Negative Apologetics

Recently, there has been an apologetics turn away from the traditional positive apologetics towards a negative defense of Christianity in which confidence in reason is claimed to be just as unwarranted as belief in god and every other belief. The bulk of the comments below from a christian named Nick Kiefer are a good example of this, and are very instructive as a reflection of the christian mindset. These comment were originally posted in response to my Reasons For My Deconversion post. I am adding my own in-line comments I’ll mark in [ green ]. If you’d like to contact Nick, he can be found at

Nick wrote…

Hi Guys,
The interesting, and possibly intellectually dishonest aspect of Phil’s posture toward “religious” faith is his unwillingness to acknowledge that the faith he has in human intellect is just as much of a choice as faith in God or Santa. [ Some obvious misconceptions on choice and belief are found here. While a choice that requires action is bivalent (either do this or don’t do this), the degree of confidence in that choice is not bivalent, or at least should not be. I may choose in the same moment to both call my wife “Mary” and ask her to change the television channel. However, my confidence that her name is indeed “Mary” and my confidence that she will do as I ask have very different levels of confidence, based on my experience. If you choose to use an ATM, and choose to buy a lottery ticket, your expectation of receiving what you’re hoping for is much higher in the first case. Is this higher expectation unfounded? No. Your experience should inform the degree of confidence you have in the outcome of your choice. Belief is not bivalent. Belief should very rarely be held with absolute confidence. The degree of confidence should follow the degree of evidence available. If there is a 10% chance that we will win a lottery prize, then our confidence should properly be at 10%. To do otherwise is human, but improper, and certainly not virtuous. ] In fact, his belief that the human mind is actually THE authority within existence for judging existence (ie. able to achieve actual existential objectivity) requires MORE faith than my faith in God, since my subjective faith is actually bolstered by tangible, experiential interaction with God through my reception of personal God-to-me revelation (yes, God “talks” to me in my spirit). [ My confidence is not in the human mind. It is in rational thought, something that the human mind can acquire only after setting aside our natural tendency to give preference to our emotions. This confidence is based on the successes of rational thought throughout history, especially recent history in which rational thought, abstracted into a set of general heuristics for the practice of science (within a community of scientists that further removes science from subjective emotions) has produced explanations of our world that even the most staunch christians accept (such as the concept of black holes). From this web of material explanations has emerged innumerable technological advances unimagined in the days when superstition reigned. ]

I’m still not sure (after multiple email exchanges with Phil) whether he is in denial about this truth, or whether he just does not understand the concept of “backing up” from the intellect and viewing it as a paradigm (or subset of existence) as opposed to always having it “turned on” as a filter for perception. [ Rational thought works in respect to predictive power, the expansion of the web of material explanations, and in technological successes, and is therefore superior to things that do not work in this respect. Confidence in rational thought should only extend as far as its successes, which happens to be a great deal further than the predictive power of the many immaterial paradigms introduced over history. You’ll note in subsequent comments that, in spite of this clear statement, someone suggesting that rational thought is my “god”. I use my cell phone here in Japan, not because I worship it, but because it works much better than trying to yell across the ocean to my family. ] He claims that “successes” (based on his own subjective criteria for “success”) [ Diseases might be caused by germs as germ theory suggests, or by the wrath of god as many christians used to suggest. If the immunizations that arise from germ theory prevent diseases, then we can place an appropriate degree of confidence in germ theory. If pandemics map onto regions with more iniquity, then this lends credence to wrath-of-god theorists. There is no subjectivity in this. ] of the intellect to assess and predict within the material realm “proves” [ I’m not sure whether Nick realized that, placing something in quotes implies that it was actually said or written. It is inappropriate to use “prove” outside of mathematics and logic. Feel free to explore my posts to find whether I’ve ever done so. If Nick blatantly misquotes anyone again, he will not be allowed to post on my blog. ] the intellect’s superiority to any other method of assessment of existence (including my personal revelation, which I freely admit I cannot prove scientifically). [ It is not difficult to demonstrate that you actually have personal revelation. Simply make a series of predictions based on your personal revelation about the world that can be tested. If constructed properly, the success of these predictions will not be subjective, and I would be forced to concede that your personal revelation is not an impotent claim if your predictions more closely matched the future events than the predictions of science. ]

One of the biggest problems with what I would call his narrow-minded view of existence, is that the intellect has no way to prove or disprove VALUES. [ This is a very strange statement. Values are by definition subjective. How do you prove a feeling? If you have a feeling, who am I to argue that you do not? But make no mistake; it is only a feeling. ] Phil claims that it doesn’t matter because values are subjective. Correct. The big problem with that assertion is that there is no way to prove it without the intellect-as-judge-of-existence filter I mentioned earlier. You can’t “prove” (not my word) a definition. Since there is no truly objective (by an all-knowing outside observer of our existence) way to prove superiority of the human intellect, [ How about “Whatever make superior predictions”? ] Phil’s assertion is equal to his saying, “Because I said so.” That is his faith. [ And this is the goal of the negative apologist. To make science just as much a “faith” as is “faith” itself. If you can only buy into this, you can comfortably go on accepting and living under any one of a myriad of irrational and/or unsubstantiated ideologies. The trick is to ignore what rational thinkers are actually saying about their commitment to rational thought. ] It is much more of a blind faith choice than my faith in God, in my opinion. [ Once again, the test is the predictive power of the belief. ] And its consequences are actually more dire, [ Consequences do not correlate to truth. The belief of Thanksgiving turkeys that farmer Bob has their best interests in mind does not change their reality. ] because of the obviousness that human VALUES drive human society and culture. [ No argument there. ] Yet Phil has no answer for that because his view that values are subjective means that the human “condition” (of depravity) cannot be solved, since its all a matter of each person’s opinion. [ You are starting with the assumption that all problems can be solved. What warrants this assumption? ] To Phil, there are no objective values within our existence, [ Correct. Values are subjective by definition. ] so oh well, see ya in hell. [ ? ] (I’m sure he’s formulated some sort of intellect-enhanced set of “subjective” values that he feels would work if everybody would just agree on them. :-) [ Well…rational thought seems to have been more successful than the notions of god-sanctioned crusades and jihads. Just a (rational) thought. ] ;)

The bottom line is that Phil’s chosen belief system necessitates the use of circular logic. He starts with an unprovable assumption [But having superior justification due to the successes of rational thought. ] that the human intellect [ Let’s stick with rational thinking since human intellect may imply the mind that has not been trained to set aside subjectivity. ] is the closest thing to a basis for ultimate objectivity within our existence (I say “ultimate” because I’m not talking about objectivity from the point of view of what is intellectually possible (via science), but from the point of view of an all-knowing outside observer of our existence; such an observer would also be able to know if/what values exist within our existence and how they work), — oops that was a long paren — ok, so he starts with this unprovable assumption, then he uses the human intellect’s own methodology (critical thinking) to “prove” that it is superior to any other assessor of existence. Oops! Circular! Even the criteria for determination of superiority is based upon a subjective choice of the human intellect! [ Criteria -> predictive successes. Why do I feel like I’m being ignored? ] If Phil is willing to admit circular logic, then he’s willing to admit human intellect is his god and that his belief is a choice. My bet is that he’ll admit neither. [ Let’s recap: Rational thinking is superior due to its the objective successes of its predictive power. Nick and I exchanged many e-mails where I stated this very clearly. Ignoring my words to arrive at his desired conclusion is dishonest, and if he persists, he is not welcome on this site. You can state your own arguments, but you cannot misstate the arguments of others. ]
Aloha! -Nick

Agnusstick wrote…

Nick, please excuse my comment on your comment — I don’t know if it complies to this blog’s etiquette.
Phil says that ration has visible and repeatable results, as opposed to religion, so the claim of superiority is valid, even if reason fails occasionally. (So does intuition, but I’m a fan of it, for me it works just fine.) My opinion is that circular logic is specific to reason, and it cannot be avoided due to the fatal subjectivity of assessing truth. But also other ways of assessing truth have its flaw. That is why we need to choose, knowing our limits in epistemology.

