Open thread for episode 22.42: Matt and Jen


Comments

  1. says

    once again [this time as] “derek” has called in to push “perennial philosophy”. once again the same running in circles. dan did a good job exposing his vapidity. derek insists on hiding behind “the research” to avoid defending whatever it is he really believes. (making him one of those folks anthony talked about at the end of lisa’s call who keep their actual positions to themselves.)

  2. says

    re last caller mark: it’s worth mentioning that a longtime tool of cult indoctrination/brainwashing is physical deprivation and social isolation. mankind learned that early.

  3. ericstl says

    One thing I meant to ask for at the start of the call was the chance to provide both my reasons *and my own counterarguments* before getting feedback. I did think about the topic a bit before calling, and I already had some objections to my own reasons. The conversation ended up being better without that, particularly given the show’s time constraints, my speaking pace (wow, it’s painful to play that back and listen to myself), and my tendency toward long-windedness and over-explanation. Still, would it be ok to do that here?

    We did discuss whether the belief matters. I put off examining this belief for a long time because I thought it didn’t matter, but I was wrong. Beliefs influence thoughts and decision making, whether subtly or overtly. There’s not much more to say there except to clarify the point about space dragons – we won’t (and shouldn’t) spend any resources searching for a space dragon because we don’t believe space dragons are a possibility. But if we did believe in some other space dragon elsewhere, then we might search for this one, which would pull resources away from pursuits that actually have a chance of giving us the real answer. Similarly, if we accept one supernatural explanation, we may be more ready to accept others, so holding onto this belief can affect me.

    —–
    As for the reasons I believe (believed?) what I do (did?):

    In discussions about consciousness, or in claims that consciousness is explainable, there’s normally an emphasis on the way information is processed. When certain sensory inputs or emotional stimuli are given, certain areas of the brain are active. If something changes in the brain (injury, chemical changes/drugs), the processing changes. With sufficiently advanced technology, we could conceivably trace detailed, specific thoughts as they occur. And yes, it’s true that one aspect of consciousness is information processing – we receive input (from senses, memory, our own thoughts), process it, and generate output (speech, actions, decisions). But there’s also another aspect, which to my knowledge can’t be externally observed. That other aspect is my awareness as I’m processing information – the fact that there is a “me” *experiencing* my senses and “hearing” my thoughts as they occur. I’m sure there are established terms to distinguish “information processing” from “awareness”, but I don’t know the correct terms, so I’ll use these. I can only observe that I am “aware”, not that anybody else is; and nobody else can observe my awareness, even if they can observe me processing information.

    We may someday have a complete understanding of the “information processing” side of consciousness, and we already have a good deal of that understanding. But I don’t think we will or can ever give a naturalistic explanation of “awareness”. That’s one reason I kept the supernatural explanation. When I said there was some sort of soul/spirit/existence, I meant at a minimum this “awareness”.

    As for existence and “awareness” continuing past death: The only way I experience unconsciousness, such as sleep, is by regaining consciousness. It’s just a temporary gap between two periods of consciousness. Permanently ceasing to be “aware” is (to me) inconceivable in the most literal sense of the word. The question, “What would it be like to never wake up?” makes as much sense to me as, “Is green faster than upward?” So I believed awareness was eternal, which also contributed to my belief that it was supernatural.

    —–
    My counterarguments (separate from the points that were raised on the show):

    * Even if we accept the assertion that we can never give a natural explanation for “awareness” (an assertion I’m still inclined to believe, since it’s difficult to investigate something that can’t be observed), why is a supernatural explanation needed? Why can’t we just say, “We can’t really look into this, so we don’t know exactly what causes it”?
    * For awareness to continue past death, it would need to move from the brain to somewhere outside the brain. Do I have any examples of my awareness living outside of me? No. Do we have any credible, verifiable reports of anybody’s awareness moving outside of them? No. Do we have any information that suggests this could be possible?
    * My lack of imagination doesn’t make something false or true. This whole thing may be arguments from ignorance, but the part about awareness being eternal because I can’t imagine otherwise is an especially egregious example. Jen said that fear of death is a bad way to make decisions, but incomprehension is just as bad.

    —–
    Does that make it a bit clearer what I was talking about? And have I missed anything important in the counterarguments?

    As I said at the end of the call, I really think I was just at a point where I needed to have the conversation out loud, even if I already knew where it would end up.

  4. bluestar says

    Eric – “What would it be like to never wake up?” Just like before you were born, before you were even conceived. What were you aware of then? Maybe you should have a conversation with OCD Tracy. She is a Christian that appears to want to be an atheist but still believe in a god, and you are an atheist who wants to believe in awareness existing after you die. Perhaps you two can hammer out something new.

  5. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @ericstl #3:

    If something changes in the brain (injury, chemical changes/drugs), the processing changes. […] But there’s also another aspect, which to my knowledge can’t be externally observed. That other aspect is my awareness

    See: anesthesia.
     

