Free will vs. divine omniscience

“One horse-laugh is worth ten thousand syllogisms. It is not only more effective; it is also vastly more intelligent.”

— H.L. Mencken

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  1. #1 by Tami on January 23, 2009 - 5:38 pm

    Funny! Something is omniscient, so free will must be an illusion…

  2. #2 by mgordon on January 23, 2009 - 10:09 pm

    God-Man works in mysterious ways. Mystery solved…DUUUUUH.

  3. #3 by Badger3k on January 24, 2009 - 1:42 pm

    Hmm, since to be omniscient, he’d have to know what the crook was going to say before he said it, and he’d have to know what he was going to do, and couldn’t do differently (or else he was not omniscient)…well…Hello, Meatpuppet! Obviously, God-Man has only limited omniscience, or else turns it off occasionally, or uses any of the other apologetics to get out of the hole that omniscience digs.
    Still, to point out the absurdity of some things, you have to make exceptions. Not bad.

  4. #4 by Badger3k on January 24, 2009 - 1:42 pm

    Hmm, since to be omniscient, he’d have to know what the crook was going to say before he said it, and he’d have to know what he was going to do, and couldn’t do differently (or else he was not omniscient)…well…Hello, Meatpuppet! Obviously, God-Man has only limited omniscience, or else turns it off occasionally, or uses any of the other apologetics to get out of the hole that omniscience digs.
    Still, to point out the absurdity of some things, you have to make exceptions. Not bad.

  5. #5 by hopper3011 on January 25, 2009 - 4:55 am

    Badger3k;
    Omniscient is not a synonym for prescient. Omniscience doesn’t preclude free will; it just means that God knows what you’ve done even if nobody else does.

  6. #6 by Trin Tragula on January 25, 2009 - 1:31 pm

    Omniscient is not a synonym for prescient.

    So your God is not one of those who is outside of time and space, and therefore would have as much claim to knowing the future as the past. It’s so much work keeping track of all the different gods.

  7. #7 by bybelknap, FCD on January 25, 2009 - 1:34 pm

    What part of “All knowing” doesn’t include “pre knowing?” Seems to me that “pre” is a subset of “all.” Then again, hopper could very well just be apologizing for the ambivalence the omni-benevolent being shows free will and meat-puppetry.

  8. #8 by hopper3011 on January 26, 2009 - 1:33 am

    “So your God is not one of those”
    My God? Where do you get that from? Is it your contention that, simply because I point out an error in someone’s thinking, I must automatically subscribe to the belief system that he was criticising? That is a pretty big and unjustified assumption (pretty wrong too, but it is a good demonstration of the ideological nature of new atheists).
    Seems to me that “pre” is a subset of “all.”
    Prescient is NOT a synonym for omniscient (there is no necessary connection between knowing what will happen and knowing everything that has happened). However, if you want to talk about a being outside time and space, like Trin Tragula does, why do you assume that the laws of physics of this universe would apply to an extra-universal being?
    However, I suggest the first thing for you guys to do is accept the fact that just pointing out an error doesn’t indicate support for any particular stance on the issue being debated. Militant atheism is all very well, but assuming that someone believes in a metaphysical being without having any actual evidence of what that person believes in is ironic in the extreme! I guess there are unthinking acolytes on both sides of the debate.

  9. #9 by hopper3011 on January 26, 2009 - 1:33 am

    “So your God is not one of those”
    My God? Where do you get that from? Is it your contention that, simply because I point out an error in someone’s thinking, I must automatically subscribe to the belief system that he was criticising? That is a pretty big and unjustified assumption (pretty wrong too, but it is a good demonstration of the ideological nature of new atheists).
    Seems to me that “pre” is a subset of “all.”
    Prescient is NOT a synonym for omniscient (there is no necessary connection between knowing what will happen and knowing everything that has happened). However, if you want to talk about a being outside time and space, like Trin Tragula does, why do you assume that the laws of physics of this universe would apply to an extra-universal being?
    However, I suggest the first thing for you guys to do is accept the fact that just pointing out an error doesn’t indicate support for any particular stance on the issue being debated. Militant atheism is all very well, but assuming that someone believes in a metaphysical being without having any actual evidence of what that person believes in is ironic in the extreme! I guess there are unthinking acolytes on both sides of the debate.

  10. #10 by Tami on January 26, 2009 - 12:41 pm

    I suggest that we investigate this thing we call “free will”…

  11. #11 by bybelknap, FCD on January 26, 2009 - 10:04 pm

    Hopper, if you read for comprehension, you will see that I do not at any point pin you for a believer. I do accuse you of engaging in apologetics. There are clues though. Poor readin skilz bein one of them. Making shit up is another. Nowhere do I claim that prescient is a synonym for omniscient. What I wrote was that it is a subset of omniscient. Why do you claim that “all knowing” means only “knowing everything that has happened,” when it means knowing everything? Not some things. Not previous things, but everything, which must include the future as well as the past. Just because you have made up your own personal private definition for omniscient doesn’t mean that is what it actually means (another sure sign of a godbot – redefining terms to fit apologetic notions).
    I would also suggest that your use of the term “God” recommends you as a believer: “It just means that God knows what you’ve done…” spoken like a believer, not a skeptic.
    Your last statement is quite telling as well: the inability to think of people in other than religious terms – calling an atheist an acolyte is a big giveaway. A lack of belief in any gods is the defining character of the atheist. That’s all.
    I’d say the weight of evidence is entirely on the side of you being a believer. Just because you haven’t burst onto the scene proclaiming your love of Jesus doesn’t mean that there aren’t ample indicators that you have some god belief about you. There’s plenty of evidence says you are. If you say you aren’t then I’ll admit my mistake and move on. I’ll still harbor my doubts about you, as the evidence is very strong. But what the heck do I care?

  12. #12 by hopper3011 on January 27, 2009 - 5:34 am

    In your argument the idea of omniscience prejudges the issue of prescience: if “omniscience” means “knowledge of everything” and “prescience” is a subset of omniscience, then you accord the same status to a “thing which hasn’t happened” as you do to a “thing which has happened”.
    A thing which has happened is a physical thing, knowledge of which could possibly be achieved by a either a physical being or a metaphysical being looking at our universe from outside (and if you know all of them you are omniscient), whereas, even if you discount free will entirely, a thing which hasn’t happened is, at best, a metaphysical thing, and at worst a mere possibility – “knowledge” of which could not be achieved by a any being, physical or metaphysical, without the existence of a completely external and logically complete metaphysical universe over which the presumed metaphysical being is completely omniscient as well.
    Therefore, before you have even made an argument which backs up your assertion about the relative values of omniscience and prescience, you have (without any proof) posited an entire metaphysical universe of “potential objects of knowledge” – which is a belief system in itself, but it is a belief system that you are laying claim to, and not someone else’s.
    I prefer not to prejudge an issue, in my argument omniscient is either a synonym for, an antonym for, or completely unrelated to the word prescient. I would suggest that they are completely unrelated in that having one quality does not necessitate having the other – even if you claim that religious believers claim that God is omniscient on your definition, your claim can only extend to objects of knowledge (things that exist), since things that don’t exist are not objects about which knowledge can be had.
    I don’t know of any of the major sects of Christianity that claim prescience for God, do you? Plenty of them (all?) claim omniscience, but that is definitely not the same thing. Some believers say that God knows how the universe will end (some scientists claim the same knowledge), but knowing that Edinburgh exists is not the same as knowing how you will get from London to Edinburgh (options necessitate free will).
    As for my dislike of militant atheism, the reason I refer to militant atheists as “acolytes” is that, in my opinion, that type of atheist is as much involved in the promotion of an ideology as any theist. You are claiming to know that God does not exist, just as the Pope claims that he knows that God does exist. Both of you are laying claim to knowledge that you can’t possibly have, without the honesty to admit you might be wrong – the basic tenet of ideological thinking.
    The rest of your Nancy Drew investigation belongs in a paranoid nightmare, but it’s interesting that you can’t see the fallacy of well-poisoning that you are committing. I’m not religious, and I refer to myself as an agnostic because I have the intellectual honesty to admit that the chance that a creator of the universe exists is exactly 50:50 (exist:not exist, those are the only two options, and, unlike yourself, I don’t claim to know something I can’t possibly know), but even if I were the most devoutly religious person you ever met, my point that prescience is not a synonym of omniscience (and nor is it a subset) is completely valid, and the status of my belief about a creator is irrelevant to that point.

