Monday, July 23, 2007

Are you an atheist, agnostic, or a believer?

 
Blogger has a new feature so I thought I'd try it out. There's a poll in the left-hand margin. Click on the appropriate response.

30 comments :

  1. I voted "atheist" though I am technically an agnostic: I don't believe in anything supernatural and I haven't seen any evidence for something supernatural.

    All the while, I acknowledge that my senses are imperfect.

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  2. I wish people would stop positing "agnostic" as being halfway between "atheist" and "believer". It's counterproductive.
    I'm an agnostic atheist, but I don't answer "agnostic" when asked about my religious beliefs because it isn't an answer to that question.

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  3. I think you know that I agree with you about the meaning of agnostic. However, there are some people out there who feel very strongly about this. They claim that the word "agnostic" defines someone who is neither an atheist nor a believer.

    I think it's something like purgatory. :-)

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  4. They claim that the word "agnostic" defines someone who is neither an atheist nor a believer.

    That would be, among others, Richard Dawkins you're talking about, right?

    I think it's something like purgatory.

    Are you giving "probabilities" on the existence of purgatory now?

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  5. John Pieret attempts a nitpick with,

    That would be, among others, Richard Dawkins you're talking about, right?

    Nope. Dawkins thinks that you can be an agnostic atheist like he is. He also thinks that you can be an agnostic Christian. Thus, in Dawkins view (and mine) it's possible to be both an agnostic and an atheist or an agnostic and a believer.

    I'm talking about people who think that agnostic and atheist are non-overlapping categories. People like John Wilkins.

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  6. I would be an agnostic atheist, however when asked I answer atheist because I do not believe in god and want to make that point clear.

    If agnostics can be either atheist or theists, the option "agnostic" on the list does not make a distinction I think most people want to be pretty clear about.

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  7. I'm talking about people who think that agnostic and atheist are non-overlapping categories. People like John Wilkins.

    Those weren't non-overlapping categories John was talking about, they were the simple rhetorical fallacies that John was pointing out that you keep mistaking for categories.

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  8. I thought an agnostic was just someone who didn't know, or is that oversimplifying things?

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  9. I thought an agnostic was just someone who didn't know, or is that oversimplifying things?

    Yes, I think it is an oversimplification. Words are slippery things because they depend on usage, not logic, and are artificial categories rather than natural kinds. Larry uses "agnostic" merely as a modifier and confuses that with what is meant when, as in his poll, the word is used as a stand-alone description of a belief. It's rather like Larry describing himself, as I'm sure he would, as a believer in rationalism and an empirical scientist. But you can't be both an Empiricist and a Rationalist, since those categories of philosophy are mutually exclusive. Perhaps an even more pointed example is the usage of the word "fundamentalist." Some atheists seem to think its use as a mere modifier is an abuse of the term. Add to that the fact that humans resolutely refuse to be perfectly consistent or simple enough to be encompassed in a single word, and there is bound to be contradictions, overlap and ambiguity.

    Larry's "agnosticism" is, as far as I can see, a small thing. He concedes that a god, of a sort that he himself thinks irrelevant to human beings and unimportant to any conflict that might exist between science and religion, might just exist. Frankly, any denial on his part of certainty as to the nonexistence of any God people actually worship would be as believable as the IDers denial of any idea who "the Designer" might be. Larry is, at most, "agnostic" about the existence of God only in a formalistic, technical sense unrelated to the actual usage of the word when it comes to beliefs about theism.

    Agnostics like Wilkins and I believe that, at the very least, a large subset of the notions that people hold of God, itself not a consistent or simple category, remain live possibilities, that only a vast overstatement of the state of human knowledge could serve to justify denying the possibility of. Our beliefs do not resemble Dawkins' simplistic scale of beliefs or Larry's sly concession of next to nothing.

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  10. is that oversimplifying things?

    In a sense. The challenge is that philosophers in particular "have disagreed on how best to define and classify atheism". The different concepts, like the ambiguous concepts of gods, have overloaded the terms. When using overloaded terms like random or atheist you have to define your usage.

    OTOH that means that there is nothing wrong or oversimplified with using the non-overlapping common terms. This scheme has its advantages, just as more deliberated overlapping schemes allows for specifics.

