Intelligent Design

We Should Care About Your Personal Incredulity Why Now?

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Prominent atheist John W. Loftus gives us an example of a common atheist argument from the size of the universe when he writes:

I think it’s [i.e., the vast size of the universe] even more damaging when it comes to an omnipotent God who supposedly created the universe for the specific purpose of gaining the affections of people on this lone planet of ours. If this is what he desired (for some irrational egotistical reason) he could have simply created us on a flat disk in a much smaller universe like the one the ancients believed existed.

This argument is a hot mess, a mishmash of factual errors,* self-serving assumptions and faulty logic.  But let us set most of that aside and focus on Loftus’ argument from personal incredulity.

The argument from personal incredulity takes the form of “I cannot imagine how this could be true; therefore, it must be false.”  Notice how Loftus exhibits this fallacy.  His argument boils down to the assertion that he cannot imagine why God, if he existed, would have created a large universe.  A large universe surely exists.  Therefore, God does not exist.

Here is the critical question that is left unanswered:  Why should the poverty of John Loftus’ imagination concerning God’s motivations matter to us?

The argument from personal incredulity is a species of the “argument from ignorance.”  Duco A. Schreuder writes:  “These arguments fail to appreciate that the limits of one’s understanding or certainty do not change what is true. They do not inform upon reality.”

Just so.  The limits of Loftus’ understanding about God’s motivations does not change what is true.  Indeed, if a God powerful enough to create such a vast universe exists, we can be certain that our understanding of him would be extremely limited.  Therefore, it is absurd to suggest that very limited understanding should be the foundation of an argument for his non-existence.

 

 

 

___________________________

*His assertion that the ancients had no conception of the scale of the universe, for example, is pure bunkum:  “The earth, in relation to the distance of the fixed stars, has no appreciable size and must be treated as a mathematical point.”  Ptolemy’s Almagest, Book I, Chapter 6.  See also, Psalm 8 (“When I consider thy heavens . . . What is man, that thou art mindful of him?”).

107 Replies to “We Should Care About Your Personal Incredulity Why Now?

  1. 1
    Axel says:

    A cruel, almost epigrammatic expose ; but how could you address his nonsense and avoid cruelty ?

    We already have Pauli’s : ‘It isn’t even wrong;’ Now we have vis-a-vis Loftus’ ‘argument’ from credulity:
    It isn’t even an argument, but an assertion from narcissism!

  2. 2
    News says:

    Barry, where would science be if anyone really took arguments from personal incredulity seriously?

    The history of science is full of examples of facts that challenge our understanding. How about:

    Insects do not arise naturally from the soil in the spring, as the ancients supposed. They go through life cycles we would not recognize if we did not make a point of studying them.

    But if we operate from the point of view of incredulity, why would we research the matter? Worse, when we did research the matter, we discovered that omne vivum ex vivo – all life comes from previous life. Hence the maddening origin-of-life controversy.

    Credulity is bad in principle but incredulity can be a barrier to knowledge.

  3. 3
    Mung says:

    Apparently it was ok to believe in God when people thought the earth was flat or was the center of the universe, but not anymore.

    God not only created the universe he sustains it in its existence. So why should it be small?

    I bet Loftus, if he really tried, could come up with reasons to be disbeliever given a small universe too.

  4. 4
    Bob O'H says:

    An honest question (yes, honestly!) – what’s the theistic response to arguments like Loftus’? I’m not asking to argue for him, I’m genuinely curious. I can see a couple of possible lines of argument (with different theological implications), but I assume that other people have thought about this more deeply.

  5. 5
    DennisM says:

    C.S. Lewis wrote a lengthy takedown of this argument that the universe is vast, therefore God is unlikely. I read it in his book Miracles (chapter 7), but he probably says similar things elsewhere.

    It’s hard to find a short excerpt that can stand apart from the rest of his arguments, but this point specifically about Christian belief is relevant:

    “Christianity does not involve the belief that all things were made for man. It does involve the belief that God loves man and for his sake became man and died. I have not yet succeeded in seeing how what we know (and have known since the days of Ptolemy) about the size of the universe affects the credibility of this doctrine one way or the other. … If it is maintained that anything so small as the Earth must, in any event, be too unimportant to merit the love of the Creator, we reply that no Christian ever supposed we did merit it. Christ did not die for men because they were intrinsically worth dying for, but because He is intrinsically love, and therefore loves infinitely.”

    But do check out his full discussion in the book.

  6. 6
    polistra says:

    Even from a strictly secular and harsh point of view the argument doesn’t work. Atheists love to say “The whole purpose of having a God is to fill in the stuff you can’t imagine.”

    Well then, the stuff Loftus can’t imagine MUST fall into the God Department, whether a god exists or not.

  7. 7
    KD says:

    In the New Testament, the the book of Romans, chapter one, it states that God’s invisible attributes, eternal power and divine nature can be clearly seen through what He has created so that all people are without excuse. That pretty much entails that the universe is going to be of mind-staggering proportions. It is a picture of His eternal power. A mind-bogglingly huge universe is a statement about an even more impressive Creator behind it.

  8. 8
    Pearlman says:

    it would help if we taught the much stronger science that explains the actual size and age formation and structure of the universe. as it is much for straightforward and logical than the standard SCM. Then those who considered it would not be so incredulous of the actual science only of why no one taught them SPIRAL before 🙂
    here is how SPIRAL that predicts the CR and a universe that approximates the sphere of the visible universe not ‘Flat’ w/ no ongoing cosmic expansion, compares to the vastly greater claims of SCM.
    SPIRAL vs SCM info-graphic: http://www.researchgate.net/publication/317415683

  9. 9
    john_a_designer says:

    In his book, The Blind Watchmaker, Richard Dawkins writes: “The Argument from Personal Incredulity is an extremely weak argument, as Darwin himself noted [when it comes to theory of evolution by natural selection.] In some cases it is based on simple ignorance.” (p 38)

    Blogger Robert Van de Water make this point about the above quotation:

    Richard Dawkins decries what he calls the “Personal Incredulity Argument”. According to Dr. Dawkins, many people look at the products of evolution and come to the conclusion that there is no way that such a thing could have evolved step by step over millions of years. This argument is invalid, according to Dr. Dawkins, because there are many things that are true that will not make sense to us as human beings with a limited understanding of reality. Despite the fact that I disagree with Dr. Dawkins on any number of issues, this is a valid point. Our limited understanding does mean that some things that are true will seem incomprehensible to us.

    In his book Darwin on Trial, Phillip Johnson turns this argument against Dr. Dawkins by arguing that if personal incredulity is to be dismissed as an argument against evolution it should also be dismissed as an argument against the existence of God. He talks about the use made by evolutionists including Dr. Dawkins of what Johnson characterizes as the “God wouldn’t have done it that way” argument and notes that this is the “Personal Incredulity Argument” dressed up in another guise. If the argument from personal incredulity is invalid with regard to evolution, then it is also invalid as an argument for atheism.

    https://athoughtfulchristian.com/2014/02/10/the-personal-incredulity-argument/

    Like so many atheists Loftus needs to study up on logic. Arguments based on logical fallacies aren’t really arguments because they are DOA.

  10. 10
    Origenes says:

    Mung: I bet Loftus, if he really tried, could come up with reasons to be disbeliever given a small universe too.

    I think it’s [i.e., the small size of the universe] even more damaging when it comes to an omnipotent God, a ‘Maximally Great Being’, who created this midget universe for the specific purpose of impressing us with his power.
    If this is what he desired (for some irrational egotistical reason) he could have simply created us a vast universe like the one the ancients believed existed.

  11. 11
    Belfast says:

    The cheese-mites asked how the cheese got there,
    And warmly debated the matter;
    The Orthodox said that it came from the air,
    And the Heretics said from the platter.
    They argued it long and they argued it strong,
    And I hear they are arguing now;
    But of all the choice spirits who lived in the cheese
    Nobody thought of a cow

    Conan Doyle

  12. 12
    ET says:

    what’s the theistic response to arguments like Loftus’?

    Hand to the forehead, head shake, then laughter

  13. 13
    Dionisio says:

    Were God like the imaginary ‘gods’ atheists describe, definitely I still would be an atheist too.

  14. 14
    kairosfocus says:

    BA,

    As it’s now a web era, looked. It’s actually Bk I Ch 6, which in translation is:

    Almagest, Bk I ch 6:

    http://bertie.ccsu.edu/natures.....emy.html#6

    6. That the Earth has the Ratio of a Point to the Heavens

    Now, that the earth has sensibly the ratio of a point to its distance from the sphere of the so-called fixed stars gets great support from the fact that in all parts of the earth the sizes and angular distances of the stars at the same times appear everywhere equal and alike, for the observations of the same stars in the different latitudes are not found to differ in the least. {–> a good observation]

    Moreover, this must be added: that sundials placed in any part of the earth and the centres of ancillary spheres can play the role of the earth’s true centre for the sightings and the rotations of the shadows, as much in conformity with the hypotheses of the appearances as if they were at the true midpoint of the earth.

    And the earth is clearly a point also from this fact: that everywhere the planes drawn through the eye, which we call horizons, always exactly cut in half the whole sphere of the heavens. And this would not happen if the magnitude of the earth with respect to its distance from the heavens were perceptible; but only the plane drawn through the point at the earth’s centre would exactly cut the sphere in half, and those drawn through any other part of the earth’s surface would make the sections below the earth greater than those above.

    So, from C 150 – 180 BC, this was on record in the longest running science textbook of all time. Backed by a telling observation.

    The cosmos was known to be so much bigger than our home that an earth on scale of thousands of miles across is comparatively infinitesimal. At least many millions or billions of miles across, likely much more.

    So, why is it suddenly argued that the cosmos is now known to be very large and this reduces us to insignificance and casts doubt on the reality of God or the import of a fine tuned cosmos?

    We need to look back at C S Lewis’ remarks on this particular atheistical argument. Were it not for the poetry in our souls that converts numbers into sublimity, the numbers would have no persuasive force, no better than numbers in a table of logarithms or the like. So, it is a shadow we cast that stirs us.

    Not that that is ridiculous, it’s the shadow of a being made in the image of God with eternity in the heart, longing for a joy that can only be fulfilled beyond this world.

    The very business of Heaven: joy unspeakable and full of glory.

    KF

  15. 15
    kairosfocus says:

    KD, point indeed. KF

    PS: Psalm 19:

    Psalm 19Amplified Bible (AMP)
    The Works and the Word of God.
    To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David.

    19 The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
    And the expanse [of heaven] is declaring the work of His hands.
    2

    Day after day pours forth speech,
    And night after night reveals knowledge.
    3

    There is no speech, nor are there [spoken] words [from the stars];
    Their voice is not heard.
    4

    Yet their voice [in quiet evidence] has gone out through all the earth,
    Their words to the end of the world.
    In them and in the heavens He has made a tent for the sun,
    5

    Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber;
    It rejoices as a strong man to run his course.
    6

    The sun’s rising is from one end of the heavens,
    And its circuit to the other end of them;
    And there is nothing hidden from its heat.

    7

    The law of the Lord is perfect (flawless), restoring and refreshing the soul;
    The statutes of the Lord are reliable and trustworthy, making wise the simple.
    8

    The precepts of the Lord are right, bringing joy to the heart;
    The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
    9

    The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
    The judgments of the Lord are true, they are righteous altogether.
    10

    They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold;
    Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.
    11

    Moreover, by them Your servant is warned [reminded, illuminated, and instructed];
    In keeping them there is great reward.
    12

    Who can understand his errors or omissions? Acquit me of hidden (unconscious, unintended) faults.
    13

    Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous (deliberate, willful) sins;
    Let them not rule and have control over me.
    Then I will be blameless (complete),
    And I shall be acquitted of great transgression.
    14

    Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
    Be acceptable and pleasing in Your sight,
    O Lord, my [firm, immovable] rock and my Redeemer.

