Tom Gilson

The Internal Experience of the Holy Spirit

Scripture tells us, and Christians commonly concur, that there is an internal experience of the Holy Spirit that assures us of God’s reality in our lives. It is not the only way we know God is real, but it is an important one.

Paul asked yesterday,

Could you describe in positive terms what this direct perception of God or the Holy Spirit is like?

Christians reading here, could you help by writing in your answer to Paul’s question, or direct us to other sources that speak of this? (I should think that hymns and poetry would be great sources.)

I have much I could say about this myself. For me it began when I first realized God was trustworthy; or more likely it was the other way around: I realized God was trustworthy once he began this work in me. Now, I had also been prepared for this realization by study of evidences for Christianity; but there was a time of massively deepening conviction of the truth then.

For weeks following that, there was a literal experience (I know it’s hackneyed but it’s still true) of the sky being brighter, the grass greener, the air smelling more fresh and clean, and the like. I apologize for the clichés; if I were a poet I could say it better. It really happened, even if I can’t speak it in the language it deserves. It was as if scales had dropped off my eyes, off my whole spirit in fact. I don’t think that heightened awareness of life has gone away, although I have become accustomed to it, adapted to it, so that it no longer seems so extraordinary all the time.

There was also an uncanny light and joy and brightness in reading the Bible, especially in discussions with others. I heard myself saying again and again, “I had no idea this was so alive, so relevant, so life-giving.”

There was an immediate sense of overall personal freedom that continues to this day. It’s of this sort: I don’t have to fight to be the person I ought to be, I need only be who I am, and trust God to lead me to the next steps. (There is a kind of personal discipline I must exercise in the process, but it’s discipline within freedom.)

I had been much frustrated for years by a certain personal inconsistency, an area of my life in which I did not live up to my own expectations for myself. Upon trusting Christ, the temptation to that sin (as I now called it) disappeared. It wasn’t a case of, “Now I’m a Christian, I have to fight this off!” Rather it just went away, taken from me by God’s grace, for well over a year. It did come back: I believe God wanted me eventually to deal with it as a matter of character growth and not just have the easy way out. It has proved to be just that, a source of much growth in many ways, not limited to just one issue in my life. But that extended period of freedom, provided through no effort of my own, was confirmatory.

God instilled in me a new sense of love and care for others. My self-centeredness at the time was typical for a musician. Hours in the practice room alone, building my skill and my art, were fine with me. Who needed other people? But God changed that in me.

There was an immediate bonding with other believers. I have seen extraordinary instances of that bonding with Blacks in South Africa, with former U.S. enemies like Vietnamese and Russians, with Cubans, Koreans, and members of many more nationalities, in their own countries where I have been a guest. I have had frequent fellowship lately with African-Americans, experiencing a truly sweet unity in Christ.

I state all of the above in terms of what it was like when it was new and fresh, when the contrast with my prior experience was most salient. Other than the one thing just mentioned, the same experience continues.

So my answer to Paul is, this is not a one-dimensional experience. It is a relational experience with God. Some of it plays out in other kinds of perceptions. Some of it is probably incommunicable, like describing Dvořák or Miles Davis to a deaf person, or blue to a blind person. Before God made his move into my heart, I believe my apparatus of divine awareness was not alive yet; or at least it was seriously clouded. To say that I can now experience God is still of no personal credit to me. I had no ability to wake it up in me. It was God’s doing.

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300 thoughts on “The Internal Experience of the Holy Spirit

  1. Tom, thanks very much for your answer to my question.

    Your response strikes me as answering a slightly different question. I think that your response answers the question of “What was your reaction to having experienced God or the Holy Spirit?” This is not the same as “What was the direct experience like?” That is, my reaction to having eaten Thanksgiving dinner was to feel full and want to go to sleep at about 8:30 last night. ; ) But the direct experience of eating the dinner was very different. I didn’t want to go to sleep; rather I had the sensation of deliciousness, etc.

    So, Tom, I think you’re describing your reaction, not the original experience nor the original perception, and that’s what I’m actually interested in. Can you elucidate?

  2. Tom, I could very well talk to a deaf person about my direct experience of Miles Davis: “Kind of Blue” sounds like a light, cool breeze on a cloudy day; or, one of my favorites, quoted from a liner note from a later album, a six-year old knew that it was Miles she was hearing because, she said, “he sounds like a little boy who’s been locked out and wants to get in.”

    I cannot transmit that direct experience, and the other cannot experience it through my description, but I can certainly describe it in words and the other can certainly get some idea through evocative words, analogies, etc.

    My relationship with other people is certainly not one-dimensional either, and I can go on for hours talking about those relationships. The fact that they are multi-dimensional makes it *more* likely, not less, that I am discuss it. I note that you aren’t saying that you can’t only make me feel what you feel, you’re saying that you can’t even talk about the actual, primary experience *at all.* Not one description, evocation, not nothing; only how, after the primary experience, you respond to that experience. That should legitimately give one great skepticism. There is no facet of my entire experience as a human being that in which I would be similarly hamstrung (can’t even discuss the primary experience in the slightest) as you claim you are in this regard.

  3. Exactly. And I could say that the direct experience of God is like seeing the grass greener than ever before. It’s the same quality of metaphor as that which you have spoken with regard to Miles Davis.

    Which I have said already. It’s the best I can expect to do. Maybe someone else can do better.

    And I could go on for hours about what it’s like to be a Christian. I’ve been doing that from time to time. See the articles in “The Core” on the Beauty of Christ and etc., or the series on “What Is Christianity?”

    You and I can both talk about effects, analogies, relationships, and much more regarding the things we sense in the world. But you still cannot tell a blind man what blue is, and you still can’t tell a profoundly deaf person what Miles Davis sounds like in terms of the actual sense perception. You are in fact hamstrung in that situation as badly as I am in the one you have asked me about.

  4. Tom, I still think that you did not answer the question I originally asked, you answered a different question. You were talking about your responses to the direct experience of God, not the direct experience itself. But now, in your last response, you imply something actually about the direct experience of God. Are you saying now that “the direct experience of God is like seeing the grass greener than ever before?”

  5. Yikes! I really got in trouble for that one. I’m not sure why…

    Paul, I answered. I said, in the last paragraph, that it is in some senses incommunicable, like explaining blue to a blind person. I also described some things that you later, correctly, termed as effects or impressions that accompany such a perception.

    You responded by saying that you too have the ability to describe to a sensory-impaired person some of the effects or impressions that accompany a perception. You did not claim that you can actually describe the perception to a person who lacks that particular sensory capacity. We’re in the same boat here.

    What’s the problem?? Did I fail that badly in communicating this so far?

  6. Paul,

    I think you’re starting to color whatever original request you made as meaningless. That is, you’re starting to give the impression that there’s no possible answer that you’re willing to accept for it. Are you asking honestly, or as some sort of obnoxious “gotcha”?

    As you said, you can describe hearing Miles Davis to a deaf person, but you have to acknowledge that, if that person was born deaf, you’ll never be able to make them understand what it is to hear. I think the “blue to the blind” analogy is the most apt. Tell me how you’d describe what it’s like to apprehend “blue-ness” to a blind man, and see if it fits whatever criteria you’re asking for.

    Tom made an effort to describe his experience; this, for him was very much apprehended in the effect it had on him. He describes this apprehension, in part, as the continuing effect that this interaction has on him. If he left anything out, it might be the explicit statement that the continuance of the experience has a sense of “otherness” to it – a sureness that the changes are constantly being caused by something separate from himself. I’m not sure, but I caught that subtext in his explanation.

    What’s wrong with apprehending something through its effect on us? We apprehend gravity by the feeling of our limbs being drawn downwards. We note that it’s external to us. We describe emotions that way, don’t we? Fear makes your heart race, your skin prickle, and it gives you that “blood-draining” feeling in your legs. Is that an invalid description of what it is to apprehend “fear”, just because it’s focused on the effects the emotion has on a person?

    What do you want? Fireworks, explosions, a John Williams soundtrack? Before you start getting all “yea or nay” about the specifics of Tom’s experience, why don’t you try pointing some of that hard-nosed insistence at the question you’re asking. What exactly are you expecting, and how is it possible to meet that expectation?

  7. OK, guys, I’ll take a deep breath and step back.

    I still think there is an important issue. Tom, when you say

    I also described some things that you later, correctly, termed as effects or impressions that accompany such a perception.

    this still obscures the important distinction that I originally made, the one between describing the experience itself (the taste of the food) and the results of the experience (feeling full after eating a meal).

    Tom, I only hear two things from you, please correct me if you’ve said something different above: 1) *some* of the direct experience of God is impossible to describe, and 2) some of it is like the experience of seen grass as incredibly green. My thoughts about these:

    1) is it some or all of the direct experience of God that is impossible to describe? You keep on saying “some,” so what about the rest which would be possible to describe (beyond the green grass idea, which I take to be a direct answer to my question).

    Furthermore, I’m suspicious about the actual impossibility of description. As I said before, I can’t imagine any experience in my life that is actually impossible to say any words about, directly *trying* to describe it. Coming close is OK (in fact, I can never describe anything to the extent that you know *exactly* what it was like for me. So the response that a description is going to fall short would mean that we would never communicate with each other, because all descriptions fall short.

    2) When you say that the direct experience of God is like experiencing grass being incredibly green, is it God that is playing the role of the grass in this analogy, so experiencing him is a very intense experience, or is it something else that is playing the role of grass and God’s presence intensifies the experience of that other thing?

    Ultimately, what I’m looking for is something like this: “When I experienced God, I felt an overwhelming sense of calm and peace. I saw a brilliant light that filled my entire field of vision. I heard, no, I felt a voice somehow that was God’s, and he told me etc. etc.”

    MM, I wouldn’t say I’m expecting a certain answer, but I am expecting a direct answer to my question.

  8. Paul,

    No one’s disagreeing that imperfect descriptions are the best we can expect. In this case, no answer is ever really going to come close, since it’s very much like a totally different sense.

    Your example answer mentioned calm and peace – didn’t you already disqualify effects as acceptable descriptions? If there was no visible light or audible words, are you going to reject the description? Or, are you going to look for some “gotcha” exploit in the necessarily approximate language?

    Your pressing of the “green grass” issue looks like just that. Just how specific do you expect this description to be? A “direct” answer might not be a very satisfying one, any more than a “direct” description of “apprehending the color blue” might not be very satisfying to a man born blind.

    I’m just a little skeptical of what you constitute as a valid (or “direct”) answer, and your motivations for asking…especially when you start getting so adamant about the minutiae.

  9. Paul,

    FWIW, I’ve been asked this question before, once or twice, and I think it’s a valid one. I’d certainly be willing to give my own answer…but as I said, I have some doubts about whether or not there’d be a point in doing so.

  10. Hi Paul,
    I wrote this to myself last year.

    WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 24, 2007

    The Day God Spoke To Me
    I have just finished reading Dr. Beauregard’s book with Denyse O’Leary, The Spiritual Brain, in which he outlines some of the empirical evidence around the case of RSMEs (religious/spiritual/mystical experience).
    I am also arguing some of these ideas on Tom’s blog (arguments with Paul about mirages, hallucinations, trusting one’s perceptions, etc. and with doctor(logic) about everything else).
    http://www.haloscan.com/comments/tgilblog/E20071021221714/
    When I was in college I had what I now would call an RSME although I didn’t know a thing about them or their nature at the time (or until very recently).
    I was at a restaurant talking with a troubled and depressed friend about a woman he loved and was giving him what I thought was my sagest advice. I had a bit of an ego when it came to my young man’s self-assured grasp of how the world worked. Suddenly I felt a presence, a reassurance and peace come over me. It entered, or encountered, my body at the top of my head and washed over me, or through me, all the way down to my feet. I can’t describe it as having temperature, or pressure or anything like that, but I felt it in some physical way. I knew the answer I had given my friend (the content of which I do not recall) was correct and that the reassurance I was trying to relay to him was real, but that I was to be reassured as well. The answer was not phony bluster.
    The sense was definitely of God, and I knew at the moment that God was speaking to me and that I was in His presence. The experience included in that moment the awareness that it was an encounter with God and this was not a later conclusion.
    That’s it. No vision, no voice, no advice for the future, no stock tips – just awareness of His presence – and His love. In fact, even in secret to myself, I’ve hardly allowed myself to say “God spoke to me” because there were no words and no voice – just a knowing.
    I have since had many answered prayers, a “sign” or two, and several experiences from meditations and prayers of a kind of altered state. But nothing like this. Nothing that was just a normal, real apprehension of God.

    That weekend I returned to church for the first time in about a decade. I had quit going when I came to believe that I could be a Christian on my own and forge my relationship with God my own way. Really, I think I quit going out of laziness, although there was some vague and unspoken accusation in my mind that a lot of the people at my church were hypocrites (as if I could know that).
    But, upon examination, those excuses were insufficient to keep me away. So I went to the neighborhood Church of God.
    The sermon that Sunday was on hearing God’s voice, being open to it, and training yourself to listen for it.
    When I met the pastor’s wife (I later found out that they were co-pastors) on my way out the door she shook my hand and asked what I felt about the sermon. I told her that I felt it was very appropriate for me that day. I felt at the time that I was meant to hear it.
    I don’t recall that I’ve ever told anybody this (although I may have alluded to it on a blog once) as I know it is absolutely unconvincing and useless as an apologetic. As is apparent from my account above, there is no real way to describe it. And trying to reduce it to words almost feels like it cheapens the experience and makes it, by force of language, into something it was not.
    Over the years I had even talked myself into believing that, because it couldn’t be described, the experience was actually too vague to be God, too easily chalked up to coincidence. But I have never again felt that particular sense of peace descend upon me. Nor have I needed it in that same way.

    Reading about such RSMEs I now believe that this experience is basically what most “mystics” are talking about when they are in the presence or awareness of the transcendent.
    What I knew in the moment to be God communicating with me conforms as much as I can know to the experiences that Beauregard studies and which he says are exactly consistent with the subject encountering an object outside of themselves.
    This does not convince me because I already knew (although trivialized) that this was what had happened to me. Unfortunately, over the years, I had succumbed to a bit of subjectivist/relativistic thinking whereby I was saying to myself, to some degree, that this was my way of experiencing God. That this was “true” for me, and that that made it true enough – that God had let me be influenced by this unique event in perhaps some providential manner, even if He was not actually involved. That is the sheer rationalization and dismissal of a person who considers himself completely grounded, pragmatic, skeptical (yes, Christians are skeptics as well) and reality-based. Although I’ve been a Christian almost all my life I was the kind who considered anybody whose faith was even a little more obvious than my own to be superstitious, phony, or addled.
    The ego can do strange things to your sense of reality and the obstacles you erect between you and God.

  11. Your example answer mentioned calm and peace – didn’t you already disqualify effects as acceptable descriptions?

    I didn’t disqualify anything in particular, I only restricted the answer to the experience itself – what happens during the experience – and not the result of the experience after the experience is over.

    Your pressing of the “green grass” issue looks like just that. Just how specific do you expect this description to be?

    I already said that the green grass issue answers my question just fine.

  12. I would say it’s just like falling in love. When you begin to love, trust and rely on someone. Realizing they will be around forever and you are totally taken care of. You have a new life. A new start. A new way…everything is changed.

    This is probably why it can be annoying when people first discover God in such an intimate way. When you walk around on cloud nine people would rather you pay attention to the road!

    My two cent. Thanks.

  13. Sorry to join the fray so late…

    I was going to talk about love first, but Kelly beat me to it. 🙂

    Kelly is right. Tom’s description of the world being brighter and more vivid is very much how people feel when they fall in love.

    Suppose I fall in love with person X. I feel all sorts of nice feelings, wonder, etc. What do these feelings signify or measure? Are they measuring some cosmic force? Am I discovering the DL-X force? There’s a problem with this. Person X may not even have noticed my existence. Instead, I am measuring my own bias towards liking person X. I’m measuring my own desires and predispositions with respect to person X.

    Consider the alternate theory that person X is capable of bewitching me, and causing all these effects in me. In that case, we might imagine that our feelings are measurements of this “power of bewitchment”. I think some folk have believed this in the past, but why is this theory regarded as nonsense by rational people today? It’s regarded as nonsense because there’s no signal in the noise. If we can regularly feel the power of bewitchment even when our persons X don’t know we exist, we ought to conclude that our natural bias or predisposition for feeling a power of bewitchment is at least as large as any bewitching force that might be out there. In other words, the signal to noise ratio is far too low to make the feeling trustworthy. If we reject this, then we have to return to a magical world in which we are incapable of any biases whatsoever, and in which we attribute every feeling or personal change to the deliberate act of some external agent (or agents).

    Tom is proposing that a certain feeling (a feeling most of us have had on one context or another) is a sign of “bewitchment” by God. The difference between God and person X is that God is both invisible and postulated to have the power of bewitchment. The problem with this idea is that it’s not a test of whether God actually exists. It’s not a test because we would feel this way anyway if we fell in love with an invisible, aesthetically charming, but non-existent person.

    I’m not doubting any of your experiences, Tom. I’m doubting their import. Paul talks about certain feelings of his appreciation of music. I have certain special feelings when I learn something new and amazing about the universe, or when I fall in love. I have transcendent feelings too. However, I don’t attribute those feelings to an external agency because I have no rational reason to do so. Everyone feels those things about something in their lives. I’m sure that people in other religions feel the same way about their gods. It’s just not a valid test of the agency of the gods because the feelings would be there in any case.

  14. Before the responses to DL’s post immediately above go too far, I’d like to remind everyone about a distinction that I think is important: whether there is sufficient reasons inherent in the experience itself of perceiving God to believe that it was God that was perceived, or whether the sufficient reasons come from outside of the direct perception itself (the Bible, etc.), and the direct experience is confirmatory.

  15. Tom (or anyone), would you say that the direct experience of God or the Holy Spirit is sufficient or not to justify belief in God?

  16. I’d like to remind everyone about a distinction that I think is important: whether there is sufficient reasons inherent in the experience itself of perceiving God to believe that it was God that was perceived, or whether the sufficient reasons come from outside of the direct perception itself (the Bible, etc.), and the direct experience is confirmatory.

    I would say there are sufficient reasons for concluding a perception is of God, just as there are sufficient reasons for concluding the perception of your thoughts are actually YOUR thoughts.

    We all know various things via perception without knowing the methodology behind how it is we know. I know torturing babies for fun is immoral. I don’t know how it is that I know that. I’ve never personally experienced that truth, nor have I seen it being done to someone else’s baby, but I know it to be true nonetheless.

  17. Tom (or anyone), would you say that the direct experience of God or the Holy Spirit is sufficient or not to justify belief in God?

    Yes. I believed in God before I believed in the reasoned truths of Christianity. Probably because of that direct experience you mentioned. The Bible talks about that in Psalm 19.

    Interesting that you should bring this up as I recently came across this interesting news story.

  18. SteveK, there is a crucial difference between the perception of one’s own thoughts and the perception of God. God has a reality outside of oneself, but one’s thoughts are totally within oneself. We can use Descarte’s cogito to prove the existence of one’s own thoughts (but only to oneself!), but not the factual content of the thought. And that’s crucial: when you perceive God in your own head and claim that God exists, you are, in effect, making a claim that God exists outside of yourself, which is not what you claim for proving that your own thoughts exist (but you can’t assume that the content of your thoughts is automatically true like the mere existence of your thought). When I think that trees are blue, I can show that I had that thought, but I can’t show that just because I thought it, that trees are blue.

    But the claim that God exists is attached to the factual content of your thought/perception of God, not just the mere existence of a thought. You’re perceiving and thinking *about* God, and that word *about* defines the factual content of the thought.

    Now, we certainly think about trees when we perceive trees, but the tree is external to our heads, and, if I’m understanding things correctly, the perception of God is *not* external to one’s head, it occurs within one’s thoughts.

    That’s why you can’t use the logic that one’s own thoughts exist to prove that God exists because he appears in your head. There may be other ways to prove that God exists, but I don’t think this can be one of them.

  19. Charlie, I’m not quite sure how to take your question, I’ll try a few possible implications.

    1. I have come to a conclusion (God doesn’t exist), trying to evaluate the evidence and logic of the question. If someone can show me how my evaluation of the evidence and logic is flawed, I’d very much want to hear it, because it would mean that I’ve been wrong-headed. But my failure to agree with those who’d say my evaluation of the evidence and logic is flawed isn’t necessarily proof of my failure to listen to their side, it might also mean that my opinion about how I’ve evaluated the evidence and logic is actually superior.

    2. Do you mean through argument alone, as opposed to evidence? I’d take evidence as part of an argument, in addition to the purely argumentative (logical) aspects of the question.

    3. If you’re a bit frustrated that we still disagree, so am I.

  20. Paul,

    Just a note: watch your direction with this line of thought:

    Now, we certainly think about trees when we perceive trees, but the tree is external to our heads, and, if I’m understanding things correctly, the perception of God is *not* external to one’s head, it occurs within one’s thoughts.

    The ‘perception’ of the tree is ‘inside your head’ as well. The tree is external, but the way in which your “self” perceives is internal, in the sense that it’s being discussed here. It’s fine to argue that internal thoughts or perceptions are not sufficient evidence in themselves to prove anything’s existence, but this…

    That’s why you can’t use the logic that one’s own thoughts exist to prove that God exists because he appears in your head.

    …could invite a slide into solipsism. That which we perceive either can or cannot be a reflection of reality. Since arguing that it can’t is dialogue-defeating (solipsism), you cannot completely dismiss a person’s perception of God as evidence of His existence. You can argue that it’s insufficient to be sure that He exists, but be careful not to dismiss it entirely.

  21. Paul,

    Two people can see the same evidence, use the same logic, be judicious and reasonable in method of evaluation, and still come to distinct conclusions – particularly when, frankly, the evidence is inconclusive, and by the nature of the question will likely remain so for all time. If that’s frustrating, that’s something to get past – the problem isn’t necessarily that either of the two people are making an obvious error.

    It’s also a mistake to believe anyone can ‘prove’ God exists, even if God certainly does exist. At most, someone can have reasons, evidence, arguments, experience – usually a combination – that can make their belief reasonable. Luckily those are available in abundance to people who study the question.

  22. MM, I’m not trying to dismiss it necessarily, but I’m trying to establish something, and then let implications, dismissing or not, follow as appropriate. That is, as I understood it, when one perceives God, it is not the same type of situation as when one perceives a tree in that, with a tree, there is something external to the person that is plainly there, for lack of a better word. But God certainly is not there in the same way that a tree is. God, not the perception of God, is somehow merely inside one’s head. Charlie mentions “a presence.” That’s not a tree, not a breeze, not even a photon. That presence is only within Charlie’s head, unless you’re saying that anyone standing right next to Charlie at the time would have felt God’s presence as well. To that extent, God is “in Charlie’s head” and not external in the way that a tree is. That’s not as well-stated as it could be, perhaps, but I hope you get the point.

  23. Charlie, it’s partially a hope to convince and partially a check on myself to make sure I haven’t missed anything. It’s an attempt to reconcile, to resolve something that seems like it should be resolvable yet is intransigent.

  24. Paul,

    when you perceive God in your own head and claim that God exists, you are, in effect, making a claim that God exists outside of yourself, which is not what you claim for proving that your own thoughts exist (but you can’t assume that the content of your thoughts is automatically true like the mere existence of your thought)

    You and I have discussed all this before at length so I’m hesitant to get into this too deeply. You say you can know your thoughts exist, but that you can’t assume the content of your thoughts is true. Question: Can you know if the content of the thought “You can know your thoughts exist inside your head” is true? You’ve already answered ‘yes’ so there is no assumption of truth there. You know this, not by reasoning nor by the 5 senses, but by direct exposure to the reality of your thoughts. I’m arguing that the same is true for God – that I can know God exists outside myself because I’ve been exposed to the reality of God.

  25. SteveK, when you say

    I can know God exists outside myself because I’ve been exposed to the reality of God

    are you saying that you know that God exists *merely* because you’ve had an experience that you claim is God? I interpret your last post to mean that, but I want to check if that’s what you meant.

    Just because we can affirm that the content of the thought “we can know that our thoughts exist inside our heads” is true doesn’t mean that *any* thought that occurs in our heads is true. There must still be some basis on which we evaluate the content of our thoughts in our heads: it must either be through logic (for instance, the cogito), or evidence (I think trees are green, and lo and behold, that is confirmed by examination), or something else (I’m not sure what, but I’m open). We affirm the content of the thought “we can know that our thoughts exist inside our heads” through logic. How can it be that we wouldn’t know that thoughts that we think are the thoughts that we think? Fine, logic establishes that. But that’s on the basis of logic. Are you saying that, somehow, merely because we *think* that we have experienced God, that *logic* requires that the content of that thought is actually true? What is that logic? I’d love to hear it.

  26. Hi Paul,
    Why would you want to convince others of the veracity of your claims (when they don’t reduce, as they always do, to knowing nothing at all and being unable to affirm the most basic of truths) and why would you want to convince yourself that your position is right?

  27. Paul,

    “Just because we can affirm that the content of the thought “we can know that our thoughts exist inside our heads” is true doesn’t mean that *any* thought that occurs in our heads is true.”

    I never said *any* thought is true. Only the thoughts I know to be true are true. If there are good reasons to think they are false then perhaps that new knowledge will change my thinking. Until that time, my true thoughts remain true.

    There must still be some basis on which we evaluate the content of our thoughts in our heads: it must either be through logic (for instance, the cogito), or evidence (I think trees are green, and lo and behold, that is confirmed by examination), or something else (I’m not sure what, but I’m open).

    There is some basis, but I don’t think the methodology must be known in all cases to have actual knowledge. That kind of thinking gets you stuck in an infinite regress where you attempt to know the methodology of knowing the methodology of knowing the methodology…..of knowing that we can know that our thoughts exist inside our heads.

    We affirm the content of the thought “we can know that our thoughts exist inside our heads” through logic. How can it be that we wouldn’t know that thoughts that we think are the thoughts that we think? Fine, logic establishes that.

    I don’t think logic *alone* can determine the truth value of that statement. Logic alone can’t tell you if the thoughts are your thoughts, and not someone else’s. It’s logically possible that they aren’t your thoughts so how do you rule this out? You rule it out by adopting the knowledge you have that says, yes, they are your thoughts. There’s no logic involved in obtaining that knowledge, it is just known by direct perception.

    Are you saying that, somehow, merely because we *think* that we have experienced God, that *logic* requires that the content of that thought is actually true? What is that logic? I’d love to hear it.

    The logic is that our sense of perception must be considered reliable and trustworthy until it is known that it is not to be trusted in certain situations. Even so, this does not mean your thought is *actually* true. You could be mistaken, however, it remains true until knowledge comes forth that says your thought is actually false. In other words, why should you think your thoughts are false if you think they are true? The answer is, you shouldn’t.

  28. SteveK, let me back up a second. Is it something about the experience of perceiving God that convinces us that it is truly God, or is it something else that merely confirms that it really was God that we perceived? That is, is the experience of perceiving God sufficient, because of the nature of the experience, to then conclude that it really was God, or not?

    You said:

    I’m arguing that the same is true for God – that I can know God exists outside myself because I’ve been exposed to the reality of God.

    Doesn’t “exposed to the reality of God” to mean “perceived God,” You’re saying that, if you have the experience of perceiving God, then it was God that you perceived. So *anything* that we say we experience, that’s what it was. But we surely know that’s not the case. Sometimes we get it wrong.

    I think we’re talking past each other somehow, but I don’t now how.

  29. Paul,

    Is it something about the experience of perceiving God that convinces us that it is truly God, or is it something else that merely confirms that it really was God that we perceived? That is, is the experience of perceiving God sufficient, because of the nature of the experience, to then conclude that it really was God, or not?

    I’m having a difficult time understanding the question and how it is relevant.

    So *anything* that we say we experience, that’s what it was.

    I addressed this in my earlier comment. You would never think an experience wasn’t what it was, unless you were given a good reason to think that. In addition, your thought/belief about an experience doesn’t necessarily make it true (belief doesn’t create reality).

    But we surely know that’s not the case. Sometimes we get it wrong.

    I see this as one of your major stumbling blocks considering how often you mention it. Of course we sometimes get it wrong, but we don’t know a particular thought/belief is wrong until we know it’s wrong.

    If your stance is that you can’t know if X is true because we sometimes get it wrong, then that statement itself must be subject to the same criteria – which means you can’t know that you can’t know if X is true because we sometimes get it wrong. It’s self-defeating.

  30. Charlie,

    What do you do with an experience such as that of Mr. Gilbreath, a friend of this blog?

    This is a good example to use. He didn’t have a good reason to think his experience was something other than what it was, so he was forced to believe it was true. We call that intellectual honesty.

    He could have used Paul’s excuse that “sometimes we get it wrong”, but that general truth has no bearing on this specific experience.

    (great story, by the way)

  31. Charlie wrote:

    It seems obvious to me that you are precommitted to his being either deluded or a liar.

    You know I can’t resist such a kind invitation.

    How shall we distinguish between whether I am precommitted to his being a liar or deluded, and whether I conclude the same without being precommitted to it? Merely because I conclude that he is either a liar or deluded? I think that’s what you’re saying,, which boils down to the boring fact that you and I disagree about God, it’s just that you’ve found a new way to wrap up and present that disagreement. I’d rather keep on digging into the substance of the disagreement.

    He either hallucinated or has constructed a false memory. I think more highly of God than He would have to resort to a cheap parlor trick (the old face in the mirror gag). If that’s all it takes for you to convert, there’s something inside you you may not even be aware of that is pushing you there anyway. A God worthy of the name would act far differently.

  32. Of course we sometimes get it wrong, but we don’t know a particular thought/belief is wrong until we know it’s wrong.

    If your stance is that you can’t know if X is true because we sometimes get it wrong, then that statement itself must be subject to the same criteria – which means you can’t know that you can’t know if X is true because we sometimes get it wrong. It’s self-defeating.

    Nice try, but I was talking not about X, about anything we know, but about a perception. Your logic above doesn’t hold when X is just a perception.

    No wonder we disagree so much, you think a conclusion is innocent until proven guilty. Admirable stance for our legal system, but for epistemology it’s backwards. We must remain agnostic about a conclusion until we can confirm it. Otherwise, we grasp at straws, we would take that bridge they’re trying to sell us. Appearances can be deceiving, not everything is what it seems, geez, do I have to go on?

  33. He didn’t have a good reason to think his experience was something other than what it was, so he was forced to believe it was true.

    A better statement of gullibility I couldn’t find. With this approach, you’ll be easy to fool. What about maintaining skepticism until something can be confirmed either way?

  34. A God worthy of the name would act far differently.

    This begs the question, Paul. Surely you can see that. Wouldn’t it be better to accept the experience at face value rather than say something that you know nothing about like “I think more highly of God than He would have to resort to a cheap parlor trick (the old face in the mirror gag)”?

    Unless, of course you know this statement to be true (he wouldn’t resort to a face in the mirror), but that requires a knowledge source – a perceived experience of some kind. If God revealed this to you via some perceived experience then you have your proof that he exists. If the knowledge came from elsewhere then please tell us.

  35. Hi Paul,
    Precommitted? Evidenced. You have not explored Scott’s story. You haven’t interviewed him or his wife. You have not looked into the issue at all. But you know God doesn’t exist, therefore, Scott has had a false memory or was deluded. And one who believes him? Why, a better example of gullibility cannot be found.
    Precommitted, as I suspected.

    Interesting point on gullibility – you do realize that Christianity is a fine inoculation against gullibility, do you not? Non-believers are far more likely to be taken in by astrology, ghosts, big foot and UFOs. In a recent study (Dutch?) the religious were more apt than atheists and agnostics to see patterns in images. I know that’s just as you’d expect – except that the patterns actually existed and they were the ones seeing clearly.
    You do not have facts on your side when you discuss the religious in terms of gullibility.

    So, Gilbreath had an experience of God. He saw an image and then was convicted in his heart. But even this you dismiss as nothing but illusion – all the while claiming you just want to know what the experiences are like.

    As you say here, and in the thread I linked, your acceptance of evidence, your train of thought and your conclusions are determined beforehand by your disbelief in God. You say the same of me, based upon my belief in God. Granting a degree of truth to this assessment we demonstrate here why we may already believe in God, even before the logical necessity is demonstrated persuasively by philosophy, cosmology, teleology, morality,consciousness, reason, etc.
    Apprehension of the numinous is a recognized phenomena across cultures and eras – don’t you ever stop to think that it might just be your perception, and, therefore, your preconceptions, which are faulty? You are skeptical to the nth degree of perceptions, thoughts, memories, etc., but not of your own?

    As I alluded to above, you cannot be convinced by man. You are impervious. The best arguments you dismiss as being acceptable or not based upon prior belief in God. The reasons for such a prior belief you dismiss as illusions and preying upon gullibility.
    And while you claim that you can’t affirm your existence, your non-envattedness and your profession you have such a complete knowledge of the universe and its many realms that those who experience God must be creating false memories. They are crying on the floor in submission to the Creator because they misremembered an image in a picture.

    At the same time you claim to be providing a check upon your logic. But you are not examining your logic – you reiterate your a priori commitment.
    On that note, have you read, referenced here many times, Antony Flew’s book about his re-examination of his thinking? Have you read N.T. Wright or W.L. Craig on historical evidences for the Resurrection? Have you read a single book referenced, cited or reviewed here in the years you have been participating? Have you done anything to test your beliefs, as you said above, other than gainsay?

    Because I think not I will continue with what I started to ask you a few days ago. Whom are you trying to convince and why are you not more fully examining the question? It is obviously important enough that you have spent years here potshotting at Tom’s posts. Your claims to be testing your logic do not seem accurate and neither have you had a whit of success at convincing anybody here, or even making a logical dent. So what has been your point? Honestly. It looks to me that you are merely trying to justify your disbelief and ensure yourself that you can ramp up the skeptical metre high enough to deny anything you hear about God. Why is this important to you?
    And again, why would you want your position to be the case? And why would you want to bring anybody else over to your world of relative morality, ungrounded logic, and an epistemology which can’t even affirm the cogito ergo sum?
    Does misery truly love company?

  36. Paul,

    A better statement of gullibility I couldn’t find. With this approach, you’ll be easy to fool. What about maintaining skepticism until something can be confirmed either way?

    It’s gullible to think a perception was as it was perceived if there is no reason to think otherwise?? That makes no sense. Your perception is that you exist. Do you have a good reason to think you don’t exist? Of course not. What you’re saying here is that you should maintain skepticism until your existence can be confirmed. Okay, tell me how you do that because I guarantee you that your confirmation will be another perception with no good reason to think it untrue.

    Are you required to confirm the original confirmation, and then that one, and the next? Obviously not. If you can stop after 5, 10 or 1000 confirmations without confirming the last one then you are admitting that your IMMEDIATE perception DOESN’T have to be confirmed to be believed as perceived. Or are you gullible enough to believe your immediate perception that you ACTUALLY went through 1000 confirmations? You better confirm that.

  37. Paul,

    It’s worse. There is along list of cognitive biases at Wikipedia. It’s also well known that people delude themselves all the time. But Christians consistently either 1) ignore this blatant evidence that people are biased, or 2) pretend that bias is insurmountable so they might as well succumb. Hence, for Christians, their sense of God has to be true unless proven otherwise.

    That story at NovaScotiaScott is a very sad one. Yes, he’s a poor dupe!! He either imagined the picture, or he’s been had.

    Of course, there IS a way to overcome bias. It’s called science and dispassionate analysis. That’s anathema to Christianity which relies on inspiring passion and amplifying bias of its adherents at every turn.

    What’s the Christian response? They’ll say that, if we rely on scientific techniques that look for God’s signal beyond the noise of our bias, then we won’t rationally be able to see a God who only intervenes at the level of our biases. Well, DUUUH!

    Science doesn’t make it impossible to see God. We could easily see God scientifically if he weren’t hiding from us. Christians are just making excuses for wallowing in their own personal biases.

  38. Scott’s vision was confirmed. He had a life-changing experience and came to know God based upon it. From the moment he saw the image – this false memory – he was tormented by it until his heart was convicted. The Holy Spirit is never finished with the believer and is constantly bringing about changes and conforming his will to God’s will.

  39. It appears misery does indeed love company.

    “delude, sad, dupe, pretend, succumb, anathema, excuses, wallowing …”
    Ah yes, the return of the purportedly unbiased doctor of dispassion.
    A conclusion rigorously derived straight out of a test tube, no doubt.

  40. doctor(logic), I was about to respond to you but Charlie beat me to it.

    I wish you would read Plantinga’s Warranted Christian Belief, but I doubt you ever would.

  41. SteveK, you’re pulling the *one* unique example (perception of oneself) and trying to shoehorn it’s obviousness into all other perceptions. Perceiving oneself is the one perception that is not about something external to oneself, and is therefore a special case. In every other case, for something external to oneself, including God, it very much is true that one is gullible if one takes things at face value.

    Note that taking something at face value is not the same at all as relying on previous conclusions about perceptions that prove true time after time. I don’t have to test my brakes every time I get in my car because someone else has already tested them, and I have successfully relied on their testing many times over. So when I trust that my brakes will work, I’m not taking that on face value, I’m relying on a previous, repeated experimental test.

    Regarding confirmation, as I’m fond of quoting Popper on this one, we only have to make sure that the piling are driven down deep enough into the swamp in order to support the structure that we are building on top of them, they don’t have to be driven down into bedrock.

  42. You have not explored Scott’s story. You haven’t interviewed him or his wife. You have not looked into the issue at all.

    So you provide me with a link to Scott’s writing about his experience, I do what I’m told to do, and then you criticize me because I didn’t call him on the phone!? Whew, this is a tough room!

    Perhaps Christians use up a lot of gullibility with Christianity and don’t have any left over for other things? Just a thought.

    So, Gilbreath had an experience of God. He saw an image and then was convicted in his heart. But even this you dismiss as nothing but illusion – all the while claiming you just want to know what the experiences are like.

    Nothing contradictory there. If an experience was related to me about something seeing God that could actually be believed, that’d do it for me (He missed another chance for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade just recently, huh?). But someone hallucinating or deluding themselves? Happens *every* day, just look at Congress and the bailout plan.

    don’t you ever stop to think that it might just be your perception, and, therefore, your preconceptions, which are faulty? You are skeptical to the nth degree of perceptions, thoughts, memories, etc., but not of your own?

    Sure I do. What makes you think I don’t? Just because I disagree? Or because I didn’t call Scott?

    Have you done anything to test your beliefs, as you said above, other than gainsay?

    I’ve tested them here. Evidence of my sincerity might be seen in the number of times I’ve admitted I was wrong about, admittedly, minor points, not the biggest one. I admit I haven’t read Flew’s or other books, but I’ve certainly heard about his and many other Christian’s ideas on this blog, gaining great exposure to them. Sorry I haven’t done the specific homework you want me to. Homework of the gaps?

    It is obviously important enough that you have spent years here potshotting at Tom’s posts.

    Denigration noted.

    And why would you want to bring anybody else over to your world of relative morality, ungrounded logic, and an epistemology which can’t even affirm the cogito ergo sum?

    Because of a little thing I like to call reality.

  43. One more thought about the face in the mirror. How ludicrous that scenario is! Here we have the most far-reaching, important, all-encompassing fact a human could ever know – that God existed – something that will reach into every single corner of one’s existence, behavior, and thought, something that has implications for every single thing one does, and all God does is to show his face!? He can’t even discuss this with Scott?! People have conversations about the Cleveland Browns, for crying out loud, something of such little importance (sigh), and they’ll go on for hours and hours, but for the most incredible and important thing ever, God can’t even talk!? All he can muster is a cheap magic trick!?
    Words fail me.

  44. Paul,

    So when I trust that my brakes will work, I’m not taking that on face value, I’m relying on a previous, repeated experimental test.

    Likewise, when I trust that my immediate perception is trustworthy, I’m not taking that on face value, I’m relying on previous, repeated experimental tests of my immediate perception.

    You might recognize that I said the same thing this way before, “You would never think an experience wasn’t what it was, unless you were given a good reason to think that”, only you scoffed at this and said it was gullible. Is my statement above gullible or is it reasonable?

    I should be obvious the above statement holds true for perceptions of external things as well as internal things.

  45. So you provide me with a link to Scott’s writing about his experience, I do what I’m told to do, and then you criticize me because I didn’t call him on the phone!? Whew, this is a tough room!

    No it’s not. It’s a refutation of your stance that you concluded after investigation rather than entered with a preconception that such a story had to be a delusion or a lie.

    Perhaps Christians use up a lot of gullibility with Christianity and don’t have any left over for other things? Just a thought.

    That sounds like a slight but you’ll have to sharpen its point a little if it is meant to inflict. Right now it just mushes sour grapes on my forehead.

    Sure I do. What makes you think I don’t? Just because I disagree? Or because I didn’t call Scott?

    Because you are precommitted to his being the one deluded by false perceptions and false memories. You, being in the vast minority, might just be the one with the flawed sensory equipment.

    I admit I haven’t read Flew’s or other books, but I’ve certainly heard about his and many other Christian’s ideas on this blog, gaining great exposure to them. Sorry I haven’t done the specific homework you want me to. Homework of the gaps?

    You have not tested your logic here, you have gainsayed, obfuscated and skated away merrily calling over your shoulder “more later”. You have not come here to test your logic or work on your own preconceptions. Real research would evidence that. Reading the Bible would also help.
    I have read the opposite view from my own as represented by Dawkins, Gould, Harris, Russell, Morris, Davies, etc., since I ventured in here. And Tom has done much more than I have to test his positions.
    Your claim does not ring true.

    Because of a little thing I like to call reality.

    You don;t know if you represent reality or not because you are njot testing your preconceptions. Worse, the positions you take force you to deny all basis for apprehending reality. You have no access to reality. You are a brain in a vat.

    But I’ve asked bigger questions. Are you considering them?

  46. Paul,

    Regarding confirmation, as I’m fond of quoting Popper on this one, we only have to make sure that the piling are driven down deep enough into the swamp in order to support the structure that we are building on top of them, they don’t have to be driven down into bedrock.

    I get the analogy, or is it a metaphor? My question is are you gullible or reasonable to think your immediate perception that you’ve driven down the pilings far enough is just that, without having to confirm that perception once more?

    To the person who has spent a lifetime “driving down the pilings” on their immediate perceptions far enough to know when they can be trusted and when they cannot, is it gullible or reasonable to think a trusted perception is just that, trustworthy, without having to confirm it once more?

  47. Paul (and Dr. Logic),

    Just so you know I guess I’d happily throw myself in with your miserable lot. Smoke ’em if you got ’em, I guess.

    I glanced over most of this post. Tom, I know this won’t change things, but I have to mention again that if Paul or Dr. Logic or I disparaged one of you the way Charlie does Paul here I imagine we’d get a warning or be tossed out.

    Along that line, and to this post’s topic, I have to say that it seems clear to me that both parties to this debate have reasonably intelligent people. I think what distinguishes the two sides, more than ever, is the approach that Paul mentions above — one side wants to believe and looks for evidence that supports it, the other side wants to be convinced (is skeptical), and holds out for compelling evidence.

    I’ve decided to start collecting the most egregious examples of the first one — the willingness to accept shabby evidence without a reasonable degree of skepticism, what to look for, etc.

    If anyone’s interested, it’s here: http://badapologia.blogspot.com/

  48. Likewise, when I trust that my immediate perception is trustworthy, I’m not taking that on face value, I’m relying on previous, repeated experimental tests of my immediate perception.

    But not for that particular event, just for your perception in general. But DL’s link above shows how perception is fraught is error. In order to accept perception at face value without confirmation of specific perceptions beforehand, you’re ignoring the frequency of cognitive error. How long a list of how our perceptions are in error, in many different ways (physiologically as well as cognitively, at a conceptual level) would you need?

  49. Paul,

    In order to accept perception at face value without confirmation of specific perceptions beforehand, you’re ignoring the frequency of cognitive error.

    Must I be the one to point out the obvious – again? Your confirmations beforehand exist in the form of your immediate perception that a) you did prior confirmations and b) you confirmed the same thing each time. You are selectively ignoring the frequency of cognitive error and that list you mentioned. Why?

  50. SteveK, your last post is an argument against any type of testing or confirmation of a conclusion. You’re saying that we can confirm nothing, which leads to the idea that we should just accept *anything* we might claim for a perception.

    To your way of thinking, in what case might we be skeptical of a conclusion based on a perception? Secondly, will that case survive the critique you offer above?

    Again, all our confirmations do not rest on bedrock, but are merely good enough to work and be useful for us. But that doesn’t mean that you can make things up, either, or take your first impression, or not subject things to a critical look, or to not attempt confirmation at all.

    Furthermore, the more you confirm, as you have to check your confirmation of checking your confirmation of checking your confirmation, etc., etc., you increase the *odds* (note that word carefully) that you have not confirmed/confirmed/confirmed the wrong thing, but that the pilings are driven deep enough into the swamp. Again, that is much different that merely taking one’s first impression without attempting any confirmation, critical look, etc.

  51. Paul, having read this thread, I can see that there is nothing anyone can say to persuade you that I am not deluded, but the story posted at my blog is definitely not a false memory. My wife Judy, with whom I have now enjoyed 26 years of marriage, saw my reaction when she told me the face I had seen on her wall was never there, and she heard me call her on the phone when I first believed.

    Likewise, several of my family members and co-workers at the time can confirm that, in the days immediately following my conversion on 6 June 1982, I spoke with them about my experience in exactly the same way that I wrote in my testimony.

    So, it can’t be a false memory.

    Here we have the most far-reaching, important, all-encompassing fact a human could ever know – that God existed – something that will reach into every single corner of one’s existence, behavior, and thought, something that has implications for every single thing one does, and all God does is to show his face!? He can’t even discuss this with Scott?

    As a matter of fact, God did discuss my situation with me many times over many years, using his people to do that. I mentioned in my testimony that Judy’s brother Gord told me about his faith, but I refused to listen. He was far from the first Christian to try to talk to me about God, but I always refused to listen. Indeed, I was often dismissive and sometimes downright unpleasant about it. (I mention my spiritual close-mindedness in the third paragraph of my testimony.) I was so obstinate in my unbelief that he had to resort to a 2-by-4 across the back of my head, so to speak.

    Furthermore, even in the circumstances of my conversion, showing his face was by no means all that God did. As I said, ‘a verse from the Bible came into my mind […] “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy mind, and with all thy strength”.’ That was a key moment in my conversion. Without that, I think I could have been left scratching my head over what I had seen.

    I now know that it was the Holy Spirit who brought that Scripture verse from my youth back to my mind at just the right second. That was the moment I was convicted of my sin and it all made sense.

    I used to think just like you. As I wrote, “I would not have believed it if it hadn’t happened to me”. I can’t explain it, I can only describe what happened.

  52. Paul,

    SteveK, your last post is an argument against any type of testing or confirmation of a conclusion.

    I’m arguing FOR something, not against. I’m arguing FOR the idea that you consider as reliable, memories that you think are reliable until you have good reason to think otherwise. I’m arguing FOR the idea that you consider as veridical and lucid, perceptions that you think are veridical and lucid until you have good reason to think otherwise. Telling me that cognitive errors and misperceptions occur frequently doesn’t change what I know about my memory and my perception. My knowledge of the event remains valid. Additional confirmation can be helpful but it’s not required.

    I’m guessing that 99% of your life remains unconfirmed in the sense that you mean it here. Does that fact mean the knowledge you have of your life is somehow invalid – that it’s not genuine knowledge of a life that actually happened the way you remember it? That is, until you have good reason to think otherwise.

  53. Hi Tony,
    Again I feel that your lack of knowledge of the things Paul has previously argued/concluded and of which I am reminding him, and perhaps a lack of objectivity, have made you misread my “tone”.
    I have reread my comments to Paul and see nothing disparaging. I see an evidential challenge to his claims, reminders of his previous positions and an honest inquiry into his current goals.

  54. No, Steve. What we’re talking about is intuitive belief versus rational belief. Intuitive beliefs are not always wrong, but they’re not always right either. So the way we get to rational belief is by a series of tests.

    * Questioning whether the belief could be false.

    * Checking consistency with other beliefs.

    * Imagining what experiences would be different if the claim were false. If there’s nothing that would be different then the belief is not justifiable, and probably meaningless.

    * Considering alternatives.

    * Accounting for personal bias.

    So if you intuitively believe you are sitting down, you can check that easily. By the definition of sitting down, your torso is more vertical than not, and you are supported by pressure on your bum. If you were not seated, things would be different. Belief confirmed. In fact, it’s rather trivial. But it would be foolish to think that every belief is equally trivial.

    Mundane beliefs, the kind that have been verified reliably in the past are more likely to be reliable in the future.

    However, beliefs that mirrors transmogrify into paintings is not a mundane belief. It’s the kind of belief that’s peculiar. How many times has that happened to you? Nothing like that has ever happened to me. I’ve had double-takes where I’ve thought I saw something peculiar, but then looked again and saw something mundane.

    Extraordinary beliefs need extraordinary justification.

    No, I don’t believe Scott’s story is materially true. I don’t doubt he believes it, but people believe a lot of strange things, especially when they’re under stress or emotional pressure. Just consider his reaction to his thoughts that day. Scott ended up crying and crawling on his hands and knees. That’s not indifference or calm reflection. That’s a portrait of deep emotional disturbance. It probably had something to do with the uncertainties in his life about work, housing and relationships, which most people would have in his circumstances.

    Is Scott’s story unique? Not at all. Some details are unique, but the passion is commonplace. Look at folks in Benny Hinn’s audience. They’re being duped into thinking they’re witnessing miracles. That doesn’t stop them from having life-changing experiences.

    Suppose you delude yourself into believing there is a god who wants X. By the nature of the belief, it will change your life, because you will try to achieve X. So the life-changing nature of having a belief isn’t proof that the belief is true. It’s not as if God changed Scott’s life. Scott changed Scott’s life, not God. Scott is quite capable of doing that on his own. Every day, many thousands of people change their lives.

    Your God acts so subtly that you can never know whether you did something or God did it.

    So your entire belief system fails a key test. What would be different if your claim was false? Answer: nothing at all. It’s a self-fulfilling belief because the main thing it changes is the way you sample the world. That’s why God never shows up in scientific testing.

  55. Scott, thanks for commenting here. Just to show the Christians here that we skeptics are actually paying attention to the evidence and can evaluate it sanely, your evidence that your wife and family members recall the incident as you do argues for it not being a false memory.

    So what are we left with? A hallucination, or what? I would suggest the following, based on the distinction that I thought was so important before: between what we can conclude based on the experience of a perception itself, and what we can conclude after that perception is over, which includes interpreting the perception. And this distinction is crucial in your case.

    At the time of your perception, you did not believe that this was a sign from God, you merely thought it was a striking picture. It was only days later that you interpreted the perception as a religious experience. Admittedly, this was based on the reality-shaking information that there had been no picture there, only a mirror. That type of realization could well be profound, I might have reacted initially the same way you did, wondering whether I could trust my own eyes. You had your sense of reality shaken (“My head started spinning.” “I managed to pull myself together . . . .” ).

    But:

    1. This is not the circumstance in which we are likely to a cold, unbiased judgment. This was a period of some emotional upheaval, I hope it is fair to say. This fact is not determinative, but it does give one legitimate pause.

    2. The way you made your ultimate conclusion about the meaning of your seeing the picture of Jesus doesn’t reveal anything about *why* you made the conclusion you did:

    At exactly the same moment that this verse occurred to me, I was convicted of my failure to do what it said. And not just failure to do it, but failure even to try to do it. And also at that exact same moment, I knew why I had seen the portrait of Jesus that wasn’t there: because he had caused me to see it. All these things came to me in the same instant

    The only thing *from your original perception* (of the picture of Jesus) that I can glean was that the picture was of Jesus, and this led you to conclude that it was a message from God. The only thing *from your later interpretation* of your original perception of the picture of Jesus that I can glean that led to you conclude that it was a message from God was that a feeling overwhlemed you.

    From this we should make the most important conclusion ever about the objective reality of God? I don’t think so. Such important matters should not be made in such a period of emotional upheaval, when we are especially liable to all sorts of errors, confirmation bias, etc.

    If the decision to believe in God is the most important thing anyone could ever do, it would reasonably be accomplished through a sober, calm, and deliberate process. A god that would seek to have someone believe in him by shaking his faith in reality, as you claim, would contradict the reasonable approach. The process you describe is actually irresponsible: it describes a God that seeks to *shock* you into the most important decision of your life.

    Regarding God talking to you: what I mean by that phrase is not what you took it to mean. I don’t mean God talking to you through other people; I mean, very specifically, God, as a being, talking to you. It’s *this* lack that strikes me as ludicrous.

  56. You have not come here to test your logic or work on your own preconceptions.

    Questioning your opponent’s motives in an argument is the last refuge.

    Charlie, I have no confidence that you would ever call my investigations into Scott’s experience complete unless I wound up agreeing with you, because you provided the link to Scott’s web page; I read it but still disagreed with you; you still claimed that I wasn’t doing enough, even though I did just what you had initially laid out for me. You’ll keep on moving the goalposts.

    Right now it just mushes sour grapes on my forehead

    There’s actual content there, actually. Read it again.

    Because you are precommitted to his being the one deluded by false perceptions and false memories.

    Says you. ; )

    You, being in the vast minority, might just be the one with the flawed sensory equipment.

    That’s why what I’m really committed to is evidence and logic, and not daydreams, hallucinations, bias, wishful thinking, etc. To make sure I’m not making a mistake, as best I can.

    You have not come here to test your logic or work on your own preconceptions. Real research would evidence that. Reading the Bible would also help.

    You’re seeking to win your argument by homework assignment. Try logic in an argument that you actually make, instead.

    I have read the opposite view from my own as represented by Dawkins, Gould, Harris, Russell, Morris, Davies, etc., since I ventured in here. And Tom has done much more than I have to test his positions.
    Your claim does not ring true.

    If you set up a standard for me that you know I haven’t achieved, you’re guaranteed of being right.

    Worse, the positions you take force you to deny all basis for apprehending reality. You have no access to reality. You are a brain in a vat.

