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Sometimes in arguing here we accuse one another of either making a circular argument or begging the question. Occasionally someone will respond to such a charge by saying their argument is "virtuously circular."

At first I was puzzled by this idea and not quite sure what it would mean to be virtuously circular. Later I started noticing that some of my arguments for the coherence of some thesis or another that I was positing were being called circular or question begging. This seemed wrong to me and I came to the conclusion that circularity is just fine, in fact virtuous when it comes to coherence. As explained in the article I posted above  for consideration and comment, because a coherence argument is not one designed to persuade a person of the truth of the conclusion, but rather simply to inform the person of the meaning of the hypothesis or perhaps to explain some evidence according to a particular theory.

An example of that in what I argue here is my hypothesis that human concepts of morality are based on a social evolutionary imperative. I am not arguing that this is necessarily true. I am only arguing that it is coherent given the assumption that naturalism is true.

And this gets to the point of defeaters. Let's say I want to use my argument for the coherence of my thesis regarding morality as a defeater for the Argument from Morality for the Existence of God. (MA) It depends on what kind of defeater I am proposing. If I intend it only as an undercutting defeater, i.e., offering a reason to doubt that the MA is  good reason to believe God necessarily exists, then its coherence is enough and it doesn't matter that the truth conditions of both my thesis and naturalism are the same.  That's virtuous circularity. However, if I intend it as a rebutting defeater, i.e., as proof naturalism is true and therefore theism false, then it's circularity would be vicious.

I suppose I should give a counter example where this line of reasoning is advantageous to a theistic argument. I think that might be the case with God having a morally sufficient reason to allow for evil.

If the theist were arguing this as a rebutting defeater to the POE, i.e., that somehow it was a reason to believe the conclusion of the POE is  false and theism true, then he would be making a viciously circular argument because there is really no reason to believe the thesis unless one already believes in God. However, it can be an undercutting defeater for the theist, because it is coherent for a person who believes in God to believe that He has morally sufficient reasons for allowing evil. In fact, if God exists and in benevolent, then it is necessarily true that he has such.

Frankly I think this is a weaker counter to the POE than my counter to the MA, because it looks to me to be totally ad hoc Besides for the presupposition the God exists I see no reason to think that the thesis is true. On the other hand, I think even a theist could have reasons to believe that there is a social evolutionary imperative for morality. Only theists that deny evolution would not have a reason to believe that, IMO.

Anyway, I think I might still be a little unsure the distinction between circularity and question begging. I would have thought all circular deductive arguments beg the question.  And that all question begging arguments are circular. This article contradicts these assumption of mine, I think.

Anyway, any comments on what I've written and/or what is in the article would be appreciated.

Choose Your Own Topic / Reasonable Inference
« on: June 06, 2020, 09:03:51 am »
Sports Reporter:  So skipper, what's the plan for getting past the the Braves in the wildcard game.

Player: Why do you call me "skipper", no one is the "skipper" except the team captain?

I maintain that virtually everyone will infer from this hypothetical ballplayer's reply to the reporter that he is not the team captain and it goes w/o saying that he knows he's not the team captain.

I see no reason why anyone would not also make a similar inference when reading the following from the Gospel of Mark Chapter 10:

17As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

18“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone.

The only reason I can see why a reader would disregard the obvious inference here that Jesus is implying that he is not God is that that reader already has a firm belief that Jesus was God and of course that Jesus knew he was God.

There are other reasons besides this verse to think that Jesus did not consider himself to be God when he uttered these words, if indeed he did and that the progressively higher Christologies  on witness in the synoptics and culminating in John which promulgates the highest of Christologies are the result of a process of mythologization of the historical Jesus in the gospels.

Possibly the earliest, pre gospel credal statement in the NT comes to us through Paul in Romans 1. As Bart Ehrman explains it Paul was trying to convince the Roman Christians, who were not part of his "fold" but whose support he sought with furthering his mission, that he was not teaching a false gospel as some where claiming. As such he reached back, perhaps, for a credal statement that was well known and would likely not be considered controversial to the Roman Christians.

Romans 1:1 Paul, a servant[a] of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, 6 including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,

This can be considered likely the earliest Christology. Notice, there is nothing about Jesus being God himself or born divine. Instead he is born "of the flesh" and exalted by the Holy Spirit to his station as the Christ/Messiah on his resurrection. There is good reason to think that the first Christians being jews would not have considered the messiah to be the equal of God Himself. Messiahship was a divinely bestowed station not something that made the person so exalted anything like an equal to God Himself.

If the first Christians did not consider Jesus to be God incarnate, then in all likelihood Jesus never claimed to be God incarnate and of course did not consider himself to be God incarnate. As such, it is very plausible that when Jesus said "Why do you call me good. None is good but God alone" he was inferring, just as I think any reasonable person who did not have a presupposition that Jesus is God, would infer from the statement, that he does not consider himself to be God.

Some argue that Jesus was challenging the man to recognize that he is God. This seems like a forced reading of the text to me. Some point to the rest of the text, as it continues.

