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Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Question of the Day #24: Efficacy

This is a question about efficacy. Sometimes I wonder if, when we argue with Christians, that we've got the approach wrong. I've had almost zero success talking people out of being Christian. Funny it is that I seem to have the best luck turning people away from faith just by being a good little atheists; in other words, when I'm not even trying.

I find that, just by interacting with people, that they're not really interested in what an atheist like myself has to say until I actually do something emotionally pleasing to them. Then I become "pretty smart for an atheist", which soon transforms into "Maybe the atheist is onto something, there". It's like finding the key that unlocks the door to their reasoning skills, or, as one person from Ex-C once put it, "blowing the dust off the on-switch to their cognition".

It seems that one of the hardest tasks is just getting people to listen. Is efficacy something we should consider when making an argument? And, if so, what can be done?

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43 Comments:

At 2/01/2006 3:15 AM, Blogger gonesavage declaimed...

I find that directly engaging with reason against a person who has suspended reason on why they suspend their reason ends up frustrating for me and drives the theist away-- not my intention. If I am to deconvert, I'll do two things: write publicly and live with reason. The first to reach any and all readers, in the hopes that my writing may spark a flame somewhere, the second to personally show any theist who comes across my path that my atheism is part of what makes me an integrated person; in addition that one need not be theist to be moral.

 
At 2/01/2006 7:57 AM, Blogger Zachary Moore declaimed...

This is a great question. The answer, though, is more difficult. Living by faith is definitionally irrational. There's no way we can hope to trounce an individual's desire to believe with logic or evidence- they'll always find a way to twist and argument or a piece of evidence around enough to be comfortable within their faith. My correspondence with Jack Curtin is a classic example of this. Every piece of evidence that I give him for nonbelief, evolution, etc., he has the integrity to accept as valid, but at the end of the discussion, he allows his faith to trump the logical conclusions of that evidence.

The truth of the situation is that each person holds to their faith for a number of personal reasons. But I think Franc is right that the best key to unlocking that faith is emotion, because that's the ultimate source of faith. Your observation that showing yourself to be a moral person "despite" your atheism is part of this- Christians especially are conditioned to hate atheists, or to at least believe that atheists are hateful people. By providing a counterexample, you're introducing emotional doubt- and that's likely one of the better ways to pierce the irrationality of faith.

 
At 2/01/2006 9:26 AM, Blogger Daniel declaimed...

I think living as an exemplification of faithlessness is powerful "testimony" that life does not require faith. So many people simply cannot accept, "I don't know, no one does," as a valid response to so many questions. They think you have to take some position of scientific certitude or of irrational faith in order just to live.

We show them wrong.

 
At 2/01/2006 10:36 AM, Blogger streetapologist declaimed...

The three of you are all making claims that Christianity is irrational. Zach, you assert that emotion is the key to any belief (I believe you said "Faith") If all of you were to be honest, you would admit that you have "faith" in something. Whether that faith is in yourselves, the human race or even in nature or natural processes.

Now you accuse Christians of being irrational (and by proxy illogical) but logic has to have some absolute, it is not the least bit subjective. P is not ~P, can we agree that this is non-negiotable? This represents one way that we learn , rational intuition (that certain truths of logic and mathematics are simply axiomatic) The other areas would be perception and memory.

If we agree on the first premiss that logical truths are axiomatic then we need no unifying principle for these, however the next two perception and memory are the one's that you as atheist(s) are calling into question correct? As a Christian I have a unifying principle that makes sense out of perception,memory and rational intuition. This is the one and many problem that Plato struggled to understand, what links the particulars with the universals?

Unbelief can never solve this as there exist no unifying first principle that makes sense out of the last two. This is a metaphysical problem that is only solved within the Christian conceptions of the Triunity of the Godhead.

 
At 2/01/2006 10:59 AM, Blogger Zachary Moore declaimed...

streetapologist-

What are you talking about? I don't have faith. Reason is the antithesis of Faith. If you claim to have both, you've contradicted yourself and are, by definition, illogical.

 
At 2/01/2006 11:34 AM, Blogger streetapologist declaimed...

