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12/15/2017 6:34 pm  #11


Re: How to speak with atheists

joewaked wrote:

Thank you all for your recommendations and advice!   I very much appreciate it.

Btw, Dr. Feser’s Five Proofs... just arrived tonight!

Let me restate what I was clumsily trying to say:   If anyone asks you to demonstrate (or more likely “prove”) the existence of God, where/how would you begin your argument?

For each of you, does it depend on what kind of atheist is asking you?   For purposes of this discussion, I’d rather ignore the New Atheists and anyone whose intent is to mock and deride.

Do you ask them questions first to understand what their presuppositions are?  Do you try to figure out if you share any common ground on which to build your argument?

Suppose you’re speaking to an atheist who’s a materialist and prides himself on love of physics, where do you begin?

Or suppose you’re speaking to one who refuses to concede these 2 fundamental beliefs:
(1) every effect has a cause; and
(2) something cannot come from nothing.

How do you even have a conversation with that person?

These are the two atheist friends of mine with whom I’m currently speaking.

 

I think I would really try to bring up some classical arguments for the existence of God, if we're talking about his existence and I believe a fruitful discussion could be had. After all, to be honest, some of these arguments really are the main reason I believe in God. I don't think I would "ask questions" at first; I would just say what I think is reasonable and if they have any objections (or presuppositions that serve as objections) I'd deal with them along the way. I would, for instance, informally say how there must be a real answer as to why there is something rather than nothing; something that *had* to exist no matter what and that somehow explains the existence of the universe. If not, then the universe has no explanation whatsoever, which seems to me absurd and very counter-intuitive. This would be an informal presentation of a leibnizian cosmological argument.

If they don't believe in the causal principle, as you stated, I would ask them to provide a reason for doubting something that seems so intuitive and plausible as the principle of causality or the principle of sufficient reason. So you have to respond to the objections.

I myself prefer to use arguments based on the PSR (principle of sufficient reason), because it is more general and seems to me to better respond to some quantum mechanics objections (because whether or not someone wants to admit that quantum events have causes, they certainly have explanations, for instance the events are explained by the conditions involved, etc). Regardless of that, one can also defend PC anyway. Besides the quantum mechanics objection (which has been responded to numerous times by Feser, Alexander Pruss, John Haldane, etc), the other most common objection would be a Humean skeptical imagination argument. Feser has refuted it numerous times before in his books, so you'd just have to understand what he's saying and memorize it. (Do ask us if you're confused about anyhing, though). Also, not only can we respond to such objections, but we must also keep in mind that the objections would have to be very strong if they are to really make us doubt sensible and plausible principles such as the PC or PSR, especially considering all the arguments in their favor.

So, why accept the Principle of Sufficient Reason, for example? Why accept that everything must be intelligible, everything must have an explanation for its existence? There are many reasons why.

1) Empirical arguments. The principle of sufficient reason, taken as an inductive generalization, is as supported by our experience as anything can be. We naturally seek for explanations of things, and we tend to find explanations when we seek them, and when we don't, we assume that we just were not able to find such an explanation, and not that the thing or event in question has no explanation whatsoever. Moreover, think about what would be the case if PSR were false: anything and everything could be popping into existence right now witho any explanation whatsoever. Why doesn't an elephant come into existence in your room right now? Why doesn't a cloud pop up into existence in your bed every night with no explanation whatsoever? Why aren't things coming into existence with no explanation all the time if indeed it were possible for things to happen and exist with no explanation whatsoever? The best and simplest explanation for why this doesn't happen is that the principle of sufficient reason is true as a metaphysical principle. So things cannot happen or exist without any explanation and for no reason whatsoever. (Defended by numerous philosophers, e.g. William Lane Craig, Norris Clarke, Alexander Pruss, Edward Feser, etc).

