Tuesday, September 13, 2011

VPPZMM Debate Notes; Replies 1

Mostly unedited, mainly in temporal order.


-"Aliens seem to first have been introduced as forms of social commentary coupled with an increasingly materialist worldview, from Voltaire's 'Micromegas' (1752) as a vehicle for warning against anthrocentric hubris and a convenient means to lampoon a few people he didn't particularly care for"

Aliens are a clear extrapolation from bog-standard non-human myths such as elves and trolls. The only meaningful difference is one lives on another world the other comes from another world, which means they feel slightly different to read about.

Though it is true there have been strange sightings throughout history, and the descriptions of them have followed pop culture. As nobody but the sighters have ever managed to track one down, nobody knows WTF they are. They could easily be just outright lies.

-"Detailed descriptions of the aliens themselves, and what subsequently happens to a person after meeting them, were all wildly different, and a more consistent story does not emerge until after science fiction literature and Hollywood have a crack at it"

Which is exactly what you'd expect from some sort of delusion - either an intentional or subconscious lie.

-"the first observation to make is that familairity with the context is a mandatory prerequisite for having the experience, just as no one remembered being abducted by a Grey alien with giant unblinking eyes until after Hollywood gave us Grey aliens with giant unblinking eyes."

Same again.
Note that these things can be falsified - relatively consistent medieval accounts of greys would do it, for example, would require DS to change his mind.

I just realized I'm not going to check this for actually responding to Vox's points, though I'm betting it will generally fail. I will fail by broken-window fallacy; I will forget a point not answered. Of course I've already shown what I think the response should be.

-"Again, this isn't to say that all the experiences are delusional, given the logic that 50 to 88 percent of such accounts can be considered honest accounts by people who are not crazy, simply that the actual explanation, the real source that triggers these experiences, is something quite different, and let's not forget stranger, than what they appear to be to the eyewitness"

Ah right, I forgot.
I have to say I have a hard time thinking of them as not crazy. They believe an epistemically objective event occurred that clearly did not. That's the essence of crazy - so, what, is this just law of large numbers as applied to human error? Sometimes, a real whopper? Or they're just crazy.
The simplest explanation is that stuff is as it appears to be.

-"This is not an 'interpretation' of details, these are entirely different details, one of gods, the other of aliens."
Bzzzt. It could be exactly that. A) What if angels don't always have halos? B) What if they fail to recognize a god? C) And so on?

So about those cities? "Capernaum, Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Nineveh, and the empires of Assyria and the Hittites." Apparently they proved something about the existence of gods. I want to know what it is.
So I guess I'm not entirely pwned by the broken-window fallacy. 

-"that of the materialist position rejecting such accounts on the basis of the lack of an objective measuring tool which would verify the validity of the accounts of gods made by the eyewitnesses is ahistorical and the intellectual equivalent of burying one's head in the sand. Here, there is no dissagreement."

Err...huh? That almost went in the right direction.
If you lack an objective measuring tool, you don't give up, you go out and find one. The accounts above suggest a good one. Form a hypothesis of what they're describing, then go out and try to find it in the present.

I am amused to recall that priests would often disparage sightings of dragons and such. I wonder how Vox will respond.

-"and our religions (with the exception of the Mormons) are clumsy attempts at describing what we now have better tools for understanding, that we're being visited by aliens. Maybe the Mormons are actually right and we should follow Matt Stone and Trey Parker to the promised lands."

As before, using Vox's numbers, the odds of two intelligent races arising near each other are approximately eleventy zillion to one. His numbers may not be right but if you go through the calculation you'll realize they don't have to be anywhere near right for the conclusion to hold. Unless he's making a cosmological constant 137 degrees of magnitude error, his numbers will still go the same way. (Or non-random distribution; what could cause that?)

-"I would argue in turn this application of the Oxford definition actually makes one group of men gods over others."

That's because it does. Next.
It probably isn't any more unintentional than the UFO sightings are; Oxford is run by humanists, and so it isn't surprising their definition all but deifies humans. (Also because defining it is really hard and they should have put 'I don't know.')

-"Objective measurement is one where the point of reference does not move."

Objective are things which don't go away or otherwise change if you stop believing in them.

-"Here I believe we can all be in agreement that 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."

Do you see how handy it is to have a real definition of evil? Looks like DS is going to fall straight into Vox's trap. I wonder if Vox knows it is a trap?

