whywontgodhealamputees.com

Main Discussion Zone => Why Won't God Heal Amputees? => Topic started by: Greenandwhite on May 01, 2013, 01:52:13 AM

Title: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite on May 01, 2013, 01:52:13 AM
       I hope it is ok if I ask a couple of questions even though I am new here and have not had the time to become overly familiar with some of the discussions that have occurred in the past.  Incidentally, if anyone has any suggestions regarding discussions from the archives that would be informative to a rookie like myself, definitely let me know; I don't want to bring up objections that have been discussed dozens of times before. 
       I have read a couple of discussions started by theists attempting to answer the question WWGHA and I think that the responses surprised me a little bit.  In response to the conditional "If an amputee was healed physically..." I suppose that one would intuitively expect some sort of belief in the supernatural to be formed by those privy to the event depending, of course, on the immediate context of the "miracle".  Instead, I observed the following types of responses: "it would be impossible, in principle, to prove an event to be supernatural", "if the event pointed to a "God" I might not want to serve him anyway", "the healing of an amputee today would be too late to salvage any kind of a respectable image for the being behind it", and "one healed amputee would not be enough - they would all have to be healed" (not an exhaustive list, of course).  So I wonder:
   
1. Wouldn't a more appropriate title for the website be: "Why has 'God' allowed amputees - period?"

2. Is the question: WWGHA a restatement of the classical problem of evil?

3. I have seen various responses to the classical problem of evil invoke the "incommensurable goodness of knowing God" (not that I know how to convincingly unpack this concept).  Often, when someone loses some part of their body there are standardized compensation tables in the insurance industry for doling out monetary compensation.  These kinds of payments always seem empty, in a way, no matter how much money is involved so my final question is: Is it theoretically possible for some "good" to exist that would outweigh the suffering of say, a Canadian soldier who has just returned home from Afghanistan to live the rest of his life with replacement legs?
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Quesi on May 01, 2013, 05:04:16 AM
Hey Greenandwhite -

It is 6 am here in NYC, and I'm drinking my morning coffee and getting ready to wake up my daughter and get her ready for school.  In other words, I don't have the focus or time to address your thoughtful questions.  But I thought I'd respond, and leave a little bookmark here. 

Looking forward to seeing the responses you get, and I'm looking forward to chatting with you later. 
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: The Gawd on May 01, 2013, 07:09:51 AM
Often times, GandW, people attempting to answer the question want to turn it into the problem of evil. But no, it is not the same because you can lose a limb with no "evil" involved. I work for an insurance company, and I used to be in the Workers Comp and General Liability department. People lose limbs and die daily due to plain old accidents. Also, why does god allow amputees is not biblically accurate, nor is it common for Christians to claim their god doesnt allow for bad things to happen.

The bible DOES say that prayers WILL be answered, and Christians DO say that their god heals. Changing the name to what you suggested would be a huge strawman.

As far as for the miracles happening, what I think people are getting at (Im not sure about everyone) is that they would need confirmation of WHICH god should be held responsible ie a leg  regenerating doesnt scream "god of the bible" any more than it screams "Zeus" so we would need a way to determine which god to credit. Also, we would need some way to determine whether or not this was naturally occurring as there are creatures on this planet with the ability to regenerate limbs and tails and whatnot.

As for worshiping the god of Christianity even if it were shown that he existed; if you read the bible, that character is a truly despicable being. So existence doesnt mean worthy of worship. TBH the idea of worship, IMO, is so silly that I dont even know when to begin or stop laughing. For example, there have been many societies that worshiped the sun. As it has been shown that life as we know it actually DOES come from stars. So sun worshipers, IMO, are actually worshiping the creator, but what affects has it accomplished? Whats the point of worshiping anything?
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: screwtape on May 01, 2013, 08:34:09 AM
Your questions 1 and 2 are interrelated.  The problem of evil - I prefer the problem of suffering - would include preventing amputees. But that is not quite the point of the question why won't god heal amputees.  My copypasta explanation:


There is a certian type of xian who attempts to justify his or her god beliefs by claiming that people are miraculously healed of various afflictions by divine intervention.  The afflictions may include cancer, diabetes, coma, heart conditions, tooth decay, halitosis, spastic colon, etc.  We frequently hear anecdotes about how some church group prayed for some guy and the next day he was completely healed. 

But there are several problems with this kind of reasoning.  First, data shows many of these types of afflictions sometimes "clear up" without any kind of prayers.  It seems to be a natural response or a misdiagnosis.  Second, people of all religions make the same claims.  And last, there is a whole class of ailments that are never, ever cured by prayer or naturally. 

People never regrow lost limbs.  Lost eyes never regrow in the empty sockets.  Retarded people never gain normal mental capacity. Alzheimers and Dementia sufferers never recover.  Old people never rejuvenate. 

This has clear implications about a god that supposedly heals people.  It leaves you only a few conclusions about such a god.


Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Quesi on May 01, 2013, 08:41:54 AM

I’m back.  So you ask some very interesting questions.  Let me take a stab at them. 

1. Wouldn't a more appropriate title for the website be: "Why has 'God' allowed amputees - period?"

Actually, no.  You will certainly see a great deal of discussion on this forum about how or why a supposedly good god would allow the extreme suffering that a huge percentage of humanity is subjected to.  While amputees certainly suffer, I if I were to question the playing field that your god offers those who are supposedly taking his test to see if we are worthy of spending the afterlife with him, I would point to children born to malnourished mothers surviving in war zones before pointing to amputees.  But yes, it is an uneven playing field.  And if there were a god, one might question why he or she (or they) would allow such wide discrepancies.

But the title of this forum actually addresses a different set of questions.  Christians believe in an omnipotent god.  And Christians pray to their omnipotent god, asking for favors or support or relief from suffering.  Christians believe that god listens to these prayers, and sometimes answers them, and sometimes, for mysterious reasons, doesn’t answer them.  Christians pray for cures to cancer, for winning lottery tickets, for winning touchdowns.  When a cancer patient goes into remission, or a scratch off ticket provides a surprise $50, or when little Johnny’s touchdown brings wild cheers from fans of his team, Christians can thank god for answering their prayers. 

But even true believers KNOW that there are some things that are not going to happen. 

Christians probably don’t pray to god to ask him to regrow amputated limbs.  If god is omnipotent, he could certainly re-grow a limb as easily as he could put cancer into remission.  But cancers sometimes go into remission, regardless of prayers. Hindus and Buddhists and atheists with cancer sometimes go into remission.  But amputated limbs don’t grow back.  Not for Christians or Muslims or Jews or Wiccans or Sikhs or anybody.  And so, on a certain level, even true believers understand that the only prayers that are really worth engaging in, are prayers for events that might happen even in the absence of prayer.

You are a believer.  I assume you believe in the power of prayer.  If you had a loved one who was recovering from cancer surgery, would you pray that the doctors were successful in removing all of the cancer?  If a loved one had a leg amputated, would you pray for the leg to grow back?  Why or why not?




2. Is the question: WWGHA a restatement of the classical problem of evil?

I think it is important to point out that the concept of good vs evil is really unique to the world’s monotheistic religions.  Other belief systems tend to recognize shades of grey, or context, or even consider good and evil to be subjective concepts. 


3. I have seen various responses to the classical problem of evil invoke the "incommensurable goodness of knowing God" (not that I know how to convincingly unpack this concept).  Often, when someone loses some part of their body there are standardized compensation tables in the insurance industry for doling out monetary compensation.  These kinds of payments always seem empty, in a way, no matter how much money is involved so my final question is: Is it theoretically possible for some "good" to exist that would outweigh the suffering of say, a Canadian soldier who has just returned home from Afghanistan to live the rest of his life with replacement legs?


Are you asking if sometimes good things happen after bad things have happened?  Well, yeah.  My grandfather was a laborer, (coal miner, then steel worker) whose leg was crushed (though not amputated) in an industrial accident.  After more than a year out of work, the union trained him to be a draftsman, and he spent the rest of his professional life using the skills that he would not have learned if he had not had an accident.  So my real, personal story seems to support your premise.

But what about the kids who are born malnourished, in war zones, abandoned or orphaned and left to sleep on the streets and dig through garbage and steal to survive, and then die young?  What if the kid, as a teen or young adult, did really evil things, that he would never have done if he had been born into an environment in which safety and nutrition and access to an education were a given?    Did you god give this kid a fair chance?  And if the kid broke god’s laws, would god be justified in condemning this kid to ETERNAL DAMNATION?  And, of the millions of people who have lived under these sorts of circumstances, do you think you could, in each case, identify some “good” to outweigh all of the suffering? 
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: shnozzola on May 01, 2013, 05:01:11 PM
Nice explanation, Quesi.

GandW, also this from the opening pages in WWGHA:

Quote
How can we determine whether it is God or coincidence that worked the cure? One way is to eliminate the ambiguity. In a non-ambiguous situation, there is no potential for coincidence. Because there is no ambiguity, we can actually know whether God is answering the prayer or not.

That is what we are doing when we look at amputees.

Think about it this way. The Bible clearly promises that God answers prayers. For example, in Mark 11:24 Jesus says, "Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours." And billions of Christians believe these promises. You can find thousands of books, magazine articles and Web sites talking about the power of prayer. According to believers, God is answering millions of their prayers every day.

So what should happen if we pray to God to restore amputated limbs? Clearly, if God is real, limbs should regenerate through prayer. In reality, they do not.

Why not? Because God is imaginary. Notice that there is zero ambiguity in this situation. There is only one way for a limb to regenerate through prayer: God must exist and God must answer prayers.
GandW,
   You ask this:
Quote
Is it theoretically possible for some "good" to exist that would outweigh the suffering of say, a Canadian soldier who has just returned home from Afghanistan to live the rest of his life with replacement legs?
I guess I 'm not looking at the suffering as you are.   Let's say the soldier returns to his family and has a young daughter.   Once the soldier recovers - no pain - and can get past the huge difficulty of the mental anguish,  what could be more "good" than holding his daughter, having her tell him that he is the "best daddy in the whole wide world."  Amputation can be meaningless in this situation, if the man has mentally recovered, but, that is not the debate (as above) that WWGHA refers to.
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite on May 03, 2013, 04:23:10 PM
     To respond to Quesi’s question: “If a loved one had a leg amputated, would you pray for the leg to grow back?  Why or why not?”  I honestly don’t know.  The question, “how do I decide what to pray for” is separate from the question, “why doesn’t God always answer my prayer the way I would like him to.”  Personally, I have a type of exercise induced asthma that really bothers me if I am exerting myself in cold or dry air.  Essentially, what this means is that where I live I can play summer sports but I cannot play hockey in the winter.  Now, I certainly believe that God could do what the specialists can’t and ‘heal’ me, and I certainly have prayed that he would heal me.  As it happens, I have not been healed, but I have never thought to question the existence of God because of my lack of healing.  Prayer to me just isn’t an apologetic argument or a faith preserving device. 
     Now from the responses that I have received it seems that the point of the website is to get people like me to question God’s existence based on how God answers my prayers.  Basically, God promised to answer prayers if we believe; God has not answered prayers prayed by people who believe; therefore, God doesn’t exist.  The problem of suffering has nothing to do with this argument – correct?  Also, the argument as I understand it is an attempt to demonstrate internal incoherence in the Christian world view.  As such, for the sake of the argument, I gather that it is assumed that the Christian God exists and that there are people who genuinely believe in him who ask for him for things.  There is also no need to appeal to the external evidence or lack thereof for the basic Christian assumptions of the argument like, say, the existence of God - is there?
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Ambassador Pony on May 03, 2013, 04:27:39 PM
G&W, I think if you watch the Jug of Milk (Praise be upon It) video, you'll get a clearer idea of the authors intent vis à vis prayer and it's relationship to belief behaviour.
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite on May 04, 2013, 11:30:17 AM
G&W, I think if you watch the Jug of Milk (Praise be upon It) video, you'll get a clearer idea of the authors intent vis à vis prayer and it's relationship to belief behaviour.

Ambassador Pony,
       Thanks for the suggestion; I watched the 'Jug of Milk' video as well as the 'Proving Prayer is a Superstition' video and I have the following question: is the scientific method the only way to acquire knowledge?
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Azdgari on May 04, 2013, 11:42:54 AM
Define "knowledge".  It's certainly not the only way to acquire beliefs, if that's what you mean.
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Ambassador Pony on May 05, 2013, 03:53:38 PM
G&W, I think if you watch the Jug of Milk (Praise be upon It) video, you'll get a clearer idea of the authors intent vis à vis prayer and it's relationship to belief behaviour.

Ambassador Pony,
       Thanks for the suggestion; I watched the 'Jug of Milk' video as well as the 'Proving Prayer is a Superstition' video and I have the following question: is the scientific method the only way to acquire knowledge?

First things first. Did watching it give you a clearer idea of the author's intent (as I hoped)?
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite on May 06, 2013, 01:39:34 AM
Define "knowledge".  It's certainly not the only way to acquire beliefs, if that's what you mean.

      Would a good working definition for knowledge be: "a proposition or set of propositions that we are justified in believing corresponds with reality"?
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite on May 06, 2013, 01:45:23 AM
G&W, I think if you watch the Jug of Milk (Praise be upon It) video, you'll get a clearer idea of the authors intent vis à vis prayer and it's relationship to belief behaviour.

Ambassador Pony,
       Thanks for the suggestion; I watched the 'Jug of Milk' video as well as the 'Proving Prayer is a Superstition' video and I have the following question: is the scientific method the only way to acquire knowledge?

First things first. Did watching it give you a clearer idea of the author's intent (as I hoped)?

      I think so.  The video cited scientific studies and invoked a couple of thought experiments to demonstrate how the scientific method cannot find any difference in effect between prayer and a placebo effect like a horseshoe - a jug of milk would be expected to do as well as prayer using the "yes, no, and maybe" criteria. 
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Ambassador Pony on May 06, 2013, 05:41:54 AM
      I think so.  The video cited scientific studies and invoked a couple of thought experiments to demonstrate how the scientific method cannot find any difference in effect between prayer and a placebo effect like a horseshoe - a jug of milk would be expected to do as well as prayer using the "yes, no, and maybe" criteria.

Yes. I think, in this situation, knowledge can only be discovered through the scientific method. There are variables, each with an applicable scale of measurement.

If you're going to go off into a "you can't measure the healing of the soul" or "spiritual knowledge", then I won't be the guy to talk to about it, FTR.
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: jetson on May 06, 2013, 07:44:35 AM
Welcome to the forum GandW.
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite on May 07, 2013, 12:02:02 AM
Welcome to the forum GandW.

Thank-you
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite on May 07, 2013, 12:06:46 AM
     If you're going to go off into a "you can't measure the healing of the soul" or "spiritual knowledge", then I won't be the guy to talk to about it, FTR.

     You know I did briefly toy with the idea, but I decided against it since the question: WWGHA is more directed at events that would be accessible by a third party - I guess you are one step ahead of me (-:  I think I have some ideas that will stay away from this kind of argument; however, I am still looking at a few details. 
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Azdgari on May 07, 2013, 12:29:30 AM
      Would a good working definition for knowledge be: "a proposition or set of propositions that we are justified in believing corresponds with reality"?

Then yes.  Any method of reliably justifying our propositions' correspondence ot reality is a part of science.
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: JeffPT on May 13, 2013, 09:29:12 PM
G&W, I think if you watch the Jug of Milk (Praise be upon It) video, you'll get a clearer idea of the authors intent vis à vis prayer and it's relationship to belief behaviour.

Ambassador Pony,
       Thanks for the suggestion; I watched the 'Jug of Milk' video as well as the 'Proving Prayer is a Superstition' video and I have the following question: is the scientific method the only way to acquire knowledge?

What other method do you suggest and why do you think it reliable?
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite on May 15, 2013, 12:41:40 AM
     What other method do you suggest and why do you think it reliable?

     To be honest, I was just thinking about the question WWGHA and brainstorming various ways of approaching it, but decided that this particular line of questioning constituted a dead end.  As an unrelated issue, the statement "knowledge can only be discovered through the scientific method" reminds me of the verificationist view held by the logical positivists at the turn of the 20th century.  They used the verification principle to render certain religious, metaphysical, aesthetic, and ethical statements 'meaningless'. 
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: JeffPT on May 15, 2013, 08:08:28 AM
     What other method do you suggest and why do you think it reliable?

     To be honest, I was just thinking about the question WWGHA and brainstorming various ways of approaching it, but decided that this particular line of questioning constituted a dead end.  As an unrelated issue, the statement "knowledge can only be discovered through the scientific method" reminds me of the verificationist view held by the logical positivists at the turn of the 20th century.  They used the verification principle to render certain religious, metaphysical, aesthetic, and ethical statements 'meaningless'.
Would you agree with the statement that the scientific method is the most reliable current tool we have for knowledge acquisition?
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite on May 16, 2013, 11:41:33 PM
Would you agree with the statement that the scientific method is the most reliable current tool we have for knowledge acquisition?

    I would say that it is the most reliable tool we have for acquiring certain kinds of knowledge.  Incidentally, are you comfortable with the phrase 'most reliable current tool' when describing the scientific method?
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: jetson on May 17, 2013, 07:27:37 AM
Would you agree with the statement that the scientific method is the most reliable current tool we have for knowledge acquisition?

    I would say that it is the most reliable tool we have for acquiring certain kinds of knowledge.  Incidentally, are you comfortable with the phrase 'most reliable current tool' when describing the scientific method?

I'm fine with it.  The beauty of knowledge is in replacing it when it fails.
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: JeffPT on May 17, 2013, 11:33:30 PM
Would you agree with the statement that the scientific method is the most reliable current tool we have for knowledge acquisition?

    I would say that it is the most reliable tool we have for acquiring certain kinds of knowledge.  Incidentally, are you comfortable with the phrase 'most reliable current tool' when describing the scientific method?

Extremely comfortable with that.  The 'current' was intentional. 
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite on May 18, 2013, 12:43:51 AM
I'm fine with it.  The beauty of knowledge is in replacing it when it fails.

I don't question your willingness to replace knowledge when it fails; what I was wondering is if you think it is possible in principle to find that you need to replace your system of acquiring knowledge?
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite on May 18, 2013, 12:46:15 AM
Extremely comfortable with that.  The 'current' was intentional.

Would you mind elaborating on why you chose to include the word 'current'?
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: The Gawd on May 18, 2013, 04:49:29 AM
I don't question your willingness to replace knowledge when it fails; what I was wondering is if you think it is possible in principle to find that you need to replace your system of acquiring knowledge?
Obviously I dont know what I dont know. But are you positing that there would be a way of attaining knowledge other than the ONLY way we have ever had as a species? Even conclusions that had been reached that we now know are incorrect were come to by observing something. Then as our bank of observations became more complete and more observable with technology our bank of knowledge became more accurate.

I cant see how there would be another way to attain knowledge
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite on May 19, 2013, 02:30:31 AM
I don't question your willingness to replace knowledge when it fails; what I was wondering is if you think it is possible in principle to find that you need to replace your system of acquiring knowledge?
Obviously I dont know what I dont know. But are you positing that there would be a way of attaining knowledge other than the ONLY way we have ever had as a species? Even conclusions that had been reached that we now know are incorrect were come to by observing something. Then as our bank of observations became more complete and more observable with technology our bank of knowledge became more accurate.

I cant see how there would be another way to attain knowledge

     What about deductive reasoning - is that not how we have acquired knowledge in fields such as geometry and trigonometry? What about the branch of particle physics known as string theory; there is lots of theorizing being done apart from any actual empirical observations yet I don't think a string theorist would say that she knows nothing beyond what actual experiments have taught her.  How about morality - can you construct an experiment to show that stealing is wrong or do you already know it is wrong before you start?
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Razel on May 19, 2013, 02:53:21 AM
I don't question your willingness to replace knowledge when it fails; what I was wondering is if you think it is possible in principle to find that you need to replace your system of acquiring knowledge?
Obviously I dont know what I dont know. But are you positing that there would be a way of attaining knowledge other than the ONLY way we have ever had as a species? Even conclusions that had been reached that we now know are incorrect were come to by observing something. Then as our bank of observations became more complete and more observable with technology our bank of knowledge became more accurate.

I cant see how there would be another way to attain knowledge

     What about deductive reasoning - is that not how we have acquired knowledge in fields such as geometry and trigonometry? What about the branch of particle physics known as string theory; there is lots of theorizing being done apart from any actual empirical observations yet I don't think a string theorist would say that she knows nothing beyond what actual experiments have taught her. 

Deductive reasoning requires premises.  Without information, most of your reasoning would end with "Need more information".

Quote
How about morality - can you construct an experiment to show that stealing is wrong or do you already know it is wrong before you start?

You can't prove an opinion.
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: dloubet on May 19, 2013, 05:55:52 AM
I always took the WWGHA question to be "Why does this supposed god single out amputees as a class of people who shall NEVER get their prayers answered, as opposed to other ailments that Christians claim are healed all the time?"
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: JeffPT on May 19, 2013, 11:32:43 AM
Extremely comfortable with that.  The 'current' was intentional.

Would you mind elaborating on why you chose to include the word 'current'?
Because we might find a better one someday. 
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: The Gawd on May 19, 2013, 03:48:26 PM
          What about deductive reasoning - is that not how we have acquired knowledge in fields such as geometry and trigonometry? What about the branch of particle physics known as string theory; there is lots of theorizing being done apart from any actual empirical observations yet I don't think a string theorist would say that she knows nothing beyond what actual experiments have taught her.  How about morality - can you construct an experiment to show that stealing is wrong or do you already know it is wrong before you start?

deductive reasoning would be based upon observation though.
Is stealing wrong if one has no other way to feed his/her family?
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite on May 21, 2013, 10:54:48 PM
deductive reasoning would be based upon observation though.
Is stealing wrong if one has no other way to feed his/her family?

     Consider the following definition of a circle: "a closed curve in a plane all of whose points are equally distant from a fixed point in the plane called the center".  Is that definition based on observation or on introspection?  If it is based on observation could you tell me where I can observe a circle that perfectly conforms to that definition?
     I don't think that your follow up question about stealing gains you any ground.  How should I go about answering it: thought experiments and introspection or a scientific experiment?
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite on May 21, 2013, 10:57:56 PM
Because we might find a better one someday.

     We might find a means superior to the scientific method for acquiring knowledge, but how will we ever know if the only knowledge you will accept as legitimate is knowledge gleaned through the scientific method?
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite on May 21, 2013, 11:03:46 PM
     How about morality - can you construct an experiment to show that stealing is wrong or do you already know it is wrong before you start?
You can't prove an opinion.

     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"?
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Azdgari on May 21, 2013, 11:23:55 PM
     We might find a means superior to the scientific method for acquiring knowledge, but how will we ever know if the only knowledge you will accept as legitimate is knowledge gleaned through the scientific method?

"Scientific method" is just a fancy way of saying "checking to see if I'm wrong".

We can avoid that, to be sure, but I don't know why we'd want to.  How about you?
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: JeffPT on May 22, 2013, 09:35:16 PM
Because we might find a better one someday.

     We might find a means superior to the scientific method for acquiring knowledge, but how will we ever know if the only knowledge you will accept as legitimate is knowledge gleaned through the scientific method?
We know the scientific method works because of the results. The information we've gathered and put to use for ourselves has exploded since the scientific method has arrived on the scene. I guess a better method would yield better results than that. That would be the deciding factor I would think.

