Monday, September 19, 2011

VPPZMM Debate Notes 2

The less unedited, not-as-temporally-ordered notes. I've got the in-order baseline now, so I can check my natural editing process against it for self-flattering biases. (Fact is I suck at getting things right on the first try, and the best technique I've found for doing a second round is to let it simmer on the back burner for a while.)


-"correctly conceded two significant points. They are as follows:

1. There is something, possibly of a distinctly external nature, is imposing itself on people throughout history"

Incorrectly, actually, as the facts can easily go either way. The correct response is the ignorance hypothesis, "I don't know," or by defining how you're lowering your usual evidence standard so as to accept the case for one side or another.

(I was not previously aware consciously that lowering one's standard is a workable strategy.)

I should re-state; something is clearly making desert tribesman apprehend a massive force of good, however, the list of things that could cause that is a mile long.

-"2. Objective evil, as defined as a self-aware, purposeful, and malicious force which intends material harm and suffering to others and is capable of inflicting it, is quite real."

Again, factually incorrect.
Again, if you try to define 'harm' antecedent to defining morality, you get nonsense, and moreover 'malicious' means 'to mean harm.' Vox sucks at definitions. 'Suffering' is a kind of harm. Neither 'purposeful' nor 'self-aware' can be objectively measured.
So, charitably interpreted, we've got 'evil is harm.' Well, no shit. Identities are identical. Do I have to hammer this home harder? Let's anyway. If you're not harming anyone, can what you're doing be evil? Identities are identical...

This is a good example of why debates are epistemically pointless. You 'win' debates by having the opponent concede points, but half the time they concede for bad reasons and the other half it's all bullshit anyway.

Empirically speaking, if you believe anything due to a debate, you should stop, drop and roll, because you're on fucking fire. Heat, light, and ouch.

-"This is not the case. Most dictionaries similarly distinguish between God and gods, sometimes more specifically than Oxford, and many even define the concept more broadly. For example, Merriam-Webster defines "god" thusly:"

The problem is not consensus between dictionaries - a curious thing for anti-AGW Vox not to realize - the problem is that there is no extant definition of 'deity' and the dictionaries only put something down because they have to.

At this moment I predicted a philosopher's dictionary would do better. And indeed... Stanford, take it away.

"This brings us naturally to the question of what we might consider to be an adequate concept of God, whether or not we wish to argue for the existence of such a being. [...] Would it help towards an adequate conception of God if we said that God has the sort of existence or non-existence that prime numbers have?"

Etc, etc. Oxford and Webster can suck it, basically. Their definitions are as they are because they're ignorant, and they're ignorant because everyone is. (Except possibly me and anyone else who accepts 'consciousness of concepts.')

-"The second Merriam-Webster definition is helpful"

The second definition is disastrous because it directly implies 'supernatural' which means 'immune to evidence.'

-"because its use of the term “believed” points to the important aspect of the potential confusion between technologically advanced space aliens and gods. While one could get technical and assert that a mistaken belief in the divinity of a technologically advanced individual is sufficient to prove the existence of gods as per the dictionary definitions, this is not an argument I am making."

Well, this looks like it is going to be a tangled mess. Something about beliefs - truths inform beliefs, not usually the reverse - and an apparent admission that Vox wants to argue for the divine, not whatever Oxford has in mind. I'm this close to /headdesk already.

-"My purpose in citing a correct dictionary definition of gods and the potential confusion of aliens for them is merely to show that the intrinsic difficulty in distinguishing"

Really, really should have said so.

-"renders reliance upon the science-based materialist consensus an inherently invalid metric."

Sophistry. Of course relying on consensus is a fallacy. However, relying on the science-based method is not inherently invalid, even though it currently cannot make the distinction; it can in principle, as long as 'deity' doesn't imply 'supernatural.'

The technique is deeply entangling true statements with false ones. Vox has plausible deniability if you point out his point shouldn't dismiss the methods of science from discussion - as indeed the focus on 'evidence' should suggest. However, the naive, undefended response to such wording is to forget exactly that.

I have low hopes for where this is going.

-"it means that the perception of gods and/or aliens, and more importantly, the means of perceiving them are unreliable and therefore cannot be appealed to as if they are conclusive, or even meaningful in this specific regard."

Owww. The pain.

By the way, the verbosity is also likely a sophistic technique making Vox appear more sophisticated than the thoughts he's forwarding. He could also just be incompetent.

