Jonathan and 50/50

There is an idea amongst some atheists that if we fail to cloak our disgust with religion that the adherents of said religions will stop speaking to us.  This idea is empirically denied since I have leagues of them hanging out in my inbox and facebook wall dangling bad arguments in front me like a delectable treat, practically begging me to take a piece out of them in public.  Some will say that I’m antagonizing the believers.  I say I’m giving them what they clearly want.

Anyway, the other day I wrote a piece on how analogous faith is to insanity.  ‘Jonathan’ didn’t think I was being fair.

Why is it crazy asses are the only ones considered by non-believers when it comes to someone claiming the voice of God to begin with?

You’ve just made my point for me.  All the things that make this guy a crazy ass (your wording) are what amounts to noble faith elsewhere.

You can’t say he’s crazy for hearing voices.  Most Christians believe god speaks to them.

You can’t say he’s crazy for believing the voice is god.  Most Christians believe the same.

You can’t say he’s crazy for obeying the voice.  Most Christians consider obeying god to be a virtue.

So what is it that distinguishes this person from other Christians?  Any Christian out there can only really cite that this guy’s voices he believed to be god told him something different.  The thing is, that his voices claiming to be god had a different take on what he should do is not the part that makes him crazy.  If the voices tell you to donate $50/week to the United Way, that’s still no less crazy than the nutter who plucked his eyes out.  It’s more beneficial, but no less crazy – and we damn sure don’t need craziness to tell beneficial acts from harmful acts.  We sure as hell need the crazy to confuse the two though, which is precisely the hang up I have with religion – it’s close enough to insanity (indistinguishable if you ask me) that it confuses what is beneficial with what is unfair or harmful.

I’m not one to claim to speak for God; however, speaking from a Christian perspective, when checked against what we know of God, we can discern with reason foolishness apart from piety.

You don’t speak for god, but you’re ready to assert what we know of god?  That’s an amazing level of humility and pretension all within the same sentence.  It’s kind of impressive…in a way that makes me want to headbutt a cinder block.

First, we don’t need the bible or any religion’s presumptions about the nature of god in order for the last part of Jonathan’s sentence to be true.  We can discern, with reason, foolishness from piety all by ourselves.  We can also tell, when we are not contaminated by faith, when pious conclusions and foolish conclusions are the same.  It’s very simple, really.

Reasonable conclusions: People don’t rise from the dead.  People don’t walk on water.  I should be charitable because I live in a world I share with others and it will make the world a better place.  Killing people for working on a particular day was never a concept that benefited humankind.  Ripping your eyes out is probably a bad idea.

Foolish conclusions (also pious conclusions):  Ages ago, some dude rose from the dead because the rules of biology were suspended for only him.  Ages ago, some dude walked on water because the rules of physics were suspended for only him.  I should be charitable because a voice in my head tells me to, and I unquestionably trust this voice for some reason.  Killing people for working on a particular day at one point represented the zenith of moral wisdom.  And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee… (Mat 5:29)

And second, what you know about god amounts to what you know about Goldilocks.  You know what some people wrote in a book ages ago and, frankly, most Christians don’t even know that.  And the contents of that book represent the opposite of reasonable conclusions, which is what necessitated the concept of believing things on faith in the first place.

Anyway, what your argument boils down to here is that god is really speaking to you, but not to the guy who plucked his eyes out (lest they offend him).  Yes, charity is reasonable while ripping your own eyes out is not, but not because god is really speaking to one of you.  You can’t say that this guy is crazy because he heard voices, nor for assuming the voice was god, nor for obeying the voice without question, because the ‘good’ Christians you reference do the same thing (so did Abraham, for that matter).  Pointing out that the voices are telling multiple people different things and saying it’s up to us to partition piety from foolishness (as if the two were somehow incompatible) actually works against you.  That so many people hear conflicting things should point you to the conclusion that hearing voices is unreliable  (unless you think god is really telling everybody different things).  That Christians are eager to trust the voice, despite watching the folly of others trusting the voice, only adds to the crazy, it doesn’t rescue the Christians.

