Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Interviewed by Atheist Society of Knoxville Tennessee

The Atheist Society of Knoxville and Rationalists of East Tennessee (two closely related groups, so far as I can tell), obtained a copy of my first book, God Doesn't; We Do: Only Humans Can Solve Human Challenges, and contacted me about doing an interview for their weekly freethought program. They gave me most of the show to talk about me, my thoughts, my writing, God Doesn't; We Do, and my upcoming Dot, Dot, Dot: Infinity Plus God Equals Folly. I thank them for their interest and look forward to talking with them again sometime.

Check it out! It was a lot of fun!
I start talking at roughly the 11-minute mark and go throughout! Link to YouTube.

15 comments:

  1. It was interesting to hear you being interviewed. You touched on your idea of the probability of God’s existence being zero almost surely, but you still did not address why you think that the probability that naturalism is true is nearly 100%. For example, why do you find the naturalistic account (or lack-there-of) of the current state of the universe to be plausible? One naturalist, Quentin Smith, wrote, “What I mean by "the universe is self-caused" is that (a) the universe is a whole of parts, specifically, a sequence of states of the universe, with each part or state being an individual; (b) the existence of each part (state) of the universe is caused by earlier parts of the universe; and (c) the reason the universe as a whole exists is either because it is composed of or is identical with these successively caused parts.” So, state Z was caused by state Y and Y was caused by state X and so on back through the causal series. But what about state the contingent state A which causes contingent state B? It is wildly improbable that there is a contingent state A which needs a cause for its state of being and is also the cause of B through Z. If something has a probability of zero almost surely it would be a contingent state A that is the cause of all other states.

    On the other hand, Graham Oppy, another naturalist, wrote, “If there is anything contingent in the world, then there is brute--i.e., inexplicable--contingency in the world. Hence, if there is anything contingent in the world, then there are things--events, facts--that simply have no explanation.” This notion is incredibly implausible because we would be saying that the existence/motion of state A is a brute fact while all other states (B through Z) do have a cause of their state. Why is state A an exception to the rule that contingent states have a cause? It would seem that this presupposition that state A is a brute fact is posited to prop up the presupposition that naturalism is true. I would also add that if state A is a brute fact then naturalism has no explanation for the current state of the universe as the beginning of the universe is just a brute fact. On the other hand, theism does offer an explanation for the current state of the universe in positing that a necessary, uncaused, un-embodied agent caused all other contingent states to be actualized. God’s status as a necessary, uncaused being is not a brute fact it is part of his Godly nature.

    You also did not address why you think it’s plausible that consciousness arose from non-consciousness given naturalism. You did not address how the existence of seemly objective morals could be grounded given naturalism. You did not explain why it is plausible to think that the extraordinary fine tuning seen in the universe arose just by sheer chance. In short, you did not give any reasons why anyone should think that naturalism is plausible, let alone nearly 100% likely to be true.

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  2. I was disappointed to see that you’re still hung up on your straw man argument against the supposed problem with the actual infinity of God’s omni-attributes. As I explained before, God’s attributes all qualitative and not quantitative, so there is no contradiction with the fact that an actual infinite doesn’t exist and God has omni-attributes. God doesn’t have an infinity of goodness units, he is simply all good—there is a complete absence of evil in God’s nature. Even the attribute that seems to be an actual infinite, God’s omniscience, is actually a possible infinity because God’s knowing an actual infinity of propositions is not instantiated. For any given proposition God knows whether or not it’s true, but God doesn’t hold an actual infinity of propositions to be true or false because an actual infinity of propositions can’t be instantiated. So, one of the main arguments in your next book is nothing more than a straw man argument.