2) Della Rocca's argument from explicability. Basically, we all accept what philosopher Michael Della Rocca calls "explicability arguments"; for instance, Archimede's assertion that if there is nothing influencing either side of a balance then the balance will be at rest is an explicability argument, because we understand that if there are no different weights on either side of the balance, then there would be no explanation as to why it would not be at rest. This is an "explicability argument", and it is entirely general and used all the time in philosophy, science and everyday life. This, by itself, does not commit us to PSR. However, as we see more and more explicability arguments, we notice that we tend to accept them wherever they are. But there is one explicability argument in particular that can be made that would actually commit us to PSR: it is the question "why do things exist?" This would commit us to PSR because PSR simply is the principle that everything that exists has an explanation. But then, on pain of being incoherent, we cannot simply reject this explicability argument while we accept other explicability arguments. The opponent of PSR has to provide a principled reason to reject this explicability argument while not rejecting other explicability arguments. But what can this principled reason be? It can't be a brute fact as this would beg the question against PSR. It seems there can be no non-question-begging response to the PSR skeptic. (Feser comments this argument in a blog post and also defends it in his Five Proofs of the Existence of God, in particular in the Rationalist Proof).

3) The Koons-Pruss-Feser retorsion argument. Basically, if PSR is false, we cannot trust our own cognitive faculties; all our perceptions could be happening for no reason whatsoever. Absolute skepticism would follow. And notice also how when we accept or reject certain claims or beliefs, we tend to do so because we believe we are justified in doing so. But if PSR is false then we could be holding the beliefs we do for no reason whatsoever and wih absolutely no explanation, only with the illusion of holding the beliefs we do for valid reasons. We can't even say this scenario is improbable because probability attaches to the objective tendencies of things, and if PSR is false then anything could be happening with no explanation.

There are many other arguments and I can give you some resources if you want.

I will also tell you this: even IF, per absurdum, PSR and PC were false, we should always prefer an explanation to no-explanation where we can find one. Calling something a "brute fact" should be a desperate, last resort thing. So we can run pretty much every cosmological argument available as a best explanation argument, even if someone denies PC or PSR.

 

12/15/2017 7:31 pm  #12


Re: How to speak with atheists

@joewaked #8
"Or suppose you’re speaking to one who refuses to concede these 2 fundamental beliefs:"
--Depends how you encounter that refusal.  Is it a positive assertion of falsehood, or a classification of 1 and 2 as unproved, or are they provisionally accepted as apparently true?

I think you will more likely have these principles turned around on the assertion of god.

"(1) every effect has a cause; "
--Then what caused god? 
If you say god is defined as the necessary being haven't you merely defined god into existence?  Why not define material as the necessary being?  We have a very great deal of evidence for the existence of material.  Material is starkly manifest and evident to our sense whereas god is an invisible speculation.  In what way is an invisible speculation necessary yet the starkly manifest is not necessary?


"(2) something cannot come from nothing. "
--Then what did god come from?
If you say god has always existed and god does exist then you have said that an existent thing can exist eternally.  Why not say that material has existed eternally?  All modern science experiments confirm the conservation of mass/energy.  Since mass/energy cannot be created or destroyed, and mass/energy exists, simple logic dictates mass/energy has always existed and will always exist.  What is the advantage of speculating an invisible unmeasurable thing has always existed?

As for the books by Feser you might find the arguments personally reasonable, but they are in fact crucially defective.  Some are very long, which serves the purpose of desensitizing the reader to the falsehoods in them.  A good argument does not require multiple chapters to state, rather, it can be summarized in a paragraph and laid out in a line by line format in perhaps a handful of lines, rarely more than a dozen are needed.

For example, Here the First Way is summarized in just 10 lines
http://iteadthomam.blogspot.ca/2011/01/first-way-in-syllogistic-form.html
Unfortunately, there are some critical omissions by Francisco J. Romero Carrasquillo, most notably " and this everyone understands to be God."  Without that phrase the First Way fails to be an argument for god at all, since one could just as well speculate the first mover is some as yet undiscovered sort of material.

I suspect Carrasquillo omitted that critical phrase because he could not make a logical connection between a first mover, human imagination of god, and a real existence of god.  Since it is not possible to make a valid logical argument connecting the first mover necessarily to a real existent god, Carrasquillo simply omitted it, thereby rendering the First Way as moot.

