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« The Value of Developing a Detective’s Perspective | Main | The Gospels Are Reliable, Even with Many Redactions »

March 06, 2013

Comments

Now, if you are actually interested in knowing what my view is, I'll repeat it here in different words.

The claim that X bears the burden of proof for some assertion he makes is the claim that X somehow has an obligation to anyone who hears his assertion to prove it to them.

I do not believe that Bob has any such obligation ever. The obligation always rests entirely with the hearers to deal with what they hear. Now, Bob may kindly help his hearers by providing them with proof, and good on Bob for doing so, but he goes above and beyond the call of duty when he does.

But there is more. Your argument is based on the idea that there is a correct way always to react to unproven claims: skepticism.

And it is this, in particular, that is absurd, since evidence and proof consists entirely of claims. If we apply your principle to those claims, that will just lead us to more claims, and more, and more.

At some point, we are going to be forced to accept some claims without proof or evidence. Or else accept no claims at all.

On thermodynamics, it is an interesting theory, but how could you tell the difference between that and a suggestion that it has to do with the magic of the wee folk and nothing to do with thermodynamics?

Finally, on Millikan, thanks for the primer on the scientific method, but I don't think you've addressed my objection to your view that in order to give an example of the operation of X in the world, you must first show that it is X operating.

My point was that it seems backwards. It seems more like you give the example and then see whether that's the way things are.

I mean, you seemed to be saying that the proper thing to do is prove the hypothesis true and then make the hypothesis...the exact opposite of the process you are now describing in 1-5.

Mike-

Sorry about the multiple posts. The intermittent problem of undesired length limits strikes again. Please consider post 50 (on the previous page) through post 53 to be one continuous rant.

Cheers.

WL

Mike

""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?"

Two different issues. The N-Rays were a French problem. The 30's 40's reference is to the fact that most all of the scientific community in Germany embraced a marriage of cult and science to come up with theozoology. It is a classic example of a club mentality overtaking and subverting science to a particular cause. The supposed checks and balances of peer review were also hijacked to support the Nazi view of science. Now, I am not saying that what sometimes goes on in science today perfectly mirrors what when on with that. But at least a partial reflection does, from time to time, come through that is very reminiscent of that example. That is why I advise caution.

At some point, we are going to be forced to accept some claims without proof or evidence. Or else accept no claims at all.

And so we accept some claims so that we can get on with life. This is pragmatism. There's a difference between accepting some claims and accepting all claims.

Maybe you want Christian claims counted among those that we accept for pragmatic reasons. There are a few things ahead of you. And, there are other claims parallel to yours and mutually exclusive. Sorry, you have to give evidence.

RonH

There's a difference between accepting some claims and accepting all claims.
Indeed there is. I do not support the idea of accepting all claims. My point has been that the slogan "The burden of proof always rests on the one who makes the claim" implies that we accept no claims. And that is utterly absurd.

For all that, there are those who maintain that thesis at all costs.

Not every claim that we accept without argument need be accepted only for pragmatic reasons. There might be some claims, mightn't there, that do not require argument because they are self-evident.

Now, I don't know what you mean by this:

There are a few things ahead of you. And, there are other claims parallel to yours and mutually exclusive. Sorry, you have to give evidence.
I just don't see what argument you are trying to advance here...other than that your conclusion is that I somehow still have the burden of proof.

@ Mike -

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

The claim of atheists is that God does not exist.

Why this is so complicated for so many people to understand, I will never know.

WisdomLover,

Have you considered the possibility that instead of bottoming out with bare claims, evidence actually bottoms out in our personal experience?

Also, I do not see that Mike ever said we should approach everything with skepticism. He is only committed to saying that we should approach some things with skepticism. In particular, the claim that God exists seems like the sort of thing that should attract skepticism. Or do you suggest we should simply accept the existence of God without demanding any evidence?

Ben:

Have you considered the possibility that instead of bottoming out with bare claims, evidence actually bottoms out in our personal experience?
Not in every discussion it doesn't. In fact, there are precious few where it does.

Of course, arguments don't usually bottom out in bare claims either. They usually bottom out in common ground between the interlocutors. And if no such common ground can be found, they just end in frustration.

BTW, I take the claims of experience: "I'm seeing red", "I feel cold" and so on to be self-evident. As such, they are already covered by my earlier remark that evidence doesn't always bottom-out with pragmatism. It may bottom-out with the self-evident.

Now on this

I do not see that Mike ever said we should approach everything with skepticism.
Remarks like this from Mike
Assertions should be backed up by evidence and where they aren't, they can be dismissed until such evidence is brought forth.
Seem to say otherwise. He makes no restriction on which assertions he's talking about.