  16. 16
    Barry Arrington says:

    Thanks for the correction KF

  17. 17
    kairosfocus says:

    BA, no prob. Ptolemy was appealing to the import of the celestial sphere model of the heavens, a sphere of effectively infinite radius. That is why local horizon acts as through it passes through the centre of the sphere, we are not appreciably different from it; 4,000 miles away . . . and by c 300 BC Eratosthenes’ clever inference from shadows at Summer Solstice at Syene and Alexandria had scaled the Earth to be this sort of size. Likewise, how sundials work. In short, abundant, readily accessible evidence but we are likely to overlook the significance. Ptolemy, a brilliant man, drew that evidence together and highlighted its implications for the scale of the heavens 1800+ years ago. So, atheists making this sort of argument need to ponder why theists did not find the scale of the heavens troubling 1800 years ago or — per PS 19 — 3,000 years ago. Let the atheist answer to Ps 19. KF

  18. 18
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: Psalm 8 too:

    Psalm 8Amplified Bible (AMP)
    The Lord’s Glory and Man’s Dignity.
    To the Chief Musician; set to [a]a Philistine lute [or perhaps to a particular Hittite tune]. A Psalm of David.

    8 O Lord, our Lord,
    How majestic and glorious and excellent is Your name in all the earth!
    You have displayed Your splendor above the heavens.
    2

    Out of the mouths of infants and nursing babes You have established strength
    Because of Your adversaries,
    That You might silence the enemy and make the revengeful cease.

    3

    When I see and consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
    The moon and the stars, which You have established,
    4

    What is man that You are mindful of him,
    And the son of [earthborn] man that You care for him?
    5

    Yet You have made him a little lower than [b]God,
    And You have crowned him with glory and honor.
    6

    You made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands;
    You have put all things under his feet,

    7

    All sheep and oxen,
    And also the beasts of the field,
    8

    The birds of the air, and the fish of the sea,
    Whatever passes through the paths of the seas.

    9

    O Lord, our Lord,
    How majestic and glorious and excellent is Your name in all the earth!
    Footnotes:

    Psalm 8:1 Or perhaps to a particular key; meaning uncertain.
    Psalm 8:5 LXX reads angels; Heb Elohim is usually translated “God” or “god.” But it can also mean “gods” (with a lowercase “g”) when it is used with reference to the pagan gods of other nations. See, for instance, Ex 20:3: “You shall have no other gods (Elohim) before Me.” Since there are no capital letters in Hebrew as there are in English, the meaning of Ps 8:5 is ambiguous. It may be saying that humans were created a little lower than God Himself, or it may say that humans were created a little lower than the heavenly beings.

  19. 19
    jdk says:

    Bob above asked a reasonable question. My question concerning the Christian God is this: is it not likely that God has played the same role countless times throughout this vast universe as he has done here? That is, he has guided/created life in worlds that he has helped make habitable, and at some point entered into a spiritual relationship with creatures when they reached a certain stage of development, either having analogous relationships through a “son of God” or through something else?

    That is,given his omni-attributes, is it not likely, or at least possible, that he has entered into the same type of relationship, equally special, with other living creatures throughout the entire universe as he has with humans here on earth?

    Even though we can only know what is happening on our planet, I would think there is no reason to believe that similar types of things haven’t happened,in respect to God’s activity and relationships, on countless other planets. That seems more in line with the creation of vast universe than the idea that our planet is the only one singled out by God.

  20. 20
    kairosfocus says:

    JDK, C S Lewis long ago pointed out that if God chose to create other races across the cosmos, that would not substantially alter his relationship with us. He spoke in terms of a dose given to a sick sheep on a farm in England. We should also note that given impacts on planets, spores of life in our solar system will have spread as far as gas giant moons. Moreover, on the account in the Hebrew-Christian scriptures, there are hints that in reality as a whole we are not alone, there is a messenger race that seems to be extra-dimensional to us though capable of interacting with us, the angels. Possibly, more than one such race, too — non-humanoid forms are described (cf. cherubim). Likewise, we see suggestions of different domains of reality, suggesting a limited multiverse — ponder, heaven. The description of the New Jerusalem suggests a massive orbital satellite as in effect a city in near space — geostationary? Where there would be a problem, ironically, is for accounts pivoting on blind chance and/or mechanical necessity as such point to the extreme rarity of life. Oddly, multiple civilisations on a galactic or cosmic scale would strictly lend weight to design as explanation of life, but of course that is — predictably — not how it would be spun in the media. KF

    PS: What if we will one day be given the job of carrying the gospel to the stars? I see no inherent reason why a one saviour per planet rule is needed. And the God of theism is radically different from a one god per planet with a celestial family narrative to go with it.

  21. 21
    Dionisio says:

    KF,

    Good comments, as usual. Thanks.

  22. 22
    jstanley01 says:

    So when an eternal, omnipotent, omniscient and omnimpresent God gets around to creating, He thinks big? Makes perfect sense to credulous me.

    But the “Meh, the universe is so big there can’t be a God” argument suffers from a fatal empirical flaw, making it as invalid as a “Meh, the universe is so small there can’t be a God” argument would be. Because God also thinks small.

    The fact is, on a human-sized scale, the universe is just as small as it is big. And its mathematical midway point between the size of a Planck length and that of the cosmos just so happens to be about the size of a human egg cell, which just so happens to be the smallest-sized object that can be seen by the naked eye.

    Yes Gertrude, human beings live in the center of the universe size-wise. Go figure.

    See The Scale of the Universe 2.

  23. 23
    jdk says:

    kf writes,

    C S Lewis long ago pointed out that if God chose to create other races across the cosmos, that would not substantially alter his relationship with us.

    Agreed. As I at least implied in my post, God could have, given his infinite capacities, as special a relationship with countless other creatures on different planets throughout the universe as he does with us.

  24. 24
    critical rationalist says:

    What Loftus is doing, is trying to take Christianly seriously for the purpose of criticism.

    One could just as well scale this criticism up and say that God didn’t even need to create a universe at all to have relationships with us. Or are you saying that God can only have relationships with physical things?

    Furthermore, God is supposedly perfect and needs nothing, yet he did not have a material body. However, all versions of the Ontological Argument for God’s Existence purport to show that it is self-contradictory to deny that there exists a greatest possible being. A being with a physical body isn’t the greatest possible being? If not, then why do we need one?

    Something does’t add up.

    In the same sense, God supposedly is all knowing, yet he created organisms in the order of least to most complex. This order is completely unnecessary as, being all knowing, he could have created them in the order of most to least complex, or even all at once.

    IOW, the explanation of God does not explain that phenomena nearly as well as other theories. For example, Neo-Darwnim does explain that order. Nature cannot build organisms until the knowledge necessary to construct them was created.

    What are examples of incredulity? the inability to believe ideas such as, knowledge can come from something other than an authoritative source, knowledge doesn’t need a foundation and that induction is impossible, despite a laundry list of criticisms that refute them.

    That’s incredulity.

  25. 25
    john_a_designer says:

    The simple answer to Loftus’ so-called objection is that size doesn’t matter.

    However, one big “elephant in the room” sized fact– at least according to our current scientific understanding– is that universe was created instantaneously, which means that everything the world would become was in some sense potentially seeded right at the beginning. There was no plan or purpose behind that? That just happened all by chance?

    The purpose of an acorn is to become an oak tree. The purpose of a fertilized human egg is to become a person. There is no real purpose to any of that?

    The universe did not just come into being for no reason. Who would be foolish enough to defend such a view?

    For the life of me, I don’t see how atheistic naturalists/materialists can explain how the universe was created instantaneously. For some reason they keep missing that “little fact.”

  26. 26
    critical rationalist says:

    The simple answer to Loftus’ so-called objection is that size doesn’t matter.

    Doesn’t matter in what sense?

    While I would agree that size is not evidence that proves a theory, it is is something to be explained by a theory.

    Theism doesn’t explain the size of the universe. It’s just as compatible with the early Hebrew conception of the universe and our modern day conception of the universe, or even no universe at all. “That’s just what God must have wanted” doesn’t explain anything.

    The universe did not just come into being for no reason. Who would be foolish enough to defend such a view?

    First, that’s a straw man. Second, that’s incredulity.

    For the life of me, I don’t see how atheistic naturalists/materialists can explain how the universe was created instantaneously. For some reason they keep missing that “little fact.”

    Even the limited theories we do have explain far more than “that’s just what God must have wanted”.

  27. 27
    Mung says:

    What Loftus is doing, is trying to take Christianly seriously for the purpose of criticism.

    Made me laugh.

  28. 28
    john_a_designer says:

    Here is a fascinating quote from St. Augustine’s The Literal Meaning of Genesis in the fifth century.

    A question also commonly asked is whether these conspicuous lamps in the sky, that is, sun and moon and stars, are equally brilliant, but because of their different distances from the earth appear to our eyes for that reason to vary in brightness. And about the moon those who take this line do not hesitate to say that its light is in itself less than that of the sun, by which they also maintain it is illuminated. Many of the stars, however, so they boldly assert, are equal to the sun, or even greater, but they seem small because they have been set further away. And for us, no doubt, it can be enough to know that whatever the truth may be in this matter, the stars were fashioned by God as their craftsman, although we must hold to what was said with the apostles authority: One is the glory of the sun and another the glory of the moon and another the glory of the moon and another the glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory (I Cor 15:41)

    But they can still say, even if they are not deliberately disagreeing with the apostle: “They do indeed differ in glory, but to the eyes of people on the earth…”The stars do indeed differ in glory in themselves as well: but all the same there are some which are even greater than the sun.”

    Notice that Augustine neither condones nor condemns the view that stars could be in essence other suns. Of course the science of his day really couldn’t answer these kind of questions. However, he does show a real respect for what we today call the natural sciences.

    My point is that 1600 years ago Christian theologians were dealing with the idea that we lived in a universe of mind staggering size. It’s not a new or modern issue. By the way Augustine was not some obscure “backwater” theologian.

  29. 29
    critical rationalist says:

    Made me laugh.

    Yeah. Theists claim they want to be taken seriously, but then object when you try. It’s rather humorous.

  30. 30
    kairosfocus says:

    CR, With all due respect you have yet to show that you are willing to try to understand what theists mean when they speak of God, nor what the alternatives on being are going to be — directly connected. As for the point that there is a discipline of thought, logic, that is capable of warrant to relevant degrees, there seems to be a roadblock imposed by over-reach of your understanding of Popper’s teachings. I suggest that one key context here is the logic of structure and quantity, i.e. Mathematics. Please, re-think. KF

    PS: The evidence is, the size, components, laws and such of the cosmos are all tied together in a fine tuned operating point that enables the sort of life we have, starting from C-Chemistry, aqueous medium cell based forms on terrestrial planets in galactic habitable zones. So, that space is widely spread out in the span of time where we exist is functional.

  31. 31
    Axel says:

    jdk @ #19

    Number and size mean nothing to an infinite God? He would have undergone that suffering, so terrible beyond our imagining for any one of us, alone – which is to say that He loves each one of us as, if none of the rest of us existed. It is an absolutely primordial axiom of our Christian faith. The spiritual realm is on a different level, of a different category all together from the physical.

    We hear very little about it, but we are called to be adopted members of the very family of the most Holy Trinity, in a mystical body of which Christ is the Head and we, the members. – incorporated in it, and yet retaining our individual personalities, albeit enhanced by a perfect indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

    That seems to me to be the nub. I suppose it is a bit like us, when we look at a baby or a toddler. Its diminutive size, if anythng would only inspire greater awe in us. It makes me laugh with incredulity, when I see wee wellingtons or shoes left outside the front-door of other flats – at the thought of little human beings, as small and, normally, as perfectly-formed and perfectly functioning, as humming-birds. Most of us are too spiritual to despise diminutive physical size as a reflection of inferiority of the individual concerned.

