Self-Defeating Atheism

Courtesy of: http://www.churchplanting.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/self-defeating-leadership.jpgApologists often assert that denying God or refraining from God-belief lead to some sort of logical contradiction, that is, it’s self-defeating. Now this line of argument can go any number of directions. Some of these are more trustworthy than others. But I figured it would help to review some of the potential ways that atheist-friendly ideas might prove contradictory.

Some Self-Defeating Ideas

(1) Logical Positivism and (2)the Principle of Verification

[Definition:] Logical Positivism (later also known as Logical Empiricism) is a theory in Epistemology and Logic that developed out of Positivism and the early Analytic Philosophy movement, and which campaigned for a systematic reduction of all human knowledge to logical and scientific foundations. Thus, [its principle of verification says] a statement is meaningful only if it is either purely formal (essentially, mathematics and logic) or capable of empirical verification.[source; Emphasis mine]

Premise 1: According to logical positivism and the principle of verification, a statement is meaningful only if it is either purely formal (math or logic) or capable of empirical verification.
Premise 2: But that claim is neither a purely formal statement nor capable of empirical verification.
Conclusion: Therefore Logical Positivism and the principle of verification are self-defeating

(3) Scientism

[Definition]Science, modeled on the natural sciences, is the only source of real knowledge. [Source]

Premise 1: According to Scientism, science is the only source of real knowledge.
Premise 2: But that following statement is not itself scientific (it is philosophical)
Conclusion: Therefore Scientism is self-defeating

(4) Materialism

[Definition] The doctrine that nothing exists except matter and its movements and modification. [source]

Premise 1: According to materialism, nothing exists except matter and its movements and modifications.
Premise 2: The meaning of that very sentence is neither matter, movement, nor modification. [Semantic meaning is immaterial]
Conclusion: Therefore materialism is self-defeating.

(5) Empiricism

[Definition] Empiricism is the theory that the origin of all knowledge is sense experience. It emphasizes the role of experience and evidence, especially sensory perception, in the formation of ideas, and argues that the only knowledge humans can have is a posteriori (i.e. based on experience).

Premise 1: All knowledge originates from sense experience.
Premise 2: That sentence does not originate from sense experience (i.e., that sentence entails causality, immaterial meaning, immaterial language, immaterial truth-relations, etc. none of which are substantially reducible to the act of or objects of sensory perception).
Conclusion: Therefore empiricism is self-defeating.

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61 thoughts on “Self-Defeating Atheism

    1. Why is it self-defeating?

      What is the basis for making such a statement without supporting evidence?

      It would seem for your statement to have some validity, one would supply some form of justification. Otherwise, opinion, conjecture, and assumptions mean diddly squat. In other words, your comment is reduced to absurdity without justification.

      1. The reason I did not reply earlier was because of the posters childish reply (your mom is self-defeating) did not seem to warrant any serious discussion.

        To reply to you, a hopfully rational thinking person: Athiest arguments are not as black and white as the poster attempted to paint it. Of course no human being submits themselves to the strict and plain dictionary definition of those terms.

        If the poster wanted to address these, he or she should really dive into these arguments and show that he has enough knowledge and intelligence to know what the definition means in a reasonable sense.

      2. True, semantics is not a true basis for a discussion. However, it is a proper place to start. In fact, I have yet to encounter an atheist that can adequately define what a Christian is.

        I was not exactly impressed with the “mother” quip. This is childish and should not be a response by any intelligent person. Reminded me of junior high. So know that not all Christians do respond in such a fashion.

        I think the point was of this post is to make a brief argument from semantics without going into great detail. Seems that if he did, the post would be much too long for a one time blog post.

        Maybe starting with this post and then diving deeper by expounding further on each point.

      3. You didn’t understand that? Did you seriously ask WHY the premises are self – defeating? Isn’t it obvious?

        Evidence is right in front of you. Typical atheist ignorance. All your isms and ists are falling apart.

        Atheism is self defeating. It’s the same as saying “I’m an Ascientist”. Does that make sense? No. Then why should atheism?

    1. Proof #1
      Semantic meaning is a kind of information. Information might be conveyed/communicated/carried through material stuff like written letters, spoken words, etc. but is not itself identical with any or all of those. Therefore, semantic meaning is not identical to (or thus identified with) material.

      Proof #2
      Semantic meaning (i.e., the referent for any given bit of language or symbol) is distinct from the lines and dots of ink on paper. So we cannot identify it (Leibnitzian identity) with those materials (see proof #1). Semantic meaning, in fact, can be “carried/conveyed/communicated” with entirely interchangeable material parts–such as English characters, French Characters, sound Waves, digital images, ink, lead, etc. Lacking identity with materials, and lacking a strictly mechanical type of cause (as in the relations between materials), semantic meaning therefore lacks a material or mechanical relation to language. Yet language is the nearest potentially candidate for a material explanation of semantic meaning. Therefore, semantic meaning is immaterial.

      Proof #3
      Our direct cognitive interaction with semantic meaning (i.e., cognitive meaning) includes some very sophisticated mental stuff that’s very hard or impossible to reduce to brain functions. At least some semantics are composed in a mental environment not clearly reducible to or not known to reduce to brain (i.e., the mind-brain identity theory is still a theory and is virtually impossible to prove with any reliability). No amount or configuration of neural synaptic firings (neurons, etc.) are identical to the felt first-person experience of semantic meaning. That is, the problem of semantic meaning can be framed in terms of the hard problem of consciousness. As such, cognitive meaning does not appear to be material stuff.

