You can't know atheism is true unless God exists.

I agree. I don't believe determinism has anything to do with my free will.
Then we agree that the article has at least one significant flaw, in that it doesn't account for the compatibilist position.

Computers have programs that are designed by intelligent life. The analogy fails for this reason.
The point of the analogy is that a complex system can reason and calculate without violating the laws of physics. How the system came to be organized in this way is a further separate issue. (Though note that a lot of programming is now also the product of blind evolutionary algorithms.) But even if we could not have developed intelligence and reason without being designed by God, the article would still be wrong to claim that following the deterministic laws of physics is enough to prevent us from employing reason and rationality.

That's your presupposition, that reason evolved, not mine. How do you get something rational from an irrational process?
I would say that evolution is more of a conclusion than a presupposition. But it any case, it was the logic of the article that claimed an evolved mind could not be trusted. I was explaining why, if evolution were true, that this doesn't necessarily follow. In any case, why shouldn't rationality come from a non-rational process? Under evolution, birds got flight from a non-flying process, and we got sight from a non-seeing process. Why not also get reasoning from a non-reasoning process?

If unguided evolution is true, then you probably wouldn't reason any better, likely even worse.
If guided evolution is true, then you would continue reasoning as you do now. ;)
You said that you also reject hard determinism (that causation removes free will), so I guess you would agree with me against the article that adding non-physical stuff or freedom from causation doesn't automatically make reasoning any better or more reliable.

To have you acting with the laws of physics determining your brain processes now, you would have to prove there is no God.
I guess this was not meant seriously, but I don't think atheism needs to disprove God any more than theists need to be able to prove His existence. Thanks for posting the article for discussion.
 
[. . ] For knowledge to be meaningfully related to reality requires the existence of some immaterial entity (soul) that can transcend the determinism inherent to a wholly material word. Such an immaterial entity begs for an immaterial source to explain its origin, and the most reasonable source is God. . . .​

Let's assume that the first claim is true: knowledge requires an immaterial entity doing the knowing. The second sentence still wouldn't follow, in part because it doesn't consider the possibility of emergent properties. Solid entities, for example, don't require a solid source to explain their origin; they emerge from atoms and sub-atomic particles which are not themselves solid. So the implicit premise, "entities with a given property much have their origin in other entities with that same property" is false. And it's not even a premise which seems consistent with theism, because theists don't believe that all material entities had a material source to explain their origin; they believe in an immaterial source (God) for all material entities.

The argument also ignores the possibility that immaterial elements are a fundamental part of the universe as in pan-psychism. In that case, materialism would be false, but theism wouldn't necessarily be true.
 
Well if you exist and you're an atheist, then there is a God.
You've got it backwards.

If I exist and I'm an atheist, then there is NO God.

ps. I'm doing the exact same thing you are, and because you feel free to do it, you have no basis for saying I cannot do the same.
 
You've got it backwards.

If I exist and I'm an atheist, then there is NO God.

ps. I'm doing the exact same thing you are, and because you feel free to do it, you have no basis for saying I cannot do the same.
I don't think you understand
 
I don't think you understand
Not agreeing with you isn't the same as not understanding what you're saying.

I understand you perfectly, and @Whatsisface caught onto the same issue: you're assuming the truth of your unsubstantiated beliefs.

If it's ok for you to do that, it's ok for me to do the same. That's how I know that my existence is proof your god doesn't exist.
 
It has been pointed out to you many times, evolution isn't unguided.
I think you are using the term "unguided" differently than most people who talk about evolution.

 
It has been pointed out to you many times, evolution isn't unguided.
By unguided, I mean that evolution that isn't guided by a Designer. I believe that evolution is guided by a Designer.

I believe that evolution is random. Mutations are random. The climate can easily change. It's random also. This is what you have pointed out to me many times but I am not convinced that evolution is guided by natural selection as if it is directed intentionally.
Evolution gives us the ability to learn. Reasoning is a learned ability that one can improve with study and practice.
I believe our mind/souls are given to us by God. Evolution has no play in this area, imo.
The laws of physics do not determine what to think, we can control that ourselves.
It's an illusion of free will. Remember this:

 
I think you are using the term "unguided" differently than most people who talk about evolution.

