Saturday, October 1, 2011

VPPZMM Debate Notes 3

What horrors shall we witness this week? Perhaps that's unfair...let's just say my honest prediction is not good things to come. It's times like these I like surprises.


And thusly, I am surprised. DS has already made it quite far without misstep.

-"That what we think or later interpret to be gods could very well be something else, something that isn't a god."

One of the things the debate should have done is to determine how to discriminate betwen god and not-god, which is why I get my panties in a twist when they screw up the definition. Without a discriminator, the nominal debate is impossible. None of the evidence can truly be said to support or deny gods. Since Vox and DS can't possibly be debating in any meaningful sense, what are they doing?

-"Is that we really are just like the fish of the analogy, and when we try to explain something using less than all of the necessary details, we get it wrong. We are consistently and reliably wrong."

Ah, something to test against my formalization of the heuristic.
The theory is wrong as a positive function of how many of the details you must imagine/infer from the existing evidence, (though don't give up; there are ways to solve the problem) because the imagination and inference are either in error or based on nothing at all.
It appears DS has alighted upon a similar understanding.

(Does a concrete example of, e.g. fisherman, help you understand what someone means to the extreme extent it helps me? If so, notice that understanding yourself is something you can fail at, and need all the help you can get.)

-"The concept of gods are what we first postulated to explain the inexplicable. Consequently, the concept itself, is wrong. Reality is something else entirely."

Not quite correct. Approximations are not wrong, they are approximately true. As Dominic himself strongly implied, reality is probably not something else entirely; something that we perceive as awesome and inspiring is probably far more awesome and inspiring than anything our puny human imaginations can come up with.

We might just be hallucinating; that can't be ruled out. (Vox needs to rule it out.) It's just not likely.

(Actually human imagination isn't intrinsically puny; it is itself awesome and inspiring. However it is usually used in service to base subconscious goals and lowers itself to that standard. As far as I can tell, the idea of Jesus is such that priests can get power and wealth without having to deserve it. Ditto Yahweh, Allah, Zeus, etc.)

-"(disclaimer: this is not a statement of hard fact but a statement of belief based on the weight of evidence)

[...]Not much else to say on the matter other than to scour history books and populate an absurdly long list of theories and explanations that ended up being wrong."

Having alighted on a theory similar to mine, DS could profit by, you know, actually fleshing it out, like I did. (Always be suspicious of proposals like, 'be like me,' this case...seriously...)

Either the heuristic can be objectively defined, or it can't. If it can't, it's not a real heuristic. If it's difficult, that just makes it interesting.

-"Presenting a hypothetical situation where someone somewhere gets it right the first time is ignorant and cowardly."

I do so enjoy it when reality does as I wish, apparently without me having to do more than wish. Go on, DS, hit him again!

As a bonus, this is pretty well correct. While Vox is correct that nothing in particular stops someone from getting it right the first time, it's still incumbent upon him to show that it is indeed the case.

Though as a counter-example, I've noticed that sociology seems to be epistemically easy. Shockingly so. For example, Soviet propaganda apparently passed directly from theory to practice without going through glitchy prototype. Lenin didn't manage Leninism on the first try, but getting it on the third try, considering the complexity of society, is like compiling and running a million-line program on the third debug pass, and moreover just by thinking about it. Imagine an engineer getting their car prototype working as intended on the third try just by sitting at a desk and wondering how it went wrong.

-"It also does not fall under the domain of the hypothesis my argument rests on. [...] it is not a new phenomenon that requires him to extrapolate on what he knows to fill in any details."

DS is indeed using the heuristic correctly. Starbucks is a combination of elements which you separately have pre-existing evidence for. Gods, especially in their true definition, suppose things which you cannot have evidence for.

I should make explicit that I think the two are arguing about their intuitive definitions, not the formal definitions they think/pretend they're arguing about.

In this case, my lack of criticism should not be taken as broad agreement with DS but rather as result of lack of content, combined with the fact I don't remember details of what he's supposed to be rebutting, which means I often won't catch it when he misses the point. (Another reason I'm glad I'm not formally judging.)


-"Dominic has committed a category error in attempting to appeal to this principle of Initial Error."

For example, this is exactly the kind of rebuttal you'd predict if Vox were arguing for the existence of Jesus, as opposed to gods. It may also apply to gods, but Vox consistently picks ones that apply to Jesus, and fairly consistently avoids ones that apply only to gods.

This is a real rebuttal! I am surprised once more. Yay. Please, Vox, surprise me more.

I'm enjoying that I brought up category errors first.

-"although I note Dominic did not actually provide any support for his assertion that gods are a first attempt at understanding anything, natural or supernatural"

Because it shouldn't be necessary? Like, do I have to start by explaining what an 'understanding' is? I note that Vox doesn't claim it's a second, third, or nth?

-"First, it is a matter of easily establishable fact that the concept of gods are not an attempt at explaining most supernatural experiences, either initial or subsequent."

Apparently so.
An explanation or understanding - interchangeable in this context - is simply a set of data describing an event. Vox's explicit words mean that no supernatural experience has ever been described, which directly contradicts the idea that there is any evidence for such, whatsoever.

Obvious but pathetic sophistry. Vox has been pushed into a corner and he's showing his fear, and now I feel sorry for him. He clings to his faith in Jesus, but also his faith in Reason, and he's just realized they don't get along.

Moral: the Buddhists are correct. Don't cling to Reason. Adopt it if you feel like it.

I'm not entirely convinced that Jesus and Reason are incompatible. However, Vox's Reasons for believing in Jesus are false.

Indeed, I just realized it means he's been infected with materialist sophistries, as well as Christian sophistries.

My understanding of theology is that there should be no definitive evidence about Jesus - for or against - because it would undermine the free will of being able to choose faith.

