Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Review of Coyne




588 comments:

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Eric MacDonald said...

Wonderful demolition of Coyne's book. I've been telling Coyne that this is what he has been doing for so long that I've lost count of the times that I have regaled him with similar criticisms. Coyne is completely out of his element in philosophy. He argues against free will and then challenges his readers to make decisions based on reasons! Belief in free will, he says, results in disastrous consequences, since it justified retributive punishment, therefore, he says, we should not believe in free will. But how is this possible? We have to make a decision not to so believe! Coyne's work is, I'm afraid (not speaking of his biological specialty) simply a mare's nest of contradictions, failure to define his terms, and simple ad hominem abuse. I am told that he acknowledges me in his intro. Well, trust me, if he takes responsibility for his failures, they really are all his!

scbrownlhrm said...


From my exchange in another forum on a related topic which, to some degree, houses enough overlap to be of use here:


Yes, how about you get to the point which these exchanges have been driving at for the last 1000 words or more. You know, when there was *no* appeal to God or to Gap even though you responded multiple times "as if" such were the case. And now here again you want to talk about God or Gaps. Your emotional commitments to your own a priori are forcing you to avoid pushing *your* own paradigm to its unavoidable ends.

"God did it” is nowhere claimed. It is not the stuff of “gaps” which ruins all of the Non-Theist’s hopes, but, rather, it is the many corridors painfully constituted of unavoidable reductio ad absurdums, plural. There is no need to appeal to God. Nor to Gaps. Simply avoiding absurdity is enough to guide reason. That the Christian’s paradigm happens to avoid such final eliminations of lucidity is not an appeal to God, nor to “God did it”. How could it be? Rather, it is the result of simply allowing reason to do its proper work regardless of the consequences.

So long as one is content with autohypnosis, reality can only evade him. The point here is Non-Theism and Mind. Whether you succeed or fail is irrelevant to God or no god and, so, my interest is not God, nor god, nor Gap, nor gaps. In your other comments you seem to continue to think there is a Gap because you continue to fail to appreciate the problem of absurdity, which is not a gap on any level. In fact, it can't be a gap because you have no method or means that can make absurdity sane. Why? Because that is, simply, logically impossible. Pretending our experience of the first person is *actually* constituted of irreducible intention (and etc.) is, no matter how long we chant, nothing more than autohypnosis wrapped up in wish fulfillment.

If you suppose that [1] the Non-Theist has the means to get to his irreducible (non-eliminative) metaphysical explanatory terminus with Intention, with Self, with Personhood, with Mind, with "I", with "i-am", and so on, intact, and, also, if you suppose that [2] in your stopping point of that irreducible, non-eliminative metaphysical explanatory terminus you will find the necessary modes of causations, plural, in a causal paradigm which does not (on closure) merely annihilate Mind, Intention (etc.) -- if you suppose such is within the reach of the Non-Theist, then you are either [1] unclear on the problem, or, [2] unclear on the means available to the Non-Theist, or, [3] you make the move of Harris and other reductionists by equivocating such that "I choose, but I cannot choose what I choose" (etc.), or else [4] all three.

The point is not about the Non-Theist coming up with an explanatory stopping point wrapped up inside of a causal paradigm summing to that which retains lucidity. No working model is being asked for. Rather, the only point of interest is to find out if the Non-Theist is going to claim he has the (actual) means to get to those (actual) ends, which makes Irreducible Mind (Person, Intention, "I", "i-am", etc.) his ultimate explanatory terminus, or if he will hedge and equivocate (like Harris) and gain thereby exactly no ontological ground at all, or if he will simply jump ship with the growing ocean of younger, braver, more honest atheists and claim it is all an illusion at bottom. Nothing needs to be said about the obvious fact that Reasoning, Truth, Knowing, and Knowledge, etc., ultimately lose or else ultimately retain lucidity amid such navigations.

The newer atheists of late are far more bold, eager to deconstruct.

Daniel Joachim said...

This article pushed me over the edge of purchasing a subscription at First Things. And I who already struggled to finish only an occasional interesting article from their archive.

Mind you. The book Faith and Fact has actually been used as a source by Norwegian doctorate students to write newspaper commentaries, showing how "Fact, Science and Rationality™" require us to leave "Faith, Religion & Superstition™" behind. Critical investigation of sources among some in our academia is in a sad state indeed. Sentimentality comes to mind. :)

Santi said...

In his review, Feser writes this: "[Coyne] characterizes 'faith' as 'belief without—or in the face of—evidence' and repeatedly uses the term as if this is what it generally means in religious contexts....But this simply is not how faith is understood historically in Christian theology."

Well, does the author of the Gospel of John count here as a theologian and source for historic Christian theology or not? Look again at the famous passage from the Gospel of John that gave Thomas the moniker “Doubting Thomas” (20:25 KJV): "The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe."

Thomas flunked the resurrection belief test. This was the wrong answer. In fact, in verse 29 of the same chapter of John’s gospel, Jesus gave a blessing to those who believe absent a crucial form of evidence: "Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed."

Notice that Jesus specifically and explicitly downplays the value of a central form of evidence: independently verified public data. For a scientist like Coyne, it's not enough that a religious claim appeals to testimonial evidence from enthusiastic and biased advocates (converts bearing "witness"), it must also, to be scientific: (1) make the witnesses available for cross examination and scrutiny by impartial and objective outsiders; and (2) make physical evidence available for independent verification. In this sense, the central claim of the Christian religion--the resurrection of Jesus--has never really been about systematic and disinterested testimonial and physical evidence gathering and fact-finding, but about believing in the absence of these, exactly as Coyne says.

Daniel Joachim said...

Well, this is embarrassing.

Sadly, the following verse 30 of the same chapter (John 20) contains the following (NIV):
"Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name."

It's always good to bring a little context. Even if we were to agree with your method of textual criticism, I think the words of Jesus could be more accurately construed as a critique of methodological constraints in doing History, denying the value of trustworthy testimonies when not everyone can have access to the relevant empirical method of investigation, but even that would be reading to much of our contemporary terminology back into history.

I know the use of "Doubting Thomas" is common among the New Atheists, but don't always believe the highly selective angles that they present you with, Santi. :)

scbrownlhrm said...


Santi makes a good point and reminds us how truly vacuous Coyne's claim is given the painfully obvious reality that seeing the Corporeal Jesus or Bedazzling medical miracles are unnecessary as there are far more weighty lines of (undeniable lest absurdity) evidence where God, Reason, and Love are concerned. Besides, the Alien may have done the medical miracle, hence such may be helpful for some, like Thomas, but such is not necessary. John the Baptist asks, after seeing the the Bedazzling, "Hey, are you the One?" Jesus points him to syllogism, to the irreducible, to reasoning, to Scripture, to observational reality, and to connecting the dots.

Just like He did when He commanded Man to master and subdue all of physicality, wherever *that* may lead.

Coyne is, well, comical.

Daniel Joachim said...

But I'll say, even though there are several excellent writers at FT, phrasings as these were by themselves worth a yearly subscription. Works of art.

"Indeed, you will find in Coyne’s book more straw men than you would at a casting call for The Wizard of Oz."

"Reading Coyne trying to do something as simple as defining his terms is like watching him play tennis with himself. And losing."

"Hence his response to the charge that he has given a circular argument is to repeat the same circular argument."

"For considered as an omnibus of concrete examples of elementary logical fallacies, Faith versus Fact is invaluable. Given Coyne’s standards of scholarship, I fully expect to see the last half of that sentence used as a blurb for the paperback edition."

Ian Thompson said...

The whole text of the article now appears.

Anonymous said...

Now that review was typically both apposite and hilarious. Thanks Dr Feser.

Anonymous said...

@Santi "Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed."
I think there are many things in science that we have not seen yet we believe is'nt there?

FM said...

@Santi

That is PAINFULLY BAD exegesis… typical of new atheists who take sentences out of context and thus fail to understand their meaning.

Yes the Apostle Thomas "flunked" the faith test... but the Apostle Thomas HAD SEEN the signs of Jesus. Lived with Jesus for nearly 3 years. He saw Jesus cure the uncurable, walk on water, raise the dead, etc...

So basically Thomas is like someone who knows a pianist virtuoso and the pianist breaks his hand... and after the pianist hand is healed the person does not believe at all the pianist even could play the piano at all anymore, if you grant me a quick metaphor.

So Thomas is indeed a "doubting Thomas", a person "A doubting Thomas who refuses to believe without direct personal experience"... but his skepticism is unjustified since ALL he had seen before.

To this another point:
How many people (even scientists!!!!) who believe in evolution, the big bang, black holes, etc… actually, uh, had a true PERSONAL experience with the data? They mostly trust other people with their experiments.
Sometimes it goes really wrong (see the Hendrik Schön Scandal!).

[[NOTE, before I am accused of something I did not say: I am not denying evolution, the big bang, balck holes or what not, I am just saying that even most scientist do not see the RAW DATA… since science is also built on faith that someone is not just making up BS. Of course it's a cautious faith but still you do not question someone's honesty… at best you might question his interpretation or maybe, but more rarely, his measuring apparatus sometimes]]

Hence Santi's point begs the question, since in the context of the Gospel, Jesus is not claiming what Santi or Coyne claim.

--

"Notice that Jesus specifically and explicitly downplays the value of a central form of evidence: independently verified public data"

Not really. Jesus does not say people should not verify things for themselves, but rather *greater* is indeed the Faith of those who believe without seeing. HOWEVER this does NOT imply that faith is “just believing without reason”.
Jesus DID give a reason to believe, his signs and his resurrection. His apostles gave reasons. Theologians gave reasons, etc…

Also what Santi claims:

. In this sense, the central claim of the Christian religion--the resurrection of Jesus--has never really been about systematic and disinterested testimonial and physical evidence gathering and fact-finding, but about believing in the absence of these, exactly as Coyne says.


is indeed the contrary to the FACT: indeed what the writers of the Gospels stood for and did (and also St. Paul and the early Church fathers I would add).

Jesus is not against reasonable faith, but lack of faith against the reasonable evidence that HAS ALREADY been given.

To this note, this carries continuity with the OLD Testament: as people's lack of faith is indeed scolded in the light that God DID show them many signs and still they do not believe.

In a sense Thomas reflects Moses, when Moses himself doubts God in Exodus, in spite of all he had witnessed.

Indeed if what Santi or Coyne claimed was true, we would not have a Gospel at all. We would at best have a collections of saying like most Gnostic gospels (like the Gospel of Judas or Thomas) or something like the Koran or (most of) any other “sacred scripture” in the world basically.

On the other hand the very first Christians understood the importance to underline the historicity of Jesus and the Resurrection. Something stressed also by the Church fathers and also by today's Christians as well.

I guess like Coyne, it is OK to ignore facts and invent nice straw-men.

Ok let ME be a “doubting Thomas” for not buying that kind of rhetorical empty nonsense *wink wink*

I mean how DELUDED are new atheists that they are not even consistent with their own skepticism?

FM said...

Anyway.... OUCH... the review was very painful (for Coyne) but also very true.

Coyne book IS indeed that bad... It's an incoherent mess. 336 pages full of ramblings, one might also say.

This kind of writing requires that someone re-examine Coynes scientific papers... someone who writes a book like that cannot be trusted doing science in my opinion.

Greg said...

@ Daniel Joachim

"Reading Coyne trying to do something as simple as defining his terms is like watching him play tennis with himself. And losing."

This was my favorite.

laubadetriste said...

@FM (or anyone else who wants to throw in):

Serious question:

So this came up in another context, but regarding too ↑this Doubting Thomas dispute, is there a source, or are there sources, that encompass the whole of the Bible, and review how traditionally it has been interpreted?

(So I *don't* mean that that interpretation there must be argued for or developed at length, and I *don't* mean that that interpretation must be true, and I *don't* mean the various creeds, etc., by themselves, and I *don't* mean the various archaeological, cultural, and philological aspects of any part of the Bible, and I *don't* mean something specific to any one denomination. I mean something like, as in the case of Doubting Thomas, one could open volume 11, turn to page 237, and read that, "John 20:25. Tertullian thought this meant [x]. For more information, consult *De Carne Christi,* pg. such-and-such. This was affirmed by council [y]. Calvin though it meant [z]. For more information, see the *Institutes,* pg. this-and-that. This view is rejected by the Catholic Church [here], but accepted in the Westminster Confession [here]..."

This would be to avoid exegesis by plebiscite, exegesis by that's-what-I-think, and exegesis by ha-ha-you-can't-get-that-obscure-book-in-time-to-confirm-what-I-said. After noting the many logical howlers committed by Coyne, it would be helpful to be able to say to him, "Next time you think you know how the faithful interpret the Bible, double-check here..."

Santi said...

Feser, I think fairly, points out Coyne's definitional inconsistencies, and I agree with Greg that this is Feser's best towel snap: "Reading Coyne trying to do something as simple as defining his terms is like watching him play tennis with himself. And losing."

It's a funny line, undeniably, but it's also ironic, for obviously the same can be directed at Christians like Feser surrounding the most important definition of all: God. Feser's line of attack against Coyne--that he is not a consistent definer of his own terms, and so his targets cannot be pinned down for close scrutiny or reality testing--invites a look in the mirror: Do theists do the same thing surrounding God?

Yes.

Is there a comic element in watching theists attempt to define and debate God?

Yes.

So Christians have always played a funny and murky definitional Wimbledon with the term "God," but it has gone on, not for a couple of hundred pages, as with Coyne's book, but for two millennia--and without any conclusive progress.

Isn't that funny? Going around in circles like this?

Aquinas, for instance, put forth the volley that you cannot really say anything very specific about God except by way of analogy, which is another way of saying that, beyond some broad generalizations ("God is simple, God is one"), God cannot actually be captured and defined with words. (Is God a person? Well, yes, but not in the way you and I are persons. Does God love? Well, yes, but not in the way you and I love. Does God think? Well, yes, but not in the way you and I think, etc.)

That strikes me, in terms of reasoning, as funny. Funny as in fishy.

And it's a tad too convenient. One might get the impression that one who reasons in this way is up to no good (hiding something)--or doesn't actually know what he or she is even saying.

So if you're going to make your chief line of attack on somebody definitional inconsistency, at least be sure you've got your own most important definitional term--for Christians, that would be "God"--locked down. Which Feser doesn't.

laubadetriste said...

@ Santi:

Hi again.

*Analogy* is something I myself am quite eager to hear more about, but it is important to note that God's *simplicity* and *unity* are not supposed to be *generalizations.* If that's what you think has been said, joke's on you.

laubadetriste said...

Maybe you meant "generalities." That would be better, but it still wouldn't help your point. I suspect--correct me if I'm wrong--that you're looking for "vacuities."

Santi said...

Daniel,

You wrote that Jesus' rebuke (or admonition) of Thomas "could be more accurately construed as a critique of methodological constraints in doing History, denying the value of trustworthy testimonies when not everyone can have access to the relevant empirical method of investigation,..."

But this begs the question. What is in dispute is the value of the testimony itself absent evidence. You are presuming the testimony is "trustworthy," but we don't have access to the witnesses, we don't have access to the tomb. Nothing. But believe.

scbrownlhrm said...



Santi thinks God can't be bigger, broader, deeper, and wider than the Adamic. On all fronts.

Okay.

That sounds like something Coyne would say. You know, [wider = incoherent].

And yet no incoherence was put forth.

Only [wider] = [incoherent].

But no explanation of why that "=" survives reason's demands for lucidity.

It doesn't of course. But one would think that at least an attempt at an argument would have come along for the ride.

scbrownlhrm said...

Santi,

Lots of things testify.

People are only one of many.

If you didn't build your straw man atop a single verse you'd see that whole arena there in scripture’s narrative on truth and the many modes of the perception thereof.

But, of course, if you don't want to discuss Christianity's truth predicates, well then carry on.

Anonymous said...

@Santi
Is God a person? Well, yes, but not in the way you and I are persons

God is the superset of attributes that defines a person.

Does God love? Well, yes, but not in the way you and I love

We love because we need something. God loves because He is love.

Santi said...

SCBrown wrote: "John the Baptist asks, after seeing the Bedazzling, 'Hey, are you the One?' Jesus points him to syllogism, to the irreducible, to reasoning, to Scripture, to observational reality, and to connecting the dots."

Ha! That would make a great start for a Monty Python skit: a Jesus who responds like a scientist or analytic philosopher. "Think for yourself? Doubt, don't believe? Check your premises? Question authority? Don't follow confidence men? Treat women with equality? What curious sayings are these that the master hath uttered?..."

laubadetriste said...

@Anonymous January 21, 2016 at 11:40 AM:

Since "the superset of attributes that defines a person" is in fact *not* the way you and I are persons, and since "because He is love" is in fact *not* the way you and I love, what do you intend to accomplish by reenacting in brief the "funny reasoning" that Santi accused Dr. Feser of?

scbrownlhrm said...

Santi,

Your unawareness of Scripture is leaking out.

That Non-Christian thing seems hard for you to shake off.

World Not World said...

@Santi:

@Santi,

It's good to move on from the charge against Christianity for condoning "belief without evidence," as it was baseless. . .

Your more recent suggestions are perhaps more interesting – that there's no good definition of God. Well, I suppose any abstract idea one is not familiar with may look fishy. Sure, the "definition" of God is a matter than has taken different shapes over the centuries, just as the definition of "energy" or "life" has changed. What is perhaps most astonishing is the way the major theological traditions, coming at it from very different angles, have all zeroed in on the idea of a simple, singular transcendence that is the origin and creator of all being. It does not seems to be the case that we can entirely formalize this concept, any more than we can formalize the definition of, say, "life," but that should not prevent the theologian or biologist from proceeding.

Theological traditions come to further conclusions: that this transcendent source of being must be in some sense person-like, and capable of love – being in fact the source of love. If these conclusions appear "fishy," then why not investigate them and see how well they hold up?

And by what measure of "progress" do you measure Christian theology, such that you can say it hasn't made any and merely goes around in circles? Simply stating a few theological paraphrases that don't make sense to you is not even a good subjective measure, much less an objective one.

Now if you're really fishing for fishy abstractions, try quantum physics. "Probability waves?" All matter and energy are "waves and particles" somehow "at once"? This looks pretty fishy too, and one might get the impression those whacky physicists are up to no good thing either – until you see how beautifully the physics works.

And even then, no one really claims to "understand" it, as Richard Feynmann famously opined. Reality at its basic levels becomes notoriously slippery. What kind of a "thing" is a "field," for heaven's sake? What is "energy?" "Spin?" Physics retains no common-sense notions of these things; it uses a mathematical language we can manipulate but hardly understand. Our everyday way of characterizing reality simply does not always work. Why should we expect it to? Science makes this so clear that to accuse theology of failing to "define," or then of sounding strange when it does define, is not compelling.

The concept of God is, one might say, the biggest possible concept, and it's a damned slippery one too – harder to "lock down" than even the most abstract ideas going in science. There are even good reasons to think it can't be definitively "locked down" without contradiction – like the undefinable numbers on the real number line.

If theological statements strike you as fishy, I suggest digging into theology and seeing how it works. Feser's blog is a great way into the subject.

scbrownlhrm said...

Santi,

I know you want reason and perception to be spooky instead of human. But Scripture's vectors aren't like that. Nor is reality. It's all painfully gritty. There's no magic to reason. Nor to perception.

Lots of things testify.

People are only one of many such vectors. You should know that simply from your gritty human experience.

If you didn't build your straw man atop a single verse you'd see that whole arena there in scripture’s narrative on truth and the many modes of the perception thereof.

But, of course, if you don't want to discuss Christianity's truth predicates, well then carry on.

scbrownlhrm said...