Ok. I use guided in the sense that it's not random, that there's something to the mechanism that ensures evolution goes along a particular path depending on the circumstances. Here and now that's the best way I can put it.

I have just read the reply from @Caroljeen and mostly agree with her description of evolution, except when she says evolution is random which is why I replied saying it's not unguided, as if random means it's all down to chance making evolution by natural selection unlikely.
 
By unguided, I mean that evolution that isn't guided by a Designer.
Ok, we agree on that.
I believe that evolution is guided by a Designer.
We disagree on this but this isn't what we're talking about.
I believe that evolution is random. Mutations are random. The climate can easily change. It's random also. This is what you have pointed out to me many times but I am not convinced that evolution is guided by natural selection as if it is directed intentionally.
Right, I of course don't think that evolution is directed intentionally, but I think that it is guided by the mechanism of evolution. The best way I can put it is that it's not a totally random process.
I believe our mind/souls are given to us by God. Evolution has no play in this area, imo.
We can see the evolution of brain size in the fossil record, and brain size is but one factor that sets us ap
It's an illusion of free will. Remember this:
I do. I might need to watch it again, but I seem to remember disagreeing with him.
 
@Caroljeen

Quotes from the article.

The nature of wholly material entities is that they function according to predictable patterns as determined by natural laws.
This is simply not true. At the quantum level, it is all random.

For example, consider the boiling of water. ... We might also consider a chain of dominos.
Chaos theory tells us this is not true either. Complex systems can behave in strange and surprising ways. That the author can think of some analogies where the consequences are predictable is hardly proof that that must always be the case.

If human beings are wholly material entities, having no immaterial aspect to their being (i.e. a soul), we are affected by the same deterministic cause and effect relationship all other wholly material things are affected by. In the same way water cannot decide to not boil, and dominos cannot decide to not fall, mankind cannot decide to think or do anything other than what physical precursors have determined for us. Every one of our thoughts and acts would be mere reactions to prior events--some invisible domino falling on us if you will. These thoughts and acts would not simply follow the cause, but would necessarily follow. Free will deliberation and independent thought are impossible in a wholly material world.
He is talking here about libertarian free will. On the other hand compatibilism does allow for both free will and determinism.



The author kind of admits this:

Naturalists will be the first to agree with this assessment. They recognize that free will and philosophic naturalism do not mix. Naturalist thinker, John Searle, wrote, "Our conception of physical reality simply does not allow for radical freedom."2 He admitted that there is no hope of reconciling libertarian freedom with naturalism when he wrote, "In order for us to have radical freedom, it looks as if we would have to postulate that inside each of us was a self that was capable of interfering with the causal order of nature. That is, it looks as if we would have to contain some entity that was capable of making molecules swerve from their paths. I don't know if such a view is even intelligible, but it's certainly not consistent with what we know about how the world works from physics."
However, the fact that he does not make clear the distinction makes me suspect he is conflating the two. He points out libertarian free will does not work with philosophic naturalism, but then concludes no free will is possible at all. Either he is not as well-read on the popic as he might be, or he is deliberately trying to mislead.

Only the existence of an immaterial soul can provide us with the free will necessary to employ reason to arrive at true, justified beliefs about the world. The soul--being immaterial in nature--transcends the physical realm, allowing us to transcend the determinism inherent to physical reality. When faced with prior physical forces acting on our physical stuff, we are not forced to react in a manner determined by those factors. Through the soul we are enabled to step back from the cause and effect cycle to adjudicate, deliberate, and then decide what we will believe or do. We can adjudicate between competing views based on the merits of the views themselves, independent of prior physical forces.
The justification here seems strained to say the least.

Why do we need free will to employ reason? If we see an apple fall, why should that not lead - inevitably and deterministically, in the right set of conditions - to discovering gravity?

And how does having a soul help in the process? His argument seems to be that if we have a soul then we are free to conclude the sky is pink! After all, we are not constrained by physical reality, so can think whatever we like! Seems to me this is a hinderance.

