Sunday, July 31, 2011

The End of Christianity

Cover of The End of ChristianityThe End of Christianity (the long awaited sequel to The Christian Delusion) is now available in bookstores (and I'm assured will soon be available in kindle and other digital formats). Delusion was an awesome book. End is even better. Indeed, I think the two volumes together amount to a decisive refutation of Christianity. A bona fide litmus test. No rational person can read both volumes and not walk away a skeptic. That won't stop the irrational (just see The Infidel Delusion). But at least from here on out we'll be able to call a spade a spade.
 

The End of Christianity is edited by John Loftus and includes 14 chapters by 11 authors, every one a Ph.D. in his or her respective field, with the sole exception of Loftus (and even he has several graduate degrees in religion). Everything I said about Delusion holds double for End: I loved it as I was reading it even in earlier drafts, and I have been anticipating its publication for a long time. Yet again you'll all want a copy, trust me! Buy it and read it. And if you like it, give it a customer review on Amazon, critical or laudatory.

We'll need honest Amazon reviews to counter the inevitable Christian tactic of low-starring it and lying about it to dissuade fellow Christians from reading it. To give you an idea of what I mean, there were 10 (count 'em) "one star" reviews of Christian Delusion--go ahead and read them, and compare what they say with the actual contents of the book, since these critics display almost every single marker of delusional reasoning that Delusion's early chapters catalog! As before, I'd rather have valid criticisms in there if any.

There are two overlooked typos to correct in the first printing (besides a few others that are self-evident): on p. 343, "a moral system, we have a sufficient motivating reason to obey" is supposed to read
"a moral system we have a sufficient motivating reason to obey," and on p. 300, "that qualia are improbable on NID" is supposed to read "that qualia are improbable on ~NID." That said, what follows is a summary of the book's contents (responses to critics, once there are any worth responding to, will appear eventually on its companion website).

Cover of Sense and Goodness without God
Of course I'm Richard Carrier, and this time three chapters are mine. The last of these is "Moral Facts Naturally Exist (and Science Could Find Them)," a formal, peer-reviewed philosophical defense of my moral theory in Sense and Goodness without God. This shall be for a long time the go-to chapter for arguing and defending my theory of moral facts. It includes deductive syllogisms establishing every key point, and extensive argument and references. There is no room left for any rational objection. To those keen on that issue, I believe this chapter alone justifies the price of the book. As per my usual style, I aimed to make it a tour de force on the subject.

Cover of Not the Impossible Faith
My other two chapters use Bayes' Theorem to demonstrate, conclusively, that Christianity is very probably false. One (Christianity's Success Was Not Incredible) summarizes and expands on my argument in Not the Impossible Faith that Christianity makes no sense as the genuine revelation of a Divine Caregiver, but perfect sense as a purely cultural product of its time and place. The probabilities I plug into Bayes' Theorem here are unarguable, even by an honest fundamentalist. So rejecting its conclusion requires bold-faced irrationality. The second (Neither Life Nor the Universe Appear Intelligently Designed) is another deliberate tour de force refuting the Design argument in every major form, including the Fine Tuning Argument, the Argument from Improbable Biogenesis, and the Argument to Irreducible Complexity, as well as arguments from mind, beauty, and intelligibility. I strove to make this chapter so tight and decisive as to be required reading on the subject, and what you should always refer Christians to when debating any design argument. In my opinion, that argument is now done for. RIP.

Photo of John Loftus
John Loftus contributed two chapters: the Introduction, which is quite a good read (only at a few points repetitive) surveying Christian attempts to avoid the Outsider Test for Faith since the publication of The Christian Delusion, and showing how doomed these desperate defenses demonstrate Christianity is; and Christianity Is Wildly Improbable which makes a startlingly good point of the fact that the Christian worldview requires believing a hundred more absurdities than any other major religion. In fact it is, in comparison with other faiths, alarmingly bizarre. Why anyone bothers to continue defending it boggles the mind.

Photo of David Eller
David Eller also returns, with two chapters of his own. First up is Christianity Evolving: On the Origin of Christian Species, which shows how variable and changing Christianity really has been, and that in fact Christianity (originally a sect of Torah-observant messianic Jews) died out long ago. What now passes for Christianity is a field of diverse mutants bearing almost no similarity to the original. Then in Is Religion Compatible with Science? Eller argues that it depends on what you mean by "religion," "science," and "compatible," surveying several definitions of each and settling on the most important ones, showing that really, religion and science can no longer rationally coexist in the same mind. Though Eller's chapters are among my least favorites, that's not saying much, because they are still excellent and well worth the reading. They make valuable points that help nail down the book's thesis quite well, that Christianity is simply done for as an intellectually respectable belief system. Both his chapters combined produce a simple realization. Science leads to ever-increasing agreement. Christianity leads to ever-increasing disagreement. Do the math.

Photo of Hector Avalos
Hector Avalos returns with a chapter (Why Biblical Studies Must End) summarizing the conclusions of his excellent book The End of Biblical Studies. He shows that Bible translations distort the true meaning of the text, in fact they often do so deliberately, concealing the fact that the Bible is no longer relevant to modern life; that scholars avoid informing laymen that the text itself is corrupt and impossible to fully reconstruct; that archaeology has refuted or failed to confirm most of it; that "literary" appreciation of the Bible is a specious and disingenuous attempt to keep a dead book relevant; and that the Bible isn't even relevant to modern fundamentalist religion, as it presents a theology and worldview that no fundamentalist even really believes anymore.

Backing him up on that last point are Jaco Gericke (with Can God Exist if Yahweh Doesn't?) and Valerie Tarico (God's Emotions: Why the Biblical God is Hopelessly Human).

Photo of Jaco Gericke
Gericke takes the approach of a biblical scholar and demonstrates that the Bible does not merely anthropomorphize God metaphorically, but quite literally. He adduces dozens of passages that only make sense if God really does have body parts and human mental limitations, exactly as the texts say he does. He concludes by showing that God is only presented in the Bible as an ancient middle eastern despot, with all the same culturally peculiar (and quite outdated) quirks that those leaders had, right down to still being obsessed with personal honor and valuing terrorism as a proper tool of government, and reading from scrolls in heaven (God, you see, still hadn't invented the book). 

Gericke's overall thesis is simple: clearly the character of Yahweh in the Bible is as fictional as Zeus, who is described in all the exact same ways. But if the God of the Old Testament is a fictional character, Christianity is necessarily false. Because Jesus can't be the son of a God who doesn't exist. Nor can he be any God at all if he thinks the Old Testament God actually existed. And yet in the Gospels Jesus repeatedly assumes this without blush. Simple math.

Photo of Valerie Tarico
Tarico takes the approach of a psychologist and corroborates Gericke's conclusion that the Old Testament God is only understood (and only ever speaks and acts) like an ancient middle eastern despot, but more importantly, Yahweh very strangely thinks and acts exactly like a mammal, and not just any mammal, but a male alpha primate. But why should that be? Emotions only make sense as the ad hoc products of evolution for the purpose of aiding survival, yet God neither evolved nor needs the machinery of emotion to survive. God isn't even a social species, so why would he have the neurochemistry of one? Tarico delightfully educates the reader on the nature of human emotions, as science now understands them, and then amusingly shows how weird it is to think God has them. The conclusion is clear: the God of the Bible only makes sense as the creation of outdated and very peculiarly human assumptions, not as the alien cosmic omni-thing he really would have to be if he were an eternally existent being beyond all nature.

Photo of Ken Pulliam
The late Ken Pulliam then contributes a chapter, his last published work, demonstrating The Absurdity of the Atonement. He takes on the standard theories Christians have resorted to (primarily the Penal Substitutionary Theory, though he mentions others) in their desperate attempt to make sense of why a God would need to give himself a body and then kill it, just to forgive us (and that for his own manufacturing defects, no less). He shows these theories to be incoherent and indefensible, exposing the entire core doctrine of Christianity to be absurd.

Painting Depicting the Salem Witch Trials
Philosopher Matt McCormick then contributes The Salem Witch Trials and the Evidence for the Resurrection, showing that we have far more evidence that real witchcraft occurred at Salem than we do that Jesus rose from the dead, even if we grant the evidence for the latter that Christian apologists claim there to be. In other words, rather than point out how most of the evidential claims made by Christians today are bogus (like that we have eyewitness accounts of it--we don't), McCormick says (in effect) "Okay, let's assume you really do have all this amazing evidence you claim to have...we still have better evidence that witches practiced witchcraft at Salem!" He then explores the consequences of that. This ties very nicely into the Outsider Test for Faith, essentially forcing Christians either to admit that the evidence for the resurrection is simply inadequate, or to become even bigger nutbags by insisting witches haunt the world with their evil spells. McCormick's chapter is perhaps a bit imbalanced (he spends too much time on preliminaries), but his point is well made by the end.

Photo of Bob Price
Robert Price then returns to follow that up with Explaining the Resurrection without Recourse to Miracle, where he takes the same tactic (granting the apologists nearly every premise) and confirms a point only mentioned by McCormick, that even though we can no longer know what really happened at (in McCormick's case) Salem, we nevertheless have plenty of perfectly reasonable natural possibilities that can't be ruled out, and Price shows that the same is true for the resurrection of Jesus.

Price and I together already refuted the attempt to argue there is enough historical evidence to believe Jesus rose from the dead in our two chapters in The Christian Delusion (so start there if you want the whole story). There we show how most of the evidence there is claimed to be really isn't there, and what is there really doesn't support the conclusions drawn. But here Price shows that even if we hadn't proved all that, Christianity is still untenable. I was actually quite impressed with how easily and deftly he defends here the swoon and mistaken identity theories, even using the Gospels as proof texts. He fully confesses he doesn't think any of this happened, since he doesn't really think the Gospels are honest accounts of anything. He merely shows that even if you do think that, a miraculous resurrection isn't even the most plausible account of what the Gospels themselves report. He's right.

Cover of a book titled 'Christian Sexuality' showing a cute girl riding piggyback on a cute guy on a farm.
Price also adds a little Afterword: Changing Morals and the Fate of Evangelicalism that is brief but spot on, and I don't want any readers to miss it. It got tucked in at the back of the book between my appendices with syllogisms on moral theory and the book's endnotes, where it might easily get overlooked. You will find it a rewarding read. I'll say no more.

Meme pic (white framed image on black background with white text below) showing the scene in Firefly when the character Saffron drops her clothes in an attempt to seduce Mal. Caption reads: The Special Hell ... Yeah, you're definitely going there. The words are a play on some lines spoken in that episode about taking advantage of naive young women who are inaordinately attractive.
Keith Parsons gives us a comprehensive refutation of the morality of hell (in Hell: Christianity's Most Damnable Doctrine). A noted professor of the philosophy of religion, Parsons famously announced he regarded Christianity so decisively refuted by now that he was wasting his time on it. This is one of his last publications on the subject (he's moving on). He addresses defenders of hell as diverse as Tertullian and C.S. Lewis, and concludes the doctrine simply isn't rationally defensible. Any Christianity with a doctrine of hell in it is nothing more than morally bankrupt.

Meme pic (white framed image on black background with yellow and white text below) showing a newly made pine box coffin on a cemetery lawn. Caption reads: Peace ... you'll find it eventually.
Last but not least, Victor Stenger contributes a chapter on Life After Death: Examining the Evidence, approaching the issue as a physicist and scientist, and taking on Dinesh D'Souza's latest (and lamest) book-long defense of belief in an afterlife. Stenger's endnotes provide a valuable trove on the subjects of reincarnation and NDE's. He crucifies D'Souza point-by-point. No resurrection will be to follow.
  

76 comments:

solon said...

>>"Moral Facts Naturally Exist (and Science Could Find Them),"...

but its grammar was so bad it was too embarrassed to bother?