Zachary-

I am sorry that this is hard to understand. Allow me to explain. You are asserting that Faith and Reason are antithetical. This is simply not true.

First, look at what constitutes proof. By definition proof is the cogency of evidence that compels acceptance by the mind of a truth or a fact.

Is there cogent evidence that the Christian can accept? As I stated above the Christian epistemology makes sense of the three ways in which we learn: rational intuition,perception and memory.

What is faith: faith is a firm belief in something. Now some dictionaries would add: for which there is no proof. As I stated above though, the Christian first principle serves as proof because it is cogent evidence.

Reason,on the other hand is a statement of explanation, a rational ground or motive, or something that explains a fact.

Again, based on rational intuition,perception and memory the existence of God is the reason that justifies my belief based on the proof.

 
At 2/01/2006 12:20 PM, Blogger UberKuh declaimed...

I honestly have no idea. Aaron might; he mentioned on the last Vox Populi show that he had has had some success with deconverting theists (a handful, he said, if I recall). Getting an emotional foothold seems essential, though, especially when talking (vs. writing) to someone.

But, if you mean to ask if I would tailor my argument to someone else's level of understanding or appeal to his or her emotional state, then, before, yes, but, now, no. Why compromise like that when the probability is so low?

 
At 2/01/2006 12:54 PM, Blogger Paul Manata declaimed...

news flash. God chooses who will be saved and who will not. If someone is saved you *cannot* "deconvert" them (see the doctrine of perserverence).

 
At 2/01/2006 1:03 PM, Blogger streetapologist declaimed...

I agree with Paul. God is sovereign, and he will chooses his elect. Jesus promises that they will never be snatched from his hand. You may convert or deconvert a false convert but one of the elect, never.

 
At 2/01/2006 1:18 PM, Blogger VanTilsGhost declaimed...

Careful unbelievers...if you even DARE to preach a false gospel, you will be dealt with!

http://goosetheantithesis.blogspot.com/2006/01/kill-heretics.html

 
At 2/01/2006 1:20 PM, Blogger Hellbound Alleee declaimed...

Newsflash: All are annihilated upon death and turned to pixiedust and sent to a heavenly baby factory where cherubs sprinkle the dust onto ragdolls that become babies on earth. That's the correct theology, not that weird insane Calvinism, that everyone knows is the wrong religion.

As for efficacy (sorry, I'm a spelling Nazi), it is essential in one-on-one conversation. But as one who is a life-long learner, I was not simply swayed by some atheist who convinced me. What helped me most was education in reality and a background in counter-arguments to christian irrationality from christian agnosticism.

But as Franc said before, you identify the values you share. Wouldn't that be the same thing? Obviously some care more about bible interp than others, but most people are only interested in the moral arguments--as you know from listening to Stef.

The only people I've ever changed are very young people who saw how cool I was, and friends who absorbed my thinking over the years, remembered some of it, and adpoted it as their own. Some people are more malleable that way.

If you come at someone armed on the offensive, I'm sure it makes them put up their defenses. But who knows if you chinked their armour just a little?

 
At 2/01/2006 1:25 PM, Blogger Hellbound Alleee declaimed...

" God chooses who will be saved and who will not. If someone is saved you *cannot* "deconvert" them"

Um...my goal is not to keep someone from going to Happyland, Mr. Manata. Were you expecting people to see what you wrote and think, "Curses!! My evil plan has gone awry! I cannot lead the saved into hell! I am foiled! I have underestimated this 'god' fellow!"

See, when you believe in neither Happyland, nor Painland, nor Magic Man, you are not therefore "foiled" by the First Will of Magicman--nor his second. Nor secret third.

 
At 2/01/2006 1:43 PM, Blogger streetapologist declaimed...

You keep throwing this term around: Irrationality.

Define and demonstrate please!

I have outlined for you the belief forming mechanisms (by way of review here they are again)
Rational intuition,perception and memory. Please demonstrate based on this how my beliefs remain irrational?

When you say you are rational atheists in which manner are using the term. e.g. the Aristotlelian sense?

 
At 2/01/2006 2:29 PM, Blogger Zachary Moore declaimed...

streetapologist-

Does the fact that you have to ignore the main component of the definition of "faith" mean anything to you?