    I’m sure there are established terms to distinguish “information processing” from “awareness”

    Article: Wikipedia – Qualia
    Article: Wikipedia – Philosophical Zombie
     

    The only way I experience unconsciousness, such as sleep, is by regaining consciousness. It’s just a temporary gap between two periods of consciousness. Permanently ceasing to be “aware” is (to me) inconceivable

    You have awareness only of the present moment, with intermittent imperfect recall of events in the past. Gaps may be due to disrupted memory faculties or unconsciousness. You can go into a coma and not wake up for weeks, or remain vegetative forever. That you cannot conceive of a non-aware awareness, is only a problem if you insist that awareness is always present, even when it’s not.
     
    Further, you posit an awareness without brain-based faculties (senses [including kinesthesia], memory, language, abstract knowledge, etc), a rather bleak eternity. Or… that one spontaneously regains all those faculties (somehow) after progressively altering/losing all of them with brain damage and ultimately death.
     

    Do we have any information that suggests this could be possible?
     
    My lack of imagination doesn’t make something false or true.

    Lack of information limits your personal capacity to justifiably accept something as true. Until you learn anything at all about souls, you cannot accept that hypothesis. That is not the same as concluding it is false. Beyond true/false, a notion can also be vacuous wordplay, unworkable, and irrelevant.
     

    This whole thing may be arguments from ignorance

    Yes.

  6. Theisntist says

    Come on Matt, you’re smart enough to put an obtuse caller in their place without telling them to fuck off. When you do that I instinctively sympathize with the caller, which causes cognitive dissonance and I have to have a drink to kill the pain… but it’s 3 on a Sunday afternoon for Christ’s sake!

  7. says

    oh my …

    World famous Dead Sea Scrolls at Museum of the Bible ‘are fake’

    Five of the most valuable exhibits at the Museum of the Bible in Washington DC have been found to be fake.

    The artefacts, thought to be part of the historic Dead Sea Scrolls, will no longer be displayed.

    … “Though we had hoped the testing would render different results, this is an opportunity to educate the public on the importance of verifying the authenticity of rare biblical artefacts, the elaborate testing process undertaken and our commitment to transparency,” said Jeffrey Kloha, the chief curatorial officer for Museum of the Bible, said in a statement.

  8. Diana Sweeney says

    I listened to the show and believe that Sam was calling, ineffectively, to give Matt “better” arguments to make with theist callers. Just as Matt uses quotes from the bible to show weaknesses in the book, I think she was trying to point out what she thinks are better verses to use. She was not plainly stating her purpose and likely is not as smart as Matt. Matt employs a style of countering each point before a compound series of ideas gets all jumbled up. This is obvious useful in most cases of debate but not all are calling to debate. This style can hamper your ability to understand a caller who is imprecise or whose vocabulary is limited.
    I bet I am not the first to note how jumping in may interfere with getting the caller’s actual meaning.

  9. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To ericstl

    But I don’t think we will or can ever give a naturalistic explanation of “awareness”.

    Agreed. Whenever I think about what an answer might look like, I cannot find it, even a hypothetical answer. I think it’s asking a question which does not have a scientifically supportable answer.

    Aside: Maybe Star Trek Vulcan telepathy might provide evidence. Maybe. I’ve been thinking about this thought experiment for a while where there is another kind of physics that only interacts with things with minds, but it’s entirely fictional and irrelevant, because telepathy does not exist in the real world. Even then, would be a scientifically sound conclusion to infer that Vulcan telepathy works on all creatures that have consciousness aka first person experience? What if they met a humanoid that seemed normal except for being immune to Vulcan telepathy? Would the conclusion be that they have no souls, no first person experience? I don’t know.

    That’s one reason I kept the supernatural explanation. When I said there was some sort of soul/spirit/existence, I meant at a minimum this “awareness”.

    As for existence and “awareness” continuing past death: The only way I experience unconsciousness, such as sleep, is by regaining consciousness. It’s just a temporary gap between two periods of consciousness. Permanently ceasing to be “aware” is (to me) inconceivable in the most literal sense of the word. The question, “What would it be like to never wake up?” makes as much sense to me as, “Is green faster than upward?” So I believed awareness was eternal, which also contributed to my belief that it was supernatural.

    It’s hard to refute this. I’m somewhat sympathetic.

    Unfortunately, I have to take the cynical approach, inspired by a sort of generalized Copernican principle “I am not special”,
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copernican_principle
    and when I combine that with the following argument from Sean Carroll
    http://www.preposterousuniverse.com/blog/2011/05/23/physics-and-the-immortality-of-the-soul/
    then the most obvious conclusion is that my consciousness, my first person experience, whatever it is, is dependent on the brain to function, and without the brain, it’s not going to function. Anything else is just wishful thinking IMO.

    Also, I think you’re abusing the word supernatural, which is fine, because the word supernatural was practically invented in order to be abused in arguments like this. I’ll spare the lengthy tirade, and just provide some more links, which you’re welcome to read / watch at your leisure.