>>I aimed to make it a tour de force...

but alas, you merely preached your naive Christian reformation morality again while pompously claiming that anyone who disagrees, including actual atheists, are insane. Un tour de farce, peut-etre?


>>use Bayes' Theorem to demonstrate that Christianity is very probably false.

Seriously? Did no one tell you you can't use math to "refute" Christianity? Or atheism.


>>I strove to make this chapter so tight

Well, that would be an accomplishment given the ugly verbosity of your prose in every existing example. Thus dubious, but congrats if actually true.


Why would anyone read this rubbish rather than read great philosophers in history on the issues? I can understand reading the historical arguments, but this high-school Kant meets Bentham in a biology lab, pseudo-philosophy of people like Richard Carrier, Loftus, et al? Blech.

Matt DeStefano said...

Dr. Carrier, I found your chapters (especially your treatise on a moral science) to be especially informative. I actually wrote a lengthy review on Amazon and my own blog, and found it well worth the money!

If anyone needs more encouragement to buy the book, you can read another positive review here: http://www.soulsprawl.com/2011/07/10/the-end-of-christianity-book-review/

Ash said...

Salon, I wanted to thank you...your "review" made me want to read the book even more. I suspect that the sophistication of Christian apologetics will no longer be much greater than what you offer here.

solon said...

>>Christian apologetics will no longer be much greater than what you offer

No longer? I'm not a Christian but I do speak English. Can you translate your sentence into English?

Review? I would never pay to read Richard's or Loftus' drivel having "spent" my time reading online how badly they argue and how (naively) suffused with Christian morality their arguments are at a fundamental level. They're entirely superficial and harmful to actual atheism. They preach a reformation of Christian morality.

For historical arguments, sure, OK. But their "philosophy" is a joke. The whole idea that you can "refute" the essence of Christianity - or atheism for that matter - is absurd. As-is Richard's trying to "prove" his moral code.

Laughter and distaste is a better response.

The Nerd said...

"the inevitable Christian tactic of low-starring it and lying about it to dissuade fellow Christians from reading it"

Um... you really think Christians are otherwise gung-ho over reading a book with the flattering title of The Christian Delusion, but the one single thing holding them back is 1-star reviews? Maybe I should write a pamphlet called "The Atheist Author on Amazon Delusion".

pianodemon88 said...

I have to say I agree with Salon. Richard sounds a lot like Lee Strobel when he says "There are the facts, now what are you going to do about them?". Ugh.

Smesko said...

I thought Christians believed in withces? Withcraft and socery, are, after all, prohibited in the Bible, and the Old Testament even calls for their execution. Perhaps it would have been more appropriate to compare the resurrection evidence to Virgin Mary's alleged, apparitions, the Hindu milk miracle or ghosts and UFO's.

macroman said...

Didn't Robert Price elsewhere argue that Mark's passion story reads like a few ancient novels in which the hero escapes from certain death or escapes from a tomb, with a number of "plants" (a technical term in fiction writing - like clues or signs of what is going to happen) making us expect that Jesus is going to survive. Mark may have done this as a joke for all I know, since Jesus doesn't survive in Mark's story on the face of it, but it explains why so many people over the centuries produced theories of how Jesus survived the crucifixion - they see the "plants" and take them very seriously.

Weston Bortner said...

I think the philosophy of Betrand Russell, David Hume, Keith Parsons, et al and very good philosophical arguments against Christianity. I know Parsons and some others deal with theology within their chapters.

Pikemann Urge said...

I have yet to read either book, so the below comments are merely thoughts on the blog post, not the books. I'm hoping for some casual discussion, though.

I'm splitting up my reply as Blogger is telling me that my post is over 4,096 characters, even though it isn't.

Moral Facts Naturally Exist

Is that a different statement from 'morality exists'?


The probabilities I plug into Bayes' Theorem here are unarguable, even by an honest fundamentalist.

Didn't Richard Swinburne claim that the probability of Jesus' resurrection is 0.97? I have not seen his reasoning, but reason tells me that either:

1. His calculations are perfect despite the fact that he's wrong;

2. Both his reasoning and calculations are wrong.

Christianity Is Wildly Improbable

But miracles are highly improbable - in fact, that's the whole point of them. Christians see value in miracles precisely because of that. There's nothing special about Jesus if everyone can heal with faith!

the Christian worldview requires believing a hundred more absurdities than any other major religion.

I don't know if this is consistent with other criticisms of the faith. E.g. I can't say that such-and-such an epistle is a forgery, and then criticize a person for believing its absurdities.

What now passes for Christianity is a field of diverse mutants bearing almost no similarity to the original.

It's so true... and yet we have a bunch of middle class, well fed, well-to-do, suburban Westerners trying to tell their congregations that they are all practicing 'authentic' Christianity. How convenient!

Science leads to ever-increasing agreement.

I'm not sure if string theorists would agree. :-P

Pikemann Urge said...

that "literary" appreciation of the Bible is a specious and disingenuous attempt to keep a dead book relevant

He argues that? Is he serious? By definition, if a book has literary merit then it's relevant. Well, I won't confuse the headline for the story, and when I read the book I'll know what he actually means.

He concludes by showing that God is only presented in the Bible as an ancient middle eastern despot

Yahweh has the characteristics of a fanatical rabbi - the fanaticism doesn't preclude the abilities to be loving and noble and generous, but pollutes them.

But if the God of the Old Testament is a fictional character, Christianity is necessarily false.

Ah, but Marcion was right all along, you see!

Emotions only make sense as the ad hoc products of evolution for the purpose of aiding survival

I'm not sure if that is 100% true, but I'm not a psychologist. For a strict atheist, it must be true, as no ground can be given that leaves room for a deity of any kind. So it seems to me. (You would not be surprised to know that my worldview includes the nucleus of mysticism, which leaves room for a god-like force or entity, if there is one).

The Absurdity of the Atonement

Indeed! One can legitimately ask

1. How was the death of Jesus a sacrifice when he went back to heaven three days later?

2. If Jesus died for our sake, once and for all, why do we have to do anything in return?

Just as badly, I think that when Christians claim 'salvation by faith', that is not what they actually mean, which is 'salvation by grace', another concept entirely. Of course, in this criticism, I am simplifying.

Any Christianity with a doctrine of hell in it is nothing more than morally bankrupt.

Never mind that - they simply aren't reading the texts. But then, what's new? Apart from Jehovah's Witnesses, how many Christians actually can navigate their way through a NT?

Life After Death: Examining the Evidence

Hmm, that raised an eyebrow. Most of the parapsychology material that I read has to do not with NDEs but with psi (simply because I'm more interested in psi than in NDEs). However, NDEs certainly do come up in parapsychology literature. It will be interesting to compare his chapter with what researchers and other critics say.

Richard Carrier said...

Solon said… but its grammar was so bad it was too embarrassed to bother?

Identify the grammatical error.

alas, you merely preached your naive Christian reformation morality again

This betrays the fact that you didn't even read the chapter. I specifically set aside the issue of which morality is correct (see p. 344). The chapter is about metaethical foundations and how to discover the correct morality.

while pompously claiming that anyone who disagrees, including actual atheists, are insane.

Identify the page number on which I claim that anyone who disagrees is "insane."

Did no one tell you you can't use math to "refute" Christianity?

This comment betrays again that you didn't read the chapter. You are committing an equivocation fallacy between "math" as in measurements and "math" as in the logic of greater and lesser probabilities. If you had read the chapter, you would see why we can use math to refute Christianity. In fact, anything that is refutable at all. Anything's refutation can be formalized according to Bayes' Theorem. In other words, any refutation, of anything whatever, if it is valid, can be modeled mathematically.

Why would anyone read this rubbish rather than read great philosophers in history on the issues?

Because people who understand how progress works know that you read up on the latest work on a subject, not the obsolete work of bygone ages.

Richard Carrier said...

Nerd said… You really think Christians are otherwise gung-ho over reading a book with the flattering title of The Christian Delusion

They are indeed reading it, because the title is provoking them to (look what happened to The God Delusion and The End of Faith), and the more so as atheists tout it as a must-read (Christians can't avoid reading a book that is widely credited with decisively refuting their faith--unless they are lied to about what's in that book, which is precisely my point). When Christians act like (the non-Christian) Solon here, and denounce the book by revealing they didn't read it (e.g. attacking it because of its title, or as Solon did, the titles of the chapters), they can be and are savagely ridiculed for the closed minded and petty people they are, which discredits their faith--because onlookers then see it has turned them into those sorts of people, or has failed to rescue them from being such, and no one wants to be turned into that. That is doing our job for us. Thus having correct reviews there besides theirs slowly decays Christianity through vicarious embarrassment.

More importantly, on Amazon the star rating becomes a measure of quality and importance, thus the book will get seen, and become more undeniably required reading, the higher its star rating. They want this book to be seen as weak and irrelevant, because if it's strong and relevant they can't justify ignoring it. Cognitive dissonance is a bitch that way. That's why Christians need to try and drag that rating down with bogus reviews. The solution to the abuse of free speech is more free speech: post honest, objective reviews of the book. That's all that's needed.

Richard Carrier said...

Science and Probability

Pikemann Urge said... Moral Facts Naturally Exist: Is that a different statement from 'morality exists'?

Depends on what you mean. If "morality exists" just means "moralities exist" (a la Eller's chapter in The Christian Delusion) then yes, I am making a different statement. I am saying that there is a true morality, one that factually supersedes all other moralities, in the same way as there is a true medicine, one that factually supersedes all other "medicines" (like prayer or magic or other made-up "medicines").

Didn't Richard Swinburne claim that the probability of Jesus' resurrection is 0.97?

He did not construct a sound Bayesian argument (embarrassing considering he's supposed to be an expert on it). See Michael Martin's second chapter in The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave (Martin's first chapter, though, is as incorrect as Swinburne's--both of them violate set theory in constructing their priors).

In other words, his premises are arguable. Mine are not. That's the difference.

(Likewise the silly arguments in Unwin's The Probability of God which also commits glaring violations of logic in his use of Bayes' Theorem)

Christianity Is Wildly Improbable: But miracles are highly improbable…

It's worse than that. That's Loftus' point. And when you see what he means, it's a doosey.

The Christian worldview requires believing a hundred more absurdities than any other major religion: I don't know if this is consistent with other criticisms of the faith. E.g. I can't say that such-and-such an epistle is a forgery, and then criticize a person for believing its absurdities.

That's not what Loftus is talking about. He's saying that compared to other religions (and ultimately to atheism) Christianity's prior probability is vanishingly small because it piles on so many absurd beliefs (e.g. more than Islam, by far), thus it requires absurdly more evidence, yet doesn't even have ordinary evidence, much less billions of times more than there is for e.g. Islam or Judaism.

Science leads to ever-increasing agreement: I'm not sure if string theorists would agree.

Actually, they would. M-Theory is an example of how even diverse string theories were shown to all be iterations of a more fundamental theory, such that all string theorists are now far more in agreement than they had been. And this is even a minor example, because string theory is only at the stage of hypothesis construction. The science I'm talking about is the science that has been confirmed already, i.e. the scientific discoveries of the last three hundred years, not those of the next three hundred. Yet those of the next three hundred will indeed follow the same pattern. In exactly the way religion won't.

Richard Carrier said...

The Bible and Psi

Pikemann Urge said... that "literary" appreciation of the Bible is a specious and disingenuous attempt to keep a dead book relevant: He argues that? Is he serious? By definition, if a book has literary merit then it's relevant.

His argument is twofold: (1) that there are many other ancient books with equal or greater literary merit that are being ignored because of this obsession with what is essentially the Main Kampf of ancient tribal Judaism (indeed he outright asks why we would keep thousands of scholars studying Hitler's treatise because of "literary appreciation" and just excusing away all the misogyny, genocide, racism, hatred, homophobia and whatnot); and (2) the bible is not being treated as a work of fiction to be appreciated, but the literary appreciation angle is being used to bootstrap the bible's moral and theological relevance to modern life (and indeed he shows how truly lame that is).

