucking ever as to why you’d chose to accept or reject the moral code fragment in question).

          ….you worried that this….

          The keyword is “this”, which you obviously, yet again, specify as vaguely as possible instead of just repeating what you initially said – because you know that you are wrong and you know that you are lying about it.

          I was always happy to deal with this ….

          Which is why you never did so.

          …once you had dealt with my words as a response to your hypothetical.

          I don’t even know what “my words” are supposed to mean here, and I’m also not scrolling up to check – because I know your “I totally do have a great response to that but let me first try to have you jump through loops again and again and again until you give up or forget what your question even was” stunt too well.

          Why? Perhaps because you hate “admitting even the tiniest error”.

          And the inevitable “I know what you are but what am I?!” response, doesn’t it bother you at least a little to be that predictable?

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          And specifically, you said that you “don’t mean” merely embodying your own concepts of goodness better than you currently do yourself. Which was flat out wrong and completely indefensible – changes in your moral code that would lead you to embody your own concepts of goodness better than you did before are in fact the only ones you will accept. You’ll find no way around that – well you do, but only one that completely contradicts what you initially said (edit: well, that and a scenario for which you can give no non-random answer what-so-fucking ever as to why you’d chose to accept or reject the moral code fragment in question).

          Your edit makes all the difference. And you’ve consistently failed to distinguish between:

               (A) assimilating arbitrary moral code fragments
               (B) arbitrarily assimilating certain moral code fragments

          There is significantly less arbitrariness in (B) than (A). The first is completely unrestricted, while the second is partially determined.

           
          What you’ve done here is latch onto an apparent contradiction, just like a creationist, and you won’t let it go. You are apparently blind to the fact that being open to others’ conceptions of the good requires an arbitrariness on your part. It could not be any other way. Either your current moral code entails the only allowable additions to it and is thus closed, or you open yourself to additions that are consistent with, but not fully entailed by your moral code. It’s either the safety of solitude or the vulnerability of true relationship.

        • Andy_Schueler

          Your edit makes all the difference. And you’ve consistently failed to distinguish between:

          (A) assimilating arbitrary moral code fragments
          (B) arbitrarily assimilating certain moral code fragments

          There is significantly less arbitrariness in (B) than (A). The first is completely unrestricted, while the second is partially determined.

          WOW. And full circle yet again. I stopped counting…
          I think I’ll just write a script to automatize the procedure of now asking you on what grounds you’ll “assimilate” those moral code fragments without completely contradicting what you initially said, then wait for your response that with 100% certainty will ignore the question and try to shift the subject, proceed to call you a liar, and then back to square 1.

        • adam

          ” then wait for your response that with 100% certainty will ignore the
          question and try to shift the subject, proceed to call you a liar, and
          then back to square 1.”

          We call it the “Luke Show”, it has been in reruns for months/years.

          Luke has no answers, only deception and lies.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          The contradiction exists in your head. If there is lying, it exists in your head. Yes, infinite loop.

        • adam
        • Andy_Schueler

          Obviously, because for Humpty Dumpty Breuer, “do” can totally mean “do”, “do not”, or both, or neither – it means whatever is currently most convenient for you. No contradiction, just Humpty Dumpty Breuer raping the english language as usual.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Your trolling is getting lamer by the comment.

        • Greg G.

          What have you done to eliminate confirmation bias from your tests?

          People have long thought that weird things happen during a full moon. A study was done that compared how busy emergency rooms were on nights with full moons compared to other nights. They collected data from hospitals in, IIRC, three cities for a year. It was confirmed that the emergency rooms were busier when there was a full moon.

          But somebody took another look at the data and noted that for that particular year, a larger than normal number of full moons were on weekends when emergency rooms are usually busiest. When they compensated for the statistical anomaly, full moon weekends were no busier than non-full moon weekends and full moon weekdays followed the same pattern.

          If something weird happens and you see the moon and it is within a day of being full, your mind counts it more strongly in your memory than when a weird thing happens and you don’t notice the moon or it is not close to full. The confirmation that comes 10% of the time is remembered more strongly than the 90% of the time it is not confirmed.

        • Greg G.

          Let’s take slavery. Were it to not show up in the Bible, would there have been less slavery in reality?

          If the Ten Commandments had said, “Thou shalt not own people” instead of “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s slave”, I think there would have been less slavery. Slavery and indentured servitude in colonial America was based on the biblical example, after all.

        • adam

          “The reason this is important is that God, as a person, doesn’t
          necessarily just want to give us more power to get more of what we
          currently want.”

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/7123c548a1342e2d1779d51809c0ce85d82e0551dcde5fa0f6496d68284963dd.jpg

          But God, has no problem giving power to Satan:

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/31c0369f60b3e2062c18efaffc8b2dc0e965d1137c84726d22e9f0c641423fb5.jpg

        • Raging Bee

          I don’t ever recall trying with atheists, because I don’t ever recall getting conditions for what could possibly convince them that some phenomenon or series of phenomena is best explained as God acting.

          Another standard Christian bluff: you can’t show us proof that your god exists, because WE have to tell you beforehand what evidence we’ll accept as proof. Which is bullshit, because if you have proof, you can show it to us and answer any questions we may have. When we ask you for proof, we’re asking what YOU have, not what you think we want.

          And your second paragraph is the same old “presuppositional bias” lie we’ve all heard before. If you can’t specify exactly which presuppositions we have that blind us to your alleged Truth, then that assertion, too, is nothing but brown air.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Another standard Christian bluff: you can’t show us proof that your god exists, because WE have to tell you beforehand what evidence we’ll accept as proof.

          What you call a “bluff”, I call “ensuring you haven’t set Christians up to fail”. How would you do this? By defining “evidence” such that agency—human or divine—could never possibly be the best explanation for any phenomena. You wouldn’t necessarily have done this intentionally—although once you’re made aware of it, continued use of this notion of “evidence” does become “intentionally set up to fail”.

          Which is bullshit, because if you have proof, you can show it to us and answer any questions we may have. When we ask you for proof, we’re asking what YOU have, not what you think we want.

          No, this isn’t the game being played. It may be the story you tell yourself, but what you will actually do the instant I advance anything is you will put on your fact/​value distinction goggles, shield out anything in the “value” domain as ultimately epiphenomenon and thus unreal, then use Ockham’s razor on the facts and find an explanation of lower complexity than “God”. The only way this strategy would change is if you were forward-looking in the sense I explain in my answer to the Phil.SE question Could there ever be evidence for an infinite being? That is, only if humans are growing in knowledge and wisdom at a sufficient rate and can realize that the wisdom doesn’t originate from themselves or impersonal causes, will they acknowledge God. The problem is that humans have approximately zero interest in growing in wisdom, on the whole. Need I demonstrate this with evidence?

          And your second paragraph is the same old “presuppositional bias” lie we’ve all heard before. If you can’t specify exactly which presuppositions we have that blind us to your alleged Truth, then that assertion, too, is nothing but brown air.

          Nomological causation and the mechanical philosophy are the presuppositions. If you’re going to require something retarded like Descartes’ “clear and distinct” ideas, I’ll declare that impossible[1] and move on.

           
          [1] For example:

              The assumption that there is an exclusive dichotomy between the formal and the physiological is, in our view, an error of enormous consequence. We shall maintain that the most important metascientific concepts with which philosophy deals, such as cause, law, explanation, theory, evidence, natural necessity, and the like, have not been shown to be capable of adequate characterisation in wholly formal terms. We hold that adequate accounts of those concepts which are neither purely formal nor simply psychological can be achieved by attention to the third element in our intellectual economy, namely the content of our knowledge, content which goes beyond the reports of immediate experience. We shall show in a wide variety of cases that the concepts with which we are concerned, and particularly the concept of Causality, can be adequately differentiated, the rationality of science defended, and the possibility of the world preserved only by attending to certain general features of the content of causal propositions by which they can ultimately be distinguished as having a conceptual necessity, irreducible either to logical necessity or to psychological illusion. In this way we resolve many of the problems which the tradition has bequeathed us. (Causal Powers: Theory of Natural Necessity, 2–3)

        • Raging Bee

          It may be the story you tell yourself, but what you will actually do the instant I advance anything is you will put on your fact/​value distinction goggles, shield out anything in the “value” domain as ultimately epiphenomenon and thus unreal…

          Well, as soon as you actually ADVANCE SOMETHING, we can test your allegation. Go ahead, we’re waiting…

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          You want me to ADVANCE SOMETHING when you have set me up to fail. You have guaranteed that I will fail. Logic dictates that I will fail. Why? Because you’re going to evaluate “the evidence” in a way which cannot possibly detect agency—human or divine. What you will be left with is a finite number of data points. You will always—always—interpret those finite number of data points via Ockham’s razor, which guarantees that you will have a finite equation that “best fits” them. God is excluded, from the get-go. Impersonal causation is guaranteed, from the get-go.

