Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Response to "A Concise Refutation of Materialist Atheism"

This is a response to the post "A Concise Refutation of Materialist Atheism"

What is the assumption here? One clearly must have data. What does the collection of data assume? It assumes a material existent. Science cannot work with anything that is not a material existent.

It is not strictly true to say that science cannot work with anything that is not a material existent. Science can and sometimes does work by implication. While the materially existent may not be directly observable, it is necessary to add that it must also have absolutely no impact on anything that is existent in order to be complete outside of the realm of science. Many theories in science are based on the effects of a thing rather than the direct observation of the thing itself. It must, of course, affect something that is existent and observable. A god, if there is one, could not take any action or have any effect on the universe after its initiation to be certain of not being detected.
You are making a huge assumption also that said god or gods are necessarily not materially existent.
You have not made clear what it means to be “not a material existent” thoughts and even concepts are slaves to material origins.

“There is no scientific evidence for the existence of God” are clearly offering an irrational argument.

This argument, even if false, is not irrational. It is a bit like saying that there is no visual (light) evidence for gravity; ignoring that this is not strictly true lets assume that there is no reason why there should be any light evidence for gravity, the statement is not irrational. It is at worst, irrelevant. The statement is either true or false. The either is, or there is not, scientific evidence for God. The conclusion of many people, though not all, is that there is not.

Science assumes material data. To apply its methods and argumentation to a deity question is to have a fundamental misunderstanding of what science is. or a misunderstanding of what a deity is?

Also, the problem of universals shows that there are indeed non-material existents. Most or all of math is a non-material existent. One cannot find math anywhere as a physical object.
While it might be tempting to view math as an existent, it is not accurate. Math does not exist outside of the perception of minds. Even these concept are emergent from the matter in a human brain. I take it that you are presuming that math is existent in the sense that even if there were no people; two planets and two planets would still make four planets.
This is not strictly true. Math is a system by which we humans conceptualise and compartmentalise the physical rules of the universe. If you have two apples and add two more apples you never suddenly have 3,000 apples. This is based on the physical rules of the universe. We give names to distinctions like 1 and 2 but they are just concepts in our minds.

One knows that the number two really exists, but where is it?

Only in minds. Nowhere else. The concept exits, that is all it is. The very idea of "number" is also only a concept, dependant on a mind which is in turn dependant on material.

Two tables before me and two chairs behind me both use the exact same existent “two.”
You cognate them as sharing a common distinction. If you had always been told that what everyone else calls “two” was called “four”, you would see four chairs and four tables. In the absense of a mind what sense does two or four make here or chair or table for that matter. In the absense of a mind there simple is; though the is doesn't know it :)

Thus, one cannot reasonably claim that there is no such thing as a non-material existent.
I think you can. That there are emergent effects which seem like non-physical existents is certainly true. You feel like you mind is separate from your brain. Thoughts seem like disembodied existents in themselves. They aren’t of course, they are as reliant on the operation of matter and physical forces as falling rocks are. The most that can be said is that the universe has a particular state (i.e. the laws of physics). It is tempting to suggest that these "laws" are non-material existents but they themselves don't make sense outside of material existence, they don't operate and are not even coherent without the presumption of the physical.

This opens us up to another realm where there are things that are real, and exist, apart from physical phenomena, such as mathematics and consciousness.
When a person dies, they no longer have consciousness as the required physical activity of which consciousness was an emergent property has ceased. Consciousness itself a physical phenomena.

Thus, the evidence based atheist who says there is no evidence for God, and therefore, he does not exist is using an invalid method for the debate. One cannot use any purely material based approach to the question of a non-material existent, such as God.
Again, you must justify the assertion that God is a non-material existent.

In many cases, this confidence turns into arrogance, which in turn explains some of the recklessness when a materialist glibly applies the method to non-material questions.

I also suspect that when a philosophically astute challenger points out these obvious errors of materialism, the materialist suddenly feels exposed and naked, since his previously unassailable method has been shown useless (for some questions) with arguments he has never thought about before. And, a scientist usually does not take very well to exposure that his previously reliable intellectual approach, (and often by implication his reputation of being “smart”) is shattered so easily. I think a lot of the materialist evasion after being challenged effectively is a turning away on their part to the truth shown in the argument coming from from a fear of looking directly at the issue, because an entire world-view will be shattered for them, in many cases.

This seems a rather arrogant conclusion and clear assumption that your argument as laid out here is completely unassailable. I don’t mean to be confrontational but you are using materialist in a condescending manner here and as a materialist I find it a tad provocative! That aside, it is an interest topic and look forward to your response. I need more convincing on the idea of non-material existants and you must establish that "God" is non-material.

