Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Complete and Utter Destruction of Modern Atheism

As I was watching some videos on YouTube, I came across one that attempted to show by metaphysics and knowledge justification that atheists are wrong. I didn't think it was very convincing, but it did cite as one of its sources an essay after which I title this blog entry. What surprises me is that the author Lenardos attempts to not only say that atheists have no justification for their beliefs about the universe, but also that they have been "destroyed," which seems more like "complete and utter crap." It baffles me to see articles like this, but in a world where people with no qualifications think themselves educated enough to speak on a topic without researching, this was bound to happen.

The entire essay is about 3700 words so I wouldn't expect anyone to read it, though I got through most of it without barfing. I will cite his major points and provide rebuttals as I think he rambles far too much for me to criticize every minor thing he says.
When one thinks of the modern day atheist, one may think of a rational person, perhaps a scientist, an empiricist; someone who deals with the hard facts found in the world around us, someone who does not accept unjustified beliefs.
Yes, that would be the goal. Unfortunately, imperfect as we all are, we can only strive toward this and we get closer all the time.
This paper will show that there is a disconnect between this image of the atheist compared to the implications of the basic elements that make up the atheists theory of reality. What I mean by this is: we are going to find that if any atheistic theory of reality is true, then there is no justification for any knowledge about a world around us.
So here we go, off on an intellectual journey. We'll see if my world gets blown to bits or if his arguments just fizzle out like that fire cracker you always got on the 4th of July while all the other kids' exploded and caused them great happiness.
Now, I am not saying that we don’t know about the world around us, I am just pointing out that the elements of any atheistic theory of reality do not allow for the justification of that knowledge. We must keep this in mind at all times. The question is not, can we know anything at all about the world; but, given any atheistic theory of reality, can we know anything about the world?
Well that would appear to be a fair question. In fact, it's a fair question if you replace the word "atheistic" with "theistic." Or "deistic." But let's see where he's going with this.
Here is a short list of necessary preconditions the atheist (or anyone for that matter) would need to support the above:
  1. sense perceptions that tell about the world
  2. the uniformity of nature
  3. inductive principle
  4. deductive principle
But we are not done yet, there is one more level, the very basic level: one’s theory of reality. One’s theory of reality is the glasses one uses to see everything else. It is this level that must have the elements to support the entire philosophical structure. If it does not, then the entire structure falls apart.
Up to this point, his logic seems to be sound. Or at least, I don't have any objections to it. Now here's the point where he starts to slip up.
In this paper we will examine the implications of all logically possible atheistic metaphysics, to see where they lead. I think you will be surprised. We will go step by step through all atheistic theories of reality. Not only will we show that the elements of all atheistic theories of reality are insufficient to justify sense perceptions, but all of them actively destroy the possibility for any justification of sense perceptions. The first thing we will find is that there are two main categories that all cosmologies fall into; they are atheism and theism (see chart 1)
 
 
The Theistic category says that one element of reality is the existence of God. The Atheistic category says that in the scheme of reality, no God exists. Since this is an antithesis, all cosmologies will have to fall into one of these two categories. In other words, there is no logical third option possible.
My first objection is his classification system. Why classify it according to belief in a God? Why do you think that is relevant at all? Why not according to culture or language or brain chemistry? All of those affect your perceptions of the world as well. Nevertheless, let's follow him down this path.