What did people rely on before the scientific method, and how did they go about learning it was superior to their method of knowledge acquisition? I assume it would be similar to their experience.

Perhaps if you've come across a method you think is better, you could share it with the rest of us. I'm certainly open to hearing it.
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: The Gawd on May 22, 2013, 10:30:59 PM
deductive reasoning would be based upon observation though.
Is stealing wrong if one has no other way to feed his/her family?

     Consider the following definition of a circle: "a closed curve in a plane all of whose points are equally distant from a fixed point in the plane called the center".  Is that definition based on observation or on introspection?  If it is based on observation could you tell me where I can observe a circle that perfectly conforms to that definition?
     I don't think that your follow up question about stealing gains you any ground.  How should I go about answering it: thought experiments and introspection or a scientific experiment?
Yes, that definition IS based on observation. In that if you observe an elliptical shape that does not meet that criteria you are not looking at a circle. Without observing a circle all you have done is expressed a concept, not gained any knowledge. My example is to demonstrate there is no objective right and wrong. Contrary to what religions espouse.
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Azdgari on May 22, 2013, 11:17:37 PM
Definitions are statements about your own language.  Seeing you state a definition is evidence that you define a certain word with a certain concept.  This evidence is usually adequate, but can be contradicted if you don't use the word to mean what you said it meant to you.  It is reinforced, in this case, when you use the word "circle" to mean "a closed curve in a plane all of whose points are equally distant from a fixed point in the plane called the center".  In other words, the statement about your language is one that is confirmed or refuted by evidence.  The concept to which the label is attached is not, in itself, a statement about anything.  It is not, as The Gawd says, a piece of knowledge.
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite on May 26, 2013, 12:37:05 AM
     Definitions are statements about your own language.  Seeing you state a definition is evidence that you define a certain word with a certain concept.  This evidence is usually adequate, but can be contradicted if you don't use the word to mean what you said it meant to you.  It is reinforced, in this case, when you use the word "circle" to mean "a closed curve in a plane all of whose points are equally distant from a fixed point in the plane called the center".  In other words, the statement about your language is one that is confirmed or refuted by evidence.  The concept to which the label is attached is not, in itself, a statement about anything.  It is not, as The Gawd says, a piece of knowledge.


     Just a quick clarification, I don't think that The Gawd said that the concept of circularity constitutes a 'piece of knowledge'; that would be a statement that would more closely approximate my own position.  Personally though, I don't think that abstract objects (e.g. shapes, numbers, sets, etc...) are themselves 'pieces of knowledge'; I think that knowledge is a mental state (the state of justified true belief) that is about something in the tangible/intangible world or conceptual realm. 
     I am not sure I totally understand what you are saying above.  You use the word evidence three times; the first two times it seems to me that you are referring to my attachment of the semantic descriptor 'circle' to the concept of 'circleness'.  The third instance, however, has me puzzled - are you referring to evidence in a physical sense like say, an orange, that approximates the conception of circularity?  Also, when you say that 'the concept to which the label is attached is not, in itself, a statement about anything', are you simply stating that you don't believe that abstract objects actually exist or are you implying that concepts like 'circularity' are nothing more than convention (e.g. like which side of the road we choose to drive on)?

     
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Azdgari on May 26, 2013, 12:48:20 AM
I mean that whether or not you truly define "circle" with the concept of "circleness"[1] is something that is subject to evidence.
 1. I like your brevity here.
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite on May 26, 2013, 01:16:30 AM
     Consider the following definition of a circle: "a closed curve in a plane all of whose points are equally distant from a fixed point in the plane called the center".  Is that definition based on observation or on introspection?  If it is based on observation could you tell me where I can observe a circle that perfectly conforms to that definition?
     I don't think that your follow up question about stealing gains you any ground.  How should I go about answering it: thought experiments and introspection or a scientific experiment?

     Yes, that definition IS based on observation. In that if you observe an elliptical shape that does not meet that criteria you are not looking at a circle. Without observing a circle all you have done is expressed a concept, not gained any knowledge. My example is to demonstrate there is no objective right and wrong. Contrary to what religions espouse.

     I was thinking about the definition that I gave for a circle and wondering if the words 'necessitated by' would be better suited for the point I am trying to get across than the words 'based upon'.  To a certain extent I agree with you when you say that my definition of a circle is based upon observation since as humans we observe objects approximating circularity all the time.  What I am trying to say, however, is that we intuitively assume the concept of circularity when we see an imperfect circular object (e.g. an orange or a car tire).  It doesn't seem to me that the objects that we observe in the physical world necessitate that we recognize abstract definitions like that of the circle; on the contrary, if I were to carefully examine every orange I saw (and since no orange forms a perfect circle) would those observations not make it less likely that I would perceive the abstract definition of the circle? Perhaps the circle isn't the best example that I could use - how is it that I can understand the geometrical concepts involved in shapes that I have never seen in the real world? For instance, I doubt that you have ever seen anything that forms the shape of a penadecagon, but that doesn't mean that you cannot conceptually understand what it would look like.
     
     Regarding moral judgements about stealing, I think that at best your follow up question (is stealing wrong if there is no other way to feed your family?) only demonstrate that not all moral judgements we make are absolute - not that there are no moral absolutes.  All I have to do is find one moral imperative that is absolute to demonstrate that moral absolutes exist (e.g. is it always wrong to discriminate against homosexuals; and, speaking of discrimination, where the Nazi's wrong in their discriminatory practices or are examples like these merely situational?).  At any rate, I wonder if a successful defense of the reality of moral absolutes is even necessary to the case that I am advancing at present - that over the course of our lives we acquire moral knowledge that is not learned by the scientific method.  So lets assume that there are no moral absolutes and then think about your question 'is stealing wrong if it is the only way to feed your family'.  I am assuming that if you are pondering an answer to this question you are going to do more than flip a coin - heads the answer is yes and tails the answer is no.  Also, if you spend an adequate amount of time pondering the question, come to a conclusion, and then meet someone who would do the opposite I am assuming you would disagree with them?  And if you do disagree with them does your disagreement not have more substance than a mere difference of opinion (like disagreeing over what ice cream tastes best).  Thinking about situations like these seems to me to result in moral knowledge even if you don't accept the existence of moral absolutes.

Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite on May 26, 2013, 01:17:31 AM
I mean that whether or not you truly define "circle" with the concept of "circleness"[1] is something that is subject to evidence.
 1. I like your brevity here.

     Can you give me an example of the 'evidence' to which you are referring?
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Azdgari on May 26, 2013, 01:19:56 AM
I did in my original post:  Do you, in practice, use "circle" to refer to that concept?  If so, then that's evidence for.  If not, then that's evidence against.
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite on May 26, 2013, 01:43:31 AM
     We know the scientific method works because of the results. The information we've gathered and put to use for ourselves has exploded since the scientific method has arrived on the scene. I guess a better method would yield better results than that. That would be the deciding factor I would think. What did people rely on before the scientific method, and how did they go about learning it was superior to their method of knowledge acquisition? I assume it would be similar to their experience. Perhaps if you've come across a method you think is better, you could share it with the rest of us. I'm certainly open to hearing it.

     I agree that the scientific method has gained us great success in learning about the physical world - methodological naturalism is a convenient assumption when doing science, but it in no way implies ontological naturalism.  Incidentally, the assumption that the scientific method is the only method of gaining knowledge is a difficult assumption to prove using the scientific method isn't it?  As for what method of acquiring knowledge I would suggest in place of the scientific method; well, I wouldn't suggest any method in place of the scientific method.  I have no problem with the scientific method; what I do have a problem with is assuming that the scientific method is the only way to gain knowledge.  I think that other methods (e.g. deductive reasoning and rational introspection) are complementary to the scientific method and in many ways actually provide a foundation for the scientific method.  For starters, science cannot even get us past first base when it comes to the possibility of thought - how do you scientifically prove that you are not a 'brain in a vat'?  Additionally, our ability to actually process the information that we are gathering about the world through our senses depends on deductive methods that are not grounded in observation (e.g. logical and mathematical concepts).  Finally, in a lot of cases the knowledge that we gain about the world is grounded upon assumptions that seem impossible in principle to verify empirically (e.g. the Copernican Principle, hyperinflationary expansion, multiverses, the acceptance of the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics over the Bohmian interpretation, etc...).  So it seems to me that when one takes into account the way that science utilizes metaphysical assumptions and principles of deductive reasoning, it is not unreasonable to use the same principles when studying natural theology. 
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite on May 26, 2013, 01:47:18 AM
I did in my original post:  Do you, in practice, use "circle" to refer to that concept?  If so, then that's evidence for.  If not, then that's evidence against.

     Isn't that the same thing as stating that you have evidence that leads you to believe that in the future if I come across an object that approximates 'circularity' I will likely use the word 'circle' to describe it?  That doesn't observation doesn't indicate that my perception of abstract concepts isn't knowledge, does it?
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Azdgari on May 26, 2013, 10:04:13 AM
That's precisely right.  But in that sentence, the one in question, that was all I was saying.

But when you say "A circle is xyz", that's you making a statement about your own language.  The piece of information you are relating is about your own language definitions, not about circles.  That was my point.
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite on May 27, 2013, 12:19:01 AM
That's precisely right.  But in that sentence, the one in question, that was all I was saying.

But when you say "A circle is xyz", that's you making a statement about your own language.  The piece of information you are relating is about your own language definitions, not about circles.  That was my point.

     Would you say then, that my apprehension of the abstract concept of circularity constitutes knowledge regardless of the nature of the language I might use to describe it?  It seems to me that when people observe objects approximating circularity they necessarily grasp the concept that I described with my definition - the concept would remain the same even if a different language was used.  If the concept of circularity was solely based upon our observations wouldn't people posit lots of different definitions of circularity?  Then again, maybe the apprehension of abstract objects does not constitute knowledge in which case my example was poorly chosen.
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Azdgari on May 27, 2013, 12:25:02 AM
I would say that circularity is a model that we humans have constructed to help us readily describe what we observe, and to categorize and process our knowledge.

The distinction between abstract models and acquired knowledge within our minds is a blurry one, and probably not relevant to what you were talking about.  Like you said, another analogy or example might be better suited to your purposes for now.
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: magicmiles on May 27, 2013, 12:26:56 AM
Such a pleasant and intelligent discussion. I've been enjoying it.
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: JeffPT on May 27, 2013, 10:53:18 PM
I agree that the scientific method has gained us great success in learning about the physical world - methodological naturalism is a convenient assumption when doing science, but it in no way implies ontological naturalism
Since we both agree that the SM has given us this great success, I think it's important that we agree on the how... I mean... how do we know that it is successful.  I think it is due to the results.  The functionality, the usefulness of the results is what makes it a successful method.  Within the physical world, there isn't a better one.   

Incidentally, the assumption that the scientific method is the only method of gaining knowledge is a difficult assumption to prove using the scientific method isn't it? 
I don't know why you keep saying this.  I get it.  I never said it was the only method of gaining knowledge.  I even asked you to provide another one in hopes that it was superior.  Doesn't that mean I'm keeping an open mind about it? 

For starters, science cannot even get us past first base when it comes to the possibility of thought - how do you scientifically prove that you are not a 'brain in a vat'? 

Can you tell me a method of study that helps prove we are, or are not, BIV's?  Can you prove, using deductive reasoning or rational introspection, or any other means, that you're not a BIV?  Where would you turn if not science? 

Also, if I am a BIV, can I not still do science?  I can start with any metaphysical assumption I want and still do science.  Am I just an idea in the mind of God?  Am I a program running in a simulation of a super intelligent alien species?  Doesn't matter.  I can still do science.  It works without any of those metaphysical assumptions.
So it seems to me that when one takes into account the way that science utilizes metaphysical assumptions and principles of deductive reasoning, it is not unreasonable to use the same principles when studying natural theology.
Sure, as long as you apply the same principles to every religion ever invented by man.

I imagine you could start with any metaphysical assumptions you want and work from there, but I don't see where that will get you since every religion starts with metaphysical assumptions, and winds up being logically coherent to the followers.  In other words, for the adherents of any religion, reason and ordinary experiences support every religion ever invented.  Nobody would believe a religion that made claims that were completely inconsistent with the natural world and totally unexplainable in any way.  Could you ever see someone following a religion that said nothing bad ever happens to the followers, and had no way of explaining it when something bad happened?  The first hangnail and it's over.  That's why the gods are all invisible and all powerful.  Nothing is impossible to explain away with a god like that.  It's a great way to hide non-existence.   

In that sense, what methodology would you use to separate what are the true metaphysical assumptions and the false ones?  Because deductive reasoning doesn't help us there.  And rational introspection isn't any better.   And we're back to where we started in terms of 'what's a good method for obtaining knowledge that can help us in this area?' One that gets us results, like the SM does for the physical world.  I don't know of any. 

So if we don't know of any reliable methods here; the most we can say is that we don't know whether or not anything supernatural exists. But in the grand scheme of things, the number of metaphysical assumptions we can make is nearly infinite.  And the number of correct assumptions is much less than that.  And given the fact that we don't really require any metaphysical assumptions in order to understand the world (at least not where I'm sitting), then I don't see any reason to hold the belief that any specific god that has ever been presented to me, actually exists.  I don't know, but I don't believe.  Agnostic atheist. 
 
What metaphysical assumptions do you make, and why?  Do you find the ones used by science to be unreasonable? 

Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite on May 28, 2013, 12:41:20 AM
     Can you tell me a method of study that helps prove we are, or are not, BIV's?  Can you prove, using deductive reasoning or rational introspection, or any other means, that you're not a BIV?  Where would you turn if not science?

    Where did Descartes turn to answer the question?

Also, if I am a BIV, can I not still do science?

     No, you cannot do science if you are a brain in a vat; all you can do is imagine that you are doing science.

Sure, as long as you apply the same principles to every religion ever invented by man.

     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). 

     In that sense, what methodology would you use to separate what are the true metaphysical assumptions and the false ones?  Because deductive reasoning doesn't help us there.  And rational introspection isn't any better.

     You don't think that rational introspection gives you any sense of which is more plausible - the first premise of the cosmological argument or its negation?

Do you find the ones [metaphysical assumptions] used by science to be unreasonable?

     The Copernican Principle seems reasonable, but I didn't reach that conclusion by doing a science experiment.
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: JeffPT on May 29, 2013, 08:16:53 PM
     Can you tell me a method of study that helps prove we are, or are not, BIV's?  Can you prove, using deductive reasoning or rational introspection, or any other means, that you're not a BIV?  Where would you turn if not science?

    Where did Descartes turn to answer the question?
Can you tell me what Descartes proved (in the ontological world) to same level of satisfaction that the scientific method provides us in terms of the physical world?  Or to any level of satisfaction at all? 

Thought experiments are fun, but they inevitably take us nowhere in terms of discovering truth. 

No, you cannot do science if you are a brain in a vat; all you can do is imagine that you are doing science.

But the results of that imagined science will give me a new understanding of the universe I have imagined.  It will give me knowledge and information to utilize within that realm that is effective and useful.  So yes, you can do science, even if it is imagined. 

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). 
Whether something is intuitive or incredibly difficult to understand has no bearing at all on whether or not it's true.  The Sun moving around the Earth is intuitive.  It's also wrong. 

And the idea that everything begins to exist must have a cause is not nearly as intuitive as it once was.  Our recent discoveries about the quantum world seem to counter the example you used.  Also, when you say everything 'that begins' to exist must have a cause, you insert a time variable into the scenario which may or may not carry on past the origin of our universe itself.  It asserts that there was always something before... when in reality, the entire idea of 'before' and 'after' is not as simple as it may seem, especially with the knowledge that time is relative to speed and space, and that time essentially began with the creation of the universe.  At best (if we ignore the quantum world), you could say that 'after the creation of the universe, everything that began to exist had a cause'.  The whole premise breaks down at that birth of the universe because there was no 'time' before that. 

You don't think that rational introspection gives you any sense of which is more plausible - the first premise of the cosmological argument or its negation?
Why do you think plausibility matters in terms of whats true or not true? How many times has science proven things are nowhere near as simple as they seem, and that things that were once considered highly plausible, turned out to be horribly wrong?  Plausibility isn't even remotely synonymous with true. 

The Copernican Principle seems reasonable, but I didn't reach that conclusion by doing a science experiment.
At one time, the entire world considered that principle to be utterly outrageous.  Deductive reasoning (in the absence of relevant facts), and rational introspection, along with a good bit of egotism is why it was considered ridiculous.  Science is what has made that principle far more reasonable.  Not philosophy, deductive reasoning, or rational introspection. 
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Azdgari on May 29, 2013, 08:21:52 PM
"X is intuitive" is another way of saying "X corresponds to my biases".

It's a statement about one's self, not about X.
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite on May 31, 2013, 12:59:21 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. 
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite on May 31, 2013, 01:19:30 AM
     Can you tell me what Descartes proved (in the ontological world) to same level of satisfaction that the scientific method provides us in terms of the physical world?  Or to any level of satisfaction at all?  Thought experiments are fun, but they inevitably take us nowhere in terms of discovering truth.

     Our 'level of satisfaction' with the things we have learned through the scientific method is directly limited by how successful we think that Descartes or subsequent philosophers have been in answering the BIV question.  If you don't think that Descartes was successful then you have no way of knowing if your scientific knowledge is anything more than a guess generated by your imagination.   

     But the results of that imagined science will give me a new understanding of the universe I have imagined.  It will give me knowledge and information to utilize within that realm that is effective and useful.  So yes, you can do science, even if it is imagined.

     Really?? At this point I am really wondering why it would matter at all if Median is correct and all I have is an imagined, non-existent being - it would certainly be just as useful as your imagined 'science'; after all, if we are BIV's then we aren't going anywhere are we?  Furthermore, in addition to the real science that is actually being done, maybe you could augment it with some of your imaginary stuff - maybe it will turn out to be more useful.  At any rate I'd love to see you run that one by a scientist like Dawkins - science could also be constituted by me imagining to make 'empirical observations' of imaginary entities??

Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite on May 31, 2013, 01:46:41 AM
     Whether something is intuitive or incredibly difficult to understand has no bearing at all on whether or not it's true.  The Sun moving around the Earth is intuitive.  It's also wrong.


     People didn't believe that the Sun revolved around the earth because of intuition (in the philosophical sense); they believed it because that is what their observations appeared to be telling them (e.g. the Sun appears to rise in the morning and move across the sky - interesting, isn't it, how observation led us astray). 

     And the idea that everything begins to exist must have a cause is not nearly as intuitive as it once was.  Our recent discoveries about the quantum world seem to counter the example you used.


     Yeah, if you subscribe to the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics; and your empirical evidence that privileges that interpretation over the Bohmian model is...?

     Also, when you say everything 'that begins' to exist must have a cause, you insert a time variable into the scenario which may or may not carry on past the origin of our universe itself.  It asserts that there was always something before...

     Then let me help you out with your statement that "[time] may or may not carry on past the origin of our universe itself" - it doesn't.  The standard model posits the origin of the space-time continuum at the Big Bang which incidentally is a bit of a problem for your atheistic position.  That's why the history of cosmology over the last 60 years can be described as a continuous series of failed attempts to usurp the standard Big Bang model - including Hawkings proposition that we simply re-graph time and space in imaginary numbers to make the initial singularity 'disappear'.  Also, the first premise of the cosmological argument does not require a cause temporally prior to the Big Bang itself, it requires a cause logically prior - there is a big difference. 

     Why do you think plausibility matters in terms of whats true or not true? How many times has science proven things are nowhere near as simple as they seem, and that things that were once considered highly plausible, turned out to be horribly wrong?  Plausibility isn't even remotely synonymous with true.


     Agreed, but plausibility is synonymous with what we believe to be true, and until you can figure out a way to get rid of the intermediate linkage (e.g. our sensory system) between the real world and the beliefs we actually hold, you will be stuck with 'plausibility'. 

     At one time, the entire world considered that principle [the Copernican principle] to be utterly outrageous.  Deductive reasoning (in the absence of relevant facts), and rational introspection, along with a good bit of egotism is why it was considered ridiculous.  Science is what has made that principle far more reasonable.  Not philosophy, deductive reasoning, or rational introspection.

     Science has not made the Copernican principle more 'reasonable'; epistemic necessity has.  If you don't assume it (through intuition or whatever) then you also cannot claim to learn anything from the observations you have made or are making of distant galaxies. 
     
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: The Gawd on May 31, 2013, 04:54:37 AM
How did we get to the BIV state?

See how we must twist reality beyond recognition to try to come up with some possible way for this god fellow to possibly be real. 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. Fact is we all experience the same exact world. You dont see magical events EVER. You dont see amputees being healed. You dont see mountains flying into the sea. You dont see multitudes being fed with regenerated fish and bread. You dont see it, neither do we. That is our reality. The question is why do you then claim to see the items I just listed?
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Azdgari 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?
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite 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)?
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: The Gawd 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?
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite 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. 
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: jdawg70 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.
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: median 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).
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: median 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.
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite 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'?
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: median 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. 
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite 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?
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: median 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?
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Azdgari 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.
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: median 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?
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite 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. 
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite 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. 
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite 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.
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite 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?
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite 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. 
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Azdgari 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?
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Azdgari 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?
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: median 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.
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: median 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.
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: median 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?
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: median 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.
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: median 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?
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: ParkingPlaces 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.
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: screwtape 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

Thoughtful and humble prayer?
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite 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?
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Azdgari 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?
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite 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). 
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Azdgari 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.
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite 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? 
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite 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.   
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite 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]”??? 
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite 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?
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite 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)? 
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite 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. 
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite 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? 
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite 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?
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite 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)
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite 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?
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite 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. 

Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite 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?
     
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Astreja 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.
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: screwtape 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.


 
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: jaimehlers 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.
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: DumpsterFire 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
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: median 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.
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: median 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.
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: median 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.
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: median 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.
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Willie 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.
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite 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.   
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite 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.       
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite 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?
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite 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.
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite 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?
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: ParkingPlaces 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.)
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite on August 16, 2013, 01:42:41 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

     On what basis can you say that one subjective standard is any better than another subjective standard?  You can study evolutionary theory, crunch the numbers, and conclude that the Nazi's agenda would have resulted in fewer, less 'healthy' homo sapiens over a certain time frame, but that in itself does not make what the Nazi's did 'wrong'.  What if we take into account the emotional satisfaction that a Nazi would have felt when he looked around and saw nothing but blond hair and blue eyes? How can you quantify or rule out emotional flourishing as part of the good of human flourishing?  Moreover, how can you make a judgement call on how emotional flourishing compares to physical flourishing?
     Interestingly enough, I think that you seriously underestimate the resiliency of evolutionary mechanisms to produce genetic diversity; after all, how did we get all the genetic diversity that we currently see in homo sapiens to begin with?  The only way your argument regarding 'limiting the available gene pool' works is if you restrict the time frame available for nature to work.  In the long run there is no reason to think that nature cannot recover the loss of genetic material and even produce a result superior to what would have happened.  Isn't a 'severe limiting of the gene pool' exactly what has happened numerous times in the past through the mass extinctions?  Yet we seem to have more than enough genetic diversity today for nature to work with. 
     In the end, when we condemn the Nazi's for what they did I do not think that we are not doing so because of any analysis detailing the possible success or failure of their program in promoting human flourishing - we condemn them because what they attempted to do seems wrong, period.  And while I think that Median's vague proposal regarding morality fails and will continue to fail miserably no matter how much he attempts to bolster it, I think that most atheists and theists condemn the Nazi's due to similar considerations (e.g. the inherently warranted value of human dignity).  The only difference between an atheist and a theist is that the theist claims that while basing morality on human dignity is a coherent means of construing moral epistemology, it seems ultimately meaningless if not grounded in the existence of a supreme being.  So I think that atheists and theists for the most part will come to similar conclusions regarding what is right and wrong, but they will differ on what they feel is necessary to ground those conclusions.   
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: ParkingPlaces on August 16, 2013, 02:57:23 PM
And while I think that Median's vague proposal regarding morality fails and will continue to fail miserably no matter how much he attempts to bolster it, I think that most atheists and theists condemn the Nazi's due to similar considerations (e.g. the inherently warranted value of human dignity).  The only difference between an atheist and a theist is that the theist claims that while basing morality on human dignity is a coherent means of construing moral epistemology, it seems ultimately meaningless if not grounded in the existence of a supreme being.  So I think that atheists and theists for the most part will come to similar conclusions regarding what is right and wrong, but they will differ on what they feel is necessary to ground those conclusions.   