Nick wrote…

Hi Agnusstick,
Results that are repeatable and visible can be shown within the PHYSICAL realm of our existence, and even those are based upon the intellect’s subjective choice of criteria for success. [ If one person predicts that the orbit of a planet will be in line with the theory of Einsteinian physics, and another person predicts that Newtonian physics will most accurately explain the planet’s orbit, and yet another individual suggests that divine revelation will yield an orbit that will most precisely map onto the planet’s actual orbit, the success is not subjective. ] The irony, imo, is that the most important parts of our existence fall in the non-material realm. [ Is an immaterial realm being introduced here without substantiation? The most parsimonious solution is that the subjective realm functions upon a material substrate. ] The intellect has no basis for determining whether or not values exist objectively within our existence [ Values are wholly subjective. The notion of an objective values is as incoherent as is a married bachelor. ] (again, remember that my definition of an objective view is the perspective of an all-knowing observer of our existence, not the limited assessment ability of human intellect; the only way true objectivity within ALL of existence could be ascribed to human intellect is if human intellect were our ONLY means of perception, and this cannot be proven). [ This definition presupposes god. You don’t demand that others accept your definitions based on your own assumptions so as to demonstrate that they are wrong or circular within the parameters of your assumptions. ]

Revelation bypasses intellect (and therefore rationality and reason). It is discerned by a functionality of human beings called a spirit (don’t ask too many details; I don’t know!). [ Does it make testable predictions that can be scrutinized by science? If not, what is the difference between it and an assertion that Santa is real? You’re walking away from your responsibility to back up your claims. ] Revelation “percolates” to the brain and is sometimes even misunderstood by the brain, in my experience. [ Is this testable? ] Real revelation produces a “knowing” that cannot be achieved by the brain. [ Testable? ] If the brain can be talked into something (via rationality), it can also be talked out of it (via the same rationality, but with a different assumptive starting point). That is why it is impossible to prove God rationally; one’s unprovable assumptive starting point is always just a belief! [ Beliefs come in 2 varieties; substantiated and unsubstantiated. Substantiation comes in degrees. To the degree that something has been substantiated, that is the degree that belief is warranted. ] There is no such thing as true objectivity from a human point of view. [ Are you suggesting that there must be “true objectivity”, and therefore a god? ] The only real self-evident truth is “I think therefore I am.” Beyond that, assumptions always play a role [ Assumptions fall along a continuum of substantiation. The degree of belief must conform to the degree of substantiation. It is not an either/or. ] , meaning the “I think” part of it carries no authority beyond confirmation of existence. [ There is a continuum of the degree of success, and the strength of our beliefs are warranted only to the degree of the successes. ] It answers a yes/no question. [ It is a question of degree. ]

The discernment of values that are part of our existence is also a subjective endeavor. [ Completely. ] However, the ability to receive revelation allows one the ability to understand (in a “seeing through a glass darkly” sort of way) that they do exist [ subjectively ] , and to know [ “Knowing” is dependent of objective facts and is inappropriate here. ] some of what they are and how they function. Of course there is a level of mystery and ambiguity to that realm, as well there should be or else we would be God. [ “Mystery and ambiguity” are often used as synonyms for “unsubstantiation and fabrication”. ] The only truly objective perspective of existence is held by the Creator of it, if one exists. He gave [ “…if one exists” and “He gave…” are incompatible. ] us an intellect in order to figure out the material realm, but He also gave us a spirit to discern the immaterial realm. The most important stuff exists in the immaterial realm. [ “Immaterial realm” and “subjective realm” are being confused here. ] It goes hand in hand with what we learn of the material realm, but imo it’s more important because it involves how we should live (our priorities) [ A priority is not a “should”. It is a subjective value judgment. ] and relate to one another… how we should view what our intellects have understood and made possible in the material realm. It’s not very difficult to see how screwed up human beings are and that human culture and society is a whirling cauldron of problems that science has been unable to figure out. [ Are we perhaps asking questions that do not have answers? I suggest that some such questions exist, and that the religionists have difficulty accepting ans so default to a package of fabricated answers. ] So why should I lay hold of an unprovable assumptive [ But clearly superior due to its objective successes. ] starting point in order to achieve faith in a subset of existence (human intellect) that only has the ability to assess existence with its own capacity and methodologies, when I’m already exercising an EXPERIENTIALLY-founded faith [ A hallucination is also an experience. ] in the Creator of existence who has made Himself known [ How about the possibility that you are conjuring god up in your subconscious? ] to my spirit via revelation? Both faiths require unprovable assumptions [ Once again, we are much more warranted in our confidence in rational thought due to its successes than we are in any supernatural paradigm posited to date. ] , and both are bottom-line subjective [ The success of predictions is in no way subjective. ] . Since at that point it is nothing more than an informed choice [ Is Nick here admitting some ways of knowing are clearly superior as his use of “informed” might success? ] , I will choose to believe that the revelation I receive is in fact coming from a real God who really does communicate with me about aspects of the immaterial realm, including valuation. [ This is an unnecessary default to a warm and fuzzy solution to a problem that should be examined with rational thought. ] Don’t be fooled by Phil’s assertion that fundamental human needs (for purpose, etc) dictate the fabrication of spirituality [ Review these here. ] , nor buy into his if/then apologetics using varying religious points of view as evidence of anything. [ If you can dismiss the superiority of rational thought, you too can believe in square triangles. ] I’m not even bringing religion into it; the intellect as a subset of existence is a philosophical point of view that should be easily acknowledged by someone seeking to be intellectually honest and sincerely grappling with agnosticism. [ There are ideologies that have demonstrated their worth with objective successes, and those ideologies that have failed. They do not once again start on equal footing for every new question. Christianity for years affirmed the notion that abnormal behavior was due to demon possession. Now that it has been demonstrated that this is due to materially caused mental illness, christians claim that they can start over without considering this and other failures, and have their new predictions taken seriously. ]

Later, -Nick

Agnusstick said…

Hi Nick, thanks for the dialogue.
When discussing between opposite parties, we should negotiate our terms and notions in a way that make them acceptable to everybody, otherwise there is no common ground. I suspect that Revelation, and Spirit shall consume some precious time just to be discarded by Phil.

“…Both faiths require unprovable assumptions, and both are bottom-line subjective. Since at that point it is nothing more than an informed choice, I will choose to believe that the revelation I receive is in fact coming from a real God who really does communicate with me about aspects of the immaterial realm, including valuation.”
So you also admit the OPTION.
“…the most important parts of our existence fall in the non-material realm”
This is a little bit too subjective, this is what you (and I, for that matter) FEEL.
NOTE: I’m on your side, Nick… But I can understand Phil’s position also.

Nick said…

Hi Ag,
Yes, I suppose that I could decide that I’m experiencing some sort of delusion, decide to talk a blind leap of faith to trust “critical thinking,” [ It would be blind only if you cannot see any successes of scientific methodology and the rational thought is is based on. ] and change my existential viewpoint to line up with its bleak conclusions [ And this is crucial to note: The motivation is a conclusion that feels good. ] . What I have a hard time with is Phil’s seeming lack of open-mindedness. He seems to be seeking to prove from an intellectual standpoint things that require so many assumptions as to require more faith than I need to believe in my own interactions with God. Yet he seems to explain it in such as way (and he’s said it point blank to me) as to assert as indisputable his claims regarding intellect as superior assessor of the universe. [ Yes. They are successful. I am very open-minded about anyone offering clear evidence of christianity’s successes. If christianity is more successful than rational thought, then I can’t very well argue with that. Until then, it would be best to cease making assertions and work on providing some evidence to back claims of success. I am a skeptic. Evidence is the only thing that moves me. Provide evidence. ] When I question him about this, he APPEARS to not understand what I’m talking about. [ If anyone out there understands what Nick is trying to say, feel free to explain. I’ll let Nick himself tell you how many christians are also too blind or arrogant to understand him and agree with him. ] Yet, how could a person come up with his theory and articulate it so well if he were unable to understand my point of view? It SEEMS like he may not be able to abstract the idea of “backing up” from the intellect and viewing it as a paradigm. [ Rational thinking works. It is a successful paradigm (whatever that might mean to Nick) as opposed to unsuccessful paradigms. ] That’s partly why I’m pleased with your presence here, because if YOU understand what I’m saying, then maybe it will help him. I don’t care if he doesn’t agree with me or not regarding my viewpoint (well, I care on the level that I care about him as a human being, of course), but I do care whether he’s actually OPEN as an agnostic, or he’s already set his theory in stone [ Demonstrate how something has more predictive power than science and its underlying rational thinking, and I’ll convert in a moment. Until then, keep your emotionally-based affirmations to yourself. This blog is for coherent arguments. ] and is now feverishly trying to defend it. As sincere seekers, I think it is important that we remain curious and teachable, and that includes articulate philosophers like Phil. I guess if he honestly doesn’t understand what i’m saying and he decides I’m a kook, then maybe he’d just act dismissively toward me. [ Those who have read Reasons For My Deconversion understand that I admit to being as deluded and intellectually dishonest as Nick is now. I completely understand Nick’s arrogance and need to conjure up purpose and meaning for his life. I’ve been deeply on both sides. ] But if YOU understand what I’m saying too, then maybe it will get him to stop and think about it.

