Author Topic: Introductory Questions  (Read 11851 times)

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Offline Azdgari

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #58 on: May 31, 2013, 07:52:16 AM »
"X is intuitive" is another way of saying "X corresponds to my biases".

It's a statement about one's self, not about X.

     The following statement corresponds to my biases: If p then q: p therefore q.  I think, however, that it is a little bit more than simply a 'bias' on my part, otherwise I would think that there would be plenty of other people who would think differently.

Of course.  I never said that intuitive things can't also be true, just that being intuitive isn't what demonstrates it.  Do you even bother to read my posts before writing a reply?
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Offline Greenandwhite

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #59 on: June 02, 2013, 01:11:18 AM »
     All we have is what we can experience one way or another. If we are a BIV then there is no reason why other BIVs are coming up with the same conclusions scientifically as all the results would be subject to the whims of the particular brain.........kinda like religion.

     Since you were able to recognize this possibility, would it not be true that if you are a BIV the 'evil genious' controlling your brain while it is in the vat would also have thought of the same possibility and incorporated it into your 'experience' (e.g. the apparent congruence of 'other people's' experiences with your own)?

Offline The Gawd

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #60 on: June 02, 2013, 07:25:46 AM »
Since you were able to recognize this possibility, would it not be true that if you are a BIV the 'evil genious' controlling your brain while it is in the vat would also have thought of the same possibility and incorporated it into your 'experience' (e.g. the apparent congruence of 'other people's' experiences with your own)?
Well, I cannot rule out any possibility and we could drum up an infinite amount of possibilities, even ones that directly contradict the one youre using here. And by doing that we can cancel out AT LEAST one of the possibilities. So the fact that I cannot rule it out does not lend any sort of credence to the notion.

However, I dont think that you are considering all the implications of your BIV example. For example, if hes (or shes) controlling all of our thoughts to make scientific findings have the same results regardless of which brain we're dealing with, how does that account for the thousands upon thousands of different religious beliefs? It appears as though, if we are indeed BIV's that we are having our own experiences that are NOT controlled by the mad scientist, that is unless you think your religious beliefs are also manipulated or even manufactured.

Its possible that I am yahweh and that I am telling you that I dont exist, you would agree, no?

Offline Greenandwhite

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #61 on: June 02, 2013, 02:54:51 PM »
     However, I dont think that you are considering all the implications of your BIV example. For example, if hes (or shes) controlling all of our thoughts to make scientific findings have the same results regardless of which brain we're dealing with, how does that account for the thousands upon thousands of different religious beliefs? It appears as though, if we are indeed BIV's that we are having our own experiences that are NOT controlled by the mad scientist, that is unless you think your religious beliefs are also manipulated or even manufactured.

     If I am a BIV then, yes, my religious experiences and those of all others are being manipulated by the 'evil genious'.  I am not trying to say that the BIV problem only applies to atheists and not to those who hold religious beliefs - it is a universal epistemic problem (how do we know that we know anything at all?).  All I was trying to say originally is that the problem is not solved by an appeal to empirical observation, but by rational introspection - that is how Descartes answered the problem, and it is also how all subsequent epistemologists have done so. 

Offline jdawg70

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #62 on: June 03, 2013, 11:20:43 AM »
     However, I dont think that you are considering all the implications of your BIV example. For example, if hes (or shes) controlling all of our thoughts to make scientific findings have the same results regardless of which brain we're dealing with, how does that account for the thousands upon thousands of different religious beliefs? It appears as though, if we are indeed BIV's that we are having our own experiences that are NOT controlled by the mad scientist, that is unless you think your religious beliefs are also manipulated or even manufactured.

     If I am a BIV then, yes, my religious experiences and those of all others are being manipulated by the 'evil genious'.  I am not trying to say that the BIV problem only applies to atheists and not to those who hold religious beliefs - it is a universal epistemic problem (how do we know that we know anything at all?).  All I was trying to say originally is that the problem is not solved by an appeal to empirical observation, but by rational introspection - that is how Descartes answered the problem, and it is also how all subsequent epistemologists have done so.
I'm not seeing how rational introspection solves the problem either.  The only question that Cartesian epistemology had answered is the tenability of axiomatically declaring 'I exist' as true.  Unless you're claiming that the answer is indeed that the only knowledge that can exist is knowledge that 'self' exists...but you've now passed the event horizon of the epistemological black hole of solipsism.
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Offline median

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #63 on: July 25, 2013, 08:55:54 PM »

     I guess that would be the easy way to answer my question (assert that moral judgements constitute opinions rather than knowledge), but I am just wondering if you actually believe that in real life?  For instance, if someone stole your wallet and you caught them and demanded it back, would you accept the following response: "I am not giving your wallet back because in my opinion stealing is ok - why should your opinion be valued any more than mine"?