Coyne seems confused. Science has caught up with Scripture's truth predicates and affirmed the coherence of syntax of the form "X brought Y back to life", as the definition of death is, as predicted, contingent on the sort(s) of person(s) around the body and their level of knowledge rather than merely on the body proper. No "violence" to nature is found there, though both the Ancient Savage and the Modern Skeptic mistakenly claim(ed) such. Magic and all that. Coherence out of hand is affirmed by science and observational reality, hence coherence of said syntax comes through pending, not science, but, solely one's a priori of what sorts of person(s) and knowledge actually exist.

Daniel Joachim said...

@santi

"What is in dispute is the value of the testimony itself absent evidence"

And where does it say that we should be totally absent evidence? Nowhere, you say? Because you just made it up, you say?

Huh. Funny how that method seems to be called "argument" in some bizarre parallell universe.

And as you probably know, faith without reason - fideism - is explicitly condemned by the Church.

im-skeptical said...

Speaking of building a straw man - did anyone else notice how Feser spent half the review trying to force Coyne into his phony little box of scientism, and at the same time, criticizing him for not fitting neatly into that little box? Perhaps if Feser was a little less obsessed with his straw man, he might have paid more attention to what Coyne actually said in his book.

scbrownlhrm said...



Clarification:

That is to say that rejection of said syntax contradicts both science and observational reality. Such rejection of the occurrence of said syntax can only come through in and by placing one's own a priori about "What sort(s) of person(s) and knowledge actually exist?" ahead of hard evidence.

Daniel Joachim said...

@santi

"What is in dispute is the value of the testimony itself absent evidence"

And where does it say that we should be totally absent evidence? Nowhere, you say? Because you just made it up, you say?

Huh. Funny how that method seems to be called "argument" in some bizarre parallell universe.

And as you probably know, faith without reason - fideism - is explicitly condemned by the Church.

laubadetriste said...

@im-skeptical: "Speaking of building a straw man - did anyone else notice how Feser spent half the review trying to force Coyne into his phony little box of scientism, and at the same time, criticizing him for not fitting neatly into that little box? Perhaps if Feser was a little less obsessed with his straw man, he might have paid more attention to what Coyne actually said in his book."

If by "trying to force," you mean *quoting,* then yes, I did notice that.

Unfortunately, we have read a lot of Coyne on religion on this blog.

Santi said...

Laubadetriste:

I like your word "vacuities." That will work.

From the beginning, there has been this tension within Christianity between defining God as a person and defining God logically as a necessary and simple First Being (the God of the philosophers). The two do not appear logically consistent with one another, yet many Christians, including Feser, profess to believe both things about God, and hold them both, as a matter of habit, in soft focus.

But when you zoom in, how, for instance, could a pure, undifferentiated being of infinite scope think, know, desire, act--and create a cosmos from nothing? How could such a being interact with matter--and be all good and all powerful at the same time (given the degree of suffering in the world)? How is it coherent for God to be one and a trinity at the same time, and for Jesus to be God incarnate?

All of these are deemed to be mysterious--and imaginative reconciliations have been proposed by theologians to make them seem less mysterious.

But if you're going to take science and definition seriously, it won't do to call the questions surrounding God "mysteries," and rest with any certainty that the theologians and theist philosophers see it right.

Thus it's hardly surprising that scientists like Coyne are impatient with theist appeals to miracle, mystery, and authority--and the imaginative somersaults of theologians and theist philosophers surrounding their obscure and often incoherent definitions of God. We all should be. But we all aren't. And that's why Coyne's book is valuable. He makes the admirable effort, as a scientist, to push back against the intellectual complacency. The biggest term of all--God--is not precisely and coherently defined by religious intellectuals--and yet the religious machine keeps on putting out its sausages. That's the chief problem. God is a ghost bird.

Maybe his book is ham-fisted in places, but Coyne is trying to do his part to promote in the larger culture the sorts of values you find in the scientific community (hard-nosed skepticism, caution in the evaluation of evidence and testimony, etc.). The world would be a better place if more people had their bullshit detectors set at levels akin to Coyne's.

Greg said...

Don't talk to Santi. It's not worth it.

im-skeptical said...

Unfortunately, we have read a lot of Coyne on religion on this blog.

Unfortunately, we have read a lot of Feser on science on this blog.

scbrownlhrm said...


Santi,

You claim far too much.

[1] Show us how and why Person and Necessary Being are self-negating.

[2] Show us how Privation (evil) and God are logically contradictory.

[4] Show us how Being’s three unavoidable vertices constituting love's triune topography amid ceaseless reciprocity in all which ever can sum to Self/Other timelessly begetting unicity’s Us contradicts the same three unavoidable vertices in all that ever can sum to Perception.

[5] Show us how *Motion* in the Necessary Being, void of becoming, is coherent without the Logos in God, with God, God.

[6] Tell us why you reject out of hand statements constituted of syntax of the form "X brought Y back to life", as briefly alluded to earlier.

If your logic survives 1 through 6 we'll try several more. Such as your attempts to build theological definitions on spookiness instead of on reality, Scripture, and so on.

laubadetriste said...

@Santi: "The world would be a better place if more people had their bullshit detectors set at levels akin to Coyne's."

True. But the world would also be a better place if people like Coyne (to develop the metaphor) hadn't their bullshit detectors set up to return so many false positives.

"But when you zoom in, how, for instance, could a pure, undifferentiated being of infinite scope think, know, desire, act--and create a cosmos from nothing? How could such a being interact with matter--and be all good and all powerful at the same time (given the degree of suffering in the world)? How is it coherent for God to be one and a trinity at the same time, and for Jesus to be God incarnate? / All of these are deemed to be mysterious--and imaginative reconciliations have been proposed by theologians to make them seem less mysterious. / But if you're going to take science and definition seriously, it won't do to call the questions surrounding God 'mysteries,' and rest with any certainty that the theologians and theist philosophers see it right."

I think you've answered your own question. Theologians and philosophers have in fact not rested with any certainty, but have proposed imaginative reconciliations of seeming incoherences.

Now, they may be *wrong,* but that's a different question. And the man in the street (so to speak) may be ignorant of all that, but is that not more a fact about him, than a fact about theologians and philosophers?

"God is a ghost bird."

Heh. :) What a fun sentence.

laubadetriste said...

@im-skeptical: "'Unfortunately, we have read a lot of Coyne on religion on this blog.' / Unfortunately, we have read a lot of Feser on science on this blog."

You elide the key difference: Dr. Feser has offered arguments. With true premises and valid forms and everything! Why, if one had read only Coyne, one would think it impossible...

He *does* have beautiful animal pictures on his blog. And *Why Evolution Is True* was a fascinating review of the evidence.

ccmnxc said...

Unfortunately, we have read a lot of Feser on science on this blog.

You seem to have quite the knack for taking the witticisms and quips of others and parroting them. Something novel would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

im-skeptical said...

If Feser wants to review a book, why does he fail to address the key elements of the book, choosing to focus instead on his own straw man view of something that is at best only a side issue to main topic?

laubadetriste said...

@i'm-skeptical: "If Feser wants to review a book, why does he fail to address the key elements of the book, choosing to focus instead on his own straw man view of something that is at best only a side issue to main topic?"

That doesn't seem like what he did, but I'm willing to be corrected. So: What are the key elements of the book, which also are ones that Dr. Feser failed to address?

Santi said...

World not World:

You wrote: "It does not seems to be the case that we can entirely formalize this concept [God], any more than we can formalize the definition of, say, 'life,' but that should not prevent the theologian or biologist from proceeding."

But the difference is that the biologist has something to work with. She can reality test.

When you're in a fog, where can theology "proceed"? As the old rabbis used to say, "Have your ears heard what your mouth hath said?"

laubadetriste said...

@im-skeptical:

I should add, In what way do you think Dr. Feser attacked a straw man?

im-skeptical said...

In what way do I think Dr. Feser attacked a straw man? Feser gives his own definition of scientism - "the view that science alone gives us genuine knowledge", and then proceeds to castigate Coyne for seeming to say some things that agree with it, and other things that disagree with it. Feser apparently doesn't recognize that real people have more nuanced views than that. But then, I don't think it was ever his intent to critically examine what Coyne has to say. He's just engaging in a little gnu-bashing.

Santi said...

Scbrownlhrm:

You wrote: "Show us how Privation (evil) and God are logically contradictory."

I cannot. You ask this as if to imply that simply having at hand a logically possible solution to the problem of evil warrants your believing in God. It doesn't.

As a matter of epistemology, even after you've thought it out closely, Spinoza-like, how would you ever know you've got your definition of God right? Even if you reasoned your way to how God must be as a matter of logic (all good and all powerful at the same time, etc.), how would you reality test it (check your answer)?

Is the Holocaust, for instance, sufficient for falsifying the all good/all powerful formulation that you've arrived at by a process of logic? Maybe it sounds plausible (if God exists, God must be all powerful and all good), but how would you know you're not just dealing with a unicorn or ghost bird? How would you know whether, on learning that the Holocaust happened, you should abandon your definition of God--or belief in God?

Is your threshold of belief in God really so low that all it requires is a logically possible way for you to squirm out of the difficulty of the problem of evil--and the Holocaust?

It's logically possible to make "God" fit any imaginable data set. You just have to be creative enough. But it's not knowledge. Even if you generate a system as beautiful as quantum physics, it's not knowledge. It's imagination. It's poetry. Until you have data, you're in the realm of poetry.

Rorty is right. Metaphysics and theology are forms of poetry.

How do you translate your imaginative poetry into knowledge? You've got to reality test things somehow. See if the imaginative model fits the data, and ask if there are other models that fit it better.

But God isn't subject to reality testing. And even if (S)he were, it doesn't mean that the God hypothesis is the best explanation on offer. There might be other hypotheses that fit the data just as well. It doesn't mean God is a fable, it means you don't know.

You can imagine God, but you can't know God.

And this is where religious confidence men come in. There are people who claim to be 100% certain that God exists. They treat metaphysics like mathematics. They shrug off reality testing. They use metaphysics and theology as justifications for not engaging in reality testing (or to explain why it can never be applied to God). It's all very poetic and convenient, but, historically, in the 17th century, such evasive intellectual maneuvers entered a steep decline when people like Francis Bacon said, "Enough already." No more imaginative castles built in the air. Theology and metaphysics are getting us nowhere. Let's try science for getting our epistemic rocks in place, and making progress.

And guess what? It worked. The old platitudes crumbled. The demon haunted world receded. And here I am, arguing with a handful of the remaining holdouts. Lucky me. Lucky Jerry.

laubadetriste said...

@im-skeptical:

Perhaps also you mistake the scope of what a book review is. My own brief favorite:

"*Apologies for Love* — by F.A. Myers. ‘Do you remain long in Paris, Miss Wadsworth?’ Earl Nero Pensive [!!!] inquired, as he seated himself beside her. His eyes, like beaming lights out of shadowless abysm, were transfixed upon her as by magic force...' Thus the story begins. God knows how it ends!"--Mencken, The Smart Set, December 1909

The point being that certain kinds of faults, in certain kinds of books, can be irremediable. Take a book the subtitle of which is "Why Science and Religion are Incompatible." Now what if, in such a book, it was found that the definition of "religion" used was unrepresentative and inconsistent? What if, further, it was found that the definition of "faith" used was historically false? And what if, finally, it was found that the definition of "science" used was incoherent?

Well, I hope then it would also be found at least that the publisher was responsible for the subtitle... :)

"Science and religion, then, are competitors in the business of finding out what is true about our universe. In this goal religion has failed miserably, for its tools for discerning 'truth' are useless. These areas are incompatible in precisely the same way, and in the same sense, that rationality is incompatible with irrationality."--*Faith Vs. Fact,* pg. 16

...but I doubt it.

"Feser gives his own definition of scientism - 'the view that science alone gives us genuine knowledge', and then proceeds to castigate Coyne for seeming to say some things that agree with it, and other things that disagree with it. Feser apparently doesn't recognize that real people have more nuanced views than that."

You imply that Dr. Feser's definition is idiosyncratic. It isn't. Coyne does not seem to say things that agree with it. He says them. And his views are not more nuanced than that, except when they are. Which is to say that he has been inconsistent in his claims regarding science and knowledge--which is one of the the accusations Dr. Feser made against him in that review, giving examples.

im-skeptical said...

Perhaps also you mistake the scope of what a book review is.

I read this article with the expectation of gaining some additional insight into Feser's views on the compatibility between faith and science, or to hear how he addresses Coyne's. I was disappointed. This was not a book review.

You imply that Dr. Feser's definition is idiosyncratic.

It is.

So Feser is unhappy with the way Coyne defines certain things for the purposes of his own book? Fine. I'm unhappy with the way Feser defines certain things. Doesn't this just provide support for the point that science and religion are incompatible? We can't even agree on terms, let alone get down substantive issues.

scbrownlhrm said...

Santi,

You first claimed that there was an intellectual problem with privation (evil) and God. You then spend 5 paragraphs telling why even though you are wrong about that, you must be somehow right about that with what boils down to --- "because logic does not matter so using logic and reason isn't helpful in interpreting reality...."

You should apply that to eliminative materialism and to Spinoza's god -- which is all there is other than panpsychism -- and see just where Reason, Perception, Logic, and Mind end up.

Good luck with that BTW.

And, also BTW -- if you don't take all that you just said and apply it to the ends of Mind, Perception, Reason, and Logic first in Eliminative Materialism, and in Spinoza's hedge on materialism, and in Pan-Psychism, I'm afraid I won't be able to take you seriously.

If your next comment to me evades Mind, Perception, Reason, and Logic first in Eliminative Materialism, and in Spinoza's hedge on materialism, and in Pan-Psychism, showing us just where all those contours are either eliminated at some ontological seam somewhere OR found intact at the end of your (metaphysical) ultimate explanatory terminus, then I will have to assume you've not done your homework on those various (insolvent) chains of metaphysical IOU's.

You see, this is where "science" and "scientism" become unmasked.

How do you reality-test Reason? By reducing it to Non-Volitional Particle Cascade and then just sort of "pretend" that all your own truth predicates do not suffer the pains of deflationary truth value across the board?

Or what? As in.... or what?


Okay -- one down.


How about the next 5 items --- after you unpack that first thing lots more for us -- so as to see if you're willing to be intellectually consistent across the board.

Again -- if your next comment to me hedges or equivocates on all of those means and all of those ends, then I will just assume you're not willing to apply reason across the board -- to the bitter ends of her reach, and, that you're either intentionally or else unaware that you are subtly floating criteria which have a faint stench of scientism.

Items 2 - 6 are waiting.

scbrownlhrm said...

Santi,

Clarification:

Items 2 - 6 are waiting -- pending your robust and thorough demonstration of elimination vs. intact of *all* those things discussed in the last comment.

None of this is new really. It's all fairly well-worn territory. It should be a snap for you to find something "intact" out there at said termini.

Else -- deflationary pains ensue.

BenYachov said...

People I've dealt with Skepo before. Don't hold your breath waiting for him to make a rational argument.


From the wiki

Scientism- is belief in the universal applicability of the scientific method and approach, and the view that empirical science constitutes the most "authoritative" worldview or the most valuable part of human learning - to the exclusion of other viewpoints.

From the Atheistic Rational Wiki

Scientism is the view that only scientific claims are meaningful.

There is nothing idiosyncratic of Feser's definition of Scientism. It is in fact THE definition.

Don't hold your breath waiting for Skepo to give a contradictory definition.

scbrownlhrm said...



We must wonder... If Coyne and Santi have gone sooo far afield in something as hum-drum as reason and logic and mind and perception well, OH DEAR, we have to wonder what sort of incoherent universe did they wonder off into during their "analysis" of items 2 through 6?

laubadetriste said...

@im-skeptic: "So Feser is unhappy with the way Coyne defines certain things for the purposes of his own book? Fine. I'm unhappy with the way Feser defines certain things. Doesn't this just provide support for the point that science and religion are incompatible? We can't even agree on terms, let alone get down substantive issues."

That is very misleading. Dr. Feser's *unhappiness* is irrelevant, as is yours. Dr. Feser pointed out that several crucial definitions of Coyne's are (as I noted) unrepresentative, inconsistent, historically false, and incoherent. "Happiness" has nothing to do with it. You now assert that the definition of "scientism" used is idiosyncratic, but do not back up that assertion. Again, "unhappiness" is a red herring.

Let me agree with BenYachov agreeing with me here...:

Dictionary.com: "2. the belief that the assumptions, methods of research, etc., of the physical and biological sciences are equally appropriate and essential to all other disciplines, including the humanities and the social sciences."

Merriam-Webster.com: "2: an exaggerated trust in the efficacy of the methods of natural science applied to all areas of investigation (as in philosophy, the social sciences, and the humanities)."

WikiPedia: "Scientism is belief in the universal applicability of the scientific method and approach, and the view that empirical science constitutes the most 'authoritative' worldview or the most valuable part of human learning - to the exclusion of other viewpoints. Accordingly, philosopher Tom Sorell provides this definition of scientism: 'Scientism is a matter of putting too high a value on natural science in comparison with other branches of learning or culture.'"

laubadetriste said...

@scbrownlhrm: "Items 2 - 6 are waiting. "

Agh! No! No more than three at a time!

(Or if they're all short like that, stick 'em in one comment.)

Please.

BenYachov said...

Skepo writes:

Feser gives his own definition of scientism - "the view that science alone gives us genuine knowledge",

Feser does this by giving a definition consistent with the one given by the Rational Wiki and the regular wiki.

God or Darwin help Skepo if I pick up a philosophy dictionary.

scbrownlhrm said...



Scientism.......oh how painful:


“You have a gap, therefore you are incoherent” *isn’t* the Christian’s logical progression in unpacking the insolvency of Non-Theism(s).

The failure of materialism / Non-Theism as a plausible T.O.E. emerges in and by its many corridors painfully constituted of the following:

From Wiki: “Reductio ad absurdum (Latin: “reduction to absurdity”; pl.: reductiones ad absurdum), also known as argumentum ad absurdum (Latin: “argument to absurdity”, pl.: argumenta ad absurdum), is a common form of argument which seeks to demonstrate that a statement is true by showing that a false, untenable, or absurd result follows from its denial, or in turn to demonstrate that a statement is false by showing that a false, untenable, or absurd result follows from its acceptance……. this technique has been used throughout history in both formal mathematical and philosophical reasoning, as well as informal debate.”

That is all a critical oversight on the Non-Theist's part and even worse it commits him implicitly – perhaps even explicitly – to the defense of scientism. We wish him luck. Sure, he thinks he can find irreducible distinctions somewhere within that which (eventually) unpacks to a kind of "singular and seamless continuum of particle (or whatever) in motion" (as noted by Debilis at Fide Dubitandum).

Such paltry means leave him holding one reductio ad absurdum after another, after another…….. Of course he can always make a very easy escape from absurdity simply by suffering the pains of circularity.

Here's a quote by “Debilis” with a bit more:

Quote:

We can’t simply insist, without evidence, that all evidence is physical then make proud declarations about what evidence does or doesn’t exist. This is assuming materialism in order to “prove” atheism, making it a circular argument. Rather, we first need to give a reason why all evidence is physical.

But this leads the materialist into a very difficult corner, because there’s absolutely no physical evidence to support the idea that all evidence is physical.

Generally, the response I get is further insistence that I “show” some non-physical things – as if the person asking doesn’t believe a mind, free will, moral truth, or even logical principles exist. What I never get is a bona fide reason to believe that all evidence is physical.

So, summing this up……. we haven’t seen any reason at all to be a materialist. The reasons for belief in God, if they have any weight at all, will be the stronger case.

Of course, I’ve argued (and will continue to argue) that such reasons have substantial weight……….

….……I can elaborate, but the point is that scientific tests and “because it seems obvious” aren’t the only possibilities for determining the truth of a premise.

And that is part of a running theme here. As with my argument from moral truth, and my refutation of the argument for materialism, one simply can’t cram these kinds of questions into a scientific model. The entire point of what the theist is saying is that there are things which don’t fit that model. One is free to disagree, but it makes no sense to argue against the truth of those claims by pointing out that science doesn’t find them.

