Presuppositional arguments
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08-11-2013, 12:09 AM (This post was last modified: 08-11-2013 11:14 AM by Elesjei.)
Presuppositional arguments
I was trying to think of the different kinds of arguments for gods, but what I realized was that they could all be reduced to presupposition. Every argument requires that we accept premises that we have no reason to accept.

For example:

The Kalam cosmological argument requires us to accept that the universe has a finite lifespan, but what is the basis for thinking this? The universe is not like a star that has a certain mass and can only 'burn' for a certain length of time. When a star uses fuel, the matter is simply converted into energy and other matter. The elementary particles have not disappeared; they have just changed location. The universe is not the sum of all stars, it is the sum of all particles, and we have no reason to believe that the particles will cease to exist, or that they ever weren't here. (Infinity might be an impossible concept to wrap your head around, but it actually fits with what we know better than the universe having a finite age)

Irreducible complexity is another big one. Firstly, how do you know that something complex could not have come about naturally? We might find examples of things that appear impossible, but we don't know that they are impossible. The most we can say is "we don't know". Declaring it impossible for something to have come about through evolution is an unfounded assumption. Secondly, even if true, how does an impossibly complex organism act as evidence for a god? The assumption is that only a god could have created something that could not have evolved. How do you know this? What if things simply pop into existence of their own accord? That's another theory equally valid as the god one. The argument requires presupposing that evolution could not have created a thing, and that god is the only answer to the mystery.

Prophecy is popular among people who don't realize that their prophecies were never actually fulfilled. But, assuming that prophecies were fulfilled, they still aren't evidence for your god. While it may seem extremely unlikely that something predicted hundreds of years ago would come to pass just as described, the argument requires that the event could only have occurred as part of a fulfilled prophecy. Again, how do we know this? We are assuming that something is impossible except as a fulfillment of prophecy. Events do not suddenly require divine intervention to happen just because someone predicts them.

Degrees of perfection. This argument is that, because things can be described as better or worse, for example, that there must exist a best and worst with which to compare things. This is absurd. When we say something is worse we are making a relative statement. What is worse: 1000 bee stings or a stubbed toe? We compare the two items to decide what is worse. We are making no reference at all to a worst. And anyway, scales can be infinite; no matter how bad something is, it can always be worse. 1001 bee stings, for example. What is good can always be better. Eternal paradise? How about eternal paradise plus ice cream? For the argument to make sense we have to suppose that something that exists in theory must also exist in reality. There is no reason to believe that absolute qualities must exist.

Miracles. People love miracles. Something happened that we believe couldn't possibly have happened, therefore God must have intervened. There are a few assumptions being made with this one. Firstly, we assume that what happened could not have happened naturally. But the truth is that despite all the scientific knowledge gained over the past few hundred years, we don't know that what happened was impossible. Impossible according to what we know so far. That means we see no way it could have happened, but we don't know it was absolutely impossible. In any case, the fact that it happened shows us that it isn't impossible. We simply don't understand how it happened. Secondly, it is dishonest to attribute the "miracle" to God by default. As with irreducible complexity, we are assuming that God is the only way it could have happened. We have no reason to believe that.

...and so on.

We have no reason to believe that the argument is valid if the premise is not valid.
We have no reason to believe that the premise is valid.
Therefore we have no reason to believe that the argument is valid.

Basing an argument on something that you don't actually know to be true makes it very weak.

If something can be destroyed by the truth, it might be worth destroying.

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08-11-2013, 07:47 AM
RE: Presuppositional arguments
Its boring if cant find anything to disagree with. You could have at least thrown in some conspiracy theories
To poop on.

Theism is to believe what other people claim, Atheism is to ask "why should I".
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08-11-2013, 12:40 PM
RE: Presuppositional arguments
(08-11-2013 12:09 AM)Elesjei Wrote:  I was trying to think of the different kinds of arguments for gods, but what I realized was that they could all be reduced to presupposition. Every argument requires that we accept premises that we have no reason to accept.

