Author Topic: Introductory Questions  (Read 13275 times)

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Offline Greenandwhite

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #87 on: August 06, 2013, 11:43:32 AM »
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?

Azdgari,
     I was not intending to ascribe personal  characteristics to the universe or to anything possessing the same physical properties as the universe.  I was trying to say that if there is a cause of the universe then it would be separate and distinct from the universe and possess properties that are of a personal rather than physical nature (e.g. properties like intentionality and will). 
« Last Edit: August 06, 2013, 11:58:16 AM by Greenandwhite »

Offline Azdgari

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #88 on: August 06, 2013, 11:44:54 AM »
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?

Azdgari(77C),
     I was not intending to ascribe personal  characteristics to the universe or to anything possessing the same physical properties as the universe.  I was trying to say that if there is a cause of the universe then it would be separate and distinct from the universe and possess properties that are of a personal rather than physical nature (e.g. properties like intentionality and will). 

Sure you weren't.  See the emphasized text above.  You're making a distinction without a difference:  Knowledge is a personal characteristic.  Personhood is...well, the essence of having personal characteristics.  At least own it.
« Last Edit: August 06, 2013, 11:46:40 AM by Azdgari »
I have not encountered any mechanical malfunctioning in my spirit.  It works every single time I need it to.

Offline Greenandwhite

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #89 on: August 06, 2013, 11:46:01 AM »
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.

Azdgari,
     Empirical data that cosmologists have used to flesh out the Big Bang model (as well as any competing alternative models) is based on events that followed the initial expansion of the universe, but that doesn’t mean that logical extrapolations cannot be made to postulate states of affairs prior to or apart from the initial singularity.  Scientists make these kinds of evidential extrapolations all the time (e.g. the oscillating universe theories – any previous oscillatory phase would have been prior to the initial singularity of our current space time continuum).  Unless you are willing to defend the notion that ‘nothingness’ in reference to physical universes like and including our own is a logical impossibility, then I don’t see how you can categorically rule it out as a possibility.  A state of ‘nothingness’ would be one of a number of possible states of affairs that could have existed logically or temporally prior to the beginning of our universe, and the relevant question then becomes: ‘which state of affairs is best supported by the current cosmological data?’ 
      Saying that we have never observed ‘nothing’ seems to me to be a rather trivial point.  If a human was present to make an observation, then that fact in itself would mean that something is in fact present.  Concepts of nothingness are based upon negations of what it means for something to be present.  In other words, nothingness means that the properties of the something in question (be it an elephant, the universe, or God) are not present.  Basically, the better we understand or can describe something the better we can understand what the absence of that entity would entail.  If you understand at least something of what it means for an elephant to be present in your living room then you also understand something of what it means for an elephant to be absent from your living room.  To the extent that you understand the properties of the universe you will also understand what it means for the universe to be absent.  Why is the absence of God, of whom we apparently possess little intelligible knowledge, easily imaginable while the absence of the universe, of which we supposedly possess a plethora of knowledge, unintelligible? 
« Last Edit: August 06, 2013, 11:56:58 AM by Greenandwhite »

Offline Greenandwhite

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #90 on: August 06, 2013, 11:48:07 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?

Azdgari,
     The following two statements: “one thing changed into another thing” and “something began to exist” are two logically equivalent statements.  Think about the computer (or other device) that you are currently reading this message on; I am assuming you would agree that the materials out of which your computer were made (the material cause) during some interval of time ‘changed’ so that at a specific point in time they could rightfully be called a computer.  In other words, your computer ‘began to exist’ when a material cause (the components out of which your computer where made) were changed into something else (your computer) by an efficient cause (the computer technician).  This would be an example of something beginning to exist from a material cause and by way of an efficient cause.  If I were to deny the plausibility of the phrase ‘anything that begins to exist must have a cause’ it would be equivalent to me saying to you, “see the computer that you are using right now; at some point in time it began to exist, but it did so without a material or an efficient cause”.  That, to me, seems to be a rather unreasonable supposition. 
     When a virtual particle purportedly begins to exist uncaused, that ‘appearance’ is based on theoretical considerations.  There are multiple mathematical interpretations of quantum mechanics; the most common formulation being the Copenhagan Interpretation that posits the quality of indeterminism for quantum events; however, there are other interpretations (e.g. the Bohmian interpretation) that do say that quantum events are fully caused in the standard sense.  The important thing to note is that the differing interpretations are based upon mathematical considerations and not empirical ones.  Given the emphasis placed on empirical data on this forum I think that it would be purely arbitrary for you to prefer one interpretation over the other. 
     It seems reasonable to assume that any effect that has occurred at a specific time t must have had some sort of cause (material, efficient, or both) at time t-1.  It also seems reasonable to assume that something cannot come from nothing.  This is the type of reasoning that all scientific research is based upon.  Deny either or both of those principles and it seems to me we have undercut our entire scientific enterprise.  If a scientist were to ask the question ‘why’ about a certain event and one were to answer ‘no reason, it just happened’ then there would be no reason to look for a cause and no way to know when we have actually found a genuine cause rather than a coincidence.   
« Last Edit: August 06, 2013, 11:57:15 AM by Greenandwhite »

Offline Greenandwhite

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #91 on: August 06, 2013, 11:51:05 AM »
     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.

