Monday, March 10, 2014

On Romans 1:20-21

In a comment on his blog DR. GREG BAHNSEN: ATHEISTS ARE UNABLE TO ANSWER THE TOUGH QUESTIONS OF PHILOSOPHY, Christian apologist Charles Jackson claims that “God says that all know Him” and cites Romans 1:21, which states: “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.”

By saying that “God” says this, Jackson is mischaracterizing the record that we have in Romans 1. The Epistle to the Romans was written by one or more human beings. (It is commonly assumed that it was written by the apostle Paul, but how can we really know this today?) Thus it is not true that “God says that all know Him,” rather it is the case that the guy who wrote Romans 1:21 is the one making the claim that we all know this god.

What has happened is that some human being wrote this and people today say “God said this!” Now clearly they’re not saying that the guy who wrote this was “God”; Christians typically grant that the apostle Paul (the assumed author of the passage in question) was a normal human being, but abnormally chosen by the invisible magic being they call “God” to represent it and spread its message to the world (this message is said to have been received by Paul via “revelations” from said “God”).

Notice the vast number of assumptions piling up here. Jackson does nothing to validate any of this – he just asserts it as if it were some incontestable truth. But on what rational basis are we to accept any of this as true? So quickly do apologists lose sight of their own favorite line of interrogation – “How do you know that?” – when they assert their worldview’s claims.

It is also quite dubious to say, on the one hand, that “we all know God,” and on the other point to a single verse in some ancient text to learn this. If it were true that “we all know God,” why would we need to read some guy’s writings to discover this? We’d already know it.

Now when I investigate the claim that I personally know the Christian god, my first question is: By what means do I know this? Christians are always asking me “How do you know?” Curiously, they ask this sort of question on matters that are plainly self-evident – such as: “How do you know you exist?” If how I know that I exist is so mysterious to me, how can one claim at the same time that I know this god is real? The Christian needs to identify the means by which we all supposedly know his god.

But notice that the burden for the Christian is even steeper, for he is not only claiming that everyone has done whatever it is they need to do in order to know this god, but also that the process by which everyone allegedly knows this is infallible. Everyone knows that the Christian god exists, goes the claim, and no one has made any mistake in coming to this knowledge. And yet, they’re mistaken on virtually everything else! Consider for example the opening words of Douglas Jones’ attempt to sell Christianity in his paper Why & What: A Brief Introduction to Christianity. He begins with the following instruction to the reader:
Imagine that you are mistaken about everything you hold dear. Suppose you wake up one morning and clearly realize that your long-held, day-to-day views of nature, social values, and self are obviously mistaken. Common things that you have seen for years take on a whole new light. The world hasn't changed, but different things stand out in odd ways. Things you once adored are now utterly disgusting. Things you once hated now command your deepest loyalty. You can now see through your motives and rationalizations in a way hidden before. How could you have been so naive?
At least Jones is consistent with Christianity in one respect here: he wants to begin by imagining. Clearly he wants us to suppose that we’re mistaken about many crucial things in our own lives – things we touch and handle on a daily basis. We are to imagine that we’re mistaken about everything we hold dear – our family, our friends, our homes, our skills, our joys in life: we’re mistaken about all these things. We are to imagine that we’re mistaken about nature – trees, birds, grass, rivers, rain, mountains, fire, water, causality: we’re mistaken about all these things. We are to imagine that we are mistaken about social values – taking care of our children, loving our spouses, respecting our co-workers, trading with the storekeeper instead of robbing him, driving politely on public roads, etc.: we’re mistaken about all these things. We are to imagine that we are mistaken about our selves – we are able to perceive and think, we need values, we need to act in order to procure those values, we can make mistakes and therefore we need reason to guide our minds, our choices, our actions, etc.: we are mistaken on all these things.

So Jones wants us to entertain the fantasy that we’re mistaken about all these things that we deal with firsthand in our lives, indicating that we are so hopelessly fallible as to be unable to do anything right. And yet, Romans 1 would have us believe that we are all universally infallible when it comes to knowing this god which we can only imagine. Okay, got it.

As is typical in the bible, the author of Romans 1:21 himself does not explain how we know this god. At best, he gives us a contradictory explanation. We find the following assertion in the previous verse (Rom. 1:20):
the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.
Now correct me if I’m wrong, but if something is “clearly seen,” how then can one say at the same time that it is “invisible”? If I clearly see something, I would be contradicting myself if I say that what I am seeing is invisible. So why isn’t the author of Romans 1 contradicting himself here? Of course, he is.

Also, how does the author know what other people have seen? Presumably the author is saying that all human beings past, present and future have seen/are seeing/will see what he claims they see. But again, how would he know this? If I came along and said “All people know that I’m right,” one would be right to ask, “How do you know this?” – a question which Christian apologists themselves love to ask non-Christians. But what’s the answer when we turn this question on their own worldview’s claims? It seems that the best we’re given on this is John Frame’s Empty-Handed Epistemology.

What about blind people? How do they “clearly see” something that’s “invisible”? No explanation on this is given.

The author also errs in failing to distinguish between perception and identification. We do in fact perceive things (such as by seeing – though we only see things that are visible, not invisible), but this does not automatically mean that we also identify what we perceive. Identification is a conceptual process, and it can only be performed by choice once we have perceived something. We perceive many things that we do not identify; we don’t need to identify everything that we perceive. Eventually we do identify most things we perceive in our experience, but this takes a lot of time – years, in fact. It’s called learning. It’s not automatic, and the gods do not install this knowledge into our minds. We have to labor for it. We have to earn it. Genuine knowledge of the world is something we must earn.

The claim in Romans 1:20-21 essentially means, then, not only that all human beings past, present and future “clearly see” things that are “invisible,” but also that they have all infallibly identified them to be what the author of the passage says they are – i.e., attributes of a being which we can only imagine (for we do not find it in the world when we look outward - we have to look inward to find it).

