Letter To Vox Day III

by Luke Muehlhauser on October 12, 2009 in Ethics,General Atheism,Letters

Vox Day is a Christian blogger and author of The Irrational Atheist. We have agreed to a friendly dialogue about the reasons for our beliefs, though we’ll try to avoid regurgitating all the usual arguments for and against the existence of God. First, read my first letter, Vox’s first  letter, my second letter, and Vox’s second letter. This is my third letter to Vox.

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Vox,

Again, I’ll break this into sections.

Evolution

I agree evolution is a tangent, but once again I can’t let you get away with what you’ve said. In your first letter, you made many unsupported (and false) assertions about evolution, for example that evolution is “of little material value to science” and that “the predictive models evolutionary theory produces are reliably incorrect.” I responded by quoting your assertions verbatim and then directly rebutting them with relevant evidence, argument, and examples. In your second letter, you again refused to support any of your claims about evolution, and instead resorted to empty hand-waving:

If you do happen to investigate [my points] in the future you will discover… that it isn’t even possible to credibly dispute them.

Your repeated refusal to support your own claims is a direct violation of your own rules for your own blog, specifically Rule #2:

You are expected to back up your assertions… The dishonest and evasive tactics that are so common in Internet argumentation are not permitted here…

Tactics

Instead of backing up your claims with argument and evidence, your tactics rely mostly on obscurantism and dismissal.

First, obscurantism. You seem hell-bent on demonstrating that I misunderstand you at every turn. But it is not surprising that I misunderstand you, as you continuously make vague claims and then refuse to explain what they mean, let alone defend them. I already gave examples from your treatment of evolution. Another example from your first post:

I suspect that unless you can understand why the first book in C.S. Lewis’s Space Trilogy is called Out of the Silent Planet, unless you fully grasp the implications of the temptation of Jesus in the desert, you cannot possibly understand much about Christianity or the degree of difference between it and other religions.

After reading this sentence, I expected you to then make your point, but no… you just left it hanging in obscurity.1 It is sentences like these that make me think you tend towards obscurantism, a common tactic of those who don’t want to express themselves with clarity because if they did, they could be easily refuted.

Also, you keep saying I am unfamiliar with Christian theology:

I also note that given your obvious failure to correctly grasp some central aspects of Christian theology, the rational basis of your rejection of Christianity is necessarily called into question.

But the problem is that I am too familiar with Christian theology – or rather, Christian theologies. I know that Christians defend a bewildering array of contradictory doctrines, and of course I don’t know in advance which ones you adhere to. For example, you defend the view that God’s goodness is arbitrary (and thus God would be good even if he raped and mutilated millions of children for the fun of it), and that members of other religions genuinely experience their own gods. These are pretty non-standard doctrines, and I could not have predicted you would hold them.2

The same goes for your non-omnipotent concept of God, which we’ll come to later. The problem is not that I have incorrectly grasped the central aspects of Christian theology. The problem (for our discussion) is that you have rejected them, in favor of less popular doctrines. Now of course that’s just fine of you to reject mainstream Christian theology, but I don’t think you can charge me with ignorance of Christian theology for attacking mainstream Christian theology.

Second, dismissal. This appears to be another favorite tactic of yours, since it is far easier to insult someone’s intelligence and run away than to support your own claims with argument and evidence. Here are some examples from your own comments following your second letter:

The average individual can’t be expected to have any idea what I’m talking about [regarding evolution], as we’ve seen already.

Of course I’m dismissive. There is much that merits dismissal.

…I am about as uncaring about your opinion, or most other people’s opinions, as it is possible to be. You see, most people are idiots.

…if people who obviously suffer from a mild form of autism [ aka atheists] will stop making asses of themselves here, I will be happy to cease making fun of them. You appear not to understand that there is definitely something abnormal in the brains of those I describe as socially autistic. Do you think it’s just a coincidence that a certain subset of atheists tend to believe and behave the same way?

If you genuinely find [my arguments] incoherent, this is a demonstration of your intellectual limitations, not the incoherency of the arguments.

So here’s what I ask: If you can’t take the time to support your own claims, could you at least link to a place where you do support your claims?

Why you are a Christian

In my first letter, I pointed out that even if the ontological argument, cosmological argument, teleological argument, and the arguments for the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection succeed, that still doesn’t establish the truth of Christianity. I asked: “So why are you a Christian?” You replied: “Because I believe in evil.”

We agree that the central question here is “of [the] various accounts of evil, which most closely parallels the evil that we can observe and experience in the material world?” Is the existence of evil evidence for Zoroastrianism, or Buddhism, or Islam, or Christianity, or naturalism? Which worldview has the best explanation of the kinds of evil we observe in our universe? I wrote that:

All religions have an account of evil. So evil is just as much evidence for their truth as for the truth of Christianity.

But this was an obvious over-simplification, for I went on to show how evil fits better with Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, and naturalism than with Christianity. For example:

…consider the atheistic/deistic hypothesis that the universe is indifferent to the joy or suffering of humans and animals. This seems to fit the facts much better than the hypothesis that an all-powerful, perfectly loving God controls our universe.3

Now, I was surprised to hear you say that

I very much agree with you when you write that “an all-good, all-powerful God doesn’t fit very cleanly with the amount of pointless suffering we see all around the world.”

But, you say:

The Christian God does not rule this world. [Satan] does… While it is true there are Christians who disagree with me on this point and insist that this world is precisely as God planned it and therefore the best of all possible worlds… my view [against] omniderigence is well-documented.

So you avoid the problem of evil by saying that God is not, after all, all-powerful. Here again you endorse a non-Orthodox view of Christian doctrine. Now that is just fine, but it also means that you might actually agree with my contention that, say, Zoroastrianism has a better account of evil than [orthodox] Christianity.

So I have a suggestion. I’ve been saying that the ontological argument, the cosmological argument, the design argument, the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection, and the existence of evil – even if all of them were sound – still would not establish the truth of the Christianity you defend. The problem is that I’m not clear on the Christianity you defend, since it is obviously quite distant from orthodox Christianity. So how about this? Could you lay down Vox Day Christianity (VDC for short) as a set of about 7-15 propositions so that we can all understand what you do defend?

In The Irrational Atheist you quote Garrison Keillor, to whom I listened as a Minnesota teenager:

She was an atheist, but she was a Lutheran atheist, so she knew exactly what God she didn’t believe in.

I’ve been saying that even if we grant all the usual arguments for God’s existence and the resurrection of Jesus and the existence of evil, that still doesn’t justify orthodox Christian doctrines. I’m pretty sure they don’t justify Vox Day Christianity, either, but I need to know what it is you defend before I can show why it is unjustified.

Finally, I don’t understand your argument about the justification of Christianity:

The reason Christianity is rationally justified even though the ontological argument, cosmological argument, teleological argument, the magical resurrection of Jesus, and the existence of evil do not entail the complete truth of Christianity… [is that] they still suffice to establish the Bible as the most credible authority regarding that which is unknown.

I do not see at all how these arguments establish the Bible as a credible source, especially given long list of contradictions, absurdities, and falsehoods to be found in the Bible. The arguments you cite say nothing about whether the a particular book is credible or not. They only establish the existence of some kind of God and the magical resurrection of an ancient Jew.

Now, it could be that I do not understand your argument because I am an idiot. That may be your interpretation. But perhaps I do not understand your argument because your argument is weak or incoherent. But in order for any of us to know which is the case, we must have you present your argument in clear form so that it can be analyzed with the rules of logic.

Christianity and human behavior

Vox, you said:

I wrote that Christianity was a better guide to human behavior than those other religions, and [better] than the very best models the social sciences have produced despite having two thousand more years of human experience upon which to draw. That does increase its probability of being true, even from the secular, scientific perspective.

I don’t see the force of your argument at all. Perhaps you could form this argument more clearly, as a set of premises aimed at establishing the truth of a conclusion?

My own beliefs

Vox, you asked me to clarify my own beliefs, especially about morality, so that you can “inquire further as to the foundation” of my beliefs.

First, I’ll clarify my naturalistic beliefs.

I believe that (1) There are no good reasons to think that any gods exist. Now, in common parlance this translates into “Gods don’t exist,” just as “There are no good reasons to think that Santa Claus exists” translates into “Santa Claus doesn’t exist” in our ordinary language. I cannot logically prove that no gods exist, just as I cannot logically prove that Santa Claus doesn’t exist. But I can show why theistic arguments fail (at least, the ones I’ve had time to investigate), and I can show why certain considerations make it unlikely that we will ever have good reasons to think that gods exist.

I also believe that (2) the consistent success of naturalistic explanations over magical ones warrants an expectation that this trend will continue. Let me quote Richard Carrier on metaphysical naturalism:

The cause of lightning was once thought to be God’s wrath, but turned out to be the unintelligent outcome of mindless natural forces. We once thought an intelligent being must have arranged and maintained the amazingly ordered motions of the solar system, but now we know it’s all the inevitable outcome of mindless natural forces. Disease was once thought to be the mischief of supernatural demons, but now we know that tiny, unintelligent organisms are the cause, which reproduce and infect us according to mindless natural forces. In case after case, without exception, the trend has been to find that purely natural causes underlie any phenomena. Not once has the cause of anything turned out to really be God’s wrath or intelligent meddling, or demonic mischief, or anything supernatural at all. The collective weight of these observations is enormous: supernaturalism has been tested at least a million times and has always lost; naturalism has been tested at least a million times and has always won. A horse that runs a million races and never loses is about to run yet another race with a horse that has lost every single one of the million races it has run. Which horse should we bet on? The answer is obvious.

My moral beliefs

Now, about morality.

I think metaphysical naturalism is highly probable, perhaps 95% probable. I think that orthodox Christian theism is extremely improbable, perhaps less than 0.000001% probable.4

In contrast, I think the the moral theory I currently defend, desirism, is only about 35% probable, but still more probable than any other single theory. I think error theory (a form of moral nihilism) is the next most probable, perhaps 30% probable. Neo-expressivism (another form of moral nihilism) is perhaps 10% probable. Other competing forms of moral realism and anti-realism (including those we have not yet thought of) take up the remaining 25% of the probability space for possible theories of morality.

