Phil’s Failure: Responding To Faith’s Failure, 2.0

So, right about here, atheist agnostic blogger Phil Stilwell popped up and claimed that “Christianity refutes Christianity,” offering, among others, the following argument:

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.

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

My initial response was that P2 is mere assertion. Phil asked me to state what I believe about evidence and justification, and I answered. I later explained that even if I accept P2 for the sake of argument, Phil’s syllogism remains unsound on account of P1. In between his insults, Phil kept asking me to repeat myself, which I did here, here, here, and here. Now, Phil’s offered a new argument, and I’d like to address it separately from Faith’s Failure 1.0, which–I believe–we are still discussing.

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)

C The Bible promotes irrationality. (P5 & P6)

My first goal will be to translate Phil’s premises into simple language, because they strike me as unnecessarily verbose, and unnecessary verbosity tends to detract from clarity. Unless one wishes to portray an air of academia, why use 30 clunky words where 5 or 6 simpler ones will suffice? Once I have paraphrased Phil’s argument to his approval, I will then go on to address it’s premises. My interpretation of Phil’s argument follows:

P1 rationally-held beliefs require a preponderance of evidence.

P2 humans have limited access to evidence.

P3 evidence puts one somewhere between absolute confirmation and absolute disconfirmation.

P4 rational beliefs fall somewhere between absolute confirmation and absolute disconfirmation.

P5 promoting certainty is irrational.

P6 the Bible promotes certainty.

C The Bible promotes irrationality.

So, Phil… again the ball is in your court. Which of your premises would you say I’ve accurately paraphrased? Which would you say I have not?

10 Comments

  1. Cl,

    Let’s use your abbreviated versions of my premises under the condition that you stick to the concepts as they are more rigorously defined in my original version. Agreed?

  2. And remember, in order for me to reformulate my syllogism to match your actual beliefs, you’ll be asked to tell me your actual beliefs. Don’t act surprised about that this time.

  3. dguller says:

    Phil:

    First, are logical and mathematical truths tautological? They do not appear to be so, which means that they are non-tautological truths that can be held with absolute certainty.

    Second, what about the certainty that we have about our subjective experience of something? I cannot doubt that I am in pain, right?

  4. Welcome, Dguller.

    The following shows that logical forms (Which Principia Mathematica argues encases mathematics) are tautological (page 7).
    http://marauder.millersville.edu/~bikenaga/mathproof/truth-tables/truth-tables.pdf

    But this and the inclusion of subjective experiences are not essential to my argument and can be simply remedied by a stipulation that limits the scope to “non-subjective and non-logical truths”.

    I prefer to wait for the comprehensive response of Cl before tweaking the syllogism in a particular direction.

  5. cl says:

    Phil,

    …under the condition that you stick to the concepts as they are more rigorously defined in my original version. Agreed?

    No. This gives you too much wiggle room, and I’m trying to get away from verbosity. Your concepts are not rigorously defined. That’s exactly why I wish to clarify them. I want to be sure that what I think you’re saying matches what you are saying, and I’d rather you simply answer the question I closed with: Which of your premises would you say I’ve accurately paraphrased? Which would you say I have not?

    Don’t act surprised about that this time.

    I didn’t “act surprised” last time. Contrary, I answered your questions with my actual beliefs–even going above and beyond the call of duty by defining the gospel despite it’s irrelevance to Faith’s Failure 1.0–and you still haven’t reformulated your syllogism such that it shows any incoherence in my beliefs.

    Comprehensive enough?

  6. Cl, you’ve convinced me.

    You lack both the philosophical acumen and the honestly to produce a productive exchange.

    You don’t even understand the concept of “evidence”. I’m not here to teach you what you should have learned long ago.

    If I ask you questions, then ask you follow-up questions, then ask you follow-up questions, rejoice that I’m preparing to address your actual position.

    What? Do you want me to simply keep guessing at what you believe, produce a new syllogism based on my guesses, then have you say, “I don’t believe that.”? Pathetic.