My bold

It isn't meaningless to me. Ultimately or otherwise. My willingness, or in fact, my desire, to be humane and kind and compassionate and to not put myself above others out of ego or a false sense of superiority, has a lot of meaning. To me. And since I'm not one that, therefore, picks up a gun or a knife to weed out those I could have chosen to belittle or dehumanize or hate because I have no principles, I think there is a lot of meaning to my godless reasons. Human reasons. Which, as far as I know, are the only ones available.

Being that religious morality gets handily set aside nearly every time there is a war and an enemy to destroy, I think it is high time that we humans own our moral standards, rather than blame them on something else. I happen to like moral standards that leave the most people alive and free. Others like ones that cause death and destruction. That is our human problem, and we deal with it daily. Pretending there is an outside force involved, that both judges and justifies, kind of messes up the whole thing and excuses many a horror. Such as the aforementioned Nazi atrocities.

Religion isn't the only human failing to cause such events. Worship and fear of anything/anyone including individuals like Genghis Khan and Stalin and Mao and the various N. Korean Kim's is  proof that we humans are pretty adaptable when it comes to being or following assholes. But religion often helps, with its external first cause too often busying itself as it makes up shit and hands out the bullets.
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: jdawg70 on August 16, 2013, 03:21:41 PM
...I think it is high time that we humans own our moral standards, rather than blame them on something else.
This.  One million times this.  Avogadro's number times this.

We are morally accountable to ourselves and everyone/thing around us that is subject to questions of morality (entities capable of suffering/joy, etc).  We should not trick ourselves into being morally accountable to some lofty, unknowable, unprovable entity that may not even exist.
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: jaimehlers on August 16, 2013, 09:58:24 PM
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?
By that, I mean that they came up with a way to explain the concept of a circle to someone else.  Without living back then, I can't know exactly what they did, but whatever they did was intended to demonstrate the concept to others, which serves the same purpose as explaining it in causal terms.  It probably worked something like this:

Quote from: Greenandwhite
I think that you are mistakenly equating the first step in the scientific method (observation) with the scientific method itself.
This is your opinion, and it's based on your incomplete understanding of what I said - as you stated just above, you didn't know what I was referring to by "formulated an explanation", but instead of waiting for me to answer, you tried to imagine what I might have meant.  As a result, you came up with an idea that was only tangentially related to what I was trying to get across, and ultimately ended up being incorrect.

Quote from: Greenandwhite
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.
And just what do you think the "abstract concept of circularity" is, if it is not an explanation that can be tested against circle-like objects to tell whether they are circular or not?  And in the process, occasionally come up with a way to more accurately describe the concept due to that very testing??  Which, notably, is how the scientific method works.  It doesn't matter if the initial explanation comes as a result of reasoning or due to intuition as long as it can be communicated to others and tested against reality.  And either way, it still comes about as a result of an observation.

Quote from: Greenandwhite
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.
This is because basic geometric concepts (such as the formula for a circle) were worked out so long ago that we have no idea who came up with them.  Furthermore, you might note that later geometric concepts, which are not so basic, are credited to the person who discovered them, as well as the proofs they used to demonstrate the accuracy of the concept.  I won't deny that math works differently than various sciences, but to claim that students are simply expected to 'intuitively' grasp basic mathematical concepts is fallacious.  If it were a simple matter of intuition, we wouldn't have to use various geometrical formulas, and we wouldn't have to teach children math.  We would be able to grasp those formulas 'intuitively', just as children would 'intuitively' grasp even more basic mathematical concepts (such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions...).

Quote from: Greenandwhite
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.
No, we don't "grasp the truth", because math isn't a matter of 'truth' to begin with.  What we grasp is a concept - but one that we can strengthen through repeated observation.  This is easily confirmed by observing the way that young children learn language.  When they grasp a concept, they start applying that concept to anything that comes close to matching it - for example, calling a cat or a mouse a 'doggy' because they grasped the concept of a furry animal as being a 'doggy', but haven't learned to differentiate between different kinds of furry animals yet.

Quote from: Greenandwhite
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’.
Here is another misunderstanding you have, this time about science.  Many scientific theories are not 'tentative' in the way that you mean.  While they may start out as 'tentative', as they are tested, they become progressively less so.  While it's possible that a theory that has been well-tested may be found to be incorrect in some way, it is most likely that this incorrectness is in something that nobody thought to test, or that nobody could test.  Much like how Newton's classical model is accurate except under certain circumstances (approaching the speed of light, approaching a singularity, neither of which he could realistically test), and thus was incorporated into Einstein's own theory.

Quote from: Greenandwhite
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.
Why would it?  We don't have to have a perfectly circular object in order to determine what a circle is.  And if we find something that more perfectly describes a circle than what we already have, why would we not improve our definition of a circle by incorporating it?  In other words, much as science works.  Now, it's true that it unlikely that we'll find a better formula to describe a circle than what we already have, but there are plenty of mathematical formulas that can be improved.  Like, say, the value of pi.

By the way, isn't pi incorporated into the formulas which are part of the definition of a circle?  And wouldn't that mean that as we more accurately determine the value of pi, that we also can more accurately calculate those same formulas?

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.
Granted, mainly to get this out of the way.

Quote from: Greenandwhite
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.
To address these one by one:

The law of the excluded middle is not an 'intuition', nor are the other two classical laws of thought.  Indeed, they are actually not particularly intuitive, in and of themselves.  It would be better to call them instinctive, similar to language.  Which is to say that we are biologically wired to incorporate them without having to think about it.

As for the Kalam cosmological argument and others of its ilk, they are not necessarily true simply because they are intuitive.  For example, the first premise states that there must have been a first cause to the universe (because of the cause-effect chain), but we are finding that this may not have actually been the case (for example, some quantum effects are not 'caused', they simply happen).  So in this case, our intuition (which is based on our experiences here on Earth) is quite possibly wrong.

And finally, moral 'intuitions' are actually instinctively-learned rules of the culture one is raised in.  If there are any universal morals, they are only those which are necessary for a society/culture to survive.  Other than that, all bets are off.

Quote from: Greenandwhite
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.
This is logically flawed.  It is like saying that because you use the same materials for two buildings, that both are structurally sound - without considering any other aspects of the buildings.  On top of that, there is the problem that logic is only as sound as its premise.  If you start from a false premise, then no matter how good your logic is, you're going to end up with a wrong answer.  And these "intuitive background assumptions" you talk about are not the premise of an argument.  In other words, your argument here is wrong.  You cannot automatically legitimize information gained through natural theology simply because you can gain information through the scientific method using similar basic assumptions.

Quote from: Greenandwhite
You claimed that rational introspection, like opinions, it is useless for obtaining knowledge since its suppositions cannot be proven.
Actually, no, I said that you can't disprove a hypothesis with it.  That means rational introspection is useless for gaining knowledge by itself, because you can't filter out the bad data from the good.  You have to test information (no matter how you gain it) against reality to determine if it is useful knowledge.

Quote from: Greenandwhite
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.
I am well aware of that.  It's why I said you couldn't disprove something with rational introspection, rather than that you couldn't prove it.

Quote from: Greenandwhite
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.
There are counter-examples (albeit not proven yet).  For example, the virtual particles that cause Hawking radiation if they occur next to a black hole are not 'caused'.

And in any case, it's been pretty well demonstrated that intuition is not reliable in many respects.  For example, in the field of probability.  For example, in the famous birthday problem, our intuition tells us that in order to have a 50% probability of a matched birthday, you need a large percentage of the total birthdays available to check.  In fact, you only need 23 randomly-picked people in a room to have a 50% chance of a birthday match - less than 10% of the total number.  Completely counter-intuitive.
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: DumpsterFire on August 17, 2013, 04:27:57 AM
     On what basis can you say that one subjective standard is any better than another subjective standard?
How, exactly, are the unbiased, non-preferential, and non-sentient natural mechanisms of evolution in any way subjective?

Quote
  You can study evolutionary theory, crunch the numbers, and conclude that the Nazi's agenda would have resulted in fewer, less 'healthy' homo sapiens over a certain time frame, but that in itself does not make what the Nazi's did 'wrong'.  What if we take into account the emotional satisfaction that a Nazi would have felt when he looked around and saw nothing but blond hair and blue eyes? How can you quantify or rule out emotional flourishing as part of the good of human flourishing?  Moreover, how can you make a judgement call on how emotional flourishing compares to physical flourishing?
Simply put:
The emotional satisfaction of a few thousand Nazis + The physical and emotional suffering of the millions of victims of Nazi genocide + Artificially tampering with human evolution = A Net Loss for humankind.

Technically speaking, this is just my opinion, so I'd be interested to learn your thoughts on how the above equation results in a Net Gain.

Quote
     Interestingly enough, I think that you seriously underestimate the resiliency of evolutionary mechanisms to produce genetic diversity; after all, how did we get all the genetic diversity that we currently see in homo sapiens to begin with?  The only way your argument regarding 'limiting the available gene pool' works is if you restrict the time frame available for nature to work.  In the long run there is no reason to think that nature cannot recover the loss of genetic material and even produce a result superior to what would have happened.  Isn't a 'severe limiting of the gene pool' exactly what has happened numerous times in the past through the mass extinctions?  Yet we seem to have more than enough genetic diversity today for nature to work with.
While you are probably correct that humans would ultimately continue to flourish post-Nazi eugenics program, it is a virtual certainty that (assuming the Nazi goal of world domination was achieved and their plans were implemented on a global scale) the systematic exclusion of a specific set of genes/traits would result in a weakened species.

For example:
Due to excessive poaching, the percentage of tuskless elephants http://sector9evolution.blogspot.com/2013/02/the-evolution-of-tuskless-elephants-due_22.html (http://sector9evolution.blogspot.com/2013/02/the-evolution-of-tuskless-elephants-due_22.html) is skyrocketing. If such poaching continues, eventually (and very soon, biologically speaking) tusks will be a thing of the past. Until recently, tusks have been an evolutionary boon to elephants by providing for self-defense, foraging, and sexual posturing, but due to the unnatural influence of humans on the gene pool (inadvertent as it may be) a specific trait is being excluded in the reproductive process. Do you think the exclusion of tusks in the elephant population will result in a stronger species[1]?

BTW, I am unaware of any "mass extinction" of modern humans, at least any that are supported by legitimate scientific evidence (this means you, Noah's flood). Please enlighten us with some examples.
     
Quote
In the end, when we condemn the Nazi's for what they did I do not think that we are not doing so because of any analysis detailing the possible success or failure of their program in promoting human flourishing - we condemn them because what they attempted to do seems wrong, period.  And while I think that Median's vague proposal regarding morality fails and will continue to fail miserably no matter how much he attempts to bolster it, I think that most atheists and theists condemn the Nazi's due to similar considerations (e.g. the inherently warranted value of human dignity).  The only difference between an atheist and a theist is that the theist claims that while basing morality on human dignity is a coherent means of construing moral epistemology, it seems ultimately meaningless if not grounded in the existence of a supreme being.  So I think that atheists and theists for the most part will come to similar conclusions regarding what is right and wrong, but they will differ on what they feel is necessary to ground those conclusions.   
My post attempted to remove the Nazi moralistic question altogether by just addressing the evolutionary setback their programs would have provided mankind.

Can you explain why you consider morality meaningless without a god? One would think the benefits of limiting human suffering in the present would be self evident, but your take seems to be that we can't really know what will be most beneficial to mankind in the long run (even if it sometimes amounts to many thousands of years), so we shouldn't judge anything.

I guess you would side with Ozymandias while I'd be in Rorschach's corner[2], eh?
 1. Making them un-poachable does not make them any better suited to their day-to-day environment, BTW
 2. Google Watchmen if you have no idea what this means
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: ParkingPlaces on August 17, 2013, 08:49:39 AM
Excellent points, DumpsterFire. There is a huge difference between a few selfish individuals who want to make every male look like Arnold Swartznegger and every female like Marlene Dietrich and scientists and medical researchers who want, via genetic manipulation, to rid the world of genetically transmitted birth defects or genetically transmitted diseases so that all may benefit.

The Nazi's were like todays wealthy who seem to be saying "So what if we have all the  money? How can that hurt anything?" Oblivious to anything but their own wants and desires and their need for power. Motive is everything. Power can ruin everything.

And of course, you are even more right about not knowing what the outcome of any given genetic change will be. Even evolution doesn't know. At one time, sickle cell anemia was a huge benefit to the natives of tropical areas in Africa because it protected them from malaria. But then the world changed, life spans became longer, the propensity of the genetically causes mutation to kill the person by the time they are in their mid-30's became relevant, because people started living longer. When we play with mother nature, even if we are using it to end the aforementioned birth defects, etc., we are still taking a chance on causing even more serious repercussions. That's why we use the scientific method to eke these things out. Because it has the best chance of noticing any problems via well established processes.

The religious call upon their god or their religion on a regular basis, but then they say things like "Praise the lord and pass the ammo". If there were a god, they could say "Praise the lord and let's sit back and watch him pass the ammo!" But they know better. Words are for their god and their god inquiries. Human action is for what we do in real life. Sadly, egos and bullies do the latter wrong. As with the Nazi example. And the religious who do nothing but trust their god are equally inept, even when nicer.

People with good motives (ridding the world of MD and other diseases) are properly motivated and using scientific methods to find a solution. Not prayer. Not natural theology. There is a reason for that.

Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: DumpsterFire on August 17, 2013, 09:16:02 AM
Thanks for your input, PP. Your points about using bioengineering for the eradication of disease being valid, I must edit a statement in my previous post:

Had the Nazi eugenics program been fully carried out, the systematic exclusion of a specific set of otherwise unharmful and possibly beneficial genes/traits would result in a weakened human species.
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: ParkingPlaces on August 17, 2013, 09:43:19 AM
Thanks for your input, PP. Your points about using bioengineering for the eradication of disease being valid, I must edit a statement in my previous post:

Had the Nazi eugenics program been fully carried out, the systematic exclusion of a specific set of otherwise unharmful and possibly beneficial genes/traits would result in a weakened human species.

Point well taken. Smaller gene pools suck.
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: jaimehlers on August 17, 2013, 10:21:08 AM
I think, when all is said and done, that the statement "morality is meaningless without a god to base it on" is demonstrably false, for the simple reason that when you base morality on a god, you're basing it on something that is external to yourself, and that could change what it means to be moral at any time.  In other words, trying to base morality on a god, whether it's an actual being or a concept, is effectively making its foundation out of sand, or mist.  In other words, morality is meaningless when based on a god.

To put it another way, the German Nazis thought they were acting as God wanted them to act, more specifically as they were convinced (by others) how God wanted them to act.

Human morality is not some kind of unchanging concept.  It's flexible, like a tree; but that flexibility depends on being well-grounded.  Which god-belief doesn't provide.
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: shnozzola on August 17, 2013, 05:49:27 PM
(http://media5.picsearch.com/is?QcEUOSVngeVdVxXk49dGwPxOOvUogsNm-5ssRe_Ulbw&height=226)

(http://media4.picsearch.com/is?UpBZAdmZqN9OdYYyDxrONowaH8UN8ISTI6X2Nj026ic&height=219)

Shindler's List is on today - seeing reenactments of Jewish children hiding in outhouse pits - sorry folks, maybe I'm naïve, but it seems somehow sickening to be arguing about morality, the Nazi's, and evolution.
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: median on August 17, 2013, 08:35:52 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?

This response doesn't answer my question and it demonstrates, once again, that you have an idea about what morality is that I reject (namely that it is 'objective' and that it has something to do with something other than human beings, aka a supernatural being etc - which you haven't demonstrated). And even if ALL of my arguments for how I see morality were proven in error this would not get you to "God did it". It would simply bring me to agnosticism, not deism or theism. Is really that hard for you to admit your own ignorance? You seem to be OK with playing Socrates only when you're shelling it out.

The response here also brings another fallacy to the table - that I have some "belief" or dogma (like you do) regarding what morality is all about - when I do not. For the hundredth time, for me morality is about the well being of human beings (and often therefore conscious creatures). It isn't a belief. I know you so desperately want me to fall into your absolutist mind-set trap of rigidly and dogmatically holding a belief, and presenting a definition, so that you can say, "Aha! Your definition is flawed! Therefore Jebus morality is wins!"

NOPE. Sorry, not gonna happen. Fact is, in the same manner that you have not demonstrated your Yahweh deity, you haven't demonstrated an objective morality (some absolute standard) either - and your attempt to turn the tables (a fallacy called Shifting the Burden of Proof) is lame at best - especially when I already told you that my position on morality is for me (i.e. - not a claim regarding what is or isn't "objective"). You use your own standard of morality just like I do, and just like everyone else does - except you just want to pretend that yours has some objective standard (which you haven't demonstrated).
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: median on August 17, 2013, 08:45:06 PM

     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://dictionary.reference.com/browse/natural+theology)
http://www.iep.utm.edu/theo-nat/ (http://www.iep.utm.edu/theo-nat/)
http://www.thefreedictionary.com/natural+theology (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.

LOL. Yes, I am 'biased' against mythical nonsense. I love how you use the word 'arbitrary' and then point to some dictionaries as if those are going to help you. They don't, and it's actually surprising to see you attempt this line of reasoning. Did you not know that philosophy often debates questions of definitions in terms? If so, why are you using other authority figures to give you your definitions? Claiming a mere authority (or a group of them) on the definition of a term (a term which was arbitrarily defined in the first place by those who wished to use it under such contexts) is merely assuming what you need to prove - an action which earlier you attempted to take me to task on regarding the definition of "well-being", and other terms. You can't really be serious with this kind of intellectual hypocrisy.
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: median on August 17, 2013, 09:04:42 PM
  And while I think that Median's vague proposal regarding morality fails and will continue to fail miserably no matter how much he attempts to bolster it, I think that most atheists and theists condemn the Nazi's due to similar considerations (e.g. the inherently warranted value of human dignity).

Bolster? Really? Are you really THAT dishonest in misrepresenting my position with such gross error to attempt to make me say things I have not said? Where have I "bolstered" anything on anyone? You sir, have a serious problem with correctly representing (or even attempting to properly represent) an opposing position. On multiple occasions I readily admitted that the position of which I spoke was NOT pertaining to anything "objective", and yet you still sit there and attack it as if it was. WOW.


The only difference between an atheist and a theist is that the theist claims that while basing morality on human dignity is a coherent means of construing moral epistemology, it seems ultimately meaningless if not grounded in the existence of a supreme being.   

Wrong. The difference is much bigger than you think. You suffer from the same delusion that you do regarding a deity. You believe one exists (just like believing there is an objective morality) but haven't sufficiently demonstrated it as such - relying upon mere intuition (a feeling) and prior background assumptions you made long ago regarding the bible (along with your interpretation of it), all the while failing to acknowledge the atheists do not see morality (or what that term means) the same way you do."Most people feel X is objectively wrong" isn't a good reason for thinking there is some 'up there' standard beyond human reasoning. If it were then that logic could also apply to all sorts of nonsense that the crowed felt.
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite on August 28, 2013, 12:37:57 AM

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.

          Just because a general definition is adequate in one circumstance does not mean that it is adequate in all circumstances.  For instance, saying that geology is ‘the study of rock formations and movements’ might be sufficient if one was comparing geology to psychology, but it likely wouldn’t suffice if one wanted to compare the geophysical global cooling hypothesis to the hypothesis of plate tectonics.  In the former case the comparison is between two different disciplines of study while in the latter case the comparison is between two points of view within a discipline.  Someone attempting to defend the global cooling hypothesis couldn’t just say to his detractors, ‘well for me geology is just about the study of rock formations and movements’;  he would actually have to give reasons why he thought that the rocks had moved in the manner prescribed by his hypothesis.  In the same way, the discussion of objective versus subjective moral values is a specific dispute within the study of moral theory and as such, your repeated refusals to adequately clarify your views (e.g. in posts 67, 69, 80, 105, and 107) constitute nothing more than a dishonest and transparent attempt to insulate your views from any kind of criticism. 
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite on August 28, 2013, 12:53:18 AM
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....
     We puny humans can't know everything. But to rely on old religious processes that have yet to provide anything but comfort seems useless.
ParkingPlaces,
     [font=]You talked about the “real world application” of scientific knowledge and how studying topics in physics like gravity, propulsion, and inertia has allowed us to do some pretty amazing things such as putting manmade objects on Mars.  [/font]Now, it is pretty cool some of the things that science has allowed us to do, but I am wondering if you have thought about the motivations that scientists might have had for attempting such feats.  Certainly, there are often technological spin offs that projects like the Apollo missions or the Mars rover mission have, but do you think it was the ‘spin offs’ that motivated the scientific community or was it learning for learning’s sake?  If, for some reason there was no real world spin off that might directly or indirectly affect you or me do you think that the scientists involved in such programs would feel that their time or intellectual resources had been wasted?
      If you want to make ‘real world application’ your standard for defining the usefulness of knowledge then you are writing off as ‘purposeless’ or ‘useless’ or ‘of little benefit’ or what have you all kinds of knowledge including much knowledge that has been gained through scientific research.   Scientists can study gravity and inertia and do all kinds of cool things without embarking on all kinds of esoteric exercises like string theory or quantum field theory or a search for a grand unifying theory.  What exactly is the real world application of the research being done in cosmology regarding the origins of the universe; do oscillating universe models improve your daily life? 
      Furthermore, it doesn’t sound to me like your personal outlook would be much kinder to many of the other subjects commonly studied on university campuses.  What kind of real world application has Dr. John Searle’s work in philosophy had?  What is the use of all the work that mathematicians do in proving things like Fermat’s Last Theorem.  A conclusive proof of Fermat’s Conjecture was not provided by any mathematician until 1995, but that fact did not seem to stymie scientific research in the previous few centuries nor has it resulted in any stupendous scientific discoveries since then – were the efforts of countless mathematicians over the previous three and a half centuries therefore of little value?  Closer to the question at hand, when you talk about the meaningfulness of your moral values, is that something that you know to be true or are you just guessing?  If you do feel that you know your moral values are meaningful could you point to the scientific experiments that you consulted to confirm that notion? 
      The only way that you can say that knowledge gained through science is superior to or more useful than knowledge gained through natural theology (and by comparison many other subject as well) is if you consider certain questions like “does God exist” or “is my life meaningful” to be of less value than questions like “how might we put a robotic device on Mars”.  Interestingly enough, you are participating in a forum that discusses the latter types of questions, so I think your presence here shows that at some level you yourself do not believe your own sentiments in the previous post to be true. 
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite on August 28, 2013, 01:01:12 AM

And while I think that Median's vague proposal regarding morality fails and will continue to fail miserably no matter how much he attempts to bolster it, I think that most atheists and theists condemn the Nazi's due to similar considerations (e.g. the inherently warranted value of human dignity).  The only difference between an atheist and a theist is that the theist claims that while basing morality on human dignity is a coherent means of construing moral epistemology, it seems ultimately meaningless if not grounded in the existence of a supreme being.  So I think that atheists and theists for the most part will come to similar conclusions regarding what is right and wrong, but they will differ on what they feel is necessary to ground those conclusions.   


