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disillusioned

Truth, Knowledge, and Belief: An Exploration

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I made mention of formal truth in a previous post, and said that I think it is a type of epistemic truth. I'd like to return to this idea now and be a bit more clear about what I mean by this.

 

Formal truth is generally taken to refer to logical or mathematical truth. These truths can be shown to follow directly, via deduction, from a well-defined set of axioms. That is to say, formal truths are actually provable. On standard arithmetic, that 2+5=7 is a formal truth. That the angles in a triangle add up to 180 degrees is a formal truth on Euclidean geometry. Other examples can be given, but I want to look at these two for now.

 

I want to explain why I think of formal truth as a type of epistemic truth, and not a type of ontological truth. It's very tempting to say 2+5=7, for example, is just a brute fact, that it's true irrespective of what we think, and is therefore an ontological truth, but I think this is incorrect. The reason why I think that this is incorrect is that "2", "5", and "7" are not material objects. They are ideas. Moreover, the rules of arithmetic are a human construction, and they don't have to be as they are. On addition modulo 6, for example, 2+5=1. It's possible to do this type of addition over a field which doesn't contain 7 at all (ie, a field in which 7 is not a thing). For the record, this is something that mathematicians actually do, and it does have real applications. So it does not have to be the case that 2+5=7. It is the case because of our conception of the numbers involved, and our definition of the rules of arithmetic. But this is how epistemic truth works.

 

The triangle example also breaks down as a matter of ontological truth. Ideal Euclidean triangles do not exist in the real world. All real-world triangles are approximations. Moreover, triangles which are drawn on the surface of the Earth violate this rule altogether, because the surface of the Earth is not flat. The axioms of Euclidean geometry, like the rules of arithmetic, are a human construction. They can be used to generate quite a lot of truths, but these truths rest on human thought, which is to say they are epistemic.

 

Now, it is very important to note that I am not saying that we can't reason formally about ontologically objective objects. We certainly can. Scientists do this all the time. It may even be the case that we can establish a formal truth which gives us knowledge of an ontological truth. But we can't generate ontological truth through formal reasoning. What we generate is epistemic truth. That is the point. We can reason formally about the natural world, and in so doing, build scientific models which establish formal truths. This may lead us to claim knowledge of ontological truths, but we need to keep in mind that our knowledge of these kinds of truths is really just firmly held belief. By contrast, when we establish formal truth, we don't merely establish knowledge of a truth, we actually establish the truth itself. I say that I know the earth is round, but I say it is true that 2+5=7 (on the usual rules, etcetera). This is an important difference.

 

I think that one of the things that science does is build models of the universe. The models have rules and laws. When a particular model becomes well-established and generally accepted, it becomes very tempting to start treating the laws of that model as actual laws of the universe. I think this is a fundamental mistake. What we typically call laws of the universe are actually laws of our models of the universe. Where their truth has been established, it has been established epistemically. It must be this way. This is not to say that we can’t have knowledge about ontological truth, just that we can’t have absolute certainty.

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On 11/6/2019 at 10:34 PM, disillusioned said:

@WalterP you've raised some excellent questions,  which relate directly to the next topic I was hoping to explore. We definitely need to look at how science relates to all of this. Please bear with me. I'll get back to you over the next couple of days.

 

Hello Disillusioned.  :)

 

I intend to do your reply justice over the weekend.

 

Thank you.

 

Walter.

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11 hours ago, disillusioned said:

This is not to say that we can’t have knowledge about ontological truth, just that we can’t have absolute certainty.

 

That seems to be the over arching conclusion.

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1 hour ago, Karna said:

Found a small video on Truth and Belief:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wwUd9gHusc0

 

What do you all think of it?

 

 

I want to say that I agree with some of the sentiments expressed, but I'm not sure I can say even that.

 

It isn't at all clear to me what he means by "believe", "know", and "perceive". I think there may be something to what he is trying to say, but I'm afraid I just don't know exactly what it is that he's trying to say.

 

What I've been trying to do in this thread is establish clarity in my use of terms like belief,  knowledge, and truth, so that I can develop some ideas about these things in a coherent fashion. In doing this, I've been taking an axiomatic approach, which is to say that I've been arguing on the basis of assumptions. The gentleman in the video seems to think that assumptions are barriers to knowledge, and that belief is blind necessarily. This clearly conflicts with what I've argued this far, which is fine in itself; I'm happy to look at alternative views. The problem is that I just don't know what exactly he's trying to say. So I can't actually consider his view, because I just don't know what it is.

 

Can you offer any clarity here @Karna?

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On 11/7/2019 at 10:27 AM, disillusioned said:

Walter,

 

Hello Disillusioned.  :)  Its taken me a bit longer to get back to you on this, but here I am.

 

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I think the overarching question of how science fits in with the account that I've given so far is extremely important. I'm going to try to sketch an answer to this question briefly before I address the specific questions you raised in your post.

 

I hope that it is fairly clear that science is a human endeavour. It's a process which aims to generate knowledge about the natural world. That is, it aims to generate knowledge of (primarily) ontological truths. Notice, immediately, that I do not say that science generates ontological truth. What it generates is knowledge. Because of science, we know that the Earth revolves around the sun, that water boils at 100 degrees Celsius at standard atmospheric pressure, and that light bends away from the normal when it passes from a dense medium into one that is less dense. Now, the crucial point is this: it is very tempting to say that science has established the truth of these statements, but I think that this is incorrect. What science has done is establish our knowledge of these things. We know these things, which is to say that we are quite sure that they are true. But we are not certain. We can never be certain.

 

Agreed.  Also, what you say here intersects with almost uncanny accuracy with what I had planned to delve into about David Hume's thoughts on this, in the Failed Cosmology thread.

 

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Recall that on my account, knowledge reduces to firmly held belief. I have no qualms about saying that I know that the Earth revolves around the sun. There's all kinds of good, scientific evidence to support this belief. So it is very well justified. But it's still just a firmly held belief. I think it has to be this way. Suppose for the moment that it actually is ontologically true that the Earth revolves around the sun. What this means is that it needs to be true regardless of our knowledge of it's truth. Moreover, it would also need to have been true in previous eras, when basically everyone who knew anything knew that the sun revolved around the Earth. Tycho Brahe was a pretty serious scientist, but he managed to produce what we now know to be a more or less entirely incorrect model of the solar system. This seems to entail exactly what I've been arguing so far: that science produces knowledge, but not necessarily truth, and also, that today's knowledge is quite often tomorrow's misapprehension.

 

And this agrees with the uncertainty of knowledge, your very point above.

 

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So where does this leave us? Well, we've seen that science generates knowledge of ontological truth, but we haven't looked in detail at how it does this. And this is where I think things get really interesting. Previously on these boards I've written that I think science offers epistemically objective descriptions of an ontologically objective reality. What I mean by this is that science builds models of the universe. The models make all kinds of ontological truth claims, because they are attempts to describe the natural world. But the models themselves are constructed by humans. They operate according to assumptions we make, and lead to conclusions which are based on both observation and inference. I think it is correct to say that the models can establish formal truth, which I view as a kind of epistemic truth (there's quite a bit more that I want to say about formal truth as a type of epistemic truth, but I think it's tangential for now, so I'll come back to it later if it is of interest), but they do not establish ontological truth.

 

Agreed.  If ontological truths are absolute, then the inherent uncertainty of epistemic truths would seem to indicate that things epistemic cannot establish things ontological.  The ephemeral cannot generate the permanent.

 

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Take, for example, the Hawking-Penrose Theorems. On their assumptions, it follows logically that the universe began in a singularity. So on their model, it is formally true that the universe began in a singularity. It's mathematically provable. The problem is, their model doesn't fit the observational data, so something is wrong with their assumptions. It doesn't seem to be ontologically true that the universe began in a singularity. Nevertheless, whether it did or not is a matter of ontological truth. Hawking and Penrose offered a particular model, and on that model it was true. And for a while, everyone knew that the universe began to exist. Nowadays, we can't really claim to know this anymore, because the model that Hawking and Penrose offered is outdated. This is what science does all the time. It builds models of the universe which establish formal (read: epistemic) truths. It's very easy to confuse these with ontological truths, but that is a disastrous mistake, on my view.

 

Yes, yes and yes again.  

 

Now for a confession, Disillusioned.  I much prefer the neatness and cleanness of hard science data to the slipperiness of these philosophical concepts.  But, I know that these concepts are of great importance.  So, like a teenager who tries to get out of doing the chores, I've found myself putting off dealing with them.  You can even see evidence of my reluctance in the way I've suggested that you and Josh and I put off dealing with the philosophical aspects of WLC's apologetics until after we've tackled the hard science. 

 

Mea culpa!  

 

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Neils Bohr said that "It is wrong to think that the task of physics is to find out how Nature is. Physics concerns what we say about Nature." I think this is basically the same thing that I'm trying to say: physics, and science in general, concerns our knowledge, not truth per se. Where science does concern truth directly, the truth in question is formal, or epistemic, rather than ontological in nature.

 

There's a lot more that can be said about this, but for now I want to move to the questions you actually asked.

 

Agreed.  Bohr can be a bitter pill for some to digest because there's still a widely prevailing, but incorrect, view that science tells us exactly how nature is.  No.  Science provides a tentative, incomplete and provisional working description of how we think nature is.

 

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I hope that what I wrote above clarifies this somewhat. I think that science in general can generate ontological knowledge, but it's important to note that knowledge is not certain. For fields of science like astronomy and cosmology which rely more heavily on assumption and inference than do some other fields, our level of certainty in the ontological knowledge we obtain must be lessened. This is why I tend to take novel cosmological theories with rather large grains of salt.