If everything is what it is by accident or unintentionally, then so is the way that every particle, atom and molecule interacts with every other particle, atom and molecule. There is no intent, reason or justification for them being as they are.
False. This is an equivocation. While it may be true that everything is what it is "unintentionally" (as intentions are typically thought of as coming from minds), that does not mean there is no reason or justification as to why they are as they are. It doesn't even matter if I don't know the reasons why things are as they are. I don't understand how oxygen and hydrogen react, but does that mean there is no reason for them to do so?
From a naturalist point of view, you can say things are what they are, but no justification can be applied to what or why they are. To do so would be to deny the basic concept of unintentionalism. So, there is no reason or possible justification for thinking that our sense perceptions give us information about the world around us. I am not saying that our perceptions don’t give us information about the world around us, I am just saying that the naturalist theory of reality does not allow for a justification that our sense perceptions do tell us about the world around us.
Now how do you make that leap? From "don't know why something is" to "no justification that your sense perceptions are accurate" is a non sequitur. Sorry.
Let me put it this way, given the elements of the naturalist’s theory of reality it is possible that our sense perceptions are telling us about the world around, but it is just as possible that they are not. We can never know.
Yes, it is true that our sense perceptions could be fundamentally completely wrong. I don't know why they would be, but it's possible, sure. Perhaps the question you should ask yourself, Lenardos, is, "do I have any reason to disbelieve my senses?" And not in an "oh, sometimes I can be wrong" kind of way but in a basic, conceptual way. Do you think that, largely, our senses are wrong about pretty much everything? The author seems to think they're OK, but also claims that I can't say that. So far he hasn't offered any real logical reason for me to believe him yet.
The next question is about unintentionalism. There are three possible positions here:
  1. Everything is what it is unintentionally
  2. Everything is what it is intentionally
  3. Some things are what they are intentionally.
The latter two require an intender be involved either in all things or some things. May I suggest that a cosmic intender might be a problem for any atheistic position? So we are left with just unintentionalism, everything is what it is unintentionally. So, here we are at naturism.
It depends on what scale you ask that question. It may well have been unintentional for whatever process brought about the universe as we know it today, but some things are what they are intentionally due to natural beings capable of intent.
Since we have now shown that the only logically possible atheistic cosmologies are negationism and naturism, and since we have shown that neither of these can offer a justification for sense perceptions, we have shown that if ANY atheistic worldview is true, there can be no justification for sense perception.
You are correct in that on some level, we must assume it to be true that our senses do function in a way that accurately represents the reality we live in. What you haven't demonstrated is the idea that I have no reason whatsoever to believe that my sense perceptions are wrong, or what the alternative is in that case. But you don't offer one and in fact don't touch on the theist's position at all.
So, where does this leave the modern atheist? Let’s see: There is no reason for the atheist, given any atheistic theory of reality, to believe that his sense perceptions are telling him anything about the world around him. The basic assertion that his sense perceptions do tell him about the world around him is an unjustified belief.
No reason to believe that my sense perceptions tell me anything about the world around me? How about the world around me? Is that not a good reason to believe one exists? Do you recommend I reject this reality that I experience and instead stare at a wall for hours trying to come up with some way to  prove that I exist in a universe? I admit that it could be all wrong. It could just be an illusion or a trick that my mind is playing on me or a trick a god is playing on me, but I have no reason to think so. I do have every reason to believe that the world I see is the world that I am a part of and to not do so would be both irresponsible and insane.

What irks me is that you trot out this idea that because I can't conclusively prove that my sensory inputs are perfect, I have absolutely no justification in my beliefs about anything. You have not demonstrated this point (nor have you come close) but you speak as though you have "utterly destroyed" atheism. I still fail to see how the concept of a god has anything to do with this discussion. One point I would bring up to him is one that he thinks he has answered in his paper:
Objection 1— “You are in the same boat as I am, you can't justify sense perception from your theory of reality either!
Answer— First, the assertion that I can’t justify sense perception from my theory of reality is unproven, before you can make that assertion you have to provide the argument for it.
Second, it wouldn’t matter if I was in the same boat as you. That does not further or change your position. Regardless of who is in the boat with you, you still remain in the boat. The atheist's failure to justify sense perception from the elements of his theory of reality remains.
This objection is known as “Tu Quoque,” or the “You too! fallacy.” It is a fallacious means of reasoning. It falls under the category of “fallacies of relevance,” for the reason I mention above.
My assertion wouldn't need to be proven because you have provided no justification for your own senses based on a deity. I assume you do think that you have done so because if you hadn't this essay would have been irrelevant. However, you don't attempt to prove your position because you couldn't. Because as I've already said, the concept of gods has nothing to do with the discussion at all. My assumption is that you believe that a god (and not just any god, but the one you came up with in your own mind or believe because of your faulty perceptions) wouldn't deceive you with this reality. While that may sound more convincing, it's actually less convincing. On top of the assumptions that atheists make (that the universe exists, that we can know something about it, etc), theists make another assumption that is that a god exists. Well done. You've now made the problem worse. You have to attempt to show that a god exists for which there is no evidence in this reality (much less in any other reality that could possibly exist that might apparently be real but we couldn't know because our senses are wrong) and as show the other axioms to be true as well.

