Author Topic: A Challenge to Christians  (Read 20907 times)

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Offline mango

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Re: A Challenge to Christians
« Reply #348 on: April 24, 2013, 07:06:29 PM »
So then you admit that the God of the bible is imaginary just like Santa Claus?

So then you admit that you can prove a universal negative?

I didn't come here to defend theism, I came here because I'm procrastinating and I'm trying to have fun, and my idea of fun, among other things, is nit-picking blanket statements. And someone said "You can't prove a negative" -  and that was just too juicy of a target.

p.s.: Also note that your statement doesn't follow from what I said. If you think it does, please provide the argument.

p.p.s: It's also fun to see the really terrible apologists squirm. And I'm trying to see how many posts I can make it before someone seriously insults me, in good sport of course  8)
« Last Edit: April 24, 2013, 07:09:07 PM by mango »

Offline magicmiles

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Re: A Challenge to Christians
« Reply #349 on: April 24, 2013, 07:15:49 PM »
And I'm trying to see how many posts I can make it before someone seriously insults me, in good sport of course  8)

Soc......you're depriving a village of it's idiot....cer
Go on up you baldhead.

Offline mango

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Re: A Challenge to Christians
« Reply #350 on: April 24, 2013, 07:20:35 PM »
Am I allowed to join in picking on the theists, too? Here goes:
By a close examination, it becomes very fast clear here, that strong atheism is the position hold by most  atheism forum participants, even if they deny this.
You are making a psychological claim about anonymous people on the internet you've maybe "known" for a week. If reading a few posts is enough evidence for you to conclude what someone else REALLY thinks, even though they deny it, you may want to re-check your threshold for good evidence.

Weak atheists do not debate in forums, because the issue of God is irrelevant for them.
That is quite obviously false. You could be a weak atheist and yet deeply concerned about what you consider deep injustices done in the world in the name of religion. Since you lack belief in God you must also lack the belief that any of these religions are correct, so you could be quite upset about these social forces in the world and be very passionate about stopping them. I bet you a ton of weak atheists were all over the internet calling for the Pope to be arrested as "the head of a world-wide ring of pedophiles."
And again, you are making psychological claims about people that you apparently don't believe to have encountered on the internet. And I very highly doubt that you know that many weak atheists in real life to know whether or not they would post on a forum.

And by the way, after having lurked all over the place, the strong/weak atheist distinction is usually only made by Christian apologists and very seldom by atheists themselves. I don't know why we keep teaching that distinction to people when, whenever you bring it up, you get laughed at.

Making the weak/strong atheist distinction is kind of like trying to be a missionary to Africa and landing in Johannesburg in a grass skirt. It's both ineffective and offensive.

Offline mango

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Re: A Challenge to Christians
« Reply #351 on: April 24, 2013, 07:21:30 PM »
Quote
Soc......you're depriving a village of it's idiot....cer

Soccer?
Village idiot?
I have seldom been more confused by a post quoting me.

Offline magicmiles

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Re: A Challenge to Christians
« Reply #352 on: April 24, 2013, 07:25:16 PM »
You asked to be seriously insulted, in good sport. Soccer is a good sport, and the insult is contained within soccer.

I'm still laughing at my own comic genius, but I understand if no one else does.

Go on up you baldhead.

Online Jag

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Re: A Challenge to Christians
« Reply #353 on: April 24, 2013, 09:03:12 PM »
^^^Maybe I shouldn't admit this, but I got it immediately and giggled.
"It's hard to, but I'm starting to believe some of you actually believe these things.  That is completely beyond my ability to understand if that is really the case, but things never cease to amaze me."

Offline magicmiles

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Re: A Challenge to Christians
« Reply #354 on: April 24, 2013, 09:06:47 PM »
There's no shame in conceding that theists can be intentionally amusing,

Go on up you baldhead.

Online Jag

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Re: A Challenge to Christians
« Reply #355 on: April 24, 2013, 09:11:09 PM »
Oh, it's not the theism, it's that I already know I have a weird sense of humor. Apparently you do too. Not a bad thing.
"It's hard to, but I'm starting to believe some of you actually believe these things.  That is completely beyond my ability to understand if that is really the case, but things never cease to amaze me."

Offline mango

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Re: A Challenge to Christians
« Reply #356 on: April 24, 2013, 11:33:26 PM »
Wow, I get it now. I do like me a good pun, I just really wasn't ready for that one. Good job!

Online Jag

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Re: A Challenge to Christians
« Reply #357 on: April 24, 2013, 11:54:11 PM »
Keep an eye on him, he's quite funny when you catch on to what to watch for. He's sneaky that way  ;)

It helps to have an odd sense of humor yourself too.
"It's hard to, but I'm starting to believe some of you actually believe these things.  That is completely beyond my ability to understand if that is really the case, but things never cease to amaze me."

