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Thread: Vice Presidentís Commentary On Bob Enyartís Interview Of MSA

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    Vice Presidentís Commentary On Bob Enyartís Interview Of MSA

    I posted this on our blog, but thought maybe it would make a good post for discussion.

    By Chalmer Wren, VP of Metro State Atheists

    Yesterday at 3:00pm Metro State Atheistsí President and co-founder, Joel Guttormson, was interviewed by Bob Enyart on KGOV, 690AM. While I was not interviewed, I did have a great deal to say regarding the content of the interview, so I thought I would share my thoughts with all of you. If you didnít catch the show, check it out at http://kgov.com/bel/20090107. Before getting into things, though, I would like to mention that I accompanied Joel to the studio and had the pleasure of meeting Bob myself. Bob was polite and accommodating. Joel and I both had a great time, and we are both very grateful to Bob for inviting us to appear on the show. Also, Bob, if you read this please let me know if I misrepresented you or the points you made.

    Near the beginning of the interview, Bob asked Joel why he is an Atheist. Joel gave some information about his background, but never specifically answered the question. Firstly, we believe that there is insufficient evidence to reasonably conclude that God(s) exist. We feel that the burden of proof is on the believer, and unless the believer can produce good evidence, we have no reason to agree with them. Secondly, we think it is reasonable to conclude that God(s), or at least most of the ones that have been presented to us, probably do not exist.

    We hold to the improbability of God(s) for several reasons. Many of the God(s) presented to us have logically inconsistent definitions. Epicurus first introduced what is generally referred to as the problem of evil in the following quotation:
    "Either God wants to abolish evil, and cannot; or he can, but does not want to. If he wants to, but cannot, he is impotent. If he can, but does not want to, he is wicked. If God can abolish evil, and God really wants to do it, why is there evil in the world?"
    This is only one example at an attempt to reconcile the conflicting attributes often assigned to God. For more examples, you might try David Hume, one of my favorite philosophers. These sort of objections to Godí(sí) existence are not at all uncommon, and should not be hard to find. Click here for more information on the problem of evil. I donít want to get into the details of these arguments right now, but would be glad to expand on any of them if asked to do so. I should clarify that we are not absolutely certain that no God(s) exist, we simply think that the most reasonable conclusion, given our present evidence and understanding, is that God(s) probably does not exist.

    Joel mentions that he is an empiricist; as am I. Within the scope of epistemology, three main groups exist which are empiricism, dualism, and rationalism. None of these epistemological positions necessarily restrict one from or force one to believe in God(s). Empiricism is the position that knowledge comes exclusively from the senses. David Hume was an empiricist and, while some might disagree, I believe that Immanuel Kant was an empiricist as well. Rationalism is the position that knowledge is is not acquired from experience, but that it is innate. Dualism, as the name implies, sits right in the middle of the aforementioned views. Dualism is the position that some knowledge comes from experience, and that some is innate. Rene Descartes and Plato, for example, were dualists. For more on dualism, click here.

    Now, based on the discussion between Joel and Bob, I suspect that Bob is a dualist. This is not at all surprising. Though dualism does not necessarily lead to theism, or the converse, philosophical dualism is the prevailing outlook in western religion (not to say that it isnít prevalent else were). I can only speculate that this is becuase dualism, if presumed accurate, makes believing in God(s) a great deal easier becuase it allows for the existence of a non-physical aspect of our reality.

    Joel mentions he is a theoretical math major early on, which later prompts Bob to challenge the basis of Joelís empiricism by appealing to the non-physical nature of the principles expressed in mathematics. The objection that I believe Bob is making is essentially that concepts are of a non-physical nature. He goes on to give a clever analogy, stating

    ďIf you rubbed your hand on a piece of paper over an equation could you feel that its validĒ
    Though this is a valid point, I does not refute the notion that mathematical concepts are non-physical. We hold that concepts, ideas, notions, and other cognitive occurrences are a manifestation of physical interactions in the brain. Though we can not observe a principle in the way we can smell flowers or hear music, principles and concepts must stem from observation. Our concepts of depth, color, or even complexity are abstract derivations that we reach by thinking about our observations. I challenge anyone reading this to find within themselves a concept that neither describes a direct observation or that can be abstracted from an observation. I see no reason to conclude that conceptual understanding is not an emergent property of the natural human mind. For more on this topic, please see The Mind Body Problem. This particular topic is far to extensive for me to cover it in this post, but anyone interested in more details should ask.