And that's your problem, Lenardos. Believing a god to exist doesn't make your problems go away. It just makes you look more like an amateur philosopher that hasn't taken the basic introductory course that any good university should offer. It didn't take me half a second to see past this "destruction" of atheism - and that should say something. If I've got it bad, you've got it worse. Stop bickering over "you can't prove that reality exists" and do something constructive, like building houses for poor people.

Unless you think they don't exist.

18 Comments:

Anonymous said...

Soo, umm you're fairly good at this, but when are you going to interact with Plantinga, Wolterstorff, Audi, or somebody who "matters" (at least according to their peers/serious journals, etc.) when it comes to epistemology?

Drew said...

If I were to come across something interesting from one of those people I would probably write about it. I'm not too familiar with things they have said (or at least, couldn't put a name to them). If you have any requests though, I'd definitely consider writing about something though. :)

Anonymous said...

Drew wrote:

"My assertion wouldn't need to be proven because you have provided no justification for your own senses based on a deity... On top of the assumptions that atheists make (that the universe exists, that we can know something about it, etc), theists make another assumption that is that a god exists."

I always find it interesting that atheists can never really answer a question about their view without attacking some sort of Theistic view. This paper had nothing to do with theism and simply shows the necessarily implications to all atheistic theories of reality.

The kicker is, in your above quote, you agree with the conclusion of the paper. You offer no justification that your sense perceptions correspond to an external, material world. You admit that this is a mere assumption on your part. Even if we all agreed that God does not exist, this would still be a mere assumption on your part, and it's a pretty big one; but so is your assumption of a deductive and an inductive principle.

What if you are dealing with another atheist, for instance the negationist, He asks you how you justify that your sense perception corresponds to an external world. You cannot play the God card, he doesn't believe that any god exists. Do you see why tu quoque is irrelevant? Regardless of the other persons position, you have given no answer for yours. And to use tu quoque merely shows the weakness of your position, because if you had a strong position, you wouldn't have to rely on a informal fallacy to try and bale yourself out.

Anonymous said...

Drew wrote:

"And that's your problem, Lenardos. Believing a god to exist doesn't make your problems go away. It just makes you look more like an amateur philosopher that hasn't taken the basic introductory course that any good university should offer. It didn't take me half a second to see past this "destruction" of atheism - and that should say something. If I've got it bad, you've got it worse. Stop bickering over "you can't prove that reality exists" and do something constructive, like building houses for poor people."

Well, if you had taken a couple of into to philosophy courses, you would have realized that this is not something invented for the paper being critiqued here. Had you read David Hume or Kant or Bertrand Russell on this subject, you would realize the seriousness and the depth of the problem.

So, how did these philosophers get past the problem presented? The way Hume got past his own arguments was to say he just took it all for granted. In other words, he just believed, brother, he believed! Bertrand Russell acquiesced to the same thing. For him the assertion of an external, material world has nothing to do with truth or a justified position, it is just a belief that is instinctive. I think Kant put it best: "It must still remain a scandal to philosophy and to the general human reason to be obliged to assume, as an article of mere belief, the existence of things external to ourselves (from which, yet, we derive the whole material of cognition even for the internal sense), and not to be able to oppose a satisfactory proof to any one who may call it in question" -Critique of Pure Reason, pg 39.

Anonymous said...

I guess what I am saying is, instead of always making it about the other guy, you got to man-up and admit that, as an atheist, everything you say about an external world if mere blind faith. Believe, brother, just believe!

Drew said...

"I always find it interesting that atheists can never really answer a question about their view without attacking some sort of Theistic view. This paper had nothing to do with theism and simply shows the necessarily implications to all atheistic theories of reality."
Considering that atheism is a lack of accepting theistic claims, isn't this what you'd expect? Atheism doesn't have to explain anything.

