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What is an agnostic? Am I an agnostic?


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Showing 326-350 of 470 posts in this discussion
In reply to an earlier post on Jun 12, 2012, 6:53:28 PM PDT
quert says:
blueskies,
"Militant Agnostic. I don't know and neither do you"

This is super! Must add it to my 'quotes' file for future use.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 12, 2012, 7:00:41 PM PDT
Observe some claim made as to some aspect of the nature of reality.
Observe that aspect of reality.

Do reality and that claim agree?

People make this calculation all the time. Where is the difficulty here?

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 12, 2012, 7:07:48 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 12, 2012, 7:54:41 PM PDT
Michael Altarriba,

There is no problem with that itself. But like Mark pointed out, "if we have no way of knowing if the premises are true, then we have no way of knowing that the argument is true." He pointed out that some will make an assumption that their argument relies on, which means we do not know the argument is true and so we beg the question. He did give the example of cosmology.

The problem appears to be, as Mark points out, is that some people make a claim that we cannot observe that aspect of reality. This appears to be where cosmology comes in handy.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 12, 2012, 9:08:36 PM PDT
SCL - "But if they are both true then they would have to map reality like you said. It does not appear that you ascertain them differently to see if they are true."

"I find it very likely that these are true" is a conclusion, not a method. When I say "ascertain them differently," I mean the method by which we reach the conclusion, not the conclusion (I think such and such is true) we're ending with.

"You almost make it look like you have to use different criterions of true to say if something is true. "

The method by which you'd check to see if John killed Shirley is different than the method by which you'd check to see if Aspirin helped prevent heart attacks. "Check for truth" isn't a method, because it doesn't tell you how you'd go about trying to find out.

"I asked you "do you believe that only a blue sun will be in the sky tomorrow?""

I suspect the sun will be the same color it was today, in that if I had to assign a probability (or just bet a few dollars) that's the conclusion I'd put money on. That's a subjective probability assessment, but not something I'd call faith. If the sun is a different color, then my model of reality will need revision, and at the very least we'd have to look at why the sun appears to be of a different hue.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 12, 2012, 9:19:14 PM PDT
Mark Hornberger,

It would appear that any method that you use would have to map reality, as you pointed out for what it means to be truth. So it would appear that you would have to use methods, no matter what the problem, that map reality. If you want, you can point out the difference between those two different problems that you mention.

You suspect that the sun will be the same color it was today, but this is just an assumption and has no validity. We do not know if the premises are true. You can give any subjective probability you would like, but this will not make it any more likely, and it definitely does appear to be a faith claim. I have no reason why you would want to not call a spade a spade. This belief you brought up meets the criterion of what you trouble with, because any defense of it would beg the question. So it appears that you have no problem in doing what you are skeptical about with others doing.

I do not see how anyone could defend that subjective probability is not faith.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 12, 2012, 9:28:10 PM PDT
SCL - "and which appears to have something to do with the difference between faith and non-faith"

Faith is adequate in dealing with emotional issues, relationships, stuff like that. I'm puzzled that you don't see how faith might be problematic when it's used as a foundation to make sweeping, definitive statements about the entire universe.

"because you do not accept claims that are not known to be true"

I don't need Platonic, utter certitude. But if you're asking me to share your assumptions, and I currently don't, then I sort of need to know how strong your foundation is. That's a routine thing we all face, and conventionally it doesn't trigger an epistemic crisis where we have to get all metaphysical and quibble over what 'truth' means. Meaning that no, I don't feel I have to prove the existence of 'truth' just to have a right to ask you about the premises of an argument you've presented.

"I have also never said that no one can make any claims, or criticize anyone's claims."

Implicitly, and only then because you haven't thought out and don't really believe in the argument you're presenting. Your demand that we substantiate reality itself raises the bar so high that *no one* can reach it. We can't step outside of reality and show that it's really real, or that truth is really truth, etc. No matter the subject, you can *always* say "hmmm you haven't really nailed down what you mean by 'reality' and 'truth'... I guess you just take that stuff on faith, which calls into question why you feel you can criticize someone else and the views they've chosen to take on faith." I know you would selectively apply that only to skepticism towards the Kalam argument and other theological arguments, but there is no epistemic firewall--if you actually believed this logic, it would eat away our ability to reject any view at all, on any subject.

