Intelligent Design

The “Bias Blind Spot” Makes Smart People Say Really Stupid Things

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Over at ENV, David Klinghoffer reports on an article in Live Science about research into why atheists disproportionately score higher on standard tests of intelligence.  The article states:

[Researcher Edward] Dutton set out to find [the] answer, thinking that perhaps it was because nonreligious people were more rational than their religious brethren, and thus better able to reason that there was no God, he wrote.

But “more recently, I started to wonder if I’d got it wrong, actually,” Dutton told Live Science. “I found evidence that intelligence is positively associated with certain kinds of bias.”

For instance, a 2012 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology showed that college students often get logical answers wrong but don’t realize it. This so-called “bias blind spot” happens when people cannot detect bias, or flaws, within their own thinking. “If anything, a larger bias blind spot was associated with higher cognitive ability,” the researchers of the 2012 study wrote in the abstract. . . .

If intelligent people are less likely to perceive their own bias, that means they’re less rational in some respects, Dutton said.

Klinghoffer writes about his own experience trying to push smart people off their prejudices:

These are intelligent men and women. Yet the bias instilled by their social peers is so powerful in many cases that it cannot be overcome. Perhaps it’s something about high intelligence that itself results in the inability to see or hear what’s right in front of your face, if it conflicts with what your biases are telling you, what you think should be true if your picture of the world is to be maintained.

This is exactly right.  And it accounts for why smart people often say really stupid things.  When I read the story it put me in mind of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s now infamous tweet from last summer:  “Earth needs a virtual country: #Rationalia, with a one-line Constitution: All policy shall be based on the weight of evidence.”

Let’s concede that deGrasse is a smart guy.  From his Wiki entry:  “he completed a bachelor’s degree in physics at Harvard University in 1980. After receiving a master’s degree in astronomy at the University of Texas at Austin in 1983, he earned his master’s (1989) and doctorate (1991) in astrophysics at Columbia University.”  Those are the educational accomplishments of a highly intelligent person.

But if deGrasse is such a smart guy, why would he send out such a gobsmackingtly stupid tweet?  The answer lies in his Bias Blind Spot.  Neil deGrasse is an atheist materialist who believes that science can answer all important questions.  His tweet demonstrates that he is literally unable to comprehend the limits of the types of questions science can answer, as Kevin Williamson points out here in a withering assessment of deGrasse’s tweet.

Why are smart people more blind to their biases than the rest of us?  The answer is easy:  Because they are smart.  That does not mean that intelligence makes one more blind to bias.  It means that the pride that often accompanies intelligence makes one more blind to bias.  Hubris limits one’s perception of his own flaws and limits.  Which is why we would all do well to remember a variant on an ancient Greek aphorism:  “Whom the Gods would destroy, they first make proud.”

117 Replies to “The “Bias Blind Spot” Makes Smart People Say Really Stupid Things

  1. 1
    Latemarch says:

    Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. Prov. 16:18

  2. 2
    Barry Arrington says:

    Late @ 1. Yeah, that too.

  3. 3
    Barry Arrington says:

    There may be an atheist who is humble about overcoming the “superstition” of religious belief. I’ve never met such a person. Thus, Dawkins labeling himself and those who agree with him “Brights.”

  4. 4
    jdk says:

    Hi Barry: allow me to introduce myself. Not quite sure what “humble about overcoming the “superstition” of religious belief” means, but I have a background in comparative religion, and a lot of understanding, I think, about why religion exists and the role it plays in the lives of human individuals and societies. My guess is that your stereotypes about “unhumble” atheists don’t apply to me.

  5. 5
    Latemarch says:

    There are the occasional humble materialist atheists but they are few and far between.
    One that comes to mind is Penn Jillette of Penn and Teller.

    Penn and Bible

    Now if you include what I like to term the spiritual atheists, (Buddhists and Taoists fall into this category) then there are lots more.

  6. 6
    ecs2 says:

    @4 -This is meant to be humorous right? It sort of reads – I am very smart and I have done very impressive sounding research into buzz-wordy topics that allow me to assess and draw subjective value judgments on purpose and meaning and role of spirituality and call them science, and do so all from a position of comfortable detachment.

    Kudos. But the joke was that is not evidence of humility but the opposite, right? Really good one, ‘I am very humble, just ask me.’ Kind of thing. I like that kind of meta humor.

    But … you could not have meant that seriously could you?

  7. 7
    Barry Arrington says:

    jdk, your bias blind spot is showing.

  8. 8
    jdk says:

    If you want to read it that way, ecs2, you can, although I’m not sure what “buzz-words” I used. Is “role” a buzz-word?

    Same with you, Barry.

    I didn’t expect any generous or civil replies, but I spoke up anyway. Moving on …

  9. 9
    JDH says:

    @jdk – Do you mean to say that you are a “humble atheist”. Then please allow me to introduce myself. I don’t consider myself to be a “non-humble theist”. But I have a real problem with atheism that I don’t see how you can answer. I do not see how complexity can add will.

    I admit that – if atheism/materialism is true – the brain is an extremely complex organ. I just do not see how making something more complex can introduce REAL will. I can see it introducing the “ILLUSION” of will, but I don’t see how you can ever have an agent which evaluates something and make a moral decision that “THIS COURSE OF ACTION IS WHAT I DECIDED TO DO BECAUSE IT IS CORRECT”.

    And this is just the problem I have. You make the statement that you have “…a lot of understanding, I think, about why religion exists and the role it plays in the lives of human individuals…”, but how could you have that if atheism is true. You are claiming that lots of humans are not judging these things objectively, except you happen to have this objective judgement – even though you propose that you are only a collection of dumb particles responding to external forces. There is no way to get from a collection of dumb particles responding to external forces, a will which can evaluate and decide what is objectively correct. Can’t you see this?

  10. 10
    jdk says:

    Hi JDH: I am not a materialist, so most of your remarks don’t apply to me. I had some long conversations about this a while back, but I forget the names of the threads.

  11. 11
    JDH says:

    @jdk Sorry, I thought your comment implied you are an atheist. How can you be an atheist and not a materialist? I don’t get it.

  12. 12
    jdk says:

    I don’t know how to find the thread, but I recently wrote several posts in along discussion where I explained that I might be labelled a “strong agnostic atheist Taoist existentialist humanist”, although of course such labels as those are just guides to discussion. The “Taoist” and “existentialist” parts together constitute the non-materialist part of my beliefs, but the “strong agnostic” part emphasizes that I don’t thing we can really know whether metaphysical speculations are true. The atheist part is because no matter what the true nature of metaphysical reality is, I think all human religions are stories we have made up that are part of our very limited perspective on the world.

  13. 13
    Latemarch says:

    jdk@10

    I am not a materialist, so most of your remarks don’t apply to me. I had some long conversations about this a while back, but I forget the names of the threads.

    Mostly unrelated to the thread but is there a way in WordPress to do a self search to find threads that one has commented on?

    Edited because jdk answered the question I had while I was typing.

  14. 14
    Axel says:

    ‘These are intelligent men and women. Yet the bias instilled by their social peers is so powerful in many cases that it cannot be overcome. Perhaps it’s something about high intelligence that itself results in the inability to see or hear what’s right in front of your face, if it conflicts with what your biases are telling you, what you think should be true if your picture of the world is to be maintained.’

    The above quote from the thread header I’ve just scanned, seems to encapsulate the whole. It is very scriptural indeed. Remember Christ’s words concerning his unlettered disciples :

    ‘At that time, Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and declared, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was well-pleasing in Your sight.’

    The spiritual wisdom was the theme of Jesus’ address, largely, it seems to the Anawim, which we know as The Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount ; and its worldly counterpart, is what we designate today simply as ‘intelligence’.

    The point is that the deepest truths – pre-eminently religious – are so subtle and tenuous that we end up believing what we prefer to believe, what we wish to believe; and these form the assumptions underpinning our world-view. It is related to Einstein’s preferred aesthetic criterion which he resorted to when choosing his (physical) hypotheses.

    It is why our Christian faith in addition to mere belief entails ‘commitment’: the commitment of the heart, an ideally unflagging disposition of the will towards credence as displayed in prayer, self-denial and action.

    In Jesus’ own day, it was slightly different in that it was more difficult to believe in someone who was both true God and true Man, yet was born into a poor family, and after working as a carpenter became an indigent, itinerant preacher, to whom the respectable politico-religious Establishhment became extremely hostile, eventually as we know, to the point of killing him.

    So, there is truth in the old atheist jibe that religion is wishful thinking, though it is equally true that atheism is wishful thinking, provided one reduces the meaning of ‘wishful’ to signify the action of the will (one of the three functions of the soul : memory, will and understanding).

    However, why would not the God of Christianity inspire such positive wishful-thinking (than which there could be none more so), to match the reality of this world he has made for us ? And for Him to use as the primary criterion in the Last Judgment. What sort of a heaven would it be, if people were accepted and welcomed there, on account of their intellectual prowess, herebelow. Certainly, scripture tells us that, if used well, i.e. subordinated to the divine, all-loving wisdom, inter alia in teaching others, such a person will reap a rich reward in heaven. But the intellect will be accidental, the self-denying love, the charity, is the active ingredient, as it is in all the virtues (many of which have a counterfeit counterpart that lacks that generosity of spirit). Enjoying the company of the likes of the concentration-camp doctors, for example? James tells us in an Epistle that the Devil believes and trembles.

    In heaven, there need be no limitation on the intellect, qua worldly intelligence, now fully permeated by the Holy Spirit – other perhaps than the limitation of our own heart in terms of our personal capacity for bearing the divine love.

    So, biases in the scientific endeavour theoretically at least make sense, though the level of atheists’ wilful, wanton stupidity seems very much in line with Einstein’s quip :

    “Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.”

    Not to speak of Planck’s dictum to the effect that science progresses one funeral at a time.

  15. 15
    Barry Arrington says:

    jdk @ 8

    I didn’t expect any generous or civil replies

    Your incessant whining about the spirit of the replies you get to your comments is tiresome. First warning.

  16. 16
    jdk says:

    So I am just supposed to accept rudeness? I wrote a civil and reasonable post at 4, and both ecs2 and you replied in ungenerous and uncivil ways, as I said.

    I also objected to being called “foolish” in another thread. I’m not sure two remarks qualifies as “incessant”.

    Are you exempt from reasonable expectations of civility?

  17. 17
    Barry Arrington says:

    jdk @ 16. Last warning.

  18. 18
    jdk says:

    Duly warned, Barry. I’ll say no more.

  19. 19
    harry says:

    There is a huge difference between intelligence and wisdom. Augustine had a massive intellect. It could have held a dozen or so minds like that of Neil deGrasse Tyson, with plenty of room to spare. (I doubt anything Tyson says will appear in physics textbooks seventeen centuries from now, but Augustine’s ideas on the nature of time find their way into modern physics textbooks.) But Augustine obtained wisdom only after he had converted to Christianity.

    I think one of the main differences between intelligence and wisdom is that wisdom is capable of objectivity. What appear to be conflicts between their faith and their reasoning about nature don’t upset the wise. They are confident such conflicts will eventually be resolved because they know that their Christian faith and nature have the same Author, so they can remain objective and do a calm analysis of the evidence.

