Friday, February 25, 2011

Thoughts on Gallup’s Religious Wellbeing Polls

Christian apologist Rick Warden has posted numerous comments on my blog (see my blogs here and here), reaching for virtually any desperate means of attacking Objectivism that he can concoct on the spur of the moment. To his credit, Rick rightly recognizes that Objectivism poses a philosophical threat to theism, and his choice to dig in his heels to protect his god-belief from the very existence of other human beings who do not buy into the bible’s bull, has motivated him to deploy numerous deliberately distorting and, I dare say, underhanded tirades on my blog. His latest barrage of comments were posted in mid January on this blog, and I debated whether or not to respond yet again to someone who has proven to be quite unteachable on philosophical matters. Since I realize that some of my readers might benefit from points I have in response to Rick’s rants, and since I haven’t been posting much on my blog in recent months, I have decided to publish my reaction.
In the present entry, I will focus on some polling results published by Gallup which Rick apparently thinks are important to the debate.

Now when Rick Warden, in his continuing effort to find fault with Objectivism, seeks to turn our attention to Gallup’s polling data, this is a clear sign that he’s on the ropes. It indicates nothing more than that he senses his own position’s futility in trying to seal any philosophical case against Objectivism. If one cannot win his case by means of legitimate argument, focus your sights the latest Gallup survey.

But I’m happy to oblige and check out the surveys’ results.

Rick himself has posted an entry on his own blog regarding the polling data. His blog can be found here:
Gallup’s own release of the polling results can be found here:
Now I have never granted very much importance to polls. I’m of the considered opinion that one could pretty much create a poll to achieve whatever result he wants. But this is not the first time I’ve seen a theist point to polling data or popularity contests as a means of defending theism. What’s notable about the two Gallup polls which Rick Warden cites, is that religiosity as it is understood and measured in both polls is not specific to any particular religion. Both polls assume the following definitions:
Very religious -- Religion is an important part of daily life and church/synagogue/mosque attendance occurs at least every week or almost every week. This group constitutes 43.7% of the adult population. 
Moderately religious -- All others who do not fall into the very religious or nonreligious groups but who gave valid responses on both religion questions. This group constitutes 26.6% of the adult population.
Nonreligious -- Religion is not an important part of daily life and church/synagogue/mosque attendance occurs seldom or never. This group constitutes 29.7% of the adult population.
At minimum, “religion” as Gallup measures it could be either Christianity (“church”), Judaism (“synagogue”) or Islam (“mosque”), and presumably could be any other religion for that matter. While I have not seen the questions which survey respondents were asked to answer in either poll, the definitions here suggest that “religion” as it is understood is widely open-ended. The poll also makes a point to indicate that religiosity is defined in part as “self-reported importance of religion,” and that this single criterion can by itself measure a respondent’s religiosity. So depending on how the question is asked, a person reporting that religion is very important – whatever that might mean to the respondent – would be classified by the survey in the “very religious” bucket.

Another point of note that I find troubling is that it is not clear what specifically is meant by “wellbeing” as the Gallup polls understand it. I’m sure Gallup has a worked-out understanding of what this is supposed to mean, but I could not find it in my review of the documentation (then again, I just “skimmed” it – a talent I learned from Sye Ten Bruggencate). Now the Gallup poll page does have a link to an advertisement for a book on wellbeing titled Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements, by Tom Rath and John Harter. When I clicked on the link, the book’s advertisement showcases five boxes presumably corresponding to the “five essential elements” mentioned in the book’s title. Those elements are: career wellbeing, social wellbeing, financial wellbeing, physical wellbeing, community wellbeing. Lacking from these “essential elements” are personal wellbeing and philosophical wellbeing, the very categories that I would think are as important (if not more so) as physical wellbeing and career wellbeing. So if this is any indication of what Gallup means by “wellbeing,” perhaps it should come as no surprise that those who the survey categorizes as “very religious” might score high.

But clearly Rick Warden wants us to take Gallup’s polling results seriously. And his interpretation of the polling results is highly suspect. For example, in the comments section of this blog, he wrote:
If you look at my recent blog article on spirituality and happiness, you will find Gallup polls that show selfishness and materialism are not conducive to happiness, but spirituality is. Ayn Rand chose atheism at age 13, according to her personal notes. In her so-called “philosophy for life” she ended up addicted to meth as she wrote the Fountainhead.
In my review of both Gallup polls which Rick cites, I found no mention whatsoever about selfishness or materialism. This seems to be Rick’s own interpretation of the data. And yet Rick himself does not produce any rational basis for this interpretation of the data presented in these studies. Rick’s own blog entry on the topic does not make any mention of either selfishness or materialism either. And yet, here he is telling us that these studies indicate that neither selfishness nor materialism is “conducive to happiness.” But from what I can see, the studies in no way state this.

While I would not be surprised by any study finding that materialism – if taken seriously and applied consistently – resulted in depression, ennui, mental agitation, or emotional emptiness, it’s hard to see how a genuinely anti-selfish disposition and code of conduct could result in happiness. Happiness is the emotional result of achieving one’s own values. By its very nature happiness is selfish.

Let’s be clear on the meaning of these terms. Selfishness, as Objectivism informs it, is essentially concern for one’s own interests. When someone takes care of himself, works to earn his way through life, purchases a home for himself and his family to live in, buys his family food and clothing, pays the energy bill, educates himself and improves his talents and abilities, and the like, he’s acting selfishly.

Some dictionaries will define selfishness as concern exclusively for oneself while deliberately ignoring or even thwarting the values of others. But this is clearly not a suitable definition, for caring for another’s values could very well be in a person’s own self-interest. I look after my wife’s interests and my daughter’s interests, just as I look after my own immediate interests, because they too are among my interests. Their welfare is definitely very high in my hierarchy of values. When I tend to my wife’s and daughter’s needs, I am being just as selfish as when I tend to my own immediate needs. So, to be sure, there are some very persistent misconceptions about the meaning and nature of selfishness. Rand points this out in the Introduction to her book The Virtue of Selfishness:
The meaning ascribed in popular usage to the word “selfishness” is not merely wrong: it represents a devastating intellectual “package-deal,” which is responsible, more than any other single factor, for the arrested moral development of mankind. 
In popular usage, the word “selfishness” is a synonym of evil; the image it conjures is of a murderous brute who tramples over piles of corpses to achieve his own ends, who cares for no living being and pursues nothing but the gratification of the mindless whims of any immediate moment. (vii)
The opposite of selfishness is selflessness. Selflessness is essentially indifference to values as such. A selfish person is someone who looks out for his values: he takes those actions which achieve and secure those values which he needs in order to live, including those which make his life worth living (for they offer the incentive he needs in order to continue living). He recognizes that values are not automatically achieved, but must be achieved and protected by means of chosen action guided by rational judgment.

A truly selfless person, if such a thing could exist, would take no interest in what he needs in order to live. He would be indifferent to his need for food, clothing, shelter from the elements, knowledge, ability, judgment, social relationships, etc. Obviously such a person would have minimal life expectancy. But this is the ideal which is offered by the anti-selfishness crowd: they don’t want you to be the primary beneficiary of your own actions; they want someone or something else to enjoy that role.

It should be noted that those who preach self-sacrifice often appeal to emergencies as the backdrop for making their points. For instance, a selfish man, it may be claimed, would not risk his life by running into a burning building to save his wife or children. He’s only going to look out for his own skin, and not worry about others. So he’d let them burn up. But this is not necessarily true, nor is it a just representation of what selfishness truly is. A selfish man may very well run into a burning house, especially if (a) something he values is threatened by the flames engulfing the house (especially if it’s an irreplaceable value, such as a family member or close friend), and (b) he believes, on what little assessment the situation allows, that he might have some chance at succeeding in saving his values. And while a truly selfless person would not care either way if persons and things were destroyed in a house fire (since he is to reject his self, and with it anything that could potentially be a value relating to his self), emergencies are not the norm of human life, and therefore not the standard condition for evaluating moral behavior. A person acting in response to an emergency does not have the luxury of being able to consider all available alternatives, scrutinizing the situation’s particular circumstances and subsequently weighing the pros and cons of his actions with adequate knowledge of their appropriateness. On the contrary, in an emergency, where life and limb face immediate threat, one must act without being able to assess the situation. The moral is the chosen under normal conditions, not what one might be compelled to do in an emergency.