For example:

The Kalam cosmological argument requires us to accept that the universe has a finite lifespan, but what is the basis for thinking this? The universe is not like a star that has a certain mass and can only 'burn' for a certain length of time. When a star uses fuel, the matter is simply converted into energy and other matter. The elementary particles have not disappeared; they have just changed location. The universe is not the sum of all stars, it is the sum of all particles, and we have no reason to believe that the particles will cease to exist, or that they ever weren't here. (Infinity might be an impossible concept to wrap your head around, but it actually fits with what we know better than the universe having a finite age)

Irreducible complexity is another big one. Firstly, how do you know that something complex could not have come about naturally? We might find examples of things that appear impossible, but we don't know that they are impossible. The most we can say is "we don't know". Declaring it impossible for something to have come about through evolution is an unfounded assumption. Secondly, even if true, how does an impossibly complex organism act as evidence for a god? The assumption is that only a god could have created something that could not have evolved. How do you know this? What if things simply pop into existence of their own accord? That's another theory equally valid as the god one. The argument requires presupposing that evolution could not have created a thing, and that god is the only answer to the mystery.

Prophecy is popular among people who don't realize that their prophecies were never actually fulfilled. But, assuming that prophecies were fulfilled, they still aren't evidence for your god. While it may seem extremely unlikely that something predicted hundreds of years ago would come to pass just as described, the argument requires that the event could only have occurred as part of a fulfilled prophecy. Again, how do we know this? We are assuming that something is impossible except as a fulfillment of prophecy. Events do not suddenly require divine intervention to happen just because someone predicts them.

Degrees of perfection. This argument is that, because things can be described as better or worse, for example, that there must exist a best and worst with which to compare things. This is absurd. When we say something is worse we are making a relative statement. What is worse: 1000 bee stings or a stubbed toe? We compare the two items to decide what is worse. We are making no reference at all to a worst. And anyway, scales can be infinite; no matter how bad something is, it can always be worse. 1001 bee stings, for example. What is good can always be better. Eternal paradise? How about eternal paradise plus ice cream? For the argument to make sense we have to suppose that something that exists in theory must also exist in reality. There is no reason to believe that absolute qualities must exist.

Miracles. People love miracles. Something happened that we believe couldn't possibly have happened, therefore God must have intervened. There are a few assumptions being made with this one. Firstly, we assume that what happened could not have happened naturally. But the truth is that despite all the scientific knowledge gained over the past few hundred years, we don't know that what happened was impossible. Impossible according to what we know so far. That means we see no way it could have happened, but we don't know it was absolutely impossible. In any case, the fact that it happened shows us that it isn't impossible. We simply don't understand how it happened. Secondly, it is dishonest to attribute the "miracle" to God by default. As with irreducible complexity, we are assuming that God is the only way it could have happened. We have no reason to believe that.

...and so on.

We have no reason to believe that the argument is valid if the premise is not valid.
We have no reason to believe that the premise is valid.
Therefore we have no reason to believe that the argument is valid.

Basing an argument on something that you don't actually know to be true makes it very weak.

Minor quibble regarding Kalam: We DO have reason to believe that the universe is not of infinite lifespan, and while I disparage WLC's logic in general, I will give him a single iota of credit for frequently pointing this out. Two reasons: First, the universe is expanding. This fact is at the core of the Big Bang theory. Second, the second law of thermodynamics. You said that there isn't some sort of fuel that gets used up, but there is: Absence of entropy. The longer the universe chugs along, the more entropy gets introduced.

What's wrong with Kalam isn't its identification of a finite history as being likely, though it does make several flawed logical steps in that which would be invalid on their own. (WLC, for example, frequently maintains that the argument is deductive while drawing on evidence like above.... yeah, okay, iota withdrawn.) What's wrong is automatically and without justification claiming A) a need for a first cause and B) randomly, this first cause is God.

SEE Sporehux? It CAN be done!

