Tuesday, December 27, 2011

When Choosing Hats Attack

Choosing hats has decided to create a post personally attacking me. You can view the post at choosinghats.com. This originated with a complaint about their comment practices started by another blogger named Rosa Rubicondior who tweeted that they were deleting comments. I replied with a follow up tweet claiming they selectively filter comments by posting a screen shot of a comment that has still never made it out of moderation. In my tweet, I used the term "more proof". Apparently they did not like my use of the term "more proof" and decided it better to personally attack me instead of just approving the comment.
After reading the attack post choosing hats created I felt obligated to comment on it to clear up some misunderstanding on their part or at least to defend my self. The comment I made was submitted on December 22 2011 at 11:28 and as the time of this post has still not been approved. Of course other comments have been approved after I submitted mine so its not as though they haven't seed it yet. Since they are obviously not going to approve it I felt this would be as good as anyplace to post it. 

My comment to choosing hats submitted on December 22 2011 at 11:28. (Still awaiting moderation)
I find it very interesting that you have the time to create a whole post about the petty issue of your comment practices and how atheists have such a problem with it yet you do not have the time to click the approve button on the comment its self. As for the difference between deleting comments and selectively filtering them, I see very little difference when comment moderation is on. Why would a moderator need to delete a comment they can just not approve in the first place? As you pointed out, I more accurately described the situation by using the phrase “selectively filter” so as to clarify that I was not making an accusation that was untrue. I admit that my use of the phrase “more proof” may have been ill advised but still not entirely inaccurate when compared to the screen shot that was actually shown of Rosas comment *awaiting moderation*.
The comment of mine in question did not violate any of your comment policy and was a response to another comment made on the post (not the post itself as you indicate). The excuse given by a CH moderator is that time was not available to approve the comment. This is obviously false since time seems to be quite available as indicated by this post alone and my original comment is still awaiting moderation. Anyway, I feel this is all quite petty as I have already indicated even before you wrote this post. Of course you did not point this fact out and instead tried to make it look like I believe there is some conspiracy.
“Note that Jnani does not ask any questions. He does not provide any arguments. He just gainsays what was asserted in the post. So in response to Jnani’s comment I can just say, “Nope, there is not any ought, purpose, or meaning in the unbelieving worldview, and there are issues with these things in a naturalist worldview despite the alleged existence of subjective (whatever that is supposed to mean) conscious beings.” I might continue, “It is not flat wrong, but rather it is right, to say that there is randomness in a naturalistic worldview, and the Christian worldview does not have anything like a ‘problem of randomness,’ since God does everything in accord with His immutable nature.””
Not all comments need ask a question or outline an argument, as evidence by the comment I was replying to. My comment was making a correction to what I believe was a gross overgeneralization made by another commenter. You may disagree with me but to create a whole post about some petty issue of comment moderation and then just “gainsay” the comment in question seems a bit odd. If you disagree with my comment the appropriate place would have been to just respond to it where it was.
“I agree with what Paul Manata said to Jnani, “You state these things so matter-of-factly, as if reasonable and well-informed people do not disagree with you…” “
As pointed out to Paul, I do say some things so matter-of-factly. It’s called taking a position. If it is a problem to take a position on something then I guess we all have problems.
We all know you have issues with how my WV deals with things like induction but your sneaking in: “Jnani falsely thinks that determinism solves the problem of induction” is quite funny, as my comment in question does not address POI. In fact if I remember correctly, we had quite a long conversation about the very topic of POI a while back. I also remember we were supposed to have a public skype discussion/debate on the matter and you backed out. When you decide to get over the petty issues and deal with something of substance, the offer is still open.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Dusman on Circularity on Dusman Part II (Logic)

This is part two of my response to Dusman on his post about circularity and logic. I covered the circularity issue in a previous post and now will discuss his position on logic and knowledge.

In the second part of Dusmans’ post, he argues that logic and knowledge must be “grounded in God”. His basis for this seems to be two main points; that logic is “immaterial” and that logic has a “moral component”.  On the first point of the “immaterial” Dusman gives us two syllogisms.