    This peer reviewed philosophy paper:
    > How not to attack Intelligent Design Creationism: Philosophical misconceptions about Methodological Naturalism
    > (final draft – to appear in Foundations of Science)
    > Maarten Boudry, Stefaan Blancke, Johan Braeckman
    https://sites.google.com/site/maartenboudry/teksten-1/methodological-naturalism

    And this lecture from Skepticon:
    > God, Science and the Problem with Nature – Scott Clifton (Theoretical Bullshit) – Skepticon 7


    For a quick take, just the following webcomic page. No context necessary.
    http://www.girlgeniusonline.com/comic.php?date=20081205

    If you missed the punchline, you should read the following.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clarke%27s_three_laws

    See also:
    https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/SufficientlyAnalyzedMagic

    Empirical evidence and experimentation are the cornerstone of The Scientific Method, and there is no reason that it should be any less effective at discovering the details of a self-consistent series of rules just because it’s called “magic” rather than “physics”.

    PS:
    The above is true, unless you’re dealing with Descartes’ malicious demon.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evil_demon
    In fact, the above tvtropes page describes this in the following sentence:

    However, in a verse where Wild Magic reigns, magic is very unlikely to appreciate efforts at such domestication, with results usually ranging from mischievous to lethal.

    I think it’s important to note that even in this kind of absurd scenario, I would still try to use science, even if the only conclusion that I can come to is “I am punished whenever I try to make sophisticated inferences about the world around me”, and then I would use science to determine which conclusions and investigations are too sophisticated or not. In other words, I think the idea of an evil demon that subverts literally all expectations is borderline logically impossible. Oh, I’m sure that an evil demon (as defined by this particular thought experiment) could greatly, greatly hamper your scientific investigation of the world that it created for you, but you can still do some things.

    And then if it starts fucking with your memory, then all hope is lost. However, one of our basic assumptions is that our memory is at least somewhat reliable albeit very error prone, and if that assumption is taken away, then all bets are off, e.g. you lose.

    PPS:
    So much for a short post. I took a different direction than usual for this rant. I make this rant often.

  10. indianajones says

    I just want to add an anecdote to Sky Captains point about anaesthesia.

    I was knocked out for an operation once and it was a very strange thing. I said to the guy giving me the shot in the arm ‘Hey that feels very pecul’ and woke up thinking ‘iar’. There was absolutely no interruption of my internal monologue. At all. It was quite jarring for reality to flip from one room to the next with no sense of transition, or time at all. Not even the sense of waking up from a deep sleep or similar in say an unfamiliar hotel room and taking a moment to figure out where I am. It actually caused me to lose all fear of death (as very much opposed to dying, not looking forward to that!). There will be no ‘me’ (or awareness, or information processing or soul or anything else) to monitor or experience a lack of life.

  11. Zigg R says

    Matts arrogance,at least as off-putting as a right-wing zealot, again doing a terrific job of pushing listeners away. Step down, Matt.

  12. says

    @indianajones

    There was absolutely no interruption of my internal monologue. At all. It was quite jarring for reality to flip from one room to the next with no sense of transition, or time at all. Not even the sense of waking up from a deep sleep or similar in say an unfamiliar hotel room and taking a moment to figure out where I am.

    i’ve had the same experience. i was under for about 20 minutes, but never experienced losing nor regaining consciousness. the world completely froze for an instant, then started up again. [cue theremin]

  13. Monocle Smile says

    Why did Sam call? To be a jerk? What a combative, obnoxious person. Got a whiff of “15 minutes of fame” from her.

  14. twarren1111 says

    Richard carrier has a nice definition of supernatural. Here’s a link: http://richardcarrier.blogspot.com/2007/01/defining-supernatural.html

    To summarize what he discusses at considerable link: supernatural is those things that only have mental components with no non mental components. Eg God is supernatural. Everything about god is in our minds. To date, we have no evidence by any non mental, ie physical or natural element, to detect or test God. The abrahamic god is completely a mental construct.

    Consciousness is a continuum. Being self aware has now been demonstrated in manta rays which are a very primitive fish. Recently, there is even evidence of insects having self awareness.

    In mammals, we evolved a paralimbic system which is where we get empathy. 1% of us are born without a completely knocked out paralimbic system. These people score on the Hare Psychopath checklist-revised either a 30 out of 40 (USA) or 20 out of 40 (Europe) indicating a significant probability of psychopathy. Subsequent testing with EEG and fMRI will then confirm total dysfunction in the paralimbic system.

    Eg with data already present Trump scores a 40 out of 40. Hence dangerouscase.org. It would be highly unlikely for functional testing not to show a knocked out paralimbic system in him. Simply put, the claim he’s a psychopath is not contradicted by any piece of evidence in his long public life. And remember, if you have 5 pieces of Dara that give a 99% chance of supporting a claim (Bayes theorem) then .99x.99x.99x.99x.99=.95 which is at the edge of statistical significance. Thus, millions of data points means these data points are at 99.999999999999999999999999999999999999999999% and so on probability!

    Thus, trump is conscious but not sentient.

    He is, literally a neocortex on a brainstem with the entire paralimbic system in the middle turned off. In other words, he’s a thinking reptile.