Morality is about human well being (or for some, the well being of conscious creatures), but I suppose for you morality isn't about well being. It's about doing what you think God says/commands etc. So what's the point of discussing morality when we are talking right past each other? Perhaps the best place to start is to discuss/debate what morality is about - and that discussion will likely turn to a debate as to how you think you know there is a God who somehow dictates an "objective" standard (which is one of the purposes of this forum).

The point is, until you can demonstrate this alleged deity "Yahweh", we non-believers will not be inclined to think morality is about anything 'it' supposedly said (anymore than we will be inclined to thinking star alignment can accurately describe or predict human relationships). For us, both of those beliefs are unreliable fiction.

Furthermore, if morality is about doing God's will and/or obeying what God allegedly said, then there is another problem b/c we can't know whose interpretation of "what God said" is the correct one - namely b/c this God doesn't show up (i.e. - stop hiding) and publicly let us in on some things. However, for me, this is the least of my concerns b/c I don't believe this God is real.

So then, morality is about the well being of conscious creatures (and particularly human creatures). Any discussion outside of that context is not a discussion about morality (according to many of us). Therefore, moral judgments are not just statements of opinion because they deal with a largely empirical question of well being. And yes, many of those questions can be answered by science (just as in general sickness and health can be determined by science).
« Last Edit: July 25, 2013, 09:02:11 PM by median »
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Offline median

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #64 on: July 25, 2013, 11:53:04 PM »

     No problem there, the point of natural theology is to find basic assumptions that the religious and nonreligious alike agree on so that we can actually have a discussion - basic metaphysical principles provide that foundation because they have universal intuitive plausibility (e.g. everything that begins to exist must have a cause).

You can't even get off of the theological ground without defining the term "God" first. Natural theology first seeks to define the nature of what God is/means. It's mistake is it's very starting point (i.e. - that there is a thing called "God"/an "unmoved mover" thing). Both Plato and Aristotle fumbled badly in attempting their arguments for god (aka - their arguments were irrational in some fashion, at one point or another) as did the Islamic philosophers who came after them in the 8th-10th centuries.

Regarding the "Everything that begins to exist..." axiom:

1. You haven't demonstrated things like how you know that everything "that begins to exist" must have a cause.
2. Even if it were true that everything that begins to exist must have a cause you haven't shown that anything actually began existing (out of ex nihilo). Given the 1st Law of Thermodynamics it could very well be the case that nothing ever "began" existing from ex nihilo but that "stuff" was always "here" in some form or another. Why make an unjustified assumption like this?
3. Even if you could demonstrate that, for example, or universe "began existing" it wouldn't tell you 1) that it was "from ex nihilo" and 2) you wouldn't know it was a deity that did anything (and this of course assumes that you've provided a cogent definition of what "deity" is).

So you would have a ton of work ahead of you in any case. I think it's better to admit ignorance than to practice credulity.
« Last Edit: July 25, 2013, 11:55:29 PM by median »
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Offline Greenandwhite

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #65 on: July 30, 2013, 01:49:19 AM »
     Morality is about human well being (or for some, the well being of conscious creatures)...

     How do you define 'well being'?

Offline median

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #66 on: July 30, 2013, 12:07:37 PM »
     Morality is about human well being (or for some, the well being of conscious creatures)...

     How do you define 'well being'?

That would depend upon the participants. 
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Offline Greenandwhite

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #67 on: July 30, 2013, 09:18:58 PM »
     Morality is about human well being (or for some, the well being of conscious creatures)...

     How do you define 'well being'?

That would depend upon the participants.

     Didn't you identify the eligible participants when you said in the above post: "morality is about human well being?

Offline median

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #68 on: July 30, 2013, 11:56:40 PM »
     Morality is about human well being (or for some, the well being of conscious creatures)...

     How do you define 'well being'?

