Discussions with Atheists,p. 11
From Alan Myatt to LA,
>> Well, I've read a good bit of atheistic material by different
types of atheists, so I think I have a good grasp of this type of thinking.
Now it's time for Without Miracles by Gary Cziko. ISBN 0-262-03232-5.
But my money is on you won't.
I'll order a copy as soon as I get my next paycheck. Normally it takes a couple of months for me to get stuff here by surface mail, but I'll be glad to read it after it gets here (1)
From Alan Myatt,
Message text written by LA
>. And it is the only one available to us.
You can debate until you are out of breath about what's "really out there." But it's a pointless and futile excersize. There is no way we can directly perceive whatever that external reality is. Or even if it is. All we have are our predictive models which, as they work, increase our confidence in their assumptions. And, as they fail, decrease that confidence. But you will never know anything with absolute certainty. <
The incoherence, that is the self-contradictory nature of your world view becomes apparent here L. These statements of yours are statements about the the nature of ultimate reality. To state that it is unknowable is to state something about its ultimate nature. To state that the empirical method is the only method available to us is also a universal generalization about the nature of ultimate reality. So you both say that you cannot know about what is really there, but you do know some of its attributes. You know that it can generate human beings without divine creation. You know that whatever it is, it does not include the possibility of revelation. As I showed before, from this logically follows a number of propositions about reality. But since elsewhere you have denied that logic is universal then you can contradict yourself if you want. Your system is irrational. It reduces to blind faith. It says, well really we cannot know what is out there, but we can know that whatever it is, it could never under any circumstances be the Christian God. It simply dodges and begs the epistemological question.
Message text written by LA
> > As for the question of knoweldge, the issue is whether of not atheistic presuppositions can sustain a rational epistemology. I and many others claim that they cannot. <
A position that can only be maintained by steadfastly remaining in the 19th century.
An interesting dogmatic assertion L, offered without a shred of documentation. In fact, the 20th century has been much, much harder on atheistic epistemology than the 19th. Can you reference any 20th century thinker who has answered the skeptics? With the existentialists, post-mods, etc., it has been much more clear that atheism leads to irrationalism and the denial of the possibility of truth. I think it is you who are out of date, but then that is neither here nor there. The question is can you justify knowledge on the basis of your system. And from what you have said here the clear answer is no.
Message text written by LA
> You still believe in "abstract universals?" Boy, you are out of date. Let me know when you reach the 1930s.<
Your post makes my points better than I ever could.
Since there are no universal abstract principles then there is no rule that says, what is most recent is true. Besides, The kind of skepticism you are supporting is as ancient as the Greek skeptics, (whom you have not answered).
If logic arose by chance as you suggest, then it is not in any way universally binding. Rationality is thus not a requirement for continued discourse. If I want to violate the law of contradiction, no big deal, because it arose by pure chance. But how can the irrational give rise to the rational? Anyway, the discussion is now over, since you reject the universally binding character of logic there is no further possibilty of logical discourse. At least that seems to me to be the implication of your view.
> The incoherence, that is the self-contradictory nature of your world view becomes apparent here L. <
Only if one attempts to squeeze what I say into one of those handy-dandy, predefined, presupposed, premade strawmen (now available in convenient six packs!).
> So you both say that you cannot know about what is really there, but you do know some of its attributes. <
No. You didn't pay attention. Maybe your presuppositions got in the way. I'm saying we do not know anything with certainty. That we gain confidence in the assumptions of our models by how useful they are.
> You know that it can generate human beings without divine creation. You know that whatever it is, it does not include the possibility of revelation. <
No. I take the position that there is no evidence of "creation." And that the concept of "revelation" really doesn't even make any sense. It's rather begging the question to say that some being you can't demonstrate exists has told you things. And since it told you things, it must exist.
> It says, well really we cannot know what is out there, but we can know that whatever it is, it could never under any circumstances be the Christian God. It simply dodges and begs the epistemological question. <
I did not say this. But I'm sure you cannot help but hear this since it fits one of your little pat, canned replies.