-"Astrology, ESP, clairvoyance, telekinesis, telepathy, ghosts, reincarnation, necroparlance and demon-possession have nothing to do with the existence or nonexistence of gods."

Irrelevant. Vox is grasping.

-"Gods may be one of many aspects of the supernatural, but they are largely unrelated to any means of explaining the majority of supernatural experiences."

Desperate attempt to deflect.

-"The connection is tangential; for example, one European survey reported that 60 percent of those who do not believe in gods nevertheless believe in the existence of the supernatural."

See? Vox is now relying on voters to be logically consistent.

Is Vox hung over? This is terrible.

-"More importantly, gods could not have originally been conceived as an explanation for supernatural experiences because the concept of gods long predates Man's distinction between the natural and the supernatural."

Now this is a category error. When we recognized the difference, we correctly evaluated gods as the latter. As a result, gods are descriptions of the latter. The the originators were ignorant of the distinction is irrelevant; moreover DS is mainly using it as a convenient tag.

-"Dominic's assumption that gods are an attempt at explaining supernatural experiences is incorrect and therefore his conclusion based on that assumption is also incorrect."

Vox really is breaking down. I mentioned DS's original post was flat and Vox's was sophisticated - now we can see Vox taking refuge in the simple. Unfortunately, that just makes the error obvious.

It just occurred to me that Vox might be intentionally throwing the match. I seriously doubt it, but it shouldn't even have occurred to me.

So: what category error?

-"Based on the sheer number of creator gods identified throughout the course of human history, it is much more reasonable to conclude that the primary reason the god concept exists is to explain the phenomenon and purpose of material existence."

They are supernatural explanations of those things, yes. Also, really should have chosen a definition that was about creator gods, not the humanist-leaning Oxford crap.

-"And throughout the 50,000 years of modern Man's existence, divine creation still remains the first and foremost hypothesis explaining it, with one brief and partial exception during the 17 years in which Fred Hoyle's Steady State theory was formulated, embraced, and rejected by the cosmological community."

That's a bit better.

However, that its the only explanation just means that our only explanation sucks. It means that ignorance dominates our thinking on the subject. Why do I have to explain for a Christian that humans are bedevilled by ignorance?

-"While Ockham's Razor is a heuristic, not a proof, it is at least as reliable as Dominic's principle of First Error."

In fact both can be characterized and their reliability measured.

-"And since Ockham's Razor recommends the selection of the hypothesis that makes the fewest new assumptions, it dictates the selection of the only serious and lasting hypothesis that Man has ever produced in preference to the others."

Quite so! And that hypothesis is the Ignorance Hypothesis; "Fucked If I Know."

-"This conclusion is bolstered by the fact that the only two concepts that could loosely be considered as competing hypotheses at this point in time, the multiverse concept and Nick Bostrom's simulation hypothesis"

Failing to consider the Ignorance Hypothesis is one symptom of the Ignorance Hypothesis. You don't know that you don't know.

-"As I have previously pointed out, from Man's perspective there is no meaningful distinction between a) a conventional creator god, b) a technologically advanced creator being from another dimension, and c) a programmer of Man's virtual world."

Which, as I have previously pointed out, means all the evidence is at best ambiguous.

-"In conclusion, I note the irony of Dominic's appeal to the historical record in an attack on a significant aspect of it."

What? How? When? Etc?

-"This alone should be sufficient to invalidate the aspects of his argument that depend upon the Initial Error hypothesis."

Should it be? Is that so. Pray explain. Oh wait, this was after an 'in conclusion.'

In reality, DS attacked a significant aspect of Vox's interpretation of the historical record, exactly as one is supposed to in debate. Vox, you're supposed to show that your interpretation was correct, not assume it's correct. That's an error called 'begging the question.'

Or: this alone should be sufficient to validate aspects of my argument that Vox is a sophist.

I shouldn't be, but I'm seriously disappointed that Vox never defended his interpretation. I never really expected him to, which is why this exercise was mostly in checking whether Vox is a sophist in detail, not just in intuitive impression.

Nevertheless, I'd hoped to discover why Christians believe in Christ. I'm afraid I must still hold to the Ignorance Hypothesis on that one. Like, I know how they justify it ex post facto, (and indeed those justifications are often impressive) but I cannot see any Reason to adopt Jesus.

-"Dominic commits a logical error when he concludes that Man's present failure to understand consciousness necessarily places the moral sense on par with our other urges and desires. There is simply no basis for this leap of logic."

DS's point is that there's no basis for the reverse leap, either. And presenting it as a leap is suspicious.

-"He also fails to understand that in referring to the moral sense as a third aspect of consciousness I was not limiting its existence to the human consciousness."

Is that so? Pray explain.

-"This should have been obvious since I made an explicit distinction between the internal and external models."

Right. Of course.
When you(personally) think your opponent is missing something obvious do you A: tell them it's obvious or do you B: explain it? If you choose only A, do you expect them to understand?

-"So, not only did I not defeat my own argument, but the assertion that I did makes it clear that Dominic did not understand it."

Haha, no.

-"While the moral sense is integrated into human consciousness and at least partially accessible to it, my entire argument is based upon the observable fact that it is often opposed to human desires and therefore cannot be dismissed as just another competing one."

Apparently, to Vox, desires cannot oppose each other.
I want ice cream. I don't want to spend money. I can't get ice cream without paying for it.

Compare: I want ice cream. I want to be moral. Eating ice cream is immoral.

Vox is either a sophist or an idiot. He writes complicated (though fallacious) logic.