He says with a soul "we are enabled to step back from the cause and effect cycle to adjudicate"; why does consciousness not allow us to do that? Is it because the soul is mystical and unknown and so we can make up any BS about it? I strongly suspect it is. I see no practical difference here between a consciousness that supervenes on the physical brain and a soul that uses the brain as its channel with the physical world.

The soul allows us to be an unmoved, first-mover; "an agent that can act without sufficient causal conditions necessitating that the agent act--the agent is the absolute source of its own actions. … Only first-movers are the sources of action, not instrumental movers that merely receive motion passively and pass that on to the next member in a causal chain."
This is interesting, as the first mover argument for God says only God is an unmoved first mover. Thanks to the author for refuting that!

As it happens, radioactive decay is an example of an atom suddenly, randomly falling apart, which seems to contradict his claim.
 
Conclusion

If all that exists is the material world, man is a wholly material entity. And like all other material entities, he would be incapable of exercising free will. What we believe to be true is determined by physics, not the independent use of reason. Reason is an illusion of evolution, whose purpose is to help us survive and reproduce-not to facilitate the apprehension of truth. If reason cannot be trusted, then neither can the conclusions we come to using it. As such, we can never know if what we have come to believe as true has any corresponding relation to reality, or if it is a falsity forced on us by physics. For knowledge to be meaningfully related to reality requires the existence of some immaterial entity (soul) that can transcend the determinism inherent to a wholly material word. Such an immaterial entity begs for an immaterial source to explain its origin, and the most reasonable source is God.

And yet the existence of an entity like the soul, and the existence of a personal God are expressly denied by the philosophical naturalist. The atheist cannot claim to know God does not exist, while at the same time denying the very mechanism necessary to ground such a claim. The atheist finds himself in a predicament wherein he must embrace theism if he is going to try to make any meaningful claims at all concerning the non-existence of God. And if theism must be assumed before such an argument can be made, the argument for God's non-existence can no longer be made. In the end the atheist must confess that for him to know God does not exist, God must exist. That is self-contradictory.



Summary Argument

If there is no God everything is purely material, including ourselves. Material things do not make decisions, but respond in determined ways to prior physical events. They do not act, but simply react to prior physical factors. For any particular event there exists a series of prior physical events that not only result in the event, but necessitate it.

"If man is just physical stuff, then our "choices" and "knowledge" are like boiling water and falling dominos: they are necessary reactions to prior physical processes. There is no free will.

Where does the atheist's knowledge that God does not exist come from, then? Does it come from a free will evaluation of the evidence? No, his belief is the result of prior physical causes acting on his physical stuff. It is caused by the way prior physical events randomly played themselves out in his life. Ultimately the atheist's belief that there is no God is not based on good reasons, but good physics!

If materialism is true we cannot claim to know anything; we are simply led to believe them (whether they be true or false) by prior physical factors, and cannot believe anything else. If all that exists is the material world knowledge is determined by physics, not meaningful and objectively related to reality. For knowledge to be meaningfully related to reality requires the existence of some immaterial aspect to man (soul) that can transcend the determinism inherent to a purely physical word. Such an immaterial aspect to man begs for an immaterial source for its existence. That source must be God, because physical stuff cannot produce non-physical stuff, of which the soul is. Ultimately, then, God must exist for one to know He doesn't."

"If there is no God everything is purely material, including ourselves." False dichotomy.
 
Are "false beliefs" in reality necessary in order to connect with the truth?



If "Belief is always necessary for knowledge" and "It is how knowledge is defined", then in reality belief must be a form of knowledge.
No more than flour is a form of cake.
 
I'm not really anything. I was an idealist for a while when I was younger, and I'm still sympathetic to that view. I'm also sympathetic to panpsychism. But I don't presume to know the nature of reality.
Idealism- any of various systems of thought in which the objects of knowledge are held to be in some way dependent on the activity of mind-----It sounds like Tercon may have his own version of Idealism.
 
Let's assume that the first claim is true: knowledge requires an immaterial entity doing the knowing. The second sentence still wouldn't follow, in part because it doesn't consider the possibility of emergent properties. Solid entities, for example, don't require a solid source to explain their origin; they emerge from atoms and sub-atomic particles which are not themselves solid. So the implicit premise, "entities with a given property much have their origin in other entities with that same property" is false. And it's not even a premise which seems consistent with theism, because theists don't believe that all material entities had a material source to explain their origin; they believe in an immaterial source (God) for all material entities.

