• About TWIM


    The Warfare Is Mental (TWIM) reflects the mental warfare of an author, screenwriter, publisher and member of the Writer's Guild of America. Family, friends, health, humor, art, music, science, faith, fun and knowledge are some of the things that are important to me.



    TWIM is the first and only theist blog listed on the Atheist Blogroll, which currently contains over 1,000 blogs. It goes without saying that I don't endorse hardly any of the views of any of them. Contact Mojoey for more information.



    Ironically, TWIM won an award for "Best Atheist / Skeptic Site" from this site. Much obliged.



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    You and your commenters are a feast of thinking — great stuff.

    -C.L. Dyck
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I have no need to engage with racists, so will ignore cl’s further diatribes.

    -faithlessgod,
     CommonSenseAtheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    cl resists following through on a thought even to provide a solid opposing position, and thus stifles many conversations. It’s a shame since it seems like cl has some brain power that could be applied to the topics at hand.

    -Hermes,
     CommonSenseAtheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    [faithlessgod and Hermes] fit my definition of trolling. I didn’t take any of those attacks against you seriously, and quickly categorized them as trolls.

    -JS Allen,
     CommonSenseAtheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    [cl] is, as many have noticed, a master of this warfare. I’ve been following him for quite some time and he’s one of the most effective Christian trolls out there. No one can completely destroy a conversation as effectively as he does, and with such masterful grace and subtly that he rarely gets banned. This isn’t a blunt-force “U R Hitler!” troll, this is the Yoda of trolling.

    -Eneasz,
     CommonSenseAtheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    This seems to imply that cl is, at least in part, disingenuous in terms of how he responds/what he claims. Is this most likely true, supported by evidence, or merely a subjective claim?

    -al friedlander,
     CommonSenseAtheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    ...I wanted to get a message to you outside of the context of specific discussions on CSA. You make good, insightful contributions to that site, and since I often agree with you I'm glad there is someone else there defending my positions better than I sometimes can. However I don't think anything of value would be lost if you stopped engaging in personal combat with juvenile snipers.

    -Zeb,
     CommonSenseAtheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Thank you for your wonderful response - so reasoned in the race of [Waldvogel's] blustering.

    -Annie Laurie Gaylor
     Freedom From Religion Foundation
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Thanks for a great Op-Ed.

    -Marianne Ratcliff
     VC Star
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    ...as atheists we need to make sure that someone like cl and any Christian readers of [An Apostate's Chapel] don’t come away with the perception that the atheists caved in or were incapable of responding. I’m sure that a lot of Christians who find cl incomprehensible at times and don’t even bother reading him themselves will come away with an assumption that cl is that sort of rare intellectual theist who can prove that gods exist. And that’s how those inane rumors about the feared xian intellectuals start…

    -bbk
     An Apostate's Chapel
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You are in so over your head here, you are embarrassing yourself...
    I am well versed in many aspects of evolution biology, through my academic background, and my professional life. Unless your academic degrees and background match mine, cease and desist. Return to philosophy and rhetoric, or whatever it is you perceive your strengths to be. They are definitely not science, even at the high school level.

    -R.C. Moore
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You're doing a fine job.

    -Prof. Larry Moran
     Dept. of Biochemistry
     University of Toronto
     re: R.C. Moore & others
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Phyletic change and vicariance (or, drift and selection versus population isolation), as cl points out, are much better ways of describing what are unfortunately more commonly known as micro- and macro- evolution, respectively.

    -Dan
     Biology postdoc
     Univ. of Cyprus
     re: R.C. Moore & others
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    cl says, “The minute you call yourself a Christian or an Atheist or whatever the heck else, you automatically get painted by other people’s interpretations of those words, which are almost always different and almost always distorted.” cl’s point couldn’t be more on. As cl points out there is an important reason for not claiming any real religious (or lack thereof) belief. It puts logical constraints on one's arguments due directly to the bias of the individual that is translating the English to mind ideas of what it means to be religious.