    On the other hand, atheists freak out, start spewing sophomoric insults, sue school boards and intimidate scientists when the evidence threatens their world view. They aren’t capable of the objectivity true science requires. They panic. They don’t have the source of confidence that the Christians have.

    A final thought: The gigantic, wise intellect of Augustine eventually came to this conclusion: Understanding is the reward of faith. Therefore, seek not to understand that you may believe, but believe that you may understand.

  20. 20
    ecs2 says:

    I did not mean to be uncivil. In some jest I shared that humility did not emanate from your post as assumed. I did re read your post and maybe the buzz word claim was strong, or maybe I was just sensing ahead to post 12.

  21. 21

    jdk, a question please.

    How does an intelligent atheist reason with the symbol-matter problem at the origin of life? Is it a matter of just ignoring it, or do you have a more sophisticated means of resolving it? I hope you’ll accept this as a fair question, because that is the way it is intended.

  22. 22
    rvb8 says:

    Is this bias and blindness in any way similar to the bias and blindness employed by all the world’s religions concerning the rightness of their faith, compared to the wrongness of all other faiths, and atheism?

    Is it like the bias and blindness of the Orthodox Jew towards Christianity and Islam, and vice, vice, versa?

    As an atheist materialist I have biases to be sure. However as the religious never, (as in not once), produce physical evidence for their claims of miracles or accounts of near history, my biases, at least, seem to have a logical foundation.

  23. 23
    Barry Arrington says:

    rvb8 @ 22:

    my biases, at least, seem to have a logical foundation

    Do tell. What is the logic behind a universe from nothing or a self-created universe (the only two options available to the atheist). Both options are logically incoherent. Yet rvb8 demonstrates his bias blindness by seemingly being unaware of that fact.

    As for your comment about religions, it demonstrates a profound ignorance of religious tradition and history. Google “how can christian deal with doubt” and you’ll get thousands of hits.

  24. 24
    jdk says:

    to UB at 21: I wrote some summaries of my beliefs, most of which are tempered and framed by my strong agnosticism, as below:
    Taoism

    Thoughts on my beliefs

  25. 25

    Okay. I suppose I could ask if you remember any key details of how you resolve yourself to intractable physical evidence, but I gather if you had wanted to share that you would have done so instead of sending me on a hunt.

  26. 26
    JDH says:

    Hi again jdk – You claim to be humble – but do you not see how the attitude you projected in your comments , “I have analyzed all those obviously false myths religious people believe and understand why they are believed and why those people believe them” might be considered arrogant.

    Curious why you were so sure the Christian religion is false? I don’t understand your argument.

    1. IF we are able to really make objective arguments – like you insist YOU can – then we must have some supernatural deciding agent in us that is really able to make abstract decisions which CAN NOT be determined by purely materialistic laws.
    2. IF we have this non-materialistic agent in us ( And we have no idea where it came from ) It would make sense that this had to be given to use by some superior agent as it is impossible for it to develop in us naturally.
    3. This leads to an infinite regress, unless you cut off that regress at some superior intellect who has been here eternally – has no beginning or no end.
    4. I believe this is what even you would have to label “GOD”.
    5. If this God was so great to create us – wouldn’t you think he would also interact with us.

  27. 27

    I’ve now had a chance to look over your links. There is nothing there about how you reason with intractable contrary evidence. I assume from this that you simply ignore it.

  28. 28
    jdk says:

    Contrary evidence to what? Philosophically, I believe (taking all my disclaimers about agnosticism into account) that the underlying unfathomable root of reality (called the Tao but in fact ineffable) infuses our universe with the creativity to have the properties it does, including the origination of life. How the Tao “does” this is beyond me, and beyond anyone else, I think. We can investigate the manifestations of the Tao, but not how the Tao does the manifesting.

    I know this doesn’t actually explain anything, but neither do analogous beliefs about the actions of an omni-everything god of Western monotheism.

  29. 29
    jdk says:

    jdh writes,

    Hi again jdk – You claim to be humble.

    I actually wrote,

    My guess is that your stereotypes about “unhumble” atheists don’t apply to me.

    That is different, I think, than what you wrote about me.

    I also did not write, “I have analyzed all those obviously false myths religious people believe …”, so I don’t think you should have made that look like a quote, even if you think it is what I implied.

    I’m sure we disagree about a lot of things. I have posted links to a viewpoint very different from Christianity. I offer it as an alternative perspective, but not something I want to debate or discuss.

  30. 30

    So you ascribe whatever you need to a source that is beyond question. I suppose as long as you have no questions, this would certainly make for a powerful belief.

    EDIT: In as few words as possible, contrary to the idea of an unguided origin of life.

  31. 31
    jdk says:

    No different than believing in God: “ascribe whatever you need to a source that is beyond question.”

  32. 32

    I don’t do theology so I’ll leave that to someone else. Even so, I think the general Christian tradition is to use your head, i.e. that a judgment can be derived from what is acquired by the senses.

    In any case, I am speaking solely from the standpoint of empirical discovery. It would seem that your position needn’t consider it, given that it doesn’t matter.

  33. 33
    jdk says:

    That’s not true about my position: I’m a firm believer in empirical investigation. I also am pretty aware, of situations where we don’t have enough information to know much, and situations in which we can’t know at all.

  34. 34

    Well there’s my original question, as a firm believer in empirical discovery, how do you reason with the need for symbolic language prior to the organization of the cell?

  35. 35
    jdk says:

    I don’t know how genes arose. Do you?

  36. 36

    To be a gene at all they would need to be specified, would they not?

  37. 37
    jdk says:

    I’m not sure what you mean, but, again, I don’t know how genes and DNA came to be. Do you?

  38. 38

    As a matter of direct observation, a gene is a medium that must be translated in order to convey a specification among alternatives. In order to persist, it must convey the specification of its own translation. Do you disagree?

  39. 39
    jdk says:

    I understand some about how genes work. The language you use isn’t exactly what I remember learning, or entirely clear, but I don’t disagree with what I think you are saying.

    I’m also not sure what your point is. If the question is how did such things as genes, DNA, and RNA come to exist, I don’t know. Do you?

  40. 40
    JDH says:

    Hi again jdk – I only put the language in quotes to set it off because I was not saying it. It is what I thought you were conveying. I wanted you to hear it as I heard it. If I went over the line a bit please forgive me.

    I don’t think I really want to go reading all of your previous statements seeing as I think you have a very confused metaphysic. I only want to ask you some questions. If you choose to answer them, good, if not it has not cost me much.

    1. Why is it better to believe in an impersonal Tao than a personal God?
    2. Does your Tao have a will. Why is it better to believe that the creator has no purpose?
    3. Like it or not, your critique of the world’s religions was snobbish at best. I don;t understand what is better about your belief in Tao. I find it a very conveniently selfish belief. Tao makes no demands on you because it has no will, no purpose, no desires. It just is. OTOH you don’t face the crippling incoherence of a materialistic viewpoint. Whenever you end up with a problem like – how did the DNA code come into being you have an out. The Tao is there. In a sense – what your religion – and it is just another religion – allows you to do is to be God, Priest, parishioner, and Pope of your own little religion. Other than that it allows you to proclaim all of your viewpoints – which you will probably claim rest in empiricism, but I would bet actually lie in your personal preferences – as Holy Writ of your personal religion. Why is this better???

  41. 41
  42. 42

    #39 sorry for the delay

    To you, as a “firm believer in empirical investigation”, my point is we already know how genes exist as a symbolic medium. They persist over time because of semantic closure, which is merely a term to describe the necessary functional relationship between the sequence of the medium and a set of physical constraints that specify what the medium represents.

    You’ll likely remember from your reading on genetic translation that the gene establishes the sequence of amino acids in a protein, but a separate set of aminoacyl synthetases (aaRS) independently determines which specific amino acids will appear within that sequence.

    In short, the codons in the medium are symbolic representations, and the set of aaRS are the necessary constraints that determine what is being represented. If you have questions about this architecture, you’ll surely also remember that the anticodon-to-amino acid association inside the cell is temporally and spatially isolated from the codon-to-anticodon association.

    This architecture establishes a “discontinuous association” between the representations and their referents, which is the very thing that makes specification possible in the first place. (In other words, in a semantic-free material universe, codons don’t actually represent amino acids; they only do so as a product of this special organization).

    There is another interesting detail of the system. Semantic closure, as mentioned above, refers to the necessary functional relationship between the sequence of the medium and the non-integrable constraints that will interpret that sequence. It is fundamental to the preservation of the system, given the fact that a system that cannot describe itself cannot persist, and neither can a system that cannot successfully interpret its description.

    The interesting thing is that the relationship between these two sets of objects (the codons and the constraints) must be based on Crick’s “reading frame code”. In other words, only by the use of combinatorial permutations will the system have the capacity it needs to describe its own translation. Also, only by the use of combinatorial permutation will that high-capacity be transcribable between mediums (which is a requirement of self-replication).

    The bottom line here is that this physical description of the system is now half a century old, and we have known for half a century that the only other place that we can positively identify this exact same physical system is in written language and mathematics – two universal correlates of intelligence.

    So my question to the intelligent atheist such as yourself — whom seeks empirical investigation and claims no debilitating bias – how do you reason away the multiple requirements of symbolic representation, discontinuity, interpretation, combinatorial permutations, a reading frame code, and the formalization of semantic closure prior to the ability to organize the cell?

    It does not go unnoticed that your first reaction is to reach for a proof-question that no one can ever answer. You then hit the same question over and over again. It would be difficult to not recognize this as your response when faced with what we already know to be true.

    Feel free to verify anything you question. I can suggest:
    Bibliography.
    and
    Timeline

  43. 43
    EugeneS says:

    UB,

    Your comments are worth bookmarking and citing, as usual. They are part of the golden fund of this blog.

  44. 44
    jdk says:

    ub writes,

    The bottom line here is that this physical description of the system is now half a century old, and we have known for half a century that the only other place that we can positively identify this exact same physical system is in written language and mathematics – two universal correlates of intelligence.

    Yes, I know that you, and many others, see the genetic apparatus as evidence, and even, proof of intelligent design. But you are no more able to say where that design came from and how it became manifested in the physical world that I am to explain how the creative products of the Tao become manifested.

    We both accept, to some degree or another, that something, somehow, has been or is involved in providing the underlying structure of the physical world so that the world that we see can and does exist as it is.

    But we neither of us can explain much more than that. You call it intelligent design. Many call it God. I am provisionally and quite agnostically attracted to a different philosophical way of understanding the situation, calling it a manifestation of the Tao.

    But none of us actually explain anything when we say what we do.

    The truth is that we can study what is, and we can study evidence that helps describe what was in the past and the progression of events, including proximate causal relationships, leading to the present. That’s what we can do, given our limited perspective of the world. All else is metaphysical speculation

  45. 45
    Barry Arrington says:

    jdk:

    But you are no more able to say where that design came from and how it became manifested in the physical world that I am to explain how the creative products of the Tao become manifested.

