Does science involve faith?

Paul Davies recently attracted some attention with his New York Times article Taking Science on Faith.” In this he made the claim “that science has its own faith-based belief system.” He went further to state “both religion and science are founded on faith – namely, on belief in the existence of something outside the universe, like an unexplained God or an unexplained set of physical laws, maybe even a huge ensemble of unseen universes, too. For that reason, both monotheistic religion and orthodox science fail to provide a complete account of physical existence.”Religious apologists love such situations – someone of standing in science putting religion on the same level as science and asserting that science, just like religion, is, in the end, dependent on faith.

Inevitably this article will be wheeled out to support religion and this has already happened on a few blogs (eg. DavidUsher, conservative colloquium and Creedal Christian) However, I am interested to see there has been a much bigger reaction from pro-science writers who feel Davis is misrepresenting science (See for example The Edge Reality Club discussion).

I agree the article does misrepresent science and is confused. At the same time, however, it does conclude that “physical laws” are part of the universe and not imposed from outside as religious believers assume. He also suggests the origins of these laws can be revealed by research – which surely removes any justification for claiming science to be “faith-based.”

What do we mean by “faith?”

The religious use of the term is different of the scientific or even everyday use. In the religious use “faith” implies acceptance of ideas without relying on supporting evidence, without evidence, without evidence or even against the evidence. A “believer” has faith that their god exists, or that their scriptures are true. This is such an essential part of religion that adherents of ten refer to specific religions as “faiths.”

When used in a scientific sense, however, faith is based on evidence. We have “faith” the sun will rise tomorrow morning or that energy and matter will be conserved in the reaction we are studying. This is because of past experience, observation and knowledge (theory) incorporating that experience. Sometimes that “faith” proves to be unwarranted. An outcome is different to our prediction. Then we have to revise our knowledge, incorporate the new knowledge into our theory and revise our “faith”. Science progresses by continually testing our ideas and revising our theories. Faith, in the religious sense, is and should be excluded from scientific inquiry.

Does the scientific method start with assumptions?

Of course we often use existing scientific theories without personally confirming them. We have entrusted that to others and, in a sense, we assume them to be true. Our findings may, of course, give use reason to question those theories and we can do so.

To me the only real basic assumption scientific inquiry starts with is that the universe has its own logic and order and that this is, in principle, knowable. This seems reasonable. After all, no inquiry would even be possible if this weren’t true. What is more, this assumption is, in effect, tested every time we investigate our surroundings, the natural world or the universe.

Revealing the source of order in the universe

Davies describes the “laws of physics” as being the basic assumption in science. In a sense, these laws are man-made. We describe the basic properties and order of the universe in such laws. Davies’ statement that “the laws should have an explanation from within the universe and not involving appealing to an external agency” is a statement about the basic properties of matter. Its objective existence, and its ability to interact and be understood, to be knowable. I think this is what we mean by when we say the universe has its own logic and order and is, in principle, knowable.

I agree with Davies’ suggestion that science may be able to understand, or explain, why matter has these properties, why the universe is the way it is. It’s obviously not a simple problem and we may not reach this understanding in the near future. However, I think the current situation in scientific discovery shows promise. It’s interesting that we are seeing a merging of particle physics with cosmology. The study of the fundamental nature of matter and the origins of matter itself is coming together. This suggests possibilities of researching and explaining these most fundamental of questions.

Inevitably at such an important juncture philosophical questions become important. Human philosophy also becomes involved in the investigations. However, I can’t see that religion, with the reliance on faith divorced from evidence, can have any value here.

See Also:
Faith is not a prerequisite for science
Questions I have for Paul Davies after reading his NYT op-ed.
Faith
The Romeos Wore a Perfect Wave
Taking Science on Faith
Taking Science on Faith
Paul Davies: Taking science on faith
Paul Davies undermines inteligent design

Related Articles:
Miracles and the supernatural?
Can science enrich faith?
Limits of science or religious “fog”?
Debating science and religion
Questions science cannot answer?
Humility of science and the arrogance of religion
Science and the supernatural
The Enemies of Reason
Morals, values and the limits of science
Most ideas in science are wrong!


154 responses to “Does science involve faith?

  1. I used Davies article to make a point about my beliefs about faith and reason, but I did not claim at all that the article supports my view with regard to religion. I praised Davies for being honest with himself with regard to the inescapable relationship between science and faith.

    Now you may want to define faith as “acceptance of ideas without relying on supporting evidence, without evidence, without evidence or even against the evidence.” But then you only raise the further epistemic question of “what is or what counts as evidence?” Also, according to your definition, any and all assumptions must be considered as tenets of faith. For what are assumptions if not ideas accepted without evidence?! Thus scientific assumptions must be considered the “faith of science” according to your own definition. And therefore, your distinction between “religious faith” and “scientific faith” or between “faith” and “assumptions” falls apart and is useless. They are all the same thing.

    Furthermore, no Christian with an appreciation for rationality as a gift from God (indeed, perhaps the most divine part of human beings) can accept your definition as applying to his faith. I cannot speak for other religions, but the Christian faith is NOT the acceptance of an idea “without evidence.” We consider the credible testimony of witnesses to miracles, suspensions of the usual physical laws, as evidence. If it were not for this evidence, we would NOT believe. There is no reason to believe in a deity that has/does not actually and definitively reveal himself. And, being open-minded, how else would a deity reveal himself except by miracles?!
    Thus, additionally, when the atheist starts off by dogmatically denying the occurrence and possible occurrence of miracles, this is equivalent to dogmatically assuming that God does not exist. The fact that you yourself and many others have not witnessed the suspension of a physical law is no proof that God does not exist. Your denial that God exists merely proves that you have freely chosen to reject the testimony of those who claim that they have seen such suspensions.

    Obviously, very few of us have personally witnessed a miracle. So at bottom, faith can be conceived of as a careful and rational examination of the credibility of witnesses AND as a body of fundamental assumptions that almost all people take for granted and that are quite impossible to physically observe. This idea of faith as belief in the credibility of testimony is nothing foreign to secular epistemology, in which many philsophers have come to recognize that knowledge cannot be defined and obtained without trust or an investigation into the credibility of testimony. (See http://www.jstor.org/view/0022362x/di973307/97p0471o/0) Much of the knowledge of science in general is grounded in faith in others’ testimony.

    Therefore, if one is persuaded and accepts what I have said thus far, the next logical step in knowing whether God exists or not is to investigate the credibility of the witnesses to the alleged miracles of Christianity. (Just to remind, I have already explained above why assuming miracles cannot occur and then using this as reason to reject testimony to the miracluous is prejudging the issue of whether God exists. The existence of God and the existence of miracles go hand in hand. Thus to REALLY have an open and fair mind, one cannot reject God on the on the presumed basis that miracles are impossible.) But the investigation into the witnesses of the Bible is better left for another discussion.

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  2. Foospro86,

    I hear your passion, but I (as a Christian) am uncomfortable with your thinking on ‘miracles’.
    You say, We consider the credible testimony of witnesses to miracles, suspensions of the usual physical laws, as evidence. If it were not for this evidence, we would NOT believe.
    I do believe in ‘miracles’, but I reject the natural-supernatural divide/distinction. A ‘miracle’ is not (at least doesn’t have to be anyway) a ‘suspension’ of ‘natural law’. It is a non-normative event which our current understanding of things can’t handle. Or, as N.T. Wright would say, it is a time when the Creator God is not only present in the world (as He is always), but powerfully active within it… This, frankly, doesn’t make God ‘smaller’ or more ‘containable’, but I think does precisely the opposite. He is Lord of ALL.
    Even though I believe in the (for want of a better term) special revelation of ‘miracles’, I think it’s a mistake to say that they are necessary for belief. Is God not revealed in Creation? The Apostle Paul seemed to think so.

    I do agree, however, that some atheists are simplistic or circular if and when they reason like –> “Well, we know a priori that miracles don’t happen. We know precisely how the world works in every way, and nothing inconsistent with our knowledge ever happens – ever. Therefore, God doesn’t exist.”

    So I agree with you in principle, but I think the way we use certain words is very important. And no, that’s not to try to slide around and hide behind confusing definitions, but rather an attempt to truly understand not only the world we live in, but also understand each other…

    Cheers,

    -d-

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  3. Hi Dale,

    I understand where you are coming from. God is Lord of all, and thus the regular occurrence of natural physical laws and the suspension of them, so-called “miracles,” both come from him in a way that makes the distinction between natural and supernatural irrelevant, if not false. So, I agree with you.

    But remember who my previous comments were for: non-believers. I did choose my words carefully because I chose them for a particular audience. Your comments, which I agree with, already assume the existence of God. So for the purposes of talking with non-believers or of doing philosophy, I take on a purely rationalist perspective (which I am doing right now as I type). And the fact of the matter is that Reason can demonstrate its own limits, its need for assumptions, for faith.

    Also, even C. S. Lewis in his book Miracles (fantastic!) sees the utility in separating out the natural and supernatural in order to defend the philosophical basis for the possibility of miracles. Even though Lewis too, as I do, surely believes that the natural and supernatural are just two different actions/states/beings by the one and same Nature that obeys the one and only God. It just so happens that God is the God of Order and has established certain laws of nature that he does not suspend very often.

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  4. All this talk of a god, non-believers, atheist assertions, etc., really has no value. The question was does science rely on “faith.” The implicit assumption I described (“the universe has its own logic and order and that this is, in principle, knowable.”) is held by anyone who wished to make a rational, scientific investigation of reality – whatever their religious beliefs.

    It’s a very credible assumption, reinforced every time we investigate something. So credible that today when we find something that seems beyond this sort of investigation we say “we don’t know”, “we haven’t been able to discover the reasons,” “we aren’t yet capable of doing the relevant experiments” and so on. No credible investigator ever says today “this part of nature has no order, it’s impossible to discover how it works”.

    In the past when people were prepared to easily give up on this assumption (see Isaac Newton and intelligent design for an example) it was a science stopper – it prevented advancement of knowledge.

    I personally feel that the claim that part of reality does not fulfill this assumption is actually very arrogant.

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  5. I actually agree with you Ken – as you may already suspect…

    My view is that God didn’t create the universe only to be seen fully or understood by ‘believers’… We ALL see the order.

    So yes, when talking about strange events, miracles or things we can’t explain or fully understand, we need not divide humans into ‘believers’ and ‘non-believers’… We all ‘believe’ in reality as we know it!!! Sometimes our belief needs to be corrected, however – and this is an on-going thing for ALL of us…

    Many Christians want to keep some things (miracles) as being only explicable by God. I understand the desire to do this, but I’m concerned that this makes God only a God of the un-explainable. I happen to think God is the god of the ‘explainable’ as well!

    Funny thing is, when we ask the ultimate questions of origin, etc. – we ALL realise that it’s ALL not as ‘explainable’ as we may think. This is not some attempt to down-grade science – please. Let’s do it and do it well.

    -d-

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  6. Thanks for a fascinating posting.

    I wholeheartedly agree with you: the proposition “the universe has its own logic and order and that this is, in principle, knowable” is, indeed, a very credible assumption. In fact, I think it would be insane to deny it!

    But that proposition cannot be proven true. For the only evidence we can cite to do so relies upon the truth of the very proposition we are purporting to verify, and is thus an instance of begging the question. We can’t “get behind” our working assumptions (or first principles, or basic beliefs). Hence, the need for working assumptions, first principles, or basic beliefs in any form of inquiry – religious, philosopical scientific, or whatever – which must be taken on faith, i.e., we trust that this is the way things in fact are. And we are acting rationally when we do so. Because, as you rightly point out, “no inquiry would even be possible if this weren’t true.”

    In the debates between science and religion (many of which I think are misplaced), I think we too often restrict the meaning of “faith” to a narrowly defined understanding of “religion” as “blind faith,” i.e., something which is divorced from the realities of everyday living (which are open to public scrutiny).

    By contrast, I think that the 20th Century religious thinker and social theorist H. Richard Niebuhr does a much better job of describing faith as a genuinely and universally human phenomenon with implicitly religious dimensions.

    Niebuhr defined faith as “the attitude and action of confidence in, and fidelity to, certain realities as the source of value and the objects of loyalty” [Radical Monotheism and Western Culture (Westminster/John Knox Press, 1960), p. 16]. And in an earlier work, here’s what Niebuhr wrote about faith so defined:

    “As long as a man lives he must believe in something for the sake of which he lives; without belief in something that makes life worth living man cannot exist. If, as Tolstoi points out in his Confession, man does not see the temporality and futility of the finite he will believe in the finite as worth living for; if he can no longer have faith in the value of the finite he will believe in the infinite or else die. Man as a practical, living being never exists without a god or gods; some things there are to which he must cling as the sources and goals of his activity, the centers of value. As a rule men are polytheists, referring now to this and now to that valued being as the source of life’s meaning. Sometimes they live for Jesus’ God, sometimes for country and sometimes for Yale. [And I think Niebuhr would agree that we could add that others live for the pursuit of scientific inquiry.] For the most part they make gods out of themselves or out of the work of their own hands, living for their own glory as persons and as communities. In any case the faith that life is worth living and the definite reference of life’s meaning to specific beings or values is as inescapable a part of human existence as the activity of reason. It is no less true that man is a believing animal in this sense than the he is a rational animal. Without such faith men might exist, but not as selves. Being selves they as surely have something for which to live as selves as being rational they have objects to understand” [The Meaning of Revelation (MacMillan, 1941), pp. 77-78].

    For Niebuhr, then, the question “Does science rely on faith?” is not the most basic question. The most basic question is: “Does living as a human being in the world rely on faith?” His answer is “yes,” because for Niebuhr, faith is not merely a religious phenomenon – it is a human phenomenon which has religious impliciations.

    Here’s another way to put it:

    “For Niebuhr, the theological question is not ‘Does a god exist?’ or ‘Ought there to be a god?’ but ‘What being or beings have the value of deity?'” [Victor Anderson, Pragmatic Theology: Negotiating the Intersections of an American Philosophy of Religion and Public Theology (SUNY, 1998), p. 87].

    From Niebuhr’s perspective, whatever serves as the center(s) of value for my life – whether it’s Jesus Christ, Guinness stout, scientific method, a significant other, Marxism, capitalism, etc. – this (or some combination of these) are my “gods” and thus give expression to my faith.

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  7. Bryan+, you accept the basic assumption of scientific and rational investigation of reality as “a very credible assumption. In fact, I think it would be insane to deny it!” Contrast that with religious “faith.” The assertions of these are often doubted by their strongest adherents (e.g Mother Teresa) and require mental gymnastics and the foggy and circular arguments of theology to justify.

    We can divide up the world (and individual societies) according to the “faith” held be adherents in one or other religious claim, and these adherents will take up arms to promote their own belief, or counter another belief. But we don’t do that with scientific knowledge. Our basic assumption about reality enables us to produce ideas which are accepted by everyone. And we don’t go to war over these ideas – accepting that further investigation is the way to solve differences.

    Indeed, our basic assumptions about reality are not beyond understanding – the very point made by Davies. We are getting to a stage where we can seriously contemplate answering questions about why matter and reality has the properties they have, and that we currently assume. In contrast religious claims based on faith, and the circular arguments of theology, rule themselves out of this sort of investigation and understanding.

    I see the attempt to equate basic scientific assumptions with religious faith as a way of covering up the real nature of this faith, of attempting to get a free ride on the deserved respect science has earned for its methodology.

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  8. With all due respect Ken, I think you’ve avoided the point made by Niebuhr’s definition of “faith” by too narrowly defining “faith” in terms of the intellectual acceptance of certain propositions. Using my previous comments and expanding them, I discuss Niebuhr’s insights on faith further on my blog under the posting entitled “The Universality of Faith.”

    I think there’s a big difference between explicitly religious faith and faith as defined in broad terms by Niebuhr. I see your point about certain expliclity religious beliefs, but disagree insofar as (under the influence of Niebuhr) I think it’s perfectly legitimate to speak of “the faith of science” – particularly its faith that nature is ordered in a rational and intelligible way.

    My beef with some (not all) scientists and many (not all) religious persons is that they too narrowly circumscribe the nature and meaning of faith. I see Niebuhr’s work as a corrective to that.

    I think it’s quite possible that many (not all) of the debates between science and religion come down to semantics and different definitions of terms. And so we talk past each other, and our sense of frustration tempts us to think that the perspective of the other is hostile towards what I believe or hold to be true.

    As an Episcopal Christian grounded in the Anglican tradition, the last thing I want to do is pit science and religion against each other. My tradition is a science-friendly tradition (and, in fact, our Presiding Bishop is a scientist). I see science and religion as often complementary if very different ways of investigating and interpreting the world of experience. And I’m rather proud of the fact that not only Isaac Newton, but Charles Darwin is buried in church – at Westminster Abbey in the Church of England (I’m not sure my Southern Baptist friends would share my feelings about that!).

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  9. My dictionary definition of faith: “Strong or unshakable belief in something especially without proof”

    Bryan+ you may want to widen that definition, I don’t. Specifically I believe a wider definition is used by those who either oppose science or wish to use the authority of science to claim support for their own superstitious or supernatural beliefs based on faith.

    Anyone is entitled to use faith to support their ideas but I think they should admit that and not try to use “science” to support these ideas.

    On the other hand the reputation and power of scientific method relies on evidence and reason. Importation of “faith” would destroy that (and would be a return to pre-enlightenment days).

    It’s not a matter of pitting religion & science against each other (differences and disagreements are inevitable though) but of being honest about the nature of science. I don’t think Niebuhr is precisely because he confuses the nature of science by attempting to incorporate it into his wider, and (purposely) confusing, definition of “faith.”

    The concern about Davies’ article is the way he also uses “faith” loosely. However, it should be clear from his last section that his understanding about the logic and order of the universe, and the possibility of one day understanding why this is so, is quite different to religious faith.

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  10. Yes, the term ‘faith’ is too overlapping. Technically, I have faith that my chair won’t break when I sit on it but this is really just economic reasoning. I have sat on many many chairs and can only remember one of them breaking. In effect, I’ve tested the proposition that it’s unlikely for a chair to break. This shouldn’t really be called faith but unfortunately we do.

    With the scientific method we have made the proposition that the universe is observable and logical. We have tested this proposition and, so far, it’s worked really, really well. If the universe were not a logical place can you imagine a single experiment that would ever show consistent results? This shouldn’t really be called faith either because we are making reasonable assumptions based on previous tests.

    With regard to miracles written about in an old book, real faith is required to believe in this proposition. We have never observed it ourselves and we have heard of many examples of miracles that we think are just plain silly but for some reason, against all reason, we believe in these particular miracles. Real faith is not compatible with testing. It’s not compatible with reason. If it were it would be called ‘reasonable assumption’.

    At the end of the day the confusion is really just down to good old semantics.

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  11. The Gay Scientist

    “Real faith is not compatible with testing. It’s not compatible with reason.”

    Actually, Damian, there are four possible models for the relationship between faith and reason:

    (1) the conflict model
    (2) the incompatibilist model
    (3) the weak compatibilist model
    (4) the strong compatiblist model

    (Read more here: http://www.iep.utm.edu/f/faith-re.htm).

    Seems to me that you and Ken have adopted the first model – which, BTW, is also the one favored by Christian fundamentalists.

    Strange bedfellows, indeed!

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  12. Very interesting. I’ve never come across this before. I guess the first thing to do would be to define what we mean by faith. My definition, in the religious context, would be Hebrews 11’s “the conviction of things not seen” or Webster’s “The assent of the mind to the statement or proposition of another, on the ground of the manifest truth of what he utters”.

    What is yours?

    By the way, I’ve recently set up a forum to further explore topics like this if you would rather discuss it there.

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  13. I appreciate the distinctions in these 4 models brought to our attention by “The Gay Scientist.” I think those models provide yet more evidence for the assertion that faith – and its relationship to reason – is a more complex phenomenonon than mere dictionary definitions may allow for.

    Thanks for setting up a forum to discuss this, Damian. I may post some thoughts over there, but for now I’d like to again draw on H. Richard Niebuhr.

    Here’s what an Assistant Professor of Christian Ethics at Vanderbilt University says about Niebuhr’s conception of faith:

    “Like [John] Dewey, Niebuhr also understood faith as the human abode in which value and being cohere in a unity of experience. Faith points to the universal in human experience. Niebuhr writes: ‘[Faith is a] fundamental personal attitude which, whether we call it faith or give it some other name, is apparently universal and general enough to be widely recognized” [The Responsible Self (Harper & Row, 1960), p. 16]. It is ‘the attitude and action of confidence in, and fidelity to, certain realities as the sources of value and the objects of loyalty’ [ibid.]. Faith exhibits a dupliclity in Niebuhr’s analysis. Both passive and active aspects are present. Passively, faith is the confidence and trust that give value to the self. Actively, faith points to the value toward which the self is directed. Thus, in Niebuhr’s analysis, trust is the passive side of faith and loyalty is the active.”

    – Victor Anderson, Pragmatic Theology: Negotiating the Intersections of an American Philosophy of Religion and Public Theology (SUNY, 1998), p. 89.

    (I note that an outstanding explication of the active side of faith may be found in the American philosopher Josiah Royce’s book The Philosophy of Loyalty, originally published in 1908 and reissued in paperback by Vanderbilt University Press in 1995.]

    Niebuhr’s analysis goes to a level deeper than definitions or models of faith that correlate it with beliefs that can be put in propositional form. Before we even get to that level, faith is more fundamentally an attitude, a basic posture towards the world and others. And, as Niebuhr points out, in its active form, that attitude or posture may take the form of faith as trust or faith as distrust. If I do not trust that the world makes sense, for example, I am not likely to engage in scientific research. Likewise, if I don’t trust there is any meaning, purpose, or value to my life, I may consider suicide.

    What or who do I trust? To what person(s) or cause(s) am I loyal?

    How persons answer these questions tells them the object(s) and the content of their faith.

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  14. See what happens – drag in “faith” and you end up with confusion.

    Humanity has been extremely successful at investigating and understanding reality using scientific method. This doesn’t rely on “faith”, although there is a basic underlying assumption about the order, ability to interact and potentially of understanding reality. Davies was discussing this and used (I believe inappropriately) the word “faith” to describe the assumption. However, his context made clear that this “faith”/assumption was very different from religious faith as he was actually suggesting that we will be able to understand why reality is like this, using the scientific method of inquiry.

    Now we can understand this assumption and science produces very powerful and clear pictures of reality. The religious “faith” does not.

    Dragging “faith” into rational investigation seems to me just a way of fogging the issue, dragging the wool over one’s eyes, and ending up with confusion – quite the opposite of the scientific approach.

    Fortunately, those who are really attempting to understand reality so that we can have more comfortable, productive and meaningful lives just get on with their investigations. Circular arguments about “faith” would just be wasting their time.

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  15. Could I suggest, Ken, that sometimes things aren’t being maliciously or intentionally ‘clouded’, and sometimes people might not be trying to ‘drag the wool’, etc… Sometimes things just aren’t so simple. Like maybe –just maybe– the huge chasm between the assumption about the intelligibility of the cosmos and ‘religious faith’ (one of your favourite phrases) isn’t so huge… Maybe –just maybe– things are a little bit more complex?

    -d-

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  16. I haven’t suggested anything malicious or intentional. However, it seems to be part of our nature that we want to make some things more complicated, more diffuse, more unknowable, than they really are.

    That in itself is surely worthy of investigation. I am fascinated by the fact that religious “faith” is persistent, as are many other forms of pre-rational and superstitious ideas. I think we often get sidetracked by considering these as just differences of interpretations about reality (I don’t think any of these can really compete with modern scientific methodology in this).

    I personally think investigation of such thinking (as well as the attempts to cloud scientific thinking by labeling it as “faith”) should, to be fruitful, be an investigation of history, sociology and psychology, rather than supplanting evidence by “authority” in our attempts to understand reality.

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  17. The Gay Scientist

    Ken wrote:

    “Dragging ‘faith’ into rational investigation seems to me just a way of fogging the issue, dragging the wool over one’s eyes, and ending up with confusion – quite the opposite of the scientific approach.

    “Fortunately, those who are really attempting to understand reality so that we can have more comfortable, productive and meaningful lives just get on with their investigations. Circular arguments about ‘faith’ would just be wasting their time.”

    This is not objective, value-neutral science. On the contrary, this is about as value-laden and prejudicial as it gets. And thus, to speak in this way, is to no longer speak as a scientist but as a kind of moralist – an anti-religious moralist, i.e., someone who puts his/her ultimate faith in the notion that religion is bad and seeks to persuade others to adopt the same position (a kind of evangelism of sorts, really, albeit without the Bible thumping).

    On the other hand, this is a very clever strategy: ignore or dismiss out of hand other perspectives by defining “faith” as necessarily bunk, and then you don’t have to take any claims about faith seriously because it is apriori … well, bunk. And thus not the sort of thing that we who are REALLY attempting to understand reality without wasting anybody’s time would dare touch with a ten-foot pole.

    A very clever strategy, indeed!

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  18. Gay Scientist, I haven’t yet received your definition of faith yet so I’m not exactly sure where you stand but going by your previous post I’m taking it that you’d define it differently from my definition above?

    Along with your definition, can you give any examples where faith has been of any use for making testable observations of the natural world? (And I realise that science often uses assumptions as a starting point but they are quickly followed up with experimentation and I don’t consider this the same as the conventional meaning of the word ‘faith’).

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  19. The Gay Scientist

    My definition of faith? Well, as interesting as I find the whole “science and religion” and “faith and reason” bit (which is why I shared the 4 models in a comment above), I personally try to keep it simple. For me, faith is believing that it’s worth getting out of bed in the morning, that there’s value and purpose to my life and to my work. I don’t see anything particularly “religious” about this way of looking at faith, however, and so I am bit puzzled as to why all the fuss about banishing the term “faith” from having any contact with science at all.

    On the other hand, I can’t “prove” the value and meaning of my life and work by appealing to science alone (I’m no Einstein or Heisenberg, just someone trying to make a living). So, speaking at this personal level, there’s a part of me that’s a wee bit envious of the religious persons I know who find grounds for the meaning and value of their life in something or someone beyond themselves, perhaps even beyond nature or the universe as we understand these things from a strictly scientific p.o.v.

    I’m not sure about an answer to your second question, at least in the way you’ve worded it. But if I think about how I personally use the word faith, and I think about scientists like Isaac Newton or Stephen Hawking, or a mathematician like John Forbes Nash (the movie “A Beautiful Mind” is about him) – and I’ve read that all of these people had/have depressive mood disorders – then I think it reasonable to say that in a non-theological or non-religious sense, what keeps them going is some kind of faith in the meaning and value of their lives. But there’s no reason to bring God into that equation.

    But then, of course, there are scientists who explicitly believed in God, such as: Nicholas Copernicus, Francis Bacon, Johannes Kepler, Galileo Galilei, Rene Descartes, Isaac Newton (again), Robert Boyle, Michael Faraday, Gregor Mendel, William Thomson Kelvin, Max Planck, and Albert Einstein. I’m reasonably confident that many Christians would not accept what these men actually believed about God as sufficiently “orthodox.” But the fact that people far smarter than I did believe in God (whether as a personal or an impersonal being) gives me some pause when I feel the need to defend science against the more shrill attacks of some religious persons.