 

Agreed.  I might add that particle physics relies just as heavily upon assumption and inference, if not more so.  The Higgs boson was not actually detected, per se.  Instead, a number of events and interactions were detected by the LHC and when these were matched against simulations of how the Higgs was expected to behave, there was a high degree of correspondence.  When the scientists were satisfied that the level of confidence was at 5 sigma, they announced the detection.

 

It's also sobering to note that the complete range of decay products from the interactions couldn't be fully detected.  This was known before the machine was even built.  The ingenious solution to that problem was to precisely calculate the amount of energy going in to a collision and then subtract the amount being detected leaving the event.  The energies of the detected muons, photons, W and Z particles, etc. was known and when all of these had been accounted for, the shortfall equaled the predicted energy of the undetectable decay products.  Perform that procedure often enough, eliminate as many variables as possible, account for human error and if what you have left matches what you were looking for, then (even though you couldn't detect 100% of the resulting particles) you can say that you've detected the Higgs.

 

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What I would say is that there is clearly a realm which is directly accessible to our senses, and this allows us to claim ontological knowledge about this realm with much more surety than we can claim such knowledge about cosmology, for example. I can claim with quite a lot of certainty that granite is hard. For all intents and purposes, I know this for sure. I can directly verify it. The only thing keeping me from claiming direct access to ontological truth in this case is the possibility that I might not be able to trust my senses. But on the assumption that I can (which seems reasonable), it follows that granite is hard. So I know this with much more certainty than I know even that the Earth revolves around the sun, which I'm pretty damn sure about.

 

The above agrees with what Hume's had to say about the difference between Relations of Ideas and Matters of Fact. (More about this to follow, I think.  The time seems right.)

 

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With respect to the piano and the black hole, I want to say that the existence of these things and the ontological truths associated with them are entirely independent of our sense experiences. This is the mark of ontological truth, after all: it's true irrespective of what we think about it, or even whether we think about it, or whether we can think about it. So yes, ontological truths cannot be directly linked to our senses. Using our senses to gain knowledge is a primitive way of doing science. And science, as we've seen, doesn't establish ontological truth, just knowledge.

 

 

I can't fault your logic here, Disillusioned.  I find myself agreeing with you all the way.  Mostly because I've had to cover similar ground in the five years I spent researching, checking and testing WLC's claims about singularity theory.  All I would say about that period is that I felt much more certain about the science aspects I covered than the epistemic/philosophical aspects.  But now might be the very time for me to engage more fully with the latter.

 

That being so, I'll follow this post with another that contains some material that i believe is very relevant.

 

Thank you.

 

Walter.

 

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Disillusioned,

 

Here are two excerpts from Julian Baggini's book, A Short History of Truth: Consolations for the Post-Truth World.

 

Chapter 5, Empirical Truths.

 

Pages 54 / 56.

 

Etymologically, empirical means ‘from experience’, and experience seems to be telling us that an empirical approach leaves us with uncertainty, rather than knowledge.  Far from being a weakness, however, the open-endedness of empirical inquiry is actually its strength.  David Hume made this point wonderfully when he observed that ‘all the objects of human reason or enquiry may naturally be divided into two kinds, to wit, Relations of Ideas, and Matters of Fact.’

 

Relations of ideas concern truths of maths, geometry and pure logic.  As we have seen, such truths are, in effect, true by definition, but they tell us nothing about the real world.  Matters of fact, in contrast, cannot be established by pure logic.  That also means they cannot be established with 100 per cent certainty.  ‘The contrary of every matter of fact is still possible,’ warned Hume.  ‘That the sun will not rise tomorrow is no less intelligible a proposition, and implies no more contradiction than the affirmation, that it will rise.’

 

Indeed, we can easily imagine circumstances in which we would have to accept that the sun is unlikely to rise tomorrow, such as if a massive asteroid were about to hit the Earth.

A lack of certainty is therefore part of the deal with empirical truth.  We need to give up on it in order to take up the possibility of knowledge of the world.  Absolute certainties can only be obtained about purely conceptual matters, such as axioms of mathematics and laws of logic.

 

If we want to know about the world then there is potentially no end of discoveries – for ourselves or the entire human race – that might force us to alter our opinions.  (That’s why despite my best efforts, it is almost inevitable that I have unintentionally stated at least one falsehood in this book.)  What we hold to be true is constantly open to being tested, which makes the truths that pass the test more reliable.  The strength of empirical truth resides in the fact that it is always open to scrutiny, revision and rejection.

 

Chapter 4, Reasoned Truths.

 

P 44.

 

In modern philosophy, the two great representatives of this optimistic ‘rationalist’ tradition were Rene Descartes and Baruch Spinoza.  Both were impressed by the ways in which proofs were generated in mathematics and geometry.  They thought that with due care and diligence, it would be possible to replicate this precision in all areas of human knowledge.

 

‘Those long chains composed of very simple and easy reasonings, which geometers customarily use to arrive at their most difficult demonstrations,’ wrote Descartes, ‘had given me occasion to suppose that all the things which come within the scope of human knowledge are interconnected in the same way.’

 

David Hume worked out the basic flaw in rationalism back in the eighteenth century.  All pure reason could analyse was the relationship between concepts.  But this tells us nothing about the relationship between the things in the world those concepts relate to.

 

‘1 + 1 = 2’ is a truth about numbers, but says nothing about what happens when you put two physical things together, where they might annihilate each other, merge into one, or multiply.

 

 

I lighted upon these Disillusioned because they seemed to be telling me something important about the way WLC was presenting H & P's entirely mathematical 'proof' of singularity theory as a Matter of Fact.  As a brute fact of reality.  As an ontological truth. 

 

This cannot be so!   Singularity theory is a construct of human endeavour and so MUST BE an epistemic truth. 

 

Thank you.

 

Walter.

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For good measure Disillusioned, here are links to sites and articles I thought would be relevant to our examination of WLC's claims about H & P's 'proof'.  Given what's gone between us here in this thread, I think it's now right for me to share this info with you, for your consideration.

 

https://www.physicsforums.com/insights/proofs-in-mathematics/

https://www.nsta.org/publications/news/story.aspx?id=52402

https://oregonstate.edu/instruction/bb317/scientifictheories.html

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mathematical_proof

https://undsci.berkeley.edu/teaching/misconceptions.php

https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/Documents/college-eps/college/stem/Student-Summer-Education-Internships/Proof-and-Reasoning.pdf

 

Thank you.

 

Walter.

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Walter,

 

Thanks for a very thorough and interesting couple of posts. I just have a few brief remarks for now, but I will have more to say over the next few days. 

 

On 11/12/2019 at 10:14 AM, WalterP said:

 

Etymologically, empirical means ‘from experience’, and experience seems to be telling us that an empirical approach leaves us with uncertainty, rather than knowledge.  Far from being a weakness, however, the open-endedness of empirical inquiry is actually its strength.  David Hume made this point wonderfully when he observed that ‘all the objects of human reason or enquiry may naturally be divided into two kinds, to wit, Relations of Ideas, and Matters of Fact.’

 

Relations of ideas concern truths of maths, geometry and pure logic.  As we have seen, such truths are, in effect, true by definition, but they tell us nothing about the real world.  Matters of fact, in contrast, cannot be established by pure logic.  That also means they cannot be established with 100 per cent certainty.  ‘The contrary of every matter of fact is still possible,’ warned Hume.  ‘That the sun will not rise tomorrow is no less intelligible a proposition, and implies no more contradiction than the affirmation, that it will rise.’

 

Indeed, we can easily imagine circumstances in which we would have to accept that the sun is unlikely to rise tomorrow, such as if a massive asteroid were about to hit the Earth.

A lack of certainty is therefore part of the deal with empirical truth.  We need to give up on it in order to take up the possibility of knowledge of the world.  Absolute certainties can only be obtained about purely conceptual matters, such as axioms of mathematics and laws of logic.

 

If we want to know about the world then there is potentially no end of discoveries – for ourselves or the entire human race – that might force us to alter our opinions.  (That’s why despite my best efforts, it is almost inevitable that I have unintentionally stated at least one falsehood in this book.)  What we hold to be true is constantly open to being tested, which makes the truths that pass the test more reliable.  The strength of empirical truth resides in the fact that it is always open to scrutiny, revision and rejection.

 

This seems like an interesting book. I might need to give it a read. 

 

This particular passage makes mention, among othe things, of Hume's distinction between matters of fact and relations of ideas. If I recall correctly, it was Hume's writings on these (and other) topics that played a key role in inspiring Kant to formulate some of his most crucial ideas. In particular, it seems to me that there are stong parallels between Hume's "relations of ideas" and Kant's "analytic judgements" as well as between Hume's "matters of fact" and Kant's "synthetic judgements". Kant and Hume are both philosophers for whom I have a great deal of respect, even if I am still only barely beginning to scratch at the surface of their ideas.

 

One thing that is interesting to me at the moment is that it seems that both Kant and Hume, as I currently understand them, tried to ground philosophy in epistemology rather than ontology. I think these things go hand in hand,  but ontology comes first. This is why I start with basic assumptions about nature, use these to formulate an idea of truth, and try to build a concept of knowledge from there.

 

I have more to say about this, but I'm pressed for time at the moment, so I'll have to come back to it. 

 

On 11/12/2019 at 10:14 AM, WalterP said:

 

In modern philosophy, the two great representatives of this optimistic ‘rationalist’ tradition were Rene Descartes and Baruch Spinoza.  Both were impressed by the ways in which proofs were generated in mathematics and geometry.  They thought that with due care and diligence, it would be possible to replicate this precision in all areas of human knowledge.

