Skeptic Shermer Won’t Be Fooled Again; Gets Fooled Again

Skeptic Shermer Won’t Be Fooled Again; Gets Fooled Again

Let’s start by agreeing Shermer is right, as he opens this interview: Humans do seek out evidence that supports our beliefs. We do tend to cement our convictions more than we question them. He’s wrong, though, when he tells Stephen Colbert (at 1:40), “The only way to tell, really, the difference between these true patterns and false patterns is science.”

I’m happy to leave the most obvious flaws in that thinking for you to discuss in the comments. For starters, it’s a performative self-contradiction/self-defeating statement, and it’s over-optimistic with respect to the “debunking” human factor in science. I see these topics debated all the time. 

Under the surface, though, Shermer’s got another theme going on. Hardly anyone talks about this one — even though atheists and “skeptics” do it all the time.

(Update Jan. 12: Some readers are reporting they can’t access this video. The original is here, if that helps.)

That theme goes something like this: Never let yourself get fooled. Suspend judgment. On everything. Make certain it’s certain before you buy into it. Never believe anything that might not be true.

That’s a scientific attitude, in a way. Scientists are loath to say experiments prove anything; instead they “fail to confirm” or to “disconfirm.” No conclusion is anything more than a working conclusion, subject to later amendment.

I’m speaking in ideal terms here, for scientists are human beings, too. (I’m also excluding evolution, which for mysterious reasons gets exceptional treatment as “Fact, Fact, FACT!“)

Heuristics, Science, Art, and Morality

The history of science supports this tentative approach. We keep learning, and therefore unlearning. What once was “certain” is now rejected as false; therefore the safer route is never to say anything is certain. Working conclusions are good enough, anyway: They lead to new technologies or new theories; or if they prove not to work after all, they point away from themselves toward new ideas.

But not everything is science. Not every false conclusion has heuristic value. Some are just deadly. Not every branch of knowledge has the same learning-unlearning-new learning growth characteristic science has, either. Science has progressed by orders of magnitude over the past few years, much less centuries, but has music? Poetry? Drama? How much better was Tennessee Williams than Sophocles? Who today is orders of magnitude ahead of Shakespeare? (Is anyone even a match for Tennessee Williams?)

There is such a thing as heuristic science, so eternal skepticism has its usefulness there, but there is no such thing as heuristic music. Even less is there any such thing as heuristic morality; the very term contradicts itself. Moral truths have no scientific tests, though, so on Shermer’s line of thinking, one should never adopt any moral conclusions. The problem with that should be plain, however. Skepticism cannot be known to be a virtue unless one knows of such a thing as virtue. His position incinerates not only its own logic but also its own reason for being.

We Won’t Be Fooled Again!

He seeks to minimize false beliefs so “We don’t get fooled again!”  (I’ll bet he skips the “get on my knees and pray” part.) In some skeptics’ case, it sounds a lot like, “We won’t get embarrassed again!” Because there is that image to keep up, you know.

But a ship navigated by skepticism can only anchor outside random ports, then skitter off the next morning, just in case it’s the wrong place to be. Maybe one port is right, maybe not, so the safest bet is to stay out of them all. (We won’t get vulnerable again!)

Colbert asks (at 4:04), “What about religion?” Shermer says, “There are so many prophets and they conflict with each other…. <inaudible> What kind of experiment could we possibly run to tell the difference between whether this is the one true religion or this is the one true religion?”

What kind of experiment could the ship run to tell whether this is the right port or this other one is? None, obviously. Why would this even be the kind of knowledge someone would acquire by experiment? How would you know where to begin? Keep the ship at sea!

Likewise with religion. Shermer refuses to land, because he might land in the wrong place. No, it’s worse than that: He sees that there are wrong places to land — there must be, considering their contradictions — and concludes therefore that there is no right place to land.

The Skeptic Who Wasn’t

But at this point I must introduce one way besides science by which we can know a conclusion is untenable. If it doesn’t follow from its premises — if it’s irrational — then one ought not land on it. Yet Shermer does: When he will land on no religion, in view of the fact that they all might be wrong, he lands instead on a conclusion that is demonstrably irrational.

Let me replay it in case you missed it: Every religion has a chance of being false, therefore we should conclude that none of them is true. There’s another version: Our experimental methods, designed to give us  heuristic knowledge about the natural world, don’t give us certain knowledge in the extra-natural world; therefore we conclude that there is no knowledge of the extra-natural world.