Now, there are certain arguments which, once a believer begins to utter them, I begin to salivate.  I count the seconds waiting for them to finish so I can hang them up like a pinata and use them to make a public statement about how religion is not only propped up by horrible arguments, but also how it suspends a person’s standard set of checks against gullibility.  Jonathan continued with just such an argument.

I think it takes as much faith to be an atheist as it does to believe in (a) deity(ies).

Why does Jonathan believe this?

Accepting that God is not outside the realm of possibility – or even probability for that matter – it is then equally possible that God may choose to speak through any one or number of us.

But Jonathan, what if I don’t accept that god’s existence is anywhere close to probable?  I mean, you didn’t really give me a reason to accept that premise.  Possible =/= probable.

It seems patently clear to me that the existence of a god is not probable in the least.  For one thing, we have found no evidence of god’s existence.  For another, everything we have explained has turned out to be the result of natural causes.  Everything.  What need do we have a god when natural causes, which we know exist, produce order all by themselves?  At this point it’s as certain that god does not exist as it is that smurfs exist.  It is more certain that no god of compassion or intelligence exists in this pitiless, chaotic universe.

Then we get an argument I’ve never heard before, which is a change of pace.

…speaking again from a Christian perspective, part of the discernment between that which was spoken by God or by man would have to be determined by the purpose of the act; primarily whether or not it glorifies God.

So logic/reason, the means by which we usually ascertain if somebody is bullshitting us, is not how we determine whether or not some person is really hearing the voice of god?  All that matters is that the voice is ‘glorifying god’?  And what exactly do you mean by ‘glorifying god’?

Do you mean that the command of the voice is to do something beneficial?  In that case, a lot of the people in the bible heard voices that weren’t glorifying god.  And if those people weren’t glorifying god, it’s probably time to flush that book.  Do you mean that anybody who has a voice telling them something different from your voice is failing to glorify god?  In that case, you have a self-sealing prophecy on your hand that all the other people hearing conflicting voices of god could use to disregard you.  Do you mean that it must reflect what’s in the bible?  Again, you’ve made a self-sealing prophecy where disproof is impossible (you’ve also created a problem for all the people in the bible who heard god’s voice).

The purpose of saying something is not at all what determines its truth – it’s how reasonable their statements are and how well they are supported by evidence.  You, Jonathan, are saying a lot of things that you simply cannot support.  How do you know the nature of god?  How do you know what does or doesn’t glorify god?  Fuck, how do you know a god even exists?  How do you know his existence is probable?  You say all these things, but you don’t give me cause at all to think you have a single decent reason for believing any of it.  Likewise, if somebody claims to be hearing the voice of god, without some evidence behind that claim, it doesn’t matter of they’re speaking in tongues or if the voice is telling them Jesus is a super groovy dude, the most reasonable conclusion is that they are transplanting their own ideas onto a serotonin rush or that they are genuinely nuts.

Jonathan also says a couple times in his postings that he is careful not to be judgmental, as if that somehow translates into making him the better person.  Hogwash, says I.  Bad ideas deserve to be judged.  They deserve to have their flaws pointed out.  And if somebody continues to hold onto them, and to use bad arguments in public after those arguments have been dissected, the person carrying those ideas deserves to be not only judged but shamed.

Just as atheism makes sense to you, Christianity makes sense to me and Islam makes sense to someone else, etc.

Just because it makes sense to someone doesn’t mean it makes sense.  People draw lousy conclusions all the time!  People are in error all the time!  And at best, considering the above options, only one of us can be right.  And since these beliefs influence our moral choices and, according to the latter two, hold the means to eternal suffering in the balance, the wrongness of at least two of them is not something so inconsequential.  That is something that makes judging those ideas a necessity.