    That is not true. We are much more able for the simple reason that we have countless examples of other systems with these same properties of which we can be quite certain of the provenance. And without exception the provenance is design by intelligent agent.

    You on the other hand, file away the evidence in a shroud of mysticism you have created to hide from yourself the conclusion that is plain to see.

    I will give you this: You are one step ahead of the atheist who insists it can all be explained by random collision of particles, as if a book could be explained by the properties of the paper and ink with which it is printed.

  46. 46
    jdk says:

    I will give you this: You are one step ahead of the atheist who insists it can all be explained by random collision of particles, as if a book could be explained by the properties of the paper and ink with which it is printed.

    I am an atheist but not a materialist.

  47. 47
    Charles says:

    Klinghoffer:

    “Perhaps it’s something about high intelligence that itself results in the inability to see or hear what’s right in front of your face, if it conflicts with what your biases are telling you, what you think should be true if your picture of the world is to be maintained.”

    Tisn’t. It is simple mental self-conditioning, a self-re-wiring of thought patterns resulting in an impairment to process unpleasant facts. Similar to how pornography can re-wire the brain, the self-gratification from constructing a pleasant bias reinforced by “peers” also rewires the brain to automatically prefer the bias over the automatic discomfort of disconfirming information.

  48. 48
    Barry Arrington says:

    jdk

    I am an atheist but not a materialist

    Yes, you mentioned this earlier. And, again, you are one step ahead of the atheist materialist. C.S. Lewis said something to the effect of “give me a pagan over a materialist; at least the pagan is smart enough to acknowledge the telos inherent in the universe.”

    I would say the same about your mysticism. At least you are smart enough not to try to ascribe the information in a book to the properties of the ink and paper.

  49. 49

    Jdk, it just seems to me that if someone believes that the universe was infused with all it needs to bring about life, then we might very well see life in complete continuity with natural law.

    But that doesn’t seem to be what we find at all. To organize a cell first requires the capacity to specify something among alternatives. This brings on the need of a representation (a symbol, a measurement, a memory). And with that, we incur the need to interpret the symbol. And there we find a natural discontinuity between a symbol and its referent. Further, the arrangement of the symbol is rate independent, meaning that it is not determined by the minimal potential energy state of the medium. Further still, we find that in order to read a high-capacity symbol system (like what is necessary to organize the cell) requires an abstract hierarchy to exist in the recognition of the symbol, meaning that the system does not respond merely to the dynamic properties of the symbol, but to the spatial orientation of individual objects within the symbol (which, as noted, are not determined by the energy of the medium itself). Even further still, we find that the set of physical constraints that interpret the symbol cannot be integrated with a microscopic (lawful) physical description of the system itself. Such systems, as it turns out, require two complimentary descriptions; one for the dynamic and another for the symbolic aspects of the system. And to top this off, there is the almost incomprehensible requirement that a reading-frame code, complete with the logic of combinatorial permutations (something completely foreign to physics), must arise to tie this whole system together so that it can persist over time.

    And finally there is the little tidbit (recorded in the scientific literature decades ago) that all of this makes this system exclusively identifiable among all other physical systems, and the only other place we can identify such a system happens to be an unambiguous correlate of intelligence.

    It seems like a tall order, intellectually, to ignore this reality.

  50. 50

    ….just wondering jdk,

    When ID proponents claim that a correlate of intelligence (i.e. an unambiguous demonstration of a language system) is found in biological organization, do you deny them the validity of that claim? In other words, do you accept the physical evidence and reason with it inside your own perspective (X explains the appearance of an intelligent act at the origin of life) or do you deny that evidence (ID proponents have not demonstrated a language system in biology)?

    (EDIT: I am out for the day, I will check back later. cheers)

  51. 51

    ES, you are just a bit too kind. Thank you.

  52. 52
    RodW says:

    I’m very humble. Its one of the qualities I like most about myself.

    I wonder if Dutton took into account that smart people will make fewer mistakes initially, so they’ll have less to be biased incorrectly about overall.

  53. 53
    Phinehas says:

    jdk:

    We both accept, to some degree or another, that something, somehow, has been or is involved in providing the underlying structure of the physical world so that the world that we see can and does exist as it is.

    It seems to me that the main difference is in your view that the Tao is non-teleological and non-intelligent. Is this right?

    What is it about the underlying structure of the physical world in general or the semantic closure UBP is describing in particular that, empirically speaking, points toward a non-teleological, non-intelligent source over a teleological, intelligent one?

  54. 54
    john_a_designer says:

    One of the problems that I have with atheists who typically participate in internet discussions and debates is that they rarely put forth any effort to establish any kind of common ground. Basic logic teaches us that to have any kind of meaningful debate you have to start with a fact or set of facts that everyone in discussion/ debate stipulates to be either factually well-established or at least plausibly true.

    Frankly, I find rather pointless pursue a discussion/debate that doesn’t begin there because it only results in two people talking past each other.

  55. 55
    polistra says:

    Start with a basic question of metrology. IQ tests are NOT meant to measure overall fitness or smartness. They are designed and validated to predict success in college. Nothing else.

    People who succeed in college come from parents who already succeeded in college and married the same type. Fitting into college requires good memory, good processing ability, AND a certain temperament.

    Clearly the temperament that goes with the other qualities is a temperament that prefers theory over experience. Thus it dislikes the experiential learning embodied in Natural Law. It prefers “disruptive” and “innovative” theories, which are generally lunatic delusions.

  56. 56
    jdk says:

    Phinehas asks,

    It seems to me that the main difference is in your view that the Tao is non-teleological and non-intelligent. Is this right?

    No.

  57. 57
    Phinehas says:

    jdk:

    What about this?

    You don’t believe the Tao is teleological and intelligent.

  58. 58
    EugeneS says:

    RodW

    🙂

    John_a_designer

    I believe that there are no atheists per se. Science plays the role of Ersatz religion in a scientist world view. In such a world view, it is shoe-horned to obfuscate simple truths that innocent children can understand.

    If used as intended though, science is an unambiguous and extremely strong pointer to design. And since the universe had a beginning, the cause of the world must have been supernatural. There simply is no other option logically. There is not a thing in this world without a cause extraneous to the thing, why should the world itself be an exception?

    All this is so simple and clear. Why do people, when they grow old, become unresponsive to such simple truths? The only way out of this is to become like children again.

  59. 59
    jdk says:

    Hi Phinehas,

    Your question would involve a lengthy answer. My short answer is that my strong agnosticism leads me to believe that we can’t really know anything about the root level of reality. However, I think that it is extremely unlikely that that root level has qualities that are analogous to qualities that we see in ourselves. However the root level manifests in the world, it is not likely to me that it is a larger version of a person as we know ourselves.

    The Western world is steeped in the view that man is made in the image of God, and thus that God has attributes analogous to ours such as will, consciousness, and intelligence.
    The Eastern world has different views, and I don’t think the Eastern views are inferior to Western ones. That doesn’t mean that the Eastern view denies will, consciousness, and intelligence to the root level of reality, but rather that those qualities are derivative that manifest themselves in people, but are not necessarily attributes of the root level of reality.

    At this point I am quite wrapped up in watching the Comey hearing, and preparing for a vacation, so I think I’ll not get drawn in further to this topic

  60. 60
    Phinehas says:

    jdk:

    As you wish. I am still curious about whether your strong agnosticism also applies to ID (i.e. you are not anti-ID so much as agnosti-ID), so should you get bored or ambivalent about other distractions, feel free to take this up. 🙂

  61. 61
    EugeneS says:

    jdk

    “that we can’t really know anything about the root level of reality”

    Unless this Reality comes down to us and becomes like ourselves in every aspect except sin.

    That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched–this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 1 John 1:1

    Since then the world has not been the same. These things were so important to humanity that we cannot live anymore as if nothing happened. If we do, we will miss the boat.

  62. 62
    jdk says:

    I don’t believe what you believe EugeneS, at all, so I’ll stand by my statement.

  63. 63
    Barry Arrington says:

    jdk

    it is not likely to me that it is a larger version of a person as we know ourselves

    Why would you suggest that any moderately sophisticated view of the Christian God would be a “larger version of a person as we know ourselves?” That you would say such a thing suggests (unsurprisingly) that you have not studied the issue as deeply as you say you have.

  64. 64
    jdk says:

    The Christian God is thought to willfully act, to have knowledge that informs those actions, and have purposes and goals towards which those actions are aimed. Those are some human characteristics that I am referring to.

  65. 65
    JDH says:

    jdk – I think I have caught you in an intellectually dishonest statement. You said, “I don’t think the Eastern views are inferior to Western ones…” This sounds very scholarly and reasonable. You seem to be arguing here that the views of God (Western and Eastern) are on par in quality.

    But this is not what you seem to actually believe. Your earlier statements which seem to deride Western religions betray your lack of respect for Western thought. If you were intellectually honest in your argumentation – you WOULD NOT say, “I don’t think the Eastern views are inferior” a negative statement, but you WOULD say, “I do think the Eastern views are superior” – a positive affirmation. I am curious why you felt compelled to frame your argument in what is clearly a line of reasoning which obfuscates your true view.

  66. 66
    JDH says:

    jdk – I would also critique your writing when you said the, “…Western world is steeped in the view that man is made in the image of God.” (emphasis added). The word “steeped” is an emotionally charged word which betrays some of the contempt I think you have for Western thought. There were many more words that you could have used – “centered in”, “emphasizes”… that don’t carry emotional baggage. Sometimes our word choices reveal our inner biases – which is what the original Op is about.

  67. 67
    Barry Arrington says:

    jdk:

    1. “it is not likely to me that it is a larger version of a person as we know ourselves”

    2. “The Christian God is thought to willfully act, to have knowledge that informs those actions, and have purposes and goals towards which those actions are aimed.”

    The second statement is categorically different from the first. Do you understand that?

  68. 68
    jdk says:

    Your reading a lot between the lines, jdh. “Steeped in” connotes a thorough, pervasive presence, which I think is more accurate than emphasizes or even centered-in. You may think one of those words is more accurate, but I think I had a reasonable word choice. Also, I don’t have “contempt” for general Western thought at all, and not for Western monotheism either. Thinking that Western monotheism, in any of its guises, is extremely unlikely to be true is not contempt.

    I’ll also say that I think you’re somewhat negative reaction to my wording betrays your biases as much as you think I betrayed mine. We all live in various “belief communities” that support our own beliefs, and thus inevitably reflect our positive and negative feelings about things.

  69. 69
    jdk says:

    Barry, you failed to quote the sentence right after the one about “larger version”:

    The Western world is steeped in the view that man is made in the image of God, and thus that God has attributes analogous to ours such as will, consciousness, and intelligence.

    I think I immediately added some details about what I meant, similar to what I wrote in 2. above.

  70. 70
    Barry Arrington says:

    jdk:

    “Barry, you failed to quote the sentence right after the one about “larger version”

    Yes, because it did not interest me and it did not change the meaning of this statement:

    “it is not likely to me that it is a larger version of a person as we know ourselves”

    You committed yourself to the view that Christianity teaches that God is just a larger version of a person we know ourselves. Now, the smart thing for you to do is retract that instead of pretending the next sentence altered it (unless that is what you really believe). I doubt you will do the smart thing.