    I'm more distressed by exclusive schemes. While you would think that anthropomorphic, miraculous or "codings in the CMBR powerful" gods naturally should be left on the table, some philosophers use some No True Godsman..., ehrm, Scotsman argument or other to withdraw the weaker cards from the game since they blow the whole hand. (Well, duh!) They also want to have semantical decisiveness instead of empirical uncertainty, as philosophers is wont to.

    Personally, that would make me an agnostic atheist in those schemes, since I note absence and contingent improbability but can't have certainty any more than in other questions of the world. The evidence that would turn me is easy to see from above, such as specific miracles tied to religious entities or global coded messages, et cetera.

    [I see when I am going to post this, that John Pieret claims that there can't be no evidence, because observational evidence is tied into "simplistic" or "sly" notions of religion. A truer Scotsman can't be found, I think. Or in other word, where is the evidence or theory that implies there can't be no evidence? Does John knows something about gods that the rest of us doesn't?]

    But as I don't humor specific philosophical schemes (that doesn't suit my temperament :-), I call myself natural atheist - as informed and sure as observations of nature allow. See, I have a scheme too. :-P

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  11. I see when I am going to post this, that John Pieret claims that there can't be no evidence, because observational evidence is tied into "simplistic" or "sly" notions of religion. A truer Scotsman can't be found, I think. Or in other word, where is the evidence or theory that implies there can't be no evidence? Does John knows something about gods that the rest of us doesn't?

    That's a sly misstatement of what I said. Some notions of God are empirically testable (though that leaves you with the philosophical problem of why you thing empiricism delivers truth). As to the limits of knowledge, please tell me how you can presently, or with any reasonably foreseeable human means, tell a "natural" point mutation from a miraculous one. Claims that we may someday, over the rainbow, be able to do so is hardly an advertisement for the coherence of your empirical claims. I won't even bother to ask you to give a rigorous definition of "natural" (though I bet you can't). It's not a question of whether you "withdraw the weaker cards from the game," it's a question of whether you can tell real cards from illusionary ones in the first place.

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  12. I suppose I should expand on that a little more ...

    Assume that some notions of God have been empirically disproven and that empiricism delivers "truth." What bearing does that have on the other, non-empirically disproven notions? Are you attempting some sort of abduction here? Is there supposed to be some percentage of wrong "answers" that somehow disproves the whole? If so, what percentage and why? Science has had, and doubtless still has, notions that are or will turn out to be empirically wrong. Does that make the whole of science wrong? If not, what's the difference between science and theism in that regard?

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  13. John Pieret:

    Of course I am sly, Moran is so why should anyone else outspoken skeptic be different? I'm sure I am simplistic as well - after all, I prefer to rely on my eyes instead of imagining up things.

    I am glad that we have established that notions of gods are empirical. (Here I must insist on the plural for obvious reasons.)

    The larger challenge is that while empiricists would take such a class of notions and make them as strong (predictive) as possible and find out if they have any real correlate, the religious and philosophical effort is to try to withdraw them from observation and test. In effect, try to emasculate both methods and subject, and coincidentally try to learn as little as possible.

    Are you attempting some sort of abduction here?

    There are many ways to formulate inferences and debunk notions here. I have commented earlier on this blog some variants that are tempting to use, and I believe what you describe as abduction was one of them.

    But improbability based on observation et cetera goes a long way. It is the most simplistic - excuse me, simple, method.

    Is there supposed to be some percentage of wrong "answers" that somehow disproves the whole?

    Ah yes, there are standards in physics such as 3 sigma for theories and 5 sigma for weakly supported observations. That is science proper, and this is how we know (indirectly) that Thor is debunked.

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  14. "there are standards in physics such as 3 sigma for theories and 5 sigma for weakly supported observations. That is science proper, and this is how we know (indirectly) that Thor is debunked"

    Hahahahaa heeheeeeheeheeee

    Wow, I never thought figuring out that Thor doesn' texist was so challenging!!! Thanks for giving me the scientific explanation, Larsson. Only now can I rest assured. hahaha hehehe

    Please don't forget to send us the reprints of your paper, when you publish this in the journal of godly research.

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  15. Of course I am sly ...

    I didn't say that ... though I probably shouldn't attempt sly word-play across international borders.

    I prefer to rely on my eyes instead of imagining up things.

    As long as you understand it is a preference ... a philosophical choice, not itself justified by empiricism.

    I am glad that we have established that notions of gods are empirical.

