Sunday, May 2, 2010

Podcast of myself and Denis Alexander on science and religion


The podcast of my hour long discussion of science and religion with Denis Alexander of the Faraday Institute is now available as a podcast. Go here. It was broadcast on Premier Christian Radio on Saturday.

30 comments:

Fergus Gallagher said...

Direct link to MP3 at

http://media.premier.org.uk/unbelievable/3ad5f46f-e8c4-4ef5-85c8-37429f399c86.mp3

wombat said...

Seems like a thoughtful sort of programme. Pity it had to end when it did - just as your opponent slapped the mystery card on the table and headed for the exit. Doesn't seem to have provoked much response on the "Unbelievable" blog though. Hopefully it's because they are all thinking about it.

Fun With Formal Ideas. said...

"Doesn't seem to have provoked much response on the "Unbelievable" blog though. Hopefully it's because they are all thinking about it."

Perhaps they're all still laughing at the Argument from Toothache.

Paul Wright said...

I think Denis Alexander's argument wasn't particularly good (but then, I would say that, wouldn't I?)

To say that a result is merely consistent with a theory seems pretty weak to me. I'd hope that even in biology, experimentalists looked for experiments which ruled out large classes of possible theories. There is the problem of underdetermination, I suppose, but Stephen Law was presenting arguments which seemed to rule out a Christian God as well as an evil one, that is, you weren't merely saying that God was redundant but that the evidence weighed against his existence.

It's not very surprising that a Christian looks to the stories about Jesus in the NT for confirmation that God is good. If I was going to criticise Stephen's performance, I guess I'd say that an atheist needs a specific response to that point, otherwise the Christian feels they can just pass over philosophical arguments in favour of concrete history they find in the NT.

James Onen said...

Hello Stephen,

I thought your performance on this week's episode of "Unbelievable" was FANTASTIC. You did a great job thoroughly demolishing the fine-tuning argument, among other things.

I have often felt that "Unbelievable" doesn't feature enough atheists from a professional philosophical background, and as such, typically, the Christian guest is able let loads of fallacies sail through without much challenge from his atheist opponent.

This time was different. As an atheist who is a student of philosophy, I finally felt very well represented on "Unbelievable". I hope Justin will consider making you a regular guest on that show.

For example I'd love to hear you spar with David Robertson (one of Unbelievable's more frequent Christian guests who thinks the Moral Argument is a knock-out punch against atheism.)

Once again, well done Stephen - it was a great show. I hope it won't be too long before we hear you on another great podcast!

Fun With Formal Ideas. said...

Hello James.

"You did a great job thoroughly demolishing the fine-tuning argument, among other things."

That would be the Holmesian analogy, would it? Sounded assertive to my ears. Or was it the impressionistic anti-impressionism Argument from Toothache? I waited and waited and waited for Stephen's "empirical data" but unfortunately none was forthcoming. To be certain of its absence I listened to the podcast several times. Again, nothing. Only a Schopenhauerian-Mani mash-up which appealed to common sense in lieu of "empirical data".

Things snowballed from there, I'm afraid, with Piagetian allusions, objections from agency, overreaches from polls and appeals to the professionalism of “professional philosophers”. Stephen’s snowball flattened all ideas before it. There was the conflation of materialism with naturalism, a denial of his materialist presupposition subsequent to a materialist presupposition in a discussion of probability which flattened together epistemic probability and frequentist inference. I expect that if Stephen won the National Lottery he would conclude that the probability of this outcome was 1:1.

Really, lots of hand-waving from Stephen. He speaks of the “moves” of those with whom he disagrees yet it’s clear he has a number of his own upon which he relies inexplicably. The only one obviously missing here was Powerpoint. Stephen is Britain’s Sam Harris, I’m afraid. I imagine that William Lane Craig is looking at the wine list even now.

Roulette, anyone?

edthemanicstreetpreacher said...

I really enjoyed the show and was intrigued by your ‘Evil God’ Challenge, Stephen. I’ve done a post on my own blog here.

