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Common mistakes skeptic makes
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nispat Away
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Post: #1
Common mistakes skeptic makes

While browsing to "Common sense atheism" I found some interesting compilation of thoughts about the common mistakes skeptic makes while debating.

Index
Mistakes skeptics make when using philosophy
Mistakes Skeptics Make When Citing History
Mistakes Skeptics Make When Arguing

Indians today are governed by two different ideologies. Their political ideal set in the preamble of the Constitution affirms a life of liberty, equality and fraternity. Their social ideal embodied in their religion denies them. - Ambedkar
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arvindiyer Offline
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Post: #2
RE: Common mistakes skeptic makes

In fact this may end up as a list "Common mistakes apologists make while accusing skeptics of mistakes" much like the 'fallacy fallacy'.

Let us start with the first article:http://www.ivorytowermetaphysics.com/?p=545

Quote:None of the big theistic arguments, (such as the argument from contingency, Leibniz’s cosmological argument, and the Kalam Cosmological argument) use lines like “everything must have a cause” or “complexity requires a designer”. “Who designed the designer” is an against a very weak form of the argument that no one who knows what they are talking about actually uses.

Disproof by 'reductio ad absurdum' is a legitimate philosophical device. "Everything (that exists) must have a cause" may not be the most sophisticated statement of the Cosmological Argument, but is definitely a statement that is compatible with or a corollary to even the most sophisticated statement of that argument. Therefore, using that simplifying step to apply 'reductio ad absurdum' does not seem at all objectionable.

Quote:Professional philosophers do not argue for god based on complexity, but contingency. God is posited as a necessarily existing being that never came into being itself. Since God never came into being, he would have never not existed. Thus, he does not have a design and requires no explanation out of his own nature.

"Since God never came into being, he would have never not existed." How does this make more sense than "Since God never came into being, he would have never existed."? Perhaps only 'professional philosophers' understand the difference. Also, there is a No True Scotsman fallacy here in the exclusion of those making Complexity-based arguments from the ranks of 'professional philosophers'. Irreducible Complexity continues be a flaunted item in the arsenal of 'professional philosophers' who are formally credentialed and while this is so, there is no reason for skeptics to stop responding to them.

Quote:As any parent knows, best explanation itself does not need an explanation. This comes up every time your children keep asking “why”. For example, if I do not know what quarks are made of, this does not undermine quantum theory. Quarks are still the best explanation even if they have no explanation. To demand an explanation for everything would undermine science and all of human knowledge

An obvious False Equivalence is glibly established here between the 'Quark Hypothesis' and the 'God Hypothesis'. Far from the being the 'best explanation' of any property of the observable Universe, the God hypothesis was recognized as superfluous even during the infancy of Science. Laplace in response to Napoleon's question on why Laplace's Celestial Mechanics had no mention of God, said, "I had no need of that hypothesis." It would be hard to find a contemporary author in Particle Physics similarly dismissing the 'Quark Hypothesis' as something very dispensable. Even if quarks are found conceptually dispensable some day, hypothesizing them has led to more testable predictions than the God hypothesis ever has, rendering the analogy all the more tenuous.

Quote:The god of the philosophers is simple. It is a disembodied mind with no parts, which makes it substantially less complicated than the cosmos. This has been the view since Descartes and has an entirely dedicated area of philosophy

There is a blatant hasty generalization here. True there are philosophers positing Divine Simplicity, but that does not take away from the preponderance of other theologians whose conception of Godhead is undeniably complex. Without the complexity of a Trinity of intermixed yet distinct identity, there is no Christian theology and without ascribing simultaneously both attributelessness and infinite attributes to a Supreme Being, there is no Vedantic theology. Specific formulations of theology more often than not commit to Divine Complexity, making it incumbent upon a skeptic to address it. The 'sophisticated theologian' may argue that such complexity is only a product of our incomplete understanding of Divine Simplicity and 'only apparent'. However, the point is that there is no license to even posit 'operational' or 'apparent' complexity in scientific endeavor that assiduously applies Occam's Razor and exercises great parsimony in the complexity of its assumptions.

Quote:Asking who designed the designer is the logical equivalence of “who caused the uncaused cause”, which is a nonsensical statement. God is supposed to be a brute fact with no explanation outside of himself and asking for one misses the point.

Far from missing any point, the skeptic's question only exposes a tautological, unfalsifiable statement for what it is. Since the special property of being 'uncaused' is claimed for a single cause, simply by assertion without explaining why, the whole 'causeless cause' argument is little more than poorly disguised Special Pleading.
(This post was last modified: 04-11-2011 11:38 AM by arvindiyer.)
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Lije Offline
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Post: #3
RE: Common mistakes skeptic makes

(03-11-2011 03:37 PM)nispat Wrote:  While browsing to "Common sense atheism" I found some interesting compilation of thoughts about the common mistakes skeptic makes while debating.

Mistakes skeptics make when using philosophy

The points are valid in a very narrow, pedantic sense. But the reason why such philosophical disagreements erupt in the first place is to justify one worldview over another. I don't have any problem in agreeing that asserting "explanations require explanation" is problematic for science as well, but then the theologian will use that to mean that science has its limitations, and hence a religious worldview has validity.

If the "other side" makes it very explicit that the arguments are mostly pedantic and have little bearing on explaining the everyday world, then I would gladly agree that skeptics are sometimes guilty of making bad philosophical arguments.
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arvindiyer Offline
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Post: #4
RE: Common mistakes skeptic makes

I agree that self-congratulation among skeptics about being champions of reason can ring hollow if not accompanied by sufficient self-examination and in that sense the exercise in those blog-posts seems well-intentioned. However, the tone seemed affectedly self-critical, bordering on self-flagellation, sometimes conceding to hackneyed theological arguments where it was not warranted. It is also useful to complement this exercise of listing what skeptics do wrong, with suggestions to what exactly we can do about it!