"The kicker is, in your above quote, you agree with the conclusion of the paper. You offer no justification that your sense perceptions correspond to an external, material world. You admit that this is a mere assumption on your part. Even if we all agreed that God does not exist, this would still be a mere assumption on your part, and it's a pretty big one; but so is your assumption of a deductive and an inductive principle."
Correct, I cannot prove it logically. The world I see around me enforces that my senses are mostly consistent and I infer that if it were all just a fantasy, it would have probably caved in on itself long ago, but I certainly can't use logic to show that.

"What if you are dealing with another atheist, for instance the negationist, He asks you how you justify that your sense perception corresponds to an external world. You cannot play the God card, he doesn't believe that any god exists. Do you see why tu quoque is irrelevant? Regardless of the other persons position, you have given no answer for yours. And to use tu quoque merely shows the weakness of your position, because if you had a strong position, you wouldn't have to rely on a informal fallacy to try and bale yourself out."
I don't have to show that my sense perception corresponds to an external world. We must merely agree upon it. If he disagrees, so be it. But he must acknowledge that he experiences something in order to converse with me. We can assume the reality we experience is actually reality until shown otherwise. What would he offer as a substitute?

"as an atheist, everything you say about an external world if mere blind faith."
I take it as an axiom that the universe actually exists and that I can know something about it. I know what I experience and if it is incorrect, then so be it. I'm saying that every one of us faces this dilemma as well and it's irrelevant to the question of a god's existence. In order to posit a god, you must first accept the fact that the universe exists - else why believe in one?

"This paper had nothing to do with theism"
Its implication was that with a god, you do have some good reason to accept reality as reality - in a way not offered by atheism. If this was not the implication, then I don't see what the issue is.

Anonymous said...

Atheist vs. Atheist

The following remarks take place at a debate. On one side is an atheist coming from the naturalist position. This position says that nature is all that exists. This positions denies or lacks belief in the existence of any God. If anything that anyone calls a god does exist, it is derived from nature.

The opposing side is taken by an atheist coming from the negationist position. This position basically says that no God exists, and that the universe does not exist either, everything is an illusion.

The title of the debate is: “Is it reasonable to assert the existence of nature?”

The following are the opening remarks from the negationists point of view.

My fellow atheists, I welcome all of you and my opponent to this evenings fine event.

Let me start our discussion by saying that negationists are not that different from naturalists. It is just that we negationists believe in one fewer entity than do the naturalists. We negationists lack faith in God, as the naturalists do and for the same reason the naturalists do. The reason we lack belief in God is because there is no evidence at all for the existence of God. We negationists think that is a pretty good reason. So, we have accepted the same reasoning for our lack of belief that a external, material world or universe exists. We believe that if we are to be consistent, we as atheists should not then fall into the same trap as Christians, Jews, Muslims and other Theists.

Every naturalist that I have ever talked to begins by insisting that his sense perceptions correspond to an external, material world, but when pressed to give the evidence for such a belief, there in nothing forthcoming. They simply propose a position based on a known fallacy or say something like, they take it for granted, or it is an instinctive belief, or they take it as an axiom. But don't we, as atheists, rightly laugh at theists when they attempt to present such nonsense? Why should atheists fall into the same blind faith trap, immediately after we deride theists for doing so.

You will notice that I am not even waiting for my opponent to offer a positive defence for his position. This is because I have been there, done that, and bought the broken record. I am tired of hearing from the naturalist the same non-starters parroted over and over again. Do naturalists think that by repeating the same bad arguments enough times that will change them from bad arguments to good arguments? I know that the the best my opponent will come up with is that he has these perceptions and regardless of whether or not they correspond to an external world, he has nothing more to go on, so he has to live as though there is a real material world. But is this not just a rehash of Kant's moral imperative? Kant thought that regardless of the existence or non-existence of God, we need to live as though he actually does exist.

Why is it that the naturalist can do no better than to modify and repackage blind faith and the arguments that theists use for the existence of God to prop up their naturalistic worldview? When it comes to offering evidence and arguments for a material world that exists external to us, warmed over theism is what we get. Naturalists? Hello? Think about it! If these poor arguments didn't work for the theist, what makes you think they are going to work for you?