Of course, whether or not morality “exists” depends on your definition of morality. Let me draw a brief parallel to free will. Whether or not free will “exists” depends on your definition of free will. If “free will” means “contra-causal free will,” then most compatibilists would actually say that free will does not exist (they tend to believe in voluntaristic free will, not contra-causal free will).

Back to morality. Stephen Finlay argues that morality exists. But he says that moral value exists only as a relation between states of affairs and the desires of the speaker, and that there is no “place from nowhere” from which to evaluate whether one speakers ends are morally superior to another’s.

That such a kind of morality exists is trivially true. Obviously, there are relations between states of affairs and a speaker’s desires. Nobody disputes that.

But many of us just wouldn’t call this “morality.” We tend to think of “morality” as having universal evaluative force, not dependent on the desires of particular agents. Of course, there are exceptions, such as your own God-based morality, where morality is dependent only on the desires of a particular agent: God. And so many people just wouldn’t refer to your theory of morality as being a theory about “morality” at all.

So what do I believe about morality? Actually, let me start by talking about value in general. I think a general understanding of value can illuminate our concepts about moral value.

I think value exists as a relation between states of affairs and reasons for action. That’s a semantic point, about the meaning of value terms. I also make an empirical claim: that desires are the only reasons for action that exist. Other reasons for action that have been proposed – categorical imperatives, divine commands, intrinsic values, and so on – simply do not exist.

If this empirical claim is correct, then we can simplify our meaning of “value”: Value exists as a relation between states of affairs and desires. For example, “good” means “such as to fulfill the desires in question.” So, a good butter knife is one that spreads butter smoothly and easily, because the desires in question for such an evaluation are desires to spread butter smoothly and easily. If a robber wants to rob a bank, it is “good” for him to bring a gun because a gun will help fulfill the desires in question: namely, the robber’s desires to rob a bank.

But neither example is a moral use of the word “good.”5 What is a moral use of the word good? One definition that seems to fit with our use of moral language pretty well is to say that a moral use of the word good is one that considers not just the reasons for action in question, but all reasons for action, along with their (potentially varying) strengths.

So, is the robber’s desire to bring a gun with him to rob the bank “good” when considering all the reasons for action that exist? Is this desire morally good? Is this desire “such as to fulfill all desires” (or, more intuitively, “such as to fulfill more and stronger desires than are thwarted”)? That is, is this desire good, “all things considered”?

I would argue that the robber’s desire to rob a bank with a gun is a morally bad desire because it actually tends to thwart more and stronger desires than it fulfills. If we could “turn up” the desire to rob banks with guns such that more people had this desire, and it was a stronger desire within them than before, this would tend to thwart a great many desires – both the desires of those who are physically and financially harmed by these robberies, and the desires of the robbers who are often injured or arrested in the course of robbing banks. In contrast, if we could “turn down” the desire to rob banks with guns such that nobody had such a desire, then the desires of armed bank robbery victims would not be thwarted (because there would be no armed bank robbery victims), and neither would the desires of armed bank robbers be thwarted (because there would be no armed bank robbers).

As it turns out, we can “turn up” or “turn down” these desires, by using praise, condemnation, reward, and punishment.

Now, there are a million other things I could say about desirism. Desirism is open to hundreds of misunderstandings, only a few of which I have yet had time to clear up in my Ethics FAQ. Because I do not have time to write a thousand-page book on the subject right now, I will try to clarify and defend my views as we go along.

As always, I look forward to your response.

Luke

  1. Thankfully, you did explain yourself in your second post. []
  2. Perhaps if I had read thousands of pages of your writing I would know your positions on these topics, but… well, we’ve already talked about that. []
  3. I am happy to retract my characterization of the Christian concept of evil as “a roaming magical force that hunts us down and seeks to destroy us.” That characterization has some Biblical support, but if it is not the one you defend, then that this fine. []
  4. Obviously, these are very rough estimates, only meant to give you an impression of my beliefs. []
  5. For now, I will not consider the aesthetic use of “good,” as in “that is a very good painting.” []

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{ 113 comments… read them below or add one }

John D October 12, 2009 at 7:35 am

Unless my sensus naturalis deceives me, the section on moral beliefs appears to be incomplete…

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John D October 12, 2009 at 7:37 am

Oh I see now, you’re referring back to the lengthy quotation.

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Haukur October 12, 2009 at 9:05 am

Good post, Luke, it’ll be interesting to see how VD responds to this. So far it’s looked to me like he’s been holding firm while your initial probes mostly misfired. But now that you’ve directly called him on lack of clarity he’s going to have to come up with something good or start losing credibility.

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Justfinethanks October 12, 2009 at 9:12 am

If you can’t take the time to support your own claims, could you at least link to a place where you do support your claims?

Oh snap!

I really don’t expect this moron to actually detail his criticisms of evolution. Because in order to intelligently criticize something, you must first understand it. And he clearly doesn’t, as evidenced by his evasion of the issue and his recent post in which he argues that paleontologists may have mislabeled some juvenile dinosaurs, therefore paleontologists can be mistaken, therefore Jesus.

If this dude thinks that
1) The fact of evolution somehow hinges on our paleontological understanding of the cretaceous period.
2) The fact that scientists are willing to entertain new and convincing arguments is a problem for evolutionary theory (which incidentally is contrary to the usual complaint that evolution is dogmatic).

Then he has rejected evolution without having even the dimmest understanding why the world’s scientists are so darned confident it’s a fact.

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Teleprompter October 12, 2009 at 11:21 am

Thank you for calling out Vox on his rampantly unwarranted dismissal and mockery of the intelligences of those who happen to disagree with him.

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Penneyworth October 12, 2009 at 12:27 pm

Think about this quote from Vox’s letter: “Clearly your conclusion is incorrect because evil cannot provide the same evidence for the truth of competing accounts of evil.”

It is crystal clear that you are saying an account of evil cannot be used to prove any particular dogma because the same argument works as well for the next guy. He is attempting to strawman you by rebutting the argument that an account of evil proves ALL of these dogmas.

This is just one example his stupidity (or is it deliberately dishonest sophistry?) The fact that he declares himself a “superintelligence” at the top of his page paints a mostly complete picture of this guy.

I can’t comment or see comments on his posts. Is anyone else able to leave comments there?

Anyways, nice pwnage, lewk.

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Beelzebub October 12, 2009 at 1:29 pm

You had me with “obscurantism.” That is VD par excellence. Why be clear and literate when you can be confusing and appear knowledgeable? You’re never going to have a meaningful discussion with him while he’s The Mighty Voz, but if he ever decides to descend from his cushion of superiority he might be capable of an enlightening discourse. This would run the risk of taking a few hits, which he appears loath to do. I predict he will take none of your suggestions, and in his next letter the ad homs and outright insults will begin to fly.

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lukeprog October 12, 2009 at 1:57 pm

Sorry, guys, the formatting was all messed up. This post is fixed now.

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ayer October 12, 2009 at 4:31 pm

lukeprog: “The arguments you cite say nothing about whether the a particular book is credible or not. They only establish the existence of some kind of God and the magical resurrection of an ancient Jew.”

That is just incorrect on its face. The resurrection of Jesus, if it is historically established, is established based on the validity of the Gospel texts. If those texts are stipulated as sufficient to establish an event as extraordinary as the resurrection, then they are certainly sufficient to establish the fact that Jesus made the radical claim to be the Son of God. The rest of the tenets of Christian orthodoxy can then be accepted based on his authority (since the God who raised Jesus from the dead can surely see to the writing and preservation of the scriptures and creeds needed to constitute the basis of orthodox belief).

This profound implication of an historically established resurrection explains why William Lane Craig’s atheist debating opponents never concede the resurrection in their debates with him, but fight tooth and nail to deny its historicity.

lukeprog: “So you avoid the problem of evil by saying that God is not, after all, all-powerful. Here again you endorse a non-Orthodox view of Christian doctrine.”

I have no idea why you think that explaining the existence of evil (especially natural evil) by pointing to Satan and demonic forces is an unorthodox view. It has been advanced by Greg Boyd, Alvin Plantinga, Norm Geisler and many other evangelical scholars.

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Crom October 12, 2009 at 4:48 pm

Vox is just another Christian pseudo intellectual. All of his arguments end up with fallacies ( eg non sequitors and ad hominems) as Luke has pointed out, or are based on false premises. According to christianity vox is just another hell bound heretic for his rejection of Christian orthodoxy. I love it when christians create their own hybrid personal version of christinity and think they have it all figured out and that everyone else is stupid for not understanding.

Vox beleives in yahweh the Hebrew tribal war god because he believes on evil? Um the majority of the evil that takes place in the bible is Yahweh doing evil acts against his creation because he is too unstable and stupid to deal with things in a more loving and productive manner. Yahweh has about the same mental capacity has vox does and that ain’t much.

Crom

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Sabio Lantz October 12, 2009 at 5:06 pm

I am looking forward to his publishing his credo —
But I wager he won’t because it puts him at risk with his audience who secretly hopes he is their kind of orthodox.
But if he spells it out …

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ayer October 12, 2009 at 5:22 pm

lukeprog: “So, is the robber’s desire to bring a gun with him to rob the bank “good” when considering all the reasons for action that exist? Is this desire morally good? Is this desire “such as to fulfill all desires” (or, more intuitively, “such as to fulfill more and stronger desires than are thwarted”)? That is, is this desire good, “all things considered”?”

Or, as stated in virtue ethics, does the action further eudaimonia, or human flourishing (that state where “good desires” are maximized)?

lukeprog in desirism FAQ on Virtue Ethics: “If humans have a purpose, it must be intrinsic to humans or else assigned from the outside, for example by God. The first option fails because God does not exist. The second option fails because intrinsic purpose does not exist. Nobody has ever shown me evidence that intrinsic purpose exists.”

The fact that human desires can be examined and some determined to be objectively “good” (because they further other desires, i.e., lead to eudaimonia) and others “bad”, indicates that desirism has unwittingly discovered that intrinsic purpose does exist. Desirism is thus subsumed under virtue ethics as a tool for understanding the virtues more precisely and how they play out in terms of right action that best leads to eudaimonia. But it does not stand as an ethical theory in its own right.

