Monday, January 13, 2014

My Debate with Occam On CARM

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Occam is an atheist posting on CARM not hte original William of Occam. We recently had a 1x1 debate over the issue: resolved that belief in God is rationally warraned. I made my favorite God argument, my own argument from epistemic judgement (aka the Thomas Reid argument). I'll just hit the highlights. The fill debate can be found here.

I want to point out I am not putting this up to show that I won or how I'm so much smarter. Occam is not someone I would make fun of, he's a sharp thinker and one of the atheists I respect the most over there.

My argument was:

(1) No empirical evidence can prove the existence of the external world, other minds, or the reality of history, or other such basic things.

(2) We do not find this epistemological dilemma debilitating on a daily basis because we assume that if our experiences are consistent and regular than we can navigate in "reality" whether it is ultimately illusory of not.

(3) Consistency and regularity of personal experience is the key.

(4) religious experience can also be regular and consistent, perhaps not to the same degree, but in the same way.

(5) Inter-subjective

RE of this type has a commonality shared by believers all over the world, in different times and different places, just as the external world seems to be perceived the same by everyone.

(6) Real and Lasting effects.

(7) therefore, we have as much justification for assuming religious belief based upon experience as for assuming the reality of the external world or the existence of other minds.

So we habitually compare our experiences to a criteria that we set for reality. If they stack up we assume they are real and valid. Religious experience fits that set of criteria and thus we can trust it. That makes it a good reason to assume that God exists. Because he is given in a certain set of experiences which affect us in ways we would expected to be affected by the divine.

The real argument is the long term positive effects of the experiences. These are the experiences known as "mystical" and that conform to those set by W.T. Stace for his theory. Moreover,the acuity of these judgements about the experiences can be known in a more accurate way now due to the work of Ralph Hood on the M scale and other researchers working in the Vain of people like James and Stace.

I also brought up a second argument in the next speech that was the univeral arguement, based upon the one above. The argument says that all the mystical experinces around the world are the same once we take out specific names and doctrines, that implies that there is objective reality behing experinced.

We each made three speeches. This is excerpts form the last speech I made.

part 1 of speech 3


... Metacrock says that the experience of God is analogous to our experience of the external world. The problem with this claim is that it's plainly false. People do not have reasonable disagreements about whether or not the external world exists, and there are no major social movements based on the belief that there is no external world. You don't have to be crazy to disbelieve in God like you have to be crazy to disbelieve in the external world. So, the claim that the two are analogous is wildly implausible. 
Here he's just equivocating between a difference sense of what was meant. I said the criteria by which we decide the reality of our experiences is met by religious experience. thus it is believable and trust worthy. It's false to say that there are not questions about experience and reality. we have them allt he time. ON a trivial level we say stuff like "Is it hot in here." we we may not think about it when we say that are asking "is this subjective or objective,. is it part of reality or just my illusion that I'm hot?"

then of cousre there are instances where people have strange experiences that they don't understand. True documented story, two women driving on a highway at night. They see what they think is an old man who might be seeking help, a long haired hippe types, they pull over to him and almost stop and looking closer and see it's an animal when it stands up to it's full stature is huge and is covered in hair all over its body but a human like face. so one screams and they drive off real fast. One says "did you see that?" they don't know what they say but the are conferring. why are they conferring why don't they just say "we didn't see that because science types say it doesn't exist so we must not have?" Because they thought they did see it. that's why they have to check it. they check by accessing the shared nature, the regularity and the consistency of it.

when the skeptic says "It was just a bear that they misidentified" then he's really saying "they didn't get the criteria right. it was really regular thing that people see but they mis identified it." He's using the criteria too.

There's a lot of lea way between those two examples, feeling hot in a room and seeing a Bigfoot, there's a lot of middle ground there where we check our perceptions all the time. So that criteria is used it is important. The battle field, crimes scenes, strange situations, when being robbed, all kinds of times when we need to check reality.

Occam wants us to think that epistemological issues are unimportant becuase there are no social movements that question reality; all social movements question reality. The issue here is epistemology is important for a thinker even if there's no social movement to redefine the nature of the real. If we are asking questions about the reality of God are asking about the roots of reality. we asking about the basis of the nature of things. God is not just another fragment in reality God is th basis of all reality. To consider the existence of God is to consider the basis of metaphysics and epistemology.