  71. 71
    jdk says:

    Barry, let me recap.

    Phinehas asked me if I thought the Tao was “teleological and intelligent.”

    I answered,

    [1]Your question would involve a lengthy answer. [2]My short answer is that my strong agnosticism leads me to believe that we can’t really know anything about the root level of reality. [3]However, I think that it is extremely unlikely that that root level has qualities that are analogous to qualities that we see in ourselves. [4]However the root level manifests in the world, it is not likely to me that it is a larger version of a person as we know ourselves.

    [5]The Western world is steeped in the view that man is made in the image of God, and thus that God has attributes analogous to ours such as will, consciousness, and intelligence.

    You now write,

    You committed yourself to the view that Christianity teaches that God is just a larger version of a person we know ourselves. Now, the smart thing for you to do now is to retract that instead of pretending the next sentence altered it (unless that is what you really believe). I doubt you will do the smart thing.

    I’l note that the first paragraph doesn’t mention Christianity. It just says that “I think that it is extremely unlikely that that root level has qualities that are analogous to qualities that we see in ourselves.” The sentence about “larger version” was too colloquial, and I’m glad to retract it. But nowhere in that paragraph did I “commit [my]self to the view that Christianity teaches that God is just a larger version of a person.”

    Sentence [5] was about the Western monotheism, which, however, includes more than Christianity. The things I said about Western monotheism are correct, I think, as is my restatement later that

    [6[The Christian God is thought to willfully act, to have knowledge that informs those actions, and have purposes and goals towards which those actions are aimed. Those are some human characteristics that I am referring to.

    Do you agree that sentences [5] and [6] are accurate.

  72. 72

    jdk, will you be offering an answer to the question at #50?

  73. 73
    jdk says:

    UB, this is not a subject that I very much knowledge about: neither the biology at the biochemical level nor the philosophy of what constitutes a language, so I’ll pass. ID arguments such as those really have little interest for me.

  74. 74
    Axel says:

    @ your #19, harry,
    Interesting post. Thanks. You wrote :

    ‘I think one of the main differences between intelligence and wisdom is that wisdom is capable of objectivity. What appear to be conflicts between their faith and their reasoning about nature don’t upset the wise. They are confident such conflicts will eventually be resolved because they know that their Christian faith and nature have the same Author, so they can remain objective and do a calm analysis of the evidence.’

    Yes, I think the Holy Spirit, among all its other gifts, coordinates the strands of our intelligence, so he’s definitely ‘the Gaffer’, when it comes to objective analysis, and wisdom, generally.

    I think Augustine must have been given an extraordinary gift of prophecy to possess such wisdom and understanding, yet I’ve not heard mention of it. No wonder the great paradigm-changers, Galileo, Newton, Einstein, Planck, Lemaitre, Godel were not merely either Christian or Jewish, but were what would today be called ‘religious nuts’.

    Atheists are adamant that Einstein was not a theist. So what? You could not find a more fervent deist, always holding forth very lyrically, as he did, about the marvelous Spirit behind the design and creation of the universe. But here is an interesting quote concerning his belief in Jesus, and his awe with regard to him :

    —————————————–

    “In view of such harmony in the cosmos which I, with my limited human mind, am able to recognize, there are yet people who say there is no God. But what really makes me angry is that they quote me for the support of such views.”5

    “I’m not an atheist and I don’t think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangements of the books, but doesn’t know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God.”6

    ******Albert Einstein received instruction in both Christianity (at a Roman Catholic school) and Judaism (his family of origin). When interviewed by the Saturday Evening Post in 1929, Einstein was asked what he thought of Christianity.*****

    “To what extent are you influenced by Christianity?”
    “As a child I received instruction both in the Bible and in the Talmud. I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene.”
    “Have you read Emil Ludwig’s book on Jesus?”
    “Emil Ludwig’s Jesus is shallow. Jesus is too colossal for the pen of phrasemongers, however artful. No man can dispose of Christianity with a bon mot!”
    “You accept the historical existence of Jesus?”
    “Unquestionably! No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life.”

    The quotes are from this blog :

    https://shortlittlerebel.wordpress.com/2015/03/24/once-and-for-all-einstein-believed-in-god-he-believed-in-jesus-too/

  75. 75
    Axel says:

    As the corollary to my reference to the positive ‘wishful thinking’ of Christians, why should the truth be, by its nature, undesirable, cold and hard, not to be wished for, not to be hoped for, ugly ?

  76. 76
    JDH says:

    Barry, let me apologize beforehand if this gets too much about one religion for UD. I understand if the comment is banned. Thanks.

    jdk – You said, “Thinking that Western monotheism, in any of its guises, is extremely unlikely to be true is not contempt.” I don’t understand. Millions of people like myself base our whole lives on the truth of “Western monotheism” and particularly the Christian variety. I can’t tell you how much of my life is centered upon the wholly believable assertion that the story of God and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ to completely pay for my sinfulness is rooted in what I believe to be trustworthy historical accounts. I don’t know of any stories from the ancient world that have more contemporaneous testimony to their veracity.

    If, your casual suggestion that the history which I choose as a basis of my life is, not just doubtful, but “…extremely unlikely to be true” is not contempt, I don’t know what is.

    I am curious. What is the basis of your belief that the story of Jesus Christ is “extremely unlikely” to be true? I realize that your statement is a belief, but I don’t understand what real facts it is based on.

  77. 77

    JDH @ 76: It is not an indication of contempt to say that a particular worldview is extremely unlikely to be true. That is simply an opinion.

    We are dealing with faith-based beliefs on both sides of the argument, with each side thinking it has the more-likely-to-be-true position.

    A/mats have faith in nature’s ability to do many things unproven by empirical evidence, e.g. string theory, multiverse theory, abiogenesis, macroevolution, etc.

    Theists have faith in the existence of something unproven by empirical evidence, namely God, or gods, depending on the form of theism.

    Both sides think their side to be more likely truthful. No one knows for sure. It all comes down to faith.

  78. 78
    jdk says:

    Thank you to Truth at 77. I am not an “a/mat”, and being strongly agnostic am not devoutly anything, but just because I don’t think Christianity is at all likely to be true doesn’t mean I have contempt for it, any more than I have contempt for any other religion (all of which I don’t believe in.)

    And to JDH: there are millions of people who are devout believers in other religions. Does the fact that you don’t believe in Hinduism mean that you have contempt for Hindus?

    If you don’t, then why would you think I have contempt for Christians? If you have contempt for all other religions, then I think you should recognize that as your perspective and understand that others don’t think as you do.

  79. 79

    jdk #73

    It’s unfortunate that you feel comfortable being an active opponent of ID while having, as you say, no interest in understanding ID arguments. I suppose, in some way, this must be a very liberating position for you.

    Or is it that you just don’t have any interest in the argument before you here and now. I suppose viewing things from your perspective, that’s an understandable position to take as well. The argument has roots that go back to Charles Sanders Peirce’s salient observations in the 1800’s, winds it way through the major work of Alan Turing and John Von Neumann, has it’s fundamentals demonstrated by Crick, Nirenberg, Zamecnik, Hoagland, and others, and finishes with arguably the world’s leading authority on the subject matter carefully documenting the key issues over the course of five decades. As it turns out, the key observable ingredients in the argument are basically considered settled science, and are not even controversial. Being mere human, it would be easy to understand not wanting to engage that enterprise.

    You may want to consider studying up a bit though, at least to the point of having some tasty one-liners. Merely saying that you know nothing of the subject just doesn’t seem fitting for an intelligent atheist who appreciates empirical investigation. After all, its hardly a secret that Crick demonstrated a reading frame code in DNA and predicted that adapters would be required to decode it. And surely its now common knowledge among literate participants in these debates that Turing invented a programmable universal machine, and that John Von Neumann described the necessary conditions of self-replication years before they were confirmed inside the cell. Of course, Howard Pattee’s work documenting the physics of symbol systems in less well known, but certainly the quality of his work is impeccable. Frankly, to my mind, he is everything a research scientist could be. As an (apparent) atheist himself, he simply refused to write his metaphysics into his research. How damn refreshing is that? He merely used the language of physics to document the system, and left himself out of it. When someone of his acumen and integrity tells you that, from a physics standpoint, written human language and genetic translation are the only two general purpose languages found in the cosmos, one might think it would peak the interest of anyone with a drop of curiosity. But, as you demonstrate for us, that is not always the case.

    regards…

  80. 80
    jdk says:

    ub writes,

    It’s unfortunate that you feel comfortable being an active opponent of ID while having, as you say, no interest in understanding ID arguments. I suppose, in some way, this must be a very liberating position for you.

    Hmmm. I don’t recall being involved in ID arguments here. I’ve gotten involved in discussions about philosophy, including about morals and the root level of reality; about math, including infinity and probability; about religion; and about social issues, such as women’s reproductive issues.

    But I don’t think I’ve been an “active opponent of ID” at this forum: that is, I haven’t participated, I don’t think, in discussions about proteins, genetic structure, evolution, fine-tuning, or the design inference in general. (Perhaps I’ve made an occasional comment that bears on these topics, but that is all I can remember.)

    And, FWIW, the position that I’ve come to articulate for myself does acknowledge the possibility of an underlying creativity that goes beyond the natural processes and proximate causes we experience, albeit from an Eastern and not a Western point of view.

    So I don’t think characterizing me as “an active ID opponent” here is very accurate. I’m just not very interested in the ID arguments, but rather in other topics such as I listed above,

  81. 81

    As I noted, it must be a comforting position.

    Sun Tzu saw it as maintaining formlessness — the guerilla, i.e. the way of the weak. It would be a shame if you didn’t realize the position and thought it genuine.

  82. 82
    JDH says:

    jdk – I never said you have contempt for “Christians”. Saying you have contempt for a worldview – does not mean you have contempt for the people that hold that worldview. I don’t have contempt for Hindus because some Hindu’s believe things which I think are not true.

    OTOH – I certainly do have contempt for the materialistic worldview because I think it is inherently self contradictory and therefore CAN NOT be true. I don’t think it is irrational to believe something that is hard to believe. I just don’t think it is good to claim objectivity and then believe something like materialism which IMHO makes objectivity not possible. That being said, some of the nicest people I meet are committed atheists. I can have contempt for their viewpoint, but not contempt for them personally. Sorry if I implied ever that you have contempt for people.

    Not withstanding the comment by Truth Will Set You Free – what I object to is the perceived over confidence and emotional connotation of your language. Maybe I am being defensive and “reading between the lines”. If I am, I am sorry, but I think your language betrays a sort of arrogant attitude of superiority that you are loathe to admit. Its kind of hard to know what you are truly thinking when you chat in these things because you seem to want to at both times play the part of conciliatory fellow faith explorer (*”I don’t thing [sic] we can really know whether metaphysical speculations are true”) and the arrogant scholar who somehow puts himself above others ( ” I have a background in comparative religion, and a lot of understanding, I think, about why religion exists and the role it plays in the lives of human individuals and societies.” )

    Again, maybe I have heard arrogant intellectuals dismiss the gospel too many times. But I don’t see you as a faith explorer who respects other faith explorers. I see you as someone pretty confident that your faith statement rests on solid empirical evidence, but others are seriously deluded in their belief.

