Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Carrie Prejean is an embarrassment, not a hero

Carrie Prejean has done apparently one halfway-good thing in her far too long stint in the limelight - she truthfully (and sort of correctly) answered a question in a beauty contest put to her by a moronic airhead who asked a question to which he didn't know the answer.

Apart from that, she's been one embarrassment after another, mostly to herself and also to the evanjellyfish community who has foolishly embraced her. I suppose I shouldn't be amazed at the depths to which American evanjellyfish will stoop to get their ears tickled. The ironic thing is that said tickling often comes at the hands of someone who knows exactly what to say to hit the right nerve. Given Prejean's evident intellectual limitations, I doubt she has been the calculating sort, maneuvering and finagling her way into evanjellyfish hearts everywhere; rather, she seems like a victim of this terribly sub-biblical thinking who has probably been manipulated by some clever agents into extending her public presence far, far beyond where she should have gone.
In this case, it should be obvious that saying "in my country, in my family I believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman" will get one into the good graces of the evanjellyfish community. Thing is, that community has a hard time letting go. The examples are numerous - The Shack, Billy Graham, Joel Osteen, Benny Hinn, Phillips Craig and Dean, TD Jakes, Ted Haggard, Jaci Velasquez, POD, Amy Grant...I could go on, and I have in the past. As long as someone uses the word "Jesus" in conversation and expresses commonly decent moral sensibilities, they've got the secret evanjellyfish handshake down pat, and you don't get kicked out.

So, ever since she did that one thing, she's been persecuted shamelessly by the left, and shame on them for their easily-documented and highly visible idiocy and moral blindness. Backlash against Hilton for his stupid question, to which he clearly only wanted one answer? Right, sure.
Prejean has since dang near made a whole career out of people talking bad about her on national media. I don't necessarily blame her for that as much as I blame the American consumer of media, both on the left and on the right in the evanjellyfish community, and to the latter I ask: Why keep taking her in? Why keep giving her a platform? Why invite her to speak at your conferences? Why react favorably when surveyed (as her publisher no doubt did before commissioning her book) as to whether you'd buy a book about her?

Where has she given any evidence of a biblical worldview besides saying "I believe marriage is heterosexual"? Is saying "in my country, in my family, I believe" an appropriate preface to expressing a biblical statement, that homosexuals and homosexual activity are under the judgment of God, that homosexuals are commanded to repent of all their sin, including homosexuality, and be saved by the only Savior, Jesus Christ? Nowhere that I've seen (though I admittedly don't follow Prejean's life very closely).

Further, let's not forget in which context her big "Here I stand" moment took place - in a beauty pageant, a soft porn meat market, where one wins because one has a hot bod and can strut about sensually in front of dozens of cameras. That's bad enough. But nnnnoooo, she couldn't stop there.
-She openly encourages other girls to expose their bodies and sexuality to endless ogling in future pageants. It's a noble calling, you know.
-Breast augmentation surgery. Sigh.
-Pornographic photos, taken before the pageant. Double sigh.
-A pornographic video, sent to a boyfriend. Dear God, does it never end?
"That was a mistake of youth, sent to my boyfriend with whom I was in love" she says of the vid. It was 5 years ago! When you were 17! You're only 22!!!! Youth? How about "Yes, I did that, and it was a horrible sin against my Lord Jesus Christ and against my future husband, not to mention the boyfriend to whom I sent it. I didn't love him at all; my sending him that vid brought him DOWN, not up. I led him into terrible impurity, and for that I am also deeply sorry"?
But at least she said it was a mistake!
Oh yes, thank God she did. All the young girls watching her can now know that:
1) you can make a sex vid for your boyfriend
2) whom you "love"
3) at the age of 17
4) and then apologise and make it all better, 5 years later when someone else finds out about it and makes it public, and still go on to sell books to "Christians" and no one will care.
Great example for my little girl.

Finally, she has the audacity to "write" a book about her life so far. To nearly-quote the Abbé Faria from The Count of Monte Cristo - your life, young woman, has been too short to contain anything of significance. I don't know why I'm surprised that her shame threshold is a long, long way off.

The central problem with her wide acceptance among evanjellyfish is that not once has she ever even expressed a basic understanding or history of her own interaction with the Law and the Gospel. Not once that I've seen or heard has she ever recounted her struggle with her guilt under the Law of God, being crushed and shattered under the weight of its impossible demands, or crying out to God to save her from her guilt under His Law. Jesus as only Savior? Jesus as Lord? Repentance? Trusting in Christ alone, being thankful for His forgiveness, purchased on the Cross? Nowhere to be found. Rather, she was raised that way. This is one of the most common evanjellyfish idolatries - this is how my parents raised me, and my parents are kind, good people.
No, your parents are not kind, good people, and neither are you. You are a filthy sinner, rebellious, an enemy of God, and you're either forgiven and saved in spite of yourself or you're not. If you are, one would rightly expect you'd talk about it occasionally, especially when you have the spotlight (unwisely) shone directly on you. As it is, I see no reason to think Prejean has any idea what it means to know and follow Jesus. Just like the majority of American evangelicals.

Here's hoping she does everyone a favor, and soon - retreat out of the limelight, permanently. Find a godly man (for someone as hot as you, that shouldn't be a problem), marry him BEFORE having sex with him, have children and lead a godly, quiet life. And change your last name when you get married.

73 comments:

The Jolly Nihilist said...

I think you might be overlooking the rather important point that god has ordained everything that ever will come to pass from eternity ago. In this post, you instruct Carrie Prejean to find a godly man, marry him, subsequently have sex with him, have children and lead a godly, quiet life. It is not really up to her, though, is it? Carrie Prejean’s actions, just like everything else, were ordained from eternity ago by god. Given that the will of god is inviolable, Prejean has no choice but to follow the god-determined path--whatever it is--that was ordained for her from eternity ago.

Rhology said...

Yes, but God hasn't revealed what that is.

And God uses means to accomplish His purposes. One of the means is commanding people to obey His commands.

Calvinists are compatibilists. You'd do well to read up on that a bit before just throwing up first-grade-level 'replies'.

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2007/04/classical-compatibilism.html

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2005/10/freedom-of-will.html

And it's not like an atheist should have some kind of problem with that!
-You don't have any objective basis for morality.
-Your genes and neurons govern your behavior in a biological/natural deterministic scenario. So, true to form, you exchange the real God for a smaller one that does virtually the same thing.

Rhology said...

(It's also more or less off-topic. Did some Calvinist knock on your door to share the Gospel with you this weekend or something?)

The Jolly Nihilist said...

No, a Calvinist did not confront me this weekend, although the notion of roving bands of Calvinists does sound rather frightening. This entire line of thought stems from the string of comments in the previous post.

In that post, you made two contentions:

(a) You contended that god has ordained everything that ever will come to pass from eternity ago.

(b) When I asked whether violent actions performed by serial killer Gary Heidnik were part of what god ordained from eternity ago, you answered in the affirmative. Your one-word answer was “Yes.”

In the course of our long-term interaction, you further have affirmed that god is omnipotent and that no puny human is capable of violating god’s will, which extends to the impossibility of subverting or changing god’s infinity-old plan.

As I noted, the idea of a god who punishes makes little sense on this view. The sum of your contentions is that god is punishing individuals for doing that which they had no capability not to do. Continuing with Heidnik as an example, his using a screwdriver to penetrate his victims’ eardrums was ordained, by god, from eternity ago. It would have been impossible for Heidnik to do otherwise, inasmuch as those actions were part of god’s plan. To this extent, god is punishing people for doing that which they were programmed (by him!) to do. On your view, his cosmic script is “(c) eternity ago” and we are the performers. If one performs an evil act, it is because one was scripted to do so.

And, yes, I hold to a biological/natural form of determinism inasmuch as I recognize our behaviors are caused, contrary to the chaos and causelessness entailed by libertarian free will. The disconnect--the strangeness--comes when the scriptwriter punishes his characters for the scenarios he scripted.

Darlene said...

Dear Jolly,

I hope you realize that not all Christians are Calvinists. I resided among Calvinists for a decade and could no longer abide many of their teachings. And so it is that I would disagree with certain aspects of Rhology's faith tradition.

However, with that said, I do believe many Calvinists sincerely desire to obey and live for Christ as they understand Him to be. They're right in some respects, but very wrong in others. I realize again that Rhology would strongly object. No offense is meant, certainly not toward Rhology personally or any individual Calvinist.

Yet, are we not all sinners in need of a Savior to heal us from our brokeness and the break in our communion with God? Christ came that we might partake of His divine nature and be transformed into His likeness - that we might live in Him and He in us.

Jolly, may you one day come to know the unceasing and immeasurable love of a God who humbled Himself to take on human flesh. May you come to experience life in Christ and the freedom and peace it brings.

Rhology said...

No offense is meant

None taken, of course. :-)

The Jolly Nihilist said...

Hi, Darlene

Yeah, I realize that not all Christians adhere to Calvinist precepts. I think Rhology would agree that, in the grand scheme, talk in this vein has made up a tiny percentage of our interactions. Certainly, what I perceive as the weirdness of god punishing his children for acting out the script he wrote for them does not have any bearing on Christianity's truth; it might just be the case that god is weird. So, whatever the case might be, although this is an interesting line of thought, it plays no role in my rejecting Christianity.

I reject Christianity principally because Darwinian evolution is true, Christianity has numerous
frailties, the Bible suffers from terminal mundanity and god is silent. All of these factors, to me, weigh much more heavily against Christianity's truth than does the weirdness of Calvinist ideology.

Joel said...

Of course you know the chestnut about how posting your disdain for Ms Prejean's popularity only increases it. I, for example, had not thought about her for some time until I read your post.

PChem said...

Joel,

She has been all over the news sites I visit lately because of some smut video she made as a teenager. Then she got on some interview circuit to talk about it. Not sure what she was saying about it because I tried to ignore it all. I agree with Rho that it is about time her 15 min end.

Rho, the next comment might derail this combox. Feel free to reign it back under control if you wish.

JN,

I read through two of you arguments against Christianity, the one on evolution and the one on mundanity. Two questions about them:

1. About your evolution article. It seems to me that you are making science do more than it really can. Why should anyone be surprised when scientists, who necessarily use naturalistic presuppositions in explaining scientific data, arrive at explanations that harmonize with a naturalistic picture of the world? To really gain traction here, you need to demonstrate how robust scientific explanations are to removing the core assumption of naturalism before one can use it as a discriminator against a supernaturalistic explanation. Frankly, I don't see how anyone can do this in reality. Thus, I prefer to recognize the inherent limitation on using scientific arguments as evidence for or against a particular worldview.

2. Your article on mundanity misses the entire point of the Bible. It is not a handbook of interesting tidbits about the world, but a book detailing how fallen people can have a relationship with their creator. To me, your argument sounds like someone picking up a book on chimps and then griping about why it didn't address the first world war.

Maybe I missed it, but your article also seemed to neglect predictive prophecy. How is predicting the manner of Jesus' death mundane, especially in light of the fact that he is the focus of the entire text? If I missed this, please point me back to it.

The Jolly Nihilist said...

Just about bed time, but I wanted to comment quickly on the mundanity issue.

The Argument from Mundanity, at heart, is that if a book is the product of omniscient inspiration, that omniscience should be manifest in the text. That is, if the Bible were omnisciently inspired, it would contain some brand new information about the natural order--information to which no one at the time had access. If a text contains no new information--if, as is the case with the Bible, every sentence could have been written by any literate first century commoner--the evidence is insufficient to support the claim of omniscient inspiration. One must conclude the book is the product of limited human intellect.

If Genesis had mentioned microorganisms or the germ theory of disease, I would have been impressed.

Rhology said...

JN,

You're misusing the term "solipsistic", just FYI. Probably better to say "self-centered" or sthg similar.

And I'll see your frailties and raise you a meh.