What Vox just wrote means, "the instruments for perceiving gods cannot even be appealed to as meaningful." That is, all meaningful instruments are recording not-gods. Well, case closed, Vox concedes debate. Let's all go home.

Owwwwwwwww. I shudder to think what Vox was intending to mean.

-"this means science is an intrinsically unreliable means of determining what historical evidence for the existence of gods and/or aliens is valid and what is not."

Well, now I know.
Science is empiricism. If it's evidence, it's scientific - regardless of what Vox' straw materialists think.

-"Therefore, the science-based materialist consensus is incapable of judging the mass of available historical evidence for gods."

I have a bad feeling that this isn't sophistry. That Vox really thinks that one cannot be a historian and a scientist simultaneously.

I guess that explains why Vox thinks that the Bible having accurate accounts of contemporary events is some kind of blow to materialism.
It's painful for me to try to figure out the causal net of that logic, however, so I'm going to stop.

-"I showed that the failure of modern science to detect gods during only 0.6 percent of modern Man's existence is analogous to the Aztecs assuming that because no white men were seen during a given 201-day period between 1427 and 1519, Cort├ęs and the conquistadors did not exist."

No, you didn't.

Again, debates == epistemically pointless, to first order. I suppose they can be used as sort of second-order punching bags, though. To first order all debaters in all debates are wrong, but one could structure instruction around tasking the curious with determining how and why they're wrong.

-"According to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, there are 5.8 million science and engineering researchers in the world,"

Incoming mathemology alert. Arguments are not true just because they have numbers, even if the numbers are correct.

-"it is worth recalling that despite eyewitness testimony and historical evidence dating back to The Apadana of Xerxes in 424 BC, modern science did not credit the existence of the okapi for 299 years, the first three-quarters of the modern scientific era, despite the fact that an estimated 15,000 okapis still live in the wild today."

Well, at least it is profoundly flawed instead of obviously flawed.
This is why a coherent debate about gods would focus on the epistemic unavailability of the supernatural. There's a category difference between mammals and gods, shockingly enough. From there it would move on to what constitutes reasonable evidence to discriminate gods from not-gods, and from there presumably would actually show some of this evidence. ( many years do you reckon until such a debate actually takes place? I figure the science-religion culture war will end first, making it moot.)
It is true that arrogant scientists are often wrong, but has little place in the debate. The question is whether evidence exists, not whether there are epistemic idiots.

-"And given how we are informed that 90% of the matter in the universe still remains undetected,"

Sophistry, unless Vox wants to claim that gods are solely comprised of non-baryonic matter. Which would, again, instantly sink his own side, as 'undetected' means 'there is no evidence of.'

It would be a much more interesting debate if he did, though. It would mean the correct analogue for a particle accelerator to dark matter would be prayer and meditation. Cheaper: far less government cap-feather megaproject and much more individualist and libertine.

-"one cannot reasonably say that our evidence for the supernatural has begun to wane; if anything it has increased in recent decades because the testimonial evidence for the supertechnological is indistinguishable from the testimonial evidence for the supernatural. At this point, we have no idea if ancient evidence for gods is more indicative of technologically advanced aliens than current evidence for technologically advanced aliens is indicative of ancient gods."

Hard-core sophistry.
Indeed gods and aliens are indistinguishable to intra-debate methods. That, however, means that Vox is arguing for aliens to exactly the extent he supposes himself to be arguing solely for gods.
Which is why his repeated and egregious category errors are so fatal. The first step is to find out how to distinguish them, not to try to use what could very well be evidence for aliens as evidence for gods.
Not that it has been established the evidence is in fact of aliens OR gods.

This is broken-window sophistry. The idea is to find it plausible that the evidence is for gods because Vox points that way, and thus forget it is identically plausible that Vox is systematically proving himself wrong.

-"All we know now is that there is a long and consistent record of evidence of something with superscientific abilities"

Ah, so that's why Vox is so hung up on Oxford's non-definition. (Did you notice the irony of invoking dictionary consensus and then disparaging scientific consensus?) He's attempting to show that there's evidence of Oxford's definition of 'god,' (true, there is) and hoping that nobody notices that it isn't what anyone normally means by 'god.'

More sophistry; Vox is trying to gradually slip in the assumption that the evidence in fact demonstrates super-scientific abilities. Plausible deniability: sloppiness or even admission of error; the strategy is to insert many of these so that, statistically, some slip past, and secondly so that addressing them all would consume DS's entire word limit.

I have little doubt that, as last time, the judges will be taken in.

