Comments

  1. says

    Mark Twain:Education: that which reveals to the wise, and conceals from the stupid, the vast limits of their knowledge.

  2. says

    This reminds me of two things:1. Somewhere in the back of my head I recall a public discussion about whether or not (or how) incompetent people (would) know they’re incompetent. And I guess that sort of depends on the arena of knowlege. It wouldn’t be hard for me to know I don’t know squat about composing music. But I might overestimate my ability to do something less specific–like manage a project.2. I recall an episode of the Simpsons where Bart (who is with Milhouse) takes some binoculars and looks at a speaking pair of people. Milhouse says, “What are they saying?” Bart replies “I don’t know/can’t tell.” Milhouse says, “I thought you said you could read lips?” Bart says, “I assumed I could.”I love that answer. The idea that I should assume I have a skill until such time as I am called upon to use it and find I don’t have it. It’s funny “logic.”

  3. says

    From this day forth, all creationist minions and other foot soldiers for brain-dead ideologies where the thinking can be summed up with the sentence “I know everything even though I don’t know squat” shall don the label (and of their own, God-given free will) “dunkrugs”. Creationist propagandists and leaders, on the other hand, shall continue to don the label “liars”.

  4. says

    As far as I can tell, there’s a God. I have reasons to think this is the case (let’s say that these reasons are cosmological, axiological, noological, and existential reasons–or conversely, I can’t make sense of the existence of the world, the normativity or moral values, the existence of minds and mental properties, and my own experience of the world in naturalistic terms) and no really compelling reasons to think it’s not the case.The various problems of evil are always dependent on the theology they purport to defeat and there are numerous longstanding theologies that simply don’t succumb to serious POE objections.So that makes me a theist. Now I could be wrong but I don’t think I’m obviously wrong and I don’t think I’m a dumb person.In the broadest sense, I’m a creationist. I think that the universe is the product of a creative power. (I infer that that power is personal, but that’s not particularly important.) Anyway, I’m certainly no atheist.So, how is it that I’m evidently stupid for thinking that the universe and its various irreducible attributes is the product of some non-natural being? what is the overwhelming (and obvious) evidence of atheism that I’m missing?

  5. says

    Johannes DeSilentio:So, how is it that I’m evidently stupid for thinking that the universe and its various irreducible attributes is the product of some non-natural being? One of the problems I have with a non-natural being producing natural things, like us, is what is the mechanism? We exist in the natural domain exclusive of the non-natural domain. Is there a non-natural force that can jump to the natural domain? If so, then that force becomes a natural force and can be detected by natural instrumentation. If one argues that the natural can be controlled by the non-natural, then my sense of logic will not allow me to follow.

  6. Martin says

    So, how is it that I’m evidently stupid for thinking that the universe and its various irreducible attributes is the product of some non-natural being? what is the overwhelming (and obvious) evidence of atheism that I’m missing?Can you define “non-natural,” explain how it is possible for a “being” of any kind to be non-natural, explain said being’s attributes, and describe the mechanisms by which such a being creates natural universes by an act of will — for starters? If not, then resorting to a such an ill-defined and nebulous concept like “God” to explain things in nature about which you cannot otherwise “make sense” is little more than “god of the gaps” all over again, the standard fallacy of the argument from ignorance. This does not make a believer automatically stupid, but it does reflect a desire to project one’s own humanity upon the universe in the effort to make the universe less big and mysterious and lonely. The fact is, though, that simply not being able to make sense of the universe unless one puts a human face to it doesn’t mean there aren’t any natural explanations, only that they haven’t been found, or understood, or (if both found and understood) dismissed as emotionally unsatisfying.As for any “overwhelming evidence” for atheism, I think it’s more accurate to state that, lacking compelling evidence for a deity, atheism is simply the rational default position to take. Remember, the burden of proof for any claim is on those asserting the existence of the thing in question, not on the skeptics. There is no need of “overwhelming evidence of atheism” to accept the validity of the position any more than one needs “overwhelming evidence” of the nonexistence of unicorns to choose not to believe in unicorns. It’s the lack of overwhelming evidence in favor of the claimed being that makes it sensible to refrain from belief.The various problems of evil are always dependent on the theology they purport to defeat and there are numerous longstanding theologies that simply don’t succumb to serious POE objections.Well, I imagine so, but as far as I can see, theology in its entirety is little more than rhetorical masturbation. Where the existence of a deity is concerned, I’d very much prefer the “show don’t tell” approach, if one were ever forthcoming.Anyway, the creationists that I’ve lumped under the banner of Dunning-Kruger are the fools like Ken Ham and the proponents of ID, who repeatedly insist on trotting out evidence that isn’t evidence, tortuous arguments against modern science that were refuted decades ago, and outright lies, and who do it all with a smug arrogance designed to make the great unwashed think they possess great expertise in the subject when in fact they have less than none. It’s up to you to determine, regardless of having the basic theistic belief in a creator deity, if you belong in their camp or otherwise support them. Kenneth Miller and other theistic scientists, who understand and fully accept evolutionary biology, certainly don’t.

