How to be an Atheist apologist?

Atheism, secularism & freethought etc.

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Re: How to be an Atheist apologist?

#121  Postby jlowder » Dec 18, 2011 10:44 am

Calilasseia wrote:Except that Draper misses the point.


:facepalm:

Hi Calilasseia -- No, with all due respect, YOU have missed the point. You are simply confused about the difference between prior probability, explanatory power, and final probability.

Prior probability: this is a measure of the plausibility of a hypothesis, i.e., its probability independent of the evidence to be explained.
Explanatory power: this is a measure of how well the hypothesis yields the data, i.e., the probability of the evidence conditional upon the hypothesis and the background information.
Final probability: the probability of the hypothesis after assessing the prior probability and explanatory power, i.e., the probability of the hypothesis on the background information and the evidence to be explained.

If someone makes shit up, we can evaluate their claims in terms of the distinction between prior probability and explanatory power, and show that whatever evidence they offer for their claims doesn't yield a high final probability.

Calilasseia wrote:Which consists of demonstrating that anyone can make shit up and pretend that reality conforms thereto, and that there is no essential difference between shit made up recently to provide a demonstration of this, and shit made up 3,000 years ago by people who thought that their magic man actually existed. At least, no one has been able to provide substantive demonstrations that their pet mythologies are anything other than assertion-laden made up shit. Trying to claim, for example, that 3,000 year old mythological made up shit is somehow "more valid" than recent made up shit, because the recent made up shit was deliberately constructed to expose the made-up-shitness of supernaturalism full stop, whilst the 3,000 year old made up shit was concocted by people who actually believed it, misses the target by light years.


That paragraph is not of obvious relevance to anything I or Draper have written. First, "validity" is a concept which applies only to deductive arguments, not inductive arguments. The issue is not validity but inductive correctness. Second, you seem to be under the mistaken impression that just because theism has a higher prior probability than other forms of supernaturalism, that it somehow follows that theism has a high final probability. Final probability is the product of prior probability and explanatory power. Let's make up numbers solely for the sake of illustration. Suppose that the prior probability of deism is .1, the prior probability of theism is .15, and the final probability of theism with respect to the evidence is .0001. Would that bother you? If yes, why?

Calilasseia wrote:Likewise, trying to erect some bizarre taxonomy of made up shit, on the basis of some probabilistic calculus, is a wasted exercise. At bottom, made up shit is precisely that, and once it has been determined that a given set of assertions is basically made up shit, and therefore contains no substantive knowledge about the real world,


I am not completely sure what you are referring to by "taxonomy," but, more important, I don't think you realize how self-refuting this paragraph comes across as. How has it "been determined that a given set of assertions is basically made up shit, and therefore contains no substantive knowledge about the real world?" Is that something you know a priori? Or a posteriori? Are you 100% certain that it's made up shit or is there some chance, no matter how small (say 10^-40), that the apparently made up shit could be true? If there is any chance at all, no matter how small, that the apparently made up shit could be true (why wouldn't there be?), then you need to deal with probabilities.

Note also, BTW, that if you believe theism is "made up shit," then by definition and on your own admission, you not only lack the belief that God exists, but you also hold the positive belief that God does not exist.

Calilasseia wrote:do we really need to engage in navel gazing with respect to the taxonomic position of one brand of made up shit against another?


:coffee:

I understand you think it's "navel gazing." I think it's the logically correct way to approach these issues. If you find it boring, that's fine. I'm not claiming you have to do anything. But if you are going to claim that all supernatural claims are equally implausible, then you need to be able to back that up and deal with objections that you consider "navel gazing."
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Re: How to be an Atheist apologist?

#122  Postby Thommo » Dec 18, 2011 10:50 am

jlowder wrote:
"So-called 'new atheists' or 'brights' like Richard Dawkins like to compare believing in God to believing in flying spaghetti monsters or invisible pink unicorns But I reject these comparisons. Pastafarianism and unicornism are not even forms of supernaturalism and more generally do no important metaphysical work at all. Not to mention that pastafarianism is very specific and thus very immodest--why spaghetti instead of linguine or rigatoni or lasagna or macaroni? And unicornism is maximally incoherent--even ignoring the fact that there is significant tension between being pink and being invisible, unicorns are by definition imaginary creatures and so no existing thing could count as a unicorn. The intrinsic probability of unicornism, not to mention fairyism and leprechaunism, is zero."


Maximally uncharitable interpretation and definition of unicorns and the argument by Draper here.

Nobody would get away with the sloppy rebuttal of god(s) by asserting that god is defined to be "made up" and therefore cannot exist. The logic and uncharitability of this rebuttal are not improved simply because Draper likes debating gods but not unicorns.

The same can be said for a subjective opinion of unicorns or fairies not doing important metaphysical work.

It also strikes me as faintly ludicrous that one could point out the unlikeliness of a particular selection amongst a smallish finite set of possibilities (spaghetti as a type of pasta), without considering the unlikeliness of a particular trait selected amongst an infinite set of possibilities* (most possible loving as a specific option from the range of most loving, 2nd most loving, 3rd most loving...).

jlowder wrote:I also claimed that classical theism has a higher intrinsic probability than deism. Why? Classical theism usually entails the implicit belief that the mental, as opposed to the material, is ontologically fundamental.


In all honesty, I think any claim of probability with no well-defined sample space can be fairly dismissed as hand waving. It is a somewhat trivial observation that if we were to select one element from an infinite sample space at random, then any one element will be selected with probability = 0.

So unless we can provide good reason to stack the deck in favor of theism, or demonstrate in some way that the sample space of possible hypotheses can be fairly subdivided into finitely many symmetrical options, we have a serious issue to even remotely assert a non-zero probability.

*note that I personally don't only consider an "all loving god" to be "a god", but Draper himself stated this criterion in one of the other documents you linked earlier in the thread. Academic tradition and habit are all well and good, but they make for poor logic.
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Re: How to be an Atheist apologist?

#123  Postby jlowder » Dec 18, 2011 10:56 am

Thommo wrote:
jlowder wrote:
"So-called 'new atheists' or 'brights' like Richard Dawkins like to compare believing in God to believing in flying spaghetti monsters or invisible pink unicorns But I reject these comparisons. Pastafarianism and unicornism are not even forms of supernaturalism and more generally do no important metaphysical work at all. Not to mention that pastafarianism is very specific and thus very immodest--why spaghetti instead of linguine or rigatoni or lasagna or macaroni? And unicornism is maximally incoherent--even ignoring the fact that there is significant tension between being pink and being invisible, unicorns are by definition imaginary creatures and so no existing thing could count as a unicorn. The intrinsic probability of unicornism, not to mention fairyism and leprechaunism, is zero."


Maximally uncharitable interpretation and definition of unicorns and the argument by Draper here.

Nobody would get away with the sloppy rebuttal of god(s) by asserting that god is defined to be "made up" and therefore cannot exist. The logic and uncharitability of this rebuttal are not improved simply because Draper likes debating gods but not unicorns.


I'll bite. You're correct about God, but then of course the majority of human beings believe in God whereas I don't know of anyone who belives in the IPU. Is there anyone who professes a belief in invisible pink unicorns? Isn't part of the history of the concept of the IPU that it was invented precisely to demonstrate the implausibility of supernatural claims?

The same can be said for a subjective opinion of unicorns or fairies not doing important metaphysical work.


What metaphysical work does the IPU or fairies perform?
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Re: How to be an Atheist apologist?

