jaydinitto.com

abounding with verbosity

Monthly Archives: November 2013


Taking A Month Off

I’m taking December off of my rigorous blogging schedule of maybe posting once or twice a week to finish the first and second drafts of Retardo Montalbán*. It’s verboten form for writers and bloggers to explicitly state things like this, but I’m neither so I don’t recognize those social constraints.

There will be one small post in December about an email list and the re-release of Bored in the Breakroom, this time in print format for posterity-safekeeping for the “grid down” version of the dolphin apocalypse—the most likely of all doomsday scenarios. There will be bonus stories and seafaring carnage.

* The working title. I have a real title that I may stick with but I don’t want to reveal. These things have a tendency to shift even with the most stubborn of creative ambitions.

The “Accumulative Existence” Argument Against God’s Existence

This is a redo of my previous post, “The ‘Accumulative Past’ Argument Against God’s Existence”. After some discussion on Facebook I decided to change it up. I thought #1 was a weak premise, even for a skeptic, seeing as time as we know it is an abstraction by itself, and if it’s applied to a transcendent being it pretty much loses enough meaning to really talk about it. But I decided to go with it since that was my initial thought.

Here’s the revamped argument:

1. For God to be God He must embody all the properties He has to the maximal degree.
2. The universe and things inside it (people, rivers, quarks) are all separate from God.
3. God plus the universe is greater than God.
4. Therefore, there is at least one property, the quantity or “amount” of being, that God (or “God”, now) does not hold in the maximal degree (1-3).

To put it in a single sentence: all of existence (God plus anything He has created) is greater than God alone, therefore existence itself, not God, is the holds the trophy for being the category holding the most “stuff” in it.

Still, this needs a lot of discussion, and I’m going to assume this has been thought of before in a different, more academically rigorous form. Stanford’s ontological arguments page should probably have it, but I have yet to really dive into it.

In the end, though, providing arguments for this or that logically when speaking of metaphysical truths butts up against boundaries but doesn’t break through. It can’t. The nature of God should be elusive; I personally wouldn’t be satisfied in believing in a god that is perfectly logical.

The “Accumulative Past” Argument Against God’s Existence

You are not this guy.

You are not this guy.

Most Christians are too scaredy-cat—skeptics, too dull-witted—to really step into the thinking process of someone different. I, on the other hand, can spend inordinate effort doing so.

This argument is very weak because it’s just a framework. A more realer philosopher-guy needs to put some meat on the steps. Additionally, this can only work for skeptics, who by dint of their beliefs must claim to know a lot more about metaphysical truths than theists*, and in purely materialist epistemological terms.

Enjoy!

1. God has a past.

2. God is such a being that holds properties to the greatest conceivable degree.

3. Therefore, God’s past must be the largest out of anything (1 + 2).

4. Creation (humans, rivers, quarks, etc.) has a past.

5. God’s past plus the past of all created things is greater that God’s past (deductive logic/math).

6. Therefore, God does not exist or cannot exist as currently conceived since He has one thing (His past) that is not the largest out of anything conceivable (3 – 5).

* Real theists are painfully aware of how unknowable God really is, but skeptics spin like lassos their arguments like the matter is settled. Most of those frumpy-minded theists among us that self-glorify themselves as God’s direct mouthpiece can be safely ignored.

Why Jesus Didn’t Offer Scientific Proof

Pictured: Jesus (not to scale)

Pictured: Jesus (not to scale)

Not a bad question from an audience skeptic, and a very good response, but it really takes a moment’s thought to realize a ballpark answer. It should be common sense that people of a certain time and place are going to think and act at least a little different (i.e., different than you).

The gospels are an account of Jesus’ activity in the 1st Century. They record Jesus’ interaction with an ancient audience, as He provided them with the kind of evidence they would find persuasive. If Jesus performed the miracles recorded in the Gospels, this evidence is still powerful in the 21st Century.

The Appeal to Current Affluence Fallacy

Ironhide reacts to Ultra Magnus' "what if we never had energon" lecture.

Ironhide reacts to Ultra Magnus’ “what if we never had energon?” lecture.

