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Is Atheism Irrational? Plantinga thinks so...

Posted by tuk22 
Re: Is Atheism Irrational? Plantinga thinks so...
February 25, 2014 12:18AM
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With regard to his argument that belief in both evolution and materialism is self-defeating, I think he basis it on assumptions for which he has no empirical evidence.

Such as?

One is his assumption that it would be unlikely, if naturalistic evolution were the case, that our cognitive faculties would have us arrive at true beliefs about the world since evolution selects not for true beliefs but for behavior.
Re: Is Atheism Irrational? Plantinga thinks so...
February 25, 2014 01:09AM
No, that isn't what he is claiming... He said given both M and E...

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given materialism and evolution, it follows that our belief-producing faculties are not reliable...



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Evolution will have resulted in our having beliefs that are adaptive; that is, beliefs that cause adaptive actions.

Do you doubt this?
Re: Is Atheism Irrational? Plantinga thinks so...
February 25, 2014 01:52AM
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First, if materialism is true, human beings, naturally enough, are material objects. Now what, from this point of view, would a belief be? My belief that Marcel Proust is more subtle that [sic: should be "than"] Louis L’Amour, for example? Presumably this belief would have to be a material structure in my brain, say a collection of neurons that sends electrical impulses to other such structures as well as to nerves and muscles, and receives electrical impulses from other structures.

But in addition to such neurophysiological properties, this structure, if it is a belief, would also have to have a content: It would have, say, to be the belief that Proust is more subtle than L’Amour.

Let's say (A) constitutes the NP properties and (B is the content where it makes sense to say A + B = C (C) being 'reliably true beliefs'.

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For example, my belief that there is a beer in the fridge (together with my desire to have a beer) can cause me to heave myself out of my comfortable armchair and lumber over to the fridge.

But here’s the important point: It’s by virtue of its material, neurophysiological properties that a belief causes the action. It’s in virtue of those electrical signals sent via efferent nerves to the relevant muscles, that the belief about the beer in the fridge causes me to go to the fridge. It is not by virtue of the content (there is a beer in the fridge) the belief has... if this belief — this structure — had a totally different content (even, say, if it was a belief that there is no beer in the fridge) but had the same neurophysiological properties, it would still have caused that same action of going to the fridge. This means that the content of the belief isn’t a cause of the behavior. As far as causing the behavior goes, the content of the belief doesn’t matter.

Plantigna is suggesting that if we accept materialism it is only A that produces beliefs and B just doesn't matter... But B obviously matters and now there is tension...



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 02/25/2014 01:53AM by tuk22.
Re: Is Atheism Irrational? Plantinga thinks so...
February 25, 2014 02:16AM
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No, that isn't what he is claiming... He said given both M and E...

That's precisely what I meant when I said "naturalistic evolution" (no supernatural intervention) which most would describe as materialism.

Why does he 'assume' that beliefs resulting from such would most likely not be true?

We are able to test our beliefs.
Re: Is Atheism Irrational? Plantinga thinks so...
February 25, 2014 02:29AM
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But here’s the important point: It’s by virtue of its material, neurophysiological properties that a belief causes the action. It’s in virtue of those electrical signals sent via efferent nerves to the relevant muscles, that the belief about the beer in the fridge causes me to go to the fridge. It is not by virtue of the content (there is a beer in the fridge) the belief has..

Plantinga is apparently dismissing consciousness, or at least assuming consciousness is incompatible with a natural (materialistic) philosophy. Only some fringe extremest materialists would deny the existence of consciousness. Consciousness is where the content of a belief is found.
Re: Is Atheism Irrational? Plantinga thinks so...
February 25, 2014 08:34PM
Why does he 'assume' that beliefs resulting from such would most likely not be true?

I don't think Plantinga is assuming anything... Given the definitions of M & E and the understanding that the content of a belief has nothing to do with behavior... if materialism is true, and if evolutionary theory is true, then it is improbable that our beliefs as a whole will be mostly true...

Given that evolution selects survival/adaptive processes, not necessarily truth-conducive processes, because per M, the content of the belief doesn't matter... only the NP's matter...


Plantinga is apparently dismissing consciousness, or at least assuming consciousness is incompatible with a natural (materialistic) philosophy.


He might think that but that isn't what his argument is about...

Again he isn't saying evolution isn't true nor is he saying our cognitive faculties are necessarily unreliable... Only that there is tension between M & E...

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Evolution will select for belief-producing processes that produce beliefs with adaptive neurophysiological properties, but not for belief-producing processes that produce true beliefs. Given materialism and evolution, any particular belief is as likely to be false as true.

