Sunday, February 17, 2013

Christianity: Good or Bad for Mankind?

Last weekend, top Objectivist intellectual Andrew Bernstein debated Christian apologist Dinesh D’Souza on the topic ‘Christianity: Good or Bad for Mankind?

New Atheists,” such as Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, and Michael Shermer, have debated Mr. D’Souza in the past, but their critiques of Christianity have been based on skepticism, subjectivism and relativism. In short, they’ve argued  on the basis od uncertainty, and have failed to properly critique religion’s history or offer any rational alternative to religious ethics.

Dr. Bernstein’s case against Christianity however (and against religion in general) is grounded in Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism.  How did this play out? Watch and see:

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50 Comments:

Anonymous Terry said...

To be impartial and declare a winner, one needs to assess the debate without importing one's existing knowledge of Objectivism and Christianity and instead rely solely on the points made by the two speakers.

I submit that neither speaker addressed the other's main point.

Dr. Bernstein won the debate using the standard of facts and reason. But because Dr. Bernstein did not point out the invalidity of asserting the arbitrary, Dr. D'Souza could be said to have won the debate 'on faith'.

The reality is that nobody can argue the case better than Miss Rand did:

"There is a great, basic contradiction in the teachings of Jesus. Jesus was one of the first great teachers to proclaim the basic principle of individualism -- the inviolate sanctity of man's soul, and the salvation of one's soul as one's first concern and highest goal; this means -- one's ego and the integrity of one's ego. But when it came to the next question, a code of ethics to observe for the salvation of one's soul -- (this means: what must one do in actual practice in order to save one's soul?) -- Jesus (or perhaps His interpreters) gave men a code of altruism, that is, a code which told them that in order to save one's soul, one must love or help or live for others. This means, the subordination of one's soul (or ego) to the wishes, desires or needs of others, which means the subordination of one's soul to the souls of others.

This is a contradiction that cannot be resolved. This is why men have never succeeded in applying Christianity in practice, while they have preached it in theory for two thousand years. The reason of their failure was not men's natural depravity or hypocrisy, which is the superficial (and vicious) explanation usually given. The reason is that a contradiction cannot be made to work. That is why the history of Christianity has been a continuous civil war -- both literally (between sects and nations), and spiritually (within each man's soul)."

[Ayn Rand, in a letter to Sylvia Austin, dated July 9, 1946]

2/17/2013 10:21:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those who place great importance on denying the Christian god exists are actually helping Christian ideas to spread. Christian traditions are clever and sneaky like that. So God bless you.

2/17/2013 09:43:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought Bernstein was mediocre in any practical measure and deviated from Christianity to "religion" generally. He rubbishes faith but his position holds onto faith in some unprovens just as much as the Christian position requires. His position allows anyone to do anything - its all about you and there no absolutes. Society cannot survive this approach.

Based on the quote Rand misses the whole point of Jesus Christ. Once salvation occurs the code of ethics issue vanishes and a process of divinely inspired reflection and adjustment begins to shift the converted's character. It is expected these changes will, over time, be visible as practical improvements - the thief stops thieving etc....

In this world we never rise above mediocrity but the forgiveness remains alive and well for the next.

3:16

2/17/2013 11:48:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Miss Rands argument is possibly the worst philosophical interpretation of Christianity that I have ever read. It initially ignores God, then it ignores faith and hope and love replacing it with selfishness and a rejection of authority. Then it is sexist because she self-righteously proclaims "men" have never succeeded in its application which is a lie. Then she blames Christianity for wars which is also another lie, wars are caused by political nationalism. I personally don't have a civil war going on in my soul because of Christianity.

2/18/2013 09:38:00 am  
Anonymous Terry said...

Anonymous - Ayn Rand's observation is spot on.

If Christianity's code of ethics, however one interprets it, could NOT save one's soul, would you subscribe to it, let-a-lone attempt to adhere to it? I think not. So her point is proven.

Her reference to 'men' is correct english - 'men' in the sense she uses the word means persons of both gender. Look up the dictionary. Note that 'Men' used to exclusively refer to persons of both gender until the 13th Century, prior to which 'Wer' and 'Wif' were the gender specific terms.

>>"Then she blames Christianity for wars which is also another lie, wars are caused by political nationalism"

How was, for example, the French War of Religion which killed millions "caused by political nationalism"?

"I personally don't have a civil war going on in my soul because of Christianity."

Miss Rand's metaphor refers to the conflict one necessarily experiences when one subscribes to altruism (per the term's original meaning) as one's code of morality. If you experience no such inner conflict, then you must only be a Christian in name. To be a Christian and not 'suffer' is a contradiction in terms. What is 'suffering' if it is not internal conflict?

2/18/2013 10:35:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To terry

Miss Rands point is not proven because hypothetic impossibilities are not reality. If you were to ask instead what type of person would I be without the "code" the answer is fairly self evident. I would be a bitter twisted athiest who would take pleasure in tearing down anything that had virtue, just like eg Dawkins.

Miss Rand is sexist because she uses the term "men" not "man". She would say for instance "this is why man has never succeeded".

You might also check your history books rather than using excessive exaggeration in terms of statistic numbers.

I am sorry but suffering is internal conflict how exactly?

2/18/2013 11:18:00 am  
Anonymous Ben said...

Rand 'borrowed' her most insightful anti-Christian rhetoric from Nietzsche but one thing she didn't get was why Christians promote selflessness as a virtue.

Nietzsche believed this was due to the selfishness of individual Christians in society, since they would rather live in a society full of people who put the interests of others before themselves.

