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What is a Claim and how can you respond to it?


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Some of the confusion in discussions and forums such as these stems from a misunderstanding of claims and how they work.  The minutiae of this topic keeps philosophers employed, but for our purpose a broad overview will help as you discuss various religious and non-religious topics.

 

This community will generally define a claim or proposition as: a statement made with the intent that others adopt the statement as True.  (You know or believe X and want others to know or believe X too)

 

The following statements are both claims:

 

  • God exists - is a positive claim
  • God does NOT exist - is a negative claim

 

Keep in mind that each is a separate claim. Both are poorly formulated as God has yet to be defined (Christians, Muslims, and Hindu would all answer True as "God" is vague)

 

Your feelings about these two statements will lie on the continuum:

 

God does NOT exist ------------------------------------------------------------------------God exists

    1       |                        2                              |           3           |                          4                            |     5

KNOW | <=========belief========== |   non-belief   | =========belief==========> | KNOW

 

The two statements "God exists" and "God does NOT exist" share these possibilities:

  1. you know such an entity does NOT exist
  2. you believe such an entity does NOT exist
  3. you withhold belief (non-belief/unbelief)
  4. you believe such an entity exists
  5. you know such an entity exists.

 

Too often in discussions the answer is reduced to a TRUE/FALSE dichotomy.  This simple reduction can be useful, but is misleading as there are 5 distinct categories.

 

By limiting ourselves to this TRUE/FALSE, either/or formulation we also enable another common problem: The rejection of a claim is NOT the acceptance of the opposite claim

 

"God Exists: NOT TRUE" =/= "God does NOT exist: TRUE"

 

Position

God exists

God does NOT exist

Know God exists

True

False

Believes God exists

True or Not True

Not True

withholds belief

Not True

Not True

Believes no God exists

Not True

True or Not True

Knows no God exists

False

True

 

This confusion over the structure of claims leads directly into the burden of proof problems often encountered on this site and as discussed:  

 

**I'd like to thank @Hierophant, @Joshpantera, @disillusioned, & @WalterP for their gracious comments on my drafts of this.**

 

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I'm pretty firmly in the withholds belief position. Which is technically an "agnostic-atheist" position. 

 

I can't honestly label true either that god does or doesn't exist. To insist that I know as a fact no god exists, while being a logical deduction, would be intellectually dishonest on my part because I know better from a philosophical stand point. I have to remain responsible philosophically or risk intellectual dishonesty. 

 

But I understand the temptation to try and take a "gnostic atheist" position, which is to believe and know that a god doesn't exist.

 

Even to the extent that it isn't possible to prove a negative. It's tempting because all of the world religions and gods are so obviously man made and constructed over periods of social evolution that can be studied and critically examined. Regardless of any of that, though, we can't examine the whole of reality proving there's no creator type thing out there somewhere. That someone may consider a "god." Philosophically and technically no one can prove a negative like this regardless of how obvious it may be that something's most likely made up. 

 

I just find the god assertions highly unlikely and completely unsupported at this time. So I withhold positive belief as I'm thoroughly unconvinced of the claim that a god exists. But don't bother getting involved in any "believing" or "knowing" claims that a god doesn't exist. That's outside of what I could honestly know for sure. 

 

I'm curious how @TheDeconvertedMan would weigh in on this topic? 

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On 2/24/2021 at 1:57 PM, Krowb said:

This community will generally define a claim or proposition as: a statement made with the intent that others adopt the statement as True.  (You know or believe X and want others to know or believe X too)

Another way to approach these problems, differing somewhat from the belief/knowledge framework, is by using axioms or postulates.

 

An axiom is a statement that is treated as a basis for systematic logical analysis, as in geometry.  The axiom is not necessarily absolutely true as a description of reality, but it is a fundamental idea that itself cannot be proved or disproved and is regarded as self-evident.  An example is that parallel lines never meet, which is a true axiom for Euclidean geometry but not for relativistic models of spacetime.

 

In philosophy, it is possible to treat a statement like "The universe is everything" as an axiom.  In this case, the postulated axiom simply proposes to disregard ideas that are incompatible with it and lack any evidence, such as the multiverse and an external God.  Axiomatic logic is a useful way of sidestepping the epistemic problem of knowledge or belief, since it states that as a practical matter we will seek to explain all observations as compatible with the axiom, and treat that explanation as sufficient for systematic philosophy.  Other useful axioms, in my view, are that nature is reality, that everything is connected, and that nature obeys consistent laws.