The main point I’m making that I don’t think Phil likes is this: the validity of each of our assumptive foundations are EQUAL; they are both FAITHS — nothing more than subjective choices founded upon what each of us consider to be the most valid criteria. [ Nope. The validity of any assumptive foundation is its predictive power. Those with superior predictive power are superior. Those that provide no or little predictive power are inferior. It does not get much easier to understand than that. Does anyone care to speculate why Nick might be ignoring the implications of this fact? Will Nick admit that his absurd notion of truth necessarily grants his Jehovah and Thor the same validity? It god-choosing a matter of playing dice? No. Belief lies on a continuum based on the evidence available, and this evidence is objective predictive power. ]

Regarding “most important,” yes this is subjectivity on my part, but I think that a solid case could be made for universal acceptance of the idea that VALUES drive our existence, [ Agreed. Emotions drive our existence. ] not our ability to “successfully” assess, predict within, and harness the physical universe [ Agreed. The objective truths of the universe offer no meaning. Meaning is subjectively constructed. ] . How many innocent human beings were slaughtered in the name of ideological divergence in the last century alone? Oh, yeah, but hey we can see our own house from space! Human intellect cannot take a walk outside its assessible domain. [ Imagine a world where people are not walking around claiming to “know” objective truth due to their direct connection to their favorite deity. Imagine we all had to use rational thought to devise a way to get along, rather than devaluing others due to their belief in the wrong god or no god. ] It has a “success” rate of ZERO [ Medicine, for example, has advanced exponentially ever since we dismissed the idea of a “life force” and employed rational thinking. ] , since it doesn’t have the capacity to do it! For Phil, values have to be subjective, because his god (intellect) cannot determine whether or not values exist objectively. [ That’s the second time Nick has intentionally distorted my words. Nick, you are not welcome on this site any longer but to comment on this one posting. I’ll send you an e-mail to confirm this. ] Yet an understanding of and adherence to values that may exist and WORK within our universe could solve the problems that plague humanity! But for Phil, the success the intellect’s ability within the material realm translates to its superiority in assessing ALL of existence. [ And you’ve done it again. Do not distort my words. You shame yourself and your ideology when you do, and for that reason, your comments will not be deleted. ] This seems illogical and narrow-minded to me. [ Requiring arguments to be coherent is perhaps too narrow-minded for Nick as is accurately representing a persons arguments. It does take work and a proper degree of humility. ]

Let me know your thoughts and thoughts on how to stay on a common ground acceptable to Phil. Maybe we just need to see how he responds, since this is his blog. :-)

Nick can post comments to this post alone. They will be deleted if it is apparent that he has not carefully read my comments above. Should I decide to allow them, I will not respond.


42 thoughts on “Negative Apologetics

  1. Nick Kiefer says:

    I do not have time to read all of Phil’s comments right now, but I read his introduction of me, and the audacity of his introducing me as a “christian” is already somewhat disturbing to me. I do not believe that I’ve ever referred to myself as a Christian in my posts or even in my email exchanges with Phil. The fact that he would take the liberty to represent me as such is yet another example of his use of rhetoric as a school marm’s discipline stick. He seems to think that if he says things with enough confidence and authority, it makes them so. He also does not appear to be comfortable with challenge from those who disagree with his take on reality. That is not the marking of a “wise” person, nor one who is open to thoughtful interchange.

    I will return to read his interspersed green text and comment as I have time, if he even allows me to comment. Who knows, maybe I won’t even be allowed to READ the stuff when I return. I hate to say it, but this kind of reaction is typical of those who have a preconceived idea that they are so committed to that they are no longer even willing to debate. If Phil thinks I misrepresented his thoughts, he could have contacted me and asked me about it, and I would have been more than happy to retract, apologize, or do whatever else was necessary to remedy the situation. I did not purposely misrepresent him, and I apologize (before even reading his comments) for anything that he took as such. Normal social behavior would have been to politely ask me about the situation before taking the particular restrictive action he has. I responded to his blog with thoughts and ideas we had exchanged because another responder showed up, I signed up to be contacted if more posts went on the blog, and I thought it would be cool to have some other eyes look at my exchange with Phil. I’m sorry if it violated a blog ettiquete that I should have been aware of.

    I apologize personally to you Phil. I wish you had contacted me so I could have helped remedy the situation in a more gracious manner. If you let me return, I will read your comments and post more if necessary… Aloha, -Nick

  2. Nick Kiefer says:

    Ok, I read Phil’s comments. I will address the points where Phil felt I was blatantly or intentionally misrepresenting him. Please be assured that I wasn’t.

    1) My quotation marks around the word “proves” were meant to indicate the use of “so-called” prior to the word “proves.” You know, how people use their fingers to quote a word and roll their eyes? I didn’t mean to say that Phil actually said that word, though I did think he implied that he believed it. What word would have been more appropriate there Phil, “shows?”

    2) I am not sure how I’ve misrepresented you in the second reprimand you gave me, in this sentence: “But for Phil, the success the intellect’s ability within the material realm translates to its superiority in assessing ALL of existence.” So you don’t believe that? You seem to imply it. Because of the intellect’s “superior predictive powers” (I am actually quoting you here), it is a more valid (most valid we know of?) means for assessing all of existence, right?

    I will address what I feel is our main point of contention (where it seems like Phil talks apples and I talk oranges) when I come back. If I’m allowed to come back.
    Aloha, -nk

  3. Nick Kiefer says:

    Quick addendum to my last post: when I said “Please be assured that I wasn’t,” I meant that I wasn’t PURPOSELY misrepresenting Phil. It was not intentional.

    Also, in misrepresentation #2, the sentence should actually read, “But for Phil the success OF the intellect’s ability…” There is an “of” missing there.

  4. agnusstick says:

    What a waste of human intelligence and emotions, if you couldn’t find a way to discuss further! This kind of show really brings tribute and honor to humanity, provided you get over quarrels and offensively addressing each other. I’m just sorry, I’m not trying to become an umpire, especially because this discussion is touching quite a few of my nerves.
    As your dialogue is now open for public scrutiny, I must ask if all of it can be found on this blog — you mentioned some mail exchanges. I for one didn’t have time to read this blog entirely, and unfortunately, Nick, you brought up some things that Phil asserted, or seems to believe or to think. Now I see that Phil rejects, as distorted, Nick’s evaluation of his thoughts and affirmations. Would it be possible — if at all useful — for you Nick to show Phil’s source words and your own way to decrypt them? For instance, you use PHIL SEEMS TO this and that very often in your argument, so it would be useful even for yourself to map Phil’s words to your interpretation of them. Just a suggestion, maybe it helps even more in this phase, when you didn’t respond yet to Phil’s comments.
    My own view for this moment of this splendid discussion is that each of us have our own VALUES, which build our ontological foundations, and try to rise also up to the penthouse. Phil “seems to” have had Nick’s present values, up to a certain floor in his life’s building, but at that point he realised that he builds in a wrong way, and consequently went back to the new foundations and rebuilt everything, leaving the old ruins be a reminder for study. Who can assess Nick values and Phil’s values, if there is a contest between the two sets? Each of them shall refuse to give up their precious CURRENT values, even if somebody from outside will try to incline the balance. We invest in our values, we protect them, we love them — yes, Phil, I really think that chosing obstinately objective thinking as the highest value is still an emotion, even if its object is so objectively objective… Unless you witness that you are not feeling good at all, that you have negative emotions chosing this set of values. Please clarify on this point, it seems very important.
    …Because feeling good in our choices does not explain everything… And might even put you, Phil, in an embarassing position, because you testified that your religious life was hurting you. Does your rational life hurt you less or not? My religious life is alternatively hurting and healing me, and so does my rational one. I can exit delirious episodes of faith by using reason, and after that I linger and crave after loving God again like crazy…

  5. agnusstick says:

    Sorry folks, just to make clear that I don’t feel to be above anyone else:
    I make my option for faith even if it is very similar to slip into taking drugs. My faith is not a commodity, it brings horrible moments and beatiful moments, but the latter are worth everything in my view. I do not love to predict any kind of things, I do not speculate much on what I shall receive as penalty or reward after death. I think that the value of my life resides in those few moments when I feel that everything has a beatiful and good meaning, coming from God’s will. I am able to contemplate such beauty even in the face of death and suffering, absurdity and pathetic inconsistence. I realize that this is not a rational posture, I have no proof of validity of any claims (I don’t make many claims regarding the relation between reality and faith, but I make quite a lot regarding the meaning and inner consequences of faith), but this is what I choose.