    Straw man. You continually misrepresent the nuance and context of my position on this. But entangling that will take more time than I have. Don’t take the fact that I have a life outside of this blog, despite appearances, make you think that I’m not sincere.

    Charlie, your frustration is not letting you give me the benefit of the doubt regarding my sincerity.

  57. DL,

    What we’re talking about is intuitive belief versus rational belief.

    So there’s nothing rational about believing your memory is working properly and your perceptions are lucid after you’ve gone through a mental and sensory checklist of sorts? That’s an odd comment to make, DL. Sounds totally rational to me.

    Questioning whether the belief could be false.

    Did that. Check.

    Checking consistency with other beliefs.

    Must my memory and perceptions be just like everyone else’s? I don’t think it must.

    Imagining what experiences would be different if the claim were false.

    If my memory and perceptions weren’t working properly then I suppose anything and everything could be different.

    Considering alternatives.

    The alternative is that my memory is bad and/or my perceptions are not lucid. I can rub my eyes, look away and refocus, move around to get different views, run through a mental checklist to check my sanity and my memory, etc. These are all rational processes.

    Accounting for personal bias.

    In everyday life situations you can’t totally account for this, but we should try to do our best.

    However, beliefs that mirrors transmogrify into paintings is not a mundane belief.

    I agree.

    Extraordinary beliefs need extraordinary justification.

    I agree.

    Scott ended up crying and crawling on his hands and knees. That’s not indifference or calm reflection. That’s a portrait of deep emotional disturbance.

    So crying on your hands and knees means you are emotionally disturbed? Come on, DL! Tell that to someone who recently experienced something so emotionally moving that it brought them to their knees. I’m sure you’ve seen people in hospitals or in war ravaged communities do this. Emotionally disturbed people right, DL? Geez what a creep! (I’m allowed to say creep, right Tom?)

    It probably had something to do with the uncertainties in his life about work, housing and relationships, which most people would have in his circumstances.

    Or it might have something to do with the image of Christ that so moved him emotionally that he wept and fell to his knees.

    No, no, wait a minute. You probably know better than Scott because you don’t know anything about his life so I’m going with your theory. I bet he got into an emotional fight with his mom and didn’t remember that. [/sarcasm off]

    Okay…when Scott has completed your checklist and he has concluded that his belief is rationally justified what should he do – think of himself as a deluded religious fool or a person with a rationally justified belief?

    What should you and I do considering we don’t know Scott from Adam and we weren’t there to experience what he claims – call him a deluded religious fool because everyone knows God isn’t real?

  58. Hi Paul,

    You’ll keep on moving the goalposts.

    There are no goal posts. I suspected you would have a commitment to dismiss Scott’s account and it looks as though you did. Again, as you said, the disagreement comes down to whether or not one already believes in God. I think you knew before you clicked that link that Gilbreath never experienced God and that he was either wrong or lying.
    I didn’t say you didn’t do enough. I said you already knew what you would conclude. I stand by that, even if you won’t admit it. You’re after-the-fact rationalizations to Scott reinforce this (think of the “shock” you would feel if you got the evidence you demand of God’s existence…).

    You’re seeking to win your argument by homework assignment. Try logic in an argument that you actually make, instead.

    You have not been given a homework assignment. I suggested a very obvious way to measure whether or not a person who has been involved in these questions for years and years, who has seen countless references to various materials, would evidence that he was truly doing as you say – sincerely looking for answers and testing his positions. If you were truly doing as you say I expect you would have done some research.
    Nonetheless, you are answering the wrong question. The logic has been laid out for you dozens of times and the arguments made. They stand as written and are there for you or anyone else to see. I linked to one upthread. You are not compelled by the logic or the arguments. That is your prerogative. But in answering me you presented as your goal, at least as a main goal, to test your conclusions and verify the validity of your reasoning. But you are not testing it. You are not doing anything differently with it, you are not turning it upside down. You are raising the same objections that you have previously and you are treating the answers the same way as you have. If you were satisfied with your logic and reasoning last year, the year before, and the year before that and nothing has changed then you are not testing anything. On this site you do what I just said you do – you gainsay, obfuscate and walk away from the questions when your logic has been pushed too far. This is not denigration but a recitation of history.
    Further evidence of your desire to test your positions as you say you are doing would be your looking at the sources and reading the arguments. C.S. Lewis has been cited countless times, along with many others. Speaking of Lewis, for instance, he was pursued by God and was convicted largely on the basis of his copious reading, philosophical inquiry and search for truth. Antony Flew likewise came to accept that there exists an omniscient, omnipotent, designing personal God on the basis of his studies. But you aren’t actually investigating as they did, nor even investigating what they have had to say.
    Repeatedly you ask the same questions of the same blog host and participants and treat the answers the same way time and again. My question, as before, is “why”? You know this blog’s position. You’ve seen Tom’s answers. You don’t find them compelling, for whatever reason (you suggest it is because Tom and the rest of us believe in God and you don’t), but you keep asking the same questions, raising the same objections and receiving the same answers. You know what the answers from this blog are and we know your position and have answered your questions and countered your logic. In arguing your position you have had to take up some very interesting positions, as noted above.

    I’m not asking you to stop or saying you have no right to do this. My question continues to be, are you being honest about your purpose? Are you really looking inside yourself at your motivation?
    You say that my questioning your motives is a last resort, and you just might be right. Right now I am not interested in again chasing you around and around the logic trails and countering your objections but have instead, as a first/last resort, asked you a new set of questions.
    I suspect your answers and have tried to inspire you to look differently at them and yourself.
    We have argued enough over the last several years that you certainly must know I am not afraid of your argumentation, style, expertise or knowledge – nor am I hiding from your presentations. I am trying a new approach – yes, maybe a last resort.

    If you set up a standard for me that you know I haven’t achieved, you’re guaranteed of being right.

    You set a standard by claiming that you are honestly seeking truth and testing your position. The fact that you do not follow up on the issues and merely return with the same objections post after post, year after year, demonstrates that you probably are not really seeking as you may think you are.
    I doubt you have looked yet into the cosmological argument, from which you walked away at least two years ago, and which I reminded you about at least a year ago. I bet you have not turned a skeptical eye on Skeptical Inquirer like you said you would a year ago. I bet you’ve never read Lewis’ Miracles for the Argument From Reason, nor Reppert’s defence of it, nor Plantinga’s version.

    Straw man. You continually misrepresent the nuance and context of my position on this. But entangling that will take more time than I have.

    This is not a strawman and whatever nuance you think coloured your positions changes nothing. In defence of your taking these positions (when you last called my reminder of them a strawman) you said “well sure, that’s where you end up if you follow my claims to their logical conclusion”.
    Well sure! That’s what you have to do. That’s why we discuss these matters and explore them beyond their superficialities – the logic has to hold all the way down – swamp pilings will not do with ultimate questions. Ultimately, your epistemology and denial of God has you unable to say you know you are not a brain in a vat, unable to affirm your profession, and unable to even agree, beyond saying “it sure seems like I must” , that you can know that you exist.
    And yet, with this as your epistemological position you are trying to convince others of your take on reality, you (pre)determine that all experiences of God are false and you dictate, as above to Scott, just what a real God would reasonably do and how He would really act – such that Scott’s experience must not be of or from God.
    On that note one would become curious as to what theology and apologetics you have studied from which you have drawn your conclusions about how God ought to behave. My guess, again, is that you have studied nothing of the matter.

    Charlie, your frustration is not letting you give me the benefit of the doubt regarding my sincerity.

    Two things:
    1) I am not frustrated (at this point) in the least. I have a feeling you have a good heart and a serious question.
    2) I do not give you the benefit of the doubt. I am questioning your sincerity with all vigour.
    I do not believe you are being honest with me, my questions or, likely, with yourself.

    I am trying to evoke a real exchange, not win another argument. I think there is a much greater reason that you continue as you do and I wonder if I can’t help to expose it.
    Call that arrogant or denigrating if you wish. I might be wrong, but I’m going to give it a try anyway.

    And, for the record, our experiences of God are not meant to convince you – if they were they would have been given to you. What they do is they speak to us. I would go into your response to Scott about his “concluding” that God exists when in “emotional upheaval” and how this demonstrates that you aren’t really thinking very well about the issue, but perhaps somebody else will take that up.

  59. Paul,

    You’re right that there is a distinction between my original perception of a striking picture, being told weeks later that the picture was never there, and still later realising that God had caused me to see the picture. From a human perspective, it could only have been a visual hallucination.

    But I have to say you’re misinterpreting when you suggest this was “a period of some emotional upheaval”. Emotion only entered when I was convicted of my sin before God; before that, I would characterise it as a time of intellectual upheaval. I was puzzled, I was baffled at seeing something that wasn’t there. As I wrote,

    My mind was going around in circles: Had I seen something that wasn’t there? How could that happen? It just did not make any sense.

    You are right to say that, at the moment the puzzle was resolved, a feeling overwhelmed me. I would say the Holy Spirit informed me (I say “informed” advisedly in that he conveyed information to me but, no, he did not speak in an audible voice) that I was a rebellious sinner before God and that God had caused me to see something that wasn’t there to make me aware of that fundamental fact which I had managed to avoid facing all my life.

    The feeling that overwhelmed me encompassed shame, guilt, remorse, and sorrow. Being remorseful and sorrowful, I wept. True, it was emotional, but I think that one can understand and appreciate that people who feel guilty and sorrowful tend to become emotional and cry.

    If I may, I must also question your insistence that a decision to believe in God should always be made soberly, calmly, and deliberately. Sometimes a commitment to Christ is made that way but, in my experience, that is not often the case. Since my conversion, I have spoken to hundreds of Christians about their faith journeys. Anecdotally, I would say that about two-thirds were raised in Christian homes and do not remember a time when they did not believe; about one-third do remember such a time and can describe a process or event as a result of which they consciously accepted a call from God to become disciples of Christ.

    Very few of the latter were calm and deliberate. One man told me he was overcome with a sense of God’s presence while driving down a Vancouver street when Kris Kristofferson’s song “Why Me Lord” was played on the car radio. He had to pull over and stop because his eyes filled with tears. He had heard the song before but had no inkling of the reaction he experienced that particular time. A woman told me she had a vision of Christ much less subtle than mine: She saw him in a blinding white light in front of her in her home.

    Others described more “rational” types of conversions, through reading the Bible or other Christian literature. Some became interested in Christianity and even converted through seeing Christians selflessly serving and loving other people.

    Other stories of Christian conversion are on the public record. The late Canadian philosopher George Parkin Grant (a man whose thought has influenced me) was an unbeliever as a student at Oxford during World War II. He says that he was riding his bicycle in the countryside one day when he came to a gate blocking his path. He got off the bicycle to open the gate and, when he got back on his bike to ride through, he “just knew that God exists and that there is moral order in the universe”.

    C.S. Lewis wrote about being a determined atheist as a young man, but God dragged him kicking and screaming into the kingdom of God, “the most reluctant convert in all of Christendom”.

    Please pardon my indulgence with those stories, but the point is that God makes himself known to people through all our faculties, not always or only through our reason.

    Related to that, I also puzzled by your insistence that God should have spoken to me in an audible voice. Why would you find an auditory hallucination more persuasive than a visual one?

    Briefly, regarding DoctorLogic’s suggestion [#62]:

    It probably had something to do with the uncertainties in his life about work, housing and relationships, which most people would have in his circumstances.

    Work: I was on top of the world, actually. I had graduated with an MA in Economics and found a high-paying job as a management trainee with one of Canada’s big five banks. Housing: I was looking for an apartment to rent, not considering purchase of a million-dollar mansion. It was a bit of a challenge, but I did not find it stressful. In the event, I found a place to my liking with minimal difficulty. Relationships: Well, I was a single guy on the prowl, but I was not anxious or obsessed about it. When I found out that Judy was a Christian, I didn’t even want to go out with her.

    I think it’s a bit of a stretch to claim that someone saw something that wasn’t there solely because of a few garden-variety everyday problems, but perhaps one could insist that I’m not impartial.

    I apologise for the length of this comment. I hope it’s helpful.

  60. Charlie:

    I didn’t say you didn’t do enough

    Yes you did, rhetorically:

    1:10 pm, 4 December, 2008 _.

    On that note, have you read, referenced here many times, Antony Flew’s book about his re-examination of his thinking?

    Moving on.

    (think of the “shock” you would feel if you got the evidence you demand of God’s existence…).

    It would not be a shock at all if it was built up clamly and deliberatively. The christian god would not doubt be competent enough to craft the process without shocking someone. Fortunately, we don’t use free will to be shocked or not, so this is something that the Christian god could do without any philosophical problems,

    If you were satisfied with your logic and reasoning last year, the year before, and the year before that and nothing has changed then you are not testing anything.

    Absolutely wrong. The other conclusion that fits the facts perfectly well is that my original conclusion has withstood a rigorous test.

    My question continues to be, are you being honest about your purpose? Are you really looking inside yourself at your motivation?

    Perhaps, Charlie, it’s not my purpose or my intent that should be called into question (literally, as you do in the quote directly above), but my judgment. Perhaps it’s just an error on my part that I think that logic and argument should be able to win the day. I guess I’m totally committed to that, maybe unreasonably so and in the face of all evidence. But I told you that earlier.

    Turnabout is fair play, though. Now we might question why you continue to question my intent and purpose. I can think of several unflattering and critical reasons why you might do this. But I don’t like what’s at the end of this whole path.

    You set a standard by claiming that you are honestly seeking truth and testing your position. The fact that you do not follow up on the issues and merely return with the same objections post after post, year after year, demonstrates that you probably are not really seeking as you may think you are.

    Different people may have different ways to the truth. Do I have to follow a reading list in order to have proper intent? Can’t I just talk with people? Especially if they present the arguments in those books!?

    Why not set up a standard that says “to really, truly be able to understand all the arguments, one needs to go to school and study these issues, and *then* you truly are conversant. *That* would be dedication to the truth. If you haven’t done that, I question how committed you are to the truth.” Maybe you didn’t mean to move the goalposts, but your complaint does it.

    Do you really want to argue now, in this thread, the substance of the brain-in-the-vat issue, etc.? That’s where your points are leading, if I were to respond properly.

    swamp pilings will not do with ultimate questions.

    We disagree about that, too. If the universe is such that only swamp pilings are possible, then that’s too bad that they may be inadequate for ultimate questions. Maybe we don’t get to have absolute answers to ultiimate questions.

    On that note one would become curious as to what theology and apologetics you have studied from which you have drawn your conclusions about how God ought to behave. My guess, again, is that you have studied nothing of the matter.

    Please discuss the substance of those books as you understand them. That’s what I’m here for. You make it sound unreasonable that I come onto a blog and want a discussion, not homework. This is a blog! I don’t think issue is about me, actually, at all.

    1) I am not frustrated (at this point) in the least

    I didn’t say you were. There’s still a point in what I did say.

    I am trying to evoke a real exchange, not win another argument.

    They are not unalterably opposed. It’s a bit like taking a sportsman-like approach to a game. One can simultaneously play hard just like winning was the only thing, but do so within the rules, with respect for your opponent, and also understanding that larger purpose of playing a game in the first place that has nothing to do with winning.

    There is a danger with that. I played on a softball team and we had great fun and played hard. But everyone once in a while someone might get carried away and forget that we were there just for fun, and take things too seriously. I acknowledge the danger here of arguing just to win the next point without regard for the larger purpose. I try not to do that.

    And, for the record, our experiences of God are not meant to convince you

    Then what was the ultimate purpose, in the context of this thread, for you to say

    What do you do with an experience such as that of Mr. Gilbreath, a friend of this blog?

    If everything you say about the Christian god is true, then you should be trying to convince me.

  61. Scott, forgive my interpretation of what you wrote. I don’t think my interpretation (about your emotional state) was unreasonable given what you wrote, but I accept your correction of it.

    If I may, I must also question your insistence that a decision to believe in God should always be made soberly, calmly, and deliberately. Sometimes a commitment to Christ is made that way but, in my experience, that is not often the case.

    I was talking about what *should* happen logically, and you go on to talk about what *does* happen. And that is why I suspect that what people are saying happens to them is not what is really happening.

    The larger issue, though, is that it is going to be difficult to really accept or deny your claims about your experience. How do we tease out whether you claim about it is right or wrong? Such an important question should not be taken lightly. I think SteveK’s approach would be to give you the benefit of the doubt, but I disagree with that.

    I don’t think I can see a way that we can come to a supportable conclusion about what happened to you. I know you certainly have your opinion, but there are all sorts of problems (that DL linked to above) that must be dealt with before *others*, at least, would come to the same conclusion as you did.

  62. Hi Paul,
    I’m going to step over, but not without mention, obviously, your self-congratulations and get right to this issue:

    Turnabout is fair play, though. Now we might question why you continue to question my intent and purpose. I can think of several unflattering and critical reasons why you might do this. But I don’t like what’s at the end of this whole path.

    Yes, do turn it about. I have examined my motivations and will clearly and honestly enunciate them for you.
    Why do I argue these issues? I like to demonstrate to non-believers who have accepted that disbelief is a mark of intellect that there is much reason, rationale, evidence and logic on the side of Christian belief. When the have misapprehensions of history or logic that I can clear up I like to do so. I hope to do some part to correct misconceptions out there and remove some of the stigma that I see wrongly attached to the intellect of the believer – this is in large part selfish and self-gratifying.
    I enjoy playing with words and I like defeating arguments.
    I have thoroughly enjoyed and am thankful to God for the learning experience, the epiphanies and the increase in my faith that has resulted from my investigations.
    I want other readers, especially young people, to see that the so-called defeaters for Christianity are nothing of the sort and that those, such as yourself, who claim logic, reason and science alone backstop their disbelief are mistaken. I think this is good for my faith, their faith and the disbeliever’s view of reality.
    I am morally obligated by my Creator and Father to give a defence of what I believe to be true and to share it.
    I am hopeful that God might work through this process to change the hearts of some of His elect who are not yet convicted. I am weak in ministry, to be sure, but perhaps God is using me in a small way here.

    Why do I specifically question your motivations? Because I doubt them specifically, do not find your actions to match your claims and hope that God is moving in your life.

    Different people may have different ways to the truth. Do I have to follow a reading list in order to have proper intent? Can’t I just talk with people? Especially if they present the arguments in those books!?

    It demonstrates your lack of motivation and indicates that you are not doing what you say.

    Do you really want to argue now, in this thread, the substance of the brain-in-the-vat issue, etc.? That’s where your points are leading, if I were to respond properly.

    We’ve argued it. I haven’t laid the groundwork for years and recorded our conversations because I want to do it again. You can go back to those threads if you like and amend your statements, as I have done for you in the past, and I will follow you there to comment.

    Maybe we don’t get to have absolute answers to ultiimate questions.

    You’re very confident about what can and cannot exist and how people’s experiences are best explained (away) and just what God should and shouldn’t do in a universe overwhelmingly unexplored, made up of, by current(?) guess, 95% unknown matter/energy, which may now be surrounded by a mysterious and unknown (unknowable?) dark force, which may or may not be uniform, of which we may or may not be at the centre, whose secrets we have yet to even begin to fathom by your methods, in which you cannot affirm any knowledge on your view, etc.. You see no disconnect?

    I acknowledge the danger here of arguing just to win the next point without regard for the larger purpose. I try not to do that.

    Sweet.

    Then what was the ultimate purpose, in the context of this thread, for you to say

    What do you do with an experience such as that of Mr. Gilbreath, a friend of this blog?

    Just what I said and asked in my very first question to you. No man can convince you. I was demonstrating that you will deny any and all experiences of God, that you are precommitted to doing so, and the very point that I make here again – that sharing them is not intended to convince you.

    If everything you say about the Christian god is true, then you should be trying to convince me.

    Not so. Again, you do not know what Christianity states. I am not the judge or prosecutor, but a witness. I can tell you what has happened to me, how God has acted in my life and how He has changed me. I can even try to answer your objections which are artificial and unnecessary stumbling blocks. But I can’t force you to remove them and only God can convince you. He is sovereign.

    And once again, I certainly do hope that people will come to believe as I do. Science demonstrates that they live longer, happier, healthier, more fulfilling lives, on average, have longer and better marriages, raise more emotionally secure children and see the world more clearly as it is.
    When I asked why you want people to join you in your relativistic view, where all the answers to the ultimate questions are ad hoc and where you have to deny all knowledge to avoid God, your only offering was that is “reality” – but you have admitted over and over no access to reality on your view.

    Then, of course, there is the heavenly reward, hoped for but not seen, of our eternal lives spent in worship, joy and the presence of our Lord, the Creator of the universe and of our very souls, for Whose purposes we were made. And there is the foretaste of living in accord with His will and the ultimate reality of our world.

    Most of the above should describe my motivation.
    Plus, I like being right. What can I say, I’m a sinner.

  63. Dear Mr. Gilbreath,
    Thank you for answering here. I read your testimony a couple of years ago, have shared it with friends and family, and take great encouragement from it.

    I am sorry for dragging you into this and I hope I have not exploited your experience.

    Thank you again for your witness.

  64. It demonstrates your lack of motivation and indicates that you are not doing what you say.

    Only if you imagine that your reading list is the only way to the truth. As I’ve thought about your comment, I realized that I *have* read from both sides on this debate, not just on this blog, and not just on blogs. Just because I haven’t read the books you have doesn’t mean that I haven’t read, and that my motivation is suspect.

    You see no disconnect?

    You see no word “maybe” in my statement? Does that show my absolute confidence? Furthermore, being vigorous in debate, and being consistent in debate (if you will grant me that in at least a few cases, for the sake of argument) doesn’t necessarily mean that one is taking an absolute position. I will be happy to potentially modify anything I’ve written to include a qualification or a lessening of an absolute stance, given a specific example.

    I was demonstrating that you will deny any and all experiences of God

    And why should you do that? You’re being disingenuous, I think. Of course our final purpose here is to convince each other, in the best sense of the word.

    But I can’t force you to remove them and only God can convince you. He is sovereign.

    Convincing isn’t forcing, especially if we have free will.

    your only offering was that is “reality” – but you have admitted over and over no access to reality on your view.

    Once again, you’ve offered a caricature of my position.

  65. Hi Paul,
    A caricature, you say?
    Let us check that and perhaps clarify or amend my take on your positions as it is relevant to the discussion you were having with Steve anyway.
    Do you accept that we canknow something even if we can not test and verify it empirically?
    Do you now affirm that you can know that you exist?
    Do you know that you are not a brain in a vat even though you can not test or verify it?
    Do you maintain that Popper’s claim was that we can know nothing and do you contend that this supports your epistemology?
    When you first tried, and failed, to prove that the laws of logic had to be empirically verified to be known you switched to saying that the laws were not known. Today, do you know that the Law Of Noncontradiction is true and holds?
    Can you know something that you cannot prove?

    Do tell, as there are several blog threads which could use an update if I have, indeed, been misrepresenting you.

  66. Paul,

    The larger issue, though, is that it is going to be difficult to really accept or deny your claims about your experience. How do we tease out whether you claim about it is right or wrong? Such an important question should not be taken lightly. I think SteveK’s approach would be to give you the benefit of the doubt, but I disagree with that.

    I do prefer to give Scott the benefit of doubt. I’d give a Hindu, an atheist and a Muslim the same benefit under similar circumstances. I don’t know them personally and I wasn’t there to experience what they experienced. Even if I was there, there is no guarantee that I would experience what was meant to be a subjective, but no less real, experience.

    What I find strange is the armchair quarterbacking from people that neither know Scott, nor were there to experience what he claims. My discussion with you was about knowing what you perceive. Epistemology. How you can know what Scott perceived better than Scott himself is baffling to me. Do you do this with other people – tell them what they *probably* did last week, and what they *probably* felt?

    You and I don’t have to believe Scott’s story – or any similar story – but for you and DL to say he *probably* really didn’t experience what he claimed – and here’s what he *probably* really was going through – is, as I said, baffling.

    How can you even say probably? Based on what, your opinion of how reality ought to present itself? OK, opinion noted, but I prefer to let reality come to me (us) and not straightjacket reality into being presented in some limited way.

    While there is but one reality that we all share, there is nothing that says it must be experienced in a certain way to all people. Only an a priori committment to materialism, or something similar, says it must be that way. But we know that a priori committment to be wrong.

    The key point to learn from all of this is that we should pay attention to our collective subjective experiences as much as our collective objective experiences. Reality might be trying to tell us something about Himself.

  67. Paul,

    I was talking about what *should* happen logically, and you go on to talk about what *does* happen. And that is why I suspect that what people are saying happens to them is not what is really happening.

    Regarding the first sentence, I take your point, but I do think, as I indicated in my previous comment, there is a potentially serious problem with limiting perception of God to the purely logical. Genuine conversion is always fundamentally an act of God, who can and does do as he wishes when he wishes. As I said, God engages all our faculties, not only or always our reason. If you are seeking some kind of ideal, purely logical, way of understanding conversion or other perceptions of God, I’m afraid you are bound to be disappointed.

    Regarding the second sentence, I don’t think I understand your point. In fact, it seems to me a non sequitur. What “really” happened to me is as I said. I awoke the morning of 6 June 1982 a convinced unbeliever (as I had been all my life) with some troubling questions about a picture I thought I had seen but apparently was never there. By the end of the day, through the events I described, I believed the gospel. As John Newton put it, “I was blind but now I see”. I guess I don’t see the point of debating what “really” happened.

    Tom started this thread in response to your question,

    Could you describe in positive terms what this direct perception of God or the Holy Spirit is like?

    Charlie cited my testimony in that context, as a description of a direct perception of God. And now you want to question what “really” happened because, I assume, you do not accept my presentation of what “really” happened. As I said earlier, “I can’t explain it, I can only describe what happened.”

    I hope that doesn’t sound too presumptuous. My testimony is what it is; as a record of historical events that happened to me, it can hardly be altered; it’s just there. Take it or leave it. I understand if you do the latter; as I said, I would have done just that myself.

    I don’t think I can see a way that we can come to a supportable conclusion about what happened to you.

    I agree with you there: “We” cannot come to a common conclusion, “supportable” or otherwise. You do not accept my interpretation of what happened to me, you apparently have another, contradictory interpretation. We’ll just have to agree to disagree.

    If I may, I’d like to say a bit more about my testimony as an example of a direct perception of God. With that in mind, I would say that seeing the picture of Jesus on the wall of Judy’s apartment was not my direct perception of God. I would say that happened later, when I was convicted of sin and brought to belief. Of course, as I said, God caused me to see his face there but, without any connection between that picture and my standing before God, it was just a puzzle, a head-scratcher, an intellectual problem. The Holy Spirit made that connection for me, at once completing and solving the puzzle.

    When the Scripture verse came to my mind and I was convicted of my sin—that was my direct perception of God. Without that, I would have been left scratching my head: the puzzle of the picture would never have been solved.

    True, the face that wasn’t there makes for a striking testimony but, by itself, it carries no lasting significance.

    Are you familiar with the story of the rich man and Lazarus that Jesus told in St Matthew’s Gospel? (If not, you can read it here.) At the end, Abraham says, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.” Spectacular “miracles” prove nothing to those who will not receive God’s message.

    I did not see this at the time, but now I understand my testimony in light of that teaching. By itself, seeing something that wasn’t there proved nothing; it was the message of God imparted to me by the Holy Spirit that was decisive. Without that, I would still be an unbeliever–a puzzled one, perhaps, but still an unbeliever.

  68. Charlie,

    In response to your comment here:

    First of all, please call me Scott. For the rest, no need for apologies. You have not exploited my experience. It’s been on the net for years and I have heard far worse criticisms of my intelligence, my motivation, my integrity, than appear on this thread. I enjoy engaging in civil discussions of my testimony and that, in my view, is what we have here. (Kudos to Tom for hosting and running such fine discussions.)

    I am glad you are encouraged by what happened to me. I look forward to meeting you face to face around the Lamb’s great banquet table.

  69. Steve,

    By checking beliefs, I don’t mean checking your belief that you experienced something. That was never in doubt. It was never really in doubt that Scott believes he saw a picture versus a mirror. The question is whether there actually was a picture versus a mirror.

    If there had been a picture versus a mirror, why was Scott the only one who noticed it? Does this normally happen to people? No. Does it normally happen to Scott? No. So why should Scott believe it himself? Isn’t it more likely that he saw a picture of Jesus in or on one of the books, and confused this with the mirror? Of course it is.

    The elephant in the room is that you think no belief or recollection is too far-fetched to doubt. And the only reason you believe this nonsense is to preserve your faith.

    Let’s put it in general terms. The laws of physics are highly predictive and reliable, and we all think it very foolish to bet against physics (e.g., jumping off a building and expecting to live). We think this because physical laws have been observed countless times. Suppose Alf sees phenomenon X just once. Phenomenon X violates the known laws of physics. Alf must believe he saw X, but should Alf believe X actually happened?

    This question is rationally answerable, and it’s not a matter of opinion. Alf needs to compare the probability that a person misinterprets sensory inputs or falsely remembers certain facts, with the probability that the laws in question would be broken. It’s very VERY simple.

    People misremember facts, selectively sample facts, have visual and auditory hallucinations, double-takes, deja vu, and many other failures of cognition and memory. This happens more commonly than laws of physics are violated. Do you deny this? Have you yourself never done a double-take or misremembered a fact?

    I would estimate that I mispercieve something or misremember something about once a month. Usually about small stuff. I misplace an item and have to search for it. Or maybe I think I’ve emailed a reply to a query, but actually only imagined what my reply would be. I’m not particularly absent minded, but these things happen.

    Furthermore, there are well documented cases in psychology in which subjects display denial, delusion, and false beliefs when those beliefs challenge their worldviews or when they are under emotional stress. Do you deny that psychology has documented these cases in a significant percentage of the population (e.g., say, >0.01%, and probably more than 5%)?

    What does this mean? It means that if I observe an event that violates known laws of physics (not just unusual applications of known laws), then I ought to be skeptical when those laws are known to better than about 1 part in 10000. At that point, I ought to suspect that I made a mistake. It happens, and there’s no need to feel bad about making a mistake. And this doesn’t mean I shouldn’t investigate the peculiarity further. Even if nothing bizarre happened, it would be interesting to know why I thought something did.

    But look at Scott’s case. He sees an event that violates reliable laws of physics. FAPP, transmogrification doesn’t happen. The event is so peculiar, it’s more likely he’s misremembered something, especially given the length of time between seeing the picture and seeing the mirror. So Scott needs to verify his belief. But when he asks Judy what happened, she doesn’t tell a transmogrification story. She tells a story about how there never was a picture. Her response is inconsistent with his experience. Moreover, this is a ONE-TIME event. It cannot be tested.*

    This is what I mean by testing and questioning your intuitions. If you have a belief that the picture became a mirror, how would you confirm it? Suppose this is a court case. What evidence would work if you were a juror trying to confirm your story? That’s what impartiality is about. It’s about being a juror to your own experiences, and not the defendant. You have to be your own juror. If you’re going to believe everything that you as defendant says, then you as jury are going to be extremely gullible. But because it’s a one-time event that leaves no trace, and all the physical evidence (about transmogrifying) is against you, you would be foolish to believe your memory was what it seemed to be.

  70. Break a leg, Paul.
    My hands are sore already anyway, and I have to play this weekend as well – slightly different venue, of course.

  71. Doctor Logic,

    I have stated that I saw a picture that wasn’t there—that God caused me to see it—so I don’t think there’s a question about what was “actually” there. Neither Judy nor Gord, who were both in the room at the time, saw the picture. In terms of physical reality, there was no picture. Nevertheless, I saw it. So, Judy’s response is not inconsistent with my experience. She did not see the picture, I did.

    Should I have questioned my perception? Of course, and I did. That’s why I was so puzzled. How could I have seen something that wasn’t there? But I couldn’t just shrug it off because I was utterly convinced that I had seen it. I took it for granted at the time I encountered it and was shaken to learn otherwise.

    Maybe I’m being picky, but talking about “a belief that the picture became a mirror”, to me, doesn’t fit the circumstances. The mirror did not “become” anything; I just didn’t see it there. Instead, I saw the picture that, in fact, was not there. The two did not even match, size-wise. The mirror was much larger—about two feet wide and four feet tall, while the picture was 8-by-10 inches.

    As I said, there is no issue of mistaken memory. In the days immediately following my conversion, I told the story to family, friends, and co-workers.

    Your analogy about a court case is, I think, misplaced. I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything. I am simply describing what happened to me. I don’t necessarily expect anyone to believe it. If it hadn’t happened to me, I wouldn’t have believed it.

  72. Scott,

    Regarding the first sentence, I take your point, but I do think, as I indicated in my previous comment, there is a potentially serious problem with limiting perception of God to the purely logical.

    What you mean is

    Regarding the first sentence, I take your point, but I do think, as I indicated in my previous comment, there is a potentially serious problem with limiting perception of God to the purely reasonable.

    As I said to Steve, it’s a question of the odds. If you see something that violates laws of physics that are reliable and confirmed by mountains of evidence, then you need statistical leverage to overcome those odds. But our own one-time experiences lack that leverage. You have to be your own impartial jury.

    Suppose I click my fingers, and the weather clouds up and starts to snow. The ability to control weather violates the laws of physics. It’s incredibly unlikely that my finger snap caused the snow. Perhaps it was coincidence, or I experienced a cognitive failure of some kind. Speaking as juror, I would not believe I caused the snow, even if I did. It would be irrational for anyone to believe I caused the snow, even if I did. However, if I did cause the snow, the truth can be rescued. I just need to do it again. And again. And again and again. At some point, the leverage of repetition and statistics overturns the original belief that weather is controlled (er, described) by the laws of physics instead of being controlled my will. But if it happens only once, there’s no way I can rationally be convinced that I was the cause of the snow.

    Your complaint is that, if we rely on rational thinking as above, then we can’t see a God who interacts with us at a level lower than rational thinking will deem worthy of belief. We can’t trust one-off events that lack confirmatory evidence. Well, whose problem is that? I think it’s God’s problem.

    Let me put it this way. Is it possible for God (or aliens, for that matter) to intervene visibly in the physical world, yet hide in the shadows to the point where you can’t rationally see him as accountable for the interventions? If so, there must be some ‘obscurity cutoff’ with respect to rational belief.

    I just read your latest reply in which you say:

    Your analogy about a court case is, I think, misplaced. I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything. I am simply describing what happened to me. I don’t necessarily expect anyone to believe it. If it hadn’t happened to me, I wouldn’t have believed it.

    Ah, but there is someone you need to convince. Yourself! You have to be your own juror. And here, you are saying that your impartial juror self does not believe the story either. Which is good, because you lack sufficient evidence to convince even yourself.

  73. DL,

    The elephant in the room is that you think no belief or recollection is too far-fetched to doubt. And the only reason you believe this nonsense is to preserve your faith.

    Not entirely true. I have plenty of doubts about my own experiences and the experiences of others. But what I know to be true, I know. I know that I’ve written comments on this blog today and I know that with absolute certainty – and, contra Paul, I don’t even have to go back to verify/confirm that I did in fact write other comments today.

    I even know some of the content, not verbatim, but I know it generally speaking. I’d be willing to die for that belief as silly as that may sound. The point is I know it to be true with utmost certainty – and all from memory.

    I also know that the law of physics is an observed physical phenomenon and that, all things being equal, it will continue as we know it. I know, from logic no less, that if all things cease to be equal, it may not continue as we know it. The only way I’d have reason to think such an event occured is through personal experience or the testimony of others. Maybe Scott’s experience is one of those times where things ceased being equal, if only for a moment.

    For me, the elephant in the room is that you hold the cognitive dissonant postion of BOTH fervently denying such an event DID occur – because the laws create reality rather than reflect it – and admitting that logically it CAN occur. You claim to know the odds of which one will occur, and when, but somehow I doubt it.

  74. Well, whose problem is that? I think it’s God’s problem.

    How so? He didn’t have any trouble convincing Scott, did he? I mean, where’s God’s actual problem here?

    Let me put it this way. Is it possible for God (or aliens, for that matter) to intervene visibly in the physical world, yet hide in the shadows to the point where you can’t rationally see him as accountable for the interventions? If so, there must be some ‘obscurity cutoff’ with respect to rational belief.

    I do wish you would read Warranted Christian Belief, doctor(logic). I said that a day or two ago and I’ll say it again. This time it’s because of that word “rational.” Plantinga explores what it means with respect to belief God, and convincingly shows that charges of irrationality are usually either too vague to have any real meaning, or if not that, then quite often the charges are simply wrong. Why is it irrational to believe in what one perceives, especially since, as in the case of Christianity, there is considerable supporting evidence? (But you must read Plantinga.)

    Ah, but there is someone you need to convince. Yourself! You have to be your own juror. And here, you are saying that your impartial juror self does not believe the story either. Which is good, because you lack sufficient evidence to convince even yourself.

    Huh? Is that what you said, Scott?

  75. The elephant in the room is that you think no belief or recollection is too far-fetched to doubt. And the only reason you believe this nonsense is to preserve your faith.

    Speaking of elephants, did you notice that Scott believed he saw that picture before he had a faith to preserve?

    Your conception of faith is awry here anyway. My faith is not a concoction of things I feel I must believe. My faith is that which I do believe; i.e., that which I actually consider to be true, well established, factual, etc. The reason I believe what I believe is not because I’m afraid I’ll lose my faith otherwise. My faith is what I believe.

  76. DL

    As I said to Steve, it’s a question of the odds. If you see something that violates laws of physics that are reliable and confirmed by mountains of evidence, then you need statistical leverage to overcome those odds. But our own one-time experiences lack that leverage.

    Telling me that statistics should dictate what I know to have experienced is one of the most ridiculous thing I have heard. I know what I experienced, but you can only use statistics as a guide to GUESS what I experienced. I could be mistaken about my experience, but I don’t know that I am. Neither do you know that I’m mistaken. Statistics don’t give you knowledge, they give you statistics.

  77. Doctor Logic,

    I do find it annoying when people put words in my mouth, as you did:

    Regarding the first sentence, I take your point, but I do think, as I indicated in my previous comment, there is a potentially serious problem with limiting perception of God to the purely logical.

    What you mean is
    Regarding the first sentence, I take your point, but I do think, as I indicated in my previous comment, there is a potentially serious problem with limiting perception of God to the purely reasonable.

    I used the word “logical” in response to Paul, who had said:

    I was talking about what *should* happen logically, and you go on to talk about what *does* happen. And that is why I suspect that what people are saying happens to them is not what is really happening.

    Did Paul use the wrong word when he said “logically”? In any case, please don’t put words in my mouth.

    As Tom suggested, this is nonsense:

    Ah, but there is someone you need to convince. Yourself! You have to be your own juror. And here, you are saying that your impartial juror self does not believe the story either. Which is good, because you lack sufficient evidence to convince even yourself.

    I said no such thing. I didn’t convince myself of anything: God convinced me.

    In an earlier comment, you said:

    But look at Scott’s case. He sees an event that violates reliable laws of physics. FAPP, transmogrification doesn’t happen.

    FAPP, for all practical purposes. That could be seen as a very apt phrase in this context. Would it help if you consider my testimony an impractical purpose?

    I’m sorry, but I think this is completely wrongheaded:

    Your complaint is that, if we rely on rational thinking as above, then we can’t see a God who interacts with us at a level lower than rational thinking will deem worthy of belief. We can’t trust one-off events that lack confirmatory evidence.

    To the best of my knowledge, I have made no complaints. Your use of the words “we” and “us” indicates, to me, a misunderstanding of the function of my testimony. It happened to me and me alone. I do not suggest anyone else can or should expect that or something similar to happen to them. I certainly do not suggest that my story can or should persuade anyone to believe in Christ.

    It was a one-time, non-generalisable, non-replicable event, and so cannot be confirmed or even analysed scientifically. It was offered as a description of a direct perception of God, not as a scientific experiment or thought problem or even an exercise in Christian apologetics. To treat it as such is, in my view, a category mistake.

    I’m sure it must be frustrating for a skeptic to try to get one’s head around it, so to speak. I sympathise—I’ve been there—but my testimony stands.

  78. Steve,

    Telling me that statistics should dictate what I know to have experienced is one of the most ridiculous thing I have heard.

    I’m not saying the statistics change your experience. In fact, I would agree that it is impossible for that to happen. What it changes are the beliefs stemming from those experiences. Do you see the distinction?

    If I look outside and see Bigfoot in my back yard, my experience is unassailable. I saw something that looked like Bigfoot in my back yard. It is a fact that has to be explained. But the theory that Bigfoot was actually in my backyard is just one theory of many.

    The Christians here are describing one-time, unrepeatable experiences, and then saying that they derived (unverifiable) beliefs from those experiences. That’s not rational for the reasons I have described because other reasons for those experiences are more likely.

  79. Scott, a question for you if you don’t mind. Did you derive your beliefs completely (as doctorlogic suggests) from a one-time, unrepeatable experience? Did you derive (unverifiable) beliefs from just that experience?

  80. Scott,

    Ah, but there is someone you need to convince. Yourself! You have to be your own juror. And here, you are saying that your impartial juror self does not believe the story either. Which is good, because you lack sufficient evidence to convince even yourself.

    I said no such thing. I didn’t convince myself of anything: God convinced me.

    Sigh. God didn’t convince you. That’s your conclusion, not the process. You’re making a circular argument.

    Besides I was talking about what you ought to do. Here’s what you wrote:

    Your analogy about a court case is, I think, misplaced. I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything. I am simply describing what happened to me. I don’t necessarily expect anyone to believe it. If it hadn’t happened to me, I wouldn’t have believed it.

    You are admitting here that if someone else told you this story, you would not believe it. Why? It’s not because you think they’re lying. You would still find the witness unreliable even if he passed a lie-detector test. It’s because the likelihood that they were mistaken is greater than the likelihood that they were telling the truth (because that would entail violations of the laws of physics).

    So why are you so special? Why are you skeptical of others experiences and not your own?

    As I just explained to Steve, I’m not saying you should doubt your experiences. A rational man should not doubt his experiences qua experiences. What he should doubt is the belief he infers from his experiences.

    You had some experience of remembering a photo where others deny it being. I’m confident you experienced this. That doesn’t make your inference a valid one. You are first assuming that a God exists with the ability to appeal to you through one-time unverifiable events, and you are using this to “explain” a one-time unverifiable event. It’s a trap of logic. Suppose God did not exist, and all there is is physics. Is it impossible for you to have the experiences you had? No, it’s not impossible. But you persist in inferring from your experience that God is talking to you. Why would you do that?

    Here’s an analogy. Suppose I go to start my car, and it fails to start. I go back to the trunk to find a flare, and discover yesterday’s newspaper. I remove the paper and flare, and give the engine one more turn. It starts. Should I conclude that the newspaper was preventing my engine from starting, but only this once (i.e., newspapers will not prevent cars from starting in the future)? No. Why? Because the same event could occur even if the newspaper was not the cause of the engine behavior.

    However, if newspapers were reliably affecting engines, we could confirm it through scientific testing. But that’s not what you’re saying. You’re saying God did what he did, uniquely, just this one time. Why is that supposed to be reasonable?

  81. What it changes are the beliefs stemming from those experiences. Do you see the distinction?

    I do see it. You are saying statistics are used to change the belief I have about my believed experiences. Okay, but I have beliefs stemming from my experience with statistics.

    I believe statistics can tell me something about reality but that’s just an intuitive belief that must be confirmed. I might be mistaken about that intuitive belief. According to you and Paul, I really don’t know that it can tell me anything. I must confirm that it can, and what, if anything, it can tell me about my experiences.

    So, what do I use to change the belief I have about my believed experience with respect to statistics?

  82. One more thing…

    I also have beliefs stemming from confirming experiences. My intuitive belief is that I know what a confirming experience actually is, and that the experience can tell me something about reality. I could be wrong about all of that. What do I use to change the belief I have about my believed experience with respect to confirmations?

  83. Tom,

    As a child, my parents gave me many kids’ books, including a few with Bible stories, but I don’t remember my parents ever reading to me from them. As I learned to read, I read them on my own. My parents never taught me anything in particular about religion and, as I grew, I soon came to know that they had no religious beliefs and did not consider religion important or worth knowing about or talking about. But I had a kids’ book or two to read.

    I also remember when I was in Grade 5, every student in the grade was given a New Testament and Psalms from the Gideons. That was a long time ago, it must have been 1959. I remember leafing through it and reading snippets, but it made no particular impression on me.

    Oh yes (and this is probably totally irrelevant), when I was 17, I briefly dated a girl who was a Christian. Infatuated with her, I attended a few meetings of a Christian youth group she belonged to, but I never fit in. They talked about stuff I didn’t understand or believe, and I wasn’t interested in the music and books that they liked. Also, the leaders, two young men in their early 20s, acted as if they detested me and my relationship with the girl. (Or maybe I was just paranoid.) Anyway, she tried to witness to me on a couple of occasions, but I wasn’t interested. She invited me to attend church with her; I hemmed and hawed, not wanting to offend her, but I finally refused to go. The relationship soon ended acrimoniously.

    As I grew to adulthood, I came in contact with Christians who talked about Jesus and his death on the cross, supposedly for my sake, but I never understood that.

    As I said in my testimony, at the time of my conversion, a Bible verse came to my mind, a verse that I had heard or read as a child. I don’t remember exactly when I’d heard it, but I recognised it as such. I also remember understanding it instantly, whereas before I had not. I also understood Christ’s death for my sake, for my sins.

    So, the things I believed at my conversion were not new or novel to me. I had been aware of them as Christian ideas or teaching in some vague sense away in my past, but I had never before grasped their significance to me personally. But those ideas hadn’t entered my mind for many years. I had never considered them seriously or even wondered about them.

  84. Doctor Logic,

    Sigh. God didn’t convince you. That’s your conclusion, not the process. You’re making a circular argument.

    Sorry if you find me exasperating, that’s not my intention.

    I guess I don’t understand this conclusion-vs-process thing. What process? I saw a picture. Later, I was told there was no picture. It didn’t make sense until I was convicted of my sin and brought to faith.

    The picture was like any object one perceives through sight. I entered the room, I looked around, I saw a bookcase/entertainment unit, I saw the picture and looked right at it, I looked around some more, I saw books, chairs, a couch, tables, windows, curtains, etc. I saw Judy and Gord. These were all sensory impressions that appeared to me equally real. Later, however, I found that one of them was not.

    And I maintain that God did convince me. I’m not making any kind of argument, I am merely recounting what happened to me. It’s a record of events, not an argument—in the sense of a reasoned or logical series of sequential statements intended to persuade. Perhaps you are using “argument” in some other sense?

    So why are you so special? Why are you skeptical of others experiences and not your own?

    My experience is special (to me, anyway) because it happened to me. I am (sometimes, but not always) skeptical of others’ experiences because I did not experience them.

    What he should doubt is the belief he infers from his experiences.

    I didn’t infer anything. As I wrote earlier in this thread,

    the Holy Spirit informed me (I say “informed” advisedly in that he conveyed information to me but, no, he did not speak in an audible voice) that I was a rebellious sinner before God and that God had caused me to see something that wasn’t there to make me aware of that fundamental fact which I had managed to avoid facing all my life.

    This knowledge was given to me, I did not infer it. It made sense to me, I accepted it immediately, but it was not a product of my own reasoning process.

    You’re saying God did what he did, uniquely, just this one time. Why is that supposed to be reasonable?

    My testimony is a description of events that happened to me. You don’t have to find it reasonable. I have no problem if you don’t.

  85. I thought the above was interesting, especially since it describes quite accurately a few ‘peak experiences’ I’ve had after meditation and yoga, one of which lasted for around 3 months (the first one was only for about 3-4 days), as well as a handful of shorter term minor experiences.

  86. Scott,

    This knowledge was given to me, I did not infer it. It made sense to me, I accepted it immediately, but it was not a product of my own reasoning process.

    I am confused. You seem to have several beliefs:

    1) You saw a picture and then didn’t see it, and your friends claimed the picture did not initially exist. (This I stipulate as certainly true.)

    2) The picture actually did exist when you initially saw it.

    3) God exists.

    4) God created the picture in (2).

    My question is about the connections between these beliefs.

    It makes some sense to infer (2) from (1). We normally infer the existence of things we see at the time we see them. Maybe someone later hid the photo or forgot they had posted it. It’s also possible such an inference would be mistaken, e.g., if you confused memories of two different incidents (e.g., seeing that picture in someone else’s home).

    However, you are saying there was no inference in this process. You are saying that you did not infer (3) and (4) from (1) and (2). If this is true, then why are (1) and (2) even relevant to your belief?

    Implicitly, you’re saying that (1) and (2) could have happened without (3) and (4). We know that (2) is far from certain, and (1) could just as easily have happened without (2), (3) and (4).

    You say

    This knowledge was given to me…

    I will remind you that you have belief and not knowledge. Knowledge must be justified, and you don’t have justification.

    Returning to Paul’s question… the feelings you describe appear to be a reaction to the belief. You didn’t break down and cry as part of the sensus divinitatis, but as a consequence of it. Is that right?

  87. Doctor Logic,

    We seem to be quibbling about words again. A few comments ago, you said I wrote “logically” in error; I should have said “reasonable”. Now you object to my use of the word “knowledge”, maintaining I should have said “belief”.

    Well, sorry, but I do not accept your correction. My Collins English Dictionary (1st Canadian edition) has as the first of its five definitions of “knowledge”: “the facts or experiences known to a person or group of people”. Works for me.

    Now to your four-point analytical framework:

    Point 1 I’ll pass over because there seems to be no disagreement on that.

    2) The picture actually did exist when you initially saw it.

    I think we need to be as clear as possible about what “actually did exist” means here. The picture existed in my mind, but not in physical reality. When I first saw it, on 30 April 1982, I took for granted that it did physically exist where I saw it. It was as real to me as any piece of furniture in the apartment. On 5 June, Judy informed that it had never been there, physically. From her demeanour and reaction to my question (as described in my testimony), “So, what happened to the picture of Jesus that was there before?”, I believed her when she said no picture had ever been on that wall.

    I immediately concluded that, on 30 April, I had seen something that did not physically exist. My eyes had deceived me—I had experienced a visual hallucination that appeared undeniably real to me—and I didn’t understand how that could have happened. That was the dilemma.

    3) God exists.

    There’s more to it than that: On the evening of 6 June, I came to believe that the gospel is true: Jesus Christ, God’s son, lived on earth as a man, died, and rose again to take away my sins; he still lives today; and he wants me to know that. He cares about me even though I had never cared about him. If that is understood as encapsulated in “God exists”, that’s fine by me, although I would prefer to state it as “3) The gospel is true”.

    4) God created the picture in (2).

    Yes, God somehow caused me to perceive the picture as I described above under point 2.

    However, you are saying there was no inference in this process. You are saying that you did not infer (3) and (4) from (1) and (2). If this is true, then why are (1) and (2) even relevant to your belief?

    True: I did not infer (3) and (4) from (1) and (2). Now that I have come to believe (3) and (4), (1) and (2) don’t really matter any more. Indeed, I would go further and say (4) is not a key belief, either. (3) was the point all along. That was what God wanted me to know as essential. (4) is a demonstration to me of God’s power, but it was merely his means to get to (3). The rest, as I said earlier in this thread, was a 2-by-4 across the back of my head. It’s as if God was saying to me: “LISTEN UP, GILBREATH!”

    Implicitly, you’re saying that (1) and (2) could have happened without (3) and (4). We know that (2) is far from certain, and (1) could just as easily have happened without (2), (3) and (4).

    Could have, but didn’t.

    In fact, (1) could have happened—or, at least, the first part “You saw a picture” that wasn’t physically there—and I never would known but for an unlikely series of events. For me to find out that the picture I had seen was never physically there, these had to happen soon enough after 30 April that I didn’t forget all about Judy: (i) I had to be interested in asking her for a date, which I initially was not; (ii) She had be interested in dating me, which she initially was not; (iii) After our first date on 4 June, I had to want to go out with her again, the sooner the better; (iv) After our first date on 4 June, she had want to go out with me again, the sooner the better. If any of those conditions failed to obtain—if, for any reason, I didn’t get back inside Judy’s apartment and ask her about the picture—I never would have found out about that it had never been on her wall.

    Finally, regarding Paul’s question: Yes, I broke down as a consequence of what I had been given to believe. I felt guilt, shame, and remorse as a result of learning those things, and I cried.

  88. Charlie, I’m going to respond to the first of your questions above, and I invite you to work through that single issue with me before going onto the others.

    Do you accept that we canknow something even if we can not test and verify it empirically?

    Yes and no. Yes in the more causal, everyday sense with subjective, internal things such as qualia, etc.

    However, I would say we can’t know anything *absolutely* in an ultimate sense because of the danger of not knowing what we don’t know, because if there is something that we don’t know, we don’t know if that would change what we think we know. Whew, I hope you can understand that sentence. This would apply to even such elemental things as the Law of Non-Contradiction. It would even apply to this idea itself. We would be skeptical about skepticism, and then skeptical about our skepticism of skepticism, etc., etc., etc. But this is only in the largest, most absolute sense. For anything short of that, we cannot even have a conversation with the Law of Non-Contradiction, so we can accept it as true even if the pilings that support it don’t go all the way down into bedrock.

  89. Hi Paul,
    Good concert?

    Sorry, your answer does not clarify whether or not I have been, as you repeatedly charge, misrepresenting you and creating a strawman of your positions.

    “Yes and no” is not much help. What is the difference between ultimate knowledge and everyday knowledge? Is one knowledge and the other not, or are they both knowledge?
    Can you only know internal subjective things like qualia with your so-called everyday knowledge or can you know other things as well?

    You again confirm here that we cannot know that the Law Of Noncontradiction holds. This means you say we do not know that A cannot also be not A and that a proposition and its opposite cannot be both true. This means we can have no knowledge whatsoever. Do you agree with this or not?

    Since you accused me of misrepresenting you I’d rather hope you do not dwell too long on one aspect only of your point but confirm or deny the positions you’ve taken previously and to which I have provided links.

  90. Sorry, your answer does not clarify whether or not I have been, as you repeatedly charge, misrepresenting you and creating a strawman of your positions.

    Here’s the straw man, then.

    Worse, the positions you take force you to deny all basis for apprehending reality. You have no access to reality. You are a brain in a vat.

