Comments

  1. Lamont Cranston says

    Is there something about being a theist that prevents one from providing a yes or no answer to a simple yes or no question? I kind of know the answer, but it was getting down right ludicrous today.

    I just don’t remember experiencing that problem myself.

    Lamont Cranston

  2. Evil God of the Fiery Cloud says

    I watched the Talk Heathen from earlier today and can now understand why Matt looked so exhausted. Holy shit what a fucking mess…

  3. jacobfromlost says

    Remember that woman who called in years and years ago to tell Matt that “there are those who would say they know god in their heart” and that she feels god in her “heart area”, and Matt said she should see a doctor and his heart pumps blood? (And then she said something like, “Come to think of it, your heart may only pump blood.”)

    Now we have a dude calling in and saying hearts pumping blood proves god too.

    Once again, the theist argument falls back on “Whatever you see is evidence for whatever I say”.

  4. t90bb says

    hilarity…..and this is the best the believers have???

    perhaps matt is so sharp the more intelligent theists just stay away??? holy shit

  5. jabbly says

    @t90bb

    In my experience the only difference is that they have better debating skills not that their arguments are fundamentally any better. You may not be able to polish a turd but you can roll it in glitter.

  6. speedofsound says

    Feeling god ‘in your heart’ is the core problem with changing the minds of the religious. Picking on them and discounting them when they express this makes good theater but is a shit way to promote a secular way of life. They actually DO feel something very powerful and until we can account for that with naturalism few friends will be won.
    This of course is my particular hobbyhorse and I like to beat the horse.
    If you do not understand what these people are feeling, or in the case of the converts do not remember or were confused by the feeling, then you are missing a really fucking important thing about being a human being. As an atheist who would convert a believer, what are you offering them to replace this powerful subjective experience? The feeling of being right? Is that a fun feeling?

  7. unfogged says

    The powerful subjective feeling of “feeling god in your heart” doesn’t need to be replaced at all since the feeling is part of being human. What needs to change is the idea that “god” is the the target of that feeling instead of friends, family, and being a part of a vast universe. Taking love for others and for learning and understanding and wrapping it up in a box labelled god limits the ability to appreciate it fully. Many ex-theists talk about how scary it was to give up “god” because they thought they would end up with a huge hole in their life where that powerful human feeling was but the fact that it is a big part of being human means that it is still there — just no longer directed at an imaginary target. Giving up god doesn’t take away anything, it opes the door to everything.

  8. Paul Money says

    @ 9. Speed of Sound
    Is it the purpose of this show to convert anybody? Letting go of religion is a long slow process of chipping away at a structure built with a lifetime of poor ideas. Nobody is going to be deconverted today. There is no equivalent to being taken over by the Holy Spirit.
    There is no “fun feeling” about being a secular humanist, any more than sobriety has any fun to offer the alcoholic or the drug addict or indeed the schizophrenic. Patients go off their meds because it can be more fun to be crazy than to be sedated!
    One thing that AXP has done over the years is to put on show reasonable, bright and amusing people as the face of atheism. Pity we’ve just lost a whole slew of them. Five minutes of Phil chatting about what he has done this last week probably does more good than Matt winning the argument again.
    In my view, winning the argument every week against theists who couldn’t punch their way out of a paper bag has become boring. I’ll start watching it again if it broadens its horizons and becomes the Humanist Experience or some such.

  9. speedofsound says

    @unfogged (#10) Yes. That is the point but it actually needs to be emphasized. All these deep feelings are an easy and natural extension of being an organism in the world. The problem is that it isn’t like like our rational thought skills. Theists actually believe that the non-rational feelings one gets from just being alive are from some god. Just like the now banned Johns Hopkins psilocybin guy believes his mushroom experience of noesis is from some god/consciousness/ground of being. It’s actually what it’s like to be a physical organism with a brain doing some shit we are not used to.

    Rationality is a very small part of our being alive.

    But I agree with you. Just do not agree with the inflectiona and emphasis.

  10. speedofsound says

    @Paul Money Will respond to the rest of your post later but damn.

    any more than sobriety has any fun to offer the alcoholic or the drug addict

    I don’t think you understand addiction and recovery.

  11. Altitudes says

    I don’t like Matt’s approach to possibility. I think Rationality Rules had a similar disagreement with him about it.

    Take the famous gumball analogy. The number of gumballs is either odd or even. Matt would have to say that it might be impossible that there’s an even number of gumballs, and that it might be impossible that there’s an odd number of gumballs. It also might be possible that it’s odd, and might be possible.

    All Matt’s really saying is that we might, in the future, gain information that allows us to say something IS impossible, and that’s true and often worth considering, but to say something “might be impossible” is indistinguishable from possible.

    In his dice example, the answer would be that yes, it is possible to roll a 27. Matt could have dice of arbitrary size, he could arbitrary relabel smaller dice. When Matt opens his palm and shows me standard 6-sided dice then now my information has changed and so has my stance on a proposition. I’ve gone from agnostic to the proposition to denying it. Prior to that I would’ve been right to say it’s possible, and if I’d said “might not be impossible” then…that’s just possible.

    I think Matt’s counter would be that possibility has to be ruled in and I actually agree with that. Where I’d differ is I think possibility only has to be demonstrated insofar as logical coherence. If the proposition is internally consistent (is not self-contradictory) then we’re in the gumball situation. We may discover some properties of the Universe later on that rule out the possibility, but with the information we have at the time we should say that it is possible that the proposition “The number of gumballs is odd” is true. If we have no strong reason to say something could NOT be the case then it follows that, so far as we know, it COULD be the case – that’s all anyone means by possible.

  12. jacobfromlost says

    @Altitudes

    I think you and Matt are using different definitions–or maybe only different understandings–of “possible”.

    When Matt is saying something is possible, he is saying it in relation to probabilities. Often when callers say something is “probably” true, they are using the word in the most general, everyday, colloquial sense (thinking with their gut feelings). But when talking about reality, that is the least useful way to use the term. If something is probably true, it is more likely than not, and you can do the math to find out that it is actually more likely than not (and not simply your feelings, which are notoriously wrong).

    The only problem with doing the math to find out is that you have to know which elements are possible (not just feel possible). If you don’t know which elements are possible, you can’t do the math, and you can’t say what is probable.

    To say you can only imagine that something is logically coherent and that makes it possible is simply not true in that sense (the only sense that really matters in reality).

    Matt’s only point was that often we can say something is possible out of ignorance, and later find out the thing we thought was possible actually wasn’t possible at all. By saying it was possible, we are giving the idea unwarranted credibility and a place at the table that it may not have (an entire side to the dice that it may not have).

    “If we have no strong reason to say something could NOT be the case then it follows that, so far as we know, it COULD be the case – that’s all anyone means by possible.”