-"It would be an impossible task to actually prove that people have never or do not act with self-ware, purposeful, and malicious intent to cause material harm and suffering to others"

Instead... As before,

-"Some people go so far as to do it for its own sake because it pleases them."

If sadists stopped feeling pleasure from inflicting pain, would they keep doing it? If politicians stopped profiting politically and financially from war, would war continue?

But I can go even further.
Define 'harm.' Good. Now define 'harm' without begging the question on morality. I'll wait. Handily, 'suffering' is mentioned separately, so you can't even use, 'they didn't like it.'
The definition is fundamentally circular. 'Malicious' is the same.

Easy, no?

-"This statement is always taken at face value as axiomatically true, and is always phrased as a light/dark dichotomy for illustration. I also happen to disagree with it."

It seems Vox placed the trap in DS's mouth, so when he put his foot in it, his foot became trapped.
I suppose it is possible he made the implication unintionally, and didn't mean that shadows can form without a light source.

At least his arguments are getting a less flat. While easy to parse...I don't like 'easy.' Easy is boring.

-"but leaping to the conclusion that it couldn't exist without the objective and definitive Good strikes me as awfully non-sequiteur"

Ah, I'm wrong. Excellent. It is a non-sequiteur. Congratulations!
There might be a way from point A to point B, but Vox sure as hell didn't provide it.

Edit: I really shouldn't analyze when I'm tired. I argue myself out of this below. In my feeble defence I made assumptions about where this was going, and it turned out to head instead into the territory of consciousness and existence.

-"Besides, calling Good and Evil laws requiring a lawgiver is not only assumption, but in light of my opening arguments, just too convenient as well."

See? This. This is pretty tangled, in possibly a good way.
It depends what one means by 'law.' If you just mean regularity, such as physical law, then the idea they require a giver is indeed an assumption. I agree that it is too convenient.

A lawgiver is a cause of laws. But it either begs the question of ultimate cause, or else is itself immune to cause, in which case why not simply attribute that property to the laws themselves?

-"(which is also why its safe so say we all see colors in roughly the same way, philosophers and their "what if my blue is your red?" be damned)"

For various reasons, consciousness, in contrast to physics, needs to be absolute. For example, you can't believe you're seeing red but be mistaken and be seeing blue; technically, it is ontologically subjective. What makes it red is the fact you think you're seeing red. Therefore, the experience of red is the essential nature of red.

-"yet the third gets a free pass as a universal law that we know though our moral intuition, that would hold true even without us around. This makes no sense."

For the record I think morals are similar to math - meta-ethics exists without us, but we have to learn about it, but luckily the genome knows and we learn from that.

However, depending on how you define morals, the directness of consciousness can apply. I don't define it this way, but Vox may define it such that the experience of witnessing or suffering evil is what makes it evil.

I hope so, actually, because that would be salutary for Christian theology as philosophy. The lawgiver thing gets tied up with existence. Why is red, red? Law of identity. Why is there a law of identity? Why does red exist at all? The Christian creator God answers these questions, at least nominally.

-"I'm not saying that our common biology is the definitive answer [...] but it is just as good an explanation, if not better, than jumping to the conclusion that our recognition of evil is a window into some absolute moral law"

As above, Vox may or may not be jumping to conclusions. I await with interest.

-"much less saying that the very act of recognizing it requires some corresponding Goodness."

Depends on your definition.
Which is why debaters depend so heavily on explicit definitions...normally...
Is an act that lacks all evil, good? I think so, and similarly the converse.
Every single thing which is possible but not necessary implies the converse possibility of its contradiction. Therefore even if you only experience good, you could infer the possibility of evil.

(I learned something! I hadn't explicitly formalized the relationship between possibilities like that before.)

-"We know that what we consume can and does affect our minds, personalities, and perceptions, [...] and for the most part we all consume roughly the same, [...] so it's unsuprising that we have some experiences and attitudes that are common across the board."

No matter what you eat, you're not going to experience red as blue. It's logically impossible.

Once again, I don't recall Dominic actually establishing anything. At best he has appearances on his side, but hasn't drawn any functional conclusions from his data. There are a lot of dangling threads - DS seems to want to go places but often gets distracted and goes somewhere else instead.


Prediction: oh dear. Here we go.

-"I feel that I must begin by congratulating my opponent for not only producing a far more intriguing piece than I had reason to expect [...] If nothing else, Dominic has produced a genuinely original case for atheism."

