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Old 12-12-2008, 06:16 PM   #297873  /  #401
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In the future, if we should happen (1st per. pl. present middle subjunctive) to know that someone is in the middle of finals week, let's assume they haven't got a lot of time for forum dissertations and give them the benefit of a doubt before calling them a troll for not responding immediately to a post...
As you can see, it's Rathpig who's accusing you of trolling. IIRC, he made the same accusation early on in the thread, even when you were responding relatively promptly. So I think the accusation is based directly upon the content of the OP, and not upon your promptness or lack thereof.

Rathpig is ... how shall we say it? ... an acquired taste. Many simply fail to get used to him, and IMO there's no shame in that.
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Old 12-12-2008, 06:43 PM   #297897  /  #402
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In the future, if we should happen (1st per. pl. present middle subjunctive) to know that someone is in the middle of finals week, let's assume they haven't got a lot of time for forum dissertations and give them the benefit of a doubt before calling them a troll for not responding immediately to a post...

If we should happen to notice that someone has time to start a thread soliciting lengthy arguments in the middle of finals week, why should we not assume that someone has time to respond to them?
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Old 12-12-2008, 06:44 PM   #297898  /  #403
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Sorry to all who feel their posts were neglected, it wasn't intentional.

Last edited by Politesse; 12-12-2008 at 06:46 PM.
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Old 12-12-2008, 06:49 PM   #297904  /  #404
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...get the hell out of my thread.
You have peaked my curiosity with your invitation. I doubt you will ever be rid of me now.


But be cheerful that I gave you the benefit of being a fairly advanced troll, which I still maintain. Nothing trolls a thread better than to maintain the situation as an interested party. Nevertheless, your OP was a big fat old troll post.

Seriously, let us examine the structure:

1). You claim to attend seminary and you posted on what is ostensibly an atheist forum.
2). You claimed to have a hard test in ancient languages related to your study of Hebrew superstitions.
3). Because you are a poor student in this area, you requested atheistic "apologia" to allow you to disclaim theism rather than take a test. (Believers always dump God when the test is too hard re: Job, wait nm.)
4). You made a contest out of the effort which was a real nice touch.

And brilliantly, when called on the troll, you feigned hurt and indignation on cue. Ending with "get the hell out of my thread" is also very nice. Extra points are deserved here. (Even if you stealth edited the post because it exposed you. LOL)

I applaud you. I fancy myself rather advanced in the trolling arts, but this is a grand effort. Talkrationalization is the perfect forum for the task because much of the staff are composed of wilting lillies and bleeding hearts. You pushed every button necessary. Bravo Sir! Bravo.


Overall this is a 8-9/10. I may have fucked it up early by calling it, but outside of that the effort is a clear 9. You are my new best friend forever and I expect a Christmas card and a PM so we can laugh at all the series responses behind everyone's back.
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Old 12-12-2008, 08:01 PM   #297976  /  #405
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OK. Having thoroughly derailed your thread, and as the deadline is looming, I'm going to try to address your OP

I am defining "the atheist position" as the position that there is no valid evidence or argument for a god or gods. The problem with this definition is that it leaves "god or gods" undefined, so I am going to take three possible meanings for "god or gods" in turn, and reject each.
1. God as a volitional agent that cannot be scientifically accounted for (aka "god of the gaps")

If there was evidence for believing in a god or gods (whether it be Yahweh or the Tooth Fairy) of this type, it follows that that the god or those gods have an effect on the natural world. That they cause things to happen that would not otherwise happen. They are therefore an unknown cause. However, there are a great many unknown causes for phenomena, and I see no reason to regard a unknown cause as a god, as opposed to an opportunity for a grant application, unless by "god" we simply mean "an unknown cause". And if all "god" means is "an unknown cause" then "belief in god(s)" becomes oxymoronic, or, at best, trivial. It simply renders down to "belief that somethings haven't been explained yet". Which would not distinguish a theist from anyone else on the planet. So "theism" becomes a redundant category.
I agree.
Quote:
2. God as the reason there is something rather than nothing.