19You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’ d ”

20“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

21Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

They will argue that Jesus stipulates that the man must follow him to be saved, so of course that means he considers himself to be God. But notice, the part about following him is not part of the thing the man lacks. What the man lacks is compassion, because he is hording wealth rather than having compassion and sharing it with the poor. Jesus does not say "Sell your possessions and donate to the poor, then come and follow me and you will have treasure in heaven. he says "Sell you possession and donate to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven...THEN come and follow me. Following him is not part of the condition, if it were he would have phrased the statement differently. Also he said there is ONE thing you lack, not two. He stipulated the one thing, i.e., having compassion on the poor, and the 2nd is not a condition it is a suggestion tagged on.

Within the NT there are several different Christologies on witness ranging from "adoptionist" Christologies to ones where he is either begotten a divine being at birth to the one in John where he is a preexistent divine (the logos) being become man. 

There are two basic "adoptionist" Christologies on evidence in the NT, one from the some of the preliterary credal statements quote by Paul where Jesus was exalted to divine or semi divine status upon his resurrection and another where he this happens at his baptism when the Holy Spirit descends on him. There are early accounts of the Gospel of Luke reading, where God declares at the moment he is baptized, that "You are my son, on this day I have begotten you."

I think in another thread I said there was early mss evidence of this reading. I guess that is wrong and that reading is found in the writings of church fathers commenting on Luke. I will have to go back and correct that.

Anyway, if one considers that the original author of Mark may have had an adoptionist view it would explain why he does not include any birth narrative, i.e., Jesus being born the "Son of God" was not something he believed. He may not even have been aware that any such belief existed at the time even of it did.
Interestingly John's omission of a birth narrative may be for the opposite reason, i.e., he was promulgating a higher Christology where Jesus was not begotten the Son of God at birth, but was preexisting divine being, i.e., the divine logos incarnate.

So, this idea of a progression in Christologies from one where Jesus was exalted to divine or semi divine status on his resurrection to one where he is the pre existing divine logos incarnate has a lot of explanatory power. It explains why there is evidence of all of these divergent Christologies present in the NT often even in more than one in the same book and it helps explain why two of the gospels have no birth narrative, which doesn't make much sense if one believes that the authors of Mark and John were aware of such and believed in it. "Jesus was born the Son of God through conception by the Holy Spirit...Nah, that's not important I'll just leave it off," plausibly said no one, ever.

Since the natural progression of a story is from mundane to fantastic and rarely if ever the other way around, plus the fact that probably the earliest credal statement found in the NT is one of Jesus's exaltation to divine or semi divine status at his resurrection, then it is reasonable to think that this was the belief of the earliest Christians. If that is the case, then Jesus almost certainly did not teach them that he was God incarnate and probably did not consider himself such and so the inference from the Mark 10:18 that Jesus did not consider himself equal to God seems reasonable not just prima facie but also upon further consideration.

At a risk of getting involved in another eternal merry-go round argument with Harvey, I decided to respond to this post by Harvey in response to Belorg that was only tangentially related to the OP, hence the move to a new thread.

I know that your God needs a subjective state in order for your worldview to work, Harvey, but that is not my question. I want to know how it is possible for a necessary being to have subjective states.

Possibility depends entirely on consistency, which is because full consistency has a direct tie-in with existence. There is only one fully consistent reality, and that's because that reality has an omniscient mind with a subjective state that is satisfied by all truths.

This is incoherent. Truth is the property of a proposition and is satisfied by correspondence to reality. So, it makes no sense to talk of truth being ontically prior to reality.

If you postulated that God determines what physical reality (as opposed to all of reality) is by coming up with self-consistent and coherent propositions and then instantiates them as a consistent and coherent physical reality, perhaps the absurdity can be avoided. However, what reason is there to think this is necessary. it looks to me like an ad hoc assumption intended to make God's existence necessary.

I could see the possibility that it was not totally ad hoc That is, one might look at the way natural things tend to run down and fall apart and then conclude that there must be something that holds reality together. This however would be a kind of compositional fallacy. Just because natural objects, which are complex proper parts of physical reality have the tendency to fall apart does not mean that physical reality as a whole would just fall apart or be inconsistent  w/o being held together by a metaphysical agent.  So, even if not totally ad hoc is is an unwarranted assumption. It's epistemically possible that it is true, but there is no real reason to think it is. To assume that physical nature itself is self-consistent and self-preserving is more parsimonious. Given what we now know about fundamental physical nature with a Quantum Ground State (QGS) as the ontic bedrock (OB), there is good reason to think that indeed nature is self-preserving, and there is no reason to think it cannot be self-consistent.

If an omniscient mind is not satisfied by a truth is true, then such a truth doesn't exist. If no omniscient mind did not exist at all, or it didn't have a subjective state, then such a conceivable reality is not possible because it's not consistent. That is, either it's true "something" exists (but no satisfaction relation exists), or it's not true something exists (which means it's not a possible existing ontic bedrock state). Since the omniscient mind with a subjective state is the possible--the only possible state--it exists necessarily.