> Anyway, the discussion is now over, since you reject the universally binding character of logic there is no further possibilty of logical discourse. <
Of course the discussion is over. I've refused to concede that Alan Myatt has all the answers. That's what your post is actually saying. Several times, you make comments like:
> As I showed before, from this logically follows a number of propositions about reality. <
I mean get real. You have "shown" this to yourself. Not to anybody else. These "as I have shown" kinds of fatuous comments actually show that your posts are not intended to be discussion. They're nothing but lectures. You act as if we all should be taking notes.
Well, I'm not interested. Presup strikes me as nothing but some perverse offshoot of post-modernist deconstruction. Your view is the arbitrary, irrational one. All you've done is argue that there's no way to judge between worldviews, that it's all "faith," and so what you do is just pick the premises you like. I mean your posts are full of all kinds of polysyllabic words and names of dead philosophers but you don't respond to anything anybody says to you. It's almost as if keywords trigger a macro.
I still say that if the denial of the usefulness of emperical evidence leads to arbitrariness in judging between worldviews. Empericism has its limitations. That you seem to have just stumbled over this and trumpet it so loudly is almost amusing.
But, then, there is this:
> In fact, the 20th century has been much, much harder on atheistic epistemology than the 19th. Can you reference any 20th century thinker who has answered the skeptics? With the existentialists, post-mods, etc., it has been much more clear that atheism leads to irrationalism and the denial of the possibility of truth. <
You're into that philosophy waste of time are you? Philosophy is a dead end off shoot of religion full of people who couldn't hack it in any real degree, can't get real jobs, and sit around sniping at anybody who accomplishes anything because real world accomplishments belie their sad little denials of the world going on outside their tiny, pointless little academic circle (hm... can't use that word... I'll end with "circles").
IAC, you've ignored any real attempt to engage you on some of your ideas. You still won't tell me how, if everything is a matter of choosing ones suppositions, what makes your suppostions any better than anybody's? You swear up and down you've logicked your way to glory but your conclusions still rest on your premises. That you find my approach "irrational" means what? It means I disagree with you. And nothing more. Because, in your approach, all I have to (2)
>> If logic arose by chance as you suggest, then it is not in any way universally binding. Rationality is thus not a requirement for continued discourse.
You know, Alan, that is one of the most confused pieces of reasoning I've ever seen, and I see it every time a "philosophical" theist comes to this forum.
Trust me: It makes no sense, this thing you've just said above.
Or don't trust me: Let's talk it out. Let's see if you can actually answer hard questions about it in anything approaching a meaningful manner.
Start with this one: If rocks arose by chance, does that mean that they cannot be useful to humans?
Now here's another one: No matter how logic arose, do you think anyone other than the insane will take you seriously as a dialoguer here if you write with complete illogic?
See if you can answer those two questions. It will help you see the nonsensical nature of your assertion which I've quoted at the top of this message.
From AM to Q,
>Trust me: It makes no sense, this thing you've just said above.<
Sorry, I don't trust you. I need more than an assertion. I need you to prove it.
>Or don't trust me: Let's talk it out. Let's see if you can actually answer hard questions about it in anything approaching a meaningful manner.<<
As soon as you give me a hard question I'll be glad to answer it. I haven't seen you deliver one yet.
> If rocks arose by chance, does that mean that they cannot be useful to humans?<
The issue here is not is logic useful, but rather does it actually provide us with truth. The theory of epicycles was useful to explain and predict the motion of the planets, but further research with better technology indicated that it was not true. The question here is how can the rational arise out of the irrational? And if irrational forces are ultimately the source of our reason, then why on earth should we trust it to tell us about truth? If logic is not universally binding, that is, if it has no objective status over the many finite human minds that exist, then why should it be binding in the specific case of this discourse? Because it is useful? Useful for what? To manipulate others? Or to actually insure that our discourse is rational because it adheres to an objective standard of rationality. If logic arose by chance it might have some uses, but it would be purely arbitrary to assert that it is a signpost to the truth.