God might be taken to mean "an unknown cause that we cannot in principle explain", which might be the case if we posit (as Aquinas did) that God is the reason there is something rather than nothing. But if that were the case, there would be no conceivable evidence for such a God. As my favorite theologian (an Aquinas scholar) said:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Herbert McCabe
Again it is clear that God cannot interfere in the universe, not because he has not the power but because, so to speak, he has too much; to interfere you have to be an alternative to, or alongside, what you are interfering with. If God is the cause of everything, there is nothing that he is alongside. Obviously God makes no difference to the universe; I mean by this that we do not appeal specifically to God to explain why the universe is this way rather than that, for this we need only appeal to explanations within the universe. For this reason there can, it seems to me, be no feature of the universe that indicates it is God-made. What God accounts for is that the universe is there instead of nothing.
But that gives us no evidence on which to base a belief in god, because it says that the universe would look exactly the way it does, whether there was a god or not. So I reject that as a grounds for belief in god too.
Actually, what it says is that the universe exists because there is a God. Absent a creative element, you have no explanation for the origin of the universe, not an identical one. If you asked Aquinas what a universe without God would look like, he would tell you that you are engaging in an ens ratione, because such a universe could not exist at all. I'm not sure if I subscribe to the argument, but your refutation of it doesn't really address the main point: we have no means of understanding why the universe exists, but if you think about things a certain way, it seems necessary that it must have had a creator for it to exist at all.

I'll tell you why I've always found these types of arguments unconvincing though. While it's true that existence does have to be accounted for on some level, even going so far as to say it must have had a will or a creator to exist is drawing too strong of an analogy from our own misconceptions about our existence. You cannot say convincingly that nothing can be created without a creator, because if creation is the formation of something from nothing, we have never witnessed anything being created. When we say that we create, what we are actually doing is arranging existing things in a different way- we don't actually have the ability to create or destroy anything. So is it possible that a thing must be created in order to exist? It's a possibility, but not the only possibility.


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3. God as the volitional agent that willed the universe into being.

Until recently, it was the view I held, because I also held that I myself was a will-ing thing, and and conceived of the seat of my will as the thing that makes me know I'm me. It seemed like a reasonable position, because it accounted for the fact that there is no evidence for God (see 2 above) and avoided the circularity, and shrinking god-space of (1).

And the one datapoint I cited in evidence that such a thing might exist (and therefore made the idea of an incorporeal willing God plausible, by extrapolation) was my own subjective experience of existing. I thought there was a Hard Problem of Consciousness.

But there isn't. It only looks hard because we didn't evolve to pose it properly, and it takes a bit of neck twisting to see the answer. Consciousness simply evolved within the universe because being able to construe the universe has a survival, and thus a reproductive, advantage. The universe became conscious of itself (because we are conscious bits of the universe, conscious if its existence) for reasons that reduce to chemistry, and the reason I seem to myself to be a uniquely subjective being is that there is only one trajectory in the space time continuum that is my brain. The one in the skull at the end of these arms.

So there is no reason to think that will, or subjective awareness of existing can occur without material substance to generate the decision-making (the will) or the experience (the awareness of existence).
I've highlighted the problem with your third argument- I have no particular reason to assume you are right about this assertion, and thus no reason to deny my own consciousness as such. It's possible, but hardly necessary and not the most obvious solution- you're almost turning evolution into a God of the Gaps, rushing in to explain a phenomena without an answer with a comfortingly materialistic cause. Show me the cells, show me the biology, show me the fossils, and we might be getting somewhere. Though if it is true, as you once posited, that wills create reality rather than the other way around, even such evidence would not prove anything, because the development of a physical basis for consciousness might itself be a result of divine will. Honestly, I always get a bit confused when people start talking ambiguously about souls and wills, but I don't think it's unreasonable to guess that such a thing might exist.

Though actuallly, I don't see any reason to assume that because we have a will, there must be a God with one also. So I'd agree that this isn't much of an argument for God's existence.

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And and so I am left with no justification for positing a god on these grounds either.
Nor a reason not to. One can cross arguments off a list all day, but I think I'd need a stronger reason to doubt my own experience of God than that the philosophical arguments thus far advanced for God are not sufficient to prove God's existence. You've touched on the point that God may not be the kind of concept one could prove at any rate, and I think this is probably the case- my faith isn't and never was based on logical argument, and I never claimed otherwise. As such, scratching Aquinas and Spong off the list is recreation for me but not faith-breaking. I asked for an apologia because for me to renounce something very precious and real to me, I would need, quite frankly, an strong argument for hard atheism. If the only claim of soft atheism is that there is no evidence for God, I almost agree with it, though I don't think this makes me a "secret atheist" as I forget who asserted, or that I'm about to come over to the other side. I've assumed for as long as I have been conscious of my faith that there probably was no philosophical proof for God's existence, so it was never a reason for defining myself as a Christian in the first place. I don't think its true that there is no evidence for God but I do agree that the implications of the evidence (existence, the physical universe, the experience of faith, etc) do not necessarily imply a certain specific answer to the question. This is why I'm always happy to talk to people of other faiths and cosmologies, and consider their ideas on their own terms as best I can.
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Old 12-12-2008, 08:05 PM   #297978  /  #406
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...get the hell out of my thread.
You have peaked my curiosity with your invitation. I doubt you will ever be rid of me now.
Piqued or peaked? [/nitpick]
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Old 12-12-2008, 08:07 PM   #297980  /  #407
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Old 12-12-2008, 08:43 PM   #298020  /  #408
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Piqued or peaked? [/nitpick]
In this case "peaked" as I have neared my climax in the thread.