  13. #13 by Rev. BigDumbChimp on January 27, 2009 - 9:29 am

    As for my dislike of militant atheism, the reason I refer to militant atheists as “acolytes” is that, in my opinion, that type of atheist is as much involved in the promotion of an ideology as any theist. You are claiming to know that God does not exist, just as the Pope claims that he knows that God does exist. Both of you are laying claim to knowledge that you can’t possibly have, without the honesty to admit you might be wrong – the basic tenet of ideological thinking.

    Not necessarily. I’m an atheist because I find the empirical evidence (none) and philosophical arguments lacking. It’s the same reason I don’t believe in Magical Polka Dotted flying Lizards that bring you Ham sandwiches. I’m willing to have my opinion changed should someone come up with some convincing evidence. But as of yet I haven’t heard or seen any. So my position is that there isn’t a god, but I’m willing to accept evidence to the contrary.

  14. #14 by bybelknap, FCD on January 27, 2009 - 11:07 am

    fifty-fifty? Are you kidding? For someone with a prodigious ability to sling a lot of words around, the level of critical thought displayed by that bit there is fairly mind-numbing. Do you honestly believe that the god – not god positions have exactly equal probabilities of being true? It is an astoundingly obtuse stance. And any aspersions you cast on Nancy Drew by comparing her to me are just wrong. Mean-spirited even. Now the Hardy boys are another kettle of grog… Anyway, your apologizing for gods smacks of belief, and assigning such a generous possibility for a god to exist is another black mark in the tally of your egregiousness.
    I find it equally obtuse that you claim I haven’t the honesty to admit I might be wrong, when I explicitly state that is my position. I am willing to be persuaded on any position, that my thinking is bad, my reasoning unsound, my conclusions bolloxed when presented with the evidence.
    You’ve done nothing but toss a metaphysical word salad regarding what you think is encompassed by everything and dressed it with some creamy accusations regarding my ability to admit to walnuts of ignorance.
    So, with that I will concede the point that knowing everything does not include knowing the future. Knowing the future is outside of everything. It is in it’s own metaphysical salad bowl. Your god that you posit is not prescient. I was wrong about that. I admit it. (I also admit that I’m almost certainly wrong about my contention that a maximum of 11 angels can do the cha-cha on a pinhead.)
    Having admitted my wrongheadedness about the definitions of omniscience and prescience, it raises this question in my poor little head: Is your god therefore not all powerful? Or is prescient also outside the realm of all powers? Does Omnipotent fall outside the scope of knowing? Is your god’s lack of prescience why it fails so miserably at preventing horrible accidents? Or even from preventing free-willful acts of a despicable nature? That’s really the core of it isn’t it? That’s what the cartoon is about, isn’t it? Does your god not give a crap what people are going to do to each other, or does he not have the power to prevent it?
    Lastly, how do you know I didn’t intentionally poison the well with my godbot accusation. You seem pretty confident that I was unaware of what I was doing. You are making claims absent any evidence whatsoever. Interesting how that works. You’re a lousy agnostic, if you actually are one. No, I’m still not convinced. I want to see your decoder ring and club card.

  15. #15 by hopper3011 on January 27, 2009 - 12:01 pm

    Do you honestly believe that the god – not god positions have exactly equal probabilities of being true?

    a. That’s not what I said, and;
    b. Either there was a creator of the universe or there wasn’t – 50:50. If you want to present evidence that those odds are wrong, carry on, but your reasoning skills haven’t impressed so far, and I don’t think that’ll change any time soon.

    Having admitted my wrongheadedness about the definitions of omniscience and prescience, it raises this question in my poor little head: Is your god therefore not all powerful? Or is prescient also outside the realm of all powers? Does Omnipotent fall outside the scope of knowing? Is your god’s lack of prescience why it fails so miserably at preventing horrible accidents? Or even from preventing free-willful acts of a despicable nature?

    a. Once again not my God – I haven’t posited any God, of any sort, with any powers, so any God with any powers is your suggestion. Perhaps you can spend some time answering your own questions since this God is your invention? And;
    b. Omniscience is a power within the capabilities of a physical being (i.e. a real power), prescience, as discussed above, is not within the power of any being, physical or metaphysical, without the addition of a large amount of metaphysical baggage (i.e. not a real power), so an all-powerful being could still be all-powerful if He possesses all real powers without possessing all non-real powers.

    You’ve done nothing but toss a metaphysical word salad regarding what you think is encompassed by everything and dressed it with some creamy accusations regarding my ability to admit to walnuts of ignorance.

    Just because you don’t understand it doesn’t mean its not true. perhaps your local community college runs classes in elementary logic and/or reasoning? Alternatively you could just buy a dictionary, the definitions of “omniscient” and “prescient” are fairly self-explanatory.

    Lastly, how do you know I didn’t intentionally poison the well with my godbot accusation. You seem pretty confident that I was unaware of what I was doing.

    Not confident, but since it doesn’t make it any less of a fallacy because it is an intentional fallacy, I couldn’t see why anyone would claim to be poisoning the well intentionally? So my feeling is that you are just claiming to be doing it intentionally as an unsuccessful attempt at face-saving?

    You’re a lousy agnostic, if you actually are one.

    At least I have put a modicum of logical reasoning into the position I have taken, unlike yourself. I wouldn’t be slinging the “-bot” accusations around if I were you; all the evidence thus far is that you are the one following along blindly.
    It is interesting that you keep insinuating that I am lying about my beliefs. I like to think I’ve a little more respect for my fellow posters than to accuse them of lying without being sure of my facts, but since you’ve taken every opportunity to show yourself to be a no-class little stool sample with the intelligence of a syphilitic goat, I honestly don’t know why I’m surprised.

  16. #16 by bybelknap, FCD on January 27, 2009 - 1:27 pm

    Either there is a god or there isn’t – and as usual, the argument devolves into who is required to present the evidence – you having taken the side of god (even though you do not believe in same [there – I’ve conceded that you are an agnostic – well done! I’m convinced.]) it is incumbent on you to provide the evidence for such a being, it not being possible to provide evidence for the non-existence of something – I do remember that bit of logic from my community college days. So, your assertion that it is a 50:50 proposition is completely and utterly wrong at the most basic level. The probability that there is a god is vanishingly small, so the ratio is more along the lines of 99.many9s:0.many0s1.
    You have asserted that omniscience is a “real” power within the capabilities of a physical being. Contrary to your assertion otherwise, I have groked this premise. I understand what you have stated. However, you haven’t made a case that omniscience is any more do-able than prescience. Care to back that assertion up? What actual being is actually omniscient? Please do show me a critter that knows everything – however you choose to define everything – and I’ll gladly swallow that crow whole. Until you do produce such a critter, syphilitic goat or bacterium living in its poo, your distinction without a difference between two mythical properties of a mythical being are every bit as salient as 11 being the number of dancing angels on a pinhead or elswhere.
    Just because something is a logical fallacy, does not mean that it can’t be used effectively. It is evil and deceitful, yes, but so what? Puerile insults are also bad, but we’ve both used them to the amusement of at the very least ourselves and one hopes the remaining readers (anyone out there?) of the thread.
    There are lots of people much smarter than I am, and I do accept what they have to say, since I have only a limited amount of time to read and cogitate, and spend way too much of what time I do have arguing with people on blogs when I could be bettering my brain. However, I do take umbrage that
    you assert that I have come to my conclusions without the use of what small brain there is in my possession. I used it real good.
    So, show me that all knowing being you’ve imagined. I confess I can’t show you the difference between prescient and omniscient. But I’ll accept any evidence you have of anything in the universe that has the omniscience about it.

  17. #17 by Brian on January 27, 2009 - 3:09 pm

    Of course, omniscience does preclude free will, but it isn’t the only thing. If a God knows what is going to happen, it has already happened in his consciencness and we can’t change it. Of course common logic precludes it as well. Everything that happens happens because of the things that happened immediately before it ad infinitum. You act the way you act because of who you are and you didn’t consciously bring it about that you are who you are. I defy anyone to point to something they did that does not have its genesis in this fully deterministic process. Tell me something you did that cannot be explained naturalistically. I bet anything you point out will betray merely a lack of a perfect appreciation strength and nature of the millions of discrete bits that have comprised you. Why is this hard to accept?

