T4P-#3 What is your position on mind-brain dualism & subjectivity vs. objectivity?

Tim: Phil, I’d like to quiz you on your understanding of the mind-brain dualism issue. In a recent email to me, you stated, “Our subjectivity is largely emotional, and emotions serve only to distort objective reality,” and that you “try to keep (your) life 80% subjective and 20% objective.” So, given those statements (which, of course, have a context that needs to be filled in to really understand what you mean), I think it would be good to explore that a bit. For instance, if emotions distort objective reality, and our subjectivity is largely emotional, then how can a life that is 80% subjective make sense of reality, since it only distorts reality?” Also, what really are “emotions” on your worldview? A strictly materialistic worldview would posit that emotions (along with “objective” thoughts as well) are merely chemical reactions and electrical discharges in the brain and that there is no non-physical entity (a non-material mind) involved.

  • Phil: Imagine you want to build a house that matches the vision within your wild imagination. You could simply start building without any knowledge of materials, the structural strength of each of those materials, plumbing, electricity, and the mathematical skills necessary to accurately measure and combine materials. Your dream house would most likely fail.

    However, if you first spend, say, 20% of your time understanding the objective materials, science and mathematics, you then are much more likely to be able to build a house with the remaining 80% of your time that will endure over the years.

    Some of my friends enjoy the science of life construction more than I do, and spend much time focused on science and philosophy. I definitely think these ought always to be foundational to my life, but I also enjoy the creative side of actually constructing an interesting house of life. I’m guessing the balance is 20% understanding the objective substrate against about 80% actually engaged in the subjective creative construction of my life. Does that make sense?

    Let me extend the analogy a bit further by saying, I’m no longer looking around for some objective blueprint for my life. My life is my own to subjectively design and construct as I feel. That is not to say my design is without constraints; the constraints are the objective limitations, uncovered by rationality, of the material science (inherent limitations of my mind, body and environment). But once understanding those limits, I am free to build any life I desire within those limits. It is a life of freedom.

    On Emotions
    Now, emotions are subjective. Everything subjective is in contrast to the objective world, but not necessarily in conflict with the objective world. The objective reality is that we have no objective purpose. Subjective reality distorts this, and lets us live with subjective purpose. This is a good thing. What would falling in love be if we only were aware of the changing chemical composition in our bodies? The subjective nature of our minds distorts objective reality, and makes falling in love something wonderful to experience. But woe to those who deny the chemical substrate of falling in love; they are likely to be puzzled a couple of years into the future when the love they one felt to be non-chemical and “eternal” has evolved into something less intense and invigorating.

    On Objectivity/Subjectivity
    It seems you may be denying that materialists believe in emergence theory. When physical dollar bills are excessively printed on physical presses, a non-material phenomenon called inflation emerges. Inflation is not supernatural, but instead is wholly dependent upon its physical substrate of actual dollar bills. In the same way, emotions are more than their neurological foundation, but wholly dependent upon neurology.

Tim: Phil, your house analogy is a good one. One might quibble on the percentages, but clearly, the foundation is what a house is built on and what makes it either a strong house or a weak one unable to withstand a storm. You’ll recall, of course, that Jesus used this same analogy in talking about what people base their lives on, with those who follow God’s design being like someone who builds his house on a solid foundation while those who ignore that and do their own thing being like someone who builds his house on sand. That will appear to work just fine as long as everything is quiet, but not when the inevitable storm or earthquake occurs.
Your statement in the emotions section points to a fundamental difference between our worldviews, which is what this “worldview review” is all about. “The objective reality is that we have no objective purpose. Subjective reality distorts this, and lets us live with subjective purpose.” Frankly, from my perspective, that is a “foundation of sand.” If you take that statement to its logical conclusion, that means that in the end it matters not how we live our lives. Conscious life (that somehow nebulously “emerged” from the laws of physics and chemistry (that likewise “emerged” from nowhere)) will inevitably be extinguished, and so in the end, whether you lived like a Mother Teresa or an Adolf Hitler won’t matter in the least. Whatever fleeting purpose you manufacture for yourself is only that — fleeting. I’ll pursue this further in the P4T#1 thread, as they are related.
I gather from my interaction with you so far that you’re not necessarily an absolute atheist, but are more along the lines of a deist. In other words, while you reject the God portrayed in the Bible, there may still be some agent beyond the universe that brought it into being. Is that right? If so, my question would be whether that agent could have had some purpose in creating all of this. Assuming that is the case, then there would be some objective purpose to our existence. A thorough going materialistic universe is one in which the only realities are physical — namely the 4 dimensions of space and time along with the matter and energy they contain — along with whatever “emerges” from that. (And I certainly did not intend to give the impression that I am “denying that materialists believe in emergence theory,” for they obviously do.) Physicalism denies the existence of a non-physical “mind” that can exist independent of a physical brain, and so this is a fundamental difference between a theistic worldview and a thoroughgoing atheistic one. Where do you stand on that issue? Do you view the concept of information, such as what we find in DNA and other information-rich molecules, as being something fundamental like matter and energy? Or is it merely an “emergent” property that comes out of physics and chemistry? There are only 3 ways that information can be produced: by law, by chance or by design from a mind. Science shows us that only very simple, repeating “information,” such as you have in a crystal, can be produced by law, chance or a combination of the two. Our uniform experience, however, shows us that complex information — such as the words we are writing in our dialog — come from minds. Anyway, I’d like to know how you fit that into your worldview.

  • Phil: Tim, I’m going to try to retrieve the individual pellets of your “shotgun” response, and address them below.
    (Tim: As you have divided up your response into 7 sections, it seems prudent to respond to each one directly, rather than all at the end. So I’ll intersperse my comments.)

    1. You seem to be suggesting possible negative consequences inform our condition. If there are earthquakes and storms, does this mean there must be more than sand available to build our house upon? No. That would be to argue that the consequences of the existence/non-existence of something give some sort of evidence about the existence/non-existence of that thing. If our earthly bodies die, does this to any degree suggest there must be an after-life? No. If there is no evidence of an after-life, we align our beliefs with that evidence rather than aligning our beliefs with what we wish were so. We accept the foundation we have, not the one we want. Many people in the world would like someone larger than them giving them “purpose”. Does this make more probable the existence of someone larger than they are with a “purpose” for them? No. This is, at its core, an appeal to emotion, and inappropriate for honest seekers of truth.

    2. Now, you stated the following.

    “If you take [that we have no objective purpose] to its logical conclusion, that means that in the end it matters not how we live our lives.”

    What do you mean by this? If we have no objective purpose, there is obviously no one above us to whom it matters. But why would our lives stop mattering to ourselves? How would that diminish our subjective purposes? Do our subjective purposes then somehow become less wonderful to us?