    You may think you have established it but I can't imagine why, since you've made no argument to that effect. I said only that "some notions" of God are empirically testable. "Did God make the universe 6,000 years ago?" Empirically, the answer is "no". That still leaves open the question of how to justify relying on empiricism as a philosophy and/or as a tool in this particular investigation. And that's not even considering the infinite number of other possible notions of God that remain.

    ... improbability based on observation et cetera goes a long way. It is the most simplistic - excuse me, simple, method.

    Good. Show your probability calculations. If you can't show your numbers you are just moving heated air around, exactly the same way Dembski does.

    ... there are standards in physics such as 3 sigma for theories and 5 sigma for weakly supported observations. That is science proper, and this is how we know (indirectly) that Thor is debunked.

    What exactly about Thor is debunked, directly or indirectly? And in what way do you know that whatever is debunked is a critical test of his existence? Indeed, what empiric method did you use to learn enough about Thor to debunk anything? Let's not forget you're insisting on an empiricism-only method!

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  16. "What exactly about Thor is debunked, directly or indirectly?"

    Lightning storms are the result of ordinary physics and chemistry, ergo Thor is an unparsimonious hypothesis.

    "That still leaves open the question of how to justify relying on empiricism as a philosophy and/or as a tool in this particular investigation."

    Can you give me an example of any a posteriori claim that isn't validated empirically?

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  17. Lightning storms are the result of ordinary physics and chemistry, ergo Thor is an unparsimonious hypothesis.

    On what empiric grounds do you think that "unparsimonious hypothesis" is the equivalent of "debunked"? (Not to mention why you think that "ordinary physics" is not the result of Thor's action and his method of arranging thunderbolts where he wants them and why you think thunderbolts' physics are essential to the existence of Thor in the first place.)

    Can you give me an example of any a posteriori claim that isn't validated empirically?

    How about "empiricism delivers true statements about God"? (And if that isn't an a posteriori claim, then Torbjörn's argument collapses completely.)

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  18. Sanders:

    I never thought figuring out that Thor doesn' texist was so challenging!!

    You don't read well. I said both "physics" and "indirectly", which means that it was the explanation of the physics behind lightning that was challenging.

    But don't take my word for it, I'm sure you can find some description of lightning if you look for it.

    John Pieret:
    I probably shouldn't attempt sly word-play across international borders.

    Or maybe I read it on "the sly". Okay, the dictionary says "3. Playfully mischievous". Noted 'til next time.

    a philosophical choice, not itself justified by empiricism.

    If it is observable, I'm forced to use it. Otherwise I would end up with a cognitive dissonance, and that wouldn't be good. Also, since empiricism is useful, I can trust it - it is the point of it.

    I said only that "some notions" of God are empirically testable.

    I made a "sly" restatement of the above. :-P

    If you can't show your numbers you are just moving heated air around, exactly the same way Dembski does.

    We don't need numbers - numbers would imply testability and specific cases, see the Thor example. I could show a simple model for the general case, but it seems you don't think much of it.

    What exactly about Thor is debunked,

    I thought it was pretty clear that we know that Thor doesn't cause all lightning. (Which was a defining property of that god.)

    Not to mention why you think that "ordinary physics" is not the result of Thor's action

    Now you are trying to shift the argument to your own gods concept. Every Thorist knows that Thor rode a chariot and used a hammer. The holy writ says so.

    How about "empiricism delivers true statements about God"?

    That is still "gods", as in Thor for example.

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  19. If it is observable, I'm forced to use it.

    They have epistemology police where you come from?

    Otherwise I would end up with a cognitive dissonance, and that wouldn't be good.

    Why is your uncomfortable tension over having two conflicting thoughts more reliable a judge of proper epistemology than the theists' cognitive dissonance, especially when I have no tension at all over allowing for doubt?

    Also, since empiricism is useful, I can trust it - it is the point of it.

    No, that doesn't work (as stated). Even the best, most well-done, science has been, historically, incomplete and replete with error. Mere usefulness does not, either logically or based on the empiric record, come close to guaranteeing trustworthiness.

    I made a "sly" restatement of the above. :-P

    And I made a sly rely thereafter. Don't try to out-sly a lawyer. ;-)

    We don't need numbers - numbers would imply testability and specific cases, see the Thor example. I could show a simple model for the general case, but it seems you don't think much of it.