  18. #18 by Brian on January 27, 2009 - 3:22 pm

    For the millionth time. Atheism is not an ideology. It doesn’t present a worldview of any sort nor does it provide cover for one. My atheism in no way tells me what moral or ethical values I should hold. Theists show their hand in attributing this sort of thinking to atheists because they can’t conceive of a statement regarding God that doesn’t lead to a “worldview”. Now atheism might effectively discount certain moral claims (that is, ones that have no reason apart from “God said so”) but it doesn’t offer ma any positive moral claims. It is no different than disbelieving in anything for which there is a lack of evidence and a mountain of counter-evidence. Atheism generally is not informed (as is theism) by a prexisting bias that is immune to and unconcerned with facts. It is most often the position arrived at by people who haltingly and, possibly, painfully figure out that facts don’t support their biases. Who the hell becomes a Christian because they started with no beliefs, took a look at the facts on the table absent any “holes” in their soul, etc., and then decided that the facts point to Christianity? Nobody.
    Atheism doesn’t inform my worldview anymore than not believing in UFO’s. I certainly may discount moral claims that rely solely on alien beings as their justification, but after that, atheism doesn’t rely imply any worldview.

  19. #19 by Brian on January 27, 2009 - 3:22 pm

    For the millionth time. Atheism is not an ideology. It doesn’t present a worldview of any sort nor does it provide cover for one. My atheism in no way tells me what moral or ethical values I should hold. Theists show their hand in attributing this sort of thinking to atheists because they can’t conceive of a statement regarding God that doesn’t lead to a “worldview”. Now atheism might effectively discount certain moral claims (that is, ones that have no reason apart from “God said so”) but it doesn’t offer ma any positive moral claims. It is no different than disbelieving in anything for which there is a lack of evidence and a mountain of counter-evidence. Atheism generally is not informed (as is theism) by a prexisting bias that is immune to and unconcerned with facts. It is most often the position arrived at by people who haltingly and, possibly, painfully figure out that facts don’t support their biases. Who the hell becomes a Christian because they started with no beliefs, took a look at the facts on the table absent any “holes” in their soul, etc., and then decided that the facts point to Christianity? Nobody.
    Atheism doesn’t inform my worldview anymore than not believing in UFO’s. I certainly may discount moral claims that rely solely on alien beings as their justification, but after that, atheism doesn’t rely imply any worldview.

  20. #20 by Brian on January 27, 2009 - 3:22 pm

    For the millionth time. Atheism is not an ideology. It doesn’t present a worldview of any sort nor does it provide cover for one. My atheism in no way tells me what moral or ethical values I should hold. Theists show their hand in attributing this sort of thinking to atheists because they can’t conceive of a statement regarding God that doesn’t lead to a “worldview”. Now atheism might effectively discount certain moral claims (that is, ones that have no reason apart from “God said so”) but it doesn’t offer ma any positive moral claims. It is no different than disbelieving in anything for which there is a lack of evidence and a mountain of counter-evidence. Atheism generally is not informed (as is theism) by a prexisting bias that is immune to and unconcerned with facts. It is most often the position arrived at by people who haltingly and, possibly, painfully figure out that facts don’t support their biases. Who the hell becomes a Christian because they started with no beliefs, took a look at the facts on the table absent any “holes” in their soul, etc., and then decided that the facts point to Christianity? Nobody.
    Atheism doesn’t inform my worldview anymore than not believing in UFO’s. I certainly may discount moral claims that rely solely on alien beings as their justification, but after that, atheism doesn’t rely imply any worldview.

  21. #21 by Brian on January 27, 2009 - 3:27 pm

    This, to me, is the final word on free will. Most arguments I hear for free will dwell on a type of surface freedom (“Nobody is holding a gun to your head”) and completely disregard that choices come from somewhere and that all the interesting psychological stuff that leads to a choice is absent from our view and consideration.
    http://www.naturalism.org/strawson.htm
    In a nutshell:
    (A) One is the way one is, initially, as a result of heredity and early experience. (B) These are clearly things for which one cannot be held to be in any way responsible (this might not be true if there were reincarnation, but this would just shift the problem backwards). (C) One cannot at any later stage of one’s life hope to accede to ultimate responsibility for the way one is by trying to change the way one already is as a result of heredity and experience. For one may well try to change oneself, but (D) both the particular way in which one is moved to try to change oneself, and the degree of one’s success in one’s attempt at change, will be determined by how one already is as a result of heredity and experience. And (E) any further changes that one can bring about only after one has brought about certain initial changes will in turn be determined, via the initial changes, by heredity and previous experience. (F) This may not be the whole story, for it may be that some changes in the way one is are traceable to the influence of indeterministic or random factors. But (G) it is absurd to suppose that indeterministic or random factors, for which one is ex hypothesi in no way responsible, can in themselves contribute to one’s being truly or ultimately responsible for how one is.

  22. #22 by Tami on January 27, 2009 - 6:50 pm

    Google “free will illusion”. There are numerous scientific studies that strongly suggest that free will is not what we think it is, as Brian suggested.

  23. #23 by bybelknap, FCD on January 27, 2009 - 7:12 pm

    I’m all in favor of a deterministic, Skinnerian view of what freedom means.

  24. #24 by hopper3011 on January 28, 2009 - 6:33 am

    Either there is a god or there isn’t – and as usual, the argument devolves into who is required to present the evidence – you having taken the side of god (even though you do not believe in same [there – I’ve conceded that you are an agnostic – well done! I’m convinced.]) it is incumbent on you to provide the evidence for such a being, it not being possible to provide evidence for the non-existence of something – I do remember that bit of logic from my community college days.

    Where have I “taken the side of god”? Please demonstrate. Unlike you I’m not claiming knowledge of anything, just acknowledging the fact that nothing is proven either way, so it’s not “incumbent” on me to provide proof of anything.
    By the way: if P then ¬Q is a perfectly valid argument form, as is: if P, then Q; ¬Q: therefore, ¬P. Perhaps a little refresher course might be in order?

    So, your assertion that it is a 50:50 proposition is completely and utterly wrong at the most basic level.

    This doesn’t follow from your previous statement. Who is carrying the burden of proof has nothing to do with calculating the probability of a creator’s existence – and since any creator must be a metaphysical being (it being very difficult to create something from within it – think chickens and eggs), unless you have a definitive proof that no such metaphysical being exists (I’m quite certain I don’t have any proof either way – that’s what being an agnostic means), then there is nothing in this universe which can give us a clue either way; therefore the probability of existence is exactly 50:50. If you simply want to demonstrate that the odds of a creator’s existence are less than 50:50 YOU have to present evidence that makes it less likely. But, by your own admission: “Either there is a god or there isn’t” – those odds are exactly even.
    If it is your contention that the existence or otherwise of a metaphysical being is necessarily proveable from this universe, then that is a quality that YOU are claiming for a metaphysical being, and therefore is something YOU have to prove, not anyone else.

    However, you haven’t made a case that omniscience is any more do-able than prescience. Care to back that assertion up? What actual being is actually omniscient? Please do show me a critter that knows everything – however you choose to define everything – and I’ll gladly swallow that crow whole.

    We are treading dangerously close to an epistemological argument here, and I’m just not ready to expand this discussion into that territory. If we can take it as read that knowledge is possible (which ought to be a basic starting point for any materialist philosophy), then surely, logically, if you can know anything you can know everything? I don’t have to imagine an all-knowing being, nor do I have to present one for your inspection, the mere fact that such a being is logically possible takes omniscience out of the metaphysical realm.

    There are lots of people much smarter than I am, and I do accept what they have to say, since I have only a limited amount of time to read and cogitate, and spend way too much of what time I do have arguing with people on blogs when I could be bettering my brain. However, I do take umbrage that
    you assert that I have come to my conclusions without the use of what small brain there is in my possession. I used it real good.

    You know, I don’t have a problem with whatever you want to believe about the world, nor do I care how you justify your position to yourself; what I have a problem with is the way in which you attacked me, just because I have a different worldview than you do. If you don’t want to have insults flung at you, then don’t fling them at me, simple.
    Atheism is a worldview (whatever Brian says) and militant atheism is an ideology (whatever Brian says) because it assumes a totality, immediately discounting other worldviews as valid or based in evidence, whether or not they are valid or based in evidence. If you lose the ability to assess a viewpoint simply because that viewpoint differs from yours, then you abandon any pretence at objectivity and move into ideology.

  25. #25 by bybelknap, FCD on January 28, 2009 - 9:35 am

    Dear Hopper.
    You are correct. I attacked you for being an apologist without thinking. I am very very very sorry, and will never do it again. You are much much smarter than I am. I admit it. I am a militant, unthinking atheist acolyte of the Great Dawkins. No wait. Darwin. I concede the entire argument to you.
    There is a fifty fifty chance that there is a god.
    You are an agnostic.
    Pre-knowing is metaphysical, All-knowing is physical.
    You are not claiming to have knowledge of anything.
    What else was I wrong about? I seem to have lost my scorecard in a river of tears of defeat.