(In formal usage you are correct and my stream of conscious responses sometimes let colloquial homophones slip through. I promise to do better in the future and hope this will not effect my final grade in the thread.)
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Old 12-12-2008, 10:06 PM   #298100  /  #409
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Piqued or peaked? [/nitpick]
In this case "peaked" as I have neared my climax in the thread.



(In formal usage you are correct and my stream of conscious responses sometimes let colloquial homophones slip through. I promise to do better in the future and hope this will not effect my final grade in the thread.)
two write.
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Old 12-12-2008, 10:48 PM   #298146  /  #410
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In the future, if we should happen (1st per. pl. present middle subjunctive) to know that someone is in the middle of finals week, let's assume they haven't got a lot of time for forum dissertations and give them the benefit of a doubt before calling them a troll for not responding immediately to a post...

If we should happen to notice that someone has time to start a thread soliciting lengthy arguments in the middle of finals week,
Sorry, just needed to add this:




Quote:
why should we not assume that someone has time to respond to them?
Oh, I remember finals week well. Positively anything seems like a good idea rather than revision: examining catalogues of vinyl flooring, lagging the pipes... even attempting unwanted theological deconversions. Anything but actually fucking working.


The last principle has served me quite well so far, BTW, so this isn't a criticism.
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Old 12-12-2008, 10:51 PM   #298151  /  #411
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Oh, I remember finals week well. Positively anything seems like a good idea rather than revision: examining catalogues of vinyl flooring, lagging the pipes... even attempting unwanted theological deconversions. Anything but actually fucking working.
This is true. But I still don't see why everyone got there panties in a bunch. It's a forum, not a chatroom, and not everything gets answered in realtime.
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Old 12-12-2008, 10:54 PM   #298155  /  #412
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Ahem.

"there"?


Get back to work, sonny. See you in a few weeks, when the thing called 'Real Life' has sorted itself out.
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Old 12-12-2008, 10:56 PM   #298159  /  #413
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Ahem.

"there"?


Get back to work, sonny.
Hey, I'm done now. Final was the last thing.
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Old 12-12-2008, 10:57 PM   #298163  /  #414
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No probs tackling Febble's points then, eh?
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Old 12-12-2008, 11:04 PM   #298169  /  #415
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Just to note that we -- I -- am not being nasty. Or at least, not just for the sake of it. Imagine starving sharks... and a handful of chum thrown overboard. To be honest, that's the most irritating thing about theists: their total inability to folow through.

If you can rebut Febble's points, go right ahead. Please. Some of us have been waiting ages for a Defence Against the Dark Arts (aka the EAC) teacher that could actually give us atheists pause. Go for it.
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Old 12-12-2008, 11:09 PM   #298173  /  #416
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Just to note that we -- I -- am not being nasty. Or at least, not just for the sake of it. Imagine starving sharks... and a handful of chum thrown overboard. To be honest, that's the most irritating thing about theists: their total inability to folow through.

If you can rebut Febble's points, go right ahead. Please. Some of us have been waiting ages for a Defence Against the Dark Arts (aka the EAC) teacher that could actually give us atheists pause. Go for it.
I did respond, above. I'm working on Zygote's post at the moment.

I'm sorry if theism is infuriating, but I honestly didn't start this thread with the intent of rebutting everything everyone said; I really was more interested to see what people would write. In Rathpig's book this seems to count as trolling, but the truth is I've never been big on interfaith bickering. My question is "what can you teach me?" more than "what can I convince you of?" and will be, though I don't mind responding to those who took time to write meaningful posts in this thread. And there will be cookies forthcoming.
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Old 12-12-2008, 11:25 PM   #298186  /  #417
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Interesting.

Interfaith, eh?

Go on then, convince me.




So you know, I am English, technically Protestant (High Anglican), but 13 years at a Catholic school (as Catholic as there is: run by the de la Mennais teaching brotherhood) left me... denominationally vexed, but theoretically a believer.

And I don't think I've ever believed this 'god' bullshit. For juvenile years I hoped that god mmight d o stuff, and prayed that god might do stuff... but that was no more 'belief' than book quoting.

So come on then.