 

The philosopher Immanuel Kant proposed a distinction between analytic statements, which are true by definition, and synthetic statements, which combine two ideas in logic.  Axioms have to be synthetic, or else they would not provide any useful information.  That principle has room for ambiguity.  For example the axiom that nature is reality looks analytic, but it may also offer a starting point for definitions of reality that exclude supernatural imaginary entities.

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On 2/23/2021 at 8:57 PM, Krowb said:

Too often in discussions the answer is reduced to a TRUE/FALSE dichotomy.  This simple reduction can be useful, but is misleading

I agree. Discussions often involve a huge amount of information and scope, and blanket statements are rarely applicable. There's usually some nuance and some shades of grey.

 

On 2/23/2021 at 8:57 PM, Krowb said:

The rejection of a claim is NOT the acceptance of the opposite claim

I also agree. This sounds a lot like how I go about learning new things and honing my budding philosophy of life. It's kind of like sculpting--you create the final product by removing what shouldn't be there. So if I hold something to be true but then later learn that it isn't, then I drop it, even if I don't have a new theory to replace it with. I just sit in "I don't know" territory for a little while until I come across new information.

 

19 hours ago, Joshpantera said:

I'm pretty firmly in the withholds belief position. Which is technically an "agnostic-atheist" position. 

I'm pretty much in the same camp as you for the same reasons you laid out. For me, even though I can't technically definitively know or prove anything about the existence or non-existence of God, at some point I still have a choose a stance and let it inform my practical life. As in: "I can't prove that the Christian God doesn't exist, but I'm pretty sure he doesn't, so I'll decline all invitations to go to church and I won't be reading my Bible anymore."

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1 hour ago, TheDeconvertedMan said:
20 hours ago, Joshpantera said:

I'm pretty firmly in the withholds belief position. Which is technically an "agnostic-atheist" position. 

I'm pretty much in the same camp as you for the same reasons you laid out. For me, even though I can't technically definitively know or prove anything about the existence or non-existence of God, at some point I still have a choose a stance and let it inform my practical life. As in: "I can't prove that the Christian God doesn't exist, but I'm pretty sure he doesn't, so I'll decline all invitations to go to church and I won't be reading my Bible anymore."

 

I knew you were a "friend of ours." 

 

This is a good post that krowb worked on for a while. I pinned it so that if any christians come along and any one wants to refer them to this thread, here it will be. Pinned at the top. Easy to find and link. 

 

There's always positive "claims" coming in sooner or later.

 

They never cease...

 

 

 

 

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26 minutes ago, Joshpantera said:

This is a good post that krowb worked on for a while.

It's a fantastic post.

 

26 minutes ago, Joshpantera said:

There's always positive "claims" coming in sooner or later.

Do Christians make profiles here and start debating?

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1 hour ago, TheDeconvertedMan said:

As in: "I can't prove that the Christian God doesn't exist, but I'm pretty sure he doesn't, so I'll decline all invitations to go to church and I won't be reading my Bible anymore."

 

I understand all your points except for this one. I mean sure we can't prove that there is No God. But I think the Bible has been sufficiently debunked as a factual source of information concerning what God if a God exists, is. So shouldn't that atleast determine that there is no Christian God? But that there is the remote unprovable possibility of another God? It seems like all human attempts to "define" God have failed and therefore those defined Gods are not real. 

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27 minutes ago, TheDeconvertedMan said:

Do Christians make profiles here and start debating?

We get a few now and again.  Most don't stay very long, either because the can't respect our community rules or because they don't expect the depth and level of debate of which we are capable.  There are a few notables who have had staying power; and a few unnotables who give us an occasional drive-by.

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1 hour ago, TheDeconvertedMan said:

It's a fantastic post.

 

Do Christians make profiles here and start debating?

 

Yes, we label them with "authentic christian believer." 

 

There's no proselytizing allowed except in the debate forums. The Lion's Den, where we are currently. So they will all find themselves moved to that section as they generally break the forum rules. To the one place where proselytizing posts are allowed. Once there, they will find themselves face to face with having to try and defend their claims, whatever the claims may be. We're in the LD pinned articles. But there is a debate section as well. 

 

Here's an example of a recent christian who found himself having to try and debate and defend his large claims: 

 

 

In a "nut" shell, this guy thinks that the double-slit experiment proves jesus! That's the claim behind the debate. His idea of evidence goes off in directions like the well known forged Shroud of Turin. It's beyond ridiculous. But as you can see, the apologist came in here hot and zealous for his subjective, presupposition based claims. 

