Atheism, theism and jelly beans

Discussion in 'Religion' started by James R, Aug 3, 2019.

  1. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member


    Thanks for that; it's useful. I'm not sure if Vociferous's objection is the same as yours. I guess we'll find out.

    One thing, though. If the infinitely-regressive chain of causes is itself uncaused, it does not necessarily follow that an uncaused cause broke the chain at some point. The uncaused cause might refer to the chain as a whole, rather than to any single link in the chain.

    It doesn't help with the God argument, though, because if we were to assert that God was the uncaused cause of an infinite chain of universes in an eternal multiverse, say, then there's no reason to prefer that assertion over the one that says the entire chain itself is the uncaused cause.
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  3. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Valued Senior Member

    Actually, it's pretty simple, James: You're dishonest.

    And I pointed out↑ that dishonesty, including links—y'know, 'cause you trolled that point↑, last time.

    Should we be surprised that you can't remember yourself from post to post? No, not really.

    But think of it this way: You've got this floundering thread, and in terms of running circles around theists, you are, at least, running around in circles. And it's true I just don't think you should be struggling so much in dealing with Vociferous. But part of that, in turn, comes back to the point that maybe you're performing too much for the fourth wall, or maybe you really don't know because you don't pay attention. Part of it seems that you're trying to cram Vociferous into a neat little box, and another part that you actually don't understand enough about the religions you criticize to figure out what he's doing.

    At first glance, you two are like a match made in heavenly futility, but for your part, James, it's worse than futile; the sum of your course is entrenchment.

    Like, it would be one thing to remind that you're only driving problematic believers deeper into their entrenched faith, but that might not be useful to the moment, as reinforcing their beliefs—including fears about worldly opposition, disruption, and siege—could very well be what you're after. In which case, of course, then, sure, that's a super job you're doing, running in circles.

    Remember, I'm one of those romantic fools of old, who at some point came to the perspective that religious behavior was causing harm, and there was a need to resist that harm. But since that's just not how it goes, what we find, on this occasion, is you, verging into religious zealotry—even making up gods and believers to look down upon and lecture sternly—and making yourself part of the larger problem. And that is what it is, sure, but, sure, what you do matters, at least, around here; and in the world outside our electronic windows the reality is that Christianists are out for women, transgender, and religious minorities in these United States, and even seeking apocalyptic warfare with Muslims abroad, so it's true, my judgment tends to appreciate something more useful than halfmasted religious agitation for the sake of self-gratification.

    Still, even if you somehow thought you were on about something useful, puffery like, "If you'd read enough of my posts on such matters, then you'd be aware that I'm a pretty evidence-focused person when it comes to accepting the reality of things", just isn't.

    And when it comes to accepting the reality of things, remember, please ... er ... oh. Right. Anyway, yeah, I've been around when you needed to rewrite the rules of the language, or redefine words, in order to cope with the "reality" of things. And, yes, some of that even ties into the posts I linked, so just let me know. I'm leaving certain direct quotes out of it for custom, but you did drag that discussion into public view, so, sure, why not. But, yes, if you would like me to quote you demanding, then pre-emptively refusing evidence, and then pretending some merit about doing so, I certainly can. And if you'd like the bit about redefining a word in order to cope with the reality of things, that's possible, too.

    But, yeah, look: In fighting the good fight, or whatever non-futile, not-wrong thing you think you're on about, it doesn't help to puff up like that for the sake of polishing your own brass. Rather, it just makes for a cheap routine we've seen how many damn times, from how many damn poseurs, over the years?

    Oh. Right.

    Meanwhile, if you're running circles around him, it's because he's got you by the nose, and, come on, you stuck it out there, enough, it was like you were begging.

    No, seriously, would you like me to demonstrate?
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  5. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Of course.
    And thus you break from the infinite regress, contradicting the regress in the process. By that I mean the infinite regress is that for every effect there is a cause. So take any single link, or the entire chain if you will, as the effect. There is, per the infinite regress, a preceding cause. One can not therefore take the chain as a whole and say that it is uncaused, as this is contradictory to the regress. The chain as a whole, per the regress, has a cause.
    Otherwise you are back to arbitrarily negating the infinite regress by inserting an uncaused cause. And one can do that at any link in the chain with equal confidence. Whether that uncaused cause was the direct/immediate cause of our universe, or whether there were a billion links between the uncaused origin and the causation of our universe, the origin is still uncaused.