Of course it doesn’t – that’s the theists point. The debate is over whether or not science gives us an exhaustive picture of all reality.

End quote.

World Not World said...

@Santi

The biologist can in no way "reality test" the definition of life. She does her best to circumscribe the domain of her inquiry to certain phenomena which she calls "life," assuming the term has some coherence, and then looks for what she can find in that domain to further her understanding. What is meant by "life" is not given a priori; it emerges and evolves from engagement with the subject, with the world.

Rorty got it backwards: poetry is a form of metaphysics and theology – as is science. They are all modes of knowledge, which all in turn require imagination. They all make metaphysical presumptions; these are what theology presumes to investigate.

So your idea that God is "consistent with any set of data" gets it about half right: it is the fact that there are any data there at all which, in classical theological understanding, requires God.

scbrownlhrm said...

@ laubadetriste said...

@scbrownlhrm: "Items 2 - 6 are waiting.


No those are not "parts of multiple posts"....those 6 items where challenges to Santi in my comment time-stamped "January 21, 2016 at 2:04 PM"

Not to worry -- am traveling so things will be scant for a few days anyway. A few pushes to get Santi to **actually** unpack Mind and Reason and Logic and Perception in **all** three of EM, Pan-Psych, and Spinoza is all I see coming up... it's either elimination or intact since "magic" isn't allowed, so we'll see how **that** goes. But, as the song goes.... "Come Monday it will be all right...." (or something like that?) :-)

laubadetriste said...

@Santi: "And even if (S)he were, it doesn't mean that the God hypothesis is the best explanation on offer. There might be other hypotheses that fit the data just as well. It doesn't mean God is a fable, it means you don't know."

Santi, you can do better than that. You've been reading here for a while. How may discussions have there been about empirical evidence, just in the last few months?--not even counting the last few years?

"They treat metaphysics like mathematics. They shrug off reality testing. They use metaphysics and theology as justifications for not engaging in reality testing (or to explain why it can never be applied to God). It's all very poetic and convenient, but, historically, in the 17th century, such evasive intellectual maneuvers entered a steep decline when people like Francis Bacon said, 'Enough already.' No more imaginative castles built in the air. Theology and metaphysics are getting us nowhere. Let's try science for getting our epistemic rocks in place, and making progress."

And you're playing fast-and-loose with both mathematics and the history of science.

scbrownlhrm said...

Santi,

Are you actually unaware that many evolutionary biologists are now getting rid of the distinction between life and non-life?

Seriously.

I mean, think about it. There is no **property difference** in chemical reactions (or whatever) taking place over "here" from those taking place over "there".

As per my quote of Debilis -- "reality" truly is (the materialist must concede) no more and no less than that "singular and seamless continuum of particle (or whatever) in motion".

Full stop. Hence all "cutting points" are purely the work of the arbitrary, the non-ontic. Because that seamless continuum itself has no cutting points.

Feser takes a peak at it here:

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2014/03/stop-it-youre-killing-me.html

Others are following suit -- bit by bit..... that's that Hard Bulldog of Logic and Reason at work......funny that.

Tell me, what will they (we) eliminate next?

How do we reality-test reason again?

As in....How?

Looking forward to 1 - 6.......

im-skeptical said...

Out of all the definitions of scientism seen here, the only one that matches Feser's is the one quoted from RationalWiki. I looked it up, and oh, what a liar Ben is. That was given as the pejorative use of the term. Then it goes on to say, The non-pejorative, and therefore boring, sense of the term denotes the "methods and attitudes typical of or attributed to the natural scientist."

Please note that any non-pejorative definition of the word is NOT consistent with Feser's straw man. If you read very, very carefully, you can see the difference. (Perhaps someone can read it out loud for Ben.)

But back to the point - it would be interesting to see Feser and the rest of you credit Coyne with holding the views that he actually holds, but that doesn't fit your narrative, so I won't hold my breath. After all, we are not here to understand and criticize the positions of the gnus, we are only here to belittle them.

Brandon said...

Feser gives his own definition of scientism - "the view that science alone gives us genuine knowledge", and then proceeds to castigate Coyne for seeming to say some things that agree with it, and other things that disagree with it.

As a matter of curiosity, what, specifically, besides science does Coyne say can give us knowledge?

Edward Feser said...

im-selectively-skeptical,

Done kicking up dust yet?

In the review, I quote many specific passages from Coyne stating his views about the relationship between science and other disciplines, and show how they fail to add up to a clear or consistent position. I also cite several specific straw men he attacks, and could have cited more. The book is about science and religion. Hence if it is going to contain a serious argument, he needs to be clear about what he means by science, and he needs to show that he understands what religions actually say. I specifically document how he fails to do either of these things.

Rather than say anything about that -- that is to say, rather than actually addressing what is in the review -- you accuse me of mis-characterizing scientism (exactly how, you never say), imply that I've somehow said erroneous things on my blog about science (exactly what they are, you never say), and claim that I ignore the "key elements" of Coyne's book (exactly what they are, you never say).

This is a very Coyne-like way of "responding" to objections to his claims and arguments, i.e. it is no response at all.

im-skeptical said...

And I think that you didn't respond to the book. I was quite disappointed.

Edward Feser said...

?? As I said:

Hence if it [Coyne's book] going to contain a serious argument, he needs to be clear about what he means by science, and he needs to show that he understands what religions actually say. I specifically document how he fails to do either of these things.

Pray tell us: How does documenting that fail to constitute a response to the book?

Scott said...

1. If you (Ed) had responded to the book, im-skeptical would not have been quite disappointed.

2. im-skeptical was quite disappointed.

The conclusion follows by modus tollens.

im-skeptical said...

I simply noted that I expected you to address the substance of the book. I don't think you did that. I do think your "review" was much more a response to the man. Of course, you are free to write whatever you want. So please, just carry on, and forget about my complaints. You have no obligation to please me.

Anonymous said...

It's hard to believe a book could out-do Dawkins, Krauss, and Hitchens when it comes to stupidity regarding religion.

laubadetriste said...

@im-skeptical: "Please note that any non-pejorative definition of the word is NOT consistent with Feser's straw man. If you read very, very carefully, you can see the difference. (Perhaps someone can read it out loud for Ben.)"

You seem unaware of what "idiosyncratic" means. It does not mean anything near or related to "non-pejorative." Here, let's help you some more.

If you look up "scientism" in the Oxford Dictionaries online, you will notice that above sense 1 ("Thought or expression regarded as characteristic of scientists"), there is the label "rare", while below sense 2 ("Excessive belief in the power of scientific knowledge and techniques") there are example sentences. What does the label "rare" mean? Well, if you look at the key and guide to the full dictionary, it means either "indicates a word or sense for which no contextual examples from printed sources were available to the editors," or "indicates a word or sense for which only one contextual example from a printed source was available to the editors."

Now, if you look up "idiosyncratic" there too, you find the definition, "Of or relating to idiosyncrasy; peculiar or individual."

So, maybe you could read out loud to BenYachov your answer to this question: Which is idiosyncratic, the definition that the Oxford Dictionaries found a bunch of printed examples for, or the definition they could find no example or only one example for?

(Note too the extraordinary peculiarity that if a definition is idiosyncratic because it is *pejorative*, then every pejorative term is used idiosyncratically. Perhaps im-skeptical also disputes the definitions of "racism," "sexism," "bigotry," "idiocy." "clumsiness," etc. Perhaps he is a lonely, embattled defender of the need for an American Language Academy.)

laubadetriste said...

@Scott:

Heh. :) That took me a minute.

Edward Feser said...

I-like-to-think-of-myself-as-skeptical,

I know you'd like people to think the review was about Coyne the man, a mere exercise in Gnu-bashing, etc. But it wasn't that, since, again, I specifically cited deficiencies in Coyne's analysis and arguments.

Now, criticisms of Coyne's analysis and arguments is what you claim you were looking for, and that's what I gave. Hence you have nothing to be disappointed about, and the pretense of disappointment is (as is the stuff about me attacking a straw man, saying mistaken things about science, ignoring the key elements of Coyne's book etc.) mere distraction on your part.

A serious response would be to explain, specifically, how I misrepresented Coyne in the review, or to cite, specifically, some powerful argument of his I failed to grapple with, or some such. You fail to do any of that.

Gee, I'm disappointed.

laubadetriste said...

Edit: in my comment to im-skeptical above, in my second paragraph, "non-pejorative" should read "pejorative."

Edward Feser said...

Scott,

I think the syllogism is actually something like this:

1. Dammit, I can't actually rebut anything Feser said in the review. He's got Coyne dead to rights.

2. Hmmm, but pretending the review made no substantive points might be a good way to kick up dust...

3. Yeah, that's the ticket!

Edward Feser said...

It's hard to believe a book could out-do Dawkins, Krauss, and Hitchens when it comes to stupidity regarding religion.

Well, everyone's got his strengths, including Coyne!

BenYachov said...

@Skepo

Time for the Full BenYachov!


>Out of all the definitions of scientism seen here, the only one that matches Feser's is the one quoted from RationalWiki. I looked it up, and oh, what a liar Ben is. That was given as the pejorative use of the term. Then it goes on to say, The non-pejorative, and therefore boring, sense of the term denotes the "methods and attitudes typical of or attributed to the natural scientist.”

Oh Skepo where would you be without the fallacy of equivocation? Here is the full quote from the Rational Wiki in context. I note you don’t give the full quote in context but merely reference it because you are a cowardly snot & a dogmatic Gnu.

QUOTE” Scientism is the view that only scientific claims are meaningful. It is often widely abused as a term to refer to science and attitudes associated with science, and its primary use these days is a pejorative.[1]The non-pejorative, and therefore boring, sense of the term denotes the "methods and attitudes typical of or attributed to the natural scientist.”END QUOTE


Let me break it down for you so that even you might understand simple minded gimp that you are…..

The first sentence is the definition which is consistent with Feser's & Coyne’s (the later sometimes seems to disavow it & then contradicts himself and affirms it). The second sentence talks about it’s abuse as a pejorative to persons who attack science and scientists but that is not relevant to the accurate definition used by Feser & Coyne or too any polemics given by Feser aimed at Coyne. The third sentence merely references the first definition of Scientism given via Webster’s Dictionary.

That is it. How this helps your bitching against Feser or your comically false charge I am lying is a mystery to me more remote than the Trinity.


>Please note that any non-pejorative definition of the word is NOT consistent with Feser's straw man. If you read very, very carefully, you can see the difference. (Perhaps someone can read it out loud for Ben.)

Except Feser & Coyne where both making use of definition two in Webster (& the opening definition found in the Rational Wiki). The definition that “only scientific claims are meaningful”. Feser’s point which he illustrated in painful detail was Coyne would claim to disagree with the concept of scientism (as defined mutually by both of them) but then contradicts himself and mandate it. Comedy is born.

Coyne is playing tennis with himself and loosing and you at this point are his ball girl.


>But back to the point - it would be interesting to see Feser and the rest of you credit Coyne with holding the views that he actually holds, but that doesn't fit your narrative, so I won't hold my breath. After all, we are not here to understand and criticize the positions of the gnus, we are only here to belittle them.

That is because Gnus are fucking idiots. They are not worth one strand of a literate Atheist Philosopher’s hair. They are knuckle dragging Fundies without god belief and about half as smart as the religious fundies(which makes them half as smart as morons). They deserved to be laughed at by both rational Atheists and Theists, loudly and with great cruelty.

You seem desperate to be a Gnu instead of a rational Atheist. There is really no hope for you.

Vincent Torley said...

Hi Ed,

Congratulations. That's the funniest and most cutting review I've read in a long time. Right now, it's the top post over at Uncommon Descent.

I'm-skeptical and Santi,

If you think Jerry Coyne's arguments weren't reviewed in sufficient detail by Ed, you can always try my review (written last July) at http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/faith-vs-fact-jerry-coynes-flawed-epistemology/ . (It'll also answer your objections about doubting Thomas and the nature of scientism.) But it basically comes to the same conclusion as Ed's: Jerry Coyne's flawed epistemology simply doesn't hold water. And I have to say, Ed's review is far briefer and wittier than mine.

im-skeptical said...

Feser's review, as it cam across to me:

1. Coyne's definition of religion is wrong because he's not defining it as Thomism.
2. He's just as stupid as Dawkins - maybe even stupider.
3. Besides, he's just a scientismismist, and he's too stupid to comply with my straw man of scientismism.
4. Therefore his book contains nothing that I need to address in this review.

Very good, Ed. I now know better than to expect reason or objectivity from you.

But if anyone wants to get an idea of what Coyne actually talked about in his book,
look here.

BenYachov said...

Skepo via his past MO at this point is going to pretend he didn't make the idiot arguments he made before which laubadetriste, Feser and others and least of all myself have DESTROYED & come up with a new slate of nonsense even more stupid then before.

Franky I am bored already so if anyone needs me I will be deep in some MMORPG slaying the undead or traveling to the ends of the Universe.

PS Somebody wake up Crude. I would like to see him pimp slap Skepo. It would amuse me for 10 more minutes.

Anonymous said...

@BenYachov,
Man I really missed the way you dealt with gnus and their lapdogs. Good to see you at it again!(ps have you ever thought about calling in on this show called the atheist experience which is basically gnus being gnus, but on tv? One call from you would end their smugness pretty quickly).

BenYachov said...

@Anon

Thanks buddy.


I haven't called into a radio show for years. When I talk to people face to face I am more tame.

I don't often venture into enemy territory since I don't care what people do in their own backyards. Only when they come out into my backyard will i give them an earful.

TV shows can cut your mike & Gnu blogs can remove your posts (case and point Coyne). I can usually say what I want to Gnus on religion friendly blogs with the exception of my good friend David Armstrong's blog. He finds me too harsh but I try to pull my punches out of respect for him.

(His ancestors and mind are allied Clans)

Cheers.

Brandon said...

What I actually wonder by this point is whether im-skeptical has even read the book he's claiming has been mischaracterized. We've had what, nearly a dozen comments by now and no actual evidence from the specifics of Coyne's arguments that back up his claims; instead we have extremely vague claims that Ed's wrong, somehow, several failures actually to answer questions from people asking for specifics, and a lot of rhetorical bluster about reason and objectivity that's not backed up by any genuine rational analysis or objective evidence -- nary even a quote or alternative analysis of the passages in question. That seems about par for the course when it comes to these kooks around pretending that labeling themselves skeptical somehow gives them a royal road to rationality without any of the actual work.

laubadetriste said...

@im-skeptical: "Feser's review, as it cam across to me:"

1. The review mentioned Coyne's mention of Islam, Judaism, Jainism, Hindu nationalism, the cargo cults of Melanesia, and Scientology as examples of religion. It did not mention Thomism. Dr. Feser did not define anything as Thomism. He *did* mention the "theology of Thomas Aquinas." Those are not the same thing.
2. The review did not mention Dawkins.
3. The review did not mention the person of any New Atheist. And the label "scientism," as has been demonstrated here ad nauseum, is not a straw man when applied to Coyne's writings on religion. Also, misspelling a word is not an argument.
4. The review addressed the definitional problems rehearsed ↑above. Which you still have not replied to. As has been noted.

"But if anyone wants to get an idea of what Coyne actually talked about in his book, look here."

Yes, having read Coyne's book, I will now go read an article about Coyne's book by someone who is not Coyne to see what Coyne talked about in Coyne's book. Let me be right back...

You know, as one of the few people to have defended a New Atheist here, I'm with ↑BenYachov.

Greg said...

@ im-skeptical

Feser's review, as it cam across to me...

When you're trying to assess a text dispassionately, critically, and objectively, it doesn't suffice to just list what crossed your mind as you read it.

Instead evidence, quotations, arguments are needed, because humans are really prone to cognitive biases, and typically what they find obvious isn't as obvious as it seems.

This is Skepticism 101.

im-skeptical said...

Ben: You're an idiot.

Brandon: I didn't say he mischaracterized the book. I said he failed to review it. Learn to read, for God's sake.

laubadetriste: It was a parody. Get it? No? I didn't think so. Nevertheless, for anyone who read Feser's "review", they may be wondering what Coyne discussed. They will not find out from Feser, because he ignored most of the book. If you read it, good for you.

Vincent: Is that an intelligent voice in this wasteland? I'll check out your review.

Greg said...

Scientism is the view that only scientific claims are meaningful. It is often widely abused as a term to refer to science and attitudes associated with science, and its primary use these days is a pejorative.[1]

The non-pejorative, and therefore boring, sense of the term denotes the "methods and attitudes typical of or attributed to the natural scientist."[2][3] This meaning is rarely seen in the wild...


This is a bit ironic for RationalWiki. The first line cites the Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, which writes:

scientism Pejorative term for the belief that the methods of natural science, or the categories and things recognized in natural science, form the only proper elements in any philosophical or other enquiry.

Somehow it was understood to be a position (an implausible one at that) about meaning.

But what is of more interest than the Rationalites' inability to copy from the dictionary is the definition they came up themselves, which gives a sense to "scientism" that is not even appropriate for a theory at all.

The methods and attitudes typical of natural scientists constitute scientism. Never mind if lots of natural scientists think that scientism is for boobs.

laubadetriste said...

@BenYachov: "Skepo via his past MO at this point is going to pretend he didn't make the idiot arguments he made before..."

Wow. ↑Prophecy. Time-stamped and everything.

Greg said...

The methods and attitudes typical of natural scientists constitute scientism. Never mind if lots of natural scientists think that scientism is for boobs.

Never mind, also, if the "methods" of science are impossible to state uncontroversially.

I also suppose that if, as a matter of sociological fact, most natural scientists possess (say) the desire that their theory be confirmed and that opposing theories be disconfirmed, then that is part of scientism too.

im-skeptical said...

"Wow. ↑Prophecy. Time-stamped and everything."

Just a quick note on Ben's MO. He loves to seize upon a distortion of what I have said, and if I deny that distortion, claim that I am backtracking on my own arguments. We've been through this many times. I stand by what I said.

And Ben is still an idiot.

Brandon said...

I didn't say he mischaracterized the book. I said he failed to review it. Learn to read, for God's sake.

Nonsense. Let's actually quote you, yourself, using the evidence anyone with reading skills can verify; since you have shown yourself incapable of basic evidential reasoning, I will go slowly and spoonfeed it to you.


January 21, 2016 at 1:06 PM: Speaking of building a straw man - did anyone else notice how Feser spent half the review trying to force Coyne into his phony little box of scientism, and at the same time, criticizing him for not fitting neatly into that little box? Perhaps if Feser was a little less obsessed with his straw man, he might have paid more attention to what Coyne actually said in his book.

Now, I understand that you don't have anything in the way of basic critical thinking skills, but a straw man fallacy by definition requires a mischaracterization. You cannot create a straw man by correctly characterizing someone's position. Therefore, by claiming that Feser was dealing with a straw man, you are claiming that he was mischaracterizing Coyne's actual position in the book. This is in fact directly implied in any case by your final comment about paying more attention to what Coyne actually said. Since Feser quotes Coyne at several point, the only possible implication that can be drawn is that his doing so either fails to capture Coyne's actual position or is a misleading characterization of it. Either can be called a mischaracterization.

January 21, 2016 at 3:00 PM: If Feser wants to review a book, why does he fail to address the key elements of the book, choosing to focus instead on his own straw man view of something that is at best only a side issue to main topic?

Here again we have the straw man claim, this time in the form that Feser is focusing on "his own straw man view of something that is at best only a side issue to main topic". And again, to be a straw man view, it has to be a mischaracterization. Mischaracterization is again at least suggested in the claim that Feser is focusing on what is "at best only a side issue", namely by suggesting that Feser is mischaracterizing Coyne's argument in a way that treats as if it were central what is "at best only a side issue".