>Now here's another one: No matter how logic arose, do you think anyone other than the insane will take you seriously as a dialoguer here if you write with complete illogic?<
No, I don't think so, but again this dodges the issue. Indeed, the fact that those whose world view has no way to account for logic find themselves dependent upon logic for even the most simple communication should give them pause to think. On the one hand your presuppositions imply that logic is arbitrary and they cannot justify either its existence or its validity. On the other hand you can't make any kind of an argument without assuming the necessity and validity of logic. See the contradiction here?
Atheism leads to epistemological chaos. Please demonstrate otherwise. I'm waiting.
From Alan Myatt to LA,
Message text written by LA
>> Since it is clear in my own mind, and the minds of many others (I can give you the references if you like) as to exactly what I mean and why it shows the impossibilty of atheism, I have concluded that perhaps you just have not understood. <
>I love it. "Whoever doesn't agree with my every position just does not understand. References on request."
Still waving that Chilton's manual around?<
Well, it wasn't just a matter of disagreement, since Z asserted that my statements did not say anything and since he offered no analysis and refutation. I was puzzled as to exactly what he did not get.
I am content to wave my copy of Hume around until one of you accepts the challenge to answer him. (The 20th century approach, seems to me to be to discuss Hume in history of philosophy courses, and then to continue on without offering any kind of a refutation.)
>> On the other hand, if we begin with the presupposition that the universe is a dependant creation of a rational God, then it becomes possible to justify both empirical knowledge and abstract universal principles as found in the laws of logic. <<
>"On the other hard, if we begin with the presupposition that the universe is a dependant creation of a rational Great Bird, then it becomes possible to justify both empirical knowledge and abstract universal principles as found in the laws of logic."<
>Makes just as much sense.<
If the Great Bird had attributes identical to those of the God of the Bible then it would. The question that you have consistently dodged, L, is the issue of the location of ultimacy in predication, being, morals, and purpose. What are the metaphysical preconditions of rationality? You continue to dodge the issue while asserting that you have knowledge and asserting that Christianity is irrational. And then you make dumb statements about great birds that are irrelevant to the question at hand. Now you have just made another bare assertion, a dogmatic statement, and offered no support whatever. What you have not done, not even attempted to do, is to analyze the Christian notion of God and explain why it makes no more sense than the big bird.
On the other hand I have offered a deconstruction of the epistemology and ethics that must follow in an atheistic universe, and I am still waiting for any one of you to show how this is not the case. So far all you have done is simply reassert you empiricism, without giving any answer to the problems.
In another post you said:
> You've denied any way of judging between the chosen axioms. <
No, I have not. What I have said is let us set forth the basic axioms of various world views and see where they lead to logically. You seem to be saying that empiricism is the final arbiter for deciding what axioms to choose. In anycase, whatever you say is the final arbiter, that becomes your basic axiom, because it is not decided in terms of anything else. The axiom of empiricism, which seems to me to be your faith principle, in a non-theistic context leads to skepticism. On the basis of Christian theistic assumptions empirical knowledge is justifiable.
>More accurately, that the concept "ultimate truth" has no real meaning. <
That is itself a statement about the nature of "ultimate reality." Try as we might we cannot avoid making assumptions about the nature of what is ultimately real. There is no neutral ground. The negation of one thing involves the assertion of others, like it or not.
No I am not merely declaring victory an fleeing. I think that you and others have offered some challenging responses, although not really anything new to me. Then again, nothing I have said here is original either. However, I think our positions are about as fully stated as they are going to be (I could say more about the details of your various replies), and I fail to see that anyone here has refuted my basic argument. So I am turning my time to other responsibilities but I will be back from time to time.
> If the Great Bird had attributes identical to those of the God of the Bible then it would. <
And that's it, right there.