    Indeed, but Matt’s point (and mine) is that that simply isn’t true because the very fact that it COULD be true has to be established first before you can even say it is possible. Ignorance alone is not a justification for possibility.

  13. jacobfromlost says

    “They actually DO feel something very powerful and until we can account for that with naturalism few friends will be won.”

    One, not everyone (including theists) actually does feel anything powerful from religion, religious ceremony, praying, etc. Mother Teresa was famously outed as feeling nothing anymore (and the church told her that was a good thing, bla bla bla).

    Two, the feeling is a human one, not a religious one. I’ve been to services where they were trying like hell to achieve that feeling with a sermon that failed, a music number that amateurishly bombed, and an audience that mumbled their responses. I’ve also been to movies where people cheered, laughed, cried, and applauded (some decades and decades ago, and I STILL remember them). If you’ve never been to a professionally performed play, a live orchestra, or competent poetry reading, they can and do match and surpass any religious feelings (religious feelings that are only achieved through such skilled artistry in any case).

    “If you do not understand what these people are feeling, or in the case of the converts do not remember or were confused by the feeling, then you are missing a really fucking important thing about being a human being.”

    The problem is in assuming the feeling comes from religion. It comes from humanity.

    “As an atheist who would convert a believer, what are you offering them to replace this powerful subjective experience? The feeling of being right? Is that a fun feeling?”

    I would include a well crafted, articulate, insightful argument can and often does cause such a feeling. Have you ever read “The Declaration of Independence”, or Patrick Henry’s speech to the Second Virginia Convention, or thousands upon thousands of other insightful, groundbreaking, stirring pieces of writing that made history or broke new ground? I’m an English teacher, and I can tell you reading the best literature aloud (and fluently in command of the content and emotion), the best ideas anyone has ever had, in the best words anyone has ever put them, astonishes students who never knew that is what the written word is supposed to feel like. Literally NO ONE has ever demonstrated it to them before.

    In terms of achieving this feeling by being gracefully, articulately, and rhetorically right in the face of stupid, blithering ignorance, YES! It absolutely is a wonderful, transcendent feeling. It’s supposed to be. Here is a modern example of a tour de force rhetorical, argumentative flourish that feels absolutely TRANSCENDENT. This is what it means to be human in all its intellectual and clear-minded glory!

  14. speedofsound says

    I think we need more than it is logically coherent. When it comes to metaphysical( *1) systems like brain-in-a-vat or creating-gods there are an infinite number of such systems. They can all be set up to produce the same reality we encounter. But each one picked out has a probability of one over infinity.

    However mechanism is important. Just saying it ‘could be’ is not sufficient. I need to know more about how it could be. How could the mad doctor feed the brain in the vat an entire consistent set of inputs to simulate my entire life. I get pushback on this from skeptic philosophers but I can’t see how they justify that mechanism is not important. I believe they have to follow through and not just fall back on the partially baked intuition that it could be. They must go further. Figure out what kind of thing the doctor could be and what he would need in terms of computational power to create realities for his victims.

    *1 I call this stuff naive metaphysics because actual metaphysics is not about fairytale imaginings about evil doctors or all is mind type realities. Actual metaphysics is like a math where you figure out things about space and structure and what it means for there to be particles that have identities and such.

  15. paxoll says

    @altidudes
    I think you are misunderstanding the gumball analogy. It has nothing really to do with probability except that it is a known probability where the proposition of god existing has no probability. But the significant point of the gumball analogy is about what is the most rational position to hold on any claim. First is the issue of knowledge, the gumball problem we “know” that the gumballs exist and therefore we know they are even or odd, but that is not the case with god. The proper logical statement is not, there are an even or odd number of gumballs, but, there is an odd number of gumballs or there is not an odd number of gumballs. There is not an odd number of gumballs has a near infinite number of possibilities if we can’t see into the jar to even conclude there are gumballs at all. So even in this case it is not a rational position to say you “know” there are an odd number of gumballs. Now on the issue of belief. Yea you can hold a belief without knowledge. Like I said, if you can’t see into the jar, than to believe the jar has an odd number of gumballs has 0 evidence, and the infinite possibilities of not an odd number of gumballs makes that belief completely unreasonable. Now even if you DO know there is gumballs, the probability of an even number is the exact same as the probability of an odd. To be intellectually honest you would have to believe both there are an odd number of gumballs, and believe there is and even number of gumballs. Those are mutually exclusive answers just like believing in the christian god is mutually exclusive of believing in the hindu gods.

  16. Claywise says

    Re the “Hiawatha” call from the woman in Ontario.

    First, I’d bet $100 that her larger point was to claim that the “Great Peacemaker” of her story was, in fact, Jesus.

    However, what continues to puzzle me is the tendency of many humans, especially religious and “spiritual” ones, to elevate peoples of the distant past into the role of some kind of eternal sages, “simple” people who, it just happens, actually understood the universe we live in much, much better than we do, despite science.

    In fact, while the caller absurdly accused Matt of being “racist,” I think there is an argument that *she* and her ilk are closer to the mark (though I wouldn’t label them that way necessarily). It’s the old “noble savage” paternalism and condescension of Western people toward others whom they turn into caricatures of humanity even as they (often) were busy destroying their cultures. Think “Dances with Wolves,” an execrable fairy tale that turns American Indian people into more-or-less Disney characters, scrubbed clean of any human imperfection.

    I have a friend, a deeply compassionate and sincere liberal Christian, who recently self-published a book arguing that, based on his mid-level familiarity with the Greek language of the New Testament, that all us terrible, homophobic, transphobic, misogynistic “moderns” have grossly misinterpreted the *true* meaning of the Bible (including the Hebrew Bible, though he has only a cursory knowledge of ancient Hebrew) and in fact, those sage ancients actually were incredibly hospitable to gay people and transgender people and we have simply misunderstood the meaning of women’s roles. And so on.

    This guy is a very good writer (he mostly writes science-fiction and fantasy that contains a tad too many didactic social-justice themes for my taste) and he’s very, very smart. It’s passing strange to me that someone like that can honestly claim that the “noble savages” of the Bible were more humane and compassionate than humanity is today in general, or essentially, that we have not only not made progress, but “we” have overlaid nasty, non-Judeo-Christian prejudices on texts that were actually pure as the driven snow, when it comes to the progressive agenda.

    It’s an absurd claim on its face. Obviously, most New Testament and Hebrew Bible scholars with more expertise than my friend don’t subscribe to it, nor does actual history support this notion. Certainly, tolerance for sexual and gender minorities has oscillated over the centuries, but does anybody actually think we’d all be better off basing our societies on those ancient peoples’?

    And, of course, he can make all the claims he likes regarding the “true” meaning of the Greek New Testament, but others — right up to the odious Westboro Baptist Church — can summon evidence in support of their positions.

