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Source: (consider it) Thread: Purgatory: Can Atheism develop an epistemology to live by?
que sais-je
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quote:
Originally posted by Drewthealexander:
@Croesos. You wrote '. But either God interacts with the Universe, in which case we should be able to observe that interaction, or He doesn't, which is functionally the same as non-existence.'

It isn't logically the case that interactions must be observable. Consider a divine but infinitesimally small interaction in a chaotic system - no human agency could necessarily observe the change, the range of possible outcomes could be the same. God knows that which outcome will occur has changed, we still don't. (This assumes a widely held view that 'God doesn't compute - He knows').

More generally it would be odd to assume that the author of the universe is bound by its laws - including for example the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.

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"controversies, disputes, and argumentations, both in philosophy and in divinity, if they meet with discreet and peaceable natures, do not infringe the laws of charity" (Thomas Browne)

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Ramarius
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@Hugh. Good to hear from you again. Don't get too hung up on my remarks about NT Wrigjt's qualifications. Just making the point to PC that you can't do academic New Testament theology at Wright's level without being a competent historian (not to mention competence in several other disciplines).

Bit surprised by your remark:

'There are different ways of arriving at evidence for truth – one is to start with the evidence and discover the, sometimes unwanted and/or inconvenient, truth, another is to start with the truth and discover the evidence; generally science uses the former and religion (including Wright from the bits you’ve quoted) the latter. '

Depends of course at where you are in the process of investigation. If you have followed the evidence to come to a conclusion you can then look for more evidence to support your conclusion or defend or review it when challenged. If you want to understand how Wright got here in the first place you would need to find out why he converted from atheism. You could look at other people's journeys - Lee Strobel's case for Christ for example - shows how he abandoned atheism after exploring the evidence from Christianity having started as a skeptic.

The idea that scientists start from conclusions and Christians work back from them is too simplistic. Evidence can both lead people to faith and reinforce faith. Similarly scientists can refuse to abandon pet theories in which they have a strong a personal stake, even in the face of evidence to the contrary. You can find examples of both.

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Ikkyu
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quote:
Originally posted by Johnny S
To be clear, I'm not saying this proves anything. (There is always the possibility that the gospels were entire fabrications that have no oral tradition behind them at all.) Just that I don't think the evidence for the resurrection really is the same kind of evidence as for Joseph Smith.

My main point was that it does not prove anything.
So we basically agree. About the evidence being different. Why does actual eyewitness testimony by people who were there in the case of John Smith is worse evidence than accounts written years after the fact by people who were not there in the case of Jesus?
The fact that we both did not grow up as Mormons and our knowledge of the History of the Americas
makes it easy to doubt John Smith.
But arguments like the ones being used to defend the resurrection, while they might help some believers to strengthen their faith, they do nothing of the sort for people that start from an outsider position. And actually when I was trying to shore up my christian faith back when I had it they had the opposite effect.
About the question by Ramarius about were does the resurrection story take you.
A common misunderstanding about atheists is that some people believe that we never had faith to begin with. In my case I went to a Catholic school and actually seriously considered the priesthood as an option. So when asked if we seriously looked at the resurrection story with believers eyes. Some of us did. As for the others they are as likely to believe the story as you are to believe in John Smith.

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Ramarius
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@Ikkyu: Whilst we can discuss this stuff at a rational level (and I do know people who have come to faith by looking at the evidence for the resurrection) we all have a story behind our discussion points.

Just wondering what made you start questioning your faith and what finally made you decide "I just csn't believe in this stuff anymore."

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HughWillRidmee
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quote:
Originally posted by Ramarius:
@Hugh......Bit surprised by your remark:

'There are different ways of arriving at evidence for truth – one is to start with the evidence and discover the, sometimes unwanted and/or inconvenient, truth, another is to start with the truth and discover the evidence; generally science uses the former and religion (including Wright from the bits you’ve quoted) the latter. '

........The idea that scientists start from conclusions (sic) and Christians work back from them is too simplistic. Evidence can both lead people to faith and reinforce faith. Similarly scientists can refuse to abandon pet theories in which they have a strong a personal stake, even in the face of evidence to the contrary. You can find examples of both.

Accepted - hence the careful use of generally . That does not demonstrate that scientists and christians (and some people of course are both) mean the same thing when they use the word evidence. Both can convince themselves that their assumptions provide irrefutable support for their conclusion and, for both, failure to apply the scientific method makes it less likely that erroneous assumptions will be spotted.

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The danger to society is not merely that it should believe wrong things.. but that it should become credulous, and lose the habit of testing things and inquiring into them...
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Johnny S
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quote:
Originally posted by Ikkyu:
Why does actual eyewitness testimony by people who were there in the case of John Smith is worse evidence than accounts written years after the fact by people who were not there in the case of Jesus?

I didn't say that.

The distinction I made was between those people who are willing to die for what they believe in and those who are willing to die for what they know isn't true.

I just said that the latter category is empty.

I then said that there is a difference between eye-witness testimony to subjective revelation and to objective events (someone who was dead now being alive again.)

Those were the only two distinctions I made.

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anteater

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quote:
'There are different ways of arriving at evidence for truth – one is to start with the evidence and discover the, sometimes unwanted and/or inconvenient, truth, another is to start with the truth and discover the evidence; generally science uses the former and religion (including Wright from the bits you’ve quoted) the latter. '
Don't believe that at all. Not even generally.

Scientists frequently are drawn to theories because of their simplicity, the way they fit in to other theories, and then go looking for proof. Indeed if they haven't worked out a theory before looking for evidence, what directs their search?

Nor can I see any problem with this from the strictly scientific view. If a theory explains many things, and is consistent with other accepted theories, then even in the absence of evidence it is likely to be accorded some degree of provisional acceptance (e.g.SFAIK string theory - though I'm no expert). What's wrong with that? So long as the scientist does not exaggerate the evidence and is willing to give way as soon as contrary evidence or a better-evidenced theory comes along.

That's not to say that there is no difference between Science and Religion. Of course there is, mainly around the fact that Science views adherence to hallowed traditions and authorities as a weakness whereas Religion typically does not, at least does it a lot less.

I think you, though, are exaggerating on the other side. The evidence for the resurrection would be considered reasonable were it not thought such an intrinsically improbably event. But that is a deep axiom, and some people don't think the supernatural is that improbable.