Good luck, my friend, because you will find that there simply are no sound arguments for the necessity of god, and any atheist who has been seriously engaged on the topic for some years can quickly expose the flaws contained in every such attempt.  It is much more likely you will stop believing, as opposed to an atheist who starts believing.  Cases of supposed atheists becoming theists are almost always cases of long time theists who doubt for a time and have period of a rather weak sort of atheism, and then later revert back to their original theistic beliefs.  Binary permanent changes are almost always of the theist to atheist sort, so be prepared for that possibility.


 

Last edited by StardustyPsyche (12/15/2017 7:33 pm)

 

12/15/2017 7:41 pm  #13


Re: How to speak with atheists

@Miguel
@Seigneur
@FrenchySkepticalCatholic

This is so helpful.  Thanks again fellas. 
Let me digest this, particularly PSR.   Need to revisit Dr. Feser on this.   I’d like to take you up on the offer to return here and share the arguments/counters.   I can definitely use all the help I can get.

I do have a question in the meantime on the First Cause and/or Unmoved Mover topic.  I know I’m conflating the two, so please correct me after you read my question.

As I was walking through the observation that everything in our current experience at this moment is being sustained in existence by something, my friend and I used an object sitting on my kitchen counter as an example.   I did that because he commented that “it’s just there and doesn’t need to be sustained.”  I’ll skip the argument I made that something that comes into existence by an outside agent, can’t merely keep itself in existence, etc.

Anyway, we went down the road of chemical compounds, molecules, atoms, subatomic particles, and so on.  We reached the point in our “hierarchy” of causes where we faced a “dead end”:   my friend stopped at the Four Fundamental Forces of nature (i.e., gravity, electromagnetism, weak and strong forces).  I asked “so tell me, what is causing the forces to act?”  Here is where I also refer to movement and the 4 forces are moving, but something is obviously “moving” them.  That’s why I say I’m conflating the 2 arguments.

He said he didn’t know but that science may one day discover that answer.   So I responded that assume they do discover forces even “more fundamental.”   I would still ask the same question because I want to know what is causing them?   And then, we talked about infinite regress and how that fails.

For me, whatever the near-ultimate fundamental forces end up being, behind them we find the Finger of God.  Am I arguing incorrectly?

     Thread Starter
 

12/15/2017 7:59 pm  #14


Re: How to speak with atheists

StardustyPsyche wrote:

@joewaked #8
"Or suppose you’re speaking to one who refuses to concede these 2 fundamental beliefs:"
--Depends how you encounter that refusal.  Is it a positive assertion of falsehood, or a classification of 1 and 2 as unproved, or are they provisionally accepted as apparently true?

I think you will more likely have these principles turned around on the assertion of god.

"(1) every effect has a cause; "
--Then what caused god? 
If you say god is defined as the necessary being haven't you merely defined god into existence?  Why not define material as the necessary being?  We have a very great deal of evidence for the existence of material.  Material is starkly manifest and evident to our sense whereas god is an invisible speculation.  In what way is an invisible speculation necessary yet the starkly manifest is not necessary?


"(2) something cannot come from nothing. "
--Then what did god come from?
If you say god has always existed and god does exist then you have said that an existent thing can exist eternally.  Why not say that material has existed eternally?  All modern science experiments confirm the conservation of mass/energy.  Since mass/energy cannot be created or destroyed, and mass/energy exists, simple logic dictates mass/energy has always existed and will always exist.  What is the advantage of speculating an invisible unmeasurable thing has always existed?

As for the books by Feser you might find the arguments personally reasonable, but they are in fact crucially defective.  Some are very long, which serves the purpose of desensitizing the reader to the falsehoods in them.  A good argument does not require multiple chapters to state, rather, it can be summarized in a paragraph and laid out in a line by line format in perhaps a handful of lines, rarely more than a dozen are needed.