  7. says

    Anyway, the creationists that I’ve lumped under the banner of Dunning-Kruger are the fools like Ken Ham and the proponents of ID, who repeatedly insist on trotting out evidence that isn’t evidence, tortuous arguments against modern science that were refuted decades ago, and outright lies, and who do it all with a smug arrogance designed to make the great unwashed think they possess great expertise in the subject when in fact they have less than none.In simpler terms: the theistards.

  8. says

    Thanks for your response, Nal.One of the problems I have with a non-natural being producing natural things, like us, is what is the mechanism? We exist in the natural domain exclusive of the non-natural domain.I certainly wouldn’t agree with the assertion in your second sentence. I suppose the critical issue is what’s natural? (I probably shouldn’t have used the term non-natural in reference to God.)The better way to say this would be to say that there’s a non-physical, agentic cause behind the world. Now I take human minds to be both natural (that is beings found in nature) and non-physical. I don’t think that minds and mental properties can be reduced to brains, the structure of the brain, or events in the brain.So my decision to raise my right arm is not, contrary to physicalism, is not pre-determined by physical laws and the state of the world at any given moment. It is the free decision of an agent.So the objection you are raising is similar to the typical objection to Cartesian dualism (and most forms of dualism). How does a non-physical agent (God or a human soul) cause physical events?I admit that I am unable to describe the mechanism by which this happens. I’m not entirely sure I need to though. It would be nice if I were able to do that. But as I said, I don’t know why I should have to.The problems of physicalism, however, run so deep and counter to our experience of the world I’m not sure it can be regarded as viable. Reductive views of mind are obviously false (the alien brain thought experiment is a good counter example) and there are a myriad of defeaters for functionalism. I think that Jaegwon Kim’s arguments against functionalism are sound. He of course is a physicalist who simply paints himself into a corner by rejecting both reductive and functionalists theories of mind.If I could make sense of how my thought of Paris in the spring is identical to some c-fiber firing in my brain. (My thought has certain textural qualities and conjures up various qualia, none of which can possibly be found in a c-fiber firing.) My intuition that mental events are wholly distinct from brain states is so strong I just can’t see how to reject dualism. The fact that I can’t explain it is hardly a problem for me when the alternative seems to result in obviously fallacious conclusions.Is there a non-natural force that can jump to the natural domain?EvidentlyIf so, then that force becomes a natural force and can be detected by natural instrumentation.I don’t see how this follows. I’m not even entirely sure what you mean here. I think we’re equivocating on the term “natural” again. Sorry… I think that’s my fault.If one argues that the natural can be controlled by the non-natural, then my sense of logic will not allow me to follow.I guess I can’t account for your sense of logic. I fail to see any incoherence in the idea that a non-physical being could be the cause of the physical world.The physical world certainly demands some cause (given the evidence of Big Bang cosmology along with certain considerations arising from philosophy of time) and that cause should be non-physical if current cosmological judgments are correct that space and matter began to exist.

  9. Martin says

    I admit that I am unable to describe the mechanism by which this happens. I’m not entirely sure I need to though. It would be nice if I were able to do that. But as I said, I don’t know why I should have to.Well, how about so that people who are skeptical about the very notion of a “non-natural” or “non-physical” realm, let alone beings that are purported to reside in it and create natural universes, can take your views seriously? The main issue at hand is this: it may satisfy some “intuition” one has to propose other realms of existence as explanations for the things that go on in our realm. But intuitions and an inability to make sense of things, while certainly good starting points, are not end points, and stronger evidence is required. So for my part, I’d have to say yes, if a theist insists on explaining the natural by means of the non-natural/supernatural/whatevernatural, then I need to see a pretty thorough line of evidence backing the claims up, if only so that I can have some way of telling that what the person is proposing is more than just a figment of his imagination.I fail to see any incoherence in the idea that a non-physical being could be the cause of the physical world.I don’t see any incoherence in the idea that flying pixies are the cause of rain. That doesn’t make it a true proposition. What form would a non-physical being take, and how does such a being go about creating universes by will? You may not feel like an answer to those questions is necessary, but it is for the rest of us who aren’t ready to accept the idea as axiomatic.

