Tuesday, December 08, 2009

A question for agnostics

Coined by English biologist Thomas Huxley in 1860, the word agnostic has taken several forms over the years. Agnosticism typically addresses the knowledge of God's existence, but most agnostics don't stop there. They often take a position on the existence of objective truth as well. One agnostic will say, "I don't know, but you don't know either," or, "I don't know, and I can't know. And, neither can anyone else." Others say, "I don't know now, but maybe some day there will be more evidence and I'll know then."

So I have a question for anyone who is an agnostic. How do you know that agnosticism is correct?

If you say, "Well, I don't know," then, why are you agnostic if you have no basis for it? Or maybe you say, "In the absence of any convincing evidence, agnosticism is the best position to take." But how do you know that agnosticism is the best position to take in the absence of any convincing evidence? Where's your evidence for that?

It seems that, no matter how you slice it, agnosticism is a claim to knowledge.

124 comments:

  1. If I ask you what I have in this box in my hands, you would probably say, "I don't know." Is that a claim to knowledge? Of course I can open the box and show you.

    Do you think agnostics are being disingenuous?

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  2. In my post I mentioned that agnostics often take a position against the existence of objective truth. In that sense, they are not necessarily being disingenuous, just illogical. If they've thought it through and continue to claim that there is no truth, then they're being disingenuous.

    The opposite of agnosticism is not omniscience, as suggested by your illustration. I believe it is possible to know what is in the box in your hand. That is a claim to knowledge.

    On a scale of 1-100, how sure are you that agnosticism, as a worldview, is correct?

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  3. Saying that we can know nothing is illogical. Saying that there is no objective truth is not necessarily illogical. The alternative to objective truth is subjective truth. It comes back to the old idea: How do you know that anything exists outside your own mind? Of course my gut instinct is that what I experience is not just a product of my own imagination, but comes from the world around me. Some people define objective truth as truth that is "mind-independent". Does this mean that it must be true independently of all minds? If that is the case then how is possible to know?

    All truth is subjective. Is that a self-contradictory statement?

    For me the bottom line is that I do the best that I can to understand the world around me. I have learned that I can't always believe what I see, or hear, but there are many things that I believe which I would consider to be justified true beliefs. Does that mean I believe in objective truth? I really don't have a problem with the idea of objective truth, I just don't know how you can know that something is absolutely and objectively true.

    So on a scale of 1-100 I would give agnosticism a 50.

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  4. Yes, the statement, "All truth is subjective" is self-contradictory, since the statement itself claims to be true. And, since it makes no exceptions, the statement applies to itself, and therefore contradicts itself. If it does not claim to be true, then it may be false, and, if false, then not all truth is subjective.

    Put another way, if all truth is subjective, then no truth is objective, including the statement that all truth is subjective! So, saying there is no objective truth is necessarily illogical.

    The problem with agnosticism saying we can't know anything for sure is that it is a claim to know something for sure.

    However, if you believe in the laws of logic, you believe in objective truth. The problem, as Bahnsen pointed out, is justifying the existence of anything abstract, universal, and invariant in a materialistic world. In such a world, you are correct to wonder how you can know that anything is objectively true. But you and I both know these things exist. As Bahnsen told Stein, You are "borrowing my worldview."


    So you are 50% sure that agnosticism is true. How sure are you that you are 50% sure?

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  5. Is this statement self-contradictory?

    I don't know if objective truth exists.

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  6. You seem to be saying it's impossible to say "I don't know."

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  7. I think you do know that objective truth exists. In fact, if you disagree with me, you are in a bit of a bind, since you are saying that my statement is false and your statement is true! Are you saying that it's true that you don't know if objective truth exists?


    Dedwarmo: "You seem to be saying it's impossible to say 'I don't know.'"

    Not at all. I think it's perfectly fine to say "I don't know" (except when you do know, of course).

    Again, the existence of objective truth does not imply omniscience. I believe that objective truth exists, but there is plenty that I don't know!

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  8. "I don't know" is not exactly the position of the agnostic.

    A better summary of the agnostic is...

    "Based on my knowledge, understanding, and interpretation of the prevailing evidence, I tentatively believe that there is no God."

    Of course, I'm a former agnostic turned full-blown atheist so maybe my opinion doesn't apply.

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  9. Perry, your definition describes a very weak agnosticism which many people do not hold.

    Here are some other definitions I found:

    Princeton.edu defines "agnostic" as "A person who claims that they cannot have true knowledge about the existence of God (but does not deny that God might exist)." And it defines "agnosticism " as "a denial of ultimate knowledge of the existence of God) 'agnosticism holds that you can neither prove nor disprove God's existence.'" (Emphasis added)

    As I mentioned in the OP, many agnostics also deny the existence of ultimate knowledge or objective truth. A more popular definition of this position can be found at wiktionary: "The view that absolute truth or ultimate certainty is unattainable, especially regarding knowledge not based on experience or perceivable phenomena." (Emphasis added)

    So, while you were an agnostic, did you believe in the existence of objective truth? Do you now?

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  10. Bobmo,

    You're creating a straw man which I have no inclination to debate. You ascribe a certitude about knowledge that I would never claim to hold.

    My belief about any subject (God, gravity, truth, etc.) is alway prefaced by the following statement.

    "Based on my knowledge, understanding, and interpretation of the prevailing evidence, I tentatively believe that..."

    So, based on my knowledge, understanding and interpretation of the prevailing evidence, I tentatively believe that objective truth does not exist.

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  11. Perry, is it objectively true that
    based on your knowledge, understanding and interpretation of the prevailing evidence, you tentatively believe that objective truth does not exist?

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  12. Based on my knowledge, understanding and interpretation of the prevailing evidence, I tentatively believe that it is not objectively true that
    based on my knowledge, understanding and interpretation of the prevailing evidence, I tentatively believe that objective truth does not exist.

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  13. Perry, is that statement objectively true?

    What you've done is gotten yourself into an infinite regress, and you're not even sure if you believe any of your own statements!

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  14. I'm not sure of anything. But I feel comfortable living with unsureness. For me, this position is preferable to a 100% belief in something that is wrong.

    The infinite regress is merely an inherent weakness in language.

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  15. Perry, I'm afraid you've twisted yourself into a logical pretzel Auntie Annie would be proud of.

    You said you are not sure of anything, but are you sure that you are not sure of anything?

    Do you see the logical contradiction here? In order for your statement to be true, you can't be sure that it's true. But if you are sure that it's true, then the statement is false!

    Furthermore, you said that this is preferable to a 100% belief in something that is wrong. But how would you know that something is wrong, if you are not sure of anything?

    And, if you are not sure of anything, then anything could be wrong, including your belief that anything could be wrong!

    Your desire to avoid a "100% belief in something wrong" implies that some things are indeed wrong. However, if you were to give me an example of something wrong, you would immediately contradict your statement that you are not sure of anything.

    Here is a logical progression:

    1. I am not sure of anything.
    2. I am not sure that I am not sure of anything.
    3. Therefore, I am not sure that my original statement is correct.
    4. Therefore, my original statement may be incorrect.
    5. Therefore, I may be sure of something.
    6. Therefore, I am sure that I may be sure of something.
    7. Therefore, I am sure of something.

    By the way, are you sure that the infinite regress is merely an inherent weakness in language?

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  16. Perhaps uncertainty about any subject is illogical in a system of binary logic but I don't ascribe to this antiquated form of logic.

    My statements are perfectly logical and consistent in the more modern Multi-value systems of logic.

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  17. Bobmo, how do you define truth?

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  18. Perry, you said you don't ascribe to binary (either-or) logic. So, to paraphrase Ravi Zacharias, are you saying that I must use EITHER "multi-value logic" OR nothing else?

    (Take a look at an earlier post I made on the same subject of "either-or" vs. "both-and" logic)

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  19. Dedwarmo, you still owe me an answer.

    You said you are are 50% sure that agnosticism is true. How sure are you that you are 50% sure?

    As for a definition of truth, I agree with Aristotle's description, which is as follows. “To say of what is that it is not, or of what is not that it is, is false; while to say of what is that it is, or of what is not that it is not, is true.”

    Do you agree that the statement, "All truth is subjective" is self-contradictory?

    Do you agree that two statements which contradict each other cannot both be true at the same time and in the same way?

    Do you agree with Perry that when choosing either "either-or" or "Multi-value logic" "either-or" is incorrect and we should choose "Multi-value logic" instead?

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  20. @Bobmo - No. You're trying to apply binary logic which creates a false dichotomy.

    In multi variable logic your question has no answer. Either / or questions are illogical.

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  21. Perry, either "either-or" questions are logical, or they're not. In saying that "multi-value" logic is logical and binary logic is illogical, you are using binary logic to argue against binary logic.

    You stated that choosing between the two methods is a false dichotomy. So, is it illogical to say that this choice is either a false dichotomy or it isn't?

    And, if I can't choose between the two types of logic, can I use both? Or, since one of them is illogical, shouldn't I just use the logical one?