Given these points, consider the lunacy of someone who says something to the effect that you need to sacrifice yourself in order to achieve something you want, such as happiness. If one sacrifices himself, he sacrifices everything he wants, including happiness. To suppose that happiness is only possible on the condition that one sacrifice himself – which would include everything he values, wants, and enjoys – is to distort happiness beyond recognition. On such a view, what is “happiness” and why would it be important? The mystic can say “If you want happiness, you need to deny yourself” all he wants. But he ignores the facts that “wanting” is of the self to begin with, and happiness requires a self which can enjoy it.

Now consider what must be the motivation of those who condemn selfishness and urge you to renounce your concern for your own interests. Could it be the case that they hope to gain something – anything – by means of your sacrifice? Even if it’s some form of satisfaction or sense of validation – as perverse as either would be – that they are seeking, such a goal is itself borne of a desire to gain. In such a case, we have clear case of hypocrisy.

But neither of the two Gallup polls which Rick cites suggests that one should go about seeking and achieving happiness by giving up himself, his ideals, his principles, his character, his self. In no way is self-sacrifice indicated as the proper means to happiness in any of these polls. Likewise, in no way do either poll indicate that selfishness is anathema or hostile to happiness.

What I found interesting in the polls were the results reported among those categorized by Gallup as “Very Religious.” In the poll measuring well-being, the “very religious” participants of the poll achieved a score of only 68.7 on the Well-Being Index. Assuming that the maximum score achievable is 100 (which may or may not be the case), why did the “Very Religious” category achieve such a mediocre score? On a traditional grading system, this score out of 100 would amount to a D+ at best. For those claiming to be filled with a divine spirit that’s supposed to be omniscient, infallible and omnibenevolent, that’s hardly something to brag about.

At any rate, why did the “very religious” score only a 68.7? Why did they not achieve an overall higher score?

Similarly I was struck by the results of the poll measuring depression among the surveyed populations. According to this poll, 15.6% of those answering to the criteria defining “very religious” were diagnosed with depression. Gallup’s own assessment says that “Nearly one in six (15.6%) very religious American adults have been diagnosed with depression in their lifetime.” One in six?! Why is the frequency of depression diagnosis for this portion of the population so high? Why would there be any depression among those who are “very religious” if their religious views actually contained the secret to better wellbeing? If the religious view of the world were in fact so superior to any non-religious view, as religious apologists like Rick Warden insist, such findings are in painful need for explanation.

Perhaps the depression reported by those in the “very religious” category could be explained as having been experienced prior to becoming “very religious.” If that is the case (and it’s not clear if the poll allows for such responses), perhaps it was depression which influenced their decision to become religious in the first place. I know from firsthand experience how religious proselytizers often seek to exploit difficulties in a person’s life in order to woo them into the religious fold. It is often the case that a person turns to religion when he is at a low point in his life. After all, one typically does not refocus his hopes on the supernatural when things in the natural world are going well. I’m reminded of one of Danny Barker’s tunes, which includes the observant statement, “before you can sell salvation, you have to sell damnation.” And damnation is a lot easier to sell when someone is deep in the doldrums of life.

But folks like Rick don’t want us to focus exclusively on the “very religious” results. Rather, they want us to be impressed by comparisons between the different groups that the surveys categorize and measure. In the well-being survey, for instance, we’re supposed to be preoccupied by the difference between those categorized as “very religious” – who collectively scored 68.7 on the Well-Being Index– and those categorized as “non-religious” – who collectively scored only 64.2. Apparently we’re supposed to be excited (or quickened) by the “Our group scored higher than your group” chorus of the “very religious,” even though the difference between the two scores is hardly significant. While the “non-religious” score may be a solid D, the “very religious” score is at best only a D+. And a D+ is hardly something to shout about. Indeed, one would think that, if the “truths” which the “very religious” have traditionally championed were in fact true, the divide between these respective scores would be considerably wider. We might even expect the “very religious” to be consistently scoring an A+ while the “non-religious” are hopelessly suffocating in the low Fs.

The survey also states that
Well-Being Index scores do not vary widely across sub-groups of the U.S. population. For example, across all 50 states, the range in Well-Being Index scores from the highest scoring state to the lowest scoring state is about 10 points.
In other words, as I understand this, the broadest range in score differential is about 10 points across the US, and yet the differential between “very religious” and “non-religious” is statistically averaged at less than half of this! If that’s the case, I’m even less impressed by the poll’s results, especially given the fact that the vast majority of Americans are products of a miserable educational system, and also the fact that most “non-religious” persons in the United States very probably accept many religious premises, whether they realize it or not, and thus float through their existence with little if any rational bearing on the course of their lives. On that note, a sure formula for depression would involve accepting religion’s man-damning premises on the one hand, and the futile belief that one could never measure up to religion’s standards, that one could never earn his dignity or sanctity, regardless of what he does or attempts to accomplish. Accepting such premises in one’s worldview would drastically reduce one’s philosophical capacity for achieving genuine happiness.

In the end, however, all that Gallup really gives us are some polling results, with little to no indication that I could readily find as to what questions the respondents were asked to consider. And the fact that neither poll measures for happiness among those self-identifying specifically as Objectivists only tells me that this distinction is ignored by the surveying process. Had the polls included this additional category, what would their results look like? I guess we’ll never know.

by Dawson Bethrick

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52 Comments:

Blogger Paul Baird said...

OFF TOPIC

Hi Andrew - I'm debating Sye on Tuesday.

Wish me luck !

February 25, 2011 8:03 AM  
Blogger The Secular Walk said...

@Dawson Bethrick

I have a quick question for you. How would you answer Sye Ten-Bruggencate's presuppositional ploy where he asks:

"How do you know that your reasoning about the logic you use is valid"?

February 25, 2011 11:18 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hello SW:

In reply to the question "How do you know that your reasoning about the logic you use is valid?” the short answer is:

- The same way I know anything: by applying rational means of knowledge.

A bit more specifically, propose the following general methodology:

- first: learn the norms of validity of reasoning (available in a good logic text – I recommend H.W.B. Joseph – one of the last true Aristotelians who wrote before so many western educators declined into Logical Positivism and other academic vices; I would not recommend consulting the bible for a reliable understanding of logic).

- then: identify the course of reasoning you applied in your own logical inferences. (What was your starting point, what were your key definitions, what were the premises in your inferences, what conclusion did you draw, etc.)

-then: compare the latter to the former to check your reasoning’s conformity with those norms, spot any deviations, correct any mistakes, oversights, etc.

Once you’ve gone through this exercise, your confidence in your reasoning will be justified.

However, I suggest that you keep in mind with someone like Sye: he’s not genuinely interested in *understanding* - either your specific position or the proper position on knowing anything. His goal is to *destroy*, not to understand. He has already committed himself: no matter what answer you provide to his questions, it is wrong and he’s going to see to it that everyone else knows it through his own gimmicks.

If Sye has any specific objections against your reasoning about your logic, invite him to present them. If all he wants to do is ask you a series of questions which begin “How do you know…?” ask him if he’s expecting you to reply, “Duh, I donno, must be God did it!” In other words, corner him on his own turf: he’s asking you how you know something. Suggest that you may not know how you know a certain item of knowledge. Then what? Is he looking for a gap of ignorance into which he can insert his god?

Sye seeks to destroy by uncovering/exposing points of uncertainty. That is the Christian’s ultimate ploy. Christians are uncomfortable with non-omniscience, and resent any philosophy which does not share this discomfort. In short, they want you to be uncomfortable with your own non-omniscience; they want to exploit your non-omniscience in order to insert their mystical claims into any gap in your knowledge. It’s the crassest form of epistemological parasitism going.

Speaking of Sye, I have not seen any serious reply from him on my refutation of his www.proofthatgodexists.org website. (Not that I’ve been looking…) Have you?

Regards,
Dawson

February 26, 2011 6:37 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

As a follow-up to my statement that folks like Sye really aren’t interested in understanding anything about knowledge, how it is discovered, validated, etc.:

When you interact with such folks – especially presuppositionalists, who posture themselves as being really concerned about epistemology, justification, and the such – ask yourself:

Do I learn anything valuable about knowledge from this person?

When he seeks to critique your answers to his questions, do you find your understanding of the knowledge process growing as a result of what he communicates to you?