At the risk of understating the matter, this is quite a tall claim – it is a universal claim about every human being’s experience and choices. As such it is prima facie outlandish. And the answer to the question as to how the author of Romans 1 could possibly know this, is not given in the text itself; the author does not tell us how he knows what he claims to know here.

Surely believers today can speculate (indeed, what alternative do they have?), but their explanations will always lack precision (they typically want us to be contented with uninformative claims like “God revealed it” which is essentially an appeal to magic knowledge and invites a whole category of insurmountable problems for the believer - see my blog The Futility of the Apologetic Appeal to “Revelation”), and they will vary from believer to believer (who has ultimately nothing but his own imagination to go on). Believers who try to give more than merely “God revealed it” take the chance of making statements which conflict with other things they have said and with statements made by other believers, thus exposing epistemological inconsistency. So it’s best to stick with the approximate. Unfortunately, the approximate does not answer key epistemological questions. We may have to accept the possibility that believers simply don’t have any answers on these matters, which is the course taken by John Frame (see the link above).

When I continue my investigation of this claim (absent any answers from Christians that enlighten my first question – even from the author of the passage, who does not explain how he knows what he claims to know) and explore the content of my own mind to see if I really do know this god, what do I find? I find two general categories of ideational content:
1. The first is objectively informed knowledge, i.e., knowledge which I acquire of the world by looking outward at the objects of reality and identify by means of reason. I do not find any god in any of this, for I do not find any god when I look outward at reality; and since I apply reason as my standard method of identification, I will not identify something that is not “God” as “God.” When I look outward, the only particulars that I perceive are things that are physical, finite, mutable, corruptible, natural or man-made. But the Christian god is supposed to be non-physical, infinite, immutable, incorruptible, supernatural and not man-made. So in the category of objectively informed knowledge, I do not find this god.  
2. The second category of ideational content that I discover when I explore the content of my own mind, is subjectively informed content. For example, what I imagine. I can, for example, imagine the Christian god wishing the universe into existence; I can imagine Jesus walking on water; I can imagine Saul the persecutor being knocked to the ground and overcome with bewilderment at the sight of a heavenly Jesus appearing above the road before him. I can imagine all these things and more, just as the Christian does when he reads descriptions of such things in the sacred storybook. Like the believer, I can imagine a supernatural being sitting on a heavenly thrown looking down at the world and issuing commandments for everyone to follow. I can imagine that it knows everything, that it sees everything, that it is infallible, that it is omnipresent, that it is all-powerful. I can even imagine this invisible magic being distributing “revelations” to its faithful followers. But what’s important to note here is that imagination is not a means of discovering and validating knowledge about reality. Luckily I have learned the lesson that there is a fundamental distinction between what is real and what I imagine as well as between objectively informed knowledge and subjective content.

The challenge which the Christian cannot overcome is to demonstrate that the “knowledge” claimed in Romans 1 is of the first category rather than the second. We do not discover this god when we look outward at the world. We have to look inward, into the content of our imagination, our wishing, our hoping, our emotions, etc., even to consider such a being. Why don’t our pet cats and dogs worship the Christian god? Quite simply, because they don’t have the ability to imagine it.

So what do we have here? We have the following: Romans 1 makes a self-contradictory claim; it claims that all people have knowledge of the Christian god, yet it provides no indication of how they might know this; it ignores the distinction between perception and identification; it confers infallibility to every human being which is denied in virtually every other area of knowledge (unless of course one is “in the fold”); and it ignores the distinctions between reality and imagination and between objectively informed knowledge and subjective fantasizing. Thus I conclude that Romans 1 is not a reliable prooftext for what Christians want it to say. And they are wrong to say that the Christian god itself has stated these things, for Romans 1 was written by a human being – the guy wrote it is saying what it says.

by Dawson Bethrick

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31 Comments:

Blogger Luiz Claudio said...

Its curious to see people trying to prove something is real by pointing out to its imaginative nature, which in the end is all this passage does

March 10, 2014 1:52 PM  
Blogger freddies_dead said...

This numpty again?

I didn't think he'd stopped running from your previous dismantling of his execrable assertion that math is Christian?

March 12, 2014 5:06 AM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

David Kelly lectures on metaphysical primacy of existence in this youtube video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YYgOT2DZ-J8&list=PL6attS4PbTfzKB2AnaE06zRrs7kOFWfj8&feature=share&index=1

March 12, 2014 6:29 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hi Robert,

Thanks for the link.

I quoted a whole section of this presentation by Kelley in my blog A Reply to Matthias on Subjectivism and the Believer. What Kelley states there is very important.

Now come to think of it, I posted several replies to Matthias McMahon back earlier this year, and he hasn't responded to any of it. Why is that?

Regards,
Dawson

March 12, 2014 7:39 PM  
Blogger wakawakwaka said...

Dawson I understand that Christianity cannot account for concept theory but I have a hard time putting it into a simple argument to show how it cant can you help me on that? also do you have any examples of Christians trying to account for concept theory and miserably failing

March 13, 2014 9:30 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hello Wak,

First of all, my point is not that Christianity cannot “account for concept *theory*,” but rather that it has no theory of concepts. To use their terms, Christianity cannot account for concepts (since it has no theory of concepts).

Second, you ask for an argument for this. But in fact, no argument is needed. It’s an observation. It’s like opening your refrigerator and finding that you have no diet coke – you can look and look, but if there’s none there, you won’t find it. You don’t need an argument for this. Similarly, you can peruse your bible from sunup till midnight for two weeks or two years, you won’t find a theory of concepts presented anywhere within its books, chapters and verses. If Christians insist that the bible presents a theory of concepts, ask him to point it out for you, to give citations and references. Ask basic questions about what concepts are, how they’re formed, etc.

