Clueless or cunning?

otto

If Hell exists, it’s frozen over, for I’ve devoted an entire post to cl. I’ve considered it before since he has a trail of nonsense that should anyone wish to go through it on various blogs they could expose a lot of his shit. However, that’s a considerable time investment and perhaps you’d question the value of it as I have. Is he worth that much of my time? What would be accomplished? And would having the spotlight and knowing that I devoted so much time to him provide him with massive stroke material? Well call today a perfect storm, a day when the stars have aligned to allow for this post to happen. I have work I want to avoid, I’m otherwise stuck where I’m at, and cl has made one post which allows me to really address most of what I’d ever want to address.

I just read cl’s full response to Greta Christina’s fabulous article asking believers for their evidence. The point of the post was to try and show that he’s not like those other theists who use all those tricks and excuses to argue for their god or to defend their beliefs. Technically he may have been successful. Have a look…

I don’t know what to say. I don’t give excuses for why I can’t provide evidence.

Alright, technically this may be true, because what he tends to do when asked is turn around and ask for definitions for what the questioner would accept as evidence or, in his own words, “[y]ou asked for evidence; I quibbled over your criteria.” Another tactic is to turn the problem of lack of evidence into a problem with the questioner, claiming that he actually does have evidence but “none that [the questioner] would accept”, which is actually a subtle ad hominem. That’s funny because as he’s said before, “I’m more than happy to point it out when my detractors descend into ad hominem nonsense.” Indeed he is, whether they do or not, but just like the rest of his poor behavior, he never sees it, conveniently ignores it or denies and distracts you from when he does it.

I don’t go on irrelevant tirades about mean atheists.

He goes on tirades all the time about how I allegedly bully him, but no doubt in his mind those tirades aren’t irrelevant though; therefore, technically, he may be correct, although he’d need some corroboration for that judgement, but then he’d argue that requiring corroboration or demonstrable evidence shows a fault in the one asking for them, or he’d just quibble over the criteria.

I’m more than happy to discuss the evidence for my worldviews – anywhere, anytime

Technically he may be willing to discuss evidence for his worldviews, but you somehow have to get him to actually state what SPECIFICALLY his worldviews are first. Good luck with that. Evo alone went through a stretch of time where that was nearly all he asked him, plus to give evidence for his god or why he believes there’s one until he grew tired of asking without getting a reply. Some of those exchanges are on my blog and SI’s, as well as Evo’s. MAYBE if you got past that step, he would discuss the evidence, provided you were clear on your definition of evidence, and were willing to overcome that definition to accept his definition, but that first step is a doozy.

Greta objects to many “conversational gambits” used by theists and other woo-types, like claims that the spiritual world is beyond the physical, saying, “if there really were a non-physical world affecting this physical one, we should be able to observe those effects.” Cl’s response is

I wholeheartedly agree, and further submit that the effects are there.

And yes, he has offered what he believes are those effects. Fair enough, and this is consistent with his definition of evidence – “data consistent with what we would expect were a given proposition correct.”

What he fails to offer, however, is why anyone should think they’re effects from the supernatural. As Greta explained, “[w]hen Isaac Newton developed his laws of motion, he had no clue what gravity was. For all he knew, gravity was caused by demons inside every physical object, all pulling at each other by magic. He tried for years to figure it out, and eventually gave up.” Again, he “eventually gave up.” Why? Because to posit demons or any other such thing would be irresponsible. Likewise, it’s irresponsible and irrational to believe something is a cause for an effect when there’s nothing to support that belief and no, claiming the effect is evidence for the cause is unacceptable for that’s simply circular logic. Oh, but then that’s probably my fault for not accepting evidence, right? Of course, which makes me “closed-minded”, but that’s skipping ahead.

The flaw in his definition for evidence is it ignores the issue of what’s a suitable proposition. Such a flaw then allows for his reported effects for the supernatural to be evidence for the supernatural, and for Newton to have claimed demons as the cause for the effects of gravity. I suppose if you want the supernatural to exist, then it’s not a flaw at all. It’s a stroke of brilliance, as any excuse which allows you to indulge in what you otherwise couldn’t or shouldn’t always seems to be. But fundamentally, the idea of individual definitions for evidence is itself a flaw, or perhaps another stroke of brilliance.

Unfortunately for cl though, he actually has argued that the supernatural is beyond science’s grasp…

Am I saying science can’t “prove” God the way it “proves” natural phenomena? Certainly… That one can’t “prove” God doesn’t mean one can’t approach the God question in a way that is scientifically grounded.

Have cake and eat it too. Why not? But this just ignores the flaw exposed above, on what grounds do we consider a god or anything else supernatural as a cause? He’s correct in asking, “[i]f X does exist or is true, what conditions would we reasonably expect? Conversely, what conditions would we reasonably expect if X does not exist, or is not true?” But why consider X? On what grounds do we consider X as a cause worth exploring, and if X can’t be “proven” like other natural phenomena can, then what’s the point of entertaining the X hypothesis, and how is that not an example of Greta’s conversational gambit of the spiritual world being beyond the physical? He says these things, yet they’re not examples of Greta’s objection? He also said he doesn’t claim a NOMA defense, yet says god claims are unfalsifiable. It naturally begs the question of why he’d say these things, but we can’t know.

Greta’s third conversational gambit is where theists argue that if you can’t disprove their beliefs with 100% certainty, it’s reasonable to believe them.” Cl tries to distance himself from that one…

By no means will I argue that one’s inability to disprove my beliefs with 100% certainty gives me reason to believe them.

Technically correct again. Instead, he uses that lack of 100% disproval as grounds for offering his alleged effects of the supernatural along with various arguments for the supernatural, which together he thinks make his belief reasonable. Possible, or perhaps I should say not impossible as far as we know, but reasonable? Well then the gravity demons are as well I guess, but if you’re scoffing at the gravity demons right now, guess what? You’re being closed-minded.

