A quick clarification

I’m a bit under the weather today, so I’ll just toss out a quick clarification. In his reply to my post on “How many stars are not the sun?”, commenter cl writes:

Thus, I can and do know that God does not show up in real life, just like I can and do know that none of the stars in the night sky is our sun.

Wow, really? Surely you’ve heard of Russell’s Teapot, right? If the above is your argument, then count me in with those who think Jayman has you on the ropes. Your analogy entails an irrecoverable category error. You contrast claims for which no empirical evidence exists with claims for which conclusive empirical evidence exists. The existence of a bona fide miracle is still in question, correct? That our sun is not our sun is not in question. Not very persuasive, IMO.

The point I’m making has nothing to do with Russell’s Teapot, which has to do with unfalsifiable claims. My point, by contrast, is that the preconditions that would give us a miracle-working Christian God entail other consequences so obvious as to make (unfalsifiable) miracles moot as a source of evidence for God’s existence. When our sun is in the sky, its glory so overwhelms the lesser glory of the stars as to leave them virtually invisible. There’s no debate over which star is our genuine sun, because no other contenders can even show up.

In the same way, when we read Biblical stories about God showing up, one thing we never read is any debate over whether that was really God or not. If God really were willing and able to show up in real life, it would be like the sun coming out. It would produce empirical evidence, and it wouldn’t be a category error to compare God’s presence to the sun’s presence.

That’s my point.

 
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Posted in Unapologetics. 29 Comments »

29 Responses to “A quick clarification”

  1. rgz Says:

    And because I love reprising arguments…

    If we ever find a mysterious phenomenon that blatantly contradicted known laws of physics or that necessarily implied agency, and that strict experimenting could not reveal as a hoax or blunder, we still would not being able to ascribe it to God, without an explanation of why the heck he has being hiding the last 3.5 thousand years, why he made the universe look older than it is, why he sent his alleged son before the invention of the TV or at least the print, why his actions do not correlate with the description of him in his alleged word, the Bible or how he won the cosmic lottery that allows him to exists without an explanation.

    There is just so much broken in the Bible that epileptic tree theories about this God being Xenu actually make more sense.

    As a bonus –and this is the core of Duncan’s commentary– if God these difficulties in the God theory. in other words, if he actually went around doing miracles and being all-loving and never went on vacation, the question of how can we ascribe a miracle to God would be very silly.

  2. rgz Says:

    Correction:

    “If God these difficulties” should be “If God nullified these difficulties”

  3. Bacopa Says:

    I have to agree that Xenu is more plausible than God. There might have been a galactic empire with a leader like Xenu who might have have imprisoned souls in a volcano with fusion bombs and these souls might have ended up in ape man bodies creating the human race and these souls might be receptive to all kinds of influences when they are in a human fetus…..

    Did you ever notice that Lafayette R. Hubbard had a major hang up about pregnant women having sex? Poor Tom Cruise! Of course Mimi and Nicole never got pregnant. Hmmm.

    Of course there’s the whole issue about what souls are and how they could be imprisoned and then pass on to proto-humans, Even so, I have to give $ciento1ogy a slight edge over Christianity, even though Operating Thetan powers do not show up in real life.

  4. nal Says:

    cl:
    You contrast claims for which no empirical evidence exists with claims for which conclusive empirical evidence exists.

    Evidence of absence

    Evidence of absence is evidence that shows a claim is unlikely or false.
    What qualifies as evidence of absence:
    Absence of Evidence when Evidence should be present

    Therefore, there is evidence that God does not show up in real life, and that evidence is evidence of absence. The evidence of absence regarding God showing up in real life is like the evidence of absence regarding the sun showing up at night.

  5. cl Says:

    DD,

    I’ve suspected for a few exchanges that we might be talking past each other a tad, and now I’m pretty convinced. Correct me if I’m wrong, but your star analogy was an attempted defense of your so-called “Undeniable Fact,” which was your assertion that “God does not show up in real life.”