     It isn't meaningless to me. Ultimately or otherwise. My willingness, or in fact, my desire, to be humane and kind and compassionate and to not put myself above others out of ego or a false sense of superiority, has a lot of meaning. To me. And since I'm not one that, therefore, picks up a gun or a knife to weed out those I could have chosen to belittle or dehumanize or hate because I have no principles, I think there is a lot of meaning to my godless reasons. Human reasons. Which, as far as I know, are the only ones available.
     Being that religious morality gets handily set aside nearly every time there is a war and an enemy to destroy, I think it is high time that we humans own our moral standards, rather than blame them on something else. I happen to like moral standards that leave the most people alive and free. Others like ones that cause death and destruction. That is our human problem, and we deal with it daily. Pretending there is an outside force involved, that both judges and justifies, kind of messes up the whole thing and excuses many a horror. Such as the aforementioned Nazi atrocities.

ParkingPlaces,
      I am quite certain that you as a person find your moral values to be meaningful; however, I am just wondering how you know that this meaning is not just illusory?  Isn’t it a fairly common argument on atheistic forums such as this one that human beings are capable of believing all kinds of falsehoods for convenience sake?  How do you know that the meaning that you ascribe to your moral outlook is not just a convenient fiction?
      Since in the previous post I was talking about foundations for moral values, I am wondering on what you are basing yours?  It certainly doesn’t sound to me as if you feel that your moral beliefs are arbitrary, so do you find your moral beliefs to be meaningful because you consider yourself as a person intrinsically valuable and by extension all other human beings as well, or are you doing some kind of a calculation to quantify something like ‘human flourishing’?
 
 
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite on August 28, 2013, 01:09:36 AM

     To put it another way, the German Nazis thought they were acting as God wanted them to act, more specifically as they were convinced (by others) how God wanted them to act.

     [font=]This post concerns a couple of comments that were made in the last exchange.  In addition to Jaimehlers comment above, I noted that in post #117 ParkingPlaces said, “pretending there is an outside force involved, that both judges and justifies, kind of messes up the whole thing and excuses many a horror, such as the aforementioned Nazi atrocities.”  I think that comments of this nature regarding Nazi actions are completely irrelevant to the discussion at hand. 
      In the first place, these statements are demonstrably fallacious in that there is virtually no historical support to bolster them.  Citing examples of church statements supporting the Nazi party would be illegitimate considering the policies of deception and intimidation pursued by the Nazis.  It also belittles the courageous opposing stance that many religious people in Germany actually took regarding the Nazi party policies.     
      Secondly, the actions and motivations of isolated groups of people do not determine the truth or falsity of statements regarding moral foundations.  About the best that can be said for the actions of groups like the Nazis is that their example indicates the social impact that theism or possibly atheism can have.  Even this is questionable since the Nazis are not representative of your average atheist or theist.  Mark Vuletic puts it this way ([/font][/size]http://www.infidels.org/secular_web/feature/1999/violence.html (http://www.infidels.org/secular_web/feature/1999/violence.html)[/color][/url][/size] - I cite him not because I expect you to take his word as authoritative but simply because I though he phrased things better than I could have):  “Is theism or atheism inherently dangerous? No. Both are consistent with intolerance and violence, but neither one has intolerance and violence as a "logical conclusion." There are those who embrace hate and violence for religious reasons, and those who embrace them for secular reasons. Likewise, there are those who reject hate and violence for religious reasons, and those who reject them for secular reasons. And in fact, the vast majority of theists and atheists share common basic moral attitudes towards their fellow men and women…So, was Hitler an atheist or a theist? As long as he wasn't typical of either side, I could care less what he was.”  
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: ParkingPlaces on August 28, 2013, 02:01:22 AM

And while I think that Median's vague proposal regarding morality fails and will continue to fail miserably no matter how much he attempts to bolster it, I think that most atheists and theists condemn the Nazi's due to similar considerations (e.g. the inherently warranted value of human dignity).  The only difference between an atheist and a theist is that the theist claims that while basing morality on human dignity is a coherent means of construing moral epistemology, it seems ultimately meaningless if not grounded in the existence of a supreme being.  So I think that atheists and theists for the most part will come to similar conclusions regarding what is right and wrong, but they will differ on what they feel is necessary to ground those conclusions.   


     It isn't meaningless to me. Ultimately or otherwise. My willingness, or in fact, my desire, to be humane and kind and compassionate and to not put myself above others out of ego or a false sense of superiority, has a lot of meaning. To me. And since I'm not one that, therefore, picks up a gun or a knife to weed out those I could have chosen to belittle or dehumanize or hate because I have no principles, I think there is a lot of meaning to my godless reasons. Human reasons. Which, as far as I know, are the only ones available.
     Being that religious morality gets handily set aside nearly every time there is a war and an enemy to destroy, I think it is high time that we humans own our moral standards, rather than blame them on something else. I happen to like moral standards that leave the most people alive and free. Others like ones that cause death and destruction. That is our human problem, and we deal with it daily. Pretending there is an outside force involved, that both judges and justifies, kind of messes up the whole thing and excuses many a horror. Such as the aforementioned Nazi atrocities.

ParkingPlaces,
      I am quite certain that you as a person find your moral values to be meaningful; however, I am just wondering how you know that this meaning is not just illusory?  Isn’t it a fairly common argument on atheistic forums such as this one that human beings are capable of believing all kinds of falsehoods for convenience sake?  How do you know that the meaning that you ascribe to your moral outlook is not just a convenient fiction?
      Since in the previous post I was talking about foundations for moral values, I am wondering on what you are basing yours?  It certainly doesn’t sound to me as if you feel that your moral beliefs are arbitrary, so do you find your moral beliefs to be meaningful because you consider yourself as a person intrinsically valuable and by extension all other human beings as well, or are you doing some kind of a calculation to quantify something like ‘human flourishing’?
 

I extrapolate. I've noticed that I don't like getting stabbed. I then jump to the conclusion that nobody else does either. Once I have done that, I decide that there is a moral imperative that we not stab each other. Then I go on to other things I wouldn't like having happen to me. Being robbed, raped, shot, drugged, arrested for being black, etc. Pretty soon I have a decent set of rules that I can incorporate into my moral code and feel pretty good about.

Then I move on to other things I don't like, or at least am pretty sure I wouldn't like. Being a slave, being oppressed, starving to death during a civil war, prejudices, etc. That list is pretty long, as is the first. But it doesn't take me much time to put together a set of guidelines that I think constitute moral thinking and moral imperatives. Then I go from there.

Sadly my process doesn't work. Too many selfish folks think all of those things should be on their bucket list, and they go around violating my standards on a regular basis. I gotta work on that part.

Not counting our genes, there are no external sources of morality. There are plenty of fake sources for fake morality, but the real stuff comes from within us. And it is actually pretty easy for anyone with a pencil and paper to come up with something that resembles my own. Except for assholes (sorry Nam, not you) and whatever else you want to call the power hungry/selfish/self-righteous idiots that make life on this planet that much harder. They are the ones insisting the morality must come from somewhere else, because what they want to call normal (be they Nazi's or Glenn Beck or Saddam Hussein) is just them trying to justify their selfishness.

Once you leave out said selfishness, morality starts to be a bit more universal. Sure, we might have to sit down and have the occasional discussion about stoning our raped daughters and stuff, because different cultures are going to occasionally have different standards. But at least we'd have something to work with if the idiots would just get out of the way.

By the way, it might all be illusion. The difference is, my illusions are better. How do I know? Yours suck.
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: median on August 28, 2013, 02:03:45 AM

          Just because a general definition is adequate in one circumstance does not mean that it is adequate in all circumstances.  For instance, saying that geology is ‘the study of rock formations and movements’ might be sufficient if one was comparing geology to psychology, but it likely wouldn’t suffice if one wanted to compare the geophysical global cooling hypothesis to the hypothesis of plate tectonics.  In the former case the comparison is between two different disciplines of study while in the latter case the comparison is between two points of view within a discipline.  Someone attempting to defend the global cooling hypothesis couldn’t just say to his detractors, ‘well for me geology is just about the study of rock formations and movements’;  he would actually have to give reasons why he thought that the rocks had moved in the manner prescribed by his hypothesis.  In the same way, the discussion of objective versus subjective moral values is a specific dispute within the study of moral theory and as such, your repeated refusals to adequately clarify your views (e.g. in posts 67, 69, 80, 105, and 107) constitute nothing more than a dishonest and transparent attempt to insulate your views from any kind of criticism.

Absolutely 100% false. And I deeply resent your BS accusation as both highly unwarranted and assumptive (just as you have done with your theology - ASSUMED it). You seem to have this idea (maybe from Josh Mcdowell, Bill Craig, or other nonsense apologists) that if my answer doesn't fit your wants/desires, as to what you think it should be, then there must be some "deeper" hiding going on (the typical religious conspiracy theory nonsense). No, you just haven't attempted to truly understand what I've stated. You clearly have the agenda of attempting to make me say something I'm not saying (Strawman fallacy) - all the while trying to accuse me of "insulating" some belief you think I have from criticism. WTF!? LOL. No dude, sorry, I don't have some belief (like you do) in a "moral law giver" in the sky (or elsewhere), nor did I provide a definition as if it applies to all (like you do).

As I stated in another post, I don't need to clarify anything for you. I'm not the one making the positive claim to an 'objective' morality. You are. And your weak attempts to shift the burden of proof demonstrate your utter dishonesty regarding the subject. I don't think I could have said "for me" enough times - but of course you skirted right over that (deliberately ignoring what I said on multiple occasions). Where I come from that's called being an asshole. You must have an extremely thick skull, or perhaps your cognitive faculties are failing you. Have you not understood that I do not accept your belief in some 'objective' morality? Have you not grasped that I do not buy your assumptions? It seems you have a fundamental unwillingness to attempt to understand any other answer than the one you want to end up with.

Moreover, your Jebus morality is the one that fails, and will "always fail". Oh I know you can spin, rationalize, and argue away any straight forward clear reading of your Yahweh deity endorsed and/or commanded slavery, genocide, infanticide, human sacrifice, and other vile characteristics in that book. But I'm not buying it just like I'm not buying the Muslim or Mormon spin either. You use your own standard of morality just like everyone else does. Why pretend it's from a deity? And just because you feel (or have some intuition) that there is an objective morality, doesn't mean there is one (just like feeling there is a deity doesn't mean there is one).

So once again, the accusation, "your repeated refusals to adequately clarify your views..." is itself bullshit. I have clarified my views plenty. If it's not enough for you, too fucking bad! I don't care. Your view finds its root in the assumption of a definition which I reject (and likely a false dichotomy as well). Where have I stated that I have some concrete belief like you do? Where have I once claimed an objective morality or some idea of morality that must apply to you or all? The answer is, I haven't. But for some reason you want to keep pretending that I have - as if it matters to the argument at all. What you keep missing is that you are swinging at the wind - trying to put the atheists on the defensive because you don't like the fact that you have the burden of proof. I have made no positive assertion as to an objective morality, but even if I had (and failed), it wouldn't make your position true. You don't win by default dude. You need to demonstrate how you think you know there is an objective morality. Until then you have nothing more than claims as such (just like every religion of history).

How about YOU "adequately clarify your views" for us. Let's start there.
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite on August 29, 2013, 12:51:16 AM

     Interestingly enough, I think that you seriously underestimate the resiliency of evolutionary mechanisms to produce genetic diversity; after all, how did we get all the genetic diversity that we currently see in homo sapiens to begin with?  The only way your argument regarding 'limiting the available gene pool' works is if you restrict the time frame available for nature to work.  In the long run there is no reason to think that nature cannot recover the loss of genetic material and even produce a result superior to what would have happened.  Isn't a 'severe limiting of the gene pool' exactly what has happened numerous times in the past through the mass extinctions?  Yet we seem to have more than enough genetic diversity today for nature to work with.


     While you are probably correct that humans would ultimately continue to flourish post-Nazi eugenics program, it is a virtual certainty that (assuming the Nazi goal of world domination was achieved and their plans were implemented on a global scale) the systematic exclusion of a specific set of genes/traits would result in a weakened species. For example:
     Due to excessive poaching, the percentage of tuskless elephants
http://sector9evolution.blogspot.com/2013/02/the-evolution-of-tuskless-elephants-due_22.html (http://sector9evolution.blogspot.com/2013/02/the-evolution-of-tuskless-elephants-due_22.html) is skyrocketing. If such poaching continues, eventually (and very soon, biologically speaking) tusks will be a thing of the past. Until recently, tusks have been an evolutionary boon to elephants by providing for self-defense, foraging, and sexual posturing, but due to the unnatural influence of humans on the gene pool (inadvertent as it may be) a specific trait is being excluded in the reproductive process. Do you think the exclusion of tusks in the elephant population will result [future tense] in a stronger species[1]? [/font]
 1. Making them un-poachable does not make them any better suited to their day-to-day environment, BTW
[font=]     A species (in this case elephants) is made ‘stronger’ by the natural adaptations that occur in response to environmental pressures.  Any judgement about the future fitness of the elephant population is dependent upon knowledge of what pressures elephants will experience in their future environment.  Unless you think I can foretell the future I will have to give basically the same answer to the question that Lauren Lyssy gave in the blog that you cited: “the key question is if elephants will be able to adapt quickly enough to their native environments without the use of tusks” – basically she doesn’t know and neither do I. 
      Now, if you want to know if the loss of tusks has improved the ability of elephants to survive in their present environment then the answer is yes.  Look at it this way, if I took you to some unregulated area of Africa and showed you one elephant with tusks and one elephant without and asked you to place a wager on which one might survive longer, which one would you choose?  As you said in your last post, nature does not have any subjective purpose in shaping the elephant species – all things being equal the strongest will survive and that is exactly what has happened in the case of elephants, the strongest (those without tusks) have survived.  Nature has already answered the question that you posed to me in your last post.   
      Also, even if we consider the fitness of the elephants in their natural environment (absent any human intervention), it still has not been shown that the elephant species will be unable to adapt and flourish without tusks – quite the opposite seems to be the case.  In addition to questioning what might become of the elephant species in the future, a question one could ask about any species of animal on earth, Lauren Lyssy notes that since the hunting ban on elephants in Addo Elephant National Park in 1954, the population has risen from 11 individuals to 324 of which 98% are tuskless (not bad for a species that is supposedly at a ‘disadvantage’, unless of course a 2,945% population increase doesn’t warrant the descriptor ‘flourishing’ in your books). [/font]
      BTW, I am unaware of any "mass extinction" of modern humans, at least any that are supported by legitimate scientific evidence (this means you, Noah's flood). Please enlighten us with some examples.
[font=]
     Firstly, I have not presumed to defend young earth creationism at any place on this cite so I don’t think that I am required to provide scientific evidence for a universal flood. 
Secondly, there does appear to be a good amount of scientific evidence for not just one but several near extinction events in human history: [/font]http://io9.com/5501565/extinction-events-that-almost-wiped-out-humans (http://io9.com/5501565/extinction-events-that-almost-wiped-out-humans) and http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/04/080424-humans-extinct_2.html (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/04/080424-humans-extinct_2.html)

     In the end, when we condemn the Nazi's for what they did I do not think that we are not doing so because of any analysis detailing the possible success or failure of their program in promoting human flourishing - we condemn them because what they attempted to do seems wrong, period.  And while I think that Median's vague proposal regarding morality fails and will continue to fail miserably no matter how much he attempts to bolster it, I think that most atheists and theists condemn the Nazi's due to similar considerations (e.g. the inherently warranted value of human dignity).  The only difference between an atheist and a theist is that the theist claims that while basing morality on human dignity is a coherent means of construing moral epistemology, it seems ultimately meaningless if not grounded in the existence of a supreme being.  So I think that atheists and theists for the most part will come to similar conclusions regarding what is right and wrong, but they will differ on what they feel is necessary to ground those conclusions.   


     My post attempted to remove the Nazi moralistic question altogether by just addressing the evolutionary setback their programs would have provided mankind.  Can you explain why you consider morality meaningless without a god? One would think the benefits of limiting human suffering in the present would be self evident, but your take seems to be that we can't really know what will be most beneficial to mankind in the long run (even if it sometimes amounts to many thousands of years), so we shouldn't judge anything.
     [font=]I realize that, but I think you missed the point.  You said yourself that “one would think that the benefits of limiting human suffering in the present would be self-evident”.  That is exactly the point I am trying to make; limiting human suffering is self-evidently good, and we recognize that without doing any calculations to determine a measured quantity of human flourishing.  What the Nazis did was an affront to human dignity, and even if they could have subjectively determined that their actions would lead to increased ‘human flourishing’ the holocaust still would have been wrong.    [/font]
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite on August 29, 2013, 01:27:43 AM
     On what basis can you say that one subjective standard is any better than another subjective standard?

How, exactly, are the unbiased, non-preferential, and non-sentient natural mechanisms of evolution in any way subjective?

     [font=]     I was not ascribing subjectivity to a natural process since there would have been no subject to attribute it to; rather I was making a comparison between the Nazi’s moral judgements (which presumably you feel were subjective) and your own (which I was under the impression that you also felt were subjective).   [/font]On a subjective moral world view each person or group of people define for themselves what is moral or immoral for them and what they choose to base it on.  You choose to use some measure of ‘human flourishing’ as your metric of morality; the Nazis chose the exclusive flourishing of the German state as theirs; so what? Why do you feel you have a right to condemn their moral judgement as wrong…unless deep down you don’t think that moral values are as subjectively based as you have indicated so far. 
     You can study evolutionary theory, crunch the numbers, and conclude that the Nazi's agenda would have resulted in fewer, less 'healthy' homo sapiens over a certain time frame, but that in itself does not make what the Nazi's did 'wrong'.  What if we take into account the emotional satisfaction that a Nazi would have felt when he looked around and saw nothing but blond hair and blue eyes? How can you quantify or rule out emotional flourishing as part of the good of human flourishing?  Moreover, how can you make a judgement call on how emotional flourishing compares to physical flourishing?

Simply put:
The emotional satisfaction of a few thousand Nazis + The physical and emotional suffering of the millions of victims of Nazi genocide + Artificially tampering with human evolution = A Net Loss for humankind.  Technically speaking, this is just my opinion, so I'd be interested to learn your thoughts on how the above equation results in a Net Gain.

     [font=]There are a few reasons why your conclusion (‘A Net Loss for humankind’) is premature:
 First, it seems reasonable to assume that a good moral system would be one that considers all relevant participants – present and future.  [/font]For instance, much of the ethical motivation for today’s environmental lobbyists concerns the welfare of future inhabitants of planet earth.  This outlook seems reasonable, yet in your equation you only referred to the ‘few thousand Nazi’s’ alive circa 1943. 
 Second, the relevant question is not how I feel the above ‘equation’ might result in a net gain but how the Nazis might have found the ‘equation’ to result in a positive net gain – after all, if moral judgements are subjective, then those of the Nazis are just as valid as yours or mine – correct? 
      So here’s your equation rewritten with the appropriate changes to reflect the Nazi point of view:
 (1) the emotional and physical flourishing of a few thousand Nazis +
 (2) the emotional and physical flourishing of all subsequent members of humanity (assuming Nazi success) +
 (3) the temporary and limited emotional and physical suffering of the ‘inferiors’ =
 (4) Net Gain. 
      I did not include your ‘artificially tampering with human evolution’ measure for the following reason: on a naturalistic view of evolution we as humans, along with our choices and actions, are part of the evolutionary process.  Why is one human killing another human any different from an evolutionary viewpoint than any other animal in nature killing another – the potential magnitude of effect that humans can have shouldn’t make any difference.  If a species of hyenas over time drives another species to extinction would that also be artificially ‘tampering’ with evolution?  Your attribution of human ‘tampering’ seems to illegitimately lead to ‘speciesism’. 
      Even if we reject my version of the equation there still remains the problem of assigning values to the factors used in the equation.  Would the suffering of one resident at Dachau be given a ‘morality index rating’ of -8 while the emotional satisfaction of one of the guards is considered to have a value of 2?  Whose standards would be used to assign the values – yours or the Nazi’s (unless, of course, you can think of some non-arbitrary way to assign values).  So, IMO, it seems that you will never come up with an indisputable answer using the above equation, and this just underscores the futility of using measures of ‘human flourishing’ to determine what is morally right or wrong.  There is no non-arbitrary method for assigning unit values to the terms under comparison nor is there any way to determine how many humans might be referred to by the second factor in the equation – if humans continue in existence on this earth for even another 10,000 years then the quantity of flourishing in this factor alone could easily outweigh the third factor no matter how you assign values.  At the end of the day we all recognize what the Nazi’s did to be morally wrong without using some equation involving human flourishing and we do so because of some understanding of the intrinsic value of human beings.     
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: median on August 29, 2013, 01:44:18 AM
     [font=]I realize that, but I think you missed the point.  You said yourself that “one would think that the benefits of limiting human suffering in the present would be self-evident”.  That is exactly the point I am trying to make; limiting human suffering is self-evidently good, and we recognize that without doing any calculations to determine a measured quantity of human flourishing.[/font]
[font=]

It's quite peculiar and surprising that you have decided to advance this line of reasoning, since only a few posts ago you criticized my general definition of similar terminology ("human flourishing" - which is inherently tied to your idea of "human suffering"). So now let's turn the tables and I will challenge you just like you tried to challenge me.

Just how exactly do you define "human suffering"?? Please note that any definition you give will be criticized in similar fashion as you attempted with me.


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[font=]
What the Nazis did was an affront to human dignity, and even if they could have subjectively determined that their actions would lead to increased ‘human flourishing’ the holocaust still would have been wrong.   
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[font=]

First, please clarify your definition for "human dignity". Second, had the Nazi's "determined" their actions as increasing human flourishing, the betterment of society (and they did argue this), they still would have been wrong...not because of some deity who you think dictates morality but because the facts would not have played out in their favor. Yes, there's that "suffering" thing again - which has tons to do with human flourishing btw and nothing to do with a non-demonstrable, unfalsifiable, alleged deity thing. [/font]
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: median on August 29, 2013, 02:00:03 AM
Even if we reject my version of the equation there still remains the problem of assigning values to the factors used in the equation.

