Arguing with Preschoolers

92572265From Smalley’s “Top Ten Reasons Why I’m an Atheist”:

3. I asked my four-year-old daughter where the stars came from. She confidently said “The moon made them.” I followed by asking “Then where did the moon come from?” She strongly asserted “Daddy, the moon is the boss. Nobody made the moon.” This is an unmistakably familiar mindset; and rightfully embarrassing for an adult to hold such similar thought.

The problem with most arguments from analogy is that their proponents have done nothing to show that the analogy is a good one.

We see this very clearly in the passage above. Smalley seems to be claiming ignorance of the differences between a contingent, finite, material object like the moon and a necessary, infinite, immaterial God. Whether one believes in the later or not, this is the idea being discussed, and merely asserting “the moon had to be made by something, so God (if there were a God) had to be too” isn’t any better an argument than the one Smalley’s daughter made.

In fact, cosmological arguments for God’s existence center around the idea that physical things (like the moon) need explanations. This is a point in favor of these defenses for God, not against them.

But I suspect that this isn’t actually what Smalley is trying to say. Perhaps he’s not really making the case that the causal regress must be infinite (if he was, he has failed). Perhaps he was simply trying to say that theistic reasoning is similar to that of a young child’s, and is therefore wrong.

I hesitate to assume that this is his point, because it is even less rational. To say that something must be false because it bears vague resemblance to something said by a young child is clearly poor logic. Ideas are to be weighed on their merits, not the merits of a vaguely similar comment made by a preschooler.

I doubt very much that Smalley would have abandoned his atheism had his daughter responded with “Nothing made the stars; space just appeared one day”, but there is as much analogy here to atheism as her comment about the moon to theism. Neither statement is a fair summary. The musings of preschoolers simply aren’t a rational basis on which to judge a philosophy.

The most charitable way I can interpret Smalley is to assume that he wasn’t really trying to make an argument here, but simply appeal to pathos: attempting to make religion seem inherently like a childish fantasy that adults grow out of.

He’s free to believe this, of course, but he doesn’t title his list “My Top 10 Personal Beliefs about Religion”. And that is all this last would be: an assertion that atheism is true, not remotely a reason to think so. That theism is anything like what Smalley’s daughter said about the moon is precisely what he should be trying to prove; he can’t simply assume it in order to “prove” atheism. So, why this is listed as a reason, let alone one of his best reasons, to be an atheist is rather strange.

In the end, it’s a cute story. An atheist parable to encourage fellow non-believers, clarify his position, and make his opponents look a little silly. What it isn’t is anything like a logical reason to be an atheist.

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180 responses to “Arguing with Preschoolers

  • paarsurrey

    Reblogged this on paarsurrey and commented:
    Paarsurrey says:

    I agree with you. You have refuted Smalley’s thoughts very clearly.
    Thanks

  • agnophilo

    Me thinks you miss the point. You are arguing with the six year old girl rather than connecting to the fallacy she is meant to illustrate.

    • paarsurrey

      I think David Smalley was not clear on his argument. He or if you want to defend his point; they you should clear the point. I think he just wanted to say that believers of religions are silly; and that Debilis has been successful to point out. Nevertheless it is no reasonable argument, in my opinion.

      • agnophilo

        The girl is engaging in special pleading, justifying her position by arbitrarily invoking one standard for her position and another for everything else, which is what religious people do when it comes to the “god must exist” argument. Arguments why there must be a god tend to boil down to the claim that nothing can exist without being created or nothing can be complex without being designed by a conscious intelligence. Then when the skeptic points out that the deity is impossible by that very standard since it exists without being created and is complex without being designed the believer simply says that the rules don’t apply to god. This is a fallacy in both instances.

        • paarsurrey

          I think it is a fifty fifty % case between those who believe in God and those who don’t believe in God.

          Simply reason cannot lead one to certainty; the maximum reason can lead to is that there should be a God; the Revelation leads to certainty.

          The Atheist though always ask others to bring an irrefutable evidence for God; yet they don’t themselves provide an “irrefutable evidence that there is no one true God”. Can you provide it? I don’t think that one can provide it.

          Reason of itself is always blind; it always needs a conjugal partner to lead it.

        • Keith Pinster

          The problem is that “reason” does not lead to the assumption that there should be any sort of supreme being. The only way it can lead to that is if you start out with that assumption in the first place.

          “Revelation” is nothing but tricks of the mind. If revelation was actually valid, first, everyone would have them, second, they would all be from the same religion (yes, believe it or not, people of OTHER religions have “revelations,” too), and third, if it were true for xianity, there wouldn’t be hundreds of different xian sub-cults. So, based on “reason,” revelation is nonsense.

          Once again, I can not, nor do I need to provide evidence that there is no one true god. Can you provide evidence that there are no unicorns or leprechauns? Can you provide evidence that Ra is not the “one true god,” or Oden or Zeus? It’s amazing that you are so stubborn that you just simply refuse to understand the concept that THE PERSON THAT DOES NOT ACCEPT AN EXTRAORDINARY CLAIM DOES NOT HAVE THE BURDEN OF PROOF. It doesn’t matter how many times you ask for that evidence, the fact that ATHEISTS DO NOT HAVE THE BURDEN OF PROOF does not change. Atheists are NOT MAKING CLAIMS. Since theists are making the extraordinary claim, the burden of proof lays directly on their shoulders. Go and take a debate 101 class at your community college. Or even a basic logic class. Please, stop embarrassing yourself by asking stupid questions.

          You are definitely correct: reason needs a “conjugal partner to lead it.” And that partner is evidence. Evidence and reason leads to understandable truth. Accepting a concept without evidence and then refusing to accept that your conclusion is invalid when evidence to the contrary is presented is self-imposed stupidity.

        • paarsurrey

          @Keith Pinster
          Keith Pinster said: The problem is that “reason” does not lead to the assumption that there should be any sort of Supreme Being.
          [Paarsurrey says: The reason also rejects that the things we see and observe could have not been created and that these are self-created.]
          Keith Pinster said: The only way it can lead to that is if you start out with that assumption in the first place.
          [Paarsurrey says: It is equally or even more imprudent, in my opinion, to assume that the things we see and observe are self-created.]
          Keith Pinster said: “Revelation” is nothing but tricks of the mind.
          [Paarsurrey says: I don’t agree with you]
          Keith Pinster said: If revelation was actually valid, first, everyone would have them,
          [Paarsurrey says: There is no bar on anybody, however.]
          Keith Pinster said: second, they would all be from the same religion (yes, believe it or not, people of OTHER religions have “revelations,” too),
          [Paarsurrey says: All the religions in their origin are from the one true God; so prima facie revelation is not restricted to a particular race or people]
          Keith Pinster said: and third, if it were true for xianity,
          [Paarsurrey says: Jesus did have Word of Revelation from the one true God whom he used to address as God-the-Father; but Jesus did not found Christianity, it is founded by Paul. Jesus was a Jew, he founded no new religion.]
          Keith Pinster said: there wouldn’t be hundreds of different xian sub-cults.
          [Paarsurrey says: There is no compulsion so there always would be diversity. Every individual Atheist has different thoughts; it is human and natural]
          Keith Pinster said: So, based on “reason,” revelation is nonsense.
          [Paarsurrey says: I don’t agree with you; but you could have a different opinion which is not truthful.]
          Keith Pinster said: Once again, I can not, nor do I need to provide evidence that there is no one true god. Can you provide evidence that there are no unicorns or leprechauns? Can you provide evidence that Ra is not the “one true god,” or Oden or Zeus?
          [Paarsurrey says: But Atheists are not so pathetically against these false gods; is it not true?]
          Keith Pinster said: It’s amazing that you are so stubborn that you just simply refuse to understand the concept that THE PERSON THAT DOES NOT ACCEPT AN EXTRAORDINARY CLAIM DOES NOT HAVE THE BURDEN OF PROOF. It doesn’t matter how many times you ask for that evidence, the fact that ATHEISTS DO NOT HAVE THE BURDEN OF PROOF does not change.
          [Paarsurrey says: Now that the Atheists have become preachers that “there is no true God”; they cannot get refug3 behind the notion of “burden of proof”; they should be bold enough to provide the evidence they ask others.]
          Keith Pinster said: Atheists are NOT MAKING CLAIMS.
          [Paarsurrey says: The name Atheists; there are so many blogs defending Atheism; so their claims is/are obviously there; now they should not hesitate.]
          Keith Pinster said: Since theists are making the extraordinary claim, the burden of proof lays directly on their shoulders. Go and take a debate 101 class at your community college. Or even a basic logic class. Please, stop embarrassing yourself by asking stupid questions.
          [Paarsurrey says: The majority of people in the world consist of Theists; if we carry/stretch your arguments further; then it is the Atheists who have the extraordinary rather than an ordinary claim; hence there is no harm if they provide their evidence; rather they should happily opt to offer it.
          Since the Atheists are committed to reasoning as they claim; so they must be most patience, tolerant and courteous; never resorting to indignation or expressing anger; I think you will agree with me on this.]
          Keith Pinster said: You are definitely correct: reason needs a “conjugal partner to lead it.” And that partner is evidence.
          [Paarsurrey says: In things material and physical evidence by way of experiments and repeated experiments is essential; in things spiritual instead of experiments there are experiences; and so many of them are out there.]
          Keith Pinster said: Evidence and reason leads to understandable truth. Accepting a concept without evidence and then refusing to accept that your conclusion is invalid when evidence to the contrary is presented is self-imposed stupidity
          [Paarsurrey says: Evidence by way of experience of so many messengers prophets of the one true God; in almost all regions of the world is already there.
          Since the Atheists are committed to reasoning as they claim; so they must be most patience, tolerant and courteous; never resorting to indignation or expressing anger; I think you will agree with me on this]

        • Keith Pinster

          @paarsurrey – It’s obvious that you are very good at justifying your beliefs, no matter how much evidence is presented that disproves them or how illogical they are shown to be. The very fact that you refuse to understand the basic means of the words that you use shows that you are more interested in justifying your superstitions than discussing and debating the truth. As for me, I think I have exposed your beliefs for what they are. From here on out, I think I’ll let our audience determine which of us makes more sense.

        • paarsurrey

          I don’t mind if you refute my argument with good reasons; but it is obvious that you are just finished off any reasonable argument out there; that prompts you to ridicule and deride others with uncalled for bad words; yet you people claim to be Humanists. I don’t know what type of Humanists Atheists are that they cannot discuss things with respect and honour with the fellow human beings.

          I think you should endeavour to reform your attitude with others.

        • agnophilo

          “I think it is a fifty fifty % case between those who believe in God and those who don’t believe in God.”

          There are over ten thousand named, recorded deities believed in by different cultures – how is your version of god and no god the only two possible options? And is it a 50/50 chance that unicorns exist? Bigfoot? Aliens are controlling the government? I can’t prove or disprove any of those things either.

          “Simply reason cannot lead one to certainty; the maximum reason can lead to is that there should be a God; the Revelation leads to certainty.”

          The difference is I don’t claim certainty. I just don’t positively believe things unless I have a reason to believe them. Otherwise I would have to believe in everything.

          “The Atheist though always ask others to bring an irrefutable evidence for God;”

          I’ve never heard an atheist demand irrefutable evidence – just evidence. Although if it’s refutable it’s not exactly impressive.

          “yet they don’t themselves provide an “irrefutable evidence that there is no one true God”. Can you provide it? I don’t think that one can provide it.”

          You cannot logically prove a universal negative. This is true of zeus as well as yahweh. Should we believe in zeus?

          “Reason of itself is always blind; it always needs a conjugal partner to lead it.”

          Evidence. Though I’m not sure what you mean by conjugal.

        • paarsurrey

          As explained by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad; there are three levels of certainty:
          “Three Types of Knowledge:
          Here God Almighty has indicated three types of knowledge, namely knowledge by certainty of reason, knowledge by certainty of sight, and knowledge by certainty of experience. This might be illustrated thus. When a person perceives smoke from a distance his mind conceives that smoke and fire are inseparable, and therefore where there is smoke there must be fire also. This would be knowledge by the certainty of reason. Then on a nearer approach he sees the flames of the fire and that is knowledge by the certainty of sight. Should he enter into the fire, that would be knowledge by the certainty of experience. ”
          Page-146
          http://www.alislam.org/library/books/Philosophy-of-Teachings-of-Islam.pdf
          Since, one gets most of the worldly knowledge through first level as mentioned above or even lesser than that hence one cannot be certain or is in doubt.
          One has to struggle much to get to the upper levels of certainty, in my opinion.

        • agnophilo

          But we know we can experience things that are not real, in dreams, hallucinations, delusions, optical illusions, slight of hand (magic tricks), and we would have to have perfect knowledge to be able to infer things with absolute certainty. For instance “where there is smoke there is also fire” is generally true but not always, you can make smoke without self-sustaining fire.

        • paarsurrey

          That is a way of illustration; human knowledge started with symbols; one could understand from the context; it is not difficult.

        • agnophilo

          I didn’t say it was difficult, I said it is wrong.

        • paarsurrey

          One could only understand a word from the context in a sentence not otherwise; as words have often different usages.

        • agnophilo

          Well in english I find fault with it.

        • paarsurrey

          Even in English it is alright; except at places where the translator made some mistake; that could be corrected; not a problem.
          No translator ever claimed that his translation is alternative of the original in Arabic.

        • agnophilo

          Well I haven’t read the original in arabic, but what you posted is flawed.

        • paarsurrey

          May be my understanding is flawed. But then you did not elaborate the flaw. Maybe I could not explain it well; are you might have not understood .

        • agnophilo

          I explained the flaw and gave examples. And maybe your understanding is fine and the text is flawed. After all no wisdom is applicable in all situations, the world is more complex than that.

        • paarsurrey

          Sorry; I read the comments again but could not locate which specific point is wrong. Please mention again.

        • agnophilo

          “But we know we can experience things that are not real, in dreams, hallucinations, delusions, optical illusions, slight of hand (magic tricks), and we would have to have perfect knowledge to be able to infer things with absolute certainty. For instance “where there is smoke there is also fire” is generally true but not always, you can make smoke without self-sustaining fire.”

        • paarsurrey

          Ordinarily speaking it is often if not always similarities are mentioned not in scientific terms but in general terms.
          If we say that a man is brave like a lion; it does not imply that the man must have a tail like a lion to be brave. A lion could be weak due to old age or due to some disease and not so brave; even then that does not effect the ordinary usage of the similitude in any language.
          We say sun has set; it only mean that light has started to disappearing though scientifically the sun still exists.
          Please take it as a general expression of the language.

          Thanks

        • agnophilo

          All of that is, in principle, valid, but tthere were no figurative expressions or figures of speech or analogies in the text in question.