    -Bobaloo
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Just who in the bloody hell do you think you are, you Christian piece of garbage, to come here barking out orders? You're an arrogant, condescending piece of shit. You seem to think you're an intellectual of sorts, when all you are is a Christian who's read a few books. John, everyone, this really is the limit. BR, I'm more than a little annoyed that you continue to engage him. I'm out of here. I have better things to do than to waste my time with these cretins.

    -Cipher
     Debunking Christianity
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    How old are you CL? I'd guess you have not yet experienced much life. I'd say you were under the age of 21, too young to be here. I don't give a damn what you think of me or my deconversion at all. You're too stupid to realize that regardless of it you must deal with the arguments in the book. They are leading people away from you [sic] faith. I'm seriously considering banning you cl, as I've heard you were banned on other sites. You are much too ignorant for us to have a reasonable discussion.

    -John Loftus
     Debunking Christianity
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I admired the way you handled yourself in the discussion on John's blog. I'm not patient enough to keep my sarcasm in check with some of them blokes, but appreciate those who are.

    -David Marshall
     re: Debunking Christianity
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    cl, I have to say, while I fundamentally disagree with you, you are an individual which I highly respect. I think your responses are always well thought out and your insights always well thought out and pertinently derived.
    [Y]ou have made me a stronger atheist in my regards to critical thinking and debating. I really can’t wait to hear more from you. Hell, I’d even buy you a drink, good sir. Cheers!

    -Parker
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Bottom line? Sometimes I think he's right about certain arguments, and I don't have a problem admitting that. Other times, however, I think he's wrong, and I've called him on that. But I have found he can be pretty reasonable if you (1) don't overstate your case, (2) make concessions when you have, and (3) insist he do the same.

    -Lifeguard
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I like it when [cl] makes me stop, think and question if I am making unfounded assertions or if I am being sloppy. What has been annoying me about cl of late is that he is being excruciatingly anal...

    -seantheblogonaut
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I really can't thank you enough for catching me on my error in rhetoric. I always love a good debate! And I always enjoy your posts, as well! Keep up the great writing and the excellent eye for detail!

    -BZ
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You make me smarter...

    -Mike G.
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    ..thank you, cl. I discovered your blog on a random web search and saw it as an oasis amidst a vast desert of seemingly intractable theist-atheist debate.

    -Sung Jun
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    It's good to be able to discuss with people who are open and respectful, and know that disagreement does not mean disrespect... You are to be congratulated, not only for your patience, but also your ability to hold an ever-growing debate together with an impressive degree of structure.

    -Ritchie
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    My tone is derogatory... [cl is] ignorant and credulous and deserves to be mocked... In the time he's been here, he's shown a consistent pattern of antagonizing everyone he comes in contact with, monopolizing threads, derailing discussions with perpetual complaints, quibbles and demands for attention, and generally making arguments that display a lack of good faith and responsiveness... it's become intolerable. I'm not banning him, but I'm putting in place some restrictions on how often he can comment.

    -Ebonmuse
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    This is no defense of the annoying cl, but what a self-righteous, prissy atheist you turned out to be, Ebonmuse. I'm disappointed in you, stealing a strategem from the theists.

    -The Exterminator
     to Ebonmuse
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I certainly didn't get any bad impression about cl, and I can't relate his comments with any of the things (Ebonmuse) said above. I actually thought it was quite interesting to have him around.

    -Juan Felipe
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Please continue to allow
    cl to post his views and make it clear that he is still welcome. And let me be clear, cl is not a lunatic.

    -Curtis
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    With one exception, you are the most coherent and intelligent theist I've seen on this site...

    -Steve Bowen
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I'm rooting for cl. I hope he perpetually manages to skirt the rules enough to do his damage, forcing rule revision after rule revision, ad nauseum. Awesome! Let's watch as Ebon, ever more frustrated, continues to struggle to figure out how to keep his precious private blog neat and tidy as cl keeps messing up his papers while one by one, readers leave due to an every increasing administrative presence. Outstanding! Well I won't go. The thought of this sounds like the most entertaining thing that probably would have ever happened on Daylight Atheism. Hot damn!