          Sorry, I’m not playing that game. Go convince some other theist dance to your stupid tune.

        • Raging Bee

          Prove it. Advance something and see what we say. You don’t have anything, do you?

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Prove what, that you’ve set me up to fail? That’s very, very easy:

          (1) Humans can only collect a finite number of data points.
          (2) Ockham’s razor is the rule for interpreting those data points.
          (3) God is an infinite being.
          (4) The best fit to collected data points will be less complex than the data points.
          (5) God will never be the best fit to human-collected data.

          I’ve known this for a long time; see my answer to the Phil.SE question Could there ever be evidence for an infinite being?.

        • Raging Bee

          None of that proves I’ve “set you up” to fail in any way. Those are all YOUR assertions, and therefore YOU are responsible for the fact that: (2) is false (Occam’s Razor is not “THE rule”), (3) is a vague and arbitrary claim about a being whose existence is unproven, (4) is bullshit (a pattern of data-points can indeed be more complex than the individual data-points), and (5) is also arbitrary and unsupported.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          (2) is false (Occam’s Razor is not “THE rule”),

          You capitalized “the” instead of “rule”; do you mean it’s a rule which can be overridden? Perhaps you could explain to me under what conditions it can be overridden? See, I’ve never ever seen an atheist allow that maybe we should refrain from applying Ockham’s razor to evidence that allegedly points to God’s existence.

          (3) is a vague and arbitrary claim about a being whose existence is unproven,

          Nah, it was just definitional. I’m blocking out the possibility that e.g. God is just Ardra from the Star Trek TNG episode Devil’s Due. But you’re welcome to say that we could not, in principle, distinguish between a sufficiently advanced space alien and God. It would be helpful if I were to know which way it is, with your way of evaluating whatever it is you mean by “empirical evidence”. (My current assumption is that you mean “empirical evidence” to be 100% value-free.)

          (4) is bullshit (a pattern of data-points can indeed be more complex than the individual data-points),

          You added “individual”. Please don’t make my claims bullshit by altering them like that.

          (5) is also arbitrary and unsupported.

          Ummm, (5) is the logical conclusion from (1)–(4).

        • Kodie

          Your argument set itself up to fail. You are just clinging to it in spite of yourself. Thanks for blaming everyone else for your shitty arguments!

        • Greg G.

          I don’t need to know someone’s height, weight, the names of siblings, favorite color, bank balance, or favorite pizza topping to know they exist.

        • enlyghten

          Anecdotal evidence is rather less than compelling. It’s certainly unnecessary if they are put forward as proof of something in which someone already believes. I’m curious if that was the point of your comment.

        • Greg G.

          LB seems to be saying that we must be able to know everything about God to have any evidence for his existence. That is a strange notion because one of the first things we learn about someone or something is that he/she/it exists before we learn any other details.

        • enlyghten

          I agree. Incidental information about a fictional character doesn’t make it empirically real and knowing nothing about the stranger standing next to you doesn’t make them less real. Seems like a literally silly tack to take if that is the poster’s point.

        • Susan

          I’ve known this for a long time.

          Then, on what basis do you accept and/or make the claim of am omnibeing?

        • Andy_Schueler

          lolwut? Ok, let me try that:

          (1) Humans can only collect a limited number of data points.
          (2) Ockham’s razor is the rule for interpreting those data points.
          (3) The hypothesis that all life is related through descent with modification from a common ancestor makes predictions about every heritable aspect of every living thing that every existed.
          (4) The data that humans have gathered that could contradict or support 3) is a miniscule subset, <<<<<0.1% of all data that hypothetically could be gathered.
          (5) The hypothesis 3) that describes why 4) is observed is extremely simple, many orders of magnitude simpler than the sum of observations it predicts.
          (6) Humans will never conclude that 3) is true beyond any reasonable doubt.

          Feel free to explain why that is evidently BS, while it wouldn’t be BS if you replace “miniscule subset” by “infinitesimal subset”.
          Also, by positing that God is infinitely complex, you throw literally all of classical theism out of the window – classical theism conceives God as metaphysically simple and that property is logically inevitable given the other properties that God is posited to have sensu classical theism. Maybe you have no problem with that but you should be aware that this is VERY unorthodox.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Feel free to explain why that is evidently BS, while it wouldn’t be BS if you replace “miniscule subset” by “infinitesimal subset”.

          I think you’ve confused “infinite” with “infinitesimal”.

          Also, by positing that God is infinitely complex, you throw literally all of classical theism out of the window – classical theism conceives God as metaphysically simple …

          Nope. Divine simplicity has to do with nonseparability, not Kolmogorov complexity.

        • Andy_Schueler

          I think you’ve confused “infinite” with “infinitesimal”.

          Nope. Because a small subset of a large but finite set is “miniscule” while a finite subset of an infinite set is “infinitesimal” .

          Nope. Divine simplicity has to do with nonseparability, not Kolmogorov complexity.

          I have no idea what the fuck “nonseparability” is supposed to mean in this context but I do know that your “(4) The best fit to collected data points will be less complex than the data points” is semantic nonsense if you didn’t talk about Kolmogorov complexity.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Nope. Because a small subset of a large but finite set is “miniscule” while a finite subset of an infinite set is “infinitesimal” .

          I have no idea how this, combined with your (1)–(6), is sufficiently analogous to my (1)–(5).

          I have no idea what the fuck “nonseparability” is supposed to mean in this context but I do know that your “(4) The best fit to collected data points will be less complex than the data points” is semantic nonsense if you didn’t talk about Kolmogorov complexity.

          A nonseparable system cannot be described as part A + part B. I can give you some of the maths from Robert Rosen’s Life Itself if you want. A basic physical system which exhibits nonseparability is two entangled photons, where you cannot perfectly describe one photon without also perfectly describing the other. Now enter God without Parts. You cannot, for example, say “God is love” and derive everything else (like mercy and justice) from it. God is not merely the sum of his attributes, for example. This can be contrasted with bundle theory.

          As to Kolmogorov complexity, that is perfectly consistent with my (1)–(5). The doctrine of divine simplicity has nothing to do with Kolmogorov complexity.

        • adam

          “(3) God is an iMAGINARYnfinite being.”

          FTFY

        • Susan

          Even the stars magically realigning to say “John 3:16”

          If that happened, there would be various responses from people who don’t believe Yahwejesus exists now.

          So far it hasn’t happened. I doubt it will as it appears that Yahwejesus is a composite mythological being invented by humans and interpreted in many contradictory ways by humans.

          But if it did, (and it won’t.. I note that trather than providing evidence, you’ve chosen to shift the burden and invent a monolothic response from non-believers you can’t justify.)

          Down another rabbit hole, we go.

          But, I’m game.

          could easily be an extremely advanced alien civilization.

          Of course it could. Why wouldn’t it? All mythology could just be aliens messing with our heads.

          This is a problem with your position, not with my requirements.

          On what basis do you claim that Omniyahwehjesus exists?

          You are not saying “Even if the non-existent evidence justified the claim, you wouldn’t believe it.”

          You are saying, “There is non-existent evidence that even if it existed, can’t get us past aliens messing with our heads.”

          I am not setting you up to fail.

          I am asking you to support your position. And you can’t. That is no indication of malice on my part.

        • Pofarmer

          I didn’t say he was dumb, I said he was a dumbass. In the middle west here, there’s a distinction. Lol. Now he’s bringing up the same bad fallacious argument of consequences. The whole Egalitarianism schtick. It’s been explained to him ad Nauseum, but he keeps beating that dead horse. Christianity has it all better, all right, if the world were only all Christian, it would be all lightness and love. Except we have history to show that’s not the case, like, at all. And we have what’s going on in the U.S. right now to further cement that opinion.

        • Susan

          I didn’t say he was dumb, I said he was a dumbass. In the middle west here, there’s a distinction

          Ah, thanks. The subtleties of language.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Now he’s bringing up the same bad fallacious argument of consequences. The whole Egalitarianism schtick.

          Ahh, so you believe that science could still proceed quite nicely with arbitrarily little egalitarianism? Because if some minimum approximation of egalitarianism is necessary for science to work, it is ludicrous to say that it has nothing to do with what is true—unless you want to say that science actually has nothing to do with what is true.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Now [Luke]’s bringing up … Christianity has it all better, all right, if the world were only all Christian, it would be all lightness and love.

          Do you enjoy libel? (I am tempted to call blog comments ‘slander’ because of their tendency to be ephemeral in consciousness, but they are technically written.)