  6. agnusstick says:

    Phil, I must admit that having positive emotions about something (in your case reason and objective thinking) does not cast any negative or positive assessment of its objective truth or predictive value. So, even if you feel good about rejecting emotions in ruling your life, this is not an argument against reason. In my case, feeling good about faith-caused emotions is not enough in assessing my faith. If I make this option, I should not be judged by good predictions on reality, but the natural fruit of my faith should be to cause positive emotions to people I meet. You value prediction, you should yield it in your life and show its value. I value positive emotion, I should bring it to the world. You win, most of the time…

  7. agnusstick says:

    Hi Nick, a few questions:
    -Do you think that your personal revelation would have existed in the present form outside your cultural and religious context? Or when you speak of personal revelation you actually mean interpretation and personal understanding of the Bible?
    -When you speak of assessing reality/existence, do you admit that you actually employ reason a lot in founding religious notions and extracting them from the complex of biblical symbols and narratives? Do you admit that your personal revelations make use and integrate such reason-founded notions?
    -For a value to have value, the subject who adheres to it must exist. This is also true for objective truth? In my view, objective truth must also be subjectivated, otherwise it has no ontological value, because there is nobody who can enjoy predictions and contemplate correctness of reason. When you demand to prove a value, you actually mean to transmit, to share that value from a subject to another? In this case, do you reject all kind of satisfaction coming from the obvious advances in science and technology, or you assign all these to the grace of God who made them possible? In this latter case, you actually say that human reason is just like a child finding a new toy under the Christmas tree, unaware of Santa who put it there? Did you ever try a different approach than this to human reason “success”?

    Coming to “” Phil, I recently had a similar exchange like yours and Nick (but with another christian), who had a strong negative reaction seeing my quoting-an-exact-word quotes, and thinking it was a way to humiliate his spelling skills. I think you snapped at it a little bit too hard… I’m sure your reasoning skills are not accessible on a very large scale, so it would be nice to bear with us and show some patience with our coherence, rigorousness and objective thinking — as you said, this comes with some practice. Maybe Nick is slow to learn, maybe you see this as stubborness and bias, maybe you are right, but then you can become very lonely on your blog… and it would be sad. Bleah — this is an emotion!

  8. Nick Kiefer says:

    Hi Ag… and Phil…

    I like your questions Ag, and I will answer them soon, but thought I’d better first get to the apples and oranges that Phil and I have wrangled about for maybe a couple of months now. It has to do with “superior predictive power.” (quoting Phil here)

    Human rationality can only achieve a degree of objectivity within the domain in which it has developed methodologies for assessing and predicting. Science works because it was developed by and adheres to rationality’s abilties and capacities. It is unprovable whether rationality is THE or an infinite judge within our existence. To assert that it is THE judge or that it has infinite capacity for judging is to be dismissibly presumptuous. But to assume that values are subjective because rationality does not have the ability to discern nor scientifically validate them is to imply that rationality holds all the marbles — that rationality is the supreme judge of existence.

    “Superior predictive power” is a rationality-based criterion. It’s like saying ok, we’re going to play a game, and the object of the game is to bounce the ball off the wall. We’ll play to 15, and when I bounce the ball off the wall, I score a point. Period. You don’t get a point when you bounce the ball off the wall. According to the rules, I always win, because I made up the rules.

    This is why I use the vantage point of the all-knowing outside observer. Whether there is a God or not, this VANTAGE point is the only one that sees our existence without filtering it through human rationality. Every point Phil made, every assertion, he makes from a vantage point WITHIN rationality’s domain and spectrum. That is because his BELIEF is that rationality is either all we have or that its superior predictive power WITHIN ITS DOMAIN grant it authority to judge ALL of existence.

    It is a narrow-minded perspective. I’m pretty sure that because Phil is so steeped in this point of view, he is actually not understanding the idea of “backing up” and viewing rationality as a paradigm. I apologize for suggesting his possible intellectual dishonesty.

    Phil, if you are reading: because your vantage point views existence from within rationality, values are merely subjective feelings. I contend that values are not feelings. They actually exist within our existence and govern it, perhaps as some sort of Aristotelian essences. Our finite capacity as human beings allows us to view them dimly and incorporate them into our lives, culture, society, particularly and imperfectly.

    Superior predictive power does not validate rationality’s objectivity with regard to all of existence any more than seeing a horizon line validates that the earth is flat. It validates it within the finite capacity of our eyesight, but obviously the view from space tells a different story. You use your paradigm’s methodologies to validate your paradigm’s legitimacy based on your paradigm’s criteria. Because of that, you assume that values are subjective. If you don’t “step back” and view rationality as a paradigm and possible subset of existence, you won’t be able to follow what I’m saying. If you do, you will have to admit that it is possible that values EXIST and are not merely subjective feelings.

  9. agnusstick says:

    Phil, please excuse me if I speak too much — just give me a sign and I’ll keep my big mouth shut, OK?

    Nick, I think that
    1) We must define VALUE, otherwise the discussion shall waste a lot of time and energy.
    2) If the parties do not agree upon VALUE having an objective essence, then the argument about the VANTAGE point is null with regard to them.

    It seems to me that Nick has a paradigm assuming that
    -humans live in a n-dimensional world
    -their reason helps them a lot, but it is valid in this world only
    -Phil says that values pertain to this world, are ontological investments, and are individually extracted (from the significance of this world, but for some people also other “extra” worlds)
    -Nick says that values are objective in the sense that they exist as entities in an (n+x)-dimensional world, and some individuals in our world are able to infer or get revelation data about these values
    -Nick says that Phil does not agree to leave our world (in an imaginary way) and look at the greater picture, including the objective values, or even admit that such a possibility exist
    -Not admitting objective values goes hand in hand with not admitting God’s existence (why? couldn’t God create them without adhering to them?)

  10. agnusstick says:

    I don’t know if you adhere to literal Bible interpretation.
    Let’s make an imaginary experiment, and pretend that insect-based aliens exist (created by God). Do you think that their values can be common to ours? (Even if we didn’t have fur in our ancestry lineage, but certainly if we have, we like to caress fluffy things and give them a kiss sometimes… This is the value of softness and gentle, friendly life, I suppose. Would an alien have similar values?)

  11. agnusstick says:

    Now, what if Phil is actually hiding in a very advanced way that he is such an alien? Remember, he was also created by God. Why didn’t God inject the same values into his system? (Phil, you are very good at it, but please don’t scare us too much, OK? Show some mercy, in case your species values this emotion…)

  12. agnusstick says:

    For those who think that my last comment actually implies that Phil is actually EATING the cats he posted about: folks, it was just an imaginary experiment, right? Phil, could you please produce a VERY recent photograph of your LAST cat?

  13. agnusstick says:

    Sam, I’m sensing you in the neighborhood!

    • Hi Ag and Nick,

      Sorry about being a bit quiet, but my 24-year-old son is here in Tokyo now, and we’ve been having a great time doing things much less philosophical and much more emotional than what you find on my blog. I’m glad you guys are carrying on the dialog, and I think I may be able to best learn what you guys think from your interactions since I often don’t understand what you are saying when you dialog with me.

      Oh, and you can find a photo of my last cat at under the “creatures” category. It is the white cat in several of the pictures.