As they sing on the terraces: Come and 'ave a go if you think yer faith's 'ard enough.
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Old 12-12-2008, 11:25 PM   #298187  /  #418
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So here's the picture: I need a reason to deconvert by next Friday. I have an exam coming up in intermediate Greek, and it seems likely that it will not go well. It's got me really stressed out, but I can't think of any graceful way to get out of it. I mean, I not only registered for the class, but have paid a lot of money for it. Too late to drop the course. I can't just change majors/degree progams/etc again without a really good reason, but I was thinking maybe a dramatic de-epiphany would do the trick- I'd have to leave the seminary if I no longer felt ethically sound being here. Hopefully, the atheist contingent of the family would be so happy to have me in their camp, they wouldn't mind footing the bill for the attendant costs of deconditioning.

The only problem here, of course, is that I have no other significant reason not to follow the path I'm on than the avoidance of an exam. But, see, I've often heard it said that reason and logic, or even simple education, inevitably lead to atheism. Surely, the clever populace of the site has a reasonable command of logic and reason. So I was hoping maybe one of you could deconvert me real quick? My mind and ears are open- just turn me into Richard Dawkins by next Friday and we'll call it good.

The Assignment:

Present a clear, concise apology for the atheist position, such that it will convince me to deconvert and set aside my aspirations as a theologian within the allotted time frame.

Rules:

1. What I need is a good, serious apologia for the atheist position (or actually, any other viewpoint that would categorically preclude Abrahamic theism). Philosophical and empirical arguments are preferred, but experiential or anecdotal accounts are okay provided you understand they tend to be less convincing than more substantive evidences.

2. Positive arguments for the atheist position are preferred (as opposed to attacks on what you presume to be my own position, as I am notoriously stubborn and tend to take criticism in stride, so that method is therefore apt to be less effective)

3. And I need it by December 12, the morning of the exam.

You may decide for yourself the specifics of what you intend to apologize for, but it must must, naturally, explain why no God concept could be useful in explaining the perceivable universe, in a manner convincing enough to sway me. Your apology should be novel, i.e. not the parroting of the classic message board arguments such as the problem of evil; if you use them, do so in an original manner.

I'd really prefer a proper apology in Platonic or Aristotelian form; logical presentation of an orderly chain of syllogisms leading to atheism gets you brownie points.

Cookies and a free pastor's collar for whoever manages to do the deed.

OK. Having thoroughly derailed your thread, and as the deadline is looming, I'm going to try to address your OP

I am defining "the atheist position" as the position that there is no valid evidence or argument for a god or gods. The problem with this definition is that it leaves "god or gods" undefined, so I am going to take three possible meanings for "god or gods" in turn, and reject each.
1. God as a volitional agent that cannot be scientifically accounted for (aka "god of the gaps")

If there was evidence for believing in a god or gods (whether it be Yahweh or the Tooth Fairy) of this type, it follows that that the god or those gods have an effect on the natural world. That they cause things to happen that would not otherwise happen. They are therefore an unknown cause. However, there are a great many unknown causes for phenomena, and I see no reason to regard a unknown cause as a god, as opposed to an opportunity for a grant application, unless by "god" we simply mean "an unknown cause". And if all "god" means is "an unknown cause" then "belief in god(s)" becomes oxymoronic, or, at best, trivial. It simply renders down to "belief that somethings haven't been explained yet". Which would not distinguish a theist from anyone else on the planet. So "theism" becomes a redundant category.

2. God as the reason there is something rather than nothing.

God might be taken to mean "an unknown cause that we cannot in principle explain", which might be the case if we posit (as Aquinas did) that God is the reason there is something rather than nothing. But if that were the case, there would be no conceivable evidence for such a God. As my favorite theologian (an Aquinas scholar) said:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Herbert McCabe
Again it is clear that God cannot interfere in the universe, not because he has not the power but because, so to speak, he has too much; to interfere you have to be an alternative to, or alongside, what you are interfering with. If God is the cause of everthing, there is nothing that he is alongside. Obviously God makes no difference to the universe; I mean by this that we do not appeal specifically to God to explain why the universe is this way rather than that, for this we need only appeal to explanations within the universe. For this reason there can, it seems to me, be no feature of the universe that indicates it is God-made. What God accounts for is that the universe is there instead of nothing.
But that gives us no evidence on which to base a belief in god, because it says that the universe would look exactly the way it does, whether there was a god or not. So I reject that as a grounds for belief in god too.

3. God as the volitional agent that willed the universe into being.

Until recently, it was the view I held, because I also held that I myself was a will-ing thing, and and conceived of the seat of my will as the thing that makes me know I'm me. It seemed like a reasonable position, because it accounted for the fact that there is no evidence for God (see 2 above) and avoided the circularity, and shrinking god-space of (1).

