The God Delusion

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Postby Johannes_Kostaja » Wed Oct 10, 2007 7:35 pm

Crisper wrote:For instance, I could put forward this opinion: the existence of a deity is not required to understand the world we experience


You can replace "a deity" with almost anything in that statement, and it remains true. (Think of solipsism, etc.)

Therefore, if we go by that criterion, the following will also be true of those other things:

and therefore belief in __________ is not a reasonable position to hold.




So, where does that leave us? (Oops, sorry.. can't use that expression, since the existence of other minds is not required to understand the world I experience.)
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Postby Crisper » Wed Oct 10, 2007 7:45 pm

Johannes_Kostaja wrote:
Crisper wrote:For instance, I could put forward this opinion: the existence of a deity is not required to understand the world we experience


You can replace "a deity" with almost anything in that statement, and it remains true. (Think of solipsism, etc.)

Therefore, if we go by that criterion, the following will also be true of those other things:

and therefore belief in __________ is not a reasonable position to hold.




So, where does that leave us? (Oops, sorry.. can't use that expression, since the existence of other minds is not required to understand the world I experience.)


Excellent. I totally don't understand your post, which means I am about to learn something.

Explain how this works using the cat which is sitting near me. In my view, for me to understand the world I am experiencing, I have to believe in this cat. Therefore belief in the cat is reasonable.
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Postby Johannes_Kostaja » Wed Oct 10, 2007 8:00 pm

Crisper wrote:
Johannes_Kostaja wrote:
Crisper wrote:For instance, I could put forward this opinion: the existence of a deity is not required to understand the world we experience


You can replace "a deity" with almost anything in that statement, and it remains true. (Think of solipsism, etc.)

Therefore, if we go by that criterion, the following will also be true of those other things:

and therefore belief in __________ is not a reasonable position to hold.




So, where does that leave us? (Oops, sorry.. can't use that expression, since the existence of other minds is not required to understand the world I experience.)


Excellent. I totally don't understand your post, which means I am about to learn something.

Explain how this works using the cat which is sitting near me. In my view, for me to understand the world I am experiencing, I have to believe in this cat. Therefore belief in the cat is reasonable.



Consider the following hypothesis:

What you take to be your perception of the external world (including that middle-sized object you call a cat) is a mere illusion. Furthermore, what you take to be your memories of previous perceptions, are also illusory.

There is nothing in your experience of the "world" that this hypothesis fails to explain. There's nothing that you could use to falsify it (if you appealed to your apparent perceptions or memories of such perceptions, you would be arguing in a circle).

So this shows that nothing beyond your immediate consciousness is required to explain your experiences of the world. Therefore, if you use the priciple you appealed to in your previous post, you should conclude that there are a lot more entities that are not "required" to explain your experiences of the world than just God. (And consequently, it's not reasonable to believe in their existence.)

Obviously, that's not my view. That's my argument against your principle for determining what is a reasonable position.
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Postby Crisper » Wed Oct 10, 2007 8:10 pm

Johannes_Kostaja wrote:
Consider the following hypothesis:

What you take to be your perception of the external world (including that middle-sized object you call a cat) is a mere illusion. Furthermore, what you take to be your memories of previous perceptions, are also illusory.

There is nothing in your experience of the "world" that this hypothesis fails to explain. There's nothing that you could use to falsify it (if you appealed to your apparent perceptions or memories of such perceptions, you would be arguing in a circle).

So this shows that nothing beyond your immediate consciousness is required to explain your experiences of the world. Therefore, if you use the priciple you appealed to in your previous post, you should conclude that there are a lot more entities that are not "required" to explain your experiences of the world than just God. (And consequently, it's not reasonable to believe in their existence.)

Obviously, that's not my view. That's my argument against your principle for determining what is a reasonable position.


Okay, but what if I do not accept the hypothesis? In other words, I deny that the material world around me is an illusion, and I deny that my cat is one too.