Median,
     You said that rather than discussing whether or not moral judgements constitute knowledge, we were actually “discussing equivocations of the term ‘morality’ and how if possible to rectify such disagreements”.  I am certainly in favor of minimizing the possibility of equivocation.  The best way I can think of to do that is to define terms; however, when I asked you in post #66 to define ‘well-being’ you proceeded to evade my question in post #67, then you defined it in post #69 as ‘human flourishing’ (which is essentially a synonymous term subject to the same ambiguities), and finally in post #80 you accused me that my question about ‘human flourishing’ meant that I was looking for “some 'absolute authority' to tell [me how things are]”??? 
« Last Edit: August 06, 2013, 11:57:31 AM by Greenandwhite »

Offline Greenandwhite

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #92 on: August 06, 2013, 11:52:25 AM »
     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.

Median,
     I beg to differ.  There is a difference between the assumptions a person might hold as part of her belief system and the kinds of assumptions that are necessary to get a specific argument off the ground.  Just because a theist pursues a natural theological argument does not mean that the person’s individual views are actually a necessary part of the argument.  When Quentin Smith studies the cosmological argument for the purposes of a debate with someone like Dr. Craig do you think that he has to assume God exists prior to the intellectual exercise?  He (as an atheist) happens to be studying natural theology just like any theist would; he just thinks that the cosmological argument points in another direction. 
     Also, in typical form, you simply took what I said in my post and basically said “no, you’re wrong” without bothering to answer the specific challenge I gave and without giving any rationale of your own.  So to rehash my previous question, which of the two premises of the kalam cosmological argument assumes God’s existence and why?
« Last Edit: August 06, 2013, 11:57:53 AM by Greenandwhite »

Offline Greenandwhite

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #93 on: August 06, 2013, 12:01:37 PM »
(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??

Median,
     How in the world did you determine that I am looking for some kind of ‘absolute authority’ to tell me how things should be based on my question from the previous post where I asked: “what exactly does ‘human flourishing’ entail”?  If someone told me that she tries to live her life by the golden rule and I asked her to explain what that means and how she applies it in a real life scenario, would that also constitute my seeking an ‘absolute authority’? I don’t see how a rule of thumb or a general principle constitutes an ‘absolute authority’. 
     I also don’t understand why you have to be so reluctant to clarify the meaning of a phrase you are using.  What does ‘human flourishing’ entail?  Is it best defined by physical, psychological, or social metrics or a mixture of all three?  Does it primarily apply to the individual, to the individual’s immediate group, or to humanity collectively?  How do we deal with differences of opinion regarding ‘human flourishing’ (e.g. when one person’s ‘flourishing’ collides with another person’s)? 

Offline Greenandwhite

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #94 on: August 06, 2013, 12:03:42 PM »
     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.

Median,
     Saying that the Nazi’s wanted to create a ‘master race’ by weeding out anyone who was deemed ‘unfit’ is pretty much the same thing as saying that their goal was to produce a ‘healthier’ species of homo sapiens.  I did not ask you if you thought the Nazi’s eugenics program was morally right, I asked you if it was morally permissible in principle.  You see, it seems to me that the concept of human flourishing is kind of useless in guiding moral action because one can never know for sure what actions are going to lead to the maximal amount of human flourishing for the maximum number of humans. For all we know the Nazi’s eugenics program could have resulted in an overall positive balance of human flourishing when applied to humans collectively (including those who are to come).  You say that their program violated human freedoms and therefore diminished happiness, but how do you weigh that cost against the ‘goodness’ of a healthier more numerous future species?  Isn’t this the kind of thing that happens in nature all the time; indeed, isn’t it the general direction that nature progresses in (e.g. in the direction of more fit species even if there are costs involved and even if there are some dead ends).  So you can go ahead and point out what you think were moral deficiencies in their methods, but that doesn’t mean that they didn’t have the correct goal by your proposed moral guideline. 

Offline Greenandwhite

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #95 on: August 06, 2013, 12:05:59 PM »
     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.

Median,
     Scientific discovery tells us what ‘is’; it does not tell us what ‘ought to be’. If I am a medical doctor and my child is sick I think most people would agree that I ought to do all I can to help my child get better.  Science can certainly inform me what actions will help my child recover from his illness, but in what sense does scientific learning tell me that I ought to pursue those actions? 

Offline Greenandwhite

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #96 on: August 06, 2013, 12:08:12 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'?

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.

Median,
     I have never observed anything that began to exist without a cause.  Everything that I have observed beginning to exist (e.g. chocolate chip cookies, automobiles, internet forum posts, etc…) has always had at least two types of causes (and sometimes three).  If you consider a chocolate chip cookie, it has three types of causes: a material cause (the ingredients from which it is made), an efficient cause (usually my wife), and a final cause (the purpose for which my wife made the cookies).  The statement, ‘from nothingness nothing can come’ is an intuitively plausible statement that is also logically equivalent to saying that ‘nothing can begin to exist without a cause’. So if my wife goes away for the day and takes all the cookie making ingredients with her, is it rational for me to still expect that a cookie could begin to exist in my house absent any kind of cause?  Since the universe is a physical thing the same as cookies and cars are, I don’t see why the same principle would not apply.  I could perhaps accept the possibility that the universe could begin to exist absent a final and efficient cause, but for it to begin to exist without even a material cause (previously existing ‘material’), that doesn’t hold any plausibility at all for me. 
     Furthermore, take the axiom ‘everything that begins to exist must have a cause’ and consider it in light of what you said here: http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/forums/index.php/topic,25220.msg564561.html#msg564561  (“God (Yahweh) won't heal amputees because Yahweh isn't real and non-real things can't do things”).  The implication is that if an amputee was healed in a certain way (a way that rules out any natural cause), then you would have evidence for God’s existence.  But how can you conclude from the absence of amputee healings that God does not exist if you are not also assuming the truth of the very axiom that you are trying to deny in this thread.  You see, if the missing limb of an amputee was to instantaneously appear fully formed and correctly attached to his or her body, how would you know it was God who did it if you were not also simultaneously assuming that it is impossible for a limb to appear uncaused out of nothing?