Neither conclusion follows from the premises, but Shermer commits to both of them. He’s not such a good skeptic after all. He believes both of those conclusions, even though they might be false  — no, even though they certainly are.

In fact everyone, Shermer included, happily lives with truths not known through science. Christians like myself are convinced that history (including its documents, artifacts, archaeology, and more), philosophy, and even science point directly toward the reality of God in Jesus Christ.

Could I be wrong? Sure. But I have made it my business to maximize true beliefs in areas where truth matters as much as this does.  I am quite convinced there are good reasons to consider this a true belief. I won’t skitter away from it like a scaredy-cat, just because there’s a chance it might be wrong.

Image Credit(s): Dave Fayram/Flickr.

27 thoughts on “Skeptic Shermer Won’t Be Fooled Again; Gets Fooled Again

  1. No, that is only your opinion; no evidence to back that up about Jesus. Saying, period, is irrelevant.

  2. Well put here Tom:

    “…..Moral truths have no scientific tests, though, so on Shermer’s line of thinking, one should never adopt any moral conclusions. The problem with that should be plain, however. Skepticism cannot be known to be a virtue unless one knows of such a thing as virtue. His position incinerates its not only its own logic but also its own reason for being……”

    Zooming in a bit….

    “…..not only its own logic but also its own reason for being……”

  3. Unfortunately, Tom, I am unable to access the video here from your link. Something about being “not available from your location. Can you tell me when it was broadcast & I might be able to access it on Youtube.

  4. “Under the surface, though, Shermer’s got another theme going on. Hardly anyone talks about this one — even though atheists and “skeptics” do it all the time.
    That theme goes something like this: Never let yourself get fooled. Suspend judgment. On everything. Make certain it’s certain before you buy into it. Never believe anything that might not be true.”

    That’s a strawman. Skeptics want good evidence to believe something. They do not claim to only believe things they are certain of. Most of them would claim you could never be certain of anything, ergo they would not believe anything, and no-one could function that way. Skeptics have beliefs. They just want the confidence in their beliefs to be on par with the evidence for those beliefs.

    Atheists only claim there is no good evidence to believe any god exists. They make no claim about needing to be certain of things before believing in them at all.

    “Likewise with religion. Shermer refuses to land, because he might land in the wrong place. No, it’s worse than that: He sees that there are wrong places to land — there must be, considering their contradictions — and concludes therefore that there is no right place to land.”

    No. It’s that he has no evidence that there is any place to land at all. So he with holds belief in a place to land, until good reasons for a belief can be demonstrated.

    “Let me replay it in case you missed it: Every religion has a chance of being false, therefore we should conclude that none of them is true.”

    No. It’s that we should not conclude that one of them is true, until we have good reason to believe that it is true. You quote him saying “What kind of experiment could we possibly run to tell the difference between whether this is the one true religion or this is the one true religion?”. He is looking for a demonstration that one of them is true. He is with holding a belief, not making a conclusion (which is a different type of belief).

    “There’s another version: Our experimental methods, designed to give us heuristic knowledge about the natural world, don’t give us certain knowledge in the extra-natural world; therefore we conclude that there is no knowledge of the extra-natural world.”

    This seems closer to accurate. But it’s more, “Our experimental methods which can only examine the natural world, do not give knowledge of an extra-natural world; therefore we have no knowledge of an extra-natural world.”

    I think you want to claim that knowledge of the extra-natural world can be gained through methods other than natural world experimentation, but then that would be on you to show. And as you say the words “Could I be wrong? Sure.” I have no idea how you could show that the reasons for your beliefs of an extra-natural world could demonstrate knowledge.

  5. Shane, did you listen to Shermer’s reason, as he spoke it here, for rejecting religion?

    It doesn’t sound like it.

    Maybe his approach isn’t yours, and I never said it fit all skeptics. but based on what he said, it’s his. It’s others’ as well. Not everyone’s and apparently not yours. But the fact that you don’t follow Shermer’s logic doesn’t falsify my criticism of his logic.

  6. Like Kim Beazley, I’m in Australia and can’t get access to the content. All I can respond to is your direct quotes of what he said. If you didn’t choose appropriate quotes that represent his position, then that is on you. Maybe your criticism about his actual position is valid, but all I can see is you arguing against something that you didn’t quote him saying. Hence, strawman.