To assume that our perceptions correspond to an external world is nothing more than Argumentum Ad Ignorantium (an argument from ignorance). This is because the naturalist is not basing his conclusion on what he does know, but on what he doesn't know. Just as the theist basis his belief in God on what he doesn't know.

...continued...

Anonymous said...

...continued...
The last argument I will present from the naturalists point of view is that it seems natural to assume that our perceptions have a external referant. Yes, my friends, if you think that this is not much different than the other arguments already banished, you are right. I bring it up as a starting point for my positive argument that the most rational position to take is that we must conclude that an external, material world doesn't exist, until sufficient evidence is provided to show that one does.

Point 1 – Perceptions without external, material referents.

The naturalist already admits that we have perceptions that have no external, physical referent. The naturalist calls them “dreams.” In those dreams we see people, eat and drink with them, speak to them and they speak to us. These are all perceptions that have no external, material referent. The question that naturally comes up is, since we admit that some of our perceptions have no external referent, what makes us think that any of our perceptions have extternal referents? The fact is that all perceptions happen in our head. What evidence is there that any of our perceptions correspond to external referents? There is also no way we can independently verify our sense perceptions correspond to external referents. We have no way to take one of our perceptions in one hand and independently compare it to an external referent in our other hand. All we have to work with are our perceptions.

Since we must admit that:

perceptions do not require an external referent,

and that at least some of our perceptions, indeed, have no external referent,

and we have no positive reason to think that our perceptions correspond to an external world.

It would seem that the only rational conclusion, would be to say that we must maintain a lack of belief that any perception has an external referent, until sufficient evidence is presented that they do. And since our perceptions cannot be used as a justification for an external, material world, we have no reason, no evidence to think that such a world exists.

Now I know how my coleague across the room will object! He will say that when we are not dreaming our perceptions are clearer, more cohesive and more coherent, in addition they last for the years of our lives and not the short time a dream last. Our “non-dreaming” perceptions are very different than our “dreaming” perceptions.

To this I answer, that we all must admit that some of our dreams are clearer than others; some of our dreams are more coherent and cohesive than others; and some of our dreams seem to last longer than others. What I would like my opponent to do is show me the gauge that says how clear or coherent or how long a perception must be before we know it is not a dream, but a perception of an external world! But, he can offer no such cannon. For it is merely his opinion. He can do no more than subjectively choose which perceptions he deems to be a dream and which he declares to be perceptions of an external world. To this, all I can say is, thanks for sharing your mere opinion.

Point 2 – Ockham's razor

Ockham's razor says, “Entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity.” This idea is automatically built into the negationist's worldview. For, unlike our naturalist counterpart, we accept no unjustified belief. The naturalist must assume the existence of billions, upon billion, upon billions of individual ad hoc entities that make up a universe. We assume nothing! We need to no ad hoc entities. And once all ad hoc entities are eliminated from the naturalist worldview, what you are left with is the negationist worldview.

,,,continued...

Anonymous said...

...continued...

Conclusion:

In these opening remarks, I have shown the fallacies built into the naturalist's worldview and offered a positive case for the negationist's worldview. The naturalist insists that until sufficient evidence is presented, one should not assume that God exists, negationists agree. But the negationist also insists that until sufficient evidence is presented, one should not assume that an external, material universe exist, either. Allow me to suggest that the rational man goes where the evidence leads and not against it. Let me invite my naturalist friends to give up on this unjustified fantasy of an external, material world. To believe that there is an external, material universe is no more rational than, and it is on the same level as, the theist's belief in a Big Sky-Daddy.

Drew said...

There are a few points I would like to make, though first I am wondering if you were planning on sharing the response as well, or if you were only posting one side of the debate and expecting me to attempt to refute or respond it.

Anonymous said...

Drew,

Please visualize the auditorium in your head. See it from the back of the hall looking at the stage. See the crowds in front of you. See the two tables on opposite side of the stage. See the podium and the microphone. Watch as the negationist finishes and returns to his seat. Watch as the naturalist makes his way to the podium. Look at him closely. Do you finally recognize him? Look close... it is you. And the crowd is waiting for your response.

Drew said...