I have started a discussion thread on the Premier Christian Community Unbelievable? group page here.

James Onen said...

FWFI,

Stephen wasn't making an appeal to the "professionalism of professional philosophers" when he brought them up. You're erecting a terrible straw man.

In the first instance, it was in response to a direct question the host Justin raised (about 2 minutes into the show) about whether being a philosopher, and atheism, go together. To quote the host: "You are an atheist..you're a philosopher..as far as your concerned, do the 2 normally go together? Do most philosophers you meet turn out to be atheists?"

In response to this direct question, Stephen cited the most comprehensive survey done on professional philosophers and offered some numbers (I believe he was referring to this one http://philpapers.org/surveys/results.pl ). He was answering a direct factual question - not making an argument.

In the second instance (about 50mins into the show), he referred to professional philosophers when trying to offer a response to the charge by the host that Stephen's alleged 'materialism' might be influencing the way he was approaching the issues. Stephen told the host that ALTHOUGH only about 15 percent of professional philosophers were theists, ONLY about 50 percent of these professional philosophers leaned toward naturalism.

While on the face of it, it may seem to you that Stephen erred by seemingly conflating naturalism with materialism, I think the point he was trying to make was that being an atheist did not render him impervious to alternative viewpoints (or, for that matter, saddle him with certain presuppositions) since professional philosophers, the majority of whom are atheists, were not all naturalists (yet many would imagine them to be so by virtue of their atheism).

He was trying to demonstrate that he was open to considering all views even though he is an atheist - and not making an appeal to the "professionalism of professional philosophers".

Fun With Formal Ideas. said...

Hello James.

“In response to this direct question, Stephen cited the most comprehensive survey done on professional philosophers and offered some numbers (I believe he was referring to this one http://philpapers.org/surveys/results.pl ). He was answering a direct factual question - not making an argument.”

It’s hard to tell which poll Stephen had in mind. He was quite vague about the whole thing. I’m sure he can clear this up. If it is the poll you mention then the relevant question itself is vague. Who do you suppose was polled? Does the “professionalism” of a number of philosophers qualify their utterances on a single topic over those of an identical number of amateurs?


“ I think the point he was trying to make was that being an atheist did not render him impervious to alternative viewpoints (or, for that matter, saddle him with certain presuppositions) since professional philosophers, the majority of whom are atheists, were not all naturalists (yet many would imagine them to be so by virtue of their atheism).”

Then you agree with me. Stephen was appealing to the professionalism of a particular group of polled philosophers. It’s only a poll, James. Is reality determined by consensus? Can we decide democratically whether God exists? If so then is the franchise awarded only to those who make a living from talking about God?


“He was trying to demonstrate that he was open to considering all views even though he is an atheist ”

In which case it’s difficult to account for Stephen’s presupposition of materialism in his discussion of probability. Claims of open minds from asserting atheists are really very difficult to accept.

Stephen Law said...

Fun with Formal Ideas - do I detect the presence of one John C. Halasz, the bullshitter/troll who previously commented on my Anselm post?! The style is uncannily similar!

Go here and scroll down: http://stephenlaw.blogspot.com/2007/03/anselms-argument.html

Fun With Formal Ideas. said...

“Fun with Formal Ideas - do I detect the presence of one John C. Halasz, the bullshitter/troll who previously commented on my Anselm post?! The style is uncannily similar!”

No, Stephen. Perhaps your Agent Detection System needs tuning down. Does everyone who is critical of your arguments get labelled a twit or a bullshitter/troll? I’d hate to think you were only another internet atheist, so please don’t repeat this in my direction. We clearly disagree but I can do more than call people names.

Well, yes. I did liken you to Sam Harris. Perhaps that was a little harsh, but the similarities are uncanny.

Stephen Law said...

"Does everyone who is critical of your arguments get labelled a twit or a bullshitter/troll?"

Check and see!

James Onen said...

There must just be a factory where they churn out these trolls from, Stephen, because they ALL seem to follow the same pattern.