Even if there is some way to make that idea coherent, that doesn't make it true. It's probably unfalsifiable, but given that there is no reason to think physical  nature is not self-consist and self-preserving, that it is such is the null hypothesis. We know physical nature exists, or at least nobody seriously doubts the truth of that proposition. We do not know God exists and unless there is some necessity in positing His existence, then it is just an un parsimonious assumption, and positing such is not a rationally justified move.  Since we can't prove it's wrong, you are certainly free to believe it. You'rs even free to believe obvious nonsense, if it suits you.  There is, thankfully, no longer any official truth. But don't expect to persuade naturalists off their position with such arguments.

I have sometimes seen people argue that something exists instead of nothing because the idea of the existence of nothing or the proposition "Nothing exists" is absurd. It is absurd, but the proposition that something might exist for this reason is also absurd IMO.

I think the argument just mentioned betrays a confusion wrt the fundamental relationship of truth to reality. And it also shows some confusion about the possibility of the existence of an entity and propositions about the existence of an entity.

First, I should point out that truth is a property of propositions not things. Truth itself is not a thing; it is relationship either between the terms in a proposition or between a propositions and reality. This requires further explication.

For this discussion, truth may be used in two senses that should not, but often are, confused, leading to errors based on the informal fallacy of "equivocation".

The two senses not to be confused are tautological truth, which will be designated as t.truth and correspondence truth which will be designated c. truth.

t. truth is based simply on logic and the meaning of terms and does not require any real world information to determine, so it is called a priori truth or analytical truth. Those don't mean exactly the same thing, but parsing the meaning of those is beyond the scope of this OP.

An example of a a t.true proposition would be the tired old saw "There are no married bachelor's" Its truth can be determined by logical analysis of the definitions of the terms. The term "bachelor" means "an unmarried man." So the proposition "There are married bachelors" boils down to  "There are married unmarried men" Obviously this is absurd and has a truth value of false and so it's negation "There are no married bachelors"  must be true.  We can know this w/o any actual understanding of the meaning of the terms "man" and "married." The determination of its truth is tautological/ a priori /analytical.

Notice absurdity, like truth, is a property of a proposition, not a thing. You can't say that an actual unmarried bachelor would be an absurdity, because by definition no such thing exists. There is no thing that corresponds to the term "married bachelor." It's just a senseless combination of terms, a nonsense.

The other sense of "truth" is correspondence truth, c. truth, and this very roughly means how well a proposition corresponds to reality. Determining the c.truth of a proposition requires real world knowledge, so it is called a posteriori /synthetic...Or at least the type of proposition is called a synthetic proposition.
Again those don't all mean the same thing, but it's not important to parse those terms here.

So, take a synthetic proposition like "There is a flag on the moon." There is no way to determine the truth of that proposition just by analyzing the terms involved. No the only way to determine this is to know wether there is in reality a flag on the moon.

I would say that most existential propositions are synthetic. Obviously some existential propositions like "There are no married bachelors" can be analytical. But most are synthetic.

It seems to me that the proposition that nothing exists for the reason that the proposition is absurd is itself absurd.  It is certainly not absurd to propose that you or I might not have existed. So, it cannot be the case that our existence can be explained by the absurdity of the proposition of our non existence. Certainly there is nothing a priori absurd about the propositions. If I said "Donald Trump does not exist" it would require real world knowledge to determine the truth or absurdity of the proposition. It could not be determined analytically.

Likewise I think that the question "Why does something exist instead of nothing?" cannot be answered "Because the proposition nothing exists is absurd."

This is because the truth of a synthetic propositions is an a posteriori c. truth and the truth of an analytical propositions is an a priori t.truth.  A t.truth cannot establish a c.truth. because tautologies do not convey any real world information. In order for a t.truth to convey any real world information, it has to be first be informed with real world knowledge.  C,truth is determined by correspondence to reality and nothing else.

Further, any truth is a property of a proposition not an entity. To think the truth of a proposition could explain the existence of an entity is to get the relationship between truth and reality backwards. Reality is the c.truth maker for synthetic propositions and required for informing t.truth before it can have any real world significance.  Reality is ontically prior to truth. The c.truth of an existential proposition is determined by reality, not vice versa.

It is actually absurd to think that the real world might have been caused to exist by the absurdity of the proposition "Nothing exists," the absurdity of which is completely a matter of it having a t.truth value of F. It does not convey any real world information. IOW, it's just a nonsense.  No, aside from empty t. truths, it is the real world that determines the truth value of propositions, not the other way around.

Choose Your Own Topic / Penrose's Triangle
« on: May 10, 2020, 09:14:36 am »
Sorry, I still don't know how imbed images in this format and the following is supposed to be a triangle, so take the  alpha mind and the omega mind here to be the same and you'd  have a triangle which is supposed to represent the (ontic?) relationships between three aspects of reality as proposed by Roger Penrose

Mind --> Math--> Matter--> Mind

I take it as meaning none of the three are foundational, but somehow form some sort of whole? That might just be my interpretation though. So, I'm not saying Mind is the Alpha and Omega, though I suppose the Christian Logos fans might find that an appealing interpretation.