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  20. Actually, Gay Scientist, the “god” that Einstein believed in is quite acceptable to me (and to Richard Dawkins). He used the term to describe the order and logic in reality and was quite explicit in rejecting any conventional concept of a “god’. In fact in the 40s when he made his comments on religion, religious leaders called for him to “go back home” they were so hostile.

    “I am bit puzzled as to why all the fuss about banishing the term “faith” from having any contact with science at all.” This is surely easy to understand. Modern science relies on evidence and reason, not on the “authority of faith” which was an attitude of the ancients (and many people outside science today). Consequently humanity really has no interest in importing faith into scientific investigations – this has proved so unreliable in the past and the success of modern science relies on its exclusion. We only have to look at the Lysenko affair in the USSR to see what effect importation of ideological or faith-based approaches has on science.

    Everyone, of course, is entitled to have any belief they want and to base these on “faith”. Many working scientists do have such religious faith-based beliefs (and many don’t). But no working scientist can credibly use such beliefs in their scientific investigations for, by their very nature, they stop science. They provide the “answers” which aren’t really answers.

    Consider. Would you fly on a plane that had been developed and built using “faith” explanations, rather than those derived from the normal workings of scientific investigation?

    I am not trying to ridicule the “faith” beliefs of individuals (or the philosophical or ideological beliefs of the non-religious person). I am saying they should be kept in their place. Importation of “faith” (whether religious, ideological or philosophical) into science only undermines it and prevents real understanding of reality. That is why it is important to understand the use of the term “faith” by Davies was quite inappropriate in its context and should not be interpreted as legitimising a “faith”-based approach in investigating reality.

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  21. Ken,

    It sounds as though you’re reacting to things that don’t exist. Like imaginary people who think like: “Well, my rational thought processes tell me that the placement of the bolt for this airplane wing should go ‘here’, but because I’m a Christian who believes in a literal interpretation of the 6-‘day’ creation story in the divinely written scientific creation handbook – the Bible, I’m going to now conclude that the wing doesn’t need any bolts. Yeah, that’s it.”

    I’m being cheeky, but your language of ‘importing faith into science’ smacks of this a bit…

    And, for crying out loud, it is NOT silly at all to liken the theists assumption of an Orderer of the Cosmos to the Scientists assumption of a consistent and testable universe…

    And none of what I’ve said here is in the least way ‘anti-science’…

    -d-

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  22. You might be being “cheeky” and the situation as you describe it is ridiculous. But isn’t that exactly what Philip Johnson, the Discovery Institute, ID are attempting in science (and society)? To replace the naturalist methodology (involving the real nuts and bolts) with a scriptural, supernatural, explanation divorced from the nuts and bolts. We wouldn’t accept this with airplanes because of the obvious and immediate consequences. Nor should we accept it in biology because there are (perhaps not so immediate) consequences which could be really catastrophic (inability to fight disease for example). And the really underlying importance of this to me is that we can never reach any real understanding of reality that way.

    Many Christians may be happy with an assumption of an “orderer of the cosmos” without imposing this as an explanation. I suspect almost all working scientists who are also Christians do operate this way. That mindset seems to be inevitable for a Christian who is also a working scientist (they couldn’t really do their science otherwise). I have absolutely no problem with this and have worked happily alongside scientists with that philosophical outlook. They have also, I believed, worked happily alongside me and other non-theists who don’t make that (theist)assumption (but have an equivalent one about the order and understandability of reality).

    So, no practical problems for me there (although, of course, room for interesting philosophical discussion).

    What I object to is the attempt to impose religious, ideological, philosophical beliefs as explanations. That is where you depart from a naturalist approach. The Stalinist leadership in the USSR did this in their opposition to genetics and promotion of Lysenko, The Maoist Chinese leaders did this in the philosophical justification for the discovery of the structure of insulin by their scientists. Most Muslims and a large section of Christians are doing this with their opposition to discoveries in biology and consciousness, and their attempts to prevent teaching of science.

    Now, I know many (perhaps most, in NZ at least) Christians actually support the naturalism of scientific investigation and the basic assumption you describes helps this. But there is a cultural war going on within Christianity (not within science) on these very questions. Attacks on evolutionary theory are just one component. The attempts to present science as “faith”-based is, I believe, in essence aimed at discrediting science, bringing it down to the level of superstition and religion or, on the other hand, elevating supernatural explanations to the level of scientific ones.

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  23. Pingback: From Around the Net « Café Philos: an internet café

  24. Ken, first, past experience of certain physical laws tell us nothing about tomorrow. It can’t. You can never know… To assume otherwise is an act of faith

    Second, can science tell us what created the universe? If you assume a physical cause – you do it on faith without evidence.

    Thrid, the universe is evidence for God. A rational God created a ordered and intelligble universe. And created rational beings that can understand and interact with said universe. I’m sorry that just makes more sense than saying that a non-intelligent force created a fine tuned universe, and a universe fine tuned for biological life. Than then created the biological life that it was tuned for…

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  25. James said…”Thrid, the universe is evidence for God. A rational God created a ordered and intelligble universe.”

    …”Thrid, the universe is evidence for the flying Spaghetti Monster. A rational Flying Spaghetti created a ordered and intelligble universe.

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  26. …”Thrid, the universe is evidence for the flying Spaghetti Monster. A rational Flying Spaghetti created a ordered and intelligble universe.

    Well Cedric it would be more plausible and rational to believe that an intelligent FSM created a fined tuned universe, a universe tuned for biological life, then created the biological life to inhabit said universe, than to believe that some mysterious non-intelligent, blind force did it all… But every man has his faith…

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  27. Jame said…”Well Cedric it would be more plausible and rational to believe that an intelligent FSM created a fined tuned universe”

    Why?
    Why is it more plausible and rational?

    How do you actually know that the universe is “fine-tuned”?

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  28. Why? Why is it more plausible and rational?

    Well if you can offer a natural reason why this universe was created in such a manner, feel free. And then tell us why it is plausible to believe a natural, non-intelligent force could do such a thing.

    How do you actually know that the universe is “fine-tuned”?

    I already answer this…

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  29. James said…”Well if you can offer a natural reason why this universe was created in such a manner, feel free.”

    That’s not an answer.
    🙂

    James said…”I already answer this…”

    Um, no you didn’t.
    You’re just assuming it.
    Why do you believe that the universe is “fine-tuned”?

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  30. That’s not an answer?

    Then enlighten us all Cedric. Why is the univsese here, and why is it as it is?

    Why do you believe that the universe is “fine-tuned”?

    Because I exist… How could I exist without a universe and echo system that supports life? And again, because I don’t believe men like Paul Davies are lying… Do you?

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  31. Jame said…”Then enlighten us all Cedric. Why is the univsese here, and why is it as it is?”

    James?
    Re-read what I wrote.
    Your reply is still not an answer.

    James said…”Because I exist…”

    So? How do you get “fine-tuning” out of that?
    Voltaire, remember?

    “I don’t believe men like Paul Davies are lying…”

    Your belief that Paul Davies is not lying is…wonderful, I suppose.
    Good luck with that.
    I don’t really care.
    As an argument, it kinda dumb though.
    (shrug)

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  32. Your reply is still not an answer.

    Of course it is. If you think it is more plausible be “believe” that nature “did it” tell us why and how.

    So? How do you get “fine-tuning” out of that? Voltaire, remember?

    Because I see order in nature and in the heavens. The sun comes up every morning, rain makes our crops grow, weather is fairly predictable, etc…

    And yes I do remember Voltaire, but he said a lo,t perhaps you can enlighten us once again – what are you taking about?

    Your belief that Paul Davies is not lying is…wonderful, I suppose.
    Good luck with that.
    I don’t really care.
    As an argument, it kinda dumb though.

    Ok so quoting scientists is dumb. I’ll remember that in the future.

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  33. “Thrid, the universe is evidence for God. A rational God created a ordered and intelligble universe.”

    Let´s follow this “logic” some more, shall we?

    Fourth, the existence of god is evidence for the Devil. A rational Devil created a ordered and intelligible god.

    Fifth, the existence of the Devil is evidence for a pink unicorn. A rational pink unicorn created a ordered and intelligible Devil.

    Sixth, the existence….

    A nice stack of turtles we have here.

    Or to put it another way: the “conclusion” from the existence of the universe to a god as its cause without any corroborating evidence whatsoever is totally arbitrary and just as valid (or invalid) as the conclusion of a meta-god from the existence of god.

    Moreover, like so many theistic “explanations”, it runs into the problem of an infinite regress vs. termination of the chain of justifications via recourse to a dogma.

    “Because I exist… How could I exist without a universe and echo system that supports life?”

    So the universe is not only life-tuned, but James-tuned! Your god must really love you to set this whole shebang in motion just for the benefit of your existence…

    OTOH, 99,9999% of the known universe is vacuum. So maybe the universe is fine-tuned for vacuum?

    Or how about this: the number of stars in the known universe is several orders of magnitude larger than those of humans. So should we conclude that the universe is fine-tuned to produce stars?

    Hmm, but what about the fact that the absolute number as well as the combined weight of the biomass of bacteria vastly exceeds those of humans? Would it not be logical to conclude that the universe was made just for them, while humans are an accidental surplus?

    But then, this would not flatter our vanity and sense of importance, so I guess we rule it out…

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  34. Iapetus – I was going to make a similar point about cockroaches: here before us & quite likely to outlast us as well. Future cockroaches could view the universe as created for them… 😉

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  35. Or to put it another way: the “conclusion” from the existence of the universe to a god as its cause without any corroborating evidence whatsoever is totally arbitrary and just as valid (or invalid) as the conclusion of a meta-god from the existence of god.

    Well Iapetus, you have two choices for what created the universe – a non-intelligent force or an intelligent force. Where is the observed evidence that a non-intelligent force did or could created this “finely tuned” universe?

    Moreover, like so many theistic “explanations”, it runs into the problem of an infinite regress vs. termination of the chain of justifications via recourse to a dogma.

    Well dogma at least would be rational. I don’t see how infinte regress would be logical, and that is what you are left with with a multiverse explaination.

    So the universe is not only life-tuned, but James-tuned! Your god must really love you to set this whole shebang in motion just for the benefit of your existence…

    And your existence Iapetus. The fact is if the universe and the earth did not have these properties life would be impossible.

    “We have a lot of really, really strange coincidences, and all of these coincidences are such that they make life possible,” Linde says.

    Life, it seems, is not an incidental component of the universe, burped up out of a random chemical brew on a lonely planet to endure for a few fleeting ticks of the cosmic clock. In some strange sense, it appears that we are not adapted to the universe; the universe is adapted to us.

    The “strong” anthropic principle makes a much bolder statement. It asserts that the laws of physics themselves are biased toward life. To quote Freeman Dyson, a renowned physicist at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, the strong anthropic principle implies that “the universe knew we were coming.”

    “If there is only one universe,” Carr says, “you might have to have a fine-tuner. If you don’t want God, you’d better have a multiverse.”

    http://discovermagazine.com/2008/dec/10-sciences-alternative-to-an-intelligent-creator/article_view?b_start:int=0&-C=

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  36. Hmm, but what about the fact that the absolute number as well as the combined weight of the biomass of bacteria vastly exceeds those of humans? Would it not be logical to conclude that the universe was made just for them, while humans are an accidental surplus?

    Yes, and we kill bacteria by the truck load. I guess human beings are just as worthless. But it is beside the point. Any biological life would need a universe so tuned.

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  37. James, you talk blithely about fine tuning, wave your hands around and tap dance. But in the single case we have looked at (cosmological constant) you have been shown to be wrong – relying on distortions by the Christian Apologists Ross and Craig. You have unsuccessfully attempted to get responses from them – when the obvious thing is to check with the experts.

    Have you put any effort into checking the facts about the cosmological constant via Krauss or Carroll?

    If not – on what basis can you claim any intellectual honesty in your “fine tuning” tap dance?

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  38. “Well Iapetus, you have two choices for what created the universe – a non-intelligent force or an intelligent force. Where is the observed evidence that a non-intelligent force did or could created this “finely tuned” universe?”

    If you would bother to read at least your own links, let alone serious scientific literature, with an honest and open mind instead of just parsing them for quote-mines in support of your preconceived conclusion, you might realize that scientific experiments in the fields of cosmology and particle physics are currently planned and/or performed that could corroborate the validity of the multiverse theory.

    Until we have more evidence, the only sensible position is to remain agnostic regarding the origin of the universe. Do you know what that means? It means that claiming your god as creator of the universe is pulled from thin air and thus totally arbitrary.I can just as well postulate a meta-god as creator of your preferred deity and so forth ad infinitum or alternatively a committee of ten creator gods working together to bring about the universe.

    “Well dogma at least would be rational. I don’t see how infinte regress would be logical, and that is what you are left with with a multiverse explaination.”

    A dogma is rational???

    It seems that the arbitrary termination of the chain of justifications at this point is so deeply ingrained in your reasoning process that its absurdity escapes you, probably because you are so awe-struck by a certain three-letter word that any further questions become utterly unthinkable.

    Maybe if you replace the term “god” in your explanations with “Snoopy”, you will get an inkling of how this process looks to someone who does not share your prejudices.

    “Any biological life would need a universe so tuned.”

    Hmm, judging by numbers, diversity, adaptability and worldwide distribution, the goal of the “tuning” obviously were bacteria. Praise the Tuner!

    Or maybe the intended result of the “tuning” was to create a nice, undisturbed vacuum? After all, this is what the universe mostly consists of…

    Another candidate for “tuning” are those fat balls of hydrogen hanging in the sky. I hear there are lots of them…

    You see, this whole “fine-tuning” argument as employed by religious apologists is basically a recycled version of the old teleological argument, only dressed up with sciency-sounding jargon. Since it was banished from biology courtesy of Mr. Darwin, it has become more ephemeral and taken refuge in the physics department. Let’s see how long it will survive there…

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  39. If you would bother to read at least your own links, let alone serious scientific literature, with an honest and open mind instead of just parsing them for quote-mines in support of your preconceived conclusion, you might realize that scientific experiments in the fields of cosmology and particle physics are currently planned and/or performed that could corroborate the validity of the multiverse theory.

    And if you read the article I linked, you would realize a multiverse can never be more than a paper theory. You could never observe a previous universe. Never mind the point that the facts and numbers are still not adding up, and the never ending problem of string theory (or theories) – But I’m sure you have faith that a solution will be found. And you still have the problem of infinite regress.

    It seems that the arbitrary termination of the chain of justifications at this point is so deeply ingrained in your reasoning process that its absurdity escapes you, probably because you are so awe-struck by a certain three-letter word that any further questions become utterly unthinkable.

    Ok, so domga is bad but an infinite regression of universes, with each universe explained by the previous universe going back for eternity is ok? Could you be any more hypocritical Iapetus?

    Maybe if you replace the term “god” in your explanations with “Snoopy”, you will get an inkling of how this process looks to someone who does not share your prejudices.

    And perhaps you will see how silly an infinite number of past universes looks to someone who does not share your prejudices?

    You see, this whole “fine-tuning” argument as employed by religious apologists is basically a recycled version of the old teleological argument, only dressed up with sciency-sounding jargon.

    Well the article I linked was not from a Christian source. And men like Paul Davies (Goldilocks Enigma) are not christian. The fact is, the universe is fine tuned – that is a fact you obviously do not like.

    Since it was banished from biology courtesy of Mr. Darwin, it has become more ephemeral and taken refuge in the physics department. Let’s see how long it will survive there…

    Darwinism says nothing about how biological life was created, so how is that research going? Have you created biological life out of a rock yet? And without said life evolution is moot.

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  40. James, you talk blithely about fine tuning, wave your hands around and tap dance. But in the single case we have looked at (cosmological constant) you have been shown to be wrong – relying on distortions by the Christian Apologists Ross and Craig. You have unsuccessfully attempted to get responses from them – when the obvious thing is to check with the experts.

    Ken, the cosmological constant has not been an important part of the fine tuning argument. Craig only refered to it once on his site that I can find. And I can only find one reference by Ross on his site. I don’t know – do you dispute Paul Davies’ claims? The article that I linked started with:

    Our universe is perfectly tailored for life. That may be the work of God or the result of our universe being one of many

    “We have a lot of really, really strange coincidences, and all of these coincidences are such that they make life possible,” Linde says.

    Life, it seems, is not an incidental component of the universe, burped up out of a random chemical brew on a lonely planet to endure for a few fleeting ticks of the cosmic clock. In some strange sense, it appears that we are not adapted to the universe; the universe is adapted to us.

    The “strong” anthropic principle makes a much bolder statement. It asserts that the laws of physics themselves are biased toward life. To quote Freeman Dyson, a renowned physicist at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, the strong anthropic principle implies that “the universe knew we were coming.”

    “If there is only one universe,” Carr says, “you might have to have a fine-tuner. If you don’t want God, you’d better have a multiverse.”

    These quotes are from Discover Magazine, not a christian source.

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  41. “And if you read the article I linked, you would realize a multiverse can never be more than a paper theory. You could never observe a previous universe. Never mind the point that the facts and numbers are still not adding up, and the never ending problem of string theory (or theories)”

    I should have taken into account your sub-par reading comprehension. Hint: take a look at page 3 of your link…

    “But I’m sure you have faith that a solution will be found.”

    Well, let’s just say that I find your solution of decreeing “Anubis did it. Problem solved.” to be somewhat unsatisfying. Why not let the cosmologists and astrophysicists work on it using the tools and the methodology that have been overwhelmingly successful in the past?

    “Ok, so domga is bad but an infinite regression of universes, with each universe explained by the previous universe going back for eternity is ok? Could you be any more hypocritical Iapetus? […]And perhaps you will see how silly an infinite number of past universes looks to someone who does not share your prejudices?”

    It shows again how little you understand science and the scientific process.

    Here is a little reality check: no scientist is declaring the multiverse theory to be a dogma which is arbitrarily pulled out of thin air and claimed to be the one and only, true explanation. It is one hypothesis among others which is advertised by its proponents to be of explanatory value. However, if they come up with testable predictions for this hypothesis which are not or only weakly corroborated and/or a competing hypothesis surpasses it in this regard, it will be discarded.

    Furthermore, the fact that you find an infinite amount of universes aesthetically unsatisfying is absolutely irrelevant. If the scientific discoveries of the last centuries have taught us anything, it is that reality has this annoying habit of not caring what an evolved ape finds prima facie “obvious” or “absurd”. As always in science, it is the evidence that counts. Should the proponents of some form of multiverse theory involving an infinity of different universes devise testable predictions which are corroborated, we will have to preliminarily adopt this model.

    OTOH, in case we find a theory that explains the values of certain physical constants as resulting from a simple principle and which shows that they can not be different, it will be a serious blow to any kind of multiverse theory.

    Exciting times.

    Now, if you want to play with the big boys and want your “explanation” to be taken seriously, you will have to devise a method of testing it. Otherwise, your armchair speculating and postulating will get you nowhere.

    “Well the article I linked was not from a Christian source. And men like Paul Davies (Goldilocks Enigma) are not christian. The fact is, the universe is fine tuned – that is a fact you obviously do not like.”

    Sure, James. Because we all know that non-theists “hate Odin”, right?

    — face-palm —

    Yes, the universe is quite obviously fine-tuned. How else could it produce so much nice, empty vacuum?

    Or did you mean stars? Yes, the universe is obviously fine-tuned to produce them, since there are roughly one hundred billion galaxies just in the part of the universe we have observed thusfar. Great job!

    What’s that you say? Life? Yes, the universe is obviously fine-tuned to produce life, namely a humungous amount of bacteria. The Tuner seems to be rather fond of them!

    Irony aside, this whole argument is an exercise in question-begging and making unwarranted assumptions:

    1. Postulating that the values of physical constants were “tuned” presupposes that they could have been different. We presently do not know this and can not rule out that they follow necessarily from very simple, more fundamental principles.

    2. Even if they could have been different, recent publications by physicists like Stenger, Susskind and others show that variations in the constants are possible which allow for universes that are either very similar to ours or at least not totally hostile to life; and that is under the huge assumption that the only conceivable form of life is our, water- and carbon-based variety.

    3. We have no reason at all aside from our overblown vanity to assume that an evolved species of mammals on a tiny planet circling an unremarkable star in the outer reaches of an ordinary galaxy, who came into existence a split second before on cosmological time-scales and will in all likelihood be gone again in the (cosmological) blink of an eye, is the reason why physical parameters have certain values. Such a naive, human-centered teleology is lacking any evidence whatsoever.

    “Darwinism says nothing about how biological life was created, so how is that research going? Have you created biological life out of a rock yet?”

    Oh my, this is really a god-of-the-gaps argument from the bottom of the barrel. You know what, I recently sprinkled water onto my wooden table and waited for it to come alive, but nothing happened! I guess that seals it!

    — face-palm —

    I realize that your scientific knowledge in general is slim and that you understand chemistry and biology probably even less, but for goodness’ sake you could at least read something easily digestible like a Wikipedia entry on abiogenesis before uttering such nonsense.

    Btw, we both know the ugly truth: even if science were to provide a paper trail of the entire evolution from inanimate precursors to a full-blown prokaryotic cell in the lab, you would merrily state: “That’s fine, but it does not prove that Zeus did not poof the first cell into existence! You can never know since you were not there!”

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  42. @ James:

    “Ken, the cosmological constant has not been an important part of the fine tuning argument. Craig only refered to it once on his site that I can find. And I can only find one reference by Ross on his site.” – (Is a lie not a lie if you can only find it once?)

    Well why then does Deem make such a big thing of it (and you claim Deem’s article is from Ross’s book)?

    And why do you make frantic efforts to find an apologist answer (there have been contacts from at least 3 queries you placed on apologist web forums)?

    And why are you afraid to check out the real authorities – the people actually doing the work (and that have been misrepresented by Ross)?

    These are all important questions because they reveal your own gullibility and methods of quoting and referring (and copy and paste) – with the aim of misrepresenting and bashing science. This goes to copy and past from Discover Magazine just as much as copy and past from Christian apologist sources. It’s the method which is objectionable.

    Until you admit your mistakes here there seems little point in engaging with you because the obvious inference is that anything you quote or refer to will be just as unreliable (or distorted) as this particular case. Why should anyone waste their time dealing with further distortions from you?

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  43. Well, let’s just say that I find your solution of decreeing “Anubis did it. Problem solved.” to be somewhat unsatisfying. Why not let the cosmologists and astrophysicists work on it using the tools and the methodology that have been overwhelmingly successful in the past?

    Past success tell us nothing about future success or even if our methodology can be applied to these questions. But keep the faith Iapetus – who knows…

    Furthermore, the fact that you find an infinite amount of universes aesthetically unsatisfying is absolutely irrelevant. If the scientific discoveries of the last centuries have taught us anything, it is that reality has this annoying habit of not caring what an evolved ape finds prima facie “obvious” or “absurd”. As always in science, it is the evidence that counts. Should the proponents of some form of multiverse theory involving an infinity of different universes devise testable predictions which are corroborated, we will have to preliminarily adopt this model.

    Well Iapetus you can have faith that a physical cause will be found, but until it is… And a finite amount of universes doesn’t necessarily bother me – it is absurd, but infinite regress still leaves you impaled on one of Münchhausen’s horns. And in one of our nt debates you kept pounding what a sin it was against rationality to be so impaled. And now – it’s ok! You really a hypocrite -one with no shame or principles…

    , if you want to play with the big boys and want your “explanation” to be taken seriously, you will have to devise a method of testing it. Otherwise, your armchair speculating and postulating will get you nowhere.

    Really Iapetus? I vote for dogma… A much more certain source of knowlege…

    have no reason at all aside from our overblown vanity to assume that an evolved species of mammals on a tiny planet circling an unremarkable star in the outer reaches of an ordinary galaxy, who came into existence a split second before on cosmological time-scales and will in all likelihood be gone again in the (cosmological) blink of an eye, is the reason why physical parameters have certain values. Such a naive, human-centered teleology is lacking any evidence whatsoever.

    Well I guees the scientists quoted in the link, and men like Paul Davies just don’t know as much as you. You should e mail them with this important revelation. To quote Freeman Dyson again: “the universe knew we were coming….”

    Oh my, this is really a god-of-the-gaps argument from the bottom of the barrel. You know what, I recently sprinkled water onto my wooden table and waited for it to come alive, but nothing happened! I guess that seals it!

    Yep that pretty much does seal it, unless you can prove otherwise. And the thing is, there really may be gaps that can not be explained by natural processes. Who knows? You certainly don’t.

    I realize that your scientific knowledge in general is slim and that you understand chemistry and biology probably even less, but for goodness’ sake you could at least read something easily digestible like a Wikipedia entry on abiogenesis before uttering such nonsense.

    I have Homer… And ya got nothing… You know it and I know it.

    That’s fine, but it does not prove that Zeus did not poof the first cell into existence! You can never know since you were not there!”

    Well first you have to create a self replicating cell in the lab. And you are correct that is not evidence that it happened in nature that way. It would only suggest that it was possible…

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  44. Until you admit your mistakes here there seems little point in engaging with you because the obvious inference is that anything you quote or refer to will be just as unreliable (or distorted) as this particular case. Why should anyone waste their time dealing with further distortions from you?

    Hey Ken, that is just a cop-out. I quoted from the article in Discover Magazine – and the scientist quoted there are saying the same thing about fine tuning. Are they all unreliable?

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  45. James – until you confront the cosmological constant question (and actually – if you look into what the real authorities say you would find a response to support fine-tuning – just not the distortions Ross, Craig, Deem and other Christian apologists use) you are the one copping out. Anything else you copy and past is just a diversion from the issue.

    Do, the work. Consult the proper authorities – you will find a defence (just not one supporting the apologist assertions).

    No-one can take your hand waving on this issue seriously until you confront this question properly.

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  46. Do, the work. Consult the proper authorities – you will find a defence (just not one supporting the apologist assertions).

    The Discover article Ken had nothing to do with apologists. Paul Davies has nothing to do with apologists. So what on earth are you going on about?

    Paul Davies:

    “The essential feature of our universe is that something of value emerges as the result of processing according to some ingenious pre-existing set of rules. It looks as if they are the product of intelligent design. I do not see how this can be denied. Whether you wish to believe that they really have been so designed, and if so by what sort of being, must remain a matter of personal taste. My own inclination is to suppose that qualities such as ingenuity, economy, beauty, and so on have a genuine transcendent reality—they are not merely the product of human experience—and that these qualities are reflected in the structure of the natural world….”

    “We have cracked part of the cosmic code. Why this should be, just why Homo sapiens should carry the spark of rationality that provides the key to the universe, is a deep enigma. We, who are children of the universe—animated stardust—can nevertheless reflect on the nature of the same universe, even to the extent of glimpsing the rules on which it runs. How we have become linked into this cosmic dimension is a mystery. Yet the linkage cannot be denied.