Is this some kind of game? You don't have to try to be clever with a debate format - just lay out your points from your perspective and don't waste time playing devil's advocate, unless you really think that belief in a universe is "just as rational" as belief in a god.

You touch on some interesting points on the theory of reality (as I suppose I will coin it), but nothing that hasn't already been said on this blog. Any rational person must concede that one cannot prove sensory input with sensory input - that is where the buck stops. Any attempt to produce evidence outside sensory input for the validity of sensory input would have to reference information that we receive through our senses, thus, the problem.

I'll cut you short though - the fact of the matter is that we all view this sensory input in mostly the same way and we can either give it some weight or ignore it altogether. In order to provide a logical argument against the validity of sensory input, you must have a basic grasp of logic. Logic is informed by the nature of the world around us - its limitations and the logical absolutes that come with the universe. When I say 'universe,' I mean that which you perceive to exist based on your sensory input. Your use of logic betrays the fact that you do not apply your negationism to all aspects of your life. For, if your sensory inputs are completely worthless without being proven 100% accurate, you cannot be sure if your logic makes sense or if there even is such a thing.

I'm not saying this to advance my case (indeed, it requires more explaining on my part for the die-hard theist), but rather to show that for us to function, we must accept certain things as mostly reliable (sensory inputs) while still retaining a healthy level of skepticism about them. Nowhere in life do we require 100% absolute mathematical proof before we consider any claim to be true and I see no reason that this case should be an exception.

With regards to a deity, one's belief in a god is directly related to their experience in what they think is reality. Any evidence you could put forth for the existence of such a god would first rely on the assumption that the universe does exist in some meaningful sense that we can collectively understand and affirms, at a minimum, the partial validity of our senses. To postulate a being without relying on an interpretation of your world is even more preposterous, for whereas atheists have some form of evidence for the existence of a universe (a perceived model that is self-consistent), theists would have literally nothing on which to base their idea. I feel silly typing this statement due to its blinding obviousness, but the two are simply not rationally comparable.

You can dabble further in philosophy, if you like, but I think we both realize that we see the same world and trust our senses to the extent that they can be easily verified by experiment, other humans, and logic. If you have some argument for the existence of god, I'd be glad to hear it, but I'd rather not waste any more time on this banter about whether we can say that the universe is real because it ultimately doesn't lend anything to the discussion.

Anonymous said...

Drew wrote:

“Is this some kind of game? You don't have to try to be clever with a debate format - just lay out your points from your perspective and don't waste time playing devil's advocate, unless you really think that belief in a universe is "just as rational" as belief in a god.”

Actually, I think that without a belief in God, you have no reason to believe in the existence of the universe. Since you want my position, I will give it to you.

We all start with presuppositions. These presuppositions are called, theories of reality. The western atheistic theory of reality states that nature is all that exists. Nature is all that there is. If anything that anyone calls a god does exist, it is derived from nature. This position also entails what we will call unintentionalism. That is to say, everything is what it is unintentionally; there is no intended reason behind anything being what it is.

From the atheist's presuppositions the external, material world is asserted and is taken as a given, and that is fine. Now, the image that the modern (or "new") atheist portrays of himself as a rational person, perhaps a scientist, an empiricist; someone who deals with the hard facts found in the world around us, someone who does not accept unjustified beliefs. But, one can't call himself "rational" if his inductive and deductive principle are mere blind belief. He can't point to the hard facts, if he has no way of knowing that his perceptions corresponds to an external world. He can't claim he has no unjustified beliefs, when all of (what we will call from here out) "these essentials" are unjustified.

The atheist is left with no reason or means to think that he can ever have any knowledge about that world. The essentials cannot be derived (justified) from the elements of his theory of reality. So, he is left to believe in them as a matter of faith.

Now let's move to the Christian worldview. The Christian begins with presuppositions (a theory of reality) as does the atheist. The Christian theory is called cosmological theism, which separates it from other Theistic theories of reality (such as pantheism, panentheism, dualism, etc...). cosmological theism states, God is the always existent, original being who created an universe intended to be known and created creatures intended to know it. God also acts within the universe. As you may have guessed by reading the description, cosmological theism embraces intentionalism, rather than the unintentionalism found in the naturalistic theory of reality. This form of theism states that everything is what it is intentionally.