Non-transparent plea for goodwill. Good? I think?

-"but concocting one that I suspect makes my case for the existence of gods look downright sane by comparison."

Sophistry, implying opponent is insane.

-"By the definition he assumes, neither Zeus nor Athena would qualify as gods, much less Baal, or Chemosh, or other gods known to have been worshipped in the course of human history."

Everything Vox says is factually true, but as I've mentioned the debate is, at least so far, actually about the Christian God, which means...sophistry, specifically uncharitable interpretation.
The idea, again, is to distract from a false assumption by mentioning a bunch of implications that are true. As the debate is actually about God not gods, DS's response should be, 'Then it's a good thing we're not debating those gods, then, isn't it?' - his definition works in context.

For verification, this is the first time Vox has brought up specific non-Christian gods.

I was hoping for a debate about gods, but I'm not surprised I've got one about God.

-"However, the assertion that the existence of the supernatural depends upon the axiom that cause precedes effect or that space-time is causal and linear is both incorrect and unsupported."

It is interesting that Vox thinks it is unsupported. I understand what DS meant by it; why doesn't Vox? If that was 'unsupported,' then I'll have to say Vox's lawgiver stuff was equally cloudy fluff.

Oh wait, I got pwned by sophistry. DS argued the existence of God depends on such axioms. The supernatural is an ex nihilo addition by Vox.
This is what I get for interpreting charitably - I assumed Vox meant to refer to what DS referred to, but he didn't.

It is true that DS mentioned that he thinks his evidence contradicts the supernatural, but immediately dropped the subject. (One of many dangling threads.) So again, true consequences, but about a false assumption.

I now suspect Vox's plea for goodwill functions as a smokescreen for his subsquent foul play.

-"While there is plenty of reason to criticize both his self-evident assumptions"

Normally I'd assume Vox means DS's self-evident assumption of causality, which would mean Vox agrees that with the proof, "I have no brain." Unfortunately now I must suspect I don't know what he means.

-"because he has failed to do more than nakedly assert"

I do like accusations of bare assertions. In this case, DS is referring to pre-existing arguments by specific people, which is very far from a naked assertion. All you have to do is assume he sees the argument the same way you do.

Admittedly I'd much prefer not to have to make that assumption, but claiming these are bare assertions is to claim that Plato's argument for gods is a bare assertion.

I wonder if Vox will end up nakedly asserting that DS's assertions are naked.

-"So, although I find them intriguing,"

Looks like it.

-"I have nothing to say here [...] because none of them are relevant to this debate given the nonexistent logical link between those four things and the existence of gods."

Vox just murdered his own argument.
Charitably he's dodging the evidence for space reasons. (Though he certainly showed enough aversion to evidence in his own piece.) But that only proves that debates shouldn't have word limits.

-"the problem of infinite regress as it relates to consciousness rather than to particles, the problem was solved long ago by Aristotle in Posterior Analytics."

Huh, looks like Aristotle and Vox might know a thing or two about dualism.

-"To summarize, the concept of infinite regress depends upon an assumption that there is no way of knowing other than by demonstration. But not all knowledge is demonstrative, because knowledge of the immediate premises depends upon indemonstrable truths. Thus there is no regress and the argument is defeated."

I guess I'll have to look up what 'demonstrative knowledge' is. Apparently, it is knowledge obtained by deduction. I guess that makes sense.

Either Vox or Aristotle are not quite correct, however. If by 'immediate premises' he means thoughts, then thoughts don't depend on anything but the law of identity, as I mentioned above. 

Indeed I suspect 'existence' itself is the justifying framework which is self-justying, whatever that turns out to be.

That said I think Vox just did entirely reject the first-cause argument.

This is starting to get tiresome. The actual issue is that God is epistemically unavailable. Doubtless, if the debate ever flirts with addressing it, the debaters will run from it like frightened children. I had so much hope when Vox used 'evidence for gods' as it seemed like he might actually put up an argument by counter-example.

So keeping score.
It appears to me that Vox believes in God because it occurs to people that things have moral properties. Since Man recognizes Evil, there must be a source of Good. He does not deign to detail the argument enough to tell what he means by that without making a whole mess of assumptions.

DS doesn't believe in God because he doesn't find the usual proofs convincing. One point is that he realized aliens may appear divine, but has no metric for telling the difference, meaning all his evidence (come to think, rather incoherent) for aliens is possibly evidence for god or God.