        • paarsurrey

          [“Reason of itself is always blind; it always needs a conjugal partner to lead it.”
          Evidence. Though I’m not sure what you mean by conjugal.]
          I explain it.
          Reason of itself is blind; it always needs a conjugal partner to ascertain things. For things happened in the past reason needs history or archaeology etc., for the present one needs radio, television, newspaper etc. and for future just most of a conjecture.
          Human eyes cannot see things without light; human ear needs a medium to hear.
          Religion is not against science or knowledge; please quote just one founder of the revealed religions like Buddha, Krishna, Moses, Zoroaster and Jesus who ever spoke against science or knowledge or acquiring them.
          In the moral and the spiritual realm; instead of experiments there are experiences, visions, revelations.
          I don’t think that the values of a piece of art could be assessed accurately by any physical experiments in the lab; one assesses it with one’s aesthetic sense developed over a period of time and in the company of artists.
          Humans need both science and religion; like one naturally and comfortably walks with both the legs; the same way humans travel the journey of life with both the science and religion; while there could be and are people having blind faith in science the same way there could be in religion; common on both sides; but truthful religion does not approve of them.

        • agnophilo

          “Humans need both science and religion”

          It depends what you mean by religion. I think there is more to life than science and logic but I do not ascribe supernatural qualities to things like art or love or abstract ideas.

          As far as needing more than one thing to perceive have you read the tao?

          And the leaders of ancient religions existed before science as we know it did, so we technically can’t know what they would’ve made of it.

        • paarsurrey

          A “revealed religion” is distinct from a religion which is a construct of human mind. A Revealed Religion basis its teachings and concepts on the Revelation from the one true God.

          Revealed Religion and Science have no conflicts as both work in different spheres; so we benefit from both; the Word of God and the science.

          Tao; I think you mean Laozi was a wise man from East. I believe him a saint; sorry I could not read from him; yet I respect him and admire him.

        • Keith Pinster

          Which is why there are thousands upon thousands of different religions – because they all come from the “OTG” who, despite having the power to create an entire universe, is just to incompetent to give more than 1 person the same message. Ya, this makes SOOO much sense.

        • paarsurrey

          And the Atheists are as many as their numbers.

        • Keith Pinster

          Correct. But instead of every single one having disparate beliefs, we are all united in rejecting all those disparate beliefs. Simple, eh?

        • paarsurrey

          Disparate beliefs with no reasons.

        • Anonymous

          Correct – disparate religious belief with no reasons.

    • Debilis

      If you think so, would you please explain?
      You claim that this is a reductio ad absurdum argument, but that was one of the possibilities I addressed.

      I pointed out that Smalley does nothing to show that theism reduces to this kind of absurd thinking–that he fundamentally misunderstands the differences between theism and the mistake illustrated by his daughter.

      If you think there is a parallel here that I’ve missed, however. I’d love to hear about it. Could you state more clearly what it is?

      • Keith Pinster

        “…that he fundamentally misunderstands the differences between theism and the mistake illustrated by his daughter.”

        Can you explain the difference between the mistake his daughter makes and theism as a whole? Both are nothing but suppositions made by the believer with no evidence, so outside of that, what makes theism truer than his daughter’s fantasy?

        • Debilis

          By this analysis, the difference would be that they are not both claims without evidential support. Rather, theism has evidential support, while Smalley’s daughter’s comment about the moon does not.

          I’d have to dialogue a bit to understand your personal position, of course. But (doing the best I can without much information about you) I find that most who make this claim believe in some form of materialism.

          As such, they tend to assume that all evidence is physical, and that any physical explanation of a phenomenon (even if it can be shown to be false) is superior to a non-physiclal explanation (even if it has no such problems).

          By those standards, it’s not surprising that one would conclude that theism lacks evidence, but I’ve argued at length here that those standards are both arbitrary and self-contradictory.

          Of course, I have no idea if that is your actual view. So, I’ll wait for a response before I elaborate any further.

  • Arguing with Preschoolers | paarsurrey

    […] July 18th, 2013 at 8:14 am Not really, it’s a reductio ad absurdum. […]

  • Keith Pinster

    Actually, theism is *exactly* like what his daughter was saying. It is claims of truth that are nothing more than assumptions and suppositions. The fact that theists assert that their claims are true with no more evidence than a 3 year old can produce for a similar childish fantasy is, at it’s core, pretty pathetic.

    • Debilis

      Greetings once again!

      If you think this is what theism is then I have three objections:

      1. Nothing at all has been done to show that this is true.

      There needs to be an argument here that shows that theism is pure assumption. Simply saying it is doesn’t advance the discussion.

      2. This is not remotely what I believe.

      If there are theists out there that believe something exactly like that, then they should consider themselves refuted. But, to say that this exactly what theism is would have to include many people (such as myself) who believe something very different.

      This simply misunderstands what quite a few theists actually claim.

      3. The claim that there is no evidence for theism is weak.

      Obviously, I don’t expect you to read my entire blog, but I have gone over it. This line of argumentation is based on logic that is flawed at multiple points.

      You are free to disagree with that, of course. But the point is that one has to support it–we can’t simply assume it is true in order to attack theism. This would be circulus in probando reasoning.

      But, most important of all, best to you out there.

      • Keith Pinster

        Okay, here’s my rebuttal:

        1. “Nothing at all has been done to show that this is true.” – The fact that there is not any supporting evidence is what shows that these 2 concepts are identical.

        2. “This is not remotely what I believe.” – So, you’re saying that you don’t believe in any deities? My comment encompasses religion as a whole, not any specific religion. No religion to date has provided any compelling scientific evidence to support it.

        3. “The claim that there is no evidence for theism is weak.” – I’ve been part of the theist / atheist debate community for several years and not a single person has ever provided any evidence to support their religion. Everything that is presented is supposition and speculation. If you can point me to something that is actual evidence to support your particular supernatural beliefs, I’d be happy to take a look. But somehow I doubt that of all the xian apologists out there, you are the one unique person that will come up with something that is compelling (except, of course, to people that already agree with you and are looking for something to support their beliefs). So far, every claim that YOUR particular delusion is real can be applied to all over mythologies as well, so to come up with something that is specific that supports your superstition but not any others would be quite a feat.

    • Debilis

      Greetings once again!

      And otherwise diving right in here:

      1. I don’t accept the claim that there is no evidence for theism. That would need to be shown before this is a valid point. (Even then, it would still have problems, but I’ll let that alone.)

      2. No, I’m saying that no argument presented here applies to the particular deity I actually believe in. It is a straw man. I’ve outlined why this is the case in the post.

      3. I don’t claim to have any special evidence that others don’t, if that is what you mean. Rather, my comment was pointing out that “there is no evidence for theism” is true only if one first accepts materialism.

      That is, it is based on the idea that all evidence is physical. Anyone who understands that this is a metaphysical topic will understand that there are reasons to believe in theism. Whether or not you, personally, will find them compelling remains to be seen. But there is good reason to believe that there is more to reality than the physical.

      Once one sees this, it becomes very hard to ignore the fact that theism does have support.

      • Keith Pinster

        1. Actually you have that backward. One cannot prove that there is no evidence for something. However, since no evidence has ever been presented, that is reason enough to reject theistic claims. That makes it a “valid claim” as you put it.

        2. Nice defection, but not good enough. There is no evidence for ANY supernatural entities, therefore there is no reason to believe in any of them. If you are a theist, this does, indeed, apply to your belief system and is therefore NOT a strawman.

        3. So, you’re saying that you can make up pretty much any fairy tale and, if it can’t be proven false with physical evidence, it must be true? That it is “reasonable” to believe any mythology with no evidence to support it at all? It certainly sounds that way. If that is the case, then why is xianity “true” and not the Norse mythology, or Roman or Egyptian, or Indian mythologies? If you don’t have evidence that can be examined and tested, how can you know what is real and what is not? To claim something is true while at the same time saying it *can’t* have evidence is nonsensical. Even if there is something “beyond the physical” to reality, to believe fairy tales simply because you want there to be “more” to reality is lunacy.

    • Debilis

      Okay, best to you out there.

      Here we go.
      1. I would completely agree with you if it weren’t for the fact that arguments have been offered in defense of theism (the contingency argument, the argument from mind, the argument from free will, the argument from teleology, the argument from the fine tuning of the universe, and the argument from the origin of the universe, to name a few).

      I assume that you reject all these arguments, but for your claim of “no evidence” to be valid, you need to show (not merely think) that these arguments are complete failures.

      So far, no one has been able to demonstrate the falsehood of any (let alone all) of these.

      2. Pointing out that the argument was based on a misunderstanding of my position is a deflection? I definitely don’t understand that.

      But, reading over your comment, this is simply a repetition of point 1. But, I note that (earlier), you insisted on scientific evidence. To demand that this is the only kind of evidence presumes materialism.

      So, if you can demonstrate that materialism is true, I’ll agree that scientific evidence is required, but not before.

      3. No, I am not saying this. Please re-read my comment.

      To summarize it, I said that there are ways of testing claims other than the physical. I followed that with the suggestion that, once one realizes this, one is on the way to learning why theism is better supported than materialism.

      I didn’t remotely claim that people can “make up pretty much any fairy tale”. I was specifically talking about testing for validity.

      In any case, I hope that was more clear this time.

  • Keith Pinster

    David’s list actually isn’t all that valid. There is only one reason to not believe in religion; there is no supporting evidence for it. So all the excuses that people give for allowing themselves to believe are useless.

    One other thing I’d like to point out: you use the term “an assertion that atheism is true.” However, this only points out that you are arguing against something that you don’t understand. Saying this is like saying that not stamp collecting is too time consuming. Atheism is simply the lack of accepting the assertions of the religious. Refusing to believe something because of lack of evidence is not something that can be considered “true” or “false.” Atheism does not make any assertions. There is nothing to “disprove.” It is simply the state of not believing in the supernatural, nothing more, nothing less. So, to try to claim that atheism is either false or that atheists are trying to claim that atheism is “true” means that you really don’t have a clue as to what you are trying to argue against.

    • paarsurrey

      @ Keith Pinster
      There is no reason with the Atheists to be Atheist; they don’t have any evidence that the “one true God dose not exist”. Have they?

      • Keith Pinster

        No evidence is necessary, since Atheism is not a belief system and no assertions are being made. There doesn’t need to be a “reason” to be an Atheist, but there definitely needs to be a “reason” to be a theist. Atheism is simply the rejection of assertions made by the theists because there is no evidence to support such extraordinary claims.

        If I claimed that I could fly like Superman, what would your position be? Would you make the assertion that I can’t do that and expect to have to provide evidence for your position, or would you simply say “prove it” and without any proof from me, reject the belief in my claim?

        • Debilis

          Thought I’d answer here, rather than above. I hope you don’t mind.

          Whatever one claims about the definition of atheism (I avoid that topic like the plague), materialism is a set of beliefs that needs to be supported.

        • Keith Pinster

          Do you mean with something like science? I completely agree.

        • Debilis

          Materialism definitely needs to be supported by something before one can rationally believe it.

          If you think science can do that, I’d be happy to discuss. But, in fact, there is nothing about science that demonstrates materialism.

        • Keith Pinster

          @Debilis – “But, in fact, there is nothing about science that demonstrates materialism.” – If you think that, you are far too stupid for me to even talk to.

        • Debilis

          Simply calling names isn’t a good reason to believe in materialism.

          If there were such a demonstration, surely you could simply point it out?

          Personally, I don’t see what point there is in defending materialism if one isn’t going to try to defend it rationally.

        • paarsurrey

          Then one should’t ask any evidences from others, if one cannot provide oneself.

        • Keith Pinster

          One should DEFINITELY require evidence from the person making the claim (you). To not do so is completely irrational. However, it’s incredibly stupid to ask for evidence from someone who is NOT making a claim (me).

        • paarsurrey

          I think that the Atheists do claim that there is no true God; now they vociferously preach this dogma. So they must give the evidence else they should not enthusiastically preach it.

        • Keith Pinster

          So, now you are presuming to know what OTHER people think? That certainly explains a lot. It also explains why you think not accepting an assertion based on lack of evidence is “dogma.” Maybe it would help if you looked up these terms in a dictionary?

          The ONE AND ONLY reason that atheists speak out is to defend ourselves against theists trying to shove their superstitions down our throats. If theists would stop trying to legislate their delusion onto the rest of us, we could care less how irrational and illogical theists are.

          Also, we are not “preaching.” We are merely pointing out the stupidity, inconsistency, and irrationality of believing something with no supporting evidence. We are no more “preaching” than a professor of physics when he corrects misconceptions of the students that are voting for the next year’s curriculum. So, if you don’t vote, I could care less what crazy fairy tales you believe. But the second you assume you can vote your irrational beliefs on me, that’s when I get to exercise my right to stand up and explain why your beliefs are invalid.

          One other thing I’d like to point out: while you’re looking up other words, you might want to look up the word “preach” because you obviously don’t understand what that word means, either. Despite your moronic claim that atheists are asserting that there is no god (once again, a belief held with no supporting evidence and despite evidence AGAINST such claims), explaining to you why your assertions are invalid is not “preaching.” Since atheists are not making any sort of positive assertions, and the term “preach” means “Publicly proclaim or teach a religious message or belief,” and since we are not trying to impart a religious message or belief, but simply disputing the claims you are trying to make.

          Maybe you could take a basic English class. Maybe that would help you understand how words are used so you stop using them incorrectly?

        • paarsurrey

          Since you are explaining so many words; would you kindly explain in your own expressions the word “evidence” for us?

        • Keith Pinster

          Well, a quick and easy search explains evidence as:

          “Scientific evidence is evidence which serves to either support or counter a scientific theory or hypothesis. Such evidence is expected to be empirical evidence and in accordance with scientific method. Standards for scientific evidence vary according to the field of inquiry, but the strength of scientific evidence is generally based on the results of statistical analysis and the strength of scientific controls.”

          I’m happy to go with that one.

        • paarsurrey

          “Standards for scientific evidence vary according to the field of inquiry, but the strength of scientific evidence is generally based on the results of statistical analysis and the strength of scientific controls.”

          And science has set no standard for the field of religion or revelation; they don’t have any statistical data for these fields; as these are out of the scope of science.

          Hence no verifying experiments.

        • Keith Pinster

          @paarsurrey – “And science has set no standard for the field of religion or revelation; they don’t have any statistical data for these fields; as these are out of the scope of science. Hence no verifying experiments.”

          There is a basic standard for all science. Religion doesn’t have any “standards” of it’s own because it is nothing but supposition and speculation. Once someone comes up with something, anything to test, the standard will be set. There is definitely proof in the pudding when it comes to the fact that no one has been able to come up with anything or any way for science to test anything metaphysical, despite the centuries of attempting to do so.

        • paarsurrey

          I think now you are just preaching Atheism. Aren’t you?