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Lee A. P. October 12, 2009 at 6:00 pm

I like “Voxtianity” as a label for his hybrid Christian beliefs.

Spending a bit of time at his blog is nearly like hanging out at a place like “Rapture Ready” with some added, unique nuances. Dude is a joke.

Luke came out pretty hard in this exchange. But Luke, even at 23, is superior in intellect AND more intellectually honest than “Vox Day” (God speaks? It seems like some New Agey “I am God” crap. What a horrile, cliche’d, trite-assed internet handle that speaks volumes about the guy). I’d expect nothing less.

“Obscurantism” indeed. And “Vox” has the added dimension of a sort of pathetic form of 21 century, internet hubris as well. He is so cock-sure of himself that he hardly sees a reason to explain why. This is almost always a sure sign of dogmatism and wrong headedness.

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nal October 12, 2009 at 6:44 pm
Lee A. P. October 12, 2009 at 7:07 pm

Yes nal, anyone with a computer should be able to find stuff like that out. For example, I used to be a young/old earth creationists (I was undecided but I knew I was a creationists) THEN I GOT A FUCKING COMPUTER WITH ONLINE ACCESS IN 1999!

Anyone can find out these things if they only want to search for them! The internet age is amazing! At one time these yokels had an excuse for their ignorance but not now! Get off the porn you Christian hippocrits!

Luke, I told you via email how I had some blog ideas I’d shoot you. I’d like to propose one for you right here and now — the idea is very simple. Evangelical/Fundy Christianity is the ULTIMATE conspiracy theory. You could go on for days with this one. All of the scientific community, politics (except the republican party– sometimes), all of acedemia, geography, history, is engaged in a vast, overwhelming, ALL ENCOMPASSING “SATANIC” conspiracy against the Christian worldview that can only culminate when thier God-man, Jesus comes down and ends it on a white horse as he flies down from the heavens (why does God need to use a flying animal?).

AND…..even though they know the end of the story, they complain when events that they think were predicted by the Bible start to play out (from their perspective) and they try to change them — while actively ROOTING for that point of view simultaneously!

Stupidity, credulity, and paranioia of the HIGHEST fucking order. The sheer number of conspiritorial angles you have to take as a evan/fundy Christian is pathetically and vapidly overwhelming.

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Silver Bullet October 12, 2009 at 7:52 pm

I still see no update on Vox’s site indicating that Luke has written this third letter…

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lukeprog October 12, 2009 at 8:50 pm

“The fact that human desires can be examined and some determined to be objectively “good” (because they further other desires, i.e., lead to eudaimonia) and others “bad”, indicates that desirism has unwittingly discovered that intrinsic purpose does exist.”

No. The value of desires is not intrinsic. These values are extrinsic – dependent on relations and properties outside the desires themselves.

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lukeprog October 12, 2009 at 8:51 pm

Silver Bullet,

That is because I haven’t notified him yet.

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Hylomorphic October 12, 2009 at 10:42 pm

JustFineThanks: VD’s main objection to evolution can be found in the comments section to this post. It’s painfully incoherent.

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Trav October 13, 2009 at 12:38 am

What post, Hylomorphic? Link doesn’t work for me, unless I’m doing something wrong. Mind posting the full address?

This “debate” like many, is doomed to failure. Luke can’t seem to understand the format of a letter, thus making the discussion something other than what it’s supposed to be. I believe this style difference is quite significant, and if I was Vox I’d refuse to reply to anyone more posts unless they are a standard letter. Meanwhile, Vox’s indifferent ad hominem like insults don’t help the discussion either. Often they result is more confusion than clarity for the readers who are interested in substance over points scoring.

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Hylomorphic October 13, 2009 at 1:05 am

I must have screwed up the HTML somehow.

http://voxday.blogspot.com/2009/09/fearful-hypocrites.html

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matt October 13, 2009 at 1:24 am

excellent post. i predict that the arrogant poser will respond with arrogant posing. too bad he doesn´t seem to want to debate in good faith (so to speak).

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Beelzebub October 13, 2009 at 1:38 am

This “debate” like many, is doomed to failure. Luke can’t seem to understand the format of a letter, thus making the discussion something other than what it’s supposed to be.

To a certain extent I have to say this is correct. For instance, excerpts from VD’s blog are a bit out of place in a letter exchange. Once Luke has more experience with Vox Day (if that Day comes) he won’t need to resort to things like that since there will be plenty to quote from the letters themselves. But if Luke has some ambivalence toward the “Letter” format, that is probably going to go double for Vox Day. This may be two fish out of water attempting to play tennis.

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Sabio Lantz October 13, 2009 at 3:48 am

It seems Vox has told us that his reason for conversion was because he saw himself as evil. He implied sexual relations as part of that. Maybe he hurt enough people and had enough negative feedback that he decided to get a new niche. And into this new niche he dragged his arrogance, self-conceit and “I-don’t-give-a-damn-about-you” disposition to create this new theology of his. Bless his heart.

But we all do this, don’t we? We use our philosophy (Atheist or Theist) to support our ideology. We rarely use our ideology to change our person.

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Allabaster October 13, 2009 at 3:49 am

Luke…(Sigh)…The Evolution topic was not gone into further because it is irrelevant to the conversation. That was made very clear twice! Put simply the back testing methodology used to support Darwinian Theory is known to be unreliable in the fields of economics (Vox’s speciality) which involves far fewer variables and is instantly able to be tested on its predictive powers to determine its accuracy and viability.
Basically it was not “Backed up” because you are attempting to side track the discussion to an area which has nothing to do with the subject at hand! (Plus linking to talk origins and youtube? Come on, you can do better than that.)

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Rich October 13, 2009 at 4:25 am

Allabaster – ‘economics has far less variables than evolution?’ I see you regurgitate the same unthinking soundbites Vox Day does. Evolution demonstrably has a higher:

‘Transaction’ density
Population
History

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Anthony October 13, 2009 at 4:32 am

Oh, now I get it. “Darwinian theory” is unreliable for economics so it must be unreliable to science, hence Jesus. Makes perfect sense to me.

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Rich October 13, 2009 at 4:45 am

He had a big problem with stochastic vs. deterministic processes for a while. I can tell you about the nature of rolling two dice, the probability distribution and expected values, but I can’t tell you what the next roll would be.

Gould points out that if you were to replay ‘the tape of evolution’ then different organisms would form in each replay and human intelligence would not for in some of them.

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ayer October 13, 2009 at 4:58 am

lukeprog: “No. The value of desires is not intrinsic. These values are extrinsic – dependent on relations and properties outside the desires themselves.”

When desirism makes its key move, which is the evaluation of desires as “good” or “bad” based on their tendency to further or thwart OTHER desires, it unwittingly stumbles onto the intrinsic value of desires–i.e., desires have value to the extent that they contribute to eudaimonia, the state of human flourishing where good desires are maximized. If this analysis is wrong, then you need to do further clarification on why desirism is not subsumed under virtue ethics, because neither your nor Fyfe’s entries on virtue ethics do the job.

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Rich October 13, 2009 at 5:06 am

Oh, Here’s Your VD Bingo Card for his reply

Social Autism / Passive Agressive / Alpha Male / TENS / TIA / Ecomonics disproves evolution / backtesting / read my book / IQ / Mensa / Two standard deviations..

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lukeprog October 13, 2009 at 5:17 am

ayer,

I have said before that desirism can be seen as a kind of virtue ethics if you wish, just not one founded on intrinsic purpose or virtue.

Again, you confuse extrinsic value for intrinsic value. They are the opposite.

Also, desirism does not place any value at all on a “state of human flourishing where good desires are maximized.” That would be a monistic theory of moral value. Desirism is extremely pluralistic.

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statweasel October 13, 2009 at 5:54 am

Luke – not to sidetrack a good discussion here, but I’m curious about your explanation of the moral good. I think I understand what you’re saying but perhaps you can clarify what I’m missing:

You seem to say:

1. There is no external force that commands or requires ‘good’. There is only desire (not reason, desire) which we term ‘good’ in the sense that it provides what we want as individuals. So a bank robber may see his actions as ‘good’ in the sense that robbery provides the thief what he wishes.

2. When weighing what is morally good however, we must include not only the desire of the individual, but all desires in any given scenario. So the bank robber’s desire for cash is no longer good since virtually every other desire in the equation is for the cash to stay exactly where it is – in the bank.

If I am correct in my understanding, I have two questions:

If the bank robber’s desire were strong enough (if we could turn it ‘up’), would his desire trump the weaker desires of multiple others and make his action morally good?

On what basis are the desires – even the strongest desires – of multiple other parties to be preferred over even a weak inclination of my own? What makes the benefit of the majority a moral good? Is that in itself not a value judgement that needs a source?

***

Additionally, not be overly lengthy, but a second point or question related to naturalism’s ‘success’:

Even when we have successfully reproduced a sunrise or a rainbow in a lab setting and even when we can explain every facet of a natural process, is it not clear that we have come no closer to explaining the ‘why’ of the thing?

As an example, Christians claim that god told Noah the rainbow was a reminder. Now you may believe that story to be utterly false. But it hardly proves the story false when you explain to me that a rainbow is simply the bending of light through water droplets. When you build your own rainbow you’ve not moved an iota closer to an explanation of the ‘why’. For example, your lab rainbow would have been built with a motive of disproving biblical lore – though I could never have derived that motive scientifically. When you trumpet naturalisms millions of victories, you’ve told me the ‘what’ a million times but not the ‘why’ even once. Science cannot answer the ‘why’ questions at all. Or at least it seems that way to me. Perhaps I need clarification.

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Rich October 13, 2009 at 5:57 am

naturalisms sucess:

Did you teleport to work today?
Did you levitate up the stairs?
Are you posting using ESP?

Naturalism – you use it all the time in all the stuff you do (except praying, and that doesn’t work).

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Jeff H October 13, 2009 at 6:02 am

I can’t comment or see comments on his posts. Is anyone else able to leave comments there?