 

‘Those long chains composed of very simple and easy reasonings, which geometers customarily use to arrive at their most difficult demonstrations,’ wrote Descartes, ‘had given me occasion to suppose that all the things which come within the scope of human knowledge are interconnected in the same way.’

 

David Hume worked out the basic flaw in rationalism back in the eighteenth century.  All pure reason could analyse was the relationship between concepts.  But this tells us nothing about the relationship between the things in the world those concepts relate to.

 

‘1 + 1 = 2’ is a truth about numbers, but says nothing about what happens when you put two physical things together, where they might annihilate each other, merge into one, or multiply.

 

This is an excellent quotation, and it clearly illustrates one of the reasons why I'm a great admirer of Hume. Descartes, I think, for all his brilliance, made a number of critical errors, and Hume went a long way towards correcting some of those errors.

 

On 11/12/2019 at 10:14 AM, WalterP said:

 

I lighted upon these Disillusioned because they seemed to be telling me something important about the way WLC was presenting H & P's entirely mathematical 'proof' of singularity theory as a Matter of Fact.  As a brute fact of reality.  As an ontological truth. 

 

This cannot be so!   Singularity theory is a construct of human endeavour and so MUST BE an epistemic truth. 

 

Agreed.

 

I want to look more at the relationship between Hume's 'matters of fact' and my 'ontological truths' , as well as what you've pointed out here about the H-P theorems, and the larger issue of formal truths in general, and their relation to science. I'm hoping I'll be able to get around to writing a more rigorous response in the next few days.

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Since @WalterP brought it up, and since it has direct bearing on the main topics of this thread, I want to spend a bit more time exploring the connections between Hume’s matters of fact and relations of ideas, and my ontological and epistemic truths, and the connections that all of these ideas have to science.

 

Hume’s notion of “relations of ideas” corresponds roughly to our knowledge of statements which are logically necessary. Mathematical truths, such as “3+2=5”, and tautological sentences such as “all bachelors are unmarried” are typical examples of relations of ideas. Such things cannot be asserted to be false without giving rise to contradictions. As such, we may claim a priori knowledge of these types of claims.

 

By contrast, matters of fact concern knowledge that we gain from experience. That the sun rose this morning is a matter of fact, as is the fact that it set last night. Matters of fact cannot be shown to be true or false using pure reason; experience is necessary. Moreover, denial of a matter of fact need not lead to a logical contradiction. If you say it is day, I can say it is night. One of us is wrong, but either way, there is no huge logical crisis. We can only know who is right through experience. Thus, we may only claim a posteriori knowledge of these types of claims.

 

There is a clear similarity, I think, between my notion of ontological truth and Hume’s notion of matters of fact. Both are clearly referring to the natural world, in general. There is an important difference though: matters of fact are what I would refer to as knowledge claims which are often about ontological truths. They are not ontological truths themselves.

On my view, there are some things which are actually ontologically true. Real brute facts about the world. The problem is, whenever we try to give examples of such things, we can only speak from our experiences. So when I say “the earth is round”, or even “granite is hard”, I am making an ontological truth claim, and my contention is that I know that each of these statements is actually ontologically true. This is roughly equivalent to saying that I claim each thing to be a “matter of fact”. Notice, however, that my claim to know that each statement is true does not in any way necessitate that it actually is. The history of science is littered with things that people used to know, which we know to be incorrect. This does not necessarily mean that any ontological truths have changed. Knowledge claims, on my account, concern what we believe about ontological truths. So it isn’t quite correct to draw a direct equivalence between matters of fact and ontological truths. Rather, matters of fact are knowledge claims. They are often about ontological truths, but they don’t always have to be, as I’ll explain in a moment, and they are not ontological truths themselves.

 

Relations of ideas, on the other hand, are most similar to what I have called formal truths. Recall that I am treating formal truths as a subset of epistemic truths. Formal truths can actually be shown to be true logically and necessarily (using a formal language if required). Relations of ideas seem to me to be basically the same as this. These are things which are either true by definition (for example, “all bachelors are unmarried”) or which follow directly deductively from axioms (for example, “3+2=5”). Thus, relations of ideas concern a type of epistemic truth, namely, formal truth, but I do not think that they account for all epistemic truths. Take the case of the statement “money is valuable”. This is an epistemically true statement. However, our knowledge that it is true comes from experience. Thus, when we claim to know that money is valuable, we are claiming this to be a matter of fact. What I think is really interesting here is that the truth of the statement “money is valuable” derives from our knowledge that money is valuable (this is what it means for it to be epistemically true), but our knowledge of the truth of the statement “money is valuable” derives from experience (when we try to use money, we find that it has value). Each experience of money’s value reinforces our belief that money is valuable, and we end up in a self-reinforcing cycle. This is not a problem logically, because no one is claiming that it is necessarily true that money is valuable. It just happens to be the case. It’s a matter of fact, but it’s a matter of fact which corresponds to an epistemic truth. This is another reason why I think we can’t draw a direct line between Hume’s matters of fact and my ontological truths. Some matters of fact refer to epistemic truths.

 

Alright, now back to science for a moment. When we do science, it seems to me to be fairly clear that we are reasoning on the basis of observation and experience. Thus, scientific knowledge is a posteriori in nature. Science aims at matters of fact. Where things get murky is that when we move into more sophisticated science, we end up building (sometimes formal) models which we then use to make predictions about what we should see. We begin to reason inductively. On the basis of what we have observed, together with some assumptions, we make predictions about we expect to observe. This is the essence of inductive reasoning. Hume is famous for pointing out that there is a problem with induction: we have no logical reason for thinking that our experiences of the past should be representative of the future. It simply doesn’t follow that because the sun has risen every morning of my life, it will therefore rise tomorrow. Nevertheless, we all feel fairly confident in claiming to know that it will. This is a very famous philosophical problem which we can spend some more time looking at if it is of interest, but for now I just want to say that I think this is basically correct, but it isn’t really a problem. We can’t help but reason inductively. It’s the only card we’ve got to play. And it seems to work pretty damn well, so we carry on.

 

Where scientists sometimes run into trouble is when they lose track of the fact that things which have been shown to be true on a particular model are not necessarily actually ontologically true. The Hawking-Penrose theorems are good examples here. These are formal truths (ie, relations of ideas), but the model under which they are provable is out-dated. So they can’t be said to be matters of fact, let alone to actually be ontologically true. This is where WLC makes one of his many fatal errors.

 

There is a lot more that can be said about this, but that’s probably enough for one post.

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On 11/16/2019 at 5:23 PM, disillusioned said:

Since @WalterP brought it up, and since it has direct bearing on the main topics of this thread, I want to spend a bit more time exploring the connections between Hume’s matters of fact and relations of ideas, and my ontological and epistemic truths, and the connections that all of these ideas have to science.

 

Hello again, Disillusioned.  😀

 

I've been thinking about what you've written here.

 

On 11/16/2019 at 5:23 PM, disillusioned said:

Hume’s notion of “relations of ideas” corresponds roughly to our knowledge of statements which are logically necessary. Mathematical truths, such as “3+2=5”, and tautological sentences such as “all bachelors are unmarried” are typical examples of relations of ideas. Such things cannot be asserted to be false without giving rise to contradictions. As such, we may claim a priori knowledge of these types of claims.

 

Agreed.  Hawking and Penrose's singularity theory is proven by contradiction.  

 

On 11/16/2019 at 5:23 PM, disillusioned said:

 

By contrast, matters of fact concern knowledge that we gain from experience. That the sun rose this morning is a matter of fact, as is the fact that it set last night. Matters of fact cannot be shown to be true or false using pure reason; experience is necessary. Moreover, denial of a matter of fact need not lead to a logical contradiction. If you say it is day, I can say it is night. One of us is wrong, but either way, there is no huge logical crisis. We can only know who is right through experience. Thus, we may only claim a posteriori knowledge of these types of claims.

 

Alarm bells have started to sound in my mind, when I read the word 'experience'.  Yes, it is the right word to use, but I feel that it should be clearly defined and its usage subject to strict protocols.  The reason why I'm so cautious here is that theists and religiously-minded people from all cultures and societies are apt to use their 'experiences' to reinforce their beliefs.  If we give them a free hand to treat their subjective and highly-personal experiences as entirely valid knowledge, then they will do so.  They will place these subjective experiences on a par with rigorously-tested scientific knowledge.

 

But the two are not the same.  Blaise Pascal provides us with a worked example of this.   https://churchpop.com/2016/04/19/night-fire-blaise-pascals/

His utterly subjective, life-changing experience cannot be treated as having the same experiential 'weight' as the mathematical proofs and formulas he worked with.  It can be granted as being true for him, but not true for all.   

 

In my opinion there has to be a sharply drawn line of demarcation between the kinds of experiences that constitute valid objective knowledge and those that don't.  If we fail to impose rigor now, we can hardly backtrack and impose it later.

 

On 11/16/2019 at 5:23 PM, disillusioned said:

There is a clear similarity, I think, between my notion of ontological truth and Hume’s notion of matters of fact. Both are clearly referring to the natural world, in general. There is an important difference though: matters of fact are what I would refer to as knowledge claims which are often about ontological truths. They are not ontological truths themselves.