  26. #26 by Brian on January 28, 2009 - 9:46 am

    “Atheism is a worldview (whatever Brian says) and militant atheism is an ideology (whatever Brian says) because it assumes a totality, immediately discounting other worldviews as valid or based in evidence, whether or not they are valid or based in evidence.”
    Atheism is not a worldview. Why is denying the existence of God a “worldview” or an “ideology” when denying the existence of dragons isn’t? For Gods and dragons, I haven’t lost the ability to assess the viewpoint because it differs from mine, but because thereis no evidence, and tons of counter-evidence on both propositions. I can offer you tons of things that I would accept for evidence of God, yet religious people wont’ accept anything, even hypothetically, as counter-evidence. The religious think too highly of themselves if they think that rejecting their truth claims amounts to an ideology. There is no coherent worldview informed by atheism – all the little “t” truths I believe are pretty separate and mutually exclusive and don’t add up as parts of a large “T” truth called atheism. I mean, you don’t believe in Zeus do you? Is your disbelief in Zeus a worldview? I can’t really make any statements about what you do believe based on what you don’t, except I can be pretty sure you reject morally and truth claims based on the theological imeratives of the Iliad, but outside of moral claims related directly to the whims of Zeus, I have no idea what you believe. The fact that proponents of a given religion can’t see that they know exactly how atheists feel, since they are atheists about every religion but their own, shows how unreflective they are. I feel about all gods the way you, presumably, feel about Allah or Shiva, but not Yahweh. You are baffled how smart people can reckon the Koran has divine origin and that its miracles and stories are anything more than historically and culturally explanable syncretisms because it seems self-evident in the same way I am baffled by believers in the Bible. And I really don’t get this liberal religion – by what criteria do these liberal Christians reject some parts of the holy books and accept others? What methodology do they employ that says story X in the Bible is myth, but story Y is historical?
    Nietzsche has, for me, the most definitive anser to all these theological claims – once I can demonstate historically how the belief in God arose, how it changed and morphed through syncretism and how it gained importance, I have already disproved it. The only reason anyone even entertains the idea that there might be a God is owing to the stewardship of religions in the past we all think we have gotten beyond. Atheism is the default position. There is nothing in or on the earth to suggest otherwise.
    “In former times, one sought to prove that there is no God — today one indicates how the belief that there is a God arose and how this belief acquired its weight and importance: a counter-proof that there is no God thereby becomes superfluous.”

  27. #27 by bybelknap, FCD on January 28, 2009 - 10:58 am

    But Brian, hopper doesn’t believe in any Gods. How dare you suggest otherwise?

  28. #28 by bybelknap, FCD on January 28, 2009 - 11:00 am

    I guess I have to apologize again. I unthinkingly assumed that Brian was addressing his remarks to hopper. I don’t know. It looks that way, but I am wrong about just about everything so I can’t be sure.

  29. #29 by bybelknap, FCD on January 28, 2009 - 11:00 am

    I guess I have to apologize again. I unthinkingly assumed that Brian was addressing his remarks to hopper. I don’t know. It looks that way, but I am wrong about just about everything so I can’t be sure.

  30. #30 by Tami on January 28, 2009 - 11:15 am

    Arguing about philosophical views is a waste of time. How does DNA know what to do? How do you “know” how to see? Where exactly does sight or any other sensation occur? We can, and do, argue endlessly about ideas –even kill each other over them– without even realizing the true nature of reality.

  31. #31 by bybelknap, FCD on January 28, 2009 - 11:51 am

    Tami, I like the cut of your jib.

  32. #32 by Tami on January 28, 2009 - 12:25 pm

    The wind is free, why aren’t we? From where comes this effort that I think is *mine*? Just raise the sails and cut that line!

  33. #33 by Tami on January 28, 2009 - 12:25 pm

    The wind is free, why aren’t we? From where comes this effort that I think is *mine*? Just raise the sails and cut that line!

  34. #34 by hopper3011 on January 29, 2009 - 9:17 am

    Brian;

    You are baffled how smart people can reckon the Koran has divine origin and that its miracles and stories are anything more than historically and culturally explanable syncretisms because it seems self-evident in the same way I am baffled by believers in the Bible.

    Am I baffled? If you want to discuss this subject, why don’t you start by NOT telling me what I believe and what I don’t believe – all that these repeated assertions about my beliefs regarding religion do is reveal your lack of reading comprehension.
    As for the rest of what you have said, atheism is a world view just as theism is. Atheism may not expressly describe your particular moral code, but it does inform the base authority for whichever moral code you choose to live under. Just because you don’t have a stone tablet with the words “Thou shalt not kill” engraved on it doesn’t mean that your moral code is any less set in stone – you just look in a different direction for your authority.
    Militant atheism is an ideology – look at the responses from Trin Tragula and bybelknap to my first post. The idea that a differing viewpoint should be exterminated is the basis of creating a totality from a socio-political programme. Can I suggest that you read the Dialectic of Enlightenment, it may help you to understand why I feel the way I do about militant atheism, although, given the way you mangled Nietzsche, it may not.
    It might help you to divorce the metaphysical concept of God from the socio-political power structure that is religion. I don’t know why you keep babbling on about what I believe about different religions when I have made it abundantly clear that I don’t support any of them? As an agnostic, however, I can accept the possibility that a metaphysical being may exist, without needing to posit any particular powers or adduce any evidence.

  35. #35 by bybelknap, FCD on January 29, 2009 - 10:34 am

    hopper whined:

    look at the responses from Trin Tragula and bybelknap to my first post. The idea that a differing viewpoint should be exterminated is the basis of creating a totality from a socio-political programme.

    OK now who is the paranoid?
    How the hell do you get the idea that I think your viewpoint should be exterminated from this?

    Then again, hopper could very well just be apologizing for the ambivalence the omni-benevolent being shows free will and meat-puppetry.

    You can believe whatever crazy ass shit you want. Believe that cats are magical and have foreknowlege of earthquakes. I don’t care. You have some serious mental health issues though if you think accusing you of engaging in apologetics = exterminating other points of view. You are stone cold crazy, paranoid, emotionally retarded, demented and batshit nuts. Just because I think your ideas are stupid, that you are a dumbass and that you probably smell like rancid ham, stale twinkies with a hint of sweaty gym sock, it does not follow that I think your worldview should be EXTERMINATED Just because you believe it, it doesn’t make it true. Jesus Jumping Christ on a poxed whore I’d hate to have to share an office with you.

  36. #36 by bybelknap, FCD on January 29, 2009 - 10:40 am

    P. S. I am no longer convinced you are agnostic. With a persecution complex so robust, you simply must be an xtian. Protest all you like, Jesus boy. It will avail you naught. Stop hiding behind your aggy mask and proclaim your faith to all and sundry. Jesus is your personal savior, you’ve been bathed in the blood of the lamb of Gawd! It’s ok, we won’t try to exterminate you. Promise.

  37. #37 by Brian on January 29, 2009 - 12:35 pm

    This is a special pleading for beliefs that call themselves religious, I don’t know what else to say. If an empirical claim is called “religious” it plays by a special set of rules.
    “As an agnostic, however, I can accept the possibility that a metaphysical being may exist, without needing to posit any particular powers or adduce any evidence”
    What gives you the idea that it might? Why are you agnostic about Gods, but not other propositional claims? What else are you agnostic about? Everything? The only thing that gives you the idea that there might be a God is from teh stewardship of revealed religion, which you seem to say you disregard as much as we militant atheists. The whole idea that there might be a God came from these ancient gropings. Without them, the idea wouldn’t occur to us. That is Nietzsche’s point. When we can point out the the whole idea that there might be a God came about when we couldn’t explain much about the world and that this belief morphed as human culture morphed, I am not sure on what basis a person builds their agnosticism if not as a waystation in a steady rethiking of an initial massive error.

  38. #38 by Brian on January 29, 2009 - 12:40 pm

    And just because you keep saying atheism is a worldview doesn’t make it so. Atheism to me is a reaction to worldviews – an acceptance that small “t” truths don’t have to add up to any systemic or cohesive whole. Calling atheism a religion is like calling health a disease. I mean, why is disbelieving in a God a religion and worldview when disbelieving in UFO abduction or tha alien colonization theory of human origins is not?

