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Author Topic: Why do Americans believe in God despite all the evidence?????  (Read 3136 times)
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« Reply #50 on: December 30, 2011, 07:39:27 am »
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Lack of evidence is not proof of non-existence.

How many atheists do you meet that claim it is?  Most claim that lack of proof is evidence of the irrationality of belief, and that if people were consistent with metaphysical claims lacking belief -- instead of giving special treatment to those common in their culture -- they'd be extremely dismissive of evidence-free metaphysical claims.

I'm sure there are some completely dumb atheists who make this claim literally, but Dibble is certainly not one of them; are you maybe shadowboxing a little?
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« Reply #51 on: December 30, 2011, 07:50:41 am »
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As to the question of "Why do Americans believe in God despite all the evidence?" the reasons why people believe are not particularly different from why anyone believes in such things.

Primarily it comes down to the rather simple fact that most people don't actually understand what constitutes legitimate evidence and are not trained to think critically. As such they can be more easily fooled into believing arguments that merely sound good when they aren't examined thoroughly or just appeal to them emotionally. Those raised to be religious also had the idea ingrained into them, and various psychological factors make it difficult for many of them to change their minds even in the face of overwhelming evidence.

As to why America in particular is more religious than most other developed Western nations, that might be a little more complicated. I doubt the people in those other nations are really that much more versed in critical thinking than most Americans are, and as such I suspect many of the non-believers are apatheists and are just non-believers because they weren't raised to be religious and their culture doesn't put a heavy emphasis on being religious. One reason for that which may be valid is that the states had official religions for long enough that those religions didn't really have to compete aggressively for followers at most points, and by the time freedom of religion was popularized their influence just faded out. America on the other hand had no state church, so the various beliefs had to compete more aggressively to both keep and attract followers, and so a more religious environment developed and was sustained and people were raised more religiously.

So, Duns Scotus and Rene Descartes were unable to think critically?
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« Reply #52 on: December 30, 2011, 09:19:58 am »
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As to the question of "Why do Americans believe in God despite all the evidence?" the reasons why people believe are not particularly different from why anyone believes in such things.

Primarily it comes down to the rather simple fact that most people don't actually understand what constitutes legitimate evidence and are not trained to think critically. As such they can be more easily fooled into believing arguments that merely sound good when they aren't examined thoroughly or just appeal to them emotionally. Those raised to be religious also had the idea ingrained into them, and various psychological factors make it difficult for many of them to change their minds even in the face of overwhelming evidence.

As to why America in particular is more religious than most other developed Western nations, that might be a little more complicated. I doubt the people in those other nations are really that much more versed in critical thinking than most Americans are, and as such I suspect many of the non-believers are apatheists and are just non-believers because they weren't raised to be religious and their culture doesn't put a heavy emphasis on being religious. One reason for that which may be valid is that the states had official religions for long enough that those religions didn't really have to compete aggressively for followers at most points, and by the time freedom of religion was popularized their influence just faded out. America on the other hand had no state church, so the various beliefs had to compete more aggressively to both keep and attract followers, and so a more religious environment developed and was sustained and people were raised more religiously.

So, Duns Scotus and Rene Descartes were unable to think critically?

I should let John speak for himself, but I doubt he's arguing that all theists are thoughtless -- just that, as a general tendency, poor analytical skills make people more likely to accept whatever they were taught is true by default.  If we were a nearly-unanimously atheist country, I'm sure those with excellent analytical skills would be more likely to be theists.  

There are certainly very thoughtful people who have believed in God.  There are also very thoughtful people who have believed in things we know now to be objectively wrong.  I really doubt that any thoughtful atheists asserts that there are no intellectually honest and rigorous theists, although there are probably a lot of atheists who would probably suggest that the less open-ended theists might "over-believe" relative to the intellectual strength of their arguments.  (Like in pretty pretty much every more-than-slightly-complicated debate out there)

Edit: I'd also note that there are plenty of otherwise stellar analytical thinkers -- atheist and theist -- who have delivered some completely lame arguments about the existence of God.  People compartmentalize, both in terms of what they're rational about, and in what they devote their mental energy to.
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« Reply #53 on: December 31, 2011, 12:09:56 pm »
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Lack of evidence is not proof of non-existence.

As Alcon mentioned, I don't think you'll find many atheists who would claim otherwise. However, lack of evidence is a good reason not to believe a claim. In terms of theism and religion, there are multiple claims about what gods are real and what those gods want and things of that nature. Many of those claims also contradict each other so they all can't be true. If there's no evidence for any of those claims, then disbelief is the rational default position. That isn't the same as saying that none of those claims could possibly be true, just that the lack of evidence is a good reason not to take any of those claims as being true.


So, Duns Scotus and Rene Descartes were unable to think critically?

As Alcon stated, I'm not saying all theists never think critically but rather than most of them, and actually most people in general, just don't. Among those theists that do know about critical thinking, I just don't think they apply the same critical thinking skills to their religious views for a wide variety of reasons, or at least not completely. The theists who deal in apologetics for instance might have to do some critical thinking to come up with them, but I've yet to see an apologetic argument that didn't have some flaw (the better ones are usually sound in terms of logical structure, but have premises that are undemonstrated or even outright wrong) so I think that they sometimes unconsciously do a bit of mental gymnastics to get around the problems.
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« Reply #54 on: January 01, 2012, 10:57:11 am »
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but I've yet to see an apologetic argument that didn't have some flaw (the better ones are usually sound in terms of logical structure, but have premises that are undemonstrated or even outright wrong)

The problem is that to use deductive logic you have to use some base premises or axioms that are simply unprovable, but you must use them unless you want to fall into solipsism.  If the premise is wrong, that is one thing, but I don't know how some premises can be demonstrated.  For example:

1. No two snowflakes have identical structures.
2. Snowflake A and Snowflake B are separate snowflakes.
3. Therefore Snowflake A and Snowflake B do not have identical structures.

There is simply no way you can demonstrate with certainty the truth of the first statement.  If you substitute in "No two snowflakes have been observed to have identical structures" or "The mathematical odds of two snowflakes having identical structures are extremely small" then you've gone from deductive logic to the much less reliable inductive logic.  If you want to stay in the more concrete deductive world, you are simply going to have to accept the premises, that to some level, may require a leap of faith.