Offline Anfauglir

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Re: A Challenge to Christians
« Reply #358 on: April 25, 2013, 02:22:11 AM »
Members should note that skepticofatheism is currently confined to the ER - you should not expect him to respond to any posts made in this thread until his account is restored to full access.
Just because you've always done it that way doesn't mean it's not incredibly stupid.
Why is it so hard for believers to answer a direct question?

Offline median

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Re: A Challenge to Christians
« Reply #359 on: April 25, 2013, 10:38:59 AM »
So then you admit that the God of the bible is imaginary just like Santa Claus?

So then you admit that you can prove a universal negative?

I didn't come here to defend theism, I came here because I'm procrastinating and I'm trying to have fun, and my idea of fun, among other things, is nit-picking blanket statements. And someone said "You can't prove a negative" -  and that was just too juicy of a target.

p.s.: Also note that your statement doesn't follow from what I said. If you think it does, please provide the argument.

p.p.s: It's also fun to see the really terrible apologists squirm. And I'm trying to see how many posts I can make it before someone seriously insults me, in good sport of course  8)

Your statements regarding Santa Claus certainly made it sound as if you were attempting to prove a universal negative - especially when you alluded to the argument from the problem of evil, paralleling it to your "good argument against Santa Claus." If your argument against Santa Claus if successful, then is the argument from evil against Yahweh successful then? We can use very similar arguments (in structure, function, and form) to argue against this Yahweh/Jesus=God thing. Anyone can spin/rationalize arguments against Santa Claus (by immediately appealing to supernatural attributes that would make Santa non-falsifiable, non-verifiable, etc), and my argument is that theists do this very thing when it comes to their Santa/Yahweh belief.

Whoever claimed here that one can prove a universal negative, it wasn't me. And although I'd be interested to know who claimed it, that assertion is really aside from the OP. If you believe in the Yahweh deity please tell us why and demonstrate this deity. That is the challenge of this OP for theists.
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Carl Sagan

Offline mango

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Re: A Challenge to Christians
« Reply #360 on: April 25, 2013, 11:16:17 AM »
My point was this:
"You can't prove a universal negative" is false. If you claim its true, then you're wrong. I don't see any good way to accept the principle, so you shouldn't on those grounds argue that the burden of proof is on the theist alone.

I do agree that theists have the greater burden of proof, but not because "You can't prove a universal negative."

In fact, the whole point of WWGHA is to give an argument that God doesn't exist, and to give an argument just is the same thing as offering proof.

So here is a constructive dilemma for you:
1. Either you think that WWGHA provides a good argument against the existence of God or your don't.
2. If you think it provides a good argument, then you are making an argument to establish (=trying to prove) a 'universal negative' (God doesn't exist)
3. If you don't think it provides a good argument, then you shouldn't endorse it or, I don't know, not be on THIS forum for atheism.
Therefore,
4. Either you have to acknowledge that you are trying to prove a universal negative, or you should not endorse the WWGHA argument/leave the forum.

About burden of proof: I don't think there is a straightforward way to establish who has a burden of proof, but I think it has to go along something like prior probability or obviousness.
If we are both in a room and I see a table and then claim that there is a table in the room and you disagree, I don't have the burden of proof, you do. The nonexistence of clearly perceived everyday objects has the greater burden of proof. It could be that you know that there is in fact just a table hologram and not a real table, but that is for you to prove. The burden is not on me to prove that every table I see is in fact not a hologram.
This also very nicely shows that the "negative" criterion really doesn't work. One has to prove "not a table," the other "not a hologram." But because of the entailment relation of "table -> not hologram" and "hologram -> not table." Both COULD be proven.

Now, I know that some apologists try to establish that intuiting God is just as "obvious" as seeing a table, and if that was the case, then the atheist would in fact have the burden of proof. However, as it stands God doesn't just sit around my living room like a table, so it isn't as "obvious" that he exists from that, which is why the theist has to say something in the favor of His existence. But this has nothing to do with being a "positive" or a "negative" claim.

Offline mango

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Re: A Challenge to Christians
« Reply #361 on: April 25, 2013, 11:43:47 AM »
Sorry, forgot to include this, but it's a pretty different note, so I'll do a separate post.

I think the deductive argument from naughty presents is valid and sound, so it firmly disproves the existence of Santa.
I do not think that the deductive argument from evil is sound, and that is in fact the consensus in the phil. religion philosophical literature.
I do think that some of the probabilistic arguments from evil have some force to be reckoned with. But even if I admit that a probabilistic argument succeeds, then this only lowers the probability of God's existence, it does not firmly establish his nonexistence like a deductive argument would. Given enough of those arguments and not enough arguments in favor, you could make the probability of God's existence so low that it would fall under what I would call "disproven." Hence, you can, in principle, and if the arguments against succeed and the arguments in favor fail or don't add enough probability, prove that God does not exist.

