Why You Should Be Skeptical Of John W. Loftus

A few months ago, John Loftus claimed that science debunks Christianity.

I’m not a fan of these types of claims, which are essentially sweeping generalizations that contain what I’ve referred to in the past as “the precision of 2×4.” Of course, any (a)theist who’s spent even in a minute in the trenches knows that both science and Christianity are often emotionally charged keywords that carry more baggage than a bellman at Luxor Grand. The author’s choice of words literally begs the reader to plunge headlong into a frenzy of racing and polarized analysis, fueled on reaction determined by the color of one’s glasses. Talk about fodder for the culture wars!

Nonetheless, I’d like to focus on a few of Loftus’ claims, and specifically challenge Loftus to take responsibility by supplying the necessary emendations to justify his arguments as needed, and/or admitting their lack of cogency as hitherto presented. Of course, the challenge is open, which means I’m interested to hear your input as well. In fact, I suspect Loftus won’t even respond, but… we’ll see. May he prove me wrong.

Of evolution and its supposed import to the Bible, Loftus writes:

An even bigger hit came from Biology, specifically but not limited to Darwinian evolution. The Catholic Church learned from the debacle in Galileo’s day and came to embrace evolution as a fact. Evangelicals still denounce it, even though it is slowly winning over the best and the brightest among them. But with evolution we no longer need a creator, for there is nothing left to explain by means of the supernatural hypothesis. Completely obliterated is the literal Genesis account of origins, and since that’s the case why should anyone think there is any divine mind behind the writings in the Bible at all? No one should. […]
-John Loftus, Science Debunks Christianity, emph. mine

Did you happen to notice the snippet I italicized? Folks, I’m sorry, I don’t normally use this type of language in describing someone else’s argument, but this is raw, unadulterated, misleading ignorance.

Evolution nullifies the need for a Creator? Get real. Evolution explains the diversity of biological life, and regardless of how many years life has been evolving for, Darwin’s TENS is limited in scope: it purports to explain the diversity of biological life. On John’s view, there are still another 10,000,000,000+ years of pre-evolutionary existence that need to be explained. How does Darwin’s theory of evolution explain that? No retreating to “cosmic evolution” or any other ad hoc variant, either: Loftus makes it clear that his argument is in the context of Darwin’s TENS. At best, Loftus’ conclusion is thousands of miles away from his premises.

Of archaeology and the Bible, Loftus generalizes using a three-tier claim:

Archaeology has debunked many stories in the Bible. Archeologists have discovered several ancient Mesopotamian texts that predate the ones in the Bible and tell similar superstitious stories of the origins of the universe. It has also shown us there was no Exodus of the Israelites out of Egypt.
-John Loftus, Science Debunks Christianity

“Archaeology has debunked many stories in the Bible.

Ah, I see… “many,” eh? Like science and Christian, as a quantifier, many is also notorisouly ambiguous. The author uses vague words which allow readers of varying ability and education to fill in the blanks. Is that a wise choice when the subject matter requires such precision?

The only support John gives in the post is passing mention of Exodus — which is an opinion: an inference drawn from facts, not a fact itself. John’s is not the only possible inference that can be drawn from the facts. Elsewhere, I’ve heard him allude to the “Luke and the Roman census” issue, but that’s elsewhere. Here, he gives but a single sentence to support his assertion. No supporting links, no pertinent quotations from qualified authorities, nothing but pure assertion. I’m almost certain John’s read something on these topics, you’d think the least he could do is toss us a bone, but — nothing. Apparently we’re supposed to just take his word for it.

What of Bible stories confirmed by archaeology? More importantly, what of archaeological discoveries that overturned alleged Bible debunking? I assure you they exist. Loftus filters the truth for the reader by mentioning only that which supports his preferred philosophical position of atheism.

Is that good scholarship?

For an example of a Bible story confirmed by archaeology, well… the problem is that there are too many to choose from. What about the 2,000-year-old wine jug unearthed at Masada, which bore the inscription of King Herod? What of Herod’s shattered sarcophagus? Are these not evidence confirming the existence of a New Testament figure? What of the Assyrian siege upon Jerusalem? Is this not evidence confirming an Old Testament event?

As an example of an archaeological discovery that overturned an alleged Bible debunking, well… for years, a long line of skeptics and minimalists belabored the lack of extrabiblical evidence for King David, and in fact, some still do. What of the Tel Dan Stele, of which even Wikipedia writes,

The scholarly consensus among archaeologists and epigraphers is that the fragment is an authentic reference to the Biblical King David.
-Wikipedia entry for Tel Dan Stele

Why does Loftus only tell his readers one side of the story? Why doesn’t he stick to presenting facts and information, and let the reader come to their own conclusion? What motivates him to steer the reader towards his preferred philosophical position of atheism?

“Archeologists have discovered several ancient Mesopotamian texts that predate the ones in the Bible and tell similar superstitious stories of the origins of the universe.”

So then, I suppose from this we are required to infer that Christianity must be false? Where’s the justification? Note the continued lack of specifics in John’s argument: it’s simply another bare assertion. He doesn’t give a single example to support the second-tier of his claim. Perhaps he’s alluding to the Epic of Gilgamesh which predates the Noahic flood? In that or any similar case, I refer Mr. Loftus to the work of Olden-Jørgensen (1998) and Thurén (1997):

1) Human sources may be relics (e.g. a fingerprint) or narratives (e.g. a statement or a letter). Relics are more credible sources than narratives.

2) A given source may be forged or corrupted; strong indications of the originality of the source increases its reliability.

3) The closer a source is to the event which it purports to describe, the more one can trust it to give an accurate description of what really happened.

4) A primary source is more reliable than a secondary source, that is more reliable than a tertiary source and so on.

5) If a number of independent sources contain the same message, the credibility of the message is strongly increased.

6) The tendency of a source is its motivation for providing some kind of bias. Tendencies should be minimized or supplemented with opposite motivations.

7) If it can be demonstrated that the witness (or source) has no direct interest in creating bias, the credibility of the message is increased. (source)

Note #5. If we are to apply these principles of source criticism fairly, why wouldn’t the fact that two independent cultures both mention a catastrophic flood be considered a point in favor of the claim? Why wouldn’t this apply to creation myths? Loftus simply implies that because a story broke outside the Bible first, that the Bible is somehow untrustworthy. Do we doubt a book about the Civil War because it came out in the twentieth century?

“[Archaeology] has also shown us there was no Exodus of the Israelites out of Egypt.”

What John fails to tell his readers is that the jury is still out on the Exodus. As with his other assertions, he gives no evidence or argument to back this one up, either. Further, no mention is given to evidence that challenges John’s assertion. He seemingly ignores the fact that we find references to Israel in Egyptian epigraphy, for example the Stele of Merneptah, discovered at Thebes by Sir Flinders Petrie. Written in hieroglyphics, the stele records the boasting of Merneptah, who ruled Egypt in the early thirteenth-century BCE and claimed that he had “humbled Israel.” The omission of the customary determinative sign denoting “land” corroborates the idea of a nomadic tribe. Further, if Merneptah conquered this nomadic tribe — as the stele records — is it unreasonable that a remnant fled? Regardless, the jury is still out, and the rational thinker is under no compulsion to side with Loftus here, especially in the absence of anything remotely close to a cogent argument that takes the totality of evidence into consideration.

*******

To better understand why we should be skeptical of Loftus — or anyone else who tells us that archaeology disproves this or that — consider the controversy over the city of Jericho. Carl Watzinger and Ernest Sellin concluded that the city of Jericho was unoccupied at the time the Israelite conquest is thought to have occurred. Later, John Garstang disagreed with them, and offered evidence in favor of the conquest. After that, Kathleen Kenyan objected to Garstang’s methods and the pendulum swung back the other way. Then, Bryant Wood came along and challenged Kenyan’s findings, on account of pottery apparently authenticated by carbon-14 dating, which seems to validate Garstang’s conclusions.

My point is not to align myself with one camp or another. Rather, my point is to demonstrate the foolishness of aligning oneself with one camp or the other, because new discoveries are constantly being made. This doesn’t mean archaeology is useless in apprehending the truth of historical claims. That is not at all what I’m saying. Rather, my point is that the pendulum is still swinging.

In her review of Biblical Archaeology: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford Press 2009) , written by Professor Eric Cline of The George Washington University, Anna Gottschall writes:

Within the Introduction, Cline appropriately defines biblical archaeology (subset of Syro-Palestinian archaeology dating from the early second millennium BEC to the first millennium CE) and explains that archaeologists do not “deliberately set out to either prove or disprove” the Hebrew Bible or New Testament, but investigate the material culture of biblical times to reconstruct the culture and history of the region. [p.3]

Despite the fact that even accredited scholars advise against using archaeological data to infer proof or disproof of the Bible, Loftus forges ahead. I’m reminded of a comment from Tom Talbott in this discussion with Loftus:

A retired colleague of mine in our physics department once shared with me a wonderful quotation from the Nobel Prize winning physicist Alfred Lande, who admittedly is not much in vogue these days. Although I have been unable to locate the quotation, which appeared in a chapter on quantum mechanics, the gist of it was this: Much of the scientific literature on this subject is philosophically confused, he claimed, and even rests upon a rather elementary category mistake.

I am in no position, of course, to endorse such a statement. But here is the interesting part of what Lande said. Pay little attention, he exhorted, to what scientists say when they talk about, or draw implications from, their own work. They are as apt to jump to conclusions, or to embrace a set of non sequiturs, as anyone else. But pay the closest possible attention to what they do in the laboratory and to the actual experiments that they perform.
-Tom Talbott paraphrasing Alfred Lande

How pertinent.

Descartes demonstrated that one could doubt anything besides their own doubt, and I’m willing to bet my bottom dollar you can find yourself a qualified minimalist to help you doubt any Biblical claim. As the example of Jericho illustrates, consensus is more like a pendulum than a beacon. It is precisely for this reason that we should treat the enterprise of science as a person trying to have a very long, thoughtful, and drawn-out discussion with us. To draw conclusions before the discussion is over is — especially in the case of a slow-moving science like archaeology — to interrupt.

IN CONCLUSION:

Here’s John Loftus — who preaches the ethos of science — feeding you a masterfully cherrypicked argument, ostensibly in the name of rationality and reason. This is exactly the type of thing both Christians and atheists need to watch out for. Christians, because, if they are of the timid or lay variety, they might be too fearful or too unfamiliar with the arguments to expose the errors, and walk away unnecessarily dissuaded. Atheists, because, if they are of the knee-jerk or polemic variety, they might be too uncritical or too emotionally motivated to catch the errors, and walk away with their atheism superficially bolstered.

Unsupported assertions. Lack of evidence and citations. Overstated claims. Sweeping generalizations. Conclusions that do not flow from their premises. My heart laments that so many people accept this type of stuff unquestioningly. People are throwing away their faith in God because of misleading propaganda like this. Tread softly!

For these reasons, I claim that we should be skeptical of John Loftus. Very skeptical.

http://www.suite101.com/content/is-the-bible-history-a21495

190 Comments

  1. Mike says:

    cl, I am glad you are offering John Loftus’ readers an opportunity to hear the other side of things, especially since John is so reluctant to give it to them. I hope his readers will have ample opportunity to see this post because without communications like this, they are merely being led blindfolded down a dead-end street.

    To further support the thesis of your post here, let me quote John’s opening sentence in his post this morning (Jan 14, 2011):

    “In every era of history there were gaps in our understanding. We knew how women got pregnant through sex but we didn’t know the internal bodily process, so guess what? God did it. We knew rain fell from the sky but we didn’t know the process so guess what? God did it. ”

    Here, of course, John establishes a false dichotomy based on a non sequitur. That is, he’s concluding that because we now know more details about how a baby is conceived or how rain falls from the sky that this means God could not be involved. What an absurd leap of illogic! And it fuels a controversy between God and science which, as you suggest in your opening paragraphs, is entirely trumped up.

    Yet John’s statement will pass muster with many of his readers because they have been conditioned by the nature of his site to not question any of his assertions. It is his Amen corner, with commenters swarming and condemning anyone who offers a contrary point of view or even a respectful challenging question..

    I don’t get the sense that John necessarily wants this dynamic but he does seem to enjoy crowd approval and the two go together (approval of him and disapproval of anyone who disagrees with him). I will also say in his favor that there are websites with a point of view similar to John’s which dole out even more severe punishment to disagreement than John’s. (ExChristian.net being a notable example.)

    There are those who read John’s site because they agree with him and want the intellectual and emotional reinforcement of listening to his arguments. However, there are also those who read his site who are searching for answers and who simply want to know the truth about life. It is this latter group that could most benefit from the kind of balanced view you are encouraging here. I hope they will have many opportunities to see it.

  2. Why You Should Be Skeptical Of John Loftus: An Open Challenge ……

    Here at World Spinner we are debating the same thing……

  3. cl says:

    Hi Mike.

    Here, of course, John establishes a false dichotomy based on a non sequitur. That is, he’s concluding that because we now know more details about how a baby is conceived or how rain falls from the sky that this means God could not be involved. What an absurd leap of illogic!

    Of course. Although, there is a valid point in Loftus’ line of reasoning there, and it’s one that I think believers might do well to masticate. Consider John’s snide remarks about “rain dances” and the like. The Hebrew notion of causality is an orderly and rational causality, modeled on a chain of cause and effect whose terminus is of course God. To contrast, that various gods control the heavens and the Earth is a distinctly Babylonian notion of causality. (Mason, 1962) Therefore, when skeptics lambast the absurdity of “supernatural causality,” it is more often than not the Babylonian notion of causality being lambasted. In short, skeptics who use the so-called triumph of natural explanations argument actually argue against Judaism’s chief competitor. In fact, it goes beyond that: the skeptic and the Bible are actually in agreement that these Babylonian concepts of causality are false.

    But see, Loftus doesn’t strike me as the kind of guy interested in parsing out subtle nuance. After all, Loftus said it himself: like Nietzsche, he wants to “philosophize with a hammer.”

    I say mission accomplished, but personally, I prefer the x-acto blade.

    Yet John’s statement will pass muster with many of his readers because they have been conditioned by the nature of his site to not question any of his assertions.

    I agree. Fundamentalism comes in more than one flavor. It’s a mindset that’s the root of the problem here, not a belief system. In the same way religious fundamentalists often can’t see outside their box, so it is with faithful adherents of the First Church of Scarlet A. It’s culture war, my friend, those beautifully machinated orchestrations of confusion designed to blind and entice. And Loftus says Satan must be as dumb as a box of rocks!

    It is his Amen corner, with commenters swarming and condemning anyone who offers a contrary point of view or even a respectful challenging question.

    I know, I saw how they pounced on you like wolves on fresh meat. Did you ever answer the Quirinius question? That might shut them up, but I doubt it.

    I will also say in his favor that there are websites with a point of view similar to John’s which dole out even more severe punishment to disagreement than John’s. (ExChristian.net being a notable example.)

    It is written, “all men will hate you because of me.” Let them confirm Jesus’ testimony.

    However, there are also those who read his site who are searching for answers and who simply want to know the truth about life.

    Hendy comes to mind as one of those. Nonetheless, it’ll be interesting to see if Loftus actually takes responsibility for his claims here, or, if he just continues to handwave and talk over others. He’s already taken to refutation by denigration, so, we’ll see.

  4. cl says:

    Speaking of illogic:

    Psychology shows us we are largely products of our environment, that we think illogically many times, that we believe what we prefer to be true, that human beings are not evil so much as ill, largely because of their social environment. Psychology shows us there can be no wrathful God who will punish us forever because of what we believe. [John Loftus]

    Really? Now psychology disproves the existence of God, too? Do I even need to seriously respond to that one? The only reason I can see for doing so would be to avoid the charge that I don’t have an adequate response. So, let’s keep it simple: neither the link between environment and personality nor the fact that humans often think illogically entail the conclusion that there is no God. Again, Loftus’ conclusion is thousands of miles away from his premises.

  5. Mike says:

    “Did you ever answer the Quirinius question?”

    I did not. As you know, with any thread or exchange you have to decide at what point you think further inputs will only bring diminishing returns in the discussion.

  6. Christopher says:

    “Loftus simply implies that because a story broke outside the Bible first, that the Bible is somehow untrustworthy. Do we doubt a book about the Civil War because it came out in the twentieth century?”
    This seems like a bad analogy but for some reason I can’t quite explain why. I can however see why you would think this is what he is implying.

  7. cl says:

    Christopher,

    This seems like a bad analogy but for some reason I can’t quite explain why.

    Well, I suppose the success of any analogy lies in its ability to convey the same relationship with different things. When John says, “Archeologists have discovered several ancient Mesopotamian texts that predate the ones in the Bible and tell similar superstitious stories of the origins of the universe,” he seems to be implying that the Bible is likely just a “copycat story” that borrowed from these predecessors, right?

    Else, what do you think he’s implying? When it comes to these texts, John neither A) accurately quantifies them, nor B) specifically names them. He just alludes to “several” of them, and fails to explain how their existence debunks Christianity. Surely you don’t think that’s a cogent argument, do you?

    If so, what am I missing?

  8. apologianick says:

    cl. This is typical Loftus. It’s a shotgun approach. There’s a lot of bark, but no bite. Are you familiar with the work we’ve done at Tektonics with a lot of Loftus’s claims?

  9. Garren says:

    But with evolution we no longer need a creator, for there is nothing left to explain by means of the supernatural hypothesis.

    Yeah, that’s pretty awful.

    I keep hoping he’ll switch back to the other side.

  10. Mike says:

    @apologianick

    I came across a Tektonics article on “Oral Tradition” and was very impressed with it. I don’t know anything about Tektonics besides that, but if that’s indicative of what you do there, it’s good work.

  11. apologianick says:

    @Mike,

    I don’t do that part. I am his ministry partner. Go there and go to the L section and you can read all about Loftus.

  12. cl says:

    Garren,

    I keep hoping he’ll switch back to the other side.

    Actually, do you know if any of John’s “other side” writings exist? I’d love to analyze his apologetics, to see how they fare against his atheist apologetics.

    apologianick,

    Thanks for stopping by.

    This is typical Loftus. It’s a shotgun approach. There’s a lot of bark, but no bite.

    I wholeheartedly agree. This has been the case with most everything I’ve seen thus far. At times, I can see the point he’s alluding to, but, honestly, I just don’t think he writes carefully enough. It saddens me to see so many people turning off their brains and just accepting whatever he says. Worse, if one mentions this, they’re denigrated to Pluto and back. It’s fundamentalism in reverse.

    Are you familiar with the work we’ve done at Tektonics with a lot of Loftus’s claims?

    No, I’m not. I clicked on the link that accompanies your handle here, and… all I saw was some articles about other stuff. I’ll try again, going off the advice you gave to Mike.

  13. Nick says:

    @cl.

    The link on my handle is to my blog. You need to go to just tektonics.org and see what JPH has on Loftus. Also, you can see some highlights on TheologyWeb, which is also where I had a formal debate with Loftus years ago on the problem of natural evil.

  14. cl says:

    Nick,

    Well, so I gave it a go, and this was the first link I landed on. While I find his call for accusers to provide evidence amusing – because I’ve seen John accuse people of things without any evidence whatsover – I do have a certain disdain for statements like this:

    In chapter 1 of Why I Became an Atheist, John Loftus presents a great deal of autobiographical information, but no arguments. As such, our “rebuttal” will amount to a expose’ of Loftus’ true intentions.

    I have been attacked by atheists – often viciously – as a person with ill intentions. Yet, I know this isn’t true. Because of that, I tend to avoid attempts to speak on other people’s intentions, because most of the time, we simply don’t know. Do I find Loftus’ arguments specious? Certainly, but I cannot, on that fact alone, speak on his intentions. That’s God’s turf. Nonetheless, “Truth be Told” might be – and probably is – privy to more information than I, but personally, I’m interested in exposing and responding to the arguments themselves. While immaturity is certainly incompatible with sound scholarship, reading through that link felt like watching a bad soap opera.

    Nonetheless, “Truth be Told” – is that JP Holding? – writes:

    The most important of patterns I began noticing was that many prominent atheist internet figures, such as Loftus, have displayed behaviors that are usually descriptive of fundamentalists, only in their own relative manifestations.

    I agree to that, and have began to document instances of such behavior. And, like “Truth be Told” says, Loftus – so far – appears to just sweep them under the rug, content to descend into name-calling. I realize that I probably won’t change the minds of the many Loftites who frequent his blog. My only hope is that perhaps somebody new will come along, somebody on the fence, and that perhaps my criticism of Loftus’ arguments will plant a seed in them.

    At any rate, thanks for the heads up. Keep ’em coming.

  15. apologianick says:

    @cl.

    No. Truth be Told is not JPH. However, what we write is after a long long history with Loftus. He’s shown who he is on TheologyWeb several times.

    Go to this spot instead:

    http://www.tektonics.org/lp/loftus01.html

  16. Garren says:

    I’m no fan of the guy, but I still haven’t found any better popular level, broad introduction to why a fundamentalist Christian might want to rethink their position than his first book Why I Became An Atheist. (If anyone would like to dispute this, please do so by pointing out a better book, not just telling me what’s wrong with this one.)

    And, sorry cl, I don’t know of any pre-apostate writings from him.

  17. Adamoriens says:

    Hello cl. I found this blog through your comments on CSA, and I’m interested in reading more. In your response to Loftus’ claim that the Exodus has been disproved, you referenced the Merneptah Stele inscription as a positive bit of evidence for the event. After reading through the linked wikipedia article, it still isn’t clear to me how this artifact is strictly relevant. It certainly references a “humbled” Israel, but it speaks of it being “wasted, bare of seed,” which would indicate that its grain stores had been destroyed. This suggests a group that was agriculturally-based and/or trading with other groups, neither of which is really compatible with the Exodus.