      Proof #4
      Language somehow can be used to communicate semantic meaning. Semantic meaning would be material (or a material property) if there were other material sufficient to serve as a material cause of it’s existence, for example, a single chair being a material cause of an instance of “oneness,” or fire as a cause of “fear” (in an animal). That is, materialism requires strictly mechanical causes (material interactions–>other materials and material properties). Yet the relation between language and meaning is not clearly a material relation or mechanical type of cause-effect relation. That is because no amount or order of letters “causes” meaningfulness. Language is only incidentally stipulated as meaningful, and not mechanical related to semantic meaning. For lack of a mechanical relation between semantic meaning and language, semantic meaning cannot be a material property.

      1. Okay, now sorry for this late reply, I almost forgot about this.
        First of all, I do not agree that atheism necessarily presupposes materialism. Materialism is not a defensible position at all, I am an atheist and not a philosophical materialist. Of course I use some form of Methodist version of materialism but I do not make any positive claim about it, I am not dogmatic regarding materialism.

        Proof 1;
        Your this proof is based on the other three, so, let’s look at them.

        Proof 2;
        Leibnizian identity principle itself appeals to empiricists. We could never actually claim that two objects are distinct, because there could be a complex resemblance in the higher level which we are yet to discover. This is a gap argument.

        Proof 3;
        You have to prove that those ‘mental stuff’ are ‘impossible’ to be reduced in mere neural activities. Again, this is a gap argument.

        Proof 4;
        Oh my, this also a gap response. Based on the previous proofs.

        At best, your ‘proofs’ can conclude that materialism is ‘probably’ false; at worst, it is flat-out rejected as an argument from ignorance.

      2. I don’t think atheism requires materialism either. The most common brands of atheism seem to lean that way though.

        You keep saying “gap argument.” I’ve studied and taught logic, and don’t know exactly what you mean with this term. Please clarify.

        Um, as far as Liebnitzian identity principle, perhaps I’m just too much of a ludite here, but I think you aren’t talking about that principle. Even if two things might have a “complex resemblance” that’s not at all sufficient to satisfy the identity principle. They must be wholly identitical, with no part or whole, at any substantial level whatsoever, that’s distinct from each other. so your response to proof 2 seem to wash out.

        I don’t have to prove (certainty criterion?) that mental stuff is impossible to reduce to mere neural activities. We do however have plenty of reason to treat them as distinct and irreducible to each other till proven otherwise. I mean, rocks don’t think, even when lots of them are put together in interesting shapes and patterns. Freeze them or melt them, and there’s still no thinking going on. Yet, atomically speaking, that’s basically what we are talking about when trying to bridge from non-mental stuff to mental stuff; it’s materials that somehow give rise to (apparently) non-material stuff. If all we have are brute natural elements to work with, then by analogy, by thought experiment, and by lots and lots of trial and error, we have tremendous reason to believe that combinations of non-mental stuff have never once been shown sufficient to generate mental stuff.

        I’m curious though. You say you are an atheist but not a materialist. Do you ascribe to panentheism? Or what? I’d even suspend any rebuttal to hear you expound on your position and why you hold it. I’m genuinely intrigued.

    1. I only do informal exchanges online. But I try to be fair and reasonable as a matter of policy. You are welcome to comment, retweet, tag, like and repost as you see fit. As long as it comes up on my feed I’ll read it. If it’s nice and provocative or otherwise a sincere inquiry then I’ll most likely respond.

      1. Tempting. Most of my experience on this topic is atheists presuming a moral high ground without much argument or evidence to support it, and coupling that with lots of proof texting and even a willfull refusal to do patient serious hermeneutics. So in light of that experience, and my admitted cynicism on the subject, can I ask what formal training or comparable expertise do you have in biblical criticism? Have you taken any classes on interpretive theory? And do you know how to use lexicon or Bible software to parse out linguistic subtleties? I’m not saying one must be able to do these things to understand just any verse in scripture but when it comes to a critical debate it’s important for both parties to have some competence in their critical skills whenever there’s a dispute over a particular verse or word.

      2. I’m willing to treat the Bible as a black box. I will ask you a preliminary set of questions to determine your interpretation and application of various verses, and then demonstrate in the actual debate that, whatever interpretation you have, it is incoherent, exhibiting irrationality.

      3. Sorry. I’m not interested. What you’ve said so far sounds too typical of atheistic/agnostic bias. You’ve not shown how you yourself have earned any expertise or credentials in biblical criticism and interpretive theory. Perhaps you are a wonderful fairminded chap, but since I don’t know you, and since you seem eager to attack Christianity, my suspicion is that you are not terribly fair or gracious in your interpretations. I’m not trying to judge you personally, but I just don’t know you.

        Frankly, too many atheists I’ve met are self-declared experts on biblical interpretation or biblical theology but when I indulge them in some biblical exchange it turns out that they know just enough to criticize but not enough to to endure/understand answers to their critiques. When I refer to the Hebrew or the Greek, or to semantic domains, or the rule of faith (a hermeneutic principle, not the “faith” that atheists whack at), or even rudimentary historical context I find these experts are often quite amateur. I’m not saying I’m an expert in that subject either. I’m not. But I did earn my stripes so that I can understand what the bible experts are talking about when they debate the dating of the biblical texts, higher and lower criticism, etc. I have trust issues when it comes atheists wanting to debate the Bible. Not enough of them have shown any real effort to be fair and humble in that regard. Also, since biblical criticism can get real messy real quick, I’m careful about getting into it. It’s kind of like a heavy winter day. I’m only going outside if it’s worth putting all that wintergear on. If it’s not worthwhile, then I’m not going there.

