Friday, May 29, 2015

17.2 There IS a black swan, and she knows there is no God

She knows that nihilism is the truth of art, not just about God.

17.1 Clarification, term, Inductive Logic

Clarification of the term Inductive Logic.
With all these white swans, you can't possibly deny that all swans are white, now could you?
None of the cool kids do! You want to be in the cool kids group, now don't you?

White swans, white schmanns.  A swan is a swan is a swan.

I don't see any black swans here.  There must not be any!!

Just to be sure I was using the term 'inductive logic' in a generally acceptable way, as equivalent to my intended "preponderance of evidence," I checked wikipedia--which serves as a good arbiter of generally accepted knowledge of its readers.

I was (using the term rightly).  I stand with my assertion that it would be formally (deductively) in error to deny the existence of God, Santa Claus, the Flying Spaghetti Monster or the Invisible Pink Unicorn.  I believe there is a formal proof of the existence of God, but I'm treating it as an interesting exercise rather than anything more, because, like the argument in Plato's Republic I-III, it may be correct but unpersuasive.

And, again, My Project here is to introduce a preponderance of evidence that God exists. All argument has its existential limits, but following Augustine, I'm committed to faith being reasonable.

Another aside.  I am of the opinion that all the interesting questions of life and art are inductive, i.e., follow from a preponderance of evidence rather than from deductive certainty from known premises.

Here are the relevant paragraphs.

Inductive vs. deductive reasoning[edit]

Unlike deductive arguments, inductive reasoning allows for the possibility that the conclusion is false, even if all of the premises are true.[4]Instead of being valid or invalid, inductive arguments are either strong or weak, which describes how probable it is that the conclusion is true.[5]
A classical example of an incorrect inductive argument was presented by John Vickers:
All of the swans we have seen are white.
Therefore, all swans are white.
Note that this definition of inductive reasoning excludes mathematical induction, which is a form of deductive reasoning.

And from the pages of the online text used in University of Massachusetts' Logic courses.  Here is the link by Hardigree.  I'm sure there's one by Copi somewhere, if we want to search.

Chapter 1: Basic Concepts 5
Let us go back to the two arguments from the previous section.
  1. (a1)  there is smoke; therefore, there is fire.
  2. (a2)  there were 20 people originally; there are 19 persons currently; therefore, someone is missing.
There is an important difference between these two inferences, which corresponds to a division of logic into two branches.
On the one hand, we know that the existence of smoke does not guarantee (ensure) the existence of fire; it only makes the existence of fire likely or probable. Thus, although inferring fire on the basis of smoke is reasonable, it is nevertheless fallible. Insofar as it is possible for there to be smoke without there being fire, we may be wrong in asserting that there is a fire.
The investigation of inferences of this sort is traditionally called inductive logic. Inductive logic investigates the process of drawing probable (likely, plausi- ble) though fallible conclusions from premises. Another way of stating this: induc- tive logic investigates arguments in which the truth of the premises makes likely the truth of the conclusion.
Inductive logic is a very difficult and intricate subject, partly because the practitioners (experts) of this discipline are not in complete agreement concerning what constitutes correct inductive reasoning.
Inductive logic is not the subject of this book. If you want to learn about inductive logic, it is probably best to take a course on probability and statistics. Inductive reasoning is often called statistical (or probabilistic) reasoning, and forms the basis of experimental science.
Inductive reasoning is important to science, but so is deductive reasoning, which is the subject of this book.
Consider argument (a2) above. In this argument, if the premises are in fact true, then the conclusion is certainly also true; or, to state things in the subjunctive mood, if the premises were true, then the conclusion would certainly also be true. Still another way of stating things: the truth of the premises necessitates the truth of the conclusion.
The investigation of these sorts of arguments is called deductive logic.
The following should be noted. suppose that you have an argument and sup- pose that the truth of the premises necessitates (guarantees) the truth of the conclu- sion. Then it follows (logically!) that the truth of the premises makes likely the truth of the conclusion. In other words, if an argument is judged to be deductively cor- rect, then it is also judged to be inductively correct as well. The converse is not true: not every inductively correct argument is also deductively correct; the smoke- fire argument is an example of an inductively correct argument that is not deduc-
6 Hardegree, Symbolic Logic tively correct. For whereas the existence of smoke makes likely the existence of fire
it does not guarantee the existence of fire.
In deductive logic, the task is to distinguish deductively correct arguments from deductively incorrect arguments. Nevertheless, we should keep in mind that, although an argument may be judged to be deductively incorrect, it may still be reasonable, that is, it may still be inductively correct.
Some arguments are not inductively correct, and therefore are not deductively correct either; they are just plain unreasonable. Suppose you flunk intro logic, and suppose that on the basis of this you conclude that it will be a breeze to get into law school. Under these circumstances, it seems that your reasoning is faulty. 