    This caricature of my position does so by stating my position in absolute terms, when it is not an absolute position, in the sense that my position distinguishes between ultimate and everyday senses of the knowledge. I certainly don’t live my life as if I’m a brain in a vat even though I can not, in the most ultimate terms, prove that I am not. That does not say that I believe that I am a brain in a vat, and is thus contrary to your caricature.

    So, for some purposes, it is OK to assume the everyday sense of knowledge and truth, even though they do not hold for the most ultimate terms. And for those most ultimate terms, I am a skeptic.

  91. Hi Paul,
    Whether or not you can live a life consistent with your beliefs is not really the point, I don’t think – at least for the purposes of this conversation – even though it’s certainly a serious mark against them.
    The point is, if you don’t know you aren’t a brain in a vat you don’t know if you have any apprehension of reality.
    That’s what I say above and that’s what I still contend. Show me how it is a strawman and not the honest result of your view.
    Just because Richard Dawkins acts, on a day to day basis, as though he has free will doesn’t mean he thinks he does, or that he does in actuality. Just because Ruse acts as though his consciousness is real and not an illusion on a day to day basis doesn’t mean it is real. And just because you act as though you know things, and you hate having it pointed out that you have claimed otherwise, doesn’t mean that you’ve erased the fact that you can’t know, by your claims, that you are not a brain in a vat.
    Or are you now claiming that you can have knowledge without absolute certainty?
    Steve will rather enjoy hearing that, I think.
    Please, let me know for real what your position is.

  92. Show me how it is a strawman and not the honest result of your view.

    You wrote, at 11:48 pm, 4 December, 2008 р.

    Worse, the positions you take force you to deny all basis for apprehending reality. You have no access to reality. You are a brain in a vat.

    You are saying, directly above, that my position is that I am a brain in a vat. My position, however, is that I don’t think there is a way to show that I am not a brain in a vat. *Huge* difference.

    That’s the caricature and the straw man.

  93. Scott,

    Well, sorry, but I do not accept your correction. My Collins English Dictionary (1st Canadian edition) has as the first of its five definitions of “knowledge”: “the facts or experiences known to a person or group of people”. Works for me.

    You’re thinking in a circle. You’re saying knowledge is what you know. But what does it mean to know versus believe?

    A belief isn’t knowledge just because it’s true. A person can have a belief that turns out to be true by accident. So belief and knowledge are different. That’s why knowledge is considered “justified true belief”, or something along those lines. In other words, knowledge requires rational justification – it requires reasons to believe that fit in with one’s other knowledge. You lack rational justification for your belief. You have unjustified belief.

    For me to find out that the picture I had seen was never physically there, these had to happen between 30 April and 5 June: (i) I had to be interested in asking Judy for a date, which I initially was not; (ii) She had be interested in dating me, which she initially was not; (iii) After our first date on 4 June, I had to want to go out with her again, the sooner the better; (iv) After our first date on 4 June, she had want to go out with me again, the sooner the better. If any of those conditions failed to obtain, I never would have found out about the picture.

    Do you play poker?

    Suppose I shuffle the cards and deal you 5 cards. You get Ace of spades, 3 of diamonds, 5 of diamonds, Jack of clubs and 7 of hearts. What are the odds of drawing these cards in this order? About 311 million to 1, IIRC. Would you fall out of your chair in shock at getting such a rare combination of cards?

    I expect you would not, because every permutation of cards is equally rare, and if you shuffle a deck randomly, the top 5 cards are going to be one of these rare permutations.

    Now suppose that later in the evening, we’re playing 5 card draw. I deal you 3, 4, 5, 6, Jack in mixed suits. You elect to draw a card to replace the Jack in the hopes of completing your straight (you need a 2 or 7 in any suit). You draw a 2 of spades. What are the odds of getting these particular starting cards (not just the partial straight, but these cards in this order and suit), and what are the odds of drawing the 2 of spades to fill out the straight?

    Well, the odds of drawing exactly what you started with in that order is 311 million to one. Then, the odds of drawing that 2 of spades is around 1 in 47. Combined that’s 14.6 billion to 1. So why did you even TRY to complete the inside straight? The odds were hopeless, no?

    No, the odds were not hopeless. They were not hopeless because the odds of drawing the initial hand in its initial order are irrelevant. What matters is the odds of filling out the straight, which is 8 in 47 (you don’t care which end of the straight you fill out, nor with which suit).

    Your argument here is to point out how unlikely it was for certain specific but irrelevant events to have transpired. But what is the analogue of completing the straight in your case? The analogue is going to a particular location for a second time. That’s not a rare event for anyone.

    What I am saying is that we can always point to any situation and find something rare and unusual about it. History is like that, but we can’t go assigning arbitrary significance to randomness. That’s a cognitive bias that has been proven to be untrustworthy.

    It doesn’t really matter if you further constrain the relevant details of the case because you’re sampling selectively. This is bad!

    Suppose this event occurred at the car service facility. You thought there was a calendar featuring topless girls on the wall, but on your second visit, you see a calendar featuring sports cars. The proprietor says there never was a topless girls calendar. In this case, since car service is of no personal significance to you, you put the initial memory of the topless calendar down to error. You probably saw the topless calendar down at the boxing gym, or in a friend’s garage. It’s a scientific fact that this kind of thing happens to everyone because we’re all human and have imperfect memories.

    The difference in this case is that you made this error at a time and place of great significance to you. You made this error when you were anxiously courting a girl who claimed she would only date Christians, and the picture in question was a religious symbol. It’s not as if you’ve never seen a picture of Jesus before this event. I quite expect you did see that picture Jesus, but somewhere else.

    I realize you’re not trying to persuade me. But I am saying you don’t have the evidence to persuade yourself rationally. You are being irrational in your belief. You may not care about that either, but that’s the conclusion that’s relevant to the debate here. You don’t have reasons to believe. You just have belief. There’s a difference.

  94. Paul,

    You are saying, directly above, that my position is that I am a brain in a vat. My position, however, is that I don’t think there is a way to show that I am not a brain in a vat. *Huge* difference.

    I agree. But we can go further. What does it mean to be a brain in a vat? It means the world isn’t “real”. But what is the definition of real? Real means consistent with past and future experience. Reality is defined in terms of experience. If experience is a dream, then reality IS the dream. We would have no basis to talk about what isn’t the dream.

  95. Doctor Logic,

    I’m not trained in philosophy, logic, or epistemology, so your distinctions between “knowledge” and “belief” are, I’m sorry to say, not that interesting to me. I quoted my dictionary’s definition, and you accuse me “thinking in a circle”. You insist that

    knowledge is considered “justified true belief”, or something along those lines

    Unfortunately, none of the six definitions of “knowledge” in my dictionary says anything like that.

    I understand your poker analogy. (By the by, you wrote “inside straight”, but it was really an outside straight.) That a series of unlikely events transpired after I saw the picture on 30 April doesn’t prove anything.

    Your argument here is to point out how unlikely it was for certain specific but irrelevant events to have transpired.

    Again, I don’t understand your use of the word “argument”. I made no argument, I was not trying to persuade you of anything, I was just mentioning some of the possibilities inherent in the events recounted in my testimony.

    The difference in this case is that you made this error at a time and place of great significance to you.

    At the time the error occurred, there was no significance at all. When I saw the picture that later proved not to be there, I was looking for an apartment to rent. I just wanted to take a walk-through to decide if I might want to live in a similar apartment elsewhere in the building. I did that, then left; I doubt I spent more than ten minutes in Judy’s place. I had never met and had no interest in the young woman who lived there, I did even not know she was a Christian, I did not know that her brother who had brought me there was a Christian. It was because I saw the picture that I first became aware that she was a Christian. That was the first personal fact I learned about her, beyond that she was Gord’s sister.

    You made this error when you were anxiously courting a girl who claimed she would only date Christians, and the picture in question was a religious symbol.

    No, I made the error before it ever occurred to me that I might even want to date her. When I walked into Judy’s apartment on 30 April, I had no anxiety about anything related to her. Also, as I stated in my testimony, I did not find out that she was unwilling to date Christians until after my conversion on 6 June.

    It’s not as if you’ve never seen a picture of Jesus before this event. I quite expect you did see that picture Jesus, but somewhere else.

    Let me repeat here some of what I wrote in my testimony with some words emphasised:

    The picture had no identification on it but I, an unbeliever, immediately recognised it as a portrait of Jesus. I had never seen a likeness exactly like that one, and I was impressed by its quality; in fact, it was remarkably beautiful. He had long flowing brown hair, a beard, and a soft light from behind that created a subtle halo effect. In his face I saw peacefulness and intelligence and strength of character. But the most striking thing about the picture was his eyes–clear, piercing, grey eyes. The face was so life-like and attractive that I stared right at it.

    Yes, I had seen pictures of Jesus before, many pictures—but not that one. I had never seen it before and I have never seen it since.

    At the time, beyond its striking attractiveness, it carried no special significance for me because I did not believe that Jesus was a special person. I was not even persuaded that such a man had ever existed as a historical figure. I did not believe in the supernatural, so I certainly did not believe in divine intervention. As for the picture being “a religious symbol”, the only thing it symbolised to me was the woman who lived there apparently subscribed to beliefs that I considered, to be blunt, foolish and ridiculous. Any religious import of the person in the picture meant nothing to me and did not affect my perception of the picture.

    Suppose this event occurred at the car service facility. You thought there was a calendar featuring topless girls on the wall, but on your second visit, you see a calendar featuring sports cars. The proprietor says there never was a topless girls calendar. In this case, since car service is of no personal significance to you, you put the initial memory of the topless calendar down to error. You probably saw the topless calendar down at the boxing gym, or in a friend’s garage. It’s a scientific fact that this kind of thing happens to everyone because we’re all human and have imperfect memories.

    If it were just a run-of-the-mill topless calendar, sure. If, however, there had been something unusual or memorable about the topless calendar, say, the girl I had seen had a gross disfigurement, say, one of her breasts was three times as large as the other, causing me to take a good long look at her, then I would have cause to remember seeing the calendar there and perhaps even to ask where it had gone were I to return and see something else in its place.

    The picture of Jesus was so attractive and beautiful that I noticed and remembered specific details about it.

    Your talk about me persuading myself is, to me, nonsensical. I did not persuade myself of anything. I also accept that, to you—indeed, to every person in the world except me—my testimony is irrational. That seems to me unavoidable by the very nature of what I have testified to: a supernatural occurrence in apparent violation of the laws of nature. It’s illogical, it’s unreasonable, it violates every tenet of sound thinking, some would even consider it insane. Of course, I don’t like to be thought of as illogical, etc., but, with respect to the events that I have recounted, it’s unavoidable.

  96. Scott,

    You had an experience that many other people have, specifically, you remembered something the way it wasn’t. After a short while, you spontaneously believed in the gospels. But beyond this, you don’t question your belief at all, nor do you supply any arguments to support your belief. So, yes, that’s irrational.

    Suppose I strike it big in the casino. After a few hours, I spontaneously come to believe that my race is factually superior to all others. I neither try to falsify my belief, nor provide rational arguments for it. This belief becomes life-changing because I consequently devote my life to ensuring that my race reaches its rightful place of dominion over other races by any means possible.

    By your standards, my actions would be commendable because I would be following my gut.

    Your view is rather postmodern. Logic and consistency don’t matter to you where facts are concerned.

    Fred thinks 1+1=7? He came to believe it spontaneously, so we should leave it at that. We might think he’s nuts, but Fred had no choice but to ignore rational thinking and change his belief. Or did he have a choice?

    Bob believes the Holocaust never happened. But it’s all okay… the belief came to Bob in a flash, so Bob is exempt from reflection, evidence, logic or challenging his bias. Is he exempt?

    By now you get my drift. If you knew the difference between belief and knowledge, between fact and opinion, you would seek the truth by casting off your spontaneous and irrational belief in favor of rational analysis. At least Tom, Charlie, and Steve want to obtain beliefs rationally, even if we don’t agree on whether they are succeeding.

  97. Hi Paul,
    I get you now. The strawman, the caricature of your position, was in my obviously rhetorical statement.
    You quoted me:

    Worse, the positions you take force you to deny all basis for apprehending reality.

    Still true.

    You have no access to reality.

    The logical result of your position.

    You are a brain in a vat.

    Not true. My apologies. I would have thought it apparent that I don’t actually think you are, nor is anybody else, actually a brain in a vat. I don’t think there is such a thing.
    I don’t even think you think that you are a brain in a vat.

    Of course my real take on your position, as offered by you, linked by me, and as subsequently stated, is this:

    Ultimately, your epistemology and denial of God has you unable to say you know you are not a brain in a vat, unable to affirm your profession, and unable to even agree, beyond saying “it sure seems like I must” , that you can know that you exist.
    And yet, with this as your epistemological position you are trying to convince others of your take on reality,

    The point is, if you don’t know you aren’t a brain in a vat you don’t know if you have any apprehension of reality.
    That’s what I say above and that’s what I still contend. Show me how it is a strawman and not the honest result of your view.

    So, is this a strawman?

    And, as I asked in that comment:

    Or are you now claiming that you can have knowledge without absolute certainty?
    Steve will rather enjoy hearing that, I think.
    Please, let me know for real what your position is.

    You left some questions on the table before to tell me “yes and no” (we can/cannot have knowledge which is not verified and empirically tested) but have not answered the follow-ups nor clarified if the knowledge indicated by “yes” is actually knowledge.
    Would you care to do so?
    Or is the only strawman and misrepresentation the flourish I committed by implying that, in reality, you are a brain in a vat?

  98. Sorry I didn’t take your statement rhetorically, Charlie. That’s what caused at least some of my caricature complaint.

    But for the time being, let’s be very careful and specific and not rhetorical, because I think we still have some very tricky issues to work through. Forgive me if I start the ball rolling by looking carefully at what you’ve already said.

    You quoted me:

    Worse, the positions you take force you to deny all basis for apprehending reality.

    Still true.

    I take issue with the word “all.” I can apprehend reality enough to function day to day (the pilings are driven down into the swamp deeply enough), if not to provide absolute, rigorous philosophical proof of reality.

    Ultimately, your epistemology and denial of God has you unable to say you know you are not a brain in a vat

    Correct.

    unable to affirm your profession

    What’s the context for this one? What does it mean?

    , and unable to even agree, beyond saying “it sure seems like I must” , that you can know that you exist.

    Do you mean in ultimate terms, or in everyday terms?

    And yet, with this as your epistemological position you are trying to convince others of your take on reality,

    Guilty as charged. I will follow logic and evidence wherever they lead, as best I can.

    The point is, if you don’t know you aren’t a brain in a vat you don’t know if you have any apprehension of reality.See DL’s comment above. The brain in the vat thing is actually meaningless, because there’s no way we could ever tell if we were or if we weren’t.

  99. Hi Paul,
    Thanks for trying to work through this.

    Sorry I didn’t take your statement rhetorically, Charlie. That’s what caused at least some of my caricature complaint.

    I accept your claim to have believed that I thought you were a brain in a vat.

    Your last sentence undercuts all of the attempts you make in the first half of your post, your distinctions between “everyday” and “ultimate” so I will (mostly) ignore the first half and jump to the end.

    The brain in the vat thing is actually meaningless, because there’s no way we could ever tell if we were or if we weren’t.

    It is not meaningless. If you do not know that you are not a brian in a vat then you don’t know if your experiences are of reality. If you are a brain in a vat you are not describing reality at all when you talk of observations, evidences and even logic. If you don’t know that you are not such a brain you don’t know if anything you say about reality is true – you don’t know anything.
    You don’t know anything about functioning day to day if you are a brain in a vat and this claim, in fact, is what would be meaningless.

    The same holds true with regard to your position on the LNC.

    Guilty as charged. I will follow logic and evidence wherever they lead, as best I can.

    More double-jointed back-patting, but logic and evidence have destroyed the very basis for your position. And this is the position you want to convince others to accept.

  100. DL says belief must be justified before it can become knowledge. He also says we can’t be our own judge and jury in these matters.

    Paul, how would you respond to DL here – what is the justification for your belief that you are not a brain in a vat?

  101. I accept with Plantinga that knowledge is justified true belief.
    I agree with him as well that direct experience can be such a justification.

  102. Steve,

    DL says belief must be justified before it can become knowledge. He also says we can’t be our own judge and jury in these matters.

    That’s not what I said. What I said was that we ought to be more like impartial jurors in our own thinking.

    Suppose a jury listens to a witness’s testimony while the witness is connected to a lie detector. The lie detector can tell when the witness is outright lying, but cannot detect cases where the witness is lying to himself or misremembering. Even give this setup, the jury will no believe everything the witness says, right?

    Even if the witness remembers experiencing a thing, and the jury knows the witness remembers that experience, the jury may still not believe the witness. There will be cases in which the claim of the witness is so preposterous or in which the claim is in conflict with so many facts that it is more likely the witness has made an error than that his claim is true.

    Consequently, if I believe that an impartial jury with a lie detector would not believe my experience were true, then I ought not believe it either! To do otherwise is to pretend that I’m not human, that bias (or gravity, for that matter) doesn’t apply to me.

    Christians here will complain that this prevents us from accepting miracles that we ourselves witness. Well, gee, that’s too bad, but that’s what being rational requires of us. If God really wanted to communicate with us rational folk, he needs to act with regularity and without being so capricious.

  103. Charlie, I mean that, if you assume with me for the sake of argument that it is impossible to tell if we are brains in vats, it therefore becomes meaningless because *everything* would be exactly the same whether we are or are not. If everything wasn’t exactly the same, we could tell the difference, and it wouldn’t be impossible. But if it is impossible, we can’t tell the difference, so it’s meaningless.

    Admittedly, you have to assume that it’s impossible for the sake of argument, but at least that gets our disagreement down to “Is it impossible, or is it possible, to tell the difference if we are brains in vats or not.”

  104. Charlie, I’m saying something pretty similar to what DL said earlier about Scott’s experience:

    Imagining what experiences would be different if the claim were false. If there’s nothing that would be different then the belief is not justifiable, and probably meaningless.

  105. SteveK said:

    Paul, how would you respond to DL here – what is the justification for your belief that you are not a brain in a vat?

    As I said above, I believe that I can’t tell for sure whether I am a brain in a vat or not, so I don’t know what to do with your question, but, in general, I agree with what DL is saying in this thread.

  106. Dl said:

    If God really wanted to communicate with us rational folk, he needs to act with regularity and without being so capricious.

    DL, I’d say it like this: If God really wanted to communicate with Scott in a reasonable manner, and in a manner that a communication about a serious subject like belief in God reasonably requires, he would have at the very least (but not limited to) *personally* (not through others) had a conversation with Scott. I mean “reasonable” in the regular (human) sense of the word.

  107. DL:

    Consequently, if I believe that an impartial jury with a lie detector would not believe my experience were true, then I ought not believe it either! To do otherwise is to pretend that I’m not human, that bias (or gravity, for that matter) doesn’t apply to me.

    Can a man know if *he* murdered his wife, or not, before going to trial? Are you saying the rational thing for him to do is wait to hear what an impartial jury says about his guilt?

  108. Tom, the only way God can be reasonable, as God, is to do things reasonably. We humans understand, generally, what reasonable is (reasonable in the sense of rational), so there’s no reason why we can’t estimate whether some behavior is reasonable or rational.

    Your only hope is to say that God is acting irrationally or unreasonably (even if you might ultimately justify God acting so on some other basis), or to somehow claim that if a human did the same behavior, it would not be irrational or unreasonable.

    I don’t see any other option.

  109. Hi Paul,

    Charlie, I mean that, if you assume with me for the sake of argument that it is impossible to tell if we are brains in vats, it therefore becomes meaningless because *everything* would be exactly the same whether we are or are not.

    That takes quite the assumption. And yet, it is still not meaningless – it is exactly as meaningful as I have tried to impress upon you. That is, if it is impossible to tell a vat world from a non-vat world and if everything would be exactly the same then, on that view, it is impossible to have knowledge.
    Lets take it down a notch and have a look at your logic.
    Say you are kept in a sealed and windowless room and have no contact with the outside world but through one person. And this person comes in and regularly regales you with tales from the outside. He tells you about the amazing glass dome over the city, the talking cows, the rock-chewing mutants and the poisonous air which would kill you were you ever to leave. There is no way to tell the world you know is out there from the world you don’t know is out there – you apprehend reality just fine to function just fine on a “day to day” basis. From your perspective nothing would be different about your life if he were telling the truth or not but you have no apprehension of any reality out there. Everything you know about it is wrong.
    So the question is not meaningless. If you can’t know that you are not such a person in such a room then you know nothing about the outside world. Even if your beliefs accidentally match the facts of the outside world, the very fact that you don’t know if your facts do so negates your claim to any knowledge.

    That aside, there is no reason to accept that one can’t tell they are not in a vat world. I happen to know I’m not. You don’t know this about yourself so you don’t know anything about the world. You might as well be the brain in the vat, given your epistemological stance.

    This logical positivistic hangover talk of meaningless will not help your case and is doing nothing to expose my so-called strawman – nor answer the questions.

    So we continue with you telling us what logic and reasonableness and evidence demand when you can’t apprehend any of them – by your claims, not mine.

  110. Steve,

    Can a man know if he murdered his wife, or not, before going to trial? Are you saying the rational thing for him to do is wait to hear what an impartial jury says about his guilt?

    Hmm. Did you read what I wrote?

    Recall, the jury which a man should imagine being part of has the same information that he has. Legal juries generally do not have access to all the information, but only to the information the lawyers choose (or are allowed) to present.

    Let’s suppose that you wake up one morning, and recall levitating across town under your own power, breaking to a sealed penthouse apartment, melting the a steel safe with your hand, and stealing the diamonds inside. You recall placing the diamonds into the hands of a notorious jewel thief.

    Now imagine you are a juror at your own trial. The only evidence presented is your accurate signed confession. Will you find yourself guilty or not guilty? You will find yourself not guilty because the acts you remember are virtually impossible. It’s more likely you had a dream than that the memories are true.

    What if you did commit the crime? In that case, there will be bizarre things at the crime scene consistent with your memories, and you will know you are impervious to fire, can fly, etc.

    But if the building and jewel safe are in good condition, and only the diamonds are missing, you (the juror) will again find you (the defendant) not guilty.

    Meanwhile, Scott is in the position in which the diamonds aren’t even missing.

  111. Charlie, I generally prefer to answer points as directly as I can, but I’m having trouble teasing apart how your last post above approaches this issue, so I’ll have to try another way.

    If we are brains in a vat, we still have knowledge that works – we may call it knowledge about reality, but “in reality” (the supra-reality of knowing that we are brains in a vat), it’s really knowledge about how the vat is programmed. If we are not brains in a vat, we have knowledge about reality. In both cases, our knowledge works exactly as well in each case. That’s another reason why I’ve said occasionally that knowledge is only that which works, it’s not Knowledge in some absolute sense. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter, things go on, our knowledge works or not, equally in both cases. It’s not at all a question of our knowledge accidentally matching up with how the world works, our vat-knowledge is not accidental, we learn vat-knowledge by testing vat-evidence, vat-conclusions, etc. In each case, we test (vat-)evidence, (vat-)conclusions, etc.

    When you say “Everything you know about [the outside] is wrong,” that can make no difference in my life at all. I don’t know it, nor does it have any effect (otherwise, your analogy wouldn’t hold). Sure, if we’re brains in a vat and we don’t know it, we think we’re not brains in a vat (the person who comes into the room tells us falsehoods), and that’s wrong in some not-this-existence-sense, but it still can’t make any difference to the lives we are condemned (?) to lead.

    Do you know the expression “a distinction without a difference.” I think it applies here. yes, in some supra-existence mode, we would be brains in a vat, but by definition, we can never have access to, or learn about, that supra- mode, so, for all intents and purposes, it doesn’t exist for us. It’s an existence without a difference. That’s what I mean by saying it’s meaningless. It can make no difference, by definition (by how my scenario and position is laid out).

    I don’t think I’ve found quite the right way to frame this, but let’s keep trying.

  112. Hi Paul,

    In both cases, our knowledge works exactly as well in each case.

    As it does for the guy locked in the room.

    That’s another reason why I’ve said occasionally that knowledge is only that which works, it’s not Knowledge in some absolute sense.

    If and when you’ve said this you’ve clearly contradicted your position that knowledge is only that which can be empirically tested and verified. Lot’s of knowledge works, like adherence to LNC, which can not be so-verified. You’ve also then come up against your main quote-man, Popper – who did not ascribe to any such utilitarian view of knowledge.
    You also said something like this one day and backtracked just as quick as a wink when I pointed out that belief in God “works”, ie. it has a positive statistical correlation with happiness, longevity, emotional stability, rationality, wedded bliss, healthy behaviour, etc.

    When you say “Everything you know about [the outside] is wrong,” that can make no difference in my life at all.

    Yeah, that’s the point I made.

    Sure, if we’re brains in a vat and we don’t know it, we think we’re not brains in a vat (the person who comes into the room tells us falsehoods), and that’s wrong in some not-this-existence-sense, but it still can’t make any difference to the lives we are condemned (?) to lead.

    You’ve completely understood the analogy. This much is good.

    Do you know the expression “a distinction without a difference.”

    I’ve said it to you half a dozen times or so. I dig it as well, but I don’t see its application here.

    It can make no difference, by definition (by how my scenario and position is laid out).

    But it does make a difference: it cuts knowledge off at the knees. You have no pilings and you have no swamp. The guy in the room knows nothing about the outside world.
    The guy who doesn’t know he’s not the guy in the room doesn’t know anything either, because he doesn’t know if he’s the guy who doesn’t know or not.
    That guy is you.

  113. Now, regardless of how you think this will play out and how long you drag it out I’d really like you to admit that I am fairly representing you when I say that by your stance you do not know you are not a brain in a vat, cannot know that you exist, and cannot know that you are a jazz musician.
    Whatever nuance you think your position carries you either hold this position or not.
    By your continued argument here, and your return to using qualifiers in lieu of explanations, it is apparent that you cannot deny the above.

    If you do deny it then please tell us how it is you have such knowledge which is not verified empirically and how you can have knowledge without absolute certainty so that we can apply this new admission to the old threads and to your arguments about what is and is not reasonable for God to do and for one to know about God.

  114. DL,

    Hmm. Did you read what I wrote?

    I did, however I see now that I wasn’t being clear. In my comment I put the man being charged on the witness stand. He is the witness in your example. Can he know, or must he be given the same facts that the impartial jury gets before he can know?

  115. Paul,

    If we are brains in a vat, we still have knowledge that works – we may call it knowledge about reality, but “in reality” (the supra-reality of knowing that we are brains in a vat), it’s really knowledge about how the vat is programmed.

    But your “knowledge that works” is false at every turn. You believe it’s true, but none of it is true. This isn’t knowledge about how the vat is programmed either because you have no knowledge of a vat or a program – remember?

    Everything you claim to know while in the vat is false. Everything you have knowledge of doesn’t exist. You quite literally know nothing.

    Maybe this will make it more clear… can Christian’s have knowledge of a God that doesn’t exist? No.

  116. If you do deny it then please tell us how it is you have such knowledge which is not verified empirically and how you can have knowledge without absolute certainty so that we can apply this new admission to the old threads and to your arguments about what is and is not reasonable for God to do and for one to know about God.

    I second that request! 🙂

  117. I can’t stand it anymore. Paul could not be more patient or clear about his position. The rebuttals read like some Babylonian blood feud related to angels on pins.

    What is so hard about this? If the vat controls what the brain can sense, then the brain’s knowledge is not absolute but it is everyday — it works, and it works well enough that there doesn’t seem to be any benefit to the brain to classifying it as absolute. The vat must be consistent or the brain’s everyday knowledge wouldn’t work. Like God’s existence, the possibility of the vat can’t be disproven. Paul’s position is an interesting philosophical cul de sac, but, but as he points out it really doesn’t have any practical effect, except to deny claims of apprehending absolute knowledge.

    There’s an easy way to refute Paul’s position — prove that, contrary to his assertion, you have access to absolute knowledge. I might be wrong, but I think that one’s been considered a logical impossibility for a long, long time.

  118. Steve,

    In my comment I put the man being charged on the witness stand. He is the witness in your example. Can he know, or must he be given the same facts that the impartial jury gets before he can know?

    I am talking about an imaginary jury that has access to precisely the same facts as the witness. The imaginary jury has access only to the witness’s complete and sincere testimony and to background knowledge. If an imaginary jury would not believe the witness, then the witness should not believe his own testimony either.

    But in the case of a realistic jury, such a jury does not get the complete and sincere testimony from the witness, and the jury also gets other evidence that even the witness may not have.

    So, imagine Bob is the witness and defendant. Bob remembers mundane facts about his alibi. In Bob’s head, he imagines a jury who hears and sees his complete and sincere memories. His imaginary jury would believe his story because the likelihood of his memory being so faulty is small compared to the likelihood that his alibi is correct (because his alibi is mundane).

    However, a jury of the court, not having access to Bob’s sincere and complete memories, and being presented with other evidence by defense and prosecution may conclude that Bob is guilty.

    I hope that explains it better. I am saying that if an imaginary impartial jury would find your sincere and complete memories unbelievable, then so ought you.

    One more way of putting it. Isn’t it possible that you could have a memory or an experience so fantastical, that you would doubt the experience was real?

    Suppose your answer is yes. In that case, you ought to be able to set some limit on how fantastical something can be before you’ll dismiss the experience as unreliable, a trick of the light, deja vu, crossed memory, etc. This limit can be set by assuming you’re a regular human, and looking at rates of waking dreams, dementia, delusion, error, bias, illusion, etc. in the general population.

    (Note: There will always be things that you can know as a a witness that others cannot because they cannot see your memories, but that doesn’t mean that everything you see has to be true or is rational to believe.)

    However, if you claim that you have to believe everything you think you see, then you’re saying you’re a very special person. You’re saying you’re immune from the delusion, illusion or human bias that afflicts every other living person.

    In most cases, this isn’t a problem. If I see something odd, I can do other tests to confirm my experience. With enough testing, I can convince myself I did experience something real, even if, at first, I ought not believe it. But with one-time miracles, you don’t get that option. Yet you are saying you ought to believe super-fantastical things anyway.

  119. Hi Tony,
    I understand and you’ve restated Paul’s position just fine. But I am discussing with him what it means.

    The vat must be consistent or the brain’s everyday knowledge wouldn’t work.

    That is not correct at all. The brain’s everyday knowledge can be changed everyday by the vat to whatever the vat wants and the consistency can be false memories programmed at any time.
    The inconsistencies can be masked any number of ways and the brain’s so-called knowledge can be made to “work” regardless.

    Paul’s position is an interesting philosophical cul de sac, but, but as he points out it really doesn’t have any practical effect, except to deny claims of apprehending absolute knowledge.

    The only way it could have no practical effects is if you know it is a false position.
    Since Paul won’t answer and you’ve picked up his lingo I’ll ask you – are both absolute knowledge and everyday knowledge actually knowledge?
    Can you have knowledge without certainty?

    There’s an easy way to refute Paul’s position — prove that, contrary to his assertion, you have access to absolute knowledge.

    I don’t have to prove him wrong. Maybe you can’t stand my Babylonian blood feud because you don’t know what is going on. I am showing him what the consequence of his being right would be.

    I, on the other, do know that I exist, that I live in a universe that is real and is to some degree accessible to my sense and intellect, where science, therefore, is both possble and meaningful, and that I am not a brain in a vat.
    I have a justified true belief about the above even though I can’t, or may not, be able to, prove it, even though it is not empirically testable and verifiable, and even though there exists some kind of logical possibility that I might be wrong.
    When Paul tries to tell me what reality is and what is reasonable and what his everyday experience tells him he does not only fail to grasp ultimate truth, but he can’t confidently tell me the day to day truth because he doesn’t know he is not a brain in a vat and he doesn’t know what his day to day knowledge is – he doesn’t even know what a day is.
    Does the guy in the room have any knowledge, day to day or otherwise, about reality out side of his room?

    I don’t see what’s so hard either.

  120. Charlie, what Tony said.

    Also, I can’t respond in depth to you post because I’m now unclear about your analogy. Are you saying that the guy in the room is like us in the universe according to my position? Please clarify by pairing up the elements in your analogy with the elements of my position, because I’m not clear at all how that would go.

  121. Whatever nuance you think your position carries you either hold this position or not.

    Please define your context. If you talking about this in ultimate terms, then yes, I believe that we cannot know those things. If you are talking about everyday, living in the world terms, then I believe that we can know those things in a more casual, less ultimate sense.

  122. SteveK, whether I am in a vat or not, when I go to my car, I “know” that when I put the key in the ignition, the car will start (given some assumed pre-conditions) because it works. That’s what “true” ultimately (hah!) means. My car is starting whether the vat has fooled my brain into thinking I’m in a car or whether I’m really in a car. Either way, I can’t tell the difference because, to me, my car starts.

  123. Hi Paul,

    Charlie, what Tony said.

    Yeah, Tony repeated what you’ve said. I am rebutting what the both of you have said.

    Also, I can’t respond in depth to you post because I’m now unclear about your analogy. Are you saying that the guy in the room is like us in the universe according to my position? Please clarify by pairing up the elements in your analogy with the elements of my position, because I’m not clear at all how that would go.

    You got it just fine before. Yes, the guy in the room is the brain in the vat. If you want more clarity please be specific.

    If you talking about this in ultimate terms, then yes, I believe that we cannot know those things. If you are talking about everyday, living in the world terms, then I believe that we can know those things in a more casual, less ultimate sense.

    More of your objective/subjective word play, I see.
    You tell me – is knowledge knowledge? Is more casual, less ultimate knowledge actually knowledge? Or is it not knowledge? Can we know, in one sense or the other, things about the world outside our own minds without empirical tests and verification or not?
    You said before that we can’t. Can we, or can’t we?

  124. The vat must be consistent or the brain’s everyday knowledge wouldn’t work.

    That is not correct at all. The brain’s everyday knowledge can be changed everyday by the vat to whatever the vat wants and the consistency can be false memories programmed at any time.

    Charlie, this is not the brain in the vat thought experiment that I was working with. In the version of it that I mean, the vat reproduces for the brain *exactly* everything about reality if reality really was reality. Only, in some “super-real” sense, there’s not a person going through reality, it’s just a brain in a vat. That’s the scenario in which I say that it is impossible to tell whether we are a brain in that vat or not. It is also, I think, the classic, standard formulation of the thought experiment.

  125. Either way, I can’t tell the difference because, to me, my car starts.

    Yesterday maybe the car blew up when you turned your key. And tomorrow maybe you’ll start it with a rubber chicken, just like your memory tells you always works. Or maybe it won’t start and you’ll have to take it to a mechanic and he will send you on your way with a nice $1000 receipt, Mr. Truman.

  126. Hi Paul,

    Charlie, this is not the brain in the vat thought experiment that I was working with. In the version of it that I mean, the vat reproduces for the brain *exactly* everything about reality if reality really was reality.

    Well beg the question why don’t you?
    Sure, if it tells you exactly what reality is then your apprehensions of reality are exactly of reality. Then the guy in the room knows everything about the outside world because his informer is absolutely honest, unbiased and thorough.
    But you can’t stipulate what the vat tells you if you don;t know you aren’t a brain in a vat.

    It is also, I think, the classic, standard formulation of the thought experiment.

    I don’t there is any such requirement and I don’t see how it is possible to impose it. If you are a brain in a vat reality is exactly what reality would be if reality existed to you because that is what the experiment provides you.

  127. Charlie,

    Your objections ignore the durability of Paul’s philosophical position; you are treating Paul’s argument as if it obviously fallacious when it has proved (annoyingly to many) to be an obstacle that no philosopher has yet demolished.

    I can appreciate the fact that you don’t like or don’t “get” Paul’s point. But the argument is a valid one, and there are lots of discussions of it online.

    At this point all I can offer is that you try one more time to consider the argument in the spirit of a thought experiment. Also, along the lines of the argumentum ad ignorantium, please don’t consider the BIV argument as being some sort of prooft that we are brains in a vat (I don’t think Paul or anyone else prefers this version of a potential reality), but an interesting caution that we can’t rule it out. At least that’s all that appears to be to me.

  128. More of your objective/subjective word play, I see.

    Dismissive tone noted.

    Your questions about what I think knowledge is conflate issues that are crucial to my position. I’ve already given to you the answers anyway at 12:09 pm, 8 December, 2008 р.

    Can we know, in one sense or the other, things about the world outside our own minds without empirical tests and verification or not?

    For empirical questions, such as how many apples are in the bag, or whether there is a God or not, we need verification and testing. For logical statements, as 1+1=2 and A=A, such statements are based on assumptions, so it depends on whether your definition of knowledge would include conclusions based on assumptions (maybe postulate is a better word than assumption?).

  129. Hi Tony,

    I can appreciate the fact that you don’t like or don’t “get” Paul’s point.

    You misappreciate.
    I do get Paul’s point and I can fade into skeptical solipsism just as easily.
    You don’t get that I am not trying to demolish anything but expose its consequences. Especially to someone who thinks he is rationally and logically apprehending reality such that he can tell others what their experiences most probably are.

    At this point all I can offer is that you try one more time to consider the argument in the spirit of a thought experiment.

    I know the thought experiment. I am the only one playing it out.

    Also, along the lines of the argumentum ad ignorantium, please don’t consider the BIV argument as being some sort of prooft that we are brains in a vat (I don’t think Paul or anyone else prefers this version of a potential reality), but an interesting caution that we can’t rule it out.

    As I clarified to Paul – I do not think he is a brain in a vat. I do not think he thinks he is a brain in a vat. I don’t think anyone honestly thinks they are a brian in a vat. I don’t think we can prove, or that anyone wants to prove that we are brains in vats. I don’t care to prove I am not a brain in a vat.
    But I know I’m not nonetheless. And, knowing this, I can know other things.
    The person who does not know this cannot.

  130. Hi Paul,

    Dismissive tone noted.

    Yet another notation noted.

    For empirical questions, such as how many apples are in the bag, or whether there is a God or not, we need verification and testing. For logical statements, as 1+1=2 and A=A, such statements are based on assumptions, so it depends on whether your definition of knowledge would include conclusions based on assumptions (maybe postulate is a better word than assumption?).

    Paul, I am asking for YOUR definition of knowledge.
    You said on the other thread that your definition of knowledge necessarily included testability and verification.
    Does it still?
    I think not, because I tweaked out of you that we can have knowledge as above (based upon axioms, postulates and other unprovens (which you said were not, themselves, known)). But you balked at committing to this when I tried to get you to admit that this special knowledge, this different knowledge, was actually knowledge.
    You are still doing it. You are refusing to say whether this “everyday” knowledge is actually knowledge – do you know these everyday things, these things about which you cannot be certain, and which rely upon your unknown ultimate conditions or not? Is it knowledge?

    Your questions about what I think knowledge is conflate issues that are crucial to my position. I’ve already given to you the answers anyway at 12:09 pm, 8 December, 2008 р.

    Yes, I remember. And I asked you what you meant, as I have above, and above, and on previous threads, and which obfuscation I am accused of being “dismissive” for pointing out.
    Is your everyday, casual knowledge actually knowledge, even though it has not ultimate foundation?

    For empirical questions, such as how many apples are in the bag, or whether there is a God or not, we need verification and testing.

    Who says that the question of God’s existence is necessarily an empirical one? Once again you beg the question and determine what kinds of things can be determined in what kinds of ways.With one fell swoop you hope to wipe the question off the table as you tried with your eleventh hour patch on the brain in the vat question. But you yourself make many claims of logic and reason against God’s existence and, contrarily, many brilliant philosophers and theologians have shown, and you’ve been made privy to the arguments, why God is a logical and philosophical necessity. This means that the question is not merely one of empirics.

  131. Charlie, you keep wanting me to ignore the distinction that I think is crucial to the whole question, the distinction between ultimate knowledge and knowledge-that-is-good-enough-to-work.

    So why do you insist I ignore the distinction crucial to my point? You need to understand that position *requires* this distinction.

  132. Paul, you wrote,

    Tom, the only way God can be reasonable, as God, is to do things reasonably.

    Suppose a person wanted to communicate through some method that had no obvious connection to logic or reason. Would that be possible?

    By the way, how did your concert go the other night?

  133. Is it a distinction or a difference, Paul?
    Does your distinction mean one is known and the other not?
    Or not?

  134. Charlie,

    You wrote:

    You don’t get that I am not trying to demolish anything but expose its consequences.

    Okay, but do you get that you’re assuming a line of argument called the fallacy of final consequences?

    “But I know I’m not [a brain in a vat] nonetheless.”

    Then you take on the responsibility of proving this argument — that you are not a brain in a vat.

  135. Hi Tony,
    Exposing the final consequence of the argument is not an appeal to that consequence. It is a demonstration of why Paul has constructed an epistemology from which he has no right to tell others what logic, reason, and reality entail.

    As to the fallacy, if the final consequence is false then appealing to it is not a fallacy.
    But, again, I am not appealing to it to demonstrate that we are not brains in vats – I already know I am not.
    I don’t have to prove this and I don’t have to make the argument because not all knowledge needs to be proven or argued for – that’s the point (although I do have an argument for it, it just isn’t necessary. I think it is Craig who says there is a difference between knowing it and showing it).
    You guys don’t know you aren’t brains in vats – fine. You also, then, do not know anything about ultimate reality , or even day to day reality.

  136. Tony and Paul,
    Paul’s distinction between everyday and ultimate knowledge says to me that Christians can rationally *know* that God exists in the everyday sense, just not the ultimate sense. We know God exists because that knowledge “works”, just as Paul knows he’s not a brain in a vat because it “works”. The justification for both our belief is “it works”.

    Would you agree? If not, why not?

  137. Unbelievable! Yes, SteveK, I agree! (emphasis on the word “can” in “Christian can rationally . . .”

    I have an issue with what we mean when we say something “works,” but let’s save that for later.

  138. Charlie, how do you know that you are not a brain in a vat? I didn’t use the word “prove,” by the way, if that makes a difference.

    Charlie, are you going in the following direction? “Some things are immediately obvious, like Descartes’ cogito. There is no conceivable way that the cogito isn’t true, therefore it is absolutely true. Similarly, there is no conceivable way that I am a brain in a vat, therefore, I am not a brain in a vat.”

    I don’t want to put words in your mouth, I’m not trying to, I’m trying to see if I’ve got your position correctly.

  139. Paul,

    Unbelievable! Yes, SteveK, I agree! (emphasis on the word “can” in “Christian can rationally . . .”

    I hope I’m not putting words in your mouth, but why then do you say Scott is being irrational and that Christianity in general is irrational? I think DL would not agree with what I said – maybe Tony too – but you do. Puzzling.

  140. Tom wrote:

    Suppose a person wanted to communicate through some method that had no obvious connection to logic or reason. Would that be possible?

    Possible, obviously. Preferable? Reasonable? For one of, if not the, most important issue in the entire universe for humans? Not likely.

    By the way, how did your concert go the other night?

    About as planned, which is to say it was a success. A good time was was had by all.

  141. SteveK, I meant that it was *possible* for Christians to know, in principle, that God exists in a non-absolute sense. Whether it is *legitimate,* or *correct* for that is another question.

  142. Charlie, when you say

    Paul has constructed an epistemology from which he has no right to tell others what logic, reason, and reality entail.

    you should mean “Paul has constructed an epistemology from which he has no right to tell others what logic, reason, and reality entail in ultimate terms, but certainly so in everyday terms.”

    It will do no good to continually misrepresent my position by not distinguishing between the ultimate and the everday.

  143. Paul,

    SteveK, I meant that it was *possible* for Christians to know, in principle, that God exists in a non-absolute sense. Whether it is *legitimate,* or *correct* for that is another question.

    With respect to everyday knowledge you now bring up something new – possibly know versus do know. Previously you agreed that you have everyday rational knowledge that you’re not a brain in a vat *because* that knowledge “works”. Are you saying you possibly know this, or that you do know this? Why?

    I want to clarify that you agree with my earlier statement that the entire justification for your belief is “it works”.

  144. Hi Paul,
    Some things are immediately obvious. Descarte’s cogito is not one of them – it is a logical demonstration.
    My not being a brian in a vat is both immediately obvious and logically necessary.
    I laid out the rationale once before.
    There are several lines of thought which justify my true belief – by which I can show what I know about my non-envattedness – none of which interested you very much last time around.
    However, because knowledge does not rely upon methodism for its justification and we can know – and know we know – without knowing how we know, I believe I will leave it at that for now.
    If you are interested later I can resurrect my demonstrations.

    Similarly, there is no conceivable way that I am a brain in a vat, therefore, I am not a brain in a vat.”

    Neither relies upon conceivability. For one, I am not a brain in a vat because a brain in a vat cannot truthfully say “I am a brain in a vat”.

    you should mean “Paul has constructed an epistemology from which he has no right to tell others what logic, reason, and reality entail in ultimate terms, but certainly so in everyday terms.”

    I should not mean that. If you can’t affirm your own existence or non-vattiness you have no access to knowledge about the day-to-day, either.

    It will do no good to continually misrepresent my position by not distinguishing between the ultimate and the everday.

    You cannot defend this charge of so-called misrepresentation and, until you do, honesty would require you quit making it.
    Just because you throw the qualifiers around doesn’t mean that they are significant of anything, especially when you can’t take even the tiniest of baby steps without them.

  145. Paul,
    For instance …. Were you a brain in a vat all of your memories would be false. By what right then do you critique anybody’s acceptance of their own experience as being suspect because of possible false memories? As you don’t know that you have a single real memory
    there is no justification for claiming one to be false.

    Likewise, all of your perceptions are of things which do not exist if you are a brain in a vat. And if you don’t know that you aren’t then you are in no position to rule on the probability of another person’s accuracy in perceiving events. In a vat, all perceptions are equally false and equally probable or improbable.

    Without the knowledge of so-called ultimate things you have no knowledge of everyday things. I said what I should have and your distinctions provide no useful differences.

  146. I wrote to Paul earlier, and he answered,

    Suppose a person wanted to communicate through some method that had no obvious connection to logic or reason. Would that be possible?

    Possible, obviously. Preferable? Reasonable? For one of, if not the, most important issue in the entire universe for humans? Not likely.

    By the way, how did your concert go the other night?

    About as planned, which is to say it was a success. A good time was was had by all.

    Now, Paul, was there anything communicated through the music you played that night? As a musician myself, I have to think there was…

  147. you should mean “Paul has constructed an epistemology from which he has no right to tell others what logic, reason, and reality entail in ultimate terms, but certainly so in everyday terms.”

    I should not mean that. If you can’t affirm your own existence or non-vattiness you have no access to knowledge about the day-to-day, either.

    Edit it, then, to say “. . . tell others what vat-logic, vat-reason, and vat-reality entail . . .” I thought that would have to be assumed, in the case that we are brains in vat, but I’m OK to make it explicit, too.

    The misrepresentation issue has now boiled down to just the substantive disagreement, so I’m not inclined to duplicate efforts.

    I don’t recall your earlier demonstration of why you are not a brain in a vat. Can you bring it up again?

    Were you a brain in a vat all of your memories would be false. By what right then do you critique anybody’s acceptance of their own experience as being suspect because of possible false memories? As you don’t know that you have a single real memory there is no justification for claiming one to be false.

    I think you mean “false” beyond the vat. So, if I recall listening to a song, and I’m just a brain in a vat, I didn’t “really” hear the song (that is, I didn’t hear the song as an actual person, and not as a brain in a vat), but my memory of it would be exactly the same as if I had heard the song as a real person (because that’s what the vat does – it exactly duplicates for the brain the experiences of being a real person). The memory would be false in ultimate terms (beyond the vat), but the memory itself would be the same. The vat would have played the song for the brain to produce the exact same memory. So if the memory is the same, there’s no way to tell from the memory whether the memory was produced by the vat or by a real person’s experience. Multiply that for every single experience, memory, perception, thought, etc., and you see that there is no way to tell whether any of it (= all of it) is a real person’s memory or the workings of the vat.

    So, when I critique other’s memories or experiences, it has to be with the implicit idea that even if we are brains in a vat everything fits together and works and behaves like we’re not brains in vats. If the vat has someone (this imaginary, vat-person) tell me they can leap off a tall building and fly unaided, I can correctly predict they will meet the vat-pavement quickly and vat-die, just as if it was real life and not vat-life, because, by definition of how the vat thought experiment is constructed, the vat reproduces everything, including how other people behave, the law of physics, etc. for the brain exactly like real life would be.

    So the same laws of evidence, logic, etc., that I hold as a real person (some of which you disagree with) also, by definition of the thought experiment, hold if I am a brain in a vat.

  148. Now, Paul, was there anything communicated through the music you played that night? As a musician myself, I have to think there was…

    This is going to be an easy one, Tom, and I have a vague sense of where you’re going, too. So, my answer is that it is hard to tell because music has no semantic meaning which allows for reference to something external to itself (yikes, shades of objectivity and subjectivity!), so everyone can make it mean what they want it to mean (or feel might be a better word than mean).

    But are you going to work a discussion about what music means or feels like back around to the unreasonableness of God not having a conversation?

    By the way, do you know Carol Pratt’s great line, “Music sounds the way emotions feel.”

  149. Charlie,

    I would be interested in reading the argument that proves we cannot be brains in a vat. Is there a link to a post on this blog, or a version of the argument online that you can reference me to?

  150. Hi Paul,
    You sure would like to be my speech-writer, wouldn’t you?

    I think you mean “false” beyond the vat.

    No, I mean false. In the vat everything is artificial so there is no truth or falsity.

    So, if I recall listening to a song, and I’m just a brain in a vat, I didn’t “really” hear the song (that is, I didn’t hear the song as an actual person, and not as a brain in a vat), but my memory of it would be exactly the same as if I had heard the song as a real person (because that’s what the vat does – it exactly duplicates for the brain the experiences of being a real person).

    You don’t know this. If you recall listening to a song you are wrong because you didn’t listen to a song. You can’t have any idea nor stipulate whether or not the memory is exactly like that of one who listened to a song – there is no reference. The vat does not exactly duplicate the experiences, it exactly implants your experiences and you believe you are having them. In fact, there is no way, not knowing you are not in a vat, that you can know whether or not your “memories” have been implanted this past second.

    The vat would have played the song for the brain to produce the exact same memory.

    Maybe it did and maybe it didn’t. Maybe it told you have a memory of a song but that song was never played.

    Multiply that for every single experience, memory, perception, thought, etc., and you see that there is no way to tell whether any of it (= all of it) is a real person’s memory or the workings of the vat.

    Exactly!!
    Please listen to your own words.
    You bemoan the possibility of a capricious God and you have given yourself over to having nothing but false memories and false memories of false memories. Not one thing is perceived and every false memory of a perception has been manipulated.
    And from here you claim that you are personally demanded to follow logic, reason and evidence.

    So the same laws of evidence, logic, etc., that I hold as a real person (some of which you disagree with) also, by definition of the thought experiment, hold if I am a brain in a vat.

    No, by definition of the thought experiment you have no access to what a real person would experience in terms of evidence, logic, etc., so you do not know if these are the same. You do not know what evidence and logic are because they can be altered at any time with you being none the wiser in the vat, and Rekall can come in and erase every anomaly as required.
    Not only have you no access to reality you have no reason to suspect you have access to the very order that reason, logic and evidence require.

  151. Hi Tony,

    I would be interested in reading the argument that proves we cannot be brains in a vat.

    Me too. I don’t claim one exists.
    I don’t know of one and I’m not really interested in adding another layer to the arguments here (the validity of arguments against the BIV hypothesis).

    My point has been to accept the very point of the BIV hypothesis and then to apply it:

    1. If you know that P, then you know that you are not a brain in a vat.
    2. You do not know that you are not a brain in a vat. So,
    3. You do not know that P.

    As you can see, Paul confirms 2 and, therefore, confirms 3. Paul does not know anything.

    I do.

    ps.
    That formulation is from the Stanford page which discusses Putnam’s semantic argument against the vat. This is similar to what I had provided Paul with previously.
    I found this version this time by Googling “philosophy argument against brain in vat”, if you are interested.
    http://www.science.uva.nl/~seop/entries/brain-vat/

  152. OK, Charlie, I think I may have a way for us to begin to see eye to eye.

    My position does not *necessarily* allow for unqualified, pure, and actual knowledge; that is, knowledge, period. In my scenario, we could be brains in vats, and so we would only have vat-knowledge (but see below). I would agree with you on that. If we were not brains in vats (which my position allows), then we’d have actual knowledge. By vat knowledge, I mean we are able to predict how the vat will fools us (even though we don’t know we are being fooled and that the vat is doing the fooling, see below also.

    No, by definition of the thought experiment you have no access to what a real person would experience in terms of evidence, logic, etc., so you do not know if these are the same.

    The crucial point isn’t whether we, in the vat, know if these are the same, but, by definition of the thought experiment, they *are* the same; that is, when a real person puts his hand in a flame, he experiences pain and his skin burns; when I, as a brain in a vat, get sent signals from the vat that fool me into thinking that I have put my hand in a flame, the vat also fools me into thinking that my hand is burned and makes me feel pain. My experience, as qualia, of the real pain and the vat-pain, as a purely internal, mental experience, is exactly the same under the definition that I understand of the thought experiment.

  153. SteveK, I’m sorry that I missed replying to you. You wrote:

    Paul,

    SteveK, I meant that it was *possible* for Christians to know, in principle, that God exists in a non-absolute sense. Whether it is *legitimate,* or *correct* for that is another question.

    With respect to everyday knowledge you now bring up something new – possibly know versus do know. Previously you agreed that you have everyday rational knowledge that you’re not a brain in a vat *because* that knowledge “works”. Are you saying you possibly know this, or that you do know this? Why?

    I hope I didn’t say that I know I’m not a brain in a vat because I have everyday rational knowledge that works. Perhaps what I really meant by the sentence that you took to mean that was that, if I am I brain in a vat, I would still have vat-knowledge that works within my vat-universe.

  154. Hey Charlie,

    I’m sorry that this side issue is distracting us. I think Paul’s impulse – that the distinction he was making is practically meaningless – is the right course to follow. This post has promise, and I hate to see it sidetracked over old disputes.