        To be fair, if you have some writing of yours on the subject you’d like to refer me to, I can take a look. If you have a specific comment or question you’d like to post here I will gladly respond.

      4. A good way to insulate yourself from criticism is to claim your interlocutors must have a background in biblical criticism and interpretive theory before they can engage your conclusions. This position itself is incoherent and irrational. I don’t have to figure out how you came to your conclusions. All I have to do is demonstrate your conclusions are incoherent. So your stance on engagement is itself a demonstration of irrationality.

        And for this reason, I must conclude have no desire to waste further time debating you. You’ve quite saliently demonstrated the depth of your folly.

      5. Phil, I’m more than willing to absorb and learn from criticism. But I’m not interested in being a pinata for angry atheists or unrefined antagonists for that matter who, for example, call some disagreeable point “incoherent” or “irrational” when even a falsity can be perfectly rational and coherent. If it were incoherent then it couldn’t even be false. I’d like to think you are more refined, honest, and vulnerable than that. But, again, I don’t know you. And one thing I’ve learned from skeptics is not to dole out trust half-heartedly.

        I’m seriously not trying to be insulting but I just don’t take the bait as often as I used to because I’ve literally had atheists say to me, for example, “I (the atheist) don’t care about the historical context.” Really? Texts have meaning ONLY in context. If he’s not interested in the context then he’s not interested in what the text really means.

        I’ve had others who just prooftext, mangle the text, and commit all sorts of mistakes. If those are honest mistakes, and no problem. But typically they aren’t honest mistakes. They are willful malicious interpretations.

      6. (I’ve read through the Greek New Testament 11 times. But not once have I required someone to learn Greek as I have to defend their conclusions. That would be almost as irrational as suggesting others must be schooled in your own tradition of biblical criticism and interpretive theory.)

      7. BTW, is “incohetent” the right word? I’d assume you’d need to make some sense of my responses before you judge them invalid or wrong and that means they’d have to be coherent enough to convey error. Hence incoherent isn’t quite the right word. Might I suggest “flawed,” “mistaken, ” or” confused, ” as substitute words.

      8. I’ve been engaging believers a long time. I have yet to see one present a coherent notion of faith based on their own understanding of the bible in response to my questions. It would be refreshing if you were different. But your side has a pretty dismal track record. And of course, I mean logically incoherent rather then audibly incoherent.

        In the debate, we would be allowed the same number of words. It could go three rounds with a diminishing number of words allowed per round. The word limit could be small so we would be forced to keep things rather syllogistic rather than filling space with fluff as I’ve seen too often.

      9. Yes, I know what logical incoherence is. And I don’t know why you’d mention auditory incoherence as if this written exchange were instead spoken. I was using the logical sense of the term incoherence. I dont think it means what you think it means.

      10. Then if we both understand what logical incoherence is, you know exactly what to expect. I’ll be demonstrating your position on faith is logically incoherent. Very simple. If that’s not taking on an extreme burden of proof, I don’t know what is. And, no, I’m not going to ask you short questions and let you ramble on with fluff as I’ve seen time and time again in the past. We would both have an equal number of words.

        But perhaps I could attempt to determine your general stance. If you questions might allow me to sense your degree of straightforwardness and honesty.

        1. Is salvific faith binary as found in versus such as John 3:18, or is salvific faith degreed? If salvific faith is not absolute, how much triggers the switch from a destiny of hell to destiny of heaven?

        2. Imagine a girl with a Muslim mother and a Christian father. Imagine that she, based on the evidence available to her, splits her degree of confidence 50-50 in each faith. What is her eternal destiny?

        3. If someone who believes in Allah starts to doubt and prays to Allah “help thou my unbelief”, are they rational?

      11. Regarding question 1, I lean toward the first option but understand sanctification to be another legitimate sense of the term “salvation,” and that’s very degreed. I could go either way since both are compatible with core tenets of orthodoxy. It depends on which biblical texts one understands to have priority in interpreting the others.

        Regarding question 2, the phrasing is odd. I don’t think she’d be saved if she had 100% confidence that Jesus is God, much less 50% because I distinguish faith “that” from faith “in”. Even the demons belive THAT Jesus is Lord and God but they aren’t saved. “Trusting Jesus” might be a better way to describe the saving relation of faith. Regarding trusting Jesus “faith as a mustard seed” can suffice but ultimately that’s God’s judgment call to make. Armenians might disagree with calvinist on the permanence of salvation and the role of one’s “fruits.” I kinda split the middle on that one allow that both interpretations are legitimately biblically defensible.

        3. Regarding question 3, his faith in Allah (specifically the God of Islam as opposed to the generic Arabic term for “god” which I’d distinguish as allah, in the lower case) would first have to be rational for any subsequent prayers for more beleif to be rational. If so, then the prayers might be rational. If his doubts were emotional or willful in nature then his rational intellect might be justified in believing in spite of his abundant doubt. I’d suggest he’s more rationally justified in beoieivng in the resurrected Jesus but that’s a different debate for a different time.

      12. Well, that is quite sufficient for me to conclude that it would be like pulling teeth to get any resolution from you on what biblical faith, a critical component of your ideology, actually is. I’ll let your answer stand as a testament to your inability to understand the degree and quality of belief central to your notion that belief in Jesus is necessary for salvation.

        At least you are consistent. You, as do your bible, treat faith as if it were binary (John 3:18) in stark contrast to the rational degree of belief that maps to the relevant evidence.