    For example – you did not state that you believe Christianity (and also all other Western theistic religions) to be untrue. You said that it was “extremely likely to not be true.”

    IF you do not have contempt for the worldview, what is the need for the superlative?

  83. 83
    StephenB says:

    jdk @71

    My short answer is that my strong agnosticism leads me to believe that we can’t really know anything about the root level of reality.

    Why should your “strong belief” in agnosticism carry any argumentative weight?

    [3]However, I think that it is extremely unlikely that that root level has qualities that are analogous to qualities that we see in ourselves.

    But you have already acknowledged that your beliefs are faith based. Your presupposition of agnosticism drives the whole train.

    The Western world is steeped in the view that man is made in the image of God, and thus that God has attributes analogous to ours such as will, consciousness, and intelligence.

    That is because the Western view is grounded in reason. Only intelligence and will can produce a scaled down version of intelligence and will. All effects require a proportionate cause. Further, only an intelligent, willful agent can produce something out of nothing. The reason for that is that no physically related phenomenon, such as a law, can stop not creating and decide to start creating. A law (or law-like regularity) can only repeat its actions–it can’t make decisions or change its behavior.
    .”

    Sentence [5] was about the Western monotheism, which, however, includes more than Christianity. The things I said about Western monotheism are correct, I think, as is my restatement later that

    Only the Judeo/Christian world view is based on reason.

  84. 84
    jdk says:

    JHD, you write,

    I never said you have contempt for “Christians”. Saying you have contempt for a worldview – does not mean you have contempt for the people that hold that worldview.

    You’re right, and I apologize.

    OTOH – I certainly do have contempt for the materialistic worldview because I think it is inherently self contradictory and therefore CAN NOT be true,

    Just for the record, I’m not a materialist, so this isn’t a remark that I’ll comment on.

    You write,

    you seem to want to at both times play the part of conciliatory fellow faith explorer (*”I don’t thing [sic] we can really know whether metaphysical speculations are true”) and the arrogant scholar who somehow puts himself above others ( ” I have a background in comparative religion, and a lot of understanding, I think, about why religion exists and the role it plays in the lives of human individuals and societies.”

    I think there are two things going on here. I don’t think we can know anything about metaphysics–that’s a position of strong agnosticism–so I don’t claim that I know that the metaphysical speculations that I am most attracted to are true. I find my interest in Taoism and existentialism are more helpful to me in structuring my understanding of the world than other worldviews, but I don’t claim that they are true

    On the other hand, I don’t think it is arrogant to point out that I’ve studied religion a lot. I’m not saying that gives me any extra authority, but it does explain, to me at least, why I think all religions are human inventions, products of culture that play an important role for both individuals and societies. I’ve studied the world’s great religions, religions of primitive societies, and the psychology of religious experience. Seeing the vast range of forms, and the reasons for doing so, that all these take has convince me of my beliefs that all religious are essentially literary cultural inventions.

    You write,

    But I don’t see you as a faith explorer who respects other faith explorers. I see you as someone pretty confident that your faith statement rests on solid empirical evidence, but others are seriously deluded in their belief.

    Again, there are two issues here. To the extent that I am attached to my metaphysical interest in Taoism and existentialism, that is a matter of faith, as are all metaphysical speculations. I don’t claim that those metaphysical speculations rest on empirical evidence.

    On the other hand, again, my belief that all religions are human inventions is supported by empirical evidence from a large literature in anthropology, sociology, and psychology.

    And I don’t think I claimed anyone was deluded, and I have been around mentally ill people who have been truly deluded. Delusion, I think, applies to situations where someone believes things that the bulk of the people around that person know not to be true. Religious belief may rightly, from my perspective, be considered false, but I don’t consider people who hold such beliefs delusional.

    And last, you write,

    For example – you did not state that you believe Christianity (and also all other Western theistic religions) to be untrue. You said that it was “extremely likely to not be true.”

    IF you do not have contempt for the worldview, what is the need for the superlative?

    First, you bring up contempt again, and I don’t know why. I just don’t see how anything I have said implies contempt.

    I also am puzzled, as you seem to be saying that the statement “Christianity is untrue” is a weaker statement than “Christianity is extremely likely to not be true,” when in fact the former is a stronger statement than I would make, because it claims a definitiveness about metaphysics that I don’t think we can have, but the latter is the weaker statement that for me, given everything I know and believe, it is very unlikely that Christianity is true.

    But there is no contempt in that statement.

  85. 85
    StephenB says:

    jdk

    [2]My short answer is that my strong agnosticism leads me to believe that we can’t really know anything about the root level of reality. [3]However, I think that it is extremely unlikely that that root level has qualities that are analogous to qualities that we see in ourselves.

    There are two problems with that formulation.

    First, you didn’t define “root level” of reality, which could mean “God” or “things as they are” or something else. So you haven’t really said anything except that you are trying to pass off a meaningless statement as a thought.

    Second, even at the level of obfuscation on which you are writing, you have contradicted yourself. How could you know or even guess about the likelihood of root level qualities if you can’t know anything about the root level itself.

  86. 86
    StephenB says:

    jdk

    Sentence [5] was about the Western monotheism, which, however, includes more than Christianity. The things I said about Western monotheism are correct, I think, as is my restatement later that

    You cannot logically refer to Western monotheism as a single unit when discussing the subject of God’s attributes and the human gifts of intellect and will.

    In the Christian view, the intellect leads and the will is expected to follow. Or to put it in moral terms, the intellect provides the target and the will shoots the arrow. Thus, the Christian God and the Christian religion are both rational. They are based on God’s rational nature. Christians are expected to become more and more like Christ until they finally begin to practice redemptive suffering for the salvation of souls, just as Christ did. Christianity teaches, rightly, that evil always persecutes good. With the help of God’s grace, Christians can achieve a heroic level of virtue precisely because they are made in God’s image, meaning that they can use their minds and wills to achieve the destiny for which they were made. Unfortunately, not all persons (or Christians) train their wills to follow the lead provided by their intelligence (rightly formed and applied).

    The God of Islam, on the other hand, is not viewed in that same way. The Koran, for example, teaches the doctrine of abrogation, which means that God can suddenly change his mind about what is right and wrong if he wills it. Thus, there can be no consistent ethic on which one can build virtue or conquer vice — no rational way to live a moral life. How can one build virtue and eliminate vice in a moral environment where God keeps changing the rules. In that context, human intelligence is significantly downgraded and the will is unduly elevated. When the will of a religious fanatic overrules the wisdom provided by the intellect, he will say things like, “Convert to my religion, or I will kill you.” He feels no need to be reasonable or worship a reasonable God. After all, he follows a book that begins with talk of peace (while its author is militarily weak) and ends with exhortations to “kill the infidel wherever you find him” (when its author becomes militarily strong).

    So you can’t even begin to compare the attributes of God and his creatures in the context of “Western monotheism.”

  87. 87
    JDH says:

    Hi again jdk – I hope you are enjoying this. I know I am. BTW – Thank you Stephen B for your wonderful contributions.

    First of all – I was not contrasting the statements

    1) “Christianity is untrue.”
    2) “Christianity is extremely unlikely to be true.”

    You are correct 2 is a weaker statement than 1.

    I was contrasting the statements —

    A) “I believe Christianity is untrue”
    B) “I believe Christianity is extremely likely not to be true.”

    Do you really not see the difference between the two statements? It seems really obvious to me.

    Statement A puts itself forward as the current position on a binary decision tree. There are two possible states. One is that I believe Christianity to be true – which this person does not. And the other is that Christianity is false – which this person currently believes. There is no instruction for the other person contained in the statement. There is no quantitative position taken on how close the speaker is to deciding for Christianity. It is most clearly understood as only informing the listener as to the current state of the belief of the speaker between two positions.

    Statement B carries with it not only meaning for the speaker, but also for the listener. It suggests an evaluation by the speaker that not only does he think Christianity is untrue, BUT if you were a rational person, you would also come to the same conclusion. It suggests the speaker actually believes he has done a thorough investigation of Christianity, and come to the conclusion that nobody SHOULD really believe this stuff because it is so extremely unlikely.

    I think you are wrong on two counts – First of all I think you are objectively wrong. I see that there is tons of evidence for Christianity. I don’t see what observables lead you to believe that it is extremely unlikely to be true.

    Second – your conveyance through this language that you are some objective authority which is able to claim that your analysis shows that Christianity is just not a very believable position does contradict your so-called strong-agnosticism. You state that you believe you can not really know anything about root metaphysics, but you sure can know that Christianity is far from the truth. This is an inconsistency which to me suggests you have not thought this out carefully, or at least you have not examined your beliefs to see if they are self-consistent.

  88. 88
    kairosfocus says:

    Folks,

    I suggest it would first be advisable to address worldviews and their warrant i/l/o comparative difficulties.

    Including, the challenge that as infinite stepwise past is not credibly feasible and an ultimate chicken-egg loop is not reasonable, with a world from non-being a non-starter, then we are looking at a necessary being at world-root, and this in a context where we are responsibly and rationally governed, thus morally governed. And as this requires that OUGHT is not delusional (on pain of setting grand delusion loose, utterly undermining reasonable discussion . . . ) we then face the one level where IS and OUGHT can be soundly bridged: the world-root.

    This is the context in which I have pointed out that, after centuries of debates, there is but one serious candidate: the inherently good creator God, a necessary and maximally great being worthy of our loyalty expressed via the responsible and reasonable service of doing the good in accord with our evident nature.

    In short, ethical theism is a serious-minded, credible worldview.

    I have already taken time to note on Taoism as presented in recent days here at UD, here.

    As for the Christian faith specifically, I would suggest that any dismissal of the NT as essentially dubious as to its historical backbone and C1 provenance in Israel and the wider Mediterranean basin is ill-founded selective hyperskepticism.

    Indeed, I would suggest that the bias blind-spot discussed in the OP is in the end about selective hyperskepticism and the linked imposition of ideological yardsticks used to try to force the world to fit a party-line.

    That’s why I have stressed the importance of plumbline, independent truths that test yardsticks and frameworks. Key among these are self-evident first truths and first principles of right reason. If your worldview struggles with the implications of distinct identity [A vs ~ A] being so, it is inherently irrational. If you imagine we are locked in on this side of an ugly gulch that leaves us empty of ability to know some things reliably, confidently and even certainly about the world of reality in itself beyond the gap between our ears and behind our eyes, we are in self-referential incoherence. If you do not see that Josiah Royce’s proposition, error exists is undeniably true, providing a case of accurate description of reality, warranted to undeniable certainty and confirming that our empirical observations can be accurate and warranted though we face the humbling point that one of these points is that we err, then your worldview collapses at the outset. Relativists, subjectivists and radical pragmatists, I am looking at you. And, of course, it is self-evidently true — a knowable MORAL truth — that it is wrong and evil and wicked to kidnap, torture, sexually abuse and murder a young child for one’s sick pleasure, with all that this entails about objectivity of core moral truth and indictment of our generation as one of the worst in all history.