Also, 9/11 was a conspiracy. (FIRE IN THE HOLE!)
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08-11-2013, 06:38 PM
RE: Presuppositional arguments
I'm not a physicist, so maybe I'm not using the right words, or my understanding is wrong. What I mean by universe is everything that exists; photons, quarks, dark matter, etc. If everything was broken down to a most basic state, there would still be a universe. As far as I know, particles can change, like electrons and positrons colliding and producing photons, but I haven't heard anything about elementary particles ceasing to exist without creating a product of some kind.

If something can be destroyed by the truth, it might be worth destroying.

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08-11-2013, 10:52 PM
RE: Presuppositional arguments
(08-11-2013 06:38 PM)Elesjei Wrote:  I'm not a physicist, so maybe I'm not using the right words, or my understanding is wrong. What I mean by universe is everything that exists; photons, quarks, dark matter, etc. If everything was broken down to a most basic state, there would still be a universe. As far as I know, particles can change, like electrons and positrons colliding and producing photons, but I haven't heard anything about elementary particles ceasing to exist without creating a product of some kind.

Sure, there'd be a universe left. Kinda. Wikipedia "heat death of the universe" for what it would look like. As a metaphor/oversimplification, let's say that the "significant events" of the universe are fueled by gasoline. There's a finite amount of gasoline and none more can be ever created, at least in this metaphor. Is there stuff left after you burn the gasoline? Sure, all sorts of exhaust. But that's not gasoline. The exhaust can't fuel significant events. We call that entropy. Once you've got entropy, you can't get rid of it, and you can't go back to the state where you were before when you had less entropy. Eventually, you reach maximum entropy, you run out of "gas", and nothing more can happen.

EDIT: In the interests of disclosure, I'm not a physicist either. Also, entropy isn't a disproof of an infinite past, or even an infinite future, but it is suggestive.
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08-11-2013, 11:47 PM
RE: Presuppositional arguments
(08-11-2013 06:38 PM)Elesjei Wrote:  I'm not a physicist...
(08-11-2013 10:52 PM)Reltzik Wrote:  In the interests of disclosure, I'm not a physicist either.

BUT I AM.

(08-11-2013 10:52 PM)Reltzik Wrote:  
(08-11-2013 06:38 PM)Elesjei Wrote:  I'm not a physicist, so maybe I'm not using the right words, or my understanding is wrong. What I mean by universe is everything that exists; photons, quarks, dark matter, etc. If everything was broken down to a most basic state, there would still be a universe. As far as I know, particles can change, like electrons and positrons colliding and producing photons, but I haven't heard anything about elementary particles ceasing to exist without creating a product of some kind.

Sure, there'd be a universe left. Kinda. Wikipedia "heat death of the universe" for what it would look like. As a metaphor/oversimplification, let's say that the "significant events" of the universe are fueled by gasoline. There's a finite amount of gasoline and none more can be ever created, at least in this metaphor. Is there stuff left after you burn the gasoline? Sure, all sorts of exhaust. But that's not gasoline. The exhaust can't fuel significant events. We call that entropy. Once you've got entropy, you can't get rid of it, and you can't go back to the state where you were before when you had less entropy. Eventually, you reach maximum entropy, you run out of "gas", and nothing more can happen.

EDIT: In the interests of disclosure, I'm not a physicist either. Also, entropy isn't a disproof of an infinite past, or even an infinite future, but it is suggestive.

Broadly speaking that's fair enough.
(I mean, 'elementary' particles are just those which are currently present in large numbers for human-observable timescales)

It's not precisely that there would cease to be things given sufficient distance in time and space; merely that there would cease to be interaction between them, insofar as uniformity admits of no gradients and thus no action.

Entropy change implies (that's implies in the strong logical necessity sense) a direction to time; a meaningful definition of time (in the sense of duration) is likewise concomitant with observable transition (this being a consequence of our understanding of quantum mechanics...).

So we might come at the same idea through similar but distinct paths; our perception of time may be consequent to perception of entropy, or indeed vice versa. Or some combination thereof. Not being able to step outside the universe to run the necessary tests, we can't say.

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