    -PhillyChief
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Your visit has been something of a reality check to me. It seems that when you present rational arguments and criticisms, many commenters feel territory slipping and then work up vaporous or leaky responses. I also want to remark that your presence here has considerably moved me to try being a more careful and understanding debater...

    -Brad
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I do have a lot of respect for you too. You seem to be a very intelligent and thoughtful individual with a knack for getting to the bottom of a problem, cutting through all the bullshit rhetoric on the way down. The fact that many other atheists seem to unreasonably despise you bothers me a lot, because I think that maybe they aren’t acting in good faith.

    -Peter Hurford
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I am not going to waste any more time parsing your comments to decide if they've crossed the line or not... So I banned you.

    -Greta Christina
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Be rude... cl invites rudeness. Would you want an incontinent little puppy coming into your house?

    -(((Billy))) the Atheist
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Note to all my regular readers: Since An Apostate’s Chapel is a free-speech zone, I don’t censor conversations.
    As it appears that cl is a troll, please note that I will not be responding to him any longer. I ask that you refrain from doing so, as well. Please don’t feed the troll!

    -The Chaplain
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    …I can’t reconcile being a "freethinker" with banning speech. [cl's] comments are not offensive in the normal understanding of that term, and he poses absolutely no threat except perhaps to some imagined decorum. Why can’t atheists lighten up, for no-Christ’s sake?

    -The Exterminator
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Is it going to distract from my meal when crazy uncle cl starts blathering out nonsense, pick his ears with a carrot or start taking his pants off? No. In fact, it might actually heighten the experience in some amusing way. So no, I don't see cl's work as damage.

    -PhillyChief
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I am beginning to suspect that you are a troll cl. Albeit an evolved troll, but a troll nonetheless. Perhaps we should all stop feeding the troll?

    -GaySolomon
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    [cl is] is either a sophist or an incompetent when it comes to the english language... (sic)

    -ThatOtherGuy
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I’d say cl is pretty sharp... it may be tempting at times to think that “the other guy” is arguing out of some personal character flaw rather than a sincere desire to acknowledge the truth, I still think it’s better to debate respectfully... It is disrespectful to make unsupported accusations against people, e.g. by suggesting that their views are caused by an intrinsically corrupt and immoral nature.

    -Deacon Duncan, 3-9-09
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    [cl] cannot refute my facts, so he needs must find (sic) some scapegoat in order to claim that he has confronted the enemy and proven them wrong... cl, sadly, has proven himself to be the sort of guest who comes into your living room and sneaks behind your couch to take a crap on the floor, just so he can tell all your neighbors how bad your house smells and what an unsanitary housekeeper you are... an interesting case study in the negative effects a Christian worldview has on a reasonably intellectual mind.

    -Deacon Duncan, 6-17-09
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I strongly discourage discussion of the character, abilities, motives, or personal ancestry of individual commenters, as tempting as such comments may be at times. I discourage the posting of comments that make frequent use of the pronoun “you,” as in “you always…” or “you never…” or “you are just so…”, when directed at a specific individual.

    -Deacon Duncan, 4-9-09
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I won’t be publishing your most recent comment because it’s a return to the same sort of schtick you’ve pulled here before: re-writing other people’s arguments to make yourself look misunderstood and/or unfairly accused, taking “polyvalent” positions so that when people address your points you can claim to have said something else, distorting other people’s arguments, trolling for negative reactions, and so on.

    -Deacon Duncan, 10-8-09
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    [E]gomaniacal troll.
    You win... You’re a disingenuous sophist through and through, cl. And a friggin’ narcissist to boot! Since I’ve thoroughly and purposefully broken the Deacon’s rules of engagement, I shall consider my right to post henceforth annulled, and move on - dramatic pause, lights out.

    -jim
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    He either thinks in a very weird way or he's quite the con artist.

    -mikespeir
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I will gladly admit that I have a boner for cl. Maybe some day I’ll even earn a place of honor on cl’s Blog of Infamy.

    -Eneasz
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Long time reader first time poster... I like reading what you
    have to say over at Daylight Atheism so I figured I'd pop in here.

