Friday, May 08, 2015

Is Theism Justified?

I find atheism fascinating, and while lurking about in a Google+ community for Atheism, I encountered Syne the Sage who wrote, "...a theistic perspective is unjustified, and so as are all the claims that such a perspective is meant to justify."

I wasn't quite sure what this statement meant, so I asked for clarification.

Me: Could you clarify what you mean? God or gods exist or don't exist. It is an open question. What determines which position one takes should be determined by the evidence, should it not?

Syne: Yes, and not only does the evidence consistently point towards naturalistic causes, and away from a deity being necessitated, but that lack of necessitation along with the fact that deities are manmade concepts used by primitive tribes to explain mysterious and unintuitive natural phenomena, only discredits the concept to the point of being asymptotically close to falsehood. And it is only not absolutely false, because it is still unfalsifiable - which really is a gap in absolute falsification which fills itself, because unfalsifiability is a sign of the weakness of a hypothesis, not its strength - hence why "not only are you not right, you're not even wrong" is a major insult to a hypothesis, as unverifiability and unfalsifiability are absolutely worthless from a scientific perspective, and are always a result of embarrassingly fundamental errors in the hypothesis itself.

This is all including the monotheistic deities, which are designed to be all-encompassing explanatory tools, which necessitates more assumptions being made, which further invalidates the assertion in the absence of validating evidence - thereby making paganism, while still unjustified, less invalid than the abrahamic religions, while they are still both asymptotically close to absolute falsehood.

Therefore, assuming a theistic perspective is not only unjustified, and not only is it not on the same level as the counterposition in the slightest, it is a logical absurdity of the highest possible degree, while the absence of validating evidence (which would have to be extraordinary to compensate for the magnitude of the collective assertion) stands.

When Occam's Razor is enough to invalidate a perspective, it's grossly unjustified.

Me: Naturalistic causes without appeal to deity do make sense, and great scientific minds like Newton followed that path of inquiry into how the universe works. However, empirical experimentation (i.e. the scientific method) isn't the only way to discover truth about reality. This is also where detractors of Intelligent Design Theory get it wrong. It is not a "God of the gaps" appeal or Creationism in disguise. There is evidence of design in nature, and ID seeks to understand that. And there are evidences of God through philosophical and metaphysical arguments, so I don't agree with you that theism is unjustified. To make such a claim leads me to think you've fallen for scientism rather than actual science.

Syne:  Science collects data from the environment, finds patterns, uses those patterns to create predictions, experiments to verify those predictions, and then repetition of those experiments by third parties under different conditions and variables, through which predictive trends can be further solidified. And regardless of the results we are bound to find some truth about reality in the results of an experiment. Even if that truth is "prediction x is not true", because upon that new information other new understandings can be built.

You say that intelligent design seeks to find truth, I say you need to show how.

Science is designed for self-correction, removal of all unnecessitated fluff and assumptions, and the maximized mitigation of human error through the collection of objective data and application of the scientific method to that data.

If you have a similarly effective method of finding truth about reality, I'd love to hear it. As far as philosophical arguments (metaphysics falls under this umbrella) for god goes, they're always inherently flawed, and not only that; they're insufficient to be solid evidence by themselves for anything, as we haven't pulled any objective data from the environment to validate the hypothesis.

That being said, I'd be happy to engage in a debate on the evidence of design and whatever philosophical arguments you find compelling evidence for a deity. But in order for me to properly address your position right now, I need to know what it's based upon. The rest of what I wrote above is only partially addressing anything, much less fully addressing your position.

(Just want you to know that my tone isn't intended to be cold or antagonistic or anything, that seems to just be how I write in text.)

Me: If all we could know about reality was determined by scientific experiment, then we could know nothing about love or consciousness (mind) to give two examples. It seems to me that you may be operating from a position of naturalistic materialism which is an ad hoc assumption that nothing beyond the material realm can exist. If by definition you ignore the possibility of soul, spirit, mind, love, deity, i.e. that which is beyond the natural realm - supra-natural, then there is no point in further dialog b/c you cannot discuss that which you have definitionally eliminated from possibility.

Syne: "if all we could know about reality was determined by scientific experiment, then we could know nothing about love or consciousness (mind) to give two examples."

But we can. Nothing about consciousness or love necessitates a supernatural explanation.

"It seems to me that you may be operating from a position of naturalistic materialism which is an ad hoc assumption that nothing beyond the material realm can exist."

ad hoc is a Latin phrase meaning "for this". It generally signifies a solution designed for a specific problem or task, non-generalizable, and not intended to be able to be adapted to other purposes... In other fields the term may refer, for example...or a purpose-specific equation. ad hoc can also mean makeshift solutions, shifting contexts to create new meanings, inadequate planning, or improvised events.