    What is it about us humans — even some allegedly rational types will yammer about the wisdom of the ancients from time to time — that makes us think that demonstrably less developed civilizations (by moral and economic measures, among others) are “superior”?

  17. Claywise says

    11. @ Paul Money

    Re “Patients go off their meds because it can be more fun to be crazy than to be sedated!”

    You also do not seem to know much about mental illness. My nephew is schizophrenic, and his particular “flavor” of delusion (a fairly common one) is that “God” is talking directly to him. He also consider himself a Christian and is constantly moving around from fundamentalist church to church, often concluding that “God” has informed him that people at the church aren’t getting it. Sadly, that’s often not in time to save him from some goddamned church member or other who has informed him that he doesn’t “really” have a mental illness and he should go off his meds and just pray.

    This, he does, on at least a yearly basis. The outcome is utterly predictable: Off his medications, he becomes more and more delusional, hears from “God” more and more often, frequently decides to do something pointless and impulsive (most recently: getting on a plane to Florida because there was a “crisis pregnancy center” there that needed his … I don’t know, something), ends up in contact with law enforcement (he’s in no way violent; most mentally people are not violent). They often find him catatonic, standing in a park or on a street corner and he has to be hospitalized. Until he is stabilized back on his meds, usually 4 to 6 weeks, he remains in the hospital wherever he happened to go on “God’s” latest advice.

    Does the above scenario strike you as a situation in which a poor, “sedated” individual “decides” rationally to get off his meds because it’s more “fun to be crazy”?

  18. jacobfromlost says

    I have various flavors of mental illness in my family also, and just as an obvious aside…being in the middle of the illness often means you have no perspective about what being “better” is like.

    Taking a line from the allusion in my namesake, John Locke from “Lost” once told Jack Shephard, “Crazy people don’t know they’re going crazy. They think they’re getting saner.”

    And like anything, that isn’t always true of every person or illness, but it generally is of those illnesses involving the most serious delusions or hallucinations.

  19. speedofsound says

    @jacobfromlost (#16)
    I’m thinking a lot of this through so could be wrong. There are varieties of subjective experience. Oddly we spend little time thinking about them and classifying and researching them. Probably because most people still subscribe to Point-Source-Spirit-Mind thinking.

    The problem is in assuming the feeling comes from religion. It comes from humanity.

    Yes. But I would not say it that way. It comes from being an autopoietic organism on the planet Earth, at a time when it is in the zone temperature-wise. Certainly not exclusive to homo-apes.

    The part I think about is loosely blanketed by the word spirituality. Granted it’s on a scale and we all feel a bit of it every day. Including with your examples. Ritual practices and other methods of manipulating our own minds can tap into a more powerful version of this. Of course so can a handful of the right mushroom. Varieties of Religious Experience.

    So do you discount these experiences? Compare them to reading good lit and classify them as just more of the same? Or do you acknowledge that there are varieties and quantities and they are not equivalent?

  20. speedofsound says

    @Paul Money (#11)

    There is no “fun feeling” about being a secular humanist, any more than sobriety has any fun to offer the alcoholic or the drug addict

    As a really actual RECOVERING addict I can tell you that there is a hell of a lot of fun to being sober as opposed to not. The delusion by the non addict and even most addicts is that this shit was fun for us. The only fun part was opening the bottle or the wrapper. Pretty much a downhill shitstorm after that.

    I find being a secular naturalist has intense ‘fun feelings’. They abound. Learning a bit about your brain and then manipulating it can get you to all the fun places that god-thinking can. That is my fucking point! Religious people, while deluded about what is going on, are not fools, not idiots, and not crazy. They found a way to manipulate their brains and it feels good and is actually healthy.

    In my view, winning the argument every week against theists who couldn’t punch their way out of a paper bag has become boring. I’ll start watching it again if it broadens its horizons and becomes the Humanist Experience or some such.

    I’m bored too. I think if they dug a little deeper into each theist we might have some new material.

  21. jacobfromlost says

    “So do you discount these experiences? Compare them to reading good lit and classify them as just more of the same? Or do you acknowledge that there are varieties and quantities and they are not equivalent?”

    I have no personal subjective experience with mushrooms or other drugs, including alcohol. My personal preference is to have clarity of mind and perception at all times, and actively to achieve that transcendent feeling via that clarity. My perception of those altering their minds with chemicals tends to indicate less clarity, functionality, etc., so it seems like a cheat to get to a feeling that you could get to anyway with a little (and sometimes a lot of) effort (and not sacrifice the clarity).

    I do think the power of art, literature, theater, philosophy, music, etc., is not fully recognized or experienced by many because it takes some education to get to the point of understanding it on the level it was created in the first place. You can’t achieve the correct level of gobsmacked awe at a Shakespeare play, for instance, without significant effort and study. Then, at a certain point, both the understanding and the feeling emerge in a way that I can only call transcendent. (Slapping your forehead and exclaiming, “Well THAT’s why people read this stuff! Why isn’t everyone reading this?”)

    There are pieces of literature I have taught for years, and every time I hit that groove it is absolutely AMAZING. And what is more amazing is that every single time I read them again…I notice something new that I had never noticed before, which transcends even that transcendent feeling I had before.

    And for eight years in school as a child, I was in band–concert, pep, etc. I loved music before I played it, but playing it in a group is an experience that cannot be communicated with words alone. Once you create the music yourself, experiencing it later is much more special.

    It’s all like magic. But real.

  22. PETER CUSHNIE says

    It has long been a pet peeve of mine that theists use analogies based on events in the natural world to try to explain what they think are supernatural events. John from Texas did this when he said, “Prove to me that red is real. Unless you experience it, you’ll never know it.” I agree that a blind person, or a color-blind person, will not experience red the way I do, but that has nothing to do with anything. The colors we see are the result of a series of natural events involving the electromagnetic spectrum and the physiology of our eyes and brain. All of the details in this process are proven physics and take place even in the absence of eyes and brain to react to them; that is, the EMS exists independent of us, even if color is nothing more than a potential. Having a “god experience,” however, is totally removed from the realm of natural phenomena. No longer can we weigh and measure and make predictions. The blind person can understand the origin of color, even though he may never see it, but no such possibility exists to explain being visited by the “holy spirit,” whether to a blind or sighted person. The so-called supernatural event has no such background to call upon and therefore must be anecdotal or hearsay. So, claiming that an unverifiable holy spirit exists by comparing it to the verifiable EMS and human physiology is foolishness. There is nothing in the natural world that can confirm any supposed supernatural event without that event becoming natural. Let’s call this The Fallacy of the False Analogy. Or is there already such a fallacy? I don’t think I have them all down.

  23. Lamont Cranston says

    speedofsound says in #9

    Feeling god ‘in your heart’ is the core problem with changing the minds of the religious. Picking on them and discounting them when they express this makes good theater but is a shit way to promote a secular way of life. They actually DO feel something very powerful and until we can account for that with naturalism few friends will be won.