    But perhaps the article is in error. Is there a better translation elsewhere?

  18. cl says:

    Adamoriens,

    Hey there. Thanks for stopping by.

    In your response to Loftus’ claim that the Exodus has been disproved, you referenced the Merneptah Stele inscription as a positive bit of evidence for the event.

    To be clear, I did not. My mention of the stele was not as “positive evidence for the Exodus.” Rather, I offer it as evidence of a nomadic tribe called Israel in the right area at the right time. This is significant because such an occurrence is a prerequisite for the Exodus. Either way, my main gripe is that John didn’t even do that much: he simply asserted that “[Archaeology] has also shown us there was no Exodus of the Israelites out of Egypt,” then called it a day, without even so much as mentioning anything that might be problematic for his claim. I don’t think that’s good scholarship, at all. Do you?

    Nonetheless, here is the relevant part from the Wikipedia link:

    The stela does make clear that “Israel” at this stage, refers to a people or tribal confederation, the Ancient Israelites, and not a kingdom or city state, since the determinative used is that for “foreign people”, not that for “country”.[9]
    Israel is wasted, its seed is no longer.

    While the other defeated Egyptian enemies listed besides Israel in this document such as Ashkelon, Gezer and Yanoam were given the determinative for a city-state—”a throw stick plus three mountains designating a foreign country”—the hieroglyphs that refer to Israel instead employ the determinative sign used for foreign peoples: a throw stick plus a man and a woman over three vertical plural lines. This sign is typically used by the Egyptians to signify nomadic tribes without a fixed city-state, thus implying that ysrỉr “Israel” was the demonym for a seminomadic or rural population at the time the stele was created.

    The Exodus surely couldn’t have happened if Israel was never there, and, if we had no evidence Israel was ever there, well… John would have a stronger case. Even then, I would still object to his claim as stated. After all, here, he claims unequivocally that “We should all ask for positive evidence for that which we accept as true.” Yet, where is John’s “positive evidence” for his clearly-stated belief that “[Archaeology] has also shown us there was no Exodus of the Israelites out of Egypt?”

    He gives none. Rather, he argues from the gaps. He commits the very argument from ignorance he so loftily–no pun intended–scolds believers for.

    Worse yet, the faithful on his site don’t even call him on it! They don’t even ask! They just nod along, like any other flock–all in the name of “critical thinking.” On my view, souls are perishing because of “logic” like this, and really, it’s a tragedy.

  19. apologianick says:

    Cl. Consider this point also.

    Loftus has this listed under a post on cognitive biases.

    “Why do I keep writing about this? Because we know humans are prone to these biases. We know this. So we should all become skeptics. We should all ask for positive evidence for that which we accept as true. We should adopt a science-based reasoning rather than a faith-based reasoning. Dr. James Alcock defined faith-based reasoning as “belief in search of data.” Given the cognitive biases this is simply a wrong-headed approach if we want to know the truth.”

    Now I have no problem with seeking positive evidence, but note he pits what he calls “faith-based reasoning” against “science-based reasoning.”

    Look later however at a quote of the day made by him. In fact, both of these were posted the same day.

    “I cannot possibly check everything I believe. There is a trust element involved. I trust the sciences. I trust the consensus of the scientists. Why? Because in those areas where I have studied I agree with them. In fact, if believers were to stop and think about it they trust the sciences too, in an overwhelming number of areas. They just disagree with them in those few areas when the sciences contradict what some pre-scientific ancient agency detectors claimed in a group of canonized texts. — John W. Loftus”

    So Loftus says he can’t check everything. Well if he can’t check it, then isn’t it his definition of faith? If so, then Loftus has faith-based reasoning in his science-based reasoning.

  20. Adamoriens says:

    To be clear, I did not. My mention of the stele was not as “positive evidence for the Exodus.” Rather, I offer it as evidence of a nomadic tribe called Israel in the right area at the right time. This is significant because such an occurrence is a prerequisite for the Exodus. Either way, my main gripe is that John didn’t even do that much: he simply asserted that “[Archaeology] has also shown us there was no Exodus of the Israelites out of Egypt,” then called it a day, without even so much as mentioning anything that might be problematic for his claim. I don’t think that’s good scholarship, at all. Do you?

    Fair enough. I guess I took your implication to be stronger than it was meant. It certainly is an argument from ignorance on Loftus’ part, but the whole Exodus thing could probably be worked into a probability statement.

    I am baffled by the popularity of Loftus’ blog. His content is minimal and most of the time he just indulges in insults and other nonsense. The blog even looks crappy. I suppose he’s supplying some market segment, but it’s not one I respect.

    I can sympathize with your lament. I’m in an online debating forum and the non-believers (I’m currently one myself) often conflate religious skepticism with critical thinking.

  21. cl says:

    apologianick,

    I see two lines of response to your last comment:

    1) It could be that Loftus means he can’t personally check every claim science makes. In that case, although there is still an element of faith involved, I would grant him that such faith is different than certain aspects of religious faith, simply because, he could, in theory, check. This seems to be what John means when he says he trusts the consensus of the scientists. He just doesn’t, for whatever reason, and so assumes the correctness of those who have checked. However, as I said, and as you seem to concur, this is still a sort of faith. More importantly, it’s a betrayal of his criterion for positive evidence–unless of course “positive evidence” in this case refers to group consensus–but that’s a fallacy. He also commits the genetic fallacy when he uses “because in those areas where I have studied I agree with them” as a criterion for belief without checking.

    2) However, if Loftus includes claims that cannot be checked in the scope of his statement, that’s even more of a problem. For example, the claim that consciousness permanently ceases upon death cannot be check. At best, it can only be assumed because the converse has not been proven true. This, too, is an argument from ignorance.

    I tend to think he alludes to both, and, yeah, I agree… it’s all bad.

    Adamoriens,

    It certainly is an argument from ignorance on Loftus’ part,

    I’m glad you agree, not in a childish, “scoring points,” attitude, either. Rather, as we know from science, confirmation is crucial in peeling away error to reveal truth. I commend you as a non-believer for shunning party lines.

    The blog even looks crappy.

    Ha! Yeah, as a designer and web developer, I have to agree. However, I’m not immune from the charge! I think my blog looks crappy, but, in my defense, that’s simply because I went with the generic wordpress account. As it happens, I’m actually coding out a new TWIM homesite right now. I can’t wait to have full control over my blog, and I think people are going to be happy with the change. It will take at least a few more months though, as content must remain the priority.

    If I may ask, were you ever a believer of any sort? If so, which sort? Either way, today, what do you see as the biggest obstacles to faith in Jesus Christ?

  22. Adamoriens says:

    Ha! Yeah, as a designer and web developer, I have to agree. However, I’m not immune from the charge! I think my blog looks crappy, but, in my defense, that’s simply because I went with the generic wordpress account. As it happens, I’m actually coding out a new TWIM homesite right now. I can’t wait to have full control over my blog, and I think people are going to be happy with the change. It will take at least a few more months though, as content must remain the priority.

    Fortunately I find beauty in utility as well. So long as a site is well-organized and crisp (whatever that is) it looks good to me.

    If I may ask, were you ever a believer of any sort? If so, which sort? Either way, today, what do you see as the biggest obstacles to faith in Jesus Christ?

    While I react to your earlier comment about my shunning party lines with disproportionate pride, I confess that I am part of that large demographic which leaves their faith in late adolescence. I was raised in a non-denominational home-church that was essentially Protestant fundamentalist with some of the characteristics of a cult.

    I’ll take your third question as a personal inquiry, and say that biblical criticism would be my biggest obstacle. The most rigorous natural theology would be useless amidst the ruins of a wasted sacred text. However, I realize my own deconversion was largely cumulative and probably motivated by mundane psychological factors, so take it with a grain of salt.

  23. cl says:

    Adamoriens,

    I was raised in a non-denominational home-church that was essentially Protestant fundamentalist with some of the characteristics of a cult.

    I can see how that would not be conducive to the cultivation of faith. Given my own “free spirit” mentality, I probably would have done the same in that environment. I wasn’t raised in a religious environment at all. Sure, we got drug along to church once in a blue moon, but my parents and immediate family weren’t religious in the conventional sense, at all.

    The most rigorous natural theology would be useless amidst the ruins of a wasted sacred text.

    Very well said. If you wish, feel free to provide any specific examples that cause you to doubt the inspiration of the text. I say this not only out of the desire to clarify in those instances where I feel I can, but also out of the desire to be better informed myself, lest there be something serious I’ve overlooked.

    …I realize my own deconversion was largely cumulative and probably motivated by mundane psychological factors,

    I find that this is often the case on both sides. I don’t know if you’ve read it, but this is exactly what Loftus describes in WIBA. His deconversion was primarily irrational. It was motivated by psychological / emotional factors. This leads me to be more suspect of his counter-apologetics, as the potential for confirmation bias seems more ripe. It’s a sword that cuts both ways, too.

    Of course, these trains of thought also prompt me to evaluate my own conversion. In a nutshell, I converted because I believe in the doctrine of sin. I can and will elaborate much further, especially in my book–which I hope to issue in an author’s edition sometime this year. Although, I said that last year, too, so we’ll see. :)

    At any rate, good chattin’. Hope to “see” you around.

  24. dguller says:

    Even if there was some archeological evidence for the presence of a tribe of Israel, that does not justify belief in the Exodus, especially as depicted in the Bible. I think that John’s point was regarding the EXODUS, not necessarily the presence of Israelites in Egypt.

    Your argument is similar to responding to someone saying that X murdered Y by saying, “Well, X was there, wasn’t he?” The fact that X was there does not imply that X murdered Y. Similarly, just because a tribe of Israel was in Egypt does not imply that the Exodus narrative is true.

    Or am I missing something?

  25. dguller says:

    Also, you made much of the notion that John’s deconversion did not strictly follow his OTF procedure, but rather initially involved irrational and emotional elements that made his heart doubt the truth of Christianity, and then he found logical and rational reasons to support that new atheistic belief.

    I honestly cannot see why this is such a big deal. I mean, if a scientist is inspired by irrational forces to conceive of a scientific hypothesis, then that is irrelevant to its truth. Its truth is established by empirical verification, irrespective of its original source of inspiration. To argue otherwise would commit the genetic fallacy.

    Perhaps John’s point is that the truth of one’s beliefs are independent of irrational and emotional factors, and should be judged according to reason and evidence, especially via the OTF, which is simply an invitation to attempt to falsify one’s beliefs to minimize one’s confirmation bias, and other heuristic distortions.

    Would this be a reasonable interpretation?

  26. cl says:

    dguller,

    Or am I missing something?

    Yes. With all due respect, you are. John claims, unequivocally, that we should ask for positive evidence for that which we accept as true. You cannot deny this, neither can he. Yet, he presents zero positive evidence for something he accepts as true, and he ignores positive evidence that challenges his position. That’s the issue here.

    Even if there was some archeological evidence for the presence of a tribe of Israel, that does not justify belief in the Exodus, especially as depicted in the Bible.

    Of course, differing people have differing opinions about both A) when a belief is justified, and B) the necessity of justified belief. While we could talk about that, it’s secondary to my point as delineated above.

    Also, you made much of the notion that John’s deconversion did not strictly follow his OTF procedure, but rather initially involved irrational and emotional elements that made his heart doubt the truth of Christianity, and then he found logical and rational reasons to support that new atheistic belief. I honestly cannot see why this is such a big deal.

    It causes me to be skeptical of John, since he did not do what he claims believers ought to do. More, using logic and reason after a highly emotional, traumatic experience leaves one more vulnerable to confirmation bias. I can cite some evidence if this point is controversial for you. At the moment, my pasta’s boiling… :)

  27. It’s not only that science debunks christianity, it’s that christianity debunks christianity. Google “the impossible god” to assess the logical incoherencies inherent to the notion of Jehovah.

  28. cl says:

    Phil Stilwell,

    I’m a fan of syllogisms. That’s where we agree. You’ve got plenty of valid arguments, but nothing that strikes me as sound. For example, P2 in Faith’s Failure is mere assertion. In Divine Impotence, P3 is out of scope. In Moral Inconsistencies, P2 is false, not to mention that your terms are undefined. In Divine Innumeracy, P3 and P4 are false.

    In short, if that’s the best you’ve come up with in a year, I see no reason to seriously consider what seem to be a bunch of witty aphorisms masquerading as sound arguments.

    If you have anything salient to add to the discussion about Loftus, I’m all for it.

  29. Cl,

    It’s refreshing to know you are committed to logic.

    I’d like to engage you in an on-line debate. The proposition will be “biblical redemption is logically incoherent”. This is assuming you believe in a literal Hell. The format would be as follows.

    Phil -> 700 words
    Cl -> 700 words
    Phil -> 300 words
    Cl -> 300 words
    Phil -> 100 words
    Cl -> 100 words

    We will post our own arguments on our own blogs and link to the other’s posts.

    Sound fair enough?

  30. dguller says:

    cl:

    >> John claims, unequivocally, that we should ask for positive evidence for that which we accept as true. You cannot deny this, neither can he. Yet, he presents zero positive evidence for something he accepts as true, and he ignores positive evidence that challenges his position. That’s the issue here.

    And he is right that we should have positive evidence for our beliefs. As for his lack of citation of supporting evidence for his statements, perhaps they are present elsewhere on his blog or in his books. Certainly, it would be better if he would just cite them, or at least refer to other locations on his website where they could be found, but the fact that he does not do so does not imply that there is no such evidence, and he is just asserting things without any evidence to back them up.

    >> Of course, differing people have differing opinions about both A) when a belief is justified, and B) the necessity of justified belief. While we could talk about that, it’s secondary to my point as delineated above.

    That may be so, but it does not touch on the fact that John’s statement about the Exodus that you criticized above is true. There may be evidence of Israelites in ancient Egypt, but that does not imply that the Exodus account in the Bible is true. There is no need to get into the epistemology of justified belief to see this fact.

    >> causes me to be skeptical of John, since he did not do what he claims believers ought to do. More, using logic and reason after a highly emotional, traumatic experience leaves one more vulnerable to confirmation bias. I can cite some evidence if this point is controversial for you.

    Again, you do not dispute the reasonableness of the OTF, but only criticize the fact that John did not follow it in his own deconversion. Now, it would be difficult for him to follow it when he lost his faith, because he was not aware of it, having come up with it years later, and so it is actually unfair of you to make this criticism. Perhaps if he could revisit his deconversion he would have followed the OTF, but that is a moot point, because he does not have a time machine.

    The only relevant point here is that the OTF is a reasonable test that a believer’s faith should endure. My personal view is that it is reasonable, because it is an active attempt at falsification, which inherently minimizes confirmation bias.

  31. dguller says:

    One other thing.

    Once one becomes aware of the fact that human beings are liable to self-deception and false understanding by virtue of underlying cognitive and heuristic biases and distortions, as well as other cognitive quirks, such as preferring anecdotes to scientific and statistical analysis, and a general inability to intuitively comprehend probability and chance, then one must be careful about the beliefs that one holds.

    It is with this background that the OTF makes sense, i.e. as an attempt to address the possibility that one’s beliefs are a false positive.

  32. apologianick says:

    I would be interested in this “God is impossible” argument, but I want the poster to post it himself. I don’t do google scholarship.

  33. dguller says:

    Also, you made several points about the use of archeology to confirm or refute the Biblical narratives, and essentially concluded that this is not a fruitful endeavor, because the science is fundamentally inconclusive, because it is incomplete and fragmentary.

    Now, I wonder why you elevate a single book above all other ancient texts, especially given the fact that it was compiled from several sources by unknown authors of unknown reliability, and that the source material is lacking. I think that all of your apt criticisms of archeology apply even more so to the Bible, and imply that we should treat it as an artifact of dubious authenticity, especially since many aspects of its history are also inconclusive.

    Or am I missing something again?

  34. cl says:

    Phil Stillwell,

    Firmly cement some goalposts by defining biblical redemption and logically incoherent as they would be used in our debate, and I might just indulge you.

    dguller,

    And he is right that we should have positive evidence for our beliefs. As for his lack of citation of supporting evidence for his statements, perhaps they are present elsewhere on his blog or in his books. Certainly, it would be better if he would just cite them, or at least refer to other locations on his website where they could be found, but the fact that he does not do so does not imply that there is no such evidence, and he is just asserting things without any evidence to back them up.

    I agree. Perhaps he’d listen if more people like yourself told him? Would you at least consider posting this same comment, here?

    That may be so, but it does not touch on the fact that John’s statement about the Exodus that you criticized above is true.

    That’s because there’s no fact to touch on. Science has not shown “there was no Exodus.” The evidence is currently inconclusive. Don’t you see a difference between those two statements? Don’t you think that’s a more intellectually honest statement? I sure do. I’m a fan of conservatively stated claims, as opposed to exaggerations that ignore evidence that would challenge them.

    There may be evidence of Israelites in ancient Egypt, but that does not imply that the Exodus account in the Bible is true.

    There, I agree with you. I’ve not invoked the Merneptah stele to support a claim that the Exodus has been proven by science. OTOH, the stele provides warrant to reject John’s claim, and it corroborates, i.e., lends credibility to the Exodus story on the whole. I’m trying to think in gradations here.

    There is no need to get into the epistemology of justified belief to see this fact.

    I agree. That’s why I was a bit perplexed that you brought up epistemology of justified belief. It didn’t seem to fit in the flow of our conversation.

    The only relevant point here is that the OTF is a reasonable test that a believer’s faith should endure. My personal view is that it is reasonable, because it is an active attempt at falsification, which inherently minimizes confirmation bias.

    Like I said, I agree with that. The problem is, even since John’s known of the OTF, he hasn’t applied it. Besides, the OTF is just an acronym for impartial critical thinking, and that tool has been available to John all along. He went straight from non-Christian to Christian, then, straight from Christian to atheist, for primarily emotional reasons. Nowhere in his conversion story does he mention that he investigated other beliefs with cold logical rigor. Like John does with believers, couldn’t I just as easily attribute John’s embrace of atheism to the current social trend, i.e., the upwards trend of atheism in certain parts of this country?

    Once one becomes aware of the fact that human beings are liable to self-deception and false understanding by virtue of underlying cognitive and heuristic biases and distortions, as well as other cognitive quirks, such as preferring anecdotes to scientific and statistical analysis, and a general inability to intuitively comprehend probability and chance, then one must be careful about the beliefs that one holds. It is with this background that the OTF makes sense, i.e. as an attempt to address the possibility that one’s beliefs are a false positive.

    I agree. If you’re under the impression I think the OTF is unreasonable, I’ve already stated–many times–that it is reasonable.

    Hope that helps. As for your comment February 16, 2011 at 9:14 AM, I’ll get to that soon enough. Life calls.

  35. dguller says:

    cl:

    >> That’s because there’s no fact to touch on. Science has not shown “there was no Exodus.” The evidence is currently inconclusive. Don’t you see a difference between those two statements? Don’t you think that’s a more intellectually honest statement? I sure do. I’m a fan of conservatively stated claims, as opposed to exaggerations that ignore evidence that would challenge them.

    Fair enough.

    I would say that Judeo-Christians who literally believe in the Bible make assertions about the Exodus being a fact. The scientific fact is that there is no evidence of such an Exodus occurring, especially as depicted in the Bible. Now, I think that it is suspicious that a miraculous event such as the Ten Plagues and the parting of the Red Sea were not recorded or mentioned anywhere, except in the Bible. I would imagine that something that awesome would have been recorded in Egypt, or even in surrounding nations, possibly by word of mouth.

    However, you are right that the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

    >> There, I agree with you. I’ve not invoked the Merneptah stele to support a claim that the Exodus has been proven by science. OTOH, the stele provides warrant to reject John’s claim, and it corroborates, i.e., lends credibility to the Exodus story on the whole. I’m trying to think in gradations here.

    OK, it lends credibility to the Exodus story only insofar as it provides evidence of the presence of Israelites in ancient Egypt. That is a necessary condition for Exodus to be true, but certainly not a sufficient one.

    >> Like I said, I agree with that. The problem is, even since John’s known of the OTF, he hasn’t applied it. Besides, the OTF is just an acronym for impartial critical thinking, and that tool has been available to John all along. He went straight from non-Christian to Christian, then, straight from Christian to atheist, for primarily emotional reasons. Nowhere in his conversion story does he mention that he investigated other beliefs with cold logical rigor. Like John does with believers, couldn’t I just as easily attribute John’s embrace of atheism to the current social trend, i.e., the upwards trend of atheism in certain parts of this country?

    Are you sure that he hasn’t applied the OTF to his atheism? Can you be certain that he hasn’t attempted to stand outside of his belief system and try to see it as an outsider?

    I mean, the OTF is fundamentally about detaching oneself from one’s belief system (as much as possible) and viewing the matter from a perspective of common ground that all parties can agree upon as a solid starting point. In other words, one cannot take a perspective of a View From Nowhere, but has to start somewhere, and the best place to start is where all human beings have common ground, i.e. the empirical world.

    Both the supernaturalist and naturalist agree upon the existence of the empirical world and its laws. So, the question is whether one can justify one’s supernatural beliefs, or lack of such beliefs, from this perspective. Certainly John’s posts are consistent with this procedure, and thus can be construed as consistent with the OTF.

    I think an argument can be made that the OTF is, in one sense, IMPOSSIBLE, because we cannot shed ourselves entirely of the cloth of our heritage and background beliefs. However, in another sense, it is absolutely necessary, because in order to decide upon two conflicting points of view, one must have common ground from which to view those differing hypotheses and evaluate them. John begins with the common ground of naturalism, and subsequently concludes that supernaturalism is false. Again, that appears consistent with the OTF, as far as I understand it.