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1 hour ago, DarkBishop said:
3 hours ago, TheDeconvertedMan said:

As in: "I can't prove that the Christian God doesn't exist, but I'm pretty sure he doesn't, so I'll decline all invitations to go to church and I won't be reading my Bible anymore."

 

I understand all your points except for this one. I mean sure we can't prove that there is No God. But I think the Bible has been sufficiently debunked as a factual source of information concerning what God if a God exists, is. So shouldn't that atleast determine that there is no Christian God? But that there is the remote unprovable possibility of another God? It seems like all human attempts to "define" God have failed and therefore those defined Gods are not real. 

What I meant was that even though my stance might seem wishy-washy (can't prove God doesn't exist, but I don't believe he does, etc) as compared to some other atheists (who say he DEFINITELY does not exist and there's no chance) my actions aren't wishy-washy. I'm not going to go to church 2 Sundays a month as some kind of bare minimum just in case he does end up existing. My actions and life choices will pretty much resemble the full-on atheists i.e. never going to church, never praying, never reading the Bible. Hope that makes sense.

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2 hours ago, TheDeconvertedMan said:

What I meant was that even though my stance might seem wishy-washy (can't prove God doesn't exist, but I don't believe he does, etc) as compared to some other atheists (who say he DEFINITELY does not exist and there's no chance) my actions aren't wishy-washy. I'm not going to go to church 2 Sundays a month as some kind of bare minimum just in case he does end up existing. My actions and life choices will pretty much resemble the full-on atheists i.e. never going to church, never praying, never reading the Bible. Hope that makes sense.

 

I see, I guess its the specific Christian God stand point I'm focusing on. I get the whole living your life as an atheist even tho you can't prove God doesn't exist. I'm pretty much the same. I guess the difference between us is that I feel Bible God can be ruled out as a viable option for a God due to the inadequacy of his supposed "inspired word". Therefore in my mind. Bible God is provably non-existent. I just can't prove to myself that no God exists. But if a God does exist. Atleast I know its not that asshole in the Bible. Lol.

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3 hours ago, Joshpantera said:

 

In a "nut" shell, this guy thinks that the double-slit experiment proves jesus! That's the claim behind the debate. His idea of evidence goes off in directions like the well known forged Shroud of Turin. It's beyond ridiculous. But as you can see, the apologist came in here hot and zealous for his subjective, presupposition based claims. 

ole pittsburghjoe is definitely out there in lala land somewhere. People will come up with some crazy ideas when the fabric of their reality is threatened by the truth. 

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11 hours ago, DarkBishop said:

 

I understand all your points except for this one. I mean sure we can't prove that there is No God. But I think the Bible has been sufficiently debunked as a factual source of information concerning what God if a God exists, is. So shouldn't that atleast determine that there is no Christian God? But that there is the remote unprovable possibility of another God? It seems like all human attempts to "define" God have failed and therefore those defined Gods are not real. 

 

This is an interesting variation. Because once you start looking at specific claims like YHWH, or Zeus, it gets much more focused than the vague idea that some creator of some unknown type could potentially exist out there somewhere. 

 

With the bible, scholarship has shown an evolution from polytheistic beliefs that shifted to monolatry, and a monolatry that shifted towards monotheism mainly for political reasons during a specific time period. The monotheism stuck, and people later tried to gloss over the polytheistic history. By translating God or God Almighty in places that actually mention many different "gods" by their old names. So the bible is more like Greek mythology with it's pantheon, than a monotheistic creations from the outset. 

 

But the polytheism is too embedded to erase or gloss over completely. Those unfamiliar can take a look below: 

 

 

Now the big question is can this be used to claim gnostic atheism? 

 

I suppose the problem here is that in a philosophical sense, someone could always argue that you can't know definitively that you're right. From a common sense perspective, though, it seems pretty straight forward that it's all made up.

 

Santa's all made up. But could someone take a philosophical position against the claim and argue that we can never know with certainty that Santa doesn't exist? Even to the degree that it's blatantly obvious that Santa's made up? 

 

This to me reveals some of the value in positioning towards agnostic, rather gnostic atheism.