You are choosing between worldviews by choosing the end that you prefer. There is no reason to prefer any religion over any other in your worldview because it is all a matter of choosing "suppositions."
> And then you make dumb statements about great birds that are irrelevant to the question at hand. <
"Dumb" only because you disagree. And that which Myatt disagrees with is Wrong.
No, it's not irrelevant. And you just showed why. You say the bit about the Great Bird would make sense if it were the god you choose to believe in. Which is exactly what I've been saying. That your worldview is arbitrary and whimsical.
> On the other hand I have offered a deconstruction...
Maybe that'll impress the French. Or not. They've been abandoning deconstructionism lately too.
> So far all you have done is simply reassert you empiricism, without giving any answer to the problems. <
I'm not interested in conceding your premises.
> No, I have not. What I have said is let us set forth the basic axioms of various world views and see where they lead to logically. <
Oh yes you have. You've set up your personal analysis as being The Truth. And the arbiter for what axioms to choose is obviously you. Which, I think, is the point of modern christianity. A smoke screen for the belief the nuagers are at least open about of "I am god."
> That is itself a statement about the nature of "ultimate reality."
No it isn't. It's a statement about human perception. Whatever (if anything) is "out there," all we have are our perceptions. All you have are your perceptions. Logic is a method of perception. Your bible is something you perceive. And, btw, you operate on the same basis I do. You only know that there is a bible by empirical evidence. That you see them, that you can touch them, that you hear and read others talking about the same thing. Else, how do you know it's not something you just made up in your head? In fact, how can you ever be sure? People who are insane are quite sure their perceptions are real. (3)
I did buy the book. It is an attempt to show "that all
novel forms of adapted complexity -- whether single celled organisms or
scientific theories -- emerge from an evolutionary process involving cumulative
blind variation and selection" (quote from the back cover notes of the
paperback edition). But if this is the case then Cziko's theory itself
is the result of cumulative blind variation and selection, i.e., it was
belched up out of the chaos of the sea of Being through a process not subjected
to the rational control of any personal mind. If this is the case,
then on what basis should we imagine that it actually corresponds to whatever
reality might exist? On what basis can we rationally believe Cziko's
theory to be true? The nature of the problem is pointed out by Cziko
himself on page 86, although he appears to completely miss the obvious self-contradictory
and irrationalist element in his "selectionist" epistemology. He says:
But how does he know that our knowledge is increasingly fitting better with the world? He could only know this if he had some prior knowledge of the nature of the world, what it is like and what is true about it, so that he could compare our knowledge with this independent knowledge of the world and see that there is indeed an increasingly better fit between the two. Yet this independent knowledge of the world is what he explicitly denies is possible when he denies the existence of any "infallible, justifiable foundation for human knowledge". In fact, he would need what amounts to a revelation from God in order to have such independent knowledge of the world to which he could compare our knowledge. I have already dealt with this issue in these discussions and Cziko offers no solution because his system, in principle, cannot do so. He assumes that our knowledge is fitting increasingly with the world without any rational basis whatever. He simply begs the question, or if you will, makes a blind leap of faith that such is the case when he has no way of showing this. In fact, future generations may find that much of the structure of scientific theory that we call knowledge today is hopelessly off base. The history of science demonstrates this time and again.It does appear that an evolution-inspired epistemology is resisted by many philosophers because it is inconsistent with their attempts to establish an infallible, justifiable foundation for human knowledge. In this sense, the continually reappearing themes of providentialist rationalism and instructionist empiricism can be seen as attempts to find some bedrock, some firm base on which to base our knowledge, whether it be infallible prior knowledge, God, or completely trustworthy sensory experience. An evolutionary selectionist epistemology cannot provide such a foundation since selectionist processes are not foresighted and give no guarantee of errorless fit, especially not with future environments not yet encountered.
Yet just such a selectionist perspective is the basis for an alternative epistemology that avoids the problems of providential and instructionist epistemologies while at the same time accounting for the increasingly better fit of our knowledge to the world.