#124  Postby Thommo » Dec 18, 2011 11:08 am

jlowder wrote:I'll bite. You're correct about God, but then of course the majority of human beings believe in God whereas I don't know of anyone who belives in the IPU. Is there anyone who professes a belief in invisible pink unicorns? Isn't part of the history of the concept of the IPU that it was invented precisely to demonstrate the implausibility of supernatural claims?


Yes, I think it's very likely that's part of the history, it could however have been a lucky guess (i.e. the person who thought they made up the IPU was divinely inspired or made an astronomically improbable correct hypothesis), my belief as to the history of the idea says nothing about it's veracity.

Or to put it another way, I think it's quite possible that at some point someone made up the God of Christianity, that someone made up Brahma, that someone made up the God of Islam. My knowledge of when the ideas appeared and belief that they were made up (and I'm damn certain that two out of three of these mutually contradictory origin claims was made up) says nothing to their veracity in this context.

Of course more people believe in God than in an IPU, but unless appeals to popularity became respected at some point, I fail to see the relevance of professed belief.

jlowder wrote:
The same can be said for a subjective opinion of unicorns or fairies not doing important metaphysical work.


What metaphysical work does the IPU or fairies perform?


I suppose we could add some metaphysical work for the hypothetical fairies to do, like sustaining the dreams of children and magic in the world or something, but that would only reduce their scope and thus likelihood - and frankly it seems a bit silly and redundant as far as actually estimating their mathematically based probability of existence.

If someone just says "look, I'm not interested in fairies, I really don't care if they exist, so I'm not going to talk about them" - fair dos. Suggesting some legitimacy in not discussing them because they aren't of fundamental metaphysical import (despite the consequent existence of magic) doesn't strike me as a powerful or logical argument at all!
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Re: How to be an Atheist apologist?

#125  Postby Spearthrower » Dec 18, 2011 11:14 am

jlowder wrote:
What metaphysical work does the IPU or fairies perform?


Fairies, like other belief systems, account for coincidences by extrapolating agency. They are the sprites of mischief and sometimes malice. Their metaphysical function is effectively to explain coincidence. If a man runs through a forest and trips over a hidden branch, it was effected by the fairies. Now, the believer of fairies knows full well that purely physical forces account for his fall, but he explains that he has run through the forest many times and never fallen over that branch, some agency has to be brought in to account for why he should fall this particular time.

Likewise, with the Azande people's belief in witchcraft, they know full well that termites eat wood, and that a wooden stoop roof falling on someone's head is the practical means by which that person dies, but they invoke witchcraft to explain the agency they feel is lacking in explaining the coincidence of someone happening to be sitting there just as the termites' burrowings reached a sufficient point to cause the roof to fall.

The agency element is precisely why supernatural invocations exist: to explain things beyond the remit of understanding of the believer. It's an apparent absence of causation processed through a metaphysical narrative.

As such, fairies perform precisely the same role as a god. It might have been better to have left fairies out of it and stayed with just the IPU. :thumbup:
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Re: How to be an Atheist apologist?

#126  Postby Regina » Dec 18, 2011 2:17 pm

Thanks!
Mr Draper wrote:

"So-called 'new atheists' or 'brights' like Richard Dawkins like to compare believing in God to believing in flying spaghetti monsters or invisible pink unicorns But I reject these comparisons. Pastafarianism and unicornism are not even forms of supernaturalism and more generally do no important metaphysical work at all. Not to mention that pastafarianism is very specific and thus very immodest--why spaghetti instead of linguine or rigatoni or lasagna or macaroni? And unicornism is maximally incoherent--even ignoring the fact that there is significant tension between being pink and being invisible, unicorns are by definition imaginary creatures and so no existing thing could count as a unicorn. The intrinsic probability of unicornism, not to mention fairyism and leprechaunism, is zero."

The FSM and the unicorn do no metaphysical work at all? As opposed to whom or which? Why indeed spaghetti instead of linguine? Why Yahwe instead of Zeus, say? Unicornism is maximally incoherent? Unlike, let's say Christianity, with its "omnipotent" God at its heart? If invisibility and being pink create "significant tension", so does being omnipotent and omniscient.
Gods are by definition imaginary creatures... The intrinsic probability of gods is zero.
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Re: How to be an Atheist apologist?

#127  Postby Regina » Dec 18, 2011 2:21 pm

jlowder wrote:

PR(H | E & B ) = [Pr(E | H & B) x Pr(H | B)] / Pr(E | B),

where Pr(E | B ) = Pr(E | H & B) x Pr(H | B) + Pr(E | ~H & B) x Pr(~H | B)



PR(H | E & B ) = [Pr(E | H & B) x Pr(H | B)] / Pr(E | B),

where Pr(E | B ) = Pr(E | H & B) x Pr(H | B) + Pr(E | ~H & B) x Pr(~H | B)= 42 :thumbup:
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Re: How to be an Atheist apologist?

#128  Postby purplerat » Dec 18, 2011 7:25 pm

jlowder wrote:
purplerat wrote:
jlowder wrote:
To summarize, my position is:

1. Not all supernatural hypotheses have equal intrinsic or prior probability.
2. Classical theism has a higher prior probability than other supernatural alternatives such as deism, Santa Claus, leprechauns, pastafarianism (flying spaghetti monster), invisible pink unicorns, etc., based on scope and simplicity.
3. Metaphysical naturalism, which entails a denial of supernaturalism, has an even higher prior probability than theism.
4. There are several interpretations of probability. I am a pluralist about those, but unless otherwise specified, assume that I am using the epistemic interpretation of probability.

I'm just going to simplify this a whole lot and request that you please explain #2. How is a supernatural FSM less plausible than supernatural "classical theism"?


I think I forgot to respond to this request; sorry for the delay. I'm going to respond as if we don't already know that the FSM 'hypothesis' is satire and not a sincerely held belief.

According to the original letter which introduced the FSM, the FSM "built the world to make us think the earth is older than it really is." This entails that FSM hypothesis asserts more than classical theism and thus hence has greater scope than classical theism. Pastafarianism is very specific--as Paul Draper asks, "why spaghetti instead of linguine or rigatoni or lasagna or macaroni?" Because the FSM hypothesis has greater scope than classical theism, everything else held equal, it has a lower intrinsic or prior probability.

Here is an quotation of philosopher Paul Draper on this issue:

"So-called 'new atheists' or 'brights' like Richard Dawkins like to compare believing in God to believing in flying spaghetti monsters or invisible pink unicorns But I reject these comparisons. Pastafarianism and unicornism are not even forms of supernaturalism and more generally do no important metaphysical work at all. Not to mention that pastafarianism is very specific and thus very immodest--why spaghetti instead of linguine or rigatoni or lasagna or macaroni? And unicornism is maximally incoherent--even ignoring the fact that there is significant tension between being pink and being invisible, unicorns are by definition imaginary creatures and so no existing thing could count as a unicorn. The intrinsic probability of unicornism, not to mention fairyism and leprechaunism, is zero."


I also claimed that classical theism has a higher intrinsic probability than deism. Why? Classical theism usually entails the implicit belief that the mental, as opposed to the material, is ontologically fundamental. Again, quoting Draper:

"Since multiplicity requires variety, it is more coherent (and hence more plausible) to suppose that a single mind is involved than multiple minds, and it is also more coherent to suppose that this mind will exhibit uniformity in its powers and capacities than to suppose it will exhibit variety. Thus, it is more probable intrinsically that it has no non-logical limits to its power and knowledge, and only rational desires, than that it can create some creatable things and not others, or that it knows the truth value of some knowable propositions but not others, or that it has non-rational desires that could influence it to act in a way that it knows to be bad."