Here’s a certain kind of fallacy I’ve noticed that is a specific form of the appeal to consequences fallacy, where one person leverages a premise’s favorable or unfavorable state of affairs to a certain conclusion. The current affluence fallacy appeals to a person’s present sensibilities and comfort levels to imply that a different situation would necessarily be unfavorable or even morally wrong. In other words, the argument rests not on logic so much as on relative affluence or beliefs.

Person A: “The ‘Dark Ages’ weren’t as bad as you might think. There was a lot of development in science and philosophical thought.”
Person B: “Well, I would never want to live back then. They didn’t even have electricity!”

Person B’s argument only works for people who know the comforts of electricity. In the world of logic, it ‘works’ only in a very contextual manner—supposing they were traveling back in time or to a place without electricity. This argument might provide a strong reason not to do so. To the people of the Medieval period, “lack of electricity” just means life as usual; to the people back then, and to anyone who never had electricity, the argument loses its “love lost” effectiveness.

Another example, this one more anthropology-based.

Person A: “Religious belief, even if ultimately false, still can do some good for some people, like provide a sense of purpose in life.”
Person B: “Maybe. Christianity and Islam have a history of misogyny.”

For “misogyny” to be meaningful to anyone requires a very specific political and social context that was absent for most of world history, and still is absent in many parts of the world. To a Muslim or Christian of a certain social background, the term “misogyny” has no meaning or would be seen as a nonsense concept. Trying to convince them of it is equally nonsensical.

Even libertarians, who by nature tend to easily sniff out socially preprogrammed bullsh*t, commit this fallacy in atrocious form:

Person A: “We’re moving to North Korea. Huzzah!”
Person B: “You know North Koreans live in near slavery, right?”

Despite objectively “bad” things that North Koreans might face, many people living there might not see their political system as oppressive or totalitarian in the same way others might.

The One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge

"Do you has what it takes?"

“Do you has what it takes?”

I wonder why I’ve never heard about this until now.

The One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge is offered by the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF), which says it will pay out one million U.S. dollars to anyone who can demonstrate a supernatural or paranormal ability under agreed-upon scientific testing criteria.

I was actually getting ready to shoot a dose of “the test is rigged against itself, derp” in the this thing’s arm for trying to test metaphysical truths using the scientific method, until I read that opening paragraph. It’s actually quite accurate, since “paranormal abilities” means that the user can demonstrate some kind of observable/measurable power that doesn’t fit with how we know the universe to operate.

Quick mental homework result: wouldn’t the conclusions reached also fall under the problem of induction that normal scientific finding fall under? Another possible weakness of this test is that it assumes people who may hold agency over it. Someone might have an demonstrable ability that “chooses” when it appears and doesn’t—that stuff seems reserved for horror movies and Old Testament prophets. The former can’t be tested and the latter aren’t really around anymore.

I Growed a Beard

jay_beard
Despite the mild blowback on beards I’ve noticed recently, I formed one.

Thus sayeth Clement of Alexandria:

How womanly it is for one who is a man to comb himself and shave himself with a razor, for the sake of fine effect, and to arrange his hair at the mirror, shave his cheeks, pluck hairs out of them, and smooth them! …For God wished women to be smooth and to rejoice in their locks alone growing spontaneously, as a horse in his mane.

But He adorned man like the lions, with a beard, and endowed him as an attribute of manhood, with a hairy chest–a sign of strength and rule. 2.275

This, then, is the mark of the man, the beard. By this, he is seen to be a man. It is older than Eve. It is the token of the superior nature…It is therefore unholy to desecrate the symbol of manhood, hairiness. 2.276

It is not lawful to pluck out the beard, man’s natural and noble adornment. 2.277

Hitler on John Piper and N.T. Wright

I’m not a super-theology buff so don’t yell at me for being a Piper or Wright fanboy. I have seen some N.T. Wright videos and liked them. I have seen some John Piper tweets and liked them. That’s about it.

As with some Hitler Reacts videos, it’s hard to really determine who is meant to be supported, if at all. Is it who Hitler is not mad about, or who he is mad about? Or is it the situation in general. Discerning meaning gets more muddled than Facebook likes (“I’m not liking the situation but I’m liking your attitude about it. Sorry your 50th cat died!”).