For example, Here the First Way is summarized in just 10 lines
http://iteadthomam.blogspot.ca/2011/01/first-way-in-syllogistic-form.html
Unfortunately, there are some critical omissions by Francisco J. Romero Carrasquillo, most notably " and this everyone understands to be God."  Without that phrase the First Way fails to be an argument for god at all, since one could just as well speculate the first mover is some as yet undiscovered sort of material.

I suspect Carrasquillo omitted that critical phrase because he could not make a logical connection between a first mover, human imagination of god, and a real existence of god.  Since it is not possible to make a valid logical argument connecting the first mover necessarily to a real existent god, Carrasquillo simply omitted it, thereby rendering the First Way as moot.

Good luck, my friend, because you will find that there simply are no sound arguments for the necessity of god, and any atheist who has been seriously engaged on the topic for some years can quickly expose the flaws contained in every such attempt.  It is much more likely you will stop believing, as opposed to an atheist who starts believing.  Cases of supposed atheists becoming theists are almost always cases of long time theists who doubt for a time and have period of a rather weak sort of atheism, and then later revert back to their original theistic beliefs.  Binary permanent changes are almost always of the theist to atheist sort, so be prepared for that possibility.


 

Guys like this convince me that atheism is not an evidentiary problem.  It’s a moral one.

When atheists go out of their way to reject rationality and intuition, their radical obtuseness is absolutely determined to find any justification, no matter how ridiculous or irrational, to reject theism.

     Thread Starter
 

12/16/2017 2:25 am  #15


Re: How to speak with atheists

@jowaked

So I responded that assume they do discover forces even “more fundamental.”   I would still ask the same question because I want to know what is causing them? 

One common problem with the use of the word "cause" is in one sense we think of the influences objects have on each other as causal, say objects hitting each other, or influencing each other gravitationally, or electromagnetically.

The other use of the word "cause" is as a structural explanation.  The object on the kitchen counter is explained in terms of arrangements of molecules, which are in turn explained in terms of atoms, which are in turn explained in terms of electrons, neutrons, and protons, which are in turn explained in terms of quarks in the cases of neutrons and protons.  Thus, available explanations end at the level of the standard model, the known forces of nature, theories of quantum mechanics and relativity, and a great deal of associated works.


And then, we talked about infinite regress and how that fails.

One idea is that at base everything is fields and that is were the regress terminates, no god required.

But the regress is a set of abstractions, a regress of human modeling techniques, not a causal regress in the sense of one thing taking action upon another thing.  The object on the kitchen counter simply is a collection of a vast number of these fundamental structures of material.  We employ a hierarchy of models in order to function but those models are not precisely true, rather, they are valid approximations of a reality far too complex for human beings to fully and accurately describe.

For me, whatever the near-ultimate fundamental forces end up being, behind them we find the Finger of God.  Am I arguing incorrectly?

You are arguing unnecessarily.  No god is necessary.  You can speculate one if you wish.  You can construct that speculation to make it unfalsifiable. At base there need only be a fundamental physics both in the sense of the reality of how material is structured and in the sense of our descriptions of that reality.
 

 

12/16/2017 2:47 am  #16


Re: How to speak with atheists

Also, one good advice is to avoid trolls. One big example here is SP.

Last time I saw him, he didn't want to engage with my arguments or speech. If you study his patterns, you'll notice the same refuted claims being repeated over and over again. It's a typical trait of online behaviour.

Such people are quite harmless in real life, but here or on websites they can hide themselves behind names to hinder people reasoning.

Start with real people, otherwise you'll get the bad idea that all atheists are as bad as them! ^^

 

12/16/2017 2:52 am  #17


Re: How to speak with atheists

joewaked wrote:

@Miguel
@Seigneur
@FrenchySkepticalCatholic

This is so helpful.  Thanks again fellas. 
Let me digest this, particularly PSR.   Need to revisit Dr. Feser on this.   I’d like to take you up on the offer to return here and share the arguments/counters.   I can definitely use all the help I can get.