17. Refutation of Explicit Atheism (for completeness sake)

A refutation of explicit atheism

(for completeness sake)

I searched the internet for an explicit affirmation that There Is No God.  I only found two people who were willing to say the words, "There is no God": Penn Jillette and Stephen Hawking.  And even the two of them were largely speaking as if their belief were the conclusion of an argument.

Nevertheless, even though this strong and explicit atheism may turn out to be technically a straw man, it is the actual folk religion of many people who deny the folk theism they know.  So for completeness' sake, I will deal with it here.  

I Don't See God Anywhere

Assume as a fact, a premise: There is no God.

My response: To deny that God exists is to make the same kind of logical statement as to deny that Santa Claus exists, or the flying spaghetti monster exists, or the invisible pink unicorn exists.  These statements are universal negative propositions of the form:

No [ subject ] is [predicate]

where the subject is God, or fsm or ipu.  We are denying some attribute to [subject].  The attribute we are denying is [that which exists].  In order to deny that [subject] has the property of [predicate], one must have exhaustive knowledge of [predicate] to affirm that there's no place in all of [predicate] where [subject] might be.

An equivalent statement is, "of all that the God is, or fsm is, or ipu is, there is nothing in the realm of all that exists that is God or fsm or ipu."

"My keys are not in my pocket" is such a statement, and it makes sense to say that I do completely know, and can affirm the truth of, that of everything key-sized in my pocket, none of them are my keys.

This logical matter being obvious to logicians and perceptive logically minded arguers, thoughtful atheists do not declare explicit atheism as a deductively knowable fact.  Rather they, including most of my readers, will argue that they are 99+% sure that there is no God.  Fair enough, for starters.

A side note, BTW.  I find the arguments for atheism that I find as seriously deficient as most common arguments for theism or religion.   These were some promising sources that I searched, looking for decent refutations of God's existence, and I found a lot of fallacies with a few sound reasons scattered here and there.  The good reasons have to be answered, of course--I know that.

“I hope there is no God!”
Thomas Nagel
“I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that. My guess is that this cosmic authority problem is not a rare condition and that it is responsible for much of the scientism and reductionism of our time. One of the tendencies it supports is the ludicrous overuse of evolutionary biology to explain everything about human life, including everything about the human mind …. This is a somewhat ridiculous situation …. [I]t is just as irrational to be influenced in one’s beliefs by the hope that God does not exist as by the hope that God does exist.” 1

Related Articles
Further Reading
  1. Nagel, Thomas, The Last Word, pp. 130–131, Oxford University Press, 1997. Dr Nagel (1937– ) is Professor of Philosophy and Law at New York University. Return to text.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Hold on a second, fella. Or maybe even a little longer

Hi everyone.
Some responsibilities have made their way onto my desk, so I might be delayed for a while on bringing your accustomed gimlet eyed arguments and fine distinctions to you for your enjoyment.

But don't worry.  I'll come around before you know it.

I think God took care of communicating His existence before I started writing, so we're probably in good shape for the moment.  But I'm grateful that I get to talk about it.