Penneyworth: I had the same problem. I’m using Firefox with Adblock – turning that off cleared things up for me.

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drj October 13, 2009 at 6:02 am

Luke…(Sigh)…The Evolution topic was not gone into further because it is irrelevant to the conversation. That was made very clear twice! Put simply the back testing methodology used to support Darwinian Theory is known to be unreliable in the fields of economics (Vox’s speciality) which involves far fewer variables and is instantly able to be tested on its predictive powers to determine its accuracy and viability.
Basically it was not “Backed up” because you are attempting to side track the discussion to an area which has nothing to do with the subject at hand! (Plus linking to talk origins and youtube? Come on, you can do better than that.)

I wonder if you can tell us where this type of backtesting is used in evolutionary biology, and what predictions are regularly made with it. If you and Vox are correct, then it should be only a matter of time before these predictions are shown to be bunk.

But…. I’m not aware of any good corollary to the the types of models relied upon in economics and evolutionary biology. A good example of a science that DOES make use of that type of “backtesting” is climate science. One can easily see the similarity between the techniques of climate modeling and the modeling of financial markets – the models are tested by how well they can predict past phenomena, then used to make predictions about the future. One would be wise to refrain from putting an undue amount of trust in such models.

But again… not really seeing this sort of thing in evolutionary biology.

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Eaglewood October 13, 2009 at 7:11 am

“Vox Day” (God speaks? It seems like some New Agey “I am God” crap. What a horrile, cliche’d, trite-assed internet handle that speaks volumes about the guy). I’d expect nothing less.

Latin to Greek people. Just so this is out in the open and people quit beating this dead horse.

Vox Day = Thodore Beale
Vox = voice
Day = Dei = Theo
Vox Day = Voice of Theo
In reality a nice play on words for a “nome de plume”.

Use a little of the “famous” reasoning power you guys have for something other than a place to put your hat.

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Eaglewood October 13, 2009 at 7:21 am

Thodore = Theodore

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steve October 13, 2009 at 7:52 am

“I think metaphysical naturalism is highly probable, perhaps 95% probable. I think that orthodox Christian theism is extremely improbable, perhaps less than 0.000001% probable.”

Ohh Ouch!! …use the big stick

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Mark October 13, 2009 at 8:13 am

But then again, maybe he meant an homage to the Argentinian rock band of the same name?

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Ryan October 13, 2009 at 8:38 am

Luke,

Great effort.

I’ve enjoyed Vox’s blog for years, and have always been intrigued by his Christianity. (how could a guy with his IQ believe such hokum?)

His book TIA cleared up many of the questions I had. For the record, I am agnostic and go out of my way to be respectful of people’s religious/non-religious views.

Some time back, things all came into focus for me when Vox said (something like) “I take the bible literally to the furthest extent possible”

I suddenly realized that Vox and I agree, and probably Luke, too. Don’t you take the bible to be true literally, to the furthest extent possible? In other words, don’t you believe many of the stories are based on oral histories? And that the magical nonsense, including the ressurection, evolved from centuries of retelling by illiterate people?

So we all believe the same thing. Some of the bible is believable. Some is not.

Each of us takes it literally to the furthest extent possible. The only difference between each of us is the extent.

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the bandit October 13, 2009 at 8:54 am

“Instead of backing up your claims with argument and evidence, your tactics rely mostly on obscurantism and dismissal.”

“I do not see at all how these arguments establish the Bible as a credible source, especially given long list of contradictions, absurdities, and falsehoods to be found in the Bible.”

These two statements are at odds with one another for integrity of this piece. Especially since you fail to even provide a link!

Still, although it may very well be necessary, I would find it very tedious to watch anyone even moderately versed in Biblical hermeneutics and textual criticism to address item by item whatever the supposed contradictions, absurdities, and falsehoods that you might supply. I’ve never seen a single one of these claimed inconsistencies stand up, and it doesn’t even take obscure reasoning to refute 95%* of them! (*arbitrary/rhetorical) So I would probably dismiss your statement out of hand and tell you to educate yourself on the well-established textual criticism regarding the Bible.

As with a body, in dissecting a worldview, you cannot truly appreciate/understand the heart when you’ve cut it from the pulmonary system. If this discourse is to truly avoid rehashing the same old tired arguments, then some of them will simply have to be dismissed, will they not? And if so, then the remaining arguments will have to be visited with the graciousness and understanding that the full picture (and thus reasoning) is not visible, will they not? Because it sounds pretty silly, just looking at the heart, for me to claim it’s rather vital to successful breathing.

But! I will agree that Vox does tend to primarily utilize obscurantism and dismissal, though I’ve never seen a claim that he can’t back up at length when pressed, so the next letter should be interesting.

P.S. To various commenters: “Blah blah, blah blah, hence Jesus” is what you call a straw man. Mocking your own personal caricature of Christianity that absolutely no one believes mostly indicates to me that you’ve never honestly attempted to understand people with faith, merely decided that they cannot think logically, which means you can’t participate with integrity in a discussion regarding them.

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Eaglewood October 13, 2009 at 8:55 am

” Mark

But then again, maybe he meant an homage to the Argentinian rock band of the same name?”

No, my explanation was the one Vox has given a number of times on his blog. He does not spell it out nearly as simply as I have for the mentally impaired though.
He simply tells people to follow the Latin to Greek. Knowing his real name helps as well.

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Karl October 13, 2009 at 8:58 am

ayer

“That is just incorrect on its face. The resurrection of Jesus, if it is historically established, is established based on the validity of the Gospel texts. If those texts are stipulated as sufficient to establish an event as extraordinary as the resurrection, then they are certainly sufficient to establish the fact that Jesus made the radical claim to be the Son of God. The rest of the tenets of Christian orthodoxy can then be accepted based on his authority (since the God who raised Jesus from the dead can surely see to the writing and preservation of the scriptures and creeds needed to constitute the basis of orthodox belief).

This profound implication of an historically established resurrection explains why William Lane Craig’s atheist debating opponents never concede the resurrection in their debates with him, but fight tooth and nail to deny its historicity.”

Resurrection has long been part of Judaic thought. Jesus isn’t the first jew to come back from the dead. And those Jews weren’t the sons of god. Being the son of god is a much larger much, much more absurd position in Judaism than coming back from the dead. Even if he made the claim, it still would not make it true and resurrection does not strengthen the claim.

It doesn’t follow in Judaic thought, that resurrection => godhood. Neither does the validity of one area of the gospel imply the validity of another area.

The reason why normal people don’t concede the resurrection is because it’s so fabulously absurd. The Ganesh miracles that occurred a decade ago had far more evidence than the resurrection yet I don’t see you or William Lane Craig becoming devotees of the lord Ganesh.

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Eaglewood October 13, 2009 at 8:59 am

The bandit
Thanks for your comment. I wholeheartedly agree.
Especially the post script.

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ayer October 13, 2009 at 9:10 am

” Even if he made the claim, it still would not make it true and resurrection does not strengthen the claim.

It doesn’t follow in Judaic thought, that resurrection => godhood. Neither does the validity of one area of the gospel imply the validity of another area.”

When the individual was crucified for “blasphemously” claiming to be the Messiah and Son of God, predicted his own death and resurrection, and then was resurrected, yes, it vindicates his claim, which is why Jesus’ opponents at the time didn’t just say, “yes, he was resurrected–so what, that doesn’t vindicate his claim.” Instead they said, “well, the disciples must have stolen the body.”

It is also why Craig’s debate opponents never concede the resurrection. It would be a bizarre concession that would be devastating to their case.

“Neither does the validity of one area of the gospel imply the validity of another area.”

If you concede the most extraordinary account in the Gospels, it is then absurd to dispute the simple reporting of statements by the Gospels. My advice for the atheist is: don’t concede the resurrection if you wish to make the best case for atheism.

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ayer October 13, 2009 at 9:43 am

“Again, you confuse extrinsic value for intrinsic value. They are the opposite.”

Are you saying desirism is not agent-based?

lukeprog: “Also, desirism does not place any value at all on a “state of human flourishing where good desires are maximized.” That would be a monistic theory of moral value. Desirism is extremely pluralistic.”

From your Ethics FAQ:
“According to desirism, the question “Should I do x?” can be answered by solving another problem: “Would a person with good desires do x?”

And what is a good desire? A good desire is one that tends to fulfill other desires.”

An ethical theory that can be reduced to a single definition of the good (and one which engages in a ranking of “good” and “bad” desires) does not sound pluralistic. Indeed, it sounds almost identical to the virtue ethical guiding query: “Would a virtuous person do X?”

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Wadeus October 13, 2009 at 9:53 am

Vox Day = Thodore Beale
Vox = voice
Day = Dei = Theo
Vox Day = Voice of Theo
In reality a nice play on words for a “nome de plume”.

Wow, after all that.

Guess what, VD and his sycophants, Theo means God, as in “gift of God.” The answer was so obvious it was not even worth discussing, I think everyone thought there was some “other” meaning because of VD’s snarky coyness. If Dei = Theo (duh) then we are still right that his “clever” anonym is a pathetic, easy, and narcissistic allusion to “voice of God.” It’s even worse though, because he is equating his own name with that of God’s. Ridiculous.

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Anthony October 13, 2009 at 9:53 am

The Bandit: P.S. To various commenters: “Blah blah, blah blah, hence Jesus” is what you call a straw man. Mocking your own personal caricature of Christianity that absolutely no one believes mostly indicates to me that you’ve never honestly attempted to understand people with faith

Umm, since I am the one who made the comment I will respond. First, it was meant to be humorous, whether or not you thought it was funny is beside the point. Second, I do think that most people who reject evolution do so for religious reasons, so for many, the bottom line is that evolution isn’t true because Jesus is.

Since you do not know me your statement, you’ve never honestly attempted to understand people with faith, is simply untrue as I was a person of faith for nearly 30 years, and I do not simply mean a Sunday Christian. I tell a good portion of my story in Why I Left Christianity

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Wadeus October 13, 2009 at 10:06 am

Anthony:

I think your mockery is appropriate. Even WLC says, the cosmological argument shows that something can’t come from nothing (IMO the strongest argument for some being(s) somewhere, still unprovable and so vague as to be unhelpful in explaining the universe), but then he jumps to Christianity as the best explanation for everything? Big jump.