In other words, it was never a genuine tenet to live by but a matter of 'do as I say, not as I do'

2/18/2013 11:39:00 am  
Anonymous Terry said...

Anonymous -

I agree that hypothetic impossibilities cannot exist in reality, but you check your premises you will discover that it is not I who is dealing in hypothetic impossibilities.

To argue that something is true simply because you don't like what you see as the alternative is not proof of anything except that you let your preferences dictate what is true for you.

The reality is that there is more than the one bleak alternative you posit.

Miss Rand's philosophy of Objectivism provides one with an uplifting, life-affirming and reality based code of morality with which to achieve a life worth living and a soul worth living it.

>>"Miss Rand is sexist because she uses the term "men" not "man".

Clearly you have not read much of her, because she would use both terms, as appropriate per their dictionary meaning.

>"You might also check your history books rather than using excessive exaggeration in terms of statistic numbers."

According to his profile at Random House, Robert Jean Knecht (born 20 September 1926) is a historian, an expert on 16th century France, Emeritus Professor of French history at the University of Birmingham, where he taught during 1956–1994. He estimates that between 2 and 4 million died as a result of the The French Religious Wars (http://necrometrics.com/pre1700a.htm - see point 27)

How am I exaggerating?


>>"I am sorry but suffering is internal conflict how exactly?"

The human mind is designed to integrate information without contradiction. To introduce a contradiction is to create an internal (i.e. mental/emotional) conflict - to create mental indigestion for oneself.

Per Wikipedia: "Suffering is the basic element that makes up the negative valence of affective phenomena."

Do you deny that suffering is an integral element of being a Christian?

How can it be possible to subscribe to the idea of Original Sin (an inner conflict-inducing contradiction which requires one to accept an unearned guilt) without also subscribing to the idea that suffering is necessary to atone for one's sins?

2/18/2013 12:34:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"If Christianity's code of ethics, however one interprets it, could NOT save one's soul"

It can but we can't comply with the requirements so need to rely on the one who could and did. The concept of redemption is easy, the fact of it amazing and my ongoing mistakes disappointing. There is a constant remorse at that personal level but the persecution of believers generally remains as real today as its always been whenever they challenge the world's shonky morality, politics and ethics. Berrnstein just abandons us to our base animal emotions.

My shortcomings don't detract from the merit of the redemption and I don't need to atone because someone else did that for me. Jesus is effectively saying do as I do while knowing we can't and covering our sorry arses. If there's a bigger bargain I've not seen it.

3:16

2/18/2013 03:56:00 pm  
Anonymous Terry said...

Anonymous -

>>"Bernstein just abandons us to our base animal emotions. "

Did you even watch the video? Dr. Bernstein proposed in it an alternative moral code that rejects our 'animal emotions' in favor of reason.

>>"Jesus is effectively saying do as I do while knowing we can't and covering our sorry arses. If there's a bigger bargain I've not seen it."

And if there's been a bigger con, I've not seen it.

What are you supposed to be gaining? What are you giving up in exchange?

I submit that you've been had.

"I don't need to atone because someone else did that for me."

Ah, but you do need to atone; you are required to willingly undercut your own mind by accepting and maintaining a host of contradictions, and in so doing evict yourself from reality.

What greater price could one ask you to pay than to give up your mind, which, if you define it by a rational standard *is* your soul?

2/18/2013 05:35:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Terry

With regard to casuality of Religious wars, the honest history books say they don't have a clue.

There is not enough information. This becomes evident when the guestimate is within the range 2 to 4 million. I am fully unconvinced that based on the battles and the time in question, the figure is considerably less.

But thats not my point. I stated that wars are generally caused by political nationalism. What you did was present one instance of religious war, though that too was political, and left the political nationalism basket empty. That is argument of ommission. You are in effect comparing 2 million to 0. Do the honest thing and measure correctly.

Sorry Terry but Christianity is not a contradiction. As I have said it can only be construed that way if it is not understood, as Miss Rand shows.

All in all I find it unusual that the people who know most about Christianity are the ones against it? And then they tell the defenders of Christianity that they are obviously not Christian. Hmm.

2/18/2013 06:32:00 pm  
Anonymous Terry said...

Anonymous -


>>"But thats not my point. I stated that wars are generally caused by political nationalism."

You are now shifting your ground. Your claim was "wars are caused by political nationalism", not "generally caused".

This original statement implied that no wars have ever been caused by nor justified on the grounds of the Christian faith, which is blatantly false.

I could have added in the Crusades, the Reconquista and the Thirty Years' War. All were fought on religious grounds, primarily. The original crusaders were even known by terms such as fideles Sancti Petri (the faithful of Saint Peter) or milites Christi (knights of Christ). How does that translate to their fighting for "political nationalism"?

No doubt non-religious wars have killed more people than religious wars, but that was not the point being made, nor is it relevant. Not only has now war ever been fought in the name of atheism, I submit that no soldier has ever fought in the name of Atheism. Atheism itself isn't a principle, cause, philosophy, or belief system which people fight, die, or kill for. Being killed by an atheist is no more being killed in the name of atheism than being killed by a tall person is being killed in the name of tallness. What all wars have in common is that none of them have men of reason fighting as the aggressors.

>>"Christianity is not a contradiction"

The Christian faith involves a number of contradictions that one must accept in order to be a called a Christian. To name the two most obvious ones in the New Testament:

1) Resurrection (that the dead can be brought back to life)

2) Original Sin (one has free-will but is guilty before exercising it)


>>"As I have said it can only be construed that way if it is not understood, as Miss Rand shows. "

As I have said, Miss Rand was spot on. Your answer to my question that reiterated Miss Rand's point ("If Christianity's code of ethics, however one interprets it, could NOT save one's soul, would you subscribe to it, let-a-lone attempt to adhere to it?") was a cop-out. If you were to answer it honestly, you would need to accept Miss Rand's point that saving one's soul - and egoistic motive - is the fundamental aim of Christian ethics.

