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March 06, 2013

Comments

This is actually not limited to moral issues.

In recent posts we've been treated repeatedly to the same phenomenon.

How many posters in recent days, committed beyond all reason to maintaining the thesis that atheism is not a claim, have embraced the absurd view that no one can know anything or that no one can have certainty, or truth (or whatever)?

I guess the case there is a little different because the position that they are willing to maintain just for the sake of their nonsense atheist slogan is a full-blown logical absurdity. Their position is not even internally consistent the way in which the infanticide's, or polygamist's or unisex bathroom supporter's is (at least at first blush).

I have an old friend from my philosophy days who is fond of saying that being in the presence of a good argument can actually make you stupider.

His point is that if you are sold on the denial of the premise of a good argument, you are either going to have to reject one of it's true and obvious premises or deny one of it's unquestionably valid inferences.

To do either is to make yourself dumber than you were before you ever considered the argument.

Sex isn't relevant to public toilets. There shouldn't be separate toilets designated for men and women, not because of any gender issues but simply because going to the toilet should not be a social occasion. If we respect privacy, then sex doesn't matter.

How about this idea: Each public toilet should be a separate little room with a door that closes securely and with solid walls going from floor to ceiling. With such facilities, no one would know if it was being used by a man or woman!

Flimsy stalls are barbaric.

John-

"Each public toilet should be a separate little room with a door that closes securely and with solid walls going from floor to ceiling."

That's a fantastic idea. To prevent corrosion and the spread of disease, all fixtures should also be made of gold.

"With such facilities, no one would know if it was being used by a man or woman!"

Or both...and not for the usual purposes.

"Flimsy stalls are barbaric"

That's a bit much. Stalls of any kind only exist in highly advanced societies.

What flimsy stalls are is cheap and viable provided toilets are sex segregated.

Urinals are also a cheap way to deal with men so that they can move quickly through the bathroom. And they are not viable in unisex bathrooms.

How much treasure that could better be used elsewhere are we supposed to sacrifice on the altar of political correctness?

How much turbulence are we supposed to tolerate just so a vanishingly small group of people feel better (until they start obsessing on the next supposed slight)?

The best argument for unisex bathrooms is actually an argument for 'family' bathrooms. So that very old and very young users can be assisted by an opposite sex caregiver without hassle. Obviously, this could never be generalized to the claim that all bathrooms should be family bathrooms.

John

" Each public toilet should be a separate little room with a door that closes securely and with solid walls going from floor to ceiling. With such facilities, no one would know if it was being used by a man or woman!"

Where I came from we had those already in 1968, it was called an outhouse. We had torn newspapers for toilet paper. I guess, you could say that we were very progressive by being green in the way we utilized paper. Now, there's progress and way ahead of its time. In fact the system worked so well that no matter how much perfume a woman used on herself, while using the facilities, you couldn't tell it was a man or a woman using it. The aroma of, well you know what, would completely mask any hint of what gender was inside. I think you're onto something there. ;)

Why don't you take a patent out on it and make millions. Hey! They bought pet rocks. Didn't they?

WinsdomLover

"How much turbulence are we supposed to tolerate just so a vanishingly small group of people feel better (until they start obsessing on the next supposed slight)?"

They simply want the whole society to be enablers. If we start down that road, who will insist that we all become enablers? Drunks? Drug addicts? Crime bosses? Should we be enablers for all of those too? After a while every disorder you can imagine will be something we will have to agree to support or we will cross the line of political correctness. I think it is a left wing conspiracy to turn humanity into one massive worldwide joke. ;)

Not that I don't like a good laugh now and then, but REALLY!!!

"They simply want the whole society to be enablers."

Yup!

"If we start down that road, who will insist that we all become enablers?"

Unfortunately we're already well down that road. So it's always just a question of who's next. And it's virtually inevitable that all of them will get everything they want (until they have it and want more).

P.S. Loved the outhouse insight!

Here in Tokyo, having nice toilets is one way businesses compete with each other. It's a question of what customers demand. The investment pays off. Maybe U.S. people don't mind crappy toilets. That's your style, I guess.

The U.S. Embassy here has toilet facilities imported from the U.S. Japanese visitors are not impressed. Sure, it's easy to laugh about toilets, but they are a pervasive part of everyone's life, and it's worth taking some care about your facilities.

I have an old friend from my philosophy days who is fond of saying that being in the presence of a good argument can actually make you stupider.

That's a great point, WL. I love that.

Wisdom Lover

If I am an atheist and lack the belief that you have in your God, what claim am I making?

