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.

9 comments:

Andrew Louis said...

"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."

It's nice to see people still have the ability to pick themselves up by their own bootstraps. Then claim complete ignorance.

Andrew Louis said...

You know what, if God exists, it's logically impossible for him to not exist.

The Celtic Chimp said...

You know what, if God exists, it's logically impossible for him to not exist.

That hurts my brain but I still like it! :P

Andy said...

Anyway,
I don't see you around anymore. It's nice to finally here from you.

The Celtic Chimp said...

Andy,

Yeah, kinda dropped of the blogging world entirely for a while, been toying with coming back for a while, maybe starting a whole new blog. Haven't decided yet!

How has the world been treating you?

Andrew Louis said...

You know, get a dollar loose a dollar... Oh wait that's right, I'm married... Get a dollar loose two dollars.

I hear you though. Sometimes you just gotta' slowly step away from the fundies for while. They spook easily.

The Celtic Chimp said...

Married?

..."and another one down, and another one down, another one bites the dust"...

Best of luck to you young man and to your lady wife!

Losing a few dollars you can live with, just don't let her get her hands on a credit card in your name. Credit Cards are like a combination of catnip and viagra to women. It can be almost frightning to behold! :)


Ah fundies! Where would we be without them. I find myself drawn like a moth to a flame. I keep inflicting the likes of Ray Comfort on my brain. My brain always regrets it. Kinda like a crack habit!

theObserver said...

Aye, blog more and give me something to read in work. :)

Anonymous said...

What ever happened to that crazy Philip Bitar guy?