Rhology said...

Joel,

I know the size of my readership, so I don't fear increasing her popularity by any significant amount. ;-)

The Jolly Nihilist said...

Actually, I want to defend my use of "solipsism" and "solipsistic."

My dictionary standard is Merriam-Webster, from which I am using the "also" definition.

Rhology said...

I guess I've always thought of it as this: http://www.iep.utm.edu/solipsis/

Christianity doesn't even remotely fit into that definition, but atheism does certainly, b/c no way exists to disprove or even discredit solipsism.

Dr Funkenstein said...

Why should anyone be surprised when scientists, ... against a supernaturalistic explanation.

there are no a priori barriers to supernatural explanations in science - however, the problem for supernatural explanations are:

1. often they are just used as a placeholder for ignorance - eg Newton thought planetary motion required some sort of intelligent force behind it because it was inconceivable to him that they could do what they do by any means other than that. I've never met anyone in our era who believes this rather than the currently accepted scientific explanation.

2. They are usually applied arbitrarily in situations that the particular supernaturalist favours - eg one supernaturalist might think God can speed up radioactive decay rates to make the earth appear older than it is. But then another supernaturalist might favour SN explanations for events the 1st SNer doesn't - eg a crime scene could be explained either by an actual crime and by God or mischievous demons making it look like a crime had happened (for whatever reason). Pick any scientific theory you can think of, and you can do this - in the event you favour a natural explanation for them, it's legitimate to ask why when there's a potential supernatural alternative available?

3. they are indistinguishable from fantasy - eg I can imagine a supernatural force that can do the actions in 1 and 2, but that doesn't mean one actually exists. Along the same lines, just because someone can imagine a god might speed up decay rates, how are they going to show us this happens exactly? we can all sit there thinking up fantasy scenarios, but then proving them is a very different matter.

4. If you posit some supernatural force that can do literally anything you can imagine, this means there will be an infinite number of equally likely hypotheses generated for those that favour a supernatural explanation. Given that only one of them can be right, how exactly are they going to narrow them down? On the other hand, if you do stick your neck out and make a specific claim, then that claim is open to being tested and refuted just like any other claim about the state of the world.

5. Plenty of supernatural/paranormal ideas are put to the test in science (eg telekinesis, ESP, scientific creationism etc etc) - if they are found wanting then tough luck I say.

In a nutshell, the rejection of the supernatural happens for 3 main reasons

a. the hypothetical supernatural entity is supposedly doing/has done something that in principle should be detectable (eg answering prayers of a select group of people). The fact it's not detectable suggests said events never happened and said supernatural entity doesn't exist

b. they are too vague to be of any worth, indistinguishable from the imaginary and in any event can usually be dealt with by principles like Ockham's razor, the fact that they always rely far too much on ad-hoc assumptions etc etc

c. the majority of supernaturalist movements as regards science spend more time complaining about accepted theories than they do with conducting research to support their ideas. As an example, it's fairly telling that in 20+ years of existence, intelligent design has achieved virtually nothing if anything of real note.

PChem said...

that omniscience should be manifest in the text

Like predictive prophecy, which is manifest in the text and is in concert with the redemption of man.

Again, you are missing the entire point of why the Bible was written. You also seem to have a wrong view of inspiration. It is not God dictating information to scribes. Rather God inspires people where they are to write what He wishes to communicate. To me, this explains why God did not give a treatise on quantum mechanics (assuming of course that QM in its current version is the final answer on atomic structure for all time). Of course, this is besides the fact that QM doesn't have anything to do with redemption.

I will grant that IF inspiration were pure dictation then you would have something, but it isn't.

The Jolly Nihilist said...

Much as you might focus on redemption, the Bible, in fact, very much does deal with issues related to the natural order. For instance, in Genesis, a creation chronology is presented. Insofar as an order of events is specified, the Bible puts forward a prediction about the natural order. Nobody at the time of Genesis’ writing knew about how the universe developed following the big bang or how Earth came into being. If the creation account were consonant with our hard-earned scientific knowledge, it would be astounding and solid evidence of omniscient inspiration. Genesis, though, is irreconcilable to our scientific understanding of origins inasmuch as its chronology is wrong.

Also, to the extent that the Bible refers to sorcery, witchcraft, demonic activity and casting out of evil spirits, it puts forward a prediction about the kind of world in which we live. The notion that maladies or erratic behavior are the result of possession, sorcery or demonic infestation is a product of ignorant times, when disease was not understood and microorganisms, for instance, were universally unknown. If the Bible traffics in ancient ignorance, showing no more learning or knowledge about the natural order—which it does, in fact, address—than any semi-stupefied peasant of the day, one has no reason to suppose god’s omniscient guidance was behind it.

PChem said...

Dr. F,

We meet again!

I have no doubt that supernatural explanations are not used in science for precisely the reasons you stated. In fact, I far prefer to use naturalistic presuppositions in my science to explain data. However, when we go around examining various worldviews, it is immediately and abundantly clear that those naturalistic explanations will lend support to a naturalistic worldview simply because of the presupposition used to develop those explanations. What you need to do is explain how robust a given explanation is to removing the core assumption of naturalism. Frankly, I don't think this is possible and thus using scientific arguments as evidence against a supernatural worldview has no traction. If you want to verify or falsify the truth claims of a world view then you need something other than an evidentialist truth test.

It could quite possibly be that a set of scientific explanations does have pragmatic value but does not necessarily correspond to reality. This is a non-realist view of science. Personally, I do not feel restricted to holding a realist view of science for all scientific theories. Rather, a healthy approach is to take them on a case by case basis. If there are strong philosophical, theological, or historical reasons for rejecting the realist interpretation then we should be willing to let it go.

PChem said...

Jolly,

So your main argument from mundanity really boils down to your anti-supernaturalistic presuppositions. For example, I don't believe in demons ergo demons don't exist.

That isn't too impressive to me.

The Jolly Nihilist said...

My presuppositions are not anti-supernaturalistic, actually. My single germane presupposition is that evidence is the best, most reliable way for humans to approximate truth as we interrogate the world of experience. My presupposition, at root, is evidence’s utility and centrality.

So, rather than saying “I don't believe in demons, ergo demons don't exist,” I say, “There is no good evidence for demons, ergo, provisionally, demons don't exist.”

PChem said...

Evidentialism is a poor truth test. For one, what evidence do you have that evidentialism is the best way to interogate truth claims. Furthermore, evidentialism relies on facts. The context of a fact is what gives it its meaning. If you change contexts then the meaning of the facts may change. In the most basic sense, a world view is meant give meaning to facts. How can you say that one world view is valid based on facts, when those facts rely on a world view for meaning? You can't interpret facts in one context and then use that as evidence against a different interpretation scheme. This seems to me to be a serious blow against evidentialism as a truth test.

The Jolly Nihilist said...

For one, what evidence do you have that evidentialism is the best way to interogate truth claims.

You are missing the point of a presupposition. In traditional logic, an axiom or postulate is a proposition that is not proved or demonstrated but considered to be either self-evident, or subject to necessary decision. Therefore, its truth is taken for granted, and serves as a starting point for deducing and inferring other (theory dependent) truths. What I have stated--evidence is the best, most reliable way for humans to approximate truth as we interrogate the world of experience--is a first principle or, if you like, an interrogatory starting point.


In the most basic sense, a world view is meant give meaning to facts. How can you say that one world view is valid based on facts, when those facts rely on a world view for meaning?

Actually, I think you have this exactly the wrong way around. My worldview, that of metaphysical naturalism, is derived from the facts. I look at the bare facts--the evidence--and confect a worldview therefrom. Suppose that, tomorrow, every Christian Bible on the planet suddenly became indestructible, unalterable and self-translating. If this were to take place, it would be a bare fact. As a consequence of that bare fact, my worldview, that of metaphysical naturalism, would have to change. Such a development simply would not admit of a natural explanation or, at least, not one of which I can think.

I do not cling to a pre-existing conclusion and attempt to harmonize the facts with it; rather, I endeavor to derive my conclusions--including the grandest conclusion of all, that being an overarching worldview--from the evidence. Conjuring a whole bunch of ad hoc harmonizations to make the evidence fit a pre-existing conclusion does not impress me, nor does it seem a credible way to ascertain truth about the world of experience.

PChem said...

considered to be either self-evident, or subject to necessary decision

Right, presuppositions are just that. However, everything you build on top of your presuppositions can only be as strong as the foundation upon which they are built. I think your foundation is particularly weak for the reasons I cited. Furthermore, declaring a presupposition does not make immune from scrutiny.

Also, I do not think evidentialism is either self-evident or subject to necessary decision.

About the only thing I agree with in your second part is that facts are bare facts. That is, they are totally void of meaning--apart from an interpretive framework. It is the context of a fact that gives meaning. Moreover, a world view is an over-arching context that is used to systematize all known facts. I don't believe that you really construct your world view from the "bare facts" as you say. For one, how do you know which facts are relevant to a given question, how much weight do you assign to each fact, etc? It is your worldview that is helping you make these decisions. Frankly, the thought that you don't think you are limited to your own worldview is a little bizarre. You have a naturalistic bias, but this does not mean that your naturalistic interpretation of a fact is evidence against an alternative explanation from a competing world view.

The Jolly Nihilist said...

**Part One**

However, everything you build on top of your presuppositions can only be as strong as the foundation upon which they are built. I think your foundation is particularly weak for the reasons I cited.

On that point, I vehemently disagree. Everybody marshals evidence every day in order to function in the world. Our criminal justice system is predicated on evidence’s utility. Our study of history--what we know of the past--is also predicated on evidence’s utility. Our entire scientific framework is driven by trust in evidence, and, I should note, science is in the business of making theory-dependent predictions and seeing if they are confirmed; the repeated confirmation of many predictions speaks positively of the evidence used to generate scientific theories.


Furthermore, declaring a presupposition does not make immune from scrutiny.

Correct. It simply immunizes me from the question you asked, which was how I could marshal evidence to support, or prove, evidentialism. Presuppositions are not proved, as you seemed to be requesting.


Also, I do not think evidentialism is either self-evident or subject to necessary decision.

If we properly define “evidence” as “the relevant facts” as they pertain to larger truths we are attempting to grasp, I think evidence’s utility is, indeed, self-evident.


About the only thing I agree with in your second part is that facts are bare facts. That is, they are totally void of meaning--apart from an interpretive framework. It is the context of a fact that gives meaning.

I suppose we can agree on that. For example, it is a bare fact that our radioactive dating, using numerous radioisotopes, across orders of magnitude, converges on 4.6 billion years as Earth’s age. This is a bare fact of the natural order. For it truly to be meaningful, though, we must understand to what that fact attests. Apart from the theism versus atheism debate, that fact is meaningful because it attests to an ancient Earth, relative to the human timescale. It is a scrap of evidence, a relevant fact, attesting to the larger truth of Earth’s antiquity.

The Jolly Nihilist said...

**Part Two**

Moreover, a world view is an over-arching context that is used to systematize all known facts.

Yes, but the relevant question is whether one’s worldview is fact-dependent (and provisional, pending the emergence of additional facts) or whether one’s acceptance of facts is worldview-dependent. If one has an unchangeable worldview, with which all facts must be harmonized, however ad hoc the attempted harmonization, one is traveling the path away from knowledge.


I don't believe that you really construct your world view from the "bare facts" as you say. For one, how do you know which facts are relevant to a given question, how much weight do you assign to each fact, etc? It is your worldview that is helping you make these decisions.

Not necessarily. How do I know which facts are relevant to a given question? Well, if one understands the question, this often answers itself. Take Darwinian evolution by natural selection, for example. If one actually comprehends the theory, one understands what predictions it entails. One understands that the bare fact of which fossils appear in which geologic strata has value in determining the theory’s truth. The bare fact of fossil rabbits in the Precambrian would cripple the theory. The bare fact of the converse--with each order of creature where Darwinian theory predicts--bolsters the theory. One can be a naturalist, supernaturalist or whatever and still comprehend how certain facts relate to certain theories or hypotheses.