Mike

John

"Japanese visitors are not impressed."

Of course they are not impressed by the U.S. toilets. They miss all those luxuries like built in shower and built in heaters. But there is the other public conveniences I think are called squat toilets, which are far more common. It consists of a hole in the ground and you don't get the chance to sit down comfortably. That might have been the Japanese answer to the less reported homeless public bathrooms occupy movement...where a homeless person occupies a public bathroom for ridiculous amounts of time, preventing other patrons from using it. It's hard to get your sleep while squatting over a hole in the ground, there's a tendency to fall over causing an interruption in your attempt at catching your z's. ;)

Mike-

Well, for starters, you are claiming to lack a belief in my God.

Muslims, btw, also lack a belief in my God.

Is there a difference between Atheism and Islam (apart from the spelling?)

Wisdom Lover

It very much sounds like you are trying to shift the burden of proof (colloquial use of the term)onto the atheist. In not agreeing with your evidence and arguments regarding the Christian God an atheist makes no claim.

Mike

Mike

"regarding the Christian God an atheist makes no claim."

That is actually not true. An atheist makes the claim that the Christian God does not exist. That is certainly a claim regarding the Christian God.

But then, there is a lot of confusion in the atheist circles these days about the difference between an atheist and an agnostic. It is an agnostic that does not weigh in on the Christian God.

Louis

I disagree that a positive claim is always made. They just don't by the evidence that theists put forward.

One could take a step further and make that claim, but by rejecting the theists evidence the atheist merely says that judging on evidence thus far provided, the assertion that there is a Christian God is not supported.

Thankfully it is that way, otherwise we'd all have to go around all the time providing evidence that unicorns, invisible dragons in garages, pixies. We can get on with our lives safe in the knowledge that if compelling evidence arose, assertions that these things exist may be supported.

Mike

Oooops I meant "Thankfully it is that way, otherwise we'd all have to go around all the time providing evidence that unicorns, invisible dragons in garages, pixies dont exist"

Mike

"I disagree that a positive claim is always made."

Please feel free to do so. :)

"One could take a step further and make that claim, but by rejecting the theists evidence the atheist merely says that judging on evidence thus far provided, the assertion that there is a Christian God is not supported."

Well, firstly, there has to be good reasons for rejecting, or accepting, any evidence presented. But more to your point, it would seem to me that your example would cause one to take the position that there is really no good reason to believe in the existence of the Christian God. That sounds to me like a very soft landing on the side of "there is not God" position. But do you really think that it matters how softly you land on that side or how soundlessly? Do you really think you should not take notice that you have indeed landed there if you can ignore the tel-tale signs of having done so? I think sometimes it is very easy for us human beings to fool ourselves. If I were in your position, I would take a careful and honest look to see if maybe I am not fooling myself.

Mike-

I'm not trying to shift anything.

I just answered one challenge (decisively) that I took to be implicit in your initial question. I took you to be implying that atheists make no claim when they say that they do not share my belief in my God.

That, of course, is ridiculous, since the sentence "I do not share your belief in God" is a claim.

I haven't offered any evidence and arguments for theism in this thread. Perhaps I will at some point.

So I take your point about not agreeing with my arguments for theism as saying that you don't agree with the arguments that you've heard so far in your life.

Of course the sentence "I don't agree with the arguments for theism that I've heard so far in my life" is a claim.

Furthermore, it's probably not just that you don't agree. It's that you disagree. It's not, for example, that you have no opinion about the argument from design...you think it is not a good argument. You think one of its premises is false or one of its inferences is invalid. These, of course, are claims one and all.

Mike-

So far everything you've implied about Atheism is also true of Islam.

Muslim's don't share my beliefs about God. They also don't agree (and disagree) with the arguments I have for my views.

So again, are Islam and Atheism the same?

Wisdom Lover

"I just answered one challenge (decisively) that I took to be implicit in your initial question. I took you to be implying that atheists make no claim when they say that they do not share my belief in my God.

That, of course, is ridiculous, since the sentence "I do not share your belief in God" is a claim."

Your assertion that there is a Christian God can be countered by disputing evidence that you bring to support that assertion. In disputing the evidence the skeptic is making no claim. You are equivocating the assertion that "there is a Christian God" and "I dispute your evidence therefore reject your assertion". They are not the same thing.