Life After Death: Examining the Evidence: Hmm, that raised an eyebrow. Most of the parapsychology material that I read has to do not with NDEs but with psi (simply because I'm more interested in psi than in NDEs). However, NDEs certainly do come up in parapsychology literature. It will be interesting to compare his chapter with what researchers and other critics say.

On this, Stenger cites and summarizes Augustine's three-paper tour de force in a prominent NDE journal (the reference alone is worth access to the chapter). Psi doesn't confirm life after death in any way at all (e.g. even if it exists, for all we know it requires a working brain like anything else), apart from spirit medium claims, which Stenger points out have never been verified in any relevant way. But you'll be shocked at the specious arguments that are being used by the likes of D'Souza--who claims he'll only use science, and then spends most of his book making arguments from the bible, theology, and popular belief.

Which is really what most people do.

Lothair Of Lorraine said...

I'll have to read the book at some point, but I am especially interested in Bob Price's essay mainly because he is such a loon that I can't resist.

He is going to use the Salem witch trial to refute the ressurection? Let's hope he recognizes that the trials came to an end when the governor's wife was accused of witchcraft so for his refutation to be defensible he'll have to explain why the 'Christ Myth' didn't end with the crucifixion. Should be interesting.

Morrison said...

All those contributors to the book and Loftus could not a single leading scholar in their respective fields to contribute? (With the possible borderline exception of Avalos.)

And Richard, face it...you are no scientist.

Morrison said...

Lothair, I think you "nailed" that one!

Morrison said...

As to the number of Stars on Amazon reviews, I though atheists didn't care.

Now I see that they do.

And Loftus now says they hurt sales.

Hmmmmm....

cl said...

"No rational person can read both volumes and not walk away a skeptic."

Arrogant smarm.

cl said...

For anybody interested in a [partial] review that doesn't amount to pure partisan backpatting, I offer my treatment of Stenger's chapter, here. Regarding the claim that, "None of the claimed prophetic revelations of the Bible have been confirmed," Victor Stenger writes unprofessionally at best, dishonestly at worst.

Yet many atheists swallow this schtick hook, line and sinker, practically all the time. "Well gee Bill, the guy's got a Ph.D, he must be right..."

Think critically people!

philblogger said...

“. . . The End of Christianity is edited by John Loftus and includes 14 chapters by 11 authors, every one a Ph.D. in his or her respective field, with the sole exception of Loftus . . . three chapters are mine. The last of these is "Moral Facts Naturally Exist (and Science Could Find Them)," a formal, peer-reviewed philosophical defense of my moral theory ”
This is misleading, as you don't have a PhD in philosophy, and you have not contributed to the field at anywhere near an academic, scholarly level, and your work has not been peer-reviewed simply because some of your popular writing has been read by a few philosophers before publication. Tucking away your paper that attempts to do metaethics in a popular book critiquing Christianity is a sure way to make sure no actual philosophers will ever read it.

solon said...

>>Why would anyone read this rubbish rather than read great philosophers in history on the issues?

@Richard the Preacher said
>>Because people who understand how progress works know that you read up on the latest work on a subject, not the obsolete work of bygone ages.

You mean all that progress towards proving morality since 2000+ years ago?

How's that going so far?

"Progress" in morality??? Towards what? You really do reveal your naive Christian cultural roots in that sentence.

It is astounding how superficial your atheism is, and how ignorant you are of that.

solon said...

@Richard the Preacher said:
>>I am saying that there is a true morality, one that factually supersedes all other moralities,

So EXACTLY like Christians claim. Nice!


>>in the same way as there is a true medicine, one that factually supersedes all other "medicines"

No, you don't follow medical prescriptions for their own sake in the way that morality prescribes you to not kill (or kill, depending the moral doctor). The goal of medicine is to, well, choose one: preserve life, enhance life, end life...

If you want to make morality instrumental too, then "morality" is nothing privileged, just another tool. But the problem is still, to what end?

You have a mish-mash version of morality in which you laughably assert that some fuzzy thing called "Happiness" is the goal. -Except when you sprinkle in the high school Kant and Holy Dignity of the person (AKA, the Divine Connection), because using the handicapped for firewood causes some consternation for Bentham.

So, 1) you want it to be instrumental like medicine, but only sort of. But 2) no one accepts as given the goal which you've assumed - why not suffering? why not aesthetic wonderment? why not...? -, and 3) you assume there are actually prescriptions to achieve that goal rather than a contradictory warring mess.

As an atheist, why don't you say something intelligent, and speak of morality as a culture and a diet, to be used by man to breed a certain type of animal? -A type for which there is no ultimate justification.

That would be acceptable, given we agree with the goal. But not this cowardly "We-MUST-be-nice-nice-or-we're-crazy-and-evil" religious bullshit you're always preaching.


>>philblogger said
>>you don't have a PhD in philosophy, and you have not contributed to the field at anywhere near an academic, scholarly level, and your work has not been peer-reviewed simply because some of your popular writing has been read by a few philosophers before publication.

Exactly! I think his Mom types it up too.

Pikemann Urge said...

in the same way as there is a true medicine

Well, that's a bit general! True medicine is one that works better than the others? Sure, I'll buy that. But then you can't talk about a given system because even the ones that each of us favour have imperfections (at best).

But maybe in the same way, all we can say is that there are moral notions which work better than others, based on at least one prerequisite (e.g. if we want to be happy).

Yet those of the next three hundred will indeed follow the same pattern. In exactly the way religion won't.

Okay, so you're merely making the point that while scientists an disagree hugely today, they must eventually agree on something tomorrow (or simply admit they don't know). I've heard of quite a few hypotheses about the 'shape' of the universe - that's certainly exciting stuff.

I don't care that religion breeds disagreement - after all, we can't pin down everything. It's how we disagree that matters.

that there are many other ancient books with equal or greater literary merit

I'd be surprised if there weren't! R. M. Price does think that the Bible is one of the best written religious texts of the ancient world. Perhaps because some of it borrows from Egypt! I firmly believe that in the case of the NT, and in particular the Gospel of Mark, it is believed simply because it is so affecting, and it is so affecting because it is so well written.

and your work has not been peer-reviewed simply because some of your popular writing has been read by a few philosophers before publication.

That's almost the very definition of peer review. In any case, peer review is not a guarantee of superiority, only soundness of argument. But why am I telling you this? You already know.

Richard Carrier said...

Lothair Of Lorraine said... I am especially interested in Bob Price's essay mainly because he is such a loon that I can't resist.

Actually, all his contributions to this and TCD are quite good and basically correct, not loony at all.

He is going to use the Salem witch trial to refute the resurrection?

Not Price. McCormick, a professor of philosophy. As I said, I think that might be the weakest chapter in the book, but his point is valid.

Let's hope he recognizes that the trials came to an end when the governor's wife was accused of witchcraft so for his refutation to be defensible he'll have to explain why the 'Christ Myth' didn't end with the crucifixion.

Neither point is relevant to his argument.

Richard Carrier said...

Morrison said... All those contributors to the book and Loftus could not a single leading scholar in their respective fields to contribute? (With the possible borderline exception of Avalos.)

Because they are unpaid, we get who will volunteer. As long as the work is good and the authors qualified, why should you complain? Saying you will only listen to "leading" scholars (whatever that means) looks like a weird new fallacy to me.

Indeed I wonder who you consider the "leading" atheist psychologist who would cover Tarico's subject, or the "leading" atheist biblical studies expert who would cover Avalos, or who is all that more of a "leading" atheist philosopher than Parsons, or the "leading" atheist anthropologist other than Eller, or the "leading" atheist physicist other than Stenger, or the "leading" atheist ancient historian other than me...? And why do we need anything other than a well-qualified Ph.D. in biblical studies to decisively make the point Garicke does? Or who do you think would do better on the analysis of the design argument than I did in my chapter thereon? And who besides me is the "leading" atheist philosopher defending objective moral facts these days?

And Richard, face it...you are no scientist.

I'm a philosopher. I don't do science in TEC. I cite scientists in TEC.

Try interacting with my arguments, rather than fallaciously assuming they can't be good simply because I'm not famous enough for you.

As to the number of Stars on Amazon reviews, I though atheists didn't care.

Who said that? It seems strange anyone would say they wouldn't care about the fairness of the quality ratings for a marketed product. You sound like D'Souza, who also keeps making statements about what "atheists" say, when I've never heard any atheist say those things, and he cites no one saying them.

Richard Carrier said...

cl said...

"No rational person can read both volumes and not walk away a skeptic." Arrogant smarm.

Except it's the truth. If you classify the truth as arrogant smarm, then you have a problem. Cognitive dissonance getting your goat?

"None of the claimed prophetic revelations of the Bible have been confirmed," Victor Stenger writes unprofessionally at best, dishonestly at worst.

Here you confirm my prediction that only irrational people will cling to faith after reading these books.

One of your examples (Genesis) isn't a prophecy, and even if you count Genesis as a prophecy, it's a failed one, since it gets several of the details wrong. It also doesn't actually say there was a beginning, certainly not like a Big Bang: God creates the Heavens by separating celestial waters that were already there (Gen. 1:6-8), and he creates the Earth by forming up and shaping some chaotic waste matter that was already there (Gen. 1:2, 9-10). The idea of creation ex nihilo is a later medieval notion. It's not in Genesis.

Another of your examples (Ezekiel) is actually a marvelously failed prophecy (see Sense and Goodness without God pp. 247-52), and the one case you try to identify as a success is likewise a failed prophecy: it nowhere says anything about an event three thousand years later; nor does modern Israel have a king; nor is it unified, as it's broken up by non-Israelite territories; nor is the land "not defiled" by idols and "transgressions," since due to modern principles of freedom of religion, Christians, Muslims, and Buddhists practice openly there, worshipping statues and violating biblical laws repeatedly. Nor have all Jews gathered there. There are more Jews elsewhere in the world than in Israel.

Your citation of Zechariah as to Jews regaining Jerusalem is likewise a miss. You might not have noticed that in fact old Jerusalem is predominately Muslim and Christian occupied. The temple of Jehovah is devoted to Islam, and Jews are a minority round about. Moreover, Israel's authority over half of the city is not legal (the UN has uniformly condemned its occupation as illegal). Zechariah really missed the boat on this one...he couldn't even foresee that not even God's own temple in Jerusalem would belong to the Jews!

Yet many atheists swallow this schtick hook, line and sinker, practically all the time. "Well gee Bill, the guy's got a Ph.D, he must be right..."

It's funny that the only line you take issue with is one that has no bearing on the thesis of the chapter (that there is no scientific evidence for an afterlife).

This is exactly what was predicted in The Christian Delusion: you will ignore the relevant, strong arguments, rebut an irrelevant, weaker argument, and conclude the relevant, strong arguments must be as easily dispatched, and then assume they have been.

Delusion at its finest.

Richard Carrier said...

philologer said…

"Moral Facts Naturally Exist (and Science Could Find Them)," a formal, peer-reviewed philosophical defense of my moral theory ”

This is misleading, as you don't have a PhD in philosophy, and you have not contributed to the field at anywhere near an academic, scholarly level, and your work has not been peer-reviewed simply because some of your popular writing has been read by a few philosophers before publication.


Actually, that chapter itself was literally peer reviewed by four professors of philosophy. That was a deliberate, formal peer review process that Loftus and I initiated specifically to refute bullshit claims like you just made. So no, that statement is not misleading. That chapter was formally peer reviewed, and more so even than most academic articles (which typically have only two reviewers).

It's also incorrect to claim I have "not contributed to the field at anywhere near an academic, scholarly level" as I have several articles on philosophy in peer reviewed philosophy journals. That's literally contributing to the field at an academic, scholarly level. And I do have a Ph.D. in the history of philosophy (it's in intellectual history, with majors in philosophy, historiography, and religion, and an emphasis in history and philosophy of science).