>>'All in all I find it unusual that the people who know most about Christianity are the ones against it?"

This is because the fastest way to become an atheist is to read the Bible.

2/18/2013 08:01:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Dr. Bernstein proposed in it an alternative moral code that rejects our 'animal emotions' in favor of reason."

Yes he does but reason remains an abstract that develops as we see here. Your view of it is different to mine and you seem to think I need to shift position because your version of reason is more compelling than mine. I don't see this as enlightened and on that basis it seems, to me, to be just so much base instinct. We may reason at a higher level than animals but that doesn't mean the basics are different. If we are on a whole different plane to animals how or why did that come about?

Painting your enlightened view of reason in clourful language doesn't automatically make it more appealing to me. Various people will have reasoned their way to believing something I think is foolish. Just as you think I have when I form a view that the biblical account cannot be casually dismissed as nonsense because there are things in it that I find hard to see fitting with the laws we know nature works under.

How boring if we were all on the same page - there'd be no fantastic debates to watch.

3:16

2/18/2013 09:53:00 pm  
Anonymous Terry said...

Anonymous -


>>"Reason remains an abstract that develops as we see here"

If one forms concepts inductively without permitting contradictions, then all of one's abstract concepts are ultimately rest hierarchically upon the perceptual, which means derived from reality, which means they are *true*.

We differ, Anonymous, because you have at some point in your life unwittingly chosen to form your concepts non-inductively and/or permitted contradictions to exist. As a result you have turned your eyes inward by choosing "faith" over reason, which now permits you to see reality only in abstract terms not connected to reality, yet you are able to perceive figments of your imagination as if they were real. Such is your predicament.

>>"You seem to think I need to shift position because your version of reason is more compelling than mine."

There are no "versions" of reason anymore than there are "versions" of reality. One either accepts reality as one's only absolute, or one does not. One also either accepts non-contradictory reasoning (there is no other kind!) to be one's only means to knowing reality, or one does not.

>>"I don't see this as enlightened and on that basis it seems, to me, to be just so much base instinct."

What precisely don't you see as enlightened? Is it that I insist that we share a common reality, or that I insist that our only means to knowing it is by not permitting contradictions to exist?

>"We may reason at a higher level than animals but that doesn't mean the basics are different."

Animals do not possess the faculty of reason. As far as we know, all animals operate on either the sensory or perceptual levels of awareness. For example, a dog can be taught to associate two of something with a command, but it cannot be trained to abstract the concept 'two' from what it perceives and apply it to other commands. It can associate the words "good boy" with what it did and what it will receive as a result, but it cannot abstract and understand the concepts "good" or "boy".

>> "If we are on a whole different plane to animals how or why did that come about?"

That is for science to answer. But to be clear, that "whole different plane" is our faculty of reasoning and the faculty of volition which accompanies it. It is your *ability* to create a figment of your imagination and then decide that it is real.

>>"Various people will have reasoned their way to believing something I think is foolish."

I refer you to my first point above re the need to form concepts inductively and without contradictions.

2/18/2013 11:21:00 pm  
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2/19/2013 04:18:00 am  
Blogger Blair said...

I am sure one can be moral without Christianity, just as one can obtain sustenance without meat. But I cannot fathom why one would be content to try either of those things.

(yes, I know, probably a bad argument on this particular blog...)

2/19/2013 08:08:00 am  
Anonymous Barry said...

@Terry

"...perceptual, derived from reality, which means they are true"

That is hopelessly wrong. Our perceptions are very much flawed. What does reality look like? Humans can only see a tiny fraction of the light spectrum, and there are plenty of animals with better vision in other aspects as well. To say there is only one reality and it's the one humans perceive is just ignorant.

Likewise, whether we like it or not, our instincts and emotions have much more influence on our behaviour than 'reason'

2/19/2013 11:46:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"As far as we know..."

The "we" should be "I" but at last, something I can agree with because its reasonable and states "we" don't know everything.

3:16

2/19/2013 12:14:00 pm  
Anonymous Terry said...

Barry -

>"That is hopelessly wrong. Our perceptions are very much flawed. What does reality look like?

Isn't that the point? I.e. That reality "looks like" (and smells like, and sounds like, etc) how our perceptions presents it to us?

What something *is* (as opposed to what it looks like) is identified by our reason, using concepts. We use reason to identify what is, and, what is real.

You may bemoan in your reply that we can't know reality as is *really* is, i.e. Divorced from our sense perception and reason. That was Kant's argument which Ayn Rand refuted perfectly and poetically with the following: "[Kant's] argument amounted to a negation, not only of man’s consciousness, but ofany consciousness, of consciousness as such. His argument, in essence, ran as follows: man is limitedto a consciousness of a specific nature, which perceives by specific means and no others, therefore, his consciousness is not valid; man is blind, because he has eyes—deaf, because he has ears—deluded, because he has a mind—and the things he perceives do not exist, because he perceives them." [from 'For the New Intellectual', page 30]

>"Humans can only see a tiny fraction of the light spectrum, and there are plenty of animals with better vision in other aspects as well. To say there is only one reality and it's the one humans perceive is just ignorant."

We all perceive and experience the same reality, it's just that we perceive and experience it from different perspectives. Whether our perception of it is accurate or not is determined by how effectively we govern the use of our reason in comprehending it.

