“Some of us just go one god further”

In a recent YouTube comment, I mentioned Bill Vallicella (the Maverick Philosopher)’s analysis of the silly atheist soundbite “some of us just go one god further.

And despite my best intentions, I got drawn into a discussion in YouTube comments, which is worse than Twitter.

Since I ended up writing a long thing, here it is:

First, here is the original piece by Bill Vallicella: https://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2010/07/some-of-us-just-go-one-god-further.html

The comment he is examining is “Some of us just go one god further.” This comment is not—in itself—an argument, but is typically presented as one of the premises of an enthymeme, which is an argument. The argument spelled out, would be something like:

1 P believes in a god, e.g. Thor.

2 P does not believe in any other gods.

3 But any reason P could adduce for belief in Thor could be adduced for belief in any or all other gods, and

4 Any reason P could adduce for not believing in any other gods could be adduced as reason for anyone, including P, not to believe in Thor.

5 So, P’s belief in the god Thor and only the god Thor, while rejecting all other gods, is not rationally justified. Note that it is logically possible that P is correct.

It could be the case that Ragnarok just occurred and literally all the gods died, except for Thor, who almost died from poison of the Midgard Serpent, but was saved by P with some modern anti-toxins. Thor reports directly to P that all the other gods died, and he is the sole survivor. That is logically possible, that all the gods died, save one, and P finds himself in a position to know this. But that’s not really the issue.

I doubt there is such a person as P, who believes in one god and no others. The fact that atheists think this is the case is due to a lack of education on their part. It depends specifically on two related errors: (1) That God is a god (2) That the difference between monotheism and polytheism lies in the number of gods worshiped. Neither of these is the case, and I have addressed both at length elsewhere:

On (1): https://lastedenblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/06/god-vs-the-gods/

On (2): https://lastedenblog.wordpress.com/2016/09/05/monotheism-vs-polytheism/ These can be summed up with the points

(1′) God is not a god and

(2′) monotheism is worship of God and zero gods (not one god) and polytheism is the worship of many gods.

So, with these in hand, we can reformulate the “one god further” claim and the argument it serves as a premise for. When an atheist says that “he just goes one god further” but actually rejects God on the same grounds that he rejects the various gods, he has not “just gone one god further” because God is not a god. He has committed an error which is analogous to “rejecting the truth of the earth is flat and “rejecting the truth of the moon is made of green cheese and then going on, like the postmodernists to reject TRUTH ITSELF. If a postmodernist defended his rejection of truth as such by saying that “just goes one truth further,” the error is (or should be) apparent: Truth itself, truth as such, is not A truth, although the word “truth” is applied both the particular truths, particular things asserted to be true, and also to truth itself.

The way it is disanalogous is that God is not the ground of gods in any special way more than God is the ground of all beings, unlike truth itself which, in a certain way, is the ground of all particular truths.

So the phrase reveals itself as an an untrue claim: “In rejecting God, Who is not a god, I just go one god further, because God, who is not a god, is a god.” The claim is untrue because it is literally nonsensical.  And so the reformulate argument also falls apart:

1 C believes in God.

2 C does not believe in any gods.

3 But any reason C could adduce for belief in God could be adduced for belief in gods, and [FALSE]

Any reason C could adduce for not believing in gods could be adduced as reason for anyone, including C, not to believe in God. [FALSE]

5 So, C’s belief in God, while rejecting gods, is not rationally justified. [FALSE]

So if the atheist who says “I just go one god further” has found a human being P who claims that a god, e.g. Thor, and only Thor, exists, whereas other gods do not (what happened to Odin and Loki?), then his description would make sense. But I am unaware of the existence of any such person P, and it would be entirely reasonable to ask P to justify his one-god-only belief, because it does seem prima facie bizarre, unless justified by a scenario like I laid out above.

But if the atheist who says “I just go one god further” is speaking to a human being C who believes not in any gods, but in God, then his “description” of the situation is in fact a misdescription, because he is confusing God with a god. When one rejects God, one is not rejecting a god, or “one more god.” Belief or rejection of God has nothing to do with belief or rejection of gods.

