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 Post subject: Random Acts of Philosophy on the blog of Martin S Pribble
PostPosted: Thu Nov 03, 2011 12:29 pm 
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I've been slacking off on my current project (a critique of Dawkins' "The Greatest Show on Earth") partly because I've had some real-world design and construction to perform (circular saws! nail guns! warm humid weather! buckets of sweat!), and partly because the drudgery is getting to me. That's not to say that I've stopped writing altogether, though. Someone recently pointed me at the blog of a guy called Martin S Pribble who's a bit of an apologist for atheism, rationalism, physicalism, etc. -- the usual suspects. I've left a couple of comments on the blog, asking questions and pointing out what I see as weaknesses or inconsistencies in his posts. No replies yet, though.

Here are links to the two posts on which I have already commented. I'll follow up with further details if I comment further.


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 Post subject: Re: Random Acts of Philosophy on the blog of Martin S Pribble
PostPosted: Sun Nov 20, 2011 1:10 pm 
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Here's another one.

http://www.martinspribble.com/2011/11/1 ... ach-media/

Nothing special: just trying to hold a scientific rationalist to his own standards of reason and evidence.

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 Post subject: Re: Random Acts of Philosophy on the blog of Martin S Pribble
PostPosted: Tue Nov 29, 2011 11:22 am 
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Excellent! It is uplifting to see a skilled logician and wordsmith deconstruct and destroy an atheist's arguments so quickly and easily. I almost feel sorry for him. Too bad he doesn't seem to have a very large readership. The world desperately needs to see more of this sort of thing.

I understand the appeal of atheism. I spent several years, in my younger rebellious days, embracing the concept that there couldn't be any ultimate accountability for my selfish intentions. I think that is what it really comes down to. The old saying, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions" should probably read, "The road to hell is paved with extemporaneous claims of good intentions". It's a subtle, but powerful distinction.

Anyway, when I finally chose to search for the truth with an open and objective mind, I discovered that a Creator God was the only logical conclusion one could honestly come to. The evidence, albeit circumstantial, is overwhelming in my opinion.

For the most part, The atheists are controlling the narrative in the popular press and mass media today. Every little thing we can do to help change that is a worthwhile endeavor.

BTW, I am keeping up with your critique project. Dawkins is spitting out books faster than you can critique them (Ha).

Keep up the good fight,
Nick


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 Post subject: Re: Random Acts of Philosophy on the blog of Martin S Pribble
PostPosted: Wed Nov 30, 2011 2:17 pm 
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IM2L844 wrote:
It is uplifting to see a skilled logician and wordsmith deconstruct and destroy an atheist's arguments so quickly and easily. I almost feel sorry for him.

I was pretty harsh in that last post, and it got voted down somewhat as a consequence. Harsh, but not unfair, mind you. I'd rather be pointing out flaws in his reasoning than calling him out on prejudicial judgment, but it was too conspicuous to pass up.

IM2L844 wrote:
The old saying, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions" should probably read, "The road to hell is paved with extemporaneous claims of good intentions".

I like that. Good intentions are often a thing we claim retrospectively -- sometimes in denial of our own base motives.

IM2L844 wrote:
Dawkins is spitting out books faster than you can critique them (Ha).

I've found more enjoyable ways to spend my weekends of late, but I will dedicate whatever time is left over to it. Also, I think he should slow down on the publication, and try to aim for quality over quantity.

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 Post subject: Re: Random Acts of Philosophy on the blog of Martin S Pribble
PostPosted: Thu Dec 01, 2011 1:33 pm 
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Posted again, this time on the subject of whether a medical doctor needs to be an evolutionist.

http://www.martinspribble.com/2011/12/0 ... ignorance/

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 Post subject: Re: Random Acts of Philosophy on the blog of Martin S Pribble
PostPosted: Sat Dec 03, 2011 4:17 am 
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I got a response from Martin on the post above, and replied to it.

Also, a new comment on the difference between Jesus and Santa Claus.

http://www.martinspribble.com/2011/12/0 ... ach-media/

I feel like I'm stating the obvious with a lot of these posts, but I suppose "obvious" is a relative term.