    -Pine
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    He's just a jerk
    that likes to argue.

    -KShep
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You’re not a reasonable thinker in my book. You’re simply an arguer, for better or worse. I’m Michael Palin, you’re John Cleese. You’re just a disputation-ist, bringing everything into question...

    -jim
     Reason vs. Apologetics
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Motherfucker, this is an interesting blog... Quite the group of commenters.

    -John Evo
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You are very articulate, and I can only assume that it's a result of high intelligence; an intelligence that's interested in, and can understand, healthy debate. However, at every turn, that's not what I or others seem to get.

    -ex machina
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You are a troll, a liar, and a useless sack of shit. Not only that, but you're still wrong even after moving the goal posts and trying to re-write history. So, you can stop cyber stalking me now and trying to provoke me. I know what you are doing, and you are doing it so that you can whine about how I'm being irrational and mean to you and stroke your pathetic martyr complex. You're a pathetic attention whore and I've already given you too much attention. So, back the fuck off, stop following me around the intarwebs and trying to provoke me, and fuck off.

    -OMGF
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I would just like to say that, OMGF, having read the debate as a neutral observer, some of the things cl says about your style of argument are true, IMO. It is quite hasty, which means you occasionally haven't got the central point cl is trying to make...

    -John D.
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    ...this is a difficult question that deserves more than a kneejerk reaction, not to imply that you're kneejerking. You're the least kneejerking person I've met.

    -Quixote
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    If you’re here playing devil’s advocate, then, hey, you do a great job at it, it’s a service, keep us sharp... You’re a smart guy, but those are exactly the ones who give the worst headaches!

    -Lifeguard
     An Apostate's Chapel
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You are a waste of time, cl. A big fat black hole of bullshit sucking in everyone who comes into contact with you.

    -Spanish Inquisitor
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    As for all that harsh invective that's come your way, umm... I gotta say, I've seen some of the invective, but I haven't seen the behavior on your part that called for it. Maybe I've just not seen enough? I don't know... from what I've read, I can tell that you're a smart person, and whether you deserved any of that treatment or not is quite frankly immaterial to me; I just want to deal with the smart person at the eye of that storm.

    -D
     She Who Chatters
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I now think that you’re an atheist, just having fun at other atheists’ expense. If that’s the case, kudos.

    -The Exterminator
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    

Asteroids, Cathode Rays & Requisite Knowledge: More Thoughts On Evidence

I’ve written recently on evidence here, here and here, and one can always visit TWIM’s Epistemology category to dig deeper.

Many atheists—dare I say the majority—operate under the assumed premise that “there’s no evidence for God (and/or the supernatural).” Many wave this around as some sort of trump card, but I opine that such is merely biased opinion masquerading as justification for denial. Like DD, I believe “there’s no evidence for God” is one of the worst arguments floating around (a)theism, and I remain puzzled as to the strange, pseudo-intellectual pretense with which I see that argument waged. Today and tomorrow, I’d like to review two examples from science’s history that I think illustrate the weakness of the “there’s no evidence for God” argument. The larger analogy to (a)theism should be apparent.

In actuality, what the person who utters those words really means is that they’ve not been persuaded by anything hitherto offered as evidence, which is an accurate assessment of the matter. From an atheist, this is also a tautology, because if it’s known that the person who says “there’s no evidence for God” is an atheist, that they’ve not yet been persuaded by any evidence is merely redundant. In rigorous discussion, I believe one would be justified in rejecting the “no evidence for God” argument solely on these grounds (subjectivity, tautology), but I think we have other sound reasons to reject it.

Note that “there’s no evidence for X” is really just a generic argument where X always represents some proposition whose theoretical or ontological possibility is being denied. Yet, show me a true theory today that did not have its skeptics and doubters yesterday. Airplanes, telephones and relativity were all vehemently objected to by skeptics and doubters who now ironically enjoy the benefits of each. Before more optimistic minds made these things happen, many skeptics claimed they’d never happen.

This leads to an interesting question: what does it mean to say that we have evidence for a given proposition? With that in mind, let’s go ahead and take a look at asteroids.