    Let’s turn back to the core Christian faith.

    Start with the Rylands fragment of John, c. 125 AD and with the citations and allusions in the first three writing Church Fathers we have in hand, c. 95 – 115, which back up the view that the NT comes from c 40 – 50 AD – 90 – 95 AD, with the official testimony in 1 Cor 15:1 – 11 easily dating to c 35 – 38 AD in Jerusalem. This is pivotal, as this speaks to fulfillment of prophecies [most notably Is 52 – 53, c 700+ BC] and to 500+ core witnesses, about two dozen of whom we may readily identify, based on the leading apostolic witnesses, Jesus’ immediate family (many having been formerly skeptical), the women of the company of the disciples and several other key figures. The historical-geograpical-social background painted in these documents as cross checked archaeologically etc, makes nonsense of selective hyperskepticism. Especially, given the upheavals of AD 66 – 74 which utterly erased the world of Jerusalem-centred Judaism. Remember, just as a note, it is credible that we have the tomb of Paulo apostolo mart, and that St Peter’s Cathedral’s altar stands over the grave of Peter.

    In addition, we have 2,000 years of positively transformed lives in the millions that point to the opposite of delusion, never mind the inevitably spotty record of communities, states, nations and civilisations. A key, sobering lesson of history is that power tends to corrupt and that power without adequate accountability corrupts like fast-spreading cancer. The point is, millions have been transformed, globally for 2000 years. They testify to encounter with God in the face of the risen Christ, in accord with the prophets and the testimony of the 500.

    Whether or no you are inclined to accept it, that is evidence.

    And indeed, struggling though I be, I are one. Indeed, apart from a miracle of guidance within hours, in answer to my mother’s prayer of surrender 47 years past now I should be dead.

    Many, many more can testify to the like, and I suggest it is absurd that, in the context of the above, we are all . . . — including many pivotal figures and leading minds over the past twenty centuries — we are all, grossly delusional in terms of our core witness to the power of the gospel.

    I suggest, a re-thinking is in order, given what depending on a crooked and warped yardstick to judge truth can do.

    KF

  89. 89
    jdk says:

    Hi JDH,

    Second – your conveyance through this language that you are some objective authority which is able to claim that your analysis shows that Christianity is just not a very believable position does contradict your so-called strong-agnosticism. You state that you believe you can not really know anything about root metaphysics, but you sure can know that Christianity is far from the truth. This is an inconsistency which to me suggests you have not thought this out carefully, or at least you have not examined your beliefs to see if they are self-consistent.

    First, I think I have thought about all this carefully. I also think that it is very difficult for people for people to have perfectly consistent views on lots of things because the world is a more complicated, messy place than our abstract belief systems can encompass.

    With that said, I have explained, and will try once more:

    My strong agnosticism says we can’t really know anything about the metaphysical nature of the world. I consistently refer to metaphysical speculations, because when we think about metaphysics all we can do is speculate, as we have no access to any definitive evidence.

    However, we do speculate (it’s part of human nature to do so), we share those speculations, and we build communities of people who believe the same things: among other things, this is where religions come from. There are good reasons why we do this, because man does not live on facts alone, so to speak. We build belief systems which help us structure our understanding so as to have some sense of living in a meaningful universe. We, individually and communally, create stories that we then affirm (as opposed to confirm, which we can not do) so has to have a cognitive framework of answers to questions that can’t really be answered.

    I think the empirical evidence supports this understanding of belief systems, and since there is such a vast variety of such systems, I think it is a reasonable conclusion that no religious systems is true: I am not singling out Christianity in this regard.

    As a strong agnostic interested in metaphysics, then, I have chosen a perspective most meaningful to me to affirm, tentatively and with the full understanding that it is not something I can confirm. As I wrote in my little essay on my interest in Taoism:

    I find that Taoism, in the non-scholarly way in which I understand it, resonates with me more than any other metaphysical or religious perspective.

    A disclaimer: On the other hand, I am a strong agnostic. I don’t think that human beings, individually or collectively, can actually know what is behind/beyond the material world. Therefore, when I describe, and even advocate for, a Taoist perspective, I’m not saying that I “believe” Taoism is true, because (and this is a tenet of Taoism), I don’t think we can know whether it is true or not.

    But as a metaphor of what might be true, it seems to fit the world as I see it. My beliefs about Taoism are a framework for metaphysically understanding our experience of, and in, this world, but they are not provable, logically necessary, or even testable in the empirical sense.

    However, as a metaphysical belief system it makes the most sense to me of all the religious and philosophical perspectives I have studied, and it has provided me with many meaningful principles about what the universe and human beings are, and how to live effectively in the world.

    But ultimately, I believe in Feynman’s statement (paraphrased) that I would rather live with uncertainty than believe things that are not true. Since there is no way to know whether Taoism, or any other metaphysical/religious belief is true, I believe that my “belief in Taoism” is a useful metaphorical story, but not a literal belief about truth. However, “living with uncertainty”–knowing when you can’t know–fits in well with Taoist principles anyway, so there is a certain resonance between Feynman’s principle and the ineffable nature of Taoism, with its emphasis on right action rather than on dogmatic belief.

    So, in summary, I think I am aware of the tension between strong agnosticism and having my own personal beliefs. You won’t agree with my conclusions, I know, but I think I’ve examined this issue pretty closely.

    One last comment:

    You write,

    It suggests an evaluation by the speaker that not only does he think Christianity is untrue, BUT if you were a rational person, you would also come to the same conclusion. It suggests the speaker actually believes he has done a thorough investigation of Christianity, and come to the conclusion that nobody SHOULD really believe this stuff because it is so extremely unlikely.

    I don’t think I am implying that. I am sure you are a rational person: rational people come to very different conclusions about these kinds of matters all the time. All I can do is share my understandings with others, and listen to what others have to share, and the accept that all parties will do what they can with the experience. I’m sure you know that many people believe that Christianity is very unlikely to be true, concerning all or some of its central beliefs. I know that most people, probably, think my perspective is very unlikely to be true, because most people believe in some religious perspective or another. This is just something we have to live with.

  90. 90
    Barry Arrington says:

    JDK @ 71:

    “The sentence about “larger version” was too colloquial”

    Fascinating. The sentence was a profound error and demonstrated an extreme ignorance of the Western theological tradition, despite the fact that you assert you have studied religions. Yet, you cannot manage to admit your error. All you can do is suggest the phrasing was “too colloquial.”

    Thank you for your contributions to this thread JDK. You are obviously an intelligent atheist, and you have done us all a favor by demonstrating beautifully the premise of the OP.

  91. 91
    jdk says:

    Were the other two sentences I wrote about Christianity correct, Barry?

    And are you free from similar biases concerning your own beliefs?

  92. 92
    asauber says:

    What I have found is that if a prog/liberal/atheist/mat claims they have studied religions, it means they have heard other prog/liberal/atheist/mats make claims about religions.

    Andrew

  93. 93
    Barry Arrington says:

    jdk @ 91: I concur with StephenB’s assessment of your other two sentences.

    Am I free of bias? Of course not. Everyone has biases.

  94. 94
    Phinehas says:

    Andrew @92

    Bingo!

  95. 95
    StephenB says:

    jdk

    My strong agnosticism says we can’t really know anything about the metaphysical nature of the world. I consistently refer to metaphysical speculations, because when we think about metaphysics all we can do is speculate, as we have no access to any definitive evidence.

    To claim that you can’t know anything about the metaphysical nature of the world is to claim that you *do* know something about it, namely its unknowability. This is the self-refuting philosophy of Immanuel Kant. It is total nonsense.

    We build belief systems which help us structure our understanding so as to have some sense of living in a meaningful universe. We, individually and communally, create stories that we then affirm (as opposed to confirm, which we can not do) so has to have a cognitive framework of answers to questions that can’t really be answered.

    We do not use our minds to structure reality; we use our minds to apprehend reality. That is why we can know that a cat is a cat. We don’t *construct* the universal category of catness in our mind, we *abstract* it from our sensual experience of a particular cat. In other words, we do know a great many things about the real world. That is why we also know that a cat cannot also be a dog (law of identity, non-contradiction).

    According to your philosophy, that cat you just observed might really be a green ball of slime – or for that matter, a dog. Goodbye law of identity and non-contradiction. Goodbye logic. Goodbye rational discourse.

    I think the empirical evidence supports this understanding of belief systems,

    ??????Empirical evidence from where? — From the real world which you just claimed is unknowable? Or is it personal evidence which is unique to your personal belief system.

    and since there is such a vast variety of such systems, I think it is a reasonable conclusion that no religious systems is true: I am not singling out Christianity in this regard.

    Bad logic. Just because some religions are man-made doesn’t mean that all religions are man-made.

    Fact: Christianity is a historically based, evidence based, fact based religion. All other religions are man made.

  96. 96
    StephenB says:

    JDH @ 87. Thanks for the kind words.

  97. 97
    JDH says:

    Hi again jdk – One of the things that confirmation bias most hides from us is where we have made bad leaps of logic. I know this from friends who have taken my own arguments and shown me where I just can’t see where I am making a bad leap in logic. Where I say B follows from A and they show me that B does not necessarily follow from A.

    In that spirit of friendship, I wish to show you where your logic is slightly circular and misses the point.

    My strong agnosticism says we can’t really know anything about the metaphysical nature of the world.

    You are almost correct. The truth is that there are things which we can not DETERMINE about the world. We can be TAUGHT them by an AUTHORITY though. For example, having an undergraduate degree in mathematics, I know a lot of math. Yet, I am unable to comprehend all to the stuff that goes into Wiles’ proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem. BUT I can “know” that Wiles’ proof is correct by placing my trust in authorities that do understand the necessary math. I therefore, “know” that Wiles proved Fermat’s Last Theorem.

    However, we do speculate (it’s part of human nature to do so), we share those speculations, and we build communities of people who believe the same things: among other things, this is where religions come from.

    This is the “B” that does not follow from “A”. Your statement B certainly is logically consistent with statement “A”, but it does not follow from statement “A”. That is because you are blind to the circular assumption you have made. Essentially the circular reasoning you have made is – All Religions do not come from God — therefore All Religions do not come from God.

    See, a just as reasonable statement is the one or some of the religions come from God. Nothing you stated in your arguments makes the B follow from A. There is nothing, beside your own bias that makes man made religion more likely than God given religion. Your statement B (religion is man made) is only more likely than the other possibility (one or more religions are God given ) IF you assume there is no personal GOD. But that assumption is what you are trying to prove. Do you not see that this is clearly circular reasoning.

    Please understand this. Enough for now.

  98. 98
    LocalMinimum says:

    jdk:

    and since there is such a vast variety of such systems, I think it is a reasonable conclusion that no religious systems is true: I am not singling out Christianity in this regard.

    Doesn’t the truth necessarily contradict any other statement it shares a category with? Don’t the wrong answers to a given question vastly outnumber the correct ones? Does the popularity of a category of proposal reduce the probability of all of its members?

