The transcendental Argument for God’s existence

Apologist Matt Slick of the CARM (a Conservative/Fundamentalist think-tank) used this argument in this short talk.

transcendence

Basically, it is as follows:

1)      If logic exists objectively, God exists

2)      Logic exists objectively

3)      Thus God exists

Of course, anyone knowing the history of philosophy knows that the conclusion does not follow from the premises since godless forms of Platonism are clearly possible.

But let us reformulate the argument in that manner:

1)      If logic exists objectively, materialism is wrong

2)      Logic exists objectively

3)      Thus materialism is wrong

I believe that a (consistent) materialist can only avoid the conclusion by denying premise 1)
Logic is just a construction of our mind, a concept invented for making sense of many properties of the real world, such as the fact that a rock is either black or non-black.

But this has a huge implication: a materialist has no way to know whether there could be a world where the law of non-contradiction does not hold, that is a world where A and non-A are true at the same time.

For saying that two contradictory propositions can never simultaneously hold is akin to asserting the objective existence of the law of non-contradiction.

And I truly don’t see what interacting particles this universal law could be IDENTICAL to.

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I have looked everywhere in the whole universe but could not find them, but maybe I missed something.

 

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On the ontology of the objective Bayesian probability interpretation

Warning: this post is going to analyse mathematical concepts and will most likely cause intense headaches to non-mathematical brains.

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 At the beginning I wanted to make it understandable for lay people before I realized I am not the right man for such a huge task.

I considered it necessary to write it since Bayesian considerations plays a very important role in many scientific and philosophical fields, including metaphysic problems such as the existence of God.

Basically, objective Bayesianism is a theory of knowledge according to which probabilities are degrees of belief (and vice-versa) whose values can be objectively identified by every rational agent disposing of the same information.

It stands in opposition to frequentism which stipulates that the probability of an event is identical with the frequency of a great (nearly infinite) number of events.

I illustrated how this plays out in a previous post.

The name of the philosophy stems from Bayes theorem which stipulates that

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where P(A|B) is the probability of an event A given an event B, B the probability of the event B given the event A, P(A) and P(B) the total probabilities of the event A and B, respectively.

At that point, it is important to realize that the Bayesian identification of these probabilities with degrees of belief in the hypotheses A and B is a philosophical decision and not a mathematical result, as many Bayesians seem to believe.

Bayes theorem is utilized to actualize the probability of the theory A as new data (the truth of B) come in. Unless one believes in infinite regress, there is going to be basic probabilities called priors which cannot themselves be deduced from former probabilities or likelihoods.

Here I want to go into two closely related problems of Bayesian epistemology, namely those of the ontological nature of these probabilities and the values one objectively assigns to them.

Let us consider that I throw a coin in the air. My degree of belief (1/2) it will land on heads is a subjective brain state which may (or should) be related to a frequency of action if betting money is involved.

But let us now consider the young Isaac Newton who was considering his newly developed theory of universal gravitation. What value should his degree of belief have taken on BEFORE he had begun to consider the first data of the real world?

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The great science philosopher Elliot Sobert wrote this about this particular situation:

Newton’s universal law of gravitation, when suitably supplemented with plausible background assumptions, can be said to confer probabilities on observations. But what does it mean to say that the law has a probability in the light of those observations? More puzzling still is the idea that it has a probability before any observations are taken into account. If God chose the laws of nature by drawing slips of paper from an urn, it would make sense to say that Newton’s law has an objective prior. But no one believes this process model, and nothing similar seems remotely plausible.”

Frequentism provides us with well-defined probabilities in many situations. The likelihood of getting a coin coming down as heads is identical with the frequency of this event if I were to repeat it an infinite number of times and the central limit theorem guarantees that one gets an increasingly better approximation of this quantity with a growing number of trials.

But what does the likelihood of the theory of universal gravitation being 2%, 5% or 15% mean?

And once one has come up with a definition one thinks to be valid, what is the objective value for the probability prior to any observation being taken into account?

I could not find any answer in the Bayesian papers I have read until now, these questions are apparently best ignored. But to my mind they are very important if you pretend to be building up a theory of knowledge based on probabilities.

 

Next episode: a mathematical proof of Bayesianism?

 

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Creation or Evolution?