    Bob goes on to claim that reason, or rather our ability to apply reason to our observations, precede our observations. The ability to reason can not be observed, and I agree with Bob on this. However, the ability to reason could just as easily be attributed to the natural human mind as it could to a spirit or soul. Reason, we believe, is an intrinsic function of the physical human brain, just as acceleration is a property of a functioning automobile.

    Well thatís all for now. I could talk about epistemology for days, so I will refrain from further elaboration unless someone asks for it. Once again, thank you Bob Enyart and KGOV for having us.

    - Chalmer Wren

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    LIFETIME MEMBER tetelestai's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Metro State Atheists View Post
    Joel mentions that he is an empiricist; as am I. Within the scope of epistemology, three main groups exist which are empiricism, dualism, and rationalism. None of these epistemological positions necessarily restrict one from or force one to believe in God(s). Empiricism is the position that knowledge comes exclusively from the senses.
    Hi Metro:

    We must first of all recognize that man has certain limitations in dealing with the subject of God. As you stated, rationalism & empiricism are part of epistemology, but what you left out was faith.

    There are really three ways one can learn things or three systems of perception:

    1) Rationalism

    2) Empiricism

    3) Faith

    Everything that you have learned in life has been through one of these systems of perception. Rationalism simply means that the mind and the IQ are the criterion for reality. This is perception through reason.

    Empiricism brings the sensory system into the picture; this refers to perception through observation and experimentation. This is the scientific method. Reality in empiricism is what you smell, see, hear, taste, or feel.

    Faith is the means of perception which accepts an established truth as the basis of reality. To operate in faith there must be confidence or belief in the authority and truth of another. Faith says..."on the basis of the authority and the truth of the one stating the fact I believe that what is being said is true."

    This means that to try to comprehend the existence of God, or the doctrine of the trinity, the doctrine of divine essence, the incarnation, etc by either rationalism or empiricism, or both, would inevitably result in rejection, which is what atheists do.

    However, an atheist has no problem believing it is cold at the North Pole even though rationalism and empiricism are not used in believing so. Faith is used for such a belief (Assuming the atheist has never been to the North Pole)

    So, even though you don’t acknowledge it, there is a great deal of your personal epistemology that is based on faith.

    Faith in God is rejected by you, because of your volitional choice to only use rationalism and/or empiricism when it comes to the topic of God.

    Moreover, this would make you a pluralist not a dualist.
    Last edited by tetelestai; January 13th, 2009 at 08:58 PM.
    (1 Cor 1:13 KJV) Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?

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    1) Rationalism

    2) Empiricism

    3) Faith
    Give me an example of a fact gained through faith, and the means by which it is reached.


    Faith is the means of perception which accepts an established truth as the basis of reality. To operate in faith there must be confidence or belief in the authority and truth of another. Faith says..."on the basis of the authority and the truth of the one stating the fact I believe that what is being said is true."
    So faith is an appeal to authority fallacy?

    However, an atheist has no problem believing it is cold at the North Pole even though rationalism and empiricism are not used in believing so. Faith is used for such a belief (Assuming the atheist has never been to the North Pole)
    My opinion that the north pool is cold is based on empirical evidence, not faith. Embracing aspects of rationalism and empiricism is dualism, not pluralism.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Metro State Atheists View Post
    Give me an example of a fact gained through faith, and the means by which it is reached.
    I never said anything about facts. I said there are three systems of perception. You claim there are only two.

    So faith is an appeal to authority fallacy?
    Whether you like it or not, all of your knowledge is not strictly from empiricism and/or rationalism. Part of your knowledge has come from faith, and some of that faith has come from an appeal to the authority that has presented facts (or fiction) to you.

    The opposite of "appeal to authority fallacy" is an "ad hominem attack". Since this is not an argument on whether there is a God or not, why are you claiming "appeal to authority fallacy"? Even if this was an argument on whether or not there is a God, do you think I would be using ad hominem attacks?