Of course, in fairness to Mike, maybe he hadn't figured out by the time he wrote the above what an assertion is. Early on at least, he was under the impression that you could dispute a view without making an assertion. So one absurd atheist pseudo-scientific slogan was feeding another absurd atheist pseudo-scientific slogan.

And as for this

He is only committed to saying that we should approach some things with skepticism.
Not if he's going to say that Theism is automatically one of those things.

The inference

  1. Some claims should be approached with skepticism.
  2. Theism is a claim.
  3. SO, Theism should be approached with skepticism.
Is what we call, in logic, a howler. It's so invalid, it makes you howl with laughter.

If his worry about unproven claims is limited to some, but not all, claims, then to make his argument work, isn't he going to have to say what the criteria are for treating a claim with skepticism until proven, and then show that theism is one of those claims.

Of course, I'm in the same boat if I want to say that Theism is not one of those claims, since there are some unproven claims that I not only don't believe but disbelieve without proof of their falsehood. It's reasonable to ask why I think Theism isn't one of them.

I'm certainly under no obligation to answer except an obligation I have to myself to try to have true views, and not be lazy. Similarly Mike is under no obligation except the same obligation he has to himself.

The funny thing is, that if Mike had just asked whether I thought Christian theism is self-evident, I'd probably have replied that to most people it is not.

I'll note that things that are not self-evident may become so after argument. If you argue from self-evident axioms to theorems in math or logic, you will often come to see the theorems as self-evident as well. You may even come to see how you could have started with the theorems and argued to the axioms.

I do think the proposition "God exists" is like that. And it is self-evident to me.

Given everything I just said, do you think I expect people to accept my views about God without argument?

Of course not.

My point all along is that you can ask me whether I think I need to prove that God exists and we will probably find common ground pretty quick. Ron, in this thread, actually came the closest.

But I'm profoundly unimpressed by slogans that are really aimed at scuttling argument and allowing the sloganeer to bluff his way to a 'win' (as if you can win an argument by bluff...the best that can happen is that only the bluffer loses).

WisdomLover,

I'm sympathetic to most of that, except I have a bit of a beef with using the term "self-evident." Pruss defines a proposition p to be self evident just in case

(i) p is understandable, and

(ii) p cannot be understood without understanding that p is true.

[cf. The Principle of Sufficient Reason: A Reassessment, p205.]

The idea here seems to be that self-evident propositions are those which we are psychologically compelled to affirm. But in that case I would be interested in determining what it is about our psychology that compels us to accept a given self-evident proposition. In your case I would expect you to say that God exists and instils belief in us according to your preferred interpretation of Romans 1. But this is not going to satisfy nontheists. To make that move is essentially to deny that there are nontheists! But without turning to accusations of cryptotheism, it's hard to see how you could show God's existence to be self-evident in the sense outlined by Pruss.

Then again, I have no idea if Pruss's definition of "self-evidence" is standard or even just common. All I can say is that his is the only definition I've ever seen.

Well, what is not self-evident before proof may become so after.

My favorite example is Bhaskara's Proof of the Pythagorean Theorem.. It's an image plus the single word "Behold!". For most people, the Pythagorean Theorem is far from self-evident. But it had become so for Bhaskara.

Anti-theism presupposes theism.

WL,

I said

'There are a few things ahead of you..."
Hm, I can see why you'd wonder What does he mean by all that?

Oh yeah. It is an anticipation of what you said

I do not support the idea of accepting all claims.

This should be clearer:

There do seem to be claims we are forced and so justified to accept without evidence.

These claims stand prior to taking up the question of accepting, without evidence, such things as Christianity, any of its competitors, or any of the other ideas that clamor for such special treatment.

And, for them, there is no choice but to accept them or accept no claims at all.

These claims are 'ahead of you in line'. Actually, Bob with is dragon and you with your religion don't even belong in the line.

What kind of claim? This kind maybe.

But, just as you say, we are forced at some point to accept some claims without proof or evidence or accept none at all.

Once those are dealt with, the 'slogan'

"The burden of proof always rests on the one who makes the claim"
is in force.

Sorry, you still have to give evidence.

RonH

PS..

When I say we're forced I mean we cannot go further without accepting them. This is different from their being 'self-evident'. What happens is something that is self-evident turns out to be false?

Ron-

Lewis Carroll was a nice humorist for nerds like us, but not one word in the conversation between the tortoise and Achilles was self-evident. Everything they said was a pun. What we got at the end when the tortoise decided to be called a 'taught-us' and Achilles decided to be called 'A-kill-ease' is emblematic of the rest of the text.