  32. 32
    bb says:

    Whether the vast universe, microscopic cell, or sub-cellular components, all are exquisite, exhibit design, purpose and are awe-inspiring as the psalmist [David] said. The size of all the above is irrelevant to the discussion of whether there is a Creator, whose existence is self-evident at all points and levels.

    Loftus’ personal incredulity is a self-reinforcing delusion, which means he will always embrace his incoherent philosophy and disregard the ubiquitous evidence for God. Because it’s what he wants, for whatever emotional reason, he will never consider evidence that runs contrary to his baseless conclusion.

  33. 33
    Axel says:

    ‘Number and size mean nothing to an infinite God?’
    To think otherwise is a primordial misunderstanding.

    (I was too late to insert it in my post above).

  34. 34
    critical rationalist says:

    @KF

    I asked you to point out where you disagreed with an article on the philosophy of science. You didn’t even try to engage it.

  35. 35
    jdk says:

    Hi Axel. Re 31. I understand all that. My point, which I don’t think you or anyone else has addressed, is that it seems to me that such an infinite God, given this vast universe he has created, would have entered into a relationship such as he has with us with countless other creatures throughout the universe (creatures whose existence he has caused to be just as he has caused ours.)

    Does this seem like at least a reasonable hypothesis?

  36. 36
    OldArmy94 says:

    Jdk,

    Your point is theological and speculative. What hypothesis is there to be proposed?

  37. 37
    jdk says:

    Sure it’s a theological, speculative hypothesis. But the question is whether it is possibly a reasonable hypothesis, or whether there is a reason, theological or otherwise, to think it unlikely, or even rule it out.

    Let me be more explicit.

    Lets assume that an omni-everything God created this vast universe; created a planet with all the right conditions to support life; intelligently designed and created, in some way or another over time, creatures with which he at some point entered a spiritual relationship; and ultimately made it possible for those creatures to gain everlasting life through belief in a person sent to represent God in human form (or however you wish to characterize Jesus.).

    Now here are two possibilities:

    A: our one planet is the only place in the universe that God has created such a situation.

    B: God has done somewhat the same thing countless times throughout the universe.

    Why should one believe A? Why is B not a more likely scenario?

  38. 38
    kairosfocus says:

    CR,

    That’s because it is a tangent on a tangent. I intervened from 30 above on a secondary point largely because you at 24 on were mis-framing theists and theism, which you have never soundly and cogently addressed.

    My original contribution from 14 on was an accepted minor technical correction, by digging up Almagest and citing Bk I Ch 6 in entirety as above. Notice BA’s response. This was used in the context of addressing the current re-appearance of the argument against God from incredulity over the scale of the observed cosmos, and in that context Ps 19 and 8 are highly relevant.

    If you want, here are my notes on your linked article — in another post and entirely — as presented at which is on phil of sci when the question I addressed was your distortion of the idea of God held by theists. See the category error? Anyway, I note on your linked article, just once I will not go off on the tangent in a red herring chase:

    From 64 in New Scientist thread:

    >>From this article on the philosophy of science, which deconstructs the more formal arguments made in this paper….

    [From a lead quote:] “Scientific methodology, in turn, does not (nor could it validly) provide criteria for accepting a theory.>>

    1 –> Notice this is about theories in science thus about inductive reasoning on more or less reliable empirical observations and their theoretical framing. Utterly off on a tangent, a changed subject.

    >> Conjecture, and the correction of apparent errors and deficiencies, are the only processes at work. And just as the objective of science isn’t to find evidence that justifies theories as true or probable, so the objective of the methodology of science isn’t to find rules which, if followed, are guaranteed, or likely, to identify true theories as true. There can be no such rules.>>

    2 –> This is a caricature of science, reflecting one reading of Popper et al. Science is much richer than this reductionist cardboard cut-out.

    >> A methodology is itself merely a (philosophical) theory – a convention, as Popper (1959) put it, actual or proposed – that has been conjectured to solve philosophical problems, and is subject to criticism for how well or badly it seems to do that.>>

    3 –> Collapsing phil into sci, a category error. A methodological analysis of science stands or falls on its own merits as to factual adequacy, coherence and balanced explanatory power. Yes, it is a phil exercise but that is important as we need to understand strengths and limits of scientific methods.

    >> There cannot be an argument that certifies it as true or probable, any more than there can for scientific theories.” [Clip ends]>>

    4 –> Really, aspects of any knowledge base can include self evident truths that are undeniable on pain of instant patent absurdities. Likewise, there are many factual observations anchored in the history of sci or documents that only a fool would question.

    >> Here is just about the most contentious piece of philosophy that Popper and Deutsch (or any Popperian/Critical Rationalist) proposes about how science works. It is poorly understood and the opposing world view is still the dominant philosophy of science even though it is false. The false idea – subscribed almost universally by scientists, philosophers and laymen alike is that science somehow provides a way of demonstrating that certain theories are true or close to true or probably true.>>

    5 –> We do not need to go to Popper and his system and/or that of those who follow him to understand that inductive reasoning is inherently provisional and cannot guarantee truth. However, in many cases it involves facts that only a fool would question.

    6 –> The notion that we could lump some great misled multitude on one side and the Popperians on the other, is ludicrous.

    >> And moreover that the more one gathers evidence for some theory T, then the more likely T is true.>>

    7 –> Evidence from observation and especially successful, risky predictions may support confidence in the empirical reliability of a theory but I doubt that any serious thinker on science and its epistemology would calim that scientific theories are true or approximately true and are directly supported by evidence. They may be more or less reliable and trustworthy but are inherently provisional explanatory constructs.

    8 –> Insofar as a theory aims to account for the actual historical development of an entity, it may seek to approximate that true path of what did happen, but it is hampered by the inherent unobservability of the actual remote past of origins. So, it is an inference to best historical reconstruction and possibly linked dynamical explanations, a forensic project informed by dynamics seen to produce the like effects today.

    9 –> Logic and epistemology then tell us about the strengths and limits of such an approach, but the point is we know this is imperfect and may be prone to ideological blinkers, as I argue evolutionary materialistic scientism and methodological naturalism exemplify.

    >> What Deutsch, following Karl Popper is saying here is that there is no such process as that. There is no method in science, no set of rules to follow that can demonstrate theories as either true or probably true.>>

    10 –> Belabouring a strawman.

    >> The whole purpose of science is not to “support” theories with evidence. That is a complete misconception. The truth is that science is about correcting errors in our explanations.>>

    11 –> No, we do often seek to provide empirical support and thus warrant that some theory or other is empirically reliable and even trustworthy enough to bank on the findings. In short theory-building and model building are closely parallel activities, with the theory having this, it seeks to move towards truth while models are openly fictional but useful.

    12 –> So, too: is the theory that science is about correcting errors in explanation itself true or just another error-prone explanation not to be taken seriously? As in, self referential incoherence is looking at you.

    >> This is a completely different view of science to what most people have.>>

    13 –> Many people do have a naive view of science, but also many have naive views on how their own philosophical frame and school of thought has a sort of ultimacy.

    >> Now some, admittedly, have read some Popper, or Deutsch – but are afraid to, or perhaps just confused about, fully taking the step to actually appreciate the significance of this. I say “afraid” because there seems to be some concern that if one too strongly endorses even a true theory like this, one might seem dogmatic.>>

    14 –> See the self referential incoherence in: “even a true theory like this,” given the above?

    15 –> Self reference is always a bugbear, especially when one does not watch out for it.

    >> I have a person in mind here and that is: Sam Harris. Sam is an otherwise brilliant philosopher on many matters>>

    16 –> On his New Atheism track record, no. But this reveals the mindset at work here.

    >> but this is one of his missteps. He at times endorses Popper, other times Kuhn and still other times induction.>>

    17 –> Inductive reasoning is valid as an approach, especially in the modern sense of arguments that adduce empirical evidence to support conclusions without guaranteeing their truth.

    >> I won’t go down this rabbit hole here, but I just observe that smart people struggle to really grapple with the centrality of what science is even all about.>>

    18 –> See above on imagining one has cornered the market on truth while only managing to get into a thicket of self reference and incoherence.

    >> Now many scientists today do not want to call themselves “Popperians” or “Critical Rationalists” (which is to say they do not want to endorse the idea that science is not about “supporting theories with evidence”) and so they may call themselves “empiricists” or many these days “Bayesians”.>>

    19 –> A rather narrow view of options and setting up of strawmen.

    >> For a detailed critique of Bayesianism as a philosophy of science or an epistemology see my other page here (opens in new tab): http://www.bretthall.org/bayes…..ology.html In brief, however: a Bayesian is essentially someone who thinks that repeatedly observing phenomena allows them to build up a probability that a particular theory is true. They can assign a number between 0% and 100% that a given theory is true, or something like this.>>

    20 –> beginning to wander all over the world of ideas, and here failing to address the heart of bayesian approaches: SUBJECTIVE probability assessments intended to be empirically reliable and sometimes managing to capture directly observable states of affairs.

    >> So if the result of an experiment continues to come out the same way the number climbs closer and closer to 100% – but perhaps it can never quite reach 100% – but that’s okay because science does not need to generate “certainly true” theories – just “probably true”.>>

    21 –> Caricature

    >> So perhaps 90% is okay. Or 95%. Or maybe 99.99999% at the 5-sigma confidence level (if you understand statistics).>>

    22 –> Ditto. Ponder instead the need to make decisions forward on evidence in hand backward and the cost of delay vs that of seeking further evidence etc.

    >> But one need merely consider the question: What probability would a Bayesian assign to Newton’s theory of gravity being true any time prior to finding it false? If a scientist were actually a Bayesian in the year 1900 then it would seem that every experiment ever devised to test Newton’s theory of gravity always corroborated it.>>

    23 –> leaves off issues on anomalies, puzzle solving and theory refinement vs replacement etc etc etc. besides, Mercury’s orbit was anomalous and this is one of the key triumphs of relativity.

    >> Newton’s theory correctly predicted the outcome of every well designed and executed test of it prior to and including the year 1900 (and a little later).>>

    24 –> Continuing to speak of a domain one does not understand, with ill-advised confident manner.

    >> A Bayesian could do statistics on any prediction you like and generate some number and the number would be pushing the ceiling of the magic 100% number. Newton’s theory of gravity – according to that philosophy of science – would be very very very close to certainly true.

    ?And yet, ultimately, it was shown to be false. It was shown false by a crucial experiment on May 29, 1919, the great physicist Arthur Eddington measured the amount by which starlight was bent as it passed by the Sun during a solar eclipse. Newton’s theory predicted one number, Einstein’s another. The amount of bending was in agreement with Einstein’s General Relativity but not in agreement with Newton. Newton’s theory was then refuted.>>

    25 –> Reduced to a widely relevant limiting case would be sounder. Guess what was used to send astronauts to the Moon and probes to planets?

    26 –> There is a reason why we still study and use Newtonian dynamics.

    >> So far from being very very close to true because of all the experiments that it had ever predicted the outcomes of up until then accurately, it was shown false by a crucial test that pitted it against a rival. Now General Relativity is in the same position that Newton’s theory was prior to around 1900. It is not “probably true” or “true” or anything like that. It contains some truth – and more truth than Newton’s (which was closer to true than any random guess would be). But in neither case can we say the theory is true – only that it contains some truth (we don’t know what and it doesn’t matter anyway – the theories can be used to help us control reality around us by making predictions and creating technologies to solve our problems). At any time, to paraphrase Thomas Huxley: the beautiful theory could be slain by some ugly fact. Indeed we have to expect that it will be at some point.>>

    27 –> And what, fundamentally, is in this that was not already in Newton’s Opticks, Query 31?