    I read the link you referred to on the Stanford site yesterday (among others) – I was curious if there were other, better sources, hence my question. It will still take a few more readings, and another couple of days to sink in, but I think it’s fair to say at this point that the argument is interesting but it doesn’t demolish the BIV argument. More than the part of the argument based on non-contradiction (which read to me like a word game), I am more vulnerable to the arguments based on metaphysical realism. In short, despite your disclaimer that no such argument exists, I think that a fuller version of that line of argument bears promise to destroying the BIV argument. Like I said, though, I want more time to digest it and read some more criticism.

    I do want to point out, however, that I think until the BIV argument is demolished you are checked by the same problems as Paul; until you disprove it, the BIV isn’t just Paul’s problem – we’re all constrained by logic.

    You wrote:

    Paul does not know anything.

    I do.

    As I said above, logic doesn’t discriminate; what holds for reality about Paul holds for you as well. Either you and Paul don’t know anything together (because either the BIV is a fallacy for both of you), or you and Paul know something together (likewise).

    Originally you wrote:

    My not being a brian [sic, and oh so true, btw] in a vat is both immediately obvious and logically necessary.
    I laid out the rationale once before.

    Upon reading that, I said that I would love to read the argument proving that we could not be B’sIV (btw, I really did enjoy reading the article, and some criticisms as well), you wrote:

    Me too. Wouldn’t that be cool? Have you noticed how many times above I have not claimed one exists?

    Well, I did notice in your cited quote above that you claimed it exists (and I now think it might). But maybe more importantly I’d like to remark that if it does, it applies equally to all of us.

  155. Hi Tony,
    Thanks for a very reasonable comment.

    Well, I did notice in your cited quote above that you claimed it exists (and I now think it might).

    It might exist – I just don’t claim it.
    Yes, I was sloppy there. I expected that one ought to know I didn’t mean that I had in my possession a logical proof since that sentence was preceded and followed by:

    I have a justified true belief about the above even though I can’t, or may not, be able to, prove it, even though it is not empirically testable and verifiable, and even though there exists some kind of logical possibility that I might be wrong.

    I don’t think we can prove, or that anyone wants to prove that we are brains in vats. I don’t care to prove I am not a brain in a vat.

    I don’t have to prove this and I don’t have to make the argument because not all knowledge needs to be proven or argued for – that’s the point (although I do have an argument for it, it just isn’t necessary. I think it is Craig who says there is a difference between knowing it and showing it).

    There are several lines of thought which justify my true belief – by which I can show what I know about my non-envattedness – none of which interested you very much last time around.

    As alluded to above, one of those lines of thought is the semantic one, as well as the argument from reasons as causing thoughts. I don’t declare these to be proofs. I declare them, although not necessary, as justifications of my true belief. Another justification is my knowledge of God and His Word.

    I agree that logic and reality apply to both Paul and myself and even, perhaps, to brian in a vat.
    What I don’t agree with is that I need to defeat the BIV, nor that the BIV needs be defeated, in order to have knowledge. Sheer logical possibility does not defeat knowledge and does not take me outside of reality. It does Paul.
    It’s logically possible that gravity might fail any minute now and I will be flung into space – but I know this will not happen.
    Knowledge and the ability to reason are defeater enough against the vat’s sheer possibility.
    Logic doesn’t demand that we are brains in vats and neither does it make it irrational not to accept that we are brains in vats, or even that we might be.
    In fact, here’s one of my own arguments: the very fact that the vat makes reason and logic null and void makes acceptance of the vat a non-rational if not irrational position. Since we cannot know and cannot reason if the vat is real, and we can know and reason, axiomatically, the vat must not be real. This is not, by the way, an appeal to consequences, but more a reverse syllogism. Once we put ourselves outside of reason we can’t reason our way back in, and, likewise, once we put ourselves in a vat we can’t reason our way back out.

    The real question remains, whether I accept your limits or not – is everyday knowledge, which is not ultimate knowledge, actually knowledge? Because you and Paul do not know that you are not brains in vats do you accept, as the formulation demands, that you can not know anything?

    Paul,
    As I said to Tony I will continue to ask you …
    Is everyday knowledge knowledge?
    Since I know I am not a brain in a vat I say I can know things. Since you can’t know you are not a brain in a vat do you admit you cannot know things?

    You suggest that we might see eye to eye and then offer this:

    My position does not *necessarily* allow for unqualified, pure, and actual knowledge; that is, knowledge, period.

    Too may qualifiers for me, sorry.
    A better question is this: do you agree that your position allow for *no* actual knowledge? I say it does. I say it demands it, but what is your response?

    By vat knowledge, I mean we are able to predict how the vat will fools us (even though we don’t know we are being fooled and that the vat is doing the fooling, see below also.

    With the potential of false memories this is a condition you cannot impose. You have no way to stipulate that you can predict how you are being fooled as that fooling can change every minute and you would have no idea.

    If we were not brains in vats (which my position allows), then we’d have actual knowledge.

    This doesn’t work either, since you can’t know if you are a brain in a vat you don’t know if you have vat knowledge (non-knowledge) or real knowledge. Since you can’t know this you can’t know what you say you know. That is the first conclusion of the problem.
    Only if you are not a brain in a vat, and only if you know you aren’t a brain in a vat, can you have knowledge.

    My experience, as qualia, of the real pain and the vat-pain, as a purely internal, mental experience, is exactly the same under the definition that I understand of the thought experiment.

    Your understanding of the experiment is off and the exact sameness of the experience is irrelevant. With no reference it is, as you say, meaningless whether or not the mental experience is exactly the same. The mental experience in the vat is just as it is outside the vat in that it is all you have, regardless of what it is and how the two may or may not match.
    But since you’ve now chosen how you are going to dig in to deny the inevitable let’s provide the very easy fix to it.

    There is a logical possibility that we are brains in vats experiencing stimuli which seem to us exactly like what we would experience if we were not brains in vats. We would have no way of knowing we were brains in vats. For all we know, and for all we can possibly know by any formulation of the BIV, these experiences are exactly the same as if we were real people. But, of course, there is no possible way to determine this with no reference – which is necessarily beyond our reach – so it is also logically possible that these stimuli are not exactly what a non-vat person would experience. Your everyday vat experience still works, you can still think you are making a fulfilling predictions and you still have no idea and no way of knowing you are not a brain in a vat – either kind of vat.
    Now, tell me this:
    Since you cannot test this empirically, nor verify it experimentally, can you know you are not a brain in this not-exactly-the-same -qualia- vat? (of course, it’s the same vat as in the formulation you would like to claim you’ve been discussing, as there is no way to differentiate).
    If you can know you are not a brain in this vat please tell me how.
    If you can’t know then let us drop the distinction without a difference between the two vats and face the consequences.

  156. Hey Tony,
    I just reread your comment and forgot to make my point on this:

    Either you and Paul don’t know anything together (because either the BIV is a fallacy for both of you), or you and Paul know something together (likewise).

    This is only true to a certain extent.
    If we actually are (we’re not) brains in vats, then neither Paul nor I know anything.
    On the other hand, it is still true that I can have knowledge and Paul cannot. This is the case because we are not brains in vats and I know it. There does not need to be a proof against BIV and it need not be proven false to be false or for me to know it’s false – and I do.
    Paul does not know this.
    Therefore, Paul does not know if he knows anything, therefore, he doesn’t.

  157. Charlie,

    You don’t know that you have knowledge and reason. You assume you do. There’s a huge difference.

    If you assume you can reason and that you live in a world that is reasonable, then you are implicitly assuming you’re not a BIV because that would contradict your assumption. (Actually, I think a subset of BIV’s are compatible with rational assumptions, but let’s ignore those for now.)

    Maybe you can tell us precisely what assumptions you are making. My guess is that they are

    1) You can think logically about a somewhat logical world, i.e., the LNC is productive.

    2) Your experiences are true experiences, even if you can sometimes be mistaken in your model of what is causing those experiences.

    3) Past thoughts and experience are a guides to future thoughts and experience.

    No one can know these things are true, but every rational person assumes them to be true.

    If I understand Paul, he is saying that he assumes he is not a BIV so that his reason and logic work. Why is that so different from your position?

    You are arguing that there are certain things we just know. I am saying that is imprecise. We don’t just know our foundations, we assume our foundations. Proper knowledge requires justification. All knowledge is conditional on certain axioms or foundations.

    When you say you know God exists at a basic level, you are being imprecise. You are actually assuming God exists at a basic level as a matter of blind faith in the same way we take it on blind faith that logic is a good thing to apply.

    If there was significant evidence for God’s existence, you could dispense with the assumption God exists, and instead infer his existence from the assumptions of rational thinking. But since that evidence does not exist, you rely on the pure assumption that God exists.

  158. Hi DL,

    You are arguing that there are certain things we just know. I am saying that is imprecise.

    That’s what Paul is saying as well. You guys are mistaken – you don’t know this to be true. Philosophy does not tell us what we can and can not know. It merely tries to formulate an umbrella covering for what we know we know. It has yet to find a way to include all knowledge and exclude all non-knowledge.

    We don’t just know our foundations, we assume our foundations.

    Paul tried this last time out – calling it an assumption does not remove it from the realm of knowledge.

    Proper knowledge requires justification.

    Do you know this? Why do you assume my assumptions are not justified?

    All knowledge is conditional on certain axioms or foundations.

    Let us agree with the foundation aspect. If the axiom is not true and known to be true then the knowledge upon which it is built is not knowledge. Fine by me. Join Paul where you can know nothing and admit as much – but then perhaps you can withdraw your truth claims. I say that knowledge of the axioms and foundations is justified. My position is highly rational and allows me, over and against Paul and other methodists, verificationists, etc., to actually know things. It puts me in much better stead than those of you who tell us we can’t know and act like this is something you know.

    When you say you know God exists at a basic level, you are being imprecise. You are actually assuming God exists at a basic level as a matter of blind faith in the same way we take it on blind faith that logic is a good thing to apply.

    We don’t take it on blind faith that logic is a good thing to apply. I went through a long demonstration of the LNC with Paul as to why my true belief in it is justified.

    But since that evidence does not exist, you rely on the pure assumption that God exists.

    No I don’t. But I never get enough of your question-begging and your telling me how I think and reason. Welcome back from your self-imposed exile.

  159. DL

    Proper knowledge requires justification.

    This seems to be one of the major sticking points and I agree with what Charlie said. The justification for the belief that the axioms are true is that our rational sense* tells us they are true.

    Where you and Paul veer off into the ditch is when you start narrowing the definition of “justification” to some sort of external methodology. You didn’t rely on this methodology for the foundation of ALL your knowledge (you can’t) – all it took was your rational sense – but for some reason that isn’t good enough when it comes to knowing God. You say you’ve got to justify that belief with some external methodology.

    Logical positivism is your external methodology of choice, but what is the justification for the belief that that methodology, and that ALONE, is the only means to know God? You’re hamstrung by your own requirements. You’re in a self-made prison and the only way to get out is to jettison your requirement for an external methodology.

    * Edited to add… I think some argue that it’s not our rational sense that tells us the axioms are true, rather that it’s a non-rational sense that we somehow have. A sixth sense if you will. Regardless, nobody that I can think of says it’s irrational.

  160. SteveK,

    Assuming that God is axiomatic gets us… where?

    Assume existence. Assume logic. All kinds of things can be predicted from there.

    I don’t assume (a theistic) God because of Occam’s razor – belief in that God doesn’t explain anything nor predict anything.

    You wrote:

    Logical positivism is your external methodology of choice, but what is the justification for the belief that that methodology, and that ALONE, is the only means to know God?

    Are there other ways to have knowledge of God besides rationally? Either show us how we can know God rationally, or show us an alternative methodology that works. Until then, I reserve the right to remain skeptical.

  161. Hi Tony,

    Assuming that God is axiomatic gets us… where?

    Knowing God gets us to truth. Knowing God gives us access to reality.

    Does all knowledge have to be predictive?
    Has anybody denied you your right to remain skeptical?
    As you are merely skeptical and not convinced have you looked into the explanations that only God provides – like access to reality?

  162. Charlie,

    I don’t want to have to ask you how God gets us to truth and gives us access to reality, but that is the (unresolved) problem. There seems to be no other way to confirm a knowledge of God independently.

    Regarding my right to remain skeptical, SteveK’s language has said rational requirements are a self-made prison that hamstrings us — this sounds like a threat to my skepticism. It sounds like someone wants to “free me” from it. (Kidding, mostly — “right to remain” was the wrong wording.)

    I don’t think that personal belief in God provides any greater access to reality. I can’t think of any examples for that.

  163. Thanks Tony,
    1. If God exists and is real then knowledge of Him is reality.
    If you are merely skeptical and not convinced then you must admit that this is a possibility (among others, like vat-brains, of course) and so you are aware at least potentially of how knowing God gets us to truth.
    2. Denial of God has caused Paul to create an epistemology in which he cannot apprehend reality. I don’t quite know yet where you stand on knowledge and apprehension of reality – are you with Paul, as you’ve implied? Paul said (but seems to have changed his mind without acknowledgment) that all knowledge must be predictive and empirically verified (cutting off huge swaths of knowledge). You have offered a positivist’s rationale in your previous comment so do you cut off other knowledge as well?
    3. Knowledge of God allows me to say I can apprehend truth, know I exist, know logical axioms and know I am not a BIV. Unlike the denier of these truths I have accessible to me truth and knowledge.

  164. Charlie,

    Suppose you assume that the local supermarket has a good price on peas. So you set off in your car for the supermarket. Does your driving to the supermarket on the assumption that the supermarket has a good price on peas equate to your knowledge that the supermarket has a good price on peas?

    According to what you are saying, you know that the supermarket has a good price on peas, simply because you are acting as if you know it.

    Proper knowledge requires justification.

    Do you know this? Why do you assume my assumptions are not justified?

    Because any justification you use will rely on the axioms of rationality, and will, therefore, be circular.

    If the axioms (=assumptions) of rational thinking appear necessary to knowledge of any kind. But I cannot rationally conclude from this that the assumptions are true because that would mean using the rational foundations to prove the rational foundations.

    On to foundations…

    Suppose Bob assumes that his race is superior to all others, and any evidence to the contrary simply reflects the negative influence of other races on his own race. Suppose this idea just seems natural to Bob in the sense that this belief naturally pops into Bob’s head. Bob assumes it is true, and acts as if it is true. Does that mean that Bob knows his race is superior?

    Suppose it naturally occurs to me (and, consequently, I believe) that Def Leppard is the greatest band ever. This is a belief that isn’t rationally justified, and probably cannot be rationally justified. However, I act as if Def Leppard is the greatest band ever. Suppose that I want to make this a foundational assumption. Do I then know that Def Leppard is the greatest band ever? If so, is there anything wrong with me importing a million other naturally-occurring, unjustifiable beliefs as foundational assumptions (as long as no two beliefs contradict each other)?

  165. Steve,

    I think some argue that it’s not our rational sense that tells us the axioms are true, rather that it’s a non-rational sense that we somehow have. A sixth sense if you will. Regardless, nobody that I can think of says it’s irrational.

    By definition, a rational person is a person who assumes the rational axioms. The issue at stake here is whether anyone can justify the assumption of the rational axioms. Obviously, they cannot rationally do so without circularity. They can only assume the axioms are correct.

    But God is different. What will happen if you don’t assume God exists? Nothing. Evidently, the world looks the same.

    The assumption of God’s existence is comparable to the assumption that I ought to have as much pleasure as possible. Nothing can possibly disprove my moral claim, and the assumption that I ought to be a hedonist has all sorts of implications.

    So if you are allowed to take God as a foundational assumption, why can’t I take hedonism as a foundational assumption? If hedonism feels right to me, does that mean I know it to be true? Does its feeling right convert it from assumption to knowledge?

  166. DL

    Obviously, they cannot rationally do so without circularity. They can only assume the axioms are correct.

    But God is different. What will happen if you don’t assume God exists? Nothing. Evidently, the world looks the same.

    Not true. They only look the same because you rationalized a way so that they look the same. Specifically, you purposely veered into the ditch and erected a methodology for knowing, and that self-imposed method forced you to this conclusion.

    To me things look quite different with God, namely morality has a grounding source that goes beyond my option or the world’s opinion. Torturing babies for fun is immoral even if every worldly opinion says it isn’t. I think most rational people would agree that that is true, don’t you think?

    That rationale is, to use your language, the equivalent of me driving to the store to confirm that peas are on sale. This is not a feeling as I see you are purposely calling it now in order to dismiss it. I know the difference between a feeling and a non-feeling because I can know I’m in love. Knowing is separate from the feeling of love I experience.

    The assumption of God’s existence is comparable to the assumption that I ought to have as much pleasure as possible. Nothing can possibly disprove my moral claim, and the assumption that I ought to be a hedonist has all sorts of implications.

    Try assuming you are a BIV and grapple with the same question: What will happen if I don’t assume I exist as a non-BIV? Nothing. Evidently, the world looks the same. Nothing can possibly disprove your assumption except a self-imposed methodology that forces you into the ditch.

  167. Tony,

    I don’t think that personal belief in God provides any greater access to reality. I can’t think of any examples for that.

    I don’t think it does either for the simple reason that reality doesn’t depend on my beliefs. My beliefs are either in agreement with reality, or not. If you let reality come to you and impress itself upon your physical senses and your mind you will get an accurate picture of the truth of reality. It’s only when you self-impose some method for knowing reality that you get into trouble and rationalize your way toward untruth.

    Charlie asked, does all knowledge have to be predictive? I don’t see that it must. It must only if you require it must and my experience has been that it doesn’t.

    I will add, does reality have to be experienced obectively by everyone and everything? I know of no such requirement that came out of the Big Bang Event that says reality can’t be experienced subjectively and yet remain real. DL’s self-imposed methodology rules this possibility out because it isn’t predictive, but his experience tells him otherwise.

  168. Steve,

    Not true. They only look the same because you assume they look the same. To me things look quite different, namely morality has a grounding source that goes beyond my option or the world’s opinion. Torturing babies for fun is immoral even if every worldly opinion says it isn’t.

    It doesn’t look different in any sensory way. It only has different consequences for what you ought to do. But that’s not the same thing.

    The only reason you think torturing babies is wrong is because it feels wrong. But if morality is relative, you could still feel this way.

    You keep complaining about prediction, but this is precisely what prediction is for. If I believe X, and X predicts Y more than Z, then I am saying that the world would look different if X is true. Specifically, I am saying that the world would look more like Y than Z if X is true.

    But morality is not predictive, as you already admit. It doesn’t matter if one person or a majority of persons think X is morally correct. It doesn’t matter if persons are punished by an authority for committing acts of X. It doesn’t matter what the predicted consequences are of X. None of these things have any bearing on whether X is true.

    “Lack of prediction” = “world would not look any different”

    Note one distinction. Your belief in X will have a prediction. If Bob believes that torturing babies is a good moral imperative, that predicts Bob will torture babies. However, the consequences of Bob’s moral belief have no bearing on whether his moral belief is true.

    So, in light of this, tell me why the world would look different if morality is grounded absolutely when that grounding predicts nothing I will ever experience?

    That rationale is, to use your language, the equivalent of me driving to the store to confirm that peas are on sale.

    It is nothing like it. Your belief that the supermarket has a low price on peas makes a prediction.

    I know the difference between a feeling and a non-feeling because I can know I’m in love. Knowing is separate from the feeling of love I experience.

    Explain, please. If you are in love, what does that predict?

  169. Steve,

    I will add, does reality have to be experienced obectively by everyone and everything? I know of no such requirement that came out of the Big Bang Event that says reality can’t be experienced subjectively and yet remain real. DL’s self-imposed methodology rules this possibility out because it isn’t predictive, but his experience tells him otherwise.

    Huh? Equivocation. The word “objective” in the first sentence means something different than the opposite of the word “subjective” in the second sentence.

  170. Steve,

    The assumption of God’s existence is comparable to the assumption that I ought to have as much pleasure as possible. Nothing can possibly disprove my moral claim, and the assumption that I ought to be a hedonist has all sorts of implications.

    Try assuming you are a BIV and grapple with the same question: What will happen if I don’t assume I exist as a non-BIV? Nothing. Evidently, the world looks the same. Nothing can possibly disprove your assumption except a self-imposed methodology that forces you into the ditch.

    Does the BIV assumption contradict the rules of rationality? If so, then I am already assuming non-BIV by assuming the rules of rationality.

    On the other hand, if I assume that I live in a Matrix world (which is a kind of predictable BIV), then nothing changes relative to non-BIV, and there are no predictions.

    Thus, you are making my point for me. Why assume something that makes no predictions, even if there are no contradictions? Sure, I could assume I live in a Matrix world, and my belief in the Matrix world might have consequences for me. But the Matrix world theory itself has no predictable consequences.

    Your belief in God is like a belief you are living in a Matrix world. Your believing it has predictable consequences for you, but the theory you are believing does not. You have no more justification for taking God’s existence as a foundational assumption than I have for taking Matrix world as a foundational assumption.

  171. SteveK,

    You wrote:

    If you let reality come to you and impress itself upon your physical senses and your mind you will get an accurate picture of the truth of reality. It’s only when you self-impose some method for knowing reality that you get into trouble and rationalize your way toward untruth.

    This sounds like the Theory of the Blank Slate. It is one of the most discredited theories in psychology – I don’t know of anyone, except for a few crazy Marxists and radical professors, who thinks that it is actually true.

    Charlie asked, does all knowledge have to be predictive? I don’t see that it must. It must only if you require it must and my experience has been that it doesn’t.

    I have to ask how your experience could show you that knowledge isn’t derived from an epistemological cycle. (I could agree in a priori knowledge and axioms, but experience showing that knowledge isn’t derived epistemologically?

    Doctor Logic already beat me to your last paragraph. I concur with him there.

  172. Hi DL,

    According to what you are saying, you know that the supermarket has a good price on peas, simply because you are acting as if you know it.

    I don’t see the connection. According to what I am saying here I not only have the awareness but can also justify the object of that awareness, if so required.

    Because any justification you use will rely on the axioms of rationality, and will, therefore, be circular.

    1. Your answer missed the question a little. How do you know that knowledge requires justification?
    2. You’ve now said axioms are not known and that relying upon them is circular. I don’t agree. Axioms themselves, while unproven and underived, can be justified as knowledge as well. I justified my true belief in Reason to you and in the LNC to Paul, for instance.

    If the axioms (=assumptions) of rational thinking appear necessary to knowledge of any kind. But I cannot rationally conclude from this that the assumptions are true because that would mean using the rational foundations to prove the rational foundations.

    As I said, this is fine by me. Just admit then that you can’t know anything whatsoever and quit making truth claims – quit telling us what knowledge is, what rationality entails, what the universe is like, etc.
    I’ll not, as I have knowledge.

    ps.
    Your acceptance of the Matrix does not admit rationality and knowledge anymore than the regular BIV. You may assume that life in the Matrix requires rationality but in contemplation of such a life or acceptance of its possibility you let slip that requirement. As with any other BIV, life in the Matrix is not real, your perceptions are false, your awareness is false, and your rationale is false. There is no knowledge in the Matrix anymore than in BIV and by admitting you might be in the Matrix you wash out rationality.
    Then again, have you not already washed it out with your acceptance of axioms that you cannot know?
    ===
    Hey Paul,
    Sorry to see you go so soon.
    Have a very Merry Christmas.

  173. Charlie,

    1. Your answer missed the question a little. How do you know that knowledge requires justification?

    It’s by definition. Otherwise, there’s no difference between knowledge and assumption, or knowledge and gut intuition. The difference is in justification.

    2. You’ve now said axioms are not known and that relying upon them is circular. I don’t agree. Axioms themselves, while unproven and underived, can be justified as knowledge as well. I justified my true belief in Reason to you and in the LNC to Paul, for instance.

    Circularity, big time.

    If the axioms (=assumptions) of rational thinking appear necessary to knowledge of any kind. But I cannot rationally conclude from this that the assumptions are true because that would mean using the rational foundations to prove the rational foundations.

    As I said, this is fine by me. Just admit then that you can’t know anything whatsoever and quit making truth claims – quit telling us what knowledge is, what rationality entails, what the universe is like, etc.

    One can know something conditionally upon assumptions.

    We’ve been through this before.

    1. Suppose all mice are immortal
    2. Suppose Mickey is a mouse,
    3. Therefore, Mickey is immortal

    Do we know (3) is true? We do, and we can justify it. Are mice actually immortal outside the scope of this syllogism? Probably not, and we certainly don’t know it. So how do you square this with the fact that we know (3) follows from (1) and (2)?

    How about this. Suppose algebra, x=5, x+y=7. Conclusion: y = 2. Do you know y=2? Yes. Is this conclusion based on assumptions? Yes – the assumptions of the axioms of algebra and the assumption of x=5 and the assumption that x+y=7.

    In your response to me, you are denying that any conclusion based on assumptions is knowledge, and that’s false, as I just demonstrated.

    You are trying to brush the circularity of your claim under the rug, and it ain’t goin’ under.

    As far as I can tell, your logic is like this:

    1) Assume the axioms of rationality are false.
    2) If the axioms of rationality are false, then something absurd is true.
    3) Therefore, the axioms of rationality are true.

    But as soon as you assume (1) you can’t get to (2) or (3) because getting through those steps requires rational inferences or deductions which you assumed to be improper in step (1).

    Steve’s logic works like this:

    1) We all act as if rational axioms are true.
    2) We cannot prove they are true.
    3) Therefore, we must just know they are true without proof.

    which is a non sequitur. You don’t need to know something to act as if it is true.

  174. DL,

    It’s by definition. Otherwise, there’s no difference between knowledge and assumption, or knowledge and gut intuition. The difference is in justification.

    So your justification of this claim is that it is so-defined. Then you don’t know it, because, by definition, your knowledge is circular and you aren’t actually stating anything with any content. If you can then know this you can know axioms.

    Circularity, big time.

    Defend this assertion, please.

    One can know something conditionally upon assumptions.

    This means you don;t know anything. If you don’t know your assumptions are correct then you don’t know that which is based upon them.

    Do we know (3) is true? We do, and we can justify it.

    You do not know (3) is true because you do not know (1) is true. It is the difference between validity and soundness. Validity does not equate to knowledge. If the statement is not true it is not knowledge – by definition.

    In your response to me, you are denying that any conclusion based on assumptions is knowledge, and that’s false, as I just demonstrated.

    No you didn’t. You used specious examples and failed to carry your burden. If you have false premises you have a false conclusion – no knowledge.
    If you don’t know your premises aren’t false you don’t know your conclusion isn’t false – no knowledge.

    My logic goes like this:
    1) We can have knowledge if and only if the LNC is true.
    2) We have knowledge.
    3) The LNC is true.

    1) We can discuss topics if and only if the axioms of logic are true.
    2) We can discuss topics.
    3) The axioms of logic are true.

    These are both valid – justified, by your claim above – and sound. Therefore, my true belief in the LNC is justified, therefore, it is known.

    Also, the opposite of the statement “the LNC is true” is self-defeating. Since “the LNC is not true” is defeated the LNC is true.
    My knowledge of the LNC is both true and justified.

    Want a real non sequitur? Axioms cannot be known.

  175. DL,

    It doesn’t look different in any sensory way. It only has different consequences for what you ought to do. But that’s not the same thing.

    Maybe it wasn’t clear, but I meant the entire human experience would look different without God, not just the outward physical appearance – but more on that next.

    So, in light of this, tell me why the world would look different if morality is grounded absolutely when that grounding predicts nothing I will ever experience?

    It’s important to note that both of us beg the question that it would look the same or different UNLESS we were somehow informed of the truth behind the “looks the same” question. It is impossible for you to know the truth behind the question so you definitely are begging the question that everything would look the same without God. Maybe there would be nothing without God. You can’t possibly know the answer one way or the other. However, if God exists as I think he does, then it’s at least possible that I know the truth here (actually not just me could know).

    Explain, please. If you are in love, what does that predict?

    I don’t know, really. Is it suppose to predict something?

    Huh? Equivocation.

    Yeah, I might have misused a word there. My point is there’s nothing preventing reality from being experienced individually, which is subjectively. The LNC still holds here BTW.

    Does the BIV assumption contradict the rules of rationality? If so, then I am already assuming non-BIV by assuming the rules of rationality. On the other hand, if I assume that I live in a Matrix world (which is a kind of predictable BIV), then nothing changes relative to non-BIV, and there are no predictions.

    I don’t know what you mean by ‘contradict the rules of rationality’. You lost me.

  176. Tony

    This sounds like the Theory of the Blank Slate.

    I had to look that up because I wasn’t familiar with it. I don’t believe in this theory at all, Tony. I believe we come ‘preloaded’ with a spiritual nature – the image of God – a soul.

  177. All,

    Sorry to say that this time of year work either peters down or picks up and it’s the latter — I haven’t had a chance to catch up yet. I have a couple of comments I could throw in there right now but I’d probably be better off waiting. Anyway, I’m just running slow (er than normal), that’s all.

  178. Charlie,

    You wrote:

    1. If God exists and is real then knowledge of Him is reality. If you are merely skeptical and not convinced then you must admit that this is a possibility (among others, like vat-brains, of course) and so you are aware at least potentially of how knowing God gets us to truth.

    And if God does not exist then knowledge of him is not reality. So it comes to a question of existence. It looks to me that instead of arguing to prove God’s existence you’re arguing that God’s existence is a necessary premise. But it is a premise without consequence.

    An aside: Of course, I admit that God is possible. The extent to which God can be “known” or understood is something that I’ve always had trouble getting my head around – how do we, confined to a natural reality, understand something that is by definition supernatural? And if we come to know a rational part of God, isn’t that the same thing as saying that we come to know a part of reality? How can natural creatures come to know something that is supernatural? Etc.

    2. Denial of God has caused Paul to create an epistemology in which he cannot apprehend reality. I don’t quite know yet where you stand on knowledge and apprehension of reality – are you with Paul, as you’ve implied? Paul said (but seems to have changed his mind without acknowledgment) that all knowledge must be predictive and empirically verified (cutting off huge swaths of knowledge). You have offered a positivist’s rationale in your previous comment so do you cut off other knowledge as well?

    From what I’ve read here I believe that Paul’s and (DL’s) understanding of how we understand reality to be the same as mine. (I think they’re just ahead of me on most of this, btw – I doubt that I’ve thought a lot of this through as well as they have.) I would say that my view of reality would best be described as logical positivism.

    To my reading it appears that Paul (and DL and myself) are constructing a version of reality in which we have used Occam’s razor when it comes to adding God’s existence to our understanding of reality. I don’t think that you or SteveK are demonstrating how adding “all directed by a Theistic God” to rationality adds anything to our understanding.

    Let me try and say this another way. You say that because skeptics concede the possibility of the BIV scenario they can know nothing. (I don’t think this is true, as Paul points out with his post swamp analogy, and as we skeptics behave everyday – none of us seem to be hindered by our “knowing nothing” compared to our theistic friends. We don’t jump off buildings, etc.) So, “skeptics know nothing because they don’t know that they’re not a BIV” doesn’t seem true. If it was true, we wouldn’t make it one hour in a world where knowledge of reality is essential to our preservation, for instance.

    Regarding the BIV I want to point out again that this dilemma is not a state of mind; it is a logical dilemma. If we (including you) can’t find a way to thoroughly demolish it, you are contained by the same. That is, you can’t just push aside the BIV and claim it doesn’t affect you because it doesn’t affect you. (I’d only say, “Come join us where Absolute Knowledge and everyday knowledge share a difference without a distinction! It’s exactly like the world you now live in!”)

    3. Knowledge of God allows me to say I can apprehend truth, know I exist, know logical axioms and know I am not a BIV. Unlike the denier of these truths I have accessible to me truth and knowledge.

    It sounds like you’re saying that “God is involved in reality” [my wording] can be safely assumed like other axioms, but why am I compelled to do this? (I’d prefer not to argue over morality right now because I think it’s another long topic and it won’t close the loop on what you’re saying here. Also, I’ll happily concede that events like the Big Bang support the idea of a Deistic God. But I’m talking about the Theistic God here.) In other words, is there one instance where “God is involved in reality” helps us better understand reality? And I don’t mean give us a feeling or emotion about reality – I mean practically understand it, as in predict and explain.

    Last try: how is your addition of the axiom of a theistic god’s existence different than “everything looks blue when I put on blue sunglasses?” This statement is innocuous enough to me, but I think your stance is more combative — it sounds like “you don’t see the world in it’s true reality if you’re not wearing blue sunglasses.” I don’t mean to offend — if the sunglasses references seems like a bad analogy, I think you can go with “completely clear glasses.”

    SteveK,

    You wrote:

    If you let reality come to you and impress itself upon your physical senses and your mind you will get an accurate picture of the truth of reality.

    and

    I believe we come ‘preloaded’ with a spiritual nature – the image of God – a soul.

    I think that you’re arguing that because we have souls, we can only come to understand reality by acknowledging (your) God’s existence in every aspect of reality. The only problem here is that I still don’t see any evidence that this is true. What part of reality am I missing right now (not an emotion or a feeling) because I am somehow not allowing reality to impress itself upon my physical senses and mind?

  179. Hi Tony,

    And if God does not exist then knowledge of him is not reality. So it comes to a question of existence. It looks to me that instead of arguing to prove God’s existence you’re arguing that God’s existence is a necessary premise. But it is a premise without consequence.

    You guys always want so much from one discussion. It always comes down to the fact that we have to prove that God exists. But that argument is made countless other places and countless other ways.
    But you are right – if God doesn’t exist then I am not embracing truth when I believe in His existence. On the other hand, if He doesn’t exist then none of us has knowledge of reality.

    God is Truth and all truth is God’s and it is unified and coherent. Without Him, not so much.

    An aside: Of course, I admit that God is possible. The extent to which God can be “known” or understood is something that I’ve always had trouble getting my head around – how do we, confined to a natural reality, understand something that is by definition supernatural

    By His revelation witness and testimony.

    I would say that my view of reality would best be described as logical positivism.

    Your view is best described then as having died the death of a thousand qualifications.
    Even DL has had to abandon his claim to this view. His problem is that those who killed it didn;t apply the fixes that he would have liked to have seen. Unfortunately, as is the case here, his fixes undermine the case from its inception.

    To my reading it appears that Paul (and DL and myself) are constructing a version of reality in which we have used Occam’s razor when it comes to adding God’s existence to our understanding of reality

    The good WIlliam of Okcham’s principle was that we ought not multiply agencies beyond necessity. He would not advocate slicing away the necessary and parsimony not only doesn;t demand this but can’t allow for it.

    I don’t think that you or Paul are demonstrating how adding “all directed by a Theistic God” to rationality adds anything to our understanding.

    I do. (you meant Steve). For one, as demonstrated amply, it allows us to have understanding

    So, “skeptics know nothing because they don’t know that they’re not a BIV” doesn’t seem true. If it was true, we wouldn’t make it one hour in a world where knowledge of reality is essential to our preservation, for instance.

    But knowledge of our world is NOT necessary to our survival in a BIV. You implicitly admit that we are not BIV when you continually claim this position. But by accepting the possibility of BIV you have already conceded that you don;t know if knowledge is necessary for survival. KNowledge is a game and can be anything the vat says it is – as is survival. This is the entire point of the BIV argument and it is odd that you guys accept the argument but not what it set out to demonstrate. The position lacks coherence.
    .

    Regarding the BIV I want to point out again that this dilemma is not a state of mind; it is a logical dilemma. If we (including you) can’t find a way to thoroughly demolish it, you are contained by the same.

    You are still mistaken. The question is about knowledge. In order to maintain skepticism and to demarcate what can and can not be considered knowledge the skeptic says we can’t even know we are not BIV. This undercuts and, as you wish, utterly demolishes all right – but what it demolishes is knowledge.
    Luckily, I know (as do you, in all reality) that I am not a BIV. But then you positivists, verificationists, methodists must ask yourselves HOW you KNOW this, given your claimed epistemology. Demolished then is that epistemology, and the skeptic’s stance against knowledge of God.

    That is, you can’t just push aside the BIV and claim it doesn’t affect you because it doesn’t affect you. (I’d only say, “Come join us where Absolute Knowledge and everyday knowledge share a difference without a distinction! It’s exactly like the world you now live in!”)

    You don’t know what world we live in so you don’t know what compares to it.
    Neither you nor Paul nor DL has answered this without qualification:
    Is this so-called everyday knowledge actually KNOWLEDGE? You say it is distinct but not differetn from ultimate knowledge; Paul balked. Do you agree that this ungrounded, unverified knowledge, based upon assumptions which cannot be proven and may be wrong, which you say is not different from the ultimate knowledge which is beyond our access, is KNOWLEDGE? If so, you make my point and demolish the skeptic’s argument against our knowledge and experiences.

    “Come join us where Absolute Knowledge and everyday knowledge share a difference without a distinction! It’s exactly like the world you now live in!”)

    Rather, I’d ask you to join me in the Truth and the Light and embrace the knwoledge of the only true Reality.

    It sounds like you’re saying that “God is involved in reality” [my wording] can be safely assumed like other axioms, but why am I compelled to do this?

    You aren’t. Only God can compel you. But a better question is “why do avoid the obvious and what compels you to deny God?”

    Also, I’ll happily concede that events like the Big Bang support the idea of a Deistic God. But I’m talking about the Theistic God here.)

    This is very gracious of you (honestly, no sarcasm). I’ve not met a critic yet who can allow that support and evidence for God exist without fearing he has given away the whole store and without fallaciously conflating “support” with “proof”. Kudos to you on this.
    But a deistic God who brought the universe into being and ordered it IS a theistic God. He is necessarily omnipotent and omniscient, at least, and personal at that. A God so evidenced must have had a reason for bringing a universe into being and it would behoove us to wonder about that reason. Such a God might even want to share that reason with us through His various revelations.

    Then again, you also have the witness of history and the Incarnation, death and Resurrection of Christ which supports the truth of Christianity itself.

    In other words, is there one instance where “God is involved in reality” helps us better understand reality?

    Of course!
    Why is there someting rather than nothing?
    Why does the universe exhibit the fine-tuning it does?
    Why is life so grandly accommodated in our solar system and on our planet?
    Whence life itself?
    Whence the information stored in the DNA and the ordering of life?
    Whence the human dilemma?
    What is our purpose? What is the purpose of anything?
    Why do we have moral inclinations and norms?
    Why do most of us experience the numinous?
    Why do fMRIs indicate that people having spiritual experiences are going through brain states consistent with encountering objective reality?
    Why do NDEs exist?
    Pace Einstein, why is the universe logical and intelligible?
    Why does our theoretic thinking so often come to be found as a description of a perviously unknown aspect of reality?
    Why does consciousness and volition appear to be a fundamental force in the universe?
    What is the solution to our problems?
    Why do believers live longer, happier, healthier, saner lives than skeptics?
    What is the source of our longings and desires beyond this “reality”? Why do we crave love that humans cannot fulfill and utter, full-knowing acceptance that no creature can give us?

    Why do we know we are not brains in vats?

    I know you think you have answers for many if not most of these, and will deny the existence of some of my premises, but notice this; God is the single, unified and coherent answer to all of them. On positivism you have no answers in many cases, and where you do they are an ad hoc disconnected patchwork. In a UNIverse such as this, that doesn’t seem probable.

    Last try: how is your addition of the axiom of a theistic god’s existence different than “everything looks blue when I put on blue sunglasses?” This statement is innocuous enough to me, but I think your stance is more combative — it sounds like “you don’t see the world in it’s true reality if you’re not wearing blue sunglasses.” I don’t mean to offend — if the sunglasses references seems like a bad analogy, I think you can go with “completely clear glasses.”

    C.S. Lewis said he knew Christianity was true in the way that he knew the sun had risen – not because he saw it, but because BY IT he saw everything. You guys keep acting as though we find ourselves in a perfectly rational world that answers its own questions and then along come Christians and tack God on superficially. This is not the case. I have never had a moment in my memory when I was not aware of God and didn’t know He was both out there and here with me. Children are born knowing that order does not come from disorder and that the world and nature exhibits design.
    Please, I didn’t just say that makes it right – I am demonstrating that God is not an after-the-fact addition – God is a priori. He elects US. He impresses Himself upon our natures from the beginning.
    Man sees God through HIs revelation in nature and always has. It is only by force that he can concoct theories and methods by which to deny God.
    One such show of mis-applied force is the epistemology grasped at throughout this discussion.

    The only problem here is that I still don’t see any evidence that this is true.

    Paul and DL refuse to look.
    Will you look?

  180. I waited too long to edit.
    Sorry about the typos.
    I also wanted to preface my answer to this question:

    In other words, is there one instance where “God is involved in reality” helps us better understand reality?

    The very fact that God is involved in reality justifies our attempts to understand it in the first place. As we discussed against your preconceptions previously, it was the Christian conception of God that birthed and nurtured real science.

  181. You rightly state that the argument about morality will be long and involved. So was our argument about Reason. So is the argument from cosmology and the one from teleology.
    To underscore my previous points, all of these arguments are long and involved, from epistemology to ontology, and the best, strongest and most coherent answer is always God.

  182. Further to Tony’s question about how we can know God. Of course, we can not know everything about Him. We are limited and, as everyone has heard said, see through the glass darkly. The day will come when we will see perfectly.

    How do we, limited to a natural world, know anything about the supernatural world? Primarily by God’s condescending to interact with us. He loves us so much that He is not willing any of us be lost, and He has done everything necessary to welcome us back into the family. Like the father of the prodigal son He is running to us with arms wide open. He satisfied His own justice, defeated evil forever and reconciled us to Him through the crucifixion and Resurrection of the Son. We have this knowledge handed down to us through history.

    And sometimes God allows the supernatural to break through to help us along the way and condition our hearts; for instance, He showed Scott an image of His Son. He answers people’s prayers, He changes their hearts and their lives and He tells them The story of reality.

    He has also given us the gift of his revealed Word for those of us who actually seek to know Him. This week I read the books of Esther and Job again, learned more about God and heard His voice (not a literal voice) speaking to me. I heard HIm symbolically telling us, through historical events, about what He had planned from the beginning and how we are redeemed through His Son’s intercession.

  183. Internet access restored…

    Charlie,

    I said that justification is the difference between intuitive belief and knowledge and between assumption and knowledge. Your response was to say that:

    So your justification of this claim is that [knowledge] is so-defined. Then you don’t know it, because, by definition, your knowledge is circular and you aren’t actually stating anything with any content. If you can then know this you can know axioms.

    If I assume X in a context, then my knowledge of X in that context is justified by my assumption.

    Is this really like your “knowledge” that God exists? If you assume God exists in some context, then your knowledge of God’s existence in that context is justified by your assumption. However, I expect you think that God exists, whether or not you assume he exists. So we’re talking about something different.

    Maybe you can answer me more explicitly. Are you saying that knowledge = assumption and knowledge = belief?

    Suppose I have an opaque jar containing an unknown number of jelly beans. I guess that there are 12 beans in the jar. Then, I play psychological tricks on myself for a few hours until I come to actually believe that there are 12 beans in the jar. The jar is opened, and there happen to be 12 beans in the jar. Did I know that there were 12 beans in the jar, or did I just believe it? Or is there no difference?

    One can know something conditionally upon assumptions.

    This means you don’t know anything. If you don’t know your assumptions are correct then you don’t know that which is based upon them.

    Or do I not know the answer to any counterfactual conditional?

    How about this:

    If there are 4 beans in the red jar and 6 beans in the blue jar, then there would be 10 beans in both jars combined.

    Seems like you’re saying I don’t know this if I don’t know how many beans there are in each jar.

    My logic goes like this:
    1) We can have knowledge if and only if the LNC is true.
    2) We have knowledge.
    3) The LNC is true.

    “If and only if X, Y” means “If X then Y, If ~X then ~Y.”

    But if ~LNC, then… nothing. You can’t make inferences. So you can’t say If and only if LNC because it’s nonsensical.

    Furthermore, where does (2) come from? You assume you have knowledge. You haven’t proven it.

    Again, your position is utterly hopeless. You cannot prove the fundamental axioms of logic and rational thinking with a logical proof. As soon as you make the smallest logical step in your proof, you will be assuming the rules of logic are true.

    Also, the opposite of the statement “the LNC is true” is self-defeating. Since “the LNC is not true” is defeated the LNC is true.

    It’s self-defeating according to what? The laws of logic?

  184. Hi DL,

    If I assume X in a context, then my knowledge of X in that context is justified by my assumption.

    Aside from the variety of other ways your appeal to a definition is circular there is the very obvious – in order to “justify” knowledge you must rely upon knowledge. With your criterion there is no way you will ever escape the same circularity you will charge the theist with.

    Maybe you can answer me more explicitly. Are you saying that knowledge = assumption and knowledge = belief?

    Of course not. But just because you call an “axiom” (somehting which is known without demonstration or verification) an “assumption” (somethng which is not know) doesn’t mean you’ve ruled it out as knowledge. I can justify my knowledge of axioms but you call this circular – of course, it is no more circular than anything you will rely upon – like saying knowledge is justified true belief.

    Seems like you’re saying I don’t know this if I don’t know how many beans there are in each jar.

    Seems like you are including the condition you left out earlier and trying to hide it.
    What you left out in your precious interation : “IF” there are …
    Yes, IF there are such and such, IF x=5, etc.. If and when the premises are true then the conclusion is true. If they are not true then the conclusion is not true, and if they are not known to be true then the conclusion is not known.
    In your epistemology all premises are ultimately unknown, therefore, there is no knowledge.

    Seems like you’re saying I don’t know this if I don’t know how many beans there are in each jar.

    This sophistry will not float. You do not know how many beans there are in total if you don’t know how many beans are in each. This doesn’t mean you don’t know how to do math or that the rules of math become obscured. The rules of mathematics are not dependent upon how many beans are in each jar. How many beans there are in total, of course, is.

    But if ~LNC, then… nothing. You can’t make inferences. So you can’t say If and only if LNC because it’s nonsensical.

    If you can’t accept the known truth of the LNC, and you can’t accept this plain and obvious justification then you can’t know anything – including that knowledge requires justification.

    Again, your position is utterly hopeless

    Nice try. Yes, it is hopeless given your epistemology – but then under that condition ALL knowledge is hopeless. My point holds and all you’re left is skepticism.

    As soon as you make the smallest logical step in your proof, you will be assuming the rules of logic are true.

    . So you’ve defeated all knowledge by your claims – knowing where you stand we can disregard your claims about how the universe is and what knowledge entails.

    It’s self-defeating according to what? The laws of logic?

    Indeed.
    Try it without calling it a rule of logic.
    A statement can not be both true and false at the same time in the same way.
    A statement to the contrary, if true, is also false and is, therefore, self-defeating.
    Therefore, the original is affirmed.
    Did this include the use of logic? Of course it did. But it didn’t prove “logic”, as “logic” is not a thing to be proven.
    On the other hand, the circularity of claiming that you know that knowledge requires justification (known reasons) is even more obvious and less escapable.

  185. Wow. I am just the king of typos.
    Ignoring some of the less interesting ones let me correct “precious interation” to “previous iteration” .

  186. Steve,

    So, in light of this, tell me why the world would look different if morality is grounded absolutely when that grounding predicts nothing I will ever experience?

    It’s important to note that both of us beg the question that it would look the same or different UNLESS we were somehow informed of the truth behind the “looks the same” question.

    Sorry, I don’t know what you’re saying here.

    I’ll reiterate. If you can’t tell me what your claim predicts (not even hypothetically), then even you won’t recognize evidence for your claim.

    Explain, please. If you are in love, what does that predict?

    I don’t know, really. Is it suppose to predict something?

    Er, yes. It’s supposed to predict something that you will see when you are in love, but that you won’t see when you are not in love. You just got through telling me you would know the difference. Now you’re saying it doesn’t predict any difference.

  187. Charlie,

    Every rational person has assumptions they start from. The LNC is one of such assumption. But you do not know the LNC is true beyond your assumption of its truth. You believe it’s true, but that’s not knowledge.

    You keep insisting that there’s no such thing as contingent knowledge. Ask anyone in any philosophy department. They’ll explain to you that you are wrong. I can know that IF certain premises are true, certain conclusions WOULD follow. It doesn’t matter whether the premises are actually true. I KNOW that if they were true, the conclusion WOULD follow.

    You have some sort of psychological block that prevents you accepting uncertainty. I guess we all do, but there’s no significant uncertainty here. For all practical (rational) purposes, the LNC is true. It’s part of the definition of rational thinking. It doesn’t matter that it is only an assumption and not absolutely justified knowledge. It makes no practical difference to rational thinking.

    You keep insisting that if we don’t know the LNC is true (instead of merely assuming it) we cannot distinguish justified from unjustified belief. As I explained above, there are things we can know conditionally. If the LNC (and the other axioms) are assumed true, then we can know all sorts of things by justification.

    But just because you call an “axiom” (something which is known without demonstration or verification) an “assumption” (something which is not known) doesn’t mean you’ve ruled it out as knowledge. I can justify my knowledge of axioms but you call this circular – of course, it is no more circular than anything you will rely upon – like saying knowledge is justified true belief.

    You haven’t justified it your belief in the LNC because your argument IS circular. You have not even disputed its circularity.

    In contrast, you are claiming that my reliance on definitions is circular. Well, it isn’t because I’m not trying to prove my definitions using my definitions. I’m assuming my definitions, not trying to prove them.

    I’m defining (and philosophy defines) knowledge as “justified true belief”. It’s a definition. It’s a convention. I’m not using this definition to prove the definition. I’m telling you what the consequences of the assumption are. If knowledge is JTB, then the LNC isn’t knowledge, but assumption.

    You do not know how many beans there are in total if you don’t know how many beans are in each. This doesn’t mean you don’t know how to do math or that the rules of math become obscured. The rules of mathematics are not dependent upon how many beans are in each jar. How many beans there are in total, of course, is.

    So you’re saying I do not now know that If there were 6 beans in one jar and IF there were 4 beans in the other, THEN there would be 10 beans in the two jars total? I only know in the case that there are ACTUALLY 6 in one and 4 in the other?

    Hmmm. If, hypothetically, you give me $100 and I give you $10, you don’t know (actually) you would, hypothetically, be out $90. Tell you what, let’s actually do the transaction, and then you would finally find out whether you would be out $90.

    If you can’t accept the known truth of the LNC, and you can’t accept this plain and obvious justification then you can’t know anything – including that knowledge requires justification.

    No, you’re wrong again. I don’t need to know the LNC is true. I just have to assume I am in a context where it is true. Once I make the assumption, I can use the assumption as justification in that context. If I assume the LNC is true, then there is this thing I call “knowledge” contingent upon the assumption of the LNC.

    I hereby assume the LNC is true.

    A statement can not be both true and false at the same time in the same way.
    A statement to the contrary, if true, is also false and is, therefore, self-defeating.
    Therefore, the original is affirmed.
    Did this include the use of logic? Of course it did. But it didn’t prove “logic”, as “logic” is not a thing to be proven.

    The LNC is logic, and yet you say that logic is not a thing to be proven.

    On the other hand, the circularity of claiming that you know that knowledge requires justification (known reasons) is even more obvious and less escapable.

    A definition doesn’t need to be proven. A definition is assumed by convention. Definitions are not true in and of themselves. They are true by assumption when the definition is made in the context of that assumption.

    If you want to say knowledge is something other than JTB, be my guest. For all I know, your definition of knowledge could mean “implicit assumption.” You might have been saying the same thing as me all along! But if so, why are you trying to justify your belief in the LNC? If you don’t think knowledge is defined as “justified true belief”, why bother with justification?

  188. Hi DL,

    Every rational person has assumptions they start from. The LNC is one of such assumption. But you do not know the LNC is true beyond your assumption of its truth. You believe it’s true, but that’s not knowledge.

    By your definition your assertion is false – I am justified in my belief.

    I can know that IF certain premises are true, certain conclusions WOULD follow. It doesn’t matter whether the premises are actually true. I KNOW that if they were true, the conclusion WOULD follow.

    You keep insisting the wrong thing and ignoring the context. IF you don’t know your premises then you don’t know your resulting conclusion. As I said, a sound argument is not necessarily a valid one. That is the point and knowing things which are not dependent upon the premises has nothing to do with the question. You have established a position whereby you cannot know any premises. Therefore, you cannot know any conclusions derived from these.
    Your contingent examples actually rely upon premises you are hiding. IF … WOULD does not depend on the certain premises you refer to, but rather, upon the justification of the laws of logic. About the following, the knowledge that YOU KNOW that the conclusion WOULD follow, actually has the hidden premise that deduction is valid, that the LNC holds, that conclusions follow premises, etc. You do not know this in your epistemology – you know nothing. You are skating on the surface of this with your thinking safely ensconced in jargon but remaining irrelevant to the question at hand.

    For all practical (rational) purposes, the LNC is true. It’s part of the definition of rational thinking. It doesn’t matter that it is only an assumption and not absolutely justified knowledge. It makes no practical difference to rational thinking.

    Forget my psychological block. You say that FAP purposes it is true, it doesn’t matter if its absolutely justified or not , etc. …
    Now you are with Tony, saying that there is no difference in the distinction between everyday (practical) knowledge and ultimate (absolutely justified) knowledge.
    So, is it knowledge? With more qualifications you say LNC is true and you say that it is true, and you know it is true, without justification.
    So … what’s up?
    Are you admitting finally that this assumption is known? If so, by what justification?
    If not, what are you saying?
    Do you now want to claim some kind of knowledge badly enough to throw out the demarcations proffered previously?

    You keep insisting that if we don’t know the LNC is true (instead of merely assuming it) we cannot distinguish justified from unjustified belief. As I explained above, there are things we can know conditionally.

    Your explanation is pointless. If we can’t know the conditions are true we can’t know the conditional knowledge is true. We cannot know this if the LNC is not known to be true. Don’t tell IF…WOULD again – it is not a solution.

    You haven’t justified it your belief in the LNC because your argument IS circular. You have not even disputed its circularity.

    If its circular I’ve defeated the import of the charge because my belief in the LNC is certainly justified. You can’t even make the charge, let alone deny the truth of the LNC, without justifying my knowledge of it.

    In contrast, you are claiming that my reliance on definitions is circular.
    Well, it isn’t because I’m not trying to prove my definitions using my definitions. I’m assuming my definitions, not trying to prove them.

