Hopefully you can read that.


I'm not sure how to respond. If anyone can help, I'd greatly appreciate it.

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Comment by Jedi Wanderer on August 21, 2011 at 3:34pm

"no such thing as objective good"


Just to clarify this point, because it is clear that this point can hardly be clarified too much (lest people accuse you of making some horrible lapse in reasoning!), there is no such thing as a purely objective, absolute type of good. There are still many things we can say objectively about values, so much in fact that what seems like the bulk of human values appears virtually completely objective. But a purely objective set of values can only exist if they exist absolutely, whether or not we as humans even exist at all. This cannot be. It is nonsensical to speak about values as if they can exist in some other world independently of the people that hold them as a result of their subjective experiences. Think about this point a lot - it is essential, and can easily cause confusion when not driven down to a very fine point.

Comment by Jedi Wanderer on August 21, 2011 at 1:14pm
Oh you are very welcome. Drop me a line sometime if you have questions about value theory/ethics, that's my special field. I'll be away for the next two weeks though, but after that I can certainly help you out. Later bro.
Comment by Jedi Wanderer on August 21, 2011 at 1:11pm
"BUT to do so would not have included mankind as a free-will agent. It would be a lovely planet full of mindless robots."

And here we have it. This argument gets complicated, but I'll see what I can do! First of all, get rid of the notion of evil. Despite what Brandie says, there is no such thing, which means your theist is right - evil is a purely theological concept, and fine with me! It is a very misleading concept indeed. There is only good and bad FOR US, no such thing as objective good and certainly not objective evil. Also, no such thing as free will. If that blows your mind, you need to research this one on your own as well. Wonderful what happens to one's understanding of ethics when you get rid of that non-starter!

As for his argument, he avoids Epicurus' problem by saying that god created man with free will so that we can... what? Have independence from god? Towards what end? And what about evil? If our free will is the cause of evil, then god created it knowing this, making him less-than purely benevolent. Even if it just LEADS to evil, same problem, since god could have made us with a set of motivations which could not lead to evil, but since he didn't, epicurus' problem still stands. Most theists argue that free will is supposed to enable us to learn something about good and evil from this world, but of course that wouldn't be necessary in the first place if the world were all-good (it's all good! ha!). Then the argument can go to, well, god's plan just isn't knowable, so we can't say that evil really exists, because maybe what seems bad to us now is necessary for some greater good in the afterlife. Awful, lousy, horrible argument on so many fronts, at least because theists get to the end of this line of reasoning only to say, well, we can't really know for sure. What a cop out! Either you can see the end of a line of reasoning, or you can't, in which case you are just ignorant in the first place. But this guy doesn't even seem intent on avoiding this pitfall. He claims evil does exist, which means that god created it, any way shape or form you put it in. If god created everything, and evil exists, then god created it, and there just is no other escape from Epicurus' dilemma other than by saying that evil doesn't exist. My theist friend was actually smart enough to try that route, which has taken me down a very weird road indeed! Kind of like the ultimate detour really. Still gives me problems. Anyway, that's all I got, hope this was fun and enlightening for you, and good luck! You're gonna need it! :-)
Comment by Nathan Hevenstone on August 21, 2011 at 1:10pm

Wanderer, thank you. You've given me what I need to continue...


BTW, I agree with you about the ethics argument. It is something I want to learn about, as it is so important.

Comment by Jedi Wanderer on August 21, 2011 at 12:59pm
""Evil" means the whole of mankind and the corruption brought about from mankind, which God is both able and willing to prevent. That's the doctrine of sin, the fall, death, suffering, God's wrath, and final judgment."

If evil means mankind and the corruption it brought about, then god simply created man as evil. But that can't be right! No, he is getting to the point which most theists eventually come to I think - life is just some sort of test or "reeducation workshop". This just moves the problem of evil elsewhere down the line...
Comment by Jedi Wanderer on August 21, 2011 at 12:56pm
"That is the core of the is/ought dilemma."

Would need to get very in-depth into ethical theory. This is a great question to ask yourself as you go along trying to learn value and ethical theory.
Comment by Jedi Wanderer on August 21, 2011 at 12:54pm
Almost all done with your dialogue I think! Pretty good going too, leaving out the parts that either you went wrong with or that I wouldn't bother so much about. You say that as far as the ethical arguments go, however, you don't have a leg to stand on. A pity. Here's what he says:

"If no God, then no "good" or "evil," since everything is existentially relative and value judgements are no better than 1 of 6 billion other opinions on the matter. However, if God, then the very nature of that Being is the only standard of good there is. Any shortcoming of that standard, or any violation of that standard, or any rebellion to that standard is the opposite of good."