-"I did not, as Dominic asserts, ignore 'this inconvenient fact', since I stated that examining the nature of consciousness is presently 'beyond the current ability of the science-based materialist consensus'"

Well, that certainly makes it appear as if you didn't. DS did not strongly demonstrate that Vox did ignore the fact, so I'm not entirely sure what DS meant; I'm willing to give Vox the benefit of doubt.

However, stating that you didn't ignore it because you mentioned a thing doesn't demonstrate the converse, either. It demonstrates you think you did, not that you actually did.

-"And while it would be a false dichotomy to note that either Freud's theory represents the possibility that the signal is internally generated or the moral impulse must come from a source that is genuinely separate from our conciousness, I never proposed any such dichotomy."

This made me look more closely at DS's argument, and I found they're both wrong. Again.

It isn't a false dichotomy. Either the moral impulse's causation is internally contained, or it isn't.

If it were external, you'd have a decent case for some kind of moral transmitter. This is an empirical question, though as before you'd be able to intercept the signal and thereby teach morality to computers.

-"I cited its legacy of failure to demonstrate b) the materialist internal model cannot be assumed to be correct."

It's a good think DS didn't assume that, then, isn't it?

-"In support of the likelihood that the external generation for the impulse was more likely than the internal, I also cited the external model's greater success in modifying human behavior, the divergence between the rates of moral evolution when viewed from societal and historical perspectives, and the observed spatio-temporal range of the relatively static moral impulse."

Indeed you did, and I bet if DS hadn't had space limits he could have demolished those just like I did.

-"I was thinking of the moral sense as being wholly accessible to the human consciousness, but this is not the case."

Should be...interesting.

And indeed, sophistication is returning. Vox's apparent hangover is dissipating. He's getting into it.

-"As it happens, Dominic contradicted both the current scientific consensus as well as his own statement that no one has 'a complete model of what constitutes conciousness' when he declares the moral impulse 'is just another desire, a consequence of biology, and accepted as an internally generated part of us.' If this were true, Freud and his successors would not have had to construct their tripartite model in the first place and various moral researchers such as Lewis Petroninovich, John Mikhail, and Marc Hauser would not concur that 'much of our knowledge of morality is... based on unconscious and inaccessible principles for guiding judgments of permissibility'. Emphasis mine. Were the moral sense nothing more than one of many biologically driven desires as accessible to the human consciousness as any other, there would be no need for wide-ranging efforts across several scientific and philosophic fields to explain the experiential and observable divergences from the simple two-level materialist model."

It looks like a straight-up non-sequitur to me. But it's awfully tangled, so let's untangle it.

So Vox states that declaring that morality is a kind of impulse implies a complete model of consciousness. (I don't even know what that is supposed to mean. How does it imply? What is a 'complete' model supposed to entail?)

Either one of:
Vox claims that if morality was just another desire, Freud etc. would have not had to construct a tripartite model.
Vox claims that if nobody had a complete model, Freud would not have had to construct his model.

Vox claims that science claims that morality is based on consciously inaccessible principles. Which would mean principles, embodied in brain architecture, that lead to conscious sensations. Or else drive decisions without leading to conscious sensations.

Vox claims that if morality were accessible, there would be no need to explain the diverges from some unknown model. (This statement is patently meaningless, as he does not explain what model.)

Interpreting charitably as I can, I discard the second of the 'either one of.'

Vox failed to demonstrate that DS assumed a complete model of consciousness.
Vox failed to explain how morality forced Freud to construct a tripartite model.
Vox failed to communicate what he means by 'explain [...] divergences from the simple [...] materialist model.'

The Ilk think this is a good rebuttal. This phenomenon is familiar from the political campaign trail.

-"The scientifically established fact that parts of our moral sense are not even accessible by our conscious mind is further support for the external model, even if it falls well short of providing proof of it."

How does Vox think this non-conscious moral sense drives behaviour? How can it conflict with conscious desires without a conscious manifestation?

It doesn't matter whether the principles are largely unconscious. To drive behaviour it has to have conscious consequences at some point.

-"they simply assume it is an artifact of biological evolution even though their attempts to locate either a moral organ or an area of the brain devoted to moral reasoning have thus far proven fruitless."

Vox is apparently unaware of the experiments involving trans-cranial magnetic fields.

Also this is a God of the Gaps argument. If it turns out Jesus isn't necessary to explain the workings of the brain, Vox won't stop being Christian. He'll just retreat further.

-"But the present consensus shows it cannot be reasonably said that [X] is in any way tantamount to an admission that B3 is false."

Amusingly, DS failed to support his point and Vox failed to show why he wasn't supporting it. DS, because he failed to properly understand what internal/external mean in context, Vox because...the same.

-"Later in the book, he also underlines one of my earlier points about the speed of moral evolution when he refers to the famous silver fox breeding experiment of Dmitry Belyaev and notes how the observed speed of intense selection 'sets up a significant challenge' to the conventional materialist perspective on the evolution of the human mind."

The silver foxes suffered artificial selection. Humans don't.
Further, as Vox himself would note in another context, evolution of this kind only brings out latent genetic potential; it is far too fast for beneficial mutations to arise and propagate. If the silver fox experiment had proceeded, they would have hit a wall.

-"Since the conclusions of the various scientific researchers into morality show that Dominic's statement about the dynamic nature of man's moral sense was false, this, combined with his previous concession concerning the existence of objective evil, is sufficient to support the conclusion that since Man's moral sense has not greatly changed over time, 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."

No, combined with the correct interpretation of the silver foxes, it indicates that morality is indeed slow to change, as any competent geneticist would expect out of a naturally-selected sexually-reproducing species. Complex features are conclusions relying on several assumptions, and during sexual recombination all those assumptions have to match not only in detail but in location on the genome, or the conclusion won't be sound...and you get a psychopath. Or more often the foetus just self-aborts due to organ failure.

