Three Claims of Uniformitarian Naturalism

Discussion in 'Religion' started by SetiAlpha6, May 27, 2020.

  1. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    If you mean the bit about Ockham's razor, I didn't mean to insult you, I just didn't think that it was particularly relevant to the point that I was making.

    Here's the whole thing and my remarks.

    "If a miracle is not a violation of the laws of nature, then how are we to separate the miraculous from the mundane? Obviously, the only way to do that for sure would be to prove that divine intervention is involved, but such proof is going to be elusive or impossible to find if the divinity is acting through the medium of natural laws."

    These words are the part of the passage that I commented on. If it's possible for something to be a miracle and simultaneously be scientifically indistinguishable from a non-miraculous event, then what kind of evidence can the (misnamed) "skeptic" appeal to to "debunk" it?

    Please be aware that I am not trying to argue for the reality of miracles (something that will likely fly right over the heads of some on Sciforums), let alone tying to convince you to believe in them. I'm merely arguing that conceived in Augustine's manner, miracles are going to be rather difficult to "debunk".

    You continue:

    "Given, then, that we can't prove divine intervention, can we perhaps infer it from circumstances in some way? I think not. For example, how will we distinguish between a fortuitous, unlikely coincidence and a divine act?"

    I agree with that... if the goal was to convince somebody who doesn't believe in miracles that an event was a miracle. As an agnostic, I fall in that category myself. I don't really believe in miracles. I don't consider miracles to be strong theistic evidences. But the issue here isn't convincing me, it's explaining how the (misnamed) "skeptic" can successfully "debunk" somebody else's belief that some event is a miracle.

    What we have is a religious individual A who basically constructs a narrative around events, such that the events are interpreted as meaningful and perhaps even revelatory. Then along comes another individual B, our atheist who has constructed a counter-narrative in which precisely the same events are interpreted as being without any purpose or meaning.

    The events themselves are equally consistent with both narratives. So one's choice of interpretive narrative wouldn't seem to be a function of empirical evidence at all. Hence there wouldn't seem to be any empirical evidence that the atheist could appeal to in order to scientifically "debunk" a miracle.

    "Some people are probably willing to label any fortunate or happy event - the birth of a child, say - as a miracle from God. But there's no evidence at all that such events require any intervention by a god. We are left, therefore, with two options: (1) put the fortunate event down to entirely natural processes; or (2) put the fortunate event down to entirely natural processes manipulated by God. Occam's razor suggests that adding God into the mix is a superfluous hypothesis that should be discarded, since the alternative explanation is simpler and has equal explanatory power."

    Again I agree. But parsimony doesn't really "debunk" the religious person's interpretation, it just provides a reason why the atheist isn't willing to adopt it. Many times (in science particularly) the accepted explanation for something isn't the simplest account. What's more, the religious person could (and probably would) present a counter argument that doesn't depend on metaphysical parsimony at all, arguing that the miraculous interpretation makes the universe a meaningful and emotionally evocative place instead of dehumanizing it.

    "It seems you agree with me, then, that to add God into the interpretation is to add a belief that is not grounded in any objective facts. Why do it, then? The only reason I can see is that it makes the religious person feel good, or it comforts them, or it otherwise appeals to their religious worldview. There's danger in believing things are real just because you'd like them to be real. Don't you think?"

    I agree. If we take that to heart, then we would all need to be agnostics.

    Again, the actual evidence is consistent with both versions. So it isn't really an empirical matter at all. It isn't a scientific question and it can't be settled by use of the mythical "scientific method". It's more about one's choice of metaphysical presumptions and about what kind of metaphysical assumptions one finds most resonant. It's a question of what kind of universe people would rather believe that they live in.

    "Fine, but why assume the source of the meaning is God, rather than in the human beings who assign significance to the events?"

    Fair enough. Atheism is a choice of interpretive principles as well. Just because the atheist chooses to interpret events as having no goal, intention, meaning or purpose doesn't mean that events lack them. If the goal is to "debunk" the choice to interpret events in such a way, the goal still hasn't been met.

