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Objectivism On Agnosticism

Posted by Henry M. Paulson 
Objectivism On Agnosticism
July 08, 2010 10:27AM
[aynrandlexicon.com]

[There is] a widespread approach to ideas which Objectivism repudiates altogether: agnosticism. I mean this term in a sense which applies to the question of God, but to many other issues also, such as extra-sensory perception or the claim that the stars influence man’s destiny. In regard to all such claims, the agnostic is the type who says, “I can’t prove these claims are true, but you can’t prove they are false, so the only proper conclusion is: I don’t know; no one knows; no one can know one way or the other.”

The agnostic viewpoint poses as fair, impartial, and balanced. See how many fallacies you can find in it. Here are a few obvious ones: First, the agnostic allows the arbitrary into the realm of human cognition. He treats arbitrary claims as ideas proper to consider, discuss, evaluate—and then he regretfully says, “I don’t know,” instead of dismissing the arbitrary out of hand. Second, the onus-of-proof issue: the agnostic demands proof of a negative in a context where there is no evidence for the positive. “It’s up to you,” he says, “to prove that the fourth moon of Jupiter did not cause your sex life and that it was not a result of your previous incarnation as the Pharaoh of Egypt.” Third, the agnostic says, “Maybe these things will one day be proved.” In other words, he asserts possibilities or hypotheses with no jot of evidential basis.

The agnostic miscalculates. He thinks he is avoiding any position that will antagonize anybody. In fact, he is taking a position which is much more irrational than that of a man who takes a definite but mistaken stand on a given issue, because the agnostic treats arbitrary claims as meriting cognitive consideration and epistemological respect. He treats the arbitrary as on a par with the rational and evidentially supported. So he is the ultimate epistemological egalitarian: he equates the groundless and the proved. As such, he is an epistemological destroyer. The agnostic thinks that he is not taking any stand at all and therefore that he is safe, secure, invulnerable to attack. The fact is that his view is one of the falsest—and most cowardly—stands there can be.
Re: Objectivism On Agnosticism
July 08, 2010 05:04PM
Wishy-washy, okay, but cowardly? Hmmm.....
Sam
Re: Objectivism On Agnosticism
July 08, 2010 06:17PM
Do I need to say I agree with Ms. Rand? lol
Re: Objectivism On Agnosticism
July 08, 2010 07:39PM
Peikoff wrote, First, the agnostic allows the arbitrary into the realm of human cognition. He treats arbitrary claims as ideas proper to consider, discuss, evaluate—and then he regretfully says, “I don’t know,” instead of dismissing the arbitrary out of hand.

Peikoff has no rational foundation (sorry Randians) for his is/ought statement.

Peikoff wrote, Second, the onus-of-proof issue: the agnostic demands proof of a negative in a context where there is no evidence for the positive. “It’s up to you,” he says, “to prove that the fourth moon of Jupiter did not cause your sex life and that it was not a result of your previous incarnation as the Pharaoh of Egypt.”

Strike 1 for the hasty generalisation. Not all agnostics demand proof of a negative claim. Peikoff, like our resident Randian Go, assumes all unevidenced claims are trivial, and that just isn't correct. All unevidenced claims do not fit snuggly into a particular catogory called: trivial. e.g. life on other planets.

Peikoff wrote, Third, the agnostic says, “Maybe these things will one day be proved.” In other words, he asserts possibilities or hypotheses with no jot of evidential basis.

Strike 2.

And what evidential basis does Objectivism assert that 'all unevidenced propositions should/ought to be disbelieved?' Hey, you call it a rational philosophy, not a practical one... =P

Peikoff wrote, The agnostic miscalculates. He thinks he is avoiding any position that will antagonize anybody.

strike 3...

Peikoff wrote, In fact, he is taking a position which is much more irrational than that of a man who takes a definite but mistaken stand on a given issue, because the agnostic treats arbitrary claims as meriting cognitive consideration and epistemological respect.

If you have no positive belief e.g. God exists/God does not exist, your position how it relates to skepticism cannot be considered irrational. Only positive beliefs are considered rational/irrational. The agnostic/skeptic will assume a positive belief when there is good reason to...

Of course Peikoff assumes personal religious experiences are not evidential because of naturalistic assumptions. IOW, 'everybody who claims these experiences are mistaken/deluded. The agnostic/skeptic waits for more evidence...

Peikoff wrote, He treats the arbitrary as on a par with the rational and evidentially supported.

Lame.

Peikoff wrote, So he is the ultimate epistemological egalitarian: he equates the groundless and the proved. As such, he is an epistemological destroyer.

Very few do this, so strike 1, again. Agnostics are not necessairly Solipsists.

Peikoff wrote, The agnostic thinks that he is not taking any stand at all and therefore that he is safe, secure, invulnerable to attack. The fact is that his view is one of the falsest—and most cowardly—stands there can be.

Strike 3. I wonder why he equates agnostics/skeptics with epistemological nihilism?
Sam
Re: Objectivism On Agnosticism
July 08, 2010 08:17PM
One "should" do such and such IF one wishes to be rational...Why do people keep mistaking every "should" to be a moral imperative?
Re: Objectivism On Agnosticism
July 10, 2010 12:19AM
Peter Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Peikoff wrote, First, the agnostic allows the
> arbitrary into the realm of human cognition. He
> treats arbitrary claims as ideas proper to
> consider, discuss, evaluate—and then he
> regretfully says, “I don’t know,” instead of
> dismissing the arbitrary out of hand.
>
> Peikoff has no rational foundation (sorry
> Randians) for his is/ought statement.

If I claim that a flufferdorf (or a god or anything else) exists, it is up to me to define clearly and unambiguously what a flufferdorf (or a god) is and to have evidence that it exists if I want to claim that my belief is rational. Simply asserting that a flufferdorf exists does not make my claim rational, i.e., more likely than not that such a thing actually exists; only evidence can do that. Anyone can claim to believe that any putative entity whatsoever exists, regardless of the evidence that one has for the belief. But no one gets to claim that such a belief is rational unless one has sufficient evidence for the belief.