    Actually, rather than demonstrate the circularity of deriving your knowledge from the definition of the word (not the thing) I took a much more direct root – I showed the circularity of your claiming to know that knowledge is justified true belief rests upon the fact that “justified” relies upon “knowledge”.

    I’m defining (and philosophy defines) knowledge as “justified true belief”. It’s a definition. It’s a convention.

    It’s circular. You avoided the point.

    If knowledge is JTB, then the LNC isn’t knowledge, but assumption.

    False. LNC is justified. Apparently an assumption can be knowledge.

    So you’re saying I do not now know that If there were 6 beans in one jar and IF there were 4 beans in the other, THEN there would be 10 beans in the two jars total?

    You know this. IF and THEN are based upon a premise you are hiding – the validity of the laws of addition and of logic.

    I only know in the case that there are ACTUALLY 6 in one and 4 in the other?

    Hmmm. If, hypothetically, you give me $100 and I give you $10, you don’t know (actually) you would, hypothetically, be out $90. Tell you what, let’s actually do the transaction, and then you would finally find out whether you would be out $90.

    You are neither funny nor facing the issue. You don’t know there are 10 IF you don’t know THAT there are 6 and 4 and, as to whether or not there ARE 10 it doesn’t matter that you know THAT IF there were 6 and 4 there WOULD be 10.
    As for your 90 from 100, IF there’s no 100 and there’s no 10 then you don’t know if there’s 90. IF there really are 100 and 10 then there really is 90. You can know this during the transaction if you know the previous sums exist and you know you aren;t a brain in a vat … but you can’t know that either.

    If I assume the LNC is true, then there is this thing I call “knowledge” contingent upon the assumption of the LNC.

    And if it is not true then this thing you call “knowledge” is not “knowledge”. If you don’t know whether or not it is true you don’t know whether or not you have knowledge – therefore, you don’t.
    re: context and conditionals:
    1If there is a bridge up ahead I know I can cross the river.
    2)I don’t know if there is a bridge up ahead.
    3) I don’t know I can cross the river.

    1) If there’s a real universe outside of my head it is possible that I can have knowledge of it.
    2) I don’t know if there is such a universe.
    3) I have no knowledge of such a universe.

    I hereby assume the LNC is true.

    Assumptions aren’t knowledge so you have no knowledge. You keep moving the IF out of sight.

    The LNC is logic, and yet you say that logic is not a thing to be proven.

    No it’s not. “Logic” is a study, science or a system … the LNC is one of the rules in this system.

    If you want to say knowledge is something other than JTB, be my guest. For all I know, your definition of knowledge could mean “implicit assumption.” You might have been saying the same thing as me all along! But if so, why are you trying to justify your belief in the LNC? If you don’t think knowledge is defined as “justified true belief”, why bother with justification?

    1) You are claiming justification is defeated by circularity.
    2) Your claim that you know that knowledge requires justification is circular – therefore, you do not know that knowledge requires justification.

    Therefore, you have no position from which to tell anybody what knowledge does or does not require.

    I agreed that knowledge is justified true belief. In so doing I demonstrate that some circularity involved in justification is not necessarily a defeater of it. But I am not trying to justify my knowledge of LNC. I am showing you that it is justified, even though it is axiomatic or, as you like to say, “assumed”. It is justified in a way you can not countenance although, as always, you plead a special case for your own justifications. This demonstrates that we can know that which is necessarily true or self-evident. It shows that we can immediately apprehend truth and that we can have knowledge without verification or empirical evidence. As I’ve said countless times, I know the LNC is true without a method. But I can use the method to justify that knowledge if I so choose.
    Imagine how fast you’d defend the justification of LNC if I said it wasn’t “predictive”.

  189. So let’s eliminate the beans in the jar and the magic billfold to see what’s really going on here with this so-called conditional knowledge.
    Eliminating the hypotheticals, which inaccurately give the project a sense of real-world information-gathering, what is actually being said is the equivalent of:
    1) if A =B
    2) and B=C
    3) then A=C.
    Here, of course, nothing is known whatsoever about A, B and C except what is already given to be known by the problem itself. That is, we know how they are being defined and our knowledge of them is already accounted for in the construction of the question. IF A, B etc.
    This is exactly the same as saying IF x=5 or IF the number of beans in the jar is 4, etc.
    Therefore, we can see that nothing is known about any of these symbols beyond the definition. We do not, in fact, know that A=C unless we know that A=B and B=C, that is, the knowledge of the equivalence is absolutely contingent upon the knowledge of the premises.
    Calling this conditional knowledge merely obscures the fact that no knowledge is actually possessed here without sure knowledge of the premises.
    What we are actually claiming to know when we say “we know that A-C” (or “there are ten jelly beans”) is that we know that we can know that “A=C if A=B and B=C”.
    But without surety of the premises upon upon which this so-called conditional knowledge is built we do not know that we can know this, and, therefore, we cannot know even this.
    This is akin to trying to prove mathematics empirically by counting apples in bags as
    the actual claim here is “we know that the laws of mathematics hold or we know that the laws of logic are true”.
    If we do not, in fact, know these things, then we do not know that we can know that A=C, even if A=B and B=C, therefore, we do not know that A=C.

    What is being hidden is the true nature of the IF/THEN statements.
    1) IF the associative/commutative laws of mathematics are true
    2) AND/OR we know that logical deduction applies
    3) THEN we can know that …. 1a) IF A=B, etc.
    But we do not know these premises, according to the skeptic or the potential BIV.

    Conditional knowledge is defeated along with all other knowledge if axioms are not known.

  190. Charlie,

    I don’t think we’ll ultimately agree, but let’s try to spell out precisely what the disagreement is.

    Pure logic does not deal with beliefs. It deals with propositions. Propositions are true or false (not degrees of confidence in truth or falsehood).

    Take the Socrates syllogism:

    All men are mortal.
    Socrates is a man.
    Therefore, Socrates is mortal.

    We both agree that this is logically valid.

    The essential function of logic is consistency. When we deduce that Socrates is a man, we are merely stripping away the inconsistent propositions. The proposition that Socrates is not mortal is inconsistent with the other two propositions.

    In pure logic, I can also do the following:

    All mice are invisible.
    Mickey is a mouse.
    Therefore, Mickey is invisible.

    Again, deduction is a process of stripping away the inconsistency. This is logically valid.

    However, we would probably say that it isn’t sound. We say it isn’t sound because we don’t believe that the premise is true.

    My argument is that every logical argument relies in implicit premises, e.g.,

    [The LNC is true]
    [The theorems of logic]
    All men are mortal.
    Socrates is a man.
    Therefore, Socrates is mortal.

    If I treat the LNC and its theorems as propositions and not beliefs, then this is valid at the very least.

    The issue here is whether the argument is sound. You are saying that if the LNC is not known to be true, then no logical argument is sound because at least one of its premises is not known to be true.

    The problem with this is that you don’t know the LNC to be true. You only believe it. You cannot have a rational argument for the truth of the assumptions rationality. I don’t know why you are ignoring this.

    So what is the practical benefit of soundness of an argument? Well, it tells us when we ought to believe the conclusion of an argument instead of just acknowledging its validity. Do you think soundness has any other function?

    So, let’s assume knowledge is “justified true belief”. Then knowledge will be a belief justified by foundational beliefs. Foundational beliefs cannot be justified by foundational beliefs without circularity.

    There’s no circularity in my definition of knowledge because I’m not proving my definition. I’m just proving what counts as knowledge according to my definition. It’s a theorem of my definition, if you like.

    In essence, you are disputing my definition of knowledge. You are saying that foundational beliefs can’t be mere assumptions because you require soundness to be based on truth, and not on justified belief.

    But lacking any proof of the LNC, you want to convert your belief in the LNC into certain knowledge, so that you can say that your arguments are sound (by your definition). So you assume the LNC is knowledge. In the same way I assume it isn’t.

    And since you assume you can just know certain things intuitively, you know God exists by the same assumption.

    You’re simply not aware of your own assumptions. The things you consider self-evident truths are not truths. They are assumed truths. You cannot prove them. The reason you stick to them like glue is that you think there will be no such thing as knowledge otherwise. But that’s not a proof. Things aren’t proved by our desire for their consequences.

    The same goes for God. It’s an assumption you make because you’re attached to the consequences of the assumption. It’s just that you add one more layer of indirection. You don’t say you “assume God” or “assume the LNC”. You say you “assume God is self evident knowledge” or assume the LNC is self-evident knowledge.” There’s no difference.

  191. Morning DL,
    You had me up to this assertion:

    The problem with this is that you don’t know the LNC to be true.

    Demonstrating that LNC and the theorems of logic are held premises in every argument, and that arguments based upon them are not sound if they are not true and known to be true exactly agrees with what I am saying.

    You cannot have a rational argument for the truth of the assumptions rationality. I don’t know why you are ignoring this.

    I’m not. I’ve repeatedly said that this condition does not apply. You cannot charge me with irrationality when your very case defeats rationality. I CAN know that the LNC is true, and I do. And I know that I am not a brain in a vat.
    I know these even if they can’t be verified or empirically tested.
    You, on the other hand, cannot know that knowledge requires justification or that I need a rational argument for the truth of the assumptions because of the very conditions you’ve set. Your position is self-defeating from the onset. The criteria you use to defeat my knowledge of the LNC defeats, not the least, your very demand for justification in knowledge.
    Knowledge cannot, in fact, be defined – it, too, can only be self-evident.
    You have to start somewhere or you can get nowhere.

    So what is the practical benefit of soundness of an argument? Well, it tells us when we ought to believe the conclusion of an argument instead of just acknowledging its validity. Do you think soundness has any other function

    Very good. The whole discussion is about what we ought to believe (a moral question, by the way, and useless without truth).

    There’s no circularity in my definition of knowledge because I’m not proving my definition. I’m just proving what counts as knowledge according to my definition. It’s a theorem of my definition, if you like.

    There is circularity because “justified” is based upon knowledge. You cannot define a thing by reference to itself. I don’t know why you are ignoring this.
    Second, defining knowledge, the word, does not tell us what knowledge is. This is like saying “swans are white waterfowl with long necks”. By definition, there are no black swans. But that is not the case. You do not know there are no black swans by saying “it is so-defined”, just as you don’t know that we cannot know anything that is not justified true belief – forget the fact that you can’t define knowledge in the first place.
    And you can’t tell me what justification is. You have come close with reference to soundness, where you say “what we ought to believe”. We certainly ought to believe the LNC is true, and I have given you ample justification for instance – its negation is impossible.

    In essence, you are disputing my definition of knowledge. You are saying that foundational beliefs can’t be mere assumptions because you require soundness to be based on truth, and not on justified belief.

    Even by definition knowledge is not justified belief but justified TRUE belief.

    So you assume the LNC is knowledge. In the same way I assume it isn’t.

    And, the entire point of the exercise is to show that by assuming that it isn’t you have devoured all knowledge – you have assumed you can’t know anything. Such skepticism does not appeal to me, being that I know God and His truth.

    And since you assume you can just know certain things intuitively, you know God exists by the same assumption.

    Worse than this, you claim to know things based on assumptions which you can’t even know intuitively.

    You’re simply not aware of your own assumptions.

    Of course I am. I am the only one here who is aware of assumptions. You are so unaware of your assumptions that you claim to know things and presume to tell people what reality is like when you have to take everything on unknown, unknowable assumptions.

    They are assumed truths. You cannot prove them.

    Truths (like knowledge exists) do not require proof. This is your hangover from your logical positivism and your denial of the fact that philosophy does not tell us what we can and cannot know – it merely tries to figure out how we know what we do know.
    You can’t prove anything about knowledge, for instance, by your criteria and yet you argue about it as though you know something about it.

    The reason you stick to them like glue is that you think there will be no such thing as knowledge otherwise. But that’s not a proof. Things aren’t proved by our desire for their consequences.

    We certainly ought to believe them, however, if their consequences are not merely unpleasant but impossible.

    The same goes for God. It’s an assumption you make because you’re attached to the consequences of the assumption. It’s just that you add one more layer of indirection. You don’t say you “assume God” or “assume the LNC”. You say you “assume God is self evident knowledge” or assume the LNC is self-evident knowledge.” There’s no difference.

    Assertion assertion.
    I don’t assume God exists. I trust my real experiences (which a potential BIV can’t) and am bolstered by the fact that all of logic, rationality and reality comport to, and make sense only in light of, this experience. You, on the other hand, have no access to such a reality and have cut logic and rationality off from the beginning.

  192. No limit, but with WordPress 2.7 I now have it set to split the comments into multiple pages, with a maximum of 50 per page. There’s a link for “older comments” at the bottom now. Does that help?

  193. Hi Tom,
    When I click the latest comments I get only those submitted after 200, and they are numbered now from 1.
    When I click older comments on the sidebar nothing happens.
    Is there something about me and my Mac that will keep me from viewing those first 200 comments – that you know of? Any setting I need to change?

  194. Oh noes! What happened to all the comments?

    Edit: Okay, now I see the link to the older comments. Different way of doing things.

  195. DL,

    About the following, the knowledge that YOU KNOW that the conclusion WOULD follow, actually has the hidden premise that deduction is valid, that the LNC holds, that conclusions follow premises, etc. You do not know this in your epistemology – you know nothing. You are skating on the surface of this with your thinking safely ensconced in jargon but remaining irrelevant to the question at hand.

    I agree with what Charlie said here, DL. You can’t assume the premise, assume something called the rules of logic, assume that the conclusion would follow, assume the LNC holds – and then presto chango, declare that you have knowledge. Your knowledge rests firmly planted in midair. It’s relativistic.

  196. Charlie & Steve,

    You hold that this is valid?

    About the following, the knowledge that YOU KNOW that the conclusion WOULD follow, actually has the hidden premise that deduction is valid, that the LNC holds, that conclusions follow premises, etc. You do not know this in your epistemology – you know nothing. You are skating on the surface of this with your thinking safely ensconced in jargon but remaining irrelevant to the question at hand.

    The premises aren’t hidden; Dr. Logic has painstakingly shown how they exist as assumptions in logical arguments. We are making arguments (all of us) based on those logical premises. It goes beyond reason to say that your premises are valid because you imagine them to be true, but our same premises are not available to us because we don’t make your assumption about ultimate knowledge.

    In other words, what’s the point of having this discussion if everything Dr. Logic, Paul and I say is invalidated by your claim that we are not capable of argument?

  197. Hi Tony,
    Yes, my point is valid.

    The premises aren’t hidden; Dr. Logic has painstakingly shown how they exist as assumptions in logical arguments.

    You didn’t follow.
    DL claimed that we could KNOW that Mickey Mouse was immortal, conditionally, based upon his premise that mice are immortal. I demonstrated that this was not true, that it was based upon faulty premises, and that, therefore, it is not knowledge.
    So he used mathematics to try to demonstrate conditionals. IF there are 4 and IF there are 6 beans THEN there are 10 beans. He claimed that we KNOW, from the above that, conditionally, there are 10 beans. What he hid is that we know nothing about how many beans there are from these premises (unless IF is satisfied) but that what knowledge he was claiming was that we can know that we can know this – this is based upon the premises of math and logic and, therefore, not on the IFs he offered. We can only conclude IF/THEN iff we already know the hidden premises (which you and he want to call assumptions) are true. IF they are not, then we cannot know that THEN follows IF. In other words, the conditional was not demonstrated.

    It goes beyond reason to say that your premises are valid because you imagine them to be true, but our same premises are not available to us because we don’t make your assumption about ultimate knowledge.

    No it doesn’t, but notice that you have joined the crowd telling me what is and is not rational while denying reason itself.
    The only way out of this is for each of you to admit what you know to be true – that we can know the axioms and that we know that we know, even without empirical or methodological verification. You can finally answer what none of you has answered any of the half-dozen or so times I have asked it – is your everyday, non-ultimate knowledge actually knowledge? Is there a difference hidden in your distinction or not? DL says that FAPP there is not but won’t take the last step and tell us what that finally means. Paul has left without answering. What say ye? Will you smoke ’em or not?

  198. Hi again,
    Did you add this in edit?

    In other words, what’s the point of having this discussion if everything Dr. Logic, Paul and I say is invalidated by your claim that we are not capable of argument?

    My point exactly!
    What is the point of having a discussion when you have created an epistemology from which you cannot access reality and have destroyed logic and reason?
    What is the point of telling me I can’t know my own experiences if you have to destroy all knowledge to do it? What is the point of telling me what knowledge entails when to deny my knowledge of the LNC you have to destroy the knowledge of knowledge?

    When I asked Paul this, and showed him that there was no point to his trying to tell others what is and is not real or rational, based upon his past statements and his epistemology, you thought I was maligning him by exposing his position to this thread. You have all now affirmed his position as your own as well. But this position is so repugnant that you thought I was disparaging Paul when I outlined it previously.

    Really, the biggest question is exactly what I asked Paul from the beginning – what is your point at all?

  199. Tony,

    Doesn’t this remind you of our discussions about moral relativism? It does to me. The relativist says there is subjective, personal morality (everyday morality), but there is not objective morality (ultimate morality). Here you are doing the same thing only with respect to knowledge.

    The moral relativist affirms a personal morality but then says others OUGHT to agree with it. But why? You, Paul and DL affirm an everyday knowledge, but why OUGHT I accept your knowledge as true unless it somehow transcends the three of you? If it transcends the three of you then it sounds more like ultimate knowledge than everyday knowledge

  200. Charlie,

    We certainly ought to believe the LNC is true, and I have given you ample justification for – its negation is impossible.

    It’s not impossible, Charlie. Even if your argument wasn’t circular, it still does not conclude impossibility. If the LNC is false, then there’s no such thing as logic or knowledge, and the alternative is incomprehensible. Incomprehensible isn’t impossibility.

    One of your premises is that we have foundational knowledge. That’s an assumption, but you pretend it isn’t.

    You are arguing backwards. You know the answer, and you’ll write down whatever reasons you can to get to your desired answer (circularity notwithstanding).

    You tell me and Tony that we have no knowledge because we start from foundational assumptions and not foundational knowledge. But it is you who makes a mockery or reasoning and debate. You are saying you know what you know. You don’t have to have justification for your belief that something is “knowledge”. It just is. You believe you know the conclusion and you bluff your way through the reasons for your belief. You are rationalizing, not reasoning. Your epistemology has no hope of self-correction because the conclusion is always the starting point. Well why are you here, Charlie? Why bother with reason at all? You just know what you know. There’s no arguing with views like that. Maybe this dogma is implicit to your fundamentalism.

    Moreover, you still don’t understand conditional knowledge.

    You keep saying I have implicit IFs in my argument. But I have EXPLICIT IFs in my argument. Suppose that we know the LNC (and, hence, logical theorems) is true. If there are 6 beans in one jar and 4 beans in the other, then there would be 10 beans in total. I can say this whether there are 6 beans in one of the jars or not. I don’t have to know the actual fact to know the conclusion is true about a counterfactual situation. Indeed, suppose I know there are 3 beans in each jar. My counterfactual claim is still known. I still know that if there were (counterfactually) 6 beans in one jar and (counterfactually) 4 beans in the other then there would be (counterfactually) 10 beans in total. This knowledge has nothing to do with how many beans there actually are in the jar.

    If Charlie were a licensed doctor, then he would know how to use a stethoscope. This is true whether or not you are a doctor.

    This means I can have knowledge about counterfactuals. Knowledge that is true conditional upon certain premises being true.

    All I’m doing is saying that the LNC can be one of those premises assumed to be true.

    And you can’t tell me what justification is. You have come close with reference to soundness, where you say “what we ought to believe”. We certainly ought to believe the LNC is true, and I have given you ample justification for – its negation is impossible.

    Sure I can. Justification is a conscious reflection on the truth a belief, specifically:

    1) Question whether the belief is true or not. In other words, you must challenge your belief, to see whether it might be mistaken.
    2) Check the consistency of your belief (or its negation) against other beliefs.
    3) Ask what experiences would have been (or will be) different if the belief were false.
    4) Look for alternatives (beware false dichotomies).
    5) Account for personal bias.

    Let’s apply these to the LNC… If the LNC is false, we can conclude nothing because inference relies on the LNC. All beliefs and knowledge implicitly assume the LNC. If the LNC is false we can conclude nothing, so we cannot say what experiences would be different. I can’t think of any alternatives that wouldn’t assume the LNC. Personal bias is a concept that assumes the LNC.

    In other words, rational justification assumes the LNC. I can’t justify a belief in the LNC without first assuming it true which defeats the point of rational justification. Makes sense because rational thinking (and definitions in general) assumes the LNC.

    As an aside, let’s look at how you and Steve think:

    1) Don’t question your belief. You know what you know. Safeguard the belief at all costs.
    “Truths (like knowledge exists) do not require proof.”
    2) Check consistency, but circular arguments are allowed.
    3) Don’t ask what experiences would be difference because that won’t work (per Steve’s last reply)
    4) Don’t look at alternatives. The Christian God who creates the world we see is the only kind of God we can conceive of.
    5) Ignore (indeed, maximize!) personal bias because otherwise we can’t see miracles, can’t get subtle God communication, and our beliefs would be threatened.

    Wow. Never wrote it in those terms before. You guys do the exact opposite of rational thinking. You maximize your bias and amplify your preconceptions to the maximum degree.

  201. Steve,

    The moral relativist affirms a personal morality but then says others OUGHT to agree with it. But why? You, Paul and DL affirm an everyday knowledge, but why OUGHT I accept your knowledge as true unless it somehow transcends the three of you? If it transcends the three of you then it sounds more like ultimate knowledge than everyday knowledge.

    As Charlie says, rationality is a moral choice. So it will be relative. But it is irrelevant.

    Suppose you’re commuting on the train, and the guy sitting next to you says he is a Coldplay fan. You strike up a conversation because you also like Coldplay, and love their style and sound. He tells you that he too likes their style and sound. He also tells you that Coldplay just came out with a new album, and he likes it for the same reasons he liked their previous albums.

    What is your reaction?

    Is it:

    a) You totally ignore what he says. Liking music is subjective, and not absolute. Why should you care about someone else’s subjective opinion?

    b) You take your existing subjective belief that Coldplay has a good style and sound. You add your belief that this person is truthful and claims the new album has the same style and sound. You conclude that you will like the new album. You decide to buy it.

    Do you see my analogy? The belief that you should assume the LNC is analogous a belief in the coolness of Coldplay. In order to convince you of my arguments, all I have to do is appeal to your belief that you ought to assume the LNC. If we share that belief, persuasion follows.

  202. Charlie,

    You brought it up so I have to respond:

    You wrote:

    When I asked Paul this, and showed him that there was no point to his trying to tell others what is and is not real or rational, based upon his past statements and his epistemology, you thought I was maligning him by exposing his position to this thread.

    Contrary to what you say above, I responded to your ad hominems on Paul, not your linking to past comments. Specifically, you wrote all these in reference to Paul before my first comment here:

    It seems obvious to me that you are precommitted to his [Mr. Gilbreath’s] being either deluded or a liar. But maybe you can surprise me.

    As I alluded to above, you cannot be convinced by man. You are impervious.

    It is obviously important enough that you have spent years here potshotting at Tom’s posts.

    Your claims to be testing your logic do not seem accurate and neither have you had a whit of success at convincing anybody here, or even making a logical dent.

    It looks to me that you are merely trying to justify your disbelief and ensure yourself that you can ramp up the skeptical metre high enough to deny anything you hear about God.

    Does misery truly love company?

    You have not come here to test your logic or work on your own preconceptions.

    As I pointed out to Tom, those are all ad hominems. I don’t really mind them per se, I’ve just seen other people kicked out for the same and thought it might be productive if I pointed that out — goose, gander, and all that.

    You also wrote:

    What is the point of having a discussion when you have created an epistemology from which you cannot access reality and have destroyed logic and reason?

    I think we keep saying that we can access reality, whether it be the reality we assume we share or a vat is distinction that we keep saying is meaningless to our discussion of reality. I don’t understand why you keep on repeating this charge.

    Paul, Dr. Logic and I have all tried to apply logic and reason here. I think you’re the only one saying (with SteveK echoing support) that we are not able to do so and that are arguments are therefore meaningless until we concede what we think is a faulty premise on your part.

    Your argument seems to boil down to an assertion that if logic (and reality and morality etc.) isn’t tied to the creator of the universe then it cannot exist or it can’t be apprehended or applied. As much as you keep on saying that you’re shown us why this must be so I don’t see anything beyond an argument from final consequences, and I don’t find that compelling.

  203. DL,

    As an aside, let’s look at how you and Steve think:

    1) Don’t question your belief. You know what you know. Safeguard the belief at all costs.
    “Truths (like knowledge exists) do not require proof.”
    2) Check consistency, but circular arguments are allowed.
    3) Don’t ask what experiences would be difference because that won’t work (per Steve’s last reply)
    4) Don’t look at alternatives. The Christian God who creates the world we see is the only kind of God we can conceive of.
    5) Ignore (indeed, maximize!) personal bias because otherwise we can’t see miracles, can’t get subtle God communication, and our beliefs would be threatened.

    1) I question my beliefs all the time. Daily.
    2) Not sure what you’re talking about here.
    3) When did I say this?
    4) See #1
    5) See #1

  204. DL,

    So it [knowledge] will be relative. But it is irrelevant.
    …….
    Do you see my analogy? The belief that you should assume the LNC is analogous a belief in the coolness of Coldplay. In order to convince you of my arguments, all I have to do is appeal to your belief that you ought to assume the LNC. If we share that belief, persuasion follows.

    To clarify, are you saying knowledge is a social contract of sorts that can change depending on the situation or the people involved? That one group knows the LNC to be true because they happen to share the same belief, while another group knows the LNC to be false because they share the opposite belief?

  205. Hi DL,

    If the LNC is false, then there’s no such thing as logic or knowledge, and the alternative is incomprehensible. Incomprehensible isn’t impossibility.

    Nope, if the LNC is false there is no such thing as discussion or thoughts – which position would be falsified right here.

    You tell me and Tony that we have no knowledge because we start from foundational assumptions and not foundational knowledge.

    Actually, I tell you that you have no knowledge because you contend that your foundational assumptions cannot be known.

    You don’t have to have justification for your belief that something is “knowledge”. It just is.

    I have justification – it just doesn’t fit your requirements when it is mine instead of yours.

    Well why are you here, Charlie? Why bother with reason at all? You just know what you know. There’s no arguing with views like that. Maybe this dogma is implicit to your fundamentalism

    I already told Paul why I am here. And yes, there are things we just know that we know – we are conscious, we have knowledge, we exist, the axioms of reasoning, etc.

    Moreover, you still don’t understand conditional knowledge.

    Do demonstrate.

    But I have EXPLICIT IFs in my argument.

    Your EXPLICIT IFs are not the issue.

    If there are 6 beans in one jar and 4 beans in the other, then there would be 10 beans in total. I can say this whether there are 6 beans in one of the jars or not. I don’t have to know the actual fact to know the conclusion is true about a counterfactual situation

    Right again. You know nothing about beans at all, but you know about math and logic. The IFs that you make EXPLICIT are not an issue because they create the presumption of truth … IF this, THEN that – of course. The IFs are defined in the premises as true and when they are not true, ie. IF NOT, then the conclusion does not follow.
    What you are not doing is demonstrating that you know that THEN follows IF unless you also assume the LNC and the laws of math – the only knowledge you are actually claiming depends upon these.
    I outlined this perfectly well with A=B=C.

    My counterfactual claim is still known. I still know that if there were (counterfactually) 6 beans in one jar and (counterfactually) 4 beans in the other then there would be (counterfactually) 10 beans in total. This knowledge has nothing to do with how many beans there actually are in the jar.

    Exactly right again – you know that math and logic work (assumed) and you know nothing about beans in jars. If the premise is false (which it is not, because it is EXPLICITLY true when you conclude based upon IF) then the conclusion is false or unknown. This is exactly what the case is when you assume and do not know that the LNC is true. Your counterfactuals and conditionals do not demonstrate that unknown premises produce knowledge and they do not support your claim to knowledge based upon an assumption of an unknown LNC.

    That said, do tell me that you have real knowledge, not qualified knowledge, which is based upon an assumption of the LNC, which is based upon an unverified, untestable, non-empirical and unjustified premise. Tell me that that is KNOWLEDGE and be the first to step up to the plate.

    If Charlie were a licensed doctor, then he would know how to use a stethoscope. This is true whether or not you are a doctor.

    This means I can have knowledge about counterfactuals. Knowledge that is true conditional upon certain premises being true.

    Still making my point. If the premises are true you have knowledge. If they are not, you do not. You know that the whole thing holds together not based upon conditionals or the argument but only based upon the logic. But the rules of logic then become the assumed premise and you do not have knowledge about your counterfactual because the syllogism then falls apart.

    All beliefs and knowledge implicitly assume the LNC.

    ALL knowledge, every bit of knowledge we have, depends upon the LNC? And we have knowledge, right? Whether we call it everyday, good enough, knowledge or ultimate, absolute knowledge, all our knowledge is predicated upon the assumed and not justified LNC?

    1) Don’t question your belief. You know what you know. Safeguard the belief at all costs.

    There is no safeguarding.It is exactly in the questioning that one realizes that certain knowledge cannot be proven and is still knowledge.

    2) Check consistency, but circular arguments are allowed.

    Arguments are not necessary but there are times where if one is attempted, as in your knowledge about knowledge and justification, there is unavoidable circularity.

    3) Don’t ask what experiences would be difference because that won’t work (per Steve’s last reply)

    This question has been asked. In the case of LNC no knowledge, no inferences, no statements and no propositions can exist. This is impossible, not incoherent.

    4) Don’t look at alternatives. The Christian God who creates the world we see is the only kind of God we can conceive of.

    Bogus assertion. You haven’t a clue what kind of God I have investigated and conceived of.

    5) Ignore (indeed, maximize!) personal bias because otherwise we can’t see miracles, can’t get subtle God communication, and our beliefs would be threatened.

    Bias is neither ignored nor maximized. Bias is unavoidable is on flagrant display in your posts – starting with your attack on wallowing Christians, your biased and unexamined charge against Bush within hours of charging Christians with bias, and your assertions in the comment to which I am responding. If anyone trades on bias it is the “objective” skeptic.

    Wow. Never wrote it in those terms before. You guys do the exact opposite of rational thinking. You maximize your bias and amplify your preconceptions to the maximum degree.

    Wow. When you don’t talk about reality you can conclude anything.

  206. Hi Tony,
    I’m not going to argue the difference between addressing a person’s positions in a line of thought in which I am specifically asking for his motivations and desires and real ad hominems nor the difference between references to the person and his motivation and the “disparagement” you charged, etc.
    I will point out, however, while you are on about geese and ganders that you explicitly ignored such disparagement by one of your compatriots immediately before your commenting and I will contest that you have seen anyone booted for comments similar to mine. If I was out of line to question Paul’s motivation and his goals he could have told me that such a discussion did not interest him and that he didn’t feel like sharing.
    It was and is a discussion I very much am interested in having and pursuing.

    I think we keep saying that we can access reality, whether it be the reality we assume we share or a vat is distinction that we keep saying is meaningless to our discussion of reality. I don’t understand why you keep on repeating this charge.

    Because it is not the least bit meaningless. You admit on one hand that you don’t know if you are merely assuming a reality, and that it might just as well be a non-existent reality at that, and claim that you are discussing and accessing reality on the other. Of course your admission is that you have no idea if you are accessing reality or not. That’s why I keep repeating it – because truth is important.

    Paul, Dr. Logic and I have all tried to apply logic and reason here. I think you’re the only one saying (with SteveK echoing support) that we are not able to do so and that are arguments are therefore meaningless until we concede what we think is a faulty premise on your part.

    So then perhaps you wish to step up with DL and admit that everyday knowledge based upon ungrounded, assumed, unjustified assumptions actually is knowledge and admit that whatever distinction you put between this and ultimate knowledge does not amount to a difference. But there will be epistemological consequences if you declare the entire raison d’être behind the BIV is false.

    Your argument seems to boil down to an assertion that if logic (and reality and morality etc.) isn’t tied to the creator of the universe then it cannot exist or it can’t be apprehended or applied. As much as you keep on saying that you’re shown us why this must be so I don’t see anything beyond an argument from final consequences, and I don’t find that compelling.

    Does my argument seem to boil down to this or have I actually continually claimed to have shown it?
    And it is not an argument from consequences when you show that the negation of a proposition is self defeating and necessarily false.
    On the other hand, what I’ve really been arguing is that you guys have created an epistemology where you can’t actually know anything and, beyond qualified denials without details, I have seen no refutation of this point.

  207. Charlie,

    You wrote this:

    So then perhaps you wish to step up with DL and admit that everyday knowledge based upon ungrounded, assumed, unjustified assumptions actually is knowledge and admit that whatever distinction you put between this and ultimate knowledge does not amount to a difference.

    Either this is a typo or you’re not reading / comprehending what Paul and I have been saying (implicitly and explicitly) all along. I (I don’t want to speak for Paul) have been trying to argue that the the distinction I’ve been trying to draw between everyday and ultimate knowledge is without a difference, and I thought you were saying that the distinction makes my knowledge meaningless.

    Lot more I could respond to here, including your last to DL, but no time.

  208. Hi Tony,
    Yes, this certainly is implicit in all claims Paul and you have made. I want it explicit. Paul, after saying that, by his definition, knowledge is only that which can be empirically tested and verified as much as admitted what you say is implied, but rejected the offer to make it explicit. Countless times on this thread alone I have asked each of the three of you if this is your explicit position, as well as being implied by everything you say.

    If it is merely a distinction and not a difference – as I noted you saying earlier, and as you now make explicit on your own- then the distinctions in the methodology and justification of each “kind” of knowledge (you are acknowledging that there really is only one kind of knowledge, of course) do not amount to a difference and do not remove from the field of “knowledge” one set of beliefs as opposed to another.
    If it is truly merely a distinction and not a difference then, with regards to warrant, it is the distinction which is meaningless.
    I will take your denigration of my reading/comprehension as your vote that knowledge based upon unknown, unproven, unjustified assumptions is, indeed, knowledge.
    Are we agreed?

  209. As I asked of Paul on one of many occasions when he insisted that the distinction between the two was crucial to his point.
    https://www.thinkingchristian.net/2008/11/the-internal-experience-of-the-holy-spirit/#comment-10449

    And soon after asked the both of you:

    The real question remains, whether I accept your limits or not – is everyday knowledge, which is not ultimate knowledge, actually knowledge? Because you and Paul do not know that you are not brains in vats do you accept, as the formulation demands, that you can not know anything?

    Paul,
    As I said to Tony I will continue to ask you …
    Is everyday knowledge knowledge?

    And then to you in particular:

    Neither you nor Paul nor DL has answered this without qualification:
    Is this so-called everyday knowledge actually KNOWLEDGE? You say it is distinct but not different from ultimate knowledge; Paul balked. Do you agree that this ungrounded, unverified knowledge, based upon assumptions which cannot be proven and may be wrong, which you say is not different from the ultimate knowledge which is beyond our access, is KNOWLEDGE? If so, you make my point and demolish the skeptic’s argument against our knowledge and experiences.

    So what’s off here, my reading or my comprehension?

  210. Life events are still unfolding for me, but I hope an answer to this question might break a logjam or lead to a more fruitful place.

    Charlie wrote

    I CAN know that the LNC is true, and I do. And I know that I am not a brain in a vat.

    How is that done?

  211. Charlie,

    We all have an intuitive sense of what it means to know something. Most people don’t have a formal definition. For some people, knowledge is nothing more than a high-confidence belief. Some people have high confidence that they can read minds or that their race is superior.

    The point of rational inquiry is to eliminate beliefs that are inconsistent, and to distinguish between fact and mere prejudice.

    For you (and by your definitions), it is intuitive that any conclusion following from a syllogism is only knowledge if all the premises are known to be true. This is an implicit (if not explicit) premise in your arguments. It is also intuitive to you that you know some things through inference. You conclude from this that there must be foundational knowledge, not just foundational assumptions.

    For me (and by my definitions), it is intuitive that conditional knowledge exists. If I make certain assumptions, I can use those assumptions to justify a conditional conclusion. For example, the axioms of mathematics are not known. You can have two different mathematical systems with contradictory axioms, but that doesn’t invalidate either system, nor does it mean we don’t know their respective theorems. The axioms of Euclidean geometry are not true. They are assumed. But that doesn’t mean we don’t know the Pythagorean theorem is true conditional upon those axioms. If I chose a different set of geometric axioms, the theorem would not hold, but others might. If you reject this idea of conditional knowledge, then you are saying there is no such thing as mathematical knowledge.

    And, perhaps, by your definition, there is no mathematical knowledge. That’s not necessarily unreasonable, although it’s very unconventional.

    If one accepts that there is conditional knowledge, then formally defining knowledge as justified belief is perfectly sensible and not problematic. Knowledge is justified by assumed axioms, just like in mathematics. If we take this route, the question becomes “what axioms ought we accept?”

    Suppose that I am a racist, and I believe that my race is superior. Can I justify this by making it axiomatic that my race is superior? Do I thereby convert my belief into knowledge?

    I would say not. I would say that one ought to restrict oneself to the bare minimum of axioms. The bare minimum of axioms are:

    1) The LNC and its theorems.
    2) That our raw experiences constitute axioms of their own.
    3) That induction works, whether we are making inferences about physical or mental experiences.

    [You might see (2) as relating to BIV’s, but even a BIV might ultimately have to explain why the vat generated his vat experiences.]

    Anyway, if you start from this bare minimum of axioms, you get naturalism and science.

    Now, I could do basically the same thing if I accept your definition and say that mathematical knowledge does not exist. I could say that the (1) (2) and (3) above are not just assumed axioms, but known axioms. In that case, I would still be a scientific naturalist, just a scientific naturalist with a peculiar definition of knowledge.

    But you’re not content with only these axioms. The axioms above are perfectly adequate for acquiring a belief in a present and reliable God, but you want additional axioms that will support belief in a hidden God.

    Your extra axioms include the fact that God exists and God is directly responsible for various experiences that wouldn’t show up in a scientific experiment that accounts for biases. Your axioms also include the claim that miracles need to be believable, and that conceptions of right and wrong are absolutes, and that the logical complement of determinism isn’t randomness (this latter belief is utterly incoherent). Etc.

    Remember the OP. It’s about whether we ought to believe that certain experiences are direct contact from God. You accept this as axiomatic because you need it to be. You assume that if you can know (1), (2), and (3), why not add more stuff to the collection of known axioms?

    As I demonstrated here, even if I accepted that my foundations were known and not just assumed, you would still be in hot water. You have to justify why you are clinging to so much convenient foundational knowledge when that knowledge isn’t necessary. God is not necessary to reason or life or the world. You’re adding in the foundational knowledge for the purpose of supporting your Christian faith.

    In contrast, Paul, Tony and I are not excluding foundational knowledge (or assumptions) for the purpose of not seeing God. If God exists, he doesn’t have to communicate with us at the level of bias. He can communicate with us at levels that scientists can see. That way, we will know that we’re not deluding ourselves.

  212. Hi Paul,
    I thought you were probably still here.

    Logjam?
    I don’t see a logjam.
    I think we are about to come to an all ’round position as DL and Tony look about ready to agree that we can have knowledge which is founded and dependent upon unknown, unproven and unjustified assumptions – the way you did once but have been unable to affirm again.
    So you aren’t the last left outside the smoking lounge you could do so now and confirm, without equivocation or qualification, whether or not knowledge based upon unknown, unproven, unjustified axioms (assumptions, or even postulates, to you and DL) can be had. Do you still think, and define as such, that all knowledge must be empirically tested and verified (with the exception of qualia and some unspecified things mysteriously like qualia)?
    Alternatively, does your crucial distinction between good enough for day to day vs. ultimate knowledge entail an actual difference, contra Tony? Is one type of knowledge actual knowledge while the other isn’t?

    As to your question, I doubt my response would do much here, since I’ve given my position unbidden several times (you remember – you may even be able to rehearse it) and reject your criteria for knowledge; “how” is the wrong question and only leads to the kind of skepticism you find yourself being sucked into. On the other hand, I have also told you many times some ways that knowledge of the LNC can be justified – after the fact of actually knowing it. As I said, I don’t subscribe to the methodism that you guys would like to apply to other people’s knowledge claims.

  213. Hi DL,
    You have constructed a pretty decent comment there that makes a lot of sense until you go off the rails in the second half with your unfounded and false presumptions.

    For you (and by your definitions), it is intuitive that any conclusion following from a syllogism is only knowledge if all the premises are known to be true. This is an implicit (if not explicit) premise in your arguments.

    I definitely made this explicit. It follows naturally from the idea that knowledge must be a true belief.

    For me (and by my definitions), it is intuitive that conditional knowledge exists.

    Conditional knowledge does exist. It just doesn’t support the claim for which you tried to enlist it.

    The axioms of Euclidean geometry are not true. They are assumed. But that doesn’t mean we don’t know the Pythagorean theorem is true conditional upon those axioms.

    I believe completely in mathematics and, although not a mathematician, I dispute this assertion. I believe that the axioms are true within a certain space. As they are confined to that space they are true and known to be.
    But that is neither here nor there as this is where Paul last left the subject. Here we have an instance of what you guys will call unproven, unknown axioms resulting in true knowledge. Paul even claimed they were arbitrary postulates, but that we still could have knowledge based upon them.
    So here you lose the skeptical ground upon which you would say “we can’t trust our raw experiences or our perceptions”. Not only can we take them as axiomatic, according to you, but even if our knowledge of God is reliant upon unproven and unjustified axioms you have lost your defeater to this knowledge – unproven and unjustified axioms can be the foundation to true knowledge, and this includes even knowledge that the skeptic would like to dismiss somehow.

    If one accepts that there is conditional knowledge, then formally defining knowledge as justified belief is perfectly sensible and not problematic.

    No, it is still circular and knowledge still defies definition.

    Anyway, if you start from this bare minimum of axioms, you get naturalism and science.

    The axioms you list are pretty good for me but I reject this naked assertion of naturalism. Each of your accepted can and will lead directly away from naturalism for one embracing the truth and following evidence and logic.

    I could say that the (1) (2) and (3) above are not just assumed axioms, but known axioms.

    There is nothing about their being axioms that makes them assumed and not known.

    But you’re not content with only these axioms. The axioms above are perfectly adequate for acquiring a belief in a present and reliable God, but you want additional axioms that will support belief in a hidden God.

    Here you start your typical faltering. First, I do not believe in a hidden God. I believe in a present and reliable God and I do agree with you that these axioms are enough for one and all to admit knowledge Him. You were even so kind as to include as axiomatic one’s raw experiences. The problem that follows is that you have pre-determined, based upon your own biases and prejudices, what counts as a raw experience and you explain away, without evidence or justification, the experiences of others.

    Your extra axioms include the fact that God exists and God is directly responsible for various experiences that wouldn’t show up in a scientific experiment that accounts for biases.

    There is nothing axiomatic about how and where God will show up. And God’s existence as truth occurs only as you’ve already accounted for in your own list of axioms – as a logical necessity, as both/either a raw experience or as the result of an inductive explanation.

    Your axioms also include the claim that miracles need to be believable, and that conceptions of right and wrong are absolutes, and that the logical complement of determinism isn’t randomness (this latter belief is utterly incoherent). Etc.

    I’m glad you see the incoherence because I don’t know what you are trying to say. What do you mean that miracles need to be believable? What is that stuff about determinism and randomness? Conceptions of right and wrong are not absolutes. Conceptions are just that and do not impact the truth of absolute morality.

    You assume that if you can know (1), (2), and (3), why not add more stuff to the collection of known axioms?

    I don’t know about your psychoanalysis, but your own list of axioms demands that there will be a growing list of axioms as experiences multiply.

    As I demonstrated here, even if I accepted that my foundations were known and not just assumed, you would still be in hot water

    Regardless of whetehr you allow that your foundations are known or not, your demonstration makes my exact point quite nicely. I’ve appreciated your efforts here, even though you can’t avoid such blatant biases.

    You have to justify why you are clinging to so much convenient foundational knowledge when that knowledge isn’t necessary.

    You have to demonstrate, rather than assert out of bias, that I have convenient foundational knowledge and, moreover, that it is unnecessary.

    God is not necessary to reason or life or the world.

    Induction and the laws of logic say He is, regardless of your assertions.
    And on top of that, raw experience tells me that He exists and the testimony of history supports this knowledge.

    He can communicate with us at levels that scientists can see.

    He has. Ask the scientists who have found God through their explorations of His natural wonders. Or ask the nearly half of all scientists who believe in a God who does communicate with them and answer their prayers.

    That way, we will know that we’re not deluding ourselves.

    Shutting your eyes to the truth is every bit as delusional as believing in untruths.

  214. Charlie,

    I see that DL beat me to the punch here.

    I think that I am slow to understand what you are driving at here. I thought you were asserting that skeptics cannot “know” anything because they accept the BIV to be unresolvable, making an argument that only if we deny the possibility of the BIV can we make an argument (or something like that). I thought that assertion (that we skeptics cannot have knowledge of anything) was what you were driving at when Paul and I explicitly said that the BIV dilemma introduced a distinction without a difference. But I think I see what you’re driving at now. (I wasn’t trying to be coy before, I think I just misunderstood where you were going with this.)

    It looks like you want me to agree that “knowledge based upon unknown, unproven, unjustified assumptions is, indeed, knowledge.”

    I think that DL has done a great job of explaining the conditional nature of logic and the role of axioms and parsimony. So, to answer your question, IF you call axioms like the LNC an “unknown, unproven, and unjustified assumption” then yes, I agree.

    I’m not philosophically or logically well-educated. (You asked before why we come here. My answer would be that I find the subjects stimulating, it gives me insight into other people’s worldviews, but mostly because it compels me to look up all this stuff I never knew much about. I don’t know why, but I enjoy it.) But I’d say that my rule of thumb for axioms would be their productivity.

    Is the LNC unknown, unproven, and unjustified? It’s an interesting question, but I distinguish it as valid because it’s so productive. I would lean, in an uneducated way (that’s surely going to be shoved back in my big fat face because of whatever I didn’t foresee), toward adopting any axiom that is productive. What follows from adopting that axiom is knowledge based on the condition of the axiom’s validity.

    I think you’re saying that God is axiomatic. The problem there is that when accept that and give it a test run, where does it get me? “It is what it is” can be added to my list of axioms in the same way. And it gets me…what exactly.

    I’ll give you that you have what you believe is a sensory awareness of God. I’ll grant that others have the same belief. But to be crude, what does that do for me?

    To try and bring this thing around, let me try this analogy. You and others go into a cave everyday and drink magical tea. You all have similar experiences of fulfillment, understanding, peace, etc. You all emerge and give me a drink of the tea. I have no such feelings. But when I walk into the cave, I drink no tea, but I have the same experiences you all describe. I conclude that something in the cave is the thing, the axiom, etc. So, I ask, why drink the tea?

  215. Hi Tony,
    Yes, see there are two points.
    If you don’t know you aren’t a BIV then, as per the BIV, you don’t know anything.
    Therefore, it is rather pointless for you (generic “you”, not you, Tony Hoffman) to be arguing about reality with people and telling them what can and cannot exist in this reality.

    On the flipside, of course you know you aren’t a BIV. There are countless things you know even if, contra the unbeliever’s clams, you cannot prove them and even though methodism fails.

    The point is that Paul has claimed that he is a methodist but, of course, the infinite regress catches him and pushes him to his uber-skepticism in which he cannot claim to know he is in reality, that he exists, etc..

    It is a twofold problem for the denier of God.
    As you can see from DL’s latest, it seems most often to be a hedge against being “deluded” into believing in God. As I said there, you do as much harm in general by disbelieving true things as you do by believing falsehoods. In the case of God, you do ultimate harm by disbelieving the only truth.

    I think that DL has done a great job of explaining the conditional nature of logic and the role of axioms and parsimony. So, to answer your question, IF you call axioms like the LNC an “unknown, unproven, and unjustified assumption” then yes, I agree.

    I’m glad you appreciate his efforts. I think he has tried really hard as well.
    Thanks also for answering. So yes, we have KNOWLEDGE without having complete justification for our assumed and unproven axioms. So the skeptic’s posturing, “how do you know you can trust your experiences?”, “how do you know you aren’t a BIV?”, “how do you know there is a God?” are toothless. We all know without knowing how we know and we all know based upon the same grounds.
    We are, after all, designed the same way and function the same way, everyday, don’t we?
    It is just that you lack the experiences and the perceptions that we, by the grace of God, have.

    But I’d say that my rule of thumb for axioms would be their productivity.

    Utilitarianism is no better or more justified than general methodism – it still leaves you without justification for your foundations and it still admits God – until you employ Paul’s special plea against this utility.
    It also questions its own use as a starting point; is utilitarianism productive? You can never get off the ground with these kinds of justifications -you either know some things or you don’t.

    I think you’re saying that God is axiomatic.

    Skeptic’s and their labels are not very interesting to me.
    Is God axiomatic? I guess so, sometimes. For those whom God has spoken to directly of His presence and love, in whose heart He has planted knowledge of Himself, that seems axiomatic? But does that make your parents axiomatic? It is a relationship with a person, so I’m not sure.
    Then again, knowledge of God can be derived from the first principles as well, so I don’t know if you would have to call this knowledge axiomatic.
    Better questions than these in-principle denials and attempts to find general ways, which always fail, to deny the believer’s knowledge, would be to simply ask, is it true? Does God really exist and really love me? Has He really planned my salvation and the solution to the human condition? There are many, many ways to arrive at this knowledge and to affirm these truths. The very fact that you are bothered by the questions and seek resolution make me think God is working to bring you to this knowledge. That is my hope, anyway. Otherwise you could have just been apathetic about the whole thing. The fact that you are so emotionally-tied to the question suggests a passion that belies the dispassionate, unbiased, claims. This goes for all of you. DL’s emotional outbursts here are plenty evidenced, for instance and are indication of far more than he will let on.

    The problem there is that when accept that and give it a test run, where does it get me? “It is what it is” can be added to my list of axioms in the same way. And it gets me…what exactly.

    I’ll give you that you have what you believe is a sensory awareness of God. I’ll grant that others have the same belief. But to be crude, what does that do for me?

    What does my awareness of God do for you? In the short-term, let’s say it does nothing. It is, as we’ve said, evidence to me and not to you. It is confirmatory and encouraging to others with the same sense or belief, but nothing but hogwash to those without – I get that. Like Scott said above, I am just as skeptical of the claims of other people when they don’t comport to my own experiences. When my friends say “I predicted that” and they never said anything about their so-called predictions until after the fact I don’t believe them. When people say “I saw a ghost” I don’t believe they did. When people say God told me to do this, or God intervened and did this, I first tend to dismiss it as their own perception. Except that in this case I KNOW it is possible (not just logically) and so my skepticism about the specific event claimed can be overcome by my knowledge of the person’s general honesty, their character, their general lack of exaggeration, etc. If the claim matches my background experience I am more likely to accept it as true – just like everyone else.
    The problem is that you do not have a changed heart and have not had our experiences.

    But when I walk into the cave, I drink no tea, but I have the same experiences you all describe. I conclude that something in the cave is the thing, the axiom, etc. So, I ask, why drink the tea?

    Congratulations to you and the yoga enthusiasts if you have the same experience. I don’t think you do. I don’t think you have your lives changed in a moment by your experiences. I don’t think people around you say “you are so much better a person now”. I don’t think that scientific studies show that drinking your tea makes you happier, healthier, longer-lived, less adulterous, more generous, more likely to see reality as it is, less likely to abuse substances, etc.

    Certainly it isn’t going to make you at peace with the God who created and loves His children and wants them back in His family. See, this isn’t about seeking experiences but getting into alignment with the nature of true reality, fulfilling our only possible purposes, accepting His grace and entering into the relationship He continues to offer.

    Why should you be convinced? You shouldn’t be. I told Paul man couldn’t convince him and that he was impervious to the arguments. You think this is an ad hominem but it is merely a fact. You guys hang out on a Christian website unable to hear what we say and unable to know what we know but you want to argue about our beliefs anyway.
    You cannot convince a believer that he doesn’t know God and we can’t make you know Him.
    But perhaps God is moving in your life to bring you to these sites, to listen to the positions, to learn that, as you say, there are smart people who believe in God (I am not claiming to be among them), to learn that these so-called defeaters of belief are nothing of the sort, to learn that the history you’ve been told about Christianity is, generously put, incomplete, to learn that the biases against belief are so pervasive that you’ve taken them for granted, etc. In perhaps, seeing these things, some of your stumblingblocks will be removed and you will be open to more of the truth.

    In all likelihood this last will not happen. Unlike C.S.Lewis, Lee Strobel, Antony Flew, etc., most of the objectors here seem more intent on arguing and bolstering their own lack of faith into perpetuity than fully exploring the possibilities and following the evidence where it leads. You called this an ad hominem as well, but this is certainly evidenced by the repeated potshots (that’s not a denigration, it’ a real word with a real meaning and appropriately used), the failure of in-principle arguments to carry their weight, the repeated use of the same even after their failures, the raising of previously defeated objections, the lack of any growth of position, etc..

    You now humbly admit your lack of knowledge on this subject, as you did after telling us what to read and how we should think on the morality question, and as you did on the history of the Church and science. I appreciate that. But, bluster and bluffs aside, you will find most of us are equally uneducated and Google-prone – those to whom you defer as well as your opponents (Tom aside, obviously). But the smartest people in history, (Jonathan Edwards, for instance) those most educated are every bit as likely, if not substantially moreso, to have grappled with all of these issues in great depth and come out knowing God. This is not a fallacy either, as I am not appealing to their authority. I am alerting you to the fact that knowledge and education, real investigation, will not strengthen your disbelief. Most of the so-called intellectuals I’ve read will posture as having concluded that God doesn’t exist but when you investigate their conclusions are generally reached at pubescence and hinge on one of two things: 1) perceived freedom, 2) the argument from evil. As Flew said, when he looked back he realized that this decision was arrived at far too early with far too little investigation.

    um, etc.
    🙂

  216. ps.
    DL,

    Remember the OP. It’s about whether we ought to believe that certain experiences are direct contact from God.