    I am simply stating that everyone has faith along with empiricism and rationalism.

    Moreover, I disagree with you about the North Pole. Since you have never been there to see it, or experience the temperature there, it requires faith for you to believe it is cold there.

    You are putting faith in the men that actually went to the North Pole, and using what they discovered through their own empiricism, as your knowledge. However this knowledge that you have is from faith, whereas the knowledge Adm. Perry had was from empiricism.

    Somehow as an atheist, you feel the need to claim you have faith in nothing. Somehow you feel an admitance of faith in other human beings is one step closer towards faith in God, and this scares you.

    So, you go around claiming you have faith in nothing, or that knowledge cannot be obtained from faith.
    (1 Cor 1:13 KJV) Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?

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    Quote Originally Posted by tetelestai View Post
    I never said anything about facts. I said there are three systems of perception. You claim there are only two.
    Alright, how does what perceive through faith? What is the mechanism?


    Whether you like it or not, all of your knowledge is not strictly from empiricism and/or rationalism. Part of your knowledge has come from faith, and some of that faith has come from an appeal to the authority that has presented facts (or fiction) to you.
    If such is the case, then faith is not a source of knowledge, but of error and guess. On can not accept something from a purported authority without understanding why it is true and then proceed to call it knowledge. I believe in nothing but what my reason and observations tell me. If you beg to differ, could you please cite and example of something I believe in taken solely on the basis of "faith." Moreover, could you define faith?
    The opposite of "appeal to authority fallacy" is an "ad hominem attack". Since this is not an argument on whether there is a God or not, why are you claiming "appeal to authority fallacy"? Even if this was an argument on whether or not there is a God, do you think I would be using ad hominem attacks?
    I don't know that you would or wouldn't. My point is that accepting information on the basis of authority alone is foolish becuase it hardly constitutes knowledge. Faith, as I think you might be defining it, allows one to believe in whatever suits them. Faith can lead to the belief in unicorns, astrology, and the inferiority of other races just as easily as it can lead to a belief in God. Faith is not a source of knowledge, it is a source of belief.

    I am simply stating that everyone has faith along with empiricism and rationalism.
    I understand that, but would like an example of how I or someone like me applies faith and rationalism in order to attain knowledge. DO you feel that knowledge is not necessarily true?
    Moreover, I disagree with you about the North Pole. Since you have never been there to see it, or experience the temperature there, it requires faith for you to believe it is cold there.
    It only requires that I establish it beyond a reasonable doubt. We have countless photos, terrestrial and from satellites, as well as countless first hand experiences. One can predict the temperature of the poles based on their exposure to the sun and the orbit of the earth. I have traveled to many parts of the world, can the closer to the equator I am, the warmer things seem to get...the converse is true when traveling closer to the poles. The idea of the north pool being cold is consistent with the patterns of sea water and wind circulation. Suppose all the pictures, witnesses, the correlation of the seasons with earth orbit and tilt with respect to the sun, and so many other sources of evidence. Would this not be the most fantastic and elaborate hoax, albeit entirely pointless and without motive, ever? Imagine the shear scope of such a hoax. Imagine the billions of individuals who would have to be totally and completely silenced, such that no glimmer of their objection has ever surface. And, if I'm ever so inclined to increase the level of my certainty, I can always visit. While I am not certain of the pole's temperatures, I can say that it has been established beyond a reasonable doubt.

    You are putting faith in the men that actually went to the North Pole, and using what they discovered through their own empiricism, as your knowledge. However this knowledge that you have is from faith, whereas the knowledge Adm. Perry had was from empiricism.
    Not in the slightest. Faith would imply that I have so rational reason to believe them. You are also assuming that this is my one and only means of determination, when it is not. Regardless, my belief would still be coming from my observation of another, and therefore my understanding would be derived from experience. In order to claim knowledge of something you must, at the very least, be able to say that it is probably true. Witness testimony, in and of itself, simply is not good enough to meet the criteria for knowledge. Faith is not a source of knowledge, but of belief, specifically derived from blind adherence to the subjective and error prone faculties of another indavidual.

