Blogalog phase 1

Cl has graciously accepted my invitation to blogalog.  Here is how it has begun.

After he volunteered and I accepted I wrote…

If we’re doing the existence of god, you wanna go first?

Cl responded…

I was just thinking about that. Why don’t we try thinking outside the box a little bit? It’s just that, I’ve seen so many of these things go down before, we’re both a little off the beaten path as far as (a)theists go…. look, I gotta run and take my daughter to music class, I’ll get back to you a little later today.

FWIW, I think atheists get off too easy, because they have a negative position. I’d like to see an atheist take up a POSITIVE case for once, you know what I mean?

Thanks for the interest, talk soon,

cl

I wrote back…

What would a positive case for the non-existence of something look like?  The best I can think of is, “I know of no evidence to support the existence of this thing.”

What more could someone possibly do?  If I need to lead off with my positive case, that would be my opening.  This is why in structured debate the affirmative side always leads, otherwise the negative side would stand up, say they know of no evidence to support the opposing side, and sit down.

If you’re the one who believes the thing exists, shouldn’t it be on you to provide whatever evidence has convinced you (and supposedly whatever evidence you think should convince me)?

I guess a parallel would be this: what if I asked you to provide a positive case for why you aren’t a thief?  How would you go about it?

He responded…

Hey let’s have this conversation publicly if you don’t mind. If we discuss all the details in public, we can save ourselves a lot of suspicion. At least, that’s been my experience.

I created a post on my blog that has all the content of these emails. I’m trying to wrangle up a few judges to supply commentary, and I also asked commenters for topic suggestions.

Hope to see you over there,

cl

Then…

I will likewise post it to mine.  Let’s keep it to email with the understanding that all emails will get posted to both blogs.

And on we go.  I’ll refrain from many comments I want to make, but will include them in subsequent emails to Cl.

  • jamessweet

    I’ve got a positive case that can be made: The existence of a very powerful (powerful enough that anybody would call it “god” with a straight face) and benevolent being is impossible given the evidential problem of evil. Many interesting apologetics have been proffered to rescue an omnipotent or near-omnipotent benevolent god from the logical problem of evil, but none of them can even touch the evidential version.

    Being who could have stopped 2006 tsunami and didn’t = asshole. I’ll defend that point a thousand times over.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      This is only an argument for a malicious god, not for a deistic god.

      I may eventually ask Cl to define god (so I could point out that it conflicts with science all but certainly). But the above dodge is what you’ll generally see theists do.

      But this does touch on something Matt Dillahunty said to me recently that I think bears mentioning.

      In many debates, God is very loosely defined and quite often seems to point to a nondescript, deistic god – yet I don’t think these are deists in the debate and I doubt there are many deists in the audience. The “god” label is a bit of a cheat, allowing us to smuggle all sorts of baggage on board, without inspection – because every single person presented with an argument that concludes ‘therefore, god exists’ is relying on their own concept of god – even if their personal concept of god isn’t truly compatible with the one in the argument.

      The argument may conclude with ‘therefore God exists’ but what many people conceptualize is ‘therefore I’m justified in believing all the stuff that I believe about Jesus or Allah…etc.”

      That’s a bit of a cheat.

      But the bigger cheat is the second word, ‘exists’. As far as I can tell, when we say something exists we mean that it’s real – that it is present in reality. I’m hard pressed to think of any context, outside of the god claims, where exist means anything other than ‘this is present in reality’. Yet when you look at the god claims, even as loosely defined as they are, they are using the word ‘exists’ in a unique sense; to describe a being that isn’t necessarily present in reality.

      What does it mean to say that something exists, but does so outside of space and time? I have no idea. I don’t even think this makes sense. I’m not a theological noncognitivist (someone who holds that the god claims are unintelligible) because I understand that we can define specific god-concepts in a way that permits us to discuss them…but this idea that a god exists beyond space and time seems flatly absurd.

      He’s right. The god most theists want to defend is seldom the god they actually believe in.

      • Laurence

        I do think that the evidential problem of evil (or suffering) does rule out the god that most people (at least in the US) believe in. So if they want to argue for god, they need some other account. But, yeah, I agree with that god is often defined so loosely that it’s difficult to pin down what exactly they mean.

      • Rory

        To be honest so far I rather doubt this is going to be the really airtight, compelling argument that convinces me of the existence of god, but maybe CI has a reason for leading with his chin. Maybe he’s just lulling JT into a false sense of security.

      • penn

        If there is no possible evidence that can falsify a proposition, then it is a meaningless proposition. I think this is the case with deistic gods. There is no possible evidence that could ever exist to indicate whether or not a deistic god exists. So, if the truth of a proposition has no potential actual effect on reality, then it’s meaningless. If a universe with a deistic god would appear to be exactly the same as an atheistic universe, then it’s a meaningless proposition. Maybe photons are actually tiny angels that appear to have all of the properties of photons. It doesn’t fucking matter. Your just playing semantic games at that point.

  • eric

    I don’t think Cl meant it and I don’t think he’s being deceptive at all, but I have to say, his initial exchange with you made me LOL because of how much it resembled the end of the Euthyphro.

    Socrates: …Speak out then, my dear Euthyphro, and do not hide your knowledge.

    Euthyphryo: Another time, Socrates; for I am in a hurry, and must go now.

    • http://www.thewarfareismental.net/b cl

      Ha yeah that’s funny… they are pretty similar.

  • http://www.atheist-faq.com JT (Generic)

    FWIW, I think atheists get off too easy, because they have a negative position.

    I’m sorry you decided to adopt an indefensible position and we didn’t.

    • Andrew B.