January 21, 2016 at 3:42 PM: In what way do I think Dr. Feser attacked a straw man? Feser gives his own definition of scientism - "the view that science alone gives us genuine knowledge", and then proceeds to castigate Coyne for seeming to say some things that agree with it, and other things that disagree with it. Feser apparently doesn't recognize that real people have more nuanced views than that....

Again with the straw man, making that the third time so far that you have characterized Feser's review in a way that logically requires that it involve mischaracterization. And indeed, mischaracterization is suggested yet again by the claim that "real people have more nuanced views than that". Taking this to be a relevant comment, the implicature is that Coyne's views are more nuanced than Feser's account in terms of scientism, and that scientism as Feser understands it is not, in fact, a correct characterization of Coyne's view. Indeed, everything you have said up to this point would be completely incoherent if we were to assume that you thought that Feser's characterization of Coyne in the scientism portions of the review were in fact entirely correct. While you're obviously not very bright, the current evidence does not indicate that you are this incoherent.

to be continued

Brandon said...

continuing

January 21, 2016 at 5:57 PM: ...But back to the point - it would be interesting to see Feser and the rest of you credit Coyne with holding the views that he actually holds, but that doesn't fit your narrative, so I won't hold my breath. After all, we are not here to understand and criticize the positions of the gnus, we are only here to belittle them.

This logically requires that Feser has not credited Coyne with holding the views he actually holds. Since Feser has certainly and provably credited Coyne with holding views of some kinds -- and you yourself have said things that logically require that he has -- then it logically follows that the views Feser has attributed to Coyne are not views Coyne actually holds. In other words, in attributing them to Coyne, Feser was mischaracterizing Coyne.

So what we've established -- with evidence and logical analysis, mind you, which is far more than you've given for your claims -- is (1) you don't understand what a straw man is, despite having accused someone of building one several times; and (2) you are indeed, as I said, the kind of kook who goes around talking about reason and objectivity without actually doing the serious work required for them.

We also, interestingly, still lack evidence that you've read the book you've been claiming Feser mischaracterizes.

Santi said...

Daniel:

It would be very hard to believe something absent any evidence, testimony, or argument whatsoever.

So the real question becomes: how much scrutiny should one bring to a piece of evidence? It's not the presence of evidence, but what one does with the evidence, that is at issue.

The Doubting Thomas passage suggests that you are blessed if you are able to dial down your level of skepticism in such a way that you are satisfied with just testimonial evidence. It is a form of grace. Blessed are you! And if you can still be confident in your beliefs, even in the presence of degraded physical evidence, then blessed are you even more. (Bring on those holy relics!)

So blessed are you, Daniel, if you believe the testimony of your fellow believers without having to see a miracle firsthand. And blessed are you if you can limit the range of your questioning and doubts. I can't.

I'm not with Jesus, but with the scientist who says: "Cursed are you if you arrest inquiry, and display a lack of curiousity."

Science is not just about gathering evidence, testimony, and argument, but bringing heightened scrutiny to these in a systematic and sustained way. It's about checking for things like confirmation bias and confounding variables. These are the investigative puzzle pieces that the Doubting Thomas passage dials back on, and with approval.

laubadetriste said...

@Santi:

Parts of that were downright inspiring.

I'll let others address the rest.

Everybody:

Now that im-skeptical has licked the last of his Everlasting Gobstopper, has anyone got a reply to my question from up-page January 21, 2016 at 10:17 AM?

No, really. Is there such a thing, or am I crazy to think there might be?

kyle coffey said...

I know it is off topic, but is there any good critique of gender theory and/or homosexuality (most importantly gender theory) out there from a philosophical perspective?

Santi said...

Laubadetriste:

The closest book I know of that sort of does what you're looking for, but in a hit or miss way, is A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs. David Berkot (Ed.). 1998.

Two examples of epistemic closure from early Christianity that I readily found in this text are these: "Stop your ears when anyone speaks to you contrary to Jesus Christ,..." (Ignatius, c. 105). "Abstain from all pagan books. For what have you to do with such alien discourses, laws, or false prophets? For these subvert the faith of the unstable" (Apostolic Constitutions, c. 390).

Notice, as with the Doubting Thomas passage, that in both of these examples argument and evidence have not been rejected outright, but the effect is the same as if they were. Where ignorance is not absolute, the next lines of defense for religion tend to be these: apologetics, metaphysics, theology, confirmation bias, circling the wagons, rallying around a confidence man, threats of hell and banishment from the community of "love" (subjecting believers to the Stockholm Syndrome), and self-censoring.

It's dark in there.

Yet these are all very effective, psychologically, for keeping people bound to religion, so they are useful to the perpetuation of religious institutions. That's why they exist--not because they are sound routes to knowledge. They serve power. By contrast, science gets you to knowledge. I think it's fair to say that, once Feser's blue smoke and mirrors are cleared from around the intellectual chessboard, that's Coyne's main (and reasonable) point in his book.

laubadetriste said...

@kyle coffey:

This'll be just a start, 'cause I haven't pursued those topics, but Dr. Feser addresses natural law and homosexuality in a larger context in *The Last Superstition.* Roger Scruton's *Sexual Desire* is a very rich and thoughtful book. Both of those are "from a philosophical perspective," although not only so.

Although I haven't read them, I keep hearing good things about Robert George, and Robert Reilly's *Making Gay Okay* has been very well-received.

For some general ethical background from a scholastic perspective, there are the books from the Scholastic's bookshelf, Part III.

Santi said...

Laubadetriste:

You rightly note that Feser's review addresses Coyne's definitional problems, but isn't it the case that, if God is not properly defined, then Feser's review can be seen to function as a smokescreen for Christianity's own much larger definitional problems?

The Doubting Thomas passage, after all, encourages soft focus in believers, and for good reason, for you really can't believe the most outlandish claims of religion if you don't keep them in soft focus. Definitionally, for example, don't you agree that, for religion to function, "God" sort of just needs to be kept vague, not looked at too closely, like the activity of Santa on Christmas eve? (How, exactly, does Santa know who's naughty and nice, and get down all those chimneys in a single night?)

The Doubting Thomas passage gives believers--akin to children on Christmas eve--permission to soften and break focus; to not dig all the way down into the investigation of a matter. "Come to me like little children," other passages in the gospels admonish.

The Doubting Thomas passage also gives believers parameters for inquiry, and says, like the Wizard of Oz: "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!"

And the Doubting Thomas passage, emblematic of religion generally, establishes a taboo around excess of inquiry, making it vaguely impious to be too critical or wide-ranging in one's investigation of religious and supernatural claims. It gives you permission to cocoon with your community, apart from the world, and engage in confirmation bias. Ideally, science doesn't set such limits, or encourage such behaviors.

So here's the big picture--the big definitional camel, not the definitional gnat--that Coyne has homed in on: the ever-shifting and ambiguous term "God" is a ghost bird, fluttering into fog whenever one deigns to bring it under close scrutiny and investigation. It is a hypothesis that can morph so as to fit any condition on the ground that we might encounter--even the Holocaust--making it impossible to subject it to reality testing.

Don't you agree that this is the main thrust of Coyne's quarrel with religion, and that Feser fails to address it--the definition of God? Why is God so slippery when writ?

laubadetriste said...

@Santi:

Thank you. That does look promising.

(And thanks again, Brandon. Those other ones have in fact proved useful.)

But regarding Doubting Thomas, and to aid Coyne, and just in general, is there something that follows along with scripture, and isn't *just* early Christian beliefs? (Of course, it would have to include early Christian beliefs.)

Such a thing seems so obviously greatly useful that either someone must have written it, or else I must be having one of those thoughts that is incredible next morning light...

Georgy Mancz said...

I suspect there might be some truth to what Santi is saying.

I guess it's true that theists sometimes fail to diligently engage in reality testing.
After all, some of them keep replying to Santi even after having had the chance of viewing the test results of the reality that goes by the name of Santi.

I myself have erred in this manner.

laubadetriste said...

@Santi: "You rightly note that Feser's review addresses Coyne's definitional problems, but isn't it the case that, if God is not properly defined, then Feser's review can be seen to function as a smokescreen for Christianity's own much larger definitional problems?"

I don't think that is fair to his review.

Whether Christianity as such has definitional problems is another question.

"Definitionally, for example, don't you agree that, for religion to function, 'God' sort of just needs to be kept vague, not looked at too closely, like the activity of Santa on Christmas eve? (How, exactly, does Santa know who's naughty and nice, and get down all those chimneys in a single night?)"

I don't know what you mean by "to function." To function as what? To function *as religion*?--to *be* a religion?

This was addressed tangentially in the review we discuss--"as if there were some common technique applied by scholastic logicians, Buddhist monks, and Appalachian snake handlers"--but too I remember Lewis saying, "I'm not religious. I'm a Christian." And I recently quoted James Chastek as saying, "[Closer to the truth is that] the reality that contemporary persons want to signify by the word 'religion' is simply absurd. This is not because there is no such thing called 'religion' but rather because when we group together all that we want the term religion to signify, we end up trying to unify contraries." Of course, there's also Stephen Prothero's *God Is Not One.*

I'll agree that many people in fact have a very vague definition of the word "God." I'll add that this frequently means trouble. But I am not persuaded that a greater specificity would result in less trouble.

"The Doubting Thomas passage gives believers--akin to children on Christmas eve--permission to soften and break focus; to not dig all the way down into the investigation of a matter."

I don't think that is historically true of investigation as such. (What matters? Do you mean, what we now class as scientific matters?)

"The Doubting Thomas passage also gives believers parameters for inquiry, and says, like the Wizard of Oz: 'Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!'"

...but I have seen with my own eyes that passage used all too often to disguise despicable falsehoods, and to practice vile deceptions. So I am sympathetic to a sort of Gibbonian regard towards it. Is that the fault of the passage, in the sense that, say, certain other passages have been thought to be at the root of horrid antisemitism? I don't know.

Mr. Green said...

Laubadetriste: I suspect--correct me if I'm wrong--that you're looking for "vacuities."

Did he try looking— nah, too easy.


To everyone else responding to Santi: what reasons do you have for expecting anything constructive to come out of those replies?



Brandon: Let's actually quote you, yourself, using the evidence anyone with reading skills can verify;

OK; but how will you explain it to Imskeptical?


And for anyone not familiar with Imskeptical's work, please take a look at the many examples available at Victor Reppert's site (before he was asked to leave) and decide for yourself whether further responses would be productive or not.

scbrownlhrm said...



Santi,

I see you're still building theology on "one" verse there with Thomas and neglecting to shape the interaction of God and Man in and by the entirety of Scripture.

Typical.

Do you always approach religions that way?

Do you approach reality testing that way *too*?

Further, your method of reality testing is failing on several fronts so far.

Firstly, as described earlier, there is no such thing as "life" and "non-life" in any Non-Arbitrary, Ontologically Irreducible domain. The Bulldog of Logic and Reason are, inch by inch, carrying the Non-Theists to that conclusion.

That's just the tip of where intellectual honesty takes them.

Secondly, you've not resolved your inability to salvage reason, logic, mind, and perception from those very same fates amid those very same corridors.

As noted, earlier, we cannot take you seriously if you fail to be intellectually rigorous across the board.

Which you've not been. Eliminative Materialism, Spinoza's brand, and Pan-Psychism await your treatment as to the fate of Reason, Mind, Perception, and Logic vis-à-vis their respective (metaphysical) ultimate explanatory terminus.

IF you suppose that [1] the Non-Theist has the means to get to his irreducible (non-eliminative) metaphysical explanatory terminus with Intention, with Self, with Personhood, with Mind, with "I", with "i-am", and so on, intact, and, also, if you suppose that [2] in your stopping point of that irreducible, non-eliminative metaphysical explanatory terminus you will find the necessary modes of causations, plural, in a causal paradigm which does not (on closure) merely annihilate Mind, Intention (etc.) -- if you suppose such is within the reach of the Non-Theist, then you are either [1] unclear on the problem, or, [2] unclear on the means available to the Non-Theist, or, [3] you make the move of Harris and other reductionists by equivocating such that "I choose, but I cannot choose what I choose" (etc.), or else [4] all three.

The point is not about the Non-Theist coming up with an explanatory stopping point wrapped up inside of a causal paradigm summing to that which retains lucidity. No working model is being asked for. Rather, the only point of interest is to find out if the Non-Theist is going to claim he has the (actual) means to get to those (actual) ends, which makes Irreducible Mind (Person, Intention, "I", "i-am", etc.) his ultimate explanatory terminus, or if he will hedge and equivocate (like Harris) and gain thereby exactly no ontological ground at all, or if he will simply jump ship with the growing ocean of younger, braver, more honest atheists and claim it is all an illusion at bottom. Nothing needs to be said about the obvious fact that Reasoning, Truth, Knowing, and Knowledge, etc., ultimately lose or else ultimately retain lucidity amid such navigations.

The newer atheists of late are far more bold, eager to deconstruct.

Deflationary truth - and all the pains thereof -- rapidly ensue.

Your subtle floating of empiricism/scientism cannot rescue you -- or your truth claims upon reality -- from the pains of their final reductio ad absurdums, plural.

As for your one-verse theological straw men, well, how droll..... as in....

[1] Since no intellectually healthy method ever approaches religions, reality, or anything else that way, and

[2] Since the sound scientific mind refuses to measure reality based on *one* data point when thousands of data points have been tracked, located, and labeled, and

[3] Since you have not been intellectually rigorous across the board regarding reason, mind, logic, and perception, well then.....

In fact, your rather un-scientific approach to data, to data points, and to reality-testing actually justify a sound, and thorough, rejection of your premises and conclusions thus far.

laubadetriste said...

@Santi: "Ideally, science doesn't set such limits, or encourage such behaviors."

Ideally, that is true.

"So here's the big picture--the big definitional camel, not the definitional gnat--that Coyne has homed in on: the ever-shifting and ambiguous term 'God' is a ghost bird, fluttering into fog whenever one deigns to bring it under close scrutiny and investigation. It is a hypothesis that can morph so as to fit any condition on the ground that we might encounter--even the Holocaust--making it impossible to subject it to reality testing."

I don't think that is the big picture. Whether it is or not, that ground was much better explored in "Theology and Falsification": "Once upon a time two explorers came upon a clearing in the jungle. In the clearing were growing many flowers and many weeds. One explorer says, 'some gardener must tend this plot.' The other disagrees, 'There is no gardener.' So they pitch their tents and set a watch. No gardener is ever seen. 'But perhaps he is an invisible gardener.' So they, set up a barbed-wire fence. They electrify it. They patrol with bloodhounds. (For they remember how H.G. Wells's The Invisible Man could be both smelt and touched though he could not he seen.) But no shrieks ever suggest that some intruder has received a shock. No movements of the wire ever betray an invisible climber. The bloodhounds never give cry. Yet still the Believer is not convinced. 'But there is a gardener, invisible, intangible, insensible to electric shocks, a gardener who has no scent and makes no sound, a gardener who comes secretly to look after the garden which he loves.' At last the Sceptic despairs, 'But what remains of your original assertion? Just how does what you call an invisible, intangible, eternally elusive gardener differ from an imaginary gardener or even from no gardener at all?'"

The Holocaust is of course this century's great test. For that reason it is disorienting to see it brandished about.

Your use of the word "reality" in "reality testing" seems to preclude the inclusion of much that is real.

"Don't you agree that this is the main thrust of Coyne's quarrel with religion..."

Not sure.

"...and that Feser fails to address it--the definition of God?"

Fails to address it? No, I disagree. He's addressed it a bunch.

Now, the subject of *analogy* still awaits address.

"Why is God so slippery when writ?"

Good question. I assure you, it's been asked.

Anonymous said...

There is no sufficiency in belief - no matter Who or What is the Object of such belief.
There is no sufficiency in mind which is the domain of mere believing and knowing, just as their is no sufficiency in the experience of the body or of the world, since the body and the world are always encountered in the context of the believing and knowing mind.
The mind, the body, the world, and the naive God-idea that supports them are all nothing but the environment and expression of the separate and always separative ego, Narcissus, the archetypal sinner.
Unless there is a profound understanding of self, mind, body, world, and the usual institutional God-idea, there is no movement that is self-transcending and oriented towards the Realization of God-Truth.
The Way of Truth is just such self-transcendence, founded on profound understanding of every feature of conditional existence, including, and especially all of the subtle structures of the psycho-physical body-mind-complex.
And there is no sufficient substitute for the Way of utter self-transcendence - such as the various entirely myth-laden beliefs associated with "Jesus" for instance.
Popular movements and institutionalized religions are at best reflections of the Way within the domain of our collective and basically immature social order.
But they have NO proper claims to righteousness, nor do they possess any more Truth than the separate and always separative ego can entertain.

laubadetriste said...

@Mr. Green: "Laubadetriste: 'I suspect--correct me if I'm wrong--that you're looking for 'vacuities.' / Did he try looking— nah, too easy. / To everyone else responding to Santi: what reasons do you have for expecting anything constructive to come out of those replies?"

Hey, why am I the exception? :)

I did once before learn a lesson.

laubadetriste said...

@Anonymous January 22, 2016 at 2:06 AM:

OK, enough. Ima realize myself a drink and take my sufficiency to bed...

Daniel Joachim said...

@Santi

You obviously missed me quoting the verse 20,30, following right after the one you quoted, stating that the Gospel of John is written to provide testimonial evidence, that could be cross-investigated with contemporary (though probably) second-hand testimonies, along with other textual sources, pretty much refuting your original claim. If John had understood Jesus' words one verse earlier as promoting fideism, he might not have been so eager to contradict Jesus himself just in the following verse.

"The Doubting Thomas passage suggests that you are blessed if you are able to dial down your level of skepticism in such a way that you are satisfied with just testimonial evidence."

No, it does not suggest that. That is, again, something you just make up. A desperate attempt to salvage something from your wreckage, by inserting interpretations that in no fair reading is justified from the text itself.

Since Jesus knew he was going away soon, he also knew that Thomas was one of the last people to actually have the opportunity to place his fingers in the nail-made holes of his body, to validate that it was actually him, and not just like a hGeorge Constanza, pretending to be a known nazi agitator in order to get a free limo ride. Subsequent two thousand years of followers would not have that same opportunity, but by no means is Jesus telling them therefore to be blind-folded, fideistic wool-heads that should end all inquiry. So your suggestions does not follow from that, which would be clear to any cool-headed reader by this point.

And you know the old Chinese saying: "You cannot argue with people that just make things up, whenever they're in a tight corner"? Well, me neither, but I guess there's some truth in it.

You obviously also missed the qualifier "Even if we were to agree with your method of textual criticism". Which I frankly don't.

So I think I'll follow the advice of Greg and Georgy Mancz and stop my contributions to this combox being littered now. Have an otherwise splendid weekend. :)

Gottfried said...

As others have said, the futility of talking to Santi has been empirically demonstrated in every other thread in which he’s appeared (with a puff of smoke and faint smell of sulfur!). He’s here to play games, not to engage in dialogue. It would be a mistake to assume he even believes any particular statement he makes.

The only interesting questions he raises relate to him personally. What are his motivations? His main concern seems to be to expand the world of utter triviality and meaninglessness in which he finds what he would call ‘freedom,’ but why does he linger around these parts? Even he can’t be so deluded to think he’s had much success in the past, and all those sonorous, empty effusions he churns out must be as tedious to write as they are to read.

My guess is that he’s seen something here that disturbs him, and he’s still hoping that chanting from the spellbooks of 19th century scientistic humanism and 21st century empathy-fascist crybullyism will somehow overcome it.

If people still feel compelled to respond to Santi, I would repeat the suggestion that I believe DNW made in an earlier thread, to talk about him rather than to him. Don’t play his games. A running commentary on every devious and illegitimate move he makes might, I suppose, be helpful. Pull back that Oz curtain enough times and even a wizard as shameless as this one might give up.

