Wednesday, 8 July 2009


As I've talked about before, denying the bad assumptions made by theists does not necessarily mean that the atheist is making her own assumption. This is a rather common error, however, that theists often make. "Well, I assume god and you assume not god, so we're even." No, we are not. I do not need to assume not god in order to point out the holes in your logic and that your assumption is bad. I simply need not to accept your assumption as valid. This does not mean that I'm asserting my own assumption.

But, since this is so hard to understand for some, I thought I would try to create an example to illustrate the point. Let's say that two people are setting up a sting operation where they are going to be listening to a multi-national group of people. Let's pick up the conversation in progress:

Person A - Here's how the plan will go. We'll tap their phones and their meeting room and then we'll have Jane listen in. I assume that Jane will be able to understand any language they choose to use and with her help, we will be able to get the information we need. I guarantee success.
Person B - Um, wait. You assume Jane will be able to understand them?
A - Yes. Why not?
B - Do you know what language they'll be using?
A - No.
B - Do you know what languages Jane understands?
A - No.
B - I'm highly skeptical of your guarantee that this will work.
A - Oh, you're just assuming that Jane can't do it. I assume that she can. What's the difference? You have your assumption, and I have mine. We may as well just go into this operation and believe it will work.

So, in this example, did Person B really assume that Jane can't understand whatever language they use, or did Person B simply point out that the assumption may be faulty (probably is faulty, since most humans don't have the language skills of C3PO)? The analogy breaks down a bit in the theism question, because it's very hard to simply wait and see (although some theists do advocate simply waiting and seeing what happens after death) but I think it's instructive. Questioning or not accepting someone's assumptions do not entail negative assumptions or contrary assumptions are being made. This is of utmost importance in the philosophical debate over god, because theists really are sitting on a bad hand. They are required to make unsupported (read, irrational) assumptions in order to get to their preferred ending point, while the atheist is not under any such obligation.

59 comments:

Anonymous said...

It all falls apart at, "B - I'm highly skeptical of your guarantee that this will work."

You are not skeptical of the theists guarantee. You are skeptical that there is any possibility of God. A more appropriate analogy is that person A says, "Jane told me she can do it, but you refuse to listen to her." Person B says, "Since I've never heard Jane with my own ears say she can, I believe it's impossible for her to do it."

Anonymous said...

I care not whether you consider our "assumptions" equal. One of us is right, and one is wrong. I will not invoke Pascal's wager here, as it is not a good reason to believe anyway.
I just read your post on another blog which lead me here, and read your kitten/elephant analogy. While I think the analogy itself is flawed, I did find it interesting that you had a better understanding of what true BELIEF in Christ is than many Christians. It is not enough just to say you believe. You must truly believe in your heart.

I pray that you'll one day come to that true belief. If you keep searching, in earnest, I believe you will. My only concern is that you've been turned over to a "reprobate" mind. I won't get into it too much here, but you can search Biblegateway.com in the King James Version and there are some scriptures that discuss it.

Whatever the case, there are evidences of the "invisible" God in nature, and if you keep searching, and keep that great skeptical mind working, you'll find what you're looking for.

GCT said...

"You are not skeptical of the theists guarantee. You are skeptical that there is any possibility of God."

Theists tell me that god exists, and I'm skeptical of their assertions (or guarantees of god's existence). It still works.

"A more appropriate analogy is that person A says, "Jane told me she can do it, but you refuse to listen to her." Person B says, "Since I've never heard Jane with my own ears say she can, I believe it's impossible for her to do it.""

No, that would not be more appropriate. What might work better is if A says, "I believe that Jane can do it." And, the response would be, "Well, unless you have evidence that she can do that, I'm skeptical that she can."

GCT said...

"I care not whether you consider our "assumptions" equal."

I don't. They are very much unequal. Your assumptions are unfounded, while mine are non-existent.

"I will not invoke Pascal's wager here, as it is not a good reason to believe anyway."

Glad you agree.

"I just read your post on another blog which lead me here, and read your kitten/elephant analogy."

Kitten elephant analogy? Not mine.

"I pray that you'll one day come to that true belief."

How do you know it is true?

"If you keep searching, in earnest, I believe you will."

It sounds as if you've stopped.

"Whatever the case, there are evidences of the "invisible" God in nature, and if you keep searching, and keep that great skeptical mind working, you'll find what you're looking for."

For instance? I always hear about all this evidence for god, but no one ever seems to be able to articulate what it is and logically connect it to god.

Karla said...

I see what your saying, GCT, and how you are looking at it and if it were as simple as that I would agree with your conclusion.

But what I often hear is a positive assertion of naturalism that does not require a God. Thus while I hear you tell me you have no assertion and simply don't accept the theist's positive assertion it would appear you are standing on the grounds of naturalism which would be a positive assertion.

Are you staying safely removed from asserting there is no god because to assert it in the positive would be self-defeatist?

You seem to deny any possibility of any assertion of His reality while at the same time maintaining you haven't asserted the non-existence of God.

If person A said they had personal knowledge of Jane's fluency in multiple languages would not the person B of your illustration only reply that personal testimony isn't acceptable? When person A produces reference letters from Jane's friends, wouldn't person B require proof of the friends competency to give references. And upon supplying proof of that, would not person B then find another way to avoid accepting the competency of Jane because Jane simply cannot be competent.

This seems to be the insurmountable requests of the atheists to the theists--the never ending skepticism and refusal to accept anything as valid evidence, much less having a list of acceptable evidences rendered to the theists who constantly meets with the atheists multi layered skepticism.

Anonymous said...

GCT said...
"Theists tell me that god exists, and I'm skeptical of their assertions (or guarantees of god's existence)."