And there lies the irony. YOU TOO have this same problem of assigning value with your worldview. What, do you think somehow your personal bible interpretation of your theology allows you to escape the problem of assigning value? Merely assuming your theology and then interpreting things through it (all the while criticizing those for whom you actually share the same problem) is pretty hypocritical. Sure, you can say, "Well I believe we are made in the image of God, who has commanded us not to kill. So my system is better" (or something to this effect) but, for one, your system/belief hasn't been demonstrated as true or authoritative. Secondly, countless theological/moral views depicted in that book are either hypocritical or self contradictory, and third, even if you could show that your deity existed (and was somehow the "objective" standard) this would still be a LONG way off from demonstrating that your theological interpretation and exegesis was the one to follow (as there are countless other sects out there who would disagree with you on these so-called "objective" standards, ad nauseum). So what good does it do toward the pursuit of truth (and separating fact from fiction) to criticize a perceived "subjective" standard when (in practice) your system is just as subjective.
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: DumpsterFire on August 29, 2013, 02:12:38 AM
      Now, if you want to know if the loss of tusks has improved the ability of elephants to survive in their present environment then the answer is yes.  Look at it this way, if I took you to some unregulated area of Africa and showed you one elephant with tusks and one elephant without and asked you to place a wager on which one might survive longer, which one would you choose?  As you said in your last post, nature does not have any subjective purpose in shaping the elephant species – all things being equal the strongest will survive and that is exactly what has happened in the case of elephants, the strongest (those without tusks) have survived.  Nature has already answered the question that you posed to me in your last post.
Now it seems you are the one missing the point. Tuskless elephants are not "stronger" than those with tusks. On the contrary, hundreds of thousands of years of natural elephant evolution have demonstrated that tusks are a beneficial adaptation. It is only because of the unnatural influence of man slaughtering them for ivory that tuskless elephants are flourishing. This would correlate to the Nazi eugenics program, in that these idiotic poachers are (unwittingly) excluding a specific trait from the population, with the end result being a weakened species. Tuskless elephants will probably do OK in the future, but nature has already dictated that elephants with tusks are better adapted for survival. Its pretty sad that what took nature many millenia to build mankind can tear asunder in a century.

Quote
     Firstly, I have not presumed to defend young earth creationism at any place on this cite so I don’t think that I am required to provide scientific evidence for a universal flood. Secondly, there does appear to be a good amount of scientific evidence for not just one but several near extinction events in human history: http://io9.com/5501565/extinction-events-that-almost-wiped-out-humans (http://io9.com/5501565/extinction-events-that-almost-wiped-out-humans) and http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/04/080424-humans-extinct_2.html (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/04/080424-humans-extinct_2.html)
Both of your links cite only two such events, info on the most recent (70k years ago) of which being acknowledged as "controversial". Here's a quote from the comments section of the first link:

"The authors actually estimate an even smaller population number for 1.2 mio. yrs. ago than is cited in this post: 18,500.
However, they base their analysis on only two completed human genome sequences. And such an analysis necessarily has to make a very large number of very generous assumptions. Their estimate number could easily be off by an order of magnitude or more.
The other work, about the supposed extinction event 70k yrs. ago is from 2003, just before the current technological revolution in DNA sequencing got under way. So the experimental methods used (micro satellite markers) are very limited and again a large number of generous assumptions had to be made. Again the numbers could be off several fold, which would then tell a completely different story."

But even if we assume that the figures are correct, the fact is it took 70,000 years to get to the level of genetic diversity we presently have. Again, you are likely correct that mankind will continue to flourish, but severe restrictions to the human gene pool are not quickly or easily overcome.
 
Quote
You said yourself that “one would think that the benefits of limiting human suffering in the present would be self-evident”.  That is exactly the point I am trying to make; limiting human suffering is self-evidently good, and we recognize that without doing any calculations to determine a measured quantity of human flourishing.  What the Nazis did was an affront to human dignity, and even if they could have subjectively determined that their actions would lead to increased ‘human flourishing’ the holocaust still would have been wrong.
For someone who seemed to be so firmly planted in the Ozymandias camp, it seems rather disingenuous of you to suddenly hop on board the Rorschach bandwagon.  :P
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: median on August 29, 2013, 02:22:50 AM
I was not ascribing subjectivity to a natural process since there would have been no subject to attribute it to; rather I was making a comparison between the Nazi’s moral judgements (which presumably you feel were subjective) and your own (which I was under the impression that you also felt were subjective).   On a subjective moral world view each person or group of people define for themselves what is moral or immoral for them and what they choose to base it on.  You choose to use some measure of ‘human flourishing’ as your metric of morality; the Nazis chose the exclusive flourishing of the German state as theirs; so what? Why do you feel you have a right to condemn their moral judgement as wrong…unless deep down you don’t think that moral values are as subjectively based as you have indicated so far.

Your fallacy here is that you have assumed that it is about "rights", when it's not. Rights have nothing to do with it. They are not inherent, nor have they been demonstrated as "from the divine". Rights are only available when people fight for them, allow them, and/or keep them in place.

Now, every one of us (including you) uses their own standard of morality. You, just like everyone else, have your own personal interpretation of what morality means to you and you attempt to apply that in your life (as does everyone else). This really must not be that difficult for you to see, is it? And just because you read an old book (claiming that it gives us the 'objective' standard) doesn't mean that it does. All that means is that you can claim that it does - but every religion makes claims like that and none of them have demonstrated this thing they call "objective" (including you).

Here's an illustration:

You stated:
Quote
You choose to use some measure of ‘human flourishing’ as your metric of morality

but what's interesting is that you choose to use your own definition of "human suffering" (which relates to flourishing) just the same. It's quite a bit of a catch 22 you're in.
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: epidemic on August 29, 2013, 11:18:32 AM
How about morality - can you construct an experiment to show that stealing is wrong or do you already know it is wrong before you start?

I don't know if this counts but I can first off show historically where stealing is bad for the community as a whole.  As a rule it should be avoided based upon historical events.  A community riddled with theft and other crimes is less enjoyable and prosperous as a whole.  Polling data would indicate a lower quality of life..

Now is stealing morally wrong?   I think "morally" is subjective, and in reality is a community cultural thing, moral = good for the community to have a certain quality of life as a whole.  From this we come up with the basic laws of humanity

Stealing - is wrong because it creates strife in the community, potentially inviting more theft and annimosity.  (as such it is judged to be morally wrong)
Sex out of marriage -  Creates bastard children, who do not have fathers and a complete support system. (history has deemed this immoral because it hurts the community)
Sex with neighbors wife -  Well this cretes strife, annimosity, fights, and vendettas. (bad for community again becomes morally wrong)
...

This is why almost universally most cultural norms over eons came up with moral codes that are passed down to children.  They are based upon observation or people in antiquity.

An experiment would be simply any group of people thrust into these situations will have a higher incidents of escallating problems using observation you will be able to reproduce results over and over that allowing "immoral behavior" in the above catagories will result in a decrease in productivity and increase in injury:)


Morals are simply rules based upon human cultural experience and they are passed on by both the community and the parents.  Many Morals are good for the community as a whole rather than the individual directly. 

If I don't steal and we don't steal we will be more secure,  If I don't kill and we dont kill then that benefits me in not being killed allowing my productivity to continue.

Immoral acts usually benefit the individuals self interest over the communities best interest. 

"I want to sleep with my neighbors wife"  I get a thrill but in the end it will likely (statistically) hurt the community.
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite on September 03, 2013, 12:02:24 AM
     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?
     By that, I mean that they came up with a way to explain the concept of a circle to someone else.  Without living back then, I can't know exactly what they did, but whatever they did was intended to demonstrate the concept to others, which serves the same purpose as explaining it in causal terms.  It probably worked something like this:
  • Observe something that is naturally circular.
  • Describe it in such a way that it isn't confused with something that is similarly shaped but not circular.
  • Predict that other circular objects will conform to that description.
  • Confirm by checking other circular objects against the description formulated, changing it if need be.[/l][/l]
[font=]     Science deals with cause and effect relations of the following nature; for instance, ‘if I drop a rock it will fall at x feet per second’.  [/font]Having observed a falling rock and having made an appropriately detailed description, a scientist can predict that when she drops a rock a certain event will occur.  Predicting that “circular objects will conform to [my description of circularity]” is not a causal description – it is a tautology.  It is the same thing as saying that when I see something ‘red’ it will conform to my concept of ‘redness’; of course it will, how could it fail to do so?  We do not use the four steps of the scientific method to define the circle since the definition of the circle as well as other self-evident concepts must be in place prior to engaging in scientific reasoning – to say otherwise results in the positing of tautologies which explain nothing.   



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Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite on September 03, 2013, 12:07:25 AM
     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.
     This is because basic geometric concepts (such as the formula for a circle) were worked out so long ago that we have no idea who came up with them.  Furthermore, you might note that later geometric concepts, which are not so basic, are credited to the person who discovered them, as well as the proofs they used to demonstrate the accuracy of the concept.  I won't deny that math works differently than various sciences, but to claim that students are simply expected to 'intuitively' grasp basic mathematical concepts is fallacious.  If it were a simple matter of intuition, we wouldn't have to use various geometrical formulas, and we wouldn't have to teach children math.  We would be able to grasp those formulas 'intuitively', just as children would 'intuitively' grasp even more basic mathematical concepts (such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions...).
     [font=]Regarding the definition of a circle, you said that it is “an explanation that can be tested against circle like objects to tell whether they are circular or not; and, in the process, occasionally come up with a way to more accurately describe [phrase] the concept”.  [/font]Now, you claim that the definition of the circle was discovered so long ago that we no longer have any record of the scientific process that was used (how convenient) and at the same time you seem to have an immense amount of confidence in the scientific method to improve our understanding of the world and of concepts like circularity.  The definition of the circle was already written in Euclid’s Elements circa 300BC (http://www.pitt.edu/~jdnorton/teaching/HPS_0410/chapters/non_Euclid_Euclid/index.html (http://www.pitt.edu/~jdnorton/teaching/HPS_0410/chapters/non_Euclid_Euclid/index.html) ) so isn’t it interesting that in over 2,300 years and with all the amazing technology that we have at our disposal today (e.g. electron scanning microscopes to study the microstructure of naturally occurring ‘circular’ objects) we still haven’t come up with a better definition of the circle than Euclid did?  How is it that without any of today’s technology available to him Euclid managed to ‘guess’ correctly what the definition of the circle should be?
      Even if the definition of a circle was developed using some sort of scientific reasoning that we no longer have record of, one would expect there to be some kind of speculative research into the origins of the circle taking place.  I would be very surprised, however, if you or anyone else could point to a history of science department at any university that has actually embarked on such a study.  In contrast, if the information describing the scientific process that was used to determine the structure of the atom were lost, you know as well as I that the authors of physics textbooks couldn’t just matter-of-factly state what the structure of the atom is – scientists would feel compelled to reinforce these statements using actual experiments.  Knowledge of concepts like the definition of the circle and knowledge of subatomic structure are gained using different means – the former is intuitive and a priori while the latter is empirically based and depends upon a priori knowledge. 
      There is a difference between axioms and theorems; axioms are self-evident and require no proofs while theorems are built using axioms and basic rules of logic and do require proofs.  The ‘later geometric concepts’ that you say are credited to the people who discovered them are certainly not self-evident axiomatic truths.  Incidentally, while we are talking about ‘later geometrical concepts’, perhaps you could provide me with an example of one along with its discoverer and the scientific experiments that he or she used to make the discovery.  Children intuitively grasp basic axiomatic mathematical and geometrical truths; theorems and more esoteric concepts they are taught, although if a child did not understand a more advanced concept like the Pythagorean Theorem I am not sure what empirical exercise could be recommended as an aid in understanding – do you? 

Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite on September 03, 2013, 12:17:26 AM

     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.
     No, we don't "grasp the truth", because math isn't a matter of 'truth' to begin with.  What we grasp is a concept - but one that we can strengthen through repeated observation.  This is easily confirmed by observing the way that young children learn language.  When they grasp a concept, they start applying that concept to anything that comes close to matching it - for example, calling a cat or a mouse a 'doggy' because they grasped the concept of a furry animal as being a 'doggy', but haven't learned to differentiate between different kinds of furry animals yet.

     [font=]You can describe mathematical concepts however you like; however, they still have truth value because, yes, math is about truth.  [/font]Two plus two equals four, not five or three but rather four, always four.  Write down any other answer on a math test and it will be marked incorrect – you will have given a false answer.  Use ‘two plus two equals five’ reasoning on an Apollo mission and your rocket probably doesn’t even get off the ground. 
      Our ability to learn languages is not analogous to our ability to grasp mathematical truths.  ‘Two plus two equals four’ is true in any culture no matter what equivalent phrasing is used, but almost every ethnic group that has a characteristic language uses a different word to describe a cat.   
Quote from: Greenandwhite
     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.
     Why would it?  We don't have to have a perfectly circular object in order to determine what a circle is.  And if we find something that more perfectly describes a circle than what we already have, why would we not improve our definition of a circle by incorporating it?  In other words, much as science works.  Now, it's true that it unlikely that we'll find a better formula to describe a circle than what we already have, but there are plenty of mathematical formulas that can be improved.  Like, say, the value of pi.  By the way, isn't pi incorporated into the formulas which are part of the definition of a circle?  And wouldn't that mean that as we more accurately determine the value of pi, that we also can more accurately calculate those same formulas?

     [font=]You basically just stated the point that I have been trying to get across all along – it is not scientific reasoning and experimentation that gets us our definition of a circle, it is our intuitive grasp of a self-evident truth.  [/font]
      Mathematical formulas are not amenable to ‘improvement’ – either they are true or they are false or they are mathematically equivalent to another formula that is itself true or false.  How exactly would one ever improve upon the quadratic formula or the Pythagorean Theorem?
      Pi is not ‘part of the definition of a circle’; it is derived from the definition of a circle because the definition of a circle is logically prior to the formulation of pi.  The formula that describes pi (circumference/diameter) is not changed by the number of decimal places we calculate the value of pie to – whether I say that pi is equal to 3.14 or say that it is equal to 3.14… and list 100,000 decimal places the formula doesn’t change, it will always be C/d.   
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite on September 03, 2013, 12:27:13 AM
 
     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.
To address these one by one:
     The law of the excluded middle is not an 'intuition', nor are the other two classical laws of thought.  Indeed, they are actually not particularly intuitive, in and of themselves.  It would be better to call them instinctive, similar to language.  Which is to say that we are biologically wired to incorporate them without having to think about it.
     As for the Kalam cosmological argument and others of its ilk, they are not necessarily true simply because they are intuitive.  For example, the first premise states that there must have been a first cause to the universe (because of the cause-effect chain), but we are finding that this may not have actually been the case (for example, some quantum effects are not 'caused', they simply happen).  So in this case, our intuition (which is based on our experiences here on Earth) is quite possibly wrong.

     [font=]Philosophers often use words like ‘theory’ or ‘intuition’ in ways that differ significantly from popular parlance – you ‘granted’ this point to me in your last post.  [/font]When someone offers an opinion in an everyday conversation (e.g. ‘I like chocolate’ or ‘I think my son is innocent’) it is quite clear that these sentiments do not qualify as intuitions in a technical sense.  If you are interested in learning what exactly demarcates an intuition from a non-intuition then a good place to start would be this article: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/intuition/ (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/intuition/) .  The beginning of the article lists some propositions that are commonly considered to be intuitions in the technical sense of the term and you may note that the examples I gave (e.g. the law of the excluded middle) fall neatly into this category.  If you want to say that the examples I gave are not examples of intuitions then you need to give a better reason than, “they are not particularly intuitive”. 
      Saying that intuitions are ‘instinctive’ like language is simply a category mistake.  Just because biological mechanisms give us the capacity for language and the capacity for higher order logical thought doesn’t mean that intuitions and language have the same epistemological standing.  To affirm this is to commit the genetic fallacy by judging the validity or truthfulness of something like intuitions based on how we came to know it – if the examples that are gave are true then they are true regardless of how we came to know them or what biological process was involved. 
      You are correct; the cosmological argument and others like it do not carry any weight in the debate about God’s existence simply because of the intuitive nature of its premises, it carries weight because the conclusion logically follows from the premises and because the premises seem self-evidently true (or at least more plausibly true than their negations).  In the same way, scientific conclusions also rely on logically valid reasoning and must have intuitively valid background assumptions.     
Quote from: Greenandwhite
     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.
     This is logically flawed.  It is like saying that because you use the same materials for two buildings, that both are structurally sound - without considering any other aspects of the buildings.  On top of that, there is the problem that logic is only as sound as its premise.  If you start from a false premise, then no matter how good your logic is, you're going to end up with a wrong answer.  And these "intuitive background assumptions" you talk about are not the premise of an argument.  In other words, your argument here is wrong.  You cannot automatically legitimize information gained through natural theology simply because you can gain information through the scientific method using similar basic assumptions.

     [font=]I said that “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”.  [/font]I thought it was fairly evident that my previous statement assumed the correct application of scientific reasoning and the proper use of logical principles in constructing a natural theology.  Obviously, it is possible to misuse something like the scientific method and come up with a false conclusion.  My point was that science and natural theology both depend on the same logical foundation and therefore both can (if used properly) potentially lead to actual knowledge.   
Quote from: Greenandwhite
     You claimed that rational introspection, like opinions, it is useless for obtaining knowledge since its suppositions cannot be proven.
     Actually, no, I said that you can't disprove a hypothesis with it.  That means rational introspection is useless for gaining knowledge by itself, because you can't filter out the bad data from the good.  You have to test information (no matter how you gain it) against reality to determine if it is useful knowledge.

Quote from: Greenandwhite
     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.
There are counter-examples (albeit not proven yet).  For example, the virtual particles that cause Hawking radiation if they occur next to a black hole are not 'caused'.
     And in any case, it's been pretty well demonstrated that intuition is not reliable in many respects.  For example, in the field of probability.  For example, in the famous birthday problem, our intuition tells us that in order to have a 50% probability of a matched birthday, you need a large percentage of the total birthdays available to check.  In fact, you only need 23 randomly-picked people in a room to have a 50% chance of a birthday match - less than 10% of the total number.  Completely counter-intuitive.

     [font=]Right, but you also said in post #103 that “while it's certainly possible to use them [deductive reasoning and rational introspection]…what use would the conclusions be for acquiring knowledge?  All one would be doing is building off of an opinion, which is itself not provable”.  You equated the conclusions generated from rational introspection with ‘opinions’ and therefore implied that those conclusions would be useless in acquiring knowledge since they would be ‘unprovable’.  [/font]However, you miss my point by focusing on ‘provability’ because so long as intuitions or the conclusions of rational introspection are falsifiable then there is a way to ‘filter out the bad data from the good’.  My point regarding the potential falsifiability of intuitions is only reinforced by examples like the one you gave at the end of your post regarding the ‘famous birthday problem’.   
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite on September 03, 2013, 12:31:14 AM
     I think, when all is said and done, that the statement "morality is meaningless without a god to base it on" is demonstrably false, for the simple reason that when you base morality on a god, you're basing it on something that is external to yourself, and that could change what it means to be moral at any time.  In other words, trying to base morality on a god, whether it's an actual being or a concept, is effectively making its foundation out of sand, or mist.  In other words, morality is meaningless when based on a god....Human morality is not some kind of unchanging concept.  It's flexible, like a tree; but that flexibility depends on being well-grounded.  Which god-belief doesn't provide.
     If morality based on God is built on a sand foundation then it seems to me that you have just traded one sand foundation for another one; human beings are more than capable of changing their views of what constitutes right and wrong.  What makes you think that you would never change your subjective opinion regarding the moral values that you currently hold dear?  Simply renaming the human ability to change stances on morality ‘flexible’ doesn’t rescue you from the same type of pitfall that you say theists have fallen into. 
 
     
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite on September 03, 2013, 12:36:46 AM
     This response doesn't answer my question and it demonstrates, once again, that you have an idea about what morality is that I reject (namely that it is 'objective' and that it has something to do with something other than human beings, aka a supernatural being etc - which you haven't demonstrated). And even if ALL of my arguments for how I see morality were proven in error this would not get you to "God did it". It would simply bring me to agnosticism, not deism or theism. Is really that hard for you to admit your own ignorance? You seem to be OK with playing Socrates only when you're shelling it out.
     The response here also brings another fallacy to the table - that I have some "belief" or dogma (like you do) regarding what morality is all about - when I do not. For the hundredth time, for me morality is about the well being of human beings (and often therefore conscious creatures). It isn't a belief. I know you so desperately want me to fall into your absolutist mind-set trap of rigidly and dogmatically holding a belief, and presenting a definition, so that you can say, "Aha! Your definition is flawed! Therefore Jebus morality is wins!"
     NOPE. Sorry, not gonna happen. Fact is, in the same manner that you have not demonstrated your Yahweh deity, you haven't demonstrated an objective morality (some absolute standard) either - and your attempt to turn the tables (a fallacy called Shifting the Burden of Proof) is lame at best - especially when I already told you that my position on morality is for me (i.e. - not a claim regarding what is or isn't "objective"). You use your own standard of morality just like I do, and just like everyone else does - except you just want to pretend that yours has some objective standard (which you haven't demonstrated).
     [font=]A burden of proof lies with the person who has made a claim; in an honest discussion that person bears a responsibility to actually back up what he has said rather than taking illegitimate refuge by using evasive tactics.  [/font]Perhaps you will recognize the following vague claim: “for me morality is about the well being of human beings”.  Prefacing that claim with the words ‘for me’ doesn’t excuse you from providing an explanation because you are making a statement about the nature of morality.  Your view is not in any way analogous to some versions of atheism (e.g. you are not arguing for ‘a-morality’) so you should stop complaining and own up to the ‘burden’ that you assumed when you made that claim. Also, you seem to think that the burden of proof can only lie on one side of the debate when; in actuality, both sides often bear a burden of responsibility to provide reasoning or evidence for their assertions – just because one side (me) bears a burden of proof doesn’t mean that the other side (you) doesn’t also simultaneously bear a similar burden.   
      One participant in a debate has fallaciously ‘shifted the burden of proof’ when, according to the Nizkor Project, “[font=]a lack of evidence for side A is taken to be evidence for side B”.  [/font]I have not anywhere on this thread said that my version of morality is correct because you have not given any evidence to back up yours; therefore, I have not illegitimately shifted the burden of proof.  Before you accuse someone of a logical fallacy you should take the time to learn more than just the name of the fallacy; in other words, if you think I am guilty of a fallacy you need to explain why I am guilty of it.
      Pretty much every time I have asked you a question about your claims regarding your personal view of morality you have accused me of projecting an objective standard onto your view.  Given your repeated excuses for not being forthcoming with any answers to my questions regarding morality, I think that your understanding of the distinction between objective and subjective moral views is about as adequate as your understanding of the word ‘bolster’.  Just because a person’s moral outlook could be described as ‘subjective’ doesn’t mean that they didn’t use some rational process to arrive at their moral conclusions.  If a rational process is involved then it should also be possible to describe it as well as to define the premises upon which it is based.  The absence of such a process and description would make your moral view no better than the moral view of a person who simply rolls a die any time he is confronted with a moral choice.  Your view of subjectivity is conceptually indistinguishable from a decision making process that is purely arbitrary.  Odd, considering the fact that you bill yourself as ‘a promoter of reason’; perhaps a better moniker would be ‘evader of reasons’. 
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite on September 03, 2013, 12:39:05 AM
     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://dictionary.reference.com/browse/natural+theology)
http://www.iep.utm.edu/theo-nat/ (http://www.iep.utm.edu/theo-nat/)
http://www.thefreedictionary.com/natural+theology (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.