    What does it mean? What is Man that we might be party to such privilege? I cannot believe that our existence in this universe is a mere quirk of fate, an accident of history, an incidental blip in the great cosmic drama. Our involvement is too intimate. The physical species Homo may count for nothing, but the existence of mind in some organism on some planet in the universe is surely a fact of fundamental significance. This can be no trivial detail, no minor byproduct of mindless, purposeless forces. We are truly meant to be here…”

    Paul Davies, The Mind of God (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992), p. 214.+ 232

    Sir Fred Hoyle

    “I do not believe that any scientist who examined the evidence would fail to draw the inference that the laws of nuclear physics have been deliberately designed with regard to the consequences they produce inside the stars. If this is so, then my apparently random quirks have become part of a deep-laid scheme. If not then we are back again at a monstrous sequence of accidents..”

    Fred Hoyle, Religion and the Scientists (London: SCM,)

    If you wanted to produce carbon and oxygen in roughly equal quantities by stellar nucleosynthesis, these are the two levels you would have to fix, and your fixing would have to be just about where these levels are actually found to be. Would you not say to yourself, “Some supercalculating intellect must have designed the properties of the carbon atom, otherwise the chances of my finding such an atom through the blind forces of nature would be utterly miniscule”? Of course you would…A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question…”

    Fred Hoyle, “The Universe: Past and Present Reflections,” Engineering and Science.

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  47. “Why this should be, just why Homo sapiens should carry the spark of rationality that provides the key to the universe, is a deep enigma.”

    What utter tripe. The beginnings of the universe may be a ‘deep enigma’, and one that science is occupied with, but there is nothing very enigmatic about human consciousness anymore. It quite clearly arises from the material brain, and it is easily accounted for through the theory of natural selection. We even see all manner of conciousness and proto-conciousness in our animal brethren. We’re not the only rational beasts, although we’re a good bit ahead of the pack. Smartness is a pretty big advantage. All your sources, James, are just nutjobs who have their thoughts in knots. If you will excuse me for saying so.

    You’d do yourself a lot of good if you opted to read some intelligent commentary, rather than ‘stuff that agrees with you’.

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  48. Like all scientists, Fred Hoyle did some good work – & also had some way-out-there ideas. (Which is all part of scientific creativity; if no-one had the way-out-there ideas we’d probably never discover anything new.) His attitude to the ‘prepared’ nature of the universe are not a reflection of the attitudes of the wider scientific community (ie that was probably one of his ‘way out’ ideas).

    By the way, James – no-one else here does this block quote thing. We tend to give a synthesis of ideas/concepts, based on our own reading/understanding. The tendency to parrot extensive quotes is something I try to drum out of my first-year students very quickly: I want to know what they think, not what someone else has said. And I have been known to give a zero for essays that are simply one quote after another, strung together by the occasional ‘and’ or ‘but’.

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  49. PS – and after that, I want to see evidence that they’ve read around the topic, not just cherry-picked an author here & an author there who happen to support a particular point of view. Takes a while, but we usually get there in the end. In other words, what’s the student’s opinion? what supporting evidence is there to justify this? how does it fit with the broader scientific consensus? if there’s disagreement, why is this so? & so on…

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  50. @ 48: Sorry for panning Hoyle so readily, the only thing I knew about him at all was what James cited. Hoyle may have done some good work, but I think James’ citation shows that he had a fundamental, unevidenced belief that life and humanity are the universe’s end-goal.

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  51. You don’t need to apologise – it was a fair assessment 🙂

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  52. Like all scientists, Fred Hoyle did some good work – & also had some way-out-there ideas. (Which is all part of scientific creativity; if no-one had the way-out-there ideas we’d probably never discover anything new.) His attitude to the ‘prepared’ nature of the universe are not a reflection of the attitudes of the wider scientific community (ie that was probably one of his ‘way out’ ideas).

    Let’s face it Alison, you just don’t like what he said. Are Davies’ ideas also way out there?

    How about Freeman Dyson “It seems that the universe knew we were coming…?”

    Andrei Linde, “We have a lot of really, really strange coincidences, and all of these coincidences are such that they make life possible.”

    How about Carr? “If there is only one universe, you might have to have a fine-tuner. If you don’t want God, you’d better have a multiverse.”

    How about Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg? “This is the one fine-tuning that seems to be extreme, far beyond what you could imagine just having to accept as a mere accident.”

    How about Tim Folger? The science writer for the Discover article: “Our universe is perfectly tailored for life. That may be the work of God or the result of our universe being one of many.”

    Why do you think the multiverse is so attractive? Because if there were millions of universes it would be more likely for one like ours, finely tuned for life, to come about. It would be a very unlikely series of coincidences if we only had a single universe and a single creation event.

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  53. The beginnings of the universe may be a ‘deep enigma’, and one that science is occupied with, but there is nothing very enigmatic about human consciousness anymore. It quite clearly arises from the material brain, and it is easily accounted for through the theory of natural selection. We even see all manner of conciousness and proto-conciousness in our animal brethren. We’re not the only rational beasts, although we’re a good bit ahead of the pack. Smartness is a pretty big advantage. All your sources, James, are just nutjobs who have their thoughts in knots. If you will excuse me for saying so.

    Yes all the scientist in the Discover article are nut jobs to. As far as the mind goes, you might want to start with the hard problem of consciousness:

    http://consc.net/papers/facing.html

    Second, if all our mental states are the result of the physical brain processes, and those mental states (thoughts) have no effect on the pyhsical process – then you have no free will and rationality is impossible – in other words you have no choice in how or what you think – the underlying non-rational physical processes dictate all your thoughts and conclusions.

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  54. “Let’s face it Alison, you just don’t like what he said.”

    Let’s face it James, you just don’t like what Alison said.

    Do you detect a familiar pattern in my reply?

    Fred Hoyle was, to be very polite, a bit of a mixture as Alison was saying. Its very well-known and not Alison’s opinion, but the opinion of the scientific community at large. From accounts I’ve heard (from those people much more likely to know than me), he sounds like someone who while an able mathematician, was not always good at “ordinary” logic. (If that sounds contradictory to you, I’ve seen similarly odd mixes of ability in other people I’ve worked with.)

    52: What about a silly quote-miner? 😉

    53: This was dealt with elsewhere on this blog, as you know. Why are you trying to walk around in a circle? You’ve already been told why that statement makes no sense.

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  55. This was dealt with elsewhere on this blog, as you know. Why are you trying to walk around in a circle? You’ve already been told why that statement makes no sense.

    Nonsense, shiow where I’m wrong – be specific.

    What about a silly quote-miner?

    I was quoting directly from the Discover article. Read them in context – their meaning is clear.

    Fred Hoyle was, to be very polite, a bit of a mixture as Alison was saying. Its very well-known and not Alison’s opinion, but the opinion of the scientific community at large. From accounts I’ve heard (from those people much more likely to know than me), he sounds like someone who while an able mathematician, was not always good at “ordinary” logic. (If that sounds contradictory to you, I’ve seen similarly odd mixes of ability in other people I’ve worked with.)

    So, does that mean Fred was wrong in his conclusion? The only reason you attack said conclusion is because you are wed to materialism – and there is no rational reason to be so wed.

    And how about Paul Davies? Again:

    “The essential feature of our universe is that something of value emerges as the result of processing according to some ingenious pre-existing set of rules. It looks as if they are the product of intelligent design. I do not see how this can be denied. Whether you wish to believe that they really have been so designed, and if so by what sort of being, must remain a matter of personal taste. My own inclination is to suppose that qualities such as ingenuity, economy, beauty, and so on have a genuine transcendent reality—they are not merely the product of human experience—and that these qualities are reflected in the structure of the natural world….”

    “We have cracked part of the cosmic code. Why this should be, just why Homo sapiens should carry the spark of rationality that provides the key to the universe, is a deep enigma. We, who are children of the universe—animated stardust—can nevertheless reflect on the nature of the same universe, even to the extent of glimpsing the rules on which it runs. How we have become linked into this cosmic dimension is a mystery. Yet the linkage cannot be denied.

    What does it mean? What is Man that we might be party to such privilege? I cannot believe that our existence in this universe is a mere quirk of fate, an accident of history, an incidental blip in the great cosmic drama. Our involvement is too intimate. The physical species Homo may count for nothing, but the existence of mind in some organism on some planet in the universe is surely a fact of fundamental significance. This can be no trivial detail, no minor byproduct of mindless, purposeless forces. We are truly meant to be here…”

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  56. “Past success tell us nothing about future success or even if our methodology can be applied to these questions.”

    Therefore we let them work on it and see what they come up with. Until then, we remain agnostic…

    “And a finite amount of universes doesn’t necessarily bother me – it is absurd, but infinite regress still leaves you impaled on one of Münchhausen’s horns. And in one of our nt debates you kept pounding what a sin it was against rationality to be so impaled. And now – it’s ok! You really a hypocrite -one with no shame or principles…”

    Hmm, that last sentence there would not incidentally be an insult, would it? Weren’t you whining about how badly you get treated here by certain people?

    Yet again your unwillingness and/or inability to actually invest the time and intellectual effort to engage with an unfamiliar concept shines forth like a beacon. Did you read up on the Münchhausen-Trilemma and critical rationalism? I would wager that all you did was to browse Wikipedia (if you did this at all), but never touched a serious philosophical introduction, let alone the original authors. Consequently, as you so frequently do concerning a host of topics, you end up with some half-baked “knowledge” full of misunderstandings.

    So I will have to walk you through it once more:

    the Münchhausen-Trilemma is located in the field of epistemology. It deals with the problem of finding certainty about the truth of a proposition via recourse to an ultimate justification and shows this endeavour to be utopian since one inevitably gets impaled on one of its horns, thus rendering the process futile.

    In contrast, the variuos multiverse theories are scientific theories and as such by their very nature preliminary. They make no claims to be a certain, unassailable truth that can no longer be doubted, let alone via a putative infinity of universes. All they claim to be is the best, fallible explanation for our observations that is presently available. Thus, they do not fall under the Münchhausen-Trilemma.

    Now, we may have difficulties conceptualizing an infinte series of events or entities due to our experience being confined to finiteness. However, this is no sufficient reason to rule them out from the start. It might be a brute fact of reality, just like the existence of an unfathomable, supernatural being might be a brute fact of reality, despite its severe conceptual problems. The point is that we have zero evidence for the latter, so simply postulating it out of thin air is totally arbitrary. Furthermore, even if it would exist, it could not serve as basis for an ultimate justification.

    Regarding the multiverse theories, as long as they can not be corroborated, we do not adopt any of them.

    “Really Iapetus? I vote for dogma… A much more certain source of knowlege…”

    Translation: “I have absolutely no idea how my “explanation” could be tested. However, since I want it to be true, it must be.”

    Who would have thought…

    “Well I guees the scientists quoted in the link, and men like Paul Davies just don’t know as much as you. You should e mail them with this important revelation. To quote Freeman Dyson again: “the universe knew we were coming….””

    As others have already pointed out to you, all this copy & paste business will get you nowhere. I can provide quotes which show other opinions. What then?

    When you want to argue for a position, you have to be able to do it in your own words to prove that you have really understood it. You further have to show that you are aware of counter-arguments to your position and how you address them. If all you can do is state “I believe X and support it by quoting persons Y and Z who I think agree with me.”, you will not be taken seriously.

    This might require more intellectual effort than trawling the Web for quote-mines, but on the positive side your arguments might not be dismissed out of hand, as they mostly are now.

    “And the thing is, there really may be gaps that can not be explained by natural processes. Who knows? You certainly don’t.”

    And neither do you. So we remain agnostic. So there is no room for “Thor did it.” unless backed up by evidence.

    But I forgot: you prefer dogma over evidence, ergo no need to wait for you to provide any.

    “I have Homer… And ya got nothing… You know it and I know it.”

    Terrific argumentation there. Shows how you have really delved into the matter…

    Then again, since your stance is made crystal-clear here:

    “Well first you have to create a self replicating cell in the lab. And you are correct that is not evidence that it happened in nature that way. It would only suggest that it was possible…”

    I do not lose too much sleep over your negative assessment of the abiogenesis problem.

    “Second, if all our mental states are the result of the physical brain processes, and those mental states (thoughts) have no effect on the pyhsical process – then you have no free will and rationality is impossible”

    Aha, one of your hobby horses gets paraded again…

    1. Contra-causal free will is self-refuting. If there are no antecedent causes whatsoever for any of your decisions, they are completely arbitrary. The opposite of strict determinism is not free will, but randomness. What we really want from the concept of free will is a responsiveness to reason and reasons, which can be accounted for under a physicalist, stochastically deterministic approach. Read Dennett’s “Elbow room”.

    2. Substance dualism suffers such severe conceptual problems as to render it practically untenable. What is the nature of the “mind realm”? How can it influence our closed, spatio-temporal reality and vice versa, since causation requires spatio-temporality? If it is not spatio-temporal, how can there ever be any changes in “thoughts”? None of these questions have thusfar been answered by dualists. Frankly, I do not blame them, since the whole concept is extremely fragile and virtually impossible to investigate.

    3. Positing a “free will” floating somewhere in the ether merely serves to push the problem into another area. After all, there is still the question what this “free will” is made of and how it can make decisions. If you posit some supernatural “mind stuff” as basis for free will, you get the same “problem” as under a physicalist premise: your decisions are based on the underlying, non-rational mind-stuff and not your free will.

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  57. In contrast, the variuos multiverse theories are scientific theories and as such by their very nature preliminary. They make no claims to be a certain, unassailable truth that can no longer be doubted, let alone via a putative infinity of universes. All they claim to be is the best, fallible explanation for our observations that is presently available. Thus, they do not fall under the Münchhausen-Trilemma.

    Oh please Iapetus, you don’t get to escape the trilemma by prefacing it with “likely.” Make up any theory and include the work “likely” and you are safe from the old Baron – how convenient! But they are making a real claims to knowledge, real claims to how this universe got here. And like the theory of evolution they will end up calling it “fact.” And infinite regress is infinite regress…

    The Münchhausen-Trilemma is located in the field of epistemology. It deals with the problem of finding certainty about the truth of a proposition via recourse to an ultimate justification and shows this endeavour to be utopian since one inevitably gets impaled on one of its horns, thus rendering the process futile.

    So is the Munchhausen Trilemma an “unassailable truth?” Is it certain?

    As others have already pointed out to you, all this copy & paste business will get you nowhere. I can provide quotes which show other opinions. What then?

    Again, read the article. I correctly quoted them. Perhaps you should write to the editor of Discover Magazine. It was their piece – and I doubt that they are bias to my side of the debate.

    And neither do you. So we remain agnostic. So there is no room for “Thor did it.” unless backed up by evidence.

    Why isn’t there room for Thor? Who says? How would you know? What is evidence? Is your definition of evidence “certain?”

    do not lose too much sleep over your negative assessment of the abiogenesis problem.

    Show me the money…

    1. Contra-causal free will is self-refuting. If there are no antecedent causes whatsoever for any of your decisions, they are completely arbitrary. The opposite of strict determinism is not free will, but randomness. What we really want from the concept of free will is a responsiveness to reason and reasons, which can be accounted for under a physicalist, stochastically deterministic approach. Read Dennett’s “Elbow room”.

    2. Substance dualism suffers such severe conceptual problems as to render it practically untenable. What is the nature of the “mind realm”? How can it influence our closed, spatio-temporal reality and vice versa, since causation requires spatio-temporality? If it is not spatio-temporal, how can there ever be any changes in “thoughts”? None of these questions have thusfar been answered by dualists. Frankly, I do not blame them, since the whole concept is extremely fragile and virtually impossible to investigate.

    3. Positing a “free will” floating somewhere in the ether merely serves to push the problem into another area. After all, there is still the question what this “free will” is made of and how it can make decisions. If you posit some supernatural “mind stuff” as basis for free will, you get the same “problem” as under a physicalist premise: your decisions are based on the underlying, non-rational mind-stuff and not your free will.

    Again, I don’t have time to go through this point by point. But if you are correct rationality is impossible. Like we discussed before, the immaterial content of a proposition has no looping influence on the physical process, no causal role. In the past you and Steve “asserted” that it did but offered no “evidence” on how that would be possible. The underlying non-rational physical processes dictate all our thoughts and conclusions. And just because we can’t understand how immaterial thoughts could effect the process doesn’t mean that they don’t. We have no idea how formerly entangled particles mirror each others movements at a distance – yet they do. With NO physical connection.

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  58. @ James:

    “How about Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg? “This is the one fine-tuning that seems to be extreme, far beyond what you could imagine just having to accept as a mere accident.””

    Ironically, James, if you had actually read Weinberg and understood what he was saying you would have used this knowledge to counter my arguments on the cosmological constant. Wienberg is (from my reading) referring here to the cosmological constant. What a wonderful missed opportunity for you. And how ironic that your apologetic forums couldn’t help you with this!

    Because you are randomly pulling quotes out of context – or probably more realistically using quotes supplied by your apologist sites – you were unaware of this. This meant you couldn’t engage in a proper discussion of the cosmological constant fine tuning and have tried instead to sweep it under the carpet.

    I suggest this problem applies to all this copy and pasting you do. I agree with Alison – this would not be accepted from a student as it is just a cover for ignorance, for laziness, for not wishing to really learn.

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  59. “Oh please Iapetus, you don’t get to escape the trilemma by prefacing it with “likely.” Make up any theory and include the work “likely” and you are safe from the old Baron – how convenient!”

    Your inability to understand this concept, despite my repeated and exhaustive explanations, is really not my problem. Since I have conveyed it successfully to lots of people before, I can only conclude that the failure here is not on my part.

    “But they are making a real claims to knowledge, real claims to how this universe got here.”

    Yes, but unlike you, scientists do not make claims to be in possession of an indubitable piece of knowledge and call it dogma. Science devises fallible models and theories about certain aspects of reality which are used to make predictions that are empirically verifiable. If these predictions turn out to be false and/or a superior theory with even greater explanatory capability and predictive power comes along, said older model or theory is discarded.

    Conversely, if a model makes lots of correct predictions and holds up to repeated attempts at falsification, the confidence that it describes certain aspects of reality approximatively correct increases, without ever reaching total certainty.

    “And like the theory of evolution they will end up calling it “fact.””

    No, evolution itself is as much of a fact as gravity since we can see it with our own eyes, e.g. every time a bacterium develops a new resistance to an antibiotic. The theory of evolution is our best model of how to explain this. What a surprise that you conflate these two concepts.

    “So is the Munchhausen Trilemma an “unassailable truth?” Is it certain?”

    Is your finger already sore from all this pressing of the Reset Button?

    As I said before, you either are genuinely incapable of understanding what I am talking about or are just being willfully obtuse. Either way, I am not going to explain it yet again. To paraphrase Einstein: “Stupidity is attempting the same failed procedure again and again while expecting a different outcome.”

    “Why isn’t there room for Thor? Who says? How would you know? What is evidence? Is your definition of evidence “certain?””

    I would be careful; if you press that Button too hard, it might get broke…

    “Show me the money…”

    To what end? You have already decided that even a complete lab account of the evolutionary path from inanimate precursors to a full-blown prokaryotic cell would not convince you. Why should I bother, then?

    “Again, I don’t have time to go through this point by point. But if you are correct rationality is impossible. Like we discussed before, the immaterial content of a proposition has no looping influence on the physical process, no causal role.”

    We did not “discuss” anything. You simply asserted it without providing any support while ignoring all counter-arguments. Which you do here again. Why not engage with something that is written under points 1-3 for a change, instead of merely using it to restate the same tripe yet again?

    “And just because we can’t understand how immaterial thoughts could effect the process doesn’t mean that they don’t.”

    A textbook example of your sloppy thinking, right up there with “Prove that my god does not exist.” and “How do you know that Amun-Ra did not do this or that?”.

    Since the fallacy in this has been pointed out to you by various people again and again, I will refrain from one more round.

    “We have no idea how formerly entangled particles mirror each others movements at a distance – yet they do. With NO physical connection.”

    The problem for you is that:

    1. Entanglement on the quantum scale is an observable phenomenon which is independently reproducable, displayed by well-characterized particles and embedded in a sophisticated theoretical framework which has been robustly verified; in contrast, your “mind-realm” harbouring incorporeal “thoughts” is an arbitrary postulate without any corroborating evidence whatsoever and in search of even the rudiments of a theoretical framework; and

    2. quantum events are spatiotemporal, whereas your proposed “mind-realm” is not, leading to all the unpleasant consequences that you chose not to address due to “lack of time”.

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  60. Your inability to understand this concept, despite my repeated and exhaustive explanations, is really not my problem. Since I have conveyed it successfully to lots of people before, I can only conclude that the failure here is not on my part.

    Of course I get it Iapetus, if you preface a theory with “fallible” then it magically becomes plausible. A deeply irrational concept like infinte regress suddeny becomes acceptable. This is completley arbitrary.

    Conversely, if a model makes lots of correct predictions and holds up to repeated attempts at falsification, the confidence that it describes certain aspects of reality approximatively correct increases, without ever reaching total certainty.

    And as long as we don’t claim “total certainty” we are allowed to believe in irrational concepts like infinte regress. Tell me Iapetus, how exactly does removing the phrase “total certainty” change the irrational into the rational?

    As I said before, you either are genuinely incapable of understanding what I am talking about or are just being willfully obtuse. Either way, I am not going to explain it yet again. To paraphrase Einstein: “Stupidity is attempting the same failed procedure again and again while expecting a different outcome.”

    Don’t run from the question: is the Munchhausen Trilemma an unassailable and certain truth – yes or no?

    I would be careful; if you press that Button too hard, it might get broke…

    You are clearly avoiding again: Do you have a non-arbitrary definition of “evidence” and is a certain truth? If the answer is yes – present it. If no, why should I consider your request for “evidence” meaningful?

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  61. We did not “discuss” anything. You simply asserted it without providing any support while ignoring all counter-arguments. Which you do here again. Why not engage with something that is written under points 1-3 for a change, instead of merely using it to restate the same tripe yet again?

    Because the botton line is simple. If the immaterial content of our thoughts play no casual role in the process then we have no choice (no option) in what we believe. Or the conclusions we come to. Do you deny this? And if so, on what grounds?

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  62. To what end? You have already decided that even a complete lab account of the evolutionary path from inanimate precursors to a full-blown prokaryotic cell would not convince you. Why should I bother, then?

    But Iapetus, you wouldn’t assume that just because intelligent scientists could do this in the lab that it actually happened in nature that way? Why on earth would you assume such a thing?

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  63. 62: James, you assume that just because someone wrote something in a book with no evidence to back them that it actually happened in nature that way. Why on earth would you assume such a thing?

    Point is, you’re not exactly standing on good ground in asking what you are.

    (FWIW: there are more-or-less complete paths proposed, they’re just not nailed down with complete evidence-yet.)

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  64. James, you assume that just because someone wrote something in a book with no evidence to back them that it actually happened in nature that way. Why on earth would you assume such a thing?

    Their (the writers) experience is their evidence. Just like your experience of the world is evidence for the world. And that is not the same as concluding that since intelligent agents could create life from non-life, that non-intelligent forces could do the same. That just doesn’t follow.

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  65. Soooo… on that basis, are we to assume that events described by authors such as P.D. James, which are clearly set in our own world, actually happened? Simply because they are described in a book? Really? With no other corroboration????

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  66. Their (the writers) experience is their evidence.

    Anyone’s experience whatsoever is evidence of reality, then? Thousands of people claim that reiki works, therefore it’s real? Reiki is [i]really old[/i], therefore it’s real?

    Moreover, I don’t see how the Bible is more impressive than other scriptures. I take it that you don’t know very much about non-Biblical religious texts at all, do you?

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  67. “Of course I get it Iapetus, if you preface a theory with “fallible” then it magically becomes plausible. A deeply irrational concept like infinte regress suddeny becomes acceptable. This is completley arbitrary.”

    No, you do not “get it”, as the nonsense you wrote here amply demonstrates. However, since I have better things to do than explaining a rather simple concept endlessly without any sign that you understand it, I can not help you here. Search for other sources to enlighten you or leave it, I do not really care.

    “And as long as we don’t claim “total certainty” we are allowed to believe in irrational concepts like infinte regress. Tell me Iapetus, how exactly does removing the phrase “total certainty” change the irrational into the rational?”

    Aha, so an infinty is per se irrational. Tell me James, what does that do to claims that your deity of choice is infinitely powerful, knowledgeable, merciful etc. as well as eternal? Looks like you believe in a deeply irrational concept…

    “Don’t run from the question: is the Munchhausen Trilemma an unassailable and certain truth – yes or no?”

    “You are clearly avoiding again: Do you have a non-arbitrary definition of “evidence” and is a certain truth? If the answer is yes – present it. If no, why should I consider your request for “evidence” meaningful?”

    Press that Button, press that Button, press that Button…

    All this was already covered more than once. Sorry, does not interest me anymore.

    “Because the botton line is simple. If the immaterial content of our thoughts play no casual role in the process then we have no choice (no option) in what we believe. Or the conclusions we come to. Do you deny this? And if so, on what grounds?”

    Your inability to address any of points 1-3 is duly noted. Not suprising, really.

    Whenever you have something substantial to say on this, give it a whirl…

    “But Iapetus, you wouldn’t assume that just because intelligent scientists could do this in the lab that it actually happened in nature that way? Why on earth would you assume such a thing?”

    And this from someone who allegedly “understands science” and who allegedly has familiarized himself with the nature of the problem to be solved. Oh my.

    Should this not merely be another trolling attempt, it shows such a fundamental lack of understanding of the scientific methodology as well as the nature of scientific explanations and the sufficient amount of corroboration for them as to be truely breathtaking.

    “Their (the writers) experience is their evidence.”

    Just like the experiences of alien abductees of being prodded from behind by grey-skinned beings from Alpha Prime are “evidence” that it really happened.

    Hello Mr. Reset Button, I really missed you…

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  68. Aha, so an infinty is per se irrational. Tell me James, what does that do to claims that your deity of choice is infinitely powerful, knowledgeable, merciful etc. as well as eternal? Looks like you believe in a deeply irrational concept…

    I didn’t say that infinity was irrational, an infinite being is not irrational, a infinite regression of events is. With each event being justified by a previous event. Again Iapetus , how exactly does removing the phrase “total certainty” change the irrational into the rational?

    All this was already covered more than once. Sorry, does not interest me anymore.

    No, they have not been covered.

    “is the Munchhausen Trilemma an unassailable and certain truth – yes or no?”

    “Do you have a non-arbitrary definition of “evidence” and is a certain truth? If the answer is yes – present it. If no, why should I consider your request for “evidence” meaningful?”

    I’ll take your non-answer as proof that neither the Munchhausen Trilemma nor your demand for evidence are relevant.

    And this from someone who allegedly “understands science” and who allegedly has familiarized himself with the nature of the problem to be solved. Oh my.

    Should this not merely be another trolling attempt, it shows such a fundamental lack of understanding of the scientific methodology as well as the nature of scientific explanations and the sufficient amount of corroboration for them as to be truely breathtaking.

    Another non answer. Again: Why assume that because intelligent scientists could do this in the lab that it actually happened in nature that way?