  39. #39 by Brian on January 29, 2009 - 12:40 pm

    And just because you keep saying atheism is a worldview doesn’t make it so. Atheism to me is a reaction to worldviews – an acceptance that small “t” truths don’t have to add up to any systemic or cohesive whole. Calling atheism a religion is like calling health a disease. I mean, why is disbelieving in a God a religion and worldview when disbelieving in UFO abduction or tha alien colonization theory of human origins is not?

  40. #40 by Kevin Beck on January 29, 2009 - 12:56 pm

    “Who the hell becomes a Christian because they started with no beliefs, took a look at the facts on the table absent any “holes” in their soul, etc., and then decided that the facts point to Christianity? Nobody.”
    This is what has always resonated with me. It’s virtually impossible to imagine an otherwise worldly and thoughtful person discovering the Bible for the first time at age 20 or so, flipping through it, and saying “You know, this actually meshes with everything I’ve seen and experienced.” All of the biblical contradictions and scientific inaccuracies aside, the whole story is not only fuck-ugly insensible on so many levels (a loving god torturing his own son; a loving god doing this for someone else’s “crimes”; a loving god doing this despite being fully responsible for these “crimes”; the god turning out to be the son he tortured and requiring the billions of descendants of the original “criminals” to “accept” him/his son in order to not be saddled with blame themselves) that indoctrination at an early age or the planting of a psychological seed that flourishes later in life in the face of adversity and nurturing by some in-group like A.A. are the only plausible explanations for rejecting conclusions attained via secular reasoning alone.
    I like Voltaire’s tongue-in-cheek quote about humankind needing to invent god even if he didn’t exist. The “existence” of gods is such an obvious excrescence of human psychology that it would be a non-started today were it not for its ubiquity and easy emotional allure.

  41. #41 by Kevin Beck on January 29, 2009 - 1:02 pm

    Slightly off-topic again, but whenever someone uses the term “fundamentalist atheist,” I think of two things. One, this his a trivial label because all atheists are “fundamentalist” in the sense that none of them believe that gods exist and will not waver in this stance unless presented by evidence of a god or gods’ existence. Two, with an eye on similar bullshit (“atheism is a religion@” “PZ is an evangelical atheist!”), religious people should realize what they are advertising about themselves when they use faith-based terms like “religion” and “fundamentalist” as slurs.

  42. #42 by Kevin Beck on January 29, 2009 - 1:14 pm

    “Who the hell becomes a Christian because they started with no beliefs, took a look at the facts on the table absent any “holes” in their soul, etc., and then decided that the facts point to Christianity? Nobody.”
    This is what has always resonated with me. It’s virtually impossible to imagine an otherwise worldly and thoughtful person discovering the Bible for the first time at age 20 or so, flipping through it, and saying “You know, this actually meshes with everything I’ve seen and experienced.” All of the biblical contradictions and scientific inaccuracies aside, the whole story is not only fuck-ugly insensible on so many levels (a loving god torturing his own son; a loving god doing this for someone else’s “crimes”; a loving god doing this despite being fully responsible for these “crimes”; the god turning out to be the son he tortured and requiring the billions of descendants of the original “criminals” to “accept” him/his son in order to not be saddled with blame themselves) that indoctrination at an early age or the planting of a psychological seed that flourishes later in life in the face of adversity and nurturing by some in-group like A.A. are the only plausible explanations for rejecting conclusions attained via secular reasoning alone.
    I like Voltaire’s tongue-in-cheek quote about humankind needing to invent god even if he didn’t exist. The “existence” of gods is such an obvious excrescence of human psychology that it would be a non-started today were it not for its ubiquity and easy emotional allure.

  43. #43 by Kevin Beck on January 29, 2009 - 1:14 pm

    “Who the hell becomes a Christian because they started with no beliefs, took a look at the facts on the table absent any “holes” in their soul, etc., and then decided that the facts point to Christianity? Nobody.”
    This is what has always resonated with me. It’s virtually impossible to imagine an otherwise worldly and thoughtful person discovering the Bible for the first time at age 20 or so, flipping through it, and saying “You know, this actually meshes with everything I’ve seen and experienced.” All of the biblical contradictions and scientific inaccuracies aside, the whole story is not only fuck-ugly insensible on so many levels (a loving god torturing his own son; a loving god doing this for someone else’s “crimes”; a loving god doing this despite being fully responsible for these “crimes”; the god turning out to be the son he tortured and requiring the billions of descendants of the original “criminals” to “accept” him/his son in order to not be saddled with blame themselves) that indoctrination at an early age or the planting of a psychological seed that flourishes later in life in the face of adversity and nurturing by some in-group like A.A. are the only plausible explanations for rejecting conclusions attained via secular reasoning alone.
    I like Voltaire’s tongue-in-cheek quote about humankind needing to invent god even if he didn’t exist. The “existence” of gods is such an obvious excrescence of human psychology that it would be a non-started today were it not for its ubiquity and easy emotional allure.

  44. #44 by bybelknap, FCD on January 29, 2009 - 1:31 pm

    I need to take another whack at prescient and omniscient too. It’s like a burr in between my sock and hiking boot. I need to think a bit about it. It’s all wrong. Bass-ackwards, but I can’t quite organize it right now. I got some thinkin to do. Yes it is very difficult for me. If it wasn’t it wouldn’t be worthwhile.

  45. #45 by Brian on January 29, 2009 - 2:19 pm

    “I need to take another whack at prescient and omniscient too.”
    It is a false distinction. Determinism is necessarily pre-determinism. If everything that happens today happen owing to causes that were in place yesterday, then everything that will happen tomorrow is already determined by the seeds that are in place today. Our utter ignorance at making predictions based on a a hopeless tangle of causes and properly weighing their various strengths doesn’t add up to freedom.
    Yeah, Kev, it astound me that Christians (or Muslims for that matter) see their revelation as a brave new world, a clean break rom past religions rather than just a tiny step in a syncretic process that we can view by looking at the religious innovations that came just before it – we just happen to hold a microscope on the earliest Christian documents and say “wow, this is so different than the Old Testament” and completely neglect the clear textual and cultural evidence that show these documents fit quite neatly in a slow evolution of religious thought. It is news to most Christians that the average Jew in 0 AD did not believe remotely the same things about Yahweh and their orientation to him as the characters depicted in the OT. Judaism was thorouthly hellenized and “zorasterized” if I might coing a phrase. If Christians would just read some late Jewish religious texts (such as Philo or the Jewish apocalyptic Book of Enoch) or understand that books they think are 6th century BC are really 2nd century BC (The Book of Daniel, for example) they would see where Christianity got its ideas. Why are Christians completely unbothered by the huge theological difference between the OT and NT (such as the conspicious lack of a “devil” in the Old Testament – such characters as Satan and Lucifer and the serpent in Genesis being retroactively read with Christian glasses). Also no hell in the OT either. These ideas came from somewhere and they were beginning to enter Judaism before any Christian texts were written but they came from outside the tradition.

  46. #46 by Tami on January 29, 2009 - 2:28 pm

    Kevin pointed out how the Bible and other religious texts don’t seem to mesh with day to day observations. But maybe that depends on your observations. Consider these, for example:
    “Whatever geometrical system man chooses, it is always a construction of the mind and has no connection with reality, for geometry possess internal order, which seems lacking in reality. Reality does not furnish geometry with axioms. We measure the experience of our thoughts against the experience of our observations. Thus we bring order into the world of reality, and make it comprehensible. But always remember, as far as the laws of mathematics refer to
    reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.”
    –Albert Einstein
    “Nothing exists until it is measured.”
    –Niels Bohr
    What those two guys observed is far from what the average person observes, and in fact agrees with various “religious” texts, as both men have acknowledged.
    Regarding prescience and omniscience, perhaps if one REALLY knows what’s going on this moment, there’s no need to know what will happen next.

  47. #47 by Kevin Beck on January 29, 2009 - 2:32 pm

    And speaking of the historical roots of Christianity, it’s hardly a surprise that your typical swamp-country pastor swilling gin out of a toilet plunger before delivering his sermon (not to stereotype or anything) not only doesn’t reveal to the flock things like the plain derivation of Jesus from Horus, but isn’t even aware of it himself.
    It speaks to a mammoth sociocultural failure that the most ardent practitioners of something subscribed to by well over half the population know far less about it than people who vehemently reject it. Imagine if most fans of something like Major League Baseball believed that there were pitchers who would throw a ball 400 miles an hour or that the original New York Yankees franchise was based in Caracas, and that if the most throaty even claimed that there were four outs in a half-inning when the score was tied.

