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« Radio Guest Sunday | Main | Extraordinary Claim, Extraordinary Evidence? »

March 01, 2010

Comments

Amy,

What do you mean by 'the basis for law in this country'?

You seem to have misunderstood me. The idea that an FDE has rights is the idea that it seems to me to be promoted entirely by people with certain religious views and to be motivated by those views.

If 'believing in' human rights means believing they exist indepent of what any human thinks then I don't. Not at any time. This doesn't mean I can't ever side with a human rights promoter on any issue.

RonH

>>What do you mean by 'the basis for law in this country'?

The idea of universal human rights--that "all men are created equal and endowed with unalienable rights" was the foundation for our law, including the bill of rights. It's what was appealed to by those in the civil rights movement of the last century. We all receive equal protection under the law because of this.

Therefore, promoting human rights for all humans is something well within the tradition of law in this country. If one believes in universal human rights, then our position follows.

However, just as in the case of the civil rights movement and the abolition of slavery, religious people have indeed led the way in pushing the country to live up to its constitutional ideal of universal human rights. This is true for many reasons.

>>This doesn't mean I can't ever side with a human rights promoter on any issue.

I didn't say you couldn't. I said you could when it suits you, and you could oppose them when that suits you, depending on which group of humans we're talking about and which groups you prefer or don't care for. This isn't the first time people in this country have tried to say some humans don't qualify for rights, but eventually, the Constitution has won out in these other cases.

So it really doesn't bother you to say that you don't believe in human rights for all humans?

"In which undesigned universe did you test this hypothesis?"

The idea that testing a hypothesis is a reliable means of ascertaining the truth also presupposes design...and a certain degree of goodness in the designer.

You see, you take all these things for granted without stopping to consider what their logical underpinnings are.

David Hawkins

"Sorry, we're going to require a bit more evidence. What you are proposing is that we trust that you have absolute understanding. I don't have that much faith."

How amusing. What further evidence do you require that I understand English absolutely? I speak it, read it and write it fluently as a native speaker. From England. Whether I misemploy it in vitriol and sarcasm is 1. a subjective opinion and 2. not evidence for a lack of understanding. And so I understand that when a dictionary has a definition that faith means 'belief without evidence', I understand what that entails. If you want to redefine Biblical faith as something else lofty, then crack on. But understand that you are just playing with semantics.

Evolution is 'genuinely substantiated'. What part of the fact of changes in the frequency of alleles within a gene pool from one generation to the next do you want to argue with?

"The idea that testing a hypothesis is a reliable means of ascertaining the truth also presupposes design...and a certain degree of goodness in the designer."

Ex recto assertion. Try again.

The only ex recto assertions being made here are the claims that Ockham's Razor or the scientific method can be expected to be true or useful in an undesigned universe.

WL

"The only ex recto assertions being made here are the claims that Ockham's Razor or the scientific method can be expected to be true or useful in an undesigned universe."

Your assumption of design is an unsupported assertion. If you have an argument lay it out. If you have evidence then stump it up. I don't know why it works, I just note that it tends to and should continue to be used until it doesn't. That position is entirely consistent with other comments above. Meanwhile, you say you KNOW how it works. That's an assertion...; back it up.

The design argument is tedious. Lets put this to bed now. You need ALL of the following four criteria satisfied to make the case, namely:

1. That there exists a detailed, rigorous, robust methodology for segregating entities into the "designed" and "not designed" classes ("It looks designed, therefore creator/designer/god/yahweh/magic man/flying spaghetti monster" isn't good enough);

2. That the methodology cited in 1. above has been tested upon entities of known provenance, and found to be reliable via said direct empirical test;

3. That the methodology cited in 1. above, and determined to be reliable in 2. above, is accompanied by a rigorous demonstration of its applicability to specific classes of entity of interest;

4. That the methodology cited in 1. above, determined to be reliable in 2. above, and determined to be applicable to the requisite class of entities in 3. above, yields an unambiguous answer of "designed" for the entities to which it is applied.

Unless you have ALL FOUR of the above criteria fulfilled, you have NO evidence for "design".

EJ

E.J.-

All of your rules about methodology presuppose that the universe makes sense. Something that is only to be expected if the universe is the product of intelligence.

