RE: [split] Commonly Used Debate Arguments for Dummies
(23-03-2014 09:40 PM)Reltzik Wrote: Kalam is a simple syllogism. The logical structure is valid, but the first premise has drastically insufficient support. Kalam also does not make good support of the second premise, but science provides firm (if not completely conclusive) evidence where Kalam does not. WLC actually attempts to provide support for the claim of a finite universe (making the statement that the universe began to exist a lemma, rather than a premise. WLC attempts to support this lemma through an argument about the impossibility of infinities. Speaking from my mathematical background, this part of the contemporary argument is nonsense. They have the feel of being ultimately rooted in Greek philosophy and mathematics, which were inherently limited in their axioms. (In particular, this precluded examination of the nullity, negative, infinitesimal, and infinite, as well as most of the irrational numbers.) Several paradoxes (eg, Zeno's paradoxes) arose from that flawed system. Modern mathematics is far more robust. There are tools for handling infinite sets and even infinite measures, and Craig's arguments against infinities do not even begin to hold water when examined with these tools. (Ask me to back this up. I dare you. Most people around here don't let me talk math.)
But let's focus on the Big Bang in particular, and in the context of the traditional Kalam argument. As the OP (of this split thread) notes, the Big Bang theory marks the beginning of time as we know it. It also marks the beginning of most physical laws as we know them. In particular, we should consider the law of causation (every event has a cause which precedes it) as provisional regarding the Big Bang. Not only does the dominant model of the Big Bang have several of the universal constants being in flux and unfixed for the first moments of existence (telling us that we probably shouldn't automatically assume that the causality of the present universe was applicable then), but also the very notion of the beginning of time rules out the possibility of a preceding cause.
Nor does modern science really endorse the "something can't come from nothing" argument. That's not a scientific principle. That's common experience being sold as a scientific principle. It certainly seems that way on the macro level, but the standard model of particle physics includes spontaneous generation of virtual particles, and Lawrence Krauss has constructed a convincing model (at least, one that has withstood scrutiny so far) of how the Big Bang could have arisen from a quantum vacuum state. To contrast, conservation of energy is a scientific principle, and this would demand that all the energy of the universe has always existed. (And, really, all the universe is is energy and the dimensions it operates in.)
Of course, if the Big Bang did not mark the beginning of time... say, if it was just the next iteration of a bang-crunch cycle... then the second premise is unsupported. Modern cosmological science does not presently favor such a cyclical universe. However, we should bear in mind that this science is definitely in a state of change, with new discoveries (dark matter, dark energy, observations of the curvature of the space) radically altering the results on a frequent basis. Another proposed possibility is a collapsing hyper-dimensional string, wherein the universe would have existed before the Big Bang, but in another form. While a finite origin of the universe is currently on top, scientifically, in my view the ring judge has yet to finish the 10-count.
All of this, of course, hinges on how narrowly or broadly we are defining the universe. In the example of a collapsing hyperdimensional object, some people (such as myself) would call that the universe already existing in a different, alien state, while others would refer to that as a different universe (or part of a different universe) which in turn became this one. This is a semantic question, rather than a scientific one.
These are just a few criticisms that can be leveled against Kalam.
In any event, while the Kalam argument does not in itself argue specifically for a theistic God, it often gets used for that purpose. In the context of a thread addressing common debate arguments for God, it deserves a place, as it is indeed a commonly-deployed as an argument for God (regardless of whether it should be), and in such a thread it is reasonable to address it in the context of it being an argument for God. (Much as someone can list using a brick as a way that some people might try to hammer in a nail, with the added observation of "You're doing it wrong," without meaning any disparagement towards the brick or people who use it the right way. Except this simile isn't that good because a brick would be both an unusual choice and a solid one.) A discerning reader should be capable of recognizing that Kalam is being discussed in the specific role of an argument for God from the context of the thread.
Okay, that's my response to the OP. Moving on....
(23-03-2014 11:11 AM)Jeremy E Walker Wrote: If an atheist rejects the Christian account of the origin of mankind then they are affirming another account of the origin of mankind unless they just admit ignorance, something some people are loathe to do.
Often, yes. Sometimes, though, it is possible to discount, discredit, or outright disprove someone's truth claim without consideration of an alternative. For example, I could construct an argument demonstrating the claim that Jimmy Hoffa was abducted by aliens to be highly infeasible, without either claiming to know alternative fate for Mr. Hoffa or claiming ignorance. If someone asked, "Well what other explanation do you have?" this would be an attempt at an argument to exhaustion... that is, saying that all the alternatives have been exhausted and only this theory remains. To respond to that, I would only need to list possibilities. I would not need to assert that any particular one was true, nor claim ignorance. I would be free to do so, but that would be irrelevant to the rebuttal.
Of course, the spirit of the question that I paraphrased was more a direct challenge to a person to ask what they think, so this isn't entirely applicable to your post... I just felt the need to cover that base. I disagree with you on whether that new challenge would be part of debunking the previous assertion. I'd regard that as a new subject/argument/hypothesis for examination, rather than a continuation of a previous one. Eh, maybe that's toh-may-toh/toh-mah-toh there.
Am I correct in understanding that when you gave "churches are not proof of God's existence" as a truth claim, you were simply saying that this was something to be supported rather than axiomatically assumed,and that you weren't asserting that it was outright false? [Reading ahead] Yup! Already answered! And agreed with, actually. (Quite supportable, too.)