    "The relevant point is the one about onus of proof. It should be up to the person alleging a miracle (or 1550 of them) to present the evidence for those miracles and to explain how he knows they are miracles. It is not up to other people to try to prove the negative. The time to believe in the miracle is when there is sufficient evidence to justify belief."

    No,no,no,no. there we disagree.

    The burden of "proof" (actually its a burden of argument) lies with whoever wants to convince somebody else to change their mind. That second person has to be provided with some reason why they would want to.

    Which once again works against the "debunker". If somebody sets out to discredit somebody else's belief, the burden is always going to lie with the one hoping to do the discrediting. The believer won't change their mind unless the atheist succeeds in convincing them.

    Of course if the believer wanted to convince you of the truth of their belief, then the burden would indeed be on them. You won't change your mind unless the believer succeeds in convincing you.
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2020
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  3. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Comparative Religion is about comparing one religion with another, not with discussing the very concept of religion. Philosophy of Religion is very much what the Religion forum is about, even if the rather complex matter is dressed up in tribal clothes and speaks to the lowest denominators.
    All of which speak to matters of philosophy, whether you appreciate that or not. But hey, if you want to low-brow the entire discussion so that you can continue to feed off the bottom of the tank, that's up to you. But let's not try to pull down those who are at least trying to float upward.
    Then raise the level of discussion, rather than sinking to their level. And simply going "science this, science that," is barely lifting your head above the trench. It is merely engaging in the seemingly eternal war from behind a perceived barrier.
    I honestly do not recognise that as being part and parcel of religion. Maybe a few that require their people to go out and preach - in which case it may well be a matter of pretense on their part. Sure, most practitioners have ingrained responses to such big questions, but most, at least in my experience, don't pretend they really have the answers to any such questions. At best they have faith that the answer is what they hope it is.
    But perhaps if you want to only discuss with the stereotypical Bible-belt believer, then maybe the Comparative Religion is the place for you - comparing the "opponent"'s religion against the absence thereof.
    When reading your responses on the Religion forum I actually wonder why you post. You seem to respond not to engage, not to discuss, but simply to put people in their place - at least in what you see as their place. And when someone comes along that is more than happy to discuss, and actually trying to encourage the discussion of, the wider aspects of Religion, you spend your time trying to justify why you are happy in the trenches.
    Let me ask you: after all these years that you've been here, have you actually learnt anything from the Religion forum?
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  5. Xelasnave.1947 Valued Senior Member

    But without pretence we would have no religion at all and probably very little philosophy to boot.

    You see these folk actually believe that we, who they put at the bottom of the tank in some arrogant effort to elevate their self delusion to indulge the pretence of superior intelligence, are incapable of the lofty thoughts they associate with spirituality...and consider us incapable of grasping even the basics of philosophy...

    Then we find they employ a tactic of taking our simple statements defining reasonable rules of evidence and restating it to move the burden of proof from where it should be to where they can avoid addressing what is before them in an honest manner.

    I do not want to comment in the discussion between James and Yazata but to outline my point to you I think the following illustrates my point without butting into their discussion.

    James made a reasonable statement that you could think is entirely clear and certainly just the way of notice the deplorable response.

    Is this the top of the pond thinking?

    The burden of proof even by the revised definition still lies with the person making the claim but what a sneaky attempt to change the rules.

    And there is no need to examine what a miracle is and is not in varying degrees but to examine the basic claim. Those who claim miracles claim as a common thread thru all, that a miracle is an act of god..that is the claim, that is the claim that they must support, it is not about changing belief or what is inside or outside is without question a claim that this event under examination, a miracle, is an act of god..that is the claim and that claim must be backed up by who makes it and any suggestion otherwise is a blatant dishonest attempt to avoid addressing where the burden of proof doth lay...

