I wanted to start a discussion to listen to adherents and hear what they have to tell us based on some questions I'd like to pose to them. In other words, I want to sincerely play the role of a seeker and ask them how I would know that their god is The One, True God. The purpose is not to deconvert or convert, I just want to walk through a seeker conversation where I'm allowed to ask questions of adherents and see what they have to say ... to listen. I am willing to expand on what I mean by "The One, True God" if a reader asks for that, to the extent that I think the definition is sufficient for the discussion.
This is the adherent's golden opportunity to proselytize; to convert me.
In order to do this effectively I need to ask the adherent for their imprimatur on a rule by which I can do this without bogging it down so that I can never get my questions asked. So, here it is. I'll ask a question as a hypothetical. It may be that there are more assumptions to the hypothetical that one could add, but I'll ask for the sake of discussion that we allow only the assumptions of the hypothetical I offer. This way, I can at least get through a few questions. If someone thinks the assumptions are insufficient just state that with your answer and we'll accept that as your answer informed by the assumptions of the question.
So, here's my question. I'll ask it and see if I can get a useful answer, recalling that I am a lifelong atheist who has never believed and who is sincerely trying to sort out all the gods out there and figure out which one to follow:
How do I know that your god is The One, True God?
Your "If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck" analogy reminds me of Monty Python and the Holy grail, the scene with the witch trial.
hey - lol - yep - kk
Just in case all the side discussion is confusing, based on the Utnapishtim narrative given (you have to read that first):
Is it more likely that belief in the Utnapishtim narrative is the result of Agenticity or that Utnapishtim is The One, True God?
One more thing. I wanted to address Sarah's point more directly. We can add detail to this narrative as given in order to better understand it, even though I asked that we agree to accept the questions as a given. But unless an alternative or enhanced interpretation is a certainty (which it will never be) then adding that detail decreases the odds that the supernatural explanation (the desired inference) is true. In that case it is called an "embellishment" of the narrative.
So, to Sarah's point, this is certainly true provided we can provide detail that augments what we know with certainty rather than adding something that is itself uncertain.
If you are comfortable with my question so far you can ignore this. If Sarah's point bothers you read on.
I hate to do this to you, but I'm going to go ahead and fully digress on Sarah's point. Let me explain why. This discussion has certain parallels to deconversion conversations (though you cannot really deconvert online). One of the things that's interesting about deconverting someone of the general public as opposed to deconverting an academic (in my experience I'm guessing academics have constituted maybe 5% of the deconverted - its rare) is that the issues that come up are very different. Sarah never ceases to impress as the objection she is making is one typical of academics. I had this same discussion over at debatingchristianity in which an academic tried to derail the thread by making the same point Sarah is making. Normally its a tangent that just detracts from the conversation and doesn't add anything. But, if someone insists on the point, especially online, I'm beginning to think the digression is worth it. So, I'm going to dispatch it fully right here.
The subject Sarah is broaching by talking about how to interpret literature invovles one of the most profound areas of misunderstaning in academica generally, in particular the Humanities. What is actually going on here is that there are two fallacies in play, not one.
We've already explained the Conjunction Fallacy. But the other fallacy I initially didn't want to tangent on is the Genetic Fallacy. Basically, on their face, these two fallacies seem to be arguing against each other. They are not. The Genetic Fallacy basically says that if you remove details from an assessment you can do it in such a way as to merely channel yourself to a pre-conceived conclusion; by limiting details your desired inference does not augment but rather diminishes. So, taking Sarah's position as devil's advocate, I could say it this way: by choosing to ignore the various different interpretations, context and facts regarding the narrative you are artifically making your conclusion seem more likely.
In the presenting case this is false. I'm not trying to trick anyone or play psychology. Here's why.
The Conjunction Fallacy and Genetic Fallacy are not mutually exclusive. What the Conjunction Fallacy is saying, though it isn't clear in the equation used to define the Conjunction Rule, is that the Conjunction Rule only applies if the information added is:
less likely to be true than the initial proposition itself was OR, its likelihood cannot be assessed with confidence.