Why should I think that these things apply to that which is defined as supernatural? Scope may be useful in determining relative plausibility within the natural world but why should we assume that the same follows for the supernatural? The same for simplicity or any other mechanism you are trying to apply to determine plausibility. You are taking things from the natural word and just asserting that they should also apply to the supernatural despite the fact that by definition of there's no reason to think what applies to one should apply to the other.
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Re: How to be an Atheist apologist?

#129  Postby Moonwatcher » Dec 18, 2011 7:30 pm

jlowder wrote:
Moonwatcher wrote:I don't disagree with what you're saying except in the sense that when discussing the issue with a theist and that theist is allowed to define me as having a belief (because not believing something without evidence is a belief), he is setting the core of the discussion right there, his beliefs vs. my "beliefs". But it's not. I'm not asserting that "God" or even his specific god doesn't exist or that the events of his religion didn't happen. I'm saying there is no evidence for them unless he produces evidence I don't know about.


I find this extremely interesting and I understand what you mean. I wonder, however, if there is another way to look at it. I'm inclined to think that a more likely explanation is that we have a situation where two people who speak English and use the same words (belief, God, atheism, etc.) are effectively speaking two different languages. You and the theist may even think you have a disagreement because superficially it seems you are speaking the same language, but you're not. Because you're not speaking the same language, we must distinguish the labels we assign to various positions from the positions themselves.

(snip)

Imagine the following conversation:

Moonwatcher: I'm an atheist.
Theist: Oh, so you believe that God does not exist. What's your evidence for the nonexistence of God?
Moonwatcher: No, I lack the belief that God exists. The lack of belief that God exists does not require any justification unless we first are given some reason to hold that belief.
Theist: No, you're re-defining words. Atheism is the belief God does not exist.

Rather than continue beating a dead horse, you then try this approach:

Moonwatcher: We're using the same words in different ways. Based on how YOU define the word atheist, then I'm not an atheist; I'm an agnostic. Based on how *I* define the word atheist, however, I am an atheist. If we're going to have real dialogue rather than just the illusion of communication, we're going to have to agree on a set of terminology for the discussion.
Theist: [at this point the theist will either insist on his terminology or be willing to adopt yours; either way, the difference in terminology will be explicitly acknowledged by both sides and real communication will be possible.]


Absolutely it is true that people talk all the time and talk right by each other because the words and the concepts don't mean the same thing to both of them.

Also, in real life, I've not had a discussion that got seriously bogged down in mincing definitions. I've had ones that got bogged down in circular arguments to be sure. In fact, I'm okay with someone starting with the premise that God exists and demanding I provide evidence that God doesn't exist. I'm fine with that as long as the other person will define what his god is. For example, is it the Christian god? Let's say it is. Okay, how literal are his beliefs regarding the Bible? 100%. Okay, we have something to work with, specific things that are empirically verifiable and should be there. Not 100% literal? Okay, then he needs to define what he does and does not take literally. If the person just keeps moving his god more and more into the gaps, moving the goalposts, or if his god was completely in the gaps to begin with, then there's no point in discussing it.

But when a person tends to believe things for which there is no supporting evidence to begin with and continues to believe them against evidence, it is a pointless discussion because it is not evidence against evidence but evidence against belief.
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Re: How to be an Atheist apologist?

#130  Postby purplerat » Dec 18, 2011 8:12 pm

jlowder wrote:
Hi purplerat -- Perhaps I am just being dense or even brain dead :what: , but I don't understand the first two sentences of your reply to andrewk. If you are suggesting that I think "arguing for a more appropriate or useful definition of a term equate to apologetics," then I want to make it clear that is NOT my view. In #8 of my list "How to be an Atheist Apologist," I did mention defining the approach some people take which is to define atheism as the lack of belief in God. But, for reasons I've stated earlier in this thread, I think that is a very USELESS thing to do, not a useful thing to do. Please see my post where I refer to "strategy" and "resource management."

Regarding your third sentence, I disagree that taking a pragmatic approach to definitions makes debate pointless. Granting, for the sake of discussion, that "atheism is the belief that God does not exist" does NOT equate to granting that the other person is always right. Think of a native English speaker and a native Spanish speaker, both of whom speak English and Spanish, debating what is the 'correct' way to greet someone ("hello" vs. "hola"). If the Spanish speaker agrees to speak English in a given conversation, does that mean the Spanish speaker is agreeing that "English" is always "correct." No! Nonsense! It just means the Spanish speaker is being pragmatic so the two people can communicate. In fact, if you think about it, if the word 'correct' means anything in this context at all, it is only in a relativistic sense. In other words, to borrow terminology from ethics and apply it to linguistics, I'm suggesting we should drop the pretense of 'linguistic objectivism' and instead be 'linguistic relativists': we should recognize that linguistics are relative to different cultures and different times.

Indeed, to press the analogy all the way, what you (and others who are so adamant about the atheism as the lack of belief definition) are doing is equivalent to going deep into Mexico to a city that is not a tourist town, and then being hellbent on the fact that the Mexican locals MUST speak English, despite the fact that you are, quite literally, on their turf. The point is that, everything else held equal, it seems odd, if not presumptuous, for a group representing a minority linguistic tradition or culture, to insist that the majority linguistic tradition or culture submit to the minority group's linguistic norms. (Here I am assuming that "atheism," regardless of how it is defined, is the minority position.)

Useful was my word not yours. The definition that you claim is the "majority" definition for atheist is IMO useless since it essentially makes everybody an atheist. But like I said, either way I don't see how it's apologetics or why you included it in your list of apologetics. Then again I've still yet to find the sarcasm which you claimed was part of that list.

But the real problem with the redefining of atheist/atheism as you mentioned is not the redefinition of the word itself but rather the attempt to redefine the position of the person who says they are an atheist. Here's the hypothetical conversation you posited.

Moonwatcher: I'm an atheist.
Theist: Oh, so you believe that God does not exist. What's your evidence for the nonexistence of God?
Moonwatcher: No, I lack the belief that God exists. The lack of belief that God exists does not require any justification unless we first are given some reason to hold that belief.
Theist: No, you're re-defining words. Atheism is the belief God does not exist.


What I see here is Moonwatcher stating that he is an atheist and what his position on the existence of a god is. It's the theist he is making it an argument about the definition. Moonwatcher has made it clear what his position is so why does the theist go this route? The answer is almost always that the theist isn't interested in correcting a definition but rather that it's an attempt to pigeon hole the atheist into a position that they feel comfortable arguing against. What usually happens if Moonwatcher coincides to the theist's definition of atheist is that the theist will claim Moonwatcher is not an atheist and therefore he (the theist) wins the argument. Like I said it's pretty useless to take this tact because it really never does get away from being a debate over definitions. From your own example it was the theist who took the debate away from positions and made it about definitions, which to me is a red flag that the rest of the conversion is going to be pointless.

The funny thing is that you generally don't see the opposite happen where atheist try and argue that a theist definition of what they call their position is wrong. For the most part even if somebodies beliefs/position differ a bit from generally accepted definitions of what they call themselves it's not a big deal as long as they are clear on their position as Moonwatcher was in your example. As long as a theist definition of what theism is to them isn't completely far fetched and their meaning is clear I don't bother to debate it. To do so comes off as petty and an attempt to dodge the real debate.
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Re: How to be an Atheist apologist?