      Cheers, Phil

  14. Nick Kiefer says:

    Hi Nick, a few questions:
    >> Hi Ag, ok I will answer inline…

    -Do you think that your personal revelation would have existed in the present form outside your cultural and religious context?
    >> Yes, it would have existed either way. I have heard of muslim clerics and buddhist monks receiving a vision of Jesus and converting. When I’m having a discussion about this stuff, I try to stay away from any dogmatic or “Christiany” rhetoric, because I feel it is a hinderance to the conversation. It conjurs up way too many preconceived and stereotypical notions that many people (you, Phil, etc) have had inbred in them since they were old enough to walk. This is partly why I took offense to being labeled a “christian” by Phil. Why does it matter whether I’m a christian or not if my ideas make sense? Imo, there can also be an excessive attempt to make ideas fit into preconceived philosophical constructs, rather than just try to think about what is being said. Filtering ideas through a grid of historical philosophy can put the same kind of damper on a philosophical conversation as filtering religious ideas through a grid of our own religious experience.

    Or when you speak of personal revelation you actually mean interpretation and personal understanding of the Bible?
    >> This can be part of personal revelation — the illumination of scripture, but no, I mean knowing in your “knower,” whether the vehicle is the Bible or not — God “speaks” (more like “makes known”) to the human component we call our spirit.

    -When you speak of assessing reality/existence, do you admit that you actually employ reason a lot in founding religious notions and extracting them from the complex of biblical symbols and narratives?
    >> I do not personally do that, but it can be done. The intellect is a tool for abstracting within the physical realm, even for this kind of work. Of course, revelational insight could come while doing that. Knowing values and other immaterial existence happens via the reception of revelation. The two can work together — the spirit feeds the mind information (again, don’t ask me how that works!), so that I may have an intellectual understanding of a spiritual reality, but it cannot be trusted with the same confidence as one can trust “knowing” in their spirit. I know this part might seem like babble to someone who has not experienced it, sorry.

    Do you admit that your personal revelations make use and integrate such reason-founded notions?
    >> I’m not sure if I’m following this question correctly. Because we use rationality to communicate, in order to attempt to articulate revelation, I must employ reason. But it sounds like maybe you’re asking a different question. Please clarify. The revelation part is straight from God to my spirit. Stuff I’ve employed reason to figure out is not revelation. I have less confidence in it, esp. when I’ve applied it to notions that are possibly only spiritually understood (via revelation).

    -For a value to have value, the subject who adheres to it must exist. This is also true for objective truth? In my view, objective truth must also be subjectivated, otherwise it has no ontological value, because there is nobody who can enjoy predictions and contemplate correctness of reason. When you demand to prove a value, you actually mean to transmit, to share that value from a subject to another?
    >> Sorry, not sure I understand this portion, but I will take a stab at it. Yes, EVERYTHING is predicated upon existence. Without existence, there can be no employment of reason nor valuation. At least from a human point of view. I suppose that values could exist objectively within existence without there being anyone to partake of them. They are part of God’s nature, so in that sense they did before we arrived. To me, an inherent goal of living is to align ourselves as closely as possible with objective values — values the way they really are within out existence (as if there was a God who created them). The further we move from a subjective understanding of values and the closer to understanding what they really are and how they work in our daily lives, the better. The problem with humanity is that most of us do not really WANT to know true valuation, because we want to reserve the right to live any way we please. We like to keep values subjective and ambiguous so we don’t have to worry about whether or not our lives are aligned with the moral paradigm we live in. I could elaborate upon that, but won’t for now.

    In this case, do you reject all kind of satisfaction coming from the obvious advances in science and technology, or you assign all these to the grace of God who made them possible? In this latter case, you actually say that human reason is just like a child finding a new toy under the Christmas tree, unaware of Santa who put it there? Did you ever try a different approach than this to human reason “success”?
    >> If I understand what you are saying, no, I enjoy the fruits of the tool of human reason, and yes, I believe God created me with it. I just happen to also be aware of the “Santa” who put it there, and He has shown me that it is not the be-all, end-all of human capacity for discernment and understanding of the whole of existence. Human reason is great and “successful” within the scope of its capacity. When it plays by the rules of its own game, it wins. But if the rules were created by Someone outside its domain, it does not even have the skills to play portions of the game.

    See ya! -Nick

  15. agnusstick says:

    Phil, don’t apologize for being too quiet, some would maybe pray for an even longer quietude or wordpress database disaster (btw, do you backup your blog regularly? miracles can still happen as events of hazard…). I wish your cat a long, confortable and safe life.

    Nick, it seems that we have a gnostic-agnostic (the latter in more flavours — cats included in the menu) discussion here…
    Ideas make sense for the emitter most of the time, the big problem is to transmit this sense to other people. I wouldn’t go as far as to accuse Phil of filtering ideas through his own mask, that’s what we all do, but different persons have different degrees of appetite for trying to see other perspectives than their own. This is exactly what Phil is accusing religious people of, I think (maybe I’m wrong, anyway it’s too simple an idea for describing Phil’s approach).
    Objective thinking seems to be an effort to escape the orbit of one’s emotions. Religious thinking seems to be an effort to escape plain reason. Phil says you don’t want to see the bigger picture and accept reason as THE valid tool for assessing reality — you say that Phil doesn’t want to make the same thing and accept revelation as a valid channel (it’s not a tool, since it’s not in your hands) to see the whole reality, which includes things that Phil is downright rejecting as such.
    Phil declares that he needs proof of what you say, and that he is open to accept anything proven. You have revelation, which is a mystical experience that cannot be transmitted to people who didn’t have it before. As long as you cannot produce proofs acceptable by Phil in the context of his current assessing tools, Phil cannot be accused of bias and malevolent filtering of arguments. Is there anything else to do here, except maybe for praying God to reveal the truth to Phil?
    As for what I think, it happens that I’m convinced that the way our world is moving shall lead most of the religious people to have nothing else than revelation. The Bible and all the religions are under attack from reason (just look at what is going on in Iran — Islam shall not be an exception forever), and in a few decades faith can become very similar to Melchisedec’s and Abraham’s.
    Regarding the usage of reason in “your personal revelations make use and integrate such reason-founded notions”, it’s banking on the idea that revelation is not exactly hearing God’s voice, so it uses reason in a way that makes revealed notions accesible after the illumination moment(s). I’m guessing a lot here, because I don’t think I’ve experienced your kind of revelation (to me, it means just understanding something more or new from the Scriptures; and it has an “illumination” component, because I’m often not able to regain the clarity of understanding I had in that special moment).
    Regarding the VALUES portion of the comment. I go for Protagora’s idea that, even if an objective “value” exists, it becomes VALUE only when a subject adheres to it. Even for faith values dear to our God, I don’t consider nonbelievers to be responsible for not knowing God’s values, and if they know them, they are still not responsible for not loving them as God does, because this is not an act of human will. This being said, when it comes to proving such values, there is no other way than making someone else recognize them and adhere to them. How do you prove the beauty of a diamond to a blind man? Can you transmit what you feel looking at it to him? Can you accuse him for saying that this is not an objective value, as long as he will never be able to assess it? The hardness of the diamond has better chances to get at his mind.

    It would be really great if you could enumerate at least 5 values you consider objective. This is interesting, because I’m afraid that if we come to moral values, the discussion will probably reach a dead end. I suspect that, if one of the objective values would be not to date young girls at any time, irrespective of one’s marital status, Phil shall strongly object.

    Cheers & Aloha

  16. Nick Kiefer says:

    Wow, I think I actually followed most of the intricacies of that latest post, Ag! Good stuff. Your last sentence seems to imply agreement with a statement I once heard from a very wise man: A person’s morality dictates his theology rather than vice-versa. :-) You wouldn’t want to presume such about Phil!

    Anyway, I will come back soon with some stuff. I feel that my post of June 25, 2009 at 10:05 (above) is the clearest and most cogent explanation countering Phil’s filter of rationality that I’ve articulated, and that I probably should not apply more time to that, other than to answer questions. I only hope that Phil will read it and truly seek to understand it. As I’ve said before, I don’t mind Phil disagreeing with me, but it does irk me if he dismisses my ideas without even understanding what I mean. I think that your note (Ag) of June 25, 2009 at 11:04, summarizing our perspectives, gets it pretty correctly. I may comment on a couple of those points and maybe do the 5 values exercise your last post suggested.