There are many Christians with whom reasonable discussions can be had, but FWFI is clearly not one of them. He is the kind of person whose sole mission is to ridicule you rather than have constructive dialogue with you.

I had to learn the hard way in dealing with people like this. The best option is usually deletion of their comments. There's just no point in trying to reason with such people. Life is too short.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nrI7QUJfkvI

Stephen Law said...

OK Fun with Formal - I'll bite. But let's go slow. Starting with the first three sentences of your comment:

SENTENCE 1. "That would be the Holmesian analogy, would it? Sounded assertive to my ears."

Eh? Assertive? It was an assertion, yes. Is that a bad thing?

SENTENCE 2. "Or was it the impressionistic anti-impressionism Argument from Toothache?"

Eh? What are you talking about? When did I mention toothache?

SENTENCE 3."I waited and waited and waited for Stephen's "empirical data" but unfortunately none was forthcoming."

I pointed to hundreds of millions of years of animal suffering, etc. etc., which I variously referred to as empirical facts, data, and evidence. How did you miss that? What precisely is your objection to my running the evidential problem of evil (which is standardly described as being based on empirical observation/evidence, even by theists)?

Fun With Formal Ideas. said...

“Check and see! ”

I fear confirmation of my suspicion. It's beginning to look like the Troll card could develop into one of your moves. I see that James, who has evidently taken you as a role model, has taken your lead.


Which came first? The suspicion that I was Halasz or that I was a “bullshitter/troll”?

James Onen said...

"I fear confirmation of my suspicion. It's beginning to look like the Troll card could develop into one of your moves. I see that James, who has evidently taken you as a role model, has taken your lead."

I think you have no one to blame but yourself, FWFI. Take a look at your very first comment on this thread, as an example. That's straight out of the 'Trolling 101' handbook.

James Onen said...

"I fear confirmation of my suspicion. It's beginning to look like the Troll card could develop into one of your moves. I see that James, who has evidently taken you as a role model, has taken your lead."

I think you have no one to blame but yourself, FWFI. Take a look at your very first comment on this thread, as an example. That's straight out of the 'Trolling 101' handbook.

Fun With Formal Ideas. said...

Welcome to the discussion, Stephen. You may call me John, if you like. It‘s a common name.


“Eh? Assertive? It was an assertion, yes. Is that a bad thing?”

When it’s disguised as a reason. Around 24:38.


“Eh? What are you talking about? When did I mention toothache?”

You didn’t but dismissing the idea of a beneficent God because everything suffers from time to time is, shall we say, ambitious. Belief in your God of Eth isn’t necessarily ludicrous. There have certainly been people who’ve held something very like it, if not the inverted caricature you outline, so to suggest the God of Eth demonstrates that belief in a beneficent God is absurd is itself absurd. Appears to go down well with the QI generation, though. Well done.


“I pointed to hundreds of millions of years of animal suffering, etc. etc., which I variously referred to as empirical facts, data, and evidence. How did you miss that?”

I didn’t miss that but I did miss your “empirical data”. Are empirical facts the same things as data? Are each the same thing as evidence? They aren’t, of course, except sometimes where they may be presented within particular contexts and considered significant, among which is not numbered the thought experiment. Eth is impressionistic, Stephen, it is not founded in any facts, data or evidence where these may be considered synonymous or statistically significant and relies finally upon a appeal to common sense. If all questions about the world could be resolved by resort to common sense then there’d be many people out of a job. I could just as easily point to hundreds of millions of years of blissful sleep, full stomachs and orgasms as facts and data and evidence in support of the existence a beneficent God, appealing to the common sense observation that there is more pleasure in the world than there is pain. I won't, of course, because the world isn't a tally of toothaches and taste sensations.


"What precisely is your objection to my running the evidential problem of evil (which is standardly described as being based on empirical observation/evidence, even by theists)? "

I have no objection to your tackling this. I just think you tackled it badly and thought I would say so. Scientific mojo and appeals to common sense are Harris moves.


