Monday, August 10, 2009

We Have to Raise the Bar

I realize I've not written anything on here in quite some time. I've simply been busy doing other things.

At any rate, I see no point in dilly dallying since we all have much to do. I've been watching the Hitchens/Craig debate hosted at Biola University earlier this year. For those of us familiar with both Hitchens and Craig I don't think anything said will surprise us (though I've not yet watched the entire debate so I'm not positive).

However, one thing has appalled me: The comments. I believe one of the great advantages of Youtube, blogs, Facebook, Myspace, etc... is the ability to interact with a caliber of people we may not find otherwise. And certainly readers of this blog know that I love interacting in comment threads, some of which grow to be incredibly long.

As I looked at the comments on the Hitchens/Craig debate youtubes I noticed a complete and total lack of depth and philosophical understanding on both sides (theists and atheists). For example, one commentator said that all of Dr. Craig's arguments are "fallacious" and have been "disproved". Obviously I disagree with such a statement, but even if I agreed with the proposition I would still be angry about it. Simply saying something is fallacious does not make it such.

It's well and good to disagree with Dr. Craig, I don't question anybody's right to disagree. But if I disagree with you I'm not simply going to say "your arguments are fallacious" as if by saying that I've discredited your entire case. If I say "your arguments are fallacious" I'm required to explain how they are fallacious. If I disagree with a deductive argument I must disagree specifically with one (or all) of the premises and explain how they violate some rule of logic.

On this blog we've discussed the Kalam Cosmological argument in the past. My skeptical readers have at the very least explained what premises they disagreed with and why they disagreed with them. And at that point we've had dialog. But if someone says "The Kalam argument is fallacious" without specifically pointing out a fallacy all I can do tilt my head and wonder.

Based on this I believe we have got to raise the level of dialog between skeptic and believer. If we don't we'll simply come to a standstill and possibly a shouting match.

This is not the only level on which we must raise the standard of dialog, however. Even in the midst of specific disagreements I've noticed (and have been guilty of it myself) people make assertions without a clear understanding of underlying presuppositions. A good example here can be found in the relativist. Of course there are different types of relativism (moral, epistemological, etc...), but every relativist denies the objectivity of something. However, it's impossible for a relativist to completely deny the objectivity of something without assuming the objectivity of something else.

If we specifically look at truth, a popular relativist mantra is "there is no absolute truth". However, this is an absolutist statement. If this is true then there is at least one absolute truth, and an infinite number of necessary qualifying statements. To be consistent (and this assumes the logical rule of noncontradiction) the relativist must say "There is no absolute truth except this one, and all statements verifying it ad infinitum". Thus such a statement is self-defeating and not justifiable.

That is just an example, but for progress to be made in the skeptic/believer dialog we have got to get beyond simply repeating our truisms and mantras and engage at a deeper level of thought the underlying issues at stake.

And there are many underlying issues and presuppositions that need to be brought to light. I'm tired of discoursing with people who believe happiness is the great end of mankind when they have simply assumed that without examining why they've assumed it. And I'm sure my skeptical friends are tired of discoursing with theists who have simply assumed things about the relation of knowledge and faith without understanding philosophical foundations for knowledge (as a theist I'm tired of dealing with this one).

I realize we will profoundly disagree on some things, but we have got to raise the bar on our standard of dialog if we ever wish to move forward.

God bless!


Blogger FishHawk said...

I have missed you.

Tue Aug 11, 01:53:00 AM 2009  
Blogger sweetswede said...

Hehe, I suppose I had disappeared for a while.

Tue Aug 11, 11:44:00 AM 2009  
Blogger Samuel said...

I just want to offer a thought....

perhaps the statement "There is no absolute truth" can be true without meaning there is one absolute truth (the statement given).

The way that could hold is if language is an imperfect vehicle for conveying truth.... and I realize that the consequences of saying that are that logic does not always work perfectly to reflect reality.

Of course, I am not saying "there is no absolute truth" merely offering how that sentence can be true while being contradictory (dialethea/paradox)?

Check out "paraconsisent posts" on my blog Buddhist Okie for further.... I don't know that I am advocating it, but merely playing with the idea.

A quick example:
The Trinity is 1 = 3.
1 = 1 and 1 /= 1.
(equals and does not equal).
That violates the law of non-contradiction - but most Christians hold it to be true in reality.