    As in Mathematicks, so in Natural Philosophy, the Investigation of difficult Things by the Method of Analysis, ought ever to precede the Method of Composition. This Analysis consists in making Experiments and Observations, and in drawing general Conclusions from them by Induction, and admitting of no Objections against the Conclusions, but such as are taken from Experiments, or other certain Truths. For Hypotheses are not to be regarded in experimental Philosophy. And although the arguing from Experiments and Observations by Induction be no Demonstration of general Conclusions; yet it is the best way of arguing which the Nature of Things admits of, and may be looked upon as so much the stronger, by how much the Induction is more general. And if no Exception occur from Phaenomena, the Conclusion may be pronounced generally. But if at any time afterwards any Exception shall occur from Experiments, it may then begin to be pronounced with such Exceptions as occur. By this way of Analysis we may proceed from Compounds to Ingredients, and from Motions to the Forces producing them; and in general, from Effects to their Causes, and from particular Causes to more general ones, till the Argument end in the most general. This is the Method of Analysis: And the Synthesis consists in assuming the Causes discover’d, and establish’d as Principles, and by them explaining the Phaenomena proceeding from them, and proving the Explanations.

    >> General Relativity is at odds with Quantum Theory. They are mutually incompatible for reasons beyond the scope of my present piece here (but in brief: the dispute may come down to a disagreement about whether the most fundamental parts of reality consist of discrete or continuous quantities). Deutsch has said in other places, and I agree: it would be far better had we all decided to call scientific theories “scientific misconceptions” to remind ourselves of how tentative they are and that they will one day be superseded by some better misconception. >>

    28 –> Most of this last is not in any serious dispute among those who have some knowledge of history and phil of sci. The problems are as pointed out already.

    See why I did not think it necessary to go around the same old bush yet again?

    Especially on a matter that is a further tangent, injected because someone — pardon fair comment — has a bee in the bonnet?

    Let us refocus the key point from the above, and in so doing, can you kindly show us that you actually seek to understand theism and theists.

    KF

  39. 39
    kairosfocus says:

    I am waiting . . .

  40. 40
    jdk says:

    Me, too, re: 37 …

  41. 41
    kairosfocus says:

    JDK, I am actually indifferent across A and B. Unfortunately for the Drake Eqn, we have the great silence. That’s what is of concern. KF

  42. 42
    jdk says:

    1. If God helped create appropriate planets and life, etc., throughout the universe in ways similar to how he is claimed to have done here, then the Drake equation is meaningless. (It’s pretty meaningless anyway.)

    2. Even if life developed enough to have a relationship with a God who has made himself present on many planets throughout the universe, the chances of them having sent some signal that we would receive at this time is miniscule, especially given the spectrum of distances, and thus time differentials, between us and other stars and galaxies.

    So I don’t think that the absence of evidence here is at all evidence of absence.

    But the question I am asking is not whether we think there is other life out there, but whether there is any reason for a Christian to believe, not believe, or even object to the idea that what we see having happened here has been likewise divinely played out countless times throughout the universe?

    The OP addresses the question of how to reconcile that vast universe with God’s special attention to our little world, a mere speck in the universe.

    Rather than drawing the conclusions that Barry rejects in the OP, I am offering the hypothesis, which reconciles this vastness with God’s special attention, that God has engaged in an similar attention in many other places, perhaps billions and billions.

  43. 43
    jdk says:

    I’ll point out that my questions have actually been addressed to Axel and OldArmy (and possibly even Barry) due to some of their posts above. But they haven’t returned to respond.

  44. 44
    kairosfocus says:

    JDK, I have never found reason to doubt existence of other morally responsible races in the Christian or Hebraic scriptures. In fact, there may be multiple, extradimensional races that appear in them, usually discussed as angels etc. When it comes to our own observed cosmos, it seems there is space enough and there are planets enough, though most exoplanets are radically different from our Earth and most stars are in multi-star systems that may make orbits not stable enough. BTW, sims of our own system raise questions on planetary stability in the very long run. The Drake eqn at least put issues on the table and led us to realise there is a question on the great silence. KF

    PS: Inasmuch as it is Thanksgiving week in the US, some of that folks not here may be explained. Axel is in the UK but his visits are occasional, he does not seem to come here on a daily basis. Even for me, it is a particular challenge given a local multidimensional chess game that hit a new level when a govt nearly collapsed and is playing onward like Paschendaele, multiplied by the personal challenge of a close bereavement that hit a lot harder than even the “it’s going to hurt really badly” that I expected. That’s why I have posted v few OP’s recently.

    PPS: Within the historic Christian faith’s sources, there is little support for what looks like a somewhat LDS view.

  45. 45
  46. 46
    critical rationalist says:

    @KF,

    First, as I’ve argued before, theism is a specific case of foundationalism and justificationism. In theism, God is an authoritative source of knowledge. While empiricism was an improvement, it just exchanged one authoritative source, God, with another authoritative source, experience in the form of empirical observations.

    Whether something is relevant to a subject depends on one’s understanding of that subject. Confusion on a subject can result in confusion of what is relevant to it. Your apparent belief about whether some ideas are subject to criticism would be shared with empiricists and theists alike because they are specific cases of the same philosophical view.

    Second, the article was referring to the paper “The Logic Of Experimental Tests, Particularly Of Everettian Quantum Theory”. This refers to the role of empirical observations in science. If you think agree with significant aspects of what was presented, and that it represents a straw man or character of science, then it would seem that you would agree with Everettian Quantum Theory. Yet, your responses seem to indicate this is not the case. So, there must be some significant difference here that explains this lack of agreement.

    Furthermore, while evolution is more widely accepted, I suspect that differences in respect to tests of theories and your rejection of the theory are relevant here as well.

    From the paper…..

    Although the central concern of the paper is a defense of the role of explanation in science and so an explanation of both explanation itself and the purpose of experimental tests in science, another crucial point emphasized throughout the paper (despite Deutsch’s books and comments on the topic) is how quantum theory is fully deterministic. Despite what passes for high school and undergraduate teachings on this subject and what one finds in popular books, documentaries and even texts; quantum theory is not a theory of how the world is governed by laws that are probabilistic or bring true, objective, randomness into the world: there are no truly random processes. There may be subjective randomness, but this is explained by purely deterministic laws. Everything is determined by the (quantum mechanical) laws of motion. And those laws of motion specify that what is observed to occur happens because of everything else that happens in physical reality. That is to say: the laws of quantum theory predict that prior to an observation everything (physically) possible actually occurs and all those occurrences come to bear upon the outcome observed. Indeed not merely prior to the observation, but during and after the observation whatever is physically possibly able to happen at those times, happens. Necessarily an observer finds themselves only in one universe and therefore only observing one thing – not many. This should be no more mysterious than that observers necessarily only ever experience a particular instant in time: they never observe many times simultaneously. Although they know that the past must have happened and that the future will come – and that the past and future are just as real as the present; the observer can only possibly, at any given moment, experience the present.

    Here, Hall summarizes how Everettian Quantum Theory vastly better explains observations. And he points out how probably is not valid in choosing between theories.

    So, my question is, if what was presented was such a straw man or reductionist cardboard cut-out of science, then why isn’t Everettian Quantum Theory more broadly adapted? Why have’t you accepted Neo-darwinism?

    And Why are you still an inductivist?

    To rephrase, from the article.

    Here is just about the most contentious piece of philosophy that Popper and Deutsch (or any Popperian/Critical Rationalist) proposes about how science works. It is poorly understood and the opposing world view is still the dominant philosophy of science even though it is false. The false idea – subscribed almost universally by scientists, philosophers and laymen alike is that science somehow provides a way of demonstrating that certain theories are true or close to true or probably true. And moreover that the more one gathers evidence for some theory T, then the more likely T is true.

    Now, it would seem that either you are mistaken about some key aspect of the article, such as the argument made about the philosophy of experimental tests (which you probably didn’t read and took out of context), or that the author is mistaken in some fundamental way.

    Either way, that seems to suggest there is some great divide between Popperians and everyone else, in which case the divide is not ludicrous.

  47. 47
    jdk says:

    kf. I’m not talking at all about “extradimensional races”. I’m just talking about living creatures such as humans. Also, no matter what we may know about the scarcity of favorable planets, if one accepts that our planet is privileged for life due to God’s design, then obviously he could act similarly, however he implements design, in many other places.

    But I consider that you have answered my question more or less in the affirmative: there could be multiple (perhaps many, perhaps billions) living creatures throughout the universe that have had an experience analogous to the Christian one here, which makes the “vast universe” problem not a problem.

  48. 48
    critical rationalist says:

    @KF

    Conjecture, and the correction of apparent errors and deficiencies, are the only processes at work. And just as the objective of science isn’t to find evidence that justifies theories as true or probable, so the objective of the methodology of science isn’t to find rules which, if followed, are guaranteed, or likely, to identify true theories as true. There can be no such rules.>>

    2 –> This is a caricature of science, reflecting one reading of Popper et al. Science is much richer than this reductionist cardboard cut-out.

    This isn’t reductionism. Criticism actually expands science, not constricts, since it is compatible even more ways of creating knowledge. This is much richer than some set of rules, even if they were possible. Nor is it the reflection of one reading of Popper. Are you suggesting this doesn’t reflect his Critical Rationalism? Are you saying Deutsch isn’t a Popperian?

    A methodology is itself merely a (philosophical) theory – a convention, as Popper (1959) put it, actual or proposed – that has been conjectured to solve philosophical problems, and is subject to criticism for how well or badly it seems to do that.

    3 –> Collapsing phil into sci, a category error. A methodological analysis of science stands or falls on its own merits as to factual adequacy, coherence and balanced explanatory power. Yes, it is a phil exercise but that is important as we need to understand strengths and limits of scientific methods.

    Ideas in science and philosophy both start out as conjectures which are subject to criticism. What differentiates philosophy from science is that includes criticism in the form of empirical tests. This represents a unification of of the growth of knowledge in both science and philosophy.

    Here is just about the most contentious piece of philosophy that Popper and Deutsch (or any Popperian/Critical Rationalist) proposes about how science works. It is poorly understood and the opposing world view is still the dominant philosophy of science even though it is false. The false idea – subscribed almost universally by scientists, philosophers and laymen alike is that science somehow provides a way of demonstrating that certain theories are true or close to true or probably true.

    5 –> We do not need to go to Popper and his system and/or that of those who follow him to understand that inductive reasoning is inherently provisional and cannot guarantee truth. However, in many cases it involves facts that only a fool would question.

    Inductive reasoning is not inherently provisional. That’s because the same observations can be explained in an infinite number of ways. IOW, we don’t actually use inductive reasoning because it’s impossible. No one has formulated a principle of induction that anyone can actually use, in practice.

    “Involving facts” is a vague statement. How are facts involved?

    ? And moreover that the more one gathers evidence for some theory T, then the more likely T is true.>>

    7 –> Evidence from observation and especially successful, risky predictions may support confidence in the empirical reliability of a theory but I doubt that any serious thinker on science and its epistemology would calim that scientific theories are true or approximately true and are directly supported by evidence. They may be more or less reliable and trustworthy but are inherently provisional explanatory constructs.

    So, then what role does induction play, if any?

    Is induction as a “methodology” probably true because it supposedly worked in the past? Yet, there are other explanations for the very same thing in question. Are you saying you provisionally accept inductivism? Have you provisionally accepted Foundationism, despite all of the criticism of it?

  49. 49
    critical rationalist says:

    kf. I’m not talking at all about “extradimensional races”. I’m just talking about living creatures such as humans. Also, no matter what we may know about the scarcity of favorable planets, if one accepts that our planet is privileged for life due to God’s design, then obviously he could act similarly, however he implements design, in many other places.

    You seem to want your cake and to eat it too.

    One one hand, when we point out that Genesis seems to point to the Hebrew conception of the universe, theists claim it actually reflects the vast scope of the entire universe, with those lights representing other suns like ours, etc.

    But, on the other hand, you now seem to suggest that it does not actually reflect that scope of the universe. Specifically, it there could have been other “earths” created in the universe around those very suns, in which God created other variations of “man”. Why would the Bible described the creation of those suns without describing the creation of those other “earths” and other variations of “man”?