Third, if the bible presents no theory of concepts, where would a Christian believer go to get an understanding of concepts? It’s not in the bible, so if a believer wants to understand what concepts are, how they are formed, how they relate to the perceptual level of consciousness, how they are defined, etc., he cannot turn to “special revelation” for this. And since this is not some “invisible thing” which we “clearly see” in the world around us (a la Romans 1:20), it’s hard to see how the believer could claim he acquires this understanding through “natural revelation.” It seems that his only options are mystically guided speculations, or borrowing from a non-Christian perspective.

Fourth, the closest I’ve seen apologists come to kinda/sorta forming a theory of concepts (though it falls far short of this) is the Vantillian notion that the trinity somehow solves the one-many problem – what has historically been called the problem of universals. (For example, see James Anderson’s paper If Knowledge Then God and scroll down to pg. 16 where he begins the outline of the “one-many argument.) However, numerous problems fatally plague this approach. For one, Vantillians have adopted the problem after it lost its epistemological focus and became a metaphysical problem. But it’s not a metaphysical problem – it’s an epistemological matter. Vantillians need it to be a metaphysical problem in order to give their theism relevance to the matter. Second, the Vantillian approach is simply an attempt to take over a philosophical matter for which it has nothing but mystical ad hoc speculations. The entire motivation of the Vantillian enterprise here is to make Christianity seem to have some philosophical advantage by addressing a problem that has stumped many secular thinkers throughout history (mostly because they were looking in the wrong place for answers, just as the Vantillians do).

[continued…]

March 13, 2014 5:49 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Third, because the issue is treated primarily as a metaphysical problem, the VT approach brings us no closer to understanding the nature of the activity of the human mind in forming concepts, in integrating new units to concepts one has already formed, why concepts apply regardless of time and place, how their meanings relate to their definitions, etc. Fundamentally, the VT approach gives us no understanding of how the conceptual level of cognition relates to perceptual awareness. Indeed, many think that some concepts have no ultimate basis in perception at all. Consider for example Steve Hays’ remarks in his recent blog entry Sources of knowledge where he writes:

<< Suppose I have six quarters. Unless I have a preconception of numerical relations, I don't see how viewing quarters enables me to bootstrap the concept of six, which I then use to number the quarters. I must have the concept before I can use it. I can't derive the concept from sensibles, then turn right around and apply it to the sensibles. >>

Hays’ worldview provides no understanding of how concepts of numbers can be formed ultimately from perceptual input. I must say, that’s quite a liability! (This means that, for his worldview, there is no objective basis for such concepts as numbers.) So he posits the need for “a preconception of numerical relations,” which he does not explain, but which he would likely say is installed in his mind by some supernatural (i.e., magical) force. It’s just there, and since he does not know how to account for it objectively (“I don’t see how viewing quarters enables me to bootstrap the concept of six…”), he will naturally point to his god. It’s like a reflex with believers: if they don’t know something, just point to the god they enshrine in their imagination. Problem solved.

The bottom line is that the appeal to “the Trinity” does not solve “the problem of the one and the many.” The notion of “the Trinity” is not even coherent; it’s just a tangle of contradictions. Also, it has no objective basis: we do not discover this “Trinity” by looking outward at the world – we have no alternative but to imagine it. And notice how wide the disagreements are among those who imagine it. One believer imagines “the Trinity” one way, and another imagines it another way. Moreover, pointing to a supernatural being which somehow (“mysteriously”) solves the problem does nothing to explain what our minds do when we form concepts.

Back in 2006 I posted a blog entry titled Frame's Summary of Van Til's OMA in which I analyze the Vantillian approach to the matter. This might be helpful. Also notice that in the comments James Anderson, who joined the discussion, expressed apparently as his most important concern that I “make clear [my] view on the ontological status of universals,” thus confirming my point that the VT approach has essentially nothing of epistemological value to offer on the matter (and statements like Hays’ above only confirm this all the more).

Anderson did ask a number of questions, and I address them in my paper A Reply to Anderson: On Realism, Conceptualism and the Objectivist Theory of Concepts. You might find this helpful as well.

Regards,
Dawson

March 13, 2014 5:49 PM  
Blogger wakawakwaka said...

Thanks Dawson, but I am curious if Christianity is true in any of its forms would it be true that none of us can actually be resonisble for sinning? at anyrate this guy seems to be not able to get it http://justinvacula.com/2013/08/06/unco ... 1002179773 and Jason Lisle as well seems to not understand that fact as in this comment to the ignored he refuted himself but he cant seem to notice it http://www.jasonlisle.com/2012/11/09/de ... mment-7929

Examples
"According to the Bible, we all have rebelled against God and therefore deserve death (Romans 3:23, 5:12, 6:23). It is only by God’s grace that any of us are allowed to live for any length of time at all. God determines when people die"
" Yes, God sent His own Son, God incarnate died in the most horrible way possible so that people can be saved. While we were still in a state of wicked rebellion against our King, he suffered in our place so that we wouldn’t have to (Romans 5:7-8). "
"Since all people have committed high treason against their sovereign King, and rightly deserve death and eternal punishment"

and now he refutes himself....

" The Bible indicates that we are all sinners from conception (Psalm 51:5). It is only by God’s grace that any of us live for any time at all.

March 14, 2014 8:59 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Wak,

The Christian "doctrine of sin" is just another religious doctrine of unearned guilt. And yes, you're right to spot a contradiction here, but it is commonly encountered - so much so that believers repeat it in a mindless manner (not at all "epistemologically self-conscious") and never really pay attention to the contradictions they're affirming. On the one hand, we’re guilty because we’ve done something deliberately – we have chosen to do something morally wrong. On the other, we were guilty even before we were born (“from conception”). We are bespotted, depraved, filled with all kinds of iniquity, and yet we’re “created in God’s image.” Is the Christian god bespotted, depraved, and filled with all kinds of iniquity?

