Science can answer moral questions

Sorry to have been away for so long. Sickness and Demon’s Souls have taken over my life recently. I hope to throw them both over soon.

This video is especially for Nathanael to think about.

But I’m sure Chris and Marco will get something to comment out of it, too.

41 thoughts on “Science can answer moral questions

  1. Marco

    I really didn’t like the video. Video in general makes it hard to “skip” to where the fundamental logic that I may be interested in is. I am probably more interested in your summary of it and any take home message you got from it.

    For me, some of the premises don’t work for me. From a scientific perspective, I would be a lot more interested in it had it claimed: Science has answered moral question X – the first of many!

    Early on, he makes statements to the effect that many moral questions regard other people’s suffering, and our understanding and empathy for that.

    I am not sure what the endpoint of moral research would be? A better version of secular humanism?

    Reply
    1. winstoninabox Post author

      I’m unclear if you actually watched the whole talk. That part is only about 15 minutes long, the remainder is questions from the host. If you’re unable to watch what he actually says then it it’s going to be hard to discuss it. A summary is going to take me much longer to write than it would for you to watch the video and get the information firsthand.

      I don’t think he says anything radical. What I was interested in to hear from Nathanael is his perspective on the ‘science can’t answer these types of questions’ line of argument. I’ve long thought it bogus.

      Reply
    1. Marco

      I have now watched the whole thing including the talk at the end. My criticism stays the same.

      I got the impression that he got close to saying “the Dalai Lama is good” and at another point it appeared that he was saying that Islam is bad ( without saying it of course. He seemed to be just pushing the buttons with the maltreatment of women etc. I got the feeling he may have been playing to a non-Islamic audience)

      I don’t really know who Sam Harris is, but the way he was dressed and spoke seemed to exude authority of being an expert in this field. I am not really interested who he is though – in some ways I find it better to not know, so that I am not prejudiced either way when I am trying to understand his logic.

      To be clear, he wasn’t claiming that science had found a particular answer to a particular vexing moral question, but that science gives a better framework than religion to model human well being, which he considers is, or should be the aim of any moral framework.

      It would be better for humanism to focus on what radically different religions and their associated prophets agree on (eg. The golden rule) and keep those elements in a moral framework.

      Reply
  2. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

    As with his Tiger Woods discussion, I am favourably impressed with Mr Harris’ performance here. I am very much in agreement with his concept of objective morality and think the concept of a “moral landscape” is a useful one. He is clearly one of those people who takes the question of morality in an atheistic worldview seriously. I don’t envy him the task he has set himself of convincing stubborn people of the truth of things that are blindingly obvious.

    I would have liked him to take a few more confrontational examples of conflicts between the well-being of different individuals, or of long-term versus short-term well-being. But he is clearly set here on the first step, of convincing an audience probably well infected with relativism of the necessity and plausibility of an absolute morality. I hope he has convinced you, winstoninabox! 🙂

    That said, there is still a confusion in the talk between means and ends. Mr Harris’ definition at about 1:38 “Values are facts about the well-being of conscious creatures” (which as he says about 7:30, is hazy on what “well-being” consists of) is not a scientific statement; it is something he has brought in from outside. *Of course* once we have such an agreed-upon statement as an end, even a vague one, science can answer moral questions. But in itself it is not able to give us such an agreed-upon statement.

    Reply
    1. winstoninabox Post author

      Unlike Marco, I too was favorably impressed with this talk. Of course that’s probably just me drinking the kool-aid of a morality devoid of theism, but Harris gives a mud-map for how to get there. I’m also a believer in neuroscience making great steps forward in the near future into how our brains deal with morality.

      “But he is clearly set here on the first step, of convincing an audience probably well infected with relativism of the necessity and plausibility of an absolute morality. I hope he has convinced you, winstoninabox! :)”

      I’m not in agreement that he is at odds with relativism. People seems to think that moral relativism is akin to moral anarchy, moral depravity or the dice-man. It’s not, or at least not how I see it. Nor is it do as you please. It’s considering each situation on its merits and demerits before making a decision rather than having a blanket rule which obviously falls down at the first moral conundrum.

      Is killing wrong? Yes. But is it always wrong? No. It’s too easy to imagine a situation where oneself or one’s family are placed in mortal danger through no fault of their own actions, and a violent solution which ended with the death of the aggressor being the outcome.

      But that is a simple situation which few would argue with and really only gnaws at the edges of the moral certitude that theists have. The issue of gay marriage is a much clearer one for showing the advantages, at least how I see them, to moral relativism. This is a line of argument I’ve used already on this blog, so apologies if you weren’t convinced the first time.