  10. says

    Hi Martin,Can you define “non-natural,” explain how it is possible for a “being” of any kind to be non-natural, explain said being’s attributes, and describe the mechanisms by which such a being creates natural universes by an act of will — for starters?That would be an impressive start, wouldn’t it?Given certain cosmological considerations, in particular, I think that a number of properties can be adduced as it pertains to the world’s cause. The cause should be non-physical, maybe non-temporal, have great creative power (given also some teleological considerations), and I think agentic. The main reason is that if the cause did not “begin” to cause its effect then it would be eternally causing its effect. (I’m sorry for the choppiness of this last sentence. Hopefully it’s clear enough.) But if the cause-effect event at the root of our universe were eternal then the universe would be eternal.Since the cause “began” to cause its effect I think there’s reason to infer that an the cause is agentic. For example, if I knew that there was a rock sitting in my front yard (I had seen it sitting there earlier in the day) and later I see it flying through my front window I would ask, “Who threw that?” I certainly wouldn’t believe that the rock picked itself up and flew through the window without an agent cause. (You, as a naturalist, cannot give counter-examples that make use of things like wind or any other physical cause… “before” the big bang you don’t have a physical system at your disposal.)So I think we know how to determine that some causes are agentic in nature. Say if you found your front door broken and spray paint on your wall. You would know it was the product of a person, not an earthquake or hurricane or anything like that.So if we have reasons to infer an agentic cause in the world (and again I don’t think minds can be given a physical account, nor can moral values be given a natural account, and certainly the provenance of the universe cannot have a natural account because there is no natural system outside of the physical universe) then we can know a number of this causes properties.I really don’t think it’s that different from how we infer the properties of atomic particles. We know, defeasibly, what they are because they are have great explanatory power as entities.If not, then resorting to a such an ill-defined and nebulous concept like “God” to explain things in nature about which you cannot otherwise “make sense” is little more than “god of the gaps” all over again, the standard fallacy of the argument from ignorance.As I mentioned I think my concept is fairly clear and coherent. Defeasible, yes, but not ill-defined with regard to the explanations it purports to provide.This does not make a believer automatically stupid, but it does reflect a desire to project one’s own humanity upon the universe in the effort to make the universe less big and mysterious and lonely. That’s entirely possible. In fact, I think it’s probably true as far as it goes. Most people probably do find the atheistic view of the world to bleak to seriously consider. (I’m fairly sure this is one of my most basic motivations.) The other considerations I have raised, however, really don’t succumb to this external objection; they should be addressed on their own terms.Even if I came to agree with you that belief in God arose only (not just partially or even primarily) because we are afraid of the cold, impersonal vastness of the world and wish to believe that there is a personal God that transcends the world, it wouldn’t follow that there aren’t also clear reasons for thinking that there is a God that are more compelling than their negation.The fact is, though, that simply not being able to make sense of the universe unless one puts a human face to it doesn’t mean there aren’t any natural explanations, only that they haven’t been found, or understood, or (if both found and understood) dismissed as emotionally unsatisfying.I suppose we just haven’t “found” the proper natural explanation for things like minds, the provenance of the world, and various other features (e.g., moral features, aesthetic features) but that’s a check that’s taking a long time to cash. I think, all things being equal, in lieu of any such explanation, one is well within his epistemic rights to believe there’s a God while the epistemic warrant of atheism is rather suspect.The whole “give us time, we’ll find it” response is a typically empiricist retort that misses the fact that there’s really nothing to find, per se. These are philosophical questions, not scientific questions, properly speaking. It’s as if naturalist cosmologists are spelunking black holes looking for physical evidence of some sort. That’s not really what’s happening; these discussions are metaphysical in nature.Since atheism has none of the explanatory power that theism enjoy, I think we are more than justified in believing there’s a God. I mean, it’s one thing to explain something (even if the entity adduced is distasteful to you) and another thing to explain away things that demand an explanation. Theism explains, atheism explains away.As for any “overwhelming evidence” for atheism, I think it’s more accurate to state that, lacking compelling evidence for a deity, atheism is simply the rational default position to take.I don’t see how atheism is the default position. Atheism is not merely soft agnosticism. It’s not a claim to lack knowledge but a claim to have positive knowledge that God does not exist. The justification for believing the non-existence of God does not follow Your failure to grasp the evidence of his existence.This is the old forensic aphorism: absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. But as I said, I really don’t think we suffer an absence of evidence.Take this for example: it is very difficult for me to give an account of time. As Augustine said, if you don’t ask me what time is, I know, but once you ask me, I don’t know. But the existence of time is nearly indubitable. We may give different accounts but most people in all societies and all times (pun, I guess) have believed in something called time. We really can’t give it a physical account. I’m not sure what that would be. But still time is something . It has certain features like flow and direction (past to future, not the other way around). Now if there were skeptics about time then I suppose they might say, “I don’t see any empirical evidence for time. So there’s no clear reason to believe in time. You need to prove that there’s time. The burden is on you.” Most of us would just shrug our shoulders. Evidently there’s time.In the case of God, I think we have a far clearer concept and even more evidence. Your insistence that the theism is wholly mysterious to you is not a good enough reason to think that you inhabit the default position given that belief in God is statistically normal. You have to give some account of belief that also gives an account of the other considerations I raise, again not something that merely explains it away in an implausible way.Remember, the burden of proof for any claim is on those asserting the existence of the thing in question, not on the skeptics.I think the burden of proof is on anyone who affirms a proposition that isn’t properly basic for that person. If you are saying “Atheists know that there’s no God” then I’d need to know what grounds that knowledge other than “well, I don’t see the evidence,” I do… so your lack of belief doesn’t really help me see how atheism might be true.There is no need of “overwhelming evidence of atheism” to accept the validity of the position any more than one needs “overwhelming evidence” of the nonexistence of unicorns to choose not to believe in unicorns.Sure there is. Belief in God is really not on par with belief in unicorns. I realize that you don’t hold belief in God i
    n high esteem but, on the other hand, you consider yourself an atheist, not an aunicornist. I think you realize that the two concepts are quite incomparable.Well, I imagine so, but as far as I can see, theology in its entirety is little more than rhetorical masturbation.Maybe much of it is, but I think that sober thinking about God is viable. You, for example, are engaging in it, aren’t you? You are able to make sensible statements about what God may or may not be and even make judgements about whether such a being could exist. These are largely grounded in your modal intuitions. I’m a theologian… what’s so different with what I’m doing other than the fact that you don’t like my belief in God?