    I sometimes wonder if the goal of philosophy is merely to examine all possibities without requirement to return to reality. I do love the tree falling in the Forrest.. you know if no one is there does it make a noise..well one can argue for and against until the cows come home but really what does it matter..does wasting hours considering the case for or against really prove one has the intelligence of one from the top of the tank or does it prove the I now have a similar situation that of considering a proposition that is of absolutely no importance to anyone...I have become a philosopher ..maybe it is because I am getting old and much of my brain is ceasing to function and I now wander and dither forgetting my way back to reality..yes definetly philosopher material.
    What do you think? Is it not reasonable for folk making a claim to back it up?
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  7. paddoboy Valued Senior Member

    I once quoted a quote, which got me offside with our philosophical friends....
    "Science is what we know: Philosophy is what we don't know." Bertrend Russell [from memory]
    You'll always get arguments on that score, from our ID and religiously inspired friends, simply because they can never really back it up scientifically.
    Carl explains it admirably and logically in this video I love reproducing.....
  8. Xelasnave.1947 Valued Senior Member

    I have read Bertrand Russell's wonderful book The History of Western Philosophy which I would recomend to everyone.

    What a great and prolific author and a clever chap in my humble opinion.

    I worked for a real estate company before I got my own business and it was a large company...the "director" inherited his share from his father and although a nice chap thought he was just so smart and into philosophy and us troops would have to endure his talks on how to list a house, how to sell a house, how to rent a house etc..the only problem was he had never ever listed a house, or sold a house or rented a house...he had a three page diary..three pages for each day..guess what he did all day. No idea but he really thought he was just so clever and being the boss no one ever told him he was an could find him in deep discussion with friends who should never have been in the office on the stupidest of time wasting matters.

    Anyways the company went down down down and everyone wondered why. Folk who think all learning comes from text books just have no idea...just as not reading is crazy so is only need to read and do and do and read .I read thousands of cases in law but actually being involved in cases as they evolved, the motivations of the parties, the background etc just gave you much more..there was the law but in legal battles is is only part of what you need to take on board..I would play dumb so the other side would often fail to prepare thinking I would settle on the steps of the court whereas I would prepare a very very detailed brief for my barrister and when they offered a settlement I would say no we are here let the court decide..being unprepared they always lost...but never did they understand that their arrogance was the reason they lost..let's face it arrogant folk never think they are arrogant for a start but just that others are less than them..the arrogance of some who never do is so trivial it deserves no attention but it sometimes ticks me off how these folk actually think they are better than folk who actually do stuff.

    And that is my problem I guess with religion..yes but does this god actually do stuff...was he invented yes or no? ..have a great the way..I got the roll off roof working..not exactly the way I wanted in so far as I have to move a pulley to make a return but the fact is I have it motorised. Again made the mistake of listening to someone who knew how to do it..but had never actually built one..the drawing looked perfect..should have worked by in practice it did not...Anyways I am very happy I got it to would not believe something so simple could have so many issues.

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  9. paddoboy Valued Senior Member

    Some of course wear it like a badge of honour, as generally such arrogant attitudes also reveals a tendency towards bullying....One vociferous character, who is of course another ID nut, advertises that arrogant, bullying style in his handle.

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

    Great news about your roll on/roll off roof!
  10. Xelasnave.1947 Valued Senior Member

    Yes but he is such a pussy can't argue in the least..he thinks an avatar is he has one of someone he hopes to match in intelligence one day... My last reply to him goes unanswered. Actually I think the "three" are giving it in which is reasonable as it must be clear even to them that the positions they take has the back peddling and evading a multitude of look at the questions I have asked Seti and he just does not reply and you can see he is trying to be a good Christian and love everyone in what he writes here but I bet deep down he harbours feelings that would get him a ticket to hell..if it existed that is, and if there was a god and there were god laws for sin not just the stuff invented by humans saying god said it...
    However I like them all, their narrow view of reality is charming, but their inability to have serious discussion is disappointing..I mean I like studying religion and early humans and early civilizations and trace where religions came from etc. But these religious folk just get it so wrong.
    And you can bet not one has read the bible cover to cover...this is your authority and you have not read it cover to does that work?

