TFBW's Forum

Discuss
It is currently Sun Oct 22, 2017 6:21 am

All times are UTC




Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 34 posts ]  Go to page Previous  1, 2
Author Message
 Post subject: Re: Random Acts of Philosophy on the blog of Martin S Pribble
PostPosted: Thu Dec 15, 2011 4:41 am 
Offline
Accomplished Articulator

Joined: Thu Sep 27, 2007 3:02 am
Posts: 40
Location: Oklahoma, USA
Alright, I finished it, but don't agree 100% with everything he had to say. Now, I've got to go and find some differing philosophical viewpoints so I can gain a better perspective. It's hard to read philosophers though. You have to read everything twice just to make sure you read it right the first time and some of them appear to think they can just invent words to suit their needs.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Random Acts of Philosophy on the blog of Martin S Pribble
PostPosted: Tue Dec 20, 2011 2:42 pm 
Offline
Your Host

Joined: Mon Jul 10, 2006 6:57 am
Posts: 204
Location: Sydney, Australia
It's unlikely that you'll ever find a philosopher that you agree with 100%, and if you did, it wouldn't be as interesting as it could be. I find that the most interesting parts of philosophy tend to be where you mostly agree, but have some key disagreements, and develop the arguments in relation to those disagreements. It helps if there's a large amount of common ground, though, because that helps to focus the scope of disagreement.

Meanwhile, I'm getting less enthused with Martin S. Pribble. I don't want to belittle the guy, but a recent post of his is a case study in bad philosophy. It's bizarre that so many Scientific Rationalists are contemptuous of philosophy, and yet consider themselves such champions of reason. It's not just that their formula for science is all evidence and no epistemology, but also that they are so utterly inept when it comes to understanding an argument and responding to its points.

I am, in fact, going to conduct a little case study here in relation to his post, just to illustrate what I mean, because it's quite possible that the poor quality merely reflects poor standards at large. They didn't teach philosophy or critical thinking in high school when I went there (and I'm pretty sure that hasn't changed), and most science graduates never feel the need to go to Critical Thinking 101 in the Philosophy department at university, so few people have any real exposure to the ancient arts of dialectic and rhetoric -- or anything more than a shallow grasp of grammar for that matter, which is the third leg in the trivium. These are "liberal arts" for which the modern Scientific Rationalist has nothing but a contemptuous sneer.

Martin's post was in response to something, so let's first acquaint ourselves with the text to which he was responding. I quote it here, trimmed down just a little bit to remove some side issues.

Patrick Cunningham wrote:
There are many different religions that claim their god is the true God, but there are also a lot of people who claim belief in any kind of god is irrational and childish. While there is a place for apologetic defenses for the first topic, in this post I’ll deal with the second, reasons why the belief in God is not irrational, and also how without the God of the Bible (a loving, beautiful, creating God, we would not even be able to argue about these topics).

I’ve been reading a book on apologetics by Tim Keller, The Reason for God, in which he gives many arguments for the existence of not only a general God, but the God of the Bible. In one chapter ... he gave one that I have never thought of before and that made so much sense; the regularity of nature. Scientists have no idea why nature continues to repeat itself. Something as simple as the sun rising tomorrow, we only know this because for all of history, it has risen, therefore we know it will tomorrow. This is what science is based on, the fact that a scientific “law” is something that happens every single time. Tomorrow, water will boil at the same temperature as it did today, and will for the rest of time, because it has always boiled at that temperature. This idea of regularity of nature is what science is built on, yet scientists don’t know why it continues to work. What is more, is that science cannot prove the continued regularity of nature, it can only be taken on faith. Each day, scientists make a leap of faith that what was true yesterday will still be true today.

Now let us view the substance of Martin's response. Again, a few irrelevant snippets have been removed: consult the original to verify that I am not quoting out of context.