Let the proposition of the turth of a supernatural embellishment be regarded an uncertainty. Then, in the common vernauclar this is just saying
You cannot make an uncertainty more certain by adding an uncertain detail. If you do, you are committing the Conjunction Fallacy.
On the other hand,
You cannot make an uncertainty less certain by denying a detail that is certain. If you do, you are committing the Genetic Fallacy.
Academics in the Humanities screw this up a lot. While seemingly quite careful not to violate the Genetic Fallacy (they love to add details ad nausea to any discussion), they all too often do commit the Conjunction Fallacy because they simply have not thought through exactly how to apply these two fallacy warnings correctly. And who would? Its kinda slippery. It's why I didn't want to do this tangent. When talking to an academic you usually have to spend hours before starting just to clear the air on this.
So, if one talks of "historical context", "metaphor" or other "literary tools" they are talking about things less certain than, in our case, the proposition that Agenticity exists in human populations. And that is the key, if Sarah or anyone in her role can come up with a detail that is more certain than the proposition that Agenticity exists in human populations, then they have an argument. Otherwise, its fallacious and constitutes a mere embellishment.
An easier way to explain this is to think of it in terms of how you would actually perform this step. What we need to do is to see if the proposition, for example, that the author intended his or her statements metaphorically is more likely than the existence of Agenticity in the population in question.
The first thing we notice about this is that we really don't even have a way to assess the odds that any given author meant to use metaphor. So the argument fails before we can even compare it. If we could assess the odds, if the odds that the author intended to use metaphor were lower than the proposition that Agenticity existed in that population, the argument would fail. Either way, the added detail is an embellishment and the argument fails. Which is what I sought to show.
Kir - can you explain again what you mean by Agenticity in human populations? Do you mean an intelligent intervening Creator God?
I'll try. Let me recast my earlier post on Agenticity as a modified version:
Human beings have a known strong tendency to engage in anthropomorphization. Persons with brain damage and Autism tend to be devoid of this tendency or to have aweakened expression of it. This demonstrates how ubiquitous this is in human beings. It is a strong biasing factor. When confronted with mysterious and dramatic events human beings tend to fill the void of uncertainty with human-like agents. The drama provides the motive and the agent solves the mystery. Intelligent deisgn and teleological agruments used by adherent apologists are a form of anthropomorphization. Independent of religious belief, studies show that people will tend to see a “purpose” in the design of perfectly natural (or even abstract) objects by default. The rates for this in young adults are about 33% for natural abiotic objects, 69% for biological organisms and 96% for human artifacts. But when these experiments are conducted with 5 year old children, children make very little distinction between these things. Their numbers are 73% natural objects, 78% biological organisms and 83% human artifact. What this demonstrates is a strong, innate human bias to perceive design in any object. Only upon being socialized and “educated” do human beings begin to refrain, to some degree, from this tendency.
Seeing purpose – or Agenticity - in a horrific, massive geological event such as a global flood is a virtual certainty given what the studies now show. One doesn’t even need a god for it, the event will create one if its not there already.
So, asking about the odds of the presence of Agenticity in the general population is like asking about the odds of the presence of the human sex drive in a given population. From the research, we know its there.
To address the related point, is the Agenticity in question one of seeing divine agency? I'm not aware of any other kind of Agenticity so I would naively assume that we must be talking about divine Agency.
Next, is the divine Agency that of a Creator God? I don't think we need to reach that bar. All we need to say is that whatever The One, True God is, we are talking about that god's agency. Does this make sense?
Kir - as an abstract, hypothetical concept, does Agenticity mean
Agency not existing, but being seen (falsely) by human beings, or
Agency actually existing, and being seen (in truth) by human beings?
Well, I think that these two things are the desired inference of the respective interests of the conversation. So, I think that is precisely what we want to know in the context of the Agency being identifable as that of The One, True God. Is it being falsely seen or is it The One, True God?
Kir - crucially, it all depends, of course, on which God you choose. If we choose the right one, then Agency is a reality all around us all the time.
crucially, it all depends, of course, on which God you choose
Exactly. That is what we're asking about. We're not asking if a god exists.
Isn't that a nonsensical question? We have to ask whether a God exists, to know whether or not Agency exists.