Offline Greenandwhite

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #97 on: August 06, 2013, 12:10:51 PM »
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?

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

Median,
     I said that the reason I don’t have to demonstrate that the universe began existing without any pre-existing material cause is because the scientific establishment has already done so.  What would you like me to do here; go to university and study cosmology and quantum mechanics for the next four years and then answer your post?  In the interim this will have to suffice. 
     It is true that prior to 2003 there was much speculation as to what possibilities our inability to study the Big Bang prior to Plank time allowed; however, in 2003 three cosmologists by the names of Arvin Borde, Alan Guth, and Alexander Vilenkin were able to prove that any universe which has, on average, been expanding throughout its history cannot be infinite in the past but must have a past space-time boundary.  The strength of their proof is that it holds regardless of the physical description of the universe prior to Plank time.  In regards to their discovery Vilenkin sated the following:  “It is said that an argument is what convinces reasonable men and a proof is what it takes to convince even an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past-eternal universe. There is no escape, they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning (Many Worlds in One [New York: Hill and Wang, 2006], p.176).” 
     Even prior to this, however, there were many scientists who considered the initial singularity to be a boundary apart from which literally nothing exists.  For example, P. C. W. Davies commented: “If we extrapolate this prediction to its extreme, we reach a point when all distances in the universe have shrunk to zero. An initial cosmological singularity therefore forms a past temporal extremity to the universe. We cannot continue physical reasoning, or even the concept of spacetime, through such an extremity. For this reason most cosmologists think of the initial singularity as the beginning of the universe. On this view the big bang represents the creation event; the creation not only of all the matter and energy in the universe, but also of spacetime itself. P. C. W. Davies, "Spacetime Singularities in Cosmology," in The Study of Time III, ed. J. T. Fraser (New York: Springer Verlag, 1978), pp. 78-79. In addition, Barrow and Tipler write, “at this singularity, space and time came into existence; literally nothing existed before the singularity, so, if the Universe originated at such a singularity, we would truly have a creation ex nihilo” (John Barrow and Frank Tipler, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle  Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986 p442)

Offline Greenandwhite

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #98 on: August 06, 2013, 12:12:40 PM »
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.

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?

Median,
     I am not deducing ‘personhood’ from the qualities of necessary existence, maximal power, or what have you; I am deducing it from the fact that if a cause exists eternally and is sufficient to produce an effect then that effect will also exist eternally.  If the universe has not existed eternally but its cause has, then its cause (e.g. God, X, ‘powerful alien’, or whatever else you want to call it) would have to possess certain personal properties (e.g. the ability to, at a certain time, will something like our universe to become actual). 
      The cause of the universe would also have to be necessarily existent because if the cause of the universe had a cause then we could just continue to ask the causal question ad infinitum leaving us with an infinite regress (infinite regresses are explanatorily impotent as far as I know). 
     What is maximal power?  Maximal power is the ability to actualize any state of affairs that is logically possible.  If an entity had the power to actualize the universe, is there some other state of affairs you had in mind that you would be doubtful that entity could actualize?

Offline Greenandwhite

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #99 on: August 06, 2013, 12:25:13 PM »
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?

Azdgari,
     I was not intending to ascribe personal  characteristics to the universe or to anything possessing the same physical properties as the universe.  I was trying to say that if there is a cause of the universe then it would be separate and distinct from the universe and possess properties that are of a personal rather than physical nature (e.g. properties like intentionality and will). 

Sure you weren't.  See the emphasized text above.  You're making a distinction without a difference:  Knowledge is a personal characteristic.  Personhood is...well, the essence of having personal characteristics.  At least own it.

Azdgari,
     Sure, knowledge is a personal characteristic, but it isn't the only personal characteristic.  I guess to be clearer I could have substituted the phrase 'personal will' or the 'ability to make willful decisions' for 'personhood' in my original post.  However, I did make the following statement in my second post: "...properties that are of a personal rather than physical nature (e.g. properties like intentionality and will").  So it seems to me that subsequent to my first post which you are criticizing here, I did elaborate what else I thought 'personhood' entailed. 


Offline Greenandwhite

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #100 on: August 06, 2013, 12:36:39 PM »
     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?

     Right, it would be circular reasoning to attempt to use the scientific method to establish its own validity; however, I am assuming that you believe the scientific method to be a valid means of gaining knowledge and that you 'know' that through reasoning that you do not believe to be circular in nature.  Therefore, that observation would show that we must of necessity have methods distinct from the scientific method for obtaining knowledge, would it not?
     

Offline Astreja

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #101 on: August 06, 2013, 12:47:54 PM »
Greenandwhite, I'm trying to conceive of what kind of "personality" and "will" an immaterial entity would possess, and I'm drawing a blank.  The best I can come up with is a Something wanting to compare itself against Something Else.

IMO, in the absence of physical experiences and sensations, personality traits such as likes, dislikes, emotions and memories simply wouldn't exist in any sense that we could appreciate -- It would be just one amorphous glob of energy trying to sort out what it is and what's beyond its perimeter.
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #102 on: August 06, 2013, 02:30:08 PM »
the philosophy of scientism

There is no such thing.  It is a fiction created by the religious used as a straw man to knock down.  It is a pejorative which religious people apply to any science they don't like.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientism

You probably should not use that word again.  It does not help your argument.


 
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Offline jaimehlers

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #103 on: August 07, 2013, 03:58:24 PM »
So, I spent some time reading over the thread, and I have some points to make.