  48. #48 by bybelknap, FCD on January 29, 2009 - 3:08 pm

    Tami, you are verging on what I am thinking about: That for prescience, knowledge of past acts and present circumstances is enough to predict the future. I and my behavior analytic colleagues did it all the time in classrooms for children with autism. We could predict the behavior of a student with 95% – 99% accuracy, were required to be that accurate before we were allowed to proceed with a behavior change plan.
    I knew that if Bob came to class flapping his hands, bouncing on the balls of his feet and making a moaning sound that he would tear the classroom apart if his teacher greeted him with a frantic barking of orders to get to work: 100% guaranteed. I predicted the future, and was right, after studying the present and the past. Does that fit the definition of prescience? I can’t do it for everyone all the time, but I sure as heck can do it after studying a person for awhile. I can even generalize it and get it right about 80% of the time for any particular kid with autism in any particular set of circumstances. Is that prescience?
    As hopper has so generously pointed out, I am very very far away from knowing everything. He doesn’t want responsibility for naming any being that does, and I’ll give a donut and a diamond to anyone who can demonstrate there exists such a thing that (who) “knows everything.”
    So, contrary to a certain hypothesis that knowing everything is a real attribute, and prescience is a metaphysical attribute, I would say that it’s the other way ’round. Correctly predicting the future is a relatively trivial feat in limited circumstances, while “knowing everything” is outside the known abilities of any being any of us can put on a pedestal and goggle at.
    Prescience is empirically testable. Omniscience is not.

  49. #49 by hopper3011 on January 29, 2009 - 3:18 pm

    Why are you agnostic about Gods, but not other propositional claims?

    Do you assume things for a living? Can you point out to me where in this thread you derived that particular assumption from (or any of your other wild assumptions for that matter)?

    The only thing that gives you the idea that there might be a God is from teh stewardship of revealed religion, which you seem to say you disregard as much as we militant atheists.

    That particular assertion is not true (and demonstrates a frightening lack of imagination on your part), did you forget your Kant? Deducing the possibility of a metaphysical world from evidence in the physical is fairly straightforward, and doesn’t rely on input from any religious source.
    Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason makes a response to Hume’s empiricism, which, by reducing space to a contingent a posteriori knowledge, undermines the foundations of scientific thought. Kant understands that natural science is based on the belief that there are real necessities, yet, whilst he is committed to Newton’s objective view of a non-relative mechanical system of space, Kant disagrees that it is an entity existing independently of the perceiving subject. Physical laws hold universally in the phenomenal world, but say nothing about the thing-in-itself which exists outside space and time. As a first step in the rejection of the Humean position Kant shows that space forms part of the organization of sensibility by denying the Cartesian disunity of subject and object.
    Descartes’ framework for the independence of subject and object, the subject as a “thing that thinks” to whom, through passive sensibility, objects are ‘given’, underpins Locke’s thesis that all knowledge comes from experience and his denial of a priori knowledge. In contrast Hume’s philosophy admits the possibility of a priori knowledge in the fields of logic and mathematics but continued the subject-object dichotomy with the assertion that all other knowledge is founded upon sense-perceptions that the mind passively receives. If our knowledge of the world is built upon knowledge aquired in this way then the mechanistic properties of the phenomenal world are not assured and the foundations of scientific knowledge are threatened.
    In short, our “truth” is informed by who we are – if humans were 5-dimensional or 7-dimensional beings, instead of the 4 dimensions that we have, our truth would be different. If our perceptions create the world we experience, then we can’t know the thing-in-itself, it is metaphysical; all without religion.

    That is Nietzsche’s point.

    No, it isn’t. Nietzsche is not talking about the existence or non-existence of a metaphysical being, he is talking about religion and its place in the socio-poltical power structure. His point (like Wittgenstein’s) is that we can’t say anything about the metaphysical world so it is better to live without relying on God to make it right in the end. He’s talking about a basic humanism, and he dislikes and discounts religion, but he doesn’t think that we can either prove or disprove a metaphysical world, because we imply don’t have the tools to do so.

    Calling atheism a religion is like calling health a disease.

    a. I didn’t call atheism a religion, I called it a worldview. Truth (big T or little t) either doesn’t exist, or we don’t have access to it (I didn’t want to go down the epistemological road, but here we are); if you choose atheism, God, realism, idealism, materialism, phenomenalism, epiphenomenalism, UFO’s or dragons as your truth, then that is your worldview.
    b. Imposing that worldview on others and denigrating other worldviews is a fact of ideology – in this case replacement of one unproveable worldview with another unproveable worldview. Any worldview which encourages instrumental reason and restricts the autonomy of the individual is an ideology (ask Tami: “Arguing about philosophical views is a waste of time.”).

  50. #50 by hopper3011 on January 29, 2009 - 3:18 pm

    Why are you agnostic about Gods, but not other propositional claims?

    Do you assume things for a living? Can you point out to me where in this thread you derived that particular assumption from (or any of your other wild assumptions for that matter)?

    The only thing that gives you the idea that there might be a God is from teh stewardship of revealed religion, which you seem to say you disregard as much as we militant atheists.

    That particular assertion is not true (and demonstrates a frightening lack of imagination on your part), did you forget your Kant? Deducing the possibility of a metaphysical world from evidence in the physical is fairly straightforward, and doesn’t rely on input from any religious source.
    Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason makes a response to Hume’s empiricism, which, by reducing space to a contingent a posteriori knowledge, undermines the foundations of scientific thought. Kant understands that natural science is based on the belief that there are real necessities, yet, whilst he is committed to Newton’s objective view of a non-relative mechanical system of space, Kant disagrees that it is an entity existing independently of the perceiving subject. Physical laws hold universally in the phenomenal world, but say nothing about the thing-in-itself which exists outside space and time. As a first step in the rejection of the Humean position Kant shows that space forms part of the organization of sensibility by denying the Cartesian disunity of subject and object.
    Descartes’ framework for the independence of subject and object, the subject as a “thing that thinks” to whom, through passive sensibility, objects are ‘given’, underpins Locke’s thesis that all knowledge comes from experience and his denial of a priori knowledge. In contrast Hume’s philosophy admits the possibility of a priori knowledge in the fields of logic and mathematics but continued the subject-object dichotomy with the assertion that all other knowledge is founded upon sense-perceptions that the mind passively receives. If our knowledge of the world is built upon knowledge aquired in this way then the mechanistic properties of the phenomenal world are not assured and the foundations of scientific knowledge are threatened.
    In short, our “truth” is informed by who we are – if humans were 5-dimensional or 7-dimensional beings, instead of the 4 dimensions that we have, our truth would be different. If our perceptions create the world we experience, then we can’t know the thing-in-itself, it is metaphysical; all without religion.

    That is Nietzsche’s point.

    No, it isn’t. Nietzsche is not talking about the existence or non-existence of a metaphysical being, he is talking about religion and its place in the socio-poltical power structure. His point (like Wittgenstein’s) is that we can’t say anything about the metaphysical world so it is better to live without relying on God to make it right in the end. He’s talking about a basic humanism, and he dislikes and discounts religion, but he doesn’t think that we can either prove or disprove a metaphysical world, because we imply don’t have the tools to do so.

    Calling atheism a religion is like calling health a disease.

    a. I didn’t call atheism a religion, I called it a worldview. Truth (big T or little t) either doesn’t exist, or we don’t have access to it (I didn’t want to go down the epistemological road, but here we are); if you choose atheism, God, realism, idealism, materialism, phenomenalism, epiphenomenalism, UFO’s or dragons as your truth, then that is your worldview.
    b. Imposing that worldview on others and denigrating other worldviews is a fact of ideology – in this case replacement of one unproveable worldview with another unproveable worldview. Any worldview which encourages instrumental reason and restricts the autonomy of the individual is an ideology (ask Tami: “Arguing about philosophical views is a waste of time.”).

  51. #51 by Tami on January 29, 2009 - 4:17 pm

    “Prescience is empirically testable.” Sure, we can predict things, given the appropriate set facts. Omniscience… well, *something* makes things go, and maybe this omniscience isn’t concerned with knowledge as we know it, knowledge that’s inherently relative and therefore limited –no matter how much of it you have or how logical it seems.