Faith: Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.

Reason: To think logically.

If Reason, then Logic.
If Faith, then Not Logic.

You argue:
If Christian, then Faith and Reason

But this is equivalent to Logic and Not Logic.

Therefore, Christians don't exist.

 
At 2/01/2006 2:59 PM, Blogger Damian, the Left-Hand Player declaimed...

Y'all keep talking about how faith is reason.

Well, reason tells me I don't have a Nintendo DS in my left hand right now. But I have faith that I do.

Here's the thing: I don't have a DS in my left hand. In fact, I don't have one at all.

According to you knuckleheads, the fact that my faith said I had a DS means I had a DS.

See how it doesn't work?

Oh and Lying Paul, shut your filthy mouth. Your Sky-Man Belief is hardly unshakeable. Don't claim it is. Dumbass.

 
At 2/01/2006 3:04 PM, Blogger streetapologist declaimed...

Zachary if this is your definition of faith then you have beliefs that you have gleaned by faith.

Unless you are postulating that you can demonstrate every one of your beliefs either by logical proof, or material evidence. This is self-stultifying.

Furthermore, you have created a false dilemma, and your syllogism denies the antecedent.

 
At 2/01/2006 3:14 PM, Blogger Zachary Moore declaimed...

streetapologist-

This is the definition of faith that's in the dictionary, buddy.

"Unless you are postulating that you can demonstrate every one of your beliefs either by logical proof, or material evidence."

Yep.

"Furthermore, you have created a false dilemma"

No, this is the Law of the Excluded Middle. Something can be either logical, or it can be non-logical. It can't be both.

"your syllogism denies the antecedent."

This fallacy follows the form:
If A -> B
~A
.: ~B

I was showing that, given the correct definition of faith, your argument looks like this:

If A -> B
If A -> ~B

There's no conclusion possible, because it contradicts logic.

 
At 2/01/2006 3:29 PM, Blogger streetapologist declaimed...

No one said faith is reason. You really need to define your terms.

The inference has been made numerous times in the comments here that Christians are irrational, because of their beliefs. I am saying you are defining rationality correctly nor has anyone offered a refutation of the way in which we acquire knowledge.

The comments here are portraying Christians as irrational, I have shown that our beliefs are indeed rational in that we have an epistemic foundation.

All that seems to be happening here is fallacy after fallacy coupled with some invectives throw in for good measure.

 
At 2/01/2006 3:41 PM, Blogger Zachary Moore declaimed...

streetapologist-

"You really need to define your terms."

Are you joking? I just did.

"No one said faith is reason."

Agreed. Faith precludes reason, as you're expertly demonstrating.

 
At 2/01/2006 3:44 PM, Blogger breakerslion declaimed...

Unbelief can never solve this as there exist no unifying first principle that makes sense out of the last two. This is a metaphysical problem that is only solved within the Christian conceptions of the Triunity of the Godhead.

(emphasis mine)

Illogical, irrational, delusional, and false. What do you say to those that use other gods, or even Allah, as some kind of giant mystical plug to this alleged logic hole?

As to faith, I think there is something to what you have said. If I know that 2" of ice on a lake will hold my body weight, and I check to see that there appears to be 2" of ice, and I trust my ability to recognize and avoid weak spots (based on past experience), I will venture out with some degree of faith that all will remain OK. Sometimes my faith is misplaced and I get wet. I don't however, have any faith that there is a pig in that there poke pardnuh.

 
At 2/01/2006 3:49 PM, Blogger breakerslion declaimed...

Sorry about the omitted quotation marks. I was interrupted right after pasting and didn't notice when I came back to this.

 
At 2/01/2006 3:52 PM, Blogger streetapologist declaimed...

Zachary-

"Yep." This is certainly demonstrative of the intellectual rigor of your position.

I am sorry, I don't see the major term distributed in the premiss. Your conclusion doesn't follow.

You have equivocated terms here as you are using reason interchangibly with logic.

So your syllogism actually looks like this:

If A then A
If B then ~A

This is logically fallacious.

 
At 2/01/2006 5:07 PM, Blogger streetapologist declaimed...