>
> Peikoff wrote, Second, the onus-of-proof issue:
> the agnostic demands proof of a negative in a
> context where there is no evidence for the
> positive. “It’s up to you,” he says, “to
> prove that the fourth moon of Jupiter did not
> cause your sex life and that it was not a result
> of your previous incarnation as the Pharaoh of
> Egypt.”
>
> Strike 1 for the hasty generalisation. Not all
> agnostics demand proof of a negative claim.

You changed Peikoff's argument. That's not very charitable of you. He makes it clear that he's not talking about "all" agnostics. He's only talking about agnostics like you; that is, an agnostic who, in Peikoff's words, says, “I can’t prove these claims are true, but you can’t prove they are false, so the only proper conclusion is: I don’t know; no one knows; no one can know one way or the other.”

Such a position is laughable.




> Peikoff, like our resident Randian Go, assumes all
> unevidenced claims are trivial, and that just
> isn't correct. All unevidenced claims do not fit
> snuggly into a particular catogory called:
> trivial. e.g. life on other planets.

I think you may be confusing the word 'arbitrary' here with the word 'trivial.' Those two words do not have the same meaning. Peikoff points out that these sorts of claims, the sort of claim you make about the existence of god, are arbitrary because no evidence is given to support them.

Any individual arbitrary claim is extremely unlikely to be true because of the unlimited number of arbitrary claims that it is possible to make.

For example: At this moment the TV over there in the corner might be set on any one of an almost limitless number of channels. Maybe it's set on ESPN. Maybe it's set on Bravo. Maybe it's set on ABC, maybe CBS, maybe Showtime, maybe The Cooking Network, maybe The Great Philosophers, maybe The Peter Comedy Channel and on and on and on.

Some of these channels I pretty obviously made up out of thin air. I could make up a virtual infinity of such nonexistent channels. They don't exist even though it's possible that they could exist. Without evidence to support the belief that this TV is set on one of these channels, isn't it kind of stupid to believe that the TV is as likely as not set on The Peter Comedy Channel? The odds that such a claim is true are much closer to one-in-any-large-number-you-can-name than they are to 50-50, right?

Now, you might say, yes, that's true, but aren't the odds 50-50 that the claim "The TV is on" is true and 50-50 that the claim "The TV is off" is true?

And the answer to that is, no, not in the absence of evidence to support either possibility.

The answer is no because we know that the statement "The TV is either on or off" is absolutely true independent of evidence. Belief never enters into the equation because the statement is known to be absolutely true no matter what anyone may believe about the situation. It doesn't matter if you are looking directly at the TV when you are stone-cold sober in a room with good lighting. It doesn't matter if you can't see the TV. It doesn't matter if the TV exists! The definition of "TV" doesn't even matter. All that matters is that the terms "on" and "off" are defined as contradictories. Nothing in this world can affect the fact that the statement "The TV (or the toaster or God or X or anything else) is either on or off" is absolutely true and will always be true.

It's quite a different story, however, for the two individual contingent propositions that make up that absolute truth. Knowledge about their truth or falsity is a function of evidence; then, it does become a matter of belief and probable knowledge. It does matter whether you are stone-cold sober or whether you can see the TV or whether the TV exists or what the definition of "TV" is to determine if your statement "The TV is on" is rationally believable or not.

Same thing with the statement "Either God exists or God doesn't exist" (or "GE v ~GE" ). That statement is absolutely true but it tells us absolutely nothing one way or the other about whether God exists. Notice the words "absolutely nothing" in that last sentence. The fact that the statement "GE v ~GE" is absolutely true does not mean, as you seem to think it means, that the component statement "God exists" (or "GE" ) is 50% likely to be true and that the component statement "God does not exist" is 50% likely to be true. Instead, it means that the component statement "GE" is EITHER 100% true or it is 100% false. It means that the component statement "~GE" is either 100% true or it is 100% false.

Now, at this point, you might say, "But I already knew that. I knew before any such statement was ever made that any and all propositions, including the proposition "God exists," are always either true or false."

And that is precisely the point. Yes you do know[[/i] this sort of logical truth with 100% certainty. It and similar logical truths are the reason that the world is intelligible to us in the first place. If any statement was not either true or false then no statement made about the world would could make sense. Logical truths make it possible to make sense of the world. They tell us about what might exist in the world, about what is conceivable. They tell us nothing, however, about what actually does exist in the world.

Therefore, when you say that the statement "God either does or does not exist" or "The universe either was or was not created" tells us anything about the probability that the claims "God exists" or that "The universe was created" is true, you are factually in error. Such logical truths not only DO NOT tell us anything about the probability that those claims are true, they CANNOT tell us anything about the probability that those claims are true.




> Peikoff wrote, Third, the agnostic says, “Maybe
> these things will one day be proved.” In other
> words, he asserts possibilities or hypotheses with
> no jot of evidential basis.
>
> Strike 2.
>
> And what evidential basis does Objectivism assert
> that 'all unevidenced propositions should/ought to
> be disbelieved?' Hey, you call it a rational
> philosophy, not a practical one... =P

You misunderstand rather badly what Peikoff is saying here. He's not saying, as you erroneously believe he is saying, that "all unevidenced propositions should/ought to be disbelieved."

He is saying that a belief in an unevidenced claim cannot be called a rational belief.

You want to have your cake and eat it, too. Believe whatever you like by all means -- but don't try to pass off your silly, unevidenced belief as rational belief. That don't fly. If you want to believe that it is as likely as not that a god exists simply because it is possible that a god can exist, then go right ahead and believe it. But you really should disabuse yourself of the notion that this silly belief of yours can somehow be described as rational. It cannot be.



> Peikoff wrote, The agnostic miscalculates. He
> thinks he is avoiding any position that will
> antagonize anybody.
>
> strike 3...

How so?


> Peikoff wrote, In fact, he is taking a position
> which is much more irrational than that of a man
> who takes a definite but mistaken stand on a given
> issue, because the agnostic treats arbitrary
> claims as meriting cognitive consideration and
> epistemological respect.
>
> If you have no positive belief e.g. God exists/God
> does not exist, your position how it relates to
> skepticism cannot be considered irrational.

IOW, you are saying that someone who has no positive belief in the statement "Santa doesn't exist" cannot be considered irrational???

I think you may misunderstand skepticism. Either that or you are talking about universal skepticism which is a perfectly ridiculous position to hold.