  52. #52 by Brian on January 29, 2009 - 4:45 pm

    I am not talking about Nietzche’s orientation to Christianity in general (in which he considers liberal democracy to be inexorably tied to durable aspects of Christanity), I am talking about that one quote.
    You have just watered down worldview to imply that any isolated truthclaim is a worldview. I think, commonly understood, a worldview involves systemic thinking. When you ask me what I “believe”, none of my beliefs are united and or animated by my atheism. I probably have many belies that a Christian can be equally comfortable having and many they cannot. None are symptom of or can be traced back to atheism. A worldview amounts to more than an isolated truth claim, but a systemic and comprehensive view comprised of assorted and mutually reinforcing and endorcing truth claims. There is no sort of systemic thinking that grows out of a mere rejection of a belief in God. It is simply an empirical claim that might serve to reject some worldviews, but doesn’t replace it with others. Just because I am an atheist, for example, hardly means I am a secular humanist (which is a worldview).

  53. #53 by dreikin on January 29, 2009 - 6:57 pm

    (1) Physics tells us that (within this universe) the information within a volume is limited by the surface area of that volume. Therefore, for any god to know everything about JUST the current state of the universe, and still remain in the universe, that god MUST be identical to the universe. So for a god to know everything about the universe now AND in the past, they must exist outside this universe.
    (2) To know everything about the past and present universe necessarily contains knowledge of how the universe works. Given simply the knowledge of a) the initial state of the universe, b) the actual physics of the universe, and given that c) all evidence points to the universe being deterministic (remember, QM is an approximation), then omniscience necessarily entails prescience within this universe.
    (3) The fact that there are two options (P and ¬P) does not entail equal probability. If you make no statement with regard to a creator other than that they created this universe, it is impossible to assign any probability, other than that a creator is less likely than the absence of such (given current knowledge of the universe). This is because (a) there’s no evidence of a creator, (b) there are known mechanisms consistent with our current understanding of physics that could lead to the creation and development of our universe, and (c) the probability of a creator existing is equal to P(our universe coming about) * P(existence of a creator).
    One could also argue that a the probability of any particular creator is equal to that of a boltzmann brain with the same properties, and the probability of our universe having a particular creator is equal to that of a boltzmann brain with that creator’s properties creating a universe with our properties.

  54. #54 by dreikin on January 29, 2009 - 6:57 pm

    (1) Physics tells us that (within this universe) the information within a volume is limited by the surface area of that volume. Therefore, for any god to know everything about JUST the current state of the universe, and still remain in the universe, that god MUST be identical to the universe. So for a god to know everything about the universe now AND in the past, they must exist outside this universe.
    (2) To know everything about the past and present universe necessarily contains knowledge of how the universe works. Given simply the knowledge of a) the initial state of the universe, b) the actual physics of the universe, and given that c) all evidence points to the universe being deterministic (remember, QM is an approximation), then omniscience necessarily entails prescience within this universe.
    (3) The fact that there are two options (P and ¬P) does not entail equal probability. If you make no statement with regard to a creator other than that they created this universe, it is impossible to assign any probability, other than that a creator is less likely than the absence of such (given current knowledge of the universe). This is because (a) there’s no evidence of a creator, (b) there are known mechanisms consistent with our current understanding of physics that could lead to the creation and development of our universe, and (c) the probability of a creator existing is equal to P(our universe coming about) * P(existence of a creator).
    One could also argue that a the probability of any particular creator is equal to that of a boltzmann brain with the same properties, and the probability of our universe having a particular creator is equal to that of a boltzmann brain with that creator’s properties creating a universe with our properties.

  55. #55 by hopper3011 on January 30, 2009 - 2:35 am

    When you ask me what I “believe”, none of my beliefs are united and or animated by my atheism.

    When did I ask you what you believe? I’ve never asked anyone what they believe – I’m simply not interested. That was my point in my original reply to bybelknap and Trin Tragula – whether I have Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Christian, agnostic or atheistic beliefs is irrelevant to whether “omniscience” is a synonym for “prescience”, and, whether I am a Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Christian, agnostic or atheist, omniscience is still not, and never will be a synonym for prescience, bybelknap’s apparent mental breakdown notwithstanding.
    Perhaps I should be a bit more blunt – I don’t discount your opinion (nor that of anyone else) on a subject based on your beliefs, or non-beliefs, and I’d rather other people didn’t do it to me (as you can see I react rather badly when it does happen).

    I think, commonly understood, a worldview involves systemic thinking.

    I’m not sure I agree with you there; in my understanding of the term a worldview, or weltanshauung if we want to get all epistemological, is a comprehensive (not necessarily complete, systematic or even non-contradictory) perception of the world. Your atheism is a part of your explanation of the world, which in turn informs not only your epistemological views (what you accept as true and false), your ethics (in particular the ethical authority you accept), your view of what exists in the world (your ontology denies God), the origins of your world (Adam and Eve are out?), but also your praxeology and your view of the future.
    None of these beliefs need be logically coherent to form a worldview, they just have to be there.

  56. #56 by Graculus on January 30, 2009 - 5:12 am

    b. Either there was a creator of the universe or there wasn’t – 50:50.
    By this logic, you have a 50/50 chance of winning the lottery, because you either win or you don’t.

  57. #57 by hopper3011 on January 30, 2009 - 5:40 am

    dreikin:
    1) You are confusing information with knowledge.
    2) I don’t see knowledge of a particular state as being necessarily connected to knowledge of how a state will change in the future. You haven’t necessarily connected “knowledge of” with “understanding of”, and understanding IS necessary for knowledge of how something works – at least within the definition of necessary that I am used to. I, for example, might be able to name all the bones, tendons. ligaments, and blood vessels and other organs in the human foot (I can’t, but I MIGHT be able to), does that knowledge necessarily entail that I know how the foot works? I would say that I might be able to make an educated guess, but that is not the same as a NECESSARY connection. If you can show a necessary connection I’d be glad to see it.
    3) Why would you expect to find evidence of a metaphysical being in a physical universe? If you were chained to a stake in the middle of the Sahara, a chain which allowed you to move 200 metres from the stake, but no further, and you had been chained there all your life (the 200m radius is your “universe”, if you will) would you expect to find evidence of fish? You might dig down in the sand and find fish fossils, but would you necessarily recognise them as fish fossils if you had no conception of a large body of water in which a fish could live?
    Your expectation that a physical universe would contain evidence of a metaphysical being (creator or not) is without foundation.

  58. #58 by dreikin on January 30, 2009 - 6:58 am

    (1) No, I’m not – knowledge is limited by the information available to store it in.
    (2) “All knowing” – you really don’t get that, do you? By the very nature of knowing everything (even if you don’t include knowledge of the future), knowledge of the how and why of something is included. Your personal limits, as a being that is NOT omniscient, have no bearing on a being that is omniscient. That understanding is also required by the essence of being omnipotent.
    (3) You completely missed the point of this part. For one, I didn’t make that assumption – I pointed out we don’t have any. Further, this section does not at all depend on that assumption even if it HAD been there – it’s about the various reasons a creator has a lower probability than the universe alone, which I gave multiple independent reasons for. I included it because it’s negation would significantly change the odds.

  59. #59 by bybelknap, FCD on January 30, 2009 - 9:15 am

    Synonym: a word having the same or nearly the same meaning as another in the language.
    Subset: a set that is a part of a larger set.
    Not the same things. hopper has failed to show anywhere in anything that I have written here that I say prescience and omniscience are synonyms. I have not. I wrote subset. I meant subset. Not synonym. If one wishes now to claim that subset is a synonym for synonym, one can feel free to do so. One would, of course, be wrong. So keep banging that synonym drum hopper, maybe someone will dance.

  60. #60 by hopper3011 on January 30, 2009 - 10:13 am

    1) No, it’s not – at least it is not a 1:1 relation.
    2) Omniscience can be achieved in terms of propositional knowledge (what) and is not restricted by lacking experiential knowledge (how). The colour-blind scientist is the classic example: you are a scientist investigating the colour red, you spend years and years and you find out everything about the colour red, every single shade, every single example of the colour, you achieve total knowledge of the colour, but you, personally, don’t have the physical equipment to actually see red (the rods or cones or whatever are missing from your eyes). The question is: do you really know red? Propositionally (what red is), you are omniscient about the colour, but you are lacking experientially (how red is) derived input.
    Can it be said that experience is an object of knowledge? I’d say no, so “knowledge of the how and why of something” is not necessarily attached to propositional knowledge, and doesn’t detract from omniscience.
    3) That’s kind of the point of the Kant reference – we can’t hope to know the thing-in-itself because the objects of our experience are mediated by our experience of them, so any “evidence” you present is prejudged by the fact of you having experienced the evidence (it has to be presented in a way that you can experience it, otherwise you can’t experience it). The deterministic universe (if it does turn out to be deterministic) is deterministic because we experience it as such, not because it is deterministic in-itself. For example, if you didn’t experience time as a unidirectional flow then the question of determinism wouldn’t even arise. What if you were a being that experienced time in the reverse flow to the way we do, or you experienced time as we experience length? Any talk of determinism becomes moot unless you experience the universe in the same way we do.