One of the passages cited in the quotes you gave is Romans 5:12, which states: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:”

Thus for this charge (“all have sinned”) to apply to people walking around today, it means that we were judged as guilty sinners long before even our great, great, great grandparents were born. And by whom? By the apostle Paul – a man. We were judged by this guy well before we ever had a chance to do right or wrong, before we ever had a choice in the matter. This is to make a perverse mockery of morality, for morality is about guiding our choices according to facts relevant to our lives that we discover in the world. This “biblical morality” strips all choice from the entire matter and condemns us before we even come out of the womb. And we’re supposed to take this essentially on the apostle Paul’s say so. Christians insist that it’s “the word of God.” But that’s clearly a fantasy, just as the notion of unearned guilt is.

The doctrine of unearned guilt is simply a means of pushing newcomers to the religion into its doorway. Once newcomers accept this completely irrational premise and subsequently believe that they need “salvation by faith” (a primacy of consciousness notion if there ever were one), holy terror slams the door shut behind them. As Danny Barker’s song goes, “You can’t sell salvation unless you sell damnation.” And you can’t keep them in the faith unless you scare them out of their wits. None of this is about reason. None of this is about developing a rational worldview which teaches us how to live and enjoy our lives. It’s all about damning man and snuffing out his spirit. The believers you find on the internet twerking for Jesus are as trapped as they come. They want you to believe they have “answers.” They don’t. They can’t even convince themselves that they have answers. That’s why they keep trying. To break out of the labyrinth means acknowledging that everything they’ve been doing is a complete lie. And they’re too emotionally invested to allow themselves even a glimmer of such honesty.

I have a new blog up. It’s called Jason Lisle on Axioms. Enjoy!

Regards,
Dawson

March 15, 2014 5:31 AM  
Blogger wakawakwaka said...

hold on one of my links didnt go through correctly here it is in its proper condition http://justinvacula.com/2013/08/06/unconditional-love/#comment-1002179773 if anyone still wants to read it

March 15, 2014 11:47 PM  
Blogger wakawakwaka said...

Hey Dawson I recently chatted with a calvinist about original Sin and personal responiblity and he said this what do you think I still it still means that no one can be held logically for sinninh

" However, you could of course argue that God then must have created us with sinful natures, and we thus can still not be held accountable for the sins we commit. This objection arises from a misunderstanding of exactly what took place when Adam and Eve sinned in the garden. When Adam and Eve sinned, they in effect declared a rebellion against God and His laws. Let me explain via analogy: say that there exists a wonderful city called "Life," and that it is the only city in existence. Life has a King, who happens to be the only King in existence. Now, say that every time a child is born, that child is given a Citizenship of Life from the King (noting that the King is the only one with the authority to do this). Now, imagine that a group of citizens from the city of Life rebelled against the King and formally seceded from the city of Life to start their own city - let's call it the city of Death. They have hence separated themselves from the King, and no longer have access to the Citizenship of Life. Nevertheless, in His graciousness, the King continues to give them citizenships as new inhabitants of Death are born. But, because they live in Death and not in Life, they are given Citizenships of Death. Whose fault is it that these newborn inhabitants have Citizenships of Death? Their parents, right? So how can they be held responsible for living in Death if they have been born with Citizenships of Death? Because between the City of Death and the City of Life, there exists a bridge (Jesus' atonement) that the Citizens of Death are allowed to cross at any time to the City of Life."

March 23, 2014 7:31 PM  
Blogger freddies_dead said...

waka, in order for the analogy to hold the Calvinist should note that the King not only gives out Citizenship he's also directly responsible - and has a plan - for each and every child born. After all the whole universe is supposedly there to bring glory to the King.

I do love it when Christians omit certain facts that show how their "justifications" aren't in any way valid.

So, to fix the analogy we need to state that the King has already planned for each person - including Adam and Eve - to sin. He's already decided which of them will be granted access to the City of Afterlife and which will go straight to the City of Afterpunishment.

All his hand waving is in vain. His King is just as responsible as his God for the sins we commit.

March 24, 2014 4:24 AM  
Blogger wakawakwaka said...

well he promised to make a better expliantion of how his analogy works i cant wait to show it to yo guys

March 24, 2014 8:18 AM  
Blogger Cameron Roth said...

Romans does not say everyone has specific or special revelation from God, but that Gods power has been made known through what has been made. This is different then what you are critiquing. I'd argue that staggering fine tuning and the profound relational and contingent nature behind all things is clear evidence of a grand Designer.

March 30, 2014 1:40 AM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

Hello Cameron. Nice to meet you. I respectfully disagree with you on your points.

You wrote >> " I'd argue that staggering fine tuning and the profound relational and contingent nature behind all things is clear evidence of a grand Designer."

One cannot logically affirm Cameron's claim without begging the question on teleological purpose. That existence appears fine tuned does not mean it is or that an intelligence intended the apparent fine tuning for any particular purpose. While Cameron did not mention the Strong Anthropic Principle - (the Universe and hence the fundamental parameters on which it depends must be such as to admit the creation of observers within it at some stage) - the fine tuning argument turns on it. The case could more likely be that the universe appears fine tuned for black holes, galactic clusters, neutrinos, bacteria, protons, or spatial geometry rather than intelligent observers and that it is this way constitutes only a fortuitous coincidence. This fact means advocates of F.T.A. and S.A.P. are dishonest, for they ignore that at the very best one can only infer the Weak Anthropic Principle from existence's apparent fine tuning. W.A.P. goes > "we must be prepared to take account of the fact that our location in the universe is necessarily privileged to the extent of being compatible with our existence as observers." This is like the water puddle that finds itself in a hole and thinks 'This hole is perfect for me. There must be a purpose.' When actually the hole was formed due to non-linear dynamic and chaotic phenomena like a pot hole in a road would be formed by traffic.