-"the difference is that Dominic fails to understand that the theistic concept of gods, and even the Christian concept of God, is much broader than he imagines."

Then Vox, perhaps you should have used that definition to begin with.

-"The Christian cannot reasonably insist that he knows much about the specific nature and character of God in light of how the Apostle Paul, who actually claimed to have encountered the risen Lord Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus, subsequently wrote in 1st Corinthians, 'For now we see through a glass, darkly.'"

In case you were still worried that you might be wrong in your impression that Vox is arguing not for gods but for Jesus.

Of course this is precisely why DS's heuristic applies. Christians don't even know enough about Jesus to know what constitutes evidence for or against Him. He has no falsification condition.

-"'Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.'"

See previous statement. Don't worry, it hasn't stopped being self-defeating for Vox in the intervening seconds.

-"he is not so much arguing for the nonexistence of gods as he is revealing a failure to understand what a god is and why any being would be considered worthy of worship."

Sensing an incoming question-begging on 'worship.'

-"First, because the god merits worship due to being the lord and maker of the worshipper,"

I guess I really should justify this.
You don't get to impose obligations. This isn't a matter of quantity of desire, but quality.
No god gets to be my lord without my consent, because no consciousness whatsoever can rightly do so without my consent.
Even if they made me, I cannot agree they deserve worship when I don't exist. After I exist, if they can impose an obligation to worship upon me, by symmetry I can impose such an obligation upon them.

So why is there a category difference between animal and human, but not human and god? Simple. If you try to grant animals legitimate moral duties, they cannot carry them out. Everyone has an obligation not to impose obligations; colloqially, to leave alone those who wish to leave you alone. Animals cannot understand this well enough to carry it out. (And may not have the will if they did.) Humans can. Gods also can, and thus are equally bound by it.

-"second, for the material benefits that the god can grant to the worshipper,"

Awfully venal. That's not worship, that cupboard love. Should I worship my supermarket because it provides delicious food, demanding only those tithes necessary to support itself?

-"third, because the exceptional power of the god is feared."

That's not worship, that's intimidation. Bullying, in English.

Question duly begged.

I guess in addition to 'deity' I should start working on defining 'worship.' Indeed the latter may assist the former.

-"it is the definitive elements of godhood that are the significant aspect of the existential argument here, not the assumed supernatural element,"

And now the debate can begin!
Round one, fight!

/facepalm. /headdesk.

More precisely, now Vox thinks he has laid the groundwork that would be required, though unfortunately he doesn't know - as doesn't anyone - what 'worship' actually is.

-"much less the peripheral paranormal phenomena that the supernatural is said to involve, since our understanding of the supernatural is a limited and dynamic one involving 'that which is presently believed to be beyond natural limits'."

Really? You know, that sounds plausible. I guess I have something to teach, kids. Siddown and have a listen.

I don't like the term 'supernatural' because 'natural' implies existing and having evidence, and so super-natural implies not existing and not having evidence. I prefer the term 'spiritual.'
If spirits exist, it is entirely natural that they do so, and are super-natural only in that we misunderstood what was natural.
In the end, spiritualists are adopting a materialist term of abuse when they refer to these things as supernatural.

Spirits can be defined exactly without reference to what is natural, and evaluated against natural categories subsequently, so that spirits themselves lose the ambiguity-causing dynamism.

As it turns out, all spirits proposed to date are supernatural.

-"Gods are not synonymous with the supernatural"

It would be great that Vox said that except he thinks Jesus is supernatural.

-"But theists readily admit our understanding of the nature of the divine is far from perfect. And not only is that understanding imperfect, it is quite reasonably capable of encompassing a significant portion of the alternatives Dominic has posited. [...] Not all natural aliens could be gods, but natural aliens that created the human race would at the very least bear a strong claim to legitimate status as creator gods."

The debate would have been fine if it had been about what Vox wanted to debate from the start. However, this is just sophistry.

The technique is to move the goalposts so that the opponents falls into them. DS thought it was in a debate about whether Jesus might exist. (He was right.) Now Vox is claiming he was in a debate about whether Creator Greys deserve worship.

If we grant Vox's profoundly flawed definition of 'worship,' DS has more or less admitted that Greys may exist and if so deserve worship. Therefore gods are scientific, Vox wins! Yay!

When I said that sophistry spread because nobody had a defence, I meant in part that Vox and similar ilk can get away with this without anyone noticing it's being blatantly, blatantly sophistry. Also sophistry is addictive.

-"The difficulty, and what in some cases may be the impossibility, of distinguishing between gods, natural aliens, transdimensional aliens, and computer programmers isn't a valid argument against the existence of gods."

Yes it is.

If you can't tell the difference between a world created by Jesus and a world created by not-Jesus, then Jesus is literally meaningless.

Well...that said, beliefs are tools, there to serve you. As believing in Jesus has no logical consequences, it cannot harm you. If believing makes you happy, then the meaning of the belief is that it makes you happy, so you might as well believe.

The reason I believe theology thinks that belief in Jesus should be a choice is things like, "in some cases the impossibility of distinguishing between gods and aliens." Thus, there is no reason to believe in Jesus over Creator Greys...aside from faith. (Or the aforementioned affective bonus.) Jesus doesn't want your belief, he wants, specifically, your faith.

-"It is merely an object lesson in the importance of not leaping to conclusions or placing inordinate confidence in a tool that is inadequate for the task at hand."

Such tools; cf. Vox's logical skill. Also worth noting, debates.

-"Dominic is correct to say that Man is consistently and reliably wrong with regards to his various explanations for various phenomena, but he is incorrect to say this in defense of strict scientific materialism for the obvious reason that science itself is subject to precisely the same problem!"