    Somehow as an atheist, you feel the need to claim you have faith in nothing. Somehow you feel an admitance of faith in other human beings is one step closer towards faith in God, and this scares you.
    In brings one closer to believing an any absurdity they please. Why should I choose to ignore one authority and not another? The answer, and I think this is true for anyone of faith, is that my natural emotional affections and aversions should guide me from one prophet of knowledge another.
    So, you go around claiming you have faith in nothing, or that knowledge cannot be obtained from faith.
    It can't. If faith, according to you, is an appeal to authority, why not make a 4th category as a source of knowledge? How about the appeal to ignorance. No one can prove its false, therefore I know that it is true. In a rational discourse we throw out the appeal to authority for good reason. Faith, as you define it, is irrational. This is not some extra source of knowledge. All you have done is eliminate one single criteria for a reasonable conclusion, so that you may use it to believe in what ever tickles your fancy.
    - Chalmer

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    Quote Originally Posted by Metro State Atheists View Post
    ...Epicurus first introduced what is generally referred to as the problem of evil in the following quotation:
    "Either God wants to abolish evil, and cannot; or he can, but does not want to."

    Or He desires to and can but will not. This is the posit Epicurus omits from consideration (one that ends the impotence speculation and the nonsensical measuring of the measure) and his error flows from it. The next question would be why does God refrain from doing that which He desires and can doÖat that point we enter into the discussion of will and purpose and the role of man in creation.

    "If God can abolish evil, and God really wants to do it, why is there evil in the world?"

    The short answer would be because we are here, limited beings with imperfect reason and temptations pulling our nature toward its destruction and that we are given freedom to make moral distinction and choice.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Town Heretic View Post
    "Either God wants to abolish evil, and cannot; or he can, but does not want to."

    Or He desires to and can but will not. This is the posit Epicurus omits from consideration (one that ends the impotence speculation and the nonsensical measuring of the measure) and his error flows from it. The next question would be why does God refrain from doing that which He desires and can doÖat that point we enter into the discussion of will and purpose and the role of man in creation.
    For this very reason, I do not find Epicurus' argument particularly compelling.

    The short answer would be because we are here, limited beings with imperfect reason and temptations pulling our nature toward its destruction and that we are given freedom to make moral distinction and choice.
    What we find ourselves right back at square one. If God is benevolent and omnipotent, then he must eliminate evil, even if doing so mean robbing us of our free will. We also have to consider the subjective nature of suffering. Perhaps what we deem as evil or suffering is not what God deems as evil. The problem of evil is an interesting argument, but I think it depends to much upon our subjective criteria of good and bad.
    - Chalmer

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    Quote Originally Posted by Metro State Atheists View Post
    For this very reason, I do not find Epicurus' argument particularly compelling.
    ...then, well, why the devil make it and have me waste time pointing out its flaws?
    What we find ourselves right back at square one. If God is benevolent and omnipotent, then he must eliminate evil, even if doing so mean robbing us of our free will.
    That's an assumption no more or less reasonably supported than one claiming man's moral autonomy is inviolate. You're making the same sort of mistake Epicurus does in assuming that if God cannot do all that can be done He is not omnipotent. Rather, God cannot do any number of things and those things remain unrelated to His power. God cannot act contrary to His nature, cannot reason imperfectly, cannot do that which is logically impossible, like create a square circle, to offer a few examples.
    We also have to consider the subjective nature of suffering. Perhaps what we deem as evil or suffering is not what God deems as evil.
    No Christian with at thought in his head will tell you that suffering is evil. Now a man doing that which works contrary to the perfect will of God is doing evil. Evil is a willful act of disobedience. That God's ways are not our ways is inarguably true, as His understanding is above our own. But it would be a cruel and imperfect God who let His children live without an understanding of the distinction between the good and evil act and God is good.
    The problem of evil is an interesting argument, but I think it depends to much upon our subjective criteria of good and bad.
    - Chalmer
    That's in the nature of the debate. Either it is relative, in which case we might as well substitute preference for evil or good and we have no more or less objective claim to make the distinction than any other man...or morality proceeds from an absolute source and authority, one requiring neither our assent nor recognition to exist in perpetuity and we are called to a particular conduct and obligation.
    Last edited by Town Heretic; January 14th, 2009 at 02:08 PM.
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    Over 6000 post club rexlunae's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Town Heretic View Post
    "Either God wants to abolish evil, and cannot; or he can, but does not want to."

