Tuesday, September 20, 2011

On the intellectual honesty of atheism

Ilion, whose handle is inseparable from the phrase "intellectually dishonest", recently linked to a post he claims present the proof that atheists are indeed intellectually dishonest. The proof itself is somewhat out-of-order. Below the fold, I'll try putting it together in a more traditional fashion as well as looking at the various axioms, to judge the soundness of the proof. Those who wish to see the original form can use the link.

Everything in the indented section, except for the outline numbers, is a direct quote from Ilion's post. I am trying to sort out axioms (A) from logically proven propositions based on those axioms (P). When statements are basically repetitions of other statements, they may be given the same outline number, or deleted.
A1) When an entity reasons, it chooses to move from one thought or concept to another based on (its understanding of) the content of the concepts and of the logical relationship between them.

A2) GIVEN the reality of the natural/physical/material world, IF atheism were indeed the truth about the nature of reality, THEN everything which exists and/or transpires must be wholly reducible, without remainder, to purely physical/material states and causes.

A3) This "everything" (which exists and must be wholly

P1) IF atheism were indeed the truth about the nature of reality, THEN this movement from (what we call) thought to though (which activity or change-of-mental-state we call 'reasoning') *has* to be caused by, and must be wholly explicable in terms of, state-changes of matter. That is, it is not the content of, and logical relationship between, two thoughts which prompts a reasoning entity to move from the one thought to the other, but rather it is some change-of-state of some matter which determines that an entity "thinks" any particular "thought" when it does.

P2) ... there exist entities and events in the world which are not wholly reducible, without remainder, to purely physical/material states and causes,

P3) ... the denial that 'God is' is a false proposition.

Well, this is somewhat incomplete, but the completion seems straightforward. Let's put this in a prepositional calculus form. First, I'll lay out the bare argument.

Z = "atheism is true"
C(x) = "x changes based on the content of concepts and logical relationships"
R(x) = "x reasons"
F(x) = "x exists or changes solely on the basis of material causes"
T(x) = "x is a mind"
E(x) = "x exists"

Then, I'll rewrite Ilion's statements above.
A1) R(x) ⇒ C(x)
A2) Z ⇒ ∀x(E(x)⇒F(x))
A3) T(x) ⇒ E(x)
P1) Z ⇒ ∀x(R(x)⇒F(x))
P2) ~∀xF(x)
P3) ~Z

Let's add a couple of axioms needed to fill this out, which I suspect were meant to be implied.
B1) ∃x(T(x) & R(x))
B2) C(x) ⇒ ~F(x)

The (shortened) proof is in the table below. Note that this proof does not work without B1 and B2.
1ZAssumed for contradiction
2∀x(E(x)⇒F(x))1, A2
3T(c) & R(c)B1
5E(c)B1, A3
6F(c)1, B1, A2, A3
8C(c)B1, A1
9~F(c)B1, A1, B2
10F(c) & ~F(c)1, A1, A2, A3, B1, B2
11~ZA1, A2, A3, B1, B2

This proof is valid. The soundness of this proof is questionable on more than one front (Elizabeth Liddle questioned a different axiom); I want to look at B2. If a change is based in part on concepts and/or logical relationships (CLR, for short), does that imply it is not based solely on material causes? I disagree. I would say that changes based on CLR are actually based solely on material causes.

My position is that CLR are patterned-yet-material reactions in the brain to material stimuli. We react with the same pattern of brain reactions to similar stimuli, and name these reactions the process of reasoning. Different people will likely store different physical patterns, but they will create the same behavior when reasoning.

So, as opposed to C(x) ⇒ ~F(x), I would say C(x) ⇒ F(x), rendering the proof unworkable. Naturally, should Ilion offer alternative versions of B1/B2, I'll take another look.


J said...
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J said...

I don't generallly agree with Ilion.. aka Idion though there is an argument from Reason (has a few forms..Plato's Meno in a sense an early form. Descartes ResCogitans another form)--not exactly a proof of...monotheistic God--but it's...against materialism/reductionism. I think it's ..inductive , rather than strictly deductive--hinging on the truth of B2---or plausbility if you will. Basically scientific materialism--including the modern neurological sort ,cogsci-- cannot account for humans mental processes (math, language, conceptual thinking); therefore those processes--Mind-- are ...immaterial. Sounds a bit weird to scientists but not logically impossible. But Mind does not imply judeo-christian God does it? That would take a bit more than what Idion usually barks ie, there are no necessarily true arguments for God)

You'd be surprised to find that many academic mathematicians believe in that (in sofar they believe...math/logical entities-say your universal quantifiers--exist apart from individual mind. Quantifiers don't grow on trees do they, OB )

One Brow said...