[ 03. July 2012, 15:00: Message edited by: anteater ]

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Crœsos
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quote:
Originally posted by Johnny S:
3. I was arguing that the resurrection falls into a different category though - if (and it is a big if because it requires the assumption that there were historic events standing behind the gospels, regardless of how accurately there were reported) hundreds of disciples reported seeing Jesus alive after he was definitely dead . . .

I'd say that, at best, we've got two reports of people seeing Jesus alive after he was definitely dead (the Synoptics and John). One could make the same argument for Sebastião I of Portugal. Or Elvis Presley.

quote:
Originally posted by que sais-je:
quote:
Originally posted by Drewthealexander:
@Croesos. You wrote '. But either God interacts with the Universe, in which case we should be able to observe that interaction, or He doesn't, which is functionally the same as non-existence.'

It isn't logically the case that interactions must be observable. Consider a divine but infinitesimally small interaction in a chaotic system - no human agency could necessarily observe the change, the range of possible outcomes could be the same. God knows that which outcome will occur has changed, we still don't. (This assumes a widely held view that 'God doesn't compute - He knows').

More generally it would be odd to assume that the author of the universe is bound by its laws - including for example the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.

And yet that's the kind of deity you're suggesting. We can posit all kinds of entities whose workings are completely indistinguishable from naturally-occurring phenomena, but there's no particular reason to believe in "quantum chaos God" any more than in gravity pixies or static electricity sprites.

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Ramarius
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@Hugh. Worth remembering that the scientific method itself is based on assumption that can't be proven by science - such as the coherence of mathematics and and the validity of logic. Anteater makes good points when he says the real test of a theory is less how you came by it and more how it stands up to scrutiny.

Speaking of which... Crosses - you seem to be haing some problems with your maths here. The Synoptics and John are four reports not two (they are underpinned by different memories although all agree on the central point). Acts gives another report, Paul claims to have seen the risen Jesus and refers to over 500 other people who made similar claims. He names some, and makes the point that others were, when he wrote, still around to quiz.

All of which leaves the fundamental basis of Christianity open to historical challenge.

And I'm still waiting for someone on this thread to 'follow the evidence' and come up with a more convincing alternative to the church's claim that it began because Jesus was dead and came back to life.

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Crœsos
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quote:
Originally posted by Ramarius:
Speaking of which... Crosses - you seem to be haing some problems with your maths here. The Synoptics and John are four reports not two (they are underpinned by different memories although all agree on the central point). Acts gives another report, Paul claims to have seen the risen Jesus and refers to over 500 other people who made similar claims. He names some, and makes the point that others were, when he wrote, still around to quiz.

Paul isn't really a credible witness, given that we have no indication that he ever saw Jesus prior to his death and supposed resurrection. In other words, Paul didn't recognize Jesus, he just accepted the claim of whoever it was that he was Jesus. Similarly, the difficulty Jesus' close associates have in recognizing him in his post-resurrection state seems a bit suspicious, and more than a bit like group hysteria.

"Well, I thought it was the gardener at the time, but now I'm sure it was really Jesus who talked to me about the hedge plantings."

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Justinian
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quote:
Originally posted by Dafyd:
I repeat: "The text we have is corrupt at the point where Josephus describes Herod's death. Eusebius' text had been emended by a Christian scribe who thought he could use Acts to work out what it should have been."

Clearly that's not clear enough.

We've got two versions of Josephus for the Herod passage: Eusebius' quotations and a medieval manuscript text. Now Eusebius gives an account of Herod's death that largely agrees with Acts. The medieval manuscript gives a corrupt account of Herod's death that, anyway you amend it, is not what you get in Acts.

Just getting back to that. We also have multiple accounts before Eusebius of what was in Josephus. And even early accounts from e.g. Origin that you would expect to mention such a passage don't.

Hypothesis C is that the records we have of Josephus pass through the hands of Eusebius plus successors. I don't see this as remotely implausible.

That in hundreds of years another corruption crept in is not too surprising given we don't have original sources.

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Ramarius
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quote:
Originally posted by Crœsos:
quote:
Originally posted by Ramarius:
Speaking of which... Crosses - you seem to be haing some problems with your maths here. The Synoptics and John are four reports not two (they are underpinned by different memories although all agree on the central point). Acts gives another report, Paul claims to have seen the risen Jesus and refers to over 500 other people who made similar claims. He names some, and makes the point that others were, when he wrote, still around to quiz.

Paul isn't really a credible witness, given that we have no indication that he ever saw Jesus prior to his death and supposed resurrection. In other words, Paul didn't recognize Jesus, he just accepted the claim of whoever it was that he was Jesus. Similarly, the difficulty Jesus' close associates have in recognizing him in his post-resurrection state seems a bit suspicious, and more than a bit like group hysteria.

"Well, I thought it was the gardener at the time, but now I'm sure it was really Jesus who talked to me about the hedge plantings."

You mean Paul mistook Jesus for someone else who rose from the dead?
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Crœsos
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quote:
Originally posted by Ramarius:
You mean Paul mistook Jesus for someone else who rose from the dead?

That wasn't what I was considering, but it's at least a possibility, given that testimony you consider reliable.

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Squibs
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quote:
Originally posted by Justinian:You've obviously missed some of the imports of my posts on this thread - I've demonstrated that it is theoretically impossible for any entity that is an active part of this universe to understand it all.
Nah, I just didn't find you assertions very compelling, that's all. Besides, even if your assertions proved to be correct that wouldn't necessarily lead to atheism, would it?

[ 05. July 2012, 21:26: Message edited by: Squibs ]

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Drewthealexander
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quote:
Originally posted by Crœsos:
quote:
Originally posted by Ramarius:
You mean Paul mistook Jesus for someone else who rose from the dead?

That wasn't what I was considering, but it's at least a possibility, given that testimony you consider reliable.
That's quite a nice answer Croesos. Of course, from Paul's point of view if he had met any of the people to whom Matthew refers they would just be people much like the rest of us. The different between resurrection and revivification is that the latter is a return to the life one had previously. Resurrection life if the life of the age to come. Hense Jesus could appear to people in locked rooms, and travelling on roads to places like, for instance, Damascus.