First off, let's take the definition of a circle G&W cited, "a closed curve in a plane all of whose points are equally distant from a fixed point in the plane called the center".  That is indeed based on observation.  Nobody conceived of a circle without first observing something circular in nature.  That led to defining it so that we could distinguish something that was circular from something that was elliptical (and other geometric shapes).  In effect, even though nobody had conceived of the term "scientific method" yet, that's effectively what people used in order to come up with the definition of a circle.  They made an observation, formulated an explanation, compared that explanation to reality, modified it as needed, and then shared it with other people (who checked it themselves and made changes as needed in order to make sure it conformed to reality).  Certainly, it wasn't the kind of organized methodology we use today, but it was the same basic process.

The other things he mentioned, deductive reasoning and rational introspection, are themselves dependent upon observations in order to be meaningful.  I mean, while it's certainly possible to use them without basing them on an observation (say, off of an opinion), what use would the conclusions be for acquiring knowledge[1]?  All one would be doing is building off of an opinion, which is itself not provable.  There are times the opinion might be valid, such as "I like chocolate" - but any conclusions drawn through deductive reasoning or rational introspection based on that opinion are of strictly limited use.  And really, even the opinion itself is based on an observation - "I like chocolate because it tastes good".

One of the things we have to be really careful of is to make sure we keep our opinions and the observations that spawned them separate.  It's a little too easy to treat them as a single unit, rather than as separate pieces of information.  "I like chocolate because it tastes good" is a compound statement, an opinion based on an observation.  So the real question is whether we can base opinions on anything besides observations.  I don't think we can, at least fundamentally.  While it's possible to have an opinion based on an opinion, I think ultimately the first opinion in the chain was based on an observation.

That's where the problems with most religions lie - they're based on observations, like everything else, but observations which were not kept separate from the opinions about the observations.  For example, take the Greek myth about why the sun and the moon appear to orbit the Earth.  The Sun is pulled by Helios's chariot; the moon is pulled by Selene's chariot.  In other words, they don't consider the facts (that the sun and moon appear to orbit the Earth) in isolation - they incorporate the facts and their opinions (that Helios and Selene are responsible) into the explanation.  I think if you get right down to it, every religion that ever was is based on that same false paradigm - that you can explain a phenomenon with an opinion based on that phenomenon, without testing that opinion to see if it's right.

On top of that, it's necessary to keep in mind that observations are limited by whatever is used to make the observation.  If observing something ten miles away, would you prefer to use your own two eyes, or would you prefer to use binoculars?  But it's more than that.  Let's take G&W's example of how people observing that the sun revolved around the Earth led most to a false conclusion.  While that's certainly true, it's true because their observations were sharply limited.  They were not aware of the Earth's rotational movement, the same way that a person riding in a high-speed vehicle with no windows is not aware of its motion until that motion changes.  But even then, there's ways to figure out that the sun's apparent motion is based on Earth's rotation - as the ancient Greeks showed long ago.

So you can't just take observations for granted.  That's why we have the scientific method.  And that's why deductive reasoning and rational introspection, useful as they are, can't compete with it for determining if something is factual or not.  You can't disprove the Earth-centric hypothesis (or, indeed, any hypothesis) with deductive reasoning or with rational introspection; you can only disprove it with making observations and testing them.
 1. I don't mean you can't learn something from analyzing an opinion, but it's questionable whether what you're learning is knowledge or something else.

Offline DumpsterFire

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #104 on: August 07, 2013, 11:50:47 PM »
     Saying that the Nazi’s wanted to create a ‘master race’ by weeding out anyone who was deemed ‘unfit’ is pretty much the same thing as saying that their goal was to produce a ‘healthier’ species of homo sapiens.  I did not ask you if you thought the Nazi’s eugenics program was morally right, I asked you if it was morally permissible in principle.  You see, it seems to me that the concept of human flourishing is kind of useless in guiding moral action because one can never know for sure what actions are going to lead to the maximal amount of human flourishing for the maximum number of humans. For all we know the Nazi’s eugenics program could have resulted in an overall positive balance of human flourishing when applied to humans collectively (including those who are to come).  You say that their program violated human freedoms and therefore diminished happiness, but how do you weigh that cost against the ‘goodness’ of a healthier more numerous future species?  Isn’t this the kind of thing that happens in nature all the time; indeed, isn’t it the general direction that nature progresses in (e.g. in the direction of more fit species even if there are costs involved and even if there are some dead ends).  So you can go ahead and point out what you think were moral deficiencies in their methods, but that doesn’t mean that they didn’t have the correct goal by your proposed moral guideline.

The answer to why the Nazi eugenics program would have been a net loss for humanity (had they succeeded) lies in your first sentence above. The Nazis determined which traits were "desirable" by their own subjective standards. By breeding to isolate such traits as blonde hair and blue eyes they would have severely limited the available gene pool, which would have set human evolution back significantly. Even if we set aside the obvious human rights violations, the deliberate exclusion of such a huge portion of the available human genome would be like a sharp stick in the eye[1] to the natural process. Nature does not work like that. Nature does not play favorites, because nature is not sentient and thus has no preferences at all. If a particular trait leads to greater opportunities for procreation, it gets passed on more frequently, eventually leading to that trait becoming prominent. No system that begins with a predetermined set of favored outcomes can possibly trump nature.
 1. figuratively, of course
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Offline median

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #105 on: August 09, 2013, 07:00:28 PM »