Besides, there is no good case for fine tuning. Victor Stenger demonstrated this very powerfully in his book "The Fallacy of Fine Tuning". What religious apologists assert presupposes an operator rather like a cartoon homo-nucleus inside a man's head manipulating levers, twisting knobs and dials to configure the fundamental constants used in mathematical models of various aspects of existence. They think that changing one value just a little would result in our cosmic realm's hostility to carbon based life increasing so that C based life would then be untenable. This is a fallacy because the values of the unbreakable symmetries that define the fundamental constants can't be changed. Only when a new universe is formed can those values as a group be set. That happens as a random process due to spontaneous symmetry breaking. Additionally, there are a wide range of values of the fundamental constants that if established in a baby universe would allow for sufficient stability for stars to form, go super-nova to form heavier elements, for gravity to bring about new accretion to form subsequent generations of star systems and allow for planet formation and abiogenesis of self-replicators. Stenger's Monkey God models demonstrated this possibility as explained in his book.

Cameron mentioned "...profound relational and contingent nature behind all things..."

Profound means penetrating or entering deeply into subjects of thought or knowledge; having deep insight or understanding: a profound thinker. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/profound

Nature can't think; It can't dor profound. Rational observers can and do find nature intriguing and experience a profound reaction when thinking about nature. Nature is the way existence self-relates. To claim nature is "contingent" is to imply existence depends upon something. To do this is to beg the question as to something that existence is dependent upon. In Christian theism that something is imagined as "God", a form of consciousness. Cameron's assertion reduces to an assertion of metaphysical primacy of consciousness. However existence has primacy over consciousness as has been proven in spades by Objectivist philosophers. - Best/Good

March 30, 2014 10:57 AM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

comment continued;

I appreciate Cameron's points as they have prompted me to think about the issues raised. By way of disclaimer, please be aware that I claim all people deserve respect by virtue of being people while ideas must earn respect. The ideas I've express have and continue to earn their keep. Cameron is a nice person and his ideas, while interesting, are ultimately incapable of earning respect. - Best/Good

March 30, 2014 10:58 AM  
Blogger Cameron Roth said...

Robert, I also respectfully disagree with you. I'm sure you are a nice person, who believes your dog it more valuable than a puddle. Are you a Naturalist, or what is your view on ultimate reality so that I can examine it?

In terms of teleos, I'd argue we can greatly infer that the world is designed for us, and us for the world (= what I mean my a contingent nature behind/within reality) — and that this is obviously so to a far greater degree for us than what can be said about a puddle. If naturalistic atheism were true (= not just a negation of beliefs, but the positive belief that non-minds give rise to minds, etc.) then it would be consistent to compare our significance to a puddles. If you allow me to use an ad-hominum, this would also be able to justify many things which Christians call immoral.

But I digress. A puddle does not pick up sound waves or light waves, and have a brain which interprets the signals so that things can be known. On this score, the world is clearly (pun intended) made for us and us for the world.

Atheists usually like to think they are rebutting intelligent design by saying that everything is complex, yet fail to address the actual issue that certain things have a far greater specificity to them, which can then greatly infer purpose. Even many agnostics can grasp these simple points. It's usually atheists that can't allow it, however.

March 31, 2014 1:14 AM  
Blogger freddies_dead said...

Cameron, maybe you can explain how you discern design when belief in an intelligent designer requires the belief that everything is designed?

George H. Smith says it nicely in his book Atheism: The Case Against God



"Consider the idea that nature itself is the product of design. How could this be demonstrated? Nature, as we have seen, provides the basis of comparison by which we distinguish between designed objects and natural objects. We are able to infer the presence of design only to the extent that the characteristics of an object differ from natural characteristics. Therefore, to claim that nature as a whole was designed is to destroy the basis by which we differentiate between artifacts and natural objects. Evidences of design are those characteristics not found in nature, so it is impossible to produce evidence of design within the context of nature itself. Only if we first step beyond nature, and establish the existence of a supernatural designer, can we conclude that nature is the result of conscious planning. (p. 268)"



i.e. the design hypothesis is self defeating - if everything is designed you cannot then discern design. You must first prove God and you can't use design as part of that proof.

So where's your proof of God sans your question begging claim of "staggering fine tuning and the profound relational and contingent nature behind all things"?

March 31, 2014 7:34 AM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

Hello. In case one has a couple of free hours and desire to watch Ken Miller take apart and refute intelligent design using the points and data from the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District case.

http://youtu.be/JVRsWAjvQSg

March 31, 2014 8:05 AM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

(part 1) Hello friends.

Cameron wrote: "Robert, I also respectfully disagree with you. I'm sure you are a nice person…" - Thank you for your reply. I hope you and your family are living long and prospering. [Vulcan Salute]

Cameron wrote: "who believes your dog it more valuable than a puddle." –> Please clarify. I don't understand what you mean.

Cameron wrote: " Are you a Naturalist, or what is your view on ultimate reality so that I can examine it?" –> I'm a Randian Objectivist and hold to standard Rand and Peikoff views of metaphysics and epistemology. If you aren't familiar with those, it will take some time for study. Here's a link to the Atlas Society page presenting an overview of Objectivism. http://www.atlassociety.org/what_is_objectivism

Additionally, If you wish to review Dawson's strong atheist argument please read his blog , "Three Steps Proving that Theism Cannot Be True", http://bahnsenburner.blogspot.com/2013/12/three-steps-proving-that-theism-cannot.html

Cameron wrote: " In terms of teleos, I'd argue we can greatly infer that the world is designed for us, and us for the world (= what I mean my a contingent nature behind/within reality) — and that this is obviously so to a far greater degree for us than what can be said about a puddle." –>While reality prima facie seems designed due to complexity, such impression is only an illusion and arguing from it is an incredulity fallacy, but the fact that one cannot understand how something came to be does not indicate that one may conclude it was designed. On the contrary, lack of understanding indicates that we must not conclude design or anything else. Complexity isn't design as can be readily ascertained from observing design engineers who strive for simplicity. Additionally, arguing from complexity to design lacks persuasive substance as it's an exercise in subjectivity.