-"This does not mean that gods exist. This does not mean that aliens exist. This does not mean that aliens broadly defined as gods exist"

It's this kind of thing that damns Vox. It shows he has mens rea. How can I be so sure?

-"This merely means that the weight of the historical evidence strongly indicates that aliens and/or gods exist"

No. No it doesn't. Non-sequiteur.

-"and that it is at least conceivable that supertechnological aliens, transdimensional beings, and supernatural gods are actually one and the same thing."

No. No it isn't.
For one, aliens don't even try to solve the first-mover problem.
This is truly dumbfounding. I...I can't quite believe I understood that properly. Yet, I can't see any interpretation other than Vox==dumbass.
Again, supernatural means immune to evidence.
Transdimentional beings don't even have an overconfident dictionary definition, because nobody but nobody knows how that could possibly work. Especially if Vox means reality-hopping, not just 5D or whatever.

He would have done better to just quote some Dr. Seuss here.

-"However, it should be noted that even iron-clad scientific proof of the existence of gods would not be sufficient to prove the existence of a creator god, still less the existence of a Creator God, and less yet the existence of the Christian Creator God"

More mens rea. Vox knows better, but prefers not to act better.

-"A very different case is required."

Mens rea. Should have started with that if that's where you were going. Suspense is good in a novel, not in papers nor debates. Deliberately misleading your opponent is not good form, oddly enough.

-"I shall endeavor to explain why the analogy of light and shadow is correct and how the existence of evil suffices to prove the existence of a creator god worthy of the more significant term God."

I hope you'll forgive my skepticism about the endeavor, as it would be a first. (Addendum; well, he did endeavor, it just didn't work.)

-"the two steps in the logic that still need to be demonstrated here are a) that the existence of evil requires the presence of a source of good, and, b) that the only entity capable of dictating an objective and definitive good is the Creator or His agent."

See? Capable of logic. Simply prefers not to use it.
Well, mostly. As before, 'source' is hopelessly ambiguous. This is a natural mistake, however.

Though last time I did learn to make conscious that possibilities imply the opposite possibility, while necessities imply the opposite's impossibility.

-"However, of the seven deadly sins, wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony, only gluttony even requires an action for its commission."

In case you had any doubt that Vox was really interested in 'gods' as opposed to 'God.' Pain.

-"And yet, those who admit to the existence of evil uniformly consider these intentional states of consciousness to be evil even when the actor remains completely inactive."

Ooh, ooh! I don't. Indeed the idea that thoughts can be 'wrong' is one of the major epistemic blocks that prevent most people from seeing the truth, I just realized consciously. In principle it is possible to do both, but you'd have to correctly assess a priori that no correct thoughts were morally wrong. Due to beliefs being imperfectly true, even this stricture is not enough.

('Uniformly' my ass.)

Second, it now becomes obvious that Vox thinks he thinks that one can be evil but harm no-one. (He's still ontologically committed to it, though - sins harm the sinner and God. If it harms neither, it isn't sin, and I understand it cannot harm one without harming the other.)

-"It is not merely the pedophile's actions which are evil, but also his state of consciousness previous to any subsequent evil actions."

Sophistry, though this one is probably unintentional: due to sincere belief in thoughts-as-sin. The strong visceral reaction against pedophilia makes it hard to reject the idea that the pedophile's thoughts are wrong - precisely because of the thoughts-as-sin mistake. Thing is, epistemically, you can't know in advance. You have to consider that maybe they're not wrong and then find out. Necessarily this means thinking the evil thought, because it needs to be realized to be examined - a thought nobody is thinking doesn't exist. Therefore, if thoughts can be evil, discovering if a thought is evil or not is itself evil. The contradiction should be obvious at this point.

I think I can safely predict that reducing evil-precursor thoughts reduces evil actions. However, that begs the question of whether evil thoughts can be reduced. What causes them in the first place - are you in fact responsible for them? Moreover, how?

Vox probably has all this tangled up in his head so tightly he can't see the individual threads.

-"So, evil is fundamentally a matter of consciousness, which at this point in time places it beyond the current ability of the science-based materialist consensus to examine."

Another technique for dealing with sophistry is to take it bluntly seriously.
Again, going by consensus is an ad authoritam fallacy. So, no shit.
See? Easy. Since it is sophistry there are multiple avenues for this attack, such as the epistemic categories, curiosity as to Vox's attack on materialists specifically, and curiosity as to how Vox thinks he has proven any link between consciousness and morality.