Truth is, unless one has undoubtedly stood in the face of the Almighty, none of us have absolute evidence to the existence or non-existence of God.

The hell?  Ok, so nobody has absolute knowledge.  Some ideas are still way more likely to be true than others, and some propositions, while still remotely possible, are all-but-certainly false.  God is one such proposition.  I have spectacular evidence for the non-existence of god: the complete lack of any evidence for one!  What if somebody said the following to you?

Truth is, unless one has undoubtedly stood in the face of the Almighty Spiderman, none of us have absolute evidence to the existence or non-existence of God Spiderman.

Is this a good reason to believe in Spiderman?  No.  Is it a good reason to think that anybody claiming that belief in Spiderman is justified is anything other than out of their mind?  No.  Presented with this statement, the response is obvious: there isn’t any evidence of Spiderman, and so no sane person should believe in him!  The same is true of god.

Therefore I see it as a 50/50 equation.


So until we see something (or stand in its presence) it’s a 50/50 equation that it exists?  Wow, so the existence of anything I dream up, no matter how absurd (people rising from the dead) cannot ever be less than 50%?  Hot damn!  Nymphomaniac supermodel physics majors hiding in my house?  50/50!  Gremlins hiding in airplanes?  50/50 (I guess I’m never flying again…)  Six-headed, silver-feathered snakes slithering about the Amazon coughing up solid gold hairballs?  Similar creatures in the Gobi Desert?  50/50!  Let’s launch a pair of expeditions – odds are will find one of those cold-blooded gold mines in one of the two places!  How about the fossilized remains of an alien whose body is composed of pure diamond buried in my back yard?  50/50 chance!  Let’s grab Dana Hunter, some pick axes, and some tequila and go get ourselves retired!

And think of all the things I’ve never ‘stood in the presence of’.  Atoms!  Never seen ‘em.  50/50 chance!  Albino foxes.  I’ve never seen one, so I guess it’s only a 50/50 chance that some exist somewhere.  Hell, I’ve never seen a black hole.  Neither has any other human being.  This confuses me since physicists say there are more black holes in the universe than grains of sand on the Earth.  Don’t they know there’s only a 50% chance that even one black hole exists?

Evidence, and lack of evidence, changes the odds, Jonathan.

I could go on, but I’m just so sick of it.  All Jonathan’s subsequent arguments are just as awful.  Prepare for all the common objections.

1.  JT, you’re taking the worst of the worst and using it to caricature faith.

No.  Fuck that.  Go to a church sometime and talk to the people in the pews.  This is what you get from the vast majority.  These are the types of arguments that always get left on my social sites or get sent to my inbox.  The arguments used by religious people are consistently this rancid.  Don’t get mad at me for taking people to task when they voice opinions they’ve spent extremely little time formulating – get mad at the people treating their beliefs with less importance than I am!  It’s not like my standards are insanely high here.  I’m not asking for much.

2.  Why do you care so much?  Aren’t you just being a bully?

No!  Bad ideas often do considerable harm on an individual level and always do considerable harm on the societal level – and religions take bad reasoning and transform it into a virtue.  The concept of faith tells us that not only is it ok to be irrational, but that we sure as shit better be or face eternal punishment.  This is not conducive to the construction of a reasonable society.  Since ideas are the lifeblood of our species, it’s important we not only take note of that type of toxin but work to eradicate it.  Religion is intellectual poison and it’s high time we started saying so without apology.

Religion keeps people credulous, and since we share this planet with our neighbors and must work with them in order to live harmoniously, credulity in our neighbors is not something we should just shrug off.

  • Gayle Jordan

    Dare I say it? Might this be my favorite blog entry?! Out of a shitton of great blog entries?!?!?

    Absolutely dead-on, JT. Straight to the point, with that perfect pitch of snark and reason.

    I wish every member of every church youth group would put this in the face of their youth pastor and ask for an answer, especially after one more youth retreat where said youth pastor preached about the importance of “listening for God’s voice”.