To offer an explanation; if you erect an assertion you need to bring evidence to defend it *before* it can be accepted. Disputing the evidence does not equal making a counter claim to that assertion and is not the same thing. The burden of evidence is not on the atheist to either produce evidence to support a counter assertion or to produce counter evidence v your evidence. They only have to point out where your evidence is unsatisfactory with reasons. The reason for this is clear - if it wasnt that way we'd have to constantly debunk every theory anyone ever dreamt up just because it could be asserted.

If you'd like to discuss the argument from design I'd be delighted. If you are asserting that natural things are designed, can you tell me how you would create a test to split ANYthing into "designed" and "not designed" classes?

Do you see how I might be able to dispute your evidence without making any claims?

Thanks, Mike

Mike

"Do you see how I might be able to dispute your evidence without making any claims?"

I guess I'm in the mood to break some rules today and the one I am interested in breaking is the rule of not answering a question with a question. Do you really think that taking a position in a debate is possible without there being at least an implied claim, if not explicitly expressed, that defines that position?

Louis

You are equivocating as well.

Lets flip it on its head. Lets say that Bob asserts that there is an invisible dragon that exists and lives in his garage. He says that only he can see it, its odourless, doesnt make any noise audible to anyone but him, you can walk right through it although he can stroke it etc etc etc - you get the picture.

In other words, Bob cant offer any substantial evidence to support his assertion. So I dismiss his claim and say that until he comes out with some decent evidence, Im simply not buying it.

Now you will no doubt say "AH HA! You are claiming that you lack belief in that dragon. That's a claim!" Its a claim of sorts - but I can defend it simply by pointing out that Bob doesn't have any evidence. So call it a claim if you like, but it's totally different to the sort of assertion Bob is making.

You guys are equivocating the initial assertion with a skeptical position that one should hold.

Thanks, Mike

Mike:

In disputing the evidence the skeptic is making no claim.
Keep digging. Of course disputing evidence is making a claim...the claim that the evidence is insufficient to support the conclusion.
You are equivocating the assertion that "there is a Christian God" and "I dispute your evidence therefore reject your assertion". They are not the same thing.
Of course they are not the same. They are distinct claims.
Do you see how I might be able to dispute your evidence without making any claims?
No. Because it is logically impossible for you to do any such thing.

Now, on this question of the burden of proof, I think it's all nonsense.

Your initial principle is something like this: Before any proposition I assert can be accepted, I must provide sufficient evidence for that proposition.

If, as you contend, there is not sufficient evidence, then your claim is disproven. For I, at least, not only can, but do, accept it prior to sufficient evidence. Because I (can) do this, it can be done. So your principle is false.

On the other hand, if there is already sufficient evidence, or if I make no assertion (or both), then your principle has no application.

So whenever your principle applies, it is false. Making it a pretty absurd principle.

But I suspect that what you really meant to say is something like this: "I, Mike, refuse to accept any assertion you, WL, make unless you, WL, first provide evidence for it"

But that's going to make things rather difficult for you...because all evidence comes in the form of assertions you see. So you won't accept my assertion and, by the same principle you use to reject my assertion, you also won't accept my evidence.

I'm assuming that you don't have anything in particular against me and that you'd take the same stance for any asserter you come across. But that means it's going to be impossible for you to accept any assertion.

Is it, then, your position that, as a matter of principle, you accept no assertions?

For starters, that's a pretty absurd principle.

It is also self-stultifying, since you claim that as a matter of principle you accept no assertions. (But I can name one that you do accept.)

Wisdom Lover

So are you seriously suggesting that you'd accept that Bob's Invisible Dragon that lives in his garage exists just because Bob says so? Im afraid that is absurd and opens us up to all sorts of tail chasing.

Just because people can dream stuff up and assert it, don't make it true (i.e. match reality)

What's the point of accepting any assertion? What a perfectly bizarre notion. One should be skeptical as a principle. Assertions should be backed up by evidence and where they aren't, they can be dismissed until such evidence is brought forth. There may be times, particularly in science, where one might proceed down a line of enquiry making an assumption that an assertion is correct despite a lack of evidential support, but then one should state explicitly that this assumption is being made. That tack might be useful, but it adds nothing to the validity of the original assertion.

Let me know about Bob's Dragon.

Mike

Mike-

I never said I would accept Bob's invisible dragon on Bob's say so. I suppose that if Bob and I were discussing his claim, I'd try to find some common ground with Bob on some claims that we both accept without evidence and see whether or not Bob's dragon can be shown to exist on that basis.