    “It’s possible that God did X” is a conjecture, as there are an infinite number of explanations for what we observe. So, my question would be, how might we find an error in that conjecture?

  50. 50
    jdk says:

    Hmmm, CR. I think maybe you are misunderstanding where I’ve coming from. I am certainly not asking questions that have anything to do with what the Bible says about the universe. Also, I know quite well that I am, as someone said above, engaging in theological speculations: I don’t think there is any way we can know, ever, very much at all about whether life exists on other planets, especially in other galaxies.

    I’m just exploring the idea that if one accepts the Christian view about design and the relationship between God and human beings on earth, then it seem to me reasonable to accept, or at least entertain, the hypothesis that he has repeated that throughout the universe rather than having just engaged in this way with the earth.

    I am interested in what other have to say about this point.

  51. 51
    kairosfocus says:

    CR:

    First, this is not correct, as metaphysics [roughly, study of worldviews] is not reducible to epistemology:

    theism is a specific case of foundationalism and justificationism. In theism, God is an authoritative source of knowledge. While empiricism was an improvement, it just exchanged one authoritative source, God, with another authoritative source, experience in the form of empirical observations.

    Second, despite the many attempts to dismiss the idea of a finitely remote start-point for reasoning and warranting knowledge claims that is readily seen from the emergence of chains of warrant. They cannot go on forever, or we would get nowhere. We have finitely remote start points, which may be partly based on what we observe, partly on how we reason and seek coherence, partly what is self-evident, partly, what seems good to us. In short, there is an irreducible element of faith.

    Next, we cannot escape seeking truth at some level, as even the case you cited and demanded a response demonstrated.

    After this, Theism is not a system of blind appeal to the authority of God to ground knowledge etc. In relevant part, it answers, how do we get a world in light of the logic of being, and in light of our presence as rational and responsible significantly free creatures who are inevitably morally governed.

    Going on, justificationism is a term of derogation and dismissal, not a proper response. It is readily seen that we may err, and that error exists is self evidently, undeniably true, I showed this above in brief. Therefore, collectively, we need to provide reasonable warrant for what we hold to be true or right etc. An individual needs not warrant the whole panoply of knowledge, indeed, cannot. But collectively, we do need to give a reason for the views, hopes, expectations and policies we have. And, might and/or manipulation are not good enough for that.

    Such warrant is inevitably limited and finite, often beset with difficulties and more.

    This is why we collectively have a responsibility of comparative difficulties analysis. On, factual adequacy, coherence and balanced explanatory power (neither simplistic nor an ad hoc patchwork).

    God can and in my experience does reveal truths that can be recognised as knowledge and can and does reveal himself in a personal relationship so that one may come to know and trust God. But that is utterly different from providing a reasonable answer on why one may fulfill intellectual duties to truth, reason etc and be a theist. Though, actual experience of God in relationship is personally decisive.

    And, for the Christian, part of that will be the witness of the 500 as recorded within 5 – 25 years and passed down to us in an unbroken chain regarding the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth from the dead, and the wider witness of the millions to the life transforming power of that risen Christ.

    That is specific to the Christian tradition and witness.

    We were not discussing that, I spoke above to generic ethical theism, which is a worldview and is assessed on those terms. That is why I took time to address necessary being and the need for a finitely remote world root. It would also be what we need a being at world root level that bridges the IS-OUGHT gap. After centuries of debates, the only serious candidate is the inherently good creator God, a necessary and maximally great being worthy of loyalty and the reasonable, responsible service of doing the good in accord with our nature.

    As is predictable, you do not have another such candidate. Or, you would have long since provided it.

    Finally,l as for inductive reasoning, we all use it, starting with trusting the food we eat and the water we drink.

    Here is Locke’s anticipation of the sort of views of our time that challenge that sort of thing, in his introduction to his essay on human understanding, section 5:

    Men have reason to be well satisfied with what God hath thought fit for them, since he hath given them (as St. Peter says [NB: i.e. 2 Pet 1:2 – 4]) pana pros zoen kaieusebeian, whatsoever is necessary for the conveniences of life and information of virtue; and has put within the reach of their discovery, the comfortable provision for this life, and the way that leads to a better. How short soever their knowledge may come of an universal or perfect comprehension of whatsoever is, it yet secures their great concernments [Prov 1: 1 – 7], that they have light enough to lead them to the knowledge of their Maker, and the sight of their own duties [cf Rom 1 – 2 & 13, Ac 17, Jn 3:19 – 21, Eph 4:17 – 24, Isaiah 5:18 & 20 – 21, Jer. 2:13, Titus 2:11 – 14 etc, etc]. Men may find matter sufficient to busy their heads, and employ their hands with variety, delight, and satisfaction, if they will not boldly quarrel with their own constitution, and throw away the blessings their hands are filled with, because they are not big enough to grasp everything . . . It will be no excuse to an idle and untoward servant [Matt 24:42 – 51], who would not attend his business by candle light, to plead that he had not broad sunshine. The Candle that is set up in us [Prov 20:27] shines bright enough for all our purposes . . . If we will disbelieve everything, because we cannot certainly know all things, we shall do muchwhat as wisely as he who would not use his legs, but sit still and perish, because he had no wings to fly.

    And yes, Locke respected the insights in the Holy Bible.

    I repeat, we are inductive thinkers starting with what we trust to eat and drink and onward from there.

    Enough for now,

    KF

  52. 52
    kairosfocus says:

    JDK, it is reasonable to entertain the possibility of other races on other planets and in other solar systems, and even in other sub-cosmi. Just, we should recognise that speculation is speculation and Science Fiction is just that, fiction. You asked and I responded on what the Judaeo-Christian scriptures say that may be relevant to the matter, which is where extra-dimensionality came in. KF

  53. 53
    critical rationalist says:

    @JDK

    I’m trying to take that idea seriously, for the purpose of criticism. That means assuming that idea is true, in reality, and that all other accepted Christian views are also true, and that everything should conform to them.

    Specifically, I’m referring to a Christian view that Genesis reflects our modern day conception of the universe, as opposed to the Hebrew conception of the Universe.

    Or to rephrase, if there are no consequences for any Christian views, when taken individually or as a whole, then how can we possllty hope to find errors in them?

  54. 54
    kairosfocus says:

    CR, perhaps Wiki on the modern understanding of induction may help as a 101:

    Inductive reasoning (as opposed to deductive reasoning or abductive reasoning) is a method of reasoning in which the premises are viewed as supplying strong evidence for the truth of the conclusion. While the conclusion of a deductive argument is certain, the truth of the conclusion of an inductive argument may be probable, based upon the evidence given.[1]

    Many dictionaries define inductive reasoning as the derivation of general principles from specific observations, though some sources disagree with this usage.[2]

    The philosophical definition of inductive reasoning is more nuanced than simple progression from particular/individual instances to broader generalizations. Rather, the premises of an inductive logical argument indicate some degree of support (inductive probability) for the conclusion but do not entail it; that is, they suggest truth but do not ensure it. In this manner, there is the possibility of moving from general statements to individual instances (for example, statistical syllogisms

    Argument that supports. I do not like the “probability” language for various reasons, I would suggest the term, plausibility. I also hold that in this sense, abductive reasoning in the sense of inference to best supported explanation, is inductive.

    Induction being reasoning on more or less cogent support, not entailment.

    Truth, I take it — echoing Ari — is that which says of what is, that it is, and of what is not, that it is not.

    KF

  55. 55
    kairosfocus says:

    CR, your latest remarks lead me to again point out that ethical theism is a general worldview position that roots reality in the necessary and maximally great being we call God, it is not a matter of the theology or scriptural or oral traditions of any given religion or mere comparison of such religions or the like. KF

  56. 56
    jdk says:

    Thanks, kf. Two further points:

    You write,

    JDK, it is reasonable to entertain the possibility of other races on other planets and in other solar systems, ….

    Good, but that doesn’t answer my question. My question is it reasonable, from a Christian perspective, to entertain the possibility that God has engaged with some (perhaps a very large number) of those races, including offering the prospect of salvation, in ways similar to the ways he has engaged with us?

    Also, you write,

    You asked and I responded on what the Judaeo-Christian scriptures say that may be relevant to the matter, which is where extra-dimensionality came in. KF

    Just a side note: I looked back at my posts and I don’t believe I asked about Judaeo-Christian scriptures. I’m assuming this discussion with me is about Christians who accept the current vastness and age of the universe.

  57. 57
    john_a_designer says:

    KF @ #51 brings up some good points about reasoning and logic. It reminded me of a problem in logic that I recently ran across which can be presented very simply and concisely. What follows is my personal effort to present the problem.

    Consider the following position:

    Donald J. Trump is officially the 45th President of the United States. However, including Trump only 44 men have served as President.

    Is this proposition true or false?

    What kind of reasoning and logic would you use to prove that it is true or false?

    Can you assign probabilities to the proposition? Does it do you any good (other than one or zero) to say that it is probably false or vise/versa probably true?

    I am going to argue that the proposition is true.

    Do you agree with me? If you don’t, how would you prove me wrong?

  58. 58
    kairosfocus says:

    JAD,

    First, a factual check confirms a 45 count: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Presidents_of_the_United_States

    Second, the proposition is self-contradictory. A set of discrete elements cannot have in the same sense and circumstances cardinality 44 and 45.

    However, if the ambiguity between President Elect and actual President is slipped in and the timeline is after Nov 8 ’16 but before a certain moment Jan 20 was it 2017, we can have 44 serving and one elect.

    But that elect is not a President, as not sworn in.

    KF

  59. 59
    kairosfocus says:

    JDK, I gather some LDS folks speak in pretty much those terms; though I stand to be corrected. Historic, apostolic Christian theology is decisively shaped by the Bible, properly exegeted. This in turn pivots on the testimony of the 500 witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus and his view of the Hebraic scriptures that prophesied Messiah, specifically a suffering servant. There is no support in the relevant scriptures for such a view. Speculation down that line without actual evidence of such a race seems ill advised. We could speculate that one day we would be missionaries to the stars, as I recall coming up in some sci fi. Surviving Tulareen [?] Posleen (a fictional dragon-like race with a range of ability from subrational cannon-fodder to so-called god-kings) becoming Catholic Christians after a formal battle of champions, IIRC. The extradimensional beings discussed are discussed in terms of permanent loss of a first estate in the Scriptures, though I have seen Sci Fi that has angels going back to the side of Heaven . . . speculative stuff of dubious status. We could speculate on other things too, but without significant support from that frame of thought. My own inclination is that that which is truth will be true together, and if some thing X is well warranted as true then some thing Y which is inconsistent with X has a low plausibility of truth. KF

  60. 60
    J-Mac says:

    kairosfocus,

    I’m sorry to ask but are you a priest? Or a former one?

  61. 61
    daveS says:

    JAD,

    It is correct that only 44 men have been president, but Trump is the 45th, at least according to the way these things are counted. Grover Cleveland was the 22nd and 24th.

  62. 62
    jdk says:

    Grover Cleveland was both the 22nd and 24th president. The proposition is true, and can be checked with verified facts.

  63. 63
    john_a_designer says:

    DaveS and JDK are correct but they didn’t answer my other questions. What kind of logic and reasoning are we using here? It appears that KF didn’t read the Wikipedia article very carefully. Here is a more official source.

    https://www.whitehouse.gov/1600/Presidents

  64. 64
    daveS says:

    JAD,

    I would say we are counting two sets: Presidents and men who have been president, then comparing the two counts. I don’t see any place for probability in this question. My 2 cents, anyway.

  65. 65
    john_a_designer says:

    My explanation: a U.S. President is not just President of the country but President of his (or her, if we ever get there) Presidency. If a President is defeated in an election that ends his Presidency. If he is re-elected that continues his Presidency. However, if he is defeated and runs again and defeats his successor, as was the case with Cleveland, he begins another or new Presidency. So one person can have two Presidencies and get counted twice as President. Theoretically Cleveland could have done it a third time (he lived till 1908.) Terms limits now limits Presidents two consecutive or non-consecutive terms. Nevertheless, what happened with Cleveland could happen again.

