Is Any Form Of Atheism Rationally Justifiable?

Definition of God:   First cause, prime mover, objective source of human purpose (final cause) and resulting morality, source of free will; omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent inasmuch as principles of logic allow. I am not talking in particular about any specifically defined religious interpretation of god, such as the christian or islamic god.

Definition: Intellectual dishonesty occurs when (1)one deliberately mischaracterizes their position or view in order to avoid having to logically defend their actual views; and/or (2) when someone is arguing, or making statements against a position while remaining willfully ignorant about that position, and/or (3) when someone categorically and/or pejoratively dismisses all existent and/or potential evidence in favor of a conclusion they claim to be neutral about, whether they are familiar with that evidence or not.

The argument against weak atheism:

Weak, or negative atheism is the lack of any belief that a god exists, and the lack of belief that god probably exists, and is not the positive belief that gods do not exist.

The following is a brief summary of the evidence for a general finding that a god of some kind exists, even if variantly interpreted or culturally contextualized (one can generally look up these arguments and evidences using google or bing):

1) Anecdotal evidence for the apparently intelligently ordered anomalous, miraculous (defying expected natural processes and probabilities) events attributed to god, such as signs or answers to prayers to god, or the ability to manifest or positively affirm such events through free will intention;

2) Testimonial evidence (first-hand accounts) of experience of such phenomena

3) The various Cosmological Arguments for the existence of god

4) The Strong Anthropic (or Fine Tuning) argument

5) The empirical, scientific evidence assembled in the strong anthropic argument in #4;

6) The Moral Arguments for the existence of god.

7) Empirical and testimonial evidence of phenomena closely correlated to the existence of a god of some sort, such as the survival of consciousness after death, and the existence of an afterlife realm, and the apparent agreement of afterlife entities that a god and human purpose exist; the evidence for interactions with correlated entities such as angels and demons (which seem to act to influence our free will towards or away from our human purpose), etc.

While the various arguments listed (all of which, to some degree, begin with empirical evidence) have been subject to counter-arguments and rebuttals of varying strengths and weaknesses, one must not lose sight that while there is much evidence (as listed above) in favor of the existence of god; there is zero evidence (to my knowledge) or rational argument (to my knowledge) that no such god (as defined above) exists.

[Note: One may argue that the Christian god doesn't exist because of certain contradictions contained in the expressed nature and actions of that entity (or of the Islamic god); and there are such arguments - but this thread is not about such gods, so please adhere to the stated premise.]

The rebuttals to these argument are simply attempting to show weaknesses or alternatives to the arguments themselves so that such arguments cannot be taken as convincing (that god exists); such counter-arguments do not make the case that god (as described above) in fact does not exist.

Also, the testimony of religious adherents of various specific gods can be counted as evidence of the god premised in this argument in the manner that various various cultures can vary widely in their description of certain phenomena or experiences, and come up with widely variant “explanations”; what is interesting as evidence here, though, is the widespread crediting of similar kinds of phenomena and experience to a “god” of some sort (which might be the case of blind or ignorant people touching different parts of an elephant and thus describing “what the elephant is” in various ways). Such testimonial evidence can be counted in favor of the premise here, but cannot be held against it where it varies, because it is not testimony that such a god doesn’t exist.

If a “weak atheist” claims to “lack of belief” because there is “no” evidence for god, they are necessarily being intellectually dishonest, because they certainly aren’t privy to all potential or available evidence. They cannot claim to not know of the evidence for god after having perused the above evidence.

If the “weak atheist” is not aware of any compelling evidence, then any categorical claim they make about the available evidence they are not privy to – that it is not credible or convincing – is again intellectually dishonest because they are making a categorical claim about something they have no knowledge of.

If we have a weak atheist who is aware of the existence of the above evidence and agrees that there might be more evidence they are not privy to; and who does not categorically assert problems with the evidence they have not yet seen; and who does not categorically dismiss the available evidence as “non-evidence” (such as: hypocritically accepting testimonial evidence as evidence when it supports what they already believe, but dismissing it when it supports the existence of god) but rather states that the available evidence they have seen is not compelling towards a conclusion that god exists; then one must ask the following:

In the face of such huge amounts of evidence – thousands of years of testimony and anecdotal stories; many sound arguments based on empirical evidence and apparently necessary logical premises and inferences; and the complete lack of any attempt to make a sound argument that god (as described above) in fact does not exist – one must ask: how can any intellectually honest person come to any conclusion other than that god probably exists, even if god is poorly and diversely defined, and even if the experience of god is open to interpretation and misunderstanding?

As an analogy: even if one has never personally experienced “love”; in the face of thousands of years of testimony and anecdotal stories that love exists, and empirical evidence supporting that certain physical states correspond to assertions of experiences of love, would it be intellectually honest to “lack belief” that love exists, or would it be intellectually honest to hold the view that even though one doesn’t experience love (or using the same argument, color, joy, dreams, etc.), that love probably exists – even if people are widely disparate in their explanation, description, or presentation of what love is?

That I am aware of, there is zero evidence, no argument, and no anecdotal or testimonial evidence that god does not exist (because lack of experience of a thing isn’t evidence the thing doesn’t exist), and there is a vast array of logical, anecdotal, testimonial and empirical evidence that god does exist.

Even if one doesn’t find that evidence compelling for for a final conclusion that god exists, it is at least, if one is intellectually honest, compelling to the point that when one weighs the balance of the evidence for and against, that one must admit that it is more probable that god exists that that god does not exist, which cannot be said to be an atheistic point of view at all.

The argument against strong atheism:

Strong atheism is defined as the assertion that no god or gods exist whatsoever.

First, it is obvious that strong atheism cannot be logically supported, simply because it is impossible to prove (not in the absolute sense, but in the “sufficient evidence” sense). There may be evidence that certain gods, or kinds of gods, do not exist; but there is certainly no evidence or argument (that I’m aware of, anyway) that no significant, meaningful god or gods whatsoever exist.

Instead, strong atheists usually attempt to shift the burden onto theist by essentially asking the theists to prove the atheist position wrong. However, that is not the theists’ burden.

Strong atheism is a sweeping, categorical, negative assertion that something does not exist at all, anywhere. However unlikely one fineds it, it might be true that a god of some sort exists, so the strong atheist position would be excluding a potentially true explanation from consideration unnecessarily.

What is the useful point of a metaphysical position that excludes a potentially true explanation from consideration? What does strong atheism bring to the table of debate other than the potential for intractable error and denial of potential truth for the sake of a sweeping, unsupportable, universally negative assertion?

Conclusion: atheism of any sort is an untenable position for any intellectually honest, rational, and informed person. The belief that god does not exist, or that it isn’t more likely that god exists than not, can only be a valid position based on ignorance of the available evidence and argument for god, or a pseudoskeptical, a priori dismissal of all of the evidence for god based on ideological bias.

 

(Reposted here from a post I previously made under another name, in another forum, with a few minor edits and additions.)

501 thoughts on “Is Any Form Of Atheism Rationally Justifiable?

  1. I still have no idea what you mean. A painting has a substrate of a canvas, but the painting cannot be said to have been caused by the canvas, nor does the canvas have anything significant to say about the real nature of the painting. “It’s on canvas” is about the least significant thing you can say about a painting. The statement “mind has a neural substrate” is not much of a statement, unless you are saying that mind is generated by that neural substrate. 

    Almost William. A painting has a substrate of canvas, paint, brush strokes, layers of paint, hue, tone, light, reflection, subject, painter, etc, and so on. The point is William, in your model of mind, you imply that the substrate is just “some material”, but that the mind is somehow something separate and what Lizzie and others (I included) have been trying to describe to you is that a more accurate model is that, like the painting – wherein everything about the painting, including the arrangement of the pigments, is the substrate. This thing we call “mind” is merely a description of all the components of the substrate of the brain, et al, working together.

  2. Another, additional way of understanding the need to hold the mind as “primary”, is in the sense whether one holds the noumenal world as the basis of what we call reality, or if we hold the phenomenal world as that basis.

    Materialists hold the noumenal world (what things are in and of themselves) to be the “real” world, and view the mind to be a caused derivation of noumenon. IOW, mind is considered to be the effect of actually real things that are not “mind”.

    In my prior post I argued that a mind that is the effect of a non-mind noumenal world has no capacity for independent judging or intervention, nor any means by which to be a necessary cause in terms of purposeful goals. This creates insurmountable self-referential, self-reifying problems.

    However, what exactly has the noumenal world been shown to be, other than mostly empty space inhabited by probability fields of quantum action, which appears to be nothing in particular until consciously observed? This is not what we would expect to find in a noumenal-centric reality, where things are what they are and cause specific effects regardless of conscious experience thereof.

    Why is it that in the mental (phenomenal) world, things are solid, motion exists, time exists, and we experience specificity and distinct objects, when at the quantum level none of that exists? Why should we experience various various quanta as light, sound, solidity, color, motion, time, space etc., when there is nothing inherent in the quanta itself that forces such phenomenal interpretations?

    Many contributors here talk about “the real world” of walking out in traffic and standing in front of oncoming traffic, but every one of those vehicles are 99.9999% empty space, and the potentially “occupied” .0001% is nothing but a field of potential locations for quantum actions. 

    Furthermore, what is “motion” at the quantum level? How is it achieved?

    The noumena in itself – the virtually empty field of quantum potential – is not what we fear when we walk out into traffic, but rather what our mind has interpreted out of that noumena – solid cars moving towards us with actual mass and momentum that will strike what we experience as solid bodies.

    IOW, what others here mistakenly refer to in a noumenal sense as “the real world” is actually the phenomenal (mind-construct) world of solid objects, motion, mass, time, space, etc. that our minds have generated out (supposedly) from a mostly empty probability field of potential quantum action (as locations and energy values). 

    What  others call “the real world” as the “cause” of the mind fails to understand the primacy of the mind in manufacturing what it is you are calling “the real world causes” of the mind’s structural interpretations.  A field of potential locations and energy values, frequencies and vibrations do not demand they be interpreted in any particular way.  Because light reaching my retina has a certain wavelength doesn’t mean I should interpret that interaction as a specific color; I could as easily interpret it as a sound, a physical object hitting me, a voice, flight, or as me building a car and remembering driving to the moon.