Median,
     You said that rather than discussing whether or not moral judgements constitute knowledge, we were actually “discussing equivocations of the term ‘morality’ and how if possible to rectify such disagreements”.  I am certainly in favor of minimizing the possibility of equivocation.  The best way I can think of to do that is to define terms; however, when I asked you in post #66 to define ‘well-being’ you proceeded to evade my question in post #67, then you defined it in post #69 as ‘human flourishing’ (which is essentially a synonymous term subject to the same ambiguities), and finally in post #80 you accused me that my question about ‘human flourishing’ meant that I was looking for “some 'absolute authority' to tell [me how things are]”???
[/m]

This response demonstrates exactly what I had anticipated originally, that you are asking me for an unobtainable definition of morality (one which - if it does not fit your presupposition of what it should be ["precision"] - you will not accept). Welp, sorry, I don't accept your standard. I do not hold the position that all philosophical terms are capable of being defined by unshakable unambiguous necessary and sufficient conditions (i.e. your idea of something non general). Do you think all terms can be defined unambiguously? Earlier, I drew the analogy to science - that if one asked for a definition of Geology and the answerer said, "The study of rock formations and movements" that such an answer (even though general) would be sufficient. Is it sufficient for you? I'd like to know what standard of language you are attempting to hold me to b/c I gave a general definition of what morality is about (for me) and all you came back with was "Well that's synonymous with the term." Guess what? So is every definition! So I don't know what you're looking for.

Again, it seems like you have a double standard.
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Offline median

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #106 on: August 09, 2013, 07:03:36 PM »

Median,
     I beg to differ.  There is a difference between the assumptions a person might hold as part of her belief system and the kinds of assumptions that are necessary to get a specific argument off the ground.  Just because a theist pursues a natural theological argument does not mean that the person’s individual views are actually a necessary part of the argument.  When Quentin Smith studies the cosmological argument for the purposes of a debate with someone like Dr. Craig do you think that he has to assume God exists prior to the intellectual exercise?  He (as an atheist) happens to be studying natural theology just like any theist would; he just thinks that the cosmological argument points in another direction. 
     Also, in typical form, you simply took what I said in my post and basically said “no, you’re wrong” without bothering to answer the specific challenge I gave and without giving any rationale of your own.  So to rehash my previous question, which of the two premises of the kalam cosmological argument assumes God’s existence and why?

As is so common throughout this debate, once again I do not accept your assumed definition of what "natural theology" is (just as I don't agree with those who used it back when). That is what you are missing. So yes, we do need to get down to definitions b/c obviously we don't agree on them. In this case, it's not that important for me to debate with you regarding what "natural theology" is. So let's move on to something closer to the topic of WWGHAF.
« Last Edit: August 09, 2013, 07:15:46 PM by median »
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Offline median

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #107 on: August 09, 2013, 07:25:45 PM »

Median,
     How in the world did you determine that I am looking for some kind of ‘absolute authority’ to tell me how things should be based on my question from the previous post where I asked: “what exactly does ‘human flourishing’ entail”?  If someone told me that she tries to live her life by the golden rule and I asked her to explain what that means and how she applies it in a real life scenario, would that also constitute my seeking an ‘absolute authority’? I don’t see how a rule of thumb or a general principle constitutes an ‘absolute authority’. 
     I also don’t understand why you have to be so reluctant to clarify the meaning of a phrase you are using.  What does ‘human flourishing’ entail?  Is it best defined by physical, psychological, or social metrics or a mixture of all three?  Does it primarily apply to the individual, to the individual’s immediate group, or to humanity collectively?  How do we deal with differences of opinion regarding ‘human flourishing’ (e.g. when one person’s ‘flourishing’ collides with another person’s)?

What is your purpose in this line of questioning? What are you trying to accomplish by asking me for 'clarification' regarding what morality is to me? I've said already that I have not attempted to make any case (whatever) for an 'objective' morality (at least not in the way you envision). So why does this matter to you? You seem to be the one who thinks there is such a thing as a moral standard that exists absent human judgement. So perhaps you can demonstrate how you think you know this.
« Last Edit: August 09, 2013, 07:27:18 PM by median »
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Offline median

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #108 on: August 09, 2013, 08:48:15 PM »

Median,
     Saying that the Nazi’s wanted to create a ‘master race’ by weeding out anyone who was deemed ‘unfit’ is pretty much the same thing as saying that their goal was to produce a ‘healthier’ species of homo sapiens.  I did not ask you if you thought the Nazi’s eugenics program was morally right, I asked you if it was morally permissible in principle.  You see, it seems to me that the concept of human flourishing is kind of useless in guiding moral action because one can never know for sure what actions are going to lead to the maximal amount of human flourishing for the maximum number of humans.

The 'one can never really be sure' argument? Really?? Such flawed black and white thinking is unjustified. This is why (earlier) I explained that I was anticipating these absolutist type of fallacies - that somehow if we can't have absolute knowledge (or if we can't "know for sure") that our reasoning is going to be effective or successful, then we should just consider our understanding "useless". WOW. This thinking doesn't really deserve a serious response but I did anyway because I used to think the same way.

For all we know the Nazi’s eugenics program could have resulted in an overall positive balance of human flourishing when applied to humans collectively (including those who are to come).  You say that their program violated human freedoms and therefore diminished happiness, but how do you weigh that cost against the ‘goodness’ of a healthier more numerous future species?  Isn’t this the kind of thing that happens in nature all the time; indeed, isn’t it the general direction that nature progresses in (e.g. in the direction of more fit species even if there are costs involved and even if there are some dead ends).  So you can go ahead and point out what you think were moral deficiencies in their methods, but that doesn’t mean that they didn’t have the correct goal by your proposed moral guideline.

