Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Green Letter Wars, Episode VI: Return of the Rozumalski

Keith Rozumalski is at it again! Maximal length comments and all! I'm rapidly losing my patience for this, but I'll address it again (Episode VI is the last Star Wars that counts--we all know how stupid it's going to get after this one). I'll try to keep it brief. First, a short summary of Rozumalski so far:
  1. Five days ago, I wrote a piece about how social pressure is the proper tool by which antitheists can achieve the end of faith. That piece was mostly for antitheists, particularly since I hear from them all too frequently that making rational arguments against Christians is a waste of time since they won't listen. Rozumalski commented on that post, using it to shoehorn in his idea that liberal Christianity is above criticism, which we all know is an example of the special pleading fallacy since Christianity in total doesn't have evidence to support it and since therefore there is no reliable method by which we can tell the validity of one Christianity from another. Rozumalski, like every Christian ever, wants his beliefs to be treated differently from other ones, which he sees as darkening the name and legacy of Jesus.
  2. I responded to Rozumalski, indicating why I choose to go after Christianity of all stripes as my first target (since he accused me of being mean to Christianity when Islam is clearly the trouble-maker, using my citation of 9/11 as insight into my thinking). I could retitle this post "Green Letter  Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope for Rozumalski," but I won't. I hadn't thought of the Star Wars allusion yet.
  3. Rozumalski replied to me again. It was pretty epic--in the sense that it spanned four long comments.
  4. I replied to Rozumalski a bit more harshly, "Green Letter Wars, Episode V: Rozumalski Strikes Back." Particularly, I indicated for him that without evidence, particularly given the burden of proof upon every theist, he has no case for Christianity. I don't think he realizes that I already blew up his Death Star, because he replied to me yet again. This link is the most relevant to this post, because it's the one I'll be quoting and responding to. No, there will not be Jawas or speeders in the forest.
So, back to the green letters. Rozumalski is in green. I reply in black. Hopefully briefly (not doing too well at that so far...). Oh, and I'm pretty sure, despite at least two dozen indications that he should if he wants to argue with my position, I don't think Rozumalski has bothered to read God Doesn't; We Do yet, the book I wrote that this blog is kind of centered upon.

Rozumalski starts "strong":
No, this leads to an argument that I have formulated from our dialogue. Here it is:
1. Antitheists would be reasonably justified in undermining Christian faith if the Christian faith causes Christians to commit acts of violence or if Christianity is obviously false to most rational people.
2. The Christian faith does not cause Christians to commit acts of violence and it is not obviously false to most rational people.
3. Therefore antitheists are not reasonably justified in undermining the Christian faith. (from MT)
Keith, please support #2 with more than a bald assertion. Your #3 depends upon it. I'm willing to bet that you will have a very difficult time convincing anyone other than people who already believe (and thus warp the evidence before their very eyes) that #2 is supported. I'd bet that most rational people will stop reading this here, in fact, seeing that you debunked yourself completely.

Do not resort to cherry picking to support #2. It is easy to find decent Christians that directly cause no problems. No one doubts this--even if they could live better without the unsupported beliefs that warp their moral and "spiritual" thinking (See chapters 8-11 in my book). The problem with the decent Christians has already been covered: they create and maintain the context that gives rise to and affords the societal protection that allows fundies and other problematic believers to come about and to flourish.

Let me elaborate: the First Amendment ensures that we can make no law limiting how someone practices their religion so long as it doesn't directly violate other laws. That means that we cannot legally stop a fundie from being crazy based upon their insane and damaging beliefs. Social pressure, however, can. That social pressure is super-weak, though, if tons of people are still Christians and defend the Christian scriptures as being above being seen for what they are (ancient mythological literature) and the Christian way of life (obviously, to be determined by the believer, including in your case).

Therefore, your syllogism breaks at #2 since it isn't supported except on bald assertion. But it's worse. Your #1 isn't even right. Christianity is a set of ideas that exists in the marketplace of ideas, as it's been called. Therefore, being unsupported by evidence (with evidence suggesting that it can be problematic), even if no Christian committed violence or was actually sophisticated enough to appear true, it would still be within the purview of antitheists to say "show us the evidence, or belief actually is not rational."

Admittedly, if the conditions in #1 were met, that no Christian is ever violent (or even that they're better about that by far on average) and the doctrines appeared more reasonable, antitheists possibly wouldn't have ever said too much. Unfortunately, that's not the case. Ask almost any antitheist why he/she is an antitheist. It's not about philosophy for better than 90% of them, I'd wager.