So when I say certain atheists are closed-minded, it’s not because I can’t come up with an argument or evidence for my position. It’s because time and time again, when I make some argument or present some evidence for theism, I get personally attacked, or banned, or censored, or denigrated, or the arguments get blindly dismissed.

Technically correct yet again? I’m not so sure this time. We’re back at the beginning again quibbling over what’s evidence, and naturally if you don’t accept his idea of what’s evidence, you’re closed-minded. That’s how it works. Point out the flaw in that or any other argument of his, and you’re personally attacking him. Express frustration over this consistently happening and you’re denigrating him or being dismissive.

Anyway, let’s take a look at what I guess would be open-mindedness to him.

[M]any can’t even fathom “the supernatural” because it just hasn’t happened to them. Because it hasn’t happened to them, and because science doesn’t allow them to believe in it, they don’t even need to think about it. That’s one thing I don’t understand about skepticism as a philosophical outlook: why limit your mind, when you can expand it?

And how can we know if it happened to us? The otherwise unexplainable should be assumed to be supernaturally caused? Now who’s limiting their mind, or should I say working with a limited mind?

For further on this issue of closed-mindedness, I can’t help but plug an earlier post of mine on the topic, but what really nails it is the following video. Enjoy!

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190 Responses to “Clueless or cunning?”

  1. Ain't blogging fun?

  2. I used to find it therapeutic, but I don't think it is much anymore. I used to think that perhaps something I wrote may help someone, and I suppose I still consider that fairly possible, but it's not as motivational for me anymore. I used to enjoy testing my thinking by engaging in discussions and argumentation, but people like cl have sucked the enjoyment out of that. When someone either plays poorly, actively cheats, attempts to deliberately disrupt the game or is so clueless that they think they're a superstar when they're actually a clown, you just want to walk away. When you find that the arguments and objections you face everyday never change, then it really makes the whole experience less appealing and seemingly futile and finally when you find other things which are more satisfying, then it makes blogging an ever less frequent activity.

    Well, that's my story at least.

  3. I think it still comes down to the age old problem of definitions. If you are trying to find evidence of the supernatural in the natural world, by definition, that’s impossible. Supernatural, as defined, is beyond the natural, or not in the natural world. The natural world is, by definition, everything, or at least everything we can possibly know, so by definition, the supernatural doesn’t exist.

    Another way of looking at it is the supernatural is something we can only imagine. A mental construct. It’s anything that can’t possibly exist, except in our imagination. Because our brain can imagine almost anything, it’s hard to shake the possibility that what we can imagine can possibly exist. But if that’s the case, then goblins, angels, fairies, pixies, green cheese on the moon, leprechauns, unicorns, teapots orbiting the earth, FSM, etc. all exist, simply because we can picture them in our minds, or draw them on a canvas.

    The other side of the coin is that if we could find actual evidence for the supernatural, then again, by definition, it wouldn’t be supernatural, it would be natural, because we have evidence, which can only be natural.

    CL’s wonderful {/sarcasm} examples of the supernatural, video games falling over and the little girl whose cancer spontaneously disappeared, both manifested themselves in a natural way, so the explanations HAVE to be natural.

    Now, cl will say that, no, the supernatural can affect the natural world, and that’s what his examples are. Yet, his examples are unsatisfactory because that’s at best an argument from ignorance, not to mention a false dichotomy. “The natural manifestation that we see has no known natural explanation, therefore it must be supernatural.” Hogwash. It could just as easily be a natural explanation we don’t know about. Or it could be any number of explanations that we DO know about.

    Bottom line is if there is a supernatural entity Christians, at the very least, call God, he should be able to manifest himself in far more convincing ways than falling video games in someone’s private home, remission of ordinary disease, images on toasted cheese sandwiches, etc. For those who are not reading my blog, I’ll copy the following from someone’s comment, which is apropos.

    Gods who play parlor tricks when living beings around the world are suffering and dying everyday, often in hideous circumstances, do not deserve respect, let alone worship.

  4. comment1,

  5. Oh, dude. Kudos for the patience and sheer psychological grit it must have taken to do this… but you know he's in his basement right now, dressed in underpants and sunglasses, doing a patented "All this attention means atheists fear me," dance.

  6. Actually, it's more of a lack of patience that prompts responding to him, even though it may lead to him doing things in his underpants.

  7. SI:
    I'm glad you found my little gem that you quoted apropos of something or other. 8)

    I've realized recently that I find god-questions supremely boring. If there is a deity and he/she/it cares whether I believe in it, then he/she/it will have to get my attention with something better than parlor tricks. Shit, Penn & Teller do those. You don't see me offering them burnt offerings, and ten percent of my income, and my eternal devotion.

    I find god-questions boring, but I find the behavior of people who take those questions seriously – and who insist that I should do likewise – supremely important, so much so that those people, their behavior and the beliefs that motivated their behavior demand my constant attention. I wish it were otherwise, but, alas, 'tis not the case.

  8. Indeed, the supernatural once known no longer would be supernatural. In other words, the unknown once known is no longer the unknown for that's what the supernatural is, is it not? One big heap of the unknown. The fabulous thing about science is it adapts. Whatever knowledge there is to have, it will assimilate it. If you can demonstrate successfully the power of spell casting, magic potions, astrology, crystals, or any other supernatural woo, it would be absorbed into science and you'd have magic majors at MIT and CalTech.

    Anyway, the post is about whether or not he's an example of what Greta describes. Does he get off on technicalities?

  9. I think the question of how to deal with those people will be one that will be pondered for a long time. We all know that human nature is such that everyone finds way to indulge in what they shouldn't. How do you convince people to eat less and exercise more? How about drinking less, or not smoking, or not shooting up or not succumbing to Nigerian email scams or basing life decisions on irrational beliefs? How do you convince people not to hurt others? All challenging battles which will perpetually be fought no doubt.