And once again you proceed to demonstrate flawed black and white thinking regarding morality. I suppose you think that your interpretation of the bible rescues you from this alleged dilemma, don't you? But it doesn't. Merely claiming that there is an 'objective' morality (based on this 'Yahweh' of the bible, really?, or something else) doesn't mean there is. Assuming your position doesn't make it reality. But why is this so hard for you to see? There isn't any deity 'checking in' and making any judgments, or actually acting as the 'objective' standard (that you seem to hinting at) - and just because you can read Romans 1 and assume its assumptions doesn't make it true either. This is the problem with religious - starting with your conclusion and then looking for things that confirm it. But why would you do that?

As a last note here (and a second time around), I stated that (for me) morality is about well-being (in general) and just because there are disagreements doesn't at all diminish what it means to me. If you choose to define morality in some other way, fine. At best, we will agree to disagree and go about our way. At worst, we will go to war. I'm fine with either because I care whether or not my beliefs are actually true and I'd prefer to accept reality instead of being credulous and accepting an old book of mysticism, contradiction, and vile deistic action.
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Carl Sagan

Offline Willie

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #109 on: August 10, 2013, 12:41:46 AM »
It is true that prior to 2003 there was much speculation as to what possibilities our inability to study the Big Bang prior to Plank time allowed; however,  in 2003 three cosmologists by the names of Arvin Borde, Alan Guth, and Alexander Vilenkin were able to prove that any universe which has, on average, been expanding throughout its history cannot be infinite in the past but must have a past space-time boundary.

Quote from: William Lane Craig, http://www.reasonablefaith.org/contemporary-cosmology-and-the-beginning-of-the-universe
Although such models were hotly debated, something of a watershed appears to have been reached in 2003, when three leading cosmologists, Arvin Borde, Alan Guth, and Alexander Vilenkin, were able to prove that any universe which has, on average, been expanding throughout its history cannot be infinite in the past but must have a past space-time boundary.

Greenandwhite

When copying someone else's text verbatim (or very nearly so), I believe it is proper to indicate that it is not your own work, and to cite your source, not just your source's source. Even when paraphrased, any significant ideas that are attributable to some particular source deserve citations. I can't speak for the board or it's policies, but to me, informal citations like "According to X, ..." or even "I read this somewhere, but forgot where" are adequate for most purposes, though web links and book titles are nice to have when it's something important enough or contentious enough to warrant taking the time to follow up the citations.
« Last Edit: August 10, 2013, 01:10:25 AM by Willie »

Offline Greenandwhite

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #110 on: August 16, 2013, 12:16:30 PM »
     First off, let's take the definition of a circle G&W cited, "a closed curve in a plane all of whose points are equally distant from a fixed point in the plane called the center".  That is indeed based on observation.  Nobody conceived of a circle without first observing something circular in nature.  That led to defining it so that we could distinguish something that was circular from something that was elliptical (and other geometric shapes).  In effect, even though nobody had conceived of the term "scientific method" yet, that's effectively what people used in order to come up with the definition of a circle.  They made an observation, formulated an explanation, compared that explanation to reality, modified it as needed, and then shared it with other people (who checked it themselves and made changes as needed in order to make sure it conformed to reality).  Certainly, it wasn't the kind of organized methodology we use today, but it was the same basic process...
     So you can't just take observations for granted.  That's why we have the scientific method.  And that's why deductive reasoning and rational introspection, useful as they are, can't compete with it for determining if something is factual or not.  You can't disprove the Earth-centric hypothesis (or, indeed, any hypothesis) with deductive reasoning or with rational introspection; you can only disprove it with making observations and testing them.

Jaimehlers,
     You stated that “nobody conceived of a circle without first observing something circular in nature”; and, later on you said that, “though nobody had conceived of the term ‘scientific method’…that’s effectively what people used in order to come up with the definition of a circle”.  The scientific method can be broken down into four steps: (1) observe and describe some natural phenomenon, (2) formulate an explanation (hypothesis) to explain that phenomenon in causal terms, (3) make predictions using that hypothesis, and (4) make repeated observations to see if the hypothesis leads to accurate predictions.
     You described the process in this manner: “they made an observation [in this case of something circular], formulated an explanation, compared that explanation to reality…and then shared it with other people”.   Now, I can understand what it means to observe something circular in nature, but to what are you referring when you say that they “formulated an explanation”?  Formulating explanations is integral to the scientific method, but what kind of a causal explanation are you proposing to give that is relevant to grasping the concept of circularity?  What kinds of predictions would you make and how exactly would you test them?
     I think that you are mistakenly equating the first step in the scientific method (observation) with the scientific method itself.  The intuitive grasp that you and I have of what the abstract concept of circularity means is, along with other geometrical, mathematical, and logical concepts, what grounds our ability to reason scientifically.  You can certainly say that one must observe something that is roughly circular before conceiving of the definition of a circle, but that doesn’t mean that that observation is also sufficient to generate understanding of what a circle is.  To come to an understanding of what a circle is, one has to make an ‘intuitive leap’; or as you aptly put it, ‘conceive of’ it. 
     To put it another way, consider how the authors of geometry and physics textbooks respectively present their discipline’s knowledge.  If a physicist wants to explain atomic theory to a class she will likely present a process.  She will mention the names of people like Michael Faraday, J.J. Thomson, and Ernest Rutherford; she will detail the many experiments that these scientists did; and she will talk about the various hypotheses that were proposed and tested (e.g. the ‘plum pudding model’ versus the ‘nuclear atom model’).  In contrast, if you read a geometry textbook, the authors simply present the basic definitions and axioms as fact and proceed from there; the student is expected to intuitively grasp the basic concepts as they are presented.  Of course, if I am wrong then you should be able to pick up a geometry textbook and read about the history of the scientific process that was used to obtain the definition of a circle that we use today.
     Furthermore, nobody needs to see more than one object that approximates circularity to understand the abstract concept of circularity; we simply grasp the truth intuitively and no number of repeated observations changes or strengthens our conception of what a circle is.  If, however, you are correct when you say that people “made changes as needed in order to make sure it [the definition of a circle] conformed to reality” then you have a rather paradoxical result on your hands.  The assumption that the definition of a circle is tentative (as all scientific theories are to some degree or another) would mean that our confidence in its correctness would depend upon finding examples of it in the real world.  The more objects we find that fit the definition the greater confidence we will have in its correctness, but if the opposite is true and we find few or no objects that meet the criteria then we will have to make an ‘adjustment’.  Unfortunately, since there are no objects in nature (at least none that I am aware of) that perfectly conform to the definition of circularity, it would seem that actually applying the scientific method to the definition of a circle would decrease rather than increase our certainty in its correctness.  So it seems to me that someone like Aristotle would have been more justified in using the definition of a circle that I proposed since, for all he knew, the things in nature that looked circular actually were perfect circles; nowadays, with our electron scanning microscopes and our understanding of microstructure, we know better.   