From within that belief system, can I not still determine that a deity is not logically required to explain the world around me? And therefore can I not make a judgement about the reasonableness of believing in one?
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Postby Johannes_Kostaja » Wed Oct 10, 2007 8:25 pm

Crisper wrote:Okay, but what if I do not accept the hypothesis? In other words, I deny that the material world around me is an illusion, and I deny that my cat is one too.

From within that belief system, can I not still determine that a deity is not logically required to explain the world around me? And therefore can I not make a judgement about the reasonableness of believing in one?


Sure. But what are your grounds for denying that hypothesis? If you apply exactly the same type of reasoning to the existence of the objects of your perception (they are not required to explain your experience), shouldn't you admit that belief in their existence is unreasonable, since there are explanations for your perceptions that that don't require the existence of those objects of perception? The fact is that very few things are "logically required" to explain anything.

Perhaps there are other grounds for dismissing the belief in God as unreasonable (or perhaps there are no such grounds). My only point is that if the principle that you appealed to is your sole ground for rejecting belief in God as unreasonable, consistency would require you to reject the existence of almost everything that you in fact take to be real.
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Postby Crisper » Wed Oct 10, 2007 8:33 pm

Johannes_Kostaja wrote:
Sure. But what are your grounds for denying that hypothesis? If you apply exactly the same type of reasoning to the existence of the objects of your perception (they are not required to explain your experience), shouldn't you admit that belief in their existence is unreasonable, since there are explanations for your perceptions that that don't require the existence of those objects of perception? The fact is that very few things are "logically required" to explain anything.

Perhaps there are other grounds for dismissing the belief in God as unreasonable (or perhaps there are no such grounds). My only point is that if the principle that you appealed to is your sole ground for rejecting belief in God as unreasonable, consistency would require you to reject the existence of almost everything that you in fact take to be real.


Thanks, I get it now. That does seem to be a fatal flaw in the way I tried to express the position I was describing.

I will see if I can modify the original principle in a way that reflects the distinction which I want to make between those things which are naively "real" and those which are not.
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Postby Hungry Ghost » Wed Oct 10, 2007 9:16 pm

Regarding burdens of proof, I'm inclined to look at it rhetorically. The burden of proof lies with whoever wants to convince somebody else of something. If the other person doesn't already agree with you, they are unlikely to suddenly start doing so unless they are given some convincing reason why they should.

I'm not sure if that burden is always met by proof though. In most conversation, persuasive arguments fall well short of logical demonstration. In fact, given the conditions of insufficient information in which most human decisions are made, proof is usually impossible anyway.

Moving on to another idea in this very interesting thread, my fear is that unless I employ some principle of intellectual parsimony, my ontology will end up infested with fairies, gnomes and invisible demons from comet Hale Bopp. There's an infinite number of things whose existence I haven't disproved, but I don't feel obligated to believe in all of them either.

I'll happily admit that all of those things might exist as possibilities, but without any evidence of their existence, I feel pretty safe in saying that they probably aren't actualities.

So when it comes to existence claims at least, my automatic default condition is disbelief when there doesn't seem to be any good reason to believe. I don't feel any real need to justify that disbelief. It's Occam's razor, I guess.
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The problem is

Postby DTechBA » Wed Oct 10, 2007 9:28 pm

Siniestro wrote:DTechBA, actually Brandon is right. There is a fallacy called "argument from ignorance" which takes place when it is argued that a propositition (that God exists, that God doesn't exist, existence, non existence, whatever) is true (or false) because it hasn't been proved false (or true). So if one argues that there does not exist God because it hasn't been proved his existence then that is a fallacy of this type. If someone makes a proposition. And you are actually falling in this type of fallacies by stating that "evidence for a nonexistence is already present as it has not yet been proven to exist in the first place." Conversely, the type of error could be someone saying UFOs exist because they have never been disproved. Brandon is right in saying that burden of proof falls on anyone making a proposition, whatever proposition even it is trivial.


