How to be an Atheist apologist?

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Re: How to be an Atheist apologist?

#61  Postby Shrunk » Dec 16, 2011 8:15 pm

Mick wrote:It's rather sad that you thought 'apologist' only had this sort of meaning. It suggests a lack of familiarity with Christian apologetics. This wouldn't be so bad if you didn't go out of your way to criticize their thought.


My negative view of Christian apologetics is based on my familiarity with it.
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Re: How to be an Atheist apologist?

#62  Postby Shrunk » Dec 16, 2011 8:44 pm

Thommo wrote:
jlowder wrote:
Shrunk wrote:The problem I had with that example is that he misunderstands the nature of the multiverse counterargument.


I'm pretty sure I understand the nature of the "multiverse counterargument," as well as the Bayesian version of the fine-tuning argument (FTA). Here's one formulation:

Let F = the apparent 'fine-tuning' of the physical constants of our universe
Let T = classical theism
Let N = metaphysical naturalism

(1) F is known to be true.
...


I'm not familiar with this formulation, could you perhaps elaborate on this premise (1)?

Is this intended to be read as "Fine tuning is known to be a feature of the universe" or as "Fine tuning of free parameters in current physical models of the known universe is required for them to accurately describe the known universe"?

Because whilst the latter is a reasonable statement the former is indeed refuted by the mere possibility of "many worlds" - consequently where that is the argument being given the refutation is complete.

Of course if the latter of the two statements is intended then (3) is trivially false, as F becomes independent of both T and N, meaning that even the simplistic statement of "Many worlds is possible" is overkill as a refutation.

So I can only assume you perhaps intend it to mean something else?


Hmm. I"m not going to pretend I have even a passing knowledgle of Bayesian probability, so jlowder's last post went over my head. But it still didn't pass the smell test for me, and I think you touch on why here. I'm not sure why metaphysical naturalism even enters the discussion since, as you seem to suggest, methodological naturalism could be false and the statement "The apparent fine tuning of the universe is explained by many worlds" could still be true. But I could be missing the point entirely.
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Re: How to be an Atheist apologist?

#63  Postby Mick » Dec 16, 2011 8:45 pm

Shrunk wrote:
Mick wrote:It's rather sad that you thought 'apologist' only had this sort of meaning. It suggests a lack of familiarity with Christian apologetics. This wouldn't be so bad if you didn't go out of your way to criticize their thought.


My negative view of Christian apologetics is based on my familiarity with it.


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Re: How to be an Atheist apologist?

#64  Postby Moonwatcher » Dec 17, 2011 1:05 am

jlowder wrote:
Those are silly arguments. And probably the average theist on the street uses them. But not all theistic arguments can be dismissed as silly. Richard Swinburne's book, The Existence of God, would be exhibit A. I don't agree with him at all, but the man clearly knows what he is talking about and is not offering silly arguments.

I tried to find a quick summary of the book. Much of it consists of mathematical arguments. It also includes some rehashings of old philosophical arguments. I'll leave it to others more qualified to evaluate the math.

Moonwatcher wrote:
8. The people who primarily use atheism as other than a lack of belief in "God" are primarily people who are trying to put believing in something without evidence on the same level as not believing it without evidence.

JLowder wrote:
I don't understand what you mean.

I was saying that it is primarily religious people who try to define atheism as a belief rather than a lack of one from a desire to imply that not believing something minus evidence is somehow the same thing as believing things minus empirical evidence and hence imply that atheism is a religion.

Of course, there are "angry atheists" in the sense that we are all human beings with histories and issues, many of them with religion in our pasts and upbringings. But that is an aside from the core issue that, for most atheists here, it is a matter of not accepting things that have no supporting evidence. Any other issues stem from that.
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Re: How to be an Atheist apologist?

#65  Postby Mick » Dec 17, 2011 1:15 am

Moonwatcher wrote:jlowder wrote:
Those are silly arguments. And probably the average theist on the street uses them. But not all theistic arguments can be dismissed as silly. Richard Swinburne's book, The Existence of God, would be exhibit A. I don't agree with him at all, but the man clearly knows what he is talking about and is not offering silly arguments.

I tried to find a quick summary of the book. Much of it consists of mathematical arguments. It also includes some rehashings of old philosophical arguments. I'll leave it to others more qualified to evaluate the math.