Martin S. Pribble wrote:
...his statement is not only naive, but it’s misleading and has some factual errors also. Firstly, the sun doesn’t rise, the earth spins on its axis, and this gives the appearance of it rising in the sky. Everybody knows that. Secondly, water will boil at different temperatures depending on the atmospheric pressure it is at, for instance, up on Mount Everest, water boils at closer to 75 degrees Celsius, as opposed to the 100 degrees we are used to. At sea level. On earth. And thirdly, and most importantly, the faith he talks about here, you know, the one that says that science will work the same way it does today, tomorrow? I can’t even begin to grasp how that is even an argument. Science does not have “faith”, it works with what is and if that changed, so would the science. God is not needed to explain why things stay the same. The argument is “everything is, and will be”, but that is neither a question nor a statement worth pondering too much. ... The argument that, if god did not exist, the whole universe would descend into chaos, is not only speculation, but based on what we know, it is bad speculation without any grounds to stand on, because it makes the assumption that god does exist, and that’s why things don’t descend into chaos.

Let's be clear that I'm not holding Patrick's original argument up as an exemplary piece of reasoning. On the contrary, I think it's a little sloppy, and there is plenty of room for reasoned disagreement with it, which makes Martin's response all the more tragic for the missed opportunity.

Let's start with Martin's objection re "factual errors". First, "the sun doesn't rise". The problems with this objection are that it's obtuse, it's irrelevant, and it's incorrect by current scientific standards. It's obtuse because the point of the example was to illustrate regularity, not make a claim about motion; it's irrelevant because the phenomenon is just as regular whether we consider it the rising and setting of the sun or the rotation of the Earth; and it's incorrect because Einstein's Relativity tells us that there are no preferred frames of reference for motion, so either description of the motion is equally valid. His second objection re the boiling point of water is similarly lame: it constructs a straw man by adding details to the original argument, extrapolating it into the bounds of falsehood and then pointing out the falsehoods; it's obtuse in that it ignores the crux of the illustration, which is that scientific laws do indeed present themselves as universal in both time and space. Current theories claim that the boiling point of water is affected by atmospheric pressure, not by the day of the week, or the alignment of the planets, or the year in which the experiment is being conducted.

These first two objections can be summed up in one word: "pedantic".

The third objection is, above all else, poorly expressed. This is particularly unfortunate in that it is supposed to be the most important point. Martin starts by saying, "I can’t even begin to grasp how that is even an argument." It's fair to feel this way about what other people have said, but the appropriate reaction is to analyse the original statement in greater depth; to look for claims and supporting arguments or evidence. Martin conducts no such analysis, but merely reacts to the word "faith" being applied to science, saying, "science does not have “faith”, it works with what is and if that changed, so would the science." Due to the lack of accompanying analysis, it's hard to say what, exactly, is being refuted here. There are three claims in the original argument to which this could apply: the claim that the "regularity of nature is what science is built on", the claim that "science cannot prove the continued regularity of nature", and the final claim that "each day, scientists make a leap of faith that what was true yesterday will still be true today." When viewed in the context of these claims, it seems to be a denial that faith is involved because science is not founded on the regularity of nature: "it works with what is and if that changed, so would the science." I'm not sure that Martin has considered all the implications of this position. The ongoing usefulness of science and technology certainly is grounded in the regularity of nature. Science might still be possible in an abstract sense, but it would certainly cease to be useful if the laws changed faster than we could determine what they are, or if things were dominated by randomness rather than determinism. Surely this is a significant problem?

Martin's next statement is, "God is not needed to explain why things stay the same." This is true in the sense that we can just take it for granted that things do, in fact, stay the same, and decline to explain why that is so. In terms of an actual explanation as to why things stay the same, however, Martin offers nothing to back up his assertion that God is not needed: it's not an argument, it's just straight contradiction (hat tip to Monty Python). Next, he says, "The argument is “everything is, and will be”, but that is neither a question nor a statement worth pondering too much." In context, it's clear that he is presenting this as a paraphrase of his opponent's argument, rather than his own. Granted, it's a fairly vacuous statement, but it is also a straw man, not his opponent's actual argument. It's not clear to me why I should accept the paraphrase as fair representation: the exact relationship between God and the regularity of nature isn't spelled out in the original post, but I gather from context that the lawful, consistent nature of the creation reflects the nature of the creator. Not every theistic religion promotes a God of these characteristics. "Everything is, and will be" seems more like a paraphrase of the position adopted by the scientist who asserts the lawful and consistent nature of the universe, without explaining why it has such characteristics.