Skeptical means "I don't know enough to know for sure either way." Are you skeptical, or do you claim to know that there is no God? Maybe I've misunderstood your stance.

Oh, and I apologize if I credited you with an analogy you didn't make. My mistake.

GCT said...
"How do you know it is true?"

Because life starts making alot more sense when you realize it's not all without reason.

If I could take my knowledge and experience of God and just plug it into your brain, I would, but unfortunately that's not (yet LOL!) possible. It reminds me of when I always used to say I'd never get married and people would say, "You'll know when you meet the right girl." I thought that was all hogwash for lonely saps afraid to go through life alone. I knew I didn't need any kind of person to "hold my hand though life." Well, the day came when I did meet that one woman, and yes, I did know. Now, I could try to explain it to another young person who thinks the same, but I'll never be able to prove it to their satisfaction. Same goes for this. I can never prove it to you for your satisfaction. Until you come to it on your own, you're gonna think it sounds ridiculous, and I don't blame you.

GCT said...
"It sounds as if you've stopped."

Yep. When I'm looking at a map, and following it to a destination, I put the map away when I have no doubt I've reached the destination.

GCT said...
"For instance? I always hear about all this evidence for god, but no one ever seems to be able to articulate what it is and logically connect it to god."

I'm not sure I can give you an argument here you've never heard before, but I will give you my best honest answer. Something has been here since before time started being recorded. Something had to create everything we see. I'm sure we can agree on that much. Something is eternal, logically. For instance, if you believe in the Big Bang, something had to be there to explode. Where did that something come from?? Something has existed since before that. Do you agree??

Now I know the next athiest argument is, "Well just because it was something, doesn't mean it was the Christian God." I'll even let you have that one. SO we're still at "Something is eternal."

Add to that knowledge that we have a Bible (I'm meaning the King James Version) that was compiled of thousands of copies of a book, that considering the distance between the copies, was amazingly between 90-95% identical, and now you have the knowledge that the Bible could not have been falsified by a small group. Even if you wanted to contend it was, what did the "writers" have to gain by doing so? Of the 12 original Apostles, 11 were martyred. All they had to do in order to survive was renounce that faith. When facing certain death, and in many cases torture, they would not renounce what the athiest believes is a fairy tale?? That's hard to imagine.

For me, that says the Bible is more than likely true. Even if you want to argue that it's not 100% true, you'd have to concede that conservatively at least 60% of it's true. You can not cherry-pick 60% of the Bible and make it not include the Christian God.

If you come to the conclusion that there is some eternal being, and that there is a 60% likelyhood (or more) that the Christian God exists, it's not a large jump to say that He is the eternal being, which makes him the Creator of all things.

Maybe this does nothing for you. I'm sure with your debating skills you can denounce much of this and dismiss it in some way. For me, this was proof enough to believe. Although why I believe now is more of the intangible proof that you'd never give credence to. Once you gain just an ounce of faith, via learning the provable facts and their demand for a designer through modern science, the truth will seem so obvious, you will feel silly (or as I did, actually ashamed) for not believing all along.

GCT said...

Karla,
"But what I often hear is a positive assertion of naturalism that does not require a God."

This is just a way of stating that we have not had to invoke any sort of god assumption to explain things.

"Thus while I hear you tell me you have no assertion and simply don't accept the theist's positive assertion it would appear you are standing on the grounds of naturalism which would be a positive assertion."

No, see above.

"Are you staying safely removed from asserting there is no god because to assert it in the positive would be self-defeatist?"

No. I'm simply making the argument that when theists make the god assumption, denying that that assumption is supported or valid is not a positive assumption in itself.

"You seem to deny any possibility of any assertion of His reality while at the same time maintaining you haven't asserted the non-existence of God."

Because the theist is making the positive assertion of the existence of god and not giving my any reason to accept their assumption as valid.

"If person A said they had personal knowledge of Jane's fluency in multiple languages would not the person B of your illustration only reply that personal testimony isn't acceptable?"

For a case like this, we might accept person A's testimony. It's not an extraordinary claim and we do have evidence that some people are fluent in multiple foreign languages.

"When person A produces reference letters from Jane's friends, wouldn't person B require proof of the friends competency to give references."

Probably not in this case, but this would be more positive evidence. It may be wrong, and the surest sign would be to test Jane's proficiency.

"And upon supplying proof of that, would not person B then find another way to avoid accepting the competency of Jane because Jane simply cannot be competent."

No. I don't see what you are driving at, unless it is to break down the analogy. Sure, if we start supplying evidence, the analogy breaks down. That's because we can't do the same for god's existence. (I.e. you breaking down my analogy actually works against you.)

"This seems to be the insurmountable requests of the atheists to the theists--the never ending skepticism and refusal to accept anything as valid evidence, much less having a list of acceptable evidences rendered to the theists who constantly meets with the atheists multi layered skepticism."

It's hard to accept "evidence" that requires a person to first believe that the thing in question is true. Begging the question is simply not a valid logical solution to the problem.

Anonymous said...

Have you read Kent Hovind's latest on CSEblogs.com? I'm not a fan of his normally, but his analogy there is very good. It's called I-3

GCT said...

"Skeptical means "I don't know enough to know for sure either way." Are you skeptical, or do you claim to know that there is no God?"

Actually skeptical means that one is doubtful of the proposition in question. In this case the theist is proposing something and I am doubtful of it. I'm don't accept that the proposal is necessarily true. It's not ruled out, but I won't adopt it as true until and unless evidence is given to support it. Hence, I do not believe in any god.

"Oh, and I apologize if I credited you with an analogy you didn't make. My mistake."

No worries, it happens.

"Because life starts making alot more sense when you realize it's not all without reason."