    Just like the experiences of alien abductees of being prodded from behind by grey-skinned beings from Alpha Prime are “evidence” that it really happened.

    Just like your experience of the world isn’t “evidence” that the world actually exists. Besides, you have no idea if aliens actually exist or if they interacted with human beings.

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  69. Soooo… on that basis, are we to assume that events described by authors such as P.D. James, which are clearly set in our own world, actually happened? Simply because they are described in a book? Really? With no other corroboration????

    Well Alison, I have no reason to believe these men lied or intended to write myth. And many true events in life can not be corroborated in a scientific sense but are nevertheless facts. Many historical facts are like that. Much of your personal history is like that.

    Like

  70. Anyone’s experience whatsoever is evidence of reality, then? Thousands of people claim that reiki works, therefore it’s real? Reiki is really old, therefore it’s real?

    Well it may work. Do you know that it doesn’t? It may have a placebo effect.

    Moreover, I don’t see how the Bible is more impressive than other scriptures.

    Of course you don’t. I would expect that, sinners seek a Holy God like a bank robber looks for a cop…

    I take it that you don’t know very much about non-Biblical religious texts at all, do you?

    Like

  71. 64 (James November 26, 2008 at 3:17 pm):

    “Their (the writers[‘]) experience is their evidence.”

    Pffffffth!

    Leaving aside that perception (experience), doesn’t necessarily reflect what actually occurred, as others have referred to, there is the small matter of writers knowingly not writing what literally happened. Ever heard of writers embellishing things? Artistic licence? Writers’ memories fading as time rolls on? Works written to say what their audience want to read? Oh… whatever :-/

    Then there is readers reading material outside of the context and intended meaning, for example an author writing fables but having some silly sausages read them as literal?

    On top of that a lot (most?) of the acts/events described in those religious works were never experienced by the writers, making your moot point regardless of all the other problems it has.

    “And that is not the same as concluding that since intelligent agents could create life from non-life, that non-intelligent forces could do the same. That just doesn’t follow.”

    Desperation stuff 🙂

    Your logic was low to the ground to start with, it had long fallen to ground level and and now is burrowing its way furiously towards the fiery centre of the earth! I don’t think you could write anything more ridiculous, but then I have this nagging feeling that no doubt that you will… Haven’t read your posts after post 64 yet: maybe I’ll find it in there?! 😉

    Sorry for bagging you, but you might want to wonder why several people independently think your statements are bizarre. Its not the religion per se, although that doesn’t help, its the sheer illogic of the statements.

    Like

  72. “Its not the religion per se, although that doesn’t help, its the sheer illogic of the statements.”

    (giggle)
    (munches popcorn)

    Like

  73. If the immaterial content of our thoughts play no casual role in the process then we have no choice (no option) in what we believe. Or the conclusions we come to. Do you deny this? And if so, on what grounds?”

    Your inability to address any of points 1-3 is duly noted. Not suprising, really.

    Whenever you have something substantial to say on this, give it a whirl…

    Again Iapetus, you avoided the question. Yes libertarian free will does have its problems, but the problems of determinism are much worse. Then there is the “fact” of personal experience. I bet just about every atheist on this board believes he has a high degree (if not absolute) of moral and intellectual freedom. Even Dawkins asserts that we can “rise above” our DNA – how a materialist would account for that is beyond me though.

    If our immaterial thoughts, and the contents thereof, do not play a causal role in the process then we are slaves to the underlying non-rational forces of biology. Then conclusions are neither right or wrong. Your brain fizzes one way my brain fizzes another way – we don’t say that Pepsi fizzes more correctly than Coke. Tell me Iapetus, how is rationality possible if the underlying nonrational physical processes dictate all our thoughts and conclusions? Where is the “elbow room” here?

    1. Entanglement on the quantum scale is an observable phenomenon which is independently reproducable, displayed by well-characterized particles and embedded in a sophisticated theoretical framework which has been robustly verified; in contrast, your “mind-realm” harbouring incorporeal “thoughts” is an arbitrary postulate without any corroborating evidence whatsoever and in search of even the rudiments of a theoretical framework; and

    2. quantum events are spatiotemporal, whereas your proposed “mind-realm” is not, leading to all the unpleasant consequences that you chose not to address due to “lack of time”.

    You missed the point Iapetus, tell me how/why formery entangled particles mirror each others movement at a distance without a physcal connection. We have NO idea how that is possible, there is NO known mechanism that can account for this. Yet it happens. And using terms like “spatiotemporal” does not solve the problem. So if my personal experience points to freedom of will, freedom of thought, I see no reason to doubt that experience – even if a mechanism can not be found. Perhaps Dark Matter will some day provide a mind brain link, but until then I see no real reason to question my experience anymore than I have for questioning quantum entanglement.

    Like

  74. Leaving aside that perception (experience), doesn’t necessarily reflect what actually occurred, as others have referred to, there is the small matter of writers knowingly not writing what literally happened. Ever heard of writers embellishing things? Artistic licence? Writers’ memories fading as time rolls on? Works written to say what their audience want to read? Oh… whatever…

    And? Have you ever heard of writers accurately reflecting what happened? Being honest?

    “And that is not the same as concluding that since intelligent agents could create life from non-life, that non-intelligent forces could do the same. That just doesn’t follow.”

    Desperation stuff

    Really? Can scientist recreate the conditions of the early earth? Do they even know the specific eco niche that the first life was formed in? If not then they can never know if what they create in the lab actually corresponds to reality. It would make the idea more plausible, but that is all. Anyway, this point if moot until they create a viable self-replicating cell.

    Like

  75. James said…”So if my personal experience points to freedom of will, freedom of thought, I see no reason to doubt that experience – even if a mechanism can not be found. Perhaps Dark Matter will some day provide a mind brain link, but until then I see no real reason to question my experience anymore than I have for questioning quantum entanglement.”

    No.111: ARGUMENT FROM ANECDOTAL EXPERIENCE (II)
    (1) I have experienced feelings of God’s presence in my mind.
    (2) Therefore, God exists.

    James said…”Can scientist recreate the conditions of the early earth? Do they even know the specific eco niche that the first life was formed in? If not then they can never know if what they create in the lab actually corresponds to reality.”

    No.568: ARGUMENT FROM SCIENCE (III)
    (1) Science can’t explain everything.
    (2) God can.
    (3) Therefore, God exists.

    Like

  76. @69: “Well Alison, I have no reason to believe these men lied or intended to write myth. And many true events in life can not be corroborated in a scientific sense but are nevertheless facts. Many historical facts are like that. Much of your personal history is like that.”

    Quite so, much of my personal history is like that. The difference is that I don’t presume to attempt to impose my personal history on others as an example of how they should do things.

    To 75: don’t hog the popcorn 😉

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  77. “To 75: don’t hog the popcorn” I’ll say. Cedric never gave me any. *Pouts*

    JK.

    James point about personal histories seems moot to me, as the religious stories, with rare exceptions, aren’t the authors’ personal histories, but their (apparent) accounts of others.

    And people do “edit” their own histories in subtle and not-so-subtle ways… 🙂

    Like

  78. Quite so, much of my personal history is like that. The difference is that I don’t presume to attempt to impose my personal history on others as an example of how they should do things.

    Well truth is truth, and if Christ is the Son of God, well… And I’m not sure what you mean by “imposing.”

    Like

  79. James point about personal histories seems moot to me, as the religious stories, with rare exceptions, aren’t the authors’ personal histories, but their (apparent) accounts of others.

    Many of the old testament writings are personal accounts (Moses, David, a number of prophets). Like Paul’s accounts and some are histories gleened directly from the witnesses – like Luke and Acts. And other personal accounts like the Gospel of John, John’s letters, First Peter, Revelations…

    Like

  80. “I didn’t say that infinity was irrational, an infinite being is not irrational, a infinite regression of events is. With each event being justified by a previous event.”

    Aha, an infinite being having infinite attributes and existing since an infinite amount of time is rational, whereas an infinite chain of events is irrational. Your “special” logic at work again…

    “Again Iapetus, how exactly does removing the phrase “total certainty” change the irrational into the rational?”e

    The Münchhausen-Trilemma is not applicable here, but we already know that you do not understand this.

    An infinite series of events, just like an infinite amount of numbers, is a perfectly rational concept and describable in Cantorian set theory. Do you have anything substantial to base your objection on here or are you talking out of personal incredulity, as usual?

    “Just like your experience of the world isn’t “evidence” that the world actually exists. Besides, you have no idea if aliens actually exist or if they interacted with human beings.”

    So we take the default position of believing it, right?

    But wait, on the “Let´s count teeth” thread you finally admitted that all you can say is that you do not know if these people were abducted by aliens or not.

    So, make up your mind: Do all experiences that people report count as valid evidence for you or not?

    “Yes libertarian free will does have its problems, but the problems of determinism are much worse.”

    Contra-causal free will does not have “problems”, it is self-refuting. It renders all of our decisions unexplainable in principle, an arbitrary singularity which is totally isolated from reason and reasons.

    What we really want from the concept of free will is control, which involves inter alia, but not exclusively, the ability to respond to reason and reasons. When we make a decision, we evaluate reasons for different actions and come to a conclusion. What is the connection between the various reasons, our evaluation of the reasons and our decision?
    The answer is that it can only be a causal connection. The situation with which we were confronted in combination with the way we evaluated that situation caused us to act as we did.

    Now, all necessary components for this evaluation process can be accounted for under a physicalist, stochastically deterministic framework. We have ample evidence that the brain operates as a very sophisticated, vastly interconnected neural network and furthermore that such neural networks are capable of exercising control based on representation. In other words, the brain is able to model its environment, the internal state of the body as well as the changes said internal body state undergoes when interacting with said environment plus a “meta-model” of said models, i.e. what we associate with being conscious. Said model(s) are then used to plot a specific course of action.

    When people talk about free will, what they usually associate with it is the notion of “could have done otherwise”, since this is allegedly necessary for morality and accountability. But this notion is misleading. On the contrary, if a person has the choice between a morally acceptable and unacceptable act, but is not responsive to reason and reasons, it means that said person will arbitrarily choose one of the available options. However, this would remove any moral accountability. It would be akin to a coin toss, which is morally neutral. However, moral decisions can only be meaningful if they are rationally defensible, i.e. what is required is, again, a capability of being responsive to reason and reasons.

    “Then there is the “fact” of personal experience. I bet just about every atheist on this board believes he has a high degree (if not absolute) of moral and intellectual freedom.”

    We do have some degree of freedom, i.e. the power to be biological agents which are responsive to reason and reasons. Contra-causal free will does not give us any freedom at all, since it deprives us of making rational decisions.

    “You missed the point Iapetus, tell me how/why formery entangled particles mirror each others movement at a distance without a physcal connection. We have NO idea how that is possible, there is NO known mechanism that can account for this. Yet it happens. And using terms like “spatiotemporal” does not solve the problem.”

    No, you miss the point, as usual.

    Pointing to quantum entanglement does not help you. Your “mind-realm” harbouring “thoughts” is either spatio-temporal or not. If it is, you have to provide evidence for it as well as a theory describing its behaviour.

    If it is not, it can never influence our spatio-temporal reality since causation and change require spatio-temporality.

    So, where is your “mind-realm”? Is it spatio-temporal or not?

    “So if my personal experience points to freedom of will, freedom of thought, I see no reason to doubt that experience – even if a mechanism can not be found.”

    A typical example of your sloppy thinking. How many times does it have to be explained to you: what you personally consider “obvious” or “absurd” or whatever is no reliable guide to reality. All major scientific discoveries of the last centuries were initially deeply counter-intuitive, be it quantum mechanics, the theory of relativity or the theory of evolution.

    We are not born with an ability to instinctively discern the nature of the universe. This is especially true for what goes on in our heads. So we have to look at the evidence, in this case from neurology, neurophysiology, computer science and related fields. Said evidence is supportive of the physicalist account and non-existent for substance dualism.

    Like

  81. “Many of the old testament writings are personal accounts (Moses, David, a number of prophets). Like Paul’s accounts and some are histories gleened directly from the witnesses – like Luke and Acts. And other personal accounts like the Gospel of John, John’s letters, First Peter, Revelations…”

    The phrase ‘personal account’ implies authorship by a particular person. I have seen nothing in the bible to suggest that Moses’ story is anything other than a story wriitn by some un-named individual at some unspecified time in the past. And as it’s already been pointed out, even if someting is a personal account, that does not mean it’s true…

    (anyone fancy a frozen coke?)

    Like

  82. 82: Precisely & thanks.

    Frozen as in solid ice, or frozen as in “cold drink”? An enquiring mind wants to know…! 🙂

    Like

  83. @ alison:

    “if something is a personal account, that does not mean it’s true”

    So true – I have given my own personal account of a miracle (
    My own miracle?). I’m absolutely convinced I saw this (a cable car going through a brick wall) – but I have yet to meet anyone who accepts my memory as factual. Can’t blame them, really.

    Like

  84. Aha, an infinite being having infinite attributes and existing since an infinite amount of time is rational, whereas an infinite chain of events is irrational. Your “special” logic at work again…

    And yes, your special logic – you would be willing to accept one and not another. We are back to dogma or infinite regress – pick your posion… And you have another problem – if infinite regress is true how would it even be possible to traverse a infinite series of events to get to our present event (universe)?

    The Münchhausen-Trilemma is not applicable here, but we already know that you do not understand this.

    Again, is the Trilemma a certain truth or an uncertain truth? If it is uncertain then why is it ultimately relevant to discovering truth? And if certain how do you escape it being a “dogma’? And the fact that you get to accept any theory as long as you preface it with “likely.” That my friend is arbitrary – whether you want to asdmit it or not. And no Iapetus you have not answered this.

    So, make up your mind: Do all experiences that people report count as valid evidence for you or not?

    So we take the default position of believing it, right?

    But wait, on the “Let´s count teeth” thread you finally admitted that all you can say is that you do not know if these people were abducted by aliens or not.

    So, make up your mind: Do all experiences that people report count as valid evidence for you or not?

    Iapetus, you still have not offered a non-arbitrary definition of “evidence.” And whether I accept one of these reports would depend on my knowledge of the person. If I believe them to be sober minded and rational then their experience would carry a lot of weight with me. Besides are not scientists searching for alien life with SETE?

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  85. “And whether I accept one of these reports would depend on my knowledge of the person.”

    Who wrote an argument doesn’t matter. The evidence for an logic of the argument is all that this needed. Making it depend on a “knowledge of the person” is either cherry-picking your answers (choosing people who have the same view as yourself) or a version of the “argument by authority” approach. Neither is rational.

    “If I believe them to be sober minded and rational then their experience would carry a lot of weight with me.”

    Apart from the above sentence of yours showing that you are irrational, you should be aware that to make a ration decision, you must put aside things that prejudice your thinking, such as religious beliefs. Unless you do this, you won’t consider all possibilities and as a consequence, your decision-making process will be incomplete and irrational.

    Many people who are delusional, etc., have no real idea that they are not “sober-minded”: your saying that you believe yourself “to be sober-minded” is moot in this context.

    Like

  86. When people talk about free will, what they usually associate with it is the notion of “could have done otherwise”, since this is allegedly necessary for morality and accountability. But this notion is misleading. On the contrary, if a person has the choice between a morally acceptable and unacceptable act, but is not responsive to reason and reasons, it means that said person will arbitrarily choose one of the available options. However, this would remove any moral accountability. It would be akin to a coin toss, which is morally neutral. However, moral decisions can only be meaningful if they are rationally defensible, i.e. what is required is, again, a capability of being responsive to reason and reasons.

    This just does not follow. It does have to be either or. Either it’s all determined or it’s random. Using our “minds” we can choose between different options. And if I pick option A, there is nothing that prevented me from option B. I used reason to judge between the two options – I was not biologically determined to choose A. And my reasoning abilities prevented it from being random.

    We do have some degree of freedom, i.e. the power to be biological agents which are responsive to reason and reasons. Contra-causal free will does not give us any freedom at all, since it deprives us of making rational decisions.

    Nonsense. You have no freedom. You don’t choose because of the truth or falseness of an option. You choose because the underlying non-rational brain processes caused you to choose. The content of a thought (its truth or falseness) has no causal role. You have no choice with the input or the output. You are a biological robot.

    Now, all necessary components for this evaluation process can be accounted for under a physicalist, stochastically deterministic framework.

    Tell that to men like David Chalmers: http://consc.net/papers/moving.html

    Pointing to quantum entanglement does not help you. Your “mind-realm” harbouring “thoughts” is either spatio-temporal or not. If it is, you have to provide evidence for it as well as a theory describing its behaviour.

    If it is not, it can never influence our spatio-temporal reality since causation and change require spatio-temporality.

    So, where is your “mind-realm”? Is it spatio-temporal or not?

    1. Is the “mechanism” that causes the mirroring effect in formerly entangled particles spatio-temporal or not? It affects the spatio-temporal, but is it itself spatio-temporal?

    2. And how do you know what can or can not influence the spatio-temporal?

    3. Again, if you are right we are slaves to the underlying physical forces. No freedom of thought, no rationality – you don’t choose an option because of its truth or falseness, you choose because it was biolgically determined – it may happen to be right, but its rightness was not the cause.

    A typical example of your sloppy thinking. How many times does it have to be explained to you: what you personally consider “obvious” or “absurd” or whatever is no reliable guide to reality. All major scientific discoveries of the last centuries were initially deeply counter-intuitive, be it quantum mechanics, the theory of relativity or the theory of evolution.

    Well you are going to have to do a lot better to support this counter-intuitive claim than simply saying that we can’t figure out how the mind could effect the pyhsical brain processes so it must not happen. Why should I let your ignorance change what I know to be true?

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  87. James said…”Iapetus, you still have not offered a non-arbitrary definition of “evidence.”

    Hit that re-set button. HIT IT BABY!

    Heraclides said…”Who wrote an argument doesn’t matter. The evidence for an logic of the argument is all that this needed. Making it depend on a “knowledge of the person” is either cherry-picking your answers (choosing people who have the same view as yourself) or a version of the “argument by authority” approach. Neither is rational.”

    Rationality is not one of James’ strong points.

    James said…”Why should I let your ignorance change what I KNOW to be true?”

    (stunned silence)

    Wow.
    James? Do you ever stop to think before you post?
    WOW.
    What a clanger that one is!
    🙂

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  88. The evidence for an logic of the argument is all that this needed. Making it depend on a “knowledge of the person” is either cherry-picking your answers (choosing people who have the same view as yourself) or a version of the “argument by authority” approach. Neither is rational.

    First Heraclides, you don’t even want to start discussing “logic” unless you can offer a objective and universal source for the laws of logic. If not your “logic” is quite subjective, and not material to the discussion. And I didn’t see Washington crossing the Delaware but I have no reason to doubt the first person historical accounts.

    Apart from the above sentence of yours showing that you are irrational, you should be aware that to make a ration decision, you must put aside things that prejudice your thinking, such as religious beliefs. Unless you do this, you won’t consider all possibilities and as a consequence, your decision-making process will be incomplete and irrational.

    It’s time for you to put up or hush up. Prove that you are rational, present an objective rule for human rationality – if you can’t you are simply offering unsupported and subjective opinions.

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  89. James creates unintentional comedy with…”you don’t even want to start discussing “logic” unless you can offer a objective and universal source for the laws of logic. If not your “logic” is quite subjective, and not material to the discussion.”

    No 1: TRANSCENDENTAL ARGUMENT, a.k.a. PRESUPPOSITIONALIST (I)
    (1) If reason exists then God exists.
    (2) Reason exists.
    (3) Therefore, God exists.

    James plods along with…”Prove that you are rational, present an objective rule for human rationality – if you can’t you are simply offering unsupported and subjective opinions.”

    No.31: ARGUMENT FROM FALLIBILITY
    (1) Human reasoning is inherently flawed.
    (2) Therefore, there is no reasonable way to challenge a proposition.
    (3) I propose that God exists.
    (4) Therefore, God exists.

    http://www.godlessgeeks.com/LINKS/GodProof.htm

    Like

  90. Sheesh Cerdic, keep going you are making a good case for theism. Thanks…

    Like

  91. “And yes, your special logic – you would be willing to accept one and not another.”

    On the contrary, it is you who labels an infinity rational in one context and irrational in another, based on nothing but your personal gut feelings.

    “And you have another problem – if infinite regress is true how would it even be possible to traverse a infinite series of events to get to our present event (universe)?”

    You continue to shoot yourself in the foot.

    According to your “logic”, your own god-concept becomes incoherent: an eternal being could never perform an action, since an infinite amount of time would have to pass before the moment of performing said action has arrived.

    However, this whole argument is a descendant of Zeno’s arguments and fallaciously depends on an anthropocentric notion of “traversing” or “going through” a set. The universe (or multiverse), and presumably your deity, does not go through a set of events in the sense of planning which to go through first, in order to get through the second, and so on. All that is needed is that one event precedes another.

    Btw, Thomas Aquinas agreed with the possibility of an infinite past in his Summa theologiae, although he naturally lacked the mathematical tools to handle infinities rigorously. Since he might not be on your index of forbidden books, why not read what he had to say?

    “Again, is the Trilemma a certain truth or an uncertain truth? If it is uncertain then why is it ultimately relevant to discovering truth? And if certain how do you escape it being a “dogma’? And the fact that you get to accept any theory as long as you preface it with “likely.” That my friend is arbitrary – whether you want to asdmit it or not. And no Iapetus you have not answered this.”

    Recommended reading for anyone who is genuinely interested to learn about the position I have described here (i.e. not you, James):

    Popper, The open society and its enemies
    Albert, Treatise on critical rationalism
    Bartley, The retreat to commitment

    Since you, James, are prevented courtesy of your automatic defense mechanisms from seriously engaging with anything that fails to reinforce your belief system, see if you can handle this:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M%C3%BCnchhausen_Trilemma

    Read it. Slowly.

    Think about it. Hard.

    Read it again. Slowly.

    Try to summarize it in your own words.

    Then try to answer the following question: what is the nature of the infinite regress in the Trilemma? Why is it one of its horns?

    “And whether I accept one of these reports would depend on my knowledge of the person.”

    Hmm, I thought their experiences as such are evidence enough?

    So suddenly you start to attach caveats and other criteria. What a surprise…

    Unfortunately, you do not know any of the OT or NT writers personally. What criteria do you employ now?

    And lest we forget, here is what you admitted on another thread in a rare bout of honesty and realism: “I could be mistaken. Jesus and the NT writers could all have been liars.”

    Indeed.

    “Either it’s all determined or it’s random. Using our “minds” we can choose between different options. And if I pick option A, there is nothing that prevented me from option B. I used reason to judge between the two options – I was not biologically determined to choose A. And my reasoning abilities prevented it from being random.”

    If we put your first and last sentence together, it follows that your reasoning abilities are determined.

    Consequently, you have just abandoned the notion of contra-causal free will and more or less confirmed my position. We act based on reason and reasons, i.e. our decisions are determined by the result of our reasoning process. Or to put it another way, the reasons why you chose option A prevented you from choosing option B.

    “You don’t choose because of the truth or falseness of an option. You choose because the underlying non-rational brain processes caused you to choose. The content of a thought (its truth or falseness) has no causal role. You have no choice with the input or the output. You are a biological robot.”

    This is patently absurd.

    We know from countless scientific studies that the brain can be seen as a neural network. We know that neural networks are capable of displaying control via representation. We know that they can learn and adapt their behaviour in a purposeful manner to achieve certain goals. We can account for rational, logical behaviour and even reproduce it artificially.

    You simply have no idea what you are talking about here. Putting humans on the same cognitive level as insects is utterly naive, especially with such a flimsy justification. It betrays a total lack of knowledge in cognitive neuroscience, neural network research and any other field that is relevant here.

    What a shock.

    “Tell that to men like David Chalmers: [link]”

    Once again trying to circumvent the hard work of making an argument yourself? Par for the course…

    “Is the “mechanism” that causes the mirroring effect in formerly entangled particles spatio-temporal or not? It affects the spatio-temporal, but is it itself spatio-temporal?”

    We have no indication to the contrary. How should something outside of time and space influence something spatio-temporal? The concept itself is incoherent on its face.

    “And how do you know what can or can not influence the spatio-temporal?”

    The usual sign of desperation from you: “But you can not rule it out with utter certainty!”.

    Unless you can give a mechanism for such an incoherent concept and evidence that this “mind-realm” exists in the first place, there is no reason for us to take it seriously and throw our established notions of causality and change out of the window.

    “Well you are going to have to do a lot better to support this counter-intuitive claim than simply saying that we can’t figure out how the mind could effect the pyhsical brain processes so it must not happen.”

    I am not saying it must not happen, I am saying that there is no evidence whatsoever of a “mind-realm” outside of space and time influencing our reality. I am further saying that the evidence we do have is in line with and supportive of a physicalist account.

    And you have offered nothing to counter this.

    “Why should I let your ignorance change what I know to be true?”

    Hmm, seems to be a typo in it:

    “Why should I let your ignorance change what I want to be true?”

    There, fixed.

    Thanks again for giving us another insight into the lunatic dogmatism that lurks beneath all your mangling of philosophy and science.

    “First Heraclides, you don’t even want to start discussing “logic” unless you can offer a objective and universal source for the laws of logic.”

    “Prove that you are rational, present an objective rule for human rationality […]”

    Boy, that Reset Button really gets a workout…

    Okay, once more unto the breach:

    1. Define “objective”.

    2. Show how theism can offer an ultimate justification for objective logic, morality or cooking recipes.

    “Sheesh Cerdic, keep going you are making a good case for theism. Thanks…”

    No James, he is merely showing the stupidity of your arguments with less words than I use.

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  92. @83 – you don’t go to the movies often, do you? 😉 Neither do I, actually – but when one does make an evening of it with the Significant Other, one partakes of a frozen coke: basically a frappe, I suppose, but with coke, & must be consumed with a spoon 🙂 Until it gets to the slushy stage at the bottom of the cup.

    Like

  93. 93:

    “you don’t go to the movies often, do you? ;-)”

    No I don’t, as much as I like them. (Budgets…) Things were better on that front in my Ph.D. student days when I also had a lousy budget, but at least you could buy student season passes. (I swear some of my friends had an additional Ph.D. in the movie industry by the time they finished.)

    We used to make something like that as kids, but called it some other name that I’ve forgotten now.

    Like

  94. According to your “logic”, your own god-concept becomes incoherent: an eternal being could never perform an action, since an infinite amount of time would have to pass before the moment of performing said action has arrived.

    And you know that according to Christian doctrine time was created when God created the universe. So your argument holds no weight:

    http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/eternity.html

    Since you, James, are prevented courtesy of your automatic defense mechanisms from seriously engaging with anything that fails to reinforce your belief system, see if you can handle this.

    Iapetus, I have read that a number of times. And I understand what it means – that we can believe almost anything if we don’t claim certainty. “Uncertainity” is the magic word that covers many sins. But the fact is Iapetus, you are still left with infinite regress and I’m left with some form foundationalism, self evident truths or principle of sufficient reason. And claiming “uncertainity” does not take you off that horn – that is the part of this that is arbitrary. If the multiverse is a “true” theory, then infinite regress is a fact and you are “in reality” impaled.