  10. Does he get off on technicalities?

    Hmmm. That question has double meaning. No, nothing he's ever said get's him off on technicalities, but yes, I could see him, in private, getting off on his technicalities.

  11. Yep. Sorry, I saw that as quoted by TOG, but didn't check to see who originally wrote it. Good quote.

  12. comment1,

  13. Yes, Chappie. Exactly. Arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin and what percentage of unexplained recoveries/deaths can be attributed to a superhero no one has ever seen holds no interest for me.
    People who are disposed to believe in the Tooth Fairy and have conversations with invisible magicians keep me appallingly riveted.

  14. However, that’s a considerable time investment and perhaps you’d question the value of it as I have.

    Ah, yes… fallback to That Other Guy's standard excuse: "But I just don't have the time to invest in debunking cl's arguments, woe is me!" Yet, you apparently have PLENTY of time to call me an idiot, douche, troll, jackass, etc., so clearly, time is not the problem. You've got plenty of time, Philly: it's just that instead of actually trying to deliver what you claim you can, you resort to refutation by denigration.

    ..what he tends to do when asked is turn around and ask for definitions for what the questioner would accept as evidence.

    That's correct. Discourse is futile without firmly cemented goalposts, though you act like that's a bad thing, even in spite of other atheists who agree with me on this point.

    Another tactic is to turn the problem of lack of evidence into a problem with the questioner, claiming that he actually does have evidence but “none that [the questioner] would accept”, which is actually a subtle ad hominem.

    Ad hominem argumentation links the validity of a premise to an irrelevant characteristic or belief of the person advocating the premise. Recall that I am the one advocating the premise that I have justification for belief in the supernatural. So, when I say that I have evidence, but don't believe [certain atheists] will accept it, such is not an ad hominem argument. An ad hominem would be something like, "Philly's claims are false because he's a smart-ass," or something like that.

    He goes on tirades all the time about how I allegedly bully him,

    Philly, you bully and insult anyone who dares to see things differently than you. I don't "go on tirades" about you. Contrary, I ask you to mind your own business and leave me be, because you have nothing of value to contribute to my arguments. Now, of course that's too much to ask, so when you resort to name-calling, I'm more than happy to point it out: every time you repeat the words "douche", "jackass", "troll", etc., it's just another data point in favor of the conclusion that you don't really have cogent rebuttals to anything I've said.

    Technically he may be willing to discuss evidence for his worldviews, but you somehow have to get him to actually state what SPECIFICALLY his worldviews are first. Good luck with that.

    Good luck? My views are stated specifically all over my blog. John Evo's questions were directly answered months ago. Do you have any valid objections?

    ..[cl] has offered what he believes are those effects. Fair enough, and this is consistent with his definition of evidence – “data consistent with what we would expect were a given proposition correct.” What he fails to offer, however, is why anyone should think they’re effects from the supernatural.

    "Should?" I'm not concerned with telling you what you should think. I am interested in hearing rational explanations for the things I discuss on my blog. What I've done is to compose sets of predictions – things we might expect to see if spiritual hypotheses were correct or incorrect – then analyze the real world for those things. That's the scientific way.


  15. Likewise, it’s irresponsible and irrational to believe something is a cause for an effect when there’s nothing to support that belief and no, claiming the effect is evidence for the cause is unacceptable for that’s simply circular logic.

    In other words, all you have to do is claim "there's nothing to support my belief," which is exactly why I'm concerned with firmly cemented goalposts. Feel free to provide them anytime.

    The flaw in his definition for evidence is it ignores the issue of what’s a suitable proposition.

    Ah, I see: you say my proposition is not suitable, therefore it's not. Who's reasoning in a circle here?

    Unfortunately for cl though, he actually has argued that the supernatural is beyond science’s grasp…

    Where are those "standards of argumentation" you make such loud pretense about? My *actual* words – which you cited – were, "Am I saying science can’t “prove” God the way it “proves” natural phenomena? Certainly… That one can’t “prove” God doesn’t mean one can’t approach the God question in a way that is scientifically grounded." IOW, God is NOT beyond science's grasp, but PROVING God (as one might prove gravity) IS beyond the scope of science.

    Note that I did not claim, "the supernatural is beyond science’s grasp," as you attributed to me. Do you really need to build strawmen to prove your point?

    Greta’s third conversational gambit is where theists argue that if you can’t disprove their beliefs with 100% certainty, it’s reasonable to believe them. Cl tries to distance himself from that one… (Philly)

    By no means will I argue that one’s inability to disprove my beliefs with 100% certainty gives me reason to believe them. (cl)

    Technically correct again. Instead, he uses that lack of 100% disproval as grounds for offering his alleged effects of the supernatural along with various arguments for the supernatural, which together he thinks make his belief reasonable. (Philly)

    Trying to distance myself? Hardly. I *do* believe that the evidence I cite and the arguments I make are suitable justifications for what I believe. I *do not* believe inability to 100% disprove my beliefs justifies them.

    Well then the gravity demons are as well I guess, but if you’re scoffing at the gravity demons right now, guess what? You’re being closed-minded.

    No. I wouldn't say those who scoff at gravity-demons are being closed-minded at all. Yours is an attempt to make me appear a fool willing to believe anything that can't be 100% disproven, but that's simply not an epistemological rule of thumb I go by. OTOH, you *are* being closed-minded when, instead of offering even a semblance of a rational explanation for the evidence I present, you simply deny it and call names. Two totally different things, Chief.

    Anyway, let’s take a look at what I guess would be open-mindedness to [cl]. (Philly)

    [M]any can’t even fathom “the supernatural” because it just hasn’t happened to them. Because it hasn’t happened to them, and because science doesn’t allow them to believe in it, they don’t even need to think about it. That’s one thing I don’t understand about skepticism as a philosophical outlook: why limit your mind, when you can expand it? (cl)

    And how can we know if it happened to us? The otherwise unexplainable should be assumed to be supernaturally caused? Now who’s limiting their mind, or should I say working with a limited mind? (Philly)

    You are certainly skilled at building strawmen. I *do not* believe that "the otherwise unexplainable should be assumed to be supernaturally caused."