Tucking away your paper that attempts to do metaethics in a popular book critiquing Christianity is a sure way to make sure no actual philosophers will ever read it.

Except that at least a dozen actual philosophers know about it and have read it. So that's another miss on your part.

Not that it should matter. You are just making excuses not to read and confront the arguments of that chapter. That's simply delusional avoidance behavior.

Richard Carrier said...

Pikemann Urge said… True medicine is one that works better than the others? Sure, I'll buy that. But then you can't talk about a given system because even the ones that each of us favour have imperfections (at best).

That's illogical. Why would medicine's imperfections prevent us from talking about medicine?

The issue of imperfect knowledge is explicitly addressed in my chapter.

All we can say is that there are moral notions which work better than others, based on at least one prerequisite (e.g. if we want to be happy).

There's a bit more to it, as my chapter shows, but yes.

Okay, so you're merely making the point that while scientists can disagree hugely today, they must eventually agree on something tomorrow (or simply admit they don't know).

Actually, no. Scientists don't disagree hardly at all--about what's been proven; and for everything else, they still all agree on one key thing: that it hasn't been proven. Religion exhibits no such behavior. Nor does it make progress in agreement (i.e. scientists agree about vastly more things today than they did 300 years ago, because vastly more things have been proven since then; and of the unproven things they disagree about, a great many will be agreed upon over the next 300 years as proofs accumulate, and so on forever--a pattern of increasing agreement that religion does not of itself exhibit).

I don't care that religion breeds disagreement - after all, we can't pin down everything. It's how we disagree that matters.

Violence and oppression vs. liberty and free speech, I agree. But I'm talking about method: a system that has a method that causes increasing and perpetual fragmentation and no consistent or uniform progress is simply using a bad method; a system that has a method that causes perpetually increasing agreement and progress is using a good method. We need to abandon the bad method and start using the good. When we do that, of course, everything distinctive about any religion goes by the boards (as it cannot survive a good method). Which is why religious people refuse to adopt good methods and continue clinging to their bad ones.

That's our point.

Richard Carrier said...

Pikemann Urge said… R. M. Price does think that the Bible is one of the best written religious texts of the ancient world. Perhaps because some of it borrows from Egypt! I firmly believe that in the case of the NT, and in particular the Gospel of Mark, it is believed simply because it is so affecting, and it is so affecting because it is so well written.

And yet it's not really all that better written than, say, Galen's On the Errors and Affections of the Soul, a much better book about how we should behave and approach the world than anything in the whole of the Bible (NT or OT), or Lucretius' On the Nature of Things, a much better book than anything about the nature of the world or the nature of man found anywhere in the Bible (e.g. Genesis, Job, Ecclesiastes), or Seneca's Moral Epistles which are the match of any epistles in the NT in brilliance of rhetoric or value of content. Indeed, the tactics of composition in Mark are the same as in Virgil's Aeneid, the latter differing only by being in verse, so if your measure is "affecting, clever writing," why shouldn't we be studying Virgil as much as Mark? What about the satires and social commentaries of Lucian? The biographies of Plutarch? The histories of Tacitus, full as they are with moral advice and exempla, and brilliant literary constructions? Even just in terms of religious content, the plays of Classical Greece best Mark, e.g. the Bacchae; and the Metamorphoses of Apuleius is as affecting yet more realistic; and the Satyricon of Petronius more entertaining. Even the Fasti of Ovid is the superior of any liturgical text in the whole of the Bible, by every measure.

And we haven't even begun to talk about the literary texts of the Middle East. There remain thousands of them still untranslated, due to this obsession with studying the Bible instead. Who knows what treasures await us, if we only cared to look? Are we honestly assuming Jews are the master race and have written more beautifully than all their neighbors? Even from what we have translated, that seems doubtful: the Enuma Elish, the Descent of Ishtar, even the Code of Hammurabi, as Avalos points out in The Christian Delusion, which is as well written and morally superior to the law books of the OT.

So yes, Avalos has a point.

Richard Carrier said...

Solon said… You mean all that progress towards proving morality since 2000+ years ago?

Yes. If you haven't been paying attention, the quality and sophistication of philosophical analysis on this question has continually improved all that while (with a long hiatus during the middle ages--at least, no significant advances in moral theory analysis were made between Galen and Hume that I can see), and has accelerated in the last fifty years due to the involvement now of scientists in resolving key issues in moral belief, thought, and practice, and its differing consequences. The biggest advances, in both science and theory, have been made in the last twenty years (I cite many of them in my endnotes). Among these are the discovery and development of Game Theory, advances in the cognitive science of the moral brain, and the recent unification of divergent approaches to moral psychology (exemplified, for example, in Personality, Identity, and Character, in addition to the examples cited in my chapter).

"Progress" in morality??? Towards what?

Read the chapter and find out.

"I am saying that there is a true morality, one that factually supersedes all other moralities" So EXACTLY like Christians claim. Nice!

And all non-Christians. Aristotle, you may recall, antedates Christianity by centuries. Nice fallacy, though. I'll have to use that one. "You believe human beings breathe oxygen, EXACTLY like Christians! Nice."

You don't follow medical prescriptions for their own sake in the way that morality prescribes you to not kill (or kill, depending the moral doctor). The goal of medicine is to, well, choose one: preserve life, enhance life, end life…

Exactly. Morality has goals, too. And some necessarily precede others. Read my chapter.

(I realize you're a loathsome turd who will just keep ignorantly gainsaying a chapter you have not and will never read and don't even know what it argues, but I like pointing that out repeatedly, since it makes you look like an ass, and that pleases me.)

If you want to make morality instrumental too, then "morality" is nothing privileged, just another tool. But the problem is still, to what end?

Gee. I wonder if perhaps my chapter answers that question. Hmmm. Now, let's think about this. How exactly would you find out whether my chapter answers that question? That's a tough one. Think hard.

No one accepts as given the goal which you've assumed…

Nor should they. That's why my chapter proves it. With formal, deductive syllogisms no less. As well as abundant, actual, published science.

Preston said...

Mr. Carrier,
With all due respect, your arrogance is pretty saddening. I am about halfway through your "Sense and Goodness without God", and let me just say that it is very clear that you are not up on the philosophical or scientific literature. A few quick examples:
Your theory of meaning has all but been rejected for 50 years in mainstream analytic philosophy.
You think compatibilism in the free will debate is the only reasonable option, which the vast vast majority of philosophers (compatibilists included) would regard as silly, and you do so by refuting *one* version of libertarianism whose proponent is not a mainstream analytic philosopher. You overlook the distinction between compatibilism about free will and compatibilism about moral responsibility.
You are a reductionist, but your discussion of qualia is incompatible both with your reductionism and with your theory of meaning (since you allow that some animals could have qualia even though there could be in principle no evidence for that fact).
Your points against dualism in philosophy of mind are all points that any serious dualist theory could account for and even predict. (Seriously, what serious philosophical theory *does* predict that there isn't a correlation between brain states and mental states?)
Many of your references within the text give works that are either (a)outdated, (b)not widely accepted, or (c)not in the mainstream of analytic philosophy.

I haven't yet read the section on ethics, which is my field of specialty, because I can't work up the will to do so given my serious disappointment with the rest of the book.
The majority of philosophers, ethicists included, are atheists. If you want to see quality secular ethics, you should read the peer-reviewed journals. Your writing overlooks several distinctions which anyone who is up on the philosophical literature wouldn't.

All of this wouldn't bother me, but for your attitude that you really *are* engaging mainstream academics, when in fact you are seemingly out of touch with current philosophical thought.

solon said...

@ Richard Carrier said...
>>Solon said… You mean all that progress towards proving morality since 2000+ years ago?
>>Yes. If you haven't been paying attention...

...followed by a list of skirmishes over how to set up the lab equipment that have never proved anything about morality.


>>"I am saying that there is a true morality, one that factually supersedes all other moralities" So EXACTLY like Christians claim. Nice!
>>And all non-Christians.

Not atheists who don't secretly worship an idol. Which of course was the point you ignore.


>> then "morality" is nothing privileged, just another tool. But the problem is still, to what end?
>>Gee. I wonder if perhaps my chapter answers that question. Hmmm.

Ignores that instrumental morality is no more privileged than economics or aesthetics or instinct or... Followed by the actual point:


>>No one accepts as given the goal which you've assumed…
>>Nor should they. That's why my chapter proves it. With formal, deductive syllogisms no less. As well as abundant, actual, published science.

That was the punchline? You're a genius who mashed up Bentham, Kant and the atom and proved "happiness" is the ONE TRUE WAY and anyone who laughs at that is insane and Evil?

You truly are deluded.


>>you don't have a PhD in philosophy
>>I do have a Ph.D. in the history of philosophy

Why do you keep lying and saying this is a degree in philosophy? It is so basic. You have a degree in history.


>>Actually, that chapter itself was literally peer reviewed by four professors of philosophy.

Secretly getting a few friends to read a paper is not peer review.


>>I have several articles on philosophy in peer reviewed philosophy journals.

Here's a list of some respected phil. journals. Please cite which ones on this list your papers have appeared in to be peer reviewed, with date and title:

http://homepage.mac.com/mcolyvan/journals.html

Pikemann Urge said...

That's illogical. Why would medicine's imperfections prevent us from talking about medicine?

I meant 'talk' figuratively. I should rephrase: No one system can be called 'true' medicine because while one aspect of a given system can be brilliant, another aspect of the same system can be disastrous for decade after decade (this doesn't even touch the issue of professional culture).

And we haven't even begun to talk about the literary texts of the Middle East. There remain thousands of them still untranslated, due to this obsession with studying the Bible instead.

Very good point. I think this happens in other fields, too, where one issue is studied greatly while others are neglected.

>>Actually, that chapter itself was literally peer reviewed by four professors of philosophy.

Secretly getting a few friends to read a paper is not peer review.


Agreed! Praise the heavens! But sadly you have engaged in deliberate misrepresentation. I think that now, if not before, most people who read this blog, even Richard's other critics (of which I am one), can understand that you are not interested in the issues. Instead, you are a nuisance. I'm glad Richard hasn't blocked you, because all nuisances should be allowed to show their colours.

Richard Wein said...

>> This shall be for a long time the go-to chapter for arguing and defending my theory of moral facts. It includes deductive syllogisms establishing every key point, and extensive argument and references.

Surely you don't think you can establish such a theory by purely deductive logic. I thought you took a more naturalized, empirical inference approach to philosophy than this.

Richard Carrier said...

Richard Wein said... Surely you don't think you can establish such a theory by purely deductive logic. I thought you took a more naturalized, empirical inference approach to philosophy than this.

I start with premises no one can deny (because they are so well empirically proven or immediately testable in direct experience). From those, I establish my metaethical theory "purely" by deductive logic.

First, I put "purely" in scare quotes because in any deductive syllogism you still always have the premises, which could be true or false--but as yet no one I know can produce any plausible reason to deny any of them, or even honestly wishes to.

Second, I emphasize metaethical because the subsequent issue of which morals are true is entire empirical. My chapter calls for a scientific research program to discover them. That they exist to be discovered is all that my chapter deductively proves.

Richard Carrier said...

Preston said... your arrogance is pretty saddening.

If you believe telling the truth is saddening, that is saddening.

I am about halfway through your "Sense and Goodness without God", and let me just say that it is very clear that you are not up on the philosophical or scientific literature. Your theory of meaning has all but been rejected for 50 years in mainstream analytic philosophy.

No, it hasn't. You must be assuming I am defining Ayerian positivism. I am not. I have combined Ayer with Polanyi and revised both in light of Quine. Consequently you will find nothing published that addresses the theory of meaning I describe. Indeed, I specifically modified my theory of meaning to avoid the usual objections to it.