        And this is why your ideology can be dismissed out-of-hand. It is inherently irrational.

      13. Please prove this conclusion about “inherent irrationality.” I don’t think those terms mean what you think they mean. It’s an overstatement to claim that my faith/religion has some sort of error and, therefore, it’s inherently irrational. You yourself are proposing that there are ratios of belief, as in, 50% certainty, 99% certainty, etc. But ratios aren’t possible unless they are “ratio-nal.” That’s the etymology of the root word “rational.” Things that submit to quantification like that are said to be “rational.” Moreover, there are rational, irrational, and non-rational sorts of ideas. And I don’t think your terminology so far, nor the categories you’ve been using have suggested you appreciate the distinction between irrational (i.e., contraindicated by rationality) versus nonrational (i.e., does not submit to rational quantification). Ten divided by zero is irrational. Saying “Ouch” when you stub your toe is non-rational. Counting ten toes is rational.

        As for “inherent” do you mean something like “intrinsic” or “natural to a thing”?

        Regarding your second paragraph, I think you are interpreting silence as a negative claim. That is, if I don’t say something I must be voting “No” on it. As such you are putting words into my mouth that I don’t affirm. You might have discoursed with a lot of hyperfundamentalists before but please don’t read into me all their errors. I try to respect you as an individual and ask the same respect in return. I never said that intellectual assent (a kind of “faith”) is strictly binary. There is a sort of “binary” difference between “Faith vs. No faith,” stepping onto the bridge or not. These scenes submit to a relevant Yes/No distinction. But there can still be DEGREES of “yes.” We can apportion belief/assent to the degree of evidence. If we have lots of a good strong evidence then we can assent to that claim with a high degree of certainty. If we have only a little evidence and it’s pretty weak, we can still assent to that evidence but it would be with relatively low intellectual certainty (regardless of how we feel emotionally or volitionally). Imagine a child jumping off the side of the pool into Daddy’s arms. That child might have a 50/50 sort of decision the first time. If he catches her, then the next time it might be more like 75/25. But if he doesn’t catch her, she might never jump off again. If she’s jumping, then she’s exercising relational trust in her father, and so long as he catches her, that faith is well placed. She can trust him only a little bit, say, 5%, but if she jumps and he catches her than her faith was well placed. Jumping or not = binary faith. The degree of personal trust = degreed faith.

        Biblically, several passages contribute helpfully to this notions including James critique, “Faith without works is dead.” That’s like a child who believes that daddy will catch her but never actually jumps. And Matthew 17:20 talks about faith as small as a mustard seed. If 1% of faith is all it takes for her to be willing to risk it and jump, her daddy is still going to catch her. Practically speaking, the object of her faith is more important than the degree of her faith.

        Be careful about reading into things too much. You seem a little too quick to “rush to judgment” and you wouldn’t appreciate that from me. Neither do I appreciate it from you.

      14. Let me give you the benefit of the doubt. Provide a rigorous account for John 3:18. The verse seems quite clear. The belief required for salvation is binary. You seem to disagree. Explain how.

      15. The passage clearly contrasts belief from nonbelief predicating salvation and condemnation, respectively, on these states. Now it doesn’t unpack much regarding what it means by “belief” and that’s where our core disagreement seems to reside. Nothing in this passage seems to conflict in the slightest with the semantic domain for “faith” I’ve so far outlined. If a person believes in Christ Jesus, in some relevant and sufficient sense such as trust/abiding/approaching/fruitfully rooted in the vine/etc. then that person is saved and not condemned (see John 3:16-21; ch. 6, ch. 15, et al. )

        Yet, “even the demons believe, and shudder,” so there’s clearly some sense of cognitive faith/belief/assent that is not sufficient or relevant for salvation.

      16. You won’t be able to explain “relevant” and “sufficient”.

        It appears you’re just simply avoiding a rigorous statements of your position to buy yourself time and logical space, hoping we won’t notice.

        Your notion of salvific faith is currently so vague as to be meaningless.

        Can I expect anything better of you in the future?

      17. Phil, please quit the hasty generalizations and arrogant-sounding presumption. I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt here but it sounds like my suspicions were correct and you aren’t interested in sparring so much as heckling from the stands. You said you want a debate but it sounds like you aren’t really interested in debate so much as insulting and petty fighting. If you want a debate then act like a gentleman please.

      18. “You won’t be able to explain ‘relevant’ and ‘sufficient.’

        Please defend this opinion. This sort of certainty about the future seems a little overconfident. We can approximate these enough, with a fair-minded biblical exegesis, to get some sense of “faith” that can achieve salvation. It would be fallacious to demand a perfect or exhaustive explication of “relevant” and “sufficient” faith (i.e., fallacy of the beard, clarification fallacy) when the very point of what I was saying is that some sorts of faith are not relevant to this discussion (i.e., faith THAT Jesus is God–which even demons believe) and which are not sufficient for salvation (i.e., fidelity to my favorite sports team).

        “It appears you’re just simply avoiding a rigorous statements of your position to buy yourself time and logical space, hoping we won’t notice.”

        It’s not about “buying time.” It’s rather that I’m trying not to waste my time. I haven’t gotten the sense so far that you are are fair-minded, self-reflective, and otherwise a responsible debater. You might be a decent chap, but I’m trying not to rush to judgment either. I don’t claim to be any expert on debates myself, but I have some experience in healthy vigorous debates and, unfortunately, some experience, in unhealthy misguided debates. In my experience, unhealthy, one-sided or mean-spirited debates just don’t generate a lot of good or much learning.