      Yeah, no shit. “Why won’t you make the arguments that I want you to make so I can rebut them? Argh!!!”

      • brianpansky

        ikr? I’m pretty sure it’s called the null hypothesis. It’s what someone who cares about truth starts out with. Only when positive evidence comes along can we make a positive claim contrary to the null hypothesis. Aaaaaaand that’s what we’re waiting for. He didn’t know this?

  • rikitiki

    “I’m sorry you decided to adopt an indefensible position and we didn’t.”

    Yes, you fool, Mwaa-Hah-Ha! That pistol in your hand is no match for the invisible ray-gun in mine!!

    • NotAProphet

      Religion lost to science the day they put lighting-rods on churches!

      • sqlrob

        Why does the Pope need bullet proof glass?

      • sqlrob

        Earlier than that. The day they build churches.

        There’s a nice set of physics holding that building up.

        • http://www.thewarfareismental.net/b cl

          RIght, because the existence of an orderly physics *SO* disproves the existence of an orderly God.

          C’mon you guys, I get that a lot of this is supposed to be rhetorical, but… really?

          • Drakk

            Doesn’t disprove it, but it doesn’t particularly require it either…

          • Daniel Schealler

            Cl, are you familiar with Hume on the subject of miracles?

            Hume on miracles is very relevant to your point about the orderly universe ‘disproving’ an orderly God.

            ‘Proof’ is of course the wrong word – proof only really ‘exists’ in mathematics. All we can really do is gather evidence for and against to find the most justified position, which is a different thing to proving that a given position is absolutely true.

        • http://www.thewarfareismental.net/b cl

          Daniel,

          Cl, are you familiar with Hume on the subject of miracles?

          Yes I am. It is my observation that JT repeatedly echoes Hume’s error: their arguments are based on a defective understanding of probability that unfairly treats isolated events as recurring events. Also, Hume wrote in bondage to Newtonian absolutes that have long since been overturned. I’m already giving too much away here so I’m going to cut it short, but I will do my best to expand this point in my opening statements. If you’re REALLY hungry I can suggest a few books in the meantime…

  • rikitiki

    “I’d like to see an atheist take up a POSITIVE case for once, you know what I mean?”

    Kinda like, I’m POSITIVE there’s no invisible pick unicorn over the next hill? Or, I’m POSITIVE you don’t use a fire-breathing dragon to start your campfire? Or maybe, I’m POSITIVE monkeys won’t come flying out of my butt?

    Then again, I’m pretty POSITIVE none of the above will be accepted as being the POSITIVE that’s being asked for.

  • penn

    It does make a lot more sense for the person making the claim to go first, though. He says some deity exists and he apparently believes that he has convincing evidence. Your belief is just that the evidence is not convincing and you can’t really make a case until you know what specific evidence he is going to cite. It is easier for us because we aren’t making positive claims about the universe. That’s the nature of skepticism. The burden of proof lies on the person making the claim.

    All that said, I could see how an atheist could make a positive case against a specific god, but I don’t see how that works with deities in general. If we were talking about the Christian God, one could argue from the problem of evil (i.e., it’s logically inconsistent for there to exist an all-powerful, all-knowing, and perfectly good god who allows evil in the world). This format doesn’t make a lot of sense, but I see how it could work.

  • crayzz

    “FWIW, I think atheists get off too easy, because they have a negative position. I’d like to see an atheist take up a POSITIVE case for once, you know what I mean?”

    The only time a negative position is easy to maintain is when the opposing positive position has no substance. Try logically maintaining the position that rain is actually just a 10 000 year old, periodic, sporadic mass hallucination and that there is nothing actually there.

    An easier position to maintain could be that relativistic effects aren’t actually there. But then you run into the problems like, “Why does relativity accurately predict the movements of Mercury?” and, “How are our satellites maintaining accurate time when they are correcting for a supposedly non-existent effect?”

  • H.H.

    Positive evidence against the case for god:

    1) If the religious experience was caused by something real, the world’s various religions should be converging on a consensus opinion on the nature of god and the supernatural, just as scientists practicing around the world arrive at same facts.

    2) Prayer doesn’t work any better than chance.

    3) None of the religious texts presumed to be authored by gods contain any knowledge unknown at the time the text was written.

    Of course, there are several excuses one could devise to explain these away, but all would involve special pleading. An honest theist would have to resolve these facts in a manner which is superior to the null hypothesis that god does not exist.

    • http://www.atheist-faq.com JT (Generic)

      I don’t think it is special pleading in many of those cases. It’s not special pleading to say that God doesn’t answer prayer, or that he/she/it didn’t supply any knowledge.

      Of course, the god definition just gets more and more superficial at that point, so all you can really do is disprove particular attributes of the god thing.

      null hypothesis that god does not exist.

      It’s be more proper to say that the null hypothesis position would be that we don’t know that a god exists.

  • NotAProphet

    Just for reference, cl has already put forward a definition for god:

    Well, the premises lead to the conclusion that the First Mover is a being with certain qualities: it must be active, eternal, necessary, pure, intentional, essential, immutable, immaterial, imperishable, and unmovable. These characteristics are not arbitrary; each are logical derivations of Aristotle’s argument (or Aquinas’, in this case). If we remove any one of them, we literally define the First Mover out of existence. For example, if the First Mover were not active, it could not move (that is, it could not instantiate transitions from potency to act). If it were not eternal, it would demand a causal explanation. If it demanded a causal explanation, its cause would become more necessary than it. If something is more necessary than it, it cannot be said to be essential. That which is not essential is not pure. If it is not immaterial, then it becomes subject to the laws of matter, and cannot be imperishable. Etc. It’s all really straight-forward stuff.