That would depend upon the participants.

     Didn't you identify the eligible participants when you said in the above post: "morality is about human well being?

You must have missed the generality of the initial comment (somehow) - I wonder why. Well, not really since I used to try the same tactics when I was an apologist (with that same absolutist mindset). "Just show him that without a God there is no morality. That'll make'em squirm!" But it doesn't.

The larger point is that I reject any notion that morality has anything to do, whatsoever, with any appeal to the theological (since I find no reason for thinking the theological is anything more than fiction - which of course I stated in that post and which you ignored). For me, morality has to do (generally speaking) with well being (that which is generally good/beneficial for human flourishing vs that which is not) and it's not a dogma either (like the bible you hold so dear), as it can be easily overturned (say for a Nietzschean outlook etc, given good reason). Can your belief in the bible be easily overturned given counter evidence and demonstrated contradiction and/or error?

p.s - Why did you ignore the entirety of my first post there and just focus on one thing I said?
« Last Edit: July 31, 2013, 12:08:44 AM by median »
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Offline Azdgari

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #69 on: July 31, 2013, 12:13:55 AM »
Greenandwhite is pointing out a subtle but critical flaw in your position, which is that the idea of what constitutes "flourishing", together with the evaluation of that idea as being desirable, are subjective.  So you don't have an objective morality, either.

Though, Greenandwhite, note that I said either there.  Theism doesn't enable objective moral claims, either.
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Offline median

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #70 on: July 31, 2013, 12:18:42 AM »
Greenandwhite is pointing out a subtle but critical flaw in your position, which is that the idea of what constitutes "flourishing", together with the evaluation of that idea as being desirable, are subjective.  So you don't have an objective morality, either.

Though, Greenandwhite, note that I said either there.  Theism doesn't enable objective moral claims, either.

And where, in anything I have written, did I claim I was making a case for "objective" morality? For one, I said "for me" but second off, stating a case as to what morality is "about" (i.e. - drawing bounds) does make such claims objective. For the sake of argument, if morality IS about human well being/flourishing - yes I said if - (as geology is about plate tectonics) then any discussion beyond that is not a discussion about morality. So then the question depends upon how one defines what morality is about. I reject the notion that it's about anything regarding divine command, a deity's nature, etc.



G&W, if it was your point to attempt an, "Aha! Without God you have no foundation for objective morality" then you've already failed b/c I don't care. You do know that I know your next move, right? Claim there is an objective morality (obviously), and that the only way that morality can exist is if there is a God, so I must be wrong. Am I close? To which I would then respond by asking you how you know there is an objective morality and how you know a deity is required for it . So why not cut the crap and actually demonstrate this God you think you know exists?
« Last Edit: July 31, 2013, 12:45:33 AM by median »
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Offline Greenandwhite

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #71 on: July 31, 2013, 01:28:45 AM »
     You must have missed the generality of the initial comment (somehow) - I wonder why. Well, not really since I used to try the same tactics when I was an apologist (with that same absolutist mindset). "Just show him that without a God there is no morality. That'll make'em squirm!" But it doesn't.
     The larger point is that I reject any notion that morality has anything to do, whatsoever, with any appeal to the theological (since I find no reason for thinking the theological is anything more than fiction - which of course I stated in that post and which you ignored). For me, morality has to do (generally speaking) with well being (that which is generally good/beneficial for human flourishing vs that which is not) and it's not a dogma either (like the bible you hold so dear), as it can be easily overturned (say for a Nietzschean outlook etc, given good reason). Can your belief in the bible be easily overturned given counter evidence and demonstrated contradiction and/or error?

p.s - Why did you ignore the entirety of my first post there and just focus on one thing I said?

    I have two points to make in response to the above post.  First of all, in regards to my focusing on only one thing that you said - do you expect me to simultaneously respond to every point you have made any time I write something to you? Am I not reasonably entitled to ask some questions of clarification before writing an in depth response?  Just because I ask a question about one thing you have said doesn't mean I am planning on ignoring the rest of your post. 
     Second, it seems to me that you think that just because I have been branded a 'theist' that everything I say must in some way be a roundabout argument for God's existence.  If you care to re-examine the contents of this thread I think you will find that you are the only one who has brought religious notions such as God, the Bible, or the arguments of natural theology into this discussion.  What was actually being discussed before you made your two posts (and Azdgari can correct me if I am wrong) was the epistemological question of what methods are valid for gaining knowledge.  I was trying to defend the notion that there are some forms of knowledge (e.g. moral judgements, metaphysical statements, mathematical axioms, etc…) that are not dependent upon the scientific method for us to come to know them – I could very well be an atheist and still believe that.  Incidentally, the question of whether or not moral absolutes exist is peripheral to the issues of whether or not moral judgements constitute knowledge and what methods we must use to obtain that knowledge. 