    But here you and others are, claiming that such interactions with noumena generate how those interactions are interpreted, when the noumena of a train or a ball or music is not a train or a ball or music until those fields of probabilistic locations of potential quanta are interpreted as such.

    An oncoming car is not an oncoming car until I interpret the noumena – the field of 99.9999% empty-space, potential quanta – into phenomena – my mental construct that represents one of an infinite number of ways of the noumena could have been interpreted by happenstance interpretive modes and mechanisms under the materialist paradigm.

    The only thing you know you experience is what your mind – whatever it is – has constructed, whether it is derived from noumena or not, whether it represents some inherent quality of noumena or if it is just a happenstance sensory interpretive mode (like certain vibrations into sound, others into color), or wether it is making it all up out of whole cloth with no connectiong to external noumena or not – the only thing you have is your conscious, experiential mind.

    Everything you say or claim after that is theory and hypothesis.  The idea of a physical or material world substrate is a  theory residing in and constructed by mind.  The only real world any of us have is what occurs in our conscious experience, whether it is delusion, a spiritual world, a material world, no world, or some combination thereof.

    To say that the mind is entirely an effect generated by something else is fundamentally impossible to demonstrate, because all such demonstrations and the results thereof can only occur in the mind (conscious experience). 

    The idea that mind is an effect generated by something else is a self-negating view that is logically impossible to demonstrate, as all such arugment, evidence and demonstration can only be experienced in the mind (conscious experience).  Furthermore, those that make the “traffic” or “real world” arguments are fundamentally confusing the phenomenal with the noumenal; if one was to just go by the noumenal, there is nothing to fear if I take my 99.9999% empty-space set of probabilistic locations of potential quantum action and put it in another area of the same, because that’s where it is all the time anyway, the area in my bedroom being, for all intents and purposes, identical to the area of a busy highway from the noumenal perspective.

    It is only in my mental, phenomenal construct that those two areas are distinguishable from each other. The real word – the noumenal world – offers me no distinguishable, meaningful characteristics that would indicate one is more dangerous than the other.

     

  3. Well, as I’ve said before, I have no moral objections to snark (no right to them either…), I just have reasons for wanting to minimise it in this particular forum :)

     

  4. William,

    You wrote:  ”In my prior post I argued that a mind that is the effect of a non-mind noumenal world has no capacity for independent judging or intervention, nor any means by which to be a necessary cause in terms of purposeful goals.”

    In fact you did not argue this, you simply asserted it.

    It seems to me that a brain that evolved in response to real environments would be very likely to work well within those environments, else it would be selected against.  What support do you have for your claim otherwise?
     

  5. “An oncoming car is not an oncoming car until I interpret the noumena – the field of 99.9999% empty-space, potential quanta – into phenomena …”

    Teehee. Eppur si muove.

    Sorry, Patrick, this really should not have been posted as a reply to yours, but to William’s post.

  6. WJM:The problem lies not in this, but in how one characterizes the intentional aspect of that experience in ontological terms.

    Ontology is mostly nonsense.  It seems to be the source of much bad philosophy.

    Ontologically, we either see conscious experience, or our “I-ness” as primary, or a real thing in and of itself, and our intention as uncaused (free will), or we see conscious experience, including our sense of free will intention, as the happenstance and essentially trivial (in terms of physical things happening) effects of non-sentient matter.

    That’s a great example of the nonsense.

    Factually, we don’t see conscious experience at all.  We do experience, and “experience” is a verb.  When we try to think of it as a thing that exists in its own right — and ontological thinking seems to do that to people — what we finish up with is nonsense.

    One either considers the free will aspect of mind (what we call intention) as a necessary, causeless cause, or one considers intention to be largely a sensory effect caused by non-sentient other things, such as the happenstance interactions of molecules.

    And there is more nonsense.  You have promoted intention into being a thing.

    I’ll grant that intention, as a thing, is immaterial.  But that’s because it is merely a fiction, something that does not exist.  We invent the noun because it is sometimes convenient to speak that way.  But, just because “intention” has the grammatical form of a noun, that is no reason to conclude that it is a thing.  When we use that noun, we are really talking about behavior, not about things.

    You cannot measure a ruler using the same ruler.

    You have just debunked primacy of mind.

  7. William J. Murray on May 13, 2012 at 1:47 pmsaid:Edit

    Thinking, remembering, modelling, computing, reasoning, concluding, believing, being aware, attending to, experiencing, imagining, deciding, learning, are all, IMO, words for activities that we collectively call  “mind”. Mind is not “the root” of these things, IMO, nor yet “the result”.  It is the collective noun we give to those activities.

    I agree with this, but it can be said much more simply: conscious experience = mind. The problem lies not in this, but in how one characterizes the intentional aspect of that experience in ontological terms. 

    Well, that definition is fairly restrictive. On that definition, memories are only “mind” when they are retrieved (as in the usage “calling to mind”), and “knowing” is not part of mind per se either.  But we usually use “mind” (or the adjective “mental”) to refer not simply to current mental activity, but mental capacity – what we are able to remember, what we are able to compute,  etc. 

    So if we want to discuss the capacity to intend an action, we really need to look beyond the here-and-now of conscious experience, and consider, I suggest, “mind” as a repertoire.  And one of the items in that repertoire is the capacity to reify a distal goal, and have it influence our present choice of actions.

    When you say:

    And, I’d say, all those activities have neural substrates. 

    I still have no idea what you mean. A painting has a substrate of a canvas, but the painting cannot be said to have been caused by the canvas, nor does the canvas have anything significant to say about the real nature of the painting. “It’s on canvas” is about the least significant thing you can say about a painting. The statement “mind has a neural substrate” is not much of a statement, unless you are saying that mind is generated by that neural substrate.

    No, I don’t just mean “the canvas”.  I mean what the painting, physically, consists of, paint and all.  A painting can be “reduced” to the molecules of which it is made – remove those molecules and you have no remainder – but that doesn’t mean that the painting is “nothing more than” a “collection” of molecules.  The painting, in other words, is not merely a “collection” of molecules but a system.  You can destroy a painting without destroying a single molecule.  That’s why I don’t like the word “reductionist” to describe the position that systems have physical substrates of which they are entirely composed, but which have properties that inhere in the system, not in a complete inventory of the parts.  And so, when I say that mind has a “neural substrate”, I mean that if you removed every molecule of your brain, you would have no mind (which is why I do not believe that we have minds “after” death) – but that is not the same as saying that a mind is “reduced” to the molecules (or even the neurons) of a brain.  I’d say that mind is the property not just of a brain, but of an organism with a brain.  Destroy th systematic arrangement of parts of that organism, and no longer have an organism.  Even though every molecule may remain intect.

    Conversely, replace every molecule of that organism with another similar (as happens throughout our lives) and you have the same organism!  There is probably not an atom left in me that was present in me a couple of decades ago (and there are certainly more now!) but the thing-that-I-call-me is still the agent of the actions-I-call-mine, and I still carry out (some of) the intentions I conceived then.

    Ontologically, we either see conscious experience, or our “I-ness” as primary, or a real thing in and of itself, and our intention as uncaused (free will), or we see conscious experience, including our sense of free will intention, as the happenstance and essentially trivial (in terms of physical things happening) effects of non-sentient matter.

    Well, the first is clearly the more useful model, and indeed, the more predictive model.  The fact is that I can better compose this post using the model that you are an intelligent autonomous agent capable of changing your mind (if only about what I think!) than if I use a model that requires me to know where every neuron and every ion and every input is to your sensory organs, what actions they will result in, what new input they will therefore bring about etc etc.  Not do I lack both the data and the computing power to model your reactions to my post that way, it is pointless, because the whole reason we devise ontological categories like “people” and “mind” is that those higher level models capture what is important and leave out the trivial – capture the “essence” rather than the “accidents”, to be Thomist for a moment.  An apple as a concept is far more useful than a complete inventory of the spatial location of a specific apple in a specific place.  Same with my concept of “you” and of course, my concept of “I”.

    Neither are an illusion, or false ontological categories.  They are simply the most effective way of describing and navigating – modelling – the world we live in.

    This goes back to when I asked if battleships and computers could be built without purpose; one could perhaps more appropriately ask, if humans had no conscious experience, could they build a computer or a battleship?  This goes to the heart of the question of “primacy” and to more fully parse the essential question form the superset of what “mind” entails.

    I’d say no, because the processes involved in building or designing either a computer or a battleship necessarily, I’d argue, entail conscious experience.   However that does not mean that a battleship-like or computer-like organism could not evolve rather than be consciously designed.

    One either considers the free will aspect of mind (what we call intention) as a necessary, causeless cause, or one considers intention to be largely a sensory effect caused by non-sentient other things, such as the happenstance interactions of molecules.  If so, then “what I intend” is generated by prior (or contextual), non-intentional agencies, and the sense of intention (purpose) is largely or wholly unnecessary in the creation of computers and battleships.

    Well, that’s a false dichotomy.  You are closer with the second thing (at least closer to my view) but you have inserted unnecessary words and omitted necessary ones: I’d posit “intention to be largely a sensory effect caused by non-sentient other things, such as the happenstance interactions of molecules“.  But that emendation doesn’t make your conclusion any more valid – you are failing to distinguish between proximal and distal causes.  I would argue that for a human being to design a battleship, intention is entirely necessary, and any “interactions of molecules” involved must include those involved in the generation of intention.  To draw an analogy: what you are saying is a bit like saying: glaciers largely or wholly unnecessary in the creation of icebergs, because glaciers themselves are merely the result of interactions of molecules.

    Yes, I think that sentience is the result of non-sentient processes.  But that doesn’t mean that sentience is not required for certain other processes to take place – including the building of battleships.

    If beliefs, memories, decisions, concepts, and perceptions are caused by non-sentient interactions of matter, then (obviously) interactions of matter can cause any sort of beliefs, memories, etc. (false beliefs, self-contradictory views, delusions, false memories), and that capacity of error extends to our intent and our judgement

    Well, we certainly have great capacity for error.  But again, to ascribe that capacity for error to the fact that our decision-making is the distal result of non-sentient processes is totally non-informative.  The reason we are capable of error is not (usefully) because our decision-making apparatus consists of molecules, but because our decision-making systems work on inadequate data, require probability calculations, and need to weigh up distal versus proximal benefit.