I don't think that on balance the probabilistic arguments against win out, but I don't have time or capacities to go through all them. I know that if I started, I wouldn't finish the thread, so I won't even try, at least not now.
But that answer should suffice to show why I can say that the argument from evil succeeds to some extent without being committed to the non-existence of God.

Or, again
Tl:Dr
I'm a Beyesian evidentialist

Offline ParkingPlaces

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Re: A Challenge to Christians
« Reply #362 on: April 25, 2013, 12:53:23 PM »
mango

I'm sure that you and others enjoy philosophical arguments and big words and such, but I didn't give atheism that much thought when I concluded that there is no god. I was in the sixth grade, and being taught about Greek myths, and how interesting, yet false they were. Then I was going to church on  Sunday mornings and being told the same sorts of stories and being told how wonderful and true they were. And I'm no dummy.

To me, that was far simpler than the heady stuff. People long ago claimed that there was a god. He was said to do great and wonderful things, and everyone (in that region and in that group) was told he loved them. And sinning was taboo, but inevitable, but hey, if you know the password, no biggie. But that was long ago, and he hasn't done anything to cause believers to put out an amended version of the bible, updated with the latest and greatest. Hence it appears to me, at every level, to be a story. One that applied to peoples lives thousands of years ago, and still applies to some lives now, but in all cases it has been, and remains, a myth.

Being as the religious can do nothing but claim they "know" him or otherwise sense his reality while the rest of us stand around saying WTF every time such claims are made, I have no reason to think otherwise.

By the way, if you and I are in a room where you claim you see a table and I don't, I merely need to walk right through the thing you see to prove it isn't there, or bump into it to prove to myself that I am wrong. Most of us are blessed with multiple sensory input devices and claims outside of the realm of god are generally much easier to deal with. Maybe not string theory, but nobody is telling me how to act or shooting at me because we disagree about that one.

A non-existent god can't co anything, but believers are adept at moving goal posts and otherwise changing the evidential requirements every time one of their "proofs" falls apart or at least appears ineffective. And the variety of excuses that christians (in this case) have come up with in part explains why there are thousands and thousands of different denominations.

Truth doesn't need that many varieties.

I don't need to know there is not a god. I only need to know that claims of such a being are so flawed that I don't have to give them any weight.
Not everyone is entitled to their own opinion. They're all entitled to mine though.

Offline median

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Re: A Challenge to Christians
« Reply #363 on: April 25, 2013, 01:54:51 PM »
Sorry, forgot to include this, but it's a pretty different note, so I'll do a separate post.

I think the deductive argument from naughty presents is valid and sound, so it firmly disproves the existence of Santa.
I do not think that the deductive argument from evil is sound, and that is in fact the consensus in the phil. religion philosophical literature.
I do think that some of the probabilistic arguments from evil have some force to be reckoned with. But even if I admit that a probabilistic argument succeeds, then this only lowers the probability of God's existence, it does not firmly establish his nonexistence like a deductive argument would. Given enough of those arguments and not enough arguments in favor, you could make the probability of God's existence so low that it would fall under what I would call "disproven." Hence, you can, in principle, and if the arguments against succeed and the arguments in favor fail or don't add enough probability, prove that God does not exist.

I don't think that on balance the probabilistic arguments against win out, but I don't have time or capacities to go through all them. I know that if I started, I wouldn't finish the thread, so I won't even try, at least not now.
But that answer should suffice to show why I can say that the argument from evil succeeds to some extent without being committed to the non-existence of God.

Or, again
Tl:Dr
I'm a Beyesian evidentialist


I will deal with the Santa Claus thing first. So, as I mentioned before (in apologist like fashion), Santa Claus houses supernatural powers according to those who believe (just ask any child who believes and he will tell you that Santa can do magical things). The idea that this Santa refutation argument is valid/sound is false - especially when the argument attacks a Santa Claus that is NOT the one most kids believe in. The case and point here is that anyone can makeup any mythical, magical, creature they want to and then move the goal post (or equivocate on terms) when their alleged "thing" argument is about to be refuted (which is precisely what apologists so often do). We show that a God with contradictory attributes (i.e. - Yahweh) couldn't exist, and the apologist rationalizes away the charge (just like it can be done with Santa Claus - moving the goal post). We show that the bible flatly contradicts itself, on numerous fronts, and the religionist spins the text to say what he/she wants it to say in order to resist the contradiction (which can also be done with Santa Claus).