  61. #61 by llewelly on January 30, 2009 - 10:42 am

    opper3011 | January 30, 2009 2:35 AM, #45:

    When did I ask you what you believe? I’ve never asked anyone what they believe – I’m simply not interested.

    Well … I didn’t think you were reading anyone’s comments, but it’s nice of you to admit it.

  62. #62 by llewelly on January 30, 2009 - 10:42 am

    opper3011 | January 30, 2009 2:35 AM, #45:

    When did I ask you what you believe? I’ve never asked anyone what they believe – I’m simply not interested.

    Well … I didn’t think you were reading anyone’s comments, but it’s nice of you to admit it.

  63. #63 by bybelknap, FCD on January 30, 2009 - 10:53 am

    You are the only one here who seems to think that everything doesn’t include everything. You are certainly free to interpret everything as not really everything – “what” but not “how” – but it appears to me that you are just pulling that distinction out of your nether regions because it suits you. What part of everything do you not understand? All. in toto. Everything. Not some, not a bit. Not All but the parts that make your argument crash and burn. Everything. The color blind scientist, by not knowing experientially what red is, is by definition not omniscient of not only red, but of everything. You want to carve up everything into bits and exclude some of them. If you do, it is no longer everything, but everything minus some bits. So everything that you say after that is just wanking in the wind.

  64. #64 by bybelknap, FCD on January 30, 2009 - 10:53 am

    You are the only one here who seems to think that everything doesn’t include everything. You are certainly free to interpret everything as not really everything – “what” but not “how” – but it appears to me that you are just pulling that distinction out of your nether regions because it suits you. What part of everything do you not understand? All. in toto. Everything. Not some, not a bit. Not All but the parts that make your argument crash and burn. Everything. The color blind scientist, by not knowing experientially what red is, is by definition not omniscient of not only red, but of everything. You want to carve up everything into bits and exclude some of them. If you do, it is no longer everything, but everything minus some bits. So everything that you say after that is just wanking in the wind.

  65. #65 by Brian on January 30, 2009 - 4:22 pm

    Some confusion about my syntax. When I say “you”, I often mean a hypothetical “you”, not you in particular. I should probably say “one” instead such as “When ONE asks me what I believe…” or “When one says…”.
    Still don’t see how atheism is a worldview – it might serve to reject others, but atheism is hardly a description of reality – it tells me what there isn’t, not what there is. It is far to broad and only contains one element. Saying that a tapeworm doesn’t have a penis does not express a worldview with regard to tapeworms – I don’t know what the hell it has, but it ain’t got a penis.
    I think Kant and others that go down this line are being coy. Distinctions like Kants idea of truth being defined solely by its experience and thus safely bracketed are pure sophism – are probably literally accurate, but so what? Why does truth have to rise to a level higher than a modest dependent one to be of strong value? The idea, for example, that color only “exists” because we have eyes that perceive it and what would be left of color if we had no eyes is the sort of that is too clever by half. What other kind of reality matters besides the kind “bracketed” here by Kant (and later by others like Foucault and Rorty)? I think Nagel in The View From nowhere answers this sophistry pretty effectively in various places as does Bernard Williams. Usually people who want to bracket truth in this way do so at the service of arguing for the possibility or some truth they already hold and prefer, not because they really want us to be skeptical of all truth claims or really believe that our perceptive faculties create, rather than apprend, truth – hence the evangelical Chrisian can sound suspiciously like a Foucault acolyte (unintentionally, of course) when pressed – conservative relativism is the pose of Intelligent Design, for one.
    There is a fair enough discussion of Nagel’s point I am talking about here on page 2:
    http://www.opendemocracy.net/content/articles/PDF/1218.pdf

  66. #66 by Brian on January 30, 2009 - 4:24 pm

    Some confusion about my syntax. When I say “you”, I often mean a hypothetical “you”, not you in particular. I should probably say “one” instead such as “When ONE asks me what I believe…” or “When one says…”.
    Still don’t see how atheism is a worldview – it might serve to reject others, but atheism is hardly a description of reality – it tells me what there isn’t, not what there is. It is far to broad and only contains one element. Saying that a tapeworm doesn’t have a penis does not express a worldview with regard to tapeworms – I don’t know what the hell it has, but it ain’t got a penis.
    I think Kant and others that go down this line are being coy. Distinctions like Kants idea of truth being defined solely by its experience and thus safely bracketed are pure sophism – are probably literally accurate, but so what? Why does truth have to rise to a level higher than a modest dependent one to be of strong value? The idea, for example, that color only “exists” because we have eyes that perceive it and what would be left of color if we had no eyes is the sort of that is too clever by half. What other kind of reality matters besides the kind “bracketed” here by Kant (and later by others like Foucault and Rorty)? I think Nagel in The View From nowhere answers this sophistry pretty effectively in various places as does Bernard Williams. Usually people who want to bracket truth in this way do so at the service of arguing for the possibility or some truth they already hold and prefer, not because they really want us to be skeptical of all truth claims or really believe that our perceptive faculties create, rather than apprend, truth – hence the evangelical Chrisian can sound suspiciously like a Foucault acolyte (unintentionally, of course) when pressed – conservative relativism is the pose of Intelligent Design, for one.
    There is a fair enough discussion of Nagel’s point I am talking about here on page 2:
    http://www.opendemocracy.net/content/articles/PDF/1218.pdf

  67. #67 by hopper3011 on January 31, 2009 - 5:57 am

    Still don’t see how atheism is a worldview – it might serve to reject others, but atheism is hardly a description of reality – it tells me what there isn’t, not what there is.

    If you had a real argument you’d use that and address the points I made instead of talking about tapeworm penises.
    Isn’t belief about what isn’t in the world just as much a description of the world as a belief about what is? You can describe a room by describing what isn’t there just as effectively as by describing what is there.

    What other kind of reality matters besides the kind “bracketed” here by Kant (and later by others like Foucault and Rorty)? I think Nagel in The View From nowhere answers this sophistry pretty effectively in various places as does Bernard Williams. Usually people who want to bracket truth in this way do so at the service of arguing for the possibility or some truth they already hold and prefer, not because they really want us to be skeptical of all truth claims or really believe that our perceptive faculties create, rather than apprend, truth – hence the evangelical Chrisian can sound suspiciously like a Foucault acolyte (unintentionally, of course) when pressed – conservative relativism is the pose of Intelligent Design, for one.

    I think you may be slightly confused about what Kant’s argument is? Kant very definitely argues for an objective truth, his whole position is a response to the English skeptics’ (Locke and Hume particularly) experiential epistemology. Kant sees that any denial of the a priori also denies the existence of a (Newtonian) mechanistic, objective universe. What Kant says is that because we are constituted to experience the world in the way we are, we can rely on the a priori truths to form an objective mechanistic universe for us, but that we can’t say what the universe is in-itself. Kant very definitely believes that red is red even when we aren’t looking at it, but that we can’t say what red is in-itself.
    Kant is very definite about the idea that an objective truth exists for sentient beings in this universe, and I think that Nagel is probably talking about a level of truth other than that which Kant addresses (I was going to say ” a lower level” but I think it might be wrong to quantify truth in that way). Kant’s whole point is that although we can’t know the thing-in-itself we can rely on the universe to be constituted according to the laws of physics. Your article is definitely talking about a truth of perspectives.
    The point I was trying to make about the colour-blind scientist is not one of a subjective truth-value, but rather to ask what knowledge actually is? When can we say that we “know” something? Is experiential knowledge necessary for complete knowledge? If, as a doctor you know what kills people and you know what constitutes the death of an organism, do you actually have to die to “know” death? What does the experience of death add to the knowledge of death?
    If you want to go with Nietzschean determinism, surely any conception of “knowledge” falls by the wayside? If the universe is totally detemined, then don’t things “just happen” i.e. some thing happens; two people offer different versions of an event; someone else claims that there is no such thing as objective truth, then that event, those versions of the event, and the claim of no objective truth were determined, and the “knowledge” of them doesn’t matter because any further reactions to that knowledge are also determined?
    To take Nietzsche’s epistemology too seriously is probably a mistake, he was a master of immanent sociological critique, but, not unlike those other masters of the genre, Adorno and Foucault, what he excluded from his argument was any contradictory evidence and an admission of counter-argument.

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