    As for the “which everyone understands as God” part, the concept of a “Creator” is ubiquitous. People across cultures and time intuitively associate “God” as “That Which Exists outside of the universe.”

    As for its use, I suggest it is very little. It is mostly tautological, presupposed and/or circular reasoning. Essentially it is him saying “if we hold it up to the observable laws of this universe then it would not exist, so we cannot hold it up to the observable laws of this universe, or it would not exist”!

    Note that his list omits “sentient” and “benevolent”. Also, we have moved on from accepting Aristotelian physics as viable and correct, have we not!?

    • sqlrob

      There’s a possible entrance then.

      There is no need for a First Mover, as Cause / Effect does not always hold. Radioactive Decay, Vacuum Energy, Virtual Particles are evidence.

    • http://www.thewarfareismental.net/b cl

      NotAProphet,

      I know you’re butthurt about that exchange or whatever but please just stop talking lest you confuse able-minded people. What you quote from me is *NOT* my definition of “God” as it pertains to the debate JT and I are about to have. Rather, what you quoted was a logical derivation of the properties any First Mover would seemingly require. That’s why you don’t necessarily see the words “omniscient” or “omnibenevolent” in there. There’s a subtle distinction going on here, but I don’t expect you to understand so… when it comes to how *I* define things for this debate, do us a favor and let me speak for myself. Don’t muddy the water.

      • sqlrob

        My comment applies to ALL first movers. Are you saying your God isn’t a First Mover?

        • http://www.thewarfareismental.net/b cl

          Yes, your comments apply to all first movers. No, I’m not saying the God of the Bible is not a first mover. I don’t use the terms “cause and effect” when defending this argument, so… I don’t know what else to tell you. We’ll just be speaking past one another until you address the argument on its own terms.

          Radioactive decay is a perfect example of a transition from potency to act. Same with your other examples. “Cause and effect” is a rudimentary term that can’t fully convey the underlying principles here. In short, we need a pencil, not a 2×4.

          • sqlrob

            First Mover = Primary Cause.

            No cause and effect means no first mover. You still aren’t addressing my point at all.

            I agree with JT from one of his earlier comments. All you want to do is dodge.

          • http://www.thewarfareismental.net/b cl

            sqlrob,

            No cause and effect means no first mover.

            False. The string, “no cause and effect” means you’re either too lazy or too bent to use the terms of the argument. It also means that you’re the one preventing this discussion from advancing.

            You still aren’t addressing my point at all.

            False. I directly addressed your point and then I asked you to conform to a quite simple protocol—using the terms of the argument instead of throwing up strawmen—and instead you’ve chosen further obfuscation and baseless claims. I’m not surprised that you’d agree with JT, you’re running plays right out of his book.

            I agree with JT from one of his earlier comments. All you want to do is dodge.

            Right, *THAT’S* why I’ve left over 2 dozen comments in this thread, coming back hour after hour… because I’m just so damn quivering in my boots in response to your amateur engagements. How did you ever figure me out? No really, I swear… the verb “dodge” *ACTUALLY* means “show up and engage every point one can find.” LOL!!

      • NotAProphet

        Haha, butthurt, that’s a funny word!

        It’s funny that you think that, since any clear-minded individual can see that your argument was comprehensively disassembled, go check it out guys. The fact that you buried your head in the sand to this does not change the fact.

        It was inevitable really, it’s what happens when you base your argument on concept derived from ignorance.

        • http://www.thewarfareismental.net/b cl

          NotAProphet,

          The fact that you buried your head in the sand to this does not change the fact.

          I didn’t bury my head anywhere. I made the informed judgment that you are incapable of intelligent, civil discourse, and so I stopped responding to you. The playground language was my first cue. Your aversion to clear answers was my second cue. Your refusal to address Jayman’s premises as he wrote them was my third cue, your habit of substituting your own paraphrases for said premises my fourth, and I haven’t been back since.

          In all fairness, it’s wholly possible that I’ve missed something. Did you ever answer those questions? For example, if the only “time” we know of is that which is greater than T=0, why do you claim that Jayman and I have “artificially constrained” the period in question?

  • Daniel Schealler

    What would a positive case for the non-existence of something look like…

    How about:

    Regarding deity X, here are reasons A through Z that justify the position that deity X was invented by mythopoeic storytelling humans.

    Example: John Smith, con-artist, opportunism, couldn’t reproduce the original tablet translation without spurious excuses, nothing in there that John Smith could not arguably have known about, etc, etc.

    Of course, this needs to link to an actual deity X in order to work. It can’t work against the amorphous and ill-defined ‘god’ to which so many theologians and believers retreat only so long as they’re being watched by a skeptic.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.net/b cl

    Just so y’all know, I won’t be defending any wishy-washy, touchy-feely deistic god concept. I’m defending the personal God of the Bible, aka I Am That I Am. I agree with everybody who thinks the “god concept” is a step above a non-starter when it comes to defensible theist positions. You can at least count on that.

    RE evidence…. C’mon people, think about it. Positive evidence for what *JT* believes, not positive evidence *AGAINST* what I believe. Or, perhaps a case about which world view better supports the totality of observable evidence and logical argument. The sky’s the limit, get creative. Think outside that William Lane Craig / New Atheist box. You know you don’t want to see JT and I rehash the same-old same-old internet (a)theist dialog so stop hatin’ and put your minds to it.

    Daniel Schealler,

    Kudos for trying, I like your idea.

    • Joshua Fisher

      Positive evidence for what JT believes? I think you are missing the point. I am sure JT believes lots of things. He (most likely) believes he has a left hand, for example. But that seems a little off topic for the current discussion.