You think compatibilism in the free will debate is the only reasonable option, which the vast vast majority of philosophers (compatibilists included) would regard as silly.

In my experience the reverse is the case. Most philosophers regard this debate as dead, and compatibilism the only coherent option left. Libertarians are now a rarity, and mostly theists.

You overlook the distinction between compatibilism about free will and compatibilism about moral responsibility.

No, I don't. I explicitly point out that distinction and discuss both issues separately. (Compare the last par. of p. 103 with the different discussions in pp. 98-99 vs. 109-14 and then pp. 115-16).

You are a reductionist, but your discussion of qualia is incompatible both with your reductionism and with your theory of meaning (since you allow that some animals could have qualia even though there could be in principle no evidence for that fact).

That's not correct. Animals have the evidence. Thus it is not "in principle" inaccessible, but only in practice (you are simply just reiterating the so-called "problem of other minds," to which the same solution applies: evidence that animals experience qualia is indirectly detectable the exact same way we indirectly detect the fact that other people experience qualia).

As to reductionism, my position on qualia (pp. 146-48) is that they are logically innate properties of particular arrangements of matter-energy, i.e. that it is logically impossible to have those arrangements and not have qualia (I cite Cottrell making exactly the same point). If that is correct, then there is no contradiction between my actual reductionism (pp. 130-34) and my position on qualia.

Your points against dualism in philosophy of mind are all points that any serious dualist theory could account for and even predict. (Seriously, what serious philosophical theory *does* predict that there isn't a correlation between brain states and mental states?)

You are confused about methodology. Dualism as such makes no such prediction, and hence never did (you won't find it in Plato, for example). The theory had to be modified to explain the subsequent discovery of the correlation--in other words, it failed a key test, then instead of being abandoned, its advocates just piled on more ad hoc hypotheses to keep it alive. This necessarily renders that theory less probable--because any theory with ad hoc attachments is by logical necessity less probable than the same theory without them, but the same theory without them is no less probable than the simpler theory that the correlations are fully causal from brain to thought, so the latter theory is by logical necessity more probable than "dualism plus" all its ad hoc excuses to force it to fit what is already entailed by mind-brain dependency (but in no way entailed by dualism alone). This is why dualism is decreasing in popularity among real experts in the field (almost no actual brain scientists advocate it).

Richard Carrier said...

Preston said... Many of your references within the text give works that are either (a)outdated, (b)not widely accepted, or (c)not in the mainstream of analytic philosophy.

The book was published in 2005 and written in 2004. Given that date, its references are up to date as far as relevance. I only cite works that are correct (on the point at issue) and (when possible) accessible, and that demonstrate the points I argue in the text. Texts that aren't relevant to that end aren't cited. Likewise texts that would be redundant: e.g. a more recent volume that is less comprehensive or on-point won't have gotten mention; and works that are already referenced in the works I do cite, are not cited (because it would be redundant to).

If, however, you can name a book or article that actually refutes something I say in SaG, certainly let me know. But you don't seem to be a keen reader, since you have made strange errors in reporting the contents and arguments of my book. So make sure anything you cite as being against my views, actually argues against my views. For example, my book is already designed to avoid the arguments of Quine against Ayer, so citing Quine is moot. You seem not to have understood how my arguments and positions differ from Ayer's at all, much less in precisely the way as to outmaneuver Quine. So I am not very confident of your acumen.

I haven't yet read the section on ethics, which is my field of specialty, because I can't work up the will to do so given my serious disappointment with the rest of the book.

You will want to read the chapter in The End of Christianity since it substantially updates SaG with more precision and updated references, and it is peer reviewed by experts in philosophy. (So your claim that "my writing overlooks several distinctions which anyone who is up on the philosophical literature wouldn't" is clearly not defensible, the more so as you yourself overlooked the distinctions I myself made that render your criticisms here moot, so you seem to be the one who is off his game here).

Richard Carrier said...

Solon said... followed by a list of skirmishes over how to set up the lab equipment that have never proved anything about morality.

That you think all science uses lab equipment belies your scientific illiteracy. A science illiterate has no business making statements about what science has discovered about anything, much less morality. But if you really care (I am certain you don't), I cite several books that document a vast amount of the relevant science of morality in my chapter.

Not atheists who don't secretly worship an idol. Which of course was the point you ignore.

Because you didn't say anything about worship or idols. I have neither in my house. And I can't ignore a point you never made. Try again.

Ignores that instrumental morality is no more privileged than economics or aesthetics or instinct or…

Since you still haven't read my chapter, clearly you don't know this statement about it is true. That's just called "making shit up." Your most popular tune. Since I formally, deductively prove that instrumental morality is "more privileged" than the others (in fact, it is so by definition, i.e. moral facts are precisely those imperatives that supersede all others, and hence vice versa), you will simply have to confront those proofs and find a logical error in them or identify which premise in them you deny and why. But, oh, that would require you to actually do something.

You're a genius who mashed up Bentham, Kant and the atom and proved "happiness" is the ONE TRUE WAY and anyone who laughs at that is insane and Evil?

Where, again, do I call anyone insane or evil? You really do like to make ad hominem shit like this up. I'll keep pointing that out. Because it keeps making you look like an ass.

As to whether what I argue in The End of Christianity is a "mash up" of Bentham and Kant (and the atom?), you clearly still have not read my chapter. And clearly have no interest whatever in learning or understanding what it actually argues.

Which is why…

You truly are deluded.

…you are really just talking in a mirror with that one. Freud lives.

Why do you keep lying and saying this is a degree in philosophy? It is so basic. You have a degree in history.

…of philosophy. You are the one who idiotically disregards the relevance of that fact.

Secretly getting a few friends to read a paper is not peer review.

It was not secret (they are named in the chapter), none were friends (but one, and he even disagrees with me), and all were asked to give it a formal, professional peer review. Unless you wish to declare an ad hominem attack on their honesty and professionalism, that's a real peer review.

Here's a list of some respected phil. journals. Please cite which ones on this list your papers have appeared in to be peer reviewed, with date and title:

I am published in Biology and Philosophy, which is on that list. For exact citation see my online CV, which I have directed you to several times in the past (but evidently you never consult)

Richard Carrier said...

Pikemann Urge said… No one system can be called 'true' medicine because while one aspect of a given system can be brilliant, another aspect of the same system can be disastrous for decade after decade (this doesn't even touch the issue of professional culture).

I need a specific example, since I can't comprehend what you are talking about here. The best I can muster is that you are saying something about situational facts, which if so, I address specifically on pp. 355-56 of TEC; or imperfect knowledge, which if so, I address specifically on pp. 424-25, n. 28 (with pp. 425-26, nn. 34-35).

Preston said...

Mr. Carrier,
The two families of theories of meanings taken seriously are Kripke's direct reference theory, found in Naming and Necessity, and two-dimensionalism.
To give a theory of meaning which doesn't address Kripke is pretty weird for someone up on the philosophical literature, since he has been the figure towering over philosophy of language for the last 40 years.
So I'm not worried about Quine.
Some references:
Saul Kripke, Naming and Necessity
Scott Soames, Beyond Rigidity
Joseph Almog and Paolo Leonardi, The Philosophy of David Kaplan
Hilary Putnam, "The Meaning of Meaning"

You claim that the free will debate is widely regarded as dead, and that compatibilism is seen as the only option. That seems false: PhilPapers has 2,000 contemporary papers surrounding the free will debate: http://philpapers.org/browse/free-will
And, it should be noted, PhilPapers is not exhaustive.
You also has thus far overlooked the possibility of incompatibilist determinism.
Also, according to the Phil Papers survey, 13.7% of tenured philosophers are libertarians, and 12.2% are incompatibilist determinists: http://philpapers.org/surveys/results.pl
That doesn't seem like a dead debate to me.
Some references:
Al Mele, Effective Intentions
Timothy O'Connor, Persons and Causes
Randolph Clarke, Libertarian Accounts of Free Will
John Fischer, Responsibility and Control
Derk Pereboom, Living Without Free Will
E.J. Lowe, Personal Agency

Citing Plato as a paradigm case of a dualist is strange, even if strictly speaking correct. The contemporary philosophy of mind debate starts with Descartes, and even Descartes' (now widely rejected) substance dualism predicts a correlation between mental states and brain states.
You're right that, other things being equal, we should be physicalists instead of dualists. But it is extremely controversial whether other things are equal. You cite the Chalmers book--why don't you address his arguments in favor of dualism? Again, Kripke's Naming and Necessity has another influential argument in favor of dualism. Also see Frank Jackson's work.
According to the Phil Papers survey referenced above, 27% of tenured philosophers are dualists.
Some references:
Robert Koons and George Bealer, The Waning of Materialism
David Chalmers, The Conscious Mind
Frank Jackson, From Metaphysics to Ethics

Since this comment is very long already, I won't get into your article in The End of Christianity (which I haven't finished yet). But I will say, if you really think you can solve a 200 year old philosophical problem like the is-ought problem in 2 pages, that's a pretty good sign you misunderstand the problem. (I realize that's not an argument, so you don't have to respond to it.)

Preston said...

Oh, also, a question: You claim that almost no brain scientists advocate dualism. I take it this is true, since cognitive scientists are largely not in the business of trying to solve metaphysical problems. They concern themselves with discovering correlations between brain states and mental states, and correlation doesn't entail identity.

Could you give me a source or further reason to believe that cognitive scientists (that is, non-philosopher cognitive scientists) are *actively* physicalists? My hunch would have been that most of them just don't have a stake in the debate.

Pikemann Urge said...

I need a specific example, since I can't comprehend what you are talking about here.

Okay, well, I suppose I'll give the simplest example I can think of for both points: antibiotics.

But there are two reasons why I make that an example:

1. The obvious: they clearly have valid functionality. So that's the 'brilliant' part. However, like any man on the street knows, they get weaker every time they are used, and there are no mysteries as to why. This points to ABs as not being even close to an ideal method of managing harmful bacterial infections.

2. The paradigm is wrong - not just for antibiotics, but for medicine as a whole. Is killing 'harmful' bacteria even the right way to go about healing a patient? Is civil disobedience prevented by authorities "cracking down" on offenders?

I do indeed have your book and I have read it (I have some comments to e-mail to you but I still don't have them organized). I will re-read the sections you cited.

I'm currently much too ignorant to comment on the compatibilism debate, other than to say that free will seems to exist alongside our preferences and impulses, and can override them.

The dualism issue is fundamentally solved, provided that psi is true. Currently I have a 0.85 confidence level that psi is true and that level rises ever so slowly the more I read about it. The details of dualism - and there are many, such as the type of dualism that exists - have to be painstakingly sorted, just like with any other serious field of investigation.

solon said...

@ Richard the Preacher said...

>>Solon said... followed by a list of skirmishes over
>>That you think all science uses lab equipment belies your scientific illiteracy.

You are so literal as to be autistic. Are you really that stupid?

Science has never proven a single thing true about morality in the entire history of the world. Doesn't matter what was proven within a system of assumptions.


>>Since I formally, deductively prove that instrumental morality is "more privileged" than the others

The deluded "genius" speaks again. -About his never peer reviewed manifesto. I heard the Unabomber proved some things in his manifesto too.


>>Why do you keep lying and saying this is a degree in philosophy? It is so basic. You have a degree in history.
>>…of philosophy.

And History of Farming doesn't mean you are a farmer. How can you lie about that and have any credibility?


>>Here's a list of some respected phil. journals. Please cite which ones on this list your papers have appeared in to be peer reviewed, with date and title:
>>I am published in Biology and Philosophy, which is on that list.

Congrats. You have 1 article only on "biogenesis", which has nothing AT ALL to do with any of the topics you claim to be peer reviewed in and be an absolute (unrecognized) genius of. E.g., morality.

Let us know when you have any respected journal articles on anything relevant. You know, maybe Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Kant, Bentham, Nietzsche, Heidegger... Even Rawls or someone like that.