Saturday, May 23, 2015

16. Responses to 15

I wrote a column and lost it during editing.

In short, I have two links to outside expert opinion, which support both of my claims, about the nature of Nihilism, and the dichotomy of nihilism versus faith in God.
They are both copyrighted, so I only will offer a link.
I regret not giving the whole articles here.

The first link explains and gives context to the broad view that to nihilists, if there is NO god, then everything is permitted.
The second link likewise treats why nihilism is such a dead end in nihilist eyes, and that my portrayal of them is not a straw man.

Best to all

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

15. Nihilism is implausible

Nihilism is implausible

Therefore God exists.

Q: What is nihilism?
A: I don't know, and I don't care.

(little joke there)

There is no god, therefore everything is permissible.
There is no god, therefore nothing is significant.

But I think that some things are not permissible, even when alone, and theoretically, if I were the last man on earth.
But I think that some things are significant, e.g., acts of love and aspiration and beauty and kindness and justice.

Therefore the first proposition, "There is no god", is false.

A fine movie that captures what I think nihilism is all about.  Koyaanisqatsi.
(The filmmaker subtitles it Life Out of Balance.)

Objection to my argument:
Just because you don't like the implications of nihilism doesn't mean that it's false.  Suck it up. It's the way things are. 
My response: 
Ok, maybe that's right.  It's just really ugly and seems wrong.  I don't like it.  Therefore the burden of proof is on the nihilist to show me that this ugly implausible thing could possibly be the truth.

I think a more complete explanation of what nihilism is and where it comes from is warranted. For another day.

Note: not to be confused with scientific materialism or deism or zen or Sartrean existentialism. There are overlapping feature with both.
Note: the images and videos and audio attachments are intended to be part of the argument.  I am inspired by Wittgenstein in this, who said that a whole philosophy could be constructed of jokes.
Note: I'm removing all the images that are not fair use or public domain images.


Monday, May 18, 2015

14. Arguments for and against God: Jesus

In order to make a case, one must have unambiguous terms, true premises, and valid argument forms. This amusing fake-logic popular blurb cartoon introduces my next point. It actually does not argue for an invalid argument form with anyone, but asserts the truth of a premise.

My argument stated here is separable from all the other arguments, as they all are separable from each other, at least by my intent. To reiterate the purpose of these posts and exchanges, I am putting forth a large number of inductive arguments that, if successful, would make the existence and nature of God very plausible, at least as plausible as that of denying that Santa Claus exists. I am also planning to introduce some alleged deductive arguments for the existence of God, and will discuss how much I am persuaded by them, which may or may not be the case. I also intend to introduce some of the better anti-theist arguments, and attempt to refute or cast doubt upon them.

The Classic Presentation of This Case.
The Apostle St. Paul made an argument regarding the existence and character of God when speaking to Epicurean and Stoic philosophers at Athens. They already agreed upon the existence of various deities, and there was one more that was thrown in for good measure, "The Unknown God." Here is an observer's recounting of his argument, which I accept.

Acts 17 English Standard Version (ESV)
[The context]
16 Now while Paul was waiting for [his associates] at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. 18 Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection [Anastasis, seemingly a consort of this "Jesus"]. 19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” 21 Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.

[Paul's argument]
22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for

“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;
as even some of your own poets have said,

“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’
29 Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

About the argument, for our purposes.
Even if we grant the bare fact of Jesus being raised from the dead, one need not necessarily say that it was a miracle or a violation of scientific laws. One could merely say that this is merely yet another fact of the universe yet to be explained, along with dark matter and the exact nature of subatomic particles, and finding the cure of the common cold. One could say that it's just an outlier, and maybe an interesting one at that.

However, Jesus predicted his death and resurrection, and there is a whole rabbit trail we could go down if we wanted to dispute that particular fact. For argument's sake, let us grant that it all happened just as described in the New Testament. My own argument then becomes this:

I. Jesus was raised from the dead.
II. His resurrection validates his ministry, teaching, prophetic predictions and view of God and the world.
III. The argument of St Paul (above, Acts 17) is entailed by (I) and (II).
IV. If one is an Athenian philosopher, then one should become a Christian.