Frankly, the thought that you don't think you are limited to your own worldview is a little bizarre. You have a naturalistic bias, but this does not mean that your naturalistic interpretation of a fact is evidence against an alternative explanation from a competing world view.

I have a naturalistic bias only insofar as, presently, I am a metaphysical naturalist. But, if one considers metaphysical naturalism my worldview, it is actually mostly incidental. I already explained how one single bare fact--every Christian Bible becoming indestructible, unalterable and self-translating--would throw out my metaphysical naturalism. This is what I mean when I say the facts or, better stated, the evidence dictates my worldview. My worldview is derived from the facts.

PChem said...

Part 1

Everybody marshals evidence every day in order to function in the world.

No doubt, but that evidence is always within the context of a worldview. You seem to think the facts speak for themselves. This is wrong. Facts don't speak. It is facts + context which speak.

It simply immunizes me from the question you asked, which was how I could marshal evidence to support, or prove, evidentialism.

Right, but it would be the epitome of ignorance to not evaluate whether or not a presupposition is a good one. Also, you have neglected my other main point against evidentialism. I'll cite it again for you:

How can you say that one world view is valid based on facts, when those facts rely on a world view for meaning? You can't interpret facts in one context and then use that as evidence against a different interpretation scheme.

You are claiming that evidentialism is a good means for arriving at truth. The simple fact is this methodology is fraught with problems. You seem to want to accept that it works on faith and brush of any challenges to it simply because you claim it is your fundamental axiom. This is fine with me, but I think it isn't too wise. Different people have different fundamental axioms that lead to different conclusions about the world. They can't all correct in the same way at the same time, thus someone's axioms are wrong.

I think evidence’s utility is, indeed, self-evident.

Yes it does have utility. I grant that evidentialism is quite useful, among other tests, for making decisions within a world view. However, it is crippled when you try to test other world views than the one in which the facts that compose your evidence are evaluated under.

worldview is fact-dependent...or...facts [are] worldview-dependent

Again, a bare fact is not tied to a world view. Your view of the world tells you how to interpret the fact. I'd give an example, but it would only add to the length of an already long post.

PChem said...

Post 2

Well, if one understands the question, this often answers itself.

This also points out that you already have a view of how to answer the question before you go about answering it. In your Darwinian evolution example, how do you know that Saturn's orbit around the sun didn't have a profound influence on the evolution of land animals? Because you already decide that this is not a meaningful question to ask. Now how do you know this? Your data set (facts) are bare. They don't tell you that Saturn has nothing to do this. Rather you ignore Saturn's orbit from the start based on your preconceived notions of what are meaningful bare facts to collect. Your naturalism world view is in full force here, guiding which questions are important and how you should go about answering them. It is also providing an interpretive grid through which are interpreting them. In short, it is inextricably interwoven into the meaning of the facts.

A second quick point. Evolution could be supported or refuted based on the experiment you describe. However, those experiments are all interpreted within the back drop of naturalism. If evolution is found lacking, then certainly people should find a new theory. And they could certainly propose another naturalistic theory. Indeed, this has happened within evolution. However, it would neither enhance nor impair a theistic interpretation, because the theistic interpretation views the same facts through a different back drop. If you want to demonstrate that theism is invalid, then you need to do so internally.

My worldview is derived from the facts.

In this case, I recommend that you seriously consider the resurrection of Jesus. The historical account is quite strong. This would be one fact that should completely change your view of God, who He is, and what He has done on your behalf. I sincerely hope that you recognize your need for Jesus' sacrifice before it is too late.

The Jolly Nihilist said...

**Part One**

Before saying anything else, I want to thank PChem for a civil and interesting discussion and also remark on the rich comic irony that a post about Carrie Prejean has been derailed into a discussion of epistemology. Insofar as I have been an engine in the post’s derailment, I apologize to Rhology.


No doubt, but that evidence is always within the context of a worldview. You seem to think the facts speak for themselves. This is wrong. Facts don't speak. It is facts + context which speak.

You are over-emphasizing the worldview issue, in my judgment. I suppose I agree that facts do not speak for themselves--that is, that facts demand a context--but the context need not be an overarching worldview. I shall cite my own previously articulated example: It is a bare fact that our radioactive dating, using numerous radioisotopes, across orders of magnitude, converges on 4.6 billion years as Earth’s age. For this bare fact to convey meaning, yes, we must understand to what the fact attests. The fact is meaningful because it attests to an ancient Earth; the context of the fact is its attestation to Earth’s antiquity. For a “fact” to qualify as “evidence,” it must be viewed in the context of apprehending a larger truth, but that larger truth need not be an overarching worldview.


How can you say that one world view is valid based on facts, when those facts rely on a world view for meaning? You can't interpret facts in one context and then use that as evidence against a different interpretation scheme.

First, as I just explained, I think facts, if they are to be considered “evidence,” depend upon context for meaning, but this context need not be an overarching worldview like biblical Christianity or metaphysical naturalism. Second, my concern is not principally with rival interpretation schemes but, rather, with whether the bare facts are consonant with the assertions and truth-claims that some presuppositions implicitly entail. If one’s interrogatory lens is biblical Christianity, I submit one implicitly advances assertions and truth-claims. If a bare fact flatly contradicts one of those truth claims, anyone, inside or outside the interpretation scheme, can identify the error and declare the scheme wrong.


Different people have different fundamental axioms that lead to different conclusions about the world. They can't all correct in the same way at the same time, thus someone's axioms are wrong.

I agree with you. Just because someone declares something as his interrogatory starting point--the lens through which he shall interrogate the world--does not mean it shall yield accurate conclusions. As I just noted, if an interpretation scheme implicitly makes assertions and truth-claims, and a bare fact flatly contradicts one of them, the scheme should be junked.


However, it is crippled when you try to test other world views than the one in which the facts that compose your evidence are evaluated under.

Again, your insistence on an overarching worldview as the only context in which facts can be evaluated in troublesome and, I submit, false. That our radioactive dating marks Earth’s age at about 4.6 billion years is a bare fact. The fact’s context is Earth’s antiquity. One need not peer through the grid of an overarching worldview to understand a bare fact’s manifest implications. I suppose, if one’s preconceived notions demanded Earth not be ancient, one could confect an ad hoc explanation to shoo away the dating. But the very ad hocness of the explanation would betray the folly of the interpretation scheme.

The Jolly Nihilist said...

**Part Two**

In your Darwinian evolution example, how do you know that Saturn's orbit around the sun didn't have a profound influence on the evolution of land animals? … Rather you ignore Saturn's orbit from the start based on your preconceived notions of what are meaningful bare facts to collect.

When studying evolutionary theory, one does not ignore Saturn’s orbit capriciously, with careless disregard for evidence. We know enough about our solar system, and the orbit of the planets thereof, to understand what, if any, effect planetary movement would have on evolutionary development. So, yes, evolutionary biologists pay little attention to Saturn, but this is because (a) there is no hole or gap in the theory at present that would require Saturn to fill it and (b) for Saturn to have such a profound influence would contradict our well-evidenced understanding of the planet and the effects of its orbit. Our knowledge of Saturn and planetary movement is not zero; hence, our fact set is not bare.


However, it would neither enhance nor impair a theistic interpretation, because the theistic interpretation views the same facts through a different back drop. If you want to demonstrate that theism is invalid, then you need to do so internally.

This is not true inasmuch as biblical Christianity, to cite one example of a possible interpretation scheme, makes implicit truth claims. If--and I am not explicitly making this contention--biblical Christianity, as an interpretation scheme, implicitly entails Earth being 6000-some years old, the bare fact of our radioactive dating contradicts, and shows to be false, that scheme. If biblical Christianity, as an interpretation scheme, implicitly entails the truth of the Adam and Eve fable, the bare fact of human evolutionary development contradicts, and shows to be false, that scheme. If biblical Christianity, as an interpretation scheme, implicitly entails the truth of Mosaic wandering in the desert and conquest of the Promised Land, the raft of bare facts of archeology contradicts, and shows to be false, that scheme.

An internal critique is not required if a particular scheme is proved wrong by its implicitly contradicting bare facts. And, the more transparently ad hoc the attempts at harmonization when inconvenient bare facts present themselves, the more crippled does the scheme reveal itself to be.


In this case, I recommend that you seriously consider the resurrection of Jesus. The historical account is quite strong.

Actually, I do not think the historical account is particularly strong. But, leaving aside possible historical evidences for the moment, I see two problems. First, the very gospels that attest to Jesus’ resurrection are themselves rife with palpable nonsense, such as Matthew’s attestation to a horde of zombies roaming about Jerusalem and a couple of accounts of Jesus’ apparent parthenogenic birth. When a truth-claim is suffocated by pervasive nonsense, its veridical worth is compromised. Second, as Rhology has noted, Jesus does seem, in a meaningful way, to hang his hat on Old Testament literalism, particularly the Noachian flood and, perhaps, Adam and Eve’s existence. Inasmuch as, through our hard-earned scientific knowledge, we can say with sufficient certainty that Noah’s flood never occurred, and Adam and Eve never existed, we can also say that Jesus was wrong, an inescapable conclusion that, nevertheless, seems incompatible with him being the risen son of god.

Lucian said...

As it says in the Bible: that it will be easier in the day of judgement for the cities of Sodom and Gommorah or Niniveh, than for those to whom Jesus preached and did not listen to Him. Seemingly this teen-age slut is such an un-likely witness against homosexuals today, and probably even at the day of judgement. Seemingly God likes sinners with a conscience.

Rhology said...

For once Lucian makes a decent point.
Everythg I said in the post notwithstanding, God is still using Prejean to glorify Himself and condemn sin in the homosexual and Leftist dingbat community.
But it would still be better for everyone if she'd take her pageant as a fond memory and fade from the limelight, and let some actual Christians take her place.

PChem said...

I'm sure that Rhology would say something if he minded.

Anyway, I'm glad that you recognize that facts themselves don't speak but they require a context to have meaning. This is how I am seeing the logic, correct me if I am wrong. I have no doubt you will =).

We have a set of facts pertaining to some issue (take the radioisotope stuff if it makes you happy). Fact 1 is bare but derives its meaning from other facts. Fact 2 is also bare but likewise derives its meaning from other facts that are deemed relevent. Fact 1 may or may not be in this set. This continues, where each bare fact is provided a context in relation to other bare facts.

Two questions:
1. How do you know a priori which facts are germane to setting the context for any other?

2. If one fact lacks context in and of itself, how will a whole bunch of facts, each of which is completely bare, produce a context?

What you have described is essentially building your world view up from bare facts. However, bare facts lack the intrinsic context they need to do this. I don't see how you have explained where this comes from. I have no doubt that you think your world view is based on facts, but I strongly suspect it is the other way. I also think you misunderstand what a world view actually is. It is an interpretive grid for viewing facts. It is crazy to think that bare facts can be used to construct the grid through which bare facts are interpreted.

The Jolly Nihilist said...

Anyway, I'm glad that you recognize that facts themselves don't speak but they require a context to have meaning.

A quick clarification: Bare facts, without context, are not utterly meaningless. The bare fact of our radioactive dating does convey information, and information conveyance is not nothing. For the information to be marshaled, however, a context is required.


1. How do you know a priori which facts are germane to setting the context for any other?

I do not think a bare fact necessarily gains its context and meaning from its relation to other bare facts. This might sometimes be so, but I do not think it necessarily so. My well-worn example is apt. That our radioactive dating marks Earth’s age at about 4.6 billion years is a bare fact. The meaning comes from the fact’s inescapable implication: Earth’s antiquity. The bare fact, insofar as its implication is inescapable, provides its own context. A naked fact becomes a scrap of evidence when it points toward a larger truth; for radioactive dating, the fact, through its inescapable implication, “evidentializes” itself.