    If the volume of “religious” metaphysical systems is actually larger than the volume of “non-religious” metaphysical systems, does that not suggest that it’s more probable the actual answer is “religious”, given that as the sole basis of judgement?

  99. 99
    StephenB says:

    Obviously, @95 should read, “We don’t *construct* the universal category of catness in our mind, we *abstract* it from our *sensory* (not sensual) experience.

  100. 100
    jdk says:

    Stephen, you have misinterpreted what I wrote, and I know you can read better than that. I was talking about metaphysical speculations, not cats, and that is clear.

    You write,

    Fact: Christianity is a historically based, evidence based, fact based religion. All other religions are man made.

    I know you believe that. I don’t. I have no interest in discussing apologetics

  101. 101
    jdk says:

    to jdh: I understand that theists believe they can know something about the metaphysical nature of the world through revelation, which they believe by faith is true. Believing in God and then claiming knowledge based on that belief is just as unsupported a logical argument as the one you claim I’m making.

    As I said I’m not interested in discussing apologetics. I am interested in articulating my beliefs. The belief that all religions are human inventions except Christianity, which is the one true religion, seems improbable to me, so on overall balance with the possibility that it is just like all other religions, I’m think the latter is far more likely.

    I know you guys disagree. I’m not trying to argue with you about your beliefs, but I’m am trying to stand as one who has reasonable reasons to think you’re wrong. There are billions of people who think you are wrong (although most just believe in other religions rather than with me.) Living with people who have different perspectives is something we all have to do.

  102. 102
    jdk says:

    to localminimum: I understand that many make your point. My belief is that the need for people to invent stories to structure their metaphysical understandings (as well as other aspects of cultural) is universally part of human nature, but that doesn’t mean that there is somehow some metaphysical “storiness” to which these all relate, much less that there might be some story which is metaphysically the correct one.

  103. 103
    Mung says:

    It’s unfortunate that you feel comfortable being an active opponent of ID while having, as you say, no interest in understanding ID arguments.

    There’s a site designed specifically for people just like that:

    http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/

  104. 104
    JDH says:

    Hi jdk – I really do not want to sound condescending, but maybe I can help you get over the wrong assumptions that you have.

    You said:

    The belief that all religions are human inventions except Christianity, which is the one true religion, seems improbable to me, so on overall balance with the possibility that it is just like all other religions, I’m think the latter is far more likely

    This has problems on so many levels and I don’t want to berate you for it, I want you to understand why it is not good logic I am not trying to insult you. I am trying to point out objective problems with your statement..

    1. You can’t include as a reason for not believing A – something that must be true if A were true. Do you understand what I mean? I will try to give an example… You can’t logically say, I find it improbable that Los Angeles won the right to host the 1984 Olympics because some really worthy cities had their proposal rejected. The problem with that statement is that in order FOR Los Angeles to have been the host of the 1984 Olympics – ALL those other cities WOULD HAVE to have their proposal rejected. Do you see that the fact that some cities had their proposal rejected does not give any evidence that Los Angeles could not be the site. The fact that “A:some cities had their proposal to host the Olympics rejected” is not evidence against the proposition “B:Los Angeles won the right to host the 1984 Olympics” because if B is true A must also be true. In other words, the fact of A being true, does not give you any information about the veracity of B.

    So to recap – You propose the statement A:All religions except Christianity are human made religions. as evidence against B: Christianity is the one God Given religion.

    I can prove to you logically that A is not evidence against B.

    Suppose that B is true. i.e. Christianity is the one God Given religion. What would we know about all the other religions. Well since Christianity is the one God given religion IT MUST BE TRUE that all religions which are not Christianity are human made. In other words assuming B to be true logically implies that A is true. Since B implies A the truth of A IS NOT EVIDENCE against the veracity of B. Do you understand the fatal flaw in your logic. It may seem logical to you. It might FEEL logical to say – I find it hard to believe that Los Angeles was the one city to host the 1984 olympics because so many cities were rejected. But it is not a logical argument.

  105. 105
    kairosfocus says:

    Folks:

    This clip from 88 above seems doubly relevant:

    I suggest it would first be advisable to address worldviews and their warrant i/l/o comparative difficulties.

    Including, the challenge that as infinite stepwise past is not credibly feasible and an ultimate chicken-egg loop is not reasonable, with a world from non-being a non-starter, then we are looking at a necessary being at world-root, and this in a context where we are responsibly and rationally governed, thus morally governed. And as this requires that OUGHT is not delusional (on pain of setting grand delusion loose, utterly undermining reasonable discussion . . . ) we then face the one level where IS and OUGHT can be soundly bridged: the world-root.

    This is the context in which I have pointed out that, after centuries of debates, there is but one serious candidate: the inherently good creator God, a necessary and maximally great being worthy of our loyalty expressed via the responsible and reasonable service of doing the good in accord with our evident nature.

    In short, ethical theism is a serious-minded, credible worldview . . . .

    As for the Christian faith specifically, I would suggest that any dismissal of the NT as essentially dubious as to its historical backbone and C1 provenance in Israel and the wider Mediterranean basin is ill-founded selective hyperskepticism . . . .

    Start with the Rylands fragment of John, c. 125 AD and with the citations and allusions in the first three writing Church Fathers we have in hand, c. 95 – 115, which back up the view that the NT comes from c 40 – 50 AD – 90 – 95 AD, with the official testimony in 1 Cor 15:1 – 11 easily dating to c 35 – 38 AD in Jerusalem. This is pivotal, as this speaks to fulfillment of prophecies [most notably Is 52 – 53, c 700+ BC] and to 500+ core witnesses, about two dozen of whom we may readily identify, based on the leading apostolic witnesses, Jesus’ immediate family (many having been formerly skeptical), the women of the company of the disciples and several other key figures. The historical-geograpical-social background painted in these documents as cross checked archaeologically etc, makes nonsense of selective hyperskepticism. Especially, given the upheavals of AD 66 – 74 which utterly erased the world of Jerusalem-centred Judaism. Remember, just as a note, it is credible that we have the tomb of Paulo apostolo mart, and that St Peter’s Cathedral’s altar stands over the grave of Peter.

    In addition, we have 2,000 years of positively transformed lives in the millions that point to the opposite of delusion, never mind the inevitably spotty record of communities, states, nations and civilisations. A key, sobering lesson of history is that power tends to corrupt and that power without adequate accountability corrupts like fast-spreading cancer. The point is, millions have been transformed, globally for 2000 years. They testify to encounter with God in the face of the risen Christ, in accord with the prophets and the testimony of the 500.

    Whether or no you are inclined to accept it, that is evidence.

    I think the issue of selective hyperskepticism, crooked yardsticks and the need for independent plumbline truths is also highly relevant. On fair comment, any reasonably connected, reasonably educated person who dismisses the C1 provenance and core history of the Christian faith, has serious problems with how s/he is handling evidence and warrant.

    I also think there is a serious problem of unexamined or inadequately reflected on worldview commitments that ill-advisedly seem to take the past several centuries of increasingly hyperskeptical dismissiveness towards ethical theism as though such is the last word.

    I gently suggest that failure to do worldviews diligence regarding ethical theism is ill-advised indeed. Dismissiveness towards the core history of the Christian founding calls into question ability to address history or, frankly, the daily newspaper or TV News. But then, that IS a huge problem — talk about dumbed down education and media.

    Maybe, we can start with basics of warrant and worldviews?

    (Such issues are prior to science [and no, Science cannot hold a monopoly on knowledge], and persistent problems in addressing science seem to be rooted in that soil.)

    KF

  106. 106
    kairosfocus says:

    JDK (and JDH): I suggest, the question is not, oh religion X is from God and others can be dismissed. The subtext of that strawman caricature is an insinuation that adherents of X could not have any good warrant and so they are just being bigoted or emotional. A A big question has been begged (a strawman argument always begs the questions it suppresses in erecting a handy caricature to rhetorically knock over). A question of warrant backed up by evidence and logic — and if you assume on whatever comparative religion etc courses one has done that no serious warrant can be there, with all due respect, you are sadly mistaken. I outlined and linked in 88 above, and suggest that you, JDK, need to substantially address worldview alternatives relevant to why ethical theism is a serious worldview. You would be well advised to look at the point by point response to your claims that you demanded then studiously ignored once it was given. Then, you would be well advised to re-assess your evaluation of the basic history of the Christian founding. In that context, the testimony and impact of the core 500 witnesses and of eyewitness lifetime record that led to the transformational experience of millions and a huge positive impact on our world, should also be examined. I find a further subtext of dismissiveness that the millions of us transformed by encounter with God in the face of Christ are in effect delusional, may imply a lot more than you realise: undermining of the ability of the human mind to accurately contact reality. In that context, I suggest to you you would be well advised to heed StephenB’s corrective at 95, above:

    “To claim that you can’t know anything about the metaphysical nature of the world is to claim that you *do* know something about it, namely its unknowability. This is the self-refuting philosophy of Immanuel Kant. It is total nonsense.”

    That paraphrase from F H Bradley is spot on.

    KF

    PS: F H Bradley:

    We may agree, perhaps, to understand by metaphysics an attempt to know reality as against mere appearance, or the study of first principles or ultimate truths, or again the effort to comprehend the universe, not simply piecemeal or by fragments, but somehow as a whole [–> i.e. the focus of Metaphysics is the critical studies of worldviews] . . . .

    The man who is ready to prove that metaphysical knowledge is wholly impossible . . . himself has, perhaps unknowingly, entered the arena . . . To say the reality is such that our knowledge cannot reach it, is a claim to know reality ; to urge that our knowledge is of a kind which must fail to transcend appearance, itself implies that transcendence. For, if we had no idea of a beyond, we should assuredly not know how to talk about failure or success. And the test, by which we distinguish them, must obviously be some acquaintance with the nature of the goal. Nay, the would-be sceptic, who presses on us the contradictions of our thoughts, himself asserts dogmatically. For these contradictions might be ultimate and absolute truth, if the nature of the reality were not known to be otherwise . . . [such] objections . . . are themselves, however unwillingly, metaphysical views, and . . . a little acquaintance with the subject commonly serves to dispe [them]. [Appearance and Reality, 2nd Edn, 1897 (1916 printing), pp. 1 – 2; INTRODUCTION. At Web Archive.]

  107. 107
    JDH says:

    Hi KF – I was merely trying to point out to jdk that his argument was not logically sound. It suffers from many other flaws ( like the fact that most Christians I know accept Judaism as – for the time and place of OT Israel – a God given religion ), but I wanted to first point out its logic errors. Thank you for arguing the bigger picture of its wrong assumptions.

  108. 108
    StephenB says:

    jdk

    Stephen, you have misinterpreted what I wrote, and I know you can read better than that. I was talking about metaphysical speculations, not cats, and that is clear.

    To say that a cat is a cat is a metaphysical statement. It is a statement about *what is.* That “what” refers to essence and the “is” refers to existence. Your claim is that we cannot know anything about metaphysical reality and must speculate about it. If follows, then, that you don’t know that a cat is a cat. Your philosophy, which you stated very clearly, is that we simply build up these ideas in our own mind (such as what a cat is or if it exists as a cat) and project them onto an unknown reality in order to get meaning from the universe. So, for you, reality, which includes cats, is unknowable.