Offline Greenandwhite

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #72 on: July 31, 2013, 01:57:15 AM »
     And where, in anything I have written, did I claim I was making a case for "objective" morality? For one, I said "for me" but second off, stating a case as to what morality is "about" (i.e. - drawing bounds) does make such claims objective. For the sake of argument, if morality IS about human well being/flourishing - yes I said if - (as geology is about plate tectonics) then any discussion beyond that is not a discussion about morality. So then the question depends upon how one defines what morality is about. I reject the notion that it's about anything regarding divine command, a deity's nature, etc.

     I am under no illusions as to your views regarding what you think I believe in regards to moral ontology.  Therefore, since you have very confidently proclaimed what I believe and have judged my supposed beliefs to be woefully inadequate I am wondering if you can actually give me any kind of a descriptive alternative.  So to that end I have a few questions for you:

(1) If the flourishing of conscious creatures is the foundation of all our moral judgements then saying something is wrong seems no different from saying that such and such an action will result in fewer, less healthy conscious creatures; however, when we condemn Stalin for the gulags it seems to me that we are actually making an 'ought' statement and not simply a statement to the effect that Stalin's actions resulted in fewer homo sapiens - how do you bridge the is/ought gap?

(2) I think that we look very differently on the actions of various kinds of sentient creatures.  For instance, if a pack of hyenas drives another species to extinction we don't set up a tribunal to investigate possible genocide.  If that is the case then why do you consider it morally repugnant when another species of sentient creatures (specifically, a stone age Palestinian tribe) attempts to do the same thing?

(3) I want to know what exactly 'human flourishing' entails so that I know how to make good moral judgements.  Is it just about concepts like health and sheer numbers?  If so, then were the eugenics programs that the Nazi's pursued a good idea, in principle - after all, their goal was to produce 'healthier' homo sapiens was it not?  In addition, as a normal male of my species I enjoy sex; so is polygamy ok?  Seems to me that I could produce a lot more children if I had a lot more wives. 

Offline Greenandwhite

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #73 on: July 31, 2013, 02:04:55 AM »
     G&W, if it was your point to attempt an, "Aha! Without God you have no foundation for objective morality" then you've already failed b/c I don't care. You do know that I know your next move, right? Claim there is an objective morality (obviously), and that the only way that morality can exist is if there is a God, so I must be wrong. Am I close? To which I would then respond by asking you how you know there is an objective morality and how you know a deity is required for it . So why not cut the crap and actually demonstrate this God you think you know exists?

     You know, on another thread you asked the following question: 'why do we argue with religious people'?  In light of the above I think you still need to do some explaining because it seems to me that you are doing a pretty good job of debating a religious position (presumably the moral argument) without any religious antagonist.  If you already think you know exactly what I or any other religious person is going to say then you don't need me to have a discussion...unless your objective is simply to be argumentative.

Offline Greenandwhite

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #74 on: July 31, 2013, 02:12:38 AM »

     No problem there, the point of natural theology is to find basic assumptions that the religious and nonreligious alike agree on so that we can actually have a discussion - basic metaphysical principles provide that foundation because they have universal intuitive plausibility (e.g. everything that begins to exist must have a cause).

     Natural theology first seeks to define the nature of what God is/means. It's mistake is it's very starting point (i.e. - that there is a thing called "God"/an "unmoved mover" thing).
     
     Natural theology most certainly does not simply assume the existence of God as a starting point to its arguments (with the exception of the ontological argument perhaps).  As an example, where in the first two premises of the kalam cosmological argument do you find an assumption of God's existence?

Offline Greenandwhite

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #75 on: July 31, 2013, 02:25:56 AM »

     No problem there, the point of natural theology is to find basic assumptions that the religious and nonreligious alike agree on so that we can actually have a discussion - basic metaphysical principles provide that foundation because they have universal intuitive plausibility (e.g. everything that begins to exist must have a cause).

