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Cogito ergo sum

Here in the Philosophy forum we will talk about all the "why" questions. We'll have conversations about the way in which philosophy and theology and religion interact with each other. Metaphysics, ontology, origins, truth? They're all fair game so jump right in and have some fun! But remember...play nice!

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The so-called ''Burden of Proof''

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  • #16
    Originally posted by Stoic View Post

    My own estimate of the prior probability of God existing would depend on what properties one assigns to God. If one starts with a vague conception of God, as something which existed prior to the universe as we know it, and gave rise to the universe as we know it, and about which we know nothing else, then the prior probability would be reasonably high.
    That definition of "God" isn't quite what most people and philosophers think they mean when they talk about God. For example, I think of Something that is the First Cause/ultimate source of all being, the Last End/ultimate fulfillment that all men ought to seek, the Supreme Being greater than everything else that exists, without any kind of metaphysical limit, and absolutely unique. Personality optional.

    Most metaphysical systems of which I am aware have something fitting this description.

    But then it would also seem reasonable to consider it just an unknown part of the universe, where "universe" is properly understood to be everything that exists, or has existed, or will exist.
    By that definition of "universe," when an atheist says that the universe is all that exists, he isn't actually excluding anything.

    But if one considers God to be an omnipotent, omniscient being who has existed eternally, created the universe about six thousand years ago, inspired men to write an infallible Bible, still gets involved in controlling the world, and sends men to hell if they don't believe he exists, then I would consider the prior probability to be quite low, and the burden of proof to be correspondingly high.
    Well, I was only intending to discuss the prior probability of God existing. But, since you seem interested in the prior probability of Christianity specifically, I see no reason not to oblige you.

    I would say that we can divide the probability space into several subspaces. And you might be surprised at how high the probability of some form of Christianity (not necessarily the form you describe) might be.

    The first division is between that portion of the space where something corresponding to the "unique, unlimited First Cause, Last End, and Supreme Being" containing portion of the domain, and that which contains no such being. Given the intuitive plausibility and appeal of such an Entity, I see no pretheoretic reason to think that the portion containing It/Him would be exceedingly small, though I will concede that it would be somewhat smaller (perhaps an order of magnitude or two) than the portion where It/He does not exist.

    Then we may divide the subspace where It/He exists into a subspace where It is impersonal, and another where He is personal. Not having any good pretheoretic reasons for preferring one possibility over the other, we appeal to the principle of indifference/insufficient reason, and presume that He is personal in half of the probability space where He exists, and impersonal in the other half. So the probability of a personal God existing is between 0.05 and 0.005.

    Finally, for the subspace where He is personal, we may divide between the subspace where He has revealed Himself to man, and the subspace where He has not. Again, appealing to the principle of indifference/insufficient reason, we may presume that this once more cuts the probability space in half. So, the probability of God existing and having revealed Himself is between 0.025 and 0.0025.

    Finally, we use the principle of indifference/insufficient reason to divide the probability space among those religions that claim that God has in fact revealed Himself. If we go by sects/denominations, most of the probability will wind up with Christian and Islamic groups - the other revealed religions being smaller and more homogenous/less factional. So we should probably take a more balanced approach, dividing this portion of the space into the major religious traditions making the claim: Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Ba'hai. Which means that the prior probability of Christianity being true is between 0.005 and 0.0005. Low, but not so low that it cannot be overcome by solid historical evidence - particularly if accompanied by a suite of arguments for the existence of God.

    But I consider prior probabilities to be very subjective, so while I would be willing to discuss how we come up with them, I wouldn't insist that others agree with me about those probabilities. Instead, I expect that we would eventually agree to disagree.
    There is a certain level of subjectivity to assigning a prior probability, but there's certainly a distinction between reasonable assignments and unreasonable assignments. For an extremely high or extremely low prior probability, especially, one must show that one is not violating the principle of indifference/insufficient reason.

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    • #17
      Originally posted by DaveTheApologist View Post
      That definition of "God" isn't quite what most people and philosophers think they mean when they talk about God. For example, I think of Something that is the First Cause/ultimate source of all being, the Last End/ultimate fulfillment that all men ought to seek, the Supreme Being greater than everything else that exists, without any kind of metaphysical limit, and absolutely unique. Personality optional.

      Most metaphysical systems of which I am aware have something fitting this description.



      By that definition of "universe," when an atheist says that the universe is all that exists, he isn't actually excluding anything.



      Well, I was only intending to discuss the prior probability of God existing. But, since you seem interested in the prior probability of Christianity specifically, I see no reason not to oblige you.

      I would say that we can divide the probability space into several subspaces. And you might be surprised at how high the probability of some form of Christianity (not necessarily the form you describe) might be.