" I just inquired into your position and what it relied on"

My position on what? Truth? Reality? I have no idea if they really really really exist. They seem to exist, and one cannot function without some foundational assumptions. The difference is that I'm not asking you to accept them. I'm not trying to persuade you that reality exists. The Kalam argument *is* trying to persuade us of something. And when someone presents an argument to you, it's entirely reasonable to ask about the premises. I understand that you're trying to turn that around, but we need to clarify that I'm not trying to persuade you to accept my views on reality or truth.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 12, 2012, 9:41:25 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 12, 2012, 9:43:11 PM PDT
Mark Hornberger,

I do not see how you can reach the conclusion that faith is not adequate to "make sweeping, definitive statements about the entire universe." It appears to work really well. I helps you run away from that bear you keep bringing up.

You are right that you do not need certitude, but you do seem to keep relying on it when you mention that we do not know that the premise is true and so it begs the question, which leads you to not holding to it or believing it. If you do not need certitude, which means it is certain that the premise is true, then there appears to be no reason to stop you from believing in something that is not certain to be true.

I have no idea where you get that I have been questioning reality. All I have done, which you appear to have ignored throughout this, is use your own stated criterion. If these criterion lead to reality being implicitly questioned and do not like that, then it appears that you are not serious about most of what you have talked about here. All I have done is drawn out some things that appear to follow from your own position.

The Kalam argument does not persuade us of something, besides that the argument is valid. Maybe you mean that people use it to persuade someone. I really liked this line that you used, because it appears to show that you are not skeptic. You mentioned that "-if you actually believed this logic, it would eat away our ability to reject any view at all, on any subject." Skeptics withhold judgement on either the negative or positive assertion, i.e. "The sun will rise tomorrow" or "The sun will not rise tomorrow". The skeptic withholds judgement on both of these. That is what skepticism is about, besides pointing out that a persons beliefs either lead to self-contradiction or things that they cannot justify their claims or positions. This is why I think you are disingenuous on trying to be some sort of skeptic. I just tease out implications from your criterion or what you said that leads you to doubt.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 12, 2012, 9:45:11 PM PDT
SCL - "is that some people make a claim that we cannot observe that aspect of reality"

But the claims of scientific cosmology are different than the theological variants. Scientific cosmology is openly, explicitly speculative. If you read The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos or whatnot, you'll find many models offered, along with "this is why they think this may be true, but ultimately we don't know." Science is up front about not really knowing, but trying to find out as best we can. That isn't faith.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 12, 2012, 9:56:29 PM PDT
SL - You are right that you do not need certitude, but you do seem to keep relying on it when you mention that we do not know that the premise is true"

No, I don't ask for Platonic certitude. Science doesn't give that, and it doesn't really exist outside mathematics.

" then there appears to be no reason to stop you from believing in something that is not certain to be true."

I didn't ask for certitude. When I ask "how do you know this is true" I don't mean "with utter, infallible certitude." I mean what basis do you have for saying this? Is it an educated guess? A probability? Do you have any empirical support? The problem with the Kalam argument is that advocates don't just say "if all our assumptions are true, then..." They say "God exists, and here's the proof."

"Skeptics withhold judgement on either the negative or positive assertion, i.e. "The sun will rise tomorrow" or "The sun will not rise tomorrow".

I'm more of a Humean skeptic. He dismissed skepticism of the nature you're describing, because we can't function with it. If we 'withhold judgement' on whether fire will burn us or whether falls from high places will kill us (or whether we will even fall at all), we won't live very long. "Ah, so then you aren't really a skeptic" shows that you don't know much about skepticism. It doesn't require epistemic nihilism. And the Kalam argument is still dreck. It's just as valid as the argument I made earlier for leprechauns, and just as valuable.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 12, 2012, 10:06:27 PM PDT
Mark Hornberger,

They believe in something that is not known to be true. You have explicitly mentioned that this is what you have problems. But now you appear to have no problems when some people do it and have a problem when other people do it. I do not even need to have cosmology brought up when that is definitely speculative, but one can ignore cosmology and look at other disciplines of science that rely on assumptions not known to be true.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 12, 2012, 10:19:27 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 13, 2012, 2:26:59 PM PDT
SCL - "They believe in something that is not known to be true"

No, they don't "believe" in it. The theories are speculative, and revised as new data comes to light.

"But now you appear to have no problems when some people do it and have a problem when other people do it."

Cosmologists aren't claiming that their models are true, just approximations based on the best information they have. Tentative, provisional approximations are not faith. And I don't *believe* in any of the cosmological theories, SCL. They are approximations, and in any case there are multiple theories with contradictory models, so in no case do I think "yup, this is true."

