Reason / Science / Religion

Christianity, Islam, Other Religions & Belief Systems.

Moderators: Blip, DarthHelmet86

Re: Reason / Science / Religion

#41  Postby Will S » Jun 19, 2010 10:43 am

Sophie / Cassie

It's an interesting line of thought - though I do wish that some real theist would deign to join the discussion. In the meantime, may I have a go? :angel:

I believe that (a) evolution happened and (b) the evidence for it is overwhelming. So plainly I have to face the question: Why should anybody think that evolution didn't happen? I can think of various explanations which might apply, singly or in combination, in different cases:

1. They've got a wrong idea of what the theory of evolution actually claims.

2. They've never studied the evidence for evolution in sufficient detail

3. They're too dim to understand the evidence, even if they did study it

4. Their religious beliefs and indoctrination have put them into a state of what psychologists call 'denial'

5. They've got some ulterior motive for pretending to disbelieve in evolution, whilst knowing perfectly well that it's true

(I've listed these explanations in rough order of insult. :tongue2: )

But, I hope, that before I say anything so derogatory about my fellow humans, I'll look very hard and critically at my own beliefs about evolution, and make sure that I can find no fault with them.

So I suppose that if anybody has a strong and sincere belief about anything, then he's similarly got to face the issue: why should anybody think differently? So, assuming that James Spiegel sincerely believes that theism is true, he's got a perfect right to explore the question of why people disagree with him.

Surely, though, if he is going to claim (as you know, I haven't read the book) that atheists are perverse people who simply want to go on sinning, then he's got to do two things. He's got to have really good evidence for his own beliefs, and he's to eliminate all other reasons for why people should disagree with him.

In sum, I'd be inclined to acquit of nastiness, if two conditions are met. First, he must either have good evidence for theism, or, at least, it must appear as though he's conscientiously gone into the subject, and he sincerely believes he has good evidence. Secondly, he must have conscientiously and charitably examined and rejected all the alternative explanations of why people might be atheists.

How does he do on these tests?
'To a thinking person, a paradox is what the smell of burning rubber is to an electrical engineer' - Sir Peter Medawar (adapted)
Will S
THREAD STARTER
 
Posts: 1336
Male

United Kingdom (uk)
Print view this post

Ads by Google


Re: Reason / Science / Religion

#42  Postby Sophie T » Jun 19, 2010 5:10 pm

Will S wrote:Sophie / Cassie

It's an interesting line of thought - though I do wish that some real theist would deign to join the discussion. In the meantime, may I have a go? :angel:

I believe that (a) evolution happened and (b) the evidence for it is overwhelming. So plainly I have to face the question: Why should anybody think that evolution didn't happen? I can think of various explanations which might apply, singly or in combination, in different cases:

1. They've got a wrong idea of what the theory of evolution actually claims.

2. They've never studied the evidence for evolution in sufficient detail

3. They're too dim to understand the evidence, even if they did study it

4. Their religious beliefs and indoctrination have put them into a state of what psychologists call 'denial'

5. They've got some ulterior motive for pretending to disbelieve in evolution, whilst knowing perfectly well that it's true

(I've listed these explanations in rough order of insult. :tongue2: )

But, I hope, that before I say anything so derogatory about my fellow humans, I'll look very hard and critically at my own beliefs about evolution, and make sure that I can find no fault with them.

So I suppose that if anybody has a strong and sincere belief about anything, then he's similarly got to face the issue: why should anybody think differently? So, assuming that James Spiegel sincerely believes that theism is true, he's got a perfect right to explore the question of why people disagree with him.

Surely, though, if he is going to claim (as you know, I haven't read the book) that atheists are perverse people who simply want to go on sinning, then he's got to do two things. He's got to have really good evidence for his own beliefs, and he's to eliminate all other reasons for why people should disagree with him.

In sum, I'd be inclined to acquit of nastiness, if two conditions are met. First, he must either have good evidence for theism, or, at least, it must appear as though he's conscientiously gone into the subject, and he sincerely believes he has good evidence. Secondly, he must have conscientiously and charitably examined and rejected all the alternative explanations of why people might be atheists.

How does he do on these tests?


/Cassie again. ;)

Will, if and when you read the book, you'll probably find plenty of things that I missed. I found myself getting so disgusted as I was reading the book that I am sure there are some parts of it I have not read as thoroughly as I could have. I may have to read the book a second time.