    Point out the flaw in that or any other argument of his, and you’re personally attacking him.

    Again, note that you don't point out flaws in my arguments; you denounce me and call me names, or you knock down strawmen arguments that have no bearing on what I actually believe. No big deal, but let's not fool ourselves.

    For example, here, you wrote an entire post dedicated to lil ol' me. Yet, not one paragraph of your post constitutes a sound rebuttal of any *actual argument* I've made. Rather, it's just an extended diatribe about your own negative (mis)perception(s) of my style of argumentation – IOW – more hot air.

    By no means do I intend to come off as arrogant here, but let me know when you can refute an "actual argument" I've made. Please.

  16. comment3,

  17. I used to enjoy testing my thinking by engaging in discussions and argumentation, but people like cl have sucked the enjoyment out of that.

    Yes. I couldn't stand it any longer. cl sucks the oxygen out of 90 percent of the threads he comments on. I went away for a bit and came back and NOTHING HAD CHANGED. It was like trying to get away from a friend's disfunctional ADHD son – he dominated conversations and gatherings to the point where I had to drop that friend.

    I'm bummed because most people have interesting things to say even if I don't agree with them, but it's not just a matter of skimming over cl's comments – he is a master at deraling threads.

  18. spelling error: derailing

  19. When personA asks for evidence and you claim you have it but that they won't accept it, you're implying fault in personA. That's attacking the character of personA to avoid their request, which is a ad hominem.

    Now go to Wikipedia, jackass, and you'll see name calling is not itself an example of an ad hominem argument. Only when it's used in lieu of an actual argument is it an ad hominem. I use it like the delicious little mint AFTER an argument entree, moron; however, every time you ignore the entree for the mint, and continue to claim that the entrees don't exist and that the mints are proof that they don't, you demonstrate that my slights are actually valid claims. In other words, you actually provide warrants for assigning you the names I assign to you. Kudos!

    Btw, if you can't fathom why spiritual hypotheses are unwarranted, then you don't know what the scientific way is, jackass.

  20. When personA asks for evidence and you claim you have it but that they won't accept it, you're implying fault in personA. That's attacking the character of personA to avoid their request, which is a ad hominem.

    No, it's not. You'd think including a definition would help, but apparently not. To repeat: me lacking faith in my ability to persuade you of data point X, Y or Z is *not* an ad hominem argument. An ad hominem argument occurs when I deny the plausibility of a premise you are offering via appeal to some negative character trait you are claimed to possess. So, "Philly's opinions about X are bunk because he's Y" is an ad hominem argument. "I have evidence, but I don't expect any atheist to be convinced," is not an ad hominem argument.

    Now go to Wikipedia, jackass, and you'll see name calling is not itself an example of an ad hominem argument. Only when it's used in lieu of an actual argument is it an ad hominem.

    You're absolutely correct. You seem to forget my consistent claim that your name-calling *is* in lieu of an actual argument. When I say something, and you respond with "jackass" yet fail to address what was said, that's called "namecalling in lieu of an actual argument," and you're quite good at it.

    I use it like the delicious little mint AFTER an argument entree, moron;

    Of course, and you think that justifies your behavior, but you'd be laughed out of any scholarly setting quick-like. Further, this is why I laugh uproariously whenever I hear you pontificating on morality, and we "should not do unto others what we wouldn't want done to ourselves." I realize being stuck in a mire of hypocrisy stings, but you can always try the cordial approach.

    ..every time you ignore the entree for the mint, and continue to claim that the entrees don't exist and that the mints are proof that they don't, you demonstrate that my slights are actually valid claims.

    Then show me an entree; that is, if you can find the time.

  21. Yes, I'm saying your proposition is unsuitable like I would say Wednesday follows Tuesday and humans are mammals. When someone states facts, they're not assertions. The existence of the supernatural has not been established – fact, meaning there's no warrant for proposing a supernatural cause for any noticeable effect. It doesn't get any simpler or less subjective than that.

    "Gravity" is a label we assign to an effect, like "wind". It's definition is the effect. To conflate either with the supernatural like a god is wrong for the definition of a god or ghost is FAR beyond a mere label for an effect.

    Yours is an attempt to make me appear a fool willing to believe anything that can't be 100% disproven

    No, what I've done is show the fault in your argument since to accept it would mean Newton would have been ok with crediting demons for gravity. You're inability to see that may make you a fool.

  22. Which is why it would be great if everyone just ignored him, but many can't. I know, it's hard because of the irritation factor, like not swatting at a fly.

    Btw, there is an edit feature, which is one of the reasons why I use this for comments. ;)

  23. Trying to explain something to you is futile since you either deliberately don't listen or lack the ability to comprehend what's explained to you. When I make the effort, it's not for you, it's for anyone who might be reading who might possibly need further explanation.

    I've explained why yours is an ad hominem and mine are not. There's even a reference cited in the explanation. Unless anyone else requires further explanations, nothing else on this from me is needed.

    There's an entree served on most of my comments. Your unwillingness to acknowledge them or your inability to comprehend them has no bearing on their existence, jackass. ;)

  24. Trying to explain something to you is futile since you either deliberately don't listen or lack the ability to comprehend what's explained to you. When I make the effort, it's not for you, it's for anyone who might be reading who might possibly need further explanation.

    What makes you think I feel any differently about you? More, what good does expressing our opinions of one another accomplish?

    I've explained why yours is an ad hominem and mine are not.

    No, as usual, you've simply asserted your own opinion as truth, and you had to twist the definition of ad hominem to do it. Again, I'm the one making the proposition here.

    There's an entree served on most of my comments.