On my view, there are some things which are actually ontologically true. Real brute facts about the world. The problem is, whenever we try to give examples of such things, we can only speak from our experiences. So when I say “the earth is round”, or even “granite is hard”, I am making an ontological truth claim, and my contention is that I know that each of these statements is actually ontologically true. This is roughly equivalent to saying that I claim each thing to be a “matter of fact”. Notice, however, that my claim to know that each statement is true does not in any way necessitate that it actually is. The history of science is littered with things that people used to know, which we know to be incorrect. This does not necessarily mean that any ontological truths have changed. Knowledge claims, on my account, concern what we believe about ontological truths. So it isn’t quite correct to draw a direct equivalence between matters of fact and ontological truths. Rather, matters of fact are knowledge claims. They are often about ontological truths, but they don’t always have to be, as I’ll explain in a moment, and they are not ontological truths themselves.

 

Agreed.  But, once again, we must not leave the door open to those who would establish the real brute facts about the world from their subjective, personal experiences. If they cannot abide by sensible and rational protocols for judging which experiences lead to valid knowledge claims about ontological truths and which don't, then their 'experiences' must be judged as invalid.

 

On 11/16/2019 at 5:23 PM, disillusioned said:

 

Relations of ideas, on the other hand, are most similar to what I have called formal truths. Recall that I am treating formal truths as a subset of epistemic truths. Formal truths can actually be shown to be true logically and necessarily (using a formal language if required). Relations of ideas seem to me to be basically the same as this. These are things which are either true by definition (for example, “all bachelors are unmarried”) or which follow directly deductively from axioms (for example, “3+2=5”). Thus, relations of ideas concern a type of epistemic truth, namely, formal truth, but I do not think that they account for all epistemic truths. Take the case of the statement “money is valuable”. This is an epistemically true statement. However, our knowledge that it is true comes from experience. Thus, when we claim to know that money is valuable, we are claiming this to be a matter of fact. What I think is really interesting here is that the truth of the statement “money is valuable” derives from our knowledge that money is valuable (this is what it means for it to be epistemically true), but our knowledge of the truth of the statement “money is valuable” derives from experience (when we try to use money, we find that it has value). Each experience of money’s value reinforces our belief that money is valuable, and we end up in a self-reinforcing cycle. This is not a problem logically, because no one is claiming that it is necessarily true that money is valuable. It just happens to be the case. It’s a matter of fact, but it’s a matter of fact which corresponds to an epistemic truth. This is another reason why I think we can’t draw a direct line between Hume’s matters of fact and my ontological truths. Some matters of fact refer to epistemic truths.

 

I do wish that I didn't find these concepts so slippery!  Give me hard data any time, over this.  😕

 

Disillusioned, is it possible to represent these four things (necessary truths, formal truths, epistemic truths and ontological truths) in some sort of visual representation?  A Venn diagram or a flow chart, perhaps?  Right now I'm struggling to see which relates to which and how.  I am way, way out of my depth when I leave the rigor of science behind.  Yes, I acknowledge that this is a failing on my part.  When I look at a science paper, all of the work that goes into removing as much subjectivity as possible from the topic in question, has already been done for me.  

 

On 11/16/2019 at 5:23 PM, disillusioned said:

 

Alright, now back to science for a moment. When we do science, it seems to me to be fairly clear that we are reasoning on the basis of observation and experience.

 

A point of order, if I may.  Going back to what I said above, scientific observation and experience must never be equated with subjective, personal observation and experience.  The two are not on the same footing and they carry different 'weight'.  

 

On 11/16/2019 at 5:23 PM, disillusioned said:

 

 

Thus, scientific knowledge is a posteriori in nature. Science aims at matters of fact. Where things get murky is that when we move into more sophisticated science, we end up building (sometimes formal) models which we then use to make predictions about what we should see. We begin to reason inductively. On the basis of what we have observed, together with some assumptions, we make predictions about we expect to observe. This is the essence of inductive reasoning. Hume is famous for pointing out that there is a problem with induction: we have no logical reason for thinking that our experiences of the past should be representative of the future. It simply doesn’t follow that because the sun has risen every morning of my life, it will therefore rise tomorrow. Nevertheless, we all feel fairly confident in claiming to know that it will. This is a very famous philosophical problem which we can spend some more time looking at if it is of interest, but for now I just want to say that I think this is basically correct, but it isn’t really a problem. We can’t help but reason inductively. It’s the only card we’ve got to play. And it seems to work pretty damn well, so we carry on.

 

No thank you.  I'm already bogged down (see above) and I don't think I could cope with delving into the differences between deductive and inductive reasoning.  If it ain't broke, then don't fix it!

 

On 11/16/2019 at 5:23 PM, disillusioned said:

 

Where scientists sometimes run into trouble is when they lose track of the fact that things which have been shown to be true on a particular model are not necessarily actually ontologically true. The Hawking-Penrose theorems are good examples here. These are formal truths (ie, relations of ideas), but the model under which they are provable is out-dated. So they can’t be said to be matters of fact, let alone to actually be ontologically true. This is where WLC makes one of his many fatal errors.

 

There is a lot more that can be said about this, but that’s probably enough for one post.

 

Agreed.  More than enough and enough for me to need some help, please Disillusioned.

 

I would just like to say one more thing about WLC, though.  Right now I'm undecided as to what the **** he was thinking when he began promoting the H - P singularity theory as ontologically true. 

 

If it's a genuine failure to comprehend the difference, then, for someone so learned and well-trained in philosophy, this is a rookie-level mistake.  

If it's a case of his emotional-driven religiosity overwhelming his professional objectivity, then this is a terrible blow to his credibility. 

If he knows the difference and deliberately obscures it (to bring low hanging fruit in the kingdom) then he's no more than a liar for Jesus.

If he knows the difference and deliberately obscures it (to look good in the eyes of his fellow Christians) then how much of his ministry is just a vanity project?

 

I'd like to give him the benefit of the doubt, but I just can't see any way he comes out of this well.

 

Thank you.

 

Walter.

 

 

 

Oh and btw, I'll be illustrating where WLC has shot himself in the other foot, in the Failed Cosmology, in a little while.

 

 

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Walter,

 

Thanks for pushing me on this. I hope it's clear to you and anyone else reading or participating in the thread that I'm basically spitballing here. These are my ideas, and some of them may not stand up to scrutiny,  which is fine. I've heard it said that one of the marks of a good philosopher is that what most people see as problems, they see as discoveries. I'm a novice philosopher at best, but nevertheless I'm not afraid of having holes poked in my theories. The worst case scenario, as I see it, is that I'm completely wrong,  in which case I might learn something.

 

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Alarm bells have started to sound in my mind, when I read the word 'experience'.  Yes, it is the right word to use, but I feel that it should be clearly defined and its usage subject to strict protocols.  The reason why I'm so cautious here is that theists and religiously-minded people from all cultures and societies are apt to use their 'experiences' to reinforce their beliefs.  If we give them a free hand to treat their subjective and highly-personal experiences as entirely valid knowledge, then they will do so.  They will place these subjective experiences on a par with rigorously-tested scientific knowledge.

 

But the two are not the same.  Blaise Pascal provides us with a worked example of this.   https://churchpop.com/2016/04/19/night-fire-blaise-pascals/

His utterly subjective, life-changing experience cannot be treated as having the same experiential 'weight' as the mathematical proofs and formulas he worked with.  It can be granted as being true for him, but not true for all.   

 

In my opinion there has to be a sharply drawn line of demarcation between the kinds of experiences that constitute valid objective knowledge and those that don't.  If we fail to impose rigor now, we can hardly backtrack and impose it later.

 

Agreed. This is very important, and I will address it in detail before I move on. I just want to shelve it for a moment while I try to clear up some of the other issues you raised.

 

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I do wish that I didn't find these concepts so slippery!  Give me hard data any time, over this.  😕

 

Disillusioned, is it possible to represent these four things (necessary truths, formal truths, epistemic truths and ontological truths) in some sort of visual representation?  A Venn diagram or a flow chart, perhaps?  Right now I'm struggling to see which relates to which and how.  I am way, way out of my depth when I leave the rigor of science behind.  Yes, I acknowledge that this is a failing on my part.  When I look at a science paper, all of the work that goes into removing as much subjectivity as possible from the topic in question, has already been done for me.  

 

Please see the attached illustration.

 

A clarification with respect to terminology: I'm using "necessary truth" in roughly the same way as "formal truth". These are a subset of epistemic truths,  which are formal provable,  and are hence logically necessary.

 

The way I'm currently thinking about this is related to functions in mathematics. Let's set aside for the moment my contention that knowledge does not need to be true,  and treat the simplified,  idealistic case where all knowledge is true. In this case, knowledge claims can be thought of as functions,  which have the set of true things (or subsets thereof) as their domains. Matters of fact are knowledge claims which may have ontological truths or epistemic truths as their domain. Relations of ideas have only epistemic truths as their domain, and more specifically, formal (necessary) truths.

 

In the illustration, z is the formal statement 2+3=5, and R(z) is our knowledge of the fact that 2+3=5. Our knowledge here is a relation of ideas, while the truth, z, is a formal truth. Notice that the mapping here is invertible (ie, the arrows go both ways). This is because formal truths are epistemic, which is to say that they are true by virtue of the fact that we know them to be true.

 

Similarly, the truth y in the illustration is that money is valuable, while M2(y) is our knowledge that money is valuable. Again, this is invertible, because money has value precisely because we know it to have value. This is a matter of fact, however, not a relation of ideas, because that money is valuable is not a formal (necessary) truth.