     Regarding the "Everything that begins to exist..." axiom:

1. You haven't demonstrated things like how you know that everything "that begins to exist" must have a cause.
2. Even if it were true that everything that begins to exist must have a cause you haven't shown that anything actually began existing (out of ex nihilo). Given the 1st Law of Thermodynamics it could very well be the case that nothing ever "began" existing from ex nihilo but that "stuff" was always "here" in some form or another. Why make an unjustified assumption like this?
3. Even if you could demonstrate that, for example, or universe "began existing" it wouldn't tell you 1) that it was "from ex nihilo" and 2) you wouldn't know it was a deity that did anything (and this of course assumes that you've provided a cogent definition of what "deity" is).

So you would have a ton of work ahead of you in any case. I think it's better to admit ignorance than to practice credulity.

1. I certainly haven't seen any counterexamples to the axiom that 'everything that begins to exist must have a cause' nor do I see anybody actively searching for any.  Any time something happens (e.g. an explosion) we look for a cause; if that is reasonable for little bangs why isn't it reasonable for big bangs as well?  Also, if the above axiom is false then why doesn't anything and everything pop into existence uncaused out of nothing?  Are you at all worried about an accurate facsimile of myself popping into existence behind you right now to say 'boo'?
2. I don't have to show that something began existing out of nothing; the scientific establishment has done a good enough job of that over the last 60 or so years.  After all, the standard Big Bang model is still the consensus candidate for a description of the origin of the universe is it not?
3.  If there is a 'cause' of the universe you can call it whatever the heck you want to.  If you don't want to call it a deity, then fine, but I am not sure what else to call something that possesses the qualities of necessary existence, maximal power, maximal knowledge, and personhood - if that isn't God then I don't know what is. 

Offline Azdgari

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #76 on: July 31, 2013, 06:57:35 AM »
1. I certainly haven't seen any counterexamples to the axiom that 'everything that begins to exist must have a cause' nor do I see anybody actively searching for any.  Any time something happens (e.g. an explosion) we look for a cause; if that is reasonable for little bangs why isn't it reasonable for big bangs as well?  Also, if the above axiom is false then why doesn't anything and everything pop into existence uncaused out of nothing?  Are you at all worried about an accurate facsimile of myself popping into existence behind you right now to say 'boo'?

Greenandwhite, the only things that have ever in the history of humanity been observed to have "begun to exist" are virtual particles, and they do appear to be uncaused.  Everything else we've observed has been one thing changing into another.  Explosions are a good example of this.

One thing creating another is something we've never, ever observed.  So on what basis do you claim it to be the norm?

2. I don't have to show that something began existing out of nothing; the scientific establishment has done a good enough job of that over the last 60 or so years.  After all, the standard Big Bang model is still the consensus candidate for a description of the origin of the universe is it not?

The Big Bang describes what happened since the thing we call our universe started expanding.  It doesn't say that it popped into existence out of nothing.  Humans have never observed nothing.  However, gods supposedly pop things into existence out of nothing.  So yeah, that is something you have to show, but that median doesn't.

3.  If there is a 'cause' of the universe you can call it whatever the heck you want to.  If you don't want to call it a deity, then fine, but I am not sure what else to call something that possesses the qualities of necessary existence, maximal power, maximal knowledge, and personhood - if that isn't God then I don't know what is.

I'm unaware of any other cosmic phenomenon that's demonstrated consciousness/personhood, or knowledge.  Do you?  I mean, humans need brains for those things.  Where is an asteroid's knowledge encoded, and how does it think?  Or a black hole's?  This is your claim, that cosmic phenomena, including the universe itself, have personal characteristics.  Seems like a human bias to me, but maybe there's something else to it.  Share?
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Offline Azdgari

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #77 on: July 31, 2013, 06:58:13 AM »
Also, since this thread is active again...

"X is intuitive" is another way of saying "X corresponds to my biases".

It's a statement about one's self, not about X.

     The following statement corresponds to my biases: If p then q: p therefore q.  I think, however, that it is a little bit more than simply a 'bias' on my part, otherwise I would think that there would be plenty of other people who would think differently.

