Foundations of rationalization vs. rational thinking

I’d like to take some time over the next few days to look at the evidence against God’s existence—not just the negative evidence (i.e. the lack of supporting evidence), but actual, positive evidence against the existence of the Trinitarian, loving, almighty deity that Christians (and most other Westerners) mean when they say “God.” But before we get to that, I’d like to look at some of the foundations of rationalization vs. rational thinking, the thought patterns that produce and promote false conclusions with regards to God.

There are many ways to go astray, of course, so this will fall well short of being an exhaustive survey. Still, it’s useful as a preliminary to the main discussion to follow.

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Followup to yesterday’s post

Sorry, I don’t mean to belabor the point, but I got up this morning thinking of a much better way to illustrate why the “recapitation” scenario fails to give us a reasonable basis for assigning credit to any particular deity. Same situation as before: guy is suddenly decapitated and lies dead on the ground, and an hour later his head magically re-attaches itself to his neck, all his wounds are healed, his spilled blood is replenished, and he walks away unharmed. This time, however, a whole crowd of people shows up to pray for him. Some Catholics are there praying to various saints. The Buddhist monk is there praying to Buddha. Muslims show up and pray to Allah. Mormons show up and pray to a polytheistic Jesus. Pentecostals show up and pray to the Holy Spirit. Asians show up praying to their ancestors. There’s even a few neo-pagans praying to various members of the old pantheons.

Now, the guy gets up and walks away, and each of the pray-ers want to claim their God or god or saint or spirit is responsible. Which of them has a reasonable basis for claiming that it was their deity/entity, and no one else’s, that worked the miracle?

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Posted in Realism, Unapologetics. 4 Comments »

Inquiring minds want to know

Commenter cl has some questions for me.

[Y]ou say you’re not an atheist. So do you go the agnostic route? If so, how would you describe the effective differences? At any rate, I’m glad you can appreciate my questions. People are different. One person says a miracle of type X will do, others cannot be persuaded by any miracle of type X, Y or Z. You yourself argued that God needs to personally accompany the miracle – but even that has room for error, no? You could be hallucinating. You could be having a neurological misfire. Etc, etc. So, I’m left thinking that no miraculous event would or could convince DD. Is that a correct assumption?

I like the sneaky insinuation that I’m simply biased and unwilling to consider the evidence. It’s a subtle touch, but it’s not founded in reality. My most fundamental belief is that the truth is consistent with itself, and therefore all that’s really required to convince me is to show me that something is more consistent with the facts than other possibilities are. I believe I have already demonstrated this by my willingness to take a hard, honest look at my lifelong and deeply-cherished Christian faith. Though it pains me to this day to admit it, the things I believed and wanted to continue believing turned out to be less consistent with the truth than the simple observation that Christianity is a myth. Therefore I changed my beliefs to fit the facts.

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Posted in Realism, Unapologetics. 10 Comments »

Conversion vs. conquest

I’d like to follow up a bit on an earlier thread about respecting the opposition. I’ve been thinking about what makes people decide to convert—or not. Ideally, I think we’d like to have our disputes end with the other person changing their mind, and agreeing that we’re right.

The problem is that if we win the argument, the other person has to be the loser before they can agree we’re right, and that’s an ego thing. It comes back to our goal: are we working to convince, or working to conquer? Are we trying to make the other person a loser, or a winner?

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An obligation to the facts

Let’s see, where were we? Oh yes, cleaning up some loose ends in Anthony Horvath’s attempted rebuttal.

The important thing for now is that we recognize that our chief obligation is to the facts of our existence, and sometimes reality appears inconsistent and contradictory- and yet there it is.  What does one do in this situation?  Do you throw out your data?  The point being is that you must deal with your data and if you are reasonably confident that your data is legitimate it does not cease to be so just because you perceive it to be ‘inconsistent’ or contradictory.

I say all this because it is absolutely wrong headed to apply Herr Professor’s technique and attitude to supernatural claims and deeply ironic.  Herr Professor, like so many other atheists, deeply imbibes on scientism.  But science itself- meaning, the natural framework alone- provides us with contradictory notions, and yet the data compels us to consider them.  And that’s just within our natural framework!  Never mind revelatory claims!  Nature itself confounds us.

My approach is to verify the facts and to interpret them in the light of the principle that truth is consistent with itself, so it’s hard to see why it would be “wrong-headed” to apply that approach to claims about the supernatural. But I don’t think he really meant to imply that the supernatural is somehow resistant to attempts to discover the truth about it. I think he just wanted to insinuate that scientists have some kind of systematic filter that causes them to reject otherwise-valid evidence just because it happens to be “supernatural.”

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Posted in CAMWatch, Realism, Science, Unapologetics. 4 Comments »

Flatland: the rest of the story

I’m pleased to see that Anthony Horvath wants to discuss my analysis of his attempt to excuse the contradictions in the Gospel story. Alas, in true Gypsy Curse fashion, he seems to have misunderstood my arguments, and consequently accuses me of having misunderstood him. For instance, I remarked early on that, while Horvath’s announced topic concerned transcendence and immanence, the bulk of his discussion concerned what God can and cannot do, i.e. how transcendence applies to the question of what God can and cannot do. Horvath apparently understood that to mean that I thought transcendence was an entirely separate and unrelated topic, which gives him a license to dismiss my entire argument as the irrelevant consequences of an incorrect analysis.