    I do remember the OP. I don’t see this being in any way what it is about.

  217. Charlie,

    We all know without knowing how we know and we all know based upon the same grounds.

    I had to smile when I read this along with Tony’s “yes” response because I said the same thing back in comment 18. It seems we’ve come full circle, but now we have an added member on board – not fully on board but at least he’s traveling along side us. 🙂

  218. Charlie (and SteveK),

    I think the rumors of my conversion may have been exaggerated.

    Charlie, I disagree with your conclusions about knowledge and the BIV dilemma. If we are B’sIV we have knowledge about the reality inside the vat. Whether that knowledge is only vat knowledge makes no practical difference because we can only know what we can apprehend. Unless you are making a claim that I am a brain in a vat, and you reside in reality, there is nothing pointless about our discussions of reality.

    In the case of God, you do ultimate harm by disbelieving the only truth.

    What is the ultimate harm of disbelieving in God? If I disbelieve in gravity, I die when I jump from a building. If I disbelieve in your God, what happens to me experientially? Children who do not believe in Santa Claus have less fun at Christmas, get fewer toys, etc. What about your claims distinguishes it from this one (that doesn’t risk confusing correlation and causality)?

    We all know without knowing how we know and we all know based upon the same grounds.

    Except when it comes to knowing about your God. That should be a problem for you, even if skeptics and their labels are not very interesting to you.

    Congratulations to you and the yoga enthusiasts if you have the same experience. I don’t think you do. I don’t think you have your lives changed in a moment by your experiences. I don’t think people around you say “you are so much better a person now”. I don’t think that scientific studies show that drinking your tea makes you happier, healthier, longer-lived, less adulterous, more generous, more likely to see reality as it is, less likely to abuse substances, etc.

    I think that here you are comparing my analogy to your religious experiences unfavorably here. Why do you presume each of the things you say above? If I assert that every single one of these things is true to me and my fellow yoga tea drinkers how can you deny their truth? What is the special rule you can apply to us yoga tea drinkers that I cannot apply to you, and specifically, is it logical or evidentiary? Lastly, how does the rest of your argument regarding happier, healthier etc. not confuse correlation and causality?

    But the smartest people in history, (Jonathan Edwards, for instance) those most educated are every bit as likely, if not substantially more so, to have grappled with all of these issues in great depth and come out knowing God.

    Actually, this isn’t so much argument from authority as it is argument against the evidence – i.e., I don’t believe this holds up under scrutiny. There’s this, for instance: http://kspark.kaist.ac.kr/jesus/intelligence%20&%20religion.htm

    … is it true? Does God really exist and really love me? Has He really planned my salvation and the solution to the human condition? There are many, many ways to arrive at this knowledge and to affirm these truths.

    But then you say

    You cannot convince a believer that he doesn’t know God and we can’t make you know Him.

    So it sounds like you’re saying that my lack of belief in God is irrational. I’ve enjoyed this discussion, Charlie, but I can’t imagine that you don’t see how ironically that can lead to some of us.

    Last thing, and there’s always more here than I have time to address, but when you write stuff like this, “…to learn that the history you’ve been told about Christianity is, generously put, incomplete,” I have to mention that I was raised and confirmed a Lutheran (so I’m not unfamiliar with the Christian traditions), and studied the New Testament and Christian Origins under Elaine Pagels, et al. when I was at Princeton. It’s a pretty rigorous group of minds at work on the subject there (I wonder how complete your understanding is of their work), and I think your assumptions about my understanding of the evidence are probably not what you think they are.

  219. Hi Tony,
    I’ll get to the rest of your comment later but want to respond quickly to your link.
    Your claim is a little far-reaching, don’t you think? I say the smartest people in history are as likely as not to have grappled with the issues and to have believed in God and you link a couple of reports on scientists?
    First, the 40% says exactly what I cited above. Almost half of all scientists profess a belief in God. This, by the way, is an active, personal God to Whom they pray and from Whom they expect answers. This is not the distant, First Cause or deistic God, which, if accounted for in the study, would push the numbers that much the higher. And this number has not changed appreciably in the last hundred years as scientific explanations have been purportedly advancing.
    Second, the “elite” scientists of the NAS are not representative of science as a whole and it is a self-selecting group.
    Third, there is nothing about scientists as a group that advantages them as per my criteria, that it, being the most intelligent people and having grappled with the issues at hand. A scientist is not only a layman in all but his own field but in matters of philosophy, logic and ultimate existence there is no reason to suspect the scientist is any better informed than the average man on the street, let alone the most intelligent people who have spent their lives investigating the issue. Given the constraints of the profession there is nothing about being a scientist that would make it any more likely that he would be informed on these matters.
    You are, it seems, much too quick to make claims about what statements are ‘against the evidence”.

  220. Charlie,

    Here we have an instance of what you guys will call unproven, unknown axioms resulting in true knowledge. Paul even claimed they were arbitrary postulates, but that we still could have knowledge based upon them.

    They are not unknown. They are unproven, and assumed. And, yes, they result in knowledge.

    If you go by our standard, then your knowledge of God would only be there if you assumed God as one of your axioms. Remember, this isn’t about Medieval proofs of God, or ID arguments, or about historical evidence or other arguments from evidence. This thread is about sensing God directly. If your knowledge of God isn’t direct, then it requires evidence, just like everything else in the world.

    And as I pointed out in the last comment, a proper skeptic keeps his axioms to a minimum. The assumption of God is not a necessary axiom for anything other than belief in God itself.

    If I said our race was superior, and took that as axiomatic, and then said you were simply blind for not accepting it, there would be no point in debate. And I certainly wouldn’t be rational in making that belief axiomatic.

    I realize that you don’t care that we think your claim that God is self-evident to you is irrational. But it should be irrational to you too. Even if on cold nights you feel as if God is with you, it would still be irrational to believe that feeling is God talking to you.

    Look, it’s about bias. You could just as well have had a different belief other than that God was talking to you. You could have the belief that a ghost was talking to you, or Mother Earth, or the sense that your race is superior, or that Country & Western sucks. All of these can be taken as self-evident knowledge by an irrational person. The rational mind discounts subconscious, holistic, gestalt opinions in favor of rational criticism and analysis. The rational mind seeks to doubt the gestalt in favor of specific, conscious reasons. To fail to do this is to make all knowledge arbitrary, even for yourself because your knowledge will be indistinguishable from your gestalt biases.

    So here you lose the skeptical ground upon which you would say “we can’t trust our raw experiences or our perceptions”. Not only can we take them as axiomatic, according to you, but even if our knowledge of God is reliant upon unproven and unjustified axioms you have lost your defeater to this knowledge – unproven and unjustified axioms can be the foundation to true knowledge, and this includes even knowledge that the skeptic would like to dismiss somehow.

    You don’t get my axiom (2).

    We have to distinguish between direct senses and learned/recognized models of senses.

    If I see red in a field of other colors, that doesn’t have any implications in and of itself. The redness only gains implications when I have a predictive model of what I’m looking at. If I recognize the red as the surface of a red apple 18″ from my face, I will predict that it will remain red for at least a few seconds. I will predict that if I move my head, the colors will change in predictable ways as I look around the apple.

    But I don’t get these inferences just by seeing red. If I had never had experience working with my raw senses, I would not be able to infer anything from sight, sound, touch, etc apart from the direct sensations. My ability to recognize the apple is the result of a model of my sensations. We each know apples as models of our own sensations. (I’m not saying anything about idealism here… this is true whether one is an idealist or a realist about apples.)

    Here’s what I am saying in (2). The fact that I see red in the example above is what I must take as axiomatic in order to be rational. It is NOT axiomatic that I see an actual apple. It could be axiomatic that I’m recognizing the red as an apple, but not that there is actually an apple before me. If it were axiomatic that there actually was an apple before me whenever I recognize one, then I could never be mistaken about anything.

    Please acknowledge my point here, even if to dispute it. I want you to acknowledge the distinction I am making and address the analogy to a God-sense.

    Are you saying that there is a God-sense that is unlike any other sense we have in that it directly senses a model independent of predictions of that model? Is your sense of God like seeing red in a visual field, or is it learned like seeing an apple? And if it is learned, what are the actual sensations?

    Red: Apple
    as
    ? : God

    The problem is gestalts is that they are not reliable. Some people think their pets are persons with human-like complexities. This is because they falsely recognize pet behaviors as human personality behaviors, and then attribute human personalities to their pets.

    We see a man in the moon. What’s that all about? Is there a man in the moon? Or are we just seeing patterns where none exist? (There’s a specific cognitive bias in humans to do this.)

    So gestalts need to be challenged, and if we can’t consciously locate specific reasons for the gestalts, then we cast off the gestalt as an unjustified bias. We don’t take the gestalt as knowledge.

    I believe completely in mathematics and, although not a mathematician, I dispute this assertion. I believe that the axioms are true within a certain space. As they are confined to that space they are true and known to be.

    You’re agreeing with me, Charlie. There is conditional knowledge. There is knowledge conditional upon being in a context, that context being the one where the axioms are assumed true.

  221. Tony,

    If I disbelieve in your God, what happens to me experientially?

    I think Tom has done a nice job answering this question over time. As for what disbelief can do to you here and now, there are multiple effects. Then there are the future effects.

    There’s the person who you become as a result of training your mind one way or the other. Call it personal character. Over time, believers and disbelievers can become two very different people.

    Generally speaking, the personal identity of the believer is rooted in the character of God. The greatest desire of the believer is to desire that which God desires for him. The greatest desires of the non-believer, generally speaking, make no mention of God. If they were to receive the desires of their heart, God would be absent from that scenario. I must reiterate that I’m making broad generalizations. I don’t pretend to know the heart of anyone but me – and even that is sometimes in question.

    I think C.S. Lewis summed up your question succinctly when he said: There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, “All right, then, have it your way.” – *that’s* what ultimately happens experientially. It’s obviously much more complicated than that and I will admit to you that we don’t have all the answers. It’s called faith for a reason.

    My encouragement to you is don’t let yourself become the person who wants nothing to do with God. Desire him even if you don’t believe in him.

  222. SteveK,

    Yeah, I don’t want to seem like the kind of skeptic who denounces everything Christian or religious. There are a lot of people, starting with my uncle who is born again, who probably wouldn’t be alive let alone productive member of society if they hadn’t undergone some religious experience. (As well, I am bothered and even intimidated some time by people who say that they would commit any impulsive deed were it not for religion. Maybe a world without religion would be a much worse place than it is with it — not because of how I think I would behave, but maybe others would behave much worse than I imagine. I am not, in short, an advocate of any planned social experiment that would discourage religious belief; you’d have to be an idiot to think that will go well.)

    There are many things I admire among Christians, many of who are in my family and close friends. Often they are community minded, and I think that the practice of Christian study helps magnify the commonalities among oneself and past and present people in a way that lends itself to compassion.

    Of course, I also personally know sanctimonious, hypocritical, and anti-intellectual bigots who hide behind Christianity, so I’m not going to paint with too broad a brush.

    My question was more specific to axioms, logic, and the necessity of assuming God. Charlie says that God is essential, he is axiomatic. I am doubtful about that, because I don’t see “because God created it / guides it” as having any impact on how I apprehend reality.

    But I think you are comfortable with not needing rational reasons for your faith. And I have no desire to question that. My only point is that, despite what Charlie seems to be arguing for, there is no rationality that justifies faith in a theistic God. There only seems to be an individual awareness that cannot be verified, and to those of us without this experience the belief seems clearly delusional.

  223. Hi DL,
    Hmm, getting a little semantically retentive, aren’t you?
    You say the axioms are “not known” and then “correct” me when I call them “unknown”? Enjoy.

    For example, the axioms of mathematics are not known.

    As I demonstrated here, even if I accepted that my foundations were known and not just assumed, you would still be in hot water.

    If you go by our standard, then your knowledge of God would only be there if you assumed God as one of your axioms.

    You just made that up for no reason. Knowledge of God can be attained by many methods other than assuming it as an axiom – in fact, I would never assume it as an axiom. Knowledge is attained from logic, nature, Scripture, philosophy, and it might even become axiomatic upon revelation.

    Remember, this isn’t about Medieval proofs of God, or ID arguments, or about historical evidence or other arguments from evidence. This thread is about sensing God directly. If your knowledge of God isn’t direct, then it requires evidence, just like everything else in the world.

    No, the OP was about the positive experience of God and the thread has been mostly about justified true belief. You don’t get to slide in and say I can’t be discussing other ways of coming to know God over 200 comments in.
    Thanks though for using this attempt to demonstrate once again your bias and chronological snobbery with this rhetorical slight.

    And as I pointed out in the last comment, a proper skeptic keeps his axioms to a minimum. The assumption of God is not a necessary axiom for anything other than belief in God itself.

    You can do what you want with your axioms but I am not a skeptic and never pretended to be. I happen to want to maximize my true beliefs. The knowledge of God is necessary for knowing truth and reality.

    But it should be irrational to you too. Even if on cold nights you feel as if God is with you, it would still be irrational to believe that feeling is God talking to you.

    Only if you happen to know everything about reality, know there is no God and know that He doesn’t talk to me. You don’t know any of these things and demonstrate your lack of objectivity.

    Look, it’s about bias.

    It most assuredly is. Nice admission.

    You could just as well have had a different belief other than that God was talking to you. You could have the belief that a ghost was talking to you, or Mother Earth, or the sense that your race is superior, or that Country & Western sucks.

    No I couldn’t. I only have beliefs that make sense in this reality and are rational. I could just as easily, by your latest attempted corralling, think that the lights in the night sky are alien invaders as that they are earthly aircraft. But I happen to know things about this world and adapt my beliefs to reality, evidence and experience.

    Here’s what I am saying in (2). The fact that I see red in the example above is what I must take as axiomatic in order to be rational.

    Okay.

    Please acknowledge my point here, even if to dispute it. I want you to acknowledge the distinction I am making and address the analogy to a God-sense.

    Not sure I’m getting you. You accept the sensation as axiomatic but not the existence of a cause?

    Are you saying that there is a God-sense that is unlike any other sense we have in that it directly senses [God]

    Yes.

    a model independent of predictions of that model?

    Don’t know what you want to mean with this qualification. God is consistent with His character.

    Is your sense of God like seeing red in a visual field, or is it learned like seeing an apple?

    Yes. Haha, I love doing that. Yes, both.
    We don’t get to tell God how He is going to demonstrate His presence. There is definitely a learned ability to sense and hear God. But, as Scott demonstrated God can impose Himself directly into our perceptual field at His will.

    And if it is learned, what are the actual sensations?

    The sensations are generally mental but, as I told you above, I felt a “physical” sensation through/over my body as well as the calming peace and assurance of my belonging and of God’s presence. Mario Beauregard’s subjects reported feeling God’s presence “, His unconditional love as well as plentitude and peace.” and overwhelming joy. In addition there was the subjective sense of “visual and motor imagery”. There is a transcendence of space and time, an absorption by something greater than the subject and indescribable experience and a sense of unity.
    I know these words sound vague and non-sensory, and that is the case. As you said, the sense is unlike our others. And apparently you do not have it. Others who do know what it is I am describing when they hear it, however – just as normally sighted people know in a way that the blind do not what it is to see. Not coincidentally, there are correlates neurologically with these senses, of which, I’ll remind you, one is the actual sense of God Himself.

    Or are we just seeing patterns where none exist? (There’s a specific cognitive bias in humans to do this.)

    I’m not quite digging all your new references to gestalt, but I’m sure I’ll get up to speed.
    Interesting that you bring up patterns and their non-existence. Did you see the Dutch study, or my reference to same, in which believers do in fact see patterns where atheists do not – patterns that actually exist, interestingly enough. As I cautioned previously, there is a danger in not seeing what is there every bit as much as there is in seeing what is not there. But you keep questioning only the one side – selective skepticism and moral indictment.

    You’re agreeing with me, Charlie. There is conditional knowledge.

    Oh no! Alert the guard! 🙂
    Oh, wait, I already knew I agreed with you. I did it several times, and especially right in the previous comment where I said that I agree with you that there is conditional knowledge. But conditional knowledge doesn’t say what you want it to say and doesn’t demonstrate what you claimed it does.
    Do you recall why you brought it up?

    There is knowledge conditional upon being in a context, that context being the one where the axioms are assumed true.

    Close, but not quite. The axioms are not assumed within a certian context, but are TRUE within that context.
    Since my perfect A=B=C example has left you undented check this one out.
    I KNOW that objects fall at 9.8 m/s/s. But, of course, that is conditioned upon the measurement being taken on earth.
    On the moon, not so much.
    As a syllogism:
    1) IF an object is on earth at sea level
    2) And Objects accelerate at sea level on earth at 9.8 m/s/s
    3) The object will accelerate at 9.8 m/s/s

    I KNOW that the object will accelerate at this rate (yes yes, within experimental error, to a given accuracy) if and only if I KNOW the premises are true.
    If I don’t KNOW one or either of the premises then I don’t know the conclusion.
    When the premises are known and true the conclusion is as well. Conditional or not, you cannot escape this and you cannot assume and not know the premises and still KNOW the conclusion.
    As always, the knowledge itself is contingent on the IF, which, when satisfied, demands the true knowledge of the premises and, by logic, allows the true knowledge of the conclusion.
    As always, if you don’t know the premises to be true the only knowledge you have is that deductive logic works (restates the premises, essentially). Your knowledge is of logic, or math, or geometry, but not of that which you are hoping to conclude or are hoping to demonstrate.

  224. Hi Tony,

    Charlie, I disagree with your conclusions about knowledge and the BIV dilemma.

    I know you do. I think I’ve rehearsed them enough for now, though, and am confident in my previous presentations.

    Me:In the case of God, you do ultimate harm by disbelieving the only truth.
    You: What is the ultimate harm of disbelieving in God?

    Really? You say you’ve studied the New Testament, is this really your response?

    We all know without knowing how we know and we all know based upon the same grounds.

    Except when it comes to knowing about your God. That should be a problem for you, even if skeptics and their labels are not very interesting to you.

    What is this supposed to mean? What exception is being made for my knowledge of God?

    Why do you presume each of the things you say above? If I assert that every single one of these things is true to me and my fellow yoga tea drinkers how can you deny their truth?

    I say so on the account of my experience and evidence. You tell me otherwise, be the first, and I will log that into my experiential account and draw from it as background knowledge for the next time I hear the claim.

    What is the special rule you can apply to us yoga tea drinkers that I cannot apply to you, and specifically, is it logical or evidentiary?

    I never asked you to apply a rule, come to a conclusion or have an opinion. The evidence of the experience of God is not for you unless you’ve had that experience. Apply anything you want. As Scott said of his own account, he expects nobody to believe him and he wouldn’t have believed anyone telling him the same story. Why do you keep acting like this thread is about proving God to you or that you have no right to your own beliefs?

    Lastly, how does the rest of your argument regarding happier, healthier etc. not confuse correlation and causality?

    If you are charging such a confusion you will have to defend your charge. Have you looked into the evidences Tom has compiled on this blog (and Steve now linked – thanks Steve)?

    So it sounds like you’re saying that my lack of belief in God is irrational.

    No it doesn’t. I’ve told you guys several times what I am talking about here. I’ve never once said that disbelief is irrational, I’ve never meant it and I’ve never implied it. Will you ever get over this martyr complex you’ve brought here? Not everybody is attacking you.
    For the record, I believe that an atheist’s disbelief can be completely rational. Do you guys care to make the same admission regarding Christianity? Paul and DL are on record over and over again saying that it is irrational, delusional, superstitious, etc. How about you, Tony?

    I’ve enjoyed this discussion, Charlie, but I can’t imagine that you don’t see how ironically that can lead to some of us.

    1) Since I am not calling you irrational …
    2) Since you are the one calling me irrational …
    3) Since you’ve done nothing to demonstrate my irrationality …
    4) Since I am completely within my epistemic rights to hold my belief …
    No, I see nothing ironic about it.

    Last thing, and there’s always more here than I have time to address, but when you write stuff like this, “…to learn that the history you’ve been told about Christianity is, generously put, incomplete,” I have to mention that I was raised and confirmed a Lutheran (so I’m not unfamiliar with the Christian traditions), and studied the New Testament and Christian Origins under Elaine Pagels, et al. when I was at Princeton. It’s a pretty rigorous group of minds at work on the subject there (I wonder how complete your understanding is of their work), and I think your assumptions about my understanding of the evidence are probably not what you think they are.

    Let’s see –
    1) I wasn’t talking about the Christian traditions.
    2) I am vaguely aware of Pagels and her treatment of the “Gospel of Thomas”. Maybe we can discuss her sometime and you can enlighten me.
    3) I make no assumptions of your understanding of the history of Christianity. I draw solid conclusions based upon the evidence – including your own generous admission:

    Tony Hoffman says:
    May 20, 2008 at 12:53 pm
    MedicineMan,
    Thanks for your involved response to my question.
    I admit that this discussion has made me aware of newer, more nuanced historical interpretations of the relationship between religion and science than I was previously aware of (the Jaki interpretation), and I have enjoyed learning about it.

    While I now agree that monotheism and many actors in the Christian Church contributed significantly to the formation of the scientific method, this is different than saying a practicing scientist today is best served by following a religious path to science.

    https://www.thinkingchristian.net/2008/05/atheism-required-for-science/#comment-3893

    As I summed up then, in response to another generous comment of yours:

    Charlie says:
    May 23, 2008 at 12:07 pm
    Hi Tony,
Thanks much for your participation and your last comment.
I have always found that if you talk with reasonable people long enough you will find that there is far more agreement than disagreement. It often comes down something so small as a perceived emphasis of one aspect of a definition.
 
In our case, however, – and check out how high I can get (on my horse)- please consider why you’ve changed your position to whatever extent that you have.
I think a lot of our disagreement stems from untested presuppositions.

    My only point is that, despite what Charlie seems to be arguing for, there is no rationality that justifies faith in a theistic God. There only seems to be an individual awareness that cannot be verified, and to those of us without this experience the belief seems clearly delusional.

    This is an unusual statement. DL insists in one statement that I can’t refer to rational arguments for God and you comment in the next that they don’t even exist and that faith is irrational.
    This position does not hint at any understanding of Christianity whatsoever. Contra DL’s bias, the arguments are not “Medieval” either, as Al Plantinga refers to a dozen or so of them, you and I have discussed the argument from evolution, in this thread I’ve discussed Lewis’ version and Reppert’s defence of the the argument from reason, we have the historical testimony, the teleological argument, the cosmological argument, the argument from morality, etc. etc. etc.
    I know you find none of these compelling (no, that doesn’t mean I’m calling you irrational) but you can’t really mean that no one can be morally justified in holding to a belief in God (not, “a god”) based upon these reasons when taking into account his own background knowledge and experience, can you?

  225. Tony,

    My question was more specific to axioms, logic, and the necessity of assuming God. Charlie says that God is essential, he is axiomatic. I am doubtful about that, because I don’t see “because God created it / guides it” as having any impact on how I apprehend reality.

    The impact is truth, and as Charlie mentioned several times there are consequences to affirming falsehoods just as there are consequences to affirming truth. Your belief about reality IS your apprehension of reality so there is an inescapable and direct impact.

    If the truth-value of a belief has no impact then why do we care to instill true beliefs in our children? Why do you care what Christian’s believe if it has no impact on reality?

    It seems obvious that the real question is HOW God as axiomatic will impact you, not IF it will impact you.

  226. Hi Charlie,

    Lot of stuff in your last (and I still haven’t gone over the one prior), but here it is. Also, picking up at work again so it will take me time to respond further.

    Me: Charlie, I disagree with your conclusions about knowledge and the BIV dilemma.

    You: I know you do. I think I’ve rehearsed them enough for now, though, and am confident in my previous presentations.

    So the fact that Paul, DL and I, as well as pretty much every philosopher since Descartes hasn’t been able to draw the conclusions about the BIV dilemma that you have gives you confidence. Okay.

    You: In the case of God, you do ultimate harm by disbelieving the only truth.

    Me: What is the ultimate harm of disbelieving in God?

    You: Really? You say you’ve studied the New Testament, is this really your response?

    I seriously thought that you were trying to make a point about ultimate harm and reality here. If you want to defer to the New Testament on this I think that Jesus’s references to “the kingdom of heaven,” are certainly enigmatic and could refer to a living reality, for instance.

    You: We all know without knowing how we know and we all know based upon the same grounds.

    Me: Except when it comes to knowing about your God. That should be a problem for you, even if skeptics and their labels are not very interesting to you.

    You: What is this supposed to mean? What exception is being made for my knowledge of God?

    The exception appears to be this: either “because my God exists” should be used as the one exception to Occam’s razor regarding axioms, or “therefore God exists” should be concluded without rational reasons to justify it. I can’t think of anything else we call knowledge that gets that exception.

    I don’t mean this to be an insult, Charlie, but I think that’s the dilemma. And I’m still confused if you’re going for one, two, or both.

    Me: What is the special rule you can apply to us yoga tea drinkers that I cannot apply to you, and specifically, is it logical or evidentiary?

    You: I never asked you to apply a rule, come to a conclusion or have an opinion…Why do you keep acting like this thread is about proving God to you or that you have no right to your own beliefs?

    I thought you wanted to discuss the perception of God and the rationality of belief. I thought that making a claim here is equivalent to “I think you should believe, apply this rule, or conclude this.” I thought that was part of the format.

    Me: Lastly, how does the rest of your argument regarding happier, healthier etc. not confuse correlation and causality?

    You: If you are charging such a confusion you will have to defend your charge. Have you looked into the evidences Tom has compiled on this blog (and Steve now linked – thanks Steve)?

    Yes, I did look at the link. Tom was admirably demure in what these studies should demonstrate (that Christians are not a scourge on society), and also cautioned about confusing causality and correlation. So why did you introduce them then?

    Me: So it sounds like you’re saying that my lack of belief in God is irrational.

    You: No it doesn’t. I’ve told you guys several times what I am talking about here. I’ve never once said that disbelief is irrational, I’ve never meant it and I’ve never implied it.

    You (earlier): See, this isn’t about seeking experiences but getting into alignment with the nature of true reality…”

    But isn’t (my) denying true reality irrational by definition? Doesn’t my lack of belief in God therefore make me irrational? Your claim that I am not in alignment with reality above appears explicit on this point to me, and implicit in your other comments.

    Paul and DL are on record over and over again saying that it is irrational, delusional, superstitious, etc. How about you, Tony?

    I said prior to this that I thought it was delusional. I think all my comments above reflect the fact that I was struggling to see how belief in a theistic God could be classified as rational. My dispute has never been over your right to hold a belief — it is against your claim that your belief is rational (and thus my lack of belief irrational).

    You: “…to learn that the history you’ve been told about Christianity is, generously put, incomplete…”

    You (later): “I make no assumptions of your understanding of the history of Christianity. I draw solid conclusions based upon the evidence, including your own… admission.”

    My knowledge on any topic is incomplete. (I imagine you would admit the same about your own knowledge.) And I have learned all kinds of things I didn’t know before during this discussion. But it is presumptuous to assume that a conclusion that differs from one’s own can only be based on ignorance.

    Me: My only point is that, despite what Charlie seems to be arguing for, there is no rationality that justifies faith in a theistic God. There only seems to be an individual awareness that cannot be verified, and to those of us without this experience the belief seems clearly delusional.

    You: “This position does not hint at any understanding of Christianity whatsoever.”

    Well, right back at you, I guess. I mean, I was raised a Lutheran, and Martin Luther’s revelation while reading Paul and his determination about the irreconcilability of faith and reason do have something to do with the history of Christianity. To say that there is no understanding of this in the history of Christianity nor its current practice is indeed unusual.

  227. SteveK,

    In response to my statement, “I am doubtful about that, because I don’t see “because God created it / guides it” as having any impact on how I apprehend reality,” you wrote:

    The impact is truth, and as Charlie mentioned several times there are consequences to affirming falsehoods just as there are consequences to affirming truth. Your belief about reality IS your apprehension of reality so there is an inescapable and direct impact.

    Yes, but we’re talking about perceptions and reality, and I’m asking for something that falls under the scope of rationality. Specifically, when I insert the axiom “because God created it / guides it” into what I call reality, there doesn’t seem to be a result which can be justified rationally.

    You refer to a direct impact, and the certainty of how God as axiomatic will impact me. You can conclude, as I think Charlie has, that I am ultimately going to Hell, but that’s not a rationally verifiable outcome. I am asking for any rationally verifiable outcome.

    Keep in mind, please, that I’m not asking you to renounce or change your beliefs in any way. I am only asking if you think there is something rationally justifiable in your religious convictions, and if so, what it is.

  228. Tony,

    I am asking for any rationally verifiable outcome.

    I think this short video (ignore parts that don’t apply here) helps answer your question about the necessity of the God axiom by looking at the necessity of the logic axiom that we all know rationally. Rationally, my mind rejects the idea that logic is contingent in any way. You don’t have to agree with the argument in the video, but I think it’s a reasonable, rational argument for the necessity of the God axiom.

  229. Hi Tony,

    So the fact that Paul, DL and I, as well as pretty much every philosopher since Descartes hasn’t been able to draw the conclusions about the BIV dilemma that you have gives you confidence. Okay.

    Sorry, Tony, but my conclusion is the very point of the BIV argument.

    The exception appears to be this: either “because my God exists” should be used as the one exception to Occam’s razor regarding axioms, or “therefore God exists” should be concluded without rational reasons to justify it. I can’t think of anything else we call knowledge that gets that exception.

    Once again, Ockham’s razor doesn;t touch necessary entities, only unnecessary ones. God’s existence, as outlined above many times, is exactly a rational conclusion as well as being offered to many of us experientially. That exactly fits with reason and it exactly fits with the idea of axioms. The exception you’ve drawn out has nothing to do with my belief in God so I will agree with you that nothing ought to get such a pass.

    I thought you wanted to discuss the perception of God and the rationality of belief. I thought that making a claim here is equivalent to “I think you should believe, apply this rule, or conclude this.” I thought that was part of the format.

    Discussing isn’t asking you to believe. I’ve told numerous times what I am doing here. Nobody has asked that you believe a person’s own experience. When I said that I am not going to be able to convince Paul you said it was an ad hominem, when I said it to you you said I was calling you irrational. Yet, on the linked thread, you openly admitted that we weren’t about to change your mind and you held no illusion that you could change ours.

    Yes, I did look at the link. Tom was admirably demure in what these studies should demonstrate (that Christians are not a scourge on society), and also cautioned about confusing causality and correlation. So why did you introduce them then?

    I think you’ve understated Tom’s position. They do not prove causality, but in showing the correlation they provide evidence of causality (edit: I overstated this comment earlier).

    But isn’t (my) denying true reality irrational by definition? Doesn’t my lack of belief in God therefore make me irrational? Your claim that I am not in alignment with reality above appears explicit on this point to me, and implicit in your other comments.

    No. Being wrong or unable to see does not make one irrational. You are presenting a limited and incomplete picture of what it means to be rational/irrational.

    My dispute has never been over your right to hold a belief — it is against your claim that your belief is rational (and thus my lack of belief irrational).

    1) You are incorrect to claim that our contradictory beliefs cannot bot be held rationally. Are you doing this only to be able to maintain the false charge that I am calling you irrational merely because we disagree?
    2) To call my belief irrational is exactly to dispute my right to hold the belief. To call a proposition reasonable or rational is to make a normative statement about it. It is to say that one is justified in holding it, that it is a permissible belief, or that one is entitled to hold it. If the person has paid proper attention to the evidence and weighed it against his background knowledge and competing hypotheses (has ‘governed his beliefs properly’) then it is rational to hold a belief no matter how it was acquired.
    http://www.has.vcu.edu/wld/faithscienceforum/srf-series/Lectures/Is%20It%20Reasonable%20to%20Believe%20in%20God,%20part%201.mp3

  230. I am breaking this up to spread out my links and maybe avoid the filter.

    My knowledge on any topic is incomplete. (I imagine you would admit the same about your own knowledge.) And I have learned all kinds of things I didn’t know before during this discussion. But it is presumptuous to assume that a conclusion that differs from one’s own can only be based on ignorance.

    That would be presumptuous, indeed. But, once again, you are not talking about what I actually said.
    On the other hand, of course, your admission was to your ignorance on the subject. And as I said at the time, a conclusion based upon insufficient information is much easier to accept when it fits one’s preconceptions.

    Tony: My only point is that, despite what Charlie seems to be arguing for, there is no rationality that justifies faith in a theistic God. There only seems to be an individual awareness that cannot be verified, and to those of us without this experience the belief seems clearly delusional.

    Me: “This position does not hint at any understanding of Christianity whatsoever.”

    Tony: Well, right back at you, I guess. I mean, I was raised a Lutheran, and Martin Luther’s revelation while reading Paul and his determination about the irreconcilability of faith and reason do have something to do with the history of Christianity. To say that there is no understanding of this in the history of Christianity nor its current practice is indeed unusual.

    So while I accept the rationality of your wrong belief, you call mine irrational and delusional – but you don’t question my right to hold it.
    I’d like to see a link to Luther’s claim in context and in relation to his body of work. I’ve read a fair amount of the legal scholar’s work and I found he was highly dependent upon reason.
    Here are a few thoughts on Christian belief and rationality:

    To the question whether there also some truths which at the same time are revealed and open to rational demonstration, Aquinas answers yes. Such truths are the existence of God and the immortality of the human soul, which are demonstrable by reason.

    http://www.radicalacademy.com/aquinas1.htmThomas_Aquinas
    Martin Luther King Jr.:

    Here we will discuss the place of two methods that men have constantly used in seeking God: reason and experience. Let us first turn to the realm of experience since it is the logical prelude of reason. ….
    Thus, reason, when sincerely and honestly used, is one of supreme roads that leads man into the presence of God.

    Others are cited as believing Reason can lead to belief in God:

    Now we turn to the realm of reason in finding God. Certainly we are aware of the fact that men throughout the ages have believed in the validity of reason in finding God. We find it in a Plato teaching that God is a rational being to be found by reason. We find it in a Jesus speaking of loving God with our minds. We find it in a Spinoza speaking of “the intellectual love of God.” Certainly this list could go on ad infinitum.

    http://www.stanford.edu/group/King/publications/papers/vol1/491123-The_Place_of_Reason_and_Experience_in_Finding_God.htm

  231. Pascal, William James, J.S. Mill, etc.:
    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pragmatic-belief-god/
    John Locke:

    The Existence of God
    According to Locke, the existence of God is an instance of demonstrable knowledge in any reasoning being.

    http://www.philosophypages.com/locke/g06.htm

    Here’s a series of talks on the Reasonable Belief In God.
    The first two speakers believe in God and present arguments for why belief is rational. The third, Paul Draper does not believe in God, says it would not reasonable for him to do so, but admits that it is reasonable for others to.
    Each is a professor of philosophy.
    http://www.has.vcu.edu/wld/faithscienceforum/srf-series/believeingod.html

    A self-professed skeptic, Strobel set out to put his faith to the test by attempting to prove that belief in God is “good science.” He questioned and quizzed scientific scholars on the strength and weaknesses of both Darwinism and intelligent design, and came away with an almost ironic conclusion.

    “What bothers me is when people define faith as anti-intellectual,” he said. “I don’t think that is the kind of faith the Bible talks about. The kind I want to express and experience is the faith that is consistent with the evidence of the world and what the Bible tells me and then to respond to that evidence in a rational step.”
     
    Strobel said it’s a mistake to assume that unbelievers will be saved only through an emotional transformation. He cites his own situation as evidence.
     
    “When I realized, in light of all the evidence, that it would require more faith to maintain my atheism than to become a Christian, that’s when I encountered Jesus,” he said. “Some people have an emotional experience. I had the rush of reason, the fulfillment of all I’d seen in my investigation.”
     
    http://www.beliefnet.com/story/154/story_15483_3.html

  232. Cont.

    However, that’s certainly not my understanding. I see faith as being a reasonable step in the same direction that the evidence is pointing. In other words, faith goes beyond merely acknowledging that the facts of science and history pont toward God. It’s responding to those facts by investing trust in God—a step that’s fully warranted due to the supporting evidence”

    ““For Polkinghorne, who achieved acclaim as a mathematical physicist at Cambridge before becoming a full-time minister, the same kind of thinking he uses in science has helped him draw life-changing conclusions about God:

    No one has ever seen a quark, and we believe that no one ever will. They are so tightly bound to each other inside the protons and neutrons that nothing can make them break out on their own. Why, then, do I believe in these invisible quarks? … In summary, it’s because quarks make sense of a lot of direct physical evidence…I wish to engage in a similar strategy with regard to the unseen reality of God. His existence makes sense of many aspects of our knowledge and experience: the order and fruitfulness of the physical world; the multilayered character of rality; the almost universal human experiences of worship and hope; the phenomenon of Jesus Christ (including his resurrection). I think that very similar thought processes are involved in both cases. I do not believe that I shift in some strange intellectual way when I move from science to religion…In their search for truth, science and faith are intellectual cousins under the skin.

    He added, however, an important distinction. “Religious knowledge is more demanding than scientific knowledge,” he said. “While it requires scrupulous attention to matters of truth, it also calls for the response of commitment to the truth discovered.”[this response (habit of the mind, pledge of loyalty) is what Christian intellectuals refer to as ‘faith’]
    ….
    Viggo Olsen is a brilliant surgeon whose life was steeped in science. Graduating cum laude from medical school, he later became a diplomat of the American Board of Surgery and a fellow of the American College of Surgeons. In fact, his name has a whole raft of letters after it—M.S., M.D., Litt.D., D.H., F.A.C.S., F.I.C.S., and D.T.M.&H. He attributes his former spiritual skepticism to his knowledge of the scientific world.

    Finally, in frustration at two o’clock one morning around the kitchen table, they agreed to examine the Christian faith for themselves.

    Olsen implied his search would be sincere and honest, but inwardly he had already hatched a plan. “My intent was not to do an objective study at all,” he recalled. “Just alike a surgeon incises a chest, we were going to slash into the Bible and dissect out all its embarrassing scientific mistakes.”


    “It blew our minds!” Olsen said. “For the first time we began to see there were reasons behind Christianity. Deciding to believe would definitely not be committing intellectual suicide.”
    UNMASKING THE CREATOR Lee Strobel’s Article at
    http://www.beliefnet.com/story/154/story_15483_5.html>

  233. Charlie (and Steve),

    Regarding Steve’s video I think it’s a mess. This guy begins by saying that the tools of logic cannot be used unless they are accounted for – where did they come from and why do they work. (What? I guess we can’t use gravity for that next satellite shot. Darn!) He goes on to say that atheists cannot explain where rationality comes from or why it works. (Okay, but so what. And if I said, “From the great beyond time and space” would that qualify as an explanation?). My favorite is that he says that logic cannot be an eternal form because the laws of logic govern thought and thought is the exclusive ability of persons. (I have no idea what this means.)

    Once again, Ockham’s razor doesn;t touch necessary entities, only unnecessary ones.

    Once again, where is “because God exists” necessary to the function of rationality? If I remove the LNC, rationality doesn’t work. If I remove God, what happens? Why is it necessary? What stops working?

    Yes, you know where I stand on the ontological argument, et al.

    You are incorrect to claim that our contradictory beliefs cannot both be held rationally. Are you doing this only to be able to maintain the false charge that I am calling you irrational merely because we disagree?

    I a not sure, but I don’t think that contradictory beliefs about a well-defined reality can both be rational. For instance, say that I cannot see. Would it be rational for me to believe that sight does not exist? I don’t think so. Others can easily demonstrate their ability to see to me – we can walk together while touching, and they can predict the things we will run into that are outside their ability to feel it, etc. It would be irrational of me to believe that, even though I cannot see, others do have this ability. In other words, I don’t think this is an “agree to disagree” discussion; one of us is clearly wrong about being able to rationally justify belief in a theistic God.

    To call my belief irrational is exactly to dispute my right to hold the belief. To call a proposition reasonable or rational is to make a normative statement about it. It is to say that one is justified in holding it, that it is a permissible belief, or that one is entitled to hold it. If the person has paid proper attention to the evidence and weighed it against his background knowledge and competing hypotheses (has ‘governed his beliefs properly’) then it is rational to hold a belief no matter how it was acquired.

    Okay, but to fail to justify your belief does, in a broad sense, affect me. The idiots who crashed themselves and others into the World Trade Center Towers, I’m sure, felt that they had “paid proper attention to the evidence and weighed it against [their] background knowledge and competing hypotheses,” as well. I don’t mean that you are in any way similarly dangerous, but there is nothing ultimately improper about demanding rational justification for beliefs that do have an impact outside the individual.

    Regarding my comment that my admission of incomplete knowledge does not equal ignorance you wrote:

    On the other hand, of course, your admission was to your ignorance on the subject. And as I said at the time, a conclusion based upon insufficient information is much easier to accept when it fits one’s preconceptions.

    My prior admission was to incomplete knowledge and of a more nuanced interpretation than that of which I was aware. (Btw, I think you’re slipping into more frequent mischaracterizations, all of which I don’t have the time to correct. You also wrote: “When I said that I am not going to be able to convince Paul you said it was an ad hominem, when I said it to you you said I was calling you irrational, etc.” et al. ) A scrupulous application of your thinking captured in the blockquote above could just as easily have me state that you are ignorant of the origins of the New Testament because you admitted that you are only “vaguely aware of” Elaine Pagels, and that therefore your conclusion about your religion is based on incomplete information that fits your preconceptions. Goose, gander, etc.

    I haven’t had time to listen to the link (I think it’s about half an hour long) on the place of reason and experience in finding God yet, although I listened to about a minute of it. I actually hope that this does have a good explanation for justifying the rationality of belief in a theistic God, partly because I’ve found the other ones so unsatisfying (there seems to be a lot of “Well, who gets to define reason, and how does it exist, and doesn’t it all depend on what we presuppose, etc…” in these explanations), and also because it’s much harder for me to find the time to listen / watch an argument than it is to read it.

    The last of your couple posts seems to be an argument from authority or numbers. (I do find it a little odd that one of the quotes includes Spinoza, as my understanding of his philosophy placed his conclusions more along the lines of Einstein, etc. Also, I think that stuff like Pascal’s wager makes a utilitarian (pragmatic) judgment about the “why the heck not” benefit of believing in a theistic God, which I don’t think is technically a rational argument that justifies the belief itself.)

    Here’s the problem for me in a nutshell. Contrary to what you probably think of me, I don’t believe Christians like yourself are ignorant or uninformed. I believe it’s possible to have rational reasons for your belief (and I have no interest in debunking beliefs based on faith alone, at least partly because there’s nothing there to debunk), but the reasons I have seen so far don’t appear rational to me. (And for the purposes of this discussion I think we are confining our talk to direct experience – I’m not talking about historical evidence here because I think the post was a discussion about direct experience. And by the way, I have never thanked you for being among the very few to share your direct experience – I really do appreciate that.)

  234. Tony,

    Regarding Steve’s video I think it’s a mess.

    The video is one man’s informal version of the argument. I thought you’d account for that but I guess not. Maybe Wikipedia is more your style.

    Once again, where is “because God exists” necessary to the function of rationality? If I remove the LNC, rationality doesn’t work. If I remove God, what happens? Why is it necessary? What stops working?

    I’m going to stick with the transcendental argument in brief. I’m no philosopher, but my understanding of it, as it applies to logic, goes like this…if you remove the necessity of logic, rationality ceases to work as we know it. If you remove the necessity of God, logic stops working as we know it. Logic is best explained by one necessary mind. Let the axiom of logic be contingent on anything and you open the door for logic to be different or nonexistent – which means it doesn’t have to be an axiom, or it can be altered.

  235. Tony,
    In your reply to Charlie, I think you are confusing ‘irrational’ with ‘wrong according to Tony’. Could you give an example of a rational argument for a true belief that you personally disagree with?

  236. Hi Tony,

    This guy begins by saying that the tools of logic cannot be used unless they are accounted for – where did they come from and why do they work. (What? I guess we can’t use gravity for that next satellite shot. Darn!)

    I think he said that it can’t be justified – not that it can’t be used.

    Once again, where is “because God exists” necessary to the function of rationality?

    You just admitted the necessity in the previous sentence. Only God grounds logic and reason. We can only justify reason and can only trust our senses and apprehension of reality given the divine Logos. And God’s necessity goes well beyond the LNC – this is not an isolated piece of information but one part of a cumulative case in which God makes the most sense of all the relevant questions.

    If I remove God, what happens? Why is it necessary? What stops working?

    All of it – and we can start with reason.

    I a not sure, but I don’t think that contradictory beliefs about a well-defined reality can both be rational.

    They can. They just can’t both be correct.

    In other words, I don’t think this is an “agree to disagree” discussion; one of us is clearly wrong about being able to rationally justify belief in a theistic God.

    Not so. One of us clearly wrong about God’s existence and you are clearly wrong about rationality. Check out the talks I linked.

    . I don’t mean that you are in any way similarly dangerous, but there is nothing ultimately improper about demanding rational justification for beliefs that do have an impact outside the individual.

    You’ve missed the point. I wasn’t criticizing you for questioning my rationality, I was telling you what it meant. By doing so you have stated that I am not morally entitled to my belief. You are mistaken, but this has nothing to do with me complaining about your having done so – just pointing out what “irrational” actually means, or at least how it is used in such discussions.

    My prior admission was to incomplete knowledge and of a more nuanced interpretation than that of which I was aware.

    Yes, you admitted to having been ignorant. You said that I had this charge in mind merely because we disagreed – I had the charge in mind because you admitted it.

    A scrupulous application of your thinking captured in the blockquote above could just as easily have me state that you are ignorant of the origins of the New Testament because you admitted that you are only “vaguely aware of” Elaine Pagels, and that therefore your conclusion about your religion is based on incomplete information that fits your preconceptions. Goose, gander, etc.

    1) Elaine Pagels’ authority on the issue is not established (the NT scholars I am familiar with are not fans of her position on Thomas) 2) You admitted to ignorance of facts, not opinions. 3) Of course my knowledge is incomplete on the subject. 4) I have not argued a position on the origins of the NT and you haven’t demonstrated how my incomplete knowledge will affect my understanding of Christianity. 5) You were the one claiming a position which was not well-researched and which was demonstrably insufficient. Show my position on the NT is based upon ignorance and then I’ll try the feathers on.

    (there seems to be a lot of “Well, who gets to define reason, and how does it exist, and doesn’t it all depend on what we presuppose, etc…” in these explanations),

    There’d better be a lot of this – that’s what it means to have properly governed beliefs and a right to a position. Don’t forget the part about having done the necessary and applicable research.

    The last of your couple posts seems to be an argument from authority or numbers.

    Always in vain search for a fallacy to charge. It is a refutation of your claim, not an appeal to anything but counterexample. The quotes I provide demonstrate that Christianity does not demand that there are no reasons for belief or that belief is irrational. From so-called fideists, to converted skeptics, to evangelicals, to Aquinas to Luther, your position is falsified as Christianity is supported by rational argument and has sound reasons for its truth. To be sure, God and the faith arebeyond reason, are super-rational, but the charge of irrationality, and certainly that Christianity itself has no rational justification does not stick.

    Here’s the problem for me in a nutshell. Contrary to what you probably think of me, I don’t believe Christians like yourself are ignorant or uninformed. I believe it’s possible to have rational reasons for your belief (and I have no interest in debunking beliefs based on faith alone, at least partly because there’s nothing there to debunk), but the reasons I have seen so far don’t appear rational to me.

    But they are rational. I linked three philosophy professors who will tell you why.

    (And for the purposes of this discussion I think we are confining our talk to direct experience – I’m not talking about historical evidence here because I think the post was a discussion about direct experience.

    This partitioning won’t work for either you nor DL. This blog is full of reasons for belief and we are not confined as you wish. If we speak only of the direct experience of God then, no, belief did come through reason. But this does not make it irrational to hold the belief. It is rational to accept this experience because it is rational to trust our experiences in general. Add to this the myriad of reasons to believe in God (reasonable, logical, philosophical, historical, etc.) , which you and DL are trying to chalk out for some reason, and one has plenty of rational background information against which to measure his experience and with which to find it to be consistent. For instance, as you said, it is reasonable to believe in a God who created the universe. If this is reasonable imagine how many reasonable beliefs flow from this alone. Antony Flew infers an omnipotent personal God from this rational belief alone.

    And by the way, I have never thanked you for being among the very few to share your direct experience – I really do appreciate that.)

    You are very welcome. I often wish I had a more interesting testimony, but life is what it is. I read a very interesting one yesterday – I might try to link it for you.

  237. Hi Steve,
    Your Wiki link refers to Greg Bahnsen.
    Have you checked him out?
    I listened to his debates a year or so ago and found him very impressive.

  238. Hi Steve,
    I see I forgot the link:
    http://veritasdomain.wordpress.com/2006/12/05/greg-bahnsen-vs-gordon-stein-the-great-debate/

    Tony, I have to correct one of my answers to you.

    You:In other words, I don’t think this is an “agree to disagree” discussion; one of us is clearly wrong about being able to rationally justify belief in a theistic God.

    Me: Not so. One of us clearly wrong about God’s existence and you are clearly wrong about rationality. Check out the talks I linked.

    I answered a little bit outside of what you actually said here.
    My answer is correct as far as it goes, but I missed that your rewording had actually altered your claim.
    At first you said that I had to be claiming that you were irrational because I claim that I am rational to hold a contradictory belief. This is false.
    Here you are actually saying that one of us is clearly wrong about whether belief in God (the use of the word “theistic” is redundant, even though I know why you wish to use it) is rational. Yes, your new statement is correct – you are clearly wrong about the rationality of this belief.
    It is not, however, irrational to be so mistaken. One can be wrong and be rational if he has done the appropriate investigation into the truth of the matter, has reasons for his belief and has compared these to the reasons against.
    Have you properly researched this?

  239. Police say Macaulay Culkin’s sister Dakota Culkin was killed after she stepped in front of a car in west Los Angeles.
    Police spokesman Richard French says Dakota Culkin was struck Tuesday night after she stepped into the street. She died a day later at a Los Angeles hospital after suffering massive head injuries.
    French says there is no active criminal investigation.
    Police say the driver stopped and tried to help the 29-year-old. Officers determined the motorist wasn’t driving drunk and followed all laws.
    Macaulay Culkin’s spokeswoman, Michelle Bega, said it was a “terrible tragic accident” and the family had no further comment.
    The 28-year-old actor starred in the “Home Alone” films.
    Today read Google. Excellent film and Calkin wonderful actor. But why God takes the youngest?

  240. Sorry Steve,
    Only the debate with George Smith still works. Ir’s not as in-depth but you’ll still enjoy it.

  241. Charlie,

    I’ll give it one last shot.

    Do you sense God at a basic level, OR do you sense other stuff (e.g., “There is a transcendence of space and time, an absorption by something greater than the subject and indescribable experience and a sense of unity.”) that you INFER to be caused by God?

    Is your knowledge of God an inference? Yes or no?

    In Scott’s example, is Scott saying God is an inference from his experience? On the one hand, it seems so because he merely saw a picture which others claim did not exist, and then inferred from this that God existed. On the other hand, I thought there was supposed to be some “sense of God” that is not the same thing as “sensations attributed to God”. Which is it?

    You could just as well have had a different belief other than that God was talking to you. You could have the belief that a ghost was talking to you, or Mother Earth, or the sense that your race is superior, or that Country & Western sucks.

    No I couldn’t. I only have beliefs that make sense in this reality and are rational. I could just as easily, by your latest attempted corralling, think that the lights in the night sky are alien invaders as that they are earthly aircraft. But I happen to know things about this world and adapt my beliefs to reality, evidence and experience.

    Here, it seems like you are saying that your belief in God is an inference because you claim to adapt your beliefs based on evidence and experience.

    I assume you understand that this contradicts Plantinga’s view (of course, Plantinga does not speak for all Christians, so that’s no black mark in your book).

    Hmm, getting a little semantically retentive, aren’t you?
    You say the axioms are “not known” and then “correct” me when I call them “unknown”?

    There’s “know” in the sense of recognize the meaning of the axioms, and “know” in the sense of knowing they are absolutely true. I was referring to the former. I recognize the meaning of the axioms, even if I don’t know they are true. I should have been clearer.

    Charlie, you have to think about the experience of belief and knowing. Believing something true and believing something false feel exactly the same. The thing that feels different is when expectations based on a belief are met or defied. When expectations based on a belief are met, we say knowledge is accrued. When expectations based on belief are defied, knowledge is dissipated. In other words, knowledge is about verifiability, not mere belief.

    I think the term knowledge is getting in the way, since we have different definitions.

    Consider the following definitions.

    Belief is confidence in a proposition.
    Belief implies expectation about future experience.
    One could have confidence in a belief without having the reasons to back it up. This is intuition.
    Confidence accrues when expectations of a belief are met. (A form of inference)
    Confidence dissipates when expectations of a belief are defied. (A form of inference)
    [NOTE: we have to account for base rate expectations where the proposition is false.]
    Conviction is acting as if a proposition were true. Confidence leads to conviction, but it is possible to have conviction without confidence.

    I don’t think the word knowledge adds anything to belief, confidence, expectation, intuition, verification and conviction (from a first-person perspective).

    These definitions allow us to do two things. First, we can lay out how we define knowledge in terms of these more neutral definitions. Second, we can talk about the utility of knowledge.

    First, the definition of knowledge. My definition is that knowledge is belief (typically intuition at first) that is backed up by inference, even if it is conditional upon assumptions.

    You are arguing that some intuitions are knowledge, even if they have not and cannot be tested by experience. I am asking you what the criteria is for an intuition to be regarded as knowledge.

    We know one of your criteria. You assume that knowledge is a category of belief, and that new knowledge only gets justified by inference if the premises are actually known. You also assume that we know things. By inference, you conclude that there are some assumptions that have to be regarded as knowledge or else we don’t have any knowledge at all. Hence, you infer that the LNC must be “known”.

    This is obviously circular. You are inferring that the LNC is known. You already know this is circular, I think. People say the LNC is necessarily true. But necessary for what? It’s necessary for inference and knowledge (of both our kinds). But it’s not “necessary, period”. Nothing is “necessary, period”. Everything that is necessary has to be necessary for something. When you claim that the LNC is necessarily known, you mean that it is necessarily known to impart knowledge as you have defined it to conclusions in syllogisms. That necessity cannot be used to support the notion of necessity itself (which is what the LNC does).