      What I’m most surprised about from Christians in this issue is the lack of any intellectual rigor or empathy for gays and lesbians at all. Their reading of the bible tells them that gay marriage is wrong, and so that is the opinion that they hold regardless of any evidence to the contrary. And that is what I find so sad about their opinion in this matter – that there is no evidence that could sway them to change their opinion EXCEPT to come across a new reading of the bible that sways them a different way. And so the interpretation of a book which has nothing to do with the issue at hand is what is controlling their viewpoint. And these people have the temerity to call moral relativism flawed.

      The thing, when my moral relativism is wrong then it is I who must accept responsibility for that. It is I and I alone who made the final decision. I can blame others for the bad advice they gave me, or wring my hands and the insufficient data available to me, but the inescapable truth is is that I made that decision. Those who follow a moral code from their religion have abdicated that responsibility. They have also abdicated the need to give a shit about anyone else. It doesn’t matter how much gays and lesbians explain the pain caused by the social injustice of their feelings not being recognized as equal to straights because they love someone with the same bits and bobs, because the bible says it can’t happen. You don’t have to empathize with any minority when god tells you that marginalizing them is ok.

      Now sure, one can feign empathy and say that they love the sinner but hate the sin, but one can piss in a bucket and call it lemonade, too. If no amount of pleading or logic can inspire your desire to see another being treated the same as yourself, then that person is following themselves that they are considering the other as anything other than a cardboard cutout of a human. If the court has already decided the sentence before the accused has air his or her case, then that is not morality. A moral relativist may agree with gay marriage or disagree with gay marriage, but at least the moral relativism that I believe in will give the case a chance to be heard.

      Somewhere a page ago I started with a point of disagreement about what you thought about with Sam Harris and moral relativism. I’m not sure if I’ve given a coherent answer to it, but I’m going to press the reply button before I consider whether I have or not.

      Reply
      1. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

        It’s considering each situation on its merits and demerits before making a decision

        No it’s not. That is not moral relativism. That is just what all real people do under all circumstances, including religious people. Moral relativism is the claim that the merits and demerits of a situation are cultural constructs.

        Reply
        1. winstoninabox Post author

          As I go on to show with the example of gay marriage, considering each situation on its merits and demerits is not what religious people do.

          I agree with your version of moral relativism.

          Reply
        2. winstoninabox Post author

          Also, thank you for pulling me up on moral relativism. It’s not the term I should be using.

          As I said about the religious and decision making, I don’t believe that the religious consider the evidence as it pertains to the dilemma, but rather as it pertains to their own particular creed. A religious person doesn’t need to know any more than a superficial description of the problem to know how they would react to this problem. They take this information and compare it to the tenets, holy book or trusted spokesperson for the religion and come to decision. No deeper understanding is required.

          Reply
      2. Marco

        I too thought that I was a moral relativist for the same kinds of reasons and examples Winston has made. However, the thinking that you are a moral relativist because the same act can be considered moral or immoral depending on the context actually lends itself more to moral absolutes. Ie. for every given situation there may be a more or less moral decision that can be made. The lack of information about the results of the decision are irrelevant to the moral imperative associated with it. I think I have a conversation with Chris on my blog about it.

        Moral relativism is implied in world law as it stands as the UN cannot generally overrule laws in any given country lest they interfere in their domestic affairs.

        Reply
        1. winstoninabox Post author

          “I too thought that I was a moral relativist for the same kinds of reasons and examples Winston has made.”

          Yes, I’m trying to find the right word. Moral relativism is part of it, but as Chris has pointed out, it is not the correct term.

          Reply
      3. Marco

        As I go on to show with the example of gay marriage, considering each situation on its merits and demerits is not what religious people do.

        I agree with your version of moral relativism.

        There is no “version” of moral relativism as an *objective* feature of a philosophy that is self consistent. Me and Chris do not use it in a casual derogatory sense that you mentioned early on in your previous comment, although we do not think highly of philosophers that defend the self consistent version. Our original analysis of secular humanism seemed to conclude that it had skipped the question of consistency, and of moral absolutes.