I’ve interacted with countless Christian apologists over the years, and I don’t recall learning anything genuinely valuable about knowledge from any of them. I certainly have learned their debating tactics, which are geared primarily to two things: evasion and putting opponents on the defensive. And examining their questions and seeking out proper ways to address them has been very enlightening - but this is something I have learned from my own efforts and research, not from anything that they have presented.

Indeed, it’s hard if not impossible to have a genuinely edifying and constructive discussion with presuppositionalists in particular. They are hellbent on showing all opponents to be stupid, intellectually inferior, hopelessly misguided, all due to their non-belief in their preferred invisible magic being.

Plus, their view of knowledge is so confused and tortured that they have nothing of value to offer in such a discussion. They don’t understand concepts – their worldview has no theory of concepts to begin with. So how can they have anything important to say on the topic of knowledge? They may do a lot of name-dropping and jargoneering, peppering their rhetoric with words and phrases they’ve picked up from their apologetic models or from an introductory college course. But this is all geared towards erecting a façade which is ultimately intended to intimidate opponents, not educate them.

Notice also when someone comes a long and carefully explains things – such as when I explain why Sye’s argument is deeply flawed, or why logic could not presuppose the Christian god, or why David Hume’s argument about induction has numerous errors – they’re not interested. They don’t want to learn. Observe this particularly in Chris Bolt: he’s still posting blogs about David Hume on induction, as if Hume got it right, even though a year ago I devoted several posts in response to Bolt correcting him on this matter. They don’t want to learn.

So, I just wanted to follow up on my own statement and explain that there’s some beef behind my observation.

Regards,
Dawson

February 26, 2011 7:02 AM  
Blogger david said...

H.W.B. Joseph's Introduction to Logic is available on-line here. Pdf and Kindle versions for free.

February 26, 2011 10:03 AM  
Blogger Melody said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

March 01, 2011 1:38 PM  
Blogger ActionJackson864 said...

hey Dawson, I always enjoy your posts. I have a question for you, I'll email it to you as well but I think that everyone here may benefit from it.

I was having a discussion with a coworker of mine of the presupper persuasion and he said that "existence exists" is an assumption. I explained to him that to assume, we would have to exist...he said "thats an assumption as well"...his bottom line was that we have "faith" that existence exists and that we cannot "know" it.

How would you deal with this?

No matter what I said he just kept saying "thats an assumption" etc.

I will be looking at HWB Joseph's Intro to logic as well, thank you for posting that.

March 01, 2011 1:42 PM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

I would point out to your co-worker that he is making the very same assumption as well, weather he acknowledges this or not. Furthermore that due to the axiomatic nature of the concept existence, it is unavoidable by any thinker.

March 01, 2011 2:52 PM  
Blogger Paul Baird said...

Hi Dawson, the second debate with Sye Tenbruggencate has now been recorded and will be broadcast on Premier Christian Radio on Saturday 19th or 26th March.

I think most people will enjoy it :-)

March 01, 2011 11:13 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hello AJ,

You wrote: “I was having a discussion with a coworker of mine of the presupper persuasion and he said that ‘existence exists’ is an assumption.”

You have a co-worker who’s into presup? Fascinating! Unfortunately, it appears that he’s trying to evade genuine discourse while trying to discount anything you might say at the same time. He does not seem to be giving the matter much critical thought. It’s as if he doesn’t understand the connection between knowledge and consciousness as such.

But his position seems at odds with itself. He allows you the ability to “assume,” but not the ability to “know.” And yet, when he tells you that what you propose as a fundamental truth is just “an assumption,” you’re supposed to accept this as knowledge. I.e., when he says “that’s just an assumption,” you’re now supposed to *know* that it is just an assumption. So his whole tactic both denies your ability to know, and yet depends on your being able to know.

AJ: “I explained to him that to assume, we would have to exist...he said ‘thats an assumption as well’”

So he grants you the ability to make assumptions, and yet does not allow that you can know that you must first exist in order to have and exercise that ability? Does he even allow that you *know how* to make assumptions? Wouldn’t that be a form of knowledge that you’re capable of? Again, he does not seem to be thinking very critically on the matter. Can he explain how it could be otherwise? Can he explain how you could have an ability to do something and exercise that ability, and yet not exist? I’m guessing he would say he’s not making this argument. But why then cannot the observation that one must exist in order to possess an ability and exercise it, qualify as knowledge?

AJ: “...his bottom line was that we have ‘faith’ that existence exists and that we cannot ‘know’ it.”

Apparently, his bottom line is that no one can have knowledge at all. And yet, we are expected to accept this position as knowledge.

It’s no surprise to find Christian apologists retreating into skepticism when they sense a threat to their god-belief. After all, on the Christian’s view of things, knowledge really is not possible to man in the final analysis. (It’s only possible to something they imagine.) By responding to everything you state on behalf of your own position, that it’s just “an assumption” and “we cannot ‘know’ it,” he’s telling you about his own position. He’s essentially saying that, on his position, knowledge is not possible, and that’s too bad for him. Does he produce an argument for this? If so, it seems it would be worthless if we couldn’t know anything in the first place.

Ask what his understanding of knowledge is. From what you state, it is something we cannot achieve. But why? What is knowledge on his view, and what justifies his conception of knowledge? Does he “know” that his conception of knowledge is valid – i.e., has he formed it properly, does it accurately identify the essential nature of knowledge, is it relevant to man’s nature, etc.? On the rational view, man is capable of knowledge because he has the ability to conceptualize what he perceives. Perhaps your co-worker would say it’s “just an assumption” that we perceive. But this would be a stolen concept – before we could make any assumptions, we’d have to be conscious of at least something, and perception is the only means by which we are aware of anything distinct from ourselves.

AJ: “How would you deal with this?”

Simply: acknowledge that this is not your problem. It’s your co-worker’s problem. He’s chosen to take an irrational position, and is likely performatively contradicting himself. He’s not open to learning on the matter; he’s hiding.

AJ: “No matter what I said he just kept saying ‘thats an assumption’ etc.”

This is a tactic – a rather juvenile one at that – which he has elected to hide behind. His choice to continue employing it tells you that he senses that his position is untenable. He can’t even know what he says is true!

Regards,
Dawson

March 02, 2011 12:14 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

AJ,

Here’s something else to consider. Your co-worker, in claiming that one would have to have “faith” that ‘existence exists’ is apparently committing the same kind of error that Register critiques in John Robbins’ attempt to refute Objectivism. In his review of Robbins’ book Without a Prayer: Ayn Rand and the Close of Her System, Register writes:

<< Robbins asserts that reason always relies on faith: "Reason can never cease to be the handmaid of faith: All thought must start somewhere, and that initial postulate is unproved, by definition... . The only question that remains is, Which faith-which axiom-shall reason serve?" (22) Since Objectivism is grounded on a set of axioms, which are by definition unprovable, Robbins concludes that Objectivism rests on an act of faith in those axioms. But this assumes that there are only two kinds of claims: those one proves and those which one takes on faith. In fact, as the Objectivist literature makes clear, there is a third type of claim: one which is valid because it formulates a fact that is directly perceived. Such are the most fundamental perceptual judgments and such are the axioms. >>

And it’s even worse for your co-worker. Since he denies our ability to know anything, even if one has “faith” in something, he cannot “know” that what he has “faith” in is true. If he’s a Christian who advocates “faith” in Jesus Christ, by his own admission he cannot “know” that what he has “faith” in is true. It is, as he puts it, only “an assumption.” I think this is what Justin was trying to point out. This is not a tu quoque, since there’s no valid reason for you to concede your co-worker’s premise (“assumption”) that knowledge is not possible to man. All you’d be doing at this point is showing how his own stated views defeat his own position.

So if he says again that “we cannot know” anything, just remind him that this is only “an assumption” on his part. Let him choke on that.

Regards,
Dawson

March 02, 2011 12:23 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Paul,

Thanks for the update on your debate with Sye. Please feel free to post a link to the audio file on my blog once it's available. I'd love to listen in.

Regards,
Dawson

March 02, 2011 12:24 AM  
Blogger ActionJackson864 said...

Thank you for your comments Dawson! very helpful!

Yes I work with a presupper, also, funny thing, I was surfing around on some of the "minds lost in confusion" links and saw a link to Ken Gentry, I used to work with him as well yet I was not into Objectivism at the time, also I didnt realize he was such a big wig presbyterian til I saw the link here.