  36. Cl,

    It would be senseless to debate you on a definition of “biblical redemption” that you did not hold, so I’ll let you define that. What are the essential facts concerning “sin”, “sin nature”, “Hell”, “faith” and the substitutionary work of Jesus. In essence, what is your Gospel? What are we being saved from, and how do we receive this salvation. It will be a good opportunity for you to present the Gospel as you see it.

    It would also be senseless for us to argue about what would constitute “logically incoherent”. Let’s present our arguments, and let the audience decide the logical coherence of our arguments.

    So after you’ve clarified your definition of the Gospel, I’ll post my opening 700 word argument in support of the proposition “biblical redemption (as you perceive it) is logically incoherent”.

    I look forward to your version of the Gospel.

  37. cl says:

    Phil Stillwell,

    Hold on there, slow down. I might grant your point about the pragmatism of me defining redemption. However, you are going to have to define logical coherence, then, I will agree or disagree with emendations should they be necessary. Then, when we’ve cemented that goalpost, we inform our audiences thus.

    Like I said, firmly planted goalposts are a must. Without them, I’m not interested.

  38. I’ll use a quite rigorous definition of “logical coherence” for your benefit.

    Logical coherence: applying relations between the elements of a set of propositions in a non-contradictory way.

  39. cl says:

    Phil Stilwell,

    Logical coherence: applying relations between the elements of a set of propositions in a non-contradictory way.

    That’s useful. I would define a contradiction as an instance of X and ~X in the same set of propositions. However, that a set of propositions lacks contradiction doesn’t really amount to squat. Plenty of valid argument are unsound, don’t you think? So, would you care to fortify your goalpost?

  40. No I wouldn’t.

    My offer is generous in both the fact that you get the last word, and in my current proposed definition of “logical coherence”.

    The audience, with your guidance, can assess each proposition for soundness.

    A debate is for the audience. The audience can assess our arguments and decide tor themselves whether they are valid, sound, and whether I have actually demonstrated that biblical redemption is logically incoherent.

    This is your opportunity to present the gospel in the way god has revealed it to you and to defend your faith in a rigorous way against someone who thinks it is logically incoherent.

    My goalposts are quite clear by any reasonable standard.

    Do you want this opportunity?

  41. phyzics says:

    cl,

    mind if I use this as a fb quote: “Fundamentalism comes in more than one flavor. It’s a mindset that’s the root of the problem here, not a belief system. In the same way religious fundamentalists often can’t see outside their box, so it is with faithful adherents of the First Church of Scarlet A. It’s culture war, my friend, those beautifully machinated orchestrations of confusion designed to blind and entice.”

    It’s just too brilliant not to be shared.

  42. cl says:

    Phil Stilwell,

    Do you want this opportunity?

    I’m leaning towards it, although, I have another question. If the purpose is to critique my views on redemption, shouldn’t I go first? I realize that I’d have the last word under your proposed format, and that this entails a certain advantage, but, since I’m more interested in clarity than victory, I question the usefulness of me responding to you when it is my views that are under examination.

    Your thoughts?

    phyzics,

    Hey there. Thanks for stopping by, and for the kind words. By all means, feel free. Although, I must ask: what’s an “fb” quote? A “fallback” quote?

  43. Cl,

    Clarity is always good.

    You can go first if you’d like, and you can propose an alternative to my proposed word limit. My goal is to constrain the format enough so that the interlocutors are not tempted to stray from the actual argument, and will instead keep the arguments rigorous. It seems you understand this, so I’m willing to consider any proposed format that you feel will achieve this goal.

    When you present your version of biblical redemption, I’d appreciate it if you could focus on the mechanism. What makes us worthy of hellfire? Why is bloodshed necessary for redemption? Why are there only 2 polarized destinies rather than a continuum reflecting a continuum of sinfulness?

    We could also leave the debate open-ended or extend it to, say, 10 equal volleys of 300 words.

    I’m open to any format apart from one that will permit mere assertions, vagueness, or straying from the primary proposition.

  44. cl says:

    Phil Stilwell,

    I actually like your proposed format, it seems concise and to the point, so, I think that’s a great place to start. Another question: would you be willing to commit, either before or after, to a debate on a topic of my choice, following the same structure, but with the order reversed? IOW, if I go first on redemption, you go first on my topic?

    I’m open to any format apart from one that will permit mere assertions, vagueness, or straying from the primary proposition.

    I wholeheartedly concur with this sentiment, and I’m still pondering useful criteria in this regard. Whatever you do, don’t lose patience… you’ve got my attention.

  45. phyzics says:

    cl,

    fb as in FaceBook

  46. Cl,

    Apart from the logical absurdities inherent to biblical redemption, and the psychologically debilitating effects of telling perfectly-normal people they are so evil they deserve eternal torment, I don’t find many topics that warrant my attention. But you can propose anything you’d like to see if I bite.

    phil

  47. Cl,

    Are we good to go?

    Is there any other information you need from me?

    phil

  48. cl says:

    Phil,

    Yeah I’d like to move forward. I don’t need any other information from you. I do need some time to map out my strategy. While I imagine you’re eager to get going, unfortunately, you’re going to have to sit tight. I’m a busy guy with a fair amount of commitments both in and outside of the blogging world. As far as the redemption debate goes, I’d like to forego the advantage of the last word, and go first. I’m still not sure if I want to begin with that one. It might be interesting to begin with a non-religious debate, then proceed from there.

    Thanks for stopping by and proposing the idea. Truth be told, I’ve been wanting to do something like this for a while.

  49. Sure. I’ll just wait for your opener then.

    You can contact me directly at…

    philstilwell
    at
    yahoo
    dot
    com

    Cheers.

  50. Cl,

    Give me a time frame to work with. Email me directly and let me know what to expect if you are sincere about a debate.

    Your opening will be no more than 700 words, and needs only to be a recounting of the “simple” gospel as you understand it. This should not require research on your part.

    700 on your very purpose in life is no great task. It didn’t take you long to offer an unsubstantiated dismissal of my “Reasons For My Deconversion”. This is only moderately more difficult if you do have a coherent version of the “gospel”.

    Email me your intentions.

    Phil

  51. I have not yet received a response from Cl.

  52. cl says:

    Phil Stilwell,

    Give me a time frame to work with.

    How about, before the end of April?

    Email me directly and let me know what to expect if you are sincere about a debate.

    Why would I do that when I can just tell you here?

    This should not require research on your part.

    Hmmm… this seems to imply that you think I’m stalling because I need time to do research, but, I already told you I was busy. More, researched or not, I try not to “force” things, which means I’ll get to this as soon as it “clicks.” It’s a right-brain, intuitive type of approach.

    700 on your very purpose in life is no great task.

    I agree. Since I probably won’t even need that much, I have no idea why you appear to be trying to make me look overwhelmed.

    It didn’t take you long to offer an unsubstantiated dismissal of my “Reasons For My Deconversion”.

    That’s correct, at least, the “it didn’t take me long” part. As for my criticisms, you are incorrect: I substantiated each rejection with a concise explanation. Instead of addressing them and actually defending your pre-existing arguments, you challenged me to an entirely new set of arguments. If anything, it’s *you* who’s dismissed *my* substantiated rejections, buck-o!

    So, in short, hold your horses, I assure you I’m a man of my word. :)

  53. 1.
    Emailing permits more frankness and openness that increases understanding.

    2.
    Phil: “This should not require research on your part.”
    Cl: “Hmmm… this seems to imply that you think I’m stalling because I need time to do research”

    You do NOT need to do research. You are NOT overwhelmed. You presumably 1) understand the gospel, 2) have the holy spirit at your rhetorical side, and 3) have an imperative (1 Peter 3:15) to be ready to defend your “hope” at anytime. And you do NOT need your “right brain”. This is not a poetic exchange.

    If we could have discussed our schedules by personal email, perhaps you would not look so evasive now to your readers.

    3.
    Cl: “As for my criticisms, you are incorrect: I substantiated each rejection with a concise explanation.”
    I must have missed that explanation. Could you point me in the right direction?

  54. cl says:

    Phil Stilwell,

    Emailing permits more frankness and openness that increases understanding.

    I disagree, preferring public accountability.

    You… have an imperative (1 Peter 3:15) to be ready to defend your “hope” at anytime.

    I like that you know your Bible better than most atheists I’ve come across, and I’m more than willing to defend myself at any time. Nothing is preventing you from asking questions in this thread, or any other. That I haven’t catered to your time constraints concerning our little debate DOES NOT mean I’m unready or unwilling to defend my hope, so… citing 1 Peter 3:15 is a bit of a non-sequitur here.

    If we could have discussed our schedules by personal email, perhaps you would not look so evasive now to your readers.

    Oh, look: “Mr. Logic” presumes to know how my “readers” perceive me. No offense, Phil, but this is borderline comedic. You shan’t waltz in here making such tall assumptions and expect to get out unscathed from at least a little friendly jesting! That aside, let’s say I emailed you and was like, “Hey buddy, let’s do this March 12th.” How would that make me look “less evasive” to readers? They would never know of our agreement unless of course I posted the contents of our emails here, which is exactly what I wanted to do in the first place, so… why create additional work?

    AFAIK, the only person whom I look “evasive” to is yourself. If any of my readers think I look “evasive,” then, by all means, let them say so–but don’t speak for them.

    I must have missed that explanation. Could you point me in the right direction?

    Those explanations–note the plural–are right here, in this thread, my first response to you at February 15, 2011 at 11:24 PM.

    Anyways, the choice is yours: if you don’t like the way I go about my business, you’re not obligated to hang around, but I assure you I’m a man of my word and you will get what you’ve asked for.

  55. I note your explanations to my “divine innumeracy” post. If I address those, will you respond to them any sooner than you would start our debate? I rather doubt it, and I want to focus on the inherent logical absurdities that will be apparent in your personal interpretation of the biblical gospel.

    Allow me to repeat the paragraph where I pointed out in response to your proposal for the end of April to complete a 700-word account of the simple gospel.

    “You do NOT need to do research. You are NOT overwhelmed. You presumably 1) understand the gospel, 2) have the holy spirit at your rhetorical side, and 3) have an imperative (1 Peter 3:15) to be ready to defend your “hope” at anytime. And you do NOT need your “right brain”. This is not a poetic exchange.”

    Just how do you perceive your reader perceive you?

    As possessing a uncomplicated gospel on the ready tip of your evangelical tongue?

    As actually possessing the same ready holy spirit in Acts 2:4?

    As being ready when ask for a mere 700-word defense of the very basis of your ideology?

    How you you think your readers perceive you?

    How many words will you invest in a response to this post in an attempt to evade writing those easy 700-words that ought to be on the tip of your spirit-filled mind?

    What is your perception of yourself?

    A ready defender of the gospel?

    The end of April? Really? You introduced the word “comedic”. To whom might we justifiably attach it?

    To the heathen hoping for a prompt description of the “gospel” from a spirit-filled “apologist” for whom that very “gospel” is the “Truth” presumably at the ready as is commanded?

    Or to the spirit-filled “apologist” who needs weeks to come up with 700-words describing the “simple” gospel lying at the very foundation of christian apologetics?

    Don’t you think your self-perception may be just a bit distorted?

  56. cl says:

    Phil Stilwell,

    I note your explanations to my “divine innumeracy” post. If I address those, will you respond to them any sooner than you would start our debate?

    Probably.

    Just how do you perceive your reader perceive you?

    Did you mean, “How do I perceive that my readers perceive me,” or something like that? If so, I don’t know unless they tell me, and so far, you’re the only one who’s told me I’m evasive regarding our debate–which means that unless you have a personal email or some other statement from one or more of my other readers–you should have used reader, singular, instead of readers, plural. As it is, you’re projecting your opinion onto some unspecified subset of my readers, sans justification.

    How many words will you invest in a response to this post in an attempt to evade writing those easy 700-words that ought to be on the tip of your spirit-filled mind?

    Trust me, I’ve been feeling you out, and it’s this attitude that prompts me to not take you very seriously. Frankly, this seems like a little pissing contest for you. Personally, I don’t preach the gospel to win debate trophies, and you do not strike me as somebody with a genuine interest in hearing my formulation of the gospel [as opposed to say DoubtfulAtheist or Christopher who’ve been commenting around here lately]. You have a goal: to refute my formulation of the gospel. As such, you strike me as another in a long line of internet atheists who think they can easily refute all those “stupid Christians” out there. I mean, look at the way you denigrate me with scare quotes. Look at all the assumptions you make. That ain’t logic, that’s ulterior motive. You assume and are so bold as to actually claim I’m evading you on account of my refusal to comply to your time schedule. I could have easily accused you of evading my rebuttals to your syllogisms, and I still could, as you still haven’t addressed them–but I didn’t go that route. I just chalked it up to “whatever” because I didn’t want to assume anything.

    What is your perception of yourself?

    Does it matter? Does it relate to any arguments? Or, is this just more snark intended to belittle me?

    The end of April? Really? You introduced the word “comedic”. To whom might we justifiably attach it? To the heathen hoping for a prompt description of the “gospel” from a spirit-filled “apologist” for whom that very “gospel” is the “Truth” presumably at the ready as is commanded? Or to the spirit-filled “apologist” who needs weeks to come up with 700-words describing the “simple” gospel lying at the very foundation of christian apologetics?

    Don’t kid yourself; I’m a Christian. You thought I “played silly games” [IOW, was comedic] before your very first comment here. It’s all right there in your own blog. Again, assumption after assumption after assumption, despite the fact that I’ve clearly stated otherwise, you persist in assuming that I “need weeks,” as if your challenge is somehow daunting. Well… if that’s the type of logic you roll with, then… do as thou wilt, I suppose.

    Don’t you think your self-perception may be just a bit distorted?

    I think human self-perception is distorted in general, so, yes, I’m sure at some point my self-perception is distorted, but not in the way you attempt to imply. Besides, your perception of me seems more distorted than my perception of myself–by far. The only rational explanation for your litany of assumptions is that you’re trying to press my buttons to expedite things. That’s not going to happen, so I submit that we have two roads we can take from here:

    1) You can respect my choices and proceed on good faith; or

    2) You can continue to make whatever assumptions you wish, regardless of whether they’re true or not.

    Your choice. I’m sure you’ll do whatever is most important to you, and I’m going to respond to your request either way.

  57. P.S. If this public accountability is a bit uncomfortable for you, email me directly, a mode of communication in which I tend to be more forgiving.

  58. Well, since you’ve “committed” to “probably” responding to my response to your dismissal of my counter-apologetics syllogisms, let’s start there, particularly with the absurd notion of “faith”.

    —————–

    P1: Jesus considered those who believe with less confirmatory evidence more blessed that those who believed with more evidence. (John 20:19-31)

    P2: Falsehoods are more likely to have less confirmatory evidence at their disposal than have truths.

    P3: Those who believe with less confirmatory evidence are more likely to believe falsehoods.

    CONCLUSION: Jesus considered those who are more likely to believe falsehoods more blessed. (P1 – P3)

    —————–

    Do you perceive any weaknesses in this argument?

  59. cl says:

    Phil Stilwell,

    If this public accountability is a bit uncomfortable for you, email me directly, a mode of communication in which I tend to be more forgiving.

    I’m perfectly okay with public accountability, and whether or not you are forgiving is of no import here.

    Well, since you’ve “committed” to “probably” responding to my response to your dismissal of my counter-apologetics syllogisms, let’s start there, particularly with the absurd notion of “faith”.

    Actually, you asked if I would respond to Divine Innumeracy, not Faith’s Failure. Do you have a reason for this inconsistency?

    Do you perceive any weaknesses in this argument?

    What did I say February 15, 2011 at 11:24 PM? You haven’t responded. What makes you think my position might have changed?

  60. ???

    Here is what you said February 15, 2011 at 11:24 PM.

    “You’ve got plenty of valid arguments, but nothing that strikes me as sound. For example, P2 in Faith’s Failure is mere assertion. In Divine Impotence, P3 is out of scope. In Moral Inconsistencies, P2 is false, not to mention that your terms are undefined. In Divine Innumeracy, P3 and P4 are false. In short, if that’s the best you’ve come up with in a year, I see no reason to seriously consider what seem to be a bunch of witty aphorisms masquerading as sound arguments. ”

    Then today I posted my “Faith’s Failure” argument, the one you claim is mere assertion . Let me repeat it.

    ___________
    P1: Jesus considered those who believe with less confirmatory evidence more blessed that those who believed with more evidence. (John 20:19-31)

    P2: Falsehoods are more likely to have less confirmatory evidence at their disposal than have truths.

    P3: Those who believe with less confirmatory evidence are more likely to believe falsehoods.

    CONCLUSION: Jesus considered those who are more likely to believe falsehoods more blessed. (P1 – P3)
    ___________

    I asked “Do you perceive any weaknesses in this argument?”

    Would you like to respond?

    Clarify what your opinion is on P2 if that is bothering you. I can then attempt to adjust my argument.

    Hint: You can demonstrate P2 to be false by introducing an instance where a falsehood necessarily has more confirmatory evidence at its disposal.

    As it stands, truths, by their very virtue of necessarily corresponding to the way things actually are in a matrix of interdependent truths, have more confirmatory evidence at their disposal, and blessing the epistemic act of believing more upon less evidence is absurd.

  61. cl says:

    Phil Stilwell,

    So, what? I’m supposed to answer all your questions while you conveniently neglect to answer one or more of mine? That’s frustrating, but…

    I asked “Do you perceive any weaknesses in this argument?”

    Yeah, and I said, “mere assertion,” over three weeks ago, so why do you continue to ask?

    Clarify what your opinion is on P2 if that is bothering you.

    How much clearer do you want it? It’s mere assertion.

    Hint: You can demonstrate P2 to be false by introducing an instance where a falsehood necessarily has more confirmatory evidence at its disposal.

    Who bears the burden of proof? The one who makes a claim, or the one who denies their claim?

  62. If you wish to participate in a dialog, you have the burden of stating what you believe, not what do not believe.

    Do you believe it is ever proper for someone to believe more when there is less evidence?

    Don’t pay games. Tell me what you DO believe. Then I will assess it for logical coherency.

    And remember, you are the one holding an ideology that requires every single one of its claims to be true. I don’t. If not a single one of my arguments turns out to be valid or sound, your god will not magically appear.

    In contrast, if merely one of the bible’s claims is logically incoherent, your house of cards tumbles. You do agree, do you not?

    So, I’m claiming I will give you, not just one, but many arguments that will demonstrate the logical incoherence of your bible-based position.

    So, do you believe it is ever proper for someone to believe more when there is less evidence?

  63. Mike Gantt says:

    Phil,

    Your hounding of the witness is not enhancing your argument.

    And, by the way, your P1 is false. The truth of the passage you quoted is that Jesus considered those who believed with sufficient evidence more blessed than those who demanded excessive evidence.

    You, as well as many other atheists I have encountered on the internet, seem to fall into the latter category. You’re like the husband who says to his wife, “Honey, if you can give me an accounting of what you’re doing every minute we’re apart, with eyewitness corroboration, then I think I can trust that you’re being faithful to me and we can have a good relationship.” To which the wife’s only reasonable response could be, “Huh?”

    I promise to interrupt no more. As a reader who is eager to see the formal exchange between you and cl, I hope you can exercise patience and go at it in the time frame he’s requested. Since you chose the format, it’s only reasonable to let him choose the timing.

  64. Mike, it is indeed wise not to interrupt again. You have no understanding of what warranted belief is, and treat it as if it were binary. Google “is belief binary” to read my essay on this. The only warranted degree of belief is that which corresponds to the degree of evidence. Your silly notion that either you have or don’t have belief does not in any way map to reality.

  65. cl says:

    Phil Stilwell,

    I see nothing in Mike’s comment that would justify your accusation, which makes your stated penchant for warranted belief that much more deserving of skepticism, IMO.

    If you wish to participate in a dialog, you have the burden of stating what you believe, not what do not believe.

    If you wish to make a positive claim–and indeed you have–YOU bear the burden of proof, not me. If you refuse to acknowledge this foundational rule, I see no reason to take you seriously. You cannot just assert your way to truth, I’m afraid. So, can you justify P2?

    Don’t pay games. Tell me what you DO believe. Then I will assess it for logical coherency.

    Phil, I don’t know how to break this to you, but you’ve got it backwards here. Regarding your syllogisms, I am assessing your arguments for logical coherency, and I have found them wanting for the reasons stated. So, can you narrow your focus back to Faith’s Failure, and justify P2?

    And remember, you are the one holding an ideology that requires every single one of its claims to be true. I don’t. If not a single one of my arguments turns out to be valid or sound, your god will not magically appear.

    This is irrelevant to the arguments at hand.

    In contrast, if merely one of the bible’s claims is logically incoherent, your house of cards tumbles. You do agree, do you not?

    No, I don’t agree. If I am an inerrantist and one of the Bible’s claims can be shown demonstrably false, then I face a conundrum. However, again, this is irrelevant to the arguments before us.

    So, I’m claiming I will give you, not just one, but many arguments that will demonstrate the logical incoherence of your bible-based position.

    You don’t need to claim what you’ve already done. You have already given me many arguments that purport to demonstrate the logical incoherence of various Christian doctrines, and, I’ve already substantiated my responses to them. Would you care to respond, that this exercise might actually move forward? Or, do you want to keep doing what you’re doing, whatever that is?

    So, do you believe it is ever proper for someone to believe more when there is less evidence?

    I don’t know. I am not the arbiter of “proper” belief, whatever that is, but let’s get on with this. Justify P2.

  66. cl says:

    Phil Stilwell,

    BTW, did you–or did you not–have a “point 3” on your blog, which admonished one against speculation on the motives of their interlocutor? I saw it last night; I no longer see it.

    1) At any rate, my question is: why are you speculating on my motives [i.e., to evade] despite your stated admonition against speculation on the motives of one’s interlocutor?

    2) Why did you say my dismissal of your syllogisms was unsubstantiated, when in fact, I substantiated each one in a concise manner?