        In contrast to Chris, I think Sam Harris is purposefully avoiding the questions of philosophy, and making the right noises in regards to absolute morals being based on global human standards, but I get the feeling he is quite happy for secular humanism to use science to give answers to moral questions as should women be forced to wear a burqa?, but I don’t think he has in mind science that might find that Muslim societies in Africa have better “well being” than secular ones so that it may recommend evangelism.
        The terms of reference of science discovering answers to moral questions may be skewed by any number of arbitrary initial assumptions and precedents. These will tend to be chosen by the scientific peer group reviewing each others papers, and may be subject to some of the usual traps of peer review.
        I have very little confidence that any “answers to moral questions” that scientists discover will have the broad acceptance that physical sciences have.

        Reply
        1. winstoninabox Post author

          “In contrast to Chris, I think Sam Harris is purposefully avoiding the questions of philosophy…”

          You’re reading too much into this one presentation. He’s obviously got a time limit (looked like 15 minutes on the clock) and he was sticking to the points he wanted to cover. His books, I’m sure, give more coverage to his philosophy.

          I was interested in his answer about the freedom women have to give an uncoerced reply about wearing the burqa. This is a question, are we giving an honest reply, that I hope science, and especially neuroscience, can give an answer to. Do we really believe the answers that we give to these moral questions, are are we giving them for some other reason? Are we sometimes fooling ourselves when we state what we believe?

          Reply
      4. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

        I think that Sam Harris’ scientific approach will show human happiness is most readily maximised by adopting a lifestyle, social support network, and patttern of community rituals similar to those recommended the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Days Saints; also, that experiments will find people will not do this because science tells them to, but only under religious encouragement.

        But, I thought before the hiatus that you didn’t want to talk about the impact of ideologies on society anymore, winstoninabox, just the truth or falsity of the God Hypothesis? I have outlined my logic here. Can you give any argument aside from a gut feeling as to why my conclusions are “vanishingly improbable”?

        Reply
        1. winstoninabox Post author

          “I think that Sam Harris’ scientific approach will show human happiness is most readily maximised by adopting a lifestyle, social support network, and patttern of community rituals similar to those recommended the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Days Saints; also, that experiments will find people will not do this because science tells them to, but only under religious encouragement.”

          I’ve little doubt that science will find that in community we are happiest – we are after all social animals. But I also think that the more we adopt a live and let live policy coupled with the golden rule, the happier we will be.Finding the balance between community and individuality is still a challenge for our modern society.

          “But, I thought before the hiatus that you didn’t want to talk about the impact of ideologies on society anymore, winstoninabox, just the truth or falsity of the God Hypothesis? I have outlined my logic here. Can you give any argument aside from a gut feeling as to why my conclusions are “vanishingly improbable”?”

          I chose the Harris video partly because I felt it covered areas you and Marco are interested in. TTTT, it’s made me more interested in the topic myself. My biggest enemy is time – raising Liam, other family time, work, gaming (Demon’s Souls! Sleeping Dogs!), guitar… and trying to put Lennox to bed. There’s only so much I can do, and I started this to deal with Lennox.

          The trouble with his book is I just don’t like it that much. I respect his style and I think he does a good job of glossing over the weakness of his argument. But doing a close reading of it is sometimes painful. I feel especially sad to read glowing reviews of it on Amazon because I feel it fails to do what it sets out to do, and it fails badly. Still, I can see the end in sight for it.

          As for your logic… well, I think we’re back in the realms of the objectivity of beauty and truth. For me, an absence of evidence is evidence of absence. So, for example, an interventionist god really needs to do a little more intervention than that which is indistinguishable from everyday life. It’s about time he cured the famine in Africa with a world changing miracle instead of just firing up missionaries to go over and do the same job that NGOs are doing.

          Reply
      5. Marco

        I was interested in his answer about the freedom women have to give an uncoerced reply about wearing the burqa.

        I am very unconvinced that Sam Harris is honest in his portrayal of an objective morality. It appears one sided as most of the examples are future research which would show religious dogma, in this and a couple of other examples, Islam, have negative well-being consequences. It gives me an impression that he is happy if science under the secular humanist tradition can discover where religion is bad and act on that discovery ( ie making a case that something done by another culture is immoral), but not in the opposite case where science done under a generalised theistic tradition may make discoveries that demonstrate that a lack of religion leads to negative well being consequences.

        Reply
      6. Nathanael Small

        Apologies for the sustained delay in replying.

        The fascinating journey of understanding my depression and the extent of potential mood disorder/s attached has revealed a longitudinal pattern of over 20 years that will require sustained and intense treatment to re-train my brain back towards healthy functioning.

        The short conclusion is that I’m running on about 1/3 of my capacity to focus on and get positive results from my work, and much of the rest of my time is working on / recovering from said intense treatment.