Breakerslion-


"Illogical, irrational, delusional, and false. What do you say to those that use other gods, or even Allah, as some kind of giant mystical plug to this alleged logic hole?"

Could you please demonstrate how this metaphysical problem is any of the above? The Christian conception of the Trinity solves the metaphysical problem of the one and the many. What first principle do you subscribe?

 
At 2/01/2006 5:34 PM, Blogger Paul Manata declaimed...

Newsflash,

Alleee, Um, the question was asked about how to deconvert someone, or about the lack of "luck" in this area. I answered the question from a Christian perspective. If you don't want answers, then don't do the question of the day.



And, Zachary,

You said, "Faith: Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence."

Zach, care to show the "logical proof" or the "material evidence" that your belief of the axiom of existence "rests" on?

hehehe

Problems:

1) if you do show that it "rests on" either then you refute yourself because an axiomatic concept is prior to anything else and, therefore, does not "rest on" anything more primitive than it.

2) If it does not "rest on" logical proof or material evidence, then is your axiomatic concept "based on" faith?

Christianity: 1

Atheism: 0

~Paul

 
At 2/01/2006 6:21 PM, Blogger Zachary Moore declaimed...

Paul-

The axioms are not believed as conclusions, because they are, by definition, axioms. They're simply accepted, because you have no choice but to accept them, silly. ;)

 
At 2/01/2006 6:22 PM, Blogger Paul Manata declaimed...

I never said they are believed as conclusions. My belief in God is not believed as a conclusion but is rather presupposed. So, you rescue me to save yourself?

Also, you do "believe" the axiom of existence just like I believe in God.

And, why are they "accepted?" Accepted on what basis? Logical proof or material evidence?

Anmyway, call me silly, I don't mind. Your argument was refuted.

 
At 2/01/2006 6:26 PM, Blogger UberKuh declaimed...

Paul, you wrote, "I answered the question from a Christian perspective." This is another way of saying that you blindly regurgitated one of a zillion opinions based on an internally contradictory, antiquated, myopic belief system. I would refrain from admitting such ignorance if I were you. But, of course, I could not be you, for, I use my brain.

I love to see arrogant Christians. Arrogance is such a Christian virtue, is it not?

 
At 2/01/2006 7:05 PM, Blogger Paul Manata declaimed...

well uberkuh,

You're certainly free to think that spewing rhetoric conts as an argument.

They asked the question. I told them that God determines who will convert and deconvert. Sorry you don't like that. If you have a rational rebuttal then go for it.

In any case, I fail to see how I was "arrogant?"

 
At 2/01/2006 7:09 PM, Blogger Paul Manata declaimed...

"one of a zillion opinions based on an internally contradictory, antiquated, myopic belief system."

Well, show the "internal contradicitons." Do you think you're God and I should just accept things on your myopic say-so?

As for your other two claims: argumentum ad antiquitum and, myopic, just means that I'm not a relativist.

 
At 2/01/2006 7:17 PM, Blogger UberKuh declaimed...

http://uberkuh.com/node/440

 
At 2/01/2006 7:22 PM, Blogger Zachary Moore declaimed...

Paul-

Yes, I already knew that God was one of your axioms. That's not under debate here.

The difference between you and me is that I need one fewer axiom to have a worldview.

;)

 
At 2/01/2006 7:59 PM, Blogger Paul Manata declaimed...

Zach,

God isn't "one of my axioms."

Also, taking your terminology, I have the right number of axioms. You see, your principle of parcimony is all wet. One also should not subtract entities beyond necessity.

My point, you believe you system on faith! Stick to the subject.

 
At 2/01/2006 8:43 PM, Blogger breakerslion declaimed...

streetapologist said...
"Breakerslion-


"Illogical, irrational, delusional, and false. What do you say to those that use other gods, or even Allah, as some kind of giant mystical plug to this alleged logic hole?"

Could you please demonstrate how this metaphysical problem is any of the above? The Christian conception of the Trinity solves the metaphysical problem of the one and the many. What first principle do you subscribe?"