    But if many notions about God (or gods, if you prefer) are not testable, then your beliefs about those notions are not scientific and I, as a more or less objective observer, have no reason to believe your unsupported claims over the theists' unsupported claims. And "simple models" for "general cases" still sounds a lot like creationist handwaving to me.

    I thought it was pretty clear that we know that Thor doesn't cause all lightning. (Which was a defining property of that god.)

    You are claiming to be the empiricist. Give me your empiric basis for saying that Thor must cause all lightening or else be "debunked." On what grounds do you claim that as a critical empiric test of Thor's existence? (And I still want to know how you empirically know that Thor isn't the cause of all "ordinary physics," including lightening?)

    Now you are trying to shift the argument to your own gods concept. Every Thorist knows that Thor rode a chariot and used a hammer. The holy writ says so.

    No, I am trying to get you to recognize that it is you who has shifted the question from the existence or nonexistence of God to the correctness of different religion that hold to a particular god. That's fine, if that's all you want to do. But, just as science's empiric failures do not invalidate the process of science, then the empiric failures of the various religions cannot be held to invalidate the process of religion or the possible existence of God or gods. At least it doesn't if you want to maintain even a pretense of objectivity and empiricism.

    How about "empiricism delivers true statements about God"?

    That is still "gods", as in Thor for example.


    You apparently think that distinction is important enough to ignore the question of how you might be able to empirically demonstrate that empiricism delivers true statements about God (or gods). Would you care to explain why? ... Just in case you out-slyed a lawyer ...

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  20. On what empiric grounds do you think that "unparsimonious hypothesis" is the equivalent of "debunked"?

    On the same empiric grounds upon which I claim that psychics have no supernatural powers because their activity can explained by mundane phenomena like cold/hot reading techniques. After all, there could be some psychic out there with genuine supernatural powers, or the cold/hot reading techniques could simply be some superimposed cover for their real powers.

    Or to put it more simply, it isn't most definitely and provably true in all given circumstances, since I can't prove under every abritrary circumstance that psychics don't have genuine powers. But given the following:

    1. Most psychics engage in tactics that appear to be cold/hot reading techniques.

    2. Psychics goof-up mounmentally in ways easily explained by cold/hot reading techniques.

    3. What we know about classical and quantum physics (among other things) renders things like telekinesis, precognition and remote viewing extremely unlikely.

    Now, this is limited. There could simply be unobserved exceptions or we could be extrapolating the wrong conclusions from most or all of our observations. I certainly can't perform an analytic deduction proving psychic powers universally false. But as with all science, I use my empirical observations to draw an approximate and provisional conclusion. If I can do that with psychics, and you'll accept it, why would it be so different with Thor?

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  21. But as with all science, I use my empirical observations to draw an approximate and provisional conclusion. If I can do that with psychics, and you'll accept it, why would it be so different with Thor?

    Isn't that obvious? You can study human beings who claim to be psychics (as well as those who don't). When was the last time you studied Thor and how would you go about it anyway?

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  22. "You can study human beings who claim to be psychics (as well as those who don't)."

    But that obviously isn't the point. If I am studying psychics I can't disprove ad hoc auxilliary conjectures to the effect that, for instance, what seems like cold/hot reading is really a superimposed cover for real psychic powers (for whatever reason). I simply discard them because they are not parsimonious.

    Your objection seemed to me to be that I couldn't outright "debunk" Thor with such an argument. I'd agree, but I'd also argue that science in general is provisional in such a fashion. We may one day discover evidence that makes the Thor hypothesis more compelling.

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  23. Just a few more comments with regard to this:

    How about "empiricism delivers true statements about God"?

    The above proposition relies on the particular god-concept in question. Consider the following example:

    Empiricism delivers true statements about gizornimplat.

    Gizornimplat is defined as an energyless mass that is both hot and cold.

    Empiricism can't make true statements about the above contrivance. The thing I describe is internally incoherent and thus cannot possibly exist. A posteriori claims about it are of null cognitive value.

    So I could argue that a particular god-concept is internally incoherent and thus not subject to empirical reasoning a priori.

    But there is one example I can think that shows that empiricism can deliver true statements about god(s). Try this: "God(s) did not fashion all living things in the way expounded in the Genesis account." Certainly true, and validated empirically.