Cziko's theory, with all its sophisticated scientific dress, still boils down to the age-old tension between chance and law (determinism), fact and logic, that plagues all non-Christian thought. This is the rationalist-irrationalist tension that Van Til and others have pointed out as basic to non-Christian thought since all such thought is built on self-contradictory assumptions. As long as this dilemma remains unresolved any attempt at a theory of knowledge will eventually collapse under the strain of the irresolvable contradiction between the two. And the dilemma is in principle unresolvable on the basis of philosophical naturalism. (See Greg L. Bahnsen, Van Til's Apologetic beginning with page 389 for a discussion of the problem.)
In addition, Cziko offers no attempt, in his discussions of the development of learning, language, and knowledge by selection and chance, to account for the existence and origin of information, especially of the complexity encountered in the most basic molecular structure of life. The word "information" does not even occur in the book's index. This information presumably existed before there was any intelligence that could process information, but how is complex information created by chance and selection? Werner Loewenstein, biologist at Columbia University, describes the massive complexity of this information in detail and attempts to give an evolutionary acccount of it. Yet he notes that ultimately whatever information there is that gave order to the universe must have been present from the beginning and after pushing as far back to the origins of the universe as he can get, simply states that we have no idea how such information came to be, it's just there (see The Touchstone of Life, New York: Oxford U. Press, 1999, chpt. 2). Michael Behe, in Darwin's Black Box (New York:Free Press, 1996), demonstrates that such complexity is beyond naturalistic explanations. Once again I will refer the reader to the writings of those working in the area of intelligent design theory. William Dembski argues convincingly that there are good scientific grounds for demonstrating that the specified complexity encountered in the information contained in DNA and RNA could not possibly be the result of naturalistic processes but must have been designed by an intellegence. Dembski has two earned doctorates, a Ph.D. in mathematics (University of Chicago) and a Ph.D. in philosophy (University of Illinois at Chicago). His arguments and conclusions were defended in The Design Inference (Cambridge Unversity Press). He later published a simplified version, Intelligent Design (Downers Grove: Inter Varsity Press) so that the educated layperson could follow the argument without the knowledge of complex mathematics. The interested reader should also consult Dean L. Overman, A Case Against Accident and Self-Organization for a summary of the kinds of problems and difficulties that beset the position held by Cziko.
(2) There must have been a glitch here because the original post abruptly stops and appears to have been cut short. Anyway, I never got the rest of it as far as I could tell. In any case, by now it was clear that there was no point in continuing the discussion much longer. L's post degenerated into a diatribe against philosophy and philosophers in general, indicating the kind of anti-intellectual irrationalism that I had argued all along must be the end result of atheistic thinking if allowed to run its course. Again, ad hominem arguments are the stock in trade of those who have no refutation of their opponent's position.
(3) There did not seem to me to be any point in responding to this as we had obviously reached an impass like two kids saying "did not" "did so" etc. I would just point out to the reader that in spite of his protests to the contrary he is making all kinds of assertions about the nature of ultimate reality. Certainly the statement that all we have are our perceptions is a statement about the nature of ultimate reality. He defends his empiricism by finally appealing to the notion that there is nothing else. But he has never given any adequate reason as to how he knows there is nothing else. In fact, he reaches this conclusion because it is the only one left open to him by virtue of his presuppositions. By the way, he did not appear to understand my remark about the Great Bird. I was not, obviously, admiting that the Great Bird (whatever that is) is as rational to believe in as God. I did say that if the Great Bird had attributes identical to God then he would be a sufficient reference point for truth. This is simply to say that if the Great Bird had God's attributes then he would clearly be God, and the name "Great Bird" would simply be another, albeit quite strange, way of refering to God. The point is not the name, the point is that all valid predication depends on the existence of a Being with the attributes of the Triune God as described in the Bible.
Alan Myatt, Ph.D.