The point about Paul is that he not only became convinced that Jesus wasn't dead after all, but also became convinced that an individual could presage the resurrection of the end of time. The latter is a decisive reversal of a doctrine which was not only cherished by the Pharisees, but which marked them out from other Jewish groups (such as the Sadducees).

Something so shook Paul's world view that it caused this deeply thoughtful man to review fundamenally his foundational beliefs. I can't see him doing that any more lightly, (or on the basis of an ambiguous experience) as would your good self.

On the question of 'mass hysteria' - well I would have thought the evidence pointed in the opposite direction. The notion that Jesus had risen from the dead was seriously questioned by the first witnesses to the event. This is an act of rational analysis rather than being swept along by the emotion of a crowd. Again, they needed convincing.

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HughWillRidmee
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quote:
originally posted by: Ramarius @Hugh. Anteater makes good points when he says the real test of a theory is less how you came by it and more how it stands up to scrutiny.
The scientific method can be categorised as – Wikipedia
1. Define a question
2. Gather information and resources (observe)
3. Form an explanatory hypothesis
4. Test the hypothesis by performing an experiment and collecting data in a reproducible manner
5. Analyze the data
6. Interpret the data and draw conclusions that serve as a starting point for new hypothesis
7. Publish results
4 – 8 forms a pretty tough form of scrutiny. What level of scrutiny can be offered as appropriate for the claim of the resurrection. Academic argument based on a small amount of non-contemporaneous writing which says that some people believed it to have happened – although contemporaneous writers fail to mention it or any of the claimed associated signs?
quote:
originally posted by: Ramarius Acts gives another report, Paul claims to have seen the risen Jesus.
Where in Acts? - KJV 1st Corinthians 9:1 Paul is alleged to write “….have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord…”. Well, not according to KJV Acts 9 – Paul claims to have seen a light and heard a voice which identified itself as Jesus – “but when his eyes were opened he saw no man” Acts says that Paul was blind for three days. Did Paul innocently mis-remember, did he get carried away with salesman’s zeal and over-egg the witness (I’ve heard it done by an evangelist), did someone tinker with the wording to make it sound as convincing as he thought it really should be? – We’ve no way of knowing, of course. That’s where faith comes in, or doesn’t.
The experience on the road to Damascus is what? An uncorroborated claim with four, at least, options. One – it was true, Two – Paul believed it to be true (epileptic seizure etc.) but it wasn’t, Three - Paul knew it to be untrue. Four Paul was unaware of the claim because someone added it without his knowledge.
quote:
originally posted by: Ramarius And I'm still waiting for someone on this thread to 'follow the evidence' and come up with a more convincing alternative to the church's claim that it began because Jesus was dead and came back to life.
1 – This is just “God of the gaps”
2 – your idea of what it takes to be “more convincing” is probably rather different to mine – so the concept is too imprecise to work, and
3 - There really isn’t any “evidence” one way or the other. By looking at comparable situations from pre-christian times through to the modern day we can see that human beings can be convinced by many things which are both unlikely and which fail the scrutiny of the scientific method. Believers in such un-demonstrable hypotheses will often defend their irrationality as “revealed” or “proven” by tests which demonstrate that the object of their belief functions as well as any other placebo. Christians have chosen (actively or passively) to believe their version of Christianity – it is just possible that their faith is not totally misplaced – but prove it’s any more likely than that Thor, Baal and Zeus are sitting round a barbeque having a chuckle at the expense of all modern-day believers.

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The danger to society is not merely that it should believe wrong things.. but that it should become credulous, and lose the habit of testing things and inquiring into them...
W. K. Clifford, "The Ethics of Belief" (1877)

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quetzalcoatl
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Is it just me, or has this thread completely reversed direction? From an OP which asked for an epistemology for atheists, it appears to have changed into a defence of the resurrection!

Not that I mind at all; I'm just checking that my own perceptions have not gone astray.

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Palimpsest
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quote:
Originally posted by Johnny S:
3. I was arguing that the resurrection falls into a different category though - if (and it is a big if because it requires the assumption that there were historic events standing behind the gospels, regardless of how accurately there were reported) hundreds of disciples reported seeing Jesus alive after he was definitely dead then:

either they were,

a) Deluded - unlikely for all of them to be deluded at the same time (ISTM). Especially since there was nothing in Judaism at the time that would make them very susceptible to the idea.

or

b) Deliberately lying - but then they wouldn't be willing to die for what they knew wasn't true.


To be clear, I'm not saying this proves anything. (There is always the possibility that the gospels were entire fabrications that have no oral tradition behind them at all.) Just that I don't think the evidence for the resurrection really is the same kind of evidence as for Joseph Smith. [/QB]

Or deliberately lied to. Making the man in the box disappear and reappear is pretty ancient conjuring technique, although it's not my expertise to say when it appeared in the Middle East.

There may be no tradition in Judaism, but the Dying God was a pretty common idea in many religions that Jews would have been familiar with; Greeks, Romans, Phoenecians and Egyptians. The was a lot of mingling during the Roman Empire.

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que sais-je
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quote:
Originally posted by quetzalcoatl:
Is it just me, or has this thread completely reversed direction? From an OP which asked for an epistemology for atheists, it appears to have changed into a defence of the resurrection!

I think that's because there are a lot of atheists, like me, who are quite happy with our epistemology. We stop at one point and say there's no further we can go. Believers in God take another step. Atheists ask why that step is valid.

So for an atheist there are things we can't know. For a believer anything logically possible can be willed by God: resurrection, angels, the bodily assumption of Mary, and their problem is which ones to believe. And, disagreeing we all wander off into new directions.

As my hero says, "The digressions are the journey".

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anteater

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Well, yes. I lost interest a while back. Same arguments about the resurrection, with conservatives over-stating their case.

It seems only SusanDoris and maybe one other, is really into the Sam Harris agenda of using science to decide ethical issues, and bridge the supposed gulf (which I believe does exist, Harris doesn't) between statements about what-is and what-ought.

So I don't know if I missed the post where An Atheist actually articulated there epistemology, and applied it to ethics.

I agree (mea culpa) that I didn't help by directing this at atheists as opposed to scientific rationalists, but I can only apologise.

But what do I know? Maybe you can help Que sais-je since you are happy with it.