      The first division is between that portion of the space where something corresponding to the "unique, unlimited First Cause, Last End, and Supreme Being" containing portion of the domain, and that which contains no such being. Given the intuitive plausibility and appeal of such an Entity, I see no pretheoretic reason to think that the portion containing It/Him would be exceedingly small, though I will concede that it would be somewhat smaller (perhaps an order of magnitude or two) than the portion where It/He does not exist.
      I don't get the "intuitive plausibility and appeal" part. That may depend in large part upon one's upbringing.

      Then we may divide the subspace where It/He exists into a subspace where It is impersonal, and another where He is personal. Not having any good pretheoretic reasons for preferring one possibility over the other, we appeal to the principle of indifference/insufficient reason, and presume that He is personal in half of the probability space where He exists, and impersonal in the other half. So the probability of a personal God existing is between 0.05 and 0.005.

      Finally, for the subspace where He is personal, we may divide between the subspace where He has revealed Himself to man, and the subspace where He has not. Again, appealing to the principle of indifference/insufficient reason, we may presume that this once more cuts the probability space in half. So, the probability of God existing and having revealed Himself is between 0.025 and 0.0025.

      Finally, we use the principle of indifference/insufficient reason to divide the probability space among those religions that claim that God has in fact revealed Himself. If we go by sects/denominations, most of the probability will wind up with Christian and Islamic groups - the other revealed religions being smaller and more homogenous/less factional. So we should probably take a more balanced approach, dividing this portion of the space into the major religious traditions making the claim: Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Ba'hai. Which means that the prior probability of Christianity being true is between 0.005 and 0.0005. Low, but not so low that it cannot be overcome by solid historical evidence - particularly if accompanied by a suite of arguments for the existence of God.

      There is a certain level of subjectivity to assigning a prior probability, but there's certainly a distinction between reasonable assignments and unreasonable assignments. For an extremely high or extremely low prior probability, especially, one must show that one is not violating the principle of indifference/insufficient reason.
      Even if we were to agree on a prior probability, I expect we'd have some serious disagreements about conditional probabilities.

      Comment


      • #18
        Originally posted by Stoic View Post
        I don't get the "intuitive plausibility and appeal" part. That may depend in large part upon one's upbringing.
        As previously stated, most philosophical systems I'm aware of have something equivalent to God as I define Him. Something that appeals to Hellenic, Dharmic, Daoic, and Abrahamic minds is bound to have some kind of initial plausibility.


        Even if we were to agree on a prior probability, I expect we'd have some serious disagreements about conditional probabilities.
        I'd start by referring to the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology and Ed Feser's Five Proofs of God to start off with. The basic problems facing atheism - and particularly atheistic naturalism - involve contingency (why is there something rather than nothing?), the existence of abstract objects, the beginning of the universe, the fine-tuning of physical constants, the existence of consciousness, the existence of veridical reason, and the existence of objective moral values and duties. Each of these points towards something transcendent, most of them point towards something mind-like. For all of them, naturalism has to either yell "brute fact" or write an IOU based on the future findings of science.

        If the odds ratio between God's existence and Naturalism starts at 1:100, and each of the aforementioned items contributes 5 dB in favor of God's existence (which is pretty conservative for most of the arguments, imo), we end up with an odds ratio of about 30:1 in favor of God's existence over naturalism.

        Comment


        • #19
          Originally posted by DaveTheApologist View Post

          As previously stated, most philosophical systems I'm aware of have something equivalent to God as I define Him. Something that appeals to Hellenic, Dharmic, Daoic, and Abrahamic minds is bound to have some kind of initial plausibility.
          This sounds suspiciously like a version of argumentum ad populum to me.

          I'd start by referring to the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology and Ed Feser's Five Proofs of God to start off with. The basic problems facing atheism - and particularly atheistic naturalism - involve contingency (why is there something rather than nothing?), the existence of abstract objects, the beginning of the universe, the fine-tuning of physical constants, the existence of consciousness, the existence of veridical reason, and the existence of objective moral values and duties. Each of these points towards something transcendent, most of them point towards something mind-like. For all of them, naturalism has to either yell "brute fact" or write an IOU based on the future findings of science.

          If the odds ratio between God's existence and Naturalism starts at 1:100, and each of the aforementioned items contributes 5 dB in favor of God's existence (which is pretty conservative for most of the arguments, imo), we end up with an odds ratio of about 30:1 in favor of God's existence over naturalism.
          I'm a little confused. Earlier, you said "I will concede that (the portion of the probability space where something corresponding to the "unique, unlimited First Cause, Last End, and Supreme Being" exists) would be somewhat smaller (perhaps an order of magnitude or two) than the portion where It/He does not exist." Now you seem to be implying that contingency (why is there something rather than nothing?) improves the odds ratio in God's favor. That appears contradictory to me.

