Wednesday, 15 July 2009
Because I invariably get dragged into a stupifying pudding of crummy reasoning in which I'm being forced to defend the obvious (and then re-defend it). Moreover, in the comments section of posts it's usually just between me and some theocrat emulating a skipping CD - which is why I prefer blogalogs. In blogalogs, there is an audience, which means that whoever gets the snot kicked out of them winds up losing face for their side. This provides accountability, and forces people to think before they speak (which is a problem for those without practice).
So, in the interest of putting my labors with oroiko to some use, our conversation can be read below the fold. If you're like me, you may have to take a shower after enduring parts of it.
oroiko says:Arent' you asking for a miracle in order to convert in regards to asking a Christian to pray to God to give him/her the insight to know the order of the pens you laid out? So why ask for one when you don't believe in any? Many people have believed because they have seen miracles happen. Now, is God going to show miracles to each and every person so that they may believe? No. I think I see where alampi took offense. The title says "Belief in God is an idiotic proposition." That implies you don't consider the existence of God. To have doubt is no problem, but to deny the existence of God is to be close-minded.I respond:oroiko says:
I don't believe in twelve-legged frogs either. I ask to be shown such things, so that I have a good reason to believe in them. Like my frogs, in order to believe in god (or miracles), I need to be shown a sufficient piece of evidence or even a good reason to believe in such a god. This is a standard that all reasonable people adhere to for every proposition that does not include god or an afterlife.
I'm aware that many people believe they've witnessed miracles. It's fascinating how these miracles are never captured on film, or can be investigated in any way, don't you think? Many people of conflicting faiths also think that god has spoken to them: they can't all be right. This suggests that self-delusion, insanity, or dishonesty is not only possible for such claims (in fact, if you think that a particular god has spoken to you, you must think that people making the same claims for other gods are either lying, delusional, or crazy), but probable for most of them. Is it so hard to believe that all people making such claims are similarly afflicted?
JTMiracles by their very nature are unpredictable, making them hard to record. (If they're recorded, I have greater belief that it's a sham. Like that one gangster turned preacher from Florida. I've seen him and I believe he's a hoax. Miracles aren't meant to be done for profit.) But in most cases there are witnesses. Whether you believe in the ones mentioned in the Bible is up to you. If you don't believe in miracles, they'll never appear as miracles. There have been many cases of people long thought dead (in coma or missing) that have awoken or reappeared or survived a crazy accident when others in the same situation did not. What will investigation do? I'll agree that self-delusion, insanity, and dishonesty crop up when it comes to miracles, but so do real, authentic miracles. All must be taken into consideration. I don't know of any way to tell if a miracle is real (including belief in a particular religion for the miracle) or based off luck. It's up to faith.I respond:
I think you summed up your whole position quite well at the end of your comment:
I'll agree that self-delusion, insanity,
and dishonesty crop up when it comes to miracles, but so do real,
authentic miracles. All must be taken into consideration. I don't
know of any way to tell if a miracle is real...
Then how can you tell me you DO know that "real, authentic miracles" do occur? Am I missing something here?
What do you mean if I don't believe in miracles, I'll never see one. Does that work with any other truth claim? "I'm sorry, if you don't believe in horses, you'll never see one." Con men operate under this same principle: "Believe me, and then you'll get all kinds of good stuff." You're asking me to believe something without a good reason, when in every other area, it's the other way around. We first see a good reason to believe, and then believe. Why would miracles be any different?
I'll repeat it again: if you don't believe in miracles, they'll never [appear] as one. I never said you'll never see one. You might have seen one and never noticed it or considered it as a miracle. I know miracles exist out of faith for miracles by their very essence depend on faith. I've seen a good reason to believe that only a small handful of people noticed, but a personal testimony will not convince you of miracles unless you've experienced one, am I correct? If someone believes in something, it has a greater chance of appearing and it can be real, a delusion, or insanity. The genuineness isn't the issue, it's the appearance of whatever the person saw. Back to the horses. A person who does not believe in horses will call a horse you just showed him something else, say a funny looking dog.
I realize you're repeating. The problem is that you're not responding.
So far you've admitted that delusion plays a part in miracle assessment, and that you yourself cannot tell if a miracle is real, but that you are sure they are - oh, and that I can't see one until I believe it's there. You seem to be selling me the Emperor's new clothes and cannot fathom why I'm not buying.
Saying that it's not a genuine miracle that matters does us no good - unless you're willing to brand peoples' ability to attach ad hoc explanations to things as miraculous (this seems commonplace to me).