Image source: smithsonianmag.com

Imagine you and I could transport ourselves through time to visit Aristotle and rebuke his notion that Earth has existed unchanged for all eternity. We might tell him a thing or two about modern cosmologies, or the second law of thermodynamics, and might also mention things like asteroids, and how their impacts have literally changed both Earth and the history of life itself. After all, if it weren’t for asteroids, there wouldn’t be a moon, so the story goes.

Claims about huge, flying rocks in outer space might certainly sound absurd to Aristotle, who may or may not have resisted our premises, but what’s more interesting to me is the following question: if we limit ourselves strictly to the body of extant data we had access to in Aristotle’s time, could Aristotle have accepted our premises justifiedly? Or, from another angle, if Aristotle were to challenge our assertion of asteroids, what would we be able to point to as our evidence? Could we justify belief in asteroids based on data that was extant in Aristotle’s time?

I think we can, but I’m not surprised nobody did, and I’m willing to posit that perhaps the primary reason they didn’t is because they lacked requisite knowledge. I realize that sounds like just a snobby intellectual’s way of saying, “They didn’t know,” but what I’m seeking to explain here is why they didn’t know, and note that know in the instance I just used it should be read as a verb.

The African country of Algeria is situated just across the Mediterranean from where Aristotle was, and there one can find the Talemzane, Amguid and Tin Bider meteorite craters. Those craters were there before Aristotle ever walked the Earth. In fact, there are many craters all over Earth that have existed for a very long time. Those meteor and meteorite craters are evidence of asteroids. They were in Aristotle’s time, just as they are now. The evidence was always there, it’s just that we had no idea what to look for. If somebody would have somehow via intuition or revelation or just sheer brainpower deduced that these huge holes in the ground resulted from impacts with huge, flying rocks from outer space they would have been correct, regardless of how boisterous and inflammatory their critics got.

In the case of asteroids, later—when the requisite knowledge became sufficient in the form of advanced technology and theory—it became “reasonable” to believe that which was undeniably true the whole time. This illustrates that oft-forgotten idea that what’s true doesn’t need our permission to exist. That the majority only deemed asteroid belief “reasonable” within the last few centuries says nothing except that the majority need more permission from “heroes in labcoats” to justify their convictions. The intellectual renegade—the freethinker—doesn’t need such permission.

If by evidence we mean nothing more than data consistent with some hypothesis, then even in Aristotle’s day the claim “there’s no evidence for asteroids” was false, because the Talemzane, Amguid and Tin Bider meteorite craters were right there, along with all the others littered across the globe. The evidence for asteroids has always been there, but the body of requisite knowledge was simply insufficient for the average individual to connect the dots. So, even when claims of type “there’s no evidence for X” are accurate, this still expresses nothing more than the fact that no known human being has yet proposed a piece of data in favor of X. Quite literally, that doesn’t mean anything. At every instance where we lacked evidence for true proposition X, X remained true despite our inability to recognize the evidence that was right before us.

…with the passage of time, traces of events become more and more attenuated, and eventually they may disappear. Alternatively, they may be present but very degraded. Finding them may require advances in technology. The discovery of the three-degree background radiation depended upon the development of very sensitive antennas for communicating with satellites. Similarly, a particle accelerator (cyclotron) was used to discover the iridium in the K-T boundary.
Carol E. Cleland, Ph.D, Historical science, experimental science, and the scientific method, GEOLOGY, November 2001

For even the best minds of any given age, a certain degree of requisite knowledge is required to connect the epistemological dots of any given claim. Darwin need Lyell’s work before him, just as Einstein needed Newton’s before him, just as Wilson and Penzias needed the work of Dicke and his team before them. Such is what’s implied in the “standing on the shoulders of giants” remark. All the pertinent “traces” that might point to a smoking gun for things metaphysical could literally be amongst us right now, as we speak, despite the thriving “skeptical publishing” industry. As was the case with evolution, relativity, big bang cosmology, and so many other facts or “provisional facts” of nature, we might just need to connect a few more epistemological dots when it comes to questions of metaphysics, God, and things like [human] consciousness.