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  22. Two types of logic do not exist. Binary logic does not exist. There is just multi-variable logic. So, your questions are unanswerable.

    It's like dividing by zero.

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  23. Perry, when you say that binary logic does not exist, you are using binary logic. And, in doing so, your argument is self-defeating. Either something exists or it doesn't. There are only two choices there. That's binary logic. Saying that binary logic does not exist is a self-contradictory statement.

    I think you are confusing the fact that some questions have more than one answer with the existence of binary logic. Some questions have a range of answers, and some statements can even be placed on a "truth scale" (e.g., "I feel fine today" may be more true today than it was yesterday, or partly true and partly false.) But even for a question with three answers, it is still either true or false that it has three answers. And if an answer is partly true and partly false, it's still either true or false that it's partly true and partly false.

    And if there are three answers on Monday and four on Tuesday, it's still either true or false that there are three answers on Monday and four on Tuesday.

    Talk to any computer programmer and they'll tell you that binary logic is the basis of all modern computing.

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  24. Binary logic is not relevant in a system of quantum logic. Computers currently use binary logic but they won't when quantum computing is implemented.

    Things can exist, not exist, and also be in a state of simultaneous existence/non-existence. Similarly, things can be true, not true, and in a state of true/not true.

    It's understandable that you are unable to break out of your binary logic system. The human brain seems naturally programmed to see in "black and white".

    Curious, what do you believe is the answer to 1/0?

    On a slightly different tangent, perhaps you could explain what you think Aristotle meant with his definition of truth. The statement seems vague to me. “To say of what is that it is not, or of what is not that it is, is false; while to say of what is that it is, or of what is not that it is not, is true.”

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  25. Perry, I'll answer your questions about 1/0 and truth, but first, I can't let you get away with waffling about the existence of binary logic. When I pointed out some clearly illogical statements you made, you denied that binary logic even exists (all the while using it). Then when I showed you that it does exist, you said that it's irrelevant, since some things can exist and not exist, or be true and not true simultaneously. So my question is, do those statements apply to everything…..including binary logic?

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  26. Answered already...Binary logic is not relevant in a system of quantum logic.

    Things can exist, not exist, or be in a state of exist/not existence.

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  27. You didn't answer my question at all. Does this state of existence/non-existence apply to everything...including binary logic?

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  28. Bobmo said: "You said you are 50% sure that agnosticism is true. How sure are you that you are 50% sure?"

    I'm 100% sure that I'm 50% sure.

    As to Aristotle's definition of truth, I have no problems, except how do we know what is and what is not?

    Bobmo, you said, "Do you agree that the statement, 'All truth is subjective' is self-contradictory?"

    I'm not so sure that it is self-contradictory. By saying that all truth is subjective I'm saying that my statement is also subjective. I made a statement that was subjective and said that it was subjective. Where is the contradiction? If I had said that it was subjective when it, in fact, was not subjective then there would have been a contradiction.

    You also said, "Do you agree that two statements which contradict each other cannot both be true at the same time and in the same way?"

    I agree.

    You asked, 'Do you agree with Perry that when choosing either "either-or" or "Multi-value logic" "either-or" is incorrect and we should choose "Multi-value logic" instead?'

    If logic is binary then it can only apply to statements which are true or false. What do we do with statements which have an unknown truth value? When practicing formal logic you begin by assuming that certain given statements are true and then apply the rules of logic to them.

    Let's assume that objective truth exists. How does this help me determine whether or not there is a God? How does this help me determine if an ancient document is true?

    In order to know what is objectively true don't you have to be an objective observer? How is it possible for someone to step outside of him or herself and become objective and say something is true for everyone, everywhere for all time?

    What do you call someone who believes in objective truth but is unsure of the existance of God?

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  29. All things can exist, not exist, or be in a state of exist/not existence.

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  30. @Dedwarmo: So you are 100% sure that you are 50% sure that you can't be 100% sure of anything? Are you sure about that?

    Your statement is contradictory because you are claiming that it's true that all truth is subjective. You didn't say that it's subjective that all truth is subjective. And if you change it to say that it's subjective, you're still saying that it's true that it's subjective! If it's subjective that it's subjective, then it may not be subjective!

    The fact that you may not know something, or that a question may not have a yes/no answer (e.g. "Have you stopped beating your wife?"), or that it may have an unknown truth value has no effect on the existence of objective truth. If a question has no yes/no answer, then it's true that it has no yes/no answer.

    What do I call someone who believes in objective truth but is unsure of the existence of God?
    If they believe in objective truth, I would like to know what else they believe that is objective. I would like to know if they believe in anything else which is abstract, universal, and invariant.


    @Perry: So binary logic can exist. Does it exist and not exist simultaneously? Earlier you said it didn't exist at all.

    About 1/0, this operation cannot be done because there is no value for X which can be multiplied by 0 to get 1. (0 * X = 1). Many things cannot be done (square root of a negative number, two contradictory statements agreeing, etc.) But this also has no bearing on the existence of binary logic. In fact, binary logic applies to this question: It is false, not true, that you cannot divide by zero. It's not true and false simultaneously. It doesn't exist and not exist at the same time.

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  31. The problem with claiming something can't exist is that you have no way of knowing what a future discovery will reveal. For example, someone in the future could discover a solution to the question of 1/0. Therefore, a solution to 1/0 simultaneously exists and doesn't exist.

    Currently, the prevailing data suggests there is no answer, but this could change in the future.

    Just like knowledge about anything else.

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  32. Perry, since someone may discover a solution to 1/0 in the future, that proves the solution simultaneously exists and doesn't exist right now? That doesn't make sense. By that same reasoning, before Watson and Crick discovered the structure of DNA, it simultaneously was and was not a double helix.

    Do you simultaneously exist and not exist?

    You've said 4 different things about binary logic:

    1) It does not exist (2/01/2010)
    2) It exists (2/02/2010)
    3) It's irrelevant (2/02/2010)
    4) It exists and doesn't exist at the same time (2/05/2010)

    And, I suppose all these statements are true and false simultaneously?

    Don't you see a problem here? You have made several contradictory and illogical statements, and every time I point that out, you try to change the rules.

    By the way, I'm glad to hear that you are no longer a "full-blown atheist." Using your own reasoning, you cannot deny God's existence, because you said "the problem with claiming something can't exist is that you have no way of knowing what a future discovery will reveal." Since someone may discover God in the future, that means He simultaneously exists and doesn't exist now. That hardly sounds like strong atheism, though it is a bit less logical.

    Just for the record, do you agree with dedwarmo that two statements which contradict each other cannot both be true at the same time and in the same way? And do you believe in modus ponens?

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  33. Yes, prior to the work by Watson & Crick, the state of DNA could be considered both a double helix & not a double helix. It could also have been considered to have existed or not existed as any number of other possibilities too. Truth is relative to the amount/quality of data we've collected about it. All "truths" have the potential to be modified

    It's understandable that someone who adheres to binary logic would find this to make no sense.

    My statements about binary logic are not inconsistent. Statement 3 does not preclude any of the other statements. Statement 4 is a more inclusive version of statements 1 & 2.

    I'm not trying to change any rules. You're trying to force fit binary logic into a non-binary logic system. This is why you find things illogical.

    I continue to be a "full blown atheist" as far as I'm a "full blown" anything. You are correct that the actual state of my belief about God is uncertain. But that is the state of my belief about Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster for which there is equal amounts of proof of their existence.

    All beliefs are subject to change based on future data.

    I am in 99.9% agreement with dedwarmo's statement about truth.

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  34. Bobmo, you seem to have a problem with any expresson of uncertainty. Weather forecasters say there is a 50% chance of rain. Is this illogical? What's the point of asking the weather man if he is 100% sure that there is a 50% chance of rain. Are you just being silly or are you trying to make a point?

    When you asked me, "On a scale of 1-100, how sure are you that agnosticism, as a worldview, is correct?" I should have said that I don't know if agnosticism, as a worldview, is correct. Any number that I assign would be arbitray because I have no way of quantifying whether or not agosticism is correct. I do not speak for anyone who claims to be an agnostic. I don't know if objective truth exists. I don't know if God exists. I don't know how the universe came to be. I don't know how life began or if it had a beginning.

    Most people can't live with uncertainty and will seek out confident people who seem to have answers to these tough questions. Unfortunately, in a debate, confidence wins over uncertainty. But no matter how certain you *say* you are it does not alter the truth. By the way, I don't know what the truth is in these cases, but I believe that if God does not exist, saying he does doesn't make it so and saying he doesn't won't make him stop existing.

    In order to meet my physical needs I don't need to know the answer to these ultimate questions. If I want to relate to other people it helps if we have some beliefs in common. People with a certain worldview tend to look down upon or pity people who do not share their beliefs. This goes both ways for religious and non-religious people. I think this is probably part of human nature and I don't see change happening any time soon.