> positive beliefs are considered
> rational/irrational. The agnostic/skeptic will
> assume a positive belief when there is good reason
> to...

Any arbitrary claim, for reasons elucidated above, should be actively disbelieved. You, however, do not do this. You treat arbitrary claims as if the mere possibility that they are true is, somehow, evidence that they are true. You give them the benefit of the epistemological doubt when they deserve no such benefit.



> Of course Peikoff assumes personal religious
> experiences are not evidential because of
> naturalistic assumptions. IOW, 'everybody who
> claims these experiences are mistaken/deluded. The
> agnostic/skeptic waits for more evidence...

Here, you confuse "personal experience" with "interpretation of personal experience." You do this constantly and I know that my words here will have no effect on your doing so in the future, but I'm going to write them anyway.

Just because someone says that he's had the personal experience of being whisked around the solar system by aliens does not mean that he's had the personal experience of being whisked around the solar system by aliens EVEN IF SAID INDIVIDUAL PASSES A POLYGRAPH EXAMINATION WHEN QUESTIONED ABOUT HIS INCREDIBLE CLAIM.

What is true is that the individual has truthfully INTERPRETED some experience that he's actually had as an experience of being whisked around the solar system by aliens. (Maybe he dreamed it, for example.) This, however, is the flimsiest, most disreputable sort of evidence imaginable that he's actually had the incredible experience that he claims to have had.

I don't doubt for a second that people experience euphoria, sudden intense joy, or any other overwhelming emotional/psychological state that it's possible for a human to experience. What I doubt is that these emotional/psychological states in the absence of evidence have anything at all to do with the actual physical existence of an entity called God.

If you want to call these emotions/psychological states themselves "God," fine. To do so is to be at best misleading, at worst deceitful, IMO, but that's your business.





>
> Peikoff wrote, He treats the arbitrary as on a par
> with the rational and evidentially supported.
>
> Lame.

It is exactly what you do when you say that the logical truth "God either exists or doesn't" somehow makes the claim "God exists" less arbitrary.

It doesn't make that claim less arbitrary and it cannot make it less arbitrary.



>
> Peikoff wrote, So he is the ultimate
> epistemological egalitarian: he equates the
> groundless and the proved. As such, he is an
> epistemological destroyer.
>
> Very few do this, so strike 1, again. Agnostics
> are not necessairly Solipsists.

Again, he never said "all agnostics" could be described in this manner. He's talking only about your kind of agnostic.


> Peikoff wrote, The agnostic thinks that he is not
> taking any stand at all and therefore that he is
> safe, secure, invulnerable to attack. The fact is
> that his view is one of the falsest—and most
> cowardly—stands there can be.
>
> Strike 3. I wonder why he equates
> agnostics/skeptics with epistemological nihilism?

Think long and hard about your own position about the existence of God and perhaps you'll understand better what he's saying here.



Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 07/10/2010 10:25AM by Henry M. Paulson.
Re: Objectivism On Agnosticism
July 12, 2010 03:16PM
"See how many fallacies you can find in it [agnosticism]. Here are a few obvious ones: First, the agnostic allows the arbitrary into the realm of human cognition."---Peikoff

“Allows” thoughts! LOL! Of course, why wouldn’t I allow thoughts into my "cognition"! Obviously this Peikoff has no or at least little imagination!

"He [the agnostic] treats arbitrary claims as ideas proper to consider, discuss, evaluate—and then he regretfully says, “I don’t know,” instead of dismissing the arbitrary out of hand."

Of course we sometimes (depending on the claim) do that! I agree fully with Huxley when discussing the agnostics position, “do not pretend conclusions are certain that are not demonstrated or demonstrable.”

"Second, the onus-of-proof issue: the agnostic demands proof of a negative in a context where there is no evidence for the positive. “It’s up to you,” he says, “to prove that the fourth moon of Jupiter did not cause your sex life and that it was not a result of your previous incarnation as the Pharaoh of Egypt.”"

No, Peikoff is wrong here too. If a claim such as the above is asserted (I've never heard anyone assert it), the agnostic asks for evidence demonstrating that the assertion or claim is true. If an agnostic, in his opinion, finds the evidence to be unconvincing and/or of little value, the agnostic, based on his present knowledge and understanding, won’t “believe” the claim. Agnosticism is a position that takes into account the differences between belief and knowledge, rather than about any specific claim or belief. A person can believe something is true, but not know that it is true.

"Third, the agnostic says, “Maybe these things will one day be proved.” In other words, he asserts possibilities or hypotheses with no jot of evidential basis."

Wrong again, or at least half wrong. It’s true that the agnostic does not rule out possibilities and hypotheses regarding things about which he can’t be certain based on his present knowledge. What I think Peikoff is doing, is claiming that if he, Peikoff, is firmly convinced that something isn’t true, in his judgment, there can be no evidence pointing to the opposite and any evidence presented from the other side, is not evidence.

I think one of the biggest mistakes Peikoff makes, is that he seems to assume that if one is an “agnostic” with regard to "some" claims, that person must be agnostic, and to the same degree, about every claim. There is a subtlety between belief, knowledge, and the various degrees that can exist between them…he seems unable to grasp the fact that a person can be “open” with regard to a claim without necessarily believing the claim because the person feels there is insufficient or weak evidence. With enough evidence to convince us that the claim is true we would then believe it to be true and possibly even be able to say that we know it is true.

"The agnostic miscalculates. He thinks he is avoiding any position that will antagonize anybody."

LOL!!! The agnostic antagonizes “both” sides! The side that claims to know something is true and the side that claims to know it isn’t! Peikoff himself demonstrates this! We agnostics certainly seem to antagonize Peikoff! winking smiley

"He treats the arbitrary as on a par with the rational and evidentially supported. So he is the ultimate epistemological egalitarian: he equates the groundless and the proved. As such, he is an epistemological destroyer."