Hence my need to specify the heuristic. Science is not for the exact same reason Starbucks is not; it is a combination of familiar elements. It could be said that science is the process of getting familiar with the unfamiliar, precisely because the unfamiliar is roughly unfathomable.

-"Dominic is somewhat unfortunate in this regard because [...] two weeks ago, before the physicists at CERN announced the overturning of what scientists had long assumed was one of the fundamental laws of the universe, the cosmic constant."

The term 'overturned' is sophistry. Many predictions have been made and confirmed based on the speed of light. Do you expect all those predictions to jump out a window, like stock brokers during a crash? "Oh yeah guys, uhhh...GPS never actually worked. It was all an illusion! Like consciousness!"
Newtonian physics isn't wrong. It is approximately true. Einstein's theory reduces to it; it includes it; Einstein expanded upon Newton. Similarly, even if those 60ns are real, it will expand SR and GR, not suddenly prove that the speed of light isn't remotely fundamental.

-"the unexpected announcement that the speed of light limit has been broken underlines the fact that a dynamic, technology-based temporal snapshot simply cannot serve as a reliable arbiter of what is possible and what is not possible, or even what exists and does not exist."

True, but does not follow.
That's what philosophy is for. If Jesus has no meaning or directly contradicts confirmed predictions...

-"Science, and the materialist consensus based upon it, are clearly incapable of providing a valid means of assessing historical evidence in general"

Vox. Leaps tall proofs in a single bound.
Vox thinks the speed of light has something to do with historians. I know when I'm talking about Athenian Democracy, I always take the speed of light into account, to eight significant digits.
Sorry, that was sophistry too.

-"and the testimonial evidence for the existence of gods in particular."

The opposite, actually, as no 'overturning' actually occurred. In fact, GPS still works. If there was a thing based on historical theories and testimony using physics-based epistemology, it would be similarly robust in the face of new findings.

-"The concept of gods are not what Man first postulated to explain the inexplicable, but rather to explain the observable."

Ah, indeed calling it 'inexplicable' is itself a piece of materialist sophistry, begging the question. However, Vox simultaneously flip-flops, putting gods back into the heuristic's domain.

-"the significant body of historical evidence is more than sufficient to support the conclusion that gods exist."

Uh...did Vox ever counter DS's point that the evidence is suspect? Yes, totting up the points is going to be very surprising.

I'm measuring whether their arguments have anything to do with one another by whether they remind me of each other, and they generally don't.


Erik said...

"Christians don't even know enough about Jesus to know what constitutes evidence for or against Him. He has no falsification condition."

Disagree. Vox offered several falsification conditions for Christianity in his book. (Discovery of Jesus' earthly remains, the complete destruction of the Jews, and an end to poverty among them.) Vox could probably offer falsification conditions for Jesus too.

"Vox is apparently unaware of the experiments involving trans-cranial magnetic fields."

I'm not sure if I'm thinking of the same ones as you are (I'm thinking of one that inhibited compassion and another that could force minor bodily movements), but I found these experiments to show very little compared to what they were claimed to show. They seemed to be little more than sophisticated versions of an argument that could have been carried out several thousand years ago:

A Christian asserts that such a thing as a soul exists and is attached to a body and has other properties, etc.
An atheist takes out a big club and asks what will happen if he clubs the Christian over the head with it.
The Christian replies that he will die and his soul will depart.
The atheist asserts that this implies that either his club is a spiritual, soul-scaring weapon or else the soul has a material component, otherwise the soul should be unaffected by the club. He then proceeds to claim this as a reduction ad absurdum that disproves the soul.

A parallell argument applies if you argue over consciousness instead of the soul. Anyway, this argument seems unconvincing to me. It may be convincing to others, but I don't see what the magnetic field experiments prove that a club experiment wouldn't.

"Even if they made me, I cannot agree they deserve worship when I don't exist. After I exist, if they can impose an obligation to worship upon me, by symmetry I can impose such an obligation upon them."

Possible symmetry breaker: the creator makes/sets physical laws and constants* like "force 1: gravity equal to nine point eight metres per second per second. force 2: magnetism etc" and moral laws like "obligation 1: sapient creatures shall pay homage to creator".

*(yes, I'm aware that the appropriate constant to set for a universe is something like six point seven newton-metres-kilograms-squared, but this more accurate figure is less helpful in conveying my meaning)

Alrenous said...

Erik, I want to mention a meta-point. While I have yet to agree with you, I have respected all your objections. They're serious and I need to have answers. I don't want to give any contrary impression.

Vox offered several falsification conditions for Christianity in his book.

Ah, I overstepped again. These are indeed falsification conditions.

Discovery a specific 2000 year old body is basically impossible, like looking for the fossil of a particular, individual dinosaur.

End to poverty we know won't happen for independent reasons: it's basically impossible whether Jesus exists or not.

The destruction of the Jews counts. But it's not like we can run that experiment.

The disproofs are as unlikely as the hypothesis, if not more so. They're not epistemically useful.

Moreover in the past when Christianity as she is believed has been falsified, Christians didn't go atheist, they re-interpreted the Bible and carried on as before.

A parallel argument applies if you argue over consciousness instead of the soul. Anyway, this argument seems unconvincing to me.

I suspect the club argument goes both ways. I'm unsure: you are unconvinced there is a soul or that there isn't?

For clarity: I'd say Descartes was right and the soul hooks into the brain using some machine. (I even know the necessary properties of the machine, if you're curious.)

locate either a moral organ or an area of the brain devoted to moral reasoning have thus far proven fruitless

On the contrary, just a couple weeks ago they reported finding what makes people lie. I believe I can dredge up more of these, too.

"Possible symmetry breaker: the creator makes/sets physical laws [...] and moral laws"

You need to define morality for this to work. I think you're making a category error. You can't actually violate physical law. Moral law must be different, because if you can't violate it, it's meaningless.