        • Keith Pinster

          I also find it incredibly ironic and hypocritical that someone who preaches about their own delusional superstitions that has no supporting evidence would have the audacity to accuse others of “preaching” simply because they are refuting your claims. Let me guess, this comes from the “why can’t you just shut up and let people believe what they want” mentality. My answer to that is the same as the one I gave above: stop pushing your fairy tales into public forums and people will stop ridiculing them.

          There is a wav file that I have that I absolutely love. I don’t know what movie it’s from and I would love to find out. There is a guys saying “Don’t lay this shit on me. You are pissed off because you have become a victim of something you started yourself.” I am amazed at how often this is applicable.

        • paarsurrey

          I don’t mind Atheists preaching if they do it with some good reasoning; if they use bad words, I understand that they are finished with good arguments.
          Reason should be the language between humans to communicate.

        • Mark Hamilton

          “So, now you are presuming to know what OTHER people think?”

          “The ONE AND ONLY reason that atheists speak out is to defend ourselves against theists trying to shove their superstitions down our throats. ”

          So know you claim to know the motivation behind every atheist who argue about metaphysics? That’s a pretty bold statement for someone who just a paragraph previously chewed out someone for making a similar claim. Your statement also seems pretty impossible to back up, especially in the face of individuals like Richard Dawkins. Do you really believe that the only reason he speaks out is to defend himself? That’s a pretty bold claim to make and I’d like to see some evidence to back it up.

          Also, if the only reason you’re speaking out is to defend yourself from “theists trying to shove their superstitions down our throats” then what are you doing here? You chose to come to this site. Nobody forced you. I’ve seen you commenting on other posts, so you’ve obviously been seeking out more. It would be one thing if Dibilis had come to your house, knocked on your door, and started proselyting. It’s another for you to show up on his own blog by your own violation and then start complaining that he’s shoving theism down your throat.

        • Keith Pinster

          “So know you claim to know the motivation behind every atheist who argue about metaphysics?”

          No, what I’m saying is that if religiots weren’t trying to force their beliefs down our throats, there would be nothing for atheists to fight against.

          “…then what are you doing here?”

          You choose to defend theism against atheism. I am just answering YOUR challenge. Paarsurrey is the one that invited me. I know it sucks to have someone show how moronic religion is, but part of defending our society against the imposition of religion is to come to sites like this and show the audience that religion is nothing but suppositions and speculations and are not logically valid.

          “…if Dibilis had come to your house…”

          Wrong. This is not my house or Dibilis’ house. This is a public forum designed by someone to refute the concept of atheism. Are you saying that people don’t have the right to defend themselves, especially from irrational, illogical and overtly stupid and untrue statements?

        • Mark Hamilton

          “Are you saying that people don’t have the right to defend themselves, especially from irrational, illogical and overtly stupid and untrue statements?”

          I wouldn’t say that’s a right exactly, but so far the only irrational, illogical, and untrue statements I’ve seen have come from you.

          If you actually made an argument I might possibly be impressed. Instead you just rant about how there is no evidence for theism and refuse to acknowledge the evidence that has been presented all over this site. That and you insult everyone by calling them morons, superstitious, etc. It must be a very strange world where you come from, where people defend themselves by calling other people idiots. I’m sure you’ve shown a lot of people the light with your behavior. I’ll try your method the next time I’m on an atheist’s blog. I’ll just call his statements overtly stupid, insult him and his readership, and then claim that I’m just defending myself from atheists trying to shove their beliefs down my throat. That’ll convince them for sure!

        • Keith Pinster

          Of course you would say that, since you hold tightly to a delusional superstition. Anyone who points out the inconsistency of your delusion would obviously seem “irrational” to you. That doesn’t surprise me at all.

        • Mark Hamilton

          Okaaaay….but my point was that you are the one running around calling people’s beliefs irrational, insulting them, and calling them delusional without actually making an argument. I haven’t done that yet. I was trying to point out how ineffective your own method of discourse was.

          “Anyone who points out the inconsistency of your delusion would obviously seem “irrational” to you.”

          Does that mean you are the one clinging tightly to a delusion? And that we seem irrational to you because Dibilis is pointing out the inconsistency in your own beliefs? That actually seems like a pretty good explanation, since you’ve yet to provide any argumentation or, well, reason for your caustic rhetoric. The only person I’ve actually seen trying to “point out inconsistencies” has been Dibilis. If you’d care to make a logical argument instead of claiming that people who believe differently from you must be delusional then maybe we’ll talk.

  • Keith Pinster

    @paarsurrey – “If Atheists are men of reason; they need be more patient, more tolerant and more courteous: they are not so” – So, you’re saying that atheists aren’t allowed to be human? They aren’t allowed to be emotional? Well, since theists actually thing atheists are sub-human, that certainly follows.

    How about this:

    If theists are men of peace (as they claim); they need be more patient, more tolerant and more courteous: they are obviously not so…

  • Keith Pinster

    Okay, so I’m willing to address your “revelation” hypothesis, since that seems to be the basis of your belief system for a bit longer.

    Let’s ignore the obvious stupidity of these “revelations” coming from the “OTG” when they not only “revel” (conflicting) monotheistic concepts, but also polytheistic “truths.” The messages that they send are contradictory among the people that receive them. Sometimes, they are about combative gods and cause people to engage in war against cults of “enemy gods.” I guess your explanation of that would be that the OTG is just punking us or something. Or maybe it’s just a blood thirsty, evil bastard.

    Nonetheless, here’s my main question for you. You seemed to think that my comment that you’ll believe any fairy tale was unfounded, so let me ask you this: how do you know the difference between a “revelation” and imagination? What is the mechanism that you use to distinguish between these two phenomenons?

    • Debilis

      Okay, here we go for the next round:

      The key issue here is the fact that I wasn’t arguing in favor of a “revelation hypothesis”. I was pointing out that there is no good reason to distrust our non-physical experience wholesale.

      This seems to have given you the impression that I was chiefly trying to defend the validity of personal, spiritual experience. However, I was actually defending trust in our experience of consciousness, morality, metaphysical principles and relationships.

      So, how can I distinguish between those things and “any fairy tale”? Logic and experience. I experience consciousness directly, but I’ve never run into a dragon. Both physical and non-physical experience backs the principle of sufficient reason, but I can’t name any experience I’ve ever had that supports the idea that elves exist.

      Really, this is the way that we distinguish truth from falsehood in all of life. We ask “Does this fit logically with my experience, or contradict it?”.

      If something non-physical (like consciousness or sufficient reason) is supported by experience, then it is supported. Any who propose a standard other than logic and experience (particularly when it contradicts one’s experience) need to give a good reason for accepting that standard.

      • Keith Pinster

        So, you haven’t run into any dragons or elves. When did you run into any gods? And if “both physical and non-physical experience backs the principle of sufficient reason”, does that mean that you think Hitler was completely justified for all the horrific acts that he performed? After all, he was highly religious and whole-heatedly believed that his actions were guided by “divine providence”….

    • Debilis

      I’m not convinced that you’d find a report of my personal spiritual experiences very persuasive.

      Rather, what I was claiming is that we’ve all had experiences (of things like consciousness, morality, and metaphysical principles) that are not physical.

      These things are evidence of God (if one understands the arguments), even if one hasn’t met God personally.

      As to sufficient reason, I think you misunderstand the concept. It has nothing to do with justifying Hitler, or anyone else. In simplest terms it is the idea that things happen for a reason. This is a basic metaphysical principle that (among other things) is foundational to science.

      • Keith Pinster

        So, again, you claim the existence of god, just because you think there should be something there, but with no evidence. Supposition and speculation with no foundation.

        There are perfectly reasonable and acceptable natural explanations for consciousness and very clear sociological explanation for morality that are substantially more rational that pretending there is some central source (that makes no sense whatsoever). Morals couldn’t possibly have come from a “central source.”

        What are these “metaphysical principles” you are talking about?

    • Debilis

      I’ve given a great deal of evidence on this blog. Simply claiming otherwise does not refute it.

      But, to summarize. There is no good natural explanation of consciousness. The idea that it reduces to brain-states alone has been shown to be false. I’ve outlined the arguments several times in the past.

      As to morality, I was discussing moral ontology, not moral epistemology. Sociological explanations of human positions on moral questions does nothing to address the question of whether or not there is such a thing as moral truth. Saying that this deals with the idea is to misunderstand the point, and doesn’t provide any support for itself in any case.

      Nor does claiming that morals “couldn’t possibly” have come from any particular place without giving a reason.

      But the metaphysical principle we had been discussing was sufficient reason. I explained it in my previous comment. It is foundational to science, but comes up in arguments for theism as well.

      Really, my point is that there are several ways of knowing things without physical evidence. These are a few, but memory, free will, and logic should be added to that list. This would further support the idea that there is more than the physical involved in the mind.

      Simply insisting that every last one of these things is unreasonable falls so far out of basic human experience as to be on par with claiming that the physical universe is all an illusion. I can’t imagine how one could hope to support a claim as wild as dismissing most of the basic things people know about reality.

      But accepting any of them, on the other hand, is to reject materialism–which is the basis of modern atheism.

      • writtenbyafloridian

        I have found this discussion very odd indeed. It reminds me of the story about the third-grader who demands that the teacher teach her calculus when she cannot even do arithmetic. The teacher replies, “But you must learn arithmetic and a number of other mathematical concepts before you can understand calculus.”

      • Keith Pinster

        “There is no good natural explanation of consciousness” Well, only if you are claiming that people don’t have brains. In your case, it seems clear that this is, indeed, in question.

    • Debilis

      Putting aside personal comments, I’m not remotely claiming that brains aren’t intimately involved with consciousness.

      But this hardly means that consciousness can be completely reduced to brain states. No, I don’t expect you to have read all my posts, but I’ve put up the reasons why in the past.

      At the very least, demanding that the reasons I’ve given elsewhere don’t exist seems presumptuous.

      That being the case, take a look: here, here, here, here, here, here, or here.

      You’ll find quite a bit of explanation, all of it perfectly compatible with the fact that people have brains.

      • Keith Pinster

        Yes, I’ve seen several of your “reasons.” Basically, they boil down to assumptions and suppositions. You “think” something should be true, therefore it must be true. In this argument, you don’t “think” consciousness can be “reduced to brain state,” even though it has been scientifically proven that it actual can be decades ago.

        • Mark Hamilton

          That’s news to me. Please, could you cite the study that probed that consciousness is reducible to brain states? It sure would solve a lot of internet arguments.

    • Debilis

      Other than echo Mark’s request for a reference to an actual study (are you referring to the Libet experiment?), I’d like something other than an assertion in response to my arguments.

      At least, I’d like something other than an assertion if you are going to openly insist that I accept your claim, and otherwise misrepresent my position.

      That is, I’ve not been given any rational reason to believe in the materialistic view of the mind. Rather, I’ve been asked to accept it as a piece of dogma.

      • Keith Pinster

        @Mark & @Debilis – “Please, could you cite the study that probed that consciousness is reducible to brain states? It sure would solve a lot of internet arguments.”

        First, look up any medical journal. It has been known for centuries and verified for decades that the brain is the basis for consciousness. Damage different parts of the brain and consciousness is altered. If you don’t understand that (not real surprising), look it up in any basic medical book. There was even an experiment where a Dr. altered brainwaves using electromagnetism to create “spiritual” events.

        As for it “solving a lot of internet arguments,” it obviously doesn’t. There are people like you two that insist that there “must be something more,” even though there is no evidence for this claim.

        One other thing – We know for a fact that the brain controls the consciousness. You two are claiming that there is “more to it.” Once again, THE BURDEN OF PROOF IS ON YOU to substantiate your claims. YOU must come up with evidence that there is “more.” You don’t even need to come up with what that “more” is (although if you want to claim knowledge of what it is, you MUST support *that* claim), but you need to at least provide compelling evidence that the brain can’t be all there is. If all you can do is claim that there “must” be more, that is nothing but supposition and speculation and that is meaningless. The burden of proof lies with the person making the positive claim, NOT the person who is rejecting that claim. I’m not saying there is NOT anything more, I’m saying that I reject your claim that there is anything more. The burden of proof does NOT lie with the person rejecting a claim (especially an extraordinary claim like yours) (me), but on the person that is making the claim (YOU).

        I actually think that the reason why you constantly insist on trying to foist the burden of proof on others is that you *know* that you don’t have any evidence to support your belief system. Not only that, you *know* that your belief system is irrational and unrealistic, so instead of having to defend it, if you can put others on the defensive, that is less work for you, both to defend your own beliefs to others, but also to yourselves.

      • Keith Pinster

        There are several reasons why personal “revelation” (or really what you are talking about is ‘perception) is completely unreliable without evidence to back it up. The brain is a very malleable object (not that this is a bad thing in and of itself). The consequences of this include memories being distorted, deleted or even created. Have you ever told a story and had one of the people in the story say “no, it didn’t happen like that” or been listening to someone else tell a story and your reaction is “I remember that completely differently!”? Have you ever tried to use intuition on something and have it be the completely wrong thing to do?

        Not only that, but our memories and emotions can pretty easily be manipulated by other people, not only intentionally, but unintentionally. That is why cons are so rampant in our society. That is why internet memes that have no basis in reality are so prevalent. That is why there are web sites like Snopes out there, trying to dispel the urban myths that just won’t die. It is clearly demonstrated that people with the know-how can manipulate the most basic memories in a person. I’ve seen a mentalist have a person write down on a piece of paper the one thing the person wanted most as a child for xmas, then within minutes completely convince that person that they wanted (and had written down) something completely different through manipulation.

        Our minds are very powerful tools, but everything that we conceive MUST be verified by empirical evidence. What you are claiming is “reliable” is pre-science. The whole reason that science became a discipline is that it shows us what is really real and what is invalid perception. You are claiming that perception without empirical evidence is “just as valid” as clear scientific understanding. Just a cursory glance at human history will show that this is as far from truth as you can get. Feelings and “revelation” are useless unless there is evidence to support them. Scientists have “revelations” all the time, but do not claim that they are true without evidence to back them up.

        People’s perceptions are manipulated by others all the time. A perfect example is the mormon religion. It was started by a polygamist convicted con man. His claims were outlandish and his story was childish, and yet look at how many people have bought into the lies. Scientology is another. Created by a fiction author on a bet that he couldn’t start a new religion from scratch, and look at the quantity and quality of people who have been taken in by that fallacy.

        The bottom line is that our intuition is fine for coming up with theories (or, as scientists call them, hypotheses), but those must be tempered by empirical evidence.

        Also, ANYTHING that has any sort of impact on reality can be tested. If you are claiming that your “revelation” is about completely non-corporal, esoteric concepts that have no impact whatsoever on anything within this universe, that’s certainly fine to believe that (but, again, with no evidence, there is no reason for anyone else to accept that), but the very second that you can claim that your concepts have any influence whatsoever on reality, that is when, first, it becomes scientifically testable and verifiable or falsifiable and second, because of that, you have the burden of proof to show that influence and what caused it was somehow beyond nature.

