Up@dawn 2.0

Monday, January 23, 2012

Group 5 - The Knights of Dei (31-36)

Any particular thoughts on these arguments? Here's my two cents.

Personally, I thought a lot of these had little substance to them. Maybe Goldstein was running out of steam.
Pascal's Wager's no match for Occam's Razor, in that - yes the point of probability is completely ignored by the argument, and furthermore, what kind of person are you if you're just believing in god "just in case".

To quote Mark Twain, "faith is believing what you know ain't so," in other words, "you don't believe what you believe you believe."

The William James's "leap of faith" argument is talking about a completely different God entirely - and the end goal isn't "do this and go to heaven," it's "do this and feel better."

My question to that is - again, if you were to take a leap of faith - and assuming that believing in some all powerful governing and judgmental force over the universe exists makes you feel better about yourself, and enriches your life - what kind of a person are you? The Epicurean paradox shows that god is either powerful enough to stop evil but unwilling to stop evil, powerless to stop evil but willing, or both powerless AND unwilling to stop evil - or does not exist.

So how does believing in a malevolent god, a weak god, or a malevolent AND weak god, enrich your life in any way?

The unreasonableness of reason argument was completely nonsensical, and by the time I had reached premise 3, I had decided that it was best to come back and read the argument again later, because Goldstein had officially "gotten my goat," the clever shrew!

The point of that is, if you're going to deliberately make an attack against reason itself, and dilute it with the uncertainty of faith, what is the point in trying to make a logical argument against it? It would be like trying to make a vinyl record that made such an abhorrent sound when played on a gramophone that it destroyed both itself and the player through the residual sound vibrations.

The argument from sublimity is flawed because it assumes that everyone witnesses the same beauty in everything. Instantiate ONE ENTITY who finds beauty in nothing, and the entire argument falls apart.

Spinoza's god argument, I don't actually see as much of a flaw in premise 1, as I do in premise 8. That which exists and explains itself does not have to be God. That was a completely arbitrary insertion of a divine into what is really just a logical grey area.

The final argument from the abundance of arguments was a total cop out.
Any number of invalid arguments are still invalid. Probability does not factor into deductive logic.



  1. I have personally had Pascal's wager used against me before by family and every time I came to the same conclusion that Goldstein comes to, faith isn't just a switch one can turn on and off at will. I also agree with you that it seems silly to think that choosing to have faith just in case would improve one's chances of a good afterlife.

    As for the Argument from Pragmatism, I thought it was interesting that it was the only argument (at least that I have read so far) that doesn't really attempt to prove the existence of god at all. It seems to me that this was an argument saying one should reserve judgement on the existence of god and be open to the possibility of his existence until after one has experienced the benefits of belief in god. It is an incredibly interesting concept, but the problem remains that one cannot suddenly decide to have faith or believe in something that they do not already believe. Thus, it really doesn't matter if the "pragmatic evidence for the beneficial consequences of believing in God" would indeed be sufficient evidence for god or not.

    The argument from the unreasonableness of reason I had several of problems with. This arguments claim that belief in reason must be accepted by faith. Belief in reason does not give it any sort of magical power to make it true. We believe in reason simply because it works. The argument then asserts that unless one has faith in god they cannot have coherent or moral lives. I would argue the opposite of this point, much as the video Dr. Oliver recently posted, that one cannot truly be moral if they only do what they are told by a god (or anything else). Finally, the argument concludes that since we are justified to believe in god, god must exist. This shows that whoever composed this argument had a fundamental misunderstanding of how reason actually works. All this proof really does, assuming that one grants all of the first 7 points of the argument, is prove that it makes sense to believe in god. Belief is not a sufficient condition for truth.

    I quite liked the argument of Spinoza's God. I agree with you that premise 8 is a bit odd, but I think the parenthetical part means it is simply one definition for a specific god. Though that means we could just as easily defined Spinoza's God to be Spinoza's Flying Spaghetti Monster. If that was the only problem then I must point out that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. I think essentially Spinoza's God is the pious relationship with the universe we have talked about in class.

  2. I agree that the Argument from Pragmatism doesn't even try to prove the existence of a god. It seems to make the non-controversial claim that belief can motivate people and have a tangible positive effect on their lives, regardless of whether or not their belief has any factual basis in reality.

  3. "Maybe Goldstein was running out of steam." No, I think Goldstein agrees with you that most of the arguments are unsuccessful. Remember the novel's subtitle: "a work of fiction." In reality, on her view, there are no successful arguments for the existence of God. More interesting question to me is, do any of those arguments offer any justification of belief or, even more minimally, any defense of a theistic orientation?

  4. Pragmatically, belief in a god often entails numerous tangible benefits to the average believer. A ready-made support network, a community of like-minded associates, access to communal resources (food, buildings, etc.,) an explanation for the natural world, a sense of "purpose", moral guidance, and on and on. Whatever specific deity is posited need not actually exist to justify these benefits: the benefits are concrete and real, even if the god is not.

  5. In my comment I mentioned a video Dr. Oliver posted, I meant the video David posted. For some reason I guess I thought I saw that Dr. Oliver had posted it.