    If you knew that a cat was a cat, then you would also know that it is not a dog, which means that you would also know that a dog is not a cat. From there, you could conclude that nothing can be what it is and also be something else at the same time. In other words, you would know that the law of identity is true, which happens to be a law about metaphysics. It is on the basis of that metaphysical law that the principles of logic are established. Yet you claim that we cannot know any of these things, which would mean that we can’t even reason in the abstract or about things in the real world. I just dragged the cat in to show you why metaphysical skepticism is irrational.

    SB: Christianity is a historically based, evidence based, fact based religion. All other religions are man made.

    I know you believe that. I don’t. I have no interest in discussing apologetics

    It isn’t a question about what I “believe” it is a question about what I know and can prove. I understand why you would choose not to discuss it with me, but facts are facts regardless of your emotional reaction to them.

  109. 109
    Seversky says:

    JDH @ 104

    You can’t logically say, I find it improbable that Los Angeles won the right to host the 1984 Olympics because some really worthy cities had their proposal rejected. The problem with that statement is that in order FOR Los Angeles to have been the host of the 1984 Olympics – ALL those other cities WOULD HAVE to have their proposal rejected. Do you see that the fact that some cities had their proposal rejected does not give any evidence that Los Angeles could not be the site. The fact that “A:some cities had their proposal to host the Olympics rejected” is not evidence against the proposition “B:Los Angeles won the right to host the 1984 Olympics” because if B is true A must also be true. In other words, the fact of A being true, does not give you any information about the veracity of B.

    Note that jdk referred to “improbability”. In the case of the 1984 Olympics, we could only estimate the probability of any of the candidate cities being selected before the choice was made. If there were five candidate cities the odds against any one of them being chosen was 5/1. Only after the choice was made, was there knowledge, was there certainty. At that point, we could say we knew it was Los Angeles.

    In the case of the world’s religions let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that there are – or have been – 1000 distinct faiths over the course of recorded human history. I have no idea what the real total is but it doesn’t matter for the purposes of this argument. The probability of any one of them being the one true faith is 1000/1 against and that includes Christianity. Worse than that, not only do we not know which is the one true faith, we don’t even know if there is one true faith. It might be that none of them are. It might even be that there is no such thing.

    On that basis, I would tend to agree with jdk in that I believe it’s more likely that these faiths, including Christianity, are human inventions. I can’t prove it, of course. I could be wrong. We all could be. Perhaps there’s some much more fundamental understanding of reality that we haven’t yet reached. There’s still an awful lot we don’t know.

  110. 110
    StephenB says:

    To me, it is a simple matter of lining up those who claim to speak for God and evaluating their truth claims.

    The critic asks:

    Why should I believe you? What proof do you have? Were you pre-announced? Did you do anything to prove that you are different from other men? Does your doctrine pass the test of reason and speak to the ultimate meaning of the universe?

    Buddha, Mohammed, Confucius, Zoraster, Mozi. Socrates, etc. remain silent.

    Christ steps forward and says,

    [a] Prophets pre-announced my arrival thousands of years before the event, including the time and place of my birth, the reason I would come, the circumstances of my life, and the way I would die.

    [b] I performed thousands of miracles in the name of my Divinity in front of the multitudes and even those of my worst enemies who would have denied them if it were possible.

    [c] I never contradicted myself or said anything contrary to right reason. Indeed, my moral doctrine is the only one that has been shown to be consistent with –and to surpass– the natural moral law.

    [d] I explained to all men where they come from, why they are here, and where they are going. Everyone deserves to know the ultimate purpose of his existence and how it can be attained.

  111. 111
    Barry Arrington says:

    Sev:

    The probability of any one of them being the one true faith is 1000/1 against

    Faulty logic. Probability calculations like this work only if each religion has an equal probability of being true. This is easy to demonstrate by narrowing the choices. Let’s say that Christianity and Pastafarianism (the worship of the flying spaghetti monster) are the two possible choices of which religion is true. Based on the empirical evidence that Pastafarianism was established as an intentionally mock religion, it has a zero probability of being a true religion. Based on the empirical evidence supporting the veracity of accounts of the resurrection, Christianity has an overwhelming probability of being true. Therefore, it would be absurd to say that as between Christianity and Pastafarianism, each has a 50% chance of being true, which is what your logic would suggest.

  112. 112

    Seversky said:

    In the case of the world’s religions let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that there are – or have been – 1000 distinct faiths over the course of recorded human history. I have no idea what the real total is but it doesn’t matter for the purposes of this argument. The probability of any one of them being the one true faith is 1000/1 against and that includes Christianity.

    The real error Seversky (and other such thinkers) commit here (in addition to those pointed out by others) is that he has created a category that conveniently excludes his own belief from the statistical evaluation.

    We can easily overturn his defense. Instead of the category of “theistic worldviews”, we can just go with “worldviews”. Thus, Seversky’s worldview is, from his logic, most likely false.

    If Seversky really values such statistical analysis, he might run a statistical analysis on how many people in the world share his particular worldview. The number is probably vanishingly small. Will he now abandon his worldview and adopt the one that has the most believers? Or the one that has produced the most positive results? Probably not.

    How many different atheistic worldview beliefs are there? Seversky makes his case against theistic worldviews as if the same case cannot be made against him. Are most atheists in the world of the same atheistic worldview as Seversky? I doubt it. Does this make Seversky doubt his own worldview, and seek to join some far Eastern mystical worldview that doesn’t believe in a god? Probably not.

    Seversky also relies upon a bad unspoken premise to make his case in the first place; that a religion or worldview is either 100% right, or it is 100% wrong. Does Seversky think anyone’s worldview is 100% right or 100% wrong? I doubt that, too.

    It may be that, like most things in human nature, no one has a 100% correct worldview. So, what is it that Seversky is actually mapping in his informal statistical analysis? Is he saying that since it is unlikely that anyone has a 100% correct worldview (which I agree with), it is then good judgement to categorically dismiss entire kinds of worldviews just because there are so many of them?

    What an absurd and irresponsible position – to dismiss whole categories of worldviews simply because there are so many in that category. This demonstrates pure bias against an entire category.

    What does it even mean to say that a worldview is “not true”, when it is likely that nobody has a 100% true worldview down to every detail? It’s an absurd statement. It would be far wiser to examine specific claims of specific worldviews to see if they stand up to experience, evidence and logical analysis than to dismiss a whole category “because there’s 1000 variations”.

  113. 113
    goodusername says:

    JDH,

    This has problems on so many levels and I don’t want to berate you for it, I want you to understand why it is not good logic I am not trying to insult you. I am trying to point out objective problems with your statement..

    Obviously if Christianity is true than other religions must be false, but I believe jdk’s argument was that the fact that there are so many religions is an indication that humans apparently have little or no idea what’s true in such matters, and no real way to investigate it, which would, indeed, make it unlikely that any of the religions are true.

    In your example, we know one of the cities is going to host the Olympics, and each time a city is rejected, the likelihood of one of the remaining cities winning increases. Conversely if (somehow) Christianity and Islam were fully disproven tomorrow I would hardly see Hinduism as somehow now more likely to be true.

    Perhaps a somewhat more apt example (and one I’ve seen countless times here at UD) are the many various hypothesis of abiogenesis. It’s often argued that the fact that there are so many different ideas of how abiogenesis occurred is an indication that the field is a mess and no one really knows what they’re talking about. Even as a believer in abiogenesis, I have to admit that it is an extremely difficult area to research, as indicated by, well – all the different hypothesis. I’d hardly bet the ranch that any of the hypothesis are wholly correct, and probably not even mostly correct.

  114. 114
    JDH says:

    goodusername – Thank you for your educating answer. It showed me a side of the issue that I was not considering. I still find my argument correct. You can’t consider as evidence for B not being true, something that would be true if B was true. The problem with jdk’s argument is not that it tilts the scale either way, it is that the point is irrelevant.

    Let me give my opinion of the problems with the arguments. IF you think I misstate something, please respond.

    jdk’s argument:
    A believer that A)Christianity is the only God given religion, must propose B) that all religions other than Christianity are human made. The problem is without analyzing the arguments, the fact of proposition B BY ITSELF has no bearing on the veracity of A. The problem of this argument is that it is specifically NOT talking about the QUALITY of the individual arguments – it is just talking about the QUANTITY of the arguments.

    Your argument:
    There are many religions which are false – therefore there is confusion in this area. This makes Christianity unlikely. Here you are specifically talking about the QUALITY of the arguments.

    I know the difference between the two arguments is subtle. But yours is clear as to what the objection is. The argument of jdk obscures the real logic. That is why I countered with such a mundane predictable example. When arguments get obfuscated, and are not logically clear, and have to be explained “what it really means…” the greater chance that people will be blinded by untrue arguments.

    See in jdk’s case he is just simply hiding behind the fact that there are so many religions with their corresponding arguments for and against, rather than investigating whether some religions have better quality arguments for their veracity.

    What I would say though is that the fact that there are many different religions indicates, not that there are not good ways of investigating religious claims. I have investigated the arguments pro/against Christianity many times. There real problem, as pointed out by the famous Pastafarian example, is there are not many good ways of falsifying religious claims. This is to be expected. Religious claims are mostly about a one time or completely unique not repeatable historic or spiritual event or entity. Most of these events are not repeatable, or falsifiable.

    This is why you will regularly hear the correct objection from ID people that the field of abiogenesis is a mess. There is a claim that this is a SCIENTIFIC field. Although I would not take it as a definition of science, most scientific theories should be falsifiable. So we would expect that there would me many religious claims, because once a non-falsifiable claim is made, a charismatic leader can propagate it rather quickly.

    We would not expect that the same thing to happen in a mature scientific field that was closing in on the real answer to an inquiry.

  115. 115
    JDH says:

    WJM @112 – Isn’t it a prerequisite that to be a member of the atheist/mat religion one must exclude his worldview from the conclusions he makes about worldviews? After all, when one chooses to believe in a religion which wipes out the possibility of there being will, identity, and purpose – one must do quite a bit of mental gymnastics to never self defeat one’s own beliefs.

    (I don’t know why atheist/mats can’t figure out that their worldview is self-defeating)

  116. 116
    EugeneS says:

    Seversky,

    “Worse than that, not only do we not know which is the one true faith, we don’t even know if there is one true faith.”

    Right after the death of Napoleon, somebody published a book disputing the historical reality of Napoleon…

    If your wireless does not receive the signal, it does not mean that the signal or the station does not exist. It just means that your wireless is switched off or broken. The broadcast is a beautiful symphony. It is your decision to hear it and enjoy. If you don’t want to do it, fine, but don’t complain music does not exist.

  117. 117
    goodusername says:

    EugeneS,

    The broadcast is a beautiful symphony. It is your decision to hear it and enjoy. If you don’t want to do it, fine, but don’t complain music does not exist.

    More like, people are claiming to hear thousands of different tunes, with each person claiming to hear the one true tune, and the response those get that don’t hear a tune is “you must not want to hear the tune” (with a similar response given to all of those that claim to hear different tunes).

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