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Ramarius
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@Hugh. How do your scientific tests apply to theories about the origin of the universe?
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Justinian
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quote:
Originally posted by anteater:
So I don't know if I missed the post where An Atheist actually articulated there epistemology, and applied it to ethics.

You apparently did.

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Russ
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quote:
Justinian on torture:
Of course I'd call it wrong! I'd call it wrong on the basis it non-consensually degrades and harms the victim with no positive result*.

I'd further, echoing John Woolman, call torture wrong because it degrades and harms the torturer to treat another human being that way and deny their status as a human being worthy of care.

Seems to me that the game is played a bit like this:

1) I ask you more "why" questions - why are human beings worthy of care ? what's wrong with being degraded and harmed ?

2) Eventually we get down to some set of propositions to which you can give no further "why" - in other words statements you just accept as axioms.

3) Some Christian shipmate says that behind these axioms there are for him or her further reasons, leading back to religious axioms such as "God is good".

4) Some atheist shipmate says that while they can see the logic in that, for them this additional level of reasoning adds nothing to their understanding of why torture is wrong.

5) Discussion degenerates into accusations of arbitrariness on both sides.

6) Thread peters out

but we may not even make it that far...

Best wishes,

Russ

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Justinian
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quote:
Originally posted by Russ:
Seems to me that the game is played a bit like this:

1) I ask you more "why" questions - why are human beings worthy of care ? what's wrong with being degraded and harmed ?

Given that I started with one answer to the first question which I linked again in reply to Anteater, I can only conclude that you are either not paying attention or are trying to force the discussion into a mould of a game.

quote:
2) Eventually we get down to some set of propositions to which you can give no further "why" - in other words statements you just accept as axioms.
Not eventually. That's literally where I started. With an axiom. That Reality exists. And that we can't know it all.

quote:
3) Some Christian shipmate says that behind these axioms there are for him or her further reasons, leading back to religious axioms such as "God is good".
But if they do that they demonstrate once again that they have not been following my logic. If there exists an omniscient God then the entire train of logic about the inherent value of any human falls apart. Becuase there is no value in the breadth of experiences when we have the Omniscient to rely on.

I therefore conclude that the Christians playing such a game are trying to force matters into a pattern they understand whether or not it fits the premises of the other side rather than trying to get to grips with the argument itself.

quote:
but we may not even make it that far...
Indeed. We might derail the people trying to force the discussion into a well worn dance and try to get them to read the actual discussion.

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Ramarius
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@Justinian. If this is true:

'4: Because no one can know exactly what everyone else does, everyone's part of the truth is valuable and therefore everyone is inherently worthy of being protected and helped.'

...then my 'part of the truth' - that there is an omniscient God, and that we can meet him through Jesus Christ - is 'inherently worthy of being protected and helped.'

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Justinian
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quote:
Originally posted by Ramarius:
@Justinian. If this is true:

'4: Because no one can know exactly what everyone else does, everyone's part of the truth is valuable and therefore everyone is inherently worthy of being protected and helped.'

...then my 'part of the truth' - that there is an omniscient God, and that we can meet him through Jesus Christ - is 'inherently worthy of being protected and helped.'

That assumes that what you believe actually is true. And because no one has perfect knowledge we have a duty to test that what we think is true. "And I can't better the words of Tim Minchin here. Throughout history. Every mystery. Ever solved has turned out to be. Not Magic." And not God either.

I believe you are worthy of protection because you have pieces of truth that I do not. This doesn't mean that I believe delusions that do not match up with reality should be protected - they need to be opposed because with no one person able to know it all the danger of false information is fairly strong. And I believe what you consider to be a piece of the truth to be a commonly held delusion.

Also if you hadn't noticed then your omniscient God is directly in contradiction to your point 4. An omniscient God is someone. And does know everything. So there is no reason to protect people for their fragments of truth - all the truth is in God's hands. So the whole moral argument simply doesn't work if God exists.

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Ramarius
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@Justinian. So what part of the truth do you reckon I *have* got?
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coniunx
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quote:
Originally posted by Justinian:

Also if you hadn't noticed then your omniscient God is directly in contradiction to your point 4. An omniscient God is someone. And does know everything. So there is no reason to protect people for their fragments of truth - all the truth is in God's hands. So the whole moral argument simply doesn't work if God exists.

That depends on what you mean by 'one', doesn't it? In the context of your original statements, I would take that as 'one within extant reality' (since your point 1 was 'reality exists, seemingly defining your universe of discussion); yet the omniscient God doesn't fit that 'within'; so it isn't contradicting the statement as originally predicated.

Furthermore, that point 4 only actually works as a justification for anything if it is assumed that the value of a being is limited to its value in holding ideas as part of an overall pool of knowledge. If one accepts the omniscient God, one also may accept the loving God, and thus a far wider set of reasons for individual value.

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HughWillRidmee
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quote:
Originally posted by Ramarius:
@Hugh. How do your scientific tests apply to theories about the origin of the universe?

Big Bang Theory. The link leads to a page which includes the following and rather more. ...depends on two major assumptions: the universality of physical laws, and the cosmological principle. The cosmological principle states that on large scales the Universe is homogeneous and isotropic.

These ideas were initially taken as postulates, but today there are efforts to test each of them. For example, the first assumption has been tested by observations showing that largest possible deviation of the fine structure constant over much of the age of the universe is of order 10−5 Also, general relativity has passed stringent tests on the scale of the Solar System and binary stars while extrapolation to cosmological scales has been validated by the empirical successes of various aspects of the Big Bang theory.

If the large-scale Universe appears isotropic as viewed from Earth, the cosmological principle can be derived from the simpler Copernican principle, which states that there is no preferred (or special) observer or vantage point. To this end, the cosmological principle has been confirmed to a level of 10−5 via observations of the CMB. The Universe has been measured to be homogeneous on the largest scales at the 10% level

We may never know what preceded the singularity (assuming that preceded is a possibility, there may have been no time prior to the singularity).
NB the preceding statement does not constitute evidence for any of the many creation myths/explanations/facilitators which human beings have imagined over millenia.