Brandon is nowhere near right. Brandon stated that it is always incumbent on someone making a claim to prove it. In this case the claim was that God does not exist. Simply put, in research the onus is ALWAYS on proving the existence of something or at least proving that there is no other logical explanation. Proving the non-existence of something is virtually impossible and the argument to prove non-existence is a very common fallacious argument.
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Postby Hungry Ghost » Wed Oct 10, 2007 9:59 pm

Crisper wrote:For instance, I could put forward this opinion: the existence of a deity is not required to understand the world we experience

I agree with that.

Somebody could argue that the world we experience is dependent on some god for its existence, so that the deity is necessary in that ontological sense. I don't know of any convincing reason to believe that though.

But it's pretty clear that no particular god is necessary as an explanatory principle in understanding the world we experience. That's the case because there isn't any single deity that everyone on earth believes in. I suppose that somebody could argue that those who don't believe in the right god don't really understand the world, but again I have no reason to believe that's the case.

And I have real doubts about whether a totally mysterious, unobservable and omnipotent being would successfully work as an explanatory principle, at least in any normal sense. Since any possible state of affairs would be consistent with the workings of such a being, it would be little more than a deus ex machina.

Where the divine explanation might work better is in a poetic sense, allowing us to give events a more personal meaning. A mishap might become divine punishment, for example.
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Postby Siniestro » Wed Oct 10, 2007 10:34 pm

Hungry Ghost wrote:I do sense that there's a subtle pattern to it, but I'm not sure what that pattern is, what it means or what explains it. Does religion fulfill valuable functions in human life and society? Does it point to something beyond itself, something real and transcendent? Or is it just some meaningless and conceivably disfunctional byproduct of our emotional and cognitive processes?


Well, it could be as well that man has a psychological need to understand everything that surrounds him and when something escapes to his knowledge he resorts to magic and religion to explain the unexplainable. Some people fulfill that need, that has been propagated generation after generation, by art, others with beautiful women, or friendship, and others with alcohol and Prozac. Still others fall back on gods and religious beliefs to calm that psychological urge. Take a look at the master piece The Scream by Munch to understand that angst to know we are alone in an absurd world in which we are responsible before us of our actions and decisions. I am pretty sure I do feel the message Munch tried to convey. I think your third question makes a lot more sense more sense to me.

Regarding the valuable function in human life or society of religion, it is obvious that it does so from an utilitarian perspective religion is acceptable. The lack of religion drives us directly to a failure to build a epistemology and a degradation of values to a relativism. If God doesn't exist, then no moral and ethical law apply as they are a product of man and therefore none are universal. This is the danger and this is where religion plays an important role because as Nietzsche predicted the death of God leads to nihilism which in turn leads to decadence and destruction. However, this is the challenge, to build something meaningful from the basis of a purposeless universe without the aid of a God who either doesn't exist or it is indifferent to us. Existentialist did try, and I think this is the main issue for many intellectuals at this moment.

Other than this, religion has been traditionally subject to manipulation and used to control the population, to divide people, to create a feeling of otherness, etc. Wars, death, violence, hate, divisions,... Not a good deal for many.
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Postby Siniestro » Wed Oct 10, 2007 10:39 pm

Crisper wrote:For instance, I could put forward this opinion: the existence of a deity is not required to understand the world we experience


I don't agree. If that deity intervenes, then we need to know of his existence to understand the world we experience. If that deity would be a silent observer without participation, then I would agree with your proposition.
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Re: The problem is

Postby Siniestro » Wed Oct 10, 2007 10:41 pm

DTechBA wrote:Brandon is nowhere near right. Brandon stated that it is always incumbent on someone making a claim to prove it. In this case the claim was that God does not exist. Simply put, in research the onus is ALWAYS on proving the existence of something or at least proving that there is no other logical explanation. Proving the non-existence of something is virtually impossible and the argument to prove non-existence is a very common fallacious argument.