"but one can ignore cosmology and look at other disciplines of science that rely on assumptions not known to be true. "

The assumption of science are easy to find -- Reality exists. The world around us exists. The world around us works in a consistent way, and is thus amenable to the search for patterns. There are a few more, but all of the type that one could not really function without them. I don't consider these articles of faith, more operational assumptions that allow us to engage the world around us. We don't know if they're Platonically, utterly true, but if we act as if they are 'true enough to suffice" then it opens up some profitable lines of thought and action that would be otherwise unavailable.

Science makes operational assumptions, but does not claim utter, Platonic certitude. Additionally, science's truths are explicitly tentative, and are expected to change to accomodate new findings. Science incorporates every method we can find to try to find and emeliorate error. Religion makes bald assertions, rejects the need for substantiation, and embraces the very methods most likely to create and ignore error. If we want to know which has been more effective in understanding, exploiting, and manipulating the world around us, there isn't much competition. It would be hard to credibly argue that the worldview that was less effective was really the one that was better at ascertaining truth.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 12, 2012, 10:19:44 PM PDT
Mark Hornberger,

I never said you asked for Platonic certitude, and I mentioned that already. I just pointed out that you keep relying on it. You do not have to ask for Platonic certitude to have it working within your method. There does appear to be a difference between those.

I hate to break this to you, but Humean skepticism would not accept your position. The consequences of your criterion lead to just about full fledged skepticism, the one that you keep talking about denies reality. That is skepticism of the consequences, and going over some of your method appears to mean we should be skeptical of your procedure. It leads to some absurd consequences. And Humeans skepticism is founded on faith. It is founded on beliefs not known to be true, which is the criterion that you brought up to doubt certain claims.

The skepticism I brought up does not lead, or require epistemic nihilism, which leads me to believe that you have not really studied the works of the skeptics or the history of skepticism to reach that conclusion. Here is a great example of someone saying what skeptics do, from two different people who proclaim to be skeptics and one of them is a historian of skepticism itself.

"The Pyrrhonist does not hold the view that judgments may not be made in the absence of a criterion of truth. That is a view held by the dogmatists, for example, the Stoic epistemologists who attempted to formulate such a criterion of truth. If the argument from the criterion is correct, it will have as a consequence that the dogmatist ought to suspend judgment on her dogmatic philosophi­cal beliefs, and also on her ordinary beliefs, for, as Barnes rightly notes, the argument applies equally to both. But this leaves the Pyrrhonist untouched, for it is no part of his position to suppose that judgments may only be made on the basis of a criterion of truth." Robert Fogelin

Scepticism was a cure for the disease called dogmatism, or rashness. But, unlike Academic scepticism, which came to a negative dogmatic conclusion from its doubts, Pyrrhonian scepticism made no such assertion, merely saying that scepticism is a purge that eliminates everything including itself. The Pyrrhonist, then, lives undogmatically, following his natural inclinations, the appearances he is aware of, and the laws and customs of his society, without ever committing himself to any judgment about them...the sceptics recommended suspense of judgment on the question of whether these beliefs were true. One might, however, still maintain the beliefs, even though all sorts of persuasive factors should not be mistaken for adequate evidence that the belief was true. Hence "sceptic" and "believer" are not opposing classifications. The sceptic is raising doubts about the rational or evidential merits of the justifications given for a belief; he doubts that necessary and sufficient reasons either have been or could be discovered to show that any particular belief must be true and cannot possibly be false. But the sceptic may, like anyone else, still accept various beliefs." Richard Popkin

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 12, 2012, 10:26:51 PM PDT
SCL - " I just pointed out that you keep relying on it"

It would be difficult for me to rely on Platonic certitude, since I don't claim to have any. Nor do I ask that (or rely on it) when reaching conclusions about the world. Since I don't even think it exists outside of mathematics, I can't demand it of people presenting arguments. If you have *nothing* to support your premises, then we're a long way from demanding absolute certainty when we ask you to substantiate your claims.

" The consequences of your criterion lead to just about full fledged skepticism"

Sure, SCL. Looking at the premises of the Kalam argument and asking "how do you know that?" means I have to doubt gravity and everything else. Yep, makes sense.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 12, 2012, 10:29:52 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 12, 2012, 10:36:22 PM PDT
Mark Hornberger,

You appear to be naive to think that some scientists do not actually believe the theories to be true. Many scientists actually appear to believe theories to be true, or think they are getting closer to reality. This is an assumption and not something found to meet your criterion of true. Roger Penrose would appear to be one example.

You can bring up best approximations as you would like, which is the new word for "we believe it is true", but this is unsupported as well. This is an assumption that is not known to be true. We have no idea if the theories are approximating reality or not, just that it has made correct predictions. That does not tell us if it is approximating reality or not. We can of course have faith that we are, but this just something assumed to be true and not known.