So again, your article doesn't disprove Santa Claus. All it does is assume a Santa Claus "I Timmy" don't believe in. Straw man! And this is very much like what apologists do. We refute a specific definition of God and then you guys move the post and say, "Oh, I don't believe in that God. I believe in this one over here" [ad infinitum]. Personally, I think this is because there simply is no coherent definition of the term "God" (and that the term simply doesn't refer to anything) but that may be for another debate. For now, if one is to raise a probablistic argument against Santa Claus (and be successful), I maintain that the same criticisms, of type, can be raised (and be successful) against "Yahweh".

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Carl Sagan

Offline Dante

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Re: A Challenge to Christians
« Reply #364 on: April 25, 2013, 01:58:36 PM »

As I was driving into work in the dark this morning, noticing the beautiful near-full moon beginning it's descent behind the glorious mountains, I giggled to myself a little. I tried to imagine a god, a god that is omnimax, watching over every thing and every body, and is every where all at once. A god that placed the moon, raised the mountains, created humans, and did all the other things that believers claim it does. A god that cares. And I giggled some more, in an empathetic sort of way, and shook my head. I feel sorry for believers. I feel sorry for anyone who ever believed, wondering what they've missed out on while they were participating in the god delusion.

Like PP, I've never been a believer, or at least dropped at such a young age that I don't recall. God belief is such nonsense. It's not intuitive, no matter what theists claim. It's limiting. It's false. It's just so obviously a work of fiction, I cannot fathom how anyone with half a brain can believe the sky daddy from hell really exists.
Actually it doesn't. One could conceivably be all-powerful but not exceptionally intelligent.

Offline Anfauglir

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Re: A Challenge to Christians
« Reply #365 on: April 26, 2013, 05:18:08 AM »
My point was this:
"You can't prove a universal negative" is false. If you claim its true, then you're wrong. I don't see any good way to accept the principle, so you shouldn't on those grounds argue that the burden of proof is on the theist alone.

I do agree that theists have the greater burden of proof, but not because "You can't prove a universal negative."

In fact, the whole point of WWGHA is to give an argument that God doesn't exist, and to give an argument just is the same thing as offering proof.

WWGHA offers a specific proof that a specific god does not exist - the god described in detail in the Bible.   I wouldn't regard disproving that god - or, rather, Yahweh - as being anything to do with a universal negative.

As I've always said, could there be a god?  Wibbly-wobbly-woo-woo magical something?  <shrugs>  Maybe, who knows?  I ceertainly can't prove the universal negative that there is no god (note the small g) or gods out there somewhere.  How can I?  I haven't the faintest idea what you mean by the term, since what a "god" is changes from person to person.  Its so unspecific, it meets what I would regard as being the universal negative.

Is there a Yahweh?  No.  Definitely not.  I'm confident that I can prove there is not a Yahweh, given that what you regard as Yahweh is consistent with what the Bible describes him to be, and given that we agree on some fairly fundamental rules of the universe.

Similarly - and so sorry - I'm afraid you are still wrong about the table.  Just because a table is a common thing, does NOT mean that one exists just because you say one exists in a particular location.  99.999% of the time, if someone says "I have a table, a chair, a car....I went for a walk, had a cheese sandwich, saw a bird in a tree", we do NOT demand proof because - as you rightly suggest - the sheer commonality of the experience described makes it quite reasonable to take it as truth without further comment.

But if the two of us are in a room, and you say "there is a table there" and I do NOT see a table.....ah, then the burden of proof IS on you to prove there is a table there.  Because we have moved out of the realm of reasonable claims, and into the realm where you are making a claim that IS unreasonable - namely, that there exists in this room a solid presence that I am unable to detect.

The "hologram" thing is a red herring, in this instance.  Because I would not be denying that you SEE a table (which was the claim you were making in your example), I would be correcting you on the nature of what you saw.  We would not be disagreeing that we both see something in the room that looks like a table - THAT, is NOT what we disagree on.  We disagree on the nature of what we see, actually is - which is far more accurate analogy to what the believer claims - although the believer, in this case, is the person claiming there is a hologram.  That what we perceive as a natural and commonplace effect has something dramatically unusual behind it.

So if you say "I see a table", and I say "what table?  I see nothing", then the onus IS on you to prove you see something that I can not.
And if we both say "I see a table", and you then claim "but not a real table, it is a hologram!", then the onus is, again, on you to prove that what you say is true.

The example you gave - you say "I see a table" and I say "I do not" (because I know it is a hologram) is deply flawed, because I WOULD be seeing a table, and would not be denying that I see a table.
Just because you've always done it that way doesn't mean it's not incredibly stupid.
Why is it so hard for believers to answer a direct question?

Offline mango

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Re: A Challenge to Christians
« Reply #366 on: April 28, 2013, 12:04:08 AM »
Thank you for that, Anfauglir.
There is actually a lot of interesting and pretty weighty philosophical stuff in your reply, so I'll try to tackle it one at a time.