    Unless one has an independent capacity to judge and an independent capacity for causal agency that is not generated by the same factors that produce that which is being judged, arbited, and supervened over, then the idea of judging and arbiting our views, beliefs, memories and supervening over them by willful corrections and changes, is self-deluded nonsense.

    No, it isn’t, and I suggest that the reason you think it is, is that you have failed to unpack your concept of “independence”.  Independence of what?  And in fact we know a great deal about error-monitoring and correction mechanisms in the human brain.

    You cannot measure a ruler using the same ruler.  If you go to someone else and get their input, you are still using the same ruler – your conscious experience – which is entirely manufactured by the same thing you are attempting to judge and supervene over.

    Well, there is an inherent circularity in humans studying human cognition, I would agree.  But I don’t think that justifies us in concluding that therefore there must be some “outside” way of doing it.  It’s just tricky.

    Reading books and becoming a scientist and conducting experiments can do nothing to change the fact that you are attempting to arbit your conscious experience by using the same “effects of interacting molecules” you are attempting to arbit.  In the materialist paradigm, you are an effect of non-sentient interacting molecules doing, believing, thinking and intending whatever those interacting molecules happen to dictate; if they dictate a result that you feel A is correct, even when it is not, that is what you will believe; if they dictate that you believe you have conducted 1000 tests and asked 1000 experts and they all agreed with you, that is what you will believe and remember has happened, whether that happened or not in the noumenal world.

    But you have completely eliminated the system!  It is not “the molecules” that cause us to believe A, but the evaluative system comprised of those molecules that cause us to believe A!  They don’t “happen to dictate” A – they “dictate A” for a perfectly good reason, namely that A is the output from a system that considers relevant inputs, and, if necessarily, causes the system to seek more relevant inputs in order to verify, or falsify, A.

    This really is missing the wood for the trees, William!  Or missing the system for the molecules, anyway! 

    If “conscious experience” is just whatever a set of local, interacting molecules happen to produce, one can hardly rely upon that to arbit and supervene. That is self-referencing. self-reifying nonsense.  The only way to judge and arbit and supervene over what we believe, think, experience, etc. is if we have access to an independent, uncaused agency with which to do so.

    But they don’t “just happen” to produce conscious experience.  They are part of an exquisitely-tuned system that does so, and not only does so, but does so dynamically, enabling rational decision-making to take place.  One problem I often find in consciousness discussions is that people forget (or do not consider adequately) the role of action in “consciousness”.  This becomes very obvious from an evolutionary perspective, which obviously I realise you don’t share, but is one of the many reasons why I find, as a neuroscientist, an evolutionary framework so useful.  If we think of brains as, originally, organs for outputing life-and-fecundity-promoting action from dynamically changing sets of inputs, and, moreover, for ensuring relevant additional inputs if the output decision is uncertain, then we really have a very beautiful starting point for understanding the emergence of consciousness.

    But maybe that’s a step too far for now :)

    Unless one admits the primacy of our mental capacity to judge and intervene – meaning, that we have an independent, uncaused supervening capacity to arbit our views, beliefs, perceptions, etc., and to independently intervene – then one is left with no alternative than that their conscious experience is nothing more than a materially-generated individual delusion that may or may not happen to correspond in any significant way to the noumenal world.

    IOW, if we have no independent, supervening, intentional agency, you and I can be nothing more than isolated, matter-generated delusions with no capacity to do anything other than go along with our particular delusions, rendering debate and argument nothing more than matter-scripted continuations of our particular individual delusions.

    Well, as I said, I think you think more about this word “independent” – and also about proximal and distal causation :)  Also “delusion”.  There is nothign “delusional” about our sense of agency, nor about our sense of identity.  It’s what we have evolved to have.

  8. Mind is a metaphor for what the brain does.

    You may disagree, but reasoning proceeds from such axioms and assumptions. You cannot use reason to prove assumptions and axioms. 

  9. Okay – thanks for taking the time for a detailled response, but surely taking the time to engange forums to get feedback to hone ideas and opinions surely counts as caring?

  10. Nothing wrong with having a lot of tools in your arsenal, so long as you pull out the appropriate tool for the occasion. And as far as I can tell, when empiricism tells you one thing and faith (or philosophy) tells you something different, you give little weight to the significance or relevance of observation and test, and too much weight to personal preference.

    I would argue that philosophy (and faith, and spirituality) are various ways of constructing models and contexts within which empirical observation makes sense. Conclusions derived from empirical data, so to speak. When observation casts serious doubt on these models or conclusions, you have consistently crawled into your navel and pulled it in after you.

    And I can find no better example that the question the OP asks, which is precisely backwards. There is no observational evidence supporting theism. So, given that it models NOTHING, is it rational? And what you ASK is, given that reality utterly fails to support theism, is REALITY rational. And you make it clear that you don’t think so. And come perilously close to saying anyone who fails to reject observation in favor of wishful thinking is being intellectually dishonest!

    I suggest that while you have plenty of tools at your disposal, you fall considerably short of understanding what they’re for, what they do, or what their limitations are.     

  11. You can – and should – use reason to extrapolate the necessary logical consequences of your assumptions.  There are fatal epistemological consequences to materialist ontology that cannot be simply brushed aside with clever semantics.

  12. There is nothign “delusional” about our sense of agency, nor about our sense of identity.  It’s what we have evolved to have.

    Are people who are delusional not “evolved to have” delusions? Or is your position that nobody is delusional, because we are all the products of evoluition?

  13. Obviously, people have delusional beliefs and views. If one considers all perspective of mind, beliefs, and philosophy to have – one way or another – evolved via material interactions, then obviously evolution produces delusions.

    The problem becomes, how does one validate that they are not delusional?  Under materialism, there is no way to do so, since there is no proposed or assumed means of independent judging, there is only the hope that the same thing that produces a world full of erroneous beliefs and delusion  in other people happens to not be doing the same thing when it constructs the mind and beliefs of the materialist.

  14. There are fatal epistemological consequences to materialist ontology that cannot be simply brushed aside with clever semantics.

    It would be more credible, to say nothing of discussion conducive, if you could actually accurately describe what those supposed fatal epistemological consequences are.

  15. William J. Murray on May 14, 2012 at 3:14 pmsaid:

    There is nothign “delusional” about our sense of agency, nor about our sense of identity.  It’s what we have evolved to have.

    Are people who are delusional not “evolved to have” delusions? Or is your position that nobody is delusional, because we are all the products of evoluition?

    Neither. My position is that delusions are pathological states, probably a byproduct of evolution, but not likely to be a reproductively advantageous phenotype (although I guess that is conceivable).  More to the point, on the whole, delusions tend to be maladaptive for the individual (although occasionally may be protective).

  16. Obviously, people have delusional beliefs and views. If one considers all perspective of mind, beliefs, and philosophy to have – one way or another – evolved via material interactions, then obviously evolution produces delusions.

    This brings up a few questions for me. First and foremost, in what way(s) is delusion “obvious”. I’m not trying to be flippant here William, I really want to know how you diagnose delusion and how you came up with the awareness that people have delusional beliefs? How are you assessing delusion in people? How are you defining “delusion”?

    On the second part, I don’t find that your conclusion derives from your premise and in particular it strikes me that you are confusing correlation with causation. But perhaps you have actually done an assessment of delusion in the human population and determined it’s a product of actual processes. If so, how are you measuring the number of people with delusion as a percentage of the entire population?

    The problem becomes, how does one validate that they are not delusional?  Under materialism, there is no way to do so, since there is no proposed or assumed means of independent judging, there is only the hope that the same thing that produces a world full of erroneous beliefs and delusion  in other people happens to not be doing the same thing when it constructs the mind and beliefs of the materialist.

    None of this is accurate William. Psychology, physiology, and neurology (to name a few areas) have all defined what delusion is in specific contexts, but you haven’t yet provided any. Once again it appears you are insisting that some abstract “material” (i.e., molecules or atoms or some such) is the same thing as the proximate system that creates some given phenomenon. They are not the same thing or substitutable in materialism. Thus your premise is false here.

    Under materialism then it’s quite easy to evaluate delusion because we can study and understand the proximate system and how it operates. We can than assess anomalies that fall outside those systems.

    However, those who insist there’s something other than matter – that mind is some “other substance” are in no position to explain what delusion is since will and intent are not tied to anything physical or perceivable; all thoughts are equally arbitrary since they necessarily come from somewhere from which no human can authoritatively define a standard. Who’s to say that those folks who see pixies or ghosts that tell them that the Mullahouogh must be appease through the blood sacrifice of 100,000 8 year olds are delusional? Certainly not you William since you can’t know with any authority that what they perceive beyond some supposed veil is false.

    Sorry William, but your claims of delusion really do point to the issues in your own beliefs, not in materials. 

     

     

  17. Lizzie: My position is that delusions are pathological states, probably a byproduct of evolution, but not likely to be a reproductively advantageous phenotype (although I guess that is conceivable).  More to the point, on the whole, delusions tend to be maladaptive for the individual (although occasionally may be protective).

    Robin: An interesting concept William brings up, eh? Personally I don’t think delusions are a byproduct of evolution, not in any direct sense anyway, but that’s based more upon definition than process to me.

    Evolutionary processes are not significant on an individualistic scale. That our brains have developed a level of complexity that allows for the analysis and contemplation of of survival-specific and non-survival data at immeasurable speeds such that individually we have millions upon millions of blips of random thoughts throughout our lives, some that catch in our awareness filters and become grains of conceptual framework for behavior I don’t think qualifies and evolutionary products. Be that as it may, disconnections between such concepts and the outside world are generally not beneficial to populations as a whole and as such I’d be willing to put money on such behaviors not favored as a fit genetic attribute (assuming they are genetic at all of course) and thus not being spread through a population relative to other more successful approaches to assessing the world around us.

    Just my 2 pence on the subject.

  18. Neither. My position is that delusions are pathological states, probably a byproduct of evolution, but not likely to be a reproductively advantageous phenotype (although I guess that is conceivable).  More to the point, on the whole, delusions tend to be maladaptive for the individual (although occasionally may be protective).

    So pathological states are not the product of evolution, but are rather the “byproduct” of evolution? What is the distinction between “product” and “byproduct” when it comes to evolutionary results?