You may answer my question first, or you may get bent in your own sweet time. I tire of playing with argumentative twerps like you. Indeed, why should I attempt to demonstrate what you have so clearly shown with your use of the word "only"?

Let's turn the tables, shall we? Why don't you first attempt to prove to me that your "first principle" is anything but a logical conundrum that has as much basis in the real physical Universe as division by zero?

 
At 2/01/2006 9:22 PM, Blogger breakerslion declaimed...

Let's get one thing straight. My comment had everything to do with your conclusion. I even bolded it to show as much. Your choosing to interpret it as attacking the premise (whatever I might think about it) is either:

deliberate obfuscation on your part

or

ignorance on your part

or

continued delusional behavior.

Any one of these makes me hesitant to reward your behavior with further consideration. It is simply neither a good use of my time, nor is it helpful to you.

 
At 2/01/2006 9:42 PM, Blogger Zachary Moore declaimed...

Paul-

"One also should not subtract entities beyond necessity."

What is this, Occam's butter knife?

 
At 2/01/2006 11:04 PM, Blogger Francois Tremblay declaimed...

What kind of moron would consider an undefinable, unjustifiable entity which requires a whole new set of processes, "necessary" ?

A fucking CHRISTIAN !

 
At 2/02/2006 5:13 AM, Blogger streetapologist declaimed...

Breakerslion-

I have offered a resolution to unity in diversity. No other philosophy or theology can offer this; Strict monotheism doesn't solve the problem, atheism doesn't solve the problem nor does pantheism or panentheism.

So unity in diversity doesn't exist in the physical universe? This is a new one.

In the end you can say " I am bored with you Christians", or you can call us names but clearly you can't claim that we are irrational. We have demonstrated the weakness of your argumentation and the fact that when pressed atheists can't explain their worldview. You don't offer a first principle because you don't have one.

 
At 2/02/2006 6:38 AM, Blogger Bahnsen Burner declaimed...

streetapologist: "I have offered a resolution to unity in diversity."

How do you do this without a theory of concepts?

streetapologist: "atheism doesn't solve the problem"

Atheism is simply the absence of god-belief. It does not have the task of solving any problems. That comes with positively informed philosophy.

streetapologist: "clearly you can't claim that we are irrational."

I certainly can, and I certainly do, even if people who believe in invisible magic beings disapprove.

streetapologists: "when pressed atheists can't explain their worldview."

Which "atheists can't explain their worldview"? And supposing those particular atheists "can't" do this, can you tell us what you think is so wrong with that?

For Reformed Christians, "explaining" doesn't at all seem to be on the list of their priorities, for they don't offer any explanations. On the contrary, merely "believing" is their biggest concern - specifically "believing" as an end in itself (otherwise they fall into the perils of Arminianism). Believing and explaining are not at all one and the same.

streetapologist: "You don't offer a first principle because you don't have one."

Here you put yourself in the position of having to defend a negative. How do you support your claim that Breakerslion doesn't have a first principle? What specifically is the task of a "first principle" after all? Can you enlighten us, o wise prophet of the cartoon universe?

 
At 2/02/2006 7:11 AM, Blogger breakerslion declaimed...

Thanks bb. I too would like to hear a coherent response to your final question.

A few more points of clarification for the sa:

The quest for a unifying principle or theory of the Universe has been undertaken by greater minds than mine with less than satisfactory results. Your injection of your god in this manner appears to me to be nothing more than a kluge, or another instance of "god of the gaps".

I did not intend to imply that I was bored with Christians, just people that argue by means of iterative attacks on another's position, creating infinite meta-arguments, without ever supporting their own position. Since you saw fit to explain yourself to some degree, rather than make bald assertions, You have given me an opportunity to continue a dialogue.

 
At 2/02/2006 8:44 AM, Blogger streetapologist declaimed...

Breakerslion-

I concur with your statement:

"The quest for a unifying principle or theory of the Universe has been undertaken by greater minds than mine with less than satisfactory results"

As you well know I presuppose the existence of God. From this follows my first principle that God not only exists but that he has created me in such a way that I can make sense of my experience.

I stated the following above:

"but logic has to have some absolute, it is not the least bit subjective. P is not ~P, can we agree that this is non-negiotable? This represents one way that we learn , rational intuition (that certain truths of logic and mathematics are simply axiomatic) The other areas would be perception and memory.