I watched a 30 minute PBS special a few months back on St Anselm's Ontological Argument.  I've admitted before and I still state that I frankly don't understand the argument, but at the conclusion of the program and after talking with both atheistic and theistic philosophers, they seemed to have an updated consensus on the argument that, in a very abbreviated form, stated "If it is possible for God to exist, he does; if it is not possible, then he doesn't".  This obviously isn't very helpful to the underlying argument, but it shows people who have spent their entire careers thinking critically about the issue and have come done on different sides of the issue of the existence of God, don't phrase it in simply materialistic terms.
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« Reply #55 on: January 01, 2012, 01:35:08 pm »
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but it shows people who have spent their entire careers thinking critically about the issue and have come done on different sides of the issue of the existence of God, don't phrase it in simply materialistic terms.

Did you miss the part where I said "The theists who deal in apologetics for instance might have to do some critical thinking to come up with them"? That they might use a degree of critical thinking to come up with the arguments doesn't mean that they are thinking critically when they ignore the flaws in what they come up with.
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« Reply #56 on: January 01, 2012, 02:24:19 pm »
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That they might use a degree of critical thinking to come up with the arguments doesn't mean that they are thinking critically when they ignore the flaws in what they come up with.
Whether or not an argument has a flaw does not determine whether it was a product of critical thought.  Critical thinking is the process that is gone through to come to an answer, not the answer itself.  Einstein's general theory of relatively brought with it problems with the standard static model of the universe, problems he (arguably) chose to ignore with his famous "cosmological constant."  It doesn't mean his work wasn't based on critical thinking, there are flaws in every argument.
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« Reply #57 on: January 02, 2012, 12:22:56 am »
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That they might use a degree of critical thinking to come up with the arguments doesn't mean that they are thinking critically when they ignore the flaws in what they come up with.
Whether or not an argument has a flaw does not determine whether it was a product of critical thought.  Critical thinking is the process that is gone through to come to an answer, not the answer itself.  Einstein's general theory of relatively brought with it problems with the standard static model of the universe, problems he (arguably) chose to ignore with his famous "cosmological constant."  It doesn't mean his work wasn't based on critical thinking, there are flaws in every argument.

*sigh* Again, just because someone applies critical thinking to their process for most of their work does not mean they do it constantly. Humans aren't perfect. In the case of Einstein, if you're saying that he added the cosmological constant just so he could ignore some problems it means that he wasn't critically thinking about that thing - that would mean he wasn't thinking critically about that, but rather just trying to mold his equations to personal preference. Finding a creative way to make something fit isn't the same thing as critical thinking, in fact it's often the opposite.
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« Reply #58 on: January 03, 2012, 10:26:50 am »
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*sigh* Again, just because someone applies critical thinking to their process for most of their work does not mean they do it constantly. Humans aren't perfect. In the case of Einstein, if you're saying that he added the cosmological constant just so he could ignore some problems it means that he wasn't critically thinking about that thing - that would mean he wasn't thinking critically about that, but rather just trying to mold his equations to personal preference. Finding a creative way to make something fit isn't the same thing as critical thinking, in fact it's often the opposite.

It appears to me your initial response to this thread characterizes the same lack of critical thought as Einstein used in developing his cosmological argument, namely you asserted an unsupported hypothesis to make the facts meet up with your assumptions.

Einstein's assumption: The Universe doesn't expand.
Your assumption: There is no God.

Einstein's problem: The General Theory of Relativity seemed to indicated otherwise.
Your problem: Explaining why a large majority of Americans believe in God.

Einstein's unsupported theory: Cosmological constant.
Your unsupported theory: "it comes down to the rather simple fact that most people don't actually understand what constitutes legitimate evidence and are not trained to think critically."

By this theory, you've positioned yourself to be the ultimate arbiter of what is "legitimate" evidence to prove the existence or nonexistence of a supernatural being; what percentage of Americans can recognize that "legitimate" evidence; how critical thinking is correctly performed; that critical thinking, performed correctly, will provide an accurate report of reality; that there is an outside, objective reality; what percentage of American's are trained in critical thinking, etc.  If you do not have an answer for all these statements, you are simply finding a creative way to make facts fit your assumptions.

Your argument is also simply self defeating.  If critical thinking is based in large part on logic, then wouldn't you think it necessary to prove that logic works?  How is that done, with logic?  If it you can't prove logic works, yet base your critical thinking on an unproven mechanism, is that not failing to use critical thought?

In addition to Einstein's cosmological constant, the following are not the product of critical thinking: dark matter, dark energy, luminiferous ether, the standard model of particle physics, abiogenesis, vaccinations, etc.  In fact, there is a good case to be made that all advances in theoretical sciences are the basis of non-critical thinking.  The postulating of any theoretical sub-atomic particle in physics is simply making up something that would solve a whole range of problems, but that we have no current legitimate evidence that exists.  It fits the definition of "Finding a creative way to make something fit isn't the same thing as critical thinking, in fact it's often the opposite."
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« Reply #59 on: January 03, 2012, 12:11:09 pm »
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Could you both define what you mean by "critical thinking"?  I had like a three-paragraph post typed up about critical thinking, first principles and the ontological argument, and then I realized I can't figure out a possible consistent definition of "critical thinking" going on here.
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« Reply #60 on: January 03, 2012, 12:35:56 pm »
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Could you both define what you mean by "critical thinking"?  I had like a three-paragraph post typed up about critical thinking, first principles and the ontological argument, and then I realized I can't figure out a possible consistent definition of "critical thinking" going on here.

It's the internet, doll. It means 'people who think like wot how i do'.
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« Reply #61 on: January 03, 2012, 01:40:29 pm »
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Einstein's assumption: The Universe doesn't expand.
Your assumption: There is no God.

I make no assumption - my position is that there's not even remotely enough evidence for a god to justify believing in one.

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Einstein's problem: The General Theory of Relativity seemed to indicated otherwise.
Your problem: Explaining why a large majority of Americans believe in God.

Einstein's unsupported theory: Cosmological constant.
Your unsupported theory: "it comes down to the rather simple fact that most people don't actually understand what constitutes legitimate evidence and are not trained to think critically."

By this theory, you've positioned yourself to be the ultimate arbiter of what is "legitimate" evidence to prove the existence or nonexistence of a supernatural being; what percentage of Americans can recognize that "legitimate" evidence; how critical thinking is correctly performed; that critical thinking, performed correctly, will provide an accurate report of reality; that there is an outside, objective reality; what percentage of American's are trained in critical thinking, etc.  If you do not have an answer for all these statements, you are simply finding a creative way to make facts fit your assumptions.[/quote]

I never said I was the ultimate arbiter of anything, nor did I position myself to be that way. I'm just educated - I know about critical thinking, how science works, and standards of evidence.