On your two tests:

1. He says in his book that he is not attempting to argue that Christianity is true. In fact, in responding to someone on a web page (I'd have to go and locate the exact instance of it), he told the person that, in his book, he wasn't arguing that atheism was false, he was assuming it was false. In assuming that atheism is false, I guess this means that his book is written on the assumption that theism is true. Also, in the introduction of his book, he admits that he is assuming that the Bible is true. Having said that, I would say that he sincerely believes Christianity is true. However, I think that he would say that the reason he believes Christianity (as opposed to just theism) is true is because God has "opened his eyes" to this "truth." I think he would probably say that he does, in fact, have arguments to support his belief, but in his book, he claims that in talking with atheists, Christians should expect their arguments to "fall on deaf ears." (More nastiness from him.)

2. To your second point--I don't think that he has "conscientiously and charitably examined and rejected all the alternative explanations of why people might be atheists." Since what he writes in his book is based on the assumption that the Bible is true, I don't think he feels the need to look too far for exaplanations. Yet, the strange thing is that he does seem to offer extra-biblical explanations. It's as if he's playing a game, where on the one hand, he appeals to the Bible as an authority. And yet, on the other hand, he argues as if he has objective evidence. He goes back and forth between the two, I think, in order to confuse the reader--which he does very well. It's a muddled mess of ideas. When referring to extrabiblical support, he offers his "theory" that atheism is caused by what he calls a "broken" relationship with one's father combined with a spirit of moral rebellion. He says that atheists "willfully" reject God, as if this is a bad thing. He says that atheists do not reject God because of lack of evidence. He claims the evidence is there in plain sight for all to see. Then he goes to assign ulterior motives to atheists, claiming that their rejection of God is a "moral problem." What's hilarious is that he's a Calvinist. In one of his books, he admits to a belief that God controls the will. In that same book, he writes, "We cannot choose God unless he first chooses us." Given his Calvinistic perspective, one wonders why he writes a whole book, full of insults toward atheists, when his Calvinistic perspective makes it clear that the reason people are atheists is because God himself created them to be atheists.

I think your conclusion of nastiness is fair and accurate. One thing he writes in his book is that, "Turnabout is fair play." It seems to me that this book is merely James Spiegel's attempt to bash atheists under the guise of presenting some sort of "relevant research." And I would say further that Spiegel's motives have to do with giving people what they want. Right now, there are a lot of Christians who seem to be angry that more and more atheists are vocal in their criticisms of Christianity. Because they are angry, there is a market for a book just like this one, which provides Christians with biblical justification not only for bashing atheists but for dismissing the criticisms and questions of atheists.
It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.
~ Excerpt from William Ernest Henley's Invictus
Sophie T
 
Posts: 801
Female

United States (us)
Print view this post

Re: Reason / Science / Religion

#43  Postby katja z » Jun 19, 2010 7:18 pm

Sophie T wrote:
It seems to me that this book is merely James Spiegel's attempt to bash atheists under the guise of presenting some sort of "relevant research." And I would say further that Spiegel's motives have to do with giving people what they want. Right now, there are a lot of Christians who seem to be angry that more and more atheists are vocal in their criticisms of Christianity. Because they are angry, there is a market for a book just like this one, which provides Christians with biblical justification not only for bashing atheists but for dismissing the criticisms and questions of atheists.

I think you've hit the nail on the head, CassieSophie. I'm beginning to have an idea, if I ever run out of money (a very real possibility with my, er, job), I can always write an atheist-bashing book. Or maybe an athiest-bashing one, there should be an even bigger market for that. :naughty2:

What does Cassie have to say about this? (Er, I mean your diagnosis, not my book idea.)
User avatar
katja z
RS Donator
 
Posts: 5353
Age: 39

European Union (eur)
Print view this post

Re: Reason / Science / Religion

#44  Postby Sophie T » Jun 19, 2010 8:33 pm

katja z wrote:
Sophie T wrote:
It seems to me that this book is merely James Spiegel's attempt to bash atheists under the guise of presenting some sort of "relevant research." And I would say further that Spiegel's motives have to do with giving people what they want. Right now, there are a lot of Christians who seem to be angry that more and more atheists are vocal in their criticisms of Christianity. Because they are angry, there is a market for a book just like this one, which provides Christians with biblical justification not only for bashing atheists but for dismissing the criticisms and questions of atheists.

I think you've hit the nail on the head, CassieSophie. I'm beginning to have an idea, if I ever run out of money (a very real possibility with my, er, job), I can always write an atheist-bashing book. Or maybe an athiest-bashing one, there should be an even bigger market for that. :naughty2:

What does Cassie have to say about this? (Er, I mean your diagnosis, not my book idea.)