    In any case, thanks for you participation, and thoughts. I will be back soon…

  17. Check out my new post on Predictive Power.
    I’d like you Gentlemen to keep your discussion of it under this post.
    Thanks, Phil

  18. Nick Kiefer says:

    Nice job popping that quote out of my post and inserting it into your rationality filter, Phil. You win again, using your paradigm’s criteria to validate your paradigm.

    I challenge you to post that entire post of mine and elicit responses.

    Please, either let me know that you do not understand what my post means, or that you do know what it means, yet have chosen to view rationality as humans’ ONLY vantage point for existence. If you are unwilling to do this, then I will conclude that you are an intellectually dishonest charlatan who is more interested in propping up and protecting the self-granted authority of your opinions than in an open-minded search for truth. If you don’t get the concept of an outside observer’s vantage point (whether an outside observer actually exists or not), then I’m sorry to have wasted my time with you. It’s kind of pathetic that you relegate my posts here, since most of your readers would certainly understand my perspective. But I understand, since the consideration of my perspective might undermine your vested interests.
    Aloha, -Nick

    • You don’t listen well, Nick.

      Keep any responses to my post on Predictive Power under this post. Did you think I was joking about this?
      You can vet you ideas with Ag.
      Feel free to complain, but don’t feel free to post how you deem fair.
      I actually recommend you start you own blog.

      Nick said…

      “The most compelling argument in favor of any ideology or theory is its predictive power.”

      According to human rationality. Suppose that human rationality were not the only vantage point of our existence? [ If there is another advantage point, it can be validated by superior predictive power. Give an example of the superior predictive power of your vantage point and stop making bald assertions. ] The vantage point of an all-knowing outside observer (whether this observer exists or not does not matter) could relegate human rationality to just a paradigm within all of existence, a subset of existence. [ Then the opinions of that all-knowing outside observer will have predictive power. State those predictions and stop making bald assertions. ] In that case, it is possible that not only is the criterion of “superior predictive power” irrelevent with an eye toward the entirety of our existence, but that VALUES exist and are not merely the subjective feelings [ Give an example of a value that is objective and stop making bald assertions. ] of those viewing existence through the filter of rationality. If there were a way to access “the rest” of existence [ Demonstrate the existence of the rest of existence, and stop making bald assertions. ] (albeit with the same human imperfection we find in rationality) or as much of it as we are able to, then rationality-based methods and criteria for success would not necessarily apply to those portions of existence (which could include the realm of values) that do not fall within rationality’s domain. Since it is impossible to prove that human rationality is the only vantage point from which to view all of existence, [ It IS possible for those who claim another superior vantage point to SIMPLY make superior predictions. Why the silence? Why keep your superior vantage point a secret? Demonstrate it is superior by making superior predictions. ] rationality’s rules only apply to its domain or the scope of its capacity. The assertion that rationality is THE portal through which all of existence is viewed is a BELIEF. [ A belief that patiently awaits for those who claim there is some superior channel to truth to demonstrate the existence of that channel by making superior predictions. Either make superior predictions or clam up about your claims to have access to a superior channel to truth. ] To use a rationality-based criterion to measure the validity of this belief is to play the game Phil quotes above in red. [ Give a tangible example or clam up. Your vague assertions have too long annoyed me. Start backing up your claims. If you do not, you are no longer welcome here. ] It is using rationality’s methodologies and rationality’s criterion to validate rationality. If rationality is all we have, ok. But that cannot be proven.

      I would be very interested to know whether any reader understands what I just said. I would be happy to answer any questions in order to clarify.

      Sincerely, -Pathetic Desperate Responder On Whom Phil Wasted 14,000 Words

    • Here’s what you can do Nick.
      Find someone else who can articulate your perspective and have them post here. I’ll read it. If it has substance, examples and coherence, it will have my attention. You, however, have wasted enough of my time with vague unsubstantiated claims. I want to make this very clear. You cannot post on this site again until you find someone with a bit less attitude and a whole lot more substance to effectively lay out your arguments (if indeed they actually exist). This is your only way to redeem your specious assertions: with substantiation by someone who you think understands you. I’m weary of both your attitude and empty verbosity. This is not my rational side. This is my subjective side that has me annoyed and “valuing” you as unworthy of further focus.
      Good hunting.

  19. agnusstick says:

    It’s a pity…
    Phil, from my point of view, I feel great about prediction, but ontologically I need explanations, and not just punctual, isolated ones, but infinitely regressive back to an original cause. My mind cannot go there, but my human needs are somehow healed by faith that such a cause exists, and it is allmighty. This is a trick, but it works fore some people, me included. Nevermind that God should have a cause, you become blindfolded but in a way that makes the world agree with what we need. We, the believers, have this need, and we let ourselves go at any cost — it’s too bad if some cannot help throwing reason away or make it bend (I’m not accusing Nick here, but I see this all the time).

    • Understood Ag, but I think you know that there is no necessary connection between human emotional needs and reality. This disjuncture is only bridged by the imagination, and the imagination is infinite, a fact not very conducive to piecing together objective truths. If you invoke subjective “truths” you must believe due to your emotional needs, that is wholly human. Your honesty has my respect, though not your ontology. Cheers.

  20. Nick Kiefer says:

    I’m going to appeal to your rational nature and hope that your annoyance will have calmed down a bit, and ask that you would allow me further postings, if not to you here, then at least to Ag? Your responses within the post you just moved from the Predictive Power thread have shown me that you do in fact understand what I’m talking about. You just don’t feel it has any merit because I’m unable to show the predictive power of a person’s access to the “rest” of existence. I will now attempt to explain how predictive power and the outside observer paradigm are apples and oranges, and I will use a very important value to do so. I will try to be as brief as possible.

    A value: A human being is inherently valuable, and that value is ascribed to him upon conception.

    From the vantage point of an all-knowing outside observer of existence, this could be a universal truth that is part of our existence. An objective truth. It could be as much of a law in the immaterial realm as gravity is in the material realm. Its validity has nothing to do with the predictive power of the viewpoint making the claim. There is no way to prove it rationally, yet the ramifications of believing it or denying it are profound.

    If human rationality is THE filter through which existence is understood, then that value is no more than an arbitrary subjectivity. But there is no way to prove that human rationality is THE filter of existence. Your validation tool of predictive power is a RATIONALITY-BASED tool! I’ll use the eyesight example again: I can use eyesight as a tool to validate that the earth is flat, but if I rocket into space, I will see that the earth is actually round. Predictive power is rationality’s validation of itself.

    This is why I think that belief in rationality as judge is as valid as belief in revelation as judge when it comes to our entire existence. Since predictive power can only validate rationality within its own capabilities, belief that it is THE vantage point of all existence is nothing more than a subjective choice. Because I experience revelation from God, my experience validates my belief in it, and therefore I subjectively choose to believe in it. You have no way to determine whether rationality is all there is and therefore values are determined subjectively, or whether there is more than rationality and values are objective within existence. You cannot use rationality to “prove” anything outside of its domain of assessment because your criterion of predictive power is limited to that domain. If this does not make sense, I will not come back until (and if ever) I find someone who can explain it more clearly. I would appreciate it if you would allow me to stay on this thread to talk to Ag (if he is interested), however.

    Other examples of objective values are: honor, trust, unconditional love, integrity, faithfulness, etc. These can be shown to “work” in our existence, but cannot be rationally proven. I think we understand them imperfectly, but they do exist perfectly.

    Aloha, -Nick


    Phil says…

    Ok, I’ll let you and Ag have at it. Ag, I think you can continue to explain why predictive power is not subjective.
    And just to kick things off, let me suggest a few points to discuss.

    Your example of an objective value: “A human being is inherently valuable, and that value is ascribed to him upon conception.” This is not a value but a claim (and a claim I disagree with as is is unsubstantiated). A claim is nowhere close to objective. Now you need to make devise predictions that can demonstrate this to be true. Where there is no substantiation, there is no objectivity. Where there is no objectivity, there is no justified belief. If this is a universal truth, but it cannot be demonstrated, belief is not warranted. A skeptical position is the only intellectually honest position. If it is a universal truth, it would seem that there could be some evidence of this. In 1907, a man suggested that, if there was a soul interacting with the body, it would have physical weight. Can you imagine the implications of this if this prediction would have turned out to be true? Would Nick have dismissed this predictive power as he did in his ball example? The prediction, however, failed.