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Wadeus October 13, 2009 at 10:36 am

I just posted the ridiculous “secret” to Day’s writing name. Day=Dei=Theo. He deleted it almost immediately. Doesn’t want his people to know that he *really* thinks he is a “gift of God” I guess.

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Karl October 13, 2009 at 10:44 am

ayer

“When the individual was crucified for “blasphemously” claiming to be the Messiah and Son of God, predicted his own death and resurrection, and then was resurrected, yes, it vindicates his claim, which is why Jesus’ opponents at the time didn’t just say, “yes, he was resurrected–so what, that doesn’t vindicate his claim.” Instead they said, “well, the disciples must have stolen the body.

It is also why Craig’s debate opponents never concede the resurrection. It would be a bizarre concession that would be devastating to their case.”

Your talking past me in the most shallow of ways. You haven’t proved any point. You’ve simply stated a bunch of statements and assumed a conclusion.
And obviously if you asked a person not familiar with Christ about his resurrection their first response would be disbelief. The whole point of this line of reasoning is to show that even if we were to believe in the resurrection, even if we were to believe Christ said he was the son of god (which does not follow from belief in the resurrection), it would still not validate Christ’s claims.

I can concoct any number of stories even assuming these claims taht would be less ridiculous than Jesus being the son of god from a Judaic standpoint. (He was a twisted prophet, he was controlled by demons, etc).

“If you concede the most extraordinary account in the Gospels, it is then absurd to dispute the simple reporting of statements by the Gospels. My advice for the atheist is: don’t concede the resurrection if you wish to make the best case for atheism.”

If we followed your line of reasoning – if one believed in the resurrection then one would have to believe in the total infallibility of the entire bible. That is absurd. Give it up mate. However, even if you do believe he made the claim, it still wouldn’t come close to proving that he is the son of god.

The point of this entire argument is not a case for naturalism; it’s simply to show that you have no real proof that you praying to the right entity, just as you would accuse hindu devotees of the Lord Ganesh.

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Justfinethanks October 13, 2009 at 10:58 am

Oh my Indifferent Void, check out the comments that Theodore is making on his “Letter to Vox Day III” thread

Why he says he doesn’t actually argue for his position:

You may quite reasonably find it annoying that I don’t bother to prove the documentary support for what I am saying. What you don’t appear to have grasped is that in addition to feeling it is often unnecessary, this is also a form of showing mercy. Those who demand for detailed and conclusive proof from me often find they much preferred it when I was simply telling them that they were ignoramuses, because at least then they could pretend it was merely a matter of my opinion. Just remember that Luke asked for it.

And on why he debates:

As for the objective, it is little more than self-amusement. Some people enjoy putting a smile upon someone else’s face, some people enjoy listening to the screams of those upon whom they are inflicting pain. I happen to derive pleasure from the look of dawning horror in the eyes of a cocky opponent when he suddenly realizes that he not only isn’t going to win as he’d assumed, but he’s going to get blown out.

This guy missed his calling as a writer for professional wrestling. And his aloofness is a smart choice to take, because if he ever wins a debate then he can say it did it casually without even caring, and if ever loses, then he can say he doesn’t care and you aren’t smart enough to get him anyway. It’s the position of a slacker: when you commit to nothing, you risk nothing. He cares more about image and posturing than actually putting forward a coherent case for his position.

Actually he reminds me a lot of a professional wrestler. He precedes the fight with a lot of smack talk to get the audience worked up, and all of his fighting moves are just fancy flourishes that don’t even connect.

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Wadeus October 13, 2009 at 11:06 am

Who would concede any resurrection?

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Crom October 13, 2009 at 11:12 am

The bandit can’t fathom how anyone trained in biblical hermeneutics would see inconsistencies, contradictions and absurdities in the bible. Hmm maybe that is because “biblical hermeneutics” is justanother name for desperate rationalizations and spinning.

Once a person drops the false presumption that the bible is the word of god the contradictions and absurdities leap off the pages. It is your cognitive dissonance reduction that leads to scritural gymnastics aka biblical hermeneutics in an attempt to avoid accepting the lunacy of what the bible actually says.

Crom

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ayer October 13, 2009 at 11:17 am

Karl: “I can concoct any number of stories even assuming these claims taht would be less ridiculous than Jesus being the son of god from a Judaic standpoint. (He was a twisted prophet, he was controlled by demons, etc).”

Yes, just as one can concoct any number of stories to explain 9/11 (e.g., it was an inside job by the U.S. government, the Israelis, etc.). But those stories would be ad hoc and absurd, just as the ones you suggest are ad hoc and absurd within the religiohistorical context of Jesus’ time.

Karl: “If we followed your line of reasoning – if one believed in the resurrection then one would have to believe in the total infallibility of the entire bible. That is absurd. Give it up mate. However, even if you do believe he made the claim, it still wouldn’t come close to proving that he is the son of god.”

No, it is not absurd, and yes, that is the line of reasoning–if Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God was vindicated by God raising him from the dead after he was crucified for making that very claim, then the infallibility of the Bible can be accepted based on his authority. That is precisely why none of Craig’s opponents would ever concede the historicity of the resurrection (at least if they wanted to be the least bit persuasive on behalf of atheism).

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Eaglewood October 13, 2009 at 12:10 pm

Wadeus

I just posted the ridiculous “secret” to Day’s writing name. Day=Dei=Theo. He deleted it almost immediately. Doesn’t want his people to know that he *really* thinks he is a “gift of God” I guess.

Some people are so socially autistic. Vox’s name is well known over on his blog. There is secret to it. It is an amusement when people such as yourself try such ridiculous measures to OUT Vox. Yes we know theo is Greek for god it is also the common shortened version of the name “Theodore”. I you really going to say that he was named “God” by his parents? You were probably deleted not because people don’t know the origin of “Vox Day” but because you were exceptionally off topic. As posted in the rules of his blog.

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Eaglewood October 13, 2009 at 12:14 pm

I am tired of flogging the expired equine. If you want to chase a stupid red herring like what a particular blogger calls himself on-line then feel free to do so. It is no skin off my nose. Just makes you look stupid.

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Karl October 13, 2009 at 12:18 pm

ayer,

“Yes, just as one can concoct any number of stories to explain 9/11 (e.g., it was an inside job by the U.S. government, the Israelis, etc.). But those stories would be ad hoc and absurd, just as the ones you suggest are ad hoc and absurd within the religiohistorical context of Jesus’ time.”

Wow.

Can you legitimately say that Jesus as the son of god – or actually that Jesus is god himself is less absurd than the possibility that he was controlled by demons or was a false prophet within the Judaic frame of thought? Claiming to be the son of god, is about as absurd as you can get in Judaism. All of those other claims, absurd as they may seem are less absurd than Jesus as god within the Judaic framework. Resurrection is not a new phenomenon in the Jewish tradition and claim to godhood from these miracles (within the Jewish context) is simply laughable.

Be honest mate, you got didly squat to go from resurrection to godhood.

“No, it is not absurd, and yes, that is the line of reasoning–if Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God was vindicated by God raising him from the dead after he was crucified for making that very claim, then the infallibility of the Bible can be accepted based on his authority. That is precisely why none of Craig’s opponents would ever concede the historicity of the resurrection (at least if they wanted to be the least bit persuasive on behalf of atheism).”

So you believe the bible is infallible. With all its contradictions and mythology? Even WLC doesn’t argue that.

We have the world wide miracles of Ganesh, ayer. His miracles have subsequently proved every single myth in the hindu religion. Thus hinduism is true. At the very least, applying your standards, we should all pay homage to the nearest hindu temple.

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Eaglewood October 13, 2009 at 12:22 pm

For your edification Wadeus:

Rule #3

3. Cross-comments and off-topic comments will usually be deleted. If your comment gets deleted, deal with it. Don’t try to argue with me about it, I’m truly not interested. If you have a serious problem with the deletion of a comment, then email me. More than one individual has managed to get himself banned by refusing to accept the reality that his precious comment was seen to be of no value here and deleted.

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Wadeus October 13, 2009 at 12:29 pm

Eaglewood.

Well, the name speaks volumes and is exactly what people assume it is, notwithstanding all the wizard of oz squid ink. Maybe he should just admit that the name is what it is and go with it…or explain the amazing last crucial pun…

When it is suggested that the name refers to “voice of god” that person is called an idiot, moron, low IQ and worse by the sycophants over there, inviting conflict.

You brought up the topic here, and I responded to it. I am sorry, but think it is absurd that anyone would even allow that to be his or her moniker, if he or she knew how it would be interpreted.

As far as deletion goes…those threads are so OT at all times it’s ridiculous. The tone of the blog is a free-for-all, and then he wimps out? Ooookay…pretty sad.

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Reginald Selkirk October 13, 2009 at 12:33 pm

ayer: … then the infallibility of the Bible can be accepted based on his authority.

No, absolutely not. The Bible is known to contain errors, so arguing for it to be infallible is bound to fail. Even if Yahweh is the one true God and Jesus is His Son sent to earth to die for the sins of all mankind, that does not make it true that insects have four legs, that you can breed animals with stripes by putting sticks near their watering trough, and that two conflicting genealogies for Joseph are both accurate.

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Eaglewood October 13, 2009 at 12:34 pm

I am out of here. This debate is ridiculous. Everyone here is just looking for the big “gotcha” moment that in reality is never going to happen.
There is truth in the axiom that says that for those who will believe there is more than enough evidence, for those who will not there never will be.
I see it unfolding here as well and it is disheartening. I had hoped this debate would be more civil than most, in some ways it has, but for the most part it is nothing more than the same old rehash of those Christians are so horrible because they believe something I don’t. How dare they think and believe that way, it’s just horrible! Yada, Yada, yada…

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the bandit October 13, 2009 at 12:40 pm

Not true, Crom, I believe that anyone with a modicum of experience in biblical interpretation and textual criticism (curious that you chose to leave that part out) can easily and reasonably demonstrate supposed contradictions you might put forward as ill-informed assumptions. Most likely because they’ve found the apparent inconsistencies in their own study and took some time to figure out whether it was more reasonably a mistake on the part of the text or their own understanding (or translation) of it.