    You see, I’m having a hard time believing that you can admit to error. Contrary, I will gladly provide links to myself admitting to error, both on this blog and elsewhere, should you be skeptical of my humility. The point is, there’s no point in arguing with somebody who can’t admit when they’re wrong. So, if you can concede contradiction regarding 1 and error regarding 2 of this comment, I’ll take that as a sign of good faith, and gladly fasttrack both our debate, and an in-depth refutation of Faith’s Failure.

  67. You’ve got to be kidding.

    I introduce an argument hoping it reflects your position so I can assess whether what you DO believe is logically coherent, and all you can do is say “I don’t believe that”?

    Don’t be an evasive fool. Do you want me to GUESS what you believe? Are you an apologist?

    I’ll state it one more time.

    If you wish to participate in a dialog, you have the burden of stating what you believe, not what do not believe.

    Now, what do you believe about the relationship between faith, evidence, and warranted belief? I’m going to adjust my argument to match your actual position. You can choose not to tell me what you actually believe, but then stop calling yourself an apologist.

    Good grief. It is the level of game-playing I can expect from you?

    You claim to be a christian apologist, and the best you can do is make me chase you around hoping I come up with what you do believe? Don’t be a fool. You know better.

    What do you believe?

    Here let me make it a bit easier for you (though I shouldn’t have to).

    Concerning the premise…

    …”P2: Falsehoods are more likely to have less confirmatory evidence at their disposal than have truths.”…

    1. Do you simply not understand the statement?
    2. Do you believe falsehoods are LESS likely to have confirmatory evidence at their disposal?
    3. Do you believe falsehoods have equal confirmatory evidence at their disposal.
    4. Do you not know what you believe about evidence and falsehoods?

    All you now need to do is give me the number. I’ll then do your work for you if necessary, and ask follow up questions. (This feels like the game “20 questions”)

    So what I am trying to do is find out what you believe so I can construct a syllogism (if possible) that shows what you ACTUALLY belief is logically incoherent. Do you understand this? I don’t need to defend any premise such at my current P2 that you do not actually believe. The task here is to find out what you DO believe. Do you understand?

  68. Wife: Are you committed to this relationship?

    Husband: Of course I am. I am your husband!

    Wife: Then where were you last night? Were you out drinking?

    Husband: You need to demonstrate I was out drinking. The burden of proof lies on YOU!

    Wife: But I thought you were committed to our relationship…

    Husband: I am. But you need to demonstrate that I was out drinking. It’s not me responsibility to tell you what I was ACTUALLY doing.

    (Rather bizarre, is it not?)

  69. So you may want to, out of honesty, stop claiming to be an apologist until you can tell people what you actually believe rather than unproductively playing 20 questions.

  70. cl says:

    Phil Stilwell,

    Please, relax. I never said “I don’t believe P2,” so that line of objection is mistaken. I am agnostic and skeptical of P2, but I am open to belief given sufficient evidence–which I presumed you have.

    Rather bizarre, is it not?

    Yes, it’s very bizarre. In your analogy, the wife is proactive and simply asks the husband a question that demands a direct answer. Comparing that to an informal debate in which the positive claimant fails to vindicate a supporting premise of their own syllogism–and then has the audacity to lambast their interlocutor with a bunch of unsavory names for pointing out the fact–is in no way comparable.

    Do you simply not understand the statement?

    I understand premise P2.

    Do you believe falsehoods are LESS likely to have confirmatory evidence at their disposal?

    I am agnostic. Your question is one of probability, and I am not an expert.

    Do you believe falsehoods have equal confirmatory evidence at their disposal.

    Again, agnostic. I neither affirm nor deny such speculation.

    Do you not know what you believe about evidence and falsehoods?

    I know that many a falsehood has had plenty of evidence, up to and including replication via double-blind clinical trials. I know that truth requires no evidence. I will also argue that evidence is in the eye of the beholder. Additionally, I believe the Scripture in question: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

    I don’t need to defend any premise such at my current P2 that you do not actually believe.

    If you wish to leave here under the impression that your original Faith’s Failure is a sound argument demonstrating that faith in Jesus Christ is absurd, you need to defend premise P2. If you are unconcerned with the fact that as currently stated, Faith’s Failure currently, ahem… fails, then I certainly have no reason to press the issue.

    The task here is to find out what you DO believe.

    I’ve told you what I believe. If you wish to offer a second draft of Faith’s Failure, I’m willing to give it a look.

  71. My goal is not to defeat your position with an argument with premises you do not hold. My goal is to defeat your position by offering an ad absurdum argument in which the very premises you hold turn out to be inconsistent.

    So lets consider my “Faith’s Failure” argument to have failed due to it not reflecting your actual position.

    Let’s start again by establishing what you actually do believe about faith.

    1. Do you believe faith is a virtue?

    2. If faith is a virtue, what makes it virtuous?

  72. dguller says:

    cl:

    >> Again, agnostic. I neither affirm nor deny such speculation.

    Really? Why bother going to all these lengths to justify your positions with post after post when you are agnostic about whether truth is more likely to have good justification?

  73. cl says:

    Phil Stilwell,

    I’m willing to answer all your questions, but shouldn’t you pay me the same courtesy? If you believe you should, then, again:

    1) Was there, or was there not, the aforementioned “point 3” on your blog just a few days ago? If yes, why did you remove it?

    2) Why are you speculating on my motives [i.e., to evade] despite your stated admonition against speculation on the motives of one’s interlocutor?

    3) Why did you say my dismissal of your syllogisms was unsubstantiated, when in fact, I substantiated each one in a concise manner?

    So lets consider my “Faith’s Failure” argument to have failed due to it not reflecting your actual position.

    It fails because premise P2 is mere assertion, which means that unless you can show P2 true, the argument deserves to be classified as unsound. Besides, as Mike Gantt alluded to, your argument fails even if I accept P2 as stated. I could respond, “Yes, I agree that falsehoods are more likely to have less confirmatory evidence at their disposal than truths. The resurrection has sufficient confirmatory evidence at its disposal, so those who believe on that evidence are less likely to believe a falsehood. Jesus considered as blessed those who believe on sufficient evidence. Therefore, Jesus is not blessing the act of believing upon less evidence. We cannot call faith absurd.”

    Do you believe faith is a virtue?

    I believe faith in Jesus Christ is a virtue.

    If faith is a virtue, what makes it virtuous?

    The same thing that makes any “virtue” virtuous: conformity to moral good.

    dguller,

    Why bother going to all these lengths to justify your positions with post after post when you are agnostic about whether truth is more likely to have good justification?

    Because it might be the case that truth is more likely to have good justification. Since I don’t know, I can’t rule it out, which means it makes sense to proceed as if that could be true. Also, note that Phil used the phrase “confirmatory evidence,” which may or may not be wholly synonymous with justification as you’ve used here. Nonetheless, my answer is the same: Several falsehoods have had ample confirmatory evidence, and several truths have had none, so making across-the-board rules as Phil Stilwell does seems unreliable. That’s why I’m agnostic and skeptical towards Phil’s across-the-board rules.

    However, as I’ve argued, his argument fails even if I accept P2 as stated.

  74. dguller says:

    cl:

    >> Because it might be the case that truth is more likely to have good justification. Since I don’t know, I can’t rule it out, which means it makes sense to proceed as if that could be true. Also, note that Phil used the phrase “confirmatory evidence,” which may or may not be wholly synonymous with justification as you’ve used here. Nonetheless, my answer is the same: Several falsehoods have had ample confirmatory evidence, and several truths have had none, so making across-the-board rules as Phil Stilwell does seems unreliable. That’s why I’m agnostic and skeptical towards Phil’s across-the-board rules.

    What do you mean that you don’t know that truth is more likely to have a good justification? Why don’t you try an experiment?

    Spend a month believing only information that you have come across that has poor justification and evidence. At the end of the month, compile what percentage of those beliefs was true and what percentage was false.

    Then, on the following month, only believe information that you have come across that has good justification and evidence. At the end of the month, compile what percentage of those beliefs was true and what percentage was false.

    Do you honestly believe that believing anything that you hear without justification is a better way to discover the truth?

    It is not about 100% certainty. That is why Phil used the language of probability. You increase your odds of having more true beliefs over time if you only believe those that have good evidence. That does not mean that you will always have only true beliefs, but that you will have more true beliefs compared to believing things that have poor evidence.

  75. cl says:

    dguller,

    I wrote a detailed response to your last remark, but decided to temporarily withhold it in the interest of a different strategy. Instead, I’ll ask a simple question: in this thread, what confirmatory evidence did Phil supply for his claim that falsehoods are less likely to have confirmatory evidence than truths?

  76. Ana says:

    Phil, just curious, within the comment in which you first proposed the debate to cl, you said :

    The proposition will be “biblical redemption is logically incoherent”.

    Then cl requested that you define “biblical redemption” .

    You said it’s up to him to define it.

    My question is, how do you declare an undefined concept, as logically incoherent? Aren’t you putting the cart before the horse?

  77. dguller says:

    cl:

    >> Instead, I’ll ask a simple question: in this thread, what confirmatory evidence did Phil supply for his claim that falsehoods are less likely to have confirmatory evidence than truths?

    None.

  78. I live in Tokyo.

    I’m going to be busy here for a while.

    Plus, I’ve wasted enough words and time trying to extract the “gospel” from self-proclaimed christian apologists who should both know what they believe, and be proud of clearly proclaiming it.

    Just briefly in response to Cl…

    “1) Was there, or was there not, the aforementioned “point 3″ on your blog just a few days ago? If yes, why did you remove it?”
    What are you talking about?

    “2) Why are you speculating on my motives [i.e., to evade] despite your stated admonition against speculation on the motives of one’s interlocutor?”
    I’m not speculating. You could easily give me your version of the “gospel”, and you have not.

    3) Why did you say my dismissal of your syllogisms was unsubstantiated, when in fact, I substantiated each one in a concise manner?
    “I’ll concede this in the hope you can then tell me what you actually believe.”

    Any further evasion, and I’m most certainly moving on.

    I have enough to do in response to the situation here in Tokyo without wasting my time on someone who calls himself an apologist, yet can’t even begin to honestly respond to clear questions. Rather pathetic.

  79. Oh, and an update on prayer.

    Those here who ran for higher ground survived.

    Those who did not run, but instead prayed, perished.

    Don’t you mendacious christian fools even begin to suggest that they were praying to the wrong god.

    A god of the universe is able to move mountains and stop tsunamis. Your impotent god who has presumably made such claims cannot or does not care.

    Faith is not innocuous. It has consequences. And those consequences, apart from the warm and fuzzy placebo effect, are very often fatal.

    Don’t you even think about cherry picking a few fortunate survivors and applying the word “miracle”. You’ are fools whose minds cannot distinguish between probabilities and anecdotes selected to reinforce presuppositions. Shame on you for extrapolating from your own cognitive deficiencies to claim some god operates on the same fine line between life and death that the probabilities inherent to a material world do.

    Evasion is the only game you’ve got, it seems, and I’ve got better things to do. But make no mistake. You are fools attempting to propagate a myth that removes much of the joy of living life in reality.

    For readers who would like to know more about my emergence from the lies of christianity, email me directly.

    philstilwell
    AT
    yahoo
    DOT
    com

  80. Oh, but while prayers are as impotent as the imaginary god to whom they’re addressed, thanks to those of you who are sending help and supplies here to Japan. I was fortunate. Some of my friends were not. I’ll be busy for the next couple of weeks.

    -phil

  81. dguller says:

    Phil:

    Good luck, and take care.

  82. cl says:

    dguller,

    I appreciate your direct and straightforward answer. If you don’t mind, please do the same for these:

    1) According to your view, am I under any compulsion whatsoever to accept a claim with no evidence?

    2) According to your view, shouldn’t I reject claims with no evidence, or at least be agnostic towards them?

    3) According to Phil’s own standard, isn’t premise P2 more likely to be false than true, since it is not accompanied by any confirmatory evidence whatsoever?

  83. cl says:

    Phil,

    I was fortunate. Some of my friends were not. I’ll be busy for the next couple of weeks.

    I’m sorry. I’m willing to send aid in the form of money if you can instruct me how to do so in such a way that it will reach you directly. I could also include some items of clothing, and you can rest assured that no religious items will accompany my care package. I will also create a blog post asking others to send aid to you.

    What are you talking about?

    Your own commenting guidelines, point 3: “Don’t speculate on the character or motivation of the post’s author. Address the argument.” Also of note is point 6: “Keep your tone academic.” You have violated those points throughout our discussion, and I’m just wondering why you hold other people to a standard you yourself don’t uphold.

    I’m not speculating. You could easily give me your version of the “gospel”, and you have not.

    You are speculating. We agreed that I was to give you my version of the gospel for our debate about biblical redemption. We haven’t started that debate yet. You demanded that we discuss Faith’s Failure instead, and I obliged. My version of the gospel is irrelevant to Faith’s Failure‘s failure, which explores the epistemic worth of Jesus’ statement in John 20:29. That’s why I didn’t see fit to supply my version of the gospel thus far.

    At any rate, the gospel I believe is simple: Christ crucified and risen to atone for the sins of the world, a gift of God’s grace, not attainable by works. I will give a more detailed version for our debate on redemption. Proceeding by the guidelines you established can hardly be considered evasion, and my willingness to give you the gospel outside of those guidelines should be sufficient to prove that I am not evading.

    Any further evasion, and I’m most certainly moving on.

    I’ve told you what I actually believe at every step of this discussion, and I can include 10 pieces of evidence to demonstrate this fact. For example, you asked:

    Do you perceive any weaknesses in this argument?

    I replied:

    Mere assertion.

    You asked:

    Do you believe it is ever proper for someone to believe more when there is less evidence?

    I replied:

    I don’t know. I am not the arbiter of “proper” belief, whatever that is…

    You asked:

    …if merely one of the bible’s claims is logically incoherent, your house of cards tumbles. You do agree, do you not?

    I replied:

    No, I don’t agree. If I am an inerrantist and one of the Bible’s claims can be shown demonstrably false, then I face a conundrum. However, again, this is irrelevant to the arguments before us.

    You asked:

    Do you simply not understand the statement?

    I replied:

    I understand premise P2.

    You asked:

    Do you believe falsehoods are LESS likely to have confirmatory evidence at their disposal?

    I replied:

    I am agnostic. Your question is one of probability, and I am not an expert.

    You asked:

    Do you believe falsehoods have equal confirmatory evidence at their disposal.

    I replied:

    Again, agnostic. I neither affirm nor deny such speculation.

    You asked:

    Do you not know what you believe about evidence and falsehoods?

    I replied:

    I know that many a falsehood has had plenty of evidence, up to and including replication via double-blind clinical trials. I know that truth requires no evidence. I will also argue that evidence is in the eye of the beholder. Additionally, I believe the Scripture in question: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

    You asked:

    Do you believe faith is a virtue?

    I replied:

    I believe faith in Jesus Christ is a virtue.

    You asked:

    If faith is a virtue, what makes it virtuous?

    I replied:

    The same thing that makes any “virtue” virtuous: conformity to moral good.

    That’s nine questions, each of which I answered directly and concisely. I’ve also given you my version of the gospel, despite it’s irrelevance to Faith’s Failure, and that makes ten. What else do you need from me, such that we might proceed?

  84. cl says:

    Ana,

    My question is, how do you declare an undefined concept, as logically incoherent? Aren’t you putting the cart before the horse? [to Phil]

    In Phil’s defense, I don’t think he’s declaring an undefined concept as logically incoherent. As he states on his own blog, he’s formulated his syllogisms by what he takes to be standard definitions of Christian doctrines. I believe he’s saying that, of those versions presented to him thus far, he finds them incoherent. I believe he asked me to define my particular version of the gospel in order to avoid wasting time arguing straw, and I commend him for this approach. There’s no sense debating what somebody doesn’t actually believe, which is why I’ve answered Phil’s questions directly every step of the way.

    This isn’t to say I approve of Phil’s style of argumentation overall, as I find his impatience and insults to be counterproductive, not to mention blatant hypocrisy given points 3 and 6 of his own commenting suggestions.

    Hope that helps.

  85. dguller says:

    Cl:

    >> 1) According to your view, am I under any compulsion whatsoever to accept a claim with no evidence?

    No, there is no compulsion to accept something without evidence. There is also no compulsion to accept something with evidence. People do both all the time. But perhaps I am misunderstanding what you are asking. When I think of “compulsion”, I think of something someone cannot help but do, even if they do not wish to.

    >> 2) According to your view, shouldn’t I reject claims with no evidence, or at least be agnostic towards them?

    You should rate them very lowly in terms of their likelihood of being true. I would not disregard them entirely, especially if there isn’t any better evidence around, because unconfirmed claims may be the best information that you have in that situation. However, if there is good evidence for a claim that contradicts another claim with poor evidence, then I would put my trust in the claim with better evidence as being more likely to be true.

    >> 3) According to Phil’s own standard, isn’t premise P2 more likely to be false than true, since it is not accompanied by any confirmatory evidence whatsoever?

    Not necessarily. P2 is the foundation of our epistemic standards of inquiry. If you doubt P2, then you remove yourself from the activity of seeking out the truth. It would be like refusing to believe that one must dribble a ball in basketball. You just are no longer able to play the game, if that is what you believe.

  86. Ana says:

    I believe he’s saying that, of those versions presented to him thus far, he finds them incoherent.
    I believe he asked me to define my particular version of the gospel in order to avoid wasting time arguing straw…

    If he was declaring the biblical redemption, as conveyed to him in the past, to be logically incoherent, and he asked you to define “biblical redemption” so as to ensure that your definition comports to the concept of biblical redemption he has in mind, then I don’t see a problem.

    However, I do think the order would have nonetheless made more sense if he asked you to define “biblical redemption” / list its elements, prior to offering to debate you on the proposition “biblical redemption is logically incoherent”.

  87. cl says:

    dguller,

    As delineated in my comment March 12, 2011 at 9:32 AM, do you agree or disagree that I gave direct, concise answers to all nine of Phil’s questions, as well as a direct, concise explanation of the gospel?

    Do you think Phil’s insults towards me are warranted?

    Do you think Phil has upheld points 3 and 6 of his own commenting suggestions?

    You should rate them very lowly in terms of their likelihood of being true.

    Why?

  88. cl says:

    Ana,

    If you don’t mind, can I ask your opinion of who has the upper hand in this debate, and why?

  89. dguller says:

    cl:

    >> Why?

    Seriously? Are you asking me why a belief that is based upon wishful thinking, or hearsay, or imagination should be treated as less likely to be true as a belief based upon direct observations, or experimental data from controlled studies? It is because in the course of our history, the beliefs that are justified with good evidence have turned out to be true more often than beliefs that are justified with bad evidence. It has happened so often that now this rule is part of our practice of inquiry in general, and to abandon it is to no longer be able to engage in truth-seeking activities.

    Like I said, try the experiment that I mentioned above, and see which approach has a better chance of guiding you to true beliefs.

    And the fact that you are even asking me “why” shows that you are seeking evidence, which shows that you are playing this game by the rules. I have no idea why you are trying to pretend otherwise, except to score a cheap philosophical point. Just admit that you agree with that premise. Your entire behavior on this blog shows that you implicitly agree with it, and it is really quite silly for you to demand a good reason to follow good reasons.

    Oh, and I’m not going to referee between you and Phil.

  90. cl says:

    dguller,

    I have much more to say but am pressed for time at the moment, so will leave it at this:

    Are you asking me why a belief that is based upon wishful thinking, or hearsay, or imagination should be treated as less likely to be true as a belief based upon direct observations, or experimental data from controlled studies?

    No, and you have an uncanny ability to respond to statements I don’t make. Let me give you some advice: STICK TO MY WORDS. I asked why I should rate claims without evidence very lowly in terms of their likelihood of being true, as some sort of general rule. Pay my position some charity and please quit responding as if you’re looking down your nose because that gets really annoying.

    I have no idea why you are trying to pretend otherwise, except to score a cheap philosophical point.

    So, asking you a question -> pretending to score a cheap point? Frankly, sir, you’re being arrogant.

    Oh, and I’m not going to referee between you and Phil.

    Presuming you’re interested in the search for truth as you say, why not just answer the questions honestly? Help us out here.

  91. dguller says:

    Cl:

    >> No, and you have an uncanny ability to respond to statements I don’t make. Let me give you some advice: STICK TO MY WORDS. I asked why I should rate claims without evidence very lowly in terms of their likelihood of being true, as some sort of general rule. Pay my position some charity and please quit responding as if you’re looking down your nose because that gets really annoying.

    Fair enough.

    Yes, you should stick to that as a general rule.

    >> Presuming you’re interested in the search for truth as you say, why not just answer the questions honestly? Help us out here.

    Honestly, I’m not even going to get involved. I only jumped in, because I was surprised at your claim that you are agnostic about whether you should prioritize beliefs with good evidence over beliefs with bad evidence. That struck me as bizarre, especially since you have made a point of trying to use what you considered good evidence to support your claims.

  92. Ana says:

    cl,

    I wasn’t sure if you were referring to the exchange between you and Phil concerning his debate proposal, or the part where the two of you discussed further his Faith’s Failure syllogism, but I assumed the latter.

    He said:

    I note your explanations to my “divine innumeracy” post. If I address those, will you respond to them any sooner than you would start our debate?

    You answered by saying “probably” and in response to you, he put up his Faith’s Failure syllogism … when what he should have posted is his Divine Innumeracy syllogism.

    Not only that, but when he put up Faith’s Failure, he did not “address” your objection to it (which you had already given earlier in the thread). Rather, he asked:

    “Do you perceive any weaknesses in this argument?”

    That question does not “address” your already previously stated objection that P2 is “mere assertion”.

    Instead of him justifying why P2 should be regarded as true, he wanted you to justify why it should be regarded as false.