          Among the things I predict we will never reach agreement on are the existence of abstract objects (outside of minds), the beginning of the universe, and the existence of objective moral values and duties.

          Also, you have (not surprisingly) left out some things that might negatively affect the odds ratio, like the problem of suffering, and the significant evidence for the natural origins of man.

          Comment


          • #20
            Originally posted by Stoic View Post

            This sounds suspiciously like a version of argumentum ad populum to me.
            How else is one to establish that a claim's intuitive plausibility still holds regardless of upbringing, if not by showing that people from multiple cultures have found it plausible?



            I'm a little confused. Earlier, you said "I will concede that (the portion of the probability space where something corresponding to the "unique, unlimited First Cause, Last End, and Supreme Being" exists) would be somewhat smaller (perhaps an order of magnitude or two) than the portion where It/He does not exist." Now you seem to be implying that contingency (why is there something rather than nothing?) improves the odds ratio in God's favor. That appears contradictory to me.
            In the first instance, I was talking about the epistemic probability space, not the metaphysical space of possible worlds.

            "Pure Actuality is actual" is either word salad or a tautology. A priori, we have no knowledge which is the case. In my view, the contingency argument (or the Classical cosmological argument - both start with the same data and end in the same place) tips the scales decisively in favor of God.

            Among the things I predict we will never reach agreement on are the existence of abstract objects (outside of minds), the beginning of the universe, and the existence of objective moral values and duties.
            Do you disagree that they exist/occurred, or do you disagree that they point to God?

            Also, you have (not surprisingly) left out some things that might negatively affect the odds ratio, like the problem of suffering,
            Does that negatively affect the odds ratio?

            Conside that we start with the probability/credence of God existing split evenly between the revealed religions and an abstract set of possible God-concepts.

            In the abstract set of God-concepts, all we really know about God is that He is infinitely more superior to man than man is to a prokaryote. He has no more obligation to us than we have to the bacteria that live in our toilets. So the argument from evil fails here.

            If we move on to the revealed religions, not much changes. For example, the whole point of Christianity is that God suffered to redeem suffering, that God died to defeat death. Since this presupposes suffering, it's hard to see how the existence of suffering counts as evidence against it. If anything, it's a confirmed prediction, and raises the probability of Christianity. I'm sure that similar things could be said about Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Islam, and Ba'hai.

            So frankly, I don't see the evidential problem of evil getting off the ground in the first place.

            and the significant evidence for the natural origins of man.
            What we have is evidence that humans and chimpanzees are related, and that the transmission of information from the environment to a population's gene pool is a good explanation for biological complexity.

            What we don't have is an explanation for consciousness, semantic meaning, or human value in terms of complex biological systems, which is what we would need if we wanted to say that there was any evidence for man being a naturalistically respectable entity in the first place, let alone saying that there was evidence that he was produced entirely naturalistically.

            Comment


            • #21
              As far as 'burden of proof' neither side can resolve the question of 'proof.'

              From another thread I posted.


              It needs to be assumed by both perspectives that the existence of God nor the non-existence of God are not provable nor even conclusively rationally defendable positions. because neither position can be logically proven nor convincing to either side..

              The question at hand is 'What would it take for the atheist to believe in God?'


              The dominant view among what may be called Metaphysical Naturalists is not the belief that there is a logical argument that proves God does not exist, but that 'there is no reason nor objective verifiable evidence that God(s) exist.

              The Metaphysical Naturalist may argue that there is a rational argument basis not proof that our physical existence may be explained that the sources of our physical existence can be explained in terms of Natural Laws and and natural processes. There is no objective verifiable evidence for any other possible source.

              What argument could the Theist provide that would be rationally defendable alternative?
              Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
              Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man;
              But will they come when you do call for them? Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1, Act III:

              go with the flow the river knows . . .

              Frank

              I do not know, therefore everything is in pencil.

              Comment


              • #22
                Originally posted by DaveTheApologist View Post
                How else is one to establish that a claim's intuitive plausibility still holds regardless of upbringing, if not by showing that people from multiple cultures have found it plausible?
                I don't think there is any way to establish that a claim's intuitive plausibility still holds regardless of upbringing. Whether or not a claim is intuitively plausible is purely subjective.

                What is intuitively plausible for you may not be intuitively plausible for me.

                In the first instance, I was talking about the epistemic probability space, not the metaphysical space of possible worlds.