    So why is there any discussion about awareness not being measurable? Look at the Canadian broadcast channel series on a psychopath (Sam vaiknin) where they measure in many many ways the nonmental aspects, ie, the physical or natural aspects of his consciousness (and lack of). It is called I,psychopath.

    There is NOTHING that the brain does, NOTHING that does not have a direct, measurable, testable element. There is NOTHING supernatural about the mind.

    Thus far, all that has been duscovered are 4 forces: weak, strong, electromagnetism and gravity. EVERY FUNCTION OF THE BRAIN AND THE MIND IS LOCALIZABLE TO ANATOMICAL SITES AND CIRCUITS AND TO DATE NO ONE HAS DISCOVERED ANY OTHER FORCE THAN THESE FOUR TO EDPLAIN EVERY FINDING. ITS 99.999999999999999 SUPPORT OF THE CLAIM THAT THE BRAIN AND EVERY FUNCTION IT DOES THAT WE ARE AWARE OF TO DATE IS NOT SUPERNATURAL AT ALL. 0%!

    It’s just science.

    Stop the woo

  15. ecostarr says

    Derek’s comments on mystical experiences were really unfortunate. He basically blindsided Anthony and Daniel citing a study that he tacitly misrepresents.

    John’s Hopkins has, in fact, done a study on the universality of mystical experiences:

    https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/Press_releases/2006/07_11_06.html

    The mystical experiences were brought upon by consuming hallucinogenic mushrooms

    According to the study: “Using unusually rigorous scientific conditions and measures, Johns Hopkins researchers have shown that the active agent in “sacred mushrooms” can induce mystical/spiritual experiences descriptively identical to spontaneous ones people have reported for centuries. The resulting experiences apparently prompt positive changes in behavior and attitude that last several months, at least.”

    However, the researchers were quick to emphasize:

    “We’re just measuring what can be observed,” Griffiths, the lead Researcher, says; “We’re not entering into ‘Does God exist or not exist.’ This work can’t and won’t go there.”

    This, of course, was why Derek was unwilling to talk about the conclusions he had drawn from his own personal mystical experience.

    These studies do not constitute proof of God, but proof of universal mystical experiences, as described by psychologists.

    It’s also evident in Derek’s refusal to engage the questions that both Anthony and Daniel were asking about God claims. Just because Hindus and Buddhists can have shared mystical experiences provide no evidence for their particular version of God. Thus, such research does not constitute a reliable method to test God claims. Otherwise, why do two different people having similar mystical experiences come to completely different conclusions about the God claim? He kept circling back to the studies to evade the relevancy of their questions.

    Neurological research on “mysticism” has also not found any true connection to the God claim.

    According to Craig Aaen-Stockdale, several problems arise with this research. The first is that often those who experience these mystical experiences often used the experience to confirm their own God bias. That is, the experience was religiously attributed to a God they already believed in and only a very small minority (1-2%) religiously converted.

    So, the claim about atheists converting, as if it were a thing, misrepresents the research. Atheists that have had hallucinogenic mystical experiences are as likely to attribute such experiences to other things.

    Furthermore, Aaen-Stockdale asserts that those few studies involving “sensed presences,” the most identified “proof” of the existence of God, have been unable to be replicated by independent researchers, and these presences were often not universally described. (i.e. the sensed presence most often conformed to the particular religious bias of the person having the experience, similar to the “proof” of near-death experiences)
    Sorry about the lack of line breaks. I haven’t been able to figure out how to include them

  16. har7613 says

    Hello,
    I have been watching AE for a long time (over 3 years) on Youtube and it is a good show. Keep up the good work.

    I used to be a Christian for 20 years but I give it up and become an Atheist because of my research in the history of Christianity and study of Bible. A Christian friend give me a book called “The Reason for God” by Timothy Keller. I would like to know if anyone can tell me where I can find feedback or book review or counter argument about this book from Atheist point of view.

    Sorry that this comment is not related to the show but I don’t know where I can find this information and would like to seek help.

    Thanks in advance
    William

  17. Evil God of the Fiery Cloud says

    @har7613 – 17
    While I’m not familiar with the book or the author, taking in context clues from the various reviews on the Amazon page for it seem to infer he’s pretty standard fare for a baffle em with bullshit style apologist. There’s a 1 star review on that page which does a breakdown of his arguments and the problems he has with them, so I guess ye could start there.
    Or share em here (or at least yer understanding of them) and why ye found them compelling. Ye’d likely find more than a few people willing to pick them apart here, especially if they pertain at all to something mentioned in the episode.

  18. ecostarr says

    I thought Matt was being a bit too short and impatient with Sam, but Jen had a very reasonable question and both had a very pertinent observation.

    Jen asked why her criticisms were relevant or important, a question Sam never really answered. She just kept arguing with Matt.

    Both stated that the reason they talked so much about those things in the Bible is that these issues come up again and again in conversations with Theists. Just saying “it’s obvious” is not an adequate response. It’s insulting. Theists that bring it up because they think it is relevant. You can’t arbitrarily decide what others should or should not deem as obvious.

