Wednesday, June 01, 2011

JP Laughlin and the Atheist Experience

Via Twitter I happened upon one @JPLaughlin and we got to talking when I visited his blog.
He refers there to a couple of phone calls Matt Slick of CARM made to the Atheist Experience live call-in show a few years ago, which I reviewed here.  I think these dialogues, while a bit redundant because of atheist Matt Dillahunty's refusal to advance the conversation and obtuse insistence on his mistaken naked assertion, are some of the best atheist-versus-presuppositionalist material out there in the .mp3-osphere, up there with the first Wilson-Barker debate, the Bahnsen-Stein debate, and the Manata-Barker debate.

Anyway, JP Laughlin is unsurprisingly sympathetic to the AthExp, but he gets some things wrong.  You may read my question and his reply there, in which he invited me to post something more substantial on his blog.
It is a kind offer, but I think it's probably best that he post on his blog and I on mine, and we can inform each other of new posts and comments as the dialogue progresses.


--------
JP,
Thanks for the answer.
It's interesting - Slick dominated that exchange with the AthExp b/c it became clear after the, I don't know, 8th repetition of Dillahunty's naked assertion about logical absolutes.  Slick had him, and I'm not sure if Dillahunty knew it, but it's painfully obvious.

What's perhaps funnier is how the AthExp is so out of line with other atheism apologists.  Who's right, and how can we know?

Now, a few other lines to respond to here:
Dillahunty gets Slick to admit that a god cannot make “A” into “not A” because it would be a logic contradiction he demonstrates that Slick’s god is subject to the laws of logic and, therefore, cannot be the author of them

That's not an admission that God can't make A into non-A. It's our position. This is kind of like saying "I got Slick to admit that Jesus died on a cross. LOL!!!"
Well, yes, quite so. Well done.
God is not, however, in submission to the laws of logic, and Slick never said that; it's your telescoping of what you want Slick to be saying.  Rather, God always acts in accord with His nature and character, and He is logical. The universe operates in accord with the logical way He created it.  So that's the answer.
Contrast that with the atheistic position, where the laws of logic somehow...arose...spontaneously...whereas nothing existed before. That's a little bit, ah, dubious.


The problem with this is that, if this god exists, while he cannot make something inconsistent with his nature, he can make humans who can lie.

Again, yes, so what?
You know, you're just one more in a long line of atheists who can't bring themselves to remember that the Bible teaches about the Fall of Man.


These humans that can lie, therefore, are inconsistent with this god’s nature.

I don't even know what this is supposed to mean, honestly.  It's a pretty large category error.
Yes, God's creation is currently in some disarray; have you heard of something called "sin"?


If this were to be logically consistent, it would mean that Slick’s god could also make a square circle. This line of reasoning is self-refuting.

Sorry, but this is silly.


Now for your comment:
The short (and unsatisfying) answer to your question is…it depends. It depends on what you mean by both “concept” and “mind.”

It's not difficult. Concepts are ideas, subjects of thought.
Minds are intelligent entities capable of thought and reflection. So...your answer, please?



In brief, if there were no minds in the universe, for example, and the only thing existing was one thing we now signify “asteroid,” then the “logical absolutes” apply to it even in the absence of any minds to conceive the absolutes or perceive the “asteroid.”

W/o the ability to apply a logical statement to it, how do you know this is true?
We don't live in that universe.
Thanks for any reply whenever you may have time. I'm not big on time limits, as I understand what it's like to have a life outside the blogosphere.

16 comments:

Damion said...

"Contrast that with the atheistic position, where the laws of [______] somehow...arose...spontaneously...whereas nothing existed before."

I could fill in that blank with things like "grammar" and "semantics" and "etiquette" and so on. Such things arose spontaneously over time as humans learned to get along and communicate one with another. Somehow, though, the laws of logic are considered to be in a special category (transcendent and timeless) even though they are explicit instructions about how we should build meaningful propositions using certain words.

Rhology said...

The laws of logic are comparable to the "laws" of etiquette?
The French like to eat with their wrists resting on the table, one utensil in each hand.
The Japanese prefer you to slurp your noodles, rather loudly.
The Christians prefer the law of non-contradiction.
The Hindus dig stuff that contradicts.

All the same, right?

Rhology said...

even though they are explicit instructions about how we should build meaningful propositions using certain words.

So they're not explicit instructions about how we should build meaningful propositions using certain words. Right?

Damion said...

“So they're not explicit instructions about how we should build meaningful propositions using certain words.”

Right! Unless, of course, you mean "not" in the sense usually given by native speakers of English, that is, a particular definition assigned to a certain set of sounds or symbols. All such definitions and tokens thereof naturally "somehow...arose...spontaneously..." over eons of linguistic evolution, and yet we cannot communicate without them.

reflectionsonirreligion said...

Thanks for the reply and taking the time to post.
I've responded in kind with a post here:
http://reflectionsonirreligion.wordpress.com/2011/06/01/rhology-replies-to-my-critique-of-tag/

Rhology said...