    Is the reasoning here an example of deductive or inductive logic?

  66. 66
    daveS says:

    No induction, only deduction here.

  67. 67
    jdk says:

    Right. Of course, the deduction includes a lot of propositions about the real world that are true, such as two discontinuous presidencies by the same person count as two, but two continuous presidencies count as one; and also lots of facts like George Washington was the first president, John Adams the 2nd, etc. You can’t use deduction in a vacuum: you have to have propositions about the world being discussed that are accepted as true.

  68. 68
    Mung says:

    daveS

    No induction, only deduction here.

    You arrived at this conclusion via deduction?

  69. 69
    kairosfocus says:

    JAD, I stand corrected on the specific historical point. KF

  70. 70
    daveS says:

    Mung,

    Yes, I believe so.

  71. 71
    kairosfocus says:

    J-Mac, No, in fact I am a lifelong Protestant. KF

  72. 72
    kairosfocus says:

    JDK, facts about the real world are generally accepted on an inductive basis. That is, investigations, observations etc that strictly support but do not necessitate the truth of their conclusions. For instance I missed the peculiarity of how Americans count “Presidents” above, and because Wikipedia uses a table I missed the double-count. That BTW, is a definitional stipulation but its relevance is a matter of observed, contingent fact. Deductions concerning contingent, factual matters generally bring to the table issues arrived at inductively which are open in many cases to disputes if people are sufficiently motivated to challenge premises as they reject conclusions. This then leads to onward disputes and the chain of warrant problem, thence our finitude, fallibility and — too often, ill-will. KF

  73. 73
    Mung says:

    J-Mac, No, in fact I am a lifelong Protestant. KF

    God loves all his children. 🙂

  74. 74
    Dionisio says:

    KF @69:

    That’s a simple example of honesty.

    Thanks.

  75. 75
    Dionisio says:

    Interesting conversation:

    J-Mac @60:

    kairosfocus,

    I’m sorry to ask but are you a priest? Or a former one?

    kairosfocus @71:

    J-Mac, No, in fact I am a lifelong Protestant. KF

    Mung @73

    God loves all his children.

  76. 76
    Dionisio says:

    @75 follow-up:

    KF, aren’t you a priest of the High Priest?

    1 Peter 2:9-10 (ESV)

    But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

    Commentary from the Reformation Study Bible provided by Ligonier Ministries:

    Peter’s language in these verses, applying the Old Testament terms for Israel to the church, asserts the continuity between Old Testament Israel and the New Testament church, representing them as the one people of God.

    But you.
    This marks a sharp contrast between the destiny of unbelievers (v. 8) and the status of the elect. The theme of God’s sovereign choice of both Christ and the church is prominent in this passage (vv. 6, 9).

    that you may proclaim.
    The election and calling of God’s people is not only for salvation but for service as well. All believers are called to bear joyful witness to the saving acts of God.

    not a people, but now you are God’s people.
    The Greek word translated “people” (laos) is used in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, primarily for Israel. Continuing to apply to the church Old Testament texts dealing with Israel, Peter draws on the Septuagint of Hos. 1:6, 9, 10; and 2:23. In its original context, this is a prophecy about God’s embracing Israel after He had rejected her. Peter, like Paul (Rom. 9:25, 26), interprets the Hosea passages to include the reception of Gentiles into the people of God. God’s mercy extends to undeserving Jews and Gentiles alike, and there is essential continuity between Old Testament Israel and the New Testament church.

    Commentary from MacArthur Study Bible (NKJV):

    a chosen generation.
    Peter uses OT concepts to emphasize the privileges of NT Christians (cf. Deut. 7:6–8). In strong contrast to the disobedient who are appointed by God to wrath (v. 8)

    the people of God.
    The ideas of this verse come from Hos. 1:6–10; 2:23. Cf. Rom. 9:23–26 where the reference is explicitly to the calling of a people made up of Jews and Gentiles.

  77. 77
    Dionisio says:

    Mung @73

    God loves all his children.

    That’s true, but what do you understand by “his children”?

    Check this out:

    John 1:1-5,9-14 (ESV)

    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

    The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him. But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

    And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

    By the way, God loves all humans, even those who are not His children.

    However, only His children will be with Him forever.

  78. 78
    Dionisio says:

    KF,

    BTW, NT priests of the High Priest are also His saints.

  79. 79
    kairosfocus says:

    Dionisio, yes, I understand the NT context but assumed that J-Mac was speaking in the cultural sense. He would likely not know that Priest is Presbyter, elder. Bishop is Episkopos, overseer, as in supervisor. Saint is one set aside to God in Christ and more. I have not been ordained in any denomination that has “priests.” All this is of course tangential to the issues in the thread above. KF

  80. 80
    Dionisio says:

    KF @79,
    Yes, this is off topic in this thread.

    Mine was a rhetorical question, intended mainly for your interlocutor and other readers here, so they realized that words have meaning established above and beyond our own personal preferences.

    All true followers of Christ are His priests in the OT meaning, as it is written in 1 Peter 2, regardless of denomination. Actually, there are no denominations in the church founded by Christ, who is the true High Priest, as it was understood in the OT.

    Also all true followers of Christ are His saints, though still He’s changing each of us -a process called ‘sanctification’ in the NT.

    This was an opportunity to present the Scriptures to the readers, some of whom might be lost sheep who will recognize the voice of Truth. Those opportunities should be used every time they appear. You do it relatively often. Definitely more often than anybody else here. Well done! Thanks.

  81. 81
    jdk says:

    kf, I don’t believe that I know that George Washington was the 1st president through inductive reasoning. It’s just a fact.

    I suppose you could say I know it inductively because lots of different sources have told me that over the years, and there have been no counter-examples or denials, but I don’t really think that is how the word inductive is intended to mean used.

    However, if “induction” is meant to cover all of our knowledge that is arrived at via observation and experience, on the grounds that all we ever do is accumulate conclusions which are in theory provisional (no matter how very unlikely that is), then I could paraphrase what I said earlier by saying all deductive reasoning about the world must necessarily also include propositions whose truth is arrived at inductively.

    I’m not sure that is a standard understanding of induction, but I may be wrong.

  82. 82
    kairosfocus says:

    JDK,

    Pardon but you are unfortunately using an older understanding of inductive reasoning, which would now be regarded as a part of the case. The modern view is in short, that arguments where premises (which may be descriptions of experience or observation etc) SUPPORT as opposed to entailing the conclusion are inductive.

    Let me clip Wikipedia again as at 54 above:

    Inductive reasoning (as opposed to deductive reasoning or abductive reasoning) is a method of reasoning in which the premises are viewed as supplying strong evidence for the truth of the conclusion. While the conclusion of a deductive argument is certain, the truth of the conclusion of an inductive argument may be probable, based upon the evidence given.[1]

    Many dictionaries define inductive reasoning as the derivation of general principles from specific observations, though some sources disagree with this usage.[2]

    The philosophical definition of inductive reasoning is more nuanced than simple progression from particular/individual instances to broader generalizations. Rather, the premises of an inductive logical argument indicate some degree of support (inductive probability) for the conclusion but do not entail it; that is, they suggest truth but do not ensure it. In this manner, there is the possibility of moving from general statements to individual instances (for example, statistical syllogisms

    That reports and other data support the claim that Mr Washington was first President (under the 1787 Constitution . . . ) do not entail that he was such in reality. The warrant is morally certain as qualified by me — I gather others held a presidency under the 1778 arrangements — but that is not the same as logical entailment.

    KF

  83. 83
    kairosfocus says:

    Dionisio, well said. You may enjoy the exchange that begins with this comment — https://uncommondescent.com/off-topic/what-do-ricky-gervais-and-the-assyrian-king-sennacherib-have-in-common/#comment-644240 — and the one I made right after it. KF

  84. 84
    daveS says:

    KF (& jdk, et al),

    It seems to me that the reasoning JAD used in #65 is purely deductive. In this context, it appears we are to assume that the cited information regarding who was president at various times is simply true. For example, I don’t think we’re meant to assume that there is some uncertainty about who occupied the White House in 1967.

    Furthermore, no one who looked at the puzzle has concluded that it’s (say) 99.999% certain that 44 men have been president of the US and Trump is the 45th president. We’ve all said that the original statement is flatly true. In particular, I don’t see any induction in post #65, which is really what the question is about.

  85. 85
    jdk says:

    Hmmm. That makes every bit knowledge, aside from direct observation, a product of inductive reasoning. I can see how technically that might be true, but it seems to me that some nuances might be useful.

    I can see, outside my window, that I own a blue car. I’ve seen it often. That’s a pretty direct observation. And yet, if I tell someone “I own a blue car” when the blue car is not in fact present, that is now an inductive, and hence provisional, conclusion.

    I think there was a cat in one of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books that took this philosphical position.

  86. 86
    daveS says:

    PS to my #84:

    If I were to suddenly blurt out, apropos of nothing, “Dawkins is a man; all men are mortal; therefore Dawkins is mortal”, then ask you whether I am engaging in inductive or deductive reasoning, then obviously everyone would respond “deductive”. This example is simpler, yet parallel to JAD’s, AFAICT.

    PPS: What JAD does in #65 is explain how a conclusion follows (with absolute certainty) from a collection of premises. That’s clearly deduction.

  87. 87
    kairosfocus says:

    DS, My context is that empirical observation, record etc can mount up to moral certainty but they do not assure utter certainty. Yes, if we accept the US way of counting JAD’s conclusions are entailed by the premises but that also happens when a Sci Hyp is used to make predictions we set out to test. My context is the warranting of the facts is also on the table. BTW, in Jamaica IIRC, we have had three Prime Ministers with separated terms, Michael Manley, Portia Simpson-Miller and Andrew Holness. I doubt that Jamaicans would accept the US style count. Busta, Sangster, Shearer, Manley, Seaga, Manley again, Patterson, Simpson-Miller [first woman], Golding, Holness, Simpson Miller again, Holness again. In the DR I gather there were two who exchanged office for many years too. KF

  88. 88
    daveS says:

    KF,

    I guess we’ll have to consult JAD for more clarification on context.

    What I see in #65 is an argument that a conclusion follows from a collection of premises (i.e., deduction).

  89. 89
    kairosfocus says:

    DS, I hear you, and I do not deny that that is there too. However, note in 57: “Is this proposition true or false?” This requires soundness not just entailment, and so it necessitates addressing warrant for the premises and even the issue of definitions. Once that is in hand, we face issues of support rather than onward entailment alone or self evidence. KF

    PS: Thanks to WJM and some onward reading, I found some further materials in the other thread that are worth pondering on my basic point. When Wm Colby of the CIA warns as I found, regarding the Franklin case, we should sit up and take duly sobered notice.

  90. 90
    daveS says:

    KF,

    However, note in 57: “Is this proposition true or false?” This requires soundness not just entailment, and so it necessitates addressing warrant for the premises and even the issue of definitions.

    I agree with this, although I’m not sure about definitions—I treat those as abbreviations, essentially, so I don’t see them creating any issues unless they are not well-formed.

  91. 91
    Dionisio says:

    KF @83:

    Thank you for pointing to those comments in that thread.
    I’ve read some of them. Definitely deep and always timely.

  92. 92
    kairosfocus says:

    DS, it seems to me that US practice is different on counting Presidents, where you have had Grover Cleveland counted as 22 and 24 separately, this being the same individual. I doubt that for example the UK would count Sir Winston Churchill as two separate Prime Ministers given his term in the 1940’s and his term in the 1950’s; the UK being where English came from, but then US praxis is that of the largest population of native English speakers in the world. (I think India has the largest population of English speakers in a country where English is an Official Language, but for most English will not be their Mother Tongue.) In Jamaica, I doubt that the cases of separated terms would be counted as two different Prime Ministers each, also. Next time I can ask someone from the DR, I will ask about their practice. So, definition is a critical issue here above and beyond that of how facts are established as accurate to reality and with what degree of certainty. KF

  93. 93
    daveS says:

    KF,

    Obviously one has to be clear on precisely what definitions are being used.

