Message 270 of 276 (589386)
11-02-2010 12:30 AM
Reply to: Message 251 by Damouse
10-20-2010 7:18 PM
Damouse responds to me:
You are twisting examples to sure your own point.
Logical error: Shifting the goalposts.
The fact that you don't like that I proved your claim to be false doesn't mean it's "twisting examples." It simply means that you didn't think through your claim.
And notice: I just did it again. And this time, without using math. You made a claim. I provided a counterexample that proves it false, thus proving another negative. It doesn't require math to prove a negative. In fact, that's how most of science works: You spend all your time in the lab with failure after failure after failure until you finally find something that shows some promise. All of those failures are negative proofs: X does not cause effect Y.
In fact, rather than "You can't prove a negative" being the case, it is the exact opposite that is the problem in science: You can't prove a positive. Science by its very nature is an observational process and it is impossible to observe absolutely everything about a phenomenon. You can set up all the controls you wish, but there are always factors that you haven't thought about or sensitivities in the instrument that are too gross to pick up on subtle effects.
It's why we shifted from Aristotelian to Newtonian to Einsteinian mechanics: We proved the previous kinematic framework to be false. The fact that Newtonian mechanics was more accurate than Aristotelian mechanics didn't make the Newtonian version right. It simply made it more accurate. As we soon learned, the instruments we had available for measuring tiny discrepancies were insufficient to see the error terms that are always present at every level of Newtonian theory. Einsteinian mechanics provides more accuracy but again, that doesn't make it right: Just more accurate. There may be something else involved that we need to take into account for which we don't have instruments sufficiently sensitive enough to detect.
But notice, every time we move from a less accurate to a more accurate model, we still need to take into account all of the observations that came before. When I slide a book along the table, it comes to a stop. Aristotle would claim that is because "rest" is the "natural state" of the book and all objects return to their natural state. With Newton, we learned better: Instead, that book would have kept on going were it not for friction: An object in motion remains in motion until acted upon by an outside force. In the case of a book sliding along a table, it is the force of friction that bleeds off the kinematic energy of the book and brings it to a stop.
But even then, that doesn't tell the entire picture. Because "stop" is not well-defined. It only makes sense within the frame of reference of the table. The book has stopped moving with respect to the table but if the table is on a train that is trundling down the tracks, then it is still moving with respect to the tracks. There is no such thing as "rest."
Does that make any sense to you at all? We prove negatives all the time in science. It's one of the grandest things ever: To overturn a dominant paradigm. You do that and they award you the Nobel Prize and the world beats a path to your door begging you to join their team or hoping to join yours.
And it doesn't require "math." It simply requires logic: Well-defined objects behaving in well-defined ways.
As it pertains to the discussion, you cannot prove the lack of existence of am omnipotent entity. Done.
I most certainly can.
However, it is up to you to provide the definition of "an omnipotent entity." If you leave it up to me, I doubt you'll like the definition I put forward.
Of course, if your definition is vague and incapable of being examined, then I will handily admit that it will be difficult if not impossible to disprove its existence, but that is more due to failure of the description of the entity, not failure of the process.
For example, if the definition of the "supernatural entity" includes the claim that it created a world-wide flood that wiped out all human existence save for 8 individuals upon a single wooden craft approximately 4500 years ago and that this entity does not lie or obfuscate, then that can be easily disproven by examining the earth for the signs of this flood. If they are not there, then the flood did not happen. If the flood did not happen, then the entity that necessarily created the flood does not exist for the two go together.
That is something specific: A well-defined object behaving in a well-defined way.
If the defintion is vague and without specificity such as the "primal cause," then of course it will be difficult to disprove the exidstence of such an object precisely because there is no way to say anything about such an object, positive or negative. The definition doesn't actually define anything but rather shifts things to other, undefined terms: What is meant by "primal"? How does one determine what a "cause" is?
This, given no actual definition that is of any use, we are left with the null hypothesis: The object doesn't exist. It doesn't have a definition, therefore how can it possibly exist?
Here's another example that might help you understand:
Suppose I told you that I'm thinking of an object that is sitting on my bathroom counter. Well, there's a glaringly obvious method to determine if that object actually exists: Go look at my bathroom counter. But there are a couple problems with this:
The first is that you don't know anything about the object other than its location. You could examine and prod my bathroom counter all you like but you'll never be able to say if the object is there or not because the definition of the object is so vague as to be of no use.
But there's a subtler point: It is a huge assumption that there is a bathroom counter to examine in the first place. What if I don't actually have a counter? Suppose I only have a pedestal sink and a medicine chest? Then no matter how well I define the object, it still doesn't exist because the location in which it is supposed to exist doesn't exist.
This is what I mean by "well-defined objects behaving in well-defined ways." It doesn't require any math at all. It simply requires logic and definitions sufficiently powerful enough to be able to make distinctions.
There is no logical, philosophical way to do it. If you choose to argue against this, you're not of a different opinion, you are WRONG.
And yet, I just did what you claimed was impossible.
I guess I proved yet another negative.
Because you believe there is no omnipotent entity.