So I guess we could attack his knowledge of evolution and understanding of materialism, but he's an expert in philosophy...

There seems to be an issue with instinctive beliefs... or beliefs/thoughts contemplated after certain instinctive actions. You would think given M & E those particular beliefs would be reliable... e.g. heightened sense of fear from a predator, uneasiness of heights...
Re: Is Atheism Irrational? Plantinga thinks so...
February 26, 2014 01:25AM
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I don't think Plantinga is assuming anything... Given the definitions of M & E and the understanding that the content of a belief has nothing to do with behavior... if materialism is true, and if evolutionary theory is true, then it is improbable that our beliefs as a whole will be mostly true...

'But' I contend that the content of a belief does affect our behavior. Don't forget, if evolution is true, consciousness is one of the products of evolution. Our conscious thoughts and beliefs do indeed affect our behavior. It's difficult for me to believe that you, Plantinga, or anyone else can 'seriously' claim that they don't. If I believe that a bridge is safe, I'll walk across it (behavior affected by belief). If I believe the bridge isn't safe, I won't walk across it. My behavior, because of my belief, will be different depending on the content of my belief. I have a sneaky feeling that Plantinga, because evolution does not make conscious, intentional, choices, is assuming that only the neuro-electro processes of our cognitive functions can be attributed to evolution, not our thoughts or the content of our beliefs for which 'we' are responsible (even though he seems to acknowledge that 'we' are a product of evolution).

Evolution would, indeed, select for beliefs that conform to reality. Any living organism capable of forming beliefs will have a better chance for survival, ergo, passing on it's genes through reproduction, if its behavior is based on beliefs that conform to reality---that is---beliefs that are true. The closer our beliefs come to conforming to reality, the better are our chances to survive and reproduce.
Re: Is Atheism Irrational? Plantinga thinks so...
February 26, 2014 02:57AM
It's difficult for me to believe that you, Plantinga, or anyone else can 'seriously' claim that they don't.

He doesn't believe that... He says content does affect behavior, but if materialism is true, only NP affects behavior!

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Because if this belief — this structure — had a totally different content (even, say, if it was a belief that there is no beer in the fridge) but had the same neurophysiological properties, it would still have caused that same action of going to the fridge. This means that the content of the belief isn’t a cause of the behavior. As far as causing the behavior goes, the content of the belief doesn’t matter.

We could say the the NP includes the content, but that creates problems as well... e.g. Nobody would agree that 'all men are mortal' is true because we all have the exact same NP...
Re: Is Atheism Irrational? Plantinga thinks so...
February 26, 2014 03:29AM
I'd love to know how Plantinga defines 'material', it certainly can't be the same as what most modern scientists and philosophers of science mean when they talk about it. Does he consider 'force', or a 'field', or the curvature of space, to be matter, or what about mental events? I don't know of any scientists or philosophers who deny that they exist in and are a part of the material universe. And what, exactly, is "matter"? We've long since discarded the concept of matter as we picture it in our mind as something we can describe as solid or something ultimately made up of tiny solid (in the way we generally conceive them) particles. Is matter actually a probability or an event? Ask a quantum physicist! smiling smiley
Re: Is Atheism Irrational? Plantinga thinks so...
February 26, 2014 03:45AM
Materialism is the belief that only material reality exists (matter/energy) and everything is explained by materialistic forces. Evolution does not imply materialism. In fact, all that is necessary is that we assume naturalism is true ie methodological materialism, and there is no tension...

MM or MN (methodological naturalism) is where you assume naturalism solely for the method, or science... It's not some grand metaphysical claim...
Re: Is Atheism Irrational? Plantinga thinks so...
February 26, 2014 03:54AM
The argument we are discussing is similar to the argument CS Lewis had called the argument from reason...

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1. No belief is rationally inferred if it can be fully explained in terms of nonrational causes.

Support: Reasoning requires insight into logical relations. A process of reasoning (P therefore Q) is rational only if the reasoner sees that Q follows from, or is supported by, P, and accepts Q on that basis. Thus, reasoning is trustworthy (or "valid", as Lewis sometimes says) only if it involves a special kind of causality, namely, rational insight into logical implication or evidential support. If a bit of reasoning can be fully explained by nonrational causes, such as fibers firing in the brain or a bump on the head, then the reasoning is not reliable, and cannot yield knowledge.