  7. Now, that’s charitable. (Not.)

    Good grief. I didn’t know this would be inaccessible to some people. I didn’t create it to be inaccessible. The fact that some people cannot hear what I’m responding to does not make my response fallacious.

    That’s just outrageous, and I can’t believe you’d go there. Really, really unbelievable.

    You could have said, “I can’t tell what you’re responding to, and therefore I don’t know what the discussion is about. That’s frustrating.”

    Instead you said in effect, “I can’t tell what you’re responding to, therefore what you’ve said is a straw man.”

    That’s. Just. Wrong.

    Did you see comment 7? The original is at http://www.cc.com/video-clips/z2r2b0/the-colbert-report-michael-shermer. If you can’t access that, then there’s something going on of which I had no knowledge and over which I have no control. Are you going to call that a defect in my character or my rationality, too?

  8. “Good grief. I didn’t know this would be inaccessible to some people. I didn’t create it to be inaccessible. The fact that some people cannot hear what I’m responding to does not make my response fallacious.”

    I’m not saying it does make your response fallacious. Just that you haven’t represented what your responding to very well.

    “That’s just outrageous, and I can’t believe you’d go there. Really, really unbelievable.”

    I don’t know what’s so unbelievable or outrageous.

    “You could have said, “I can’t tell what you’re responding to, and therefore I don’t know what the discussion is about. That’s frustrating.”

    Instead you said in effect, “I can’t tell what you’re responding to, therefore what you’ve said is a straw man.”

    That’s. Just. Wrong.”

    You quoted Sherman. Than you made an argument against a position which is represented by the quote. Should I know that your quote isn’t actually representative of his position, or is taken out of context?

    “Did you see comment 7? The original is at http://www.cc.com/video-clips/z2r2b0/the-colbert-report-michael-shermer. If you can’t access that, then there’s something going on of which I had no knowledge and over which I have no control.”

    You’ll see that your comment 7 and my reply were posted at exactly the same minute, so no, I didn’t see it before I posted. But I cannot access it either.

    ” Are you going to call that a defect in my character or my rationality, too?”

    Where have I said you character or rationality is defective? I just don’t think the quotes you used of Sherman show that he has taken the position you are attacking.

  9. Umm, Shane, you did say it made my response fallacious: “Hence, strawman.”

    I’m sorry you can’t get to the conversation I’m responding to. I had no idea that would happen. I wrote this post as a response to all that he said in this short video, not just the few quotes I highlighted from it. You aren’t in a position to know what’s going on (for reasons out of my control), so in that case it would behoove you not to try to assess my response.

  10. “Umm, Shane, you did say it made my response fallacious: “Hence, strawman.””

    Yes. I don’t know what that line is supposed to be rebutting in my previous post. But I’ll quote you again,

    “Under the surface, though, Shermer’s got another theme going on. Hardly anyone talks about this one — even though atheists and “skeptics” do it all the time.

    That theme goes something like this: Never let yourself get fooled. Suspend judgment. On everything. Make certain it’s certain before you buy into it. Never believe anything that might not be true.”

    And as I said, skeptics don’t do it all the time. A skeptic that didn’t believe anything they weren’t certain of, when they acknowledge they can’t be certain of anything, would never believe anything at all, and would be unable to function. The claim that “skeptics do it all the time” is a strawman. I don’t need to see the video to see the falsity in your statement.

    If you quoted Shermer saying something along the lines of, “Suspend judgement on everything. Never believe anything that you are not certain is true.” then you could say something about Shermers beliefs. But it seems you can’t quote him saying that, and the best you can do is, “under the surface, Shermer’s got another theme going on.” It seems you are reaching, and unable to back up your theory with anything as concrete as a direct quote.

  11. Give it a break, Shane. I didn’t say all skeptics do it. I wrote it for people who could view the video, so I didn’t quote every word I was responding to. Quit ragging on me as if I haven’t already explained all this.

  12. No. It’s that we should not conclude that one of them is true, until we have good reason to believe that it is true.

    Yet atheists believe atheism is true and have no better evidence for it’s truth, if not quite a bit less, than those who believe in God.

  13. “That’s a strawman. Skeptics want good evidence to believe something.”

