Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Logical gerrymandering

DM: John's major point, from a scientific point of view, is that there is no specific necessity on the part of a God to apply a homology which restricts the "best features" from each lineage from being packaged into one.

SH: Your attempt to salvage Loftus’ original argument would be a mite more persuasive if your editorial gloss bore any tangible resemblance to what he actually wrote.

Instead, your ex post facto reinterpretation represents an extrinsic improvement over the original formulation.

DM: I've never held that evolutionary biology disproves God's existence. It just disproves creationism.

SH: It disproves creationism assuming that evolutionary biology is true.

JL: That was funny! What was also funny is how you did a little dance around whether or not God can do what I asked. I call what you did logical gerrymandering.

SH:

i) He says it was logical gerrymandering, but he doesn’t show that it was logical gerrymandering.

Instead of rebutting anything I actually said, Loftus resorts to a tendentious characterization.

ii) To distinguish between creation, miracle, and providence is not logical gerrymandering. Rather, it’s an axial principle of Reformed theology.

iii) Even more to the point, what I did in my reply was to utilize certain distinctions which Loftus himself chose to draw.

Loftus was the one who began by asking what is naturally possible, in his original post—then shifted gears to what is omnipotently possible.

When I answer him on his own level, he calls what I do “logical gerrymandering.”

If so, then my logical gerrymandering is pegged ever step of the way to his logical gerrymandering.

JL: I am a philosophically minded person and he learns from me.

SH: A philosophically-minded person would know how to classify different models of agency, and clearly distinguish between one and another.

JL: While I have singled out just one feature that could've been different (wings), my real point is about how there is unneccesary suffering in our world that could have been averted had God changed certain features (wings being but one example).

SH: Other issues aside, attaching a pair of wings to fallen creatures would not ameliorate the quality or quantity of suffering in the world. Winged sinners would use their enhanced aptitude to commit otherwise impossible sins.

JL: I have over a dozen things God could've done differently to avert a great amount of human suffering. I'm just arguing for this one at this time.

SH: If this “improvement” is at all representative of Loftus’ other “improvements,” the Christian apologist has nothing to lose any sleep over.

JL: Together I think Daniel and I are like a good one two punch.

SH: More like two frat boys who’ve imbibed too much spiked punch, and are in a resultant state of mental and motor impairment.

JL: What really surprizes me here is that Steve prefers to opt for the "Omnipotence isn't like a genie in a bottle" defense. What an amazing concession to my argument, coming as it does from someone who believes God creates the laws of nature with the universe, especially when I'm asking about why God created such a universe with these laws in the first place. Steve's defense is that God just couldn't do it, and that's utterly amazing to me. That's right. God couldn't do it. Hmmmm. I thought the word "omnipotence" meant something. But I guess not.

So once again, in order to defend God's purported creation, Steve resorts to the God cannot do it response.

There is a much more thoughful and better answer than that from the Christian perspective, and I'm ready for it whenever you think of it. But why Stev continues to say God couldn't do it amazes me....it really does.

Steve, just what can your God do? :-)

SH: Loftus sees what he wants to see.

What I did was to give a qualified answer, utilizing his own qualifiers.

What he did in response was to drop all the qualifiers, and collapse my qualified answer into an unqualified answer.

This is a systematic distortion of what was actually said, and said in painstaking detail.

But that’s typical of Loftus. He will post an ill-focused piece.

I’ll reply with a point-by-point rebuttal.

Then he’ll respond, not with any attempt to demonstrate a flaw in my counterargument, but with a mischaracterization of what was said.

But that’s fine. If he could defend himself, he would defend himself. He does not because he cannot.

4 comments:

  1. To quote my good friend Celsus, "More semantic blather". You are sooo in denial Steve. I can to defend myself. Liar, liar, pants on fire....

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  2. Winged sinners would use their enhanced aptitude to commit otherwise impossible sins.