Your assumptions do not appear to be science assumptions, except for at least one. I like how you keep talking about reality but never really say what it is. So it appears to be an empty word you use. All science needs is that there is a consistent way in which their experiences work. None of this requires some "Platonic" reality that you appear to imply with "reality exists".

I also like how you rightfully point out that science makes assumptions, which by your own line of criterion, means that we do not know if it is true. This is where you doubt on the claims because they are assumed. You cannot have it both ways Mark. You either have to accept assumptions or deny them. You said you do not accept them when not known to be true, and most of the scientific assumptions for method, or the foundation of theories, are assumptions that are not known to be true. This is what you have stated in what you reject.

We also appear to have no way to find out if science is ascertaining truth. This appears to be one of those other assumptions that you rely on which do not appear to have been shown to be true.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 12, 2012, 10:35:19 PM PDT
Mark Hornberger,

You would have to assume that someone has *nothing* to support their premises. But you would have to know that they have nothing to support their premises. But the question becomes how do you know that they have nothing to support their premises?

What I brought up about your criterion leads to full fledged skepticism is that you would have to be skeptical of what would happen a second from now. You assume it will be a certain way without knowing that the premises are true. This expands well beyond what will happen a second from now. And you would have to doubt gravity when it relies on assumptions that are not known to be true. Not sure how you missed that.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 12, 2012, 10:49:53 PM PDT
If you're engaged in an elaborate piece of online philosophical performance art, I have to say I'm impressed by your ability to remain "in character."

I mean, this must be the case. If you actually believed what your online character claims to believe, you'd be in a constant state of paralysis, unable to even take a breath because of your lack of certainty that it was *really* air you were surrounded by...

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 12, 2012, 10:55:45 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 12, 2012, 10:56:35 PM PDT
Michael Altarriba,

A baby does not seem to have any trouble breathing, nor being in a state of paralysis, neither do animals. They seem to do just fine. And actually quite a many things are certain. I see a red pen before me, I feel the fur of a cat next to me, or seeing words on a lap top screen. None of this appears to be amendable to doubt.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 13, 2012, 9:15:11 AM PDT
SCL - "You appear to be naive to think that some scientists do not actually believe the theories to be true"

Tentatively true, not Platonically true. All scientific theories are probabilistic, and subject to revision.

"All science needs is that there is a consistent way in which their experiences work. None of this requires some "Platonic" reality that you appear to imply with "reality exists". "

I've rejected the need for Platonic certitude, several times over. I understand your need to pretend otherwise, to make my position into a faith-based worldview. However, I don't claim to know the nature of 'ultimate' reality, or even that there is such a beast. Again, if you're being chased by a bear, you aren't going to doubt reality. And though I'm not being chased by a bear (or he's being very stealthy, anyway) that's the reality I live in. I don't (or can't) know if it's 'really' real, but I accept it as it best seems to me. If you want to reject it, go right ahead. Again, I'm not asking you to believe something.

"Your assumptions do not appear to be science assumptions"

My assumptions are merely operational. I don't claim to actually know. You're free to reject causation, induction, or the idea of reality itself if that floats your boat. If you don't reject any of those things, then your ostensible 'skepticism' is a disengenuous pose.

"You can bring up best approximations as you would like, which is the new word for "we believe it is true", but this is unsupported as well"

Then don't believe it. Science actually works, so we have a couple of centuries of advances to stand by. Stick with bronze-age creation stories if you find that model more tenable.

" I like how you keep talking about reality but never really say what it is"

I like how you ignore what I've actually said, which is that I deal with reality as best I can understand it. I explicitly stated that I can't step outside of reality to substantiate that it was 'really' real or whatever qualification you're asking for.

"I also like how you rightfully point out that science makes assumptions, which by your own line of criterion, means that we do not know if it is true"

Yes, and I stated what those assumptions are, and why I accept them. They are operational, not philosophical, assumptions. I don't claim to know that they are real, but acting and choosing in this life entails working on the assumption that reality, causality, etc, exists. I'm not telling you that they're real, just explaining the obvious to you. If you can't tell the difference between operational assumptions that reality and causality exist, and belief in Zeus, then I doubt anyone can help you.

"This is where you doubt on the claims because they are assumed."

The way I've phrased it is that I see no reason to think they're true. I *do* have reason--my own experience--to think that reality exists, that the world around us is consistent, etc. So my own "assumptions" have been substantiated by my own experience, *unlike* the assumptions of the Kalam argument.