    • Debilis

      To say that the brain is a requirement for consciousness is simply not the same thing as saying that consciousness is reducible to brain states alone. This is like saying that, because one cannot drive without gas, that driving is reducible to gas and cars play no part in it.

      But reasons to believe that there is more to consciousness than simply brain states has already been provided. Repeating the concept of burden of proof does not address those reasons (even if you capitalize it).

      Nor is it enough to say that you aren’t claiming that there is nothing more than the physical. You are arguing that we should all go about our lives behaving as if God does not exist, and actively accusing those who disagree with you of believing in things without good reason (I seem to remember references to fairy tales). Thus, you’ve directly claimed that the reasons given fail, but have not offered a response to them–or any reason at all to think that this is the case.

      So, you are free to disagree, but you cannot simply dismiss the arguments that have been given. You need to explain the specific reasons why they fail, or offer a positive reason to believe in materialism.

      Else, we’re stuck in this situation where I keep giving you reasons to think a thing is true, and you type the words “burden of proof” as if that supported your claim that the burden of proof has not already been met.

    • Debilis

      Certainly, we need to be careful about our perceptions. But this hardly means that we can reject things like memory wholesale. Really, one doesn’t even trust science so much as one’s memory of what science is and has found.

      To put it another way, demanding empirical verification completely overlooks the fact that it is your mind that is determining whether or not a thing is empirical.

      So, simply dismissing perception isn’t going to lead to anything but solipsism.

      How do we deal with the fact that we are often wrong about things, then? For starters, you’ll notice that my arguments for the mind were not arguments from personal perception of the non-physical. They were arguments that the mind itself could not function as a mind without a non-physical component or property.

      The only mental perception they rely on is the idea that one has thoughts about things. And it’s hard to accept a lapse of memory, or someone’s manipulation being the only reason one has for thinking that one has thoughts.

      But, let me know if this is your position. I’ll be happy to debate the point.

      I do agree, of course, that science does an excellent job at checking on claims about the physical. My point is that this neither shows that there is nothing other than the physical, nor that there are not other ways of checking. You write as if non-materialist philosophers have no system of checks at all about what can be reasonably accepted as a premise. This is simply false.

      Moreover, the statement that anything which affects reality can be tested scientifically, because anything which happens in the universe can be tested physically is simply begging the question. This simply assumes materialism–that everything which is real, and affects our daily lives is physical. If you want me to believe this, you need to show (among other things) that minds are purely physical–or at least deal with the reasons I’ve already given why this isn’t the case.

      The closing reference to burden of proof doesn’t apply, either, for reasons already pointed out. I’ve given direct reasons why there is more to reality to the physical, simply claiming that I have the burden of proof does nothing at all to show that it hasn’t been met.

      And it does no more to show that the materialist who claims that “everything that we conceive MUST be verified by empirical evidence” has no burden to support that claim.

      Humans have all kinds of experiences, but often misinterpret them. While this is a reason to be careful in our conclusions, it is not remotely a reason to say that one kind of experience is immune to misinterpretation. This is particularly true when physical experience is, demonstrably, not immune.

      What science is, then, is a very good way to be careful about checking physical claims. But this does not prove that there is no way to check on non-physical claims.

  • Keith Pinster

    I’ve been thinking about your “materialism.” You said “Materialism definitely needs to be supported by something before one can rationally believe it.” I don’t understand what you mean by “needs something to support it.” Everything IS material. We are material, the earth, the sun, the starts, the galaxies, everything. What more could you possibly want? I know that you are trying to push the burden of proof off on someone (ANYONE) else, because you have absolutely no basis for your beliefs, but that just isn’t going to fly. We live in a material world, so if you want to add “metamaterialism” (or whatever you want to call it) to what is self-evident by it’s very existence, mean that the burden of proof is on YOU to provide evidence that there is more than what we observe. To claim that others have to “prove” what is obvious, and if they can’t do so means that your fantasies must be accepted is, I have to say, pretty delusional.

    • Debilis

      This seems to be a going on the offensive when what is needed is a better understanding of my claim.

      I wasn’t remotely suggesting that anyone needs to defend the idea that material objects exist. I am not a solipsist.

      Rather, I was suggesting that one needs to support the idea that only material objects exist. At least, one needs to support it if one wants anyone to believe that–or any of the claims based on it which are posted all over this blog.

      Similarly, one would need to support that we should trust only our sensory experience, and no other kind. If one is going to demand that my experience is invalid, I’d need some kind of reason for that.

      Otherwise, one is simply preaching dogmas and insisting that others accept them without a reason.

      • Keith Pinster

        “Rather, I was suggesting that one needs to support the idea that only material objects exist.” – Not “remotely.” That is like putting the burden of proof that there are no unicorns on aunicornists. If you are claiming that there is something OTHER than the material world, the burden of proof lies directly on YOUR shoulders, not on people who don’t accept your premise.

        “Similarly, one would need to support that we should trust only our sensory experience, and no other kind.” – Again, WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. If you are asserting that there is something OTHER than our senses, it is YOUR BURDEN OF PROOF to support that there is something else that is as reliable, not people who don’t accept your assertion.

        “Otherwise, one is simply preaching dogmas” – Bullshit. Accepting reliable evidence is NOT dogma. Please, for the love of the god you worship so much, please, please, please learn what these terms are that you like to throw around so much. Not accepting any wild-ass fairy tale is NOT IN ANY WAY (or as you would put it – “remotely”) “dogma.”

    • Debilis

      I’d agree that I ought to give a reason to believe in something other than the material. In fact, I’ve done exactly that in many places in this blog (and elsewhere).

      But the point is that you can’t simply reject those points simply by asserting that they are wrong. You need to give a reason.

      This is where burden of proof gets abused. Yes, I should offer reasons, and I do. But this doesn’t mean using the phrase burden of proof means that the negative case doesn’t need to actually address those reasons.

      But, when it comes to the assertion that only the physical senses, and not other experience is valid, it is indeed the materialist who has the burden of proof. This is a particular claim–that there is something validating in physical senses that does not exist in other experience.

      You are free to make that case (and I will address it, rather than simply demand that you offer more proof), but you do need to make it.

      This is preaching a dogma, unless you can provide some reliable evidence that only the physical senses, and not other experience, are valid. I know of no such evidence, but am willing to be corrected on this.

      The “fairy-tale” you seem to be accepting (though I’d personally rather use more neutral terms). Is the idea that physical experience is trustworthy in a way that other experience is not.

      Personally, I’m inclined to accept experience until I have a good reason not to. But let me know if you’d disagree with that.

      • paarsurrey

        They- the New Atheist won’t reply, in my opinion; they don’t have a single reason to offer. They shift burden of proof to others while they are engaged preaching their dogma; and if insisted for a reason, they will come to foul words. They are a separate class/group/section/denomination of the Atheists and should be identified distinctly.

        • Keith Pinster

          Well, I don’t know who these “new” atheists are that you are talking about, but a basic atheist response is that YOU are the ones making the assertions, but YOU are the ones trying to shift burden. I don’t know how many times this needs to be explained to you, but the person making the assertion is the one that has the burden of proof. I would ask why that’s so hard for you to understand, but I’m pretty sure you do understand it. You want to shift the burden of proof to us because you know that you have no evidence to prove your side of the argument. As for the atheists, there is no need for evidence. The atheist’s position is “I do not accept your exceptional claim.” The ONLY reason that we need is that YOU have not provided ANY evidence for your claims. The ONLY thing that you produce is suppositions and speculation, neither of which are evidence. In other words, you FAIL to support your delusional superstition at every level. No matter what you claim, it’s not our fault that you fail to support your claims.

          Yes, yes, I know that you keep insisting that you provide “evidence” throughout your blog. But, as I’ve pointed out several times, every single thing that you bring up is supposition. All you do is make claims but provide no actual evidence. You make illogical leaps with assumptions that are completely unsubstantiated. And then you claim that I have to provide a reason to not accept these claims. They are illogical. They make assumptions that have no support. They are irrational. That’s all the reason I need. Provide some actual evidence and I’d be more than happy to evaluate it, but if you don’t provide anything that can be evaluated, you don’t give me any reason to even entertain your superstitions.

        • paarsurrey

          “Well, I don’t know who these “new” atheists are that you are talking about”
          I think New Atheism is ascribed with the period starting from Dawkins; those who follow him prefer to ridicule and deride others and hesitate to provide reason. Ridicule, derision and foul words, you will agree, are no alternative for reason.
          Yes they don’t provide any evidence that “the one true God does not exist”; under the pretext that universal negative cannot be proved.
          It shows that their stance is totally wrong to start with and they should leave this unreasonable stance instead of pleading it united and unsuccessfully.
          I don’t mind if they stick with this unreasonable stance out of their free will.

        • Anonymous

          So, you are claiming that it is reasonable to believe in Santa Claus, unicorns and leprechauns?

        • Anonymous

          @paarsurrey – “I never claimed it.” (In response to “So, you are claiming that it is reasonable to believe in Santa Claus, unicorns and leprechauns?”)

          You specifically said this – “Yes they don’t provide any evidence that “the one true God does not exist”; under the pretext that universal negative cannot be proved.” In your previous post.

          What I read here (correct me if I’m wrong) is that it is reasonable to believe in your god because atheists can’t prove that it doesn’t exist. Since we also can’t provide evidence that Santa Claus, unicorns and leprechauns don’t exist, you seem to be saying that it is equally reasonable to believe in them as it is to believe in your god. I, personally don’t think so, but that’s only because there isn’t as much evidence against Santa Claus as there is against your god, but that’s just me.

        • paarsurrey

          Santa Claus, unicorns are different; if somebody believes in them;you may ask him.
          I don’t believe in them so I won’t defend them.

        • Keith Pinster

          So, are you just really too stupid to be able to look up the terms you use in a dictionary? I can understand you trying to bring others down to your level of ignorance by using the same derogatory terms that describe your beliefs (like dogma) to justify your own beliefs, but when someone clearly points out that you are misusing the terms, using them again after that can only be attributed to blatant stupidity. I suspect that this comes directly from your willingness to believe in irrational dogma. Give up your delusional superstitious fairy tales and you might hope to free your mind of this self-imposed stupidity.

          I’m sure you will initially see this as “name calling”, but I’m actually really trying to help you here. This is a direct response to your misuse of terms over and over and over again after being informed of this misuse. You don’t even have to buy a dictionary; all these terms can be looked up on the internet for free. They are really easy to find, so misuse of these terms is really inexcusable.

        • paarsurrey

          The Atheists are often or always in the “angry mode”; they should not be like that. Please relax. When you are relaxed and in “normal mode” please let me know so that we could have normal discussion with “reason”. The Atheists/Humanists should make “reason” their best tool instead of making “anger” as such.

          I will be waiting when you are relaxed.

        • Anonymous

          What makes you think I’m “agree”? Just because I can prove you are delusional? That doesn’t require “anger.”

        • paarsurrey

          What do you understand from the word “delusional”? Please write your own description of the word without copying from a dictionary; so that we may understand the ins and outs of your mind.

        • Anonymous

          Sorry, should have read: What makes you think I’m “*ANGRY*”? Just because I can prove you are delusional? That doesn’t require “anger.”

        • paarsurrey

          When an Atheist gives no solid reasons; one know that the Atheist is in the “angry mode”;hence the Atheists writing words that make no wise meaning.

        • Anonymous

          When have I not given a “solid reason”? And does the same apply to theists who never give ANY reason?

        • paarsurrey

          The Atheists when finished with reason resort to ridicule or express indignation and anger and provide no reason; so the argument get stopped.

        • paarsurrey

          Is it very difficult for you to mention as to what you understand from “superstition”; give your own concept and be relaxed.
          Thanks for you patience.

    • Debilis

      Simply attacking me personally doesn’t address the argument. The point isn’t whether it is name calling or an attempt to help. The point is that it doesn’t offer any reason whatsoever why anything I’ve said is false.

      I used the word dogma correctly. I explained why it applies in the case that I used it. If you are going to disagree, you need to give a reason for that.

      So the problem isn’t one of civility, the problem is that you’ve done nothing whatsoever to support the claims that you’ve insisted others believe–and it is perfectly acceptable to call that promoting dogmas.

      Still don’t believe me? I’ll go ahead and reference that dictionary:

      dog·ma [dawg-muh]
      – Prescribed doctrine proclaimed as unquestionably true by a particular group: (the difficulty of resisting political dogma).

      In that you were presenting an idea and insisting that others believe it without any support whatsoever, it is completely fair to say that this is the promotion of a dogma.

      If you’d like this to not be an accurate word to describe your position, you need to provide reasons for it, rather than simply insist that it not be questioned.

      Last, I’d like to repeat the point that this still doesn’t address the reasons that have already been given. It is a tangent that (whether you meant to do this or not) is distracting from the point that all of the argument provided so far has been on the theist’s side.

      • Anonymous

        How, exactly, is that I have to say “dogma”? Yes, I absolutely agree with the definition that you site. That’s what makes this so confusing. You spout a supposition, I tell you that it is supposition and therefore not evidence, I give you clear reasons why your supposition is invalid, and you then call it “dogma.”

        What’s ironic is that YOU are “preaching dogma” [by your own definition] and yet you turn around and claim that I am “preaching dogma” in an attempt to discredit my argument. Are you seeing the irony in this? Is it clear to you that you are only discrediting yourself and NOT those who do not accept your assertions?

        As I said, your tact is to try to drag the statements of those who disagree with you and who point out that your viewpoints are invalid down to your level of argument (“preach” and “dogma”) in order to have any hope at all of justifying yourself.

        And on and on you go about not giving support for non-beliefs. As I said, I’m not sure if you just aren’t reading what is written or if you and just that stead-fast in your self imposed stupidity.

        Also, how am I “attacking” you? By pointing out that you are delusional? By pointing out that you refuse to understand how to apply words that you constantly misuse, even after people explain it to you (several times)? That is no more “attacking you” than a deer kicking a wolf that is biting at its heels. You attack atheists with your nonsensical, irrational, superstitious, fairy tales, but if we defend ourselves, it’s US that are attacking YOU? Wow, talk about gall. Can you be any more self centered?

        • Mark Hamilton

          “Also, how am I “attacking” you? By pointing out that you are delusional? ”

          Yep, I’d say calling someone “delusional” (along with calling them stupid) is a verbal attack. You’d make a better show of it if you would replace your insults with actual arguments.

          Honestly, do you actually have an argument besides “I reject all your arguments because they aren’t evidence because DOGMA DELUSIONAL STUPID GAGARAGARAGA!” I’ve yet to see any other from you.

          Your entire last comment basically boils down to “No, you’re the dogmatic one because I say that you are so there.” If you think he’s being dogmatic then clearly state where and why, without bluster and self righteous personal attacks.