  11. says

    Johannes DeSilentio:Now I take human minds to be both natural (that is beings found in nature) and non-physical. I don’t think that minds and mental properties can be reduced to brains, the structure of the brain, or events in the brain.Do you believe that minds and mental properties can exist without a brain? If yes, please provide an example. If no, then a brain is a necessary condition for a mind and mental properties. A (healthy) brain is sufficient for mind and mental properties as can be demonstrated by knowing someone with an advanced stage of Alzheimer’s. That person has truly lost their mind, their memories, and their personality. However one defines mind and mental properties, those with Alzheimer’s have lost both. They’ve also lost part of their brain to disease. If minds and mental properties can not be reduced to the brain, then brain diseases would have no effect on a person’s mind and their mental properties.

  12. says

    Johannes DeSilentio:Atheism is not merely soft agnosticism. It’s not a claim to lack knowledge but a claim to have positive knowledge that God does not exist.This is false. Even Dawkins, by his own admission, would not fall under this definition of atheism. Atheism is simply not believing in God or gods. A claim of positive knowledge that God does not exist is absurd. I would love to have positive knowledge that God exists or doesn’t exist. Either way. But no such knowledge exists, either way. I’m surprised you would make such an error.

  13. says

    “If I could make sense of how my thought of Paris in the spring is identical to some c-fiber firing in my brain. (My thought has certain textural qualities and conjures up various qualia, none of which can possibly be found in a c-fiber firing.) My intuition that mental events are wholly distinct from brain states is so strong I just can’t see how to reject dualism. The fact that I can’t explain it is hardly a problem for me when the alternative seems to result in obviously fallacious conclusions.”Obviously fallacious according to your “intuition” – by which I must state my rejection of quantum mechanics and big bang cosmology, despite the overwhelming evidence that attests to both. If science has taught us anything, it’s that human intuition isn’t necessarily a reliable indicator for what’s true. Creationism is entirely intuitive (who has ever seen a horseshoe constructing a blacksmith, after all? Doesn’t it seem obvious that our world could only have been created by a intelligent god?), but that doesn’t make it a viable alternative to evolution. Is it any coincidence that the human brain is the most complex machine in the known universe, and that it is inhabited by (or manifests) our minds? All that biological technology, and yet it’s redundant, because supposedly a non-physical entity – an irreducible homunculus – is really in charge. “nor can moral values be given a natural account”Actually, they can: “The Moral Instinct.”

  14. says

    The Dunnink-Kruger effect is indeed interesting… only problem is it’s hard to tell which side of the divide you fall on. I don’t know, but perhaps we are the overconfident fools.

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