Offline Greenandwhite

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #111 on: August 16, 2013, 12:20:29 PM »
     The other things he mentioned, deductive reasoning and rational introspection, are themselves dependent upon observations in order to be meaningful.  I mean, while it's certainly possible to use them without basing them on an observation (say, off of an opinion), what use would the conclusions be for acquiring knowledge[1]?  All one would be doing is building off of an opinion, which is itself not provable.  There are times the opinion might be valid, such as "I like chocolate" - but any conclusions drawn through deductive reasoning or rational introspection based on that opinion are of strictly limited use.  And really, even the opinion itself is based on an observation - "I like chocolate because it tastes good".
 1. I don't mean you can't learn something from analyzing an opinion, but it's questionable whether what you're learning is knowledge or something else.

Jaimehlers,
     Regarding opinions, you gave the example of someone saying that they “like chocolate”.  I think that it is important to note that words as they are used in popular parlance do not always mean the same thing to a philosopher or a scientist.  An example would be the word ‘theory’ which creationists often use derisively to refer to evolution as ‘only a theory’ despite the fact that scientists mean something quite different when they use the word.  In the same way, philosophers are not referring to trivial flavour preferences when they use a word like ‘intuition’; rather, they are referring to statements like the law of the excluded middle or the first premise to the kalam cosmological argument or to moral intuitions like “it is wrong to torture babies for fun”.  Concepts like these intuitively seem to be true and ground all of our scientific and metaphysical reasoning.  My point is that the person who wants to study quantum mechanics or evolution or any other scientific project utilizes the same kinds of intuitive background assumptions as someone who wishes to pursue the project of natural theology.  As such, if it is reasonable to accept knowledge gained through the scientific method, then it is also legitimate to accept knowledge gained through the arguments of natural theology.     
     You claimed that rational introspection, like opinions, it is useless for obtaining knowledge since its suppositions cannot be proven.  Interestingly enough, in the scientific world it is not really ‘provability’ that scientists strive for but rather falsifiability.  Physicists don’t say that Einstein’s theory of quantum mechanics has been proven therefore we can move on to other things; rather, they point out the possible ways that his theory could be falsified - it hasn’t happened yet, but it could since a superior theory could become available in the future.  You can certainly say that metaphysical intuitions cannot be proven, but that doesn’t mean that falsification is impossible.  For instance, when someone says that ‘everything that begins to exist must have a cause’ that statement, if false, is open to counterexamples.  A couple of legitimate counter examples would certainly serve to undermine my confidence in the intuitive plausibility of the claim.  In contrast, someone’s opinion about chocolate isn’t amenable to being proven or falsified in the sense in which we are talking here, and is therefore useless as a grounding premise for gaining knowledge.       

Offline Greenandwhite

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #112 on: August 16, 2013, 12:30:06 PM »

Median,
     How in the world did you determine that I am looking for some kind of ‘absolute authority’ to tell me how things should be based on my question from the previous post where I asked: “what exactly does ‘human flourishing’ entail”?  If someone told me that she tries to live her life by the golden rule and I asked her to explain what that means and how she applies it in a real life scenario, would that also constitute my seeking an ‘absolute authority’? I don’t see how a rule of thumb or a general principle constitutes an ‘absolute authority’. 
     I also don’t understand why you have to be so reluctant to clarify the meaning of a phrase you are using.  What does ‘human flourishing’ entail?  Is it best defined by physical, psychological, or social metrics or a mixture of all three?  Does it primarily apply to the individual, to the individual’s immediate group, or to humanity collectively?  How do we deal with differences of opinion regarding ‘human flourishing’ (e.g. when one person’s ‘flourishing’ collides with another person’s)?

     What is your purpose in this line of questioning? What are you trying to accomplish by asking me for 'clarification' regarding what morality is to me? I've said already that I have not attempted to make any case (whatever) for an 'objective' morality (at least not in the way you envision). So why does this matter to you? You seem to be the one who thinks there is such a thing as a moral standard that exists absent human judgement. So perhaps you can demonstrate how you think you know this.

     Yeah, I get that you are not trying to propose any kind of 'objective' morality, but unless you make moral decisions in your personal life by rolling a dice or by using some other random method, you must have some kind of a rational process that you utilize to make your decision.  Curious that you have repeatedly refused to elaborate at all on what that rational process entails (e.g. maybe make an attempt to define a term like 'human flourishing' in light of some of the questions that I asked about it); unless...you don't think that your beliefs regarding morality can stand up to closer scrutiny?