#131  Postby -Sylvan » Dec 18, 2011 10:16 pm

I've been reading this thread for an hour or so now and I must say, it has been very interesting. :grin:
I was hoping that someone in this thread could recommend a few proponents of naturalistic philosophy, I haven't ever read much philosophy and have no idea where to start :ask:
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Re: How to be an Atheist apologist?

#132  Postby Calilasseia » Dec 19, 2011 12:51 am

jlowder wrote:
Calilasseia wrote:Except that Draper misses the point.


:facepalm:

Hi Calilasseia -- No, with all due respect, YOU have missed the point. You are simply confused about the difference between prior probability, explanatory power, and final probability.


Oh really? Since I've been exposing canards erected by creationists with respect to these for something like four years, I suspect your above assertion is somewhat premature.

jlowder wrote:Prior probability: this is a measure of the plausibility of a hypothesis, i.e., its probability independent of the evidence to be explained.


Tell me, how can this be determined without reference to the evidence? Please explain this. Only this is the whole point of evidence - it provides a means of separating sound from unsound postulates.

jlowder wrote:Explanatory power: this is a measure of how well the hypothesis yields the data, i.e., the probability of the evidence conditional upon the hypothesis and the background information.


Er, once we have a body of evidence available, the probability of that evidence is 1. Because it exists and has been demonstrated to exist. I think you need to inject some rigour into the above, and specify precisely what you mean.

jlowder wrote:Final probability: the probability of the hypothesis after assessing the prior probability and explanatory power, i.e., the probability of the hypothesis on the background information and the evidence to be explained.


Once again, I think you need to inject some rigour here. A worked example would be helpful.

jlowder wrote:If someone makes shit up, we can evaluate their claims in terms of the distinction between prior probability and explanatory power, and show that whatever evidence they offer for their claims doesn't yield a high final probability.


Er, excuse me, but this is what people have been doing here before you arrived.

jlowder wrote:
Calilasseia wrote:Which consists of demonstrating that anyone can make shit up and pretend that reality conforms thereto, and that there is no essential difference between shit made up recently to provide a demonstration of this, and shit made up 3,000 years ago by people who thought that their magic man actually existed. At least, no one has been able to provide substantive demonstrations that their pet mythologies are anything other than assertion-laden made up shit. Trying to claim, for example, that 3,000 year old mythological made up shit is somehow "more valid" than recent made up shit, because the recent made up shit was deliberately constructed to expose the made-up-shitness of supernaturalism full stop, whilst the 3,000 year old made up shit was concocted by people who actually believed it, misses the target by light years.


That paragraph is not of obvious relevance to anything I or Draper have written. First, "validity" is a concept which applies only to deductive arguments, not inductive arguments. The issue is not validity but inductive correctness.


Ah, if you're going to try and out-Quine me, allow me to step in here. If an argument can be couched formally in terms of the propositional calculus, then a validity test can be applied thereto.

jlowder wrote:Second, you seem to be under the mistaken impression that just because theism has a higher prior probability than other forms of supernaturalism, that it somehow follows that theism has a high final probability.


I don't think theism has a higher probability of any sort, prior or otherwise, than other forms of supernaturalism. I regard them all as having zero probability. You're addressing above ideas I never erected.

jlowder wrote:Final probability is the product of prior probability and explanatory power. Let's make up numbers solely for the sake of illustration. Suppose that the prior probability of deism is .1, the prior probability of theism is .15, and the final probability of theism with respect to the evidence is .0001. Would that bother you? If yes, why?


Well first, I'd want to know the rigorous basis upon which you arrived at those numbers. I await your convincing me that it's even possible to calculate a 'prior probability' as you have defined it above, because in the absence of evidence to sort out which hypotheses are supported by reality, and which are not, I cannot see how you can calculate this prior probability. I eagerly await your demonstrating otherwise.

jlowder wrote:
Calilasseia wrote:Likewise, trying to erect some bizarre taxonomy of made up shit, on the basis of some probabilistic calculus, is a wasted exercise. At bottom, made up shit is precisely that, and once it has been determined that a given set of assertions is basically made up shit, and therefore contains no substantive knowledge about the real world,


I am not completely sure what you are referring to by "taxonomy," but, more important, I don't think you realize how self-refuting this paragraph comes across as. How has it "been determined that a given set of assertions is basically made up shit, and therefore contains no substantive knowledge about the real world?" Is that something you know a priori? Or a posteriori? Are you 100% certain that it's made up shit or is there some chance, no matter how small (say 10^-40), that the apparently made up shit could be true? If there is any chance at all, no matter how small, that the apparently made up shit could be true (why wouldn't there be?), then you need to deal with probabilities.


When a particular collection of supernaturalist assertions, such as those found in a mythology, includes assertions that are known to be plain, flat, wrong, because the real world evidence says that they are plain, flat, wrong, then the idea that said mythology might somehow become admissible as a purported "explanation" for the universe and its contents, if only we can exercise the requisite apologetic cunning, is untenable. Allow me to give you an example. Genesis 30:37-39 contains an assertion, to the effect that it is possible to effect wholesale change in the genomes of living organisms, simply by having the parents shag alongside different coloured sticks. We know that this is complete hooey. How do we know this? Oh, that's right, evidence. Courtesy of thousands of diligent experiments conducted by an Austrian monk. Who alighted upon the real basis of inheritance.

Now, the existence of crassly stupid assertions such as the one I've just expounded upon above, within this mythology, tells me that supernaturalist claims about this mythology, to the effect that it is the product of some fantastically intelligent magic entity capable of fabricating a universe, are themselves complete hooey. Because supernaturalist assertions about this entity include the assertion that this entity is in possession of purportedly "perfect" knowledge. Yet apparently this entity, purportedly being in a position to know that human beings would find out in the future that the assertion I've expounded above is complete hooey, allowed the backward Middle Eastern nomads he chose as his ghostwriters to leave this nonsense in. It's basic, elementary facts such as this, that lead me to conclude that the probability of the fans of this mythology being right, when they claim that their pet mythology somehow dictates how reality behaves, is precisely zero. Once again, I'd like to know how the hell you arrive at non-zero numbers for your 'prior probability' calculations, given basic facts such as this.

jlowder wrote:Note also, BTW, that if you believe theism is "made up shit," then by definition and on your own admission, you not only lack the belief that God exists, but you also hold the positive belief that God does not exist.


Actually, I've reinforced the distinction with respect to this before you arrived here. Namely, that from a rigorous position, I begin by refusing to accept uncritically unsupported supernaturalist assertions, precisely because they are unsupported. However, my concluding that these assertions are made up shit arises from a different process, namely evaluating relevant evidence. It is that evidence that tells me that supernaturalist assertions are made up shit, not any a priori presuppositions, which I emphasise because all too often, I see the tiresome erection of canards by supernaturalists, to the effect that my refusal to accept uncritically their unsupported assertions as puportedly constituting established fact, somehow constitutes "presuppositions" on my part. It doesn't.

jlowder wrote:
Calilasseia wrote:do we really need to engage in navel gazing with respect to the taxonomic position of one brand of made up shit against another?


:coffee:

I understand you think it's "navel gazing." I think it's the logically correct way to approach these issues. If you find it boring, that's fine. I'm not claiming you have to do anything. But if you are going to claim that all supernatural claims are equally implausible, then you need to be able to back that up and deal with objections that you consider "navel gazing."