      Atheism is a lack of belief in gods, not a belief in no gods. JT doesn’t have any relevant beliefs to discuss. Sure, he may have beliefs about god claims, but that is different from having beliefs about gods.

      I hate to bang that old drum, but really the god claims part is your department. The only meaningful input an atheist can have is to explain why he finds those claims unconvincing.

      Finally, it isn’t the fault of the atheist if the discussion is the same old boring fare. If you want new discussion quit using all the same, old, busted, tired arguments.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.net/b cl

    Ha, just caught this:

    But the above dodge is what you’ll generally see theists do.

    Oh save it. Tossing out different strategy ideas is *NOT* a dodge. A dodge occurs, when, you know… you completely fail to respond to a rejoinder you know you’re aware of. You know, kinda like what you did in your “Science and Religion are Incompatible” post.

    That’s a dodge, JT. I’ll meet you straight-up, straight-on, any topic, any angle, like I said. Don’t start tryin’ to taunt this early.
    ;)

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      It’s a dodge. I’ve done enough debates to know it’s a dodge.

      You wanted me, you’ve got me in a public forum. That’s the only debate I’m going to have with you right now.

    • Michaelyn

      Wait, are you saying JT not responding to your long comment on that one post is him dodging your argument? To be fair, he usually doesn’t respond to all his comments. If he debated every comment left here by those who disagree, he’d have no time for anything else.

      • http://www.thewarfareismental.net/b cl

        I’m just saying he has no business accusing me of “dodging” anything when he leaves comments un-responded to. Ask yourself: when you think of “dodging,” do you think of people saying, “Hey, is there a different way we can go about this debate stuff?” Or do you think of people, you know… not responding?

        I’ll wager the latter fits the bill but you’re entitled to your own opinion.

        • http://yetanotheratheist.com TerranRich

          I think of people saying, “Hey, is there a different way we can go about this debate stuff?” Especially when you are unable to go about the first way, hence your need for the “different way”.

          If I say, “Show me the evidence your god exists,” and you say, “Hey, we’re going about this all wrong, let’s trying something different…” YOU ARE DODGING.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.net/b cl

    You know nothing of the sort, and you’re wise not to deny the way you dodged my criticism. After all, it *IS* undeniable, you know.

    I didn’t “want” you, either, I just showed up here and pointed out the silliness of one of your posts—which you dodged. You then threw out the offer to debate the larger God issue, and I accepted. I’m happy to oblige, don’t get me wrong, but tell it like it is.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      I deny it right here. I’m only having one debate with you at a time though.

      You’re awfully high on yourself. We’ll see how you do in the blogalog.

      • http://www.thewarfareismental.net/b cl

        LOL! High on myself? You’re the one who feels the need to attend all these high-profile atheist “let’s all get together and talk about our lack-of-faith” gatherings. I’m just another nobody with an opinion or two on the internet.

        • satan augustine

          JT likes to commune with his fellow atheists and you interpret this as him being “High on himself”?

          This response is to cl’s comment nested within comment 13 (in case it doesn’t show up there.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.net/b cl

    I deny it right here.

    Ha! Pure comedy. I simply suggest taking a different tack to avoid the same-old same-old (a)theist dialog, and you know for certain that’s a dodge, but you leave my rejoinder COMPLETELY UNTOUCHED and that’s somehow *NOT* a dodge. Yeah, the definitions thing is definitely a good idea, seeing as how you apparently redefine “dodge” to something that permits “leaving a rejoinder completely untouched.” LOL!

    Anyhow, next question: on that “AtheismResource” website, you’ve got a series “12 Basic Arguments” or whatnot… I’ve been going through it, it poops out on the fifth argument (with “poops out” meaning fails to link to the rest of the arguments). Is that because your responses to said articles don’t exist? Or, do they actually exist, and there’s just some technical problem on behalf of that site and/or my browser?

  • Daniel Schealler

    @cl

    I’ve tried clicking on your name to follow through to what I assume is your website, but my proxy server is having issues with it.

    Just to check: Is http://www.thewarfareismental.net/b the correct address?

    In case you’re interested, the error I’m getting is:

    Problem encountered: The server took too long to respond. The server may be slow, busy, or offline.

    This is something our proxy throws up from time to time. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t have anything to do with your actual site, so don’t stress if you can view it yourself.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.net/b cl

    Yeah that’s the right URL. It’s their bunk server, I’m chapped, this happens often. First I checked to see if I’d missed a payment, nope. Now you’ve confirmed it. I’ve got a couple client sites on that server, too. Hang tight, sorry for the inconvenience.

    • Daniel Schealler

      Actually, if it’s not too late don’t get too smoke-and-brimstone about poor service just yet.

      As I said above: Our proxy occasionally does this for its on arcane reasons that don’t seem to have anything to do with actual availability.

      You should confirm that there’s a problem from someone who isn’t stuck behind my proxy server before getting too worked up about it, because my problem could very well be with my proxy and not your hosting provider.

      • Marshall

        I can confirm that it does not work for me.

        • Drakk

          isup.me shows it as being down.

          • Daniel Schealler

            HOW DID I NOT KNOW ABOUT THIS WEBSITE!

            >.<

            Thanks Drakk. I work in IT. I really, really, really should have known about that already.

  • sqlrob

    Cl,

    In light of the data at this link, what is the definition of your god?

    • http://www.thewarfareismental.net/b cl

      YHWH.

      • Daniel Schealler

        ‘YHWH’ is a label, not a definition.

      • sqlrob

        You specify something that according to that link has no coherent definition.

        No coherent definition means it doesn’t exist. You just argued against yourself.