If we agree on the first premiss that logical truths are axiomatic then we need no unifying principle for these, however the next two perception and memory are the one's that you as atheist(s) are calling into question correct? As a Christian I have a unifying principle that makes sense out of perception,memory and rational intuition."

By way of explanation, I offered the Christian understanding of the one and many problem in context of how we learn.

Nietzsche recognized that without God, all absolutes must be thrown out. (Not an exact quote obviously) Can you see how the removal of the absolute calls into question these other axioms?

Furthermore, an argument was offered (not by you) regarding faith and reason which BTW was logically fallacious as I pointed out. That is where this began, and must end.

Christians are not irrational because they believe in God. As a proof of this I offered my first principle as an example.

Bahnsenburner: You seem to be admitting that you don't have a first princple. With this admission how am I the one attempting to prove a negative?

 
At 2/02/2006 9:47 AM, Blogger Paul Manata declaimed...

http://presstheantithesis.blogspot.com/2006/02/amateur-atheists-in-disarray.html

http://presstheantithesis.blogspot.com/2006/02/argument-from-mola-ram.html

 
At 2/02/2006 10:36 AM, Blogger Bahnsen Burner declaimed...

streetapologist: "You seem to be admitting that you don't have a first princple."

You're assuming too much, sa. I simply asked you a specific question, since you invoked the idea of a "first principle" to begin with. I asked:

"What specifically is the task of a 'first principle' after all?"

I'm simply wondering what your answer to this question might be, since you are apparently concerned with the security offered by having a "first principle." So, after you address my question of what task such a thing is to fulfill, perhaps then you can identify specifically you take this principle to be, and then we can see whether or not it meets the task you say it's supposed to fulfill.

As for my position (as I have explained and defended it on my blog and my website), I don't think I could be more explicit about my starting point and initial principles. So I would caution you against speaking out of ignorance.

streetapologist: "how am I the one attempting to prove a negative?"

Read what you had written, sa. You charged Breakerslion of having no first principle. This is a negative claim. Either you will rise to the occasion of proving your claim (in which case you'd be called to prove a negative), or you forfeit the charge by shirking the task of proving it. It's your choice.

 
At 2/02/2006 9:52 PM, Blogger breakerslion declaimed...

Streetapologist:

You might be the apologist, but it is I who must apologize for not having the time just now to give your post the answer it deserves. I assure you that I did give it the time to read it carefully. This is not my computer, it has a broken keyboard, and I have great need of sleep so I will reply in greater depth later.

For now:

"I have offered a resolution to unity in diversity. No other philosophy or theology can offer this"

Hail Eris

To which you're supposed to reply: "Surely you jest!"

To which I reply: "I'm perfectly serious, and stop calling me Shirley"

I will be happy to explain in depth how the Erisian model meets your criteria for a philosopy/theology that resolves unity in diversity. If it appears a little whacky, "Hey, I didn't do it man!"

You do raise an interesting point about belief in the invisible, all-knowing, all-powerful, all-everywhere superalphadaddy being not irrational. There are some very good reasons for ascribing to that belief, not the least of which is security, and others would include social/tribal fellowship, and a well-defined conformity. Feelings of safety and belonging, and peace of mind are desireable. This is true even if the source of those feelings is alleged to be an illusion by the big bad atheists. By this logic, god-belief is not irrational per se, it merely employs a chain of reasoning that might (or might not for the sake of this argument) be based on a false premise or premises.

The god side of the god/not god debate has been answered in a number of ways. Those that hold to any one particular belief, or sub cultural variant of that belief, be they Baptist, Lutheran, Shiia, Suni, etc., etc.,... are, when devout, united in their belief that they are doing it right and everyone else is mistaken in some way. Because any devout person can offer evidence (satisfactory to them) that their beliefs are right and proper, it is irrational to assert that any one set of theistic beliefs is the only possible solution to the problem. Or at least, that's the way it seems to me. Further, since they can't all be right, but they can all be wrong, I think I have found a solution to the problem that is satisfactory to me.

 

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