I can, by the way, which is why I know what to look for and can recognize the flaw even in Vox's handwaving. Short version: morality is about value, which is valuable because consciousnesses value it, which sounds tautological but is normal for consciousness because consciousness is direct. Vox isn't even aware of half these issues. (Moreoever this approach reproduces the golden rule, basically.)

-"But those who have experienced such states of consciousness already know that the materialist explanation for cause-and-effect are insufficient,"

Vox is now in over his head.
If the materialist explanation is insufficient, then evidence will be impossible to come by. If that doesn't make sense to you, you're over your head too. I'm happy to put in simpler terms on request.

-"Consider [...] a Man who possesses both the capacity to consider consequences as well as a moral sense."

Hey Vox, what is a moral sense? How does it work? If morals are objective, couldn't a dog be trained to recognize them? Or a computer? If we black-boxed our intuitive prejudices about right and wrong, would we be able to tell Man has a moral sense? If so, how? Would it occur to amoral aliens that Man has such a sense, is it necessary to explain his behaviour? Etc, etc?

Do you have any fucking idea what you're talking about at all?

-"Man's consciousness observably has at least three aspects, as unlike animals, which operate according to a simple utilitarian dualism, Man has an additional sense which acts as an internal brake upon his desires"

You've been observing animal consciousnesses? Neat. So how does that solution to the other-minds problem go again?

The 'logic.' It hurts.

-"When Man contemplates an action, he is capable of taking at least three elements into account. [...]
3.The morality of his action"

Apparently animals can't imagine that it will harm others, or something? Going by the definition above? They don't harm on purpose - no animal ever tried to kill another?
What, exactly, are they supposedly not doing?

Well, Vox misstepped. I think he could have glossed over the weaknesses in his background knowledge for morality, instead of openly revealing his ignorance and letting people like me pin it down.

-"The sense that is required for the third step is what I referred to in the previous round as the antenna that is indicative of the existence of some form of transmission."

Raw assumption.
At least he has a theory, but that means it can be tested - and it fails most tests. (Not in the mood to be exhaustive at present.)

-"It is usually referred to as conscience, or in religious terms, the 'still small voice'"

The small voice is a far more interesting topic for debate than gods-yes/no.
Note how indeed it doesn't occur to Vox to justify his assumption. (Addendum: I think I'm talking about how Vox is reasoning forward but not backward.)

-"Materialists assume that this third element does not exist and is merely a variable result of combining the first two elements,"

Begging the question. Do they? The materialists I've observed understand morality even less than Vox, and it doesn't occur to them that thoughts have elements at all.
Attacking materialists specifically will most likely be immaterial to Vox's overall argument. Well, 'argument.'

-"but their opinion is irrelevant at this point"

"Hi, I'm Vox. I waste words on pointless and unsupported attacks of my ideological enemies! Please take me seriously."

-"since they are still wrestling with the question of the material existence of consciousness itself."

I probably should note that I'm not a materialist for this exact reason.

-"we must decide if it is more likely that the signal is internally or externally generated."

This is getting tiresome. Should have done this with aliens vs. gods. Didn't most likely because he intuitively understands he can't. Unfortunately, that means I can predict he'll fail here as well.

-"but nearly 100 years of the consistent failure of psychoanalysis and its theory of the unconscious mind suggest that external generation is more likely"

A prodigious logical leap. It is superVox; leaps tall proofs in a single bound.

-"especially when one considers the external model's relative success in comparison with the internal model when everything from suicide rates to life expectancy are compared."

I am forced to assume - because he didn't say - that Vox is referring to the well-being of the religious as compared to the irreligious. Vox is nakedly asserting that the religious boost is due to the external model of morality - whatever that means exactly - as opposed to the million other things it could be.

-"Moreover, neither the materialist perspective nor the internal model can account for the difference between the rapid rate of claimed moral evolution observed in the United States with regards to homosexuality and the very small variations in moral sensibilities observed across societies separated by geography as well as the full extent of the historical record."

A: unsupported, not even explained.
B: the external model can't explain it either. Unless it can. Vox should probably at least mention his actual point, not just make a raw assertion that implies it.
C: he should probably check whether DS thinks morals evolve or not, in this sense. It is a belief professed by politicians, which means it is likely nobody but the basest fools genuinely believe it.

For the record, I think morals are absolute, we evolve to appreciate them, like math, and a few hundred years is not even close to enough time for that genetic basis to shift. Did I mention this already? I mention it because it brings the corruption of Vox's ideas into stark relief.