What if we evaluate “there’s no evidence for X” probabilistically? It is beyond dispute that historically speaking, a very large percentage of “there’s no evidence for X” claims have turned out to be false. Today’s reality was often yesterday’s impossibility. Overconfident skeptics would do well to remember that for all claims of type “there’s no evidence for X,” a certain percentage of those claims are assuredly false a priori. So, when the skeptic asserts that “there’s no evidence for God,” what evidence do I have that theirs is in the category of “there’s no evidence for X” claims that are true, as opposed to the category of “there’s no evidence for X” claims that are false?

Quite simply, you need a solid foundation to support a strong house. For me, what this all goes back to is that life’s profound questions are much more than a simple matter of asserting “there’s no evidence for X,” and then posturing ourselves in the sand defensively. What we are able to accurately identify as evidence for a given hypothesis changes. Without a lick of doubt, I can say we are currently overlooking extant data that would reverse conventional theories across multiple fields of science. We just saw this in evolutionary biology with the recent upheaval in avian lineage. Such is the nature of things, as science and the body of total knowledge continually expands.

Evidence for asteriods has been here who-knows-how-many years, but it wasn’t until a mere few centuries ago that we realized, “Hey, these big holes in the ground are evidence of huge, flying rocks in outer space!” The point is, in all cases where skeptics were wrong, the evidence for the proposition they denied was either theoretically or ontologically right there in front of them.

Who knows how many other true propositions skeptics reject thus? Isn’t there a very real chance that such is also the case with the skeptic’s denial of God, metaphysics, and everything spiritual? If so, doesn’t this very real chance expose as foolishness the confidence with which many skeptics assert their denial?

**to be continued tomorrow

12 Responses

  1. Well said! I look forward to part 3.

  2. So, you’re saying there’s evidence for God (and/or the supernatural), but atheists either dispute it’s evidence or claim it’s not convincing.
    This is not controversial.
    Of note:

    Note that “there’s no evidence for X” is really just a generic argument where X always represents some proposition whose theoretical or ontological possibility is being denied.

    You are wrong.
    Counter-example: “There’s no evidence that my wife is plotting to kill me”.
    (Here, X represents “my wife is plotting to kill me”, clearly both a theoretical and an ontological possibility.)

    If by evidence we mean nothing more than data consistent with some hypothesis, then even in Aristotle’s day the claim “there’s no evidence for asteroids” was false […]

    But the cardinality of the space of hypotheses that can be proposed to explain any given set of observations is mind-boggling.
    Regarding evidence for the existence of something, I’d expect there to be scientific evidence, not just anecdote and opinion.

    Overconfident skeptics would do well to remember that for all claims of type “there’s no evidence for X,” a certain percentage of those claims are assuredly false a priori.

    It seems you misunderstand what a priori refers to.

    For me, what this all goes back to is that life’s profound questions are much more than a simple matter of asserting “there’s no evidence for X,” and then posturing ourselves in the sand defensively.

    Surely you’re not saying you need less evidence for life’s profound questions than to establish, say, whether a person purporting to be a police officer (but in plain clothes and of unkept appearance) says he’s arresting you and asks you to hold your hands out for handcuffing really is a police officer.
    Would asking for ID from the policeman before complying be posturing yourself in the sand defensively?

    Who knows how many other true propositions skeptics reject thusly? Isn’t there a very real chance that such is also the case with the skeptic’s denial of God, metaphysics, and everything spiritual? If so, doesn’t this very real chance expose as foolishness the confidence with which many skeptics assert their denial?

    No-one.
    No.
    No.

  3. Ned,
    Thanks.

  4. You are wrong.

    Wrong? Hardly. Insufficiently accurate for those predisposed to irrelevant pedantry? Mea culpa! Of course, hardly something to concern myself with, and entirely predictable. Still, I’ll play the word games with you:

    X represents “my wife is plotting to kill me”, clearly both a theoretical and an ontological possibility.