  • http://vitalmis.com Keith Harwood

    cl is wrong, atheists don’t have it easy. Theists can just make stuff up; atheists can’t, they have to justify what they say.

    • http://www.thewarfareismental.net/b cl

      Nonsense. All you have to do is plug your ears and say, “Nope! No good evidence!” and that’s what most of y’all do (besides denigrate those you fancy yourselves intellectually superior to, and whine about the presence of religious iconography littered throughout the world).

      • Marshall

        Really? Tell us what this evidence is that you claim we are deliberately ignoring. Note that I am requesting EVIDENCE of the existence of the CHRISTIAN GOD. If you’re going to claim that we are unthinkingly refusing to look at evidence, it should be very simple to point to that evidence, right?

        • http://www.thewarfareismental.net/b cl

          Certainly, and very easy it is. Here’s an example I came up with in under 10 seconds, from the thread we were both on just the other day:

          Please present your evidence for consideration. Just to head it off, the bible doesn’t count. At all. [Drakk, to Jayman]

          Oh, okay, well… there you go. Head. In. Sand.

          • Marshall

            First of all, I was asking you to present evidence of the Christian god, not evidence that atheists are ignoring evidence. Secondly, it is not sticking your head in sand to point out that the Bible cannot be used as evidence until you first demonstrate that there is any reason to believe that it is TRUE. Can you do this?

          • Konradius

            Cl scribbled:

            Certainly, and very easy it is. Here’s an example I came up with in under 10 seconds, from the thread we were both on just the other day:

            Please present your evidence for consideration. Just to head it off, the bible doesn’t count. At all. [Drakk, to Jayman]

            Oh, okay, well… there you go. Head. In. Sand.

            Really? That’s what it takes?
            Ok, you present the evidence “bible”. I present the counter evidence “quantum physics”.
            And my evidence is obviously more powerful that yours!
            Wow, this debating christian apologist style is even easier than I ever imagined.

          • sqlrob

            The Bible is evidence? Really?

            Adam and Eve – Minimum Human Population was ~10,000. Try again.

            Creation – Which one, Genesis 1 & 2 contradict? Order is wrong even if you assume “a day for god is not a day”. Where’s the metal sky that the lanterns are mounted on?

            Exodus – Jews were never slaves in Egypt. No archaeological evidence of thousands to millions wandering the heavily fortified

            Flood – Not enough water on the planet, no geological evidence, other civilizations have a continuous historical record when this was supposed to have happened.

            Jesus – Which one? Contradictory timelines and bloodlines. There’s a pretty hard lack of documentation of zombies at the time of resurrection.

            If we take the Bible as evidence, it’s evidence against the existence of God. Want to reconsider your stance on using it as evidence?

          • NotAProphet

            Oh, oh, I’ve got one!

            If Adam and Eve only had two sons, where did the rest of humanity come from? Parthenogenesis?

          • NotAProphet

            Apologies, three.

      • Daniel Schealler

        Marshall does have a point, cl.

        I once had a Witness come to my door on Saturday morning, and we got into conversation. My atheism unnerved her a bit, but she soldiered through it. When she asked why I didn’t believe, I cited lack of evidence as a big reason.

        She looked over and pointed at a nearby tree. “But don’t you see? That tree exists – it is part of God’s creation. The evidence is all around you.”

        The woman wasn’t disingenuous in any way: She sincerely thought that this was a fair and accurate answer, which put me in the awkward position of trying to explain to someone old enough to be my grandmother why that answer wasn’t adequate. It’s very hard to do that without sounding like you’re talking down… It was just awkward.

        My personal experience with theists that present ‘evidence’ in favor of God is that it is all similarly bad. Obviously one has to guard against the CAN-I/MUST-I version of extreme confirmation bias that leads to rejecting or accepting a stance on the flimsiest of grounds. Which is tricky, because it is hard to see the bias in ourselves because for a large part our biases are what we see with.

        But even so, at my most fair and open-minded, I’ve never been presented with evidence by a believer that has stood up to casual scrutiny.

        Other beliefs I have come to hold about the world around me weren’t so flimsy. And I have been very biased against some of them before accepting them as well. The big ones that spring to mind has been a gradual and ongoing eye-opening experience in regards to the privilege I enjoy as a white college-educated male professional currently in my twenties. Coming to accept that, admitting that my previous beliefs to the contrary were mistaken and morally wrong, and letting them go was tough at the time, and I resisted quite hard.

        Which is really an unverifiable anecdote as to my character when it comes to my ability to change my mind in the face of solid evidence coupled with logical persuasion… And as all such anecdotes, should of course be taken with a large gran of salt. ^_^

        With that in mind, it is a little unfair to suggest that all we have to do is plug your ears and say, “Nope! No good evidence!”

        If it were true that this is what we’re doing, then you may have a point. That’s one of the criticisms the skeptical community levels against many woo-advocates, that they refuse to consider the hard and mounting evidence that homeopathy fails to outperform similarly administered placebo treatment in double-blind trials, that sort of thing.

        So the criticism that we are turning a blind eye to evidence, plugging our ears against facts we do not want to hear, is a valid criticism – if, of course, it can be shown to be true.

        I don’t think it’s true. At least, I don’t think it’s true of most of us, anyway. I’m sure you could find a few like that, there’s always a couple like that floating around in any group.

        I’m pretty sure that I’ve been paying attention to the arguments presented by religious believers, the ‘evidence’ that they bring forward in support of their beliefs… And the dominating feature hasn’t been that I’ve turned aside from it (of course, I would think that, wouldn’t I?) but that it has failed to stand up to scrutiny in a way that other beliefs I have examined with similar or even greater intensity have been able to do.