2. If one fact lacks context in and of itself, how will a whole bunch of facts, each of which is completely bare, produce a context?

A bare fact can “evidentialize” itself through its inescapable implications. A bare fact is just that. To be a scrap of evidence, the bare fact must point toward a larger truth. Some bare facts, in themselves, do just that. Those inescapable implications, which “evidentialize” naked facts, provide the necessary context. With that context extant, we can see whether additional bare facts are in consonance, or conflict, with the larger truth-claim. When nearly every naked fact is in consonance, we can be confidant of the truth-claim.

[There are not infinitely many “inescapable conclusions” flowing from a bare fact. To say the inescapable conclusion of radioactive dating is that a deity fiddled with the half-lives is ad hoc harmonization. To recognize this, only rationality is needed.]


What you have described is essentially building your world view up from bare facts. However, bare facts lack the intrinsic context they need to do this.

Bare facts, in themselves, can have inescapable implications that provide the context, inasmuch as they “evidentialize” the naked facts in relation to a larger conclusion.


I also think you misunderstand what a world view actually is. It is an interpretive grid for viewing facts. It is crazy to think that bare facts can be used to construct the grid through which bare facts are interpreted.

We might be talking past each other, and possibly conflating “worldview,” “first principle” and “interpretation scheme.” I will clarify. My first principle (axiom, presupposition, etc.) is this: Evidence is the best, most reliable way for humans to approximate truth as we interrogate the world of experience. I do not consider this my “worldview”; instead, it is my interrogatory starting point. To the extent I have a worldview, it is metaphysical naturalism. However, I am not presuppositionally committed to naturalism; my worldview is provisional. I am a metaphysical naturalist because, from my evidence-driven interrogatory starting point, I have seen insufficient evidence to accept supernaturalism.

I cited the example of every Christian Bible becoming indestructible, unalterable and self-translating to demonstrate just how provisional my metaphysical naturalism is. I submit that if such a thing happened--if that bare fact were to be the case--it would admit of no natural explanation but point, essentially inescapably, to supernaturalism. Thus, I would be compelled to throw aside metaphysical naturalism and embrace a supernaturalist worldview, if not a Christian theist one wherein I would acknowledge, but not worship, god. My first principle can lead me toward or away from naturalism, depending upon which facts present themselves (and which implications flow inescapably therefrom).

Dr Funkenstein said...

If you want to demonstrate that theism is invalid, then you need to do so internally.

The problem with the internal critique method is that it isn't really an internal critique at all

basically it is a form of coherentism

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/justep-coherence/

firstly, coherentism has some well known problems eg the coherence of fictional (and therefore untrue) stories is an obvious one

more are discussed in the link below

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/justep-coherence/#ProForCoh

second, it also imposes a standard on the opposing view that the person in question may not accept - just as you might not accept that empirical observation/scientific method can validate or invalidate theism, another person might think that mere coherence is not enough to validate a viewpoint and that other standards are also required, or that coherence only provides weak justification for a view where you might think it provides very good support for a view

Just going back on to the point of science - it's worth noting that even if you think science assumes naturalism, there is actually a certain naturalistic component to theistic views

eg the initial creation may have been supernatural, but the product of that creation was then allowed to proceed in a natural manner

I'd also note that some aspects of Christian theism are dependent on temporal order and the question of naturalism/supernaturalism isn't really relevant (eg Genesis lists the order of creation, whether it happened supernaturally or not, that is open to being tested)

Finally, as regards worldviews and science, isn't that the whole point of hypothesis testing - ie create a model of what you think the world is like and attempt to test whether that model fits with the facts you find, or if it can predict things you should expect to see if it's true (with appropriate guidance such as Occam's razor, limiting the number of ad-hoc assumptions allowed etc etc)

Dr Funkenstein said...

just to add a couple of points I forgot about re coherence

we talked before about some Christian doctrines being contradictory (or at least apparently contradictory)

two individuals might disagree on what constitutes an internal contradiction

eg I have nothing riding on Christianity being true, so it's no issue for me to consider any apparent contradictions as actual contradictions

however, a presupp. theist has everything to lose by accepting a contradiction, so their boundary for accepting it is the case that a doctrine is contradictory is going to be much much higher

i found a series by Dale Tuggy who has an entry in the Stanford Encyclopedia on the matter of contradictions in theology

http://trinities.org/blog/?s=Dealing+with+Apparent+Contradictions%3A+Part&searchsubmit=Find

he examines a fair number of responses, some more substantial than others.

however, I can't help but feel a lot of the moves that are made by apologists would be open to their opponent, especially other theists

So it doesn't seem obvious that internal coherence alone can validate a worldview

PChem said...

The bare fact, insofar as its implication is inescapable, provides its own context.

It don't think the example you cited is inescapable at all. Rather, differing world views may interpret the radioisotope data differently. Within the confines of naturalism, which is certainly how science normally operates, then yes the conclusion of an ancient earth is inescapable. This, however, is not the point. The question at hand is whether or not the radioisotope data + the context of naturalism invalidates Christian theism. It certainly cannot because a Christian theistic worldview can posit an explanation for that fact just as well as naturalism does. This is what world views do, they provide a frame work for interpreting facts. You may not like the explanation given your presuppositions but that hardly qualifies as a defeator for Christian theism. If you want to demonstrate that Christian theism is an invalid worldview, then you need invalidate it on its own grounds.

When nearly every naked fact is in consonance, we can be confidant of the truth-claim.

1. I don't think the notion that bare facts "evidentialize" themselves makes any sense (see above).

2. Coherence is not a positive test for truth. Different world views can provide different explanations of the facts, and both may be internally coherent. For example, atheistic, pantheistic, and theistic systems may all provide differing contexts for interpreting the same set of facts. Moreover, they all may do so coherently. However, they cannot all be correct in the same way and at the same time. I do think that coherence may have some application as a negative test for truth, but even then it is limited.

We might be talking past each other, and possibly conflating “worldview,” “first principle” and “interpretation scheme.”

We might very well be doing this, but I think I have a pretty good handle on how you view things. I simply think you are mistaken to choose evidentialism as your first principle. Of course, you can take it on faith. However, there are several serious problems with evidentialism as a test for truth. (1) There is no way, on evidentialism, to select which facts are germane to the question you investigating nor is there a way to determine the relative weight for each one. (2) Facts only have meaning within a context. There is no way, on evidentialism, to say which context is the valid one apart from an a priori committment to a world view system. (3) The notion that facts evidentialize themselves seems unwarranted. How does a fact apart from any context generate its own context? Moving to large numbers of bare facts as an answer does not seem reasonable.

I also do not believe bare facts have inescapable conclusions. I can see how facts interpreted through a world view can have inescapable conclusions (and this seems to me to be what you are doing with the radioisotope example). But the question at hand is which world view is the correct one to use. Choosing one and then using the inescapable conclusions to castigate another one doesn't fly.

Rhology said...

The bare fact of our radioactive dating does convey information, and information conveyance is not nothing

Yes, it conveys "the test I ran gave this result". Nothing more, nothing less.

The Jolly Nihilist said...

It certainly cannot because a Christian theistic worldview can posit an explanation for that fact just as well as naturalism does.

I think we would benefit considerably from concretizing our discussion. Here is the bare fact at hand: Our radioactive dating, using numerous radioisotopes, across the orders of magnitude, converges on 4.6 billion years as Earth’s age. I say the inescapable implication is Earth’s antiquity. Assuming the Christian theistic worldview cannot accept an ancient Earth, go ahead and posit an explanation. Is it the one I already supposed, that being god changed all the half-life values across the orders of magnitude?


You may not like the explanation given your presuppositions but that hardly qualifies as a defeator for Christian theism.

It is not a matter of me “not liking” a rival explanation; it is a matter of the bare fact inescapably pointing toward one conclusion and my observation that alternate explanations are flagrantly ad hoc harmonization attempts to make an inconvenient fact fit an unchangeable preconceived conclusion.


If you want to demonstrate that Christian theism is an invalid worldview, then you need invalidate it on its own grounds.

Or, one needs to show that certain facts contradict, and prove false, the Christian presuppositional lens. As I say, if Christian theism requires a young Earth, we can prove it wrong. If Christian theism requires Adam and Eve’s existence, we can prove it wrong. If Christian theism requires a literal Exodus and conquest of the Promised Land, we can prove it wrong. If you care to declare none of those things is required, you may, but I would wonder upon what basis you made the declaration.


Different world views can provide different explanations of the facts, and both may be internally coherent. For example, atheistic, pantheistic, and theistic systems may all provide differing contexts for interpreting the same set of facts.

I believe it remains a truism, though, that certain bare facts have inescapable implications. Occam’s razor is useful in identifying explanations that contain gratuitous ad hoc assumptions and, thus, appear much more like frantic harmonization attempts when facing inconvenient facts than genuine explanations.


(1) There is no way, on evidentialism, to select which facts are germane to the question you investigating nor is there a way to determine the relative weight for each one.

Do you really believe that, if one hypothesizes an ancient Earth, for instance, one is bereft of any rational mechanism to discern which facts might support such a hypothesis and which might falsify it?


Facts only have meaning within a context. There is no way, on evidentialism, to say which context is the valid one apart from an a priori committment to a world view system.

I think this is flatly false. As I already explained, some bare facts have inescapable implications; alternate “explanations,” demanded by prior commitment to an unchangeable worldview, are manifestly desperate harmonization attempts. I also think your argument is undercut by my twice-repeated observation that one bare fact--every Christian Bible becoming indestructible, unalterable and self-translating--would result in my abandoning metaphysical naturalism in favor of supernaturalism of some flavor. If this is the case, how can I a priori be committed to naturalism?


How does a fact apart from any context generate its own context?

Because, sometimes, a fact admits of only one rational conclusion, with alternate explanations being transparent harmonization attempts.


I can see how facts interpreted through a world view can have inescapable conclusions (and this seems to me to be what you are doing with the radioisotope example).

So, returning from whence I began, explain why radioactive dating, using numerous radioisotopes, across the orders of magnitude, converges on 4.6 billion years as Earth’s age.

PChem said...

So, returning from whence I began, explain why radioactive dating, using numerous radioisotopes, across the orders of magnitude, converges on 4.6 billion years as Earth’s age.

Because you only allow a naturalistic interpretation of the data. There wasn't that easy? I am seriously amazed that you don't recognize the a priori commitment of science to naturalistic explanations.

It converges because you view the data naturalistically, pure and simple. I'm sorry this is so difficult for you. Now some Christians believe that the earth is young, and explain the radioisotope data as an appearance of age. Within Christian theism this is totally valid. My point is that you can't take the naturalistic explanation and argue the young earth explanation is wrong. Both are offering explanations for the same data, and neither one can refute the other.

Do you really believe that, if one hypothesizes an ancient Earth, for instance, one is bereft of any rational mechanism to discern which facts might support such a hypothesis and which might falsify it?

Yes I do. It is a world view that systematizes facts, providing the ultimate meaning behind those facts.

As I already explained, some bare facts have inescapable implications

No you haven't. Your radioisotope data do not force you one way or another. You can choose to accept a naturalistic explanation (i.e., the earth really is in fact old), or you may accept other explanations, such as the one provided by the young earth creationists. This is issue is debated among Christians, and I think this reflects the degree to which Christians accept naturalism within their overall world view. To be sure, Christianity certainly allows for natural operation of the world. In fact, such a concept flows naturally from God. Perhaps a better question is do the facts argue that the earth was created or not?

Regardless, evidence alone can't tell you which way to go. Within an atheistic world view it is certainly rational that the earth is old based on this evidence. However, within Christian theism it is rational to posit that God created the world several thousand years ago.