        With respect to the Sam Harris video, there’s a number of fundamental points where I disagree with his thesis. I’ll attempt to address in separate points when I have energy. So if people want to take them up there’s some logic in the flow of discussion.

        With respect to trying to use your line of argument about gays & lesbians as an exemplar of the advantages of moral relativism as you understand it.

        The multiple claims and assumptions you make about the Christian view (both without evidence) are so grossly oversimplified and far off base from what I understand it means to follow Jesus that I simply don’t have the energy to engage in another discussion of this nature.

        Gross oversimplification of a differing position doesn’t make you right.

        It just gives you three things:
        1. An easier target.
        2. The ability to perceive any evidence presented to the contrary as invalid.
        3. An almost unassailable position that makes even the most intellectually rigorous approach you happen to disagree with eventually run out of steam to engage with you because of your refusal to acknowledge any granularity or complexity to the issues.

        At least that’s been my experience. I’m willing to acknowledge that my condition has significantly compromised my capacity to be a good contributor.

        Marco & Chris have had more capacity and scientific training than I to tackle the foundational weaknesses in your thinking.

        Reply
        1. winstoninabox Post author

          “The multiple claims and assumptions you make about the Christian view (both without evidence) are so grossly oversimplified and far off base from what I understand it means to follow Jesus that I simply don’t have the energy to engage in another discussion of this nature.

          Gross oversimplification of a differing position doesn’t make you right.”

          And yet here you are, yet again writing a post on why you don’t post, which then claims that my claims and assumptions are grossly oversimplified and far off base. You give no evidence why nor bother to explain. Why even bother to post these paragraphs? You could have just typed “You’re wrong. And so is Sam Harris.” and it would have as much weight.

          You write, “from what I understand it means to follow Jesus”. If we’re going to be putting our personal understandings up as evidence for our claims then surely my understanding is just as right as yours. Your opinion may be that you’re a liberal-minded free thinker, but if you’ll never disagree with the biblical answer to questions, then you’re not. When there is a disconnect you don’t ever think the bible is wrong, you instead search for an interpretation of it that sits better with your modern sensibilities. Jesus is just as strident about divorce as he was about gay sex, but only your interpretation of divorce gets the 180 treatment.

          Reply
  3. winstoninabox Post author

    Thanks both Marco and Chris for your replies. I really want to get back to both you ASAP because this video really talks about a topic that I think you’re interested in. Unfortunately the sickness that I was hoping to get rid of over the weekend is hanging on. I will reply in greater length soon, but I have to devote my remaining power to finishing up some work duties. If you’ve anything else to add, please feel free to do so.

    Reply
    1. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

      From the article you link to, I’m afraid Scott Attran seems to be a complete goofball. 😦 I like Islam a great deal, and think many features of the West would be improved by a few decades of occupation by some kick-arse Caliph, but use of political violence to achieve its aims is a core feature of the ideology, not an abberation that can be hand-waved away with reference to Shinto and Catholics etc. who have also employed political violence.

      I guess overall I liked this video because it came down solidly on ‘our’ side (contra winstoninabox) on what has been my main preoccupation here in Vexland, the necessity and validity of an objective morality. Sam Harris may think he is doing away with the need for God; but he realises that the hypothesis needs to be replaced with something, not just done away with. The nature of science is to aymptote towards truth, so any scientific morality a la Harris will eventually land the practitioner back on the ground of Peirce’s “A Neglected Argument for the Reality of God”.

      Reply
      1. Nathanael

        Hey Chris – try Atran’s book before you end up with a goofball assessment.

        Atran’s thesis is much broader than that you put forward and he’s actually strongly contra winston and the superficial New Atheists who rail against religion as totally evil.

        I agree with your assessment of the direction of Harris’ thinking.

        In fact on the link to Harris’ blog Harris claims to be have been devoted thousands of hours to the understanding of religious practices.
        http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/islam-and-the-misuses-of-ecstasy

        To rely on Harris from a scientific perspective, however, appears to be flawed, if Atram’s claims are to be believed:

        “Harris’s generalizations of his own fMRIs on belief change among a few dozen college students as supportive of his views of religion as simply false beliefs are underwhelming. As Pat Churchland surmised: “There is not one single example in [Harris’s work] of what we have learned from neuroscience that should impact our moral judgments regarding a particular issue. There may EXIST examples, but he does not provide any.”

        Seems like Harris and I are guilty of the same flaw in winston’s eyes. 😉

        Given your clear understanding of the core features of Islamic ideology, I’d be interested in your take on what the Core feature(s) of Christian ideology are?