Time for a walk, I think, to enjoy the horrible sunshine, noxious air and terrifying birdsong.

Fun With Formal Ideas. said...

Hi James.

“I think you have no one to blame but yourself, FWFI. Take a look at your very first comment on this thread, as an example. That's straight out of the 'Trolling 101' handbook. ”

Could you provide me with the ISBN, please? I have some vouchers I must use.

Stephen Law said...

Hi there John

"Around 24:38" is not an objection. Please identify the assertion you object to and why.

Re. "everything suffers from time to time ". That is not the observation on which the argument is based.

"Belief in your God of Eth isn’t necessarily ludicrous." Really?!! How probable is such an evil God do you think, given the evidence? Do you consider belief in a good God to be significantly more reasonable? If so, my challenge remains - explain why. Can you meet that challenge?

"Eth is impressionistic, Stephen, it is not founded in any facts, data or evidence where these may be considered synonymous or statistically significant and relies finally upon a appeal to common sense."

It is based on the empirical observation that the universe is filled with immense amounts of seemingly pointless suffering. This provides us with excellent evidence there is no all-powerful all-good God, in the same way immense amounts of (from an evil God's point of view) apparently pointless good is excellent evidence there's no evil God either.

Consider a different scenario - a school run by an all-powerful headmaster whom we never see. But we can see how his school is run. Many pupils are beaten senseless, forced to eat shit, and left physically and psychologically crippled by their experiences. Others have wonderful gifts bestowed on them - great food, education, etc. The distribution of these goods and evils appears to be pretty random.

Now consider two hypotheses - that the school is run by a supremely wicked headmaster, and that the school is run by a supremely good headmaster. Both are pretty decisively ruled out by what we observe of the way the school is run.

The fact that we cannot give numerical values to the pleasures and pains we observe being dealt out, or place them on some sort of objective, calibrated weighing scale, is irrelevant. It does not follow that the argument against each hypothesis must be based on evidence that is "hopelessly impressionistic".

If that *did* follow, no conclusions about the moral properties of any individual could ever be drawn on the basis of the pleasures or pains they knowingly inflicted. For the reasoning we used would similarly be based on assessments that were "hopelessly impressionistic"!

The "hopelessly impressionistic" card is, in short, mere smokescreen.

Your comment re. "appealing to the common sense observation that there is more pleasure in the world than there is pain."

This suggests you have misunderstood my argument. It has nothing to do with showing that there is more pain the pleasure in the word, or vice verse. Showing there was a bit more of one that the other would be entirely beside the point. Both the evil God and good God hypotheses would be empirically refuted.

Your comments re "data", "evidence", "common sense etc. further suggest you only count a hypothesis as empirically refuted if it is scientifically refuted (using the scientific method). That would be a big mistake. But let me check first whether that is what you think.

PaulJ said...

Stephen, I'd like to add my compliments to you on your sturdy performance on Unbelievable? this week. I hope Justin Brierley does indeed invite you on the show again.

Stephen Law said...

Thanks for all the positive feedback!

Paul Wright said...

FWFI:

It’s hard to tell which poll Stephen had in mind.

Nope, he said it was a poll conducted by David Chalmers, so it's a few moments work with Google to find this one.

Who do you suppose was polled?

Why not read the page and find out?

Does the “professionalism” of a number of philosophers qualify their utterances on a single topic over those of an identical number of amateurs?

Irrelevant: Brierley's question was whether most philosophers were atheists, not whether that means atheism is true.

Stephen was appealing to the professionalism of a particular group of polled philosophers

No, he was responding to the specific claim that materialist presuppositions were at play in his arguments, by pointing out that it is perfectly possible to be an atheist while not being a materialist, using the beliefs of philosophers as an example (well, actually the survey is about naturalism, but the distinction seems a fine one: if you feel it is very important, perhaps you could elaborate on that point). This assumes that the philosophers surveyed have not missed some innate contradiction between atheism and non-naturalism, I suppose, but again, if you feel there is one, perhaps you could elaborate on that point.