Thomism.org’s Proofs Against Theism

Flawless.

Flawless.


A Facebook friend linked to these recently. Most of them are satirical strawman proofs; no need to take them seriously, but some do point out actual weak arguments. There’s too many good ones to point out, but check out one of the Carl Sagan Dragon arguments, number 90:

CARL SAGAN’S DRAGON IN MY GARAGE ARGUMENT (I)
(1) God is like an invisible, incoporeal, floating dragon who spits heatless fire in my garage.
(2) You can’t disprove that such a creature exists.
(3) However, claims that cannot be tested and are immune to disproof are “veridically worthless.”
(4) That’s just a convoluted way of me trying to tell you not believe in God for absolutely no reason because we can’t come up with any reasons to justify our position in any way.
(5) Therefore, God does not exist.

One is reminded of Russell’s teapot and the Flying Spaghetti Monster with this argument—both of which are also somewhere on that list.

The fatality is hidden in first premise. Dragons and fire are things sensually perceived. That is, someone must have had perception of the dragon and fire yet is ascribing physical properties to an incorporeal thing. This is something that the Bible does with God only by way of analogy or by actual physical manifestations (pillars of fire and smoke, Jesus, the burning bush, etc). There’s no possible way to receive sensual data unless the thing is corporeal; there’s a reason why someone claimed a fire-breathing dragon is in the garage*. What is it?

One good reason is if the dragon were perceived, say, at one point in time, but before the dragon disappeared it claimed to actually always be there yet not perceptible**. Well, then you have sensual evidence via memory of the dragon—though the evidence is not “transferrable.” The other person would have to take his word for it.

* Unless the person is crazy, lying, mistaken, or being kind of dick about things. But those are different arguments to make. This proof is one questioning empirical evidence, not the mental state of the person making the claim.

** The point could be raised that the dragon is lying or mistaken about actually being there without being perceived. Again, that is another argument to make and depends on whether the person is already open to the supernatural or not. Although the fantastic notion of a dragon appearing in your garage and communicating meaningfully to one person is good grounds for questioning a non-spiritual worldview in itself.

The “Roving Hordes of Heartless Pedophiles” Fallacy

stormtrooper_facepalmBack when mises.org had the forums, someone posed an hypothetical situation (ugh) of a “uncoerced exchange” between a young boy and a group of pedophiles. The boy has no means of acquiring resources somehow, so he exchanges sex with the group of pedophiles for food and shelter, etc. The idea with this situation is that free market libertarianism cannot say this exchange is immoral because it is voluntary on both sides (for the record, I don’t think it does qualify as moral either; that an exchange between consenting parties doesn’t necessarily make it moral but the consent is necessary for it to at least be not immoral).

Making this kind of argument ends up being a roundabout way of necessitating a state, as though dilemmas like this can be decided by the presence of coercive authority structures. Stefan Molyneux mentions it here lays out the problem the 7:45 mark, pretty much until the end, in response to this article in the New York Times. Besides the misunderstanding of the basics of free-market libertarianism, the critique is clumsy and appeals to cheap emotionalism.

I can understand the need to find a “universal moral constant” that can apply in every situation, but coming to a satisfactory moral rule from such unapplicable hypotheticals won’t help in everyday life choices. The idea that there’s a roving horde of heartless pedophiles and one boy and there’s no normal community of people somewhere within walking distance that would take the boy in is ludicrous on its face. The anthropology of human society just doesn’t work like that. Just because it can be conceived on an abstract level doesn’t mean it could happen de facto.

This isn’t to mention, too, that people in these goofball ethical scenarios are always in survival mode. I’m going to doubt that a ten year old is going to really give too much of a damn about playing catcher for a bunch of dudes/women if it means he gets proper food and shelter.

What I find is that most people that argue like this really, that are fine with governments, end up providing arguments against the state—the very thing they set out to support. Seeing as the state is defined by the exclusive use of the initiation force, there can’t be anything moral about its existence or anything it does.

Scroll back to top