Keith:
Now throughout the dialogue you asked me repeatedly to prove that God exits, and have pointed out that I’m not capable of proving to all rational people that God exists.
First, let me amend that for you: you're actually not capable of proving to any rational person that God exists, however many you can convince. This difference is not inconsequential.

With that fixed... Right, so why are you still here? I won't say "case closed," because, who knows? Maybe you'll come up with something. I'd bet incredibly long odds (infinitely long, actually, see Chapter 5) against it.
The problem with all this is that you’re committing the argument from ignorance fallacy.
Um, no. I'm committing the "don't believe anything on insufficient evidence" anti-fallacy. You're the one claiming something exists when you don't have proof. That means you're actually the one committing this fallacy while trying to use this line, which you think sounds clever (and would be if it were accurate), to shift the burden of proof, another fallacy you repeatedly commit.

I can't fault you too much for committing the burden-shifting fallacy. It is the core of theology to commit the burden-shifting fallacy.
The only way that you can rationally say that something doesn’t exist is if you’ve made an exhaustive search for that thing and you can’t find any evidence for it. 
Perhaps. Have you heard of Russell's Teapot? It's full of coffee, you know. How about the Pink Invisible Unicorn? Flying Spaghetti Monster? Zeus?

See this is the point. It's not about categorically saying something doesn't exist. That would be disproving a negative. This reveals that you really don't understand this burden of proof thing, for all the philosophical-sounding jargon you're using. This is about refusing to believe in things on insufficient evidence.

To believe in your brand of Christianity is to believe in some ideas (without evidence for them) that would radically change my behavior. Many theists jump at this point and say "A HA!" and try to say that atheists are just interested in living their lives outside of God's laws. That's bullshit. We don't see any reason to believe that there is a God, thus don't see any reason to believe there are any laws from God, and thus don't see that it is reasonable to sign up for sets of rules, sometimes quite arbitrary and at other times quite restrictive (often both), without having sufficient reason to sign up for them. It's not about "wanting to sin," it's about not wanting to put unjustified limitations upon oneself based upon the imagined demands of an imaginary God.

To believe in your brand of Christianity is also to believe in all kinds of things that displace purpose, meaning, and value in our lives (please, read my book for my arguments about these things, particularly Chapters 6, 8, and 9 in this case).
For example if you look around a room and see no elephant then you can rationally say that no elephant exists in that room. We can also rationally conclude that unicorns almost certainly don’t exit on earth since we’ve found no evidence for them. 
If I were to argue like you here, so you can know what it feels like, I'd suggest that perhaps the elephant in the room is invisible or tiny or perfectly camouflaged. I'd also suggest that you cannot exhaustively search the entire room because the elephant could be moving very fast while being very hard to see, and so everywhere you look, he has already moved.

Then you mention unicorns on earth and contradict the very point you're trying to make. Nicely done.
Since God is said to be an immaterial entity and we currently don’t have the ability to detect immaterial objects we can’t rationally conclude that our lack of evidence is proof that God doesn’t exist.
Immaterial entity? Then how does it interact with material? Or does it not interact with material. Did you read the title of my blog and my book: God Doesn't; We Do.

I argue that God doesn't exist, in all likelihood, because it follows from parsimony on my real thesis: God doesn't DO anything. For all intents and purposes, an immaterial entity that doesn't do anything is identical to an entity that doesn't exist. Of course, you'd know that already if you had bothered to read my book.
What’s more it is quite possible that God is the metaphysical cause of the universe and everything in it, so we actually might have indirect evidence of Gods existence.
Chapters 4 and 6. Also, this doesn't really mean anything, does it? The "metaphysical cause of the universe and everything in it"? "Might have indirect evidence"? Yeah, if we define all of that stuff to be that way.

This brings me back to the axioms bit (again, See Chapter 4). If you want to define God as the "metaphysical cause of the universe," what the hell do I care? What does that do? Isn't that the deist's God? What does it have to do with Christianity? What does it DO? You can't answer any of those questions from that definition of God.

This definition is quite popular with philosophers. They usually parse it out better, though: the necessary agent cause of contingent reality. They can't explain why a necessary cause has to be an agent, though, so they just shove that in there.