Of course.  I never said that intuitive things can't also be true, just that being intuitive isn't what demonstrates it.  Do you even bother to read my posts before writing a reply?
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Offline median

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #78 on: July 31, 2013, 02:37:32 PM »

    I have two points to make in response to the above post.  First of all, in regards to my focusing on only one thing that you said - do you expect me to simultaneously respond to every point you have made any time I write something to you? Am I not reasonably entitled to ask some questions of clarification before writing an in depth response?  Just because I ask a question about one thing you have said doesn't mean I am planning on ignoring the rest of your post. 

The process did not seem to be going this way (for me at least) but thank you for clarifying that you will not ignore my posts.

     Second, it seems to me that you think that just because I have been branded a 'theist' that everything I say must in some way be a roundabout argument for God's existence.  If you care to re-examine the contents of this thread I think you will find that you are the only one who has brought religious notions such as God, the Bible, or the arguments of natural theology into this discussion.  What was actually being discussed before you made your two posts (and Azdgari can correct me if I am wrong) was the epistemological question of what methods are valid for gaining knowledge.  I was trying to defend the notion that there are some forms of knowledge (e.g. moral judgements, metaphysical statements, mathematical axioms, etc…) that are not dependent upon the scientific method for us to come to know them – I could very well be an atheist and still believe that.


And is it not your contention that your 'form of knowledge' (or the way in which you go about coming to the knowledge of God) is in a similar fashion as this (i.e. - without using the scientific method but in some other way)??


Incidentally, the question of whether or not moral absolutes exist is peripheral to the issues of whether or not moral judgements constitute knowledge and what methods we must use to obtain that knowledge.

But this is a red-herring because we weren't discussing whether or not moral judgments constitute knowledge. We were discussing equivocations of the term 'morality' and how (if possible) to rectify such disagreements.
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Offline median

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #79 on: July 31, 2013, 03:24:13 PM »
(1) If the flourishing of conscious creatures is the foundation of all our moral judgements then saying something is wrong seems no different from saying that such and such an action will result in fewer, less healthy conscious creatures;

NOPE. I never said the flourishing of conscious creatures is "the foundation of all moral judgments". This is very common Christian apologist absolutist language (as if it is somehow assumed that we must have some unalterable standard). I said (for me) morality is (at the very least) about the well being of human beings (and for some conscious creatures). I also followed that up by stating that that IF morality is about the well being of conscious creatures then it is (at least to some extent) objective. Why? Because science (medical/psychological, etc) can tell us quite a bit about wellness.

however, when we condemn Stalin for the gulags it seems to me that we are actually making an 'ought' statement and not simply a statement to the effect that Stalin's actions resulted in fewer homo sapiens - how do you bridge the is/ought gap?

If I was attempting to bridge the is/ought dilemma (but I'm not) I would do so by arguing what morality is about. Again, if morality is about the well-being of conscious creatures (particularly humans), and science can tell us some things about that (provided that one wishes to be well) then it is not a leap at all to say how things ought to be.

(2) I think that we look very differently on the actions of various kinds of sentient creatures.  For instance, if a pack of hyenas drives another species to extinction we don't set up a tribunal to investigate possible genocide.  If that is the case then why do you consider it morally repugnant when another species of sentient creatures (specifically, a stone age Palestinian tribe) attempts to do the same thing?

As I just noted above, for me morality is about the well being of humans (not necessarily about animals but that can be included). The bigger issue here, and I think it's where you (like most Christians) are hung up, is that I reject the notion of an "objective" morality (at least in the sense of the term in which most religious people use it). I see no reason, whatsoever, for thinking there is some moral "standard" somewhere that applies regardless of whether there are any physical/rational creatures around. On the contrary, the evidence I see is that there is us (humans) by which to make moral decisions. That is all. Thus (in general) morality is about us - and little if anything else.

(3) I want to know what exactly 'human flourishing' entails so that I know how to make good moral judgements.  Is it just about concepts like health and sheer numbers?

This is another common Christian misconception - that you need some 'absolute authority' to tell you how it is - otherwise you'll just feel lost and not know what to do. Why do you need me to tell you how you ought to run your life? Hell, why do you feel that you need some authority to tell you what is moral, period?? The cool thing about life (regarding human flourishing) is that much of it is up to you! You get to decide what constitutes your flourishing (in many aspects) and what choices you will make regarding it. And you also get to decide how to treat others. It's not that complicated.