And the one datapoint I cited in evidence that such a thing might exist (and therefore made the idea of an incorporeal willing God plausible, by extrapolation) was my own subjective experience of existing. I thought there was a Hard Problem of Consciousness.

But there isn't. It only looks hard because we didn't evolve to pose it properly, and it takes a bit of neck twisting to see the answer. Consciousness simply evolved within the universe because being able to construe the universe has a survival, and thus a reproductive, advantage. The universe became conscious of itself (because we are conscious bits of the universe, conscious if its existence) for reasons that reduce to chemistry, and the reason I seem to myself to be a uniquely subjective being is that there is only one trajectory in the space time continuum that is my brain. The one in the skull at the end of these arms.

So there is no reason to think that will, or subjective awareness of existing can occur without material substance to generate the decision-making (the will) or the experience (the awareness of existence).

And and so I am left with no justification for positing a god on these grounds either.
Can I have my cookie?
Alternative number 4: God is part of a narrative, the gospel, that has a meaning. Take God out the narrative, and put him in another narrative (the narrative of how the unverse works), and he makes no sense.

Note that the view that God "exists" in the universe (like other things), and the view that God doesn't "exist" in the universe (like other things) are themselves narratives. They just aren't very interesting ones. The choice is not between narratives and "reality." The choice is among narratives, period.
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Old 12-13-2008, 12:29 AM   #298249  /  #419
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OK. Having thoroughly derailed your thread, and as the deadline is looming, I'm going to try to address your OP

I am defining "the atheist position" as the position that there is no valid evidence or argument for a god or gods. The problem with this definition is that it leaves "god or gods" undefined, so I am going to take three possible meanings for "god or gods" in turn, and reject each.
1. God as a volitional agent that cannot be scientifically accounted for (aka "god of the gaps")

If there was evidence for believing in a god or gods (whether it be Yahweh or the Tooth Fairy) of this type, it follows that that the god or those gods have an effect on the natural world. That they cause things to happen that would not otherwise happen. They are therefore an unknown cause. However, there are a great many unknown causes for phenomena, and I see no reason to regard a unknown cause as a god, as opposed to an opportunity for a grant application, unless by "god" we simply mean "an unknown cause". And if all "god" means is "an unknown cause" then "belief in god(s)" becomes oxymoronic, or, at best, trivial. It simply renders down to "belief that somethings haven't been explained yet". Which would not distinguish a theist from anyone else on the planet. So "theism" becomes a redundant category.
I agree.
Excellent.

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2. God as the reason there is something rather than nothing.

God might be taken to mean "an unknown cause that we cannot in principle explain", which might be the case if we posit (as Aquinas did) that God is the reason there is something rather than nothing. But if that were the case, there would be no conceivable evidence for such a God. As my favorite theologian (an Aquinas scholar) said:



But that gives us no evidence on which to base a belief in god, because it says that the universe would look exactly the way it does, whether there was a god or not. So I reject that as a grounds for belief in god too.
Actually, what it says is that the universe exists because there is a God.
Well, I know it says that too, but the important part, as far as grounds for belief in god are concerned, is that there won't be any evidence for God. Only argument.

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Absent a creative element, you have no explanation for the origin of the universe, not an identical one. If you asked Aquinas what a universe without God would look like, he would tell you that you are engaging in an ens ratione, because such a universe could not exist at all. I'm not sure if I subscribe to the argument, but your refutation of it doesn't really address the main point: we have no means of understanding why the universe exists, but if you think about things a certain way, it seems necessary that it must have had a creator for it to exist at all.

I'll tell you why I've always found these types of arguments unconvincing though. While it's true that existence does have to be accounted for on some level, even going so far as to say it must have had a will or a creator to exist is drawing too strong of an analogy from our own misconceptions about our existence. You cannot say convincingly that nothing can be created without a creator, because if creation is the formation of something from nothing, we have never witnessed anything being created. When we say that we create, what we are actually doing is arranging existing things in a different way- we don't actually have the ability to create or destroy anything. So is it possible that a thing must be created in order to exist? It's a possibility, but not the only possibility.
Well, I think you missed my point. I wasn't, in this section, attempting to refute Aquinas's argument, merely getting us on to a God-model whereby there would be no evidence for God. Yes, Aquinas would say that such a universe could not exist at all. And, like you, I don't buy the argument, for similar reasons to yours. Or rather, with Aquinas, I am willing to give the name "God" to the unknown x that is the answer to the question: "why is there anything rather than nothing?" However, that's just assigning a label to an unknown. The interesting question then becomes the next one: is there anything that this "God" label could possibly describe that would be at all God-like - would be a volitional agent? And I think the answer is no, for the reasons I gave in (3).