(23-03-2014 12:18 PM)Jeremy E Walker Wrote: Of course I need you to substantiate that claim.
If you cannot, I will just dismiss it as an opinion which I would happily admit you are entitled to!
Oooh! Ooh! I can do this!
A requirement for reliability is that it produces results corresponding to reality, and, hence, corresponding to other results obtained through a similar method... what we call reproducibility. For example, let's say I stand in place and look at a compass. It points ahead and to my right. It's telling me that way's north. If I check the compass again three times, and it points a different way each time... and not just a little-wiggly-different, but way, way off... then the compass is not a reliable guide. Similarly, if the compass always pointed one direction for me, and another direction for another person, and another direction for a third person, then it is again unreliable.
The Bible is unreliable in this sense. One person reads it and decides that they are mandated to live a life of poverty serving God. Another person reads it and joins a prosperity ministry. A third person reads it and bombs an abortion clinic. A fourth swears to total nonviolence. A fifth takes it to support stoning of gays, and a sixth the burning of children for witchcraft in Africa. So on umpteen thousand times. Blame it on the people unable to read it, if you wish, but that still leaves us unable to use it as a guide. A bit like a compass encased in an unopenable, opaque box, or a box so vaguely translucent that it might as well be opaque except that we waste a lot of time squinting at it and imagining that we can almost make out which way the needle's pointing. ... or, you know, maybe it contains a compass that points the wrong direction entirely.
Another thing we look to for reliability is track record. If something has generally been right in the past, we think it will generally be right in the future. Give that something a mechanism for identifying its errors, or when it might be in error, and our confidence in it increases. For example, if someone has always been good at speling and grammar, a proofreader might give their work a lot less thorough of a read then the work of someone who spells and writes like a third-grader.* If we watch reliable person type out the whole work, double-check it, and then feed it through a computer's grammar-check afterwards, we think it even more reliable. With this in mind, let's compare track records.
The Bible has a pretty poor track record for reliability. Much of what it tells us is either difficult to check against anything (ie, the story of that guy being tricked into marrying one of the sisters rather than the other... I think maybe it's Jacob, Leia, and Rachael? I'm sure about Leia and Rachael, but I get them mixed up, and I'm pretty sure it WASN'T Jacob... either way, no way for us to check), difficult to definitively state what it is saying (eg, is it REALLY talking about undersea mountains in the Jonah and the Leviathan tale, or is that just interpretation after the fact by overzealous apologists?), or common knowledge at the time (eg, the existence of certain cities of the day and age) that shouldn't be taken as evidence of the Bible's reliability on larger claims. But with that in mind, there's a lot of claims that we CAN test. Here's three examples.
1) Sacrificing birds does not cure a house of leprosy. Or mildew, if you wish to argue that's what is being talked about.
2) The stars are not actually fixed in the sky, and there is no firmament, as believed by most Mediterranean cultures of the time. We verified the latter by sending a spaceship out past the moon and it not crashing into any crystal spheres. Then we repeated it a few times just to be sure. Of course, this passage has since been reinterpreted to not talk about the geocentric model of nested crystal spheres, so maybe you would classify this as "hard to be sure what it says".
3) The rapture, etc didn't come within the short span of time that Jesus predicts in the Bible narrative.
Is belief in this self-correcting? Not at all. If anything, faith tends to blind us to errors and suppress correction. Look, for example, at the history of the Reformation/Counterreformation era of Europe.
Now let's try the scientific method. Does it get stuff wrong? Of course! All the time! But it's got that self-correcting feature that I mentioned. Usually, science blows the whistle on itself, and fairly quickly at that. And when it settles down on a long-standing consensus, verifiable by evidence, that consensus is usually right. More than right, very right. The sort of right that lets us fly a spaceship to Mars and get the ETA right down to the minute.**
Coming up to the end of the thread... I don't think you deserve the hostility you've been garnering here. Yes, you're basically repeating weak arguments we've heard before, and so often that the reaction is a bit like what you'd get if you had the bad luck to be the tenth telemarketer to call someone in a single evening. But you're doing so in a civil and civilized manner and don't seem to be here to deliberately troll (though people seem to be mistaking your high standards for truth-claims as bait-and-switch trolling), and you're actually willing to discuss the underlying argument rather than just asserting it's true and yelling at anyone who disagrees. That gets a positive reaction in my book. (Yes, most of your theist brethren to have come here did set the bar that low.)
So if you read through ALL of that, I've got two questions for you.
1) You identify as a theist. I've heard people use the word different ways. For example, a theist could be anyone who believes in one or more gods, be they of any type. Or a theist might be someone who believes in one (or more) personal, intervening gods. How are you using the word, when you apply it to yourself?
2) What's your epistemology? That is to say, how do you arrive at the beliefs you've arrived at, and why should this be taken as a good and reliable means for ensuring one's beliefs correspond to reality?
(23-03-2014 12:04 AM)EvolutionKills Wrote: Yeah... so... how about them Steelers?
It's the off-season.
*Sorry if it offends certain forum-goers, but that's just how I (t)roll.
**I can't decide whether it would be a great idea or a terrible idea to put astrophysicists in charge of making trains run on time.
Excellent post! Must have taken over an hour to put it together.
Jeremy, stop fidgeting and show some manners by replying.