    I have asked you a number of times if Münchhausen was a certain truth. You have avoided that question like the plague because you know to answer it would create a dilemma. If it is certain then it is dogma, if it is not certain then it is an arbitrary argument – and moot as far as I’m concerned.

    Hmm, I thought their experiences as such are evidence enough?

    So suddenly you start to attach caveats and other criteria. What a surprise…

    Unfortunately, you do not know any of the OT or NT writers personally. What criteria do you employ now?

    Once again trying to circumvent the hard work of making an argument yourself? Par for the course…

    And lest we forget, here is what you admitted on another thread in a rare bout of honesty and realism: “I could be mistaken. Jesus and the NT writers could all have been liars.”

    There was no caveats in anything I said. I know the NT writers by their works and by early parasitic writers. That these men suffered much for their beliefs. If you have evidence that they lied about things like the resurrection then present it. Until then, I will take them as I find them – as honest men.

    Once again trying to circumvent the hard work of making an argument yourself? Par for the course…

    You suggested that this was a setteled issue, and that it all can be explained by physicalism. Well you are wrong. And if you read 2.1 and 2.2 of Chalmers’ paper you will see that he directly takes on Dennett’s assumptions – and clearly shows that Dennett is question begging. And if you really have a slam dunk argument Chalmers’ e-mail is contained in the link. But I suspect you won’t contact him…

    Consequently, you have just abandoned the notion of contra-causal free will and more or less confirmed my position. We act based on reason and reasons, i.e. our decisions are determined by the result of our reasoning process. Or to put it another way, the reasons why you chose option A prevented you from choosing option B.

    Utter nonsense Iapetus, in my model the immaterial content of thoughts play a causal role in the process. The content is what makes the process rational. Content is key. “Reasons” are content. Now you ran away from this question on Bnonn’s board, and this question is central to the whole discussion. Does the immaterial content of thoughts and propositions play a causal role in our decision making process – yes or no? If yes – how…

    We have no indication to the contrary. How should something outside of time and space influence something spatio-temporal? The concept itself is incoherent on its face.

    Unless you can give a mechanism for such an incoherent concept and evidence that this “mind-realm” exists in the first place, there is no reason for us to take it seriously and throw our established notions of causality and change out of the window.

    First you have no indication of anything. Second, then give me a coherent explaination for how these particles mirror each others movement at a distance. Show me a spatio-temporal mechanism. Third, are there other dimensions than the ones we know of? Do they interact with ours? What would that mean for our understanding of our “spatio-temporal” world? Fourth, your (our)ignorance of a mind body connection is no basis for my denying what I know to be true.

    You simply have no idea what you are talking about here. Putting humans on the same cognitive level as insects is utterly naive, especially with such a flimsy justification. It betrays a total lack of knowledge in cognitive neuroscience, neural network research and any other field that is relevant here.

    Well how about if Dawkings does it:

    http://www.edge.org/q2006/q06_9.html

    Retribution as a moral principle is incompatible with a scientific view of human behaviour. As scientists, we believe that human brains, though they may not work in the same way as man-made computers, are as surely governed by the laws of physics. When a computer malfunctions, we do not punish it. We track down the problem and fix it, usually by replacing a damaged component, either in hardware or software.

    But doesn’t a truly scientific, mechanistic view of the nervous system make nonsense of the very idea of responsibility, whether diminished or not? Any crime, however heinous, is in principle to be blamed on antecedent conditions acting through the accused’s physiology, heredity and environment. Don’t judicial hearings to decide questions of blame or diminished responsibility make as little sense for a faulty man as for a Fawlty car?

    Assigning blame and responsibility is an aspect of the useful fiction of intentional agents that we construct in our brains as a means of short-cutting a truer analysis of what is going on in the world in which we have to live.

    Iapetus, where is the “freedom” and “moral responsibility” you spoke of here?

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  95. 1. Define “objective”.

    That which is idependent of the observer. In this case independent of humankind…

    2. Show how theism can offer an ultimate justification for objective logic, morality or cooking recipes.

    Since logically is the way God thinks,the laws of logic are immutable and universal. And if you are correct then laws of logic are merely conventional. So when Heraclides accused me of not following “logic” or of being “irrational,” he is merely stating that I am not following a fallible convention. But why should that bother me, or anyone else? Why is his opinion more vaild than the next guy’s? Based on what?

    Another point Iapetus, you spoke about things being “incoherent.” But how is that possible if the laws of logic are not universal? You can speak of things appearing incoherent, but why should we take that finite, and fallible opinion as gospel? Certainly you can’t mean that something is universally incoherent. Talk about shooting ones self in the foot.

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  96. Recommended reading for anyone who is genuinely interested to learn about the position I have described here (i.e. not you, James):

    Popper, The open society and its enemies
    Albert, Treatise on critical rationalism
    Bartley, The retreat to commitment

    Well good, let’s start with a self-refuting “belief” of Popper: “All knowledge remains conjectural” Notice that he says “all” knowledge. But this is a knowledge claim ,a claim that is universal and affirmative(all).

    So here we see that one of the core tenets of Critical Rationalism is self refuting.

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  97. Looks like the James has been pretty busy this weekend. Ergo, there is lots and lots of nonsense to address. So let´s get right to it…

    “And you know that according to Christian doctrine time was created when God created the universe. So your argument holds no weight: [link]”

    So once again you qoute from a website instead of supplying an argument. Do you actually read the links you give here?

    This is not “Christian doctrine”, this is Craig´s personal attempt to make sense of an eternal being performing actions. The assumptions he makes here and the conclusions he comes to are wide open to critique. However, I have no intention to discuss this in detail with you, since it is not even your own argument. I will just note in passing the fact, which Craig mentions himself, that one of his core assumptions of time having a “beginning” is even disputed by his theistic colleague Swinburne, who holds that time is necessarily infinite.

    More importantly though, you utterly fail to engage with anything I said, probably because you once again did not understand it. Neither an infinite series of events nor an infinity in time is logically incoherent.

    “Iapetus, I have read that a number of times. And I understand what it means – that we can believe almost anything if we don’t claim certainty.”

    It truely is amazing. I have never seen anyone who has such a mental block and is so utterly incapable of understanding the concept even after repeated explanations. Sometimes the last, desperate measure to get through to such a person is to shout:

    THE MÜNCHHAUSEN-TRILEMMA MERELY SHOWS WHY DEMANDING AN ULTIMATE JUSTIFICATION FOR A PROPOSITION IS UTOPIAN. IT DOES NOT SAY IN ANY WAY, SHAPE OR FORM THAT AN UNCERTAIN PROPOSITION CAN BE BLINDLY BELIEVED. THIS IS WHY CRITICAL RATIONALISM EMPHASIZES THE NEED TO ALWAYS LOOK FOR ALTERNATIVES AND PICK THE PROPOSITION WITH THE HIGHEST PROBLEM-SOLVING CAPAPBILITY AND EXPLANATORY VALUE.

    “But the fact is Iapetus, you are still left with infinite regress and I’m left with some form foundationalism, self evident truths or principle of sufficient reason.”

    And since any form of “foundationalism” or “self-evident” truths can not further be justified, you have terminated the justification regress via recourse to a dogma. Hence any claims to certain truth, universal validity etc. are forfeit.

    “And claiming “uncertainity” does not take you off that horn – that is the part of this that is arbitrary. If the multiverse is a “true” theory, then infinite regress is a fact and you are “in reality” impaled.”

    You simply do not get it.

    The infinite regress is one of the horns of the Trilemma because you will not get to an ultimate justification which could guarantee the truth of a proposition, as the series of justifications never ends.

    This has absolutely nothing do to with the question whether an infinite series of causes/entities/seconds or whatever is logically possible and whether it exists in reality. If it did, it merely could not serve as basis for an ultimate justification.

    “I have asked you a number of times if Münchhausen was a certain truth. You have avoided that question like the plague because you know to answer it would create a dilemma.”

    “Let´s count teeth”, posts no. 186 & 267.

    Isn´t a selective memory great…

    “If it is certain then it is dogma, if it is not certain then it is an arbitrary argument – and moot as far as I’m concerned.”

    This must certainly be one of the dumbest things I have ever seen from you. Which is really saying something.

    So you only consider arguments which are dogmatic and/or utterly certain. You do realize that this renders any discussion that entails more than analytical truths utterly pointless, don´t you?

    “There was no caveats in anything I said.”

    Of course there were. You first asserted that the experiences of the biblical writers as such were evidence for the truth of what they wrote. When asked whether this also holds for the experiences of alien abductees, you backpedaled and stated that it depends on your knowledge of the person, i.e. their experience as such is suddenly no longer sufficient.

    “I know the NT writers by their works and by early parasitic writers.”

    So let´s see what we have here:

    First, the experience of the NT writers was sufficient evidence for the truth of what they wrote.

    Then, that was amended by stating that it depends on the knowledge of the person who did the writing.

    Now, this knowledge of the person is based on what they have written; in other words, the truth of what is written is based on what is written.

    What a nice circularity this is. A textbook example. Congratulations.

    “You suggested that this was a setteled issue, and that it all can be explained by physicalism. Well you are wrong.”

    Still making an “argument-by-proxy”?

    Sorry, not interested. Write an argument in your own words or be prepared to be ignored.

    “Utter nonsense Iapetus, in my model the immaterial content of thoughts play a causal role in the process. The content is what makes the process rational. Content is key. “Reasons” are content.”

    It does not matter which label you attach to it, whether it is “reasons” or “content” or “motives” or whatever. The fact is that this thing caused you to act like you did. Ergo, it is no contra-causal free will.

    “Does the immaterial content of thoughts and propositions play a causal role in our decision making process – yes or no? If yes – how…”

    I have told you before that precisely this was addressed by Steve Zara in his debate with Tennant. But you naturally ignored it. Therefore, although I am normally not a friend of your copy & paste approach, I will simply re-state what Steve had to say.

    Tennant´s assertion was that a physicalist can not account for human reason and used as an example the logical conclusion that “Socrates is mortal”, which follows from the premises “All men are mortal” and “Socrates is a man”, since this allegedly involves an “immaterial content”. Now, said assertion is obviously false since:

    [begin qoute]”All I need to establish is that the use of a logical structure is implied by the words you use, and that the brain can implement this structure. The words acquire meaning through a consensus about their use, so that part of the argument is easily dealt with. Now, can neural networks implement such logical structures? The answer is unquestionably yes, they can. We know this is possible in principle because we can implement such logical structures in computer systems, and because neural networks are capable in principle of any functionality of such computer systems. However, the structures certainly won’t be implemented in anything like the way that we build or program computers. They will be the result of the training of our neural networks by years of experience and learning. We learn the rules of the game.

    That is all I need to show that the logic you describe can be dealt with by the physical substance of a brain. We know that certain words imply the use of certain logical structures, and we know that the logical structures can exist in the substance and activity of the brain.”[end qoute]

    “First you have no indication of anything.”

    But I most certainly do. Both our measurements of quantum entanglement as well as the theory describing it are firmly spatio-temporal. There is nothing in either which points to a non-spatio-temporal realm.

    “Second, then give me a coherent explaination for how these particles mirror each others movement at a distance. Show me a spatio-temporal mechanism.”

    Why? Is your “mind-realm” working via non spatio-temporal quantum entanglement? Fine, produce a theory and a way of testing it.

    “Third, are there other dimensions than the20ones we know of? Do they interact with ours? What would that mean for our understanding of our “spatio-temporal” world?”

    That would surely be interesting. According to some speculative physical theories, we might be living in a universe with more than three dimensions. However, these additional dimensions would still be spatio-temporal. Furthermore, if they influence our reality, we should be able to detect it.

    “Fourth, your (our)ignorance of a mind body connection is no basis for my denying what I know to be true.”

    Oops, there is that typo again:

    “Fourth, your (our)ignorance of a mind body connection is no basis for my denying what I want to be true.”

    There, fixed.

    “Well how about if Dawkings does it: [snip irrelevant quote-mine]

    Iapetus, where is the “freedom” and “moral responsibility” you spoke of here?”

    I am not interested in discussing Dawkins quote-mines.

    Formulate an argument in your own words or be prepared to be ignored.

    “That which is idependent of the observer. In this case independent of humankind…”

    The first sentence goes in the right direction, while the second is wrong.

    “Objective” means independent of anybody´s will, desire etc., i.e. both human and divine. To say something is “objective for humankind only” is senseless. But all this has been explained to you before by various people to no avail, so you will doubtlessly ignore it again.

    “Since logically is the way God thinks,the laws of logic are immutable and universal.”

    They can not be immutable, since he may change his mind.

    Furthermore, as you have been told on numerous occasions, there is a difference between “objective” and “universal”. So, which is it to be?

    But let us forget all these inconsistencies for the time being since you will not coherently address them anyway.

    The bottom line is: the mind of a deity “grounds” objective logic, morality and cooking recipes.

    The obvious follow-up question thus is: what “grounds” the mind of the deity?

    “Well good, let’s start with a self-refuting “belief” of Popper: “All knowledge remains conjectural” Notice that he says “all” knowledge. But this is a knowledge claim ,a claim that is universal and affirmative(all).”

    Wow. In your patented style, you trawl the Web for some random quote-mine sans source and context and think you have made an argument. Way to go.

    “So here we see that one of the core tenets of Critical Rationalism is self refuting.”

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

    Sorry, could not help myself…

    You are really hilarious. The finest minds in analytical philosophy have spent decades discussing with the likes of Popper, Albert and Bartley over critical rationalism. Yet, it is still alive and kicking.

    But lo and behold, along comes the intellectual giant James with a random quote-mine and shows that critical rationalism is BS. And why not, since you already buried the theory of evolution and Kantian moral philosophy (snicker)…

    James, do you know what “conjectural” means? When you have found out, try to think about what that entails for such a claim. The result should also come in handy with regard to your inability to understand the epistemic status of the Münchhausen-Trilemma…

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  98. James, do you know what “conjectural” means? When you have found out, try to think about what that entails for such a claim. The result should also come in handy with regard to your inability to understand the epistemic status of the Münchhausen-Trilemma…

    Well good, let’s start with a self-refuting “belief” of Popper: “All knowledge remains conjectural” Notice that he says “all” knowledge. But this is a knowledge claim ,a claim that is universal and affirmative(all).”

    Once again. I know exactly what conjectural means. Second, the claim is a knowledge claim, and it is a universal claim. It is therefore self refuting. I know where the quote came from, I’m I’m sure you do to. So just admit that it is sefl-refuting or show how it isn’t.

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  99. THE MÜNCHHAUSEN-TRILEMMA MERELY SHOWS WHY DEMANDING AN ULTIMATE JUSTIFICATION FOR A PROPOSITION IS UTOPIAN. IT DOES NOT SAY IN ANY WAY, SHAPE OR FORM THAT AN UNCERTAIN PROPOSITION CAN BE BLINDLY BELIEVED. THIS IS WHY CRITICAL RATIONALISM EMPHASIZES THE NEED TO ALWAYS LOOK FOR ALTERNATIVES AND PICK THE PROPOSITION WITH THE HIGHEST PROBLEM-SOLVING CAPAPBILITY AND EXPLANATORY VALUE.

    Once again. Is MT a universal truth or a mere convention? If it is a mere convention then why are we rationally bound to it?

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  100. THE MÜNCHHAUSEN-TRILEMMA MERELY SHOWS WHY DEMANDING AN ULTIMATE JUSTIFICATION FOR A PROPOSITION IS UTOPIAN. IT DOES NOT SAY IN ANY WAY, SHAPE OR FORM THAT AN UNCERTAIN PROPOSITION CAN BE BLINDLY BELIEVED. THIS IS WHY CRITICAL RATIONALISM EMPHASIZES THE NEED TO ALWAYS LOOK FOR ALTERNATIVES AND PICK THE PROPOSITION WITH THE HIGHEST PROBLEM-SOLVING CAPAPBILITY AND EXPLANATORY VALUE.

    Really, are language and description certain? Do you have faith in your reason?

    Didn’t Popper say:

    “critical rationalism… recognises the fact that the fundamental rationalist attitude results from an (at least tentative) act of faith — from faith in reason….[and]frankly admits its origin in an irrational decision…”

    “The Open Society and its Enemies” Volume one pg 230

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  101. The words acquire meaning through a consensus about their use, so that part of the argument is easily dealt with. Now, can neural networks implement such logical structures? The answer is unquestionably yes, they can. We know this is possible in principle because we can implement such logical structures in computer systems, and because neural networks are capable in principle of any functionality of such computer systems. However, the structures certainly won’t be implemented in anything like the way that we build or program computers. They will be the result of the training of our neural networks by years of experience and learning. We learn the rules of the game.

    That is all I need to show that the logic you describe can be dealt with by the physical substance of a brain. We know that certain words imply the use of certain logical structures, and we know that the logical structures can exist in the substance and activity of the brain.”

    First, I did not say that we could not come to correct conclusions. We could in your model, but we are not coming to them because they are true, but because we were programmed to. You did not address whether content played a role or what role it played, or how content could effect the process. Computers care nothing for content they simply spit out what was programmed in. So yes, the physical brain can spit out correct conclusions but content plays no role, and we have no options.

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  102. “I know exactly what conjectural means. Second, the claim is a knowledge claim, and it is a universal claim. It is therefore self refuting.”

    Too bad that the last sentence gives the lie to the first…

    So you know what “conjectural” means? If this is so, you should be able to figure out the result of applying this claim to itself.

    “Is MT a universal truth or a mere convention?”

    “Let´s count teeth”, posts no. 186 & 267.

    Isn´t a selective memory great…

    “If it is a mere convention then why are we rationally bound to it?”

    What on earth are you talking about?

    The Münchhausen-Trilemma is no authoritative moral command that “binds” you to do anything. It merely shows the futility of searching for an utterly certain truth via recourse to an ultimate justification. If you want to ignore it, feel free to do so. Just do not be too surprised if people who are familiar with this concept will not take you seriously.

    “Really, are language and description certain? Do you have faith in your reason?

    Didn’t Popper say:

    “critical rationalism… recognises the fact that the fundamental rationalist attitude results from an (at least tentative) act of faith — from faith in reason….[and]frankly admits its origin in an irrational decision…”

    “The Open Society and its Enemies” Volume one pg 230”

    So I notice that you at least bothered to give a source this time. Apparently, education is possible.

    I was just waiting for this quote to get rolled out. It is a favorite of religious opponents of critical rationalism because they feel it provides them with the opportunity to point at Popper and say: “See, Mr. Rational, you have faith, too! So there.”

    There is just the tiny problem that this line of attack gains absolutely no traction. The qouted passage is from 1945, when Popper was developing and formulating his ideas for the first time. At this stage, he was still somewhat attached to the then more or less universally accepted tenets of classical rationalism with its demands of an ultimate justification, i.e. Popper was not yet aware of the broader concept of rationality and its implications he had begun to develop.

    The idea of critical rationalism only seems to be based on an irrational decision if one accepts the utopian demands of justification according to classical rationalism (incidentally, this is true for classical rationalism as well, it is just that the latter does not recognize its own dilemma). In contrast, if one accepts that the decision for critical rationalism is not justifiable with utter certainty, one can see it as an alternative which overcomes certain problems better than its competitors.

    “First, I did not say that we could not come to correct conclusions.”

    And the goal-posts start moving…

    In post no. 57 you asserted that “Rationality is impossible.” under a physicalist framework. This is shown to be wrong, since we can account for rational, logical behaviour.

    “You did not address whether content played a role or what role it played, or how content could effect the process.”

    Yawn.

    We could save a lot of time and space if you would simply read what was already written…

    [begin quote]”At this point, I feel that it is worth considering in detail what we mean by “meaning”. Meaning comes from recognition, and recognition is a function of memory, which is certainly physical. Meaning also comes from consensus. We have developed methods of interpretation and procedures of logical deduction. When we communicate with others, we don’t make random noises and expect gibberish back. We use words that we have come to expect will produce a known response. This is what “meaning” means – this connection between input and output. So why do we have personal recognition of meaning, as against something that is related to communication with others? It is because our minds model themselves as well as the minds of others. Communication, at least in terms of language (which is what we are largely talking about when we consider reasoning) is a conscious activity. We need to make conscious choices about how to influence others with language. This means we have to either rely on experience, or test how we intent to communicate against mental models. This testing need not be conscious – only the results of it need to be experienced. We experience results of such testing as meaning. This all comes from a solid foundations: our need to deal successfully with others of our kind. There is no magic ingredient, nothing unphysical. No need for any “mental realm”.

    This building up of meaning can be thought of as like playing a game, but an amazingly complex one. In his novel “The Player of Games”, Ian M. Banks describes Azad, a game with an astoundingly rich set of rules, and that can be played in countless ways. People can choose to cooperate or compete, and the game-play itself can be influenced both by the decisions of the players and by chance. The game is so rich and complex because it represents society and strategies can embody different philosophical positions. Language is like that – although there is a foundation of some rules, new meanings arise all the time and the rules of the game can change. But, underneath it all, there are still rules, and as we know artificial intelligences are starting to beat humans in even the most sophisticated games, and they are starting to be able to play the language game too.”[end quote]

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  103. “I know exactly what conjectural means. Second, the claim is a knowledge claim, and it is a universal claim. It is therefore self refuting.”

    Too bad that the last sentence gives the lie to the first…

    So you know what “conjectural” means? If this is so, you should be able to figure out the result of applying this claim to itself.

    1. No Iapetus, that does not answer the question. The claim is universal “all knowledge.” How do you justify that universal claim? You can’t just deny it was a universal claim…

    2. Conjectural: “an opinion formed on slight or defective evidence or none: an opinion without proof: a guess”. So is the claim that “All knowledge remains conjectural” a mere guess?

    3. I did ask: “are language and descriptions certain?” If language and descriptions are not certain then do we ever know what we are taking about?

    It merely shows the futility of searching for an utterly certain truth via recourse to an ultimate justification. If you want to ignore it, feel free to do so. Just do not be too surprised if people who are familiar with this concept will not take you seriously.

    But a self evident truth is self justifying. I think therefore I am, is self evident, and self justifying. Why should I let Munchhausen deny to me something I know is true? My existence is self evident.

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  104. In post no. 57 you asserted that “Rationality is impossible.” under a physicalist framework. This is shown to be wrong, since we can account for rational, logical behaviour.

    You did not address whether content played a role or what role it played, or how content could effect the process.”

    Rationality where content plays a role is impossible. I’m not saying that right responses can not be programmed in. A computer can spit out right answers. But it cares nothing for the truth or falseness of the conclusion. You have given a long winded explainations of how the brain could work – like a very complex computer, but you have yet to give a direct answer to the question of immaterial content playing a causal role in the process. So again, does the immaterial content of thoughts play a causal role in the process? If not there is no intellectual freedom in the process.

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  105. James: Am I to take it that you’ve have conceded your (silly) position over in other thread? (https://openparachute.wordpress.com/2008/11/17/prostituting-science/#comment-7853)

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  106. “1. No Iapetus, that does not answer the question. The claim is universal “all knowledge.” How do you justify that universal claim? You can’t just deny it was a universal claim…”

    I did not do that.

    “2. Conjectural: “an opinion formed on slight or defective evidence or none: an opinion without proof: a guess”. So is the claim that “All knowledge remains conjectural” a mere guess?”

    No, it is not a “mere guess”. If you would bother to expand your reading beyond the level of single sentence quote-mines or biased opinions from apologist websites that merely say what you want to hear, and would instead actually read the respective authors themselves, you might not be in such a constant state of puzzlement.

    Popper, Albert and Bartley developed their conjectural definition of truth as a result of their examination of the classical attempts at ensuring certainty about the truth of a proposition via recourse to an ultimate justification. They supply serious arguments (cf. the Münchhausen-Trilemma) as to why this endeavour is utopian.

    Now, it goes without saying that both the conjectural definition of truth as well as critical rationalism as a whole can be applied to itself without any difficulty, since it allows for the possibility that it is mistaken. In other words, the claim that all knowledge is conjectural is itself a conjectural claim, i.e. it could be false. If one were to show how an absolutly certain, indubitable piece of knowledge can be attained, this conjectural truth definition would be falsified. Furthermore, at least in this particular field we would not have to search for alternatives anymore, so critical rationalism itself would be superseded by a superior alternative.

    “3. I did ask: “are language and descriptions certain?” If language and descriptions are not certain then do we ever know what we are taking about?”

    Is this going to go into the same tedious direction as your incessant “But what if the laws of logic are not certain?” question?

    Furthermore, the question as framed does not really make sense. Exactly what is supposed to be certain or uncertain about language and definitions?

    “But a self evident truth is self justifying. I think therefore I am, is self evident, and self justifying.”

    Are you again starting to press the Reset Button? I have already told you on another thread that this Cartesian verdict was shown by Nietzsche in his work Beyond Good and Evil to involve a bunch of non-obvious metaphysical assumptions. I could lay them out here, but I still have the forlorn hope that you will get up from your behind and actually read it yourself.

    Generally, claiming “self-evidence” for a proposition is merely a masquerade for the decision to abandon the principle of sufficient reason at this point, since it is always possible to ask for further justification of this alleged “self-evident” proposition. Or to put it in other words: the self-evidence of one of our convictions does not guarantee its truth.

    “Rationality where content plays a role is impossible.”

    Huh? That sentence makes no sense. Is their a “not” missing?

    “I’m not saying that right responses can not be programmed in. A computer can spit out right answers. But it cares nothing for the truth or falseness of the conclusion.”

    You follow Tennant´s argumentation here as faithfully as a dog on a leash. For goodness´ sake, why not go and read this debate, maybe with eyes open this time?

    The question here is not whether a physicalist can give an account for the subjective feeling of reasoning (although there are robust attempts by various philosophers of mind and neuroscientists). The initial assertion was that the process of reasoning involves something that can not be accounted for under physicalist auspices. To once again quote what Steve wrote:

    [begin quote]”Reasoning is something we observe in others. If we can arrive at an outline of a physicalist explanation of how the interactions with others that we label as reasoning can occur – and we clearly can, as can be seen in the work of Paul and Patricia Churchland and others – then that explanation has to suffice. It isn’t acceptable to then declare that this can’t be reasoning simply because we know how it can occur! It does not matter what is performing the processing that appears to us to be reasoning. It may be a human brain, it may be Ned Block’s “Chinese Nation” – the substrate of the logical processing is of no consequence.” [end quote]

    “So again, does the immaterial content of thoughts play a causal role in the process? If not there is no intellectual freedom in the process.”

    First of all, you are just begging the question here. It was shown to you how the physicalist can account for human reasoning without invoking some “immaterial content” beamed into the head from a non-spatiotemporal “mind-realm”.

    Second, there most definitely is some degree of freedom in this process, as Dennett has argued. Why not invoke a radical break from your usual modus operandi and read him yourself to make up your mind instead of lapping up biased reviews that merely say what you want to hear?

    Third, as I have said before and you did not address, invoking “immaterial content” is still incompatible with contra-causal free will.