Bob, by the way, bears no burden of proof. Bob made a claim. But it is entirely up to me what I am going to do about that claim. I might choose to ignore it. I might decide to reject the claim. I might choose to suspend judgement. I might choose to believe it. And whatever I do, I bear the burden for my choice, and not Bob.

Every choice I make involves my accepting some claim as true. If I choose to ignore the claim, I've accepted the claim that Bob's dragon isn't important. If I reject Bob's claim, I've accepted the claim that there is no dragon. If I suspend judgment, then I've accepted the claim that right now I don't have enough evidence either way to make a bet one way or they other on the dragon. If I accept the claim then I've, of course, accepted the claim.

The thing that's interesting is that many atheists actually would not dodge behind the burden of proof or anything like it. What they do is insist that as soon as we start talking about dragons, pixies or any other supernatural agencies, we've stopped doing science.

In other words, they don't refuse to accept Bob's dragon because of some claptrap about the burden of proof. They refuse to accept Bob's dragon on principle (a principle that, BTW, is just as empty and silly as the ones we've been discussing so far).

Of course, these same atheists will often engage, as you have done, in plenty of empty sloganeering about the burden of proof and not making claims and so on.

But the question is, how many absurdities are you willing to embrace just for the sake of silly slogans that fall over with the first breath of resistance?

"Now you will no doubt say "AH HA! You are claiming that you lack belief in that dragon. That's a claim!" "

I wouldn't make such an assertion. Maybe some might. I would stick to my position that here we have a debate about the existence of a dragon. There are actually three positions that you can hold on the issue of the dragon existence.

1) He exists
2) He does not exist
3) Don't know either way and am refraining from
comment on his existence.

So, number three is automatically out of the debate if the purpose of such a debate is to establish the existence or non-existence of the dragon. If position three holds to the notion that it cannot actually be known if the dragon exists or not, individual holding such a position has zero to contribute to the debate of this kind. So, the only players in the debate are position one and two. But claiming a lack of a belief in the dragon is a different debate, not one attempting to establish the objective existence or non-existence of the dragon. That is why I would not bring up such an issue. What I have stated before is that the position that you are displaying for all to see is just an example of a soft landing on the "doesn't exist" side of the debate, in a hope that neither you or others around you will notice that this is where you have landed. I don't see a significant difference between challenging someone's evidence regarding the existence of this dragon and in so doing, taking the contrary position, even if that is but a temporary one until all the evidence is in. Well, be it temporary or permanent, the contrary position to that of the objective existence of the dragon can only be number two.

"Its a claim of sorts - but I can defend it simply by pointing out that Bob doesn't have any evidence.So call it a claim if you like, but it's totally different to the sort of assertion Bob is making."

As I said, that is not my view. So...

"Now you will no doubt say "AH HA! You are claiming that you lack belief in that dragon. That's a claim!" Its a claim of sorts"

It's not a claim of sorts. It's just a claim. You seem to be under the impression that you can make a distinction between claims 'like' Bob's and those second-class that are not 'like' Bob's. Unless by "a claim 'like' Bob's claim", you mean "a claim identical to Bob's claim" and by "a claim not 'like' Bob's claim" you mean "a claim distinct from Bob's claim" you are probably going to be disappointed in your ability to make the distinction.

"I can defend it simply by pointing out that Bob doesn't have any evidence."

There's nothing simple about showing that a claim doesn't have any evidence. The claim that Bob doesn't have any evidence is a significant claim that you could very easily get wrong.

This is much like a discussion I had on familyscholars.org

In so many words, I stated that it is always true that when one is not raised by loving biological parents that they have lost something, and accordingly, have suffered some kind of tragedy or harm.

Some said my statement was 'uncivil' because I elevated it to the level of 'fact'.

To one of them, I posed the following:

"For it to be true that losing one’s biological parents is no loss because non-bio parents are an equal substitute in all ways, you will have to believe the following:

Jack and Jane just had baby George. Tim and Emily walk in, steal baby George from the maternity ward, and then raise baby George as their own. Despite how they got him, Tim and Emily are good at being parents, they raise George well. For this reason, they did not harm George in any way, as they were in all ways an equal substitute to George’s biological mom and dad."

Did the person that I posed the scenario too say, indeed, the kidnappers harmed George? Nope! The person said that they did not harm George, and if it turned out George's mom and dad were lousy people or parents. They may have done good for George.

So, in short, this person chose to believe kidnapping is just fine. In order to protect their pet belief that two people of the same sex are equal substitutes in all ways to biological parents.

Mike, you asked what claim you're making when you say you don't believe there is a God. There are a lot of positive claims that are involved with asserting that worldview (see here, for example).