DBTEchA, Brandon's argument would have been fallacious if he had tried to prove God's existence by demanding others demonstrating His nonexistence. That is the fallacy you may be referring to, but in which Brandon didn't incur. If I understood correctly he merely stated that the burden of proof of any proposal (ANY PROPOSITION) falls on the the one making the proposition, including those about nonexistence or those which are trivial. (I can easily prove there does not exist a cat inside the carton box I am holding right now, and in mathematics, in abstract algegra, in linear algebra, even in geometry or calculus ... don't even get me started, there are many many nice examples of non existence proofs). I am aware non existence in absolute terms is difficult to demonstrate and impossible in many instances. However this fallacy is not about proving non existence but about proving existence by showing the impossibility to prove non existence. Brandon, again if I understood correctly, didn't do that. Nonetheless this is what you said: The evidence for a nonexistence is already present as it has not yet been proven to exist in the first place. So that is why there is no need to prove non existence? Because something has not been proven yet to exist? That is where the fallacy resides.
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Postby Crisper » Wed Oct 10, 2007 10:44 pm

Siniestro wrote:
Crisper wrote:For instance, I could put forward this opinion: the existence of a deity is not required to understand the world we experience


I don't agree. If that deity intervenes, then we need to know of his existence to understand the world we experience. If that deity would be a silent observer without participation, then I would agree with your proposition.


I am not really saying that. What I am saying is "I can explain the world around me without needing to invoke a deity."
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Postby Siniestro » Wed Oct 10, 2007 11:03 pm

Ok, I see, Crisper. But you could only understand it if what you experience is not a direct effect of the work of a deity, if the events you observe follow under cause/effect relationship. Many people believe God send plagues, accidents, earthquakes, .... even rain to reward, to punish, ... So to undertand those phenomena we experience, you need to somehow include the study of the will of that interventionist god. Of course, your statement includes implicitly other options such as that of a god that doesn't participate or simply that of a god that doesn't exist. If god is just entirely outside our universe without the option to participate in it, then I think in principle I would agree with your statement. But then we need to understand his nature (interventionist or not) and even his non existence to discard his participation in the things and events we experience. I guess this is just a little disquisition to create some more controversy and add a little more perspective to the discussion (which is why I come here often, for the quality of these discussions very difficult to find elsewhere on top of my interest for DL). Anyway I hope I explained myself better now.
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Re: The problem is

Postby Brandon » Thu Oct 11, 2007 12:59 am

Siniestro wrote:If I understood correctly he merely stated that the burden of proof of any proposal (ANY PROPOSITION) falls on the the one making the proposition, including those about nonexistence or those which are trivial.


You understood me correctly. Now, as to DTechBA’s comments:

Every affirmative statement carries with it the burden of proof. The burden of proof does not, of course, require one to completely prove their idea. Since you don’t understand what an affirmative statement is, here is an example:

Ex. 1. God is the creator of life and the Universe.

This is an affirmative statement, because it is making the claim that something is the case. The burden of proof falls on the person making this claim.

Ex. 2. God, as defined above, does not exist.

This is also an affirmative statement, because a claim is still being made that something is the case. The burden of proof again falls on whoever is making the claim.

Ex. 3. I am not convinced that God exists.

This is not an affirmative statement. The person who says this has no burden of proof incumbent upon them.

Take, for example, the case of mathematics. I say that 1 + 1 = 3. My friend Gus claims that is not the case. Both of us, since we are making affirmative statements about what 1 + 1 is, are required to offer up proof. Gus can offer up convincing evidence that 1 + 1 really equals 2. Gus would not be required to prove that 1 + 1 does not equal 3 if he states that he is not convinced of my conclusions. In such a scenario, all burden is then on me.

It is the same when someone claims God does or does not exist. Both are difficult to prove but no one gets a pass on the burden of proof, just because their affirmative statement involves non-existence. One thing I can say for Dawkins is that at least he understood this when writing his book.
Be sober and watch: because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about seeking whom he may devour.

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