"We also appear to have no way to find out if science is ascertaining truth"

Depends on what you mean by truth. Platonic truth, no. But centuries of experimental verification, and the advances in medicine and other fields *do* indicate a degree of success.

" This appears to be one of those other assumptions that you rely on "

Yeah, that reality exists. That's so... out there!

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 13, 2012, 9:21:57 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 13, 2012, 9:29:35 AM PDT
SCL - "You would have to assume that someone has *nothing* to support their premises."

If they had something, I would hope they'd cough it up when I ask "hey, what do you have to support that?" How can you say I'm assuming they have nothing, when I'm ASKING THEM what they have to support it?

"But the question becomes how do you know that they have nothing to support their premises? "

I ask them what support they have, and instead of presenting evidence they resort to "prove that reality really exists, or shut up." If you have to resort to that level of epistemic nihilism, you don't have much.

"What I brought up about your criterion leads to full fledged skepticism"

And what criterion would that be, SCL?

"You assume it will be a certain way without knowing that the premises are true"

I walk across the room with the "assumption" that the toaster won't magically transform into a grizzly and eat me. Is that the type of assumption you're referring to?

"And you would have to doubt gravity when it relies on assumptions "

So if I doubt that Athena exists, that means I have to doubt that gravity exists?

Posted on Jun 13, 2012, 10:12:20 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 13, 2012, 10:12:32 AM PDT
Again, Mark, job very well done. I admire your prose, your patience, and your manner.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 13, 2012, 2:31:50 PM PDT
Mark Hornberger,

Not sure where you get this tentative true. Something is either true or not. Either you know it is true or you do not know it is true. There is no need for this tentatively true. It also makes no sense to say that something is tentatively true. Either it maps reality or it does not map reality. Not sure why you make things this complex when it would just be easier to say we do not know what maps reality.

You might reject Platonic certitude but you do not appear to reject the Platonic realm, which seems to be the only sense that someone can make of saying something is tentatively true because you do not know if is true. So saying it is tentatively true appears to mean you do not know if it maps reality. We know a lot of things that are true without having to be "tentatively true", it is true. Your example of the "bear" makes the case and point. What makes you think there is any "ultimate reality"? This, again, appears to be that Platonic thinking you have going. Get rid of ultimate reality and stick with reality. No need for this adjective when reality does just fine.

Not sure how you miss that Zeus is operational just as much as scientific operational. You appear to make some sort of distinction when this does not seem to be supportable by anything besides another assumption, which just begs the question and would be rejected by you if you were consistent in your beliefs.

You have no reason to think that "reality" exists if you mean something outside of your experience. You have reason to think that "reality" exists if you means something that you experience. This is where your Platonic reality keeps coming up, which leads you to say you have no Platonic certitude because you are not dealing with this Platonic reality. Stick with experience, because there is no tentativeness or doubt in that. So your doubt appears to come from you looking for stuff outside of experience when if you stick with experience then there is no tentative truth, just truth.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 13, 2012, 2:37:29 PM PDT
Mark Hornberger,

Your criterion as you have stated previously is that they assume something that they have not shown to be true and relies on begging the question. How have you forgot that you brought this up before? This is the whole basis of your doubt on things, which appears to be half-hearted and not sincere.

The walking across the room with the assumption that the toaster will not turn into a grizzly and eat you is an assumption. It relies on an assumption that is not known to be true and any defense you make of your assumption will beg the question. This is why I think you do not believe what you say. Maybe you just use it here and there when it comes to things that you would prefer not to believe in.

IF you doubt Athena exists because it relies on assumptions that are not known to be true then it means you have to doubt that gravity exists because it relies on assumptions that are not known to be true. They are in the same boat, i.e. assumptions not known to be true and so beg the question.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 13, 2012, 2:49:10 PM PDT
WolfPup says:
"Tentatively true" is how science works. It never makes absolute "this is the law" claims. Everything is open for refinement or rejection, or it isn't science.

In practice, the amount of evidence in support of various theories means their wholesale overthrowing is very unlikely, but that's as close to "certain truth" as science comes, while religion makes absolute claims.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 13, 2012, 2:51:17 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 13, 2012, 2:52:28 PM PDT
WolfPup,

So science makes no absolute claims like, "this is a rock in my left hand"? That is tentatively true instead of true? I highly doubt you are serious about that like I doubt that Mark would accept that it is tentatively true that a bear is running towards him.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 13, 2012, 3:00:03 PM PDT
WolfPup says:
From a practical perspective, quite obviously we can treat that as true. Regardless, claiming you have a rock in your hand is easily testable. Claiming a god exists or is doing x...hasn't been shown.
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