        “Your notion of salvific faith is currently so vague as to be meaningless.”

        That’s a bold claim, and amounts to another undefended opinion on your part. Even the Jabberwocky (poem) is meaningful. Even self-defeating statements are meaningful (though ontologically they can’t reference real-world objects). I’m afraid you might be running into the Clarification Fallacy. I faulted Matt Dillahunty on this in both of our debates. If you demand an arbitrary level of clarity before accepting some term (or idea, or claim) and my use of the term fails to satisfy your demandeds, then that’s not necessarily a problem for me. You need to show that that level of clarity which you demand is not arbitrary but is principled, responsible, and fair. When it comes to salvific faith, it can be defined operationally with a working definition (as I have done) and that is more than enough to distinguish that sort of state from other states which don’t eventuate entrance into heaven or which don’t entail an attitude of trust/assent.

        “Can I expect anything better of you in the future?”

        In fact? Yes. In your perception? Probably not.

      19. Phil, please don’t command me to do things. If you want something from then ask. I don’t have time for every stray skeptic to come at me telling me what to do, rush to conclusions, and then insult me and the things I hold dear, all under the guise of “debate.” I take debate seriously and ask the same of you.

        If I had to define salvific faith it’s some such trust or assent which effectually achieves the salvation. This is a working definition that should suffice for my purposes.

        This sort of faith is explicated in multiple ways in scripture in terms of one’s personal relation to God, its relation to works, it’s relation to propositional knowledge, and so on. It would take many volumes to expound anything close to a theoretical/exhaustive definition of salvific faith. Hence I use a working definition instead.

        Meanwhile, please counter or correct my claim that you’ve been consistently rushing to judgment and overstating your case (both of which are hasty generalizations). If your position is heavily laced with informal logical fallacies and is together coupled with a general lack of argument then your case isn’t very trustworthy. You are welcome to your opinions but if we are debating here then I don’t owe bald assertions any deference.

      20. Note also that you are still conflating epistemology with ontology. The little girl does not know her father will catch her, so she is not justified in believing her father will catch her. You are illegitimately moving between the objective perspective on the subject of perspective. Can’t do that.

      21. Sure she knows her father will catch her, she has justified/warranted/reasonable true belief (i.e., knowledge) even if it’s less than 100% certainty. She knows her father will catch her and so she is justified in actively trusting him by jumping into the pool. She is justified so long as that father isn’t a total jerk and actually catches her, and he’s fulfilled his promises before, and he has proven to be a generally decent dad.

      22. Are you dividing strictly between “knowledge” and “belief” as if they don’t overlap? As I understand it, all knowledge is a species of belief and belief (at it’s most basic sense) is an attitude of assent, synonymous with faith or trust. And even religious faith/belief when it is in the absence of strong empirical evidence, can still be justified and true if the object of belief (say, Jesus) is trustworthy and/or has proven his trustworthiness in other ways (such as direct revelation, miracles, prophecy, properly basic knowledge, etc.). Fortunately, religious faith doesn’t have to be in the absence of strong empirical evidence.

      23. And your distinction between believe “that” and believe “in” is nonsense.

        Imagine that you have a bear chasing you, and you see a rickety bridge ahead you are 70% certain to hold your weight. You believe both “that” the bridge will hold you and believe “in” the efficacy of the bridge to 70%.

        Now imagine you decide your chances are better to cross the bridge than to face the bear.

        What changed? Do you suddenly decide “that” the bridge is 100% certainty to hold your weight? Of course not. Does your belief “in” the efficacy of the bridge suddenly move from 70% to 100%? Of course not. There is no meaningful difference between believing “that” and believing “in”. You’re trying to introduce a semantical game to insulate your position from scrutiny.

        Rational belief is a degree of belief that maps to the degree of the relevant perceived evidence. The binary salvific belief promoted by the Bible (John 3:18) completely fails in this respect.

        Your ideology is logically rotten at its core, and need not be taken seriously.

      24. Phil, your argument from analogy is a disanalogy, or better yet, I can retool your illustrate to reaffirm the distinction which you dismiss as nonsense.

        Belief that: This is the intellectual assent, which can be as high as 100% confidence, to the idea that the bridge will support your weight. –That belief won’t save you.
        Belief in: Getting on the bridge in spite of low/negligible belief, say, 1-49% confidence, that it will support your weight–That belief will save you.

        We can act on any degree of certainty–whether 1% all the way up to 100%. And when the action is in a kind of personal trust then the same personal context affirmed in several points in Scripture makes complete sense. For example, I’m currently acting on a low-degree of trust. I don’t know you. Your penchant for insults reaffirms my distrust. But I’m still acting towards you with the hope that you’ll prove humble, intellectual, and fair-minded after a while. If indeed you prove to be a perfect gentleman, then my weak faith would still be enough to include me in a wonderful fruitful exchange with this gentleman. Hence the notion of “faith as small as a mustard seed.”

        Your definition in the fourth paragraph is a fine exposition about rational assent, which is a kind of faith/belief. I have no problem with that and it doesn’t really conflict with my point since we are still talking about two different senses of “faith,” i.e., intellectual assent versus personal trust. You might not choose to accept that there’s a difference between contemplating the bridges strength versus stepping onto the bridge, but I use the term “faith” in different ways to distinguish those tangibly different states.

        Now, I welcome you to prove your last claim: “Your ideology is logically rotten at its core, and need not be taken seriously.” I’m sorry you feel that way. Intellectually, i’m interested to hear your reasons for thinking this horribly about me and my personal religious position. I hope you haven’t painted everyone of faith with this broad brush, potentially coloring your entire view of religious faith with a massive hasty generalization and poisoned well.

