Sunday, October 16, 2011

For Athol

Note: This is a reply to a post elsewhere. Read on if you like, but it was meant for Athol Kay.

[I decided to put in a longer comment in response.]
FW: You're making a category mistake when you talk about Odin, Zeus, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster in the same vein “definitionally” as God. By definition, Odin, Zeus, and the FSM are man-made. God, by definition, isn’t.
Athol: It's a common religious viewpoint that everyone else's god is man-made except their own definition of god which is the true one.
[I’m not sure you understand what I mean by a category mistake. Say what you will about the various religions’ definition of God, god, G-d, Odin, Zeus, the FSM. In point of fact, you can show, on first principles, and without subjectivity, that Odin, Zeus, and the FSM are all man-made creations. We have good reasons to know that these do not exist. By definition (whether you agree with this definition or not, doesn't matter at the present. To show that the definition is wrong is an argument that can be made in the future, but not in the context of what I’m pointing out, ie. A category mistake. Also, important to note is the fact that I’m not talking about a Christian God, or any other particular religion’s God.
Regardless, it is a well-established principle of argumentation that one starts discussions of our sort with definitions then proceeds from there) God—according to the OED—is “The creator and ruler of the universe and source of all moral authority; the supreme being.”
When I speak of God, I am referring to this definition. Because of this, you are making a category mistake by lumping such, definitionally, with Odin, Zeus, the FSM. It’s like saying “most bananas are atheists.”]
FW: In essence then, you’re positing a claim, hidden though it may be: the universe was here because humanity needed a “place in the sun,” so to speak, in order to experience it . What proof do you have for this claim?
Athol: You're positing that claim for me. We don't need to be here, we just are.
[Au contraire, I’m *interpreting* your claim. You’ve now changed it from a asserting a claim to a non-assertion which, begging your pardon, is a cop out. You see, you’re not simply stopping at asserting without evidence that there is no need for humanity to be here (and all the attendant corollaries), but you’re taking a massive leap in logic to concluding that therefore, there is no God. *It could very well be there we do not need to be here and that we just are. BUT this is NOT a sufficient AND necessary condition for God’s non-existence.* It could be that God exists AND we do not need to be here and that we just are. To say that there is no God, Athol, is a claim to knowledge. And again, every claim to knowledge requires supporting evidence. So, what are your reasons for this claim to knowledge?]
FW: The science is very clear on the issue: the Universe “started”. How is not quite clear or universally agreed upon, but that it did start existing at some point isn’t a bone of contention. Why did it start? Wel … If, according to the laws of Physics and Logic, anything that begins to exist has a cause. The Universe has a beginning. Care to posit what caused the Universe?
Athol: My point is that it doesn't matter what caused the universe. You're determined for there to be an answer to "why". There isn't one.
[I suppose you have proof that there isn’t an answer as you so confidently claim. Again, every claim to knowledge requires evidence. I’ll await yours.]
Athol: Also you seem to be trying to posit intention to the laws of physics. Things may have causes, but no intent to cause an effect. Water does not intend to become a river. Excess rain may cause the river to flood, but it does not intend it to flood.
[In order to make such a statement as “water does not intend to become a river,” you’re ascribing properties to water that it simply cannot have. Intent is a property of a moral, personal agent. Water is not a moral nor is it a personal agent and so you’re again making another category mistake.]
FW: You ask why not, supposing (I assume) that you already know the answer to your question—I assume because you wouldn’t have brought it up otherwise, no? Would you care to explain your answer? And of course, also be prepare to back it up with evidence?
Athol: I'm pointing out there is no answer to that question. You just have to accept reality as being what it is and figure out what you want to do in life.
[This sounds suspiciously like relativistic nihilism. Do you know for certain there is no answer to that question? The only way to provide such an answer is to have a full and complete knowledge of the Universe. For all you know, you and everything you “know” is an illusion, and you’re but a brain in a vat of salt water whose “knowledge” is being provided through electrodes placed to titillate your brain. Unless you know this is not true, you simply cannot say with any definitive certainty that life has no answers. I presume you’ve not read Kant.


Unless, of course, you have proof positive there’s no answer. In which case, I again await your evidence.


An addendum: what are the practical implications of your worldview? How indeed, to quote you, does one “accept reality” and therefrom, figures out what to do in life? Who’s to say what you’ve figured out is your reality is real and true and you’re not hallucinating? If you were in front of Hitler and he asked you why he shouldn’t destroy all those millions of Jews because, in his reality, they were Untermensch and deserved to be slaughtered in the gas chambers? On what basis would you tell him his reality was *WRONG* or *NOT REAL* when it is very real TO HIM?]
FW: As for me, the ontological answer to "why" is clear from the evidence and again, I can explain the evidence further, if you care to take this discussion any further.
Athol: You're like a baby looking at a mirror. I'm telling you all you see is light reflecting off the mirror. You keep telling me you see another baby in there.
[Cute.]
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