Moonwatcher wrote:
8. The people who primarily use atheism as other than a lack of belief in "God" are primarily people who are trying to put believing in something without evidence on the same level as not believing it without evidence.

JLowder wrote:
I don't understand what you mean.

I was saying that it is primarily religious people who try to define atheism as a belief rather than a lack of one from a desire to imply that not believing something minus evidence is somehow the same thing as believing things minus empirical evidence and hence imply that atheism is a religion.

Of course, there are "angry atheists" in the sense that we are all human beings with histories and issues, many of them with religion in our pasts and upbringings. But that is an aside from the core issue that, for most atheists here, it is a matter of not accepting things that have no supporting evidence. Any other issues stem from that.



That's silly. The motivation to understand atheism in this way is rooted in the conventions of English speakers. The distinction between denying and not believing is an esoteric one not commonly appreciated and understood by common speakers.

Atheism is understood in this way within most present day scholarship.
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Re: How to be an Atheist apologist?

#66  Postby jlowder » Dec 17, 2011 1:21 am

Thommo wrote:
jlowder wrote:I'm pretty sure I understand the nature of the "multiverse counterargument," as well as the Bayesian version of the fine-tuning argument (FTA). Here's one formulation:

Let F = the apparent 'fine-tuning' of the physical constants of our universe
Let T = classical theism
Let N = metaphysical naturalism

(1) F is known to be true.
...


I'm not familiar with this formulation, could you perhaps elaborate on this premise (1)?


Hi Thommo -- Sure. (1) basically refers to the fact that the physical constants of our universe make it physically possible for life as we know it to exist in the universe.

Is this intended to be read as "Fine tuning is known to be a feature of the universe" or as "Fine tuning of free parameters in current physical models of the known universe is required for them to accurately describe the known universe"?

Thommo wrote:Because whilst the latter is a reasonable statement the former is indeed refuted by the mere possibility of "many worlds" - consequently where that is the argument being given the refutation is complete.

Of course if the latter of the two statements is intended then (3) is trivially false, as F becomes independent of both T and N, meaning that even the simplistic statement of "Many worlds is possible" is overkill as a refutation.

So I can only assume you perhaps intend it to mean something else?


Like all inductive or evidential arguments, appeals to possibility do nothing to undermine to the claim about probability. Yes, it is possible there is a multiverse and F is merely the result of chance. But that bare possibility does not refute or even contradict premise (3), which says that F is antecedently very much more probable on theism than on naturalism, i.e., Pr(F/T) >!! Pr(F/N).

Regards,

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Re: How to be an Atheist apologist?

#67  Postby Calilasseia » Dec 17, 2011 1:52 am

So, now that you're here, Jay, care to tell me which, if any, mythological assertions are supported by any evidence?
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Re: How to be an Atheist apologist?

#68  Postby Ihavenofingerprints » Dec 17, 2011 2:32 am

I could be completely wrong here, but I'll put some thoughts out there.

The argument put forward is interesting. Even if it means we should elevate the status of theism because of the "apparent fine tuning" of the universe, theism would still rank pretty low IMO. You could put forward a better case for the existence of UFO's or ghosts using the same sort of logic. Soon enough we'll be taking all sorts of quackery seriously.

It makes me wonder though. Do people who say that we should elevate the case for theism above other supernatural claims come to their conclusion before or after making up these arguments? It's perfectly fine if people do spend their time doing this sort of stuff on a daily basis, ie - evaluating supernatural claims and giving them some sort of order. But it would annoy me if people are just deciding that theism has some sort of special case to be answered and then running it through their logic equations to get that desired result.

I think this is why scientists don't often use these methods, they are open to abuse.

Someone could easily refute this by saying "regardless of all that, the logic stands and there is a point to be addressed". I'm just not convinced it is an effective way of telling us much about reality.
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Re: How to be an Atheist apologist?

#69  Postby Thommo » Dec 17, 2011 2:55 am

jlowder wrote:Hi Thommo -- Sure. (1) basically refers to the fact that the physical constants of our universe make it physically possible for life as we know it to exist in the universe.

Is this intended to be read as "Fine tuning is known to be a feature of the universe" or as "Fine tuning of free parameters in current physical models of the known universe is required for them to accurately describe the known universe"?

