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 8:37am
I'm going to quote one person helping me now:
"If I can't prove that the world I'm experiencing isn't simply an illusion from a mind in a vat, then saying 'It seems that this world I'm experiencing contains a God' isn't even remotely relevant."
- "It's important to ask yourself whether or not you cannot "prove" this empirically or otherwise. Empirical proof is not the only proof there is. Empiricism is dependent on logic and math that are both non-falsifiable. Empiricism is one of many philosophies that never replaced say, classical rationalism."

He has completely missed the point. The evidence for the brain in a vat and for god are the same - none. But EVEN ON a purely rational account, we cannot infer the existence of a god when we cannot even infer the existence of the rest of the world outside our brains! The belief in god fails completely at both the empirical AND the purely rational level. Theists make a big stink about there being no absolute proof for this belief and the other, so that they can undermine reason and insert faith. In doing so, they undermine their own position. Not only can't we make any convincing arguments for the existence of a god through empirical means, we certainly can't do it through reason alone, if we can't even get past the external world problem FOR STARTERS.
Comment by Jedi Wanderer on August 21, 2011 at 8:32am
"Am I going to allow the propaganda banner to do the thinking for me? All I'm hearing from this is, "Shut up, don't worry, and don't think so much, because our worldview has answered it for you already." This is freethought? Whatever happened to thinking for oneself?"

Geez, he is cherry picking what he wants to hear! We think, we think long and hard, and this banner appeals only to our conclusions. It doesn't appeal to our thinking process, because it doesn't have to! We already hold that belief, so it is not at all the case that we are letting a banner do our thinking for us, and he is the only person I have ever heard of who would even think that it does imply this. Absurd.
Comment by Jedi Wanderer on August 21, 2011 at 8:29am
"- What's the probability of my own certain existence? After all, it's my "LIFE" isn't it?"

A strange question. If you believe like I do that Descartes' "I think therefore I am" is absolute proof of one's existence, then the probability of one's existence in this case is 100%. Few if any other propositions can be given the full 100%, but there are a great many which approach it so closely as to be beyond any doubt. A good theoretical example to argue this point on: Suppose you toss a coin, and it turns up heads 5 times in a row. The chances of that happening are low, so you begin to expect tails to show up next. But after 5 more throws, only heads comes up. At this point you begin to get suspicious, suspecting the coin is weighted or something. 50 more throws later, and with nothing but heads showing up, you begin to really get confirmed in the idea that the game is rigged, though you have no way of proving it. At this point it would be pretty foolish to make any bets on tails; furthermore, if there is anyone around willing to take that bet, you begin to get so confident that you would gladly jump at the opportunity to make a little scratch. Unfortunately, no-one else is willing to take that gamble either (come on theists, put your money where your mouth is!). Now, although the chances of the coin turning up tails (you now doubt whether there even is a tails, maybe its a two-headed coin) are growing vanishingly small with every heads result, you still have no proof that it CAN'T turn up tails - you have only a reasonable belief. And this may be all that reasonable beliefs add up to in the end, but if so, this is just fine. Some probabilities seem so remote as to render some beliefs very reliable indeed. For example, planes crash all the time, but so few of them do that air travel is still considered very safe, and so we gladly hop on a plane, even though it could kill us. And of course this goes for everything we do - we might die doing the safest possible things, like dying in our sleep, but this doesn't paralyze our willingness to do one thing or another - there is a risk to everything in life. We thus have to make rational decisions about which results are most likely. If we cannot make these desicions based on probability, then there just is no such thing as reason, and your conversation with your theist friend is over - he refuses to be reasonable unless it is to make extraordinary claims that only HE is in the position to know. Now, supposing the coin is flipped billions and billions of times, and always heads comes up. This is like expecting the future to resemble the past when it comes to things like the laws of the universe. In such cases, the probabilities of the next flip coming up heads is .9999.... so that it effectively becomes 1. This is how the universe is, so that we can make some claims with virtually absolute certainty. I have been on the planet long enough to realize to do and not to do many things, so that if I did the opposite, I would rightly be called a crazy person or a very bad person indeed. Not only this, but all our judgements, including and perhaps especially our moral ones, are made just by judging the probabilities. Even your theist friend must admit this conclusion or he is being completely irrational. Ask him what the probability is of his god existing. Obviously he would not say it is 0. We would say it is effectively 0, or something very close to it. Maybe give him a 0.0000000000000 .... 1. This at least avoids being accused of being irrational ourselves, since we don't have absolute proof (and really only inferential proof, though this is pretty good on its own) that there is no god. But will he say that the probability is 1? If so, he is irrational, and the conversation is over - you win! If not, then obviously the probability is somewhere between 0 and 1, in which case you have proven your point, and his rationality comes into question.
Comment by Jedi Wanderer on August 21, 2011 at 8:10am
"Why then does the statement begin with "There is. . ." as-if it were certain to begin with? How is that not a contradiction consecutively within the same statement?"