Again, rational people are supposed to sign up for all of this Christianity nonsense because God can be defined to be the metaphysical cause of the universe and thus that we might have indirect evidence for God (but not Christianity)? That word "rational" you keep using. I do not think it means what you think it means.
It should also be noted that God is logically possible in all possible worlds unlike contingent beings like us. Humans are not logically possible in worlds without matter or worlds without planets or worlds without heavier elements. God who is said to be a necessary, self-existent and immaterial being is logically possible in all of these possible worlds.
Not content with teleology, Rozumalski quickly switches to ontology. No one has ever pulled that gambit before. Reality is not determined by logic. Reality determines logic. You can read more about my opinion of St. Anselm's ontological argument for God in Chapter 6. You can read more about my opinion of this slightly more sophisticated ontological argument here. You're essentially paraphrasing Gödel's ontological argument in this one. Follow that link (labeled "here") and see what I think of it. Maybe I'll make it a post here as well, so it's easier for folks like you to find.
The only way that something could be obviously false to most rational people is if we have made an exhaustive and conclusive search for evidence of that thing or if that thing is logically impossible.
Wrong. The search need not be "exhaustive" in the technical sense. We can estimate the likelihood of finding such a thing to be sufficiently low to be getting on with without having to look everywhere. See your argument about unicorns, just above.
What’s more, as I said before theists have formulated several valid arguments capable of persuading some rational people that God exists.
First, the arguments are actually not valid. They all assume what they want to show or leap a non sequitur to get there from some "first principle" that is also just assumed to exist.

Second, homeopaths have formulated several "valid" arguments capable of persuading some rational people that homeopathic medicine works. Racists have formulated several "valid" arguments capable of persuading some rational people that other races are inferior. Chinese con men have formulated several "valid" arguments (with demonstrations!) that by doing certain esoteric looking exercises for long periods of time that magic powers like knocking people over without touching them is possible from using magical "empty forces."

Those things all must be true too, right?
Given all this information we can conclude that the second half of premise two is correct.
No we can't. We can, however, conclude that you're a fool. You want it to be true, so you are convinced by the unconvincing.
Since premises one and two are true and are validly constructed it logically follows that the conclusion that antitheists are not reasonably justified in undermining the Christian faith.
Categorically wrong. Premises 1 and 2 are not established.
What’s more is that you also never demonstrated that a content theist’s existence is really marred if they are wrong. You talked about short term affects, but you never explained how this would carry on past the 0 to 120 years of someone’s life. You never explained how the effects of false belief persist after all traces of human existence has been wiped away from the universe.
Yes I did. I wrote a few chapters in a fucking book about it--a book that you haven't read yet.

Wait, though. I "never explained how this would carry on past the 0 to 120 years of someone’s life"? What the hell are you talking about? First, it does--because we teach other people about our beliefs. That's why you know about Christianity in the first place. Jesus died 2000 years ago, and yet here you are talking about it after the 30-some-odd years of his life. Why? Because we share those beliefs with others. You can't be serious.

I don't think this is what you meant, though. I think you meant after we die how it matters what we believed. It doesn't, except in the impact it had on others. It doesn't, except that during that time, that brief window between birth and death when our everything is, we traded out much of what could have been for what we hoped was (on no good evidence). Ultimately, that doesn't matter too much, but for the person that made the trade, it's profoundly sad.

That last bit, "You never explained how the effects of false belief persist after all traces of human existence has been wiped away from the universe."  Now... that's something. I actually did. I said I don't think that there is any reason to believe in ultimate purpose. I don't think those effects persist at all at that point. Why should I?

Unlike you, most likely because of your religious beliefs, I am concerned with the quality of life here and now for the living that are actually experiencing it, which is the only thing we have evidence for (barring almost empty philosophical bullshitting about if that can be proved or not). I do not give a rat's ass about what happens after all traces of life are wiped from the universe. I don't think anyone should.

This is very good evidence for me of one of the serious costs of your religious beliefs. Your thinking is warped away from the meaningful now into the literally meaningless immeasurable future. You are literally hung up on the fact that your one precious life isn't good enough. It makes your religion look so petty and pitiful. It also makes it a death cult that is obscenely preoccupied with that which does not matter at the cost of that which does. And you preface this revelation with the audacity to tell me I haven't demonstrated how these beliefs are damaging. You, sir, are the proof--without even having to get into the details of how you're helping to maintain and protect the context by which gems like the Westboro Baptists do their thing.



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11 comments:

  1. In regards to premise one it needs to be noted that we’re not talking about mere disagreement with or the need to acquiesce to Christianity, no were talking about whether antitheists are reasonably justified in participating in a systematic campaign to eradicate Christianity like it is some sort of plague that threatens humanity’s survival. Perhaps I could have phrased the first part of premise one to more clearly state this. Even though I think that my argument successfully proves that antitheists aren’t reasonably justified in participating in such a campaign I think that they can be reasonably justified in disagreeing with and debating with Christians.

