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Switch to Forum Live View Atheist vs. Atheist
4 years ago  ::  Jul 18, 2013 - 5:08PM #1
Brady111
Posts: 65
I would be interested in any comments on the following:


The following remarks take place at a debate, in your hometown, at exactly 7:30 PM your time. exactly 2 blocks from where you live. On one side of the debate is an atheist coming from the naturalist position. This position says that nature is all that exists. This positions denies or lacks belief in the existence of any God. If anything that anyone calls a god does exist, it is derived from nature.

The opposing side is taken by an atheist coming from the negationist position. This position basically says that no God exists, and that the universe does not exist either, everything is an illusion.

The title of the debate is: “Is it reasonable to assert the existence of a material universe?”

The following are the opening remarks from the negationists point of view:

My fellow atheists, I welcome all of you, and my opponent to this evenings fine event.

Let me start our discussion by saying that negationists are not that different from naturalists. It is just that we negationists believe in one fewer entity than do the naturalists. We negationists lack faith in God, as the naturalists do and for the same reason the naturalists do. The reason we lack belief in God is because there is no evidence at all for the existence of God. We negationists think that is a pretty good reason. So, we have accepted the same reasoning for our lack of belief that a external, material world or universe exists. We believe that if we are to be consistent, we as atheists should not then fall into the same trap as Christians, Jews, Muslims and other Theists.

Every naturalist that I have ever talked to begins by insisting that his sense perceptions correspond to an external, material world, but when pressed to give the evidence for such a belief, there in nothing forthcoming. They simply propose a position based on a known fallacy or say something like, they take it for granted, or it is an instinctive belief, or they take it as an axiom. But don't we, as atheists, rightly laugh at theists when they attempt to present such nonsense? Why should atheists fall into the same blind faith trap, immediately after we deride theists for doing so.


You will notice that I am not even waiting for my opponent to offer a positive defence for his position. This is because I have been there, done that, and bought the broken record.  I am tired of hearing from the naturalist the same non-starters parroted over and over again. Do naturalists think that by repeating the same bad arguments given above enough times that will change them from bad arguments to good arguments? I know that the best my opponent will come up with is that he has these perceptions and regardless of whether or not they correspond to an external world, he has nothing more to go on, so he has to live as though there is a real material world. But is this not just a rehash of Kant's moral imperative? Kant thought that regardless of the existence or non-existence of God, we need to live as though he actually does exist. Just as Kant's argument did not show that God exists, neither does the naturalist's argument in any way show that a material universe exists.

Why is it that the naturalist can do no better than to modify and repackage blind faith and the arguments that theists use for the existence of God to prop up their naturalistic worldview?  When it comes to offering evidence and arguments for a material world that exists external to us, warmed over theism  is what we get. Naturalists? Hello? Think about it! If these poor arguments didn't work for the theist, what makes you think they are going to work for you?

To assume that our perceptions correspond to an external world is nothing more than Argumentum Ad Ignorantium (an argument from ignorance). This is because the naturalist is not basing his conclusion on what he does know, but on what he doesn't know. Just as the theist basis his belief in God on what he doesn't know.

The last argument I will refute from the naturalists point of view is that it seems natural to assume that our perceptions have a external referent. Yes, my friends,  if you think that this is not much different than the other arguments already banished, you are right. I bring it up as a starting point for my positive argument that the most rational position to take is that we must conclude that an external, material world doesn't exist, until sufficient and conclusive evidence is provided to show that one does; just as we demand from the theist.

Point 1 – Perceptions without external, material referents.

The naturalist already admits that we have perceptions that have no external, physical referent. The naturalist calls them “dreams.” In those dreams we see people, eat and drink with them, speak to them and they speak to us. These are all perceptions that have no external, material referent. The question that naturally comes up is, since we admit that some of our perceptions have no external referent, what makes us think that any of our perceptions have external referents? The fact is that all perceptions happen in our head. What evidence is there that any of our perceptions correspond to external referents? There is also no way we can independently verify that our sense perceptions correspond to external referents. We have no way to take one of our perceptions in one hand and independently compare it to an external referent in our other hand. All we have to work with are our perceptions.