Of course, some will re-shape language so that the contradiction does not exist - but in re-shaping the language they tend to lose the original meaning of the very mystery of the Trinity.

I wouldn't be too uncomfortable with saying that language and logic are not always sufficient to accurately describe reality - especially because many truths can be paradoxical.


Sun Dec 27, 04:31:00 PM 2009  
Blogger Samuel said...

And a shorter reply more on topic....

I think part of the problem is said debates are not about finding the truth through the Socratic method - but rather about winning.

This leads to both sides become polarized. Polarization sells. Hitchens and Craig are both very polemical speakers.

I think it would be interesting seeing a debate about atheism vs. theism between people like the Dalai Lama and the Pope. It would probably be a lot less incendiary since neither has much to prove - and at least in JP2's day, both were a lot more humble about their knowledge.

Sun Dec 27, 04:41:00 PM 2009  
Blogger sweetswede said...

Samuel, thank you for your thoughts.

I will cede the point that language is not a perfect conveyor of truth, but I don't know if that means it is an incapable conveyor of truth.

I did read your paraconsistent posts and found them interesting. I don't think you are advocating it, if you were you would have likely said "I'm not advocating it, I am advocating it". The fact that you said "I don't know that I'm advocating it" seems to imply an either/or situation (either you are advocating it or you are not) that is inconsistent with paraconsistent logic.

I have heard a lot of obfuscating in regards to the Trinity, and I won't claim to understand it. Albeit, I think reducing the Trinity to a mathematical expression just as much does away with its mystery as reshaping language does. Personally I like how A.W. Tozer approached this issue, he said that he believes in the Trinity precisely because man could not make it up. If man made it up we'd understand it. But man doesn't understand the Trinity so it had to be revealed, it couldn't have been made up.

Many truths can be paradoxical, but a paradox is only an apparent contradiction, it is not in reality a contradiction.

Regarding the Pope/Dalai Lama debate I'm down, you think they'd respond to an invitation from two bloggers? In all seriousness though, I'm not so sure Benedict XVI would be very humble about his knowledge. He's been described as the "conservative bulldog", and if I'm not mistaken is the only Pope in history to go from being Inquisitor General (the guy who prosecutes heretics) to Pope.

One last point though regarding paraconsistent logic, does it require we use either paraconsistent logic or boolean logic? Or is it a both/and?

God bless!

Sun Dec 27, 08:09:00 PM 2009  
Blogger Samuel said...

I have no idea about paraconsistent logic. I stumbled upon it because of the liar's paradox - "This sentence is not true."

If the sentence is true, then it is also false - Which violates the law of non-contradiction.

I think Tozer's argument is flawed though.
"he believes in the Trinity precisely because man could not make it up. If man made it up we'd understand it. But man doesn't understand the Trinity so it had to be revealed, it couldn't have been made up."

I will use the Blue Unicorn test to show how that works.

There is a blue unicorn that is also a red unicorn and a white unicorn at the same time - but they are all distinct and yet one unicorn.

I just made something up that people can't understand.

I think the current Pope would be a bad candidate - but John Paul II would probably have been more open.

I plan on getting a book by Thomas Merton (Trappist monk) where the second half is a dialogue/debate between himself and a Zen Buddhist.

Thanks for stopping by my blog, I look forward to reading more of your posts.

Sun Dec 27, 09:28:00 PM 2009  
Blogger sweetswede said...

Regarding the Liar's Paradox I think it does show the failure of language as a perfect conveyor of truth. I don't think, in reality, it's very meaningful because it is self-referential. If "this" referred to something external then the LNC would hold:

A: "There is a pink car outside my house."
B: "This statement (A) is false."

Semantically the Liar's Paradox does challenge LNC, but I don't know as if that would apply to any real state of affairs (perhaps you could help me imagine such a situation).

Regarding unicorns and the Trinity, you didn't make anything up. You simply replaced "Father, Son, Holy Ghost" with "Blue, Red, White unicorn". You took the idea in question and made a superficial change of objects it refers to. You did not, in fact, imagine the idea yourself.

I'll admit, I don't blog on here often. Facebook seems more useful since I can tag people and address notes specifically to them.

God bless!

Mon Dec 28, 01:39:00 PM 2009  

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