The part I find hard to swallow is the math--> matter leg. Really? I personally think there is some sense in which the physical is mathematical, but I think it is that we have just invented a language, mathematics, that is useful for reasoning about the physical world, not that there could be some way that matter is composed of mathematical substances, whatever that would even mean. I think numbers and arithmetic  just reflect the quantum nature of reality, that discrete entities can be identified and enumerated. Geometry just reflects the nature of spacial dimensions and the possible relationships of objects in space; etc. I understand that there is what has been called the "unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics," I just think it is more likely some gap in our understanding that makes it seem unreasonable, but that gap is not a misunderstanding of how the physical world just is somehow mathematics.

The Matter to Mind leg is certainly mysterious and I'm not sure --how could I be?-- that the relationship is exactly that matter causes mind. I don't rule that out of the realm of epistemic possibility, and there do seem to be reasonable inductive inferences favoring that relationship, but I think there might be some deeper ontology, maybe something nobody has ever thought of or will, that might end up meaning that mind and matter ,or better IMO, the psychic and physical, are aspects of a deeper unifying ontology. I have trouble imagining disembodied information, but PERHAPS something in quantum information theory might lead to a breakthrough. Just a hunch.

That leaves the mind--> math leg, and there the same or similar observations apply as to the first leg. I think the question of whether math is discovered or invented is perhaps a bit misleading. Is it necessarily either/or. I mean I certainly don't think we invent the quantum and spacio temporal relationships that math describes, but I do believe that math is a language that we create for that purpose.  So, in the end mathematics, per se, is mind-dependent, but the relationships it describes are probably ontologically objective.

Anyway, I thought this might make a good conversation starter. Any even tangentially related comments are welcome.


Choose Your Own Topic / Omnipotence and explanation
« on: May 03, 2020, 08:26:52 am »
I thought it might be interesting to open up a discussion on the meaning of omnipotence and explanation, the semantics of these terms and is omnipotence a proper explanation of anything? 

Let's start with the lexical semantics. Would people agree with the following definitions?

Omnipotence: The capacity to bring about (and hence account for) any logically consistent state of affairs.
Explanation:  An account of how a certain state of affairs came about.

It seems to me that on superficial level that Omnipotence can, by definition, account for any state of affairs. I mean if the skeptic asks the theist. How could God account for x (where x= any state of affairs), "omnipotence" could, by definition, be the explanation.

The question is whether it is actually an explanation at all.  It seems like an empty tautology actually.

So, the question is what constitutes a proper explanation for a state of affairs, and is simply uttering the word "omnipotence" a proper explanation for anything?

I'm tempted to cite some scientific definition of explanation in order to show just how impoverished "omnipotence" is as an explanation of anything, but I am afraid that I will simply be charged with "scientism". So, I am wondering if we can come up with a definition of explanation that is neutral in terms of whether the explanation is a naturalistic and/or empirically based one or not. I'm having some trouble formulating one here. Maybe I'll just leave off and see if any of the other great minds here (other? how presumptuous, jk) can formulate a neutral definition that will be acceptable to everyone interested in this topic.

Listening to the Licona vs. Ehrman debate and this was a point of contention as which is a more plausible explanation of the probable historical fact that at least some of Jesus sincerely believed they had seen him risen.

Licona admits, actually he submits that modern research has shown about 15% of the population of psychologically normal people is subject to hallucinations/visions. I suppose that means about that percentage of normal people experience them at some point in their life. he then points out that older people and females are more prone than average.

He then goes to argue that makes it implausible that 100% of the apostles, young men, could have been having hallucinations/visions when they believed they were seeing the risen Christ.

But this makes quite a number of tenuous assumptions. First it assumes that ancient people had the same predisposition for this as modern people. Perhaps, but no necessarily. Secondly it assumes the apostles were representative sample of the population. I actually find this less likely than the former. Think about the kind of people who are likely to give up everything and follow somebody claiming to be on a mission from God. Would they be a typical representation of general population of people?

Also, this assumes that they were not engaging in activities that might increase their level of suggestibility. It's fairly well documented I believe that typical religious practices like prayer, chanting and the like can raise people's level of suggestibility I'd also suggest....ha ha...that it could be that there is a correlation between suggestibility, a persons likelihood to be attracted to a cult and their likelihood of being susceptible to having visions.

It's also well know that this type of thing is likely to accompany grief and other kinds of psychological distress. And what could be more psychologically distressing than one day thinking you are in the inner circle of God's elect, ready to be the leader of one of the 12 tribes of Israel in God's Kingdom and the next minute to have your King killed and yourself reduced to less than a nobody.

Licona say such is unlikely to explain Paul's visions because he was a hater of Christ and his followers and so was not grieving. True perhaps, but he also claims to have been a staunch Pharisee, and personal student of Gamaliel, the grandson of rabbi Hillel who taught that the golden rule was the whole of the Torah and the rest was just commentary. Now, was Paul treating Christians according to the golden rule? Certainly not. I submit that he very well may have been suffering if not from the extreme psychological distress of grief, then the distress of extreme feelings of guilt.