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  24. If I am studying psychics I can't disprove ad hoc auxilliary conjectures to the effect that, for instance, what seems like cold/hot reading is really a superimposed cover for real psychic powers (for whatever reason). I simply discard them because they are not parsimonious.

    [Sigh] Which is a perfectly reasonable thing to do if all you're doing is pursuing a human activity called "physics," with its set of inherent and imposed assumptions. The problem is how and to what extent can you justify its results, particularly when you try to apply them to claims that do not recognize those assumptions.

    Your objection seemed to me to be that I couldn't outright "debunk" Thor with such an argument. I'd agree, but I'd also argue that science in general is provisional in such a fashion. We may one day discover evidence that makes the Thor hypothesis more compelling.

    Yes. Wilkins has discussed the possibility of a "divinoscope" by which you could investigate God. There are many problems with the notion (that Wilkins discussed) but an immediate one is: how would you test to see if such a device worked? That was actually a serious objection raised to Galileo's use of the telescope. How could he tell if the telescope was delivering a true or false image? The answer was that we could, over time, observe the workings of the telescope on objects and places that could then be checked against observations made without the telescope and gradually we came to accept that it delivered true images (even though there was no theory as to how it worked at the time). But since we don't have senses that (at least reliably and consistently) detect the supernatural, we would have nothing to measure the divinoscope's workings against.

    I'm of the non-empiric, philosophic opinion that the existence or nonexistence of God is not demonstrable through human knowledge because of permanent and structural limitations on humans and the knowledge available to them and not merely due to a temporary lack of information that will be remedied in the future. But you are entitled to your non-empiric, philosophic opinion, on the subject, as long as you don't try to mislead children and other naifs that certainty on the issue is possible now or in the foreseeable future

    Gizornimplat is defined as an energyless mass that is both hot and cold.

    In which multiverse and under what exact set of constants?

    Empiricism can't make true statements about the above contrivance. The thing I describe is internally incoherent and thus cannot possibly exist. A posteriori claims about it are of null cognitive value.

    I think we've been through this before. There are so many hidden assumptions in that claim as to make it of null cognitive value without reams of additional information. But even beyond that, one major problem is that it is not obvious that the human brain, evolved by the same forces that produced the human spine and the prostate gland, is capable of reliably delivering true opinions on what is and is not of "null cognitive value." And mere seeming contradiction is not enough to make something of null cognitive value, since "infinite number" would fall in that category, being an oxymoron and all.

    So I could argue that a particular god-concept is internally incoherent and thus not subject to empirical reasoning a priori.

    Now just demonstrate empirically (or otherwise) that humans are able to determine what is "internally incoherent" for supernatural beings.

    But there is one example I can think that shows that empiricism can deliver true statements about god(s). Try this: "God(s) did not fashion all living things in the way expounded in the Genesis account." Certainly true, and validated empirically.

    Look above and you'll see that I discussed this example (in the form of the Earth being only 6,000 years old). But that is not essential to the notion of the God of the Bible, since there are billions of believers in that God who nonetheless accept that the Earth is billions of years old and life evolved. We're back to the question of how you establish that demonstrating that "ordinary physics" is a sufficient explanation of lightning is a critical test for the existence of Thor.

    I think that, in the end, you wind up able only to nibble around the edges of the possibilities ... which are literally infinite. You are free to find that satisfying and convincing enough to make the larger conclusion. Just don't be surprised that not everyone ... even non-believers ... agrees.

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  25. ... if all you're doing is pursuing a human activity called "physics," ...

    Ok, I misread the word you used there but it works anyway, since what you are describing is measuring supposed psychic effects physical systems. Whatever empiric study you apply comes with such assumptions.

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  26. "The problem is how and to what extent can you justify its results, particularly when you try to apply them to claims that do not recognize those assumptions."

    But what differentiates these new assumptions from another ad hoc, auxiliary conjecture? New Age woo peddlers have no problem questioning the "assumptions" of science, particularly physics.

    "I'm of the non-empiric, philosophic opinion that the existence or nonexistence of God is not demonstrable through human knowledge because of permanent and structural limitations on humans and the knowledge available to them and not merely due to a temporary lack of information that will be remedied in the future. But you are entitled to your non-empiric, philosophic opinion, on the subject, as long as you don't try to mislead children and other naifs that certainty on the issue is possible now or in the foreseeable future"

    Well, if you would apply this logic consistently, you'd see that theists are quite possibly the most egregious perpetrators of such a crime in the world. Religious parents have no difficulty with misleading children on the certainty of god(s) existence or non-existence. So once again, we see a double standard and special pleading for (or on the part of) theists.

