Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Is Evidence A Prerequisite for Intellectual Assertions?

Although I brought this up in the comments, I would like to refute a particular argument advanced by MethoDeist:

Your logical progression is correct but not on objective level because no religion can be proven as correct/incorrect. It is correct on a personal (subjective) level.

It is not necessary to prove that intellectual assertions are true or false in order to prove that they contradict each other.

For example:

1. Gavin Richardson has the UMC logo tattooed on his butt.
2. Gavin Richardson does not have the UMC logo tattooed on his butt.

I have not done any research on the subject. Nor do I plan to, or wish to hear from anyone who has. But I don't have to in order to prove that there are only two possibilities: 1 or 2.

If there is a third possibility, please inform me of it. If you cannot, then you must accept my argument as correct.

Likewise, if:

3. Religion A says that all religions except itself are false.
4. Religion B says that all religions except itself are false.

...then it is not necessary for me to prove the accuracy of the claims of either Religions A or B in order to prove that they contradict each other at an objective level.

35 comments:

Jason Woolever said...

can we leave Gavin's butt out of this. If we start picking at it, its gonna get really sore, and frankly there aren't a lot of good hemmroid cremes out there.

Brian said...

What's the point? The claims are really only contradictory is they're true. Further, you have to consider whether (using the religion example) whether those religions actually make those claims, and if they do, whether they're true.

The trouble with these "logical" arguments is that they try to make something very simple that is actually very complex. I would argue it is a rhetorical trick that doesn't really add anything to the discussion.

BruceA said...

3. Gavin's butt could be in a quantum state as long as the existence of the tattoo is indeterminite.

John said...

Brian wrote:

What's the point? The claims are really only contradictory is they're true.

How so?

Further, you have to consider whether (using the religion example) whether those religions actually make those claims, and if they do, whether they're true.

Why?

The trouble with these "logical" arguments is that they try to make something very simple that is actually very complex. I would argue it is a rhetorical trick that doesn't really add anything to the discussion.

Then please proceed.

Anonymous said...

Two examples of the inclusivist view on your example:

3. Gavin has half of the UMC logo tattooed on his butt, but chickened out before they could fill in the flame part with red ink because the needle was starting to hurt.
or
3. Gavin may or may not have the UMC logo tatooed on his butt, but there is no way to ever be sure because he is never ever ever going to show us or tell us. (Not that we would really want to know anyway.)

Brian said...

John,

You asked, "How So?"

You had suggested that evidence isn't a prerequisite for intellectual assertions. I'm suggesting that we can make claims that appear contradictory, but they're only actually contradictory if they're true. I would argue that we focus on the substantive issues at question, rather than some silly abstract analysis of what are basically two hypotheses.

You asked, "Why?"

Well, see above. What's the point in arguing whether religion a and b can coexist because of their claims of exclusivity, if they don't actually make those claims? Again, we should focus on the substantive argument.

My point is that in the context of the present debate, some theologians have argued (passionately, thoughtfully, and prayerfully) that Christianity is not exclusive in the way you seem to suggest it is. Other theologians have argued that it is.

I would suggest that we try to understand the nature of both of those claims and take them both seriously. It doesn't mean we have to agree with both, but serious consideration might lead to some shared understanding that we can't predict.

I think taking these two claims, sticking them on opposite sides and basically saying "pick one" isn't helpful. Particularly when we don't accurately represent the true arguments of both sides.

In this case I think these logical arguments are silly. They are unhelpful, in my opinion, because at their best they mask the complexity of the issue. At their worst, they are simply straw man arguments designed to obfuscate the truth, rather than elucidate it.

John said...

Brian, if there are more options than I list, then tell me what is your proposed option 3 for Gavin's tattooing status. If I'm oversimplyfing the debate by providing only two options, then you should be able to provide at least a third.

Well, see above. What's the point in arguing whether religion a and b can coexist because of their claims of exclusivity, if they don't actually make those claims?

Alas, they do. My religion, for example, says that all other religions except itself are false. Show me how, then, other religions can be compatible with it.

MethoDeist said...