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  7. Argument 32
    I agreed with the writer that it was a flawed assumption that Faith can be turned on or off like a faucet or light bulb. It is not as simple as believing just to witness the benefits of believing then making your decision.
    In response to David, there may be great benefits to the Average believer But you are also correct that it does not matter the specific deity, that may give good reason to be part of any group or order. But that still does not provide any truth the the binding beliefs of said group (for example members of the KKK likely felt similar benefits, but that does not their beliefs were right)
    A reason for being part of something, cannot argue
    Truth, seems very flawed

    Argument 33
    I'm with Andrew on this one, Its just plain Silly.

    I really enjoyed this one, It was fascinating and Like my other group members my Problem is with Premise 8.
    Not so much that it's unnecessary but that it seems to make the whole argument pointless. To me it seems like a very overly complicated circular definition.
    I feel that the validity and correctness of the argument are pointless in proving God exists by using (in my opinion and experience with theists) a very uncommon and extremely basic definition of "God". Like someone else said it in class "If you boil down "God" enough no one could dispute it"
    But i do agree with Daniel, it does seem to inspire a "pious" reverence to the Universe by showing how awe inspiring it is.
    Also it sounds like something a Hippy (or someone under the influence of certain drugs) might say to a theist "Man, what if god didn't create the universe, what if God IS the Universe" follwed of couse by various 'mind blown' noises from his/her Hippy compatriots

    Fianlly argument 36
    I'll answer first with a quote that comes to mind,
    "1500 years ago, everybody "knew" that the earth was the center of the universe. 500 years ago, everybody "knew" that the earth was flat. And 15 minutes ago, you "knew" that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you'll "know" tomorrow."
    -Kay (Men in Black)

    My simple response to this argument is
    No matter how many people think something is true, does not make it true.

  8. Just to throw in some background, yes Spinoza is arguing for a very specific definiton of God. I don't know that I would call it uncommon though, depends on how you define uncommon. A number of respected theologians at multiple points in the history of Judaism/Christianity/Islam have all come to something very much like that definition. In fact, I feel it's the only definition one can arrive at if one is thoughtful, but that's probably just me. And it fulfills all the usual theological/philosophical demands of what attributes God would need to have (timelessness, infinite attributes, self-sustaining, etc)

  9. I would add that it also lacks one critical quality that a majority of adherents to Judaism/Christianity/Islam would find very troubling: anthropomorphism. How satisfying is it to worship or pray to the universe? Judging by the number of worshipers in traditional faiths, the answer would appear to be "not very."

  10. Additionally, Jamie, I wanted to throw out a clarification about the class discussion today. I am aware that no religion, including Islam, is monolithic. That doesn't mean that one cannot criticize specific instances of abuse that are committed by self-identified adherents of a particular religion. If a person, or a group, or a government espouses their religious belief as justification for their actions, then I am entitled to take them at their word. The existence of moderates does not protect the fundamentalists (for lack of a better word) from condemnation.

    Does your particular interpretation of Islam encourage the subjugation of women, genital mutilation, or the killing of apostates? No? Then I"m not talking about your Islam. Are there Christians in the class that want to use tax dollars to promote their religion, limit access to birth control, or outlaw abortion? No? Then I'm not talking about their Christianity. But there are legions of Muslims and Christians that *do* want to do all these things and more in the name of their religion, and bringing pressure to bear on their beliefs has made enormous headway in curtailing their influence.

  11. Thank you for the clarification David, though I didn't suspect anything less, I thought that your point was clearly made enough in the class discussion. I think my point, less clearly stated, was that 'legions' may be a bit of misnomer. I think the facts on the ground are that there are many less of those types of believers than many New Atheists would like to believe, and less every year. They are either reaching or already tipped over into the status of minority, I think the numbers bear, from the research studies I've seen. In fact, every major study I've seen has shown, at least in America, every trend points towards believers becoming more pluralistic, more secular, more open-minded, more supportive of science...

    There was a great article I'll try and find again, about how the increase in activity and loud noises from the Evangelical Right is more of a last gasp against changing trends in the church than a resurgence of those evangelical values.

    I mean for cryin' out loud, one of the most popular Christian books last year in America was a pastor of a mega-church who wrote a book about there not actually being a hell in the way Christians always taught.

  12. I think the word legions is an entirely accurate description for a group comprising millions of people. Even if your assertion that their numbers are in decline is true, does that make them less deserving of criticism? The evangelical right still commands enormous political clout, and an equally enormous desire to legislate their blinkered morality on the rest of us.

    As far as Rob Bell's book, I think you might be overstating its popularity. It was outsold by such gems as Tim Tebow's biography and "Heaven is for Real." The latter sold over 3 million copies, and *is* consistent with the way Christians have always taught.

  13. No, it doesn't make them less deserving of criticism. But I would say that, given the 10% rule, I'm not concerned about millions of people in a world whose population is measured by billions.

  14. Really? I sense that the chasm separating us on this issue is deep and wide.

    Not to put too fine a point on it, but in our modern world-where a handful of people (or even a single person) in the right place and at the right time can take actions that have a global effect-I don't share your lack of concern.

    When we reach a point where the Big 3 are only as obnoxious as a Team Edward vs Team Jacob squabble, I'll rest easier. That's reasonable, right? (lol)