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Your argument is also simply self defeating.  If critical thinking is based in large part on logic, then wouldn't you think it necessary to prove that logic works?  How is that done, with logic?  If it you can't prove logic works, yet base your critical thinking on an unproven mechanism, is that not failing to use critical thought?

We know logic works because it's been demonstrated to work consistently when applied correctly using demonstrated premises.

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In addition to Einstein's cosmological constant, the following are not the product of critical thinking: dark matter, dark energy, luminiferous ether, the standard model of particle physics, abiogenesis, vaccinations, etc.

Lulz! Where shall we start...

1. Dark matter and dark energy - these ideas most certainly are based on critical thinking, because they were proposed due to observed effects in nature. We don't actually claim to know a lot about them, but we had to name the causes of the effects something even if we don't understand them perfectly. What specifically make these not a result of critical thinking?
2. Luminiferous ether - I'm not sure why you're including an idea that was debunked in 1887 in this list. I'm only vaguely familiar with the history of this idea, so I can't comment on what kind of thought went into developing it.
3. Standard model of particle physics - We currently use the standard model because it's the best available model and has worked in experiments. What specifically makes this not a result of critical thinking?
4. Abiogenesis - Multiple experiments have shown various stages of non-organic matter becoming organic. Not actually producing life from non-life isn't a lack of critical thinking, it's a lack in our knowledge of the process - research is ongoing. Again, what specifically is not involving critical thinking here?
5. Vaccinations - Smallpox says hello. Oh wait, no it doesn't - we killed it.

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In fact, there is a good case to be made that all advances in theoretical sciences are the basis of non-critical thinking.  The postulating of any theoretical sub-atomic particle in physics is simply making up something that would solve a whole range of problems, but that we have no current legitimate evidence that exists. It fits the definition of "Finding a creative way to make something fit isn't the same thing as critical thinking, in fact it's often the opposite."

No, just no. Most of the theoretical particles are postulated based on the prior knowledge we've obtained and a significant amount of mathematics. The ideas are not simply accepted as fact by the scientific community. After checking the work of those proposing it for flaws, they then try to verify them. Why do you think they built the world's biggest supercollider? For s**ts and giggles?

There's a significant difference between postulating something based on available evidence and then trying to verify it experimentally and just making something up to fit a preferred worldview.


Could you both define what you mean by "critical thinking"?  I had like a three-paragraph post typed up about critical thinking, first principles and the ontological argument, and then I realized I can't figure out a possible consistent definition of "critical thinking" going on here.

There's quite a few concise definitions, but I'd say this is the one I like best that I could find - "the process of purposeful, self-regulatory judgment, which uses reasoned consideration to evidence, context, conceptualizations, methods, and criteria." Unfortunately there can be disagreements on what constitutes things like evidence, so you'll of course get some disagreement from time to time even among critical thinkers. I imagine though you and I probably have somewhat similar standards, given what I know about you.
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« Reply #62 on: January 03, 2012, 02:16:06 pm »
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We know logic works because it's been demonstrated to work consistently when applied correctly using demonstrated premises.

Yep...which is what I'm waiting on amccollum to get into.  The first principle here isn't really "logic is right"; it's "we can observe the world and makes inferences from our observation" -- that first principle has lots of caveats, but I think it's way different than, say, asserting the first principle of "Einstein's cosmology is true," or whatever.

I'll get into that more if it ends up relevant Tongue
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« Reply #63 on: January 03, 2012, 02:22:17 pm »
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I make no assumption - my position is that there's not even remotely enough evidence for a god to justify believing in one.

Ok, then substitute "there's not even remotely enough evidence for a god to justify believing in one." for your assumption.  Your basic problem is that you are substituting the term "critical thinking" for "correct answer."  A correct answer is a thing, critical thinking is a process.  Critical thinking can and has resulted in many incorrect answers.

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I never said I was the ultimate arbiter of anything, nor did I position myself to be that way. I'm just educated - I know about critical thinking, how science works, and standards of evidence.

Ossum!  I couldn't imagine how to further state you are the ultimate arbiter of objective truth than that response!  You might as well have stated, "I never said I was the smartest man ever, but I am."


Quote
We know logic works because it's been demonstrated to work consistently when applied correctly using demonstrated premises.

Another way of saying, "we used logic to prove logic, therefore we know logic works".

Quote

Lulz! Where shall we start...

1. Dark matter and dark energy - these ideas most certainly are based on critical thinking, because they were proposed due to observed effects in nature. We don't actually claim to know a lot about them, but we had to name the causes of the effects something even if we don't understand them perfectly. What specifically make these not a result of critical thinking?
2. Luminiferous ether - I'm not sure why you're including an idea that was debunked in 1887 in this list. I'm only vaguely familiar with the history of this idea, so I can't comment on what kind of thought went into developing it.
3. Standard model of particle physics - We currently use the standard model because it's the best available model and has worked in experiments. What specifically makes this not a result of critical thinking?
4. Abiogenesis - Multiple experiments have shown various stages of non-organic matter becoming organic. Not actually producing life from non-life isn't a lack of critical thinking, it's a lack in our knowledge of the process - research is ongoing. Again, what specifically is not involving critical thinking here?
5. Vaccinations - Smallpox says hello. Oh wait, no it doesn't - we killed it.

Zing!  That was the point flying 1,000 ft over your head.  I do not doubt dark matter and dark energy are the result of critical thinking.  I know that luminiferous ether hasn't been relied upon in over a century.  You are again simply saying, dark energy is a valid scientific theory, ergo it was arrived upon by critical thinking.  Luminiferous ether has been disproved, ergo it was not arrived upon by critical thinking.  You stated "Finding a creative way to make something fit isn't the same thing as critical thinking..."  In the case of dark energy, luminiferous ether, standard model, etc those theories were, in fact, creative ways to make something fit.  By your definition, those ideas are not critical thinking, by mine (and what I believe is the more orthodox understanding of the word) it is.

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No, just no. Most of the theoretical particles are postulated based on the prior knowledge we've obtained and a significant amount of mathematics. The ideas are not simply accepted as fact by the scientific community. After checking the work of those proposing it for flaws, they then try to verify them. Why do you think they built the world's biggest supercollider? For s**ts and giggles?