    There were moments when I was glad to be a believer, and relieved to be a believer, but not many when I was proud to be a believer.

    Every day, every post – I’m so proud to be an atheist. Bring on the world, law school and Tennessee Baptists included.

    I heart you bigly – I’ve been eating the chicken breasts you left. Thanks.


  • Gordon

    “you’re taking the worst of the worst and using it to caricature faith.”

    someone has never visited the Christian Post!

  • Joshua Fisher

    Concerning judgement:

    I am sick to death of the pious faithful looking down their noses and saying “I don’t judge.”

    Bullshit! Everyone judges. All the time. Everything. You judge things to be good or evil, sweet or sour, hot or cold, etc. Without judgement you could never formulate an opinion on anything.

    The Bible says, “Judge not, lest ye be judged. But this is yet another evidence of the lack of divinity of that text. Any omni god would know that the minute you evaluate anything you are “judging” it. What matters is that we take care to judge things fairly and accurately, and that we make sure that we act on those judgements in a fair and responsible way.

  • Leanna

    “JT, you’re taking the worst of the worst and using it to caricature faith.”

    I love this accusation. Sometimes I get more frustrated with my “progressive” religious friends and family than with the fundamentalists, because at least the fundies realize and are vocal about science and reason being in opposition to their faith. I read things like Teri Gross’s NPR interview with the wacko dominionist yesterday, and I have to give props to Wagner for recognizing that his god could have prevented the tsunami (which is really the same thing as causing it if he’s in fact all powerful, obviously.) Similar props go to Pat Robertson for his offensive comments about New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. And while my progressive Christian friends mock Robertson as much as I do, they seem unable to see that his faith is perhaps more logical than theirs, if they both start with the basic assumption that the bible is the word of the all-powerful god and so on.

    “Religion is intellectual poison and it’s high time we started saying so without apology.”

    It’s tricky living in a very religious area and still, you know, wanting to have friends for myself and my children. But I recognize that being apologetic for my beliefs is not the right example for my kiddos, so I am making more strides in being vocal about my atheism and lack of respect for religion.

    Looking forward to reading more from you.

  • Jonathon B


    Just a little logic and ontology 101.

    Spiderman DOES in fact exist. Here’s the proof:

    Let’s start by taking a true statement such as: ‘Many pimple faced teens admire Spiderman.’

    The statement is certainly a true statement. To see it’s truth just go to a comic book store, once you get past the 40 year old men still living with their mothers that are playing Magic the Gathering (or whatever the fuck it’s called) you will find these young teens in the marvel section.

    Now let’s do some translating. First we’ll take the sentence and translate it into logenglish (the logic-english hybrid):

    There is an x such that x is loved by many pimple faced teens and x is Spiderman.

    Before I translate this into first order predicate logic (FOPL from now on) I’ll have to change some of the symbols around due to the fact that my keyboard is very sadly lacking in most of the wanted logical operators.

    So let (3 ) be the existential quantifier (since it looks the closest to that wonderful backwards E)

    L is the two place relation picked out by the word ‘Loves’

    S is the property picked out by the word ‘Spiderman’

    And & is the operator conjunction (which corresponds to words like ‘and’, ‘but’, etc. but not ‘or’ which is a disjunction and would be symbolized by ‘v’)

    So here’s a partial translation of the aforementioned true statement into FOPL:

    (3x) Lxy & Sx

    Now given the Quinean criterion for ontological commitment (the criterion for what exists) “To be is to be a bound variable” and x is a bound variable and x is Spiderman we are hereby committed to the existence of Spiderman.

    So we have more than a 50/50 (or .5/.5 rather) with Spiderman in the case of his existing the probability is 1.

    • Jonathon B

      Gotta have fun with yo logics son.

      • JT Eberhard

        Wow. You’ve just made the ontological argument MORE lame.