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 Post subject: Re: Random Acts of Philosophy on the blog of Martin S Pribble
PostPosted: Mon Dec 05, 2011 3:41 pm 
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I'm thinking about replying to this one because it's about atheism as a form of knowledge.

http://www.martinspribble.com/2011/12/0 ... knowledge/

It's just a little too late at night to be starting on a reply right now.

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 Post subject: Re: Random Acts of Philosophy on the blog of Martin S Pribble
PostPosted: Tue Dec 06, 2011 10:19 am 
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I have now posted at the link mentioned above. I commented on the Dawkins scale, and the distinction between one's degree of assent that a proposition might be true, and one's chosen course of action based on that evaluation.

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 Post subject: Re: Random Acts of Philosophy on the blog of Martin S Pribble
PostPosted: Tue Dec 06, 2011 2:41 pm 
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Well, that wasn't the angle I expected you to take. Don't get me wrong. I think it was a perfectly good and valid point. I just thought you were going to address the much larger topic of the faith in scientism aspects of his post. Maybe that's what he thought as well. When I first read his post I though it was clearly loaded with a lot of bait for various topics.

Speaking of scientism, Edward Fesser has written a nice little two part essay on the topic that some folks might enjoy here:

Part 1: Blinded by Scientism

And here:

Part 2: Recovering Sight after Scientism

He also has a good blog post with a bunch of links to various other reference materials on the topic of scientism here:

Scientism Roundup


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 Post subject: Re: Random Acts of Philosophy on the blog of Martin S Pribble
PostPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2011 5:50 am 
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Scientism is an issue, of course, but know your audience and pick your arguments. Faced with a hostile audience, I find that people will generally be unreceptive if you tell them that they have a credulous attitude towards science. It's better to stick with something as mathematical as possible, since it's harder to argue with numbers, and people might even not take it as a personal attack on their beliefs (the ones that they deny are beliefs, of course).

Martin S. Pribble replied to my post, and I have responded in turn.

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 Post subject: Re: Random Acts of Philosophy on the blog of Martin S Pribble
PostPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2011 7:13 pm 
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Makes sense. I do tend to get a little too emotionally invested in the debates, kind of like RelUnrelated & chaosagent23 seem to have done.

Seems like their Google-fu is up to snuff, though. Or, I suppose, it actually could be that the "TFBW" acronym is better known throughout the modern world than I had ever imagined...naw...RelUnrelated & chaosagent23 have got themselves some real Google skillz.


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 Post subject: Re: Random Acts of Philosophy on the blog of Martin S Pribble
PostPosted: Thu Dec 08, 2011 3:40 pm 
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Yes, well, if you type "TFBW" into Google, the top five hits or so are me. Talk about globally distinctive branding. I almost wish I had something to sell.

After some consideration, I've decided not to respond to RelUnrelated's post. The only responses I could think of were variations on, "that's not what I said."

Martin himself, however, took the effort to write a whole new blog post about Pascal's Wager, so I responded to that.

http://www.martinspribble.com/2011/12/0 ... esnt-work/

The negative feedback is already rolling in. Tough crowd.

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 Post subject: Re: Random Acts of Philosophy on the blog of Martin S Pribble
PostPosted: Thu Dec 08, 2011 5:31 pm 
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:lol: Tough crowd indeed.

How would you address the issue of one being unable to will themselves to believe? Obviously people can't simply decide to be commited to a belief through sheer willpower alone even if they wanted to. Is there an alternative to deciding to commit to a particular worlview? It seems there must be a quantifiable process (there was for me) that involves some effort regardless of which worldview you decide to persue. I don't see how the process that leads to a belief in God would require any more effort, as seems to be the objection by some, than the effort required to become personally convinced that there is no God. Having been on both sides of the issue at different times in my life, the effort required wasn't substantially different for me in either case. For me, the journey from one worldview to another was very similar to Lee Strobel's, as he relates it, but it didn't occur to me that it was work.