[Cassie Calvinist speaking]: Katja, thank you for asking Cassie to share her views. Cassie's understanding is that the book that Dr. Spiegel wrote would, understandably, draw the ire of some people. However, Cassie feels confident that Dr. Spiegel only had the best of intentions in mind when he wrote the book. Cassie's understanding is that Dr. Spiegel (who is a very nice man has been unfairly demonized by certain people to such an extent that Cassie could not even repeat such demonizations in polite company) only intended to write a book that would show what moral psychology says about atheism. It just so happens that the Bible substantiates the findings of such psychology. Now Cassie could be wrong about all of this. She has been wrong before, and she could be wrong again. If Cassie is wrong, she invites, yes invites others to, in a spirit of intellectual honesty and genuine concern, show her where she is wrong, in which case Cassie will (with God's help)humbly apologise for her errors. :angel:
It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.
~ Excerpt from William Ernest Henley's Invictus
Sophie T
 
Posts: 801
Female

United States (us)
Print view this post

Re: Reason / Science / Religion

#45  Postby Will S » Jun 20, 2010 8:36 am

Sophie T wrote:It seems to me that this book is merely James Spiegel's attempt to bash atheists under the guise of presenting some sort of "relevant research." And I would say further that Spiegel's motives have to do with giving people what they want. Right now, there are a lot of Christians who seem to be angry that more and more atheists are vocal in their criticisms of Christianity. Because they are angry, there is a market for a book just like this one, which provides Christians with biblical justification not only for bashing atheists but for dismissing the criticisms and questions of atheists.

They certainly have had it their own way for a long time - so, in a way, their anger is understandable.

Time was when religion was almost a taboo subject; you didn't question people's religious beliefs. It was OK to to admit that you were an agnostic (but not a nasty belligerent atheist), so long as you were decently humble about it, and explained how much you envied them their faith. Or sometimes, in private, atheists would put it a bit more crudely: 'You wouldn't kick away a cripple's crutch, would you?'

(Well that was the British scene, anyway.)

So it's understandable that some people get very upset by the belligerent atheism of Dawkins, Hitchins, and the rest. It's as if the terrier had deposited a dead rat in the middle of the drawing room carpet ...
'To a thinking person, a paradox is what the smell of burning rubber is to an electrical engineer' - Sir Peter Medawar (adapted)
Will S
THREAD STARTER
 
Posts: 1336
Male

United Kingdom (uk)
Print view this post

Re: Reason / Science / Religion

#46  Postby grahbudd » Jun 21, 2010 11:38 am

Will S wrote:[Following discussions in a couple of other threads, 'Non-theists - why should I not believe? ' and 'Redefining Faith', I have been motivated, for better or for worse, to write the following mini-essay. Need I add that comments and criticisms will be welcome?]


    Reason is all very well. It is enormously powerful; it has solved lots of problems. But it has its limits; there are issues which reason cannot address, and problems which it cannot solve.
This is, clearly, more controversial, and more difficult to argue. Can it be argued at all?

I think we have to accept that there may well be issues which reason can't address, and problems which it cannot solve. (Perhaps we should say human reason, but this isn't very helpful, because it's not easy to see how we could ever comprehend super-human reason!) This conclusion seems obvious once we recognise that our brains evolved to deal with a particular set of problems relating to reproduction and survival. So it seems likely that there are problems which our brains simply can't cope with – for example, perhaps the problem of consciousness is one of them. (Indeed, what seems to me to be so surprising is not that human reason is limited, but that, considering its origin, it can achieve so much.)

But if human reason is limited in this way, can the religious person tell us how to overcome these limitations? As far as I can see, he can't – he's in the same boat as the rest of us.


Of course, this was all very tempting Will!

First off, when you posit the hypothetical "Reason is all very well. It is enormously powerful; it has solved lots of problems. But it has its limits; there are issues which reason cannot address, and problems which it cannot solve.", and wonder if this can be argued: the answer is surely that it has been so argued, most powerfully of course by Kant in the Critique of Pure Reason. Here he tries to show (and his attempt has been certainly influential!) that reason has a definite structure and limits; and that although it is tremendously successful when it sticks with its own remit, it is tempted to go astray by applying itself to problems where it should keep away. Kant attempts to illustrate these problems with his four Antinomies:

"the limitation of the universe in respect of space and time,
the theory that the whole consists of indivisible atoms (whereas, in fact, none such exist),
the problem of free will in relation to universal causality
the existence of a necessary being"

The pro- and anti- argument for each can be argued from pure reason, Kant argues; and thus one is led into contradiction. The reason these problems arise are that they attempt to divorce reason from its proper realm of empirical observation. As a necessary being, or the universe from outside its limitations; or our own viewpoint cannot be viewed empirically, it follows that these sorts of questions are not open to what we would nowadays call scientific method.