I understand what you are trying to say but here is the problem. Gavin's butt can actually be examined (if someone really wants to) to find out if he has the tattoo. Thus, evidence does existence and can be found if we so desire.

God, theology and religion cannot be proven in this way (at least right now in human development) so your reasoning does not apply. In an objective sense, religion A and religion B are not correct or incorrect as neither can be proven like the tattoo on Gavin's butt.

However, on the subjective (personal) level both religion A and B cannot be both correct because you will accept one over the other which as you say makes pluaralism a falsehood but only on a personal level but then pluaralism is not a subjective position but an objective position.

One can be a Pluralist from a objective position and a Inclusivist/Exclusivist from a subjective position. I know that this drives many crazy but it is the way it is.

Let me say this, I agree with you that Christianity is defined by certain tenets and if one does not meet these then they should not use the label of Christian. Also, I agree with you that debates such as this one have no place in the church. People go to church for spiritual fulfillment, spiritual experience, fellowship, community, education and last but not least, reaffirmation of faith.

Great discussion.

MethoDeist

Brian said...

John,

My point is this - I don't care if there is a third option related to the tattoos. What is the point in arguing about it if we can't ever determine if he actually has a tatoo? That's the first issue.

Then we could ask questions like whether he actually got the tattoo finished? Is it actually the UMC logo if it doesn't have the trademark sign on it? Is actually on his butt, or is it really more on his thigh? Is it a real tattoo, or just a sticker? I think we need to focus on the nuances of the debate if we're going to be serious.

I understand that you claim that all other religions are false. But there are those who call themselves Christian who would disagree with you. I would suggest that we have a thoughtful discussion of that issue and come to some understanding of how we can have multiple Christians making such different claims.

I understand the logic - I just think that it isn't the point.

Anonymous said...

Man if Gavin only knew his butt was being used this way...

John said...

MethoDeist wrote:

I understand what you are trying to say but here is the problem. Gavin's butt can actually be examined (if someone really wants to) to find out if he has the tattoo. Thus, evidence does existence and can be found if we so desire.

How does the possibility of evidence change that there are only two possible outcomes? Can you name a third?

God, theology and religion cannot be proven in this way (at least right now in human development) so your reasoning does not apply. In an objective sense, religion A and religion B are not correct or incorrect as neither can be proven like the tattoo on Gavin's butt.

I'm not trying to prove the validity of any assertions. I'm just trying to prove that they can be mutually exclusive.

John said...

Brian wrote:

My point is this - I don't care if there is a third option related to the tattoos.

I do! Because if there is a third option, then pluralism is a possibility. And if you think that it is, then you should be able to name a third option.

I understand that you claim that all other religions are false. But there are those who call themselves Christian who would disagree with you. I would suggest that we have a thoughtful discussion of that issue and come to some understanding of how we can have multiple Christians making such different claims.

I didn't say that I'm calling my religion Christianity, or that my religion is the definition of Christianity. Call my religion Religion A and I am its sole adherent. Now if Religion A says that that all other religions are false, then how is it compatible with other religions?

Brian said...

Option 3 - Religion A is wrong.
Option 4 - Religion B is wrong.

Their claim to exclusivity is completely irrelevant to me without proof of such.

You want to prove "pluralism" false by creating this artificial logical construct. Pluralists would, I think, reject the claim to exclusivity and not bother with this either/or argument.

MethoDeist said...

"I'm not trying to prove the validity of any assertions. I'm just trying to prove that they can be mutually exclusive."

Only in an subjective sense can they be mutually exclusive so you are right and you are wrong as they relate to the proper contexts.

gavin richardson said...

just finding out that my butt is such a hot topic of conversation. many statements go through my mind but then a sign blurting of "too much information" holds me back.

MethoDeist said...

"How does the possibility of evidence change that there are only two possible outcomes? Can you name a third?"

You are comparing apples and oranges here. In this case, the tattoo can be proven by evidence so only two possibilities can exist. Religion has no such proof so it makes no sense to call one religion true and another not in the objective context. It only applies to the subjective context.

MethoDeist

John said...