        • Jonathon B


          I see absolutely no relation between this and the ontological argument. Care to elaborate?

        • Jonathon B

          Further, if you disagree with my proof show me where exactly I went wrong.

          • Drakk

            Being able to state something in FOPL doesn’t make it true. I don’t know who you’re trying to kid, but generally speaking when you ask someone to consider a question of the objective existence of a thing, they would ask you to provide physical evidence for said thing’s existence.

            Pharyngula is just next door, you know. Why not run this one past them?

          • Drakk

            Further to my previous point:

            Of course spiderman exists. I have seen him. There does in fact exist a character named spiderman, he can be found in Marvel comics. Stan Lee, being the creator of this character, can attest to its existence.

            …oh, wait, you meant that there existed in objective reality a mutant form of homo sapiens which possessed several abilities common among members of the order Araneae, including but not limited to the production of webs, a large proportionate strength and ability to scale vertical surfaces?

            Show me the evidence, then.

  • Robert B.

    I almost posted this yesterday…

    I don’t take issue with your criticism of religion, and I don’t believe that the “good” Christians excuse the intellectual bad behaviors of faith or what you call “hearing voices.” Those are wrong things to do. (Well, maybe hearing the voices is morally neutral, but believing them is wrong.)

    I take issue with the word crazy. My problem is, what you’re talking about is believing in one’s imagination as though it were real perception. If that’s crazy, every five year old in the world is insane. Believing in imaginary things is a cognitive bias. “Crazy” is an othering word; it implies that this is something that only happens to “those people” not us “regular people.” But cognitive biases are common to universal features (or rather, bugs) of the human brain. They are everyone’s problem.

    If you call this stuff crazy, you are implying that this cognitive bias is one that your audience (preferring to think of themselves as sane) need not watch out for in themselves. This is a dangerous thing to do with any cognitive bias. It’s possible that belief-in-imagination is a bias that atheists are better than average at fighting. But you can’t be complacent – complacency, after all, is another cognitive bias.

  • John Philoponus


    I think that there is something that Jon-B is trying to point out to you here. The manner in which he is going about it is surely obscure.

    Notice the ‘Intro to Logic’ picture that you have at the very beginning of this post. Jon-B ended up posting to you a very simple argument the structure of which anyone can understand by passing an intro to logic course. The content is a little more complex but if you made it through an intro to metaphysics course you should have a decent grasp on the content of his argument.

    Now notice your reply to him. It’s completely irrelevant and addresses no part of his argument. It’s starting to look like you don’t have even the basic background to critically assess and argument as plain and simple as his for a view known as Fictional Realism. (I’ll leave you to figure out what exactly he has committed himself to).

    Also take a look at at the picture that you post about ‘conventional logic and religious logic’ nothing about that picture has anything at all to do with any logic, about reasoning and figuring out the best way to reason about what there is sure, but it is not about the laws of inference making etc. that constitute logic. Once again I’m starting to find it dubious as to whether or not you have the prerequisite knowledge to assess most of the arguments or claims others and yourself have made in anything near a academically respectable manner.

    Then there was your exchange here with Jonathon. He made a very important and basic distinction between moral good/well being vs. psychological well being. This is a very important and basic distinction to be made. But then when you went to reply to him you did not explain yourself seemed to ignore the content of what his comments were and just gave some sort of lightening bolt one sentence statement (which I’m not even sure what it amounts to) and then didn’t care to take the time to elaborate (on what seemed to be a serious topic) despite of the fact that a few of your commentators were curious of what you were trying to say and seemed genuinely interested in a reply from you. The conversation here seems indicative of a lack of a general understanding of intro level ethics.