In science and philosophy, ad hoc means the addition of extraneous hypotheses to a theory to save it from being falsified. ad hoc hypotheses compensate for anomalies not anticipated by the theory in its unmodified form. Scientists are often skeptical of theories that rely on frequent, unsupported adjustments to sustain them. ad hoc hypotheses are often characteristic of pseudoscientific subjects such as homeopathy.

Not that nothing beyond material explanation can exist, and not an assumption. I want to be clear that I'm not injecting any premises into my logic.

1. Every phenomenon ever observed has had a naturalistic explanation. (this is an obvious first point of contention - you may offer an example against this if you wish and I'll do my best to explain why it doesn't necessitate supernatural elements at play)
2. No supernatural explanation has ever been verified, and they have almost always ended up falsified and replaced by alternative, more coherent and justified explanations. (I can't imagine the example you would give against this would not be applicable in response to the first premise, but if there is one that you can think of, or if you want to offer another example for the sake of thoroughness, feel free.)
3. Supernatural explanations always contain unjustified assumptions. Example: all traits of all deities, ever, have been, while usually due to [faulty] philosophical logic, assumptions, lacking necessitation save for in the presence of its presupposition - effectively, it needs to be presupposed to necessitate it and its traits.
4. Therefore it is unjustified to assume a supernatural explanation.

"If by definition you ignore the possibility of soul, spirit.. deity" 

I moved "deity" over here and separated my responses to these things, as they are different, and I object to their conflation on the ground that the next set of concepts have naturalistic explanations, and verifiable manifestations in reality, as opposed to these three, which have no necessitation, and are definitionally nebulous.

"mind, love, , i.e. that which is beyond the natural realm - supra-natural,"

These two are not supernatural concepts, and are entirely explainable by naturalistic processes.

"then there is no point in further dialog b/c you cannot discuss that which you have definitionally eliminated from possibility."

My current position is material determinism, because more than that has not necessitated more. It is a conclusion, not a premise. That conclusion is subject to change if my reasons for having it is successfully challenged. If there is anything that makes my position unfalsifiable, it's the unverifiability of the contrary position, not a weakness in that position, as that is how a default position works; the one making claims about reality has to justify them.

--------------- end exchange from Google+ -----------------

I'm encouraged by this exchange, and hopefully we can continue the dialog in the comments below. Syne the Sage seems willing to dialog on fact and evidence without the bluster I've encountered with Todd/Toad the Atheist, Jen Koontz, my Atheist friend who thinks I'm brainwashed. We'll see where it goes. Hopefully we both learn something in the process as that is always my hope.

4 comments:

  1. (3rd time in a row typing all this out because it kept redirecting me to other pages when I tried to post)

    Hi there! Nice blog, I like the format :) I am encouraged by how the beginning of our conversation went as well, and I agree, it is in contrast with most theists and atheists I see discussing these topics online. One example would be Phoenix Apologetics from G+, who kept trying to force concessions on the premises for Craig's version of the Kalam cosmological argument, ignoring important distinctions that showed his logic to be conflatory and invalid, as well as his premises as unnecessitated. If anyone feels like checking it out, here's a link https://plus.google.com/+alanmenziesstayhomedaddy/posts/gFNimWfRsqY

    It's in the community "Theist vs Atheist Discussion" so you may need to join that before viewing.

    Anyways, I suppose the most appropriate way to hold a discussion like this is for the atheist position to respond to points made by the theist position, and for both sides to make counterpoints and distinctions where necessary.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Syne, you state as fact that "deities are manmade concepts" used by primitive people to explain things, but deity also introduces many philosophical questions and problems for the sophisticated thinker; therefore, I cannot agree with you that deity as a concept can be explained away as merely something humans made up as a primitive explanatory tool even if appeals to deity as explanation have been made. I don't conclude with deity, I start with the possibility (as opposed to no possibility) of deity as a premise.

      Further, the only way to know with certainty deity does *not* exist is to search all possible universes, plus everything *outside* those universes all at once. You would need to be omniscient and omnipresent to succeed at that effort which would make *you* deity thereby invalidating the atheist position as well.

      In summary, I believe the rational approach is admitting that the presumption of whether or not deity exists is a starting premise. The theist takes a broader view that the possibility of deity and other non-material reality may exist. Your material determinism position is arbitrarily narrow. You may insist it is a conclusion, but it is not a conclusion of necessity or driven by the data or evidence, and I would argue that you should change your position and either admit material determinism is a premise or an unnecessary conclusion.

      Delete
  2. "Syne, you state as fact that "deities are manmade concepts" used by primitive people to explain things,"
    I did say "the fact that", didn't I? That was my mistake, in my wording when replying, and I agree that it is not an absolute. I believe a strong case can be made for it being asymptotically close to an absolute.

    "but deity also introduces many philosophical questions"
    I agree.

    "and problems for the sophisticated thinker;"
    That depends on what you mean by problems, I suppose.