Pure nonsense! How does Peikoff expect to be taken seriously when he spouts stuff like this! I think his essay is just to spoof us! grinning smiley
Sam
Re: Objectivism On Agnosticism
July 12, 2010 05:32PM
Isle, You are one of the few "agnostics" who makes the important distinction between knowledge and belief. There needs to be a better word for the position of "being afraid to commit to one side or another" or "fear of being wrong" or "my beliefs change from one second to the next so I never know what I believe" which is the only imaginable mid-ground between theism and atheism but which most people, including Peikoff, refer to as being agnostic. Use that better word in place of agnostic and his argument is valid...
Re: Objectivism On Agnosticism
July 13, 2010 11:21PM
Go wrote, You changed Peikoff's argument. That's not very charitable of you. He makes it clear that he's not talking about "all" agnostics.

No, he does not.

Go wrote, He's only talking about agnostics like you; that is, an agnostic who, in Peikoff's words, says, “I can’t prove these claims are true, but you can’t prove they are false, so the only proper conclusion is: I don’t know; no one knows; no one can know one way or the other.”

Such a position is laughable.


Makes sense to me... If you can't 'prove' a claim true, then we don't 'know' the truth of that particular claim...

Go 'eventually' wrote after a heavy dose of bloviation, "Therefore, when you say that the statement "God either does or does not exist" or "The universe either was or was not created" (does not) tell us anything about the probability that the claims "God exists" (is true)(only evidence makes a claim probably true, etc.)"

IDid you forget that it was YOU who thinks the claim "There are no Gods" tells us something substantial about the world? Are you still promoting that belief or have you given up yet?

Go wrote, You misunderstand rather badly what Peikoff is saying here. He's not saying, as you erroneously believe he is saying, that "all unevidenced propositions should/ought to be disbelieved."

He is saying that a belief in an unevidenced claim cannot be called a rational belief.


B.S. It was a typical lecture from a Randian. It was directed to agnostics and was a poor attempt to criticize a non-existent philosophy. Lame is the best word to describe Peikoff's rant...

Go wrote, You want to have your cake and eat it, too. Believe whatever you like by all means -- but don't try to pass off your silly, unevidenced belief as rational belief.

What belief? Oh, I see. You again accuse me of being a liar and a hypocrite. All I can say to you Go is that what I profess to believe here is what I actually believe. We won't be having many more conversations unless you take my words at face value. Again, I'm agnostic and without belief in any particular God. Our difference lies with your metaphysic "Gods do not exist". I believe it is faith-based and totally unwarranted.

Go wrote, IOW, you are saying that someone who has no positive belief in the statement "Santa doesn't exist" cannot be considered irrational???

Do you enjoy asking me the same questions over and over? How many times do I have to address your Santa example?

Go wrote, Here, you confuse "personal experience" with "interpretation of personal experience." You do this constantly and I know that my words here will have no effect on your doing so in the future, but I'm going to write them anyway.

No need to... You confuse an interpretation of personal experience with absent knowledge that all religious experiences are false. I have told you many times that I will not believe another persons 'experiences' and they are not knowledge to me. What I am trying to tell you is that I do not know that another persons experiences can be considered knowledge to them, personally...

Go wrote, Again, he never said "all agnostics" could be described in this manner. He's talking only about your kind of agnostic.

Nonsense. You have no idea what my philosophy is.

Islander wrote, Pure nonsense! How does Peikoff expect to be taken seriously when he spouts stuff like this! I think his essay is just to spoof us!

Indeed. Go took it to heart, though...
Re: Objectivism On Agnosticism
July 15, 2010 04:28PM
Peter Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Go wrote, You changed Peikoff's argument. That's
> not very charitable of you. He makes it clear that
> he's not talking about "all" agnostics.
>
> Peter wrote: No, he does not.

Why do you consider naked assertions to be convincing? You're constantly responding to points with which you disagree with statements like "No, he/she/it does not" or "Yes, he/she/it does" without offering any other reason to believe that your assertion is true. Since I offered a quote from Peikoff to support my claim that he's not referring to "all" agnostics and since all you've countered with is your unevidenced assertion to the contrary, my point remains un-rebutted.

>
> Go wrote, He's only talking about agnostics like
> you; that is, an agnostic who, in Peikoff's words,
> says, “I can’t prove these claims are true,
> but you can’t prove they are false, so the only
> proper conclusion is: I don’t know; no one
> knows; no one can know one way or the other.”
>
> Such a position is laughable.
>
> Peter wrote: Makes sense to me... If you can't 'prove' a claim
> true, then we don't 'know' the truth of that
> particular claim...

OK, then. This means that since the claim "Santa Claus exists" cannot be proved true, you don't know the truth of that particular claim, which means, according to your epistemology, that you are noncommital toward it; i.e., you neither believe that it is true nor that it is false.

Most adults I know have no problem saying, "Santa doesn't exist." It's a pity that your quirky epistemology will not allow you to respond in a similarly reasonable manner.



> Go 'eventually' wrote after a heavy dose of
> bloviation, "Therefore, when you say that the
> statement "God either does or does not exist" or
> "The universe either was or was not created" (does
> not) tell us anything about the probability that
> the claims "God exists" (is true)(only evidence
> makes a claim probably true, etc.)"
>
> Peter, missing the point entirely, responded: Did you forget that it was YOU who thinks the
> claim "There are no Gods" tells us something
> substantial about the world? Are you still
> promoting that belief or have you given up yet?

Still don't understand the difference in a claim like "No gods exist" and a logical truth like "Either a god exists or doesn't," do you, Pete?

Sadly, at this point, I have to doubt that you ever will grasp the difference in those two statements from an epistemological viewpoint.

[I trust that anyone else who may be following this thread does understand the difference in a logical truth and a claim made about a state of affairs in the world. If not, I can try to make that difference more apparent and to better explain why it is important, if anyone is interested.]



> Go wrote, You misunderstand rather badly what
> Peikoff is saying here. He's not saying, as you
> erroneously believe he is saying, that "all
> unevidenced propositions should/ought to be
> disbelieved."
>
> He is saying that a belief in an unevidenced claim
> cannot be called a rational belief.
>
> Peter wrote: B.S. It was a typical lecture from a Randian. It
> was directed to agnostics and was a poor attempt
> to criticize a non-existent philosophy. Lame is
> the best word to describe Peikoff's rant...

Oh, OK. Then let me point out that your unevidenced claims cannot be characterized as rational.

Unevidenced? Yes. Nutty? Yes. Irrational? Yes.

But rational? Um, no.