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  3. In regards to the notion of the Platonic idea that abstract objects like the number 7 actually exist, I think it’s interesting that you, William Lane Craig and I tend to agree that things like numbers, sets and propositions are useful fictions created in the brain/mind of mankind. However, I wonder how you square the notion that the human brain invented math and does science and philosophy with the inevitable problems of materialistic reductionism, namely that given the purely materialistic nature of the brain there is no way for it to process propositions or have intentionality. As the atheist philosopher of science Alex Rosenberg wrote in his paper “Eliminativism without Tears,” “The progress of neuroscience will eventually force philosophy to adopt eliminativism[given the presupposition of methodological naturalism]…Eliminativism is the thesis that the brain does not store information in the form of unique sentences that express statements or propositions or anything like them. It denies the intentionality of thought. Eliminativism does not deny the existence of consciousness or qualitative aspects of experience. It does deny that they are sources or evidence for the intentionality of thought.” According to Rosenberg, the implications of naturalism are that we can’t think about math or anything for that matter. There also is no way to store or process the proposition that “3 is greater than 4” or that “7 is prime.” Yet, as we both believe, mathematics and numbers are useful fiction created in the brain (on your naturalistic view) or mind (on my theistic view), so how is it that people can think about and do math, science and philosophy without intentionality or propositions? As a theist I reject naturalism as being implausible, and believe that mankind’s ability to do math, science and philosophy shows that there is likely to be an immaterial mind that accounts for intentionality and our ability to process propositions. Given your naturalism, how do you account for your ability to think about and do math?

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    Replies
    1. Watch this.
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q3MWRvLndzs

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    2. Also, "qualitative" infinity is a straw man now. This is directly predicated on the acceptance of the axiom of infinity. Reject infinity instead? No infinity for God. Your choice.

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    3. Also, if you're just going to come here and parrot William Lane Craig, don't waste my time.

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    4. Against my better judgment, Keith, I actually read one of your comments this time. Let me respond very briefly and speaking very generally.

      You are uncomfortable with not knowing an answer, and you are desperate for them. You are looking at questions that philosophy cannot answer using philosophy to try to do it, and in not finding the answer you crave, you're punting to an unfalsifiable hypothesis to stuff in the hole. Your mind abhors a vacuum, which could be good if turned to the noble state called "curiosity," but instead, you are stuffing your curiosity away and using the worthless proxy of supernaturalism (therefore God therefore Christianity, both non sequiturs) to cover up for a psychological need for attributions.

      There are better ways to go about it than this.

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    5. In regards to the minute physics video, although this is an interesting video that uses quick sequence animation to convey a very compressed physics lesson, there are some problems. First of all, with the “magical power of infinity” we run into the problem of an actual infinite which we both agree doesn’t exist. If an actual infinity doesn’t exist then there isn’t an actual infinite amount of space for our universe to expand into. Again, if there isn’t an actual infinite then there still is the problem of the “infinite differentiability of space time” even if there isn’t an infinite amount of space.

      Secondly, the singularity that the video talks about presupposes a speculative B theory of time where time and space are extended. On the B theory of time the past, present and future are an illusion, and yet our sense of the flow of time (the A theory of time) is a properly basic belief that should be held unless a defeater of it is presented. So far a defeater hasn’t been presented. My sense that yesterday is in the past is a rational belief.

      Thirdly, the oscillating universe model that the video alludes to has fallen out of favor among physicists. According to Stephen Hawking the Hawking-Penrose Singularity, “Led to the abandonment of attempts (mainly but by the Russians) to argue that there was a previous contracting universe, and time itself, had a beginning at the big bang.” Also there are no known physics which could explain how the universe could bounce back to an inflated state from a deflated state. Hawking isn’t the only physicist who disagrees with the oscillating model, Alexander Vilenkin does as well. Lisa Grossman in the New Scientist wrote about Vilenkins’s work in her article “Death of the eternal cosmos.” She wrote:

      Disorder increases with time. So following each cycle, the universe must get more and more disordered. But if there has already been an infinite number of cycles, the universe we inhabit now should be in a state of maximum disorder. Such a universe would be uniformly lukewarm and featureless, and definitely lacking such complicated beings as stars, planets and physicists--nothing like the one we see around us.

      One way around that is to propose that the universe just gets bigger with every cycle. Then the amount of disorder per volume doesn't increase, so needn't reach the maximum. But Vilenkin found that this scenario falls prey to the same mathematical argument as eternal inflation: if your universe keeps getting bigger, it must have started somewhere.

      End quote. In fact all current models fall short of showing that the universe is eternal. Vilenkin says, "All the evidence we have says that the universe had a beginning."
      Finely, the universe has been expanding for 13.7 billion years so why think that it will reverse into a crunch? It certainly appears that the universe has been expanding for a very long time and will continue to do so.

      Physics aside, on the model presented in the video, we would be back to Oppy’s idea that it is a brute fact that the contingent universe exists somehow avoiding the rule that all contingent objects have a cause. Also, what about the problem of first motion? The initial state of the universe which is a contingent object composed of objects would need to have its motion actualized by something else, but on the naturalistic model there is nothing else to actualize its motion.