Anyway, I would not say that because modern studies show that only 15% of a random sampling of normal modern people experience visions that that means its all that unlikely that the 12 disciples could not have all had visions they interpreted one way or another as being of the risen Christ. And even if the chances of such were 1 in thousand it would still be more likely than that an actual resurrection was the cause of their belief.

In fact, I don't think it is implausible at all that Peter and a couple of the others had visions, perhaps waking dreams, of the risen Christ and then told the others. The others would then have the suggestion implanted which would increase the chances of them also having such dreams. Some might even have felt under pressure to also experience this. They may have engaged in practices such as intense prayer that would have heightened their suggestibility even more.

Who knows what really happened? All I know is that an actual resurrection claim is something that has to be given a very, very low prior probability, and I would not assess the prior probability of twelve 1st century members of an apocalyptic cult becoming deluded into believing in a resurrection  as being anything like that low. Admittedly Paul was not a member of the cult, but his experiences were obviously visionary and it's not at all implausible that he was under great emotional stress from feeling so guilt for egregious violations of the commandment which his personal teacher Gamaliel's grandfather, the great Pharisee, rabbi Hillel, had said was the whole of the law.

Choose Your Own Topic / Has Bart Ehrman Changed His Mind?
« on: April 21, 2020, 07:28:47 pm »
I thought this might be a conversation starter. I welcome any responses even tangentially related ones.

I'd say the short answer to this teaser Youtube title... that ...yeah, it got me to look... is NO. Disappointing, huh? I must say that I think Dr. Craig makes some good points regarding the argument that Bart Ehrman has given for his deepened agnosticism, but I'm afraid he may have missed the point Ehrman was actually trying to make. I'm not sure, but I don't think he was trying to justify the position of agnosticism over theism, but rather he was justifying agnosticism over some sort of gnostic atheism. He's saying that just as the limitations of animal minds render them incapable of knowing let alone understanding human consciousness, he can't rule out the possibility that some limitation of human consciousness is making it impossible for him to recognize the existence of a superior cosmic consciousness or God's mind. He can't rule that out so he maintains from this thinking a deeper agnosticism on the issue of whether such a Being exists. I don't think he anywhere said that this was an argument that one can definitively rule out the possibility of a knowledge of God, which seems to be the way Dr. Craig is interpreting it. From what was quoted though, I could see how it could be construed that way, so I'm not saying Dr. Craig is necessarily being disingenuous or uncharitable in his response. However, I'm fairly familiar with Bart Ehrman's thinking and I tend to doubt he would offer up a non sequitur of an argument like that. It's possible I'm being too charitable, but I'd take it as a defense of agnosticism against a more fundamental sort of atheism rather than against theism. Ehrman does clarify that he's not saying it warrants belief in any God and that he considers much religious belief to be superstitious. But I'm not getting the idea that he's claiming there's no possibility of a rational theistic belief.

Am I being too charitable with Ehrman? Do you think Ehrman is saying agnosticism is the only possible rational response to the question of God's existence? Does his argument justify agnosticism over any sort of gnostic atheism?

I'm gonna go to Bart's blog now and see if he's discussed this response yet.

Choose Your Own Topic / Steel Manning Christianity...sort of.
« on: March 30, 2020, 10:41:50 am »
The steel-manned Christianity I'm about to exposit is almost certainly not going to be satisfying to a lot of orthodox Christians, but it's the best I can do, IMO, with the available materials. I'm gonna put this in terms of what a believer in this type of Christianity might say. I don't believe all of this myself, mainly I do not believe in an actual resurrection, but much of the rest of it I do believe.

OK, the Bible is not the inerrant word of God and the various churches have gotten much of it wrong perhaps from the very beginning, but I do believe that there is salvation in the gospel of Jesus Christ (I actually do believe this in some sense, though I would say Jesus of Nazareth, because Christ is a translation of messiah, and I do not believe Jesus was the messiah the Jews were waiting for).

I don't believe God dictated any of the books of the Bible to anybody, nor did he stand over anyone's shoulder to make sure they got it right. However, I do believe there are inspired words in the scriptures, written by people who's hearts were turned to God and some of them even knew what they were talking about. I also believe there is nonsense in the Bible, even some vile nonsense. For example I don't believe God ever ordered or even condoned genocidal acts like the killing of captive women and children of a conquered foe.  How could I ever unequivocally condemn such viciousness if I believed it was possible that God would ever order or condone such?

I don't believe God ever desired sacrifice. It was the priests that desired sacrifice. Some of the prophets got it right when they scoffed at the idea of God savoring the smell of burned flesh. They and Jesus got it right when they said "God desires mercy, not sacrifice. "

I don't believe the story of Adam and Eve can ever be taken literally at all, but I do believe it is a good allegory for the point in human evolution when we became sentient social creatures with a sense of "good and evil". Good and evil are not fundamental forces of nature, but they arise at the level of sentient social interaction.