How so? How does it make sense to decide there's a reason behind an earthquake that kills thousands of people, or why some A-hole gets rich while other decent people are starving and poor? How does your assumption of reason make more sense, and how do you support that assumption?

"If I could take my knowledge and experience of God and just plug it into your brain, I would, but unfortunately that's not (yet LOL!) possible."

What knowledge and experience? How do you know it is genuine?

"I can never prove it to you for your satisfaction. Until you come to it on your own, you're gonna think it sounds ridiculous, and I don't blame you."

IOW, you have no evidence for your claims, correct? If you have no evidence, what makes you think that your claims are correct?

"Yep. When I'm looking at a map, and following it to a destination, I put the map away when I have no doubt I've reached the destination."

So, what do you say to a believer in another religion that says the same thing? Or, what if I said the same thing to you, then what?

"Something has been here since before time started being recorded."

Recorded by humans? Yeah, we know that? Or, do you mean before time started? What does it mean to say that something was "before time." This is literally a nonsensical statement.

"Something had to create everything we see."

How do you know that?

"I'm sure we can agree on that much."

Nope, sorry. There is no evidence to suggest that your assertion is correct.

"Something is eternal, logically."

Sorry again, but this is not proven.

"For instance, if you believe in the Big Bang, something had to be there to explode. Where did that something come from?? Something has existed since before that. Do you agree??"

Not necessarily. Time had no meaning to us or the universe "before" the big bang. To say that something existed before the big bang is to say something that literally doesn't make sense.

GCT said...

Cont.

"Add to that knowledge that we have a Bible (I'm meaning the King James Version) that was compiled of thousands of copies of a book, that considering the distance between the copies, was amazingly between 90-95% identical, and now you have the knowledge that the Bible could not have been falsified by a small group."

First off, the KJV is widely known to be a bad copy. Secondly, that does not prove that the origination of the stories contained in the Bible are of true events, nor that changes were not proliferated. "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone," was completely made up well after the fact, for instance.

"Even if you wanted to contend it was, what did the "writers" have to gain by doing so?"

What did Joseph Smith gain? Truth is that the writers were probably all zealous believers in their religion, so they were probably just writing about what they were passionate about. There's no need to talk about "gain" at all.

"Of the 12 original Apostles, 11 were martyred."

You're going to be hard pressed to back that up with any evidence. Most of the supposed apostles simply disappear from any records.

"All they had to do in order to survive was renounce that faith."

Yup, because no Jews or Muslims have gone to their deaths instead of renouncing their faith, right? People die for their beliefs all the time.

"When facing certain death, and in many cases torture, they would not renounce what the athiest believes is a fairy tale?? That's hard to imagine."

It's not what the atheist believes, but what they believed. Of course, they being a band who we have very scant records of actually facing certain death (not including the way that we all face certain death, of course).

"For me, that says the Bible is more than likely true."

Then why not the Koran. You are aware that many people have died defending that faith, right?

"Even if you want to argue that it's not 100% true, you'd have to concede that conservatively at least 60% of it's true."

This would open up a whole can of worms. Which 60%? Why didn't god get all 100% right? Etc. Let's not go there in this comment thread. If you want to open up a discussion about this, let me know and I'll post an open thread for it.

"If you come to the conclusion that there is some eternal being, and that there is a 60% likelyhood (or more) that the Christian God exists..."

That the Bible may be some % true doesn't imply that the existence of god is that same % true.

"...it's not a large jump to say that He is the eternal being, which makes him the Creator of all things."

If I were to accept that the Xian god exists, I think I would be forced to conclude that he is the creator of all. This is not something that I accept, however, and I've seen no reason to do so.

"Maybe this does nothing for you."

If you were to present actual evidence and compelling logical argument, I could be convinced. That has not happened yet.

"I'm sure with your debating skills you can denounce much of this and dismiss it in some way."

I'll simply use logic and the lack of actual evidence if that is all right.

"Once you gain just an ounce of faith, via learning the provable facts and their demand for a designer through modern science, the truth will seem so obvious, you will feel silly (or as I did, actually ashamed) for not believing all along."

What "provable facts and their demand for a designer through modern science" are you speaking of? How in the world do you suppose that science supports your notions of god? Answer: it doesn't.

GCT said...

"Have you read Kent Hovind's latest on CSEblogs.com? I'm not a fan of his normally, but his analogy there is very good. It's called I-3"

You're citing the guy who claims that T-Rex's could breathe fire and that all you had to do to defeat them was pull on their arms, which would come off with the force a child could muster? Seriously?

"KH: Lucky guess. I read about a guy named that who created rules to limit research."

Hovind is an ignorant con (literally a con). What he's saying here doesn't even make sense. Rules to limit research? Darwin had nothing to do with anything even approaching that. And, how, pray tell, is one going to go about researching god anyway? What a mess.

Modusoperandi said...

Anonymous "I will not invoke Pascal's wager here, as it is not a good reason to believe anyway."
And the logical conclusion of it would be to pick the god/s/ who penalize disbelief the most…which would be Islam, probably. Some strains of Buddhism have pretty nasty hells, as well.

"Whatever the case, there are evidences of the "invisible" God in nature, and if you keep searching, and keep that great skeptical mind working, you'll find what you're looking for."
Did you ever notice how "general Revelation" always leads to the wrong answer? Now, it's a hands-off something, but in our recent past it commonly lead to oodles of gods.
At best, since most of the "Hey, look at that thing!"-style arguments for God turned out to not require Him at all, that gets you to deism (I'm an occasional deist myself. I'm not orthodox or anything). But you're not fighting for deism, are you? Pity.