Which once again brings me back to real world evidence. Which is the final arbiter in these matters. At bottom, it's reality that decides whether our assertions about it are right or wrong. Unfortunately, this is a lesson that I have a hard time teaching supernaturalists, because all too frequently, they want the discoursive door left open to admit all sorts of specious claptrap and fallacious reasoning. All too often, supernaturalists seem to think that the usual standards of proper discourse shouldn't apply to their wibble. I disagree in the strongest possible terms with this, which is why I subject their assertions to a certain degree of calculated discoursive brutality, not least because it seems to be the only way to shock some of them into waking up and smelling the roses.

Now, I really would like to see you explain your approach a little better than you have done, because from where I'm standing, you appear to be saying that you possess some sort of calculus, with which you can evaluate the plausibility of a hypothesis, before bothering to determine if the real world evidence tosses that hypothesis into the bin or not. I'd like you to demonstrate this calculus in action if you possess it. Not that I'm optimistic about this, because you never bothered answering my previous questions.
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Re: How to be an Atheist apologist?

#133  Postby andrewk » Dec 19, 2011 2:42 am

-Sylvan wrote:I've been reading this thread for an hour or so now and I must say, it has been very interesting. :grin:
I was hoping that someone in this thread could recommend a few proponents of naturalistic philosophy, I haven't ever read much philosophy and have no idea where to start :ask:

It depends whether what you want to read is general philosophy written from a naturalist perspective, or philosophy that specifically argues for naturalism against supernaturalism, and most usually theism.

For the former, a great starting point is Bertrand Russell's "The Problems of Philosophy", which is available at any good library, or free in electronic form in many places on the web, such as here.

For the latter, some good old examples are David Hume's "Dialogues concerning natural religion" and Thomas Paine's "The Age of Reason", again available at good libraries or electronically on the web. For more modern material, there are many good books although only a minority of them are by philosophers. Just about anything by naturalist philosopher Peter Singer is worth a read, provided you don't mind controversy.

Daniel Dennett's "Breaking the Spell" is an intriguing, if somewhat slow paced, analysis of religion as an anthropological phenomenon.

You may enjoy some of the articles on the websites of Stephen Law, a British naturalist philosopher, or Paul Almond, who participates in this forum.

Because one should never just expose oneself to one side of an argument, there are lots of attacks on naturalism out there to read. One that I find particularly interesting, because it is different from the more common cosmological, design and moral arguments for supernaturalism, is Alvin Plantinga's "Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism". It uses some conditional probability calculations generally similar to what has been discussed here (not Bayesian though).
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Re: How to be an Atheist apologist?

#134  Postby mikegage » Dec 19, 2011 3:15 am

Jeff,

Have you read Roger White’s article Fine Tuning and Multiple Universes from Nous (2000)? Toward the end, he discusses the difference between something being improbable and surprising. I think I would say it is certainly a mistake to say M makes Pr(F/N) substantially higher, but I do actually think it makes it less surprising that we are in a universe like ours. And this point would become stronger the larger the multiverse (and I think the scientific theories positing multiverses predict them to be either quite large or infinite).

I had to skim, so sorry if this has been addressed already.
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Re: How to be an Atheist apologist?

#135  Postby Mick » Dec 19, 2011 3:56 am

Someone should tell Cali to drop his arrogant tone. He should consider himself lucky and appreciative to have this opportunity.
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Re: How to be an Atheist apologist?

#136  Postby jlowder » Dec 19, 2011 3:57 am

Hi Calilasseia --

Calilasseia wrote:
jlowder wrote:
Calilasseia wrote:Except that Draper misses the point.


:facepalm:

Hi Calilasseia -- No, with all due respect, YOU have missed the point. You are simply confused about the difference between prior probability, explanatory power, and final probability.


Oh really? Since I've been exposing canards erected by creationists with respect to these for something like four years, I suspect your above assertion is somewhat premature.

jlowder wrote:Prior probability: this is a measure of the plausibility of a hypothesis, i.e., its probability independent of the evidence to be explained.


Tell me, how can this be determined without reference to the evidence? Please explain this. Only this is the whole point of evidence - it provides a means of separating sound from unsound postulates.


With all due respect, you seem to be confused about prior probability on an epistemic interpretation. There are TWO bodies of evidence: (1) the background evidence (often or usually called background information), and (2) the specific evidence to be explained. The background evidence is what's used to determine the prior probability; the evidence to be explained is what's used to determine the explanatory power. For an example of a Bayesian argument where both the background evidence and specific evidence to be explained are explicitly stated, please see this page:

http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/2011/11/argument-from-scale-as-revisited-part-2.html

That page gives an example of a Bayesian formulation of Nicholas Everitt's "argument from scale" for atheism. I conclude the argument itself fails, but, again, that page demonstrates how prior probabilities can be based on evidence.

Calilasseia wrote:
jlowder wrote:Explanatory power: this is a measure of how well the hypothesis yields the data, i.e., the probability of the evidence conditional upon the hypothesis and the background information.


Er, once we have a body of evidence available, the probability of that evidence is 1. Because it exists and has been demonstrated to exist. I think you need to inject some rigour into the above, and specify precisely what you mean.


I don't think we are talking about the same thing. Let B is our background information (or evidence), E is the evidence for biological evolution (e.g., the fossil record, biogeography, etc.), and H is the hypothesis of evolution. In this context, "explanatory power" refers to the probability that we would find the evidence of the fossil record, biogeography, etc., on the assumption that evolution is true. It's the probability of E conditional upon H & B, i.e., Pr(E|H&B).

Calilasseia wrote:
jlowder wrote:Final probability: the probability of the hypothesis after assessing the prior probability and explanatory power, i.e., the probability of the hypothesis on the background information and the evidence to be explained.


Once again, I think you need to inject some rigour here. A worked example would be helpful.


The link I provided above contains a worked example.

Calilasseia wrote:
jlowder wrote:If someone makes shit up, we can evaluate their claims in terms of the distinction between prior probability and explanatory power, and show that whatever evidence they offer for their claims doesn't yield a high final probability.


Er, excuse me, but this is what people have been doing here before you arrived.


So what's the problem? It sounds like we agree. People "make shit up" and skeptics show that whatever evidence they offer for their claims doesn't yield a high final probability.

Calilasseia wrote:
jlowder wrote:
Calilasseia wrote:Which consists of demonstrating that anyone can make shit up and pretend that reality conforms thereto, and that there is no essential difference between shit made up recently to provide a demonstration of this, and shit made up 3,000 years ago by people who thought that their magic man actually existed. At least, no one has been able to provide substantive demonstrations that their pet mythologies are anything other than assertion-laden made up shit. Trying to claim, for example, that 3,000 year old mythological made up shit is somehow "more valid" than recent made up shit, because the recent made up shit was deliberately constructed to expose the made-up-shitness of supernaturalism full stop, whilst the 3,000 year old made up shit was concocted by people who actually believed it, misses the target by light years.


That paragraph is not of obvious relevance to anything I or Draper have written. First, "validity" is a concept which applies only to deductive arguments, not inductive arguments. The issue is not validity but inductive correctness.


Ah, if you're going to try and out-Quine me, allow me to step in here. If an argument can be couched formally in terms of the propositional calculus, then a validity test can be applied thereto.

jlowder wrote:Second, you seem to be under the mistaken impression that just because theism has a higher prior probability than other forms of supernaturalism, that it somehow follows that theism has a high final probability.