 

I've come to this reasoning by looking for the higher ground position to take a stand against any opponent. I agree with a lot of gnostic atheist "beliefs," shall we say. But I don't prefer the 'battle ground positioning' that they end up strapping themselves with. They end up carrying a burden of proof requirement in the debate. And that's exactly what many apologist's want to try to do - bring the atheist into the same burden of proof requirement position that the theist is in. In a way, it's an attempt by the theistic opponent to bring you down to his level where you share their short comings in the debate. 

 

They claim there IS a god, and they want to paint the atheist as claiming that there is NO god. But agnostic-atheist's throw them a curve ball and don't make the hard claim. And the theistic opponent is more or less helpless in the debate thereafter: 

 

 

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If someone worships one goddess named Polly, are they monotheistic or Polly-theistic?

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@Robert_Tulip,

 

Just trying to keep it simple for the claimants.  Our typical apologists are less interested in the finer of points of epistemic shortcomings or fallacious reasoning and more interested in saving our souls from a literal place of eternal torment.  I noticed recently they get hung up on the burden of proof (which Walter did a good job explaining) because they fundamentally didn't understand they were advancing the claim, not the atheist.  Hence this short, but hopefully useful post.

 

And yes, there are other ways to view the issues and it is arguments from proponents of these various approaches that "keeps philosophers employed".

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11 hours ago, DarkBishop said:

I guess its the specific Christian God stand point I'm focusing on.

Ah okay. I think @Joshpanterasummed it up well in his previous post, with a lot more precise language than me 👇:

 

4 hours ago, Joshpantera said:

I suppose the problem here is that in a philosophical sense, someone could always argue that you can't know definitively that you're right. From a common sense perspective, though, it seems pretty straight forward that it's all made up.

 

Santa's all made up. But could someone take a philosophical position against the claim and argue that we can never know with certainty that Santa doesn't exist? Even to the degree that it's blatantly obvious that Santa's made up? 

 

This to me reveals some of the value in positioning towards agnostic, rather gnostic atheism.

If I meet a random dude out in a bar and he asks me if I believe in God, I'll say "No" It's kind of like when a stranger asks where you're from and you tell him the nearest big city that everyone knows rather than the small town that no one knows where you're actually from. While "No" may have caveats and qualifications, they aren't relevant enough to the context to go into.

 

We're all clarifying the minutiae of my belief here because this discussion is specifically about digging down into the nuts and bolts, nitty gritty of the spectrum of belief and knowing.

 

 In the end, you @DarkBishopand I may fall on different places on the probability-of-the-Christian-God-existing spectrum, but the differences are so minor so as not to affect the way we both live--trying to be the best person we can without the burden of religion and the Christian God.

 

14 hours ago, Joshpantera said:

In a "nut" shell, this guy thinks that the double-slit experiment proves jesus!

Whaaa? I only skimmed the debate you posted earlier and I must've missed that part. I'm actually interested in the Double Slit Experiment and have studied it quite a bit, but I still feel like there's something I'm missing. At first glance, and with my current understanding of it, I wouldn't think a Christian would have any use for the DSE since he believes in a God that has predetermined everything.

 

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1 hour ago, TheDeconvertedMan said:

Whaaa? I only skimmed the debate you posted earlier and I must've missed that part. I'm actually interested in the Double Slit Experiment and have studied it quite a bit, but I still feel like there's something I'm missing. At first glance, and with my current understanding of it, I wouldn't think a Christian would have any use for the DSE since he believes in a God that has predetermined everything.

 

 

Here's one of his first posts. You can get an idea of his claims from this example. After several threads like the only linked below, we put PBJ up against several members here for individual debates. I linked you to one of them.

 

 

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Here's the main thrust of the claim: 

 

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

"So you are probably are wondering where I'm going with this. What I'm actually saying is that the double slit experiment is proof of sin.

 

Physicality is what happened after original sin. We were not physical beforehand. Adam and Eve suddenly knew they were naked because they were physical for the first time. We suffered a spiritual death ..not a physical one. Scalar started. This makes Sin the reason for the measurement problem. You need a closed scalar volume for entropy. Entropy is disorder. The non-physical doesn't use entropy. The spiritual universe is coherent. This reality of the fallen is decoherence."

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

 

So what happened is that many debates went out. And eventually it was fine tuned down to several fundamental points.

 

The Genesis myth describes the creation of the entire universe. All of the 'physicality' previous to the "original sin" episode represents the creation of the physical world, per the creation myth. Space, the earth, dry land, grass and trees, all of the sea creatures, birds, and land animals, and finally human beings - all of the physical universe, basically.