    Well, I appreciate that you can at least admit that some of your comments are pure mint, but I still disagree. Where is an entree? Show me one. Just one. You conceding that I'm "technically correct" in my responses to Greta is certainly not an entree that would justify the mints you serve.

    Your unwillingness to acknowledge them or your inability to comprehend them has no bearing on their existence, jackass.

    Yeah, yeah, of course; right back to where we started: you can't or won't *actually show* an entree, so, I'm a jackass. Show me an entree, Philly, and by entree I mean a cogent rebuttal to an *actual argument* I've made, not your opinions about me, or your opinions about the way I argue, or your opinions about what's "suitable" as a scientific hypothesis.

    Your opinions don't mean squat when science is the issue.

  25. comment2,

  26. When someone states facts, they're not assertions.

    Correct, so why don't you state facts instead of your naked assertion that my proposition is unsuitable?

    The existence of the supernatural has not been established – fact, meaning there's no warrant for proposing a supernatural cause for any noticeable effect. It doesn't get any simpler or less subjective than that.

    Four centuries ago, was the existence of asteroids established? No. Three centuries ago, was the existence of electrons established? No. Two centuries ago, was the existence of the atom established? No. One century ago, were quarks and leptons established? No. Yet today, each of these things are established. How did we establish these things? Like Newton did with gravity – by observing their effects, then testing predictions. Science – by it's very nature – seeks to explain that which is not established. It does not limit itself to hypotheses from "established phenomena." You've got it all backwards.

    "Gravity" is a label we assign to an effect, like "wind". It's definition is the effect.

    Ah, I see: but "spiritual" *can't* be a label we assign to an effect, because you say so?

    No, what I've done is show the fault in your argument since to accept it would mean Newton would have been ok with crediting demons for gravity.

    What argument of mine would mean Newton would have been ok with crediting demons for gravity? By all means, restate that argument in it's entirety, as opposed to strawman style. I've made no such argument. I've already told you that, "I wouldn't say those who scoff at gravity-demons are being closed-minded at all." So no – I do not hold any position or make any argument that would approve of "gravity demons." In fact, gravity's replicability arguably precludes conscious causation, because the behaviors of spirits are said to be intermittent and transient, as opposed to an algorithm like gravity that works the same way every time, provided certain "if" conditions are met.

  27. "Oh, it's SOOOO hard to control the urge to tell cl all the negative stuff we think about him."

    "It would just be great if everyone just ignored cl."

    Do they make irony meters that read that high? Have any of you ever stopped to realize that it takes two people to have a discussion? Therefore, every one of you is just as guilty of "thread derailing" as me, because as Philly concedes, you apparently have real difficulties keeping your mouths shut. Further, whining about "thread derailing" is another perfect distraction for avoiding rebutting actual arguments.

  28. comment4,

  29. comment4,

  30. comment4,

  31. Consider all the explanations of phenomena that science has provided, and all are natural explanations. Not even one supernatural explanation. That should lead one to the reasonable conclusion that there is probably not one phenomenon that requires a supernatural explanation.

  32. NAL –

    If scientists discovered God tomorrow, would they have discovered something natural or supernatural? Why?

  33. comment3,

  34. Define "God".

  35. comment6,

  36. comment2,

  37. comment1,

  38. comment5,

  39. comment5,

  40. comment6,

  41. comment3,

  42. It would depend on the nature of the discovery. However, the god that science would discover would be unrecognizable to any religion.

  43. comment2,

  44. comment2,

  45. The existence of the natural world is established (ie – it’s demonstrable). Exploring the established yields discoveries like that of asteroids and atoms. In contrast, the existence of the supernatural has not been established, therefore there’s no grounds for forming hypotheses about it, no basis for investigation, making predictions, or testing.

    You can’t compare unknown phenomena of the natural with the supernatural unless you’re claiming the supernatural is actually a currently unknown aspect of the natural. Is that what you’re claiming, you tit?

  46. comment1,

  47. It's bold of you, PhillyChief, to take on this guy. I actually find many of the arguments surrounding this dispute less than satisfactory. In addition, I think athiests rely too heavily on appeals to science when trying to refute claims of supernatural events. I don't think what people generally call science can even be applied in many cases. Take cl's story about the flying video games as an example. It seems unlikely that anyone will ever know exactly what happened. I think an investigation would only enter the realm of science once the event could be replicated. Anyone can make a conjecture about what happened, but it's very difficult to assign weight to any conjecture without more information. Yet, it's very tempting to generate and argue for some conjecture. It's really hard to test conjectures that include one-time events or events that rely on a complicated confluence of circumstances (such as, for example, the emotional state of the people around). Coming up with a conjecture that's very difficult to verify means that it's likely hard to refute as well. When James Randi commences to debunk some claim, he does it by finding a verifiable explanation for a phenomenon which can displace the false claim. Unfortunately, in those one-off events like the flying video games, the first step of replicating the phenomenon is not possible. I think it's at this point that a divergence in many peoples' thinking occurs. Some think we simply haven't found an explanation for the event. Some will ascribe the event to ghosts. Some will ascribe the event to God. And so on. For any event, there are any number of imaginary and false explanations. There's a theme in this type of debate of dividing up causes of events into "natural" or "supernatural". I would tend to reject this distinction. The discourse, for me, needs to center on what's knowable and what is not knowable. Any explanation involving, say, ghosts raises a whole set of new questions. If we found out there are ghosts, then that would push back the envelope on what's knowable. We could then ask questions about how ghosts fit into the world in terms of physics, for example. Of course, the idea of ghosts is just a nebulous concept until we can actually characterize them. The definition would have to be refined as more is learned. There might be different classes of ghosts, and some events that were formerly attributed to ghosts might be found later to be caused in fact by pink unicorns. If cl finds hundreds of events that remain un-explained and points to them as evidence for ghosts, what are we to say when some fraction of the events are later explained with ghosts ruled out as the cause? Perhaps by the time the ghost hypothesis is ruled out in all the initial cases, a thousand more un-explained events have been documented. This process usually gives an account for what happened in each of a number of cases, but doesn't advance general knowledge at all.