    But you did not call P2 false, so you do not have to disprove it, whereas, he is asserting P2 as truth, so he does bear the burden of proving its correctness.

    Instead of addressing his burden he went on to ask the question:

    “Do you believe it is ever proper for someone to believe more when there is less evidence?”

    which ( though a perfectly fine question in-and-of-itself ) is irrelevant to whether the statement:

    Falsehoods are more likely to have less confirmatory evidence at their disposal than have truths.

    is true.

    So the question was actually a digression of sorts.

    — In regards to the debate he offered you, it seemed to me he was doing a lot of pressuring, a “common and hurry!” attitude, which was a turn-off for me. I prefer quality writing over some quick-deadline (of which I didn’t see reason to be adamant about. This is the internet, a blogosphere, not school or the outside job world ).

    I’d say you had the upper hand in that you were strict about keeping focus on the original issue and did not initiate a type of antagonism, whereas Phil wandered and did adopt an antagonistic method of reply.

  93. Very useful info. Hope to see more posts soon!

  94. Things have settled down a bit here in Tokyo.

    If you would like to donate, you can do that on the…

    iTunes Store

    …where you’ll find a link.

    Thanks.

  95. Cl, I said…

    Do you believe falsehoods are LESS likely to have confirmatory evidence at their disposal? (P2 in the syllogism)

    …to which you responded…

    I am agnostic. Your question is one of probability, and I am not an expert.

    It is not a question of probabilities.

    It is conceptual.

    An objective truth in the universe has the totality of all interdependent causal relations at its evidential disposal.

    An objective falsehood, because it is a falsehood, necessarily creates one or many conceptual breaks in this matrix of interdependent causal relations, thus necessarily diminishing the available confirmatory evidence.

    Therefore, falsehood necessarily have less confirmatory evidence at their disposal.

    Therefore, P2 is sound, and Jesus indeed considered those who are more likely to believe falsehoods more blessed as my syllogism concluded.

  96. cl says:

    Phil Stilwell,

    As far as donating, I was more interested in getting you and your friends something directly.

    An objective truth in the universe has the totality of all interdependent causal relations at its evidential disposal.

    Sure, “it” would, but we often don’t, and that’s why I’m agnostic towards your across-the-board rule.

    Therefore, P2 is sound, and Jesus indeed considered those who are more likely to believe falsehoods more blessed as my syllogism concluded.

    You’ve returned and merely re-asserted what was already mere assertion, as well as backpedaled on your previous claim. In your comment March 10, 2011 at 2:08 PM, you wrote:

    I don’t need to defend any premise such at my current P2 that you do not actually believe.

    …yet, here you are now defending a premise you claimed no need to defend. In your comment March 11, 2011 at 2:02 AM, you wrote:

    My goal is to defeat your position by offering an ad absurdum argument in which the very premises you hold turn out to be inconsistent. So lets consider my “Faith’s Failure” argument to have failed due to it not reflecting your actual position. Let’s start again by establishing what you actually do believe about faith.

    1. Do you believe faith is a virtue?

    2. If faith is a virtue, what makes it virtuous?

    In my comment March 11, 2011 at 11:06 AM, I answered those two questions directly. In my comment March 12, 2011 at 8:44 AM, I re-iterated my answers to ALL of your previous questions, including a brief delineation of the gospel even though such is irrelevant to this argument. In my comment March 11, 2011 at 11:06 AM, I explained how your argument fails even if I accept P2 as stated.

    Thus far, your argument fails no matter which way we cut the cake. Do you have a version of the argument that doesn’t fail?

  97. dguller says:

    cl:

    If you honestly believe that true statements and false statements have the SAME degree of evidence, then why bother offering evidence or justifications at all to any of your claims? You often complain about people just asserting this or that, but if your claims can be believed, there is nothing else to do, right? I mean, why say that X is justified by Y when it has nothing to do with whether X is true or false?

  98. cl says:

    dguller,

    I thought you weren’t interested in this? Honestly, I find it totally unacceptable for you to claim you aren’t taking sides, refuse to answer my questions about Phil’s performance, and then come back and ask me more questions that seem to support Phil. If you’re going to participate, please do so fairly, not selectively.

    If you honestly believe that true statements and false statements have the SAME degree of evidence, then why bother offering evidence or justifications at all to any of your claims?

    Because, FOR THE UMPTEENTH TIME, I don’t–as in DO NOT–believe that as any sort of rule. Sorry for the YELLING, but… what else can I do if you won’t listen? Once again, you are NOT STICKING TO MY WORDS, but inferring too much from them.

    But hey, see what you want to see.

  99. dguller says:

    cl:

    >> Because, FOR THE UMPTEENTH TIME, I don’t–as in DO NOT–believe that as any sort of rule. Sorry for the YELLING, but… what else can I do if you won’t listen? Once again, you are NOT STICKING TO MY WORDS, but inferring too much from them.
    Okay. Let’s just be clear here.

    There are three options:

    (1) True beliefs are MORE likely to have good evidence and justification for them, compared to false beliefs.

    (2) True beliefs are EQUALLY likely to have good evidence and justification for them as false beliefs.

    (3) True beliefs are LESS likely to have good evidence and justification for them, compared to false beliefs.

    Which do you believe in?

  100. cl says:

    Good grief. My answer has not changed.

  101. dguller says:

    cl:

    (1), (2) or (3)?

  102. cl says:

    What part of “my answer has not changed” eludes you?

    When it comes to making such broad generalizations, I am agnostic as to which one of them is true. Of course, this is all related to my observation that what little truth we have discovered is but the battered remains of who-knows-how-many falsehoods. Many, many falsehoods have been accompanied by equal or more evidence throughout history and continuing to this day, and we have no idea how many of today’s “truths confirmed by evidence” are going to be unconfirmed by new evidence in the future, or new interpretations of existing evidence. The human date with science is barely beyond the “So where would you like to go for dinner?” stage if you ask me.

    Besides, what does this petty side-argument over whether I believe P2 or not have to do with anything? Phil said he would adjust his argument but he has not. He simply re-asserted the very same argument he earlier declared as failed.

    Even if I accept P2 for the sake of this argument… okay, fine. His argument still fails, not to mention the side grievance of taking the verse out of scope to prove his point.

    Like I said in the beginning, he’s got plenty of valid arguments, but nothing that strikes me as sound.

  103. Mike Gantt says:

    dguller,

    Like cl, I am puzzled by your obsession with the assertion that evidence fully correlates with truth. I do see a certain logic to it, but only for someone who is omniscient or, in a much more limited sense, where you had a controlled environment. We, however, have to live life between the extremes of omniscience on the one hand and lab room experiments on the other.

    One of the main reasons people lie is that they’re counting on this common discrepancy between evidence and truth. Your theory is for an ideal world where there are no unsolved crimes, not for the world in which we humans find ourselves. We must deal with life based on the evidence available to us and draw the best conclusions about truth that we can.

    You have a cool spirit and I like your contributions, but this approach of trying to paint cl into a corner has reached diminishing returns. Don’t disengage, but do think about a different tack.

  104. cl says:

    Mike Gantt,

    I couldn’t agree more. I shudder to think of the confirmed wrongful convictions, not to mention who-knows-how-many haven’t been overturned yet. I mean, 80 or so years ago, biology books were using the “evidence” from evolution to argue that the Caucasian race was “superior!”

    Sure, proportioning one’s belief to evidence is a great guideline, but there is good reason to not get carried away with it, as many–particularly those who either knowingly or unknowingly endorse scientism–tend to do. At the end of the day, evidence remains subject to human interpretation. Induction never occurs in a vacuum, and, as you point out, smarter criminals and hucksters exploit this weakness by dressing falsehoods with all sorts of “evidence.” Falsehood upon falsehood has been sustained with evidence, as has truth upon truth. That’s why I’m hesitant to commit to 1, 2 or 3.

    More importantly, it doesn’t matter to Phil’s position one bit. He said he didn’t need to justify P2, now he’s attempted to justify P2. He said he could adjust his argument to fit my answers to his questions, but he hasn’t done that either. Nor has he gave sufficient rebuttal to your observation–which I agreed with–that Jesus was actually blessing those who believed on sufficient evidence and weren’t plagued by radical doubt.

    If that is not an acceptable paraphrase of your position, let me know.

  105. Mike Gantt says:

    cl, agreed.

    It also seems strange to me that Phil seems to leave out the dimension of relevance. That is, just because I can produce mountains of evidence for something doesn’t mean that the something is important to me. And, conversely, just because I have limited evidence for something doesn’t mean it’s unimportant.

    Nonetheless, I hope Phil will reengage with you because he has a lively spirit and seems as if he’d bring focused arguments to bear.

  106. dguller says:

    cl:

    Okay, so you are agnostic about whether truth is more likely to have better evidence to support it than falsehood. If that is true, then why do you offer evidence to support your positions? I think that you assume that the better evidence you have for a claim, the more likely it will be true. Again, this is about LIKELIHOOD. Nobody is saying that if you have good evidence for X, then X is NECESSARILY true, but only that you should believe X over Y, especially if X has better evidence for it, because you have a better chance of having more true beliefs over time. It necessarily follows from this that you will have false beliefs, as well, but you will have less false beliefs over time if you follow the best evidence. And really, what is the alternative? If you are not going to follow the best evidence available, then what other criteria are you using?

    Mike:

    See the above to cl. I never said that “evidence fully correlates with truth”. I only said that over time, if you only have beliefs that have the best evidence for them, then you will have more true beliefs than if you did anything else. It is a matter of thinking statistically about this. If a randomized controlled trial shows that a drug works better than placebo for a disease, and I take the drug, then it does not mean that I will get better. It does mean that if you took a group of people with the disease and gave them the drug, then more would feel better than if they didn’t take the drug. Similarly, if you look at the beliefs of human beings over time, and compared those with good evidence to those with bad evidence, then there will be more true beliefs with the former than with the latter. Otherwise, there is no point in looking for evidence at all. You must believe that good evidence is better than bad evidence overall, even if not in every specific instance.

  107. dguller says:

    And I also find it funny that both cl and Mike are using what they perceive to be GOOD REASONS to JUSTIFY their positions while decrying my claim that we ought to follow good reasons over bad ones in our search for truth, because this will maximize the number of true beliefs we have over time, especially as compared to only following bad reasons, or no reasons whatsoever.

  108. dguller says:

    cl:

    And if you are agnostic about (1), (2), and (3), then when do you know when (1) applies, when (2) applies, and when (3) applies? And how do you know this, except by attempting to justify this criteria using GOOD REASONS?

  109. cl says:

    dguller,

    …I also find it funny that both cl and Mike are using what they perceive to be GOOD REASONS to JUSTIFY their positions while decrying my claim that we ought to follow good reasons over bad ones in our search for truth,

    For Pete’s sake will you come back to Earth already? I didn’t “decry” anything you’ve said so quit putting words in my mouth. Reread this thread, it’s obviously necessary. I’ve stated agnosticism concerning P2. That’s it. You’ve made a mountain out of a molehill. This is why I keep saying STICK TO MY WORDS. Agnosticism over a complex probability question does not entail that one’s epistemic compass has gone out the window.

    …why do you offer evidence to support your positions?

    I’ve answered this: proportioning one’s belief to evidence is a great guideline. Also, many people rely on “evidence” in forming their worldviews. Therefore, even if I outright rejected P2–which I haven’t–it would still make sense for me to offer evidence to my readers, many of whom accept P2. So don’t think you can successfully infer what you can’t: that I use evidence doesn’t betray my stated agnosticism about P2.

    Mike Gantt,

    …I hope Phil will reengage with you because he has a lively spirit and seems as if he’d bring focused arguments to bear.

    Yeah, I could do without the smack-talk, but I pretty much agree. This is why I gave him the benefit of the doubt in the first place. Although, I fear the worst. I fear he’ll simply come back in attack mode again, as opposed to making good on his claim to adjust his argument according to what I actually believe.

  110. Cl said…

    Even if I accept P2 for the sake of this argument… okay, fine. His argument still fails (_1_), not to mention the side grievance of taking the verse out of scope(_2_) to prove his point.

    Q3/18a: Are you only accepting P2 “for the sake of argument”? If so, where does it fail given my sub-argument for P2?
    Q3/18b: What are you referring to at _1_?
    Q3/18c: Can you elaborate on _2_?

  111. dguller says:

    cl:

    >> I’ve answered this: proportioning one’s belief to evidence is a great guideline.

    Why is it a great guideline? In other words, what is your justification that “proportioning one’s belief to evidence is a great guideline”? Either you have good reasons to justify this claim, in which case you do, in fact, believe in P2, or you have no good reasons, and then why should anyone follow the guideline at all, including you?

    >> Therefore, even if I outright rejected P2–which I haven’t–it would still make sense for me to offer evidence to my readers, many of whom accept P2.

    Oh. So, you provide evidence in support of your beliefs, not necessarily because you think the evidence supports your beliefs, but because you are following a guideline and are PRETENDING to take evidence seriously, because some of your readers happen to believe that good evidence for a claim increases its likelihood of being true. Nice.

    >> So don’t think you can successfully infer what you can’t: that I use evidence doesn’t betray my stated agnosticism about P2.

    But WHY do you try to use good evidence at all, if you are agnostic about P2? What is the point, if you do not believe that good evidence brings you closer to the truth? Why isn’t sheer assertion an equally effective approach to truth? Why not just roll a dice to decide on what to believe? Why not just believe what authority figures tell you?

  112. dguller says:

    cl:

    And you didn’t answer my question. If it isn’t always better to proportion one’s beliefs to the quality of evidence and justification available, then what criteria do you use to decide when one should use good evidence, bad evidence, or no evidence, to support one’s beliefs?

  113. cl says:

    Phil,

    Are you only accepting P2 “for the sake of argument”?

    I can, yes.

    If so, where does it fail given my sub-argument for P2?

    If I accept P2 for the sake of argument, you don’t need a sub-argument for P2. If you meant to ask what I think of your sub-argument, well… you introduced a useful phrase [breaks in this matrix of interdependent causal relations], but I don’t think the sub-argument works. It’s not the fact of these breaks that matters: it’s our ability to correctly discern them that matters, and therein lies the gray area. Just how much, I don’t know.

    What are you referring to at _1_?

    My belief that your argument needs emendation or fails whether I accept P2 or not.

    Can you elaborate on _2_?

    Here’s your P1:

    Jesus considered those who believe with less confirmatory evidence more blessed that those who believed with more evidence. (John 20:19-31)

    The verses in question don’t say anything about any sort of general principle regarding “belief with less confirmatory evidence.” I believe you are reading that into the Scriptures. Also, from the disciples’ point of view, Jesus was speaking in a context of sufficient evidence [walking on water, raising the dead, healing the blind, etc.], not less evidence as you allege. It seems to me that you have taken a single verse out of context to draw an overarching epistemic principle, and I question the grounds on which you’ve done so.

  114. cl says:

    dguller,

    Why is it a great guideline? In other words, what is your justification that “proportioning one’s belief to evidence is a great guideline”?

    Causal connections.

    Either you have good reasons to justify this claim, in which case you do, in fact, believe in P2,

    I believe causal connection is a good reason, and, I remain agnostic about Phil’s P2 as originally stated. Please do not tell me what I “in fact” believe.

    So, you provide evidence in support of your beliefs, not necessarily because you think the evidence supports your beliefs, but because you are following a guideline and are PRETENDING to take evidence seriously, because some of your readers happen to believe that good evidence for a claim increases its likelihood of being true.

    No, I think the evidence supports my beliefs. As for whether that makes them “more likely” to be true, I couldn’t tell you. Also, you skipped right over the “even if” in my statement.

    But WHY do you try to use good evidence at all, if you are agnostic about P2?

    WHY don’t you accept the answer I already gave?

  115. dguller says:

    Cl:

    >> Causal connections.

    What causal connections?

    >> No, I think the evidence supports my beliefs. As for whether that makes them “more likely” to be true, I couldn’t tell you. Also, you skipped right over the “even if” in my statement.

    Then why bother citing evidence to support your beliefs if they do not have anything to do with their being more likely to be true?

    >> WHY don’t you accept the answer I already gave?

    Because it makes no sense to me. I mean, why bother trying to have good reasons for your beliefs unless you think that having good beliefs increasing the likelihood of your beliefs being true?

  116. Cl,

    How long have you known that I intend to construct a syllogism that accurately reflects your beliefs?

    How long have you known that it was not merely P2 in the syllogism that you did not believe?

    How would you define “evasive”?

  117. cl says:

    How long have you known that I intend to construct a syllogism that accurately reflects your beliefs?

    Well, I figured as much since the beginning, but technically, since your comment March 11, 2011 at 2:02 AM, where you said:

    My goal is not to defeat your position with an argument with premises you do not hold. My goal is to defeat your position by offering an ad absurdum argument in which the very premises you hold turn out to be inconsistent.

    Can you do that?

  118. Cl,

    When you answer my questions below, the answer to your question above will become clear.

    —————-

    How long have you known that I intend to construct a syllogism that accurately reflects your beliefs?

    How long have you known that it was not merely P2 in the syllogism that you did not believe?

    How would you define “evasive”?

  119. cl says:

    How long have you known that I intend to construct a syllogism that accurately reflects your beliefs?

    I answered that.

    How long have you known that it was not merely P2 in the syllogism that you did not believe?

    I couldn’t tell you, exactly. P2 was the first problem I noticed. Then, sometime between you calling me names and Ana’s comment, I realized, “Man, he doesn’t even have P1 right.”

    How would you define “evasive”?

    Willfully avoiding the direct answering of questions. Key word = willfully. It’s hard to prove, and is usually simply assumed.

    When you answer my questions below, the answer to your question above will become clear.

    I’ve answered your questions, and it’s still not clear to me whether you have a version of “Faith’s Failure” that works.

  120. You’re right. I can’t prove you were evasive. Let me give you a 2nd chance.

    Reread my syllogism, and for anything within you do not find yourself in agreement with, tell me what it is, and what you actually believe.

    Only when I have within my grasp exactly what you believe can I demonstrate its logical incoherence.

    I’ll do my part. You’ll need to do yours first.

  121. cl says:

    You’re right. I can’t prove you were evasive. Let me give you a 2nd chance.

    Well! That’s progress… I guess.

    Reread my syllogism, and for anything within you do not find yourself in agreement with, tell me what it is, and what you actually believe.

    Reread the thread. I’ve answered ALL your questions, concisely and directly. If you have any additional questions, fire away.

  122. Please place all your arguments into one coherent post so I don’t have to chase you all over the thread. And I don’t want to know simply whether you disbelieve the premises in my syllogism. I want to know what you believe instead. That should suffice to demonstrate good faith on your part.

  123. Here, let me post the syllogism again. Under each premise you can state whether you believe it, and if not, what you do believe.
    —————-

    P1: Jesus considered those who believe with less confirmatory evidence more blessed that those who believed with more evidence. (John 20:19-31)

    P2: Falsehoods are more likely to have less confirmatory evidence at their disposal than have truths.

    P3: Those who believe with less confirmatory evidence are more likely to believe falsehoods.

    CONCLUSION: Jesus considered those who are more likely to believe falsehoods more blessed. (P1 – P3)

  124. Here’s an example of an appropriately complete apologetics response.
    ————-
    P1-rebut
    I do not hold to P1. The people Jesus was speaking to might have had other evidence (apart from the crucifixion scars) at their disposal. Therefore, Jesus might have been blessing them because they were believing based on more not less evidence.
    ————–
    Remember, I can not provide you with a working syllogism unless you tell me what you actually believe. Merely telling me what you do not believe will not suffice and is unbecoming an aspiring apologist.

  125. cl says:

    Phil,

    Please place all your arguments into one coherent post so I don’t have to chase you all over the thread.

    I told you what I believe, in my comments March 12, 2011 at 9:32 AM, and March 11, 2011 at 11:06 AM, among others. If you need more detail on any given question, ask. Ironically, you’re making *ME* chase *MYSELF* all over the thread, simply because you won’t take the time to avail yourself of the answers I’ve already given.

    Here’s an example of an appropriately complete apologetics response. … Therefore, Jesus might have been blessing them because they were believing based on more not less evidence.

    Thanks Phil. Now, here’s the ACTUAL RESPONSE I ALREADY GAVE YOU, from my comment March 11, 2011 at 11:06 AM: “The resurrection has sufficient confirmatory evidence at its disposal, so those who believe on that evidence are less likely to believe a falsehood. Jesus considered as blessed those who believe on sufficient evidence…”

    So, instead of another condescending lecture on “appropriately complete apologetics response” when in fact I gave one over a week ago, why don’t you give an appropriately complete atheist rebuttal?

  126. dguller says:

    cl:

    Would you also say that Joseph Smith’s discovery of the gold tablets that contained the Book of Mormon also have “sufficient confirmatory evidence at its disposal”? What does the resurrection story have that the Smith story does not?

  127. cl says:

    dguller,

    Do you want to get involved, or not? If yes, please answer each of the questions I asked you March 12, 2011 at 10:38 PM. Then, and only then, will I answer your latest question. You can’t have it both ways.

  128. Cl.

    That’s correct.

    Now place it under the appropriate premise in my syllogism along with any other possible objections you have to any other premises.

    Let’s keep this neat an tidy for the readers as would behoove any aspiring apologist with a less then stellar reputation for clarity.

  129. “then” -> “than”
    (I’m as much of a speller as you are an apologist, it seems.)
    But get busy at proving me wrong.

  130. dguller says:

    cl:

    >> Do you think Phil’s insults towards me are warranted?

    I have no idea.

    >> Do you think Phil has upheld points 3 and 6 of his own commenting suggestions?

    Point 3, no.

    Point 6, possibly.

    >> Why?

    Because claims without any evidence are not anchored in a way that would lead one to believe that they refer to a true state of affairs. As Phil pointed out, the truth is an interconnected series of causal and rational relationships, and to justify one point in that web, one can refer to other related points that interconnect with it.