“That logic is immaterial is demonstrated via the following syllogisms:
1. Material things are extended in space.
2. Our concepts of "logic" are not extended in space.
3. Therefore, our concepts of "logic" are non-material.
4. Some versions of materialism posit that no non-material entities exist.
5. Therefore, assuming some versions of materialism, concepts of "logic" do not exist.

Syllogism two:

1. Concepts are immaterial.
2. But some versions of materialism hold that anything that exists is material.
3. Our concepts are not material things.
4. Therefore, concepts do not exist.
5. Our concepts of "logic" are immaterial.
6. Therefore, in some versions of materialism, "logic" does not exist.”

Unfortunately for Dusman he shows his lack of understanding of naturalism in both syllogisms by equating naturalism to some form of reductionism/materialism. In the naturalist world view, not everything that exists need be extended in space or reducible to “matter” so his conclusions fail. We also do not posit an immaterial abstract realm as he seems to suggest in his following statement.

“The immaterial Christian God grounds immaterial logic as God is rational and orderly by nature and originally imputed said order to His created order, especially for those created in His image.  Positing an immaterial abstract realm like Plato's realm of ideals contradicts naturalism as it appeals to "other-worldly" explanations which are disdained in most modern naturalistic philosophizing, doesn't tell us how the immaterial realm of the forms informs the physical world, nor is an abstract, impersonal immaterial realm able to ground the personal moral obligation to be logical.  Arguments to the contrary have been demonstrated to be unsuccessful. “

Notice how Dusman starts with assuming his intended conclusion through non-sequitur by claiming since logic is “immaterial” and God is “immaterial” that God is therefore grounds for logic. Even if we grant Dusman both that logic and God are “immaterial” it does not follow that God is the grounds for logic.
Dusman gives us a link to another of his blog posts to try to support his position more. I do not intent to review the entirety of his other post as I think most of it is already covered in this one, however there are a couple items that stand out that I think should be addressed.

Dusman says: “Of course, our materialist detractors have said, "but concepts are material and can be reduced to electrochemical reactions in the brain" and so syllogism 1 is false. But this shows the ignorance of our materialist friends on so many levels”

It looks as though Dusman is doing nothing more than trying to appeal to the ignorance of his Christian audience since I know of no materialist that would say concepts are reducible to electrochemical reactions in the brain. 

Of his other points refuting the straw man that he has created Dusman does say something I find very interesting.

“This position generates an interesting dilemma: If logic is an emergent property, then there were no truths before logic emerged and contradictions could be actualized. So, assuming an evolutionary timescale, what are we to make of claims about the distant past by cosmology and paleontology before physical human brains existed? How can they be true now unless they were also true then?”

The key thing I noticed here is where Dusman says; “If logic is an emergent property, then there were no truths before logic emerged and contradictions could be actualized”. This is interesting because he now suggesting that if there were no logic that “contradictions could be actualized”.  Dusman has now taken the position that objective reality or rather what exists is dependent on logic. This is obviously absurd since even if we grant the immaterial nature of logic as being a process of an immaterial mind then in Dusmans world view no minds or logic can exists because their existence would be dependent on the logic of other minds adinfinitum.

Moving on, Dusman tries to show us how logic has a “moral component”.

“Second, logic has a moral component; i.e., we are obligated to be rational and logical.  Appeals to survival value via natural selection, appeals to logic as an emergent property of the material brain, or social contract theory are irrelevant as they tell us what is the case not necessarily what should be the case.  To ground universal personal moral obligation, you need such obligation grounded in a personal transcendent, universal source.  Such grounding is satisfied in the Triune God.  Thus, unless you begin with this God in all of your reasoning, you can't account for your reasoning processes because those very processes require resources that can only exist, be grounded, and normative if the immaterial God of Scripture exists.”