The God of Genesis, or te garden of eden story anyway, is not an accurate depiction of the ultimate uncaused cause of the universe, but represents something more like what Freud called the super ego, i.e., the conscience, the part of us that condemns us when we act antisocially.  The snake represents the Id, the part of us mediated mainly by the "reptile brain" and which prompts us to act selfishly.

"Original sin" as a doctrine is mainly nonsense, but has some grains of truth in it. We are not born under condemnation for the sins of our distant ancestors. What kind of God would condemn a new born baby for what Adam supposedly did? However, we are all born with evolved self-survival and procreational drives that if left unchecked can be socially catastrophic. To put it in religious terms we are all born with a sinful nature, i.e., the desire to act selfishly in contravention of social norms. On the other hand, all, or most of us are also born with the capacity to understand right and wrong at least to some extent and also to develop a sense of justice and maybe more importantly a sense of compassion for others.

Now, if God had a reason for creating the world, it seems that to bring sentient beings and experience into existence is a reasonable hypothesis as to a telos. In one of Jesus's parable he taught that what ever one does to "the least" of his creatures, he does to God. So, what I believe is that God is alive in every sentient being and experiencing what they experience. Given this it seems eminently reasonable to presume that God wants that experience to be the best possible experience and that best way that human beings can ensure a good human experience is to act morally, to follow the golden rule. And, so, it is reasonable to believe that is what God wills. That also seems to be what Jesus taught.

Now, I don't believe Jesus was born of a virgin. That just seems obviously to be legendary accretion, mythologizing. I also don't think the evidence that Jesus was resurrected, i.e., the empty tomb narratives, post resurrection sightings is good enough to convince a skeptic that Jesus actually rose from the dead. But the evidence does seem good enough to convince a skeptic. However, the evidence does seem good enough to support the belief that the apostles believed that Jesus had in some sense risen. Of course, I don't know exactly what sense that was, but I'm willing to take the leap of faith on that.

Actually, I don't believe that is the main issue however. "It is not those cry, Lord, Lord," but those that do the will of the Father. And hsi will not for sacrifice, but for mercy, forgiveness, compassion, and it is those who look beyond their small Id/Super Ego/Ego self and to their greater self which is one with God that find salvation. I'm not even sure what salvation means, maybe it means being able to live in a better world that God has planned for the future or maybe just means not living a vain life of selfish indulgence, causing harm to others, full of fear and alienation. I don't know, but I do believe that Jesus' message of love, mercy and forgiveness is the way that human being ought to act.

OK, I didn't actually pull many punches on orthodoxy there, and actually do believe most of what I just wrote. Of course, those that know me know that I personally prefer to call the uncaused/first cause Nature and I am taking the leap of faith of believing in actual bodily resurrection, or to believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the only begotten Son of God, God incarnate. At least not any more than all of us a God incarnate...well, perhaps much more than most of us in terms of being in tune with God's will (if God has a will), but not so much than that.

Choose Your Own Topic / Faith, Hope and Love
« on: March 12, 2020, 07:32:51 am »
Well folks. In the present atmosphere of fear and loathing with a pandemic raging amongst a society that is already hostilely divided ideologically, I feel that what is need more than ever is love and understanding.

One thing I get about religion, Christianity in particular is perhaps summed up in this NT chapter

Corinthians 13

1If I speak in the tongues a of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, b but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

I've always taken this to mean love is the ends to which faith and hope are the means. Having faith can help a person remain hopeful and remaining hopeful can help a person remain loving.

So, in as much as any of your faith in Jesus Christ helps you maintain your hope that love is of ultimate value and so maintain your love for others, then I'm hesitant to be critical of your faith, especially in this time of despair, desperation, dread and worse yet, anger and hatred.

I would perhaps ask y'all to consider to what extent what you believe makes you more loving, not just to your friends and family but to strangers and even, as Jesus apparently commanded, even to your perceived enemies.  And further, what is the value of your faith if it is not leading to greater love?

With that, I am at least temporarily suspending my attempts to question the rationality of your beliefs. Rationality is important, but love is at least as important, and I love you all, skeptics and believers and do wish you all the best.

Also please consider this:

We should all be practicing social distancing...physical social distancing...hopefully not emotional social distancing though. I'm afraid the pandemic is out of the bag, but at least we might be able to flatten the curve and avoid the worst.

Choose Your Own Topic / Simplicity
« on: February 27, 2020, 11:29:59 am »
Here's a physical cosmologist out to win the hearts of Occam's razors fans.

Any thoughts ?

For this argument, God= Christian God
m= metaphysical modality, so m. possible means metaphysically possible, etc.

1. If God exists, His existence is m.necessary (axiom)
2. If God does not exist, then his non existence is m.necessary (corollary to 1)
3. If God's existence is m. possible, then it is m.necessary (corollary to 1)
4. If God's non existence is m.possible, then it is m.necessary (corollary to 2)
5. If God's existence is conceivable, then His existence is m.possible (hypothesis in question (HIQ))
6. If God's non existence is conceivable, then His non existence is m. possible (corollary to HIQ)
7. God's existence is conceivable, thus m.possible, thus m. necessary (from 1, 3, 5)
8. God's non existence is conceivable, thus m. possible, thus m.necessary (from 2, 4. 6)

7 and 8 cannot be both be true as logically p and ~p cannot both be true at the same time. So, obviously there is an error here.