I really think that presup. is growing very fast because of the internet and youtube. This is why you Mr. Bethrick really need to write a book. Hell ,just compile your blog and publish it.

Paul, I am excited about your debate and will be looking for the audio around the dates you listed on your blog.

March 02, 2011 7:55 PM  
Blogger Jean-Luc said...

Mr. Bethrick/Mr. Burner

To start out being frank I have to admit I am Christian, and probably something of a presuppositionalist. In further frankness I typically apply this to the challenge of evolutionary/naturalistic thought. In this regard I have no idea how presuppositionalism deals with its seeming adversary in regards to objectivism.(I've been studying logical fallacies recently!) To say the least I shall be attempting to peruse your site, and get a better understanding of the issues. This of course, leads to my most initial question: Where is a good place to start as an introduction to objectivism?

As to my other question I have to ask: I'm reading a lot of the arguments in glancing at the comments that seem to deal with knowing or not knowing, and to me this is really an issue of how to define what we all universally perceive, but are unable to fully explain irrefutably. That is to say, in the explaining we inherently make it less then it is, because it means a variety of things to a variety of people. This definition also inherently limits it. Lulz. Anyway, I'd love to hear your thoughts and recommendations.

Sincerely,

Jean-Luc

P.S. All these arguments seem a bit moot, because they require a perceptual understanding? (Which is what I thought presuppositionalism is supposed to be getting at?)

P.S.S. I mean these questions in all legitimacy, not as a critic(yet of course).

March 03, 2011 10:42 PM  
Blogger Paul Baird said...

@ Jean-Luc.

Alot of the arguments seem to begin with trying to establish the existance of certain absolutes eg truth, morality, logic etc. which are themselves contentious.

What I would like to see is a presupper trying to establish that the acceptance of a non contentious absolute requires the presupposition of a God.

The absolute that I would put forward is Pi.

How does the acceptance of the number 3.1415926 etc, etc, etc presuppose the existance of a God ?

March 03, 2011 11:49 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hello Jean-Luc,

Welcome to my blog, and thanks for taking the time to post a comment. I’m happy to introduce you to Objectivism.

You wrote: “In this regard I have no idea how presuppositionalism deals with its seeming adversary in regards to objectivism.”

Typically, it doesn’t deal with Objectivism. In my experience interacting with presuppositionalists (13 years now – since early ‘98), it’s clear (to me anyway) that presuppositionalism does not prepare apologists to deal with Objectivism effectively. In fact, I’m convinced that no system of defending theism can. There are many reasons why I am convinced of this, but we could get into them all in good time if you’re interested.

Generally speaking, the critique of Christianity which I have developed using Objectivist principles seeks to demonstrate how presuppositionalists commit the very fallacy which they accuse non-Christians of making, i.e., of affirming something while denying (implicitly or otherwise) the preconditions which make that something which they affirm possible. Objectivism calls this the fallacy of the stolen concept (I write about this fallacy specifically here).

You asked: “Where is a good place to start as an introduction to objectivism?”

That’s a good question. Leonard Peikoff’s Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand provides a summary of the philosophy. It is written with the lay reader in mind, so its content should be quite accessible. I have posted a very brief blog here which provides a succinct summary of Objectivism. It’s at least a place to start.

Also, you may find The Ayn Rand Lexicon helpful.

JL: “… this is really an issue of how to define what we all universally perceive, but are unable to fully explain irrefutably.”

This may not speak to what you intended to say, but I don’t think we define what we perceive. “Perceive” has a specific meaning (cf. the Lexicon’s entry) and denotes a pre-conceptual mode of awareness, while definition as such is a stage of concept-formation. We perceive specific objects, while definitions are statements essentializing the meaning of a concept (something we do not perceive). We define the concepts which we form on the basis of what we perceive.

But more to the gist of your point, it appears you’re saying that lack of precision in articulating our respective positions is at least partly responsible for the ceaseless nature of the debate. To be sure, defining our terms is very important; I’ve tried, in my writings, to govern myself with great care in this regard, by making my definitions explicit; I’ve also incorporated this care in my critique of presuppositionalism – looking for its definitions and examining them when I find them.

I’ll say that I’ve given it the college try to explain my position and criticisms to a wide variety of presuppositionalists. But after continued interaction with them, I wonder if they’re ever really reading what I have to say.

At any rate, I welcome your questions.

Regards,
Dawson

March 04, 2011 12:11 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Paul wrote: “Alot of the arguments seem to begin with trying to establish the existance of certain absolutes eg truth, morality, logic etc. which are themselves contentious.”

In my experience, what makes these concepts contentious is failure to give them clear, stable and objective definitions, while loading them with booby traps which compel essentially an appeal to ignorance. E.g., “Morality is knowledge of right and wrong. [It is?] What could account for such knowledge other than a divine moral law-giver?” It’s as if such lines of interrogation were intended to elicit the response, “Duh, I donno! Must be God did it!” The theistic answer moves us further away from understanding, and deeper into “mystery.”

Paul wrote: “What I would like to see is a presupper trying to establish that the acceptance of a non contentious absolute requires the presupposition of a God.”

What I would like to see is how a presuppositionalist could explain how anything at the conceptual level of cognition (e.g., logic, induction, universals, moral principles, etc.) could supposedly presuppose the existence of the Christian god, when Christianity itself has no theory of (i.e., “account for”) concepts. Actually, I’ve seen numerous such attempts, but it is precisely because they don’t have a good of understanding of concepts that they find their rationale acceptable.

Paul asked: “How does the acceptance of the number 3.1415926 etc, etc, etc presuppose the existance of a God ?”

Or: How does my acceptance of Pi as a meaningful idea presuppose the existence of something that I cannot distinguish from something I am merely imagining? I can’t perceive the Christian god; I can only imagine it. This is Christianity’s ultimate Achilles’ heel. But no apologetic method adequately comes to grip with it; in fact, it’s a fact that apologetic methods expressly keep safely out of view. If presuppositionalists could address this concern, we might have something solid to work with. But how does anyone distinguish a god from something that may merely be imaginary? I’ve asked many theists this question, but so far none have been able to explain how I can reliably distinguish the two.

Regards,
Dawson

March 04, 2011 12:31 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

AJ wrote: “I really think that presup. is growing very fast because of the internet and youtube. This is why you Mr. Bethrick really need to write a book. Hell ,just compile your blog and publish it.”

I’ve been consumed with so many other things in life these past few months (which is why I’ve not been posting a lot on my blog), I’ve not been able to keep up on presup activity on the net (which has never been my strong suit to begin with).

When I see reports that presuppositionalism is growing in popularity, part of me wonders how this could be, while the other part of me is not surprised at all. It’s like reading reports that teenage pregnancy is up in public schools. There are so many resources available for young people to avoid unwanted pregnancies, and yet the public schools themselves seem to have a knack for turning out people who don’t care for the direction their lives take.

In the case of presuppositionalism, there are resources on the internet which expose its crass deficiencies. But at the same time, I realize that Christians in the west sense grave threats to their religious beliefs, and consequently those who remain in the fold are anxious to find ways of protecting their confessional investment in a religion they probably grew up with. For many of these, presuppositionalism represents a final promise. They’re determined to make it work for themselves.

As for publishing a book, I appreciate your generous words. I wish I had a dime for every time someone suggested that I publish my writings in print. Then I might have enough financial resources to undertake such a venture! I would be reluctant to simply compile what I’ve already published on my blog though. Seems a little unnecessary, and I’ve already provided good argument against purchasing such a book, since its content would already be available free of charge. But I cannot deny it: I’d love to publish a book devoted to my critique of presuppositionalism. No doubt, I have enough material on my hard drive for probably 30 such books – I have so much that no one else has ever seen, plus dozens of e-mails I’ve composed in response to readers who’ve contacted me directly with their questions. If only there were some kind of Smithsonian for Objectivists that I could bequeath my MS Word files to when I die. You folks would be amazed at what I’ve been up to over the years.

By the way, to the person (“David”) who posted the link to H.W.B. Joseph’s text on logic, thank you! I’ve now got all of Joseph’s fine work on a searchable PDF. Invaluable!

Regards,
Dawson

March 04, 2011 1:07 AM  
Blogger Jean-Luc said...