Btw, who exactly are the 4 people (only) who reviewed your chapter and their qualifications? When I had to explain to you what Socrates' last words meant you cited a priest's blog as a defense of your nonsense. Jeez.

cl said...

Carrier,

Except it's the truth. If you classify the truth as arrogant smarm, then you have a problem. Cognitive dissonance getting your goat?

No, smartmouth, is is *NOT* the truth. You say you do philosophy? Then can the ad hominem nonsense. You imply that the works are so cogent that only irrationality can explain why one would remain a believer after reading them. To take that approach is to walk with open arms towards the ad hominem fallacy. You are supposed to be the cold, logical, rational one here. Act like it.

It's funny that the only line you take issue with is one that has no bearing on the thesis of the chapter (that there is no scientific evidence for an afterlife).

Wrong. While I take issue with false, exaggerated claims proffered under the guise of rationalism, I also take issue with the chapter thesis. You seem to be implying that I've shrunk back from the weight of Stenger's case against the afterlife. Not at all. I suspect you didn't investigate what I've already written on the subject.

This is exactly what was predicted in The Christian Delusion: you will ignore the relevant, strong arguments, rebut an irrelevant, weaker argument, and conclude the relevant, strong arguments must be as easily dispatched, and then assume they have been.

Where do you get this crap? For one, I've written several posts directly addressing scientific issues concerning the afterlife. Did you comment on any of them? No. So don't sit there and hurl false allegations at me, pal. I don't ignore anything, at least, not anything worth a semi-formal response to. Moreover, where have I concluded or even implied that my rebuttal of Stenger's false claim permits one to easily dispatch the "relevant, strong arguments?" As you said to somebody else, "You really do like to make ad hominem shit like this up. I'll keep pointing that out. Because it keeps making you look like an ass."

Delusion at its finest.

Ah, yes, the classic ad hominem canard. It's easy to get all pompous and attack your interlocutor's character, Richard. If you think that's the voice of reason, you're fooling yourself. Deny it all you want, but the plain fact is that the nation of Israel has persisted, just as the Bible said it would. This is a FACT, and to protest otherwise is the real delusion. You are denying facts, Richard, plain and simple.

Stenger's claim is wrong, and it's downright sloppy to publish false claims like that and try to pass them off as reasoned conclusions supported by rationalism.

solon said...

@cl said:
>>the nation of Israel has persisted, just as the Bible said it would

Wow, a miracle. The Egyptians still exist as a people too; Greeks, Palestinians...

>>Stenger's case against the afterlife

Jeez, you and Richard should be best buddies. You two waste time on this drivel and morality for which there can never be any proof for or against?

You'd make a great Crossfire preaching team.

cl said...

Wow, a miracle. The Egyptians still exist as a people too; Greeks, Palestinians...

Wow, a miracle. Another flippant internet atheist comparing apples to oranges and deluding his or herself into thinking he or she has offered a reply with substance. Instead of bickering over whose morality is right, you and Richard should be best buddies, as you've both demonstrated ignorance and dismissal that can only be described as willful. Congratulations. Coddles yourselves around others of your ilk and build a larger, more hollow echo chamber.

You two waste time on this drivel and morality... [blah blah blah]

Right, but you're *NOT* wasting time doing the same damn thing... get real.

cl said...

Look, solon, for what it's worth, I actually endorse the majority of these criticisms you've leveled against Richard, and quite frankly, I think it's telling to see other atheists level such forceful criticisms against their own. For example, I like that you call him on puffing up his own credentials to bolster the superiority of his own arguments. I like that you call him on his pseudoscientific moral neurobabble. I like that you call his and Loftus' philosophical arguments for what they are [church-infused drivel]. If there's one thing I can stomach, it's the sycophant who pretends to have an independent mind, so you and I can get down in that regard.

I get that you're the "I'm the super smart one with the unassailable sarcastic wit which crushes any and all opposition" type of thinker, but maybe we should be best buddies? Of course, unless you're one of those atheists who's too proud to be friends with a believer... :p

cl said...

Eh...

If there's one thing I *CAN'T* stomach, it's the sycophant who pretends to have an independent mind, so you and I can get down in that regard.

I'm pretty sure you're smart enough to have figured that out, but you never know, so I'll cover my ass.

solon said...

@ Cl said:
>>Wow, a miracle. The Egyptians still exist as a people too; Greeks, Palestinians...
>>Another flippant internet atheist comparing apples to oranges

The comment is flippant because the argument and point is obviously worthless. Who cares if the bible predicted any one thing and got it right? It doesn't imply anything. I'm sure [fill in the name] predicted a few things too.


>>Look, solon, for what it's worth, I actually endorse the majority of these criticisms you've leveled against Richard, and quite frankly, I think it's telling to see other atheists level such forceful criticisms against their own.

I wouldn't consider Richard to be much of an atheist but, for what it's worth, not being a party to your battles I've been shocked by the moralizing and superficiality of so-called atheist blog-warriors in the US. The Christians are often far humbler, clearer and more honest about their "faith" than some of these preachers like Richard or Loftus are. Of course, many of the Christians are just brainwashed drones too ;-)

solon said...

@ solon said
>>As an atheist, why don't you say something intelligent, and speak of morality as a culture and a diet, to be used by man to breed a certain type of animal?

Here you go, Richard, a timely no-preaching-within-atheism conversion tale for you just yesterday.

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/08/21/confessions-of-an-ex-moralist/

Of course, he's still cowardly spinning it toward another nice-nice outcome, but you might catch the spark anyway ;-)

cl said...

solon,

Who cares if the bible predicted any one thing and got it right?

Victor Stenger should, and so should Richard Carrier and every other person associated with The End of Christianity, because even if that were the only prophetic revelation that came true, that would still be enough to falsify Stenger's claim. Now, thankfully, there are many more fulfilled prophecies than this to choose from, but that's besides the point. Carrier would have us believe that "only the irrational believers" can walk away from this book without bowing to atheism, yet, even a modicum of critical analysis reveals several flaws -- as you yourself have been aptly pointing out to Carrier, by the way.

I wouldn't consider Richard to be much of an atheist but, for what it's worth, not being a party to your battles I've been shocked by the moralizing and superficiality of so-called atheist blog-warriors in the US.

Tell me about it. I'm in the trenches, too. I see it all the time. An atheist's argument for morality is often just as paltry as the weakest arguments for faith. Here, Carrier is no different, and I especially like that you call Loftus. For what it's worth, here's my growing list of Loftus smackdowns. I welcome your commentary. I especially recommend the index of posts I commented on at DC, that is, before John brought the curtains down and banned me. Great stuff.

The Christians are often far humbler, clearer and more honest about their "faith" than some of these preachers like Richard or Loftus are. Of course, many of the Christians are just brainwashed drones too ;-)

I agree, on both counts. Cheers to you. We may disagree on the (a)theism thing, but running into an atheist like yourself is quite rare. Kudos.

cl said...

I offer:

Isn’t Richard Carrier Putting The Cart Before The Horse?

Richard Carrier said...

Preston: Your posts are becoming less and less relevant here. This is a thread about the book The End of Christianity. I don't discuss the issues you are bringing up there. You are talking about Sense and Goodness without God. I suggest you pick one issue out of the many you seem interested in and find a blog entry in which I discuss it or something near enough to it (use the index cloud down the right margin) and comment there. We can proceed from there.

For now, my theory of meaning is entirely compatible with Kripke. Indeed, my discussion in SaG in part relies on Kripke: notice how I distinguish different kinds of definitions, conventional/lexical vs. stipulative, and distinguish the way people actually use terms from the way they claim to be using them, where my position is clearly based on a causal theory of names.

On free will, you refer to a list of articles, but that has nothing to do with what "most philosophers" think about the issue, e.g. most authors of those papers defend compatibilism against a small fringe group still advocating libertarianism, and most philosophers don't even publish in this area at all. Indeed, the poll you cite proves my point: just guess how many of those "tenured philosophers" in the fringe 13% bracket are theists, exactly as I suggested they probably are (and really it's only 7.7% actual defenders of the view, the other 6.5% are less sure). And yes, there is a dying minority of philosophers still hung up on the "no free will" position--that poll only found 5.6% certain (the other 6.5% were less sure)--although I think many of them believe in what I define as free will (the power to do what you want without someone else's will being substituted for your own), so that their response in this poll is only a semantic confusion on their part. But the trajectory is clear: four times more philosophers reject libertarianism as accept it, and more than four times prefer compatibilism to either libertarianism or no free will. Which is what I said here: most philosophers regard this debate as dead, and compatibilism the only coherent option left. And that's most not only by a majority, but more than a four times majority. That ratio holds even when you compare only the "certains": those that are certain of compatibilism, 34.8%; those that are certain of libertarianism, 7.7. Ratio: 4.5 to 1.

As to why I don't address "philosopher X's position against/for position Y," it would be impossible to in 444 pages. For every subject there are a dozen "philosopher X's" with some position or other. It would take thousands of pages to address them all. And it would be a waste of time, because that game of duck duck goose always end up in the same chair anyway. Thus one should skip the bullshit and just cut straight to the evidence and the conclusions they validly entail. What some guy said at some time or other doesn't count for shit in the final analysis. That's why you must address the actual arguments and evidence, and not bitch about whose name gets dropped.

Ultimately, you seem to confuse a 2 page explanation of what I believe and why, with a detailed solution of all philosophical issues related to the point. The purpose of SaG is not to analyze the entire history of every problem and address every argument ever made on the subject, but to show where my research has lead me and why there rather than somewhere else. The bibliographies then allow people to start the thread of inquiry on their own to see if my landing point is indeed the best one to end up at. Indeed, that's why I don't explain all the literature I read, all the philosophers I consulted, what issues I thought through, etc. I wanted to get the end result clarified in 444 pages. Not convert my brain into thousands of pages of eidetic dullness no one has any interest or need to read.

Richard Carrier said...

Dualism Stuff...

Preston:

I didn't cite Plato as a paradigm case of a dualist, only as an example of a well-known dualist before the modern revisions to dualist thought occurred in response to scientific developments, who was well known to me.

Indeed I will require a reference confirming your claim that "even Descartes' substance dualism predicts a correlation between mental states and brain states." That doesn't sound correct to me. He did not regard reasoning to occur in the brain at all (“because we have no conception of the body as thinking in any way at all, we have reason to believe that every kind of thought present in us belongs to the soul,” which is by definition not a state in the brain--as opposed to sensation, which was a brain state for Descartes).

You claim that almost no brain scientists advocate dualism. ...My hunch would have been that most of them just don't have a stake in the debate.

Not relevant to my point. There just aren't any dualists among those who actually study how the mind works empirically. It would be silly to claim none of them care whether their basic scientific theory of neurophysics is false. They obviously regard it as a better model to work with than dualism. That's why they work with no other.

Richard Carrier said...

Empirical Morality

Pikemann Urge said… antibiotics…clearly have valid functionality…[but] get weaker every time they are used…[so are not] even close to an ideal method of managing harmful bacterial infections.

Thanks. Concrete analogies are much easier to work with.

Carrying this analogy over, there are three things to say: first, possibly there is no better method, which means antibiotics are ideal in the sense that they are the end all be all, the best of all available solutions (and as for antibiotics, so too for moral conclusions: e.g. when the moral thing to do is the worst of two evils); or if that's false and there are better solutions, we already have some idea of what they are (at the very least, an antibiotic to which no adaptation is possible--e.g. articulated nanorobotics are already in conceptual stages), but we are physically unable to realize them yet (exactly as with moral facts where we would prefer to do something, e.g. save a child from drowning, but cannot due to present limitations, e.g. not knowing how to swim, which is the phenomenon I cover on pp. 355-56 of TEC); or perhaps there are better options but we have no idea what they are (in which case we need to empirically discover them, which is what science is for, and as with fighting disease, so with morality: science needs to find out if there are better ways to behave than any presently known, but until we do, we are obligated to do the best thing we presently know, which is what I cover on TEC pp. 424-25, n. 28, with pp. 425-26, nn. 34-35).