You want my argument for design?

1) The truth and utility of Ockham's Razor presupposes a designed universe.

2) Ockham's Razor is both true and useful.

So, 3) The universe has been designed.

WisdomLover,

An undesigned universe is the criteria-free default position.

It requires no methodology to demonstrate...an "anti-claim", if you will.

The most compelling characteristic of an "undesigned" worldview?

...it subjects no human being to the notion of accountability.

We can genuinely assert supremacy...the acme of macro-evolution.

It's the ultimate warm blanket for human nature; it provides solace that one never leave his comfort zone and justification to fulfill every impulse, desire, and proclivity; to indulge every vanity. We become the architects of our own morality if we so elect, or jettison the idea altogether.

An undesigned universe requires no trust.

(And as you well know, friend, that idea isn't a new, progressive, enlightened worldview. It's the world's second oldest religion. I seem to recall the words whispered into Eve's ear on that fateful day: ...then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods...)


"... For myself, as no doubt for most of my friends, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom. The supporters of this system claimed that it embodied the meaning--the Christian meaning, they insisted--of the world. There was one admirably simple method of confuting these people and justifying ourselves in our erotic revolt: we would deny that the world had any meaning whatever."

[Aldous Huxley, Ends and Means, 1937]

"1) The truth and utility of Ockham's Razor presupposes a designed universe.

2) Ockham's Razor is both true and useful.

So, 3) The universe has been designed."

I seriously hope that this is a joke. Justify rpemise 1 if it is not.

You are imposing your views on the nature of the universe (specifically parsimony as applied to competing theories) based on your inductive understanding of the world. The premise does not hold up and it presupposes that there is a designer. Its poor thinking.

David Hawkins

"An undesigned universe is the criteria-free default position." No. The default position is to say 'we dont know'. If you want to assert that it is designed, see the methodology to do so above.

EJ

WL

"All of your rules about methodology presuppose that the universe makes sense."

Precisely. It does make sense. We have no reason to suspect that it should be any other way.

But to then leap to the idea that it was designed is illogical. It implies a designer, the evidence for which is where?? You don't have any. You cant hold up this argument as evidence for your designer, because the designer is a by product of your imposition of design, your train of thought.

And you need to justify premise 1.

EtA

>>Precisely. It does make sense. We have no reason to suspect that it should be any other way.

Interestingly, the philosophical history of the world says otherwise. Most cultures did not consider order to be something they could count on because they didn't believe there was anything rational and uncreated behind the world to ground order. Therefore, the logical conclusion of such lack of grounding for these great thinkers was that order could not be counted on. (If one, then, finds order, that calls the premises into question.)

This is part of the reason why science developed only in the Western world where they believed in order and reason because they believed in God.

>>"An undesigned universe is the criteria-free default position."

>>"No. The default position is to say 'we dont know'. If you want to assert that it is designed, see the methodology to do so above."

I can accept that the default position is “we don’t know” as opposed to “It is un-designed.”

That’s – at least to me – like folding in a game of Texas hold’em, then insisting on telling everyone else whether or not they have to fold too.

To say “we don’t know” is genuinely to assert nothing...and there is nothing wrong with that. (I certainly do not want to imply there is.) The interesting thing here is that those who “don’t know” seem to want to dictate how everyone else can go about discovery, too.

What this view really incorporates – I believe - is that nothing is knowable unless viewed through a naturalisitic monocle:

“If I cannot know whether the universe was designed or not, no one else is allowed to assert otherwise.”

The designer argument merely says that there are things that can be known that do not fit the naturalist’s paradigm for finding things out. There are other tools at our disposal.

EJ-

"You are imposing your views on the nature of the universe (specifically parsimony as applied to competing theories) based on your inductive understanding of the world. The premise does not hold up and it presupposes that there is a designer. Its poor thinking."

Honestly, I have no idea what you are saying here. Are you saying that I shouldn't believe Ockham's Razor is true? Or what?

Whatever you are saying, I believe that Ockham's Razor is true. I also find the fact that it is true to be remarkable. It just takes a little imagination to see that there are literally infinitely many other possibilities on how it could work out. But somehow, lucky us, we got the universe where the simplest explanation is the truest.