    For instance I disagree with those who postulate the existence of the multiverse for a few reasons. For one, there is no empirical evidence and very likely never will be as we can’t observe something outside of our own universe, but, and this is very important, James, I don’t fall into the argument from ignorance trap like you do with God as I consider the multiverse to be among the possibly existing entities. Another reason is that I don’t see any reason to think of it as a necessary entity that caused our finely universe to come into existence, and if it is not a necessary entity then it would be a contingent one that needs a cause. Now, even though I disagree with multiverse postulators I don’t think I would justified in participating in some campaign to wipe the idea of the universe out of public discourse. For one, it is possible that the universe does exist so the concept of it is not obviously false to most rational people. Second, belief in the universe does not cause antisocial behavior.

    Since what is being debated is your assertion that a systematic campaign to expunge Christianity and not just mere disagreement with it premise one of my argument stands.

    Now about premise two you say, “The problem with the decent Christians has already been covered: they create and maintain the context that gives rise to and affords the societal protection that allows fundies and other problematic believers to come about and to flourish.” You still haven’t proved how Christian teachings can be a driver of violence. You didn’t present a single verse directing Christians to commit acts of violence. Christians are told to love their neighbor and pray for their enemies. You have absolutely no proof that someone who is legitimately following Christian teachings will be driven to violence. Anyone who murders someone is in direct violation scriptures and is sinning. The first half of premise two clearly stands.

    Onto the second half of premise two, this is the easy one as your claim that theist’s inability to provide clear and irrefutable empirical evidence that God exists proves that God doesn’t exist is a based on fallacious reasoning and so can be quickly tossed out. Until we have the ability to detect immaterial entities and make a serious search for God his existence can’t be obviously be false to most rational people especially since he is postulated to be the metaphysical cause of our finely tuned universe and the grounding of objective moral values. This means that premise two stands and the conclusion follows from modus tollens. Antitheists are not reasonably justified in systematically undermining the Christian faith.

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  2. You said: “That means you're actually the one committing this fallacy while trying to use this line, which you think sounds clever (and would be if it were accurate), to shift the burden of proof, another fallacy you repeatedly commit.

    I can't fault you too much for committing the burden-shifting fallacy. It is the core of theology to commit the burden-shifting fallacy.”

    The problem with this claim is that we aren’t debating whether or not God exists; we are debating whether antitheists should systematically undermine all faith and Christianity in particular. You made a positive claim that has been evaluated and shown to be false. The burden of proof shifted to you when you published the first post of this series, so no more of this nonsense about you having no burden of proof, please.

    You said: “Perhaps. Have you heard of Russell's Teapot? It's full of coffee, you know. How about the Pink Invisible Unicorn? Flying Spaghetti Monster? Zeus?”

    You might be a New Atheist if you like comparing God to pink invisible unicorns. No, seriously, the problem with these comparisons is that are often brought out by atheists is that they’re weak analogies. First of all, I think we can actually rule out a pink invisible unicorn because an invisible object does not reflect light and therefore couldn’t reflect light in the pink part of the color spectrum. Secondly, assuming that we really couldn’t detect invisible or essentially material objects like Russell’s Teapot, invisible (colorless) unicorns or dragons in basements using technology then there is no reason to think that these objects exist as none of them are necessary entities that are logically possible in all possible worlds. So, it is possible that invisible unicorns exist, but I have no good reason to think that they do. God, on the other hand, is said to be a necessary, self-existent, immaterial being that is the metaphysical cause of the universe and everything in it, so there is good reason to think that God does exist.

    When it comes to FSM there are logical problems like how is spaghetti made invisible, and more importantly how could FSM be the metaphysical cause of everything and yet be composed of spaghetti? The wheat that composes FSM’s spaghetti would have to precede him. Who formed the spaghetti?

    Continued...

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  3. You said: Immaterial entity? Then how does it interact with material? Or does it not interact with material. Did you read the title of my blog and my book: God Doesn't; We Do.”

    We can see how God interacts with the world by analogy. You think about how much you love your significant other and you decide to express your love by going to the store and buying her flowers. This thought leads to a neural impulse that ends up propagating in your muscle fiber causing them to contract, and eventually you go to the store and buy the flowers. Now, God, who is said to be an un-embodied mind doesn’t have muscles and bones like us, but he does have natural laws a universe that he created that he can manipulate to carry out thoughts like we can. The process is not understood like the excitation contraction coupling of our muscles, but the idea of thoughts leading to actions can be understood.