Nah, too optimistic.

Greg said...

@ Georgy

I guess it's true that theists sometimes fail to diligently engage in reality testing.
After all, some of them keep replying to Santi even after having had the chance of viewing the test results of the reality that goes by the name of Santi.


Yes, we can be sure by now that dialogue with Santi cannot confer warrant.

I myself have erred in this manner.

Me too. But I have repented.

Daniel Joachim said...

Me too. But I have repented.

Time for some more repentance then. Does anyone have directions to the nearest confession box?

Santi said...

Kyle Coffey:

You asked for some book suggestions for thinking about gender, homosexuality, and critical theory. Here are some suggestions:

(1) Woman Hating. Andrea Dworkin. A polemic, but a good one.
(2) Right-Wing Women: The Politics of Domesticated Females. Andrea Dworkin. Again, a polemic, but very incisive.
(3) Off with Her Head!: The Denial of Women's Identity in Myth, Religion, and Culture. Edited by Howard Eilberg and Wendy Doniger. University of California Press. The essay by Mary Rose D'Angelo on early Christianity is quite fascinating ("Veils, Virgins, and the Tongues of Men and Angels: Women's Heads in Early Christianity").
(4) Feminist Thought: A Comprehensive Introduction. Rosemary Tong. I have the first edition, which is excellent. I assume it has gone into later editions.
(5) A Delusion of Satan: The Full Story of the Salem Witch Trials. Francis Hill.
(6) Homosexuality and Civilization. Louis Crompton. Harvard. A groundbreaking, unmissable study of homosexuality through history.

Greg said...

@ kyle coffey

I know it is off topic, but is there any good critique of gender theory and/or homosexuality (most importantly gender theory) out there from a philosophical perspective?

I have no beef with laubadetriste's suggestions, but I get the sense that you had something else in mind.

Michael Hannon wrote a couple pieces at First Things:

"Against Heterosexuality"
"Against Obsessive Sexuality"

This is more of a "Christian" position than a philosophical or Thomist one, but it has relevant philosophical elements. His thesis is that Christians should not adopt the language and scheme of sexual orientation at all. People may have desires for this or that, and those desires may in fact never go away, but there's a further question as to whether those desires constitute one's identity.

Whether or not one agrees with Hannon, the lesson is to pay very close attention to language. We talk about sex, gender, and sexuality today in ways that would have been unintelligible to people in other periods; that is not proof that our culture is wrong right now, but it should give anyone pause. To get some perspective on this, I find this First Things article helpful:

"What is Marriage to Evangelical Millenials?"

I think that studying late Wittgenstein might help one understand gender theory and the pull it has for people living today. I think it's the wrong approach to think that people are being dishonest, but there's a definite way in which the language has acquired a plausibility that may not be proportioned to the strength of the underlying theory.

In a more thomistic vein, Christopher Tollefsen wrote a couple pieces at Public Discourse on these topics:

"Sex Identity"
"Gender Identity"

Tollefsen is, of course, a member of the "new natural law" tradition, but I don't think one has to accept that theory to appreciate these articles. I think that these accounts are substantially correct.

I think they are also valuable because they carve out positions that are somewhat more nuanced, and more defensible, than what conservatives tend to adopt as a gut reaction to claims from gender theorists. Conservatives often, for instance, adopt a strictly chromosomal account of sex, though that may face some difficulties. Tollefsen's account, on the other hand, is what we might call functional. Conservatives also often find the distinction between sex and gender to be specious and want to collapse it. Tollefsen argues that the concept of gender might be legitimately separate from that of sex.

Those are some of the topics that I find

Greg said...

On this topic, I think Santi is correct. There is virtually no discussion across political lines on the topics of sex and gender theory. Conservatives don't respect the departments in which people do this work, and it seems to me like the dearth of viewpoint diversity does not help the mainstream work on sex and gender.

So I think conservatives should go ahead and try to figure out what the theory says and also try to figure out its uneasy relationship with how sex and gender is viewed in popular culture. (For instance, academic gender theorists are far less likely to believe that sexual orientation and gender are immutable, genetically rooted characteristics, and they are less likely to care. But most non-academics on the left think it's very important that they should be. This somewhat parallels the fact that almost everyone, except academics on the left, agrees that it is always impermissible to kill innocent human beings. Thus in popular discussions of abortion, everyone tends to regard the questions of personhood or "humanhood" as being very important, whereas academics on the left are much less likely to doubt that a fetus is a person. They instead just hold that it is permissible to kill innocent human beings sometimes; cf. Thompson, Singer.)

im-skeptical said...

Brandon: by claiming that Feser was dealing with a straw man, you are claiming that he was mischaracterizing Coyne's actual position in the book. This is in fact directly implied in any case by your final comment about paying more attention to what Coyne actually said. Since Feser quotes Coyne at several point, the only possible implication that can be drawn is that his doing so either fails to capture Coyne's actual position or is a misleading characterization of it. Either can be called a mischaracterization.

You still can't read, can you? What Feser mischaracterized is scientism, which is his own straw man of people like Coyne, not what's in the book. He correctly quoted Coyne, and then complained that Coyne doesn't consistently adhere to that straw man. This is not a mischaracterization of the book, and I never claimed it was. Yes, Feser is mischaracterizing something. But that's independent of the book itself. If you disagree, that's fine. But don't go around claiming I said something that I never said.

Mr. Green: OK; but how will you explain it to Imskeptical?

The first step is to address the things I say, not your own distortions of what I say (as Brandon has done).

And by the way, I'm waiting to hear if one single person here is willing to admit that Feser's "review" has failed to address the substance of the book.

Anonymous said...

@im-skeptical

Step1: Subject matter of Coyne's book Faith vs fact
Step2: Read Dr Feser's review carefully especially the following
Coyne’s own method, then, is to characterize religion however he needs to in order to convict it of irrationality. Nor is “religion” the only term Coyne uses in a tendentious way. The question-begging definition is perhaps his favorite debating trick. He characterizes “faith” as “belief without—or in the face of—evidence” and repeatedly uses the term as if this is what it generally means in religious contexts. Naturally, he has no trouble showing that faith so understood is irrational. But this simply is not how faith is understood historically in Christian theology. For example, for scholastic theologians, faith is assent to something that has been revealed by God. And how do we know that God exists and really has revealed it? Those are claims for which, the theologian agrees, evidence needs to be given.
Step3: Realize that Dr Feser's review of the book is hitting the nail on the head.

Gerard O'Neill said...

Jerry Coyne has a reputation in atheist circles for arrogance and being loose with facts; he is also intolerant of those with different opinions. It's no surprise that he ventures into realms he knows little of, and declares his viewpoint to be king.

I would say to some commenters here that Coyne's efforts in his field are widely respected. If I were to think of a word to describe his credentials as a biologist, it would be "impeccable".

Daniel Joachim said...

Then a more interesting question is this: How can one person both have a reputation for being loose with facts, while at the same time being impeccable in one's own field?

Shouldn't there be some stability between one's methods of inquiry, even in distinct fields of study?

Brandon said...

You still can't read, can you? What Feser mischaracterized is scientism, which is his own straw man of people like Coyne, not what's in the book.

You're still an idiot, aren't you? If Feser mischaracterizes scientism, and attributes it to Coyne in talking about Coyne's book, and Coyne's view in the book is not that mischaracterized view, it is a mischaracterization of Coyne's view in the book. This is an extremely elementary kind of reasoning. You seem to have the dimwitted view that you can build a straw man of someone without building a straw man of their arguments. But let's look at the evidence again, because, unlike you, around here we like our interpretations based on evidence:

January 21, 2016 at 5:57 PM: ...But back to the point - it would be interesting to see Feser and the rest of you credit Coyne with holding the views that he actually holds, but that doesn't fit your narrative, so I won't hold my breath. After all, we are not here to understand and criticize the positions of the gnus, we are only here to belittle them.

As noted previously, this logically requires that Feser has not credited Coyne with holding the views he actually holds, including in his attribution of views to Coyne in talking about Coyne's book. Since he definitely did talk about the book and attributed things to its arguments, it follows that he mischaracterized Coyne's book.

Now let's come back to your further argument, where we see again your inability to reason intelligently:

He correctly quoted Coyne, and then complained that Coyne doesn't consistently adhere to that straw man. This is not a mischaracterization of the book, and I never claimed it was. Yes, Feser is mischaracterizing something. But that's independent of the book itself.

So this logically requires that he mischaracterizes Coyne, in talking about scientism, but does not in any way attribute this mischaracterization to Coyne's arguments in the book ever in the review. That is, he mischaracterizes Coyne in general terms and then nothing he says about the book or its arguments depends on this. Now even an idiot could see that this is not how Feser proceeds in the review itself, since what he actually says is that Coyne says things that require scientism in Feser's sense and things that require that it be false, and therefore contradicts himself. But since we're dealing with an idiot, let's stick with what you claimed, and let's actually look at what you've said, since again, actual evidence.

January 21, 2016 at 1:06 PM: Speaking of building a straw man - did anyone else notice how Feser spent half the review trying to force Coyne into his phony little box of scientism, and at the same time, criticizing him for not fitting neatly into that little box? Perhaps if Feser was a little less obsessed with his straw man, he might have paid more attention to what Coyne actually said in his book.

So, he spent his time talking about the book "trying to force Coyne into his phony little box of scientism" and paid insufficient attention "to what Coyne actually said in his book".

to be continued

Brandon said...

continuing

And again:


January 21, 2016 at 3:00 PM: If Feser wants to review a book, why does he fail to address the key elements of the book, choosing to focus instead on his own straw man view of something that is at best only a side issue to main topic?

So, in talking about the book, he fails to address the key elements of the book, choosing instead to focus on something that is at best only a side issue to a main topic. Which would be a mischaracterization of the argument of a book. And again:

January 21, 2016 at 3:42 PM: In what way do I think Dr. Feser attacked a straw man? Feser gives his own definition of scientism - "the view that science alone gives us genuine knowledge", and then proceeds to castigate Coyne for seeming to say some things that agree with it, and other things that disagree with it. Feser apparently doesn't recognize that real people have more nuanced views than that....

So he gives his own definition of scientism and attributes this view to Coyne, although he regards Coyne as inconsistent. But the definition of scientism is a straw man of people like Coyne; real people have more nuanced views than that. So scientism being attributed to Coyne in the book is not Coyne's view; he has more nuanced views than that. Which means he is being mischaracterized.

Contrary to what kooks like you seem to think, you cannot magically pretend you are not committed to the logical implications of what you have consistently said.

And, interestingly, we still have no evidence that you have read the book you claim Feser has mischaracterized.

Edward Feser said...

And, interestingly, we still have no evidence that you have read the book you claim Feser has mischaracterized.

But Brandon, don't forget that Coyne has the remarkable ability to determine that a book is bad without having read it (Cf. his blog posts on Hart's The Experience of God.) im-skeptical evidently has the no less remarkable ability to know that a book is good, and that criticisms of it must be mistaken, without having read it. Call it faith-based reviewing.

Brandon said...

And let's not overlook in pointing out all the incoherence and factless rhetorical bluster of im-skeptical's comments one other reason to think he is incapable of basic evidential reasoning. From the review:

In the preface, he tells us that “science is but one form of rationality (philosophy and mathematics are others).” That makes it sound like he rejects scientism, the view that science alone gives us genuine knowledge. Yet he immediately goes on to add that science is “the only [form of rationality] capable of describing and understanding reality.”...

...But not so fast, because a couple of pages after that he says that if scientism is the view that science is “the only reliable ‘way of knowing,’” then “most of my colleagues and I are indeed guilty of scientism” and “scientism is a virtue”


I'm sure we're going to get all sorts of useless, evidenceless, not-even-coherent rhetorical bluster about how

science is the only thing that gives us genuine knowledge,

which is a complete straw man of Coyne, is radically different from

science is the only reliable way of knowing and the only form of rationality capable of describing and understanding reality

which Coyne says in passages Ed is quoting.

Brandon said...

Ed,

True! I'd forgotten that Coyne's rationality is so rational a rationality that he can assess arguments free from the actual evidence of what they actually say. You must be right; it's like the psychic network of rational evaluation.

laubadetriste said...

@im-skeptical: "You still can't read, can you? What Feser mischaracterized is scientism, which is his own straw man of people like Coyne, not what's in the book. He correctly quoted Coyne, and then complained that Coyne doesn't consistently adhere to that straw man. This is not a mischaracterization of the book, and I never claimed it was. Yes, Feser is mischaracterizing something. But that's independent of the book itself. If you disagree, that's fine. But don't go around claiming I said something that I never said."

My. The irony of just who you're accusing of being unable to read.

In investing, they sometimes call folks like you "contra-indicators." You find out what they think, and then you do the opposite, and you make a money.

@Gerard O'Neill: "I would say to some commenters here that Coyne's efforts in his field are widely respected. If I were to think of a word to describe his credentials as a biologist, it would be 'impeccable.'"

A number of commenters have acknowledged his place in biology.

Don Jindra said...

If faith is “belief without -- or in the face of -- evidence,” then Coyne's belief that there is no free will is essentially faith-based. But if religion is to be found somewhere in this phrase: "faith is assent to something that has been revealed by God" -- then I have to ask, What genuine knowledge has religion ever gotten us? We could narrowly define religion as the theology of Thomas Aquinas and still be left debating what that genuine knowledge was.

laubadetriste said...

@Don Jindra:

Good morning. Why yes, I *did* ask for airy non-sequiturs in my coffee. Merely rhetorical folderol? Why yes, and marmalade. Oh, do leave it over there, I'll get it.

Edward Feser said...

Brandon wrote:

True! I'd forgotten that Coyne's rationality is so rational a rationality that he can assess arguments free from the actual evidence of what they actually say. You must be right; it's like the psychic network of rational evaluation.

Exactly. New Atheists are by definition the most rationally rational reasoners there are, and religious people are by definition the most irrationally irrational irrationalists there are. Hence, by definition, stuff written by New Atheists is always really good, and stuff written by religious people is always really bad, "disappointing," etc.

See how easy it is? New Atheist reviews of books thus basically write themselves. As Delroy Lindo says in Get Shorty about how to write a screenplay:

You get somebody to add in the commas and shit where they belong, if you aren't positive yourself. Maybe fix up the spelling where you have some tricky words... although I've seen scripts where I know words weren't spelled right and there was hardly any commas in it at all. So I don't think it's too important. Anyway, you come to the last page you write in 'Fade out' and that's the end, you're done.

Except with Coyne or im-skeptical, it's "You click 'Publish,' and that's the end, you're done."

im-skeptical said...

I read this "review" several times, just to be sure I wasn't missing something.
para 1: Coyne is the worst of the 'New Atheists".
para 2: Coyne explains what he means by religion, and Feser claims that he has gone off the rails.
para 3: Coyne is addressing the views of every-day believers, not theologians and philosophers. Feser Takes issue with that.
para 4: More quibbling about what Coyne means by "religion", plus complete failure to understand what he's saying about changing religious dogma.
para 5: Complaints about how Coyne draws examples from a variety of religions.
para 6: Complaints that Coyne uses a standard definition of "faith" rather than the special-pleading definition that theologians prefer. (Remember para 3.)
para 7: Coyne's insistence on using "faith" the way most actual believers do is not acceptable to theologians.
para 8: Coyne's "scientism" is inconsistent with Feser's straw man.
para 9: Coyne's "scientism" is inconsistent with Feser's straw man.
para 10: Equivocating between the straw man and a more reasonable view of "scientism".
para 11: Coyne brushes off the charge that the appeal to science as the best way to understand nature is just circular reasoning. (The same can be said of Thomism, with better justification.)
para 12: Feser throws a little hissy-fit over the idea that someone would publish this.

To sum up: Coyne is the stupidest of the New Atheists. Coyne doesn't address MY religious views, so why even bother? Coyne doesn't understand faith the way the apologists want him to. Instead, he insists on using it in the manner that most religious people do. Coyne's "scientism" is inconsistent with my straw man. He's not allowed to believe that there is any source of knowledge or information other than the science lab, so whenever he does, I'll accuse him of fallacies. His reasoning is circular. The book shouldn't have been published.

Brandon said...

I read this "review" several times, just to be sure I wasn't missing something.

Well, that's at least an improvement; it's the very first thing you've said that shows any serious recognition that rational evaluation requires actual evidence. But you still seem to be laboring under the misapprehension, common to people without basic critical thinking skills, that labeling something is the same as analyzing it.

im-skeptical said...

If only people commenting about what I have said would return the favor.

BenYachov said...

This thread is beyond entertaining.

You had enough Skepo? These are the big boys you are playing with here. They have all forgotten more philosophy then I have yet learned over the years. Bring your A Game or get lost.

Carry on gentlemen!

MST3K doesn't watch itself otherwise Joel and the Bots take it kind of personal.

"To be dead... to be nothing... to watch "Neptune Men" no more.."-Crow T. Robot.

Brandon said...

I've done it with the previous comments, precisely pointing out the evidence in your comments for my assertions; if anyone thinks that the evidential or logical analysis are wrong, they are welcome to show it with evidence and logical analysis, which you certainly haven't done. I thought you might want a rest and an opportunity to remedy the situation and show that you're not a total idiot. But since you've asked, I'm perfectly happy to show your lack of elementary critical thinking skills here, too, with actual appeal to the actual evidence and logical analysis of your actual comments, which anyone can verify just by looking at the actual things you've said. (You are grossly mistaken if you think that I will be in any way put out by a challenge to analyze your arguments more closely; analyzing arguments is both my profession and my favorite hobby. I am thrilled to be asked to show how bad your reasoning is. This is the sort of thing that I love doing.) And I will re-state the theme again, in case you might overlook it: You seem to be laboring under the misapprehension that labeling something is analyzing it.

(1) So let's first start with this whole straw man thing. You have repeatedly introduced the straw man accusation. Now, whether or not something is a straw man is a matter of objective evidence and logical analysis, since it's a fallacy of irrelevance concerning an actual position. The first instance is here:

January 21, 2016 at 1:06 PM: Speaking of building a straw man - did anyone else notice how Feser spent half the review trying to force Coyne into his phony little box of scientism, and at the same time, criticizing him for not fitting neatly into that little box? Perhaps if Feser was a little less obsessed with his straw man, he might have paid more attention to what Coyne actually said in his book.

So the claim that the it's a straw man is introduced, but no actual evidence that this is a correct reading is given. No additional evidence is added in our next comment, despite the fact that in the meantime laubadetriste had pointed out that Feser actually quotes Coyne on the subject. Laubadetriste responded to your comment, saying that it didn't seem accurate, and asked what, precisely, the key issues Feser was overlooking were, and then, in a later comment, what, precisely, was the straw man. This then leads to your next comment:

January 21, 2016 at 3:42 PM: ...Feser gives his own definition of scientism - "the view that science alone gives us genuine knowledge", and then proceeds to castigate Coyne for seeming to say some things that agree with it, and other things that disagree with it. Feser apparently doesn't recognize that real people have more nuanced views than that....

Which is just a repetition of what you said previously. The structures of the comments are basically the same: there is a straw man, it is the definition (or box, in the first comment) of scientism, and in both comments it is said to exist where Ed is pointing out that Coyne says things that seem to agree with it and others that don't. This doesn't add any extra information, it doesn't add any additional evidence, it doesn't go back and provide a logical analysis of the structure of the passage it is talking about; it's an assertion of exactly the same kind that we had in your original comment. And this despite the fact that it was explicitly a response to a question asking you to clarify your comments up to that point.