    This is all old hat in this thread. My new point is this. Suppose that your definition of knowledge is discarded. Suppose you have beliefs about beliefs, assumptions, intuitions, expectations, confidence and convictions. What would the difference be? What does your label “knowledge” do that the other labels cannot do?

    For example, isn’t it just as useful, and doesn’t it feel the same to say…

    I have confidence that, if I had confidence in the premises, I would consequently have confidence in the conclusion. (validity)

    I actually have confidence in the premises, and I consequently have confidence in the conclusion. (soundness)
    ?

  242. Hi DL,
    If this really is your last shot then thank you for the discussion and have a Merry Christmas.

    Is your knowledge of God an inference? Yes or no?

    Yes or no? Both. There is a knowledge of God which arrives in/with/as the experience. I can’t say I was not conditioned to this conclusion before hand, but as the Beuarergard reprts attest, the knowledge of God is part of the experience. In my case part and parcel with the experience was the knowledge that God was giving me peace and assurance. In one of the descriptors the experience in Beauregard’s study was “God loves me”. The experience is not linguistic but does carry that information. Or, I should say, can.

    In Scott’s example, is Scott saying God is an inference from his experience?

    Scott was convicted by God of his sin and disobedience. His experience was, in this sense, informational in and of itself.

    DL: You could just as well have had a different belief other than that God was talking to you. You could have the belief that a ghost was talking to you, or Mother Earth, or the sense that your race is superior, or that Country & Western sucks.
    Me: No I couldn’t. I only have beliefs that make sense in this reality and are rational. I could just as easily, by your latest attempted corralling, think that the lights in the night sky are alien invaders as that they are earthly aircraft. But I happen to know things about this world and adapt my beliefs to reality, evidence and experience.
    DL:Here, it seems like you are saying that your belief in God is an inference because you claim to adapt your beliefs based on evidence and experience.

    Here I am defeating your defeater. Not only can the experience directly relate the information as being of God, but one can check it against background knowledge and find that it comports to reality and not to fantasy.

    I assume you understand that this contradicts Plantinga’s view (of course, Plantinga does not speak for all Christians, so that’s no black mark in your book).

    You can show me how?

    Charlie: Hmm, getting a little semantically retentive, aren’t you?
You say the axioms are “not known” and then “correct” me when I call them “unknown”?
    DL: There’s “know” in the sense of recognize the meaning of the axioms, and “know” in the sense of knowing they are absolutely true. I was referring to the former. I recognize the meaning of the axioms, even if I don’t know they are true. I should have been clearer.

    Perhaps. I think we were both clear about what we meant.

    Charlie, you have to think about the experience of belief and knowing.

    I have to? You’re right – and having to, I have, and do.

    Believing something true and believing something false feel exactly the same.

    Back to feelings again.

    The thing that feels different is when expectations based on a belief are met or defied. When expectations based on a belief are met, we say knowledge is accrued.

    That’s right. And expectations of God are met. Others have a similar subjective experience and describe it in a similar way. God makes sense of the world, the universe, our senses, reason, history, etc.
    God answers prayers and changes lives. God bestows the peace and love He promises and sanctifies His children.

    I think the term knowledge is getting in the way, since we have different definitions.

    Now we’re getting somewhere.

    I don’t think the word knowledge adds anything to belief, confidence, expectation, intuition, verification and conviction (from a first-person perspective).

    I’m inclined to agree.

    You are arguing that some intuitions are knowledge, even if they have not and cannot be tested by experience. I am asking you what the criteria is for an intuition to be regarded as knowledge.

    I’ve told you many times – the impossibility of its opposite is a great justification.

    This is obviously circular.

    I’m sorry, but blah blah blah. You’ve just above tried to define knowledge again – this is circular. The whole exercise is circular if you put yourself outside reason, or outside of knowledge in the first place – I don’t. If you don’t know the LNC is true, that A=A then you can’t prove it without circularity. Which is why it is known without being proven.

    People say the LNC is necessarily true.

    It is necessarily true, it is self-evidently true, it is obviously true, it is true by the impossibility of its negation, etc.

    My new point is this. Suppose that your definition of knowledge is discarded. Suppose you have beliefs about beliefs, assumptions, intuitions, expectations, confidence and convictions. What would the difference be? What does your label “knowledge” do that the other labels cannot do?

    Very good. We are home. Yes, throw away the word “knowledge”. Quit claiming knowledge and quit privileging that which you’ve already decided is knowledge. Now the atheist, who has retreated to a vat, who can’t know he exists, who doesn’t even know his axioms, can admit that his attempts to partition off one kind of knowledge have defeated knowledge – for both himself and for the theist.

    For example, isn’t it just as useful, and doesn’t it feel the same to say…
    I have confidence that, if I had confidence in the premises, I would consequently have confidence in the conclusion. (validity)
    I actually have confidence in the premises, and I consequently have confidence in the conclusion. (soundness)
?

    There you go, that works just fine. But then you are going to say that the theist cannot have such confidence and away we go again. If the theist can have no such confidence in the existence of God then before too long we have to use circularity to have confidence in confidence and before too long we will have confidence in nothing and we will be looking for another way to phrase it to privilege the critic.

  243. DL
    If you haven’t left the discussion altogether, would you mind answering the same question I asked Tony? If you are bowing out then let me wish you and your family a joyous Christmas season. Here’s the question, slightly altered…

    Could you give an example of a rational argument for a justified true belief that you personally don’t believe?

  244. Charlie,

    I spent an embarrassingly long period of time crafting my last comment. I tried to avoid talking about conclusions or psychoanalysis. I don’t feel you devoted as much time or thought to your response as you could have. In fact, it seems that you composed and typed your reply faster than I could have typed it.

    I’ve told you many times – the impossibility of its opposite is a great justification.

    Something becomes impossible when 1) there is a contradiction and 2) there is an LNC that forbids contradictions. You are using “impossibility” which relies on the LNC to justify the LNC.

    I wrote:

    For example, isn’t it just as useful, and doesn’t it feel the same to say…
    I have confidence that, if I had confidence in the premises, I would consequently have confidence in the conclusion. (validity)
    I actually have confidence in the premises, and I consequently have confidence in the conclusion. (soundness)
?

    Then you wrote:

    There you go, that works just fine.

    What is this response supposed to mean? I am asking you to tell me how knowledge as you define it is experientially different from the above. Are you saying it is no different? Are you saying that we have actually agreed all along, but you want to describe unjustified confidence in axioms as “knowledge”, and I want to describe unjustified confidence in axioms as “assumption”?

    But then you are going to say that the theist cannot have such confidence and away we go again. If the theist can have no such confidence in the existence of God then before too long we have to use circularity to have confidence in confidence and before too long we will have confidence in nothing and we will be looking for another way to phrase it to privilege the critic.

    Issue #1:
    You are suggesting that I (and Tony and Paul) lack confidence in the LNC. But this isn’t true. We have plenty of confidence in it (if not quite 100%), and total conviction in it. What we lack is justification for the LNC.

    You are saying we have justification for it, but I have yet to see a justification that doesn’t beg the question by assuming the LNC. In fact, if the LNC is true, the LNC implies there can’t be a non-circular justification for the LNC.

    Issue #2:
    You are arguing that if we fail to consider our axioms as justified, then nothing is ultimately justified because the chain of reasoning would lack ultimate justification.

    I agree. You cannot have ultimate justification if ultimate justification requires that you justify your axioms of justification. That’s a logical, inescapable fact.

    But what is the value of ultimate justification versus partial justification up to the point of brute confidence in unjustifiable axioms?

    Besides, axioms of justification cannot be justified.

    Issue #3:
    You are arguing that if we are not confident in the LNC, we will end up lacking confidence in everything. But, as I said, I don’t really doubt the LNC. To the degree that I had doubt, I might not have doubt. So even if I lacked some confidence, I still retain conviction in its truth.

    We don’t only have confidence in things we can justify – axioms are the exceptions. The issue is, what counts as an axiom?

    You suggest, quite sensibly, that we should accept as axioms, only those things we have to accept in order to think. I must accept the LNC as axiomatic in order to think. I must accept induction in order to think. I must accept that my feelings are my feelings in order to think.

    However, I don’t see the existence of God as an axiom. I don’t need to assume God in order to think. You may believe that God is the best explanation for why I can think, but that’s not necessity.

    For example, it is not necessary to thinking that the Earth’s atmosphere contains Oxygen. People were able to think just fine before oxygen was discovered. There are also possible worlds in which life forms do not need oxygen to live and think. If supernatural entities exist, I don’t expect they need oxygen. So necessity to thought isn’t a matter of what causes or sustains the mechanism by which we think. Thus, God is not necessary to our thinking process even if he was the cause of it.

    Also, while it is necessary that my sensations be treated as true, it is not necessary that my inferences be true.
    If you feel like God is talking to you, it is not necessary that God is talking to you. So the sensation of God is not a necessary assumption. It is necessary that you feel like God is talking to you in a trivial sense. Your feeling is something you should try to explain, but it is not necessary that only this one explanation is the case.

    Therefore, God’s existence is not a necessary axiom of thinking. You could use inference to conclude that God is the best explanation (I wouldn’t, of course), but you cannot say that God’s existence is axiomatic unless you’re special pleading.

    As for the first part of your reply about sense of God being an inference, you seem to be saying that your experience of God might be a conditioned inference. Upon seeing an apple, I instantly infer that there is an apple in front of me. I say infer because we don’t believe that humans have an “apple-sense”. Rather, I have vision, touch, hearing etc., from which I quickly (sub-second) infer that there is an apple (thanks to my childhood conditioning). I recognize the apple, but recognition is a form of inference.

  245. Steve,

    Could you give an example of a rational argument for a justified true belief that you personally don’t believe?

    I assume you mean a “justified true belief on the part of someone else,” as it would be contradictory for me to not believe P and simultaneously believe that I have a justified true belief in P.

    Here’s an example of a JTB on the part of someone else that I would not believe. Suppose Fred is on trial for burglary. Suppose Fred knows he was in the park alone feeding the ducks at the time of the alleged break-in, and has no memory of committing the crime. However, I am on the jury, and do not have access to Fred’s memories, only his testimony. The prosecution has put together many pieces of circumstantial evidence to convict Fred. Based on my experience and the low probability that the circumstantial evidence would be there if Fred was innocent, I conclude that Fred is guilty, and so I do not believe that Fred is innocent. However, Fred actually is innocent, and Fred has the evidence in his memory that he believes is reliable. Fred merely lacks detailed explanations for how the circumstantial evidence came to be, so he can’t effectively defend his case to the jury.

    It is certainly possible to hold a rational false belief. In fact, some practical jokes rely on the rationality of the victim.

    Is this what you were asking?

  246. Dr. Logic,

    Just wanted to let you know how much I’ve enjoyed reading your posts, and how much I’ve learned from them. Sometimes in these discussion I think you can wonder, “Am I going insane?”

    Not from my vantage point, anyway. Good stuff. Appreciate it.

    Charlie and Steve,

    I have a feeling I’ll be wrapping this one up as well. I have at least one more reply for both of you, but it does seem like we’re working our way toward the point of diminishing returns.

  247. HI DL,

    I spent an embarrassingly long period of time crafting my last comment. I tried to avoid talking about conclusions or psychoanalysis. I don’t feel you devoted as much time or thought to your response as you could have. In fact, it seems that you composed and typed your reply faster than I could have typed it.

    I did compose it very quickly – I’d have done so much more quickly if I were a competent typist. You’re right, I could have spent much more time on it, but I am not morally obligated to do so. Sorry I didn’t reciprocate the time and effort but it’s quite easy to respond, as I have said previously with regard to my willingness to answer questions, when you are answering honestly and truthfully. I don’t need craft – just truth.

    Something becomes impossible when 1) there is a contradiction and 2) there is an LNC that forbids contradictions. You are using “impossibility” which relies on the LNC to justify the LNC.

    That’s right. Are you mentioning here that it requires circularity again if one seeks to justify knowledge of reason and the laws of logic? We aren’t arguing that. Any attempt to justify or prove a self-evident truth will run into this – thus, their self-evidence. But just try to deny the LNC and see if you can. You can’t because it’s impossible. The negative is impossible to affirm (not just mouth the words) and it is impossible that it be true.

    What is this response supposed to mean? I am asking you to tell me how knowledge as you define it is experientially different from the above. Are you saying it is no different? Are you saying that we have actually agreed all along, but you want to describe unjustified confidence in axioms as “knowledge”, and I want to describe unjustified confidence in axioms as “assumption”?

    If you remove knowledge from everyone’s plate at your own expense I have no problem with your affirming that position – I don’t agree with that removal but it is exactly what I’ve contended throughout. If rigging terms works for you and you apply them rigorously and without bias I won’t argue. I will point out, as I’ve been doing, the inconsistence then of attempting to define reality for other people.

    You are suggesting that I (and Tony and Paul) lack confidence in the LNC. But this isn’t true. We have plenty of confidence in it (if not quite 100%), and total conviction in it. What we lack is justification for the LNC.

    You do have justification for truly believing in the LNC – you just don’t want to admit that justification.
    Now you say you have confidence in it, but what justifies that confidence?

    You are saying we have justification for it, but I have yet to see a justification that doesn’t beg the question by assuming the LNC. In fact, if the LNC is true, the LNC implies there can’t be a non-circular justification for the LNC.

    Exactly. The fact that there can’t be a non-circular deductive justification is grounds for its justification. You’ve made the inference perfectly well. Not every justification has to be a valid syllogism – invalid deductive statements can still result in valid inductive knowledge.

    You are arguing that if we fail to consider our axioms as justified, then nothing is ultimately justified because the chain of reasoning would lack ultimate justification.

    Yes, that is what I’ve been stating.
    And I see you agree. Cool.

    That’s a logical, inescapable fact.

    But what is the value of ultimate justification versus partial justification up to the point of brute confidence in unjustifiable axioms?

    The value? I am not a utilitarian so I don’t define truth by its value or usefulness. What we have here is the difference between having ultimate knowledge and not having knowledge (partially justified is UNjustified and, therefore, not knowledge). I guess there is also the value that with no ultimate knowledge one loses the ability to tell people what they should and should not hold to on ultimate questions – the way those of you with no ultimate justification continue to try to do.
    All you ever had to do, which Paul never does, and which Tony looked like he was doing but them withdrew his support is answer the following – is this partially justified, everyday, not-absolute knowledge actually knowledge? Do you accept that (even) the theist can have knowledge based upon axioms, postulates, premises, which you do not consider justified, which cannot be proven, empirically tested and verified and which are not known to be true?

    . But, as I said, I don’t really doubt the LNC. To the degree that I had doubt, I might not have doubt. So even if I lacked some confidence, I still retain conviction in its truth.

    1) So do you know it to be true, since you don’t doubt that it is true? Can you doubt your knowledge?
    2) How do you justify your conviction of its truth? How do you justify your lack of doubt?
    3) You keep substituting words for knowledge, like confidence in its truth, conviction of its truth, etc. If you have a reason for this confidence, or this conviction, and it is, in fact, true, then you have your justification, and you have your knowledge. But you can have no reasons for your convictions or your confidences if you rigorously and dispassionately apply your ‘no-circularity’ rule. Therefore, you are left with doubt and skepticism unless you acquiesce to reality and admit that methodism is false and sometimes we just know things.

    However, I don’t see the existence of God as an axiom. I don’t need to assume God in order to think. You may believe that God is the best explanation for why I can think, but that’s not necessity.

    1) You are the only one insisting that what I am claiming is that God can only be known axiomatically. I have merely agreed that His existence can be considered axiomatic based upon a certain type of revelation – that of personal experience. In order to deny this experience the skeptic denies that we can trust our personal experiences. But you’ve agreed that we can take our experiences (just not our derived conclusions) as axiomatic. So it is special pleading to say that the personal experience of God cannot be accepted as other personal experiences. The plea is based upon the skeptic not having had such an experience and then demanding that the believer somehow justify his experience, not to himself, but to the skeptic by way of a proof.
    2) You don’t need to assume God in order to think, that much is correct. But you need to know God exists in order to justify the confidence and conviction of your thoughts.
    God is a necessity here, but belief in HIm is not.

    For example, it is not necessary to thinking that the Earth’s atmosphere contains Oxygen.

    Perfect! Just my kind of analogy. You don’t need to know that there is oxygen but there needs to be oxygen. You don’t need to know anything about gravity, but it is still gravity that keeps us grounded (haha).
    Oops, that’s not where you were going. Too bad, that analogy makes my point beautifully. I’m going to leave it as a demonstration that God can be necessary without belief in God being necessary.

    People were able to think just fine before oxygen was discovered. There are also possible worlds in which life forms do not need oxygen to live and think. If supernatural entities exist, I don’t expect they need oxygen. So necessity to thought isn’t a matter of what causes or sustains the mechanism by which we think. Thus, God is not necessary to our thinking process even if he was the cause of it.

    That’s right, lots of things are necessary for our thought life, air, food, water, not being squished by anvils… But only God justifies our confidence in our thought life. He is necessary if we are to have said confidence. And we must have confidence in our thoughtlife.

    Therefore, God’s existence is not a necessary axiom of thinking. You could use inference to conclude that God is the best explanation (I wouldn’t, of course), but you cannot say that God’s existence is axiomatic unless you’re special pleading.

    Again, you are the one trying to force God into this as an axiom. God’s existence is known by inference, induction, logical demonstration, etc. and He is personally known through personal communication. Call this axiomatic or whatever you want. My dog’s existence is not axiomatic, but I still know he exists based upon my experiences.

    All I want you guys to admit is 1) that you either have knowledge that is based upon axioms/premises/postulates which are unproven/unverifiable/not known, and that this is knowledge or 2) that you have no knowledge whatsoever.
    It’s been masked as conditional knowledge, everyday knowledge, good enough knowledge, practical knowledge, but the question is, is it different as well as being distinct from the so-called ultimate knowledge, which you each deny exists?

    Also, while it is necessary that my sensations be treated as true, it is not necessary that my inferences be true.

    I have no disagreement here. Would you treat it as true that your sensations have a cause? I would.

    If you feel like God is talking to you, it is not necessary that God is talking to you. So the sensation of God is not a necessary assumption. It is necessary that you feel like God is talking to you in a trivial sense. Your feeling is something you should try to explain, but it is not necessary that only this one explanation is the case.

    You are skipping one point. It is not necessarily the case that one inserts inference in here. It is not that a feeling is had and that one then interprets that as God (necessarily). Scott’s “feeling”, his “sensation” was that he had sinned against God. The Carmelite nuns sensed God’s love, not a strange feeling. Once again, I am not asking you to believe that this awareness is what I am saying it is – I am saying that this is what the experience is in many cases. Sometimes it’s not. Sometimes you have a sensation and you infer God, rationally and reasonably, based upon your background knowledge, the fact that He is evidenced from so many different fields, the fact that He communicates with us and the fact that this experience aligns with that of so many other people.

    As for the first part of your reply about sense of God being an inference, you seem to be saying that your experience of God might be a conditioned inference.

    I don’t know why it only seems like I’m saying it might be. I said outright when you asked previously that there can be conditioning involved and that the studies demonstrate that those who are so-conditioned can more readily have certain kinds of religious experiences. Similarly, people can train themselves to perceive, or not to perceive, many things. They can train their sense of pitch recognition or they can shut out pitches, for instance. The brain is re-mapped daily to enhance perceptions of stimuli that we focus on. Not only does neurology support this concept but the Bible says and theism has always held that we ought to practice listening to and for God and that we should be constantly seeking Him and keeping Him before our minds. We are entreated to always think about what is good, noble, true, etc., to seek truth and govern our thoughts. Our moral actions depend upon what we keep before our minds.
    But I also said that God does not need such conditioning in order to intrude upon our senses. I don’t think Scott had such conditioning. Muslims who are told in dreams to seek out specific men in specific locations to tell them about Jesus don’t seem appropriately conditioned either.

    Upon seeing an apple, I instantly infer that there is an apple in front of me. I say infer because we don’t believe that humans have an “apple-sense”. Rather, I have vision, touch, hearing etc., from which I quickly (sub-second) infer that there is an apple (thanks to my childhood conditioning). I recognize the apple, but recognition is a form of inference.

    When you have a sense perception which, axiomatically, you accept as a sense perception you know you’ve had a sense perception. You may not have implanted in your brain before birth the sense and definition of this as being an apple, but you know it is something, even if its name and identity has to be trained. And you know that this something, unnamed or not, did not create the sound of waves crashing on the beach or warmth on your face and you don’t reach to scratch its itch. As it occurs to me I think I would dispute your clam about inferences here – you are merely speaking about learned identities. I am now going to contemplate the appropriate reactions to distinct sensations of sound, light, touch etc., by not only adults who have learned the identities of the sources, but even by infants and fetuses.
    Hmmm….

    That point aside, when you infer that your sensation was caused by an apple do you know this or do you not?

    I hope I’ve typed slowly enough.

  248. Hi Tony,
    I’m glad to see you enjoying DL’s contribution and that you consider yourself to be learning from him.
    Did you learn this:

    It is certainly possible to hold a rational false belief. In fact, some practical jokes rely on the rationality of the victim.

    ?

  249. By the way, as to this “God is your axiom” line, here are my previous direct responses to it:

    Your extra axioms include the fact that God exists and God is directly responsible for various experiences that wouldn’t show up in a scientific experiment that accounts for biases.
    <b?There is nothing axiomatic about how and where God will show up. And God’s existence as truth occurs only as you’ve already accounted for in your own list of axioms – as a logical necessity, as both/either a raw experience or as the result of an inductive explanation.

    I think you’re saying that God is axiomatic.
    Skeptic’s and their labels are not very interesting to me.
Is God axiomatic? I guess so, sometimes. For those whom God has spoken to directly of His presence and love, in whose heart He has planted knowledge of Himself, that seems axiomatic? But does that make your parents axiomatic? It is a relationship with a person, so I’m not sure.
Then again, knowledge of God can be derived from the first principles as well, so I don’t know if you would have to call this knowledge axiomatic.
Better questions than these in-principle denials and attempts to find general ways, which always fail, to deny the believer’s knowledge, would be to simply ask, is it true? Does God really exist and really love me?

    If you go by our standard, then your knowledge of God would only be there if you assumed God as one of your axioms.
    You just made that up for no reason. Knowledge of God can be attained by many methods other than assuming it as an axiom – in fact, I would never assume it as an axiom. Knowledge is attained from logic, nature, Scripture, philosophy, and it might even become axiomatic upon revelation.

  250. Okay, last words.

    But just try to deny the LNC and see if you can. You can’t because it’s impossible. The negative is impossible to affirm (not just mouth the words) and it is impossible that it be true.

    It is only impossible if the LNC is true. I’ve explained this numerous times. If the LNC is not true, then we cannot conclude anything. The alternative is not impossible, but unintelligible. There’s a difference.

    If you remove knowledge from everyone’s plate at your own expense I have no problem with your affirming that position – I don’t agree with that removal but it is exactly what I’ve contended throughout.

    I am not removing knowledge from everyone’s plate EXCEPT in your personal definition of knowledge. Under my definition of knowledge we still have plenty, thank you very much.

    By my definition, there is conditional knowledge. All knowledge is conditional upon assumption of axioms. Confidence in axioms leads to confidence in conclusions.

    Moreover, I’ve said that the only axioms I accept are those necessary for thinking. Meanwhile, you said this:

    But does that make your parents axiomatic? It is a relationship with a person, so I’m not sure.

    I keep forgetting that this is the kind of statement I have to deal with in your comments. Do you really think that your parents are axiomatic?

    But you’ve agreed that we can take our experiences (just not our derived conclusions) as axiomatic. So it is special pleading to say that the personal experience of God cannot be accepted as other personal experiences.

    Sigh. All the other axiomatic experiences are not experiences of external things. They are raw sensations. Like seeing red. Like pressure. Like tones. Like smells. An apple is an inference. But you are saying that “an all powerful, omnipresent, authoritarian, male, creator of the universe” is a direct sensation. Yeah, right. Maybe your Buick Regal is a direct sensation too.

    You do have justification for truly believing in the LNC – you just don’t want to admit that justification.
    Now you say you have confidence in it, but what justifies that confidence?

    The confidence is not rationally justified, and can never be. Any justification will assume the LNC, and you know this. If it is justified, it is justified on non-rational grounds.

    All I want you guys to admit is 1) that you either have knowledge that is based upon axioms/premises/postulates which are unproven/unverifiable/not known, and that this is knowledge

    My knowledge is based on assumptions that are not rationally justified, and conclusions based on those assumptions do consistute knowledge. However, my set of assumptions is the smallest possible set of assumed axioms. Satisfied?

    The LNC and a couple of other assumptions are all that I need to make to think about the world. Those assumptions are not biased towards theism or atheism. I assume as little as possible so that I can consider all the alternatives. In contrast, you are working backwards. Not just from the conclusion that you can think rationally, but specific conclusions about God and the world as you see it holistically. That’s biased, and it’s a shame you cannot see that.

    If you’re ever curious, try figuring out your own axioms. The real ones. The assumptions you believe are the minimum set you can assume and still think rationally without bias to conclusion. You’ll probably be the first Christian ever to do so.

    I guess we’re done with this thread. Happy Monkey!

  251. HI DL,

    Me:But just try to deny the LNC and see if you can. You can’t because it’s impossible. The negative is impossible to affirm (not just mouth the words) and it is impossible that it be true.
    You: It is only impossible if the LNC is true. I’ve explained this numerous times. If the LNC is not true, then we cannot conclude anything. The alternative is not impossible, but unintelligible. There’s a difference.

    You keep acting as though your assertions are explanations. It is impossible for the negation of the LNC to be true because it is self-referentially contradictory. You can’t make a statement or a claim or hold a belief if the LNC is not true. We can make statements and hold thoughts and to question the LNC is to confirm it – it is impossible to question it without its being true. It is not about incoherence or unintelligibility because then you only make it worse. Try to deny the LNC with an unintelligible or incoherent statement – you can’t.
    Rational debate would not be possible if the LNC were not true, but since rational debate is possible it is impossible that the LNC is not true.

    I am not removing knowledge from everyone’s plate EXCEPT in your personal definition of knowledge. Under my definition of knowledge we still have plenty, thank you very much.

    Oh, I see. Well then no, let’s not apply your special plea and I’ll continue to call my knowledge what it is.

    By my definition, there is conditional knowledge. All knowledge is conditional upon assumption of axioms.

    To repeat for emphasis, all knowledge is conditional. So there is no need for the qualifier, so all knowledge is knowledge. Check.

    Confidence in axioms leads to confidence in conclusions.

    Ah, but you just said that confidence in conclusions= knowledge – all knowledge – in fact. Now why is it that you can have confidence/knowledge in your conclusions but only confidence/assumptions in your axioms?

    Moreover, I’ve said that the only axioms I accept are those necessary for thinking.

    Which is question-begging. You presume thinking, presume knowledge, realize knowledge needs a grounding, and privilege it with a set of axioms in which you have confidence (but not confidence/knowledge).

    Meanwhile, you said this:
    But does that make your parents axiomatic? It is a relationship with a person, so I’m not sure.

    I keep forgetting that this is the kind of statement I have to deal with in your comments. Do you really think that your parents are axiomatic?

    Of course I don’t. I keep forgetting you don’t know how to follow your own conclusions. IF God must be considered axiomatic because I know Him by experience and relationship then so must be our parents. Since neither the existence of my parents nor of my dog are axiomatic, the condition you’ve tried to paste upon my knowledge of God is not either. You keep rigging the trial and hoping the jury can’t tell.

    But you’ve agreed that we can take our experiences (just not our derived conclusions) as axiomatic. So it is special pleading to say that the personal experience of God cannot be accepted as other personal experiences.
    Sigh. All the other axiomatic experiences are not experiences of external things. They are raw sensations. Like seeing red. Like pressure. Like tones. Like smells. An apple is an inference.

    It is true that you have raw sensations and now you act as though to claim that only the sensation is axiomatic. You don’t know your sensation and this is not the foundation appealed to in order to have knowledge. Axioms are self-evident truths – “pressure” is not a truth, “red” is not a truth. Only propositions are truths and axioms are propositions.

    But you are saying that “an all powerful, omnipresent, authoritarian, male, creator of the universe” is a direct sensation. Yeah, right. Maybe your Buick Regal is a direct sensation too.

    I see why these are your last words – you need to vent some of your dispassion. Enjoy.
    This again boils us down to the real problem. That is that you don’t believe the theist and, like Paul upthread, are committed presuppositionally to the falsity of his claims and experiences. You don’t believe his experiences are real and you must deny them to the end. On the way, every so-called principle falls by the side and you are left with nothing consistent but your disbelief on which to fall back.

    The confidence is not rationally justified, and can never be. Any justification will assume the LNC, and you know this. If it is justified, it is justified on non-rational grounds.

    1) So what if any justification relies upon it? This only reinforces the confidence. A logical proof and valid deductive statement is not required for knowledge or for justifcation.
    However …
    2)By your statement, your confidence in it is not justified, and yet you have confidence (which above you called knowledge). Your conviction is not justified and yet you have your conviction that it is true. You are right, this is not rational. You have admitted then to the irrationality, or at least non-rationality (which implication has been demonstrated using your own claims in threads past) of your own positions. So then you are in no position to critique the rationality of another’s claims.

    My knowledge is based on assumptions that are not rationally justified, and conclusions based on those assumptions do consistute knowledge. However, my set of assumptions is the smallest possible set of assumed axioms. Satisfied?

    I am satisfied – special pleading. You do not have a rational ground for demanding what set of axioms are necessary, you do not know if you have enough or have too many, you do not know if this “smallest set possible” is a requirement – these and the requirements for them are just more assumptions. Plus, I have demonstrated by these axioms that knowledge of God can be derived (you admitted it yourself), etc.

    In contrast, you are working backwards. Not just from the conclusion that you can think rationally,

    You just drew your axioms based upon the same circularity.

    but specific conclusions about God and the world as you see it holistically. That’s biased, and it’s a shame you cannot see that.

    I have shown many times that nobody needs to work backward from knowledge of God; God can be the inference, and is for many. As you guys keep pointing to the OP you might notice the point made even there.

    If you’re ever curious, try figuring out your own axioms.

    I’m very curious, thanks.

    The real ones. The assumptions you believe are the minimum set you can assume and still think rationally without bias to conclusion. You’ll probably be the first Christian ever to do so.

    Tony?

    Happy monkey.

    Yes, and Merry Christmas to you. May God reveal the truth to you that you might understand His love and accept Him as the Lord of your life.

  252. DL,

    The prosecution has put together many pieces of circumstantial evidence to convict Fred. Based on my experience and the low probability that the circumstantial evidence would be there if Fred was innocent, I conclude that Fred is guilty, and so I do not believe that Fred is innocent. However, Fred actually is innocent, and Fred has the evidence in his memory that he believes is reliable. Fred merely lacks detailed explanations for how the circumstantial evidence came to be, so he can’t effectively defend his case to the jury.

    In the case of Fred here, the statistical data and the evidence are available to both of you. You and Fred hold a rational belief – but they are opposite beliefs. That means you think the justification for each rational belief isn’t found in what is common to you both. You think it is found in what is uncommon to you both. In other words, you are saying Fred’s justification isn’t available to you, and your justification isn’t available to Fred. That’s how two people can hold rational, yet opposing, beliefs. It’s how Scott can hold his rational belief about the picture even though you disagree.

  253. Steve,

    You think it is found in what is uncommon to you both. In other words, you are saying Fred’s justification isn’t available to you, and your justification isn’t available to Fred. That’s how two people can hold rational, yet opposing, beliefs. It’s how Scott can hold his rational belief about the picture even though you disagree.

    No, it isn’t. If I had Scott’s experiences, I would not conclude God existed. I would conclude that I misremembered. (I believe Scott wanted to be a Christian, despite his denials. And I love how so many Christian apologists used to be “atheists”. Right.)

    What are the chances that your experiences this very second (i.e., your mundane experiences of reading this blog) are a hallucination or an error of perception? Non-zero, right? Hey, you never know. Say the odds are 1 in a 100,000. (The number of people making errors, on drugs or suffering a psychotic episode is higher than 1 in 100,000.)

    Now, suppose you experience something weird, like seeing a pig fly? Or seeing the walls bleed one moment, and then seeing them as normal shortly thereafter? Or seeing an alien face staring back at you from a mirror? The odds of seeing these things is extremely small. Never in recorded history have these things been seen in a scientific test, e.g., when human bias (or mental illness) was controlled-for. So the odds of seeing these things is less than 1 in 100,000. Perhaps 1 in a billion.

    So what is more likely? The 1 in a 100,000 shot or the 1 in a billion shot?

    If you see the walls bleed one minute, and see them normally the next, you should have your head examined. You shouldn’t think it’s a miracle from God. It would be foolish to believe that you were functioning normally (by a factor of 10000 in probability.) Similarly, for Scott, it is 10000 times more likely he hallucinated or misremembered the picture than that it is a miracle. Sorry.

    [This is called the base rate neglect, btw. Failure to account for false positives. Basically, the rate of false positives for Scott’s experience is waaay higher than the probability it actually happened.]

    What about Fred? The poor innocent guy who’s getting convicted? Should Fred believe the jury instead of his own recollection?

    Well, Fred’s experiences are mundane. It is much more likely that Fred correctly remembers his mundane beliefs than that he is mentally ill. By about a factor of 100,000. In order for Fred to begin to believe the jury over his own recollections, he would need to be supplied with evidence that makes his innocence a 1 in 100,000 shot. For example, if Fred is shown on surveillance, and his prints are at the scene, he probably ought to start wondering whether he’s got a mental illness.

    Steve, just think about it this way. Is there any experience you could have and then think “I must have been dreaming” or I must have misremembered something”? If so, how bizarre does the experience have to be? And won’t you implicitly going to compare the bizarreness of the experience with the likelihood that you made an error or the likelihood that you’re delusional?

    In Scott’s case, he hasn’t said how he inferred God was sending him a message. Scott knew what Christianity was about, and his friends tried to pressure him into becoming Christian. I think Scott decided that he wanted a reason to become a Christian, and he magnified the story about the picture as a justification. Then Scott embellished his story to make it sound like he was the least likely person to become Christian. (Boy, am I tired of hearing that one.)

    Scott never did the analysis above. He doesn’t care about this sort of analysis, and has admitted so. He has an agenda, and always did, even if he doesn’t admit it to us or to himself.

    You see, I know how this works because virtually the same thing happened to me when I was a child. I sooo wanted to believe in alien UFO’s that I magnified a mundane perception into a UFO experience. I went for at least a couple of years afterward telling everyone that I had seen a UFO. Eventually, I had to be honest with myself. I had not seen a UFO. This was no a statistical inference of the type I mentioned above. This was an introspective insight into my experiences and motivations. Had I really seen a UFO at the time, I should have called the police. What I saw was some aberrations in my cheap little telescope as I looked at stars. Nonetheless, the statistical insight is just as valid while being impersonal. What are the odds that anyone would see an actual alien spaceship through his cheap telescope? And no one else would see it, not even NORAD? Pretty small. Probably less than the likelihood of a subconscious fabrication (which is probably 1 in 10000). See where I’m coming from?

  254. DL,

    If I had Scott’s experiences, I would not conclude God existed. I would conclude that I misremembered.

    You are projecting this response from where you sit now, not ever having such an experience. You don’t know that you would conclude that, UNLESS you are saying you’ve made up your mind prior to having such an experience. You wouldn’t do that because that is a priori confirmation bias, and you’re too smart for that, DL, aren’t you?

    Let’s move on to Fred’s experience.

    What about Fred? The poor innocent guy who’s getting convicted? Should Fred believe the jury instead of his own recollection?

    Well, Fred’s experiences are mundane. It is much more likely that Fred correctly remembers his mundane beliefs than that he is mentally ill.

    You are saying Fred’s experiences are mundane. You and Fred know they are mundane and ordinary by experience. In theory, you and Fred know the statistics/probability associated with every conceivable human behavior and every conceivable scientific finding and you agree to them. Yet after ALL the evidence is weighed you have rationally justified opposing beliefs. That’s impossible IF the rational justification is found in the data common to you both. It’s obviously not, because you said Fred isn’t rationally required to believe what the jury believes.

    If you flip things around the logic should stay but for some reason you think it should be different. Suppose Fred’s experience was highly unique. Everything I said before still applies. You and Fred know it’s highly unique by experience. You and Fred know the statistics/probability associated with every conceivable human behavior and every conceivable scientific finding.

    Can you both have rationally justified opposing beliefs? This time you say “no”. You say the rational justification can ONLY be found in the data common to you both. You change the rules only because you can’t relate to Fred’s unique experience. It’s foreign to you so YOU need more justification, but Fred doesn’t see it that way. Fred says his belief is rationally justified by what is uncommon to you both, just like it was before.

    What does all this mean? It means your (DL’s) justification for the belief ‘someone has a rationally justified belief’ is found in your experiences, and not in logic and facts alone. If it were logic and facts alone then it would be impossible for you and Fred to have rationally justified opposing beliefs in the case of mundane experiences. One of you would have an irrational belief – but you aren’t saying that.

  255. Steve,

    Yet after ALL the evidence is weighed you have rationally justified opposing beliefs. That’s impossible IF the rational justification is found in the data common to you both. It’s obviously not, because you said Fred isn’t rationally required to believe what the jury believes.

    Go back and read what I wrote in my description of the Fred thought experiment. I said Fred and the jury DO NOT have access to the same information and that’s why they rationally differ. The jury cannot read Fred’s mind.

    Earlier in this thread I described a DIFFERENT thought experiment featuring an ideal, imaginary jury with the exact same information as Fred (because they know his memories of his experiences or have lie detectors or what have you). And in THAT scenario, I said Fred ought to believe the imaginary jury, and not his gut.

    Is this clear to you now? You didn’t answer my question about whether there was anything you could see that would make you think you misremembered or were biased or hallucinated. So I doubt you get this, because that’s the obvious distinction in this debate. For yourself, it seems, no interpretation of an experience is too crazy to believe – you could never have a memory error, or a hallucination, illusion, etc.

    Here’s my final summary.

    If you are on a jury, and the witness is connected to a perfect lie detector, there are still some possible testimonies you will not believe because it is more likely the witness hallucinated, has faulty memory, has embellished subconsciously, etc. You will believe the witness believes it, but that’s not adequate for you.

    Now imagine that you are on your own jury. You ought not believe your own memories or perceptions if you would not believe similar memories or perceptions held by someone else. If you do believe your own memories but not those of anyone else, then you are being biased, or you are saying you are infallible, or you are saying we are all infallible, and everything we think we see is always real (e.g., deja vu is time travel, etc).

    Here’s a classic sample test for base rate neglect.

    There’s a disease that afflicts about 1 person in 1000. A test for this disease has a 5% false positive rate. A person is picked at random from the population, and given the test. They get a positive result on the diagnostic test. What are the odds that this person actually has the disease?

    When you’ve figured out the answer to this problem, you should have a better grip on rational belief.

    Think about this. If the false positive rate is 5% and the rate of the disease in the population is 40%, then the diagnostic test is rationally conclusive. If the rate of the disease in the population is less than 1 in 20, the test fails to be rationally conclusive.

    In either case, it is rationally 20 times more likely that the patient has the disease if they get a positive result on the test THAN IT WAS BEFORE the test was given. But if it was incredibly unlikely before the test was given, the test won’t be enough evidence.

    The problem is that if all you have to go on is the one test, you can only get rational conclusion that the patient has the disease if the rate in the population is more than 1 in 20. The false positive rate determines how rare an event or diagnosis you can conclude from just one test. In mammography, a single positive mammogram test is not enough evidence to rationally conclude the patient has breast cancer. To get to that conclusion, you need further testing.

    This is the Christian problem with miracles. The false positive rate for miracles is probably about 1 in 100 or 1 in 1000 because there are no controls. It is a fact that many people honestly report miracles or events that never happened. So anything more rare than about 1 in 1000 cannot be confirmed with just one experience.

    The issue is whether a person’s experiences of a single event are a conclusive diagnostic test to the event actually having occurred. The answer depends on the false positive rate for the diagnostic test, and the rate of actual events.

  256. DL,

    I said Fred and the jury DO NOT have access to the same information and that’s why they rationally differ. The jury cannot read Fred’s mind.

    That’s the case in EVERY jury situation. In reality, there is so such thing as a scenario where the jury knows the mind of the defendent.

    Just for kicks though, suppose it were possible to download Fred’s mind into the mind of every juror. You, Fred and the rest of the jury would be required to rationally agree because everyone is working with the same logic the same facts and the same information. If you and Fred disagree, who is being irrational and what is the justification for the belief “someone has a rationally justified belief”?

    Suppose you say the belief is justified by logic and facts alone. That was available to you PRIOR to downloading Fred’s mind so that can’t be it. You disagreed then and you said both of you had a rationally justified belief. If adding the content of Fred’s mind removes all possibility of rational disagreement then it follows that the justification for the belief “someone has a rationally justified belief” is found in experiences.

    If it were found in logic and facts alone then the content of Fred’s mind would NOT change anything – it would NOT remove all possibilty of rational disagreement – but it did!

    Case closed.

  257. Steve,

    You, Fred and the rest of the jury would be required to rationally agree because everyone is working with the same logic the same facts and the same information. If you and Fred disagree, who is being irrational and what is the justification for the belief “someone has a rationally justified belief”?

    If it were found in logic and facts alone then the content of Fred’s mind would NOT change anything – it would NOT remove all possibilty of rational disagreement – but it did!

    No, it didn’t, Steve.

    If Fred believes his miraculous experience despite the logic and statistics to the contrary, then he is being irrational. If he sides with the jury (and logic and statistics) and concludes he was more likely hallucinating or misremembering, then he is being rational. Get it? If not, you never will.

    Oh, and I see you closed the case without answering my questions about fallibility. I guess you must truly believe you’re infallible.

  258. DL

    No, it didn’t, Steve.

    You are holding two contradictory beliefs, DL, and I’m trying to get you to see that. Right now this isn’t about what I believe or disbelieve.

    Given your response here you are saying Fred’s experiences don’t change anything, which means ALL rational beliefs are justified via empirical facts, statistical data and the rules of logic. I don’t agree but let’s skip over that for a moment. This means Fred’s belief and the jury’s belief MUST agree, but you said they didn’t and that you could rationally disagree. If empirical facts and statistical data guided by proper logic show that Fred is most likely guilty (or innocent), then what possible justification can Fred have for believing he is innocent (or guilty)?

    The only way to resolve this contradiction is for you to say all rational beliefs must agree – which means there is no possible example you can give in answer to my question – or that rational beliefs can be justified by something other than empirical facts, statistical data and the rules of logic.

    Of course, then you’ll have to justify this belief so don’t get too comfortable. 😉

  259. This means Fred’s belief and the jury’s belief MUST agree, but you said they didn’t and that you could rationally disagree.

    No. I gave two scenarios. Gosh. Did I imagine giving two scenarios? No, I just went back and checked.

    SCENARIO #1: A realistic court case. Fred has first-hand, mundane experiences (e.g., a fishing trip) of an alibi that inform him that it is extremely likely that he is innocent. The information presented at Fred’s trial includes Fred’s testimony, but the jury cannot tell if Fred is lying. The jury has lots of circumstantial evidence against Fred. Fred is rationally convicted by the jury because the Jury does not have the same information as Fred – they do not have his memories, and they cannot tell if Fred is lying.

    SCENARIO #2: Fred has certain experiences. He intuitively interprets these experiences to be a hyper-improbable miracle. However, Fred realizes that if an imaginary, impartial jury knew of his exact experiences (and knew he wasn’t lying about the experiences), jurors would not believe they were real, but would instead believe them to be delusions, hallucinations, subconscious fabrications, memory errors, etc. Simply put, the impartial juror knows that it is more likely Fred hallucinated than that his hyper-improbable story is true. Therefore, if Fred is rational, he too must discard his gut intuition about the miracle, and instead side with the impartial jury. Being rational, Fred must think his eyes deceived him, or that he hallucinated, or that he misremembered something, or that he saw some sort of illusion, or something because the odds of these things are higher than the odds of a miracle occurring.

    Clear? There are two scenarios.

    In the realistic jury case (1), the jury does not have the same information as Fred, so the rational Fred and the rational jury can disagree.

    In the imaginary jury case (2), the jury has Fred’s experiences, and the jury goes by statistics only, and concludes Fred should not believe his intuition about the miracle. Being rational, Fred sides with the imaginary jury and concludes his initial, intuitive belief is wrong. His intuition (gut) is superseded by his rational belief that he imagined, hallucinated, etc. his experiences.

    Is (2) consistent with (1)? Yes. In case (1), if Fred consults his imaginary, impartial jury about his alibi, he finds that the imaginary, impartial jury agrees with him because his alibi was mundane. The impartial jury would think it highly unlikely that his mundane fishing trip experiences were delusional. This would trump the circumstantial evidence.

    Here’s another way to see it.

    SCENARIO #3: Same as SCENARIO #1, but Fred’s alibi is that he flew to the Moon on a broomstick and had tea with a magic rabbit. In this case, his imaginary, impartial jury will say he was on an acid trip or something, and his alibi cannot be rationally believed by rational Fred. In that case, Fred should probably side with the realistic jury. He might also consider changing his plea to innocent by reason of insanity.

  260. DL,

    Is (2) consistent with (1)? Yes. In case (1), if Fred consults his imaginary, impartial jury about his alibi, he finds that the imaginary, impartial jury agrees with him because his alibi was mundane. The impartial jury would think it highly unlikely that his mundane fishing trip experiences were delusional. This would trump the circumstantial evidence.
    ……

    However, Fred realizes that if an imaginary, impartial jury knew of his exact experiences (and knew he wasn’t lying about the experiences), jurors would not believe they were real, but would instead believe them to be delusions, hallucinations, subconscious fabrications, memory errors, etc.

    Here’s where you veer off into the ditch. Fred can’t consult an IMAGINARY, impartial jury about anything because it doesn’t exist per your own words. Neither you, nor Fred have access to this knowledge per your own words.

    If this impartial jury does exist in some form then Scenario #2 is not imaginary, it is real. You claim to know that Fred is not rationally justified in believing a hyper-improbable event occurred per memory. (as an aside, what is the probability that Fred’s memory is correct wrt any improbable event?) You either have access to the knowledge held by the impartial jury or else you’re just bluffing your way through this entire argument. Which is it, DL?

    Is the impartial jury the empirical facts, statistical data and the rules of logic I mentioned earlier? If yes, then my previous comment about your contradicting belief stands and you need to resolve it.

    If the impartial jury is something else, then please tell us what it is so everybody can consult it and rationally agree. Your contradicting belief problem doesn’t go away here either because it would be irrational to disagree with an impartial jury (again, per your own words).

    If the imaginary jury is truly imaginary then stop telling Fred (and Scott) what knowledge your imaginary friend is telling you about reality.

  261. Sorry I’ve been too busy to reply here recently. I have some catching up to do so I’ll just start around where I left off and try and catch up.

    SteveK

    I have to say that I think this:

    Could you give an example of a rational argument for a true belief that you personally disagree with?

    is an unusual request; I don’t quite know what to make of it.

    I just can’t think of a rational argument for a “true” belief that I personally disagree with. (Did you have something in mind?) When something is rationally justified, I believe it. If not, then I don’t. In fact, religious conviction appears to be an effective way to get people to disagree with rational arguments.

    I can give an example of an argument for a “true” belief that I come to believe despite my initial perceptions and inferences. On first encounter, the world appears flat to me. Everything in my immediate experience inclines me to think that world is flat; it’s almost inconceivable to imagine that “down” is relative. And yet, I have come to believe that my experience of the world that would incline me to think of it as flat is flawed. Despite my intuitions about flatness, there are just too many other experiences that I can have, and that others can relate to me, for my belief in the world’s flatness to be rational. I have come to see how my perceptions and understanding of universal flatness are biases that rationality overcomes.

  262. Touch a nerve, did I, Steve?

    Suppose I claim that, last night, I had an odd experience. As I recall, I felt I flew to the moon on a broomstick, and had tea with a magic rabbit.

    ( a ) Would you believe I had the experience?

    [You might think I’m lying.]

    ( b ) Would you believe the events actually happened?

    [If you have any doubt in (a), you will have less confidence in (b) than in (a)]

    Then suppose I take a lie detector test and pass.

    ( c ) Do you now believe the events actually happened?

    [Now you know I’m not lying about my experience.]

    Just answer these three questions. Yes or no, in each case.

    You’re trapped. If you say no to the last two questions, then you are acting as an impartial juror to my case. You know that it is more likely that I hallucinated or dreamed up my experience than that it actually happened. In ( c ), you don’t doubt I had the experience, but you still doubt my interpretation of it.

    On the other hand, if you say Yes to ( b ) or ( c ), you’re saying that the likelihood of a person actually flying to the moon on a broomstick is GREATER than the likelihood of mental deficiency of some kind, i.e., you are saying that people never ever have delusions, hallucinations, psychotic episodes, waking dreams, etc. In that case, you’ll believe any story that anyone else believes just because they believe it.

    But in reality, we both know that the latter is not the case. You’re not consistent about what stories you believe. Stories supporting your worldview are believed and unquestioned. You don’t question Scott’s experience. You don’t question stories about Christian miracles. But evidence against your Christian worldview shows up and your the skeptic of skeptics.

    This is the standard Christian pattern. Look for confirmation of Christianity (even where there is none), try not to think of any way to disconfirm Christianity, and hide from the obvious disconfirmations.

    So far, you have utterly ignored the issue of probabilities, saying that personal experiences are always privileged over statistics to the point that you can never doubt your own faculties. Why is your head in the sand?

    I hope you never serve on a jury. You’ll simply agree with your preconceptions, being kind to the confirmation of your prejudice and unkind to any disconfirmation.

  263. Steve,

    I’ll just add this because you probably won’t see it in what I’ve written.

    The imaginary impartial jury is supposed to be you. It’s the jury that says “If someone else believed they had had my experiences instead of me, I would not believe the other person’s experiences were true. Consequently, I cannot believe my own experiences were actually true, but must instead be hallucinations, psychological fabrications, etc.”

    In other words, the impartial juror treats his own experiences as weighing no more than anyone else’s (stipulating that both experiences were felt by each person, if not necessarily the actual events).

    If you were to tell me under a lie detector test that you flew to the moon on a broomstick, I would not believe your story, even if you believed you had the experience. So if I had the experience instead of you, I ought not believe my experience was an experience of reality.

    But I quite suspect you have no such juror in your head. Other people can be fallible, but not you.

  264. Tony,

    I just can’t think of a rational argument for a “true” belief that I personally disagree with. (Did you have something in mind?) When something is rationally justified, I believe it. If not, then I don’t.

    Thank you for that, Tony. This is what I expected to hear from both you and DL, however I see that DL is taking his time getting to the same response. Given his logical positivism I suspect he will join you shortly. Maybe I’m wrong though – and I can honestly say that I HOPE I am wrong.

    Let me say that I rationally and respectfully disagree with you. I think two people can have the same facts, the same evidence, the same statistics and the same logic yet rationally believe and argue for two different beliefs. Such is the nature of personal knowledge/experience, philosophy/theology and the inductive argument. Given your statement above you likely think one of us has an irrational belief, and I’m betting you think it’s me.

    What do you think of DL’s court case example? Given the same facts, the same evidence, the same statistics and the same logic is it POSSIBLE for a defendant to rationally believe he is innocent and the jury to rationally believe he is guilty?

  265. Steve,

    What do you think of DL’s court case example? Given the same facts, the same evidence, the same statistics and the same logic is it POSSIBLE for a defendant to rationally believe he is innocent and the jury to rationally believe he is guilty?

    No, it’s not possible, and it’s a good thing my example doesn’t argue this AND NEVER DID!!!!!!!!!.

    I’ve overestimated you for the last time, Steve.

  266. Charlie,

    I’ve read over some, but not all, of the links that you posted. I have to say at this point that I’m not going to read (or listen) to much more unless you can assure me there’s an argument there for how it is that belief in a theistic God can be deemed rational. Not only are these arguments not in the links you post, but there are some sections which seem flat out contrary to your position.

    From the papers of Martin Luther King that you linked to there is this paragraph:

    The idea of God did not burst forth in the mind of man with no concomitant experience. On the contrary, man noticed the order and beauty of the cosmic universe amid all of its disorder and ugliness; he came to a realization of his own needs and fears; he came to realize his dependence on his fellows; and from these experiences he framed the idea of God.

    And you provide a link to this post to buttress your argument that knowledge of God is a priori, not axiomatic? It appears that Dr. King disagrees with you. Why did you link to this article?

    The essay goes on to say this:

    On the contrary, it reveals to us that intellectual finality is unattainable in all fields; all human knowledge is relative, and all human ideas are caught in the whirlpool of relativity.

    I agree with Dr. King here. Of course, I don’t imagine you agree him as well, what with your talk of not needing to craft your responses when you have truth on your side, dismissing we BIV’ers because we doubt the attainability of ultimate knowledge, etc. Again, odd that you would link to this article in the context of this post.

    I then listened to the 30 or more minute lecture on reason and rationality regarding religious belief. There was no argument there for how it is that belief in God can be rational, only an assertion in the last 30 seconds, after much suspense and delay, that for the speaker he was able to conclude that his belief was rational because he had directed his enquiry. That was the explanation of his argument. There wasn’t even a sop to explaining whether his reasons were logical or evidentiary.

    The Lee Strobel article was a puff piece with no demonstrations, just a bunch of counter-factual assertions. E.g., “Unlike Darwinism, where my faith would have to swim upstream against the strong current of evidence flowing the other way, putting my trust in the God of the Bible was nothing less than the most rational and natural decision I could make. I was merely permitting the torrent of facts to carry me along to their most logical conclusion.” I am confused if this article is supposed to be evidence or an argument. It is neither.

    You asserted that I am “Always in vain search for a fallacy to charge.” In return, I’ll ask you what part of fallacy of authority and fallacy of numbers do you not understand?