Brian wrote:

Option 3 - Religion A is wrong.
Option 4 - Religion B is wrong.


If these are true, then pluralism is false.

Their claim to exclusivity is completely irrelevant to me without proof of such.

You want to prove "pluralism" false by creating this artificial logical construct. Pluralists would, I think, reject the claim to exclusivity and not bother with this either/or argument.


Well, of course they would because my argument refutes their position. But that doesn't make my argument invalid.

John said...

MethoDeist wrote:

You are comparing apples and oranges here. In this case, the tattoo can be proven by evidence so only two possibilities can exist. Religion has no such proof so it makes no sense to call one religion true and another not in the objective context. It only applies to the subjective context.

Please explain this differentiation between the objective and the subjective.

Brian said...

John - but what does your argument prove?

I guess I'm just not understanding the point of this discussion. Of course that hasn't kept me from getting involved, but that's problem.

John said...

John - but what does your argument prove?

That pluralism is an incoherent proposition. It is impossible to be pluralistic.

Larry B said...

Methodeist says - "God, theology and religion cannot be proven in this way (at least right now in human development) so your reasoning does not apply. In an objective sense, religion A and religion B are not correct or incorrect as neither can be proven like the tattoo on Gavin's butt."

So the question becomes do you deny the existence of Gavin's Butt? If you don't deny it, then why can't you accept that either it will have a tattoo or it will not. Only by assuming that Gavin's Butt is a subjective concept can you even begin to assert that only contextual subjective propositions can be made.

Again if Gavin's butt is a separate and real objective truth then it can be said that it will exist in one of two states - tattooed or not tattooed.

The same applies to our conception of God. If we accept that He is a separate and objective truth as Christianity declares, then there will be states of knowledge that will follow that will necessitate a logical consistency and will thus rule out certain propositions as wrong in an objective and non contextual manner.

Otherwise one would have to move God into a subjective and non separate objective truth whereby logic no longer applies and subjective observer created knowledge can be applied. Is that really what is being advocated?

JD said...

Bravo Larry b, Bravo!

That was the best summation and explanation of Gavin's butt, which, in turn, can be an alias for Jesus Christ, if we so chose, that I have ever heard!

What I really meant to say is thanks for putting this entire post into a context that is understandable by the "I ain't got no Doctorate in Philosophy" bunch.

PAX
JD

Art said...

I had a very astute but liberally controversial point to make but all these comments gave me such a headache that I forgot what it was...

Now I have to go try to sleep, hoping I don't have nightmares about Gavin's freakin' butt.

Thank you all so very much!

JD said...

Art,

About Gavin's butt or the actual topic?

PAX
JD

MethoDeist said...

It is really quite simple everyone. You can prove that Gavins butt exists but you cannot prove that God exists. I fully acccept that Gavin's butt exists and might or might not have a tattoo.

Christianity may state that God is an objective thing but that does not make it so as Christianity is metaphysical. Now, prove that God exists and then we can discuss the nature of God from an objective standpoint. Otherwise, admit that God and all related aspects are metaphysical propositions and based on faith. Paul knew this to be true and told all Christians to believe on faith as I seem to recall.

So, in the world of objectivity, all theology is based on metaphysical propositions and one of the most rational propositions is to admit this and accept pluralism on this level. That belief in something greater than ourselves allows for many wonderful things and is not limited to exclusivist subjective beliefs.

Part of the problem here is that I am trying to show what pluaralists believe and what true pluaralism is. However, my attempts have been less than successful. I think that major problem is that religion is being seen in two different views and that blocks proper communication.

Also, I am not a Christian and I am not arguing from a Christian perspective so that is causing communiation problems. I have agreeD (more than once) that the issue of pluaralism should not be an issue in churches.

As a pluaralist (non-Christian), it must be understood that the Christian beliefs (or any religious beliefs) are not important to the discussion because there is no evidence to support or deny any of them. So, we are more concerned with how this allows the individual to relate to something greater than themselves.

Overall, this has been a great discussion but I think that it is over but I will continue if there are those that would like to. However, I don't think that anything new will be learned.

Let us move onto something new.

MethoDeist

Richard H said...