It is this intentionalism that allows for the essentials to be unpacked (or justified) from the elements of the theory of reality. If God creates us with the intent that we know the world around us, it is implicit that the means and methods of knowing (i.e. the essentials) are inherent in us. We can know that our perceptions correspond to an external, material world because they were intended to. We can rely on the uniformity of nature, because nature was intended to be uniform. The same is true of induction and deduction. Not only does intentionalism give a justification for the essentials, but these implications conform to our experience. If this theory of reality is true, we would expect exactly the experiences that we do experience.

May I state at this point that there are some Theistic theories of reality that also hold to unintentionalism (pantheism. panentheism, dualism, etc...). They all suffer the same fate as the above naturalism. Thus, I reject other gods for the same reasons I reject atheism. Unintentionalism is a non-starter, no matter if it is embraced by an atheist or a theist. By its very nature, it is not only insufficient to offer a reason or justification for anything; instead, it eliminates the possibility of a reason or justification.

continued....

Anonymous said...

...continued...

Now, back to your comments.

Drew wrote:

“Any rational person must concede that one cannot prove sensory input with sensory input - that is where the buck stops. Any attempt to produce evidence outside sensory input for the validity of sensory input would have to reference information that we receive through our senses, thus, the problem.”

You are correct. This is called “Petitio Principii,” or begging the question or the vicious circle. I comment on it in my paper. But after explaining the fallacy, you then go on to commit the fallacy and you write:

“I'll cut you short though - the fact of the matter is that we all view this sensory input in mostly the same way and we can either give it some weight or ignore it altogether.”

How do you know that we all view sesory input in the same way? Could it be that your perceptions of other people tell you that? The fact is until you justify your perceptions you don't know that there is a “we” at all. Given this and your worldview, what you really mean by “give it some weight,” is really “blindly believe it.”

Drew wrote:

“In order to provide a logical argument against the validity of sensory input, you must have a basic grasp of logic. Logic is informed by the nature of the world around us - its limitations and the logical absolutes that come with the universe. When I say 'universe,' I mean that which you perceive to exist based on your sensory input. Your use of logic betrays the fact that you do not apply your negationism to all aspects of your life. For, if your sensory inputs are completely worthless without being proven 100% accurate, you cannot be sure if your logic makes sense or if there even is such a thing.”

The negationist would say, “I don't accept your logic at all, if nothing exists, neither does logic. I only use it from within your worldview to show how contradictory and nonsensical your worldview is. I am not asking you to prove your perceptions 100% accurate, I am simply pointing out that given your worldview, you cannot prove them even 1% accurate.”

Drew wrote”

“You can dabble further in philosophy, if you like, but I think we both realize that we see the same world and trust our senses to the extent that they can be easily verified by experiment, other humans, and logic.”

If the reason you trust your perceptions is that they are verified by experiment and other humans, you have once again committed “Petitio Principii.” As for logic, you have offered no dedutive argument at all. If you have one I would be willing to listen to it after you justify your deductive principle. Otherwise, I have lost interest in your assertions that, from your worldview, are completely and utterly based on blind faith.

Drew wrote:

“I'd rather not waste any more time on this banter about whether we can say that the universe is real because it ultimately doesn't lend anything to the discussion.”

This is what the discussion is all about. If you didn't want to discuss this issue, you shouldn't have attacked my paper. A paper, to which conclusion, you have admitted you agree with.

I can understand why you do not want to continue this discussion. So, at this point we will just have to agree to disagree.

I want to thank you for your comments. It was a pleasure discussing this with you.

Regards,

G. Brady Lenardos

matt said...

Coming in a month late for the debate, but I'm curious to see if I understand:

The original article was, effectively, "if an atheist's world view is correct, we cant know anything about the world because we can't prove we are not brains in jars being fed a false world; to act in this world we must believe it true, and that belief runs counter to the core concepts of atheism".

The debate in comments then evolved to "belief in a deity is on the same level as an atheist believing s/he is not a brain in a jar". Followed and preceded by philosophy-babble (CS major, not a philosopher).