      25. You’re confused. When you step on the bridge, your epistemic certainty does not change if you are rational. You’re conflating epistemology with oncology. Simply read John 3:18 to understand how flawed the Bible is on rational belief.

      26. Why do you think the notion of faith, as it’s presented across the text of Scripture (not just John 3:18) is a strictly cognitive/epistemic notion, as if there’s no activity, relationship, volition, or emotion swirled in there too? When I step on the bridge I’ve acted in my cognitive faith I such a way that is now Characterized as “trust.” this is not unlike the trust we have in people sometimes termed “fidelity,” as in marital fidelity. None of these are purely cognitive yet all of them are described as “faith/faithfulness/fidelity.”

        Have you done a word study on faithfulness before? Some verses in scripture seem to address just the cognitive aspect. Others sound very action oriented, sort of like “I can read your beliefs in your book of actions.” But others sound almost like marital fidelity. Yet all of them are fides/faith.

        I’ve read that verse and am waiting for you to defend your fairly narrow interpretation of it and to prove that we should read it in such a way as to exclude/trump all the other uses of “faith” in scripture. So far you have asserted your views several times and given one analogy that I bounced back at you. Do you have any more justification for your interpretation of John 3:18?

      1. I see. I scrolled back through the comments and see. I guess my joke fell flat. No offense taken.

        Regarding your comment from several days ago, this blog post was only meant to address a few problematic positions that are common among atheists. But, as I’ve readily admitted many times before, there are lots of ways that sophisticated atheists can avoid these traps. Most atheists who commit these sorts of errors, I find, do so accidentally because they don’t realize that they’ve, for example, insulated their arguments against disproof by using verificationism. You might find some value in skimming my review of the Dillahunty debate (prior blog post). He’s no amateur, and he’s a fairly sophisticated atheist in many respects, but there seems to be a subtext of scientism and/or logical positivism underneath most of what he says. The same has come up with John Loftus. He demands that all evidence be filtered across methodological naturalism before anyone rationally accept it. The result is scientism.

      2. It is good to see you are interested in logical fallacies. That’s my thing. I picked up a BA in Philosophy, am developing a logical fallacies website, and I certainly do not want to discourage you from exploring errors in thinking.

        But You’ll want to be careful that you apply them accurately.

        It is no hasty generalization to say you will not be able to explain “relevant” and “sufficient” since I have been debating others with your ideology for 20 years. In fact, it is typically the tactic of the apologist to employ vague undefined words, and force others to back them into a rigorous definition of what they believe, something that someone confident about what they believe would need no prodding to do.
        https://logfall.wordpress.com/hasty-generalization/

        In terms of my own arrogance, I am quite fed up with these arrogant tactics of apologists, and I project arrogance to prod clear and rigorous responses. I have to qualms about saying I know more about the bible and philosophy than you do since your lack of understanding in both of these domains is clear in your responses. There is nothing worse than an amateur pompously throwing out specious commentary on notions they do not understand.

        One example of such is your lack of understanding the relationship between knowledge and belief. The conventional usage of knowledge is simply a high degree of belief. The term “knowledge” serves little purpose apart from a pixelated tag indicating a high degree of belief in a concept that may be true or false. That is why I employ only the term “belief” in the context of epistemological discourse. If you want to stipulate a meaning of “knowledge” other than this, that will need to be done clearly.

        I said “Your notion of salvific faith is currently so vague as to be meaningless”. This is true since the notion of salvific faith is foundational to your ideology. And you are unable to express the quality and quantity of faith necessary for salvation. You don’t have a just god if his requirements for salvation are vague. But are they vague? John 3:18 most certainly does not indicate such. Instead, you have a God who promotes irrationality since rationally belief is intrinsically gradient and not binary as seen throughout the book of John.

        You claim this is a “false dichotomy” (https://logfall.wordpress.com/false-dilemma/), and you claim I have the burden of proof to demonstrate belief can not be both gradient and binary. This reflects your gross misunderstanding of burden of proof. If you think this is a false dilemma, it behooves you to explain how. It would take merely one example to falsify my claim, and your silence smells of evasion rather than of honest objection.

        You suggested that my pointing out that rational belief is inherently gradient though decisions are binary reflect the “fallacy of the beard” (https://logfall.wordpress.com/continuum-fallacy/). You don’t understand the problem. It is you who are claiming the very disparate poles of eternal destiny are absurdly determined by some degree of belief. This is contrary to John’s treatment of belief as binary, and contrary to the notion of a just god. You can’t have a just God administering polarized eternal destinies of reward/punishment based on a continuum of belief. Simply ask yourself what you would think of a human judge who did the same. This is why criminal courts attempt to provide as nuanced a punishment as possible rather than having only release/death the only 2 options for crime. Think about how you treat your children. You would never think about eternally tormenting your children for their offenses…or would you? Would you the more God-like you became? I most certainly hope not. Your own standards run counter to the behavior of your God.

        Quite frankly, your comments reflect a sophomoric understanding of philosophy and rational thought. But I do want to encourage you to pursue logical fallacies and rationality more. First study well clear thinking. Then reread your Bible again, this time without petitioning the God in question for wisdom since you know you would condemn this circular mode of seeking truth if Muslims were to do the same.