 

M1(x) is our knowledge claim that the earth is round. I haven't written in the actual value for x in an attempt to illustrate the difference between ontological and epistemic truths. Knowledge of ontological truth is always tentative. We know the earth is round, but the reason we know this (x) is always just out of reach for us. We don't define ontological truth. We define epistemic truth. I am trying to show that there is some brute fact about the world which is the source of our claim that the earth is round, but because this fact is ontological in nature, we can't presume to define it precisely. To paraphrase one of my least admired philosophers, what we see is a poor reflection, as in a mirror. Sadly, though, I don't think that we will ever be able to do much better than this. 

 

Notice as well that M1(x) is not invertible. This is because x is an ontological truth,  and hence does not depend on our knowledge of it.

 

I hope this clarifies things a little. If not, I'm more than happy to try again.

 

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A point of order, if I may.  Going back to what I said above, scientific observation and experience must never be equated with subjective, personal observation and experience.  The two are not on the same footing and they carry different 'weight'.  

 

Agreed. As stated above, I'll try to develop this more thoroughly shortly.

 

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No thank you.  I'm already bogged down (see above) and I don't think I could cope with delving into the differences between deductive and inductive reasoning.  If it ain't broke, then don't fix it!

 

Fair enough, and I tend to agree with the sentiment. As I said before, the essence of my response to the problem of induction is to say "ok, but that's not a problem. It seems to work..."

 

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I would just like to say one more thing about WLC, though.  Right now I'm undecided as to what the **** he was thinking when he began promoting the H - P singularity theory as ontologically true. 

 

If it's a genuine failure to comprehend the difference, then, for someone so learned and well-trained in philosophy, this is a rookie-level mistake.  

If it's a case of his emotional-driven religiosity overwhelming his professional objectivity, then this is a terrible blow to his credibility. 

If he knows the difference and deliberately obscures it (to bring low hanging fruit in the kingdom) then he's no more than a liar for Jesus.

If he knows the difference and deliberately obscures it (to look good in the eyes of his fellow Christians) then how much of his ministry is just a vanity project?

 

I'd like to give him the benefit of the doubt, but I just can't see any way he comes out of this well.

 

I agree with this entirely.

 

My opinion is that it is likely that WLC started out with good intentions. He likely now realizes that his arguments don't obtain his desired conclusion,  but he's too deep into it to back out. I would hate to speculate about his thought processes, but I can see a potential rationalization. If he truly believes his conclusion, and he truly believes that it is essential that others come to agree with him, and he knows that his arguments are convincing to many people who simply don't know better, then it makes sense for him to continue making the same arguments even if he is doing so in bad faith. The result may be the only thing he cares about.

 

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Oh and btw, I'll be illustrating where WLC has shot himself in the other foot, in the Failed Cosmology, in a little while.

 

 

Excellent. I've been inactive in that thread recently because of a lack of time,  not a lack of interest. And also because I haven't had any quibbles with what's been posted lately. All good stuff.

 

Truth and Knowledge.pdf

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I want to get back to the concerns that @WalterP raised about the distinction between the type of experience that gives rise to scientific knowledge and the type of experience that the religious often cite in attempts to justify their claims. This is a very important issue, and it's worth taking the time to get it right. I want to note at the start that I'm using the term "theism" in a very strong sense in this post. I do this because I am trying to draw a stark contrast between theistic worldviews and naturalistic worldviews. Of course I'm aware that theism comes in a variety of forms, and some of them are stronger than others. This is largely beside the point I'm trying to make though, and I'm not interested in making things more complicated than they already are, so I'm lumping them all together for now.

 

The first thing I want to point out is that science is able to function perfectly well on the basis of a worldview which is similar to the one that I began this thread with. The three axioms I posited are sufficient to allow for science. Science is, after all, the study of the natural world by thinking beings. My axioms are not sufficient, however,  for theism. Theism claims specifically that there exists a supernatural realm in addition to the natural one. This doesn't follow from the axioms. Attempts to argue for the supernatural realm on the basis of a normal worldview inevitably fall into fallacy (see: WLC). This has as a consequence that you can have a supernatural realm if you want one, but you'll need to assume it. Add it to the list of axioms, in other words. Doing this results in what I'm referring to here as a theistic worldview,  in contrast to naturalistic worldviews, which resemble the one I've presented.

 

If this is clear,  then it ought to be fairly clear as well that theists and scientists are not playing the same game. (Again, I'm speaking in generalities here,  leaving aside the fact that theists can be scientists. Obviously they can, but I'd argue that inasmuch as they are good scientists, they aren't actively being theists as they do science.  Set that aside.) Scientists are interested in building knowledge about the natural world, while theists are interested in God. The natural world, for the theist, is basically a way of getting to God. It is not valued much for its own sake. The very idea that there might be simple brute facts about the world which are true irrespective of what anybody thinks falls apart on theism, because all facts are true specifically because God has purposed them so to be. All things are true only because God thinks they are true. Hence, all truth is epistemic, save for the existence of God.

This is obviously quite different from the approach that the rest of us take. When a scientist does science, it is so that she can try to build her knowledge. When a theist does anything,  it is so that he can get closer to God.

 

Alright, now back to experience. Because the theist has as his goal discovering more about God, and because the theistic worldview reduces to one in which the only ontological truth is that God exists, the theist is inclined to look for support for his specific God-related beliefs anywhere he can find them. Dreams become laden with deeper meanings. Coincidences become seen as signs of God's favor or displeasure. Confirmation bias begins to play a crucial role, and experiences begin to be interpreted in ways which specifically support one's individual beliefs. Thus, the Christian (for example) may say "I know God exists. I have experienced Him." When pressed, however, it turns out that the experiences in question must be interpreted according to the belief which they supposedly demonstrate. This is, essentially, begging the question.

 

Now let's turn to science for a moment. Science is an attempt by humans to build their knowledge about the natural world. In its simplest forms,  it requires no special equipment or expertise. An example of a very simple scientific claim is that objects which are dropped will fall to the earth. This is directly testable by anyone who has access to anything and the ability to drop it. My knowledge that this claim is true is born of repeated observational evidence (ie, experience). Notice two things immediately: first, any piece of observational evidence I might cite in support of my claim that objects which are dropped will fall is repeatable, and second, one does not need to accept the proposition in order to agree that any particular observation is consistent with it. You can be as skeptical as you like, and maintain that no amount of repetition is sufficient to demonstrate the general rule, but you will find yourself very hard-pressed to deny that a rock which I have dropped, and which has fallen, has in fact fallen.

 

It should be fairly clear from this that the experiences which give rise scientific knowledge are objective in a way that the experiences which theists cite in support of their claims are not. Scientific evidence is repeatable, in principle by absolutely anyone. So long as the experiment is performed in the same way, the results should be the same. Now, of course, in practice it is no longer true that anyone can verify any scientific claim for themselves, directly. This is because science has developed to a point where it is quite sophisticated, and where quite a bit of special expertise and subject specific knowledge may be required in order to carry out a particular experiment. But in principle, anyone can gain the requisite expertise and repeat any experiment. This is absolutely vital for science. An experimental result is nothing if it is not repeatable, and a scientific theory is nothing if it isn't supported by experimental evidence.

 

Now, lets contrast scientific evidence which is based in this type of experience with some of the experiential evidence put forth by theists for their claims. When I was a Christian, I used to pray when I'd lost something that I would find it. Then, when I did find it, I would take that as experiential evidence that prayer works. And, of course, if I didn't find it, I'd just move on and draw no conclusions at all about the efficacy of prayer. This is very clearly different from how science works. When I say I know that objects will fall when dropped, I don't mean that sometimes they will and sometimes they won't. I mean they will all the time. Moreover, when presented with an example of an object which does not fall (Voyager 1, for example), I am able to very clearly explain why it is the case that this object appears to violate the general rule (in this case, it doesn't, it is just that the rule was clumsily stated). It takes only one example of an inexplicable violation of the rule to cause the theory to require revision. This is clearly not the case for theism. When prayer does not work, it usually turns out that God works in mysterious ways.

 

If you want a rough and ready test for whether something is based in science or not, simply ask yourself, "does it work?", or,  more specifically, "does it work whether I expect it to work or not?". This allows us to overcome the difficulty I mentioned above about science being quite sophisticated these days. I verify that the internal combustion engine works every time I drive my car. I can do this even if I don't have a firm grasp on precisely how it works. I trust that some people understand how it works, and they seem to be right. Again, this is very different from Christian faith claims. The Christian claims a partial understanding, as the rest of us do, but the Christian applies no actual rules to the limits of this understanding. Some days it works, some days it doesn't. And, in general, it only works if you expect it to.

 

Hopefully this has adequately addressed the issue of the difference between the nature of the experiences on which scientific evidence is based, and those on which the claims of theists are based. If not, I'll say some more, and try to be more clear.

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On 11/30/2019 at 1:21 PM, disillusioned said:

I want to get back to the concerns that @WalterP raised about the distinction between the type of experience that gives rise to scientific knowledge and the type of experience that the religious often cite in attempts to justify their claims. This is a very important issue, and it's worth taking the time to get it right. I want to note at the start that I'm using the term "theism" in a very strong sense in this post. I do this because I am trying to draw a stark contrast between theistic worldviews and naturalistic worldviews. Of course I'm aware that theism comes in a variety of forms, and some of them are stronger than others. This is largely beside the point I'm trying to make though, and I'm not interested in making things more complicated than they already are, so I'm lumping them all together for now.

 

Hello again, Disillusioned.  😀

 

I'm currently hundreds of miles from home, helping out my brother in law, who's home has been severely damaged in the floods that have affected this part of the UK.  Therefore, I haven't really had the time to do justice to this thread or the Failed Cosmology thread either. Short messages, posted in the Den are all I've been able to send recently.

 

But now I have enough time to respond to your latest offering.