        The best way to counter this is to actually present some of this wonderful evidence that we have been allegedly plugging our ears against. We’ll consider it carefully – and if it turns out not to pass muster, we’ll tell you why. If we dismiss it, you can at least expect that our dismissal should be justified.

        And you never know. You might be the first one to come along with something genuinely new and interesting that we haven’t already heard a hundred times before. The universe is huge and old: Stranger things have almost surely happened at some point.

        I’d really like to hear some of the best evidence you have to bring to the table on the subject… But then again, you may want to save that for your discussion with JT. If so, I’d actually recommend saving it for that discussion. I would prefer to hear how your discussion with JT plays out first while the waters are clear and then charge in and muddy the waters with my own self-opinionated views. It just seems like the proper order in which to do things. ^_^

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.net/b cl

    Marshall,

    …I was asking you to present evidence of the Christian god, not evidence that atheists are ignoring evidence.

    I gave you both.

    Secondly, it is not sticking your head in sand to point out that the Bible cannot be used as evidence until you first demonstrate that there is any reason to believe that it is TRUE.

    With all due respect, that’s patent nonsense. Consider the short-lived career of the defense attorney who would make this claim: “It is not sticking your head in the sand to point out that the bloody knife cannot be used as evidence until you first demonstrate that there is any reason to believe the plaintiff’s theory is true.” Silly, right? So why should I respect the same line of “reasoning” just because we’re talking about God?

    Can you do this?

    I believe I can, but I don’t expect you or anybody else here to agree.

    Daniel,

    Marshall does have a point, cl.

    Then perhaps you can articulate that point in a way that isn’t easily shone laughable?

    The woman wasn’t disingenuous in any way: She sincerely thought that this was a fair and accurate answer, which put me in the awkward position of trying to explain to someone old enough to be my grandmother why that answer wasn’t adequate.

    That’s just the problem: it *IS* adequate for her. It is *NOT* adequate for you. Who’s right? How do you know? It really boils down to values at that point. What we call “adequate” isn’t some objective standard “out there” in nature. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that by “adequate” you’re probably referring to something more than “that tree over there,” and I’m with you. Don’t worry, I’m not going to point to a shrub and ask you to repent.

    It’s very hard to do that without sounding like you’re talking down…

    Hey, at least you care enough to be empathetic in that regard.

    Obviously one has to guard against the CAN-I/MUST-I version of extreme confirmation bias that leads to rejecting or accepting a stance on the flimsiest of grounds. Which is tricky, because it is hard to see the bias in ourselves because for a large part our biases are what we see with.

    Well said, I agree.

    …at my most fair and open-minded, I’ve never been presented with evidence by a believer that has stood up to casual scrutiny.

    What’s “casual scrutiny?”

    The big ones that spring to mind has been a gradual and ongoing eye-opening experience in regards to the privilege I enjoy as a white college-educated male professional currently in my twenties. Coming to accept that, admitting that my previous beliefs to the contrary were mistaken and morally wrong, and letting them go was tough at the time, and I resisted quite hard.

    See—and no offense intended here, as I truly appreciate your candor and willingness to share details from your personal life—but that strikes me as just outright weird. I don’t understand how anybody could even doubt that in the first place. But like I said, Descartes already proved that one can doubt anything but their own doubt, so go figure…

    With that in mind, it is a little unfair to suggest that all we have to do is plug your ears and say, “Nope! No good evidence!”

    I don’t know if it’s unfair or not, but I know it’s true. I’m not saying there’s no such thing as an intelligent, engaging skeptic. I’m just saying that when it gets down to it, the person hearing a positive case can just resort to denial. I’ve seen it happen countless times, and I’ll wager you have, too.

    I don’t think it’s true. At least, I don’t think it’s true of most of us, anyway.

    Well, maybe in your experience it’s not true. In my experience, it’s true. I did qualify my statement with “most” which should indicate that I’m being careful (i.e., not making broad over-generalizations about *ALL* atheists).

    I sincerely enjoyed your comment. Atheists like yourself and Marshall stand out to me. And yes, I’m going to be holding my cards for JT, so… I hope you stick around.

    • Daniel Schealler

      @Marshall

      That’s just the problem: it *IS* adequate for her. It is *NOT* adequate for you.

      This… Is a problem. I’ll address it at the end.

      What’s “casual scrutiny?”

      That’s me trying to find a nice way of saying ‘not having to try very hard before finding a problem’.

      I’m just saying that when it gets down to it, the person hearing a positive case can just resort to denial. I’ve seen it happen countless times, and I’ll wager you have, too.

      That’s sword cuts both ways.

      A person hearing a positive case may resort to denial. But then again, they may have a very good reason for rejecting the positive case.

      The person giving the positive case may then resort to denial of the good reasons why their case was rejected.

      Considering the earlier example of the Bible: If the authority of the Bible rests on the assumption that it was inspired by God, but the existence of God is itself the matter under contention, then it follows that granting the Bible it’s claim to authority must first assume the existence of God*.

      Assuming the matter under contention is a logical fallacy.

      Identifying that an argument is logically invalid, or identifying that one of the premises of an argument can be shown to be untrue, are both equally justified grounds for rejecting that argument.

      Consider again the ‘evidence’ supplied by the Witness. Pointing to a tree and saying Look, what a wondrous part of God’s creation, there’s evidence all around us – how can God not be true? commits the same fallacy of relying on the assumption of God’s existence as the underlying cause of the tree in order to conclude God’s existence.

      That’s a flawed argument – as it must be. We can prove anything if presuming the conclusion is permitted. I assume that I have a million dollars – therefore, I have a million dollars. It’s a trivial tautological assertion masquerading as a real argument.