    Even if it should be obvious, it’s still patronizing and condescending to assume others should see something as obvious and then say so, which I believe is the main reason Matt got so angry. That kind of attitude closes off conversations with Theists . . . rapidly. You’re basically just denigrating or dismissing their beliefs, which is not very constructive for a call-in show like this and would quickly erode AXP’s credibility with people on the fence.

    just my 2 cents

  19. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To har7613
    If you’re looking for an academic historical breakdown of the founding of Christianity from the strongest atheist position, I can suggest none better than Richard Carrier’s On The Historicity Of Jesus. It advances a fringe position that Jesus likely didn’t exist as a person on Earth. However, while making that argument, it covers a ton of material, material which would be very useful in other sorts of discussions of Christianity.

    Note: Richard Carrier would be the first to agree that atheists should not use the fringe argument “Jesus didn’t exist, therefore you shouldn’t be a Christian”, because it’s a fringe position, and because – he and others say – there are better arguments. I only mention this book because it seems that you have an interest in the history of the Bible, and this is one of the best sources that I know of regarding a scholarly breakdown of the relevant facts and history of the Bible and associated facts as it relates to Christianity. I do not suggest it as an argument against Christianity, but instead as a way to learn even more relevant facts – facts which may further inform your atheism.

    Whether Jesus existed as real person or not, Jesus was not a magic man. That argument should be used instead. The argument is that Jesus the magic man definitely did not exist. We know that many of the miracles described in the Bible did not happen. We know that the census as described in the Bible to get Jesus’s birth in the right town did not happen as described (although something similar might have happened, but even then, the description in the story contains severe inaccuracies – Richard Carrier covers the facts on this particular argument somewhere online as well). We know that there was no 3 hours of darkness across the land – that would have been recorded in surviving sources from other cultures, but it wasn’t, which means it didn’t happen. We know that there wasn’t a mass resurrection of zombies that marched on town, as described in one of the Gospels. We know that the entire book of Genesis is fiction. We know that most of Exodus is fiction too – Moses didn’t exist, and there was not a mass exodus of Jewish slaves as described. Rather, IIRC, Jews were probably just another kind of Canaanite tribe in the area.

    We also know that a good powerful god does not exist. I know that people will respond with “but if Yahweh interferes, then that violates our free will”, and I respond with “Yahweh should be doing at least as much as our police. Or do you think that our police also violate our free will?”. To those who say that suffering and evil is necessary for personal growth, I mention the known story of a woman who was kept in the basement, chained up, since birth, for like 20 years, and after a certain age, her father raped her daily, and ask the person to look at me and tell me with a straight face that there wasn’t another way for personal growth. I had a friend do that to me, and I no longer talk with him.

    PS:
    If you want good books on evolution in particular, do Richard Dawkins’ The Greatest Show On Earth.

  20. says

    @EnlightenmentLiberal:

    I know that people will respond with “but if Yahweh interferes, then that violates our free will”, and I respond with “Yahweh should be doing at least as much as our police. Or do you think that our police also violate our free will?”.

    here’s another stumper for free will proponents: why does your god allow perpetrators the freedom to inflict harm but deny their victims the freedom to avoid violation?

  21. RationalismRules says

    @aarrgghh

    here’s another stumper for free will proponents: why does your god allow perpetrators the freedom to inflict harm but deny their victims the freedom to avoid violation?

    I don’t buy this, I’m afraid. Free will does not bring with it the ability to control the world to be as we want it to be, only to control our own actions. Your argument works against omni-benevolence, but not against free will.

  22. citizen_scriv says

    As frustrating as the first caller was there was no justification for the cuntish way Matt spoke to him

  23. ecostarr says

    @RationalismRules

    “I don’t buy this, I’m afraid. Free will does not bring with it the ability to control the world to be as we want it to be, only to control our own actions.”

    I think you’re missing @aarrgghh’s point.

    Giving people the free will to act shouldn’t mean tolerating clear violations of another’s free will. Murdering someone means you’ve permanently denied them their own free will.

    My favorite Tracy quote of all time.

    “If I could stop a person from raping a child, I would. That’s the difference between me and your God. He watches and says “I’m shutting the door, and you can go ahead and rape that child, and when you’re done, I’m going to punish you. If I did that people would think I was a freakin’ monster.”

    Religious types like to argue the importance of free will but seem to lose sight of the fact that giving someone the right to clearly violate another’s free will is not a noble act. Nor is preventing such violations the more serious violation of free will. There’s no sense of true justice.

    If you want to argue that such scenarios are irrelevant because a God doesn’t exist to stop such behavior, that’s fine. But, I refuse to grant one person the “free will” right to clearly and unambiguously deny the “free will” rights of another. For religious apologists to then follow that up and say that it’s important for God to permit such acts of “free will” just sounds monstrous.

  24. says

    @ecostarr: you may be arguing at cross purposes with RationalismRules, who seems to be only saying that while my so-called stumper doesn’t stump free will (as defined by RR), it just proves that god is a dick. he’s not justifying free will.