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  107. I have already told you on another thread that this Cartesian verdict was shown by Nietzsche in his work Beyond Good and Evil to involve a bunch of non-obvious metaphysical assumptions. I could lay them out here, but I still have the forlorn hope that you will get up from your behind and actually read it yourself.

    Generally, claiming “self-evidence” for a proposition is merely a masquerade for the decision to abandon the principle of sufficient reason at this point, since it is always possible to ask for further justification of this alleged “self-evident” proposition. Or to put it in other words: the self-evidence of one of our convictions does not guarantee its truth.

    This simply can not be so Iapetus. Do you really want to suggest that your very existence is not self-evident? That further justification would be needed? That you existence is conjectural?

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  108. 1. No Iapetus, that does not answer the question. The claim is universal “all knowledge.” How do you justify that universal claim? You can’t just deny it was a universal claim…”

    I did not do that.

    You did not do what? It was Popper who claimed that “all knowledge was conjectural.” How does he justify this universal claim? Induction? Or is the claim false?

    Now, it goes without saying that both the conjectural definition of truth as well as critical rationalism as a whole can be applied to itself without any difficulty, since it allows for the possibility that it is mistaken. In other words, the claim that all knowledge is conjectural is itself a conjectural claim, i.e. it could be false. If one were to show how an absolutly certain, indubitable piece of knowledge can be attained, this conjectural truth definition would be falsified. Furthermore, at least in this particular field we would not have to search for alternatives anymore, so critical rationalism itself would be superseded by a superior alternative.

    I still don’t see how you get to make a universal claim without justifying it? I could claim that the law of non-contradiction is universal – and I would be justified in holding that view until you could falsify it. Is that how it works?

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  109. “This simply can not be so Iapetus. Do you really want to suggest that your very existence is not self-evident? That further justification would be needed? That you existence is conjectural?”

    We may see our existence as self-evident, but this can not and does not guarantee its truth.

    Why do you assume your existence to be self-evidently true? Probably because you experience yourself (or better: your self) as a thinking, acting, autonomous entity. Or to put it in Descartes’ term: “Ego cogito, ergo sum.”.

    Here is what Nietzsche had to say about this:

    “There still exist innocuous self-observers who believe that there is such a thing as “direct certainties”, e.g. “I think”: quasi as if cognition would get a pure and naked grip on its topic, as a “thing in and of itself”, and as if there was no room for illusion both by the subject as well as the object. However, since “direct certainty”, just like “absolute cognition” and “thing in and of itself” implies a contradictio in adjecto, I shall repeat a hundred times: one should finally free oneself from the seduction of words!

    May the people believe that cognition is cognition-until-the-end, the philosopher has to say: if I deconstruct the process that is expressed in the term “I think”, I will get a series of bold assertions whose justification is hard, if not impossible – e.g. that it is me who is doing the thinking; that it has to be Something in the first place that is doing the thinking; that thinking is an activity and an action performed by a Being which is seen as its cause; that there is an “I”; finally, that it is already clear what “Thinking” is – that I know what thinking is.

    Thus, in place of said “direct certainties”, which people may believe in, the philosopher ends up with a bunch of metaphysical questions.

    Whoever has the heart to immediately answer said metaphysical questions under reference to some kind of intuitive cognition, like someone who says: “I think and know that this at least is true, real, certain.” – will find a philosopher wearing a smile and two question marks.”

    “You did not do what?”

    I did not deny that the claim was universal.

    “It was Popper who claimed that “all knowledge was conjectural.” How does he justify this universal claim? Induction? Or is the claim false?”

    No, it is conjectural and based on his examination of the problem of guaranteeing the truth of a proposition via recourse to an ultimate justification.

    You already quoted his book. Why not read it in full to understand his argumentation? I mean, you do have this book, don’t you? You have not merely pulled a random quote-mine from an apologist website, have you?

    I would furthermore recommend to read Albert’s and Bartley’s work as well, since they considerably expand Popper’s approach and develop it into the current form of critical rationalism.

    “I still don’t see how you get to make a universal claim without justifying it?”

    He justifies it by supplying arguments in support of the hypothesis that certainty about the truth of a proposition via recourse to an ultimate justification can not be achieved. Given this problem situation, you do not really expect him to make a case for the certainty of this proposition, do you?

    “I could claim that the law of non-contradiction is universal – and I would be justified in holding that view until you could falsify it. Is that how it works?”

    It depends on the epistemic status you attach to your proposition.

    If you claim that it is a certain truth, you would have to provide an ultimate justification for it and deal with the problems such an approach entails.

    However, if you formulate it as a tentative hypothesis, can give serious supporting arguments for it and/or show how we can achieve better problem-solving capability and explanatory value than if we adopted a competing proposition, we would see it as contingently valid.

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  110. (…the smell of buttered popcorn wafts into the room…)

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  111. (…the smell of buttered popcorn wafts into the room…)

    So Cerdic, you are not “certain” about your own existence? Do you even get what Iapetus is suggesting?

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  112. “This simply can not be so Iapetus. Do you really want to suggest that your very existence is not self-evident? That further justification would be needed? That you existence is conjectural?”

    We may see our existence as self-evident, but this can not and does not guarantee its truth.

    Why do you assume your existence to be self-evidently true? Probably because you experience yourself (or better: your self) as a thinking, acting, autonomous entity. Or to put it in Descartes’ term: “Ego cogito, ergo sum.”.

    Whoever has the heart to immediately answer said metaphysical questions under reference to some kind of intuitive cognition, like someone who says: “I think and know that this at least is true, real, certain.” – will find a philosopher wearing a smile and two question marks.”

    1.Iapetus, do you really believe that your existence is only a tentative hypothesis? Not a certainty? Thinking like this is probably what made Nietzsche mad.

    2. I also know that Popper said that any theory that was not in principle falsifiable was not science. I don’t see how it would be possible to present me evidence that I don’t exist. All said evidence would have to filtered through my thinking process – thus confirming my existence. Unless you think this question is out side the realm of science?

    3. Yes a professional philosopher may smile at my naivete, but if I threatened to crack him with a base ball bat I bet he would become very certain of his existence, very quickly. His reaction would give lie to his musings…

    He justifies it by supplying arguments in support of the hypothesis that certainty about the truth of a proposition via recourse to an ultimate justification can not be achieved. Given this problem situation, you do not really expect him to make a case for the certainty of this proposition, do you?

    I think the question would be – how does he justify his belief that ultimate justification is necessary for certainty? Is that a self-evident truth?

    If you claim that it is a certain truth, you would have to provide an ultimate justification for it and deal with the problems such an approach entails.

    However, if you formulate it as a tentative hypothesis, can give serious supporting arguments for it and/or show how we can achieve better problem-solving capability and explanatory value than if we adopted a competing proposition, we would see it as contingently valid.

    Do you really believe that the existence of our sun is merely contingently valid? And not a certain?

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  113. “1.Iapetus, do you really believe that your existence is only a tentative hypothesis? Not a certainty?”

    Unless you can supply an ultimate justification that would guarantee its truth, we have no other choice.

    Of course, that does not mean that we can not operate under the assumption that it is true, which we all do. Like we operate under the assumption that a subject-independent external world exists, without being able to indubitably prove this.

    “Thinking like this is probably what made Nietzsche mad.”

    His syphillis certainly did not help…

    “2. I also know that Popper said that any theory that was not in principle falsifiable was not science. I don’t see how it would be possible to present me evidence that I don’t exist. All said evidence would have to filtered through my thinking process – thus confirming my existence. Unless you think this question is out side the realm of science?”

    Like any metaphysical question, a final decision through empirical evidence can not be achieved. The best we can hope for is to find corroboration.

    Furthermore, the issue is not whether one can find evidence for one’s own non-existence. Rather, if one wants to claim utter certainty in this regard, one has to give an ultimate justification for it. As Nietzsche showed, “Ego cogito, ergo sum.” will not provide one.

    Likewise, our inability to imagine that our sense of self, our experience of existing as a defined, autonomous entity might be an illusion does not give us ultimate certainty in this matter.

    “3. Yes a professional philosopher may smile at my naivete, but if I threatened to crack him with a base ball bat I bet he would become very certain of his existence, very quickly. His reaction would give lie to his musings…”

    And if you put him on a rack long enough, he may furthermore become a devout Calvinist. However, I am afraid that neither strategy sufficiently addresses the argument.

    “I think the question would be – how does he justify his belief that ultimate justification is necessary for certainty? Is that a self-evident truth?”

    It is not his belief. It is the principle of sufficient reason, which was the centuries-old, accepted method of arriving at certain truths. Popper, Albert and Bartley merely deconstructed it and showed its utopian nature.

    If you have an alternative how to combine truth and certainty, feel free to present it…

    “Do you really believe that the existence of our sun is merely contingently valid? And not a certain?”

    Can you disprove idealism? Solipsism?

    Unless you can, we have to make a decision about which metaphysical model to adopt, based on corroborating evidence, internal consistency, explantory value etc.

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  114. Iapetus,

    I’d be fun to see if you’d straighten Stuart out 🙂 (But perhaps you’d rather deal with James?! At least it’s more peaceful in this thread, with subject matter being discussed in its own place!)

    111: Oi! Isn’t anyone watching it?

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  115. @post no. 115:

    Heraclides,

    I generally try not to post on more than one thread, since I have to use my (scarce) spare-time. However, should this thread peter out, which it looks like doing, I might enter the fray…

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  116. Unless you can supply an ultimate justification that would guarantee its truth, we have no other choice.

    Of course, that does not mean that we can not operate under the assumption that it is true, which we all do. Like we operate under the assumption that a subject-independent external world exists, without being able to indubitably prove this.

    If we can not be certain of our own existence then we can not be certain about anything. This would lead to:

    Webster; skepticism, the critical philosophical position that neither truth nor sure and certain knowledge are humanly attainable, whether through reason, the senses, or any other means.

    So by definition the bottom line is skepticism.

    Like any metaphysical question, a final decision through empirical evidence can not be achieved. The best we can hope for is to find corroboration.

    Furthermore, the issue is not whether one can find evidence for one’s own non-existence. Rather, if one wants to claim utter certainty in this regard, one has to give an ultimate justification for it. As Nietzsche showed, “Ego cogito, ergo sum.” will not provide one.

    Likewise, our inability to imagine that our sense of self, our experience of existing as a defined, autonomous entity might be an illusion does not give us ultimate certainty in this matter.

    Yes, but you really did not address my point. My existence would not be something that you could falsify to me. Nor me to you. Then by Popper’s definition this question would be outside the realm of science, beyond the scientific method. Agreed?

    And if you put him on a rack long enough, he may furthermore become a devout Calvinist. However, I am afraid that neither strategy sufficiently addresses the argument.

    No, I wasn’t threatening him to get him to “say” that he was certain of his own existence, he would take his existence as fact and defend himself. He wouldn’t stand there are muse – perhaps I don’t really exist and if there is no “me” then that bat is meaningless. He would duck…

    Despite what Nietzsche said at that point the professional philosopher would take his existence as a certainty, as he would take the bat as a certainty (giving a lie to his philosophy). I take my existence as an incorrigible fact. And you are going to have to offer a lot more than philosophical ruminations about “ultimate justification” for me to give up my belief that I exist. Can you disprove or falsify my existence? I think the onus is on you.

    It is not his belief. It is the principle of sufficient reason, which was the centuries-old, accepted method of arriving at certain truths. Popper, Albert and Bartley merely deconstructed it and showed its utopian nature.

    The idea that ultimate justification is necessary for certainty is a belief. In other words, I don’t see why I would need ultimate justification to know that the sun exists.

    Can you disprove idealism? Solipsism?

    Unless you can, we have to make a decision about which metaphysical model to adopt, based on corroborating evidence, internal consistency, explantory value etc.

    To be fair Iapetus I did ask a direct question – Do you really believe that the existence of our sun is merely contingently valid? And not certain? I see no reason to doubt its certainty – do you?

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  117. I generally try not to post on more than one thread, since I have to use my (scarce) spare-time. However, should this thread peter out, which it looks like doing, I might enter the fray…

    If memory serves Iapetus, you are a moral relativist- correct?

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  118. “If we can not be certain of our own existence then we can not be certain about anything. […] So by definition the bottom line is skepticism.”

    No, it is not. We have been through this before. It simply means that one must not confound the idea of “truth” with the idea of “certainty”, as it was done in the framework of classical rationalism.

    The fact that we can not reach utter certainty about the truth does not render the search for criteria and methods superfluous which make it possible to assess propositions and theories, albeit in a fallible manner. It is only the impossibility to fulfill the utopian justification demands of classical rationalism which leads into scepticism.

    “My existence would not be something that you could falsify to me. Nor me to you. Then by Popper’s definition this question would be outside the realm of science, beyond the scientific method.”

    As I said, it is ultimately a metaphysical, not a scientific question.

    “Despite what Nietzsche said at that point the professional philosopher would take his existence as a certainty, as he would take the bat as a certainty (giving a lie to his philosophy).”

    As would an idealist and a solipsist, presumably. Do you believe that you have refuted their position now?

    Incidentally, a similar approach was adopted by one of Berkeley’s critics by kicking against a stone while saying: “I refute it thusly!”. Do you have any idea why this was not a very convincing line of argument to render idealism obsolete?

    “I take my existence as an incorrigible fact. And you are going to have to offer a lot more than philosophical ruminations about “ultimate justification” for me to give up my belief that I exist.”

    Why do you think I am trying to persuade you of anything? Your beliefs as such are not very interesting to me. I am merely pointing out the fact that you can not show any of your beliefs to be an utterly certain truth.

    “Can you disprove or falsify my existence? I think the onus is on you.”

    We are again going round in circles as this was covered more than once on the “Let’s count teeth” thread.

    I do not have to disprove your experience since I am not claiming that it is false. I am pointing out that your experience and the conclusions you draw from it does not carry an intrinsic guarantee of its own correctness.

    “The idea that ultimate justification is necessary for certainty is a belief.”

    If you want to negate this, you would have to show another way of ensuring certainty about the truth of a proposition.

    “In other words, I don’t see why I would need ultimate justification to know that the sun exists.”

    Come on, James, don’t be so deliberately thick.

    How do you get information about a thing called “sun”? How reliable is this information? How can you be certain that your method of understanding this information is not totally misleading?

    Do you really want to endorse a naive metaphysical realism here without justification and claim that any alternative is unthinkable?

    “Do you really believe that the existence of our sun is merely contingently valid? And not certain? I see no reason to doubt its certainty – do you?”

    It really is incredible.

    I spent several posts on the “Let’s count teeth” thread arguing for the corroborating evidence of metaphysical realism and why I adopt this model, while you constantly tried to score debating points by saying that I could not disprove the brain-in-a-vat, the Evil Daemon and other metaphysical alternatives.

    And now you turn around and pretend that all this has not happened and we have no reason whatsoever not to trust our senses and to see them as conveying anything else but a certain truth. Why don’t you go back and read some of the stuff you levelled at me? Maybe you will remember your own doubts then…

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  119. No, it is not. We have been through this before. It simply means that one must not confound the idea of “truth” with the idea of “certainty”, as it was done in the framework of classical rationalism.

    The fact that we can not reach utter certainty about the truth does not render the search for criteria and methods superfluous which make it possible to assess propositions and theories, albeit in a fallible manner. It is only the impossibility to fulfill the utopian justification demands of classical rationalism which leads into scepticism.

    Iapetus, you can’t just say “no.” It is by definition scepticism again, Webster; skepticism, the critical philosophical position that neither truth nor sure and certain knowledge are humanly attainable, whether through reason, the senses, or any other means.

    If you agree that “certain knowledge” is not humanly attainable, then by definition that is scepticism. You can’t just turn around and redfine words to suit you.

    As I said, it is ultimately a metaphysical, not a scientific question.

    So this question is beyond the scienific method. And you do agree that you can not prove that I don’t exist. Nor can you even make a rational argument to me againt my non-existence.

    I do not have to disprove your experience since I am not claiming that it is false. I am pointing out that your experience and the conclusions you draw from it does not carry an intrinsic guarantee of its own correctness.

    Well since no argument can be offered to the contrary I will take my existence as an incorrigible fact. And I don’t feel the need to jump through philosophical hoops to justify that belief. Until you offer evidence to the contrary, well…

    “Despite what Nietzsche said at that point the professional philosopher would take his existence as a certainty, as he would take the bat as a certainty (giving a lie to his philosophy).”

    As would an idealist and a solipsist, presumably. Do you believe that you have refuted their position now?

    Absolutely yes. If I came at you with a base ball bat Iapetus you would duck. You wouldn’t give a hoot about “ultimate justification” for the certainty of the bat or your existence. You may think one thing, but you would practice another. That tells me a lot about the reality of a man’s philosophy…

    Come on, James, don’t be so deliberately thick.

    How do you get information about a thing called “sun”? How reliable is this information? How can you be certain that your method of understanding this information is not totally misleading?

    Me thick? ; ) Anyway, by common sense and experience – both of which has managed to keep me from running into walls, and has kept me alive these 56 years. You would have give me a very good reason before I would distrust either. Yes, experience can be fallible but it is generally or even highly reliable. So when I see the sun I am certain that it exists – and you would have to prove to me, at that point, that I’m deluded or mistake. If not, I feel perfectly justified in holding that view.

    If you want to negate this, you would have to show another way of ensuring certainty about the truth of a proposition.

    Actually, no I don’t. Let me reframe this. Your proposition is that we can’t have certainty without ultimate justification. But that proposition is not certain. This leads to another point – in the other thread you said that we can’t be certain that the law of contradiction is universal and immutable. This means that, in principle, the need for ultimate justification to show certainty, could be both true and false. How would you know?

    So what you are asking me is to deny my experience based on a “convention” that may or may not be true. Even if I don’t have the intellectual tools to refute your proposition I certainly am not rationally bound to reject what I know to be certain for a proposition that may or may not be true. Why would I be?

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  120. BTW Iapetus my Popper quotes came from a paper by Nicholas Dykes, who, as far as I know, is neither a christian nor an apologist:

    http://www.libertarian.co.uk/lapubs/philn/philn065.htm

    You might enjoy the link…

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  121. Iapetus said…”And now you turn around and pretend that all this has not happened and we have no reason whatsoever not to trust our senses and to see them as conveying anything else but a certain truth.”

    It is a bizzare turn-around.
    Where did all this certainty spring from?
    Where is the James of old with his “What is reality. Be specific.” and “First give me a non-arbitrary definition of evidence”?

    I remember the “Let’s count teeth thread” well.
    What brought about the change?

    …………………………………………………….

    Heraclides said…”Oi! Isn’t anyone watching it?”

    Oh bugger!
    I just knew I should have stayed with the microwave!

    (smoke alarm goes off)

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  122. 116: Fair enough 🙂

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  123. “Iapetus, you can’t just say “no.” It is by definition scepticism […]”

    Please read your own definition: skepticism, the critical philosophical position that neither truth nor sure and certain knowledge are humanly attainable.

    As I have explained to you numerous times, critical rationalism does not deny the possibility of making true statements, only that we can ever achieve certainty about it.

    “So this question is beyond the scienific method. And you do agree that you can not prove that I don’t exist. Nor can you even make a rational argument to me againt my non-existence.”

    Which is why I operate under the assumption that I exist as an autonomous, active entity. However, neither I nor you can exclude with utter certainty that this is an illusion.

    “Well since no argument can be offered to the contrary I will take my existence as an incorrigible fact. And I don’t feel the need to jump through philosophical hoops to justify that belief. Until you offer evidence to the contrary, well…”

    As I said, I could care less what you believe or take for granted, since I am not interested in convincing you of anything. I am merely pointing out that you offer nothing in support of the indubitable truth of your position apart from your subjective, fallible conviction that it is so.

    “Absolutely yes. If I came at you with a base ball bat Iapetus you would duck. You wouldn’t give a hoot about “ultimate justification” for the certainty of the bat or your existence. You may think one thing, but you would practice another. That tells me a lot about the reality of a man’s philosophy…”

    Which in turn tells me a lot about how you arrive at your various dogmatisms. Thankfully, time and again throughout history people have questioned and moved beyond “obvious” and “common sense” notions and ways of thinking.

    “Anyway, by common sense and experience – both of which has managed to keep me from running into walls, and has kept me alive these 56 years.”

    A case in point. If we would have gone by with nothing but “common sense” and “experience”, we would never have gotten to where we are now.

    Common sense and experience tell us that time is absolute and not dependent on the velocity of the observer.

    Common sense and experience tell us that the world is exactly as we perceive it through our senses.

    Common sense and experience tell us that nothing can exhibit properties of a particle and a wave, depending on the circumstances.

    Common sense and experience tell us that such complex things as living beings can not come about on their own.

    Common sense and experience tell us that space is static and can not expand.

    And on and on…

    “So when I see the sun I am certain that it exists – and you would have to prove to me, at that point, that I’m deluded or mistake. If not, I feel perfectly justified in holding that view.”

    You can be as certain as you want and feel as perfectly justified as you want, this is no guarantee for the truth. People have been utterly certain and have felt perfectly justified in their assumptions before and were nonetheless totally wrong.

    But we are once again merely going in circles here.

    “Your proposition is that we can’t have certainty without ultimate justification. But that proposition is not certain.”

    Indeed. Which is why this is another argument against classical rationalism, i.e. it relies on a method of justification which can itself only be justified by recourse to self-evidence.

    However, this does not advance your position in any way, since you are still claiming certainty for your knowledge. So either you show how an ultimate justification is possible, or you devise another method of combining truth and certainty, thereby surpassing thinkers like Descartes. Good luck with that…

    “This leads to another point – in the other thread you said that we can’t be certain that the law of contradiction is universal and immutable. This means that, in principle, the need for ultimate justification to show certainty, could be both true and false. How would you know?”

    Again, this is a problem for classical rationalism. Critical rationalism merely accepts the premises of the former and shows them to be utopian and failing to meet their own demands.

    “Even if I don’t have the intellectual tools to refute your proposition I certainly am not rationally bound to reject what I know to be certain for a proposition that may or may not be true. Why would I be?”

    What is this “rationally bound” you keep talking about? This is merely a discussion, you are not forced by law or whatever to do anything.

    You claim certainty for your knowledge. The only rational method that was ever devised and widely accepted to achieve this is the principle of sufficient reason, which ensures the truth of a proposition by tracing it back to an ultimate justification.

    Now, the Münchhausen-Trilemma shows why this requirement is utopian. Thus, if you want to convince other people who are familiar with this concept of the validity of your claim, you either have to show how an ultimate justification can be achieved or give an alternative for combining truth and certainty.

    Naturally, if you do not care what other people think about your claims, you can just ignore it and live happily with your certain knowledge…

    “BTW Iapetus my Popper quotes came from a paper by Nicholas Dykes, who, as far as I know, is neither a christian nor an apologist: [link]

    You might enjoy the link…”

    I should have known that the arguments in your last posts were not of your own making…

    James, here is some advice:

    an article from a philosophical nobody, with a sophomoric title like “Debunking Popper”, should instantly raise a firework of red flags.

    I have no intention to go into the details here, but will just note that if the author is of the opinion that the claim “All knowledge remains conjectural” is self-refuting, it does not bode well for the depth of his understanding of the the position he is “debunking”.

    Incidentally, I wonder if you have noticed in your search of the article for argumentative ammunition that the creator of this masterpiece claims to refute one of your favourite talking points, namely the fallacy of induction. Does this fact induce any cognitive dissonance it you?

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  124. Please read your own definition: skepticism, the critical philosophical position that neither truth nor sure and certain knowledge are humanly attainable.

    As I have explained to you numerous times, critical rationalism does not deny the possibility of making true statements, only that we can ever achieve certainty about it.

    Sheesh Iapetus it also says: nor sure and certain knowledge… So are you now saying that “sure and certain knowledge” is possible?

    Also, I’m not sure what you mean by true statements: Webster’s; True in accordance with fact; that agrees with reality; not false.

    Can you state a “truth” that has no possibility of being “false?”

    Which is why I operate under the assumption that I exist as an autonomous, active entity. However, neither I nor you can exclude with utter certainty that this is an illusion.

    Sure, if you could offer me contrary evidence that I don’t exist – I’ll listen. Until then…

    As I said, I could care less what you believe or take for granted, since I am not interested in convincing you of anything. I am merely pointing out that you offer nothing in support of the indubitable truth of your position apart from your subjective, fallible conviction that it is so.

    You only offer your subjective, fallible conviction that I am wrong. Now what?

    And on and on…

    No, since experience would included our rational processes. Developing theories that help explain reality. Remember most theories are not made up out of wholecloth. We stand on the past experiences and experiments of those that came before us.

    You can be as certain as you want and feel as perfectly justified as you want, this is no guarantee for the truth. People have been utterly certain and have felt perfectly justified in their assumptions before and were nonetheless totally wrong.

    That’s correct. And if prove that my existence is “totally wrong” I’ll listen (wait, if don’t exist, I can’t listen). I’m not sure how you would go about that…

    Indeed. Which is why this is another argument against classical rationalism, i.e. it relies on a method of justification which can itself only be justified by recourse to self-evidence.

    However, this does not advance your position in any way, since you are still claiming certainty for your knowledge. So either you show how an ultimate justification is possible, or you devise another method of combining truth and certainty, thereby surpassing thinkers like Descartes. Good luck with that…

    Again, this is a problem for classical rationalism. Critical rationalism merely accepts the premises of the former and shows them to be utopian and failing to meet their own demands.

    Maybe I’m not making myself clear. I simply don’t accept your proposition that certainty must be accompanied by ultimate justification. Since it is a mere convention, I’m under no “rational” obligation to do so. In other words, it is going to take a lot more than a mere convention to undermine my certainty in my existence. Or my certainty that things like the earth or sun exist. I’m skeptical about your skepticism.

    Which in turn tells me a lot about how you arrive at your various dogmatisms. Thankfully, time and again throughout history people have questioned and moved beyond “obvious” and “common sense” notions and ways of thinking.

    Yet you would duck if that bat came at your head. Actions really do speak louder than words…

    I should have known that the arguments in your last posts were not of your own making…

    If you read that piece you will see that I only used one of his arguments – the one about circurality. Which I did not follow up because I thought you had a good answer. The rest of the arguments are mine. I did use his Popper quotes though…

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  125. “Sheesh Iapetus it also says: nor sure and certain knowledge… So are you now saying that “sure and certain knowledge” is possible?”

    You once again show your inability to understand a concept despite my repeated attempts at explaining it.

    This is the last time I will lay this out for you:

    scepticism denies the possibility of ever achieving a true proposition. Consequently, the pursuit of truth is seen as futile and is thus discarded.

    In contrast, critical rationalism retains the notion of truth and affirms the possibility to achieve it. What is being denied is that we can ever reach total certainty about whether we actually are in possession of a true proposition. Thus, we are called on to constantly test our assumptions and look for superior alternatives.

    “Can you state a “truth” that has no possibility of being “false?””

    Of course I can. What I can not do is to claim certainty that the particular proposition I am stating is true.