Cameron wrote: "If naturalistic atheism were true (= not just a negation of beliefs, but the positive belief that non-minds give rise to minds, etc.) " –>Mind has never been detected and probably never will. We are justified to think there aren't such entities. Human and animal consciousness is biological nature. They are phenomena associated with brain and CNS states. (end part 1)

March 31, 2014 11:35 AM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

(part 2) Cameron wrote: "then it would be consistent to compare our significance to a puddles. If you allow me to use an ad-hominum, this would also be able to justify many things which Christians call immoral." –> I did not compare our significance to puddles. The puddle analogy was offered to illustrate why the Strong Anthropic Principle should be rejected in favor for the Weak Anthropic Principle. S.A.P. entails the question begging assumption of purpose or intent. There is nothing in reality indicating purpose or intent of existence. That the puddle fits the pot hole allows the puddle to falsely conjecture a purposeful pothole maker whereas actually the pothole formed by naturalistic non-linear dynamic and chaotic actions of traffic. The Weak Anthropic Principle says the location in the universe in which we live must be compatible with the fact that we are here to observe it. This simply points out the obvious fact that if the laws and parameters of nature were not suitable for life, we would not be here to talk about them. That's all one can logically infer from the way reality is.
Cameron wrote: "But I digress. A puddle does not pick up sound waves or light waves, and have a brain which interprets the signals so that things can be known. On this score, the world is clearly (pun intended) made for us and us for the world." -> The reason your subjective assumption is false is that existence has primacy over consciousness. By primacy what is meant is the state of independence. Existence exists and is what it is without regard to consciousness. That is existence is completely independent of consciousness. The issue of metaphysical primacy of either existence or consciousness is exclusive and exhaustive. Only one can be independent. The other will be dependent. Consciousness, like casualty and information, is completely dependent upon existence.

Cameron wrote: "Atheists usually like to think they are rebutting intelligent design by saying that everything is complex, yet fail to address the actual issue that certain things have a far greater specificity to them, which can then greatly infer purpose. Even many agnostics can grasp these simple points. It's usually atheists that can't allow it, however." -> Theologian Will Dembski's idea of 'Complex Specified Information' has been long refuted. Consider the article at this link. http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CI/CI110.html

Fatally for I.D. advocates, Dembski misused information theory in his hypothesis as explained by Victor Stenger: "Dembski used the definition of information provided by the father of communication theory, Claude Shannon, in 1948.19 Shannon defined the information transferred in a communication process to be equal, within a constant, to the decrease in the entropy of the system. Here he used the conventional definition of entropy in statistical mechanics that was provided by Ludwig Boltzmann in the late nineteenth century. Now, it is well known that entropy is not a conserved quantity such as energy. The second law of thermodynamics allows for the entropy of a closed system to increase with time. It follows that information is not a conserved quantity and Dembski's law of conservation of information is provably wrong. On the empirical side, many examples can be given of physical systems creating information. A spinning compass needle provides no information on direction. When it slows to a stop, it “creates” the information of the direction North."

Stenger, Victor J. (2011-05-19). Fallacy of Fine-Tuning, The: Why the Universe Is Not Designed for Us (Kindle Locations 453-461). Prometheus Books. Kindle Edition.

Best Wishes and Regards

March 31, 2014 11:36 AM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

Hello Cameron, I'll get to your responses in the next week or so as I've a bit of work to do. In the mean time, here's an interesting and short Richard Dawkins video reporting on the dysteleology of laryngeal nerve routing in giraffes and humans. The reality is that animal bodies aren't intelligently designed.

Link >> http://youtu.be/gb_J-imkehU

April 01, 2014 10:36 AM  
Blogger Cameron Roth said...

Freddie's dead,

I find that to be a silly argument on ID. If I assume everything is designed then I don't go by the false dichotomy of things either being "natural" or "designed"! Because I'm a monotheist I believe everything is designed, and that certain things are far more apparent in being designed. The "natural" vs. the "supernatural" is a silly false dichotomy. One cannot preclude the "supernatural" because we don't fully know yet what the "natural" realm entails.

So do you believe in stupid design? Is our brains decoding and encoding light and sound waves only the appearance of design or chance to you? I would call that the god of Chanclea, however, having such amazing abilities to create such complex, specific, and functional interdependence.

What is your worldview? Are you a naturalistic atheist? Do you believe minds come from non-minds? I would like to know so I can examine it.

April 02, 2014 2:58 PM  
Blogger Cameron Roth said...

Freddie's dead,

you already answered my question about "minds". So let me respond to that. So are you saying you don't have a mind? Don't you need a mind to say you don't have a mind? Also, I agree and believe that our minds are biological, I just also believe more than that. Consciousness is an extremely complicated field with varying opinions all over the spectrum. There is no singular conclusion. We are free to debate it. What I would argue is that mere biology (in a purely mechanistic or materialistic sense) isn't sufficient to account for the full nature and reality of our minds. We know that we shouldn't contradict ourselves in every way, and for reasons beyond survival (which if that is one's standard is an arbitrary one). Mere biology can't account for this, nor can it account for all the immaterial concepts we can know a priori, ie. the concept of "eternal", etc.

April 02, 2014 10:21 PM  
Blogger Cameron Roth said...