     LOL. Yes, I am 'biased' against mythical nonsense. I love how you use the word 'arbitrary' and then point to some dictionaries as if those are going to help you. They don't, and it's actually surprising to see you attempt this line of reasoning. Did you not know that philosophy often debates questions of definitions in terms? If so, why are you using other authority figures to give you your definitions? Claiming a mere authority (or a group of them) on the definition of a term (a term which was arbitrarily defined in the first place by those who wished to use it under such contexts) is merely assuming what you need to prove - an action which earlier you attempted to take me to task on regarding the definition of "well-being", and other terms. You can't really be serious with this kind of intellectual hypocrisy.
     [font=]You can call dictionary definitions ‘arbitrary’ if you want, but the fact remains that without literary conventions like grammar, phonetics, and vocabulary it would be impossible for one person to know what any other person is talking about.  [/font]If you want to simply posit your own arbitrary definition of ‘natural theology’ that is your prerogative, but no one else will have the foggiest idea what you are talking about.  It’s interesting that given your subjective attitude regarding the meanings of various words and phrases (e.g. ‘evidence’, ‘human flourishing’, ‘natural theology’), you still assume that I should understand the views that you express on this thread – how would that be possible if the meanings of words you use are subjective and arbitrary? 
      Speaking of intellectual hypocrisy, you deny that any ‘authority figures’ should have the right to define words and instead say that “philosoph[ers] often debate questions of definitions in terms”.  This is exactly why in post #92 I asked, “which of the two premises of the kalam cosmological argument assumes God’s existence and why?” That was your chance to actually defend your view of what natural theology is, however, in post #106 you simply ignored my question and tried to change the subject.  So it is quite clear that you won’t accept an authoritative definition of a word nor will you offer any substantial reasons for your own definition.  That’s a pretty effective way of ‘promoting reason’.     
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite on September 03, 2013, 12:44:53 AM
  And while I think that Median's vague proposal regarding morality fails and will continue to fail miserably no matter how much he attempts to bolster it, I think that most atheists and theists condemn the Nazi's due to similar considerations (e.g. the inherently warranted value of human dignity).
     Bolster? Really? Are you really THAT dishonest in misrepresenting my position with such gross error to attempt to make me say things I have not said? Where have I "bolstered" anything on anyone? You sir, have a serious problem with correctly representing (or even attempting to properly represent) an opposing position. On multiple occasions I readily admitted that the position of which I spoke was NOT pertaining to anything "objective", and yet you still sit there and attack it as if it was. WOW.

     [font=]Rarely has ‘lol’ been a more appropriate response to the content of a text than it was following my reading of the following rhetorical gem: “where have I ‘bolstered’ anything on anyone?”  [/font]If you were actually serious about grasping the jest of my statement in post #116 ,then I suggest that you pay a visit to www.dictionary.com (http://www.dictionary.com/) or some other similar website and actually look up the meaning of the word ‘bolster’ (more specifically, refer to definition number 10 on dictionary.com and perhaps the meaning of my statement will make more sense).  Not that I think for a minute that you will do this since experience has taught me that in ‘Medianland’ dictionaries are taboo and reference to any kind of ‘authoritative’ reference source is forbidden; after all, why should we consult any expert who just might have spent a significant amount of time studying a subject when we can ask you to render a verdict.  One can’t help but wonder how your bewildering attitude towards any attempt to refer to reference material in making a point would marry to this forum’s guidelines regarding unsupported assertions. (“As such, forum members are expected to back up assertions they make, and not engage in stonewalling, shifting goalposts, changing the subject, or employing similar tactics to avoid addressing points raised against their arguments.”  http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/forums/index.php/topic,21732.0.html) 
     The only difference between an atheist and a theist is that the theist claims that while basing morality on human dignity is a coherent means of construing moral epistemology, it seems ultimately meaningless if not grounded in the existence of a supreme being.
     Wrong. The difference is much bigger than you think. You suffer from the same delusion that you do regarding a deity. You believe one exists (just like believing there is an objective morality) but haven't sufficiently demonstrated it as such - relying upon mere intuition (a feeling) and prior background assumptions you made long ago regarding the bible (along with your interpretation of it), all the while failing to acknowledge the atheists do not see morality (or what that term means) the same way you do."Most people feel X is objectively wrong" isn't a good reason for thinking there is some 'up there' standard beyond human reasoning. If it were then that logic could also apply to all sorts of nonsense that the crowed felt.
     I love how I can make a statement to the affect that atheists and theists for the most part agree on questions of right and wrong (e.g. stealing, lying, cheating, etc…) and also provide coherent justification for these conclusions by reasoning from the inherent dignity of human beings, and in response you simply state that I am wrong and proceed to deliver a diatribe about my supposed ‘background assumptions’ regarding the Bible – subject matter that is completely irrelevant to the discussion at hand.  For a guy who has such a poor opinion of the Bible and would like society to discard it in favor of rational discussion, you sure like to bring it up a lot.       
       Your portrayal of the concept of objective moral values (“most people feel X is objectively wrong”) isn’t any worse than your own view regarding morality.  If morality is subjective in the sense that you think (post# 126 “my position on morality is for me…you use your own standard of morality just like I do, and just like everyone else does”), then all kinds of nonsense that the crowd ‘felt’ could be justified as well.  If morality is ‘up to me’ as you say, then I don’t see how you have any justified means of condemning a sentiment that the ‘crowd’ feels as nonsensical. 

 
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite on September 03, 2013, 12:49:04 AM
ParkingPlaces,
      I am quite certain that you as a person find your moral values to be meaningful; however, I am just wondering how you know that this meaning is not just illusory?  Isn’t it a fairly common argument on atheistic forums such as this one that human beings are capable of believing all kinds of falsehoods for convenience sake?  How do you know that the meaning that you ascribe to your moral outlook is not just a convenient fiction?
      Since in the previous post I was talking about foundations for moral values, I am wondering on what you are basing yours?  It certainly doesn’t sound to me as if you feel that your moral beliefs are arbitrary, so do you find your moral beliefs to be meaningful because you consider yourself as a person intrinsically valuable and by extension all other human beings as well, or are you doing some kind of a calculation to quantify something like ‘human flourishing’?
 

     I extrapolate. I've noticed that I don't like getting stabbed. I then jump to the conclusion that nobody else does either. Once I have done that, I decide that there is a moral imperative that we not stab each other. Then I go on to other things I wouldn't like having happen to me. Being robbed, raped, shot, drugged, arrested for being black, etc. Pretty soon I have a decent set of rules that I can incorporate into my moral code and feel pretty good about.

Then I move on to other things I don't like, or at least am pretty sure I wouldn't like. Being a slave, being oppressed, starving to death during a civil war, prejudices, etc. That list is pretty long, as is the first. But it doesn't take me much time to put together a set of guidelines that I think constitute moral thinking and moral imperatives. Then I go from there.

Sadly my process doesn't work. Too many selfish folks think all of those things should be on their bucket list, and they go around violating my standards on a regular basis. I gotta work on that part.

Not counting our genes, there are no external sources of morality. There are plenty of fake sources for fake morality, but the real stuff comes from within us. And it is actually pretty easy for anyone with a pencil and paper to come up with something that resembles my own. Except for assholes (sorry Nam, not you) and whatever else you want to call the power hungry/selfish/self-righteous idiots that make life on this planet that much harder. They are the ones insisting the morality must come from somewhere else, because what they want to call normal (be they Nazi's or Glenn Beck or Saddam Hussein) is just them trying to justify their selfishness.

Once you leave out said selfishness, morality starts to be a bit more universal. Sure, we might have to sit down and have the occasional discussion about stoning our raped daughters and stuff, because different cultures are going to occasionally have different standards. But at least we'd have something to work with if the idiots would just get out of the way.

By the way, it might all be illusion. The difference is, my illusions are better. How do I know? Yours suck.
     
[font=]I noticed that you said, “it is actually pretty easy for anyone with a pencil and paper to come up with something [a list of moral imperatives] that resembles my own”.  [/font]I agree, so [font=]you might want to be a little more cautious about saying that my grasp of morality ‘sucks’ considering the fact that you just admitted that my views regarding right and wrong are likely very similar to yours.  [/font]Also, if moral imperatives are ‘illusory’, how exactly do you find the footing to judge one illusory set of beliefs as ‘better’ than another?
      You also said that the only available external source of morality is our genes and then proceeded to characterize selfish individuals as ‘assholes’.  This seems a bit contradictory considering that the nature of genes is to be ‘selfish’ in pursuit of producing as many replications of themselves as possible.  Now, in some cases selflessness might be advantageous from a reproducibility point of view, but it certainly isn’t always the case.  Why do you think that human moral judgements somehow transcend the way that nature operates?
      If God exists and grounds moral judgements in an objective manner, then a person would recognize those values regardless of whether or not he believed in God’s existence.  Put another way, your beliefs regarding God’s existence or the existence of any other possible sources of objectivity are irrelevant in determining the actual nature of moral beliefs.  We all recognize certain moral standards; the relevant consideration is not how we came to those conclusions but rather, ‘what is the best explanation for our general agreement’. 
      The fact that you and I can generate very similar lists of moral imperatives despite the wide divergence in our belief sets, if anything, actually supports the possibility that morality is objective in nature.  The presence of certain selfish individuals who don’t see things the way we do does not take away from the objective ‘seemingness’ of moral values.  For instance, take other self-evident truths like 2+2=4 or the law of the excluded middle; I (and I would wager to say you as well) am going to consider those statements to be universally true regardless of whether or not you can find someone who doesn’t believe them.  Additionally, it does not follow from a claim that there are objective moral standards that every moral judgement we make is objectively true.  So long as at least one objective moral value can be demonstrated (e.g. the Holocaust was wrong) the existence of objective moral standards would be established.  Therefore, neither pointing to human disagreement on moral judgements nor pointing to those who recognize moral values despite their lack of belief in God is sufficient to demonstrate that morality is subjective.   
 
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite on September 03, 2013, 12:52:47 AM

          Just because a general definition is adequate in one circumstance does not mean that it is adequate in all circumstances.  For instance, saying that geology is ‘the study of rock formations and movements’ might be sufficient if one was comparing geology to psychology, but it likely wouldn’t suffice if one wanted to compare the geophysical global cooling hypothesis to the hypothesis of plate tectonics.  In the former case the comparison is between two different disciplines of study while in the latter case the comparison is between two points of view within a discipline.  Someone attempting to defend the global cooling hypothesis couldn’t just say to his detractors, ‘well for me geology is just about the study of rock formations and movements’;  he would actually have to give reasons why he thought that the rocks had moved in the manner prescribed by his hypothesis.  In the same way, the discussion of objective versus subjective moral values is a specific dispute within the study of moral theory and as such, your repeated refusals to adequately clarify your views (e.g. in posts 67, 69, 80, 105, and 107) constitute nothing more than a dishonest and transparent attempt to insulate your views from any kind of criticism.

     Absolutely 100% false. And I deeply resent your BS accusation as both highly unwarranted and assumptive (just as you have done with your theology - ASSUMED it). You seem to have this idea (maybe from Josh Mcdowell, Bill Craig, or other nonsense apologists) that if my answer doesn't fit your wants/desires, as to what you think it should be, then there must be some "deeper" hiding going on (the typical religious conspiracy theory nonsense). No, you just haven't attempted to truly understand what I've stated. You clearly have the agenda of attempting to make me say something I'm not saying (Strawman fallacy) - all the while trying to accuse me of "insulating" some belief you think I have from criticism. WTF!? LOL. No dude, sorry, I don't have some belief (like you do) in a "moral law giver" in the sky (or elsewhere), nor did I provide a definition as if it applies to all (like you do).

     [font=]     Since you don’t seem to have any idea how to even start defining the phrase ‘human flourishing’ I asked you some specific questions about it in post #93.  [/font]I asked: ‘[font=]Is human flourishing 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)?’
      [/font]You responded in post #105 by saying that not all philosophical terms can be defined non-ambiguously (apparently you feel that ‘human flourishing’ is one of them, which might make one wonder how you manage to use it in any kind of a decision making process at all).  You then ended your post by claiming that you had no idea what I was looking for??  Somehow the three questions that I asked in #93 were inadequate to even begin to give you an idea of what I might be looking for – hard to understand how you could miss those unless it is you rather than me who possibly suffers from cranial hyperostosis. 
      At any rate, I did give you a good reason why your analogy to the definition of the term ‘geology’ was inapplicable to the current discussion.  As is so typical of you, you simply flat out disagreed with my rationale without giving any reason why one should be justified in discarding my response.  In light of your repeated diatribes against any kind of authority it is rather ironic to note the authoritarian attitude you display any time I answer one of your posts.  Your only relevant answer to my post: “absolutely 100% false”.  Of course, rather than backing that blunt assertion up with any kind of reasoning, you respond in typical fashion with a long winded rant against random unrelated subjects like ‘theology’ and ‘apologists’ and something about ‘conspiracy theories’??? 
      Despite the fact that your post was utter rubbish I do have a few comments:
 First, speaking of ‘assumptions’, you should stop assuming that every theist you talk to believes exactly what you believed when you were a theist (as if you were the penultimate example of Christian scholarship before your de-conversion).  Just because you ‘assumed’ the truth of everything you believed as a Christian doesn’t mean every theist does. 
 Second, it is presumptuous of you to think that merely attaching derisive labels to any theist or theist argument should suffice to frighten any other theist from consulting them.  Perhaps you think that the mere notion that someone with your intellectual prowess has already rendered judgement should be adequate to end the discussion?  I can’t help but wonder what profound regret Campus Crusade for Christ or Biola University would feel if they could but realize what they have missed out on in employing apologists like Josh McDowell and William Lane Craig.  After all, considering the fact that you have so easily found their arguments wanting surely you (before your de-conversion) would have been a much better candidate to spread the good news. 
 Third, calling someone like Bill Craig a ‘nonsense apologist’ is not only a simultaneous condemnation of all the accomplished atheist scholars how have taken him seriously but is also an apt demonstration of your own ignorance which you have prominently displayed numerous times on this thread. 
 

     
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite on September 03, 2013, 01:00:27 AM

          Just because a general definition is adequate in one circumstance does not mean that it is adequate in all circumstances.  For instance, saying that geology is ‘the study of rock formations and movements’ might be sufficient if one was comparing geology to psychology, but it likely wouldn’t suffice if one wanted to compare the geophysical global cooling hypothesis to the hypothesis of plate tectonics.  In the former case the comparison is between two different disciplines of study while in the latter case the comparison is between two points of view within a discipline.  Someone attempting to defend the global cooling hypothesis couldn’t just say to his detractors, ‘well for me geology is just about the study of rock formations and movements’;  he would actually have to give reasons why he thought that the rocks had moved in the manner prescribed by his hypothesis.  In the same way, the discussion of objective versus subjective moral values is a specific dispute within the study of moral theory and as such, your repeated refusals to adequately clarify your views (e.g. in posts 67, 69, 80, 105, and 107) constitute nothing more than a dishonest and transparent attempt to insulate your views from any kind of criticism.

     As I stated in another post, I don't need to clarify anything for you. I'm not the one making the positive claim to an 'objective' morality. You are. And your weak attempts to shift the burden of proof demonstrate your utter dishonesty regarding the subject.

     [font=]You’re not making a ‘positive claim to an objective morality’; no kidding, you are making a positive claim that morality is subjective in nature and as such you are required to back up your assertions.  [/font]As I have said elsewhere, you don’t seem to have a clue what the ‘burden of proof’ fallacy is anyways; it’s just another one of those fancy terms that you like to throw out occasionally in an attempt to intimidate your opponent.  The same goes for your erroneous understanding of the ‘argument from authority’ fallacy – there is a difference between a legitimate and an illegitimate argument from authority.  Not that I actually expect you to take the time to research them, but if you want to accuse me of a logical fallacy you need to explain why I am guilty of it.  My disagreeing with you or asking you to clarify or support a position that you hold is not a criterion you will find in any debate handbook.   
So once again, the accusation, "your repeated refusals to adequately clarify your views..." is itself bullshit. I have clarified my views plenty. If it's not enough for you, too fucking bad! I don't care.

     [font=]Yeah, it’s obvious that you don’t care; if you did it might be possible to have some kind of a discussion with you.  [/font]

     How about YOU "adequately clarify your views" for us. Let's start there.

     [font=]Wow, roughly 75 posts have been written since you made your initial offering on this thread and finally, miracle of all miracles, you have decided that it might not be a bad idea to actually ask me what my views on this subject are.  [/font]Are you sure you don’t want to just tell me what they are like you have done countless times before by drawing upon your inexhaustible knowledge of Christianity?  At any rate, if you want to gain an idea of my views about the nature of morality I suggest you refer to the posts I have made on this thread in response to ParkinPlaces. 
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite on September 03, 2013, 01:05:47 AM
     It's quite peculiar and surprising that you have decided to advance this line of reasoning, since only a few posts ago you criticized my general definition of similar terminology ("human flourishing" - which is inherently tied to your idea of "human suffering"). So now let's turn the tables and I will challenge you just like you tried to challenge me. Just how exactly do you define "human suffering"?? Please note that any definition you give will be criticized in similar fashion as you attempted with me.

     [font=]     I have not criticised your ‘general definition’ of human flourishing since you have not yet given me a definition to criticize; as such, I can’t help but wonder how you feel you might ‘criticize in [a] similar fashion’.  [/font]What I have done is criticize your unwillingness to provide any sort of a definition.  Saying that your idea of human flourishing is ‘for you’ says nothing of what you think human flourishing actually entails, although it is a positive claim about the nature of moral judgements.  [font=]Considering the fact that you have presumed to use Aristotle’s bust for your personal profile, you should make more of an effort to emulate him.  [/font]Specifically, while you can only muster two words (‘for me’) to describe the concept of ‘human flourishing’, Aristotle not only coined the phrase (‘eudaimonia’) but also wrote two books (Nichomacean Ethics and Eudemian Ethics) largely dedicated to defining the term and designating how it might fit into moral theory. 
      So what might ‘human suffering’ be? I suppose one could categorize three different types: physical suffering (sensations conceptually similar to the intense discomfort experienced upon breaking an arm), psychological suffering (mental states similar to those experienced by a POW being placed in extended solitary confinement), and emotion suffering (the intense anguish experienced by someone upon losing a loved one).  If one human being was to unjustly inflict any of those three types of suffering upon another human being it would be wrong – agreed?
 
[font=]
     What the Nazis did was an affront to human dignity, and even if they could have subjectively determined that their actions would lead to increased ‘human flourishing’ the holocaust still would have been wrong.[/font]
[font=]

     First, please clarify your definition for "human dignity". Second, had the Nazi's "determined" their actions as increasing human flourishing, the betterment of society (and they did argue this), they still would have been wrong...not because of some deity who you think dictates morality but because the facts would not have played out in their favor. Yes, there's that "suffering" thing again - which has tons to do with human flourishing btw and nothing to do with a non-demonstrable, unfalsifiable, alleged deity thing. [/font]
[font=]
 
     ‘The facts would not have played out in their favor’ is the line of reasoning that DumpsterFire is currently advancing so I will just direct you to read my responses to his posts (BTW, DumpsterFire has actually been engaging my arguments and giving actual reasons why he thinks I am wrong). 
      When I use the phrase ‘human dignity’ I am referring to the fact that human beings possess intrinsic value (value in and of themselves) and therefore should not be treated as a means to an end.  Human beings are intrinsically valuable making any attribution of instrumental value that denies this morally wrong.  So, for example, in the medical field we characterize respect for the individual as involving such considerations as personal autonomy, beneficence, and non-maleficence. 
 
     [/font]
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite on September 03, 2013, 01:07:35 AM
Even if we reject my version of the equation there still remains the problem of assigning values to the factors used in the equation.

And there lies the irony. YOU TOO have this same problem of assigning value with your worldview. What, do you think somehow your personal bible interpretation of your theology allows you to escape the problem of assigning value? Merely assuming your theology and then interpreting things through it (all the while criticizing those for whom you actually share the same problem) is pretty hypocritical. Sure, you can say, "Well I believe we are made in the image of God, who has commanded us not to kill. So my system is better" (or something to this effect) but, for one, your system/belief hasn't been demonstrated as true or authoritative. Secondly, countless theological/moral views depicted in that book are either hypocritical or self contradictory, and third, even if you could show that your deity existed (and was somehow the "objective" standard) this would still be a LONG way off from demonstrating that your theological interpretation and exegesis was the one to follow (as there are countless other sects out there who would disagree with you on these so-called "objective" standards, ad nauseum). So what good does it do toward the pursuit of truth (and separating fact from fiction) to criticize a perceived "subjective" standard when (in practice) your system is just as subjective.
     [font=]So besides the first sentence, none of the rest of your reply has any relevant bearing on the discussion at hand.  [/font]In this discussion I have not made any of the claims that you presume to ascribe to me.  If I present an argument, why should it be judged invalid because of other unstated beliefs that you presume I hold?  The best you could do is show that there is an inconsistency in my world view, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the argument at hand is wrong.  If a medical doctor proposed a cure for type I diabetes his research would not be invalidated by showing that he is a member of the flat earth society; his research would have to be judged on its own merits. 
      It is, however, understandable why you keep attempting to present your guesses about what I believe as evidence against my argument considering your demonstrably erroneous views about the nature of natural theology. Again, as I have said elsewhere, personal biases are not logically necessary for an argument to be valid; they may provide motivation to pursue the argument in the first place but they cannot invalidate it.  The arguments of natural theology do not ‘presume’ the existence of god; you have, on numerous occasions, failed to even attempt to demonstrate that they do, so your claim that someone proposing that moral judgements are objective assumes God’s existence is without any merit.   
      [font=]One does not need to identify or ‘demonstrate’ God or any other possible foundation for morality to be able to recognize that moral judgements possess the quality of objectivity.  [/font]An atheist could quite conceivably recognize moral values to be objective (e.g. that they exist in some abstract sense) but simply deny the other premise in the moral argument.  Saying that morality is objective in nature does not presume God’s existence; one can only derive the conclusion ‘God exists’ by logically conjoining the objective nature of moral values with its complementary premise in the moral argument. 
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite on September 03, 2013, 01:09:41 AM
      Now, if you want to know if the loss of tusks has improved the ability of elephants to survive in their present environment then the answer is yes.  Look at it this way, if I took you to some unregulated area of Africa and showed you one elephant with tusks and one elephant without and asked you to place a wager on which one might survive longer, which one would you choose?  As you said in your last post, nature does not have any subjective purpose in shaping the elephant species – all things being equal the strongest will survive and that is exactly what has happened in the case of elephants, the strongest (those without tusks) have survived.  Nature has already answered the question that you posed to me in your last post.
     Now it seems you are the one missing the point. Tuskless elephants are not "stronger" than those with tusks. On the contrary, hundreds of thousands of years of natural elephant evolution have demonstrated that tusks are a beneficial adaptation. It is only because of the unnatural influence of man slaughtering them for ivory that tuskless elephants are flourishing. This would correlate to the Nazi eugenics program, in that these idiotic poachers are (unwittingly) excluding a specific trait from the population, with the end result being a weakened species. Tuskless elephants will probably do OK in the future, but nature has already dictated that elephants with tusks are better adapted for survival. Its pretty sad that what took nature many millenia to build mankind can tear asunder in a century.