    I guess it depends on what one calls a “delusion” as to whether or not they are “maladaptive”.  Let’s take two groups of people who believe very different things; one set believes that humans are divinely-created beings and that they are special in the world, and they witness the miraculous and experience the presence of their god; the other believes that humans are not special and are essentially nothing more than happenstance, animated matter. Would it be fair to say that one of these groups is experiencing a delusion?

    Is the belief that one has libertarian free will – the ability to act independently of material causation – a delusion? Is belief in ghosts, spirits, demons, etc. and the experience thereof a delusion?

  19. It would be more credible, to say nothing of discussion conducive, if you could actually accurately describe what those supposed fatal epistemological consequences are.

    I already have, several times. It’s nothing new. It’s not like I invented these arguments. They’re easy enough to find with even a cursory internet search.

  20. So pathological states are not the product of evolution, but are rather the “byproduct” of evolution? What is the distinction between “product” and “byproduct” when it comes to evolutionary results?

    I guess it depends on what one calls a “delusion” as to whether or not they are “maladaptive”.  Let’s take two groups of people who believe very different things; one set believes that humans are divinely-created beings and that they are special in the world, and they witness the miraculous and experience the presence of their god; the other believes that humans are not special and are essentially nothing more than happenstance, animated matter. Would it be fair to say that one of these groups is experiencing a delusion?

    Is the belief that one has libertarian free will – the ability to act independently of material causation – a delusion? Is the experience of ghosts, spirits, demons, etc. and the experience thereof a delusion?

    It would help this discussion to define “delusion”. Here’s the definition I like:

    A delusion is a belief held with strong conviction despite superior evidence to the contrary.[1] Unlike hallucinations, delusions are always pathological (the result of an illness or illness process).[1] As a pathology, it is distinct from a belief based on false or incomplete information, dogma, poor memory, illusion, or other effects of perception.

    If you would prefer a different definition, feel free to provide it.

    As such imo, none of the examples you give above is technically a delusion, though in casual conversation I’d certainly note the person believing in things he or she can’t substantiate is demonstrating delusional tendencies. But, my personal opinions aside, from a definitional standpoint neither example is an example of a delusion. Why? Because neither example provides definitive evidence to the contrary.

    A good example of delusion is the belief a human can fly without any external assistance in defiance of the evidence to the contrary. People with such a delusion will either eventually harm themselves or others as such persons will have no regard for height or gravity.

  21. William, if you can’t be bothered to provide a description or if nothing else a link to elaborate on such a declaration, there’s no reason I’d muster any interest in doing so, particularly since on quick examination the claim is erroneous from my perspective. If all you wish to do is make claims and insist they are true, your position offers nothing of learning for anyone it would seem.

  22. Dictionary.com:

    Delusion:

    1. an act or instance of deluding.
    2. the state of being deluded.
    3. a false belief or opinion: delusions of grandeur.
    4. Psychiatry . a fixed false belief that is resistant to reason or confrontation with actual fact: a paranoid delusion.

    Where delude and deluding means:

    1.  to mislead the mind or judgment of; deceive: His conceit deluded him into believing he was important.

    The Merriam-Webster dictionary says the same thing; apparently, you have taken yours from the 2b definition there.

    So, under the standard definitions I have provided, is it safe to say that many, many humans, if not most, have been or are delusional about some or many things they believe to be true, and that evolution regularly produces humans with delusional beliefs of one sort or another?

     

  23. Let’s not take the debate down a semantic rabbit-hole over the term “delusion”, when by “delusion” I mean beliefs that are maintained via a subconscious or non-conscious editing of perceptual information and thought, favorably organized and interpreted to maintain and support the belief system regardless of evidence or argument to the contrary.

    I would guess that “maladaptive” means “inconsistent with procreative success” or something of the sort, and that “beneficial” means the opposite. It seems to me that one can hardly make the case that religion in general – often described as a delusional belief by atheistic materialists – is “maladaptive”. 

    Obviously, evolution can generate widespread, deeply false beliefs (delusion), and deeply false concepts about  proof, evidence, experience, etc., if all religious doctrine is false. Correct?

     

  24. A variation on 2b from Merriam-Webster is what I provided.

    So, under the standard definitions I have provided, is it safe to say that many, many humans, if not most, have been or are delusional about some or many things they believe to be true, and that evolution regularly produces humans with delusional beliefs of one sort or another?

    Ok…so based on the definition you wish to use (the more casual one), yes your claims are delusional, though I can’t agree with you that “many, many humans, if not most” fall into that category simply because you declare such based on your speculation. Actual data demonstrating that many, if not most, humans have been deceived in judgement is required for me to accept such.

     

  25. Let’s not take the debate down a semantic rabbit-hole over the term “delusion”, when by “delusion” I mean beliefs that are maintained via a subconscious or non-conscious editing of perceptual information and thought, favorably organized and interpreted to maintain and support the belief system regardless of evidence or argument to the contrary.

    Well, for such a discussion, I’m afraid the rabbit-hole chase is necessary if only to clear up misconceptions. For example, this definition you provide here is not the same as the “standard definitions” you provided up the list a bit. So clearly some rabbit-hole debating is necessary if only to get you to be consistent.

  26. I would guess that “maladaptive” means “inconsistent with procreative success” or something of the sort, and that “beneficial” means the opposite.

    I’m interested in Lizzie’s response, but in my view maladaptive does not have any direct connection to procreation. Maladaption is a behavioral strategy that is acted upon to reduce localized anxiety regarding some situation, but the strategy does nothing to actual address the underlying cause of the anxiety. Thus, the maladaptive behavior does nothing to help the person more freely enjoy the world around them and can be, in many cases, counterproductive by actually building up more anxiety about a variety of indirectly related situations, further limiting the individuals activity options.

    It seems to me that one can hardly make the case that religion in general – often described as a delusional belief by atheistic materialists – is “maladaptive”. 

    Not based upon the definitions you’ve provided. It’s perfectly reasonable to conclude religion is maladaptive since religion most definitely provides a strategy for avoiding religiously defined anxiety situations without actually providing a way to deal with the underlying anxiety cause. Further, it’s quite apparent that religion reduces the situations the religious feel comfortable in, thus limiting their overall scope of experience.

    Obviously, evolution can generate widespread, deeply false beliefs (delusion), and deeply false concepts about  proof, evidence, experience, etc., if all religious doctrine is false. Correct?

    I don’t see anything about beliefs being false with regard to maladation. Maladaption is merely a strategy for avoiding anxiety. The cause of the anxiety can be quite real, but instead of adapting to the situations so that the anxiety is reduced, the person applies strategies to avoid the situations altogether.

    As for religion and evolution, I don’t see how your conclusion her follows from your premises.

  27. So, obviously under the common definition of the term “delusion”, most atheistic materialists would consider the billions of humans that have lived on the planet with religious beliefs, supernatural beliefs, spiritual beliefs, etc. are deluded – even more so if they hold that the evidence and facts support them, and claim to have experienced ghosts, spirits, gods, demons, etc.  According to atheistic materialist (and many have come outright said so), the minds of billions of people are or have been, to some degree or another, delusional.

    Yet, they have been very successful in procreation, apparently such delusional mind-content is beneficial to evolutionary progress, or else such kinds of delusions would not be so rampant throughout the human population throughout history.

    So, it is reasonable to say that evolution can, and obviously does, generate widespread, long-lasting, multi-generational, successful delusions into the minds of vast populations of human beings – perhaps even most humans who have ever lived.

    So we return to the problem that I originally described:

    The problem becomes, how does one validate that they are not delusional?  Under materialism, there is no way to do so, since there is no proposed or assumed means of independent judging, there is only the hope that the same thing that produces a world full of erroneous beliefs and delusion  in other people happens to not be doing the same thing when it constructs the mind and beliefs of the materialist.

  28. William J. Murray on May 14, 2012 at 4:25 pmsaid:

    Neither. My position is that delusions are pathological states, probably a byproduct of evolution, but not likely to be a reproductively advantageous phenotype (although I guess that is conceivable).  More to the point, on the whole, delusions tend to be maladaptive for the individual (although occasionally may be protective).

    So pathological states are not the product of evolution, but are rather the “byproduct” of evolution? What is the distinction between “product” and “byproduct” when it comes to evolutionary results?

    OK, fair point, but that brings us back to the distinction between distal and proximal causes.  In the sense that I am persuaded that, broadly, evolutionary theory accounts for what we like, then, sure, “evolution” accounts for the fact that we are prone to delusions.  But then, by the same kind of reasoning, so does Big Bang, and so does the fact that so-and-so suffered brain damage.

    What I meant was that I think it is unlikely that the delusional phenotype was ever reproductively advantageous, although I could be wrong.  

    I guess it depends on what one calls a “delusion” as to whether or not they are “maladaptive”.  Let’s take two groups of people who believe very different things; one set believes that humans are divinely-created beings and that they are special in the world, and they witness the miraculous and experience the presence of their god; the other believes that humans are not special and are essentially nothing more than happenstance, animated matter. Would it be fair to say that one of these groups is experiencing a delusion?

    Not as I am using the word “delusion”, i.e. in the pathological sense (I am a psychiatric neuroscientist after all!)  Pathologically, a delusion is not simply believing something that isn’t true – in fact, a true belief can be delusional, if it is held on irrational grounds.  A man can have the delusion that his wife is having an affair, because he heard the news announcer on TV telling him.  She might well be having an affair, but that doesn’t make  his belief any less delusional.  Conversely, someone can believe something that isn’t true, but not be delusional.  I believed that my son was at college this afternoon, but he wasn’t.  That wasn’t a delusion, it was just a mistake.

    Nor would I say it is a delusion to believe the the world was created by a divine creator.  There are perfectly decent arguments for that, just as there are perfectly decent arguments against.  However, I do think it borders on delusional to think that the world must have been created 6,000 years ago because you think that the Grand Canyon is evidence of a recent global flood. How far over the delusional border it goes would depend, I’d say, on how resistant the person was to counter-argument and evidence.

    Is the belief that one has libertarian free will – the ability to act independently of material causation – a delusion? Is belief in ghosts, spirits, demons, etc. and the experience thereof a delusion?

    Not necessarily, although I guess it could be.  It would depend on the rationale for the belief.  If you believed in a demon because you could see it crouching in the corner of the room, but no-one else could, that would probably class as both a delusion and a hallucination.  But having the belief that one is a volitional agent isn’t a delusion, that I can see.  As for “libertarian free will” – I find it incoherent, but I don’t see that it counts as “delusional”.  If it means that there is an inner homunculus deciding things that you call “you” that is independent of the body, well, that seems reasonably coherent, and not easily falsifiable, so I guess I wouldn’t call that a delusion.