    “Sure, if you could offer me contrary evidence that I don’t exist – I’ll listen. Until then…”

    “You only offer your subjective, fallible conviction that I am wrong. Now what?”

    We have been over this before, but naturally you are ignoring it again.

    I am not making the claim that you are wrong in your experience of your existence. I am operating under the same assumption.

    However, neither I nor you can guarantee with utter certainty that this proposition is true. As Nietzsche showed, it involves a bunch of metaphysical assumptions that are virtually impossible to prove or disprove.

    “No, since experience would included our rational processes. Developing theories that help explain reality. Remember most theories are not made up out of wholecloth. We stand on the past experiences and experiments of those that came before us.”

    And?

    You are not making the case here that the success of our scientific explanations is certain proof for metaphysical realism, do you? Not after all your science-bashing, incessant talk about the “limits of science” and listing of metaphysical alternatives like brain-in-a-vat, Evil Daemon, Matrix World and whatnot?

    “That’s correct. And if prove that my existence is “totally wrong” I’ll listen (wait, if don’t exist, I can’t listen). I’m not sure how you would go about that…”

    I guess it is a good thing then that I am not doing that.

    What I am doing is pointing out that claiming “self-evidence” or “personal certainty” about something has been utterly wrong in the past. Thus, we can not use it as a reliable indication for the truth of a proposition.

    “Maybe I’m not making myself clear. I simply don’t accept your proposition that certainty must be accompanied by ultimate justification. Since it is a mere convention, I’m under no “rational” obligation to do so.”

    Maybe I am not making myself clear.

    You are not arguing against anything I have said. The principle of sufficient reason and its resultant demand of an ultimate justification is the concept of classical rationalism to ensure certainty about the truth of a proposition. Critical rationalism and especially the Münchhausen-Trilemma shows why this concept is utopian and overcomes it by discarding the attempt to combine truth and certainty.

    Now, if you want to retain the notion of a certain, indubitable piece of true knowledge and want other people to take this seriously, you will have to show how it is possible. Thus, you either have to provide an ultimate justification for any of your beliefs or devise another methodology which achieves the same goal.

    Incidentally, all you have provided thusfar, i.e. justifying your claim by recourse to your personal certainty, lack of counterarguments, alleged past reliability of your experience etc., falls squarely into the framework of classical rationalism by supplying a justification that is meant to guarantee the truth of your belief.

    “Yet you would duck if that bat came at your head. Actions really do speak louder than words…”

    A typical fallacy I have often seen, particularly from religious people; probably because they mostly see strong faith as a virtue.

    The notion that the logical viability, let alone the truth of a proposition is in any way influenced by the strength of conviction of the person holding said proposition is a category mistake.

    I can believe in an utterly wrong proposition with all my heart and bring my whole life in alignment with it; that will not change its wrongness. Likewise, the fact that I may hold a correct belief with utmost tentativeness and may disregard it in practice does nothing to change its correctness.

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  126. In contrast, critical rationalism retains the notion of truth and affirms the possibility to achieve it. What is being denied is that we can ever reach total certainty about whether we actually are in possession of a true proposition. Thus, we are called on to constantly test our assumptions and look for superior alternatives.

    Ok I get it, you could have a true proposition but you can never be certain that it is true. I still think that uncertainty fits the definition skepticism. It seems to me that you are spliting hairs.

    However, neither I nor you can guarantee with utter certainty that this proposition is true. As Nietzsche showed, it involves a bunch of metaphysical assumptions that are virtually impossible to prove or disprove.

    This strikes me as circular. Nietzsche had to exist even to make this argument. You have to exist to repeat the argument. I have to exist to read your argument. You are correct, neither I nor you can prove our existence. That only shows that self-evident truths need not be proven just accepted.

    You are not making the case here that the success of our scientific explanations is certain proof for metaphysical realism, do you? Not after all your science-bashing, incessant talk about the “limits of science” and listing of metaphysical alternatives like brain-in-a-vat, Evil Daemon, Matrix World and whatnot?

    My whole point about the Matrix and the Demon is that we all (well maybe not you) take certain truths as self-evident without “proof.” And yes science does have limits, some serious ones, which you recently agreed to.

    What I am doing is pointing out that claiming “self-evidence” or “personal certainty” about something has been utterly wrong in the past. Thus, we can not use it as a reliable indication for the truth of a proposition.

    And what I’m saying is that for any particular experience you better have good evidence against it before I’m rationally compelled to deny it. It’s not good enough to say that it’s “possible” to be wrong. Show me that I’m wrong. Until then I am perfectly justified in holding that experience as true.

    Critical rationalism and especially the Münchhausen-Trilemma shows why this concept is utopian and overcomes it by discarding the attempt to combine truth and certainty.

    Again! I’m denying that the Trilemma has any rational weight. It is a mere convention. So why am I rationally compelled to conform to a fallible convention? Especially if it counters a self evident truth like my own existence? That is the question Iapetus, the bottom line.

    I can believe in an utterly wrong proposition with all my heart and bring my whole life in alignment with it; that will not change its wrongness. Likewise, the fact that I may hold a correct belief with utmost tentativeness and may disregard it in practice does nothing to change its correctness.

    Yes, but you would still duck.: ) What good is a philosophy that doesn’t comport to reality? Sheesh, even a deer knows better – that’s why he runs from wolves.

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  127. “Ok I get it, you could have a true proposition but you can never be certain that it is true. I still think that uncertainty fits the definition skepticism. It seems to me that you are spliting hairs.”

    On the contrary, it is a fundamental difference between scepticism and critical rationalism, which has huge implications in practice:

    if we were to adopt a sceptical stance (and would take it seriously), we would have no other choice but to lay our hands in our laps and stare at the wall, since any pursuit of knowledge is futile.

    In contrast, for critical rationalists the pursuit of knowledge is entirely justified because we can rationally pursue knowledge and arrive at “true” (i.e. factually correct) descriptions of certain parts of reality, even if we have to let go of the idea that we can combine it with utter certainty.

    “This strikes me as circular. Nietzsche had to exist even to make this argument. You have to exist to repeat the argument. I have to exist to read your argument.”

    On the contrary, you are arguing in a circle here. All of your preconditions are precisely what is claimed to be uncertain and not indubitably justifiable by “Ego cogito, ergo sum.”. Thus, claiming that the very thing which is being thrown into doubt alleviates these doubts is a petitio principii.

    “You are correct, neither I nor you can prove our existence. That only shows that self-evident truths need not be proven just accepted.”

    The problem is, as I said before, that time and again “self-evident truths” have turned out to be wrong. Therefore we can not use them as an indubitable guarantee of their truth.

    “My whole point about the Matrix and the Demon is that we all (well maybe not you) take certain truths as self-evident without “proof.””

    If this is so, then I have to say that you are drawing a rather dubious and dangerous conclusion.

    Whenever we can not finally decide a question which has a variety of conceivable answers (as is invariably so in metaphysical matters), the prudent thing is to tentatively pick the one with the most consistency, problem-solving capability, explanatory value, corroborating evidence etc., but to leave the door open to future change.

    In contrast, simply putting all the money on the correctness of a particular alternative and declaring this a certain truth by fiat is rationally indefensible and moreover frequently leads to a stifling of the imagination and blindness to other options.

    “And what I’m saying is that for any particular experience you better have good evidence against it before I’m rationally compelled to deny it. It’s not good enough to say that it’s “possible” to be wrong. Show me that I’m wrong. Until then I am perfectly justified in holding that experience as true.”

    EXACTLY.

    We collect corroborating evidence for a proposition and see it as contingently valid until and unless we have stronger/more evidence indicating that said proposition is false. That is what I have been advocating here the whole time.

    However, such an approach is fundamentally different from stating that something is seen as indubitably true courtesy of the lack of any evidence to the contrary. If you make claims that any piece of your knowledge is certain, you imply that there can never be any evidence which might contradict it. Thus, the onus is then on you to show how this degree of certainty can be achieved.

    “I’m denying that the Trilemma has any rational weight. It is a mere convention. So why am I rationally compelled to conform to a fallible convention? Especially if it counters a self evident truth like my own existence? That is the question Iapetus, the bottom line. “

    You seem confused.

    Your last posts indicated that you question the validity of combining truth and certainty via recourse to an ultimate justification. However, this is a tenet of classical rationalism. The Münchhausen-Trilemma merely shows why this requirement is utopian, i.e. it argues that it can not be satisfied and should consequently be discarded.

    However, you want to retain the notion of successfully combining truth and certainty. So you have to show how it is possible to achieve it. In attempting this, you have two options:

    1) Show how truth and certainty can be combined within the classical framework by giving an ultimate justification for any piece of your knowledge; or

    2) Come up with a different methodology that would allow you to ensure the indubitably true status of a proposition.

    Now, as I said before, your attempts thusfar have not left the realm of classical rationalism. You have tried to provide a justification (e.g. the general reliability of your experience, its self-evident status etc.) which is meant to guarantee the truth of your belief(s).

    “What good is a philosophy that doesn’t comport to reality?”

    Unfortunately, the nature of “reality” is precisely the question! You can not refute metaphysical stances like idealism and solipsism by basically stating: “But just look around, man? Don’t you see the sun, tree, river etc.?”. If you truly believe this would work, you should talk to an idealist and see how far you get.

    “Sheesh, even a deer knows better – that’s why he runs from wolves.”

    Idealist (theistic): “There is no deer and there are no wolves – they are merely ideas in the mind of god.”

    Solipsist: “There is no deer and there are no wolves – they are only patterns within my consciousness.”

    What now?

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  128. The Münchhausen-Trilemma merely shows why this requirement is utopian, i.e. it argues that it can not be satisfied and should consequently be discarded.

    Ok let’s focus on this, since it seems to be the crux of the matter. Since I’m on the third horn I will quote it:

    One can stop at self-evidence or common sense or fundamental principles or speaking ‘ex cathedra’ or at any other evidence, but in doing so the intention to install certain justification is abandoned.

    My claim is that my existence is a self-evident truth and certain. In other words, “it is impossible for me to be mistaken about my own existence.” This truth is “a immediate intuition, not the conclusion of a process of reasoning, and is therefore indubitable.”

    So we have two propositions in front of us.

    1. I exist, and I’m certain of that existence. This refutes Munchhausen.

    2. I may not exist, and I can’t be certain of my existence.

    So Iapetus, what I would like from you, so we are clear, and in your own words, is that you falsify my claim of certainity. And show me that it is possible that I don’t exist.

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  129. “My claim is that my existence is a self-evident truth and certain. In other words, “it is impossible for me to be mistaken about my own existence.” This truth is “a immediate intuition, not the conclusion of a process of reasoning, and is therefore indubitable.””

    Where does this last quote come from? It is certainly not part of the Münchhausen-Trilemma. Which might explain your misunderstanding.

    Why do you think that an “immediate intuition” is indubitable? We have seen time and again that immediate intuitions, self-evident truths and the like turned out to be utterly wrong. As I said before, they do not carry an intrinsic guarantee of their own correctness.

    “1. I exist, and I’m certain of that existence. This refutes Munchhausen.”

    Absolutely not. No amount of your personal certainty can guarantee the truth of a proposition, since personal certainty was shown to be false in the past. As Albert says, when you take recourse to “personal certainty” or “self-evidence”, you have merely broken off the chain of justifications at this point and have willfully suspended the principle of sufficient reason.

    “So Iapetus, what I would like from you, so we are clear, and in your own words, is that you falsify my claim of certainity.”

    Falsify your claim of certainty? That does not make sense. I have no problem to believe that you are certain about this.

    What you probably have in mind is that I would have to falsify your claim that you exist in the form of the distinct, thinking entity you perceive yourself as, i.e. show that it is not true.

    This is something we have been over several times already.

    I do not have to falsify your proposition since I do not claim that it is false. On the contrary, I am operating under the assumption that it is correct, since I would not know how to do otherwise. What I am doing is pointing out that neither I nor you can show its indubitable truth.

    “And show me that it is possible that I don’t exist.”

    Can you refute Nietzsche’s arguments concerning the problems with “Ego cogito, ergo sum.”? He shows why there exist serious grounds for doubt and why certainty about its truth is virtually impossible to achieve.

    Or if you prefer something even more fantastic:

    some Hindus hold that there is no such thing as individuality, personhood, distinctness of one individual from another. This is all an illusion, while in reality what you and I perceive as our selves is merely a figment in the imagination of the World Consciousness Brahman, the only entity that “really” exists.

    Good luck trying to disprove such a view…

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  130. Absolutely not. No amount of your personal certainty can guarantee the truth of a proposition, since personal certainty was shown to be false in the past. As Albert says, when you take recourse to “personal certainty” or “self-evidence”, you have merely broken off the chain of justifications at this point and have willfully suspended the principle of sufficient reason.

    Well yeah I have broken the chain of justification. That is the nature of self-evident truths. And just because I was wrong in the past does not prove I am wrong now. That thinking is inductive. Now if you can show me that my existence is false then we can talk, but until…

    I do not have to falsify your proposition since I do not claim that it is false. On the contrary, I am operating under the assumption that it is correct, since I would not know how to do otherwise. What I am doing is pointing out that neither I nor you can show its indubitable truth.

    But I’m claiming that it is a certain truth, that it is impossible to be otherwise. If you can offer evidence to the contrary then I may reconsider… And like I said, self-evident truths are not proven they are accepted. Now above you said that “personal certainty was shown to be false in the past” – I grant that. That is how we know that certain personal claims are false. And until you falsify my existence I am perfectly justified in holding to it’s certainty. Why wouldn’t I be?

    Can you refute Nietzsche’s arguments concerning the problems with “Ego cogito, ergo sum.”? He shows why there exist serious grounds for doubt and why certainty about its truth is virtually impossible to achieve.

    How can I interact with Nietzsche’s argument unless I first exist?

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  131. “And just because I was wrong in the past does not prove I am wrong now. That thinking is inductive.”

    It is not necessary to “prove” that you are wrong. All that is necessary is to show that “personal certainty” and “self-evident” truths were wrong before. Ergo, they could be wrong now, so they can not guarantee the truth.

    “But I’m claiming that it is a certain truth, that it is impossible to be otherwise.”

    You can claim all you want; unless you can show its certain truth, it is not indubitable.

    “Now if you can show me that my existence is false then we can talk, but until…

    If you can offer evidence to the contrary then I may reconsider…”

    You are once again just going in circles here.

    It will be the last time that I say this:

    Claiming “personal certainty” or “self-evidence” about the truth of a proposition, coupled with present lack of evidence to the contrary, can not and does not guarantee its truth. The most it does is show its contingent validity.

    A thousand years ago, people found it self-evident and were personally certain that living things were static in their development and did not change over time. They also had no evidence to the contrary. Nonetheless, this believe turned out to be false.

    “And like I said, self-evident truths are not proven they are accepted.”

    You can accept whatever self-evident concept you want. It just does not guarantee its own correctness.

    “How can I interact with Nietzsche’s argument unless I first exist?”

    As I said before, stating “My existence proves my existence.” is begging the question.

    How do you know that your sense of self is not an illusion?

    How do you know that “Ego cogito, ergo sum.” conveys a certain truth? That all of its unstated metaphysical premises are correct?

    How do you know that your “existence” is not merely a figment of Brahman’s consciousness?

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  132. It is not necessary to “prove” that you are wrong. All that is necessary is to show that “personal certainty” and “self-evident” truths were wrong before. Ergo, they could be wrong now, so they can not guarantee the truth.

    Claiming “personal certainty” or “self-evidence” about the truth of a proposition, coupled with present lack of evidence to the contrary, can not and does not guarantee its truth. The most it does is show its contingent validity.

    A thousand years ago, people found it self-evident and were personally certain that living things were static in their development and did not change over time. They also had no evidence to the contrary. Nonetheless, this believe turned out to be false.

    Iapetus Do you see what is going on here? These “self-evident” truths were proven wrong in the past. They were falsified. All I’m asking is, can you falsify my existence to me? If you can’t then we may be on completely different grounds. A different kind of truth or claim. We know in principle that “self-evident” truths can be “proven” false, and yet above I believe you said that you couldn’t prove to me that my existence is false. So why can those self-evident truths be proven wrong and not this one?

    How do you know that “Ego cogito, ergo sum.” conveys a certain truth? That all of its unstated metaphysical premises are correct?

    As I said before, stating “My existence proves my existence.” is begging the question.

    That’s not what I asked, I asked “How can I interact with Nietzsche’s argument unless I first exist?” How can I discuss these “unstated metaphysical premises” unless I exist?

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  133. “We know in principle that “self-evident” truths can be “proven” false, and yet above I believe you said that you couldn’t prove to me that my existence is false. So why can those self-evident truths be proven wrong and not this one?”

    You are once again struggling to understand a basically very simple concept. My impression is that you lack the ability to think these things through rigorously. However, since it is a to some extent acquired ability, you should practice it more (but not by arguing with me, since I am beginning to tire of explaining everything repeatedly…).

    In the past, people have claimed “personal certainty” and/or “self-evidence” for specific beliefs and were of the opinion that this imparts the feature of certain, indubitable truth upon said beliefs. Moreover, there was no evidence to the contrary. Nonetheless, their beliefs turned out to be false.

    And now you come along and claim “personal certainty” and “self-evidence” for your beliefs. Moreover, you say that there is no evidence to the contrary. So you are in exactly the same position as the the people whose “self-evident” beliefs turned out to be wrong.

    Maybe your “self-evident” truth really is true. Who knows? However, saying that it “may” be different this time round will not cut it. What if it is not different? And how would you know?

    “That’s not what I asked, I asked “How can I interact with Nietzsche’s argument unless I first exist?” How can I discuss these “unstated metaphysical premises” unless I exist?”

    You are begging the question.

    Your sense of self and of existing as an independent, thinking, acting entity may be an illusion, i.e. it may seem real, but does not correspond to anything in reality. Examples like Nietzsche’s deconstructing of the Cartesian “Ego cogito, ergo sum” as well as the Hindu concept of the World Consciousness Brahman are examples of metaphysical alternatives.

    On what basis would you conclusively rule them out? If “you” and “your experience” is an illusion, how would “you” ever be able to realize this?

    In general, I am slightly puzzled as to why you struggle so vehemently here. Is this a topic, like the free will issue, that carries a lot of emotional baggage? If so, it is not really warranted.

    Suppose you found out tomorrow that free will is a total illusion and that you are merely a robot going through its motions (or that you are nothing but a computer simulation in an alien supercomputer). What would you actually do different? Not much, I would wager.

    These esoteric discussions are basically going nowhere. We simply accept fundamental propositions like our existence, our capacity of making informed, rational decisions etc. because

    a) we can not prove or disprove these things conclusively anyway; and

    b) the alternative would be, akin to general scepticism, total paralysis.

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  134. Queue James hitting the re-set button in three, two….

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  135. Queue James hitting the re-set button in three, two

    So Cedric are you certain of your existence – yes or no?

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  136. Cedric gives the countdown with “Queue James hitting the re-set button in three, two…”

    So James presses the button with “So Cedric are you certain of your existence – yes or no?”

    Ah, happy days.

    Press it again.
    Press it again.
    🙂

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  137. So James presses the button with “So Cedric are you certain of your existence – yes or no?”

    When dealing with dense people who avoid answering direct questions it is often necessary to repeat one’s self…

    “So Cedric are you certain of your existence – yes or no?”

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  138. “So Cedric are you certain of your existence – yes or no?”

    ROTFL.
    :):):)

    Press it again!
    Press it again!!

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  139. In the past, people have claimed “personal certainty” and/or “self-evidence” for specific beliefs and were of the opinion that this imparts the feature of certain, indubitable truth upon said beliefs. Moreover, there was no evidence to the contrary. Nonetheless, their beliefs turned out to be false.

    Yes they turned out to false because they WERE falisified. And that is the only reason. So what evidence could you present to me that disproves my existence? None, because I would have to first exist before I could entertain said evidence. In principle what possible evidence could you present?

    Maybe your “self-evident” truth really is true. Who knows? However, saying that it “may” be different this time round will not cut it. What if it is not different? And how would you know?

    I know Iapetus! Maybe you don’t know that you exist, but don’t saddle me with your madness. And just because some self-evident beliefs in the past were falsified does not mean that this one will. Again, that is pure inductive thinking.

    On what basis would you conclusively rule them out? If “you” and “your experience” is an illusion, how would “you” ever be able to realize this?

    Again, if I’m experiencing an illusion, I still must exist to experience said illusion. If I’m not experiencing the illusion – what is? Be specific please. If you, as an atheist, has to appeal to a religious belief like Brahman to make a case, then you have no case. You have no naturalistic candidates for possible falsification. Sad…

    Suppose you found out tomorrow that free will is a total illusion and that you are merely a robot going through its motions (or that you are nothing but a computer simulation in an alien supercomputer). What would you actually do different? Not much, I would wager.

    I would still be a thinking entity. I would exist as a robot, but I would still exist. Iapetus doesn’t it strike you as odd that you have to make up such silly notions to deny the certainty of your own existence? I mean where does that come from? Are you so enamored by ivory tower intellectuals that you will spout this kind of nonsense just to receive their applause?

    You know “common sense” may not be perfect, and has it’s short comings, but sir you could use a good helping of it…

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/reid/#SCP

    These esoteric discussions are basically going nowhere. We simply accept fundamental propositions like our existence, our capacity of making informed, rational decisions etc.

    Amen brother…

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  140. Idealist (theistic): “There is no deer and there are no wolves – they are merely ideas in the mind of god.”

    Solipsist: “There is no deer and there are no wolves – they are only patterns within my consciousness.”

    What now?

    It seems that only man has the luxury, the time or the inane ability to question the certainty of his own existence, or the existence of the physical world. Like I said, even the deer knows better – he runs… What compels a man to question such basic facts of life, to question the certainty of his very life – if not madness? Brilliant madness yes, but madness nevertheless… If this is where philosophy has brought us, perhaps it is better left alone…

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  141. “Yes they turned out to false because they WERE falisified. And that is the only reason. So what evidence could you present to me that disproves my existence? None, because I would have to first exist before I could entertain said evidence. In principle what possible evidence could you present?”

    You simply do not get it (once again)…

    I do not have to present any concrete evidence to the contrary.

    If you claim certainty for the truth of any given proposition and justify it solely via personal conviction and self-evidence, it is sufficient to point out that this has failed before. Thus, it may be false now; which means that it can not guarantee the truth with indubitable certainty.

    However, in this case we additionally have indications that matters might not be so simple as they appear (cf. Nietzsche) and that alternatives are conceivable (cf. Brahman´s Consciousness).

    “I know Iapetus! Maybe you don’t know that you exist, but don’t saddle me with your madness.”

    Translation: “I am right because I am right because I am right.”. Sorry, not good enough.

    “And just because some self-evident beliefs in the past were falsified does not mean that this one will. Again, that is pure inductive thinking.”

    As usual when you run out of arguments, you sound like a broken record…

    I am not claiming that your belief is wrong. On the contrary, I share it. However, neither I nor you can guarantee its utter certainty.

    Furthermore, I am not saying that your belief based on personal conviction and self-evidency is wrong because similar beliefs were wrong before. What I am saying is that, given this situation, personal conviction and self-evidency alone can not guarantee truth.

    “Again, if I’m experiencing an illusion, I still must exist to experience said illusion.”

    No, because we are not talking about anything like an optical illusion here.

    What is deemed illusory is the very basis of “your” being, i.e. your perceived status as an autonomous, independent entity. There is nothing which corresponds to it in reality. “You” do not experience an illusion, “You” are the illusion. As “real” as a dream or a character in a novel.

    “If I’m not experiencing the illusion – what is? Be specific please.”

    Who knows?

    It might be Brahman´s Consciousness.

    It might be random thoughts floating in an Endless Void aimlessly coalescing and dispersing.

    The possibilities are endless.

    “If you, as an atheist, has to appeal to a religious belief like Brahman to make a case, then you have no case. You have no naturalistic candidates for possible falsification. Sad…”

    A theist disparages religious belief and asks for naturalistic falsification. Ironic.

    Well, if it is any consolation for you, I do not lose too much sleep over this state of affairs, since we also lack the ability to naturalistically falsify your particular deity, the invisible unicorn and the tooth fairy. Uncertainty of this kind does not give me the creeps, in contrast to you.

    “I would still be a thinking entity. I would exist as a robot, but I would still exist.”

    The robot example was given in relation to your “free will” obsession.

    “Iapetus doesn’t it strike you as odd that you have to make up such silly notions to deny the certainty of your own existence?”

    I got some news for you: I have talked to Hindus who hold such “silly notions”, and they would run intellectual rings around you. Moreover, they consider your anthropocentric god-concept and its mythology as being crude, superstitious and simplistic.

    The fact is that you are simply not used to this kind of thinking, lack understanding and thus dismiss it.

    However, as I have told you repeatedly, the metaphysical and religious landscape is lightyears bigger than your particular, parochial brand of Christianity. Likewise, your narrow notion of a “god” is only one alternative of many.

    “Are you so enamored by ivory tower intellectuals that you will spout this kind of nonsense just to receive their applause?

    If this is where philosophy has brought us, perhaps it is better left alone…”

    This shows one of your basic problems. Philosophy is about questioning the obvious and accepted, not taking it for granted or trying to justify and cement it.

    So if you crave certainty, you are in the wrong department and should move over to theology. There are plenty of people over here that are in possession of “certain truths” (although these “certain truths” frequently contradict each other, but that is another story…).

    “You know “common sense” may not be perfect, and has it’s short comings, but sir you could use a good helping of it… [link]”

    And that from someone who holds such “common sense” beliefs as the occurrence of miracles, the virgin birth, the resurrection of the dead, supernatural saviours ushering in the end of the world, a non-spatiotemporal “mind-realm” etc. etc.

    My dear James, I am certainly not in need of getting a lecture about “common sense” from someone like you, since my approach concerning beliefs about the physical world is evidence- and not revelation-based. Furthermore, our existence as rational, autonomous agents is one of the pillars of my moral system.

    What you persistently fail to understand is that I do not advocate the illusion of our existence, the concept of a World Consciousness Brahman or anything like that. I am merely pointing out that the claim of utter certainty about this matter runs into the problem of being confronted with metaphysical obstacles and alternatives and furthermore that a mere reliance on “personal conviction” and “self-evidence” is not going to solve this.

    Finally as a quick aside, I hope you appreciate the irony as much as I did that your anti-philosophical rant was supplemented with a link to a specific philosopher. Apparently, philosophy is only madness when it is not in accord with your emotional and psychological sensibilities…

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  142. If you claim certainty for the truth of any given proposition and justify it solely via personal conviction and self-evidence, it is sufficient to point out that this has failed before. Thus, it may be false now; which means that it can not guarantee the truth with indubitable certainty.

    And again I will point out that this thinking is inductive and has no bearing on the question. You can not prove otherwise. And let’s be honest Iapetus you already agree that you could not falsify my existence to me. So we have at least one self-evident belief that can not be falisfied (and probably others). By their very nature they can not be in the same catagory as beliefs that were falsified.

    However, in this case we additionally have indications that matters might not be so simple as they appear (cf. Nietzsche) and that alternatives are conceivable (cf. Brahman´s Consciousness).