1. Universal Negatives
I wouldn't regard disproving that Yahweh as being anything to do with a universal negative.
...
I certainly can't prove the universal negative that there is no god.

I still don't know what role the word "universal" is playing here. Maybe you mean that you can't prove a vague negative. In other words, you say that you can prove that a god with more specifically defined attributes doesn't exist, but you can't prove that a very vaguely defined thing doesn't exist.

I have yet to hear a good definition of a universal negative. I fully agree that there are some things you can't prove not to exist. I can't prove there are no epiphenomenalons. But this isn't because they are part of some magical category that demand the proof of a universal negative, but because of their specific features. I can give you a reason why I can't prove they don't exist. So again, what is the definition of a universal negative (not examples, definition), and what is the reason these cannot be proved? I don't buy it, so you'll have to give me an argument.

2. Existence, Reference, and Perception

But if the two of us are in a room, and you say "there is a table there" and I do NOT see a table.....ah, then the burden of proof IS on you to prove there is a table there.  Because we have moved out of the realm of reasonable claims, and into the realm where you are making a claim that IS unreasonable - namely, that there exists in this room a solid presence that I am unable to detect.
Not so fast. We haven't said whether or not there actually is a table. Suppose we walk into a room, you see a table and point out that it goes quite lovely with the carpet and I say "There is no table in this room." You see a table and are quite baffled at my denial of its existence. You wouldn't believe me, and you would require some proof for me to show that the thing you see doesn't exist. You wouldn't say "But of course, how unreasonable of me to make this table claim, here, let me proceed to give you evidence." You would just say "You're nuts, obviously there is a table in the room. I don't believe you if you try to tell me you don't see it." Actually, you would probably think it is more likely that I am lying to you, or maybe that I am hallucinating or that something is wrong with me, and you would feel no obligation to prove to me that there is a table there. Tables are the kind of things that are there when you see them, so when you see a table and I deny that it's there, you'll think something is wrong with me.
Bottom line: If you see or don't see a table, you will demand anyone that disagrees with you to prove to you that they are right. It doesn't matter if you see a table and they say there isn't one, or if you don't see a table and they say there is one. In either case someone disagreeing with your perception of everyday objects, you will demand them to prove their claim.

The "hologram" thing is a red herring, in this instance.  Because I would not be denying that you SEE a table (which was the claim you were making in your example), I would be correcting you on the nature of what you saw.
First a quibble: In the hologram case, I would be denying that you see a table. I would not dispute that you have a table-like sense experience, but that was not under discussion. Atheists don't deny that people have 'religious' experiences, they deny that people are experiencing god. They are trying to correct them on the nature of what they experience.

Even if we both walk into the room, you say "I see a table," I say "I see nothing," I am not really denying that you have a table-like sense experience. You might be for all I know, but I don't presume to tell you what experiences you are having. I'm talking about an object in the room, or the lack thereof.

So if you say "I see a table", and I say "what table?  I see nothing", then the onus IS on you to prove you see something that I can not.
I already noted above that I don't think that's right. But let me tease out that even if the "proving a positive existence claim" has some burden, it can't be very strong. Suppose you and I walk into a room and start talking about the table we both see, and median comes in and says "What are you guys talking about, there is no table in this room?" We would certainly demand of him to show that the table isn't there. So a 2 to 1 majority on existence vs. nonexistence for everyday objects shifts the burden already.
Now suppose median is joined by Dante who also says "Yeah, I don't see a table here guys."
Now what? 2 for table, 2 against. Who has the burden of proof? I would say the burden is pretty much equal at this point. You would have to be committed that the two of us have to prove to them that the table is there if the nonexistence claim has preference.
Or suppose you are watching the inaugural address in Washington. Everyone is watching the president, but then one person says "Hey, I don't see a president up there. Someone prove he's really up there speaking." She'd get some chuckles, but no one would take her seriously.
So even if there is some presumption in favor of denying that something exist, that can easily be outweighed by other considerations.

I think that's enough for now, this post is too long already.

Offline Azdgari

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Re: A Challenge to Christians
« Reply #367 on: April 28, 2013, 12:44:20 AM »
I still don't know what role the word "universal" is playing here. Maybe you mean that you can't prove a vague negative. In other words, you say that you can prove that a god with more specifically defined attributes doesn't exist, but you can't prove that a very vaguely defined thing doesn't exist.

I have yet to hear a good definition of a universal negative. I fully agree that there are some things you can't prove not to exist. I can't prove there are no epiphenomenalons. But this isn't because they are part of some magical category that demand the proof of a universal negative, but because of their specific features. I can give you a reason why I can't prove they don't exist. So again, what is the definition of a universal negative (not examples, definition), and what is the reason these cannot be proved? I don't buy it, so you'll have to give me an argument.