    @RationalismRules:

    Free will does not bring with it the ability to control the world to be as we want it to be, only to control our own actions. Your argument works against omni-benevolence, but not against free will.

    yes, i see your point. which should lead one to conclude that free will itself (of this type if not all) is incompatible with omnibenevolence. if god removed all sinners from the earth, leaving behind only good people (a kind of bizarro-rapture), would free will cease to exist on earth? and is there free will in heaven? if yes, then god is a major dick.

    but could a free-will-loving god have his cake and eat it too? is it not possible for god to allow free will without the suffering its victims, if the purpose of free will is to sort the heaven-bound from the hell-bound? intent, the decision to inflict harm, should be enough, especially for a god that knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men. is follow-through really necessary? if god prevented the execution of evil intent, then, in EnlightenmentLiberal’s words:

    “Yahweh should be doing at least as much as our police. Or do you think that our police also violate our free will?”.

  25. ecostarr says

    @aarrgghh You may be correct. At the same time, I felt elaborating on your statement was a useful exercise for me personally.

    I really find myself annoyed by some Christians assumptions about free will. They’re quick to denounce evil but are also just as quick to point the finger away from God and towards “free will” in order to give God a free pass. It’s like Seth Andrews said in his presentation on The God of Cancer. He gets all of the credit and none of the blame.

  26. Lamont Cranston says

    aarrgghh says #25 says…

    the decision to inflict harm, should be enough, especially for a god that knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men. is follow-through really necessary?

    That’s my line, “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows…”
    🙂
    Lamont Cranston

  27. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    I <3 that movie, The Shadow. It's the perfect kind of corny, cheesy, film noir(?). Does it count as noir? I feel like yes.

  28. favog says

    Sorry this is a block, I wrote it as paragraphs but the preview option indicates it won’t post that way.
    Film noir, if I understand correctly, can’t have a happy ending. So I wouldn’t categorize The Shadow there.

    And while I’ve never been in the military, since the “foxhole” thing is supposed to be a metaphor for that time of what may be the ultimate crisis, I’m still qualified to say I’m another atheist who’s been in a foxhole and stayed one. A year ago, I was given the word that the cancer I’ve been battling since June 2016 has spread in a way that made surgery useless and rendered chemo merely a way of delaying the inevitable. Not for a moment did I think to seek divine guidance or comfort.

    As an extra so not to leave that story on a grim note, earlier this year my chemotherapist confirmed that I was eligible for an experimental immunotherapy option. I took it, and after a couple of months the big tumor had shrunk to the point that if it still exists, it’s too small to see. Had I passed on treatment entirely, this is about the time I was expected to be no more, and with chemo I’d be about half done … and feeling the miserable effects of chemo. Instead I feel great, and while it’s experimental they can’t say what to expect, but it’s possible that the cancer is actually gone. Yay, science!

  29. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Nit: I’ve seen some reviews online refer to The Shadow as neo-noir, or as an intentional throwback to some of the style elements of noir. The joke that is at least half true is that noir is just a name for a genre of gritty detective stories.

  30. RationalismRules says

    @ecostarr

    Giving people the free will to act shouldn’t mean tolerating clear violations of another’s free will. Murdering someone means you’ve permanently denied them their own free will.

    What you’re talking about seems to be more some sort of right to self-determination. Free will is simpler: given a set of options, are you able to make the choice between them, or is the choice imposed on you? It’s not about what options you are presented with, it’s just about whether you are able to choose between them for yourself.
     

    Religious types like to argue the importance of free will but seem to lose sight of the fact that giving someone the right to clearly violate another’s free will is not a noble act.

    Nobility is irrelevant. In theistic terms, free will is simply the explanation of why the deity doesn’t impose belief on us – because coming to belief of our own accord (which is, of course, nonsensical) is apparently more valuable to the deity than simply having the belief implanted.

  31. RationalismRules says

    @aarrgghh

    if god removed all sinners from the earth, leaving behind only good people (a kind of bizarro-rapture), would free will cease to exist on earth?

    No, it would still exist. All free will operates within constraints – the natural laws, at a minimum. Removing all badness from earth would simply change the constraints. So long as you still get to choose, even if all the ‘evil’ options have been taken off the table, you’re still exercising free will.
     

    is it not possible for god to allow free will without the suffering its victims, if the purpose of free will is to sort the heaven-bound from the hell-bound? intent, the decision to inflict harm, should be enough, especially for a god that knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men. is follow-through really necessary?

    Interesting question. If, whenever someone intended to inflict harm on someone else, their action was prevented by a benevolent deity, wouldn’t we eventually come to realize that we couldn’t impose harm on others, and even the idea of it ultimately disappear by atrophy?

  32. ecostarr says

    @RationalismRules

    This, of course, is where Theists ultimately fail.

    “In theistic terms, free will is simply the explanation of why the deity doesn’t impose belief on us – because coming to belief of our own accord (which is, of course, nonsensical) is apparently more valuable to the deity than simply having the belief implanted.

    If an all-powerful deity exists, it is not necessary for the diety to alter or override humanity’s free will. It goes straight to Tracy’s comment. According to the Christian Bible, God knows people better than they know themselves. When someone chooses to murder another, the “act of free will” occurs before the completion of the act.