EtA-

"It does make sense. We have no reason to suspect that it should be any other way."

Of course the universe makes sense. It makes sense because it is the product of intelligence.

But if you just look at the universe of possibilities, we have every reason to suspect it should be another way. What we should expect, if we consider all the possibilities, is pure random ungoverned chaos. The probability of any order at all (forget about the incredible fine-tuned order we find in our universe where methodologies like Ockham's Razor and the Scientific method work) is the same as the probability of picking a number at random from the set of reals and having it be an integer.

The fact that our universe is not pure random ungoverned chaos is a singular fact. You may choose to attribute that to luck. I attribute it to intelligence.

""It does make sense. We have no reason to suspect that it should be any other way."

Of course the universe makes sense. It makes sense because it is the product of intelligence."

Your appeal to an intelligence is arbitrary and based on your perception of intelligence in the human sphere. It IS NOT a logical consequence.

It also begs the question and implies a designer. Where is this designer? What other traces has it left? Your assertion is incomplete until you show the designer.

And if you think fine tuning is an argument for a designer then you need to read some more books.

"Your appeal to an intelligence is arbitrary and based on your perception of intelligence in the human sphere. It IS NOT a logical consequence."

No. My appeal is based on the fact that we live in a universe that is ordered amidst a vastly greater range of purely chaotic possibilities.

"It also begs the question"

What question does this beg?

"and implies a designer."

The point was to argue for a designer, so I think the fact that my argument implies a designer is actually what I was going for.

"Where is this designer? What other traces has it left?"

I've just pointed to a trace He's left that makes the probability of no design equal to 0. What other traces would you like?

This is a really fine objection to an argument: "Your argument is no good because it's premises imply its conclusion. But what PROOF do you have for that conclusion?"

Nice try.

"And if you think fine tuning is an argument for a designer then you need to read some more books."

I did not advance the fine tuning argument, so you might start just by reading my post.

By the time you get to fine tuning, you already have an incredible law-like system of nature to be tuned. Such a system has a probability of 0 in the absence of design.

"My appeal is based on the fact that we live in a universe that is ordered amidst a vastly greater range of purely chaotic possibilities."

Unsupported assertion.

"The point was to argue for a designer, so I think the fact that my argument implies a designer is actually what I was going for."

Ah ha. So which is it? An explanation of why parsimony works, or evidence for a designer?

If its the former, then the designer is merely implied, which leaves you need to find further evidences. You have used a deductive argument to insinuate existence - do Higgs Bosons particles exist?

If it is the latter, then the argument presupposes a designer and again, this is an unsupported assertion. Also you are constructing an argument in order to reach a conclusion - biased much?

What is surprising - that you recognize this is a circular argument but see no problem with that - circular argument are logically false.

And you did advance the fine tuning argument-"forget about the incredible fine-tuned order we find in our universe".

http://philosophy.tamu.edu/~sdaniel/Notes/religon2.html

I also wonder how you know that the usefulness of the application of Ockhams Razor/parsimony is prescriptive. I would say that it is descriptive and arises merely from the observation of regularities

"Most cultures did not consider order to be something they could count on because they didn't believe there was anything rational and uncreated behind the world to ground order. Therefore, the logical conclusion of such lack of grounding for these great thinkers was that order could not be counted on."

Is this really true? Given the number of diverse cultures that developed calenders based on the orderliness of the sun, moon, etc., I'm not so sure that it is accurate to say that most cultures concluded that "order could not be counted on". Many diverse cultures developed something like astronomy, and you can't have astronomy unless you think that there is some sort of order in the natural world. Many cultures developed agricultural systems that, again, were based on the observation of order.

"This is part of the reason why science developed only in the Western world where they believed in order and reason because they believed in God."

Don't almost all cultures have some sort of a belief in a god or gods? If belief in a god or gods is the key to developing science, then science could have emerged from numerous other cultures besides Western culture.

EJ-

I'd recommend a class in elementary logic.

You do not seem to understand that the point of an argument is to establish the truth of its conclusion. You also do not seem to understand that proofs are, one and all, arguments.