I don't think theism has a higher probability of any sort, prior or otherwise, than other forms of supernaturalism. I regard them all as having zero probability. You're addressing above ideas I never erected.


I know you don't believe that theism has a probability greater than zero. What I should have written is that "you seem to be under the mistaken impression that IF theism has a higher prior probability than other forms of supernaturalism, that it somehow follows that theism has a high final probability." This is in response to where you wrote:

Calilasseia wrote:Trying to claim, for example, that 3,000 year old mythological made up shit is somehow "more valid" than recent made up shit, because the recent made up shit was deliberately constructed to expose the made-up-shitness of supernaturalism full stop, whilst the 3,000 year old made up shit was concocted by people who actually believed it, misses the target by light years.


Moving on to your next comment.

Calilasseia wrote:
jlowder wrote:Final probability is the product of prior probability and explanatory power. Let's make up numbers solely for the sake of illustration. Suppose that the prior probability of deism is .1, the prior probability of theism is .15, and the final probability of theism with respect to the evidence is .0001. Would that bother you? If yes, why?


Well first, I'd want to know the rigorous basis upon which you arrived at those numbers. I await your convincing me that it's even possible to calculate a 'prior probability' as you have defined it above, because in the absence of evidence to sort out which hypotheses are supported by reality, and which are not, I cannot see how you can calculate this prior probability. I eagerly await your demonstrating otherwise.


Those numbers were purely for illustration; I don't claim to be able to calculate quantitative values for the sort of epistemic probabilities involved. In my writings, I never offer or estimate 'absolute' probability values; instead I use words like "high," "low," etc. which represent a range of numerical values.

Again, I made up those numbers simply as an example to find out if, in fact, you think that IF theism has a higher prior probability than other forms of supernaturalism, that it somehow follows that theism has a high final probability. Is that what you think or not?

Calilasseia wrote:
jlowder wrote:
Calilasseia wrote:Likewise, trying to erect some bizarre taxonomy of made up shit, on the basis of some probabilistic calculus, is a wasted exercise. At bottom, made up shit is precisely that, and once it has been determined that a given set of assertions is basically made up shit, and therefore contains no substantive knowledge about the real world,


I am not completely sure what you are referring to by "taxonomy," but, more important, I don't think you realize how self-refuting this paragraph comes across as. How has it "been determined that a given set of assertions is basically made up shit, and therefore contains no substantive knowledge about the real world?" Is that something you know a priori? Or a posteriori? Are you 100% certain that it's made up shit or is there some chance, no matter how small (say 10^-40), that the apparently made up shit could be true? If there is any chance at all, no matter how small, that the apparently made up shit could be true (why wouldn't there be?), then you need to deal with probabilities.


When a particular collection of supernaturalist assertions, such as those found in a mythology, includes assertions that are known to be plain, flat, wrong, because the real world evidence says that they are plain, flat, wrong, then the idea that said mythology might somehow become admissible as a purported "explanation" for the universe and its contents, if only we can exercise the requisite apologetic cunning, is untenable. Allow me to give you an example. Genesis 30:37-39 contains an assertion, to the effect that it is possible to effect wholesale change in the genomes of living organisms, simply by having the parents shag alongside different coloured sticks. We know that this is complete hooey. How do we know this? Oh, that's right, evidence. Courtesy of thousands of diligent experiments conducted by an Austrian monk. Who alighted upon the real basis of inheritance.


And, again, if "the real world evidence" shows that some idea is "plain, flat, wrong," I suggest that it is not because the real world evidence entails that the idea is false, but because the evidence makes it highly probable that the idea is false.

Calilasseia wrote:Now, the existence of crassly stupid assertions such as the one I've just expounded upon above, within this mythology, tells me that supernaturalist claims about this mythology, to the effect that it is the product of some fantastically intelligent magic entity capable of fabricating a universe, are themselves complete hooey. Because supernaturalist assertions about this entity include the assertion that this entity is in possession of purportedly "perfect" knowledge. Yet apparently this entity, purportedly being in a position to know that human beings would find out in the future that the assertion I've expounded above is complete hooey, allowed the backward Middle Eastern nomads he chose as his ghostwriters to leave this nonsense in. It's basic, elementary facts such as this, that lead me to conclude that the probability of the fans of this mythology being right, when they claim that their pet mythology somehow dictates how reality behaves, is precisely zero. Once again, I'd like to know how the hell you arrive at non-zero numbers for your 'prior probability' calculations, given basic facts such as this.


See above and my earlier posts.

Calilasseia wrote:
jlowder wrote:Note also, BTW, that if you believe theism is "made up shit," then by definition and on your own admission, you not only lack the belief that God exists, but you also hold the positive belief that God does not exist.


Actually, I've reinforced the distinction with respect to this before you arrived here. Namely, that from a rigorous position, I begin by refusing to accept uncritically unsupported supernaturalist assertions, precisely because they are unsupported. However, my concluding that these assertions are made up shit arises from a different process, namely evaluating relevant evidence. It is that evidence that tells me that supernaturalist assertions are made up shit, not any a priori presuppositions, which I emphasise because all too often, I see the tiresome erection of canards by supernaturalists, to the effect that my refusal to accept uncritically their unsupported assertions as puportedly constituting established fact, somehow constitutes "presuppositions" on my part. It doesn't.


Cool. I've been accused of having a priori presuppositions also, so I know how annoying it is.

Calilasseia wrote:
jlowder wrote:
Calilasseia wrote:do we really need to engage in navel gazing with respect to the taxonomic position of one brand of made up shit against another?


:coffee:

I understand you think it's "navel gazing." I think it's the logically correct way to approach these issues. If you find it boring, that's fine. I'm not claiming you have to do anything. But if you are going to claim that all supernatural claims are equally implausible, then you need to be able to back that up and deal with objections that you consider "navel gazing."


Which once again brings me back to real world evidence. Which is the final arbiter in these matters. At bottom, it's reality that decides whether our assertions about it are right or wrong. Unfortunately, this is a lesson that I have a hard time teaching supernaturalists, because all too frequently, they want the discoursive door left open to admit all sorts of specious claptrap and fallacious reasoning. All too often, supernaturalists seem to think that the usual standards of proper discourse shouldn't apply to their wibble. I disagree in the strongest possible terms with this, which is why I subject their assertions to a certain degree of calculated discoursive brutality, not least because it seems to be the only way to shock some of them into waking up and smelling the roses.

Now, I really would like to see you explain your approach a little better than you have done, because from where I'm standing, you appear to be saying that you possess some sort of calculus, with which you can evaluate the plausibility of a hypothesis, before bothering to determine if the real world evidence tosses that hypothesis into the bin or not. I'd like you to demonstrate this calculus in action if you possess it. Not that I'm optimistic about this, because you never bothered answering my previous questions.


In summary, I think there's been a big misunderstanding here. The propositions I include in B (the background evidence or information) include empirical propositions and so include "real world evidence." As far as answering your questions is concerned, I'm not sure what you are referring to, but I'll take a look at your other posts on this thread to locate them. It's quite possible I haven't answered something.
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Re: How to be an Atheist apologist?

#137  Postby Mick » Dec 19, 2011 4:00 am

Calilasseia wrote:
jlowder wrote:
Calilasseia wrote:Except that Draper misses the point.


:facepalm:

Hi Calilasseia -- No, with all due respect, YOU have missed the point. You are simply confused about the difference between prior probability, explanatory power, and final probability.