          I wouldn’t be surprised if I could provide harsher condemnations with better evidence against what so often goes by the name “Christianity” than you could. You have surely seen me harshly critique Christianity. You have also never seen me suggest that I have The Way to Solve All Problems™. Maybe you’re stereotyping me, but then you would out yourself as someone who does not merely judge by the evidence, but superimposes his own dogma on the evidence.

          The only way of not turning tyrannical is to say that it is wrong to crush people into oblivion. The only way to justify not doing that—in a way that has any chance of actually working—is if every individual has something of value to offer the rest. The instant you deny this or downplay that value too much, you can play off temporary exigencies to justify/​do the crushing. There is always some crisis which justifies concentration of power and “unhappy” measures. (Euphemisms ahoy.) And yet what have you done? This:

              We have to try to understand the meaning of this inhuman insanity. To scorn is to condemn the other person to complete and final sterility, to expect nothing more from him and to put him in such circumstances that he will never again have anything to give. It is to negate him in his possibilities, in his gifts, in the development of his experience. To scorn him is to rip his fingernails out by the roots so that they will never grow back again. The person who is physically maimed, or overwhelmed by mourning or hunger, can regain his strength, can live again as a person as long as he retains his honor and dignity, but to destroy the honor and dignity of a person is to cancel his future, to condemn him to sterility forever. In other words, to scorn is to put an end to the other person’s hope and to one’s hope for the other person, to hope for nothing more from him and also to stop his having any hope for himself. (Hope in Time of Abandonment, 47)

          All the while, you will pat yourself on the back because physical violence has decreased per-capita, on a fractal timescale. Oh and yes, I realize that you aren’t quite doing what Jacques Ellul specified: you believe that you are merely wiping out a “mind virus” and are in fact leaving everything of value intact. And yet, you can no more show that all of what you’re targeting causes badness with empirical evidence than the Roman Catholic Church could when it burned heretics at the stake. You just have better tools than kindling, rope, and fire. Your hell is more refined.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          All he is doing is a sophisticated version of gaslighting.

          You or others here must have a pretty fragile psyche if what I’m doing could even approximate gaslighting.

        • Pofarmer

          I didn’t say you were effective at it. But all you generally manage to do is attempt to make people question that they can know anything at all, often by throwing out irrelevant tidbits, like Chris Hedges, who was roundly criticized for his position, and may not even hold it any more. Hell, that was nearly 10 years ago. Like Susan says, you’ve not given shit for evidence for your preferred deity. .

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Right; I see that you don’t actually need much evidence to believe things you want to believe. As to Christ Hedges, I have the opportunity to see him speak in a few weeks and could ask him. Shall I, or was that actually blowing smoke? And yes, I know Hedges is roundly criticized; that’s because he’s plausibly a threat to the powers that be. He doesn’t tow the party line. He wants actual democracy, instead of the sham we have now. But if you have a criticism of him that isn’t tied into this facet of his work, feel free to share. I don’t actually know that much about him.

        • Pofarmer

          So your position is were so Jaded by naturalism that we can’t understand the argument you’re not making. You really are a dumbass.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Nope, not my position at all. The dumbassery may well me an artifact of your terrible reading comprehension.

        • Raging Bee

          Since when is calling out obvious bullshit and obfuscation a sign of a “fragile psyche?”

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          That’s not a fragile psyche, it’s merely contradictory with the idea that I’m plausibly engaged in “gaslighting”. It’s one of the dumbest criticisms I think I’ve ever gotten. Supposedly I’m trying to make y’all question your sanity, but I’m so utterly terrible at it that there’s zero—exactly zero—evidence that I’ve experienced any success whatsoever in doing it. What that criticism really is is the worst kind of psychologizing, the kind of thing which is actively contributing to the demise of democracy in the West. But it probably strengthens your sense of tribal membership.

        • Raging Bee

          Criticizing idiots and charlatans is “actively contributing to the demise of democracy in the West?” Seriously? My my, aren’t you just the specialest!

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Your reading comprehension must be intentionally terrible. I was talking about psychologizing about gaslighting, not your criticisms.

        • Raging Bee

          To properly support those allegations, I would have to produce a mountain of research.

          You’re bluffing, and you’re not fooling anyone. You don’t need “a mountain of research” to show scientists denying data; you just need a good smattering of examples in relevant fields. That’s all you need to “start a conversation,” which is what you insist you’re here to do.

          Seriously, we’ve heard this kind of verbose substance-free crankery before. It’s utter crap buried in a flood of word-salad.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          You’re bluffing …

          How you think the following is bluffing—

          LB: [2] Probably one of the most profound examples is that Americans (and other Western countries) pretend that their government is even remotely like the democracy/​representative republic formalisms. Perhaps the proper evidential turning-point would have been Converse 1964 The nature of belief systems in mass publics. But we didn’t want to believe that, even when attempts at falsification repeatedly failed. A full account of this mass self-delusion can be found in Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government.

          —is beyond me. Perhaps you’d like me to excerpt from that book?

          You don’t need “a mountain of research” to show scientists denying data; you just need a good smattering of examples in relevant fields.

          You mean like political scientists pretending when we live in a democracy/​representative republic when we don’t? Or is that somehow automagically excluded from what gets to qualify?

        • Raging Bee

          Probably one of the most profound examples is that Americans (and other
          Western countries) pretend that their government is even remotely like
          the democracy/​representative republic formalisms.

          So people in general have misconceptions about how their governments work. What does that have to do with “human sciences?” Your quote doesn’t even touch on the same subject as your original allegations, let alone support them.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          So people in general have misconceptions about how their governments work. What does that have to do with “human sciences?” Your quote doesn’t even touch on the same subject as your original allegations, let alone support them.

          Not “people in general”, political scientists. In case you weren’t aware, political science is one of the human sciences.

        • Raging Bee

          In that case, you are dead wrong about political scientists; or, at best, grossly over-generalizing.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          How do you know that I am dead wrong, or at best grossly over-generalizing?

        • Raging Bee

          Because I’ve done enough study of political science and theory to know they’re not all the same.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Nothing I said requires them all to be the same. Indeed, given that the authors of Democracy for Realists are both politsci. You’ve constructed a straw man yet again.

        • Raging Bee

          You accused THE ENTIRE FIELD, so yes, you were indeed asserting they were all the same. And now I see you’re trying to walk away from your own words.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Is it that you hate rhetorical hyperbole, or that you simply disallow people you don’t like from ever using it? I am happy to adopt a rule of “no rhetorical hyperbole of any kind” with you, but I will require you to adhere to it as well. Do you think you do, with 100% perfection?

        • epeeist

          You’re bluffing, and you’re not fooling anyone.

          You aren’t assuming that Lukey boy has read the books he quotes from are you?

        • Raging Bee

          He may very well have. He seems like the kind of self-isolated crank who could spend years reading such material — and ONLY such material — and thinking it’s all he needs to read, and any facts that contradict the worldview presented in such books simply aren’t real.

        • Pofarmer

          It’s not only that. He reads books(maybe) and then draws conclusions contrary to the authors and general readers. He makes everything conform to his worldview, or seeks to.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          He reads books(maybe) and then draws conclusions contrary to the authors and general readers.

          Evidence? There will also be lulz if you think I am disallowed from ever disagreeing with authors on rational grounds.

          He makes everything conform to his worldview, or seeks to.

          “Ahh, more evidence-free assassination of character.”

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Ahh, more evidence-free assassination of character.

        • epeeist

          Ahh, more evidence-free assassination of character.

          Well you would know of course.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          From people doing it to me frequently? Because if you’re insinuating that I often assassinate others’ characters without evidence, you will have made yet another attempt to assassinate my character without evidence.

        • Raging Bee

          PS: Holy crap, that book cost $208 in hardcover? When it’s only $25 in paperback?! Is this a scam to rip off students who have to buy the book for a class?

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          The hardcover version probably had a limited printing run and prices are now set by supply & demand. Why do students need the hardcover version? And that book is way too old for students to need to read it by now anyway. The human sciences have gotten past that problem; it’s people like you who haven’t and need education about it.

      • Pofarmer

        To put it mildly, your footnotes [1] and [2] do not support your
        allegation of “conclusion-first and data-denying activity going on in
        the human sciences.”

        I’m shocked, shocked I tell you.

    • Raging Bee

      The critical mistake is to say that because the current theory of evolution has no place for God to act, it is wrong to believe that God could be acting.

      That’s not a mistake at all. There is no evidence of a god acting, therefore we have no reason to believe there is a god acting, or to base any real-world decisions on such a belief. Same goes for vampires, werewolves, zombies, unicorns, and every other god ever imagined by any humans ever.

      • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

        LB: The critical mistake is to say that because the current theory of evolution has no place for God to act, it is wrong to believe that God could be acting.