On whether or not I have to give evidence, did you read my reply to Ben? I'll refer you there.

You have an example of something self-evident that turned out to be false?

There are of course examples of claims that are pronounced as if self-evident that are false, and even self-evidently false. For example:

The burden of proof always rests on the one who makes the claim

WL,

In college, I made myself a very nice collage of Bhaskara's proof. I based it on the treatment Bronowski gives in his book The Ascent of Man. How I wish I had that thing now!

Now, for the first time, I wonder: Is it a proof? And what does it prove?

True, for the right triangle in your linked page, a**2 + b**2 = c**2.

And it also works for Bronowski in the book and for this triangle in the tv series.

But, why should we think, based on what Bhaskara did here that it works for all other right triangles too? I don't know.

You might say these right triangles weren't specially chosen. That's true and a good reason (evidence) to think a**2 + b**2 = c**2 for all right triangles . But, we are looking for proof, not evidence.

Also: Why should I think, based seeing this, that it will NOT work on a non-right triangle? - something Bronowski says that you didn't.

Now that we introduce the idea of trying to do the same thing with a non-right triangle we are faced with deciding What it would mean to do the same thing? and When has it worked? and When has it not worked?

(Is that an olive branch in the video?)

RonH

not one word in the conversation between the tortoise and Achilles was self-evident

I didn't say so. And I wouldn't. I'm not a fan of the idea of self-evidence.

You have an example of something self-evident that turned out to be false?

If I did we would not be having this discussion. And, there would be a contradiction if I did: that thing that turned out to be false must not have been 'self-evident' (whatever that means) in the first place. The question would still remain what does 'self-evident' mean?

With respect to the bathroom issue. Notice how it doesn't take place in faculty bathrooms. This is the problem with "Ivory Tower Guy" he never has to live the consequences of his own absurdity. It should be manditory that all looney ideas so born must be first lived out by those proposing them.

"But without turning to accusations of cryptotheism, it's hard to see how you could show God's existence to be self-evident in the sense outlined by Pruss."

Hi Ben, I think that your thought here is actually crucial in a discussion like this and it works both ways in a very real sense.

If an atheist is going to crituque Christianity and the Christian claim of God's existence, they ought to be doing within the Christian system of thought. It is question begging to do it otherwise. Likewise if Christians are going to critique atheism, it ought to be done within the atheist system. Since Alexander Pruss is a Christian, I dont think his definition of "self evident" is lost in my thinking above within the Christian system.

When you say something like "without resorting to accusations of cryptotheism", you from an outsider position, do not know how necessary it is to consider that without the Spirit of God, the worldview we see as the most coherent representation of reality and human experience in a comprehensive worldview would likely be as you see it. There is a key, it is being born again, not be mans will but by God's call.

Now I'm not saying that any of these things [evidences for God's existence] are individually hidden, they are just as self evident to everyone who is mankind,if they'd only look at them with a drive for ultimate justification. Nor am I saying that it is necessary to examine everything in regards to it's ultimate justification, but if someone is saying that they are a truth seeker, they ought to be willing to examine their own presuppositions that drive them to see the world with prejudice beforehand in order to evaluate anothers worldview in earnest. I feel like I could say more, but dont want to go further since I think I lack organizational skills to keep this thought on track, but comment as you wish-anyone.

Uh, last sentence of 3rd paragraph should have said: "not by [instead of be] mans will...

Ron-

I think the attraction of Bhaskara's proof is that the result isn't just another theorem, but "Behold!"

Bhaskara, at least, seems to have thought that what is proven as true, the Pythagorean theorem, could in the end just be seen to be true.

It do think it contains a proof, and the fact that you don't make any particular assumptions about the triangle (other than rightness) is what makes it do so.

The rule of universal generalization is a standard rule of logical inference used all over the place in mathematics (and through math, all over the place in quantitative science). You give up on universal generalization, you can just punt on everything.

WL,

Thanks. Let me push it a little more.

I agree universal generalization is needed to make it a proof. But is it there? I think what's missing is the knowledge that the triangle chosen is arbitrary.

That Bhaskara or you or I didn't intend to choose a particular right triangle is nice. And it certainly doesn't look like the choice is special in your linked page.

But that doesn't seem like enough. We need to know the triangle is really an arbitrary right triangle if we want a proof through UG.

It's easier to get this arbitrary member of a set in algebra. Start with 'x is any real' and you know that x is an arbitrary real.

But if you make a drawing, it's not clear to me how you know the choice corresponding to x is arbitrary.

I'm not saying Bhaskara's proof will turn out to have an exception. We know it doesn't. I think there might be some way to express in such a dissection that the right triangle is arbitrary. But I don't see it there.