IV. A suppressed/condensed argument:
Upon accepting the fact of Jesus' resurrection and the interpretive framework of the Apostles:
If one is a 21st century religious person, then I-III entail that the person become a Christian instead of any other religious persuasion.
If one is a materialist or wants to be a nihilist, then one has good reasons to believe the Jewish metaphysics of Jesus, and thereupon to consider the whole set of implications which are entailed by this alternative metaphysics.

The Limits of This Argument
It'a an all-or-nothing argument. If Jesus is not raised from the dead, then materialism is not refuted. And if the fact of his resurrection is not accepted, then materialism is not refuted.

Why I bother with it then
I bother with this argument because I find the evidence persuasive, and the whole set of consequences from accepting the argument to be sound. And because, like Pascal, I find the whole prospect of debating the God of the Philosophers to be beside the point--even if natural theology is a worthwhile subject in itself.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

13. Last call for BB King

I respected him from afar, and many people I felt a kinship with loved him.
Stephen Nichols wrote a heartfelt and perceptive obituary in the TGC blog.

And not to be too sentimental, here's Steve Goodman.

12. Arguments For and Against God: Testimony of all human history

The first argument for believing in the existence of some kind of personal supernatural being, be He male or female, universal or tribal, embodied in nature locally or transcendent to all of nature, is the testimony of all civilizations prior to our own, through all human history at all locations.

This is an argument from authority, although it is not a fallacious argument from authority. The grading of difference between a fallacious argument from authority and a good one is the grading of how much we have reason to believe the authority.

For example, when a mother reproves her child for touching the stove, "Stop, you'll get burned!", she is making an argument from authority, her own authority, without giving reasons to believe her. But it is a reliable argument, because it is her realm of expertise and responsibility. If she (an uneducated person of limited experience) were to pronounce on international politics, it would be a fallacious argument of authority for the child to repeat what mom said with the reason that "Mom said so."

Our present era of history is the first one to ever believe (largely) that the universe is non-personal, that there is not a personal supernatural being over all and behind all. We are the newcomers.

I believe that the latter claim is a matter of ordinary accepted fact, and I won't try to prove it, although it might need to be proven. The main former claim is the important one, that all human history accepts that there is a personal being or supernature behind all nature.

My sources: I first heard this argument from C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity. It has become my own.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

11. Prison?

Historical accident should not hold sway.
False ideology of the Enlightenment should not dominate either.

Prisons as we know them here in the USA are not serving the common good or the dignity of people.

There are alternatives.
For the best review of possibilities, explore the site of Prison Fellowship and their related groups including Justice Fellowship and The Colson Center: The Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview.

When people turn from God, the most vulnerable suffer the most and suffer first. Prisons, I think, are proof of the plausibility of that principle.

The article from The Week. com. Abolish Prison. By Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry is a writer and fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. His writing has appeared at Forbes, The Atlantic, First Things, Commentary Magazine, The Daily Beast, The Federalist, Quartz, and other places. He lives in Paris with his beloved wife and daughter.

Prison is just about the most astonishingly stupid and inhuman way to punish crime. It is inexplicable that it is the main crime punishment tool we use.

Typically, the answer I get when I say this (which is often) is, "What's your alternative?" The alternatives are plentiful, and easy, and all better. But, first, let me dwell a little bit on why prison is so awful.

Prison is an incredibly stupid way to fight crime because, as is well known, it is the enemy of rehabilitation. In prison, criminal gangs flourish. This means prison becomes a graduate school for crime, a facility for turning mediocre criminals into hardened ones. More generally, who thinks locking people in places where they are fed and housed and boxed up and surrounded only by other dysfunctional people is going to turn them into productive members of society? The idea would be laughable if it wasn't part of the status quo. Prison, by its very design, breeds crime and social dysfunction.