        RB: There is no evidence of a god acting …

        When the philosophical foundation for saying what you’ve said denies not just the possibility of “God did X” being the most probable explanation, but also the possibility that “human did X” is anything other than a rough approximation of ultimately impersonal causal forces really causing things to happen, such claims are much less potent than you make them out to be. It’s like converting a photo to black-and-white and then asserting that there is no color. Well, duh.

        Same goes for vampires, werewolves, zombies, unicorns, and every other god ever imagined by any humans ever.

        You are fundamentally mistaken if you believe I do not expect there to be empirical evidence of God acting. What I object to is the way the concept ’empirical evidence’ precludes agency—human or divine—from ever existing as anything other than an approximation, kind of like how Newtonian physics is an approximation of something deeper. How exactly it does this is something I’m actively investigating; in part it has to do with the stupidity of making the fact/​value distinction ontological instead of an approximation, useful in some domains for some purposes.

        One salient place this mistake shows up is that the act of enhancing a person, of making him/her more than [s]he was before, can no longer possibly take place within the realm of truth. The reason is obvious: the Roman Catholic Church used ‘truth’ as a cudgel to maintain an oppressive social order. Then [most of] the Protestants did the same. Nietzsche saw this for what it was but invalidly concluded that truth cannot possibly exist in this domain. One reason we think truth cannot exist in this domain is that we are so ridiculously incompetent at enhancing each other in ever-deepening ways that we believe such a thing is just impossible. Or as Jesus said, “the love of many will grow cold”.

        What you’re asking as proof of God’s existence is descriptive truth—properties of what already exists—instead of constructive truth—what we could bring into existence if we were willing to make the appropriate sacrifices, discard enough false beliefs, and refine our wills. Well, as a Christian I would say that God is active in all these processes; basic logic tells us that knowledge is not created or destroyed. If we learn something, it has to come from somewhere. Or perhaps someone. The problem with what I’m calling constructive truth is that you have to actually trust. It’s logically necessary.

        • Tommy

          So what’s the evidence for the existence of God?

        • Raging Bee

          When the philosophical foundation for saying what you’ve said denies not just the possibility of “God did X” being the most probable explanation, but also the possibility that “human did X” is anything other than a rough approximation of ultimately impersonal causal forces really causing things to happen, such claims are much less potent than you make them out to be.

          I stated an observable and widely-known fact, and you responded with a lot of pseudo-philosophical brown air that doesn’t even touch on the subject of what I said, let alone refute it. It’s pretty obvious you have nothing to offer but obscurantism and bullshit. I’m talking about the real world, and you’re spewing a fog of meaningless abstractions and unfounded claims. “If we learn something, it has to come from somewhere?” Seriously? How do you know this? And how do you know that alleged necessary source of knowledge is anything remotely resembling your god, or mine, or someone else’s? Short answer: you don’t — it’s just another unfounded assertion you can just repeat without having to back it up with anything.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          RB: There is no evidence of a god acting …

          LB: When the philosophical foundation for saying what you’ve said denies not just the possibility of “God did X” being the most probable explanation, but also the possibility that “human did X” is anything other than a rough approximation of ultimately impersonal causal forces really causing things to happen, such claims are much less potent than you make them out to be.

          RB: I stated an observable and widely-known fact …

          Your “fact” was the result of viewing the world in black and white, and then claiming that there is thereby no color. This wouldn’t be nearly as much of a problem if part of what is colorful is human agency. So if the way you look at reality results in you not seeing God, but also results in you seeing no true human agency, all your observations are immediately suspect, at least in the eyes of those who think that human agency might not completely reduce to impersonal causation, to the mechanical philosophy.

          … you responded with a lot of pseudo-philosophical brown air …

          If you think that disregarding human agency as a sort of epiphenomenon is a good route to take, then go for it. Do the best job you can, so you show both the strengths and the weaknesses of your model of reality.

          … that doesn’t even touch on the subject of what I said …

          If the tools you use to find that God doesn’t exist also find that human agency doesn’t exist, I say that’s worth pointing out. If you don’t, then hooray for you.

          It’s pretty obvious you have nothing to offer but obscurantism and bullshit.

          It is good to know that you consider true human agency to be “obscurantism and bullshit”.

          I’m talking about the real world …

          Yep, I happen to think human agency exists, in the real world. I guess that makes me strange.

          “If we learn something, it has to come from somewhere?” Seriously? How do you know this?

          Logic.

        • Raging Bee

          No, I did not deny human agency, either explicitly or implicitly. That does not follow from admitting there’s no evidence for a god. And you still haven’t proven your bald assertion that there’s “colors” I’m not seeing. That’s just standard Christian pretend-enlightenment no matter how many big words you dress it up in.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          No, I did not deny human agency, either explicitly or implicitly.

          Explicitly? No. Implicitly? Yes.

          That does not follow from admitting there’s no evidence for a god.

          That’s not the way to think about my argument. Instead, consider that you deploy a considerable amount of conceptual machinery when you (a) collect and (b) analyze evidence. Wittgenstein and Kuhn made this blindingly clear. What I’m critiquing is your conceptual machinery. I’m saying that the thing which failed to collect any evidence which that thing could consider as most probably existence of God has deep flaws, flaws which show up in the implicit denial that human agency is anything other than an epiphenomenon.

          And you still haven’t proven your bald assertion that there’s “colors” I’m not seeing.

          I never asserted that. What I asserted is subtly, but importantly, different. I have said that you are deploying conceptual machinery which cannot, in principle, see color. Now, maybe there’s no color. But maybe there is. The problem is that your denial that you can see any color is absolutely meaningless, if you are constitutionally unable to see color.

          What I have asserted is that while there are divine colors, there are also human colors. You are also blind to human colors. Except you probably aren’t, because you probably sneak in different conceptual machinery to understand humans. After all, rigorous [hard] scientific thinking (that is, the mechanical philosophy) just isn’t sufficient for dealing with many day-to-day affairs, like what to do about Trump. It helps greatly, but it does not suffice. So you deploy another kind of thinking. You may tell yourself pretty little stories about how one day, when science is mature enough, you will not need this other kind of thinking. But that’s all those are: pretty little stories.

          That’s just standard Christian pretend-enlightenment no matter how many big words you dress it up in.

          Absolutely incorrect. You’re engaged in stereotyping, and playing free association between what I’ve said, and what other Christians have said. Perhaps you’re also throwing in some “Christians are dumbshits” modeling as well. I have yet to advance the claim that God exists in any of this discussion. On this page I explained one reason why, starting with “I think we like our false beliefs too much.”

        • Raging Bee

          That’s not the way to think about my argument…

          Your “argument” is a false statement. Full stop. There’s no other way to think about it. You don’t get to spout obvious falsehoods and then tell others how we’re supposed to think about them.

          You’re engaged in stereotyping…

          If you don’t like it, stop acting out the stereotype.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          You don’t get to spout obvious falsehoods and then tell others how we’re supposed to think about them.

          I’m sorry, but I don’t see anything “obviously false”. The way you evaluate evidence denies agency. Of course you’re not going to see evidence of God under those conditions! But you’re also not going to see evidence of humans, at least not humans with agency.

          If you don’t like it, stop acting out the stereotype.

          Prove that I’m actually acting out the stereotype. Just because a black kid is wearing a hoodie doesn’t mean he’s automagically dangerous. If he has a growing criminal record and shows no signs of changing, then you can conclude he is dangerous.

      • Reddish Brown

        I think you can stop the creationist sooner than that. Before you could come up with evidence of God acting, you’d have to explain what a god is and how it acts; otherwise, god is not an explanation of anything.

    • Reddish Brown

      Which God would that be?

      • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

        For the purposes of that comment, any causal agency outside of the current scientific understanding of reality.

        • Reddish Brown

          I don’t think that scientists are unwilling to expand the current scientific understanding of reality. When the evidence was discovered for the inflationary expansion of the universe, scientists accepted that “causal agent”. (Although causal agency isn’t necessarily the scientific vernacular).

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          I don’t think that scientists are unwilling to expand the current scientific understanding of reality.

          I see, the following is just the rambling of an idiot:

          A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it. (Max Planck)

          (The point is that this is all too often true, not that it is always true. One of my wife’s labmates was traumatized by trying to publish scientific research which was too far ahead of the curve. It wasn’t accepted anywhere except for a journal much lower tier than it warranted. Perhaps I should try recording enough of the details, so I can use this as empirical data in the future. After all, we can only really know whether it was “far ahead of the curve” if ultimately scientists come around and start building on it.)

        • Reddish Brown

          Max Planck didn’t ramble like an idiot. But there is such a thing as hyperbole. Scientists can be stubborn in the face of new paradigms, and that’s not all bad, new paradigms should have a high evidentiary requirement and should be convincing.

          At any rate, the scientific community does eventually come around when the evidence is amassed, experimentation and observation has been found sufficiently repeatable.