The paradigm is wrong - not just for antibiotics, but for medicine as a whole. Is killing 'harmful' bacteria even the right way to go about healing a patient? Is civil disobedience prevented by authorities "cracking down" on offenders?

Those are all straightforward empirical questions. And that's exactly the right paradigm, not the wrong one.

Richard Carrier said...

Free Will and Dualism

Pikemann Urge said… I'm currently much too ignorant to comment on the compatibilism debate, other than to say that free will seems to exist alongside our preferences and impulses, and can override them.

This then descends into a semantic debate over what someone means by "free will" and "seems." You have in effect just put forward a definition of free will as "the ability to make choices that override our preferences and impulses." That is incoherent (since by definition you only choose what you prefer, cf. TEC pp. 360-61, so it is illogical to say what you preferred overrode what you preferred) unless you mean something specific by "overridden preferences," e.g. you can override immediate preferences with long-term preferences, so if by "preferences" you only mean "immediate preferences," then you are defining free will as "the ability to override immediate preferences and impulses by acting on long-term preferences." Just for example (there are other ways to build out a definition of free will). On that definition, I suspect all philosophers would be compatibilists. That's the problem will polling philosophers without defining what "free will" is supposed to mean. They all use their own definitions. Thus only philosophers who actually understand what compatibilism is will affirm a reliable opinion in the matter (since the term entails having thought this through, whereas libertarianism leaners and no-free-willers can easily not have thought the semantics through). Thus of all philosophers who didn't poll "compatibilist," most won't have understood the question in any consistent way, rendering their answers statistically useless.

The dualism issue is fundamentally solved, provided that psi is true.

Non sequitur. Psi can be fully physicalist. Indeed, if psi exists, it is far more likely to be physicalist than dualist.

Currently I have a 0.85 confidence level that psi is true and that level rises ever so slowly the more I read about it.

Based on what studies? (Please email me the answer, since it's off topic here: rcarrier@infidels.org)

Richard Carrier said...

Solon said… You are so literal as to be autistic. Are you really that stupid?

You were the one relying on the literal. I just pointed that out. Once you abandon the literal reading of your statement, your argument becomes false. That was my point.

Science has never proven a single thing true about morality in the entire history of the world.

Then you are the idiot. There are at least a hundred things proven true about morality in the three volume set Moral Psychology (which I cite in TEC).

About his never peer reviewed manifesto. I heard the Unabomber proved some things in his manifesto too.

Was the Unabomber's manifesto formally peer reviewed by four professors of philosophy before being published?

And History of Farming doesn't mean you are a farmer. How can you lie about that and have any credibility?

Philosophers don't till land. They write about philosophy. Just as historians do. They need to know things about philosophy. Just as historians do. They need to know how to use logic and method and research. Just as historians do. All the skills are the same. Thus a closer analogy would be this: is a historian of farming technology an authority on farming technology? Yes. Is a historian of farming technology who reads and interacts with and consults with farmers, and has them check his work before publishing, as much an authority on farming technology as farmers are? Yes. Most importantly, is he then qualified to write about farming technology and to have well-informed opinions about farming technology? Yes. Is he vastly more qualified to do so than you? Yes.

You have 1 article only on "biogenesis", which has nothing AT ALL to do with any of the topics you claim to be peer reviewed in and be an absolute (unrecognized) genius of. E.g., morality.

If that's your standard, then you must reject the work of most philosophers, and almost everything said and taught by most tenured philosophy professors, as being unqualified.

But that bizarre standard (which of course entails you are wholly unqualified to judge philosophical matters, and thus unqualified even to make this judgment) does not even apply here, because I do have a thoroughly, formally peer reviewed article on morality. It doesn't matter whether it's in "a journal," because with four reviewers it is more peer reviewed than any article in even the top journals you listed.

Let us know when you have any respected journal articles on anything relevant. You know, maybe Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Kant, Bentham, Nietzsche, Heidegger... Even Rawls or someone like that.

Now you are confusing history of philosophy with philosophy. Which is ironic, because now you are asking me to produce history of philosophy, after just insisting I'm not qualified to produce philosophy because I'm an expert in producing history of philosophy. My heads spins at your self-contradictions.

Who exactly are the 4 people (only) who reviewed your chapter and their qualifications?

All stated in the chapter. Funny how you still haven't even read it. Rather than address the evidence and arguments in a formally peer reviewed paper, all you do is blather on about my supposed lack of qualifications to produce papers that pass formal peer review. Hmm.

When I had to explain to you what Socrates' last words meant you cited a priest's blog as a defense of your nonsense.

You mean what Socrates' last words meant to Nietzsche, not what they meant to Plato who wrote them. Which incidentally is what even you must concede I have a full Ph.D. qualification to comment on, whereas you have no evident qualification to do so at all. It doesn't appear that you can even read Greek.

You mistook what Nietsche said as what Socrates said, I knew this, and kept pointing it out, until you were too embarrassed to own it. That's what actually happened.

Richard Carrier said...

cl said… You imply that the works are so cogent that only irrationality can explain why one would remain a believer after reading them. To take that approach is to walk with open arms towards the ad hominem fallacy. You are supposed to be the cold, logical, rational one here. Act like it.

Nice try. Facts are facts. Playing to my ego isn't going to change them, or how I report them.

While I take issue with false, exaggerated claims proffered under the guise of rationalism, I also take issue with the chapter thesis.

Not in anything you have linked to here. Give us the links, then I'll address those. Don't say you refute thesis X in article Y when article Y doesn't even address thesis X.

Deny it all you want, but the plain fact is that the nation of Israel has persisted, just as the Bible said it would.

Um, no, it hasn't "persisted." It ceased to exist for quite a while and had to be reconstituted, and even then imperfectly, and that thousands of years later, a sequence of events (and vast timeline) that the Bible fails to predict. The failures of prophecy here are legion. See the criteria of sound prophecy here (revised and updated in SaG IV.1.2.7, pp. 247-52), and those from a Christian no less, for how irrational your defense of prophecy is.

Stenger's claim is wrong.

Nothing you have presented actually demonstrates that.

Richard Carrier said...

Reminder to all: I have deleted and will continue to delete posts that simply contain invective and no argument or evidence.

Richard Carrier said...

In Cart Before Horse nothing I actually say or present in the chapter is engaged with. Indeed the author admits to not even having read it! This is irrationality at its finest.

He cannot even know if his analogy to the Higgs boson is valid, since he doesn't even know what evidence I present in my chapter. If you actually read my chapter, you will discover it is not analogous to the Higgs case. A closer analogy would be "some physical cause of mass exists, and science can find it (and when it does, then we will know what it is)." Which of course all scientists agree is true.

And yet even that is not fully apt. Because we actually have plenty of scientific data already confirming the existence of moral facts. Moral facts are closer to surgical facts or engineering facts: "Facts about how to build better bridges exist, and science can find them" is demonstrably true without having "found" those facts yet. So, too, moral facts.

Likewise there is scientific illiteracy here again, as it is claimed "To find [facts] implies to discover them via controlled, replicated experimentation." Most scientific facts have not been discovered via controlled, replicated experimentation. Most facts are demonstrated by replicated field observations. This is especially the case in anthropology, geology, and cosmology.

Moral facts can be ascertained by both methods: data acquired from field observations (and confirmed by multiple independent observers) and data acquired from controlled experiments (quite a lot of this latter science has already been done and is continuing).

One major component of moral facts are the facts predicted by Game Theory and empirically confirmed in experiments and in the field. One must ground those facts in facts about human moral and hedonic psychology, but those facts are being discovered in abundance, too (see, again, Personality, Identity, and Character and Moral Psychology, vol. 1, vol. 2, and vol. 3)

Richard Carrier said...

Sorry, I mistook what you meant before, so I have re-posted:

solon said… Here you go, Richard, a timely no-preaching-within-atheism conversion tale for you just yesterday...

You cite Joel Marks' (non-peer-reviewed) essay: his error is exactly what I refute in TEC. He wants a certain outcome ("killing animals is wrong"), can't find any objective way to prove that, then concludes there are no objective facts at all. So he's saying "if there are moral facts, then killing animals is wrong; killing animals is not wrong; therefore there are no objective facts." Valid, but unsound. Because "if there are moral facts, then killing animals is wrong" could be false. Possibly, "if there are moral facts, then killing animals is not wrong." He never even considers that possibility, so "a priori" certain he is that it "must" be false simply because its being false horrifies him, which is not a valid test for truth. Not liking a conclusion does not make it false. Evidently a Ph.D. in philosophy doesn't make a competent philosopher, either.

solon said...

@ Richard the Preacher said:

>>Solon said… You are so literal as to be autistic. Are you really that stupid?
>>You were the one relying on the literal.

You still think "lab skirmishes" was literal? English is your first language, no?


>>Science has never proven a single thing true about morality in the entire history of the world.
>>Then you are the idiot. There are at least a hundred things proven true about morality in the three volume set Moral Psychology (which I cite in TEC).

You really don't get it, do you? Show us all where, for example killing is scientifically proven to be Wrong in your "bible". Or that, say, suffering in sacrifice to your kin is Truely the way to conduct yourself in life?

The rest is "lab skirmishes" around assumptions. You simply can't even see how superficial your battles are.


>>About his never peer reviewed manifesto. I heard the Unabomber proved some things in his manifesto too.
>>Was the Unabomber's manifesto formally peer reviewed by four professors of philosophy before being published?

You still haven't answered by whom and their qualifications. Previously you cited a priest's blog as a defense of your ideas.


>>And History of Farming doesn't mean you are a farmer. How can you lie about that and have any credibility?
>>Philosophers don't till land. [insert much babble]

At the end of the day, a trained historian is not a trained philosopher, simple as that, sorry.


>>You have 1 article only on "biogenesis", which has nothing AT ALL to do with any of the topics you claim to be peer reviewed in and be an absolute (unrecognized) genius of. E.g., morality.
>>If that's your standard, then you must reject the work of most philosophers

I reject your preaching simply because it is bad phil. But further, I reject your pretending to be a trained philosopher and to be peer reviewed in the subjects you write on when you aren't. It doesn't mean you can't possibly write something decent but it's dishonest.


>>Let us know when you have any respected journal articles on anything relevant. You know, maybe Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Kant, Bentham, Nietzsche, Heidegger... Even Rawls or someone like that.
>>Now you are confusing history of philosophy with philosophy.

By asking you to engage a great mind on a relevant subject??? But even simply detailing and actually understanding what one of them thought would be a great start for you as you clearly are unaware of much.


>>When I had to explain to you what Socrates' last words meant you cited a priest's blog as a defense of your nonsense.
>>You mean what Socrates' last words meant to Nietzsche, not what they meant to Plato who wrote them.

God, you are so dishonest on all these small matters it is shocking. (Btw, they weren't Plato's words and I don't see he ever interpreted them.)

As you well know, I quoted the original words to you which you didn't even get. Then explained a very common interpretation of what it meant - and not only to Nietzsche, jeez! - as you are so incredibly naive about Socrates' and your optimistic-rationalism. At which point you obviously googled what it was about and incredibly cited what came up, a priest's blog, to give a different, actually unintelligible, interpretation.

It is baffling why you whittle away what little credibility you have by constantly puffing yourself up, claiming to be a genius and even lying about things you get wrong.

solon said...

@ Richard the Preacher said:
>>You cite Joel Marks' (non-peer-reviewed) essay: his error is exactly what I refute in TEC.
>>.. So he's saying


Again, Richard, stop being so literal and pedantic. And you refuted nothing.

What he's saying is that you have a faith and he has lost that faith.