I reject the idea that facts force you into the right system for reasons I cited earlier:

(1) There is no way, on evidentialism, to select which facts are germane to the question you investigating nor is there a way to determine the relative weight for each one.

(2) Facts only have meaning within a context. There is no way, on evidentialism, to say which context is the valid one apart from an a priori committment to a world view system.

(3) The notion that facts evidentialize themselves seems unwarranted. How does a fact apart from any context generate its own context? How do multiple bare facts working in concert help this issue?

Typed but not edited

The Jolly Nihilist said...

**Part One**

Because you only allow a naturalistic interpretation of the data. There wasn't that easy? I am seriously amazed that you don't recognize the a priori commitment of science to naturalistic explanations.

A naturalistic interpretation of the data is beside the point. We have numerous radioactive isotopes, across the orders of magnitude, which, using many different samples, all converge on 4.6 billion years as Earth’s age. Do you seriously mean to propose that “ancient Earth” and “young Earth” are equally supported by the raw data?


It converges because you view the data naturalistically, pure and simple.

The raw data, across orders of magnitude, across radioactive isotopes, across samples, converges on a particular age because of how I view it?


I'm sorry this is so difficult for you.

In a civil discussion, personalized condescension of this sort is generally worthy of disapprobation.


Now some Christians believe that the earth is young, and explain the radioisotope data as an appearance of age. Within Christian theism this is totally valid.

I agree that it is totally valid... as a transparent and frantic attempt at harmonization. This is exactly what I mean when I say that, on Christianity, one is forced to make ad hoc assumptions as a means of harmonizing inconvenient facts with a preconceived and unchangeable conclusion. Genesis says Earth is 6000-some years old but, in actuality, it is several billion? Well, I guess “day” does not literally mean “day.” Genesis says Earth came before the Sun and other stars? Well, actually, I think that one is beyond harmonization, simply attesting to the lamentable, though understandable, ignorance of the primitive men who wrote it.


My point is that you can't take the naturalistic explanation and argue the young earth explanation is wrong. Both are offering explanations for the same data, and neither one can refute the other.

One view looks at the data and accepts the natural conclusion that flows therefrom; one looks at the data and confects a harmonization scheme to ensure the fact, heretofore deeply inconvenient, fits within a preconceived, unalterable worldview.

The Jolly Nihilist said...

**Part Two**

Yes I do. It is a world view that systematizes facts, providing the ultimate meaning behind those facts.

You are simply incorrect. We are thinking beings who are able to harness the power of our minds for rational thought. We are able to dream up hypotheses and, further, capable of conceiving ways in which a hypothesis might be confirmed or falsified. True, hypothesis formation might require specialized knowledge in a field of study, but this is only to be expected and is why biologists do biology, geologists do geology and cosmologists do cosmology. Human powers of thought include an ability to understand what a hypothesis entails and, further, which experimental methods might be deployed to test the hypothesis. Biologists, or those toiling in related scientific fields, do not need to appeal to an overarching worldview to take the hypothesis that “Humans evolved from lower primates” and conceive facts that would support or oppose that hypothesis. On a more prosaic level, one need not appeal to an overarching worldview to take the hypothesis that “Outside my house, it is raining” and conceive facts (and experimental methods) that would support or oppose that hypothesis.


No you haven't. Your radioisotope data do not force you one way or another. You can choose to accept a naturalistic explanation (i.e., the earth really is in fact old), or you may accept other explanations, such as the one provided by the young earth creationists.

But not all explanations are created equal, which I have been stressing from the start. Suppose a tornado were to strike a town in Oklahoma, the result of which was comprehensive destruction of the town. A bare fact might be “The schoolhouse is utterly destroyed and now a pile of rubble.” What you are saying, essentially, is that all explanations, entailed by all worldviews, a priori are equal. I might say, “The tornado destroyed the schoolhouse.” You might say, “The schoolhouse was destroyed when a spaceship from the Andromeda galaxy arrived in town, the aliens saw that nobody was worshipping their kind, they became angry and decided, as punishment, to destroy the one significant structure the tornado spared.” Not all conclusions or implications equally flow from bare facts; some conclusions are better.


Perhaps a better question is do the facts argue that the earth was created or not?

The facts certainly argue Earth came into existence--that is, that it is not eternal. However, “created” is a loaded word; no, the facts do not argue for Earth’s supernatural creation à la the Genesis tale wherein Earth chronologically precedes the center of its solar system.


Within an atheistic world view it is certainly rational that the earth is old based on this evidence. However, within Christian theism it is rational to posit that God created the world several thousand years ago.

Just as, on extraterrestrialism, it is rational to posit that the Oklahoma schoolhouse, surrounded by rubble from the disastrous tornado, was actually destroyed by the aliens from Andromeda galaxy who were offended by the luckless citizens’ impiety toward their kind.

PChem said...

Great, so I can publish a paper in the Proc Am Acad Sci and use a non-naturalistic explanation for my data. We both know this isn't the case, because science as it is currently viewed relies solely on naturalistic explanations. I am not arguing that this should be changed. All I am arguing is that this should be realized when examining world views.

You are tied to evidentialism as a truth test. I have illustrated that it is a poor truth test, and you have yet to interact with those statements, except in a tangential manner. (I only saw a part 1, perhaps you are getting to it later?) Up to this point, you have said that it is your first principle. This is fine if you want to take it on faith, but I have serious reservations about it. The example you provided is not impressive because the data may be explained adequately through ANY world view you wish to choose. This is true of all data because data is a collection of bare facts, which is then interpreted through a world view.

One view looks at the data and accepts the natural conclusion that flows therefrom; one looks at the data and confects a harmonization scheme to ensure the fact, heretofore deeply inconvenient, fits within a preconceived, unalterable worldview.

1. The natural conclusion follows from only allowing natural explanations in science.

2. The Christian explanation flows directly from interpreting the data within its world view and in light of God's communication to us. Your dislike for the results is not a defeator for this.

3. This can be reversed. You have a preconceived, unalterable view that evidence interprets itself and leads to natural conclusions. This confects a harmonization scheme to ensure the fact, heretofore deeply inconvenient, fits within a preconceived, unalterable use of evidentialism.

In a civil discussion, personalized condescension of this sort is generally worthy of disapprobation.

No harm intended. Sorry you took it as such. I am, however, genuinely sorry that you are unable or unwilling to view evidentialism as a poor first principle.

Rhology said...

In a civil discussion, personalized condescension of this sort is generally worthy of disapprobation.

But since all such moral disapprobation is meaningless and without foundation, the very mention of it by the JN is simply yet another sign of his inability to be consistent with his stated values.

PChem said...

school example

This is a typical response I get from evidentialists. No, facts can not be arbitrarily explained any old way. The andromeda explanation would be ludicrous. However, evidence becomes evidence when bare facts are interpreted within a context. One cannot the use the derived evidence as support for the context without begging the question. Furthermore, science uses an overarching grid of naturalism as its interpretive scheme. As such, one cannot use the evidence derived from this as support for naturalism because one could conceivably use a supernatural interpretive grid to explain the same set of data. One sees this clearly with the age of the earth examply you brought up.

The Jolly Nihilist said...

**Part One**

Great, so I can publish a paper in the Proc Am Acad Sci and use a non-naturalistic explanation for my data. We both know this isn't the case, because science as it is currently viewed relies solely on naturalistic explanations. I am not arguing that this should be changed. All I am arguing is that this should be realized when examining world views.

True enough, but science as a category of learning, or as a method, is not the same as a scientific-minded individual. A scientifically literate person, as I imagine myself to be, is not presuppositionally required to discount the supernatural as a matter of course; I have been trying to make this point from the start. In my reasoning, yes, I do usually appeal to a scientific mode of thinking, involving hypothesis generation and testing. However, I have repeatedly cited a particular bare fact that even I, a metaphysical naturalist, would recognize as admitting of no natural explanation. I have absolutely no presuppositional commitment to naturalism.


The example you provided is not impressive because the data may be explained adequately through ANY world view you wish to choose. This is true of all data because data is a collection of bare facts, which is then interpreted through a world view.

On this point, it might simply be the case that we disagree, and our disagreement is irreconcilable. My answer to this point is the same as it has been for days: Some bare facts have inescapable conclusions, and those conclusions serve to “evidentialize” the naked facts. I think it is ludicrous to contend that our radioactive dating, which, across several radioisotopes, across orders of magnitude, across tested samples, dates Earth’s age at 4.6 billion years, equally supports the conclusion that Earth is young and Earth is old; I cannot fathom making such a contention. To say our dating attests to a young Earth is to betray one’s unshakeable, presuppositional commitment to a worldview, with which every fact must be frantically harmonized.


1. The natural conclusion follows from only allowing natural explanations in science.

Science, as a category of learning or as a method, is not the same as a science-minded individual. A science-minded individual does not necessarily commit himself in advance to naturalism; I certainly am not so committed.


2. The Christian explanation flows directly from interpreting the data within its world view and in light of God's communication to us. Your dislike for the results is not a defeator for this.

It is not the case that I “dislike” your rival hypothesis; rather, I recognize it as an ad hoc harmonization scheme. Suppose we returned to the 16th century, when Christianity’s stranglehold on the world was much more powerful than it currently is. Further, suppose we approached some of the leading Christian figures of the day, identified ourselves as time travelers from 2009, said that in our time we are capable of dating the planet’s oldest rocks and asked them to venture a guess as to the age discerned. Do you suppose many would guess 4.6 billion years? Scripture does not in any way predict or support the notion that, with radioactive dating, Earth would be dated to such mind-bending antiquity; rather, it is a case of a deeply inconvenient fact, some rather frantic thought and an ad hoc explanation being devised.

The Jolly Nihilist said...

**Part Two**

3. This can be reversed. You have a preconceived, unalterable view that evidence interprets itself and leads to natural conclusions. This confects a harmonization scheme to ensure the fact, heretofore deeply inconvenient, fits within a preconceived, unalterable use of evidentialism.

Which deeply inconvenient fact contradicts my contention that, in many cases, bare facts can “evidentialize” themselves by means of their inescapable conclusions? Also, inasmuch as evidentialism is not a worldview but, rather, a first principle, I do not understand the analogy.


This is a typical response I get from evidentialists. No, facts can not be arbitrarily explained any old way. The andromeda explanation would be ludicrous.

Yes, it would be ludicrous, and for two specific reasons: (a) It would be deeply “unparsimonious” and thoroughly ad hoc, insofar as suppositions are multiplied as the extraterrestrial-driven reasoner tries to harmonize the data for the purpose of supporting his worldview, and (b) the bare fact of a destroyed schoolhouse, surrounded by the rubble of a tornado-destroyed town, has an inescapable conclusion, that being the tornado destroyed the schoolhouse.


However, evidence becomes evidence when bare facts are interpreted within a context. One cannot the use the derived evidence as support for the context without begging the question.

But, as I say, and shall repeat if necessary, I am not presuppositionally committed to metaphysical naturalism, or naturalism of any variety. I am a naturalist because the facts indicate that to be right; my worldview is derived from the bare facts, which, in many instances, “evidentialize” themselves by means of their inescapable conclusions. If I presupposed naturalism, interpreted facts naturalistically and said those facts prove naturalism, I would be begging the question; I do not do this. Instead, I look at the bare facts, ascertain the natural--that is, inescapable--conclusions flowing therefrom and figure out in which kind of world we live: natural or supernatural. If a bare fact attested to supernaturalism, I would be a supernaturalist.


Furthermore, science uses an overarching grid of naturalism as its interpretive scheme. As such, one cannot use the evidence derived from this as support for naturalism because one could conceivably use a supernatural interpretive grid to explain the same set of data.

And yet, no supernatural explanation of deeply inconvenient facts, such as our radioactive dating, or common descent, or the complete absence of archeological support for Exodus, has been even remotely convincing, let alone faithful to Christianity’s fundamental texts. They have all been frantic, ad hoc harmonization schemes whose from-whole-cloth nature is revealed by the fact that almost no Christian theologian supposed such observations would be made prior to their actually being so.