This is indeed a very large, and very important, discussion. I actually see it as being MORE important than the epistemological/metaphysical discussion because it literally strikes us closer to our hearts, and thus has far more power over our motivations to believe one way or another. I suggest you start looking in to this argument deeply, not just so you can argue with theists but because isn't it every atheist's, and indeed every person's, responsibility to learn the difference between good and bad, right and wrong?

I can only make a brief intro - there are two sides to this ethical coin, the objective and the subjective. The further outwards you go into the objective, the more he is right - we begin to lose the sense that we can point to any one thing and say unequivocally that it is good. In the ultimate sense, he is right, there is no right and wrong or good and bad. However, this does not mean that everything immediately collapses into pure subjective opinion, one's being no better than any other's. There are a lot of things we can say objectively (to some admittedly limited degree) about values, IF we begin from some subjective starting point. That starting point is experience. We are all subjective beings with a certain way of experiencing the world. This is simply an objective fact about the kinds of beings we are. We have evolved this way. But we have to conform to reality, and so even the subjective things we desire and feel are connected intimately with the world around us. It is a good thing that we value life, otherwise we would die. It is a good thing we value each other, otherwise we would be alone. It is a good thing we care for people and want to treat them with respect and dignity and so on, because value begins with the experience of value - we feel good about ourselves and our experiences when we feel valuable to others, and so on; if we were creatures who could not experience our experiences as valuable (rewarding), we would struggle to find motivation for having experiences of life, and our lives would be that much emptier. This is, anyway, a small introduction to existentialism.
Comment by Jedi Wanderer on August 21, 2011 at 12:34pm
"Because from that day forward you cannot in all honesty make any certainty statements like, "This is so." Any atheist who makes a declarative statement of certainty should cause a red flag to go up in one's head that asks, "How does he know that for certain? After all, he's forced to maintain a margin of error at all times.""

This is the genuinely honest position of someone who admits only of the absence of absolute proof for any belief. If he thinks absolute proof exists for any claim (excepting perhaps the cogito - I think therefore I am), ask him which ones, and how he has come to that conclusion. If not, then we are back to the rational approach - what beliefs are more probable, and which less, to be true? On this approach, some things (that I have hands) become vastly more likely than others (there may be a deity), and they should be put in their proper places. Let's agree on which beliefs are the most likely (that our experiences can be reliable indicators of reality, for starters), and we can work from there. No "red flags" need go up concerning every belief - this is an absurd reduction of an honest epistemological position to one of vast skepticism, but some red flags should go up - which beliefs might we hold that haven't got much justification, if any? Which beliefs are completely unsupported by either evidence or reasoning? This is what it means to be rational, and this is the lesson he needs to learn before he can work his rhetorical but empty "reasoning".
Comment by Jedi Wanderer on August 21, 2011 at 12:26pm
"Science has given us many conveniences that are still subject to maintenance and decay. That's keeping it in healthy perspective. I am not an advocate of transhumanist utopianism. Sure enough I capitalize on the fruits of science, but I'm not obligated to some kind of fawning gratitude to science itself."

This was in response to my question about how you explain the wild successes of science if not for the validity of induction. What he does is change the question into whether science leads to moral advancement, which is so far removed from the question at hand that he is clearly playing rhetorical games here. Yes, it is debatable whether science enables us to progress morally, but let's stick to the question. The closest he comes to answering it is by saying that a healthy perspective on the benefits of science is by saying that it gives us
"many conveniences that are still subject to maintenance and decay". Many conveniences indeed! We have used science to traverse the cosmos, to peek into the very codes of life, to open up the atom and manipulate its energy to power our homes, FOR STARTERS. Were it not for induction, we would be in a very difficult pinch to explain how we are in possession of such mastery over our environment. Sure, there is still a lot to be wanting in our lives, only some of which science can even approach. We are, after all, social beings with emotional needs, and unless we are to begin thinking about using science to control the behavior of others or ourselves in dramatic ways, scientific progress is best viewed with a grain of salt. But this is a quite distinct moral question, not the epistemological question concerning induction. Tell him to either stick to the question at hand, or if he has no answer, to honestly admit it, but to stop playing rhetorical games. They are only hurting his cause.
Comment by Jedi Wanderer on August 21, 2011 at 12:13pm

I must say, to toot my own horn, I think this last argument is perhaps the best starting place for an argument against theism that I have ever come across. Woot woot!


Also, going back to the argument I made (1, 2, 3, 4...) 5 posts ago concerning the unmoved mover, what audacity he has to claim that he is the authority on which beliefs are the most rational! Excuse us if we don't take his word for it, and since we definitely do not (show me anyone who makes a convincing argument that the unmoved mover is a securely more rational belief than any of the alternatives), the position to admit ignorance of such matters should at least be a prime candidate.



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