          Science does show progress. We know longer think the universe is made Aristotle’s earth, air, fire, and water.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Max Planck didn’t ramble like an idiot. But there is such a thing as hyperbole.

          It is not as hyperbolic as you might think. Read about Barbara McClintock sometime. Also my wife is a scientist and she’s relayed some pretty ridiculous stories, e.g. a paper her labmate had the hardest time getting published because it was too much on the bleeding edge. Furthermore, I know an older sociologist who is aware of a plethora of such things. All we can really say in this domain—because we have no idea how quickly humans could do science without this nonsense—is that in at least some areas of knowledge about reality, the institution of science allows some dogmas to be ultimately overturned.

          Scientists can be stubborn in the face of new paradigms, and that’s not all bad, new paradigms should have a high evidentiary requirement and should be convincing.

          That is too vague to be of any use. Obviously we cannot go haring off in every direction at the drop of a hat. On the other hand, do we need to persecute possible heretics like Scott Aaronson did:

          I call on FQXi, in the strongest possible terms, to stop lending its legitimacy to this now completely-unmasked charlatan. If it fails to do so, then I will resign from FQXi, and will encourage fellow FQXi members to do the same. (I was wrong about Joy Christian)

          ? Note that you don’t need to burn heretics at the stake anymore—you can simply deny them funding, and their dream of discovering something can be permanently crushed. We justify this by allowing a little fuzz—maybe they’ll get funding somewhere—while the statistical result is imposition of orthodoxy.

          At any rate, the scientific community does eventually come around when the evidence is amassed, experimentation and observation has been found sufficiently repeatable.

          Science does show progress.

          Science sometimes does show progress. It also goes through dry spells. The same can surely be said about many religions. If you want a solid example of how the Scholastics helped till the ground for the scientific revolution, see the following:

              Medieval theologians engaged in a new and unique genre of hypothetical reasoning. In order to expand the logical horizon of God’s omnipotence as far as could be, they distinguished between that which is possible or impossible de potentia Dei absoluta as against that which is so de potentia Dei ordinata. This distinction was fleshed out with an incessant search for orders of nature different from ours which are nonetheless logically possible. Leibniz’s contraposition of the nécessité logique (founded on the law of noncontradiction) and the nécessité physique (founded on the principle of sufficient reason) has its roots in these Scholastic discussions, and with it the questions about the status of laws of nature in modern philosophies of science. But medieval hypothetical reasoning did not serve future metatheoretical discussions alone. The considerations of counterfactual orders of nature in the Middle Ages actually paved the way for the formulation of laws of nature since Galileo in the following sense: seventeenth-century science articulated some basic laws of nature as counterfactual conditionals that do not describe any natural state but function as heuristic limiting cases to a series of phenomena, for example, the principle of inertia. Medieval schoolmen never did so; their counterfactual yet possible orders of nature were conceived as incommensurable with the actual structure of the universe, incommensurable either in principle or because none of their entities can be given a concrete measure. But in considering them vigorously, the theological imagination prepared for the scientific. This is the theme of my third chapter. (Theology and the Scientific Imagination, 10–11)

          We could also investigate the extent to which Judaism and Christianity aided this transition—surely critical for modern science:

          The Dutch historian Jan Romein coined the phrase “the common human pattern” to denote some features of society and culture that can be found throughout history. The modern West deviates sharply from this common pattern, not least in the character and degree of individuation. This is the sound empirical foundation for the claim that Western individualism is an aberration; the common pattern has the individual tightly bonded within his community. (A Far Glory, 101)

          Charles Taylor charts some of this individuation in Sources of the Self (11,000 ‘citations’); the chapter Moral Topgraphy is a good way to get your feet wet. Taylor argues that Plato and Augustine were two key figures in the “inward turn”, which is surely important for the human to learn self-imposed discipline, such that the discipline of society is less required and individuation can possibly occur.

    • adam
  • Michael Neville

    On a not very related note, the Astronomy Picture of the Day is great:

    https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap170510.html

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

      Very awesome.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    He imagines a few thousand “kinds,” each with built-in diversity that
    was expressed in the 4000 or so years since the Ark landed.

    Information front-loading.
    Biologists laugh at this idea. The information is there, but it’s not being used? And you expect it to be intact when it’s needed? Anyone familiar with blind cave fish knows this is a really unlikely scenario.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    Todd Wood, biologist, is next. He said that all of the
    42 living cat species in the family Felidae have a cat-ness, so they
    must’ve descended from a single pair on the Ark.

    OK, except for the extraneous bit about the ark, he seems to grasp the idea of common features coming from common descent.
    Next he should realize that all the species of felines, canines, pinnipeds (sea mammals), weasels, etc. all have a carnivore-ness, so they must have descended from a common ancestor. Toss in the rodents, ungulates, primates, etc. etc. and they all have a mammal-ness, so they must have descended from a common ancestor. Add in the reptiles, birds and amphibians and they all have a quadriped-ness, and so must have descended from common ancestors.

    How long was that Ark allegedly afloat, for all this common-descending to take place?

    • Joe

      It must have been just a non-stop animal orgy. Which is probably to be expected, because that’s what animals do.

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

        If you mean killing orgy, then yeah. It was a buffet for the big carnivores, having all those other animals with no place to run to.

        • Joe

          Well they probably got hungry after all that breeding.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          I wonder if they considered post-night of sex pancakes?

    • Tommy

      Exactly, all these animals have a backbone-ness, so they must have descended from a common ancestor! This guy is promoting creationism by using an argument supporting evolution through common ancestry to refute evolution! It’s as if he knows he’s full of crap!

    • Jim Jones

      Giraffes and the recurrent laryngeal nerve

      Evidence of evolution

      The extreme detour of the recurrent laryngeal nerves, about 4.6 metres (15 ft) in the case of giraffes, is cited as evidence of evolution. The nerve’s route would have been direct in the fish-like ancestors of modern tetrapods, traveling from the brain, past the heart, to the gills (as it does in modern fish). Over the course of evolution, as the neck extended and the heart became lower in the body, the laryngeal nerve was caught on the wrong side of the heart. Natural selection gradually lengthened the nerve by tiny increments to accommodate, resulting in the circuitous route now observed.

      (AFAIK, humans have the same defective routing).

      Richard Dawkins demonstrates laryngeal nerve of the giraffe

    • MadScientist1023

      If you can stomach listening to them long enough to hear their answer, creationists would say that common design is evidence of a common designer, not a common ancestor. They essentially say “yes, God recycled a lot of the same things when making animals. What of it?”

      • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

        Yes, but they cannot seem to produce medical advances with their explanations, while folks who buy into evolution can. Just point them to Jesus saying that we are to judge trees by their fruit. I tried this on a creationist pastor at one point and he just didn’t have anything to say. What I failed to ask him is whether he would want all evolutionary-based medical research to stop, and whether he would want to take on the responsibility for all the people who wouldn’t get the best treatment because of his fundamentalism. I will, next time.

      • GubbaBumpkin

        creationists would say that common design is evidence of a common designer, not a common ancestor.

        Well here is an example where one creationist, Todd Wood, says exactly the opposite. He acknowledges that “cat-ness” is a product of common descent.

        • MadScientist1023

          They’re extremely inconsistent about that. Most creationists will admit evolution occurs, but they say as long as it’s the same “kind” of animal it doesn’t count. What “kind” means varies from creationist to creationist. Lots like to use the term “microevolution”, which only applies if you’re looking at within-species variation. They hate when you point out the term doesn’t apply when considering anything above the species level.
          Wood seems to think it’s the biological Family here, but I’m sure if you pressed him for specifics he’d dodge the question. Defining the term “kind” would be tantamount to predicting what the rate of speciation and mutation was since the “flood”. They would never be foolish enough to make an actual prediction that could be empirically tested. They’re only capable of Monday morning quarterbacking work of real scientists.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    Yep, a coincidence. If there were a significant message behind it, what would that message be?

    Klaatu barada nikto

    • Kuno

      “We apologise for the inconvenience.”

  • GubbaBumpkin

    He cites a 2004 NewScientist article, “Bucking the big bang”

    I did not read the entire article, but the author is Eric Lerner

    He wrote the 1991 book The Big Bang Never Happened, which advocates Hannes Alfvén’s plasma cosmology instead of the Big Bang theory…

    Lerner’s ideas have been rejected by the professional physicists and
    cosmologists who have reviewed them. In these critiques, critics have
    explained that, contrary to Lerner’s assertions, the size of
    superclusters is a feature limited by subsequent observations to the end of greatness and is consistent with having arisen from a power spectrum of density fluctuations growing from the quantum fluctuations predicted in inflationary models.[23][24][25] Anisotropies were discovered in subsequent analysis of the both COBE and BOOMERanG experiments and were more fully characterized by the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe[23][24] and Planck.