While Dusman claims “we are obligated to be rational and logical” he does not give us a reason why this is the case. To who are we obligated? I also think he misses a major fact that in many cases humans are neither rational nor logical and it could even be argued that we more often than not act in an irrational way. What he is trying to get at here is that naturalism cannot say why one “should” be rational and logical. Of course this is flatly wrong, as naturalism would simply say that if one wants to better understand the world (what actually exists) then one should be rational and logical. A “should” without a reason is meaningless.

Dusman now moves on the topic of knowledge and provides us with a lengthy quote from a Dr. James Anderson. I will only provide the link to Dr. Anderson’s paper as to not clutter this post any more than already is the case. [http://www.proginosko.com/docs/knowledge_and_theism.html]

Dusman continues on and quotes himself with:

 “Knowledge is justified true belief or warrant. Naturalism must appeal to one's senses and reasoning to verify one's senses and reasoning. This is a classic version of question begging and it can only be escaped by appealing to an all-knowing, personal, a priori source. Hence, God.”

And then in follow up to my request for clarification he continues:

“I mean that to confirm or assume that they are functioning properly you have to use them to confirm and assume them.  This is a classic example of begging the question because you're assuming the very thing you're trying to prove in order to prove it without going outside of the same plane of reasoning to prove it.  Thus, this doesn't meet the classic definition of knowledge normally defined by philosophers as justified, true, belief.  In order to escape this vicious circularity and have knowledge that your senses are valid without appealing to irrationality to do it, you must appeal to an all-knowing Source that exists outside of your senses that can confirm the general reliability of your senses (Proverbs 20:12).  For more information see my article Sensation, Reason, and Christian Epistemology.

Why he wants to lump “senses” and “reasoning” together here as if they are the same or even similar is beyond me however its clear Dusman has an issue with the use of reasoning to “justify” reasoning. This is quite funny as justify in this context essentially means to give good reason for something. It seems quite odd to ask for a good reason for reason.  Dusman also seems to think the question of what is knowledge is settled and has taken it upon himself to declare it as “justified true belief” (JTB). If he is going to take this position, he needs to show us how (JTB) is any better than mere true belief. Not only does he need to show how justification adds any value to true belief but he also needs to account for scenarios where one has (JTB) that would not be considered knowledge.

In conclusion, Dusman not only shows a lack of understanding of naturalism by giving us straw-man arguments for some reductionist version of materialism but also shows a clear misunderstanding of what logic is and offers us only what his thinks it is not.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Dusman on Circularity on Dusman Part I

A blogger named Dusman from the Grace in the Triad blog recently posted on his blog a response to a question I posted in the comments sectionon his blog; “how do you know that presupposing the god of the bible is a good way to have knowledge”. Dusman is a reformed Christian and has a preference for using the presuppositional method of apologetics. In his world view (WV) it is the “biblical” way of doing apologetics so it’s important to understand where he is coming from when reading his responses. Basically the focus of his argument supporting his WV and against all other WVs is based on epistemology. He believes the only way one can justify knowing anything is by presupposing the god of the bible and that any other WV is unable to provide a solid foundation of knowledge. From what I can tell Dusman likes to employ the TAG argument which is the transcendental argument for the existence of God; specifically the god of the bible. There is also a moral component to the TAG however I do not intent to cover any of that here and will try to stay focused on the topic at hand.

Dusmans’ "short" response to my question was;“the proof that God exists is that without Him you can't prove anything”. My initial response is that this is an argument ad consequentiam or an argument to consequences. Dusman of course disagrees with me as he thinks it is a logical consequence of the proposition. He stated the following in protest:

“This isn't an argument to undesirable consequences; though the consequences of denying such should be undesirable for the rational person.  When an argument is about a certain proposition, it is reasonable to assess the truth-value of any logical consequences of it. Logical consequences should not be confused with causal consequences, and truth or falsity should not be confused with goodness or badness.  Since God is the necessary precondition for the intelligibility of reality, then it follows that one couldn't prove anything, much less His existence without first assuming His existence since His existence is the very thing needed for the concept of proof in the first place.  Thus, the proposition itself (i.e., the existence of God) is in question, not the logical relation of the proposition to the intelligibility of reality or the issue of whether the consequences are desirable or not. “