    I get this and sometimes Matt also mentions that he remembers having those feelings as well. There was a time when I did too. Then the more I read the Bible and saw the things I saw in church that were contrary to the “good” stuff I was reading (while ignoring the bad parts 🙁 ) the man behind the curtain was slowly revealed.

    When I got out, and in the years since, I have come to have the same good feelings by virtue of no longer being manipulated and coerced in the name of God to do things and believe things that I knew were not true or right. These days I have the good feelings when getting together with people who are not being manipulative and deceitful in acting like something they are not. These days I get the good feeling from being able to be honest about who I am and how I feel rather than pretending to be happy when I am not so as to “bring people to Christ.” I get the good feeling by being able to invest my money in the futures of my kids rather than giving it to a church that used it to line the pockets of its leadership. These days I get the good feeling from no longer believing in the adult equivalent of Santa Claus and instead living in reality. These days I get the good feeling from actually helping people instead of just praying for them to help me feel good about myself that I did something that is really no help at all.

    These days it is about feeling good about life the way it really is rather than depending on a false high from the drug of religion that really hurts you in the long run just like most addictions.

    Lamont Cranston

  24. Paul Money says

    @21.
    “Does the above scenario strike you as a situation in which a poor, “sedated” individual “decides” rationally to get off his meds because it’s more “fun to be crazy”?”

    I haven’t said anywhere that deciding not to take your meds is rational. People with mental illnesses often make irrational decisions, as do we all. I have known multiple people who have lived with long term medication for mental health problems. It is a commonplace for them to go off them, citing boredom with sedated normality. “I feel more like myself without the drugs” would sum it up.
    I have of course no useful comment to make on your nephew’s situation, but it is certainly possible that he feels better chasing around after God rather than not. Like you I wish that he didn’t, but he is making choices that are none of my business or, with respect, yours.

  25. Paul Money says

    @ 25.
    It is better not to be addicted to anything. but a lot of people who are drunk or stoned every day are doing it because life is boring for them without it.
    Rather like the mental health thing, I have for one reason and another had a lot of contacts. I can only go by what they have told me.
    Glad you are off it!

  26. Altitudes says

    I’m confused as to why the responses to me are talking about probability when I only mentioned possibility.

    The number of gumballs is either odd or even. The number is already set so there is an objective answer to this.The problem of the responses to me is that you’re forced to say something weird like “It might be impossible that there’s an even number of gumballs”. What meaning does that statement actually have? What pragmatic value is there in such a proposition? Does anyone question that it’s possible for the number of gumballs to be even?

    Now if we do go into probability, then I think it’s fine to say about some proposition with no supporting evidence that it’s mere possibility is at all important. Saying “it’s possible there’s an even number of gumballs” doesn’t give you good reason to argue that that is in fact the case. That’s a different question entirely.

    If you can’t show that something is in fact impossible then that implies that it could be the case. If it could be the case then we’d say it’s possible.

    I’ll give another example: It’s possible that life exists outside our solar system. What does that proposition mean? It means that, so far as we know, it is logically coherent for intelligent life to exist, there are some conditions under which it could exist, and that those conditions could occur such that intelligent life has emerged.

    It seems to me utterly useless to take this in anything other than the epistemic sense of possibility. Then you’d have to say we don’t know if it’s possible because we don’t know all the conditions of all parts of the universe. That’s an utterly useless contention.

    Or take the wiki example: “It’s possible that it’s raining outside” taken in the epistemic sense allows you to make a decision about whether to take an umbrella. In the metaphysical sense it adds nothing of value.

  27. Altitudes says

    “I think it’s fine to say about some proposition with no supporting evidence that it’s mere possibility is at all important”

    This should read “isn’t at all important”. Sorry.

  28. Murat says

    @Altitudes
    I agree. Anything is possible.
    Probability is more of a metric to assess the chances.

  29. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    The number of gumballs is either odd or even. The number is already set so there is an objective answer to this.The problem of the responses to me is that you’re forced to say something weird like “It might be impossible that there’s an even number of gumballs”. What meaning does that statement actually have? What pragmatic value is there in such a proposition? Does anyone question that it’s possible for the number of gumballs to be even?

    This is holdover from a very particular way that Tracie Harris looked at this, and it’s carried over.

    To understand what Tracie was getting at, we need to go to the original discussion. However, before we even get there, we need to discuss what I might call physical possibility and epistemic possibility.

    Something is epistemically possible if the proposition is not logically inconsistent. Loosely, something is physically possible if it’s possible within the laws of physics as they really are. So, callers would say that it’s possible that god exists, and Tracie would say “you haven’t demonstrated that”. Effectively, Tracie was interpreting the caller as saying “the existence of my hypothetical god is consistent with the laws of physics as they really are”, and that is definitely an assertion which requires evidence to back it up. However, most callers meant something entirely different IMO – something like “the existence of my hypothetical god is logically coherent, and we cannot assert that the god does not exist out of hand”, and the caller would be correct.

    Now, take that sort of thinking, and apply it to the situation that you find yourself in. I really disliked Tracie’s particular use of language on this issue, but there you have it. Hopefully this helps you understand at least.

  30. paxoll says

    @altitudes
    Matt addressed this in multiple shows recently. Possible is irrelevant as a conceptual matter to beliefs being rational or irrational, possibility has to be demonstrated for that. Take the speed of light. Going faster than the speed of light is possible conceptually, but would need to be demonstrated somehow for someone to have a rational belief that it is actually possible. Likewise to believe it is impossible to go faster would need some kinda demonstration, lack of evidence in this case does not equal evidence to the contrary.

  31. t90bb says

    Paul….30

    As an addict alcoholic with 13 plus years sober I don’t claim to be an expert in addiction. In my active addiction which spanned about 6 years was hospitalized or institutionalized well over 30 years. In recovery I have attended some of the most respected rehab facilities and have studied 12 step paradigms as well as other paths to recovery. I have worked with, or along side, thousands of others.

    It would be unreasonable of me to say that no one becomes addicted as a result of using to quell boredom. But I will say in my experience the vast majority use drugs to relieve anxiety and pain. Once the body adapts to needing these substances to maintain its new normal (assuming other variables and factors of course) your pretty fucked. A progressed alcoholic or addict in most cases continues to use because it needs to (to function), not because it wants to. It may “want” to avoid discomfort of course. But I agree with my friend speed, for most of us the “party” has long since ended. The fun in drinking or using leaves us. It becomes a second job to ensure an adequate supply to avoid pain.

    Of course those problems that led us to drink or use are not being attended to, and they nearly always get worse. So when the addict becomes motivated to try to stop he/she are usually faced with terrible withdrawal coupled with the same issues that led him/her to drink in the first place. It is quite the hurdle to overcome.

    This was probably obvious to you.