Oh really? Since I've been exposing canards erected by creationists with respect to these for something like four years, I suspect your above assertion is somewhat premature.

jlowder wrote:Prior probability: this is a measure of the plausibility of a hypothesis, i.e., its probability independent of the evidence to be explained.


Tell me, how can this be determined without reference to the evidence? Please explain this. Only this is the whole point of evidence - it provides a means of separating sound from unsound postulates.

jlowder wrote:Explanatory power: this is a measure of how well the hypothesis yields the data, i.e., the probability of the evidence conditional upon the hypothesis and the background information.


Er, once we have a body of evidence available, the probability of that evidence is 1. Because it exists and has been demonstrated to exist. I think you need to inject some rigour into the above, and specify precisely what you mean.

jlowder wrote:Final probability: the probability of the hypothesis after assessing the prior probability and explanatory power, i.e., the probability of the hypothesis on the background information and the evidence to be explained.


Once again, I think you need to inject some rigour here. A worked example would be helpful.

jlowder wrote:If someone makes shit up, we can evaluate their claims in terms of the distinction between prior probability and explanatory power, and show that whatever evidence they offer for their claims doesn't yield a high final probability.


Er, excuse me, but this is what people have been doing here before you arrived.

jlowder wrote:
Calilasseia wrote:Which consists of demonstrating that anyone can make shit up and pretend that reality conforms thereto, and that there is no essential difference between shit made up recently to provide a demonstration of this, and shit made up 3,000 years ago by people who thought that their magic man actually existed. At least, no one has been able to provide substantive demonstrations that their pet mythologies are anything other than assertion-laden made up shit. Trying to claim, for example, that 3,000 year old mythological made up shit is somehow "more valid" than recent made up shit, because the recent made up shit was deliberately constructed to expose the made-up-shitness of supernaturalism full stop, whilst the 3,000 year old made up shit was concocted by people who actually believed it, misses the target by light years.


That paragraph is not of obvious relevance to anything I or Draper have written. First, "validity" is a concept which applies only to deductive arguments, not inductive arguments. The issue is not validity but inductive correctness.


Ah, if you're going to try and out-Quine me, allow me to step in here. If an argument can be couched formally in terms of the propositional calculus, then a validity test can be applied thereto.

jlowder wrote:Second, you seem to be under the mistaken impression that just because theism has a higher prior probability than other forms of supernaturalism, that it somehow follows that theism has a high final probability.


I don't think theism has a higher probability of any sort, prior or otherwise, than other forms of supernaturalism. I regard them all as having zero probability. You're addressing above ideas I never erected.

jlowder wrote:Final probability is the product of prior probability and explanatory power. Let's make up numbers solely for the sake of illustration. Suppose that the prior probability of deism is .1, the prior probability of theism is .15, and the final probability of theism with respect to the evidence is .0001. Would that bother you? If yes, why?


Well first, I'd want to know the rigorous basis upon which you arrived at those numbers. I await your convincing me that it's even possible to calculate a 'prior probability' as you have defined it above, because in the absence of evidence to sort out which hypotheses are supported by reality, and which are not, I cannot see how you can calculate this prior probability. I eagerly await your demonstrating otherwise.

jlowder wrote:
Calilasseia wrote:Likewise, trying to erect some bizarre taxonomy of made up shit, on the basis of some probabilistic calculus, is a wasted exercise. At bottom, made up shit is precisely that, and once it has been determined that a given set of assertions is basically made up shit, and therefore contains no substantive knowledge about the real world,


I am not completely sure what you are referring to by "taxonomy," but, more important, I don't think you realize how self-refuting this paragraph comes across as. How has it "been determined that a given set of assertions is basically made up shit, and therefore contains no substantive knowledge about the real world?" Is that something you know a priori? Or a posteriori? Are you 100% certain that it's made up shit or is there some chance, no matter how small (say 10^-40), that the apparently made up shit could be true? If there is any chance at all, no matter how small, that the apparently made up shit could be true (why wouldn't there be?), then you need to deal with probabilities.


When a particular collection of supernaturalist assertions, such as those found in a mythology, includes assertions that are known to be plain, flat, wrong, because the real world evidence says that they are plain, flat, wrong, then the idea that said mythology might somehow become admissible as a purported "explanation" for the universe and its contents, if only we can exercise the requisite apologetic cunning, is untenable. Allow me to give you an example. Genesis 30:37-39 contains an assertion, to the effect that it is possible to effect wholesale change in the genomes of living organisms, simply by having the parents shag alongside different coloured sticks. We know that this is complete hooey. How do we know this? Oh, that's right, evidence. Courtesy of thousands of diligent experiments conducted by an Austrian monk. Who alighted upon the real basis of inheritance.

Now, the existence of crassly stupid assertions such as the one I've just expounded upon above, within this mythology, tells me that supernaturalist claims about this mythology, to the effect that it is the product of some fantastically intelligent magic entity capable of fabricating a universe, are themselves complete hooey. Because supernaturalist assertions about this entity include the assertion that this entity is in possession of purportedly "perfect" knowledge. Yet apparently this entity, purportedly being in a position to know that human beings would find out in the future that the assertion I've expounded above is complete hooey, allowed the backward Middle Eastern nomads he chose as his ghostwriters to leave this nonsense in. It's basic, elementary facts such as this, that lead me to conclude that the probability of the fans of this mythology being right, when they claim that their pet mythology somehow dictates how reality behaves, is precisely zero. Once again, I'd like to know how the hell you arrive at non-zero numbers for your 'prior probability' calculations, given basic facts such as this.

jlowder wrote:Note also, BTW, that if you believe theism is "made up shit," then by definition and on your own admission, you not only lack the belief that God exists, but you also hold the positive belief that God does not exist.


Actually, I've reinforced the distinction with respect to this before you arrived here. Namely, that from a rigorous position, I begin by refusing to accept uncritically unsupported supernaturalist assertions, precisely because they are unsupported. However, my concluding that these assertions are made up shit arises from a different process, namely evaluating relevant evidence. It is that evidence that tells me that supernaturalist assertions are made up shit, not any a priori presuppositions, which I emphasise because all too often, I see the tiresome erection of canards by supernaturalists, to the effect that my refusal to accept uncritically their unsupported assertions as puportedly constituting established fact, somehow constitutes "presuppositions" on my part. It doesn't.

jlowder wrote:
Calilasseia wrote:do we really need to engage in navel gazing with respect to the taxonomic position of one brand of made up shit against another?


:coffee:

I understand you think it's "navel gazing." I think it's the logically correct way to approach these issues. If you find it boring, that's fine. I'm not claiming you have to do anything. But if you are going to claim that all supernatural claims are equally implausible, then you need to be able to back that up and deal with objections that you consider "navel gazing."


Which once again brings me back to real world evidence. Which is the final arbiter in these matters. At bottom, it's reality that decides whether our assertions about it are right or wrong. Unfortunately, this is a lesson that I have a hard time teaching supernaturalists, because all too frequently, they want the discoursive door left open to admit all sorts of specious claptrap and fallacious reasoning. All too often, supernaturalists seem to think that the usual standards of proper discourse shouldn't apply to their wibble. I disagree in the strongest possible terms with this, which is why I subject their assertions to a certain degree of calculated discoursive brutality, not least because it seems to be the only way to shock some of them into waking up and smelling the roses.