You saying that I would not accept the existence of horses (or miracles, or twelve-legged frogs) if shown them is just an ad hominem - you're saying that my mind is not open. My mind is perfectly open (as my last thought experiment in this post will show), I'm just not willing to change it for crummy reasons which, as I outlined in the first paragraph of this response, you have begun to manufacture in earnest.
I did not say delusions play a part in miracle assessment. I've said you see stuff beyond the ordinary when delusional. The point in regards to a genuine miracle with regards to delusions and insanity is new "visions" arise. All three may look the same, which is why I said I can't tell a real miracle from a fake one. I believe in miracles because I've personally seen it with my own eyes and I wasn't intoxicated in any way when my friend survived an accident that 99.9% would have meant death. It wasn't because I believed in miracles in the first place, but rather I believed God will protect my friend when I prayed and God saw it was honest. "oh, and that I can't see one until I believe it's there". My apologies, I didn't phrase it right. Miracles will not appear as one if you don't open your mind to the possibility of miracles. Which is why I made the point of asking what do you call a situation where a person has survived a 40 foot fall with little injuries when most people would have died or where only two people were the survivors of a plane crash into the ocean? I call them miracles and I'm asking what you would call such phenomenon? What's ad hoc and ad hominem? Your thought experiment is not a sign of openness. It's a test for God to show Himself personally for you. It's like daring God to strike you down for being an atheist. I can quote two Bible verses in relation to the test and denial of miracles, but I won't because it'll do no good.
Seeing that he will not budge until I take the time out to drop the hammer, I respond:
I'm about done with you, but I'll take it one more round for giggles.
"I believe in miracles because I've personally seen it with my own eyes"
The thing about miracle claims is that fsm-knows how many have been refuted by investigation, while not a single one has ever been confirmed. We'll investigate yours shortly, but for now let's acknowledge that people often brand things as miraculous only to be disproven later (you've already conceded this point, and rightfully so), whether for genuine error or outright untruthfulness.
"my friend survived an accident that 99.9% would have meant death"
Lots to say here. First off, where did you pull that percentage from? Second, even if I grant that probability (which I don't), this is called the lottery fallacy. It's called the lottery fallacy because if only one person bought a lottery ticket at three million to one odds and won, it would seem fishy. However, if three million people buy tickets, we should expect someone to win every time. In this country, just under 61,000 people die from car crashes every year. Even if I grant your 1 in 1000 chance of living (which, recall that I don't yet), that means 61 people every year would survive at those odds. This does not equal divine providence. Do the doctors who operated on him get any credit, or does it all belong to god (or pixies, or whatever other nebulous being you want to ascribe it to)? You simply cannot dredge other-worldliness out of these very ordinary circumstances.
This would be akin to me saying, "I knew somebody who died in a plane crash. 76,000,000 Americans fly every year with and average of 32,137 fatalities. This makes the odds of my friend dying .0004%. Those kind of odds are miraculous, and therefore god is a real douche bag!"
No, people just die in plane crashes. Rarely, but it happens. And yes, sometimes people survive against harrowing odds. You don't get to call it a miracle, and that is precisely the point. We've seen time after time how people are quick to brand things as miracles when they have no evidence to suggest they were - which is probably where your admonishment that "I can't see it until I believe" comes into play. The fact that self-deceit is prevalent amongst our species is why phrases such as "wishful thinking" and "experimental bias" permeate our discourse in investigating "miracles" and the psychology/neuroscience behind such claims. Can you illustrate for me how "you won't see it until you believe it" is distinguishable from jumping to some very unsupportable conclusions (or some other form of extreme credulity)?
"Miracles will not appear as one if you don't open your mind to the possibility of miracles."
I think you're confusing wanting a good reason or a piece of evidence with being close-minded. My mind is open, but I still reject crappy arguments.
"Which is why I made the point of asking
what do you call a situation where a person has survived a 40 foot fall
with little injuries when most people would have died or where only two
people were the survivors of a plane crash into the ocean? I call them
miracles and I'm asking what you would call such phenomenon?"
Before investigating and getting to the facts, I'd call it inexplicable. You, on the other hand, seem to want to insist that you have an explanation, but you have no reason for that explanation. You don't simply get to say that because something happened that we cannot currently explain, that you can explain it.
"What's ad hoc and ad hominem?"
Use wikipedia, it's your friend.
Ad hoc: A solution that explains the phenomenon, but that has no supporting evidence. For instance, my hypothesis that pixies that live in greater number around larger objects bend space-time around their objects because it keeps them warm. While it's true that space-time bends more around bigger objects, there's no evidence to support the existence of my pixies. Likewise for your friend. There's no evidence that a god had anything to do with it.
Ad hominem: When you try to refute somebody's position by attacking their character. Here, you are saying that my mind is not open. As far as I know, my mind is very much open.