In fact, your entire rationalization of my statement and implications desperately swaps cause and effect to avoid any chance of it seeming sensible, while hypocritically implying that a non-believer does not bring any presumptions of his own to the text.

But I wouldn’t expect you to agree, since you apparently suffer under the ridiculous notion that metaphysical concepts like absurdity and inconsistency have tangible legs that allow them to launch themselves from pages of Scripture. Any denial of this preposterous concept put forward in what I’m sure you believe is “reasonable” text is nothing more than desperate rationalizations and spinnings.

Anthony, though my post-script was not meant as a veiled attack on you, specifically, thanks for your reply and I will read your linked blog post later.

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Wadeus October 13, 2009 at 12:42 pm

Eaglewood…you *might* want to not look to VD as an example of how Christians are not horrible. I have never seen a more insulting and contemptuous writer.

I think he is an atheist plant designed to make us look good, I really do.

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Beelzebub October 13, 2009 at 1:38 pm

I see discussion of the Letter to the Wizard of Voz is developing as expected. Now if only he will abandon his dials, levers, and switches and emerge from behind the curtain.

I’ve been thinking more about the “obscurantist” label, and it’s gradually dawning on me just how brilliantly it pegs VD in many different ways. Read the obscurantism wiki page and you will see Bill Joy — of Sun Micro and Technology is going to kill us fame — described as an obscurantist. This is a theme VD has reiterated on many occasions, and anyone who reads his blog knows he’s dubious of the fruits of science. An obscurantist is a person who prefers the comforting obscurity of darkness to enlightenment. It’s quite possible that this is not deliberate on his part. The obscurantism you note in his writing may actually be an integral part of his world view; so if you ask him to shed some light, there may be nothing there…

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Beelzebub October 13, 2009 at 1:41 pm

btw, Vox, if you’re reading this, that will be $300. Next session we’ll talk about your mother.

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Wadeus October 13, 2009 at 1:52 pm

Yes, Beelz, it *is* interesting…

Have you noticed that he views the creator as a “game designer,” as well. Wonder why he uses that particular analogy? Hmmm. Fits right in…

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Daniel October 13, 2009 at 2:31 pm

Wadeus (if that IS your real name ;)

Please tell me where you got your degree in psychology. I find your “insights” fascinating, from a purely evolutionary point of view.

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Wadeus October 13, 2009 at 2:37 pm

What do you think I mean by that last statement?

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ayer October 13, 2009 at 2:50 pm

Selkirk: “No, absolutely not. The Bible is known to contain errors, so arguing for it to be infallible is bound to fail.”

It appears you are confusing the doctrine of “inerrancy” with the view that the Bible is “infallible in matters of faith and practice.” I’ll take “Yahweh is the one true God and Jesus is His Son sent to earth to die for the sins of all mankind”, as you put it. If that is established, then atheism is consigned to the dustbin of history. Errors in genealogies, etc., are irrelevant to Christian orthodoxy.

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Wadeus October 13, 2009 at 3:06 pm

Daniel:

Vox narcissistic much?:

Reacts to criticism with rage, shame, or humiliation
Has feelings of self-importance
Exaggerates achievements and talents
Is preoccupied with fantasies of success, power, beauty, intelligence, or ideal love
Has unreasonable expectations of favorable treatment
Requires constant attention and admiration
Disregards the feelings of others, lacks empathy
Has obsessive self-interest
Pursues mainly selfish goals

These are the traits that seem to fit…I am no psychologist, but if the shoe fits…

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Karl October 13, 2009 at 4:03 pm

ayer,

Be honest when you’re arguing.

The point had to do with the fact that you believed that if one were to believe in the resurrection then one who have to believe that Christ actually claimed he was the son of god.

you stated essentially:
resurrection => we can believe that jesus made the statement that he is the son of god since the reporting of such a claim is less remarkable than the resurrection.

I pointed out that if this was the line of reasoning you would get:

resurrection => we can believe that jesus made the statement that he is the son of god =>…=>Biblical inerrancy.

Which you then accepted, and now are changing your mind about.

The other line of reasoning that you used:
resurrection => a miracle that means his god => the tenets of orthodoxy are correct.

I think I’ve effectively shown previously that a jump from resurrection to godhood is just that – a giant leap. Any number of explanations even from supernaturalist POV provides a better explanation given the Judaic context.

Be honest, and admit that resurrection would not imply godhood or be honest and visit your nearest hindu temple.

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ayer October 13, 2009 at 5:04 pm

“resurrection => we can believe that jesus made the statement that he is the son of god =>…=>Biblical inerrancy.

Which you then accepted, and now are changing your mind about.”

No, I have never been an advocate of “inerrancy” (since typos, genealogical errors, etc. are irrelevant to the faith and I have no problem acknowledging those), but instead the “infallibility of the scriptures for faith and practice” (although this is a theological issue that as an atheist you are likely not familiar with). Those are two different concepts. But it is true that if Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God was vindicated by the resurrection, then the Old Testament is retroactively rendered authoritative by his reference to it, and the New Testament is rendered authoritative because it was written under the authority of the Holy Spirit.

“I think I’ve effectively shown previously that a jump from resurrection to godhood is just that – a giant leap. Any number of explanations even from supernaturalist POV provides a better explanation given the Judaic context.”

Of course Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God was blasphemous in the Jewish context; that is why the Jewish leaders wanted him crucified. It is also why God’s resurrection of Jesus after his death on the cross vindicated his “blasphemous” claim, and why those same Jewish leaders were desperate to deny his resurrection. They fully realized the profound implications of that miracle if it were conceded (something you have failed to grasp).

“Be honest, and admit that resurrection would not imply godhood or be honest and visit your nearest hindu temple.”

Sorry, in the religiohistorical context it does confirm Jesus in Godhood, and if the Christian God’s existence is thus established, then all other claims to godhood (Hindu, etc.) are ipso facto invalid.

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lukeprog October 13, 2009 at 5:06 pm

Wadeus,

What do you mean? You commented on Vox’s blog with an explanation of his name and he deleted your comment?

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Wade October 13, 2009 at 5:22 pm

Yeah, it’s no big deal. I think he doesn’t want his people to know that he is not as deep as he seems, and that he really does have strange delusions of grandeur. Like it or not, I think most people see the VD name as a play on Vox Dei/Theo…they couldn’t come up with any other explanation over there. Also, deleted a bunch of my comments, which seems to be common when they are losing face/ground. Not exactly high minded interchange, but I tried.

Anyway, interesting exchange, good job weathering the insults.

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Karl October 13, 2009 at 5:48 pm

ayer,

From your previous post:
““If you concede the most extraordinary account in the Gospels, it is then absurd to dispute the simple reporting of statements by the Gospels.”

I took this to mean we can believe that jesus made the statement that he is the son of god since the reporting of such a claim is less remarkable than the resurrection. And if you followed that line of reasoning it would lead to Biblical inerrancy and contradiction.

Anyways, all you have done is repeat a point which I have adequately debunked. In the religious context, resurrection does not imply vindication. Others were capable of resurrection – it ain’t that special.

I am assuming the resurrection to simply show that given the religious context (Judaism) resurrection does not imply vindication of any claim.

Jews don’t deny the resurrection because of the implications, they denied the resurrection because to anyone who’s not a christian it’s probably loony stuff – I guess this is a blind spot in your common sense.

“Sorry, in the religiohistorical context it does confirm Jesus in Godhood, and if the Christian God’s existence is thus established, then all other claims to godhood (Hindu, etc.) are ipso facto invalid.”

So I guess if you were born in India to hindus, you would be defending hinduism. You just “met” Christianity first. There’s a solid bedrock to a belief – the first one you encounter is the correct one.

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lukeprog October 13, 2009 at 5:53 pm

I look forward to VD’s next letter. I really have no idea what’s coming! :)

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ayer October 13, 2009 at 6:16 pm

Karl, earlier: “Resurrection has long been part of Judaic thought. Jesus isn’t the first jew to come back from the dead.”

Karl, just now: “Jews don’t deny the resurrection because of the implications, they denied the resurrection because to anyone who’s not a christian it’s probably loony stuff”

Talk about contradicting yourself. Which is it–resurrection is no big to Jews because it’s “long been part of Judaic thought” and “Jesus isn’t the first Jew to come back from the dead,” or resurrection is so crazy to Jews that they dismiss it as “loony stuff”?

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Karl October 13, 2009 at 6:35 pm

ayer,

I’m disappointed – you knew exactly what I meant, and you come at me with such a cheap argument. That just means you have nothing left to say.

Resurrection in the context of miracles is no big deal. However, in the context of ordinary life smells like cow doo doo. This means, that in the context of miracles, resurrection can’t be used to vindicate Jesus’ claims to godhood. And it also means to a jew living around that time the resurrection smelled like the bs it probably is.

I don’t think there’s anything left to say. You haven’t made any points that haven’t been debunked.

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ayer October 13, 2009 at 7:01 pm

Karl: “I’m disappointed – you knew exactly what I meant, and you come at me with such a cheap argument. That just means you have nothing left to say.”

No, it’s not cheap, it’s just an indication that you need to do much more study of the religio-historical context of the resurrection before flippantly claiming it does nothing to vindicate Jesus’ radical claims. Craig’s debates with Shabir Ally would be a good start, since they delve into the meaning of the resurrection in that context.

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MacGuy October 13, 2009 at 8:46 pm

Luke,

desirism, is only about 35% probable

So, it must be about 65% improbable of being true? I know what I’ll be betting on today. Where does this probable calculation even come from? Ex Nihilo?

I am happy to retract my characterization of the Christian concept of evil as “a roaming magical force that hunts us down and seeks to destroy us.” That characterization has some Biblical support, but if it is not the one you defend, then that this fine.

That is not a concept of evil, it is a belief regarding evil forces. Your oversimplification and false characterization and ridicule of Christian was uncalled for. Even for “orthodox” Christianity.