    "In which multiverse and under what exact set of constants?"

    You're putting the cart before the horse. I haven't demonstrated anything about gizornimplat, I simply asserted the concept. It would be my job to defend even the very idea that such a universe (with gizornimplat) could exist, and you are justified in being skeptical until I do so. If you had to disprove every possible scenario to consider something falsified you'd quickly arriving at solopsism, since that is impossible to do.

    "Now just demonstrate empirically (or otherwise) that humans are able to determine what is "internally incoherent" for supernatural beings."

    And what are the properties of this "supernatural" you speak of that would allow me to make such a judgement? I can't simply perform an analytic deduction based on a catch-phrase commonly applied to god(s). You'll notice that under my definition of gizornimplat you can't analyze it under the physical assumptions of our universe. You'll also notice that I simply pulled it out of my ass. Don't those two facts warrant a certain degree of skepticism toward it, or should we simply be "agnostic"?

    "But that is not essential to the notion of the God of the Bible, since there are billions of believers in that God who nonetheless accept that the Earth is billions of years old and life evolved."

    But what I made was a true statement about god that was delivered by empiricism, so your statement can be validated empirically.

    "I think that, in the end, you wind up able only to nibble around the edges of the possibilities ... which are literally infinite."

    But what you're overlooking is that the possibilities aren't only infinite with respect to god(s), they're infinite with respect to anything. Logically speaking there are an infinite number of ad hoc conjectures to shore up anything we consider falsified in science.

    Are there god(s) concepts we can't disconfirm or falsify? There certainly are. But not every god(s) concept falls into that category. With regard to the vague, ill-defined, quasi-mystical god(s) of theology, I simply remain unconvinced and consider them useless. But to defend the entire construct of theism using only those vague, ill-defined, quasi-mystica god(s) concepts is unjustified. There are god(s) concepts that we can know with a high degree of certainty are false, starting with the classical, anthropomorphic one.

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  27. "Ok, I misread the word you used there but it works anyway, since what you are describing is measuring supposed psychic effects physical systems. Whatever empiric study you apply comes with such assumptions."

    The same thing goes for the claimed manifestations of the effects of prayer. They allegedly have physical effects (cured stomach tumor, for instance). So of course our assumptions are at least partially warranted.

    Perhaps the conclusions are fuzzy, and our assumptions could be wrong. But that's always true, of any empirical endeavor. The idea of god(s) could be an elusive concept because our assumptions are wrong, but it could also be elusive because it's false.

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  28. ... what differentiates these new assumptions from another ad hoc, auxiliary conjecture? New Age woo peddlers have no problem questioning the "assumptions" of science, particularly physics.

    Nothing much differentiates them. Some of those might be true too ... as far as empiricism can tell. We don't value physics on the basis of its ability or inability to refute Deepak Chopra.

    Religious parents have no difficulty with misleading children on the certainty of god(s) existence or non-existence.

    I have no problem with you alleging that empiricism is the result of divine revelation accepted on faith ... except for keeping a straight face, of course. Theists may claim to be certain but (at least most) theists acknowledge that theirs is a leap of faith. The ones who pretend it has the certainty of science, we call IDiots and creationists and attack mercilessly. It should work both ways.

    If you had to disprove every possible scenario to consider something falsified you'd quickly arriving at solopsism, since that is impossible to do.

    Solipsism is not a workable philosophy of life (except, perhaps for a few mystics who get a lot of help from their neighbors) but it is a correct statement of the problem of knowledge. We have not and do not obtain knowledge by starting at the outermost reaches of our possible experience and working in. Instead, we work from within outwards. And you have to justify yourself at every stage of the process. You made a claim without limitations about the impossibility of something existing. I merely pointed out that you had no warrant to make the blanket claim without significant limitations on your premise. The problem with attempts to say anything significant about God through empiricism is that the limitations on the premise wind up eating up the results.

    And what are the properties of this "supernatural" you speak of that would allow me to make such a judgement [whether humans are able to determine what is "internally incoherent" for supernatural beings]?