      As such, it should have been obvious that the Witness’ argument was inherently flawed in this way. The Witness I can understand. It was apparent from our conversation that she had never pursued training in critical reasoning – which is fine. Critical reasoning is not something that comes to people naturally. People are of course great natural rationalizers, but keeping to a genuinely rational train of thought takes a bit of effort and training: What many people call logic is not.

      I had you pegged as rational. So it is a little bit concerning to me that you didn’t recognize the Witness’ argument as a flawed one straight away.

      Recall that denial is a double-edged sword. I admit that it is possible that in your personal experience atheists will resort to finger-in-ears denial in the face of solid possible evidence for God. It doesn’t even threaten me if it’s true – my position is not undermined just because people who agree with me have bad reasons for doing so. Their reasons are not mine… Or at least, I certainly hope they’re not. ^_^

      But I should hope that you would admit that it is also possible for a fair and open-minded individual to reject supplied evidence on completely legitimate grounds, only to have the evidence-giver be the one that plugs their ears in the face of counter-arguments to their evidence and arguments.

      Additionally, if you do not already agree with me that identifying logical fallacies, non sequitur logic or false premises in an argument are legitimate reasons for rejecting that argument… Then we have a problem that we’re not likely to get past no matter how much we talk past each other.

      Because if that is the case, then talking past each other is all that we will be likely to do.

      (*Note: This doesn’t mean that we can’t examine the Bible critically. The question of examining a historic text is not ‘Is this text free of bias?’ because of course it isn’t, regardless of the text in question. Texts are always biased because they are written by humans, and humans are always biased.

      The actual question that we should ask is: Can we draw reliable information from this particular source despite its bias?

      That’s a very different question to be asking. But that is (in my experience) almost never how religious people who wish to quote the bible in support of their views use it. Nearly always when someone raises the topic of the Bible, they cite chapter and verse as if it were God-given scripture (I know, right?) and hold to the suspiciously convenient notion that anything we discover in the Bible that may seem to be a contradiction must be a clarification, and that the only contradiction appears in our own minds…

      This rather neatly moves the Bible into the realm of the unfalsifiable… Which is of course another justified reason for dismissing such arguments.

      Admittedly, not all believers will attempt to use the Bible to persuade unbelievers using the mode of the authority of scriptural recitation… But for the depressing, exhausting, utterly boring vast majority of conversations I have had with believers on the subject that have wished to use the Bible have used it in this way. A knee-jerk reaction to disqualifying Biblical ‘evidence’ is perhaps hasty on the part of an atheist, but it’s not a move that is without some considerably exhaustive precedent to back it up.)

      P.S. On review, this comment turned out to be much, much longer than originally intended. I stripped and summarized where I could, but this is as small as I could make it and still cover everything I wanted to cover.

      Sorry about the huge wall of text, but it was the best I could do for the moment.

      • Daniel Schealler

        Gah. And immediately posting I realize that I didn’t spot the @Marshall at the top of my comment, despite liberal use of the ‘Preview’ function.

        Review fail.

        Obviously, my previous comment was directed @cl.

      • sqlrob

        “Assuming the matter under contention is a logical fallacy.”

        Not quite. If you assume it and it’s consistent with the evidence, it’s a fallacy to assume it’s true.

        If you assume it and it’s inconsistent with the evidence, then you know it’s false.

        The bible has been demonstrated as false. Therefore the implied assumptions of either “bible is the inerrant word of god” or “god exists” is false. At least one of those must be false. Heck, You don’t even need to refer to an external source to disprove the bible

        • http://www.thewarfareismental.net/b cl

          This is unsupported, ambiguous, deceptive rhetorical propaganda, much like the type I see from pastor Eberhard. You lack the scholarship required to craft conservatively-stated claims that actually comport with reality. Your claims are so amateur that I cannot in good faith take them seriously.

          Like I said, sit back and enjoy the show.

          • Rory

            What a worthless fuckwit you are. If your idiotic drivel is the best god can offer, then he must be exceptionally feeble.

    • Drakk

      With all due respect, that’s patent nonsense. Consider the short-lived career of the defense attorney who would make this claim: “It is not sticking your head in the sand to point out that the bloody knife cannot be used as evidence until you first demonstrate that there is any reason to believe the plaintiff’s theory is true.” Silly, right? So why should I respect the same line of “reasoning” just because we’re talking about God?

      That…doesn’t seem analogous.

      A bloody knife is a piece of physical evidence. That fact that it’s there at all is the evidence for a person having committed a murder or whatever you might do with a knife. The knife in this case is used as evidence to support the plaintiff’s theory (which I suppose in this case is “he did it!”). The knife itself is the reason to believe the plaintiff’s theory is true.

      The bible doesn’t work that way. It’s a book with things written in it. It makes claims, meaning it can’t be used as evidence to support those claims. You can use the fact that the bible exists as evidence for…some things. Like the fact that people wrote these stories. If you can use the bible as evidence for the existence of god without referring to what’s written in it then that would be analogous.

  • Marshall

    With all due respect, that’s patent nonsense. Consider the short-lived career of the defense attorney who would make this claim: “It is not sticking your head in the sand to point out that the bloody knife cannot be used as evidence until you first demonstrate that there is any reason to believe the plaintiff’s theory is true.” Silly, right? So why should I respect the same line of “reasoning” just because we’re talking about God?

    No, that’s not at all analogous to what I just said. Can I use ‘At the Mountains of Madness’ as evidence of the existence of shoggoths WITHOUT showing that ‘At the Mountains of Madness’ is a reliable account of events that actually occurred? Of course not. You’re being, I think, deliberately cryptic. Of course, you have said that you’re saving what you’ve got for your exchange with JT, so please, do so. I’m very curious to see what comes out of this.

