Pharyngula has an interesting post today about a debate Lawrence Krauss had with William Lane Craig~ in it he details intrinsic (and patently dishonest) problems with Craig that happened in a recent debate~ these, at least in the beginning of the article, are essentially the groundworks for science and understanding. As I am reading this, I am thinking that if we condensed these observational errors into a simple set of rules, one that doesn't take to long to explain (and has ready and easy examples) they can be something that would be considered a guide for arguing with, or just discussing, "god" with the religious. While I don't have the time right now, I would like to get these and put them into a five or ten point list, then discuss them as to make them more effective, concise, and memorable. If, just in the basic platform of discussion, we can transmit these to a religious person and get them to agree (non of them address the actual question of god, but merely good scientific practice) then we can set the groundwork for more meaningful discussion, or at the least transmit a good logical platform for otherwise confused people to work off of. Examples are like "statistical probability doesn't necessarily constitute evidence" and "the supernatural is the very last resort (if not one at all) when trying to understand phenomena."
Again, if we can take this common sense that isn't directly contradictory to peoples beliefs, make it into a sort of Dummies Guide for logical reasoning, and start discussions with this instead of tired arguments, it should help clear up a lot of the frustrating confusions that many would be apologists have. Examples of the rules are clear cut and agreeable, and they are really impossible to argue against~ this could be a great tool in creating more enlightened people and discussion.
I'm on board, but I would hardly say that they would be even close to being impossible to argue against. I've heard it all. But let me see if I understand what you mean. In my conversations with Stephen, he undermines reason at every turn so that he can supplant it with faith and institute his own brand of epistemology and understanding of sceince. Nothing was exempt. Of particular note was just the argument you yourself give, that statistical probability is virtually meaningless. I don't remember the details, but he invoked Karl Popper to argue that we should be skeptical of all knowledge claims that rely on inductive inferences. Ah I remember. The fact that no amount of preceding examples (i.e. evidence) can support inferring that the future will be like the past means that induction is invalid. Without induction, all that we have left is deductive inferences. So everything depends on what axioms one begins with or takes for granted. Further, one MUST take some axioms for granted to have any basis for belief at all. And what axioms do you think he takes for granted? I would have to hear more where you were going with that one Park, because I think statistical probability makes for excellent evidence.
There were certainly some other ones. I definitely like the idea of everything having a natural explanation (Stephen rejected this too, or more accurately, claimed that miracles were just another natural force, just one we were not able to test because we didn't have access to the processes at work). Which brings up another one. All hypotheses must be testable. So are these three good examples of what you mean by a point-by-point list of rules?
So if I'm not mistaken, what you are proposing is that we identify what the rules of reasoning are. I.e. we need a definition of reason so that we can point to religious beliefs and say "look, this is irrational". Along these lines I would make some points. The first is that it has been a matter of great epistemological debate whether we first use experience to build up (induction) towards reasoning, which we then use to make (deductive) inferences about our possible experiences, or whether we first use reason and deduction and then verify what we have reasoned using experience. I think there is a simple way out of this conundrum (and I'm not sure that others haven't already acknowledged this). The solution to this is, I believe, that reasoning just is another form of experience. I.e. we have the experience of rational beliefs. I think this is very helpful because it means that there is no chicken-egg problem, we start with our experiences and those tell us that one form of our experiences, reason, is so reliable that we can test our other experiences against it.
So that brings me to the main points I would make along the lines you propose, Park.
1. Reasoning is a part of our process of experiencing the world.
2. Reasoning is done by making inductive inferences from our experiences and by making deductive inferences from established premises.
3. An established premis is that the future will resemble the past in some very stable ways (we call these "Laws of Nature").
4. There is a natural explanation for every experience.
5. Statistical probability is a reliable source of evidence for establishing premises.
6. All hypotheses must be testable.
I think this a fantastic idea – and just the sort of strategy that would be really useful and effective.
A story that I was reminded off reading your discussion here:
I’ve gone through an interesting transformation over the last 4 years – from open minded agnostic to Naturalist. I’ve been in tons of conversations about choice, contra causal free will, determinism, the causal web and so on. The other day I was asking my husband what he meant when he talked about free will – because I realised that I actually had no memory of what I thought it was and I couldn’t for the life of me know actually what it meant – because the picture I have now is complete and I can’t imagine why we would need such a concept as free will – it’s totally redundant to my thinking now. Any how – so my husband in his gross and simplistic way (which I love) said well it’s simple – I want to scratch my head and look – I’ve scratched my head – that’s free will. So what he’s saying is that free will is our human nature – our human ability to get an itch, think about it, move my arm and scratch it. So ‘free will’ is our ability to do what we choice too. Choice is the process we experience of making our next actions – nothing supernatural or contra causal… was a aha moment for me at the time… : )
I dunno. If ya ask me, these rules of yours sound like the devil's work. Just sayin'.