I derive morality from a more fundamental thing, 'value.' My values are not different from Jesus' values. When we don't get what we want, we feel the same way about it.

The laws of values are as they are, so either I'm right and you can derive morality from them...or I'm wrong, and you can derive a different morality, which may or may not be Christian morality.

If I'm right, Jesus is responsible for creating me, which means if I'm running around not worshipping Him and He doesn't like it, He's morally responsible, not me.

It's wildly immoral for Him to create me knowing I might go to torture-Hell. (Less so annihilation Hell.) So that's out.

Using extra-temporal omniscience, He'd know if I'll worship Him or not. So if He creates me anyway, on balance I exist because He wants me to. So that's out.

I can keep going, but the point is it can be moral to create me, but you don't end up with a particularly Christian Jesus.

From a second angle, it's obvious how obligation-to-creator works to uphold a coercive power structure, so there are clear incentives to create sophistries justifying it. This puts the bias in the Christian's court and with it most of the burden of proof.

Erik said...

I appreciate the compliment.

Another item from the original post:
"Nevertheless, I'd hoped to discover why Christians believe in Christ. I'm afraid I must still hold to the Ignorance Hypothesis on that one."
-Because their parents told them to. (More generally, peer pressure explains a lot of why people believe in anything.)
-Because they want to be on the winning team. (Whether true or not, even Communist China has produced a similar opinion. This surprised me, so I paid attention to it.)
-Because they find Christianity to be the best match for an unusual experience they had. (From a very short list of offered matches, since most people are bad at generating alternative explanations.)

"The disproofs are as unlikely as the hypothesis, if not more so. They're not epistemically useful."
I went and looked up what else Vox offers:
-The linguistic unification of humanity (may still be unlikely, but seems the best of the list)
-An external recording of the history of the human race provided by aliens (caveats about the recording covering appropriate time periods and the honesty of the aliens go here - this point also leaps to mind as something that could falsify Jesus)
-The end of war (going to be a bitch to define, but the other day I heard that there's been at least three Wikipedia-recognized wars ongoing every year for the past hundred years)
-Functional immortality technology (if war was a bitch to define, this is going to be a bigger bitch to verify)

A related issue comes to mind. I was once asked to consider what would falsify [the theory of] gravity, and had it pointed out to me that whatever explanation replaced it would still have to do gravity's job of making everyday objects fall at 9.8 m/ss, pushing balloons up, keeping planets in orbit, etc. Similarly, Newtonian mechanics are accurate if you approximate the speed of light* as being infinity.

*[Technical: It's more that Newton is Einstein with gamma, the Lorentz factor, set to 1 as though the c element were infinite, and the speed of light can still be lower than this. Or c can just be arbitrarily large so that gamma is within our precision limit from 1, which is how it was for much of history.]

What I'm getting at is that for some theories, the falsification conditions may unavoidably be seen as epistemically useless because the theory is a description of what's happened so far and we rarely expect things to happen that haven't happened before.

In other words: If the universe is one way, the corresponding hypothesis will have a falsification condition like "The universe is another way", which will seem like a cop-out to everyone who intuits that the universe isn't that way.

This ties back to your statement:
"Moreover in the past when Christianity as she is believed has been falsified, Christians didn't go atheist, they re-interpreted the Bible and carried on as before."
In the past when Newtonian mechanics as they were believed were falsified, people didn't go a-gravitist, they added a footnote about high velocities and carried on as before.

Falsification of obscure Christian points of doctrine may only matter to the professional theologians, similar to how falsification of certain applications of Newton only mattered to e.g. GPS satellites, not Formula 1 cars.

I think it would be unfair to say that theologians have always carried on as before, though I may well be proven wrong as I have no idea which specific disproofs of earlier interpretations you are referring to. I can agree that the laity have generally carried on as before.
(Unless you mean to generalize that they've always been spewing mostly-incomprehensible verbiage that almost nobody gives a fuck about, though that's rude.)

Erik said...

Continued because my previous comment hit the 4096-character limit. Should I perhaps get a blog of my own, or start writing email to you instead?

"I suspect the club argument goes both ways. I'm unsure: you are unconvinced there is a soul or that there isn't?"
I'm unconvinced that there isn't WRT these particular experiments, though I'm separately ignorant what exactly "soul" refers to, so you can also put me down for unconvinced that there is a soul WRT most uses of the word. I'm convinced there's something.

"You need to define morality for this to work. I think you're making a category error."
I'm making a loose analogy at least, and it may be a category error. What leaped out to me was your assertion of "by symmetry" against a creator, and I'm still working on pinning down and verbalizing what I think about this. It's something along the lines of a creator being able to make an "ought" or a "should" as things that are underived. You say "Everyone has an obligation not to impose obligations"; wherever this obligation comes from (since presumably it wasn't imposed), a creator might source other obligations.

Alternatively, consider this: you and a creator might have internally consistent and self-reinforcing but differing moral systems. The only thing to be gained from a dialogue between the two of you is understanding and not agreement. For instance, you derive your moral system from values. In the case of the Christian God, He might derive His from duties. The two of you say to one another "You should derive your moral system from duties." and "No, you should derive your moral system from values", neither finds any purchase, you complain that God is immoral, and God sentences you to Hell for immorality.
(I think there should be a term for such a case where people have a root difference that disjuncts their closed paradigms. "Mutual solipsism" perhaps?)

But if one were to attempt to hold further discourse here, it risks becoming infinitely recursive - you start asking why one meta-should hold an opinion about what one should. "You shouldn't hold your moral system-1." "Actually, according to my moral system-2, I should hold my moral system-1." "Yes, but you shouldn't hold your moral system-2 either, according to my moral system-3."