Laubadetriste responds, among other things, that, again, what you are calling building a straw man seems to be just quoting Coyne and showing that Coyne's claims seem to be inconsistent. You ignore this part of his comment, preferring to focus on the question of the definition of scientism. In the meantime, in my first comment, I ask as a matter of curiosity what, specifically, Coyne says gives us genuine knowledge. You never answer.

to be continued

Brandon said...

continuing

We then get yet another assertion of it without evidence or logical analysis:

January 21, 2016 at 8:25 PM: Feser's review, as it cam across to me:

1. Coyne's definition of religion is wrong because he's not defining it as Thomism.
2. He's just as stupid as Dawkins - maybe even stupider.
3. Besides, he's just a scientismismist, and he's too stupid to comply with my straw man of scientismism.
4. Therefore his book contains nothing that I need to address in this review....


Nary any evidence or logical analysis of the structure of an argument in sight; just an impressionistic labeling of parts of the review in tendentious rhetorical terms that are never justified. Laubadetriste pointed out some problems with each of your labels, including denying the straw man charge.

And now we get a very similar impressionistic-assertion summary of the review in January 22, 2016 at 11:09 AM, with the straw man claim made twice without any evidential support and analysis.

So lots of assertions of straw manning, not a single discussion of evidence or close logical analysis of the argument in which you've said the straw man is found, despite the fact that you have been asked and, toward the end, actively challenged, to establish that it is a straw man in this context.

So on the straw man point: You seem to be laboring under the misapprehension that labeling something is analyzing it.

Greg said...

Alasdair MacIntyre argued that we have inherited a fragmented moral discourse, drawn from distinct and incompatible traditions. This is why, he claimed, positions like emotivism seem plausible in metaethics.

What I have noticed recently is how much accusations of fallacious reasoning have a sort of emotivist flavor to them. Someone recently accused me of reasoning circularly, and I asked which of my arguments (I'd given more than one) assumed what it was trying to prove. She did not respond by telling me which argument was circular or why I was starting somewhere I shouldn't. Instead she said (paraphrasing), "Just look at it! They're your own words."

Accusations of fallacies, by people who aren't interested in reason, usually have just this purpose: to insist than an argument is bad.

I suspect that's what's going on with im-skeptical. He's been trained to call arguments with conclusions he doesn't like "straw men". He doesn't really know what this term means; when pressed to justify his use of it, he does not quote the original source and the characterization, in order to argue that the latter is in fact a mischaracterization. He just insists that it's obvious that it's a straw man.

Brandon said...

(2) So let's look in a bit more detail at your list after having read the review several times. Since it's a bit long, I won't quote most of it here, but will refer the reader to it; it's January 22, 2016 at 11:09 AM.

Each paragraph summary consists of 1 sentence (except, technically paragraph 3, which could have easily been made one). Paragraph 4 introduces not just description but evaluative terms: More quibbling about what Coyne means by "religion", plus complete failure to understand what he's saying about changing religious dogma. No evidence or logical argument is provided for the claim that it is quibbling, despite the fact that something can be quibbling only if it can be shown that the points in question have little significance for the argument as a whole. No evidence or logical argument is provided for the claim that the paragraph shows a "completely failure to understand"; it's just an assertion, not an analysis.

For paragraph 6, we again have evaluative terms not backed up by evidence or logical analysis, namely, the claim that Coyne's definition is standard and the other is special pleading. Special pleading, of course, is usually a logical feature attributed to arguments rather than definitions, and there is no explanation of how it would apply in the case of a definition, nor any proof that any special pleading is actually involved. Notice, incidentally, that this is another case of you using a term from argument analysis in a way that is idiosyncratic and suggests that you don't understand how it actually works, and, in particular, the fact that it requires actual rational support. I wouldn't make a big deal of it in most cases because in most cases one would expect it to be just inadvertence, but we've already seen this problem with straw man.

For paragraphs 8 & 9 we get the claim of straw man, with the lack of evidence and analysis I have noted before.

Paragraph 10 asserts that there is an equivocation. Equivocations are not established by assertion but by logical analysis. There is no logical analysis provided.

Paragraph 12 also uses an evaluative term without backing, but as it's quite clearly a matter of insulting mode of statement rather than something that directly concerns the argument as such, it can be allowed to slide.

All of this is consistent with your previous failures to provide evidence or analysis.

So in your summary of the review: You seem to be laboring under the misapprehension that labeling something is analyzing it.

Which is precisely what I said.


Greg said...

I think the relevant syllogism is:

1. I'm right.
2. If this argument is sound, then I'm wrong.
3. So this argument is unsound.
4. Hmmm let's just say it's a straw man. That's something that can be wrong with arguments.

Edward Feser said...

Greg,

Yes. im-emotionally-attached-to-the-idea-that-im-skeptical is a perfect example of the sort of person I described in my "Walter Mitty atheism" post. He's absolutely in love with the idea of being rational, thinking critically, etc. But not so much with actually being rational, actually thinking critically, etc. It's a kind of sentimentalized pseudo-rationalism. He carries around these figments of his imagination -- religious people who constantly commit these fallacies he read about on Wikipedia one afternoon -- and bravely battles them in his head, rather than trying to deal with the actual arguments of actual religious thinkers who exist in the real world. And then he records each step of the action in this mental onanistic fantasy in the comments he makes in comboxes, etc. So much fun!

laubadetriste said...

@im-skeptical: "I read this 'review' several times, just to be sure I wasn't missing something."

Well, I've got some news for you...

"para 1: Coyne is the worst of the 'New Atheists'."

Paragraph 1 doesn't say anything about Coyne himself.

"para 2: Coyne explains what he means by religion, and Feser claims that he has gone off the rails."

Repeating a claim does not falsify it. Coyne's definition of religion does go off the rails there. Suppose I said I was going to talk about "birds." Suppose then I said that what I meant was that I was going to talk about flightless birds. Suppose then I said I was going to talk about industrially-raised, factory-farmed birds. Suppose then I said the only ones that concern me are the ones that have been plucked and deboned. Suppose then I said that I have in mind a 10-piece chicken McNuggets with tangy barbecue sauce, so everybody get your biology textbooks out.

Ah, but that parallel went by too quickly for you, didn't it?

"para 3: Coyne is addressing the views of every-day believers, not theologians and philosophers. Feser Takes issue with that."

That was not what he took issue with. If you continue reading to the end of the paragraph (it's tough, I know, but persevere) you'll find that what he took issue with was Coyne's unrepresentative definition of religion.

"para 4: More quibbling about what Coyne means by 'religion', plus complete failure to understand what he's saying about changing religious dogma."

What you miscall a "quibble" is regarding the definition of the subject of Coyne's book. See chicken Mcnuggets, ↑above.

And do tell what Coyne said about changing religious dogma. I'm sure you've got a fascinating article from *Popular Mechanics* about that, all loaded up and ready to go.

"para 5: Complaints about how Coyne draws examples from a variety of religions."

Those were not complaints about drawing examples from a variety of religions. That was a development of the criticism that Coyne used an inconsistent and incoherent definition of "religion," showing examples. (Read to the end of the paragraph--I know it's tough!--and ask yourself, by parallel reasoning, if you really think Dr. Feser believes that a physics textbook, the DSM, *Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,* and an episode of Star Trek, are all examples drawn from a variety of sciences. Or don't. You'll likely mess that one up, too.)

"para 6: Complaints that Coyne uses a standard definition of 'faith' rather than the special-pleading definition that theologians prefer. (Remember para 3.)"

You misunderstand "standard." This is of a piece with your earlier misunderstanding of "idiosyncratic."

"para 7: Coyne's insistence on using 'faith' the way most actual believers do is not acceptable to theologians."

You neglect to mention that that use is unacceptable to most actual believers, too.

laubadetriste said...

"para 8: Coyne's "scientism" is inconsistent with Feser's straw man."

We have addressed this several times. You must really believe, with the Bellman, that “What I tell you three times is true.”

"para 9: Coyne's "scientism" is inconsistent with Feser's straw man."

Quotation marks do not constitute a refutation.

"para 10: Equivocating between the straw man and a more reasonable view of 'scientism'"

There is no straw man, Bellman. And Bellman, you mistake *a more reasonable view* for a definition--moreover, a definition which is so idiosyncratic that the OED struggled to track it down.

"para 11: Coyne brushes off the charge that the appeal to science as the best way to understand nature is just circular reasoning. (The same can be said of Thomism, with better justification.)"

Yes, Coyne *did* brush off that charge. He brushed it off, instead of responding to it. And you don't know whether Thomism be Man or Horse.

"para 12: Feser throws a little hissy-fit over the idea that someone would publish this."

You would know from hissy fits, wouldn't you?

No, that's too much self-awareness to credit you with...

"To sum up: Coyne is the stupidest of the New Atheists. Coyne doesn't address MY religious views, so why even bother? Coyne doesn't understand faith the way the apologists want him to. Instead, he insists on using it in the manner that most religious people do."

The review said nothing about Coyne himself. If by "address" you mean anything other than "mention," then Coyne failed to address the religious views of at least (7.4 billion-[318.9 million * .42 of Americans who accept young-Earth creationism])= about 98% of the world's population. Except when he did. Kinda. Dang, Coyne's famous consistency strikes again. That man is adamant and steel.

"He's not allowed to believe that there is any source of knowledge or information other than the science lab, so whenever he does, I'll accuse him of fallacies. His reasoning is circular."

The words you're reaching for are "doesn't allow himself to." Except when he does. Yes, that *is* a fallacy.

"The book shouldn't have been published."

Well, we haven't had a good book of bad poetry in a while. But Coyne doesn't rhyme...

Brandon said...

Glenn,

What I have noticed recently is how much accusations of fallacious reasoning have a sort of emotivist flavor to them. Someone recently accused me of reasoning circularly, and I asked which of my arguments (I'd given more than one) assumed what it was trying to prove. She did not respond by telling me which argument was circular or why I was starting somewhere I shouldn't. Instead she said (paraphrasing), "Just look at it! They're your own words."

I've noticed this too. It tends to be especially obvious with fallacies of irrelevance. Various fallacies of irrelevance (ad hominem, red herring, straw man, etc.) are very often used without any regard at all for analyzing what's relevant -- claiming that someone is committing ad hominem often means little more than 'that sounds insulting', that someone is committing a red herring often means little more than 'that sounds wrong', that someone is committing a straw man often means little more than 'I don't like your argument against it'. But it's not just such fallacies. Circularity is an issue that comes up. I occasionally have to correct students who claim that an argument is circular because the premises lead to the conclusion. It's a pretty serious issue not to be able to distinguish validity from begging the question.

I'm always inclined to cut people a certain amount of slack if it just comes up in conversation; despite the impression people get from fallacy lists, argument analysis in informal logic can be extraordinarily hard work. So I'm very willing to tolerate the impressionistic 'That sounds like it begs the question' to arguments given in passing, even if they sometimes tend to the knee-jerk. It's just silly to take the knee-jerk route in a context that's literally focused on identifying what's good and bad about an argument, when you have the time and the resources to break the argument apart and argue the analysis out, and are instead wasting everyone's time by doing things that are not that.

My own hypothesis about why this shows up in particularly obvious ways with informal fallacies is that a lot of the old fallacy manuals didn't do a very good job of distinguish rhetorical presentation with argumentative structure; that's why 'ad hominem' often in practice just means 'insult', a rhetorical presentation, even where the argument is actually relevant and structurally sound. This wouldn't have been serious, except that it has been aggravated by the cultural tendency to evaluate things by feelings that you note.

Brandon said...

Greg, not Glenn. Apologies!

laubadetriste said...

@BenYachov: "This thread is beyond entertaining."

Yup. :)

Maybe later I'll go watch some MST3K, too. Sounds like a good idea, and fitting.

@Brandon: "...if anyone thinks that the evidential or logical analysis are wrong, they are welcome to show it with evidence and logical analysis..."

Naw, man. You're good. I'll just be over here with my blackjack until I get bored.

im-skeptical said...

Brandon:

I've done it with the previous comments, precisely pointing out the evidence in your comments for my assertions;

You have quoted my statements, but you have not shown where I actually said what you claimed I said. You are twisting my words. Your stupid little "analysis" is wrong. I did not say what you claim. There is no need to analyze it more closely. Just look at What I said. I even attempted to explain it you, but rather than accepting my words for what they are, you insist on putting your own misinterpreted words into my mouth, as if you are the better arbiter of what I mean by my own words. What a joke.

Laubadetriste responds, among other things, that, again, what you are calling building a straw man seems to be just quoting Coyne and showing that Coyne's claims seem to be inconsistent.

This is completely backwards. Feser starts with his own definition of scientism, and then proceeds to quote some things from Coyne that seem to agree with it, and other things that don't. Coyne didn't say anything inconsistent with his own actual views. It is only inconsistent with what Feser claims his views are. The problem lies with Feser's straw man definition, which is inconsistent with the truth of what people like Coyne actually believe.

Nary any evidence or logical analysis of the structure of an argument in sight; just an impressionistic labeling of parts of the review in tendentious rhetorical terms that are never justified. Laubadetriste pointed out some problems with each of your labels, including denying the straw man charge.

Oh, brother. I said it was a parody. A parody of Feser, who had already done the same thing with my arguments.

So lots of assertions of straw manning, not a single discussion of evidence or close logical analysis of the argument in which you've said the straw man is found

Go back and look at the second item in this reply. I don't know how to make it any more clear. If you can't understand that Feser has made a straw man of scientism, I don't know how to help you, but it's not MY problem.

im-skeptical said...

Yes. im-emotionally-attached-to-the-idea-that-im-skeptical is a perfect example of the sort of person I described in my "Walter Mitty atheism" post. He's absolutely in love with the idea of being rational, thinking critically, etc. But not so much with actually being rational, Bla, bla, bla.

If anyone here would like to have a serious discussion with me, all they have to do is act like it.

im-skeptical said...

Paragraph 1 doesn't say anything about Coyne himself.

Learn to read, for christ's sake.

laubadetriste said...

@im-skeptical: "...but rather than accepting my words for what they are, you insist on putting your own misinterpreted words into my mouth, as if you are the better arbiter of what I mean by my own words. What a joke."

"'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.'"--*Alice in Wonderland,* ch.6

laubadetriste said...

@im-skeptical: "This is completely backwards. Feser starts with his own definition of scientism, and then proceeds to quote some things from Coyne that seem to agree with it, and other things that don't. Coyne didn't say anything inconsistent with his own actual views."

What do you think "inconsistent" means?

Alternately, by what means do you discover Coyne's views, if not by his words?

DJ Jazzy Cornelius said...

Haha. On Skeppy's account, is it even possible to say anything inconsistent with one's own views?

Brandon said...

You are twisting my words. Your stupid little "analysis" is wrong. I did not say what you claim. There is no need to analyze it more closely. Just look at What I said.

This is precisely the sign of someone with a complete lack of critical thinking skills: the claim that the critical judgment of analysis is not required. Just Look At It! No need to look at evidence! Just Look At It! No need to look at the underlying logical structure, or to investigate what logical implications a claim might have! We can just pretend we have magical powers that directly give us insight into truths no matter what the text looks like it actually says! Just listen to my authority and never mind the fact that my actual claims fail to meet basic rational standards! I don't have to argue that I am consistent, because I am just obviously consistent with obvious obviousness!

So let's look at your new non-arguments.

Feser starts with his own definition of scientism, and then proceeds to quote some things from Coyne that seem to agree with it, and other things that don't. Coyne didn't say anything inconsistent with his own actual views. It is only inconsistent with what Feser claims his views are.

In other words, your position is that Feser claims on the basis of his definition of scientism that Coyne is being inconsistent in the book when he isn't. Which is what is called 'a mischaracterization'.

I said it was a parody.

Parodies quite obviously do not consist of making things up without grounds; a parody involves mocking imitation of features of the actual work. If the imitation is not supportable by evidence, it is just ignorant mockery. You were challenged by laubadetriste as to whether things in your comments corresponded to what Feser actually did. Doing a parody does not, as you seem to think, exonerate you from your parody being rationally supportable.

And noticeably we still get none. Despite the fact that I just showed at lienght that you repeatedly assert things without proper support.

Go back and look at the second item in this reply. I don't know how to make it any more clear. If you can't understand that Feser has made a straw man of scientism, I don't know how to help you, but it's not MY problem.

Of course, it is; it means you can't recognize that the second item is nothing but a restatement of your original assertion, without evidence or logical analysis supporting it.

Establishing that something is a straw man requires showing that the purported straw man fails (as shown by evidence and logical analysis of the purported straw man) to capture elements of the structure of the actual argument (which can only be determined by evidence and logical analysis of the argument) that are relevant to the question at hand in the immediate context (which can only be determined by evidence and analysis of the larger context). You've provided none of this.

But, as I said before, all the evidence so far indicates that you are one of those kooks who likes to pretend to reason and objectivity without any of the sometimes very difficult and tedious work required actually to have them.

Edward Feser said...

check-me-out-im-so-skeptical wrote:

If anyone here would like to have a serious discussion with me, all they have to do is act like it.

I wasn't talking to you but to Greg. I already tried having a serious conversation with you and found that it was a waste of time, since you aren't serious.

laubadetriste said...

Oops. ↑That should have been "Through the Looking-Glass."

@im-skeptical: "Learn to read, for christ's sake."

Ah, now *I* can't read. Through the looking glass indeed...

laubadetriste said...

@im-skeptical: "You are twisting my words. Your stupid little 'analysis' is wrong."

Wait a minute. How old are you? And who has your library card?

grodrigues said...

I see that im-skeptical has already managed to clutter the comments thread with his idiocy...

moduspownens said...

Man, I aspire to write polemics half as well as Professor Feser. Coupled with Feser's documentation of Coyne's ineptitude, there are many "*drops mic*" moments in this one that Coyne's reputation as an academic ought be impugned. How can one be a high level thinker in biology and yet fail to replicate the same level of rigor to another discipline (philosophy of religion/metaphysics), especially given it's in the latter subject, not his actual area of expertise, that the mainstream media routinely trots him out as a pundit?

I guess this rhetorical question is also an indictment of those fools who dare to lay claim to the once-honorable profession called "journalist."

moduspownens said...

I should clarify:

"...and yet fail to replicate the same level of rigor..." should be

"...and yet fail to attempt at replicating the same level of rigor..."

Eric MacDonald said...

One of the disappointing things for me is that this combox seems very, very familiar. The Magister is, of course, much more rational and good-tempered than Coyne, but the comments are, to too large an extent, hasty, ill-thought through, unrepresentative of the article upon which they are comments, and, to an exceptional extent, just as uninformed (broadly speaking) as comments in Coyne's combox. Now, I know that the internet tends to foster this kind of juvenilia, but just a bit more thought before you put things down in print would be such a big help. Learn from Ed, don't just play internet tic-tac-toe.

Of course, I have mainly people like im-sketpical in mind, since he is being very childish. Here's an example. He gives us a list of things which he considers to make "Omnibus of Fallacies" (note the title, please!). Here are a few:

"para 1: Coyne is the worst of the 'New Atheists".
para 2: Coyne explains what he means by religion, and Feser claims that he has gone off the rails.
para 3: Coyne is addressing the views of every-day believers, not theologians and philosophers. Feser Takes issue with that.
para 4: More quibbling about what Coyne means by "religion", plus complete failure to understand what he's saying about changing religious dogma.
para 5: Complaints about how Coyne draws examples from a variety of religions.
para 6: Complaints that Coyne uses a standard definition of "faith" rather than the special-pleading definition that theologians prefer. (Remember para 3.)
para 7: Coyne's insistence on using "faith" the way most actual believers do is not acceptable to theologians.
para 8: Coyne's "scientism" is inconsistent with Feser's straw man.
para 9: Coyne's "scientism" is inconsistent with Feser's straw man.
para 10: Equivocating between the straw man and a more reasonable view of "scientism".
para 11: Coyne brushes off the charge that the appeal to science as the best way to understand nature is just circular reasoning. (The same can be said of Thomism, with better justification.)"