-"If we accept that the signal is externally generated, the next question is the extent of the signal."

Not sure why you'd accept that or even what difference it makes.

-"Due to the relatively small range of variations in moral sensibilities, we can see that this signal has a vast scope in terms of time as well as space."

'Big' is not 'infinite' and 'long' is not 'eternal.' So,

-"The transmitter, then, must be able to transcend the material to at least the same extent that human consciousness does"

Hardly. Also begging the question of whether consciousness is immaterial.

If it is a transmitter we should be able to intercept the signals with a suitable computer peripheral. Else, there cannot ever be evidence of the signals.

-"And it because it is departures from the signal that result in states of consciousness that we have shown to be evil, it is obvious that such states can only exist insofar as the signal also exists."

Well, that is an impressive ball of fallacies. I guess I know why Vox resorts to sohpistry so much; the alternative isn't better. More comfortable to read, though.

Is it departures from the signal that result in 'evil' thoughts? I suppose it answers the a priori, 'how do you know' question, but begs the question of how the signal knows.

In fact they weren't shown to be evil.

In fact the signal hasn't been show to exist, let alone be good.

The conclusion is circular. (Hence my 'ball' impression - you can probably learn this trick too.) Assuming the signal exists, is good, and that only departures of the signal are evil, that indeed it is impossible to appreciate good or evil without the signal, then yeah evil is impossible without the signal.

As a bonus, it proves that God is not good, because the signal needs a source, which can't know morality without the signal in the first place. (Morality bootstrapping; arising from more fundamental principles?)

What's actually obvious is that this is something Vox took on faith, not reason. He trusted an idiot and is now spouting idiocy, idiocy he doesn't really understand...but he has demonstrated an ability to reason forward from this moronic starting place, spreading the contamination.

Well, or he trusted a sophist which would mean mimicry is the source of his sophistry.

-"The Law can only be broken if the Law exists."

Quite so. By all means, demonstrate that a law exists. Also, a definition of 'law' would be nice, so we know when you've supported your beliefs and when you're just in la-la land.

-"It could also be a pre-programmed implant, in which case we would speak of the implanter rather than the transmitter."

If it is implanted at each birth, it can be intercepted. If it was implanted implicitly, it is subject to evolution.

-"so long as we accept that (1) evil exists, (2) potential differences between one's consequentially safe desires and one's moral sense can be observed, (3) the moral sense is informed by a source external to the conscious mind, and (4) Man's moral sense has not greatly changed over time, then the existence of evil logically indicates the existence of a definitive moral law that is as constant and as arbitrary as most, if not all, of the physical laws of the universe."

Ah! Yes.
It would be nice to establish those things, particularly because I clearly mean different things by them than Vox does.

-"And because this definitive moral law is constant and arbitrary, there must be a lawgiver capable of both defining and transmitting it."

So close, but no. If moral law is like physical law, it is subject to 'materialist' methods, which (probably) do not require any god to discover, explain, or exploit.

REBUTTAL 2: The rebuttaling.
"Rebut this, heathens!"

-"I would like to thank Vox for letting me off the hook for having to wrack my brain to come up with a sufficiently entertaining argument to prove a negative."

I find highly amusing the popular belief that you can't prove a negative. To prove x = !God it is sufficent to contradict x = God. Disprove the positive, respecting the difference between possible and necessary. Handily, most things people care about go into the 'necessary' category, even black swans - for example, is it necessarily possible that economic black swans occur? If so, you have to take them into account. If not, it is necessarily impossible and so you can ignore them.

-"It was my mistake to overlook the topic of the debate being towards "gods" rather than the preconcieved yet popular notion of "God"."

Haha, no actually, it wasn't a mistake.

-"establishing that, contrary to the arguments presented, there is evidence showing A3, B3, and B4 are each false statements will invalidate the conclusions drawn by both (A) and (B)."

DS doubts;
It is ahistorical and denialist to dismiss the testimony for gods,
The moral sense is inherently external to minds, (I think it's sort of both?)
Man's moral sense is constant through time.

Okay? Okay.

No, wait;
That Man's constant moral sense indicates that moral law is like physical law.

I think. Well, I'll find out. (Edit: I don't, really. DS establishes that there is at least one reason 'moral sense' may possibly not conform to the given definition of evil.)

-"However, testimony of personal contact with gods is a class of testimony, clearly defined by being an experience of the apparently supernatural, out of the ordinary, and demanding of an explanation."