    No, they don’t. Not even close. Not even in the same galaxy cluster. Skeptics are not skeptical about their belief that they can trust their brain even though this brain evolved over 3.8 billion years of asexual and sexual inbreeding through a genetic code cobbled together by chance. They are not skeptical about their patently absurd belief that the universe and its laws popped into existence through unintelligent processes. They are not skeptical about their belief (not based on any evidence) that the genetic code and life arose unintelligently.

    “Atheists only claim there is no good evidence to believe any god exists.”

    That’s agnosticism. Atheism is the claim that there is no God.
    https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/atheism-agnosticism/

    “No. It’s that he has no evidence that there is any place to land at all. So he withholds belief in a place to land, until good reasons for a belief can be demonstrated.”

    Shermer has landed. Anyone who makes a claim about reality has reached a port, whether that port is a traditional religion, agnosticism, atheism, or other. No one can leave at sea forever. Everyone has a worldview.

    “He is looking for a demonstration that one of them is true. He is withholding a belief, not making a conclusion (which is a different type of belief).”

    Shermer is not withholding belief. He mocks religion on Twitter. He’s long reached a belief, along with all other atheists (?) who claim on paper that “they lack belief” (but see how Stanford’s encyclopedia of philosophy rips into the “lack of belief” nonsense) while mocking religion.

    “This seems closer to accurate. But it’s more, “Our experimental methods which can only examine the natural world, do not give knowledge of an extra-natural world; therefore we have no knowledge of an extra-natural world.”

    No, Tom’s definition is more accurate. Atheists really conclude that, since science can only study the natural world, there CANNOT BE knowledge of the extra-natural world since they really believe that science is the only appropriate tool to gain knowledge of the world, They are very adamant about this, which, of course, is the self-refuting fallacy of Scientism.

    “I think you want to claim that knowledge of the extra-natural world can be gained through methods other than natural world experimentation, but then that would be on you to show. And as you say the words “Could I be wrong? Sure.” I have no idea how you could show that the reasons for your beliefs of an extra-natural world could demonstrate knowledge.”

    The knowledge of the extra-natural world can be gained through BOTH from the insights on this world that we get from science AND from other fields of knowledge like logic and philosophy. We can learn from science how this world operates and insights on the qualities and characteristics required of the extranatural (supernatural) entity to be able to create this world. And from logic and philosophy, we can make hypotheses on what options we have as the posssible creative entities of this world, and we can exclude the ones that do not pass the test based on logic, philosophy, and science.

    We can use logic:
    https://www.quora.com/Religion-What-is-the-logical-evidence-for-God/answer/Francesco-Scinico-1

    Science and philosophy:
    https://www.quora.com/How-can-I-start-believing-in-God/answer/Francesco-Scinico-1

    And we can exclude those worldviews that don’t pass the self-consistency test.
    https://www.quora.com/Is-atheism-somewhat-irrational/answer/Francesco-Scinico-1

  14. “Yet atheists believe atheism is true and have no better evidence for it’s truth, if not quite a bit less, than those who believe in God.”

    By definition, my atheism says, “I don’t believe in a god.” That is a true statement. It is self evidently true to me.

  15. “Give it a break, Shane. I didn’t say all skeptics do it.”

    And I didn’t say you did. Criticising my post by implying I said something I didn’t, is … oh what’s the word …

  16. “No, they don’t. Not even close. Not even in the same galaxy cluster. Skeptics are not skeptical about their belief that they can trust their brain even though this brain evolved over 3.8 billion years of asexual and sexual inbreeding through a genetic code cobbled together by chance.”

    The belief that you can trust your brain, is based on years of life experience. If the brain can be demonstrated to help you navigate through the world on a second by second basis, you end up with a lot of reasons to trust your brain. The history of how my brain evolved is irrelevant to how trustworthy it is right now.

    “They are not skeptical about their patently absurd belief that the universe and its laws popped into existence through unintelligent processes. They are not skeptical about their belief (not based on any evidence) that the genetic code and life arose unintelligently.”

    I think you’re generalising here, as you’re not quoting anything that is definitively part of a skeptics belief. Different skeptics believe different things.

    “That’s agnosticism. Atheism is the claim that there is no God.”

    Nope. Gnosticism is related to knowledge. Theism is related to beliefs. I am an agnostic atheist, in that I do not know if there is a god, and I do not believe in any gods. An agnostic theist, would say they do not know there is a god, but they believe in their god. Etc.

    “Shermer has landed. Anyone who makes a claim about reality has reached a port, whether that port is a traditional religion, agnosticism, atheism, or other. No one can leave at sea forever. Everyone has a worldview.”