To me, 1, 2, 3, 4, 7 and 8 look to be on pretty solid ground at least in their antecedents. The only thing that looks questionable to me is whether 5 and 6 are true. They cannot both be true if there is no other error in this argument.

The only conclusion I can come to is that 5 and 6 are both false because the HIQ, ie., that conceivability establishes metaphysical possibility is false.

I don't know this looks like a rock solid refutation of the HIQ to me. So, I open it up to questions and critiques. Maybe there is something about this being a special case???

Another way of looking at it is, if the OA entails that for God m.possibility -> m.necessity and conceivability entails m.possibility, then anyone who believes God's existence is conceivable is forced to believe that God necessarily exists. Does that seem right? Could it be that just because one can conceive of some idea of God that it therefore exists necessarily? There are many different conceptions of God, certainly they cannot all be m.necessary entities.

Further conceivability can change over time. Before the modern age, the idea that you could create images of something and then transmit them around the world for others to see would have been inconceivable. Today it's conceivable. Did the status of its metaphysical possibility change? That seems like a preposterous proposition, and I think the problem is with this whole notion of conceivability entailing m.possibility.

This is a determination of a SUBJECTIVE/epistemic probability, a reasonable (I think) confidence level that one according to Bayes theory ought to have in the gospel claims of an actual resurrection.

Of course the actual probability of the truth of a factual claim is either 0 (impossible, if false) or 1 (necessary, if true). So, this certainly doesn't prove that a resurrection did not happen or the evidence is false. However it is I believe a reasonable analysis based on Bayes theorem of the level of confidence that one ought to have in the gospel claims.

Bayes theorem for subjective probability of a proposition given evidence and background knowledge.

P(h /e&k)=  P(e / h&k) * P(h / k) /  P (e / k)
Definition of terms                 

P(h /e&k) means the final probability of the hypothesis (h) given the evidence (e) and background knowledge (k). For this analysis the hypothesis is that the resurrection actually occurred. The evidence is the gospel testimony, and background knowledge is everything we know before considering e

P(e / h&k)= The prior probability of the evidence existing given the truth of the hypothesis and background knowledge. In this case, it would be the confidence we have that the gospel evidence would exist given the truth of the resurrection and our background knowledge.

P(h / k)= The prior probability of the truth of the hypothesis given our background knowledge only. In this case the confidence we should have in a resurrection claim in the absence of evidence other than our background knowledge.

P (e / k) = The prior probability of the evidence existing based solely on our background knowledge. In this case the confidence we have that the evidence would exist based on background knowledge alone, i.e., regardless of the truth of the hypothesis.

Probability assignments

 P(e / h&k)  I would assign a confidence level of 1 to this. In other words there’s nothing in my background knowledge that would give me reason to doubt the gospel evidence would exist if there was an actual resurrection. Maybe this should be epistemic indifference .5, but I'm trying to be as generous as I can reasonably be to the p.

P(h / k)  Personally, I would assign a near zero prior here. Given all that I believe I know, the probability of a resurrection taking place is nil. However, for the sake of argument, I’ll go with a small but non zero confidence of .001. If you think this is too biased in favor a naturalistic worldview, just realize this is like saying that, given my knowledge of the world, I’d expect no more than one out of every 1000 claims of a resurrection to be true.  Remember this is a judgement made before evidence. I mean if I told you that my late best friend had resurrected and provided no evidence what level of confidence would you have in my claim? I doubt you would believe there was even a chance  of one in a million that it was true, (I wish it was true, but...)

P (e / k)   This is the evaluation that is probably going to be most controversial. However for me personally, I would give this a very high level of confidence, i.e., close to one. That is to say there is nothing in my background knowledge that would give me reason to doubt the gospel evidence could exist regardless of whether the resurrection actually happened or not.  However for the sake of argument I will go with epistemic indifference and assign this a value of .5

This gives us:  P(h /e&k)=  1 * .001 / .5 =  .002

Not a good reason to believe in the resurrection even on the fairly liberal probability I gave for the truth of an unsupported resurrection claim. 

I think I’m actually being quite generous in my assessments as I don’t think that anyone would or should ever believe any resurrection claim for which no evidence was given, so really .001 is far too generous a confidence for P(h / k). 

Further the valuation I gave to P (e / k) of indifference suggests that the existence of the gospel evidence should double whatever confidence we would have in its absence. However, part of my background knowledge is the knowledge of the propensity of human beings for irrational beliefs and the evidence that we have of people bearing false witness, embellishment, misunderstanding experiences they have, and that people have believed absolutely preposterous things and been willing to die for those false beliefs.
Given all that I don’t think there is any reason to think we are not just as likely to have the “evidence” that we do have regardless of whether the hypothesis in question is true or not. That is that it is very near as likely that a document like the NT would exist in the absence of an actual resurrection as if there was an actual resurrection.