> Go wrote, You want to have your cake and eat it,
> too. Believe whatever you like by all means -- but
> don't try to pass off your silly, unevidenced
> belief as rational belief.
>
> Peter wrote: What belief? Oh, I see. You again accuse me of
> being a liar and a hypocrite. All I can say to you
> Go is that what I profess to believe here is what
> I actually believe. We won't be having many more
> conversations unless you take my words at face
> value.

Did you or did you not only a few months ago hold yourself out to be a Christian? Perhaps I'm mistaken but I would have sworn that at one time on this board you claimed to be a follower of Jesus.

[To Sam -- this is the reason I refer to him as "Peter." I have this image of him in my head -- rightly or wrongly -- sweating bullets over his keyboard every time he types something that he thinks might be considered offensive to the Christian God. smiling smiley



> Peter wrote: Again, I'm agnostic and without belief in
> any particular God.

To be without belief in any particular god is to be without belief in god since god (or anything else) can exist only as a particular thing unless you're referring to god as a concept and not as a contingently existing being who possesses properties.

Your current position is the equivalent of being without belief in any particular unicorn yet at the same time being noncommital in regard to the proposition "Unicorns don't exist."



> Peter wrote: Our difference lies with your
> metaphysic "Gods do not exist". I believe it is
> faith-based and totally unwarranted.

The claim "Gods do not exist" is an empirical position, not a metaphysical one. For the umpteenth time, my claim is not that "A god cannot exist," my claim is that, "Since we have no evidence for the existence of a god and much reason to believe that the various gods that have been claimed to exist by billions of people are the result of ignorance, psychological conditioning, magical thinking, etc., we can say, with a reasonable degree of assurance of being correct, that no gods exist."



> Go wrote, IOW, you are saying that someone who has
> no positive belief in the statement "Santa doesn't
> exist" cannot be considered irrational???
>
> Peter, channeling his inner pb, wrote: Do you enjoy asking me the same questions over and
> over? How many times do I have to address your
> Santa example?

Once would be good.


> Go wrote, Here, you confuse "personal experience"
> with "interpretation of personal experience." You
> do this constantly and I know that my words here
> will have no effect on your doing so in the
> future, but I'm going to write them anyway.
>
> Pete wrote: No need to... You confuse an interpretation of
> personal experience with absent knowledge that all
> religious experiences are false. I have told you
> many times that I will not believe another persons
> 'experiences' and they are not knowledge to me.

Sure, other people's experiences count as sources of knowledge for you. They do for all of us. It's ridiculous and dishonest to say "The only things I know are things of which I have personal direct experience."

If this isn't the case, then you are forced to utter such inanities as, "Well, no, I don't know that Moscow exists because I've never been there" or "Er, no, I don't know that polar bears exist because I've never seen one in person."

Of course you know Moscow and polar bears exist even though you may not have seen them first-hand and even though it's possible that they don't.

[Note to self: Why does common sense seem to be such a foreign concept to so many of the religious.



>
> Go wrote, Again, he never said "all agnostics"
> could be described in this manner. He's talking
> only about your kind of agnostic.
>
> Pete wrote: Nonsense. You have no idea what my philosophy is.

What was it about that statement of mine that led you to believe that I claim to know what your philosophy is? I doubt that even you know what your philosophy is. Truth be known, I rather doubt that you have a coherent, consistent philosophy. Like most theists, you seem to be all over the map.
Re: Objectivism On Agnosticism
July 15, 2010 07:39PM
Go wrote, Why do you consider naked assertions to be convincing?

And just how did Jerkoff make himself clear he was not referring to all agnostics? He wrote, the agnostic is the type who says... He didn't say 'some agnostics think this..'

Go wrote, OK, then. This means that since the claim "Santa Claus exists" cannot be proved true

No, not at all. PLEASE remember probability, real probability, (not your fuzzy math) IS knowledge. We KNOW Santa does not exist based on the improbability of Santa's existence and a host of evidence that suggest the claim is false.

Go wrote, Once would be good.

lol! It is insane how often we discuss this...

Go wrote, Sure, other people's experiences count as sources of knowledge for you. They do for all of us. It's ridiculous and dishonest to say "The only things I know are things of which I have personal direct experience."

lol! Serenity now!

Of course we are not talking about ordinary experiences. We are discussing extraordinary experiences...

Go wrote, The claim "Gods do not exist" is an empirical position, not a metaphysical one.

It is absolutely a metaphysical claim. To assert 'Gods do not exist' is to imply a philosophical notion concerning reality.

Go wrote, Did you or did you not only a few months ago hold yourself out to be a Christian?

I am a Christian. Is liberalism not consistent enough for you? If you say yes, then Tony and PB would agree with you. I was raised through liberal Christian ethics and Christianity has definitely had an influence in my life.

Go wrote, [To Sam -- this is the reason I refer to him as "Peter." I have this image of him in my head -- rightly or wrongly -- sweating bullets over his keyboard every time he types something that he thinks might be considered offensive to the Christian God. smiling smiley

Irrationally so, but that doesn't seem to stop you.

I don't want to offend my fellow Christian posters or be disrespectful of their beliefs. They are meaningful to me. Unlike you, I have never had any bad experiences with religion. I never went to church and was never forced to believe in any Christian dogma. I just don't believe what they do...
Re: Objectivism On Agnosticism
July 20, 2010 12:40AM
tuk22 Wrote:
------------------------------------------------------->
> Go wrote, OK, then. This means that since the
> claim "Santa Claus exists" cannot be proved true
>
> Peter (incredibly) wrote: No, not at all. PLEASE remember probability, real
> probability, (not your fuzzy math) IS knowledge.
> We KNOW Santa does not exist based on the
> improbability of Santa's existence and a host of
> evidence that suggest the claim is false.

Just to make this clear . . .

I wrote: ". . . since the claim 'Santa Claus exists' cannot be proved true.

Then you wrote: "No, not at all."

What the hell? Is this to say, then, that you believe the claim 'Santa Claus exists' CAN be proved true???

Or, more likely, did you simply neglect to read what I actually wrote and mentally substitute your own words for mine?

The point I made (that you missed) is NOT that Santa's existence is probable, but only that it is possible. Santa could exist even though it is extremely likely that he doesn't.