There's a significant difference between postulating something based on available evidence and then trying to verify it experimentally and just making something up to fit a preferred worldview.

I have no idea why you are changing this debate from "what constitutes critical thinking?" to "I love science, you hate science."  Whether CERN ultimately vindicates whether those particles are real or not is immaterial to the debate as to whether the hypothesis of their existence was based upon critical thinking.  The cosmological constant (which may not be incorrect, if that changes you view as to whether it is the result of critical thinking) was based on prior knowledge and a significant amount of mathematics.  Luminiferous ether was based on prior knowledge and a significant amount of mathematics.  I believe both were based on critical thinking, not because the concepts were right or wrong, but simply because they were reasoned out.

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There's quite a few concise definitions, but I'd say this is the one I like best that I could find - "the process of purposeful, self-regulatory judgment, which uses reasoned consideration to evidence, context, conceptualizations, methods, and criteria." Unfortunately there can be disagreements on what constitutes things like evidence, so you'll of course get some disagreement from time to time even among critical thinkers. I imagine though you and I probably have somewhat similar standards, given what I know about you.

Surprisingly, I would accept that definition, but would emphasize the term "process."  I am also a little surprised Dibble admits even his ilk ("so you'll of course get some disagreement from time to time even among critical thinkers") will occasionally disagree amongst themselves.  Smiley
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« Reply #64 on: January 03, 2012, 02:28:59 pm »
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We know logic works because it's been demonstrated to work consistently when applied correctly using demonstrated premises.

Yep...which is what I'm waiting on amccollum to get into.  The first principle here isn't really "logic is right"; it's "we can observe the world and makes inferences from our observation" -- that first principle has lots of caveats, but I think it's way different than, say, asserting the first principle of "Einstein's cosmology is true," or whatever.

I'll get into that more if it ends up relevant Tongue

I don't have a problem with logic at all.  However, Dibble raised the issue that if critical thinking raises issues that the thinker ignores, then his critical thinking is subpar or his theory is not entirely based on critical thought.

If you rely on critical thinking, you are relying on logic, in large part.  That would raise the problem as to whether logic is accurate or reliable.  Since logic can't be proven, then to ignore the problem would necessarily render all critical thought (by Dibble's definition) as subpar and no theory could be entirely based on critical thought.

Again - as a disclaimer - I don't have a quibble with the efficacy of logic, I only point out a problem of circular reasoning in Dibble's analysis of critical thinking.
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« Reply #65 on: January 03, 2012, 03:26:22 pm »
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We know logic works because it's been demonstrated to work consistently when applied correctly using demonstrated premises.

Yep...which is what I'm waiting on amccollum to get into.  The first principle here isn't really "logic is right"; it's "we can observe the world and makes inferences from our observation" -- that first principle has lots of caveats, but I think it's way different than, say, asserting the first principle of "Einstein's cosmology is true," or whatever.

I'll get into that more if it ends up relevant Tongue

I don't have a problem with logic at all.  However, Dibble raised the issue that if critical thinking raises issues that the thinker ignores, then his critical thinking is subpar or his theory is not entirely based on critical thought.

If you rely on critical thinking, you are relying on logic, in large part.  That would raise the problem as to whether logic is accurate or reliable.  Since logic can't be proven, then to ignore the problem would necessarily render all critical thought (by Dibble's definition) as subpar and no theory could be entirely based on critical thought.

Again - as a disclaimer - I don't have a quibble with the efficacy of logic, I only point out a problem of circular reasoning in Dibble's analysis of critical thinking.

Right, but by pointing out that logic entails a first principle argument (that observation is proper, or however you want to put it), exactly what are you trying to cast doubt on?  Do you seriously challenge the first principle underlying logic?  Do you expect others to substantiate this first principle before presenting an argument?  I mean, I understand the theoretical attack you're making, but to what ends?

Ossum!  I couldn't imagine how to further state you are the ultimate arbiter of objective truth than that response!  You might as well have stated, "I never said I was the smartest man ever, but I am."

No...in the context of his argument, that's not what he's saying at all.  He's implying you are misunderstanding the relationship between observation, logic and methodology, and...

Another way of saying, "we used logic to prove logic, therefore we know logic works".

...You are.  Because, here, you are acting like logic is the same concept as observation, and as if logic could not be justified based on the first-principle assumption that observation is proper/useful/whatever.  Since Dibble could easily argue that he has every reason to assume you make this first-principle assumption, it attacks the formal part of your argument pretty effective.  (Tbh, I still am not quite clear on how you guys are using "critical thinking" as distinct from observation or logic.)

Surprisingly, I would accept that definition, but would emphasize the term "process."  I am also a little surprised Dibble admits even his ilk ("so you'll of course get some disagreement from time to time even among critical thinkers") will occasionally disagree amongst themselves.  Smiley

How is that remotely surprising, considering his argument...? :S
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« Reply #66 on: January 03, 2012, 03:48:25 pm »
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I make no assumption - my position is that there's not even remotely enough evidence for a god to justify believing in one.

Ok, then substitute "there's not even remotely enough evidence for a god to justify believing in one." for your assumption.  Your basic problem is that you are substituting the term "critical thinking" for "correct answer."  A correct answer is a thing, critical thinking is a process.  Critical thinking can and has resulted in many incorrect answers.

I never asserted that critical thinking always leads to correct answers. You gave a specific example of Einstein and I responded to that saying that I didn't think he used critical thinking to come to that specific conclusion based on your own description of him ignoring problems. If he was aware of the problems, but willf

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I never said I was the ultimate arbiter of anything, nor did I position myself to be that way. I'm just educated - I know about critical thinking, how science works, and standards of evidence.

Ossum!  I couldn't imagine how to further state you are the ultimate arbiter of objective truth than that response!  You might as well have stated, "I never said I was the smartest man ever, but I am."

Straw manning me isn't going to help your argument.

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We know logic works because it's been demonstrated to work consistently when applied correctly using demonstrated premises.

Another way of saying, "we used logic to prove logic, therefore we know logic works".

I don't think I can address this any better than Alcon did, so I'll just go with what he said.