    For example, if I claim that it is raining, then I can justify this by saying that I see the raindrops falling, I see on the weather network that it is raining, I touch the ground, which is wet, my baseball game was cancelled due to rain, and so on. Without this series of justifications, my claim could just be a fantasy, divorced from reality, and thus should be given a low degree of probability of being true, especially if one could easily provide such justification.

  131. I don’t prefer it, but I have no problem deviating from my own guidelines for commenting on my “impossible god” blog to match the tone of other commenters on other blogs such as this one. You might not have noticed, but I have other blogs which I allow looser and more verbose comments. On Facebook I have yet even different guidelines for posting. Is there anyone who is actually claiming this is some form of hypocrisy? You set the tone, and I’ll play along if I find it enjoyable.

  132. cl says:

    dguller,

    Thanks for at least partial answers.

    I have no idea.

    I don’t believe you. I think you’re just trying to play the fence, for whatever reason. You know what warrant is, as you’ve apologized to me for various remarks that were far less insulting than Phil’s [as I have also apologized to you]. Work with me here. You have an opportunity for peer review before you. Can you identify any specific behavior of mine that would warrant Phil’s insults IYHO? If not, can you at least tentatively conclude that Phil’s insults were without warrant?

    Point 6, possibly.

    Really? Here are just two examples:

    Don’t be an evasive fool. …stop calling yourself an apologist. [March 10, 2011 at 2:08 PM]

    Evasion is the only game you’ve got, it seems, and I’ve got better things to do. But make no mistake. You are fools attempting to propagate a myth that removes much of the joy of living life in reality. [March 11, 2011 at 7:30 PM]

    Do you really believe those remarks “possibly” qualify as “academic tone?”

    Phil,

    Hey, speaking of your blog, I left a comment in the Faith’s Failure thread quite some time ago. Can you either publish it, or confirm that it did not go through so I can resubmit?

    Now place it under the appropriate premise in my syllogism along with any other possible objections you have to any other premises.

    Presuming I accept P2 for the sake of argument, you wrote:

    P1: Jesus considered those who believe with less confirmatory evidence more blessed that those who believed with more evidence. (John 20:19-31)

    [cl: False. Jesus considered as blessed those who believe on sufficient evidence.]

    P2: Falsehoods are more likely to have less confirmatory evidence at their disposal than have truths.

    [cl: True for the sake of argument]

    P3: Those who believe with less confirmatory evidence are more likely to believe falsehoods.

    [cl: True for the sake of argument]

    Like I said, even if I accept P2 for the sake of argument, your syllogism remains unsound. So, now what?

  133. dguller says:

    cl:

    Seriously, you are focusing on your hurt feelings rather than the content of the discussion.

    I am interested in your epistemological comments, and would appreciate your answer to why you bother to look for good evidence to support your claims unless you believe that the better the evidence the more likely the claim is to be true. Otherwise, WHAT IS THE POINT?

  134. cl says:

    dguller,

    Seriously, you are focusing on your hurt feelings rather than the content of the discussion.

    Ha! The irony. Per your stated criteria, shouldn’t I give this claim a “low probability of being true,” since it is not accompanied by any confirmatory evidence whatsoever?

    Besides, no, I’m not focusing on feelings. In fact, it’s just the opposite: I’m requesting third party opinions regarding this argument. If Phil had hurt my feelings, I would have probably responded by calling him names, or perhaps with some other tactic consistent with strong emotion.

    I am interested in your epistemological comments, and would appreciate your answer to why you bother to look for good evidence to support your claims unless you believe that the better the evidence the more likely the claim is to be true.

    Yeah? Well… I am interested in your third party opinions about various questions that remain unanswered. As soon as you answer them, we can proceed. If not, then… we’re at an impasse, at least temporarily.

  135. dguller says:

    cl:

    >> Ha! The irony. Per your stated criteria, shouldn’t I give this claim a “low probability of being true,” since it is not accompanied by any confirmatory evidence whatsoever?

    Sure, you should treat it as having a low probability as being true. However, if you asked me for some evidence to back it up, then if I can provide some good reasons, then its probability goes up. There is no irony. One does not have to justify any assertion right then and there, but only be able to justify it if confronted about the assertion’s truth. The problem is with claims that cannot be justified when confronted by skepticism regarding their veracity. Those claims should be assigned a low probability of being true.

    >> Besides, no, I’m not focusing on feelings. In fact, it’s just the opposite: I’m requesting third party opinions regarding this argument. If Phil had hurt my feelings, I would have probably responded by calling him names, or perhaps with some other tactic consistent with strong emotion.

    No, you aren’t just focusing upon his argument. You asked me: “Do you think Phil’s insults towards me are warranted?” His insulting behavior has nothing to do with his arguments, unless you want to commit a genetic fallacy and an ad hominem attack. He could be the biggest douche in the world, but his argument could be sound. Just focus on the argument, and not on Phil. And I do not want to referee about the appropriateness of the behavior of commenters on your blog. But I will say that when you welcome “haters” to your blog, then you have no-one to blame but yourself if they appear.

    >> Yeah? Well… I am interested in your third party opinions about various questions that remain unanswered. As soon as you answer them, we can proceed. If not, then… we’re at an impasse, at least temporarily.

    Fine. What else do you want to know? What else do you want from me? I really would love to know why you bother to look for good evidence to support your claims unless you believe that the better the evidence the more likely the claim is to be true.

  136. cl says:

    dguller,

    There is no irony.

    Oh, I perceive irony in this state of affairs, I assure you.

    No, you aren’t just focusing upon his argument.

    I said, “In fact, it’s just the opposite: I’m requesting third party opinions regarding this argument.” The ‘this‘ includes Phil’s actual argument, as well as the character with which he argues. I can focus on both if I wish, and so long as I focus primarily on the argument–which I have–you shouldn’t have a problem. Regardless, the point is that you are wrong: I am not focusing on “hurt feelings,” as there are no hurt feelings to focus on.

    His insulting behavior has nothing to do with his arguments,

    Correct, but it has everything to do with his character, and that’s important to me, as well as some of my readers [I suspect].

    He could be the biggest douche in the world, but his argument could be sound.

    I’ve already demonstrated his argument to be unsound, so, unless you’ve got a rebuttal, his argument cannot be sound.

    …I will say that when you welcome “haters” to your blog, then you have no-one to blame but yourself if they appear.

    Subtext noted.

    What else do you want to know?

    1) Are you still under the impression I’m focusing on hurt feelings?

    2) Has at least some of Phil’s tone has departed from “academic?”

    3) Do Phil’s insults have warrant IYHO? If yes, what specific behavior of mine warrants them?

    4) Presuming I accept P2, is Phil’s argument sound IYHO?

  137. dguller says:

    cl:

    (1) No.

    (2) Sure.

    (3) To some extent, his frustration has warrant, because you can be exasperating on occasion with your attention to detail, and sometimes missing the overall point. However, I am guilty of that myself, on occasion, too.

    (4) It hinges on P1. I have no idea whether P1 is true.

  138. cl says:

    dguller,

    (1) No.

    Thank you. Glad we cleared that up.

    (2) Sure.

    Cool. I agree that at least some of Phil’s tone has departed from “academic.”

    To some extent, his frustration has warrant, because you can be exasperating on occasion with your attention to detail, and sometimes missing the overall point. However, I am guilty of that myself, on occasion, too.

    Hmmm… I didn’t ask if his frustration had warrant, I asked if his insults had warrant, and also asked for a specific instance of my behavior that would warrant his insults. Can you point to such an instance?

    It hinges on P1. I have no idea whether P1 is true.

    To demonstrate that P1 is true, Phil must show one or more instances of Jesus considering “those who believe with less confirmatory evidence more blessed than those who believed with more evidence.” Agree or disagree?

    Phil has made one attempt in this direction: John 20:19-31. Agree or disagree?

    Phil fails to mention that Jesus reportedly walked on water, raised the dead, healed the blind, drove out demons, predicted the future, healed the deaf, cured lepers, and demonstrated control over nature [i.e. the withered fig tree]. Presuming these actually happened as reported in Scripture, would you consider them more on the “less” or “sufficient” side of the “confirmatory evidence” continuum?

    Personally, I consider those to fall on the “sufficient” side of the continuum, and for that reason, I pronounce P1 false. Unless you can give a persuasive argument for those falling on the “less” side, or unless you can provide one or more “non-John 20:19-31” instances of Jesus considering “those who believe with less confirmatory evidence more blessed than those who believed with more evidence,” it seems to me you would have to agree that Phil’s argument is unsound.

    What sayest thou?

  139. dguller says:

    Cl:

    >> Hmmm… I didn’t ask if his frustration had warrant, I asked if his insults had warrant, and also asked for a specific instance of my behavior that would warrant his insults. Can you point to such an instance?

    First, if one’s frustration has warrant, then one’s subsequent insult, which is the result of the initial frustration, can be construed as warranted. In other words, the insult is the expression of the frustration.

    Second, on March 10, 2011 at 1:41 AM, Phil asked you to state what you believe in order to assess your beliefs’ logical coherence and justification. At 8:32 AM, you refused to state what you believe. At 2:08 PM, Phil asked you again to state your beliefs to be assessed for logical coherence, and it was here that he called you an “evasive fool”. On March 11 at 1:20 AM, you did begin to state what you believe. At 2:02 AM, Phil admitted that his argument failed by virtue of not capturing your beliefs adequately, and asked you to answer three questions to tease out your beliefs about faith and virtue, which you answered at 11:06 AM. Then a fucking catastrophe happened in Japan, where Phil happens to live, and at 6:34 PM, he called you “rather pathetic”. On March 12 at 9:32 AM, you answered Phil’s points in detail. On March 20 at 5:16 PM, Phil brought up your evasiveness again without justification or reason, because you had not been evasive, except maybe from March 10 at 1:41 AM to March 11 at 1:20 AM, a whopping 24 hours, and only after he called you out on your evasion.

    Now, on March 11 at 2:55 AM, I got involved, asking you whether you believe that the more justification and evidence one has in support of one’s beliefs, the more likely those beliefs are to be true. I specifically asked you WHY bother offering reasons at all unless you thought that having reasons increased the likelihood of your beliefs being true. At 11:06 AM, you answered that sometimes beliefs that have good evidence at the time turn out to be false, which was not what I asked you. You also did not answer why you bother giving reasons at all. On March 13 at 4:52 AM, I claimed that your offering of reasons to support your positions belied your claim of agnosticism. On March 17 at 10:55 AM, I asked you – again – why you offer evidence and reasons if you do not believe that they bring you closer to the truth. At 1:43 PM, you said that sometimes beliefs that were true turned out to be false, which was not my point, and you did not say why you bother offering reasons at all. I asked you again on March 19 at 12:43 PM, and again on March 21 at 1:19 PM.

    Now, I have asked you to answer my question for 10 days now, and have not received any good answer at all. Phil became frustrated with you after 1 day of evasion, and I have had to put up with 10 days of it. And it is still counting, because you still want to play games by asking me a bunch of stupid questions that have nothing to do with what I am interested in knowing, and everything about you proving to the world that Phil has treated you unfairly. Frankly, I do not care about any of that, and am only interested in WHY YOU BOTHER CITING EVIDENCE FOR YOUR BELIEFS IF THEY DO NOT INCREASE THE LIKELIHOOD OF YOUR BELIEFS BEING TRUE.

    Can you finally answer this question?

  140. dguller says:

    cl:

    And another thing. I do not care about whether Phil’s argument is sound. I was only interested in your statements about P2, because they struck me as bizarre, given your behaviour on your blog. So, stop asking me about Phil’s argument.

    Oh, and yes, I did intervene recently when you said that the resurrection had great evidence for it, because this also struck me as bizarre, because it would mean accepting the claims of many religions, as they are based upon eyewitness testimony, as well. And this has nothing to do with the overall thrust of his argument, which I do not care about, but only about specific claims that have been made in the course of your discussion with him.

  141. Here, let me put an end to the silly discussion on my tone.

    My tone has been insulting an non-academic. I have no respect for Cl. He represents the lies that I believed for far too many years.

    Now let’s get back to the business of addressing the arguments you’ll quite clearly find nestled within my insults. If you can’t find my arguments, say so and I’ll repeat them.

    Cl, it appear we’re waiting on you for a clear and complete response to my syllogism so I can effectively reformulate it.

  142. Let me also say I often include taunts in an effort to motivate response. Note that we are still waiting for Cl’s simple 700 word description of this version of the “gospel”. I wonder how many words he’s wasted on addressing my insulting tone.

    From now on, I’ll try not to distract his clearly unfocused mind so we can, his god willing, see him address my arguments rather than my tone.

  143. cl says:

    dguller,

    Second, on March 10, 2011 at 1:41 AM, Phil asked you to state what you believe in order to assess your beliefs’ logical coherence and justification. At 8:32 AM, you refused to state what you believe.

    False. Phil asked two questions March 10, 2011 at 1:41 AM:

    1) …if merely one of the bible’s claims is logically incoherent, your house of cards tumbles. You do agree, do you not?

    2) …do you believe it is ever proper for someone to believe more when there is less evidence?

    I answered both at 8:32 AM, despite the fact that 1) had nothing to do with the argument at hand:

    1) No, I don’t agree. If I am an inerrantist and one of the Bible’s claims can be shown demonstrably false, then I face a conundrum. However, again, this is irrelevant to the arguments before us.

    2) I don’t know. I am not the arbiter of “proper” belief, whatever that is…

    So, I *did* answer Phil’s questions in my comment at 8:32 AM, didn’t I?

    On March 12 at 9:32 AM, you answered Phil’s points in detail.

    True.

    On March 20 at 5:16 PM, Phil brought up your evasiveness again without justification or reason…

    True, he did assert my “evasiveness” without justification or reason, again.

    Now, on March 11 at 2:55 AM, I got involved, asking you whether you believe that the more justification and evidence one has in support of one’s beliefs, the more likely those beliefs are to be true. I specifically asked you WHY bother offering reasons at all unless you thought that having reasons increased the likelihood of your beliefs being true.

    True.

    At 11:06 AM… You also did not answer why you bother giving reasons at all.

    False. I said, “Because it might be the case that truth is more likely to have good justification.” That is a direct answer to your question.

    On March 13 at 4:52 AM, I claimed that your offering of reasons to support your positions belied your claim of agnosticism.

    True, you did make that false claim.

    On March 17 at 10:55 AM, I asked you – again – why you offer evidence and reasons if you do not believe that they bring you closer to the truth.

    True, and I have no idea why you refuse to accept the answer I gave. It has not changed.

    Now, I have asked you to answer my question for 10 days now, and have not received any good answer at all.

    False. I gave you a good answer. That you don’t like my answer is not my shortcoming.

    Phil became frustrated with you after 1 day of evasion, and I have had to put up with 10 days of it.

    False. Your own inabilty and/or refusal to accept the answer I gave does not entail evasion on my behalf.

    And it is still counting, because you still want to play games by asking me a bunch of stupid questions that have nothing to do with what I am interested in knowing, and everything about you proving to the world that Phil has treated you unfairly.

    False. It is not still counting. I answered your question the first time you asked it.

    …I do not care about any of that, and am only interested in WHY YOU BOTHER CITING EVIDENCE FOR YOUR BELIEFS IF THEY DO NOT INCREASE THE LIKELIHOOD OF YOUR BELIEFS BEING TRUE. Can you finally answer this question?

    I answered that question, March 11, 2011 at 11:06 AM, a mere eight hours after you asked it. I said, “…it might be the case that truth is more likely to have good justification.”

    So, call my questions “stupid” if you wish. Accuse me of “evasion” if you wish. Tell me what to do on my own blog if you wish. The plain fact is that I answered your question eight hours after you asked.

  144. Cl, repeat yourself. the length of this thread is ridiculous, and if you think you’ve already given a response, simply repeat it for the sake of readability. Don’t be an evasive idiot.

    (Note that I have not yet elevated my insults to the Christlike “vipers”, “swine” and “dogs’, nor will I.)

  145. cl says:

    Phil,

    Cl, it appear we’re waiting on you for a clear and complete response to my syllogism so I can effectively reformulate it.

    False. Most recently, I provided you with a clear and complete response March 21, 2011 at 1:01 PM. You did not respond. It appears as if we’re waiting on you to “effectively reformulate” your syllogism.

  146. At the risk of distracting Cl from his task of telling us what he actually believes, let me introduce another argument that falls in line with what dguller is saying.

    ________________

    P1: The degree of belief/disbelief in any non-tautological proposition must map to the calculated balance of relevant confirming/disconfirming evidence as assessed by the epistemic agent for that belief/disbelief to be deemed rational.
    P2: A human epistemic agent accesses the world subjectively, and therefore is necessarily limited to subjectively obtained relevant confirming/disconfirming evidence when entertaining a non-tautological proposition (rather than having an objective view and understanding of the totality of all the confirming/disconfirming evidence).
    P3: For a human epistemic agent, the calculated balance of relevant confirming/disconfirming evidence for a given non-tautological proposition necessarily falls on a continuum inside the poles of absolute confirmation/disconfirmation to qualify as rational. (P1 & P2)
    P4: Any rational belief/disbelief of a human epistemic agent in a non-tautological proposition necessarily falls on a continuum inside the binary poles of absolute certainty. (P1 & P3)
    P5: Any source that promotes binary and absolute belief/disbelief for human epistemic agents is promoting irrationality. (P3 & P4)
    P6: The Bible promotes binary and absolute belief/disbelief for human epistemic agents. (Acts 16:31 / Acts 8:37 / Romans 10:9 / John 3:16 / Mark 11:24)
    CONCLUSION: The Bible promotes irrationality. (P5 & P6)

  147. cl says:

    Phil,

    At the risk of distracting Cl from his task of telling us what he actually believes,

    There’s no “task” to distract me from. I’ve told you what I believe. I’ve answered every question you asked, directly and concisely. I even gave you a quick formulation of the gospel, despite it’s irrelevance to the argument at hand. Nonetheless, you may continue to piss on my charity if you wish.

    …let me introduce another argument that falls in line with what dguller is saying.

    I’ll be glad to discuss that argument. However, let’s finish the first argument before jumping on to something new. The ball is in your court. You need to either respond to my comment March 21, 2011 at 1:01 PM, or concede that your original Faith’s Failure syllogism is unsound.

    Which will it be?

  148. dguller says:

    cl:

    >> I answered that question, March 11, 2011 at 11:06 AM, a mere eight hours after you asked it. I said, “…it might be the case that truth is more likely to have good justification.”

    I remember that. And I asked you to try an experiment. Spend one month making a concerted effort to only belief things that have good evidence for them, and tally up the number of true beliefs you have. Spend the next month making no effort to only beliefs things that have good evidence for them, and tally up the number of true beliefs you have. Do you really think that the latter will have more true beliefs than the former?

    Instead of answering this point, you started asking me about Phil, as if he held the key to this issue, and it has been about Phil ever since.

    If you want to proceed in this discussion, then I have two points that I would like you to comment upon.

    First, I claim that your behavior falsifies your claim of agnosticism. If you really believed that it “might” be the case that truth is less likely to have good justification, then why do you criticize people here when they make mere assertions? You would never accept their explanation that their assertions, even though they lack any evidence whatsoever, have an equal claim to truth as your justified rebuttal. The fact that you are always offering good reasons for your beliefs and demanding the same of your commenters belies your claims of agnosticism.

    Second, I claim that you have not provided any criteria that one can use to decide when one should follow good evidence to discover the truth and when one can reject any epistemic standards and still have a good chance at having the truth. If you truly are unsure about whether good evidence increases the likelihood of having true beliefs, then you must explain how you decide when to tailor your beliefs to the evidence, and when to allow “mere assertion” to guide the way. And you must justify this criteria with good reasons, or maybe “mere assertion” would be enough?

    And please, for God’s sake, don’t mention Phil.

  149. Cl,

    First, I apologize for missing that post you made, and thanks for placing your entire response in one post. It certainly makes things easier.

    You said…

    Presuming I accept P2 for the sake of argument, you wrote:

    P1: Jesus considered those who believe with less confirmatory evidence more blessed that those who believed with more evidence. (John 20:19-31)

    [cl: False. Jesus considered as blessed those who believe on sufficient evidence.]

    P2: Falsehoods are more likely to have less confirmatory evidence at their disposal than have truths.

    [cl: True for the sake of argument]

    P3: Those who believe with less confirmatory evidence are more likely to believe falsehoods.

    [cl: True for the sake of argument]

    Now, do you understand that, accepting things for the sake of argument without actually believing them does not accomplish what I’ve set out to do. I’m attempting to use your actual beliefs to show their logical incoherency. No more “for the sake of argument” concessions.

    Now, let me see if I can get you to clarify a few points.

    P1: Jesus considered those who believe with less confirmatory evidence more blessed that those who believed with more evidence. (John 20:19-31)

    [cl: False. Jesus considered as blessed those who believe on sufficient evidence.]

    Do you believe there is a threshold for evidence at which point absolute belief is rational?

    P2: Falsehoods are more likely to have less confirmatory evidence at their disposal than have truths.

    [cl: True for the sake of argument]

    I don’t want your “for the sake of argument” concessions. I want to know what you believe about the role of evidence in respect to belief. Is there something apart from evidence that justifies a belief?

    P3: Those who believe with less confirmatory evidence are more likely to believe falsehoods.

    [cl: True for the sake of argument]

    I don’t want your “for the sake of argument” concessions. I want to know what you actually believe what makes a belief rational or irrational.

  150. I missed a “blockquote” end tag somewhere in there you can correct if you’d like.

  151. Cl,

    I don’t see your comment anywhere on my blog. Feel free to repost, and I’ll be sure to approve it.

  152. cl says:

    dguller,

    I remember that.