    I have better things to do. Feel free to gloat in my resignation. Just be honest enough not to delete my posts.

    On a more personal and friendly note, you can join me on facebook if you’d like to see for yourself the misery a godless life entails. I normally don’t bother with staunch apologists, but you remind me too much of myself when I was young and irrationally christian. ;) http://facebookcom/philstilwell

  7. cl says:

    Phil,

    You lack both the philosophical acumen and the honestly to produce a productive exchange.

    Your opinion of me is irrelevant to the argument at hand, and I find it ironic that somebody who pays such homage to reason would walk with open arms towards an irrelevant, ad hominem argument.

    You don’t even understand the concept of “evidence”.

    False.

    I’m not here to teach you what you should have learned long ago.

    Correct. You’re here because you claimed you can show the incoherence of my beliefs, yet, thus far, you have utterly failed to do so.

    If I ask you questions, then ask you follow-up questions, then ask you follow-up questions, rejoice that I’m preparing to address your actual position.

    If I answer questions, then answer more questions, followed by further answering of questions, and finally more questions answered, then… man up and address my actual position. IOW, put your money where your mouth is. Cut to the chase. That sort of thing.

    Do you want me to simply keep guessing at what you believe, produce a new syllogism based on my guesses, then have you say, “I don’t believe that.”?

    No. Regarding Faith’s Failure 1.0, I want you to take the answers which you concede I’ve given, and I want you to make good on your claim to reformulate your syllogism such that it shows the incoherence of my beliefs. This is what you said you would do, and this is what you have not done.

    Regarding Faith’s Failure 2.0, I want you to answer my questions: Which of your premises would you say I’ve accurately paraphrased? Which would you say I have not?

    I have better things to do. Feel free to gloat in my resignation.

    I’m not going to gloat in anything. I’ll actually lament the monumental waste of time that will ensue should you shirk your responsibilities as positive claimant and walk out in mid-debate. As an aside, I’m amused by the thought of Bill Craig or Dawkins rifling off who-knows-how-many personal insults at their interlocutor, then storming out of a debate. Who would take that seriously?

    On a more personal and friendly note, you can join me on facebook if you’d like to see for yourself the misery a godless life entails.

    You do not strike me as friendly, but terribly judgmental and chauvinist towards Christians because you fancy yourself rationally superior to them. I’m not on Facebook, and I believe that life is what one makes of it, godless or not.

    I normally don’t bother with staunch apologists, but you remind me too much of myself when I was young and irrationally christian.

    You call that a friendly note?

  8. woodchuck64 says:

    From the first argument:

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

    I’ve always got the impression the Christian model works better if we assume some of the spirit or essence of that which is a spiritual being knows and recognizes the Truth, while another essence denies it and fights against it–all before any real empirical evidence is evaluated at all. A third essence, free will, mysteriously chooses between the two influences at any given moment. Therefore, Jesus is saying that those who choose to recognize the Truth rather than fight against it –before such a battle is decided by confirmatory evidence which overwhelms the “denying” essence– are particularly blessed. In this scenario, my biggest problem would be with the “free will” essence (how does it choose and why?), not with the idea of rewarding belief without evidence.

    From the second argument:

    P5 Any source that promotes binary and absolute belief/disbelief for human epistemic agents is promoting irrationality. (P3 & P4)

    In the same vein as the first argument, I think the Christian model of a whole human being is better understood as a spiritual essence that is already certain of the Truth– in the same sense I can be certain that I exist–but may be defeated by a separate essence that denies the Truth, according to the whims of a third essence, free will. So in a Christian worldview, certainty of the Truth could exist, but the question mark for me would be how to get moral responsibility out of this model, without knowing how or why free will choses,or the degree of strength of good or evil in each spiritual being.

  9. cl says:

    woodchuck64,

    Your thoughtfulness and tact are sorely missed around here. Thank you. I will add to your comment if I think I have anything valid to add.

  10. woodchuck64 says:

    cl, thanks for the kind words. My motive in striving to be civil is purely selfish, though; I learn so much more from those who disagree with me that way.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>