    Physical cosmologists who have commented on the book have generally dismissed it.[23][25][26][27][28][29] In particular, Edward L. Wright,
    the American astrophysicist and cosmologist, was critical of Lerner for
    making errors of fact and interpretation and criticized specifics of
    Lerner’s alternative cosmology,[24] making the following critiques:

    Lerner’s alternative model for Hubble’s Law is dynamically unstable

    the number density of distant radio sources falsifies Lerner’s explanation for the cosmic microwave background

    Lerner’s explanation that the helium abundance is due to stellar nucleosynthesis fails because of the small observed abundance of heavier elements

    Lerner has disputed Wright’s critique.[30]

    • GubbaBumpkin

      Errors in the “The Big Bang Never Happened”

      Eric Lerner starts his book “The Big Bang Never Happened” (hereafter BBNH) with the “errors” that he thinks invalidate the Big Bang. These are:

      The existence of superclusters of galaxies and structures like the “Great Wall” which would take too long to form from the “perfectly homogeneous” Big Bang.
      The need for dark matter and observations showing no dark matter.
      The FIRAS CMB spectrum is a “too perfect” blackbody.

      Are these criticisms correct? No, and they were known to be incorrect in 1991 when Lerner wrote his book…

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

      Interesting, thanks. It always raises a flag when the only google links to something are obviously Christian.

      • NadaLiar

        How does the Big Bang conflict with the idea of a Creator God? And I’m not sure what links you are referencing (especially if you speak of the Wiki site with footnotes 23-30 blockquoted by GuddaBumpkin).as being ‘obviously Christian.’

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

          How does the Big Bang conflict with the idea of a Creator God?

          You tell me. If you’re a Bible literalist, the two Genesis accounts pretty clearly don’t describe the Big Bang. If not, then I guess you dismiss the Genesis stories as mythology or something.

          And I’m not sure what links you are referencing

          “Bucking the big bang” in NewScientist, 2004. It’s mentioned in the post.

          Google it, and you’ll find almost exclusively Christian sites that reference it.

        • NadaLiar

          I don’t think the Genesis account does conflict with the idea of a Creator God, so I can’t address that. Both Genesis accounts are told from the perspective of the earth, with anything before the earth’s creation being summed up with a single sentence: “in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” And that’s pretty scarce on details, either pro or con on Big Bang. I will fully agree with you however, that those that insist on a literally 6 x 24hr day creation account appear to be incorrect scientifically. More important to me is the fact they are incorrect scripturally. All one has to do is look at Genesis 2:4 and the bible says that the whole of the creative process occurred in “The day that the Lord God created the heavens and the earth.” Thinking persons will realize “day” is an unspecified span of time. Could it be 24 hours? Biblically? Sure, God is “dynamic in power.” Is that 24 hours specified? Certainly not by the reasoning of Gen 2:4. Millions or billions of years? Sure, no skin off my theology; an unspecified span of time is unspecified.

          Like anything else, people will often quote almost anyone that appears to agree with them. I tend to believe the big bang theory – but to take a hard biblical stand against it seems premature, dogmatic and without scriptural grounds.

        • Greg G.

          You could have a creator god for Genesis 1, another for Genesis 2, and a third for the scientific theories of the origins of the universe but that is three different contrived conceptions of creator gods.

          The problem is not redefining “day” to fit scientific theories. It is the order of things presented. If one is going to redefine all of that to fit science, why bother with the religion? It is then just an exercise in sophistry.

        • NadaLiar

          Genesis 1 (more than Genesis 2) speaks of the earth’s creation & events leading up to the creation of man, and less about the creation of humans. That part (about humans) is pretty short (in Gen. 1). Genesis 2 speaks in greater detail about the creation of man. The two aren’t incompatible with each other, but they do concern different time spans. Many creative “days” in chapter 1 vs just the creation of man in chapter 2. Context is key – no attempt to confuse or mislead here. Also, actually reading Genesis 2:7 should make clear that I am not “redefining day,” the bible itself shows the word ‘day’ cannot mean one literal 24-hour day. To quote (KJV, although others read quite similar):

          4 These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens,

          Quite frankly, even those that believe the bible would do well to take this to heart – especially “young earth” creationists.

        • Greg G.

          In Genesis 1, light and dark are separated and the light is day and the dark is night so that there is the first day with the day and night. The author seemed to think the sun was not the source of the light that caused day as it was created later. But the day and night sequence does imply 24 hour days.

          The word for “generations” has other meanings such as “course of history” and “begetting or account of heaven”, so it doesn’t necessarily mean a long time.

          The creation accounts, the exodus, and much of the rest of the Old Testament are fairy tales borrowed from other cultures.

        • NadaLiar

          Absolutely, the same word can have multiple meanings. And I agree with you that the use of the word “day” doesn’t say or imply billions of years. But that’s what “unspecified” means. It’s the same Hebrew word that’s rendered “day” in the Genesis 1 as in Genesis 2. [near 100% sure, but my ref books are home & I am not] My point is, it’s clearly an undefined length of time – as ‘day’ is used of each created day AND of the whole of creation (at Gen 2:4). And that type of meaning is still common now. With phrases like ‘back in my heyday’ or ‘back in the day’ or even the song “Glory Days” we’re not really talking about a specific amount of time. If someone spoke of “the day dinosaurs ruled the earth” you probably wouldn’t demand a timeline or approximate date unless he got specific on things or was getting things out of order. Speaking of which…

          Just like ‘day’ and ‘generations’ can have different meanings, so can the word “heaven.” Most people think ‘pearly gates’ when the conversation is biblical, but the bible employs multiple uses as well. “Birds of heaven” would not refer to the place of God & angels, but to the sky or atmosphere. OK, about light: yes, on the 1st creative ‘day’ God created light and divided it, calling it day and night. On the second day, God does something that on the surface, makes no sense. He creates (in verse 7) a “firmament” (KJV) dividing the water that was over the surface of the earth (v2) into waters above and waters below (the “firmament”). The ‘firmament’ itself, He calls heaven (v8). If one thinks of “heaven” as either ‘outer space’ or the heaven where God lives, this makes no sense even without scientific evidence. But if one considers it the same ‘heaven’ birds fly in, it can. Waters above (perhaps a dense cloud cover?) and waters below (rivers, lakes and so on?). Skip forward to ‘day’ 4 (v14) and God adds the moon, sun and stars to the ‘firmament.’ We know the stars and Sun predate the earth, and that they aren’t literally in the sky or atmosphere – but with a dense cloud cover, from the perspective of the earth they wouldn’t be clearly visible in the sky until the clouds thinned.

          Sadly, often believers themselves make it hard to think there is any accuracy in the bible because of wild and/or dogmatic doctrines. Conversely, doubters sometime doubt out of habit, so to speak. It wasn’t that long ago that skeptics denied Egypt ever had Hebrew slaves, that the city Ur existed, or that Pontius Pilate, King David and other people in the bible were real. All of those have since been proven by scientific means. Even the bible asks us to use our minds – it does not promote “blind faith.” Unfortunately, some believers promote just that.

        • Greg G.

          An omnipotence can be imagined to do anything except to be distinguished from being imaginary.

    • Joe

      I didn’t see your post before I made mine.

      Looks like another case of creationists coming up with ideas that don’t fit all the data points we now have.

  • Greg G.

    The way Noah got all the animals on the Ark was to put all the large animals, like dinosaurs, elephants, hippos, etc, on first. Then he brought in 9 times as many insects, so that reduced the average size of the animals to a tenth what they were. Then he could bring in medium sized animals.

    • Joe

      I would have put the big animals in first, then progressively smaller, then shaken the Ark until the small animals fell into the gaps between the bigger animals.

      • Kuno

        Nah, that would just result in the elephants and rhinos ending up at the top.

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

          This is granular convection, also called the “Brazil nut effect” to describe why the big nuts seem to rise to the top in a jar of mixed nuts.

        • Greg G.

          If you put elephants into the mixed nuts, you wouldn’t need a nutcracker.

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

          I’m sensing a market opportunity!

        • Joe

          Wouldn’t they eat all the peanuts though?

        • Greg G.

          You can have the walnuts.

        • Chuck Johnson

          Bob:
          “. . . why the big nuts seem to rise to the top in a jar of mixed nuts.”

          Chuck:
          In the world of creationism, the biggest nuts seem to rise to the top as well.

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

      When I have a stock investment that’s plummeted, I buy up a whole bunch more so that the average loss isn’t so bad.

      Yep, I’m smart like a fox.

      • Greg G.

        Let me know when you are going to do that next time. I’ll help you by buying some options on the stocks, just to cover all bases.