    3. You stated that subjective purpose is “fleeting”. Do you mean subjective purpose lasts only for the lifetime of the subject? What, exactly, would be the point (if it were somehow possible) of having a “subjective” purpose that endured past the life of the subject with that subjective purpose? Does the fact that Santa does not exist necessarily make Christmas any less wonderful?

    4. Yes, I believe there may be a “first cause”, though I believe we are far from being able to say such a “first cause” is necessary. I attempt to align myself with the bulk of cosmologists on this, as well as strive to understand the actual science. But you seem to imply that the existence of a “first cause” would mean that we then necessarily have an objective purpose. I’m presuming you mean you think that a “first cause” would give humans some sort of purpose beyond the purpose rocks and cockroaches are imparted. Could you give a step-by-step explanation how you go from the notion of a “first cause” to the conclusion that humans have a special objective purpose beyond the rest of matter? Or did I misunderstand you?

    5. At this point, I strongly believe in physicalism. I believe, based on very clear evidence from cognitive science, that a mind must necessarily ride on some substrate. In our case, the physical substrate is our neurons. A mind without a physical substrate has never been observed, and for every cognitive function we have, cognitive scientists have observed an impairment of that function that parallels the degree of physical damage to the substrate. A disembodied mind (and especially the emotional mind of the biblical god) seems quite incoherent to me.

    6. With respect to information, I am not read up on that enough to have a strong opinion. It may be that DNA “information” comes from a designer, but from what I’ve read on emergence theory, scientists, as a whole, are not saying this “information” must necessarily come from a designer. Your invoking of science troubles me a bit. You said “science shows us that…” to back your claim about information, yet seem more than willing to reject what science (do you mean majority opinion among relevant scientists?) shows us about evolution. Do you see the inconsistency here? What are you actually invoking when you say “science shows us that…”? Wouldn’t it be better to cite the actual research, or at least give a defensible percentage of relevant scientists that hold the position?

    7. Complex information comes from minds? This is precisely what is in question. If complex information emerges from evolutionary processes, then complex information does not come from minds. Remember the days in which any calamity was attributed to the anger of the gods, since there had never been a calamity seen that was not attributable to someone’s anger. I can imagine those theists claiming as you now do that, because there had never been seen a “violent” act apart from an angry mind, that the “violence” seen in nature was necessarily a product of an angry mind of a deity. This is circular reasoning.

    Perhaps we can deal with these topics one at a time. If you prefer to deal with them concurrently, please use the numbers I’ve assigned to keep thinks clear. And feel free to start a new post if you feel any of these issues deserves a more focused treatment. Cheers.

Tim:

1. You seem to be suggesting possible negative consequences inform our condition. If there are earthquakes and storms, does this mean there must be more than sand available to build our house upon? No. That would be to argue that the consequences of the existence/non-existence of something give some sort of evidence about the existence/non-existence of that thing. If our earthly bodies die, does this to any degree suggest there must be an after-life? No. If there is no evidence of an after-life, we align our beliefs with that evidence rather than aligning our beliefs with what we wish were so. We accept the foundation we have, not the one we want. Many people in the world would like someone larger than them giving them “purpose”. Does this make more probable the existence of someone larger than they are with a “purpose” for them? No. This is, at its core, an appeal to emotion, and inappropriate for honest seekers of truth.

(Tim’s response to 1: Then, do you believe that physical death is the end of personal existence? I gather from your point 5 that this is the case, since a conscious mind cannot exist apart from a living brain in your view. You seem to be claiming that there is no evidence of an after-life, as though science could show such a thing. Since science can only detect and measure physical phenomena, then it naturally follows that no direct scientific evidence can be discovered concerning life after death. Nevertheless, there are other cogent arguments for the existence of a soul, including that of near-death experiences (mentioned in T4P#1).
I find your statement, “We accept the foundation we have, not the one we want” rather interesting. Are you implying that we have no choice in what foundation we build our lives on? I suppose that a thoroughgoing physicalist would have to come to that conclusion, since in their view our thoughts are entirely the result of the laws of physics and chemistry playing out in our brains. And since those are entirely deterministic, that would seem to mean that everything else ends up being predetermined as well, including the moral choices we make (which means in effect that morality is an illusion). Likewise, you seem to imply that I am just engaging in wishful thinking by wishing it were so (that we have a meaningful eternal existence). I can just as easily counter with your apparent “wishful thinking” that you can live your life as you please without being concerned about whether or not you will be held accountable to God. If, for whatever reason, you wish that there were no God, then it’s pretty easily to convince yourself that it is true and to thus rationalize anything you want to do.)

2. Now, you stated the following.

“If you take [that we have no objective purpose] to its logical conclusion, that means that in the end it matters not how we live our lives.”

What do you mean by this? If we have no objective purpose, there is obviously no one above us to whom it matters. But why would our lives stop mattering to ourselves? How would that diminish our subjective purposes? Do our subjective purposes then somehow become less wonderful to us?

(Tim’s response to 2: By “in the end” I meant in an eternal sense. I am, after all, arguing within the context of theistic worldview that posits there is eternal significance to our earthly lives. But if you deny that, then, of course, your statement that “there is obviously no one above us to whom it matters” follows. You are, of course, perfectly free to conjure up any subjective purpose you want for yourself.)

3. You stated that subjective purpose is “fleeting”. Do you mean subjective purpose lasts only for the lifetime of the subject? What, exactly, would be the point (if it were somehow possible) of having a “subjective” purpose that endured past the life of the subject with that subjective purpose? Does the fact that Santa does not exist necessarily make Christmas any less wonderful?

(Tim’s response to 3: I, of course, am referring to this in the context of objective purpose and an existence that continues beyond this physical life. In what sense any “purpose” that has been subjectively manufactured during one’s lifetime could continue over into any afterlife, I can’t really say. Obviously, if there is no afterlife, then it will effectively end at death. But if there are eternal consequences for our thoughts and actions in this life, then the “fleeting subjective purposes” we manufactured in this life will be part of what is judged by God.)

4. Yes, I believe there may be a “first cause”, though I believe we are far from being able to say such a “first cause” is necessary. I attempt to align myself with the bulk of cosmologists on this, as well as strive to understand the actual science. But you seem to imply that the existence of a “first cause” would mean that we then necessarily have an objective purpose. I’m presuming you mean you think that a “first cause” would give humans some sort of purpose beyond the purpose rocks and cockroaches are imparted. Could you give a step-by-step explanation how you go from the notion of a “first cause” to the conclusion that humans have a special objective purpose beyond the rest of matter? Or did I misunderstand you?