    Here is a quick test – say to yourself, a few times over – “I don’t exist, I don’t exist…” If that is not completely irrational and self-refuting to your mind Iapetus, then I really don’t know what to say.

    I got some news for you: I have talked to Hindus who hold such “silly notions”, and they would run intellectual rings around you. Moreover, they consider your anthropocentric god-concept and its mythology as being crude, superstitious and simplistic.

    And while I sat across from this Hindu as he ran rings around me, would he exist or not exist?

    My dear James, I am certainly not in need of getting a lecture about “common sense” from someone like you, since my approach concerning beliefs about the physical world is evidence- and not revelation-based. Furthermore, our existence as rational, autonomous agents is one of the pillars of my moral system.

    Yet you question the very certainty of your own existence! The universal nature of the laws of logic and math. If there is no ceretainty in any of this Iapetus, then it is ALL uncertain. So what good is your evidence based belief system is it only leads to uncertainty? At least with revelation-based beliefs we have at lest the possibility of certainty, or ultimate truth.

    Finally as a quick aside, I hope you appreciate the irony as much as I did that your anti-philosophical rant was supplemented with a link to a specific philosopher. Apparently, philosophy is only madness when it is not in accord with your emotional and psychological sensibilities…

    Yes, I do gravitate toward men who seem sensible to me (as far as I can tell). Reid, Locke, Plantinga, Clouser, Alston, etc… I’m sorry, but when I see brillant men like Hume and others question the existence of the external world I come to the conclusion that they are quite mad – so sue me…

    One question that got lost in all this that I have been meaning to re-state. I’m going to use Munchhausen just as an example. According to you we must over come this objection. But does this objection even exist? Are you certain or uncertain about the language use to describe it? In other words are language and descriptions certain or uncertain? And if you are using an uncertain objection then why are we not justified in ignoring it? Why would we be irrational for ignoring it?

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  143. “And again I will point out that this thinking is inductive and has no bearing on the question. You can not prove otherwise.”

    The broken record is merrily spinning away…

    Are you really that dense?

    It would only be inductive if I said “Past self-evident beliefs have been wrong, therefore this self-evident belief is wrong.” But this is not what I am saying. However, it obviously falls under the plethora of concepts you are just incapable of grasping.

    “And let’s be honest Iapetus you already agree that you could not falsify my existence to me. So we have at least one self-evident belief that can not be falisfied (and probably others). By their very nature they can not be in the same catagory as beliefs that were falsified.”

    Oh my, what nonsense.

    Before their self-evident beliefs turned out to be wrong, people said exactly this.

    The only way you could show that your belief is different is if you were omniscient and knew that there can never be any evidence to the contrary. Which you do not and can not know. For goodness´ sake, you do not even comprehend the already existing arguments and metaphysical alternatives I pointed you to, let alone address them in a meanigful way (which can be done, but not in your inane “I just know it is true!” style).

    “Here is a quick test – say to yourself, a few times over – “I don’t exist, I don’t exist…” If that is not completely irrational and self-refuting to your mind Iapetus, then I really don’t know what to say.”

    A wonderful example of what I am talking about.

    Yeah James, the world is so simple.

    So there we have it: an incisive and devastating refutation of the metaphysical problems Nietzsche pointed out as well as centuries of Hinduistic religion and philosophy by a patented, James-style non-argument that merely restates your belief.

    —face-palm—

    “And while I sat across from this Hindu as he ran rings around me, would he exist or not exist?”

    Yawn.

    Do not try to be funny or clever, since you are neither and merely show your ignorance of yet another topic.

    “Yet you question the very certainty of your own existence! The universal nature of the laws of logic and math. If there is no ceretainty in any of this Iapetus, then it is ALL uncertain. So what good is your evidence based belief system is it only leads to uncertainty?”

    Ah, Mister Reset Button is back in town…

    The fact that your psychological and emotional make-up requires certainty about anything and everything is not my problem. Others do not suffer from this and settle for corroboration and the reduction of uncertainty, while accepting that there are questions which may forever be beyond our capability of conclusively answering.

    “At least with revelation-based beliefs we have at lest the possibility of certainty, or ultimate truth.”

    No buddy, the possibility of making true statements is open to all of us. The difference here is that you erroneously believe that your revelation-based beliefs would enable you to combine truth and certainty.

    “Yes, I do gravitate toward men who seem sensible to me (as far as I can tell). Reid, Locke, Plantinga, Clouser, Alston, etc…”

    What a diverse range of opinions here…

    “I’m sorry, but when I see brillant men like Hume and others question the existence of the external world I come to the conclusion that they are quite mad – so sue me…”

    Well James, you might take it as a sign that your utterly naive approach of “Reality must be structured the way it seems obvious to me.” is not necessarily shared by people who have thought about these matters a little bit more in depth.

    What I find psychologically wonderfully illuminating in this regard is that I recently witnessed a theist on another site arguing for theistic idealism (a metaphysical stance you certainly deem “absurd”) using precisely the same approach that you show here: appeals to common sense, obviousness, the irrationality of the alternatives, etc. etc. It keenly shows the glaring flaw of simply taking what personally seems “obvious” or “absurd” and expect reality to conform to this.

    “According to you we must over come this objection. But does this objection even exist? Are you certain or uncertain about the language use to describe it? In other words are language and descriptions certain or uncertain? And if you are using an uncertain objection then why are we not justified in ignoring it? Why would we be irrational for ignoring it?”

    Another argument courtesy of Mr. Dykes? How original…

    However, I am not your answering slot-machine. So you will have to at least try to use your own intellect here.

    What is the epistemic nature of definitions and language in general? Are they equivalent to other knowledge-claims?

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  144. It would only be inductive if I said “Past self-evident beliefs have been wrong, therefore this self-evident belief is wrong.” But this is not what I am saying. However, it obviously falls under the plethora of concepts you are just incapable of grasping.

    Then why on earth are you even bringing up the fact that some past self evident beliefs have been proven wrong.

    Oh my, what nonsense.

    Before their self-evident beliefs turned out to be wrong, people said exactly this.

    So what? Are you making an inductive case or not? How do you know their beliefs are like the one I hold? How do you know?

    The only way you could show that your belief is different is if you were omniscient and knew that there can never be any evidence to the contrary. Which you do not and can not know. For goodness´ sake, you do not even comprehend the already existing arguments and metaphysical alternatives I pointed you to, let alone address them in a meanigful way (which can be done, but not in your inane “I just know it is true!” style).

    Again, I know without question that I exist. And you are going to have to offer a lot more than sepculative arguments or possibilites to undermind that confidence. I would need hard evidence. Not musings… Again, you already agreed that you couldn’t offer me any “evidence” to disprove my belief. Where proof was offered in those other cases. That is a real difference.

    So there we have it: an incisive and devastating refutation of the metaphysical problems Nietzsche pointed out as well as centuries of Hinduistic religion and philosophy by a patented, James-style non-argument that merely restates your belief.

    Except to question your existence you have to first exist. Again, if you don’t find this self-refuting and irrational – I just don’t know what to say to you. You may end up as mad as Nietzsche I’m afraid.

    Others do not suffer from this and settle for corroboration and the reduction of uncertainty, while accepting that there are questions which may forever be beyond our capability of conclusively answering.

    Are there any questions that we can conclusively answer? Any?

    Well James, you might take it as a sign that your utterly naive approach of “Reality must be structured the way it seems obvious to me.” is not necessarily shared by people who have thought about these matters a little bit more in depth.

    And I should accept their opinion on, let’s say, the certainty of my existence – why?

    What is the epistemic nature of definitions and language in general? Are they equivalent to other knowledge-claims?

    I would say that if language was not certain then no other knowledge claims could be possible. Since all knowledge claims would rely fully on the precision of language to describe them, define them. Without the certainty of language what do you have? In other words are you certain that the munchausen trilemma means the munchausen trilemma or could it mean something completely different?

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  145. “Then why on earth are you even bringing up the fact that some past self evident beliefs have been proven wrong.

    So what? Are you making an inductive case or not? How do you know their beliefs are like the one I hold? How do you know?”

    Let’s see how many times I have said the same thing over and over:

    1. “It is not necessary to “prove” that you are wrong. All that is necessary is to show that “personal certainty” and “self-evident” truths were wrong before. Ergo, they could be wrong now, so they can not guarantee the truth.”

    2. “In the past, people have claimed “personal certainty” and/or “self-evidence” for specific beliefs and were of the opinion that this imparts the feature of certain, indubitable truth upon said beliefs. Moreover, there was no evidence to the contrary. Nonetheless, their beliefs turned out to be false.

    And now you come along and claim “personal certainty” and “self-evidence” for your beliefs. Moreover, you say that there is no evidence to the contrary. So you are in exactly the same position as the the people whose “self-evident” beliefs turned out to be wrong.

    Maybe your “self-evident” truth really is true. Who knows? However, saying that it “may” be different this time round will not cut it. What if it is not different? And how would you know?”

    3. “If you claim certainty for the truth of any given proposition and justify it solely via personal conviction and self-evidence, it is sufficient to point out that this has failed before. Thus, it may be false now; which means that it can not guarantee the truth with indubitable certainty.”

    That is three times in only the last handful of posts. Either you get it or you don’t. I will not say anything more about this.

    “Again, I know without question that I exist. And you are going to have to offer a lot more than sepculative arguments or possibilites to undermind that confidence. I would need hard evidence.”

    You can not seem to shake off this strange notion that I am trying to persuade you of something. Why that is, I have no idea.

    “Again, you already agreed that you couldn’t offer me any “evidence” to disprove my belief. Where proof was offered in those other cases. That is a real difference.”

    No, it is not and I explained why. But I have had enough of your inability to understand this. Have it your way…

    “Except to question your existence you have to first exist. Again, if you don’t find this self-refuting and irrational – I just don’t know what to say to you. You may end up as mad as Nietzsche I’m afraid.”

    Yawn.

    You are just begging the question; but then again, that is all you have ever done on this subject, aside from re-stating the same phrase over and over.

    “Are there any questions that we can conclusively answer? Any?”

    Well, I would say that the proposition “Rigorous, logical thinking is not one of your strengths.” comes rather close to this ideal.

    If you can offer a certain truth and lay out why it is indubitable. I’m all ears…

    “And I should accept their opinion on, let’s say, the certainty of my existence – why?”

    Indeed, why should you? After all, you are already in possession of the one and only, true worldview, while reality is just the way it seems “obvious” to you and everything that you deem “absurd” or “irrational” must certainly be false. Ergo, no need to deal with anything that threatens this cozy situation…

    I mean, look at those crazy philosophers with all their questions and doubts. Pathetic. Your built-in truth detector with “self-evidence”, “personal conviction” and “common sense” extra features lets you decide these intractable metaphysical matters once and for all.

    Too bad that I have seen the same approach in support of diametrically opposed positions. Maybe you people should first get together and compare notes…

    “I would say that if language was not certain then no other knowledge claims could be possible. Since all knowledge claims would rely fully on the precision of language to describe them, define them.”

    Indeed.

    However, I asked about the epistemic status of language. Is it “knowledge” in every sense of the word? Does it make sense to say that language is “true” or “false”?

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  146. 1. “It is not necessary to “prove” that you are wrong. All that is necessary is to show that “personal certainty” and “self-evident” truths were wrong before. Ergo, they could be wrong now, so they can not guarantee the truth.”

    2. “In the past, people have claimed “personal certainty” and/or “self-evidence” for specific beliefs and were of the opinion that this imparts the feature of certain, indubitable truth upon said beliefs. Moreover, there was no evidence to the contrary. Nonetheless, their beliefs turned out to be false.

    And now you come along and claim “personal certainty” and “self-evidence” for your beliefs. Moreover, you say that there is no evidence to the contrary. So you are in exactly the same position as the the people whose “self-evident” beliefs turned out to be wrong.

    Maybe your “self-evident” truth really is true. Who knows? However, saying that it “may” be different this time round will not cut it. What if it is not different? And how would you know?”

    Yes, and like I said this is clearly an inductive argument. That because past self evident were proven wrong does not tell us that this one will be. You don’t know if this truth is like the previous falsifed beliefs. Never mind the fact that even in principle I don’t know how you could disprove my existence to me. Give these I feel perfectly justified in holding to the certainty of my existence. Anyway, you are correct – we have beat this horse to death.

    Well, I would say that the proposition “Rigorous, logical thinking is not one of your strengths.” comes rather close to this ideal.

    If you can offer a certain truth and lay out why it is indubitable. I’m all ears…

    I already did, my existence. And you have yet to falsify that claim. When you do get back to me. Besides, that was not my question, you said: Others do not suffer from this and settle for corroboration and the reduction of uncertainty, while accepting that there are questions which may forever be beyond our capability of conclusively answering.

    It sounds like you are suggesting that there are questions that NOT beyond our capability of conclusively answering. Did I understand you correctly?

    I mean, look at those crazy philosophers with all their questions and doubts. Pathetic. Your built-in truth detector with “self-evidence”, “personal conviction” and “common sense” extra features lets you decide these intractable metaphysical matters once and for all.

    Really Iapetus, I am certain of my existence and I’m the strange one? And philosophers who have to first exist to question their existence are the rational ones. Go figure…

    Indeed.

    However, I asked about the epistemic status of language. Is it “knowledge” in every sense of the word? Does it make sense to say that language is “true” or “false”?

    Well yes it does make sense to say that language is true or false as far as it is used for description or definition. If I say that “the sun exists” that statement, those words, convey one meaning and not another. It is certain – the proposition may not be certain, but the meaning or claim is.

    And you avoided my question: “are you certain that the munchausen trilemma means the munchausen trilemma or could it mean something completely different?”

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  147. James hits the re-set button with…”That because past self evident were proven wrong does not tell us that this one will be.”

    James? James?
    Read what Iapetus wrote. Focus on what people try to tell you.

    He said…”“personal certainty” and “self-evident” truths were wrong before. Ergo, they could be wrong now, so they can not guarantee the truth.”

    The key word here is “could”.
    The key phrase here is “can not guarantee”.

    James continues…”You don’t know if this truth is like the previous falsifed beliefs.”

    He’s not saying that. Read.

    James said…”Never mind the fact that even in principle I don’t know how you could disprove my existence to me.”

    Doesn’t matter. He’s not trying to do so.
    Read what Iapetus wrote. It’s rather good.

    James said…”Give these I feel perfectly justified in holding to the certainty of my existence.”

    Wow. Do you ever wonder why people think you are an idiot that just ignores people when they try to have a real conversation with you?

    James said…”I already did, my existence.”

    Um, how is this a certain truth?
    Why are you totally ignoring what Iapetus wrote?

    “And you have yet to falsify that claim.”

    Iapetus isn’t trying to. Focus. Read.

    “Really Iapetus, I am certain of my existence and I’m the strange one?”

    He’s not calling you strange because you….
    (sigh)
    FOCUS. READ.

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  148. I said: “That is three times in only the last handful of posts. Either you get it or you don’t.”

    To which you replied: “Yes, and like I said this is clearly an inductive argument. That because past self evident [beliefs] were proven wrong does not tell us that this one will be.”

    So we conclude that you don’t get it. Oh well, it is not the first time and surely will not be the last…

    “I already did, my existence. And you have yet to falsify that claim.”

    You are so boringly predictable. I could have written this nonsense myself. Unfortunately for you, one does not get to indubitable truths by default. Not to mention that you have no idea how to address Nietzsche’s arguments or how to exclude any metaphysical alternative. But it is not like I am stating anything non-obvious here.

    “It sounds like you are suggesting that there are questions that NOT beyond our capability of conclusively answering. Did I understand you correctly?”

    If you translate “conclusively” with “supported by a reasonable amount of corroboration” and not with “without a doubt”, you understood correctly. I trust that this is what you naturally had in mind and that you did not childishly try to trip me up…

    “Really Iapetus, I am certain of my existence and I’m the strange one? And philosophers who have to first exist to question their existence are the rational ones. Go figure…”

    So you still scuttle around in little circles, trying to answer Nietzsche’s criticism of this Cartesian verdict by mindlessly re-stating it over and over.

    I see that the metaphor of a hamster in his wheel fits you in more than one regard.

    Incidentally, where did you get this truth detector from? I would like to have one, too. Surely comes in handy now and then. Or was it part of the “Calvinist Christianity (True Worldview)” power package with “Predestination Kit” attached? If so, I might reconsider…

    “Well yes it does make sense to say that language is true or false as far as it is used for description or definition. If I say that “the sun exists” that statement, those words, convey one meaning and not another.”

    So if I point to the same spot in the sky and say “Flarbelwarbel exists.”, does that make my statement “wrong” in the sense of “incorrectly describing some aspect of reality”? If so, why?

    @post no. 148:

    It is reassuring to know that there are people who understand what I am saying. Prolonged “discussions” with James can make one question one’s ability to convey concepts to others…

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  149. So we conclude that you don’t get it. Oh well, it is not the first time and surely will not be the last…

    I get it Iapetus, just because some “self evident” beliefs were proven wrong in the past does not mean this one could be. Saying it’s “possible” does not make the case. An actual case would have to be made.

    Not to mention that you have no idea how to address Nietzsche’s arguments or how to exclude any metaphysical alternative. But it is not like I am stating anything non-obvious here.

    You are joking right? How did Nietzsche make his argument without first existing? How could I interact with his argument without first existing? How could you present his argument without first existing? How could the Hindu make his argument without actually existing? The whole thing depends, all the arguments depend, on us actually existing. Like I said – madness…

    If you translate “conclusively” with “supported by a reasonable amount of corroboration” and not with “without a doubt”, you understood correctly. I trust that this is what you naturally had in mind and that you did not childishly try to trip me up…

    Webster Conclusive:putting an end to debate or question especially by reason of irrefutability.

    Perhaps you should choose your words more carefully…

    So you still scuttle around in little circles, trying to answer Nietzsche’s criticism of this Cartesian verdict by mindlessly re-stating it over and over.

    And so do you. Please tell us all how Nietzsche could make his argument without first existing. I’ll be waiting…

    Incidentally, where did you get this truth detector from? I would like to have one, too. Surely comes in handy now and then. Or was it part of the “Calvinist Christianity (True Worldview)” power package with “Predestination Kit” attached? If so, I might reconsider.

    Some things are just basic Iapetus. We take them at face value until proven otherwise. And we have every reason to do so.

    Above you said:

    We simply accept fundamental propositions like our existence, our capacity of making informed, rational decisions etc. because

    a) we can not prove or disprove these things conclusively anyway; and

    b) the alternative would be, akin to general scepticism, total paralysis

    I agree, and I also agree that you can not disprove my existence. So until you do I feel justified in holding that belief.

    So if I point to the same spot in the sky and say “Flarbelwarbel exists.”, does that make my statement “wrong” in the sense of “incorrectly describing some aspect of reality”? If so, why?

    It would all depend on the meaning of “Flarbelwarbel.” The meaning we give it.

    But again you avoided my question: “are you certain that the munchausen trilemma means the munchausen trilemma or could it mean something completely different?”

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  150. “I get it Iapetus, just because some “self evident” beliefs were proven wrong in the past does not mean this one could be. Saying it’s “possible” does not make the case. An actual case would have to be made.”

    No James, despite your delusions to the contrary, you do not “get it”, as you so amply demonstrate here. Merely repeating fallacious reasoning does not make it right, irrespective of the number of repetitions. Post no. 148 tries to help you out, so it might be a good idea to read it carefully. And think about what “inductive” means and what the difference is to what I am saying.

    Incidentally, here we have a beautiful example of how “personal conviction” fails to guarantee the truth of a belief.

    “You are joking right? How did Nietzsche make his argument without first existing? How could I interact with his argument without first existing? How could you present his argument without first existing? How could the Hindu make his argument without actually existing? The whole thing depends, all the arguments depend, on us actually existing. Like I said – madness…”

    And James fearlessly traverses in his circle, banging his head against the wall while mindlessly trying to address the criticism of the premises of an argument by restating it again and again and again and again and…

    “Webster Conclusive:putting an end to debate or question especially by reason of irrefutability.

    Perhaps you should choose your words more carefully…”

    Wow. If you had understood anything about my position, it should have been more than obvious that I could not have meant “with indubitable certainty”. But then again, reaching understanding is not high on your list of priorities here…

    “And so do you. Please tell us all how Nietzsche could make his argument without first existing. I’ll be waiting…”

    Yawn.

    As usual, I have to take you by the hand and lead you around, pointing to the relevant things along the way. Oh well, I heard that patience is a virtue…

    The Cartesian verdict “Ego cogito, ergo sum.” is a typical example of the attempt to claim certainty for intuitive insights in that it purports to conclude from the existence of something called “thoughts” (whatever that is in concreto) as instantiated in “doubts” to the existence of a Being which is the necessary source of these “thoughts” and which is furthermore identical with the “I” (whatever that is in concreto).

    Nietzsche deconstructed this deduction and showed that it involves a bunch of non-obvious metaphysical assumptions, i.e. matters are apparently not as simple as they appear and the Cartesian verdict is not certain unless its unstated premises are shown to be certain.

    Now you come along and try to address this critique by saying that you need to exist first before you can be aware of these arguments, aka doubts. Which is equivalent to saying that these doubts, which you presumably define as some kind of “thought”, prove your existence. Which is equivalent to a simple re-statement of the initial argument that fails to touch any of its critiqued, metaphysical assumptions.

    In other words, a textbook example of a petitio principii.

    So, why don´t you try to address his criticism head-on for a change?

    Define terms like “thoughts” and “I” precisely and unequivocally.

    Show that “thoughts” are necessarily and exclusively causally generated by “Something”.

    Show that this “Something” is a “Being” (which you also need to define precisely and unequivocally).

    Show that this “Being” is necessarily identical to the “I”.

    What is that phrase you are so fond of? Ah yes, “I’ll be waiting…”

    Btw, is that the royal “we” up there?

    “Some things are just basic Iapetus. We take them at face value until proven otherwise. And we have every reason to do so.”

    Indeed we do. However, unless one can show their indubitable truth, they can not be seen as certain.

    “I agree, and I also agree that you can not disprove my existence. So until you do I feel justified in holding that belief.”

    Why do you continue to bore me with what you feel “justified” to believe or not? I am not interested in your specific beliefs. I am merely pointing out that you have thusfar failed to show how any of your beliefs constitutes an indubitable truth.

    “It would all depend on the meaning of “Flarbelwarbel.” The meaning we give it.”

    Aha.

    So, it seems that language is based on an arbitrary consensus. Words acquire meaning courtesy of our decision to agree upon and adhere to this consensus. Thus, language does not constitute “knowledge” in the traditional sense of being a statement with the property of “correctly describing some aspect of reality”. In other words, it does not make sense to say that language as such is “true” or “false”.

    Of course, the question whether our use of this construct “language” is in accordance with the agreed consensus is another matter. We can certainly not exclude the possibility that it is in some way or other involuntarily different, since it presupposes inter alia that our perception of reality is at least to some extent comparable, that our memory is reliable, that our mental faculties do not get altered or impaired etc.

    To pick a somewhat exaggerated example, I might have intended to talk about my latest holiday for the last couple of posts using words that are not agreed upon to convey this meaning. Or you might have understood me as talking about my cat instead of philosophy. However, the likelihood of this possibility gets smaller the longer the conversation lasts, since a missing congruence in our respective concepts would eventually result in a breakdown of meaningful communication. Every time we engage in conversation we test whether our respective usage of this construct “language” is shared by other people, thus increasing our confidence.

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  151. Post no. 148 tries to help you out, so it might be a good idea to read it carefully. And think about what “inductive” means and what the difference is to what I am saying.

    One more try, are you speaking of this:

    He said…”“personal certainty” and “self-evident” truths were wrong before. Ergo, they could be wrong now, so they can not guarantee the truth.”

    So how does that clear it up? First, saying that something “could” be wrong doesn’t mean it is wrong, in other words how do past failures bear on this question – how do you conclude that without being inductive – be specific please. Second, you agreed that my existence is something that could not be disproved – so how is that non-falsifible belief in the same boat as falsifible beliefs? It seems to me that we are dealing with completely different claims.

    And James fearlessly traverses in his circle, banging his head against the wall while mindlessly trying to address the criticism of the premises of an argument by restating it again and again and again and again and…

    Now you come along and try to address this critique by saying that you need to exist first before you can be aware of these arguments, aka doubts. Which is equivalent to saying that these doubts, which you presumably define as some kind of “thought”, prove your existence. Which is equivalent to a simple re-statement of the initial argument that fails to touch any of its critiqued, metaphysical assumptions.

    Well maybe James does this because Iapetus fails to offer an argument on how Nietzsche could offer this argument without first existing. Or how James could interact with this argument without also first existing. Our existence would be necessary to make or interact with the argument in the first place. Are you really suggesting that something other than Nietzsche was making this argument? What was this other thing?

    Why do you continue to bore me with what you feel “justified” to believe or not? I am not interested in your specific beliefs. I am merely pointing out that you have thusfar failed to show how any of your beliefs constitutes an indubitable truth.

    Again, my existence is self-evident and certain. It is not something that is proven, it is accepted, neither can it be disproven. Like I said before – if you disagree you are welcome to to try and falsify it. The onus is on you.

    To pick a somewhat exaggerated example, I might have intended to talk about my latest holiday for the last couple of posts using words that are not agreed upon to convey this meaning. Or you might have understood me as talking about my cat instead of philosophy. However, the likelihood of this possibility gets smaller the longer the conversation lasts, since a missing congruence in our respective concepts would eventually result in a breakdown of meaningful communication. Every time we engage in conversation we test whether our respective usage of this construct “language” is shared by other people, thus increasing our confidence.

    So language is not certain. And how does one objectively rate this confidence?

    So, it seems that language is based on an arbitrary consensus. Words acquire meaning courtesy of our decision to agree upon and adhere to this consensus. Thus, language does not constitute “knowledge” in the traditional sense of being a statement with the property of “correctly describing some aspect of reality”. In other words, it does not make sense to say that language as such is “true” or “false”.

    If language is not knowledge then how can we use it to describe knowledge? In other words if you did point to the sun and say “Flarbelwarbel” that would be a false term. Correct?

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  152. In other words, a textbook example of a petitio principii.

    So, why don´t you try to address his criticism head-on for a change?

    Define terms like “thoughts” and “I” precisely and unequivocally.

    Show that “thoughts” are necessarily and exclusively causally generated by “Something”.

    Show that this “Something” is a “Being” (which you also need to define precisely and unequivocally).

    Show that this “Being” is necessarily identical to the “I”.

    What is that phrase you are so fond of? Ah yes, “I’ll be waiting…”

    Iapetus you said:

    We simply accept fundamental propositions like our existence, our capacity of making informed, rational decisions etc.

    If Nietzsche’s argument is so formidable then on what rational basis do you “accept” your existence? Can you have any confidence that you exist? How?

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  153. FYI Iapetus, I started a thread on Münchhausen Trilemma, in case you want to join in…

    http://www.theologyonline.com/forums/showthread.php?p=1915512#post1915512

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