    As I have said, I can’t watch the video, but Tom made the comparison of not choosing a religion, because it might be wrong, to not landing at a port, because it might be the wrong port. He then quoted Shermer asking how could you test to see if religion a is correct, or religion b? So my comment was clarifying, that it is not equivalent to not choosing a port to land at, because choosing a port means choosing a religion. And there are plenty of people that don’t do that.

    “Shermer is not withholding belief. He mocks religion on Twitter. He’s long reached a belief, along with all other atheists (?) who claim on paper that “they lack belief” (but see how Stanford’s encyclopedia of philosophy rips into the “lack of belief” nonsense) while mocking religion.”

    All I’m responding to is Tom’s post.

    “No, Tom’s definition is more accurate. Atheists really conclude that, since science can only study the natural world, there CANNOT BE knowledge of the extra-natural world since they really believe that science is the only appropriate tool to gain knowledge of the world, They are very adamant about this, which, of course, is the self-refuting fallacy of Scientism.”

    Well I’m an atheist, and I don’t conclude that, so it appears that you and Tom are mistaken.

    “The knowledge of the extra-natural world can be gained through BOTH from the insights on this world that we get from science AND from other fields of knowledge like logic and philosophy. We can learn from science how this world operates and insights on the qualities and characteristics required of the extranatural (supernatural) entity to be able to create this world. And from logic and philosophy, we can make hypotheses on what options we have as the posssible creative entities of this world, and we can exclude the ones that do not pass the test based on logic, philosophy, and science.”

    Can we make exhaustive hypotheses about the extra-natural world, based on our existence in the natural world? Even if we can make a list of things that we can exclude from the extra-natural world, which I’m not sure you can, is there anything you can say about the extra-natural world that is definitive fact?

    “We can use logic:
    https://www.quora.com/Religion-What-is-the-logical-evidence-for-God/answer/Francesco-Scinico-1
    To discuss your points here:
    6 – Time began with our Universe, so how could there be a “cause” for the beginnings of Time? There was no “before” for the cause to create the effect.
    7 – How do you know “from nothing, nothing comes”?
    9 – There cause of the universe could be contingent, but the cause of the cause could be necessary. Also, we don’t have an infinite past. Our past is 13.72 Billion years. To talk about an infinite past before time existed is illogical.
    11 – I couldn’t follow the link from this number, but why does “not intelligent” equal chance? Gravity is not intelligent, but it is a constant force and could in no way be described as “chance”.

    “Science and philosophy:
    https://www.quora.com/How-can-I-start-believing-in-God/answer/Francesco-Scinico-1

    Sorry, this was way too long for me to read at the moment.

    “And we can exclude those worldviews that don’t pass the self-consistency test.
    https://www.quora.com/Is-atheism-somewhat-irrational/answer/Francesco-Scinico-1

    Your conclusion doesn’t follow your premises at all. Premise 1 is about beliefs. Premise 2 is about evidence. And your conclusion is about “judgement” which appears to be a third thing.

    “If premise 2 is true, it follows that the human brain overwhelmingly selects the lie of religion over the truth of atheism because the lie offers an evolutionary advantage (survival trumps truth). Thus, our brain evolved to be unreliable on this matter,”

    Nope. That doesn’t follow. Anymore than it was an evolutionary advantage to belief the Earth was flat, or that Earth was the center of the Universe. We can be wrong about all sorts of things that don’t affect us at all.

    The rest of the post seems more of the same.

    But all three of them seem to be point to things in the natural world. So back to my question, what extra-natural world facts can you point to, based on our experience in the natural world?

  17. By definition, my atheism says, “I don’t believe in a god.” That is a true statement. It is self evidently true to me.

    And that self evidence makes your belief true no matter any other evidence.

  18. “The belief that you can trust your brain, is based on years of life experience. If the brain can be demonstrated to help you navigate through the world on a second by second basis, you end up with a lot of reasons to trust your brain. The history of how my brain evolved is irrelevant to how trustworthy it is right now.”

    Shane, this strikes me as being a bit circular. Your past experience somehow gives you reason to believe that your brain is reliable. But how could you know that you had reasoned correctly to this conclusion unless you ALREADY trusted the reliability of your brain? Moreover, if you’re relying on your memory to tell you that these past experiences actually happened, then wouldn’t you have to trust your brain in that regard, too?