You also make the claim that circular arguments are logically false, which, again, serves to underscore the fact that you don't really know how argumentation works.

WL

Hmmm yeah ok thx.

You set out an argument like this:

"1) The truth and utility of Ockham's Razor presupposes a designed universe.

2) Ockham's Razor is both true and useful.

So, 3) The universe has been designed."

And then have the brazen cheek to tell me to get a lesson in logic?

"Begging the Question is a fallacy in which the premises include the claim that the conclusion is true".

Wisdom Lover my arse.

WL

I should have picked up on this before.

"I believe that Ockham's Razor is true. I also find the fact that it is true to be remarkable."

1. That you find O's Razor remarkable - so what and who cares? But it seems that you have drawn on that to start making assertions about why it works. Maybe IT JUST DOES.

"It just takes a little imagination to see that there are literally infinitely many other possibilities on how it could work out."

2. Alternative possibilities - your thought experiments dont provide evidence for anything. You have no idea what the other possibilities are so this is just wild speculation until you show working.

"But somehow, lucky us, we got the universe where the simplest explanation is the truest."

3. O's Razor is not a law. Its generally true and is part of a scientists toolbox. Its just a DESCRIPTION of what has gone before and seems to work. So why just pick on Ockhams Razor. Why not use Boyle's Law, Gravitation, Hooke's Law to say that:

1. There are laws and the universe works in a regular and predictable manner
2. Things that work in a regular and predictable maner have been designed
->Therefore, the universe was/is designed

Of course, this is just the fallacy of equivocation between decsriptive and prescriptive laws, and is just Paley in disguise.

Only motive induces your mind to induce a design and thus a designer. And like all inductive arguments, you merely end up with a hypothesis that ypou need to test.

EJ

EJ-

Every valid deductive argument contains its conclusion in its premises.

Some have gone so far as to define deductive validity in that way.

Your view that alternative possibilities are irrelevant, BTW, would completely undercut the science of logic and along with it the rest of human knowledge.

Good Luck with that.

The idea that Ockham's Razor was just discovered, like Boyle's law, is about the silliest thing you've said in this thread. (All your logical malaprops notwithstanding). It is adopted as a methodological principle by scientists.

WL: "Why should Ockham's Razor be true or work?"

EJ: "Maybe IT JUST DOES."

Maybe so. Lucky us.

EJ: "Why just pick on Ockham's Razor."

Because atheists regularly use it, and not Boyle's law, as a methodological hammer.

That's why Ockham's Razor, and not Boyle's Law, is on topic here. It is regularly used by atheists to fallaciously assert that the no-God hypothesis is the default position. My over-arching point for this thread was that atheist's cannot use Ockham's Razor in this way, since the assumption of OR tends to presuppose the God hypothesis.

All that your argument boils down to is that the universe works in an ordered fashion. From that, you impute design. Why should I not assume that this is just Paley in disguise and thus subject to all the usual objections?

And justify premise 1. How do you think that is true?

"It is regularly used by atheists to fallaciously assert that the no-God hypothesis is the default position."

What IS the default position in your opinion?

'Paley in Disguise'

As if Paley's arguments were laughable fallacies.

I'll grant that Hume's criticism of Paley is, from a certain perspective, unassailable. But few people tend to recognize the implication of Hume's criticism: General Skepticism. Hume, of course, knew exactly what the skeptical implications of his views were and was a thoroughgoing skeptic about virtually everything including his own identity.

It seems to me, then, that it is perfectly possible to be a Humean skeptic and reject all design arguments. That's a consistent position. I don't agree with it, but it is logically tennable.

One can also adopt the view that science can and does reveal knowable truths about the world while one accepts a design argument.

But one position that is logically contradictory is endorsing a Humean criticism of Paley, but then assuming that science can reveal any truths.

So Hume's criticism has some punch, but few people are willing to accept its consequences.

In many ways, my argument here has simply been to underline the fact that you need to choose: Hume and Total Skepticism or Some form of Realism and God.

Darwin's criticism of Paley, on the other hand, has much less to recommend it. The argument, in relief, is that order doesn't imply design because the order may have come about through natural mechanisms rather than the agency of a designer.