You make this same sort of "possibility" argument for God, although you do not seem to recognize it as such. You seem to believe, for some reason, that this kind of a priori argument makes it, somehow, to some degree probable (in fact, 0.5 probable!) that a god exists, when it does no such thing and, more, cannot do any such thing.

You contend that Santa is nonexistent for the very same reasons that atheists contend God is nonexistent, but for whatever reason you don't seem to get that.

Here's an experiment you might consider trying. Make an argument for the nonexistence of something that might exist but that you consider to be nonexistent -- the ether, Nessie, the efficacy of laetrile, Martians are some examples. Next, compare that argument to the argument that atheists make for the nonexistence of god. And finally, list any material differences in the sorts of evidence and reasoning used in the two arguments.

Unless you can come up with those material differences, then you have no more reason to believe in god than you have to believe in other things that you consider to be nonexistent.





> Go wrote, Sure, other people's experiences count
> as sources of knowledge for you. They do for all
> of us. It's ridiculous and dishonest to say "The
> only things I know are things of which I have
> personal direct experience."
>
> Peter wrote: lol! Serenity now!
>
> Of course we are not talking about ordinary
> experiences. We are discussing extraordinary
> experiences...

Um, you kinda made my point for me, there, Pete. Thanks.

Yes, we should not count ridiculously outlandish testimony as evidence for the highly improbable without ridiculously strong corroborating evidence to support that testimony.

For example, if you read a story in which someone you don't know writes that 500 (hmm, 500, that's a curiously round number, don't you think?) other anonymous people saw someone arise from the dead, you should say, "Ah, a tale of fiction."

About the last thing you should do is to begin to worship the allegedly resurrected person as a god!

Also, try to remember here that you are being asked to believe the incredible claim of ONE man, not 500.



> Go wrote, The claim "Gods do not exist" is an
> empirical position, not a metaphysical one.
>
> Peter wrote: It is absolutely a metaphysical claim. To assert
> 'Gods do not exist' is to imply a philosophical
> notion concerning reality.

Sorry, it's not. Merely to say that "X is nonexistent" does not a metaphysical claim make. Do you consider the assertion "Unicorns don't exist" to be a metaphysical claim?

Only by arguing a priori and by considering evidence to be irrelevant to the question could my claim be considered a metaphysical claim and that clearly is not what I'm doing. My arguments are a posteriori (i.e., evidentially based) and probable.




>
> Go wrote, Did you or did you not only a few months
> ago hold yourself out to be a Christian?
>
> Peter wrote: I am a Christian. Is liberalism not consistent
> enough for you?

Touchy, touchy! Can't say as that I blame you, though. Must suck to be an "agnostic Christian" like you -- considered to be an atheist by real Christians and considered to be a toady for the religious by real agnostics. smiling smiley


> Peter wrote: If you say yes, then Tony and PB
> would agree with you.

Oh, yes, God only knows how much I value Tony and PB's approval on matters of reason and logic!


> Peter wrote: I was raised through liberal
> Christian ethics and Christianity has definitely
> had an influence in my life.

So what? Few born in this country haven't been influenced by Christianity. That doesn't mean that those of us who do not accept the reality of gods should call ourselves Christian, though. At best, IMO, you should call yourself a "cultural Christian," as I refer to myself in certain settings. But, in the absence of belief in the reality of the Christian
God, to just call yourself a "Christian" is deceitful.




> Peter wrote: I don't want to offend my fellow Christian posters
> or be disrespectful of their beliefs.

While that's certainly a sweet sentiment, I'm afraid I must disabuse you of the silly notion that they are your "fellow Christian posters." Almost all, if not all, of them believe in the existence of the Christian God. You do not. Remember?

Are you similarly respectful of the beliefs of your fellow Christians who are members of that fine Christian organization called the KKK?

You are??? Well, good for you.

Personally I feel no need to be respectful of inane, ill-considered beliefs. I think the world is better off without such beliefs. (Note: I wrote ". . . without such beliefs," not ". . . without such people." It's a real shame that it's necessary for me to point out the difference in those two statements to supposed adults; but it is what it is.)





> Peter wrote: Unlike you, I have never had any
> bad experiences with religion.

" . . . unlike you" -- what does that mean?

What bad experiences with religion do you imagine that I've had?


> I never went to
> church and was never forced to believe in any
> Christian dogma. I just don't believe what they
> do...

Not sure what this means, either; but I do believe you when you say you've never gone to church. I'm not sure what you think goes on in a church, but in my experience it's nothing like what you seem to imagine. Overall, it's a very pleasant place. I never felt any pressure whatsoever being placed on me to believe in the existence of God. God's existence was assumed. No one really thought about it, as near as I could tell. Everyone simply took it for granted.

One of the best experiences of my early life came when our RA (Royal Ambassadors for Christ) group traveled from our small town to a local university about 150 miles away to watch a football game. It was just flat an awesome experience for a small-town ten-year-old kid. Never forget those bawdy jokes that our advisor told on the way home, either. heh heh heh.
Re: Objectivism On Agnosticism
July 20, 2010 10:09PM
Go wrote, You contend that Santa is nonexistent for the very same reasons that atheists contend God is nonexistent, but for whatever reason you don't seem to get that.

The reason why I do not agree with you is because your argument is nonsense. You do not have a rational belief that all Gods do not exist. I keep telling you this but it is in one ear and out the other. Positive Atheism in regards to the existence of all Gods isn't a rational belief. #1

Go wrote, Um, you kinda made my point for me, there, Pete. Thanks.

You dodged my question... How do you know that when somebody claims they know God through experience that their experience is false? What science or argument is there to conclusively prove that every religious experience ever claimed is false?

I'm starting a count of all the irrational beliefs you hold... that is #2...

Go wrote, Sorry, it's not. Merely to say that "X is nonexistent" does not a metaphysical claim make. Do you consider the assertion "Unicorns don't exist" to be a metaphysical claim?

Depending on how you define X, it can! However, assuming there is no supernatural world, no possible higher power or God, claiming everything that does exist is based on matter, asserting all religious claims are false... all of these assertions are irrational beliefs and are metaphysical/philosophical...

Go wrote, My arguments are a posteriori (i.e., evidentially based) and probable.

Your argument that tries to show Gods do not exist is nonsense, not probable...