2. If naturalism is true, then all beliefs can be fully explained in terms of nonrational causes.

Support: Naturalism holds that nature is all that exists, and that all events in nature can in principle be explained without invoking an Intelligent Designer or other rational causes. Standardly, naturalists claim that all human thoughts and actions can ultimately be explained in terms of material causes or physical events (such as neurochemical events in the brain) that are nonrational.

3. Therefore, if naturalism is true, then no belief is rationally inferred (from 1 and 2).

4. We have good reason to accept naturalism only if it can be rationally inferred from good evidence.

5. Therefore, there is not, and cannot be, good reason to accept naturalism.[1]

WIKI Argument from reason
Re: Is Atheism Irrational? Plantinga thinks so...
February 26, 2014 04:18AM
You still haven't given a clear (or any kind of) definition of what matter is. Without that, arguing about a strictly material universe, or even whether there is such a thing, is an exercise in futility.

CS Lewis' argument falls apart @ # 2. If naturalism is true, then all beliefs can be fully explained in terms of nonrational causes.

Non-rational unthinking evolution can (and has) produced conscious, thinking beings, who in turn, can form rational beliefs. The beliefs themselves were not caused by evolution, but the evolutionary process explains how sentient beings came to be. 'Beliefs' can then be explained as the result of careful observation, experimentation, successful predictions and results, done by conscious thinking beings, 'not' nonrational causes.
Re: Is Atheism Irrational? Plantinga thinks so...
February 26, 2014 04:41AM
Matter is frozen energy ie particles, (substance), ground for physical objects...

Do you think any of these beliefs are incoherent? Materialism? Evolution? Is Plantinga misrepresenting these positions? He isn't an expert in science but still understands evolution I'm sure.
Re: Is Atheism Irrational? Plantinga thinks so...
February 26, 2014 03:29PM
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Do you think any of these beliefs are incoherent? Materialism? Evolution? Is Plantinga misrepresenting these positions? He isn't an expert in science but still understands evolution I'm sure.

Yes, I think Plantinga's use of the term 'materialism' or 'material universe' is incoherent. What I think he's doing, with a bit of slight of hand, is using the concept of an imaginary universe made up solely of what he, at least, pictures as matter, and then forming his argument that evolution would be unlikely to produce true beliefs (beliefs that conform to reality) in such a universe, 'as if' he were talking about a real universe that other thinking people (who are they?) claim is the one we live in. It's a straw man. Of course, he has already begun to muddle his solely material universe by introducing non-material things into his material only universe, things like life, mental events, beliefs, etc.

I think his arguments are like the intelligent design arguments, a form of apologetics posing as purely secular non-religious arguments that, although not stated directly of course, would hopefully lead one to conclude..."Well, these things demonstrate that there must be a God."

Actually, there is no universal scientific definition or understanding for the term 'matter'.
Re: Is Atheism Irrational? Plantinga thinks so...
February 26, 2014 04:44PM
If there is no universal understanding for the term matter, then materialism is incoherent and should be abandoned...

But I don't think that is true.

You might want to watch a bit of that video I posted because some of the top philosophers are a part of that religious freedom project and none of them made the argument that Plantinga's use of the term materialism is incoherent...
Re: Is Atheism Irrational? Plantinga thinks so...
February 27, 2014 01:27AM
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If there is no universal understanding for the term matter, then materialism is incoherent and should be abandoned...

But I don't think that is true.

Whether the the concept of 'materialism' is coherent or incoherent will be dependent on how one defines materialism and how it is used.

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Plantinga:
First, if materialism is true, human beings, naturally enough, are material objects. Now what, from this point of view, would a belief be? My belief that Marcel Proust is more subtle that [sic: should be "than"] Louis L’Amour, for example? Presumably this belief would have to be a material structure in my brain, say a collection of neurons that sends electrical impulses to other such structures as well as to nerves and muscles, and receives electrical impulses from other structures.