This guy is a bit of a moron. One need only have taken intro to logic to know how this should be phrased logically so that it makes perfect sense, and it is hard to even see how it COULD be turned into a contradiction. Logically it reads: It is probably the case that there is no god.
Comment by Jedi Wanderer on August 21, 2011 at 8:07am
"Thus, there is a logical case for an unmoved mover. The unmoved mover argument is always more rational than infinite regression, argument from ignorance, or a question-begging fallacy."

I love it. This theist is claiming such mastery over logic and it's "necessary connection" to reality that he is in the vaunted position of knowing which of many different positions one could take on an argument is the most rational one! Call huge bullshit here. He has no proof for this position, he is claiming a position which would, if true, be an extraordinary proof of god, and he is claiming to know (despite undermining the ability of others to know when it is not HIS belief) something which cannot be known! This is exactly the reason why our position is more honest. If it could really be shown which of those positions is the most rational, then it would make sense to choose it, however, since it truly cannot be known, those claiming to know without proof are doing nothing other than looking for verification of beliefs they already hold. A truly honest person does not make such extraordinary claims without some pretty conclusive reasoning, and his is shoddy at best. Ask him to give you another example of something which can be proven a priori with no evidence even possible to attain. If he cannot, ask him what makes this belief so different, and if he can, is it just another theistic belief? See if there's one about hte natural world that you can both agree on. Even better, come up with your own argument based on pure reason and see if he would accept it when there is no possibility of confirming that conclusion through evidential means.
Comment by Matt VDB on August 19, 2011 at 3:36am

In addition to what Brandie already said, he now seems to be heading down the path of deductive reasoning at a rapid rate. For instance, to say that "For an atheist there is no truly hot or cold running water" isn't a problem: we make judgements based on our experience and refine these judgements if needed. This is a perfectly honest and viable way of living your life, and yes, it does mean you have to give up the illusions of absolute certainty that some of us labour under. That has never been a problem for me. Recognizing these facts doesn't mean we become paralyzed with perpetual doubt; to the contrary, we will make choices at every moment to the best of our ability; we will simply be willing to change our perspectives should additional evidence come about.

The statement "I have every reason to believe that this is false." still makes sense in an inductive neighbourhood.


However, to then say that if we want to seek certainty, we go to deductive reasoning, is flat out false. Deductive reasoning fails all the time, and is severely limited in its usefulness precisely because it inevitably relies on premises that either turn out to be false (usually found out through induction) or to contain hidden assumptions in the form of unfortunately chosen words.

Deductive reasoning is -in practicality-, as far as I can tell, completely dependent on the use of induction if it ever wants to even approach the truth. Centuries of deductive reasoning didn't give us the theory of evolution, they didn't give us a germ theory, they didn't give us quantum mechanics, or general relativity... and yet there were thousands of purely logical arguments on all these subjects; but when further investigation of the data came, then these newer theories arose, and it was almost inevitably because people ceased to arm-chair philosophize about matters but actually went out and let the facts speak for themselves.


Any honest practitioner of inductive reasoning might have to relinquish the notion of absolute certainty... but any honest practitioner of deductive reasoning has to recognise that deductive reasoning -though it's supposed to lead to certain knowledge- has had a track record of total failures and misapprehensions.

Absolute certainty is impossible. Appeals to deductive reasoning in favour of inductive reasoning, don't help you along in the slightest.