    God could simply cause the gun to misfire, the knife to miss vital organs or for the rapist to slip and fall, banging his head and rendering himself unconscious. The freely chose decision has already been made. People step in all the time to prevent such acts of evil, sometimes even sacrificing themselves to do so, yet God can’t be bothered. For Christian theists, the evil men commit must succeed. It’s not enough that they’ve already committed themselves to an act of evil, they must succeed. Why? If God exists, why must God stand idly by and let it happen? The Christian God is even worse because the evil men commit is not a permanent barrier to heaven. Theiest can simply ask for forgiveness after the fact and boom they’re own personal “get out of hell free” card.

    As I said, if people want to argue that such scenarios are irrelevant because a God doesn’t exist to stop such behavior, that’s fine. But, if God is all-powerful, He doesn’t have to alter your free will to stop you.

  33. RationalismRules says

    @ecostarr
    There is a good argument as to why free will is irrelevant under an omniscient and omnipotent god, if the theist’s notion of omniscience includes knowledge of future events (which is well supported in the Xtian bible).

    You’ve probably already encountered it, but just in case you haven’t:
    – If the god is omniscient it knows all possible versions of the universe with all possible future outcomes
    – If the god is omnipotent it could have chosen to create any version of the universe, with any set of future outcomes
    – The god chose to create this version of the universe, including this particular outcome
    – Therefore this particular outcome is god’s choice, whether or not it is arrived at through free will

    If the god genuinely wants all humans to believe in it, it could have created a universe where all humans believed in it through their free will. That it chose to create this universe, where atheists and believers-in-the-wrong-god exist, clearly indicates that it wanted them to exist.

  34. says

    @RationalismRules:

    If, whenever someone intended to inflict harm on someone else, their action was prevented by a benevolent deity, wouldn’t we eventually come to realize that we couldn’t impose harm on others, and even the idea of it ultimately disappear by atrophy?

    heh, you say that almost like that’d be a bad thing. luckily for theists, god is a major dick.

    @favog:

    you sure it wasn’t the thoughts ‘n prayers? (j/k!) congrats on the recovery, from a fellow survivor.

  35. ecostarr says

    @RationalismRules

    “There is a good argument as to why free will is irrelevant under an omniscient and omnipotent god, if the theist’s notion of omniscience includes knowledge of future events”

    I’m familiar with the argument. It’s a fascinating argument that I find compelling. To be honest, I personally think it argues more against Intelligent Design than free will. If there were a multitude of possible universes you can create, why create one where your favored species can choke on its inhaled food, especially when other mammals on that planet–who are supposedly not His favored species–are better equipped.

    I don’t personally believe it makes free will irrelevant, however. Yes, you can create a universe that, once set in motion, can yield a particular outcome where free will is not a consideration. That said, even in that created universe there are millions of possible outcomes. Think Doctor Strange in Infinity war. Outcomes that could be influenced either by interfering with free will or by tweaking individual elements of that universe–essentially fomenting various butterfly effects. So, that would suggest free will is still a relevant concern.

    Total agreement on this: “If the god genuinely wants all humans to believe in it, it could have created a universe where all humans believed in it through their free will.”

  36. favog says

    aarrgghh, I know you were just kidding with that question, but actually, I can be sure. After the surgery in June 2016, I got chemo for six months or so. This was followed by a scan that found me cancer-free, but as a survivor, you would probably know that’s not the end of it. I got periodic scans over the summer of 2017, and was still found to be cancer free. Going into fall, I passed by a street-preacher. Usually I ignore these guys, but this dude had a kid with him, a guy about 14 or so I would guess, and I had to make a remark about how he shouldn’t be filling this youngster’s head with nonsense. This lead to a discussion of sorts, which included the preacher asking about any recent or current ailments. I mentioned the cancer, so to demonstrate to me the Power and Love of Our Savior Jeebus, he gave a prayer of blessing that the disease was well and truly gone. On my next scan, they found a mass the size of a golf ball, and when they went to remove it surgically they found little spots of cancer scattered through my peritoneum. So everything was fine till Jesus screwed it up and science had to come to fix things up again.

  37. RationalismRules says

    @ecostarr

    …even in that created universe there are millions of possible outcomes … that could be influenced either by interfering with free will or by tweaking individual elements of that universe

    Not if the god knows the future. If the future is knowable then it is predetermined. If the outcome is changeable how can it be known in advance?

  38. ecostarr says

    @RationalismRules

    “Not if the god knows the future. If the future is knowable then it is predetermined.”

    Just because something is known to happen doesn’t mean there wasn’t free will. Remember theists argue that God knows you better than you know yourself, so he knows what you will do before you decide to do it. Just b/c he knows what action you will freely choose, doesn’t mean you did not choose that action freely.

    If instead, your argument is that all decisions are the result of a series of influences and previous actions, then no one really has free will anyway, whether those actions are known in advance or not.

    “If the outcome is changeable how can it be known in advance?”

    I think you need to read or play a few CYOA games/novels to get what I’m saying. It’s all about possible decision trees.