Is that an accurate summary? If yes I'm going to have to go the route of "that's inherently unknowable, and what difference would it make?" If the universe is a lie, then it's a lie. I have no other universe to operate within, so I live within the lie, construct models for how it works, etc. That I can't know anything about the actual universe doesn't effect me, because I can't observe it.

The claim of equivalence seems a bit spurious, as 1. Theists need two beliefs (not brain in jar, and deity exists), and 2. We don't need to have a belief about whether or not the universe is a lie. Technically, neither would a theist (deity + brain in jar), but that goes back to non equivalence.

I have this odd sense I've run aground of the 'adhering to logic' somewhere, but, human.

Drew said...

I meant to respond to Lenardos' last post but time got away.

"The western atheistic theory of reality states that nature is all that exists."
No, atheism is simply the disbelief in a god. Everything else is up for grabs.

"This position also entails what we will call unintentionalism. That is to say, everything is what it is unintentionally; there is no intended reason behind anything being what it is."
Reason =/= without orderly cause. And intentions don't actually help your case. A god could just as easily exist that wants to deceive us as to what the universe really is.

"May I state at this point that there are some Theistic theories of reality that also hold to unintentionalism (pantheism. panentheism, dualism, etc...). They all suffer the same fate as the above naturalism. Thus, I reject other gods for the same reasons I reject atheism. Unintentionalism is a non-starter, no matter if it is embraced by an atheist or a theist. By its very nature, it is not only insufficient to offer a reason or justification for anything; instead, it eliminates the possibility of a reason or justification."
You make it seem as though these theories of reality are all on the same footing, as though I could just pick a cookie out of the cookie jar at random and call it valid. What about a theory of reality where I created the universe but made myself forget that it happened and injected my mind into this brain and forced myself to live it out. I purposely made it so that I would not remember until I die, at which point I will remember everything. Do you think that theory is just as valid as yours, and if not, why?

You also keep injecting a god into this as though it has any bearing on whether we can actually show that a universe exists. I could wake up in a field, not know who I am or remember anything, and try to figure out what is going on. At no point would or should I appeal to a notion of a god to determine whether I'm awake or merely dreaming.

"How do you know that we all view sesory input in the same way? Could it be that your perceptions of other people tell you that? The fact is until you justify your perceptions you don't know that there is a “we” at all. Given this and your worldview, what you really mean by “give it some weight,” is really “blindly believe it."
My perceptions of the world tell me everything. And like I've admitted, these can't be proven, but they require acceptance on some level to operate within the universe. This does not mean that I perfectly understand everything that I experience or do not take a skeptical stance toward things that do not match up with our shared view of reality.

That our senses work in some fashion is a necessary assumption, as stated, whereas a belief in a god is not. No gods are required for your eyes to function correctly.

Drew said...

The negationist would say, “I don't accept your logic at all, if nothing exists, neither does logic. I only use it from within your worldview to show how contradictory and nonsensical your worldview is. I am not asking you to prove your perceptions 100% accurate, I am simply pointing out that given your worldview, you cannot prove them even 1% accurate."
Nor do I need to prove that the universe exists as we see it. If he chooses to reject it, so be it. He can be completely correct about what he believes by believing nothing. But ultimately that's a useless position and I can generally assume that when I talk to people, they accept the world in the same basic way that I do. There is no particular reason to think that in a completely contrived world, everything should work out so tightly.

"I can understand why you do not want to continue this discussion. So, at this point we will just have to agree to disagree."
I didn't mean that I didn't want to discuss any of this, but rather that the universe is real. For it must be real in some sense because I experience it. Whether it is an actual shared reality or only in my mind, it exists to the degree I can understand it. And in this reality, there can or can not exist a god whose powers many religions have described.

From Matt:
"If the universe is a lie, then it's a lie. I have no other universe to operate within, so I live within the lie, construct models for how it works, etc."
Exactly. Even if it were to be completely contrived in my mind, it still appears to follow certain patterns, laws, etc. and the people I interact with in this fantasy confirm my findings. What is the ultimate difference between this universe being real or a fake copy of this universe in someone's mind? How should we go about finding out how this universe differently in one scenario over the other?

Drew said...

Edit to last line: "how this universe works differently"

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