     

    William J. Murray on May 14, 2012 at 5:05 pmsaid:

    Let’s not take the debate down a semantic rabbit-hole over the term “delusion”, when by “delusion” I mean beliefs that are maintained via a subconscious or non-conscious editing of perceptual information and thought, favorably organized and interpreted to maintain and support the belief system regardless of evidence or argument to the contrary.

    Well one man’s “semantic rabbit-hole” is another woman’s “unchallenged assumption” :)  I’m happy with the second part of your definition, but the first implies a perceptual process by which “perceptual information” has some kind of veridical “first draft” that is then “edited” by some incompetent subeditor!  That doesn’t turn out to be a very predictive model of what we actually do.  But I’m happy not to pursue that rabbit right now.

    I would guess that “maladaptive” means “inconsistent with procreative success” or something of the sort, and that “beneficial” means the opposite. It seems to me that one can hardly make the case that religion in general – often described as a delusional belief by atheistic materialists – is “maladaptive”. 

    I wasn’t clear – I realised I hadn’t been later.  I meant “maladaptive” with respect to the organism, not the genotype.  I was using it in the psychiatric sense, in other words, not the evolutionary sense.  What is good for our genes isn’t necessarily good for us (which is why we use birth control!)  A mental condition that impedes someone from having fulfilling life is “maladaptive” in the psychiatric sense, even if it was good for their genes (as, I guess, sex addiction might be, or a compulsion to donate sperm). My own position is that while I think some religious beliefs are held delusionally, not all religious belief is delusional.  Not maladaptive.  And some delusional religious belief (and non-religious belief) is adaptive (again, for the individual) in that it facilitates contentment.  It is very tempting to believe things that make us feel comfortable, and to avoid arguments or evidence that might undermine those comfortable beliefs.  The moment it dawned on my that my arguments for God were flawed was a dizzying, and not happy one.  I don’t think I was avoiding counter arguments up till then, but I guess it took courage to face them when I met them.

    Obviously, evolution can generate widespread, deeply false beliefs (delusion), and deeply false concepts about  proof, evidence, experience, etc., if all religious doctrine is false. Correct?

    Well, see above.  Distally, but not very relevantly, yes.  More proximally, possibly – it is possible that the capacity for delusion is a necessary consequence of capacities that have helped our lineage thrive.   This doesn’t mean of course that the delusional phenotype is “adaptive” in the evolutionary sense i.e. results in reproductive success, but that the cocktail of alleles that helps us thrive includes combinations that result in delusions under certain conditions.  For example, schizophrenia is highly heritable, but no one gene has a very high odds ratio (most people bearing “risk genes” do not develop sz), and even the identical twin of a person with sz only has about 50% risk of developing the condition.

    At least one sz researcher believes that schizophrenia is “the price we pay for language”.  I don’t think it’s that simple, but he has a point.

    On the other hand, I’ve known some pretty delusional cats.

     

  29. So, obviously under the common definition of the term “delusion”, most atheistic materialists would consider the billions of humans that have lived on the planet with religious beliefs, supernatural beliefs, spiritual beliefs, etc. are deluded – even more so if they hold that the evidence and facts support them, and claim to have experienced ghosts, spirits, gods, demons, etc.  According to atheistic materialist (and many have come outright said so), the minds of billions of people are or have been, to some degree or another, delusional.

    Not according to this materialist. The “standard definition” you provided was:

    1.  to mislead the mind or judgment of; deceive: His conceit deluded him into believing he was important.

    As such, there’s nothing that indicates all billions upon billions of religious folks have been deceived in judgment.

    Yet, they have been very successful in procreation, apparently such delusional mind-content is beneficial to evolutionary progress, or else such kinds of delusions would not be so rampant throughout the human population throughout history.

    See above. A maladaptive behavior does not necessarily limit procreation.

    So, it is reasonable to say that evolution can, and obviously does, generate widespread, long-lasting, multi-generational, successful delusions into the minds of vast populations of human beings – perhaps even most humans who have ever lived.

    Not from the scenario you’ve provided. So far, none of your premises lead to any specific conclusion about evolution.

    So we return to the problem that I originally described:

    The problem becomes, how does one validate that they are not delusional?  Under materialism, there is no way to do so, since there is no proposed or assumed means of independent judging, there is only the hope that the same thing that produces a world full of erroneous beliefs and delusion  in other people happens to not be doing the same thing when it constructs the mind and beliefs of the materialist.

    Not based upon the premises you’ve provided.

  30. Elizabeth,

    Whether evolution is a distal or proximate cause of stubborn, erroneous beliefs is rather a moot issue here, because even if we don’t consider evolution per se that which generates persistent, stubborn false beliefs that one considers to be wholly supported by fact and evidence, we still have the problem that under materialism we have no independent judge to arbit such beliefs.

    You say:

    How far over the delusional border it goes would depend, I’d say, on how resistant the person was to counter-argument and evidence.

    … but you fail to address the very point this brings up that was the essence of the problem with materialism I stated to start this off: how can one determine if the way they see, interpret, and weigh evidence is part of their “delusion” or not?

     

  31. how can one determine if the way they see, interpret, and weigh evidence is part of their “delusion” or not?

    One cannot be sure of anything. But you are not asking about logic. You are asking about how we manage our lives, and as social creatures, most of us work with others to separate reality from fantasy.

  32. I kind of like “the problem of materialsm”, which appears to be that the materialist need not compartmentalize, to rope his delusions into some harmless sequestration to be hauled out an hour each Sunday.

  33. As an example of many such deeply-held philosophical differences, we have atheist/materialist Darwinists and theistic/dualist ID proponents, both of whom look at the current evidence and argument and each hold diametrically opposed views of what the evidence proves. Each side firmly believes the other side is either wicked, ignorant or (in the common sense) deluded about the weight of evidence and argument.

    Each side is convinced that the other side is so blatantly and obviously wrong that it generates suspicion and disbelief that any rational and honest person can not see what what is “obvious”.

    Under my common definition of delusion, one side or the other is experiencing a delusion.

    The problem is that under the ontological position of one side of the argument, there’s simply no way for an individual to meaningfully determine if they are the ones deluded or not. They might change their mind, but if they do so it is not because they have any independent capacity to discern a true statement from a false one, or to independently arbit claims and facts and evidence.

    No, they will change their mind, ultimately, simply because some material interaction or variance caused them to change their mind. It might be something they ate, or some happenstance chemical interaction, or a butterfly in Brazil flapping its wings – who knows? In the same way, an atheist might become a devout Christian, or a homemaker in Vermont might come to believe they are channeling the wisdom of an ancient alien.

    That’s the materialst’s only ultimate cause for anything they believe: material processes caused it, and there’s really no telling what material causes might cause one to believe whatever they believe, which is why using a proximate cause label like “free will” or “decision” or “consideration” is an obfuscation when a materialist uses it to sweep ultimate cause under the rug.

    Also, I think you’re using the term “distal” and “proximate” erroneously here. The question isn’t what can be pegged as the original cause if one traces causation back far enough, but rather what the ontological nature of the proximate cause is; is ontologically intentional, or is it just something that is ontologically non-intentioal butis called intentional because of what it looks and feels like?

    For example, determinists often use the phrase “free will” as if “free will” is compatible with determinism. But to do so they must strip “free will” of its ontological value as a self-generating, causeless cause, and simply use it as a label on a sensation one feels when material forces generate a decision. IOW, in the determinist/proximate sense, “free will” is caused by largely unspecified material processes. In the theistic/ultimate sense, free will is a causeless cause that is independent and self-generating.

    So, in this sense, whether or not one has the capacity to determine if they are in a material-generated delusion or not is of course dependent upon their ability to access a means that is independent of those same material processes and material-produced delusions.

    The question of whether or not material forces are the ultimate cause here is very important, because if what we call “decisions”, “thoughts”, “evaluations”, “judgment” are themselves of a nature that they are generated by that which generates such delusions in the first place, then we have nothing at our disposal whatever to gain an independent judgement or observation. We are thus trapped in whatever material delusions are generated in our particular subset of causal molecular interactions with no means of escape – until, of course, happenstance interactions of molecules, by law or chance, flip some biochemical triggers and we believe something else, and believe that change was warranted by evidence or argument (a feeling which is just an effect of material causes)

  34. William, in arguing that everything is delusional under the materialist framework, you stated this…

    by “delusion” I mean beliefs that are maintained via a subconscious or non-conscious editing of perceptual information and thought, favorably organized and interpreted to maintain and support the belief system regardless of evidence or argument to the contrary.

    But by that definition, you have openly admitted that you are delusional, many times on this very blog, you sometimes call it “Free will”. 

    Here’s an example:

    http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/?p=684&cpage=1#comment-9632

    Are you just playing games with us, or are you trying to be serious?  Sometimes I cannot tell.

  35. Elizabeth,

    Whether evolution is a distal or proximate cause of stubborn, erroneous beliefs is rather a moot issue here, because even if we don’t consider evolution per se that which generates persistent, stubborn false beliefs that one considers to be wholly supported by fact and evidence, we still have the problem that under materialism we have no independent judge to arbit such beliefs.

    But this gets back to a point I tried to raise with you several months ago – under theism we have no independent judge either.  Sure, theism posits an independent judge, but that’s no use without any independent way of figuring out what the independent judge judges!  Under both systems we end up figuring it out for ourselves, communally and individually.

     

    You say:

    How far over the delusional border it goes would depend, I’d say, on how resistant the person was to counter-argument and evidence.

    … but you fail to address the very point this brings up that was the essence of the problem with materialism I stated to start this off: how can one determine if the way they see, interpret, and weigh evidence is part of their “delusion” or not?

    You can’t, absolutely.  Which is why psychiatric diagnostics can be contentious.  My own view is that as long as the person is happy, and isn’t making other people seriously unhappy, then there isn’t a problem to solve.  But if they can’t work, are distressed, or a danger to themselves or other people, then there is a problem to solve.  But when we are talking about false beliefs more generally, we do have a fairly good yardstick, which is what scientists call “objective” evidence, although we do not use it in the sense you use that word.  Scientists mean: can be observed/measured/replicated by independent observers.  If everyone in the room sees a pink elephant, it has more objective evidence to support it than if only one person sees it, and everyone else in the room reports that there is no elephant.