The gods are beings (if there are any, which I doubt). God is the transcendent ground and source of Being—the ἀρχὴ τῆς οὐσίας τε καὶ τοῦ εἶναι; God is “beyond Being, transcending it in dignity and power” “ἔτι ἐπέκεινα τῆς οὐσίας πρεσβείᾳ καὶ δυνάμει ὑπερέχοντος” [Socrates, Plato’s Republic ]. In brief, since God is not a god, one can never justify rejecting God on the grounds of “just going one god further.” That is neither an accurate description or observation or characterization of the situation, nor can it serve as premise in a cogent atheistical argument.

YOUR WEBSITE IS WRONG

If you have been directed here, you posted a link to a website, claiming something was true because the website said so. Since one bare assertion, or in this case, link to a website, is as good as any other, this website declares categorically that YOUR WEBSITE IS WRONG in whatever you claimed it proved or showed. It’s just wrong. You know it is wrong because a website—this one—says it is wrong. And since you believe websites govern truth, you are bound to accept this. Sorry, but YOUR WEBSITE IS WRONG.

 

Atheists Trolled Me for 5 Days, So I Learned Their Strategies | Matthew Schneider

via Atheists Trolled Me for 5 Days, So I Learned Their Strategies | Matthew Schneider

[Excerpt]

Why Atheists Have More Faith

Faith is a belief in anything beyond what we directly experience. In the simplest form, I believe Madagascar is a real place despite almost no chance I’ll go there in my life. When we Christians talk about our faith, we often mean a theological virtue that gives us a certainty beyond what we experience. However, what we believe is beyond reason but not against reason. What atheists believe is against reason, plain and simple. Hence, why I called their belief as having more faith.

Deducing God

There are many arguments to prove the existence of God through philosophy. But I won’t post each one here (just follow the links).

Problems with Atheist Arguments

Throughout the five days of being trolled and seeing 100s of atheist messages, they seem to fall into a limited number of repeated errors. Many of these errors are forms of confirmation bias or assuming what they are trying to prove. I fit these in two categories.

Fundamental Errors of Philosophy

  • The error of assuming only scientific knowledge matters (this statement is philosophical, and thus beyond the realm of science).
  • The error of assuming that everything is material (this is a trickery of including their conclusion in their premise). We don’t need to begin by assuming that non-spiritual realities exist, as this can be proven so long as you don’t automatically discount that evidence like atheists wrongly assume.
  • A similar error is assuming all causal chains are linear. If a ball hits another or two mice make babies we have linear reactions but some causation requires a power on a level above it. For example, although I and a kitten can press keyboard letters, it requires intelligence to write coherently.

Errors in the Relationship Between Philosophy and Theology

  • The error of assuming proving God means proving the Trinity. This is the underlying issue if you hear atheists claim that we only believe because of faith. Unfortunately, English doesn’t have two separate words for God-insofar-as-we-can-know-him-without-faith and the fullness-of-the-Christian-understanding-of-God. Although these refer to the same being, they refer to him in different ways.
  • The error of assuming that God is just like bigfoot or the thousands of pagan gods. A person need not necessarily confront if bigfoot exists in their life, however, we do need to confront if there is a first cause. Without a first cause, everything is meaningless. Hence, the importance of the distinction above.

Lessons

I learned two things from this experience. First, that atheist troll Twitter is one of the less pleasant Twitter groups. Second, which is more applicable for the rest of you, that atheists often make false arguments or assume what they are trying to prove. So, hopefully, my experience and explanation above might help you better deal with atheists. Sometimes you can explain God’s existence, but other times when dealing with atheists, we realize there is some error the atheist holds that goes beyond logic so we just need to pray for him or her.

Burden of Proof in Philosophy? [reblog from the Maverick Philosopher, Bill Vallicella]

Reblog of Burden of Proof in Philosophy via Bill Vallicella, the Maverick Philosopher.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

Burden of Proof in Philosophy?