Thommo wrote:Because whilst the latter is a reasonable statement the former is indeed refuted by the mere possibility of "many worlds" - consequently where that is the argument being given the refutation is complete.

Of course if the latter of the two statements is intended then (3) is trivially false, as F becomes independent of both T and N, meaning that even the simplistic statement of "Many worlds is possible" is overkill as a refutation.

So I can only assume you perhaps intend it to mean something else?


Like all inductive or evidential arguments, appeals to possibility do nothing to undermine to the claim about probability. Yes, it is possible there is a multiverse and F is merely the result of chance. But that bare possibility does not refute or even contradict premise (3), which says that F is antecedently very much more probable on theism than on naturalism, i.e., Pr(F/T) >!! Pr(F/N).

Regards,

Jeffery Jay Lowder


Thanks, I think that clears up what you mean nicely.

I suspect that when people are supplying many worlds as a counterexample, it is not to a premise so formulated, but rather to one more like "the physical constants of our universe must be fine tuned to make it physically possible for life as we know it to exist in the universe". Of course, this is purely hypothetical, no doubt people of varying backgrounds and interests make mistakes over their usage, or confuse the premise presented to them on a regular basis.

I also think there's still something of an issue here in the difference between a free parameter in a model and a constant though, indeed as my earlier post suggested, it seems to me there are glaring technical issues which get swept under the carpet, but since your piece was intended to be humorous it's probably not worth poking it too much!

ETA: I wonder also whether not everyone uses the same definition of theism as academics commonly do either, indeed without the restriction to theism being defined as to only consider universes containing "life as we know it" the problem is an entirely different kettle of fish as it qualitatively changes the sample space of possible universes that a god could create - it's probably also worth noting that this restriction noticeably increases the scope of the claim with a commensurate change (doubtless you would suggest a decrease, I would not) in the prior probability distribution (assuming such a thing can be properly defined). It would be interesting to discuss from a purely logical standpoint why such a restriction should be made - although not so interesting from a cultural standpoint.
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Re: How to be an Atheist apologist?

#70  Postby Mick » Dec 17, 2011 5:32 am

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



You should frame your question better.

Also: What is evidence? It's not as easy to say as you might think.
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Re: How tp be an Atheist apologist?

#71  Postby Spearthrower » Dec 17, 2011 5:43 am

chairman bill wrote:Atheist apologists? Fail from the outset.


Precisely.

Humpty-dumpty language.
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Re: How to be an Atheist apologist?

#72  Postby Mick » Dec 17, 2011 5:44 am

jlowder wrote:Like all inductive or evidential arguments, appeals to possibility do nothing to undermine to the claim about probability.


I'm not too sure if you meant to generalize this entirely. However, I should say that appeals to possibility could indeed undermine the claim about probability. Inductive or evidential arguments from evil could be rendered impotent with appeals to ontological arguments.



1. <>(<>{}(<>G--><>[]G) & <>G)
2.<>{}(<>G--><>[]G) & <>G

Both 1 and 2 are possibility claims which are logically equivalent to []G in some modal logics.
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Re: How to be an Atheist apologist?

#73  Postby Spearthrower » Dec 17, 2011 5:50 am

Ihavenofingerprints wrote:Whats the intrinsic probability of an invisible unicorn living in my garage?


Zero - the garage-endemic invisible dragon ate it.
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Re: How to be an Atheist apologist?

#74  Postby Spearthrower » Dec 17, 2011 5:53 am

Mick wrote:
It's rather sad that you thought 'apologist' only had this sort of meaning. It suggests a lack of familiarity with Christian apologetics. This wouldn't be so bad if you didn't go out of your way to criticize their thought.



Do you not grasp the irony of that assertion, Mick?
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Re: How to be an Atheist apologist?

#75  Postby jlowder » Dec 17, 2011 6:44 am

Mick wrote:
jlowder wrote:Like all inductive or evidential arguments, appeals to possibility do nothing to undermine to the claim about probability.


I'm not too sure if you meant to generalize this entirely. However, I should say that appeals to possibility could indeed undermine the claim about probability. Inductive or evidential arguments from evil could be rendered impotent with appeals to ontological arguments.

1. <>(<>{}(<>G--><>[]G) & <>G)
2.<>{}(<>G--><>[]G) & <>G

Both 1 and 2 are possibility claims which are logically equivalent to []G in some modal logics.