        • Debilis

          The point isn’t that you are making use of personal insults. I’m not terribly worried about that, either way. The point is that there is no logical engagement with my arguments here.

          That is to say, simply claiming “that’s a superstition” or “that is delusional” doesn’t remotely deal with the reasons that have been given for it.

          And, yes, it is dogmatic to think that simply claiming that someone is “delusional” or “stupid” is enough to answer the logical reasons given. One needs to offer precise, logically valid reasons why the things I’ve claimed are dogmatic or stupid.

          And very few people have even tried to engage with the reasons I’ve given. I’ve outlined two cosmological arguments, a fine-tuning argument, two arguments from mind, an argument from moral fact, an argument from rationality, an argument from science, and an argument from the self-contradictory nature of the alternative to support the idea that theism is more rational than materialism.

          You’ve “pointed out” that this is stupid if, by that, you mean looking at these arguments and saying “but that’s stupid”.

          This is dogmatic by the exact definition I’ve given. It is a line of approach that is so convinced of materialism that one feels no need to even address these arguments with more than the word “delusional”.

          That is, without a doubt, a refusal to question.

          Materialism is a doctrine, therefore, that you are presenting as unquestionable.

          This is the same mistake that is made below. I’ll be more brief in my response there.

      • Anonymous

        Also, since what you are claiming is nonsense, there is no need for me to “falsify” it. All that is required is to explain why there is no reason to subscribe to it (as I’ve said over and over again, and yet you ignore every time).

        “In that you were presenting an idea” – Once again, self-imposed stupidity. I just can’t understand why it is so hard for you to understand that I am not “presenting an idea.” At what point did I “present an idea”? I am simply explaining why YOUR idea is logically invalid. That is not “presenting an idea.”

        “Last, I’d like to… point that all of the argument provided so far has been on the theist’s side.” – Of course they have, because theists are the ones that are making the claims (as has been pointed out over this entire conversation, as if you don’t know this). You keep claiming that these haven’t been addressed. How is clearly pointing out why each of these points is invalid “not addressing” them? How many times does it have to be pointed out to you that suppositions and speculations are not evidence? And yet you insist that when someone points out that you can’t wrap your brain around this basic, fundamental truth, you are crying that people are “attacking you.” Poor, sad, repressed theist.

        • Mark Hamilton

          “How is clearly pointing out why each of these points is invalid “not addressing” them?”

          Clearly pointing out why a point isn’t valid would be addressing it. I look forward to the day that you do so. So far all I’ve seen you do is claim that Debilis’s points aren’t valid without giving any support as to why we should believe you on that (support meaning: evidence, sources, logical arguments, as opposed to your preferred method of calling people names and then getting angry that we don’t agree with you).

        • Debilis

          Saying that a claim is nonsense does not make it nonsense. Showing that a claim is nonsense would be to falsify it.

          You can’t simply dismiss an argument with an “because this is nonsense” without begging the question. That the claim is nonsense is precisely what you should be trying to prove. Instead, you start with that assumption.

          This is as dogmatic as a preacher who assumes that the Bible is inerrant in order to “prove” that God exists. It’s the same exact mistake.

          As to what idea you’re presenting. You’ve been defending the idea that materialism is more reasonable than theism. Specifically, that has been our point of disagreement. The trouble is that I’ve not yet seen an argument for that.

          But you can’t simply “point out” that a reason is bad. You actually have to explain why. Else, it is no different from a preacher “pointing out” that atheism is self-contradictory.

          I’ve given reasons for the things that I’ve “pointed out”. You may not agree with those reasons, but refusing to explain what you find wrong with them is simply refusing to take a logical approach.

          It is refusing to actually consider the arguments rationally, which is dogmatic.

  • Of shifting the burden of proof by Atheists | paarsurrey

    […] give just comments of friend Debilis and my comments on the post <https://fidedubitandum.wordpress.com/2013/07/18/arguing-with-preschoolers/&gt; by Debilis;  to  view comments of Keith Pinster, please click on the date of his […]

  • Anonymous

    @paarsurrey – “The Atheists when finished with reason resort to ridicule or express indignation and anger and provide no reason; so the argument get stopped.”

    To be honest, it does get very frustrating when we have to repeat over and over and over again that THERE IS NOTHING FOR US TO GIVE REASONS FOR and yet people like you keep insisting that that we “haven’t given reasons.” Again, I don’t know if it is just simply self-imposed stupidity or what that causes you to refuse to understand the situation. The fact is that you are trying to mask the fact that YOU are not giving any valid reasons for YOUR assertions. I don’t need any “reasons” other than the simple fact that you have NOT PROVIDED ANY EVIDENCE IN SUPPORT OF YOUR DELUSIONAL SUPERSTITIONS. When your “reasons” boil down to “I want it to be true, therefore it must be”, and then you just keep repeating that mantra, it’s very difficult to have any sort of conversation. I say something like “that argument is supposition” and your response isn’t any sort of evidence that supports the assertion, but instead you make the 6-year old’s argument of “no it’s not!” Like somehow that validates your argument. It’s actually clear evidence that you have no support for your assertions.

    Your post also executes the classic theist’s personal attack to try to make yourself feel better. You seem to think that just accusing me of being “angry”, somehow that validates your argument by invalidating mine. Basically, it’s an Appeal To Emotion fallacy. You think that if you can assert that I am somehow “emotional”, that means your argument must be more “reasoned.” Too bad debate doesn’t work that way. The fact that your argument has no basis in reality has nothing at all to do with your perception of my emotional state.

    • Mark Hamilton

      “When your “reasons” boil down to “I want it to be true, therefore it must be”, and then you just keep repeating that mantra, it’s very difficult to have any sort of conversation.”

      I’d agree, that would be a pretty awful argument to make. Can you point out where anyone has made that argument here though? A quote would be nice.

      Listen, we both have claims about the universe. I claim that more than the material world exists. You claim that only the material world exists. Why should we supernaturalists be the only ones who have to provide evidence for our claims? Debilus has provided good reasons to believe that the material cannot be all that exists (like the fact that materialism eliminates free will, rational thought, and moral objectivity, to name a few examples). So what are your reasons for believing that all that exists is the material? So far all we’ve heard from you is shouting and a repeated claim that you are right by default.

      • Anonymous

        First – your are wrong. You (admittedly) make the claim that there is more than just nature. What I am saying is that no one has ever given any evidence to accept that assertion. Why do you theists keep putting words in atheists mouths? Oh, right. It’s so you can try to push the burden of proof onto someone other than yourselves. (BTW, in case you missed it, this is the answer to your whiny question “why do WE always have to prove OUR position?”)

        Debilus has not given ANY “good reasons to believe.” Everything presented is supposition and speculation. The arguments always boil down to “I think it should be, therefore it must be.” He (she?) augments those arguments with “you can’t prove there isn’t more than reality!” In other words, all the arguments presented are completely useless. The other argument is you can’t expect to find evidence in reality for the supernatural natural superstitions. I have clearly argued several times that, if the supernatural have ANY effect, impact, influence, or sway in reality in any way, shape, or form, it can be detected by scientific means. If it does not, then it is nothing but fantasy and imagination.

        So the simple answer (as I have given over and over again, but somehow you just can’t quite get your head around it) to the question “So what are your reasons for believing that all that exists is the material?” is that there has never been any reason to think there is anything more than “the material”, just like there is no reason to believe in Santa Claus, Superman, leprechauns, ghosts, goblins, the boogeyman, or the Easter Bunny.

      • Mark Hamilton

        Alright then. Your claim is that we have failed to provide any evidence in support of supernaturalism. But this is absurd, and obviously false. We’ve made arguments that if certain things (such as free will, rationality, morality, etc) actually exist then the supernatural must be real, and then made shown evidence that they do in fact exist. The blog is full of them. Every time one is brought up you simply say “You don’t have any evidence at all! You haven’t given any reasons!” I mean I could understand someone arguing that they’re bad arguments, or bad reasons, or bad evidence, but your argument seems to be that the reasons don’t exist at all, which is clearly untrue.

        “The arguments always boil down to “I think it should be, therefore it must be.” He (she?) augments those arguments with “you can’t prove there isn’t more than reality!” ”

        Can you provide me an actual quote where Debilis makes such an argument? I certainly haven’t seen it, and I’m not especially inclined to take your word for it. Admittedly I’ve seen Debilis ask you if you can prove materialism is true, but I’ve yet to see Debilis claim that it is impossible to do so, simply that nobody has ever done it.

        “I have clearly argued several times that, if the supernatural have ANY effect, impact, influence, or sway in reality in any way, shape, or form, it can be detected by scientific means.”

        You’ve certainly said that, but I don’t know why I should believe it. Why should the supernatural be detected by scientific means? And what else should we hold to this standard? Can the truth of the statement “The supernatural must be detectable by scientific means to true” be detected by scientific means? If so, how?

  • Anonymous

    @paarsurrey – “Santa Claus, unicorns are different;”

    Right, you HAVE to believe that because if you came to the realization that those beliefs and your superstition falls into the same category, you’d have to admit that your religion is no more valid than a child believing in Santa Claus.

  • Keith Pinster

    @Mark Hamilton – “We’ve made arguments that if certain things (such as free will, rationality, morality, etc) actually exist then the supernatural must be real…”

    How does the existence of any of these constitute evidence of the supernatural?

    Free will is, by its very definition, the defacto position of naturalism. If there is nothing supernatural to interfere with free will, \how can that NOT be the natural position?

    Rationality is simply the brain doing it’s job. If there were any supernatural influence on us, it wouldn’t be “rational thinking.” It would be “programmed thinking” (see “free will” above”).

    It is painfully obvious that morality comes from sociological evolution. The very fact that every single person in the world has a different set of morals is, in and of itself, that morality could not possibly have come from a single source.

    Once again, you are definitely right about one thing – I keep saying that you have NOT PROVIDED ANY REAL EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT YOUR POSITION. The reason I say that over and over again is because YOU HAVE NOT PROVIDED ANY EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT YOUR POSITION. That argument doesn’t change because you get tired of reading it. If you don’t like it, you have 2 choices: 1. provide actual real evidence for your position, or 2. stop making assertions that have no evidence to support them.

  • Keith Pinster

    @Mark Hamilton – Okay, I’ve read all 3 of those posts. Not a single, solitary shred of evidence in any of them.

    What Debilis asserts in the first article is that if we have thoughts, that means we have something that must outlive the brain. This is a leap of stupidity that would easily clear the Grand Canyon. It is completely nonsensical babble that is asserted with no evidence whatsoever.

    The second article is even more hilarious. I always love it when people try to invokes science to disprove science. The claim here is that science doesn’t, and even can’t “explain the mind.” In other words, Debilis is once again invoking the “god of the gaps” argument. The assertion is that if the mind can’t be understood my the scientific method, that somehow “proves” that it is beyond “materialism” (i.e. it can’t be connected in any way to a physical, material thing). And yet we know for a fact that this is completely fallacious. Physical damage to the brain usually results in distortion of the mind. Viruses distort the mind. Other medical conditions distort the mind. Just because scientists haven’t completely and thoroughly mapped the mind, does not give any credence to the assertion that it can’t do so. Nor does it lend any weight to the argument that the mind somehow “transcends” the brain. This is yet another piece of evidence that Debilis does nothing but throws around speculation and suppositions (as I have said many times before) but producing no actual real evidence whatsoever.

    The 3rd article is really nothing more than a strawman attack on Smalley with a quip at the end claiming that our lives are “meaningless” without buying into some delusional superstition, which we all know is also completely fallacious. What Debilis is actually arguing is whether a person hangs around after death to bask in his or her contribution to humanity, which is not only immaterial, but also yet another instance of speculation. It’s amusing that the title is “Moral Argument” when morality is not addressed at all in the article, but rather Debilis claims to know whether someone else believes their life to have meaning or not simply based on if they believe in fairies. This is yet another leap of stupidity that is mind-boggling. Many people’s contributions to the world have far outlived their lives. If we are talking about meaning for the person living, then living in the here and now would provide much more meaning than pining for some imagined afterlife. If we are talking about meaning to others, then I would say the meaning of a person’s life is directly related to the contributions that the person made IN THEIR LIFE, with absolutely no regard to whether the person is sitting on a cloud basking in other people’s praise or not. Not only does Debilis’ argument hold no water, but the more I think about it, the more I agree with Smalley. Every minute you focus on your yearning to experience some imagined cloud-city where you have no responsibilities except being a slave to some egotistical, megalomaniac overlord is time wasted in THIS life focusing on fixing THIS world’s problems and is nothing but a waste of time (coincidentally enough, just like the wasted time of “praying” for the problems to go away).

    So, if these are the best “evidence” you can come up with, I can easily stand my ground with “NEITHER YOU NOR DEBILIS HAVE PROVIDED ANY EVIDENCE THAT WOULD CAUSE A RATIONAL PERSON TO BUY INTO YOUR DELUSIONAL SUPERSTITION.” If you actually think there are articles that actually do provide evidence, please feel free to post them and I’ll definitely take a look. However, I’m not going to suffer through all the speculation, supposition, whining, and burden of proof shucking that Debilis does in all of it’s articles just to see if there might be a grain of truth in the mountain of nonsense.

    As for the “free will” argument – nice try. Misconstruing an argument is not going to win you any brownie points with me, and you should know by now that I won’t let you get away with it. It is quite obvious that my argument refers to a person’s ability to make their own judgement calls and direct their own action without the intervention of any kind of supernatural agent influencing us. I think it’s hilarious that you actually think that you could somehow “catch” me on this. The articles that you link to (and so blatantly misrepresent) are specifically talking about “souls” and I (obviously) completely agree with them. We are who we are as a result of biology and sociology. True, we are predisposed to certain attitudes and even some actions, but not because of any sort of supernatural Hitler-nanny. But I do think that we also have the ability to control our urges (whether they be from nature or nurture). Regardless, none of this lends any credence to any theist’s argument regarding “free will,” but rather evidence supporting our firm standing within the realm of nature.

    So, if you want to manipulate the term “free will” so that it somehow involves a “soul” and then toss an argument back at me ALONG WITH THAT DEFINITION, we can certainly knock that birdie back and forth a bit. It’s up to you. But be forewarned, I will not let you get away with misconstruing or misrepresenting things, no matter how much you’d like to get away with it.

    • Debilis

      Since I’m being discussed, I assume it’s polite for me to jump in (I hope that is correct).

      Really, I’m not going to offer arguments, so much as a kind of fact check.

      1. “What Debilis asserts in the first article is that if we have thoughts, that means we have something that must outlive the brain.”
      That wasn’t what I asserted, actually.
      Rather, I concluded (after giving an argument for it) that thoughts show that there must be something to the mind other than brain states. I never claimed anything about “outliving”, and I didn’t assert it. I gave reasons that you don’t address here.

      So, whether my argument is correct or not, what you’ve written is not my argument.