        My understanding would be the core features are completely contrarian to the Islam you describe.

        Reply
        1. winstoninabox Post author

          “Hey Chris – try Atran’s book before you end up with a goofball assessment.”

          Hey, Nathanael – why don’t you put forward a better quote. This is not the first time your answer to someone who has disagreed with your chosen quote is ‘you need to read the book’. Arguing with you is not going to Uni again with a reading list. Neither Chris nor I thought much of the quote you yourself chose. If you want to take it any further how about you find a better quote, or even just write a blurb on what Atran’s thesis is, rather than I having to read a whole book just because you can’t explain yourself in a convincing manner.

          “Atran’s thesis is much broader than that you put forward and he’s actually strongly contra winston and the superficial New Atheists who rail against religion as totally evil.”

          Then show that thesis. And ‘superficial’, really? These guys have written books, debated many theists and started their own movement. You even show Harris has spent considerable time studying religion. ‘Superficial’ is your evidence for this. And ‘Totally evil’, no. Without evidence, yes. Misguided, yes. Religion has done much good and much evil. Atheists are more concerned if there’s any truth to it.

          I appreciate that your time is limited, but after a long absence look at what you wrote today. A bit about your illness, a quote that neither responder thought was much good, a rebuttal that was go and read the book, and then a request for Chris’s understanding of Christianity.

          Reply
      2. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

        Given your clear understanding of the core features of Islamic ideology, I’d be interested in your take on what the Core feature(s) of Christian ideology are?

        Hmm, given where we have both come from, Nathanael, I fear this could easily develop into the kind of inter-theist bunfight whose chief outcome would be the amusement of any atheist lookers-on. You can get a feeling for the sort of thing I would be likely to write here.

        Reply
      3. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

        Here is an eminently sensible response from Sam Harris to Scott Atran. The more I read of Sam Harris, the more I like him – he has a much milder tone and thinks much more clearly than Dawkins, which I expect has a lot to do with having grown up atheist in an atheist environment, so not reacting irrationally against emotional wounds associated with religion.

        Reply
  4. winstoninabox Post author

    “It gives me an impression that he is happy if science under the secular humanist tradition can discover where religion is bad and act on that discovery ( ie making a case that something done by another culture is immoral), but not in the opposite case where science done under a generalised theistic tradition may make discoveries that demonstrate that a lack of religion leads to negative well being consequences.”

    Is this Marco’s last point? If so, then is this the portion of the article that you’re referring to?

    “I also said (and have written several articles and a book laying out the evidence) that although ideology is important, the best predictor (in the sense of a regression analysis) of willingness to commit an act of jihadi violence is if one belongs to an action-oriented social network, such as a neighborhood help group or even a sports team (see Atran, TALKING TO THE ENEMY, Penguin, 2010).”

    I’m not familiar with the debate between Mr. Atran and Mr. Harris, but the above quote reads like a vague description of those who partake in extreme violence rather than the underlying reason. Just as a profiler may say “most murderers are white males between 20 and 45”, that doesn’t mean all white males of that age group are murderers. The fact that neighbourhood help groups and sports teams aren’t creating suicide bombers gives off warning bells that there’s more going on here. I wonder what Mr. Atran would venture that that is?

    Reply
  5. Nathanael

    Browser crashing is thwarting my ability to complete replies – and the mac screen of death is starting to re-appear.
    Oh well, back to Mac Purgatory on Monday….hopefully I’ll come back to this when I have a laptop I can trust.

    Reply
    1. winstoninabox Post author

      I’m still wanting to get back to your last post about Sam Harris. Thanks for still posting stuff.

      As for the Chief Rabbi – ask a carpenter how to fix a problem and he’ll say a hammer.
      The comments under it are of even more interest than the article.

      Reply
  6. winstoninabox Post author

    What I mean to say is that if our Rabbi had been interviewed by The Spectator 50-odd years ago he would have been blaming the fall of civilization on the gyrations of Elvis the Pelvis. Instead we get him now lamenting the evils of Facebook. No doubt he hates violent video games too, despite people shooting others for centuries before Call of Duty. We’ve had this discussion before about how theists have had a few millennia to show that a stronger adherence to religious values in any way makes a more moral society. The fact that people don’t practice what is preached to them says that there is something else at work here. Maybe that something is that religion is getting in the way of finding out what ‘moral’ really means?