(Tim’s response to 4: As I mentioned elsewhere, “first cause” can either be a “brute-force” (i.e. eternally existing) unconscious something (force, “quantum vacuum” or whatever) or a conscious mind. Why do you say that we are “far from being able to say such a ‘first cause’ is necessary? If the universe itself is not eternal, then some “first cause” beyond the universe has to have brought it into being. The “bulk of cosmologists” (I would say essentially all of them) accept that. Those who philosophically distain the idea of a God like that portrayed in the Bible choose to believe it must be some sort of “natural” force or law. The question I would ask in that case, however, is how an unconscious force or law or whatever could “decide” to bring the universe into existence a finite time ago (roughly 13.7 billion years ago). If that “first cause” (whatever it is) has existed from eternity (which it must have if it is itself uncaused by something else), why would not the universe have been caused to come into existence an infinite time ago?
As for how such a “first cause” would endow humans with an objective purpose beyond the rest of matter, that depends on whether that “first cause” is an active, purposeful agent or a passive, purposeless entity. The Bible claims that it is the former and that this agent has created human beings “in his own image,” meaning that he has endowed us with intellectual and creative abilities which are a reflection of his own — something far beyond anything else in creation. He “purposed” us to exist, and so that gives us objective purpose. Of course, “other matter” also has an objective purpose as well, as we could not exist without the extremely fine-tuned characteristics the various aspects of the natural world have been endowed with.)

5. At this point, I strongly believe in physicalism. I believe, based on very clear evidence from cognitive science, that a mind must necessarily ride on some substrate. In our case, the physical substrate is our neurons. A mind without a physical substrate has never been observed, and for every cognitive function we have, cognitive scientists have observed an impairment of that function that parallels the degree of physical damage to the substrate. A disembodied mind (and especially the emotional mind of the biblical god) seems quite incoherent to me.

(Tim’s response to 5: This, of course, is the mind-brain dualism issue that I began this thread with. Again, since science can only observe physical phenomena, then of course it’s going to observe only the physical substrate through which a mind can manifest itself to the physical world. The question is, then, how could consciousness come into existence without a cause? It violates the law of cause and effect, which states that an effect cannot be greater than its cause. Just like the origin of the universe, the origin of human consciousness demands a cause greater than itself. You may have difficulty imagining a “disembodied mind,” but that is different from it being “incoherent.” Since we are limited in our experience to the physical world, it is only natural that we would have difficulty picturing a “disembodied mind,” but such a mind that is the cause behind everything else is certainly not incoherent.)

6. With respect to information, I am not read up on that enough to have a strong opinion. It may be that DNA “information” comes from a designer, but from what I’ve read on emergence theory, scientists, as a whole, are not saying this “information” must necessarily come from a designer. Your invoking of science troubles me a bit. You said “science shows us that…” to back your claim about information, yet seem more than willing to reject what science (do you mean majority opinion among relevant scientists?) shows us about evolution. Do you see the inconsistency here? What are you actually invoking when you say “science shows us that…”? Wouldn’t it be better to cite the actual research, or at least give a defensible percentage of relevant scientists that hold the position?

(Tim’s response to 6: You do have a point here, as citing peer-reviewed research papers, etc. is important in establishing credibility. There are numerous such well-documented articles on sites such as reasons.org, but documenting my claim in that fashion on this post would be beyond my resources in time available and the fact that I don’t have internet access at my summer cabin. You claim that I am “rejecting what science shows us about evolution.” The word “evolution” is a slippery term, and so it depends on what is being referred to. I fully embrace what the actual observations have shown us concerning the 3.8 billion year history of life on earth, but I do reject what “scientism” says about evolution — namely that the neo-Darwinian synthesis is adequate to explain the history of life. Many Darwinists themselves recognize that the “engine” of random mutation and natural selection is woefully inadequate to explain the development of life, but they still are committed to there being some as-yet-undiscovered naturalistic mechanism that is adequate to the task (which is a “no-god of the gaps” argument). The actual fossil record simply does not show a gradualism-only progression of development. So, I accept what the fossil record actually reveals and not the pronouncements of scientists force-fitting it into a naturalism-only paradigm.)

7. Complex information comes from minds? This is precisely what is in question. If complex information emerges from evolutionary processes, then complex information does not come from minds. Remember the days in which any calamity was attributed to the anger of the gods, since there had never been a calamity seen that was not attributable to someone’s anger. I can imagine those theists claiming as you now do that, because there had never been seen a “violent” act apart from an angry mind, that the “violence” seen in nature was necessarily a product of an angry mind of a deity. This is circular reasoning.

(Tim’s response to 7: The ancient “theists” you refer to here were, in fact, polytheists working under the assumption that natural phenomena were the result of the whims of the gods or events in the unseen world of the gods. This was not the biblical understanding of a unified, almighty God. It is a historical fact that the biblical concept of the world being created by a single God who instituted natural laws that ordinarily governed its workings was what birthed modern science in the first place. Nevertheless, that isn’t really relevant to the issue of complex information coming from a mind anyway. Saying, “If complex information emerges from evolutionary processes” is a very big “if.” Not a single instance of this has ever been shown. You can’t just assume it. To do so is “evolution of the gaps,” something that is completely analogous to the “god of the gaps” materialists often accuse theists of doing.)

  • Phil: I will simply address points you made above without reposting the full context. I’ll try to represent your points as accurately as possible.

    1a. It appears that one of the basic problems is that you are treating belief as if it were binary; either you believe or you don’t. This is not rational belief for propositions that are verified through inductively derived evidence. That is why you don’t often find dogmatic conclusions in scientific papers, but only a probabilistic assessment of the hypotheses.

    What I said about consciousness was that there is no evidence that a mind can exist without a physical substrate. Until this is demonstrated, neither one of us is justified in believing it is so, especially in light of the disconfirming evidence; the degradation of various cognitive functions corresponds to the degradation of their neurological substrate as demonstrated by cognitive science.

    1b. You said…

    Since science can only detect and measure physical phenomena, then it naturally follows that no direct scientific evidence can be discovered concerning life after death.

    It seems you are suggesting it is proper to believe a notion until there is evidence against that notion.
    I am claiming that is it irrational to believe a notion until there is evidence for that notion. I am more than willing to have a more formal debate on this essential topic.

    1c. You said…

    I find your statement, “We accept the foundation we have, not the one we want” rather interesting. Are you implying that we have no choice in what foundation we build our lives on?

    Humans indeed have the choice to be irrational and to choose a foundation for which there is no evidence simply because they emotionally cannot deal with the possibility of there being no such foundation. My claim is that this method of letting emotion trump evidence inevitably leads to falsehoods, and this method has no place in the mind of an honest seeker of truth.