  94. 94
  95. 95
    kairosfocus says:

    JDK, 85:

    No, there are many types of knowledge that are introspective and logical, e.g. Mathematics etc. Some things are self evident. others are known by logical entailment from things taken as true etc.

    However, in many cases, we are dealing with knowledge that is warranted on support not entailment, support that is a lot less than utterly or even morally certain. For example, scientific knowledge especially where we go beyond direct observation.

    Observation is also subject to challenge in at least some cases, e.g. optical illusions etc.

    So, we need to recognise how much of our knowledge base is a matter of acting on confidence in warrant that is not beyond all doubt or even all reasonable doubt.

    KF

  96. 96
    Axel says:

    @jdk, your #35 and #37

    ‘Sure it’s a theological, speculative hypothesis. But the question is whether it is possibly a reasonable hypothesis, or whether there is a reason, theological or otherwise, to think it unlikely, or even rule it out.’

    I don’t see how it could be ruled out, jdk, but I don’t think you accorded the ideas which you said you’d already pondered, the merit they deserve; neither the ineluctable finitude of all matter, nor the aspect that primarily persuades me, namely, the combination of our littleness and our possible relative sparsity being meaningless to God, are in any way able to detract from his love and esteem for us, plausibly deliberately intended to indicate to us the gulf between the whole of material creation and our essentially spiritual nature, each one of us uniquely loved, as if God had created no one else.

  97. 97
    critical rationalist says:

    First, this is not correct, as metaphysics [roughly, study of worldviews] is not reducible to epistemology:

    An assertion is not an argument. Why is in not reducible to epistemology? How is this not a tenet of a specific epistemological view?

    To quote Deutsch.

    Misconceptions about what Popper’s epistemology says are held in place by preconceptions about what an epistemology *can possibly* say.

    Are you saying that both empirical observations and theism do not share the key feature of being authoritative sources? You seem to argue for at least one of those in this very thread.

    Second, despite the many attempts to dismiss the idea of a finitely remote start-point for reasoning and warranting knowledge claims that is readily seen from the emergence of chains of warrant. They cannot go on forever, or we would get nowhere. We have finitely remote start points, which may be partly based on what we observe, partly on how we reason and seek coherence, partly what is self-evident, partly, what seems good to us. In short, there is an irreducible element of faith.

    You keep asserting this despite being presented alternate explanations for the growth of knowledge. Again, I’m saying that when we stop, we do not do so merely to prevent an infinite regress. We stop because we lack good criticisms of an idea.

    Good explanations are few and far between. Even more so are good criticisms of those explanations. One of the properties of good explanations is that they are hard to vary without significantly reducing their ability to explain the phenomena in question. So, we don’t need to arbitrary stop at some point. We stop because we’ve run out of good explanations and criticisms of those explanations.

    Again, when presenting any ideas as basic beliefs, why did you present those specific ideas instead of others? Because you criticized them in relation to other ideas. The ones you picked you found as lacking good criticisms. If you held them immune to criticism, then you’d have no reason to present them specifically, as opposed to some other ideas. Right?

    Next, we cannot escape seeking truth at some level, as even the case you cited and demanded a response demonstrated.

    Seeing truth cannot mean seeking to discard errors in conjectured ideas?

    It’s unclear how “seeking truth” requires a specific epistemology being true. If you define seeking truth as a specific epistemology that would be an argument by definition.

    After this, Theism is not a system of blind appeal to the authority of God to ground knowledge etc. In relevant part, it answers, how do we get a world in light of the logic of being, and in light of our presence as rational and responsible significantly free creatures who are inevitably morally governed.

    I’m having problems finding expanded details on the exact terms “ethical theism” when searching via Google. Perhaps you can provide links that unpack that or go into more detail by what you mean by “a world in light of the logic of being” or “our presence as rational and responsible significantly free creatures who are inevitably morally governed.”

    It seems to me that you are trying to account for things that have yet to be established. Or as I mentioned, earlier, it’s unclear there actually is a job opening for which God is the best candidate. Even if there was such an opening, perhaps you can explain how God performs that job?

    Would it be accurate to state that you believe in God because you believe there must be some necessary being to account for [logic|morality|rationality] and that you believe God is that necessary being?

    If so, wouldn’t that be putting the cart before the horse?

    Furthermore, are you saying we do not have moral moral knowledge, but only some reason to assume that moral knowledge, if we had it, was enforceable? Even if that were the case, which I’m not suggesting, what good is that when we find ourselves in concrete moral problems?

    If you find yourself in situation X do you say, “there is some moral value or duties we must obey… if only I just knew what that value or duties was?” If God isn’t the source of moral knowledge, then what good is it when people are actually faced with moral problems?

    If we have to guess what is the right moral knowledge in a specific situation, then criticize our guesses, then why should I be under some obligation to follow them? IOW, why should I care if some values or duties are inferable if we don’t know what they are? How does that actually solve the problem?

    And if it was though criticism that we choose specific values and duties, then isn’t the details of the contents of that criticism that makes it moral knowledge, as opposed to some authority?

    it’s as if someone conjectured the solution to the problem of getting an aught from an is by suggests there is some being that bridges the gap in some inexplicable way. But that just pushes it up a level without improving it because people still do not agree on what values or duties one would need to adhere to.

    Without a means of deriving what those aughts are, which would be moral knowledge, then what good is it? How does it improve our situation?

    As is predictable, you do not have another such candidate. Or, you would have long since provided it.

    The above is criticism of the idea for the existence of said job opening and the idea that “hiring” God to fit it would actually improve our situation, in practice.

    Why would I present a candidate for a position that doesn’t exist and cannot be filled?

  98. 98
    critical rationalist says:

    Wha’s the difference, in practice, between “I believe that X is a moral value or duty, rooted by God” and “I believe X is a moral value or duty.”? How does adding God to the equation help when face with concrete moral problems?

    For example, take the problem of unwanted and dangerous pregnancies. Of the top of my head, this would include the knowledge of how to transform raw materials into an artificial womb or the knowledge of how to implant embryos into mothers that cannot conceive and want children? Isn’t that moral knowledge?

    What good does God “rooting” enforcement of some unknown values and duties help in the face of that specific problem?

  99. 99
    critical rationalist says:

    @JDK

    I am interested in what other have to say about this point.

    If there is no way of taking that seriously, for the purpose of criticism, then in what sense is what other people have to say important? Are you suggesting what they say isn’t criticism?

    If they do not consider other ideas they think to be true, in reality, as part of that criticism, then how is this a fruitful endeavor?

    If everything is possible and there are no consequences to our ideas then how can we ever hope to find errors in them?

  100. 100
    Origenes says:

    CR

    What is your definition of valid knowledge?

  101. 101
    jdk says:

    CR, I have no idea how your comments apply to the posts Ive written. It seems like a large miscommunication is going on, but I don’t know what it is. It’s probably not worth pursuing further, though.

  102. 102
    kairosfocus says:

    CR,

    Metaphysics and epistemology are considerably different subject matters, though both are main components of Philosophy. Let’s try AmHD:

    met·a·phys·ics (m?t??-f?z??ks)
    n.
    1. (used with a sing. verb) Philosophy The branch of philosophy that examines the nature of reality, including the relationship between mind and matter, substance and attribute, possibility and actuality.

    e·pis·te·mol·o·gy (?-p?s?t?-m?l??-j?)
    n.
    The branch of philosophy that examines the nature of knowledge, its presuppositions and foundations, and its extent and validity.

    Again, you have refused to address things as they are, and have tried to weaponise “assertion” by way of evading reasonable discussion.

    It should be obvious that matters of epistemology will come up in metaphysics, and that matters of metaphysics will come up in epistemology, just as matters of logic and ethics will come up or be implicit while doing both. But each of the four will be distinct. Trying to collapse any of the four into the others will impoverish one’s thought.

    Going further, your attempt to characterise theism as in effect implicitly fallacious appeal to authority is more of an accusation than a reasonable view. As was already pointed out, ethical theism is a worldview which can be summarised. Summary that describes how some people view the world is a matter of accurate description, open onwards to comparative difficulties analysis, not an imposition of a demand for blind adherence to any given authority. Philosophy by its very nature is not authoritarian.

    The empirical, likewise, is a description of responsiveness to experience and/or observation, not a fallacious imposition of blind loyalty to a given authority. AmHD again, by way of summarising what is generally meant:

    em·pir·i·cal (?m-pîr??-k?l)
    adj.
    1.
    a. Relying on or derived from observation or experiment: empirical results that supported the hypothesis.
    b. Verifiable or provable by means of observation or experiment: empirical laws.
    2. Guided by practical experience and not theory, especially in medicine.

    This is closely linked to the challenge of warrant of knowledge claims, but not in a vicious or fallacious manner.

    Now, this can be turned into empiricism, summarised by AmHD:

    em·pir·i·cism (?m-pîr??-s?z??m)
    n.
    1. The view that experience, especially of the senses, is the only source of knowledge.

    That is a particular epistemological viewpoint, and it is plainly fundamentally flawed. But one can appeal to the empirical where it is relevant without implying or committing oneself to empiricism.

    You continue to use your favourite dismissive assertion that I have merely asserted, when you touched on my observation on infinite regress.

    At this point, you are speaking with disregard to truth, as not only is the challenge of such regress well known — i.e. the Münchhausen/Agrippa trilemma — but I outlined it several times above. In a blog comment thread, one cannot reproduce reams of debates on every point. Especially, when the matter is obvious: A requires warrant on B, but B now requires C etc. So, we face infinite regress or question-begging circularity or some reasonable, non-question-begging finitely remote start-point framework. This similarly applies to a regress of contingent causes.

    It is easily seen that it is futile to try to cross an endless span in finite-stage steps. For, after any finite degree of k steps, k, k+1, k+2 etc can be put in endless 1:1 onward match with the set of naturals 0, 1, 2 etc. A property of endless incremental succession. Besides our own finitude will run out in finite time and we will never reach an endlessly remote or extensive “far side”. For causal succession, it is the endless succession that counts.

    A causal circle [involving origin of each stage], likewise will require that something causes its own origin. For warrant, the fallacy of grand question-begging is obvious.

    The solution to this last is to recognise that by applying comparative difficulties at worldviews level, one is not begging the question when one stops at his or her first plausibles constituting a faith-point. For causality, we face a finitely remote world root that as was outlined, will need to be a necessary being. The issue then is, what are reasonable or serious candidates. Where, this last is constrained by the fact that just to reason responsibly and freely about it, we are morally governed, thus the IS-OUGHT gap has to be bridged.

    This BTW is more than enough to answer the no job opening rhetorical gambit. And the self referentiality is a caution.

    As to my use of ethical as a modifier for theism, I have long since pointed out in answer to you that this is by way of emphasis on a point that is too often neglected, not a distinct school of thought. The null result on a Google search simply underscores that neglect. Surely, you will understand that the IS-OUGHT gap is fundamental, and that it is a longstanding issue that the follies of the gods etc are no proper context for bridging the gap. That’s a point highlighted by Plato in the Laws Bk X 2350+ years past. As I clipped on just this morning in another thread. The inherently good creator-God, a necessary and maximally great being worthy of loyalty and the reasonable, responsible service of doing the good in accord with our evident nature is a serious answer and it draws out why the emphasis is important.

    Likewise, I pointed out that it is a generally true fact that we find ourselves morally governed towards the truth, a matter that is BTW at the focus of arguments. Unless, the whole point is cynical manipulation. And in evidence I pointed out that your own citation inadvertently revealed the force of this impulse that governs us. See 38 above, just before my point 14 in response:

    if one too strongly endorses even a true theory like this, one might seem dogmatic

    In context of the argument you cited with seeming approval, this was self-referentially incoherent.