Eth is impressionistic, Stephen, it is not founded in any facts, data or evidence where these may be considered synonymous or statistically significant and relies finally upon a appeal to common sense.

I'm not familiar with "impressionistic" except as a term to describe paintings. I'd agree that there is an unstated premise which is something like "a good being helps other beings in need" or somesuch, but that does not seem an unreasonable one: if you disagree with that, perhaps you could elaborate on that point?

Now, if we consider how we expect good and evil beings to behave when they rule over other beings, it does seem like joy and suffering are both facts and evidence about a good or evil God (taking "evidence" to mean an observation which has a different likelihood on the two hypotheses).

Perhaps you mean that the dismissal of the evil God relies on common sense and we should not be so hasty to accept those arguments and then apply them to the good God too. Perhaps that's true, but then we're left with no reason to believe in Eth or in Christianity, since the arguments for both are so similar (assuming that the symmetry cannot be broken, something which earlier responses to Eth have tried to do, ISTR).

So I think Stephen's argument is an attempt to catch the Christian on one of the horns of a dilemma: either we have good reasons to reject the evil God, in which case, those also seem to be reasons to reject Christianity (this is the horn he spends most of his time on during the programme) or we cannot say anything about God's character, which gives us no particular reason to accept Eth or Christianity (which seems a good response to the sceptical theism which Denis Alexander tries at one point: if we're not in a position to know what a good God would do, how are we in a position to know that God is in fact good?)

Paul Wright said...

Of course, as you'll doubtless be aware, it's all in Hume (what do they teach them in these schools?):

"as this goodness is not antecedently established, but must be inferred from the phenomena, there can be no grounds for such an inference, while there are so many ills in the universe, and while these ills might so easily have been remedied, as far as human understanding can be allowed to judge on such a subject. I am Sceptic enough to allow, that the bad appearances, notwithstanding all my reasonings, may be compatible with such attributes as you suppose; but surely they can never prove these attributes."

and later

"There may four hypotheses be framed concerning the first causes of the universe: that they are endowed with perfect goodness; that they have perfect malice; that they are opposite, and have both goodness and malice; that they have neither goodness nor malice. Mixed phenomena can never prove the two former unmixed principles; and the uniformity and steadiness of general laws seem to oppose the third. The fourth, therefore, seems by far the most probable."

(The whole chapter is worth reading).

The Atheist Missionary said...

Just dropping by to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the podcast, hope you'll be invited again and hope you'll accept the invitation. I love the fact that freethinking fresh air is being blown at a primarily Christian audience. The pulpit is far more appealing when the audience is not already converted. TAM.

Stephen Law said...

Listening through, I realize I must suppress that annoying nervous laugh of mine.

Fun With Formal Ideas. said...

Hello Stephen.


“"Around 24:38" is not an objection. Please identify the assertion you object to and why.”

Fair enough. Here you are:

Stephen: “So in the same way, as an atheist, I want to say these are good and interesting questions and I‘m not wedded to scientism and I don’t suppose that reason can answer every legitimate question but I‘m pretty sure that certain answers cannot be correct, and the claim that, for example, the universe was designed and created by a supremely powerful and benevolent being, I think we have overwhelming empirical evidence that that‘s not true. I also think we can run some pretty good conceptual arguments that would demonstrate pretty conclusively that that‘s not true”

Denis: “What sort of empirical data do you have in mind?”

Stephen: “Well, that‘s a good - that‘s a good question! What kind of empirical data? Well, let‘s, let’s draw an analogy, let‘s consider… ”

And then, having made your assertions about empirical evidence, you don't provide Denis with anything like it but instead make with your Eth move which you think, presumably, is one of the “pretty good conceptual arguments” demonstrating “pretty conclusively” that the universe was not created by a supremely powerful and benevolent being. It’s as though you excused the absence of your completed maths homework by claiming that it was eaten on the way to school by a “supremely evil being whose malignancy and moral depravity know no bounds”.