Rhology said...

I recognize it as an ad hoc harmonization scheme


This always makes me laugh. You really think this? How old is the Bible?
And how old is "modern" science?
And somehow *the Bible* is ad hoc?

The Jolly Nihilist said...

The Bible is not ad hoc. The harmonization schemes required to make modern science reconcilable to the Bible are ad hoc. It is ad hoc to say, “The radioactive dating ages Earth at 4.6 billion years, ergo a young Earth.”

PChem said...

scientific-minded individual

And how does one become scientifically minded without buying into the methods of science?

I am also scientifically minded, but that does not blind me to the fact that science as a whole has ruled out supernatural explanations. I suppose since you are making the distinction between the methods of science and "science-minded" individuals that you concede that the methods of science have a priori commitments to naturalism? If not, why make the distinction?

My answer to this point is the same as it has been for days: Some bare facts have inescapable conclusions, and those conclusions serve to “evidentialize” the naked facts.

I contend that this is poor first principle and have provided three different reasons why it is poor. As yet, you have not defended your first principle. Instead, you repeatedly state that as a first principle it is immune from scrutiny. I agree that first principles are not proven. However, we have different first principles, and only one of us can be right. At some point, one has to ask whether or not evidentialism is a valid starting point. I argue that it is not. Until then, I agree that we are at an impass.

Which deeply inconvenient fact contradicts my contention that, in many cases, bare facts can “evidentialize” themselves by means of their inescapable conclusions?

The fact that you have yet to defend why evidentialism is a good truth test. You have also not demonstrated exactly how a bare fact alone "evidentializes" itself.

tornado/school and radioisotopes/age of earth

1. In the tornado/school example, the bare fact is that a school is demolished. In the context of a tornado passing through, it is reasonable to posit that the tornado resulted in the demolition of the school. However, if the context were a bombing raid during a war, it would be unreasonable to conclude that a tornado destroyed the school. The point is that a demolished school ALONE cannot point you to either the bombing raid or tornado. Once the context is fixed, then interpreting the fact through any arbitrary context is not foolish. In essence, your evidentialism requires you to move directly from the bare fact (school demolished) to context (tornado) using only the bare fact. This is unreasonable in my view.

Combining multiple facts doesn't appear to help. For one, how do you know which facts are relevant?


2. An analogous situation is going on with the radioisotope example. The bare facts are the ages arrived at by the analysis. However, the context of those facts cannot be derived from themselves any more than you can find a demolished school and argue that it was demolished by an air raid as opposed to a tornado. Rather, one chooses a metaphysical system and uses that as a context to interpret the data. You basically admitted this when you said that science uses naturalistic explanations. Otherwise, supernatural explanations could be published in top journals. The question is whether or not the starting metaphysical system is a good one.

begging the question

Glad to see that we agree on this! Certainly science as a method uses naturalistic presuppositions. How then do you plan to escape this as a scientifically minded person and generate your "inescapable" context. Seems pretty clear to me that if you start with naturalism as a method that you have set the context through which the facts are interpreted. Why would you expect anything other than naturalistic meaning attributed to the facts? Moreover, why would you expect those methods to be a good test between naturalism and supernaturalism. The deck has been stacked.

PChem said...

Missed typed!

"Once the context is fixed, then interpreting the fact through any arbitrary context is not foolish."

should read

"Once the context is fixed, then interpreting the fact through any arbitrary context is foolish."

Cheers!

Rhology said...

It is ad hoc to say, “The radioactive dating ages Earth at 4.6 billion years, ergo a young Earth.”

OK, I'd agree with that.
Of course, it's totally irrelevant to my position. My position says, "The Bible says young earth. Ergo, young earth. All other sources of information are inferior in quality."

Dr Funkenstein said...

However, we have different first principles, and only one of us can be right.

That's not quite true - you could both be wrong, or foundationalism as a philosophy could be incorrect

Rhology said...

or foundationalism as a philosophy could be incorrect

Of course, that would lead to the question of how we could know that, if indeed it is incorrect. Thru some kind of evidence?

Dr Funkenstein said...

All other sources of information are inferior in quality

See, I can't fathom why anyone would think this - if the bible was actually any good as a source of info about the real world, you'd think its ideas would actually be useful for something in the real world eg scientists would be making extensive use of the principle of a young earth in geology research, or people would appeal to revelations/prayer in order to know or do things as opposed to the standard methods of acquiring knowledge.

Instead, history is littered with failures of applying the sort of ideas proposed in the bible eg that prayer can cure children of diabetes is a prime example - a number of children have died because of this approach, yet there's no real reason it should never work if the biblical view is true. Then you have to factor in the number of times faith based enterprises are exposed as scams or clever tricks and so on.

Dr Funkenstein said...

Of course, that would lead to the question of how we could know that, if indeed it is incorrect. Thru some kind of evidence?

No (or not necessarily, anyway) - someone that subscribed to coherentism would argue that foundationalism is fundamentally flawed, for example.

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/justep-coherence/

"Coherentism is a view about the structure of justification or knowledge. The coherentist's thesis is normally formulated in terms of a denial of its contrary foundationalism. Coherentism thus claims, minimally, that not all knowledge and justified belief rest ultimately on a foundation of noninferential knowledge or justified belief."


there are many other philosophies that oppose foundationalism as well.

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/justep-foundational/#3

Rhology said...

See, I can't fathom why anyone would think this

We wonder the same thing about why anyone would put so much faith in humanism and the perceptions of one's senses.

Dr Funkenstein said...

We wonder the same thing about why anyone would put so much faith in humanism and the perceptions of one's senses.

I'm not a humanist, so the former is irrelevant to me, as for the latter, there's little choice but to accept the approximate reliability of your senses if you want to do anything in life.

besides, relying on revelation requires reliance on the senses as well since you have to assume true revelation is not actually some mental dysfunction or a mistaken assumption etc etc, or being able to actually read the bible to acquire knowledge of the revelations of others (after all, if your senses don't work, why assume what you see on the page is actually what you think it is?)

You'll notice as well in my original point that reliance on sense data has been considerably more successful than reliance on prayer and appeals to revelation in terms of practical application - eg plenty of people have coped fairly well with diabetes as a result of treatments ultimately reliant on sense data, those who tried the revelatory/prayer method of treatment didn't fare quite so well, for example.

Rhology said...

there's little choice but to accept the approximate reliability of your senses if you want to do anything in life.

B/c you just couldn't bear to embrace the alternative. Ah, blind fantasy.

Dr Funkenstein said...

B/c you just couldn't bear to embrace the alternative. Ah, blind fantasy.

I'm not sure I get you here - even if my senses don't actually work properly, I have an interest in doing certain things in life which requires the assumption of working senses

eg not dying by getting hit by a bus is fairly high on my list of priorities, so if I see a bus coming I work on the assumption that it's really there and it really is travelling at ~40 mph

The Jolly Nihilist said...

**Part One**

And how does one become scientifically minded without buying into the methods of science?

I mean only to articulate that, at times, it seems like you are arguing against me, Dan, as if I were the physical embodiment of “science”; I am not. Instead, I am an individual who utilizes scientific modes of reasoning and recognizes the value of the scientific method, wherein hypotheses are developed, predictions are made, experiments are done and conclusions are drawn.


Science as a whole has ruled out supernatural explanations….the methods of science have a priori commitments to naturalism

There is some debate and disagreement within scientific circles about this question. Some people say that supernatural questions are outside science’s purview entirely, whereas others assert that science, in principle, can test supernatural hypotheses. I find myself in the second camp, believing that a well-orchestrated scientific experiment can test the supernatural, a good example being the Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer. As for whether science can lead to a supernatural explanation, I do not think it is impossible; however, every conceivable natural explanation would have to be ruled out first, leaving us bereft of any. This is one area in which I depart from the “physical embodiment of science,” insofar as certain bare facts, for me, would cry out for supernatural explanations and, I believe, would admit of no plausible natural ones.


I contend that this is poor first principle and have provided three different reasons why it is poor.

Although I already responded, one by one, to your objections, I do not mind answering them again.


(1) There is no way, on evidentialism, to select which facts are germane to the question you investigating nor is there a way to determine the relative weight for each one.

All one needs is one’s faculty of reason. Suppose one wishes to investigate the following hypothesis: Outside my house, it is raining. Do you really believe an overarching worldview is required to select which facts are germane to this question? Some hypotheses are such that germane facts are obvious, as in this example.


(2) Facts only have meaning within a context. There is no way, on evidentialism, to say which context is the valid one apart from an a priori committment to a world view system.

But some bare facts have inescapable implications, which serve to “evidentialize” those naked facts in the context of a larger conclusion. We can distinguish valid conclusions from invalid conclusions by the degree to which they are ad hoc and transparent attempts at harmonization.


(3) The notion that facts evidentialize themselves seems unwarranted.

Maybe so, but it is not, and perhaps an example will help. Here is a bare fact: Mr. Jones walks into his house through the front door, closing his soaking-wet umbrella as he enters. I submit this bare fact, indeed, does “evidentialize” itself to the larger implication that “Outside Mr. Jones’ house, it is raining.” Now, one cannot be infallibly certain this is the case, but it is so overwhelmingly likely that the bare fact, in essence, forces one to the inescapable conclusion.

The Jolly Nihilist said...

**Part Two**

The fact that you have yet to defend why evidentialism is a good truth test. You have also not demonstrated exactly how a bare fact alone "evidentializes" itself.

I have dealt with the “evidentializing” issue at length. Evidentialism, as I have also already explained, is rooted in evidence’s utility in approximating truth. All of us use evidence every day; in a very real way, our very functioning in the day-to-day world is dependent upon our evidence utilization. If one’s first principle were biblical Christianity, though, no similar statements could be made. In terms of simple daily functionality, one does not need, or appeal to, the First Epistle to the Thessalonians in the same way one appeals to evidence.


1. In the tornado/school example, the bare fact is that a school is demolished. In the context of a tornado passing through, it is reasonable to posit that the tornado resulted in the demolition of the school….Once the context is fixed, then interpreting the fact through any arbitrary context is foolish. In essence, your evidentialism requires you to move directly from the bare fact (school demolished) to context (tornado) using only the bare fact.

I think, once again, we are talking past one another, which is hampering our dialogue. With respect to a bare fact, you seem to think that “demolished schoolhouse” is the naked fact at hand, whereas I think that fact is “demolished schoolhouse, surrounded by the wreckage caused by a passing tornado.” What you are terming the context, I am considering part of the bare fact. I think my interpretation is closer in spirit to the much-discussed radioactive dating example.

Following your line of thought in the quoted bit above, the bare fact would be “This sample dates to 4.6 billion years,” and the context would be “Across radioisotopes, across orders of magnitude, across pertinent samples, all our dating converges on 4.6 billion years.” Once the context is fixed, then interpreting the fact through any arbitrary context is foolish. The “evidentialized” fact points inescapably to an ancient Earth.


Combining multiple facts doesn't appear to help. For one, how do you know which facts are relevant?

Because human brains have the capacity to understand what hypotheses entail. If one’s hypothesis is “Outside my house, it is raining,” anyone with even marginal sentience could figure out which facts would support or oppose the hypothesis.


Rather, one chooses a metaphysical system and uses that as a context to interpret the data. You basically admitted this when you said that science uses naturalistic explanations. Otherwise, supernatural explanations could be published in top journals.

Yes, science sets out to discover natural explanations for observed phenomena. However, as I have already stated, I do not believe it entails an a priori presumption that supernatural explanations are impossible; instead, science holds that all conceivable natural explanations must be exhausted, leaving us bereft of any, before the supernatural may be invoked. Thus far, the supernatural never has had to be appealed to because (a) we have discovered a well-evidenced natural explanation or (b) even though no natural explanation has been found, we have not yet exhausted the possibilities. We also do not often (or ever) see things that cry out for a supernatural explanation, such as, for instance, a new planet suddenly appearing in our solar system.