    Personally however I find I don't learn anything from any of them...I would love to know how they manage the mass extinctions. Like do they think they never happened, or that they happened and god rolled out some new models...Because I am getting a microscope I have been into biology every waking moment and really one does not realise I suspect just how much is known about life etc the evolution of whales and the methods used to arrive at conclusions..and just simple cells so much in it and yet our god bothering folk just seem to have no idea. The main thing that gets me our three seem reasonably inteligent and yet are unable to research religion and determine simple origins and reasonably qualify their beliefs to fit the reality. Take Seti, ask him about the flood and also the flood in the Sumerian texts...put on the can they just ignore stuff like that?
    And frankly I get annoyed because they really do bring down the importance of the Old Testament as a historical insite to understand how our ancestors saw themselves and how they answered questions about their world...but our three will assign special wisdom to this simple folk...

    Look at Jans inability to understand evolution and what he ignores to make everything fit his view. Poor Jan I just know something big is wrong and although we rattle on at each other I am genuinely worried about him. I hope everything I have showed him helps him manage better.
  11. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Without pretence, as long as everyone is honest, we would mostly have some facts plus quite a considerable realm of "I don't know". Philosophy, though, would likely be alive and well.
    You misunderstand what was said, and read far too much into it. The comment was that some feed off the bottom... i.e. they pick on the obvious targets, the simple things, from their point of view. It's like being perpetually stuck addressing the same issues that they already have answers for, and are never going to be swayed by those who they address. Like being stuck in a maths class always answering questions they know they can answer, the simple algebra, without ever getting on to the bigger matters like calculus.
    That's not to say that they can't handle calculus, only that this forum seems stuck at the level of simple algebra. If you want to show you can handle calculus, try raising the conversation to that level so people can find out. And hey, what better way to keep the chaff at bay than elevate the discussion above their capabilities. But if you want to be stuck answering simple algebra questions, if you want to be stuck feeding at the bottom, then I guess that's your prerogative. Just understand that that is what it is.
    It's quite a simple matter that if I say something that I have no intention of trying to convince anyone of, then I have no burden of proof. Sure, it begs the question of why someone would want to make a claim that they're not trying to convince anyone of, and of course before one is convinced of a claim they would (hopefully) have understood the proof/support that the claimant was providing. But if I make a claim and have no care in the world whether anyone believes me or not, such as me claiming that my favourite colour is blue, I have no burden to support that: either you accept it or you don't, and it doesn't bother me either way. How can you force upon me a burden of proof?
    So no, what Yazata stated is correct. What you missed was that it is actually extremely rare for a claim to be made without the intention of trying to convince. And when the aim is to convince, you are correct that there is a burden of proof on the claimant.
    How on earth is that a deplorable response? Note that you haven't even attempted to actually address what he has said, but rather you have just pointed at what he has said and tried to ridicule it.
    To wit:
    No actual counter of what he has said, just a restatement of your position and how you think his comment is trying to change the rules. Seriously, if you are interested in feeding anywhere other than the bottom of the tank, you're going to need to demonstrate the capability.
    Again, they only need to support this if they wish to convince you. If they don't they are quite capable of ignoring the burden you want to put on them, and you are then quite capable of not being convinced by what they say, and ignoring it. It's really no more difficult to understand than that.
    But yes, you're right in that if they are looking to convince someone of the existence of miracles then they have a burden of proof. But even in this you are working from different assumptions, and the other's proof/support will surely be predicated upon the assumptions they utilise. On the question of miracles there would thus seem to be no purpose to such a discussion until one can reach agreement on those assumptions. Does God exist? That is the first assumption that must be agreed upon before being able to meaningfully discuss things dependent upon that. Clearly if you think God does not exist then how can anything be an act of God. If you do think God exists then you need to be able to show (if one wants to convince) that miracles are acts of God.
    Maybe you start a discussion with assumptions agreed upon for the purposes of discussion: e.g. assume God exists... then start looking at the support for miracles from that assumption?
    Philosophy is useful for understanding our thoughts, for why we actually believe what we do, for critical thinking, for logic etc. Not everything philosophy is applied to is necessarily useful beyond, perhaps, improving our own thought processes.
    If they wish to convince others, yes. Otherwise such claims can be ignored. If you ask a question of someone's position and they have no intention as to convince you of it, they are under no burden to support. Ask someone if they believe in God, and they say "yes"... do you really think they have to support it to you? Now, if they come to you and tell you that God exists, and want to convince you of that... yes, they have the burden to support it. Or at least I hope you wouldn't be convinced without support.
  12. Xelasnave.1947 Valued Senior Member