    As I said, once you introduced Revelation 21 into the thread, I realized there were at least two possible interpretations of the assertion, “God does not show up in real life.” One interpretation is very narrow, while the other interpretation is very broad, so I think we need to draw a line of distinction and then clarify your “Undeniable Fact.”

    1) The narrower interpretation of “God showing up in real life” is what I described as a disparate manifestion somewhere between Genesis and Revelation. We could call this a disparate manifestation (DM), and such can be described as any instance where God has temporarily intruded into space and time to interact with humans. This was the interpretation of “God showing up in real life” I had from the beginning, and also the interpretation I thought you had, until I began to wonder when you mentioned Revelation 21.

    2) The broader interpretation of “God showing up in real life” can be described as analogous to the situation in Revelation 21. We could call this the final revelation (FR), and such can be described as the instance where God makes His presence known to all people.

    Now, it is very important to ask: Is your “Undeniable Fact” in the context of DM? Or FR? Or both? Because if you say “God does not show up in real life” as in FR, I say you’re reasonably justified. However, if you say “God does not show up in real life” as in DM, you cannot make such a claim sans omniscience, and that’s the point (I presume) Jayman and myself have been trying to make.

    I agree that FR would drastically outshine every alleged instance of DM, and in that sense I can agree with your star analogy. It would not be a category error to make this comparison. But let’s call all stars AS and our sun S. FR is certainly the peak instance of DM, right? But S is nowhere near the peak instance of AS, and its stuff like this where I think my charge of category error still stands.

    I hope we can get an even agreement there, and hopefully the clarification will allow us even further progress in the dialog.

    nal,

    The evidence of absence regarding God showing up in real life is like the evidence of absence regarding the sun showing up at night.

    The claim of evidence of absence regarding FR is persuasive. The claim of evidence of absence regarding DM demands omniscience.

  6. nal Says:

    cl:
    The narrower interpretation of “God showing up in real life” is what I described as a disparate manifestion somewhere between Genesis and Revelation.

    Then, what is the evidence for these manifestations? If the Bible itself is your evidence then we have different standards of what constitutes evidence.

  7. rgz Says:

    This is not DM, FR or whatever. it is about God being consistent with his description (y’know, the omni-set). If that implies a FR to you think about when God followed the Jews at night like the Human Torch, that wasn’t very finalish revelatorish considering the Chinese were around back then and they don’t seem very Christian to me.

    If Christians were exempt of plagues, diseases, parasites, accidents, robbery, poisoning, hurricane, tornado, earthquake or tsunami damage that would be very good evidence already.

    Also God should talk telepathically with everybody *specially* unbelievers, and be able to answer things only he could know.

    God’s absence from the world is just appalling.

  8. nal Says:

    Consider the case where God cyclically moves the sun several light years away and then moves it back to its original position. Assume that this back-and-forth cycle occurs at a rate that is beyond scientific detection. Then the sun would appear as a star in the night sky and DD’s entire analogy falls apart. To know that this is not the case demands omniscience.

  9. jim Says:

    nal: good example.

    The plea for agnosticism via the ‘non-omniscience’ clause is the last refuge for somebody who doesn’t actually have a good argument. They’ve painted themselves into a corner, because they’re forced to allow anything in, INCLUDING leprechauns, unicorns, and flying spaghetti monsters. The evidentiary arguments brought in later (because in truth, nobody is really agnostic about everything, and everybody want’s to be taken seriously concerning their take on reality), wind up being utterly beside the point as long as the non-omniscience trump card is on the table. After all, any evidentiary claims can also be found wanting in the same fashion, so it appears that we aren’t justified in ever leaving the neutral position regarding knowledge of any kind. Either chuck the ‘ignorance by way of non-omniscience’ argument, or be prepared to be deservedly mocked. It’s a silly position; by saying too much, it really says nothing at all.

  10. jim Says:

    Btw, if somebody defends the existence of god by answering every evidentiary challenge with “yeah, but maybe that’s not the version of the god I’m defending” then they’re simply defending the existence of a word. In that case I, too, believe in ‘god’. <————-See! He’s right there!