Humans make up for that which they cannot perceive directly through the use of reason. We know for example about violet light even though we cannot directly perceive it. The same could not be said for animals in respect of phenomena they cannot directly perceive.


>"Likewise, whether we like it or not, our instincts and emotions have much more influence on our behaviour than 'reason'"

That is a personal choice – it is called 'free will'. You can exercise your free will and attempt to integrate my points above with your existing knowledge using your reason, or you can evade that effort because it makes you "feel" uncomfortable. Up to you.

2/19/2013 03:10:00 pm  
Anonymous Terry said...

Anonymous -

>"something I can agree with because its reasonable and states "we" don't know everything."

I never claimed that we know everything. Obviously we don't, nor ever can. But what we do know, we know, provided one arrives at that knowledge via the correct means.

2/19/2013 03:14:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Terry, you and Rand have totally missed the essence of Christianity.

We're all imperfect and cannot redeem ourselves through works (Rand's 'code of ethics'). The only way to salvation is through Jesus.

Once we ARE Christians, and therefore saved, we must do our best to stop sinning. As Tim Keller says (roughly), just as you'd expect to see a lot of unwell people in a hospital, so too you will find plenty of very flawed people in a church.

Reason and empiricism are important ways to find many truths, but are not sufficient for God, who exists whether or not we can get our heads around it, and whose commandments also exist no matter how inconvenient or distasteful modern day liberals (and Christians) may find them.


2/19/2013 11:29:00 pm  
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2/19/2013 11:35:00 pm  
Anonymous Barry said...

Terry - Ayn Rand most certainly did not refute Kant: Any philosophy professor at any of the world's top universities would tell you that.

You say that we don't know everything, but what we do know, we know. You should be able to see the contradiction there. For example a few decades ago scientists 'knew' the universe had always existed. Then Hawking & co showed otherwise.

And if your philosophical education didn't start and finish with Rand you would realise that the issue of free will is much more complicated: You don't use reason to determine your sexuality

2/19/2013 11:38:00 pm  
Anonymous Terry said...

Anonymous -

The fact is that Christianity, like with all claims to knowing the existence of God, rests on a logical fallacy, namely, an appeal to ignorance.

Christianity just happens to be the "biggest bargain" out there, i.e. "through Jesus" one may renounce one's mind with the least amount of pain and effort. Like ripping off a plaster super quick. One need only "believe" that one is inherently evil and that Jesus is one's savior and viola! - God's existence is proven and one's soul is saved - two bird's with one stone!

Hypnotists use the same basic technique to put people under their influence.

2/20/2013 09:11:00 am  
Anonymous Terry said...

Barry -

>>"Any philosophy professor at any of the world's top universities would tell you that"
>>"Then Hawking & co showed otherwise."

You are arguing by an appeal to authority – a logical fallacy. Neither of the above are arguments - they are cop–outs at best and an intellectual capitulation at worst.

"You don't use reason to determine your sexuality"

I never claimed that one does (unless by 'determine' you mean 'identify' in which case I would say that it does), making this both a red herring argument *and* an argument from association - both logical fallacies.

2/20/2013 09:22:00 am  
Anonymous tspoon said...

People in predominantly christian countries are generally found by survey to be happier than those in predominantly secular countries. In case that fact is not admissable, they also report lower rates of suicide, which is somewhat harder to falsify as evidence. Using Miss Rands' very own definitions, we have a winner.

We also have the experiment known as the 20th century, where a large and powerful secular country was in very earnest opposition to, and in competition with, a large and powerful christian country. Again, using Rands' own metric, one of those countries was clearly a superior place in which to be(even if not perfect). The christian country also outperformed the secular one in terms of scientific progress.

Sure, other factors come in to it. But if Christianity was as much of a constraint as atheists like to claim, the Christian country should have come second. Clearly, Christianity, at the very least, can be dismissed as such a constraint, and a case can be made that in fact Christianity has been beneficial to human society.

2/20/2013 09:28:00 am  
Anonymous Terry said...

tspoon -

>>" In case that fact is not admissable, they also report lower rates of suicide, which is somewhat harder to falsify as evidence. Using Miss Rands' very own definitions, we have a winner."

Lower rates of suicide only proves that more people want to survive, and has nothing to do with rating their happiness. Wanting to survive does not equate to being happy!


>>"We also have the experiment known as the 20th century, where a large and powerful secular country was in very earnest opposition to, and in competition with, a large and powerful christian country. Again, using Rands' own metric, one of those countries was clearly a superior place in which to be(even if not perfect). The christian country also outperformed the secular one in terms of scientific progress. "

Which Christian country??

"The National Government ... regards Christianity as the foundation of our national morality" [Adolf
Hitler, speech delivered in Berlin 1 February 1933]

"It is Christians and not international atheists who now stand at the head of Germany." [Adolf Hitler, speech delivered at Stuttgart, February 15, 1933]

"I am now as before a Catholic and will always remain so." [Adolf Hitler in 1941 to General Gerhart Engel. In John Toland (1992). Adolf Hitler. New York: Anchor Publishing, p. 507.]

The U.S. is not superior because of it's Christianity (a claim which itself is not true, since the US is not a Theocracy) - it is superior because of it's (historical) respect for individual rights and the limits put on government protect them - something that was identified by the use of reason, not the Bible.

The former USSR was not inferior or more brutal because of it's atheism, it was so because of it's irrationalism, which lead to having no respect for the individual and his rights since only reason is able to identify said rights.

2/20/2013 10:46:00 am  
Anonymous Barry said...