As you touched on in you response, maximizing your chances for an infinitley valuable return on investment takes comparatively little effort on balance. I don't understand why this isn't obvious to everyone, but I suppose that is where the argument over which brand of monotheism you decide to subscribe to hangs it's hat.


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 Post subject: Re: Random Acts of Philosophy on the blog of Martin S Pribble
PostPosted: Fri Dec 09, 2011 11:19 am 
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IM2L844 wrote:
How would you address the issue of one being unable to will themselves to believe? Obviously people can't simply decide to be commited to a belief through sheer willpower alone even if they wanted to.

Scientific rationalists portray themselves as paragons of pure reason until you give them a pure reason to adopt an idea which they dislike, at which point they plead psychological grounds for rejecting it (e.g. can't will themselves to believe). When this happens, I start to suspect that the original reasoning wasn't pure at all, but was, rather, a rationalisation of an underlying psychological bent. That is, they felt a very strong inclination to adopt a particular view, then went and found as much evidence as they could to back up that particular viewpoint, and then forgot about the underlying motivation and pretended that it was the overwhelming evidence which drove them to their conclusion. Then they sit, secure in a fortress of evidence, and pretend that their position is untainted by psychological need, unlike all those folks who have an imaginary friend to make them feel better.

I don't particularly want to single out scientific rationalists for rationalising like this: rationalising is a nearly universal human trait -- mostly a question of degree rather than whether one does it or not -- but the scientific rationalists seem determined to present their rationalising as pure reason, and to look down with smug superiority on everyone else for their irrationality.

In answer to your question, then, I think that the first step towards changing one's views is to recognise that there is a psychological issue at the heart of the matter, rather than a facts, reason, and evidence issue. They can't will themselves to change beliefs because they want to believe what they already believe. It's easy to say that all the evidence supports your view when your psychological bent has made you blind to every contrary piece of evidence. Different people will come to the realisation that their fortress of evidence is actually a bunker of rationalisation in different ways (if they do at all). Maybe they encounter a piece of contrary evidence so excellent that it shakes them from their position and causes them to re-evaluate. Maybe they come to realise that they are emotionally invested in their position after all, and then go on to question their judgement.

If I knew a formula for changing people's minds, I'd use it. I don't. I consider it a modest miracle when anyone does, in fact, change their mind.

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 Post subject: Re: Random Acts of Philosophy on the blog of Martin S Pribble
PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 2011 1:15 am 
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It's nearly impossible to have a rational discussion with an atheist, let alone a group of them. Martin, in his response to your last post, once again, moved the goal post, after the fact, by claiming that the real central issue was all about whether or not the soul exists. Never mind that he had just spent a good deal of space dedicated to defeating the logic of Pascal's Wager (unsuccessfully IMO). That's typical. While I'm at it, I have to say that Martin, unlike his readership, has been civil and respectful. That's not typical. I usually get responses loaded with an inordinate number of tangential misdirections and snarky rhetorical questions...by design I think. Intentional off-putting through attempted obfuscation seems to be the best friend of atheism apologists.


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 Post subject: Re: Random Acts of Philosophy on the blog of Martin S Pribble
PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 2011 6:31 pm 
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IM2L844 wrote:
It's nearly impossible to have a rational discussion with an atheist, let alone a group of them.

Yes, but to be fair, one could apply that comment to almost any group of people who hold a view passionately. I'm a computer science guy, and I could say the same thing about people who advocate a particular programming language or text editor. The only thing that I will say about atheists is that they tend to assume that they are above such emotive behaviour. Mind you, that's probably true of people who think that the "vi" editor is better than "emacs", or vice versa, so maybe it's not a distinction after all. Maybe I should be singling out and commending some religious folks for not presuming to be specially rational.

IM2L844 wrote:
Martin, in his response to your last post, once again, moved the goal post, after the fact, by claiming that the real central issue was all about whether or not the soul exists.