    Now, to return to the idea of subjectivity: On 01/06/10 I said, "Some people define objective truth as truth that is 'mind-independent'. Does this mean that it must be true independently of all minds? If that is the case then how is possible to know?" This is what I mean when I say all truth is subjective. When I say truth, I do not mean universal and invariant. By truth, I mean any statement that anyone makes that reflects reality to the best of his or her knowledge. So if I say all objective truth is subjective, then, of course, it is self-contradictory. You are correct in saying that if I say all subjective truth is subjective, it may not be subjective. Also it might be subjective.

    You owe me an answer. Aristotle's definition of truth is fine, but how do we know what is and what is not?

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  35. Just wondering, does multi-variable logic have a category for stuff that is inaccurate?

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  36. @Nathan - Your question is akin to asking how big is infinity or what's the smallest positive number before zero.

    Things are not accurate or inaccurate. There are just things that are more accurate or less accurate based on the available data.

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  37. Ya that was basically my question. I was curious about how people who hold to multi-variable logic would categorize things that they consider to be inaccurate. But it sounds like multi-variable logic doesn't recognize anything as accurate or inaccurate. Is that the case?

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  38. It recognizes some things as more accurate than others.

    Pragmatically, each person will have a limit of improbability at which point they say something is impossible or wrong or inaccurate.

    For example, I think the claim that the Earth is flat is wrong. The infinitesimal possibility that this view is correct is so small that to me, it is negligible. Similarly, the evidence for the existence of God is so uncompelling that I feel confident in saying God doesn't exist.

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  39. Great question, Nathan.

    So, Perry, if nothing is accurate or inaccurate, where does that place binary logic?

    And you are saying that 2+2=5 is not inaccurate? You're not a public school teacher, are you?

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  40. Public school teacher...lol.

    I think you know what my answer will be.

    2+2=5 is more inaccurate than 2+2=4.

    But neither statement is completely accurate or inaccurate. Knowledge is relative.

    Pragmatically, most people (including me) would think of 2+2=5 as inaccurate.

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  41. I think I see what you mean. But I'm also interested in how this relates to the previous discussion about binary logic. You said several times that binary logic doesn't exist. To be more consistent though wouldn't it be better to say that multi-variable logic provides a more accurate description of reality than binary logic? (Assuming that binary logic probably can't be "absolutely" disproved by the rules of multi-variable logic.)

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  42. @Nathan - Yes, that is the more accurate way to say it.

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  43. Dedwarmo, you know that I have no problem with expressions of uncertainty, especially since I've already given several examples of questions which have no yes/no answers and some that have no answer at all. What I do have a problem with is uncertainty about the very existence of truth. That's illogical. And, that seems to be your position.

    When you said you were 50% certain that agnosticism is true, what you were saying was, "I'm not sure. But I'm not sure that I'm not sure." So, I decided to ask you how sure you were about that. You didn't have to assign a numeric value to it. But you did indicate that you were sure that that you are not sure about anything. Now, you're saying that you're not sure that you're not sure. So, you may be sure after all.

    I see no problem with asking a weatherman how confident he is in his forecast. He may answer with an error factor or a range of uncertainty. Tomorrow's high will be 32°F +/- 3 degrees. And he may be 90% sure it will be +/- 3 degrees and 70% sure it will be +/- 1 degree. I used to do Metrology for a defense contractor and when calibrating a piece of test equipment, I could be 70% confident that the measurement was within 3%, for example, and 90% confident that it was within 1%. I was 100% confident that it was within 10%.

    There are a lot of things to be unsure about, but you cannot logically be unsure about everything. In fact, the point of my original post is that no one can logically doubt everything, because then you have to doubt your doubt!

    It seems that you can't quite bring yourself to say you believe in objective truth. You have said:

    1) "I really don't have a problem with the idea of objective truth."
    2) "I don't know if objective truth exists."
    3) "Saying that there is no objective truth is not necessarily illogical."
    4) "All truth is subjective."

    You've really covered the spectrum there!

    But then you said, "No matter how certain you *say* you are it does not alter the truth." And, "I believe that if God does not exist, saying he does doesn't make it so and saying he doesn't won't make him stop existing."
    I agree with those statements! They tell me that 1) you agree that truth does exist, and 2) you agree that it's true no matter what anyone believes. That's a great definition of objective truth! God either exists or He doesn't. And believing one way or the other does not alter the truth.

    You said, "You owe me an answer. Aristotle's definition of truth is fine, but how do we know what is and what is not?"
    How we come to know certain truths is a very different question from the existence of truth. As William Lane Craig would say, you've moved from an ontological question to an epistemological question. You asked if truth must be independent of all minds, how is it possible to know? How is it possible to know what? To know a particular truth? That depends on the truth. You have already agreed with the Law of non-contradiction, so, you recognize that it's true that two contradictory statements cannot both be true. You might not be able to explain how or why you know this is true. But you know it is true. First, let's agree on that.

    Then you revert to saying that truth is subjective again. But, doesn't 2+2=4 regardless of the whether this "reflects reality to the best of [a first grader's] knowledge"?

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  44. Perry, you really wouldn't say that 2+2=4 is accurate?

    If you would only say that it's "more accurate," would you say that it's accurate that it's more accurate? Or, that it's accurate that it's not completely accurate?

    I sense another infinite regress coming on.

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  45. Infinite regress only in the mind of a binary thinker.

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  46. I'm having a hard time understanding what's so bad about binary logic.

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  47. Nothing bad about it. It's just insufficient to explain reality.

    It works until it doesn't work. Knowledge is in a constant state of flux so the things that you think may be true now may not be true later. Binary logic isn't adequate for handling these situations.

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  48. So then it should be ok to use binary logic for some things and multi-variable logic for others?

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  49. And while you're at it, you haven't said whether or not you agree with modus ponens (and I'll throw in modus tollens also). ;-)

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  50. My position on objective truth is one of uncertainty and that uncertainty stems from the problem of how one knows what is true. It seems to me that you must first establish how you know objective truth (epistemology) before you can say objective truth exists (ontology). How to know the truth and truth's existence are bound up together. If you can't know any objective truths then how can you say objective truths exist? If there are ways to learn whether a statement is true everywhere for all time, then objective truth must exist.

    I didn't realize you were asking me for a margin of error or a confidence interval because after I gave you my level of certainty, "I'm 100% sure that I'm 50% sure," you again asked me if I was was sure about that. So when you say that you could be 70% confident that [your] measurement was within 3%, I suppose it would it be fair to ask you if your were sure that you were 70% confident.

    You say that if you doubt everything then you doubt your doubt. I don't see a problem with that.

    You say, "It seems that you can't quite bring yourself to say you believe in objective truth." You are correct. When I learn how I can know something that must be mind-indepedent, then I will be certain objective truth exists.

    I stand by these statements:

    1) "I really don't have a problem with the idea of objective truth."
    2) "I don't know if objective truth exists."
    3) "Saying that there is no objective truth is not necessarily illogical."

    And I feel I should modify my fourth stament to more accurately represent my intended meaning.

    4) "All statements are subjective."

    We agreee that God either exists or He doesn't. And believing one way or the other does not alter the truth. But how can we know if he exists? Until I learn how to know if something is objectively true how is it possible to decide whether objective truth exists?

    So far you have only given tools for identifying illogical statements. (Law of non-contradiction, modus ponens, modus tollens). If a statment is illogical then it can't be true, but certainly you wouldn't say that if a statement is not illogical then it must be true.

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  51. I find this whole discussion to be absurd. Perry showed his hand when he referenced quantum computing. Perry and dedwarmo opt out of the argument by ad hominem attacks (you're incapable of understanding with your binary mind) and changing definitions (binary logic is not). No one can't stop binary logic from existing just by saying, like those who wake up one day and decide that marriage is between a man and a man. That's absurd.

    Being absurd is a refusal to submit to consistency, because that would mean being held to something, even your own past statements. It's a cop-out. They want to live as if the laws of nature do not apply. As in "stop the planet, I want to get off."

    Quantum absurdity: everything is in a state of existence or non-existence until observed, at which time it exists or doesn't. Therefore, by refusing to "observe" God, Perry and David can avoid having God exist or not exist, therefore not having to be responsible to Him for their decision.

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  52. I guess I don't agree that I was making an ad hominem attack. I was merely making a statement based on Bobmo's continued insistence that all must either exist or not exist and seemed incapable to consider a third alternative. No insult was meant.

    I'd be happy to believe in God. Just prove She exists.

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  53. If you take quantum absurdity seriously, then I posit everything exists because God is the Observer and makes it so by observing, as when He created the universe in six days by saying "let there be...".

    Colossians 1:16 (New International Version)

    16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

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  54. Perry,

    Can you prove you exist?

    What makes you think God is a She? Your binary thinking forces you to give God a gender, so you choose non-He, just to be cute.

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  55. Perry,

    Why let a little lack of proof get in the way of your happiness?

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  56. If you take the Biblical absurdity seriously than I posit that...

    1. It is ok to sell your daughter into slavery (Exodus 21:7)

    "7 - If a man sells his daughter as a servant, she is not to go free as menservants do. 8 If she does not please the master who has selected her for himself,b he must let her be redeemed."