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3. God as the volitional agent that willed the universe into being.

Until recently, it was the view I held, because I also held that I myself was a will-ing thing, and and conceived of the seat of my will as the thing that makes me know I'm me. It seemed like a reasonable position, because it accounted for the fact that there is no evidence for God (see 2 above) and avoided the circularity, and shrinking god-space of (1).

And the one datapoint I cited in evidence that such a thing might exist (and therefore made the idea of an incorporeal willing God plausible, by extrapolation) was my own subjective experience of existing. I thought there was a Hard Problem of Consciousness.

But there isn't. It only looks hard because we didn't evolve to pose it properly, and it takes a bit of neck twisting to see the answer. Consciousness simply evolved within the universe because being able to construe the universe has a survival, and thus a reproductive, advantage. The universe became conscious of itself (because we are conscious bits of the universe, conscious if its existence) for reasons that reduce to chemistry, and the reason I seem to myself to be a uniquely subjective being is that there is only one trajectory in the space time continuum that is my brain. The one in the skull at the end of these arms.

So there is no reason to think that will, or subjective awareness of existing can occur without material substance to generate the decision-making (the will) or the experience (the awareness of existence).
I've highlighted the problem with your third argument- I have no particular reason to assume you are right about this assertion, and thus no reason to deny my own consciousness as such.
Well, that is a non-sequitur. I have no reason to suppose it didn't evolve within the universe (seeing the evidence that we are the way we are because we evolved, and conscious is one the things we are), but it certainly doesn't follow that if (as seems overwhelmingly likely) capacity for consciousness evolves that you need deny it. I don't deny mine! I know perfectly well that I am capable of being conscious, just as I am capable of walking and breathing, and I am no less capable of any of those things because they evolved (and I trust you will grant that walking and breathing evolved?)

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It's possible, but hardly necessary and not the most obvious solution- you're almost turning evolution into a God of the Gaps, rushing in to explain a phenomena without an answer with a comfortingly materialistic cause. Show me the cells, show me the biology, show me the fossils, and we might be getting somewhere.
Evolution isn't a Gap theory - it's simply the best theory we've got (the one that leaves the fewest gaps). And if we wanted a non-materialistic cause - well, we are back with one, the unknown cause, which we both rejected. A cause that affects the material world but is somehow not of it. That's an oxymoron. Never mind the fossils, we'll stick with the cells, specifically, the neurons. We know the neural substrates of conciousness - or rather, we know the neural mechanisms that drive attention, and how they work, and how they interact. And attending to something is becoming aware of it, becoming conscious of it. Bringing it to mind. And if by "consciousness" you mean (as some do) self-consciousness, well we know a fair bit about that neural substrates of that, too. We know, more or less, the kinds of mechanisms by which attributes are bound into objects, and how the brain recognises volitional agents (we actually have a pretty good idea as to how the brain recognises living animals, as opposed to other moving things, as we seem to have circuitry specialised for recognising biological motion). And we know a bit about how we bind attributes to faces, and people, and how we have "mirror neurons" that allow us to simulate, within our own brains, what is going on in someone else's. And how we integrate these things over time and store them in memory, where they can be retrieved (or reactivated). And we know how we represent goals, both immediate, and more distant, and how this affects the decision-making circuitry.

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Though if it is true, as you once posited, that wills create reality rather than the other way around, even such evidence would not prove anything, because the development of a physical basis for consciousness might itself be a result of divine will. Honestly, I always get a bit confused when people start talking ambiguously about souls and wills, but I don't think it's unreasonable to guess that such a thing might exist.
Well, I think it is unreasonable, because we know, as I said, where wills come from - we know how the decision-making - the volitional machinery - works. And it isn't immaterial. So why should we think that the universe was willed into being, in the absence of anything with the machinery to produce a will? And if we posit the machinery, we are simply enlarging the unverse, and pushing the regression back one more level.

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Though actuallly, I don't see any reason to assume that because we have a will, there must be a God with one also. So I'd agree that this isn't much of an argument for God's existence.
No, it isn't really.

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And and so I am left with no justification for positing a god on these grounds either.
Nor a reason not to. One can cross arguments off a list all day, but I think I'd need a stronger reason to doubt my own experience of God than that the philosophical arguments thus far advanced for God are not sufficient to prove God's existence. You've touched on the point that God may not be the kind of concept one could prove at any rate, and I think this is probably the case- my faith isn't and never was based on logical argument, and I never claimed otherwise.
Right. So it isn't logic, and it isn't evidence - so, what?