I do have a question in the meantime on the First Cause and/or Unmoved Mover topic.  I know I’m conflating the two, so please correct me after you read my question.

As I was walking through the observation that everything in our current experience at this moment is being sustained in existence by something, my friend and I used an object sitting on my kitchen counter as an example.   I did that because he commented that “it’s just there and doesn’t need to be sustained.”  I’ll skip the argument I made that something that comes into existence by an outside agent, can’t merely keep itself in existence, etc.

Anyway, we went down the road of chemical compounds, molecules, atoms, subatomic particles, and so on.  We reached the point in our “hierarchy” of causes where we faced a “dead end”:   my friend stopped at the Four Fundamental Forces of nature (i.e., gravity, electromagnetism, weak and strong forces).  I asked “so tell me, what is causing the forces to act?”  Here is where I also refer to movement and the 4 forces are moving, but something is obviously “moving” them.  That’s why I say I’m conflating the 2 arguments.

He said he didn’t know but that science may one day discover that answer.   So I responded that assume they do discover forces even “more fundamental.”   I would still ask the same question because I want to know what is causing them?   And then, we talked about infinite regress and how that fails.

For me, whatever the near-ultimate fundamental forces end up being, behind them we find the Finger of God.  Am I arguing incorrectly?

I'd say you argue correctly. Focus on why there is something behind and you'll be more at ease with what God is. Always picture your 'opponent' in a good light, as someone who's genuinely interested in being explained what you are thinking and act the same. ;)

 

12/16/2017 3:26 am  #18


Re: How to speak with atheists

FrenchySkepticalCatholic wrote:

Also, one good advice is to avoid trolls. One big example here is SP.

Last time I saw him, he didn't want to engage with my arguments or speech. If you study his patterns, you'll notice the same refuted claims being repeated over and over again. It's a typical trait of online behaviour.

Such people are quite harmless in real life, but here or on websites they can hide themselves behind names to hinder people reasoning.

Start with real people, otherwise you'll get the bad idea that all atheists are as bad as them! ^^

Best to ignore such trolls.

     Thread Starter
 

12/16/2017 5:12 am  #19


Re: How to speak with atheists

joewaked wrote:

Anyway, we went down the road of chemical compounds, molecules, atoms, subatomic particles, and so on. We reached the point in our “hierarchy” of causes where we faced a “dead end”: my friend stopped at the Four Fundamental Forces of nature (i.e., gravity, electromagnetism, weak and strong forces). I asked “so tell me, what is causing the forces to act?” Here is where I also refer to movement and the 4 forces are moving, but something is obviously “moving” them. That’s why I say I’m conflating the 2 arguments.

He said he didn’t know but that science may one day discover that answer. So I responded that assume they do discover forces even “more fundamental.” I would still ask the same question because I want to know what is causing them? And then, we talked about infinite regress and how that fails.

For me, whatever the near-ultimate fundamental forces end up being, behind them we find the Finger of God. Am I arguing incorrectly?

I agree with you that there should be a stopping point and I think the Thomist argue that it could not be anything other than God. However, to be honest with you, it's not so obvious to me. (I have only read Feser's TLS). 
Anyway, the important thing about converting a person is stay patient and kind. It takes some effort to change people's belief. Maybe a few years.It's not just the matter of rational argument. The person should become emotionally mature to accept what he/she finds as truth.That's the part which takes more time. Don't give up and try your best!

PS. I myself dont really find Aquinas convincing because I have problems with his metaphysics. I actually rather prefer W.L.Craig's Kalam Cosmological argument. But above all of these, I prefer a variant on Pascal's wager and that is why I am not really interested anymore in studying  proofs on existence of God. Though the problem with Pascal's wager is that you cannot convince anyone with it unless they already find the implications of believing in God beneficial to their life.

Last edited by nojoum (12/16/2017 5:38 am)

 

12/16/2017 11:10 am  #20


Re: How to speak with atheists

SP will remember that trolling will not tolerated outside his thread. I deleted his trolling post. His other posts remain just within what is acceptable.

 

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