Terry: You are the one asserting the 'argument from authority' except your 'authority' is Rand, who is a cult figure for the American right wing rather than a respected philosopher.

My reference to Stephen Hawking was simply pointing out how our understanding of reality changes over time. If you quoted anyone 50 years ago about what 'objective reality' was, they would look very ignorant regardless of how good their reasoning faculties were.

If you understand that you don't choose your sexuality then you have at least some insight into the limitations of free will. Hardly a red herring.

2/20/2013 01:09:00 pm  
Anonymous Terry said...

Barry -


>>" You are the one asserting the 'argument from authority' except your 'authority' is Rand"

Quoting someone's valid argument and giving them credit for that argument, as I did with Miss Rand, is not an appeal to authority - it's an appeal to the argument without plagarizing it. Stating someone else's position on a matter and pointing out their 'qualification' as the basis for that position's truth, as you did, *is* an appeal to authority.

>>"My reference to Stephen Hawking was simply pointing out how our understanding of reality changes over time. "

And what? When one claims that X is true, implicit in that claim (if one is rational) is that it is true only within the context of one's existing knowledge. If one is objective, one will correctly assess the truth as being either possible, probable or certain. Valid scientific claims to knowledge do not drop the contextual nature of the claims they make and so can never contradict themselves by future discoveries about the nature of things.

>>"If you understand that you don't choose your sexuality then you have at least some insight into the limitations of free will. Hardly a red herring."

Properly understood, free will is very limited indeed, it is limited your choice to think or not.

2/20/2013 05:05:00 pm  
Anonymous Terry said...

Barry -


>>" You are the one asserting the 'argument from authority' except your 'authority' is Rand"

Quoting someone's valid argument and giving them credit for that argument, as I did with Miss Rand, is not an appeal to authority - it's an appeal to the argument without plagarizing it. Stating someone else's position on a matter and pointing out their 'qualification' as the basis for that position's truth, as you did, *is* an appeal to authority.

>>"My reference to Stephen Hawking was simply pointing out how our understanding of reality changes over time. "

And what? When one claims that X is true, implicit in that claim (if one is rational) is that it is true only within the context of one's existing knowledge. If one is objective, one will correctly assess the truth as being either possible, probable or certain. Valid scientific claims to knowledge do not drop the contextual nature of the claims they make and so can never contradict themselves by future discoveries about the nature of things.

>>"If you understand that you don't choose your sexuality then you have at least some insight into the limitations of free will. Hardly a red herring."

Properly understood, free will is very limited indeed, it is limited your choice to think or not.

2/20/2013 05:05:00 pm  
Anonymous tspoon said...

Terry, your Hitler quotes are a clear attempt to take the discussion into very non-productive territory. He was no atheist, and in terms of human misery he was an amateur compared to his atheist contemporaries of the same century. In terms of belief, the most commonly accepted theory is that he and his inner circle had some brand of pagan beliefs. I'll leave it at that, to avoid you having to break out that most excrutiatingly embarrassing use of the 'no true scotsman' argument that we often see at this point.

2/21/2013 10:39:00 am  
Anonymous Terry said...

tspoon -

Hitler's proclaiming Germany's and his own Christianity was obviously meant to be an aside. My main point was the point that historical atrocities are not a fundamentally a theist/atheist argument, they are a reason/unreason argument - a point you avoided in your reply.

2/21/2013 11:58:00 am  
Anonymous Barry said...

Terry: Rand's argument is not valid. This would be apparent to most people at first glance but since you didn't get it I tried to offer some broader perspective.

"When one claims that X is true, implicit in that claim..."

You seem to understand this point better than Bernstein in the debate. He claims to know through logic that certain aspects of the big bang are false. He is almost as dogmatic and close-minded as a Christian.

"Properly understood, free will is very limited indeed, it is limited your choice to think or not"

Not that simple at all. You are free to choose what you want for lunch but what is behind that choice? Your subconscious. Actual philosophy is much more in-depth than what Rand had to offer.

2/21/2013 12:23:00 pm  
Anonymous Terry said...

Barry -


>>"Rand's argument is not valid. This would be apparent to most people at first glance but since you didn't get it I tried to offer some broader perspective."

You still have provided not a shred of evidence to refute Miss Rand's argument, except an argument from authority, which is not an argument at all.

>>"You are free to choose what you want for lunch but what is behind that choice? Your subconscious."

Wrong. What is behind the choice, ultimately, is thought. How could you know possibly that you want a ham sandwich for lunch, or what lunch is, or even that what you feel is hunger, without first having had conceptualized each of those things, i.e. chosen to think? That is what free-will pertains to. If you feel like a ham sandwich (something that is NOT under the control of your free will) but then remember you are on a diet so decide to engage in some thinking to calculate the calories and instead choose something else, it is only the choice to engage in or to avoid that process of thinking which is an act of free will.

2/21/2013 03:05:00 pm  
Anonymous Barry said...

Terry: Anyone who knows anything about Kant would recognise instantly Rand's misunderstanding of his views.

Notice how she doesn't actually quote Kant in context; she puts up her own synthetic strawman argument then refutes it. Hardly "perfect and poetic"

- Regarding your subconscious: What is behind someone's decision to go on a diet in the first place? It isn't as simple as 'reason' - anyone at any weight can suddenly decide they need to go on a diet.

Like I said before you need to read some actual philosophy and it will give you a whole new level of insight.

2/22/2013 01:52:00 pm  
Anonymous Terry said...

Barry -


So, I take it that you know little to nothing of Kant or Rand because you still have not tabled an actual argument, just a slew of non-arguments replying on logical fallacies.