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Zing!  That was the point flying 1,000 ft over your head.  I do not doubt dark matter and dark energy are the result of critical thinking.  I know that luminiferous ether hasn't been relied upon in over a century.  You are again simply saying, dark energy is a valid scientific theory, ergo it was arrived upon by critical thinking.  Luminiferous ether has been disproved, ergo it was not arrived upon by critical thinking.

No I didn't. I specifically said "I'm only vaguely familiar with the history of this idea, so I can't comment on what kind of thought went into developing it."

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You stated "Finding a creative way to make something fit isn't the same thing as critical thinking..."  In the case of dark energy, luminiferous ether, standard model, etc those theories were, in fact, creative ways to make something fit.  By your definition, those ideas are not critical thinking, by mine (and what I believe is the more orthodox understanding of the word) it is.

I think you're the one who's missing the point - when I say "make something fit" I didn't mean in every sense possible. (not sure why you would think I did) I mean making something fit your preferences, not actual data. In the case of Einstein it seems that he very much did not like the idea of a non-static universe - if he indeed just added the cosmological constant just because he didn't want to accept a non-static universe, as his equations implied, then that wouldn't be thinking critically. Einstein himself called his failure to predict the expansion of the universe his biggest blunder - if he was indeed too personally attached to the idea of a static universe then it was a flaw in his thinking process. That's not to say he was a bad critical thinker, just that he was subject to the same kind of pitfalls that all of us are.

Perhaps a better example might be the "tired light" hypothesis - the notion in which basically light loses energy over time - which was proposed in response to Hubble's observations. This idea seems to have been a desperate, albeit creative, attempt to save the static-universe model by explaining away red-shift rather than a conclusion come to based on actual data. It's actually quite common for scientists who've invested a great amount of time in a particular theory to try to just come up with something to explain away data that doesn't agree with their theory - scientists are people to, and they can get attached to ideas. That's why science is a multi-person process. It tends to weed out our little personal issues.

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I have no idea why you are changing this debate from "what constitutes critical thinking?" to "I love science, you hate science."

You shifted the focus when you brought in all of the other science things and said they weren't the result of critical thinking. (yet making no effort to argue as to why they weren't) If you don't want to come off as anti-science, you will have to make a better case than just an assertion with no argument.

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Whether CERN ultimately vindicates whether those particles are real or not is immaterial to the debate as to whether the hypothesis of their existence was based upon critical thinking.

I agree, but given what I know about how they came up with those ideas I do believe they did come upon them by methods that involve critical thinking and I don't understand why you are asserting otherwise.


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However, Dibble raised the issue that if critical thinking raises issues that the thinker ignores, then his critical thinking is subpar or his theory is not entirely based on critical thought.

No, I'm saying willfully ignoring problems that you either notice or have pointed out to you isn't critical thinking. Going back to apologetics, the arguments used by apologists haven't really changed much over the centuries - the problem of premises not being demonstrated is one that's been pointed out again and again and again, and yet the apologists continue to use those same arguments without addressing that rather basic and fundamental problem. That is most certainly not critical thinking.
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« Reply #67 on: January 07, 2012, 10:12:19 am »
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Sorry for my slow response, The Man has been overly insistent that I spend my waking hours earning a living this week.

Right, but by pointing out that logic entails a first principle argument (that observation is proper, or however you want to put it), exactly what are you trying to cast doubt on?  Do you seriously challenge the first principle underlying logic?  Do you expect others to substantiate this first principle before presenting an argument?  I mean, I understand the theoretical attack you're making, but to what ends?

You're right, I am not challenging the first principle argument underlying logic, however, as I'm sure you are aware, a first principle argument is essentially a fancy philosophical term for "well, we really don't have any evidence, but come on, it has got to be right."  I don't know what non-logical evidence can be shown to demonstrate that logic works and any logical evidence presented to show logic works is self-defeating.  However, a first principle argument has also been used by at least one leading philosopher to demonstrate the existence of God is a proper basic belief that needs no further evidence.  I'm not a big fan of using a first principle argument to support any proposition, but to say a belief in God cannot be deduced from critical thinking because "the problem of premises not being demonstrated" overlooks the glaring inconsistency that the problem with critical thinking is that the foundations of critical thinking (empirical senses, reason, logic, mathematics, etc), also cannot be demonstrated, they are just have to be assumed to be true.

I mainly have quibbles with two of Dibble's statements on why he believes critical thinking cannot lead to a belief in God.

1) That the premises of the logic underlying the proofs for God are undemonstrated -  I'm not entirely sure what this is supposed to mean.  For example the Cosmological Argument, which is largely based on Plato's and Aristotle's Prime Mover Argument says (in very abbreviated format)

1. All things that have a beginning have a cause
2. The universe had a beginning
3. Therefore the universe had a cause and that cause is what we call God.

I'm not sure what premises is undemonstrated.  You obviously can't prove with 100% certainty either of the premises, but I'm not sure you can in any form of deductive logic.  The question is, "is the Cosmological Argument based on critical thinking?"  Whether you agree with the inference or not, to assert the Prime Mover Argument is not the result of critical thinking or the result of some form of imperfect or partial critical thinking is saying that the Greek philosophers who largely came up with the concept of critical thinking...were not good at critical thinking.  I think that argument will get you laughed out of every philosophy department in America.

2.  My other bone of contention is that "there's not even remotely enough evidence for a god to justify believing in one" so a belief in God/gods cannot be drawn from critical thinking.

I can only assume Dibble means physical evidence, but I can't be sure.  I have no idea what physical evidence for a Jewish/Christian/Muslim concept of God (ie - a being outside of time and space) there could be, just like I have no idea what non-logical evidence there is that logic works or what non-subjective evidence there is for free will or even for arguing there are other minds other than my own.  It is a question that we may never be able to convincingly answer, but arguably are not unreasonable to believe.

I used to play a sim game called Tropico on my computer.  If you've never heard of it (there are many similar games out there), you controlled a tropical island as sort of an unseen ruler from above.  You could set the game parameters before you start and look over your island in sort of a god-mode.  You could click on individual people walking around Tropico as they go to work, to church, to a restaurant, or whatever.  Each person has a name, a family, particular strengths and weaknesses.  You can even see what that person has been thinking and how they feel about various developments on the island.  Each character has a level of artificial intelligence.  If the level of artificial intelligence is raised to a human or near human level, with the characters having the ability to think abstractly, what evidence do they have that I, as the game designer/controller, exit?  As the player, I am outside time and space.