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The danger to society is not merely that it should believe wrong things.. but that it should become credulous, and lose the habit of testing things and inquiring into them...
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Justinian
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@Ramarius, I have no idea. Almost certainly a small part - which is all anyone gets

quote:
Originally posted by coniunx:
That depends on what you mean by 'one', doesn't it? In the context of your original statements, I would take that as 'one within extant reality' (since your point 1 was 'reality exists, seemingly defining your universe of discussion); yet the omniscient God doesn't fit that 'within'; so it isn't contradicting the statement as originally predicated.

If God acts directly within reality then God is part of reality. The only way God can truly be outside reality is if the Deists are right - no incarnation and God simply made reality and then left it alone.

quote:
Furthermore, that point 4 only actually works as a justification for anything if it is assumed that the value of a being is limited to its value in holding ideas as part of an overall pool of knowledge. If one accepts the omniscient God, one also may accept the loving God, and thus a far wider set of reasons for individual value.
Oh, there are other routes to the Golden Rule with or without God. It's simply you can not get there directly through epistemology.

If one accepts the omniscient God one need not accept the loving God. That is an entirely different predicate. And one that is directly and starkly contradicted in most Christain theologies - if there is a hell, or if God's behaviour is anything like in the Old Testament (explicitely mind controlling by hardening Pharaoh's heart to give himself an excuse to torture the Egyptians) then the reason God is called Loving is the same reason the Furies were known as the Kindly Ones to the Greeks.

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Ramarius
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@Justinian. How do you define 'truth'?
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anteater

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Justinian:

OK I did note your post but do not see where or how you apply it to ethical questions, unless you believe that "everyone is inherently worthy of being protected and helped" is sufficient.

Of your steps, of course, 4 is the most contentious, so I'm not clear whether you are taking this as an axiom or deducing it from point 3.

As an axiom it's fine, and could stand then with no justification. But because you have seemingly deduced it as following on from "everyone's part of the truth is valuable" then you need to justify this. Plainly it does not follow from 3 ("The piece of understanding of reality I have is different from anyone else's, and by extension everyone's piece is different to everyone else's."). That's just a non-sequitor, and in the ethically trying cases of those with no meaningful mental capacity, you would be hard put to establish it.

And that's before you start trying to convince me that a psychopathic torturer has a valid ethical perspective that I need.

If it works for you, fine. And of course, I think it a worthy ethical stance. But it rests on know evidence. Since I've no idea whether you subscribe to Sam Harris' agenda of getting from scientific fact to ethical value, this may, of course, not be relevant to you.

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Ramarius
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quote:
Originally posted by HughWillRidmee:
quote:
Originally posted by Ramarius:
@Hugh. How do your scientific tests apply to theories about the origin of the universe?

Big Bang Theory. The link leads to a page which includes the following and rather more. ...depends on two major assumptions: the universality of physical laws, and the cosmological principle. The cosmological principle states that on large scales the Universe is homogeneous and isotropic.

These ideas were initially taken as postulates, but today there are efforts to test each of them. For example, the first assumption has been tested by observations showing that largest possible deviation of the fine structure constant over much of the age of the universe is of order 10−5 Also, general relativity has passed stringent tests on the scale of the Solar System and binary stars while extrapolation to cosmological scales has been validated by the empirical successes of various aspects of the Big Bang theory.

If the large-scale Universe appears isotropic as viewed from Earth, the cosmological principle can be derived from the simpler Copernican principle, which states that there is no preferred (or special) observer or vantage point. To this end, the cosmological principle has been confirmed to a level of 10−5 via observations of the CMB. The Universe has been measured to be homogeneous on the largest scales at the 10% level

We may never know what preceded the singularity (assuming that preceded is a possibility, there may have been no time prior to the singularity).
NB the preceding statement does not constitute evidence for any of the many creation myths/explanations/facilitators which human beings have imagined over millenia.

Last statement's a bit sweeping Hugh. You need to be a tad more discriminating than that. Plato held that the universe was made out of pre-existent matter. Aristotle saw the world as the centre of an eternal universe. Hindu cosmology sees the universe going through endless repeating cycles. Canaanite religion held that the earth was made out of the material sections of dead deities. It's quite true that none of that fits with the standard cosmological model.

Nor for that matter does the standard scientific model that preceded the Big Bang theory. Under the influence of Copernicus, Galileo and Newton, belief in general reverted to the notion of a universe infinite in both age and extent. 

But even prior to the ancient Greeks, the Hebrews believed that time was linear and the universe - everything that exists - had a beginning. And Christian thought is very clear about this - there was a point the universe didn't exist since 'God created everything through Christ, and nothing was created except through him' (John 1:3).

The idea that the universe had a beginning from nothing was originally a religious idea - science has caught up through investigation, what the Hebrews knew over two and half thousand years ago by revelation.

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HughWillRidmee
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quote:
Originally posted by Ramarius:
quote:
Originally posted by HughWillRidmee:
We may never know what preceded the singularity (assuming that preceded is a possibility, there may have been no time prior to the singularity).
NB the preceding statement does not constitute evidence for any of the many creation myths/explanations/facilitators which human beings have imagined over millenia.

Last statement's a bit sweeping Hugh. You need to be a tad more discriminating than that. Plato held that the universe was made out of pre-existent matter. Aristotle saw the world as the centre of an eternal universe. Hindu cosmology sees the universe going through endless repeating cycles. Canaanite religion held that the earth was made out of the material sections of dead deities. It's quite true that none of that fits with the standard cosmological model.

Nor for that matter does the standard scientific model that preceded the Big Bang theory. Under the influence of Copernicus, Galileo and Newton, belief in general reverted to the notion of a universe infinite in both age and extent.

But even prior to the ancient Greeks, the Hebrews believed that time was linear and the universe - everything that exists - had a beginning. And Christian thought is very clear about this - there was a point the universe didn't exist since 'God created everything through Christ, and nothing was created except through him' (John 1:3).

How does this make my statement evidential, and for what?
quote:

The idea that the universe had a beginning from nothing was originally a religious idea - science has caught up through investigation, what the Hebrews knew over two and half thousand years ago by revelation.