    Suggesting that the implications of some beliefs are profound: True. But belief is intellectually improper where there is no evidence, in spite of any implications. If a paranoid person believes a tsunami is coming, but has no evidence of this, if a tsunami strikes, this person is still not justified in his belief since the correlation was an accident and not based on evidence.

    Strange sentences: “If human rationality is THE filter through which existence is understood, then that value is no more than an arbitrary subjectivity.” If rationality is the mind’s module of objectivity used to filter out the subjective as most people define rationality, and values are subjective as most people define values, then this makes no sense.

    Unaddressed example: “Predictive power is rationality’s validation of itself.” and “…predictive power can only validate rationality within its own capabilities.” Apply these notions to my example of the 3 brothers offering predictions of the composition of the red spherical object. As is, they appear quite incoherent.

    Assuming the tool is adequate and properly calibrated: “Because I experience revelation from God, my experience validates my belief in it..” Before you can justifiably claim this, you’ll have to demonstrate how you distinguish direct revelation from mental illness. At minimum, the test for this must be something you can objectively conduct.

    Wrong understanding of the scope of rationality: “You cannot use rationality to “prove” anything outside of its domain of assessment because your criterion of predictive power is limited to that domain.” Rationality can prove (I seldom use this word, but in this case it is proper) that square triangles are impossible, as well as any inerrant god who has authored a book that claims inerrancy, yet contains errors. Rationality is not limited to the physical world. It can demonstrate some inaccessible things to be logically impossible.

    Complete misuse of the term “objective”: “Other examples of objective values are: honor, trust, unconditional love, integrity, faithfulness, etc.” Can you demonstrate how these 5 values are “objective”? Claims of objectivity require some way that minds can test empirically or logically demonstrate that objectivity.

    The quote in question remains unaddressed: Do you still maintain the following? “Superior predictive power” is … like saying ok, we’re going to play a game, and the object of the game is to bounce the ball off the wall. We’ll play to 15, and when I bounce the ball off the wall, I score a point. Period. You don’t get a point when you bounce the ball off the wall. According to the rules, I always win, because I made up the rules.”

    I don’t feel obligated given my current schedule to address Nick’s repeated assertions that ignore my prior treatments of the issue. If you don’t understand by now, I feel my time is better used dialoging with the persons who 1) don’t make bald assertions, 2) use conventional definitions, and 3) are open-minded. If something can be logically demonstrated to me, I am compelled to agree. Nick on the other hand has given himself a get-out-of-jail-free card anytime he is back up into a logical corner by disparaging rationality (except when he claims to be making a rational point).

    And I still highly recommend finding that 3rd-party who can articulate your concepts in a way that is coherent (if indeed the concept is coherent).

  21. agnusstick says:

    Phil, I still respect your ontology, because it can be far more successful than mine, including in my own line of business — i.e. emotions –, although I don’t fully understand your tough attitude against Nick. Each of us have limits, and not being able to go beyond them is not necessarily stubbornness or malevolence.
    Nick’s concept looks coherent to me — in the paradigm exposed on June 25, 2009 at 11:04 (n-, and [n+x]-dimensional worlds, with God-assigned values named “objective values”, transmitted to Nick by personal revelation, but deprived of any objective value for Phil.
    I suppose that Phil would argue that
    -If God assigns an objective value to human life, then as much as a serial killer, and even more a tribal war, would trigger some predictable response from God, a more or less predictable reaction which would enable Phil to admit this objective value. The same is true in case of any reason-assessable reward coming after protecting, improving or disseminating life. It would be objective because, although Phil couldn’t know a priori in any way which are God’s values, as God’s value system is supposedly outside the scope of humans assessment, and Phil is obviously denied personal revelation, there would be a rational, experimental way through which Phil could describe God’s behaviour and properties.
    -Any other God-assigned objective values, be they very similar to human values or not, must be described in a way which enables the reason to recognize them as such.
    -In case no such predictable reaction from God in front of playing with His values in a positive or negative way can be inferred, Phil shall reject the existence of objective values. One of Phil ideas would probably be that humans actually value those things, no matter why, and transfer them to God by a wrong thinking process. This opinion would be validated by the fact that even Phil can see these as values, but he recognizes them as pure subjective emotions, and can sometimes find trivial, human reasons behind them.
    -That is why Phil is not accepting to discard reason as THE tool for assessing existence, although he shows dilligence in moving to other superior tools, if available and proven inside his system. Even if the [n+x]-dimensional space would really exist, Phil demands to see effects of its laws inside our n-dimensional world. Emotion is not recognized by Phil as dimension, because it is not independent (orthogonal to the other dimensions — to use math language), but only dependent on the other dimensions of this world. A proof of the fact that emotion is orthogonal would be in case changing an emotion’s value would result in changing the physical state of an object or the parameters of an event. Yet only the reverse is true, in that changing events and objects lead to changing emotions.

    • Now we’re on track.

      The ontology surrounding Santa is also coherent if we allow for the dimension of magic, but this ontology has little collaborating evidence of its existence other than anecdotal reports of elf and sleigh sightings, and of course the revelation of Santa himself to the souls of Santa believers.

      But how shall we test this seemingly inaccessible ontology?

      By asking “does it work?”

      As consistent with the Santa ontology, do all good children receive presents and all bad children no receive presents?
      The confirmation of this would count as evidence for the existence of Santa and the rest of the ontic, in spite of some of the ‘irrational’ notions such as fat men descending skinny chimneys.

      However, the competing paradigm suggests that parents give their children parents, and not Santa. This would be reflected in the correlation between the price of the presents and the economic power of the parents.

      Which paradigm has the predictive power?

      Now I don’t understand the silence surrounding my example of of the 3 brothers predicting the composition of the red spherical object in the post “Predictive Power”. Could any party disagreeing with the superiority of rational thought address this example?

  22. agnusstick says:

    An escape solution for us believers would be to postulate that emotion pertains to the [n+x]-dimensional world. Still, there are some delicate problems to solve — one can solve them using the personal God, of which Phil has no reasonable proof or revelation.
    Inspired by a blog I read this morning, I think we have here a debate of rationality (on the believers’ side) vs. rationalism (on Phil’s side). Rationality is the quality of being acceptable by reason under certain hypotheses, while rationalism is an ideology recurring to reason for any kind of evaluation.
    Phil, your example of 3 brothers can be “enriched” with a 4th character, the Prophet. He can interrupt the quarrel, before anybody applies the irreparable to the red object, and say that he will ask God to change the object into a red dove, as soon as it hits the wall.
    Nick and I have faith that God could really do it, but we cannot be sure whether He would like to do it, just to please the Prophet and amaze the 3 brothers (perhaps transforming them into believers — but this is not sure in case Phil is one of them). I consider that faith earned by the way of miracles is inferior — I simply prefer trust and faithfulness.

    • Ag said…

      Phil, your example of 3 brothers can be “enriched” with a 4th character, the Prophet. He can interrupt the quarrel, before anybody applies the irreparable to the red object, and say that he will ask God to change the object into a red dove, as soon as it hits the wall.

      Excellent. And if god changed the object into a red dove every time that the man prayed, then that 4th character would certainly win my respect as his ideology would show its superiority.

      The belief in this superior ideology would then be warranted since it would follow the evidence of predictive power.

      Is this 4th character around?

  23. Nick Kiefer says:

    Phil said:

    “Excellent. And if god changed the object into a red dove every time that the man prayed, then that 4th character would certainly win my respect as his ideology would show its superiority.

    The belief in this superior ideology would then be warranted since it would follow the evidence of predictive power.”

    Give me a break. “Ok God, if you jump through my hoop, it means you exist. Ok, ready God? Oh, and by the way God, even though you may be God, I need you to remember who’s boss and who judges you as real. Thanks.”

    • Nick said…

      Give me a break. “Ok God, if you jump through my hoop, it means you exist. Ok, ready God? Oh, and by the way God, even though you may be God, I need you to remember who’s boss and who judges you as real. Thanks.”

      And here we finally arrive after a long discussion to uncover a very common fundamental error among god-claimers of all sorts.

      They are not my hoops. They are your god’s hoops. These hoops are the promises of your god. If your god made no promises, then there are no hoops. However, if you god made no promises, he would be as impotent as a non-existent god. Did your god make promises? Then he is obliged to jump through his own hoops to avoid being a god that breaks promises.