The question of whether or not God exists is not like the question of whether or not a unicorn exists. A unicorn existing or not existing has no effect on an overall worldview. God, on the other hand, is at the root of many worldview claims in Christianity about morality, justice, purpose, etc. A lack of belief in His existence changes your worldview on a fundamental level and entails numerous implications. By saying you don't believe the Christian worldview is correct, but rather the atheist worldview is the correct one, you're making a positive claim about an opposing worldview with all it entails.

Amy

The unicorn example is a metaphor. As far as the what atheism entails; since atheism is simply a lack of belief in deity(ies) you need to explain why that entails anything else? The fact that in a given situation when confronted by a moral dilemma, atheist and christians (indeed, people of any religion) can be shown to carry out the same thought processes and actions rather puts a torpedo through your argument.

Wisdom Lover

The dragon metaphor - we are trying to ascertain some facts about reality. How does one go about that? So really this depends on what your version of god does. Does it manifest in reality or not?

Either way, I find your epistemeology at odds with the Philosophy I learnt at cambridge.

"The thing that's interesting is that many atheists actually would not dodge behind the burden of proof or anything like it. What they do is insist that as soon as we start talking about dragons, pixies or any other supernatural agencies, we've stopped doing science."

Im not dodging behind the burden of proof. Its obvious you are. I agree that science cant investigate the supernatural. But as soon as someone claims the supernatural manifests in reality, its subject to empirical enquiry. Science can have a view.

Louis

Your "three positions that you can hold on the issue of the dragon existence" arent exhaustive

4) Insufficient evidence has been presented to form a conclusion on the validity of the assertion
5) The evidence is not repeatable or able to verified by an independent source and therefore the assertion is dismissed until further evidence is forthcoming.

Making an assertion is one type of claim. Arguments about the validity of evidence supporting assertions are subsidiary.

Thanks, Mike

P.S. Im actually a Christian.

"I'm not dodging behind the burden of proof. Its obvious you are."

Only one of us has appealed to a burden of proof as a principle for adjudicating claims. (And just as a hint, it wasn't me.)

"But as soon as someone claims the supernatural manifests in reality, it's subject to empirical enquiry."

In other words, virtually all supernatural claims are subject to empirical enquiry? Bob probably only believes in his dragon, you know, because of some observable manifestation that he believes is best explained by his dragon.

Wisdom Lover

The burden of proof has nothing to do with adjudicating claims. The quality of evidence is key in adjudicating claims.

"In other words, virtually all supernatural claims are subject to empirical enquiry"

I don't understand what you mean. The supernatural is by definition beyond empiricism. But if you claim that the supernatural has effects I observational reality, then science/empiricism can be used to investigate. I think if you gave an example of the supernatural manifesting in reality that might help, which necessitates you stating how you can know its the supernatural intervening in the first place.

Thanks, Mike

Mike

First, thank you for responding.


"Your "three positions that you can hold on the issue of the dragon existence" arent exhaustive"

Interesting claim, but not really new to me.


"4) Insufficient evidence has been presented to form a conclusion on the validity of the assertion"

Which lands you squarely on number three. I am sorry, but number four is redundant.


"5) The evidence is not repeatable or able to verified by an independent source and therefore the assertion is dismissed until further evidence is forthcoming."

Which also lands you squarely on number three and is also redundant.


"Making an assertion is one type of claim. Arguments about the validity of evidence supporting assertions are subsidiary."

Allow me to make it a bit more clear, if I have failed to before, what my point was in introducing the three positions. The three positions have a foundation on which they rest and that foundation is an actual claim. The claim of the first is that the dragon(or god)exists. The claim for the second is that the dragon does not exist. The third is that either you don't know if he exists or that you cannot know that if he exists. The unifying factor of the three is that their focus is objective existence of the object in question.

Now, if we were to take away the foundations, I don't know if we actually have anything left to debate about.

Now for the elephant in the room. Is it reasonable to make the claim that something can have an objective existence without having empirical evidence for it? What think you?

BTW- I am happy to hear that you are a Christian. :) Also am glad that you are open to dialogue about what, I am sure, we both consider an important issue.

I suggest exchanging answers to the following question: What probability do you assign to the existence of the Christian god.

This gets away from arguing about the meaning of 'atheist'.

Also, WL, what burden of evidence do you think I incur in saying, "I don't believe your god exists?"

I'm specifically interested in knowing how that burden compares to the burden I'd incur if I said "Your god does not exist".