"...there are clear incentives to create sophistries justifying it. This puts the bias in the Christian's court and with it most of the burden of proof."
I can see a valid point here, but it feels vaguely like Bulverism (accusing someone of holding a belief for nonevidentiary reasons) and leaves me uncomfortable.

"(I even know the necessary properties of the machine, if you're curious.)"
I am.

Alrenous said...

This is terrible. All your stuff is getting caught in the spam filter. Really wish I could turn it off.

Alrenous said...

The parents reason seems most plausible, but doesn't cover the cases I'm interested in. I take as self-evident that people didn't change much between 1000AD and 2000AD, so if that were the explanation, atheism should be constant per capita in those two time periods.

The explanation reason does better, but again I want to know why really bright, well-informed people would still hold to it. Because I'm really bright and well-informed, and I want to know what kind of mistakes I can expect myself to make. Either I'm mistaken and I can expect atheist-like mistakes, or they're mistaken and I can expect theist-like mistakes.

I agree the fact that the ChiComs credit Christianity is forceful evidence. However, their philosophy and hence epistemology isn't as advanced as ours. Specifically, their methodology cannot distinguish between annihilating Christianity to promote a better substitute and annihilating it because vandalism is fun. And in reality, both processes are at work.


So it seems you understand what I mean about Christianity being effectively unfalsifiable. I have learned I need to work on making myself clearer.
I can objectively define war - group attempted murder. So if all groups gave up planning or attempting murder on all other groups, war would end. This is statistically impossible even if Christianity is false. From another angle: Christians are quite wise, but not because of Jesus, rather because their ancestors weren't stupid.

Your point about gravity interests me. I should have thought about that, but didn't.

I somewhat hesitantly propose:
Gravity can be falsified by finding edge cases. Differing theories will predict things will fall differently. For example, Mercury's Newtonian orbit compared to its Einsteinian orbit. Or that gravity could be shielded, like magnetism. The mechanism is falsified, even if many of the explanations are retained.

Things are epistemically useless when no explanations/predictions differ. This is essentially the case for Christianity.

And yeah, what I want is to know what Christians would accept as proof they should stop being Christian. Once found, I then require myself to check that it is epistemically sound proof. So far I've found neither.

By 'stop being Christian' I mean stop using Christian social norms when they are contrary to reason. Theologians don't change those either. And I wouldn't care - they have the right to believe nonsense - but one of them is to try, in various ways, to impose those norms on me.

"Should I perhaps get a blog of my own, or start writing email to you instead?"

I prefer these comments be public. If you strongly prefer not, I'll pass my email along.

Blogger obviously wants you to get your own blog. I think that's rude of them. On the other hand, they do have the power to limit comments so much it's not worth it anymore, denying that they have that power only hurts yourself.

I'm rather tempted to post this as a post, myself.

Alrenous said...

"I'm convinced there's something."

Hahahaha! Beautiful. I am also convinced there's something! Sometimes, I like to guess at what and see where that guess leads me.

That would make a good tag line for this blog.

We seen to agree that the club/magnet argument is conclusive for the Ignorance Hypothesis.

"wherever this obligation comes from (since presumably it wasn't imposed), a creator might source other obligations."

Ah, yeah my phrasing is...interesting.

The obligation comes directly from the laws of logic, which are imposed. Imposing in addition a moral obligation is logically contradictory. You have to accept the idea of obligation to do it, but so imposing contradicts the idea of obligation.

This is my own research, so you can't confirm it except by thinking about it yourself. (Unless I'm right about intuition and many people get this at a gut level.)

"Alternatively, consider this: you and a creator might have internally consistent and self-reinforcing but differing moral systems."

I'll try to consider, but I think it's logically impossible.

"neither finds any purchase, you complain that God is immoral, and God sentences you to Hell for immorality."

Ha, nice image.

I can reconstruct most of his duty-system in my value system. Where I cannot it is because it is self-contradictory. I'm happy to actually execute this construction for you, if you'd like.

But, short version: He values duty. I value values.

"I think there should be a term for such a case where people have a root difference that disjuncts their closed paradigms. "Mutual solipsism" perhaps?"

It's a failure of agreement on axioms.
Reason is finite, like everything else. It has to start somewhere. This somewhere is called 'axioms' or 'assumptions.'

My core axioms are the laws of logic, though I do have a tightly-related skin on those as well. It's impossible to argue me out of those laws, because argument implies logic.

Similarly, if we look at my tightly-related skin, it's impossible to argue me out of them without begging the question. They're not based on anything I'm conscious of, and this isn't fixable because I gotta start somewhere. I repeat myself, but: if you find a fulcrum to change my mind on these, it must be a more fundamental axiom I wasn't previously aware of.

Mutual solipsism is then the term for people who disagree on base assumptions. I don't like the connotations, but yeah a term's necessary. I suggest something that implies that the evidential immunity occurs and isn't supposed to be avoidable in these cases.

"and leaves me uncomfortable."

They can falsify the coercion-justifying hypothesis by not promoting coercion.

As long as they promote coercion, I'm uncomfortable not being epistemically unforgiving.

Alrenous said...

Okay, the consciousness machine.

First, we rule out epiphenomenalism. Because we don't pretend to doubt in philosophy what we don't doubt in our hearts.

So consciousness is causally connected with physics. (It can be physics, or it can interface with physics.) I additionally assume that Newton's Third generalizes. There is no action; only interaction.

So consciousness interacts with physics. That means certain physical systems are not causally determined on physics alone and vice-versa.

What this means in detail is that there is some physical system that would be contradictory for physics to decide the outcome for.

I can't remember if I figured this out beforehand or if I found a possible example and worked backward.