        The site https://logfall.wordpress.com/ is a good place to start. It is a site I started several years ago. I will be updating it later this spring. Feel free to comment and add suggestions for relevant examples of each fallacy you have seen among nonbelievers. I do think too many of the examples are examples of theistic blunders, and would like to include cases found among other domains, including fallacies employed by atheists and agnostics.

        I will not be engaging you more on this page since I have projects such as savagesundayschool.wordpress.com and logfall.com that have become surprisingly popular these days.

        In the future, I recommend you treat your defense of Christianity as something you wish to rigorously present rather than taking an evasive stance. And if you discover that your rigorously presented ideology fails under scrutiny, I welcome you to join me here on the side of rationality.

        Cheers, Phil

      3. It is good to see you are interested in logical fallacies. That’s my thing. I picked up a BA in Philosophy, am developing a logical fallacies website, and I certainly do not want to discourage you from exploring errors in thinking.

        Thank you. It’s nice to see we agree on some things. I hope that we both can join conviction and civility with elegant logic for a fruitful discourse.

        But You’ll want to be careful that you apply them accurately. It is no hasty generalization to say you will not be able to explain “relevant” and “sufficient” since I have been debating others with your ideology for 20 years. In fact, it is typically the tactic of the apologist to employ vague undefined words, and force others to back them into a rigorous definition of what they believe, something that someone confident about what they believe would need no prodding to do.
        https://logfall.wordpress.com/hasty-generalization/

        Your past experience, filtered across your perception is not even enough to show that those terms haven’t ALREADY been explained just fine to you already, much less that I IN THE FUTURE will never be able to do so. The failing could be in your perception, your judgment, your will, etc. and doesn’t have to reside in the terms or the discourse like you seem to think. Conclusively judging the yet-unknown future by your past experience is still a hasty generalization and possibly an ad futurum fallacy (although you seem to be trying to rationally infer probabilistically about the future, only you use conclusive terms as if you’re dealing in certainty and not probability). Had you qualified your statement, for example, “I doubt you’ll be able to …” or “You probably won’t be able to…” then you wouldn’t be committing the fallacy. It’s the conclusiveness of your claim that’s the problem, not the general direction of your claim.

        In terms of my own arrogance, I am quite fed up with these arrogant tactics of apologists, and I project arrogance to prod clear and rigorous responses. I have to qualms about saying I know more about the bible and philosophy than you do since your lack of understanding in both of these domains is clear in your responses. There is nothing worse than an amateur pompously throwing out specious commentary on notions they do not understand.

        I’m glad to see you are showing some self-reflection and candor. I can be brash and arrogant myself sometimes, but I’m working on that. I genuinely try not to be that way though since it risks making myself an obstacle to the ideas I hope to communicate. Here and now, it’s hard for me to focus on the abstract issues involved in this conversation because your approach to me has been so insulting, mean-spirited and degrading that it’s hard for me to see your claims through all that smoke. I know atheists aren’t all like that, but a lot of the ones that want to debate me are that way. For any Christian theists who’ve been that way towards you I apologize on their behalf. Whatever ideological disagreements we may have, we still should love our neighbor and even pray for our enemies. As a fellow human being I owe you due respect.

        Also, for future reference, any projected arrogance is just more jading for this cynic. I’m trying hard not to assume that atheists are all mean-spirited, angry, arrogant jerks. I know they are not all like that, but my experience often leads me to FEEL otherwise. Arrogance, towards me, doesn’t “prod clear and rigorous response,” it just makes you look like a jerk and makes it harder for me to respect you. I still owe you respect but being insulting and mean towards me doesn’t help your case.

        One example of such is your lack of understanding the relationship between knowledge and belief. The conventional usage of knowledge is simply a high degree of belief. The term “knowledge” serves little purpose apart from a pixelated tag indicating a high degree of belief in a concept that may be true or false. That is why I employ only the term “belief” in the context of epistemological discourse. If you want to stipulate a meaning of “knowledge” other than this, that will need to be done clearly.

        When I say “knowledge” I typically mean some brand of true-belief, such as justified true belief (JTB), warranted true belief, or reasonable true belief, or even just true belief. I admit a serious philosophical dispute over the role of “certainty” in knowledge. But, at least on a provisional basis I use the JTB theory of knowledge. I’m not terribly worried about Gettier Problems. I don’t think Gettier objections fully dissolve JTB, but rather lend some helpful critique so that we push further for a better sense of what counts as “justification.” By “belief” I mean, minimally, an “attitude of assent.” I understand faith, trust, and belief to be largely synonymous. And I also acknowledge a difference between a dictionary definition of a term (it’s semantic domain) versus it’s usage, which is a context-laden instance of meaning wherein a term is used to signify/convey/entail/etc. some other thing.

        I said “Your notion of salvific faith is currently so vague as to be meaningless”. This is true since the notion of salvific faith is foundational to your ideology. And you are unable to express the quality and quantity of faith necessary for salvation. You don’t have a just god if his requirements for salvation are vague. But are they vague? John 3:18 most certainly does not indicate such. Instead, you have a God who promotes irrationality since rationally belief is intrinsically gradient and not binary as seen throughout the book of John.

        I reiterate, you are overstating your case, and as such, committing a hasty generalization. Is my terminology vague or is it meaningless? I don’t see how a single term could be both. If I was grading one of your papers in my college philosophy classes, I would write in the margins: “overstatement. Please qualify your claims more carefully.” To say a vaguery is meaningless means you don’t even know THAT it’s vague because vague meanings are still meanings. If you think that my terms are not sufficiently clear, that’s fine. Please justify the level of clarity you are demanding.