    Or He desires to and can but will not.
    In other words, God wants to eliminate evil, but more then that he wants to permit us to do evil.

    Seems to make nonsense of attempts to ban...well, anything...based upon Biblical or religious rules. Who knew...God is a secularist?
    Global warming denialists are like gravity denialists piloting a helicopter, determined to prove a point. We may not have time to actually persuade them of their mistake.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rexlunae View Post
    In other words, God wants to eliminate evil, but more then that he wants to permit us to do evil.

    Seems to make nonsense of attempts to ban...well, anything...based upon Biblical or religious rules. Who knew...God is a secularist?
    This argument certainly puts human free will at a premium, doesn't it? More than relieving suffering, the almighty thinks we creatures of dirt and ash deserve to agonize and agonize one another. I'm not sure if this kind of clinical detachment and hands-off sadism is touching or torturous.
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    Quote Originally Posted by rexlunae View Post
    In other words, God wants to eliminate evil, but more then that he wants to permit us to do evil.
    That's not up to your usual standard, rex. A perfectly good being cannot desire evil and it's peculiar to suggest it. The distinction is between moral autonomy and God's desire, not an extension of God's desire into a perversion of His will.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Town Heretic View Post
    That's not up to your usual standard, rex. A perfectly good being cannot desire evil and it's peculiar to suggest it. The distinction is between moral autonomy and God's desire, not an extension of God's desire into a perversion of His will.
    I didn't say that he desired evil directly, only that he desired to permit us to do evil, which seems to be an implication of your suggested solution to the problem of evil. It's merely a specific case of the general statement that God permits us free will even as it contradicts his own will.
    Global warming denialists are like gravity denialists piloting a helicopter, determined to prove a point. We may not have time to actually persuade them of their mistake.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Metro State Atheists View Post
    For this very reason, I do not find Epicurus' argument particularly compelling.



    What we find ourselves right back at square one. If God is benevolent and omnipotent, then he must eliminate evil, even if doing so mean robbing us of our free will. We also have to consider the subjective nature of suffering. Perhaps what we deem as evil or suffering is not what God deems as evil. The problem of evil is an interesting argument, but I think it depends to much upon our subjective criteria of good and bad.
    - Chalmer
    This comes up all the time and I am in agreement with you that Christians give poor answers most of the time. I reason from the point of the objective: Manís objective in life is to obtain Godly type Love so he can Love God and others. This ďLoveĒ is defined by Jesus and His words, but can also be found in 1 Cor. 13 and in Johnís writings. God created humans in the first place as a result of His Love, Godís Love would have compelled Him to create agents that could obtain Godly type Love for the sake of those that would obtain Godly type Love. God objective with man is to do all He can to help willing humans fulfill their object. (God being Love means He is totally unselfish which is demonstrated in all that He does.)

    You like many do not understand why a Loving God would not put all humans in a Garden of Eden situation? God took the best human representatives the human race could have and put them in the Garden and they fail (like any rational person could expect), but it showed us the advantage we humans have outside the Garden and that God will provide a better place for us when we are ready. God has to quench His desire for us to be in a heaven type home, so we can have the honor and privilege of obtaining Godly type Love. This world is ideally suited for willing individuals to obtain Godly type Love and grow Godly type Love.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rexlunae View Post
    I didn't say that he desired evil directly, only that he desired to permit us to do evil, which seems to be an implication of your suggested solution to the problem of evil.
    It's your inclusion of "to do evil" that slants the posit. He creates us with the ability to distinguish and make moral choice. His desire can only be for our good and that we make those choices in accordance with His will. The choice itself leaves open the possibility that we will defy His desire and choose unwisely. Had you stated,

    In other words, God wants to eliminate evil, but more then that he wants to permit us to choose

    I wouldn't have had the same objection (I would have objected to the "more than" which was needlessly assumptive). Words mean things and their arrangement draws inference. You're aware of that and so my objection remains.
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    Quote Originally Posted by bling View Post
    God created humans in the first place as a result of His Love,
    Says who?

    Where in the world do you get this idea from?
    (1 Cor 1:13 KJV) Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?

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