Miss Rand encapsulated Kant's position perfectly in her above analogy. If you were to actually read her work you'd find that she did quote him in context many times. She formulated her philosophy on it's own merits, not as a response to Kant's failures. To quote Senica, she "criticized by creation".

>>"Regarding your subconscious: What is behind someone's decision to go on a diet in the first place? It isn't as simple as 'reason' - anyone at any weight can suddenly decide they need to go on a diet. "

How can one conceptualize "diet" without employing thought – i.e. reason? Why is it that no animal in history has ever 'chosen' to go on a diet?

>>"Like I said before you need to read some actual philosophy and it will give you a whole new level of insight."

What do you know of what I have or have not read?

2/22/2013 03:41:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"just a slew of non-arguments replying on logical fallacies."

Just a question Terry, if I may be so bold, based on a presumption that I should reason that Christianity is so much bollocks.

If we go back far enough in time the evidence of stuff becomes increasingly flimsy but we can reason that doesn't make events at that time no less real.

I think that intelligent people like Luke of the Gospels wrote about things that were first hand knowledge and people like him went their deaths rather than recant because they were convinced by what they had actually seen warranted sticking to their position. They were not Islamists that go off at the drop of a hat.

Do I really have to accept that to accept this position is unsuportable if I use reason?

I reason that debating reason will eventually lead to me going nuts because my level of reason is inadequate to consider everything reasonably. I don't know about much but chose to believe some things in the absence of good evidence I should not. To do otherwise means we all think alike so are clones in a collective without free will.

Its nowhere I want to be.

3;16

2/22/2013 08:25:00 pm  
Anonymous Barry said...

Terry- The passage you refered to didn't quote Kant at all - let alone in context.

Rand called Kant 'evil' because he cautioned against the kind of arrogant absolutism she was fond of.

To quote Rand's 'Philosophy: Who needs it' "The universe as a whole cannot be created or annihilated, it cannot go into or out of existence"

Not only is this logically fatuous: Advances in astrophysics over the last few decades have shown this view to be dead wrong. Rand should have listened to Kant.

- The fact that humans can reason better than animals doesn't address the limitations of free will.

- The only people who believe Rand refuted Kant are philosophically ignorant. Hence my comment about the world's top universities. The only alternative is that this is a coincidence, which would not be a rational conclusion.

2/22/2013 09:14:00 pm  
Anonymous Terry said...

Anonymous -

>>If we go back far enough in time the evidence of stuff becomes increasingly flimsy but we can reason that doesn't make events at that time no less real."

The only evidence of the "events" that gives rise to the claims of Christianity is the translated and copied written testimony of a few men from 2000 or so years ago - testimonies which include a screed of contradictions, not only against each other, but against the Law of Identity (refer back to my comment above). The former is a hum-dinging mind-number, the latter a fait-accompli against reason.

Furthermore, Christianity proclaims that all men except Jesus (who himself gave no written testimony) are sinners. Think about it. Even if one accepts Jesus as being one's Lord and savior, Christianity still says that 'believers' remain morally imperfect, where all one's 'faith' does is earn God's forgiveness. So, by it's own declaration, the whole doctrine of Christianity and all of it's claims rest upon the testimony of supposedly 'forgiven' sinners which has been copied by sinners, translated by sinners, and is now being read by you, a supposed sinner. You must have more faith in the Church than even in Jesus' claims to accept what the Bible says. Given the church's history of bloodshed, incest, supporting Nazis, etc, what is your conclusion about their reliability?

Even if you accept that through this labyrinth of Chinese Whispers the "Truth" is still trustworthy as it has been delivered to you today, then you still need to account for the reliability of the testimony of the original disciples. Even the most sincere eyewitness testimony is unreliable due to the fallibility of memory and perception interpretation where the use of logic has not been correctly employed.

I submit to you that you any person claiming that the testimony of the Bible makes the events recorded in it "real" is either pulling one over you or does not grasp what rationality, reason, or logic entails.

>>"I reason that debating reason will eventually lead to me going nuts because my level of reason is inadequate to consider everything reasonably."

As with all valid axioms, they must be employed in any attack against them. The *validity* of reason cannot be attacked with reason. You can only choose to feel instead of think. That is the only choice you have. Only one will guide you to knowing truth about reality and a flourishing life.

>>"I don't know about much but chose to believe some things in the absence of good evidence I should not. "

This is simply an appeal to ignorance, a logical fallacy. It establishes nothing you say as being 'real'.

2/22/2013 11:23:00 pm  
Anonymous Terry said...

Barry -

>>"The passage you refered to didn't quote Kant at all – let alone in context."

I never claimed once that Miss Rand was quoting Kant in her passage above – what she did was encapsulate and then paraphrase his epistemological position by way of analogy. I said that in doing so she *refuted* him perfectly.

>>"Rand called Kant 'evil' because he cautioned against the kind of arrogant absolutism she was fond of."

Can you not see the blatant contradiction involved with making this statement? Namely (paraphrasing here), "Anyone who claims certainty about anything is arrogant and thus evil". Of course, implied in the statement is that the statement itself is certain.

>>"To quote Rand's 'Philosophy: Who needs it' "The universe as a whole cannot be created or annihilated, it cannot go into or out of existence"

Not only is this logically fatuous: Advances in astrophysics over the last few decades have shown this view to be dead wrong."