    Okay so I have been very long winded in making the point that I think was being very obtusely made by Jon-B. But let me sum it up here. Given the fact that it seems that you don’t have the academic background to truly critically assess these things why should we take your comments seriously about anything having to do with religion? Theology is hard, philosophy or religion is hard, ethics, logic and metaphysics are all really difficult fields to dive into. They take work and the issues in each field must be dealt with by use of great academic rigor. If you don’t have the background in these fields and why should I read and take your views (which you often leave unexplained, poorly reasoned [I mean you barely ever argue why any of the premises are wrong but instead merely assert that they are and if you do you don't show how your objections are damning, or you just deny the conclusion which is classic question begging] or just purely dismissive) about religion and ethics and ontological commitment seriously?

    I’m asking you to sell yourself to me. And I come here with open ears and the hope that you can give me reasons for revising my belief.

    • JT Eberhard

      Even if I were to grant that philosophy of religion were hard (I don’t), you’re asking me to spend more of my time than I already spent writing this post to continue arguing with a guy who is arguing that there is a substantial chance that Spiderman exists.

      I have two options here:

      1. Continue to engage as though something productive may come of it.

      2. Write him off.

      I’m writing him off. You can both piss and moan that I just don’t get logic (I suspect that, given the contents of this post it should be obvious where the logical failings lie) and that I’m just writing him off because I’m oh-so-scared (and you both probably will), but the truth is that I’m simply done and moving onto other fish.

      If you’re sold on the Spiderman argument, bully for you. I can’t convince everybody, but I suspect I’ve convinced enough and that’s good enough for me.

      • Robert B.

        I assumed he was kidding, though if so his replies to JT’s reply were impressively deadpan. Maybe he’s Troll Bob Newhart.

      • John Philoponus


        What I’m asking you for is a legitimate reason for me not to write you off.

        Forget the Spiderman argument (it ends up applying to all fictional characters, if you want to know what he was doing you can catch a glimpse here: or see van Inwagens’ “Creatures of Fiction”, American Philosophical Quarterly, 14: 299–308.). Let’s talk about your critiques of the theistic arguments or theistic rationality in general. Are you aware of Alexander Pruss’ work on the cosmological argument (,,, Which takes a significant understanding of metaphysical issues and modal logic etc. Show me where someone has ‘disproven’ his arguments or even take an argument as simple as the kalaam cosmological argument as is often given by William Lane Craig. This argument takes a deep understanding of causation, set theory, infinity theory, and cosmology. These are just some of the beginning level stuff. (Philosophy of religion must be really easy right? You only have to know a decent amount about metaphysics, logic, epistemology, philosophy of mind, ethics, and science, and biblical hermenuetics to stay up on the entirety of the current debate.) Let’s take another example. What does it take for religious faith to be rational? This is one of the many questions that appear in religious epistemology. Are you aware of the issues that come into play with Plantinga’s reformed epistemology, or Pojman and Audi’s discussions about the relationship between faith and rationality vs. belief and rationality? Or Alston’s papers on how to religious experience factors in as a justifier for religious belief? Then let’s go to something as simple as the abortion debate. Given Kantianism what should we think about abortion? What if we take a future-like-ours view on what makes murder wrong? What if we were consequentialists? Would abortion necessarily be wrong if we did grant that the fetus does have a right to life? And how does personhood factor into all of this? If it does we need a theory of what personhood amounts to. And if it does then does this make infanticide permissible?

        These are the topics where people listen to what you have to say. Take the fictional realists argument as a test, can you show that there is something wrong with it? Or if not what is the best way to interpret the argument? Or maybe try to tackle one of the Pruss papers I linked you to. Give me some reason as to why I should take you seriously and I will. Show me that you can rigorously tackle and demolish an argument. Or even debate someone serious in the public square. I quite enjoy your writing and love reading your posts because your style is really fun, but I would like to see you back it up with some serious and hardcore reasoning.

      • Jonathon B

        “Of course spiderman exists. I have seen him. There does in fact exist a character named spiderman, he can be found in Marvel comics. Stan Lee, being the creator of this character, can attest to its existence.”