Now it may be that the limits to scientific empiricism are not fixed, but are themselves open to empirical modification; in which case, the precise content of the scope of reason will itself vary: fair enough. Nevertheless, whenever reason strays beyond its empirical limits, it will (Kant argues!) get itself into trouble.

What, then, is the status of such material that lies outside the remit of science thus considered? I think it's fair to say that a standard response would be "these questions are meaningless, or at best uninteresting"; which is in a sense an attempt to prove a certain point of view (e.g. "only the results of science are of interest or value") by definition.

Let me take an example that has recently been aired in this well-publicised article (really opinion piece) in PNAS:

http://www.pnas.org/content/107/10/4499.full

Now in my view, this is a rather low-quality work that simply asserts what it wants to be true, ie that humans do not have free will, and that the legal system should reflect this. There are many technical and non-technical problems with it I think; but in essence, the point to make would surely be: whatever our theoretical view of our own freedom or not, our practical experience must surely always at its root have a conviction that we have free-will in some sense. In other words, even if we persuade ourselves we have no free will (although this would be then akin to "persuading" a table of something if we really have no free-will?), it would simply be impossible rationally to act on such a proposition. For our start, our belief would be itself logically detemined, and thus not a freely-held belief, ie it would be irrational (one might argue!). To put it another way: knowing we have no free will, how do we then act? seems to embody a sort of contradiction.

Now I agree with Kant that the question of human free will seems to be antinomial: one can argue to both conclusions. But we do not have the right empirical insights to judge one way or another; properly taken, the question is transcendental. But it does not seem to be without interest or importance for us, even if the whole question intrudes into our lives in what is essentially a non-scientific manner. It is, in short, a question of practical, rather than pure reason, as Kant would put it. And one can argue that that is true for many questions of utmost importance to us. To insist (as I suspect WillS might well do!) on asking " but what is the truth content of such propositions"? is to miss the point - or rather, to fall prey to the temptations that pure reason offers...
grahbudd
 
Posts: 820

Print view this post

Re: Reason / Science / Religion

#47  Postby Will S » Jun 21, 2010 2:33 pm

Well, well, well - what a delightful surprise! A real, live theist joins the discussion - and, not just any real, live theist, but Grahbudd!

Just for the next couple of days I am much tied up with family matters, but come Wednesday or Thursday I'll respond.
'To a thinking person, a paradox is what the smell of burning rubber is to an electrical engineer' - Sir Peter Medawar (adapted)
Will S
THREAD STARTER
 
Posts: 1336
Male

United Kingdom (uk)
Print view this post

Ads by Google


Re: Reason / Science / Religion

#48  Postby Ian Tattum » Jun 21, 2010 3:51 pm

Will S wrote:
Sophie T wrote:Hello, Will. Cassie Calvinist here. May I offer a few thoughts? May I suggest the possibility (and of course, it's just a possibility, I'm not saying it's a fact) that the reason atheists and non-Christians fail to "see" God is because they are cognitively busted, so to speak? I mean, think about it. So many people in this world do see God, and only a minority of people fail to see him. What if the atheist's failure to see God is simply a result of atheists having some sort of cognitive malfunction, in the same way that some people are color blind or mentally ill or blind? And what if certain activities could be proven to improve cognition so that such a cognitive malfunction could possibly be corrected in which case that person's paradigm induced blindness (just a theory remember) would disappear?

Edit: By the way, Cassie should point out that these are not Cassie's ideas but a paraphrase of ideas that Christian Calvinist apologist James Spiegel has batted around in his book, The Making of an Atheist.

I think there are two things here. The idea that we atheists are suffering from a kind of cognitive malfunction seems very implausible. I've never met a blind person who denied that other people can see, and I've never met a colour blind person who denied that other people can discriminate between colours which seem the same to him. Surely, in such cases, the people who have the appropriate cognitive ability can find ways of demonstrating that they possess it to those who don't.

I fear that, lurking behind this idea is something a good deal nastier: the idea that 'you atheists know perfectly well that there is a God, only you pretend there isn't'.