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    6. I don't think you understood the video.

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    7. James A. Lindsay wrote: “Also, "qualitative" infinity is a straw man now. This is directly predicated on the acceptance of the axiom of infinity. Reject infinity instead? No infinity for God. Your choice."

      I’m not exactly sure what you mean here as you did not provide support for your claim that I’ve made a straw man out of your argument. You seem to have misunderstood me as qualitative and infinity doesn’t go together as a quality is not infinite. I have rejected an actual infinite as an actual infinite probably can’t be instantiated. God’s omni-attributes are qualitative so there is no need to think that God has an actual infinite of anything.

      James A. Lindsay wrote: “Also, if you're just going to come here and parrot William Lane Craig, don't waste my time.”
      My thinking has been highly influenced by the thinking of William Lane Craig, but the arguments and ideas I have presented here and in the thread of your previous post go way beyond Craig. I incorporate his ideas and a host of other thinkers into my own thoughts.

      Besides, even if I was just parroting WLC’s ideas that does not to invalidate the ideas. A good argument needs to be dealt with regardless of the source. Even if I got the good idea from the back of a box of cereal, you as a rational person would need to deal with the argument.

      James A. Lindsay wrote: “Against my better judgment, Keith, I actually read one of your comments this time. Let me respond very briefly and speaking very generally…You are uncomfortable with not knowing an answer, and you are desperate for them. You are looking at questions that philosophy cannot answer using philosophy to try to do it, and in not finding the answer you crave, you're punting to an unfalsifiable hypothesis to stuff in the hole. Your mind abhors a vacuum, which could be good if turned to the noble state called "curiosity," but instead, you are stuffing your curiosity away and using the worthless proxy of supernaturalism (therefore God therefore Christianity, both non sequiturs) to cover up for a psychological need for attributions.”

      First of all, thanks for your candor. Apparently you hadn’t bothered (or dared perhaps) to read my previous arguments including the ones from the last thread. I’m thankful that, for whatever reason, you’ve decided to come out of the safety of the echo chamber of atheist comboxes and face arguments from the other side.

      Secondly, this is the genetic fallacy. Even if my beliefs arose from “a physiological need for attributions” it doesn’t follow that God doesn’t exist or that Christianity is false. I could, if I wanted to be irrational as you, turn the tables on you, and just as fallaciously assert that your atheism arose from a psychological need to escape a cosmic father figure.

      My belief that theism (particularly the Christian variety) is true arises from my belief that naturalism is highly implausible.

      Thirdly, you’re insinuation that I’m promoting a God of the gap arguments shows that you didn’t bother (or dare perhaps) to read my arguments, and what you did read you didn’t understand because the abductive argument I’ve alluded to here and presented in the last thread is not a God of the gaps argument. It’s an inference to the best explanation that shows that theism is much more plausible and probable than naturalism.

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    8. "Apparently you hadn’t bothered (or dared perhaps) to read my previous arguments"

      Bothered. You haven't demonstrated you are worth my time, even after I gave you quite a lot of it in the past.

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    9. James A. Lindsay wrote: “I don't think you understood the video.”

      Well, if you think that you have a superior understanding of it then explain where I went wrong. Of course you should realize that there is a distinction between misunderstanding something and disagreeing with that thing.

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    10. James A. Lindsay wrote: “Bothered. You haven't demonstrated you are worth my time, even after I gave you quite a lot of it in the past.”

      Somebody who responds with pithy, juvenile schoolyard taunts and name calling is not worth your time, but someone, like myself, who cogently challenges your claims and arguments and presents valid (and I would argue sound) arguments needs to be dealt with if you are going to call yourself a rational person. As I said before, if you are not willing or are not able to defend your claims and arguments then they are worthless.

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    11. It's not your arguments I object to replying to, Keith. It's you. Long-winded rebuttals of less-sound stuff than you think.

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    12. James A. Lindsay wrote: “It's not your arguments I object to replying to, Keith. It's you. Long-winded rebuttals of less-sound stuff than you think.”

      First of all, I think I do a pretty good job of balancing brevity and meaty-ness. My rebuttals may not be as meaty and substantive as a philosophy paper, but, at the same time, my replies are not 15 pages long. A good reply requires a decent number of words to be written.

      Secondly, if you think that my arguments aren’t sound then create a counterargument explaining why they’re wrong. You’re merely asserting that they aren’t sound.

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