1. The question this post raises is whether it is at all useful to speak of burden of proof (BOP) in dialectical situations in which there is no judge or tribunal to lay down and enforce rules of procedure.  By a dialectical situation I mean a context in which orderly discussion occurs among two or more competent and sincere interlocutors who share the goal of arriving as best they can at the truth about some matter, or resolving some question in dispute.  My main concern is with dialectical situations that are broadly  philosophical.   I suspect that in philosophical debates the notion of burden of proof is out of place and not usefully deployed.  That is what I will now try to argue.

2. I will begin with the observation that the presumption of innocence (POI) in an Anglo-American court  of law is never up for grabs in that arena.  Thus the POI is not itself presumptively maintained and subject to defeat.  If Jones is accused of a crime, the presumption of his innocence can of course be defeated, but that he must be presumed innocent until proven guilty is itself never questioned and of course never defeated.  The POI is not itself a defeasible presumption.  And if Rescher is right that there are no indefeasible presumptions, then the POI is not even a presumption.  The POI is a rule of the ‘game,’ and constitutive of the ‘game.’  The POI in a court room situation  is like a law of chess.  The laws of chess, as constitutive of chess, cannot themselves be contested within a game of chess.  The reason there is always a definite outcome in chess (win, lose, or draw) is precisely because of those nonnegotiable chess-constitutive laws.

As I pointed out earlier, defeasible presumption (DP) and burden of proof are correlative notions.  The defeasible presumption that the accused is innocent until proven guilty places trhe onus probandi on the prosecution.  Therefore, from the fact that the POI is not itself a defeasible presumption in a court of law, it follows that neither is the BOP.  Where the initating BOP lies — the BOP that remains in force and never shifts during the proceedings — is never subject to debate.  It lies on the state in a criminal case and on the plaintiff in a civil case.

3. But in philosophy matters are otherwise. For in philosophy everything is up for grabs, including the nature of philosophical inquiry and the rules of procedure.  (This is why metaphilosophy is not ‘outside of’ philosophy but a branch of same.)  And so where the BOP lies in a debate between, say, atheists and theists is itself a matter of debate and bitter contention.  Each party seeks to put the BOP on the other, to ‘bop’ him if you will.  The theist is inclined to say that there is a defeasible presumption in favor of the truth of theism; but of course few atheists will meekly submit to that pronunciamento.  If the theist is right in his presumption, then he doesn’t have to do anything except turn aside the atheist’s objections: he is under no obligation to argue positively for thesism any more than the accused is under an obligation to prove his innocence.

4. Now we come to my tentative suggestion.  There is no fact of the matter as to where the BOP lies in any dialectical context, legal, philosophical or any other: it is a matter of decision.  This is because BOP is a procedural matter.  If so, then there must be an adjudicator above the fray (i.e., a judge or arbiter who is not party to the dispute) who makes the decision as to where the BOP lies and has the power to enforce his decision.  There must be an arbiter who lays down and enforces the rules of procedure.  But in philosophy there neither is nor can be an above-the-fray adjudicator  whose decisions are unquestionable and backed by the threat of violence.

For suppose I were to try to play the arbiter in a debate between a theist and an atheist.  I give the following speech:

There is a presumption in favor of every existing institution, long-standing way of doing things, and well-entrenched and widespread way of belief.  Now the consensus gentium is that God exists.  And so I lay it down that there is a defeasible presumption in favor of theism and that the burden of proof  lies squarely on the shoulders of the atheist.  Theism is doxastically innocent until proven guilty.  The theist need only rebut the atheist’s objections; he needn’t make a positive case for his side.

Not only would the atheist not accept this declaration, he would be justified in not accepting it, for reasons that are perhaps obvious.  For my declaration is as much up for grabs as anything else in philosophy.  And of course if I make an ad baculum move then I remove myself from philosophy’s precincts altogether.  In philosophy the appeal is to reason, never to the stick.

The situation in philosophy could be likened to the situation in a court of law in which the contending parties are the ones who decide on the rules of procedure, including BOP and DP rules.  Such a trial could not be brought to a conclusion.  That’s the way it is in philosophy.  Every procedural rule and methodological maxim is further fodder for philosophical Forschung. (Sorry, couldn’t resist the alliteration.)

