Monday, March 27, 2017

Occam's rusty razor

From an impromptu Facebook debate I had with an atheist:

Claason 
Isn't that amazing? I've proven I'm blue. Of course, when my proof meets evidence, I'll be a liar, but for now, I've used logic to show that my childhood worldview is correct. #TeamBlue"

Hays
Your faux syllogism fails to distinguish between validity and soundness.

Claason 
The biglyest hole in apologetics is the presupposition that all these pious biblical figures were not simply making things up.

Hays
That's not just a presupposition. Rather, "apologetics" provides supporting evidence.

Claason 
When it comes to Occam's razor…

Hays
Occam's razor doesn't predict for what reality is like. The principle is merely that we shouldn't postulate more entities than are necessary to explain things. But that doesn't tell you in advance how many entities are too many or too few. 

Atheists resort to intellectual shortcuts like Occam's razor without understanding the principle.

Claason 
...and our understanding pre-scientific people

Hays
Prescientific people can be reliable eyewitnesses. 

Claason 
...the most likely conclusion to phenomena which violate seemingly natural rules of the universe, is that they were making it all up, exaggerating, or grossly misstating something"

Hays
Except that you fail to give any reason for why the most likely conclusion regarding reported phenomena that "violate natural rules of the universe" is that reporters were making it up. Thanks for consistently begging the question. 

Fact is, our knowledge of how the universe operates is based on observation. If observation includes reported phenomena that "violate" the ordinary course of nature, then that has as much epistemic merit as observation regarding the ordinary course of nature.

Claason 
You're thinking of religion.

Hays
No, I was thinking of your syllogism, which is a non sequitur. Apparently, you think that's analogous to religion. If so, your syllogism fails in yet another respect inasmuch as you're attempting an argument from analogy minus the argument. 

Claason 
Sure - when they write things that likely occurred.

Hays
I see. What about this: 

You know, the most amazing thing happened to me tonight... I saw a car with the license plate ARW 357. Can you imagine? Of all the millions of license plates in the state, what was the chance that I would see that particular one tonight? Amazing!

I take it that you discount Richard Feynman's report since that's so unlikely to occur. 

Claason 
But talking snakes and proxy angels didn't.

Hays
i) What do you even mean by "proxy angel"?

ii) The account of the Tempter in Gen 3 isn't based on eyewitness testimony. The narrator wasn't there to witness that event, and there's no reason to suppose he got that information from someone who was, so your example misses the point. 

iii) I doubt the Tempter was a talking snake. The name of the Tempter is probably a pun. The Hebrew word is a triple entendre. It can mean "snake," "diviner," and "shining one". 

The fact that something has an animal name doesn't ipso facto make it an animal. Consider animal names for Indian braves, or animal names for sports teams.

Claason 
Speculations should always be 0.

Hays
i) So much for theoretical physics, forensics, &c. 

ii) In any event, I wasn't referring to speculations but observations. 

Claason 
If you have to speculate, speculate as economically as possible.

Hays
So you automatically discount the multiverse. 

Claason 
Don't violate nature

So you think we should ban water pumps, airplanes, dams, &c. Mustn't credit gizmos that violate the ordinary course of nature. 

Claason 
and don't propose mechanisms that are not established.

Hays
What "mechanism" did I propose?

Claason 
That's how Occam's razor works.

Hays
That would rule out the establishment of a novel mechanism. Is that how Occam's razor works? So much for new technology.

Claason 
Please spare me your faux authority on the matter

Hays
Because I should defer to your faux authority instead?

Claason 
Occam's razor tells us that we should not speculate when it's not necessary."

Hays
Since I wasn't speculating, that's a red herring. 

Claason 
Coupled with the fact that these things don't happen…

Hays
Circular reasoning.

Claason 
For example, the Apostle Paul claimed to have received quite a lot of information from 'revelation' from supernatural realms. Is that really the most likely way he got his information? Really?"

Hays
Since that accounts for his otherwise inexplicable conversion, yes

Claason 
It would mean anyone's facts are as good as anyone else's.

Hays
You're confusing the credibility of a reporter with what is reported. 

Claason 
Should I believe accounts of bigfoot? Leprechauns?

Hays
i) Since you're using some testimony evidence to evaluate other testimonial evidence, do you have a noncircular criterion? 

ii) And if bigfoot sightings were as well-documented as some miracles, then you ought to believe it. 

Claason 
What if we know that the writings of this otherwise honest person had been copied, translated, and copied again?"

Hays
i) Protestant theology, and even modern Catholic theology, doesn't rely on translations, but the original Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic.

ii) Yes, we have copies. Thousands of copies. Copies diverse in time and place. Many independent copies. We can compare and contrast the copies. They preserve the same essential message.

Claason 
Improbable things happen all the time, but the reason you selectively choose to believe one collection of improbable events over another is not a good strategy. When you are emotionally invested in the truth of one collection of improbable events over another (ie Christianity over the Hermetics, Gnostics, Egyptians, Babylonians, Native Americans, etc), you've surrendered skeptical inquiry in favor of dogma... Not a good strategy for getting the right answers... But hey, you feel it in your heart right?

Hays 
Apparently, Claason operates with the ignorant notion that Christianity rules out non-Christian miracles. And I haven't appealed to what I feel in my heart.

Claason
One wonders why the all-powerful, all-knowing oz would have built in such a predictable defect as cancer, which exploits these mechanisms.

Hays 
Why classify cancer as a "defect" rather than a way to prevent overpopulation among animals and cull weaker specimens, so that stronger specimens will reproduce. In relation to humans, the Fall makes humans liable to disease.

1 comment:

  1. "One wonders why the all-powerful, all-knowing oz would have built in such a predictable defect as cancer, which exploits these mechanisms."

    1. What does Claason mean cancer "exploits" these mechanisms? Does he mean cancer has its own will or mind? Does he mean cancer is like bacteria or other microorganisms? There's a sense in which some of this might be true, but it depends on what Claason means.

    2. Cancer presupposes "these mechanisms" exist. Cancer is a dysregulation of "these mechanisms" in a particular direction. So a more fundamental question to ask is from where "these mechanisms" derive in the first place.

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