    [font=]No, ‘hundreds of thousands of years of natural elephant evolution’ have demonstrated that tusks were a beneficial adaptation.  [/font]However, even though I don’t have a problem accepting the above statement I think it could conceivably be challenged.  For example, when talking about the effect on fitness that a certain trait has, how do you separate out the effects of sexual selection?  More specifically, in the case of elephants, how do you know that the presence of tusks is not a result of intrasexual selection thereby conferring very little extra survival advantage?  For instance, I can see how one male elephant possessing longer tusks than a rival male would confer a competitive advantage in fighting for a mate, but what extra benefit would it be in fending off a lion when, considering the elephant’s massive size, he could just as well clobber the lion with his trunk?  This is akin to considering that if you were planning on jumping me with your bare hands in a back alley and I routinely carried around a handgun (I don’t by BTW), I would not gain much extra benefit from adding a submachine gun to my arsenal.  What difference does it make if I stop you dead in your tracks with a  hand gun as opposed to a submachine gun – same end result.  In the same way, whether an elephant just has a trunk or has a trunk and tusks, potential predators are going to think twice before attacking.  Indeed, it would be relevant here to revisit the population explosion of the elephants in Addo Elephant National Park who don’t seem to have any difficulty whatsoever defending themselves without tusks.
      You also need to adequately justify you use of the description ‘unnatural’ when describing human influences on the elephant population.  On a naturalistic point of view we humans are just as much a part of the evolutionary process as any other animal and as such our actions are also just as natural.  Neither the fact that evolution has endowed us with cognitive faculties superior to other animals nor the fact that we can have a potentially large impact on the evolutionary process is sufficient to make our influence ‘unnatural’.  Is a volcanic eruption ‘unnatural’ simply because of the potential it has to cause dramatic changes in the evolutionary process (e.g. through widespread extinctions)?
      It is also interesting to note the value judgement that you ascribe to the results of human ‘interference’ in the evolutionary process when you describe the potential disappearance of elephant tusks as ‘sad’.  Stephen J Gould has recognized the evolutionary process to be contingent in nature; hence, as he phrases it: [font=]“wind back the tape of life to the early days of the Burgess Shale; let it play again from an identical starting point, and the chance becomes vanishingly small that anything like human intelligence would grace the replay”.  [/font]Considering the fact that evolutionary history could quite conceivably played out in such a way that neither human intelligence nor elephant tusks made an appearance on the stage of history, I am wondering why you think your statement that it would be ‘sad’ if tusks were to become a thing of the past has any meaning at all.  On a naturalistic point of view, why should one contingent state of affairs be more meaningful than another?  Are you presuming to judge nature for the ‘choices’ that she makes? 
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite on September 03, 2013, 01:13:15 AM
      Firstly, I have not presumed to defend young earth creationism at any place on this cite so I don’t think that I am required to provide scientific evidence for a universal flood. Secondly, there does appear to be a good amount of scientific evidence for not just one but several near extinction events in human history: http://io9.com/5501565/extinction-events-that-almost-wiped-out-humans (http://io9.com/5501565/extinction-events-that-almost-wiped-out-humans) and http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/04/080424-humans-extinct_2.html (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/04/080424-humans-extinct_2.html)

Both of your links cite only two such events, info on the most recent (70k years ago) of which being acknowledged as "controversial". Here's a quote from the comments section of the first link:

"The authors actually estimate an even smaller population number for 1.2 mio. yrs. ago than is cited in this post: 18,500.
However, they base their analysis on only two completed human genome sequences. And such an analysis necessarily has to make a very large number of very generous assumptions. Their estimate number could easily be off by an order of magnitude or more.
The other work, about the supposed extinction event 70k yrs. ago is from 2003, just before the current technological revolution in DNA sequencing got under way. So the experimental methods used (micro satellite markers) are very limited and again a large number of generous assumptions had to be made. Again the numbers could be off several fold, which would then tell a completely different story."

But even if we assume that the figures are correct, the fact is it took 70,000 years to get to the level of genetic diversity we presently have. Again, you are likely correct that mankind will continue to flourish, but severe restrictions to the human gene pool are not quickly or easily overcome.

     [font=]I can’t help but notice that the bulk of your criticism consisted in citing a quote from the comments section.  Anybody regardless of academic credentials or understanding can post a comment, so I am wondering why you think I should consider the information in the quote to be accurate?  [/size]However, even if I grant you the content of the quote that you reproduced, there is a problem.  The author of the article didn’t just base credibility of near extinction events on genetic information, but also conjoined the genetic evidence to coinciding geological catastrophes.  Neither you nor the person that you quoted bothered to question the geological evidence, and even if the genetic evidence has weaknesses, it is strengthened considerably by being accurately associated with a geological event.   
      You said that “severe restrictions to the human gene pool are not quickly or easily overcome”; however, the second half of the article significantly questions your assertion.  The author notes that when a species experiences a severe truncation of available genetic diversity coupled with extreme external conditions, the two circumstances actually could speed up the process of evolution.  He even speculates that these circumstances could have been the major reason for the rapid development of human cognitive capacity.  This undercuts your claim that severe genetic restrictions preclude evolutionary progress even in the short term. 
      Finally, in post #120 you asked me to provide ‘legitimate scientific evidence’ for possible human near extinction events.  You did not ask for incontrovertible proof, so the articles that I linked in post #135 have still served their purpose.  The fact that there is controversy surrounding a testable scientific claim doesn’t mean that there isn’t any legitimate evidence available.  Some scientists are convinced by the current evidence, others are still skeptical; at any rate, it certainly isn’t unreasonable to claim that humans have faced near extinction on several occasions in the past.  [/font]

     You said yourself that “one would think that the benefits of limiting human suffering in the present would be self-evident”.  That is exactly the point I am trying to make; limiting human suffering is self-evidently good, and we recognize that without doing any calculations to determine a measured quantity of human flourishing.  What the Nazis did was an affront to human dignity, and even if they could have subjectively determined that their actions would lead to increased ‘human flourishing’ the holocaust still would have been wrong.

     For someone who seemed to be so firmly planted in the Ozymandias camp, it seems rather disingenuous of you to suddenly hop on board the Rorschach bandwagon.  :P

[font=]     Actually, I think a more accurate characterization of my views using the Watchmen analogy would be that if the Nazi’s were to use some standard of ‘human flourishing’ to defend their actions, they would then be ‘firmly planted in the Ozymandias camp’. 
I never said that I personally would agree with such reasoning, hence my statement to the effect that “limiting human suffering is self-evidently good” which holds irrespective of any attempts at an actual quantification of ‘good’. So it seems that I was actually riding the Rorschach bandwagon all along.  [/size]
 [/font]
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite on September 03, 2013, 01:15:16 AM
     Your fallacy here is that you have assumed that it is about "rights", when it's not. Rights have nothing to do with it. They are not inherent, nor have they been demonstrated as "from the divine". Rights are only available when people fight for them, allow them, and/or keep them in place.
     [font=]That’s ‘might makes right’ Median.  [/font]The founding fathers fought to usurp that very kind of erroneous reasoning; or haven’t you bothered to read the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…”?  They didn’t say: “in light of our military strength, it is now evident that for us that all men are created equal…”.   
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite on September 03, 2013, 01:16:57 AM
    How about morality - can you construct an experiment to show that stealing is wrong or do you already know it is wrong before you start?

     I don't know if this counts but I can first off show historically where stealing is bad for the community as a whole.  As a rule it should be avoided based upon historical events.  A community riddled with theft and other crimes is less enjoyable and prosperous as a whole.  Polling data would indicate a lower quality of life..

Now is stealing morally wrong?   I think "morally" is subjective, and in reality is a community cultural thing, moral = good for the community to have a certain quality of life as a whole.  From this we come up with the basic laws of humanity

Stealing - is wrong because it creates strife in the community, potentially inviting more theft and annimosity.  (as such it is judged to be morally wrong)
Sex out of marriage -  Creates bastard children, who do not have fathers and a complete support system. (history has deemed this immoral because it hurts the community)
Sex with neighbors wife -  Well this cretes strife, annimosity, fights, and vendettas. (bad for community again becomes morally wrong)
...

This is why almost universally most cultural norms over eons came up with moral codes that are passed down to children.  They are based upon observation or people in antiquity.

An experiment would be simply any group of people thrust into these situations will have a higher incidents of escallating problems using observation you will be able to reproduce results over and over that allowing "immoral behavior" in the above catagories will result in a decrease in productivity and increase in injury:)


Morals are simply rules based upon human cultural experience and they are passed on by both the community and the parents.  Many Morals are good for the community as a whole rather than the individual directly. 

If I don't steal and we don't steal we will be more secure,  If I don't kill and we dont kill then that benefits me in not being killed allowing my productivity to continue.

Immoral acts usually benefit the individuals self interest over the communities best interest. 

"I want to sleep with my neighbors wife"  I get a thrill but in the end it will likely (statistically) hurt the community.
     [font=]You said that it can be historically demonstrated that stealing is ‘bad for the community’ or that it would make a community ‘less enjoyable’.  [/font]Interestingly, you didn’t see fit to actually provide any historical research that has been done on this topic; however, even if you did, would you have to wait for the conclusion of the study to know that stealing is wrong?  Stealing isn’t shown to be wrong by scientific or historical research; those kinds of pursuits only show the possible effects of such actions, but the one conducting the study already knows in advance what actions will be accepted as right or wrong regardless of outcome. 
      When we condemn an action as morally wrong it seems that we do so for reasons that transcend mere community success; for instance, consider the claim that murder is wrong because it is not beneficial to the welfare of the community.  If I grant you this assumption how would you deal with a possible counter example where a murder would not cause any appreciable harm to the community? If someone were to murder a homeless transient who has no significant family relations and was to do it in such a way that no one ever found out, would that still be wrong?  Society is not going to suffer any loss in productivity and if no one finds out then the act of murder itself would not be a corrupting influence on anyone.  It seems to me that saying that murder is not beneficial to society is a useful guideline considering our limited knowledge about the actual consequences any specific murder, but that isn’t the same as saying it is wrong – period.  Moral judgements that we consider to be ‘right’ usually do benefit society, but that doesn’t mean that benefit to society is what makes something right or wrong.   
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: ParkingPlaces on September 03, 2013, 08:40:30 AM
Greenandwhite

Whatever you're trying to do with the [font=] thing isn't working, and it makes your posts much harder to read (or I haven't evolved that far  :)] Please either hit the Preview button and check out your posts to make sure they're working, or stop doing that.

I can get the process to work sometimes. At other times it doesn't. It may be broken. I would suggest you try something else. Italics, perhaps?
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: epidemic on September 03, 2013, 02:11:36 PM
     [font=]You said that it can be historically demonstrated that stealing is ‘bad for the community’ or that it would make a community ‘less enjoyable’.  [/font]Interestingly, you didn’t see fit to actually provide any historical research that has been done on this topic; however, even if you did, would you have to wait for the conclusion of the study to know that stealing is wrong?  Stealing isn’t shown to be wrong by scientific or historical research; those kinds of pursuits only show the possible effects of such actions, but the one conducting the study already knows in advance what actions will be accepted as right or wrong regardless of outcome. 
      When we condemn an action as morally wrong it seems that we do so for reasons that transcend mere community success; for instance, consider the claim that murder is wrong because it is not beneficial to the welfare of the community.  If I grant you this assumption how would you deal with a possible counter example where a murder would not cause any appreciable harm to the community? If someone were to murder a homeless transient who has no significant family relations and was to do it in such a way that no one ever found out, would that still be wrong?  Society is not going to suffer any loss in productivity and if no one finds out then the act of murder itself would not be a corrupting influence on anyone.  It seems to me that saying that murder is not beneficial to society is a useful guideline considering our limited knowledge about the actual consequences any specific murder, but that isn’t the same as saying it is wrong – period.  Moral judgements that we consider to be ‘right’ usually do benefit society, but that doesn’t mean that benefit to society is what makes something right or wrong.   

Well it is my contention that murder is considered morally wrong because people saw what it did to the community.  You bolster my claim that it is not transcendent because with in most communities there are exceptions to the murder is wrong moral code.  As you said a stranger or someone from another group is fine to be killed the immorality of murder typically is universal within your community but becomes more vague when you reach the fringes of your society.   

Murdering people who have hurt your community was and is often not considered immoral.  For most of american society it is now immoral to kill for most any reason.  Our morality is changing as our culture changes.  In iraq it is moral to kill a woman who cheats on her husband.  their culture does not see it as a problem.  In bible culture it was ok to kill your child for not showing his parents respect. 

Today it would be an abomination to murder someone who's only crime was homosexuality different cultures and time periods would not seem to define it that way. 

Being cultural in nature, morality is alway on an ever evolving sliding scale.  There are general rules that are perceived to benefit the community, some that could be the observation of the community as a whole or reflect the personal biases of a few individuals.
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite on September 03, 2013, 07:46:54 PM
Greenandwhite

Whatever you're trying to do with the [font=] thing isn't working, and it makes your posts much harder to read (or I haven't evolved that far  :) ] Please either hit the Preview button and check out your posts to make sure they're working, or stop doing that.

I can get the process to work sometimes. At other times it doesn't. It may be broken. I would suggest you try something else. Italics, perhaps?[/font]
[font=]
     Sorry, I was aware of it, but wasn't sure if it was too bothersome for other readers or not.  I have been typing my posts up on Microsoft Word and for some reason when I copy and paste into the reply field the forum software adds the  tags.  I assumed that the reason it was happening was that the font on my word document was different than that used on the forum.  I tried copying and pasting a sentence from the forum back to my word document to figure out what font is being used; however, even though I changed my word document font the problem persists.  Not sure if you have any suggestions...I could simply retype my posts although it would take a bit more time.  Again, my apologies. [/font]
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite on September 03, 2013, 07:49:29 PM
     Ok, on post #161 I typed my post directly into the reply field and the font tags still appeared - maybe it is my computer?  I am certainly not the most knowledgeable when it comes to computers or computer programs.
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: ParkingPlaces on September 03, 2013, 08:17:05 PM
     Ok, on post #161 I typed my post directly into the reply field and the font tags still appeared - maybe it is my computer?  I am certainly not the most knowledgeable when it comes to computers or computer programs.

G&W

It's probably not the most important thing in the world right now. I was hoping there was an easy solution, but I guess we can all work around it if need be. You might consider typing in plain text and then highlighting text after it is pasted and doing the font change at that point, since you usually are only doing once each post.

Just an idea.

Most of us, when we want to bring special attention to a phrase in a quoted section will bold those words and then write "My bold" before starting our reply.

But as you can imagine, we atheists don't have many standards.  ;D  So you can do what you want.
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Willie on September 03, 2013, 10:26:26 PM
If you paste from your word processor into a plain text editor (such as notepad), then copy again from there, that will usually get rid of any formatting codes from the word processor. Of course, another option would be to type up your posts directly in the plain text editor instead of a word processor. I sometimes type posts in a text editor instead of directly in the forum's editor in order to avoid the risk of losing text because of a timeout or crash or whatever, or for a post that needs some research that I don't have time to do all at one sitting.
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: median on September 04, 2013, 10:20:25 AM
     [font=]A burden of proof lies with the person who has made a claim; in an honest discussion that person bears a responsibility to actually back up what he has said rather than taking illegitimate refuge by using evasive tactics.  [/font]Perhaps you will recognize the following vague claim: “for me morality is about the well being of human beings”.  Prefacing that claim with the words ‘for me’ doesn’t excuse you from providing an explanation because you are making a statement about the nature of morality. 

Nope. This is where you continuously keep misrepresenting my position (attempting to turn the tables) and this is why you view what I have said as "evasive tactics". I HAVE NOT made a statement of the "the nature of morality". On the contrary, I have stated what morality means to me (a preference) - unlike you who claims to have an "objective standard" (presumably a deity which you haven't demonstrated). So no sir, you are quite mistaken here. My position on morality (as you define it) is that it is just as illusive as the deity you believe in.

Your view is not in any way analogous to some versions of atheism (e.g. you are not arguing for ‘a-morality’) so you should stop complaining and own up to the ‘burden’ that you assumed when you made that claim. Also, you seem to think that the burden of proof can only lie on one side of the debate when; in actuality, both sides often bear a burden of responsibility to provide reasoning or evidence for their assertions – just because one side (me) bears a burden of proof doesn’t mean that the other side (you) doesn’t also simultaneously bear a similar burden.

Except you haven't demonstrated that I have a burden of proof. You just keep saying it because you want me to have one so you can attempt to attack it. Again, I haven't made any assertions on the "the nature of morality". Multiple times now you have misrepresented my position (Strawman Fallacy).


      One participant in a debate has fallaciously ‘shifted the burden of proof’ when, according to the Nizkor Project, “[font=]a lack of evidence for side A is taken to be evidence for side B”.  [/font]I have not anywhere on this thread said that my version of morality is correct because you have not given any evidence to back up yours; therefore, I have not illegitimately shifted the burden of proof.  Before you accuse someone of a logical fallacy you should take the time to learn more than just the name of the fallacy; in other words, if you think I am guilty of a fallacy you need to explain why I am guilty of it.

I apologize for the false charge and rescind it, as what I meant was something different from what I stated. Happy?


      Pretty much every time I have asked you a question about your claims regarding your personal view of morality you have accused me of projecting an objective standard onto your view. 

It seems to me that you keep attempting to make me take a position that I haven't taken, namely one on "the nature of morality" and I haven't done that nor have I attempted to do so.

Given your repeated excuses for not being forthcoming with any answers to my questions regarding morality, I think that your understanding of the distinction between objective and subjective moral views is about as adequate as your understanding of the word ‘bolster’. 

Sounds good! Because I understand the term very well. Unfazed.

Just because a person’s moral outlook could be described as ‘subjective’ doesn’t mean that they didn’t use some rational process to arrive at their moral conclusions.  If a rational process is involved then it should also be possible to describe it as well as to define the premises upon which it is based.  The absence of such a process and description would make your moral view no better than the moral view of a person who simply rolls a die any time he is confronted with a moral choice.  Your view of subjectivity is conceptually indistinguishable from a decision making process that is purely arbitrary.  Odd, considering the fact that you bill yourself as ‘a promoter of reason’; perhaps a better moniker would be ‘evader of reasons’.

"Feel the Christian love!" LOL. I'm unfazed by your rants again. YOU can attempt to "describe" what I have previously stated all you like, but your doing so doesn't make your assertions regarding "the nature of morality" anymore true regarding them. Once again, I have not made an assertion regarding the nature of morality, and any attempt by you to put words in my mouth to that effect is a strawman fallacy. On the contrary, I have no idea what such "nature" could even look like, and in fact, I have been given no good reasons for thinking that such a concept is even coherent.

Btw, merely making a charge regarding what you see as "my position" (which is based on a strawman), that it is "indistinguishable from a decision making process that is purely arbitrary" without backing it up/defining your terms/etc is a little hypocritical don't ya think - since you just got done attempting to charge me with a similar claimed 'offense'.

You should have looked at yourself in the mirror when you made that "evader" charge.
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: median on September 04, 2013, 10:51:15 AM
     [font=]You can call dictionary definitions ‘arbitrary’ if you want, but the fact remains that without literary conventions like grammar, phonetics, and vocabulary it would be impossible for one person to know what any other person is talking about.  [/font]If you want to simply posit your own arbitrary definition of ‘natural theology’ that is your prerogative, but no one else will have the foggiest idea what you are talking about.  It’s interesting that given your subjective attitude regarding the meanings of various words and phrases (e.g. ‘evidence’, ‘human flourishing’, ‘natural theology’), you still assume that I should understand the views that you express on this thread – how would that be possible if the meanings of words you use are subjective and arbitrary? 

You are attempting to characterize the debate over specific definitions of terms as "subjective attitude"? I suppose you could clarify more about what you mean there. Philosophy has a very long history of discussing/debating the definitions of terms and just because someone wants to debate you on the definition of a term (and all you want to do is use the dictionary) doesn't in anyway make the debate about a "subjective attitude" (whatever you mean by that).

Regarding your assertion #2, that I assume that you should understand the views presented on this website, you are in error again. On the contrary, I do not make that assumption. Attempting to have someone understand doesn't in any way guarantee they will. Errors in communication are a common occurrence (especially when online).


      Speaking of intellectual hypocrisy, you deny that any ‘authority figures’ should have the right to define words and instead say that “philosoph[ers] often debate questions of definitions in terms”.  This is exactly why in post #92 I asked, “which of the two premises of the kalam cosmological argument assumes God’s existence and why?” That was your chance to actually defend your view of what natural theology is, however, in post #106 you simply ignored my question and tried to change the subject.  So it is quite clear that you won’t accept an authoritative definition of a word nor will you offer any substantial reasons for your own definition.  That’s a pretty effective way of ‘promoting reason’.     

WTF? So because I didn't answer a question in the specific way in which YOU wanted me to that must mean your position is the correct one? LOL. For the sake of this discussion, I could assume your definition of "natural theology" and doing so wouldn't prove your deity OR your "objective morality". So how about actually demonstrating the deity you believe in or why you think there is an "objective morality"?
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: median on September 04, 2013, 12:00:31 PM
     [font=]Rarely has ‘lol’ been a more appropriate response to the content of a text than it was following my reading of the following rhetorical gem: “where have I ‘bolstered’ anything on anyone?”  [/font]If you were actually serious about grasping the jest of my statement in post #116 ,then I suggest that you pay a visit to www.dictionary.com (http://www.dictionary.com/) or some other similar website and actually look up the meaning of the word ‘bolster’ (more specifically, refer to definition number 10 on dictionary.com and perhaps the meaning of my statement will make more sense).  Not that I think for a minute that you will do this since experience has taught me that in ‘Medianland’ dictionaries are taboo and reference to any kind of ‘authoritative’ reference source is forbidden; after all, why should we consult any expert who just might have spent a significant amount of time studying a subject when we can ask you to render a verdict.  One can’t help but wonder how your bewildering attitude towards any attempt to refer to reference material in making a point would marry to this forum’s guidelines regarding unsupported assertions. (“As such, forum members are expected to back up assertions they make, and not engage in stonewalling, shifting goalposts, changing the subject, or employing similar tactics to avoid addressing points raised against their arguments.”  http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/forums/index.php/topic,21732.0.html (http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/forums/index.php/topic,21732.0.html)) 

As is so often the case in debates and/or online discourse, what is meant by words that are stated stands as more significant than the words themselves. Look deeper! This is what you are missing regarding many of my statements here. It seems you are context dropping. You seem to be in a land of assuming what is meant, instead of trying to clarify. What I meant was that I have not attempted to support a position on "the nature of morality". It seems you desperately want me to though. Yes, contrary to your "thinking", I have double checked the meaning of 'bolster' and I'm fine with what I meant by what I stated. Instead of jumping to the attack you should have asked what was meant.

Secondly, dictionaries are not "taboo" according to me, but they are also not the ultimate authority on definitions of terms in a debate context. You should know that. Furthermore, I know the forums guidelines and I'm fine with them. Your misrepresentation of what I have stated doesn't translate to a violation of those rules.


     The only difference between an atheist and a theist is that the theist claims that while basing morality on human dignity is a coherent means of construing moral epistemology, it seems ultimately meaningless if not grounded in the existence of a supreme being.