What DS wants to say is that it cannot be dismissed out of hand, but can be categorized and characterized.

-"By presenting evidence that we have every reason to dismiss testimonial evidence of alien abductions due to the fact that pre-existing cultural influence both preceedes and largely defines what is later reported by alien abductees, and the same can thus be said of angelic visitations, demonic possession, and ornery leprechauns."

Long winded, but basically, yes.

Vox could counter this by finding a sub-category that DS was making a parallel category error about. Indeed I had hoped he would.

-"The only argument Vox has presented that A3 is true are increasingly elaborate ways of saying "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence". I completely agree that this is true."

Not quite true. Local absence of evidence is evidence of local absence. I may not be able to prove, 'there are no black swans on Earth' but I can definitely prove, 'there are no black swans in my backyard.' The difficulty is empirical, not epistemic.

-"However Vox's responses thus far regarding A3 have been against an imaginary materialist-concensus opponent who dogmatically insists that gods aren't real because he hasn't personally poked one with a stick."

And here's where I become vulnerable to accusations of siding with a side.
Which is why the point of this exercise is not to convince you one way or another, the point is to be dispassionate to the best of my abilities and record it, to see how good my best actually is.

Or, 'yeah, strawmen.'

Don't be taken in by accidental sophistry, though. I may agree with some of the things DS says; that doesn't mean he establishes what he intends to establish. For now, it only means he's not just a lamb for the slaughter.

-"That it would have been silly for a hypothetical group of Aztecs to deny the existence of hostile Spainards before ever meeting a white man is intentional obfuscation, because Vox's own argument is entirely dependent on the idea that the gods have in fact been met."

I wanted DS to hit back and I got my wish.
I wonder if part of the reason Vox has trouble with debating integrity is that he rarely runs into anyone who can hit back? It's hard to notice one's own internalized sophistries, no matter how sincere the attempt.

Though also note this is a good example of DS not properly supporting his own assertion. Yes, Vox's counter-argument is a failure. No, pointing it out doesn't explain why testimony for aliens is exactly the same as for gods, and therefore both can be dismissed.

-"We have established thus far that "not A3" is a true statement, given my evidence that this is such and Vox's complete lack of any rebuttal."

I can't be arsed to check if this is true. Obviously if true, yeah sure, but it could easily be false.

-"it could equally just as well be an integral part of us that is just another influence on our decision making process."

Think of a computer chip that is programmed by a signal in a single burst, but then runs around in the computer for the rest of their lives. It is, for all intents and purposes, external to that computer.
It doesn't matter if the signal is radio, spiritual, transmitted by proteins through the placenta, or transmitted by transcription from the genome.

Specifically, 'integral' and 'internal to the consciousness' means that the consciousness can affect the moral sense. If causation only flows in the opposite direction, it is not meaningfully internal. This is entirely plausible.

Vox most likely will prefer to hit DS where he's weak, avoiding as possible the stronger one above. He could surprise me with a valid counter-argument.

-"Vox himself admits there has been a "rapid rate of claimed moral evolution observed in the United States with regards to homosexuality". I could leave it at that."

This isn't engaging Vox's argument. The fault is somewhat Vox's for equivocating on 'evolution,' but DS should still know better. Vox, critically, used the word 'claimed.' Admitting that it has been claimed...yeah...about that...

-"Since this is what I was expecting from the very beginning, though, I will go ahead with what I had at the ready."

While tempting, showing contempt in the middle of a broken formal debate is not good strategy.

-"Man's moral sense greatly changes on a regular basis, even within the span of a moment. In fact, man's moral sense completely reverses itself and actively pushes us towards evil so often we have a word for it."

This is why Vox really, really, really needed to define 'moral sense.' Is vengeance an example of the moral sense changing, or not? I don't know if DS would normally think so and I don't know what Vox thinks either. DS may be proving a point or he may be wanking.

-"A man who gets his hands on the boy who raped his daughter meets every single clause of the definition presented above."

Another problem is that Vox is clearly assuming several facets of Christianity - which neatly answer this objection - without submitting them to debate.

I believe Christianity says that vigilante justice is evil. Judge not lest ye be judged, throw the first stone, and that thing about it being God's place and not yours. Probably others as well, such as render unto Caesar.

Vox can respond by noting that the moral sense didn't change - the little voice - rather the avenger didn't listen. Without either side establishing what a moral sense is, this argument could be perpetual.

-"Yet both the man and what happens next is not evil, it is justice. Depending on who you ask, of course."