If you have some fear that if there is no 'objective' moral standard and henceforth there will just be chaos, or destruction, or meltdown then you're just deluded. Would you just start raping, killing, and pillaging if you didn't think there was an objective ethic/God somewhere? Your actions have consequences, regardless of whether there's a deity.

If so, then were the eugenics programs that the Nazi's pursued a good idea, in principle - after all, their goal was to produce 'healthier' homo sapiens was it not?

Uh, what? LOL. No it wasn't actually. Those programs were developed to create a "Master Race" and weed-out anyone who was deemed "unfit". But violating people's freedoms in such a fashion significantly diminishes happiness (and therefore their well being). Thus, I deem those public policies immoral.

In addition, as a normal male of my species I enjoy sex; so is polygamy ok?  Seems to me that I could produce a lot more children if I had a lot more wives.

Personally, I see no problem with polygamy. If you can find multiple women who (by their own accord) are willing to 'share' you with other women - go for it. I see nothing immoral there as of now.
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Carl Sagan

Offline median

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #80 on: July 31, 2013, 03:34:51 PM »

     You know, on another thread you asked the following question: 'why do we argue with religious people'?  In light of the above I think you still need to do some explaining because it seems to me that you are doing a pretty good job of debating a religious position (presumably the moral argument) without any religious antagonist.  If you already think you know exactly what I or any other religious person is going to say then you don't need me to have a discussion...unless your objective is simply to be argumentative.

Perhaps instead of making such statements you should just get honest and admit if I guessed where you were going with your argument - instead of getting all emotional b/c I anticipated where you were headed. It's just absurd to state that I would have a conversation with myself here (and you would know that I thought that had you read that post regarding why I debate with religious people). I was a Christian apologist for many years, and I have a pretty good idea as to where these arguments are headed when they begin (because I used those arguments for years myself). So why not just be honest and state the punchline so that we can discuss whether it has merit or not?
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Offline median

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #81 on: July 31, 2013, 03:45:28 PM »
     
     Natural theology most certainly does not simply assume the existence of God as a starting point to its arguments (with the exception of the ontological argument perhaps).  As an example, where in the first two premises of the kalam cosmological argument do you find an assumption of God's existence?

Wrong. The very term itself implies a presumption of deism/theism (assume there is a deity and then go about trying to make arguments and/or find things that support that assumption/definition). Does Natural Unicornism make any sense? It's absurd.
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Offline median

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #82 on: July 31, 2013, 04:06:53 PM »

1. I certainly haven't seen any counterexamples to the axiom that 'everything that begins to exist must have a cause' nor do I see anybody actively searching for any.  Any time something happens (e.g. an explosion) we look for a cause; if that is reasonable for little bangs why isn't it reasonable for big bangs as well?  Also, if the above axiom is false then why doesn't anything and everything pop into existence uncaused out of nothing?  Are you at all worried about an accurate facsimile of myself popping into existence behind you right now to say 'boo'?
2. I don't have to show that something began existing out of nothing; the scientific establishment has done a good enough job of that over the last 60 or so years.  After all, the standard Big Bang model is still the consensus candidate for a description of the origin of the universe is it not?
3.  If there is a 'cause' of the universe you can call it whatever the heck you want to.  If you don't want to call it a deity, then fine, but I am not sure what else to call something that possesses the qualities of necessary existence, maximal power, maximal knowledge, and personhood - if that isn't God then I don't know what is.

Since Azdgari already answered these I will be brief.

1. Have you ever observed anything "beginning" to exist (ex nihilo)? If not, then what makes you think this statement makes any sense at all? If you're just talking about the rearrangement of material then we are likely not talking about the same thing (and BB cosmology doesn't state anything about the universe 'from nothing'). Furthermore, that the universe began to exist (a finite amount of time ago) says nothing as to what made it begin. So again, you've haven't demonstrated this 'axiom' is true or even coherent.