Or, could it not be that astrophysicians have overstepped their mark in making a philosophical claim? How is it logically fatuous? Logically, something cannot come from nothing. Why? Because the Law of Identity forbids it (i.e. A = A, what is, is). The universe is defined as "everything that exists" - it is the total 'whole' of all that there is, not only what we can see or know. How can it come into being? The only logical fatuousness here is your claim that there once was nothing and then suddenly, from nowhere, there is something.

>>"The fact that humans can reason better than animals doesn't address the limitations of free will."

What limitations? I have agreed that the scope of free will is limited (to engaging one's mind or not). So what's your point?

>>"The only people who believe Rand refuted Kant are philosophically ignorant. Hence my comment about the world's top universities. The only alternative is that this is a coincidence, which would not be a rational conclusion."

What you have stated involves so many logical fallacies I don't even know where to start. Here's a link to a list to them, you take your pick: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fallacies

2/23/2013 09:07:00 am  
Anonymous Barry said...

Terry-

"Anyone who claims certainty about anything is arrogant and thus evil"

The only person childish enough call someone 'evil' for having a different opinion was your idol, Ayn Rand.

"Or, could it be that astrophysicists have overstepped their mark in making a philosophical claim"

It is not a philosophical claim; it is SCIENCE, backed up by experiments at places such as CERN. Ostensibly Objectivists support science, but acolytes such as yourself are more concerned with blindly following what Rand said.

"something cannot come from nothing, the law of identity forbids it"

The 'law of identity' is hardly set in concrete. Aristotle came up with it and he was wrong about a shitload of things, such as the sun revolving around the earth and everything being composed of fire, water, earth etc.

You can't blame Aristotle for being unaware of quantum physics but you can blame people in the 21st century for being willfully ignorant.

"The universe is defined as everything that exists"

No it isn't. The scientific consensus is that there is an astronomical number of universes. By your responses I'm guessing the first time you heard of Stephen Hawking was my earlier comment.

"What limitations? I have agreed the scope of free will is limited (to engaging your mind or not)"

So far you have refused to acknowledge that the subconscious even exists, so I'm going to give up trying to educate you on this point.

Regarding that old chestnut of Rand and all the top universities, I'll join the dots as best I can:

There are only 2 possible reasons Rand isn't taken seriously by said universities: 1. She was a hack philosopher whose ideas don't hold up to academic rigour. 2. There is a massive socialist conspiracy among the elite universities to suppress her ideas. Reason #1 is the most likely by far.

So no logical fallacy, just an uncomfortable truth for Rand acolytes.

2/24/2013 12:57:00 pm  
Anonymous Terry said...

Barry -

1) Ideas matter; when adopted some lead to human suffering, others to human flourishing. Kant's ideas have lead to the former, so for having formulated them he has rightly been labelled as evil by Miss Rand.

2) Philosophy defines and establishes the epistemological criteria to guide human knowledge in general and the specific sciences in particular. IOW, to be valid knowledge, science needs to be based upon a rational philosophy. The philosophical dam erected by Aristotle (and later restored by Aquinas in the 13th Century) to hold the waters of reason in and those of irrationality out was weakened by Descartes in the 17th Century then cracked open by Kant in the late 18th Century. Reason has been leaking out ever since, with irrationality eventually infiltrating the natural sciences a mere 100 years later as it seeped in to fill the space. Miss Rand has been the only philosopher of note in the 200 years since Kant to perform repairs on that sacred dam. Only ignoramuses damn her for that.

3) The Law of Identity is set in concrete if one want to identify reality – the one and only reality we all share. Aristotle never made an error in logic since his scientific theories were never posited as anything except theories. Unlike you who break laws of logic in every post you make.

4) Stephen Hawking is a prime example of a physicist who can't help himself over-stepping his mark. He even goes so far as to offer moral advice in his books, telling us all what the meaning of life is. Encroaching on ethics is not the provence of a scientist, nor is metaphysics - Hawking does both. As for the definition of the universe, Wikipedia states: "The Universe is commonly defined as the totality of existence". To propose that there are *multiple* "totalities of existence" is just nonsense on stilts. Either Hawking uses a different definition of the universe than Wikipedia prescribes, or he is a putz.

5) The subconscious exists. And what? One still possesses free will, which itself is subject to the Law of Identity, and thus is limited in scope and nature.

6) You propose only two options why Miss Rand is not liked in Universities, as if the two you table are the only two there are. You truly are a master of asserting logical fallacies aren't you! There is no conspiracy. The reason why Miss Rand's ideas are not taken seriously is because it requires an integrated mind to identify the merit of her work. Today's university professors' minds have been disintegrated by (more than any other philosopher) Kant.

2/24/2013 04:24:00 pm  
Anonymous Barry said...

Terry-

"Science has to be based on a rational philosophy"

Surely an "objectivist" of all people would know it was the other way round. For example, Aristotle believed heavier objects fall faster than lighter ones. This makes sense, until you actually do the experiment.

- It is entirely plausible to a rational person that the laws governing subatomic particles could be different to the world observable by Aristotle 2000+ years ago. I'm sure if he were alive today he would be more likely to be contributing to QP than arguing against it.

"Aristotle never made an error in logic since his scientific theories were never posited as anything except theories"

Yet Hawking's theories, backed up by experiments in many cases, are wrong because they contradict Aristotle. Yeah you're really in a position to be lecturing other people about logic.

- That Wikipedia article you refer to would make a lot more sense if you read beyond the first paragraph.

- Your theory on Rand vs the universities presumes all academic philosophers are fans of/heavily influenced by Kant, which is nonsense.

2/24/2013 11:31:00 pm  
Anonymous Terry said...

Barry -


"Science has to be based on a rational philosophy"

>>"Aristotle believed heavier objects fall faster than lighter ones. This makes sense, until you actually do the experiment."