    How one climbs out of such misery if quite the mystery. In my experience, the majority often attribute their recovery to an act of the divine. Recovery is indeed mysterious to me. How one finds his way to a moment of clarity, and the courage and willingness to take risks in the hopes of finding a better life is hard to understand. Why do some find a way out of the maze when so many do not?? It is something I ponder often.

    And that leads me this whole idea of “spirituality” and the transcendence. Two words that I personally find completely useless. More on that later. LOL

  32. t90bb says

    wtf was I writing lol……I meant…..”im my 6 years of active addiction I was institutionalized/hospitalized more than 30 times”

    LOL wtf is wrong with me lol

  33. jacobfromlost says

    I roll regular dice. I get “Jesus Loves Me” because anything is possible.

  34. jeuandavid says

    Hugh is fortunate that he has left delusional beliefs far behind and lives in a country where such beliefs are less prominent. The harsh reality is that many, many people around the world firmly believe in gods, spirits, demons and other assorted supernatural entities. In the USA in particular – but not exclusively, some of these people at this very moment are imposing their beliefs on others by basing law on these beliefs, denying their citizens equal rights and undermining secular democracy. We cannot ignore this. Hence the urgent need to promote critical thinking, science education and reinforce the separation between religion and government. I wish the world were different, but it is not.

  35. Murat says

    @jacobfromlost

    I roll regular dice. I get “Jesus Loves Me” because anything is possible.

    Exactly! See, this is the great thing about anything being possible.
    Had it not been possible for us to assign trains of letters to each number from 1 to 6, which we did by assigning jesuslo to 1 and vesme to 6, you wouldn’t be able to roll Jesus Loves Me. I rolled Jesus Loathes Possibilities, though I wished for a hard jesuslojesuslo 🙁

  36. Altitudes says

    @EnlightenmentLiberal

    I think we broadly agree, but my point is that generally speaking epistemic possibility is what we care about. It’s okay to ask someone to demonstrate epistemic possibility and also to deny it. The problem of evil would be an example of denying the epistemic possibility of the Christian God. One could also use something like the paradox of the stone to deny omnipotent gods. There’s also theological noncognitivism that denies that there is coherent meaning to the word god. So there’s no problem in Tracie saying “you haven’t demonstrated that”. If someone were to propose some kind of simple deistic god, how would one even demonstrate the possibility beyond saying “So far as we know, it’s an internally consistent concept and it does not contravene any known laws of the universe etc.”?

    @Paxoll

    Possibility is not irrelevant to conceptual matters. Something that’s not epistemically possible can NOT be the case. So epistemic possibility is the bare minimum required for a belief to be true. For example, square triangles and married bachelors cannot exist in any possible world. Now, you’re right that mere possibility is not in and of itself a good reason to believe that something actually IS the case, but it’s a requirement of all true propositions.

    FTL travel is possible in the sense that it’s internally consistent. However, we’ve discovered properties of the Universe that rule it out. And that’s fine. But prior to discovering the various ideas of physics that demonstrate it’s impossibility what would it mean to say “It might be impossible”?

    “Might be impossible” and “Might not be possible” are logically equal to “possible” in the sense that as far as we know it could be the case (however likely or unlikely). And when it comes to the real world I think all we ever want to talk about is possibility in the epistemic sense because it has pragmatic value.

  37. Murat says

    @Altitudes

    “Might be impossible” and “Might not be possible” are logically equal to “possible” in the sense that as far as we know it could be the case (however likely or unlikely). And when it comes to the real world I think all we ever want to talk about is possibility in the epistemic sense because it has pragmatic value.

    Agreed.

  38. Murat says

    The jar of gumballs becomes a bad analogy when you try to apply it to every question about possibilities, because it is one about dichotomy. “Even or odd” is the framework for the jar, whereas there may be -and there definitely are- discussions for which you can not limit the options with a number.
    It’s a good analogy to address the problem of assertion. Saying “I believe it’s an odd number!” without counting the gumballs is the mistake, and this is what the analogy is all about. Matt doesn’t believe it’s odd or even, and the point he is making is that “to believe” should require some legit basis, other than just to wishfully assume.
    When you try to use that same analogy about possibilities, the water gets muddy. Because people may come up with conceptual questions: If there is a half-eaten gumball in the jar, does this count as one, or as a half, or as nothing. A half is inconsistent both with odd and even numbers, far as I recall my maths. Or, if some of the gumballs have expired and gotten so hard they can not be chewed, what is the correct answer to give to the customer who asks the question with the intent of buying the jar. If the jar itself is made of some transparent gum, is spherical like a ball and can be chewed just like any of its contents, then, saying odd or even will be correct or false depending on whether we consider the jar a gumball or not. If some crazy scientist created a species that’d taste exactly like gumballs, and if they fornicated and reproduced while inside the jar, what answer could remain correct at any given time?
    Just like jars, analogies are good when they are placed on the shelves they belong.

  39. Lamont Cranston says

    Claywise says in #21

    Does the above scenario strike you as a situation in which a poor, “sedated” individual “decides” rationally to get off his meds because it’s more “fun to be crazy”?

    I don’t think putting it as, “it’s more fun to be crazy,” was exactly the proper wording, but I understand the comment and there is some validity to it in some cases.

    When I was in college, my roommates and I had a friend who was bipolar. He was normally on medication, but from time to time he went “off his meds” for a reason. His primary medication had significant side effects which had to be counteracted by other meds. Those too had their side effects which in turn were counteracted by still more medications. As a result he had to take quite a number of medications.

    Then he recognized how dull and bland his life felt to him as a direct result of what he was taking and this was compounded by the inability of the side effects to be completely eliminated. He also knew that as soon as he dropped off the medications he would always feel way better. The fact that he would later crash was something that he would eventually convince himself that he would be able to “head off”.

    So he would eventually stop his medications so he could “feel better” for just a little while. It was not just a matter of having fun being crazy, it was a matter of wanting to feel normal for just a little while. Of course this never ended well, because he could never get himself back on the meds without someone essentially making him do it (which sometimes meant having to find him first).

    I currently have to take medications for physical reasons, and even those are a drag and have their side effects. I continually have to fight the urge to just stop taking them so I can just be “normal” for a while (i.e., not suffer the side effects).

    Years ago I had to take an anti-depressant for a while. I definitely was depressed and was having trouble sleeping and functioning. My mom had just died, my dad had a deteriorating terminal illness, my son was being deployed to Iraq, and I was being laid off from an employer of 30+ years. Even though I benefited from what I was taking I still had a couple of side effects which were significantly troubling (both physical effects). However, I had to put up with them for the benefit.

    Fortunately my situational depression got better though not for all good reasons. My dad passed away in a process that took years. It’s hard to see that as an improvement of my situation, but after that I no longer had to feel the panic that set in with every time the phone rang. My son did survive his deployment and returned home. I got another job in my mid-50’s, I was finally able to come off of the anti-depressant and return to feeling normal (not selecting to have fun being crazy, but more like enjoying just feeling normal once again).