"Are you skeptical, or do you claim to know that there is no God?"
This wasn't to me, but I'm skeptical of the possibilty of something "higher", some "other", some "thing". I'm doubtful that it's God, or any of the other gods and variants thereof that have been invented so far. Little and big skepticism, as it were.

"Because life starts making alot more sense when you realize it's not all without reason."
I've got a reason for existence. One night, my parents had Bolero on the hi-fi, a bottle of wine, and a warm crackling fire. How they got all that in the back seat of a 70's Honda Civic I'll never understand…

"It reminds me of when I always used to say I'd never get married and people would say, "You'll know when you meet the right girl." I thought that was all hogwash for lonely saps afraid to go through life alone. I knew I didn't need any kind of person to "hold my hand though life." Well, the day came when I did meet that one woman, and yes, I did know. Now, I could try to explain it to another young person who thinks the same, but I'll never be able to prove it to their satisfaction. Same goes for this. I can never prove it to you for your satisfaction. Until you come to it on your own, you're gonna think it sounds ridiculous, and I don't blame you."
The problem with the Argument from Personal Experience (which is what I assume you're talking about) is that, while it can be phenominally powerful, it only works for the person who experienced it. And it doesn't help the case that other people come to different answers (you, Christianity. Born in India? Probably Hindu. Me? Deism. Others land on completely different religions. See the problem?).

"I'm sure we can agree on that much."
Nope. Try "I don't know", instead. You'll be surprised at how liberating a frank admission of ignorance is. Best of all, it gives you something to look for.

"Something has existed since before that."
Causality requires time. Pre-Big Bang = no time. Don't worry, it gets weirder. There's a reason the best quantum physicists look unhinged.

"SO we're still at 'Something is eternal.'"
Which, again, runs into the "no time before time" problem. Again, luckily, "I don't know" works wonders. It's like shampoo for your confidence.
For as long as the universe has existed, the universe has existed.

"Add to that knowledge that we have a Bible (I'm meaning the King James Version)"
Why the KJV?

"Even if you wanted to contend it was, what did the "writers" have to gain by doing so?"
A snip here, an insertion there and ta da, you've just supported your sect's version (ever hear a pro-Reagan view of history? Now imagine that that view is the only one that isn't put to the torch when the Reaganites gain power). What, you've never heard of this guy (among others)?

Modusoperandi said...

continued (man, that 4096 character limit is a pain. I'm not a fan of the narrow columns, either. Also, my soup is cold. This will not do!)...

"Of the 12 original Apostles, 11 were martyred."
Try again. And even if it were so, all it proves is that you can count Christians among those willing to die for their beliefs.

"Even if you want to argue that it's not 100% true, you'd have to concede that conservatively at least 60% of it's true."
Partly based on things that actually happened in places that actually existed. Hebrews stuck in between far greater empires? Sure. Exodus? Not so much. Jerusalem? Real place. The dead getting up and walking around it? Not so much.

"You can not cherry-pick 60% of the Bible and make it not include the Christian God."
Yes. Yes, you can. They're called Muslims.

"Have you read Kent Hovind's latest on CSEblogs.com? I'm not a fan of his normally, but his analogy there is very good."
The Argument from Design? Why don't its proponents ever use a rock, or trichinosis, or syphilis?
KH: Yes, Lord. I pray for them often, but their public school education about evolution seems to have built a barrier to Your Word.
Oh, Kent. You willfully ignorant bozo. You of the $250,000 evolution challenge that, if successful, would effectively destroy the theory (as well as a bunch of other sciences), but prove the cartoon version of it that Kent tries so hard to refute.

GCT "People die for their beliefs all the time."
Yes, but those people are wrong.

ethinethin said...

"I just read your post on another blog which lead me here, and read your kitten/elephant analogy."

Kitten elephant analogy? Not mine.


Ah, interesting. That was me, over on Superstition Free.

I'm surprised you mentioned it since I effectively implied that all theists have deep mental problems.

Anonymous said...

"If I were to accept that the Xian god exists, I think I would be forced to conclude that he is the creator of all."

That one statement makes me feel as though my posting here was worth it. Not that you didn't already believe it, but it's good to see it posted here.

So when (or in your case if) Jesus returns to rapture his church before the tribulation period, upon seeing Him in convincing enough fashion to acknowledge He is the Son of God, you would believe wholeheartedly?

ethinethin said...

So when (or in your case if) Jesus returns to rapture his church before the tribulation period

Hypothetically, what if that happens a thousand years from now? Or, more likely, what if that never happens?

People have been saying "Jesus will return in my lifetime" for almost 2000 years now and it has yet to happen. Do you really expect it to happen soon (perhaps because of some superstition like Nostradamus prophecy or Mayan calander)?

Anonymous said...

I have no clue when it will happen. There actually would have to be a temple built in Jerusalem to complete prophecy. Everything else has happened that needs to before He comes back.

And you are right that the problem will be if it doesn't happen during GCT's lifetime. For his sake, I hope it does.

Modusoperandi said...

Anonymous "...I hope it does."
Your heart seems to be in the right place, but that's the second saddest thing I've ever heard. You're hoping that everything falls to shit and the world ends. If an atheist said that, he'd be accused of some form of nihilism or mental illness.

Anonymous said...

"You're hoping that everything falls to **** and the world ends."

It already has fallen, and the world ending is not a bad thing for the saved individual.

GCT said...

"That one statement makes me feel as though my posting here was worth it."

Really? It's a rather innocuous statement. If one believes in the Xian god, it's part of the definition.

"So when (or in your case if) Jesus returns to rapture his church before the tribulation period, upon seeing Him in convincing enough fashion to acknowledge He is the Son of God, you would believe wholeheartedly?"

I have always maintained that given evidence of this god I would believe that this god exists. This is a no-brainer for me, especially because it would be rational to believe in things that are truly evidenced. There are quite a few problems though.