 

This is the only account of how the physical universe, world, animals, and people were created. Long before the "original sin" episode. That's pretty much game over for PBJ. It only get's increasingly worse for his claim as he tries to dig himself out of the hole. 

 

So just like everyone else that tries to read modern science issues back into Genesis, the failures and inconsistencies are glaring. We entertained his claims for a while. Let him speak. Then eventually banned him after he became circular a few times over. We like to give christians a fair shake to preach their sermons and have every opportunity to defend their own positive claims. But they are not immune from being banned after they've said their piece and become circular. Especially when they refuse to answer direct and specific questions. And try to spend pages of wasted time evading questions. 

 

That's PBJ in a "nut" shell. We get all types. 

 

This apologetic's is something that I haven't heard before. I wonder if he made it up or took it from somewhere else? 

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I should add to Josh’s summary above that PBJ was so impressed by the idea that the Double Slit experiment proves the reality of Sin that he concluded this idea had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit, so that Joe could use it as a sure-fire way to win us back to the faith.  Rather surprisingly, none of us re-embraced Christianity. 

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8 hours ago, Joshpantera said:

 

With the bible, scholarship has shown an evolution from polytheistic beliefs that shifted to monolatry, and a monolatry that shifted towards monotheism mainly for political reasons during a specific time period. The monotheism stuck, and people later tried to gloss over the polytheistic history. By translating God or God Almighty in places that actually mention many different "gods" by their old names. So the bible is more like Greek mythology with it's pantheon, than a monotheistic creations from the outset

 

Yes and its these very things that I feel make it easier to actually prove that Bible God does not exist. Because once one sees the precession of polytheism to monotheism in Judaism then Christianity,  what can they stand on? 

 

I guess they could refute any evidence found as non biblical, or that archeological finds such as the ugarit tablets aren't valid admissions to the debate. But on what grounds? 

 

Christians always fall back on the Bible to prove their points ....... well ..... except pittsburghjoe. Then its more like "we are here, so my theory must be true!" LOL. Once the credibility of the Bible is gone. They really have nothing to stand on. The problem is they will never accept the Bible isn't the inspired word. Atlwast not in their zeal for the lord. Maybe later after they have calmed down a little. I think they probably have to go through the WHOLE process like most of us to really see it. 

 

So your right. Keeping the ball in their court to show burden of proof is probably the best route. They only end up getting flustered because they really can't tangibly prove God. Its even written in their instructions as a catch all. Live by faith. Believing and not seeing. And us not accepting that goes over their head.

 

When they have to prove their God and can only use an ancient unprovable, contradicting, and historically inaccurate text. That opens them up to the argument about any other God being just as valid like Ganesh. The Hindu texts are far older than the old testament. Why isn't their God just as valid as yours. To which they will discredit as God not revealing himself to them like he did his people the isrealites or something to that affect. But in the end. Who is to say the Bible isn't made up and the teaching of Hindu aren't the real deal?

 

I think as our overall collective knowledge increases that reasoning will become a common mindset. Christianity really has no ground to stand on in the face of centuries of scholarly study, astronomy, archeology, science, and biblical fact checking through all these means and more. 

 

2 hours ago, TheDeconvertedMan said:

 

 In the end, you @DarkBishopand I may fall on different places on the probability-of-the-Christian-God-existing spectrum, but the differences are so minor so as not to affect the way we both live--trying to be the best person we can without the burden of religion and the Christian God

 

Yes this is the main thing. We are free now. We can live our lives on our terms and say to hell with your rules. I'm a good person without Christ. Why do I need him? Whether we can "prove" bible God or not. We have come to the point where the probability is so non-existent there is no longer a need to serve him or even believe in him. 

 

 

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55 minutes ago, Joshpantera said:

 

That's PBJ in a "nut" shell. We get all types. 

 

This apologetic's is something that I haven't heard before. I wonder if he made it up or took it from somewhere else? 

 

I think it is all him. He came across the experiment and The "Holy Ghost" spoke to him. He never sited any other articles relating his theory to the experiment. He only sited articles on the experiment itself and then asserted his apologetics into it. But unfortunately I can definitely see how this reasoning could become a new cult movement if a more charismatic person took it up and ran with it. It would t work on us. But someone just beginning to question the Bible could probably get caught up in it.

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While this is all good discussion, my preference is to keep this as a reference topic, opposed to a full discussion thread.

 

 

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