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As such, scratching Aquinas and Spong off the list is recreation for me but not faith-breaking. I asked for an apologia because for me to renounce something very precious and real to me, I would need, quite frankly, an strong argument for hard atheism. If the only claim of soft atheism is that there is no evidence for God, I almost agree with it, though I don't think this makes me a "secret atheist" as I forget who asserted, or that I'm about to come over to the other side. I've assumed for as long as I have been conscious of my faith that there probably was no philosophical proof for God's existence, so it was never a reason for defining myself as a Christian in the first place. I don't think its true that there is no evidence for God
Well, you don't seem to have provided any. You've just about agreed with me that there is, and can be, none. And that the arguments don't work either. And counting experience as evidence lands you back, yet again, with my (1).

And while I agree that there is no reason not to posit a mind behind the matrix, you then run foul of Wikipedia reference-linkRussell's teapot.


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but I do agree that the implications of the evidence (existence, the physical universe, the experience of faith, etc) do not necessarily imply a certain specific answer to the question. This is why I'm always happy to talk to people of other faiths and cosmologies, and consider their ideas on their own terms as best I can.
Well, it was a nice try. But I think you've missed a trick. There is one other reason that you might like to justify a God model, and that is simply because it works. I'm a utilitarian theist (I just made that up) in that I am effectively an atheist, but I find that the label "God" works just as well as it ever did to cover the stuff that I require of such an entity. As my son said to his confirmation teacher, "I believe in God, as long as it's spelled with two Os". But then there is no point in arguing with atheists about such a God, because it's just then an argument about where to draw lines around things, and what to call them, not about what is, or is not, objectively True.

Here are my key texts:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Einstein
A human being is part of the whole, called by us 'Universe,' a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest - a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation, and a foundation for inner
security.
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Originally Posted by John Donne
No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were. Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
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Originally Posted by Stevie Smith
Man of all creatures
Is superlative
(Away melancholy)
He of all creatures alone
Raiseth a stone
(Away melancholy)
Into the stone, the god
Pours what he knows of good
Calling, good, God.
Away melancholy, let it go.

Speak not to me of tears,
Tyranny, pox, wars,
Saying, Can God
Stone of man's thoughts, be good?
Say rather it is enough
That the stuffed
Stone of man's good, growing,
By man's called God.
Away, melancholy, let it go.
FWIW
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Old 12-13-2008, 01:54 AM   #298305  /  #420
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My question is "what can you teach me?"
I think my contributions to the dialogue are

1. The parable of the pawnbroker.

2. The presumption against gods based on a probability scale.

3. The four defenses of theistic morality.

4. The reflexive "I see you two-stepping" move.

That's all I can think of.

My wife's on the phone, and when she hangs up, I'm going to post---regardless of what state this post is in at that point---so I'll have to get back with details.

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Old 12-13-2008, 03:14 AM   #298375  /  #421
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When push comes to shove, belief in god resolves to faith. On this, most of us including believers agree. Since belief in god is contingent on faith, the real issue isn't god. The real issue is faith. When the issue of faith is resolved, thereon will the issue of god be resolved as a result. So what is faith and is it a trustworthy human ability?

I suppose it depends on what we mean by trustworthy. If by trustworthy we mean dependable like gravity, then no, faith is not trustworthy. People sometimes have faith in things that turn out to be false or misleading. Con artists use people's faith to take advantage of them. If by trustworthy we mean a pretty good track record, then faith works pretty good in some situations. People have faith that their airplane won't crash. People also have faith that they will win money in a casino. The former is mostly a justified faith, while the latter is mostly not.

So we have just resolved the issue of faith. It either isn't trustworthy or in the sense that it is trustworthy, it is based on something with a good track record. Since god has no track record, belief in god is at best a gross misuse of faith, very much untrustworthy. So to believe in god is to take advantage of one's own faith to delude oneself. Why would anyone do such a thing to oneself except to prevent oneself from facing reality.
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Old 12-13-2008, 03:25 AM   #298392  /  #422
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Default The Parable of the Pawnbroker

I was a pawnbroker. This is a true story. This guy came into my store, drew a chain out of his right-side pocket, and said, "How much will you give me for this fine gold necklace?" I figured, because he said it that way, that he was lying, that it was a fake necklace. I don't like being lied to, and this guy had already given me enough, by my standards, to justify my disbelief.

But I didn't tell him so. I politely looked at his necklace. It was fake. I pointed out to him the chintzy clasp, totally unlike what would be on a necklace of value. But he still insisted that it was real; so I cut the chain with a file, ready to test it with acid. But I didn't need the acid: the inside was brown, not even gold in color.