The Bible indicates that Jesus should have already returned, but has not. Oops.

The view of the all-loving god that is so prevalent today is self-refuting if the accounts of what the rapture will be like are true. I would be forced to believe in a god, even the god of the Bible, but not a loving god nor a good god that one should follow, but an evil, vicious god that should be opposed, as we should oppose all vicious, evil, vile dictators.

Finally, your question is rather leading. I could re-phrase it as such: would you believe wholeheartedly in Thor were he to ride down on his mythical hammer Mjollnir and show himself to us in a convincing enough fashion to prove that he is the god of thunder? I know that I would. Would you? (IOW, this is a really meaningless question.)

mdeltoro said...

GCT, you've created a false dilemma or a straw man. When we theists point out that you atheists have your own assumptions, we do not necessarily mean that your assumption is to assume that there is no God, over against our (supposed) assumption that there is one. Part of what we are getting at is the fact that we ALL have assumptions--not necessarily about God, but about reality and knowledge. Now, I grant that these are not "raw" assumptions, in the sense that we have no reason whatsoever to believe them; but the reasons turn out to assume what they're trying to prove. The point is that our fundamental beliefs about knowledge and reality can only be demonstrated or refuted by using those same beliefs to argue for or against them. So, logical principles can only be argued for logically (i.e., while assuming what you are trying to prove). The notion that we can trust our senses is only verifiable by an appeal to what we perceive by our senses. The notion that repeatability is a legitimate test for a hypothesis is demonstrated (as you yourself had to resort to) by the pragmatic fact that it seems to work repeatedly. (You said, "Isn't it a good indicator of how things work that they seem to be consistent?" but you can only affirm that as a principle because, so far, it has seemed to work consistently.) Thus, the very foundations of what we hold true about reality rest upon "assumptions" or, at least, things that can only be argued for in a circular fashion, that is by assuming what we are trying to prove.

mdeltoro said...

(Continued) The great atheist thinker Bertrand Russell understood this quite well: "The consequences of the analysis of mathematical knowledge are not without interest for the theory of knowledge. In the first place it is to be remarked, in opposition to empirical theories, that mathematical knowledge needs premises which are not based on the data of sense. Every general proposition goes beyond the limits of knowledge obtained through the senses, which is wholly restricted to what is individual. If we say that the extension of the given case to the general is effected by means of induction, we are forced to admit that induction itself is not proved by means of experience. Whatever may be the exact formulation of the fundamental principle of induction, it is evident that in the first place this principle is general, and in the second place that it cannot, without a vicious circle, be itself demonstrated by induction.

"It is to be supposed that the principle of induction can be formulated more or less in the following way. If we are given the fact that any two properties occur together in a certain number of cases, it is more probable that a new case which possesses one of these properties will possess the other than it would be if we had not such a datum. I do not say that this is a satisfactory formulation of the principle of induction; I only say that the principle of induction must be like this in so far as it must be an absolutely general principle which contains the notion of probability. Now it is evident that sense-experience cannot demonstrate such a principle, and cannot even make it probable; for it is only in virtue of the principle itself that the fact that it has often been successful gives grounds for the belief that it will probably be successful in the future. Hence inductive knowledge, like all knowledge which is obtained by reasoning, needs logical principles which are a priori and universal. By formulating the principle of induction, we transform every induction into a deduction; induction is nothing else than a deduction which uses a certain premise, namely the principle of induction." (Taken from Russell's paper, "The Philosophical Importance of Mathematical Logic," found on the web at http://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/en/russell.htm, which see for further bibliographic information.) Now Russell "solved" the issue by simply asserting that such a priori principles are necessary for knowledge. True enough, but that doesn't prove them to be either universal or objectively true, which brings us back to the realm of "assumptions."

mdeltoro said...

(Continued) Since some such foundational assumptions about reality are inevitable, I took you up on your earlier invitation: "OK, so let's so [sic-I assume you meant 'let's see'] what those assumptions are and if they make sense to assume them." Since the assumptions themselves, being a priori, cannot be actually argued, we are left to compare competing worldviews and see which best makes sense of the assumptions we wish to affirm about reality. Which brings me back to the core argument, that, upon a comparison of our worldviews, those assumptions make more sense on the basis of a Christian theistic worldview, in which God is the rational Lawgiver Who gives all things continuity, than they do on the basis of an atheistic worldview, which provides us no rational basis for unchanging laws of any sort. True, I got my earlier question "Why does the fact that things have 'always' operated in a certain way imply that they will continue to operate in the same way?" from Greg Bahnsen, but he got it from the great empirical skeptic David Hume, and the truth is that on an atheistic view of the world there really is no good answer to it. There is no unchanging Constant to keep all the perceived "constants" (i.e., laws of nature) constant. In fact, occasionally we hear some naturalist or scientist say something to the effect that, "In nature, the only constant is change." Truly, this absurdity would be the end of science if correct, but there is no reason on an atheistic view of reality that it should not be correct--that what we know as laws today should not change tomorrow, since there is no unifying principle for knowledge, reality, or the universe.

Modusoperandi said...

Anonymous "It already has fallen..."
Evidence please.

"...and the world ending is not a bad thing for the saved individual."
Boy are you gonna be shocked to be stuck here when the sh*t hits the fan. I prophesy that many Protestants will recalculate what Revelations actually means. Some of them may even take on the, dare I say it, rational view of it (and Daniel).

mdeltoro "Christian theistic worldview, in which God is the rational Lawgiver Who gives all things continuity, than they do on the basis of an atheistic worldview, which provides us no rational basis for unchanging laws of any sort."
And how rational is basing the "things are what they are" of the universe on an imaginary character?
How solid is the foundation of imagination, anyway?