Damion said:
even though they are explicit instructions about how we should build meaningful propositions using certain words.

I said:
So they're not explicit instructions about how we should build meaningful propositions using certain words. Right?

Damion now says:
Right!

Hmmm...One of us is not following the other.
The point I was making is that this is not applicable to the law of non-contradiction.

Maybe if I say it this way: My mind uses logic to tell me that God exists. Your mind uses logic to tell you that God does not exist. Which of our minds is using logic correctly and how do we know?


All such definitions and tokens thereof naturally "somehow...arose...spontaneously..." over eons of linguistic evolution, and yet we cannot communicate without them.

They didn't arise spontaneously, for one thing.
And logic governs far more than communication, I should think would be obvious.

Damion said...

"And logic governs far more than communication, I should think would be obvious."

It's not obvious at all, not even to logicians.  Take the LEM for example.  It tells us how to use the word "not" to express negation when using standard propositional logic, which is bivalent with respect to truth values.  The LEM is essentially a convention which tells us how to use certain elements of language to express certain ideas within a certain (very widely used) logical system.

Here is a premise worth stating explicitly and examining closely:

(P1) If we cannot communicate clearly without adhering to rule X, then rule X must be transcendent of space and time.

Note that X here is a class of ideas including the laws of classical logic, the conventions of grammar, standard dictionary definitions for the words we use, and a few other conventions without which we cannot hope to communicate.  In the case of this particular message, we can also add the conventions of HTTP and TCP/IP to the list.

Presumably, Rho wants to use some other premise stronger than (P1) but I've not yet seen that done, either here or in another thread.  Every attempt to call out the laws of classical logic for very special ontological treatment has come back to this one key premise.

Rhology said...

It tells us how to use the word "not" to express negation when using standard propositional logic, which is bivalent with respect to truth values.

And by the same token, it's not not-bivalent with respect to truth values. Right?


The LEM is essentially a convention which tells us how to use certain elements of language to express certain ideas within a certain (very widely used) logical system.

Except when it comes to whether the LEM is either true or not-true.


(P1) If we cannot communicate clearly without adhering to rule X, then rule X must be transcendent of space and time.

OK, let's explore that. I of course have zero problem with transcendent concepts, though it's difficult to see how that fits in with any atheistic worldview.


Every attempt to call out the laws of classical logic for very special ontological treatment has come back to this one key premise.

Logic is normative on the level of ontology of things, while etiquette is just for a few interactions between contingent beings. Again, I don't know why that's not obvious.

Damion said...

You won't be able to find a logician who claims the LEM is either true or untrue, because they know that it is an conventional element of a logical system rather than a statement about the universe.  

You claim to know that logic exists outside of the human beings who think about and communicate about them.  Without resorting to premise (P1), what is your evidence for this peculiar ontological claim? Also, what concepts other than the laws of classical logic fall under this claim?

Rhology said...

what is your evidence for this peculiar ontological claim?

I both have evidence for it and don't have evidence for it.

BillyBoy said...

From your last answer you come off like a Sye Ten B. clone. As soon as you get painted into a corner you try the all-so-common technique of giving a contradiction to prove your point. What you don't see is that Damion asked you for the evidence that grounds your justification to believe logic outside of the "system". You then proceeded to give evidence from within the system to prove something outside of the system. This alone doesn't prove anything and actually doesn't make much sense. Every debate point you have should not boil down to "how could it not?". That is an argument from ignorance and not considered valid. It also doesn't really allow the other person to learn anything.

Perhaps you could take a step back and offer an actual answer instead of trying to imply it? I also don't understand how logic/reason etc. somehow just gets acquired by the Christian position. Couldn't these same phenomena come from something else? I'm confused to say the least.

Rhology said...

From your last answer you come off like a Sye Ten B. clone

Well, he has helped me argue better.


giving a contradiction to prove your point

I'm afraid I don't know what that means.


What you don't see is that Damion asked you for the evidence that grounds your justification to believe logic outside of the "system".

Someone who answers the question “So they're not explicit instructions about how we should build meaningful propositions using certain words.”

with "Right!" has already conceded.


That is an argument from ignorance and not considered valid

So it is not an argument from ignorance and is considered valid. Right?


I also don't understand how logic/reason etc. somehow just gets acquired by the Christian position.

Because only the God of the Bible can ground it.


Couldn't these same phenomena come from something else?

"Come from"? Like what? We're talking about the laws of logic here.

BillyBoy said...

I don't find Sye's argument all that compelling. There are other versions of the "TAG" argument that have been delivered in a much cleaner package. However, that is beside the point.

I've heard Colin Pearson (not sure if you know him or have heard of him) use a similar technique to yours where he will state a clear contradiction as an answer. For example, "So it is not an argument from ignorance and is considered valid. Right?". You answer as if I'm arguing with you, but what I'm really trying to figure out is how you became convinced. Answering me by contradicting my question only implies your point. However, it doesn't actually tell me anything. I assume you mean that they must necessarily exist (hence your answer) but I don't want to put words in your mouth. Can you answer me with something other than that statement?