When time allows I will try and respond to some of your typically challenging arguments- or leave the much better equipped Grahbudd to do the hard work :grin: - but your point reminded me of a saying of the celebrated anti-realist theologian Don Cupitt: In his heart of hearts Karl Barth knew there was no God :cheers:
Ian Tattum
 
Posts: 1571

United Kingdom (uk)
Print view this post

Re: Reason / Science / Religion

#49  Postby Ian Tattum » Jun 21, 2010 4:06 pm

Will S wrote:Sophie / Cassie

It's an interesting line of thought - though I do wish that some real theist would deign to join the discussion. In the meantime, may I have a go? :angel:

I believe that (a) evolution happened and (b) the evidence for it is overwhelming. So plainly I have to face the question: Why should anybody think that evolution didn't happen? I can think of various explanations which might apply, singly or in combination, in different cases:

1. They've got a wrong idea of what the theory of evolution actually claims.

2. They've never studied the evidence for evolution in sufficient detail

3. They're too dim to understand the evidence, even if they did study it

4. Their religious beliefs and indoctrination have put them into a state of what psychologists call 'denial'

5. They've got some ulterior motive for pretending to disbelieve in evolution, whilst knowing perfectly well that it's true

(I've listed these explanations in rough order of insult. :tongue2: )

But, I hope, that before I say anything so derogatory about my fellow humans, I'll look very hard and critically at my own beliefs about evolution, and make sure that I can find no fault with them.


I have often asked myself that question! I temporarily rejected evolution when I was about 15 and the reasons were a combination of Jehovah's Witness propaganda and the realisation that my science teacher did not understand the subject very well and was merely engaging with the evidence as received opinion- like most of my many changes of opinion that phase only lasted a couple of weeks!
I am always surprised by how many reasonable people have severe doubts and the ones I interrogate usually have a very firm commitment to another scientific field- usually engineering- have problems with the latest ideas of deep time and/or are not very interested in biological theories even if they are fascinated by less abstract aspects of reality- eg current affairs , military history or the natural world. They seem to be less the victims of credulity than subscribers to pragmatism!
Ian Tattum
 
Posts: 1571

United Kingdom (uk)
Print view this post

Re: Reason / Science / Religion

#50  Postby grahbudd » Jun 21, 2010 10:05 pm

I think the points that WillS raise are delicate ones, and I would not want to give the impression that I think that religion (or ethics, or aesthetics...) somehow convey some sort of empirical data mysteriously not available to science. Of course, religion, and most stubbornly Christianity, which puts all of its salvific eggs in basket comprised of the events of a couple of days 2000 years ago, are not devoid of empirical claims. But in a sense, that is not the point. Of course, if Angelo, mirabile dictu, turned out to be right, and Jesus didn't actually exist, then of course (in my view, and this has been actually denied by some people!) a religion such as Christianity would be well and truly up the creek without the proverbial; and its empirical claims are open to historical analysis, just like any others. But just because the double whammy of reason and empiricism has been so amazingly successful in its own field (ie the phenomenal world) does not mean we can or should succumb to what Kant would see as the temptation of illegitimately extending to the non-empirical world. This goes just as much for the religious trying to convert religion into a sort of empirical study as much as scientists trying to make scientific claims about transcendent matters. In other words, the alarming word "transcendent" here does not mean some sort of voodoo world that only magical thinkers can make claims about: rather, it simply alerts us to the necessity that there are some things that we cannot make reason/empirical claims about of any sort at all. Or, to put it another way; there really are boundaries to reason and empiricism (that roughly correspond to the empirical world).

The question then becomes: what view are we entitled to take of the other matters? A good example here is aesthetics. Just because it is nonsensical to talk about the empirical investigation of whether or not a particular piece of music, say, is "beautiful" or not does not mean that we are not entitled to make just such an assertion. Once again, I accept (of course!) that there is an empirical side to such judgements. For example, one might look for symmetry, ingenuity, etc etc in a work of art and show that things thought to be beautiful tend to possess these things. But by their very nature, aesthetic judgements are subjective; and one is thus surely entitled to find one or other piece of art beautiful even in the face of such analysis. Somewhat similarly, one is (in Kant-world!) entitled to take the view that we have free will and that God exists. I say somewhat here, because he would take a stronger view: that in the case of, say, free will, it is actually necessary to take the view that we possess it, even if we can in no way prove it (and indeed, inevitably, also held to the view of universal naturalistic causality at the same time as his doctrine of freedom). To complain that freedom, or even God, are incompatible with "universal naturalistic causality" is to make the (in Kant's view!) invalid move of turning freedom, God, etc, into phenomena, when they are not (they are transcendental). This sounds bonkers; but actually this tension is something within everyone: I am sure nearly everyone on this forum accepts "universal naturalistic causality", but at the same time everyone acts as if they have free will; and with the exception of a few angst-laden philosophers, this allegedly glaring contradiction doesn't seem to do us any harm. A good, if weighty discussion of these matters is given in