Martin's final remark is, "the argument that, if god did not exist, the whole universe would descend into chaos, is not only speculation, but based on what we know, it is bad speculation without any grounds to stand on, because it makes the assumption that god does exist, and that’s why things don’t descend into chaos." The argument that, "if god did not exist, the whole universe would descend into chaos," is nowhere to be found in the original post. Perhaps this is an interpretation of, "without the God of the Bible (a loving, beautiful, creating God, we would not even be able to argue about these topics)." Granted, this assertion is unsupported by argument elsewhere in the post, so "speculation" is not an unfair comment on it. Beyond that, however, Martin's commentary becomes muddled. An analysis shows that the accusation is essentially one of circular reasoning. Consider the remark with the middle section removed: "the argument that, if god did not exist, the whole universe would descend into chaos ... makes the assumption that god does exist, and that’s why things don’t descend into chaos." I see no reason to call the argument circular in this manner: a charitable interpretation is that the orderly, lawful universe is the product of an orderly, lawful God, and removal of that theistic foundation leaves no reason for the universe to be orderly or lawful. In this interpretation, the absence of God does not cause the universe to "descend into chaos" (Martin's words, not Patrick's), but it does leave the law and order as phenomena without a cause.

And that's more than enough analysis for now. I hope you can see why I consider this to be an argument of poor quality. I would also like to mention that I don't have the time for on-going case studies of this sort: bad arguments can be produced relatively quickly, but detailed analysis of the badness is quite time-consuming.

_________________
The Famous Brett Watson -- brett.watson@gmail.com


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Random Acts of Philosophy on the blog of Martin S Pribble
PostPosted: Mon Dec 26, 2011 4:55 pm 
Offline
Your Host

Joined: Mon Jul 10, 2006 6:57 am
Posts: 204
Location: Sydney, Australia
Posted again: http://www.martinspribble.com/2011/12/2 ... -morality/

It seems that Martin is rediscovering utilitarianism. I wonder if he'll bother to familiarise himself with some of the past thinking on the subject, or whether he'll want to reinvent the wheel more or less from scratch.

_________________
The Famous Brett Watson -- brett.watson@gmail.com


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Random Acts of Philosophy on the blog of Martin S Pribble
PostPosted: Sat Jan 07, 2012 4:26 pm 
Offline
Your Host

Joined: Mon Jul 10, 2006 6:57 am
Posts: 204
Location: Sydney, Australia
http://www.martinspribble.com/2012/01/0 ... hristians/

The praise that Martin receives on his blog for his insight and ability to reason does nothing good for my view of mankind's rationality in general.

_________________
The Famous Brett Watson -- brett.watson@gmail.com


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Random Acts of Philosophy on the blog of Martin S Pribble
PostPosted: Mon Jan 09, 2012 1:07 pm 
Offline
Accomplished Articulator

Joined: Thu Sep 27, 2007 3:02 am
Posts: 40
Location: Oklahoma, USA
Martin seems to deny the existence of the hypocrite who, by definition, is "a person who professes beliefs and opinions that he or she does not hold in order to conceal his or her true feelings or motives". I can't imagine this oversight was anything but an intentional stratagem designed to make his little excogitation play better for his regular audience.

It is rather transparent and exposes the atheists general lack of moral integrity in even the simplest of matters. This is exactly why I find debating with atheists, especially the smart ones, so exasperating. You know that they know they are being intentionally disingenuous while thinking themselves to be clever.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Random Acts of Philosophy on the blog of Martin S Pribble
PostPosted: Mon Jan 09, 2012 3:49 pm 
Offline
Your Host

Joined: Mon Jul 10, 2006 6:57 am
Posts: 204
Location: Sydney, Australia
It's hard to guess motives, and I appreciate what you mean about disingenuous arguments, but I find it's best to adhere closely to the advice of Hanlon's razor: do not attribute to malice that which can be explained by stupidity. Mostly I think that militant atheists are so fired up about their subject that their judgement is impaired, but they're completely convinced that their position is one of pure reason and evidence, so they remain quite oblivious to how irrational they can be. Some people will just taunt instead of arguing -- no good can come of responding to them, so it's best to just ignore them. (There are some shining examples in Martin's comments -- I won't name names.)