    I think what athiests like myself would like to see from someone like cl is some unexplainable phenomenon that we can observe ourselves. And if he wastes our time with dodges or phenomenon that do have explanations, then it seems fair to stop bothering to investigate his claims. In addition, we can fairly say to the world that he has been making false claims as to the cause of some phenomenon.

  48. comment6,

  49. If it can't be measured then it's not objectively proveable, and it probably doesn't exist besides in your mind.

  50. Then you'll LOVE this:
    “Although supernatural events or miracles do interact with the natural world, such events represent temporary intrusions into the natural world from entities whose very nature generally forbids them to leave hard evidence, because they themselves are said to come and go from outside our construct of space-time.” – cl

  51. Well it probably should suffice to simply dismiss him based on prior acts like false claims, lies, evasion, and so forth. That's why I always thought somebody should compile his crap, categorize it and just serve it up each time he appears making a new claim or generally talking shit. Thing is, that's a huge job. Fortunately, he was nice enough to make one post which highlights most of his shenanigans, so here we are. :)

    Conjecture without any basis for possibly being correct beyond an imaginative mind shouldn't be assigned any weight at all. To suggest, for instance, that if you accept the FSM, he will make you feel good by touching you with his undetectable noodly appendages and that because you feel good, he must be touching you, is conjecture not worth any weight at all.

  52. comment3,

  53. comment5,

  54. comment3,

  55. comment5, www

  56. comment2,

  57. bryce,

    Hello there. In between the name-calling and flanking I noticed your rather composed and thoughtful comment. Your concerns are certainly valid, and there's much I'd like to clear up. My full response was a bit long, and although I'm not that interested in the hostile atmosphere here, I'm very interested in continuing this discussion here.

    I hope to make your acquaintance and learn a thing or two. If not, best to you.

  58. comment2,

  59. comment3,

  60. comment2,

  61. comment6,

  62. The God of the Gaps of course.

  63. comment2,

  64. And here again you see this clown's consistent failing. If you were to say, "the sky is blue, you jackass," he would ignore the declaration of the sky color, perhaps even insist that you never even addressed the issue of the sky color, simply because you called him a jackass.

    The thing is, he's either unwilling or unable to engage in an intelligent discussion but he desperately wants to, or more to the point, he desperately wants to be seen as an intellectual. Deny him that recognition, and you're a bully. If you're not alone in granting such honor upon him, then you're all part of a "team" who conspires against him. If, however, you don't call him out directly for his shortcomings, then he praise you for being "composed and thoughtful" and will kiss up to you in hopes of winning your support and ultimately your approval of his intellectual status.

    The moment you call him out, you'll just be one of those haters, part of a closed-minded team which conspires to denigrate him. Don't believe me? Test the hypothesis for yourself.

  65. comment4,

  66. comment2,

  67. comment5,

  68. bryce,

    See what I mean? Note that I wasn't even talking to Philly, but still he comes and lays down more sentences that have absolutely nothing to do with the acquisition of knowledge in these matters, and everything to do with his heated emotions and petty personal dislikes of those who dare to think differently than he. None of that brings us any closer to any sort of understanding about what's true in this world.

    My definition of hater as it pertains to blogging entails somebody who never says anything positive or constructive about anything another has to say, but always voices their personal dislike of that person while taking insulting jabs from the sidelines up to and including libel.

    Don't believe Philly's hype. There are plenty of people who disagree with me that I do not consider closed-minded haters or part of Team Scarlet A, for example, Lifeguard, Dominic Saltarelli, Exterminator**, Mike a.k.a. Monolith TMA, CyberKitten, Brad, Steve Bowen, Teleprompter, Modus Operandi, Ritchie, Bobaloo, D, Sean the Blogonaut… (the list could easily extend for paragraphs). In fact, I'd say the vast majority of those who disagree with me do so quite agreeably. None of the people I just mentioned pull the "gang-up" and "refutation by denigration" techniques that Team Scarlet A so utterly depends upon, and when I say "Team Scarlet A," I refer to a specific group of people, not anyone and everyone who disagrees with me. Philly's simply wrong when he says,

    The moment you call him out, you'll just be one of those haters, part of a closed-minded team which conspires to denigrate him. Don't believe me? Test the hypothesis for yourself.

    See how he's poisoning the well? By all means bryce, please do test the hypothesis for yourself.

    [**yes, I tease Ex about being on Team Scarlet A, but I know he's not. He's a renegade, a real freethinker, IMO. Not to mention a really concise writer.]

  69. <img>

  70. comment1,

  71. Philly:

    Good find on the pic.

  72. comment1,

  73. I responded similarly to cl here. He's not too interested in replying, apparently.

  74. But he's always willing to discuss his beliefs. He said so, so it must be true.

  75. I'm not interested. I think you ignored the last paragraph I wrote.

  76. Just face it: you're a big meanie raining on this guy's parade. I'm not sure what prompted me to write my comment, but I did not expect it would land me in the middle of an interwebs tug-of-war! I've seen this tactic before (and indeed, have employed it myself), where you just keep your adversary engaged at all costs in the hopes you can eventually turn them to your way of thinking. cl's flattery is mildly insulting to me, actually. I don't think he really understood my stance. I can see, though, how some athiests (myself included) come across as mean-spirited. And clearly, if your opinions are attacked consistently, it could become very frustrating. So I have a pretty good appreciation of where cl's coming from. I think, though, he's wasting his time looking for ghosts.

  77. bryce,

    So be it. However, it wasn't "flattery." I don't know you, and I don't care for stroking your ego. I meant it when I said your thoughtfulness and epistemological approach is worthwhile. It's too bad you read negative motivation in that.

    Honestly, I don't care whether you or Philly share my beliefs. This isn't about converting people for me, or "turning people to my way of thinking."