Quote

Conceptions of God vary widely. Theologians and philosophers have studied countless conceptions of God since the dawn of civilization. The Abrahamic conceptions of God include the monotheistic definition of God in Judaism, the trinitarian view of Christians, and the Islamic concept of God. The dharmic religions differ in their view of the divine: views of God in Hinduism vary by region, sect, and caste, ranging from monotheistic to polytheistic to atheistic; the view of God in Buddhism is almost non-theist. In modern times, some more abstract concepts have been developed, such as process theology and open theism. Conceptions of God held by individual believers vary so widely that there is no clear consensus on the nature of God.[15] The contemporaneous French philosopher Michel Henry has however proposed a phenomenological approach and definition of God as phenomenological essence of Life.[16]

[en.wikipedia.org]

And taking into account all the different conceptions of God, you think you have some 'airtight' argument that conclusively proves all of them do not exist...

lol!
Sam
Re: Objectivism On Agnosticism
July 21, 2010 04:03AM
There's "no clear consensus on the nature of God" because there is no god. If there's such a thing as evidence for non-existence, that's pretty much it. You can call the concepts of Universal Oneness, Cosmic Consciousness, Creative Force or whatever else "god" if you want to but it doesn't make it a god. I can call my cat a dog or a god but, well, you know, that would just be silly. Tuk, I can tell you really want to be considered rational yourself but trying to discredit someone as rational as Hank to make your belief that some god somewhere sometime might be Real is quite silly. I think you know that but are just afraid to admit you believe some kind of god is probably real, not just possibly real. You have a little faith, don't you? You want it to be true, don't you? I wonder why otherwise sensible people like you insist there's some redeeming value in holding such an irrational view. Popularity? To recap, it is not irrational to believe something with all the qualities of something that we all agree does not exist does not exist. Nothing could be more clearly rational. We should not believe something is true without convincing evidence. The default position in the case that there is no evidence for or against a claim is to not believe it's true until evidence surfaces to support one argument or the other. That is, IF we want to be rational, we Should not believe gods or angels or demons or devils or santas or unicorns or FPMs or anything else that has all the qualities of non-existence exist. There really is no Mid-Ground, lol. Something is either true or it isn't true, it exists or it does not. Screwing around with semantics to make a mid-ground argument is slightly disingenuous, btw. To be truly rational, you should believe gods are not real unless you have some evidence that convinces you otherwise. If your standard of what evidence is convincing includes hazy human experiences that are well known to be undependable, well, your standards are just not up to Hank's.
Re: Objectivism On Agnosticism
July 21, 2010 04:20AM
Peter:

I said that atheists make the same sort of argument for the nonexistence of God as you make for the nonexistence of Santa.

You replied that my argument is nonsense. By this, do you mean to say that you believe atheists are making some other sort of argument for the nonexistence of God and not the same argument, structurally, that is made for the nonexistence of Santa? If so, will you please elucidate your disagreement by pointing out the structural differences that you believe you detect in the two arguments?

If not, I'll be forced to dismiss your remarks as yet one more in your continuing series of ad hominem attacks.

Next, you wrote: "You dodged my question... How do you know that when somebody claims they know God through experience that their experience is false? What science or argument is there to conclusively prove that every religious experience ever claimed is false?"

How is it possible for me to dodge a question that you never wrote? I never claimed to be a mind reader. I don't dodge questions, either. I may not see a question or understand it correctly or consider it to be important, but what motive would I have to dodge a question that is significant if my goal is as stated: to find out the truth about things?

I consider the question you ask here to be significant. The answer to it is: I don't KNOW that when somebody claims that what I take to be their simple case of diahrrea(sp?) is actually an Aztec God speaking to them through their bowells that their claim is not true. However, I know that I should not believe that their claim is true based on my epistemology. Extraordinary claims generally speaking require extraordinary evidence to be credible.

Maybe a man once died on a cross and then some god later brought that man back to life. I don't know with indubitable infallible certainty that it didn't just as I don't know anything else about the world with indubitable infallible certainty.

Alternatively, however, maybe a small group of men who were writing forty years after the fact, who were trying to establish a new religion with a new god, who knew that it was common policy of the day to claim that your god (whoever the god) was resurrected from the dead, maybe it was this small group of men who invented the tale of resurrection to establish street cred, so to speak, for their freshly minted god.

Or maybe the claim of resurrection has any one of a number of other possible natural explanations.

Each of us has to decide for himself and herself which possibility is more credible. I try to stay consistent and to believe the most likely explanation in every instance. In some cases, that's hard to do. In cases involving magic, witches, fairies, or gods, however, not so much.

You next wrote: "Depending on how you define X, [the claim 'X does not exist' can [be a metaphysical claim]! However, assuming there is no supernatural world, no possible higher power or God, claiming everything that does exist is based on matter, asserting all religious claims are false... all of these assertions are irrational beliefs and are metaphysical/philosophical..."

Where have I ever written the words or anything like them that say what you say I assume? Some of the beliefs in that string of beliefs you attribute to me, I don't even believe, period. Of the others, I don't assume them. I believe them or don't believe them based on available evidence. For example, it is entirely possible, depending on how one defines 'supernatural,' that some things are supernatural. However, since I know of no good evidence to support any specific claim that some particular thing is supernatural and since so many things that have been claimed to be supernatural in the past have turned out to be anything but supernatural, I see no reason to believe that a supernatural world exists.

Again, I'm not saying that a supernatural world cannot exist. I am simply saying that I am aware of no good reason to believe that one does.

Finally you wrote: "And taking into account all the different conceptions of God, you think you have some 'airtight' argument that conclusively proves all of them do not exist..."

Never have I claimed to have an "airtight argument against the existence of any conception of god." Never. I've corrected you about this numerous times in the past and, apparently, will have to continue to do so for as long as we both remain active on this board. But that's fine, I'll continue to do so. I'm a patient guy.

On the contrary to what you say I believe, I have specifically written many times that it is possible that a logically possible god exists.

I would no more say that than I would say "I have an airtight argument against any possible conception of Santa Claus." To say something like that would be stupid.