Also, if you find that you can't come up with a response more constructive than "that's so far from right, it's not even wrong," then just rest your case. Whenever you do respond, put as much effort into keeping your tone civil as making your case strong and clear. This probably won't impress your opponent, but bear in mind that you are engaging in a public performance: leave the wider audience with a good impression, not only as regards clear thinking, but also as regards politeness and self control under trying conditions.

Well, that's my current formula, more or less, for what it's worth.

_________________
The Famous Brett Watson -- brett.watson@gmail.com


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Random Acts of Philosophy on the blog of Martin S Pribble
PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2012 5:29 pm 
Offline
Your Host

Joined: Mon Jul 10, 2006 6:57 am
Posts: 204
Location: Sydney, Australia
The discussion continues on the subject of "No True Christian". Martin is starting to think that I'm being deliberately obtuse: the truth is that his argument is just that hard for me to follow, so there's probably some combination of poor clarity on his part and actual stupidity on mine. Clear expression ain't something they teach in school, and it's harder than most people think. Anyhow, I hope my attempts to follow the bouncing ball aren't interpreted as wilful trolling if I've misinterpreted him again.

_________________
The Famous Brett Watson -- brett.watson@gmail.com


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Random Acts of Philosophy on the blog of Martin S Pribble
PostPosted: Tue Jan 17, 2012 4:46 pm 
Offline
Your Host

Joined: Mon Jul 10, 2006 6:57 am
Posts: 204
Location: Sydney, Australia
Martin follows on from "no true Christian" with an article on evil in religion generally.

http://www.martinspribble.com/2012/01/1 ... o-believe/

I've responded, so expect the standard vitriol and accusations of trolling to follow from the usual third parties.

_________________
The Famous Brett Watson -- brett.watson@gmail.com


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Random Acts of Philosophy on the blog of Martin S Pribble
PostPosted: Wed Jan 18, 2012 1:19 pm 
Offline
Your Host

Joined: Mon Jul 10, 2006 6:57 am
Posts: 204
Location: Sydney, Australia
I saw two comments on Slashdot today which reminded me of the social environment on Martin's blog -- an environment more directly attributable to the people who post on his blog (hi, fellas, thanks for reading) rather than Martin himself. The comments were in topics unrelated to atheism: one was in an article on Climate Change; the other was in an article on the alleged hostility of Open Source projects towards female participation.

First, the Open Source Gender Issues comment.

Quote:
There seems to be a subset of communities, new atheism, rationality groups, loud political activism, that seem to have a mixture of exclusivity and deliberately being an outsider.

There's something in this. I don't know that I would phrase it as "deliberately being an outsider", but the examples share a strong common "us vs. them" attitude, or at least a black-and-white view of whether people are "in" or not. Also, the groups are highly polarised on their issues -- a facet which may dovetail with their polar views on membership. They also tend towards the "passionate" end of the personality spectrum: they have a mission, a cause, and the will to act, or at least to be vocal about it.

Next, the Climate Change comment.

Quote:
Penn & Teller's "Bullshit" is an example of the emptiness of pop skepticism. It's not really skepticism at all. In fact, it's every bit as dogmatic as religious fanaticism.

"Pop scepticism" is the money phrase here, although more of the comment than I have quoted is worth reading for its elaboration on that concept. (He loses me a bit when he refers to the "reality-based community", though. Everyone believes their ideas are grounded in reality, so it's just exasperating arrogance to apply it exclusively to one's own preferred group of thinkers. It's roughly equivalent to saying, "we should believe these people because they are right.")

I watched a few episodes Penn & Teller's "Bullshit" at one time, to see if it was worth seeking out in full, and was not enthused. They're fine entertainers, but their "debunking" methods are heavy on rhetoric and light on actual reasoning. They do less for reasoned scepticism than Mythbusters do for scientific rigour.

Put the two things together, and it explains a lot of the hostility and lack of actual intellectual engagement in any attempt to disagree with a New Atheist type. Factor number one means that you are immediately identified as a hated ideological enemy; factor number two means you are met with pop-sceptic-grade argument, and an attitude of triumph over the fact that you are so dense that you don't know when you're beaten.