Now, I really would like to see you explain your approach a little better than you have done, because from where I'm standing, you appear to be saying that you possess some sort of calculus, with which you can evaluate the plausibility of a hypothesis, before bothering to determine if the real world evidence tosses that hypothesis into the bin or not. I'd like you to demonstrate this calculus in action if you possess it. Not that I'm optimistic about this, because you never bothered answering my previous questions.



I'm beginning to suspect this fellow doesn't have much training in probability theory.
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Re: How to be an Atheist apologist?

#138  Postby jlowder » Dec 19, 2011 4:15 am

mikegage wrote:Jeff,

Have you read Roger White’s article Fine Tuning and Multiple Universes from Nous (2000)? Toward the end, he discusses the difference between something being improbable and surprising. I think I would say it is certainly a mistake to say M makes Pr(F/N) substantially higher, but I do actually think it makes it less surprising that we are in a universe like ours. And this point would become stronger the larger the multiverse (and I think the scientific theories positing multiverses predict them to be either quite large or infinite).

I had to skim, so sorry if this has been addressed already.


Hi Mike -- Yes, I do remember reading that, but it's been many years. Incidentally, Paul Draper was one of three co-authors on a paper which responds to White. In my opinion, Draper et al destroyed White's arguments. If you email him at Purdue University, I'm sure he'd be willing to send you a copy.

Regards,

Jeffery Jay Lowder.
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Re: How to be an Atheist apologist?

#139  Postby jlowder » Dec 19, 2011 4:55 am

Calilasseia wrote:
jlowder wrote:
Calilasseia wrote:So, now that you're here, Jay, care to tell me which, if any, mythological assertions are supported by any evidence?


I'm an atheist. Furthermore, as a metaphysical naturalist, I don't think any supernatural beings exist. I don't believe mythological assertions are supported by the evidence. I suspect you already knew that, however. What are you getting at?


Well Mick here claims that you take the purported "evidence" for the resurrection of Jesus seriously. He asserts this here. I'd like to know if this is true, and if so, on what grounds you purportedly take the wish-fulfilment of pre-scientific and superstitious humans "seriously".


I'm not trying to be difficult, but I'm not sure what it means to take a claim "seriously" in this context. What I can say is this.

1. I don't think Christians are automatically idiots just because they are Christians. I don't think theists are automatically idiots just because they are theists.
2. I don't atheists are automatically rational just because they are atheists.
3. I have spent quite a bit of time thinking about purported evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. In fact, I co-edited a book on the subject.
4. I do think many skeptics have tended to offer poor responses to Christians who try to argue for the resurrection of Jesus on purely historical grounds.

Calilasseia wrote:Meanwhile, with respect to this:

jlowder wrote:Back when I was the moderator of the USENET newsgroup alt.atheism.moderated, I used to debate the definition of atheism and I used to defend the atheism as the lack of belief position. I'm persuaded, however, by Ted Drangethat by default we should define our terms in a way which matches ordinary usage. Ordinary usage of the word "atheism" is that it means the belief that God does not exist. I see no benefit whatsoever to the proposal that nontheists should spend their limited time on trying to convince people both that (a) atheism is rational and (b) that they should use the word atheism in a different way, as opposed to merely focusing on (a).


I disagree. I'm interested in a rigorous definition of atheism, not some dumbed-down strawman caricature thereof that simply makes life easy for duplicitous purveyors of supernaturalist apologetics.


Suppose, for the sake of argument, that you were to grant that atheism means the belief that God does not exist. How, precisely would that make life easy for "duplicitous purveyors of supernaturalist apologetics"?

Calilasseia wrote:I propose as a corollary, that atheism, in its rigorous formulation, consists quite simply of a refusal to accept uncritically unsupported supernaturalist assertions. In short, it consists of "YOU assert that your magic man exists, YOU support your assertions". In the latter exposition thereof, the implicit requirement being that said support involves something other than the erection of yet more blind assertions and apologetic fabrications. Perhaps you might like to tell me why this is purportedly "wrong"?


No, I'm not going to tell you are objectively "wrong" about the definition of atheism because I'm a linguistic relativist. I don't think there is such a thing as an objective right or wrong definition of a word; definitions are purely relative to different cultures and times. What I can and will say is that your definition is different from how the majority of English speakers and writers define "atheism." Thus, there's a risk that your efforts to engage in real dialogue with other people will be undermined by the fact that you and the people you're talking to do not speak the same language, so to speak. Whether you find that risk acceptable is, of course, up to you.

Calilasseia wrote:
jlowder wrote:Among professional philosophers, including self-identified atheist philosophers, the majority viewpoint is that atheism is the belief that there is no God and agnosticism is the lack of belief in God's existence and God's nonexistence. When professional philosophers want an umbrella term to group together people who believe God does not exist with the people who merely lack belief, they use the term "nontheist." So I'm not sure I agree with you that the majority of people who define atheism as the belief that there is no God are "religious people."


Actually, my understanding is that agnosticism consists of the position that the question of the existence of any god-type entity is unanswerable. Atheism, as a corollary of my proposed framing above, consists of the position "Perhaps this question is answerable, but we've yet to see a supernaturalist provide a proper answer".


That's one version of agnosticism, but it's not the only version. For example, Paul Draper is an agnostic philosopher of religion who believes there is good evidence for naturalism and good evidence for theism, but he doesn't know how to the weigh the former against the latter.

Calilasseia wrote:Meanwhile, with respect to the "fine tuning" trope, my answer to that is essentially that arising from Douglas Adams' Puddle. Namely, we are here because the laws of physics permitted our existence, and the relevant, physically permitted, historical events took place.


That simply pushes the problem back a step. Why do the laws of physics permit our existence? Proponents of fine-tuning arguments claim that the fact that they do is evidence for theism and against naturalism. To say that the laws of physics permit our existence is not a refutation of the FTA; it's simply a description of the evidence cited by the argument.

Calilasseia wrote:Plus, there's quite a bit of research emanating from the physics community with respect to the fact that, for example, manipulating a range of parameters produces a significant number of possible universes in which star formation can take place, and as a corollary, the nucleosynthesis of relevant chemical elements. Treating our existence as purportedly supporting the idea that the universe was somehow "made for us", consists of reading the relevant evidence backwards, not to mention reading it from a presuppositional basis.


I don't think I would word things the way you do in your last sentence. Your first sentence, however, seems to me to be a much better response to FTAs than your earlier response.
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Re: How to be an Atheist apologist?

#140  Postby jlowder » Dec 19, 2011 10:44 am

jlowder wrote:For an example of a Bayesian argument where both the background evidence and specific evidence to be explained are explicitly stated, please see this page:

http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/2011/11/argument-from-scale-as-revisited-part-2.html

That page gives an example of a Bayesian formulation of Nicholas Everitt's "argument from scale" for atheism. I conclude the argument itself fails, but, again, that page demonstrates how prior probabilities can be based on evidence.


I forgot to also mention this page:

http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/2011/11/argument-from-scale-revisited-part-4.html

On that page, I provide a different Bayesian version of the argument from scale. Again, I explicitly state the propositions which make up B (background information), E (evidence to be explained), and H (rival explanatory hypotheses). I also explicitly provide the logical form of my Bayesian argument. In short, this is a fully worked example. :)

Aside: I conclude that version does succeed in showing that the scale of the universe is slightly more probable on naturalism than on theism, but the ratio is so small it's hardly worth mentioning. (In my opinion, theists shouldn't feel threatened by this argument or its very modest conclusion.)
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