Mr Burner,

Thank you for your reply (and thank you Mr. Baird for your own opinions). I really want to ask one last question. . . and then I'll shut up for a while until I've read through some material (that way I won't hopefully be responding so-much out of ignorance). If my understanding is correct, presuppositionalism starts with two principles (1 that everyone starts to form their own ideas at some point and these ideas fundamentally shape later ideas (whether they know it or not)(cause and effect, really), (2 we affirm our starting point is going to be from the Bible.

Where is your conflict with this? (If at all?) From what I read it sounds almost as if you challenge this notion, because you see a definite point of origin. I know at this point I'm beginning to sound a lot like your critics: If you know this cause, what was the cause for that, and the thing after that? I do not argue that you cannot exist in this state without self-assurance, or that this somehow presupposes God exists. Generally, I would argue that it simply allows for the possibility for God (a cause without the need for a cause bringing the cause-needy into existence). Is it really impossible to ratify we are limited, and thereby intrinsically incapable of understanding more then our own bounds? (That we can know, yet not know how we know[that isn't to say we don't know anything, but a precursor to knowing{and so-on|I really like hiding behind a lot of parenthesis!|}].)

Anyway, I would again much appreciate your thoughts. :)

Sincerely,


Jean-Luc

P.S. I find your statement here rather interesting: "However, I suggest that you keep in mind with someone like Sye: he’s not genuinely interested in *understanding* - either your specific position or the proper position on knowing anything. His goal is to *destroy*, not to understand. He has already committed himself: no matter what answer you provide to his questions, it is wrong and he’s going to see to it that everyone else knows it through his own gimmicks." I find this also goes hand-in-hand with what you say later to me here: " In fact, I’m convinced that no system of defending theism can. There are many reasons why I am convinced of this, but we could get into them all in good time if you’re interested."

As a whole I argue that there are two fundamental differences here (at least there should be o.O), but very much an entirety of similarities. (We both will never be able to effectively argue either side until you find a side that is agreeable upon, we are also trying to vainly destroy each others arguments[or at least affirm our own over the other].) Still, I would affirm the fundamental difference is you are attempting to defend your lifestyle, while we are trying to consider your eternal well-being(I know. . . Crazy, right?). Anyway, my second contention is while you remain inherently correct (as far as we are able to know), the more you try to reach outside the foundational boundaries the more your views will ultimately have to align themselves with the Bible. This of course, does not make either anymore correct or incorrect. But at this point I'm probably just talking nonsense. . .

March 04, 2011 8:44 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hello JL,

JL: “presuppositionalism starts with two principles (1 that everyone starts to form their own ideas at some point and these ideas fundamentally shape later ideas (whether they know it or not)(cause and effect, really), (2 we affirm our starting point is going to be from the Bible.”

Presuppositionalism does take the basic idea of foundationalism for granted (we all have to “start” somewhere – our knowledge has a bedrock foundation), and most iterations of this apologetic method that I have reviewed hold not that “our starting point is going to be *from* the Bible,” but in fact *is* the bible as such – i.e., “the Word of God” where “God” is understood to be the triune god of Christianity. But sometimes it's just "God" rather than its word. It's hard to follow the shifting story line.

I would, however, argue that these are not presuppositionalism’s actual starting points, that in fact there is a key assumption underlying all of this which theists of all stripes take for granted, even though they have not identified it explicitly. Objectivism identifies this foundational premise of mystical philosophies as the primacy of consciousness. Exposing the religious worldview’s dependence on the primacy of consciousness is the primary approach of my critique of presuppositionalism, and frankly of any other apologetic method. Check out my blog How Theism Violates the Primacy of Existence to familiarize yourself with the issues involved in this.

JL: “Where is your conflict with this? (If at all?)”

Well, it’s not my conflict per se. Rather, it’s that the worldview underpinnings of presuppositionalism are aligned with the primacy of consciousness, which is false metaphysics.

JL: “From what I read it sounds almost as if you challenge this notion, because you see a definite point of origin.”

It’s not clear what you mean by “point of origin” here. If you’re asking whether or not Objectivism adheres to the basic foundationalist template, the answer is yes. Objectivism recognizes that knowledge is hierarchical in nature, and points to its analysis of the process of concept-formation as the cause of the hierarchical structure that knowledge exhibits.

JL: “I know at this point I'm beginning to sound a lot like your critics: If you know this cause, what was the cause for that, and the thing after that?”

To answer these questions, you’d have to be more specific. What does “that” refer to here?

JL: “Generally, I would argue that it simply allows for the possibility for God (a cause without the need for a cause bringing the cause-needy into existence).”

I wouldn’t want to guess what your argument for this might be, so you’re welcome to present it if you like. I would be interested in probing your understanding of causality, for I have found that the assumptions commonly accepted about causality among presuppositionalists differ fundamentally from Objectivism’s conception of causality. This would have to be examined as to how it inheres in your argument.

[Continued...]

March 04, 2011 11:06 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

JL: “Is it really impossible to ratify we are limited, and thereby intrinsically incapable of understanding more then our own bounds? (That we can know, yet not know how we know[that isn't to say we don't know anything, but a precursor to knowing{and so-on|I really like hiding behind a lot of parenthesis!|}].)”

I’m reminded of John Frame’s words: “We know without knowing how we know.” This was the final part of his answer to the question “How did Abraham come to know that the voice calling him to sacrifice his son (Gen. 22:1-18; cf. Heb. 11:17-19; James 2:21-24) was the voice of God?” (See here.) Quite an admission!

There’s no question that man’s mind is “limited.” Objectivism holds that the actual is always finite, that there is no such thing as a metaphysical infinite. If something exists, it is itself, and not greater or lesser than itself. Man’s mind has a nature, it is what it is, and his process of knowing needs to follow in accordance to its nature. So I would ask why presuppositionalists are so interested (as they very often are) in pressing the point that “we are limited.” What significance does this have?

If it is the case that man is “intrinsically incapable of understanding more [than his] own bounds,” what is the significance of this? Why is it important, in your view, to point this out?

Presuppositionalism delights on treating the human process of knowing as shrouded in mystery. When I read Van Til, Bahnsen, Frame, et al., on the topic of knowledge, I do not find that I learn how my mind works when I learn things about the world. Rather, I find myself being taken down the path of deepening mystification, into essentially a cognitive darkness where the light continues to dim and a void of bewilderment increasingly swallows the capacity to comprehend. It has to do this, since in the end presuppositionalism appeals to “the mystery” of “the Trinity” as the ultimate cornerstone to knowledge. And if that isn’t a retreat into willful ignorance, I don’t know what is.

In my experience, the apologist’s purpose in drawing attention to man’s cognitive limitations, is, typically, to posit “knowledge” beyond what we’re told we can know. We are told on the one hand that we’re “intrinsically incapable of understanding more than our own bounds,” and it is in this realm beyond “our own bounds” where the supernatural resides, and we are expected to accept this as knowledge. This of course is a very confused and self-contradictory means of going about proving the existence of a god. But I’ve seen it many times.

JL: “I would affirm the fundamental difference is you are attempting to defend your lifestyle, while we are trying to consider your eternal well-being(I know. . . Crazy, right?).”

Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever tried to defend my particular lifestyle per se. My worldview allows for a wide range of lifestyles, and my arguments are focused primarily on philosophical issues independent of my particular lifestyle preferences and habits. As for “eternal well-being,” I would defend your (and anybody’s) right to spend your time “trying to consider [anyone’s] eternal well-being” all you like. I would suggest you try seeing this for the fantasy that it is, and focus your energy and interest on real matters.

JL: “Anyway, my second contention is while you remain inherently correct (as far as we are able to know), the more you try to reach outside the foundational boundaries the more your views will ultimately have to align themselves with the Bible.”

I don’t know what you mean by “try to reach outside the foundational boundaries.” Which foundational boundaries? And why do you think that “try[ing] to reach outside the foundational boundaries” leads one to “align[ing himself] with the Bible” and not, say, Harry Potter or some other storybook? Or any storybook for that matter?

Was that helpful?

Regards,
Dawson

March 04, 2011 11:11 AM  
Blogger Rick Warden said...

Dawson,

Anyone who reads the body of notes between us will see it is you, Dawson, who is "on the ropes." This is the kind of quote you chose to defend your beliefs:

“To reject QM as physically wrong is fine. It’s necessary. But it is not merely physically wrong. The deeper rot in QM is the admission of non-identity into physical reasoning..."