True, but I'm willing to accommodate a certain amount of goal-post-moving, and I've replied to that post, pointing out that I've already addressed the issue he's raised. There's a practical trade-off to consider here: on the one hand, you only become aware of the key issues in an argument as you explore the argument. In my case, for example, there's a lot of difference between the first and last drafts of my PhD thesis, partly because I changed my views as to what was and wasn't important based on feedback and my own additional consideration of the issues.

On the other hand, there does come a point where one concludes that the movement of the goal posts indicates rationalisation, meaning that persuasive arguments are just causing perpetual motion rather than bringing the parties closer to agreement. I'm still prepared to think that this debate might be productive, however.

IM2L844 wrote:
While I'm at it, I have to say that Martin, unlike his readership, has been civil and respectful.

That's one of the reasons I'm still prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt in relation to the movement of the goalposts. It's hard for a debate to remain productive when one party believes that the other is simply stupid. So long as the participants retain a civil and somewhat charitable attitude, the debate probably hasn't degenerated to that level.

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 Post subject: Re: Random Acts of Philosophy on the blog of Martin S Pribble
PostPosted: Mon Dec 12, 2011 1:42 pm 
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It seems that with the demand that you prove not only the existence of the soul, but also it's eternal property as well as it's "special" status (I'm not sure what that means), the debate has been declared over. I guess you were blocking a clear view of his bandwagon's applause meter.


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 Post subject: Re: Random Acts of Philosophy on the blog of Martin S Pribble
PostPosted: Tue Dec 13, 2011 3:35 am 
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I guess I spoke too soon. It looks like Martin has set up a many faceted challenge for you to try and navigate. I don't see how you can possibly address all of his points adequately in just one or two short posts and I also can't imagine that he will stay on topic long enough. We'll see.


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 Post subject: Re: Random Acts of Philosophy on the blog of Martin S Pribble
PostPosted: Tue Dec 13, 2011 12:51 pm 
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You refer to this: http://www.martinspribble.com/2011/12/1 ... hing-else/

I've already posted two messages on his blog about the nature of the soul, and they both disagreed at assumption number one. My point has been that we don't need to assume the existence of a soul. Souls are irrelevant, and thus his long chain of assumptions goes nowhere that I care about.

In fact, I'm prepared to grant for the sake of argument that the soul is simply, "software running on the hardware of our brains." I think that there are some problems with this view, but none that I care enough about to raise immediately. Does that explanation undermine the possibility of God, or Heaven, or Hell? I would argue not, and Martin makes no claim that it does.

So what was the point of his list of assumptions? Very little, really -- he's just speculating that, "the base assumption of 'soul' is responsible for all the rest of the ideas that religion has built over time," and showing how he thinks the progression occurred. This is pretty lame speculation: as usual, he assumes that all theists are simple-minded folk. The fact of the matter is that denial of the soul would not reduce the philosophical need for God: we'd still have the issue of First Cause, and Morality, not to mention the nagging issue of Consciousness, which won't quite go away even if we assume there is no eternal soul involved.

The philosophical case for Theism (or Deism) is barely dented by the removal of "soul" from the picture. Martin believes otherwise, saying, "If we can safely say that there is no everlasting soul, then all of the premises of religion are dismissible, for what would be the reason for god?" Martin's chief problem, it seems, is that he knows only his own side of the argument, and, in the words of John Stuart Mill (atheist), "he who knows only his own side of the case, knows little of that."

I'm not going to reply to this post. It shows no evidence that he paid any attention to either of my earlier soul-related comments, and I can't think of a nice way to tell him that his conclusion is grounded partly in a lack of imagination, but primarily in a lack of research.

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 Post subject: Re: Random Acts of Philosophy on the blog of Martin S Pribble
PostPosted: Tue Dec 13, 2011 3:03 pm 
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These discussions have inspired me to read the Pensées for the first time and, so far, I am impressed beyond measure with Pascal's observations. I had no idea that it would be such a powerful collection of solid reasoning. The near poetic nature of it is providing a new favorite quote with just about every line. Why hasn't anyone told me about this book? That I had to stumble across it by dumb luck is a shame...or, just maybe, it was providence.

In either case, I'm beginning to see Mr. Pribble and his ilk in a different light.


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