        • Pofarmer

          Are you related to Ken Lay?

        • Greg G.

          Maybe 30 or 40 generations back.

        • Pofarmer

          Lol.

      • Otto

        My wife saves me money by buying tons of stuff on sale…she has literally saved me thousands of dollars by getting discounts on useless crap….;)

    • Major Major

      I thought it was an ark of holding

  • Joe

    This shows that there are a large number of cosmologists who have issues with the Big Bang, we’re told.

    I too haven’t paid to read that article, but every time I’m directed to read a paper or article “refuting the big bang”, it always turns out to be a red herring.

    Almost no cosmologist doubts the big bang (e.g. a rapid inflation of space). Why would they, when all the evidence points to it happening?

    Cosmologists today mainly debate the initial conditions, and different mechanisms for it happening. Mostly the headlines are not written by the authors, and are necessarily hyperbolic.

    I suspect the creationist in question had the intention that most people will only read the headline.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    Thirty Three Famous Physicists Sign Angry Letter About the Origin of the Universe
    In which Scientific American publishes an article challenging the theory of cosmic inflation, triggering pushback from actual physicists citing the evidence in its favour

    Inflation proposer and MIT professor Guth penned the response with physicists David Kaiser (MIT), Andrei Linde (Stanford), and Yasunori Nomura (UC Berkeley), then gathered famous signatories from across the physics world. The four disagreed with many of the statements in the Scientific American article, but “We were particularly in strong disagreement with the statements they made about the testability of inflation which we thought were completely without justification,” Guth told Gizmodo. “We thought it was about time someone answered those objections.”

    • GubbaBumpkin

      Thge response letter from 33 physicists

      IS&L write about how “a failing theory gets increasingly immunized against experiment by attempts to patch it,” insinuating that this has something to do with inflation. But despite IS&L’s rhetoric, it is
      standard practice in empirical science to modify a theory as new data
      come to light, as, for example, the Standard Model has been modified to
      account for newly discovered quarks and leptons.

      This reminds me of Lerner’s objections to the Big Bang. He worries that the Big Bang theory needs to be revised with Dark Matter, etc. to keep in line with new observations. But then further observations bolster the Dark Matter findings and the base of theory grows, and meanwhile Lerner, who is so aware of these ‘problems’ with the theories of others which turn out not to be problems, is blind to the problems with his own alternatives.

      • GubbaBumpkin

        Later they make the comparison to Big Bang theory explicit:

        Like any scientific theory, inflation need not address all conceivable questions. Inflationary models, like all scientific theories, rest on a set of assumptions, and to understand those assumptions we might need to appeal to some deeper theory. This, however, does not undermine the success of inflationary models. The situation is similar to the standard hot big bang cosmology: the fact that it left several questions unresolved, such as the near-critical mass density and the origin of structure (which are solved elegantly by inflation), does not undermine its many successful predictions, including its prediction of the relative abundances of light chemical elements. The fact that our knowledge of the universe is still incomplete is absolutely no reason to ignore the impressive empirical success of the standard inflationary models.

  • Jim Jones

    > “It’s impossible to think that all of this could’ve happened just by a series of slow processes over billions of years. . . . I realized that creation in six days makes the most sense from an engineering perspective.”

    Only 30 [species] splitting events would yield [one] billion species. Over 3.5 billion years, that’s one speciation event every 116 million years. As Allen Orr and [Jerry Coyne] calculated in [their] book Speciation, on average a new species forms by splitting of a given lineage at a rate between one every 100,000 years and one every million years. (This is a rough estimate, of course and varies by taxa.)
    ————————————————————————————————–

    Geology shows that fossils are of different ages.
    Paleontology shows a fossil sequence, the list of species represented changes through time.
    Taxonomy shows biological relationships among species.
    Evolution is the explanation that threads it all together.
    Creationism is the practice of squeezing one’s eyes shut and wailing and screaming “DOES NOT!, DOES NOT!!”

    ~ Unknown

  • Mr. A

    I would just like to point out that the computer did indeed evolve in innumerable small steps, from the first calculator to the room sized calculator to the Apple 2, to the ipad I am writing this on.

    • GubbaBumpkin

      And the steps are getting smaller; currently chip features are ~ 10 nm.

      • Mr. A

        I was speaking metaphorically but hey, that works too!

        • Greg G.

          Moore’s Law works faster than biological evolution. I hope those calculators never see us as competition or prey.

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

      Agreed, though I think they were thinking of mutation + selection.

      Even here, they’re partly wrong, because this kind of evolutionarily improving software does exist (though not for operating systems).

    • Pofarmer

      Shoot, my phone has way more processing power and memory than my first computer, by orders of Magnitude.

      • Ignorant Amos

        I vaguely remember on a tour of the Kennedy Space Centre, the tour guide explaining to the party that there was more processing power in a modern pocket calculator (1998) than in the early space missions rockets. We were standing beside the Mercury Space Capsule at the time and I remember thinking how flimsy the metal it was constructed from being. Like old Coca-Cola tins.

        http://alaingayot.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/mercury-space-capsule.jpg

    • Reddish Brown

      And I would just like to point out that the foremost “creator” of the computer was a gay atheist.

    • NadaLiar

      Computers don’t evolve (at least not yet). They are created by people.

      • Greg G.

        Computer programs do.

        Genetic Programming – Computers using “Natural Selection” to generate programs

        I recall reading a popular science magazine more than 15 years ago (I remember where I was when I read it and the place was taken apart in 2002) about programming PLCs to predict the riskiness of loans. It was allowed to run on several PLCs for the weekend. The fastest and most reliable one also used the least power because it had turned itself into an analog computer using a few op amps and feedback through the power supply. Unfortunately, that meant it could not be reproduced or repaired if it broke.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Richard Dawkins wrote a programme to demonstrate evolution at work. He devised the biomorphs more than thirty years ago and described them and how they work in his books, “The Blind Watchmaker” and “Climbing Mount Improbable”.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N6E1HHBA-2Q

        • NadaLiar

          Yes there are some programs that adapt. Haven’t seen any reproduce yet though. *grin* But with automation, CAD/CAM and so on, it’s probably only a matter of time. By PLC are you referring to ‘programmable logic controllers?’ I’d like to read about that.

          EDIT: I read a little from your link (due to time constraints today) and that is somewhat scary as heck. People often make mistakes, but (to steal a line) ‘to err is human, but to really mess things up you need a computer.’ I remember one of the first ‘self driving’ or ‘driver assist’ cars ended up resulting in the driver dying because a sensor for objects in front of him was a fixed laser. When a semi drove in front of the car, the laser showed nothing there (due to the beam going under the bed of the trailer) and the car continued on leading to the death of the driver. Self generating programs seem likely to compound any problem(s) in the initial “population” (as the paper puts it in the intro). Nevertheless, it’s fascinating.

      • Joe

        You’re saying computers have been the same throughout history?

        • Ignorant Amos

          The eejit probably counts using their fingers and toes, at least they would if they could get their knuckles off the floor.

        • NadaLiar

          No, I’m just (a bit too) literal at times and trying to be funny.

        • NadaLiar

          Nope.

        • Joe

          So they’ve evolved?

        • NadaLiar

          Not in a “theory of evolution” sense, but yes, they have been “developed” (built/created) better over time.

        • Joe

          Why not in a ‘theory of evolution sense’?

          Doesn’t iteration fall under ‘natural selection’?

        • NadaLiar

          Only if I consider human influence “natural selection.” I (edit) WOULD consider a flood, storm or earthquake ‘natural’ in most cases. (edit) I would NOT consider human breeding programs (of animals) to be “natural” either. And as far as computers and computer programs go, I would consider them about as far from “natural” as you can get – both are strictly ‘man-made.’
          major lag when I wrote this

        • Joe

          Humans are supernatural in some way? In any way?

        • NadaLiar

          Computers have not been the same since their inception.
          Computers are not biological things: they do not reproduce.
          Computers are (individually) created and are not “naturally occurring,” as in ‘found in nature.’
          The common explanation or example of ToE (when I was a kid) as the 1 species of rabbit, some geological event separated the rabbits. Over time, northern rabbits, due to greater snowfall, developed into a breed of all-white larger footed rabbits. Meanwhile, southern rabbits, due to plains, mud and lack of snow, developed into a breed of brown rabbits and somewhat thinner due to warmer temps.
          I’m having trouble comparing that example of ToE to computers. Perhaps you can fill in the gaps for me.
          Perhaps there is a newer example of ToE of which I am unaware. Until presented with other evidence, I don’t see computers “evolving” in a biological sense. There are no “mutations” that can be carried on by genetic material, as there is no genetic material, etc. etc.
          But hey, you got me to type another response tho.

        • Joe

          ‘Natural selection’ is a broad church. So to speak.