I presume you are pulling my leg – but just in case –

a) It seems likely that the revelation mainly came from the Mesopotamians - this includes
Genesis 1-11 as a whole is imbued with Mesopotamian myths. Genesis 1 bears both striking differences from and striking similarities to Babylon's national creation myth, the Enuma Elish ................ There also seems to be a direct literary relationship between Genesis 2 and the Enuma Elish............... Scholars recognise close parallels between the Yahwist's creation story and another Mesopotamian myth, the Atra-Hasis epic – parallels that in fact extend throughout Genesis 2–11, from the Creation to the Flood and its aftermath.....

b) This would be the same Hebrews who knew, presumably by revelation from the same source,
that the moon was the lesser light
that grass, herbs and fruiting trees pre-existed the sun and moon (despite no mention of bacteria - which must have been created first in order to be incorporated for photosynthesis (once there was sunlight to use).
that bats are a kind of bird
that rabbits chew the cud
that the earth is immobile
the flood covered Mount Everest by 15 cubits.....


Enough monkeys and enough typewriters..........

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The danger to society is not merely that it should believe wrong things.. but that it should become credulous, and lose the habit of testing things and inquiring into them...
W. K. Clifford, "The Ethics of Belief" (1877)

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Crœsos
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quote:
Originally posted by Ramarius:
The idea that the universe had a beginning from nothing was originally a religious idea - science has caught up through investigation, what the Hebrews knew over two and half thousand years ago by revelation.

Doesn't this contradict Genesis, which holds that "the waters" existed in the primordial state, and that these waters had a surface which the Spirit of God could "hover over" [NIV] or "move upon" [KJV]?

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Humani nil a me alienum puto

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Ramarius
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quote:
Originally posted by Crœsos:
quote:
Originally posted by Ramarius:
The idea that the universe had a beginning from nothing was originally a religious idea - science has caught up through investigation, what the Hebrews knew over two and half thousand years ago by revelation.

Doesn't this contradict Genesis, which holds that "the waters" existed in the primordial state, and that these waters had a surface which the Spirit of God could "hover over" [NIV] or "move upon" [KJV]?
Fair question. Short answer is 'unlikely' if we follow the oldest interpretation of the text. Gen1:1 'In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. Now the earth was without form or void and darkness covered the deep and the spirit of God hovered over the waters.' So ''In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth' is a main clause describing the act of creation, with the following verses describing the subsequent phases in God's creative activity. OT versions (LXX) and Masoretic pointing (MT) suggest this was the predominant view from around the C3 BC (LXX) to C10 AD (MT).
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tclune
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But many scholars seem to believe that the initial clause should be rendered as something like, "In the beginning of God's creating..." FWIW

--Tom Clune

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This space left blank intentionally.

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Ramarius
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@Hugh. The relationship between Genesis and other ancient nearest texts is an interesting one - could start a thread on Kerygmania if your interested. If you'd gone to this wikipedia entry you'd have found a different perspective.

There was a common milieu of thought which Genesis shared, but rather than borrowing ideas form other myths, Genesis launches a stinging polemic against them. There is one God not many, the tower of Babel wasn't the centre of the world, but so small God had to stoop down to look at it, Noah survived the flood because he was righteous rather than because he got lucky, mankind was created to share fellowship with God, not to provide food for the gods.

All very interesting and I'm sure shipmates could provide some serious comment on it (this is one of those areas where you need to read books rather than relying on Wikipedia, and there's enough people around on the Ship who are happy to do that and provide a range of views).

My main point, that creation from nothing started as a religious idea is simply true, as is the point that this wasn't the standard scientific explanation until research in the 1930's started to overturn the old Copernican/Newtonian model. It's simply the case that believers from the Judaeo-Christian tradition clung to the view that the universe had a beginning, in the face of the prevailing scientific view that said it didn't.

But I'd better not carry on with that here or I'll have the tangent police after me.....

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'

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HughWillRidmee
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Originally posted by Ramarius:

There was a common milieu of thought which Genesis shared, but rather than borrowing ideas form other myths, Genesis launches a stinging polemic against them. There is one God not many,
Bit of backing it both ways though really isn’t it – there are three references in Genesis to plural gods (Jehovah and his Asherah?, and others?) including let us make man in our image and quite a few further references to other gods throughout the OT. In particular Jeremiah and the psalmists seem to delight in comparing their god to others don't they?

My main point, that creation from nothing started as a religious idea is simply true, as is the point that this wasn't the standard scientific explanation until research in the 1930's started to overturn the old Copernican/Newtonian model. It's simply the case that believers from the Judaeo-Christian tradition clung to the view that the universe had a beginning, in the face of the prevailing scientific view that said it didn't.
I agree that the records we have suggest that the Hebrews believed the universe had a beginning (although it’s only one of dozens of creation ideas that are recorded as religious in origin), although, in truth, all we an be pretty sure of ("know" as in religious {mis}usage?) is that the universe we inhabit developed from a singularity, and that is definitely not nothing.
However, that's not all you said - you wrote The idea that the universe had a beginning from nothing was originally a religious idea - science has caught up through investigation, what the Hebrews knew over two and half thousand years ago by revelation. I’m merely pointing out that the second part of your statement is an assumption which
a) Doesn’t follow from the first part and
b) is in company with so many other things the Hebrews “knew” which are now known to be wrong that the idea that they had a divine revelation suggests that the divinity was simply guessing, and got lucky once.

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The danger to society is not merely that it should believe wrong things.. but that it should become credulous, and lose the habit of testing things and inquiring into them...
W. K. Clifford, "The Ethics of Belief" (1877)

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Unreformed
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quote:
There may be no tradition in Judaism, but the Dying God was a pretty common idea in many religions that Jews would have been familiar with; Greeks, Romans, Phoenecians and Egyptians. The was a lot of mingling during the Roman Empire.
I find it very difficult to take someone seriously when they bring up the old Christ Myth theory. Same goes to a lesser extent with the "Genesis is stolen Babylonian myths", though it isn't quite as laughably bad.

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In the Latin south the enemies of Christianity often make their position clear by burning a church. In the Anglo-Saxon countries, we don't burn churches; we empty them. --Arnold Lunn, The Third Day

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Unreformed
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Even aside from that, as N.T. Wright points out in his trilogy on Jesus, pagans thought a bodily resurrection was gross, repellent, and undesirable. The body was seen, not as in Judaism as a good thing but as a kind of prison, a shell to be shed when one died.

If anyone wants to know more about the Christ Myth theory and why it's utterly absurd and laughed out of the room by every modern credentialed scholar, I'll be happy to start a new thread.