 

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The first thing I want to point out is that science is able to function perfectly well on the basis of a worldview which is similar to the one that I began this thread with. The three axioms I posited are sufficient to allow for science. Science is, after all, the study of the natural world by thinking beings. My axioms are not sufficient, however,  for theism. Theism claims specifically that there exists a supernatural realm in addition to the natural one. This doesn't follow from the axioms. Attempts to argue for the supernatural realm on the basis of a normal worldview inevitably fall into fallacy (see: WLC). This has as a consequence that you can have a supernatural realm if you want one, but you'll need to assume it. Add it to the list of axioms, in other words. Doing this results in what I'm referring to here as a theistic worldview,  in contrast to naturalistic worldviews, which resemble the one I've presented.

 

I checked your three axioms and concur.  

 

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If this is clear,  then it ought to be fairly clear as well that theists and scientists are not playing the same game. (Again, I'm speaking in generalities here,  leaving aside the fact that theists can be scientists. Obviously they can, but I'd argue that inasmuch as they are good scientists, they aren't actively being theists as they do science.  Set that aside.) Scientists are interested in building knowledge about the natural world, while theists are interested in God. The natural world, for the theist, is basically a way of getting to God. It is not valued much for its own sake. The very idea that there might be simple brute facts about the world which are true irrespective of what anybody thinks falls apart on theism, because all facts are true specifically because God has purposed them so to be. All things are true only because God thinks they are true. Hence, all truth is epistemic, save for the existence of God.

This is obviously quite different from the approach that the rest of us take. When a scientist does science, it is so that she can try to build her knowledge. When a theist does anything,  it is so that he can get closer to God.

 

This is an important insight, Disillusioned.  It is vital to look at what motivates scientists, theists and theistic scientists to do what they do.  Theists are motivated to get closer to, understand more of or validate their belief in God.  Scientists certainly want to understand more of the natural universe and (if they acting professionally) should be neutral about having their secular beliefs about it being validated by evidence.  Confirmation or refutation should, ideally, carry no emotional weight in a scientist's thinking.  They should be able to calmly and dispassionately accept whatever the evidence tells them.  But, because humans are emotional beings, it's impossible for any scientist to behave in the way I've outlined.

 

Therefore, scientists are forced by their very natures to work under the burden of their emotions.  Usually, they are professional and objective enough to filter out their emotional biases.  They are also supported in this by the system of peer review.  Though it is imperfect, it works well enough to eliminate the bulk of personal bias and subjective interpretation from what is published.  

 

But, theistic scientists have a double burden.  They have the normal range of human emotions to filter out from their work AND they also possess are strong emotional connection to God, which must necessarily also be removed, for the sake of professionalism and objectivity.  Sadly, there are those who succumb to the emotional pressure of their faith and compromise their scientific objectivity accordingly.  Their motivation has ceased to be one of neutral, scientific curiosity. 

 

 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motivation

 

Motivation is the experience of desire or aversion…You want something, or want to avoid or escape something. As such, motivation has both an objective side – a goal or thing you aspire to – and an internal or subjective aspect: it is you that wants the thing (or wants it to go away). At minimum, motivation requires the biological substrate for physical sensations of pleasure and pain. Animals can thus want or disdain specific objects based on sense perception and experience. But motivation does not stop there. The capacity to form concepts and to reason allows humans can go beyond this minimum state, with a much greater possible range of desires and aversions. This much greater range is supported by the ability to choose one's own goals and values, combined with time horizons for value achievement that can encompass years, decades or longer, and the ability to re-experience past events.

 

When the desire to understand the natural becomes compromised by the desire to validate the supernatural, the objectivity of the scientist in question is in doubt.

 

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Alright, now back to experience. Because the theist has as his goal discovering more about God, and because the theistic worldview reduces to one in which the only ontological truth is that God exists, the theist is inclined to look for support for his specific God-related beliefs anywhere he can find them. Dreams become laden with deeper meanings. Coincidences become seen as signs of God's favor or displeasure. Confirmation bias begins to play a crucial role, and experiences begin to be interpreted in ways which specifically support one's individual beliefs. Thus, the Christian (for example) may say "I know God exists. I have experienced Him." When pressed, however, it turns out that the experiences in question must be interpreted according to the belief which they supposedly demonstrate. This is, essentially, begging the question.

 

So, when a scientist shifts from seeking to understand the natural world to seeking to validate their faith are they at risk of begging the question too?

 

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Now let's turn to science for a moment. Science is an attempt by humans to build their knowledge about the natural world. In its simplest forms,  it requires no special equipment or expertise. An example of a very simple scientific claim is that objects which are dropped will fall to the earth. This is directly testable by anyone who has access to anything and the ability to drop it. My knowledge that this claim is true is born of repeated observational evidence (ie, experience). Notice two things immediately: first, any piece of observational evidence I might cite in support of my claim that objects which are dropped will fall is repeatable, and second, one does not need to accept the proposition in order to agree that any particular observation is consistent with it. You can be as skeptical as you like, and maintain that no amount of repetition is sufficient to demonstrate the general rule, but you will find yourself very hard-pressed to deny that a rock which I have dropped, and which has fallen, has in fact fallen.

 

There could be two Christian arguments against this.  The second more ridiculous than the first.  

 

Christian : "Because each of us is a totally unique individual, no two people can agree on what they observe.  That is why faith trumps observation."

 

Second Christian : "Rocks fall through intelligent falling, not through the action of gravity.  God wills it and it happens.  Falling rocks are evidence of intelligent design by God."

 

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It should be fairly clear from this that the experiences which give rise scientific knowledge are objective in a way that the experiences which theists cite in support of their claims are not. Scientific evidence is repeatable, in principle by absolutely anyone. So long as the experiment is performed in the same way, the results should be the same. Now, of course, in practice it is no longer true that anyone can verify any scientific claim for themselves, directly. This is because science has developed to a point where it is quite sophisticated, and where quite a bit of special expertise and subject specific knowledge may be required in order to carry out a particular experiment. But in principle, anyone can gain the requisite expertise and repeat any experiment. This is absolutely vital for science. An experimental result is nothing if it is not repeatable, and a scientific theory is nothing if it isn't supported by experimental evidence.

 

Agreed. 

 

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Now, lets contrast scientific evidence which is based in this type of experience with some of the experiential evidence put forth by theists for their claims. When I was a Christian, I used to pray when I'd lost something that I would find it. Then, when I did find it, I would take that as experiential evidence that prayer works. And, of course, if I didn't find it, I'd just move on and draw no conclusions at all about the efficacy of prayer. This is very clearly different from how science works. When I say I know that objects will fall when dropped, I don't mean that sometimes they will and sometimes they won't. I mean they will all the time. Moreover, when presented with an example of an object which does not fall (Voyager 1, for example), I am able to very clearly explain why it is the case that this object appears to violate the general rule (in this case, it doesn't, it is just that the rule was clumsily stated). It takes only one example of an inexplicable violation of the rule to cause the theory to require revision. This is clearly not the case for theism. When prayer does not work, it usually turns out that God works in mysterious ways.

 

This resonates with my earlier point about emotional bias.  Because theists are emotionally invested in their beliefs they have a range of emotionally-driven strategies for dealing with whatever challenges their beliefs.  Ignore it completely.  Deny that it took place.  Lie about it.  Claim that everyone interprets events uniquely, so there is no objective way of knowing what actually happened.  Claim that it is part of God's plan.  Claim that God is testing their faith.  Claim that Satan did it.   Etc., etc.  Ad Nauseam.

 

Their objectivity has been compromised by their desires. 

 

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If you want a rough and ready test for whether something is based in science or not, simply ask yourself, "does it work?", or,  more specifically, "does it work whether I expect it to work or not?". This allows us to overcome the difficulty I mentioned above about science being quite sophisticated these days. I verify that the internal combustion engine works every time I drive my car. I can do this even if I don't have a firm grasp on precisely how it works. I trust that some people understand how it works, and they seem to be right. Again, this is very different from Christian faith claims. The Christian claims a partial understanding, as the rest of us do, but the Christian applies no actual rules to the limits of this understanding. Some days it works, some days it doesn't. And, in general, it only works if you expect it to.

 

Some Christians understand the danger any applying any kind of limits, rules or structure to their understanding.  Doing that would limit their freedom to believe what they want as they want and to deny what they want, when they want.  They claim absolute individuality and uniqueness for all, even though what they claim requires that other members have a shared and collective understanding of their claim.  

 

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Hopefully this has adequately addressed the issue of the difference between the nature of the experiences on which scientific evidence is based, and those on which the claims of theists are based. If not, I'll say some more, and try to be more clear.

 

Many thanks for this, Disillusioned.

 

Walter.

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I now want to take what I've developed here so far and try to apply it to some practical questions. The first topic I want to examine is morality. What follows is an attempt to build on what I began to explore in this thread back in 2017. I don’t want to restate everything that was said there, but rather to try to ground it in the theory of truth that I’ve been attempting to develop here.

 

(@Edgarcito, you expressed interest in this topic).

 

If we are going to examine morality, then it seems to me that there are several questions which must be answered:

 

1) What is morality?

2) What is the basis of morality?

3) Is morality objective?

4) Is morality universal?

5) Does morality change over time?

 

I’ll take these questions in order, and we’ll see how far we get.

 

What is morality?

 

Morality, as I’m using the term, concerns moral claims, which are claims about the rightness and wrongness of human actions. It may be claimed that murder is wrong, while caring for one’s children is right, for example. These are moral claims. Moral claims are distinct from other claims in that they do not merely describe what is, they describe what ought to be. This is a fairly simplistic view of morality, but I think it will serve for the purposes of this discussion.