    We could go on and on but enough has been pointed out for me to call on you to revise your approach to date.

    G’night,

    KF

  103. 103
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: FYI, here is Plato in The Laws, Bk X:

    Athenian Stranger: . . . They [the skeptical objectors] will make some irreverent speech of this sort:-“O inhabitants of Athens, and Sparta, and Cnosus,” they will reply, “in that you speak truly; for some of us deny the very existence of the Gods, while others, as you say, are of opinion that they do not care about us; and others that they are turned from their course by gifts. Now we have a right to claim, as you yourself allowed, in the matter of laws, that before you are hard upon us and threaten us, you should argue with us and convince us-you should first attempt to teach and persuade us that there are Gods by reasonable evidences, and also that they are too good to be unrighteous, or to be propitiated, or turned from their course by gifts. For when we hear such things said of them by those who are esteemed to be the best of poets, and orators, and prophets, and priests, and by innumerable others, the thoughts of most of us are not set upon abstaining from unrighteous acts, but upon doing them and atoning for them. When lawgivers profess that they are gentle and not stern, we think that they should first of all use persuasion to us, and show us the existence of Gods, if not in a better manner than other men, at any rate in a truer; and who knows but that we shall hearken to you? If then our request is a fair one, please to accept our challenge.” . . . .

    At Athens there are tales preserved in writing which the virtue of your state, as I am informed, refuses to admit. They speak of the Gods in prose as well as verse, and the oldest of them tell of the origin of the heavens and of the world, and not far from the beginning of their story they proceed to narrate the birth of the Gods, and how after they were born they behaved to one another. Whether these stories have in other ways a good or a bad influence, I should not like to be severe upon them, because they are ancient; but, looking at them with reference to the duties of children to their parents, I cannot praise them, or think that they are useful, or at all true. Of the words of the ancients I have nothing more to say; and I should wish to say of them only what is pleasing to the Gods. But as to our younger generation and their wisdom, I cannot let them off when they do mischief. For do but mark the effect of their words: when you and I argue for the existence of the Gods, and produce the sun, moon, stars, and earth, claiming for them a divine being, if we would listen to the aforesaid philosophers we should say that they are earth and stones only, which can have no care at all of human affairs, and that all religion is a cooking up of words and a make-believe . . . .

    . . . . [[The avant garde philosophers, teachers and artists c. 400 BC] say that the greatest and fairest things are the work of nature and of chance, the lesser of art [[ i.e. techne], which, receiving from nature the greater and primeval creations, moulds and fashions all those lesser works which are generally termed artificial . . . They say that fire and water, and earth and air [[i.e the classical “material” elements of the cosmos], all exist by nature and chance, and none of them by art, and that as to the bodies which come next in order-earth, and sun, and moon, and stars-they have been created by means of these absolutely inanimate existences. The elements are severally moved by chance and some inherent force according to certain affinities among them-of hot with cold, or of dry with moist, or of soft with hard, and according to all the other accidental admixtures of opposites which have been formed by necessity. After this fashion and in this manner the whole heaven has been created, and all that is in the heaven, as well as animals and all plants, and all the seasons come from these elements, not by the action of mind, as they say, or of any God, or from art, but as I was saying, by nature and chance only . . . .

    [[T]hese people would say that the Gods exist not by nature, but by art, and by the laws of states, which are different in different places, according to the agreement of those who make them; and that the honourable is one thing by nature and another thing by law, and that the principles of justice have no existence at all in nature, but that mankind are always disputing about them and altering them; and that the alterations which are made by art and by law have no basis in nature, but are of authority for the moment and at the time at which they are made.– [[Relativism, too, is not new; complete with its radical amorality rooted in a worldview that has no foundational IS that can ground OUGHT. (Cf. here for Locke’s views and sources on a very different base for grounding liberty as opposed to license and resulting anarchistic “every man does what is right in his own eyes” chaos leading to tyranny.)] These, my friends, are the sayings of wise men, poets and prose writers, which find a way into the minds of youth. They are told by them that the highest right is might [[ Evolutionary materialism leads to the promotion of amorality], and in this way the young fall into impieties, under the idea that the Gods are not such as the law bids them imagine; and hence arise factions [[Evolutionary materialism-motivated amorality “naturally” leads to continual contentions and power struggles; cf. dramatisation here], these philosophers inviting them to lead a true life according to nature, that is, to live in real dominion over others [[such amoral factions, if they gain power, “naturally” tend towards ruthless tyranny; here, too, Plato hints at the career of Alcibiades], and not in legal subjection to them . . . . [[I]f impious discourses were not scattered, as I may say, throughout the world, there would have been no need for any vindication of the existence of the Gods-but seeing that they are spread far and wide, such arguments are needed; and who should come to the rescue of the greatest laws, when they are being undermined by bad men, but the legislator himself? . . . .

    Ath. Then, by Heaven, we have discovered the source of this vain opinion of all those physical investigators; and I would have you examine their arguments with the utmost care, for their impiety is a very serious matter; they not only make a bad and mistaken use of argument, but they lead away the minds of others: that is my opinion of them.

    Cle. You are right; but I should like to know how this happens.

    Ath. I fear that the argument may seem singular.

    Cle. Do not hesitate, Stranger; I see that you are afraid of such a discussion carrying you beyond the limits of legislation. But if there be no other way of showing our agreement in the belief that there are Gods, of whom the law is said now to approve, let us take this way, my good sir.

    Ath. Then I suppose that I must repeat the singular argument of those who manufacture the soul according to their own impious notions; they affirm that which is the first cause of the generation and destruction of all things, to be not first, but last, and that which is last to be first, and hence they have fallen into error about the true nature of the Gods.

    Cle. Still I do not understand you.

    Ath. Nearly all of them, my friends, seem to be ignorant of the nature and power of the soul [[ = psuche], especially in what relates to her origin: they do not know that she is among the first of things, and before all bodies, and is the chief author of their changes and transpositions. And if this is true, and if the soul is older than the body, must not the things which are of the soul’s kindred be of necessity prior to those which appertain to the body?

    Cle. Certainly.

    Ath. Then thought and attention and mind and art and law will be prior to that which is hard and soft and heavy and light; and the great and primitive works and actions will be works of art; they will be the first, and after them will come nature and works of nature, which however is a wrong term for men to apply to them; these will follow, and will be under the government of art and mind.

    Cle. But why is the word “nature” wrong?

    Ath. Because those who use the term mean to say that nature is the first creative power; but if the soul turn out to be the primeval element, and not fire or air, then in the truest sense and beyond other things the soul may be said to exist by nature; and this would be true if you proved that the soul is older than the body, but not otherwise.

    [[ . . . .]

    Ath. . . . when one thing changes another, and that another, of such will there be any primary changing element? How can a thing which is moved by another ever be the beginning of change? Impossible. But when the self-moved changes other, and that again other, and thus thousands upon tens of thousands of bodies are set in motion, must not the beginning of all this motion be the change of the self-moving principle? . . . . self-motion being the origin of all motions, and the first which arises among things at rest as well as among things in motion, is the eldest and mightiest principle of change, and that which is changed by another and yet moves other is second.

    [[ . . . .]

    Ath. If we were to see this power existing in any earthy, watery, or fiery substance, simple or compound-how should we describe it?

    Cle. You mean to ask whether we should call such a self-moving power life?

    Ath. I do.

    Cle. Certainly we should.

    Ath. And when we see soul in anything, must we not do the same-must we not admit that this is life?

    [[ . . . . ]

    Cle. You mean to say that the essence which is defined as the self-moved is the same with that which has the name soul?

    Ath. Yes; and if this is true, do we still maintain that there is anything wanting in the proof that the soul is the first origin and moving power of all that is, or has become, or will be, and their contraries, when she has been clearly shown to be the source of change and motion in all things?

    Cle. Certainly not; the soul as being the source of motion, has been most satisfactorily shown to be the oldest of all things.

    Ath. And is not that motion which is produced in another, by reason of another, but never has any self-moving power at all, being in truth the change of an inanimate body, to be reckoned second, or by any lower number which you may prefer?

    Cle. Exactly.

    Ath. Then we are right, and speak the most perfect and absolute truth, when we say that the soul is prior to the body, and that the body is second and comes afterwards, and is born to obey the soul, which is the ruler?

    [[ . . . . ]

    Ath. If, my friend, we say that the whole path and movement of heaven, and of all that is therein, is by nature akin to the movement and revolution and calculation of mind, and proceeds by kindred laws, then, as is plain, we must say that the best soul takes care of the world and guides it along the good path. [[Plato here explicitly sets up an inference to design (by a good soul) from the intelligible order of the cosmos.]

    PPS: Let me also add, from F H Bradley, Appearance and Reality as I suspect some of the Kantian ugly gulch issue may be at work in all this:

    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 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 dispel [them]. [Appearance and Reality, 2nd Edn, 1897 (1916 printing), pp. 1 – 2; INTRODUCTION. At Web Archive.]

  104. 104
    kairosfocus says:

    PPPS: BTW, as an appeal to basic courtesy in argument and basic responsibility, I should note that your constant projection of a false claim to me and others about attempting to secure immunity to “criticism” is little more than a strawman caricature of your own manufacture. What do you think that my pointing to comparative difficulties across factual adequacy, coherence and balanced explanatory power is, i/l/o the infinite regress/ circularity/ finitely remote start point is, but the very opposite of locking out responsible discussion of alternatives? Have you not understood that: that a self-evident truth will be seen (by one of sufficient background to see clearly) as true and as necessarily true on pain of patent absurdity on the attempted denial, is nothing but a gross failure before the comparative difficulties challenge? Do you not see the significance of using “error exists” as a capital example of what a self evident truth is and how it is established? Likewise, to ask the courtesy of allowing a worldview to speak in its own voice is little more than asking that one try to understand the other instead of imposing loaded strawman caricatures. On fair comment, you have caricatured both ethical theism and the recognition that observation and experience are valid approaches to knowledge. Not to mention, inductive reasoning [modern sense] as a legitimate approach in logic and epistemology.

  105. 105
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: I took a moment to do a DDGo search and this essay is there among the top several hits: https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/ethical-monotheism Kindly note, “theism” is a short form for “monotheism.” The essay will provide useful food for thought, though it fails to understand Christian ethics i/l/o say Eph 2:8 – 10, salvation is by grace through faith not by works [given our radical moral failure] but leads to good works as the necessary overflow of a transformed person being brought to manifest holiness and goodness. KF

  106. 106
    kairosfocus says:

    Origines,

    Generally, I would argue that “knowledge” is used in a weak form sense: warranted, credibly true (and reliable) belief.

    Drawing out, slightly:

    Warranted —

    there is an available account (as opposed to internal to the given knower, who may simply accept a message from reliable sources . . . ) that, properly understood, would justify accepting or treating belief x as true in serious contexts.

    Credibly true —

    the warrant for and circumstances of belief x are such that we can have good confidence that the belief is likely to be true or capture enough truth that we are entitled to trust it.

    Reliable —

    the warrant for x is such that if we act on the belief that-x in a consequential situation, we are unlikely to be let down.

    Belief —

    that which is accepted, perceived, or held to be so; often in this context, for good reason.

    Of course in today’s day and age, “faith” and “belief” are often despised and dismissively contrasted with “science,” “reason/rationality” and “knowledge,” etc. as though acknowledged faith/trust/belief is invariably ill-warranted.

    Such reflects dominance of radical secularism and evolutionary materialistic scientism, which, ironically are not well warranted, are not trustworthy (being fallaciously rooted, esp. through self-referential incoherence and/or the fostering of ill-advised cognitive biases) and should not be permitted to act as gate-keepers on what we regard as knowledge.

    KF

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