      2. “I always love it when people try to invokes science to disprove science. The claim here is that science doesn’t, and even can’t ‘explain the mind.’ In other words, Debilis is once again invoking the “god of the gaps” argument.”

      Here, you are correct to say that I do insist that science can’t explain the mind. This is true.
      It is false, however, that I made any attempt whatsoever to “disprove science”. I was arguing in favor of science; it is only the philosophy of scientism that I was rejecting.
      Nor was I arguing from any kind of God of the gaps perspective. I was not using God to explain the current gaps in our reasoning. I wasn’t bringing God into that point of the argument at all. I was arguing that there is more to the mind than the physical, but this is based on what we do know, not what we don’t.

      Again, whatever one makes of my argument, this is simply a misunderstanding of it.

      3. “Debilis claims to know whether someone else believes their life to have meaning or not simply based on if they believe in fairies.”

      This is simply false. I’ve never in my life claimed that believing a particular thing makes one’s life more or less meaningful. Nor have I ever claimed to know who’s life has more meaning.

      4. “The 3rd article is really nothing more than a strawman attack on Smalley with a quip at the end claiming that our lives are “meaningless” without buying into some delusional superstition, which we all know is also completely fallacious.”

      I’ll not comment on whether or not my argument was a valid representation of Smalley’s position.
      Rather, I’ll stick to saying that this is not an accurate representation of my view. I’ve never once asserted that people need to believe in anything (least of all a “delusional superstition”) in order to have a meaningful life.

      There are many more, but I’ll stop there.

      The point here isn’t to argue that my statements are correct (though I’m always happy to do that). Right now, the point is that I’ve never claimed most of the things you say I’ve claimed here.

      So, of course, you find my position hard to believe. I find that position hard to believe, too, and have no idea why you think I’ve said those things.

      • Keith Pinster

        “I concluded (after giving an argument for it) that thoughts show that there must be something to the mind other than brain states.”

        1. Okay, I accept your conclusion that the mind does not outlive the brain. (Especially since this denounces the existence of a “soul” as a real object.) However, your arguments are just as valid for that than they are that there “must be something” more to the mind than the brain. Your arguments are nothing but supposition. Your “reasons” boil down to you WANT there to be more, therefore there “must” be something more. I, on the other hand, give very clear and precise reasons why this is a fallacious argument without some sort of evidence to the contrary.

        2. “Here, you are correct to say that I do insist that science can’t explain the mind. This is true.” Again, that is an unsubstantiated assertion. Just because we DON’T fully understand the mind, doesn’t mean we CAN’T fully understand the mind. It seems you do not understand what the “god of the gaps” argument is. This fallacy is not limited to simply the xian god, but rather ANY supernatural explanation of anything. Your argument is based on ignorance. If we are ignorant about something, then any cockamamie story you imagine must be true. You also don’t seem to understand the difference between assertions and evidence. Just because you assume something is true and then state that, doesn’t mean that you have any evidence to back up the assertion. Conversely, if someone doesn’t accept your assertion, doesn’t mean that they have to present evidence to support this disbelief, especially if your assertion is extraordinary in nature.

        3 & 4. “This is simply false. I’ve never in my life claimed that believing a particular thing makes one’s life more or less meaningful” Really? Did you or did you not state “…this would mean that anyone who believes that life is meaningful would need to be a theist in order to be rational…”? You specifically said that for a person to feel that their lives have meaning necessarily requires the belief in theism. But again, this is nothing but a strawman argument because you won’t state what you mean by a life “having meaning.” I doubt you can come up with any definition that would fit into your delusion yet still be rational, but I’m willing to hear you out if you think you can do so.

    • Debilis

      Okay, second fact check. (And, to let you know, I’m trying to edit out personal comments and other irrelevant remarks).

      You are still misunderstanding my position. here are some new problems:

      1. I didn’t claim that the mind doesn’t outlive the brain. I made no statement at all either way.
      My reasons had nothing to do with what I wanted to be true. I expressed no opinion at all. My reasons had to do with the properties of intentionality and qualia.

      2. My argument is not based on the idea that we don’t fully understand the mind. I made no claim about whether or not we fully understand the mind.
      Rather, I argued from what we do know.

      3. I did indeed say that theism is required for meaning in life. But this is not to say that only theist’s lives are meaningful. Rather, it is to say:

      1. If theism is true, then life has meaning (for both theists and atheists alike), and
      2. If theism is false, then life is meaningless (for both theists and atheists alike)

      So, if one believes that life has meaning, one should be a theist. But I’ve never said that anyone must be a theist in order to have a meaningful life. These ideas need to be kept straight.

      And, by life having meaning, I mean objectively valuable. That it is of worth outside mere opinion.

      Last, I understand the difference between assertion and support. I gave reasons for my positions in the arguments. But I didn’t give reasons for the conclusions you’ve named as my positions. Once it is clear what I’m actually claiming, it should become clear that I’ve supported those claims.

      But, please let me know how you now understand my arguments. I completely agree that the versions you’ve given are not rational.

      • Keith Pinster

        Okay, let’s try this: Please explain WHY, if life has meaning, theism must be true. This is a huge leap with apparently no supporting evidence. Please provide the evidence that actually supports this assertion.

        Oh, and by the way, if you just say “I already have,” I will take that to mean that you know you have no evidence and are dodging the question, because I have read nothing in any of your articles that indicates this is anything more than supposition.

        • Debilis

          You are free to take “I already have” any way you’d like, but it is true.

          Specifically, the falsehood of theism would mean that there is no system of value outside human (and possibly alien) opinion. Mater doesn’t have natural “good” and “evil” states in materialism, it just exists. To say that theism is false, then, is to say that good and evil exist solely in human minds.

          But this is to say that good and evil are subjective, rather than objective. And that is to say that logically/objectively speaking, life has no meaning.

          So, life has meaning if, and only if, theism happens to be true. You are free to disagree (if so, give your reasons), but it is not supposition. It is a classical modus tollens argument.

        • Keith Pinster

          No meaning to whom?

        • Keith Pinster

          “But this is to say that good and evil are subjective, rather than objective. And that is to say that logically/objectively speaking, life has no meaning.”

          How do you get from good and evil being subjective (which I absolutely believe is true) to “life is meaningless”? That makes no sense whatsoever. You seem to be implying that good and evil are finite, objective terms, but that is impossible. You are talking about morality here and every single person on the planet has a different moral standard. So, to turn your argument around, since good and evil are just like beauty and ugliness (completely subjective), does that mean that theism is, by your definition, false?

        • Keith Pinster

          By the way, this actually assumes that life does, in fact, “have meaning” as you define it. Can you please give evidence that this is, in fact, the case? How do you know that our lives must actually “have meaning”?

        • Debilis

          No meaning objectively. If you have to ask “to whom”, then you’re already admitting my point–that meaning is purely opinion, and there is no fact of the matter.

          That is, if good and evil are subjective, then they have no objective value. That is the exact same thing as saying that, objectively speaking, life is meaningless.

          But I see no reason at all to think it impossible that good and evil are objective terms. But, if you feel that I’ve missed something, please let me know what it is.

          Really, I’d agree that atheism would be more likely if one could show conclusively that morality is subjective. Let me know what your argument is for that.

        • Keith Pinster

          I’ve already given you conclusive reason to doubt your conclusion. Morality is different things to everyone. Every person on the planet has a different moral code. Therefore, morality is is, by it’s very definition, subjective. Good and evil are HIGHLY subjective. Many every day acts are considered good by some people, evil by others, and neutral by still more people. Good and evil are always completely situational and the justification for them may or may not be accepted by those observing the act.

          Here’s a great example. I have stopped, many times in my life, to help people who were stranded on the side of the road. Many of those people have been women with flat tires. I change their tires for them and they are on their way. I never accept any sort of payment and never give my name, so the exchange is completely free and anonymous. Would that be a good act or an evil act? Consider if the woman is a muslim and her husband / boyfriend decides that it was inappropriate that she accept a strange man’s help, so he beats her to death. All this could have been prevented had I NOT helped her. So, NOW, was my act good or evil? Remember that his actions are completely justified by the delusional voice in his head (or, what you call “revelation”).

          Let’s do another: if a train is hurtling down a track and you see that it will kill 5 people if you do nothing, but if you divert the train to another track, it will only kill 1 person, would it be “good” to actively kill 1 person or “good” to passively allow 5 to die?

          To say good and evil are objective terms is such a naive and childish viewpoint, it is astonishing that anyone can be so blind to the world.

          So, how about you actually explain how you can justify claiming that morality is objective?

    • Mark Hamilton

      I really don’t think you understand what I mean by free will. I never brought up a soul. I simply pointed out that if materialism is true then we have no free will, and that the good people at the Center for Naturalism (among many others) agree with me. If all that exists is matter and energy then there is no way we can “choose” anything. An atom does not get to “choose” how it will react to another atom. A chemical compound does not get to “choose” how it will react to a solvent. They simply follow the laws of nature. Similarly, if we are made of nothing more than matter and energy then we cannot have any choices. Our brains are nothing more than an extremely complicated chemical reaction, but like all chemical reactions it doesn’t get a choice in what the outcome is. Therefore, no free will.

      Now if there is something more to our minds than matter and energy, then it might be possible that we could have some influence on our choices. But if there is only matter and energy than there is no free will.

      • Keith Pinster

        Here’s the problem with your argument: “Similarly, if we are made of nothing more than matter and energy then we cannot have any choices.” This is nothing more than supposition and speculation. It’s like comparing the brain to a brick. The brain is OBVIOUSLY a completely different object. It’s like saying “rocks can’t perform math and calculators are made of the same substance as rocks, therefore calculators can’t perform math calculations” or “we are made of atoms just like water, so our bodies must be fluid.” What you are doing is arguing by fallacy of oversimplification and making leaps with no logical basis.

        It’s hard to believe you don’t actually know this, but then, you probably do. You are probably just so used to people who are so desperate to believe that they are willing to grasp any nonsensical argument that supports their delusional superstition.

        • Mark Hamilton

          So can you explain to us how atoms and energy can choose how they react? I think it would clear up a lot of things (the Center for Naturalism would be interested to hear about it to, they’ll need to update their website).

        • Keith Pinster

          Certainly better than you could, but neurologists and neuro-biologists can certainly explain how neurons and synapses in the brain work to make decisions. Brain activity can be measured when we are thinking about things and making logical or ethical decisions. Not only that, but we can tell WHICH PARTS of the brain are responsible for different mental activities, so YES, it is clear that the brain is actually doing this work and not some phantom supernatural boogeyman. If you can’t tell the difference between a brain and a brick, well, that certainly explains a lot about your worldview, doesn’t it?

        • Mark Hamilton

          That’s all well and good, but it doesn’t answer my question. At what point do the atoms that make up our brain gain the ability to overcome the laws of nature and make their own choices about how they’ll react to each other? That seems to be what you’re arguing for, since you believe in both materialism and free will.

        • Keith Pinster

          When they combine to become the mechanism that we call a brain. Why is this so hard for you to understand?

          By the way – I do understand that “free will” is nothing but a throw away phrase for people like you. You will manipulate it into whatever definition you need in order to use it as an arguing point. I have already stated what I mean when I talk about “free will”, in that there is no reason to thing that there are any external forces, other than environment and experience, applied to our decision making process. I know that this is not the definition you are using, but you have yet to define what you are talking about, so you really need to actually define what you mean by “free will”.

          I know this because you started accusing me of bringing in the whole new subject of “souls” when you were the one that referenced the articles that were specifically talking about souls. Therefore, I am quite aware that you are more than happy to use strawman attacks in your arguments. So, instead of dancing around the subject, why don’t you specifically define what you mean when you talk about “free will” and we’ll go on from there.

        • Mark Hamilton

          I didn’t realize that fee will needed to be defined. Allow me to: Free Will as the idea that we are free to make whatever decisions we choose to, as opposed to the idea that all of our actions are inevitable and that choice is an illusion. If I have free will then that means I’m replying to your comment because I chose to do so, and that if I wanted I could have chosen to do any number of other things. If I don’t have free will then I really had no choice in replying to your comment. I may feel like I do, but that is an illusion. My replying to your comment is the inevitable result of a long line of cause and effect events occurring in my body, specifically my brain.

          Now you believe that the brain is made of nothing more than atoms and energy. We know that atoms and energy must follow the laws of nature. If our thoughts and actions are merely the results of a chemical reaction occurring in our brain, and we know that chemical reactions always follow the laws of nature, then our thoughts and actions aren’t actually freely chosen. Instead they’re the inevitable results of a long line of causation. That’s what the links I referenced are referring to when they say that they do not believe in a soul that can upset causality. They believe that all of our actions are the results of chemical reactions with only one possible outcome, and as such we have no free will. Choice is an illusion. Almost all the naturalists I’ve met have agreed with this sentiment, except you. So I wanted to know why you disagreed with common naturalist thought. I still want to know. Why does arranging atoms and energy into the structure we call a brain allow them to make choices instead of blindly following the laws of nature, as all other combinations of atoms and energy we’ve ever studied do?

    • Debilis

      “I’ve already given you conclusive reason to doubt your conclusion. Morality is different things to everyone.”

      That’s hardly conclusive; people perceive things differently. The fact that there are differences in how color is perceived does not mean that there is no objective reality to light.

      Nor are moral quandaries a reason to dismiss morality to the subjective bin. Certainly, you wouldn’t use unsolved scientific problems to make the case that physics is subjective. There is no reason to think that these problems are simply unsolvable. Much less are they a reason to dismiss moral objectivity.

      • Keith Pinster

        You are correct, physics is not subjective. Because physics follows the laws of nature, which can be quantified, examined, and tested. You are also correct in that, just because we haven’t nailed down a law of physics, doesn’t mean that law doesn’t exist.

        Your fallacy is that you are comparing morality to physics and they are completely different things.

        “That’s hardly conclusive; people perceive things differently.” – A perfect example of your fallacy. Yes, people “perceive” things differently. But a light wave is a light wave, no matter how a person perceives it. It is an external object that can be measured and quantified. Morality is not. Morality is nothing more than an emotional response to something.

        “Nor are moral quandaries a reason to dismiss morality to the subjective bin” – Really? Why not? Is it just because you don’t want to? If morality is objective, why can’t we determine which is the “correct” answer?

        Maybe you need a little help. Here are the definitions of the words you seem to not understand:

        “Subjective information or writing is based on personal opinions, interpretations, points of view, emotions and judgment. It is often considered ill-suited for scenarios like news reporting or decision making in business or politics.” – This is clearly the definition that fits good, evil, morality and ethics.

        “Objective information or analysis is fact-based, measurable and observable.” – If morality, good and evil fit into this category, PLEASE PROVIDE THE EVIDENCE. The evidence against this is that morality is different for every person (as you agree to) and is THEREFORE BASED ON OPINION, INTERPRETATION, POINT OF VIEW, EMOTIONS AND JUDGEMENT. If this is not the case, please give reasons why and evidence to support why it makes sense that morality is observable, and yet can’t be quantified.