H. Professor’s failure to see how these two fundamental claims about the nature of the thing under discussion connect to the rest of the argumentation I made is the underlying mistake of both of his posts.  That we are talking about an entity that is both transcendent and immanent is absolutely critical to the rest of the argumentation.  In fact, H. Professor makes complaints that I already answered- but because he fails to see the relation between these attributes and the rest I said, he fails to recognize them.

The last sentence reveals the second prong of Horvath’s attempt to make my arguments irrelevant: because I considered each of his arguments step by step, pointing out the problems that require further defense, he accuses me of raising objections that he had already answered (in subsequent parts of his post). He apparently did not understand that I was following the flow of his own logic: that there must be a reason why the “God can’t do nonsense” argument does not suffice to end the discussion, and why Horvath feels compelled to seek other solutions. I simply laid out what those unresolved problems are, at the beginning of the discussion, so that we could approach the rest of the discussion with an appropriate background.

There is a lot more I could have said, of course, and I’m grateful to Mr. Horvath for having given me the opportunity to explore this topic further. He raises some interesting points, and clarifies some others, and, if you can bear with me through a longish post, I think we’ll see why his defense of the Gospel actually constitutes a full-fledged concession of defeat, and a retreat into universal agnosticism.

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Posted in CAMWatch, Realism, Science, The Gypsy Curse, Unapologetics. 6 Comments »

Testing worldviews: pantheism

The blogger who goes by the name “schooloffish” is to be commended for taking the time to consider pantheism, a view that many apologists simply brush off without addressing. In his post “DOES YOUR WORLD VIEW PASS THE TEST?“, schooloffish writes:

Pantheism, and perhaps paganism (witches) would hold that all things are GOD or have GOD in them. Pantheist generally have a high respect for life as all life is GOD. The question of contradiction is based more on definition then everything but there are still contradictions within the world view. The most apparent contradiction is that if everything is GOD than nothing is GOD. Even if you define GOD in a very general term as say a life force (The Jedi God), the religion can not account for anything because the life force GOD has no power to create. Therefore the pantheistic god is unimportant and totally meaningless. In a nutshell pantheists stating that everything is god is a meaningless statement and meaningless as a world view.

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XFiles Friday: Telling it like it is

(Book: I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST, by Geisler and Turek, chapter 1)

We’re going to cover a lot more ground now that we’ve gotten past the introduction and into the point-by-point presentation. Following their previously announced outline, Geisler and Turek start off with Chapter One, “Can We Handle The Truth?” This chapter addresses three questions: (a) Is there such a thing as “the truth”? (b) Can we know the truth? and (c) What does it mean that “the opposite of true is false”?

As you might expect, there’s not too much to object to in their discussion of the first point. As an evangelical realist, I agree wholeheartedly with the premise that objective reality, aka “The Truth,” really does exist independently of our sometimes fallible perceptions of it. As Geisler and Turek point out, if someone tries to tell you that there’s no such thing as the truth, all you need to do is ask them “Is that true?” If truth does not exist, then there’s no way their denial of the truth can be true. It’s a self-defeating proposition.

Alas, Geisler and Turek seem (or pretend) to be unaware of the fact that denial of objective truth is just as much a Christian problem as a secular one. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted in IDHEFTBA, Realism, Unapologetics, XFiles. 1 Comment »

CAM on the Evolutionary Origins of Religion

Quite apart from our discussion on Watson and racism, Horvath has an interesting discussion of the evolutionary origin of religion, about which he has a question or two.

[I]n Dawkins’s The God Delusion, he argues that religion is a ‘misfire’ of an evolutionary trait, much like how a moth is drawn to its death by a flame because it is used to the sun being a very safe distance away. The problem with the ‘misfire’ way of thinking, however, is that all moths are attracted to the flames. What we want to know is how our atheistic friends managed to rise above their ‘misfire.’ Are they claiming that they are evolutionarily superior to the rest of us? Perhaps they are a new species? If not, they should be subject to the same ‘misfire’ that the religionists are drawn to. We can then turn the tables on them and suggest that perhaps their version of reality is likewise a ‘misfire.’

Mr. Horvath, like so many other believers, has mistaken the existence of the question for the non-existence of the answer. Let’s have a look at these, shall we?

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Faith-based prison: belief, not results

What happens when you try and run a “faith based” prison in the absence of any real involvement by God? According to a former inmate, you get glowing reports from inmates–as long as they’re in the system’s control:

As an exemplary participant in the prison’s faith-based dormitory program, I was selected to be interviewed by the Capitol press corps. As a former newspaper reporter, I longed to expose the corruption of the faith-based program by many inmates, as well as the abuses of some corrections officers…

But my desire to get out of prison alive and on time overruled my inner crusading journalist. So rather than an exposé, I gave the reporters a testimony.

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Posted in Current Events, Politics, Realism. 1 Comment »