John's comments in this post raise the question of theories of truth. Speaking broadly (and simplistically), three common theories of truth are Correspondence, Coherence, and Pragmatist.

One who hold a Correspondence theory of truth with regard to religion, would look for a religion whose propositions best corresponded to reality. Since there is one reality, there may well be one best religion. Given this kind of theory EVIDENCE plays an important role.

One who holds a Coherence theory of truth with regard to religion would look for a religion whose propositions are internally coherent and, perhaps, externally coherent (that is with non-religious propositions) also. In this view LOGIC might play the most important role. While one might find a truest religion given this model of truth, it is possible to find multiple religions equally coherent, and thus equally true.

One who holds to a pragmatic theory of truth would focus neither on whether its propositions corresponded to reality (and may not even care about propositions at all) or were coherent - internally or externally. Rather the pragmatist would simply ask, "Does it work? If it works, it must be true." It is in this third theory that one would be most likely to incline to a theory of religious pluralism, admitting freely that since a wide variety of religions appear to work for a wide variety of people, then each can be judged true.

If I were conversing with someone about these issues I might ask questions like:
1. Is it possible for a religion to be true?
2. Is it possible for a religion to be untrue?
3. If we can say something is untrue, how is that different from saying it is false?
4. Given a pragmatist theory of truth, is the ascription, "it works" purely subjective or does it have some objective criteria?
5. Continuing to thing about the pragmatic theory, how well does it (the theory) work in practice? In the experience of a pragmatist, does what appears to work continue to appear to work at a later time? Is it possible to revise one's evaluation about whether something works or not? If the truth status of something is maleable, must we resort to not only saying, "X is true FOR ME," but "X was true for me the LAST TIME I EXAMINED IT."
6. In what kinds of circumstances do we say things like, "X is true?" In what kinds of circumstances do we make this kind of comment about religion?
7. Is Christianity (and any another phenomenon out there) best described as a "religion?" If so, are all religions to be evaluated using the same criteria? If so (again), where do these criteria come from? To what degree are they internal or external to the "religion"?

That'd get me started anyway.

Richard H said...

John's comments in this post raise the question of theories of truth. Speaking broadly (and simplistically), three common theories of truth are Correspondence, Coherence, and Pragmatist.

One who hold a Correspondence theory of truth with regard to religion, would look for a religion whose propositions best corresponded to reality. Since there is one reality, there may well be one best religion. Given this kind of theory EVIDENCE plays an important role.

One who holds a Coherence theory of truth with regard to religion would look for a religion whose propositions are internally coherent and, perhaps, externally coherent (that is with non-religious propositions) also. In this view LOGIC might play the most important role. While one might find a truest religion given this model of truth, it is possible to find multiple religions equally coherent, and thus equally true.

One who holds to a pragmatic theory of truth would focus neither on whether its propositions corresponded to reality (and may not even care about propositions at all) or were coherent - internally or externally. Rather the pragmatist would simply ask, "Does it work? If it works, it must be true." It is in this third theory that one would be most likely to incline to a theory of religious pluralism, admitting freely that since a wide variety of religions appear to work for a wide variety of people, then each can be judged true.

If I were conversing with someone about these issues I might ask questions like:
1. Is it possible for a religion to be true?
2. Is it possible for a religion to be untrue?
3. If we can say something is untrue, how is that different from saying it is false?
4. Given a pragmatist theory of truth, is the ascription, "it works" purely subjective or does it have some objective criteria?
5. Continuing to thing about the pragmatic theory, how well does it (the theory) work in practice? In the experience of a pragmatist, does what appears to work continue to appear to work at a later time? Is it possible to revise one's evaluation about whether something works or not? If the truth status of something is maleable, must we resort to not only saying, "X is true FOR ME," but "X was true for me the LAST TIME I EXAMINED IT."
6. In what kinds of circumstances do we say things like, "X is true?" In what kinds of circumstances do we make this kind of comment about religion?
7. Is Christianity (and any another phenomenon out there) best described as a "religion?" If so, are all religions to be evaluated using the same criteria? If so (again), where do these criteria come from? To what degree are they internal or external to the "religion"?