This is already a little more involved than 'Behold'.

___

I found that the converse of the PT is true. Bronowski said that Bhaskara's proof shows it. I dunno. Is that in there? Is it Behold-worthy?

RonH

"I agree universal generalization is needed to make it a proof. But is it there? I think what's missing is the knowledge that the triangle chosen is arbitrary."

Hi RonH, do you mean by triangle just any traingle, or any right triangle?

WisdomLover and RonH,

I don't know what Bhāskara's original proof actually involved, but I very much doubt it consisted of an animated gif. : ) Probably it had a couple of diagrams accompanied by a written exposition of the reasoning involved. But I don't know. I'm not familiar with 12th century Indian mathematics.

Nevertheless, I can tell you that the diagram is not sufficiently general for all right triangles. In particular, if the triangle is 45-45-90 then the interior "square" is degenerate, i.e. a single point.

Even for the class of right triangles which are not 45-45-90, it is not immediately obvious that we can always draw a diagram like the one in the animated gif. That's not something we can just assume. We have to think about it, and determine whether or not it really is true.

The point is, we can't begin our reasoning with the diagram. We have to first reason towards the diagram if we want to use it in our proof.

On the other hand, just because the animated gif doesn't by itself constitute a proof for the Pythagorean Theorem, nevertheless it surely proves something, even if only about the diagram itself. And it's a very interesting question, I think, what kind of reasoning is involved with it. Maybe we could call it "spatial" reasoning. And then it's interesting to ask, is spatial reasoning purely deductive? Or is there an inductive component as well? What means have we for distinguishing between deductive and inductive spatial reasoning? How reliable is spatial reasoning, anyway? Etc.

But interesting or not, I'm not sure how this is relevant to the issue of God's existence. WisdomLover, are you suggesting that God's existence follows deductively from agreeably true premises in the same way that Bhāskara allegedly used deduction (albeit spatial deduction) to prove the Pythagorean Theorem? Then unless the proof is obvious, one should expound the details. Clearly, though, the proof (if indeed it is a proof) is not obvious, since an apparent majority of philosophers fail to agree that God exists despite having doubtless considered the question seriously.

Ron-

The reason you know that Bhaskara's triangles are arbitrary is that he doesn't specify the length of any side in his diagram.

Ben-

Bhaskara's proof consists of a single image plus the word "Behold!"

Ben-

BTW, the degenerate case of Bhaskara's proof is even easier, since it is a simple matter of rearranging the four congruent isosceles right triangles that comprise the square of the hypotenuse to make two squares of the sides. And again...BEHOLD!

Also, Ben-

I'm not sure it much matters what kind of reasoning is involved in the Bhaskara proof (though, FTR, I suspect that it is deductive...with axioms, of course, that are taken as self-evident).

The only thing that interests me is the fact that Bhaskara thinks, and I think he's right, that the proof at some point is simply subsumed into the understanding of the claim so that the claim becomes something you can simply BEHOLD the truth of....i.e. self-evident.

Ron-

What exactly is the converse of the Pythagorean theorem? c^2 = a^2 + b^2?

I suppose that's a general consequence of the symmetric property of identity...that if x=y, then y=x.

WisdomLover,

But in fact you DO choose the side lengths when you draw the diagram. That you choose them randomly does not mean you choose them arbitrarily. This is proved by the fact that the same diagram will not work for 45-45-90 triangles.

And while you are correct that the 45-45-90 case is easier, the point is that it is a separate case. Indeed, it is easy to be misled by a diagram, which is why we must reason towards a diagram before we can use it in a proof.

In any case, the Pythagorean Theorem is not self-evident by Pruss's definition. It is quite possible to understand the claim that a^2+b^2=c^2 without understanding that it is true. Just find any bright grade-schooler and show him the claim without showing the proof.

As for the converse of the Pythagorean Theorem, it states that if the side lengths of a triangle satisfy the equation a^2+b^2=c^2 then that triangle has a right angle. It is a corollary to the SSS and Pythagorean Theorems.

It is quite possible to understand the claim that a^2+b^2=c^2 without understanding that it is true.
I agree. That was actually part of my point. The other half of my point is that it is possible to come to the place where one does understand that a^2+b^2=c^2 just by understanding what the claim is saying. What starts out as non-self-evident can, after thorough contemplation of a proof, become self-evident.

So to some extent, your worry about reasoning to the diagram may have some weight, but it is really orthogonal to what I am talking about. the point is that whether you are reasoning to or from the diagram, if you contemplate the proof thoroughly enough it is possible to get to the point that you just see that the claim is true.

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