While his protest is expected, it should be obvious why it is missing the point. I had stated earlier to Dusman that I could just as easily take his statement and turn it back on him; “the proof that God does NOT exist is that if he did you could not prove anything”. We can see that the argument by itself is meaningless and is in fact an appeal to consequences since it provides nothing to support its self relies solely on the outcome. I do agree with Dusman that there is nothing illogical about the proposition, however just because it is logical does not mean it is valid. I would liken it to another similar proposition:

“The proof that pot roast exists is that without pot roast we could not have dinner.”

Notice the form is the same here, however instead of presupposing God to justify having knowledge; we are presupposing pot roast in order to justify having dinner. The problem is, it is a meaningless proposition and only an appeal to consequences until we are able to show that the only thing in the fridge is in fact pot roast and then we need not presuppose it anyway.

Dusman goes on to talk about circular reasoning and how it is unavoidable:

“Everybody reasons in a circle and doing so isn't always fallacious.  There are two things we need to discuss about circular reasoning: It is (1) absolutely unavoidable and (2) not necessarily fallacious. Circular reasoning is unavoidable to some degree when proving one's ultimate standard. An ultimate standard cannot be proved from anything else, otherwise it wouldn't be ultimate. Therefore, if it is to be proved, it must use itself as its own standard of judgment by which any decision is made.”


“Second, all circles aren't necessarily fallacious. Begging the question is often considered a fallacy because it is usually arbitrary. But it can be non-arbitrary if it goes beyond a simple circle (i.e., the Bible is true because it says so) and uses additional information to support its conclusion. If the ultimate authority is first assumed and you find out later you have good reasons for it because without it you cannot make sense out of anything, then its perfectly legitimate to reason in a circle.”

While it may be true that circular reasoning is sometimes unavoidable, if we take a closer look we can see where Dusman misses his own point. He states that if he first assumes his ultimate authority (GOB) and later finds out that without his assumption he cannot make sense out of anything then he has good reason for his assumption. It’s clear though that the reason he gives for claiming that without out his assumption he cannot make sense out of anything is because that is a part of his original assumption of the GOB. Dusman is really just assuming the GOB is the way to make sense out of anything and then claiming that he has good reason for assuming the GOB because of his assumption that without the GOB he cannot make sense out of anything. If this does not fit the category of arbitrary I don’t know what would.

Dusman continues down the path of trying to justify his circular reasoning:

“In fact, any true ultimate authority must use itself as part of its own proof. Again, some degree of circular reasoning is involved, but it cannot be a simple "vicious" circle. It must be non-arbitrary. Consider logic: 
1 - If there were no laws of logic, we couldn't make an argument.
2 - We can make an argument.
3 - Therefore, there must be laws of logic.
This argument is perfectly sound yet it is subtly circular.  It's what is known as a modus tollens syllogism (i.e., denying the consequent) and in this "proof", we have assumed that there are laws of logic. Modus tollens is a law of inference in logic, and we have used it as part of the proof that there are laws of logic. In this case we had no other choice; in order to get anywhere in any argument we must presuppose that there are laws of logic.”

Here he has given us a simple syllogism trying to make his case, however; we can see he has pulled a bait and switch. Now he is trying to equate his argument that without the GOB we could not make sense of anything to without logic we couldn’t make an argument. These two are just not even close and he has now given us a false analogy.

He continues on:

“However, this example argument doesn't merely assume what its trying to prove; it imports additional information to support its conclusion. What makes this circular argument a powerful one is that to deny it would be to assume it, thus any potential rebuttal would be self-defeating. A great way to show that a particular presupposition must be true is to show that one would have to assume that the presupposition is true even to argue against it in the first place. “

It is not clear what “additional information” he is referring to here as I see none in the syllogism provided.  He then goes from claiming “additional information” to claiming it is circular and that to deny it would be to assume it. Of course I think he has missed that it really isn’t even circular since the first proposition is meaningless. If we look closely we can see that “laws of logic” assume “logic” and “argument[s]” also assumes logic, so the first premise is essentially; if there were no logic, we couldn’t use logic. This is obviously absurd.