As I pointed out in another thread. This suggests the proper definition of extraordinary evidence is evidence that would be much less likely to exist if the hypothesis is question is false as if it were true. 

I invite any and all critiques of this analysis. I think it is quite well thought through and presented, but if it's in somehow in error I'd like to know.

Choose Your Own Topic / ECREE is dumbed down Bayesian Logic
« on: January 10, 2020, 06:18:46 pm »
On another thread "ECREE justifies rejection of Jesus' resurrection"  kurros said "ECREE is a fairly trivial consequence of Bayes' theorem. Not much more needs to be said. It is just a mathematical requirement for consistent logical reasoning under uncertainty." for which he took some flak, In another thread I had independently stated that I thought ECREE was "dumbed down Bayesian Logic." Now, I would agree that ECREE was coined by Sagan and that he probably was taking the idea from Humes statements regarding reason for skepticism regarding miracles. That may be true and they may not have been referring directly to Bayesian logic, per se. However, I think Bayesian logic is just the formalization of a logical algorithm that humans have probably been employing before they could even record anything in writing

In the following discussion, I think I more or less prove that kurros and I were correct in our intuition on this one. ECREE is just an informal statement of basic Bayesian probability logic.

I think this realization is useful because it helps to make clear just what the term "extraordinary evidence" in the ECREE "slogan" means.

Bayesian probability calculus for epistemic probabilities.

P(H)= Probability of the truth of the hypothesis: P(~H) =Probability hypothesis is false
P(E|H)= Probability of the Evidence given the truth of the Hypothesis.
P(E|¬H) = Probability of the evidence given the falsity of the Hypothesis

In Bayesian probability logic the following formula is used to determine the epistemic probability of a hypothesis

   P(H)= P(H)P(E|H)/P(H)P(E|H) + P(¬H)P(E|¬H)

An extraordinary claim is a hypothesis where the prior probability of the hypothesis is very low. We see this term in the numerator of the formula as P(H). Since it is in the numerator the lower this is the lower the final P(H) value. Extraordinary evidence here would be represented by a very low value for P(E|¬H)
which means the probability that the evidence we have would exist if the Hypothesis is false. Since this is in the denominator a lower value (everything else being equal) will render a higher final P(H) calculation.

So, extraordinary evidence would be defined as evidence that we have for which the probability would be very low if the claim/hypothesis were false.

I''d say basically this formula is just a formalized way of expressing ECREE. prior P(H) in the numerator and P(E|¬H) in the denominator are the terms that do most of the work, I think, and the others are there mainly to make sure you get a sensible answer, i.e., something between 0, impossibility, and 1, certainty.

The advantage and neat thing about the Bayesian formula is that it gives a more exact definition for what constitutes an extraordinary claim (hypothesis) and "extraordinary evidence." An extraordinary claim (or hypothesis) is one with a very low prior probability, and extraordinary evidence is evidence that would be very unlikely to exist if the hypothesis were not true.

Obviously the lower the prior probability of the claim, then the more extraordinary (low probability if claim is false) the evidence needed to bring the final P(H) up above say .5 where you can say it's more likely than not true.

So, yes in the terms provided, ECREE is not just a slogan, it is basic and valid  logic for probability calculus when dealing with extraordinary claims.

Choose Your Own Topic / Only one metaphysically possible Universe?
« on: January 09, 2020, 04:50:25 pm »
In a couple of recent threads where I've been attempting to argue for why it makes sense to say the Universe simply is what it is w/o any cause or explanation, I've trotted out the following two syllogisms that in series I think prove this point. I'd be glad to know what others think about this. Are they valid and sound arguments?

1. If an infinite regress of causes and explanations is metaphysically impossible, then a first cause or ground of being is metaphysically necessary. 
2. Infinite regress is metaphysically impossible
3. A metaphysically necessary first cause or ground of being  (OB) exists

4. If a metaphysically necessary OB exists, then there is nothing that could have made it be something other than what it IN FACT is.
5. A metaphysically necessary OB exists  (3 above)
6. A factually necessary OB exists.  (A metaphysically necessary OB that is metaphysically necessarily whatever it actually (IN FACT) is.)

Some corollaries.

3! The actual Universe  has a metaphysically necessary  OB.
6! The actual OB of the Universe is metaphysically necessarily just whatever it IN FACT is.

By definition there is only one Universe, so if the OB of the one and only Universe is metaphysically necessarily just what it in fact is, then there is only one metaphysically possible Universe, i.e., the actual Universe.

Note 1: here (capital U) Universe designates the sum total of all existence, which is what makes 4 necessarily true. There is nothing outside the Universe that could have caused the uncaused OB to be something other than whatever it is.

Note 2: The known (small u) universe is not epistemically necessarily the whole Universe, which leaves open the epistemic possibility that the singularity that appears to be the first cause of the known universe is not metaphysically necessarily what it is, because there could be something outside the known universe in the Universe as a whole that could have caused it to be different than what it is. So even if there is only one metaphysically possible Universe, there may be untold metaphysically possible universes, i.e., universes that like the known universe are subordinate to the Universe as a whole. 

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