RonH (P=very very low =~ 1/1,000,000 or very near the probability I'd give if I'd never heard any evangelizing or apologetics)

since atheism is simply a lack of belief in deity(ies) you need to explain why that entails anything else?

Mike, that's what the link in the comment was for.

There's this:

if you erect an assertion you need to bring evidence to defend it *before* it can be accepted....The burden of evidence is not on the atheist
It looks an awful lot here like the burden of proof is being placed on the one who erects the assertion (that God exists). And it looks an awful lot like the the assertion is being ajudicated ahead of time as unacceptable unless and until that burden is met.

So when you say this:

The burden of proof has nothing to do with adjudicating claims.
I find myself rolling my eyes.

Then there is this:

The supernatural is by definition beyond empiricism.
No. The supernatural is by definition beyond nature. I'm not sure what would be beyond empiricism. I suppose math and logic are not empirical sciences. I don't know whether that places them beyond empiricism.
But if you claim that the supernatural has effects in observational reality, then science/empiricism can be used to investigate.
I honestly can't think in short order of a supernatural claim that is not a claim of the effects that the supernatural has on observational reality. If I claim that my soup is cold because the leprechauns used the magic of the wee folk to render it cold, I'm making a claim that the supernatural (the magic of the wee folk) has effects (coldness) on observational reality (my soup).

Now, you said that my giving of this example somehow "necessitates [my] stating how [I] can know it's the supernatural intervening in the first place." Well, are you asking how I know that the magic of the wee folk is supernatural? Or are you asking how I know that my soup's coldness was caused by the magic of the wee folk (which is supernatural)?

Whatever the answer is to those questions, my giving the example obviously does not necessitate that I state how I know that it's the supernatural intervening in the first place. For lo! I gave the example, but made no such statement.

Besides, doesn't that get the inference backward?

After Millikin performed his famous oil-drop experiment, he concluded that what he observed is explained by the fact that charge comes in quantized packets, not in continuous amounts. How would it be if you told him that before he could make that claim he first had to state how he can know that it was electrical quanta operating on the oil drops in the first place? Presumably, if he already knew that, there would be no point in doing the experiment.

Ron-

The Christian God is, by definition, a Necessary Being. As such, the probability that such a being exists is either 1 or 0. 0, if the notion of a Necessary Being is contradictory, and 1 otherwise.

I have no idea why you think that gets us away from the meaning of "atheist".

I'm, of course, willing to allow atheists to adopt almost any title they'd like to describe themselves. But don't be surprised if I laugh derisively at the ridiculously self-congratulatory title 'Brights'. And I'd also cry foul if atheists decided that, from now on, they want to be called by the title "Pentecostal" or something like that, as that would be a kind of deception. But if most people who call themselves atheists merely suspend judgment on the existence of God, then I suppose they can have that word to mean "someone who lacks a belief in God".

Even so, I can't help but noting that, to outsiders, the term "atheist" seems to connote the idea of someone who doesn't just suspend judgment on the existence of God, but someone who declares that no such being exists. The person who suspends judgment is an agnostic. So, by adopting the title "atheist" to mean what they say it means (someone who lacks a belief in God), atheists have really brought the misunderstanding upon themselves.

As for burdens of proof, outside of the purely conventional presumption of innocence used in courtrooms, I don't really believe in them.

WisdomLover

"As for burdens of proof, outside of the purely conventional presumption of innocence used in courtrooms, I don't really believe in them."

I like that one. It really just boils down to who has the better argument for their position.

Louis-

"It really just boils down to who has the better argument for their position."

Exactly. Declaring one position or another as the default that should be accepted in the absence of argument does not impress me. And putting forward, as if a principle of reason, some absurd slogan about what kind of position should always be the default, e.g. The burden of proof is on the one who asserts existence, impresses me even less.

WisdomLover

" And putting forward, as if a principle of reason, some absurd slogan about what kind of position should always be the default, e.g. The burden of proof is on the one who asserts existence, impresses me even less."

Hadn't thought of it in terms of a slogan, but you have a point. It kinds of makes me think that it is the lazy man's way of debating. First you load the dice in your favor through a demand of a commitment to some baseline that helps you win, then you pretend that that is just the natural way to do things. I don't like the lazy portion of it and I don't like the cheating, be it willfully intentional or born of ignorance. If you want to win a debate, you may as well work to earn your street creds. That's how real life works. I also don't care for things that get to be so ubiquitous that nobody bothers to pick them apart and gives them a close examination, which is what often happens with pervasive slogans.