Since we must admit that:

*perceptions do not require an external referent,
*and that at least some of our perceptions, indeed, have no external referent,
*and we have no positive reason to think that any of our perceptions correspond to an external world,

it would seem that the only rational conclusion, would be to say that we must maintain a lack of belief that any perception has an external referent, until sufficient evidence is presented that they do. And since our perceptions cannot be used as a justification for an external, material world, we have no reason and no evidence that leads us to think that such a world exists.

Now I know how my colleague across the room will object! He will say that when we are not dreaming our perceptions are clearer, more cohesive and more coherent, in addition they last for the years of our lives and not the short time a dream last. Our “non-dreaming” perceptions are very different than our “dreaming” perceptions.

To this I answer, that we all must admit that some of our dreams are clearer than others; some of our dreams are more coherent and cohesive than others; and some of our dreams seem to last longer than others. What I would like my opponent to do is show me the objective gauge that says how clear or coherent or how long a perception must be before we know it is not a dream, but a perception of an external world! But, he can offer no such objective standard. For it is merely his opinion. He can do no more than subjectively pick-and-choose which perceptions he deems to be a dream and which he declares to be perceptions of an external world. To this, all I can say is, thanks for sharing your mere opinion; when you have some real evidence, feel free to come back.

Point 2 – Ockham's razor

Ockham's razor says, “Entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity.” This idea is automatically built into the negationist's worldview. For, unlike our naturalist counterpart, we accept no unjustified belief. The naturalist must assume the existence of billions, upon billion, upon billions of individual ad hoc entities that make up a universe. We assume nothing! We need no ad hoc entities. And once all ad hoc entities are eliminated from the naturalist worldview, what you are left with is the negationist worldview.

Conclusion:

In these opening remarks, I have shown the fallacies built into the naturalist's worldview and offered  a positive case for the negationist's worldview. The naturalist insists that until sufficient evidence is presented, one should not assume that God exists, negationists agree; but the negationist also insists that until sufficient evidence is presented, one should not assume that an external, material universe exist, either. Allow me to suggest that the rational man goes where the evidence leads and not against it. Let me invite my naturalist friends to give up on this unjustified fantasy of an external, material world. To believe that there is an external, material universe is no more rational than, and it is on the same level as, the theist's belief in a Big Sky-Daddy.
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4 years ago  ::  Jul 18, 2013 - 6:39PM #2
JCarlin
Posts: 8,225

Welcome to solipcism.  But even a solipsist can work from cogito ergo sum to the rest of the real world with no faith or assumptions I might add.  But I have to admit that the evidence for a materialist understanding of everything is so compelling that the faith is not needed at all.  It has been observed by many competent observers that hydrogen can condense from an energy field, once hydrogen exists, everything else, even God, follows quite naturally.  It takes a while, about 13.7 Billion years to get from hydrogen to brains, and thence to God as a concept of a brain. Or for that matter to cogito as a concept of a material brain.

J'Carlin
If the shoe doesn't fit, don't cram your foot in it and complain.
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4 years ago  ::  Jul 18, 2013 - 7:06PM #3
Blü
Posts: 26,191

Brady


“Is it reasonable to assert the existence of a material universe?”


Many things that seem highly improbable can't be shown to be impossible.


* That we all leapt into existence half an hour ago complete with our histories and memories.


* That we're all elements in a Tron game / experiment by superscientists / &c.


* That I'm the only being that exists and everything else is the product of my imagination.


* That you're the only being that exists and I'm the product of your imagination.


* That we're all illusions in a dream of a superbeing.


And so on.


I approach the problem by positing three axioms (basic assumptions) -


- that a world exists external to me


- that my senses are capable of informing me about this world, and


- that reason is a valid tool.


(They have to be assumptions because none can be shown to be true without first assuming it's true.)