"True, I got my earlier question 'Why does the fact that things have 'always' operated in a certain way imply that they will continue to operate in the same way?'
The first half of that question answers the last half pretty well.

"...from Greg Bahnsen, but he got it from the great empirical skeptic David Hume..."
I think that's the first time I've ever seen those two names in the same sentence. Never do that again.

"In fact, occasionally we hear some naturalist or scientist say something to the effect that, "In nature, the only constant is change." Truly, this absurdity would be the end of science if correct..."
They're generally referring to the evolutionary arms race, or the environment, or something like that, not the rules by which things operate.

Anonymous said...

"The Bible indicates that Jesus should have already returned, but has not. Oops"

This is absolutely untrue. I'm not sure where you're getting this. If we're going to argue with complete lies, then there's no point in continuing the discussion.

GCT said...

mdeltoro,
"GCT, you've created a false dilemma or a straw man. When we theists point out that you atheists have your own assumptions, we do not necessarily mean that your assumption is to assume that there is no God, over against our (supposed) assumption that there is one."

I suggest you check out some of your theist friends' opinions on the matter. You'd be surprised at how many assert the very thing that you are denying. If you understand that this is not the case, then this post does not apply to you.

"Part of what we are getting at is the fact that we ALL have assumptions--not necessarily about God, but about reality and knowledge."

I'm still awaiting examples.

"So, logical principles can only be argued for logically (i.e., while assuming what you are trying to prove)."

That is simply not so. You can actually empirically test logical principles. Is it true that one's character has no bearing on whether one has a correct argument? Well, it can be checked by simply looking at whether those with good character are always right and vice versa.

"The notion that we can trust our senses is only verifiable by an appeal to what we perceive by our senses."

I've already disabused you of this notion in our previous conversation...or does the sun really go around the Earth?

"The notion that repeatability is a legitimate test for a hypothesis is demonstrated (as you yourself had to resort to) by the pragmatic fact that it seems to work repeatedly."

Which means it is not an assumption.

"Thus, the very foundations of what we hold true about reality rest upon "assumptions" or, at least, things that can only be argued for in a circular fashion, that is by assuming what we are trying to prove."

Wrong again. This is especially true since I don't hold any of those positions as sacrosanct (some I don't even hold as true at all). All of those are provisionally held. The universe will continue as it has because in all probability it will continue as it has, but this is not definite. This is also not an assumption but a conclusion based on fact - a tentative conclusion. These are quite distinct and different from assuming god exists.

"Now Russell "solved" the issue by simply asserting that such a priori principles are necessary for knowledge."

Even if Russell's argument held, it would hold for both of us (I argue it does not hold). It's not an argument solely for the atheist, as the theist has the same problem. So, if we do hold assumptions, then we equally hold them. The theist, however, adds at least one more. So, this does not hold as an assumption that one must hold by virtue of being an atheist.

"Since the assumptions themselves, being a priori, cannot be actually argued, we are left to compare competing worldviews and see which best makes sense of the assumptions we wish to affirm about reality."

Even if we take your argument at face value, we would both hold a set of assumptions that are common. On top of that, you would hold a set of assumptions that are not common and are not held by me, while the set of assumptions that I hold that are not common would be the null set.

"Which brings me back to the core argument, that, upon a comparison of our worldviews, those assumptions make more sense on the basis of a Christian theistic worldview, in which God is the rational Lawgiver Who gives all things continuity, than they do on the basis of an atheistic worldview, which provides us no rational basis for unchanging laws of any sort."

And, I've already argued why this is wrong. Please address my arguments instead of simply re-asserting your argument. I've already answered why we believe that the world will continue as it has from a naturalistic viewpoint and already pointed out that you believe in a being that has the power and has performed violations of the "unchanging laws" which ipso facto makes them not "unchanging."

GCT said...

"This is absolutely untrue. I'm not sure where you're getting this. If we're going to argue with complete lies, then there's no point in continuing the discussion."

I'm getting it from the passages where Jesus clearly states it. Please see here.

Anonymous said...

I love how you argue that the bible cannot be meant to be taken literally, except when it provides better for your point to argue that Jesus meant everything literally. Pick a side man!

Anonymous said...

Somebody needs to study their Greek. The word "genea" often was used to meant the time span of an inhabitation such as the time that man inhabits the earth.

GCT said...

"I love how you argue that the bible cannot be meant to be taken literally, except when it provides better for your point to argue that Jesus meant everything literally. Pick a side man!"

When have I argued that? I think a literal interpretation is usually the best because we have no reason to believe that god couldn't inform us of what he wanted to say in the most direct way.

"Somebody needs to study their Greek. The word "genea" often was used to meant the time span of an inhabitation such as the time that man inhabits the earth."

The word "genea" is used to denote a "generation." What evidence do you have that "generation" in any context means the time span that "man inhabits the earth?" If anything, you could try and argue that Jesus meant a different generation than the one that was currently living, but that doesn't make much sense either.

Anonymous said...

Do you have a Greek dictionary?

genea has many definitions, one of which is, and I quote, "the time span for which a man inhabits a particular location"

GCT said...

"genea has many definitions, one of which is, and I quote, "the time span for which a man inhabits a particular location""

"A man," not "man." There's a difference. And, I fail to see how this supports your assertions.

Anonymous said...

Jesus was speaking of the time that we will dwell on the earth. The word genea was not near as confining as we currently hold "generation."

The reason I bring it up is because the majority of "contradictions" in the Bible are actually cases of misunderstood etymology, by which English speaking people hold the infant forms of their words to the same grammatical standards as the current incarnation.

GCT said...