    1d. I indeed do not believe in objective morality. I believe any attempted construction of morality stems directly and solely from our emotions. There is no actual evil or righteousness in this world. There are only emotional dispositions that this is bad and this is good, to do this or not to do that.
    (Be very careful how you treat this. It does not follow that I am therefore inclined to commit atrocities any more than an amoral koala bear is, nor does it make me incapable of acting more benevolent than most theists.)

    1e. I believe there is no objective free will, but full subjective free will. If you are interested in my elaboration of this concept, ask a question in a new post, and I’ll do my best to answer.

    1f. You said…

    …you seem to imply that I am just engaging in wishful thinking by wishing it were so (that we have a meaningful eternal existence). I can just as easily counter with your apparent “wishful thinking” that you can live your life as you please without being concerned about whether or not you will be held accountable to God. If, for whatever reason, you wish that there were no God, then it’s pretty easily to convince yourself that it is true and to thus rationalize anything you want to do.

    The difference is I made no suggestion that my emotional disposition towards a proposition makes the proposition more or less likely. You did.
    Based on the arguments you provide, it certainly seems that you think the consequences of not having an objective purpose somehow makes the reality of an objective purpose somehow more necessary. That’s not the way rationality operates. We commit ourselves only to logic and to the discovery of evidence for any given proposition. We then assess the balance of evidence to see what we should believe and to what degree we should believe it. Your emotional attachment to a certain conclusion speaks nothing to the necessity of that conclusion.

    On my side, if I have a strong emotional desire for there not to be a god, that does not in any way constitute evidence that there is no god.

    So instead of accusing me of wishful thinking identical to your wishful thinking, you ought to be instead demonstrating with evidence and argumentation how you are correct and how I am incorrect. That is the only proper way of approaching the question.

    Imagine Billy accusing Bobby of irrationality since Bobby admits his belief in an unsubstantiated Santa is partially due to the fact that no Santa would be emotionally unbearable. Now imagine Bobby accusing Billy of the very same wishful thinking since Billy feels a Santa who knows when he is bad or good would be annoying. Do you think their arguments are equivalent? They are not. Bobby is using the distasteful emotional consequences as part of his argument for Santa. Billy is not using his distaste of an omniscient Santa as part of his argument against Santa.

    In addition, if you don’t have evidence for your Santa, or if there is just confirming evidence for a Santa, your accusation that those who don’t believe in Santa are disbelieving due to their emotional commitments falls flat since their failure to be rational does nothing to add legitimacy to your position.

    There are indeed irrational atheists who are atheists due to their emotional distaste for a god who wants them to follow his rules. There are Christians who reject Allah because his rules are too stringent. The bottom line is, our emotional commitments may push us towards a conclusion, but, for the rational mind, that conclusion is either confirmed or disconfirm with evidence and argumentation. What you did was to imply that the unbearable thought of having no purpose handed to us by a god is somehow evidence that objective purpose must exist. This is unequivocally wrong. You won’t find me arguing that the apparent abhorrent evil nature of the God of the Bible is evidence that that God cannot exist. I will only be arguing that logical incoherencies inherent to the god of the bible warrant his dismissal as an eligible candidate for an actual god. An emotionally unpalatable conclusion is not in any way evidence that the conclusion is false, and an emotionally appealing conclusion in no way constitutes evidence that that conclusion is true.

    So even if I have a distaste for your biblical definition of god, I am not, as you are, employing my emotional disposition towards the proposition of a god as an argument against that proposition. You defeat my position, not by pointing at possible emotional motivations behind my conclusions, but by providing evidence and argumentation against my position. I don’t care if you have an emotional pre-disposition towards a particular conclusion about a god. Just don’t irrationally offer that emotional predisposition up as an argument for your God.

    This is very important, so let me state it one more time. The emotional appeal or distaste that a proposition evokes says nothing at all about the veracity of the proposition, and it is irrational to suggest that it does. So any discomfort you might have when considering the possibility that we have no objective purpose speaks nothing to whether or not we have an objective purpose. The existence of objective purpose (and every other proposition) will be demonstrated through evidence and argumentation alone.

    So, let me summarize this into one question to assess whether we are now in agreement.
    Does the emotional appeal or distaste that a proposition evokes in any way constitute evidence for or against the truth of that proposition?

    2a. Subjective purpose, unsurprisingly, endures for just the right amount of time; for the duration of the subject’s life. 😉

    3a. Subjective purpose is demonstrably actual; we see it every day in the lives of humans. Objective purpose hinges on the logical coherency of the god proposed, and I’m fully prepared to demonstrate that Jehovah does not qualify.

    4a. You are confused about what physical laws are. The are merely abstractions by human minds of the regularity of physical phenomena. They do not exist as you imagine moral laws to exist; rules handed down by some entity. They emerge from material properties in the same way law of supply/demand emerges from the material world, not as the will of a deity. This distinction must be maintained.

    4b. As for your other questions about cosmology, I’m not a cosmologist, so I am attempting to align myself with the full (not cherry-picked) conclusions of the bulk of actual cosmologists, and I am justified in doing this based on the successes of those cosmologists in unveiling the fundamental physics of our reality. Nothing less is acceptable for an honest rational inquiry into cosmology by non-cosmologists. Rest assured, however, that Jehovah is not eligible as a candidate for this not-yet-established first cause due to his logically incoherent definition as I’m prepared to show.

    4c. The fine-tuning arguments are very interesting to me. This keeps the possibility of some form of deity alive in my mind. But as I mentioned, your logically incoherent god most certainly did not fine-tune anything.

    5a. You said…

    The question is, then, how could consciousness come into existence without a cause? It violates the law of cause and effect, which states that an effect cannot be greater than its cause.

    What is the cause of an economy if not the physical exchanges of goods and currency between physical humans? What is the cause of a mind if not the physical interactions between neurons or some other physical substrate?

    5b. The fact that no mind has ever been shown in our experience to exist apart from a substrate legitimately informs our expectation that such a mind is unlikely to exist. On the other side you have what seems to be design in the universe that has nearly always (evolution being a possible exception), in our experience, emerged from a mind. But make no mistake; you can’t honestly invoke one side and ignore the other. For this reason, I’m forced by rationality to reserve judgment on the issue.

    6a. I have no interest in debating a biological theory most biologists believe with a non-biologist who rejects the majority opinion of biologists. It would not change the fact that the biblical god is logically incoherent. It is like suggesting that the mysteries that still exist about lightning can be answered by invoking a square and triangular electro-magnetic field.

    7a. You said…

    The ancient “theists” you refer to here were, in fact, polytheists working under the assumption that natural phenomena were the result of the whims of the gods or events in the unseen world of the gods.