“Re. "everything suffers from time to time ". That is not the observation on which the argument is based.”

But of course it is. Eth isn’t intended as speculative fiction of another world, after all. It’s intended to covey to others an impression of the world which you feel is symmetric to that of theists.


“How probable is such an evil God do you think, given the evidence? Do you consider belief in a good God to be significantly more reasonable? If so, my challenge remains - explain why. Can you meet that challenge?”

Before you start on probability again, Bayes help us, let’s not forget that you’re the one presenting Eth as an alternative take on what you regard as ubiquitous, necessary impressions. Where you go wrong is assuming that it’s any kind of a “challenge” at all. It’s like chucking a bucket into a pond and calling it a boat. I don’t understand why people are so keen to aggrandise their ideas as “challenges” these days.


“It is based on the empirical observation that the universe is filled with immense amounts of seemingly pointless suffering.”

Is it? Oh, right. How much of the universe have you seen, Stephen? By what criteria do you rate the significance of each creature’s suffering? There are a lot of creatures so I’m interested to learn how you went about this empirical observation of such divergent and distant phenomenologies. Don’t tell me - let me guess; poll? Meta-poll? Incidentally, did you include the plants in your empirical observations? What about the fungi? How about the microbes?


“This provides us with excellent evidence there is no all-powerful all-good God, in the same way immense amounts of (from an evil God's point of view) apparently pointless good is excellent evidence there's no evil God either.”

That’s what you think? So Eth is just another take on the Earth. As I’ve said previously, I don’t think we can tally toothaches and taste sensations and come to any conclusion about the existence or nature of the world or of God. I don’t see why you would wish to go all the way to the pond and chuck in your bucket when you can simply accept that. Do you see it as a worthwhile use of language, Stephen, to dream up things like Eth for the QI generation to blog?


(Continued.)

Fun With Formal Ideas. said...

“Consider a different scenario - a school run by an all-powerful headmaster whom we never see. But we can see how his school is run. Many pupils are beaten senseless, forced to eat shit, and left physically and psychologically crippled by their experiences. Others have wonderful gifts bestowed on them - great food, education, etc. The distribution of these goods and evils appears to be pretty random… ”

Yay. Two boats. Anyway…


“The fact that we cannot give numerical values to the pleasures and pains we observe being dealt out, or place them on some sort of objective, calibrated weighing scale, is irrelevant. It does not follow that the argument against each hypothesis must be based on evidence that is "hopelessly impressionistic".”

Well, first of all this “hopelessly impressionistic” schtick is your move, not mine, so see if you can toss that particular straw dolly into one of the boats, why don’t you. Eth is impressionistic, but there are very good reasons for saying so which don’t involve the hysteria you’re trying to project onto myself and David. Why is Eth impressionistic? Because as a traveller's tale it’s sloppy, Stephen. Swift would top himself if he read it, I’m sure. I wonder, how did your internal dialogue go?

Clever Stephen: “We need a pretty conclusive demonstration that theistic creation is just a gibberish idea. A demo that internetties can get really excited over.”

Really Clever Stephen: “Why don‘t we do one of those really clever stories with funny names which look at the world from a demonic angle, like old Whatsisname did?”

Clever Stephen: “Who‘s that then?”

Really Clever Stephen: “Hannibal Lecter.”

Clever Stephen “Yeah! He did some good stories. I liked the one with the big lion!”

Really Clever Stephen: “The Wizard of Oz?”

Clever Stephen: “Hold that thought, Stephen! You‘re a genius!”

Really Clever Stephen: “I knows it.”

You talk about empirical data. You don’t give any. It doesn’t seem to have occurred to you that you’re guilty of one of the “Other moves” you condemn in your paper, assuming that you can quantify “good” and “evil”. You're left with your impressions of the world, or “the universe” as you call it, which you happily share with us via Eth. Certainly Eth could be used exactly to highlight the folly of assuming a ratio but its folly only in that nobody will agree just what is “good” and what is “evil”. Suffering, for example, isn’t evil. It’s generally considered a result of evil, but not evil itself, in the same way that a footprint isn‘t a shoe. Nor is an impression or ratio weighted by that misrepresentation “overwhelming empirical evidence”. You can make any argument you like, Stephen, and you’ll even convince many of the shipwrecked that you know the way home, when you conduct your ideas to them in this way.