"Your thought experiment is not a sign of
openness. It's a test for God to show Himself personally for you.
It's like daring God to strike you down for being an atheist."
Um...yes? My mind is open to the existence of god if I come across a good reason or a piece of evidence. I have said this from the get go. Of course my thought experiment is a mark of open-mindedness - it is an example of one of thousands of things that could change my mind. That's open-mindedness (of course, you may be conflating open-mindedness with gullibility, which I do not).
You can quote the bible until you're blue in the face - but until you do any work towards establishing that I have even a mediocre reason to accept it as any kind of authority, it would be akin to quoting Green Eggs and Ham (even less so, since we know who authored Green Eggs and Ham, and its moral lessons resound perfectly with sane morality).
To recap, you've admitted that, "self-delusion, insanity, and dishonesty crop up when it comes to miracles". Yet, when asked to separate yourself in terms of credibility from those qualities, you have said, "I don't know of any way to tell if a miracle is real." "Faith" is a crappy means of distinction, because that is precisely what nearly everybody parading around "miracles" says (I prayed for no rain for my camping trip, and the good lord provided). You proceed, almost before the next breath is taken, to rattle off the qualities of miracles, which you admittedly can't distinguish the false from the true (could it be because they're all false?) as though you know tons about them:
1. " Miracles aren't meant to be done for profit."
2. "If you don't believe in miracles, they'll never appear as miracles."
3. In your first comment, you assure me that "real, authentic miracles" do exist. This after saying you don't know how to tell real from fake, and proceeding to offer me the lottery fallacy about your friend.
I could go on and on with the knowledge you claim to have about how miracles work. I cannot help but wonder how you've come to be in possession of such knowledge. Perhaps you could enlighten me?
Seriously, you've admitted that false "miracles" occur (they're all that investigation has turned up), yet you apparently cannot fathom that all such assessments of miracles are the result of some manner of error (or flagrant dishonesty). You then justify your own "miracle" through the same reasoning that all the frauds or delusional people do. I confess that your offerings have left me feeling like a pitcher in mid-throw who has looked up to see that the hitter is not holding a bat.
In exchange for my efforts I get:
when you've dubbed such unexplainable phenomenon as inexplicable, it means they remain unexplained yet they happened. With regards to my friend, it was the age (9 or 10), his speed (15-20mph), no safety equipment, going into a busy street that has three lanes per direction and the speed of the incoming cars (at least 45mph). It's fatal if not death. It's not about people survive crashes each year so it's insignificant, but rather an inexplicable event happened in front of my eyes along with a good 5-10 witnesses, where my friend was relatively unhurt (some body parts had a stinging sensation). Science and logic can't explain it. Does that automatically mean God was responsible? No. There's no evidence that God didn't have anything to do with it, but there's evidence that God did (could affect the outcome). I prayed and it was enough for me to believe. It's fine if you don't believe, but don't consider my beliefs with the likes of delusional or insane people. With regards to ad hominem, we're both using it. I've insulted your open mindedness and you're insulting my intelligence, beliefs, and eyesight, not to mention twisting my words around. Good night.
And my final riposte:
Oh what the hell, I'll do one more round and maybe turn it into a blog post.
"when you've dubbed such unexplainable phenomenon as inexplicable, it means they remain unexplained yet they happened"
omg! You mean things can happen that we haven't explained? Surely you jest! Better just invent an answer, since admitting you don't know is out of teh omg question...
Seriously, you seem to be implying that things don't happen unless we can explain them, which is a truly bizarre stance. Our history is a symphony of unexplained things being explained (unless you think we're on equal footing with human beings 25,000 years ago in terms of general knowledge). Does god get the credit for everything we haven't explained? We've tried that route before...
Order of the stars? Miracle. (Crap, turns out it was gravity)
Disease? The devil. (Nope, just germs)
Lightning? Miracle. (Nope, just friction and heat)
Try this little thought experiment:
1. Can you think of something for which we once had a religious answer, but for which we now have a scientific answer (this should not be hard).
2. Can you think of something for which we once had a scientific answer, but for which we now have a religious/supernatural answer (I know I can't).
Of course, people have been claiming supernatural causes for phenomenon since they crawled out of the ooze - but this exercise should illustrate for you what a one-way erosion the contest between reason and miracles has been. Do you really feel justified now, after an entire history of faux paus via arguments from ignorance, saying "We have no explanation for , therefore it's divine intervention! Hallelujah, it's a miracle!"
There was once a time when nothing was explained, and ever since that time everything that has been explained has been found to have a natural, not a supernatural, explanation. Everything. You are inventing answers you have no reason to believe just because there are people out there honest enough to say "I don't now."