The argument also ignores the possibility that immaterial elements are a fundamental part of the universe as in pan-psychism. In that case, materialism would be false, but theism wouldn't necessarily be true.
Aren't atoms material as opposed to metaphysical? Can the immaterial arise from material processes?
 
The argument also ignores the possibility that immaterial elements are a fundamental part of the universe as in pan-psychism. In that case, materialism would be false, but theism wouldn't necessarily be true.
True, but the ubiquitous property of a mind would lead one to believe that a Mind was causal.

Pan-psychism - The doctrine or belief that everything material, however small, has an element of individual consciousness.
 
Ok, we agree on that.

We disagree on this but this isn't what we're talking about.

Right, I of course don't think that evolution is directed intentionally, but I think that it is guided by the mechanism of evolution. The best way I can put it is that it's not a totally random process.


We can see the evolution of brain size in the fossil record, and brain size is but one factor that sets us ap

I do. I might need to watch it again, but I seem to remember disagreeing with him.
Yes, this is a good summary of my understanding of your thoughts in regard to our prior discussion. Although I still think naturalism and materialism are deterministic as Coyne pointed out in the video. A free will would be inconsistent with those world views and an illusion.
 
Last edited:
Idealism- any of various systems of thought in which the objects of knowledge are held to be in some way dependent on the activity of mind-----It sounds like Tercon may have his own version of Idealism.
Idealism is often misunderstood as advocating for some kind of psychic mind-over-matter ability. (I'm not saying you misunderstand it, but only that you may have heard from people who did.) One of my favorite parodies of this misunderstanding is the George Berkeley entry in the "Philosophical Powers" action figure series. More serious is the quantum woo nonsense we see on the internet sometimes---but let that pass.

But I will explain my vision of idealism as simply as I can, by using a coffee mug as an example. What do we really know about this coffee mug sitting in front of me? Well it has a certain appearance---a pleasant cream colour, with an indented rim and a delicate-but-not-too-delicate handle. But those are just my visual experiences of the mug, they aren't properties of the mug itself. It is cool to the touch (when empty)---another part of my experience. It is "hard" in the way that glazed ceramics typically feel---again, something known through experience.

But can we say anything at all apart from our experience? Perhaps we could put the mug in a box so that I can no longer see or feel it. But I can still feel the weight of the mug in the box, if I pick it up. I can see the effects of the mug holding down the box from a gust of air. Etc. Again, these are all things about my experience, and not necessarily about the mug itself.

What about the atoms making up the mug?---surely we don't experience those. And indeed not. But atoms are just objects in our models to understand our experiences with the stuff of the mug, and those models are, once more, derived from experiment and observation---in a word, experience.

The eighteenth-century philosopher George Berkeley thought that there was nothing more to the mug beyond those kinds of experiential things. We can make models of the mug, or have mug-experiences, so to speak. But there is no such thing as the mug itself. Berkeley thought instead that God simply fed us a steady stream of mug-experiences such as He finds appropriate.

Later on, the German philosopher Immanuel Kant suggested that Berkeley was partially correct: We only have access to experience, not to the mug itself. But he disagreed with Berkeley about God feeding us experiences directly. Instead, Kant suggested that there really was such a thing as the mug itself, beyond our experience, but that we just can't know anything about it aside from the fact that it somehow produces mug-experiences.

In the twenty-first century, a philosopher friend of mine by the name of Michael Long, in unpublished conversations, also agreed with Kant and Berkeley that we only have access to our experience. He also agreed with Berkeley over Kant that there is no such thing as the mug itself. But, like Kant, he still disagreed with Berkeley about God feeding us experiences directly. On Long's view, the explanation of our mug-experiences lie in the regularity of experience, so that one experience causes another, rather than being caused by external, material objects. The mug, then is really just an object in our models of experience, to help us make sense of those experiences.

It is Long's view that I once held, although nowadays I'm agnostic about it.
 
Back
Top