    2. We should kill anyone who works on the Sabbath day (Exodus 35:2)

    "2 - Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you an holy day, a sabbath of rest to the LORD: whosoever doeth work therein shall be put to death."

    3. Everyone who curses their parents should be put to death (Leviticus 20:9)

    "9 - For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall be surely put to death: he hath cursed his father or his mother; his blood shall be upon him."

    Do you have any proof of God that isn't based on the Bible?

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  57. I can't prove I exist.

    I don't think God is a she. There is no God.

    I am happy. This life is the only one I get. There is no magic land called Heaven awaiting at the end of the line. There is no prize at the end. As far as I know, there is nothing. My molecules will disperse into the Universe & my existence (which I can't prove) will be irrelevant.

    This is why I don't want to waste a minute of this preciously short life I have on unhappiness.

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  58. Perry,

    You lied when you said you'd be happy to believe in God.

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  59. Perry:

    http://blog.images.woot.com/Bitter_Vals_2010.pdf

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  60. Becky, I think we should be careful about making accusations like that...

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  61. @Becky - lol!

    I didn't lie. I'm happy to believe in anything that is proven based on the best available evidence.

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  62. Nathan,

    I can say for a fact that if Perry says he "would be happy to believe in God, only he is lacking proof," he is lying.

    Romans
    19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

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  63. @Perry, If you have any input on my previous question I'd be interested to hear it. ("So then it should be ok to use binary logic for some things and multi-variable logic for others?")

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  64. @Everybody, With all the talk about evidence for or against God's existence, have you ever considered how much a person's predisposition factors into his/her view on the matter?

    For example, I don't mind saying that I believe (rather strongly) in God. I find plenty of evidence in the universe for his existence, and I think the evidence is pretty convincing.

    However, I've talked with atheists who look at the same evidence and conclude that it points just as convincingly to the non-existence of God.

    Furthermore, in considering the evidence some atheists use to argue God doesn't exist, I look at that same evidence and typically see indications that God does exist.

    I'll be the first to admit, I'm biased. I want to believe in God. And I'm convinced that my predisposition to believe in God has a profound influence on how I evaluate the evidence I examine.

    Knowing this about myself makes me wonder if some atheists don't believe in God simply because they're predisposed to rejecting his existence?

    I'm not so naive as to think that I can straight up prove the existence of God to the full satisfaction of an atheist. In fact I'm not even sure it's possible to craft an air-tight argument for or against God's existence via the mere powers of human reasoning.

    Yet, it’s my personal belief that the God of the Bible is the one and only true God. And he makes quite a remarkable statement in Jeremiah 29:13 – “You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart.”

    But God certainly is not strong-arming anyone into acknowledging his existence. If someone doesn’t want to believe in God there’s more than enough evidence for them to claim.

    So, what I’m wondering is whether one’s decision to accept or reject God's existence has more to do with evidence or predisposition? (Question formulated according to binary logic, I know. Please humor me.)

    At the very least I would suggest that personal predisposition hasn’t been given due consideration in these types of discussions.

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  65. @Nathan - binary logic has proven to be an effective approximation of reality. Multi-variable logic is a refinement that is more useful but less pragmatic.

    (e.g. while you can't be sure that the car speeding at you while you cross the road exists, it makes sense to assume it does and jump out of the way).

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  66. In the book the God Delusion, Dawkins presents some evidence which suggests humans are biologically predisposed to believe in God. It's based on our innate pattern sensing abilities & emotional attachment to stories. It takes work to disbelieve. Similarly, it takes work to disbelieve in ghosts.

    I grew up in a very religious household and even "talked" to God up through my college years. I believed as you.

    But I was always inquisitive, suspicious of authorities, and loved science. When I took required college religion courses it occurred to me that if I had been born in some other part of the world, I would've been a Muslim or Buddist or Hindu. I was Christian due to random chance.

    My belief in God was not something I arrived at through rational thought. When I tried to rationally support a belief in God, there just wasn't ANY evidence. Still, there is none.

    I would say that you (and most people who believe in God) never made a decision to believe or not believe in God. There was never a chance that you wouldn't believe in God.

    If there was, what evidence would you need to see that would make you believe there is no God?

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  67. What evidence would I need to see to convince me that God doesn't exist? Probably I'd want to see it written in the sky in big bold letters: "There is no God." ... j/k.

    Seriously though, you raise an important point. The way we were raised does have a significant impact on our worldview.

    I think you would agree with me in questioning whether anyone can honestly claim the ability to analyze any piece of evidence from a purely objective standpoint.

    Like it or not, people and ideas influence the way we think about things. And try as we might, I'm not sure we can get around that.

    You're right when you say that it was more likely for me to embrace Christianity because I was brought up with it. Same thing goes for Muslims and Hindus.

    I don't have a problem with saying that people are products of their environment, but only to a certain extent. We still have to make our own choices about stuff, regardless of the extent to which we've been subjected to external influences.

    Which brings me back to the discussion about evidence. I readily admit that evidence is an important factor in our decision making. Likewise, our upbringing is also plays a crucial role. However, I would argue that an even more fundamental thing to consider is our own personal predisposition.

    I'm not trying to say that predisposition tells the whole story. However, I am suggesting that it may be a more pertinent factor in our decision making than either evidence or upbringing.

    Perry, I owe you a serious answer to your question. To be honest, I'm not sure you could muster enough evidence to convince me that God doesn't exist. My primary reason for believing in him isn't rational, it's personal. (For the record though, I have subjected my faith to intense and rigorous scrutiny -- and fortunately it survived).

    Theoretically, if you're going to get me to stop believing in God you'll have to find some way to get me to want to stop believing in him. For me, it's not really so much about evidence.

    Which, again, leads me to wonder if some atheists are in a similar situation? Do they reject God's existence simply because they don't want to believe in him?

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  68. @Perry To say that Christians never had a chance to not be Christians or Atheists never had a chance to not be Atheists is only right because it is all ultimately in God's hands. It is wrong, however to attribute it solely to how you grew up. There are countless people who converted from Atheism to Christianity or from Christianity to Atheism who were quite old when it happened. I just don't like how you narrow the reasons of conversion down so far.

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  69. @Josh - I wasn't attributing it solely to how you grew up. Lots of things affect your religion. However, no factor is more important in predicting what religion you will be than the religion of your parents.

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  70. @Perry "I would say that you never made a decision to believe or not believe in God". That's what prompted my comment. That doesn't sound like my experience, and probably every other person who claims to believe in God would say the same. God requires us all to make a decision, even though he's the one prompting us to do so.

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  71. I guess I was just saying, if you really did make a decision to believe or not believe in God then there would be an answer to the question, "what evidence would you need to believe that there was no God".

    If there is no evidence you could ever accept then you didn't really make a decision to believe or not believe.

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  72. Perry, I would challenge your statement "no factor is more important in predicting what religion you will be than the religion of your parents."

    Clearly, parents have a tremendous influence on what their children believe. But you and I both know plenty of people who have reacted against what their parents have taught them. In fact, you claim to be such a person.

    I'm not at all suggesting that parental influence or scientific evidence aren't important. It just seems to me that when it's all said and done people believe what they want to believe. And there's not always a satisfactory, rationalistic explanation for why.

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  73. I don't have solid proof of my statement. It's just the observation that few people convert from the religion they were raised. (http://religions.pewforum.org/reports) Here only 28% of people convert from the religion they were raised.

    I realize the incompleteness of this data. For example, this data doesn't say what % of people converted from one version of Christianity to another.

    But it suggests that the biggest reason people believe the way they do is where they started.

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  74. It would seem, based on those stats, that most people blindly and unquestioningly accept whatever they've been brought up with.

    But what about the rest of us? What about those of us who do have the courage to honestly investigate our religious/non-religious beliefs and subject them to rigorous, intense scrutiny?

    Regardless of whether we come out accepting, rejecting, or questioning the existence of God, would you really suggest that the determining factor in our decision is mere evidence?

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  75. If you accept the existence of God, I would say your decision is not based on evidence but rather emotion.

    Since there is no evidence for the existence of God, current belief isn't evidence based.

    If you don't believe in God it can be either an emotional or rational decision.

    I'm not sure what you mean by "subject them to rigorous, intense scrutiny". It seems to me that unless there was a chance some evidence would change your mind about the existence of God, your examination of your religion was not "intense".

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  76. I think to be fair it would be better to say that you personally don't see any evidence for God's existence. But I won't press the issue.

    I guess in some sense you could say there is a chance that my belief in God might be shaken by evidence. My religious beliefs have certainly been challenged as I've investigated them. The possibility that everything I've believed my whole life could be completely wrong is pretty disconcerting to think about. But that's a possibility I've chosen to face and consider rather than shy away from.

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  77. And as far as evidence goes, I've already been honest enough to admit that I have presuppositions. As much as I might want to be objective in my analysis of evidence, I can't be.

    Anybody else willing to own up to their presuppositions?