          Lets just say a race of aliens landed amongst the rabbits and started killing the ones with ears over a certain length. Over time, you would have a breed of short haired rabbits.

          How is that not a selective pressure, but an earthquake is? In reality they both are.

        • NadaLiar

          I your conversation may be evolving into a scarlet fish of the genus Clupea, found particularly in shallow, temperate waters of the North Pacific.

      • Ignorant Amos

        You clearly don’t know how evolution works, do you?

        Evolution:- the gradual development of something.

        : a process of continuous change from a lower, simpler, or worse to a higher, more complex, or better state

        The gradual development of something. based on want, necessity, and development.

        Now based on that definition, who “created” computer’s?

        What is a computer and which person “invented” it?

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

        • NadaLiar

          This post has been primarily concerning ideas such evolution (the actual theory of it), biology, the big bang, YEC, OEC, God or lack thereof, and so on. So on a literal sense, as computers do not reproduce, they cannot “evolve.” Each new computer is created by humans and is (hopefully) superior to the last “generation.” And yeah, computers have been around before man harnessed electricity.

    • Ignorant Amos

      The O/P refers to a computer operating system, but even those have been developed from earlier ideas and platforms incrementally as the equipment improved.

      Evolution of Operating Systems

      The evolution of operating systems is directly dependent to the development of computer systems and how users use them.

      http://www.studytonight.com/operating-system/evolution-of-os

      Of course, Bob is a computer guy, so will be better placed to correct anything I may have erred on.

  • Chuck Johnson

    Danny Faulkner is an astronomer. Solar eclipses happen
    because the moon is just the right size and at just the right distance
    to just cover up the sun. Ours is the only planet in our solar system on
    which this happens, and ours is the only planet on which anyone exists
    to notice. A coincidence??

    The moon is approximately the right size.
    Sometimes the moon more than covers up the sun, and sometimes the moon fails to completely cover the sun. – – – That is an annular eclipse.

    • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

      That might actually be very important for our understanding astronomy better. We seem pretty bad at paying attention to what may well be required for us to scientifically advance, although if we ever want machines to do it, we’ll have to stop being so bad. Anyhow, the Christian could argue that it is unlikely that we’d have all the conditions required for perpetual growth in scientific knowledge, but until we have other situations to look at, the sample space is in fact completely unknown outside of our “N of 1”.

  • Almostcertain2

    Creationism is nowhere reasonable nor something that can be tested out. On top of that creationism cannot predict as evolution can, not to mention the heap of work done on evolution. On the other hand evolution can be tested, it makes predictions and is falsifiable…I call that science.

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

      Aside: I spoke to an acquaintance recently about this movie. He is an old-earth creationist. He chuckled at how stupid the YECs are who reject the Big Bang and insist on a 10,000-year-old earth. I pointed out that he was in the same boat since he rejects evolution.

      Oh, no–rejecting that is quite reasonable, he said.

      Of course that’s what he’d say, but it was rather stark having he bring up the topic of religion-driven stupid thinking when he’s an example himself.

      • Almostcertain2

        Evolution kills the argument from design in biology, which surveys have shown is one of the main reasons people give for believing in God in the first place. Evolution by natural selection is also a horribly savage and cruel business, and one that tends to diminish the standing of humanity within nature. These objections are powerful and have nothing to do with the Bible.
        Nowadays all manner of scientific knowledge faces furious opposition.

        Empowered by their own sources of information and their own interpretations of research, doubters have declared war on the consensus of experts.

        Science is not a body of facts…rather a method for deciding whether what we choose to believe has a basis in the laws of nature or not. But that method doesn’t come naturally to most of us. And so we run into trouble, again and again…. That said the scientific method leads us to truths that are less than self-evident, often mind-blowing, and sometimes hard to swallow.

        Even when we intellectually accept these precepts of science, we subconsciously cling to our intuitions—what researchers call our naive beliefs. So it looks as if even reasonable folks can fall for the religiously driven craziness…

        https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/80f3fb97df7f33a0a26703ae7e228ea8bb29659119cf4afc33de171cbda05389.jpg

        https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/3d1a3c9aa7cc1494fd4e547aa15849d7df8c7ff7382938c509baac8a910e0c1a.jpg

        https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/ef04d1db58316c426d67d28596e7685fb2bbd7ff017dd7edf3594d984d4d57bc.jpg

        https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/88e4d178f4aee6ca207b6bdac08f565e9df15008197b1cee227e571b95cf80b0.jpg

        https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/988d43a8bdbb9fc5885b073fd92f71c666d83b221e5ef8614d69f2ca0375e182.jpg

        Maybe entropy will help alleviate this form of delusion.

        Who knows?

        • enlyghten

          theoatmeal has a rather compelling comic about that very phenomenon. Sometimes called ‘the backfire effect’.

          http://theoatmeal.com/comics/believe

        • Greg G.

          I may not agree with what you have to say but I will fight to the death your right to disagree with me.

        • enlyghten

          As a veteran, I agree wholeheartedly.

          Incidentally, every time I hear that I think of Futurama:

          I don’t condone what Dr. Zoidberg did but I’ll fight tooth and nail for his freedom to do it. Or I would if I hadn’t lost my teeth and nails on Mars and Saturn respectively.

        • Greg G.

          Notice that I omitted “for” between “death” and “your”, just to go along with theoatmeal comic, 80)

        • enlyghten

          Heh, no I missed that. Well played =P

        • Almostcertain2

          Brilliant!

        • NadaLiar

          I liked that. And it was cute.

        • epeeist

          Evolution kills the argument from design in biology

          I would take issue with this, what it certainly does is undermine the argument from design. What evolution doesn’t do is definitively rule out a designer, though it does rule out a necessary designer.

          This requires theists to say where, when and how their designer deity is involved in evolution and to justify this involvement, showing where it adds to the empirical fit and to the explanatory power of the theory of evolution.

          Needless to say I have never come across a theist who has been able to do this.

        • Almostcertain2

          Please do tell when and if you do. It would be..refreshingly different, yet quite unlikely.

        • Almostcertain2

          Evolution makes the “designer” useless, thus functionally non-existent.

        • epeeist

          Still disagree I am afraid. The theist’s god is a necessary being, i.e. all life is contingent upon its existence. What evolution does is remove the modal qualifier, life is no longer reliant on the existence of such a being.

          What this shows is that a “designer” is functionally useless (unless the theist can show that positing such an entity adds to the explanatory power or empirical fit). To show that such an entity does not exist would need a stronger argument I think.

          I don’t think we are too far apart, just that I am somewhat more conservative in my claims than you.

        • Almostcertain2

          No omniscience, intentionality or omnipotence are needed to get a universe going.
          Also this “necessary being” stuff is like modal logic… an abstract human invention, there is nothing material about it. It is purely abstract and immaterial information. A purely materialistic metaphysics cannot understand the fundamental nature of physical reality (How?)…
          Folks like Leibniz, Russell, Wittgenstein, and others tried to develop an ambiguity free language for logic and mathematics.
          Their logical truth-functional analyses are severely limited by the principle of bivalence, the excluded middle, that the only possible values are true and false. But the world is not limited to truth and falsity. Attempts to develop three-valued or many-valued logics have largely failed.
          Modal logic is the analysis and qualification of statements or propositions as asserting or denying necessity, possibility, impossibility, and most problematic, contingency.
          The use of “necessity” and “impossibility” to describe the physical world should be guarded and understood to describe events or “states of affairs” that have extremely high or low probability.

          And all that philosophical jargon is useless to me. I let philosophers worry about that type of conversation while science marches onward and forward.

          The Gods are as useless as a chicken with lips… just a fancy accessory in the collective mind of many. Logic alone cannot birth gods or any other public object.
          That is my view.

  • Duane Locsin

    There really isn’t that much wonder why American adults on average lag behind most industrialized nations when it comes to fundamental and basic STEM knowledge and understanding because of nonsense/scams like this.

    What does the United States government think of a growing class of it’s citizens are growing less competitive internationally when it comes to STEM?
    (assuming these are not members of government catering to the Religious right and climate change threaten industries).

    I sometimes wish that either the USSR didn’t fall, because that was a time when the US government REALLY cared about a very educated populace able to compete with Russia’s Scientific and technological achievements or the European Union didn’t receive a major blow in the form of the UK’s brexit.

    The competition would have made the U.S. government give these pathetic con artists and scammers the boot, in order to keep the United States no.1

    ***TLDR***

    Creationist groups attempt to undermine the next generation of potential brilliant Scientists, Engineers and researchers from tackling fundamental problems and discoveries, by ripping them off of knowledge and finance ought to be considered a threat to national security.

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

      Religion does best when social conditions are poor. That makes religious leaders motivated the wrong way.