[ 15. July 2012, 00:59: Message edited by: Unreformed ]

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In the Latin south the enemies of Christianity often make their position clear by burning a church. In the Anglo-Saxon countries, we don't burn churches; we empty them. --Arnold Lunn, The Third Day

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quetzalcoatl
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A lot of the Christ myth stuff is parallelomania. I suppose it's fun; it's just got nothing to do with scholarship.

On Genesis as science - they also had a 3-tiered universe, with water underneath the earth. Not quite right, but not a problem, except for literalists.

[ 15. July 2012, 08:32: Message edited by: quetzalcoatl ]

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I can't talk to you today; I talked to two people yesterday.

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Russ
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quote:
Originally posted by Justinian:
if they do that they demonstrate once again that they have not been following my logic. If there exists an omniscient God then the entire train of logic about the inherent value of any human falls apart. Because there is no value in the breadth of experiences when we have the Omniscient to rely on.

You seem to me to be saying:

1) human beings are valuable because each one has a unique perspective on reality

2) this doesn't give us a reason not to torture, harm and degrade them, only a reason not to snuff them out altogether

(and as an aside, given that they will inevitably be snuffed out sooner or later anyway, hastening the process a little doesn't seem to be totally ruled out).

3) there are reasons not to torture, harm and degrade them, but these "don't follow directly from epistemology"

4) If God is all-knowing then the supposedly-unique perspective of each human being is not in fact unique at all because it is contained in the mind of God

And the implied conclusion which I think you've held back from stating explicitly is

5) therefore belief in an omniscient God tends to undermine morality.

This may not be what you intended.

I hope that in the cold light of day you would agree that 5) does not follow; belief in an omniscient God logically undermines one particular way of getting to one small part of generally-recognised morality. He would be a poor excuse for an ethical being who decided on the basis of God's omniscience that there was no good reason not to commit mass-murder after all.

I had understood "epistemology" to be the branch of philosophy which deals with what knowledge is and how we know things. It thus makes no sense to me to say that some moral reasons come from epistemology and some from somewhere else.

Rather, for any proposition it can be asked "how do we know that ?" Epistemology is thus relevant to all the reasons that you or anyone else puts forward for being moral.

For what it's worth, I'm not one who argues that revelation is the source of morality. I prefer the Natural Law tradition that morality is in some sense built into the fabric of the universe, and is thus in principle as accessible to atheists as to believers, although religious tradition may spotlight such aspects of the universe.

Best wishes,

Russ

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Wish everyone well; the enemy is not people, the enemy is wrong ideas

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Unreformed
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quote:
Originally posted by quetzalcoatl:
A lot of the Christ myth stuff is parallelomania. I suppose it's fun; it's just got nothing to do with scholarship.

On Genesis as science - they also had a 3-tiered universe, with water underneath the earth. Not quite right, but not a problem, except for literalists.

The parallels aren't even that good, though, once you look into them. The vast majority of them are just lowest common denominator stuff you would expect to have in any god (e.g. "great teacher", "had disciples", "king of kings").

As for the rest, well, if you radically change the definition of "virgin birth", "resurrection", "messiah", "crucifixion" and just about everything else in the story, then disregard that these gods were purposely written as ahistorical legend, and squint reaaaaalllyyyyy hard, it sort of kind of looks vaguely similar, but not really. I could do the same exact kind of thing with "similarities" between President Kennedy and President Lincoln, and it would prove exactly nothing.

As for Genesis vs. Babylonian creation myths, it's a very similar process to the above. The fact remains creation ex nihilo was a uniquely Jewish idea, and every serious scholar accepts that.

[ 15. July 2012, 18:41: Message edited by: Unreformed ]

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In the Latin south the enemies of Christianity often make their position clear by burning a church. In the Anglo-Saxon countries, we don't burn churches; we empty them. --Arnold Lunn, The Third Day

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Justinian
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quote:
Originally posted by Ramarius:
@Justinian. How do you define 'truth'?

Things that are correct about the world. Tautology, I know.

quote:
Originally posted by anteater:
Justinian:

OK I did note your post but do not see where or how you apply it to ethical questions, unless you believe that "everyone is inherently worthy of being protected and helped" is sufficient.

I see that as leading in to the Golden Rule. And the Golden Rule as being the foundation of most ethical reasoning systems.

quote:
Of your steps, of course, 4 is the most contentious, so I'm not clear whether you are taking this as an axiom or deducing it from point 3.

As an axiom it's fine, and could stand then with no justification. But because you have seemingly deduced it as following on from "everyone's part of the truth is valuable" then you need to justify this. Plainly it does not follow from 3 ("The piece of understanding of reality I have is different from anyone else's, and by extension everyone's piece is different to everyone else's."). That's just a non-sequitor, and in the ethically trying cases of those with no meaningful mental capacity, you would be hard put to establish it.

I disagree it's a non-sequiteur although it probably needs elaboration, but the criticism that this would lead to the rejection of those with no meaningful mental capacity is well founded.

quote:
And that's before you start trying to convince me \that a psychopathic torturer has a valid ethical perspective that I need.
The problem is that as a torturer he's quite literally destroying truth. And hurting people. By his actions he's placing his welfare against those of those he would harm. Which means, this being an imperfect world, I need to decide whether to let him continue doing what he wants, or to protect everyone he would harm. Given his contribution is negative the answer should be obvious.

quote:
If it works for you, fine. And of course, I think it a worthy ethical stance. But it rests on know evidence. Since I've no idea whether you subscribe to Sam Harris' agenda of getting from scientific fact to ethical value, this may, of course, not be relevant to you.
I disagree it rests on no evidence. And Sam Harris' agenda tehre is nice rather than necessary. If I can get from scientific fact to ethical value I will but this is useful as a cross-check rather than necessary.

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Posts: 3926 | From: The Sea Coast of Bohemia | Registered: Dec 2003  |  IP: Logged
anteater

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# 11435

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Justinian:
I fear we may now be talking past each other, since you seem to be making statements that are, to me at least, self-evidently false.

For instance:

I accuse you of a non sequitor and you deny it. I am saying that "everyone's part of the truth is valuable" does not follow from "The piece of understanding of reality I have is different from anyone else's, and by extension everyone's piece is different to everyone else's."