My tentative conclusion is as follows.  In philosophy no good purpose is served by claims that the BOP lies on one side or the other of a dispute, or that there is a DP in favor of this thesis but not in favor of that one. For there is no fact of the matter as to where the BOP lies.  BOP considerations are usefully deployed only in dialectical situations in which some authority presides over the debate and lays down the rules of procedure and has the power to punish those who violate them.  Such an authority constitutes by his decision the ‘fact’ that the BOP lies on one side rather than on the other.

It follows from what I have said that if you disagree with me, then neither of us bears a burden  of proving his metaphilosophical thesis.  But this is paradoxical.  For if you disagree with me, then presumably you think that BOP considerations are usefully deployed in philosophy, and that there is a fact of the matter as to where the BOP lies, and that therefore one of us must bear a probative burden.

The mysterious case of the totally bogus Epicurus quote

e g r e g o r e s

If you do a google search on the following words (without quotes):

“Is he willing to prevent evil, but unable?”

you will get over 2 million hits. Most of those hits ascribe these words to Epicurus, who is supposed to have posed the above question concerning “God”. The only problem is that Epicurus never wrote any such thing, and, in fact, directly contradicted the sentiment expressed in that question.

The quote actually comes from David Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion. More specifically it is found on page 134 of the 1907 edition of Hume’s Dialogues (look here and search for the word “malevolent”).

Hume has Philo, one of the fictional speakers of his Dialogues, say the following:

Epicurus’ old questions are yet unanswered.

Is he [God] willing to prevent evil, but not able? then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? then he is malevolent…

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A Simple Epistemological Question for Dr. Bronwyn Winter

Dr. Bronwyn Winter, Associate Professor of “European Studies”—one of the paradigm fields of scientific and academic rigor—at the University of Sydney, and radical feminist, has this to say:

Girls who have felt suicidal, who have histories of eating disorders and self-harm, who have felt our bodies are all wrong, and who have suffered from conservative [sic] and abusive family or school environments and have come out the other side—or who are perhaps still working on coming out the other side—we all know that the problem is not our bodies or our brains; the problem is not us; the problem is society; the problem is gender. [Emphasis mine.]

It isn’t clear who the “all” is in “we all know”—perhaps it is only the ones with the histories of suicidal ideation, eating disorders, and self-harm, things I admit I no experience with.

Assuming this is correct, what exactly is the epistemological link between being suicidal, having eating disorders, and a history of self-harm, and accurate knowledge that “there is nothing wrong with us”?

Prima facie, it seems likely that there is something wrong with a person who is suicidal, has an eating disorder, or engages in self-harm: all three of theses things are, in fact, recognizable and recognized mental disorders.

How do “we”—or I suppose “they”—have this knowledge that, despite the fact that there is obviously something wrong with them, that there is nothing wrong with them, that it is “society” or “gender” which are out of order?

You all know I like arguments to be laid out systematically, so

  1. P is suicidal.
  2. P has an eating disorder.
  3. P has a history of self-harm.
  4. Therefore, P knows that there is nothing wrong with P.
  5. Therefore, P knows something is wrong with society.
  6. Therefore P knows something is wrong with “gender.”

I would really like to know how Dr. Winter manages to get conclusions 4-6 out of premises 1-3.

The Story of Moira Greyland (Guest Post)

Something everyone should know.

askthe"Bigot"

I was born into a family of famous gay pagan authors in the late Sixties. My mother was Marion Zimmer Bradley, and my father was Walter Breen. Between them, they wrote over 100 books: my mother wrote science fiction and fantasy (Mists of Avalon), and my father wrote books on numismatics: he was a coin expert.

What they did to me is a matter of unfortunate public record: suffice to say that both parents wanted me to be gay and were horrifed at my being female. My mother molested me from ages 3-12. The first time I remember my father doing anything especially violent to me I was five. Yes he raped me. I don’t like to think about it. If you want to know about his shenanigans with little girls, and you have a very strong stomach, you can google the Breendoggle, which was the scandal which ALMOST drummed…

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