As I understand it, which is different from how Anfauglir has descrbed it, "universal" has more to do with location than with specificity.  If the definition of a thing includes no location, then disproving its existence in general requires us to make a universal statement:  Not only is it absent here, but it's absent everywhere.  And we can't examine "everywhere" in order to determine that.

Once a location is specified as part of the definition of a thing, one isn't claiming a universal negative by saying it doesn't exist.  For example, "no binary star system exists within 1 AU of Earth" is not a universal claim, and is confirmed - or refuted - by examining the space within 1 AU of Earth.  However, the claim "no binary star system exists", without specifying a location, is a universal negative.  It can be disproven (and has been), but even if we'd never found binary star systems, it would never be able to be proven.
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Offline mango

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Re: A Challenge to Christians
« Reply #368 on: April 28, 2013, 01:06:25 AM »
Thanks Azdgari,
That specifies it better. I still think it is, as a general principle, false.
For example, we can prove that there are no round square objects anywhere in the universe.
Too cheap?
We can prove there are no 20 mile spheres of pure Uranium. Physics tells us they would explode before they got that big.

How about non-located things?
Philosophers go on arguing about numbers, properties, sets, facts, events, and whether those exist, often making arguments that they do not exist (anywhere).

So it isn't true that in general it is impossible to prove that something is not anywhere at all. There have to be further restrictions.

I think this is good progress though.

Offline Anfauglir

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Re: A Challenge to Christians
« Reply #369 on: April 28, 2013, 01:28:40 AM »
Suppose we walk into a room, you see a table and point out that it goes quite lovely with the carpet and I say "There is no table in this room." You see a table and are quite baffled at my denial of its existence. You wouldn't believe me, and you would require some proof for me to show that the thing you see doesn't exist. You wouldn't say "But of course, how unreasonable of me to make this table claim, here, let me proceed to give you evidence." You would just say "You're nuts, obviously there is a table in the room. I don't believe you if you try to tell me you don't see it." Actually, you would probably think it is more likely that I am lying to you, or maybe that I am hallucinating or that something is wrong with me, and you would feel no obligation to prove to me that there is a table there. Tables are the kind of things that are there when you see them, so when you see a table and I deny that it's there, you'll think something is wrong with me.

Heh.  Nice try.  Go back and replace the word "table" with "unicorn" - would the same conclusion hold?  Almost cetainly not, because Unicorns are NOT the kind of things that are there when you see them.

Your point (assuming we're not treating seriously the argument to popularity) seems to be that if a person believes something thinks something exists, then they are under no obligation to prove to anyone else that what they think exists actually does.

<shrug> Fair enough.  If you want a table there, I have no issue with that.  But - and here's the rub - I will not be putting my cup down on that "table" until you have proved to meit is there.  I will not buy a tablecloth.  I will not walk around the space where it is supposed to be.  I will not tell my kids there is a table there.  I will not support laws that require people to be taught about that table in schools.  I will do none of these things, until you have proved to me that this table that I cannot see or feel or touch actually exists.

That's where the burden of proof comes in - when you require (or even request) that I change my behaviour based on the table that I do not experience.  While we all remain in our own minds, we can believe whatever we want with no issues.  But when one of us tries to add something to the universe, the burden immediately devolves on them to show why it should be accepted.

As to the argument to popularity.....cool.  Trends in the UK are towards atheism - in around ten years the non-believers will outnumber the believers, so at that point we can close all the churches, yes?  But more to the point, pick any god and religion you like: believers in THAT will be outnumbered by those who do NOT believe it, so - like the lone dissenter at the presedential address - perhaps we should all be ignoring those who claim something the majority of us think is false.
Just because you've always done it that way doesn't mean it's not incredibly stupid.
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Offline Azdgari

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Re: A Challenge to Christians
« Reply #370 on: April 28, 2013, 11:02:34 AM »
Thanks Azdgari,

Glad I could help.

That specifies it better. I still think it is, as a general principle, false.

For example, we can prove that there are no round square objects anywhere in the universe.
Too cheap?

Actually, we can't say this.  In the right shape of space-time, something we might consider to be a round square is possible.  But if you mean by the strict definition, part of the definiton of that object is that it does not exist.  It's built-in, by human decree.  So yeah, too cheap.

We can prove there are no 20 mile spheres of pure Uranium. Physics tells us they would explode before they got that big.

Can we prove that the laws of physics as we observe them apply equally everywhere?  No.  It's a reasonable inference that they do, but it is not proven as a matter of formal logic.  And that's what we're talking about.

How about non-located things?
Philosophers go on arguing about numbers, properties, sets, facts, events, and whether those exist, often making arguments that they do not exist (anywhere).