    A lot of your last post to me is consistent with your style of mischaracterizing or straw manning my arguments and statements. I don’t have the time or energy to counter them all right now.

    SteveK,

    I think Dr. Logic’s jury examples are spot on, and a great way to think about the rationality of personal belief. I think you are fundamentally confusing possibility and probability within your definition of rationality, and not duly considering the fallibility of your intuitions, role of personal bias, etc.

    I’ll try and catch up and respond more fully later, but that’s where I’m headed with this right now. In case you were curious. (I can’t imagine anyone’s surprised.)

  267. DL,

    So far, you have utterly ignored the issue of probabilities, saying that personal experiences are always privileged over statistics to the point that you can never doubt your own faculties. Why is your head in the sand?

    I doubt my faculties when I have reason to doubt them. Until that time, I don’t.

    What is the probability that knowledge of actual personal experiences result in knowledge about the probability of future personal experiences? 100%.

    What is the probability that knowledge of the probability of future personal experiences result in knowledge about actual personal experiences? 0%.

  268. Hi Tony,
    Sorry it took me so long to respond to your latest – I’ve been out of town on my Christmas holiday.

    Your comment, unfortunately, seems to be be out of context of this thread.
    Your first assertion is that my links do not show how belief in a “theistic”(redundancy alert) God can be deemed rational. They certainly do just that, but they also provide the evidence for the actual claim I made in answer to your previous assertion.
    You claimed that there are no rational justifications for belief in God, but you misunderstand what it means to be rational. I provided the link to the philosophy professors for just that counter. They, not you, know better what it means to be rational and even the atheist in that exchange agrees that belief is rational.
    I did not provide the arguments for God’s existence of course. We can get into that after the holidays when everyone is a little less emotional, if you would like.
    The second factor of your claim that was countered by my legitimate and not the least bit fallacious posts was that there “ONLY seems to be an individual awareness” (my emphasis). Of course, there does not seem to be only this. As I demonstrated, Martin Luther King, Viggo Olssen, Lee Strobel, Aquinas, Dr. Polkinghorne, etc., all assert that there is rational justification for belief, that things of God can be known and demonstrated by reason, and that reason can lead one toward God. Is this an argument from authority? Of course not. I am not saying that you have to accept that belief is rational based upon their claims. I am proving that your claim has nothing to do with historic or modern Christianity, that there does NOT SEEM to be ONLY individual awareness with no rational argument for faith and that faith and reason are not irreconcilable as you stated. Counter to your Dawkinisian use of Martin Luther on this point, which you have not backed up with argumentation from the context or from his body of work, Christianity does not assert this and never has. Even the most fideistic philosophers provide rational argumentation.
    To sum this section, you have not properly represented Christian belief, the factual situation, or the concept of a logical fallacy.

    Then you go on to quote Dr. King and intellectual unattainability – a different subject – as though this supposed contradiction says anything about the point for which he has been employed. King can certainly support my claim that Christianity does not seem to only depend upon individual experience against rational argument (which he does – “Thus, reason, when sincerely and honestly used, is one of the supreme roads that leads us into the presence of God“) even if he contradicts a different point of mine. Of course, it is possible we disagree on this point even though his faith position supports my claim. But then, he doesn’t contradict me, does he? The point merely highlights once again your inability to differentiate between rationale/reason and proof. As I’ve said many times, rational argument is not necessarily proof. But it provides justifcation for one’s true belief.

    You also say:

    And you provide a link to this post to buttress your argument that knowledge of God is a priori, not axiomatic?

    I’m sorry, but I don’t follow this statement or your implied question. What is it I am supposedly claiming in this example? Am I saying knowledge of God is axiomatic? Or a priori? Or neither? Or both? What is it you are attributing to me, what is your claim, and what is the demonstration of this? Thanks.

    So I provided the examples to counter your claim that ONLY individual awareness justifies God and that is ALL there is – to the exclusion of reason to belief. I have not, at this time, given you that rationale (in this latest sequence of posts, but, of course, I have throughout this thread) but have demonstated the error in your claim that this is all there is to Christian belief. Moreover, I provided three professors of philosophy to show you that your position is underpinned by a misunderstanding (clarified by DL, even) of what it means to be rational or to charge irrationality.
    In fact, you yourself implicitly admit (oh no, am I mischaracterizing you?) that even you know there are such reasons when you tried to limit the discussion (a la DL) to “direct experience”. Amazingly, with DL, you sought to limit the discussion to the alleged sole point of the OP – direct experience – and then, with this limitation in place, complained that Christianity gives nothing but this direct experience in support of belief. That, I’m certain you will agree, after I demonstrate that I am properly representing your claims, is hardly fair debating.

    re: Your lack of time and energy. I admit it is much easier to quickly and falsely repeat your emotional charge rather than back it up or support your claims. Perhaps this time around you can show 1) how I am misrepresenting you, 2) how my arguments are fallacious, 3) what Luther was really saying, 4) How a reading of Pagels would better inform me as to the history of the NT and how this would alter my belief in God.
    While you’re at it, would you like to respond to DL’s (withdrawn?) admission that rational beliefs can be held in contradiction by two different subjects?
    Or, perhaps, while you keep trying to feed the gander, you’d care to address your claims of denigration, ad hominem, hypocrisy and lack of objectivity in light of your and DL’s participation in this thread?
    If not, maybe you’ll at least weigh these facts before making your emotive charge in your subsequent comments or yet another thread?

  269. Hey Charlie,

    Thanks for responding. I hope your Christmas holiday went well.

    I’ll go through your post here, your comments in blockquote, mine following each:

    Your first assertion is that my links do not show how belief in a “theistic”(redundancy alert) God can be deemed rational.

    A conception of God can be theistic or deistic. Many people throughout history, and people today, feel that a deistic God is not incompatible with reality. A theistic God, let alone the one described by one of the theistic religions, sets a very high bar for rational justification. Failing to distinguish between theism and deism is not redundant in a discussion like this, but required.

    You claimed that there are no rational justifications for belief in God, but you misunderstand what it means to be rational. I provided the link to the philosophy professors for just that counter. They, not you, know better what it means to be rational and even the atheist in that exchange agrees that belief is rational.

    My position is that I have not heard a valid rational justification for God. At this point, and it’s embarrassingly late for me to bring this up, we should agree on what defines rationality. Throughout this discussion I have meant rationality to reason combined with axioms and empiricism. (I don’t believe my definition of rationality is unusual.)

    The last sentence in your paragraph above reveals a steadfast refusal to disavow a tactic of argument from authority. If you will only point to someone you deem better educated, smarter, more devoted to the subject, etc. than me as your counter to my argument then there’s no point in our having a discussion.

    Let me make this clear. and I’m sorry to be so pedantic, but you don’t seem to accept this criticism: we are not comparing people, we are comparing arguments. (If I told you Einstein did not believe in a theistic God, or that John Loftus was a Christian who now believes that faith in Christianity is irrational would you accept that your argument has been defeated? Of course not. So why keep on bringing it up?) And if you want to counter that Einstein really did believe in a theistic God, you’d continue to misunderstand that the argument from authority is fallacious.

    I did not provide the arguments for God’s existence of course. We can get into that after the holidays when everyone is a little less emotional, if you would like.

    When you feel less emotional I’d be happy to discuss it. I think that every logical argument for the existence of God that I’ve heard is defeatable, but they are fun to discuss. Apropos of this post, of course, it’s the rationality of the claims, specifically the empirical verifiability, that I think is most interesting.

    The second factor of your claim that was countered by my legitimate and not the least bit fallacious posts was that there “ONLY seems to be an individual awareness” (my emphasis). Of course, there does not seem to be only this. As I demonstrated, Martin Luther King, Viggo Olssen, Lee Strobel, Aquinas, Dr. Polkinghorne, etc., all assert that there is rational justification for belief, that things of God can be known and demonstrated by reason, and that reason can lead one toward God. Is this an argument from authority? Of course not. I am not saying that you have to accept that belief is rational based upon their claims. I am proving that your claim has nothing to do with historic or modern Christianity, that there does NOT SEEM to be ONLY individual awareness with no rational argument for faith and that faith and reason are not irreconcilable as you stated.

    This paragraph combine the argument from authority and the straw manning of my claim. I do claim, as you quote, that there does only seem to be an individual (and empirically unverifiable, I’d add) awareness of God. You then go on to provide a list of authoritative figures who you say assert that there is rational justification for belief (argument from authority, again). You then go on to say that you are countering my claim that rational belief has “has nothing to do with historic or modern Christianity.” Except that is not my claim, and never has been. So, you are using a fallacious argument to counter an argument I didn’t make.

    Counter to your Dawkinisian use of Martin Luther on this point, which you have not backed up with argumentation from the context or from his body of work, Christianity does not assert this and never has. Even the most fideistic philosophers provide rational argumentation.

    I am not aware of any Dawkin’s position on Martin Luther. My position on Martin Luther is informed by my religious background and my education. If you are seriously going to contend that “Christianity does not assert this [that belief in God is not rational] and never has.” then I seriously have to wonder how much history of Christianity you have read.

    Here’s a section from “The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy” on Martin Luther: “The Deus Absconditus is actually quite simple. It is a rejection of philosophy as the starting point for theology. Why? Because if one begins with philosophical categories for God one begins with the attributes of God: i.e., omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, impassible, etc. For Luther, it was impossible to begin there and by using syllogisms or other logical means to end up with a God who suffers on the cross on behalf of humanity. It simply does not work. The God revealed in and through the cross is not the God of philosophy but the God of revelation. Only faith can understand and appreciate this, logic and reason – to quote St. Paul become a stumbling block to belief instead of a helpmate.”

    To sum this section, you have not properly represented Christian belief, the factual situation, or the concept of a logical fallacy.

    Wow. Really, just wow.

    As I’ve said many times, rational argument is not necessarily proof. But it provides justifcation for one’s true belief.

    And as I’ve said many times there doesn’t appear to be a rational component to belief in a theistic God.

    Am I saying knowledge of God is axiomatic? Or a priori? Or neither? Or both? What is it you are attributing to me, what is your claim, and what is the demonstration of this?

    Odd you should ask me this. I tried sorting it out earlier as well. Here are some of your statements regarding your position:

    You: Again, you are the one trying to force God into this as an axiom.

    Me: It sounds like you’re saying that “God is involved in reality” [my wording] can be safely assumed like other axioms, but why am I compelled to do this?
    You: You aren’t. Only God can compel you. But a better question is “why do avoid the obvious and what compels you to deny God?”

    You: Please, I didn’t just say that makes it right – I am demonstrating that God is not an after-the-fact addition – God is a priori.

    You: The only way out of this is for each of you to admit what you know to be true – that we can know the axioms and that we know that we know, even without empirical or methodological verification.

    You: The axioms you list are pretty good for me but I reject this naked assertion of naturalism. Each of your accepted can and will lead directly away from naturalism for one embracing the truth and following evidence and logic.

    You: There is nothing axiomatic about how and where God will show up. And God’s existence as truth occurs only as you’ve already accounted for in your own list of axioms – as a logical necessity, as both/either a raw experience or as the result of an inductive explanation.

    You: I don’t know about your psychoanalysis, but your own list of axioms demands that there will be a growing list of axioms as experiences multiply.

    You: Is God axiomatic? I guess so, sometimes. For those whom God has spoken to directly of His presence and love, in whose heart He has planted knowledge of Himself, that seems axiomatic? But does that make your parents axiomatic? It is a relationship with a person, so I’m not sure.

    You: Knowledge of God can be attained by many methods other than assuming it as an axiom – in fact, I would never assume it as an axiom. Knowledge is attained from logic, nature, Scripture, philosophy, and it might even become axiomatic upon revelation.

    You: The knowledge of God is necessary for knowing truth and reality.

    You: God’s existence, as outlined above many times, is exactly a rational conclusion as well as being offered to many of us experientially. That exactly fits with reason and it exactly fits with the idea of axioms.

    You: You are the only one insisting that what I am claiming is that God can only be known axiomatically. I have merely agreed that His existence can be considered axiomatic based upon a certain type of revelation – that of personal experience.

    You: I’m glad you see the incoherence because I don’t know what you are trying to say.

    My “takeaway” on this compilation is that you considered knowledge of God to be a priori, and resist the idea of God as axiomatic. That was why I thought the link to the MLK essay you provided was odd, because MLK clearly says there that idea of god is not known a priori but is learned through experience.

    Perhaps this time around you can show 1) how I am misrepresenting you, 2) how my arguments are fallacious, 3) what Luther was really saying, 4) How a reading of Pagels would better inform me as to the history of the NT and how this would alter my belief in God.

    1. Listing more of your misrepresentations would make this post even longer. If you really want I can do it later. (I don’t think that’s going to get us anywhere, but if you think it would help you to see them I’ll go through it.)

    2. The argument from authority is fallacious. It is often likened to “Well, if Peter jumped off a bridge, would you do it?” Saying “This philosopher thinks this, therefore you should think it too.” is subject to the same criticism as jumping off a bridge; there needs to be a better reason than someone doing it for the argument to be justified.

    3. You can go on Wikipedia, the site I mentioned above, or get a book in the Library on Martin Luther. Like anything I am sure that his exact position can be debated, but there is ample evidence supporting the notion that Martin Luther did not consider faith itself to be rational.

    4. I don’t know exactly how to respond to your 4th request. I do know that Elaine Pagels (and another gentlemen I studied under, John Gager) are highly regarded NT scholars. [Here’s a synopsis from Wikpedia: “Pagels’ study of the Nag Hammadi manuscripts was the basis for The Gnostic Gospels (1979), a popular introduction to the Nag Hammadi library. The bestselling book won both the National Book Critics Circle Award and the National Book Award and was chosen by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best books of the twentieth century. In a different measure of its influence, the conservative Christian Intercollegiate Studies Institute listed it as one of the 50 Worst Books of the Twentieth Century[1].” ] I think she’s justifiably criticized for applying an anachronistic feminism to ancient texts, and I think conservative Christians are not fond of her work because she opens a door on the political stakes of theological interpretation that I think better explains the formation of the canon and the establishment of the Gospels. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to remain ignorant of significant scholarship, especially debated scholarship, on a subject that he considers vital to his convictions.

    Or, perhaps, while you keep trying to feed the gander, you’d care to address your claims of denigration, ad hominem, hypocrisy and lack of objectivity in light of your and DL’s participation in this thread?
    If not, maybe you’ll at least weigh these facts before making your emotive charge in your subsequent comments or yet another thread?

    Sigh. I have made no claims of denigration, so you misrepresent me. Again. The ad hominem charge I backed up when I first started posting here and, speaking of geese, I’m not going to go chase more wild ones when I’ve already established my point.

    Calling my charges emotive and accusing me of not weighing (falsified) facts is a form of ad hominem. But that’s not why I won’t respond – it’s just that I don’t understand what you mean by calling my claims emotive or emotional.

    Charlie, if you can introduce to me an argument for how you think belief in a theistic God is rational I’m still game. If not, I think we’re done here.

  270. Tony,
    What is the nature of reality, and by what means do you come to know this? It’s an important question. It seems obvious that empirical verifiability is but a partial means to this end, and I think you agree (maybe not, but you should). When Charlie or I say there are other means, you say they are irrational means for one reason or another.

    For example, free will and knowledge. I know I have both not through empiricism but through rational introspection. You might be tempted to cite Occam’s Razor as a means to cure me of this irrational belief. After all, you say, I don’t *need* free will in order to exist as a human, do I? Maybe, but that’s not the question in play. The question is, is it rational to think I have free will? Of course, and when empirical science proclaims that matter has no free will I’m rational to think this has nothing to do with me because – in answer to the opening question – I rationally know something about the nature of reality that empiricism can’t discover.

    Likewise you ask why you need God to exist when you are perfectly capable of living without him? That’s a good question to consider, but it’s a different question than the question of rationality. It’s rational to think God exists for all the reasons given throughout history and, again, because I rationally know something about the nature of reality that the empirical verification-ists can’t discover. Not all of the arguments throughout history can be correct, but incorrectness doesn’t equate to irrationality.

  271. Hi Tony,
    I understand what you are trying to imply when you repeat “theistic god”, as I said earlier. But your distinction is, in fact, redundant. Theism means belief in God or god of some kind. Deism is theism. Nonetheless, as I’ve alluded to with reference to Aquinas, et al, the existence of God can be derived rationally regardless of the fact that His every revelation can not be. This God, found by reason, is in every way compatible with the God specifically revealed through Jesus Christ even though reason alone is insufficient to have derived the knowledge provided in this revelation.

    My position is that I have not heard a valid rational justification for God. At this point, and it’s embarrassingly late for me to bring this up, we should agree on what defines rationality. Throughout this discussion I have meant rationality to reason combined with axioms and empiricism. (I don’t believe my definition of rationality is unusual.)

    Your definition is vague and, depending upon what it actually means to be “combined” with “empiricism”, scientistic and question-begging. If all you mean by “rational” is “empirically derived” then you’ve already determined the scope of your search. I provided many times what I meant by “rational”, with no counter from you, and I provided a link of three philosophy professors who supplied such a definition. Rational = to be morally justified in holding to a belief taking into account [one’s] own background knowledge and experience.
    As I said:

    No. Being wrong or unable to see does not make one irrational. You are presenting a limited and incomplete picture of what it means to be rational/irrational.

    1) You are incorrect to claim that our contradictory beliefs cannot both be held rationally. Are you doing this only to be able to maintain the false charge that I am calling you irrational merely because we disagree?
    2) To call my belief irrational is exactly to dispute my right to hold the belief. To call a proposition reasonable or rational is to make a normative statement about it. It is to say that one is justified in holding it, that it is a permissible belief, or that one is entitled to hold it. If the person has paid proper attention to the evidence and weighed it against his background knowledge and competing hypotheses (has ‘governed his beliefs properly’) then it is rational to hold a belief no matter how it was acquired.

    The last sentence in your paragraph above reveals a steadfast refusal to disavow a tactic of argument from authority. If you will only point to someone you deem better educated, smarter, more devoted to the subject, etc. than me as your counter to my argument then there’s no point in our having a discussion.

    No it doesn’t and your constant appeal to misapplied fallacies is winning nothing.
    You have provided nothing but your assertions as to what it means to be rational vs. irrational. This assertion was plainly wrong (demanding that no two opposing views can be rationally held by separate individuals) and I have provided definitions and sources.
    And, by the way, an argument from authority is completely legitimate when the authority is legitimate and relevant. If I am using a philosophical definition of the word which is endorsed by philosophy professors and I tell you what that definition is and reference those professors then there is nothing fallacious about using that authority.

    Let me make this clear. and I’m sorry to be so pedantic, but you don’t seem to accept this criticism: we are not comparing people, we are comparing arguments.

    You don’t get that your charge of a fallacy does not stick. If I claim that Christians supply rational arguments and not merely experience for their beliefs then it is not an appeal to authority to demonstrate that they supply rational arguments and not merely their experiences – it is evidence. If I say that “rational” means X then it is not fallacious to demonstrate where and for whom “rational” means X.

    This paragraph combine the argument from authority and the straw manning of my claim. I do claim, as you quote, that there does only seem to be an individual (and empirically unverifiable, I’d add) awareness of God

    1. You just accused me of strawmanning your claim and then you verify that this is your claim.

    You then go on to say that you are countering my claim that rational belief has “has nothing to do with historic or modern Christianity.” Except that is not my claim, and never has been. So, you are using a fallacious argument to counter an argument I didn’t make.

    You are misreading. I SAID your claim has nothing to do with historical Christianity. I SHOWED why – with my not fallacious not appeals to authority.
    To help you follow here’s the sentence you quoted:

    I am proving that your claim has nothing to do with historic or modern Christianity, that there does NOT SEEM to be ONLY individual awareness with no rational argument for faith and that faith and reason are not irreconcilable as you stated.

    You’ve already affirmed my proper quoting of you, that there “ONLY seems to be individual awareness”. I told you this demonstrates ignorance of Christianity. There is individual awareness AND there is reason. I showed you many people who give such reasons and disavow the position that there is only individual awareness. You may disagree with their reasons, you may say they can be defeated, you may argue that they are insufficient, but you CANNOT say that they have no such reasons or that they rely merely upon individual awareness. This is not a fallacious appeal to their authority but a clear demonstration against your assertion and in support of my position. That position, again, is that with regard to “historic or modern Christianity, that there does NOT SEEM to be ONLY individual awareness with no rational argument for faith and that faith and reason are not irreconcilable as you stated.”
    Can you also note in that sentence that I did not strawman your argument and, contra your latest assertion, did not claim that YOU said that “that rational belief has “has nothing to do with historic or modern Christianity.”?

    Me: Counter to your Dawkinisian use of Martin Luther on this point, which you have not backed up with argumentation from the context or from his body of work, Christianity does not assert this and never has. Even the most fideistic philosophers provide rational argumentation.

    You: I am not aware of any Dawkin’s position on Martin Luther. My position on Martin Luther is informed by my religious background and my education. If you are seriously going to contend that “Christianity does not assert this [that belief in God is not rational] and never has.” then I seriously have to wonder how much history of Christianity you have read.

    1) Wonder away. I’ll give you the titles of the books I can reach without leaving this room if you like.
    2) Your position on Martin Luther, that faith and reason are irreconcilable, is wrong and your education was incomplete on this subject as it was on the history of Christianity and science.
    3) Why do your brackets insert words I didn’t say? If you want to insert a clarifier for the word “this” why not use the exact clarifier from the quote you are using? That would then read: “Christianity does not assert this [ that there is ONLY individual awareness with no rational argument for faith and that faith and reason are …irreconcilable] and never has.”
    This would be accurate and honest.

    For Luther, it was impossible to begin there and by using syllogisms or other logical means to end up with a God who suffers on the cross on behalf of humanity. It simply does not work. The God revealed in and through the cross is not the God of philosophy but the God of revelation. Only faith can understand and appreciate this, logic and reason – to quote St. Paul become a stumbling block to belief instead of a helpmate.”

    So far so good. First this does nothing to support your claim, which will be defeated upon any close inspection, that Martin Luther held faith and reason to be irreconcilable.
    Second, this supports exactly what I have said, and agrees with Aquinas and all of the above, about the role of reason. Reason cannot, of course, tell us that God sacrificed His only begotten Son on the Cross that we may be justified and made righteous. Reason, without revelation, can not find its way to the doctrine of the Trinity, either.
    Reason, unaided, does not give us the doctrines of Christianity (that does not make these irrational, or even non rational – they are fully justified by reason, and, upon the revelation of the Bible; the Trinity is the rational conclusion from Scripture, for instance).
    But reason does take us to the belief in the existence of God (theism) and reason gives us many of the attributes which are found also in revelation.

    Further from your source on Luther:

    Properly understood and used, philosophy and reason are a great aid to individuals and society. Improperly used, they become a great threat to both. Likewise, revelation and the gospel when used properly are an aid to society, but when misused also have sad and profound implications.

    The proper role of philosophy is organizational and as an aid in governance. When Cardinal Cajetan first demanded Luther’s recantation of the Ninety-Five Theses, Luther appealed to scripture and right reason. Reason can be an aid to faith in that it helps to clarify and organize, but it is always second-order discourse. It is, following St. Anselm, fides quarenes intellectum (faith seeking understanding) and never the reverse. Philosophy tells us that God is omnipotent and impassible; revelation tells us that Jesus Christ died for humanity’s sin. The two cannot be reconciled. Reason is the devil’s whore precisely because asks the wrong questions and looks in the wrong direction for answers. Revelation is the only proper place for theology to begin. Reason must always take a back-seat.

    Reason does play a primary role in governance and in most human interaction. Reason, Luther argued, is necessary for a good and just society. In fact, unlike most of his contemporaries, Luther did not believe that a ruler had to be Christian, only reasonable.

    Indeed your very source demonstrates that :
    http://www.iep.utm.edu/f/faith-re.htm

    Traditionally, faith and reason have each been considered to be sources of justification for belief. Because both can purportedly serve this same epistemic function, it has been a matter of much interest to philosophers and theologians how the two are related and thus how the rational agent should treat claims derived from either source.

    So it doesn’t seem as though Christianity relies ONLY upon individual awareness without any rational justification.

    As a reminder, here, again, is our exchange:

    TONY:
    My only point is that, despite what Charlie seems to be arguing for, there is no rationality that justifies faith in a theistic God. There only seems to be an individual awareness that cannot be verified, and to those of us without this experience the belief seems clearly delusional.

    Me: This is an unusual statement. DL insists in one statement that I can’t refer to rational arguments for God and you comment in the next that they don’t even exist and that faith is irrational.
    This position does not hint at any understanding of Christianity whatsoever. Contra DL’s bias, the arguments are not “Medieval” either, as Al Plantinga refers to a dozen or so of them, you and I have discussed the argument from evolution, in this thread I’ve discussed Lewis’ version and Reppert’s defence of the the argument from reason, we have the historical testimony, the teleological argument, the cosmological argument, the argument from morality, etc. etc. etc.
    I know you find none of these compelling (no, that doesn’t mean I’m calling you irrational) but you can’t really mean that no one can be morally justified in holding to a belief in God (not, “a god”) based upon these reasons when taking into account his own background knowledge and experience, can you?

    Don’t forget, when rereading your claim here, what it means to be rational, what “theistic” actually means, and what I actually said with regard to Christianity (modern or historic).

    Wow. Really, just wow.

    The argument from wow does not defeat the argument from facts, as I have provided in support.

    And as I’ve said many times there doesn’t appear to be a rational component to belief in a theistic God.

    And you are plainly wrong. 1) Rational does not = “what Tony believes”.
    2) “Theistic” does not delineate this argument as you would wish it to.
    3) The rational component is amply demonstrated by the fact that Christians use reason to justify their theistic beliefs – see my many examples.
    4) The fact that there appears to be no such component to you only tells us about your perceptions, not about fact.

    Thanks for that search on the word “axiom”. As you can see throughout, when the issue actually has anything to do with God, I am responding to your demand that I am making God axiomatic.

    My “takeaway” on this compilation is that you considered knowledge of God to be a priori, and resist the idea of God as axiomatic. That was why I thought the link to the MLK essay you provided was odd, because MLK clearly says there that idea of god is not known a priori but is learned through experience.

    With regards to the “a priori” quote, let’s look at the context:

    C.S. Lewis said he knew Christianity was true in the way that he knew the sun had risen – not because he saw it, but because BY IT he saw everything. You guys keep acting as though we find ourselves in a perfectly rational world that answers its own questions and then along come Christians and tack God on superficially. This is not the case. I have never had a moment in my memory when I was not aware of God and didn’t know He was both out there and here with me. Children are born knowing that order does not come from disorder and that the world and nature exhibits design.
    Please, I didn’t just say that makes it right – I am demonstrating that God is not an after-the-fact addition – God is a priori. He elects US. He impresses Himself upon our natures from the beginning.

    The point is that we do not find ourselves in a world which explains itself or in which rationality can be justified and onto which we tack a superfluous God. None of this makes sense or can be rationalized without God.
    The MLK link had nothing to do with this, and had nothing to do with “buttressing” any perceived argument between “axiomatic” or “a priori” as my previous discussion already covered:

    Then you go on to quote Dr. King and intellectual unattainability – a different subject – as though this supposed contradiction says anything about the point for which he has been employed. King can certainly support my claim that Christianity does not seem to only depend upon individual experience against rational argument (which he does – “Thus, reason, when sincerely and honestly used, is one of the supreme roads that leads us into the presence of God“) even if he contradicts a different point of mine. Of course, it is possible we disagree on this point even though his faith position supports my claim. But then, he doesn’t contradict me, does he? The point merely highlights once again your inability to differentiate between rationale/reason and proof. As I’ve said many times, rational argument is not necessarily proof. But it provides justifcation for one’s true belief.

    1. Listing more of your misrepresentations would make this post even longer. If you really want I can do it later. (I don’t think that’s going to get us anywhere, but if you think it would help you to see them I’ll go through it.)

    Any time you’d like to back up your charge I will counter it – as I did with your poor reading and subsequently fallacious charge that I had created a strawman of your position earlier in this comment. Your rhetorical strategy of making the charge every second comment reflects poorly on you, however.

    2. The argument from authority is fallacious. It is often likened to “Well, if Peter jumped off a bridge, would you do it?” Saying “This philosopher thinks this, therefore you should think it too.” is subject to the same criticism as jumping off a bridge; there needs to be a better reason than someone doing it for the argument to be justified.

    No, a fallacious argument from authority is fallacious. Please learn the difference and quit drawing indiscriminately from the Big Book Of Logical Fallacies. I am not asking you how and when an argument from authority can be fallacious, but how MY arguments are fallacious- which they aren’t.
    I didn’t, for instance, say that “because philosopher A thinks B you should too”. I provided a definition and an APPROPRIATELY authoritative source for that definition.

    3. You can go on Wikipedia, the site I mentioned above, or get a book in the Library on Martin Luther. Like anything I am sure that his exact position can be debated, but there is ample evidence supporting the notion that Martin Luther did not consider faith itself to be rational.

    I went to and, as you see above, have quoted from the site you mentioned. And yes, absolutely Luther’s position can be debated. And what will result from that debate is that Luther did not hold, even though you were raised, authoritatively, as a Lutheran, that faith and reason are irreconcilable or that there can be no rational justification for theistic belief.

    4. I don’t know exactly how to respond to your 4th request.

    You shouldn’t have charged then that without more study of Pagels my “conclusion about [my] religion is based on incomplete information that fits [my] preconceptions. ” as a counter to your demonstrable and admitted ignorance regarding the history of Christianity and science.
    You know nothing about my preconceptions on this issue, we have not argued them and you have given me no reason to believe that Pagels would provide such information as to challenge my conclusions. With respect to water fowl, we are all goose and no gander here.

    I do know that Elaine Pagels (and another gentlemen I studied under, John Gager) are highly regarded NT scholars. [Here’s a synopsis from Wikpedia: “Pagels’ study of the Nag Hammadi manuscripts was the basis for The Gnostic Gospels (1979), a popular introduction to the Nag Hammadi library. The bestselling book won both the National Book Critics Circle Award and the National Book Award and was chosen by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best books of the twentieth century. In a different measure of its influence, the conservative Christian Intercollegiate Studies Institute listed it as one of the 50 Worst Books of the Twentieth Century[1].” ] I think she’s justifiably criticized for applying an anachronistic feminism to ancient texts, and I think conservative Christians are not fond of her work because she opens a door on the political stakes of theological interpretation that I think better explains the formation of the canon and the establishment of the Gospels. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to remain ignorant of significant scholarship, especially debated scholarship, on a subject that he considers vital to his convictions.

    “Regard” is a subjective term and you have to consider sources.
    But here you are actually making a point, albeit one completely irrelevant to your charge, your geese and ganders, and this thread, when you reference the establishment of the Gospels. Although only vaguely familiar with her name I am more familiar with those, like N.T. Wright and Craig Evans, who establish the validity of the canon over and against her position on such things as the Gospel of Thomas.
    You are certainly free to start to make some kind of demonstration of my ignorance on this issue, such as would affect my religious conclusions, and which would be akin to your holding a position which was admittedly wrong and based upon ignorance.

    Sigh. I have made no claims of denigration, so you misrepresent me. Again.

    Ah, the argument from sigh.
    Yes, you are right – denigration was not your word, it was Paul’s.
    You said “disparage”.
    Denigrate:
    denigrate (v)
    Synonyms: disparage,
    http://encarta.msn.com/thesaurus_561570780/denigrate.html

    Your distinction without a difference does not justify your eye-rolling but groundless charge.

    The ad hominem charge I backed up when I first started posting here and, speaking of geese, I’m not going to go chase more wild ones when I’ve already established my point.

    The ad hominem charge was fallacious, as I clearly demonstrated, and in making it you ignored the very disparagement/denigrations and ad hominems of those on your side and have continually made just such appeals as fit your examples yourself.
    You have charged hypocrisy and lack of objectivity and have evidenced it thoroughly in yourself. Yes, yes, ad hominem noted.

    Charlie, if you can introduce to me an argument for how you think belief in a theistic God is rational I’m still game. If not, I think we’re done here.

    Discussion of the rational arguments which exist and have been discussed, debated and formational for centuries is not the point of this thread. My point is that they exist whether, upon Googling my sources (Plantinga and Aquinas being prime examples) you are compelled or not. Again, your conviction does not define rationality.

  272. Your description of your experiences after realizing the presence of the Holy Spirit within you is the new birth of which Jesus spoke to Nicodemus.

    On the matter of seeing the truth of God in everyday life, I am always amazed at liberals who claim that man is inherently good when ALL the evidence (Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Ruwanda, Islam, etc.) point exactly in the opposite direction. Only the truth of God gives man a moral compass. Those without God are ruled by the Prince of this world, who lies and corrupts souls with unrestrained glee.

  273. Charlie,

    I hope that your last comment was something that was done hastily, and that there are things that, on reflection, you’d rewrite.

    You wrote:

    I understand what you are trying to imply when you repeat “theistic god”, as I said earlier. But your distinction is, in fact, redundant. Theism means belief in God or god of some kind. Deism is theism.

    Nope. Not only are you making a patently false statement, you’re contradicting yourself. Earlier you wrote:

    This [a belief in God], by the way, is an active, personal God to Whom they [scientists] pray and from Whom they expect answers. This is not the distant, First Cause or deistic God, which, if accounted for in the study, would push the numbers that much the higher.

    The first quote above is just your first four sentences of your last comment. In the first quote you lecture me on the insignificance of the distinction between theism and deism, and yet prior to that you take pains to distinguish the fact that deism is not theism.

    The rest of your comment is long. I did read it, and on a closer reading there might be some points in there that turn back to the discussion, but you continue a stream of misrepresentations and false accusations that I must either correct (which wastes time) or leave unanswered (and thus implicitly concede). At this point I feel it’s futile to continue along this line. If you want to provoke me into fully answering all your aspersions you might be able to do so eventually, but I don’t see why we should bother.

    I’ll leave you with one of your closing statements in your last comment.

    You are certainly free to start to make some kind of demonstration of my ignorance on this issue, such as would affect my religious conclusions, and which would be akin to your holding a position which was admittedly wrong and based upon ignorance.

    Why would anyone choose to have an argument with someone who declares his mind so closed?

    If you want to discuss the best reasons that you think that belief in a theistic God is rational, and would consider that those who are mystified by that assertion might not be only ignorant, hypocritical, partial, etc., then I’m willing to discuss it. But if your last comment, and the statement I last quoted above, is how you’d like to continue then I’m done here.

  274. Hi Tony,

    I hope that your last comment was something that was done hastily, and that there are things that, on reflection, you’d rewrite.

    I’d always like to be more eloquent … and I wish my abs were more chiseled.

    
You wrote:
I understand what you are trying to imply when you repeat “theistic god”, as I said earlier. But your distinction is, in fact, redundant. Theism means belief in God or god of some kind. Deism is theism. 

You:Nope.

    Me: Yep.

    Not only are you making a patently false statement, you’re contradicting yourself.

    Me: Nope.

    Earlier you wrote: 
Me: This [a belief in God], by the way, is an active, personal God to Whom they [scientists] pray and from Whom they expect answers. This is not the distant, First Cause or deistic God, which, if accounted for in the study, would push the numbers that much the higher. 

Tony: The first quote above is just your first four sentences of your last comment. In the first quote you lecture me on the insignificance of the distinction between theism and deism, and yet prior to that you take pains to distinguish the fact that deism is not theism.

    Do you know what it means to “take pains”? You say it a lot when it never happens. In fact, I did not take any measures to distinguish deism from theism. What I did was reference the difference between an active, prayer-answering God and the God of the deists. Belief in this God, being a god, is still theism.
    While you ponder that perhaps you can settle the question for yourself by revisiting your definition of “atheism”.

    
The rest of your comment is long.

    All things being relative.

    I did read it, and on a closer reading there might be some points in there that turn back to the discussion, but you continue a stream of misrepresentations and false accusations that I must either correct (which wastes time) or leave unanswered (and thus implicitly concede). At this point I feel it’s futile to continue along this line.

    It certainly is futile to keep charging that I am misrepresenting you when you refuse to back it up.

    If you want to provoke me into fully answering all your aspersions you might be able to do so eventually, but I don’t see why we should bother.

    Why you bother is beyond me, but I do appreciate your participation.
    By the way:
    http://www.bartleby.com/cgi-bin/texis/webinator/sitesearch?filter=col62&query=aspersion

    aspersion. Roget s II: The New Thesaurus, Third Edition. 1995.
    …The expression of injurious, malicious statements about someone: calumniation, calumny, character assassination, defamation, denigration, detraction, scandal, slander,..

    ===

    
I’ll leave you with one of your closing statements in your last comment.
Me:You are certainly free to start to make some kind of demonstration of my ignorance on this issue, such as would affect my religious conclusions, and which would be akin to your holding a position which was admittedly wrong and based upon ignorance. 

You:Why would anyone choose to have an argument with someone who declares his mind so closed?

    I didn’t do that.

    
If you want to discuss the best reasons that you think that belief in a theistic God is rational,

    Perhaps on an appropriate thread.

    and would consider that those who are mystified by that assertion might not be only ignorant, hypocritical, partial, etc., then I’m willing to discuss it. But if your last comment, and the statement I last quoted above, is how you’d like to continue then I’m done here.

    Yes, I will continue in exactly that vein. I will ask you to back up your accusations and assertions and I will defend my positions honestly and with vigour.
    You still have the option of showing any of the ways I’ve misrepresented you, demonstrating how my not studying under Pagels at Princeton has negatively affected my conclusions about my religion, showing me the pains I took to show that a deistic God is not also a theistic God, or how my hasty previous response has caused me to make errors which I might want to recant.
    And, by the way, your hypocrisy, lack of objectivity, and ignorance have nothing to do with the fact that you are mystified by my irrationality. Each has been demonstrated above and, as you know, has nothing to do with the fact that we disagree on the evidence for God’s existence.

  275. Hi Charlie,

    A brief response to your last.

    You still have the option of showing any of the ways I’ve misrepresented you, demonstrating how my not studying under Pagels at Princeton has negatively affected my conclusions about my religion, showing me the pains I took to show that a deistic God is not also a theistic God, or how my hasty previous response has caused me to make errors which I might want to recant.

    I’ve been resisting these things because they are time consuming, secondary, and don’t further the discussion. But you keep on insisting. So…

    You still have the option of showing any of the ways I’ve misrepresented you,

    Any of the ways? Let’s go back to where I first started pointing this out.

    Charlie: When I said that I am not going to be able to convince Paul you said it was an ad hominem

    That’s a misrepresentation – I mentioned it as a problem earlier. It makes it sound like you said, “Paul, I am not going to be able to convince you,” and that is why I accused of making an ad hominem. But is that what happened? In fact, I pulled out seven of your previous quotes and said they amounted to ad hominems. Here they are, again:

    It seems obvious to me that you are precommitted to his [Mr. Gilbreath’s] being either deluded or a liar. But maybe you can surprise me.

    As I alluded to above, you cannot be convinced by man. You are impervious.

    It is obviously important enough that you have spent years here potshotting at Tom’s posts.

    Your claims to be testing your logic do not seem accurate and neither have you had a whit of success at convincing anybody here, or even making a logical dent.

    It looks to me that you are merely trying to justify your disbelief and ensure yourself that you can ramp up the skeptical metre high enough to deny anything you hear about God.

    Does misery truly love company?

    You have not come here to test your logic or work on your own preconceptions.

    Thus, your later statement that “When I said that I am not going to be able to convince Paul you said it was an ad hominem” is just a misrepresentation of both what you actually wrote and on what I based my claim, clear and simple.

    The ad hominem charge was fallacious, as I clearly demonstrated, and in making it you ignored the very disparagement/denigrations and ad hominems of those on your side and have continually made just such appeals as fit your examples yourself.

    You made no such demonstration, and claiming that I ignored something that did not occur is a misrepresentation. But that’s enough of those.

    Regarding my characterization of your earler ad hominems I’ll go straight to the OED. “Ad Hominem: a phrase applied to an argument or an appeal founded on the preferences or principles of a particular person rather than on abstract truth or logical cogency.”

    So I look forward to your demonstration of how my original charge was fallacious.

    demonstrating how my not studying under Pagels at Princeton has negatively affected my conclusions about my religion

    Hmm. Did I say that was on my to do list?

    Earlier you speculated that my disagreement with you on this subject is based in part on incomplete understanding of the history of the church. I tried to explain that admitting to learning something was not the same thing as confessing to ignorance of a subject, and that I imagined you would balk at the same standard applied to your conclusions about your religion. And sure enough, balk you do.

    The standard is absurd. How do you know when you’ve learned enough on a subject that your conclusions can no longer be “negatively affected?” It’s a profoundly anti-intellectual, close-minded position and I’ll have nothing to do with it.

    showing me the pains I took to show that a deistic God is not also a theistic God,

    I think you question if I know what “take pains” means. It’s a gratuitous question because I use the term correctly. “Take pains” means “to take extra measures, to attempt by employing effort,” etc.

    This [a belief in God], by the way, is an active, personal God to Whom they [scientists] pray and from Whom they expect answers. This is not the distant, First Cause or deistic God…

    If, as you continue to assert beyond any common sense, that deism = theism, why do we have different words for the exact same thing, why do people use these words to mean different things, why are philosophers categorized as deists and not theists interchangeably, why do you make the distinction yourself in the second sentence above, and on and on? The answer is because deism does not equal theism, you know this or you are deluded, and by bothering to write the second sentence in your quote above you taking extra measures and attempting by employing effort to draw just that distinction.

    Charlie, as I see there are two kinds of people to argue with: those who want to be right, and those who want to locate the truth. I prefer arguing with the latter. So, yup, I am done here.

  276. Hi Tony,
    Thanks for trying to back up some of your charges.
    I will now dismantle them.

    Charlie: When I said that I am not going to be able to convince Paul you said it was an ad hominem
    Tony: That’s a misrepresentation – I mentioned it as a problem earlier.

    It’s not a misrepresentation.
    Conveniently, you included here for our uses the very line that you called an ad hominem:

    Charlie, to Paul: As I alluded to above, you cannot be convinced by man. You are impervious.

    So 1) this was not a misrepresentation of your charge. And 2) as we’ll see throughout, neither was this an ad hominem
    On that note, here’s some of what you cut out:

    Charlie, to Paul: As I alluded to above, you cannot be convinced by man. You are impervious. The best arguments you dismiss as being acceptable or not based upon prior belief in God. The reasons for such a prior belief you dismiss as illusions and preying upon gullibility.

    Instead of making an appeal to Paul’s personality or preferences I was making an argument based upon what Paul has previously concluded in several threads – that our views on these issues follow logically and consistently from the belief we bring in the first place, that is, the existence of God.
    But more on why you don’t know how to charge ad hominems as we go. The point here is that I did not misrepresent what you said and, as you had to edit it to even make look like an ad hominem, I presume that you likely didn’t think it was. Rather, you were merely back-tracking after charging me with having disparaged Paul (which I didn’t either).

    Thus, your later statement that “When I said that I am not going to be able to convince Paul you said it was an ad hominem” is just a misrepresentation of both what you actually wrote and on what I based my claim, clear and simple.

    Clear and simple, you are wrong.

    Me:The ad hominem charge was fallacious, as I clearly demonstrated, and in making it you ignored the very disparagement/denigrations and ad hominems of those on your side and have continually made just such appeals as fit your examples yourself.
    Tony: You made no such demonstration, and claiming that I ignored something that did not occur is a misrepresentation. But that’s enough of those.

    First, my previous reply, on your actual charge, of disparagement:

    Again I feel that your lack of knowledge of the things Paul has previously argued/concluded and of which I am reminding him, and perhaps a lack of objectivity, have made you misread my “tone”.
I have reread my comments to Paul and see nothing disparaging. I see an evidential challenge to his claims, reminders of his previous positions and an honest inquiry into his current goals.

    Then you backed off the “disparagement” claim and said you were only pointing out ad hominems. So upon your false charge of fallacious ad hominem I said:

    I’m not going to argue the difference between addressing a person’s positions in a line of thought in which I am specifically asking for his motivations and desires and real ad hominems nor the difference between references to the person and his motivation and the “disparagement” you charged, etc.
I will point out, however, while you are on about geese and ganders that you explicitly ignored such disparagement by one of your compatriots immediately before your commenting and I will contest that you have seen anyone booted for comments similar to mine. If I was out of line to question Paul’s motivation and his goals he could have told me that such a discussion did not interest him and that he didn’t feel like sharing.

    More on that later.
    But what you ignored, and what I said you ignored, certainly did occur (and I did make, on another note, the demonstration). I’d hate to misrepresent you and presume that your sentence above ignores the actual form of my charge and implies that you are saying that my demonstration didn’t occur, since that has nothing to do with what I said you ignored. I didn’t say that you ignored my demonstration about the ad hominems, I said you ignored statements fitting your criteria, and worse, (but without the necessary misreading that you’ve applied) immediately prior to your hypocritical charge.
    To draw out each one from you and your side would fill page after page, but here are the ones from DL which immediately preceded your police action:


    But Christians consistently either 1) ignore this blatant evidence that people are biased, or 2) pretend that bias is insurmountable so they might as well succumb. Hence, for Christians, their sense of God has to be true unless proven otherwise.
    That story at NovaScotiaScott is a very sad one. Yes, he’s a poor dupe!! He either imagined the picture, or he’s been had.
    Of course, there IS a way to overcome bias. It’s called science and dispassionate analysis. That’s anathema to Christianity which relies on inspiring passion and amplifying bias of its adherents at every turn.

    Christians are just making excuses for wallowing in their own personal biases.

    And the examples certainly didn’t end there.
    ===
    Tony says and quotes:

    Regarding my characterization of your earler ad hominems I’ll go straight to the OED. “Ad Hominem: a phrase applied to an argument or an appeal founded on the preferences or principles of a particular person rather than on abstract truth or logical cogency.”

    Your definition seems a little clunky and hard to read. Here it is from Wiki:

    An ad hominem argument, also known as argumentum ad hominem (Latin: “argument to the man”, “argument against the man”) consists of replying to an argument or factual claim by attacking or appealing to a characteristic or belief of the source making the argument or claim, rather than by addressing the substance of the argument or producing evidence against the claim.

    Those are my emphases.
    Tony:

    So I look forward to your demonstration of how my original charge was fallacious.

    Good. Note the word “RATHER” in both of our definitions.
    I asked of Paul:
    “Is anybody going to convince you through argument that God exists?”
    and
    “Do you think you’re going to convince any of us?”
    and
    “Why would you want to convince others of the veracity of your claims (when they don’t reduce, as they always do, to knowing nothing at all and being unable to affirm the most basic of truths) and why would you want to convince yourself that your position is right?”
    We were discussing Paul’s motivation and his claim that he was contesting these issues, in part, to test his logic and, in part, to convince.
    It is certainly then not an avoidance of the argument or the claims to make reference to Paul’s motivation and whether or not the evidence indicates that he was testing his positions.
    Your selections are direct arguments against these claims. They are not appeals to Paul’s personality against the claims, but answers to the claims themselves.
    Each of the positions I took, rather than being references to Paul’s character in avoidance of the argument, were key conclusions based upon evidence and backed up by argument. They each directly answered the substance of the argument.
    As with other fallacies, you have mistakenly tried to apply this where it is not relevant.

    Charlie: demonstrating how my not studying under Pagels at Princeton has negatively affected my conclusions about my religion
    Tony: Hmm. Did I say that was on my to do list?
    Earlier you speculated that my disagreement with you on this subject is based in part on incomplete understanding of the history of the church. I tried to explain that admitting to learning something was not the same thing as confessing to ignorance of a subject, and that I imagined you would balk at the same standard applied to your conclusions about your religion. And sure enough, balk you do.
    The standard is absurd. How do you know when you’ve learned enough on a subject that your conclusions can no longer be “negatively affected?” It’s a profoundly anti-intellectual, close-minded position and I’ll have nothing to do with it.

    1) You can’t “explain that admitting to learning something was not the same thing as confessing to ignorance of a subject” because that is precisely what it is the same as.
    You say I balked and balk I did not. Whereas I had shown you through argument and evidence that you were ignorant on the history question (even though your training is in history) AND that this ignorance was germane to your position you have not done the same with regards to my position and Ms Pagels. In fact, you’ve decided that making this case is not on your to-do list. So you want to charge me with a double-standard but you can’t back up either the charge of my relevant ignorance nor of balking at the standard.
    Further, let’s just have a look at the context for what you are now claiming:
    I said:

    Why should you be convinced? You shouldn’t be. I told Paul man couldn’t convince him and that he was impervious to the arguments. You think this is an ad hominem but it is merely a fact. [[see above]] You guys hang out on a Christian website unable to hear what we say and unable to know what we know but you want to argue about our beliefs anyway.
You cannot convince a believer that he doesn’t know God and we can’t make you know Him.
But perhaps God is moving in your life to bring you to these sites, to listen to the positions, to learn that, as you say, there are smart people who believe in God (I am not claiming to be among them), to learn that these so-called defeaters of belief are nothing of the sort, to learn that the history you’ve been told about Christianity is, generously put, incomplete, to learn that the biases against belief are so pervasive that you’ve taken them for granted, etc. In perhaps, seeing these things, some of your stumblingblocks will be removed and you will be open to more of the truth.

    You now humbly admit your lack of knowledge on this subject, as you did after telling us what to read and how we should think on the morality question, and as you did on the history of the Church and science. I appreciate that. But, bluster and bluffs aside, you will find most of us are equally uneducated and Google-prone – those to whom you defer as well as your opponents (Tom aside, obviously).

    The point is that, especially regarding those to whose knowledge you choose to defer, you are uninformed in many of the positions you have taken here by your own admission. You took, for instance, a flawed view of the history of Christianity/science and drew a necessarily false conclusion. Why did you find this position so easy to accept when it is also so easily refuted?
    You also take positions against Christian belief based upon knowledge and arguments so flimsy that you find yourself repeatedly deferring to other laymen with no expertise on the subjects at hand. Why do you have confidence in your own position when it can be bolstered with such weak authority?
    Have you really looked into your worldview deeply enough to be so sure of it?

    Me: showing me the pains I took to show that a deistic God is not also a theistic God,
    You: I think you question if I know what “take pains” means. It’s a gratuitous question because I use the term correctly. “Take pains” means “to take extra measures, to attempt by employing effort,” etc.

    You’re certainly right that I questioned whether or not you know what it means.
    So you provide a definition of what it almostmeans. By that definition you will see that I never took extra measures, nor, as more appropriate definitions will tell you,
    http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/take+pains+to
    http://www.thefreedictionary.com/take+pains
    http://www.answers.com/topic/be-at-at-pains
    http://www.wordwebonline.com/en/TAKEPAINS
    have I tried very hard on the point about 40% of scientists, and I certainly did nothing at all to do what you claim I did – that is, try to show that a deistic God is not also a theistic God.
    If you really do know what it means then you should quit saying it when it doesn’t apply. If you start trying to align your words a little more accurately with your intentions you won’t be so easy to misrepresent.

    Me: This [a belief in God], by the way, is an active, personal God to Whom they [scientists] pray and from Whom they expect answers. This is not the distant, First Cause or deistic God…
    Tony: If, as you continue to assert beyond any common sense, that deism = theism, why do we have different words for the exact same thing, why do people use these words to mean different things, why are philosophers categorized as deists and not theists interchangeably, why do you make the distinction yourself in the second sentence above, and on and on? The answer is because deism does not equal theism, you know this or you are deluded, and by bothering to write the second sentence in your quote above you taking extra measures and attempting by employing effort to draw just that distinction.

    I didn’t say they mean the exact same thing. With your hypersensitivity to so-called misrepresentations why don’t you ever try to get the smallest thing right? I said, and I will say again, and if you like you can do some research to affirm the accuracy of this claim, was …

    You:In other words, I don’t think this is an “agree to disagree” discussion; one of us is clearly wrong about being able to rationally justify belief in a theistic God.
    Me: …
    Here you are actually saying that one of us is clearly wrong about whether belief in God (the use of the word “theistic” is redundant, even though I know why you wish to use it) is rational. Yes, your new statement is correct – you are clearly wrong about the rationality of this belief.

    And later:
    I understand what you are trying to imply when you repeat “theistic god”, as I said earlier. But your distinction is, in fact, redundant. Theism means belief in God or god of some kind. Deism is theism. Nonetheless, as I’ve alluded to with reference to Aquinas, et al, the existence of God can be derived rationally regardless of the fact that His every revelation can not be. This God, found by reason, is in every way compatible with the God specifically revealed through Jesus Christ even though reason alone is insufficient to have derived the knowledge provided in this revelation.

    Notice how I’ve already given you here the definition and the rationale. If you look up “theism” you will find this to be the case. There are many branches under theism, one of which is deism, and to say “a theistic God” does not differentiate. I did not ignore the difference, but referenced it several times. Everything Reason tells us about the limited God of the deist/theist it tells us about the more specific God of Christian/theist (for instance). As I said many times, this God cannot be fully discovered by reason and the Christian doctrines have to be known by the revelation – but, as Aquinas and even Luther will tell you, His existence and many of His attributes can be known by Reason alone.
    And, at the end of that, it is still rationally-justified that one accept the revelation of Jesus Christ and the Holy Bible.

    Charlie, as I see there are two kinds of people to argue with: those who want to be right, and those who want to locate the truth. I prefer arguing with the latter. So, yup, I am done here.

    Ouch. Denigration/disparagement/aspersion noted.
    You forgot to tell me what “atheism” means.
    When you do you’ll know what “theism” means, and you’ll note that deists are theists.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theism
    Theism, in its most inclusive usage, is the belief in at least one deity[1].
    http://www.theism.info/
    Theism is the belief in a god or gods.
    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/theism
    : belief in the existence of a god or god

  277. ps.

    Charlie, as I see there are two kinds of people to argue with: those who want to be right, and those who want to locate the truth. I prefer arguing with the latter. So, yup, I am done here.

    So why don’t we argue some truth claims once in a while instead of searching every flock of geese for a couple of Christian ganders?
    Since all that ever seems to interest you is Tom’s objectivity or a the “tone” with which Christians argue why is it you are not perpetually done here?

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