        • Debilis

          I completely agree with you that morality and physics are very different. What I don’t understand is why you think I was claiming that they were the same. What I claimed is that your argument that morality is subjective would also make physics subjective.

          This is to say that it wasn’t a valid argument, not that physics and morality are the same.

          To explain:

          Yes, a light wave is a light wave, regardless of perception. But you are simply insisting that the same is not true of morality. You can’t simply say that people perceive it differently; that would be the same as saying that light is different because people perceive it differently.

          “If morality is objective, why can’t we determine which is the “correct” answer?”

          Because it’s a difficult subject. One wouldn’t simply insist “if the first split-second of the universe were objective, why can’t we determine the ‘correct’ answer?”. It is fallacious to insist that a thing is subjective on the grounds that people disagree about it.

          I agree with your definition of “subjective”, but don’t agree with your definition of “objective”, or will otherwise need a third term. That is to say, it assumes that anything which is objective is measurable.

          This is scientism, which is both lacking in evidence and self-contradictory.

        • Keith Pinster

          Well, I suppose it is “self-contradictory” if you completely ignore the definition of the terms “objective” and “subjective” as you do.

          As I said – conclusive proof that you are holding tightly to your delusion.

          ““If morality is objective, why can’t we determine which is the “correct” answer?’ Because it’s a difficult subject.” – You are completely wrong. It’s NOT because it’s a difficult subject, it’s because it is subjective.

          “This is to say that it wasn’t a valid argument, not that physics and morality are the same.” – And yet you keep comparing the two as if they were the same. So, are you just too stupid and.or delusional to understand the difference, too hard-headed and arrogant to actually accept that you might be wrong?

        • Keith Pinster

          I HAVE noticed that you can’t come up with a single logical reason why morality “must be objective” ( as I have to support the assertion that it is actually subjective) outside of just your assertion and a nonsensical comparison to a completely unrelated subject. Is the reason why you keep using that comparison because it’s the best argument you can come up with? My guess would be yes.

        • Debilis

          My reason for thinking that is experience. This is the same reason I believe in the physical universe–or anything else.

          But, experience can be overruled if someone can give a good reason why it is false. But I’ve not seen such a reason regarding morality.

          I should also mention that I wasn’t comparing morality to physics. I was pointing out that the argument you gave to “prove” that morality is subjective would “prove” that anything is subjective (including physics). That isn’t a comparison, it is a proper reductio ad absurdum.

          So, is there a reason why experience is wrong in this case?

        • Keith Pinster

          I wouldn’t say that “experience” is wrong, I would say that your conclusion is wrong, and demonstrably so. It’s funny that I specifically point out the exact reasons why morality specifically is subjective. Those reason can’t possibly be used to describe physics as subjective.

          Please explain EXACTLY how your “experience” somehow gives evidence that morality is objective. Just asserting it doesn’t make it true.

          You keep insisting that the reasons that physics is objective are the exact same reasons why morality is objective (although you don’t actually explain why), but then turn around and say you aren’t comparing physics to morality. If you aren’t comparing morality to physics, then why bring up physics on the first place?

          Here’s a question: would you consider it “moral” to slaughter children for the sole purpose of preventing them from seeking revenge, when they grow up, for slaughtering their parents, grand parents, siblings and friends? This seems like a pretty simple question, but I’m betting you are going to dodge it…

        • Debilis

          Okay, fair enough. If you think my conclusion is demonstrably false, could you point out how that was demonstrated?

          You’ve said morality is subjective on the grounds that people disagree about it. I’ve pointed out that people disagree about matters of objective fact all the time.

          You’ve said that there are points of morality about which people are still unsure. I then pointed out that this is also true about objective fact.

          That seems to bring us up to date. If you think you’ve demonstrated more than this, you need either to point out the reasons I haven’t named here, or you need to give specific reasons why my responses don’t apply to your statements.

          But experience gives evidence of morality because we have experience of morality. I seem to have a basic sense of the difference between good and evil. Every argument I can give for the subjectivity of morality can be paralleled by an argument for the subjectivity of the physical universe.

          But, no, I’m not saying this isn’t remotely saying that physics and morality are the same. Saying that we understand what light and sound are through experience doesn’t make them the same. It only means that we experience both of them.

          The same is true of morality and the physical world.

          But no, I am not going to answer your question. Whether or not you want to call that “dodging”, it has nothing to do with my point. I completely agree that there are difficult moral questions, but that doesn’t remotely mean that it is a subjective subject.

          I can’t think of any reason why a difficult question would make an entire field subjective.

  • Keith Pinster

    @paarsurrey (in response to agnophilo: “…no wisdom is applicable in all situations, the world is more complex than that.”) “Sorry; I read the comments again but could not locate which specific point is wrong.”

    Agnophilo, correct me if I’m wrong, but I think the point is that people can’t know all truth’s “through wisdom.” In other words, you can’t just instinctively know everything just by human observation and experience. Our senses and minds can deceive us (quite easily, actually), which is why the scientific method is so valuable. It is a very specific means of determining the truth from the chaff that our minds can create. It contains strict rules on how to differentiate real results from results that we try to lead ourselves to. It is a series of processes that do the best job of circumventing wishful thinking, speculation, and supposition. It allows us to find flaws in our logic and to discover the truth about reality. The evidence of this is all of the advancements that our race has accomplished using these methods, from physics and astronomy to psychology and medicine. Our entire lives are based in the advancements of science. Nothing else comes close to what science has provided mankind.

  • Keith Pinster

    #Mark Hamilton – “I didn’t realize that fee will needed to be defined.” – That would be your first major blunder.

    “Free Will as the idea that we are free to make whatever decisions we choose to, as opposed to the idea that all of our actions are inevitable and that choice is an illusion.” – Okay, I accept your definition.

    “Now you believe that the brain is made of nothing more than atoms and energy.” – We’ve already been through this. Atoms and energy can be arranged in any number of configurations in order to produce more sophisticated organisms. All atomic arrangements are not the same.

    “We know that atoms and energy must follow the laws of nature. If our thoughts and actions are merely the results of a chemical reaction occurring in our brain, and we know that chemical reactions always follow the laws of nature, then our thoughts and actions aren’t actually freely chosen.” – This is highly flawed, fallacious, simplistic, childish thinking. I’ve already given examples as to why this is a moronic argument. Why do people keep using the same argument when it shows that they are too stupid to understand basic principles?

    “That’s what the links I referenced are referring to” – No, as I stated and the articles clearly state, they are referring to a free will as it applies to a soul.

    “They believe that all of our actions are the results of chemical reactions… Almost all the naturalists I’ve met have agreed with this sentiment, except you.” – Then you have a very limited exposure to the world as a whole.

    “[I still want to know] why you disagreed with common naturalist thought.” – I don’t. I disagree with your concept of the “naturalist thought.” The problem is that you are manipulating the “naturalist thought” into something that it clearly is not. Basically, you are committing the classic strawman fallacy. The naturalist position is that there is no need to believe that there is a soul or any other supernatural influence over our decision making process. Neurologists continue to examine the brain to learn how it works, but we clearly understand that it does, in fact, work. We can alter the decision making process by altering the brain, therefore, the decision making process (whether it is deterministic or not), clearly lies in the physical brain. Obviously we are influenced heavily by our nature and our environment. Of course we react to things based on past experiences (hence the “cause and effect” phenomenon that xians love to point out). Our brains are “closed systems,” as it were, so it must, by it’s very definition, be influenced by outside influences such as our senses and experiences.

    Regardless of how you want to twist the terms, it still doesn’t make any difference. Whether we are free to make decisions as I claim or we lack
    “free will” as you are trying to define it is semantics and immaterial. The fact still remains that you can’t provide any evidence that there are any supernatural forces influencing our lives. Even if I capitulate that you are correct and our thoughts are nothing but deterministic outcomes, that changes nothing. Your argument is based in nothing but emotion. What you’re saying is that you “really want there to be ‘free will’ and therefore…” and that statement is meaningless. Just because you *want* something to be true, doesn’t mean it is. We are what we are, and, whether you like it or not doesn’t change it.

    You are making another classic blunder in your logic with your presumption: you believe that your superstition is true, then you are manipulating terms to try to find any slim argument that can be viewed in a way to negate others’ arguments. Nothing in the “free will” argument points towards any supernaturalism (must less a minor, petty pewter god like the abrahamic god) without assuming that this superstition is true in the first place.

    It’s funny, I have a friend who is a xian who just graduated from WGU and he fully admits that the hardest class for him was the Critical Thinking class that is required in first term. And the reason, again, self-admittedly, was that it goes against his religious beliefs. Based on your arguments, you would have a very hard time in that class, too. I can’t even tell how many logical fallacies you’ve been committing over and over again with your arguments. It really is a condemnation of our educational systems.

    • Mark Hamilton

      “Even if I capitulate that you are correct and our thoughts are nothing but deterministic outcomes, that changes nothing.”

      I’d say it does. For example, our first and most primal experience is that we have free will. That we can freely choose how we will act. If you’re going to tell me that I don’t have free will and that this basic observation is an illusion then you’ll have to demonstrate some evidence to support that belief. Evidence that hasn’t been provided.

      What’s worse is that if we don’t have free will then all human rationality and reasoning is suspect. Admitting that we don’t have will is tantamount to saying “I believe what I believe not because of reason, reflection, or observation, but because I have to believe what I believe based on the laws of nature and reactions happening in my brain.” However if this is true then why does it seem that our beliefs are based off of rationality instead of inevitable chemical reactions? Why does science work? Why do people change their minds after reading a book that brings up new arguments and points? Finally, why should I believe that my decisions are based off of natural reactions in the brain and not off of reasoning and reflection?

      Still, if you want to be a naturalist and believe in free will that’s fine, but you still haven’t explained to me how it would be possible. How can atoms and energy break the laws of nature? How is that possible? If the complex arrangement of atoms in the brain allows atoms and energy to act contrary to the laws of nature then what other physical objects might disregard the laws of nature?

  • Keith Pinster

    @mark Hamilton – “If you’re going to tell me that I don’t have free will … you’ll have to demonstrate some evidence to support that belief.” – Ah, here we go with the ol’ switcheroo. I tell you that I believe we have free will without the requirement of any sort of supernatural influence, you argue that I *must* believe otherwise, I tell you it doesn’t matter and then you come back with me not having evidence of the very position I don’t support in the first place. Gee, I wasn’t expecting that AT ALL!

    “What’s worse is that if we don’t have free will then all human rationality and reasoning is suspect. Admitting that we don’t have will is tantamount to saying “I believe what I believe not because of reason… (blah, blah, blah)” – First, as I have said, I believe we have free will (in that we have reactionary, trainable minds that are capable of making their own decisions and coming to their own conclusions). Did you miss the part earlier in the conversation where I said that? Just because I capitulated a point, does NOT mean I agree with it. I simply said it was moot when applied to YOUR argument. Second, your argument is an “if/else” fallacy. You don’t *want* our thoughts to be deterministic, so it must not be true. find the thought distasteful so you use it to argue something that is completely unrelated (supernaturalism). I’m not arguing one way or the other. What I AM arguing is that if you want to attribute anything supernatural to the argument, that assertion must stand on its own. It cannot be validated by proving or disproving something else.

    “Still, if you want to be a naturalist and believe in free will that’s fine…” – Gee, thanks for your permission. But I’m still pretty sure that my definition of “free will” and what you are using to generate an argument are 2 different things.

    “… but you still haven’t explained to me how it would be possible.” – Yes, I have. First, it is possible because we have minds that are capable of independent thought. Second, I have clearly stated that scientists clearly understand that the physical brain is capable of making decisions and performing cognitive reasoning. This is an “Argument from personal incredulity” fallacy. The rest of your statement is also a “Begging the question” fallacy.

    “How can atoms and energy break the laws of nature? How is that possible?” – Quite simple, they aren’t. They are following the laws of nature. It is you that is misunderstanding, misinterpreting, or misappropriating the “laws of nature” for your argument. You are making a strawman argument, attempting to apply the laws of quantum mechanics to the physiology of the brain. It is a ridiculous argument. By the way, this is an “existential fallacy”, just so you know.

    “If the complex arrangement of atoms in the brain allows atoms and energy to act contrary to the laws of nature then what other physical objects might disregard the laws of nature?” – None, and that is the very point. Your imaginary friend is the thing that disregards the laws of nature, which is why it is unbelievable to rational minds. Animate and inanimate objects are all made of atoms, yet they are not the same. Just because you can’t imagine a complex arrangement of atoms that are capable of using reason, knowledge, experience, and emotion to make independent decisions, don’t mean that it’s not possible. It just means that you need more education.

    • Mark Hamilton

      “Yes, I have. First, it is possible because we have minds that are capable of independent thought.”

      We both agree that our minds are capable of independent thought. My argument is that if our minds are nothing more than reactions of atoms and energy than independent thought is impossible; therefore, our minds must have a component that is neither atoms or energy.

      Your argument is to continue to assert that combinations of atoms and energy can reason and do have free will. Your evidence for this appears to consist of the fact that we do use reason. But this point isn’t in contention. Like I said, we both agree that people come to their beliefs through reason. What we disagree on whether it is possible for combinations of atoms and energy to produce free will thought. I don’t think combinations of atoms and energy can produce free will. Neither can Tom Clark, the director of the Center for Naturalism, among many others.

      Still I think you misunderstand my argument. You agree with me that no combination of atoms and energy, no matter how complicated, can break the laws of nature. Atoms cannot choose what they are going to do. A tennis ball does not choose how it will bounce when it’s thrown against a wall. It will follow a trajectory that could be predicted perfectly if we knew the exact speed, angle, mass, etc., of the ball. Similarly, you believe (as far as I can tell: correct me if I’m wrong about this) that our minds are made up of atoms and energy, atoms and energy that are reacting to the stimuli that make up the world around us. Energy travels through our senses, down our nerves, and enters the brain triggering a staggeringly complicated chain reaction in the brain that contributes to the even more complicated process that we call our mind. This chain reaction is immensely complicated, but if we knew enough about neurobiology then we could chart out the whole process from point A to point Z. In fact, if an outside observer simply had enough knowledge about the exact chain reactions that are currently in progress in your mind right now then they could predict your every thought, action, and decision from now until the day you die. The thoughts you have are the inevitable and predictable result of a series of cause and effects.

      That’s my argument, and that’s the argument I haven’t seen much evidence against (a lot of assertions, but little actual evidence).

      • Keith Pinster

        “Your argument is to continue to assert that combinations of atoms and energy can reason and do have free will. Your evidence for this appears to consist of the fact that we do use reason.”

        Wrong. And if you are just going to ignore what I DO present as logical evidence, then what is the point of trying to have a conversation with you?