I once watched an interview with physicist Lee Smolin in which he stated the main reason he doesn't think we live in a computer-like simulation is because our universe is too perfect, meaning, if we did live in a computer simulation he would expect to see a quirk of some sort, like an out of place red pixel in the otherwise blue sky, but other than that, our universe seems to be very similar to a computer program.  Likewise, what physical evidence could there be for a God outside of space and time?  I guess everything, the universe itself, would be physical evidence, just like I guess the Tropicans could deduce I created their world by wondering where they came from, but I grant that is not a very strong evidence - but it would still be the result of critical Tropican thinking.

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« Reply #68 on: January 07, 2012, 05:24:37 pm »
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I mainly have quibbles with two of Dibble's statements on why he believes critical thinking cannot lead to a belief in God.

I didn't say it can't. You have a real problem with putting words into people's mouths. My response was to the question "Why do Americans believe in God despite all the evidence?" - I asserted that most people don't think critically as part of that. I simply think that if people applied critical thinking more that more of them would be unbelievers.

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1) That the premises of the logic underlying the proofs for God are undemonstrated -  I'm not entirely sure what this is supposed to mean.  For example the Cosmological Argument, which is largely based on Plato's and Aristotle's Prime Mover Argument says (in very abbreviated format)

1. All things that have a beginning have a cause
2. The universe had a beginning
3. Therefore the universe had a cause and that cause is what we call God.

I'm not sure what premises is undemonstrated.  You obviously can't prove with 100% certainty either of the premises, but I'm not sure you can in any form of deductive logic.  The question is, "is the Cosmological Argument based on critical thinking?"  Whether you agree with the inference or not, to assert the Prime Mover Argument is not the result of critical thinking or the result of some form of imperfect or partial critical thinking is saying that the Greek philosophers who largely came up with the concept of critical thinking...were not good at critical thinking.  I think that argument will get you laughed out of every philosophy department in America.

Again, I didn't say no critical thinking goes into coming up with apologetics, just that in all cases I've seen there is still some flaw that further critical thinking reveals.

For instance there are a number of problems with the cosmological argument:
1. How do you know this prime mover is god-like? The word "god" has certain implications that can't just be ignored - if there is indeed a first cause, why can't it simply be some primordial, unintelligent force? That wouldn't exactly be a god by any standard definition of the word.
2. How do you deal with infinite regress? Ever heard the phrase "It's turtles all the way down"? What created this "God" thing? And if you assert that this "God" thing has simply always existed without a beginning or a cause, then how do you know that? How can you demonstrate it?

These have been pointed out to the apologists again and again over the centuries and yet they continue to ignore them. Again, willfully ignoring problems in an argument is not critical thinking.

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2.  My other bone of contention is that "there's not even remotely enough evidence for a god to justify believing in one" so a belief in God/gods cannot be drawn from critical thinking.

I can only assume Dibble means physical evidence, but I can't be sure. I have no idea what physical evidence for a Jewish/Christian/Muslim concept of God (ie - a being outside of time and space) there could be, just like I have no idea what non-logical evidence there is that logic works or what non-subjective evidence there is for free will or even for arguing there are other minds other than my own.  It is a question that we may never be able to convincingly answer, but arguably are not unreasonable to believe.

Aside from physical evidence and logic, what kind of evidence is there that is remotely reliable? If you don't have any such kind of extra evidence and you don't have any kind of physical evidence to back up your god claims or your logic for it, then how am I or any other objective observer going to be able to distinguish your belief from a delusion?

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I once watched an interview with physicist Lee Smolin in which he stated the main reason he doesn't think we live in a computer-like simulation is because our universe is too perfect, meaning, if we did live in a computer simulation he would expect to see a quirk of some sort, like an out of place red pixel in the otherwise blue sky, but other than that, our universe seems to be very similar to a computer program. Likewise, what physical evidence could there be for a God outside of space and time?

Interesting line of reasoning, but still problematic. If you and everyone around you were born into a universe where there were red pixels in the blue sky, would you necessarily think it odd? We know a bug in a computer program when we see it because we know it's a program and we also know what the intent of the program is. A bug is just a flaw in the instructions in regards to intent, but the instructions are still carried out flawlessly as they were written. But we didn't make the universe and we don't really know if it's something someone wrote, and as such we don't know what the intent of the universe would be. If we don't know the intent, how can we know what is or isn't out of place? Maybe our universe is a program, and the designer actually intended for there to be red pixels in the blue sky, but since there aren't it's a bug. But not having been born with innate knowledge about what the universe is for (if it has a purpose at all) how could we possibly infer that?

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I guess everything, the universe itself, would be physical evidence, just like I guess the Tropicans could deduce I created their world by wondering where they came from, but I grant that is not a very strong evidence - but it would still be the result of critical Tropican thinking.

Yes, it's not very strong evidence because it isn't evidence - what distinguishes our universe from one with no purpose and no intelligent creator and one that has a purpose and an intelligent creator?
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« Reply #69 on: January 08, 2012, 12:29:23 pm »
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I didn't say it can't. You have a real problem with putting words into people's mouths. My response was to the question "Why do Americans believe in God despite all the evidence?" - I asserted that most people don't think critically as part of that. I simply think that if people applied critical thinking more that more of them would be unbelievers.


My apologies if I am putting words in your mouth.  I inferred from your comments that to reach a positive conclusion about the existence of God, one's critical thinking must, at some point, break down.  I think it was a reasonable inference based on these quotes:

"Primarily it comes down to the rather simple fact that most people don't actually understand what constitutes legitimate evidence and are not trained to think critically."
"Among those theists that do know about critical thinking, I just don't think they apply the same critical thinking skills to their religious views for a wide variety of reasons, or at least not completely. The theists who deal in apologetics for instance might have to do some critical thinking to come up with them, but I've yet to see an apologetic argument that didn't have some flaw (the better ones are usually sound in terms of logical structure, but have premises that are undemonstrated or even outright wrong) so I think that they sometimes unconsciously do a bit of mental gymnastics to get around the problems."
"That they might use a degree of critical thinking to come up with the arguments doesn't mean that they are thinking critically when they ignore the flaws in what they come up with."
"Again, just because someone applies critical thinking to their process for most of their work does not mean they do it constantly."

That being said, I agree with you that most people do not really consider why they believe what they do (I hesitate to use the term "critical thinking" because its use on the internet has made it little more than a rhetorical device).  You may also be right that if more people actually thought about the bases of their beliefs, there may be fewer believers, though I would posit that those who remained religious would be much better at defending their beliefs.