  19. “The belief that you can trust your brain, is based on years of life experience. If the brain can be demonstrated to help you navigate through the world on a second by second basis, you end up with a lot of reasons to trust your brain. The history of how my brain evolved is irrelevant to how trustworthy it is right now.”

    That belief that you can trust your brain is provided by your brain. Your brain is providing you that life experience, the confirmation from the external world, everything. Everything is filtered by your brain. You could be a Boltzmann brain and never know it. See The Matrix for ideas. The problem with your worldview is that your brain is the product of 3.8 billion years of asexual and sexual inbreeding through a genetic code cobbled together by chance. Not a great foundation for trusting the reliability of your brain. Why are skeptics not skeptical about this?

    “I think you’re generalising here, as you’re not quoting anything that is definitively part of a skeptics belief. Different skeptics believe different things.”

    But all skeptics are apparently not skeptical about chance being able to cobble together a universe immediately governed by precise physical and chemical parameters, a sophisticated base-4 genetic code that can compile life forms from inorganic matter and start life from this code. Imagine that.

    “Nope. Gnosticism is related to knowledge. Theism is related to beliefs. I am an agnostic atheist, in that I do not know if there is a god, and I do not believe in any gods. An agnostic theist, would say they do not know there is a god, but they believe in their god. Etc.”

    No. Read Stanford’s article on atheism and agnosticism. It’s very clear. Theism is the proposition that there is a God. Atheism is the proposition that there is no God. Agnosticism is the proposition that we cannot know. That’s it. It’s simple. The rest is psychological states that cannot be argued and are thus dismissed without evidence.

    “As I have said, I can’t watch the video, but Tom made the comparison of not choosing a religion, because it might be wrong, to not landing at a port, because it might be the wrong port. He then quoted Shermer asking how could you test to see if religion a is correct, or religion b? So my comment was clarifying, that it is not equivalent to not choosing a port to land at, because choosing a port means choosing a religion. And there are plenty of people that don’t do that.”

    Everybody chooses a religion. A religion is a system of values that one holds sacred. Shermer has a religion (even though he may not call it that). And you do, too, or you wouldn’t be here arguing with theists. No one argues psychological states. Only propositions can be argued.

    “Can we make exhaustive hypotheses about the extra-natural world, based on our existence in the natural world? Even if we can make a list of things that we can exclude from the extra-natural world, which I’m not sure you can, is there anything you can say about the extra-natural world that is definitive fact?”

    Yes, we can. The supernatural entity that created nature (aka our universe or spacetime) is conscious, logical, free, mathematical, highly intelligent (see sophistication of the genetic code).

    “To discuss your points here:
    6 – Time began with our Universe, so how could there be a “cause” for the beginnings of Time? There was no “before” for the cause to create the effect.”

    The cause is ontological, not temporal.

    “7 – How do you know “from nothing, nothing comes”?”

    Because to believe otherwise is to believe in magic.

    “9 – There cause of the universe could be contingent, but the cause of the cause could be necessary.”

    Yes, it could be, but it violates Occam’s razor. And it doesn’t remove the eternal, immaterial God. It just pushes it back one or more stages.

    “Also, we don’t have an infinite past. Our past is 13.72 Billion years. To talk about an infinite past before time existed is illogical.”

    Agreed.

    “11 – I couldn’t follow the link from this number, but why does “not intelligent” equal chance? Gravity is not intelligent, but it is a constant force and could in no way be described as “chance”.

    I know. Gravity is not chance. Gravity is a law. Laws are descriptive, not prescriptive. The immaterial laws of phsysics are just our description of what’s going on within our spacetime. They don’t make anything do anything, and cannot create spacetime since they started with spacetime and are merely descriptions of how spacetime operates. If we said that the immaterial laws of physics created our spacetime, we would have immaterial, eternal laws able to create a spacetime continuum. They are basically God by another name.

    “Your conclusion doesn’t follow your premises at all. Premise 1 is about beliefs. Premise 2 is about evidence. And your conclusion is about “judgement” which appears to be a third thing.”

    Those beliefs in P1 are reached based on evidence. Great minds like Aristotle, Aquinas, Einstein did not conclude a First Cause based on random beliefs.

    “Nope. That doesn’t follow. Anymore than it was an evolutionary advantage to belief the Earth was flat, or that Earth was the center of the Universe. We can be wrong about all sorts of things that don’t affect us at all.”