        Aww how cute the pharynguloid is starting to get it. Yes Spiderman has this very special property. It’s called being merely a fictional character. This property happens to entail not having a body and all of the things you so uncharitably accused me of being committed to. Philoponus was right to leave it open as to what I was committing myself to because it’s very clear that people the pharynguloids are not educated enough on the issues to figure that kind of shit out.

        “Being able to state something in FOPL doesn’t make it true. I don’t know who you’re trying to kid, but generally speaking when you ask someone to consider a question of the objective existence of a thing, they would ask you to provide physical evidence for said thing’s existence.”

        No you’re right it doesn’t which is why I started with a TRUE statement and then translated it into FOPL to illuminate on the fact that Spiderman is a bound variable and that we have to quantify over him in order to make sense of our literary discourse. And as I said by the quinean criterion of ontological commitment we are committed to the existence of Spiderman. It’s not really a big deal, he’s just a fictional character.

        “[W]hen you ask someone to consider a question of the objective existence of a thing, they would ask you to provide physical evidence for said thing’s existence…”

        So you would want to be to provided with physical evidence for the existence of the number two? Or the empty set? Or of states of affairs which don’t obtain? If you do then you’re missing something very fundamental about the natures of these objects. Get the background/read up on these issues before chiming in on something you don’t know about. I feel like there is a quote from Walter Sobchak that could be modified well here “So you have no frame of reference here, Drakk. You’re like a child who wanders into the middle of a movie and wants to know…”

        “Pharyngula is just next door, you know. Why not run this one past them?”

        I don’t cast pearls to swine buddy. The pharynguloids wouldn’t know a good piece of philosophy if it smacked them in the face. I bet you’re average first year philosophy student could take P.Z. on in a debate in philosophy but his little underlings would be too busy being ignoramuses to notice. And this is not just my opinion but one of a decent chunk of my friends in the atheist community, which you probably mock out your ever overpowering ignoramhood and totally miss the point like any other average joe pharynguloid.

        • Jonathon B

          Totally meant that to go on a different group of comments. LOL

  • Compuholic

    I’m no philosopher but from a mathematical standpoint Jonathan’s post is so full of shit.

    First of all JT is absolutely right. Just because you can state something in predicate logic doesn’t determine the truth value.

    A logical formula in general doesn’t have a truth value at all. The same formula can have different truth values depending on the interpretation. That means a formula in predicate logic says exactly zero about its probability of being true.

    And that’s the beauty of mathematical logic: Since it operates only on the syntax of the formula and doesn’t require meaning. So even a computer can perform logical proofs.

    First of all the Quinean Criterion has very little to do with the mathematics of logic. It is a construct that philosophers use to define what is existent and what is not on top of predicate logic. And whether you accept it as a valid criterion for existence is a question of epistemology.

    Mathematics doesn’t say anything about epistemology. And the epistemology determines how you assign truth values for the interpretation.

    So everything you said is dependent of what you accept as truth. Which means everything you said is completely irrelevant because the scientific worldview has a very specific idea of evidence and there is simply no evidence of god whatsoever under this system.

    • Jonathon B


      I find this post interesting because you admit off the bat that you are not assessing the argument I made with the right category of thought: “I’m no philosopher but from a mathematical standpoint Jonathan’s post is so full of shit.” Yes this is a philosophical and more specifically ontological issue, the mathematics merely illuminate what is going on.

      “First of all JT is absolutely right. Just because you can state something in predicate logic doesn’t determine the truth value. ”

      First of all that is not what JT said but what Drakk said. Second, what made it true was that it was a translation of a TRUE sentence in english into FOPL. There are more ways to prove my point. It is a valid inference from:

      (1) Stan Lee created Spiderman


      (2) Stan Lee created something

      Translating it into FOPL merely illuminates on the fact that we have to quantify over Spiderman to make sense out of discourse. All this tells me is that you didn’t read my argument.

      “A logical formula in general doesn’t have a truth value at all.”