In the interest of brevity, I think I was too brief. :) If E is our evidence, H1 and H2 are competing explanatory hypotheses, and the claim is that E is antecedently more likely on H1 than on H2, i.e., Pr(E | H1) > Pr(E | H2), then pointing that it's possible that both E and H2 are true misses the point. So in the sentence you quoted above, I was referring to appeals to the possibility of both E and H2 being true.
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Re: How to be an Atheist apologist?

#76  Postby jlowder » Dec 17, 2011 6:47 am

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?
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Re: How to be an Atheist apologist?

#77  Postby jlowder » Dec 17, 2011 6:50 am

Ihavenofingerprints wrote:I could be completely wrong here, but I'll put some thoughts out there.

The argument put forward is interesting. Even if it means we should elevate the status of theism because of the "apparent fine tuning" of the universe, theism would still rank pretty low IMO. You could put forward a better case for the existence of UFO's or ghosts using the same sort of logic. Soon enough we'll be taking all sorts of quackery seriously.


I doubt it, but I could be wrong. Can you provide an example of "a better case for the existence of UFOs or ghosts using the same sort of logic"?
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Re: How to be an Atheist apologist?

#78  Postby Ihavenofingerprints » Dec 17, 2011 7:10 am

I'm not trained in probability. But surely if the "fine tuning of the universe" gives theism more credibility or 'likely-ness'. The simple fact that life probably exists elsewhere in the universe (according to almost all experts), and it is also likely that if life does exist, there are many alien civilizations more advanced than us. Also given how we know long distance space travel certainly isn't impossible with the right technology. The case for the presence of UFO's in our galaxy - that can find their way into our solar system - and eventually Earth by tracking radio waves most certainly rises above that of "santa" or "unicorns", and would undoubtedly give theism a run for it's money when it comes to credibility.

But we know UFO's aren't flying around earth and all the masses of people putting up a case for their existence shouldn't be taken seriously until they get some better evidence. They might be able to come up with some arguments suggesting that the chance of UFO's flying over my house is more likely than Santa bringing me presents, but it would be such a minuscule amount that you may as well call it 0.

My worry is that I'd be lowering my standards if I started taking people like this seriously. Let alone people claiming the supernatural phenomena exists (it would be inconsistent for me to treat one group seriously but not another).
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Re: How to be an Atheist apologist?

#79  Postby jlowder » Dec 17, 2011 7:11 am

Moonwatcher wrote:Moonwatcher wrote:
8. The people who primarily use atheism as other than a lack of belief in "God" are primarily people who are trying to put believing in something without evidence on the same level as not believing it without evidence.

JLowder wrote:
I don't understand what you mean.

I was saying that it is primarily religious people who try to define atheism as a belief rather than a lack of one from a desire to imply that not believing something minus evidence is somehow the same thing as believing things minus empirical evidence and hence imply that atheism is a religion.

Of course, there are "angry atheists" in the sense that we are all human beings with histories and issues, many of them with religion in our pasts and upbringings. But that is an aside from the core issue that, for most atheists here, it is a matter of not accepting things that have no supporting evidence. Any other issues stem from that.


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).

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."

For the record, I am fully aware of how condescending it can come across when person A says, "I'm an X," and person B says, "No, you're not. You're a Y." In other words, who am I to tell people how they should self-identify? In response, I would point out the following: (1) I'm responding to Moonwatcher's comment; (2) I am not making a normative or ethical issue out of this, i.e., I'm not saying nontheists have an ethical requirement to use the word atheist consistently with ordinary usage; and (3) I am suggesting as a matter of strategy and "resource management" that there are much better uses of our time than an anal-retentive defense of etymological purism, i.e., the "but the greek roots of atheism, a + theism, mean literally without theism" defense. The meaning of words can and do change over time. If the meaning of "atheism" has changed from its Greek roots, then so be it.

(preparing to duck for the huge amount of flames I expect to get for this post, LOL)
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Re: How to be an Atheist apologist?

#80  Postby Ihavenofingerprints » Dec 17, 2011 7:21 am

Actually after reading everything again I probably just don't understand probability well enough. I think you might have a good case for theism being more likely than invisible unicorns. But I can't personally see the difference in probability being anything but extremely insignificant. (that might be considered besides the point though)
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