The Jolly Nihilist said...

**Part Three**

Certainly science as a method uses naturalistic presuppositions. How then do you plan to escape this as a scientifically minded person and generate your "inescapable" context. Seems pretty clear to me that if you start with naturalism as a method that you have set the context through which the facts are interpreted. Why would you expect anything other than naturalistic meaning attributed to the facts?

Actually, I do not see the relevance of this part of the discussion. Unless you are disputing the efficacy of radioactive dating, which I do not think you are, then whatever presuppositions you assign to science, as a category of knowledge, are not particularly relevant. You seem to accept the bare fact of 4.6 billion years as the converged-upon age for Earth by means of dating. Given that I am not the personal embodiment of science, I am not personally bound by its naturalistic methods or its imperative to rule out every conceivable natural explanation before appealing to the supernatural. I simply look at the bare facts and go where they lead me, recognizing that many bare facts, our radioactive dating not excepted, can “evidentialize” themselves by means of their inescapable implications. What science does or does not presuppose seems only to be relevant if you dispute the very bare fact, rather than its meaning.

Also, despite my mentioning it several times, I do not think you ever interacted with my statement that a single bare fact, that being every Christian Bible becoming unalterable, indestructible and self-translating, would kill off my metaphysical naturalism. How could you possibly accuse me of being presuppositionally committed to naturalism when one logically possible bare fact would make me a supernaturalist?


Moreover, why would you expect those methods to be a good test between naturalism and supernaturalism.

Science is an excellent way of ascertaining bare facts. It is also an excellent way of testing hypotheses. Some bare facts “evidentialize” themselves by means of their inescapable implications. When many bare facts are at hand, and their implications converge, we can be confident we have approximated truth. If we wish to interrogate this provisional truth further, we can treat it as a hypothesis, make some predictions, experiment and see the results. Once we have some solid, tested truths, we can decide whether to side with the naturalist or supernaturalist camp.

(Sorry. I'm a long-winded debater.) ;-)

PChem said...

I am going to pare this down on what I think are the most relevant parts to save time. I am sorry if I dropped your favorite topic.

To start, I do not think that you are the physical embodiment of science. However, I find it very strange that you think you can borrow scientific evidence without being locked into the context through which the data was originally interpreted.

There is some debate and disagreement within scientific circles about this question. Some people say that supernatural questions are outside science’s purview entirely, whereas others assert that science, in principle, can test supernatural hypotheses.

In general, I reject the position that science can test the supernatural, specifically the activity of the Christian God. Doing so in effect reduces God to a force. For example, the effect of intercessory prayer as therapy assumes that God always responds the same way to intercessory prayer. How else can you conduct the hypothesis test? Suppose the hypothesis is that the average recovery time is the same for those who are prayed for and those who are not, and you fail to reject the null hypothesis. This can be explained as either (1) there is no God to answer the prayers or (2) God does not answer every prayer the same way. There may be other options, but I am doing this on the fly and these are the most obvious ones. The only way to reject the null hypothesis is if God does in fact answer prayers for individuals and does so in a consistent manner. However, this makes God into some type of force that is tapped into at will. This is not Biblical prayer. I think similar analogies could be constructed for other tests.

Point 1. All one needs is one’s faculty of reason.
In your act of reasoning you are appealing to a world view because it is a world view that systematizes facts. How else do you know what facts are special or worthy of selection? The facts are not labeled as such since they are bare. The very act that you zero in on some facts as more important as opposed to others is because you reason they are important THROUGH A WORLDVIEW.

Point 2. Some bare facts have inescapable implications, which serve to “evidentialize” those naked facts in the context of a larger conclusion.
As stated, this is merely your opinion. I don’t see any proof of facts evidentializing themselves. Certainly convergence of facts is expected and makes sense if facts are interpreted through a world view. Why wouldn’t you expect coherent meaning if facts are interpreted through the same interpretive grid? Further, recognizing ad hoc and transparent attempts at harmonization is possible when comparing the results through different worldviews. You think attributing the world to the creative fiat of God is an ad hoc harmonization given the apparent antiquity of the world as measured by several radioisotope methods. Likewise, I think using the apparent antiquity of the earth to support metaphysical naturalism and rejecting Christian theism is an ad hoc attempt at harmonizing data given the clear explanation as to how God created the world. Also, the core science used to arrive at those numbers is based on naturalism. Why again should we be surprised that it immediately lends support to naturalism? This is further compounded by the fact that said data can be adequately addressed in a coherent manner in either system. Ergo, the data and resulting interpretations are not good truth tests.

I am reading through this a second time, and just saw something that I missed before. You said that naked facts are evidentialized in the context of a larger conclusion. Isn’t this what I’ve been saying all along?

PChem said...

Point 3. Maybe so, but it is not

So, if you take that fact and that alone you seriously believe that you can inescapably reason to raining? Is it not possible that Mr. Jones fell into the koi pond outside his house while taking his umbrella inside the house from his car? I agree that facts within a context do not have arbitrary meaning, but I emphatically disagree that a single fact somehow interprets itself. Nothing happens in a vacuum.

Yes, science sets out to discover natural explanations for observed phenomena. However, as I have already stated, I do not believe it entails an a priori presumption that supernatural explanations are impossible; instead, science holds that all conceivable natural explanations must be exhausted, leaving us bereft of any, before the supernatural may be invoked. Thus far, the supernatural never has had to be appealed to because (a) we have discovered a well-evidenced natural explanation or (b) even though no natural explanation has been found, we have not yet exhausted the possibilities. We also do not often (or ever) see things that cry out for a supernatural explanation, such as, for instance, a new planet suddenly appearing in our solar system.

Here is the problem that I have been stressing. You are appealing to science as a means of validating your conclusions about the existence of God, but you have already admitted that science relies on naturalistic explanations for observed phenomena. Further, you rightly observe that science leaves it open that a particular phenomenon may not have a naturalistic explanation (assuming one isn’t immediately apparent) because we haven’t exhausted the possibilities. Is there really an end to the possibilities? How do you know when you are there? Do you know when you will through in the towel and say that there is simply is no naturalistic explanation? I am being serious with these questions. I really believe the answer is “no”, and it should be “no” because naturalism is the grid through which scientific facts are interpreted. But, this is exactly why I have been arguing that in a sense the deck is already stacked towards naturalism when considers scientific evidence.

Within my own field of physical chemistry, there are plenty of natural explanations that quite frankly defy the imagination. For example, the quantum world as it is currently explained is extremely bizarre. If we are comfortable with a bizarre quantum world, should we be any less surprised if there were a “bizarre” law that made all of the Bibles in the world indestructible?

Also, despite my mentioning it several times, I do not think you ever interacted with my statement that a single bare fact, that being every Christian Bible becoming unalterable, indestructible and self-translating, would kill off my metaphysical naturalism.

Within naturalism as a system, there may be a heretofore undiscovered natural law that would explain this phenomenon. Further, there is a plethora of historical data that you already pass over (e.g., the crucifixion and bodily resurrection of Jesus). Why would I expect this one example to convince you if others haven’t?

long winded
This is fine with me as long as you don’t expect rapid turn around times. Right now is a hectic time as the fall semester draws to a close.

Dr Funkenstein said...

The very act that you zero in on some facts as more important as opposed to others is because you reason they are important THROUGH A WORLDVIEW.

This strikes me as being self-refuting

if facts can only be interpreted through a worldview, surely that claim applies to itself (in the same way 'you can't prove a negative' is self refuting, because it makes a negative claim), since it is itself apparently being made as a statement of fact?

In general, I reject the position that science can test the supernatural, specifically the activity of the Christian God.

Unfortunately, Christianity makes far too many claims about things that should be detectable in the real world for this to be a viable viewpoint. On the other hand, if the actions of the Christian God are indistinguishable from how things would be if he were non-existent, then people can't be blamed for drawing the conclusion that he does not in fact exist.

Doing so in effect reduces God to a force.

While this may not be to your liking, it doesn't make it untrue that his actions supposedly share similarities with natural forces such as gravity - besides the bible frequently identifies God with certain physical forces (eg weather patterns - Zech 10:1, psalms 18:7-14, 1 samuel 12:17-18, exodus 9 etc etc)

(2) God does not answer every prayer the same way.

It's more the systematic failure of certain types of prayer request (ie the stuff that is basically physically impossible, such as regrowth of amputated limbs, curing diabetes without insulin replacement etc etc) that suggests God doesn't exist - these things are prayed for frequently enough that it's quite reasonable that at least sometimes they might be fulfilled

The bible is also quite clear that prayer should be able to cause quite clear and exceptional events upon demand by the believer (eg John 14:14, matthew 21:21-22)

Further, there is a plethora of historical data that you already pass over (e.g., the crucifixion and bodily resurrection of Jesus). Why would I expect this one example to convince you if others haven’t?

because the quality of data is remarkably poor (eg the inconsistent endings of the gospels, the lack of non-biased sources reporting the same events, the fact that spectacular events seemingly went unnoticed by the vast majority of the population despite the fact that Jesus' supposedly drew enormous crowds to see him do his thing, the fact that the only supposed 'eyewitness' reports were almost certainly written decades after the hypothesised time of the events as well as being copies of each other/shared sources and so on, not to mention the absurd lengths I've seen apologists go to to harmonise the discrepancies of clear contradictions in the accounts such as the day of Jesus' crucifixion, his last words, the failed prophecy that he'd return to establish his kingdom in the lifetime of his followers (2000 years and still no sign of him!))

I think I'd at the very very least one would conclude there wasn't good enough evidence to decide one way or the other for any other 'historical' scenario attested to this poorly and that required as much mental gymnastics to keep the story straight.

The Jolly Nihilist said...

**Part One**

To start, I do not think that you are the physical embodiment of science. However, I find it very strange that you think you can borrow scientific evidence without being locked into the context through which the data was originally interpreted.

As I said in my previous reply, science has shown itself to be an excellent method by which to ascertain bare facts. For instance, science has granted us the ability to perform radioactive dating to arrive at the 4.6-billion-year figure as Earth’s age. I do not feel, however, that I am somehow locked into the interpretation advanced by any given scientist or, for that matter, science as a body. Bare facts, in many cases, speak for themselves.


For example, the effect of intercessory prayer as therapy assumes that God always responds the same way to intercessory prayer. How else can you conduct the hypothesis test?

The problem is that you seem to be attempting to immunize prayer from critical scrutiny. That is, on your view, any type of prayer experiment would reduce god to a force that can be tapped into at will and, because god is not such a force, prayer cannot be tested. This is all fine, I suppose, except that, to me, prayer then becomes a black hole, from which no information can escape: prayer’s efficacy cannot be demonstrated, its utility cannot be known, its consistency cannot be discerned. On this view, prayer becomes the dragon in Carl Sagan’s garage: you know, the dragon that is invisible, incorporeal, floating and that spits heatless fire.


In your act of reasoning you are appealing to a world view because it is a world view that systematizes facts. How else do you know what facts are special or worthy of selection?

Honestly, when we get into points like this, it simply hardens my conviction that, at times, philosophy can be an utterly masturbatory and, ultimately, silly pursuit. Remember the hypothesis at hand, which is, “Outside my house, it is raining.” I simply reject, as an affront to the most elementary reason, that a supposed requirement exists that an overarching worldview select which facts are germane to this question. Some hypotheses, including this one, are such that germane facts are obvious. Nothing need be underwritten by a worldview, ideology or position.


Certainly convergence of facts is expected and makes sense if facts are interpreted through a world view. Why wouldn’t you expect coherent meaning if facts are interpreted through the same interpretive grid?