    • Laurence

      I’m happy that you used “At the Mountains of Madness” in your post. It’s a great story.

      • Marshall

        Indeed, I sometimes have this fight against myself where I’m not sure whether I like ‘At the Mountains of Madness’ or ‘The Shadow Over Innsmouth’ more. ‘At the Mountains of Madness’ always squeaks by as the victor, though.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.net/b cl

    For anybody that cares my website is back up and running.

    sqlrob,

    The paucity of your comment at April 19, 2012 at 9:36 am suggests that you haven’t given these issues serious, unbiased consideration, and you’ve also failed to understand the requisite context. My claim that led to our exchange was that atheists have it easy, all they have to do is draw a line in the sand and project the appearance of justified dissent. I’m not going to debate these things with you here, as that would be tantamount to showing JT my hand, but I will briefly address one example to show why you need to get your facts straight:

    Exodus – Jews were never slaves in Egypt. No archaeological evidence of thousands to millions wandering the heavily fortified

    …the heavily fortified what? See what I mean about atheists having it easy? Can you at least pay me the charity of completing a sentence? Hell, is that even original writing? Or did you just botch a copy-and-paste on the first website you could find that “proves” your point?

    You say there is “no evidence” for the Exodus. First, there are literally dozens if not hundreds of similar “no evidence for alleged Bible event X” -type claims which have been falsified. You atheist doubters also said there was “no evidence” for Pilate, “no evidence” for David, “no evidence” for Abraham… you see? You’re confirming my hypothesis right here and you don’t even know it. Like I said, all an atheist has to do is plug their ears and distort the truth by saying “Oh, there’s no evidence.”

    Is it accurate to claim there is “no evidence?” Briefly: you seemingly ignore the fact that we find references to Israel in Egyptian epigraphy. The Stele of Merneptah records the boasting of Merneptah, who ruled Egypt circa thirteenth-century BCE and claimed that he had “humbled Israel.” The omission of the customary determinative sign denoting “land” corroborates the idea of a nomadic tribe. Sure, there is still much discussion that could be had here, but I falsified your “no evidence” claim in two seconds. Did you even know about this stele? Answer honestly.

    My advice? Withhold your judgment, sit back, and enjoy the show.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.net/b cl

    Daniel,

    That’s me trying to find a nice way of saying ‘not having to try very hard before finding a problem’.

    Similarly, almost every time I’m confronted with an atheist criticism, it’s never very hard to find a solution, except in a scant minority of cases. That’s been my experience with the vast majority (> 95%) of atheist criticisms.

    But then again, they may have a very good reason for rejecting the positive case.

    Of course, I’m just trying to explain that in my experience, this is hardly ever the case. Who knows? Maybe you’re different.

    If the authority of the Bible rests on the assumption that it was inspired by God, but the existence of God is itself the matter under contention, then it follows that granting the Bible it’s claim to authority must first assume the existence of God*.

    Not really, although I get what you’re saying. After all what atheist hasn’t experience the frustration of debating a Christian who says, “I know God exists because the Bible says so and God wrote it?” I do not grant the Bible it’s authority based on the assumption that God exists. I grant the Bible it’s authority based on its empirical victories (among other things), then reason from to support the claim that God exists.

    Identifying that an argument is logically invalid, or identifying that one of the premises of an argument can be shown to be untrue, are both equally justified grounds for rejecting that argument.

    I agree, and I will demonstrate—conclusively beyond all shadow of a doubt—that, in his written assessments, JT does not reject various arguments on behalf of invalidity and/or unsoundness.

    Consider again the ‘evidence’ supplied by the Witness. Pointing to a tree and saying Look, what a wondrous part of God’s creation, there’s evidence all around us – how can God not be true? commits the same fallacy of relying on the assumption of God’s existence as the underlying cause of the tree in order to conclude God’s existence.

    I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that was just an elderly woman’s best attempt at paraphrasing the First Cause argument and/or the argument from design. I’m interested in hearing your objections to either.

    Critical reasoning is not something that comes to people naturally. People are of course great natural rationalizers, but keeping to a genuinely rational train of thought takes a bit of effort and training: What many people call logic is not.

    Well said.

    I had you pegged as rational. So it is a little bit concerning to me that you didn’t recognize the Witness’ argument as a flawed one straight away.

    Likewise, I had you pegged as rational and thorough, so it is a little bit concerning to me that you didn’t recognize my disapproval of the Witness’ argument in the beginning of my original reply (the “shrub” remark).

    But I should hope that you would admit that it is also possible for a fair and open-minded individual to reject supplied evidence on completely legitimate grounds, only to have the evidence-giver be the one that plugs their ears in the face of counter-arguments to their evidence and arguments.

    Of course. Irrationality is a human plague, not an (a)theist one.

    Sorry about the huge wall of text, but it was the best I could do for the moment.

    It’s all good, write as much as you want. I’m interested in what you have to say so I’ll read it all, because you come across different than the average condescending atheist with a superiority complex.

    • http://talkorigins.org jatheist

      cl wrote: “you come across different than the average condescending atheist with a superiority complex.”

      what…a…dick…

      • Marshall

        AND said with apparently no sense of self awareness. Look throughout this thread. If you can find someone acting in a MORE condescending manner or with more of an inflated sense of their own superiority than cl is, I’ll mail you a cookie.

        • http://talkorigins.org jatheist

          Of course you’re right… which kinda upsets me – I could really use a cookie right about now! ;)


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