Next, Metacrock objects that I am undermining theism as a properly basic belief by pulling on other beliefs. There is actually nothing illegitimate about this procedure, and I'm not sure why Metacrock would think otherwise. If someone holds a belief in the basic way, it is legitimate to undermine it by showing that it is inconsistent with other beliefs he holds, rendering it no longer properly basic for him.
No first of all I didn't even argue that. he has misunderstood my basic thrust. I said I don't accept PB as a paradigm I argue for Prima facie so if I make a prima facie case I've met by goal. He says nothing about that. I have made a prima facie case. it's his burden of proof now to show that my PF case isn't enough.

more importantly, he's obfuscated between the original issue which was that he expects a theist to argue or PB nature of God beilef, now he's turning it around and saying it's legitimate to undermine God belief by showing that it's inconsistent with other beliefs he holds. That was not his arguemnt. he is shifting argumetns. Shift because the original argument merely used the other beliefs as a means of defining properly basic. PB means it's not dependent other beliefs. Now suddenly he puts it in terms of contradicting other beliefs. he has not said that before. So that's a shift it's not kosher in debate.

Metacrock objects that we cannot get outside of our experience to check it in any case. But I am not objecting to religious experience on the grounds that we cannot get outside religious experience to check it, I am objecting to religious experience on the grounds that it is inconsistent with our scientific knowledge and, indeed, with the very spirit of science. Religious experience can be shown to be unreliable on independent grounds, so I'm not just perversely asserting that it might be wrong with no evidence.


(1) he never shows that religious belief is any kind of contradiction to scientific knowledge. for that to be the case scientific knowledge would have to disprove god we all know there is no such disproof. The only kind of alleged "disproof" any atheist has is absence of proof not an actual disproof.

(2) he totally misconstrued my argument. I said we can't get outside of our perceptions to check them becasue he said:

Occam (last time)
The second problem with this position is that in the age of science, we have learned not to trust in basic beliefs that were not arrived at by a reliable methodology. The methodology that the theist relies upon to form a basic belief in a god will invariably be religious experience or the testimony of Scripture, both of which have been discredited as sources of information.
I am saying you can't establish this methodology since the issue more primitive and more epistemological than scinece can handle. you have to do scinece through your perceptions. science can't enable you to get outside your own perceptions.

that's why I call th argument "epistemic judgement." we have to make a judgement at the level of epistemology we can't assert a scientific answer. We have to make a judgment and we use that criteria (regular, consistent, shared) to make the judgment call. that's at a more basic level than science.

(3) when scinece comes into it we have a scientific methodology that's better validated than any other in the field the M scale. that enables us to understand when we are dealing a real mystical experience. that enables us to compare experiences.

In terms of science we meet his criteria. but the issues are more in depth than science. They are philosophical at the core.

part 2 of speech 3


Metacrock appeals to Hood's surveys to show that religious experiences are veridical. I think it's just obvious that a survey cannot prove that God exists. Sorry my argument does not turn on Hood proving God. 
Please try to follow along. If you are actually wiling to read the whole debate then you might as well get the issues correct. The turning point of the argument its the criteria. tha'ts what makes it valid and that's wakes it "proof" to the extent that it proves a warrant. It warrants beilef because the fitting of the criteria makes it a good reason to believe that God is real. it fits the criteria we use to prove reality.

what did I say he study does? look up there and see. It enables us to know the unified nature of the experiences and that they fit the criteria. you can't say this type of experience fits a criteria if you don't know what type that is. so the studies show that. the M scale is a way to say "this si that type of thing."

once we can say "this is that type of thing" then we can say "it fits the criteria." Because he does not answer that he's not answering the argument. he's made up his own straw man argument that he got form listing to the people who dont' read all the posts. you are listening to the people who don't read the posts they quite after the first line so you are not getting the question issue.


Even if all of the people taking the survey are telling the truth, which is not guaranteed, people could have experiences of God with profound transformative effects without God actually existing. The inference is a simple non sequitur. 
that is a statement not in evidence. he has no way of knowing if that is true. He can't prove it, but there's a good reason to think its' not true. He there is no evidence of any kind that shows an untruth that is unexpected leading to long term transfomative effects. why don't delusions do it? they don't. mental illness id debilitating over time.

The only thing that comes close to answer is placebo. there is no evidence that placebo is long term, and it has to be expected. In half the cases mystical experience is not expected.

(a) it's a conversion experience a large portion of the time.

(b) contradicts cherished doctrines

(c) it's in childhood half the time when there no doctrinal attachment.

it's can't be a placebo. therefore it can't be that unreality leads to long term transformation.

I leave it to the reader as to who won.

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