Dusman goes on to reaffirm to us his “ultimate standard” of the GOB and attempt to show how any attempted refutation of it must assume it. Once again he is back with the “the proof that God exists is that without Him you can't prove anything” argument.

“The Christian's ultimate standard is like this; any attempt to refute the Bible must assume things about the world that could only be true if the Bible were true in order to get started. The Bible not only provides the criteria for itself, but it does so for all other facts, hence, the reasoning isn't viciously circular. It gives us a foundation (the Biblical God) for rational reasoning (including laws of logic), science, morality, reliability of our senses and memory, and so on.”

After some additional pleading of his position Dusman goes on to seal the deal:

“As with the argument for laws of logic, any attempted rebuttal would be self-refuting, because it would have to use things (laws of logic, the charge to be consistent, etc.) that presuppose a universe that can only exist if Christian theism is true. Thus, we are not merely arguing "The Bible must be the word of God because it says so". Rather, we are saying, "The Bible must be the word of God not only because it says it is, but if you reject this claim you are reduced to absurdity."”

We are now back to the bait and switch and here is where Dusman tries to bring it all together in hopes that we don’t see what is really going on (I think David Blaine would be impressed; is he still around?). As I have already pointed out, equating GOB and logic just doesn’t add up. Sure, one cannot deny logic without assuming it, however we can deny the GOB without assuming it and Dusman has yet to prove otherwise. So far, he has only been able to assert that we must assume the GOB and given us circular argument after circular argument along with some bait and switch to try to make his case. I hope he can do better than this in future posts.

In conclusion I hope to have made it clear how the argument Dusman has put forth not only doesn’t meet Dusmans’ own requirements for a non-fallacious argument but still leaves the original question unanswered. I have shown how the justification put forth for presupposing the GOB does not meet the standard of non-arbitrary circularity put forth by Dusman as well as demonstrating how it has no meaningful content. Dusmans’ position amounts to nothing more than; one must presuppose the GOB because presupposing the GOB says you cannot know anything unless you presuppose the GOB.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

On the not so problem of induction

The flowing assertion was presented by blogger Rhology over at Rhoblogy.

the naturalistic worldview has a dire and unresolved epistemological weakness - the problem of induction

Rhology thinks this is a weakness for the naturalistic world view and not for the Christian world view.  Here I will attempt to explain for him how POI is not really a problem for the naturalists WV.

It is not clear when Rhology refers to the POI if he is talking about induction with sets (this is a crow and it is black; that is a crow and it is black; no crow has been seen that is not black; therefore all crows are black) or if he is referring to induction with temporal events (the sun has risen every morning in past experience therefore the sun will rise tomorrow). For the sake of this post, I will deal only with the POI and temporal events.

Let’s work with the concept of the sun rising from the east in the morning. We know that the sun is not actually rising but that the earth is rotating. The use of the term rising is only for convention here. Rhology wants to know how we could have knowledge that the sun will continue to rise from the east in the future based off of our past experience. First we have to ask our self what it would take to make the sun rising to continue doing so into the future. What kind of universe would be needed for such a thing to occur? Would a universe where everything was random do? I think not. We would need to be in a universe that had some sort of uniformity to it. We can take our past experience into account and see that the universe “was” at least uniform in the past. We can also see that the universe “was” causal in the past. By causal I mean that we could see cause and effect in action in the past. In fact we can see that causality creates temporal uniformity. For each particular action there will be a particular effect. Now if the universe was causal in the past it must be the case that it will continue to be causal in the future since there can be no true randomness in a causal system otherwise it would not be a causal system.

To sum it up a bit, we have good reason to believe that the universe was causal and uniform in the past and that the nature of a causal system gives us good reason to believe that the universe will continue to be causal and uniform in the future therefore we have good reason to believe that the sun will continue to rise from the east tomorrow morning.