That'd get me started anyway.

Brian said...

John, I'd disagree that you've proven that. It is only impossible to be a pluralist is you believe the exclusive claims of other religions. But by definition, a pluralist is going to reject those claims.

They can reject those claims a couple of ways - you could argue that the claims are incorrect (i.e. the proponents of the religion are making a claim not supported by their own religious documents), the claim is unprovable and thus essentially irrelevant, or that your own religious claim of inclusivity is correct.

It is all in how you frame the debate. The problem for me is that you're framing the debate to setup the side you disagree with as a straw man - which is a logical fallacy.

Phanuel said...

Another illustration would be:

example 1. red tattoo;
example 2. blue tatoo;

with the disagreement being over the importance of the color. The exclusivist says he has seen the color (in a spiritual sense), so if you don't believe the same as him, by definition you are wrong.

The pluralist says because many
people have never seen the color , so as long as one believes there IS a tattoo, what does it matter, even if one who doesn't know better makes a false guess at the color.

To which the exclusivist replies, it is my responsibility, because I have seen the color, to reveal it to those who are wrong about the color, rather than to create with my doctrine, the illlusion of a "wider gate" ala Matthew 7.

The argument then is really over the importance of the color.

MethoDeist said...

Here is the problem using the color analogy. Anyone can actually go out and look at the color but we cannot do the same with God. Colors can be seen and measured but God cannot so while I like the analogy it fails as you are comparing apples to oranges.

John said...

Brian wrote:

John, I'd disagree that you've proven that. It is only impossible to be a pluralist is you believe the exclusive claims of other religions. But by definition, a pluralist is going to reject those claims.

Then a pluralist is necessarily rejecting those religions.

Phanuel said...

But many believe it is possible to see the color, because they have seen it!

2 COR 4:18a While we LOOK not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are NOT SEEN

Once one LOOKS at the "color" that is NOT SEEN, he can no longer entertain that it is anything other than what he knows to be true.

Anonymous said...

Is it plausible that because man was created in the image of God - whatever that means - we were meant to be as diverse as we are culturally as a means by which we learn to appreciate and perhaps learn from those whose "truth" is different from our own? Not necessarily to determine who is right and who is wrong but to somehow work it out?

I am a Christian, but I have an appreciation of some aspects of Buddhism, for instance, that I can appreciate more because of my Christian perspective. The same goes for some passages of the Koran that have a distinctive Judeo-Christian flavor. I cannot disregard these things which ring true.

Just wondering.

Larry B said...

methodeist says:
"Anyone can actually go out and look at the color but we cannot do the same with God"

Yet any major religion makes the claim that they have done precisely that (seen God). Judaism claims the Torah to be the oral revelation of God to his people based on Moses's historical personal encounter with God. Christ furthers the claim to be the historical physical incarnation of God to his people. The religions (Judaism and Christianity) make the claim to have had the Character and Person of God revealed directly to them. The fact that we aren't afforded the same direct encounter doesn't prima fascia negate the truth of the recorded encounters. Either they happened or they didn't. If you don't believe they happened or you believe they are mythological in nature then rightfully, one should make no claim to that particular religion as you yourself seem to assert.

However, anyone who follows Christ's teaching with logical consistency would have to accept that God was revealed to the Jewish people, His character was made known and recorded for future generations, and Jesus was God in human form revealing himself in the most knowable way possible - living directly with us. Hence there is objective, rational knowable truths that can be studied and derived, and to deny these truths is in the context of the religion, illogical and heretical.

It's not person's that make claims such as yourself whereby you distinguish yourself as not being Christian that raise problems. It's someone who asserts they are Christian and holds to non-rational and illogical positions when compared to the truth claimed by the religion.

MethoDeist said...

Remember that it is only irrational and illogical on a personal level but not on an objective level. A Christian can belive in the primary tenets of Christianity on a subjective level and be a pluaralist on an objective level as long as they are honest about it being based on faith.

Again, the pluralist is stating that the beliefs are not important but the experiences, morals, values and living done by the believer are.

MethoDeist