You have to reject scientifically proven facts regarding the reality of quantum entanglement and non-locality because they contradict your view of identity.

It's no wonder Ayn Rand was addicted to drugs.

I don't believe I'll be wasting much more time here because it is increasingly obvious that you and other objectivists are in a state of denial.

March 07, 2011 7:34 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Rick: “...it is you, Dawson, who is ‘on the ropes’."

Readers are invited to examine the record for themselves. (See here.) Readers will see that it is Rick Warden, not I, who appealed to polling results, which I have examined above, instead of explaining how the primacy of existence is “in conflict with many proven scientific facts and experiments.” (Rick Warden, October 23, 2010 7:28 PM) I’ve done nothing like this. Rick makes no attempt to answer the concerns I raised about the polling data which he cited.

Rick: “This is the kind of quote you chose to defend your beliefs: ‘To reject QM as physically wrong is fine. It’s necessary. But it is not merely physically wrong. The deeper rot in QM is the admission of non-identity into physical reasoning...’"

The quote which I recited from Dean Sandin, which included more than what Rick has given here, explains his rejection of QM. Rick has not shown that Sandin is wrong in his assessment. Rather, he construed it to mean that Objectivism rejects science as such, which is itself a desperate move (suggesting, again, that he’s on the ropes). I’ve done nothing like this.

Rick: “You have to reject scientifically proven facts regarding the reality of quantum entanglement and non-locality because they contradict your view of identity.”

The very idea of “scientifically proven facts” presupposes the truth of the law of identity. There is, and can be, no such thing as a “scientifically proven fact” which contradicts the law of identity. Simply by getting his hackles up about a contradiction, Rick is performatively acknowledging the truth of the law of identity as Objectivism understands it. I suspect that he still doesn’t understand the law of identity, even though it’s been explained to him. If he could tell us what these “scientifically proven facts” are and explain how they contradict the law of identity as Objectivism conceives of it, I think we’d have seen it by now. But we haven’t.

Rick: “It's no wonder Ayn Rand was addicted to drugs.”

Here’s another expression of Rick Warden’s desperation. He cannot defend his position with argument, so he resorts to personal attacks. Here he claims that “Ayn Rand was addicted to drugs,” which he does not defend, and insinuates that her alleged addiction resulted from a flawed approach to philosophy (“It’s no wonder…”). Like millions of others, Rand’s doctor advised her to take a prescription purportedly containing small amounts of dextroamphetamine, to help her control her weight. Folks like Rick Warden will probably confuse this with methamphetamine, ignoring the difference, and equate her prescription to an addiction, even though there’s no evidence suggesting that she was truly addicted to the substance.

But suppose Rand truly was addicted to an appetite-suppressant. So what? What does it have to do with the discussion? What relevance does it have? What conclusion does Rick want to infer from this?

Rick: “I don't believe I'll be wasting much more time here because it is increasingly obvious that you and other objectivists are in a state of denial.”

Rick paints with a wide brush, accusing Objectivists (including me) of being “in a state of denial.” But what exactly does he suppose I am denying, and where am I allegedly denying it? This is stated by someone who may himself be in denial with respect to the irrationality of his own worldview, which includes belief in an imaginary being, belief that “prophecies” in the bible have been “fulfilled,” and persistent bewilderment over the issue of the subject-object relationship. Rick’s own denial, so far as I can tell, has, at least in part, motivated his tirade against Objectivism, his animosity towards me personally, and his choices to resort to fallacies in order to attack and/or distract in the course of our discussion. None of this bodes well for his reputation as a thinker.

Regards,
Dawson

March 08, 2011 12:16 AM  
Blogger The Secular Walk said...

@Rick Warden

I have studied Quantum Mechanics to a substantial extent. I am not aware of how Quantum Mechanics and Non-locality contradicts the Objectivist view of Identity.

The Objectivist's view of Identity is the Law of Identity from the Laws of Logic.

That A is A. That for something to exist, it must have a specific nature. Which overall means that reality is knowable and that logical/Ontological contradictions cannot exist in reality.

I am interested in hearing Rick, how quantum entanglement and non locality, contradict this "view of Identity".

I suspect, based on my education in Quantum Mechanics, that you are bastardizing Quantum mechanics, and trying to bamboozle with it, since you likely know that most people don't have any understanding or education in Quantum Mechanics.

March 08, 2011 3:00 AM  
Blogger The Secular Walk said...

@Rick Warden

"It's no wonder Ayn Rand was addicted to drugs."



The above was an exceedingly cheap shot. It would be as cheap as someone pointing out the criminal actions and fraudulence of Kent Hovind, then saying:

"It's no wonder he did that, since he worships a God that is a Global murderer."

March 08, 2011 3:09 AM  
Blogger The Secular Walk said...

@Rick Warden

I'm interested in hearing how your "apparent" acceptance of Quantum Mechanics helps prove God.

From my understanding, Quantum Mechanics helps disprove the existence of God, since Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle shows that energy exists necessarily and doesn't require a transcendent creator, due to Heisenberg's Uncertainty principle in conjunction with Density perturbations emerging from a De Sitter "manifold"(I.E. Vacuum state); Which scientifically falsifies God, since God exists by DEFINITION, as creator of the Universe, and is conceived as a transcendent being.

March 08, 2011 3:15 AM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

@ The Secular Walk

but he is a global murderer!

March 08, 2011 9:04 PM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

@ The Secular Walk

But he is a global murderer!

March 08, 2011 9:58 PM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

why are my posts being deleted?

March 09, 2011 12:31 AM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

just a test, my last three attempts at posting have failed

March 09, 2011 12:33 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hi Justin,

I don't know why Blogger, in its infinite wisdom, disallows some comments while allowing most others through. It's supposed to be a spam filter, but if you've signed into your account to post your comments, it seems they should go through. When they don't appear on my blog, it does not mean that they were deleted. They just get routed to the spam bin and stay there until I do something. I've published them now. You're free to let them stand, or delete as you choose.

Regards,
Dawson

March 09, 2011 4:15 PM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

Actually I thought it was on my end. The earlier posts were done using Firefox and Chromium, both of which I used several security plugins that have caused issues in the past. Lastly I tried using Opera where I have not installed any plugins and my post sailed right in. Anyway I wonder if Rick will come back and Secular I love the line about Kent Hovind!

March 09, 2011 7:02 PM  
Blogger Rick Warden said...

Dear Dawson,

Where is your conscience? Did you cremate it at Bohemian Grove?

Ahem... "Like millions of others, Rand’s doctor advised her to take a prescription purportedly containing small amounts of dextroamphetamine, to help her control her weight."

The truth:

Jennifer Burns was the first independent historian to gain access to the Ayn Rand Archives and according to her 2009 book, Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right. She described how Rand was prescribed Benzedrine to fight fatigue as she was writing her second novel the Fountainhead. Benzedrine is an amphetamine also known as pep pills, uppers, speed, bennies and meth. While many people use this drug for diet purposes, Rand was using it to try and keep up with her 1943 book deadline. When she was finished with the Fountainhead her doctor ordered her to have a two weeks rest. The historian Burn believes continued drug use over the years may have been responsible for her volatile mood swings and also her severe depression after completed her final novel Atlas Shrugged.

Reference: Burns, Jennifer (2009), Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right. New York: Oxford University Press, pp.85, 89, 178.

Regards,

Rick

March 10, 2011 8:51 PM  
Blogger Rick Warden said...

Dawson

"But what exactly does he suppose I am denying, and where am I allegedly denying it?"

- The following is the quote I referenced several times now and it is actually 100% in keeping with the longer version of the quote. It is not taken out of context:

- “To reject QM as physically wrong is fine. It’s necessary. But it is not merely physically wrong. The deeper rot in QM is the admission of non-identity into physical reasoning..."

I don't have to reject proven science, Dawson, to try and validate my beliefs. I'm not in a state of denial. A person in denial continuously refuses to look at the truth. Do i see a pattern here?

I can refer you to good counseling whenever you are ready to admit you are in denial. According to AA this is the first and most important step.

I'm sorry I have to be the one to confront you. This is called "tough love" in AA and I hope you don't take it personally.

I was never addicted or obsessively compulsive, but I'm familiar with people who are and who have been. Not that I am anything special -it's all by the grace of God. I realize I could easily be in your shoes.

Secular,

"I'm interested in hearing how your "apparent" acceptance of Quantum Mechanics helps prove God."