Once again, I think you are heavily over-emphasizing the interpretive grid of which you frequently speak. Going, as per my inclination, to the radioactive dating example, the fact that, across radioisotopes, across orders of magnitude, across samples, the calculated ages converge on 4.6 billion years is quite bare. Dated samples do not converge on that age because of an interpretive grid; the grid, on your stated view, comes into play when a reasoner must decide what to make of the bare fact of the converged data.

The Jolly Nihilist said...

**Part Two**

You think attributing the world to the creative fiat of God is an ad hoc harmonization given the apparent antiquity of the world as measured by several radioisotope methods. Likewise, I think using the apparent antiquity of the earth to support metaphysical naturalism and rejecting Christian theism is an ad hoc attempt at harmonizing data given the clear explanation as to how God created the world.

To be frank, I cannot wrap my mind around this reasoning. First, if one, like James Ussher, reads the Bible quite plainly and attempts to calculate Earth’s age, one will realize that Genesis, barring Olympic-level feats of mental gymnastics, attests to a remarkably young Earth. The bare facts, at which we arrived by reliable dating methods, flatly contradict this proposition; this inarguable contradiction necessitates the harmonization scheme. Insofar as naturalism, in itself, requires neither an old nor a young Earth, one cannot say naturalism--again, in itself--demands harmonization.

Second, if the bare facts of our dating were so obviously compatible with biblical Christianity, why would no Christian several centuries ago have predicted the results we actually have? Suppose we returned to the 16th century and approached some of the leading Christian figures of the day, identified ourselves as time travelers from 2009, said that in our time we are capable of dating the planet’s oldest rocks and asked them to venture a guess as to the age discerned. Do you suppose many would guess 4.6 billion years? Scripture does not in any way predict or support the notion that, with radioactive dating, Earth would be dated to such mind-bending antiquity.

Third, if you are referring to Genesis, it is palpably nonsensical to say we have a clear explanation as to how god created the world. Firstly, we have no idea who wrote Genesis; more to the point, nobody can be said to have written Genesis because, like almost the entirety of the Old Testament, it was written, re-written, edited, interpolated, revised and modified by countless contributors over hundreds of years. The Old Testament is an example of composition by aggregate over the course of centuries, meaning that, whatever else one might accuse its texts of being, one cannot throw around the charge of clarity.


This is further compounded by the fact that said data can be adequately addressed in a coherent manner in either system.

This is only true if you consider my extraterrestrial example, vis-à-vis the destroyed schoolhouse, a coherent explanation of the fact, because the biblical Christian hypothesis is no more reasonable.


You said that naked facts are evidentialized in the context of a larger conclusion. Isn’t this what I’ve been saying all along?

Facts can “evidentialize” themselves by means of their inescapable implications; from there, those implications can lead, quite naturally, to larger conclusions. When many bare facts, by means of their implications, converge on the same conclusion, that conclusion can be classified as provisional truth.

The Jolly Nihilist said...

**Part Three**

So, if you take that fact and that alone you seriously believe that you can inescapably reason to raining? Is it not possible that Mr. Jones fell into the koi pond outside his house while taking his umbrella inside the house from his car? I agree that facts within a context do not have arbitrary meaning, but I emphatically disagree that a single fact somehow interprets itself. Nothing happens in a vacuum.

I did not say that, given the situation, one could infallibly reason to raining. What I said, and what I still stand by, is that the bare fact, indeed, does “evidentialize” itself to the larger implication that “Outside Mr. Jones’ house, it is raining.” One cannot be entirely certain this is the case, but it is so overwhelmingly likely that the bare fact, in essence, forces one to the inescapable conclusion. The conclusion is not infallible, and contradictory bare facts, such as there appearing to be no rain when one looks out the front window, would lead to different conclusions. But, the conclusion drawn from the implication is clear.


You are appealing to science as a means of validating your conclusions about the existence of God, but you have already admitted that science relies on naturalistic explanations for observed phenomena. Further, you rightly observe that science leaves it open that a particular phenomenon may not have a naturalistic explanation (assuming one isn’t immediately apparent) because we haven’t exhausted the possibilities. Is there really an end to the possibilities? How do you know when you are there? Do you know when you will through in the towel and say that there is simply is no naturalistic explanation?

You raise some valid points, but I think some scientific truths--some of our ideas about the natural order--are so well established that their violation would immediately cry out, to any clear-minded observer, “Something supernatural has occurred.” This is why I brought up a new planet suddenly appearing in our solar system. For this to happen, it would require a violation of energy conservation, which is about as well established a physical principle as exists. I think scientists would be humble enough, were a new planet suddenly to appear in our solar system, to step back and realize something utterly extraordinary, and very likely supernatural, has occurred.

The Jolly Nihilist said...

**Part Four**

If we are comfortable with a bizarre quantum world, should we be any less surprised if there were a “bizarre” law that made all of the Bibles in the world indestructible?

And this bizarre law would only come into force tomorrow? And it would be universal to all Christian Bibles, but no other books? I think you overestimate science’s arrogance if you believe people would say, “Ah, interesting observation. Now let us find the natural explanation.”


Within naturalism as a system, there may be a heretofore undiscovered natural law that would explain this phenomenon. Further, there is a plethora of historical data that you already pass over (e.g., the crucifixion and bodily resurrection of Jesus). Why would I expect this one example to convince you if others haven’t?

Yes, within naturalism as a system, there might be a heretofore-undiscovered natural law that would explain that phenomenon, but it seems about as likely as my extraterrestrial explanation for the destroyed schoolhouse in Oklahoma. Just as the bare fact of converged radioactive dating screams out, “Ancient Earth,” so too would indestructible, unalterable and self-translating Bibles scream out, “Supernatural occurrence.” The only way one might avoid these obvious implications is if one were indivorcibly wedded to a worldview--biblical Christianity and metaphysical naturalism, respectively--and thus compelled to harmonize.

The evidence contained in the New Testament is unconvincing to me, and none of it, as it currently exists, comes anywhere close to indestructible, unalterable and self-translating Bibles. Do you really expect me to take Matthew seriously when he attests to a horde of zombies roaming about Jerusalem? Do you expect me to take Matthew or Luke seriously when both attest to Jesus’ apparent parthenogenic birth? Not to mention the fact that, admittedly to an extent less than the Old Testament, we do not know the author(s) of the gospels but we do know they have been worked over by many theologically divergent hands.

PChem said...

Dr. Funkenstein,

This strikes me as being self-refuting

I think we are miscommunicating about how meaning is derived from facts. I define an "evidentialized" fact, to use the Nihilists jargon to be bare fact + context. The question at hand is whether or not the bare fact generates its own context. I think it is obvious that if one changes the context then one changes the meaning. Further, I think it is obvious that meaning does not spring forth from bare facts. For example, take Mr. Jones coming inside wet. To me, that alone does not inescapably imply that it is raining, that Mr. Jones fell into a koi pond, or that Mr. Jones was hosed by a neighborhood kid. The context this fact is placed determines the meaning.

Claims of Christianity in the world + other things

I realize this is a long series of posts and maybe you haven't read all of them, but you seem to have entirely missed the point of what I am arguing.

Facts gathered about the natural world gain meaning when interpreted through a context. A world view is an over-arching context that systematizes facts. The meaning of facts as interpreted through one world view does not provide ammunition against a differing world view because both are interpreting the same set of facts, albeit differently. It is my contention that you do not "see" the evidence for God in the natural world because you are looking at the bare facts through a naturalistic lens. The conclusions you draw from evidence are tainted by the context you are using.

Doing so in effect reduces God to a force...weather patterns

Yes, God is the source of the natural laws that govern the universe. However, God is also a person who can make choices. He is not like gravity in that sense. Also, it isn't about my disliking this or not. It is that it seems preposterous to test something that is not a force as if it were a force.
(2) God does not answer every prayer the same way.

prayer request

Seems like you have a misunderstanding of a the Biblical nature of prayer. God is far more interested in our eternal state than our temporal one. As far as the efficacy of prayers are concerned, He has certainly changed my life, and it did start with a prayer.

last tirade

And so we are right back where we started. You are a metaphysical naturalist of one stripe or another and I am a Christian theist. Is there any doubt that we would look at the facts differently because we different world views? I think the data is strong. However, I do not think it will ever convince an atheist to change their position because THEIR world view can equally explain the data. First one has to establish which worldview is true and then evidentialism is a powerful truth test WITHIN that world view.

not edited, like most of my posts

PChem said...

I feel like this has devolved to a point that we aren’t getting anywhere. As such, I plan to make this my last comment. You are welcome to post your last thoughts as well. I enjoyed the debate; I just don’t think my time is best spent here. I am sure I will run into again in this neck of the internet woods. Cheers!

I do not feel, however, that I am somehow locked into the interpretation advanced by any given scientist or, for that matter, science as a body. Bare facts, in many cases, speak for themselves.

And where did you get the half-lives to conclude the earth is 4.6 billion years old again? Oh yeah, science operating within a naturalistic context. This has been my central point about using science as means for disproving a world view. You seem to think the results of science are somehow independent from the context in which the scientific evidence was generated. This simply is not correct.


prayer cannot be tested.

Yes, I suppose I agree with this. In my opinion a scientific test really doesn’t address the meat of the issue. I can’t see how to construct a hypothesis test that would actually test what you are setting out to do. Also, I think the prayer you are referring to is not necessarily Biblical prayer. For one, healing physical ailments is not God’s end goal.


philosophy can be an utterly masturbatory and, ultimately, silly pursuit.

Again, just an opinion! I am glad you have such strong faith in naturalism. I think it is silly that the context through which to interpret a fact is somehow inescapably generated from the bare fact alone. Nothing happens in a vacuum. Further, if facts are truly bare, then there really is nothing that denotes any particular fact as special or unique. I think what we are calling a “bare fact” is not the same thing.


long discourse

I don’t see what so hard about recognizing the inherent naturalism in science. You rightly already admitted that science will exhaust all naturalistic explanations without appealing to the supernatural, but no one knows where this limit is. Also, you admitted that using naturalism in science as proof of metaphysical naturalism is begging the question. All I am saying is that using science derived from naturalism cannot, for the same reasons, be a defeator for any other world view system.

PChem said...

Facts can “evidentialize” themselves by means of their inescapable implications

Context means everything in interpreting a bare fact. Changing the context changes the meaning. A world view is an over-arching context that seeks to systematize all known facts. I don’t see what’s so hard about this. We been over this at length, and I am tired of re-writing what I have said over and over. For my comment on this statement see my above posts.

did not say that, given the situation, one could infallibly reason to raining. What I said, and what I still stand by, is that the bare fact, indeed, does “evidentialize” itself to the larger implication that “Outside Mr. Jones’ house, it is raining.”

You said inescapably. So now it’s not inescapably but a high degree of certainty?

You raise some valid points, but I think some scientific truths--some of our ideas about the natural order--are so well established that their violation would immediately cry out, to any clear-minded observer, “Something supernatural has occurred.”

Sounds to me like a good opportunity to apply for NSF funding and explore it. That’s what a scientist would do.

realize something utterly extraordinary, and very likely supernatural, has occurred.

Like a man resurrecting? See, here again is how the metaphysical system dictates how you interpret a set of facts.

bizarre laws

As if the discovery of the quantum world wasn’t totally shocking. I think you fail to understand exactly what the quantum postulates entail. The existence of wave-particle duality is about as close to bizarre as you are going to get, but you didn’t see anyone screaming supernaturalism because a naturalistic explanation was sought out. I will grant that the current explanation works, but pragmatics are not a good test for truth either. We’ll save that for a discussion later.

And with this, I return the combox to its intend purpose. Prejean made a good comment, but it is about time that her 15 mins of fame end. Thanks for letting me totally derail this Rhology.

not editted

The Jolly Nihilist said...

I filibustered you enough during the course of the discussion; I will let it stand.

Let the reader decide.