        As for salvific faith there is a ton of scripture that explicates that sophisticated idea. The most thorough explanation of how saving faith works, together with the wider soteriological context, is probably Romans 1-10, but that’s a bit long. I’d also cite James 3, John 3, and Galatians as helpful passages that unpack the big idea of faith. In my own words, I’d say, at minimum, saving faith seems to be a kind of relational trust in Jesus which entails an “attitude of assent” and which normally eventuates evidential works. Hence, “faith without works is dead,” and “even the demons ‘believe’ and shudder.” Scripture does not seem to suggest any particular degree as necessary for saving faith, so long as one’s faith is located on the right object. Hence the bit about “faith as small as a mustard seed.”

        I would caution against treating theology and philosophy the same way. By that I mean, theology, as you are probably aware, doesn’t have the same starting points or methodology that philosophers often use. If you try to force that round block into a square hole it won’t fit, but not necessarily because it’s a bad piece but because your demands of it weren’t suited to that discipline. Biblical theology advances, generally, by weighing different Scriptures together applying the principle of charity and other hermeneutical principles and approximating our theology and understandings according to which passages seem clearer or more prominate for explaining others.

        You claim this is a “false dichotomy” (https://logfall.wordpress.com/false-dilemma/), and you claim I have the burden of proof to demonstrate belief can not be both gradient and binary. This reflects your gross misunderstanding of burden of proof. If you think this is a false dilemma, it behooves you to explain how. It would take merely one example to falsify my claim, and your silence smells of evasion rather than of honest objection.

        I didn’t present the terms “binary” and “degreed” as a dichotomy/dilemma, you did. That’s not a proposition I’m making. Indeed it seems patently false since a person can have faith or not have faith (binary) and the faith they do have can be anywhere along a spectrum of 1-100% (degreed). So I’m sidestepping the rest of your accusations and reasserting that you have not shown why I should think these two categories are strictly dichotomous.

        You suggested that my pointing out that rational belief is inherently gradient though decisions are binary reflect the “fallacy of the beard” (https://logfall.wordpress.com/continuum-fallacy/). You don’t understand the problem. It is you who are claiming the very disparate poles of eternal destiny are absurdly determined by some degree of belief. This is contrary to John’s treatment of belief as binary, and contrary to the notion of a just god. You can’t have a just God administering polarized eternal destinies of reward/punishment based on a continuum of belief. Simply ask yourself what you would think of a human judge who did the same. This is why criminal courts attempt to provide as nuanced a punishment as possible rather than having only release/death the only 2 options for crime. Think about how you treat your children. You would never think about eternally tormenting your children for their offenses…or would you? Would you the more God-like you became? I most certainly hope not. Your own standards run counter to the behavior of your God.

        No, I don’t say that one’s eternal fate is determined by the DEGREE of one’s belief. I’d say the object of one’s faith, not the degree is the ultimate determining factor.

        I intended the bit about the “The fallacy of the beard” to apply differently than how it’s come across to you. That fallacy would apply if you demand some neatly clarified definition distinguishing two polarities (faith “that” versus faith “in”) before accepting even a working/operational definition of either. That is, if I can’t give some perfectly exact definition of faith that satisfies your (potentially arbitrary/unreasonable) criteria then you are justified in denying the whole notion of saving “faith.” If I can’t identify where exactly abstract/cognitive faith transitions into the sort of relational trust that can save people, then (by that fallacy) you are justified in throwing all of it out. That is the fallacy of the beard. It’s fallacious to assume that the murky in-between stages of stubble-to-beard somehow disproves the fact of stubble or the fact of beards. Meanwhile, we can have many examples of people who are, by all appearances, living in and exercising that sort of “saving” faith and many others (such as demons who believe THAT Jesus is God) who do not have saving faith. I reiterate my claim that you risk/commit the fallacy of the beard and/or the clarification fallacy if you can’t justify the specific degree of clarity you are demanding.

        Quite frankly, your comments reflect a sophomoric understanding of philosophy and rational thought. But I do want to encourage you to pursue logical fallacies and rationality more. First study well clear thinking. Then reread your Bible again, this time without petitioning the God in question for wisdom since you know you would condemn this circular mode of seeking truth if Muslims were to do the same.

        Ad hominem, Ad bacculum.

        The site https://logfall.wordpress.com/ is a good place to start. It is a site I started several years ago. I will be updating it later this spring. Feel free to comment and add suggestions for relevant examples of each fallacy you have seen among nonbelievers. I do think too many of the examples are examples of theistic blunders, and would like to include cases found among other domains, including fallacies employed by atheists and agnostics.

        I will not be engaging you more on this page since I have projects such as savagesundayschool.wordpress.com and logfall.com that have become surprisingly popular these days.

        I might check out the site. But frankly, there’s a good chance I don’t because I wouldn’t want to encourage you given your habits and personality so demonstrated. I would chide myself, or fellow apologists if they showed the same arrogance and malice that you have. I respect you as a person but hope that you, in the future, tone it down so that the interesting and intelligent points you do have don’t get lost behind overstatments, ad hominems, and a generally dissmissive attitude.

        In the future, I recommend you treat your defense of Christianity as something you wish to rigorously present rather than taking an evasive stance. And if you discover that your rigorously presented ideology fails under scrutiny, I welcome you to join me here on the side of rationality.

        Point taken about the evasiveness. I don’t mean to be evasive, just tactical. I don’t try to swallow the whole hog in one bite. As for the rest of your closing, it still smells like the arrogance, presumption, and dismissive attitude from before.

        Cheers, Phil

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