And I'm not "citing" him as an argument. As I clearly said:

>>http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/08/21/confessions-of-an-ex-moralist/
>>Of course, he's still cowardly spinning it toward another nice-nice outcome, but you might catch the spark anyway ;-)

Preston said...

Mr. Carrier,
Its your blog, so I'll shut up now.

Suffice it to say, I'm unsatisfied. (If you want to continue this further, let me know and I'll shoot you an e-mail.)

Two quick comments, though. You say "The purpose of SaG is not to analyze the entire history of every problem and address every argument ever made on the subject, but to show where my research has lead me and why there rather than somewhere else."
This is good. I think that recognizing your book as such is great. But your book is subtitled "A Defense of Metaphysical Naturalism", not "Why I am a Naturalist". If you called it that, I wouldn't be looking for arguments in the text.

Secondly, you claimed that the free will debate was dead, not that compatibilism was the majority position. So I stand by my evidence that you're wrong on that point. And by the way, none of the references I cited of people defending libertarianism or incompatibilist determinism are theists, and they are all widely renowned philosophers.

I said I'd shut up, so I will, but again, if you are interested with why I'm unsatisfied with the other things you say, let me know.

Preston said...

Oh, as for the Descartes reference, I am too lazy to look this up right now, but I think the two places he goes into his neurophysiology are The Treatise of Man, and then also some of his letters.
(I should note that I'm not claiming his neurophysiology is plausible or anything like that, just that it is compatible with mind-brain correlation. And, for what its worth, here is a reference for someone who agrees: "Descartes' Pineal Neuropsychology", Smith, C.U.M. 1998, Brain and Cognition.)

solon said...

@ CL said:
>>Here, Carrier is no different, and I especially like that you call Loftus. For what it's worth, here's my growing list of Loftus smackdowns. I welcome your commentary.


I find these battles a waste of time, tbh. I posted a few times on Loftus' blog about the same faith-based and superficial approach Richard has to morality.

I just like Richard because he's so incredibly pompous and funny :-)

Pikemann Urge said...

That is incoherent (since by definition you only choose what you prefer, cf. TEC pp. 360-61, so it is illogical to say what you preferred overrode what you preferred)

I think that I am using improper terminology. My preferences in music are not chosen (but people can lie about their music tastes, which is sad and utterly lame). If I had a favourite colour, it would not be chosen. But I can override those choices. I can deliberately paint a picture with colours I don't like. Just for the sake of it.

Non sequitur. Psi can be fully physicalist. Indeed, if psi exists, it is far more likely to be physicalist than dualist.

Maybe I don't understand how to use the terms. Does dualism not imply that consciousness can exist outside the brain? If remote viewing (one aspect of psi) is true, then it's extremely likely that consciousness can exist outside the brain. However, telepathy and precognition would not necessarily imply dualism.

I'll e-mail you soon about why I conclude that psi is true. I'll be concise. :-)

Richard Carrier said...

Solon said... Show us all where, for example killing is scientifically proven to be Wrong in your "bible". Or that, say, suffering in sacrifice to your kin is Truely the way to conduct yourself in life?

Why don't you show me where I have ever claimed either moral proposition is true?

You can't, because you never have read anything I've written on moral theory. I haven't even made the claims for which you keep insulting me. Thus you don't even know what you're talking about. Which is really the end of this conversation.

Richard Carrier said...

Free Will Compatibilism

Pikemann Urge said... If I had a favourite colour, it would not be chosen. But I can override those choices.

Only if you have a desire to. Otherwise you never will. Thus this is not a counter-instance to compatibilist free will.

That desire comes from somewhere, elsewise you wouldn't have it. Analyze why you have it, and it reduces to two things, without remainder: the innate desires you can't change, combined with information you ultimately had no control over acquiring (e.g. that you were born in the internet age in a First World Country, you did not choose; everything you did choose, e.g. to look something up, was caused by that fortunate environment, one way or another, e.g. what family and education you were given, what tech stores just happen to be selling around you, etc., in conjunction with innate unchangeable desires).

This is the determinist's point: even when you override one desire with another, it's still just a desire causing this, thus it's still determinism all the way down. Compatibilists simply point out that, yes, that's true, but when people talk about "free will" in practice they simply don't mean freedom from desires. A choice made free from all desires is illogical: such a thing can't exist in any possible universe. Even choosing randomly on whim, requires a desire to choose randomly on whim.

Richard Carrier said...

Dualism and Psi

Pikemann Urge said… Does dualism not imply that consciousness can exist outside the brain? If remote viewing (one aspect of psi) is true, then it's extremely likely that consciousness can exist outside the brain.

First, dualism does not entail or even imply that consciousness can exist outside the brain, since the brain may be necessary to build, sustain, fuel, or supply with data the secondary mind stuff (whatever that stuff is supposed to be). Until you actually prove otherwise. And yet we haven't even found any real evidence that dualism is true, much less that its hypothetical secondary mind stuff can survive or function apart from a brain.

Second, even if dualism entailed separability (and remote viewing were reliably proved; it really hasn't been), your reasoning is still a fallacy called affirming the consequent: if dualism is true (and minds are separable from brains), then remote viewing is possible; remote viewing is possible (e.g. being confirmed); ergo, dualism is true. That's invalid (see the wikipedia page for why). Because remote viewing does not require separability (any more than watching someone in Zimbabwe on live TV entails your mind is separable from the brain, much less has traveled to Zimbabwe).

There are numerous straightforward (and thus far more plausible) ways to accomplish remote viewing, indeed in a thousand years we could well have remote viewing tech. For example, if I can send a beam to scan your mind like radar (or your mind sends a signal to mine that I can read like a radio), then I can see what you see, thus I can see remotely (which is all that Ganzfeld experiments attempt to prove, for example). The evidence rules out any such machinery in our brains now, as extremely unlikely. But we could put it there someday.

Likewise, if photons interacting with air molecules generate a signal that my brain can read, then in principle I can "see" as if I were standing where those air molecules were, thus without even needing a person's mind to read. In no way does my mind have to "go out" to that spot for this to work, thus even if we had experiments showing that kind of remote viewing (and we don't), we still would not have confirmed separability (or even dualism in fact, since ordinary monistic physics could still provide available explanations). And again, such tech may indeed be possible (e.g. installing equipment in our brain that reads neutrinos generated by collisions with electrons in different excited states, and a computer that can translate these impacts and thus reconstruct what photons are hitting what air molecules and thus generate a visual image remotely, a la Star Trek sensor technology).

Richard Carrier said...

Preston, I don't see how Smith's paper in Brain and Cognition shows that "even Descartes' substance dualism predicts a correlation between mental states and brain states" for all mental states. His argument does not address where reasoning mechanically occurs in the brain, and like I said (and quoted), Descartes certainly seems to say it doesn't. Reasoning occurs apart from the brain, and directly causes the animal spirits in the pineal to move, while sensation causes the animal spirits in the pineal to directly cause the rational soul to perceive. He explicitly argues against the rational soul also being a machine. Or am I missing something?

But your book is subtitled "A Defense of Metaphysical Naturalism", not "Why I am a Naturalist"

You don't think that is an excruciatingly pedantic point? Especially since explaining why I believe X is necessarily a defense of X, thus your distinction doesn't even logically exist. Maybe we can argue over when a hill becomes a mountain or whether fruit flies like a banana.

You claimed that the free will debate was dead, not that compatibilism was the majority position.

Wrong. I said "Most philosophers regard this debate as dead, and compatibilism the only coherent option left." Now on basic English comprehension, that clearly says the same thing as compatibilism was the majority position and not that the free will debate was dead, as opposed to regarded as dead by only most philosophers. As even your own evidence confirms. So I'm pretty sure you've lost this argument.

Pikemann Urge said...

This is the determinist's point: even when you override one desire with another, it's still just a desire causing this [...] A choice made free from all desires is illogical: such a thing can't exist in any possible universe. Even choosing randomly on whim, requires a desire to choose randomly on whim.

I agree 100%. Not that I know the free will issue deeply, but I certainly think that what you're saying about free will is the best explanation of it that we have so far.

I may have given the impression that overriding a preference (e.g. favourite colour) was a "counter-instance to compatibilist free will." My actual point was that my favourite colour was not chosen (which you agree with), but with free will I can override it (at least superficially, or by pretending, or by self-denial).

And yet we haven't even found any real evidence that dualism is true, much less that its hypothetical secondary mind stuff can survive or function apart from a brain.

I am under the impression that people such as David Chalmers believe that there is evidence for it. I should point out again that I'm not well read on a lot of these things.

if dualism is true (and minds are separable from brains), then remote viewing is possible; remote viewing is possible (e.g. being confirmed); ergo, dualism is true.

Is that really what I wrote? I ask that honestly, because that's not what I thought I wrote! I did re-read my comments, BTW. What I meant was this:

If remote viewing is true, it's evidence for dualism. Why? Because RV implies a separation between brain and mind. That's all.

Likewise, if photons interacting with air molecules generate a signal that my brain can read, then in principle I can "see" as if I were standing where those air molecules were, thus without even needing a person's mind to read. In no way does my mind have to "go out" to that spot for this to work, thus even if we had experiments showing that kind of remote viewing (and we don't), we still would not have confirmed separability

I'm not sure what you meant by "photons interacting with air molecules." Is this a follow-up point to the preceding paragraph about hypothetical technology? I'm not very familiar with Star Trek. :-)

Obviously we don't agree about the psi kind of RV. But you are saying that even if psi were true, it wouldn't necessarily imply dualism. I only slightly agree.

There are two types of RV: one type where you have at least two persons, being a sender and receiver; and one type where it's only one person.

We could bring in NDEs, but as I said above, I haven't read much into them. All I know is that people have had 'cosmic' experiences. Critics say that it's just the results of an oxygen-starved brain. But I have no opinion on that yet.

Richard Carrier said...

Pikemann Urge said... If remote viewing is true, it's evidence for dualism. Why? Because RV implies a separation between brain and mind. That's all.

And that's fallacious. Because it does not imply that, any more than radio does.

Prior probability: if you build a machine that can see what is going on in rooms on the other side of the earth, what is more likely (indeed, vastly more likely), that it is mechanically reading the effects of ordinary particle exchanges with atoms in that room, or that there is a magical "other substance" unlike any that physics has ever discovered before?

And if someone presents you with a box that does this, which is more likely (indeed, vastly more likely), that the box is empty and operates using an invisible "second substance" with magical powers, or that inside that box is a machine that fully explains how it works?

Now, if RV were true, your brain would be that box (more exactly, the part of the brain that achieves RV would be, as could be determined with MRI studies and selective brain damage/damping studies). The conclusions don't change.

Richard Carrier said...

Pikemann Urge said... There are two types of RV: one type where you have at least two persons, being a sender and receiver; and one type where it's only one person.

And in neither case has RV ever been demonstrated in a replicated study. It's pretty much a dead hypothesis now.

We could bring in NDEs, but as I said above, I haven't read much into them.

Again, the science proves them normal hallucinatory experiences and nothing more. Apart from the bibliography on NDEs already in my book Sense and Goodness without God look up Keith Augustine's studies of the NDE literature, which you can google up.

All I know is that people have had 'cosmic' experiences. Critics say that it's just the results of an oxygen-starved brain. But I have no opinion on that yet.

Oxygen starvation is not required for all "cosmic experiences," but is certainly the primary cause of many NDE experiences (like tunnel transport and breakdown of self). The science establishing this is more than adequate. Other "cosmic experiences" are just normal "abnormal" brain operations: we have physically located parts of the brain that when activated actually cause such experiences to occur. Thus the brain simply evolved the ability to initiate such an experiential event. There are theories as to why, which you can find in the latest literature on the brain science of religious experiences (I'm sure you can find a lot of it summarized online with some googling, although be aware that not all the hypotheses hyped have held up under further study, so you need to find the latest and best discussions).