   
Quote
I love how I can make a statement to the affect that atheists and theists for the most part agree on questions of right and wrong (e.g. stealing, lying, cheating, etc…) and also provide coherent justification for these conclusions by reasoning from the inherent dignity of human beings, and in response you simply state that I am wrong and proceed to deliver a diatribe about my supposed ‘background assumptions’ regarding the Bible – subject matter that is completely irrelevant to the discussion at hand.  For a guy who has such a poor opinion of the Bible and would like society to discard it in favor of rational discussion, you sure like to bring it up a lot.

First, theists/atheists don't actually agree on questions of right and wrong. Most the theists I know ("born again" Christians) do not agree on those things you mentioned (situations of stealing/lying/killing/etc). Secondly, you didn't "reason from" dignity. All you did was CLAIM IT saying, "the inherently warranted value of human dignity." Third, I brought up the bible (not b/c I like to) but b/c I think it is likely your foundation for the claims regarding human dignity, etc. Is it not? As a professing Christian, do you not believe that the bible is God's word and that it is the authority? If so, then no it is not irrelevant to this discussion b/c you have made an assertion regarding "human dignity" for which you are attempting to argue has no meaning without the deity you believe in, which is depicted in that book.

 
       Your portrayal of the concept of objective moral values (“most people feel X is objectively wrong”) isn’t any worse than your own view regarding morality.  If morality is subjective in the sense that you think (post# 126 “my position on morality is for me…you use your own standard of morality just like I do, and just like everyone else does”), then all kinds of nonsense that the crowd ‘felt’ could be justified as well.  If morality is ‘up to me’ as you say, then I don’t see how you have any justified means of condemning a sentiment that the ‘crowd’ feels as nonsensical. 

I wasn't portraying the entirety of the concept of objective moral values. I was responding to your previous assertion regarding theist/atheist "agreement". Second, "justified" isn't a term that I accept when it pertains to what you are calling morality. This  is another example of how you are misunderstanding and misrepresenting what I have stated. "Justified" has nothing to do with it and just because YOU label what I have stated as "subjective morality" doesn't mean your characterization is correct. We could both be in the position of lacking a foundation for what you call "morality" and that wouldn't make the concept any less absurd or unsubstantiated.
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: median on September 04, 2013, 12:28:45 PM

     [font=]     Since you don’t seem to have any idea how to even start defining the phrase ‘human flourishing’ I asked you some specific questions about it in post #93.  [/font]I asked: ‘[font=]Is human flourishing 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)?’
      [/font]You responded in post #105 by saying that not all philosophical terms can be defined non-ambiguously (apparently you feel that ‘human flourishing’ is one of them, which might make one wonder how you manage to use it in any kind of a decision making process at all).  You then ended your post by claiming that you had no idea what I was looking for??  Somehow the three questions that I asked in #93 were inadequate to even begin to give you an idea of what I might be looking for – hard to understand how you could miss those unless it is you rather than me who possibly suffers from cranial hyperostosis.

And so is the term "ambiguously" used differently in different contexts. I reject your notion that one cannot have a general definition/understanding of the meaning of a term and henceforth make decisions based upon it. There are numerious terms in language, whose necessary and sufficient conditions are vehemently debated and not agreed upon (both in and out of philosophical circles), and this may in fact indicate a problem with our language (as both Quine and Derrada have noted), not necessarily a problem with us using terms. But even if I did not define "human flourishing" in the way in which you would like this doesn't say anything as to whether or not I can make choices regarding what it means to me.

I will answer the rest later.



   
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: median on September 04, 2013, 05:24:12 PM
      Despite the fact that your post was utter rubbish I do have a few comments:
 First, speaking of ‘assumptions’, you should stop assuming that every theist you talk to believes exactly what you believed when you were a theist (as if you were the penultimate example of Christian scholarship before your de-conversion).  Just because you ‘assumed’ the truth of everything you believed as a Christian doesn’t mean every theist does. 
 Second, it is presumptuous of you to think that merely attaching derisive labels to any theist or theist argument should suffice to frighten any other theist from consulting them.  Perhaps you think that the mere notion that someone with your intellectual prowess has already rendered judgement should be adequate to end the discussion?  I can’t help but wonder what profound regret Campus Crusade for Christ or Biola University would feel if they could but realize what they have missed out on in employing apologists like Josh McDowell and William Lane Craig.  After all, considering the fact that you have so easily found their arguments wanting surely you (before your de-conversion) would have been a much better candidate to spread the good news. 
 Third, calling someone like Bill Craig a ‘nonsense apologist’ is not only a simultaneous condemnation of all the accomplished atheist scholars how have taken him seriously but is also an apt demonstration of your own ignorance which you have prominently displayed numerous times on this thread. 

Stating your opinion regarding what you think of my posts doesn't effect me. So just stop it and move on b/c it sounds childish.

1. I haven't assumed every theist believes exactly as I did (that is your assumption regarding me - FAIL), and I didn't 'just assume' everything I believed as a Christian (although there were many things, and I see hints of those same assumptions in your arguments). Perhaps you can tells us your testimony as to how you became a Christian and then (assuming you're willing to be honest) we can evaluate if you made assumptions or not.

2. I'm not following you here. Please clarify.

3. Flinging more poo doesn't sway my opinion that Craig's arguments are nonsense. Neither does it require that I degrade those who have challenged him. Confronting nonsense doesn't degrade he/she who does so (which is one of the reasons I'm engaging you here!). Further, merely claiming I am ignorant regarding something (definitions of terms, etc) based in your assumptions of my statements, isn't a demonstration that I am in fact ignorant. It's rather a demonstration that you haven't attempted to understand and/or clarify what is meant - and you've shown that multiple times here. One would expect a different result from someone who claims to be a follower of Christ, don't you think?
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite on September 05, 2013, 12:12:36 AM
     As is so often the case in debates and/or online discourse, what is meant by words that are stated stands as more significant than the words themselves. Look deeper! This is what you are missing regarding many of my statements here. It seems you are context dropping. You seem to be in a land of assuming what is meant, instead of trying to clarify. What I meant was that I have not attempted to support a position on "the nature of morality". It seems you desperately want me to though. Yes, contrary to your "thinking", I have double checked the meaning of 'bolster' and I'm fine with what I meant by what I stated. Instead of jumping to the attack you should have asked what was meant.
     The meaning I was intending to convey when I used the word 'bolster' was the same meaning that is listed in definition #10 on www.dictionary.com (http://www.dictionary.com).  You say that you have double checked the meaning of the word 'bolster'; so, I would like to know what reference you used and the definition that you referred to. 
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite on September 05, 2013, 12:37:33 AM

     Since you don’t seem to have any idea how to even start defining the phrase ‘human flourishing’ I asked you some specific questions about it in post #93.  I asked: ‘Is human flourishing 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)?’
      You responded in post #105 by saying that not all philosophical terms can be defined non-ambiguously (apparently you feel that ‘human flourishing’ is one of them, which might make one wonder how you manage to use it in any kind of a decision making process at all).  You then ended your post by claiming that you had no idea what I was looking for??  Somehow the three questions that I asked in #93 were inadequate to even begin to give you an idea of what I might be looking for – hard to understand how you could miss those unless it is you rather than me who possibly suffers from cranial hyperostosis.

     And so is the term "ambiguously" used differently in different contexts. I reject your notion that one cannot have a general definition/understanding of the meaning of a term and henceforth make decisions based upon it. There are numerious terms in language, whose necessary and sufficient conditions are vehemently debated and not agreed upon (both in and out of philosophical circles), and this may in fact indicate a problem with our language (as both Quine and Derrada have noted), not necessarily a problem with us using terms. But even if I did not define "human flourishing" in the way in which you would like this doesn't say anything as to whether or not I can make choices regarding what it means to me.
     My issue is not that you "did not define 'human flourishing' in the way in which I would like"; my issue is that you have not made any effort to define it at all - no definition, nothing.  If someone asked my to describe the car that I drive and I simply said that my car is 'for me', would that tell them anything that they didn't already know? 
     Consider the following statement that you have made: "not all philosophical terms can be defined non-ambiguously".  Why doesn't the thrust of that statement apply to the words that make up that statement itself (e.g. 'philosophical', 'defined', 'non-ambiguously',...), and if that is the case then why, on your view, does that statement have any meaning at all?  Quine and Derrada might have theorized about the 'necessary and sufficient conditions' for prescribing meanings to the words we use, but I'll bet that regardless of their conclusions they actually had a genuine discussion with their detractors.  You are just compounding the excuses that you made in your last flurry of posts. 
     



 
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite on September 05, 2013, 01:17:49 AM
     Nope. This is where you continuously keep misrepresenting my position (attempting to turn the tables) and this is why you view what I have said as "evasive tactics". I HAVE NOT made a statement of the "the nature of morality". On the contrary, I have stated what morality means to me (a preference) - unlike you who claims to have an "objective standard" (presumably a deity which you haven't demonstrated). So no sir, you are quite mistaken here. My position on morality (as you define it) is that it is just as illusive as the deity you believe in.
     Really, perhaps you should refer back to post #63 where you said, "morality is about human well being" and "perhaps the best place to start is to discuss/debate what morality is about".  Making a statement of the following nature, "morality is..." is making a statement about the nature of morality.  Also, in your second statement you said that we should "debate what morality is about"; you did not propose that we debate what morality is not about.  If you had said that morality is not about objective moral standards then perhaps I would bear a greater burden of proof; however, you didn't say that and to ignore your opening salvo in this debate is extremely disingenuous to say the least.  Incidentally, judging from previous experience, I should have known better than to think that when you proposed a 'debate' you actually meant it - I don't plan on making that mistake again. 
P.S. You also said in post #63 that "moral judgements are not just statements of opinion...many of those questions can be answered by science".  Now, you have on numerous occasions falsely accused me of ascribing 'objectivity' to your point of view.  Interesting, because I was under the impression that science makes objective claims about what is true or false; if science makes statements that are objectively true and you feel that moral questions can be answered by science then you actually have proposed an objective standard of morality - haven't you?
     
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite on September 05, 2013, 01:34:11 AM
      Despite the fact that your post was utter rubbish I do have a few comments:
 First, speaking of ‘assumptions’, you should stop assuming that every theist you talk to believes exactly what you believed when you were a theist (as if you were the penultimate example of Christian scholarship before your de-conversion).  Just because you ‘assumed’ the truth of everything you believed as a Christian doesn’t mean every theist does. 
 Second, it is presumptuous of you to think that merely attaching derisive labels to any theist or theist argument should suffice to frighten any other theist from consulting them.  Perhaps you think that the mere notion that someone with your intellectual prowess has already rendered judgement should be adequate to end the discussion?  I can’t help but wonder what profound regret Campus Crusade for Christ or Biola University would feel if they could but realize what they have missed out on in employing apologists like Josh McDowell and William Lane Craig.  After all, considering the fact that you have so easily found their arguments wanting surely you (before your de-conversion) would have been a much better candidate to spread the good news. 
 Third, calling someone like Bill Craig a ‘nonsense apologist’ is not only a simultaneous condemnation of all the accomplished atheist scholars how have taken him seriously but is also an apt demonstration of your own ignorance which you have prominently displayed numerous times on this thread. 

Stating your opinion regarding what you think of my posts doesn't effect me. So just stop it and move on b/c it sounds childish.

1. I haven't assumed every theist believes exactly as I did (that is your assumption regarding me - FAIL), and I didn't 'just assume' everything I believed as a Christian (although there were many things, and I see hints of those same assumptions in your arguments). Perhaps you can tells us your testimony as to how you became a Christian and then (assuming you're willing to be honest) we can evaluate if you made assumptions or not.

2. I'm not following you here. Please clarify.

3. Flinging more poo doesn't sway my opinion that Craig's arguments are nonsense. Neither does it require that I degrade those who have challenged him. Confronting nonsense doesn't degrade he/she who does so (which is one of the reasons I'm engaging you here!). Further, merely claiming I am ignorant regarding something (definitions of terms, etc) based in your assumptions of my statements, isn't a demonstration that I am in fact ignorant. It's rather a demonstration that you haven't attempted to understand and/or clarify what is meant - and you've shown that multiple times here. One would expect a different result from someone who claims to be a follower of Christ, don't you think?
     You didn't say that Dr. Craig's arguments were nonsense; rather, you said in post #134 that Dr. Craig was a "nonsense apologist".  I have watched a lot of Dr. Craig's debates and I have seen many of his opponents respectfully disagree with him, but none of them have presumed to use the nonsensical language that you use to describe him. 
     My claim that you are ignorant of the meaning of a term is not based on an 'assumption'; it is based on an actual dictionary definition and a sentence written by yourself ("when have I ever 'bolstered' anything on anyone") where context has nothing to do with the applicability of the word 'bolster'.  It is also laughable that you claim I have not made any attempt to understand what you have meant in your posts.  I have asked and challenged you over and over and over again to define and clarify your terms and position to no avail.  Your intractable attitude in this regard is one I would hope not to see in any Christian or atheist. 
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: median on September 05, 2013, 09:41:21 AM

     My issue is not that you "did not define 'human flourishing' in the way in which I would like"; my issue is that you have not made any effort to define it at all - no definition, nothing.  If someone asked my to describe the car that I drive and I simply said that my car is 'for me', would that tell them anything that they didn't already know? 

But that is a false analogy because the "nature" of cars is not being discussed there. Again, I haven't made a claim to the "nature of morality" (just like I haven't made a claim to the "nature of God" or the "nature of Unicorns"). So please stop asking me to defend a position I haven't made, and please defend the positive position you have presented and believe regarding an objective morality.


     Consider the following statement that you have made: "not all philosophical terms can be defined non-ambiguously".  Why doesn't the thrust of that statement apply to the words that make up that statement itself (e.g. 'philosophical', 'defined', 'non-ambiguously',...), and if that is the case then why, on your view, does that statement have any meaning at all?  Quine and Derrada might have theorized about the 'necessary and sufficient conditions' for prescribing meanings to the words we use, but I'll bet that regardless of their conclusions they actually had a genuine discussion with their detractors.  You are just compounding the excuses that you made in your last flurry of posts. 

NOPE. You can just continue to sit there a whine about thinking I'm avoiding this, or making excuses for that, but I'm going to continue to be unfazed because I haven't made a positive claim to any "nature" of morality and we have, thus far, been discussing (or debating, whichever way you want to look at it) the definitions of often contested terms. I don't see the terms you just mentioned in my statement on terms as being debated very highly and seemed to me that you did understand what I meant using those, but not the former.
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: median on September 05, 2013, 09:45:23 AM

     You’re not making a ‘positive claim to an objective morality’; no kidding, you are making a positive claim that morality is subjective in nature and as such you are required to back up your assertions. 

I have not made a positive claim regarding an objective morality AND I have not made a case regarding any "nature" of what you call morality. Nice try at putting words in my mouth again.

As I have said elsewhere, you don’t seem to have a clue what the ‘burden of proof’ fallacy is anyways; it’s just another one of those fancy terms that you like to throw out occasionally in an attempt to intimidate your opponent.  The same goes for your erroneous understanding of the ‘argument from authority’ fallacy – there is a difference between a legitimate and an illegitimate argument from authority.  Not that I actually expect you to take the time to research them, but if you want to accuse me of a logical fallacy you need to explain why I am guilty of it.  My disagreeing with you or asking you to clarify or support a position that you hold is not a criterion you will find in any debate handbook.

I actually know very well what those fallacies are, even if you don't agree (and I'm fine with you not agreeing - it doesn't faze me). And the difference between a sound argument from authority, and unsound one, is often debated quite heavily. Again, you should know that.

[font=]
     Yeah, it’s obvious that you don’t care; if you did it might be possible to have some kind of a discussion with you.  [/font]

The fact that we have continued this long demonstrates the opposite. Contrary to your words, we are (and have been) having a discussion.


Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: median on September 05, 2013, 11:09:21 AM
     So besides the first sentence, none of the rest of your reply has any relevant bearing on the discussion at hand.  In this discussion I have not made any of the claims that you presume to ascribe to me.  If I present an argument, why should it be judged invalid because of other unstated beliefs that you presume I hold?  The best you could do is show that there is an inconsistency in my world view, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the argument at hand is wrong.  If a medical doctor proposed a cure for type I diabetes his research would not be invalidated by showing that he is a member of the flat earth society; his research would have to be judged on its own merits. 

However, this is another false analogy because the argument you keep pointing to regarding an objective morality is "intuition". If a doctor was proposing a cancer cure which only relied upon his "intuition" (personal feelings, etc) there wouldn't be sufficient reason for accepting such a proposal (which is why many of us here don't accept your personal intuition about "objective morality"). You don't believe there can be an objective morality without a "moral law giver" (a God), do you?


      It is, however, understandable why you keep attempting to present your guesses about what I believe as evidence against my argument considering your demonstrably erroneous views about the nature of natural theology. Again, as I have said elsewhere, personal biases are not logically necessary for an argument to be valid; they may provide motivation to pursue the argument in the first place but they cannot invalidate it.  The arguments of natural theology do not ‘presume’ the existence of god; you have, on numerous occasions, failed to even attempt to demonstrate that they do, so your claim that someone proposing that moral judgements are objective assumes God’s existence is without any merit.   
      One does not need to identify or ‘demonstrate’ God or any other possible foundation for morality to be able to recognize that moral judgements possess the quality of objectivity.  An atheist could quite conceivably recognize moral values to be objective (e.g. that they exist in some abstract sense) but simply deny the other premise in the moral argument.  Saying that morality is objective in nature does not presume God’s existence; one can only derive the conclusion ‘God exists’ by logically conjoining the objective nature of moral values with its complementary premise in the moral argument.

I apologize regarding the statement on natural theology and retract it. Upon further reflection and reading it seems I misunderstood where you were coming from (which happens very often in these types of forums). I agree that ones personal biases do not (in and of themselves) invalidate a proposed argument but in fact do often influence them. I hope you will understand though that this does not change anything for me very significantly regarding your arguments on objective morality etc.

An interesting video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWNW-NXEudk
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: median on September 10, 2013, 03:30:11 PM
     Really, perhaps you should refer back to post #63 where you said, "morality is about human well being" and "perhaps the best place to start is to discuss/debate what morality is about".  Making a statement of the following nature, "morality is..." is making a statement about the nature of morality.  Also, in your second statement you said that we should "debate what morality is about"; you did not propose that we debate what morality is not about.  If you had said that morality is not about objective moral standards then perhaps I would bear a greater burden of proof; however, you didn't say that and to ignore your opening salvo in this debate is extremely disingenuous to say the least.  Incidentally, judging from previous experience, I should have known better than to think that when you proposed a 'debate' you actually meant it - I don't plan on making that mistake again. 
P.S. You also said in post #63 that "moral judgements are not just statements of opinion...many of those questions can be answered by science".  Now, you have on numerous occasions falsely accused me of ascribing 'objectivity' to your point of view.  Interesting, because I was under the impression that science makes objective claims about what is true or false; if science makes statements that are objectively true and you feel that moral questions can be answered by science then you actually have proposed an objective standard of morality - haven't you?
   

You actually nearly hit it on the head here (in one part early on) and again it seems to me (at least in part) that we've been talking past one another. I will try to be more clear here. Morality is not about 'objective standards'. There, I hope that is clear enough, but if not please ask for clarification. The term "objective morality" (under the context you are attempting to use it - moral prescription that exists independent of people) is nonsense. My statement regarding "moral judgment" was not one which pertained to what (I think) you were thinking regarding morality when I stated it (i.e. - the nature of "it", any 'objectivity' etc). Checkout the video I posted and you may have a little bit better of an understanding as to what I've been getting at.
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite on September 12, 2013, 12:52:44 AM
[font=]
     Yeah, it’s obvious that you don’t care; if you did it might be possible to have some kind of a discussion with you.  [/font]

The fact that we have continued this long demonstrates the opposite. Contrary to your words, we are (and have been) having a discussion.
     touche
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite on September 12, 2013, 01:03:05 AM
You don't believe there can be an objective morality without a "moral law giver" (a God), do you?
     No, but I do believe that a person can recognize objective moral values (if they exist of course) without believing in or demonstrating God's existence. 

     I apologize regarding the statement on natural theology and retract it. Upon further reflection and reading it seems I misunderstood where you were coming from (which happens very often in these types of forums). I agree that ones personal biases do not (in and of themselves) invalidate a proposed argument but in fact do often influence them. I hope you will understand though that this does not change anything for me very significantly regarding your arguments on objective morality etc.
     I appreciate your apology and recognize the fact that your gesture does not mean that you agree with me regarding my views on the nature of morality.  Also, thanks for the youtube link; I have not watched it yet but it is on my to do list. 

Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Greenandwhite on September 13, 2013, 12:46:58 AM
     Well it is my contention that murder is considered morally wrong because people saw what it did to the community.  You bolster my claim that it is not transcendent because with in most communities there are exceptions to the murder is wrong moral code.  As you said a stranger or someone from another group is fine to be killed the immorality of murder typically is universal within your community but becomes more vague when you reach the fringes of your society.   
     I didn't say that the moral permissibility of murder becomes more 'vague' when considering people who occupy the fringes of society; rather, I asked: 'would a specific example of murder be wrong if it in no way affected community welfare'.  If you feel that the 'immorality of murder' in the example I gave is vague, then that judgement reflects more of your view of morality, not mine.

     Murdering people who have hurt your community was and is often not considered immoral.  For most of american society it is now immoral to kill for most any reason.  Our morality is changing as our culture changes.  In iraq it is moral to kill a woman who cheats on her husband.  their culture does not see it as a problem.  In bible culture it was ok to kill your child for not showing his parents respect.  Today it would be an abomination to murder someone who's only crime was homosexuality different cultures and time periods would not seem to define it that way. 
     There is a big difference between 'murder' and 'punishment'.  Supporting the death penalty is not the same thing as ascribing moral permissibility to acts of murder.  If it was, then a majority of the states in the US could be said to be actively promoting murder since the death penalty is still in effect in 32 states: http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/states-and-without-death-penalty (http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/states-and-without-death-penalty) . Is it not reasonable to assume that by supporting the death penalty a person or state is trying to convey the message that murder is not morally permissible?  You can certainly question whether the 'transgressions' you listed above merit punishment, and if so, how it should be carried out, but that has nothing to do with the question of whether or not murder is objectively wrong. 
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: Nam on September 13, 2013, 02:12:56 AM
Ordering someone's death, even behind legal laws, is still murder. It's referred to as: legal murder. Justifying it by the crime(s) committed by the one being executed isn't justification but an excuse.

-Nam
Title: Re: Introductory Questions
Post by: median on September 14, 2013, 03:17:07 AM
You don't believe there can be an objective morality without a "moral law giver" (a God), do you?
     No, but I do believe that a person can recognize objective moral values (if they exist of course) without believing in or demonstrating God's existence. 

I'm not sure what you mean when you say "objective moral values" (well, not exactly that is). Do you mean moral values that 'exist' without any person's perception or judgment (aka - 'independently of human minds')? If so, I would like to refer you to Scott Clifton's video (and his two follow up videos as well) prior to your next response - as it might help to further clarify where I'm coming from. Just a couple questions to ponder hereafter:

1. Why should we think that "human life is inherently valuable" (if that is what you do say)?
2. Why should we think "objective moral values" exist (at all) when merely recognizing/feeling "wrongness" doesn't imply objectivity?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-RqkskhzRCc

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3GxePIZk-I