Actually, I think mathematics is a great career for a theist looking for precise, detailed, demanding, intellectual field that will not present a challenge to his fundamental beliefs.

B2 seems to be justified primarily on gods-of-the-gaps-type arguments. It may well hold, but I don't see a positive reason to affirm it.

J said...

Well, I don't quite accept your assumption that doubt,skepticism--even a-theism --
implies agreeing to materialism or strict determinism (as Sam Harris attempts to argue).

Bertrand Russell, not my guru ,but not a complete lightweight did not--he was not in total agreement AFAICT with the darwinists and behaviorists--at least as applied to humans (for finches, or horses ,etc., yes--problems arise when Darwinism is applied to human beings). That doesn't mean beliefs in spooks and the supernatural--does it--but say autonomy.

And in regard to ...maths./logic constructivist/nominalist accounts are hardly superior to ...to platonic-realist (tho I'd probably say--if asked--that Im conceptualist rather than...classical realist ala Frege/early Russell)

One Brow said...

Not my assumption, Ilion's.

I find the nominalist accounts of mathematics just as useful as the realist accounts. Constructivism is slightly less so.

J said...
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Yeark Hutprancer said...

Very well done, Onebrow! I thoroughly enjoyed that!

J said...

C(x) ⇒ ~F(x)

The intellectual dishonesty consists in the believer assuming this premise to be true (without argument really--) and then assuming..a monotheistic God exists, or an immaterial soul exists (ie...reality might have..immaterial elements, even Mind in a sense w/o the traditional JHVH). The usual MO of the Vallicella and Feser gang (IMO...many theists (not all), and philosophers of a theological bent in fact use this immaterialist assumption as the basis for their machiavellian view of religion (we believe..therefore we can invade iraq! the Roody Giuliani meme)

(yve got a mormon troll following you, OB--uses a variety of stupid names. Also I ran into this punk Idion on Reppert's blog (at times, I attempt to play pragmatist with religious people). As usual Idion's just brainfarting away. His IQ's even sorrier than the likes of Feser or Vallicella) .

Anonymous said...

FIRST, YOU CANT BE DISHONEST if thoughts are just random particles colliding in your head. You simply cant be anything but a random grouping of illogical garbage.

But that isnt the case is it? Down below in the log on box we are asked to Prove we are not a robot--and we all do just that. Unless we are just all incredibly lucky as to type in the answer--we are not wholly material beings--otherwise we are actually moving matter, by the sheer force of Will, directing electrical signals to go where we WANT them to go. I moved matter for every word I chose in this post and if *You didnt...then your not even a robot, because they are programmed by minds, you're just a pile of nothing spewing out nonsense.

Look, you can deny something so blatantly obvious all the live long day but in the end you're just the OJ Simpson jury...seeing a mountain of evidence yet arriving at the answer you WANT it to be--all to escape judgment. thats an even more powerful bias than Blacks acquitting OJ---its the mother of all Biases--the prevention of destruction.

Its just so utterly sad, but such is the mind that is detached from God. It can no longer reason. When I asked God about Christ he put it as a fact in my mind. Has anyone actually gone right to the Source instead of just researching articles that just reenforce your own desire?

One Brow said...


Thank you for your comment.

I don't know any serious atheist who think the universe is simply random. Perhaps you mean "unpurposed", which is not the same thing. The universe is obviously highly ordered, with very few truly random events.

Actually, the log box does not ask you to prove you are not a bot. It asks you to provide evidence you are not a bot. In fact, as the abilities of bots have improved over the years, the evidence required has become more and more intricate, with longer captchas that are more thoroughly disguised. Even then, some bots get through. So, the ability to direct electrons, or move keys, is not evidence of some unphysical manifestation. Bonobos do as much. Computers do as much.

Simpson was not acquitted by an all-black jury. Further, what makes you think that the black people being more inclined to see Simpson as innocent is a result of bias, and the non-black people being inclined to see him as guilty is not a result of bias?

I've gone the source many times, back when I believed. I prayed, occasionally fasted, etc. Eventually, I found the source to whom I was praying was a construct in my own mind.

I hope you'll come back, and we can have a good dialogue on many of these ideas.