I haven't said anything about what I believe. I challenge you to show anywhere where I have done so. Chapter and verse, please. I am very careful to leave my personal feelings out of these discussions precisely because of your reaction: You are responding as if I were an atheist, ignoring what I actually say in favor of the pretended words you wish I would say. I respectfully request that you stop.
By not having a belief in a god of any flavor, you form a belief pertaining to a lack of god.
That makes no sense. How can "not having a belief" suddenly become "a belief"? You just said no belief is held, so how can there be a belief? How can the lack of belief be a belief?
By your logic, you are a massive polytheist for there are many things you do not have a belief in: The object on my bathroom counter (you've got your doubts, don't you?), a diet soda that tastes just as good as the real thing, the Cubs ever winning the World Series. If you are going to claim that the lack of belief is actually a belief, then just how many things do you believe in?
You are arguing silly semantics.
Said the person who still hasn't provided a definition of an "omnipotent entity" that might be examined for existence. I hereby make a formal request. What is your definition of "god"?
An atheist holds to the belief that theistic conclusions are wrong
Incorrect. An atheist holds to the conclusion that the claims made by theists have not borne any fruit.
You do understand that a conclusion is different from a belief, yes? All you need to do is provide more evidence and the conclusion will change. It is not up to the atheist to take on your burden. The burden of proof is always on the one making the claim: Those who claim the existence of god are always the ones who need to provide the evidence to support that claim.
Oh, it would be awfully nice if atheists could come up with a logical pathway such that the existence of "god" could be done away with, but there are two problems with that:
First, there is no agreed-upon definition of "god." Just because the atheist can claim that Zeus doesn't exist doesn't mean that Thor sulks off to join him. This is the source of the joke:
What's the difference between a believer and an atheist?
The believer claims that of the 1000 gods out there, 999 of them are false.
The atheist doesn't make an exception for that last one.
There are plenty of gods that you claim don't exist. You don't describe yourself as an a-Mayan or an a-Aboriginal. It would take way too long to run through all the equivalent "beliefs" of lack. Instead, you are defined by what you actually believe in. So why are you so hung up about others applying the exact same process to yours? Why is it that you don't have beliefs regarding all those other gods but anybody who manages to reduce the circle to nothingness doesn't make it vanish?
The other problem is that it is not necessary to prove something true in order to prove something else is false. I know this example is mathematical in nature, but it is simple and easily understandable:
I don't have to prove that 2 + 2 = 4 in order to show that 2 + 2 <> 5. Oh, it would certainly be nice if I did and it would shut down all the other claimaints who are going to insist that they equal 3 or 6 or pipe up with "for large values of '2' and small values of '5,' they are." In terms of logic, it would be "sufficient" but not "necessary."
and therefor holds to the belief that there is no god.
Incorrect. Atheists do not "believe" anything about god for there is nothing to "believe" about.
The definition does not detail this, but this must follow from the definition.
Except it doesn't.
Or don't atheists get to be the final authority on their own philosophy? Are you so powerful that you can read people's minds and delve their souls?
You cannot have an opinion about something and not have a belief about it.
Except I just showed that you can.
I guess I proved another negative.
ABE: from dictionary.com
Argumentum ad dictionary? Really? That's your final defense?
You do realize that dictionaries are descriptive, not proscriptive, yes? That is, they indicate how words are used, but they do not indicate that the definitions provided are the only ways in which the words can be used.
One way to notice this is that words often have multiple meanings. Take "inflammable," for example. One definition of it is, "capable of catching fire." Another definition of it is, "incapable of catching fire."
So which is it? If I say something is "inflammable," am I saying you should worry about keeping it near the water heater in case there's a gas leak and the pilot light causes a spark? Or am I saying it's what you should coat your kids pajamas in to protect them fire?
Well, context will tell you. The way in which I use the word will tell you which definition I am actually intending.
You see, the logical error you just committed is called "equivocation." It's when you use a word that has multiple meanings and insist upon a secondary, inappropriate meaning instead of the one that actually makes sense.
Take "theory," for example. One definition of a "theory" is "an educated guess." Another definition of a "theory" is "an analysis of a set of facts in relation to one another." I would hope you would not be surprised to learn that creationists often claim that evolution is "just a theory," as if the word "theory" meant the former definition rather than the latter.
Given that the vast majority of people who are using the word "atheist" and "atheism" are not actually atheists due to their sheer number, would it not be surprising to find that the common definitions of atheism and atheist don't really describe how actual atheists view the world? Isn't the fact that you are getting tremendous push-back from actual atheists over your definition of atheism telling you that perhaps you shouldn't be looking to dictionaries for answers?
Or are atheists incapable of correctly describing their own philosophy? You are so powerful that you can read other people's minds and delve their souls?
If the atheist tells you that your description of atheism is faulty, who are you to claim otherwise?
Thank you for your submission to Science. Your paper was reviewed by a jury of seventh graders so that they could look for balance and to allow them to make up their own minds. We are sorry to say that they found your paper "bogus," specifically describing the section on the laboratory work "boring." We regret that we will be unable to publish your work at this time.
Minds are like parachutes. Just because you've lost yours doesn't mean you can use mine.
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