I've had some decent arguments with atheists, but New Atheism seems destined to disappoint in that regard.

_________________
The Famous Brett Watson -- brett.watson@gmail.com


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Random Acts of Philosophy on the blog of Martin S Pribble
PostPosted: Sat Jan 21, 2012 9:41 am 
Offline
Your Host

Joined: Mon Jul 10, 2006 6:57 am
Posts: 204
Location: Sydney, Australia
For the sake of completeness, I will mention that I've commented on another of Martin's posts.

http://www.martinspribble.com/2012/01/2 ... -of-ideas/

The post itself is really nothing but propaganda, so I responded with rhetoric of my own. At least I kept it short.

This has, of course, attracted emotional responses. In other news, night follows day. I'm still considering whether to amp it up a little, or just leave them to their happy little echo chamber of mutual appreciation. I prefer reasoned argument, but rhetoric has much broader appeal. Maybe I should use it more than I do.

On a side note, I'd like to thank RelUnrelated for engaging in a civil exchange of views through comments on the previous post. It's a shame that this won't be possible while the rhetoric flies thick and fast, as it will on this post.

_________________
The Famous Brett Watson -- brett.watson@gmail.com


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Random Acts of Philosophy on the blog of Martin S Pribble
PostPosted: Sun Jan 22, 2012 3:48 am 
Offline
Your Host

Joined: Mon Jul 10, 2006 6:57 am
Posts: 204
Location: Sydney, Australia
Commented on another post.

http://www.martinspribble.com/2012/01/2 ... indonesia/

A change of pace, this time. Due to the nature of the post, I can cite additional facts not present in his post, so I'm going for "informative". Whether or not people still respond as though I'm trolling remains to be seen.

_________________
The Famous Brett Watson -- brett.watson@gmail.com


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Random Acts of Philosophy on the blog of Martin S Pribble
PostPosted: Sun Jan 22, 2012 7:40 am 
Offline
Your Host

Joined: Mon Jul 10, 2006 6:57 am
Posts: 204
Location: Sydney, Australia
Right... current assessment of situation is, "I'm not seeing how this exercise is productive in any sense".

Time to pull the plug.

Adieu, Pribble and readers.

_________________
The Famous Brett Watson -- brett.watson@gmail.com


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Random Acts of Philosophy on the blog of Martin S Pribble
PostPosted: Tue Jan 24, 2012 4:31 am 
Offline
Accomplished Articulator

Joined: Thu Sep 27, 2007 3:02 am
Posts: 40
Location: Oklahoma, USA
Pity. It seemed like it was taking a turn for the better there for a day or two, but I guess you probably expected that wouldn't last too long. When they have home field advantage, it's difficult to keep them on track long enough to actually get anything settled. I applaud the effort though!


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Random Acts of Philosophy on the blog of Martin S Pribble
PostPosted: Tue Jan 24, 2012 2:50 pm 
Offline
Your Host

Joined: Mon Jul 10, 2006 6:57 am
Posts: 204
Location: Sydney, Australia
Blogs tend to foster a culture of moving on from a topic very quickly. The standard pattern at Martin's blog (when not interrupted by the likes of me), is that he posts his anti-religion diatribe du jour, the choir to which he is preaching chimes in with their sycophantic "amens", and they move on. It's not a strict rule, of course, just the typical flow of things. My interest in a deeper discussion goes against that flow. That's partly why I've stuck with this lonely little forum instead of updating my blogs: it's not as bound to the flow of time.

Also, when it comes down to it, Martin's blog is more like a private club for like-minded individuals than an open invitation to disagree. Normally, I wouldn't dream of stepping into an environment like that and challenging the prevailing point of view. I make an exception in the case of scientific rationalists because they're so adamant that their views are grounded in reason, evidence, falsificationism and the like. Strangely, though, attempts to falsify their arguments are never welcomed. This should not be interpreted as hypocrisy on their part, however: it just so happens that the people who disagree with them are invariably exasperating idiots, like yours truly.

_________________
The Famous Brett Watson -- brett.watson@gmail.com


Top
 Profile  
 
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 34 posts ]  Go to page Previous  1, 2

All times are UTC


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  
cron
Powered by phpBB © 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007 phpBB Group