    And as for him disparaging the New Atheists. Well, they’re just four guys. Three now. always I find it interesting why Christian apologists spend so much ink deriding the views of these four men, which are believed by a minority of people. I can’t help but wonder if they don’t see a greater threat from atheism, which is the face of logic and science, than they do from all the other religions of the world.

    Reply
    1. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

      which is the face of logic and science

      I disagree with a fervid yet optimistic disagreance. I have not seen you address the logic of my post here, nor my repeated arguments that science is incompatible with here dogmatic atheism.

      This seminar notice that came around here yesterday shows clearly where the true threat lies:

      School of Behavioural, Cognitive and Social Sciences
      Criminology Research Seminar Series
      in conjunction with the Institute for Rural Futures

      Professor Joe Donnermeyer

      ‘Not Everyone is McDonaldized – Understanding the Sustainability of the Amish Subculture in North America’

      Abstract – The Amish represent one of the fastest growing rural subcultures in North America. Currently, their doubling time is less than 22 years and the rate of retention of daughters and sons in the Amish faith is about 90 percent. This seminar will provide a sociological introduction to the Amish, the essential features of their social organisation and religious beliefs, the recent growth of population and new communities within Canada and the U.S., and how they have successfully resisted full acculturation/assimilation into mainstream North American society and culture.

      Reply
      1. winstoninabox Post author

        Chris, in your blog you say ‘we can’t get there from here’… then you proceed to get there with the qualifier of ‘may be’.

        The self-existent thing that you hope for may be a cheeseburger. Or may be not. If you’re just going to make up stuff, then I guess I can make up answers for it to. I liked your logic better when you say ‘this is what I believe, no matter the lack of evidence to the contrary’ than ‘here’s my wishful thinking, refute it!’

        Reply
      2. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

        It isn’t “the face of logic and science” to act as though the universe is a self-existent thing which can be explained by observations made within it. That’s my point…

        And it’s not “wishful thinking”, when somebody says “that has a vanishingly small probability of being true” to point out if they have no logical grounds whatsoever for making that statement.

        Reply
  7. winstoninabox Post author

    “It isn’t “the face of logic and science” to act as though the universe is a self-existent thing which can be explained by observations made within it. That’s my point… ”

    Why? It’s back to Lennox’s “even after we know all there is to know about the universe, god is still somewhere/somewhen else beyond our knowledge”, which is to say he’s making stuff up. If this is all there is to explain, then the best we can do is explain all there is.

    You don’t like “wishful thinking”. What term do you prefer? Revelation can be dismissed as bogus because it has revealed nothing. It’s amazing how it never reveals a single thing about the natural world. Nathanael would say that that’s not the point of revelation, but if so what has it revealed? Stories about the supernatural world is all, which means nothing verifiable, You don’t need to be touched by god for revelation, you just need a good imagination.

    Reply
  8. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

    Do you disagree with my points 1 to 3? If so, why? Please explain in simple happy language words.

    I made the assertion: You have no logical grounds whatsoever for making the statement “the God hypothesis has a vanishingly small probability of being true”.

    The term I prefer to describe making my assertion which I have just made, and which is mine, rather than ‘wishful thinking’ would be “common sense”; or “reason”.

    Reply
  9. winstoninabox Post author

    It’s not a matter of disagreeing with your points. The logic is irrefutable because it’s set up to be irrefutable. But lacking any other evidence on the balance of probabilities I’m less than convinced by it, and I certainly won’t be dropping to my knees to pray for intervention in my life.

    it’s not hard at all to set up logic like this. Let’s create angel and demons that affect our lives. Let’s make them invisible and intangible. Let’s make the miracles they perform indistinguishable from everyday occurrences. Then let’s ask others to disagree with their existence…

    If god is going to be the thing which we imagine to be outside the universe because we can’t imagine how that could exist, then why no just call yourself an atheist and be done with it.

    Reply
  10. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

    How can it not be a matter of disagreeing with points? My points are statements about reality. If the logic is irrefutable, it’s not because I gamed the system to make it so. I’m not telling you to drop to your knees and pray for intervention, I’m just reiterating that your “vanishingly small probability” has no basis other than wishful thinking.

    Either the universe is self-existent or it isn’t. I believe, on the basis of evidence within the universe, that it isn’t. Atheism, as opposed to agnosticism, is a dogmatic assertion that the universe is self-existent. Do you think the universe is self-existent? If so, why?

    I am still really lost as to what exactly you are trying to say and why and why you can’t just say, “I disagree with your point X because of Y”.

    Reply

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