    How many people in the world today believe the earth is flat? Not the same thing as belief in the supernatural at all.

    “The rest of the post seems more of the same.”

    Not at all. The rest of the post highlights the incoherence of atheists and agnostics debating theists on religion when it’s obvious that religion offers an evolutionary advantage. And it also argues the deeper incoherence of the adherents to atheistic materialism in debating theists since, according to the former, there is no free will anyway.

    Not more of the same at all.

    “But all three of them seem to be point to things in the natural world. So back to my question, what extra-natural world facts can you point to, based on our experience in the natural world?”

    Since Nature had a beginning, and this beginning coincides with the beginning of STEM (spacetime, energy, matter), we can conclude that the simplest explanation is that Nature is the creation of a supernatural entity that is NOT part of STEM and that is able to create STEM from immaterial concepts like logic, math, information. Since concepts are thoughts, this entity is an immaterial intellect. Since time had a beginning, this entity is eternal. Since Nature did not “have to” exist, this creative entity is free (free to choose whether to create Nature or not). Since life within spacetime is based on a highly sophisticated base-4 genetic code, this creative entity is intelligent. Since the original expansion of space time was exquisitely precise (one part in 10^24) to avoid a Big Crunch or failure to form matter, we know this creative entity is highly mathematical. Since the observable universe contains 10^82 atoms and the whole universe is potentially spatially infinite, and since the laws of physics are merely descriptive, we know this entity’s computational power to hold the universe in existence in real time is unfathomable.

    That’s why we call this entity GOD.

  20. “And that self evidence makes your belief true no matter any other evidence.”

    My belief about what I don’t believe? What other evidence could there? It must come from within me, and therefore must be self evident.

  21. Hi Sam,

    “Shane, this strikes me as being a bit circular. Your past experience somehow gives you reason to believe that your brain is reliable. But how could you know that you had reasoned correctly to this conclusion unless you ALREADY trusted the reliability of your brain? Moreover, if you’re relying on your memory to tell you that these past experiences actually happened, then wouldn’t you have to trust your brain in that regard, too?”

    It is circular. But it’s exactly how it works. As our brain forms, we cannot have memory of past experience, and no idea on how reliable our memory is. But during our formative years, we begin to remember, and use those memories to choose actions in the present. In this way, what was a helpless baby, becomes a toddler that learns to walk, talk and interact with it’s surroundings. These things happen because the brain remembers, and use those memories navigate the present. We can also witness people born with malfunctioning brains, that have trouble doing those things.

  22. I’m not going to have time for all this before works, but I’ll make a start.

    “That belief that you can trust your brain is provided by your brain. Your brain is providing you that life experience, the confirmation from the external world, everything. Everything is filtered by your brain. You could be a Boltzmann brain and never know it. See The Matrix for ideas. The problem with your worldview is that your brain is the product of 3.8 billion years of asexual and sexual inbreeding through a genetic code cobbled together by chance. Not a great foundation for trusting the reliability of your brain. Why are skeptics not skeptical about this?”

    I can make choices that lead to expected outcomes. Typing here is leading to words, that transfer the thoughts in my head into your head, so you can respond to them. So I know it works. Could I be a brain in a vat? Sure. But that wouldn’t change the fact that my actions lead to expected outcomes.

    “But all skeptics are apparently not skeptical about chance being able to cobble together a universe immediately governed by precise physical and chemical parameters, a sophisticated base-4 genetic code that can compile life forms from inorganic matter and start life from this code. Imagine that.”

    I know. Amazing.

    “No. Read Stanford’s article on atheism and agnosticism. It’s very clear. Theism is the proposition that there is a God. Atheism is the proposition that there is no God. Agnosticism is the proposition that we cannot know. That’s it. It’s simple. The rest is psychological states that cannot be argued and are thus dismissed without evidence.”

    Is it possible for someone to believe the proposition “that we cannot know” and simultaneously believe the proposition “there is a God”?

    “A religion is a system of values that one holds sacred.”

    You’ve just redefined religion there.

    “Yes, we can. The supernatural entity that created nature (aka our universe or spacetime) is conscious, logical, free, mathematical, highly intelligent (see sophistication of the genetic code).”

    I am asking about the extra-natural world.

    “Because to believe otherwise is to believe in magic.”

    And how do you know there is no such thing as magic in the extra-natural world?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: