Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

MI on the Clash of Worldviews


In a comment to a prior post material.infantacy writes [remaining post is all his]:

If one believes A = A only some of the time, and that A = !A is true for some circumstances, whether they’re referring to logical propositions or a construct of physical reality, then that person is either deluded or devious.

 I recently wasted an entire evening trying to reason with someone that (analogously) two flips of a coin could yield a heads and a tails in two distinct ways (HT or TH) giving the combination a 50% chance of success over either HH or TT. This person had already decided that the two combinations were identical, and no amount of demonstration would convince her otherwise. Attempts to show proof yielded blank stares or more illogical protests. It became clear that this person had placed an irrational world view as the stake in a debating game against me. After the debate got started, our discussion had nothing to do with discovering truth, nor illuminating each other’s views, rather a win-at-all-costs attitude emerged as the keystone of the discussion. She was playing a game, and one that she plays every day in life: truth is what you can make others believe, and not anything that can be determined by universal principles. I was subject to any objection that appeared to provide the slightest bit of wiggle room for the person’s argument, and an utter lack of willingness to engage my points on their merits. For every advance I made in my arguments, she doubled down and protested all the more. Her arguments became more long-winded and rambling in an attempt to filibuster, seeking to derail the heart of the discussion by finding some small weakness in my peripheral knowledge, to try and gain the upper hand.

After many revolutions of circular arguments and backwards reasoning on her part, when it became all the more clear that her protests would yield no fruit, she lost all interest in the matter and shifted to an unrelated argument. What I found was a person impervious to learning much of anything, but who was apparently pretty skilled at dishonest debating tactics. This is a person who’s psyche is comprised almost entirely of its own ego, who desires no real learning or illumination, but merely an advantage. The word “shameless” comes to mind, and it’s entirely apropos.

This is a world view issue. This is what occurs in people who are either ignorant to their own biases and unable to determine objective reality from their own imaginings, or they have decided deliberately that truth is decided by belief — that ‘truth’ is merely what one can make others believe. This was the worldview I was up against in the aforementioned argument, as far as I’ve been able to tell. And it wasn’t the first time something like this had occurred. I’ve seen something similar here over the time I’ve been posting.

It seems like a good idea to take a breather from having thoughtful commenters waste countless hours and words arguing against folks who need to win at all costs, to gain an advantage, who’ve already abandoned any form truth by defining it out of existence, who’ve already decided that zero concession is their policy. The goal of so many UD interlocutors, so it seems, has been to urinate on the walls here on practically any post, and to distract from arguments with all manner of objections, usually peripheral ones, or objections that intentionally distract from the nature of the argument being made. Of course this isn’t always the case. I’ve seen reasonable arguments by ID opponents from time to time. But they’re totally overshadowed by ill-willed attempts at obfuscation. It’s pretty difficult to formulate a good argument for something. It’s quite simple to merely object. Practically all I see from opponents, with few exceptions, is one objection after another, and never an attempt to build a positive case in such a way that it could actually be challenged. Yes, I’m speaking in generalities.

As far as I’m concerned, I’m a guest in someone’s house here. I’ve no “right” to be here. It’s not a free speech issue. I’ve no right to act in any way that suits me, nor protest too much if I’m asked to leave due to ritual impertinence. Anyone who finds the atmosphere here less than amiable is free, even encouraged, to move along. This isn’t a public park. For those who enjoy endlessly debating Darwinists, there are probably 10^6 or more places to have flame wars and troll hunts on the internet. For my part, I’m glad this site isn’t just another one of those. At some point, good conversations depend on participants who can agree about foundational things, or who have a willingness to learn. It’s then that differences in opinion or outlook become illuminating. I’ll be interested to see if more pro-ID or agnostic lurkers who were otherwise intimidated from posting here show up over time. It’ll also be entertaining to watch the slough of sock puppets come through over the next couple of weeks.

Folks: I am fairly convinced what we are grappling with, boiled down, is the issue of self-evident, foundational truth as part of the basis for a worldview. Cf here. KF kairosfocus
Thank you for your clarification. Just to be a little more specific, I am not asking if a physical law is an agent of libertarian free will. I am asking if, in your judgment, it could be (as when you say, "the most we can say about natural laws is that we have not found a contradiction to them"). StephenB
Or do I misunderstand you?
I'm pretty certain it's a misunderstanding. I've no intention of claiming that a regularity is an agent of libertarian free will, but it is admissible to state that regularity could be a consequence of one. But the LNC is a first and mandatory notion from which we derive every shred of human knowledge derived experientialy. It is inviolate and unshakable. Unless it is, but if it were false no one could tell the difference as we couldn't speak and not speak with words that did and did not exist about things that did and did not happen; which we could and couldn't recognize anyways. Maus
Maus, you appear to be saying that a physical law could, in principle, also be a creative agent, perhaps even an intelligent agent, and that the Law of non-contradiction could, in principle, be unreliable and, in fact, could be false. Or do I misunderstand you? StephenB
To add to the confusion, he substituted the word “nature” for the word “law,” insisting that I may not put “nature in a box” or declare what nature can or cannot do from my “dogmatic perspective.”
In the most generic possible terms, this is a correct statement. The most we can say about natural laws is that we have not found a contradiction to them. Which is based on the Laws of Thought and the LNC. And the LNC, like all laws, holds only as we haven't found a contradiction to the Law of non-Contradiction. This single notion underlies all of empiricism. Which is why we're so intent in casting it out of science. Of course, if you can show a contradiction by failing to show the thing that does exist then you can show a contradiction with the LNC. And thus refute it by requiring the thing you showed you couldn't. And while I don't suggest you do so here, if your opponent is interested in sophistries then it is always high entertainment to accept what they consider as valid argument and use the same to make the most absurd claims about their person, yours, or reality. Just to drive the point home. But do have a care that your yes/no questions do not involve two affirmative, or two negative, considerations. It's not the same thing. Maus
StephenB, thank you kindly. It's appreciated coming from someone with such erudite writing himself. I caught some of your conversation with eigenstate on that thread, but I appreciate the summary. I'e read him several times in the past, and also managed to address some of his claims about GAs on the Borel thread a few weeks ago. The best way I can sum up his objections is this way: "reality is what I want it to be." I often get the impression that he and others are story writing when they address you, gpuccio, KF, Upright Biped, and others. Denial of the LNC seems to go hand in hand with an unwillingness to confess that the entire notion of true and false and their logical implications is what allows any reasonable discourse to occur in the first place. So even the deniers must be secret adherents on some level; or they're outright liars, cloaked in a form of civility. However I admit to mild surprise that the Jupiter/moon question has been the source of such equivocating answers. Perhaps it shows that the idea of the first cause is equally frightening and repugnant to some, meaning it's implications are well understood by those who deny the LNC, as is evidenced by the dodging of such a straightforward question. m.i. P.S. Here's something from John Lennox, in God's Undertaker, Kindle book location 1403.
... we might well ask what could possibly be meant by a theory or laws bringing the universe into existence. We certainly expect to be able to formulate theories involving mathematical laws that describe natural phenomena, and we can often do this to astonishing degrees of precision. However, the laws that we find cannot themselves cause anything. Newton's laws can describe the motion of a billiard ball, but it is the cue wielded the the billiard player that sets the ball moving, not the laws. The laws help us map the trajectory of the ball's movement in the future (provided nothing external interferes), but they are powerless to move the ball, let alone bring it into existence. And, if one dare say so, the much maligned William Paley said as much long ago. Speaking of the person who had just stumbled on a watch on the heath and picked it up he says that such a person would not be 'less surprised to be informed, that the watch in his hand was nothing more than the result of the laws of metallic nature. It is a perversion of language to assign an law, as the efficient, operative cause of any thing. A law presupposes an agent; for it is only the mode, according to which an agent proceeds: it implies a power; for it is the order, according to which that power acts. Without this agent, without this power, which are both distinct from itself, the law dos nothing; is nothing.' In the world in which most of us live the simple law of arithmetic, 1+1 = 2, never brought anything into being by itself. It certainly has never put any money into my bank account. If I first put 1,000 int the bank and then later another 1,000, the laws of arithmetic will rationally explain how it is that I now have 2,000 in the bank. But if I never put any money into the bank myself and simply leave it to the laws of arithmetic to bring money into being in my bank account, I shall remain permanently bankrupt. The world of strict naturalism in which clever mathematical laws all by themselves bring the universe and live into existence, is pure (and, one might add, poor) fiction. To call it science-fiction would besmirch the name of science. Theories and laws simply do not bring anything into existence. The view that thy nevertheless somehow have that capacity seems a rather desperate refuge (and it is hard to see what else it could be but a refuge) from the alternative possibility contained in Hawkings's final question cited above: "Or does it need a Creator?'
I would just like to remind people who discuss things in public forums like this that even if their words appear to be having no effect on their opponent, they are likely having a great effect on the silent lurkers who are reading but perhaps not responding to your words. Just make your points as clearly as possible (repeatedly if necessary) and expose the irrationality of your opponents position as clearly as possible (repeatedly if necessary), and I think in the estimation of most of your unseen audience, the irrationality of your opponent will be obvious. And likewise, your level-headed reasonableness will also be obvious. I think this happens all the time in online discussions. So keep on fighting the good fight! And think of all of those now and in the future that will be enlightened by your words. EndoplasmicMessenger
material.infantacy, it is a pleasure to read someone who can write as well as he thinks. Thank you for your timely comments. May I inject a story that, in some ways, prompted me to raise the original question: “Can Jupiter exist and not exist at the same time [and under the same formal circumstances? In brief, I had argued that, ultimately, a contingent universe requires a first/causeless cause. In spite of atheistic illusions, a “law” cannot create a universe because a law, by definition, cannot do anything other than what it does. The law of gravity, for example, cannot put off its regularity hat and put on its flexibility hat in order to create something because gravity does not have a flexibility hat to put on. If it did, it wouldn’t be a law. A law either describes (or entails) regularity or it doesn’t. According to the law of non-contradiction, a law cannot entail regularity and not entail regularity. It matters not whether we are speaking about our descriptions of the regularity or the regularity itself. In response, eigenstate argued that my definitions are only my definitions-- the laws of thought, one gathers, are simply my “intuitions,”--nature doesn’t care a whit about the law of non-contradiction”—although the law is still valid--except that it has no “magical powers.” To add to the confusion, he substituted the word “nature” for the word “law,” insisting that I may not put “nature in a box” or declare what nature can or cannot do from my “dogmatic perspective.” In his judgment, there could be nothing to prevent a physical law of the universe from functioning as a non-law, and he didn’t mind investing over a thousand words of remarkably well-crafted, subjectively tinged prose, to make the [argument???]. As he continued his “I’m-personally-committed-to-LNC- BUT” gambit, coupled with his “the map is not the territory” tactic, I finally decided to pull him away from his postmodernist interpretation, asking him if, in fact, Jupiter can exist and not exist at the same time. One cannot take cover in the subjective realm of generalities while addressing that specific question about objective reality, especially one that calls for a "yes or no." It was at this point that Barry began a new thread calling for a straight answer to my straight question, which sad to say elicited no response. When eigenstate failed to respond, Barry rescinded his posting privileges. After falsely claiming that he did, indeed, post a response in a timely way, eigen finally provided his version of an answer on another website. Can Jupiter exist and not exist at the same time in the same sense? Theoretically yes, statistically no. Shall I explain his Rationale? I didn’t think so. StephenB
Barry, thanks for the spotlight. Does this count against my 15 minutes? xp CY, "Invitation to eternity" is exactly what discussing anything with this person is like (not like the invitation to eternity I accepted many years ago). There is literally no end to the spinning of tales that occurs in these cases. It's exhausting, but not because of the discussion length, but because any effort on my part is guaranteed to be wasted labor. Barb, I observe personal belief taking center stage in directing the thoughts and actions of myself and others. There seems to be nothing more central and more cherished than one's world view. Every bit of evidence and reasoning is filtered through our beliefs. To legitimately acknowledge objective truth is to admit that some beliefs must be incorrect. When beliefs are challenged, so is the ego -- even when done indirectly, via the expression of a contrary world view. WJM, you're very welcome; this has been on my mind quite a lot lately. The experience I described occurred with a relative. It was the first time I'd encountered that level of zero-concession, win-at-all-costs, intentionally devious discussion tactics outside of this website. At least, it's the first time I'd recognized it as such. You are correct. Appeasement and toleration is a dangerous game to play with these, because it is interpreted as weakness. This lot are bullies. material.infantacy
I would like to thank material.infantacy for expressing this - I've been struggling to find a way to express the same experience and sentiments. These people have abandoned right thinking and will literally say anything in service of their own ego, regardless of how ridiculous, unsupportable, self-contradictory or fallacious; they do not recognize rules of thought or conduct because, for them, it is a will-to-power game where the ends (winning) justify the employment of any means necessary. It is a dangerous mistake to appease or tolerate them; they consider such appeasement and tolerance weakness, and will use it against those who offer it. You cannot reason with those that have abandoned reason. William J Murray
This is what happens when people accept that plurality of opinion somehow equals truth. Paul Copan underscored this point in his book "How Do You Know You're Not Wrong?" Not everyone's opinion can be true, but explaining this generally elicits the response noted in the OP. Barb
BA, MI, others, Denial of the LNC seems to be a scapegoat. In the time when I was working, I did hiring and firing. Prior to a hire we required a drug test of all potential employees. I can see how denial of the LNC could be used to rationalize a positive drug test. "Well, you see, while at the time I was using, I was also not using. You can't pin a positive on me because of my legitimate world view; which I refer to as a religion. Are you against my religion?" So in the real world, it's denial doesn't work. I've had similar discussions with people, and it's an invitation to eternity - as in no end to the discussion. I think with such a person it might be prudent to continue with the discussion until a consensus is reached, rather than agreeing to disagree. That would be a win in their thinking. It definitely stems from new age thinking whereby "my views are as good as yours." In an attempt not to offend, they end up offending our logical sensibilities. It's interesting that this kind of thinking is contaminating scientific inquiry, where commitments to logic, ethics and truth are required. CannuckianYankee

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