Again, please be quite careful not to quote-skim.
At the same time, I didn't want you to think that I was intentionally ignoring you. Actually, I was, since I knew you had responded, but---as I said--I was out enjoying myself, the company of others, the sun, the air, the wind in what is left of my hair, etc.
That's fine, I was outside playing frisbee, cooking for a potluck or two, and going for a half-century bike ride.
But a quick response:
From a Skeptics page on "How do we know what is real?"
I like this guy's response because A) He's a follower of naturalist philosophy (as am I), and 2) He was or still is a student at Washington University, a very prestigious mid-West University of high renown, with an amazing philosophy department (I know--I went there, and took a number of philosophy courses. No courses in "Inebriated Eschatology," though)
http://indieskeptics.com/2010/09/22/met ... aturalism/
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There is a lot to be said in defense of naturalism. There is, of course, the vast body of knowledge we have accumulated utilizing the scientific method, built on the bedrock of methodological naturalism. It has thus has expanded our understanding of the universe to an extent that clerics, priests and theologians cannot begin to match 1. There is the fact that throughout all of human history, naturalistic explanations have replaced supernatural explanations an uncountable number of times, while supernatural explanations have replaced naturalistic explanations exactly never. There is the fact that every test of supernatural effect, whether intercessory prayer, contacting the dead, or psychic ability are only as effective as the testers are sloppy 2. But most damning is when you consider what it means to demand observability, testability, and falsifiability.
What does it mean to determine observability? It means that, whatever your belief is, you can point to the world and point to the manifestation of that belief. It means that your belief makes predictions that you can measure, either directly or through its effects. And when your belief is unobservable, unfalsifiable, that means that there is no possible set of observations which would contradict your belief. If your belief is unobservable and unfalsifiable, then your belief is meaningless in determining what is real about the world, and what is not. 3
This is the first interesting thing you've said in a couple posts, because you're finally getting over your hangup about proofs, and discussing empiricism (which, quite emphatically, has nothing to do with proof).
: Science never
answers questions of "why", it's simply not equipped to. It provides models of that allow us to make predictions about expected behavior of processes, but it can't tell us why
those processes happen as they do.
: This is the classic Dawkinsian tautology, in even more abbreviated form. "There is nothing supernatural -> nothing supernatural ever happens -> there is nothing supernatural". http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=p+ ... ies%20p%29
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: Here he is inappropriately conflating (repeatable) testability and observability.
In actuality, your concerns about denying all epistemology apply more directly to naturalism than to Christianity (or any other religion incorporating some form of dualism that recognizes the mind/brain distinction). The short form of the argument is summarized well by C.S. Lewis in his essay "The Cardinal Difficulty of Naturalism" - a fuller version of the argument can be found in "The Mind and the Machine: What it Means to be Human, and Why it Matters"
by Matthew Dickerson (disclaimer: family relation here). The Argument from Reason is as follows (if you want the full form, I can give you the full version of Lewis's essay, or refer you to my father's book above. If you want a shorter version, Wikipedia will suffice):
It is clear that everything we know, beyond our own immediate sensations, is inferred from those sensations. I do not mean that we begin as children, by regarding our sensations as 'evidence' and thence arguing consciously to the existence of space, matter, and other people. I mean that if, after we are old enough to understand the question, our confidence in the existence of anything else (say, the solar system or the Spanish Armada) is challenged, our argument in defence of it will have to take the form of inferences from our immediate sensations. Put in its most general form the inference would run, 'Since I am presented with colours, sounds, shapes, pleasures and pains which I cannot perfectly predict or control, and since the more I investigate them the more regular their behaviour appears, therefore there must exist something other than myself and it must be systematic'. Inside this very general inference, all sorts of special trains of inference lead us to more detailed conclusions. We infer Evolution from fossils: we infer the existence of our own brains from what we find inside the skulls of other creatures like ourselves in the dissecting room.
All possible knowledge, then, depends on the validity of reasoning. If the feeling of certainty which we express by words like must be and therefore and since is a real perception of how things outside our own minds really 'must' be, well and good. But if this certainty is merely a feeling in our own minds and not a genuine insight into realities beyond them--if it merely represents the way our minds happen to work-then we can have no knowledge. Unless human reasoning is valid no science can be true.