    Perhaps but maybe confined to a wheel chair.

    All I read is what is before me. To feed off the bottom would qualify the feeder as " a bottom feeder" and I doubt if many would see that as a term of endearment.

    Interesting as it seems common place to suggest folk guilty of this feeding off the bottom are guilty of picking low hanging fruit.

    Yes the parrallel to bottom feeding just jumps out at you.

    I do not look up to people or look down to people I simply say if you make a claim back it up.

    Well I certainly do not want to be called a bottom feeder but what I want probably has no influence on what labels you wish to use.

    But I don't see how any of this addresses the aspect, which is the only matter really under consideration, of why we need bother entering a discussion about anything that fails to support a claim that is indeed entitled to be included in reality.

    I really don't care if you find such an approach worthy of interesting description or parrallel to maths class as I find a particular honesty in presenting a requirement that if one wishes to discuss anything as if it is real then first establish it as something more than a product of your imagination.

    Come is not about a colour preference is it...although at least such a claim deals with something that is known to be real...see the difference right there?

    If you make a claim , with or without the intention to convince, that something outside reality exists ( unlike a preference for the colour blue that exists in reality) then you need to back up that claim.

    If folk come here wanting to discuss what god has for breakfast they need to establish first there is a god...if they join with others and they all agree that this god exists well let them play make believe until the cows come home but without agreement to set out the rules of make believe they really must establish their claim.

    OK I will withdraw that call and keep my opinion to myself.

    It is there for anyone to judge... my view is irrelevant.

    Repeating this bottom of the tank thing does not make your explanation any more made an unfortunate selection in your expression which becomes more unfortunate the more you try and move past your call.

    I disagree.

    So in the case of Seti saying his father was saved by a miracle from God you agree that if he says such in the manner that he said it, it was not a "I like blue" statement, then he should back up his claim or that folk like him can just say what they wish and never be called upon to stop talking nonsense.

    Well Seti over stepped the mark.

    Maybe anyone who wants to talk about god could establish existence.
    The facts are clear. All gods are human invention so if we are to change that fact we need a fact that somehow changes the fact that all gods to date are a human invention. That is what our history tells us so is it not reasonable to require someone who enters a conversation say with an assertion that they have experienced a miracle to show why we should move past the current established facts.

    Seti came here making claims which many folk asked him to support.

    I repeatedly asked for proof of just one miracle, he referred me to a book with 1400 but was unable to discuss one..just one...he makes claims which he refuses to support ... I call that out and you see fit to pass judgement on me...shame on you..your bottom feeding was not lost on me and frankly your attempts to explain yourself convinces me I have you pegged so perhaps rather than risk folk misinterpreting your intentions try using the more pleasant call of going for low hanging fruit so you do not have to spend so much time explaining "feeding from the bottom" and not risk folk thinking you are linking them to " bottom feeders".