Monday, April 19, 2010


There is a prevalent opinion in the dimmer recesses of society of american society. Not only American society, but that particular community certainly seems to be the most vocal. I do not think that the prevalence of a high degree of religious conviction in this same community is coincidence. I was recently reading a piece on a Christian website (sorry but I can't find it again for a link) where they attempt to build a case for homosexuality being a product of nurture rather than nature. The case was something along lines that most of you will have encountered before. Absent father, over protective or possesive mother combined with a "sensitive" young man etc. Interestingly, I would love to hear an explanation of what a "sensetive" young man is and how these people believe that this "sensetivity" came about. They are obviously presuming that all people are born having roughly the same starting nature. Presumably all boys start out insensitive, and somehow become sensitive. Boiling down the sexualisation of some young men to enviornmental and maybe psychological factors.
I have issues with this. As a hetrosexual male I am certain that I could not be socialied into being gay. I have absolutely no doubt about this. Most hetrosexual people have no doubt about their being hetrosexual. The sexual responce is for most people, men especially, very very strong. It is not ambiguous or vague and has nothing to do with how we characterise the opposite sex. For men usually, not liking a particular womans character does not alter her attractiveness. If you meet a real, gold plated, peer reviewed and confirmed bitch, she can still be really hot. In the case of women, their sexual attraction to men can be governed to a fair degree on their opinion of the guy as a person with psyical considerations being much less important. These ideas are generalisations or course.
The site goes on to talk some complete horseshit about how homosexuals who go out partying are really only looking for sex and conquest. Yeah! The majority of young hetrosexual men must then be going out to nightclubs and bars looking mainly for a deep and fulfilling human connection and the sex is only incidental.

This is the really really weak evidence for homosexuality being a result of nurture. I say nature here as I am not certain what particular aspect of nature is responsible, it could be genetic, it could a factor from fetal development a combination of these things, whatever. I think it is pretty obvious from the evidence that your sexuality is something you are born with.

Consider this. There are many physical conditions that people are born with which are related to their sexual assignment. Some people are born with a mixture of the sexual organs. penis and uterus, penis and vagina etc. These conditions are not thought of as being a reaction to psycological pressures. "My father was such a cold asshole, who was sooo absent that in addition to my penis I was also born with a uterus." No one questions this. If you are unlucky enough to be a person for whom the sexual assignment proplem occurs in your brain, well your in trouble. Brains can be male or female. There are actual differences in male and female brains. There would have to be, otherwise the sexes would exibit more or less the same traits. If you have a very predominately female brain and your body is male then you aren't gay. You are woman in a man's body. This is about as extreme as a gender identity condition can be. But it is not an all or nothing proposition. Every brain falls somewhere along a range of possibilities with entirely male and entirely female being on the polar ends. I suspect there are very few men who have entirely male brains and very few women with entirely female brains. It is also not so simple as a degree of male or female. We know from study of the brain that different people manifest different amounts of function in various parts of the brain. An example might be the left brian/ right brain idea where the left brain is believed to be the hemisphere for logic and reasoning and the right brain intuition and emotion. Your ability to speak comes from your left brain etc etc. Some people have very strong brain biases in certain areas. This can mean they have great talent at a particular thing or find a particular thing nearly impossible. Its seems reasonable to me then that peoples brain develop in a wide ranging variety of ways. Why do some people (who just so happen to be almost exclusively religious) think that the parts of the brain responsible for sexality and sexual attraction should be immune from this varience? If you can be born with a penis and a uterus, why can't you be born with a penis and brain that finds men attractive? Even the term homosexuality is broad and encompasses a wide range of more specific sexualities. For example, you will probably have met gay men or gay women who act entirely as you would generally expect for their gender and you have probably met gay men or women who act much more in accordance with what you would expect from the opposite sex. All of this varience and indeed homosexuality itself seems to me to be an utterly unmysterious thing. It is no more immoral to be gay than it is to like action movies, or being the sporty type. I think that religion is probably the only reason why western socitey even considers homosexual to still be a debatable topic. The religious can't recognise it as being inborn in people without their precious, ancient and horrible little faiths taking yet another knock. Sadly, this nasty little predujuce is probably going to be with us a while yet.

Incidentally, I think our emerging understanding of the brain is making it more and more difficult to believe in a "soul" and still maintain the illusion of rationality, but we'll leave that for another time.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

In repsonse to Philip Bitar

Philips comment:

This is a discussion of video 9, "What exactly is knowledge?", which is posted on my website www.philipbitar.com. A number of YouTube viewers challenged my presentation, but it is impossible to carry on a coherent conversation of sufficient detail on YouTube due to the limitation of 500 characters per comment, so I'm switching to this venue.

My theory of knowledge, which I refer to as the Best Predictor Theory, is that all knowledge is the result of reason applied to experience, and, more specifically, that knowledge is given by the simplest, most accurate predictor model for our observations.

The fact that knowledge is the result of reason applied to experience is easy to see since experience (all forms of experience) are all that we have to work with, and knowledge must be rational or else we'll be unable to productively interact with other people and with the world, and, as a result, we'll soon die.