 

What is the basis of morality?

 

This is a more interesting question. Moral claims are routinely made by humans. On what grounds do we make these claims? If I say that an action is wrong, where is the force behind my words? What is it that makes it wrong to murder, and what is it that makes it right to care for one’s children?

 

One possible response to this is to say that natural selection has shaped us to tend to behave in certain ways. It is beneficial to the survival of the species for us not to go about murdering each other, and to care for our children. Because natural selection has also equipped us with conscious thought, we tend to think about our actions, and when we do, we find that we find certain types of actions repulsive, and certain others attractive. We call the former “wrong” and the latter “right”, and morality is born.

 

I think something like the above is basically correct. It isn’t a very robust picture of the origins of morality, and there are lots of specific questions that can be raised, but this is where I think we need to start.

 

Is morality objective?

 

Now we actually get into the meat of this issue. Given that morality concerns “right” and “wrong”, and given that it has an evolutionary basis of some kind, can it be properly said to be objective? Here I will turn back to our favourite apologist William Lane Craig, who routinely argues that, on atheism, objective moral principles do not exist. By “objective moral principles”, Craig means moral principles which are real and binding irrespective of what anybody thinks. In the vocabulary of this thread, Craig seems to be saying that “objective moral principles” are ontological truths, and he seems to be saying that on atheism, there are no such principles. I tend to agree with this, but I don’t think that it follows from this that morality is entirely subjective. I think objective moral truth exists; I just think that moral truths are epistemic in nature.

 

When I say that it is “wrong” to commit murder, I am not merely stating my personal opinion. It is actually wrong. It’s just that the reason why it is wrong is because people think it is wrong. This is the mark of an epistemic truth. Now of course, there are those who disagree. We call them sociopaths, and we generally discount their opinions on this matter. A key point to remember is that epistemic truths do not derive from what any particular individual thinks; they derive from what people in general think. So the existence of individuals who dissent from standard thought on moral issues should not be particularly troubling to us. Anarchists exist as well, and governments still somehow manage to retain authority. So long as most people agree that murder is wrong, it is actually true that murder is wrong. Thus we can have objective morality on atheism; it’s just that moral truths are epistemic rather than ontological in nature. A consequence of this is that WLC’s argument from morality falls apart entirely. He asserts that on atheism objective morality doesn’t exist, but objective morality does exist, therefore God exists. I have just shown that you can have objective morality on atheism. Moral truths are true irrespective of what anybody thinks; they just aren’t true irrespective of what everybody thinks. That is to say, they are epistemically true.

 

Is morality universal?

 

Here I am inclined to say “no”, although I think there are probably elements of morality that are universal. It is clearly the case that different cultures in different places at different times have different societal norms. There are many cases where things which we consider to be wrong here and now might be considered perfectly acceptable under different circumstances. Adultery comes to mind. In the culture I was born and raised in, adultery is considered quite wrong. But this is not necessarily the case in all cultures at all times. There have been plenty of times and places where it is quite acceptable to have numerous sexual partners, and numerous casual sexual experiences on the side. In such societies, it seems to me that adultery wouldn’t really be wrong at all. As I said before, though, I think that there are probably some aspects of morality that are universal. That the care of one’s children is good comes to mind, for example.

 

Does morality change over time?

 

Of course it does. On this conception, morality arises from evolution, which is literally change over time. As such, it would be asinine to assume that our conception of morality will not continue to evolve.

 

So where does this leave us? Well, what we have is a kind of moral relativism, but not moral subjectivism. Morality derives from evolution, it is epistemic in nature, it is subject to socio-cultural differences, and it can change over time. But nevertheless it is completely coherent for us to say that an action is objectively morally right or wrong, just as it is completely coherent for us to say that a $5 bill is objectively worth five dollars. We just need to be clear that these are statements about epistemic truths, not ontological truths.

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Hello again Disillusioned.  :)

 

This is just a quick post to let you know that I've been re-reading this thread.  I've just re-read your posts from Nov 8, 16, 23 and 30 and am happy that we are pretty much of one mind, when it comes to Hume's relations of ideas and matters of fact.  I'm also happy with your description about the functional differences between the way science and theism.   

 

As an aside, when I was recently ill I was given this book as a gift.   https://www.amazon.co.uk/Road-Reality-Complete-Guide-Universe/dp/0099440687

You can download a .pdf of it, here. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/226597688_The_Road_to_Reality_A_Complete_Guide_to_the_Laws_of_the_Universe

 

In the preface Penrose relates an experience from his schools days, when his math teacher asked the class, 'What is a fraction?'  The answers that were given fall neatly into two categories.  Some pupils replied with real world examples, citing the slicing up of a cake into various parts and comparing the quantities.  Others answered that a fraction is a relationship between physical things, not the physical things themselves.

 

This is David Hume's thinking again.  Relations of ideas vs matters of fact.  I was pleased to spot this and immediately thought of our dialogue here.  :)

 

Anyway, if you want to pick things up again here, I'm ready.

 

All the best.

 

Walter.

 

 

 

 

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Apologies for the extended absence from this thread. I've been very busy at work recently,  but things seem to be settling down a bit, so let's get back to it. 

 

What I've said thus far has been tied at several points to the correspondence theory of truth. I've mentioned in passing that I think other theories of truth have something to them as well, but I haven't gone into much detail about this. Now that I've presented the framework that I'm working from, I want to come back to this for a little bit and explore some of the connections between my picture and coherence and pragmatic theories of truth.

 

The essence of the coherence theory of truth, as I understand it (which is not to say that I understand it particularly well...), is that coherence and consistency are sufficient for truth. Truth, on this view, exists only within particular systems. It is meaningless to speak of truth unless we're speaking from the context of a particular system, and, moreover, a system itself may be said to be true if it is sufficiently coherent, complex,  and consistent. This is a kind of holistic view of truth, in which propositions are true by virtue of their place as parts of a coherent whole.

 

Pragmatic theories of truth argue (basically) that something is true if it is useful to believe it is true. Truth, on this kind of view, is reduced to utility. It's true that the Earth is round because the view that the Earth is round is a useful one for us to hold. This is a simplification, but I don't think it's a misrepresentation of the essence of pragmatic theories. Again,  though, I'm not as well educated here as I probably should be, so please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong. 

 

I think that both of these types of theories have something valid to say about epistemic truth, but I'm not sure that they add much to my picture of ontological truth. Remember that on my view, a statement is ontologically true if it corresponds to a brute, real-world fact. It may well be the case that ontologically true statements are coherent, and that it is useful to believe them, but they are not true because of this. It's the other way around. It's useful to believe ontological truths because they are true. And, incidentally, there are lots of individual cases where it is useful to believe something which is ontologically false. I would also argue that, to the extent that ontologically true statements are coherent to us, this is also because they are true and not the other way around. This is a bit harder to explain than the point about the pragmatic theory, but I think it is really important. I view logic as simply the thing that humans do when they try to make sense. It's a capacity that we have evolved, and our evolution is shaped by the natural world. The natural world is as it is, on my view, and we think the way we think because it is useful to the survival of our species in the natural world for us to do so. The reason it is useful has to do with the facts on the ground, so to speak. So our capacity for logic, including coherence and consistency, is shaped by brute, real-world facts. Thus I don't think we can really say that ontological truth is true because it is coherent. I think it must be the other way around.

 

(Incidentally, when I mentioned earlier that Kant and Hume try to ground philosophy in epistemology,  whereas I think it should be grounded in ontology, this is the kind of idea that I was referring to. We think the way we think because of how we have evolved in the natural world. Thus,  all of our philosophical reasoning, including epistemology, must be ultimately grounded in ontology.)

 

So much for the bearing of these theories on ontological truth, but what about epistemic truth? Here, I do think they may have some contributions to make.

 

Recall that epistemic truths are true because people think they are true. As I've just argued, people have evolved to form beliefs which are coherent and useful. Now, some people are clearly better at this than others, but this is not as troubling as it seems at first glance. Epistemic truths are not true because someone thinks they are true, they're true because people in general think they are true, and behave as if they are true. They are parts of our social reality. I've been using the statement "money is valuable" as an example of an epistemically true statement, so let's stick with that. It's true that money is valuable, and it is true because people think it is valuable. But people think it is valuable because we find it useful to have a monetary system. So in some sense, it is correct to say that money is valuable because it is useful for money to be valuable. This seems somewhat like something a pragmatist might say.

 

We've also seen that formal truths are a type of epistemic truth, and formal truths fit very nicely with the coherence theory of truth. A statement is formally true only on a particular formal system, and it can only be true if it is coherent and consistent with that system. In fact, I think the coherence theory is basically an attempt to treat all truths as if they were formal truths. I think this is where it goes wrong, but that doesn't mean it's completely useless, just that it only goes so far.

 

In my next few posts, I'd like to continue to explore how this theory applies to some practical issues, and also look at how it will answer some common problems in philosophy. As always,  questions, comments, and objections are welcome at any point.

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In this post I want to explore in a bit more detail the question of how epistemic truth is generated.

 

Recall that the axioms I started out with include the assumption of consciousness (I am capable of thought, as are you). As these are axioms, they are assumed without proof. However,  I think that the assumption of consciousness is self-justifying in a way. I mention this because there are those who maintain that consciousness does not really exist at all, and that it is merely an illusion (Daniel Dennett comes to mind). This seems inconsistent to me for the simple fact that if consciousness is an illusion,  then it consciously seems to me that I am conscious. But if it consciously seems to me that I am conscious, then I am conscious. I must be conscious if anything at all is to consciously seem to me to be the case. So the admission of the very possibility of illusions precludes the possibility that consciousness might be one. Or at least so it seems to me.