    You said: “(quoting me)’What’s more, as I said before theists have formulated several valid arguments capable of persuading some rational people that God exists.’

    First, the arguments are actually not valid. They all assume what they want to show or leap a non sequitur to get there from some "first principle" that is also just assumed to exist.”

    This claim is utterly ridiculous; I was just watching re-watching some of the William Lane Craig vs. Peter Millican debate and Dr. Millican, an atheist and professor of philosophy at Oxford, said that Craig’s Kalam cosmological argument is valid. If both a Christian and an atheist philosopher agree that the Kalam is valid then I’m going to take their opinion over a philosophical neophyte like you. Of course, Dr. Millican didn’t stop there because he thought that the argument is not deductively sound because he thinks that the first two premises were not necessarily true. The critique basically boiled down to us not knowing what existed before the big bang.

    The reason why the arguments for God’s existence can’t persuade all rational people is because we simply don’t have enough information about the world. We don’t know existed before the big bang. We don’t know if objective morals actually exist. We don’t know if the finely tuned nature of our universe arose by chance or was caused to be that way. Regardless of the state of our knowledge it seems to me that God is the metaphysical cause of the universe and is the grounding for objective morals, as I don’t see any reason to think that material objects like subatomic particles in quantum vacuums exist necessarily.

    You said: “Unlike you, most likely because of your religious beliefs, I am concerned with the quality of life here and now for the living that are actually experiencing it, which is the only thing we have evidence for”

    Oh, no, quite to the contrary I believe that I was put on this planet for a reason, to make it a better place. Unlike you, I believe that my actions have eternal consequences and that some part of me and my actions will carry on. I believe that my actions aren’t futile. I don’t think that entropy is going to wipe out all traces of my existence. I believe that eternity starts right now when I contemplate the majesty and beauty of my eternal God.

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  4. Thankfully, this is my last post. I think it’s safe to say that we’re both terribly sick of the debate.

    These series of blog posts contained more plugs than a wig factory. I’m waiting for the post where you throw out all extraneous words and just repeat buy my book 250 times in a row. Seriously, perhaps I will get around to reading your book someday—perhaps I’ll do a critique of it. Right now I don’t have time to read it--quite frankly I didn’t really have hours to spend on this debate. Tell your publisher to make a B&N Nook version of it. I don’t have a Kindle.

    Well, thanks for participating in this dialogue with me, James; it was interesting, fun and exasperating. Even though I’m incredibly tired I’m glad we had this long distance dialogue. Take care.

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    1. Keith, one of my simple claims is that if Christianity is not true, antitheists, being that they are ANTItheists, are entirely justified in trying to debunk Christianity. You refuse to recognize this point and want to pretend that it all comes down to how Christians act, which requires you to pull No True Scotsman fallacies and massive misinterpretations of the evidence (and lack thereof, particularly in that there is no evidence indicating that Christians, on average, are better or more successful people than anyone else).

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    2. Keith, I'm not plugging my book. I'm trying to get you to read it and expose that you haven't. Why? Because you're arguing against straw and look like an idiot doing it.

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    3. Dammit,

      James just when I said you guys are keeping it respectful?

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    4. Haha, touche! For what it's worth, I said "look like an idiot," not "you are an idiot." The difference is subtle but substantial. I'd expect my friend to tell me the former and never the latter. Why? Respect.

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    5. Actually, one more point needs to be addressed here before I let this go.

      Keith, you keep saying, again and again, that "God may be said to be" or "God has been said to be" and then going on to suggest "necessary [thing I need God to be for this point]."

      This is defining God as you want him to be, and "necessary" isn't a fair part of the definition because it is automatically both committing the argument from ignorance and question begging. The reason I keep "plugging" my book is because in it, I have already addressed many of these points (a fact I'm trying to draw your attention to). Chapter 4, in fact, is specifically about how we define God, and that theme is sprinkled throughout the entire book from there.

      As a matter of fact, I occasionally consider writing one or two more books specifically about that topic--God being defined in various ways and the consequences of doing so. I think it's a majorly important topic, and the fact that theologians are free to slip from one definition of God to another at need is the primary reason that "philosophical theology" still exists at all.

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  5. Keith,

    James book is only 15 bucks on Amazon, something to add to the library. But dont take my word for it...go and get...;) I think the book is better than anything coming from harris or dawkins(man I wanna slap him) The "new atheist" are weak to me, but then my opinion is about as intresting as hooney boo boos mom are about diet and exercise...oh and Im a fatboy myself, so no Im not being a jerk.

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