My 2nd Appearance on The Place

I had a very good interfaith interview with Dr. Jones of the New Covenant Group.

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  • EnlightenmentLiberal

    Generally good stuff as always. The other guy seemed a bit obtuse at times, but not too bad.

    Still Aron, I have to take you to task for a couple things.

    You have this really cute line where you say miracles are defined as that which are physically impossible or some such. I can’t quite due your argument justice without quoting it verbatim because IMHO it rests on equivocation and a misunderstanding or misportrayal of the scientific method.

    The big equivocation is that you are going rather loosely between physical probability and epistemic probability. One should not claim that something is physically possible without some evidence to back you up. However, you should feel free to admit epistemic possibility. Admitting that it’s epistemically possible is just saying “I don’t know” or “maybe”.

    The other big problem are the words “physical”, “natural”, and “supernatural”.

    Take for instance your example of a magic incantation. I agree the evidence looks really really bad that there is such a thing as a magic incantation, but all it would take to change my mind is for someone tomorrow to do a simple magic incantation, like turn water into wine (and then do it again and again, under controlled circumstances, with professional magicians checking for shenanigans).

    Would that “magic incantation” be “magic”? Would it be natural? Would it be supernatural? The answers to those questions do not matter. The very words “natural” and “supernatural” are meaningless drivel. Either it exists, or it doesn’t. Either it’s observable – directly or indirectly – or it’s not. The basic presupposition of rationality and scientific thinking is that the past is sufficiently similar to the present is sufficiently similar to the future, and if it’s observable then science will help us learn about whatever it is. Whether it’s natural or supernatural, physics or magic, it doesn’t matter. It never comes up when properly practicing science if it’s magic or not. If you have evidence to support your model, then you have evidence to support your model.

    I do my best to refuse to let any person I’m talking to use the word “supernatural” because by its very design its only purpose is to invoke a double standard of epistemology. It’s a “get of out logic, reason, and science” free card. In the video, the other person stated that some people feel science is inappropriate for the immaterial, and asked you what you would use for the immaterial. I don’t think you addressed that (at least not immediately). I would have immediately called bullshit. Of course science is the proper method to learn about the immaterial – assuming it’s observable, and if it’s not observable, then it’s unknowable, and we’re just wasting time pontificating about nothing.

    As I’ve tried to say to you before, IMHO it is very misleading, almost to the point of dishonesty, to argue that miracles are by definition impossible, and thus god is impossible. To a creationist, that sounds like you are being just as dogmatic and close-minded as they are. Please don’t do that Aron. You should admit that you consider magic incantations to be epistemically possible, but very very epistemically unlikely, because the massive overwhelming amount of evidence is against magic incantations being a real thing. In fact, you are very sure that magic incantations are not real – that they are physically impossible, but you remain open to the epistemic possibility that you are wrong.

    • Monocle Smile


      I understand your point, but you should know that Aron is a very staunch pragmatist. That is, he doesn’t give two shits about epistemology or philosophical musings. He’s talking about practical reality.

      When he refers to a miracle, he’s talking about violation of what’s considered a physical law. That is, for something to not hold true under conditions for which it has always held true to a fault.

      This is impossible in the practical sense, which is what Aron means. Aron will sometimes talk about the impossibility of absolute truth and the difference between belief and knowledge, but that’s about as deep philosophically as he gets. I wish he’d be more clear about this, but it’s not dishonest to remain grounded in pragmatism.

      For what it’s worth, I’m a fan of your approach to the natural/supernatural boundary and how it doesn’t actually exist. I’ve started using it myself.

      • EnlightenmentLiberal

        I know, but to a theist, that sounds just as dogmatic as all of those websites who come out with a faith statement that they will dismiss in advance any and all evidence to the contrary. Aron really ought to stop using that line that miracles are physically impossible, in spite of how cute it is.

  • knopfspiel

    This guy is an “Multi-axio(m?)-theist” ?!

    Could someone find out how to write that, because google turned up nothin’.


    Wow, it sure is fun to invent a new faith. I don’t mean to be cynical about that, he seams really nice. Actually, too nice – if you see the positive things in everyone, I worry he doesn’t ever see a bad thing in anyone.

    • Narf

      I don’t know. The best thing I got in my search results was a bat-shit insane blog-post about how the Russel’s Teapot analogy is actually a refutation of atheistic-evolution and supports theism. And that result is only interesting if you’re into train wrecks.

    • EnlightenmentLiberal


      Well, I’m a multi-axiom atheist. I’m a presuppositionalist. I presuppose that I’m sufficiently rational to use logic and practice science. I presuppose that I should use logic and strive for logically consistent views. I presuppose that I should use science. I presuppose that I am not the center of the world and these other humans have minds like me. I presuppose the values of humanism and skepticism. I presuppose that Last Thursdayism is false. I might have a couple more, but those are the big ones.

      Specifically note that I do not presuppose there is a god, and I do not presuppose there are no gods. My presuppositions are merely to look at the evidence with an open mind, and come to an honest conclusion.

  • Mobius

    A comment on Dr. Jones playing Devil’s Advocate and saying “But science makes stuff up, too”.

    His example…math makes up infinity, which doesn’t really exist.

    His error is this…Math is not science. A lot of people think it is, but that doesn’t make it so. Math is a branch of logic, starting with a set of agreed upon axioms and following them to their logical conclusions. Math does not have to agree with reality the way science does, nor is there any experimentation nor observation to verify math.

    Yes, math is an extremely useful tool in science, but that does not make math an empirical science.

    On another note…

    Multiaxiotheist??? Sounds like he wants to be a deist or pantheist but doesn’t want to use those labels.

    • wirebash

      I agree and want to add something:

      We can imagine many, many things but what matters is what exists in reality and while math is useful to think about our reality, when a mathematical concept does not provide us with a good explanation of reality, we drop it and look for something better. That is in no way comparable to theism, which insists that a deity exists as a part of reality while there is no evidence for a deity. Secondly, when we can show that reality is not in concordance with our mathematical description of it, we have to discard the maths and go back to the drawing board. We will have to change our mind, because reality won’t change. Religion has no such rule. Instead, the religious can go on believing whatever they want to believe, even when reality contradicts their beliefs.