- I answered one aspect of this question at my blog (of which there are many) - you or anyone can view it there in the third comment:

http://templestream.blogspot.com/2011/02/dynamic-mens-prayer-meeting.html

Best regards,

Rick

March 10, 2011 9:06 PM  
Blogger Rick Warden said...

Dear Dawson,

Please excuse me for my lack of deference with regard to your Gallup response article. You write I offer "underhanded tirades" which seems a bit extreme. This language tends to hinder my flow.

The Gallup polls simply offer pragmatic evidence, one of many forms of evidence, that Christianity is the most healthy and fulfilling lifestyle.

In contrast, we can look at Rand's masterpiece and pinnacle of objectivist philosophy, Atlas Shrugged. Newsweek described the book as “a masochist’s lollipop which runs to 1168 pages.” Reference: “Born Eccentric,” N ewsweek, 21 (March 27, 1961)

According to history, not only was Rand a drug addict but she had consensual adulterous affairs: Reference: Branden, Barbara (1986). The Passion of Ayn Rand. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company. pp. 256–264, 331–343.

Severe drug-induced depression and a severely broken heart from unrequited adultery do not seem like signs of a very good "philosophy for life" - pragmatically speaking, that is. Sorry for the "tirade" -I tried to be as gentle as possible.

Respectfully yours,

Rick

March 10, 2011 9:26 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Rick,

Again you come back to me, even after proclaiming it a waste of time.

You cite Jennifer Burns book which repeats the report of Rand using an amphetamine. I don’t think anyone has denied that Rand used this substance, as it's been acknowledged that her doctor prescribed it to her. So I don’t see what value you bring to the matter with this. You yourself specifically claimed that Rand was *addicted*, which is a much stronger claim. Can you find anywhere in Burns’ biography of Rand where she explicitly states that Rand was “addicted”?

Again, I find that I must repeat my own questions to you, since you clearly think this is an important matter. I had asked:

But suppose Rand truly was addicted to an appetite-suppressant. So what? What does it have to do with the discussion? What relevance does it have? What conclusion does Rick want to infer from this?

Like so many questions which have been posed to you, you fail to address these.

Rick: “I don't have to reject proven science, Dawson, to try and validate my beliefs.”

Good, neither do I. So you accept the theory of evolution. Great! Welcome to reality, Rick. I'm happy to show you around.

Rick: “I'm not in a state of denial.”

The evidence overwhelmingly suggests otherwise. But I wouldn’t expect you to admit it.

In regard to your unsubstantiated accusation that I am denying “scientifically proven fact,” you still have not shown what “scientifically proven fact” I’m allegedly denying. Yet you repeat this claim over and over again. What “scientifically proven fact” have I denied, and where specifically is in conflict with my worldview? I’ve asked you these questions before, but you continue to take a powder on the issue. And you say I’m in denial?

[Continued…]

March 10, 2011 10:05 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Rick: “The Gallup polls simply offer pragmatic evidence, one of many forms of evidence, that Christianity is the most healthy and fulfilling lifestyle.”

Where does anything in the Gallup polls suggest what you say here? The Gallup polls themselves seem not to have made any distinction between various religions, and clearly includes Islam and Judaism along with Christianity under the heading "religion." A Muslim or Jew, ignoring the broader grouping which the polls clearly utilized in framing the trends they report, could easily draw the same conclusion about his or her own particular religion. So what justifies the conclusion that you want to draw here?

Moreover, if you’re trying to tell me that “Christianity is the most healthy and fulfilling lifestyle,” forget about it. I was there at one time in my life, just as you are now, and it was not anywhere close to fulfilling or healthy.

Rick: “In contrast, we can look at Rand's masterpiece and pinnacle of objectivist philosophy, Atlas Shrugged. Newsweek described the book as “a masochist’s lollipop which runs to 1168 pages.” Reference: ‘Born Eccentric,’ Newsweek, 21 (March 27, 1961)”

Rick, if you want to govern your views of things by what’s written in Newsweek, go right ahead.

Rick: “According to history, not only was Rand a drug addict”

Which history? See my question to you above.

Rick: “but she had consensual adulterous affairs:”

So what? What’s wrong with that?

Rick: “Severe drug-induced depression and a severely broken heart from unrequited adultery do not seem like signs of a very good ‘philosophy for life’ - pragmatically speaking, that is.”

For one, you’re confusing the person with the philosophy, which is a howler of a category error. Rand and Objectivism are two different things. Objectivists don’t think Rand was Jesus Christ. Good grief no. Rand was real. Jesus has always been imaginary.

Second, you’re still resorting to ad hominem argument, which is a fallacy. You might try honing your critical thinking skills.

Third, you’ve not shown where the content of Objectivism as it is laid out in the literature automatically leads to “drug-induced depression” and “a severely broken heart.” I’ve been an Objectivist since the early 90s, and I’m neither of these.

Fourth, you’ve not shown that Christianity is the proper antidote to either of these conditions. In fact, I’ve known hundreds of self-professing Christians who are miserable, failures at their careers, failures at their marriage, failures as parents, failures at life. You pretend that Christianity is some magic confession which somehow chases all the clouds away and makes a person whole and new and immune to human deficiencies. If that were the case, we’d expect things like Gallup polls to reflect this. But they don’t. And the facts clearly indicate otherwise as well. So with this, I submit that it is you, Rick Warden, who is in denial here.

Regards,
Dawson

March 10, 2011 10:12 PM  
Blogger Vagon said...

The irony of course is that Rick is arguing (dubiously) that religion is better because it makes you feel good. Kind of like a drug.

March 13, 2011 10:55 PM  
Blogger The Secular Walk said...

@Rick Warden

( "2) I agree logic requires identity A = A, A is not B. Spiritual identity is the logical answer." )


The above was a bare assertion fallacy. You simply assert without argument that spiritual identity is the logical answer. You also do nothing to show that Objectivism cannot account for the Law of Identity and A = A.


( "Spiritual identity in NDE is localized and unique." )


Near Death Experiences are not Scientifically verified. So they are not Scientific facts. Use of NDE in the supernatural manner you are implying is invalid since the very term presupposes that the person is not literally dead. Thus there is no supernatural element to it. They are NEAR death, not at death. This means it is not unnatural for people near death to still have some awareness or cognitive functioning that would allow them to "explain different rooms in hospitals in detail."

March 14, 2011 7:39 AM  
Blogger The Secular Walk said...

@Rick Warden


(What I do know is that Heidegger's uncertainty principle shows that nothing can be proven absolutely - that things which are known to be true cannot be proven as such.)



The above was extremely pathetic. The first reason why, is that you got the man's name wrong. It's not Heidegger, it's Heisenberg.

Secondly, as I suspected, you are bastardizing Quantum Mechanics to support your desire to believe in God. This is shown by the fact that you completely abused Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle to claim that it shows nothing can be proven absolutely.

Of course, this is false and indicates you have no formal or informal education in Quantum Mechanics.

Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle only entails the fact that you cannot know the exact position and momentum of a particle with perfect accuracy or a high degree of certainty.


("His principle shows that our human existence and everything we claim to know is ultimately based on faith - thus supporting the word of God." )



The above was a cheap and very sad attempt to abnegate facts and truth, and replace them with mysticism and cryptic Occultism.

I was so appalled by your brazen abuse of Quantum Mechanics to try and subvert Objective reality and objective knowledge, and replace it with faith, so as to support your God belief, I didn't even want to take the time to reply to you. Your words above indicate you are far too indoctrinated in your Occult beliefs, to be reasoned with, or to face reality honestly, when it comes to your "confessional investment" of Theism.

March 14, 2011 8:14 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Vagon,

You're right. In fact, see my blog The Ominous Parallels Between Presuppositionalism and Drug Addiction for another way in which Christian apologetics resembles the influence of drugs. (And Rick Warden wants to impress upon us that Rand was a "drug addict"!)

Secular,

Where are you quoting Rick Warden from? I checked (albeit quickly) and couldn't find where he said anything about Heidegger (or Heisenberg, as he likely meant). I must be missing something.

Regards,
Dawson

March 14, 2011 9:41 AM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

The uncertainty principle is simply the result that to measure the position of a particle requires interacting with it, that is adding energy, thus changing its momentum in ways that cant be predicted, but can still be statistically modeled. Its not like a wild half ass guess or something.