    "therefore, I cannot agree with you that deity as a concept can be explained away as merely something humans made up as a primitive explanatory tool even if appeals to deity as explanation have been made"
    I see reality as we can know it as pointing towards deities being just that - a concept of the mind, and a concept that was ultimately the product of human curiosity and their desire to understand the world around them. Of course that's not all they are. To those people, they were "real". And it is a very powerful concept. Nonetheless, my position stands as I've described it - that there is no justification behind believing that that concept is more than concepts thought up by human minds to explain natural phenomena they had no plausible alternative explanation for. And it stands like that because of the premises I mentioned before:
    1. Every phenomenon ever observed has had a naturalistic explanation.
    2. No supernatural explanation has ever been verified, and they have almost always ended up falsified and replaced by alternative, more coherent and justified explanations.
    3. Supernatural explanations always contain unjustified assumptions. Example: all traits of all deities, ever, have been, while usually due to [faulty] philosophical logic, assumptions, lacking necessitation save for in the presence of its presupposition - effectively, it needs to be presupposed to necessitate it and its traits.
    4. Therefore it is unjustified to assume a supernatural explanation.

    My logic can be expanded to be more precise and step-by-step, which leaves this as being what I think is the best way to precisely word my position so far:

    0. There must be valid evidence (by the below parameters) for the possibility of supernatural explanations, absent a presupposition, in order to justify the presupposition of a supernatural explanation.
    1. Every phenomenon ever observed has had a naturalistic explanation.
    2. No supernatural explanation has ever been verified, and they have almost always ended up falsified and replaced by alternative, more coherent and justified explanations.
    3. Supernatural explanations always contain unjustified assumptions. Example: all traits of all deities, ever, have been, while usually due to [faulty] philosophical logic, assumptions, lacking necessitation save for in the presence of its presupposition - effectively, it needs to be presupposed to necessitate it and its traits.
    4. Therefore it is unjustified to assume/presuppose a supernatural explanation.

    5. Deities are supernatural explanations.
    6. Therefore, it is unjustified to presuppose the existence or possibility of deities.
    7. Theistic arguments require presupposition in order to seem valid at face value.
    8. Therefore, theism is unjustified. (for the reasons already expressed and also because it could replace one deity with another, or replace it with any other supernatural explanation, and be on the same level of logical validity)

    When taken in its full scope, this argument addresses deism, pantheism, polytheism, and monotheism, as well as concepts like fairies, ghosts, and all other supernatural concepts. It is an argument for naturalism, essentially, and the falsification of any of the premises would render the argument invalid. That's some good science ;)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Also, one could also use this line of logic to justify the presupposition of naturalism. I don't presuppose it to get to that conclusion, but you could validly do that, which lends further credibility to my position.

    So to recap my intended position: deities are asymptotically close to being falsifiable under these premises, any of which you may offer examples to the contrary to in order to falsify if you so have any.

    Apologies for misrepresenting my position with a semantic error; I'm a de-facto hard atheist (asymptotic to absolute). Only Siths speak in absolutes.

    "I don't conclude with deity, I start with deity as a premise."
    That is exactly what I found unjustified under those premises, which you are free to dispute.

    "Further, the only way to know with certainty deity does *not* exist is to search all possible universes, plus everything *outside* those universes all at once. You would need to be omniscient and omnipresent to succeed at that effort which would make *you* deity thereby invalidating the atheist position as well."
    I believe I've addressed why the unfalsifiability of the supernatural in admitting that it was an error in choice of words, not an error in logic. I hope I have sufficiently clarified my position.

    "In summary, I believe the rational approach is admitting that the presumption of whether or not deity exists is a starting premise."
    I do not agree with this summary, for the reasons I've outlined.

    "The theist takes a broader view that the possibility of deity and other non-material reality may exist. Your material determinism position is arbitrarily narrow."
    It is not an absolute position. It is a conclusion based upon what I find to be scientifically and logically accurate. Whether or not that counterposition is justified, is for you to determine by arguing my premises.

    "You may insist it is a conclusion, but it is not a conclusion of necessity"
    I do not claim necessity in the absolutist sense. I claim necessity in a less dogmatic sense - that healthy skepticism and logic leads to this position being all that is necessary.

    "or driven by the data or evidence, and I would argue that you should change your position and either admit material determinism is a premise or an unnecessary conclusion."
    It is an unnecessary conclusion in that it is not absolutely guaranteed to be fact. To a degree asymptotically close to 0 due to unfalsifiability, which itself should further discredits it. However, this is true for all things in life. Unless you can disprove solipsism, arguing unfalsifiability works for literally any position contrary to what we can know about reality. So I can't prove your god doesn't exist, to the same extent that I cannot prove that you exist, and you cannot prove I exist. I do not find solipsism justified under my premises either, as it implies the natural to itself be contrary to reality - therefore supernatural. It could easily be reworded to accommodate solipsism without cramming it into the label "supernatural" as well.

    But anyways, this is getting a bit tangential now. Looking forward to your next message :)

    ReplyDelete