Also, while you're looking up ad hoc and ad hominem, give a look see to the unreasonableness of making arguments from ignorance.
"With regards to my friend, it was the age
(9 or 10), his speed (15-20mph), no safety equipment, going into a busy
street that has three lanes per direction and the speed of the incoming
cars (at least 45mph). It's fatal if not death."
The details do not rescue your reasoning. Even if I concede that the odds were small, they are not insurmountable. Even if they were, that only means we don't know how he survived, it does not mean that the supernatural had anything to do with it. You seem to think a miracle is anything that beats the odds, which is absurd, especially since I've apprised you to the lottery fallacy (another rebuttal you've performed a less-than-impressive contortion in order to ignore) and how it applies to your reasoning.
For all the time I've spent responding very precisely to what you have said, you are not granting me the same courtesy. Remember my assessment of my friend dying in a plane crash, in which I can figure the actual probability unlike you who just pulled a number out of thin air and asked me to accept it at face value? Why is my example ludicrous while yours supposedly makes sense?
Your position screams of self-deceit.
"Science and logic can't explain it."
I disagree with your choice of verb here. A more accurate sentence would be, "Science and logic haven't explained it." Imagine all the people throughout history saying "Look at how orderly the stars are - science and logic can't explain that! Hence, god." Of course, science did explain it perfectly well eventually. Again, just because we don't know how something works does not mean that you do. You have to have reasons to support your hypothesis, otherwise it's an argument from ignorance. How rational would the following paragraph sound to you?
"I've personally seen it with my own eyes and
I wasn't intoxicated in any way when my friend survived an accident
that 99.9% would have meant death. It wasn't because I believed in [invisible pixies with four eyes] in the first place, but rather I believed [invisible pixies with four eyes] will protect my
friend when I prayed and [invisible pixies with four eyes] saw it was honest. "oh, and that I can't see [an invisible pixie with four eyes] until I believe it's there". My
apologies, I didn't phrase it right. [invisible pixies with four eyes] will not appear as one
if you don't open your mind to the possibility of [invisible pixies with four eyes]."
You cannot possibly agree that this reasoning is sound, or that anybody but the most gullible would accept it at face value. Yet this is the very reasoning you're presenting to me while almost leap-frogging yourself to call me close-minded for not gobbling it up. It's not that I'm close-minded - it's that your reasoning sucks.
"...there's evidence that God did [have something to do with your friend's survival]"
What is it? That you believed god would protect him? How do you know it was that and not because you chose to wear an orange t-shirt that day?
"I prayed and it was enough for me to believe."
I prayed for pixies and sure enough, I believed. Muslims say the same thing, as do Hindus, as do . Surely you don't think they're all right. In fact, at best, one of them could be right. So you already must think a majority of them, who pray and really think they are in contact with the divine, are either lying, deluded, or crazy. What reason do I have to believe that you are not an equally misled member of the majority?
"It's fine if you don't believe, but don't consider my beliefs with the likes of delusional or insane people."
No. If your beliefs are poorly reasoned and comparable to delusion or self-deceit, I will call them such. Not because I hate you, not because I hate god, but because that's simply what they are. You should have more invested in the sanity of your beliefs than me, and if you don't like my assessment - defend them. If your defense is sound, it won't matter what I say...which leads me to believe that you really don't think your defense is all that sound, otherwise you would not demand that I don't deride your position too harshly. No dice. You came here and opened your mouth, which is fine, but you don't get protection just because you demand I respect your beliefs.
Try mocking or equating my beliefs with insantiy sometime and see if I don't whip you around and rub your nose in that shit.
"I've insulted your open mindedness and
you're insulting my intelligence, beliefs, and eyesight, not to mention
twisting my words around."
I've insulted your intelligence? When? I've said your arguments are crappy, but that's not the same thing as saying you're stupid (though you seem eager to convince me of several cognitive failings on your part). For instance, Blaise Pascal was a brilliant man - but his arguments for the existence of god were down right wretched. Idiotic ideas can sometimes be found rattling around the minds of otherwise brilliant people. I would hardly be having this conversation with you if I felt you were incapable of connecting the dots - though I'm about to conclude my participation as you are doing an excellent job of convincing me otherwise.
I've insulted your beliefs? I've certainly made appraisals of them and explained, in very distinct terminology, why I feel that way.
I've insulted your eyesight? Where? Can you quote me doing this?
You, on the other hand, are making an entire argument predicated on the notion that I'm just too close-minded to accept your presumably more reasoned responses, even as I am laying out the reasons for why I disagree very specifically even though you don't seem inclined to respond to anything I've said.
Awe, you're too sweet.
If he posts a response, I'll add it.