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George Murphy did a nice job showing that this is a false dichotomy and that we have good theological grounds for thinking that God used the nature He created for bringing about living things.

I would add that God can also act without breaking the laws of physics thanks to quantum randomness coupled with chaos theory.

And I will also say something very blasphemous: I am not sure that genetic Darwinism (natural selection acting on the genes) is the true story.

I believe that factors such as genetic drift, self-organization, strong emergence as well as cultural evolution (for higher animals) might very well turn out to have plaid a much more important role than what is currently thought.

I think that for many people, the main issue posed by evolution is the problem of evil: why did God allow nature to create all lifeforms if it goes hand in hand with such an intense pain?

While I believe it is challenging for every Christian, I fail to see why accepting an evolutionary account creates greater difficulties than those spawned by the alternatives.

Old earth creationists believe that God miraculously intervened in order to introduce every new species over million of years and that he let countless lifeforms die out through competition or natural catastrophes. This clearly does nothing to alleviate the problems of evolutionary pain.

Young earth creationists think that God cursed the whole universe just because two persons ate the wrong fruit. To my mind this is morally far worse than the two first options.

Link: http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/2001/PSCF3-01Murphy.html

 

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On the nice and ugly sides of the Biblical God

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On the nice and ugly sides of the Biblical God

Bill Prat, a staunch defender of conservative Evangelicalism has written a series of posts with the aim of defending the holiness and goodness of God against the attack of the New Atheists:
http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/2013/10/23/why-is-the-god-of-the-old-testament-worthy-of-worship-his-holiness/
http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/2013/10/18/why-is-the-god-of-the-old-testament-worthy-of-worship-his-wisdom/

http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/2013/10/21/why-is-the-god-of-the-old-testament-worthy-of-worship-his-majesty-and-beauty/

Instead of trying to show that Biblical atrocities are compatible with God’s love (a route taken by William Lane Craig and Paul Copan), he has chosen a different strategy:

“Skeptics of Christianity love to point out all the difficult passages in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament. By noting these difficult passages, skeptics explicitly or implicitly imply that Christians are foolish (or even deranged) for worshiping the God described in the Old Testament.

My problem with this implication is that the number of difficult passages are dwarfed by the number of passages that clearly describe the greatness of God. These passages come in a wide variety and they are found all over the Old Testament. The skeptic’s approach is, therefore, totally unbalanced – it does not take into consideration the totality of Scripture.
– See more at: http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/2013/10/21/why-is-the-god-of-the-old-testament-worthy-of-worship-his-majesty-and-beauty/#sthash.UUfO0bHp.dpuf”

His argument seems to be as follows:

1) the Bible gives us a fully coherent picture of God
2) therefore if some authors describe God as a beautiful and benevolent being, this must be what ALL Biblical writers thought
3) thus there is no particular need to deal with the Biblical terror texts. If one can show that some verses describe God as being loving; He is necessarily loving in the entire Scripture
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Of course, all outsiders won’t fail to see this as a terribly circular argument.

Here I can do nothing better than (quite modestly) quoting myself:

“Bill I agree that the authors of these passages expressed beautiful, admirable thoughts about God.

There are three possible positions:

a) the Bible is a book which consistently portrays us a perfect God (conservative Evangelicalism).

b)  the Bible is a book which consistently portrays us a horrible genocidal God (view of the New Atheists).

c) the Bible contains human thoughts about God in the same way the books of C.S. Lewis contain human thoughts about God. Some are great, other should be rejected:
https://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/2013/09/18/on-the-inspiration-of-the-bible-and-other-books-von-der-interpretation-der-bibel-und-anderen-buchern/

By quoting all these verses, you refute view b) but you fall infinitely short of proving view a).

So yes, there are many verses in the OT which emphasize God’s greatness but they are contradicted by countless other texts.

Moreover, I also wrote:

“I have read these authors and here I give my last response to William Lane Craig’s attempt to whitewash these atrocities:

https://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/?s=william+craig

Did you read Thom Stark’s response to Copan?

thomstark.net/copan/stark_copan-review.pdf‎

Moreover, did you take a look at the blog of progressive EVANGELICAL theologian Randal Rauser?

http://randalrauser.com/tag/genocide/

I have never seen any kind of response to these two authors. Apparently, they are best ignored, aren’t they?”