What I say is "Given the dearth of evidence to support the claim 'God exists;' and given the fact that it is known a priori that many of the gods that are claimed today and were claimed in the past to exist, CANNOT exist; and given the fact that many of the phenomena that were attributed to the agency of gods in the past are better explained today as naturally occurring phenomena, in all probability, no gods exist."
Re: Objectivism On Agnosticism
July 21, 2010 04:53PM
Go wrote, On the contrary to what you say I believe, I have specifically written many times that it is possible that a logically possible god exists.

I would no more say that than I would say "I have an airtight argument against any possible conception of Santa Claus." To say something like that would be stupid.


I just want a rational argument. Logical proof or material evidence will do just fine...

Concerning Santa... the concept of Santa Claus is a specific entity, human in nature, lives at the North pole, brings presents at Christmas to millions of children, has a flying sled... So when you say 'To say something like that would be stupid' I agree because I can define Santa to be 'a human type figure living somewhere in the universe'. Although nobody accepts this definition, you do not have a rational probability argument to prove this Santa does not exist.


Go wrote, What I say is "Given the dearth of evidence to support the claim 'God exists;' and given the fact that it is known a priori that many of the gods that are claimed today and were claimed in the past to exist, CANNOT exist; and given the fact that many of the phenomena that were attributed to the agency of gods in the past are better explained today as naturally occurring phenomena, in all probability, no gods exist."

It is logically possible for God/Gods to exist.
Naturalism is the perferred methord of explaining the natural world
Therefore; in all probability, no gods exist

And you think we should accept this?
Re: Objectivism On Agnosticism
July 21, 2010 06:16PM
Peter wrote: "So when you say 'To say something like that would be stupid' I agree because I can define Santa to be 'a human type figure living somewhere in the universe'. Although nobody accepts this definition, you do not have a rational probability argument to prove this Santa does not exist."

. . . and that is precisely what you do with your definition of god in your attempt to make god exist! You make your definition of "God" such that virutally no believer in the world would recognize it as being the God they worship. It is absolutely nothing like the two most popular gods currently, Allah and the Christian God -- which is ironic and, frankly, just a little bit said since you for some reason you apparently have this need to go around calling yourself a Christian and to refer to people like The Believer, Tony, George, and PB as your "fellow Christians" [lol].

Still there is no good reason to believe that this vague, equivocal being/thing/spirit/vision/something-or-other that you call "God" exists.


Peter wrote: "And you think we should accept this?"

No. Candidly speaking, I think your argument is weak.

I think mine is much better. smoking smiley
Re: Objectivism On Agnosticism
July 21, 2010 07:16PM
Go wrote, . . . and that is precisely what you do with your definition of god in your attempt to make god exist!

BECAUSE I HAVE GOOD REASON TO!

Not to 'make God exist'. To show you you have no logical proof or material evidence to claim 'No Gods exist'!

Quote

Conceptions of God vary widely. Theologians and philosophers have studied countless conceptions of God since the dawn of civilization. The Abrahamic conceptions of God include the monotheistic definition of God in Judaism, the trinitarian view of Christians, and the Islamic concept of God. The dharmic religions differ in their view of the divine: views of God in Hinduism vary by region, sect, and caste, ranging from monotheistic to polytheistic to atheistic; the view of God in Buddhism is almost non-theist. In modern times, some more abstract concepts have been developed, such as process theology and open theism. Conceptions of God held by individual believers vary so widely that there is no clear consensus on the nature of God.[15] The contemporaneous French philosopher Michel Henry has however proposed a phenomenological approach and definition of God as phenomenological essence of Life.[16]

Go wrote, No. Candidly speaking, I think your argument is weak. I think mine is much better.

My argument is only a refutation of your argument, and it is quite clear your argument is based on wishful thinking.
Re: Objectivism On Agnosticism
July 21, 2010 09:21PM
Peter wrote: Go wrote, . . . and that is precisely what you do with your definition of god in your attempt to make god exist!

Peter wrote: BECAUSE I HAVE GOOD REASON TO!

Not to 'make God exist'. To show you you have no logical proof or material evidence to claim 'No Gods exist'! "

I've never said that a definition for a god cannot be made so vague and equivocal that it describes no existing entity. Of course, it can be. So can the definition for "unicorn."

Nonetheless, there is no mainstream definition for the word "god" that evidence indicates is an entity which is instantiated in the spacetime continuum. However, if to avoid the label "atheist" you feel it necessary to call the world "god" or the wind "god" or Santa Claus "god" in order to justify your belief that you are a Christian and not an atheist, then fine. Do it. Personally, I think it is intellectually dishonest but if it's something you need to do then I guess it's something you need to do.



Peter wrote: My argument is only a refutation of your argument . . .

Speaking of that, it may interest you to know that I've been keeping a running tally on the points of mine that you've actually refuted.

Be right back.

[Now where is that list? I had it here just a second ago. Ah, here it is!]

And the grand total so far is . . . um . . . zero.



Peter wrote: . . . it is quite clear your argument is based on wishful thinking.

Why on earth would anyone wish that an impotent, useless god like yours does not exist? I could not care less whether such a god exists. That god would have no affect on anyone's life. Arguing against the existence of your god is purely an academic exercise for me and nothing more.

On the other hand, you, the self-proclaimed Christian (the Christian who bizarrely thinks the Islamic view of Jesus is more accurate than the Christian!), seem to need god to exist to justify much of your other beliefs about the world.

Like Laplace, I am in no need of the god hypothesis, Sir. The world rotated on its axis just fine without gods for about 4 billion years and will rotate on its axis just fine without gods for billions more after they are no longer a topic of conversation.
Re: Objectivism On Agnosticism
July 21, 2010 09:37PM
Go wrote, Speaking of that, it may interest you to know that I've been keeping a running tally on the points of mine that you've actually refuted.

Sorry, but I'm not about to quit.

Do you or do you not have logical proof or material evidence that conclusively proves that 'No Gods exist'?

If you think you do, please start a new thread with your argument.

Otherwise, admit defeat.

Go wrote, On the other hand, you, the self-proclaimed Christian (the Christian who bizarrely thinks the Islamic view of Jesus is more accurate than the Christian!), seem to need god to exist to justify much of your other beliefs about the world.

No points for trying to deflect. We were never discussing what 'I' believe. Please make sure to remember that when you make your new thread...
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