(Continued.)

Fun With Formal Ideas. said...

“If that *did* follow, no conclusions about the moral properties of any individual could ever be drawn on the basis of the pleasures or pains they knowingly inflicted. For the reasoning we used would similarly be based on assessments that were "hopelessly impressionistic"!

The "hopelessly impressionistic" card is, in short, mere smokescreen.”


You placed that card, Stephen, but it's interesting; do you hold with an absolute morality? Well, you should know that people don’t have “moral properties”. People behave in ways which we judge to be moral or immoral. I‘m sure you‘d like people to think that a charge of impressionism is as insubstantial as fog and mist, but this “hopelessly impressionistic” move is your own albatross. You shot it, Stephen. You wear it.


“This suggests you have misunderstood my argument. It has nothing to do with showing that there is more pain the pleasure in the word, or vice verse. Showing there was a bit more of one that the other would be entirely beside the point. Both the evil God and good God hypotheses would be empirically refuted.”

It’s strange that you should say this, given that your argument relies upon an appeal to empirical evidence, albeit as yet and doubtless hereafter hand-waved. You even go so far as to “refute” the “evil God hypothesis” yourself:


“There‘s overwhelming empirical evidence that even if there is some kind of God behind the universe it clearly isn‘t [the evil God]. We can rule that one out in just the same way as Sherlock Homes can rule out the butler, we can rule out that candidate, the evil God candidate.”

I admire your confidence, Sherlock.


“Your comments re "data", "evidence", "common sense etc. further suggest you only count a hypothesis as empirically refuted if it is scientifically refuted (using the scientific method). That would be a big mistake. But let me check first whether that is what you think.”

I see. You’re happy to refer to empirical evidence in support of your opinion but when others address your opinion in the same terms you pull that move of which you spoke on the show. You know the one:

“Now at this point, of course, the theist will say "Oh - you know - how unsophisticated of you! You‘ve taken me literally! Of course, this was merely an analogy!"”

Of course, I do not believe that you are suggesting there is an Eth, Stephen, but you must muster yourself to differentiate between “thought experiment” and the world because currently your arguments on this seem to stagger along with one foot in Eth and one foot on Earth, like a drunk walking along the edge of a pavement with one foot in the gutter, shaking a fist when gravity pulls him one way or the other.


Almost forgot; that appeal to common sense of yours of which I’ve been banging on about!

“You can always explain things, you can always come up with some excuse as to why the data perhaps doesn’t establish what it might seem to but the fact is we do know, all of us, don‘t we, that there‘s no evil God, that there is overwhelming evidence that there is no evil God, so my question is simply well why should we consider the good God hypothesis significantly more credible”

There we are. A smartly executed volte-face on the value of empirical data when asked to produce it, swiftly followed by an appeal to “what everybody knows”. I think I’ll title the attitude this evinces “The data misology!” What do you think, Stephen? One exclamation mark or two?

Fun With Formal Ideas. said...

Hi WPaul.

“Nope, he said it was a poll conducted by David Chalmers, so it's a few moments work with Google to find this one.”

Sorry, Paul. Went through this with James.


“Irrelevant: Brierley's question was whether most philosophers were atheists, not whether that means atheism is true.”

Yet in response we were presented with a poll of professional philosophers. Not all philosophers are professional professionals. There’s a syllogism lesson in there somewhere.


“No, he was responding to the specific claim that materialist presuppositions were at play in his arguments, by pointing out that it is perfectly possible to be an atheist while not being a materialist, using the beliefs of philosophers as an example ”

Yes, which was a neat way of avoiding the question. Stephen denied materialist presuppositions later, of course. Later than the materialist presupposition he explicitly made.