Question: Dealing with Absolutes.
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16-02-2016, 10:11 PM
Question: Dealing with Absolutes.
Hey everyone, this is my first post. I normally am not the type of interact online, but this seems like a great site and I came here specifically to find an answer to my question.
I am an atheist. My older brother is a devout Christian. When he uses theistic arguments like Kalam, fine tuning, morality, I find them all pretty easy to defeat. (Despite the fact he wont admit it.)

One of his arguments however, seems to have stumped me. Perhaps it has been explained before on here. Although, I'm good with science, philosophy is not my strong suit. Perhaps someone more intelligent than me can properly articulate a response. Teach me a better way of thinking about this. I'm not afraid to say I'm stumped on this one and need an answer I can understand, and perhaps articulate to my brother.

He is coming at me with this. If someone makes the claim that a belief is only rational with evidence. Isn't that itself a faith based belief that can't be proved with evidence?


How can we know anything to be actually be true, without first using some sort of faith based assumption? If it's a faith based assumption for me to say that I only believe things based on evidence, isn't that as bad as a theistic faith based assumption itself?

I could say that science and evidence is a reliable tool which accurately helps us to understand the world around and has proven to do so, however that would still be a faith based assumption that anything really exists to begin with and the mind is accurately portraying the world around me. Or that the mind really exists for that matter. Where is the starting point? How can we really know anything to be absolutely true about the world without first accepting that we can use the scientific method, which a faith based assumption.

I hope that makes sense. Sorry for the ramble. I hope someone can explain this to me or give me their point of view, and how to handle this.
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16-02-2016, 10:32 PM
RE: Question: Dealing with Absolutes.
Hello! Big Grin

Now, I am no philosopher either, however,

Quote:How can we know anything to be actually be true, without first using some sort of faith based assumption?

Seems to me to be coming along the lines of 'Solipsism'.

Basically... when it comes to determining whether we are all just a part of a giant computer simulation OR everything we 'see'/'feel' etc is real.

Of course, you can turn the whole thing around on your older brother and ask how they know that anything is true? Where and how do they make such distinctions? Depending on their answer will give you a good handle on how to follow on with the conversation.

Matt Dilahunty has done some youtube about such things and I'm sure there are folks who can give actual really good replies to your question. Smile
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16-02-2016, 10:32 PM (This post was last modified: 16-02-2016 10:42 PM by GirlyMan.)
RE: Question: Dealing with Absolutes.
(16-02-2016 10:11 PM)nicholas95 Wrote:  He is coming at me with this. If someone makes the claim that a belief is only rational with evidence. Isn't that itself a faith based belief that can't be proved with evidence?

There's rationality and then there's rationalization. They are too commonly and casually confused.

(16-02-2016 10:11 PM)nicholas95 Wrote:  Or that the mind really exists for that matter. Where is the starting point? How can we really know anything to be absolutely true about the world without first accepting that we can use the scientific method, which a faith based assumption.

You're on your own there buddy. ... I don't even admit solipsism. And "truth" is overrated.

#sigh
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17-02-2016, 12:05 AM
RE: Question: Dealing with Absolutes.
(16-02-2016 10:11 PM)nicholas95 Wrote:  He is coming at me with this. If someone makes the claim that a belief is only rational with evidence. Isn't that itself a faith based belief that can't be proved with evidence?

No. It's what "rational" means. It's a matter of definition, not of faith.

(16-02-2016 10:11 PM)nicholas95 Wrote:  I could say that science and evidence is a reliable tool which accurately helps us to understand the world around and has proven to do so, however that would still be a faith based assumption that anything really exists to begin with and the mind is accurately portraying the world around me. Or that the mind really exists for that matter.

No, it wouldn't. Solipsism only holds if you lack coherent definitions, as with your brother's original argument.

We exist, and experience something. We call this something "the universe". Any definition of "exists" which does not include both ourselves and the universe is useless, and can be discarded.

Nailing down concrete definitions is possibly the most important part of any argument, but it's also, unfortunately, the one that most people forget about.

"Owl," said Rabbit shortly, "you and I have brains. The others have fluff. If there is any thinking to be done in this Forest - and when I say thinking I mean thinking - you and I must do it."
- A. A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner
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17-02-2016, 02:23 AM
RE: Question: Dealing with Absolutes.
(16-02-2016 10:11 PM)nicholas95 Wrote:  He is coming at me with this. If someone makes the claim that a belief is only rational with evidence. Isn't that itself a faith based belief that can't be proved with evidence?

No it's not, but it's also not the position of atheism. He's purposely miss-characterizing the position of non-belief to attempt to strike it down, (called "making a strawman"). No atheist says "a belief is only rational with evidence". If one HAS evidence, no "belief (faith) is necessary (at all). So his premise is false. It's also a false analogy. The *position* that having evidence before accepting the truth of something, is not "belief". He chooses to suspend rationality, and make the "leap of faith". Does he just pray if he is sick ? No. He uses science, and goes to the doctor. He's a hypocrite, but doesn't get it.