Robert Bumbalough,

I've saw that video on Ken Miller a long time ago, and I've watched bits and pieces of it multiple times since. Miller is a walking and talking contradiction. He's a theist, namely a Catholic, yet rejects ID. This is so idiotic I don't know where to begin. What an utter blasphemous way to be a Catholic, and what a myopic view of the world with profound contingency in nature. I've never been impressed with much of what he's said.

What is your worldview in terms of metaphysics then? I get the gist of objectivism and Rand's ideology.

Please don't tell me to go and study it without summing it up and trying to explain it yourself. I find that when people do this they either don't really know what they're talking about or are hiding behind vagueness. I trust you're not. I'm keeping my replies short, because you seem like a nice man but write books in reply. I don't have hardly any time to respond to everything. Sorry. Maybe when I was younger I would have.

April 03, 2014 12:17 AM  
Blogger Cameron Roth said...

This also deals with the crux of what I said so I'll respond to this as well:

Robert Bumbalough said,

"Cameron wrote: "But I digress. A puddle does not pick up sound waves or light waves, and have a brain which interprets the signals so that things can be known. On this score, the world is clearly (pun intended) made for us and us for the world." -> The reason your subjective assumption is false is that existence has primacy over consciousness. By primacy what is meant is the state of independence. Existence exists and is what it is without regard to consciousness. That is existence is completely independent of consciousness. The issue of metaphysical primacy of either existence or consciousness is exclusive and exhaustive. Only one can be independent. The other will be dependent. Consciousness, like casualty and information, is completely dependent upon existence."

First, I was demonstrating that you had a false analogy in comparing a puddle and a hole's interdependence with light/sound waves and a brain's interdependence. Sound waves and light spectrums are specific frequencies for our brains to interpret them and know, experience, and interact with the world/people around us. Given my Biblical presuppositions I can agree this is intentional correlation. Given naturalistic atheist's presuppositions, they must deny there ever was an intended correlation, and Chanclea brought about this miracle instead.
I don't want to assume what you believe metaphysically, so that's why I asked you and am waiting, this way I can see if it comports with these possibilities. I'm excited to find out.

You're also begging the question that consciousness isn't ultimately part of existence too. I know Rand and her objectivists would assume otherwise because it jives with reality being independent of our subjective opinion. But it still begs the question. Perhaps there is an objective consciousness that is also independent of ours. Then there would be a true standard of reason itself by which we then also interpret existence.

April 03, 2014 12:41 AM  
Blogger freddies_dead said...

Cameron Roth said...

Freddie's dead,

I find that to be a silly argument on ID.


Do you believe that your opinion of the argument has any bearing on the truth of the argument?

If I assume everything is designed

No-one is asking you to assume anything. Belief in an intelligent designer automatically affirms the position that everything must be designed.

then I don't go by the false dichotomy of things either being "natural" or "designed"!

In what way is natural/designed a false dichotomy? What other form of being do you propose exists? And what is your evidence for it?

Because I'm a monotheist I believe everything is designed,

And this is where Smith's point skewers you.

He points out that we discern design by differentiating manufactured artifacts (the designed) from natural objects. However, when you assert the existence of an intelligent designer for the universe you remove the one means we have for making that differentiation, as there now isn't anything natural to compare manufactured artifacts to.

So how do you know everything is designed? You cannot point at anything and show that it's designed because there's nothing to differentiate it from anything else. The only way you can prove that anything is designed is by first demonstrating the existence of an intelligent designer ... and you can't use a design argument as part of that demonstration because you have no way of showing anything is designed.

Sheesh, I'm glad this isn't my problem.

and that certain things are far more apparent in being designed.

This is incoherent. If everything is designed then there's no way to say that anything is more obviously designed than anything else.

The "natural" vs. the "supernatural" is a silly false dichotomy.

In what way is it a false dichotomy? And in what way is it "silly"?

One cannot preclude the "supernatural" because we don't fully know yet what the "natural" realm entails.

Who has precluded the "supernatural" here? Not I. However, seen as you've thrown this in, maybe you can answer a few questions regarding the supernatural:

How can we know what you call the supernatural?

By what means are you aware of what you call the supernatural?

How can we distinguish between what you call the supernatural from what you may be merely imagining?

So do you believe in stupid design?

Of course. Humans are fallible and we design stupid things all the time.

Is our brains decoding and encoding light and sound waves only the appearance of design or chance to you?

Neither, the scientific evidence shows that the brain's ability to process visual and aural perceptions is the product of a non-random process (natural selection) acting on random mutations.

I would call that the god of Chanclea, however, having such amazing abilities to create such complex, specific, and functional interdependence.

You can call it whatever you want as long as you don't claim that it's what I believe or what Objectivism teaches.

What is your worldview? Are you a naturalistic atheist?

I'm an objectivist atheist.

Do you believe minds come from non-minds? I would like to know so I can examine it.

Consciousness is an emergent property of biological organisms. However, the evidence shows there was a time when biological organisms didn't exist so the trivial answer to your question is 'yes, consciousness arose in biological organisms which evolved from biological organisms which didn't have consciousness'.

If you disagree that consciousness is biological in nature then please present the evidence that you think supports your claim.

April 03, 2014 5:15 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hello Cameron,

Welcome to my blog. My apologies for not getting back to you sooner – I’ve been traveling over this past week with only intermittent connection to the net through my iPhone’s 3g service (hence, I can pretty much only approve comments waiting moderation). I’m back from traveling, but still with very limited access to the net via a real computer.

You wrote: “Romans does not say everyone has specific or special revelation from God,”

I suppose this depends on how one interprets what is stated in Romans. Typically Christians distinguish between “general revelation” and “special revelation,” and apologists often cite statements found in Romans 1 as support for their view that everyone “knows God” via “general revelation.”

What Romans does say is that “invisible things” are “clearly seen,” which is nonsensical. If something is “clearly seen,” it could not be “invisible.”

You wrote: “but that Gods power has been made known through what has been made.”