"Exist" is a category error when applied to such things.  Events happen to things that exist; they do not exist as entities in themselves.  Facts are descriptions of what exists.  Properties are...well, properties of things that exist (or that don't).  Numbers are a way of describing things, not entities in and of themselves; their existence (or lack thereof) is as subjective as anything else I've listed.  Same with sets.

See, the only way you get away from the principle I outlined is when you apply it to nouns to which "existence" and "nonexistence" are category errors.  Kind of proves my point.

So it isn't true that in general it is impossible to prove that something is not anywhere at all. There have to be further restrictions.

I think this is good progress though.

As long as the subject in question is a "something", it applies.  As you've said, when we're not talking about a "something", of course it doesn't apply.
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Offline mango

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Re: A Challenge to Christians
« Reply #371 on: April 28, 2013, 02:42:50 PM »
Your point (assuming we're not treating seriously the argument to popularity) seems to be that if a person believes something thinks something exists, then they are under no obligation to prove to anyone else that what they think exists actually does.

No, that position is much stronger than what I endorsed. I was only making the claim that in some circumstances the burden of proof lies with the person making the non-existence claim. I did not endorse that the burden of proof is equal in all situations or that there is never a burden to prove an existence claim.

You bring up Unicorns, and that plays right into what I think is the better requirement. Again, I'm a Bayesian when it comes to evidence and burden of proof. That means, the person making the stranger claim has the burden of proof, or in other words, the claim that has the lower prior probability. I am only claiming that this is not ALWAYS the non-existence claim.

Of all the things that influence who has a burden of proof, the "making an existence claim" is either giving no or very little weight to who has it. Other things are much more important.

The reason I am arguing this is because I don't think theists have the burden of proof because they are making an existence claim. They have a greater burden, but not for that reason. So bringing up unicorns doesn't really help point out the difference between existence/not existence claims.

For example, what about conspiracy theories? If I say there wasn't a moon landing, or there was no 9/11 attack, or there is no president, I have the burden of proof because I am making improbable claims.


Now to Azdgari:
Can we prove that the laws of physics as we observe them apply equally everywhere?  No.  It's a reasonable inference that they do, but it is not proven as a matter of formal logic.  And that's what we're talking about.
You just raised the standard way too high. By that standard not a single scientific claim counts as proven because science proceeds by abduction (or induction), not deduction. Just because we measure gravity every time we measure for it does not, by deductive logic, prove that it ever holds anywhere or anytime we haven't measured. If you throw out induction you should be a skeptic about pretty much everything besides your own existence and theorems in math derivable from axioms.

Do you have some alternate way that you can say that physics works in your backyard but not on the other end of the universe? Both are inductive claims, so just denying induction isn't going to get you what you want.

"Exist" is a category error when applied to such things.  Events happen to things that exist; they do not exist as entities in themselves.  Facts are descriptions of what exists.  Properties are...well, properties of things that exist (or that don't).  Numbers are a way of describing things, not entities in and of themselves; their existence (or lack thereof) is as subjective as anything else I've listed.  Same with sets.
You don't just get to say that, you have to make an argument. you can be a nominalist about so called abstract objects, but you better be ready to have a good argument.
When I say "exist," I mean what Quine meant by it. That is, "To exist is to be the value of a bound variable." As he would say:
Quote
Quine's slogan, "To be is to be the value of a variable," means that we only commit ourselves to an ontology by claims that say things like "There is something (bound variable) that is ..."
For example, "There is something that is a prime number greater than a million" commits us to believing that such numbers are entities. And "There is some property (or characteristic) that red houses and red cars have in common" commits us to believing that properties (or characteristics) are entities.

If you have a better definition of existence then W.V. Quine, go ahead.
Armed with this and the Quine-Putnam Indispensibility argument you get the following:
1. Quine's Dictum: To be is to be the value of a variable
2. Naturalism: We should believe in the entities of our best scientific theories
3. Indispensibility: Our best scientific theories quantify over numbers (e.g. there is gravitational constant that is ...)
Therefore,
4. Platonism: Numbers exist.

There are philosophers (well, there is one) who try to do "Science without numbers" [Hartry Field], but it's not looking good. And unless you can do that, 3. is true, I'm sure you want to endorse 2., and I bet you'd be hard pressed coming up with something better then 1.
So, sorry, numbers exist.

So it isn't true that in general it is impossible to prove that something is not anywhere at all. There have to be further restrictions.
As long as the subject in question is a "something", it applies.  As you've said, when we're not talking about a "something", of course it doesn't apply.

Ok, first, I'm running out of vocabulary. I thought "something" was the most generic term I could possibly use that covers, aehm, (entities, principles, things??). I guess I will introduce the term "schmings" to mean even that which isn't a "thing," but also "things." You say "subject," but that just doesn't seem like the right word.