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  78. Nathan, I think you are right on target with your comments about presuppositions. Whether we realize it or not, we all have basic beliefs on which the rest of our thinking is based, and it's important to acknowledge what they are, and to examine them to see if they are justified. The origin of one's beliefs has no bearing on the truth of those beliefs. And truth is where our focus should be.

    I once heard a philosopher say that we always behave in accordance to our beliefs. I agree with this. If you believe that you are the product of random, unguided forces, the rest of your thinking will be quite different from that of the person who believes he was created by an uncaused, timeless, spaceless, immaterial being of unfathomable power, namely God.

    So, Perry, I'm going to press you on your denial of the laws of logic, because unless we can agree on basic rules of thought, we can't even have a meaningful conversation.

    You said that DNA could be considered both a double helix and not a double helix before it was discovered. This violates the Law of non-contradiction, with which you said you are 99.9% in agreement. The structure of DNA was a double helix long before Watson and Crick discovered it, and the discovery did not change that fact, it only revealed it. If my car is making a noise and my mechanic finds out that it is caused by the water pump, does that mean that before he discovered the cause, it was not the water pump? Of course not. This is silly and irrational.

    By the way, I don't know if you realized this when you said it, but you demonstrated binary logic when you said, “If you don't believe in God it can be either an emotional or rational decision.” So, is binary logic ever relevant? I think you have demonstrated that it is.

    What evidence would it take to convince me that God does not exist? Well, I've mentioned before that if it can be shown that something can come from nothing and that purely material and naturalistic forces can organized themselves into complex living intelligence, that would do severe damage to my belief in God.

    Now, what evidence would it take to convince you of His existence?

    I believe that there is plenty of evidence for God's existence, and I should probably start another post on the subject!

    Dedwarmo, changing your statement to “All statements are subjective” doesn't make it any less self-contradictory. The statement still refers to itself but is presented is a true statement. If it is subjective, then it is true, but if it's true then it is not subjective!

    To see how it is illogical, consider it's opposite: "No statements are subjective." As you have agreed, both of these statements cannot be true. However, if the first statement is true, then both statements are subjective, even the one which says that no statements are subjective!

    You then said, "We agree that God either exists or He doesn't." So, can I assume that you believe in binary logic?

    And, since you said, "believing one way or the other does not alter the truth" you have demonstrated that you do believe there are at least some unalterable truths.

    You also said that until you learn how to know if something is true, you can't decide whether something is true. So, are you saying that before you know something, you must have a criterion by which you judge its truthfulness? Is that an accurate statement of your position?

    Finally, you said that I have only given tools for identifying false statements, but not true statements. However, if a statement is illogical, isn't it true that it's illogical?

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  79. I disagree that it violates the law of non-contradiction. The double helix is only what we currently believe to be the structure of DNA. It's quite likely that a future scientist will discover new evidence to show the double helix isn't quite right. Reality may be different than what we believe. The structure of DNA is only most likely a double helix. That doesn't mean the double helix is what it really is.

    Before your mechanic tells you what is most likely wrong with your car, the knowledge about it is unknown. Even after he says what's wrong you can't know for sure he's right. There is no evidence that you can be completely right about anything. Thus the need for multi-variable logic. ) so there's not

    Language is inherently unable to deal with multi-variable logic. Any statement of belief by me should always have the disclaimer that all things I believe are "based on the best available information". So my statement is really better said that "based on the best available information, if you don't believe in God it is either an emotional or rational decision." This is not a definitive statement as it can be a combination of emotional/rational decisions or some other type of decision that we don't even know about. Writing in binary logic is more convenient but is not completely representative of reality.

    Your belief in God satisfies the proof that you require to disbelieve in him.

    Something can come from nothing = If God is something, then he came from nothing

    And evolution certainly demonstrates that naturalistic forces organize themselves into complex living intelligence.

    Why hasn't this evidence made you skeptical of God?

    As for the proof I require, it could be almost anything. e.g. God could appear and simply demonstrate his power to the world. Part the Red Sea again, rebuild Hatti in the blink of an eye, raise the dead, turn gold into lead etc. Any undeniable proof of supernatural abilities would be acceptable.

    Of course, if these things happened I would more likely believe that I was being tricked or suffering from some sort of brain malfunction so it would require multiple lines of independent evidence to convince me that I wasn't crazy. But there is some level of evidence I would believe.

    I see no evidence of God's existence that can't be explained by non-God requiring processes. What evidence do you see that proves God's existence?

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  80. I just noticed a huge mistake I continue to make. It is impossible for a statement to be subjective. People are subjective, not their statements. All people are subjective. The statements they make may be true, false or unknown. The hard part is determining which.

    Regarding binary logic, I have no reason not to believe in it.

    It seems to me that to prove that objective truth exists all one needs to do is find one statement that is true for everyone, everywhere for all time. Many mathematical theorems seem to be objectively true. They are still limited to the realm of human intellect which makes them "mind-dependent".

    I did say that "believing one way or the other does not alter the truth". This merely demonstrates that I believe that our beliefs don't directly change the physical world. Our beliefs cannot change history, for example. People's actions can change some things, but our power is limited. There are some truths which have not altered in my lifetime, to the best of my knowledge, but I don't know if they have been true for everyone, everywhere for all time.

    Yes, I suppose I would say that before I can know something, I must have a criterion by which I judge its truthfulness.

    If a statement is illogical, it is true that it's illogical. But I don't know if it is true for everyone, everywhere for all time. But to the best of my knowledge it is true.

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  81. Perry, I think you are confusing our inability to know certain things with the actual things themselves. When my mechanic says, "It's your water pump," he might be wrong, but that doesn't mean the problem is and is not the water pump at the same time! In fact, you seemed to acknowledge this when you said, "Reality may be different than what we believe." I agree with this! You are saying that our knowledge may be wrong, but reality is what it is. So, while my mechanic's knowledge about my water pump may be mistaken, or our assessment of DNA may be mistaken, that doesn't change reality. DNA has a certain structure, and my water pump works a certain way regardless of what we do or do not know.

    Now, about binary logic: you have said that I should use multi-value logic instead of binary logic. And you said that binary logic is not a "complete representation of reality." So, is it ever a complete representation of anything? When choosing the type of logic I should use, is binary logic ever valid?

    You said that my belief in God satisfies the proof that I require to disbelieve in him. This is not true.

    First, there is no proof that something can come from nothing. I don't believe that God came from nothing, and I have never made that claim. Besides, if there ever was nothing, there would never be anything. So, there has to have been something forever. You'll need to come up with a better example of something from nothing, and preferably one that you actually believe is true.

    Second, evolution has not even come close to demonstrating that naturalistic forces can organize themselves into complex living intelligence.

    This isn't what you'll read in all the textbooks, of course, but no evidence has ever shown that the two main components of biological evolution, mutations and natural selection, are capable of producing the new complex specified information required for evolution to occur.

    Natural selection results in adaptation and survival of the fittest, and is a well attested phenomenon. But the best that it can do is rearrange existing genetic material. The key to new information is mutations. And, mutations 1) Are almost always harmful, and 2) When they do confer a survival advantage, they do so by a loss of information, thereby reducing an organism's capabilities in a certain area. For instance, a bacterium may develop resistance to antibiotics due to a mutation which hinders its ability to transport the antibiotic through its cell membrane. Or, a mutation may lead to a colony of wingless beetles which thrive on a windy island, again a loss of information. For "molecules to man" evolution to have occurred, there must exist a mechanism for truly novel information. Gene duplication, recombination, translocation, transposition, etc. are not sufficient to account for the new information required for macro-evolution to occur.

    As for proof you would accept for God's existence, I'm not sure you have answered my question. You gave some examples, but then admitted that they wouldn't be sufficient after all.

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  82. Binary logic is valid in a similar way that Newton's laws of gravity are "valid". They aren't quite right but they are right enough to be useful.

    If God didn't come from nothing, then what was the something that God came from? If it is your contention that God just always has existed, then why isn't it possible that everything in the Universe has just existed? Matter is energy and has always existed. There is no need for God.

    Your explanation just demonstrates that you were not sincere when you said there was evidence you would accept to disprove God.

    You said...

    "if it can be shown that something can come from nothing...that would do severe damage to my belief in God."

    But then you said...
    "Besides, if there ever was nothing, there would never be anything. "

    Which leads to the inescapable conclusion that you do not believe there was ever "nothing" ergo there would never be a way to disprove your belief in God.

    I answered your question about what proof that I would accept for God completely. You seem to have ignored this part of my answer. "it would require multiple lines of independent evidence to convince me that I wasn't crazy. But there is some level of evidence I would believe."

    To put it more plainly, I will believe in God if someone produces proof that there is a supernatural being or even a supernatural force. No proof of this has ever been demonstrated.

    As for your evolution stance, you are repeating arguments that have been debunked many times.

    Mutations are harmful - Not always

    Mutations do not add information - They do.

    Evidence that I would accept to disprove evolution. The sudden, magical appearance of a completely new species.