    About time!

    Do you really think that the latter will have more true beliefs than the former?

    I don’t know. I’ve enthusiastically accepted the experiment, and we’ll have to wait for the data. BTW, may I see yours?

    Instead of answering this point, you started asking me about Phil, as if he held the key to this issue, and it has been about Phil ever since.

    Uh, that’s because Phil and I were having a discussion, on my blog, that you butted in on. Not that I mind, but I think it’s a bit silly of you to criticize me for staying on topic. Though I obliged, I’m under no compulsion to break stride just because you demand it.

    First, I claim that your behavior falsifies your claim of agnosticism.

    False.

    If you really believed that it “might” be the case that truth is less likely to have good justification, then why do you criticize people here when they make mere assertions?

    One cannot sustain arguments with mere assertion if they wish to maintain rational rigor.

    The fact that you are always offering good reasons for your beliefs and demanding the same of your commenters belies your claims of agnosticism.

    False. Supplying good reasons for my beliefs does not logically preclude agnosticism over a complex probability question.

    …I claim that you have not provided any criteria that one can use to decide when one should follow good evidence to discover the truth and when one can reject any epistemic standards and still have a good chance at having the truth.

    If they wish to maintain rational rigor, one should always follow good evidence, and never reject epistemic standards. As far as their chance of arriving at the truth either way, I honestly don’t know. People often follow good evidence to false conclusions [cf. wrongful convictions]. OTOH, people often reason their way to truth with no evidence at all [cf. the Greeks and the atom]. If you persist in your claim that this is irrelevant, I disagree, and submit that you need to rethink.

  153. Cl,

    You say…

    “Supplying good reasons for my beliefs does not logically preclude agnosticism over a complex probability question.”

    Are the probabilities always need to be based on evidence in order for the belief to be rational?

    ______________

    Please also note that a belief in a false proposition is still rational if the relevant evidence available points to that false proposition.

    You are confounding epistemology with ontology.

    Rational/irrational applies only to epistemic acts, not ontological truths.

    So the fact that you believe something based on lies from a source with an otherwise good track record is not irrational.

    However, to “bless” an absolute confidence in a proposition that does not follow the degree of the relevant evidence for that proposition is absurd since that evidence is necessarily less than absolute for subjective epistemic agents. And to “bless” such absolute confidence based on less non-absolute evidence that what our skeptical friend Thomas had available to him is even more egregious. Rational belief is never binary, and any source that claims it is is wrong.

  154. Cl,

    Let me give you an indication of where I’m headed.

    I’m going to later be arguing that, to reward the irrational belief of those who believe in any particular god is absurd.

    Likewise, for a god to punish someone for following the preponderance of the evidence for another god or a lack of a god is inconsistent for a god who claims to be loving and just.

    I’m just letting you know exactly where I’m headed you you can evade that conclusion if you can. I don’t believe you can given your necessary commitment to the bible.

    But we’ll find out after you address my questions about your position on binary belief.

  155. And now is a good time to mention the following.

    “Belief” is at the very foundation of any version of the “gospel”.

    No where in the scriptures do you find a non-absolute version of salvific belief. It is an absolute belief the bible is irrationally promoting, given the fact that the relevant evidence for the veracity of a salvific Jesus is, for many humans, minimal or non-existent.

    This binary belief based on non-binary evidence is, quite simply, logically absurd.

  156. cl says:

    Phil,

    In general, it would help if you slowed down and responded to current claims and/or questions instead of introducing who-knows-how-many new ones. I suspect what I’m about to say will address one or more of your new claims and/or questions.

    I missed a “blockquote” end tag somewhere in there you can correct if you’d like.

    You missed two entire blockquotes, not just escape tags, which is another reason I suggest slowing down.

    First, I apologize for missing that post you made,

    Accepted. I can understand how you missed it, given your zeal to accuse and accost me of everything from “evasion” to “presenting lies.”

    Now, do you understand that, accepting things for the sake of argument without actually believing them does not accomplish what I’ve set out to do.

    Yes, I understand. That’s why I made a sustained effort to answer every single question you asked.

    I’m attempting to use your actual beliefs to show their logical incoherency.

    Then, by all means, please do so. I’ve supplied you with my “actual beliefs” every step of the way, including those that were not directly relevant to the debate at hand. I’ve been waiting for you to show this “logical incoherency” for weeks now.

    Do you believe there is a threshold for evidence at which point absolute belief is rational?

    Can you unpack “threshold for evidence” and “absolute belief?” It’s unclear to me exactly what you’re asking there.

    I want to know what you believe about the role of evidence in respect to belief.

    To repeat: proportioning one’s belief to evidence is a great guideline.

    Is there something apart from evidence that justifies a belief?

    Certainly. As one example, the character of the claimant. The other day, a friend made a claim that was not accompanied by any evidence, whatsoever. This person has strong command of the subject matter, and I’ve never known him to exaggerate or lie. I later verified his claim, yet, according to dguller’s “logic”, I should have assigned this claim a “very low probability” of being true. Clearly, something seems amiss.

    I want to know what you actually believe what makes a belief rational or irrational.

    A combination of several factors, including, but not limited to:

    1) amount and quality of evidence;

    2) degree of resonance with pre-existing truths;

    3) character of the claimant [where claimants besides the agent exist];

    4) logical coherency.

    Claims that score high in 1-4 fall on the “more rational” side. Crudely speaking, claims that score low in 1-4 fall on the “less rational” side. Also, that a belief is held rationally is no reliable indicator of truth. Conversely, that a belief is held irrationally is no reliable indicator of falsehood.

    I don’t want your “for the sake of argument” concessions.

    Okay, then:

    P1: Jesus considered those who believe with less confirmatory evidence more blessed that those who believed with more evidence. (John 20:19-31)

    [cl: False. Jesus considered as blessed those who believe on sufficient evidence.]

    P2: Falsehoods are more likely to have less confirmatory evidence at their disposal than have truths.

    [cl: Agnostic]

    P3: Those who believe with less confirmatory evidence are more likely to believe falsehoods.

    [cl: Agnostic]

    P1 remains false regardless of how I answer P2 or P3. Your syllogism is unsound.

  157. Cl,

    As I’ve explained, it does not matter whether my syllogism is objectively sound or unsound. It only matters that you believe all the propositions introduced. So if you don’t hold to a proposition I introduce, no problem. Simply tell me what you do believe, and I’ll work with that. It places more of the burden on me, but I can deal with that. The only burden you have is to tell me what you actually believe. I believe I can formulate a syllogism that employs only propositions you consider sound, yet leads to absurdity.

    I will respond within your responses below.

    P1: Jesus considered those who believe with less confirmatory evidence more blessed that those who believed with more evidence. (John 20:19-31)

    [cl: False. Jesus considered as blessed those who believe on sufficient evidence.]

    Do you believe a rational absolute belief for subjective humans having no access to the entirety of relevant evidence for a non-tautological proposition is possible? If so, please explain what makes such a belief non-arbitrary and rational.

    P2: Falsehoods are more likely to have less confirmatory evidence at their disposal than have truths.

    [cl: Agnostic]

    Your agnosticism is not warranted. It is rationally clear that an objective truth in the universe has the totality of all interdependent causal relations at its evidential disposal. An objective falsehood, because it is a falsehood, necessarily creates one or many conceptual breaks in this matrix of interdependent causal relations, thus necessarily diminishing the available confirmatory evidence. Therefore, falsehood necessarily have less confirmatory evidence at their disposal. Or is there a premise this argument you think is flawed?

    P3: Those who believe with less confirmatory evidence are more likely to believe falsehoods.

    [cl: Agnostic]

    Through what mechanism can epistemic agents who believe upon less evidence avoid believing fewer falsehoods? Or do you think arbitrary epistemic beliefs are as often correct as evidence-based beliefs?

  158. cl says:

    I believe I can formulate a syllogism that employs only propositions you consider sound, yet leads to absurdity.

    Then, do it. You’ve been saying that for weeks.

  159. Cl,

    Pay attention.

    I cannot formulate a syllogism that reflects your actual beliefs UNTIL you tell me what your actual beliefs are.

    You have NOT been forthcoming with your actual beliefs, and justifiably so since, once I have them, you will be shown to hold logically incompatible beliefs.

    Got it? You tell me what you DO believe. Answer my prying questions that more deeply assess your statements. Don’t be afraid. My exposing of your incompetency is the first step to recovery from the foolishness inherent to the bible.

    Now, I asked you follow-up questions to find out what you believe. Do you want me to know what you believe? Answer the questions.

    If not, don’t ever again pretend to be an apologist for something you don’t have the foggiest understanding of. The very foundation of the gospel is belief. If you don’t understand the concept, don’t embarrass yourself.

    So, one more time. Only AFTER I discover what you believe will you be served your arse on a syllogistic platter that reflects your incoherent beliefs.

    Answer the questions.

  160. Cl logic 101

    P1. Phil says he can construct a syllogism from my actual beliefs that will be logically incoherent.
    P2. Phil does not know my actual beliefs since I refuse to tell him.
    P3. Phil can not construct a syllogism from my actual beliefs that will be logically incoherent. (P1 & P2)
    CONCLUSION: I won.

  161. cl says:

    P2 is false. I’ve answered every question you’ve posed. If, at this point, any of my beliefs are still unclear, ask what you need to ask to get on with this mess. Else, quit fronting.

  162. cl says:

    Mike Gantt,

    I’m confident you’re still reading along, and I’m interested to hear your opinion of how this “debate” has progressed.

  163. Cl, I missed one of your posts, so I’m guessing you just missed one of mine since you just wrongly stated you’ve answered “every question” I’ve posed.

    Reread “March 22, 2011 at 12:05 AM”.

    My questions are in the white boxes inside the yellow blockquote.

    Answer those questions.

  164. Actually, just let me repost it.

    ————

    Cl,

    As I’ve explained, it does not matter whether my syllogism is objectively sound or unsound. It only matters that you believe all the propositions introduced. So if you don’t hold to a proposition I introduce, no problem. Simply tell me what you do believe, and I’ll work with that. It places more of the burden on me, but I can deal with that. The only burden you have is to tell me what you actually believe. I believe I can formulate a syllogism that employs only propositions you consider sound, yet leads to absurdity.
    I will respond within your responses below.

    P1: Jesus considered those who believe with less confirmatory evidence more blessed that those who believed with more evidence. (John 20:19-31)
    [cl: False. Jesus considered as blessed those who believe on sufficient evidence.]

    Do you believe a rational absolute belief for subjective humans having no access to the entirety of relevant evidence for a non-tautological proposition is possible? If so, please explain what makes such a belief non-arbitrary and rational.

    P2: Falsehoods are more likely to have less confirmatory evidence at their disposal than have truths.

    [cl: Agnostic]

    Your agnosticism is not warranted. It is rationally clear that an objective truth in the universe has the totality of all interdependent causal relations at its evidential disposal. An objective falsehood, because it is a falsehood, necessarily creates one or many conceptual breaks in this matrix of interdependent causal relations, thus necessarily diminishing the available confirmatory evidence. Therefore, falsehood necessarily have less confirmatory evidence at their disposal. Or is there a premise this argument you think is flawed?

    P3: Those who believe with less confirmatory evidence are more likely to believe falsehoods.
    [cl: Agnostic]

    Through what mechanism can epistemic agents who believe upon less evidence avoid believing fewer falsehoods? Or do you think arbitrary epistemic beliefs are as often correct as evidence-based beliefs?

  165. Mike Gantt says:

    cl,

    As for Phil, he seems to get flustered when he can’t control the flow and timing of the debate. Of course, the two of are debating each other but, since this is your blog, you have to act as moderator as well. If Phil is only interested in debating where he can be the moderator, he should only debate on his own site. If he continues to debate here I hope he will be willing to concede the moderator’s role to you. Otherwise, the two of you will remain frustrated.

    As for dguller, his interest seems to be focused on P2 only and his inability to understand why you won’t concede his general point about evidence. I think he could be more helpful to his own cause if he would be more forthcoming about where he wants to go next if and when he should establish agreement on that point.

    As for you, maybe you could estabish two new and separate posts (“Challenge from Phil” and “dguller’s Interest” – or something like that) where you could deal with each of them separately as it currently looks like a 1960’s wrestling match with Haystack Calhoun trying to fend off a tag team.

  166. cl says:

    Phil,

    Do you believe a rational absolute belief for subjective humans having no access to the entirety of relevant evidence for a non-tautological proposition is possible?

    Yes.

    If so, please explain what makes such a belief non-arbitrary and rational.

    I already did, March 21, 2011 at 9:13 PM. I said:

    1) amount and quality of evidence;

    2) degree of resonance with pre-existing truths;

    3) character of the claimant [where claimants besides the agent exist];

    4) logical coherency.

    Therefore, falsehood necessarily have less confirmatory evidence at their disposal. Or is there a premise this argument you think is flawed?

    In theory, yes, falsehoods have less “confirmatory evidence at their disposal” than truths, because of causal connections. Like I said, claims that score high in 1-4 fall on the “more rational” side. Crudely speaking, claims that score low in 1-4 fall on the “less rational” side. Also, that a belief is held rationally is no reliable indicator of truth. Conversely, that a belief is held irrationally is no reliable indicator of falsehood.

    Through what mechanism can epistemic agents who believe upon less evidence avoid believing fewer falsehoods?

    2-4 above would be a good place to start.

    Or do you think arbitrary epistemic beliefs are as often correct as evidence-based beliefs?

    I don’t know. I don’t have the knowledge to make such generalizations.

  167. Good thoughts, Mike.

    I’m willing to start a thread on my blog that picks up where we are now. Agreed, Cl?

  168. cl says:

    Mike Gantt,

    As for you, maybe you could estabish two new and separate posts (“Challenge from Phil” and “dguller’s Interest” – or something like that) where you could deal with each of them separately as it currently looks like a 1960′s wrestling match with Haystack Calhoun trying to fend off a tag team.

    LOL! LOL!! LOL!!! In fact, that’s exactly what I’ve done. I gave Faith’s Failure 2.0 it’s own post, and, I’ve got one brewing for dguller’s concerns re P2.

  169. cl says:

    Phil,

    I’m willing to start a thread on my blog that picks up where we are now. Agreed, Cl?

    No, I won’t move this to your blog. You either 1) finish our discussion about Faith’s Failure 1.0 here; 2) finish our discussion about Faith’s Failure 2.0 here; 3) both; or, 4) neither, in which case I’m done.

    Get on with it.

  170. dguller says:

    cl:

    >> One cannot sustain arguments with mere assertion if they wish to maintain rational rigor.

    First, how is a mere assertion not rationally rigorous?

    Second why is maintaining “rational rigor” important? Does it lead you closer to the truth?

    >> False. Supplying good reasons for my beliefs does not logically preclude agnosticism over a complex probability question.

    Then WHY do you offer good reasons? Do you think that they will result in beliefs that are more likely or less likely to be true? Do you think that good reasons have ANY relationship to the truth at all?

    >> If they wish to maintain rational rigor, one should always follow good evidence, and never reject epistemic standards.

    But why? And note that you are now anchoring things very subjectively. If they “wish”? So, now it comes down to what people “wish”? I hope that the root of your epistemic practices is not wishful thinking after all.

    >> As far as their chance of arriving at the truth either way, I honestly don’t know. People often follow good evidence to false conclusions [cf. wrongful convictions]. OTOH, people often reason their way to truth with no evidence at all [cf. the Greeks and the atom]. If you persist in your claim that this is irrelevant, I disagree, and submit that you need to rethink.

    Wow. So, people should always follow good evidence and rational rigor. You persist in this practice even though you have absolutely no idea whether it will increase the number of true beliefs that you have? You are doing it, because … well, it appears that you are doing it, just because. And as always, that is an excellent reason to do something.

    That would be like demanding that people always touch the door three times before leaving the house, and when asked why, saying “I am agnostic about whether touching the door three times will prevent the apocalypse, but I insist that everyone do so anyway!”

    Two more points.

    First, I am not just talking about empirical evidence here. I am talking about good reasons, justifications and evidence. Empirical evidence is just one type. As you mentioned, a logical inference and argument is also a good reason.

    Second, if I say that most people have an 80% on a test, then do you refute me by pointing out some people who did not? Of course not, because I did not say ALL people have an 80% on a test. I am agreeing with you that sometimes what looked like good reasons at the time actually turn out to be bad reasons and have resulted in a falsehood. I am also agreeing with you that sometimes bad reasons can result in truth. But in the latter case, it would have to be said that the person accidentally resulted in truth, and that it had nothing to do with their reasons. Anyway, I am talking about over time and on average.

  171. Phil -> Do you believe a rational absolute belief for subjective humans having no access to the entirety of relevant evidence for a non-tautological proposition is possible?

    Cl -> Yes.

    Phil -> If so, please explain what makes such a belief non-arbitrary and rational.

    Cl ->
    1) amount and quality of evidence;
    2) degree of resonance with pre-existing truths;
    3) character of the claimant [where claimants besides the agent exist];
    4) logical coherency.

    Then if you believe that 100% certainty can be rational with access to less than 100% of the totality of the evidence, you believe that rational belief is, in part, not based only on evidence. Agreed?

    1) What is your non-arbitrary and non-evidential criteria for the amount and quality of the evidence?
    2) What is your non-arbitrary and non-evidential criteria for degree of resonance with pre-existing truths?
    3) What is your non-arbitrary and non-evidential criteria for the character of the claimant?

    I’m going to suggest you’ll need to retreat and admit evidence is the only justification for belief, that is, rational beliefs are solely based on evidence, either raw evidence, or evidence that warrants our criteria for rational assessment.

    Are you retreating? If not I will pursue this.

    Phil -> Therefore, falsehood necessarily have less confirmatory evidence at their disposal. Or is there a premise this argument you think is flawed?

    Cl -> In theory, yes, falsehoods have less “confirmatory evidence at their disposal” than truths, because of causal connections. Like I said, claims that score high in 1-4 fall on the “more rational” side. Crudely speaking, claims that score low in 1-4 fall on the “less rational” side. Also, that a belief is held rationally is no reliable indicator of truth. Conversely, that a belief is held irrationally is no reliable indicator of falsehood.

    What do you mean “in theory”. My claim is not theoretical. It is conceptual. It is a logical conclusion that cannot be avoided. Every truth has 100% of the potentially-confirming evidential nodes intact, whereas every falsehood has 1+ broken potentially-confirming evidential nodes. Agreed? If not, explain what is wrong in my reasoning.

    Phil -> Through what mechanism can epistemic agents who believe upon less evidence avoid believing fewer falsehoods?

    Cl -> 2-4 above would be a good place to start.

    All of your criteria for 1-3 are evidence-dependent. They don’t qualify. Your 4th item of logical coherency is merely a minimal constraint. Do you have a mechanism for arriving at a rational belief that is not dependent on evidence? I’m strongly suggesting you do not.

    Phil -> Or do you think arbitrary epistemic beliefs are as often correct as evidence-based beliefs?

    Cl -> I don’t know. I don’t have the knowledge to make such generalizations.

    Of course you know. This is also a conceptual question; you don’t need to invoke induction here.
    You’ve never rolled 50-sided dice before, but if your life depended on correctly answering which US state was the poorest, you would not be employing the arbitrary role of the 50-sided dice, but instead assessing the evidence you currently have available to you about the 50 US states. Or am I wrong? I suggest you admit to this.

  172. dguller says:

    Mike:

    I am only interested in whether cl will admit that good reasons and evidence have a relationship with the truth at all. He seems to imply that he has no idea whether good reasons and evidence have a closer relationship to the truth than bad reasons and poor evidence. The point in all of this is to understand cl’s epistemic standards and the rationale for them, because if he honestly does not believe that his many attempts to offer good reasons for his beliefs increase the likelihood of his beliefs being true, then why are we wasting our time here? That would mean that this is all a game for him, and I find that hard to believe.

  173. cl says:

    Phil,

    Then if you believe that 100% certainty can be rational with access to less than 100% of the totality of the evidence, you believe that rational belief is, in part, not based only on evidence. Agreed?

    Yes. There is more to rational belief than the “evidence / no evidence” dichotomy. Of course, I’m simply repeating myself for you again. I already conceded as much when I gave you 2-4.

    1) What is your non-arbitrary and non-evidential criteria for the amount and quality of the evidence?

    2) What is your non-arbitrary and non-evidential criteria for degree of resonance with pre-existing truths?

    3) What is your non-arbitrary and non-evidential criteria for the character of the claimant?

    All human criteria are arbitrary, and mine are no exception:

    1) As far as the “correct amount” of evidence for any given claim, I don’t have any “across-the-board” criteria, because I judge each claim separately. If the claim is, “Joe 360 flipped Wallenberg on his skateboard,” I only need to see one instance of Joe 360 flipping Wallenberg on his skateboard. If the claim is, “cathode rays exist,” I’ll need a bigger body of evidence to be sure we’re not actually talking about electrons. As far as the “quality” of evidence, again… I’m not too fond of “across-the-board” generalizations. Each case is different. If you must have an “across-the-board” generalization to defend your syllogism, well… the less confounding factors, the better.

    2) I tend to look at the law of non-contradiction and logical plausibility first.

    3) It depends on the claimant. Sometimes, past experience. Other times, sheer intuition. Other times, awareness of their motive for making the claim. Often, all three.

    Are you retreating?

    No.

    If not I will pursue this.

    For Pete’s sake, put your money where your mouth is! You’ve been saying this for weeks.

    What do you mean “in theory”. My claim is not theoretical. It is conceptual.

    Okay, then… conceptually. Pick whichever word you like. As long as we’re on the same page, there should be no problem.

    Every truth has 100% of the potentially-confirming evidential nodes intact, whereas every falsehood has 1+ broken potentially-confirming evidential nodes. Agreed?

    Yes. I already agreed to this.