Unlike perceiving objects, knowing is not automatic. We can perceive something, but knowing what we are perceiving requires the choice to identify it (and we do this by means of conceptual integration). Romans is clear that “seeing” is the operative conscious activity in mind here when it says that “invisible things” are “clearly seen.” Thus to the extent that Romans is suggesting that seeing = knowing, it is ignoring fundamental distinctions between the two processes. That would mean it’s philosophically bankrupt.

You wrote: “This is different then what you are critiquing.”

Seeing is not the same thing as knowing. So if this is how you interpret Romans 1 (and surely many do), see above.

But let’s see how this works. When I look out at the world, I see things like rocks, trees, mountains, fence posts, chunks of concrete, etc. I see physical, finite, corruptible and natural things. I do not see the Christian god. So how does seeing these things translate into “knowledge” of the Christian god? This is essentially what is being affirmed in Romans 1, but it is not explained. There’s no analysis of the epistemological process by which perception of physical, finite, corruptible and natural things confers awareness of some invisible magic being that is non-physical, infinite, incorruptible and supernatural. The author’s goal is simply to conclude that people are without excuse for not believing the malarkey he’s preaching, but he races to this conclusion at the expense of a rational understanding of how the human mind works. That doesn’t bother Paul the Apostle – he was far more concerned about circumcision rules than he was about anything coming close to rational epistemology. “Just believe what I tell you, and obey accordingly.” That’s his priority here. If he had reason on his side, he would not need to short-circuit the human mind in order to trumpet his message.

[continued…]

April 05, 2014 4:41 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “I'd argue that staggering fine tuning and the profound relational and contingent nature behind all things is clear evidence of a grand Designer.”

I can, with you, imagine that the universe shows “staggering fine tuning” and that it was created by “a grand Designer.” But I am aware of no facts which objectively suggest this. It has already been explained how the argument that nature is designed commits the fallacy of the stolen concept (see freddies’ comments). But if I were a Christian now, with all I know as an adult who has studied these matters more or less systematically, I would think that, were the world “fine tuned,” it’d be ideally fine tuned, not for life, but for “sin.” Christians say that sin was conquered on the cross. Well, that was (on their timeline) nearly 2,000 years ago. And yet sin has continued to proliferate the world to – to use your word – a staggering degree. A lot of good your Jesus did dutifully hanging there with convicted felons.

If the world was “designed,” I’d say it was either designed by an incompetent deity out of whose control the world has spun off, or that it was designed by a deity which delights in sin, suffering, carnage, destruction, etc. These things are only averted by man’s own efforts, no thanks to any gods. Moreover, appeals to “God’s plan” do nothing to provide the Christian story with any credibility, for if all that happens is what has been “planned” from the beginning, then we’re just puppets performing for the whimsical enjoyment of a voyeuristic deity which relishes pain and suffering. Such is what we would expect from a god that demands blood sacrifice from its creatures.

Hope that helps!

Regards,
Dawson

April 05, 2014 4:41 AM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

Thanks to freddies_dead for that George H Smith quote. It's so good I posted it to my facebook with credit to freddie and a link to this blog. Good stuff.

April 06, 2014 7:53 AM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

Cameron wrote: “I'd argue that staggering fine tuning and the profound relational and contingent nature behind all things is clear evidence of a grand Designer.”

Like almost all god believers, Cameron here betrays his dishonesty by indulging in his fantasy delusion. The evidences and arguments offered on this and the other thread show there is no design or fine tuning.

Freddies_dead's point explained by George H Smith bears repeating.
**********************************
Cameron, maybe you can explain how you discern design when belief in an intelligent designer requires the belief that everything is designed?

George H. Smith says it nicely in his book Atheism: The Case Against God



"Consider the idea that nature itself is the product of design. How could this be demonstrated? Nature, as we have seen, provides the basis of comparison by which we distinguish between designed objects and natural objects. We are able to infer the presence of design only to the extent that the characteristics of an object differ from natural characteristics. Therefore, to claim that nature as a whole was designed is to destroy the basis by which we differentiate between artifacts and natural objects. Evidences of design are those characteristics not found in nature, so it is impossible to produce evidence of design within the context of nature itself. Only if we first step beyond nature, and establish the existence of a supernatural designer, can we conclude that nature is the result of conscious planning. (p. 268)"



i.e. the design hypothesis is self defeating - if everything is designed you cannot then discern design. You must first prove God and you can't use design as part of that proof.

So where's your proof of God sans your question begging claim of "staggering fine tuning and the profound relational and contingent nature behind all things"?
**********************************

One of the alleged fine tuning parameters is the critical mass density. This is harped upon by FTA adherents as if it's part of their creedal commitment. But Chaotic Inflation Theory, a natural non-magic phenomena, explains why our cosmic domain's mass density is just right for a Euclidian Hilbert space. Stenger elucidated:

"The flatness problem. According to our best observations, the universe seems to be precisely balanced between closed and open, that is, on average, geometrically flat. The mass density of the universe is estimated to equal the critical density for perfect balance to fifty decimal places. Today this is still listed by theists as an example of fine-tuning. However, the problem was solved in 1980 by the inflationary model. Space can be likened to the surface of a balloon that has been expanded by 20 or 30 orders of magnitude. A small patch on that surface will appear extremely flat. This also accounts for the incredible smoothness of the cosmic background radiation. Furthermore, the inflationary model predicted that the deviation from smoothness should be one part in 100,000. This prediction was spectacularly verified by the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) in 19928 and has since been verified by more advanced space-borne telescopes."

Stenger, Victor J. (2011-05-19). Fallacy of Fine-Tuning, The: Why the Universe Is Not Designed for Us (Kindle Locations 1365-1374). Prometheus Books. Kindle Edition.

April 09, 2014 6:27 AM  

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