The idea that knowledge is given by the best predictor model - the simplest, most accurate predictor model - is intuitively clear once you see what it means. An observation is any experience that you designate as such and that you want to explain. Knowledge obviously requires predictive accuracy, but, it turns, out, knowledge also requires simplicity, otherwise you can take a predictively accurate model and augment it with nonsense.

For example, we could claim that the world is flat and is resting on the back of a turtle, and that the reason that science says otherwise is that we're suffering from a systematic delusion. I recall reading that some Christians have actually suggested that the fossil record that establishes the basis for the theory of evolution is a hoax by God to deceive us! Along these same lines, in the early 1600s, when Galileo was promoting heliocentrism, the Catholic church approved this as long as Galileo would say that heliocentrism was merely a theory, thereby allowing reality to be something else that was consistent with the Bible.

The feature of knowledge that eliminates deductively accurate but otherwise idiotic theories is the simplicity criterion. So the simplicity criterion is an integral part of knowledge. It is not added on for convenience or for esthetic elegance, as in the common understanding of Occam's razor. No, the simplicity criterion is absolutely essential to knowledge.

Now, most atheists and theists, I believe, think that if God exists, he could communicate this fact unequivocally to humans, thereby laying to rest the debate about his existence. But in view of the Best Predictor Theory of Knowledge, this is logically impossible for God to do because a human's knowledge necessarily consists of the person's best predictor model - the person's simplest, most accurate predictor model - for their observations. It is logically impossible for knowledge to be anything else.

Note that we exclude the idea that God will robotically manipulate a person's mind because if God exists, he obviously created humans to be free agents who intelligently pursue knowledge. God did not create humans so that he could robotically manipulate their minds and their bodies!

Also note that a predictor model is a deductive model, and that since I've proven reality to be indeterministic, prediction is necessarily probabilistic.

I was not allowed to comment on Amazon having never purchased anything from them so I placed my response here.

Would you say that quantum mechanics and the current understanding of cell biology are simple models?

Descarte proposed that God simply made everything happen. The grand puppet master so to speak.
A VERY simple model. It can even be explained in one sentence. It can presumed to be the cause behind every effect and can never be wrong in that regard.
The naturalist explainations are not simple. They are more accurate however. Accuracy, not simplicity is the only indicator of the efficacy of a system unless two systems are equally accurate. It is then that occum's razor applies. The theory which makes the fewest assumptions should be preferred.

But in view of the Best Predictor Theory of Knowledge, this is logically impossible for God to do because a human's knowledge necessarily consists of the person's best predictor model - the person's simplest, most accurate predictor model - for their observations. It is logically impossible for knowledge to be anything else.

This is completely circular. It is logically impossible for knowledge to be anything else because you have asserted that it can't be. This is not a proof by any logic I am familiar with. Any conclusion is logically correct if you choose the right premises.
For Example.

Premise : Everyone is secretly aware of God's existance
Conclusion: Anyone claiming to be an atheist is lying.

From the premise provided the conclusion is logically valid. The premise however, presumes far too much. The trick to most logical arguments is showing that your premise is correct.

You argument works pretty much like this
Premise A: Simpler explainations are correct providing they have the same explanitory and predictory power.
Premise B: Knowledge is the result of reason applied to experience
Premise C: Knowledge can't be derived any other way
Conclusion : B somehow yields A therefore God cannot exist

Also, God might well exist and not bother communicating with anyone but lets leave that alone for now.

I have issues with some of the premises and definately with the circular conclusion.

Firstly: Define reason. By what criteria do you determine that your reason is reasonable?
Might I not apply my reason to an experience and conclude something entirely insane?
As Descarte discovered the only thing we can say with any certainty is "I think, therefore I am"
He then lept to the very simple but silly assumtion that God simply pulls all the strings after that.

Secondly: Suppose that what you are proposing is a valid hypothesis for the discovery of knowledge, it in no way suggests that knowledge cannot be found in other ways. You attempt to suggest that it does by simply appealing to it.

Note that we exclude the idea that God will robotically manipulate a person's mind because if God exists, he obviously created humans to be free agents who intelligently pursue knowledge. God did not create humans so that he could robotically manipulate their minds and their bodies!
That is nothing short of a wild assertion. There is nothing obvious or logical about it. You are attempting to dissmiss it out of hand because your theory cannot handle the scenario.

and that since I've proven reality to be indeterministic
You did what now? I missed that in there. Even an entirely naturalistic explanation of the universe cannot rule out determinacy.

But in view of the Best Predictor Theory of Knowledge, this is logically impossible for God to do because a human's knowledge necessarily consists of the person's best predictor model - the person's simplest, most accurate predictor model - for their observations.
This statement is covertly suggesting that a person who applies their reason to their experience and concludes "God just informed me of his existence" is just wrong somehow....

You are making massive and unjustified logical leaps. Apples proves oranges therefore pears.