/excuse the sarcasm

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lukeprog October 13, 2009 at 9:30 pm

MacGuy,

Yes, I think there’s at least a 65% chance that desirism is irreparably false.

These probabilities are very, very rough epistemic probabilities.

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Beelzebub October 13, 2009 at 10:03 pm

I look forward to VD’s next letter. I really have no idea what’s coming!

I, unfortunately, do: more obscurantism, twisted logic, and a whole helluva shitstorm of insults. You read it here first.

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Marco October 13, 2009 at 11:07 pm

Once more, a very interesting read, Luke! I really like this exchange of thoughts, and appreciate all the time spent on the issue by both you and VD. Too bad people on both sides of the fence feel the need to become agressive in writing. I hope you will maintain your “peaceful” attitutde Luke ;)
Ayer, I’m greatly appreciating your presence on this blog. You are very interesting to read.
About calling other people stupid etc. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said: “A man’s manners are a mirror in which he shows his portrait.”

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Aron October 14, 2009 at 3:44 am

Luke,

What probability would you assign to moral realism of some form or other being true?

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ayer October 14, 2009 at 4:11 am

lukeprog: “I am happy to retract my characterization of the Christian concept of evil as “a roaming magical force that hunts us down and seeks to destroy us.” That characterization has some Biblical support, but if it is not the one you defend, then that this fine.”

Macguy: “That is not a concept of evil, it is a belief regarding evil forces. Your oversimplification and false characterization and ridicule of Christian was uncalled for. Even for “orthodox” Christianity.”

I agree; Luke’s characterization is not the orthodox Christian view at all, which was laid out by Augustine 1600 years ago. Evil is a “deprivation of the good.”

See http://www.str.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5124:
“With this foundation Augustine was now prepared to answer the key issue: ‘Where is evil then, and whence, and how crept it in hither? What is its root, and what its seed? Or hath it no being?’[i] To this Augustine answered: “Evil has no positive nature; but the loss of good has received the name ‘evil.”[ii]

Augustine observed that evil always injures, and such injury is a deprivation of good. If there were no deprivation, there would be no injury. Since all things were made with goodness, evil must be the privation of goodness: ‘All which is corrupted is deprived of good.’[iii]

The diminution of the property of goodness is what’s called evil. Good has substantial being; evil does not. It is like a moral hole, a nothingness that results when goodness is removed. Just as a shadow is no more than a ‘hole’ in light, evil is a hole in goodness.

To say that something is evil, then, is a shorthand way of saying it either lacks goodness, or is a lower order of goodness than what ought to have been. But the question remains: ‘Whence and how crept it in hither?’

Augustine observed that evil could not be chosen because there is no evil thing to choose. One can only turn away from the good, that is from a greater good to a lesser good (in Augustine’s hierarchy) since all things are good. ‘For when the will abandons what is above itself, and turns to what is lower, it becomes evil–not because that is evil to which it turns, but because the turning itself is wicked.’[iv]

Evil, then, is the act itself of choosing the lesser good. To Augustine the source of evil is in the free will of persons: ‘And I strained to perceive what I now heard, that free-will was the cause of our doing ill.’[v] Evil was a “perversion of the will, turned aside from…God” to lesser things.[vi] ”

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one more clay figurine October 14, 2009 at 6:12 am

You CAN logically prove Santa Claus doesn’t exist; he doesn’t leave presents in homes, his house has not been discovered in the North Pole, there have been no sightings of him since St. Nicolas died centuries ago. And as far as I’m aware, no evidence has really shed some light on the possibility of his existence for quite some time. Wow, that was fairly easy, wasn’t it?

CAN you logically prove God doesn’t exist? Hey, maybe you can, except you don’t try. Saying “I have no more reason to believe in God than in Santa Claus” is lazy at best, and immature at worst.

But later, you do say you have good reasons to think God doesn’t exist. Well, what are they? Not that it matters anyway; the idea that anyone even has “reason” is an utterly crazy and fanciful prospect.

Not everything is created by natural causes. Think of the philosophical works you read, or music you listen to, or literature you study, or the opinions you develop. If you happen to believe that logic and thought actually exist and can’t be easily swept aside by biological explanations, then many things have been MADE without a naturalistic cause. Note the word MADE; just as the universe could have been MADE. I hold that opinion, as the idea of a naturalistic cause to the universe (at a point in time when there was no nature to cause it) seems, hey, magical.

I’d also be interested to find out how you calculated those percentages of yours, when mathematics and opinion are delusions.

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Crom October 14, 2009 at 6:39 am

The bandit

I as well as many others are former christians who genuinely found ambiguities, absurdities, and contradictions in the bible that the standard apologetics simply could not adequately explain. This is not merely the result of a hostile and atheistic approach to the bible. In fact many Christians believe the bible is the word of god and/or inspired in some sense and yet contains these things.

Your dismissal of these facts indicates your ignorance or dishonesty.

Do you believe as Matthew did that Jesus rode two animals in the triumphal entry?

Is that not both a contradiction with the other accounts as well as an absurdity based on Matthew’s misunderstanding of paralelism.

Try reading Robert Price’s books or listening to his bible geek broadcasts and educate yourself instead of wallowing in your fundamentalist ignorance

Crom

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Karl October 14, 2009 at 6:59 am

ayer,

“No, it’s not cheap, it’s just an indication that you need to do much more study of the religio-historical context of the resurrection before flippantly claiming it does nothing to vindicate Jesus’ radical claims. Craig’s debates with Shabir Ally would be a good start, since they delve into the meaning of the resurrection in that context.”

Shabir Ally is a muslim who has his own baggage. I’ve seen WLC’s justification. WLC states that in the jewish tradition resurrection only happens at the end of the world – this is simply wrong.

I could go on, but this is all besides the point.

As I stated before, even supernatural trickery (not actual resurrection) provides a better explanation than godhood.

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Anthony October 14, 2009 at 7:08 am

Crom: Try reading Robert Price’s books or listening to his bible geek broadcasts and educate yourself instead of wallowing in your fundamentalist ignorance

Since most believers are reluctant to read books by men like Price, I instead point them to books that were very influential in my own deconversion. Specifically these two books by Enns and Sparks:

Peter Enns, Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament

Kenton Sparks, God’s Word in Human Words: An Evangelical Appropriation of Critical Biblical Scholarship

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Penneyworth October 14, 2009 at 7:12 am

Thanks Jeff H!

——

“I look forward to VD’s next letter. I really have no idea what’s coming!”

I’ll bet he’s going to go nutso freako on you for pulling all those probabilities out of your ass about the correct moral theory. He’ll then pretend that that’s the thrust of your whole argument, or use the mistake to discredit other things that you say.

In his arguments against evolution, he will likely point to instances of errors and hoaxes (like piltdown man) and pretend that when the scientific community debunks it’s own theories and discoveries in order to gain precision, that it is a weakness rather than a strength.

—–

But seriously, why did you make those retarded probability assignments? What do they even mean? If you decide that desirism is the best way for people to be excellent to each other, then you are just using desirism to define morality, and so it trivially has a 100% chance of being correct. Those probability assignments imply that there is some moral reality out there that these theories have a chance to match up with. But if that thing to test against exists, then there is no reason for the theory! I type this over and over with no response. Help me out, I’m struggling on this concept.

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the bandit October 14, 2009 at 7:20 am

Crom, that’s just the sort of weak, desperate nit-pick I’d expect. Thank you for proving my point, even if only for those with a mind open to it. Do you seriously believe metaphysical concepts have physical legs and can perform stunts off a platform of written words? [Still demonstrating the absurdity of your interpretation:]By mentioning Robert Price’s books and program, are you not necessarily implying that I cannot educate myself on this topic via any other author?

I recommend you read up on textual criticism. You seem to have some confusion about the nature of literalism. I also never made any assumptions about anyone’s background, though you seem quite content to criticize that I have while making assumptions about mine.

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lukeprog October 14, 2009 at 7:43 am

Aron,

Sorry, I don’t know how to answer that. We’d have to define what we mean by ‘moral realism of some form or other’.

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Anthony October 14, 2009 at 7:44 am

Ayer: I have never been an advocate of “inerrancy” (since typos, genealogical errors, etc. are irrelevant to the faith and I have no problem acknowledging those), but instead the “infallibility of the scriptures for faith and practice” (although this is a theological issue that as an atheist you are likely not familiar with).

Why is it that believes assume that an atheist is unfamiliar with theological issues. I was heavily into theology for about 25 years of my Christian life before I deconverted from the faith, so I am a bit familiar with these issues. The problems with the Bible are much more fundamental than simple typos and genealogical errors, see the books by Enns and Sparks that I link to above.

Ayer: if Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God was vindicated by the resurrection, then the Old Testament is retroactively rendered authoritative by his reference to it, and the New Testament is rendered authoritative

This is all backwards. First, on the issue of the resurrection of Jesus, I have mentioned it before there is the position of Pinchas Lapide who is a Jew, rejects Christianity as the truth, doesn’t believe that Jesus was the promised Messiah, yet, he believes that Jesus resurrected from the dead.

Secondly, in order for Jesus to be vindicated as the true son of God then the history, promises and prophecies of the Old Testament have to be true, but this has been questioned and challenged by most scholars. Another example, the concept of a future Jewish Messiah (from the perspective of the OT) has many problems, see Joseph Fitzmyer’s The One Who is to Come. All of these issues make it suspect that Jesus is the fulfillment of anything, hence makes his resurrection itself suspect.

So, we see two things, one, this shows that the resurrection of Jesus does not necessarily mean that Christianity is true; and two, simply conceding the resurrection of Jesus for arguments sake does not mean that the accounts of the Bible are necessarily true.

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lukeprog October 14, 2009 at 7:46 am

Penneyworth,

Did you read the footnote on those probabilities?

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Penneyworth October 14, 2009 at 8:00 am

Yes, but I still don’t take your meaning of how a moral theory could be shown to be true. I understand that those assignments are rough estimates… but estimates of what exactly? Are you estimating the chance that a theory will match up to the magical realm of objective moral values? Are you estimating the chance that a theory will be accepted by the majority of humans to be a good code to live by? Or something else? I’m not trying to be thick. It just doesn’t make sense to me.