    What evidence would you need to believe in evolution?

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  83. Hello, as you may already discovered I am fresh here.
    In first steps it's really nice if someone supports you, so hope to meet friendly and helpful people here. Let me know if I can help you.
    Thanks and good luck everyone! ;)

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  84. @Perry:

    Binary logic

    Which of these statements about binary logic would you agree with?

    1) There are no propositions that are either true or false.
    2) There are some propositions that are either true or false and some that are neither true nor false.

    I would not only argue that there are many propositions that are either true or false, I'll go a step farther and argue that binary logic can be applied to every proposition ever made! Here's proof: Consider the statement, "For any proposition, it is either true or false that it has a binary truth value." In other words, it either
    1) has a binary truth value
    or it
    2) does not have a binary truth value.
    There are only two choices there. And that's binary logic.

    I challenge you to come up with any statement that does not meet one of those two criteria.

    Something from nothing

    You asked why an eternal universe isn't possible, given that I believe in an eternal God. To keep us on topic, I'm going to have to deal with this in another post, but I think there are good scientific and philosophical reasons to believe that something has always existed, but that it's not the material universe. We can go into more detail later, but in the meantime, is your belief in an eternal universe based on scientific evidence, or is it something that you presuppose?

    Disproving God's existence

    You said that since I do not believe there was ever nothing, there would be no way to disprove my belief in God, and, therefore, I was insincere when I said it could be done. However, wouldn't disproving my belief in God also involve proving me wrong about there being nothing? If you want to cause me to doubt my belief in God, show me that there was nothing at one time. How is it insincere to say that you can cause damage to my position by proving something which I don't believe is true?

    Evidently, we both believe that there has always been something.

    You also said that you would believe in God if someone produces proof of a supernatural being or force. What possible proof could there be of a supernatural being or force? Your belief in naturalism sounds quite unfalsifiable. But I will resist the temptation to accuse you of being insincere ;-)

    My arguments debunked?

    Saying that an argument has been debunked is not itself an argument. Again, this is a topic for another post, but the more I study it, the more I realize just how shaky the evidence for evolution really is. I'll have more to say about mutations and their ability (or lack thereof) later.

    Doubting evolution

    Finally, you said that you would doubt evolution upon the sudden, magical appearance of a completely new species. Did you say "magical"? How in the world would you know it was magical? (And my belief in God is unfalsifiable?) You are confirming my suspicions that your belief in evolutionary naturalism is just as religious as anyone's belief in God.

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  85. On Binary logic
    You seem incapable of considering an alternative to binary logic so further discussion on the topic is futile. But I'll try a little more.

    Your "proof" relies on binary logic to prove itself which is simply circular logic. Prove your statement without using binary logic.

    It is similar to how people try to prove God exists by pointing to the Bible.
    "God exists because it says so in the Bible"
    "Why should we believe the Bible?"
    "Because God wrote it."

    Something from nothing
    I'll await your scientific & philosophical reasons.

    My belief in an eternal universe is based on the best scientific evidence available. If the universe were eternal it would look just as it does now. The net energy of the universe = 0. If there were a creator, there would be evidence of the creator (say an imbalance in energy). There isn't. A book worth reading. How Science Shows that God Does Not Exist

    Proving God
    I didn't merely say that you do not believe there was ever nothing. I said that the existence of something makes it impossible for you to believe that there was ever nothing.

    Your logic is this.

    1. You will disbelieve in God if one can prove that there was a time nothing existed.
    2. Since something exists & something can't come from nothing, it is impossible that there was a time nothing existed.
    3. Ergo, it's impossible to prove God doesn't exist. Ergo, unless there is some evidence you would accept that nothing ever existed, you're being insincere suggesting that there is evidence you would accept that God doesn't exist.

    So, what evidence would you accept that nothing ever existed?

    Proving God
    You could easily set up an experiment to prove a supernatural being or force. (e.g http://www.skepdic.com/randi.html)

    My belief in naturalism is easily falsifiable. Demonstrate a miracle. Any, irrefutable, repeatable miracle.

    Evolution
    Without debating the merits of your arguments I would ask a simple question.

    What makes you believe that you can look at the evidence about evolution & your evaluation of that evidence is superior to the >99% of researchers who have actually dedicated their lives to studying the subject? Why are you so much smarter than the vast majority of experts in the field?

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  86. @ Perry, I realize that you don't want to express absolute confidence in your perceived knowledge about anything. You want to leave the door open for changing your mind about things based on new discoveries. Which seems to be why you keep appealing to the best scientific evidence available.

    When you make this appeal it sounds like you are reflecting your skepticism even about the reliability of the evidence you are dealing with. I would agree that it's questionable whether it's possible to verify rationally that a piece of evidence is absolutely reliable.

    But let's say hypothetically that we did have a piece of evidence that was 100% accurate and reliable. Do you think that anyone would actually be able to analyze it from a purely objective point of view?

    Maybe you do, but I have serious doubts about whether that's possible.

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  87. @Nathan - One of the tenets of science is that no piece of evidence is 100% reliable. Conclusions are built from multiple data points. Single data points are practically useless for scientific inquiry.

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  88. Point taken. But if I say a body of evidence or data rather than a piece my question is still the same. Do you believe it is possible to analyze anything from a purely objective point of view?

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  89. Binary logic
    You're not getting off that easy, Perry. You didn't answer my question. And if you don't like either choice, feel free to suggest a "multi-value" alternative. Remember, I have never said that every question has a binary answer. But you have said that no questions have a binary answer. That's illogical.

    So, here are the statements again, this time with three possibilities :-)

    1) There are no propositions that are either true or false.
    2) There are some propositions that are either true or false and some that are neither true nor false.
    3) [Alternative provided by Perry]

    Can you show my argument is wrong without using binary logic?

    Something from nothing
    You are mistaken when you say the best scientific evidence supports an eternal universe. In fact, the opposite is true. In fact, three leading cosmologists, Borde, Guth and Vilenkin have demonstrated that no universe can be infinite in the past, but must have a past space-time boundary. Here is what Vilenkin said in their book, "Many Worlds in One":

    "It is said that an argument is what convinces reasonable men and a proof is what it takes to convince even an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past-eternal universe. There is no escape, they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning." (Many Worlds in One, Hill and Wang, 2006, p.176).

    One reason I doubt an eternal universe is that it would have died a heat death long ago due to ever increasing entropy. Unless the universe is an open system, it is subject to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, and therefore cannot be eternal.

    Proving God
    Unless you believe that something can come from nothing, the existence of something also makes it impossible for you to believe that there was ever nothing. So, we're in the same boat. However, if you do believe that nothing existed at one point, what evidence was used to convince you of that? Let me know and I'll tell you know if I would accept that same evidence.

    Evolution
    You are committing a fallacy when you argue that evolution is true because the majority of scientists believe it. Truth is not determined by majority rule. Just ask Galileo whether the "majority of experts" were correct. Your question is a science stopper.

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  90. I don't say evolution is true because the majority of scientist believe it.

    I am not so arrogant to suggest that my opinion on the subject would be superior to what the vast majority of people who study the subject would think.

    Why would you have such confidence in your own thoughts on evolution when the conflict directly with people who know much more about the subject than you?

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  91. Proving God

    We're not in the same boat. I can believe that mass and energy are eternal. I just don't need the additional story of God to explain it.

    Again, you're the one who said the only thing that would make you doubt God's existence is the proof there was sometime nothing.

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  92. "You are mistaken when you say the best scientific evidence supports an eternal universe."

    I disagree with your statement.

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  93. @Perry, I'm still interested in finding out whether you think objective analysis is possible?

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  94. @Nathan - I guess I don't know what you mean by "objective analysis".

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  95. What I mean is do you think it's possible to examine evidence from an unbiased perspective?

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  96. @Nathan - Not strictly as everything is subjective as it is filtered through a human mind.

    However, following the scientific method will get you as close as possible to the unbiased objective. Although it is difficult and takes a level of humility and emotional control that most people don't have.

    To be truly objective you have to always hold in your mind the possibility that anything you believe could be wrong.

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  97. I know I'm going to sound like Bobmo when I say this, but in order to be consistent don't you have to doubt the scientific method as well?

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  98. Of course.

    It just has proven itself to be the best method for ascertaining information that can help both explain the past and predict the future.

    What other method is better?

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  99. I'm not trying to propose a better method of scientific inquiry. I guess what I'm getting at is that if you can't really trust the reliability of your evidence and you can't really trust your capacity to examine evidence and you can't really trust your conclusions, doesn't it make sense that you would have to exercise some degree of "faith" to hold to the things you think are true?

    (BTW, this is the 100th comment on this post. That's got to be a record.)

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  100. I'm not really sure what your point is.

    While you make a valid observation that everything ultimately requires some degree of faith, you seem to be implying that all systems of knowledge or belief are equally valid. I reject this.

    Astrology, fortune telling, dowsing, psychics, prayer are not in the same league as the scientific method.

    Comment 101. Yeah! A palindrome!