    Constructive a reliable model of reality is an iterative and communal process.

    As is, I would argue, the process of constructing a model of what God or gods is/are and approve of.

  36. You are asking about how we manage our lives, and as social creatures, most of us work with others to separate reality from fantasy.

    No, I’m asking you what your premise is for believing you are capable of doing so.

  37. William J. Murray on May 14, 2012 at 7:10 pmsaid:

     

    Each side is convinced that the other side is so blatantly and obviously wrong that it generates suspicion and disbelief that any rational and honest person can not see what what is “obvious”.

    Yes indeed!  Hence this site and its idiosyncratic rules.

  38. <p>William, in arguing that everything is delusional under the materialist framework, you stated this… </p>

    <p>”by “delusion” I mean beliefs that are maintained via a subconscious or non-conscious editing of perceptual information and thought, favorably organized and interpreted to maintain and support the belief system regardless of evidence or argument to the contrary.”</p>

    <p>But by that definition, you have openly admitted that you are delusional, many times on this very blog.  However, when applying it to yourself, and presumably other theists, you call it “Free will”.  </p>
    <p>Here’s an example:</p>
    <p>http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/?p=684&amp;cpage=1#comment-9632</p&gt;
    <p>Are you just playing games with us, or are you trying to be serious?  Sometimes I cannot tell.</p>

  39. But this gets back to a point I tried to raise with you several months ago – under theism we have no independent judge either.  Sure, theism posits an independent judge, but that’s no use without any independent way of figuring out what the independent judge judges!  Under both systems we end up figuring it out for ourselves, communally and individually.

    I have no idea what this is supposed to mean.  Leaving “theism” out of it, are we are agreed that unless we have a means of arbiting our views and beliefs that is independent of that which causes false beliefs (common delusions) in the first place, that we have no meaningful way of discerning delusion from non-delusion?

  40. The poor deluded materialist, in his ignorance, continues the unexamined process of collecting evidence, forming hypotheses, testing them, developing theories, making predictions, and accumulating knowledge. Those even MORE deluded take that knowledge and use it to create comfortable lifestyles for everyone in countless ways.

    The clear-sighted Believer, on the other hand, spends his time much more productively in the exercise of twisting philosophical sophistry into pretzels to defend his orientation, accomplishing nothing of practical use. But doing so with the sort of airtight reasoning that only comes from assuming one’s conclusions, and from those assumptions deriving the conclusions they represent.

    I don’t think it’s a matter of picking your poison, however. As Elizabeth said,  it would “depend, I’d say, on how resistant the person was to counter-argument and evidence.” And William has made it clear that his resistance level has reached the point where nothing counter can BE an argument, and uncongenial observation simply IS NOT EVIDENCE. 

  41. BTW, with this wysiwyg editor (which you can choose not to use, by clicking the HTML button, if you prefer), if you type <blockquote> the editor assumes you mean “less than blockquote greater than“!  Which at leaves means you don’t get yout real  less than and greater than signs misparsed as html tags, but it does mean that your code doesn’t render when you want it to.

    Anyway, I fixed your tags :)

  42. Elizabeth says:

    But when we are talking about false beliefs more generally, we do have a fairly good yardstick, which is what scientists call “objective” evidence, although we do not use it in the sense you use that word.  Scientists mean: can be observed/measured/replicated by independent observers.  If everyone in the room sees a pink elephant, it has more objective evidence to support it than if only one person sees it, and everyone else in the room reports that there is no elephant.

    Apparently, your response to my question:

    how can one determine if the way they see, interpret, and weigh evidence is part of their “delusion” or not?

    Is, to paraphrase the above … by looking at the evidence?

  43. William J. Murray on May 14, 2012 at 7:17 pmsaid:Edit

    But this gets back to a point I tried to raise with you several months ago – under theism we have no independent judge either.  Sure, theism posits an independent judge, but that’s no use without any independent way of figuring out what the independent judge judges!  Under both systems we end up figuring it out for ourselves, communally and individually.

    I have no idea what this is supposed to mean.  Leaving “theism” out of it, are we are agreed that unless we have a means of arbiting our views and beliefs that is independent of that which causes false beliefs (common delusions) in the first place, that we have no meaningful way of discerning delusion from non-delusion?

    What it’s supposed to mean is that regardless of whether we are operating under theism or atheism, in practice (in this world anyway!) we have no independent arbiter.  The best we can do is figure out a method.

    So yes, we are agreed that we need some kind of independent process for deciding whether a belief is false or not, but not on what the best such process we can manage is.  My position is that the best we can manage is the objectivity conferred by consensus among maximally independent observers.  I do not see how we can improve on that, and at least, though not infallible, the conclusions of those independent observers, at least in science, are regarded as provisional, and subject to modification should new observers with new observations provide evidence that the previous conclusion was insufficient.

  44. This is the very problem that the methods of science addresses.

    I notice that both sides in the two cultures war enjoy the benefits of science, although William might be delusional in thinking he is conversing with other people via a computer network.

  45. What it’s supposed to mean is that regardless of whether we are operating under theism or atheism, in practice (in this world anyway!) we have no independent arbiter.  The best we can do is figure out a method.

    How do you know that in practice we do not have access to an independent arbiter?

     

    So yes, we are agreed that we need some kind of independent process for deciding whether a belief is false or not, but not on what the best such process we can manage is.

    I’m not sure you yet understand what I mean by “independent”. I mean independent of the process that generates delusions. I think you are using “independent” to simply mean “by others” or “by some system”.

  46. So, let’s try this again:

    How can one determine if the way they see, interpret, and weigh evidence is part of their “delusion” or not?

    Your answer cannot be for me to see, interpret and weigh evidence.

  47. As an example of many such deeply-held philosophical differences, we have atheist/materialist Darwinists and theistic/dualist ID proponents, both of whom look at the current evidence and argument and each hold diametrically opposed views of what the evidence proves. Each side firmly believes the other side is either wicked, ignorant or (in the common sense) deluded about the weight of evidence and argument.

    Each side is convinced that the other side is so blatantly and obviously wrong that it generates suspicion and disbelief that any rational and honest person can not see what what is “obvious”.

    Part of the reason many “atheist/Materialist Darwinists” see ID as wicked, ignorant, and/or deluded is a direct result of actions such as those portrayed in the Dover, PA trial and school district, the Wedge Document, and the behavior of John Freshwater and his trial. If the supposed “atheist/materialist Darwinists” had similar examples of disingenuous/delusional behavior, I’d understand and even embrace the attitude vented in that direction, but there just isn’t any – which itself is another example of odd ID proponent behavior.  It appears to me that the only reason that the “atheist/materialist Darwinists” are seen as “wicked, ignorant, or deluded” by the ID folks is because the former reject the latter’s religious beliefs and claims that such beliefs should be taught as science. How is that not intellectually dishonest by your very own definition? 

  48. Well the pertinent question has been answered:

    What it’s supposed to mean is that regardless of whether we are operating under theism or atheism, in practice (in this world anyway!) we have no independent arbiter.

    So there it is, under the atheistic/materialist paradigm, we do not have access to any arbiting agency independent of the material forces that cause delusion.  The same thing that causes delusions is what is used to try and discern what is and is not a delusion.

     

     

  49. I’m not sure you yet understand what I mean by “independent”. I mean independent of the process that generates delusions. I think you are using “independent” to simply mean “by others” or “by some system”.

    William, how can you conclude there is an entity that is independent of the process that generates delusions when the concept of such an entity is the product of the process that generates delusions. In other words, there’s no way for you to independently know that your understanding of some independent agency isn’t a product of delusion. Thus, as Lizzie and others note, you’re in the same boat as any other materialist.

     

  50. So there it is, under the atheistic/materialist paradigm, we do not have access to any arbiting agency independent of the material forces that cause delusion.  The same thing that causes delusions is what is used to try and discern what is and is not a delusion.

    On an individual level, yep. On a group or system level however, delusion is reduced to a relatively low factor.

  51. It’s a rather old divide, the question of whether you gain knowledge by thinking about it, or whether you gain knowledge by making hypotheses and testing them.

  52. If the supposed “atheist/materialist Darwinists” had similar examples of disingenuous/delusional behavior, I’d understand and even embrace the attitude vented in that direction, but there just isn’t any –

    Perhaps you mean, you don’t see any, perhaps even when it is pointed out, repeatedly, just as IDists may not see the behavior/evidence you point out in their ranks. Which means one side or the other is common-definition deluded, since they both believe about the same negative thing about the other side.

    The problem – once again – when it comes to a deluded observation and interpretation of evidence, one cannot point to any observation or evidence and expect it to clear up a delusion or prove the truth.  That is the very problem I pose; what do materialists posit as a means of escaping a deluded observation and interpretation of evidence?

    You have nothing, because in the end everything is the product of the same kind of interactions that generate “evidence delusion”. Non materialists at least have something premised that is independent of delusion-generating material interactions, which at least hypothetically could be utilized to discern delusion from non-delusion.

    Materialists don’t even have a hypothetical means of doing so.

  53. William, how can you conclude

    It’s not a conclusion, It’s a necessary premise. Otherwise, one has no hope, not even hypothetical, of intentionally preventing or escaping delusion.

  54. I wonder if William’s “independent arbiter” is the same imaginary entity that speakes directly to the hearts of believers, and never ever tells them their opinion is wrong. THAT kind of independence must be nice to have access to.

  55. That is the very problem I pose; what do materialists posit as a means of escaping a deluded observation and interpretation of evidence?

    You have nothing

    Well, nothing except replication, consiliance, predictive value, willingness to modify when new evidence arises, publication, detailed explanations of methodology, clear operational definitions, peer review, and so on and on and on.

    In other words, the problem of confirmation bias in finding reality is well recognized. The REAL distinction is that materialists recognize this as a problem and do everything possible to minimize it or neutralize it, knowing that absolute success is not possible.

    The immaterialists, on the contrary, SEEK confirmation bias, wallow in it, philosphize endlessly about how wonderful it is, and work to perfect the art of assuming their foregone conclusions. And while they’re at it, they enjoy the health, lifespans, and lifestyles made possible by the silly materialists, who have accomplished what millennia of religious self-congratulation could not.