Let's look at them, shall we. Take number 1. Nowhere does Ed say that Coyne is the worst of the new atheists. Indeed, he deals quite dismissively with all of them (save for the fact that Christopher Hitchens writes like CH!). Notice that PZ Myers' only has the benefit of having appeared before Coyne's, and Sam Harris's was mercifully short! (Ed didn't mention "The End of Faith" which hatched them all! But, for constipated prose, Harris is hard to beat.) Coyne is of a piece with the rest, not the worst.

Take number 2: "Coyne explains what he means by religion, and Feser claims that he has gone off the rails." Not true. Coyne apparently says what he means by religion, and what he doesn't, then he changes his mind. Jainism isn't what he means by religion, and then (I'll trust Ed on this) he offers Jainism as an example of what he does mean by religion. Besides, he keeps narrowing down what he means by religion by focusing on Bible Belt Fundamentalists.)

How about number 3. "Coyne is addressing the views of every-day believers, not theologians and philosophers. Feser Takes issue with that." Well, and so he does, but not simply because he doesn't listen to theologians and philosophers (after the titles of which Coyne often puts a diminishing TM). If Coyne really wants to show that Christianity is anti-science, for example, he has to show that more than just a bunch of fundamentalists are anti-science (or anti-evolution, anyway); he has to show that religion is somehow intrinsically anti-science, or else all that he has done is to dismiss fundamentalists, but religious people do that all the time as well. So that won't come as news to many believers.

Eric MacDonald said...

This completes my comment, begun above.

Well, then, if three times isn't lucky (and since 4 is just a repetition of 2) what about number 5? "Complaints about how Coyne draws examples from a variety of religions." Clearly, there's a failure of comprehension here. Ed doesn't complain about Coyne drawing from a number of religions. What Coyne does in the fifth paragraph is to suggest that, just as there is a scientific method, there is also a religious methodology. (By the way, this is one of Coyne's biggest blind spots. He always talks about "ways of knowing", and then he asks, if it's not science, what way is being used, because scientific "reasoning" is all that he can think of when it comes to "ways of knowing". That's what makes his position scientistic, for scientism is the claim that all that can be known can be known by the methods of science. And then he always adds "broadly construed," which really means: "If you think you've found another way of knowing than science, it's really science after all, broadly construed!"

I have been, in the past, a friend of Jerry Coyne, but then I disagreed with something he said, and he merely wrote in reply: "If you disagree, would you please take your disagreement elsewhere?" And there we parted company. But I can go through each one of im-skeptical's points, and show that im-skeptical hasn't even tried to understand, which is itself a contradiction, because sceptics (that's how I spell it) need to try very very hard to understand before they make foolish claims. But if you read the book, or have paid sufficient attention to Coyne's reasoning, you will conclude that Ed has his number. And, remember, the review is called "Omnibus of Fallacies," and this is precisely what Ed shows the book to consist in. Coyne is not a philosopher, and it shows. He has no idea, really, what a contradiction looks like. If he did, he would not be committed to scientism, because the claim to know that all knowledge is scientific knowledge is itself not a piece of scientific knowledge. And despite all the times I have tried to point this out, Coyne still hasn't caught on.

Eric MacDonald said...

In my last comment, I did leave out some crucial words. Instead of "What Coyne does in the fifth paragraph," "What Coyne does, according to Ed's fifth paragraph, is to suggest that ..." Sorry. That one escaped my proof reading.

Santi said...

Laubadetriste:

I liked the Anthony Flew quote. Thanks for that. And thanks for the Mortality and Morality book link.

But in the rest of this response, I will nevertheless defend--against your recommendation--one large generalization about theistic religion that I think pretty much holds true across the board: Every Great Oz needs curtains and smoke. Theistic religion must have soft focus on the word "God" and the predicates of God because God is, essentially, a ghost bird. God functions as a mirage, and religion can't function without this. Ad hoc explanation is religion's great escape hatch.

So you asked me yesterday what I meant in saying that religion can't function without a fuzzy deity, and it's this: Every religious claim and practice relies, for its effect, on the presence of an ad hoc mirage in its shadow, and that mirage must kick into gear if the believer's focus becomes too acute. Otherwise, God's predicates and the definition of God take on predictive power, and expose the idea of God to falsification (or, at minimum, to substantially heightened doubt, disappointment, and disillusionment about God in the mind and heart of the believer).

Example: God loves all people. If you take this statement seriously, then a person who knows there is such a thing as The Ten Commandments, but doesn't know what's in it, will make the following quite reasonable prediction: "God loves all people, therefore, obviously, among The Ten Commandments there must be prohibitions on rape and slavery. If the Bible is God's word, these prohibitions could not possibly fall beneath His (Her?) circle of supreme moral concern. They're in there. I know they will be!"

Then the believer looks in The Ten Commandments and discovers--neither of them! Prediction fail! The ad hoc mirage now has to kick in. It functions to shift the goal post: "God loves all people, but works in mysterious ways!" or "God's ways are not your ways!" Whatever the ad hoc explanation is for why rape and slavery didn't make it into God's Top Ten, it fuzzies up God, and God's predicates, and the claims made about God as a God of love.

im-skeptical said...

Feser:

I already tried having a serious conversation with you and found that it was a waste of time, since you aren't serious.

BULLSHIT.

In your very first comment in this post, you were engaging in childish namecalling. Is that what you call serious conversation?


moduspownens said...

@Kyle Coffey

You've asked for a philosophical case against gender theory. Now, I'm very much an amateur, an armchair philosopher to be sure, so you definitely should look into the work of the erudite sources that were already suggested, but I'll offer you a basic sketch of an argument that I've been noodling on that I think should be formally developed and exfoliated by minds more capable than mine -- if it hasn't been already -- as it presents a dilemma that would cause much wailing and gnashing of teeth on the modern Left.

Traditionally, gender theorists maintain that the social is distinct from the biological. That, femininity and masculinity are purely products of cultural norms that can be bent and or completely broken to the point that self-identification, i.e. pure will, determines whether someone is a woman or a man. They are voluntarists. But more importantly for our purposes here, they're also anti-essentialists when it comes to gender.

Yet, many feminists are adamant that women experience entrenched cultural sexism from individuals and institutions. In other words, a woman is an oppressed figure in a patriarchal world. That, this is inherent to the feminine experience, whether she has what's called "consciousness" of it or not.

Now, I think what we have two contradictory claims to which that gender theorists and or proponents of transgenderism -- who are also often feminists -- are committed:
1)There is no essence to gender
2)Sexism is inherent to the feminine experience, i.e., being a victim of sexism is part of being a woman -- which suggests there is an essence to the feminine gender.

Now, if a person honestly subscribes to 2), then it seems entirely inconsistent for that person to hold to a belief that presupposes 1) such as someone like Bruce Jenner can really become and currently is "Caitlyn" Jenner, a bonafide woman.

Has "Caitlyn" experienced sexism? Has "she" been "mansplained" to like other women? Has "she" been catcalled? Has "she" been paid 7/10 on the dollar to every man for doing the same job? Has "her" worth been judged primarily by "her" sex appeal rather than "her" achievements? Does Bruce Jenner know "what is it like to be a" woman, at least according to most feminists?

The obvious answer to these and similarly-posed questions, I believe is no, at least not in the same way feminists seemingly contend is the social reality for women. So, a man feeling as if he really is a woman and vice versa seems entirely dubious for a couple reasons:
1) Said person hasn't had phenomenological events called qualia, i.e subjective conscious experience, "what is it like to be a ...".
2) Said man/woman's conception or understanding of the gender being transitioned to was learned while identifying as the opposite gender. That, an inherently subjective, internal first-person experience, purported seemingly as essential to a gender, was fully gleaned and "had" via an external, third-person perception of it that was likely also influenced by misleading cultural stereotypes as perpetuated in our media-saturated society.

moduspownens said...

cont @Kyle Coffey

Interestingly, transgenderism advocates, now looking for an objective basis to impose their agenda on the country at large, seemingly are now starting to reference biology as an explanation for the transgendered's feelings of anxiety about being trapped in the wrong body. They appeal to brain scans, hormone levels, mismatched genitalia and even genetic disorders to garner cultural and legal affirmation. In other very well-trod, nefarious words used as a bludgeon, the transgendered are now "born this way."

Putting aside how this seems in tension with the distinction that gender and biology are separate -- i.e. a penis and testes did not preclude one being a woman, but somehow Klinefelter's Syndrome can now reasonably indicate a man is actually a woman, with the accompanying feelings of gender dyphoria as *legitimate (*factual, reasonable, coherent, worthy of respect, etc.)? -- this move that presupposes eliminative materialism is not without what I think are devastating problems.

Read Thomas Nagel's "What is like to be a bat?". It's short and easy to understand for a philosophy essay, and you can find a PDF on Google. For a nonacademic, completely nontechnical rendition of the Nagelian argument against transgenderism from qualia that I've detailed, read The Federalist's D.C. McAllister's article, "Why Bruce Jenner Can Never Be a Woman."

Hope this helps.

Anonymous said...

Faith, in true true sense, is not the mere belief or thinking of one for whom the connection to The Living Divine Reality is still in doubt.
Nor is it the romantically enthusiastic conviction of one who is occasionally or even frequently sustained by experiences of a higher or more subtle kind that those we usually pursue in the daily unconsciously driven grind.
Real faith is the constant unbroken connection to the Infinite Consciousness and All-Pervading Energy and Power of The Living Divine Reality.
Faith is present freedom from all games of self-indulgence and self-denial. To be alive in faith, is to transcend the separate egoic self, and its obvious mortal destiny.
Such true faith irradiates and resonates the whole body and brain with the Bliss or Vibration of Divine Life. It repolarizes the entire nervous system to the All-Pervading Life, thus relaxing all of the fear-based psycho-physical cramps or tensions, and evetentually stimulating the secretion of the higher, rejuvenative endrocine biochemistry of body and brain. Thus, true faith is the most radically positive principle of benign change and transformation.
When a man or woman Awakens into faith, then he or she becomes oriented, even whole-bodily to God. He/she naturally feels connected at the heart, and with the whole body, to our Primal Food, which is Love or Divine Radiance.

The True man or woman is a Radiant Presence in the world.

laubadetriste said...

@im-skeptical:

*Now* I'm bored. MST3K it is.

Santi said...

Daniel J:

Concerning the Doubting Thomas passage in John, you wrote: "...the Gospel of John is written to provide testimonial evidence, that could be cross-investigated with contemporary (though probably) second-hand testimonies, along with other textual sources..."

My response is: if the Gospel of John was written around 90 CE, why should we put so much stock in an advocate's 60 year old testimony--let alone the second-hand testimony of others living around 90 CE?

And recall, Daniel, that the resurrection is not just a claim, but an extraordinary claim. David Hume, I believe, was the first to note that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” No matter how honest an eyewitness, when it comes to a miraculous claim it is always possible—indeed, likely—that he or she has misinterpreted the experience. And so independent verification of the data upon which the experience is based is a reasonable request. And that, of course, is what Thomas sought: "Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe."

Thomas had it exactly right. This is not an impious thing to insist upon; it is something that one says when you have a commitment to: (1) truth; and (2) getting the truth of matters right. The great American patriot, Thomas Paine, held the same view. In Part I of his The Age of Reason, he wrote this: "Thomas did not believe the resurrection; and, as they say, would not believe without having ocular and manual demonstration himself. So neither will I; and the reason is equally as good for me, and for every other person, as for Thomas."

And regarding the nature of eye-witness testimony, Thomas Paine wrote this: "It is a contradiction in terms and ideas to call anything a revelation that comes to us at second-hand, either verbally or in writing. Revelation is necessarily limited to the first communication. After this, it is only an account of something which that person says was a revelation made to him; and though he may find himself obliged to believe it, it cannot be incumbent on me to believe it in the same manner, for it was not a revelation made to me, and I have only his word for it that it was made to him."

Anonymous said...

The scholastics of the Middle Ages made a molehill out of a mountain by putting angels on pinheads and reducing the Great Matter to impenetrable nit-picking drivel - towers of babel/babble.

The scholars of our period vivisect the Body of God and the Sources of Enlightened Influence and mount them on pins for display, mocking them, making them into scapegoats, and crucifying them on the linear structures of left-brained reason, language, "theology", and "metaphysics".

Curio said...

@Im-Skeptical

What is the definition of scientism?

What is the definition of religion?

BenYachov said...

How much money does anyone want to bet Anon January 22, 2016 at 6:37 PM is Paps?*


*Another Gnu from dangerous minds.

Anonymous said...

@Santi,

Have you read 1 Corinthians 15 3-8 here written based on a creed that can be traced back to between 33-38 CE that is right after Jesus's death.

World Not World said...

@ Santi

Your encapsulating quote by Thomas Paine is as incomplete as you are. Look, we believe in evolutionary theory, but are we fools to do so? All the evidence you or I have is literally hearsay. I haven't "experienced" the evidence first-hand – what could this even mean? – I have read about it, so I consider the theory, I bounce it around in my mind looking for problems and inconsistencies, and find many, but none too powerful to sway me from believing pretty solidly in the idea.

You're quite right that Thomas was not impious. Thomas was not condemned by Jesus (nor has he been condemned by anyone) for not believing already or for seeking tangible proof. He was simply reminded that the truth of Resurrection was something *blessedly* understood in another manner, through a more deeply felt continuity with his fellows. Jesus doesn't castigate Paul (as he castigates others in the New Testament): he merely points out that Paul was looking in the wrong place for the *most* secure evidence – and yet, when Paul insists and reaches into that less important place, Jesus' wounds, he finds exactly the evidence he needs, which Jesus freely gives him. Paul does not turn out to be wrong, nor does his demand for direct material evidence turn out wrong; it's simply shown to be a bit beside the point, given everything else.

And you're quite right that the resurrection is an extraordinary claim. Can it be "proven" beyond a reasonable doubt on the basis of textual analysis? I'd wager not. The "extraordinary evidence" is not to be found there.

But it is to be found, and many have found it, including hard-core scientists like myself. You have to swallow it whole – then you'll spit it back up, of shit it back out – or, just maybe, incorporate it fully as a vital ingredient of your very being. As long as you merely gnaw cynically at its obvious "impossibility," considered apart from the whole tradition, you'll miss the whole thing, and will be in no position either convincingly to affirm or to reject it.

Craig Payne said...

I have a question for Ed which is not directly related to this thread. (Having met you a few times, sometimes at very late parties, I presume upon the familiarity.)

Any sort of writing or intellectual work wears me down. I mean, I just sit and stare into space for a while until I am refreshed. This is especially true of work that is supposed to be published academically. While I'm doing that sort of work, I avoid posting on the internet, reading threads, and so on. I find it saps the energy I need for the other work. Plus, of course, there is my wife, family, relationship with God and friends, teaching duties, and so on.

This sapping of energy occurs especially if the internet posting has to deal, at great length, with people who do not appear to be engaging seriously with what you actually wrote. At that point you have to go back and repeat, explain, give examples, deal with innumerable red herrings, etc., etc.

My question: Have you ever wondered about the relative effort of your blog? The rest of us profit greatly from it, of course, but have you ever wondered if it is eating away the energy you could be devoting to your career and "serious" work?

Edward Feser said...

Hi Craig,

As it happens, all day today I've been slogging away on tedious edits to a long book which need to get done ASAP, and my brain is fried. Checking in to the combox now and again throughout the day has been an agreeable diversion, especially since (as you can tell from the above) there was no serious criticism that needed responding to and I could devote very little time to posting.

Sometimes, though, combox exchanges can really suck up enormous amounts of time that is better devoted to other things. Hence I mostly avoid them.

The blog itself, though -- both the intellectual exercise of writing posts, and most of the reader feedback (it's mostly a great bunch of readers who hang out here) -- I find overall a great benefit. To be sure, it does suck up a lot of time, but it's worth it. Plus I'm a workaholic anyway, can often write fast, and as it happens I don't in fact publish "serious" stuff any less often than anyone else does.

The one thing I do have to confess (with some feeling of guilt!) to getting a little annoyed by is the seemingly endless number of people who appear to think I've got limitless time to devote to answering emails. In fact I have almost zero time to do so. So when people email me, as they do constantly, asking for answers to philosophical and theological questions, comments on drafts, career advice, reading lists, personal advice, etc. etc. etc. etc., I rarely answer these days, because I simply have no time to do so. It's especially annoying when people don't even bother searching my books, articles, or blog for answers to these things, when they'd often have found them there if only they had looked.

I know they mean well, but some folks need to use some common sense. If people wonder how I can write as much as I do, in part it's because I don't spend a lot of time writing emails...!

scbrownlhrm said...


Santi,

You're unwillingness, or inability, to subject your own premises to reality testing is forcing you to arrive at the sorts of bizarre conclusions we've seen from you thus far. Even worse, you act as if you can invent just any self-contained "logically tight" model over in "this slice" of reality and thereby simply bypass reality testing against all other slices of reality. As if logic alone "right here in this slice" just inexplicably frees your method and your premises from all other slices.

As in:

The Christian's sound scientific mind refuses to measure truth claims upon any slice of reality based on *one* data point when *thousands* of data points have been tracked, located, and labeled.

And since it is becoming unavoidable, given Non-Theism's singular and seamless continuum of particle (or whatever) in motion, that, factually speaking, there is no such thing as distinguishing "life" from "non-life" in any Non-Arbitrary, Ontologically Irreducible domain, reason as truth-finder is eliminated by yet *further* pains of yet another reductio ad absurdum.

And the Critics in this thread talk as if they can merely invent just any self-contained "logically tight" model over in "this slice" of reality and thereby simply bypass reality testing against all other data points of all other slices of reality. It's as if the "As-If" satisfies his prescriptive for reality testing. It's no surprise then that he approaches his analysis of Christianity with that *same* un-scientific method and thinks one data point in one verse is "enough" and, hence, straw men abound. It's funny how the same anti-scientific sloppiness causes all his troubles *both* in reality-testing his own paradigmatic shape *and* also in analyzing other paradigmatic shapes.

Whereas the Christian is informed that he is to master and subdue the *entirety* of physicality and his prescriptive is (therefore) forced to pull in all data points from all vectors. It is uncanny that such a prescriptive is incoherent but for that which can coherently ride atop physicality and thereby (simultaneously) turn its gaze -- from within physicality -- to -- down upon physicality.

That is why *thousands* of data points throughout Scripture point the Christian to the gritty human experience immersed in the body, and to mind, and to physicality's mechanistically painful enslavement, and to intention's irreducible liberty through the contours of reason, and to love's triune vertices constituting all that ever can sum to Being's/Perception's Self/Other/Us, to Dirt and Life, to Flesh and Word, to Corporeal and Logos.

Scripture tirelessly subsumes all, pointing the Christian to syllogism, to the irreducible, to reason, to Scripture, to observational reality, to his brutally repeatable moral experience constituted of no more, and no less, than reciprocity's interfaces amid the Self, the Other, and unicity’s Us, and to.... and to...... and to connecting *all* of those many tens of thousands of data points from *every* slice of reality.

Reality testing must survive the brutally repeatable on all fronts and amid all slices of reality (unlike the Critic's conveniently insulated "As-If’s"). Indeed, reason as truth-finder therein rationally and volitionally refuses all moves into the pains of circularity and all reductio ad absurdums even as lucidity is relentlessly demanded through and through, from A to Z.

The elimination of the mind, meanwhile, is all yours.

scbrownlhrm said...


Santi,

Context:

On the pains of your fated path to deflationary truth values amid all of your own truth predicates, there was context earlier in my comment time stamped "January 22, 2016 at 1:49 AM".

Greg said...

@ Santi

Example: God loves all people. If you take this statement seriously, then a person who knows there is such a thing as The Ten Commandments, but doesn't know what's in it, will make the following quite reasonable prediction: "God loves all people, therefore, obviously, among The Ten Commandments there must be prohibitions on rape and slavery. If the Bible is God's word, these prohibitions could not possibly fall beneath His (Her?) circle of supreme moral concern. They're in there. I know they will be!"