Given my view of inspiration, finding descriptions of God as an immoral being within the Biblical Canon is like finding such pictures in the writings of the Church Fathers, Aquinas, Wesley, Luther, C.S. Lewis and so on and so forth.
It remains a problem, but it is clearly NOT the same as for people singling out the Bible as THE revelation of God.

It is my hope that Bill will examine every Biblical book as an ancient religious texts before deciding if it can reasonably be harmonized with other books. And I hope he won’t feel the need to give up Christianity altogether in the process.

 

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Why probabilities matter

 

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In real life, it’s pretty rare (some would even say utterly impossible) to be sure of anything at all, like knowing it’s going to rain in one hour, that a conservative president is going to be elected, that you will be happily married in two years and so on and so forth.

We all recognize that it is only meaningful to speak of the probability or likelihood of each of these events.

The question of how to interpret their profound nature (ontoloy) is however, far from being an easy one.

I will use the basic proposition: if I roll the dice, there is a probability of 1/6 I will get a 3 in order to illustrate the two main interpretation of the probability concept out there.

1. Frequentism

According to this interpretation, the probability of an event equals its frequency if it is repeated an infinite number of times. If you roll a dice a great number of time, the frequency of the event (that is the number of 3s divided by the total number of rollings) will converge towards 1/6.

Mathematically it is a well defined concept and in many cases it can be relatively easily approximated. One of the main difficulties is that it apparently fails to account for the likelihood of unique situations, such as that (as far as we know in 2013) the Republicans are going to win the next American elections.

This brings us to the next popular interpretation of probability.

2. Bayesianism

For Bayesians, probabilities are degrees of belief and each degree of belief is a probability.

My degree of belief that the dice will fall onto 3 is 1/6.

But what is then a „degree of belief“? It is a psychological mind state which is correlated with a certain readiness for action.

According to many proponents of Bayenianism, degrees of belief are objective in so far that every rational creature disposing of a set of information would have exactly the same.

While such a claim is largely defensible for many situations such as the rolling of dices, the spread of a disaease or the results of the next elections, there are cases where it does not seem to make any sense at all.

Take for exampling the young Isaac Newton who was considering his newly developed theory of universal gravitation. What value should his degree of belief have taken on BEFORE he had begun to consider the first data of the real world?

applenewton1

And what would it mean ontologically to say that we have a degree of belief of 60% that the theory is true? What is the relation (in that particular situation) between the intensity of certain brain processes and the objective reality?

Such considerations have led other Bayesians to give up objectivity and define „degrees of belief“ as subjective states of mind, which might however be objectively constrained in many situations.

Another criticism of (strong) Bayesianism is that it ties the concept of probability to the belief of intelligent creatures. Yet it is clear that even in an universe lacking conscious beings, the probability of the decay of an atom and of more fundamental quantum processes would still exist and be meaningful.

For completeness, I should mention the propensity interpretation of Karl Popper who viewed the likelihood of an event as an intrinsic tendency of a physical system to tend towards a certain state of affairs.

 

So this was my completely unbiased (pun intended!) views on probabilities.

When debating (and fighting!) each other, theists and atheists tend to take their own epistemology (theory of knowledge) as granted.

This often leads to fruitless and idle discussions.

This is why I want to take the time to examine how we can know, what it means to know, before discussing what we can (and cannot) know.

 theres-probably-no-god.jpg?w=500&h=283

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Next episod: Naked Bayesianism.

Afterlife, near death experiences, fundamentalism and Christianity

Alex Tsakiris, the creator of the paranormal website Skeptiko, interviewed recently a new guest on his show, Kevin Williams, the author of one of the main websites aiming at scientifically defending the existence of a life after death.

In many respects Kevin is a very interesting fellow. I greatly admire his courage to have admitted suffering under a bipolar disorder at the beginning of the show. Having myself ADHD, I know all too well that coming out having a psychiatric or psychological disorder can often be much more risky than coming out as gay within a Western society completely obsessed by performance.

Kevin is a former Christian fundamentalist, who was traumatized by the idea of hell and left the faith behind. However, unlike most people in such a situation in a American context he did not become an angry and resentful atheist but adopted a kind of New Age philosophy where eternal bliss is the inevitable fate of everyone.