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  101. Well, I would concur that not all systems of knowledge or belief are valid.
    But to be honest I really wasn't expecting you to agree that they all require some degree of faith.

    So, why do you think it is that people who examine the same evidence sometimes come to different conclusions?

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  102. I don't think there is one answer to your question. Here are a few reasons people come to different conclusions.

    1. People want to believe what they want to believe.

    For most people, it feels good to think that there is a God. It feels good to believe there is a soul & that you'll live forever. Whether it's true or not is irrelevant.

    2. Some people prefer simplistic explanations.

    It's just easier to think about. Simple things just "make sense". So, they accept data that agrees with their simple explanation and reject that which doesn't.

    3. Some people need a basis for morality & meaning.

    The secular explanation for morality is unsatisfying to most people. Many don't want to believe that our brains are controlled by chemicals & morality is just an off-shoot of evolution.

    The idea that life is inherently meaningless is also something that most people don't want to believe. It causes them pain.

    4. Not much disadvantage to holding wrong beliefs.

    For the most part, you can believe things that are wrong and live a perfectly fine & successful life. It impedes progress & can lead to unhappiness but it doesn't have to.

    Why do you think people look at the same data and come to different conclusions?

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  103. @Perry

    Logic
    I notice that you didn't answer my question about logic. I have already acknowledged that some questions have a range of answers, but so far you have resisted acknowledging that not all questions have a range of answers. So, let me ask you this: can you think of any question to which there is strictly a yes or no answer?


    Evolution
    We can talk about the science later, but I think part of the problem is that evolution involves much more than just science. When you look at the big picture, goo-too-you, molecules-to-man evolution, you find as much philosophy, and even religion, as science. We all have access to the same facts, but it is the interpretation of those facts that I often take issue with. There are also some presuppositions built-in to the religion of naturalism. For instance, on the subject of the origin of life, some scientists will say things like this:

    1) Science can only explain natural phenomena
    2) Life exists
    3) Therefore, life had to arise naturally

    Now, that makes perfect sense, if your presuppositions are true. But I question the presuppositions. Since there is no evidence that life can come from non-life, many scientists choose to believe it anyway (it's here, isn't it?), hoping that science will figure it out later. This is called "promissory materialism." It doesn't matter if the evidence points to an intelligent cause for life or for complex information, many scientists feel prohibited from acknowledging that possibility. So, just as ID advocates are accused of believing in the "God of the gaps," naturalists are just as guilty of believing in "evolution of the gaps."

    You said that you do not believe evolution is true simply because the majority of scientists believe it, but you also said that I should believe it (or at least not question it), because the majority of scientists believe it. These two positions sound contradictory to me. Are you saying it is always arrogant to question current scientific orthodoxy? (The majority of scientists used to believe in spontaneous generation, geocentrism, a flat earth, etc.)


    Eternal universe
    You said you disagree with my statement that the best scientific evidence does not support an eternal universe. Are you saying that the best scientific evidence does support an eternal universe, or that you disagree with the best scientific evidence?

    Since you disagreed with me, are you saying that my statement is not both true and false, but it's just false?

    You also said you can believe that mass and energy are eternal without needing God to explain it. You certainly can, but you do so by faith. The weight of scientific and philosophical evidence are on the other side.

    Proving God
    I said two things would be required to cause me to doubt God's existence, one of them being getting "something from nothing." But I don't have to believe that those things are possible to be sincere. I don't believe they are possible, and I can't imagine how you would prove otherwise, but if you did, I would be proven wrong.

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  104. Logic
    I can think of no question that has a definitive yes / no answer. As far as we know, we are always unaware of some aspect of a question which prevents absolute certainty.

    Evolution
    Putting science and religion in the same category ignores a fundamental difference. Beliefs in science change when evidence suggests it should. No matter what you want to claim, science is not a religion.

    No, I'm not saying this..."Are you saying it is always arrogant to question current scientific orthodoxy?"

    I'm saying it is arrogant for people who are ignorant (about the science) to question scientific orthodoxy. For people who are not ignorant about the science, questioning scientific orthodoxy is appropriate. You become "not ignorant" by studying peer reviewed literature & scientific experiments. Reading popular books, opinion pieces, etc. does not make a person 'not ignorant'. What peer-reviewed research have you read regarding the topic of evolution?

    Eternal Universe
    I'm saying the best scientific evidence supports the notion of an eternal universe. No God required.

    Proving God
    Ultimately, all beliefs about everything are faith. However, not all faith is equal. Your faith in God is not supported by any valid evidence thus I see it as inferior to my "faith" in science & the scientific method. My beliefs are reality based not faith based.

    What scientific evidence says a God is needed to explain the universe?

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  105. I wonder if we should try to make a clearer distinction between philosophy and science? I'm not denying that there's overlap between the two. But it sounds like we're kind of conflating them.

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  106. Logic
    Bobmo: "Can you think of any question to which there is strictly a yes or no answer?"
    Perry: "No."

    Evolution
    I have never claimed that science and religion are in the same category. In fact, I am claiming just the opposite. To Nathan's point, I think the two areas do get conflated at times and must be differentiated. Science is not religion. But, scientists sometimes make religious claims. They do this when they make philosophical statements which are not supported by science, but then claim that they are. These conclusions are often based on faith (sometimes faith in science, or the in the future discoveries of science, such as with origin of life research).

    You said that beliefs in science change with evidence suggests it should. This is unfortunately not always true. Many scientists will state that "The fact of evolution is not up for debate, only the various mechanisms of evolution are." Materialism is assumed a priori, so we shouldn't be surprised when all the conclusions are materialistic. You can have all the debate you want, we're told, but don't question the underlying dogma.

    Don't you think it's a bit presumptuous to first assume that I am ignorant about the science, then to ask me what I have read? I have read peer-reviewed research. And I have read literature in support of evolution by people such as P.Z. Myers, Richard Dawkins, Michael Ruse, the late Carl Sagan, Francis Collins (of the Human Genome project), Stephen Hawking, etc. I went to public school until college and was taught evolution at every turn. I have made it a discipline to become familiar with the arguments for and against various aspects of evolution.

    But, speaking of peer-reviewed articles, perhaps you could suggest one that demonstrates how chance and necessity can build complex biological structures like the bacterial flagellum or create complex specified information, not just speculating but actually demonstrating. Or, perhaps a peer-reviewed article showing how life came from non-life. I'll save you some work. There are plenty of articles that address these subjects, but none of them actually demonstrate how these things can be done.

    Eternal Universe
    Most scientists gave up on the idea of an eternal universe long ago. Steven Hawking, certainly no friend of Intelligent Design, states that science can no longer sustain the idea of an eternal universe. Perhaps you can show me where the best scientific evidence actually does support eternal matter and energy.

    God and the universe
    I've already mentioned that fact that something has to have existed forever (we apparently agree on this). The question is then, which is more plausible: eternal matter (which violates several known scientific laws, cannot have a will, and does not have the capability to transform itself into complex information), or an eternal intelligence (which can have a free will and the ability to generate complex information). The answer to this question depends partly on your presuppositions.

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  107. Logic
    You misinterpreted what I said. I said there were none I could think of at the moment. That doesn't mean there aren't any.

    Evolution
    You'll have to excuse me as I didn't mean to sound insulting. My assumption about every person who has no demonstrated knowledge in an area of science is that they are ignorant. Actually being competent in a scientific subject requires years of study and an immersion in the topic that few people do. This is why the opinions of the laymen are ignorant compared to those of scientific experts.

    That's why I asked what peer reviewed literature you have studied. You haven't cited any (although you gave a good list of people who write popular books on the subject). I'm talking about actual scientific research. The kind of papers in which the titles are difficult to understand. The type of things that real scientists read & write.

    For example, http://www.jstor.org/pss/2407703
    or http://www.bioone.org/doi/abs/10.1554/05-328.1

    Someone who isn't ignorant about the subject could read those papers and summarize what they mean.

    I could repeat arguments that scientists have made to explain the bacterial flagellum, but you've already decided you are not interested in anything that would question what you want to believe.

    "There are plenty of articles that address these subjects, but none of them actually demonstrate how these things can be done."

    Perhaps you could direct me to the peer reviewed papers about the subject that you have read?

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  108. Are you saying that the people Bobmo mentioned aren't "real scientists?" Even if they do write on a popular level, isn't their work supposed to be based on the technicalities of scientific investigation?

    It sounds like you don't really care much for popular level science books. But how else are common people supposed to learn about science? Besides, if I'm not mistaken, popular level literature about anything seeks to distill and summarize the fundamental ideas related to that topic.

    Common people might not be able to operate on the level of professional scientists when it comes to collecting and analyzing data. However, that doesn't mean they are incapable of interacting with philosophical ideas about science.

    It's the difference between data and ideas. They do overlap, but they aren't interchangeable.

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  109. "Are you saying that the people Bobmo mentioned aren't 'real scientists?'"

    I'm not suggesting anything of the sort. These people are real scientists. And I love popular science books! I think they are great.