      Interesting, but very wrong consider:

      (Any x) x = x


      ~(P&Q) iff ~Pv~Q

      P iff P


      Those are all true no matter what interpretation you give.

      “First of all the Quinean Criterion has very little to do with the mathematics of logic. It is a construct that philosophers use to define what is existent and what is not on top of predicate logic. And whether you accept it as a valid criterion for existence is a question of epistemology.”

      The Quinean criteria does not give a definition of what it is to be existent but it gives one a criteria to figure out what exists and what doesn’t if x is a bound variable then x exists. This is not widely disputed in the philosophical community. If you think you can have a bound variable and it not exist your view starts to look really crazy. Consider:

      (o )There is an x that does not exist

      But what is it for x to exist except for it being the case that there is that thing? So (o ) is equivalent with:

      (o )( o) There is a x such that there isnt an x

      You get a contradiction.

      This is why we accept the accept the existence of theoretical entities in science. We have to quantify over them to make sense out of the scientific discourse.

      I’m confused by what you mean when you say ‘construct’. Do you mean that it’s just something we made up? Because that certainly isn’t right.

      “So everything you said is dependent of what you accept as truth.”

      Sure no problem. If you want to deny that Spiderman is admired by many pimple faced teens or that Spiderman is a marvel character or the he was created by Stan Lee go right ahead. But I’m going to hedge my bets that there are true statements about the marvel character.

      “Which means everything you said is completely irrelevant because the scientific worldview has a very specific idea of evidence and there is simply no evidence of **GOD** [my own emphasis] whatsoever under this system.”

      Translation: I did not read your argument.

      • Compuholic

        Somehow I expected this to come up.

        Yes, I fully admit that I assess your statement from a scientific bias (and to be brutally honest I consider philosophy mostly as some kind of mental masturbation with very little connection to the real world).

        Most of my critique still holds though. A logical formula doesn’t have a truth value. In SOME CASES you know what the truth value is going to be before you even apply an interpretation. That doesn’t change the fact of the matter that an interpretation is necessary to assign a value to the predicates and therefore to the formula.

        Yes you did provide an interpretation for your formula (at least sort of). But you are missing a crucial part -> see later).

        Btw: The separation from the semantics from the syntactical level is one of the absolute basics of mathematical logic and the whole point of the enterprise.

        If you think you can have a bound variable and it not exist your view starts to look really crazy

        If a variable is bound or not doesn’t have anything to do with it (at least not in a scientific relevant viewpoint). Every variable has to be an element of a previously defined (possibly infinite) set of elements. And you haven’t specified that (which is the root of the problem here) which means you moved the problem.

        You are using the existence quantor over an unspecified set of “everything” (whatever that means). Maybe that is a valid practice in philosophy (although I don’t see why this would be sensible to do) but in mathematics that doesn’t make sense.

        Let S again be the Spiderman predicate and x is element of the set of all living humans
        (Any x) S(x)
        will have the value false

        If you use the set of fictional characters the formula will be true.

        Ok, now you will say I can model the set of all fictional characters as another predicate F(x). That is true but that’s exactly what I mean when I say that you moved the problem. Because It now becomes a matter of what reality the predicates mirror.

        The mere fact that I can dream up a set of elements doesn’t mean that it exists (at least not in the sense that it exists as a real world entity outside my brain).

        So the whole disagreement boils down to the fact that you have a very different understanding of existence. Using your logic I can define into existence whatever meaning I can assign to a predicate. Be it aliens, unicorns or spiderman. Which I, quite frankly – and again I admit, I see this from a scientific viewpoint – consider to be insane.

        As to derive a probability of existence of a thing based on an argument alone is complete and utter nonsense in any sense that is meaningful in the real world.

  • Mark

    After reading the comments on this (wonderful) post your subsequent post about how amateur philosophers are such tedious insufferable arses makes a lot more sense. Keep up the good work.