Again, I didn't say no critical thinking goes into coming up with apologetics, just that in all cases I've seen there is still some flaw that further critical thinking reveals.

For instance there are a number of problems with the cosmological argument:
1. How do you know this prime mover is god-like? The word "god" has certain implications that can't just be ignored - if there is indeed a first cause, why can't it simply be some primordial, unintelligent force? That wouldn't exactly be a god by any standard definition of the word.
2. How do you deal with infinite regress? Ever heard the phrase "It's turtles all the way down"? What created this "God" thing? And if you assert that this "God" thing has simply always existed without a beginning or a cause, then how do you know that? How can you demonstrate it?

These have been pointed out to the apologists again and again over the centuries and yet they continue to ignore them. Again, willfully ignoring problems in an argument is not critical thinking.


Eureka!  I think I have found at least one area where we have been talking past each other.  You stated on a least 2 occasions the premises for the deductive logic on the existence of God argument was undemonstrated or outright wrong.  Given your answer here, I don't think your beef is with the premises of the argument, but with the inference drawn from the premises.  I'm usually not picky on word selection and I often misuse words myself, but I think this spawned my tangential arguments about proving a premise that maybe I did not need to address.

As for the Prime Mover Argument, it does not explain the Christian doctrine of the Trinity either, but then, it was not supposed to.  It simply demonstrates one logical argument for the existence of a God or gods and was first promulgated by pagans and later updated by a Muslim, so I don't think anyone is contending this necessarily leads to the Christian concept of God.  It only leads to a God or gods in the broadest sense of the word.  Anything beyond that gets into theology.  As for the infinite regress problem, I believe Aristotle addressed that.  If you want to read up on it and decide if you agree, that's up to you.  Since we now believe the universe had a beginning, however you want to claim it came into being is going to have a very similar regress problem.


Aside from physical evidence and logic, what kind of evidence is there that is remotely reliable? If you don't have any such kind of extra evidence and you don't have any kind of physical evidence to back up your god claims or your logic for it, then how am I or any other objective observer going to be able to distinguish your belief from a delusion?


Outside empirical evidence, I believe most evidence you rely on is testimonial.  Even scientific evidence is transmitted to you by scientists or textbooks, so it is not simply "scientific evidence", but also testimonial evidence.  For example, I have no idea how to calculate the speed of light.  I read in a text book it was whatever miles per second, so, given the authority I granted the authors of the book, I believed their testimonial evidence about the scientific conclusion.  However, I simply don't know how to calculate that number myself.  I further don't know how to prove to anyone I graduated from high school other than testimonial evidence.  I could show them a diploma, but that is essentially a letter from the institution itself, which is simply testimony.

Courts of law have promulgated rules to help guard juries from less reliable forms of testimonial evidence.  Those rules include barring most forms of hearsay evidence and allowing cross-examinations.  Even scientific evidence in court rooms (on the rare occasions in which it is allowed) is presented in testimonial form.  The expert relates how a scientific process is done and the results it gives.  To be truly scientific evidence, the evidence needs to be performed by or demonstrated to a jury, not just discussed by an expert.

You must distinguish between beliefs by determining if the belief is reasonable.  In my opinion, believing my empirical senses are providing me accurate information is a reasonable belief, as are the beliefs that logic works, that mathematics work, that other minds exist, I have free will, etc are all reasonable, though I admittedly have no non-self defeating proof any of them are correct beliefs.


Interesting line of reasoning, but still problematic. If you and everyone around you were born into a universe where there were red pixels in the blue sky, would you necessarily think it odd? We know a bug in a computer program when we see it because we know it's a program and we also know what the intent of the program is. A bug is just a flaw in the instructions in regards to intent, but the instructions are still carried out flawlessly as they were written. But we didn't make the universe and we don't really know if it's something someone wrote, and as such we don't know what the intent of the universe would be. If we don't know the intent, how can we know what is or isn't out of place? Maybe our universe is a program, and the designer actually intended for there to be red pixels in the blue sky, but since there aren't it's a bug. But not having been born with innate knowledge about what the universe is for (if it has a purpose at all) how could we possibly infer that?


If I wasn't clear, I didn't mean this to be a proof for the existence of God and I'm not sure Smolin is in anyway religious.  It was simply to demonstrate why it is hard to demonstrate such things with physical evidence.  I read Computing the Universe (I think that was the name) by a MIT quantum computer professor who also stated the universe is essentially a giant quantum computer that is computing itself.  The MIT professor also displayed no religious leanings.  It is simply a theory that has become more and more popular over the past 30 or so years as our computer technology advances.  It's a freaky theory, whether you are a believer or not.



Yes, it's not very strong evidence because it isn't evidence - what distinguishes our universe from one with no purpose and no intelligent creator and one that has a purpose and an intelligent creator?

Well, in its broadest sense, anything offered to prove or disprove an assertion is evidence.  You might be thinking of evidence that would be acceptable in a clinical or scientific setting.  I'm also not suggesting that the simple fact there is something rather than nothing by itself imparts anything about purpose or the intelligence of the creator, just that it would seem to suggest a creator is more likely.  However, I would say that others have made arguments from morality or from beauty about the nature of God from simply observing nature (meaning theism over deism) and St. Thomas Aquinas spilled a few hundred gallons of ink discussing natural law from observing the something that is here.
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IDS Judicial Overlord John Dibble
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« Reply #70 on: January 08, 2012, 06:48:35 pm »
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Eureka!  I think I have found at least one area where we have been talking past each other.  You stated on a least 2 occasions the premises for the deductive logic on the existence of God argument was undemonstrated or outright wrong. Given your answer here, I don't think your beef is with the premises of the argument, but with the inference drawn from the premises.  I'm usually not picky on word selection and I often misuse words myself, but I think this spawned my tangential arguments about proving a premise that maybe I did not need to address.

Well, my response was to the first cause argument you presented - I would still say such arguments exist. For instance the moral argument:

1. If God does not exist, morality does not exist.
2. Morality exists.
3. Therefore, God exists.

How would you go about demonstrating #1? And if you define morality such that it has to involve God, how can you demonstrate #2 to the point where it excludes anything that simply looks like that morality but comes from a different source? While the argument is possibly creative, the premises seems to be more bald assertion than anything.