I guess, I might just prove you wrong about exposure to a good argument. Sorry. :)

WL,

Thanks.

The Christian God is, by definition, a Necessary Being. As such, the probability that such a being exists is either 1 or 0. 0, if the notion of a Necessary Being is contradictory, and 1 otherwise.

(What if there were a contingent being. In three parts. Omni-... NO! I'm not dancing.)

By 'probability', I meant a Bayesian prior. (There were signs of this in my comment.)

Illustration: Louis says there are 3 positions relative to the dragon:

1) Dragon is.
2) Dragon is not.
3) Don't know.

But notice that he framed the issue in terms of the existence of the dragon.

If you frame it, instead, in terms of the (Bayesian) probability of the existence of the dragon, then you have an infinity of positions: Anything between 0% and 100%.

We can get rid of 'probability' if that's a stumbling block.

How confident are you that Christianity is true?

I'm over 99.999% confident that it's not true. That's my estimate.

I prefer to say: I think the probability that it's true is less than 0.001.

Of course, at times I have doubts: Should I put four 9's to the right of the decimal? Five? This troubles me. (Not really. I'm just saying that I never never, think Christianity really might be true. No chance of being real beyond logical possibility - the lack of contradiction.

So now, how confident are you in Christianity?

Does your confidence vary? Are you troubled by doubts?

______

To my ear, burden of evidence is a better, if less familiar, term than burden of proof. Proof is for math and logic.

Is this term also un-believed-in by you?
_________________

If we didn't have what you call the 'purely conventional presumption of innocence used in courtrooms', then we'd all need defenses ready for any crime a capricious or malicious government official might charge us with.

However, if we didn't have this 'convention', we'd be assigning different relative values to:

1) punishing an innocent party, and
2) failing to punish a guilty party

So, do you also think the values of these things are 'pure convention'?

By the way, do you think it a also convention that the prosecution must show the court some evidence before a trial even starts? Ok, we might live under that convention.

Perhaps we should just drop the idea courts altogether?

That would be a convention. Wouldn't it?

RonH


Wisdom Lover

"It looks an awful lot here like the burden of proof is being placed on the one who erects the assertion (that God exists). And it looks an awful lot like the the assertion is being ajudicated ahead of time as unacceptable unless and until that burden is met."

Precisely. How can it be your way? You have reasons you believe things do you not? Do you expect anyone else simply to take everything you say as read without you stumping up evidence to support an assertion?

I find your eye rolling remerkable. Because in Wisdom Lover World, anything goes. The invisible dragon exists, even tho there is a hefty chance Bob is stark raving bonkers and has imagined the whole thing. As Louis said earlier "I think sometimes it is very easy for us human beings to fool ourselves" and I agree. Thats why one should not just go around accepting assertions on face value without questioning. Thats why science works so well as a means of obtaining knowledge about observational reality - theories should be subjected to ruthless dispassionate scrutiny.

As a note, that is why we carry the burden of proof to the atheist. And this is why I am not a Muslim - I find their claims less persuasive that those of Christianity although remain open to the possibility that they have a point and God has revealed himself in another form to Muslims. Theres little evidence for that latter assertion, so for now I go about my life as if that isnt the case.

As to your leprechauns. It may be just an example, but lets say that your seriously thought that your "soup is cold because the leprechauns used the magic of the wee folk to render it cold".

Its an interesting theory. But how could you tell the difference between that and a suggestion that this is due to thermodynamics and nothing to do with leprechauns?

As to Millikin - we look for new laws in science by this process

1. Guess
2. Run some experiments
3. See how the results of those experiments stack up against reality and look to see if they support the guess
4. Refine the guess
5. Go back to 2.

The initial guess is useful but not knowledge. Its a device to have a starting point. The initial guess may be correct, but until its backed up by the way reality is it is only useful as a tool and is worthless as knowledge.

Thats the best I can explain it.

Thanks

Mike

Mike

"Thats why science works so well as a means of obtaining knowledge about observational reality - theories should be subjected to ruthless dispassionate scrutiny."

You should not forget that scientists are human beings with passions that may well sway them into particular directions. Science might be as you describe, but it is human beings that put it into practice and is usually bent to the will of those human beings, sometimes to the detriment of the original intent of science. Just like the example of Communism that began with high ideals and lofty goals was derailed from that direction into something that accomplished none of the original intent, science is not immune from such hijacking. The mantras and slogans keep being repeated, but actions may no longer match the ideals expressed by them. After a while those ideals are turned into little more than myths as the ideal and practice move farther and farther apart, divided by political and personal interests of mailable human whim.