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Crom October 14, 2009 at 8:47 am

The bandit

Actually you are proving my point and resorting to obscurantism. You are critisizng people for not interpreting the bible in your own personal brand of interpretation the criteria of which you do nor want to share for fear of exposing then as completely arbitrary. It is clear by your statement that the supposed contradictions and absurdities of the bible can be so easily reconciled and explained if only the poor foolish critics understood biblical hermeneutics and textual criticism exposes you as ignorant of facts of the subject and the clear controversy of these matters amongst the experts in the field.

Your ignorance shows that either your dishonest or hiding in your fundamentalist bubble and refusing to expose yourself to alternate explanations. I gave you an example and you are trying to dodge the issue.

Is the matthew account of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem a literal historical event or something else. Did Jesus literally ride the two mules into the city or not?

Enlighten me oh inspired one so filled with the holy ghost of truth

Crom

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the bandit October 14, 2009 at 11:08 am

The Matthew account of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem is a literal historical event, one which Matthew witnessed and then wrote about. Clearly, there were two donkeys, a mother and her colt, the latter of which being the more important. There’s no demand from text that Jesus rode them both at once like a trick rider; nor does the omission of mentioning the sideline detail of the mother in the other gospels a contradiction. There certainly are controversial passages in the Bible, but I fail to see how this one could possibly qualify.

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Wade October 14, 2009 at 12:56 pm

the bandit:

Just FYI, modern NT scholarship shows that Matthew was not likely a contemporary of Jesus.

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MacGuy October 14, 2009 at 10:08 pm

Luke,

Yes, I think there’s at least a 65% chance that desirism is irreparably false.
These probabilities are very, very rough epistemic probabilities.

Fair enough. However, if it is more probable of being false, am I not epistemically warranted for believing it is? Why should I believe in something that’s not more plausible than its denial? I don’t see how you can rationally believe in it either. Sure, perhaps it is the best moral theory but it’s still false (or more likely of being so).

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Chuck October 14, 2009 at 11:19 pm

You should evaluate the truth of desirism like you would any other argument. Is it valid? Is it sound? That’s it.

For example, desirism makes several claims. (Desires are reasons for action. Desires exist. Desires are the only reasons for action that exist.) If any of these claims are false, then it doesn’t matter what desirism says at the applied ethics level. It would still be false.

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Penneyworth October 15, 2009 at 6:27 am

Chuck,

You’re talking about whether or not desirism is internally consistent. Assume that the claims that make up the framework of desirism are all sound and valid. This gets us no closer to a clear explanation of what it means for a moral theory to be “the correct one.”

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Chuck October 15, 2009 at 6:54 am

True. We would still need to establish desirism as a theory of morality. It could be correct and have nothing to do with morality.

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the bandit October 15, 2009 at 7:15 am

Wade, FYI, you’re wrong. Or simply acknowledging only the scholarship biased to that outcome.

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Crom October 15, 2009 at 8:32 am

The bandit

Matthew 19.7 says quite specifically that he sat on them. Matthew didn’t understand the literary device known as parallelism featured throughout the Hebrew bible where a statement is made twice in a slightly different way in order to emphasize something. Matthew instead takes it literally and changes Mark’s account so that Jesus rides two animals into Jerusalem in an attempt to have Jesus fullfill the prophesy as Matthew understood it needed to be fullfilled. Matthew made all kinds of changes and embellishments to Mark and concocted stories to make Jesus fullfill prophecies he thought needed to be fullfilled

As someone else pointed out there is no reason to believe Matthews gospel was written by a eyewitness anyways since it is an obvious embellishment of Mark’s account and doesn’t even claim to have been written by an eyewitness. It even describes matthew’s calling to be a disciple from the 3rd person.

But then again don’t let the facts get in your way. Just stay inside your fundamentalist bubble where these troubling questions are never given an honest and objective hearing.

Did you devote your entire life to a cause without first objectively weighing the evidence as most Christians do? Once you set aside the false premise that the bible is the word of god you will see Christianity as the house of cards that it really is.

Crom

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Wadeus October 15, 2009 at 9:22 am

Okay, the bandit, I’m “wrong.”

Luke: good exchange. You did a great job of getting Theo to write about some of what he believes in. I learned a lot about narcisso-Christian fantasy-novel-based, swords and sorcery theology, which I had never been exposed to. What was it? “mainstream Narnia-level theology”?

Theo’s responses to you serve as examples that the greater the ego, the more frightened the person is, deep down.

It seems like the concept that most divides you two is the subjective or objective nature of evil. In that sense, the exchange was very effective in identifying a core issue that separates the views of theists and non-theists.

I know Theo thinks there is a solution to that problem, which he answered with a paradoxical statement of his own invention (fixed principles can be arbitrary), but the nature of evil probably would be the topic to focus on if you continue the exchange.

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Silver Bullet October 15, 2009 at 10:24 am

Does anybody here know what Vox’s definition of evil is? He claims to have defined it, but his definition of evil is far from clear to me, and I get nothing but “obscurantism and dismissal” from him when I ask him to clarify over at the comments section associated with these letters at his blog (surprise, surprise).

A definition of evil seems central to his “explanation for personal belief” (as he likes to put it) in the Christian god, yet it seems impossible to pin down what he actually means by evil.

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Wade October 15, 2009 at 10:52 am

Silver Bullet:

Yeah, if you give him or his regulars a challenge of any kind your posts are deleted. Not to board war (although this exchange has the flavor of a battle, at least), but it’s pretty sad for someone so super-intelligent to have to resort to that.

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the bandit October 15, 2009 at 1:49 pm

Crom, You’re repeating yourself. It’s not that I didn’t understand the first time, or even back when some of these statements were merely implications. It’s that I weighed the evidence objectively and reached a different conclusion. Thanks.

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cl October 15, 2009 at 3:30 pm

I think you take a decided turn down the wrong thoroughfare with your latest response. I agree that Vox certainly incorporates nuanced allusions into his arguments, but those should be taken as warning signs – not obscurantism – charges of which are completely unsupportable on your behalf, hence useless to any meaningful resolution of the discussion.

Neither you nor myself nor anyone else can know why Vox uses some of the allusions he does, hence any ascription of motive remains speculation at best. By shifting your focus to complaints in Vox’s tactic, you permit the assumption that you’re after something other than pursuit of truth via argumentation. That’s a big no-no, unless of course we’re just out to embarrass somebody – and I don’t think you are.

..once again I can’t let you get away with what you’ve said. In your first letter, you made many unsupported (and false) assertions about evolution, for example that evolution is “of little material value to science” and that “the predictive models evolutionary theory produces are reliably incorrect.” I responded by quoting your assertions verbatim and then directly rebutting them with relevant evidence, argument, and examples.

Although I’d like to hear more from Vox along these lines myself, I’m convinced that you’re hearing something different than Vox is intending. I doubt Vox denies the things you think his position requires him to deny. I’d say the best strategy here would be to politely ask for exactly the clarity you criticize Vox for withholding. Then, you could at least be sure you’re both on the same page, if nothing else. As it is, the objective observer currently lacks such luxury. Also, I’d note that you yourself began with expressed interest in avoiding “more of the same,” yet that’s most certainly what qualms about evolution as they relate to Christianity tend to accomplish.

The same goes for your non-omnipotent concept of God, which we’ll come to later.

As far as I saw, Vox didn’t posit a non-omnipotent concept of God; the closest he came was his statement that the doctrine of omniscience was unsupported, biblically. When you got to this point later, you said,

So you avoid the problem of evil by saying that God is not, after all, all-powerful.

I don’t see that Vox has done any such thing. Rather, he rightly exposes the so-called Problem of Evil for the bale of straw that it is.

Lastly, don’t get me wrong; while I might think he’s got the logical upper hand in this exchange, I’m not “singing Vox’s praises.” I see a few places where I think his approach is less-than-best, too. A few commenters have already touched on some of them.

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Wade October 17, 2009 at 7:25 am

cl:

The problem of evil seems pretty tough to me, still. Maybe that’s why people still debate it, even though it has been discussed for millenia? Also, VD is solving the problem of evil with the statement “his game, his rules,” a rough approximation of Lewis’s theology, I guess. See his discussion somewhere else regarding – “what if God asked you to kill babies?” I understand that this is satisfying for many Christians. I see a lot of Christians respond to selections from the Bible detailing God’s direct orders for genocide (e.g., canaanites, amelekites – why didn’t he order the killing of the adults and the rescue of the children, for example?) with something along the lines of, “well, it’s Gods world :shrug:” Even many Christians struggle with these kinds of acts in the Bible.

http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=130480

To many people, however, this kind of solution opens up the possibility that the Christian vision of God might be arbitrary and insane.

So anyway, the problem of evil is, in my opinion, a difficult dilemma that people a lot smarter than any of us, on both sides, have had trouble with, so I don’t think it is a “bale of straw.” It’s just not that easy.

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cl October 17, 2009 at 11:16 pm

Hi Wade.
I acknowledge that my “bale of straw” remark can be reasonably viewed as dismissive, but I don’t want to go into a long discourse here, because I know how some people might perceive that as grandstanding. But I do love attempted resolutions, and I’d be interested in hearing your responses to any of my POE posts. The first one is here.

..VD is solving the problem of evil with the statement “his game, his rules,”

Can you show me what gave you that impression? I didn’t get that impression at all, at least not from the response to Luke in question. Mind you, my only exposure to VD’s writing is currently his three replies to Luke.

..the problem of evil is, in my opinion, a difficult dilemma that people a lot smarter than any of us, on both sides, have had trouble with, so I don’t think it is a “bale of straw.”

I respect your opinion, I just don’t share it. Still, I’m open to further discussion. Though it’s something of a rarity, I even have an atheist regular who agrees that POE arguments fail to persuade. If you’re interested, I can try to dig up that thread, too.

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Patrick Oden October 18, 2009 at 2:19 am

Interesting read. Now I have to go back and read the other letters!

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