Continuing, there is little to disagree with the second post 'Mistakes skeptics make while citing history'. Fact checks are incumbent upon anyone claiming to be an advocate of reason and trotting out factoids as fact is unbecoming of skeptics.

However, the third post 'Mistakes skeptics make while arguing' seems susceptible to the following critique.

Quote:Quoting obsolete philosophy. Many skeptics only quote the great philosophers, such as Karl Popper and Bertrand Russell. The problem with this is that apologists have long formed powerful objections to these men’s arguments. There are countless professional philosophers, such as Richard Swinburne, Peter Van Inwagen, and Alvin Plantinga, who have dedicated their lives to creating strong responses to such skeptical claims.

This objection seems to cited almost verbatim from a video clip from Dr. William Lane Craig, which has been responded to in a forum thread here and also in a Nirmukta post.

Quote:Being oblivious to Bayes’ Theorem. For some reason, Bayes’ Theorem freaks skeptics out. This is unfortunate because skeptics love to quote Carl Sagan’s restatement of Hume’s proof: ”extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”, which is a Bayesian argument! Even worse, not understanding Bayes leaves the skeptic unable to defend this potent maxim.

If the statement that "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" must be backed up mathematically by a skeptic, it requires first agreeing upon what 'extraordinary' means here in terms of the quantity of the evidence and offering a crash course on Bayesian approaches to the interlocutors and the audience, neither of which is practicable in a debate setting. Different rhetorical devices are demanded by necessity.

The statement and its equivalent "What is asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence" can still be employed effectively in debates by pressing theologians to answer the following : "Name one extraordinary claim, besides God, that you would be prepared to believe without evidence." Sam Harris asks theologians if they would be willing to believe that there is a diamond the size of refrigerator buried in his backyard, if he simply asserted so.

Quote:Only knowing surface level objections.
...
Ignoring their opponent’s literature and debate tape.
...
Thinking they will win because they are right.

The importance of doing the homework right, assessing the opponent's arsenal and practicing enough to beat the opponents at their own game, is something evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne seems to have got right during his debate with theologian John Haught. In these blog post(1 and 2), he describes how he read Dr. Haught's books, watched videotapes, anticipated arguments and prepared his rebuttal accordingly.

Quote:Scientists debating creationists. If you are a scientist, I beg you to not debate creationists. By doing so, you are making it appear that there is a legitimate debate between mainstream science and religion. If you lose, it makes it look as if science lost. This will also happen quite often, as it is virtually impossible to explain science in a debate format.

The most visible scientists at the frontlines of the manufactured creation-evolution controversy do agree and their stance seems to be in line with what Richard Dawkins says in this video.
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Kanad Kanhere Offline
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Post: #5
RE: Common mistakes skeptic makes

I went through the link Mistakes skeptics make when using philosophy but didn't really get the objection against use of "Who designed the designer" argument. The author mentions the theistic argument as follows
1. Complexity entails design.
2. Since life (or the universe) is complex, it must entail design.
3. Design can only come from something more complex than itself.
4. Therefore, life being complex entails that it was designed by something more complex than itself.

The counter argument that "If thats the explanation for a designer then who created the designer" seems totally valid to me. It basically tries to show the absurdity in the above argument in the following manner
1. If Complexity entails design
2. Designer is very complex
3. Therefore Designer has to be designed.
4. And this continues for designers designer...

This is to show that very reasoning used to justify a designer can run into absurdity. What is wrong with it?
If theists append 5th clause to the argument saying that "Designer always existed, is an uncaused cause, etc.." or basically use the "Argument by contingency", then it can be argued "Why the special status to designer. Why can't the same be true for our universe straightaway".

Am I missing something basic here?
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nispat Away
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Post: #6
RE: Common mistakes skeptic makes

(07-11-2011 03:07 PM)Kanad Kanhere Wrote:  I went through the link Mistakes skeptics make when using philosophy but didn't really get the objection against use of "Who designed the designer" argument. The author mentions the theistic argument as follows
1. Complexity entails design.
2. Since life (or the universe) is complex, it must entail design.
3. Design can only come from something more complex than itself.
4. Therefore, life being complex entails that it was designed by something more complex than itself.

The counter argument that "If thats the explanation for a designer then who created the designer" seems totally valid to me. It basically tries to show the absurdity in the above argument in the following manner
1. If Complexity entails design
2. Designer is very complex
3. Therefore Designer has to be designed.
4. And this continues for designers designer...

This is to show that very reasoning used to justify a designer can run into absurdity. What is wrong with it?
If theists append 5th clause to the argument saying that "Designer always existed, is an uncaused cause, etc.." or basically use the "Argument by contingency", then it can be argued "Why the special status to designer. Why can't the same be true for our universe straightaway".

Am I missing something basic here?

The theory of origin could have many explanations. However in theist vs atheist argument, you can't be conclusively right if other is wrong. Like if you prove that god doesn't exist, but it can't explain that Big bang is true. Rather than proving someone is wrong, the emphasis would be on what is correct or provable. So asking for an explanation about who creates the creator and so on is week argument. Because the onus will be on atheist to explain the origins of the universe.

Indians today are governed by two different ideologies. Their political ideal set in the preamble of the Constitution affirms a life of liberty, equality and fraternity. Their social ideal embodied in their religion denies them. - Ambedkar
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Kanad Kanhere Offline
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Post: #7
RE: Common mistakes skeptic makes

Nispat, I agree with whatever you have written. But I thought the author of the article is asserting that argument by regression is a weak argument against argument by contingency. It is this that I think is incorrect.
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