    So basically, as soon as you invoke an uncaused you have contradicted the infinite regress. Which is why it is a fallacious argument to negate the notion of an uncaused.
    And if you continue along the infinite regression then you never reach the origin. Which is why it is a fallacious argument in understanding what that origin is, either in refuting or supporting another’s claim.
    Are you not making the a priori assumption that the two options are not equivalent?
    But sure, if they are then there’s no reason to prefer the notion of God being the direct cause of our universe compared to God being the initial cause in a chain that led to our universe. Or to an infinite universes.
    And we can use infinite regress to push back God one more step, asking what caused God, what caused whatever caused God etc... and ultimately we either contradict our own infinite regress to find a solution we can accept, or we leave convinced that there was never a beginning, that there was always something, and that something always changing.
    But then who is to say that that is/was/will always be God or not?
    Thus lies the fun of the infinite regress: it actually resolves nothing.

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  7. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member


    Err.. no.

    It's not floundering. It's moving along just fine.

    If you think you've got the low down on Vociferous and "what he's doing", wouldn't it be more productive for you to engage with him rather than with me? If you think he's got me running in circles and that he couldn't pull that trick on you, then why don't you show us all what you've got, by means of practical demonstration rather than mere assertion and complaint from the sidelines?

    For my own part, I would not say that I am trying to cram Vociferous into a box at all. At the moment, I'm inviting him to share with me why he believes what he believes, by setting out the reasoning that led him to his beliefs. In other words, Tiassa, I'm more interested in learning about his position than I am in having another fight with somebody on the internet just for the sake of it.

    Admittedly, I did wrongly assume at first that Vociferous was a Christian, then later that he was a deist, but in my own defence I was, at the time, trying to make reasonable deductions from things he had written. I was quite happy to be corrected by him regarding my misperceptions about his stance.

    It sounds like you, Tiassa, believe that his is not being honest or not arguing in good faith. If that's your belief, then I think you should address your complaints directly to him, not to me. I've already been wrong about him twice, so I wouldn't presume to speak for him.

    You're worried that my questioning theist regarding the core of their beliefs is likely to cause them to hunker down because they feel under threat? You might be right. Maybe some of them will do that, rather than think about what I'm saying.

    What approach do you advocate to engaging with theists? Again, you could demonstrate by example rather than trying to set yourself up as a critical bystander all the time.

    I'm making up gods and believers? How so? Where?

    This thread is not about the harms of religion. I don't think that topic has been mentioned anywhere in this thread. Certainly it is one that can be discussed. Start a new thread if you're interested.

    Are you saying it's somehow my fault that some self-professed Christians are misogynist, transphobic, xenophobic, apocalyptic, warmongering and all those other bad things? How so?

    If you're concerned about that stuff, again my suggestion is that you should take it up with them, not act like it's my fault.

    So now your complaint is about what your perceive as my style of presentation, rather than the content of my arguments?


    I could make similar aesthetic complaints about your manner of posting. So what? Where's the value in that? It might make you feel better to get it off your chest, but it hardly advances any substantive argument.

    I happily plead guilty. I have, indeed, asked Vociferous to lead me by the nose in this instance, as you colorfully put it. I want to understand where he is coming from, so it seems useful to take a walk in his shoes, so to speak.

    Nobody - least of all me - is preventing you from engaging with Vociferous on your own terms. Why do you spend your time criticising me instead?
  8. Vociferous Valued Senior Member

    Like your choice to buy a car is the null hypothesis, unless you have any viable alternative to offer, I cannot see any other null hypothesis that does not rely on a fallacious infinite regress.
    Since the rest relied on me finding your initial answer insufficient, and I didn't, it seemed superfluous.