http://www.arts.cornell.edu/phil/homepages/pereboom/KTFprfin2.pdf
grahbudd
 
Posts: 820

Print view this post

Re: Reason / Science / Religion

#51  Postby Sophie T » Jun 22, 2010 7:48 pm

grahbudd wrote:

The question then becomes: what view are we entitled to take of the other matters? A good example here is aesthetics. Just because it is nonsensical to talk about the empirical investigation of whether or not a particular piece of music, say, is "beautiful" or not does not mean that we are not entitled to make just such an assertion.

. . . Somewhat similarly, one is (in Kant-world!) entitled to take the view that we have free will and that God exists.


Hello. :grin:

I think a lot of what you’ve written may be way over my head, but I’d like to stab, if I may, at responding to your last post, at least part of what you said in your last post.

Isn’t there a big difference between saying that we consider a particular piece of music to be beautiful and saying that God exists?

In the first case, aren’t we merely making a statement about what we understand to be our subjective taste in music while in the second case we would be referring to the existence of a universally objective reality? For example, wouldn’t there be a big difference between saying, on the one hand, “I think this is beautiful music,” and, on the other hand, “This music is a person named God.”

In some ways, I can understand this claim that one is entitled to take the view that we have free will and that God exists. I guess I would say that one is entitled to take any view one wishes. Using this same reasoning, though, wouldn’t we also have to say, “One is entitled to take the view that pixies and elves exist?”

What I am wondering about is not so much whether or not a person is entitled to take a certain view, but whether or not it is rational or reasonable to take the view that God (or pixies and elves) exist. Shouldn’t our beliefs have some sort of solid foundation?

I’d like to understand, but . . . I’m confused.

grahbudd wrote:
I say somewhat here, because he would take a stronger view: that in the case of, say, free will, it is actually necessary to take the view that we possess it, even if we can in no way prove it (and indeed, inevitably, also held to the view of universal naturalistic causality at the same time as his doctrine of freedom). To complain that freedom, or even God, are incompatible with "universal naturalistic causality" is to make the (in Kant's view!) invalid move of turning freedom, God, etc, into phenomena, when they are not (they are transcendental).


Would you be able to elaborate a little on what you mean when you say that God, freedom, etc. are not phenomena but that they are transcendental? Does that mean that, in your view, they are ideas as opposed to objects? It's almost as if you are saying that they are ideas that make up a certain paradigm? I've read something in various apologetic materials along the lines that in order to "see" the "truth," we sometimes have to assume that certain things are true. I'm not sure if this is what you're implying or if I am way off. Either way, though -- very interesting comments. Will seems to be very happy that you are here, and I consider that to be quite a hardy and credible endorsement. Thank you for offering some new perspectives!
It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.
~ Excerpt from William Ernest Henley's Invictus
Sophie T
 
Posts: 801
Female

United States (us)
Print view this post

Re: Reason / Science / Religion

#52  Postby nunnington » Jun 23, 2010 11:17 am

Isn't causality itself transcendental, in the Kantian sense? That is, there is no naturalistic evidence for it, and it has to be assumed axiomatically. But I guess this is true of the whole of mathematics.

OK, some Kantian expert can now blow me out of the water. I don't mind, I'm a Christian.
je suis Marxiste, tendance Groucho.
nunnington
 
Posts: 3980

Print view this post

Re: Reason / Science / Religion

#53  Postby grahbudd » Jun 23, 2010 11:40 am

Yes, that's right. The phrase "nothing happens without a cause" can't be analysed empirically; nor can it be shown to be true analytically. Yet it is the basis of our experience. Kant tries to show that logically, the only sort of experience we can have is structured under such heads as "causality".
grahbudd
 
Posts: 820

Print view this post

Re: Reason / Science / Religion

#54  Postby Cito di Pense » Jun 23, 2010 11:48 am

grahbudd wrote:Yet it is the basis of our experience.