You should pay attention to the terminology Damion gave you. His answer was pivoting on the idea of 'explicit instructions'. We may use these techniques but you seem to believe that there is a "prime" instruction sheet we use. I don't believe that is the case since these instructions have changed so many times. We get better instructions and modify our approaches as we see fit. The evidence of this is apparent in linguistics as well as many other disciplines where our methods change or modify to become more efficient. That is why I think you are ignoring or not understanding Damion's point.

I get that you believe that only the God of the Bible can ground logic/reason but I don't get why ONLY God can. You obviously realized and started believing that at some point. How did you differentiate between multiple doctrines (not just Christianity but all world religions/theories) that claim similar foundations? Just curious.

Could logic/reason be attributed to other deities? I'm merely challenging your logic because it seems like your reasons (as defined) are a bit incomplete. I get that you think God delivers these things but how did you rule out any other option? Couldn't there be options you haven't considered?

Rhology said...

I don't get why ONLY God can.

Examining competing positions might help. What is your position?


Can you answer me with something other than that statement?

Could you please clarify the specific question you're asking? I will try.


How did you differentiate between multiple doctrines (not just Christianity but all world religions/theories) that claim similar foundations?

I don't think that any others share a similar foundation, with the possible exception of Judaism, Islam, or various Christian heresies.
If you're asking about those, I studied them and discovered fatal internal inconsistencies within them, so I knew they were to be rejected.


Could logic/reason be attributed to other deities?

It can be, sure, but I don't think it holds up under scrutiny.


Couldn't there be options you haven't considered?

The answer to the question you're asking is No, and I know that b/c God has made it known to me such that I can know it for certain.
If you're asking how I'd demonstrate that to be true to you or someone else, I'd merely suggest an examination of a concrete example, followed by another and another until we run out of worldviews to disprove.


BillyBoy said...

There is no need to state my personal position. I'm actually interested in yours. I've also seen this shifting of topic in other debates and I think it can be distracting and bog down what I'm really interested in. I would typically be more than happy to explain my beliefs but this isn't the topic at hand. Sorry how this comes off. Text makes it difficult to add tone. I assure you that I'm actually just trying to wrap my head around your position.

I wasn't asking a question per se. I was just asking why you kept answering the questions from Damion with a contradiction instead of just directly engaging the question. For example, if we were to debate the law of non-contradiction (and whether it holds everywhere etc.) you could answer in a number of ways. The way you answered was to give an implied answer by saying "so I could and could not right?", or when someone says "it doesn't make sense" you reply with "so it does?". You answer this way even when someone gave you a dichotomy where the choice should have been distinct. I get that you are trying to imply that there has to be uniformity but why not just say that instead of mocking or implying? Just curious. (If you disagree with the dichotomy someone gives you you could also just state that in your response)

How far did you get with your studies in religion? I'm not at all asking to mock you. I ask it in the context of an internet based world where everyone thinks they've done enough studying to come to a definite conclusion. I could see where you could have a confidence or an evolving opinion but not sure how you get to an absolute final conclusion even if you are an expert. There is so much misinformation out there I'm wondering how you were able to sift through and find the "right" information.

What do you mean by scrutiny? Do you simply mean that you judged the validity of the information?

I'm wondering how you know that God let you know for certain. I suppose the logic would be that God is powerful enough to do this right? Couldn't other god's make you think you know for certain? I'm not saying God didn't make you certain but another god of sufficient power could also convince you that you are right. However, you would just think you are right because that god is powerful enough to deceive you into thinking this. Seems strange to me. I get where you're coming from but have trouble with the point I mentioned above. At best it seems like you'd be left with a belief based on whichever god turned out to be the most powerful amongst gods (assuming there are even multiple gods.



Rhology said...

I respond to Dami0n and other atheists that way because God isn't on trial; the atheist viewpoint is. I insist that atheists ground their assertions with plain reason rather than naked assertion. And to deny the law of non-contradiction is just silly, so I just go ahead and say silly things, because it's not like it matters.

I haven't done any "formal" religious studies. I almost took a seminary class once, LOL. I hear you - there is a ton of misinfo out there. By God's grace I believe I have found the truth and yet God continues to grow me up and sharpen my understanding. The arguments matter, you know?

Yes, when I say "scrutiny", I mean that I have found trenchant and foundational questions to ask, I have asked them, and the answers have been empty.

Yes, God is powerful enough to do it. If He did not, then we don't know anything at all, including the notion that we don't know anything at all. The alternative is literal absurdity.
To propose another god is to surrender atheism. But I'm more than happy to engage other worldviews to see if they are internally consistent. I have done that with Islam quite a bit, with Mormonism, with JW-ism, with Eastern Orthodoxy, with Romanism, and with the FSM.

It's not about which god is "more powerful". It's about which one is true.