The only way I can read your last statement is by translating it thus then:
As long as a schming is a thing, it is impossible to prove that it does not exist (somewhere). Only for schmings that are not things can we prove that they do not exist.

But combining this with your statement about exist, you seem to further say "No schmings that are not things exist." I still don't know your definition of "thing" v.s. "not thing schming." Also, I don't know if you mean the same by "is" as by "exist." I don't know how you can say "3 is a prime" if you don't mean something different.

Please explain to me:
What are, to you "things," and what are not? How do you differentiate?
What does it take for "schmings" to exist? (And also, what does it take for "things" to exist?) How are your criteria for existence satisfied?

Anyways, hopefully still making progress.

Offline Azdgari

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Re: A Challenge to Christians
« Reply #372 on: April 28, 2013, 03:06:58 PM »
You just raised the standard way too high. By that standard not a single scientific claim counts as proven because science proceeds by abduction (or induction), not deduction. Just because we measure gravity every time we measure for it does not, by deductive logic, prove that it ever holds anywhere or anytime we haven't measured. If you throw out induction you should be a skeptic about pretty much everything besides your own existence and theorems in math derivable from axioms.

"Prove" is the wrong term to use.  It is impossible to prove something inductively, though it is totally possible to demonstrate something inductively.  Believers often call for non-believers to prove that there is no god, anywhere.  If they wanted evidence that there is no god, anywhere, then that would be another matter altogether.  But they don't.[1]  Instead, they ask for proof.  Their standard is as high as the standard I just used, and to which you just objected.  I'd never invoke that standard of "proof" in normal circumstances.

Do you have some alternate way that you can say that physics works in your backyard but not on the other end of the universe? Both are inductive claims, so just denying induction isn't going to get you what you want.

What do you mean by "denying induction"?  If you mean referring to the fact that induction is not formally, logically conclusive, then sorry, I am going to do that anyway.  See above regarding the standard of proof being asked for by believers.

<existence stuff>

I don't think we need to really address the status of stuff other than physical objects, with regard to "existing".[2]  By all means include them, and I'll agree that if we do so, then it is possible to prove universal negatives in those contexts.  I would then say that the inability to prove a universal negative doesn't apply to everything that might be the subject of a universal negative.  Would you agree that in some cases of universal negatives, though, it is impossible to prove them?  If so, then the question just becomes "what's different about those cases?"  Right?
 1. At least, not in my experience; I've never observed this.
 2. I'd gladly discuss it with you in another thread.  Probably learn some things from you.  Maybe the other way around, too.  But it'll take us on a huge tangent if we did it here.
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Offline Hierophant

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Re: A Challenge to Christians
« Reply #373 on: April 28, 2013, 04:16:11 PM »
Numbers cannot be located? Well, obviously; numbers are supernatural entities created by our Lord God. End of story, atheism is defeated, everything is back to good ol' religion, so what's on RAW?  :D

Offline holybuckets

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Re: A Challenge to Christians
« Reply #374 on: April 28, 2013, 08:54:19 PM »
Here's an interesting piece from an article that says you can prove a universal negative:

With those principles in line, we must ask then, does the proposition “God exists”, or “God does exist” qualify as an unfalsifiable statement? At this point at least, we know the skeptic is not rationally permitted to suggest that he “cant prove a universal negative.” He must provide a negative reason, or a counter-factual to the given proposition. If he cannot do so, then he has no reason to call himself an “Atheist”.

Source: http://philosophicaugustine.wordpress.com/2013/03/03/is-the-maxim-you-cant-prove-a-universal-negative-true/

Offline Hierophant

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Re: A Challenge to Christians
« Reply #375 on: April 29, 2013, 06:35:49 AM »
Atheism is not the proposal of a universal negative. Materialism is.

The simple proof of materialism is that, even if a supernatural entity did exist, it would be impossible for humans to rationally come to that conclusion because it is logically impossible for us to eliminate all naturalistic possibilities. But "supernatural" means just that- the denial of the natural (the denial of matter, the denial of causality, the denial of parts, etc). Therefore it is logically unsound for us to believe in the existence of any supernatural entity.

Offline Astreja

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Re: A Challenge to Christians
« Reply #376 on: April 29, 2013, 10:17:59 AM »
At this point at least, we know the skeptic is not rationally permitted to suggest that he “cant prove a universal negative.” He must provide a negative reason, or a counter-factual to the given proposition. If he cannot do so, then he has no reason to call himself an “Atheist”.

Rationality is only part of the picture, Holybuckets.  I, for one, cannot prove that your particular god does not exist; however, I think that it's such a patently ridiculous and primitive implementation of "the divine" that I believe it to be utterly fictional and simply don't feel a need to investigate any further.
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