    No. The theists I’m referring to here are the centuries of christians who invoked the wrath of god (or Jews) as the source of plagues, demon-possession as the source of epilepsy, and lightning as the hand of Jehovah (some christians going so far as to say the location on the body the lighting struck was indicative of the nature of the victim’s “sin”). Are you familiar with Pat Robertson? Ask him about Hurricane Katrina and the Haitian earthquake.

    7b. Once again, I have no interest in debating a theory most scientists in that field (in this case information theory) believe with a non-scientist who rejects the majority opinion of relevant scientists. When you find yourself taking the same position as the bulk of relevant scientists to the degree that they themselves hold the position, then you’ll have my attention. I enjoy science. But once again, this can never redeem your logically incoherent god of the bible.

    7c. It is interesting to observe that the vast majority of recent apologists’ arguments are not for some particular god, but rather for some “first cause” or “designer”, and based on a complex science that the vast majority of apologists have no actual training in. These arguments do effectively distract from my own focus on the dismantling the very core of christianity; the incoherent notion of redemption. It is an interesting commentary on the state of apologetics when the very core of the gospel is less a focus than are dubious objections to mainstream science by non-scientist theists.


    Tim, to avoid any confusion about which response answers which question, feel free to start new posts for whatever issues you feel have not yet been sufficiently discussed.


Tim: I will not attempt to reply to every assertion you make above, but will quote certain key points with my responses.

1c. Humans indeed have the choice to be irrational and to choose a foundation for which there is no evidence simply because they emotionally cannot deal with the possibility of there being no such foundation. My claim is that this method of letting emotion trump evidence inevitably leads to falsehoods, and this method has no place in the mind of an honest seeker of truth.

Again, the knife cuts both ways. One simply may not want there to be a God for a variety of subjective reasons, such as having been emotionally scarred by some very negative, hurtful experience connected with religion, and so I would agree that “letting emotion trump evidence inevitably leads to falsehoods.” You glibly claim “there is no evidence,” even though I’ve listed several lines of evidence that a Creator must exist. Thus, I can quote back to you your statement with some slight modifications: “Humans indeed have the choice to be irrational and to choose to ignore the foundation of the reality of God, for which there is plenty of evidence, simply because they emotionally cannot deal with the possibility of there being such a foundation.”

1d. I indeed do not believe in objective morality. I believe any attempted construction of morality stems directly and solely from our emotions. There is no actual evil or righteousness in this world. There are only emotional dispositions that this is bad and this is good, to do this or not to do that.

So, it’s not objectively immoral to “torture babies for fun” (to use a common extreme example)? It’s only emotionally distasteful to you? You might not like what, for instance, Stalin or Hitler did, but is there any principled argument within your worldview — without resorting to “borrowed capital” from the Christian worldview — as to why their actions were evil?

1f. I will only be arguing that logical incoherencies inherent to the god of the bible warrant his dismissal as an eligible candidate for an actual god. An emotionally unpalatable conclusion is not in any way evidence that the conclusion is false, and an emotionally appealing conclusion in no way constitutes evidence that that conclusion is true.

Well, I think it is time to call your bluff. You keep saying that you “will only be arguing that logical incoherencies inherent to the god of the bible warrant his dismissal as an eligible candidate for an actual god,” but I’ve yet to see any real arguments to that effect. Please state what your argument really is in a succinct syllogism I can respond to. So far, all I can recall seeing along this line is your claim that God can’t justifiably judge us for something we cannot have avoided. This is closely related to the problem of evil and suffering in a world that God is supposed to be in control of. In my opinion, this is the most potent argument in the atheist arsenal, but there are adequate responses to this issue (such as http://www.reasonablefaith.org/the-problem-of-evil). And it doesn’t negate the numerous positive arguments for God’s existence. Likewise, you say, “So instead of accusing me of wishful thinking identical to your wishful thinking, you ought to be instead demonstrating with evidence and argumentation how you are correct and how I am incorrect.” Again, this cuts both ways. I, of course, agree with your statement that emotional appeals are not evidence for or against the truth of a proposition. Thus, I have listed numerous evidences that it is much more likely that God exists than that he doesn’t, though no one argument by itself is a slam dunk. It’s a cumulative case — an inference to the best explanation. So far, you have just brushed off those arguments by claiming I ignore the pronouncements of professional cosmologists, etc. (More on this in point 4)
Also, your analogy with Santa Claus is nothing but a straw man. There are no arguments for Santa’s literal existence that are equivalent to the cosmological argument, the teleological argument, or any other of the numerous arguments for God’s existence.

4c. The fine-tuning arguments are very interesting to me. This keeps the possibility of some form of deity alive in my mind.

I’m glad that the fine-tuning arguments interest you and cause you to admit that there likely is some sort of deity (first cause). The necessity of a first cause is a matter of logic and not of observational science (as a first cause is by definition outside of the observable universe). Yet, you say that “we are far from being able to say such a ‘first cause’ is necessary.” Remember, there are only two logical possibilities. Either the universe is a brute fact with no cause outside itself, or it is a contingent entity brought into being by some “first cause.” And that “first cause” must either be a mindless something or an entity with a mind and will. There are no other options. To say that there may be a first cause but you can’t be sure it’s really necessary is illogical. You can’t have a “contingent first cause.”

7a. These arguments do effectively distract from my own focus on the dismantling the very core of christianity; the incoherent notion of redemption.

People like Pat Robertson have a propensity to “put their foot in their mouth” (as do certain politicians), and so certain theists have admittedly stated some very foolish things. But so have many atheists, since we’re all very fallible human beings. So, let’s cut to the chase and not get off on these rabbit trails. You say your focus is on “dismantling the very core of christianity; the incoherent notion of redemption.” So, how do you propose to do that?

  • Phil:

    1c continued: Tim, you know very well did not demonstrate that a creator must exist. It is clearly illogical in your mind to believe that something can come from nothing, and yet you are claiming that your creator came from nothing. Not only that, but you also blatantly equivocate and go from a “necessary” creator that all theistic religions invoke to suddenly talking about your own personal “God”. This is dishonest. It is like saying a mountain must have a creator, then suddenly stating this demonstrates that your mountain-building pet troll named Jebus must therefore exist. This is a common tactic among dishonest theists of all religions. And, once again, you fail to consider the majority of cosmologists, those who are in a position to best know whether something can come from nothing, yet do not believe even in an Einsteinian god, much less the personal one you equivocate to.

    1d continued: That is correct. I believe it is not objectively evil to torture babies for fun. Objective morality is an imaginary notion. There is no objective morality. There are only emotions. The fact that both you and I will do our utmost to defend tortured babies only substantiates the existence of our common emotions, and in no way substantiates an objective morality. If objective morality did exist, it most certainly would not come from the subjectively emotional and capricious god of the bible who once commanded raped women to marry their rapists, plus set down guidelines for the “proper” treatment of slaves. If you dig to the foundation, you’ll discover that there are merely emotions that guide our standards of behavior; nothing else.