    I know this wouldn't affect you theologically, but I have been pondering over an argument against the free will defense which focuses on the specific limits and extents of human freedom, insofar as how they relate to moral agency and the capacity to inflict harm and suffering, and conversely bestow kindness and goodness. I went by to talk to a philosophy prof who specializes in the phil of religion about it and he said it was good, but needed to be developed carefully. A "teaser":

    [assuming the free will defense is employed] Let us consider the balance between good and evil in human moral freedom as a function of physical capacity to carry out one's will...God chose not to embed machine guns or thermonuclear devices into human beings, or Wolverine-like hand claws, and thus limited the amount of freedom they had to inflict pain and suffering...God chose at the same time to confine their capacity to do good, so much so, it may be argued, that it is out of balance with respect to their capacity for evil...While I can break the neck of a child with but the flick of my wrist, thousands of hours of research and clinical trials have gone into ameliorating the pain of human beings via drugs and medical procedures. Damage is easy, healing is hard.

    and so forth...

    Anyway, it is just something I've thought about for many years -- the limits of human freedom, and in the context of theism I think it can be argued successfully that the physical acting capacity for human evil exceeds that of human good. Obviously, rating good and evil on some spectrum is difficult, but most of us agree to the qualitative difference between pain, agony, and death. I am thus using direct comparisons and analogies to try to give some idea of the scope of these which humans can easily induce or lessen. Consider that a man sitting at a nuclear warhead panel can, with the push of a button, instigate an entirely automated process which will result in tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions, of deaths, whereas no such "button" exists to automatically feed, clothe, or heal even a few hundred people at one time. The present capability to inflict harm greatly outweighs the capability to act out our the other side of our natural impulses -- compassion. We still live in a world where it is physically impossible to feed all human beings on our planet, yet in our world it is possible to destroy all, or nearly all, of them in a nuclear holocaust, followed by a nuclear winter. That man chooses not to act on the latter impulse, although it is within his capacity, but chooses to work towards the former, although it is still not within our capacity, underscores the disparity between my view of human nature and total depravity.

    I know the Arminian implications don't concern you much...this is just an interesting thing to me, and perhaps you've run across it in some theological literature before, but I have not...hint, hint, if you have, let me know. Perhaps it has only been argued in the context of man's nature, and not contra a free will argument defending God's permission of the existence of a quality and quantity of evil unbalanced to good.

    [aside re: frat party and punch -- I don't know if you've ever heard it referred to by this name, but spiked punch is often called "rape juice" because it so effortlessly masks the alcohol content, as well as potentially contains flunitrazepam, which is of the benzodiazepine class of drug (think Valium, Xanax, Librium...) and sells as a brand name Rohypnol -- from which "roofie" is derived.]

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  3. Daniel, a few brief words on your point, which I equally find interesting:

    'We still live in a world where it is physically impossible to feed all human beings on our planet, yet in our world it is possible to destroy all, or nearly all, of them in a nuclear holocaust, followed by a nuclear winter. That man chooses not to act on the latter impulse, although it is within his capacity, but chooses to work towards the former, although it is still not within our capacity, underscores the disparity between my view of human nature and total depravity.'

    I do not personally know any Calvinist who holds that total depravity means that all men everywhere are as bad as they can possibly be. God's Common Grace (cf. Abraham Kuyper) prevents man from becoming as bad as he can possibly be. Examples of this Common Grace include Government, the family, natural boundaries, conscience, and even that restraint that looks to self-preservation. Even art, architecture and music.

    You are right, there are restraints to the freedom of human beings that act in the way of nudging mankind towards compassion, rather than race suicide. The Calvinist would argue that this is due to God's Common Grace. Now, each of the examples I listed above can become engines of evil.

    Under Hitler, the German Government became an engine of strife and death, not harmony (but look at places like Somalia where Government has ceased to exist).

    Families can hide abuse and other ghastliness, but normally they are engines for stability and act to civilise children as they grow up.

    Natural boundaries like the ocean can minimise conflict and destruction (being British, I know this too well. Compare France 1945 with Britain), but they can also lead to isolationism (USA 1919-1940) and even a 'chosen people mentality (Japan).

    Madmen have a defective conscience.

    Self preservation can become cowardice.

    But on the whole each of these is okay. Sadly, it is easier to pull down than to build up. May I recommend Abraham Kuyper for further reading. He was a theologian and a politician, so had both theoretical and practical knowledge. Certainly he was far more talented than you or I. (I mean, this chap founded his own political party and became Prime Minister of the Netherlands, as well as founding his own University.)

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  4. Hiraeth,

    Sadly, it is easier to pull down than to build up.

    And that's the sum total observation that I'm making, and trying to connect it to why it is, and how human moral freedom makes it that way...

    Thanks for the comment, and the suggested reading.

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