  39. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To RR
    Depends on the nuance of what you mean. Let me try to channel Dan Dennett. When someone says that this is what the future will be, they often mean “This is what the future will be if I did the normal thing X. However, I now know this, and I might adjust my actions based on this knowledge, thereby changing future.”. And what does it mean to “change the future”? Here, they simply mean “The future is not the future that I anticipated. If determinism was true, I was always going to take these actions, but the future that will be is not the future that I anticipated.”. The language at face value is unclear, but you can easily clear up what someone means when they use this language.

    So, if this god thing knows the future, is that like humans knowing the future, where they can anticipate the future that is likely to happen assuming that they took actions which they would normally take without that knowledge? Because as soon as this god thing obtained this knowledge, then it would take actions based on this knowledge of this anticipated future, thereby “changing” the future.

    Or, does this god thing know the future like a LaPlacian Demon? Is the LaPlacian Demon also capable of predicting its own actions? I have some serious information theory and computation theory problems with the existence of such a thing. It would violate practically everything that know about how reality works. However, suppose such a thing exists. So, it knows the future, including the actions it will take, and to the extent that it decides anything, it always happens to decide to take the actions that it saw that it would take. It reminds me a lot of the aliens of Slaughterhouse-Five. That element of the story always stuck with me, precisely because of how ludicrous the entire thing sounded. The notion of such a thing existing appears to me to be really, really silly. The notion of an all-powerful all-knowing god is borderline nonsense to me. I’m ok with a god that is like an operator of The Matrix, who can change anything that they want within the realms of logical possibility and computation theory, which gets you close, but it’s not the same thing. This other thing, like the aliens of Slaughterhouse-Five, are just so alien to me that the possibility of their existence seems farcical. In short, how can you be anything like a human, with the ability to digest and process information and take actions, but also fatalistically stuck on pursuing the same actions that you foresee yourself doing, except inside of “bad” science-fiction.

  40. RationalismRules says

    @ecostarr
    Are we still talking about a situation where an omniscient god knows the future?
     

    Just because something is known to happen doesn’t mean there wasn’t free will. Remember theists argue that God knows you better than you know yourself, so he knows what you will do before you decide to do it. Just b/c he knows what action you will freely choose, doesn’t mean you did not choose that action freely.

    I wasn’t saying that free will doesn’t operate in the known-future paradigm, I was responding to your statement that the outcomes could be changed / influenced. I don’t see how that can be if the outcomes are known in advance.
     

    I think you need to read or play a few CYOA games/novels to get what I’m saying. It’s all about possible decision trees.

    Decision trees lead to an ultimate outcome. CYOA games/stories lead to a endpoint.

    Let’s say you are going to play a CYOA game today. If a deity knows in advance all the choices you will freely make and which outcome you will ultimately reach, and the deity is incapable of being wrong, how is it possible that you take a different path?

  41. RationalismRules says

    @EL
    Well, we’re discussing ‘knowing the future’ in relation to an omniscient deity, so I think that has to be the LaPlacian Demon, because ‘anticipating an expected future’ doesn’t really cut it with omniscience. If you expect a future that does not eventuate, then you can hardly be considered all-knowing, can you?

    I don’t buy the watered down versions of omni-[insert power here]. For example, I don’t see the point of claiming a deity to be all-powerful ‘within limits’, because that immediately tells you that it lacks the power to transcend its limits. So limited-powerful, not all-powerful.
     

    The notion of an all-powerful all-knowing god is borderline nonsense to me.

    I agree, except I’d say it’s not just borderline, it’s straight up logically contradictory, because of the known-future / changed-future dilemma.

    I really like one of the points Scott Clifton makes in that video you posted above: if whatever the god wants to happen always happens, that is effectively a natural law, which the god is subject to.

    If I were going to subscribe to any form of theism it would be one of the polytheistic systems, because they don’t tend to claim omni-anything for their gods. Their gods are still limited in scope, and they have the added bonus of capricious and cruel gods to explain why bad shit happens.

  42. ecostarr says

    @RationalismRules

    “If a deity knows in advance all the choices you will freely make and which outcome you will ultimately reach, and the deity is incapable of being wrong, how is it possible that you take a different path?”

    Nevermind. I was speaking hypothetically from the perspective a theistic God making changes without violating free will. Yes, you’re correct that the “you” can’t take any other path other than the ones defined by your choices. My point is that a diety could alter the physical circumstances so that a particular choice is closed off to you, thus altering events. Your gun misfires in the act of shooting, you miss your target, per my previous comments.

    We’re kinda going in circles now, so don’t bother to reply, you’ll just be covering old terrain. You’re not understanding my point and I don’t see evidence of a God or the ability of an all-powerful being to alter one’s path in life, so this is ultimately just mental masturbation. Let’s just drop it.

  43. har7613 says

    @Evil God of the Fiery Cloud says -18
    Thanks for your comment. I’ll certainly read the comment/review at amazon and post my comment here after reading (it may take me some time.) Feedback and comments on my review are welcome and the moderate can open a blog to discuss it if people are interested.

    Thanks
    William

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