Insufferable know-it-all.Einstein God has a plan for us. Please stop screwing it up with your prayers.
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17-02-2016, 03:41 AM
RE: Question: Dealing with Absolutes.
I feel there isn't a need or point to really knowing or proclaiming to know such things "absolutely" or with such complete vigor.

Yet a theist apologetic of that nature of his, is based on that wanting to merely boil it down to too simple black and white case of you know it or deny it!

Reliability via evidence, testing, and the like is consistent so long as you actually don't make the leaps of assumption. That's pretty much more effective than alternatively just stating you know for certain regardless if the support for that was weak or well established.

"Allow there to be a spectrum in all that you see" - Neil Degrasse Tyson
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17-02-2016, 03:46 AM
RE: Question: Dealing with Absolutes.
(16-02-2016 10:11 PM)nicholas95 Wrote:  How can we know anything to be actually be true, without first using some sort of faith based assumption? If it's a faith based assumption for me to say that I only believe things based on evidence, isn't that as bad as a theistic faith based assumption itself?

It's not a faith based assumption to only believe things based on evidence. It's practical. There are a myriad things to believe in, like Greek gods, pagan gods, Norse gods, new age woo etc. You can't believe in it all because it's all contradictory, so you can only believe in what you have evidence for. And even then you don't need to believe in it, just give it a greater probability of being true based on the weight of the evidence.
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17-02-2016, 06:25 AM
RE: Question: Dealing with Absolutes.
I would say from a pragmatic viewpoint you can go about your life accepting the truth of a number of things without scientific evidence.

An example:

I ate eggs for breakfast today.

How much evidence do I need to prove this? It's a mundane thing to assert, so it does not need a lot of evidence, nonetheless, I can take someone skeptical and show them the carton of eggs in my refrigerator and the missing slots where eggs were and the broken eggshells in my trash.

I can say that I saw bigfoot walk across my yard. Now I'm going to have to provide much more evidence. A body would be what I need to really prove it, even if I provided bigfoot hair, pics and videos, it still wouldn't be enough to prove it scientifically.

So the amount of evidence is proportional to the claim.

If I make a mundane claim, we can accept minimal evidence or even no evidence to believe something, if I make a spectacular claim then I will have to provide spectacular evidence for it, evidence that has scientific respectability.

The type of evidence to prove this is elevated far beyond the colloquial sense of that word.

The type of evidence is elevated to such an extent that not even a living body will suffice, this god would have to make numerous demonstrations of it's power on demand to prove itself and even then it might not be enough.

So basically it's up to a god(s) to prove themselves, it's not the concern of an individual to prove a god doesn't exist, it's up to the person making the claim.

If a god fanboy wants to prove their mythical creature exists, pointing to things like trees or sunsets isn't going to cut it, we're going to need a living being present itself and make repeated demonstrations of it's power.

If the god fanboy is persistent, then you need to be clear about what type of evidence is needed to elevate their mythical creature from myth to reality.

Then point out repeatably how they fail in providing that evidence.

Gods derive their power from post-hoc rationalizations. -The Inquisition

Using the supernatural to explain events in your life is a failure of the intellect to comprehend the world around you. -The Inquisition
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17-02-2016, 06:51 AM
RE: Question: Dealing with Absolutes.
(16-02-2016 10:11 PM)nicholas95 Wrote:  If someone makes the claim that a belief is only rational with evidence. Isn't that itself a faith based belief that can't be proved with evidence?

I see this as a way to hide a distinction in two approaches to deciding what you believe:
a. it is rational to believe things for which there is evidence
b. it is rational to believe things for which there is no evidence

I'm assuming that you brother isn't actually denying (a) but is actually proposing (b). If so, I'd ask him what other things he accepts without evidence and why. Watch out for him equivocating on the definition of 'faith' (trust vs hope vs religious faith) and demanding absolute knowledge before believing something rather than just having reasonable evidence for it.

Atheism: it's not just for communists any more!
America July 4 1776 - November 8 2016 RIP
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18-02-2016, 05:11 AM
RE: Question: Dealing with Absolutes.
Is your brother asking you to abdicate reason and critical thinking? If you are not to stand as guardian to your beliefs, who should stand guard?

Perhaps we should just accept whatever a book or authority figure says is true? How do we decide which authority, or which book? How does one decide whether God is the evil one or Satan is the evil one?

So is it really a faith based position to stand guard over your own beliefs? It seems you are the only one who can meaningfully do so. It doesn't require faith to decide what to accept that you yourself must weigh the evidence and arguments you encounter. There is simply no other way to approach the question of what to believe.

Give me your argument in the form of a published paper, and then we can start to talk.
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