    Sometimes I think we get so caught up in the words people choose when they try to express themselves that we fail to understand what they are trying to communicate. We tend to dismiss comments like, “Atheists just want to sin,” rather than trying to understand what theists are trying to tell us. We often don’t take the time to realize that’s the way it actually looks from their perspective.

    When we understand what people are actually trying to communicate, it can be much easier to make substantive progress. Something I have often told people is that what we say or write is often only perfectly clear to the originator, and sometimes not even to him or her.

    Lamont Cranston

  40. Ian Butler says

    Lamont, we need more people like you on the cesspool that is the blogosphere! I agree that the “more fun to be crazy” quote, in my experience, applies in a lot of situations, although “crazy” is more often how outside observers might see it, not the person in question.

  41. Lamont Cranston says

    Ian Butler says in #48

    I agree that the “more fun to be crazy” quote, in my experience, applies in a lot of situations, although “crazy” is more often how outside observers might see it, not the person in question.

    I agree and the outside observer seldom, if ever, has all the information to adequately judge likely motives of the person they are observing.

    With regard to theists thinking we are “having fun being crazy” or “just wanting to sin” it can be a case of us either having forgotten how it is to think like a theist or never having been in that situation in the first place. We think they are crazy and they think we are crazy.

    It was brought to my attention that there are a number of Christian church leaders (as they would consider themselves) who have actually stated that they believe the government should execute gay people, transgender people, and those who are involved in adultery because of the sin they are committing. I think that is utterly insane and one of those people lives uncomfortably close to me (he is fully documented as publicly saying such things). In reality I am less worried about him (despite the weapons he packs around) than the possibility of his influence upon someone who is not mentally stable (not that I consider him all that stable either). In my mind Isis and this guy, and those like him, are just two branches of the same bad tree (fundamentalist theistic extremism).

    The problem often is that we all have our biases. Inevitably we are blind to our own biases while seeming to clearly see the biases of others. Then we compound the problem with hypocritical behavior by being able to point out the biases of others while being incapable of seeing how we ourselves are doing exactly the same things.

    Do we ever consider that there might be such a thing as” fundamentalist atheistic extremism”? I didn’t until I ran into it in two different ways. One in particular was rather scary because it happened to me at one of the first atheist Meetup groups I ever attended. I ended up sitting next to a guy that scared the crap out of me. For all practical purposes he was the atheist version of a skinhead (not in appearance but in beliefs and attitude). A few months later this person was banned from the group because of safety concerns by a number of people in the group. He was as much of an unsafe person as the Christian minister I mentioned above.

    It was then that I realized that being an atheist does not mean we are immune to having biased dogmatic irrational (and sometimes even dangerous) beliefs. Being an atheist just means we have “one less” belief in a god than the average person. We still may have irrational beliefs based on biases in regard to politics, culture, and any number of other areas. Worse yet, just because we don’t have the belief in a God we may be even more convinced that we have our head on straight and could not possibly be biased in such a way. Oh, but of course, skeptics will think they have it together on most if not all things. Unfortunately they can be just as blind to their biases while steadfastly insisting they have none. I think we have seen evidence of this quite recently around here.

    I have decided that it is best to consider myself biased, and then try to understand what my biases are and do what I can to mitigate them rather than to insist that I am unbiased.

    Lamont Cranston

  42. favog says

    Not a hundred per cent sure on this but … I think the mechanism of a geyser counts as a pump. Geysers are not biological. And if they have a “designer”, it’s that same designer that supposedly designed everything that the whole argument is about, which would make it a circular example and therefore useless. That’s at least one black swan for the caller.

  43. Murat says

    Isn’t male ejaculation also the result of kinda pump?
    Honestly, I did not understand why the caller chose to make the argument over pumps.
    What did he think was particularly special with pumps, as opposed to any other function to be found in a body, which could correspond to things that were designed by humans?

  44. Robink says

    @altitudes

    FTL travel is possible in the sense that it’s internally consistent. However, we’ve discovered properties of the Universe that rule it out. And that’s fine. But prior to discovering the various ideas of physics that demonstrate it’s impossibility what would it mean to say “It might be impossible”?

    What does it mean to say something is “possible” though before you’ve actually assessed if this is the case? I’m not too sure that statement has any pragmatic value either which I think is why Matt harps on about possibility needing to be demonstrated before it has any relevance in a debate. In regards to FTL for instance, if it was never a possibility what meaning or value was there in believing it ever was?

    In regards to the pump call, my problem wasn’t so much that it was a black swan fallacy so much as it was a presuppositionist argument. “All pumps are created” – well no, some aren’t, that’s the very thing you’re trying to prove…

  45. Altitudes says

    “What does it mean to say something is “possible” though before you’ve actually assessed if this is the case?”

    It means that, as far as we know, something could be the case i.e. the proposition could be true.

    “It is possible that there is an even number of gumballs” means “Given the information we have, it could be the case that there is an even number of gumballs”. But Matt’s position forces us to say something strange like “There could be some deterministic rules of the universe that we are unaware of such that it is impossible that the number of gumballs is even”. For one, this is unecessarily clunky language. For two, I don’t know how this is meaningful since it reduces to “might not be possible” and I can’t distinguish that semantically from “possible”.

  46. Murat says

    @Altitudes
    Yes. It sounds like those things politicians say when they are trying to avoid articulating something notable or binding.
    *
    @Jeanette
    True, the caller was not able to see that mechanical pumps might have been modeled after organic pumps. Even if that wasn’t the case, there is no need to think pumps had to be mechanical, hence, designed, since there have been organic pumps in nature for more than tens of thousands of years.
    He could as well have claimed that the veins in our bodies were pipes or aqueducts, and say “hence, God!” for all the non-organic pipes and aqueducts out there were designed, so did those in our bodies had to be.

  47. Altitudes says

    @Murat

    The fact that the gumball is a dichotomy doesn’t really matter aside from being simpler, but we can use another example.

    I have some amount of money in my pocket. Is it possible that the amount of money in my pocket is £3.50?

  48. Murat says

    @Altitudes
    It’s impossible if none of it is in coins.
    See, this is the thing about possibilities: You have to limit the definition in some way in order to determine whether the outcome could or could not be possible. And there is no end to putting and lifting limits once the question is hypothetical, like the existence of a god.
    In order to counter my “impossible” in the first sentence, you can come up with “What if the related currency is such that they print 0.50 £ on paper?”, and then I’d have to say, “Yes, in that case it would be possible even if none of it were in coins.”
    Determining “possibility” on abstract issues is like playing rock-paper-scissors in a non-simutaneous way, being able to say “Rock!” after hearing the other say “Scissors!”.

  49. Altitudes says

    “It’s impossible if none of it is in coins.”