The guy dropped the chain in his left pocket. He drew another chain out of his right pocket, and said, "This one's the real thing." This one's the real thing? That was like admitting he'd known all along that the first one was fake.

I showed him that this one didn't say, "14K," like real gold would. It said, "14KEP," meaning it was electroplate. It wasn't even pretending to be real. But the guy still insisted it was real. So I cut it with my file, and showed him it was another fake.

Can you guess what he did then? He dropped it into his left pocket, pulled a third chain from his right, and told me that this one was real. I was happy to file this one too, ruin it, so he couldn't try to fool anyone else.

He pulled out a fourth chain. He said it was real. I showed him that it wasn't.

He pulled out a fifth chain. He said it was real. I showed him that it wasn't.

He pulled out a sixth chain. He said it was real. I showed him that it wasn't.

He pulled out a seventh chain. He said it was real. I showed him that it wasn't.

He pulled out an eighth chain. He told me that this one was real. Here's the thing: I had I detected a pattern. Two patterns.

First pattern: When this guy said a chain was real, that didn't carry any weight. His apparent sincerity was an act or a pathology, not an indication of actual truthfulness. His saying something was legitimate didn't make it legitimate, didn't even increase the likelihood that it was legitimate.

Second pattern: This guy's chains were fake. I had yet to examine his eighth chain, but I already believed it was fake.

I was willing to be surprised; if the chain turned out to be real, I would have accepted that. But I believed it was fake. And that was a justified belief, reasonable in the circumstances.


This story is analogous with my experience with Christianity. Somebody will tell me that the ontological argument is solid gold proof of the existence of Jehovah. I point out that it is patently absurd, and he pulls out another argument.

He doesn't blush or backpedal. He makes no apology for having indiscriminately swallowed a lie and repeated it as a truth. He doesn't tell his friends, "Hey, don't be using thiss argument anymore." No, he just tells me that the modal argument for necessary greatness is absolute proof of god's existence. When I point out that this argument is no stronger than its opposite, the modal argument for the nonexistence of necessary greatness, what does he do? Is he taken aback? Does he say he'd better rethink whether his god really exists? Of course not. He pulls out another argument, and says, with all the sincerity of a seller of fake chains, "This one's the real thing."

For decades I have examined these arguments, tested them, found them to be not merely false but transparently false. They say "14KEP" right on them. They are not such as would fool anyone but those desperate to believe.

I see the pattern. I believe that the next theist argument will also be false. And my belief is justified. It is just as well founded as my belief about that eighth chain.


Now it's certainly possible that I haven't heard all the arguments. And it is theoretically possible that one of those that I've never been exposed to is legitimate. But I don't think that's the case. Here's why: If the theists had a good argument, they would present it. The only reason they use bad arguments is that they don't have any good ones.

They not only want to believe, they want to win other people to their beliefs. For those purposes, good arguments would work well---but bad arguments work only poorly. So I feel justified in believing that, if they had good arguments, they would use them.

But they don't use them. They use only bad arguments. The arguments of Christians then, are good justification for believing that Christianity is indefensible. The arguments of Christians justify atheism.
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Old 12-13-2008, 08:29 AM   #298499  /  #423
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I doubt you will ever be rid of me now.

Yes, I will!
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Old 12-13-2008, 08:46 AM   #298502  /  #424
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I'm sorry if theism is infuriating, but I honestly didn't start this thread with the intent of rebutting everything everyone said; I really was more interested to see what people would write.
Well, you should put yourself in our shoes. Why would people want to "teach" you? I think most of us are not evangelical atheists (if that's what you are looking for, you might want to try Johnny Skeptic from IIDB FRDB ). Most of those who were posting here were interested in a conversation more than in preaching to you. To put it bluntly, we want something back for our efforts. Treats, at a minimum
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Old 12-13-2008, 08:49 AM   #298505  /  #425
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I'm sorry if theism is infuriating, but I honestly didn't start this thread with the intent of rebutting everything everyone said; I really was more interested to see what people would write.
Well, you should put yourself in our shoes. Why would people want to "teach" you? I think most of us are not evangelical atheists (if that's what you are looking for, you might want to try Johnny Skeptic from IIDB FRDB ). Most of those who were posting here were interested in a conversation more than in preaching to you. To put it bluntly, we want something back for our efforts. Treats, at a minimum
Have I not been engaging in conversation? I think I have, and intend to continue. I'm not much interested in converting anyone though, or proving God's existence, or rebutting arguments that seem perfectly valid to me. That seems like a task for another thread, and probably a more evangelistic poster.

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