Only theologians really depend on the metaphysical concept. People of superior intelligence conduct their discourse in terms of probabilities.
Хлопнут без некролога. -- Серге́й Па́влович Королёв

Translation by Elbert Hubbard: Do not take life too seriously. You're not going to get out of it alive.
User avatar
Cito di Pense
 
Name: Fay Smask
Posts: 29233
Age: 23
Male

Country: The Heartland
Mongolia (mn)
Print view this post

Re: Reason / Science / Religion

#55  Postby Will S » Jun 23, 2010 11:50 am

First of all ... hello, Grahbudd! Good to encounter you again. :cheers:

I have to admit, though, that I fear that we may be doomed to rerun discussions which we've already had, so I see it as a challenge to try to find a new perspective, a fresh line of approach.

May I start by asking a question, to which I think I know the answer? Picking up the last sentence from your first post:
grahbudd wrote:To insist (as I suspect WillS might well do!) on asking " but what is the truth content of such propositions"? is to miss the point - or rather, to fall prey to the temptations that pure reason offers...

By 'such propositions', I think it's clear that you mean religious propositions, such as 'God exists', 'Jesus died for our sins', 'There is a life after death'. Am I right?

You're chiding me for rabbiting on about the truth content of such propositions. And you're not just chiding me for daring to presume that we might come up with some assessment of their truth content (that is, you're not enjoining us all to a humble agnosticism); you appear to be saying that their truth content is, in some important sense, irrelevant. Again, am I right?

Frankly, this is the point at which I cease to able to follow you. I can see only two possible explanations of my disability: either I lack necessary intellectual equipment to follow you ... or you're talking nonsense. Since you (presumably!) think it's the former, all I can reasonably say is ... spare me not! Even if I can't understand, try, at least, to make me see that there is a problem in my intellectual equipment, which does not exist in yours.

Finally, may I refer you to a couple of quotes from C S Lewis in the OP. Here are the two relevant paragraphs:
Will S wrote:It seems to me that, these days, only a very few people ever claim that the truth of religion can be established by reason, and these are mostly on the evangelical fringe. However, at one time the view was fairly widespread. For example, in Victorian times, a prize was offered for the best essay on 'the best way of proving Christianity to the Hindus'. Note the word prove; it's not easy to imagine even the Templeton Foundation funding such a competition today!

Indeed, you can see this approach largely preserved in the work of Christian apologists of the previous generation, who tended to argue that anybody who approached the subject with an open mind would probably end up a theist and a Christian. For better or for worse, they relied on reason. For example, C S Lewis wrote: ' I am not asking anyone to accept Christianity if his best reasoning tells him that the weight of the evidence is against it.' Also, he puts these words into the mouth of a senior devil advising a junior devil on how to bring a man to perdition: 'The great thing is to make him value an opinion for some quality other than truth'.

Are you saying that C S Lewis is, like me, 'miss(ing) the point' or 'fall(ing) prey to the temptations which pure reason offers? For it rather looks to me as if, like Screwtape, you are advocating the idea of 'valuing an opinion for some quality other than truth.' Are you lining up with Screwtape against CSL? :shock:
'To a thinking person, a paradox is what the smell of burning rubber is to an electrical engineer' - Sir Peter Medawar (adapted)
Will S
THREAD STARTER
 
Posts: 1336
Male

United Kingdom (uk)
Print view this post

Ads by Google


Re: Reason / Science / Religion

#56  Postby Cito di Pense » Jun 23, 2010 12:05 pm

grahbudd wrote:Of course, if Angelo, mirabile dictu, turned out to be right, and Jesus didn't actually exist, then of course (in my view, and this has been actually denied by some people!) a religion such as Christianity would be well and truly up the creek without the proverbial; and its empirical claims are open to historical analysis, just like any others. But just because the double whammy of reason and empiricism has been so amazingly successful in its own field (ie the phenomenal world) does not mean we can or should succumb to what Kant would see as the temptation of illegitimately extending to the non-empirical world. This goes just as much for the religious trying to convert religion into a sort of empirical study as much as scientists trying to make scientific claims about transcendent matters. In other words, the alarming word "transcendent" here does not mean some sort of voodoo world that only magical thinkers can make claims about: rather, it simply alerts us to the necessity that there are some things that we cannot make reason/empirical claims about of any sort at all. Or, to put it another way; there really are boundaries to reason and empiricism (that roughly correspond to the empirical world).