  56. William J Murray,

    Robin: “William, how can you conclude there is an entity that is independent of the process that generates delusions when the concept of such an entity is the product of the process that generates delusions. In other words, there’s no way for you to independently know that your understanding of some independent agency isn’t a product of delusion.”

    Very nicely said  and clearly shows the errors of the WJM’s of the world.

     

     

     

  57. Elizabeth’s answer, it seems, is:

    The way to see if how one observes, interprets and reaches conclusions about evidence is delusional or not is by observing, interpreting and reaching conclusions about the evidence.

    This is what they mean when they say that materialism is ultimately self-referential.  Without the assumption of an independent and reliable arbiter of truth, there simply isn’t any rational means to assert that anything one believes isn’t delusion.

  58. William J Murray,

    What you are trying to do is no different that trying to generate a stereo image from a mono source.

    You have one brain trapped in your body and you think with “logic” you can generate a viewpoint that could only exist outside of your own single-brain viewpoint.

    You are trying to use a steel ruler to measure a length of steel to see if a change in temperature can cause steel to change size.

     

     

     

  59. Without the assumption of an independent and reliable arbiter of truth, there simply isn’t any rational means to assert that anything one believes isn’t delusion.

    And so the solution is so simple a simpleton can find it: just ASSUME UP an imaginary independent and reliable arbiter of truth. POOF, we know the Truth. Piece of cake. And amazingly, this imaginary independent and reliable arbiter always agrees with those who assume it. How wonderfully convenient. And there, folks, in black in white, is what “intellectual honesty” is all about.

  60. Well, nothing except replication, consiliance, predictive value, willingness to modify when new evidence arises, publication, detailed explanations of methodology, clear operational definitions, peer review, and so on and on and on.

     

    The problem of evidence observation, interpretation and conclusion delusion cannot be resolved by appeal to more of the same.

  61. Robin: William, how can you conclude

    WJM: It’s not a conclusion, It’s a necessary premise. Otherwise, one has no hope, not even hypothetical, of intentionally preventing or escaping delusion.

    Umm…not so much, unless your definition of “necessary” means the same thing as “arbitrary”. The rebuttal is quite easily demonstrated – those of us who do not accept your supposed “necessary premise” are seen functioning just fine. Ergo – not “necessary”.

    Care to try again? Perhaps you’d like to use a different word?

    So let’s try this again – how is it that your delusions can’t spawn delusions, William? How is your make believe “first cause” not subject to the delusion producing systems?

     

  62. William J. Murray on May 14, 2012 at 8:03 pmsaid:

    Elizabeth’s answer, it seems, is:

    The way to see if how one observes, interprets and reaches conclusions about evidence is delusional or not is by observing, interpreting and reaching conclusions about the evidence.

    This is what they mean when they say that materialism is ultimately self-referential.  Without the assumption of an independent and reliable arbiter of truth, there simply isn’t any rational means to assert that anything one believes isn’t delusion.

    It isn’t “ultimately” self-referential, it’s iteratively multiply-referential.  Call it bootstrapping if you like.

    But never mind what it is: my point is what yours isn’t.  You claim “an independent and reliable arbiter of truth” that we lack (or I think you do).  But you have no such thing.  You posit that there is such a theoretical entity, but as you have no independent access to it, it’s no better than having what we have. 

    It’s like defining a meter as a 40 millionth of the earth’s circumference, and then find yourself with no way of determining how long a 40 millionth of the earth’s circumference actually is! 

    That’s why theism is just as “ultimately self-referential” as any other system.  God may be perfect and absolute, but as we have no way of knowing whether any one human being has the right God or the wrong one, or the right interpretation of the right God’s words or the wrong one, then biblical types end up saying “the bible is inerrant because the bible is inerrant” and people like you end up saying something that appears to make no more sense!

    For an objective measure to be any use, we need to be able to use it, not just assume that it exists.

  63. The problem of evidence observation, interpretation and conclusion delusion cannot be resolved by appeal to more of the same.

    Of course not. the problem is resolved by the results of observation and interpretation. Even you base your acceptance of “Secret” stuff on results. Now all you have to do is look at many cases like your wife’s andmake the necessary adjustments to one’s interpretations and conclusions.

  64. William J. Murray on May 14, 2012 at 8:21 pmsaid:

    Well, nothing except replication, consiliance, predictive value, willingness to modify when new evidence arises, publication, detailed explanations of methodology, clear operational definitions, peer review, and so on and on and on.

    The problem of evidence observation, interpretation and conclusion delusion cannot be resolved by appeal to more of the same.

    Well, yes, it can, or least be approximated with ever-increasing degrees of accuracy.

    Think of it as analogous to the problem of quantifying instantaneous velocity, which so foxed Xeno.  But it turned out to be perfectly solvable, given an iterative approach.

  65. William,

    You are making a mockery out of the worldview you supposedly believe in (that is if you aren’t just pulling our legs for the fun of it). 

    Here you state that materialism results in delusion, and you define delusion thus:

    by “delusion” I mean beliefs that are maintained via a subconscious or non-conscious editing of perceptual information and thought, favorably organized and interpreted to maintain and support the belief system regardless of evidence or argument to the contrary.

    And yet in another post you consider that to be the definition of free will, which is the result of a theistic worldview: 

    http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/?p=684&cpage=1#comment-9632

    Are you playing a game with us?

  66. Robin: If the supposed “atheist/materialist Darwinists” had similar examples of disingenuous/delusional behavior, I’d understand and even embrace the attitude vented in that direction, but there just isn’t any –

    WJM: Perhaps you mean, you don’t see any, perhaps even when it is pointed out, repeatedly, just as IDists may not see the behavior/evidence you point out in their ranks. Which means one side or the other is common-definition deluded, since they both believe about the same negative thing about the other side.

    Nope, I meant exactly what I wrote. Feel free to provide one example where an “atheist/materialist Darwinist” was fired from a teaching position for presenting science as religion (Freshwater in reverse), developed a manifesto for sneaking science into church as religion (Wedge document in reverse), edited a text book by an incomplete search and replacement of a word that was found illegal under the Constitution to a potentially legal scientific word (one of the many Dover actions in reverse). Go ahead William – let’s see you provide one such bit of apple to apple comparison.

    I’m sure you won’t even try to address these William because you know such would just prove my point.

     

  67. WJM, regarding “Real World”

    Please note that Christianity, like Science, has a belief an a real world that exists and does function as we experience it, even in the absence of ourselves. That is, the world was “alive” before Adam and Eve.

    How is your theoretical conception of reality different?

  68. Just a thought here William, but given that a whole bunch of theists who held a collective belief in a given phenomenon based upon an assumption of an independent and reliable arbiter of truth’s claims supposedly mistakenly hung said independent and reliable arbiter of truth on a piece of wood to die because he had the audacity to claim that he was said independent arbiter and note a few peoples’ errors of assumption and delusion, I really have to wonder how you can claim that having such an independent arbiter supposedly solves the problem of delusion for IDers. Just sayin…

     

  69. Also, I can’t tell you how frustrated I am by your simple-minded approach to Philosophical reasoning and apparent disinterest to do any better.

    Although there are many general metaphysical/ontological theories of consciousness, the list of specific detailed theories about its nature is even longer and more diverse. No brief survey could be close to comprehensive, but six main types of theories may help to indicate the basic range of options: higher-order theories, representational theories, cognitive theories, neural theories, quantum theories and nonphysical theories.

  70. rhampton & robin,

    None of that has anything to do with, or to say about, the necessity of assuming that there is some sort of referential agency by which truth claims can be arbited. Such must be premised in order to avoid a necessary conclusion that materialism cannot assert to be anything other than any other delusion that humans have ever labored under.

    Unless a materialist can refer to some independent judge (of evidence-delusion, which they cannot), then a materialist calling any other perspective delusional – or even erroneous – is meaningless.

    There’s no reason to pay materialists any mind because they don’t even premise a means of avoiding material-generated evidence-delusion. At least other views premise a means of distinguishing truth from delusion.

  71. I’m sure you won’t even try to address these William because you know such would just prove my point.

    I’m quite sure anything I say will, in your eyes, prove your point to you.

  72. William J Murray,

    William J Murray: “There’s no reason to pay materialists any mind because they don’t even premise a means of avoiding material-generated evidence-delusion. At least other views premise a means of distinguishing truth from delusion.”

    Now you have simply got to be kidding!

    If I “premise” a means of proving I am my own father, does that mean I have more credibility than a world of medical professionals who won’t even entertain the idea?

     

  73. Are you playing a game with us?

    Having free will means being able to believe as one wishes, and also means one has an independent capacity to discern true statements from false. Because one has the capacity to discern true statements from false doesn’t mean one necessarily employs it, and doesn’t mean one is obliged to believe what they have found to be true.  Free will also means being able to deny what is true.

    Also, just having the capacity to discern true statements from false is useless unless there is a truth one has access to in order to judge competing statements. Since materialists deny formal truths exist, then once again materialism is shown to be nothing more than a system that not only cannot escape delusion, but embraces it as the only possible ontological state and epistemological method.

  74. If I “premise” a means of proving I am my own father, does that mean I have more credibility than a world of medical professionals who won’t even entertain the idea?

    If you are going to claim to be your own father, you certainly must premise that there is a rational means of fathering yourself. Similarly, if one is going to claim that they can discern delusion from non-delusion, they must premise a rational means of doing so.

    The only way to rationally premise that one can discern delusion from non-delusion is if there is an independent agency one has access to which can arbit such a distinction. To use the same agency that produces delusion as an arbiter is self-referential and irrational.

  75. Uhh…seems your independent arbiter is off on that assumption too…

    It’s not an assumption. It’s a conclusion based on observation of the evidence.

  76. Well, yes, it can, or least be approximated with ever-increasing degrees of accuracy.

     

    Well, not much I can say in response to an assertion of self-referential validation as a significant means of checking one’s beliefs.

  77. Unless a materialist can refer to some independent judge (of evidence-delusion, which they cannot), then a materialist calling any other perspective delusional – or even erroneous – is meaningless.

    You do realize that that this statement is easily rebutted simply by pointing to the existence of materialists, right? Or are you suggesting that our existence is just your illusion?