Offline Greenandwhite

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #113 on: August 16, 2013, 12:48:37 PM »

Median,
     I beg to differ.  There is a difference between the assumptions a person might hold as part of her belief system and the kinds of assumptions that are necessary to get a specific argument off the ground.  Just because a theist pursues a natural theological argument does not mean that the person’s individual views are actually a necessary part of the argument.  When Quentin Smith studies the cosmological argument for the purposes of a debate with someone like Dr. Craig do you think that he has to assume God exists prior to the intellectual exercise?  He (as an atheist) happens to be studying natural theology just like any theist would; he just thinks that the cosmological argument points in another direction. 
     Also, in typical form, you simply took what I said in my post and basically said “no, you’re wrong” without bothering to answer the specific challenge I gave and without giving any rationale of your own.  So to rehash my previous question, which of the two premises of the kalam cosmological argument assumes God’s existence and why?

     As is so common throughout this debate, once again I do not accept your assumed definition of what "natural theology" is (just as I don't agree with those who used it back when). That is what you are missing. So yes, we do need to get down to definitions b/c obviously we don't agree on them. In this case, it's not that important for me to debate with you regarding what "natural theology" is. So let's move on to something closer to the topic of WWGHAF.

     I do not have an 'assumed' definition of what natural theology is since I use the term in the manner stipulated by the sources listed below:
http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/natural+theology
http://www.iep.utm.edu/theo-nat/
http://www.thefreedictionary.com/natural+theology
     Additionally, you once again refused to give any rationale whatsoever for why your understanding of the phrase 'natural theology' should be preferred to the one that I offered.  That omission makes your claim arbitrary and reflects nothing more than your own pre-existing biases.

Offline Greenandwhite

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #114 on: August 16, 2013, 01:09:09 PM »
     Greenandwhite, I'm trying to conceive of what kind of "personality" and "will" an immaterial entity would possess, and I'm drawing a blank.  The best I can come up with is a Something wanting to compare itself against Something Else.  IMO, in the absence of physical experiences and sensations, personality traits such as likes, dislikes, emotions and memories simply wouldn't exist in any sense that we could appreciate -- It would be just one amorphous glob of energy trying to sort out what it is and what's beyond its perimeter.

Astreja,
     Personality traits are what distinguish one kind of being from another being of the same kind (e.g. personality traits are one thing we could use to distinguish between you and me).  Personal attributes, on the other hand, are the kinds of capacities that set you or me apart from something like a rock or a caterpillar.  So as embodied personal beings we possess capacities like intentionality, will, or the ability to know things.  If the cosmological argument is successful, then the kind of cause that must be present would also possess these types of personal attributes (as opposed to the amorphous glob of energy that you proposed).  When you refer to a disembodied personal agent by saying 'in the absence of physical experiences and sensations' what are you getting at?  Do you thing that the existence that such a being would experience is logically absurd, that it would be unintelligible to us, or would it just be different in some respects from our experiences?

Offline ParkingPlaces

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Re: Introductory Questions
« Reply #115 on: August 16, 2013, 01:10:46 PM »
Greenandwhite:

In a reply to jaimehlers, you said:

Quote
As such, if it is reasonable to accept knowledge gained through the scientific method, then it is also legitimate to accept knowledge gained through the arguments of natural theology.

My argument against accepting knowledge "gained" through the arguments of natural theology would be that if said knowledge cannot be applied to the real world, what is its purpose? If "natural theology" can be used to help a religious person feel closer to their god or whatever because of reasoning alone, then clearly it has a purpose from the religious point of view. But from a more neutral POV, what does it provide? Scientists can study gravity, propulsion, inertia and other relevant science-related subjects and then land an object on the surface of Mars. While the usefulness of such enterprises can certainly be argued pro and con from a variety of stances, the fact remains that such endeavors are only possible because of science, and would remain impossible were we to rely only on "natural theology". Because natural theology seems to explain nothing physical in a way that it can be manipulated for out benefit.

I am not proclaiming everything that science does as wonderful and everything natural theology or other religious stances do is useless. But I simply don't see a comparison between the two. Natural theology, as I understand it, is trying to use observation and reason to demonstrate that there is a god. Science is just trying to do things, whether there is a god or not.

And as we leave the days behind where gods were necessary to explain multiple mysteries, the need to rely on such understandably simplistic explanations are rapidly disappearing. There were actual scientists in the early years that assumed that their studies were helping to show that a god must exist. There were non-christians, such as Plato, who advocated reasoning along the lines of naturalistic theology. Using his own gods. But curiosity and an assumption or a relatively convincing argument that there is a god is behind the whole natural theology thing. Or it would have a different name.

Science is, on the other hand, mostly neutral. Agreed, many a scientist does not believe there is a god, but that doesn't mean everyone runs around in laboratories making sure all god-proving experiments be thrown away.

We puny humans can't know everything. But to rely on old religious processes that have yet to provide anything but comfort seems useless.

There would be much more value to the old ways if we could study them as historians and psychologists and anthropologists rather than as believers who have a vested interest in trying to confirm that which they hope to be true. I have no trouble appreciating that in the year 1500 very few avenues to answering big questions existed. Now that we have more structured and more viable methods of learning (and of using that knowledge) I see no reason to remain emotionally entranced by what is, by default, an incomplete and ineffective way of looking at the universe

Science and religion are two very different things. Religion wants to create and maintain a status quo that can be controlled. Science wants to learn stuff. Big difference.

(By the way, my biases against natural theology are not pre-existing. I just created them this morning.)
Jesus, the cracker flavored treat!