Vox: ask God, get the right answer. Ask the signal, don't poll receivers.

This might be sophistry, depending on what exactly DS really believes. I'll assume it is for sake of illustration.
The answer you get depends on who you ask. Does the right answer depend on who you ask? I thought DS was on record as a moral absolutist?
Okay, yeah, sophistry. We have a definition of evil. Does it match the definition? If you ask someone and they say it isn't evil, they're just wrong.

Let me state it again. If you ask someone if vengeance matches the given definition, and they say it doesn't, they're simply incorrect.

DS should be objecting to that definition of evil, and has instead fallen into Vox's trap.

-"Evil is suddenly not evil when the victim deserves it, this is what our moral sense tells us, yet meeting out justice and punishment satisfies every single criterion for objectively identifying evil presented."

Ooh, harsh equivocation.
He's trying to say that the moral sense doesn't match the given definition of evil. Unfortunately DS never established that vengeance is part of the moral sense, and Vox, not providing a definition, has the opportunity to claim he never thought so whether he in fact did or not.

-"The argument is that there is an objective and consistent Good that we can sense with the morality identifying part of our conciousness"


-"But I have shown that the moral sense itself completely reverses course and calls evil, the Good, on a regular basis."


-"Time to put Mere Christianity down, C.S. Lewis can't help you now."

Thou shalt not waste words upon contempt. (In a debate. Actually I just realized that alone is a good reson I should never debate, regardless of epistemic issues.)

-"it is apparently still incumbent on me to make a positive case for the non-existence of gods, again."

For the first time would be nice, too.

-"The hypothesis which I sought to prove being that for any new experience or phenomenon, when man attempts to explain the phenomenon using the tools for understanding at his disposal, the first attempt (and sometimes 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc...) at explanation is almost invariably wrong."

DS knows a thing!
Judging by the complete misunderstanding of this principle by everyone else involved, it is a lot harder than I thought it was.
Moreover, the first attempts are wrong in a characteristically human way. They are invariably more familiar and easier to understand than the truth.

This is one reason I did well in physics. I find the familiar and easy boring and I don't really understand why anyone would prefer it. I sometimes have the opposite problem, of positing complexity where there is none.

-"Test it if you like."


-"Find a young child, turn the tables, and be the person to ask them how babies are made."

Proving the heuristic is quite hard; my advice is 'take university physics.' Shortest path I can see from here to there. Explaining the heuristic is much easier, and this isn't that explanation.

-"When physicists were first exploring the atomic and subatomic, they went in with the expectation that little particles couldn't be all that different from big ones, with experimental results very quickly overturning that assumption."

That's...a bit better. The following examples are good as well...

-"Take Dark Matter, the idea that the universe is mainly composed of just more matter that it so happens we can't see or detect any direct way, but it's got to be there, because nothing else could account for these gravitational anomolies. I expect it to be consigned to the dustbin of history along with the tachyon soon enough."

That was my expectation before I saw the colliding galaxies picture, where the lights ran into each other than the gravitational lensing kept going. Sometimes the simple explanation is, contrary to all reasonable expectation, true.

-"the explanations that fall under the domain of this hypothesis were those that required imagination to fill in the missing details."

Indeed, it is these assumptions of the details that are so invariably wrong, I just realized.
Most especially, the assumption that you haven't missed or forgotten anything. Un-assuming this assumption has been most fruitful for me personally.
Take anything you think. Almost anything - what could be true that would make it wrong? Focus on that for a few minutes, and you'll find a galaxy of possibilities. As a professional epistemologist, I have to test them all, without exception. Do you?

On God, believers have almost invariably not done so.

-"the retort so far has been remarkably asinine."

I've never known a person to be terribly impressed by someone calling them asinine. Have you?

-"Gods are not real because the true reason for the eyewitness testimony that they are based on is something else entirely."

Though ironically DS's original defence showed me that in fact the god-experience-generator is likely to be far more awesome and complicated than God. It's not impossible that it is mundane and boring...but not likely, statistically.

-"Further, attempting to claim that this argument does not disprove any and all potential gods rather than those identified thus far is outside of the scope of this debate."

Awkward. He wants to say, "I don't have to disprove arbitrary gods, just god as internally defined."

And...doesn't he? Well, I would have to, regardless. And you know what, I can't. (Hence my search for a definition of 'deity.') On the other hand, it is true I feel no need to make up entirely new ideas of god to disprove; it is sufficient to rebut specific examples of gods placed before me. (So far they've all been supernatural which as far as I'm concerned means, at best, potentially existent if repaired.)