This is to act as if any such natural mechanisms would not themselves be evidence of design. But they clearly would be. Indeed, they tend to amplify the need to assume a designer.

>>Is this really true?

Yes. Look into the development of Greek philosophy, for example.

>>Don't almost all cultures have some sort of a belief in a god or gods? If belief in a god or gods is the key to developing science, then science could have emerged from numerous other cultures besides Western culture.

And yet, it didn't. And there are reasons why it didn't.

In the case of those who believed in gods, there was no one, uncreated God who created everything through His rational wisdom in an orderly, discoverable way. There was no rational grounding behind the universe. The gods arose out of chaos (they didn’t come before it), and the gods conflicted with each other. Greek philosophers tried in vain to solve this problem of chaos, but never could.

In the case of Christianity, God also valued the physical world—it wasn’t something to escape from and denigrate (as some cultures believed), but something to enjoy and discover as a way of discovering more about the mind of God. Also, nature wasn’t deified in any way. The world is something to be stewarded and tamed, not worshipped in mystery. We were above the natural world and had a duty to find ways to use it to make life better for people (this is why the western world developed technology to do menial tasks like pumping water, whereas in many other cultures, women still carry water to their homes each day). All of these things led to orderly study of nature and the rise of technology.

Why didn't you just say so?

I dont assume science can reveal truths. All science is provisional. The advantage of my stance is that, well, science works. And in that respect, it doesnt matter whether it is the truth or just a really good approximation of the truth.

But of course, you still need to show that "The truth and utility of Ockham's Razor presupposes a designed universe" is true.

And you need to have genuine evidence for design in the first place. I posted this above, but that means you need to satisfy the following 4 criteria:

1. That there exists a detailed, rigorous, robust methodology for segregating entities into the "designed" and "not designed" classes ("It looks designed, therefor edesigner" isn't good enough);

2. That the methodology cited in 1. above has been tested upon entities of known provenance, and found to be reliable via said direct empirical test;

3. That the methodology cited in 1. above, and determined to be reliable in 2. above, is accompanied by a rigorous demonstration of its applicability to specific classes of entity of interest;

4. That the methodology cited in 1. above, determined to be reliable in 2. above, and determined to be applicable to the requisite class of entities in 3. above, yields an unambiguous answer of "designed" for the entities to which it is applied.

Unless you have ALL FOUR of the above criteria fulfilled, you have no evidence for "design".

"I dont assume science can reveal truths. All science is provisional. The advantage of my stance is that, well, science works. And in that respect, it doesnt matter whether it is the truth or just a really good approximation of the truth."

This remains far more of a realist position that Humean skepticism and is therefore inconsistent with Hume's criticisms of the Paley argument (which imply Humean skepticism).

"This remains far more of a realist position that Humean skepticism and is therefore inconsistent with Hume's criticisms of the Paley argument (which imply Humean skepticism)."

Sure.

Where is your demonstration that "The truth and utility of Ockham's Razor presupposes a designed universe" is true????

And then lets see your genuine evidence for design.

"In the case of those who believed in gods, there was no one, uncreated God who created everything through His rational wisdom in an orderly, discoverable way."

What difference does this make? Does it matter if "order" comes from one god or many? In the end, the observation that the world is an orderly place can be derived from direct observation, and it doesn't matter how many gods there are.

People in numerous cultures have noticed that there is order in the natural world, and they developed numerous technologies, agricultural systems, astronomies, etc., based on the observation that there was order in the natural world. They also created theological systems to explain the order, assigning various tasks like moving the sun across the sky to various reliable and predictable gods. At the time of Jesus, the most technologically advanced civilizations were decidedly non-monotheistic cultures such as the Roman and Chinese cultures. For hundreds of years, Christian Europe would be a regression compared to the Romans, and for hundreds of years, Christian Europe would trail other parts of the world in math and technology. At many points in time, Christianity would be far more of an obstacle to scientific discovery than a facilitator.

Your claim that the Western world developed a modern science first because it had a monotheistic theology is just correlation without causation and/or post hoc reasoning. Modern science happened to arise in the West, but this has little to do with the Abrahamic religions. If the Abrahamic view of God was so critical to science, why did it take thousands and thousands of years for modern science to emerge?