 

So we are conscious. We've seen so far that this fact,  together with the fact that the natural world exists, allows us to form beliefs,  generate knowledge, and even create truth. There is a crucial point here, though,  that I want to emphasize: we are only able to create epistemic truth because of the existence of underlying brute facts about the world. Again, we assumed axiomatically that the natural world exists and that things in the natural world have definite properties etcetera. It follows directly from this assumption that ontological truth exists. In order to get to epistemic truth,  however, we also require consciousness. Fortunately that we are conscious itself seems to be an ontological truth.

 

A question which remains is whether consciousness, together with the assumption of ontological truth, is sufficient to explain epistemic truth, or whether something more is required. When I first developed the notion of epistemic truth in this thread, I relied on the existence of language. It seems to me to be fairly straightforward that language is required for epistemic truth, but I think more than even just consciousness and language are required. Epistemic truth exists at the level of societies. Therefore,  if we are to really explain how epistemic truth comes about, we will first need to explain how societies come about. In order to do this, I think we need to develop the idea of collective intentionality.

 

Collective intentionality is a term that was coined by John Searle around 1990, but the idea is not a new one. Intentionality is the ability of a mind to be directed at something. If I think about going to Walmart, my thoughts have intentional content: I am thinking about something (going to Walmart). If you also happen to be thinking about going to Walmart at the same time, then our thoughts have roughly the same intentional content. However, our intentions to go to Walmart are separate in this example. Clearly we don't intend to engage in the joint action of going to Walmart. I intend to go and you intend to go,  but our intentions are seperate.

 

Suppose, however, that I call you on the phone and we make a plan to go to Walmart together. This is clearly different from the previous situation. We now not only both have the same intention, but we specifically intend it together. This is a simple example of collective intentionality.

 

Once we have language and collective intentionality, we can do all kinds of things. We can form social groups,  hierarchies and classes, governments, laws, and so on and so forth. This has direct bearing on the question of how epistemic truth is created. I've been saying all along in this thread that the fact that money is valuable is a matter of epistemic truth. It is; however,  it is not the case that for any one person to think that it is valuable is sufficient to make it true. Collective intentionality is required. When enough people collectively believe that money is valuable, then it really is valuable.

 

I want to be very careful to point out that there are limits to the power of collective intentionality to generate truth. If we all collectively believed that the earth was flat,  it would not become flat. That it is round is a matter of ontological truth. However, we have seen that epistemic truth can become ontological truth over time. That Washington was president of the United States is an ontological truth. It's a matter of historical fact. It wouldn't matter if everyone stopped believing that he used to be president. But that Donald Trump is president now is an epistemic truth. If everyone stopped believing it, it would no longer be true. So collective intentionally today can generate epistemic truth today, and ontological truth in the future, but it can't generate just any ontological truth. There remain certain brute facts which simply in no way depend on intentionally, collective or otherwise.

 

I want to look at the problem of free-will at some point, but that's all I have time for right now. 

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On 12/14/2019 at 6:18 AM, disillusioned said:

One possible response to this is to say that natural selection has shaped us to tend to behave in certain ways. It is beneficial to the survival of the species for us not to go about murdering each other, and to care for our children. Because natural selection has also equipped us with conscious thought, we tend to think about our actions, and when we do, we find that we find certain types of actions repulsive, and certain others attractive. We call the former “wrong” and the latter “right”, and morality is born.

 

I think something like the above is basically correct. It isn’t a very robust picture of the origins of morality, and there are lots of specific questions that can be raised, but this is where I think we need to start.

 

This is very good. I think that's how it should be framed at christians and other people who try and repeat the tired mantra's of claiming that without god, there's no reason not to go around raping and murdering until your hearts content. It's foolish for very specific reasons. And those reasons boil down to natural selection and it's shaping of human social interaction and the rise of moral codes and standards - such as things like, "thou shalt not kill." 

 

That literally exists because some guy wrote it down in the bible. Some guy wrote it down in the bible because it had already become a standard of social interaction and he documented it in writing. It had become a standard of social interaction because it's beneficial to the survival of the species not to go around murdering each other. Natural selection is at the base of it, not a supernatural god who is all good. There's plenty of evidence for natural selection but not for a supernatural god. 

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5 hours ago, Joshpantera said:

 

This is very good. I think that's how it should be framed at christians and other people who try and repeat the tired mantra's of claiming that without god, there's no reason not to go around raping and murdering until your hearts content. It's foolish for very specific reasons. And those reasons boil down to natural selection and it's shaping of human social interaction and the rise of moral codes and standards - such as things like, "thou shalt not kill." 

 

That literally exists because some guy wrote it down in the bible. Some guy wrote it down in the bible because it had already become a standard of social interaction and he documented it in writing. It had become a standard of social interaction because it's beneficial to the survival of the species not to go around murdering each other. Natural selection is at the base of it, not a supernatural god who is all good. There's plenty of evidence for natural selection but not for a supernatural god. 

 

I agree Josh, and thanks for posting this. 

 

The main reason I started (and am carrying on with) this thread was to try to present a completely a-theistic, and accessible, account of as many common crucial philosophical issues as possible. I've reached a point in my own journey where discussing Christianity as such is just boring to me. It's just obviously incorrect. Still,  there are a lot of questions that need to be answered from an ex-Christian point of view. My goal in this thread has been to try to present a framework from which an ex-Christian will be able to answer many, if not most, Christian objections.

 

The issue of morality is one that was particularly important to me in my initial deconversion, in no small part because of the arguments of WLC (and CS Lewis as well). @WalterP has basically destroyed Craig's cosmological argument. I think that what I've presented here, together with my previous morality thread, essentially dispenses with his moral argument. If so, that's two of his five favorite arguments which have been soundly refuted. I'm hoping that members here will find this to be of some value.

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Craig is toast. And would benefit a lot of people to understand the details that go into that quick claim. Layers and layers of details. You guys are doing a great job unraveling his apologetic's. 

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16 hours ago, Joshpantera said:

I think that's how it should be framed at christians and other people who try and repeat the tired mantra's of claiming that without god, there's no reason not to go around raping and murdering until your hearts content. It's foolish for very specific reasons. And those reasons boil down to natural selection and it's shaping of human social interaction and the rise of moral codes and standards - such as things like, "thou shalt not kill." 

 

I went through this in my mind after my deconversion; it seems obvious to me now that altruism and cooperation are population traits that are very valuable and therefore selected for; but christians don’t believe in that stuff, they think it all boils down to their own personal god vs. satan.  There is more to life than their religion.

 

On the other hand, back in the believer days, an unbeliever once asked me why, if Jesus could do anything he wanted, did he not rape, pillage, etc.  I guess it takes all kinds . . . .

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Disillusioned wrote...

 

The issue of morality is one that was particularly important to me in my initial deconversion, in no small part because of the arguments of WLC (and CS Lewis as well). @WalterP has basically destroyed Craig's cosmological argument. I think that what I've presented here, together with my previous morality thread, essentially dispenses with his moral argument. If so, that's two of his five favorite arguments which have been soundly refuted. I'm hoping that members here will find this to be of some value.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Hello Disillusioned.  :)

 

I'd just like to check something with you please.  You say that I've destroyed Craig's cosmological argument.  Let's compare notes here.

 

I submit that I've destroyed his claim that the science has 'proved' that there was an absolute beginning of the universe.  The Hawking - Penrose singularity theorem gave him that 'proof', but that theory has now been refuted by evidence and discarded by both of its authors.  Therefore, Craig's Kalam Cosmological Argument or KCA is also destroyed.  That argument's second premise (the universe began to exist) cannot hold up without the H - P theorem.   

 

So, when you said that I destroyed Craig's cosmological argument, were you actually referring to the KCA, Disillusioned?

 

Oh and btw, with his moral argument on the way out, what are Craig's three other favourite arguments?  I'm curious.

 

Thank you.

 

Walter.

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, WalterP said:

Hello Disillusioned.  :)

 

I'd just like to check something with you please.  You say that I've destroyed Craig's cosmological argument.  Let's compare notes here.

 

I submit that I've destroyed his claim that the science has 'proved' that there was an absolute beginning of the universe.  The Hawking - Penrose singularity theorem gave him that 'proof', but that theory has now been refuted by evidence and discarded by both of its authors.  Therefore, Craig's Kalam Cosmological Argument or KCA is also destroyed.  That argument's second premise (the universe began to exist) cannot hold up without the H - P theorem.   

 

So, when you said that I destroyed Craig's cosmological argument, were you actually referring to the KCA, Disillusioned?

 

 

Yes, there's what I was referring to.

 

Quote

Oh and btw, with his moral argument on the way out, what are Craig's three other favourite arguments?  I'm curious.

 

The ones he tends to make most often are the KCA, the moral argument, the teleological ("fine tuning") argument, the argument from history regarding the resurrection of Christ, and the argument from personal experience. I've also heard him make the ontological argument a couple times, but he doesn't come back to it as persistently as he does the other five.

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Thank you Disillusioned.  :)

 

Fyi, I think I can destroy the "fine tuning" argument too. 

 

BAA was onto this and locked horns with OrdinaryClay on the issue.  When the going got tough said Christian refused to answer his questions and scrammed. 

 

Christian fine tuning apologetics depend on two misconceptions.  One about the nature of the universe and the other about how the Copernican Principle should be used.

 

Unscramble those two misconceptions and the fine tuning argument falls apart.

 

Thank you.

 

Walter.

 

 

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