Plantinga, here, seems completely oblivious to the "Hard Problem" of explaining consciousness, I suspect he knows about it but it doesn't know how to fit it into his fundamentally incomplete definition of and use of the term 'materialism'. Plantinga does this by equating belief with the structural aspects of the brain.---"The hard problem was so-named by David Chalmers in 1995.  The problem is a major focus of research in contemporary philosophy of mind, and there is a considerable body of empirical research in psychology, neuroscience, and even quantum physics."--- "The hard problem of consciousness is the problem of explaining why any physical state is conscious rather than nonconscious.  It is the problem of explaining why there is “something it is like” for a subject in conscious experience, why conscious mental states “light up” and directly appear to the subject.  The usual methods of science involve explanation of functional, dynamical, and structural properties—explanation of what a thing does, how it changes over time, and how it is put together.  But even after we have explained the functional, dynamical, and structural properties of the conscious mind, we can still meaningfully ask the question, Why is it conscious? This suggests that an explanation of consciousness will have to go beyond the usual methods of science.  Consciousness therefore presents a hard problem for science, or perhaps it marks the limits of what science can explain.  Explaining why consciousness occurs at all can be contrasted with so-called “easy problems” of consciousness:  the problems of explaining the function, dynamics, and structure of consciousness.  These features can be explained using the usual methods of science.  But that leaves the question of why there is something it is like for the subject when these functions, dynamics, and structures are present.  This is the hard problem." [www.iep.utm.edu]

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You might want to watch a bit of that video I posted because some of the top philosophers are a part of that religious freedom project and none of them made the argument that Plantinga's use of the term materialism is incoherent...

I'm not copying the arguments of those philosophers, I'm giving you 'my' arguments as to why I think Plantinga's arguments are not persuasive.
Re: Is Atheism Irrational? Plantinga thinks so...
February 27, 2014 05:12AM
Your response implies you have a meaningful definition of materialism and for some reason you are hesitant to define it.
Re: Is Atheism Irrational? Plantinga thinks so...
February 27, 2014 06:34PM
Guys and gals et al I’ve been reading this thread and I wanted to get involved but Islander is just too eloquent. His deliveries are excellent.

I agree with Islanders views on the premises that have been presented

I agree with the lack of concept and word definitions presented.

But Ils you could’ve gone further.

For example it clear that x has a rudimentary knowledge of evolution and Neurology. This is obvious from the material presented

It’s obvious he hasn’t read the latest on Evolution Psychology and Neurobiology.

There are dozens of testible hypothesis as to how belief in deities or the supernatural evolved.

And how in the name of Zeus can you not quantify “belief”?… Belief has a spectrum, it has a bell curve.

How can you use the example of the “ belief” that there is a beer in fridge when your suppose to be discussing the “belief” in a deity? One’s a leap over a puddle the other is a leap over an ocean.

Plantinga doesn’t not account for the impact self awareness had on proto hominids.

Knowing your mortality causes severe anxiety and knowing that your family will die cause even more anxiety.

Imagine being the first proto hominids becoming self aware, becoming aware of mortality and the end of self, belief in any story that reassured the self survived death would calm your psyche down. This ability is nothing but advantageous, and the genes that gave the hominid the imagination to come up with story about spirits et al, and the genes enable the brain to trick itself into believing in these stories with little to no proof they were true, saved early humanity from universal madness and eventual extinction. NP give rise to B for NP to survive thus B matters. B is reliable. It’s reliable most of the time. It’s still reliable. Read up on the placebo effect.

Hence we have evolved to believe, to have faith. That is why being an atheist is not irrational, an atheist is a frigging mutation or meme mutation, and atheism only just recently found a enivorment to flourish in thanks to the scientific method, because for the majority of human history the majority of the humanity has been hard wired to believe in the supernatural. This ability to believe in irrational concepts, to take belief to the nth degree was as important as the flint tool in the survival of humanity.

Has Plantinga read up on latest anthropology and paleoanthropology, evolutionary psychology or neuro science or maybe cosmology and theoretical physics because philosophy by itself doesn’t cut it anymore? You will not find any truth with philosophy alone. By itself it’s glorified naval gazing.

I know tuk raves about the classical logic e.g. A=A but as Islander (or was it pondy )mentioned rational philosophers aren’t that clued up on Quantum physicals. QA trounces Classical logic. Read up on Superpositioning.
And words like “evil” and “materialism” are anachronistic when discussing consciousness and the mind.
You might as well use words like “witchcraft” and “alchemy”


Seriously Tuk I hope you were being facitious when you gave that definition of materialism.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/27/2014 06:45PM by Fascinated_foreigner.
Re: Is Atheism Irrational? Plantinga thinks so...
February 27, 2014 11:03PM
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Your response implies you have a meaningful definition of materialism and for some reason you are hesitant to define it.

I thought I had when you questioned me about M and E. Looking back, perhaps I wasn't as clear as I thought it was. Here's what I said;

"That's precisely what I meant when I said "naturalistic evolution" (no supernatural intervention) which most would describe as materialism." I probably should have said, "which most [[i]including me][/i] would describe as materialism.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/27/2014 11:05PM by islander.
Re: Is Atheism Irrational? Plantinga thinks so...
February 28, 2014 12:43AM
Guys, I'm not defending this argument... I'm trying to understand it... And you are not helping me at all...