Kind regards,



Comment by Jedi Wanderer on August 18, 2011 at 7:22pm
Thanks Brandie for the retraction. As for objective evil, still not clear on this one! In answer to your response that objective evil "is any thing that causes direct harm to another person", well, what if the other person deserved it? I will give the old standby Hitler example. I would personally have liked to have shot him through the head - would this have been wrong of me?
Comment by Jedi Wanderer on August 18, 2011 at 6:43pm

So the person Nathan is talking with (does he have a name?) did bring up Popper? Interesting, he (Popper) seems to have provided theists with a lot of ammunition. But I am now totally confused, because I was under the impression (owing to my discussion with my theists friend) that Popper was arguing that induction was impossible. Now it seems either he was wrong, or Brandie is (and I'd take a professional philosopher's and atheists word over a theist non-professional philosopher any day). Now I guess I have to read Popper too (I'm trying to raise 3 kids here, when do I have time for reading?!). Ugh, so much work to be done.


Brandie: Yet another admonishment?! As a professional philosopher, you should know better than to attribute arguments to people who haven't given them. I have said little, if anything, about what I think qualifies as knowledge, so on what interpretation of my beliefs (which I haven't given!) can they be called primitive? What I have said was that there is no such thing as absolute proof, which is something quite distinct, as you well should know (very vigorous finger wagging). What knowledge consists of is quite a different subject, and to make my position perfectly clear, no, I do not think absolute proof is a requirement for knowledge or certainty (otherwise we would be in one hell of a pickle). Granting the theist that there is no such thing as absolute proof is just something we have to give them, because it is true. That doesn't mean that proof can't come in less-than absolute terms, and that it should be acceptable to reasonable people, and therefore that knowledge is/should be possible, but "proving" that to the theist clearly is a major hurdle, otherwise we wouldn't have as pressing a need for all of these arguments.


Also, what do you mean that you think there is an "objective evil"? I find this to be a most curious statement, would you care to explain it?


Nathan: As much as I would love to actually look at your argument with this theist, I can't promise anything. I have barely enough time these days for the socializing I do by coming here (yes, its sad, but this website is virtually all the socializing I get these days, and still more sad, this is how I socialize, by doing philosophy!). And I will be away in a few days, so if I haven't gotten to it by the weekend, I won't be able to. Most regrettable for me!

Comment by Nathan Hevenstone on August 18, 2011 at 5:30pm

So... he responded. I think y'all are right. I think he's trapped me. How do I get out of it?


Part 1

Part 2

Comment by Nathan Hevenstone on August 18, 2011 at 5:04pm

Okay... so it's clear that I need to amend some of my statements in the response to the theist (actually, now I'm wondering if he's a deist... I'll explain why in a bit)...




I'll start with John.


Yes, I know I'm out of my depths. I've already conceded that numerous times. The reason I don't want to back away from this debate is because I think it's important: I have a lot to learn, and it will help me. I will learn a lot from it.


As far as science being a belief set, I don't agree. I agree that science relies upon certain assumed principles, but I think science's success rate proves those principles to be true. But then, when I talk about belief, I'm talking about agreeing that something's true without evidence.



Matt... I see your point. You are right that I would not answer the "are you a free man" question with yes. Actually, I think it's an absurd question. But you made your point loud and clear. It's just, to me, that is the inherent problem with the omnis themselves. Your point is the very reason I think the omnis are internally contradictory and make no sense.



Wanderer... I'm looking forward to your insight on my response, so please read it. As long as the criticism is constructive, I welcome it with open arms.


As far as my last name... heh... my family (both sides... I don't want to say ancestors because, you know, two of them, my great grandmothers [my mom's dad's mother and my dad's mom's mother], didn't die until I was 21 [not kidding]) came over here through Ellis Island. On my Dad's side, the last name Himelstein, but anti-semitism was still an issue, so the last name was changed at Ellis Island. They didn't know how to spell "Heaven", so they sounded it out, forgot the "a", and I am now a Hevenstone.


I actually love my last name. It's provided me with a rather kick-ass tattoo idea: (that's not a real tattoo...)


And attached to the bottom of the V, as the stone, will be the Atom symbol with an A in the middle of it.


Brandie... what is positivism, again?


I got that definition of reality from Wikipedia... :D But dreams are real (inasmuch as they happen), and so fit the definition...


I thought "energy cannot be created or destroyed" was true, though. Isn't it a law? Thermodynamics or something like that?


Okay, I'll retract my statements about the 5 things that can't be proven scientifically.



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