    The need to introduce a particular "something" only exists for specific examples of "nothing". We all know what "nothing" means, even in a generalized sense, applicable to any context. As such, the word has already been abstracted beyond specific contexts, e.g. "somethings".
    An unrealized potential remains nothing. Wouldn't you agree?

    Those are just different forms/manifestations of the same God, which possesses the traits of omniscience, omnipotence, etc.. These fundamental traits do not change.

    So I've created my own religion, huh? News to me.

    I would think that assuming an initial nothing would be fairly self-explanatory. I'm not sure what elaboration it might need.

    No, because I freely admit that arguments from necessity are not compelling, for either God or the universe.

    I don't rely on an infinite regress for God, but all your alternatives seem to. I'm not trying to persuade you. I'm only showing you how the alternatives don't persuade me.

    I don't think God had a choice in being nor becoming, any more than you had a choice in being human or becoming conscious.
  9. Vociferous Valued Senior Member


    Until someone can show me indisputable evidence that things like consciousness are reducible to physiology, the null hypothesis would seem to be that the two are causally unrelated. That doesn't mean consciousness has no natural cause. It only means that scientific methodology may be a very narrow definition of natural causes. If there is a God, nothing it does can be otherwise than natural, as it defines what is natural in the first place.

    The claim that communications, plans and goals ARE reducible to the natural world bears just as much onus. And it only seems to be justified by scientism, i.e. science of the gaps. I doubt I can hope to overcome such faith in science.

    That seems contrary to your own claim that "Theism begets religion of one type or another."
    I also didn't say Judeo-Christian values came from God. I said the two notions are related. That would seem a noncontroversial claim. It seems fairly preposterous to claim that Judeo-Christian values have zero to do with any notion of a God, seeing as they are expressed solely in relation to a notion of God.

    The null hypothesis is a statement of "no effect" or "no difference". Here, you would be the one claiming there is a difference between the two notions. While I am not making any claim of causation between the two.

    Well, if you aren't/can't argue something you think is true, this is all some rhetorical game.

    Never claimed I could show you why God exists. I've been pretty open about there being a lack of compelling evidence.

    No, the alternative to one explanation for existence is another. By process of elimination, we can thus narrow the possibilities. But if you're satisfied throwing your hands up, that's your prerogative.
  10. Vociferous Valued Senior Member


    If an infinite existence is used to avoid any origin, the onus of that argument then falls on evidence/argument for an infinite existence. IOW, it only seems to amount to avoidance. Since when was " why is there something rather than nothing" tied to any particular notion of time? I think we all agree that time didn't exist prior to the beginning of existence.

    Only if you refrain from posing infinite regresses to do so.
    I'm weighing all the alternative explanations. If you have nothing to put on the other side of the scale, you are only trying to remove things from the side with all the weight. That should tell you something.

    Logical arguments against infinite regress.

    Never claimed to have any proof, nor any persuasive or compelling argument. I've repeatedly been pretty open about that. You asked how I came to my conclusion, not if I could persuade you.

    No, I meant that a multiverse is not a genuine alternative, since you say you don't believe one exists. That being the case, I'm not sure you've offered any alternative origin at all. Subjective experience arising from physiology is an alternative to the origin of such experience. It's just no more compelling than any other.

    The universe "just is" avoids the question of origin just as much as an infinite regress. It seems avoidance is the only counterargument you have against a God. The universe could be an uncaused cause, if that offered us any explanatory power whatsoever. But that only raises more questions than it answers, like "why something rather than nothing". Not parsimonious.

    If Sarkus, I, and my SEP citation haven't cleared up your confusion about the problems of infinite regress, I really don't know what else to tell you. You hanging onto that sounds more and more like faith, except that you've disavowed the only real alternative you've offerred. Why continue to repeat that seemingly empty rhetoric?

    I never said God was the null hypothesis. I simply prefer it to the alternatives.

    Again, why are you suddenly erecting the straw man that I've ever claimed I could "prove God is real"?

    If human choices show no evidence of arising physiologically, that's just more weight in favor of some other explanation. Not itself crucial to a theistic argument, but weighing on that side of the scale.

    Yes, God is bound by logic. As with nature, if God exists, logic derives from God.

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