March 14, 2011 9:49 AM  
Blogger The Secular Walk said...

@Dawson Bethrick


My recent comments were in response to replies Rick Warden posted to me on his blog below:


http://templestream.blogspot.com/2011/02/dynamic-mens-prayer-meeting.html



I posted my responses here because he replied to me a little bit here, and because Rick Warden has his blog censored with pending approval, which I dislike greatly, as I prefer to see my writing after I post, to confirm it's submission. And because pending approval means there's a chance it won't get approved.

March 14, 2011 11:47 AM  
Blogger rhiggs said...

Rick also challengend me with the data from the Gallup poll back in December. Here were my thoughts then, which for the most part he completely ignored...


Rick: Studies show atheists are more depressed and mentally unsound than spiritually minded people and there are reasons for this:

"Gallup Polls Highlight Happiness, Health and Logic in Spirituality"


Me: First of all, so what? That something makes you happy has no bearing on whether it is true.

Secondly, the results are hardly overwhelming (depression 15.6% vs 18.7%, well-being 68.7% vs 64.2%). I would have thought that knowledge of and faith in the divine creator of the universe should have a bit more impact than a few percentage points on a person’s well-being. Of course, if you want to revel in the fact that you are apparently 4.5% happier than me then please go ahead. It doesn’t really mean anything other than that, on average, very religious people tell a stranger on the phone that they are happy 4.5% of the time more often than non-religious people. It could just be that religious people are simply 4.5% more likely to want to appear happy, or any other number of reasons.

Your confirmation bias also forces you to ignore the fact that being moderately religious is apparently worse for your mental health (and in some cases well-being) than being non-religious, so your statement that “atheists are more depressed and mentally unsound than spiritually minded people” is simply wrong. It’s not a linear relationship at all - other factors, therefore, must be somewhat responsible for the results.

Also, the depression poll asks about any history of depression, so the religious position held at the time of asking might not be relevant: “It is important to note that Gallup asks Americans if they have been diagnosed with depression at any point in their life. These findings thus do not necessarily imply that the act of becoming religious will reduce or eliminate depression for those currently experiencing it.”


Rick: You did not see the many points I made in my article?

...

The people in the study less happy than the non-religious were the ones who didn't actually practice what they say they believe. They are not essentially "spiritually minded people." I could have made that clearer, sorry.


Me: Erm, I didn’t read your blog Rick. I only read the articles on the Gallup website. You know - where it defines moderately religious as ‘all others who do not fall into the very religious or nonreligious groups but who gave valid responses on both religion questions’. Just because you decide to redefine this as being not essentially spiritually minded is completely irrelevant. Are you arrogant enough to think you know the spiritual state of all these people? I can guarantee you that many of them are likely to be more spiritually minded than me, and yet I am apparently happier than them. The effect is clearly not a linear one no matter how much you want it to be. As I said before, it could be that very religious people simply prefer to give an outward impression of happiness to a complete stranger on the phone, especially because they have just been asked about how religious they are - and so they know that the poll is somehow going to test the efficacy of their faith.

If you feel the need to defend your religion on the basis of Gallup polls with miniscule results then I find that a bit sad. And if dedicating your whole life to an imaginary unproven deity makes you a few percentage points happier than me then go ahead. I think that is a pathetic return.


Rick:..... [tumbleweed]

March 15, 2011 6:01 AM  
Blogger Vagon said...

@Justin. Exactly, its just that the measuring device is too comparatively big at that scale to not effect the particle.

Could someone link me to the full text of the quote Rick is talking about?

March 15, 2011 10:54 PM  
Blogger Rick Warden said...

Vagon,

I use the comment checker because someone kept posting links to strange Chinese websites. Don't worry, as long as comments aren't spam I won't delete them.

Heisenberg's importance to philosophy is touched upon in the following article:

How Identity, Logic and Physics Prove God's Existence

http://templestream.blogspot.com/2011/03/how-identity-logic-and-physics-prove.html

Secular, I also addressed your appeal to ethos based reasoning. May I suggest that addressing specific points with logic and critical thinking is a much better alternatives.

Regards,

Rick

March 17, 2011 6:14 AM  
Blogger Paul Baird said...

Rick, I read your link. It's Presuppositional Apologetics by any other name, which has a number of problems.

With regards to logic how do you deal with para-consistant logic ?

With regards to QM - did you ask a Physicist ?

With regards to NDEs have you heard of the work of Dr Sam Parnia ? He's a medical doctor. Google him and check Vimeo. He's running the AWARE study.

You need to also deal with the problem of exclusivity ie are NDEs exclusively proof for the Christian god or a Generic God ?

March 17, 2011 7:03 AM  
Blogger Paul Baird said...

OFF TOPIC - broadcast date for my debate with Sye Tenbruggencate is this Saturday (19th) March.

Enjoy.

I'll try to compile a transcript after broadcast and post it on my blog.

March 17, 2011 7:05 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Rick: “Heisenberg's importance to philosophy is touched upon in the following article:”

Are you sure now it’s Heisenberg, and no longer Heidegger? We just want to make sure.

Rick linked to his new blog post: How Identity, Logic and Physics Prove God's Existence

In it I saw a lot of sloppy handling of topics and a strong dose of the usual disinformation I’ve come to expect from Rick. For example, Rick mistakenly characterizes Objectivism as a type of materialist philosophy. This is flat out false. But that doesn’t bother Rick. He doesn’t care about the facts.

Also, when commenting on Dean Sandin’s remarks on QM, Rick seems unable – again – to integrate what Sandin is reacting to, with what Rick is trying to conclude. Rick insinuates that Sandin is rejecting “proven science.” But Sandin is crystal clear that he’s rejecting outright contradictions and rejections of the law of identity which characterize some interpretations in the field of physics. Sandin identifies what he is rejecting explicitly: “non-identity in various guises, whether named non-locality, backwards-in-time causality, indeterminacy, the (literal and physical) primacy of consciousness, or whatever.” Rick has nowhere shown that the specifics which Sandin is rejecting are “proven science.” Nowhere!

Rick himself, in explaining the law of identity, writes “everything has a unique and localized identity separate from other identities.” I’m trying to understand how Sandin’s own concern violates the law of identity, and Rick hasn’t shown that it does. Nor has Rick shown that Sandin’s own philosophical commitments are subjective in nature, even though he refers to them as such. Rick nowhere explains *how* Sandin’s rejection of various mystical leanings in vogue among some physicists is at all a violation of the scientific method, the law of identity, or properly informed logical reasoning.

There are many other mistakes throughout Rick’s blog entry, but these howlers are enough to undermine any presumptive credibility one might attribute to it.

One thing I did not find is an argument showing “how identity, logic and physics prove god’s existence.” Try searching for the word “god” (control F), and the word “god” appears only one time in the body of Rick’s blog – and even there it’s not part of any argument for its existence.

In the case of NDEs, Rick tries to preempt the response that NDEs are essentially psychological. Rick writes:

“but additional research has proven that this is not so. People who have been born blind have recorded testimonies in hospitals with detailed, visual accounts of rooms, instruments, equipment and people they could not have seen with their nonworking natural eyes.”

This does not explain how NDE reports are *not* psychological. It is not uncommon for sighted persons interpreting statements of congenitally blind persons in a manner which makes sense to a sighted person. That’s how sighted persons relate to what they learn from others. We do this all the time.

Rick says “The concept of another dimension, a spiritual one, is part and parcel with the theistic understanding of reality.” But what Rick has never done is explain how one can *reliably* distinguish between what he calls a “spiritual dimension” and something that he may merely be imagining. We can all *imagine* a “spiritual dimension,” but that doesn’t make it real. Perhaps in Rick’s mind, it does.

Regards,
Dawson

March 17, 2011 10:08 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Paul,

Thanks for the update. Unfortunately I won't be able to listen to any live broadcasts this weekend. If a recording of your debate with Sye is made available, or if you publish your own transcript, please feel free to post a link on my blog. I and perhaps other readers would like to review it.

Regards,
Dawson

March 17, 2011 10:11 AM  
Blogger Paul Baird said...

Ok, will do.

March 17, 2011 11:15 AM  
Blogger Paul Baird said...

http://patientandpersistant.blogspot.com/2011/03/second-debate-on-presuppositional_19.html

contains link to the mp3 and shownotes

March 19, 2011 2:36 AM  

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