    This is a true proposition. It doesn’t answer the question though. You’re introducing premises that aren’t in the question to try and get around it. It’s very simple: Is it possible that the amount of money in my pocket adds up to £3.50?

    Look at what’s contained within the question as I asked it. You know people wear things with pockets. You know pounds are a real currency. You know it has denominations that can add up to 3.5. That’s essentially all the hidden premises you need.

    And yet you feel you have to squirm over whether it’s possible that I have £3.50 in my pocket?

    If you can’t answer “Yes” then I’d suggest your usage of “possible” is the problem. Both in the vast majority of the philosophical literature and in almost all colloquial uses, the answer is a very obvious “Yes”.

    What value does all this stuff about “might be impossible” even mean besides “Yes”?

  50. indianajones says

    Murat, really? It’s impossible if:
    A) You have no pockets
    B) There are no pounds
    C) The cake is a lie
    Or who the hell else knows. Your objection doesn’t even make it to nit picking at this point. It is more just wilfully missing the point in order to something something step 3 profit at a guess.

  51. Murat says

    @Altitudes
    I didn’t claim “might be possible” was a good wording. I totally agree with you on that, Matt’s usage of possible and impossible are pointlessly convoluted at times.
    The answer to your question is a simple, plain, “Yes”. We’re on the same page there.
    I was making another point by using the same example: For claims of god are quite undefined, when you extend the questioning of possibilities to that level of abstractions, it will flex both ways. Even for the gods one side would prove to be “impossible”, the other would reshape the proposition such that the outcome of the equation would switch back to “possible”.

    @indianajones
    Mine wasn’t an objection, I was trying to add this example up to my comment in #46.

  52. Altitudes says

    @Murat

    It’s the same for other claims though. With the money example all you’re saying by “possible” is that given the knowledge you have there is no reason to say it’s impossible.

    When you say god is possible, with respect to a given definition, all you’re saying is that it you have no reason to assert that it absolutely could not be the case i.e. is impossible. And this doesn’t need to be contentious. As I said earlier in the thread, mere possibility isn’t ceding much ground. Mere possibility is, whilst a bare necessity for belief, not a reason in itself to think a proposition actually is true.

    Accepting that it’s possible I have £3.50 in my pocket is not a reason to belief I ACTUALLY have that amount in my pocket. At least with the £3.50 we can say that it’s a small amount, and maybe people are more likely to have lose change of that amount than say £10,000, so you could argue it’s more likely than some other quantity. With a weak definition of god you couldn’t even get that far.

    Possibility gets the theist nowhere, and I’d also contend that for certain gods I AM certain that they’re impossible under my usage.

  53. Murat says

    @Altitudes
    I’m not sure if any gods can rightfully be tagged “impossible” under any usage.
    Yes, they may have contradicting features, and the stories behind them may not make sense on many levels, but words like “inconsistent” or “nonsensical” fit better to them than “impossible”, I’d say.
    Is it possible for a god to sacrifice himself for himself in order to make up for the messed up plans he could not put in order?
    Well, such a force does not look omnipotent, nor sane, but well, what can you do if that is the case? The thing can still be “possible”, just like many messed up entities are possible, and even real.

  54. indianajones says

    ‘How many gumballs are there?’
    ‘How do I know it’s an integer, there might be half eaten ones . Ha! Check mate! Your analogy sucks!!’

    Suffers from the same problems and is just as silly a not even a nitpick.

  55. Altitudes says

    @Murat

    Square triangles can’t exist (and they can’t exist in any possible world if we go into possible world semantics). Square triangles are an impossibility.

    There are god concepts that can be equivalent to square triangles. Often what happens is the theist will then retreat and weaken their claims about their god to avoid whatever contradiction but then it’s the theist that has to cede ground there.

    A good example of this is the way the word “omnipotent” has changed in theology over time. Descartes and others were absolutists who claimed God could do literally anything, even create square triangles. Then omnipotence became “all that’s logically possible” but that carries other problems. Now you get things like “all that’s logically possible and consistent with God’s nature”, which is at least coherent but leaves the theist with a weak-ass God. I mean, I can do all things that are logically possible and consistent with my nature.

  56. indianajones says

    Also, ‘consistent with their nature’ always made me think of a mid toilet training toddler who can’t be convinced to go potty before they get in the car.

    ‘Can you just try before we get in the car? Just for a second?’
    ‘No, it’s not consistent with my nature’ *pouts and stamps feet*

  57. Murat says

    @Altitudes
    Yeah, but I tend to think of things like square triangles as “oxymorons”, rather than “impossibilities”.
    They sound more like riddles than challenges. Possibility also has a lot to do with an agency’s capacity at a given time.
    Was it possible to have live communication with someone half a world away? 200 years ago, it wasn’t possible. Now it is.
    So, the correct answer to the question changed over time. And this is the result of various efforts to achieve the kind of simultaneous communication proposed or dreamt of. Whereas, things like “The Living Dead” resonate more with a particular effect that you want to create, some word play, dramatic narration etc. For the contradiction is obvious, even if you go on and create zombies, they will not actually be “dead” since they are able to move. Is it possible to revive the dead? That’s more in line with questioning a possibility. If you revive a dead person, and they go on with their lives, then, yes, you have turned some impossible thing into a possible one. But no, you can’t create a living dead, because it’s self-contradicting as an expression if you take it seriously.

  58. Robink says

    Equating gods to change in your pocket doesn’t work though because in the latter example we have lots of known quantities to drawn from to claim possibility as the starting point before adding in other qualifiers. We know pockets exist, we know change exists, we know it can add up to $3.50 etc.. We don’t have anything to point to when it comes to gods though so the stance that they’re possible seems no more or less inherently plausible than they’re impossible, except some god concepts are demonstrably incoherent/contradictory so you’d have to lean impossible and work from there to prove possibility imo. Either way it’s a bit of a pointless distinction as almost anything is “possible” by this lenient use of the term and tells us little to nothing about reality.

  59. jabbly says

    @Murat

    As indianajones has pointed out the analogies are just there to illustrate a point so it makes no sense to try and pull them apart.

  60. Murat says

    @Robink

    Either way it’s a bit of a pointless distinction as almost anything is “possible” by this lenient use of the term and tells us little to nothing about reality.

    Yes, exactly. This is a fine shortcut to what I’ve been trying to argue.

  61. Murat says

    @jabbly
    True. But the whole point of an analogy is to demonstrate that, as long as the analogy doesn’t fall apart by questioning, nor can the actual point. So, an analogy that is not able to withstand questioning proves either that it’s not the correct illustration of the point being made, or that the point being made is not a supportable one. Right?
    This is why I said the gumball analogy is an almost perfect one when addressing the point that making a positive assertion without sufficient knowledge is unreasonable, but that it would fail in demonstrating that certain cases actually do involve dichotomies, as the number of gumballs in a jar do not really have to be “odd or even” without triggering a debate in and of itself, if we actually are talking about a solid jar of real gumballs.