  11. cl Says:

    nal,

    The Bible is one of many written accounts that recorded alleged instances of DM. It is not the sole source of my ideas on God. As for whether we have different standards of evidence, if you can describe your standards of evidence, we can see.

    rgz,

    As far as the “omni-set” is concerned, it seems you’re in a biblical context. So by “God” do you mean “YHWH”? Or what is referred to as the Trinity? It makes a significant difference.

    As far as whether or not God talks to people telepathically, how would we ever know the difference between God and our own thoughts if the communication is telepathic? Do we need a little lightbulb to go off in real-time or something to let us know?

    And when you say “Christian” what do you mean? How can I comment on whether “Christians” are exempt from A, B, or C if I have no reasonable idea what it is you mean by the term? Honestly. As we can see by the story of Judas, it is impossible to quantify true believers of any creed or idea, due to the problem of other people’s minds. We simply cannot be sure of another’s authenticity or motives, and what of the foolishness in conducting so-called objective tests that rely on reports of subjective claims to establish the subjects?? Depending on the criteria, anyone who claims belief in Christ can be considered a “Christian” for the sake of the tests. How rigorous is that? Is church attendance the measure of faith? Daily prayer? Outward religiosity? Because your average conman, murderer or pederastic priest can score quite high in all of these areas.

    This is not DM, FR or whatever. it is about God being consistent with his description (y’know, the omni-set). If that implies a FR to you think about when God followed the Jews at night like the Human Torch, that wasn’t very finalish revelatorish considering the Chinese were around back then and they don’t seem very Christian to me.

    I already addressed the omni-set thing, and actually, I thought extensively about the Exodus while considering my argument. It’s not a case of FR. Exodus is a case of DM, as I said, “a disparate manifestion somewhere between Genesis and Revelation.” But I’m not sure what you gain by mentioning I had already considered? Either way, if you’re in the same context I am, the difference between DM and FR has major bearing on the truthfulness of DD’s Undeniable Fact, and in that sense, this is about DM and FR. We don’t need omniscience to justifiably say FR has not occurred. That was the point of the star analogy. However, as Jayman and myself have been pestering about, we most certainly do need omniscience to say DM has not occurred, and that is also undeniable fact.

  12. Arthur Says:

    After all this time, I discover that the word “God” just confuses the issue (“by ‘God’ do you mean ‘YHWH’? Or what is referred to as the Trinity? It makes a significant difference”). And then I discover that the word “Christian” is just as bad (“it is impossible to quantify true believers of any creed or idea, due to the problem of other people’s minds”). No wonder DD is out of place making his claim—he’s making use of unregulated vocabulary.

    As long as I’m whining…what is this an argument against, anyway? It’s plainly an argument against something, but I’m pretty sure it’s not an argument against skepticism—unless it’s the Argument from Extreme Complexity of Subject, or something. “Don’t go there, man. It’s really complicated and not fun.”

  13. jim Says:

    Duncan’s point (if I might speak for him, and correct me if I’m wrong, DD) is a very simple one: if God were the type of interactive parent figure that’s alluded to time and time again throughout the bible, then said interactions in toto could not reasonably be mistaken for something else. God’s existence would be granted ‘as fact’ no less than the fact of the sky above our heads. Not being able to ascertain precisely who and who is not a ‘real’ Christian is utterly beside the point, since we’re talking about assumptions concerning the aggregate here. It’s an easy point to understand notwithstanding these constant, equivocating perambulations.

    Furthermore, and as nal pointed out, ANYTHING can be thrown out due to lack of omniscience- FR, DM, or POV….TTFN.

  14. cl Says:

    jim,

    When you say,

    Not being able to ascertain precisely who and who is not a ‘real’ Christian is utterly beside the point, since we’re talking about assumptions concerning the aggregate here.

    I wonder if you’re conflating two points into one. Yes, DD’s point is that “God showing up” will be a final revelation (FR) type of exeprience. That’s why DD introduced Revelation 21 to contrast. The FR type experience is like the sun in the analogy, so you, myself, and DD can all agree that God’s final revelation will be like our sun against the night stars.