It follows that no account of the universe can be true I unless that account leaves it possible for our thinking to be a real insight. A theory which explained everything else in the whole universe but which made it impossible to believe that our thinking was valid, would be utterly out of court. For that theory would itself have been reached by thinking, and if thinking is not valid that theory would, of course, be itself demolished. It would have destroyed its own credentials. It would be an argument which proved that no argument was sound--a proof that there are no such things as proofs--which is nonsense.
Thus a strict materialism refutes itself for the reason given long ago by Professor Haldane: 'If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true . . . and hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms.’ (Possible Worlds, p. 209)
Beliefs about God do not provide for any meaningful predictability,
And yet, as we all know, OSC is very much a theist.
In Xenocide, Qing Jao's entire character is practically an essay on the dangers of magical thinking, but in the same novel I recall that at least one character suggests that the miraculous discovery of a means of faster than light travel, which also happened to provide cures for the descolada and Miro may well have been an answer to the Lusitanian's prayers. That it may not have been possible until they asked and God made it so. So is OSC sending mixed messages?
As I point out earlier in my post, faith in God and magical thinking are hardly synonymous, which is the distinction between the Judeo-Christian Biblical tradition and essentially every other religion I'm aware of. The neo-Platonic influence on Protestant theology is probably the worst thing to happen (theologically) in the history of the Church, because it strongly encouraged the backslide towards magical thinking and a denigrated view of Creation. In Jewish (and early Christian) thought, a miracle is an attesting sign to validate spiritual authority (a primitive form of public-key authentication, if you will). No other religion with which I'm familiar makes the magic-trick/miracle distinction, and therefore provide no rational basis by which to authenticate people who may or may not be speaking on God's behalf (prophets). Islam (or at least every Muslim with whom I've had theological discourse, and as far as I can determine from reading the Qur'an + a selection of hadith), for example, assigns no significance to miracles beyond "huh, that's interesting".
Specific examples from scripture being Gideon's experiment with the fleece (Judges 6:36-40), or Elijah's experiment vs the prophet's of Baal (1 Kings 18:22-39). More modern day examples, which are relatively well known in Christian circles might be Brother Andrew's experiences as a Bible smuggler.
nor will anyone holding a belief about God ever allow for it to be falsified, thereby failing this test.
Theism is belief in an active God. If you believe in an active God and never see evidence of his activity, that's a pretty significant hint that your belief is unfounded. A major example of this is the large number of people who fall away from their faith after something terrible happens, because they believe that a loving God should never allow bad things to happen to "good people". When something bad happens to them, that hypothesis is falsified; and one of three things happens: they stop believing in God altogether, they take the evidence into consideration and modify their beliefs to a version of theism that addresses the problem of pain in a consistent fashion (i.e., open theism, which I described earlier in the topic), or cognitive dissonance. You seem to be making the rather arrogant assumption that everyone who believes in God is a weak-minded idiot who prefers cognitive dissonance to seeking answers about how the universe operates.
Deism, on the other hand, is a great example of a hypothesis which is "not-even wrong" (un-falsifiable), since it doesn't make any predictions about how the universe should work. Ironically, it is the latter, and not the former, which is most often touted as a "scientific/rational" version of religion (Jefferson, Einstein, Spinoza, ....).
When I am further refreshed, I will add some additional "sets of axioms under which I would find a proof admissible"
Please do. There are 5 possible outcomes to this exercise, 3 of which I think are likely.
- The existence of God is provably independent of your axioms (ala the axiom of choice and the standard axioms of set theory).
- The existence of God is provably true under your axioms (in which case I suspect it's more likely that you would reject them and start over), ala Gödel's proof above
- The existence of God is provably false under your axioms (almost certainly due to your personal biases in setting them - ala Dawkin's hilariously tautological reasoning about miracles).
- The existence of God is true, but not provably so, under your axioms. Though I suspect it would be hard to write down such a set (since you wouldn't know if you were successful or not), I think this is the most likely real world scenario.