I suppose 'indemonstrable truths' could be thoughts too, which would make it correct. Except that thoughts embody the immediate premises.

-"there is no rational requirement that the first thought need be the purest one, therefore that first thought need not be thinking about thinking, much less thinking about thinking about thinking."

I want to credit Vox for nearly coming up with the right answer, but he isn't nearly specific enough for me not to have to make a mess of assumptions about what he means.

-"because in the Decartesian formulation the first thinking about thinking does not concern more thinking, but rather the existence of mind."

Physiscs training says; operationalize.
So, before the first thought, God knew about the ideas/definitions of existence, self, thinking, and logical implication, and for an ouvre decided to combine them. If he knew all that, why not just assume he was a perfect logical entity who knew all logical truths whatsoever?

-"The regress ends and the appeal to the problem of infinite regress is once more defeated."

Got problems much worse than regress at this point, buddy.

-"Nevertheless, convenience is not a serious argument against existence. 7-11 indubitably exists."

Conflation/equivocation on the term 'convenience.' Is...is this not obvious? Who's tricked by this?

-"Ockham's Razor is certainly not a proof, but it is a useful rule of thumb and parsimony is usually considered to be a scientific positive"

Good, Vox noticed there's competing heuristics.

-"I can certainly point out that "obviousness to Dominic" is not a objective metric that is relevant in any way to anyone else."

Hmm? I need to go back and read what DS wrote, see if there's a more charitable interpretation. Notably I have no idea what Vox is trying to disprove at this point.

-"Had I argued that gods exist because their existence is obvious to me, I would have expected his rebuttal to consist of little more than pointing and laughing, because that is all that would have been needed to dismiss such a feeble appeal to personal sensibilities."

Obvious and self-mortifying insult; sophistry.

-"it is obvious that his subsequent arguments are invalid to the extent that they rely upon it."
The only thing following DS's statement about obviousness is his conclusion; no arguments rely on it. When I was reading it, I simply ignored the statements of obviousness as non-contributing. While DS should have left them out (with much else) why didn't Vox also realize they're non-functional?

Trying to verify what I just wrote, found this.

-"Second, there is obviously no need for the first thought about thinking to concern more thinking, as is evidenced by Decartes's famous statement, "I think, therefore I am","

So...pointing and laughing, you say? Let the jubilation commence.

Specifically, there is one use of 'obvious' by DS before the conclusion, and it is characterizing Newtonian mechanics as an obvious example of something else. Leave the word out and the argument is unchanged.

Broken-window sophistry?
Eh, the point is Vox chose to address an argument by making fun of it. Presumably he did not choose this strategy for its paucity of strength, so this was the best he could do.

In conclusion, no DS won't hit back. He'll stick with his logical obliviousness, thank you very much. Vox, not content with fouling it up, will foul it up with vigor. I therefore expect more of the same in parts 2 and 3.

I suppose I should read the rest of Vox's reply.

-"With the continued advance of technology and the concomitant changes in Man's future understanding of the universe that will come from that advance, it is entirely possible that a belief in the material limits of the universe which rejects the supernatural may well one day look as ignorant and crazy as a belief in Newtonian physics which rejects quantum physics."

I wrote, "Basically this is a great argument for Vox to make. I wonder why he didn't make it?" But I see I was in error. He did try to make it, but insists on using the term 'supernatural,' which distracted me. Supernatural is, by definition, epistemically unavailable, and so either he's using an idiosyncratic definition or this is a self-contradiction.

-"But most of the time, that simple explanation is true and our senses are observing things because those things are real."

An excellent point, often forgotten.

-"But often, we don't see anything because our eyes are closed."


I learned that I'm tracking the points made by whether I learn anything. So maybe they've managed to establish things, and I just can't remember because I already knew all of them. The point is this is a poor showing. Predictable, but poor.

Though I did learn a couple things from Vox. A) There's something about some ancient cities that has something to do with materialism! B) Aristotle apparently knew his shit! I'ma go read his Stanford dictionary entry about Knowledge of First Principles: Nous now.

Later, I may check these notes for errors and write some about that.

Addendum; I'm starting to forget what I'm supposed to think they're arguing about.
Vox really needs to explain why he thinks the causality thing doesn't work, since it's not like DS will magically intuit it. DS disagrees and Vox has given him no reason to change his mind.

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