The fact that you post here means you agree with the first two, and you set out a reasoned statement so I take it you agree with the third.


Since we have these assumptions in common, we can discuss things on this common base.


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4 years ago  ::  Jul 18, 2013 - 9:53PM #4
mountain_man
Posts: 44,029

Jul 18, 2013 -- 5:08PM, Brady111 wrote:

...The title of the debate is: “Is it reasonable to assert the existence of a material universe?”...


Yes. If not we wouldn't be having this conversation. Such nihilistic arguments are great for thought experiments, but in real life they don't hold up very well.

Dave - Just a Man in the Mountains.

There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.   Isaac Asimov
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4 years ago  ::  Jul 19, 2013 - 11:24AM #5
christine3
Posts: 9,274

Jul 18, 2013 -- 5:08PM, Brady111 wrote:



Point 1 – Perceptions without external, material referents.




Sort of like the outside and the inside are the same thing?  How would we know the difference? 

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4 years ago  ::  Jul 19, 2013 - 2:46PM #6
Brady111
Posts: 65

Jul 18, 2013 -- 6:39PM, JCarlin wrote:


Welcome to solipcism.  But even a solipsist can work from cogito ergo sum to the rest of the real world with no faith or assumptions I might add.  But I have to admit that the evidence for a materialist understanding of everything is so compelling that the faith is not needed at all.  It has been observed by many competent observers that hydrogen can condense from an energy field, once hydrogen exists, everything else, even God, follows quite naturally.  It takes a while, about 13.7 Billion years to get from hydrogen to brains, and thence to God as a concept of a brain. Or for that matter to cogito as a concept of a material brain.




Hello again JC!


Actually Solipsism is a form of theism. It asserts the existence of an ultimate being that is intelligent and in some way is the cause of all that exists; even if all that exists is merely illusion. Negationism is atheistic and denies the existence of such a being.

I think you'll find in the writings of Descartes that with the cogito alone one is not able to extrapolate an external, material world. Hume also made the same point with a vengence. It is also Hume that makes the definitive case that one can never know using reason if his perceptions actually correspond to an external, material world; that is, given the elements of any atheistic theory of reality. Thus, the atheist can't say anything about observations or perceptions of reality until he first overturns Hume.

This last point concerning Hume is the negationist's main point concerning the naturalist's inability to offer evidence for his claim that an external, material world exists. With Hume in place, the only evidence the naturalist can offer that his perceptions correspond to an external, material world, are perceptions he claims correspond to a material, external world. As you can see this is the fallacy of the vicious circle or begging the question. So, the negationist turns this on the naturalist explaining that since the naturalist lacks belief in God because of a lack of evidence, he should lack belief in an external, material world on the same basis.

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4 years ago  ::  Jul 19, 2013 - 4:37PM #7
Brady111
Posts: 65

Jul 18, 2013 -- 7:06PM, Blü wrote:


Brady


“Is it reasonable to assert the existence of a material universe?”


Many things that seem highly improbable can't be shown to be impossible.


* That we all leapt into existence half an hour ago complete with our histories and memories.


* That we're all elements in a Tron game / experiment by superscientists / &c.


* That I'm the only being that exists and everything else is the product of my imagination.


* That you're the only being that exists and I'm the product of your imagination.


* That we're all illusions in a dream of a superbeing.


And so on.





I think I understand what you are talking about. I would agree that those things cannot be shown to be impossible. But let me add, that "highly improbable" is based on a comparison to background information, and that background information is what is in question here. The negatrionist is pointing out that the naturalists assertion of background information is not based on evidence, but unjustified belief. and since the naturalist methodology is to "lack belief" when no evidence is present, he should be consistent and lack belief in an external, material universe.



Jul 18, 2013 -- 7:06PM, Blü wrote:


I approach the problem by positing three axioms (basic assumptions) -


- that a world exists external to me


- that my senses are capable of informing me about this world, and


- that reason is a valid tool.


(They have to be assumptions because none can be shown to be true without first assuming it's true.)