    Anyways it is a pleasure to chat with you and I must appologise for not giving you a more lively experience given the many opportunities you gave me to tear you to pieces but in truth I do not feel well, and so if you wish to offer a come back and I don't reply know that it's not that I don't want to play but probably that I have got worse. I do enjoy reading your posts so it is a pleasure to have some discussion.
  13. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    Then Alex quotes this passage:

    First me quoting James' words --

    "The relevant point is the one about onus of proof. It should be up to the person alleging a miracle (or 1550 of them) to present the evidence for those miracles and to explain how he knows they are miracles. It is not up to other people to try to prove the negative. The time to believe in the miracle is when there is sufficient evidence to justify belief."

    Then my disagreement with what James wrote:

    No,no,no,no. there we disagree.

    The burden of "proof" (actually its a burden of argument) lies with whoever wants to convince somebody else to change their mind. That second person has to be provided with some reason why they would want to.

    Which once again works against the "debunker". If somebody sets out to discredit somebody else's belief, the burden is always going to lie with the one hoping to do the discrediting. The believer won't change their mind unless the atheist succeeds in convincing them.

    Of course if the believer wanted to convince you of the truth of their belief, then the burden would indeed be on them. You won't change your mind unless the believer succeeds in convincing you.

    It's a reasonable point, a rhetorical truism in fact. If you disagree with it, then try arguing against it.

    I don't know what "definition" you are talking about or what "rules".

    My point was precisely what you write, "The burden of proof... still lies with the person making the claim". That's my assertion.

    So, if a believer in miracles wants to convince you that a particular event is a miracle, the burden of convincing you would lie with the believer.

    But that isn't what this discussion is about. It's about atheists' ability to "debunk" miracles. If a 'skeptic' is trying to convince a believer that a particular event is not a miracle, then the skeptic would have the burden of making a convincing argument to that effect. The skeptic would have to flesh out an argument that he or she believes discredits the miracle.

    Why? For precisely the reason you gave, "the burden of proof... lies with the person making the claim".

    It's not like skeptical positions automatically prevail and succeed in defeating other people's beliefs (in whatever) unless the believer can defend whatever is being denied to the skeptic's satisfaction.

    Certainly the skeptic can say that 'Unless you succeed in convincing me why your belief is true, I'm not likely to join you in believing it'. That's perfectly reasonable. (That's my own attitude towards many things, including miracles.)

    But equally, the mere fact that a 'skeptic' doesn't already believe in miracles doesn't defeat or otherwise "debunk" the believer's belief, unless the skeptic can convince whoever is to be convinced that the belief is in fact false. That places a burden on the skeptic.

    If the person making a claim wants to convince somebody else, then obviously 'yes'. Certainly if a believer in miracles wants to convince you of their reality, the burden would be on them to somehow convince you.

    But equally, if a 'skeptic' wants to convince somebody that X wasn't a miracle, if the skeptic wants to discredit and debunk any claim that it was, then the skeptic has the burden of making that argument.

    It works both ways. 'Burden of proof' isn't just a magic 'get out of thinking free' card that's issued only to atheists.
  14. Xelasnave.1947 Valued Senior Member

    A nice post.

    I agree with the above.

    What I feel you miss is folk claim miracles need to back that up.. the burden of proof does not magically shift under any circumstance.
    The sceptic need not do a damn thing.
    So a conversation rolls along the word miracle comes in why is it unreasonable at that point to ask "what is this miracle? Define it please" now the reply comes no doubt with an unsupported claim obviously and I simply say support the claim..if you mention it be prepared to back it up.
    All this god stuff is a mere matter of faith which is wonderful for those indulging it or tolerating it but an entitlement does not attach that anything said that is a matter of faith need be accepted by anyone ... you have your god or any belief you wish but do not expect that others need to accept anything you claim..if you claim a miracle the onus is on you...
    I can see the distinction that you propose however my view is if you use the word miracle back it up it is not up to anyone else. I guess it boils down to this..if you make a claim back it up do not in any way say well you prove otherwise.

    Sorry not to engage fully but this is the best I can manage today...but on a good day I would give this better attention but today I can not manage more than.."is not".
    Stay safe.


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