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As for the Prime Mover Argument, it does not explain the Christian doctrine of the Trinity either, but then, it was not supposed to.  It simply demonstrates one logical argument for the existence of a God or gods and was first promulgated by pagans and later updated by a Muslim, so I don't think anyone is contending this necessarily leads to the Christian concept of God.  It only leads to a God or gods in the broadest sense of the word.  Anything beyond that gets into theology.

Yes, I'm aware of this. Of course there are those who thing that somehow, magically, without any real explanation, that this argument somehow leads to their particular god, whichever that may be. I'm glad you aren't one of them - it makes it possible to have an actual discussion.

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As for the infinite regress problem, I believe Aristotle addressed that.  If you want to read up on it and decide if you agree, that's up to you.

I looked it up. It seems his answer to infinite regress was more in terms of how we deal with logic and knowledge rather than being in particular relation to his idea of a prime mover. Basically his answer seemed to just deal with the problem of "how do we know what we observe is accurate", or "1 + 1 = 2 and that's obvious to the point where I don't need to demonstrate it". In regards to the prime mover though, he just made an assertion that he thought there was one rather than address the possibility that there isn't one.

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Since we now believe the universe had a beginning, however you want to claim it came into being is going to have a very similar regress problem.

Yes, but instead of asserting a prime mover of some kind we just don't make assertions - we admit we don't know what we don't know.

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Outside empirical evidence, I believe most evidence you rely on is testimonial.  Even scientific evidence is transmitted to you by scientists or textbooks, so it is not simply "scientific evidence", but also testimonial evidence.  For example, I have no idea how to calculate the speed of light.  I read in a text book it was whatever miles per second, so, given the authority I granted the authors of the book, I believed their testimonial evidence about the scientific conclusion.  However, I simply don't know how to calculate that number myself.  I further don't know how to prove to anyone I graduated from high school other than testimonial evidence.  I could show them a diploma, but that is essentially a letter from the institution itself, which is simply testimony.

Courts of law have promulgated rules to help guard juries from less reliable forms of testimonial evidence.  Those rules include barring most forms of hearsay evidence and allowing cross-examinations.  Even scientific evidence in court rooms (on the rare occasions in which it is allowed) is presented in testimonial form.  The expert relates how a scientific process is done and the results it gives.  To be truly scientific evidence, the evidence needs to be performed by or demonstrated to a jury, not just discussed by an expert.

I'm not sure how you're using 'testimonial evidence' here is all that useful, let alone standard - by this note empirical evidence would be to a large degree useless because anyone who does not directly observe it would have to call any communication of it testimonial rather than empirical. I think communication of empirical evidence is rightly divided from testimonial because of our standards in determining why such evidence is trustworthy.

In what I think would be traditionally defined as testimonial evidence, it's largely a matter of whether or not we think the person giving the testimony is someone who would tell the truth and whether or not they interpret things reliably. (a court wouldn't want to take the testimony of someone who has regular hallucinations as evidence, for instance) For empirical evidence though we have further information - the person giving the testimony in regards to the physical evidence can explain exactly what methods were used to examine the evidence, and is someone else was so inclined they could repeat the methods and see if they come up with the same results. You can't do that with testimony alone.

It might get a little blurrier in regards to your high school diploma and other kinds of historical records, but I think that kind of thing involves a bit of both worlds depending on the particular historical question.

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You must distinguish between beliefs by determining if the belief is reasonable.  In my opinion, believing my empirical senses are providing me accurate information is a reasonable belief, as are the beliefs that logic works, that mathematics work, that other minds exist, I have free will, etc are all reasonable, though I admittedly have no non-self defeating proof any of them are correct beliefs.

I find there to be a difference between reasonable and understandable. I think it reasonable for people to not believe we're in a computer simulation because there isn't any apparent reason to think we are in one. I think it reasonable to think that logic and math work because we can observe them to work when used correctly. I think it reasonable to think that other minds exist because we regularly interact with other people and they behave in ways we'd expect other minds to behave.

On the other hand there are beliefs that I find it understandable as to why people might hold those beliefs but not think they are reasonable - typically I put theism in this category because I don't see any good reasons to believe in such things.

If I wasn't clear, I didn't mean this to be a proof for the existence of God and I'm not sure Smolin is in anyway religious.  It was simply to demonstrate why it is hard to demonstrate such things with physical evidence.  I read Computing the Universe (I think that was the name) by a MIT quantum computer professor who also stated the universe is essentially a giant quantum computer that is computing itself.  The MIT professor also displayed no religious leanings.  It is simply a theory that has become more and more popular over the past 30 or so years as our computer technology advances.  It's a freaky theory, whether you are a believer or not.

To be clear, I wasn't saying that it was an attempt to show proof for the existence of God either - I was simply pointing out the problem with his idea of there having to be an obvious bug if we're in a computer simulation. I would actually expect the universe to behave in a similar manner as a computer because computers operate using the physical laws of the universe. We know computers are designed though, we can't say the same for the universe.

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Well, in its broadest sense, anything offered to prove or disprove an assertion is evidence.  You might be thinking of evidence that would be acceptable in a clinical or scientific setting.

Yes - generally speaking when I use the term evidence I'm speaking of 'good' evidence.

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I'm also not suggesting that the simple fact there is something rather than nothing by itself imparts anything about purpose or the intelligence of the creator, just that it would seem to suggest a creator is more likely.

The problem with saying that something is more likely than another possibility is that you need a basis for asserting that probability. I can assert that a truly random roll of a pair of dice will be more likely result in a seven than any other result on the basis that are more combinations that result in a seven than any of the other possible results. So what is your particular basis for this assertion?

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However, I would say that others have made arguments from morality or from beauty about the nature of God from simply observing nature (meaning theism over deism) and St. Thomas Aquinas spilled a few hundred gallons of ink discussing natural law from observing the something that is here.

I addressed morality above, and beauty has similar problems. (being in the eye of the beholder and all that) Furthermore, more advanced modern observations of nature have not indicated a deity. Not intending to sound condescending, but I just don't find the amount of ink spilled to be relevant - substance is more important than quantity.
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« Reply #71 on: January 08, 2012, 06:49:54 pm »
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The whole problems of these debates - and this ones that take place on a much more sophisticated level than this thread - is that nobody is ever able to define what "believe" means.
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Keith R Laws ‏@Keith_Laws  Feb 4
As I have noted before 'paradigm shift' is an anagram of 'grasp dim faith'
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