    Correct, John; that your wife is plotting to kill you is a theoretical and an ontological possibility – one which you are denying, or at the very least, withholding belief in, right?
    So why quibble over words when the statement itself is intact? “There’s no evidence for X” is just a generic argument where X always represents some proposition whose theoretical or ontological possibility is being denied, i.e. being claimed to be unjustifiable.

    But the cardinality of the space of hypotheses that can be proposed to explain any given set of observations is mind-boggling.

    Now, now… users of proper language should never begin sentences with “and” or “but!”

    Regarding evidence for the existence of something, I’d expect there to be scientific evidence, not just anecdote and opinion.

    Are you saying meteor craters are “just anecdote and opinion?”

    It seems you misunderstand what a priori refers to.

    [laughs] See what I mean? Three times now in this comment alone you quibbled over how I use words, as opposed to leaving an objection of any substance whatsoever.

    Surely you’re not saying you need less evidence for life’s profound questions than to establish, say, whether a person purporting to be a police officer (but in plain clothes and of unkept appearance) says he’s arresting you and asks you to hold your hands out for handcuffing really is a police officer.

    No; surely I’m not.
    ****************
    When I asked, “Isn’t there a very real chance that such is also the case with the skeptic’s denial of God, metaphysics, and everything spiritual?”
    You replied, “No.”
    So, no chance that you could be wrong, eh?

  5. You are very obtuse.
    Again — your contention:
    “Note that “there’s no evidence for X” is really just a generic argument where X always represents some proposition whose theoretical or ontological possibility is being denied.”
    I’ve provided an X where its truth-value is unknown, but for which its theoretical or ontological possibility is mutually-accepted.
    This represents a counterexample to your contention that “X always represents some proposition whose theoretical or ontological possibility is being denied”.

    Now, now… users of proper language should never begin sentences with “and” or “but!

    But, did you get the point I’ve made there?

    Are you saying meteor craters are “just anecdote and opinion?”

    Are you comparing your putative evidence for your Unmoved Mover with that for meteor craters?

    No; surely I’m not.

    So then, you shouldn’t have a problem with atheists requiring proportionate evidence to the claim being made.

    So, no chance that you could be wrong, eh?

    No real chance.
    It’s disingenuous to remove that qualifier in your question when paraphrasing my response.
    There’s no real chance I’d survive if I fell out of a plane without a parachute, either — but I don’t deny the possibility.

  6. You are very obtuse.

    Of course, because you’re so brilliant and sophisticated, and that you might be obtuse on any occasion just isn’t an acceptable option! Pray for me – or – hope for me – or whatever it is you do – that reason might save me!

    But, did you get the point I’ve made there?

    Yeah I got it; not surprisingly, it was another tangent unrelated to the overall argument and that’s why I chose to nitpick your grammar instead, so you’d know exactly how I feel when one of my points is ignored on behalf of your interest in nitpicking grammar. That “the cardinality of the space of hypotheses that can be proposed to explain any given set of observations is mind-boggling” does not negate [by does not negate I mean does not make untrue] that the Talemzane, Amguid and Tin Bider craters were evidence for asteroids even in Aristotle’s time.

    So then, you shouldn’t have a problem with atheists requiring proportionate evidence to the claim being made.

    I told you exactly what I have a problem with: people who assert “there’s no evidence for X” and then posture themselves defensively in the sand when it comes to life’s profound questions. Take it or leave it.

    It’s disingenuous to remove that qualifier in your question when paraphrasing my response.

    Ah, I see… because there might be some ~real chance, then?

    There’s no real chance I’d survive if I fell out of a plane without a parachute, either — but I don’t deny the possibility.

    As you shouldn’t; the link you provided testifies that there is a real chance that you’d survive if you fell out of a plane without a parachute.
    Apparently you’re using real synonymously with probable to John Morales’ estimations, or something else, and once again, here we are quibbling over language.
    It’s boring as ever, John: I’d rather you tell me more about running into roos on roadbikes. Or how many skateboard parks you’ve seen in Australia. Or what kind of music people are into there. Or what your favorite food is. I think any of those would be far more fruitful conversation topics because none of them would seemingly lend well to this intellectual weenie-measuring contest you seem to have going with me – the obtuse and obfuscating apologist.