    Why, the main property is that the supernatural doesn't operate the way "natural" things do. Which is why empiricism doesn't work on it and (given there's nothing better than empiricism in the human arsenal), we are sh*t out of luck in trying to determine it. (It wasn't a fair question or intended to be.)

    You'll notice that under my definition of gizornimplat you can't analyze it under the physical assumptions of our universe. You'll also notice that I simply pulled it out of my ass. Don't those two facts warrant a certain degree of skepticism toward it, or should we simply be "agnostic"?

    What makes you think that "skepticism" and "agnosticism" are mutually exclusive in this context? I'm at least as skeptical of their knowledge claims as I am of atheists'. That does not mean Dawkins' simplistic one-axis spectrum of beliefs, where agnostics are somehow balanced between theists and atheists, is right. I think Wilkins' two axis model is closer to the truth. Agnosticism is simply a statement that we are without knowledge ... you know ... "a" (without) "gnosis" (knowledge) ... though not necessarily without opinion) on the subject.

    And if you can get a billion or two people to claim that they have had a personal experience of gizornimplat, I'll have a higher opinion of your ass.

    ... I made was a true statement about god that was delivered by empiricism, so your statement can be validated empirically.

    No, you made an empirically verifiable statement about the material universe and what was expounded in the Genesis account. Now all you have to do is empirically tie God to a particular interpretation of Genesis or any other scripture. Otherwise, the most you wind up with is an "empiric statement" about God to the effect that he/she/it must have wanted the universe this way because it is this way. It's trivially true but about as meaningful as the IDers' statement that the universe, in some ways, looks designed.

    Logically speaking there are an infinite number of ad hoc conjectures to shore up anything we consider falsified in science.

    Yes. That's why science, as a matter of philosophy, in the form of "methodological naturalism," and not on the basis of evidence, limits those possibilities to so-called "natural" causes (which winds up meaning things that operate with sufficient regularity that we'll take a chance on using them for predicting the future action of the material universe).

    But to defend the entire construct of theism using only those vague, ill-defined, quasi-mystica god(s) concepts is unjustified. There are god(s) concepts that we can know with a high degree of certainty are false, starting with the classical, anthropomorphic one.

    You mean that all ill-defined, quasi-mystical concepts are unjustified, unconvincing and useless? You do know that those were the objections raised by empiricists against Newton's notion of universal gravitation, right? And unless you have made some fundamental discovery in physics you're not letting the rest of us in on, the force of gravity is still "ill-defined" and the only reason we no longer think of gravity's ghostly action-at-a-distance as "quasi-mystical," is merely because we've gotten used to the concept. In any case, I frankly don't think you are qualified to judge the theologians on those scores or their concepts of the "classical, anthropomorphic" God. Furthermore, given your admissions of the holes in empiricism, both philosophically and in practice, your facile dismissal of theology comes with more than a whiff the pot and the kettle.

    The idea of god(s) could be an elusive concept because our assumptions are wrong, but it could also be elusive because it's false.

    Which is not that different from what I've been saying all along. The problem, however, is how to decide (and justify the decision) which possibility is right ... assuming those are the only two possibilities.

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  29. Incidentally, I am an apathetic agnostic. I don't care if there's a god or not.

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  30. Catching up on some very old threads.

    John Pieret:

    Why is your uncomfortable tension over having two conflicting thoughts more reliable a judge of proper epistemology

    I didn't claim that. Empiricism is reliable.

    Even the best, most well-done, science has been, historically, incomplete and replete with error.

    Of course. But I was discussing the reliability of observations, obviously, observations that theories can predict.

    Don't try to out-sly a lawyer.

    Don't work - I'm on first. ;-)

    But if many notions about God (or gods, if you prefer) are not testable, then your beliefs about those notions are not scientific

    I haven't claimed it is science - it is empiricism. But in any case this works like this: every data set explained by a natural theory increases the probability (or likelihood, or trust) that nature is all natural.

    Give me your empiric basis for saying that Thor must cause all lightening or else be "debunked."

    The religion defines it so, if I'm not mistaken. And that covers you parenthesis as well - we are discussing a specific religious conception here. As I noted, you are trying to shift this into your own gods concept. I'm discussing supernaturalism and gods in general.

    This works like this: every gods conception falsified increases the probability (or likelihood, or trust) that gods are all false.

    Would you care to explain why?

    See above - discussing and debunking gods in general, not any specific concept except then needed for debunking.

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