- The existence of God is false, but not provably so, under your axioms. Similarly hard to write down such a set, this is another potential real world scenario, even if personally I'm disinclined think it is the case
"EVEN THOUGH THEY AREN'T AND CAN NEVER BE PROVEN IN ANY RIGOROUS SENSE" ??? Really???...If you can bring the level of proof of God's existence to even 1% of what the level of proof of physics and engineering is, I'll walk under a vehicular bridge built entirely on God's say-so (he'll have to sigh off on it, though; I'll want to see the signature)
Ok, sure, let's go there. Rigorously (deductively) prove that your steel is not an ice cream cone. Don't go off and tell me I'm chasing one of your laws, I know just as well as you do that steel is not an ice cream cone. My point is that the idea of proof simply does not apply to inductive reasoning. I'm not even claiming that makes the knowledge gained through inductive reasoning any less valid than the knowledge gained mathematically (like you've said, there are reasonable statistical thresholds beyond which doubting something is just silliness). My worldview is just fine with the existence of objective truth which is not derived from mathematical logic; yours is the one which appears to be crumbling under that realization (which makes sense, since as far as I can tell you're clinging to an 18th Century version of rationalism which has been known to be insufficient, by theists and atheist/naturalists alike, for at least a 100 years). Every time I say "true, but not provable", you say "omg, reality denialism". The reality is that you can't seem to handle the existence of truth which isn't provably true, and so you're continually projecting that worldview onto my highlighting of the unprovability of various non-mathematical phenomena.
(though your unending insistence on using high-profile "code" language makes me wonder if you're supposed to be out in public yet).
I'm confused as to what you mean by this?
Listen, I understand that there are statistical spreads on the strengths of the ACTUAL (as opposed to "theoretical") materials that I use, and on the loads that I apply when I examine corresponding stresses, and that peices will be machined with a tolerance range, but "unproven"?
I know that the yield strength of A36 Steel is, on average, above 36 ksi, and that allowing for a reaonable statistical spread results in my using 36 ksi as a limiting value for that stress, and that a piece machined to 1" ±0.005" could possibly be as thin as 0.995". Yea, sure--there are variations. I know this.
But just because the yield strength varies, it doesn't mean that the steel suddenly becomes a banana, or a poem, or...GOD. It's a piece of steel.
Yes. Unproven. Mathematicians and computer scientists laugh at physicists who say something is proven just because they have 5-sigma confidence. I recognize that there are valid forms of knowledge which are not based on deductive proof, but a deductive proof is the only
sort of proof. As scientists and engineers, we rely on inductive reasoning. There are no proofs here, just confidences
, which we consider to be knowledge, because of the outrageously small chance that we're wrong. You can't prove that your steel isn't a banana now, but you know that the likelihood of it being one is vanishingly small.
You are madly pursuing Boothby's third law, my friend. Madly. You have been brought to the point where you must deny the reality around you to try and make a case for the fantasy that you so desperately need to be true.
Many aspects of my life would be much easier if it were true that human beings aren't fundamentally f***ed up and incapable (under our own power) of having whole relationships. Unfortunately I've yet to see any evidence to the contrary (cf. any newspaper or news-oriented tv network). The worst months of my life were because I and someone I loved had a fundamental conflict over the nature of grace and salvation, and what we desperately needed to be true (being able to envision a future in which we could raise children without that conflict being virulently destructive to a home environment) was not what we could find to be true. So don't you dare
tell me, or any other religious person on this forum that we believe what we do out of emotional necessity, or because we need some protective fantasy blanket to shelter our fragile selves.
If you want to make a meaningful case, make it. So far, the best you have been able to do is 1) Prove that nothing can ever be disproved (or, apparently, proved, which is an interesting conjecture), and 2) Claim, as all desperate theists eventually do, that "We can never really know ANYTHING, so, therefore...GOD!"
See my excerpt on the argument from reason above, and the difference between "magical thinking" and "miraculous thinking" in the Judeo-Christian tradition, and move forward from there.
Elf-Prince, have you EVER actually designed or built something REAL?
Assuming by "real" you mean in meatspace (i.e., not software) - only stuff like vocational training centers for Costa Rican foster children, a 3-floor 32"x16" passive refrigeration system (embarrassingly, I managed to nail-gun my finger, despite being the only person on the work site with previous nail-gun experience), a static-arm ballista (with a well calibrated muzzle velocity, for about a meter of accuracy in targeting at up to 85 meters) or three, a gasification system to produce natural gas from waste biomass, the odd handful of killer robots, countless electronics projects, and a decent amount of concrete-work and framing for our spring house. And the ubiquitous Lego / model rocketry sorts of stuff.
As a fun side note, to the more specific purpose of this topic: recent results in information theory appear to be highlighting a connection between the uncertainty principle and the second law of thermodynamics. Apparently, we can't replace uncertainty with a hidden variable theory without allowing for perpetual motion machines. Which offers some explanatory value to the Bell Inequalities.