I read debates hoping to learn things. Haha, more fool first order. I do, as I've pointed out, learn things, just not what the debaters are trying to show. So far in this case I could have held this entire debate in my head against myself, except it would have been a way higher standard of debate. Though it is harder to learn things that way because I don't have to think up justifications for the things I disagree with. Instead it would be an exercise of looking for contradictions, and as a method is ureliable; orders of magnitude less accurate than just writing it down, for example.

I realized something. Individualist a-la carte philosophy is impractical because of the intense labour necessary to accurately evaluate individual claims. Individuals should in most cases choose a philosophy patron - by which I include priests and churches and so on - and then stick with it.
As an epistemologist (you're welcome to disagree, the point is I think I am) it is in my professional interest to evaluate claims, and by practice I get good and stay good at it. Even with all this practice, if I don't specifically evaluate claims, I end up believing in nonsense. Epistemic layhumans are far more likely to make a mistake if they attempt a DIY philosophy, to break something, and don't have the time in any case.

A comment by Nate:
"Its not out of the ordinary at all. Virtually every self described Christian out there will tell you not only do they believe in God, they believe they have a relationship with Jesus Himself. They believe they have met Him."
Indeed? So what's that like? What constitutes this meeting?
See guys, this is evidence. At least potential evidence.

Addendum: Dominic's 'truth is stranger' is a very reliable heuristic. However, it can only be supported by sheer weight of evidence - not conducive to word-limited communication. Ideally, one learns the intuition personally so you can evaluate an argument by feel - even worse for communication. As such he shouldn't be using it.

While there must be details the intuition is picking up on, and in theory these details could be extracted and shared, nobody knows what they are. The one detail that I see is that these explanations fit precisely alongside human intuitions; by contrast, human intuitions must be fully right on something, by chance alone. Intuitions in this sense are basically a priori knowledge or at least a priori ability-to-understand. It makes sense that humans would have inborn knowledge of some things, (e.g. conservation of matter, a basic conception of number) but as they're imperfect, they'll conflict with other truths. Given the constraints of inborn knowledge, indeed most truths. However, to use this heuristic in a debate, you have to figure out what kinds of truths are likely to conflict, which requires among other things agreement on what the constraints of inborn knowledge are. Also, by the time someone is old enough to articulate it, a lot of cultural knowledge has gained equal status to inborn knowledge in their brain; they have no way to distinguish them without looking at different cultures.

Well, I agree with my own constraints...
Perhaps inborn knowledge is complete? In some sense? Evolved adaptations seem to get fine-tuned with regularity; these facts would be self-contained.
Ah. It's not vague. (Thanks, intuition.) Vague, hand-wavy beliefs don't lead to much in specific actions and can't confer any adaptive advantage. So they're concrete and quite specific. You don't get multiple variations on beliefs about whether or how stuff falls when you drop it - only on why.

Which is to say Dominic, even interpreted mega-charitably as to have implicitly thought of this, is begging the question.

Though now I'm curious as to where Vox thinks intuitions come from. I guess I'll ask, though I bet it won't work. Update: Indeed, no answer.

Update: The section on Vox vs. cl got large so I gave it its own post.

I forgot something I said about DS's argument from strangeness, and found it reading the notes over yesterday. Today, remembering my ending caveat, I put the two together and started to figure the thing out.

In sum, the hypothesis of e.g. 'God' is made mainly of inferences, not evidence. Naturally, humans tend to make intuitive inferences. If you need to infer, reality is not intuitive. Ergo, if you make inferences and they're all intuitive, you haven't reflected reality - it isn't strange enough.

So the test is to check whether a hypothesis is made of evidence or inferences. Now, it is entirely possible to check inferences - e.g, mathematics. However, if on first glance all the inferences make intuitive sense, if they don't have those swirls and blips and strangeness so characteristic of evidence, it is overwhelmingly likely the inferences are there to make you feel better, not to be true.

There, that's more or less what DS should have said in the first place, and the fact he didn't proves he doesn't really understand the principle either, and can hardly expect anyone he uses it on to take it seriously unless they already know it.

As should be obvious, sometimes inferences turn out to be both true and intuitive, but (not obviously) this doesn't violate the principle - rather, it affirms it at the meta-level. Anyone who gut-understands the principle finds it weird that nature is ever intuitive, and thus the weirdness quota is met either way.

More on this when I've thought about it some more. I'm not yet confident it's correct or sufficient.

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