    What I'm saying is that anyone who learns all they know about a subject by reading the opinions and distillations of other people in popular science books, is inherently ignorant.

    They are mere puppet heads and do not posses knowledge that would enable them to provide opinions about a subject that are more valid (or even as valid) as actual scientists.

    Who's opinion about the validity of the science of evolution would you accept? Dawkins or Bobmo's?

    The way they developed their opinions about the topic certainly aren't equivalent.

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  110. I see what you're saying, but nobody has the time to become an expert at everything. I guess people just have to choose their area(s) of specialty and remain "ignorant" about everything else whether it be science, religion, economics, politics, history, sports, art, etc.

    But do you agree with my point about ideas?

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  111. Perry, in your post on 3/08/2010 2:31 PM, you said, "You become 'not ignorant' by studying peer reviewed literature & scientific experiments."

    Now you are saying that it really doesn't matter whether I've read peer-reviewed literature or not, since the best I can hope for is to be a mere puppet head.

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  112. @Nathan - Exactly. Everyone is ignorant about almost everything.

    I wish more people would realize that about themselves.

    Although, not every expert is the same. The only "experts" I respect are ones who base their conclusions on scientific evidence.

    Experts in non-scientific subjects like beauty, love, economics, etc. don't deserve the same level of deference.

    As to your point about ideas. If a person doesn't understand the underlying data which led to the formation of a theory or idea, I don't think that person is in the position to dispute the idea.

    They may be skeptical or "feel" that the more learned person is wrong, but it's a conclusion based on irrationality.

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  113. "Now you are saying that it really doesn't matter whether I've read peer-reviewed literature or not, since the best I can hope for is to be a mere puppet head."

    You misunderstand me again. I said when all you know about a subject comes from popular books on science, then you are a mere puppet head.

    If you wish to become non-ignorant about a scientific subject, reading peer reviewed literature and (perhaps conducting some of your own experiments) is the only way to do it.

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  114. Perry, you're right, I did misunderstand you. You were talking about gaining scientific knowledge solely through reading popular literature, and while I'm not sure I agree with it, I did misrepresent your statement, so I stand corrected. In any case, it looks like I've narrowly missed being a puppet head :-)

    (And, speaking of peer-reviewed literature, how about an article showing the scientific evidence for eternal matter and energy)?

    Now, about binary logic, I understood you just fine. My question was not, "Are there any questions with a strictly yes or no answer." It was "Can you think of any questions with a strictly yes or no answer."

    Here are the possibilities:
    1) No, I can't think of any.
    2) Yes, I can think of one (or more).
    3) And your answer, the equivalent of, "I can't think of any right now, but one might exist."

    Notice that all three of these are binary answers (the last one simply saying, "There is a binary answer right now, and there might be a binary answer in the future.") Unless you can think of an alternative answer, you have confirmed that binary logic is definitely applicable to some questions.

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  115. Don't have a direct link to the paper, but this is a good start for you to begin reading. http://www.science.psu.edu/news-and-events/2007-news/Bojowald6-2007.htm

    Still waiting for the link to peer reviewed research you've read about evolution.

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  116. If I could specialize in any area of science it would be Information Theory. It is there that I believe evolution faces some of its greatest challenges.

    Along those lines, one peer-reviewed paper I have read titled "Conservation of Information in Search: Measuring the Cost of Success" can be found here in the Journal "IEEE Transactions on Systems, Man, and Cybernetics A, Systems & Humans." In part, it critiques Dawkins' method of using mutational algorithms to simulate the creation of information by unguided evolutionary processes.

    I also read the article on Loop Quantum Gravity which you cited. Not only does this theory not show that matter and energy are eternal, the theory itself is, in fact, consistent with a non-eternal universe. Even the advocates of this theory do not claim that the universe is necessarily eternal. Nor is the theory widely accepted and without major problems. One quote I found here is informative. “...Loop Quantum Gravity has enough issues that it shouldn't be too surprising why theorists aren't jumping all over it.”

    This hardly qualifies as the “best scientific evidence available.”

    Now, a quick question about the role of peer-reviewed scientific literature. Would you suggest that students in High School or college refrain from believing in evolution until they have read relevant peer-reviewed literature?

    You also mentioned that people who are skeptical of evolution do so based on "irrationality." Shouldn't you be careful about accusing anyone of irrationality, given your own denial of the most basic laws of logic?

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  117. Dedwarmo, you seem to be going back and forth a bit on the existence of objective truth, based on these statements you've made:

    ○ "It is impossible for a statement to be subjective." (Objective truth exists.)
    ○ "...mathematical theorems...are still limited to the realm of human intellect which makes them 'mind-dependent'." (Objective truth does not exist.)
    ○ "Our beliefs cannot change history, for example." (Objective truth exists.)
    ○ "I don't know if it is true for everyone, everywhere for all time." (Objective truth may not exist.)

    I think your first statement is a strong argument for objective truth. In fact, it follows logically from your statement that objective truth exists, and that it is therefore true for everyone, everywhere, all the time.

    But then you said that you don't know if truth is true for everyone, everywhere, all the time.

    Do you have any reason to think that 2+2=4 may be false tomorrow, or that it may be false if you moved to another part of the world, or the solar system, or the universe? Or, do you have any reason to think that it was not true at some time in the past? Aren't you choosing to believe that truth may not be true without any evidence to support even that possibility?

    You also agreed that you need a criterion by which to judge the truthfulness of any statement. However, this leads to a problem. In order to require a criterion before believing anything, you also need a criterion for believing that statement. But, if you had a criterion for believing that statement, you would need a criterion for believing the criterion. So although you may want a criterion, you can't say that you believe that you must have one.

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  118. Hi All,

    @Perry

    Very interesting subject matter being discussed. I have a question for Perry who made the claim that sufficient proof of God's existence would be validated if multiple lines of independent evidence of a supernatural being or force could be demonstrated.

    My Question: Without an objective foundation for who God IS, how would you know that it IS God?
    This has always been my query to those who claim that they will believe if God reveals himself to them. How, without any foundation for knowing who God IS, can you be certain that it IS God?

    Another small comment that I feel is worth a mention are the words of Solomon from Ecclesiastes, final chapter.

    Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.

    13 Now all has been heard;
    here is the conclusion of the matter:
    Fear God and keep his commandments,
    for this is the duty of all mankind.
    14 For God will bring every deed into judgment,
    including every hidden thing,
    whether it is good or evil.

    This from the wisest man who ever lived, who had sought fulfillment APART from God in every possible way known to man. Wine, women and song, riches, fame, wisdom and knowledge, labor and toil and he arrived at one final conclusion concerning all things.

    There is nothing new under the sun. Whatever is, has already been and what will be has been before and God will call the past to account. Everything is meaningless and like chasing after the wind. It means nothing. Everything means nothing if everything is all there is.

    Regards,
    Bennett.

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  119. @Bennet -

    "Without an objective foundation for who God IS, how would you know that it IS God?"

    You wouldn't. It could simply be some superior being who is tricking us. However, if we're unable to prove it's a trick, the God hypothesis would remain the best one and one I'd believe. I'd always be open to new evidence to show my belief was mistaken.


    But the problem of superior being trickery exists for believers too. How do you know the Bible wasn't the inspiration of some superior being that is not God?

    Solomons words do not impress me. The claim that he was the most wise person who ever lived is without basis. What evidence outside the Bible is there to support the claim?

    Cheers
    Perry, 44

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  120. Well, for me my version of agnosticism is "I don't know." I want to know the answer to all my questions, but the God question is one I've decided to put aside until I'm older or there's more evidence. So pretty much for the God question my answer is "I don't know and I don't care at this point." And, until I get evidence or simply decide to change my mind, I don't plan to change my stance.
    As for agnosticism being a claim to knowledge, that is not a valid statement according to my beliefs because I'm simply saying I do not know. And, I honestly don't care if someone else says they know; I don't.

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  121. Anonymous, I can appreciate your position (somewhat) if you limit it to belief in God, though I would still ask you how you know that agnosticism is the correct view to hold with respect to God.

    In the larger sphere, you are making a knowledge claim when you say you know that you don't know. And when you say you know that you don't care. Hard agnostics could not even rationally claim to know those things.

    It's also interesting that you claim that my original claim is "not a valid statement". That is also a claim to knowledge.

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  122. @Bombo
    I'm beginning to think I might have misinterpreted your statement. I thought you meant, "a claim to knowledge of the existence or probability of god" not "a claim to knowledge" in general. Well, if you spin it that way, the claim is valid on the simple basis that declaring yourself agnostic means you state that you know you do not know about what could exist.
    By the way, what do you mean by limiting my belief in God?

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  123. Many agnostics (and all hard agnostics) believe that knowledge about anything is impossible, but the discussion often centers on the existence of God.

    So you are right. Any agnostic who makes any claim at all is making a knowledge claim.

    When I mentioned limiting your belief, I mean limiting your agnosticism to belief in God, rather than applying it to other areas.

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