Then the believer looks in The Ten Commandments and discovers--neither of them!


We could make this even easier.

1. There are only ten commandments in the Ten Commandments.
2. But there are more than ten really bad things that we think are really important to morality.
3. Therefore, God is not loving.

The advantage of this argument is that it is a priori; we don't even need to check the list at all.

But, then, it's a stupid argument, and so is yours.

moduspownens said...

Santi,

I can't help but find your exegesis in regard to the Ten Commandments suspect. I don't know why they must abide by Santi's list of the evilest, most bad, terrible sins. Why must they meet those expectations to legitimize Christian and or biblical moral authority? The Ten Commandments mention nothing about child molestation either, but I fail to see how that impugns the veracity of the Christian worldview. Why must the list be exhaustive and absolutely prohibitive of the gravest moral wrongs? I don't see how that expectation follows from the claim God loves everyone.

Nor do I think Christians must resort to an "ad hoc mirage" to divert attention away from what you consider to be a gaping intellectual hole. Rather, the only thing I find brobdingnagianly lacking is your methodological fixation on a singular verse or passage, trying to refine it into some type of silver bullet, loading it into your anti-Christian gun, firing away with your "specialized" ammunition, acting as if you hit something and that the nonexistent wound is lethal.

For instance, there is much more to Mosaic law than the Ten Commandments. Deuteronomy 22:25-27 condemns rape. Exodus 21:16 and Deuteronomy 24:7 also make the involuntary capture and selling of fellow Israelites illegal.

Also, charitably interpreted, the Bible is understood synoptically, lest you neglect other passages. In this case, you forget a famous exchange in Matthew 22:36-40 where Jesus was asked what was the greatest of all the Commandments. He answers quoting from the Mosaic law: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Surely, Santi's aforementioned examples do "fall beneath His (Her?) circle of supreme moral concern." The prohibitions against slavery and rape are implicitly implied in what the second person of the Godhead, the incarnate Word, deems the second greatest commandment, "love your neighbor as yourself." Likewise, the rationality of faith is reasonably inferred from Jesus' prescription for us to love God with all our minds, as in other places such as 1 Peter 3:15.

There's no need to masquerade behind a curtain here because many of the answers to your pointed queries, your strawmen -- to continue with the allegory from Oz -- are standing in plain sight.

Santi said...

Greg and Moduspownens:

I used as an example the omission of rape and slavery from The Ten Commandments for purposes of concision. I can't run through the whole Bible. But I get it. God still loves all people. It's just mysterious and complicated.

But notice that the ad hoc explanation, "God loves all people, but works in mysterious and complicated ways," when deployed by the theist, doesn't clarify God, but brings God into a softer and more elusive focus. It makes God more confusing, complicated, and distant from human language and human sensibilities. God becomes less akin to a gate and more akin to an aporia (an impass); something Kafkaesque.

And if the believer has a problem with the (unverifiable) ad hoc explanations on offer, it's her problem, not God's. The burden of proof shifts away from the God thesis and onto the wavering believer: "Do you think, o sulfurous worm, that you can stand in judgment of God's wisdom? You are to answer to God, God doesn't have to answer to you!"

In this way, "God loves all people" takes on a certain meaninglessness in the real world, not just because there's no way to reality test it, but because it doesn't make a difference (save psychologically, within the soft-focused believer) to any conceivable situation. The Holocaust can happen, but "God loves all people." Rape can be left out of The Ten Commandments, but "God loves all people." There's always some strained and lurking ad hoc explanation for why such things can hold together.

Prayer is another example. "God answers prayer." "God hears your prayers." These claims dissolve on the least scrutiny. Look too closely at such statements, and the plain sense of them starts to slam into contradictions with other things said about God--or what you know or would reasonably predict based on them.

The believer's focus thus has to fog, ultimately, into mystery, complication, and cognitive dissonance. For religion to function, God has to act like "a black cat in a black room that isn't there," and the believer has to exercise faith in the mirage-like ad hoc explanations on offer for why the cat never behaves in a predictable way or gets caught. Thus the virtue of the believer is to go on believing in God even after things like the Holocaust. It is a virtue of faith not to be swayed by your external circumstances. Indeed, that's what faith is. That's what metaphysics is. You go on believing where others have looked at outward circumstances and abandoned belief.

This is why Feser's emphasis on utterly walling metaphysics off from empiricism and reality testing functions as just another iteration on this "black cat in a black room" game. Metaphysics and religion unhinged from empiricism and reality testing become the revelatory scene from Mad Men, in which Don Draper realizes that, if the Feds say you can't make real world health claims in ads about tobacco anymore, and you've got a half dozen competitors in the same regulatory boat, then "This is the greatest advertising opportunity since the invention of cereal. We can say anything we want!" (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GALMX2BO5ps)

This is the theist's charmed situation when walled off from empiricism by metaphysics: he can say anything he wants. He can build a system and ad campaign. And in the competition for followers and converts, whoever can come up with the most pleasing, elaborate, coherent, and ad hoc patchwork of explanations for why God remains hidden and silent in the cosmos wins.

But when the onion layers of rationalization and justification are peeled away, what remains at the core is nothing.

Metaphysics and theology are the pretty packaging of nothing.

Anonymous said...


Don't talk to Santi. It's not worth it.

This plus a thousand.

I think Santi might well be a computer program. The verbose word salad seems to just flow out. A packaging of nothing, indeed.

Anonymous said...

Santi, im-skeptical, and Don Jindra - we must have done something bad to have them all appear here at the same time.

Mr. Green said...

Ed: I-like-to-think-of-myself-as-skeptical,

Actually, I believe “imskeptical” is a negative, like “impossible” or “imliterate".


Laubadetriste: Hey, why am I the exception?

Well, I already had your attention. But aren’t you exceptional?

I did once before learn a lesson.

I remember that now; anyone else who considers replying to Santi ought to check that out. (Certainly you’re exceptional in being able to squeeze meaningful blood from comments of stone.)


Daniel Joachim: And you know the old Chinese saying: "You cannot argue with people that just make things up, whenever they're in a tight corner”?

If someone has the nous to recognise when he’s in a tight corner and that he has to do something about it, then at least there is a glimmer of hope that he can be reasoned with. It’s the ones who make stuff up even when under the impression that they’re winning that we really want to avoid.


Im-skeptical: If only people commenting about what I have said would return the favour.

For once, I agree. It is an unusual act of kindness to respond to such comments, and I too wish the repliers would return them for a full refund and spend their efforts elsewhere.


Santi: Metaphysics and theology are the pretty packaging of nothing.

None of that for Tafarella! When he gives you nothing, it’s wrapped up in ugly crap!!


Anonymous: I think Santi might well be a computer program. The verbose word salad seems to just flow out. A packaging of nothing, indeed.

I dunno. Imskeptical sounds quite like one of those aggressive versions of ELIZA, with a list of fallacies added to its vocabulary, but Santibot has a weird randomness that perplexes me. But perhaps we are seeing a new kind of experimental software that was designed to cover its underlying structure with some sort of simulated stream-of-[artifical]-consciousness.



Or maybe it’s just a guy on drugs.

scbrownlhrm said...


Santi,

Moses, Law, is not, and literary cannot be, the mechanism for the instantiation of Moral Excellence, for Man's true felicity, as the many pains of Man's Privation source to a very different ontological geography.

Reality testing in a nation like ours, with hundreds of laws on sex crimes, yet saturating sex with crimes, affirms Scripture's meta-narrative and predictions, while that same reality testing demonstrably proves the vacuous location in which you have told Man to hope.

Now, the story doesn't end there.

Not even close.

Rather, a simple and cursory examination of the real world, expectations, predictions, and The Means and Ends Of Moral Excellence is briefly initiated simply to show the opening few steps down a path wherein the entire materialist project wonders far, far afield.

That's why reality testing is so important.

You should be more willing to define your terms with the real world in mind. You know, "Metanarrative" and all that.

scbrownlhrm said...



Santi,

I've raised the issue of your failure in reality-testing with you in several comments.


Your sloppy brand of metaphysics and your premises are all unhinged from empiricism and from reality testing, and have thereby become the revelatory scene from Mad Men. This is your charmed situation when walled off from empiricism in your unwillingness to reality test. Like with something as basic as Law and Moral Excellence you can say anything you want. You can build a system and ad campaign. And in the competition for followers and converts, whoever can come up with the most pleasing, elaborate, coherent, and ad hoc patchwork of explanations for *why* your premises about Law and Moral Excell all fail to cohere with the gritty human experience and remains hidden and silent in the cosmos wins. 

That's why reality testing is so important. You should be more willing to define your terms with the real world in mind. You know, "Metanarrative" and all that.

scbrownlhrm said...



Santi,

Typo correction:

Excell = Excellence as in....

......And in the competition for followers and converts, whoever can come up with the most pleasing, elaborate, coherent, and ad hoc patchwork of explanations for *why* your premises about Law and Moral Excellence all fail to cohere with the gritty human experience and remains hidden and silent in the cosmos wins.......

scbrownlhrm said...



Santi,

You've drifted far afield.

From reality.

Brutally repeatable Evil, and Good, and love's landscape, are not hidden, nor silent.

Just because *your* sloppy metaphysics eliminates Evil (and Mind) and reduces it all to useful fictions does not grant you the right to insult all the pains of humanity as you insist that such is the case merely so you can invent one more bit of ad hoc zealous incoherence.

You need to open your eyes.

To the real world as it actually is.

Or at the very least stop talking until you are willing to no longer insist to the victims of evil that they're entirely mistaken as to the irreducible actuality of said evil.

It's not a useful fiction and for you to insist that evil is somehow unseen or hidden is a damming affirmation of just how unhinged from reality-testing your entire project has become.

Craig Payne said...

"Feser's emphasis on utterly walling metaphysics off from empiricism and reality testing" (Santi)

Folks: Please tell me I don't have to read the entire thread to figure out what this remarkably off-base comment means?

Thomas, substantially, is an empiricist in epistemology. His metaphysics is derived from his empiricism.
Ed Feser agrees with Thomas on this.
So Ed Feser, substantially, also is an empiricist.

What am I missing? (In 200 words or less, maybe?)

Craig Payne said...

Well, my previous comment was maybe too loose. Go back and really emphasize the word SUBSTANTIALLY when it appears. Thanks.

Scott said...

Craig Payne:

"What am I missing? (In 200 words or less, maybe?)"

Nothing.

Done with 199 to spare.

Craig Payne said...

Now that made me laugh. Thanks. Have a good weekend, everybody.

Don Jindra said...

laubadetriste,

I'll throw in on this:

This would be to avoid exegesis by plebiscite, exegesis by that's-what-I-think, and exegesis by ha-ha-you-can't-get-that-obscure-book-in-time-to-confirm-what-I-said. After noting the many logical howlers committed by Coyne, it would be helpful to be able to say to him, "Next time you think you know how the faithful interpret the Bible, double-check here..."

That's the weakness of most religion. You're looking for some authoritative personality or group -- but not from the lowly plebiscite. You seem to have no confidence in the people. Their exegesis is prone to error. Their 'revelation' is unreliable. But what 'revelation' is reliable? Can it ever be narrowed down to one brilliant exegesis? History has shown the opposite. I asked earlier, What genuine knowledge comes from religion? I don't expect an answer. Religion can't point to moon landings. It can't point to cures for disease. Everywhere it points, there is fragmentation and sectarian bickering. That's the empirical truth about religion. No matter how much confidence you, personally, have in someone's exegesis, you'll never have more than the that's-what-I-think of the plebiscite. If a person believed in the collective wisdom of the people, that might not be such a bad thing. But your rhetoric leads me to believe you don't have confidence in the people.

laubadetriste said...

@Don Jindra: "That's the weakness of most religion."

Hmn. That's *the* weakness of most religion? Seems something awfully easy to fix. All I asked for was one book.

Wait, you may inadvertently be able to help me here...

Hey, everybody! First person to recommend me a book like ↑what I was asking for fixes the weakness of most religion!

Plus I'll buy you a beer if I ever see you in person.

laubadetriste said...

@Santi: "But I get it. God still loves all people. It's just mysterious and complicated. / But notice that the ad hoc explanation, 'God loves all people, but works in mysterious and complicated ways,' when deployed by the theist, doesn't clarify God, but brings God into a softer and more elusive focus."

You know, in school I wrote theses on Augustine, Leibniz, and the Book of Job. So I know from experience how hard it is to write something interesting about evil, and I'm inclined to cut you some slack. It takes a rare man to be able to rebuke the cheap justifications of the age:

"I confess, as a layman, that whenever, at a funeral, in the company of mourners who are immediately facing Job's own personal problem, and who are sometimes, to say the least, wide enough awake to desire not to be stayed with relative comforts, but to ask that terrible and uttermost question of God himself, and to require the direct answer — that whenever, I say, in such company I have to listen to these half-way answers, to these superficial plashes in the wavelets at the water's edge of sorrow, while the black, unfathomed ocean of finite evil spreads out before our wide-opened eyes — well, at such times this trivial speech about useful burns and salutary medicines makes me, and I fancy others, simply and wearily heartsick. Some words are due to children at school, to peevish patients in the sickroom who need a little temporary quieting. But quite other speech is due to men and women when they are wakened to the higher reason of Job by the fierce anguish of our mortal life's ultimate facts. They deserve either our simple silence, or, if we are ready to speak, the speech of people who ourselves inquire as Job inquired."

That said, *God works in mysterious ways* is not the hill you want to make your stand on, because if you do, you'll have to establish that that is a "representative sample" (as Dr. Feser put in the review) of what believers/theists/the religious (you seem to waffle on just what you mean) actually say, and then after that, you'll have to make an argument against it. At that point, you'll be on territory rather well-traveled by Jean Danielou, Austin Farrer, Kant, Peter Van Inwagen, Bayle, Voltaire, David Bentley Hart, Darwin, Walter Kaufmann... I'm not saying you couldn't do it, but I don't like your chances.

I noted ↑earlier that, "Your use of the word 'reality' in 'reality testing' seems to preclude the inclusion of much that is real."

You brought up the Holocaust again. What's that legal saying--"Hard cases make bad law"? There seems to be a rhetorical corollary.

I'm glad you like some of the books I mentioned. I get a lot of good books from here, so it's nice to think others might profit from my books, too.

"God becomes less akin to a gate and more akin to an aporia (an impass); something Kafkaesque."

If my Greek teacher caught me saying that something akin to an aporia was something Kafkaesque, I'd like to think he would have told me that the fascist octopus has sung its swan song, and made me sit in the corner.

Scott said...

laubadetriste:

I'm not aware of any single source that provides authoritative interpretations of and/or commentary on Scripture-according-to-the-Magisterium, but it's hard to do better than the Church Fathers as assembled by St. Thomas Aquinas. (That link takes you to the edition I have, but paperback reprints are available and you can also read it online.) It covers only the Gospels, but that's what's at issue here anyway.

Here's another of the great commentaries.

scbrownlhrm said...



Don J.,

People disagree about the fundamental properties, events, and explanatory termini of gravity. Appealing to disagreement fails to inform, fails to differentiate, fails to affirm or debunk.

Because it fails reality testing.

Got anything else?

Would it surprise you if Scripture's definitions tell us to predict Man's knowledge of God to be painfully fragmented inside of temporal becoming?

Never mind. Of course it would surprise you.

Because you don't test your premises against reality.

laubadetriste said...

Thanks, Scott. :)

Scott said...

You're welcome. But I really did it for the beer. ;-)

(Just kidding, although I'd happily let you buy me one. And I'd buy you one back for quoting Royce.)

Santi said...

Scott said: "Nothing."

Translation:

The Emperor has clothes, really!
Of this I'm 100% certain--because metaphysics!
And because I've looked down at my penis and figured out what it's "for," I'm also in touch with reality--an empiricist!

Brandon said...

I'm not sure what your obsession with other people's genitalia is, but I'm quite sure 'Nothing' meant 'nothing', and required no translation.

FM said...

That's the weakness of most religion. You're looking for some authoritative personality or group -- but not from the lowly plebiscite. You seem to have no confidence in the people. Their exegesis is prone to error. Their 'revelation' is unreliable. But what 'revelation' is reliable? Can it ever be narrowed down to one brilliant exegesis? History has shown the opposite. I asked earlier, What genuine knowledge comes from religion? I don't expect an answer. Religion can't point to moon landings. It can't point to cures for disease. Everywhere it points, there is fragmentation and sectarian bickering. That's the empirical truth about religion. No matter how much confidence you, personally, have in someone's exegesis, you'll never have more than the that's-what-I-think of the plebiscite. If a person believed in the collective wisdom of the people, that might not be such a bad thing. But your rhetoric leads me to believe you don't have confidence in the people.

You do not get medical advice from your uncle who works as a lawyer, but from a doctor in medicine.

Appeal to authority IS justified sometimes. Exegesis is not something everybody can do, especially if they have no education in the subject.

I do not say one should ignore completely the "laymen interpretation", but one would also need to check what people who studied several years, or decades, in order to understand scripture in its proper context

scbrownlhrm said...



"Your use of the word 'reality' in 'reality testing' seems to preclude the inclusion of much that is real."

Well stated.

scbrownlhrm said...



Santi,

You speak as if new information is an obscenity.

How unscientific.

Knowledge of reality is, inside of temporal becoming, fragmented.

Hence this bizarre polemic of yours about how unscientific it is to morph our depiction of, say, gravity or, say, any other "X" is completely unhinged from reality.

All vectors are always informing all other vectors, and the knowledge of X is *never* *static*. I'm sorry to have to be the one to tell you that. Just when we think we have X pinned down, motion ensues within the contours of information, insight, a few more degrees of lucidity, inference, insufficient reason, sufficient reason, logic, prediction converging with observational reality, and so on. For example, the syntax of the form "X brought Y back to life" is affirmed as coherent with reality on all fronts by Scripture, by science, by observational reality, by the fact that the definition of "death" is contingent upon not only body but also mind(s), and by metaphysics..... as *briefly* touched on in my comment time stamped "January 21, 2016 at 12:48 PM".

Sure, Atheists and Ancient Savages thought such constituted either magic or else violence against the laws of nature (whatever *they* are).

But convergence amid multiple vectors proves otherwise.

Reality testing affirms said syntax. Sure, Scripture's definitions and terms on the interplay of body, knowledge, and mind(s) got it right long before modern medicine, but we already know that scientism is a fallacious claim.

Indeed....

Knowledge is like that.

That you are shaking your fist against that fact is revealing.

And self-defeating.

Your unscientific tirades against the very essence of science, knowledge, mind, and perception streams from two failures on your part. The first is that you obviously don't test your bizarre polemics against reality, and the second is your emotional commitment to scientism.

Sure, your wish fulfillment might make you feel better but in the end our delusions and fantasies will fail to stand up against reality.

scbrownlhrm said...



Santi,

On that last comment on your unscientific polemics, when it comes (then) to the knowledge of Evil, and of Good, your strange, even disturbed, assertion that the irreducible fact of Evil is somehow unseen or somehow unperceptible is just as bizarre --- and for all the same reasons. Yours is a damming statement against the entirety of human misery vis-a-vis the pains of Man's fragmentation and in fact expressly denies the undeniable.

In fact, one wonders what world it is against which your incoherent rants fly.

It certainly isn't *THIS* world.

Clearly, you're unhinged.

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of a quote from Malcolm Muggeridge “The depravity of man is at once the most empirically verifiable reality but at the same time the most intellectually resisted fact.”

Santi said...

Laubadetriste:

On your recommendation, a couple of days back, I ordered a copy from Amazon of Hans Jonas' Mortality and Morality: A Search for Good After Auschwitz (Studies in Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy). Thanks for that.

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