2. See #1 - yes you do need to demonstrate your claims

3. You make some pretty big assumptions here. a) The term "necessary existence" doesn't have to equate to a conscious intelligent agent. b) 'Maximal power' doesn't get you there either. What is 'maximal power'? Even if we observed/experienced (in some way) the greatest power that could be observed it all could still be natural (i.e. - a greater power than we now understand is just that, a greater power, not a god). c) Maximal knowledge? Really? How can you deduce 'maximal knowledge' from the beginning of the universe? I see no connection here. d) Same thing here. Personhood? Huh? Where? What are you even talking about?
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Carl Sagan

Offline ParkingPlaces

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #83 on: July 31, 2013, 04:46:30 PM »
Greenandwhite

You seem less impressed with the scientific method than the rest of us. While I am willing to agree that said methods are not perfect, I have yet to hear of any alternative way to gather useful information about our reality.

Right now people using scientifically sound processes are adding to our knowledge base about the universe and our planet on a daily basis. We can accurately state that we know more this week than we did last week. We can also, with great confidence, say that we know that we will know more next week than we do now. In the meantime, I know of no other way to test theories, confirm or reject hypothesis or otherwise, in a controlled and monitored way, explore and learn. Especially at the rate we are currently making ourselves smarter.

Those that don't like our reliance on such a process should, but the nature of their complaints, have an alternative ready for us to consider. Because simply saying one is not happy with the scientific method doesn't do diddley if alternatives cannot be proffered.

When I was in high school, biologists didn't yet know how photosynthesis worked. Which was great for me because that meant the tests were easier. Now we not only know how it works, but we can artificially induce photosynthesis-like processes in artificial, non-living materials. Can you think of any other way we humans could have gone from straight-up ignorance on a subject to harnessing the method for our own purposes in such a short period of time (in this case less than 50 years). I can't think of one.

If one does not like the scientific method because it keeps coming up with ideas that are contrary to what one wishes were true, then the complaint shouldn't be with science, but with the source of ones wishes. If one doesn't feel like learning what theories, etc. science currently has available on any given subject, and would rather complain that it isn't complete enough, one should find new standards. If one is in incredulous mode, and can't possibly imagine how something so complex ever came into being, one should realize that personal shortcomings are seldom, if ever, the source of great breakthroughs.

We don't know everything. We never will. But we know enough to understand that we have made great progress since the first cavemen looked up and said, "Hey Grog, what are those tiny little lights?" And I have no doubt that 200 years from now people will look back on 20th and 21st century physics and astronomy land laugh at how little we knew. But everything they know in 2213 will be knowledge built upon by the science of previous generations, including our own. And everyone who continues in 2213 to claim that "Something can't come from nothing, so there!" will be stuck in the 10th century AD (or CE if you prefer), just as they are now.
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #84 on: August 01, 2013, 07:11:57 AM »
Can you think of any other way we humans could have gone from straight-up ignorance on a subject to harnessing the method for our own purposes in such a short period of time

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Offline Greenandwhite

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #85 on: August 06, 2013, 11:40:03 AM »
Greenandwhite
     You seem less impressed with the scientific method than the rest of us. While I am willing to agree that said methods are not perfect, I have yet to hear of any alternative way to gather useful information about our reality.  Right now people using scientifically sound processes are adding to our knowledge base about the universe and our planet on a daily basis...

ParkingPlaces,

     I am ‘less impressed’ with the explanatory scope that you have assigned to the scientific method, not with its accuracy or usefulness when properly applied.  My beef is not with the scientific method, but with the philosophy of scientism which claims that true or useful knowledge can only be gleaned through the application of the scientific method.  My issue is that this type of a stance seems self-refuting (in that the basic premise of scientism cannot be established through use of the scientific method) and overly restrictive on what we call knowledge.  For instance, as I have said elsewhere, if the presumption of scientism (that the scientific method is universally applicable) is true, then many areas where we commonly assume that knowledge is being gained seem to be rather worthless.  For instance, isn’t it possible that a theoretical physicist who spends his entire career studying the mathematical theory behind string theory has actually managed to learn something?  If scientism is true then doesn’t that mean that philosophers like Dr John Searl, who don’t do any scientific experiments in the course of their work but instead rely on thought experiments (e.g. the Chinese room) and introspection have not gained any knowledge in the course of their research?

Offline Azdgari

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #86 on: August 06, 2013, 11:42:15 AM »
The basis of a method of gaining knowledge can never be established non-circularly through that same method of gaining knowledge.  Applying that standard is silly, and refutes any means whatsoever of gaining knowledge if used consistently.

But then, that was your whole point in applying it, wasn't it?
« Last Edit: August 06, 2013, 11:43:52 AM by Azdgari »
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