      • Keith Pinster

        “We both agree that our minds are capable of independent thought. My argument is that if our minds are nothing more than reactions of atoms and energy than independent thought is impossible; therefore, our minds must have a component that is neither atoms or energy.

        Your argument is to continue to assert…”

        Once again, you are doing nothing here except trying to shift burden of proof. I think we can both agree that the brain is interconnected to the mind. The evidence of the has been overwhelming for centuries. If you can’t at least agree to that, there is no hope for you.

        YOU are asserting that “there must be something more” committing an Argument out of Ignorance fallacy. You can’t understand how the brain can work, so you are asserting that there must be more to it.

        I, on the other hand, reject your assertion. You WANT me to be asserting something, so that you could then argue that I would then need to provide evidence. The problem is, I am not. I simply do not accept YOUR assertion that there “must be something more.” It is up to YOU, as the source of the assertion to prove your point.

        You really need to understand this, so I will go over it again. No matter what happens to anyone else’s argument, whether it is proved right, wrong, or never proved at all, that does NOT relieve you of YOUR burden of proof. If you can’t PROVIDE EVIDENCE (either physical or logical) that the brain is incapable of being the source of the mind, then your argument holds no water. It is up to YOU to prove your assertion that “there must be something more.” And “you can’t explain” is useless, hollow, meaningless. It is an argument out of ignorance.

        “Naturalism” and “materialism”, as you put them, are the default explanation for everything. Why? Because it has been so far for everything we know. Because it is easily observable, explainable, definable, predictable, and testable. We live in a material universe. Neither you nor Debilis deny that the material universe exists. There is no need for “materialists” or “naturalists” to provide any evidence for the negative position that there is nothing more because that position is simply a rejection that there is anything more. The burden of proof lies with the person that is making the positive assertion; that something DOES exist. You and Debilis are making those assertions. You are claiming that, not only does something more exists, you actually know the nature of this extra-naturalistic thing. Therefore, no matter how many times you try to shift it, the burden of proof ALWAYS falls back on you.

        Yes, if I were making the assertion that no god or gods exist, the burden of proof would be on me. However, I am not making that assertion. Do I “believe” it? Yes, absolutely. However, I am not making that assertion. What I AM doing is rejecting YOUR assertions based on the fact that YOU have no evidence. I am willing to allow my beliefs to change if evidence is ever forthcoming, but I have never been shown anything or told anything that is consistent with the need for any sort of supernatural invisible sky fairy, so for now, I do not believe that any exist. If they do, they sure aren’t paying any attention to us that is detectible.

        • Mark Hamilton

          Again, nothing but a rant on the burden of proof instead of actually responding to the argument I put forth. Listen, it’s fine for you to ask me for evidence to support the idea that something other than atoms and energy exists. That’s why I bothered to provide the argument I laid out above as to why free will is impossible if only atoms and energy exist, and why, if free will is impossible, logical reasoning is impossible. That’s my argument. Your response to it has consisted solely of claiming that I don’t understand how the brain works. I admit I don’t understand how the brain works, but I also can’t see how, if the mind is made up of energy and atoms only, free will could ever be possible. Simply telling me I’m ignorant without trying to educate me on the subject is a pretty lousy argument.

          What’s more, you are asserting something. Everyone (well, mostly everyone) agrees that the universe exists, and that atoms and energy exists. However we also agree that minds exist, emotions exist, reasoning and logic exist, morality (whether subjective or objective) exists, etc. As a materialist you make the claim that all of these things are ultimately reducible to reactions of atoms and energy. As a theist I’m making the claim that some things can be reducible to reactions of atoms and energy but some things can’t. We are both making metaphysical claims here. I can already see that you’re going to respond, as you always have, by insisting that you are making no claims whatsoever and that all the burden of proof is on me all the time always. You’ll probably also shout at me in all caps, to make sure I heard you. However the fact will remain that I have provided an argument as to why certain things (free will and rationality) cannot be reduced to atoms and energy. Until you provide an argument to support your own metaphysical assertions I don’t see how you’re going to convince me otherwise.

        • Keith Pinster

          Ya, it is a rant – because you absolutely refuse to understand the process. That’s not my fault. If you would learn the basics of logical thinking, then you wouldn’t have to be talked to like a petulant teenager who thinks they know everything, but really don’t understand even basic concepts.

          You keep saying things like “…the argument I laid out above as to why free will is impossible if only atoms and energy exist…” but it is NOT an argument of “why”, it’s an argument based on your ignorance, as I have pointed out several times. Not only that, but it is immaterial to the larger picture. How do you know you even have free will? Your argument for that is “because I think I do,” which is no argument at all.

          Regardless, my point still stands – you STILL have to prove that there is something supernatural and that, even if the mind is not the product of the brain (which my arguments have supported all along), that whatever is outside of our brains is supernatural and not natural in nature.

          “I admit I don’t understand how the brain works, but I also can’t see how…” And this is the crux and basis for my assertion that you are committing an Argument out of Ignorance fallacy. You completely admit that you don’t know how the brain works. Is that justification to say that it can’t work? Only in the mind of a child.

          “We are both making metaphysical claims here.” Just how many times do you want to make yourself look like an idiot by misrepresenting my position? I AM NOT MAKING A CLAIM. I AM SIMPLY REJECTING YOURS. (Good call on the caps, although I doubt that it will get through your delusional stupor this time, either.)

          “…the fact will remain that I have provided an argument as to why certain things (free will and rationality) cannot be reduced to atoms and energy” Well, kind of correct. You have actually presented an ASSERTION. You have NOT presented any evidence to support your assertion. You have presented a fallacy based in self-admitted ignorance.

          “Until you provide an argument to support your own metaphysical assertions…” Just how many times do I have to do this? My evidence is simply that the mind MUST be the product of the brain, because when we alter the brain, the mind is altered. We’ve know this for hundreds of years. It is observable, testable, repeatable, and predictable. Sure, there have been a handful of cases where a person’s brain was damaged and no apparent effect was produced (notice I said APPARENT), but the rational argument behind that is that it is in the neighborhood of 1 in a million and no one ever claimed that we use 100% of our brain all the time, so this is easily covered in basic statistics. How is this not evidence? If the mind is not a result of the operations of the brain, how do you explain this? Or are you just going to keep ignoring it and continue your lie that I refuse to provide evidence?

      • Keith Pinster

        So, to sum up:

        Your position is that the supernatural exists because you lack knowledge of how the brain works and because you think there “must be more.”

        My position is that, because there is overwhelming evidence that the mind is directly connected to the brain based on the fact that if the brain is damaged, the mind is ultimately altered, there doesn’t require any more explanation of how the mind exists beyond “it is a function of the brain.” Also, the activity of the brain, as the mind works, can be directly observed, tested, and predicted.

        We know the brain exists. We know that altering the brain (through damage both physical and chemical) also alters the mind. We know that there is no evidence of anything other than chemical or energetic in the universe.

        How are you defending your position again?

        • Mark Hamilton

          Again, we both agree that the brain exists. And we also agree that the brain and the mind are connected. That has never been in dispute. My argument is that is free will exists than there must be more to our minds than simply the brain. What’s more, my argument isn’t that we must have free will “because I feel like it” but because if we don’t have free will then rationality and reason go out the window, and we have very good evidence to support the idea that humans come to decisions based on rationality and reason.

          My argument has never been that the supernatural exists because I lack knowledge on how exactly the brain works. My argument is that if, as the materialists claim, all that exists is matter and energy and if the laws of nature cannot be broken then it logically follows that we have no free will. An argument that you always somehow manage to completely ignore. You never try to dispute my logic, but merely shout that I’m ignorant. Well if I’m ignorant then educate me. But if all you have to say is that I’m wrong without ever actually addressing my argument then I’m afraid you’ll do little to convince me otherwise.

        • Keith Pinster

          “…if free will exists than there must be…” – Right. One is an assumption with no supporting evidence and no clear description of what you are talking about, and the other is a non-related assertion with nothing whatsoever to link the two and that has no basis. You keep saying “must be” because you are (self-admittedly, I might add) too ignorant of facts to imagine something. It’s funny, you can’t imagine how the brain works, even though it is proved beyond a doubt that it does, but you believe the fairy tales that people have fed you with no basis in reality. Don’t you find that a little ironic?

          If you were to take the most basic critical thinking class at your local community college, you would learn why this sort of statement is completely nonsensical and fallacious.

        • Mark Hamilton

          I believe the brain works. I’ve also laid out my argument quite clearly (and repeatedly) as to why I don’t believe free will is possible if materialism is true. You’ve had many opportunities to teach me the error of my ways. Instead all I’m learning is that trying to have a discussion with you is like trying to teach a goat how to drive a car. It turns out horribly and it just makes the goat mad.

          I have a Bachelors degree, I took three years of debate, four college courses on rhetoric and argumentation, and critical thinking is one of my favorite pastimes. For you I’d recommend the same for you, along with a course in reading comprehension and basic etiquette.

        • Keith Pinster

          Yes, I know you have laid out your reasoning clearly. I’ve never said I don’t understand your reasoning, what I’ve been saying all along is that your reasoning is fallacious. As I have said, you don’t need to take my word for it. Go to your community college and take a class on Critical Thinking. If you do this, it will teach you why your reasoning falls way short of what is expected, especially for a debate of this type. Trust me, it will be a real eye opener for you.

        • Keith Pinster

          “critical thinking is one of my favorite pastimes.” – Wow, seriously? And yet when I point out all the different fallacies you are committing on just about every single post, you completely ignore this? Debating might be a favorite thing for you, nut I have to say, you really suck at it. You don’t use critical thinking at all when it comes to your delusional superstition. You make wild assertions with no basis in reality and expect people to just accept them. How is that “critical thinking”? If you actually ever have taken a course in this, you REALLY need a refresher.

  • Keith Pinster

    @Mark Hamilton – “I have a Bachelors degree, I took three years of debate, four college courses on rhetoric and argumentation, and critical thinking is one of my favorite pastimes.”

    Okay, can you tell me what argumentum ad absurdum is?

    Can you tell us what a reductio ad absurdum fallacy is?

    Can you explain the difference between logical evidence and speculation and supposition?

    Can you tell me what “argument out of ignorance” is and give an example?

    Can you tell us the concept behind Occam’s razor?

    Can you tell us, if you are so good at debate, precisely why, even if you are correct and there “must be something more” (which is invalid in itself, but let’s pretend you actually have a valid point), why it is that your particular delusional superstition “must be the correct one” (using the rules of critical thinking rather than supposition and speculation)?

    • Mark Hamilton

      An argumentum ad absurdum is a method of arguing that attempts to show an argument is absurd by following it’s logic to an obviously absurd conclusion. A good example is the old Roman law that stated that a landowner owned all the space above and below his property. Some objected by pointing out that if his property extends infinitely above the land that he owns, then that means the landowner owns even the stars themselves that exist above his property. Since it is absurd that someone buying a field can become owner of stars millions of miles away, so the law itself is also absurd. I also used a form of argumentum ad absurdum myself. If all that exists is matter and energy, and such matter and energy must follow the laws of nature, then it logically follows that free will does not exist, and with it reasoning, logic, and reflection. Since reasoning, logic, and reflection obviously exist then all that exists must not be matter and energy.

      A reduction ad absurdum is just another name for the argumentum ad absurdum. I’m surprised you didn’t know that.

      Logical evidence is that which follows from a series of known suppositions. The most famous introductory example is

      I. All men are mortal.
      II. Socrates is a man.
      III. Therefore, Socrates is mortal.

      Speculation and supposition is argument that is based on knowns that are in contention or are fallacious. For example.

      I. Jerry didn’t laugh at my joke.
      II. People who like me laugh at my jokes.
      III. Therefore, Jerry doesn’t like me.

      This is speculation and supposition, because the claim “People who like me laugh at my jokes” is obviously in contention. There are many situations in life where people don’t laugh at jokes. Liking you is only one of many factors.

      An argument out of ignorance is claiming that something is true not because you have evidence in favor of it but because there is no evidence against it. An example would be

      I. I believe that a crocodile broke into the house and ate the cookies.
      II. You don’t have any evidence that a crocodile didn’t do it.
      III. Therefore, a crocodile did it.

      Obviously false. However, there is an example of an argument from ignorance that I prefer:

      I. I believe that nothing exists besides matter and energy.
      II. Nobody has ever seen anything besides matter and energy.
      III. Therefore, all that exists is matter and energy.

      Occams Razor is the idea that we should not needlessly multiply causes. If, to give a very silly example, we walk into the kitchen and find that the cookie jar has fallen to the floor and broken, all the cookies are gone, and the dog has a guilty look on his face, then we shouldn’t conclude that, say, a whole pack of dogs ate the cookies. One dog is all that is necessary and unless we find evidence that more than one dog was involved (say, multiple muddy pawprints) then we should stick with the one dog hypothesis.

      Now as for my own arguments, I believe I’ve made them quite clear. My argument for the supernatural that I’ve presented to you is

      I. Materialism claims that all that exists is matter and energy.
      II. Matter and energy must follow the laws of nature.
      III. That which strictly follows the laws of nature has no possible “choice”
      IV. If there is no “choice” then free will cannot exist.
      V. If free will cannot exist then reason and rationality cannot exist.
      VI. We have very good reason to believe that reason and rationality exist.
      VII. Therefore, materialism must be false and there must be something more to existence than matter and energy.

      So which of these points do you dispute, and for exactly what reasons?

      • Keith Pinster

        You did pretty good up until your third point, at which point you completely go off the rails. Where did you get “That which strictly follows the laws of nature has no possible “choice”?” What you are arguing is the nature of time. If time is a constant dimension, then everything that will happened has happened and our movement through time is just a function of our perception and everything we do is deterministic. If time is more of a movement, then time is unfolding before us and we have the opportunity to change our personal course, hence free will. There is nothing in “the laws of nature” that prevent choice. everything on your list after that is based on a false assumption. See how easy logic can be?

        I am absolutely amazed that you seem to understand critical thinking, but you seem to be completely incapable of applying it to your delusional superstition.

        • Mark Hamilton

          You claim that there is nothing in the laws of nature that prevents choice. However, you’ve also told me that matter and energy cannot break the laws of nature. Now we know that the laws of nature demand that atoms and energy react in certain ways. An atom cannot choose how it will react to antoher atom, it must follow the laws of nature. A tennis ball cannot choose where it will ricochet off a wall, it must follow the laws of nature. Baking soda cannot choose how it will react to vinegar, it must follow the laws of nature. Now if our minds are nothing more than a very complicated reaction of atoms and energy in the mind then it follows that we cannot choose any of our thoughts are actions. All are inevitable results of a long chain of action and reaction following the laws of nature.

          The nature of time doesn’t even enter into my argument. I’m not arguing that time is a constant dimension or a movement. I’m arguing about atoms, energy, and the laws of nature.

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