Usually something that we assume because we cannot know it to be true is called an unjustified belief. Although "axiom" can be used in a couple of different ways in mathematics and logic, it usually means "self-evident;" and given the philosophical writtings of Descartes, Berkeley, Hume, Kant and Bertrand Russell, our ability to know about an external, material universe or even claim that one exists is far from self-evident. Kant goes as far as saying, "It must still remain a scandal to philosophy and to the general human reason to be obliged to assume, as an article of mere belief, the existence of things external to ourselves (from which, yet, we derive the whole material of cognition even for the internal sense), and not to be able to oppose a satisfactory proof to any one who may call it in question" -Critique of Pure Reason, pg 39.


Jul 18, 2013 -- 7:06PM, Blü wrote:


The fact that you post here means you agree with the first two, and you set out a reasoned statement so I take it you agree with the third.


Since we have these assumptions in common, we can discuss things on this common base.





Well, remember I come here with different metaphysical elements than the naturalist; so, the the question is not do we share a conclusion, but can the naturalist get to that conclusion given the elements of his theory of reality? This is the point the negationist presses over and over against and onto the naturalist. The negationist points out that the naturalist cannot stand against the same arguments the naturalist uses to reject other positions. The negationist is showing that if the naturalist wants to be consistent he too must become a negationist.

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4 years ago  ::  Jul 19, 2013 - 4:41PM #8
Brady111
Posts: 65

Jul 18, 2013 -- 9:53PM, mountain_man wrote:


Jul 18, 2013 -- 5:08PM, Brady111 wrote:

...The title of the debate is: “Is it reasonable to assert the existence of a material universe?”...


Yes. If not we wouldn't be having this conversation. Such nihilistic arguments are great for thought experiments, but in real life they don't hold up very well.




Well, from the negationists view, you are not having a conversation. I think you and I would agree that the negationists position will eventually self-stultify, but that does not get the naturalist out of the hot seat. The negationist's objections are still there and demands an answer, regardless of the weakness of the negationist's position.

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4 years ago  ::  Jul 19, 2013 - 4:52PM #9
Brady111
Posts: 65

Jul 19, 2013 -- 11:24AM, christine3 wrote:


Jul 18, 2013 -- 5:08PM, Brady111 wrote:



Point 1 – Perceptions without external, material referents.




Sort of like the outside and the inside are the same thing?  How would we know the difference? 





Hi Christine, good to hear from you again!


In the above, the negationist is referring to the perceptions we experience in dreams and/or the perceptions a mentally ill person might experience in a hallucination. For instance, a man may dream and have the visual perception that his father is in the room with him, but his father (the referent) is not really in the room with him. So, we would say that perception of his father had no external, material referent.



Have a great day, Christine.

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4 years ago  ::  Jul 19, 2013 - 6:02PM #10
JCarlin
Posts: 8,225

Jul 19, 2013 -- 2:46PM, Brady111 wrote:

Hello again JC!


Actually Solipsism is a form of theism. It asserts the existence of an ultimate being that is intelligent and in some way is the cause of all that exists; even if all that exists is merely illusion. Negationism is atheistic and denies the existence of such a being.

I think you'll find in the writings of Descartes that with the cogito alone one is not able to extrapolate an external, material world. Hume also made the same point with a vengence. It is also Hume that makes the definitive case that one can never know using reason if his perceptions actually correspond to an external, material world; that is, given the elements of any atheistic theory of reality. Thus, the atheist can't say anything about observations or perceptions of reality until he first overturns Hume.


Better check your references on Solipsism.  It has nothing to do with an external cause for existence. 


But the world has come a long way since Descartes and Hume.  Our ability to observe, measure and independently verify external reality, AKA the scientific method, makes materialism unassailable with respect to the the world external to the mind of the individual.  There are Last Tuesdayists of many varieties, and solipsists on several levels, but for practical purposes they can be ignored with respect to the world external to self. 

J'Carlin
If the shoe doesn't fit, don't cram your foot in it and complain.
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