Islander, If materialism = no supernatural intervention, does it not imply 'everything that exists is matter/energy'? Is there another substance we are missing? You are losing me here... There are various ideas of materialism, but excluding the practical forms, do they not all imply only matter/energy exist?

For example it clear that x has a rudimentary knowledge of evolution and Neurology. This is obvious from the material presented

It's a tad more detailed then what was presented in my original link...

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In the 2008 publication Knowledge of God Plantinga presented a formulation of the argument that solely focused on semantic epiphenomenalism instead of the former four jointly exhaustive categories.[10]

Plantinga stated that from a materialist's point of view a belief will be a neuronal event. In this conception a belief will have two different sorts of properties:[35]
electro-chemical or neurophysiological properties (NP properties for short)
and the property of having content (It will have to be the belief that p, for some proposition p).

Plantinga thought that we have something of an idea as to the history of NP properties: structures with these properties have come to exist by small increments, each increment such that it has proved to be useful in the struggle for survival. But he then asked how the content property of a belief came about: "How does it [the content] get to be associated in that way with a given proposition?"[36]

He said that materialists offer two theories for this question: According to the first, content supervenes upon NP properties; according to the second, content is reducible to NP properties. (He noted that if content properties are reducible to NP properties, then they also supervene upon them.) He explained the two theories as follows:
Reducibility: A belief is a disjunction of conjunctions of NP properties.
Strong Supervenience (S+): For any possible worlds W and W* and any structures S and S*, if S has the same NP properties in W as S* has in W*, then S has the same content in W as S* has in W*. Supervenience can either be broadly logical supervenience or nomic supervenience.

Plantinga argued that neural structures that constitute beliefs have content, in the following way: "At a certain level of complexity, these neural structures start to display content. Perhaps this starts gradually and early on (possibly C. elegans [a small worm with a nervous system composed of only a few neurons] displays just the merest glimmer of consciousness and the merest glimmer of content), or perhaps later and more abruptly; that doesn't matter. What does matter is that at a certain level of complexity of neural structures, content appears. This is true whether content properties are reducible to NP properties or supervene on them."[37] So given materialism some neural structures at a given level of complexity acquire content and become beliefs. The question then is according to Plantinga: "what is the likelihood, given materialism, that the content that thus arises is in fact true?"[37]

[en.wikipedia.org]

And that is what I'm trying to figure out... If the NP includes the content, for beliefs like 'all men are mortal', we would have the same NP properties. That just doesn't seem right...

Hence we have evolved to believe, to have faith. That is why being an atheist is not irrational, an atheist is a frigging mutation or meme mutation, and atheism only just recently found a enivorment to flourish in thanks to the scientific method, because for the majority of human history the majority of the humanity has been hard wired to believe in the supernatural. This ability to believe in irrational concepts, to take belief to the nth degree was as important as the flint tool in the survival of humanity.

lol. Best explanation of atheism ever...

Has Plantinga read up on latest anthropology and paleoanthropology, evolutionary psychology or neuro science or maybe cosmology and theoretical physics because philosophy by itself doesn’t cut it anymore? You will not find any truth with philosophy alone. By itself it’s glorified naval gazing.

That, I'll disagree. But to be honest I'm past the 'philosophy is useless argument'...

I know tuk raves about the classical logic e.g. A=A but as Islander (or was it pondy )mentioned rational philosophers aren’t that clued up on Quantum physicals. QA trounces Classical logic.

No, FF. Either QP makes sense, or it makes no sense... You know very well the science of QP is seemingly incoherent.

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Although quantum mechanics is generally considered to be fundamentally incompatible with classical logic, it is argued here that the gap is not as great as it seems. Any classical, discrete, time reversible system can be naturally described using a quantum Hubert space, operators, and a Schrödinger equation. The quantum states generated this way resemble the ones in the real world so much that one wonders why this could not be used to interpret all of quantum mechanics this way. Indeed, such an interpretation leads to the most natural explanation as to why a wave function appears to "collapse" when a measurement is made, and why probabilities obey the Born rule. Because it is real quantum mechanics that we generate, Bell's inequalities should not be an obstacle.

[iopscience.iop.org]

And that is just a quick google search... Even SCIENCE shows like 'through the wormhole' have scientists who think it's possible to make sense of QP...



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/28/2014 01:00AM by tuk22.
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