Louis

That's why there is peer review. This attempts to remove the bias and prejudice everyone carries. One can redo the experiments, question the findings. Science is always provisional. Look around you and look at your PC/Tablet/Phablet/Smartphone or whatever you used to type that last response. Science works.

My guess is that you are having a poke at evolution? Apologies if I am incorrect.

Thanks

Mike

RonH

"I'm over 99.999% confident that it's not true. That's my estimate."

Psychological confidence is no guarantee of objective accuracy. For that, we must look to the available evidence and if our understanding of that evidence runs parallel to its expression in reality. Not everyone is good at that kind of self assessment/reality check fusion and biases can creep in within the process without the individual being aware they did, thus leading to a misplaced confidence.

Mike

"That's why there is peer review. This attempts to remove the bias and prejudice everyone carries. One can redo the experiments, question the findings. Science is always provisional. Look around you and look at your PC/Tablet/Phablet/Smartphone or whatever you used to type that last response. Science works."

Yes, science works, if allowed to. I think it is a mistake to place too much weight into the peer review process without including the human factor. You cannot ever take out the human factor out of any human endeavor. Do so at your own peril. I am not saying that that factor always derails the scientific project, but it can and as long as it can, we have to factor that into the equation and not get complacent in thinking that this can't happen. I think a good example would be a woman that goes out with a jerk. She is so in love with him that she doesn't see his faults, which are utterly obvious to everyone else around her. That same kind of blindness can happen to folks who become too enamored with a particular take on science.


"My guess is that you are having a poke at evolution? Apologies if I am incorrect."

I suspect that there is some of that in the back of my mind, but I was interested in dealing mainly with a general principle. It is the same kind of problem that occurred with the N-Rays. So, the problem is really not restricted to the issues of evolution. Human nature has a tendency to permeate the most impermeable of materials. So, don't be too impressed with those things you deem impermeable. They aren't.

Louis

"It is the same kind of problem that occurred with the N-Rays."

A great example of how science self corrects. Science is a method. The only agenda is creating models that accurately reflect reality.

Thanks

Mike

Mike

""It is the same kind of problem that occurred with the N-Rays."

A great example of how science self corrects. Science is a method. The only agenda is creating models that accurately reflect reality."

There was no self correction in the scientific circles back in the 1930's and 40's in Germany. The vast majority of the brightest minds in science fell into lock step in support of the Nazi pseudo science, many of them went to their graves without self correcting. The point here is that when you have a group of girls all in love with the same jerk (going to my previous example), it takes someone outside of that love fest to point out the problems. That is to say, that if a particular theory is widely accepted, it does not mean that some outsider is not needed to take an honest look and do an objective appraisal of it. Yes, of course scientists can lose objectivity. They don't stand outside, totally detached from the human race and human nature as they perform their work. They too can stumble and they too can become irrationally entrenched in a particular position, accepting it as a paradigm. Once that happens within the scientific community, a good-old-boy culture can be created where the voices of those outside of the club are no longer heard. So, that way the peer review becomes subverted by the politics of human nature. Like I said, ignore human nature as a factor and you do it at your own peril.

Self correction is time dependent and sometimes it takes a long time to accomplish. I should think that an ounce of prevention is far better than a pound of self corrective cure. That's my take on science meets cliche.

Louis

"There was no self correction in the scientific circles back in the 1930's and 40's in Germany."

Blondlot's N-rays were debunked by 1905, 2 years after the claim first arose.

Which N rays are you talking about?

Thanks Mike

Because in Wisdom Lover World, anything goes. The invisible dragon exists, even tho there is a hefty chance Bob is stark raving bonkers and has imagined the whole thing.
Please feel free to continue putting words in my mouth. It only underscores what the entire point of this thread is: that some people will embrace the absurd rather than give up their thesis.

I never said I would accept Bob's dragon on his say so. Oh...wait here's a quote from one of my posts:

I never said I would accept Bob's invisible dragon on Bob's say so.
You had brought up Bob's dragon in a post to Louis...never having addressed that challenge to me. You then decided that I had this strange view about Bob and his dragon, and attributed it to me. All without my needing to get involved in the conversation at all. You asked "Let me know about Bob's Dragon?" And I kindly did so, opening my remarks with the quote I linked above. So, honestly, 10 points to you for attributing a view that I do not hold to me again...just for pure cheek.

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