Again, the argument that OR presupposes design is that:

1. OR is a singular alternative in an infinite sea of possibilities. E.g. the universe might have been so arranged that a 23rd simplest explanation is always the truest. (or a 24th simplest, or a 25th simplest).

2. It is the optimal alternative.

This is either the result of incredible luck or provident design. (And by incredible luck, I mean that something would have to happen that has a probability of zero.)

Since OR does presuppose a designed universe, and since OR is true, it follows logically that the universe is designed.

And once again, I've given an argument for design. It is not incumbent upon me to now provide evidence for the very thing I just finished arguing for.

If you have a problem with my argument, fine. We can wrangle over that.

But to act as though I would still need to provide evidence for design even if there is no problem with my argument is just nonsensical.

Firstly getting from OR works to therefore it was designed is more tricky than that! I find it remarkable that you still hold to this fatuaous notion that it works, so I can label it as designed, BUT STILL dont want to say what design looks like in the first place.

Secondly, seeing as you have already admitted that maybe OR works because it just does, that rather drives a coach and horses through your argument.

And I think putting forward a situation where OR was having to choose between 23 diffrent theories, all other things being equal, is pushing the boundaries right out of shape. If all other things were equal, how would we have that many competing theories.

EJ-

A lot of rehash here, but I will answer this one "If all other things were equal, how would we have that many competing theories?"

The answer is that there are always infinitely many competing theories.

Order alone is not credible evidence for design, let alone the existence of an intentional designing agent.

What are you comparing OR to that allows you to know that it has been designed?

You haven't crossed the first hurdle.

You are fitting the evidence to a god shaped hole.

"Order alone is not credible evidence for design, let alone the existence of an intentional designing agent."

Talk about your Ex Recto assertion.

OK. Is order alone evidence for order? Is it evidence for an intentional ordering agent? Order is not the expected state of the randomly selected universe. Chaos is. There are so many more ways the universe can be chaotic than ways that it can be ordered.

"What are you comparing OR to that allows you to know that it has been designed?"

I thought I had compared it to the principle that the 23rd simplest explanation was the truest. For some reason that was bad though.

"Order is not the expected state of the randomly selected universe. Chaos is. There are so many more ways the universe can be chaotic than ways that it can be ordered."

Evidence for this assertion?

The funny thing here is that you are feigning an attempt to say why OR works and invoking a designer, thus breaching the OR rule that you seek to explain. And of course, merely positing a designer doesnt actually explain anything. It actually ADDS to the list of things you then have to explain. But of course, what you are really doing is trying to justify your belief in god using OR as a vehicle.

And you have already noted that maybe it JUST DOES work - no designer required.

What was said by Ockham was:

1. Plurality should not be posited without necessity; and
2. It is pointless to do with more what can be done with less.

Taken together they can be interpreted as a general rule which states, 'postulate only those things which are necessary for a sufficient explanation, then stop'. This applies as much to the existence of entities as anything else.

Alf-

I've answered virtually all of your charges in my earlier comments. I won't repeat those responses here.

It's worth noting, though, that Ockham thought that the existence of God was a self-evident truth and, therefore, did not require explanation (no self-evident truth requires explanation).

Thought I'd give my (atheist) response to this. I think I've mispronounced Greg Koukl's last name, so apologies for that. Criticism welcome.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQWFgRFe4rA

ToothFairySkeptic,

A conversation is an exchange between two or more people on a chosen topic. Within a conversation the Cooperative Principle, or "the assumption that participants in a conversation are cooperating with each other"[1], is assume to be in effect. This means the participants have taken and assume the other parties have taken the responsibility to progress the conversation towards a share goal.

The conversation about God's existence focuses on the shared goal of discovering an answer to the question, "Does God exist?" If one desires to engage on the topic, then one must assume the responsibility to progress the conversation towards an answer of the question. It is not sufficient for atheists to present counters to arguments for God's existence because it does not progress the conversation towards an answer. Therefore, atheists should be expected to present arguments for or against the existence of God or refrain from "entering the debate."

Do atheists entering the debate have a burden of proof? Yes.

1. Parker, F., Riley, K. (2005). Linguistics for non-linguists: A primer with exercises. (4th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

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