Put more parsimoniously (i.e., succinctly), people have a tendency to engage in wishful thinking. When they start bending some spoons with their wishes, I'll start to pay attention. So far, all I'm willing to call it is diplomacy carried on by other means. I'm not one to deny that people play politics.

Woofing about "transcendent matters", and no spoons are bent? Golly, never expected to see that!
Хлопнут без некролога. -- Серге́й Па́влович Королёв

Translation by Elbert Hubbard: Do not take life too seriously. You're not going to get out of it alive.
User avatar
Cito di Pense
 
Name: Fay Smask
Posts: 29233
Age: 23
Male

Country: The Heartland
Mongolia (mn)
Print view this post

Re: Reason / Science / Religion

#57  Postby grahbudd » Jun 23, 2010 12:53 pm

That picture. I've seen it before somewhere.
grahbudd
 
Posts: 820

Print view this post

Re: Reason / Science / Religion

#58  Postby Cito di Pense » Jun 23, 2010 2:17 pm

grahbudd wrote:That picture. I've seen it before somewhere.


It appears as if you're having déja vu and amnesia at the same time.
Хлопнут без некролога. -- Серге́й Па́влович Королёв

Translation by Elbert Hubbard: Do not take life too seriously. You're not going to get out of it alive.
User avatar
Cito di Pense
 
Name: Fay Smask
Posts: 29233
Age: 23
Male

Country: The Heartland
Mongolia (mn)
Print view this post

Re: Reason / Science / Religion

#59  Postby Will S » Jun 24, 2010 8:02 am

nunnington wrote:Isn't causality itself transcendental, in the Kantian sense? That is, there is no naturalistic evidence for it, and it has to be assumed axiomatically. But I guess this is true of the whole of mathematics.

OK, some Kantian expert can now blow me out of the water. I don't mind, I'm a Christian.

grahbudd wrote:Yes, that's right. The phrase "nothing happens without a cause" can't be analysed empirically; nor can it be shown to be true analytically. Yet it is the basis of our experience. Kant tries to show that logically, the only sort of experience we can have is structured under such heads as "causality".

But this is precisely the point at which I say, 'So what?'

It's clear that we can't have a discussion / debate / argument about anything unless there are things about which we agree, axioms which we jointly adopt. And, of course, we might be (and often are) mistaken about these axioms. In some cases, it might be that, if we did the appropriate work, we'd discover that our agreed axiom was actually false. In other cases, it might be that no amount of additional work would throw any light on the truth or falsity of some agreed axiom.

Therefore, we have to face the fact that any conclusion which we might draw, and agree about, could still be entirely false.

We might not like that conclusion, but there's no way to subvert it; it's a fact of life which we simply have to live with.

But it looks to me as if religious people are constantly, and unsuccessfully, trying to subvert it, and they seem to do this is two, related, ways. Firstly, they bring in the idea that there simply must be a way to arrive at the truth; if reason can't do the job, then there just has to be something else which can. (I don't think it's very fashionable these days, but, once, they distinguished between Reason and Revelation; Revelation, conveniently, did the bits which Reason couldn't)

Secondly, religious people seem to claim the right to bring into the discussion axioms of their own which the other participants don't accept. To give an extreme example, I was once told that 'The existence of God is axiomatic', and I suppose that, had I been a decade or two younger, I might have been impressed. (As it was, I jeered, and I think I was right to do so.)

I'm not saying that religious people always do these things openly (though they sometimes do). I'm not even saying that they do it consciously. But it seems to me that these are notions which are for ever floating around in the fog which so often envelops discussions about religion.

Blow away the fog, I say! :angel:
'To a thinking person, a paradox is what the smell of burning rubber is to an electrical engineer' - Sir Peter Medawar (adapted)
Will S
THREAD STARTER
 
Posts: 1336
Male

United Kingdom (uk)
Print view this post

Re: Reason / Science / Religion

#60  Postby nunnington » Jun 24, 2010 11:39 am

WillS

Isn't Kant saying that some things can be known empirically, and some things, such as time and space, are pre-conditions for knowing anything? Or they are part of the structure of knowledge itself.

There are also things such as geometry which are not 'known' in the conventional sense, but engineered axiomatically. Thus you can set up non-Euclidean geometries.

I am not familiar with Kant's views on God, and so I don't know whether he would say that God is something set up axiomatically, or maybe something intuitively and directly experienced.

All you Kantians, au secours!
je suis Marxiste, tendance Groucho.
nunnington
 
Posts: 3980

Print view this post

PreviousNext

Return to Theism

Who is online

Users viewing this topic: No registered users and 1 guest