Can you not see that you are proving my point, namely, that the falsity in Aristotle's science (astronomy etc) was identified by the validity of his philosophy (logic)? Which is why (a rational) philosophy is the prerequisite of (valid) science.

>"It is entirely plausible to a rational person that the laws governing subatomic particles could be different to the world observable by Aristotle 2000+ years ago."

You are committing the logical fallacy of Chronological Snobbery (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronologicalsnobbery)


>>""Aristotle never made an error in logic since his scientific theories were never posited as anything except theories" Yet Hawking's theories, backed up by experiments in many cases, are wrong because they contradict Aristotle. Yeah you're really in a position to be lecturing other people about logic."

Aristotle's assumptions were incorrect, not his logic. Hawking on the other hand makes a logical error in arriving at his assumptions, namely, he starts with a contradiction (that there can be more than one "totality of existence"). It takes a logical person to understand this.

>>"Your theory on Rand vs the universities presumes all academic philosophers are fans of/heavily influenced by Kant, which is nonsense."

I never implied that they were fans of Kant, but it is true that no single philosopher in the last 2000 years has influenced academics more than Kant has. Or do you deny this? If you agree, then since Ayn Rand is Kant's philosophical nemesis and his greatest antagonist, is it so hard to believe that academics who employ Kant's epistemology (wittingly or not) with their own thinking and who hold him in esteem as a philosopher would as a result of their own epistemological shortcomings be unable and/or unwilling to lend their support a philosophy and essays that advocate the complete opposite of what Kant did and were written by someone who holds Kant himself as being an evil person for formulating said ideas? Think about it.

"Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) is the central figure in modern philosophy. He synthesized early modern rationalism and empiricism, set the terms for much of nineteenth and twentieth century philosophy, and continues to exercise a significant influence today in metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, political philosophy, aesthetics, and other fields." from http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/kant/)

2/25/2013 12:22:00 pm  
Anonymous Barry said...

Terry-

-Aristotle didn't come up with his logic in a vacuum; it was based on the world he observed ie: science.

If a radically different branch of science is discovered which is verified by observations, yet contradicts other aspects of conventional logic, then the logic is flawed.

"You are committing the logical fallacy of chronological snobbery"

OK then quantum physics is not plausible. If only you could have advised CERN before they wasted all that money on the Hadron Collider.

-You have to admit Stephen Hawking has had a pretty distinguished career in physics for someone who doesn't understand logic.

"Ayn Rand is Kant's philosophical nemesis and his greatest antagonist"

According to who? Rand? This is an example of the 'nutter in the twilight zone' logical fallacy.

The academics you think are brainwashed by Kant actually teach extensive criticism of his ideas.

Because of his eminent status many notable philosophers have been critical of his work, and this is taught at universities. However none of these notable philosophers called Kant evil, because that is asinine and childish.

2/25/2013 07:47:00 pm  
Anonymous Terry said...

Barry -

>>"-Aristotle didn't come up with his logic in a vacuum; it was based on the world he observed ie: science."

The original term 'science' was synonymous with philosophy. Modern use is quite different however and classes science as a *branch* of philosophy. Get with it. Metaphysics and epistemology is the base of science and provides science with the underlying assumptions a rational approach to interpreting observations requires. To have no philosophy underpinning science would mean to have no system by which to interpret the observations of the world or a standard by which to determine truth.

>>"OK then quantum physics is not plausible."

As it is usually interpreted you are correct. However we are still waiting for someone to come up with a rational interpretation of the observations made at the quantum level that does not contradict itself somewhere. Or, do you hold that it is perfectly OK to maintain a contradiction as being true, or, equally bad, to say that truth is not determinable?



>>"According to who?

According to the strength (i.e. logic) of the argument made against him by Miss Rand. If you disagree, name a philosopher whose *argument* against Kant's ideas is stronger.



>>"None of these notable philosophers called Kant evil, because that is asinine and childish."

No, they didn't call him evil because they either could not join the dots and/or they were too politically correct and cowardly. Miss Rand suffered neither handicap and was merely being objective in passing judgment, something Kant's epistemology and ethics conveniently forbids.

2/25/2013 11:26:00 pm  
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2/26/2013 09:02:00 am  
Anonymous Barry said...

Terry-

"The original term'science' was synonymous with philosophy.."

Your argument is pretty much exactly the same as the argument against Galileo 400 years ago: Some guy in a loincloth 2000 years ago came up with a system that perfectly describes everything about anything ever. This short video sums it up pretty well:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w1awvC1l7mM

"We are still waiting for someone to come up with a rational interpretation..."

Essentially you are arguing that because you can't get your head around QP, it must be wrong. Either that or you are completely dogmatic about Aristotle/Rand.

"Name a philosopher whose *argument* against Kant's ideas is stronger"

Easy. Every reputable philosopher with alternate theories, simply by virtue of being original. Rand's argument wasn't original and implies she hasn't even read or understood Kant.


2/26/2013 12:19:00 pm  
Anonymous Terry said...

Barry -

I have concluded that I am wasting my time responding to you.

The logical fallacy-riddled approach by which you make your arguments shows you know only how to rationalize your prejudices.

I have posted a link in an earlier comment to the list of common logical fallacies - it would bode you well to study it.

2/26/2013 02:01:00 pm  
Anonymous Barry said...

-Terry

I have to admit I suspected our debate was futile even before you 'logically' dismissed the possibility of modern science poking holes in 2400
year old theories.

Maybe spend less time on Wikipedia and more time at the local library.

2/26/2013 06:28:00 pm  

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