    1f continued: The problem of evil is a weak argument. There is no reason why any god of the universe would not be evil himself. If he is god, he can act as evil as he wants. This problem of evil is not my argument. Christians like to focus on the problem of evil since it can be plugged with various dubious apologetics. This is a distraction from the gross absurdities found in the very gospel at the core of their faith. You are now calling me on my “bluff”. Here is what I propose. We will have a rigorous debate on the proposition “Biblical redemption is logically incoherent”. with 3 successive exchanges of 1,500 words, 1,000 words, and 300 words. Agreed? The entire purpose of these question posts was to arrive at an understanding of each other’s position to a degree that we can competently debate each other. I think we have now reached that point. Agreed?

    4c continued: I did not say a first cause was likely. Possible and likely are very different. Once again, why are you ignoring the consensus among the bulk of cosmologist who believe that there was no necessary first cause? I am now reading “A Universe from Nothing”. Krauss cogently explains why indeed the universe could be a “brute fact”. Your insistence that a first cause is a necessity is behind the science. Plus you ignore the logical impossibility of a mind transcending a physical substrate. You pick and choose what you want to call “logical” or “illogical” without any standard to distinguish between them. When cornered on statements such as your statement that “Jesus could sin and could not sin”, you merely call this a “paradox” without adding any consistent way to distinguish between a paradox and a logical inconsistency. This abuse of the definition and principles of logic is what is the most damning evidence that theists have no actual commitment to the pursuit of truth, but are merely attempting to shore up comforting conclusions at any cost to rationality.

    7a continued: Yes, I can dismantle the very core of christianity; the absurd notions surrounding biblical redemption. See my debate challenge under “1f continued”.

Tim: Phil, you claim that I am being dishonest, but this is not an argument; it is only an ad hominem attack. I did not “claim that [my] creator came from nothing.” That is nothing more than the old atheist standby, “If God made the universe, then who made God?” This brings us right back to the questions of origins that you keep dodging—apparently because you know your position is weak. Likewise, with regards to the charge you have made in other posts on this site to the effect that I have misrepresented your position, this is clearly a place where you’ve done that to mine. If I have done that, it was simply a mistake and not an intentional twisting of your words. I presume that is the case when you do that as well, as my intention is to generally give people the benefit of the doubt unless it is quite obvious that that is not the case.
You mentioned you’ve been reading Lawrence Krauss’ book “A Universe From Nothing,” and so now you seem to be using it at a convenient excuse to cop out on this main issue. As I want to work on this point a bit more, I’ll refer to that in T4P-#1, the thread about the origin of the universe.

I see from the tone of your new debate challenge that you are bringing this back to the same point you started with in P4T-#2: How might a human following an unrequested and unavoidable sin nature be held culpable? I’ve already answered that as best I can, though obviously not to your liking. You accuse me of “irrationality” and not having an “actual commitment to the pursuit of truth,” but I can just as easily return the same charges on you. And so we get nowhere. Likewise, having now looked at your previous debate on this same topic on this website, using the same format you’re wanting me to debate with you (to which you gave the highly pejorative title of “snakeoilJesus”), I can’t say that we would be accomplishing much more than simply restating the same points we’ve already discussed. Thus, I have a counter proposal.
Instead of going off in that direction, I would like to point out the necessity of first considering whether the generic God exists before debating who would qualify for the identity of such a God. It seems pretty meaningless to debate the characteristics of a God who doesn’t exist, if that indeed is the case. This is not to say that your challenge to the Christian notion of redemption is not worthy of debate. Indeed, the way you formulate your challenge is indeed a challenging one that has given me pause. I do believe your argument is flawed, but I do acknowledge that it is a challenge, and traditional Christian teaching on this topic is not something I can say I fully understand either. After all, theologians have been debating the best way to understand it all for centuries. So prior to any further debate on that topic, let’s first deal with the evidence (or lack thereof) for a generic creator.

You state you aren’t a committed materialist, but essentially everything I hear you saying belies that. If your stance is that a mind cannot exist without a physical substrate, then by the ordinary meaning of the term, you are a materialist (physicalist).
You claimed in various posts to be “following the evidence wherever it leads” (not a direct quote, but the essence of your claim), but I see the opposite. You seem committed to “cherry-picking” the evidence that you think backs up your preconceived notions and downplaying or even ignoring anything that doesn’t — something you have accused me of doing. Thus, from my perspective, you are doing the very things you accuse me of doing, and so we can only make our cases and let others judge who is the one that is avoiding the issues.
Now, back to the issue of near-death experiences and their relation to mind-body dualism, which is the topic of this thread. While by definition, observational science cannot directly access the non-physical realm, should it exist, such a realm can be legitimately inferred from effects it has in the material world. The biggest “effect,” of course, is the universe itself, but that is the topic of another thread. To maintain the worldview of materialism (the physical world is all that exists), it is essential to deny any potential evidence to the contrary. (This same liability does not exist with theism, since we affirm the physical realm and are not compelled to deny any data coming from it in order to prop up a general theistic worldview.) So, what evidence do we have that near-death experiences (NDE) are genuine? The following is a list of 9 lines of evidence, based on a cross-cultural, cross-gender, multi-age, cross-religious sociological survey of people who have experienced near-death experiences, as reported in the recent book: “Evidence of the Afterlife: The Science of Near-Death Experiences.” (Jeffrey Long and Paul Perry, Harper One, 2011)
The lines of evidence are:
◦ It is medically inexplicable to have a highly organized and lucid experience while unconscious or clinically dead.
◦ NDErs may see and hear in the out-of-body (OBE) state, and what they perceive is nearly always real.
◦ NDEs occur during general anesthesia when no form of consciousness should be taking place.
◦ A life review during the NDE accurately reflects real events in the NDErs life, even forgotten events.
◦ Nearly all beings encountered during NDEs are deceased, and most are relatives.
◦ The striking similarity of content in NDEs among very young children and that of adults strongly suggests that the content of NDEs is not due to preexisting beliefs.
◦ The remarkable consistency of NDEs around the world is evidence that NDEs are real events.
◦ NDErs are transformed in many ways by their experience, often for life.
◦ NDEs take place among those who are blind, and these NDEs often include visual experience.
These points provide supporting evidence for life after death, and thus, belief in life after death is not illogical.
So, the obvious question to ask you is whether you are going to hold that no form of conscious existence after physical death exists? Or are you going to inform your view based on the evidence? This would address your point, “If there is no evidence of an after-life, we align our beliefs with that evidence rather than aligning our beliefs with what we wish were so.” As with so many points you have raised in this overall discussion, the knife cuts both ways. I can easily claim that it is you that wishes death to be all there is and are thus aligning your beliefs with that wish, irrespective of the evidence.
Another way of putting it is to use an analogy to frame the question. For instance, do you believe black holes exist even though no one has actually seen one? Presumably you do accept their existence, and for good reason, as their effects are directly observable (i.e., we can detect phenomena that can only be explained by the presence of what we term “black holes”). In the same way, Near Death Experiences provide evidence of life after death (see the 9 points above), and so the concept is not incoherent, as it has empirical data to support it. How is this different from believing in black holes?
Likewise, you said, “On my side, if I have a strong emotional desire for there not to be a god, that does not in any way constitute evidence that there is no god.” Agreed. So let’s just set aside this commentary on emotional desire, because it is a stalemate. Instead, please provide your arguments for the non-existence of God. (It is helpful to put it in logical syllogistic form, but as long as the argument and the rationale for that argument is clear, the format is not so important.) Also, stop bringing in non-historical entities (Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny or any other such notions) as supposed analogies to God, because I too agree they don’t exist, since they aren’t historical. That only works if you assume that God is a conjured up fantasy, but that’s begging the question. We must judge based on scientific and historical evidence.
One other point concerning mind-body dualism is that given that what I understand your claim to be — namely that a non-physical “mind” is simply an emergent property of the physical brain and cannot exist without that brain being functional (related to the points 1 and 3 about NDE), how do you explain the fact that a person’s conscious identity remains constant even though the physical substrate is constantly changing? The physical stuff that makes up our bodies is not the same stuff it was in the past. If I remember correctly, after about 7 years, each molecule in our bodies has been replaced by another molecule, so that one literally is not the same person one was a few years ago — physically, that is. That makes perfect sense in a dualistic framework, but it doesn’t make sense if the physical is all that exists.
Concerning other points you raise, if you actually want to pursue them:
Please provide an argument and some actual evidence for your conclusion, “They [natural laws] are merely abstractions by human minds of the regularity of physical phenomena.”
Please provide your argument for an economy and a mind being analogous. This looks like a non sequitur.
The NDE evidence listed above shows that it is highly probable that a mind can exist without a body. How does this impact your point 5b?