"Jesus was speaking of the time that we will dwell on the earth. The word genea was not near as confining as we currently hold "generation.""

There's no support for the idea that Jesus was speaking of the time that all mankind would be on the Earth - and this would stretch the meaning of "generation" beyond the bounds of reason. Like I said, you'd be better off arguing that he meant a different generation.

"The reason I bring it up is because the majority of "contradictions" in the Bible are actually cases of misunderstood etymology, by which English speaking people hold the infant forms of their words to the same grammatical standards as the current incarnation."

So you assert. There are very real contradictions, however, and very real problems with the Bible and the stories contained within it.

Anonymous said...

"There's no support for the idea that Jesus was speaking of the time that all mankind would be on the Earth - and this would stretch the meaning of "generation" beyond the bounds of reason."

But it wouldn't be stretching the meaning of genea at all. I suppose you have a problem with Jesus saying he would restore the temple in 3 days if it were destroyed? Jesus spoke in this symbolic way often. I'm not sure why you have a hard time grasping that he would talk the same way in this statement.

----------------

"So you assert. There are very real contradictions, however, and very real problems with the Bible and the stories contained within it."

Okay, let's see 'em. I'll gladly address each and every one.

GCT said...

"But it wouldn't be stretching the meaning of genea at all."

Um, yeah it would. Genea is a term that denotes a period of time of people living that have a common theme. For instance, take the Exodus. Anyone living during that time could be considered part of the Exodus genea. That 40 year span could include people who died at the beginning and people who were born at the end. That's what the word means. To extrapolate that out to all of human kind is stretching things to an absurd level.

"I'm not sure why you have a hard time grasping that he would talk the same way in this statement."

Because it doesn't make sense. If he's talking about all of mankind, then who will be here when he finally does come back?

"Okay, let's see 'em. I'll gladly address each and every one."

You could start by telling me where Jesus was supposedly born and why he was there.

Anonymous said...

LOL! You don't know what the Bible says? If you have a problem with something, name it. I'm not here for a Q and A.

For this one time I will be generous. Jesus was born in what is now Palestine. He was there because his birth occured while his parents were on their way to his father's home city for Octavian's census/oath of allegiance mentioned by Josephus in Antiquites 17. It says, “all the people of the Jews gave assurance of their good will to Caesar, and to the king’s government.”

Really only Joseph was probably required to go, but as you can imagine he wouldn't have left his wife alone during the end of her pregnancy. Travel would have been difficult, but he would have been killed if he didn't come back for the oath and census.

Some argue that it is not required in a modern census to return to your hometown. However, a provincial census decree from Egypt dated AD 104 required absentees to return to their hometowns to be registered. The decree reads,

Gaius Vivius Maximus, Prefect of Egypt [says]: seeing that the time has come for the house to house census, it is necessary to compel all those who for any cause whatsoever are residing out of their provinces to return to their own homes, that they may both carry out the regular order of the census and may attend diligently to the cultivation of their allotments.

There is no reason the Romans would not have followed a similar procedure a century or so earlier in Judea.

So where is the issue?

GCT said...

Wow, you are full of bluster and bravado - misplaced as it may be.

Your quip about not knowing what's in the Bible is funny, but ultimately pretty inane, considering you asked for contradictions. I was giving you one in a question form. I'm sorry that you weren't able to understand that.

Jesus was supposedly born during the reign of Herod the Great, who died in 4 BCE and also during Quirinius's reign as governor of Syria, which started in 6 CE, which is when the census supposedly took place. Oops.

Now, the account you've given is Luke's account, but Matthew's account makes no mention of this. Matthew simply places Jesus in Bethlehem because he thinks it fulfills a prophecy, which he got wrong anyway.

Anonymous said...

Wrong census, friend. The 6 B.C. census did not require the oath of loyalty that the one during Jesus' birth did.

Matthew made no error in his account. Not sure why you are so bothered that every writer doesn't repeat every single sentence the other writer's did. When you do it, you call it "not reinventing the wheel" but when they do it, you call it "a contradiction." Again a double-standard because your argument doesn't hold up. But I digress...

Jesus was indeed born in Bethlehem.

GCT said...

"Wrong census, friend. The 6 B.C. census did not require the oath of loyalty that the one during Jesus' birth did. "

6 CE. There's no record of any other census during that time.

"Matthew made no error in his account. Not sure why you are so bothered that every writer doesn't repeat every single sentence the other writer's did."

The point was that they were making it up as they went along. And, yes, he misinterpreted the prophecy that was supposed to be fulfilled. He placed Jesus there because he thought that Jesus had to be born there. In truth, he probably had no idea where Jesus was born.

"When you do it, you call it "not reinventing the wheel" but when they do it, you call it "a contradiction.""

I call it what it is. When have I made something up in order to try and fulfill some prophecy.

You know, you make a lot of accusations here against me that you don't ever seem to back up. Why is it that you feel compelled to belittle, condescend, and make personal attacks?

"Jesus was indeed born in Bethlehem."

Neither story holds up. One has it because he's trying to write to a prophecy, and the other has the timeline all messed up. The best conclusion (one that most scholars have come to) is that we don't know when or where Jesus was born.

Anonymous said...

"The point was that they were making it up as they went along. And, yes, he misinterpreted the prophecy that was supposed to be fulfilled. He placed Jesus there because he thought that Jesus had to be born there. In truth, he probably had no idea where Jesus was born."

Actually, if he were making it up, and trying to make it fit existing prophecy, he would have had Jesus being born in Nazareth. That is where the Savior was supposed to "come from." Many folks denied Jesus was the Messiah because he was not born in Nazareth. Of course, they should have realized that "come from" doesn't mean "where you are born" but rather your hometown.