                "Pure Actuality is actual" is either word salad or a tautology. A priori, we have no knowledge which is the case. In my view, the contingency argument (or the Classical cosmological argument - both start with the same data and end in the same place) tips the scales decisively in favor of God.
                I don't doubt that, but those arguments don't really do anything for me.

                Do you disagree that they exist/occurred, or do you disagree that they point to God?
                I don't think that abstract objects and objective moral values and duties exist, and I don't think there is any way to know whether the universe had a beginning. (Further, I don't think it matters whether the universe had a beginning.)

                Does that negatively affect the odds ratio?

                Conside that we start with the probability/credence of God existing split evenly between the revealed religions and an abstract set of possible God-concepts.

                In the abstract set of God-concepts, all we really know about God is that He is infinitely more superior to man than man is to a prokaryote. He has no more obligation to us than we have to the bacteria that live in our toilets. So the argument from evil fails here.

                If we move on to the revealed religions, not much changes. For example, the whole point of Christianity is that God suffered to redeem suffering, that God died to defeat death. Since this presupposes suffering, it's hard to see how the existence of suffering counts as evidence against it. If anything, it's a confirmed prediction, and raises the probability of Christianity. I'm sure that similar things could be said about Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Islam, and Ba'hai.

                So frankly, I don't see the evidential problem of evil getting off the ground in the first place.
                Again, it depends on what properties one attributes to God in the first place. If God doesn't care that we suffer (or if our suffering is such a low priority for him that it just seems that way), then obviously suffering isn't an argument against God.

                What we have is evidence that humans and chimpanzees are related, and that the transmission of information from the environment to a population's gene pool is a good explanation for biological complexity.
                We also have pretty conclusive evidence that all life on earth is related, and evolved from comparatively simple primitive organisms.

                What we don't have is an explanation for consciousness, semantic meaning, or human value in terms of complex biological systems, which is what we would need if we wanted to say that there was any evidence for man being a naturalistically respectable entity in the first place, let alone saying that there was evidence that he was produced entirely naturalistically.
                Given that humans evolved naturally, and that humans have consciousness and values, it seems fair to assume that those things came about naturally, even if we can't explain all the details.

                What doesn't seem like a good explanation (to me) is that those features were magically bestowed upon otherwise natural creatures by a supernatural being.

                Comment


                • #23
                  Originally posted by DaveTheApologist View Post

                  As previously stated, most philosophical systems I'm aware of have something equivalent to God as I define Him. Something that appeals to Hellenic, Dharmic, Daoic, and Abrahamic minds is bound to have some kind of initial plausibility.
                  It is true that most 'religions' and belief systems have a belief in a 'Source'some call God(s), but not philosophies. Human fallibility to believe in many diverse conflicting beliefs is hardly justification for the belief in God. Plausibility from any one of these conflicting 'neliefs is far to subjective to be real, and all the different beliefs reject all other beliefs in one way or another.

                  Daoic? be;iefswouldnotuse 'Him.'


                  I'd start by referring to the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology and Ed Feser's Five Proofs of God to start off with. The basic problems facing atheism - and particularly atheistic naturalism - involve contingency (why is there something rather than nothing?), the existence of abstract objects, the beginning of the universe, the fine-tuning of physical constants, the existence of consciousness, the existence of veridical reason, and the existence of objective moral values and duties.
                  Extremely biased source based on subjective claims only justified by circular reasoning. Naturalism in its various form is based on 'objective verifiable evidence of Methodological Naturalism.

                  [/quote] Each of these points towards something transcendent, most of them point towards something mind-like. For all of them, naturalism has to either yell "brute fact" or write an IOU based on the future findings of science. [/quote]

                  Atheists and scientists do not 'yell brute fact' about anything, The 'present' evidence and knowledge of science is simply more than sufficient to beyond any reasonable doubt that our physical existence is fundamentally natural.

                  If the odds ratio between God's existence and Naturalism starts at 1:100, and each of the aforementioned items contributes 5 dB in favor of God's existence (which is pretty conservative for most of the arguments, imo), we end up with an odds ratio of about 30:1 in favor of God's existence over naturalism.
                  'Odds ratio?' is bad terminology and has no meaning. The only thing in favor of 'God is many conflicting 'subjective' cultural beliefs in God(s).
                  Last edited by shunyadragon; 01-06-2022, 07:43 AM.
                  Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
                  Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man;
                  But will they come when you do call for them? Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1, Act III:

                  go with the flow the river knows . . .

                  Frank

                  I do not know, therefore everything is in pencil.

                  Comment


                  • #24
                    What happened to Dave the Apologist? I liked him. He was up in here dividing subspaces and stuff.

                    Comment

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