  62. jabbly says

    @Murat

    I disagree as analogies are often over simplifications used to illustrate inconsistencies in the way someone thinks or to help explain more complex concepts in a simpler way.

  63. Murat says

    @jabbly
    Okay. But I recall Tracie and Matt (or at least a duo including either of the two) rejecting a Christian caller’s analogy to the presence of evil on earth, “the night is darkest just before the dawn”, by simply asserting that it was not so, that the darkest hours of the night were the ones farthest to both sunset and dawn. So, there are good (even perfect) analogies, and those that are not well-thought.

  64. jabbly says

    @Murat

    Oh I agree, there are good and bad analogies. So to take an example that I’ve seen many times. Comparing god’s ‘treatment’ of people with a parent’s ‘treatment’ of their child. The glaring flaw is that a parent just isn’t god.

  65. Altitudes says

    @Murat
    I consider square triangles impossible because they violate the law of noncontradiction. It’s nonsensical to suppose that something can have exactly three sides (triangle) and not have exactly three sides (a square) at the same time.

    Oxymorons aren’t necessarily impossible because oxymorons can be figures of speech which have multiple meaning. For instance “deafening silence” is oxymoronic but is not a phrase used to convey a literal truth. It’s a rhetorical ploy. The only way to say “deafening silence” is impossible is to equivocate over what people mean when they use the phrase.

    @Robink

    The analogy is fine. The only difference you’re pointing to is that we have less information when it comes to particular God claims.

    All that means is that you have even LESS reason to think that God exists than you do to think I have £3.50. Why is that a problem for the atheist?

    Note that “odd or even” is not a true dichotomy. If you want to create a true dichotomy for the gumballs then you’d say: the number of gumballs is either an even number or it’s NOT an even number. That’s a dichotomy that gets around the “what if there’s half a gumball?” problem and everything I’ve said still holds.

    Really though, people are just looking to attack the analogy rather than engage with the idea that all that needs to be meant by “possible” is “so far as we know it could the case”. Anything else leads to all sorts of jumbled up weirdness.

    Apply this back to real world claims and god then. When someone says “My god is possible” all they’re saying is “As far as I know it could be the case that my god exists”. And we can actually address this with challenges to the coherence of their definition. The problem of evil, for instance, attacks the coherence of an all powerful and all loving/good god.

    Or someone who believes their God literally flooded the Earth and and allowed an old guy in a boat to survive. I’m completely fine with saying that, so far as I know, it’s not possible that there was a global flood. And I can point to archaeology, biodiversity, historical recordings etc.

    I know the theist can then say “God magicked the world so it only appears as though there was no flood”, but the answer to that is if God “is not the author of confusion” then that’s an incoherence too.

    Existence necessitates possibility. The impossible can’t exist. So it’s important to acknowledge and analyse the possibility of propositions. But mere possibility is not a reason to think something exists, so it’s really not ceding ground to say a deist to say “Okay, your weak-ass prime mover is possible”.

    It feels like people are so concerned about giving any scope to the theist whatsoever even if the cost is defending some really weird convoluted position about what possibility means.

  66. jabbly says

    @Altitudes

    I think part of the pushback on is it possible is it can can lead to that means it’s reasonable or each opinion is equally valid.

  67. Murat says

    @Altitudes
    I do not understand whether you agree that anything or almost anything is possible, or not.
    *

    It feels like people are so concerned about giving any scope to the theist whatsoever even if the cost is defending some really weird convoluted position about what possibility means.

    Possibility does not mean much on the topic of theism. It’s a step back from the theistic claims, actually. One can claim the Christian god to be “possible”, we can point out to the “either not omnipotent, or not really benevolent” argument to address the issue the same way a triangular square can be argued to be impossible. But, y’know, “God works in mysterious ways” so the forced existence of such a god could even exceed limits of possibilities, present us triangular squares (shapeshifting geometrical illusions or else) just like it can later reveal the unnoticed benevolence behind what puny humans thought was evil, etc. So, the very claim they come up with will be engulfing the concept of possibilities already.
    *
    The problem with referring to possibilities when the topic is god or other unmenifested territory is that, it shifts the burden of “having been proved” from the subject of the topic. So, when a believer (in anything) claims the belief is “possible”, what should be done is to ask “So what?” and go on to explain why possibility is not a good metric for believing in something.

  68. indianajones says

    ‘It feels like people are so concerned about giving any scope to the theist whatsoever even if the cost is defending some really weird convoluted position about what possibility means.’

    Steel-manning

  69. Altitudes says

    @jabbly

    Possibility doesn’t lead to that. If it leads theists to claim that then that’s another argument to be had with them.

    @Murat

    “I do not understand whether you agree that anything or almost anything is possible, or not.”

    Self-contradictory things can’t exist. Propositions that violate known laws of nature (to the extent that you hold those laws to be true) can be said to be impossible.

    That’s a lot of impossible things.

  70. Murat says

    @Altitudes

    Self-contradictory things can’t exist. Propositions that violate known laws of nature (to the extent that you hold those laws to be true) can be said to be impossible.

    That’s a lot of impossible things.

    I disagree in the sense that what you mention are things we can “generate”.
    Define me any possibility, and I can find the opposites of its major features, place them as extra adjectives, and pufff, there you are another “impossibility”. Is it possible for an iron door to be not made of iron? No, it’s “impossible”. This is because we know of no metal that carries the features of being iron but is not really iron. Why? Because, semantics.
    So, the “impossibilities” that seem to galore do not really come about as the results of investigations on whether something is possible or not. We can simply benefit from that vibrant fountain of possibilities to “generate” impossibilities.
    This is like proposing the exact opposite of every idea, hence, never falling short of the side that comes up with the original ideas in a game of “who uses their cognitive abilities more effectively”.
    – I have an idea: Let’s go to dinner tonight.
    – Well, I have an even better idea: Let’s not go to dinner tonight.
    Are there really two ideas here? No. there is just one idea, and on the other hand its negation in the format of an idea. This is exactly where that definition of impossibilities takes us.
    *
    Is it possible for a particle to both exist and not exist? By the definition you make, that’d be impossible. But Quantum Physics suggest otherwise, as particles popping in and out of existence are, far as I know, not just possible but also “real”.
    A genuine impossible is when you assert things like “it’s impossible for a human being to travel faster than the speed of light” or something. At least, that’s what I draw from the more relevant usage of the term.

  71. indianajones says

    Citing Quantum Physics? Eye roll eye roll. But blink and you’ll miss it but the citation as it reads doesn’t even support the claim! At what point in time does the particle both exist and not exist in your ‘popping in and out of existence’ example?

    And note how far we have wandered away from gumballs here?

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