The other census/oath of loyalty was covered by Josephus as I listed above.

GCT said...

"Actually, if he were making it up, and trying to make it fit existing prophecy, he would have had Jesus being born in Nazareth."

Funny you should say that, considering that Luke claims that they lived in Nazareth and only traveled to Bethlehem because of the census, then they returned to Nazareth after a month. Matthew claims they lived in Bethlehem, then fled to Egypt for a while, then went to Nazareth. Either way, if Nazareth is the correct place for the prophecy, then Jesus does not fulfill the prophecy.

Matthew, however in 2:5 pretty explicitly claims that Jesus fulfills that prophecy. Please read it.

"Many folks denied Jesus was the Messiah because he was not born in Nazareth. Of course, they should have realized that "come from" doesn't mean "where you are born" but rather your hometown."

Ah, the old ambiguity of prophecy, where you can change the meaning to suit your whims.

"The other census/oath of loyalty was covered by Josephus as I listed above."

Josephus mentions a census by Governor of Syria Quirinius in 6 CE.

Anonymous said...

Josephus mentions the oath of loyalty that happened before that as well. There was a census that accompanied that according to other historians, although Josephus doesn't go into detail about it.

Anonymous said...

If you were born in one city, then moved to another as an infant, and were asked at 30 years of age where you are from, would you give your birth city, or your hometown?

GCT said...

Cites please on Josephus.

Also, what does it matter about hometowns/birthplaces? Most likely, Matthew and Luke didn't know, so they placed them there for their own reasons. Matthew seems to think they lived in Bethlehem, while Luke puts them there with some census. Etc. etc. etc. You could try addressing the arguments.

Anonymous said...

Antiquities 17:41-45

GCT said...

Oath != Census when Quirinius was governor.

I also came across something that you will hand-wave away, but that I found to be interesting:

Have fun reading

Anonymous said...

So your argument has now changed from "Someone changed what Josephus wrote after he wrote it" to "Josephus wrote it with an agenda and distorted the facts"?

GCT said...

"So your argument has now changed from "Someone changed what Josephus wrote after he wrote it" to "Josephus wrote it with an agenda and distorted the facts"?"

I'm rather puzzled by your question, as it seems to be coming out of left field. Nowhere have I said that Josephus wrote anything with any agenda or tried to distort any facts. Wherever you got that idea from I have no idea.

Anonymous said...

From your own link. Did you read it before linking it?

"Second, no other author did or was even likely to have seen this census as particularly noteworthy--Josephus alone uses it as an excuse for him to introduce his villains, a group that scholars doubt existed as a unified faction-"

Josephus USES it as an excuse.

GCT said...

And your point is?

I really don't see why you are grasping at red herrings.

Anonymous said...

So you don't deny now that you were wrong about your own link? Your argument defeated your own previous point, and you have no problem with that?

Pointing out that you are using as evidence two contrary statements is evidence of your lack of credibility in the argument, not a red herring.

GCT said...

"So you don't deny now that you were wrong about your own link? Your argument defeated your own previous point, and you have no problem with that?"

Put down the kool aid and back away slowly. I have no idea what you are carping about as it has no relevance to anything.

"Pointing out that you are using as evidence two contrary statements is evidence of your lack of credibility in the argument, not a red herring."

Um, I haven't used two contrary statements, and you haven't been able to show that I have. It's all in your mind and you've done nothing to connect the dots other than simply assert this rather bizarre charge.

Anonymous said...

From "Superstition Free" post "This Little Insomnia of Mine"
--------------------------------
GCT said...
"I guess Josephus is a liar?"

The people who changed his words many years after he wrote them certainly were.
---------------------------------

Then in this thread, you post at 21 July 2009 07:30 acknowledging that your own link says that Josephus wrote with an agenda, fabricating some of what he said.


Dots close enough for ya?

GCT said...

Wow, you are really reaching.

First off, are you not aware that Josephus's writings are widely regarded as having been tampered with? That's what was being talked about at Robert's blog. It's obvious that you had no idea.

Secondly, I was not wrong about my own link by any stretch. That's a fabrication made up by you and held to despite the fact that you have no idea what you are talking about, as evidenced above.

Anonymous said...

http://www.christiananswers.net/q-abr/abr-a009.html

GCT said...

It's a pretty good bet that when Abraham (or whoever it was) lived in Ur, that he was well aware of the mythologies of the people that lived there (Sumerians), and that he co-opted them into his own stories of his own people. This link is actually pretty good evidence that the flood and the tower of Babel are both myths.

Anonymous said...

Only in your own warped mind.

GCT said...

Coming from the person who thinks that a magic man made two people, put them in a garden and didn't want them to eat from a tree, but didn't do anything to stop it even though he knew it would happen. Then, a talking snake convinced the people to eat the fruit from the tree, which justified this supposedly omni-benevolent magic man to visit suffering upon those two people as well as all of their offspring and throw them all into hell. Also, that this magic man wanted to forgive us, but couldn't unless he came down to Earth by boinking a virgin [mistranslation] and creating himself in human form, which would allow him to be tortured and die only to be reborn in order to convince himself to allow himself to forgive us, which is what he wanted to do all along - but only if we believe that he did this. If you get the facts wrong, you deserve to burn in hell. Oh, and magic man isn't going to actually present you with facts and evidence, because that would allow you to make an informed choice. Instead, he wants you to guess in the wind and if you get it wrong, hell, fire, brimstone, and torture awaits.

Surely, anyone who believes in natural events for which we have evidence, and in parsimonious explanations (BTW, there's no evidence of a global flood and it goes against the laws and evidence of physics, geology, evolution, paleontology, etc) instead of the above magic man story has a very warped mind. How could I be so stupid?