    Where you’re wrong is in saying who is and is not a “Christian” is “utterly beside the point.” When we are discussing whether or not “Christians” are exempt from catastrophe, as rgz and myself were, then who is and is not a “Christian” is of paramount importance.

    And I disagree again that “ANYTHING can be thrown out due to lack omniscience.” One can know if one’s been stabbed, or if one’s just eaten a meal, or that Obama is US President right now, etc. We simply have to nail at least some things down.

  15. Jayman Says:

    cl, it has been my interpretation as well that DD is saying that God should make an appearance that is convincing to everyone and do so on a regular basis. This, and the fact that DD tries to tie this conception of God to the Bible, is why I have objected that this is not how God is described in the Bible.

    rgz, it appears that your description of God differs from our (cl and I) description of God and so your expectations of what the world should be like if God exists are different than ours.

    nal, you are correct that we cannot be absolutely sure that the sun is not behaving in some strange, undetectable manner. We believe the sun is at the center of our solar system at all times because that is the most parsimonious theory to explain our observations. But the issue of miracles is more complex because our (humanity’s) observations are not so uniform. Someone confidently asserting God never acts has to dismiss or explain away the experiences of millions or billions of people. To modify your example, if millions or billions of people claimed to have observed the sun traveling outside our solar system we would be much less justified in confidently asserting the sun is always at the center of our solar system.

    jim, by calling for caution and not overstepping one’s bounds we hardly let every idea in. If you remain neutral you are neither accepting nor rejecting a claim.

    Arthur, not sure if this is what you were asking about, but this series of posts and comments all started when I said atheists cannot believe that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence and remain logically consistent because claiming to know that God does not exist is an extraordinary claim in itself. DD’s series of posts have largely been an attempt to show that he is not making an extraordinary claim when he says he knows God never acts. One argument DD has used is that if God exists then the world should be different than it actually is. The expectations of God from the believers and the skeptics is different.

  16. nal Says:

    Jayman:
    To modify your example, if millions or billions of people claimed to have observed the sun traveling outside our solar system we would be much less justified in confidently asserting the sun is always at the center of our solar system.

    No, but we would be justified in confidently asserting that millions or billions of people were delusional.

  17. Jayman Says:

    Nal, your confidence would appear to be based on nothing more than your personal experience. Would you even ask yourself if you were just unlucky in your observations, that other people had a better perspective, or that you were delusional?

  18. rgz Says:

    My expectations differ from cl’s and Jayman’s because I’m using common sense, there is no sensible reason an omni* God (omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, all-loving) would fail to in the very least manifest himself materially.

    Saying God is mysterious is a cop out. With that standard I could set your house on fire and tell the cops I’m just being mysterious.

    In that case you’ll apply common sense, in every situation you’d apply common sense. Only when your dogma is tested you drop common sense like a hot potato and go all nihilist commando.

    As for who is a real Christian (which in this context means believer in the One True God) it is -again- against common sense to think it wouldn’t be obvious who they are. They would be like supermen, they’d jump out of windows instead of taking the lift, bullets would bounce of them, syringes would only penetrate their skin when donating blood and would break otherwise, not to expect this from the best-friends-4-eva of the Almighty (All loving, etc) is a cop out.

    More interestingly, and hoping you accept at least microevolution, the proportion of BF4E should be expected to *rise* since any splinter group would immediately succumb to disasters.

    With respect to the judeo-christian God, since most humans do NOT believe in him, his effect on his people must be either detrimental or just not a real factor.

  19. Jayman Says:

    rgz, what if God is not omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and all-loving?

  20. ThatOtherGuy Says:

    “rgz, what if God is not omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and all-loving?”

    Then he’s not the christian god.

  21. cl Says:

    rgz,

    As much as I hate to say it, I fear we might be doomed to forever talk past each other.

    [Christians] would be like supermen, they’d jump out of windows instead of taking the lift, bullets would bounce of them, syringes would only penetrate their skin when donating blood and would break otherwise, not to expect this from the best-friends-4-eva of the Almighty (All loving, etc) is a cop out.