  7. Wow! That’s, like, really well-put! I’ve made almost the same point, but I used the example of trying to convince Socrates that the television will be invented and is not magic.
    I can’t wait to see where your next part goes, because I agree with almost everything you said, but I come to the conclusion that we should never think we’ve got the whole picture. On anything. Evar!
    So we can never know if we’ve found the
    One Truth of the Universe, because even if we wrote it down, a page might have been lost and forgotten. Or it could be a trick. Or there might have been parts left out at the end that we’re just as powerless to verify as Socrates would have been to check the composition of moon rocks. Hmm… I guess we’d better get used to this doubt stuff, huh? It just never goes to bed forever.
    But then, I’m not interested in any silly notions of “ultimate truth,” I’m interested in deriving coherence from demonstrated correspondence. This means making many missteps, about as many errors as I have of trials, and embarrassing myself quite frequently. I’m over it. Besides, even if I had ultimate truth, I’m not sure I’d be able to recognize it any more than Socrates could have recognized a modern English phrasing of, oh, anything.

  8. I don’t go so far as to say that there’s no evidence for God. As a former Catholic, I merely came to the conclusion for a variety of reasons that the Biblical god did not exist.
    Interestingly, asteroids fit into one of my reasons for doing so. If God created us in order to have a relationship with it, what’s the point of creating asteroids to slam into the Earth and other planetary bodies?

  9. Hey there Tommykey..

    If God created us in order to have a relationship with it, what’s the point of creating asteroids to slam into the Earth and other planetary bodies?

    My immediate answer would be utility.
    1) Is it not possible that asteroids perform vital functions in the cosmos? According to science, is it not true that without asteroids, we wouldn’t exist?
    2) While I realize it’s not the whole of your conclusion, how did you come to conclude that asteroids constitute reason for disbelief in the biblical God?

  10. Is it not possible that asteroids perform vital functions in the cosmos? According to science, is it not true that without asteroids, we wouldn’t exist?
    Come on CL, you can’t have it both ways. If God can do anything, then God doesn’t need asteroids for our existence.
    If the most important thing for the Biblical God, if it exists, is that we worship it and that we have a personal relationship with it, then this God surely does not need a universe filled with billions of galaxies and asteroids floating around smashing into Mercury and Ganymede to make it happen. Again, if God can do anything, then God could have made the universe just be the Earth, the Moon and the sun, and a few stars in the night sky merely for decorative purposes, and kept humanity in a permanent state of Bronze Age technology. Heck, that was all Moses and the ancient Israelites needed, right?

  11. I’m not “trying to have it both ways.” The problem I have with your approach here is that it essentially accomplishes nothing but smoke-making. I don’t mean that to insult, either. Let me try to explain.

    If God can do anything, then God doesn’t need asteroids for our existence.

    By that token, God doesn’t even need our existence at all – right?
    Your basic approach here takes the form of an argument from ignorance: “if A, then why B, C, or D?”
    What I’m getting at is, our inability to discern the reason(s) X does Y cannot be an argument against the existence of X in the first place. I could just as easily say, “If evolution is true, why E, F or G?” But such accomplishes nothing.

    Again, if God can do anything, then God could have made the universe just be the Earth, the Moon and the sun, and a few stars in the night sky merely for decorative purposes, and kept humanity in a permanent state of Bronze Age technology.

    Sure – if you want to assume that we’re the only ones God’s concerned with – but what’s the basis for that? I don’t make that assumption. It very well could be that there are other “Earth’s” going through exactly the same trials we are. Right?

  12. […] Asteroids are perhaps my penultimate example. “Huge, flying rocks in space? That’s absurd!” the uber-rationalist pompously declared to the free-thinker of centuries past. “It’s more likely that you were just hallucinating when that little rock fell out of the sky and cut your head, and as far as that huge, round hole in the ground, you’re probably just seeing a pattern where none really exists.” […]

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