And of course, it is impossible to talk about prison without talking about the prison rape epidemic. Can there be anything more abject than a society whose police-procedural TV shows include prison rape jokes — and nobody is outraged? Everyone knows that it goes on. Everybody knows that it's endemic. Lock up a bunch of men in tight quarters, without access to females. Many of the men are violent, over-testosteroned, and dysfunctional. What will happen? And we joke about it. On those grounds alone, the entire system deserves to be scrapped.

Maybe these problems are just from lack of reform? Maybe we just need to fund prisons more, to make the way they work better, to set up more rehabilitation programs. Sorry, that won't work. Prison doesn't suck because of historical accident. It sucks because of structural political reasons. In a democracy, an interest group gets attention and funding from the government in proportion to its numerical size and public sympathy level. The one group that will never be big enough, and certainly never popular enough, to get good treatment are prisoners. Because of the way the political system works, prisoners will never be able to get the political capital to get the reforms that might (might!) in theory make prisons not awful. We all live in Omelas.

Prisons are also contrary to the values of liberty that any civilized society ought to aspire to. As the French writer Michel Foucault argued in his landmark essay Discipline and Punish, prison is a historical oddity that arose as a result of the modern state's increasing ability and eagerness to control more and more of its citizens' lives. Well-meaning modernist reformists believed the way to set the crooked timber of man straight was through institutions that would, well, discipline and punish — schools, military barracks, prisons. It's no coincidence that the celebrated progressive Enlightenment thinker Jeremy Bentham is also the author of the Panopticon concept, one of the creepiest ideas in all history.

Prison has to go.

The comeback is inevitable: "Then what's your alternative, smart guy?"

The alternatives are actually countless, and all better. But it all depends on the kind of crime we're talking about.

For petty crime, the obvious answer is community service. It's real punishment, without the inhumane and crime-breeding drawbacks of prison. The work of community service should be geared toward reparation: For example, if you've been caught doing graffiti, you should clean graffiti; if you've been driving drunk, you should embalm corpses of people who died in car accidents. And if all fails, there is always the lash or the cane — easy, quick, much less destructive.

For more serious crimes, ankle bracelets. Did you kill someone in a fit of passion or drunk rage? Then instead of spending three years in prison, you should spend six years working minimum wage in a tedious job, your wages garnished, stuck at home with no internet or TV, with only a single night out allowed once in a while. That is real punishment — but punishment that does not have unacceptable moral costs.

As for the very serious crimes — well, I used to think the awfulness of prison was reason to support the death penalty. Now, I tend to think that prison might be acceptable for a very small percentage of crimes. If we have five percent the number of prisoners we currently have, I would be very happy.

In any case, the point should be clear: We can abolish prison — and we must.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

10. There are enough hurtful people to go around

There are enough hurtful people to go around. --the original article.

The centerpiece:
But here’s the other thing. Oswalt’s observation that there’s a kind of ‘Tea Party’ progressivism isn’t far off. More accurately, as Matt Baldwin noted on Twitter, “There’s an ugly strain of social progressives that like to attack others for not being the ‘right’ kind of progressives.” I’m a nobody, but in seven years on Twitter, I have had horrible, disturbing and sometimes genuinely scary things said to me by self-professed Christians — and atheists. By rabid homophobes — and angry LGBT people. By Republicans — and Democrats. By misogynists — and declared feminists. You know who wins the Yglesias Award? EVERYBODY. You know why? Because there isn’t a single social group in the world that doesn’t contain deeply disturbed jackasses with thumbs, ready to actively hate you for whatever you say or do. And the bottom line is that if you’re threatening or abusive, you’re threatening or abusive first, whatever the declared allegiance you hide behind second. And while I’m sorry to see Whedon depart Twitter, because his exit once again shows the worst of it, I’m not surprised he got fed up with it. I’m not surprised at all.

On the other hand--Everybody hurts.

Behind every beautiful thing there’s been some kind of pain

Not Dark Yet. B.Dylan.