    And, I've read all your paragraphs – rather closely. Like I said, you'll never know if you don't try, I don't care one way or the other.

  78. No, you just care about being seen as an intellectual, and/or having your nonsense acknowledged as rational. That's not going to happen on your present course.

  79. I was going to say that the cute lad can play his tiny little violin for me any time, but somehow that just sounds wrong…

  80. Bigger is better. Hands down. ;)

  81. bryce, I wanted to respond directly to you and not get involved in cl's dishonesty, simply because I think you've made a good point here, one that doesn't get addressed nearly often enough and I wanted to see what you and other theists have to say on the matter.

    You said, "In addition, I think athiests rely too heavily on appeals to science when trying to refute claims of supernatural events. I don't think what people generally call science can even be applied in many cases." Alright, fine. If science cannot be used in this situation, what methodology do you think could be applied to discover if the supernatural objectively exists?

    See, that's the problem, we use science because we have no other demonstrable tools in the toolbox. I've seen theists make this statement before, but none of them can ever present another method that we can use which would determine objective truth in this case. How can you criticize the only tool we currently have that has been shown to produce objective results, yet not recommend a better, just as objective tool that we should be using in this particular case? Give us something better or stop acting like the tools we have are the wrong ones for the job.

    This equally applies to the flying video games, etc. If we can come up with a perfectly valid and demonstrably working naturalistic means that could explain the extraordinary claim, isn't it more reasonable that it happened that way and the individual made an incorrect assessment of the original experience? That's really the point, when people attribute an event to a supernatural entity, they have no way whatsoever of knowing if that assessment is correct or not. They can only claim that it happened in that particular way and because of that particular cause, but they cannot prove through any objective means that their assessment is correct. Is it more likely that gravity keeps our feet on the floor or invisible pixies? We certainly don't have to absolutely disprove the existence of invisible pixies to find their explanatory power far less likely than gravity.

    I think that's really the crux of the problem. Theists give us claims they cannot support, criticize the only tools we have and have completely failed to give us anything more applicable to the task at hand. And then they get mad because we apply tools that demonstrably work and they don't find support for their claims.

    Does that make any sense?

  82. Holy Shit, if only you 2 could get in the schoolyard and finish this thing off. :)

  83. Might doesn't make right, regardless of how satisfying it might be. :)

    Seriously though, many struggle with how to deal with trolls, or those who participate in a discussion simply to ruin it. In the physical world there might be means to deal with such people, but here in the intertubes? Not so much. Some go the way of banning, but imo, that's more might makes right and I'd rather not go down that route. Ignoring trolls is probably the best bet, but an especially talented troll will eventually provoke someone to respond. In the case of cl, perhaps the best thing is to simply compile examples of his crap and when he shows up somewhere, present that evidence in hopes that it may dissuade people from engaging him. Of course, as I said in the OP, it's quite loathsome to devote the necessary time to such evidence gathering, but thankfully the jackass made this post and there's quite a crapload of evidence in this discussion at SI's, so that saves a lot of work.

  84. Might doesn't make right, regardless of how satisfying it might be. :)

    Seriously though, many struggle with how to deal with trolls, or those who participate in a discussion simply to ruin it. In the physical world there might be means to deal with such people, but here in the intertubes? Not so much. Some go the way of banning, but imo, that's more might makes right and I'd rather not go down that route. Ignoring trolls is probably the best bet, but an especially talented troll will eventually provoke someone to respond. In the case of cl, perhaps the best thing is to simply compile examples of his crap and when he shows up somewhere, present that evidence in hopes that it may dissuade people from engaging him. Of course, as I said in the OP, it's quite loathsome to devote the necessary time to such evidence gathering, but thankfully the jackass made this post and there's quite a crapload of evidence in this discussion at SI's, so that saves a lot of work.

  85. comment6,

  86. comment3,

  87. comment3,

  88. 5 days ago, you said,

    Consider all the explanations of phenomena that science has provided, and all are natural explanations. Not even one supernatural explanation. That should lead one to the reasonable conclusion that there is probably not one phenomenon that requires a supernatural explanation.

    Yet tonight at SI's, after providing your own definition of supernatural as 'everything that doesn’t exist within the universe,' you said,

    If scientists are investigating the origin of the universe, then I think it reasonable to consider supernatural causes, since I don’t think the universe can create itself.

    I agree with you there, and think that your two statements are somewhat at odds. If it is a "reasonable conclusion that there is probably not one phenomenon that requires a supernatural explanation," why are so many of today's scientists appealing to supernatural explanations, and why are you yourself conceding that supernatural explanations *are* in fact reasonable when discussing the origins of the universe?

    *******

    Readers will also note that your "bold" host PhillyChief dropped swiftly out of that discussion. Chew that for a bit, bryce.

  89. "if only you 2 could get in the schoolyard.."

    You kidden'? That's where Philly's been this whole time; I want him in the classroom. ;)

  90. This equally applies to the flying video games, etc. If we can come up with a perfectly valid and demonstrably working naturalistic means that could explain the extraordinary claim, isn't it more reasonable that it happened that way and the individual made an incorrect assessment of the original experience?

    I would say absolutely so, but, I note that you've attempted no such explanation, despite your accusations that I'm "dishonest," and despite your complaints that theists don't ever try to discuss any evidence. Let's hear your best explanation; after all, that's why I introduced the video game incident to the blogosphere in the first place.

    Or, keep making accusations from the sidelines when you yourself have "completely failed to give us anything more applicable to the task at hand."

  91. My point was that there are specific events about which we have no way of knowing the details leading up to them. Here's a good example: If you see a puddle of water on the floor, did it start out as an ice sculpture of a swan, an ice sculpture of a castle, or just water accidentally spilled? No one has come up with any way to reverse time or discover the details without having some witness to them.