      Did your god promise to answer prayer? Then one hoop is to answer prayer.

      Did your god promise to perform miracles? Then another hoop is to perform miracles.

      Did your god promise superior power over sin? Then another hoop is to give believers superior power over sin.

      Did god make any other promises? Then those are self-imposed hoops he must successfully jump through to demonstrate his worth.

      Did god not make any promises? Then exactly how does he differ from a non-existent god?

      You’re rightfully begging for a break. Your god has left you with broken promises or an impotent bible.

      And I added links for a reason.

  24. Nick Kiefer says:

    “Just look at is this way God, you’d be helping me validate my criterion of predictive power! Thanks buddy God!”

    • Nick said…

      “Just look at is this way God, you’d be helping me validate my criterion of predictive power! Thanks buddy God!”

      This is very instructive.

      While I am willing to accept the existence of your god should he follow through on his promises, you will continue to maintain his existence even in the face of the negative evidence of broken promises.

      What can we now say about our respective claims of open-mindedness?

      (And read Deuteronomy 18:20-22 to see just how important predictive power is to your god.)

  25. agnusstick says:

    Dear Phil, the Deuteronomy text you indicated seems to justify somehow our lack of prediction powers. If God really is a being, His will can escape predictions, as human’s will does on a different scale. He can choose important matters and moments, He can take the initiative to communicate, He can refuse to answer minor requests, or even deadly ones. So we are fine with this Deuteronomy passage, in this case. It still rises huge problems, because prophecies are not supposed to cover just the short and medium range of time, so the prophet’s validation can be very long waited for.

    • Ag said…

      It [Deuteronomy 18:20-22] still rises huge problems, because prophecies are not supposed to cover just the short and medium range of time, so the prophet’s validation can be very long waited for.

      Let’s look at the actual passage.

      But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, must be put to death. You may say to yourselves, “How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD ?” If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him.

      God said to kill false prophets if their prophecies did not come true.

      Ag seems to say, “But God, we may never know if a prophecy will come true in the distant future! How could we ever be justified in killing a prophet?

      Your argument appears to be against Jehovah rather than me.

  26. agnusstick says:

    Phil, I’m not sure if Yahwé didn’t actually mean precisely that we shouldn’t ever kill a prophet, or that short-term predictions are nuisant to believers (either because not seeing them come true immediately can bring murder — including the killing of God Himself –, or because coming true immediately lessens the absolute, immanent perfection of the infinite and everlasting God).

    • Your interpretation of this passage only adds to the enigma of extreme doctrinal disunity of all sorts among persons who claim to possess the very same spirit of truth.

  27. G. Nicholl Ogoo says:

    Agnostic theists as myself cannot claim such a common spirit of truth. Coincidentia oppositorum, this is what I bet on when it comes to interpreting the Scripture.

    • So how would coincidentia oppositorum be applied to Deuteronomy 18:20-22?
      And do you think it was applied by the Israelites when considering whether or not to kill a false prophet?

  28. Nick Kiefer says:

    The 3 balls is just more of you talking to yourself about predictive power.

    Predictive power is worth ZERO outside the scope of rationality’s domain. Period. There is no argument! There is no common ground for comparing elements, criteria, methodologies, NOTHING. Rationality is confined to its own devices! You employ brain power, use rigor, critical thinking, philosophical stereotyping, whatever you bring to the table in vain, Phil. It all still only adds up to the validation of rationality as ~A~ tool human beings use to assess the realm that rationality is capable of assessing. There is absolutely nothing other than assumption that grants rationality further authority. If there is existence outside the rationality paradigm, then it is possible that this realm has different criteria for success, different methodologies of validation, different EVERYTHING. For you to assert EVERYTHING must conform to rationality’s method and criteria for validation, you are not being open to the possibility that human rationality is not the determiner of all that is! Your inability to “back up” prevents you from even considering that “predictive power” may not even MATTER with respect to anything outside rationality’s domain. You do understand that you will NEVER, without assumption, PROVE anything outside rationality’s domain of assessment? Neither will you disprove anything. The assumptions and questions you have may not even be the important ones! The bottom line of ANY existential viewpoint is BELIEF. You have your “pat on the back” of predictive power. I have my “pat on the back” of tangible interaction with God. They are both beliefs, they both require a subjective choice to espouse, and they both rest on a foundation of assumptions. For you to demand that rationality is somehow superior because it conforms to its own criterion for success is a ludicrous, narrow-minded, and arrogant point of view. And your piece on Predictive Power is arrogant, quotes me out of context, and ridicules me and my point of view.

    Keep trying to convince yourself that rationality is all there is Phil. Good luck. But please don’t insult my intelligence and the intelligence of probably a lot more people than you know by making it a “competition” in which there is superior and inferior. Rationality is not even able to objectively determine the MEANING of “superior” within the context of an existence wherein the possibility exists that rationality is just a tool granted human beings with which to assess their physical universe. And the BUMMER FOR YOU Phil is that rationality cannot provide you the authority to disqualify that notion without a truckload of assumptions — the same type of assumptions I call upon to put rationality in its proper box and understand that revelation has authority over it.

    Sorry, I’ve tried really hard to be conscientious about my explanations, I’ve worked with you, catered to your narrow-mindedness, tolerated your ridicule and disrespectful posture toward me and my ideas… The bottom line is in this note, I know you understand it, I know I’ve sufficiently expressed it, and now you can continue to pretend what I’m saying doesn’t matter and predictive power is still valid or whatever else you have to say, but all you’re really saying is that you need and want the paradigm you’ve subjectively chosen to be “right.” Nice try. No one in the history of humanity is ever “right” or “wrong” using rationality to prove or disprove things that are outside the scope of its capabilities, meaning things that require assumptive belief.

    Aloha, -Nick

  29. Nick Kiefer says:

    Your ideas about God’s broken promises shows your lack of understanding of Him. God is not a principle or a physical law. His interaction with human beings is DYNAMIC. You are trying to make him fit into your rationality-based assessment program because that is the little paradigm you dwell in and you can’t seem to “zoom out.” If He were predictable, he would be some sort of force or law of nature. Sorry, He’s not one. But because all of existence incorporates a lot more than just what you want it to, it’s neither here nor there that He does not fit into your criterion for success. His impartation to human beings regarding the OBJECTIVE values He has created in our existence is much more important than your cognitive tools for figuring out our material realm. He created values and laws that govern the spiritual realm, and the successes of implementation (incorporation of these into one’s understanding and behavior) cannot be measured by a puny rationality-based taxonomy.

    You are grasping and don’t even know it. Your unwillingness to concede that the portion of existence I’m talking about is even possible shows how badly you want what you’re saying to be true. In fact, you are practicing the same needs-based filtering that you accuse Christians of doing (presumptuous idea that existence has meaning, etc). You presume that existence can always be discerned, assessed, and understood via human rationality. A huge and narrow-minded assumption.

    Aloha, -Nick

    • Nick, you are the only one insulting your intelligence. Diluting your gibberish with more specious gibberish but leaves you way over your head in gurgling gibberish. I’ll keep your nonsensical comments on this site as a caveat to those who believe that committing to an irrational belief in god can not lead to the delusion, arrogance and philosophical incompetence you’ve displayed. I predict that an assessment of persons such as yourself who claim a direct line to god will uncover a higher degree of arrogance. Even here predictive power is in play. My patience has run out with your pontifications about god knows what.

      If you had but only attempted to address my objections rather than ejaculating raw unsubstantiated claims of spiritual entities in a spiritual realm, I’d have something to work with. But I’m not about to let you emit an endless barrage of specious claims hoping to impress readers with your verbosity. Bald assertions are worth nothing to me.

      Note that I’m allowing you to save a bit of face by showing my nonobjective irritation with your empty rhetorical antics. Feel free to dismiss my arguments on this basis.

      Others can comment on this post and correct me if they think you are not arrogant, deluded and philosophically incompetent.

      However, you are no longer welcome to comment. Any further comment you make will be deleted.

      • UPDATE

        It’s been nearly half a year, and no one seems very interested in defending Nick.
        Nick, however, did the christian thing, and in spite of my being clear that he is no longer welcome to post, attempted to post in his typical arrogant tone today under another e-mail address. Just what are they teaching in churches these days?

        He tried again, and says he never claimed to be a christian. I’ll grant him that one. But just what should we call someone who does not take a hint?

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