    This is pretty simple logic,William – if (as you claim) we materialists can’t (or don’t (we “cannot” apparently, as you note above) refer to some independent judge, then apparently we can’t determine what is accurate or erroneous. If this were actually the case, we could not survive, because we could not determine whether we were eating, breathing, dressing, working, or doing any activity at all.

    If we can’t compare behavior at all William and determine the difference between that which would be successful and that which leads to failure for a given goal (which is what your claim above is inherently), then there can be no awareness of sustenance. How do you propose materialists have gotten around this William?

     

  78. “It’s not an assumption. It’s a conclusion based on observation of the evidence.”

    Ah, well – at least William will accept that in some cases at least, evidence and observation can lead to a valid conclusion.

    Or is he deluding himself? 

  79. Really not much to say in response to an assertion of checking one’s beliefs against one’s beliefs (and apparently pretending that calling one set of those beliefs *premises* makes them anything else but beliefs) as a significant means of validation.

  80. The only way to rationally premise that one can discern delusion from non-delusion is if there is an independent agency one has access to which can arbit such a distinction. To use the same agency that produces delusion as an arbiter is self-referential and irrational.

    To nail the independent agency to a cross pretty because one can’t truly know its he independent agency pretty much demolishes your claim of necessity or rationality here William.

  81. William J Murray,

    William J Murray: “Similarly, if one is going to claim that they can discern delusion from non-delusion, they must premise a rational means of doing so.”

    And you or StephenB or BarryA have never been able to do that.

    Show me that you can be inside and outside of yourself at the same time.

    You can’t build a stereo picture from a mono source by applying logic.

    You have one brain.

    If it’s wrong, there is no “backup” brain in your skull that can verify what your “primary” brain has concluded.

    Some human “designed” systems have multiple processors individually working on the same problem just to verify if “conclusions” make sense.

    We have one brain and therefore can’t do that.

     

     

  82. Then your assessment tool needs calibrating as I’ve already accepted your argument on at least two occasions and changed my POV. I guess your independent arbiter didn’t remind you of those bits of evidence that directly contradict your claim. Oops…

     

  83. How do you propose materialists have gotten around this William?

    By materialism not being true.

  84. And immaterialists have gotten around their delusions with compartmentalization. It’s practical; it works.

  85. Robin: “If we can’t compare behavior at all William and determine the difference between that which would be successful and that which leads to failure for a given goal (which is what your claim above is inherently), then there can be no awareness of sustenance. How do you propose materialists have gotten around this William?”

     

    WJM: “By materialism not being true.”

     

    Cool – I have seen enough of WJM’s philosophies and, shall we say, quirky use of logic, that I anticipated pretty exactly this answer from him. According to this worldview, all living beings need to be philosophers and theists, they need to have axioms and believe in first principles, etc., otherwise they could not survive. It’s an amazingly self-defeating worldview, really.

  86. There’s no reason to pay materialists any mind because they don’t even premise a means of avoiding material-generated evidence-delusion. At least other views premise a means of distinguishing truth from delusion.

    This is exactly the kind of thing I was referring to when I commented on your “simple-minded approach to Philosophical reasoning and apparent disinterest to do any better.” It would be pointless for me to offer more links when you have ignored my previous contributions, none the less such premises do exist despite your ignorance.

  87. The only way to rationally premise that one can discern delusion from non-delusion is if there is an independent agency one has access to which can arbit such a distinction. To use the same agency that produces delusion as an arbiter is self-referential and irrational.

    How does one determine whether or not the independent agency is a delusion or is itself delusional?

  88. While we’re at it, how can anyone establish that such an agency is independent? IF it happens to be imaginary, it is entirely dependent, and has no independence at all.

    But once again, having learned nothing, William presents a binary decision – either a process is independent or it is not. How about a process that is MORE independent, which when iterated becomes increasingly independent?

    William is arguing that using the same agency to begin learning the violin as is used to master the instrument is self-referential and delusional! But practicing WORKS.

    But hey, I provided a long list of mechanisms for improving independence and error correction, which are not only known to work but which William relies on working to produce his very arguments, and he dismissed them all as worthless! I guess functional effectiveness, no matter how obvious or useful, can’t get off the ground. For that, you need imaginary agency. The nice thing about imaginary agency is, it can be whatever you SAY it is. Want independence? POOF, you got it.  Want  it to be ”real”? Just SAY so. Want it to agree with you? Piece of cake, can’t miss.

    Relying on effectiveness is irrational, because it means you might be WRONG. Can’t have that.     

  89. If you try real real hard, you might ask in response if it WORKS. If it does, if in fact it has been phenomenally successful and compiled a truly impressive track record of accomplishments, maybe there might be something to it.

    But hey, if William’s theory says bumblebees can’t fly, and we observe them flying, who you gonna believe, the bees or Right Thinking Philosophy? The bees don’t have a prayer. 

  90. Robin: How do you propose materialists have gotten around this William?

    WJM: By materialism not being true.

    William, this doesn’t make any sense. There are several actual possibilities – there’s no such thing as materialism and you’re just making stuff up, you can’t actually tell if someone is a materialist, and the materialist perspective is actually accurate and you’re claims are wrong are among those possibilities. But how can a materialist “not be true”? Either the person actually is a materialist or isn’t – which is it? Further, given that we “atheist/materialist Darwinists” actually do live by our science and actually do operate in a world based upon our models, where are we faking it?

    Of course, once again your claim is made without any substantiation – any actual example of us “atheist/materialist Darwinists” not being true. It “must be true” for your premise to be valid, but therein lies the rub – you are merely relying on some illusion to hold up your house of cards, when in reality Occam’s Razor indicates it’s not the hypothesis with the fewest assumptions – that it’s really a largely a claim that’s impossible to support.

    So I’ll just discard it as another example of whimsical nuttiness. Thanks for the response!

     

     

     

  91. I think I’ve figured this out.  Many atheist materialists here are honestly oblivious to the ontological requirements demanded by their epistemology, and are largely incapable of distinguishing between an ontological and an epistemological challenge/question/issue.

    Put in that context, I understand now why so many posts here are complete non-sequiturs, and why when asked for the ontological premise that would enable the avoidance of epistemological delusion, Elizabeth happily referred me to the same epistemology.

  92. This is pretty simple logic,William – if (as you claim) we materialists can’t (or don’t (we “cannot” apparently, as you note above) refer to some independent judge, then apparently we can’t determine what is accurate or erroneous. If this were actually the case, we could not survive, because we could not determine whether we were eating, breathing, dressing, working, or doing any activity at all.

    Do you really not know that I’m talking about the logical ramifications of the philosophy of materialism, whether any so-called atheist/materialist understands them or not?

    Because the philosophy of atheistic materialism provides no ontological basis for the expectation that one can avoid epistemological delusion doesn’t mean that people who call themselves materialist atheists cannot avoid epistemological delusion; it just means their philosophy has no justification for their ability to do so.

     

  93. At least people who are ontologically pure can live in an ideologically perfect world, if not one that accumulates useful knowledge.

  94. Robin: There are several actual possibilities – there’s no such thing as materialism and you’re just making stuff up, you can’t actually tell if someone is a materialist, and the materialist perspective is actually accurate and you’re claims are wrong are among those possibilities.

    The first of those – “there’s no such thing as materialism and you’re just making stuff up” – is probably correct.

    There is evidence for the second – “you can’t actually tell if someone is a materialist” – in that WJM repeatedly refers to me as a materialist, which I am not.  But I suspect it is not really an inability to tell.  Rather, I think “materialist” is mostly a term of insult.  It seems that if one is addressing theists, it is unnecessary to actually present an argument; simply label your opponent a materialist, and you will have automatically convinced that audience.

  95. WJM: Many atheist materialists here are honestly oblivious to the ontological requirements demanded by their epistemology, and are largely incapable of distinguishing between an ontological and an epistemological challenge/question/issue.

    I’m not actually a materialist, but never mind.  My own epistemology has no ontological requirements.  If anything, I see ontology as a major source of mistaken thinking.

  96. WJM:

    I think I’ve figured this out. Many atheist materialists here are honestly oblivious to the ontological requirements demanded by their epistemology, and are largely incapable of distinguishing between an ontological and an epistemological challenge/question/issue.

    I think you are so incapable of comprehending the world from the perspective of an ‘atheist-materialist’ that you really believe we are incapable of understanding our own position. Otherwise – why, of course we would come to the same conclusions as you! Which is why I have largely avoided this discussion: no words from such beings can penetrate your ontological/epistemological shell.

  97. Put in that context, I understand now why so many posts here are complete non-sequiturs, and why when asked for the ontological premise that would enable the avoidance of epistemological delusion, Elizabeth happily referred me to the same epistemology.

    William, this isn’t that big a mystery and it doesn’t require rocket science – as a baby all I was aware of was two states: comfort and discomfort. There was no nonsense concerning “epistemology”, “ontology”, “materialism”, “superstition”, “atheism”, “distal causation”, etc. There was “comfort”/”discomfort”. That’s it. There wasn’t even an “I”; I didn’t recognize my own existence, nor was I aware of the world around me. I use words in terms of a convenient convention to describe the state of affairs now that I have a schemata in place about the states and an “awareness” of the difference, but it’s merely for convenience; it doesn’t represent any actuality. As far as “I” knew – and frankly as far as I still “know”, there was and is no “I”. There is “comfort” (and usually “sleep”, though even that’s irrelevant) and there was “discomfort”. I don’t consciously remember complaining about the discomfort – making any noises or that sort of thing, though at this point given the evidence (my mom’s stories, experience with other babies – which…let’s face it…are just memory impulses at this point…) I believe I did, but that’s irrelevant. The fact is, “I” merely associated certain events with going from state A (discomfort) to state B (comfort). There was very little association going from state B to state A simply because for the most part such transitions were gradual. 

    So that’s the basis of my operation; changing state A to state B in all scenarios. “I” is irrelevant in any absolute sense. “You” are irrelevant in the same way. “Reality” is just as irrelevant. These are merely terms that provide some relate model schemata for the state phase changes. That’s all. I don’t really give two fig newtons whether “I’m” real and I sure as heck could care less if you exist Bambi. It all boils down to coming up with some terminology and models to describe the awareness of state phase changes. The fact remains that my place holders give meaning to those states. Yours do not. It’s that simple.

     

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