  • Phil: Tim, I made if very clear what you were dishonest about. Now you are suggesting I’m asking you “where did god come from”. Please review what I said about you being dishonest, then acknowledge that your dishonesty had nothing to do with you needing to account for the cause of the first cause. You are dishonest about equivocating between a first cause and your Jehovah. Review how you use the terms “first cause” and “God”.

    Now, the length and verbosity of your last post is precisely why I want a structured debate. A structured debate will assure that each side will be limited to the same amount of words, and require each side to use their words economically to address the actual arguments.

    You think my “position on origins” is weak. It is. I’ve told you time after time I am more than willing to consider a first cause providing there is actual evidence that is supported by the bulk of cosmologists. And of course I don’t want to debate you on something I’m unsure about. What are you trying to do here? Here is a graphic that will hopefully clarify where I stand and which specific positions we hold on which we are in full disagreement.

    20121010-200350.jpg
    You said…

    I would like to point out the necessity of first considering whether the generic God exists before debating who would qualify for the identity of such a God. It seems pretty meaningless to debate the characteristics of a God who doesn’t exist, if that indeed is the case

    I am only interested in demonstrating that the biblical god is imaginary. Has the notion of a generic god diminished peoples’ lives to any degree close to what a revengeful hell-stoking Jehovah has? It is your abusive guilt-mongering and fear-mongering based on a “loving” wrathful biblical Jehovah I intend to shame by demonstrating deductively that such a god is impossible. If you claim to have a golden square triangle in your pocket, then try to convince me by producing a few flakes of gold, I can unequivocally state that your initial claim of having a golden square triangle is baloney. You may have something in your pocket, and it may even be golden, but it is most certainly not a golden square triangle. You may be right about a first cause, and the first cause may even be some strange conscious science-shy god who takes an interest in humans, but you most certainly do not have a first cause that can’t figure out anything better to do with offenders he claims to love other than to eternally torment them. You yourself I hope would unequivocally assert that any earthly father who would do the same would be an immoral monster perverting the notions of love and justice.

    Now, as for NDEs, I am more than willing to look at evidence that there is life after death. Could you point me to some rigorous scientific studies on this? The possibility is fascinating, but I just have not seen cogent scientific evidence yet.

    All the physical laws I’ve encountered have been established inductively. Hence, I stated “They [natural laws] are merely abstractions by human minds of the regularity of physical phenomena.” I’ve never encountered an economic, physical or sociological “law” that was established by anything other than the inductive assessment of data, and the subsequent mental abstraction of a corresponding “law” by humans. Have you?

    Economic laws are products of the inductive assessment of economic phenomena, and the subsequent mental abstraction of a “law” to denote the regularities found in the data. Physical laws are based on the same process of inductive assessment and mental abstraction. No difference other than in the degree of variance. To defeat the analogy, you’ll have to present a meaningful difference in the process.

Tim: I am quite concerned about your insistence of my being “dishonest.” You claim that you’ve made it clear why you think that, but it is not at all clear to me. You are apparently giving an example of this when you said, “Now you are suggesting I’m asking you ‘where did god come from.’” But just what does the sentence in your previous post — “It is clearly illogical in your mind to believe that something can come from nothing, and yet you are claiming that your creator came from nothing”— mean if it doesn’t mean that? It would also be helpful for you to define what you mean by the word “dishonest.” My initial reaction was that you were claiming that I have been lying about something or being purposely deceptive. That is normally what “being dishonest” means. You are perhaps qualifying that somewhat by your next statement, “You are dishonest about equivocating between a first cause and your Jehovah.” Just how am I equivocating (and according to your apparent definition being dishonest)? I could certainly be wrong about my conclusions, but logically the biblical God is one possibility for the First Cause. You may think that the biblical God is incoherent, but that’s begging the question.

When you first approached me by email to see if I would dialog with you, you said that you were “interested in considering any coherent arguments for the Christian position.” Now I hear you saying you are “only interested in demonstrating that the biblical god is imaginary.” And then you do an imitation of Richard Dawkins and his diatribe against God, using similar straw-man arguments. That could certainly be interpreted as being a bit disingenuous in your initial approach to me. (I’ll leave that to you as to how that fits in your definition of “being dishonest!”) (I also might add that in one sense, I could agree with your statement that “the biblical god is imaginary” — namely the “biblical god” as you characterize him! That caricature is “imaginary,” but that’s not the God of the Bible!)