    Yet this wasn’t how it was even in the Bible. And Rastafarians consider themselves “believers in the One True God” so does that make them “Christians?” According to your definition it does, but that is just your arbitrary idea of what a “Christian” should be. We gotta judge the Bible on its own merit; What is the Bible’s definition of a “Christian” or do you even know? And we can’t blanket-define it by “believer in the One True God” because believers in many Gods from Allah to Jah to Satan can and do claim this. So any sort of questioning as to whether “Christians” are exempt from catastrophe is silly if you can’t even define “Christians” any better than that.

    And you keep talking of the omni-God but nobody wants to answer this question: When you say that the “God” of the Bible is omni-3, exactly what “God” do you mean? YHWH (Father) alone? Or what “Christians” refer to as the Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit)?.

    ThatOtherGuy,

    Then he’s not the christian god.

    What are your grounds for the idea that the “Christian” God should be omni-3? And when you say “christian god” do you refer to YHWH or what “Christians” call the Trinity? Is YHWH omni-3? Jesus too? The Holy Spirit? Let’s fill in some details here.

  22. nal Says:

    Jayman:
    Nal, your confidence would appear to be based on nothing more than your personal experience.

    Your worldview is so heavily invested in personal experience that it is understandable you would attribute that to others. My confidence comes from a combination of science, reason, and experience. Part of that experience is how easily the mind can be fooled.

  23. rgz Says:

    @cl > Yet this wasn’t how it was even in the Bible.

    Daniel 3:25-27, Three men walking around inside a fiery furnace chatting with their BF4E the Son of God.

    At this point it doesn’t matter if this God calls himself YHWH or something with actual vocals, whatever they do, I want some.

    Now, now, I get your point, reading some parts of the Bible does not suggest an interventionist God, but reading some other parts does, and all it means is that the Bible is not just inconsistent with the real world, it is even inconsistent with itself! Or like the unwashed masses use to say, it doesn’t make sense.

  24. cl Says:

    rgz,

    Now, now, I get your point, reading some parts of the Bible does not suggest an interventionist God…

    No, obviously you don’t, because that’s not my point, but we might as well forget it. People seem determined to not answer what they mean by “God” when they say that “God” is omni-3. If you want to answer that question I’d love to continue.

  25. Jayman Says:

    rgz, there is no contradiction in God showing up at time t1 and not showing up at time t2.

  26. Jayman Says:

    Nal, if you are convinced that the mind can easily be fooled aren’t you worried about your own mind?

  27. nal Says:

    Yes, and that is why my worldview is based on experience, reason and science instead of faith.

  28. rgz Says:

    It could be said that there are two kinds of theories reductionist theories and axiomatic theories.

    Reductionist theories explain thing in terms of axiomatic theories.

    Evolution is a reductionist theory, it explain biodiversity in terms of well understood and observed phenomenons, reproduction, mutation, competition, predation, etc.

    Eventually it breaks down to chemistry and electromagnetism.

    Electromagnetism is an axiomatic theory, it cannot reduce things further but simply states that something *is*, and promptly describes it in terms of independently repeatable phenomenons.

    Faith healing is not a valid reductionist theory because it rest on unproved axiomatic theories.

    Praying is either not an axiomatic theory because it not testable (because of the elusiveness of your God), or if you allow it to be testedand it is then not independently repeatable phenomenon it fails as often as it succeed and thus it can be said to be an axiomatic theory proven false,

    It is your insistence on spurious evidence that makes you superstitious, no matter how much you say I talk past you, it’s getting tired.

    Let’s make a deal, describe your hypothesis in terms of proven axiomatic theories and I’ll stop calling you superstitious.

    cl you are the only one who doesn’t know what God we are talking about, we are talking about the all loving, baby killing, all knowing, often enraged, all powerful, never appearing God of the mainstream Christian faiths.

    If YOU have an appropriate model of God that you think is worth mentioning go ahead but again it’s getting tired.

    Let’s make a deal too, give me a demonstration of your God I can test independently and repeatedly and THEN we can argue if your definition of God matches the Bible or whatever you want to debate.

  29. rgz Says:

    I’ll adopt the creationist stance and claim that proofreading is only a theory and I don’t believe in that.