How does it follow that a piece of understanding of reality is valuable just because it is different to mine? Why may it not be useless stupidity? Or rank evil, unless you are prepared to class that as valuable. In which case I don't understand your values.

Then again, you object to me saying you have presented no evidence for your viewpoint. But where it is? I think you have framed your position to be unprovable and unfalsifiable.

To falsify it I would have to find at least two, and preferably more, people whose understanding of reality in all it's details, is the same.

To prove it, I would have to prove a value judgement, and this is normally considered infeasible. I.e. I would have to prove that everybody's view of reality, including (as I have pointed out) the mentally incapacitated, the just plain evil, etc is valuable with no rigorous definition such as would allow a test to be made.

I'm not demanding evidence but equally I can't see any.

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Posts: 2538 | From: UK | Registered: May 2006  |  IP: Logged
Justinian
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# 5357

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quote:
Originally posted by anteater:
Justinian:
I fear we may now be talking past each other, since you seem to be making statements that are, to me at least, self-evidently false.

For instance:

I accuse you of a non sequitor and you deny it. I am saying that "everyone's part of the truth is valuable" does not follow from "The piece of understanding of reality I have is different from anyone else's, and by extension everyone's piece is different to everyone else's."

How does it follow that a piece of understanding of reality is valuable just because it is different to mine?

I thought that was self evident. That understanding reality and even understanding in general was valuable.

quote:
Why may it not be useless stupidity?
Because stupidity isn't true.

quote:
Then again, you object to me saying you have presented no evidence for your viewpoint. But where it is? I think you have framed your position to be unprovable and unfalsifiable.
Where is the evidence we can't know it all?

Godel's proof. Which states that within any field large enough to include arithmetic (which means within a formal logical framework) there are statements that are of indeterminate truth value - i.e. we can not know whether they are true or not.

The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. Which states that we can not have perfect knowledge of the universe.

Chaos Theory. Which shows that as we try to model something complex (and the Universe is certainly complex enough to qualify - it has second order bounded effects) any inexactitude in the understanding of the initial conditions is going to balloon.

No person can know it all under the laws of the universe, and no one can prove it all under the laws of logic.

quote:
To falsify it I would have to find at least two, and preferably more, people whose understanding of reality in all it's details, is the same.
To falsify that step rather than the step that says we can't know it all, you'd have to go further. You'd have to find two people whose experiences were the same. And their throught processes would then have to be the same on top of that.

quote:
To prove it, I would have to prove a value judgement, and this is normally considered infeasible. I.e. I would have to prove that everybody's view of reality, including (as I have pointed out) the mentally incapacitated, the just plain evil, etc is valuable with no rigorous definition such as would allow a test to be made.
Merely that it is different and a perspective that literally no one else can see makes it valuable.

quote:
I'm not demanding evidence but equally I can't see any.
Does the above help?

--------------------
My real name consists of just four letters, but in billions of combinations.

Eudaimonaic Laughter - my blog.

Posts: 3926 | From: The Sea Coast of Bohemia | Registered: Dec 2003  |  IP: Logged
anteater

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# 11435

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Justinian:
quote:
Does the above help?
Not all that much but it's a interesting debate, so I will continue.

First: Your case is based on the idea that other people may have actual nuggets of understanding that we need to preserve because nobody has it all. So it's irrelevant to point out that some things are not, in principle, knowable, because nobody will have these nuggets.

Second: You are now, I see, using the word "understanding" to refer to what is actually true. This has to be, since when I challenged you that an "understanding" may be stupid, you replied that it can't be, because "understanding" = "truth".

Fair enough, but then I am far from convinced that you could not get a subset of the human race that contains all the truth that is of value. In saying this, I am of course giving a view on what is valuable. If you include the internal thoughts and imaginings of each person on the planet as valuable, then you may have a point.

However, unless it is obvious that a person's understanding is of some value, you would need to set that against the downside of keeping that person in existence. This could be because they are perpetrators of evil actions, or it could just be on ecological cost grounds. Your argument would rule out any consideration, say, of cutting down on excessive healthcare for the aged and inform, because these people still have there valuable piece of understanding even if it is costing a fortune to keep them alive.

And you still haven't addressed the issue of mental incapacity.

Can we get any further?

--------------------
Schnuffle schnuffle.

Posts: 2538 | From: UK | Registered: May 2006  |  IP: Logged
Justinian
Shipmate
# 5357

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quote:
Originally posted by anteater:
First: Your case is based on the idea that other people may have actual nuggets of understanding that we need to preserve because nobody has it all. So it's irrelevant to point out that some things are not, in principle, knowable, because nobody will have these nuggets.

It is, however, relevant to point out that with differing starting premises people will end up in spectacularly different places. It is also relevant to point out the difference between knowable and provable.

quote:
Second: You are now, I see, using the word "understanding" to refer to what is actually true. This has to be, since when I challenged you that an "understanding" may be stupid, you replied that it can't be, because "understanding" = "truth".
Yes. If your understanding is false then you have misunderstood.

quote:
Fair enough, but then I am far from convinced that you could not get a subset of the human race that contains all the truth that is of value.
Perhaps. But to even work out who has what you would need to know what every part of the human race knows.

quote:
If you include the internal thoughts and imaginings of each person on the planet as valuable, then you may have a point.
A non-zero subset of these, certainly.

quote:
However, unless it is obvious that a person's understanding is of some value, you would need to set that against the downside of keeping that person in existence. This could be because they are perpetrators of evil actions, or it could just be on ecological cost grounds. Your argument would rule out any consideration, say, of cutting down on excessive healthcare for the aged and inform, because these people still have there valuable piece of understanding even if it is costing a fortune to keep them alive.
I accepted this earlier with the torturer case. There are times when people do too much harm or the cost is too high. Supporting and helping people is a priority but there's a difference between a priority and a categorical imperative.

quote:
And you still haven't addressed the issue of mental incapacity.
The subject is epistemology not a full functional foundation for ethics. Theory of knowledge only takes you so far in ethics - and if you're working off theory of knowledge alone then people who can have no genuine knowledge is a problem.

quote:
Can we get any further?
Not unless we take other considerations into account.

--------------------
My real name consists of just four letters, but in billions of combinations.

Eudaimonaic Laughter - my blog.

Posts: 3926 | From: The Sea Coast of Bohemia | Registered: Dec 2003  |  IP: Logged



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