Now, with respect to the caricatures of the biblical God you list, these have been addressed in detail in books such as Paul Copan’s “Is God a Moral Monster?: Making Sense of the Old Testament God” and “The Dawkins Delusion?: Atheist Fundamentalism and the Denial of the Divine,” by Alister and Joanna McGrath. If you are actually open to considering the evidence and arguments as to why these are false caricatures of God, then I suggest you take a look at those books.

You ask me what I’m trying to do in this thread. And then you post the same diagram that you did in the other active thread (T4P-#3). As I have already commented on that diagram there, I won’t comment on it further here. As for my intentions, I am simply intending to respond to your initial request to make a presentation of “coherent arguments for the Christian position.” I am willing to be in dialog on these important issues, but not to be manipulated by you into the kind of restricted debate format where you’re simply going to make a bunch of caricatured straw-man arguments against God which I’m supposed to respond to in a few words. I’m interested in showing that there must be a conscious mind behind the creation of the universe and then to deduce from the evidence what the general characteristics such a Creator must have in order to adequately explain the evidence. Then, we can see how well that lines up with what the Bible actually teaches concerning God. If you are not interested in pursuing any further what you initially requested me to do, then we can just end this exercise here.

A couple of closing thoughts in response to the requests and statements you made at the end of your post. You ask for scientific studies on NDEs. The premier book on this topic that I’m aware of is “Beyond Death: Exploring the Evidence for Immortality,” by Gary Habermas and J.P. Moreland. Likewise, you might be interested in this recent report of a neuroscientist who himself had such an experience. http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/10/07/proof-of-heaven-a-doctor-s-experience-with-the-afterlife.html
As for you statement about physical laws being “merely abstractions by human minds,” what I would say is that the physical laws of this universe were established by the entity that brought the universe into existence. Our human observations of the ordinary regularity of its operations simply allowed us to discover these laws. It is true that we discover them through a process of inductive reasoning, but the point I was objecting to was the reference to them as “merely abstractions by human minds,” as though that somehow meant they weren’t concrete entities.

  • Phil: Tim, do you understand you can’t flip from the concepts of “first cause” to “God” without first providing arguments for all the assumptions between these concepts? I believe you do, and I’ve therefore called you dishonest.

    I’ve invited you to participate in answering each other’s questions on this site. You have stopped answering my questions on the posts I’ve initiated in spite of me continuing to answer your questions on your posts, so it seems it is now time to get to an actual debate. I think you’ve provided enough information for me to demonstrate that your position is incoherent. It’s time to debate the logical incoherence of biblical redemption, wouldn’t you agree? Your “first cause” I don’t necessarily disagree with. And I don’t care how cruel your god acts; a malevolent god is also a possibility. But you can’t have an honest god claiming to be “loving” then acting in the most unloving way imaginable. You would call a human father who claim to love his children who acted like Jehovah a liar, yet you defend Jehovah. Absurd. Here is a graphic to highlight the silliness in suggesting we need to debate a first cause before determining whether your god, as he is defined by the bible, is possible.
    20121017-200114.jpg
    I’m really getting tired of the evasion. You believe in the biblical god, not merely a “first cause” I don’t reject as impossible. I do reject your silly Jehovah as impossible, and I have told you time after time I am prepared to show how. Are you prepared to give a defense of what you believe, or not? If you doubt what you believe, no problem; just admit as much. If, however, you have full confidence you are correct in your beliefs, never fear; you’ll be able to handily rescue your beliefs from my assault since you, unlike myself, have the spirit of god lending a hand in the formulation of your arguments. Forgive my tone, but with your complete lack of willingness to answer my posts while focusing only on your own, plus your unwillingness to defend in a fair debate the very heart of what you actually believe, I’ve not just a bit irritated.

    In respect to physical laws, the best you can do is show there are regularities in the world based on inductive research. These regularities seem to be very regular, and may, in fact, reflect actual laws. But you can not demonstrate that deductively. Therefore, the claim you know they are objective laws is improper.

    In response to your suggestion that the neuroscientist’s account in Newsweek constitutes evidence for NDEs, I was hoping you were joking. But apparently you are not. I had already read the article, and concluded that no serious fan of science would consider offering it as anything close to evidence of NDEs. Apparently, I was wrong. I’ll simply let Sam Harris dismantle this absurd claim. But lest you forget, actual evidence of life-after-death would not redeem your particular god from the realm of impossibility. This impossibility will be demonstrated through an analysis of biblical redemption in a structured debate.
    By the way, your suggestion that you should not be held to the same word count as I am in a debate is absurd. Can you point to a structured debate where one side was given more time or more words for any legitimate reason?
    And if you demonstrate I am strawmanning your god, you win. I think I understand your position enough to show it is internally incoherent to an intelligent and unbiased audience. I’m sure you have confidence I’m wrong. When shall we begin our debate?

Tim:Phil, I’ve tried to be patient with you and assumed from the beginning that you were honestly interested in what arguments there are for the Christian position. That is how you approached me in the first place, saying you were “interested in considering any coherent arguments for the Christian position.” But it is clear to me now that this was a ploy. You simply ignore the arguments I’ve put forth and then escalate your attacks to ever more absurd levels. You claim that “god, as he is defined by the bible,” is characterized by this long list of caricatures you’ve come up with (echoing Richard Dawkins), but I do not accept any of those characterizations. They are nothing more than straw-man arguments based on verses taken out of context and twisted to put them in the worst possible light. As I said in my previous post, there are good books written on the subject that answer all of these charges, and so I would say that if you are actually interested in finding the truth (which I see very little evidence of), you can take a look at them.

Given the nature of your recent posts, I can only conclude that I am wasting my time dealing with you any more, and so I intend to just end my participation in this exchange that you initiated. I get the distinct impression that you are making a hobby out of this, just to see how far you can take it before your opponent gets sick of it and says, “Forget this crap!” That’s where I am now. I have spent many hours on this, putting aside other projects I would have liked to spend time on. In the beginning, I found the exchange rather interesting and useful in organizing my own thoughts and honing arguments. That usefulness has played itself out now, and as I have many other demands on my time, you can consider this my last post. Whether any of this has been useful to anybody else, I have no idea. But as I’ve never seen a single comment posted in the place provided on the website, that would seem to indicate few people are actually finding this site. That’s just one more reason for me to end it here.

  • Phil: Tim says…

    You simply ignore the arguments I’ve put forth…

    Simply note how I’ve responded to every one of your posts, then look at all the threads you’ve left unanswered. You’ve only pursued threads that you find promising to push your worldview, and leave my questions unanswered. You then claim my arguments…

    are nothing more than straw-man arguments based on verses taken out of context and twisted to put them in the worst possible light.

    If they are indeed strawmen arguments, then you would bolster your position by demonstrating as much. But you don’t get to just claim without evidence that I’ve ignored or distorted your arguments.

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