    Uttering "science" isn't some magic way of making a problem go away. The whole history of learning is filled with particular problems that have gone un-answered for excruciating periods of time. In the realm of math, we always seem to have some strikingly simple claims that can neither be confirmed nor refuted. And incompleteness proofs show that no theory is both complete and consistent. Many apologetics for athiesm are ignorant of these concepts. I reject the idea of a magical method that "objectively" answers questions about reality just as I reject unsubstantiated claims as to the existence of some God. It's because for me to think that any such method exists, I'd have to have some evidence that it does. I've never seen any. For me, arguments for theism are not properly squashed if we aren't honest about "science". There's a real risk that athiest apologetics could be (legitimately) defamed because of weak and false appeals to some misconception of science.

    I'm happy to discuss more. I don't feel I've fully answered your questions, but that's because I think it's more important to elaborate on my perspective than to just go point-by-point. Let me really simplify my perspective on this:

    1. claims that God exist are implausible
    2. yes, we have a body of knowledge and ways of applying it (call it "science" if you wish) that is supposed to be consistent and turns out to be very helpful in making predictions
    3. as far as we can tell, there will always be unanswerable questions about reality. there's no "objective" method, nor any method at all that can answer each question about reality

  92. I think you're being far too dismissive by claiming atheists throw "science" around like magical answer, and I'd love to hear what these so-called "atheist apologetics" are.

    As for your water drop, if there's one on my kitchen floor then I can rule out ice sculpture, and that's how the scientific method gets applied and how supernatural claims get dismissed. Another way is by the practical application of a hypothesis. Precisely what practical application is there to offer a ghost as a cause for an event or an "intelligent designer" for life? Zippo. Now if a mathematical theory lacks a proof yet is applicable, meaning you can make predictions and determination with it, then that's a far cry from what it appears you're implying, that they're simply accepted when they shouldn't be and that it's hypocritical to then dismiss the supernatural.

    Furthermore, true objectivism is untenable, but that doesn't mean every method of gaining knowledge is therefore equal. The scientific method strives to be as objective as possible, and deserves it's loftier status because of that. It's also a perpetually self correcting process, which should be celebrated rather than eschewed by asshats like Craig, calling it the "shifting sands of evidence". Will this method one day answer everything? Unknown, but that's hardly an excuse for esteeming other methods.

  93. I think you misunderstand me. I'm not arguing against science. And I'm a staunch athiest. I don't put any stock in God claims or ghost claims. I want other athiests to be careful when appealing to science. There are many unknown (and unknowable, probably) things and we shouldn't claim knowledge where there is none. I guess I'm arguing for dismissing out-of-hand most claims that would imply a violation of long-standing models. The whiny insistence from some people to explain every weird thing that happens can't be tolerated. I'm struggling to come up with a good response to people who behave this way. My sense is that just because some event is "weird" doesn't mean it's a good subject for further investigation. For me, it would need to be weird in some specific way that would cause one to think that it could not have happened unless some long-held model were incorrect or incomplete. This is subtle, since we already know that the "best" models ARE incomplete or inconsistent. I think you would agree with this, but do explain your sense of the situation if you would. And let me re-iterate that I feel what I'm saying actually re-inforces the athiest position and lends no support to any contrary views. I could be wrong, though.

  94. Thank you for the clarification. I suppose interacting online for so long with people trying to lay traps or similar shenanigans has made me needlessly look for such things where they don't exist. I'm very happy to see that I misread your intent.

    I sometimes have to laugh at how much serious science we atheists need to know when engaging the religious in conversations. It's not always as simple as having to explain what "theory" means in science. We need to have a pretty solid understanding of evolution, the BIg Bang, radioactive dating, quantum mechanics, and many other things, not to mention the ability to quickly spot logical fallacies and an understanding of the most common religious arguments (ie – Pascal's wager, Watchmaker's fallacy, the banana, etc).

    I agree that atheists shouldn't invoke science like a magic talisman, but I can at least understand why some do. It's HUGELY unfair how much the atheist needs to know in comparison to the theist, and it's especially frustrating when in a discussion, the theist can't or won't grasp even the most basic concepts you're relying on and trying to convey.

    The best approach anyone could take is offer what you believe and why, and also make it clear that you're always willing to hear scrap those beliefs in favor of more worthy ones.

  95. There are reasonable explanations for events we observe and unreasonable explanations. We can come up with plenty of reasonable explanations for a puddle of water, we would not expect to accept that aliens came down and poured a glass of water on the ground or that some supernatural entity magically caused it to appear as reasonable without significantly more evidence than is presented. The problem is, you're looking for absolutes in a decided non-absolute universe. We don't know much of anything with 100% certainty, we simply make the best, most educated guesses we can, then test those guesses to see if they hold up to scrutiny. You have to accept that absolutes almost never exist. That's the realm of religion, the people who want to invent things that are always true and can never change. That's a pipe-dream in the real world.

  96. Yep. Though I would make a distinction between the "supernatural" appearance of water and an alien putting it there. The existence of some animal born and raised on another planet wouldn't necessarily violate any well-tested principles. To me, anything called "supernatural" implies some violation of well-tested principles.

  97. Far too many people use 'supernatural' incorrectly, just so it sounds a little more reasonable when they get around to applying it to their god beliefs. Supernatural, by definition, defies natural explanation, not only at the moment, but permanently. It is something that is entirely beyond naturalism, which is exactly what ghosts and gods and unicorns (for lack of a better example) would be.

    That's why all claims of supernaturalism are inherently irrational on their face.

  98. Here's the problem with that. Once something could be shown to violate well tested principles, then the principles would be amended either across the board or for this particular something. That something would then be fully investigated and documented and before long, what do you have? I'd say a new category of natural.

    So to me, the term "supernatural" really comes off as 'some shit I can't explain yet' and thus, is a placeholder term of ignorance. It's the same way "god of the gaps" works.

  99. Yes, exactly.

  100. [...] the usual haters are at it again, but in between the name-calling and flanking I noticed a rather composed comment from somebody by [...]

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