I believe that the existence of eternal conscious torments is logically incompatible with the love of God, given the definitions of words, this concept is as meaningful as a married bachelor.

So if Kevin was honestly persuaded this is what Christianity is, then I am very glad he has stopped worshipping such a fiend even if this meant giving up the faith altogether.

While I believe that a small minority of Near Death Experiences seriously challenges materialism, I think we have overwhelming grounds for thinking that the numerous contradictory accounts of heaven (or hell for that matter) are creations of the mind.

It is therefore as unwarranted to use NDEs as proof of heaven than it is to use them as evidence of reincarnation or of widespread torture by gruesome demons.

But I do believe that this feeling of unconditional love experienced in NDEs and in many other contexts is a genuine reflection of God’s love.

And this leads me to a tension in the worldview of Alex and Kevin. Like me, both believe in libertarian free-will, that is that the soul is a necessary and sufficient cause of many things. But if it so, what should God do if he encounters a person (like, say, the late Christopher Hitchen or for that matter Fred Phelps)  who utterly rejects his love? If God is the ultimate love, goodness and joy, spending eternity without him would logically entail ever-lasting torments.
God could turn him (or her) into a new creature who could do nothing else than desiring Him. I find this solution very unappealing, both rationally and morally, because I cannot consider love to be a meaningful concept if the lover coerces the loved one into loving him.

This is why I consider it extremely likely that God will respect the wish of an individual not desiring Him and that he or she will eventually cease to exist.

On anti-white racism and extraordinary claims

Deutsche Version: Über den antiweissen Rassismus und aussergewöhnliche Behauptungen.

I pointed out in another post the huge ethnic tensions taking place in France.

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https://i0.wp.com/img707.imageshack.us/img707/5997/lynchage.jpg……….…………………………………………………………….

First of all I want to make clear where I am coming from.

I believe that everyone ought to treat a fellow human being as he would like to be himself treated. Therefore I think that all kinds of discrimination should be equally combated regardless of the identity of the perpretators and victims.

Now few self proclaimed anti-racists would reject this principle, at least in public.

But they would say that racism almost always stems from white people and that acts of racism against white persons are extremely rare and can be neglected in comparison with the reverse phenomenon.

Yet the daily experience of many white folks living in French suburbs shows that nothing could be further from the truth.

If a group of skinheads besieged the house of a black family and told to the husband: „We will fuck your black whore!“, I have no doubt that the story would be included on the first page of mainstream newspapers.

Yet when a white family went though the same ordeal, the story was largely ignored and explained away by so-called anti-racist organizations.

This is only one among countless cases of anti-white racism on the French territory. The perpretators are most often young arabs of the second and third generation along a smaller number of blacks who believe that their justified anger against the past and current abuses and discriminations of the French society gives them the right to hate all white people.

Psychologically this is a gruesome form of collective punishment, the idea that the misdeeds of an individual justify the punishment of his whole family, clan, ethnic group, religion and even race.

Western liberals seem completely unable to recognize that people of European descent can also be victims of the same wicked logic. Interestingly enough, when Jews are the victims of cruel acts of violence commited by ethnic gangs with a Muslim background, politicians and intellectuals will immediately speak out against the crimes.

But when non-Jewish white people report of the same horrible experiences they went through, these are most often ignored, explained away or minimized.

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I think this is, interestingly enough, related to the epistemological principles „Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence“ and „the absence of evidence is evidence of absence.“ I have critically examined.

For Western liberals, the assertion that anti-white racism is as much a problem as racism from white people is truly an extraordinary claim.

Therefore normal evidence cannot be accepted for proving the reality of the phenomenon.

Thus it should not be reported by serious journalists.

And if it is not found in the mainstream medias, it can be most likely neglected.

For surely mainstream medias describe reality in an almost objective way, and those denying this are crackpot conspiracy theorists and white supremacists.

Sadly, this has led many white folks suffering under the situation to put all their hopes in far right groups. This is the main reason why 20% of the French electors vote for the fachist leader of the national Front, Marine Le Pen. They are ignored and defeamed by all other political parties but welcome by right extremists who seriously take into consideration their problems.

It goes without saying this is an explosive situation which fosters a vicious circle of hatred.

 

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