    Do you have a mechanism for arriving at a rational belief that is not dependent on evidence?

    I suppose that depends on the exact definition of evidence you’re abiding by. I don’t consider 2-4 as “evidence,” personally, but you’re free to supply your own definition.

    Of course you know.

    No, I don’t. If I did, I would gladly tell you, as I’m dying for you to “poo-poo or get off the pot,” so to speak.

    You’ve never rolled 50-sided dice before, but if your life depended on correctly answering which US state was the poorest, you would not be employing the arbitrary role of the 50-sided dice, but instead assessing the evidence you currently have available to you about the 50 US states. Or am I wrong?

    I think you’re incorrect. If somebody held a gun to my head and said, “Identify the poorest state or die,” I would likely parse my memory until something fit the bill. This would not involve any “assessing of the evidence” whatsoever. Rather, it would be grasping at straw in the interest of pure survival. Of course, if your definition of evidence allows for “any memory that comes to mind and sounds right,” then, you would be correct.

  174. cl says:

    dguller,

    First off: may I see the data from your experiment? If you did not perform the experiment you suggested that I perform, then:

    1) what is the evidence for your claim?

    2) why are you suggesting that I take a test you have not taken?

    If 1) cannot be answered, I suggest you might want to think more carefully when making snide remarks about “wishful thinking.”

    …how is a mere assertion not rationally rigorous?

    Generally speaking, rational rigor requires a systematic, non-whimsical approach to discovery of truth. Mere assertion falls outside that rubric.

    Does [rational rigor] lead you closer to the truth?

    At times it does. At times it does not.

    Then WHY do you offer good reasons?

    To connect the dots of causal connection. To make sense. To demonstrate that I’m willing to pay homage to rational rigor. Need I continue?

    Do you think that [good reasons] will result in beliefs that are more likely or less likely to be true?

    At times they will. At times they won’t. It’s not a “black and white” thing in my mind.

    Do you think that good reasons have ANY relationship to the truth at all?

    Yes. I also think that bad reasons have a relationship to truth. Both relate to truth through causal connection.

    …you are now anchoring things very subjectively.

    As a human subject, I have no choice. Neither do you. Therefore, this criticism seems misplaced.

    If they “wish”? So, now it comes down to what people “wish”?

    No, this would be another instance of your failure to pay charity.

    I hope that the root of your epistemic practices is not wishful thinking after all.

    It’s not, and again, I suspect a failure to pay charity.

    So, people should always follow good evidence and rational rigor.

    No, I didn’t say that. This would be another instance of you paraphrasing what I’ve said and attacking straw. Frankly, your confusion is on you.

    That would be like demanding that people always touch the door three times before leaving the house, and when asked why, saying “I am agnostic about whether touching the door three times will prevent the apocalypse, but I insist that everyone do so anyway!”

    If denigrating what you mistake for my position makes you feel better, so be it. I suggest you burn the straw.

    …I am not just talking about empirical evidence here. I am talking about good reasons, justifications and evidence. Empirical evidence is just one type. As you mentioned, a logical inference and argument is also a good reason.

    Understood, and agreed. Feel free to reword P2 accordingly.

    I am agreeing with you that sometimes what looked like good reasons at the time actually turn out to be bad reasons and have resulted in a falsehood. I am also agreeing with you that sometimes bad reasons can result in truth.

    Good. It appears we might be turning the corner towards common ground. Let me know what else you need.

  175. Cl,

    Let get this out of the way first.

    Phil -> If not I will pursue this.

    Cl -> For Pete’s sake, put your money where your mouth is! You’ve been saying this for weeks.

    Simply tell me what you do believe, and I’ll work with that. It places more of the burden on me, but I can deal with that. The only burden you have is to tell me what you actually believe. (copied and pasted)

  176. cl says:

    Phil,

    Simply tell me what you do believe, and I’ll work with that. It places more of the burden on me, but I can deal with that. The only burden you have is to tell me what you actually believe. (copied and pasted)

    Been there, done that, here, here, here, and here. If you wish to ignore all my beliefs as stated therein, so be it. I’m confident that most readers will agree I’ve answered you, and that most will take your refusal to demonstrate incoherency as inability to do so.

    So, put your money where your mouth is. Else, on to the next.

  177. Cl,

    You have answered the questions quite directly, and I commend you for that. I won’t need to taunt you much if you keep this up. ;)

    Now, for your points 1-3, I’m confused.
    You say…

    All human criteria are arbitrary, and mine are no exception:

    1) As far as the “correct amount” of evidence for any given claim, I don’t have any “across-the-board” criteria, because I judge each claim separately. If the claim is, “Joe 360 flipped Wallenberg on his skateboard,” I only need to see one instance of Joe 360 flipping Wallenberg on his skateboard. If the claim is, “cathode rays exist,” I’ll need a bigger body of evidence to be sure we’re not actually talking about electrons. As far as the “quality” of evidence, again… I’m not too fond of “across-the-board” generalizations. Each case is different. If you must have an “across-the-board” generalization to defend your syllogism, well… the less confounding factors, the better.

    2) I tend to look at the law of non-contradiction and logical plausibility first.

    3) It depends on the claimant. Sometimes, past experience. Other times, sheer intuition. Other times, awareness of their motive for making the claim. Often, all three.

    I’m confused. You opening statement says all criteria are arbitrary, yet for each point, you employ evidence to justify your criteria.

    For 1), you actually use the word “evidence”.
    For 2), what are you looking for? Why would you need to look if the criteria is arbitrary? What every you “find” from looking, that is providing you with evidence.
    For 3), is past experience not evidence? And is subconscious intuitive insight not based on the accumulation of inductive evidence?

    You’ve failed buddy. But here is what you can do to turn the tables. You can give me a real example of a non-arbitrary non-evidential epistemic choice. Remember, I’m claiming that every epistemic choice is either arbitrary or based on evidence. We both agree that arbitrary choices are irrational, and that choices based on evidence are rational. Yet you are claiming there is a 3rd category. You’ll just need a single example of a non-arbitrary non-evidential epistemic choice to falsify my claim that “arbitrary” and “evidential” are the only 2 games in town, and that “evidential” is the only mode of epistemic choice that is rational.

    ——–

    Phil -> Every truth has 100% of the potentially-confirming evidential nodes intact, whereas every falsehood has 1+ broken potentially-confirming evidential nodes. Agreed?

    Yes. I already agreed to this.

    Then, you believe my P2: Falsehoods are more likely to have less confirmatory evidence at their disposal than have truths. Falsehood always have at least one less piece of confirmatory evidence. Why are you saying you’re “agnostic’ about P2 when you understand why it obtains?

    ————

    Phil -> You’ve never rolled 50-sided dice before, but if your life depended on correctly answering which US state was the poorest, you would not be employing the arbitrary role of the 50-sided dice, but instead assessing the evidence you currently have available to you about the 50 US states. Or am I wrong?

    I think you’re incorrect. If somebody held a gun to my head and said, “Identify the poorest state or die,” I would likely parse my memory until something fit the bill. This would not involve any “assessing of the evidence” whatsoever. Rather, it would be grasping at straw in the interest of pure survival. Of course, if your definition of evidence allows for “any memory that comes to mind and sounds right,” then, you would be correct.

    You have got to be kidding! You actually don’t think the straws you are grasping at in such a scenario are not evidential straws that your rationality is assessing?

    Is this what we’ve come to? The realization that you don’t define “evidence” conventionally (or even coherently)? Where did you find your definition?

    And you even use the phrase “…and sounds right”. What is there to “sound right” if it is not evidence?

    Good grief.

    And you wonder why this is all dragging out.

    Just give me your best shot at presenting a non-arbitrary non-evidential epistemic choice, and I’ll teach you where you’re wrong.

  178. dguller says:

    cl:

    >> Generally speaking, rational rigor requires a systematic, non-whimsical approach to discovery of truth. Mere assertion falls outside that rubric.

    Why should I be systematic and non-whimsical in my approach to truth? Does this increase the likelihood of having true beliefs? Why shouldn’t I just use mere assertion instead? Why is one better than the other in terms of having more true beliefs?

    >> At times it does. At times it does not.

    But would you say that being rationally rigorous more often results in true beliefs than false ones, or that being irrationally un-rigorous results in more true beliefs than false ones?

    >> To connect the dots of causal connection. To make sense. To demonstrate that I’m willing to pay homage to rational rigor. Need I continue?

    So, good reasons tend to map the causal connections in the world. Would you say that if they do, in fact, map the causal connections in the world, then they would be true? Doesn’t it follow that trying to map the causal connections in the world through good reasons would increase the chances of your beliefs being true?

    >> At times they will. At times they won’t. It’s not a “black and white” thing in my mind.

    I agree that it is not a black and white thing. It is a matter of probability. It is not a matter of if you do this, then you will necessarily have true beliefs, but only that making an effort to have good reasons for your beliefs will increase the likelihood of having more true beliefs over time.

    >> Yes. I also think that bad reasons have a relationship to truth. Both relate to truth through causal connection.

    What do you mean by a “bad reason”? Here’s an example. I say that it is raining, and you ask me how I know this, and I reply, “Because I see red”. I would count that as a bad reason, because my seeing red has nothing to do with whether it is raining, and thus it does not relate to the causal connections in the world at all. It looks like a good reason, because I said “Because …” but it is actually a bad one, because it is not related to my claim in any way.

    However, I may be misunderstanding you. Could you clarify how a bad reason has a relationship to the truth? Maybe by leading to a number of false conclusions that eventually one true one emerges over time? But would you prioritize the many bad reasons, or the inevitable good reasons that resulted in finding out the truth?

    >> Good. It appears we might be turning the corner towards common ground. Let me know what else you need.

    Sure. Let me know if finding out the truth is important to you. If it is, then how do you go about doing it?

  179. Cl -> …and that most will take your refusal to demonstrate incoherency as inability to do so.

    Brilliantly stated. Thanks.

  180. cl says:

    dguller,

    You’re doing it again. By it, I refer to the tactic of selectively answering questions. March 22, 2011 at 11:04 AM, I asked: may I see the data from your experiment? If you did not perform the experiment you suggested that I perform, then:

    1) what is the evidence for your claim?

    2) why are you suggesting that I take a test you have not taken?

    I have already typed my response to every single one of your most recent questions. Answer mine above, and we can proceed.

  181. dguller says:

    cl:

    Haven’t taken the test. It was a rhetorical question.

    Now, is truth important to you? How do you go about finding out if something is true?

  182. cl says:

    dguller,

    Haven’t taken the test. It was a rhetorical question.

    Ah, I see… quite interesting.

    Now, is truth important to you?

    Sorry, but you didn’t answer the rest of my questions, and I refuse to let you bully me around. As I said, if you want to ANSWER them, I’ll gladly post my response. Again:

    1) what is the evidence for your claim?

    2) why are you suggesting that I take a test you have not taken?

    …also,

    3) if you’re so interested in truth, why are you coming at me with rhetorical questions?

  183. dguller says:

    cl:

    >> 1) what is the evidence for your claim?

    My evidence for the claim that good reasons have an increased likelihood of leading to true beliefs is exactly as both you and Phil stated in your discussion. A true state of affairs is a part of an interconnected nexus of causal and rational relations, and that justifying a belief about a state of affairs requires connecting it to the surrounding and related causal and rational relationships, which is what good reasons ultimately come down to. I included an example above about the belief that it is raining, and the associated and surrounding facts that contribute to justifying this belief.

    >> 2) why are you suggesting that I take a test you have not taken?

    It was a rhetorical question. That is why I asked if you REALLY think that spending a month believing anything and everything without trying to justify those beliefs at all would result in more true beliefs than making a concerted effort to justify those beliefs. Do you really think that to be the case here?

    >> 3) if you’re so interested in truth, why are you coming at me with rhetorical questions?

    Because they can be useful to bring out an obvious falsity. Hell, you have used them yourself on this thread. After citing a few of Phil’s choicest insults, you asked me “Do you really believe those remarks “possibly” qualify as “academic tone?”” (March 21 at 1:01 PM). What else could I possibly do, except to agree with you? I mean, it was obvious that his remarks did not qualify as “academic”, and that was exactly why you asked a rhetorical question.

    Your turn:

    Is truth important to you? How do you go about finding out if a proposition is true if not by seeking out good reasons and evidence for it?

  184. cl says:

    dguller,

    1) Noted. I’m fairly confident we’ve been interpreting Phil’s P2 differently this entire time, but I’ll get to that in my upcoming post.

    2) You asked,

    Do you really think that to be the case here?

    How many more times do you want me to tell you that I don’t know? That’s why I accepted the experiment. Though the results aren’t fully in, I’m already confident your metric is hardly as trustworthy as you seem to think.

    3) You wrote,

    After citing a few of Phil’s choicest insults, you asked me “Do you really believe those remarks “possibly” qualify as “academic tone?””

    That was not a rhetorical question. Operating on good faith, I presumed that your answer of “possibly” was honest. Apparently, it was not–since you now write that non-academic nature of Phil’s comments was “obvious”–and I think that is very good reason to be even more skeptical of your claims. In fact, I can’t believe that you would have the audacity to hit me with, “are you interested in finding out truth?” after giving a dishonest answer to a direct question, and declaring that you don’t care whether Phil’s argument is sound. That translates directly to, “I don’t have to answer honestly unless I want to, and I don’t care about truth in this matter between you and Phil.” Quite frankly, I think you need to do some introspection here.

    So, in the interest of avoiding further burnout and spent time, I will find my response to your last set of questions and post it. Then, I will answer your question about Joseph Smith as time allows. After that, I doubt I’ll be participating much further in this debate, as you’ve clearly demonstrated both A) selective interest in truth, and B) willingness to supply a dishonest answer for whatever reason.

    Oh, lastly: I will do my best to sort all of this out in an upcoming post, as time allows.

  185. cl says:

    dguller,

    Why should I be systematic and non-whimsical in my approach to truth?

    That’s not my business. I’ve not said you should. You need to come up with your own reasons for action for that which you do.

    Does this increase the likelihood of having true beliefs?

    I don’t know.

    Why shouldn’t I just use mere assertion instead? Why is one better than the other in terms of having more true beliefs?

    Any given mere assertion may or may not accurately reflect the causal chain. Of course, the same applies to any given systematic and non-whimsical approach.

    But would you say that being rationally rigorous more often results in true beliefs than false ones, or that being irrationally un-rigorous results in more true beliefs than false ones?

    I don’t know. I tend to be sympathetic towards those who argue the impossibility of proving non-tautological claims–as opposed to the possibility of falsifying them.

    So, good reasons tend to map the causal connections in the world.

    My first response is to say that correctly mapped causal connections constitute good reasons. Then again, identifying “correctly mapped causal connections” is a tricky business, hence my hesitance to align myself with across-the-board generalizations.

    Would you say that if they do, in fact, map the causal connections in the world, then they would be true?

    You’re starting to get a little loose with language again. That we perceive an intact map is not a reliable indicator of truth. This strategy has proven incorrect who-knows-how-many times in who-knows-how-many disciplines, from law to science to philosophy.

    Doesn’t it follow that trying to map the causal connections in the world through good reasons would increase the chances of your beliefs being true?

    I don’t know. To me, the fact that who-knows-how-many false beliefs were preceded by good reasons is cause for skepticism regarding across-the-board generalizations.

    I agree that it is not a black and white thing.

    Excellent.

    It is not a matter of if you do this, then you will necessarily have true beliefs…

    I was never under the impression that you were arguing thus, but thanks for clarifying.

    Could you clarify how a bad reason has a relationship to the truth?

    Looking back, I’m not sure exactly what I was thinking when I said that. I guess I just meant that bad reasons fall outside the causal chain, or something of that nature.

    Let me know if finding out the truth is important to you.

    As explained in the previous comment, that you ask such snide questions simply decreases my motivation to continue, and makes it increasingly difficult to maintain the presumption of good faith. Although, how about a tit-for-tat, or two? Is finding out the truth important to you? Your remark that you “do not care about whether Phil’s argument is sound” seems to indicate that finding out the truth is a matter of selective interest at best. Juxtaposed against your concession that the non-academic tone of Phil’s barrage was “obvious,” your remark that Phil’s barrage was “possibly” non-academic seems to indicate a blatant disinterest in truth. Personally, I believe a person with strong willingness to find out truth would be more than happy to referee a debate [cf. Ana and Mike Gantt], and I would referee a debate between you and somebody else any day of the week.

    If it is, then how do you go about doing it?

    Among other methods, 1-4 as explained in my comment March 21, 2011 at 9:13 PM.

  186. dguller says:

    Cl:

    >> That’s not my business. I’ve not said you should. You need to come up with your own reasons for action for that which you do.

    Okay. But why should YOU be systematic and non-whimsical in your approach to truth? Does this increase the likelihood of having more true beliefs? And if it does not, then why bother doing it at all?

    >> I don’t know.

    Then why do it?

    >> Any given mere assertion may or may not accurately reflect the causal chain. Of course, the same applies to any given systematic and non-whimsical approach.

    Right, but would you put more stock in a mere assertion without any justification or a proposition that has been systematically and non-whimsically derived? And if you would, then why would you? Furthermore, why do you use the term “mere assertion” in a derogatory way in your comments? You seem to imply that it is a poorer way to go about uncovering the truth. Otherwise, why not just say, “Mere assertion! Great! I’m convinced!”?

    >> I don’t know. I tend to be sympathetic towards those who argue the impossibility of proving non-tautological claims–as opposed to the possibility of falsifying them.

    >> My first response is to say that correctly mapped causal connections constitute good reasons. Then again, identifying “correctly mapped causal connections” is a tricky business, hence my hesitance to align myself with across-the-board generalizations.

    Good. So, wouldn’t it stand to reason that a proposition with more solid reasons would have a greater likelihood of mapping causal connections, then a proposition with fewer and weaker reasons? Let me just give you an example. X claims that it is raining and Y claims that it is not raining. X cites the fact that one can see it raining, can hear it raining, can look up the weather network, which states that it is raining, and that other people agree that it is raining. Y cites the fact that his hernia is painful. Would you say that X is more likely to have a true belief than Y? Wouldn’t you also say that the main difference is that X has many good reasons and Y has one bad reason?

    >> You’re starting to get a little loose with language again. That we perceive an intact map is not a reliable indicator of truth. This strategy has proven incorrect who-knows-how-many times in who-knows-how-many disciplines, from law to science to philosophy.

    Right, but is an imperfect and flawed standard better than no standard? Would you say that we would be generally better off if we did not make an effort to seek good reasons to justify our beliefs, even though this does result in false beliefs sometimes?

    >> I don’t know. To me, the fact that who-knows-how-many false beliefs were preceded by good reasons is cause for skepticism regarding across-the-board generalizations.

    Should someone take penicillin for a syphilitic infection? Randomized controlled trials have demonstrated that penicillin is an effective treatment for syphilis. Does that mean that everyone who takes penicillin will get better? Of course not. Does that mean that penicillin is not effective for syphilis? Of course not. To be effective does not mean to be universally and comprehensively effective, but only that more people do better with it than without it. Same thing with epistemic standards. Yes, they fail us sometimes. Yes, they have resulted in false beliefs. But does that mean that we should disregard them? Of course not. And why? Because they are the best method we have at coming up with as many true beliefs as we can. Otherwise, there is no point in using epistemic standards at all.

    >> As explained in the previous comment, that you ask such snide questions simply decreases my motivation to continue, and makes it increasingly difficult to maintain the presumption of good faith.

    I will take that as a “yes”. Good, so finding out the truth is important to you.

    >> Among other methods, 1-4 as explained in my comment March 21, 2011 at 9:13 PM.

    Would it be fair to say that you follow 1-4, because they help you to uncover the truth better than doing the opposite of 1-4? What relationship does 1-4 have to finding out the truth?

  187. dguller says:

    cl:

    >> How many more times do you want me to tell you that I don’t know? That’s why I accepted the experiment. Though the results aren’t fully in, I’m already confident your metric is hardly as trustworthy as you seem to think.

    And how many times do I have to ask you why bother using epistemic standards if you do not know if they help you to discover the truth? That would be like asking someone if using a calculator helps with multiplication, and they say “I don’t know”. You then ask, “What do you mean, you don’t know? Why else would you use the calculator to multiply unless you thought that it helped you to do so?” And then they say, “How many times do you want me to say, ‘I don’t know’!?” Does that make ANY sense to you? This is not a 50-50 issue where sometimes you do not use epistemic standards and sometimes you do. You have consistently and repeatedly used good epistemic standards in your posts, and now all of a sudden, you are admitting that you have no idea if they are any good at helping you to uncover the truth? Again, then why bother using them to figure out if something is true??

    >> That was not a rhetorical question. Operating on good faith, I presumed that your answer of “possibly” was honest. Apparently, it was not–since you now write that non-academic nature of Phil’s comments was “obvious”–and I think that is very good reason to be even more skeptical of your claims. In fact, I can’t believe that you would have the audacity to hit me with, “are you interested in finding out truth?” after giving a dishonest answer to a direct question, and declaring that you don’t care whether Phil’s argument is sound. That translates directly to, “I don’t have to answer honestly unless I want to, and I don’t care about truth in this matter between you and Phil.” Quite frankly, I think you need to do some introspection here.

    NONE of this refutes my claim that you have used a rhetorical question, and then criticized me for doing the same.

  188. dguller says:

    cl:

    And one more thing. My questioning about whether uncovering the truth was important to you was not meant to be a snide remark. It was only meant to highlight that, of course, finding out the truth is important to you, and that since this is the case, then why would you use epistemic standards of good reasons and justification if you honestly had no idea if they worked at all at helping uncover the truth? Why not use something better then? And what would that be?

  189. You should make an eBook with this post.

  190. cl says:

    @Chung,

    Not a bad idea. If I go through with it I’ll cite this comment :)

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