Quantum mechanics is meta-deterministic. The probability distribution is deterministic but the exact outcome is not. This indeterminism can be amplified, by designing a machine to violate the laws of probability, negating the meta-determinism. Specifically, the idea that probabilities can be independent; just make a machine that makes them dependent, and you're set.

However, an outcome will still occur.

So physics says it's not only indeterminate, but purely spontaneous: the event occurs for no reason at all. If my example or some equivalent can be verified, then causality implies dualism.

Once the mechanism is understood, the machine can be located in the brain or manufactured for a computer.

This ties into my research on consciousness, which is special in that I'd prefer to discuss it over email at present.

Erik said...

Growth of atheism. I've thought a bit and generated four partial reasons:

1) Christianity as a vaccine.
What Aretae calls "cognitive antivirus". Imagine that Christianity jams mental processes in a comparatively benign way. The increase in population between 1000AD and 2000AD gave us more outlying smart people (more precisely: people with at least a minimum of smarts, and a high estimation of their own intelligence) who decided that they didn't want or need this. Combined with the increase in human welfare (at least for some people) and the time to sit around and do philosophy a lot, these people tried to unjam their mental processes by themselves (and got rid of Christianity, but a lot of them probably screwed themselves over worse), then moved on to removing Christianity from other people.

2) Atheism as a luxury good.
Shares several features with reason 1. Increased population, specialization, welfare, technology, free time, etc. Combine with some arrogance. People say "We don't need Christianity any more" and avoid dying. Different from reason 1 in that reason 1 posits growth of atheism due to growth of available atheist-hours, but reason 2 is that previous atheists crashed and burned while modern ones can survive their fuckups better due to being in a more affluent society. Atheists (at least the stupid ones) may be ruinous, but there's a lot of ruin in a nation.

3) Atheism riding the bandwagon.
Mencius Moldbug has argued that democracy spread in part by being on an upsurge around the time of the Industrial Revolution and stealing credit for the nice things that happened. Post hoc, ergo propter hoc, so if we make countries democratic they'll become modern and advanced! Progressivism, believed even by conservatives. Similar thoughts apply if atheism is having a good day around the same time period as things start going well.

4) Christians being less violent and more charitable to atheists.
This raises an obvious recursion: why did Christianity change that way? I have the impression that most of the world did. But the Christians are the relevant ones because they were suppressing atheism.

Common thread through all of these: life got better.
Short versions:
1) Life got better, so people had the time and energy to reject Christianity.
2) Life got better, so people could afford to go without Christianity.
3) Life got better, and people attributed this to atheism.
4) Life got better for atheists.

Let's see if keeping this comment short and on one topic will avoid the spam filter.

Alrenous said...

I like it.

Considering how consistent it is, it seems atheism is pretty well correlated with affluence.

Lapsing suppression allowed latent atheism to appear, around the same time everyone was getting richer - not a coincidence, groups could afford to let up on group norm enforcement. The drawbacks of overt atheism were ameliorated at the same time unrelated wealth surges were attributed to atheism.

Then, at this point, maybe actual epistemology enters the picture. Without serious training, people justify their beliefs, they don't find their beliefs by justification. Humanism seems more plausible as compared to theism the more mastery over nature we achieve - the more superhuman we get.

I can't help linking this back to my sophistry obsession, though. Sophistry weakens the mind in the face of absurdity. The reasonably solid antivirus that is Christianity got weakened exactly at the same time new viruses were spreading and developing rapidly.

Or: most atheists are secular by default. They don't consider the divine at all, so in the absence of someone telling them to go to church, they don't do anything. The next largest group are just anti-Christian, and believe all sorts of essentially pagan crap...that happens to make other people a lot of money.

Considered atheists of the kind I'm like (I'm technically agnostic) are essentially the theologians of these groups. They antecede it.

Tipping the balance for atheism in particular over other forms of anti-Christiandom would be the doctrine of separation of church and state, again as per Moldbug.

Double check:
1. I don't do antiviruses, I just work it out or default to intuition.
2. I'm rich enough to spend lots of time sitting around thinking.
3. I attribute good results to this thinking.
4. If I couldn't have a polite conversation about it, I'd at least stop being obviously skeptical.

I'd say atheist mistakes are pretty much like theist mistakes, but I'm likely to make them in favour of atheism. (I'm technically agnostic - though as 'can't know' not 'don't.') I'm likely to commit them because I identify with the scientist archetype.

Hmm. I used to believe in a God, but didn't much like it. I seem to be okay with an impersonal authority but not a personal one.

(Ooh, test! If I get poor, do I become more sympathetic to theism? We do know that the poverty-stricken often turn to religious groups for help, so I'ma go with yes.)

I rag on Christians for it...but would I convert? Well...under certain conditions I'd at least admit I should convert. Though I don't know if I'm so intuitively sure I wouldn't because I know how unlikely those conditions are, or just because I can't stomach actually doing it.

For illustration: I'd have to check whether the conversion experience discriminated between Islam and Christianity, and if so, all the other ones. It'd be a bit stupid to convert to regular theism and then pick the wrong one.

The cross-examination would probably be rough on all of them. My general principle is that from a pure philosophy perspective, basically nobody knows what they're talking about because they don't care that much.

Why should atheists be any different just because they explicitly claim to be? In politicians, I consider that evidence to the contrary.

red said...

On the silver foxes bit: Humans are under artificial selection and we have been ever since we wiped expanded out of Africa. We impose our own artificial selection processes through civilization and war. Both of these processes are much more dominate than our normal environmental selection process.

Groups that don't adapt either of these 2 processes have long ago perished from the earth. Any group that abandons such processes dies very quickly.

Alrenous said...

Could you kindly explain how this artificial selection works, and what it is selecting for?