How Do We Know What We Know?

Most “normal” people, people who have actual lives, have probably tuned out at this point if they’ve been following at all the comment thread in my last post about love and mystery.  The saga continues here.  I’m sure from the outside it looks like two idiots running around in circles.  Trust me- at times, I’ve even thought the same from the inside.  Well if we can’t converse, talk to each other, where are we then?  We are at least making some sort of effort to “hear” the other.  So here we are.
My last response to Bernard was an attempt to see if we could at least agree to this:
Let’s assume that by holistic process we mean experience, reason, education, understanding the science, conversation, reading, etc., of which all are important and all of which are interpreted through the narratives we inhabit. We make any inferences out of that process.


And let’s assume by source we mean existence, the totality of physical existence (including our mental thoughts, reasoning, and examination of history), as the source of information (knowledge, data) we then examine through this holistic process. Now, can you agree to that? Do we mean the same thing by process and source? At this point, I am assuming nothing regarding the spiritual, or God; I am considering only what is available to each of us within our mental thought lives, history, and the physical world. Do we agree?


I will leave it up to anyone (anyone bored enough to follow such an endless loop of repeating arguments) to read the original posts and comment thread to come up to speed—I’m not going to do all that here. 

And there was also this comment:

“We are unable to build models of the spiritual world, because the process we all use, if bereft of informational input from the spiritual world, can not from reliable conclusions about it.” –Bernard
Obviously the process we all use is not “bereft” of information.  Now, whether or not that information, the information we all have, tells us something about a spiritual aspect to reality is another question.  The question is can we infer from what is known about ourselves, history, and physical existence to the belief or conclusion there is more to existence than the physical?  Clearly we can (I have, along with billions of others now and as far back in history one wants to go).  Now, does that inference clash with science?  I don’t see how it possibly could.  First of all, it is a philosophical conclusion, not a scientific one.  Second, whether one infers there is more to existence than just the physical or one doesn’t, both inferences take into account the best science (or should) along with all the other factors already discussed and neither clashes with science nor logic.  If they did, this could be settled easily.  Then one could simply trot out the smoking gun and say, “Look, your view is disproved by this settled and widely agreed upon scientific fact or point of logic.”  Case closed.  But of course, no one ever does that or indeed has done it (as to any of my assertions or claims anyway, which are not mine but the widely held beliefs of many if not most).  Bernard certainly hasn’t.  History would be made if it were to happen, so I think we will know if it ever happens.
One thing is clear however from my position as opposed to Bernard’s: My position allows me to grant Bernard the toleration and admission that his views do not clash with science (which would make his views false—if by “science” were meant the “earth is round” sort of scientific fact) nor is illogical.  We simply disagree philosophically.
His position however does not grant him that same tolerance toward me or others who disagree with him in these areas.  Thus, I’m not sure the point if one at that point tries to qualify or soften such a stance by calling himself an “agnostic”. 

But I digress.  Back to the thread of conversation.  The question is this: Can we agree to the above (the italicized portion)?  If we cannot, then we will have to leave it here because I am not asserting anything outside of that process and source noted above, which I assume is what we all do and have.
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132 Responses to How Do We Know What We Know?

  1. Hi Darrell

    “But you are just begging the question. You are deciding beforehand that such and such source contains false information. “

    This is simply incorrect. The argument is conditional. It says if A, then B. Nothing is decided beforehand.

    “Do you mean to say that if we read Shakespeare and we come to believe his take on jealousy is true, that “something” caused the source (Shakespeare) to read true?”

    Yes, Shakespeare's great talent was his ability to read, and report on, human psychology.

    “If the Bible is false, as you clearly are telling us, “

    No, I'm telling you no such thing.

    “I believe any particular moral stance is good because of the Christian narrative, because God exists.”

    So you believe the Christian narrative yields an accurate view of the spiritual. Now, think about how the Christian narrative comes to you, and what is entailed in believing that it is an accurate portrayal of the spiritual, and you will see clashes with science all over the shop. How did Jesus have knowledge of the spiritual, for example? If, because he was divine, that hardly accords with the scientific description of the human state. Did he rise for the dead? Again, an obvious and significant clash. Were the Apostles divinely inspired in their writing of the gospels? There's a clash. And so it goes on.

    We are finally here. Why you avoided this so long is beyond me.

    Bernard

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  2. Darrell says:

    Hi Bernard,

    We could have gotten here a lot quicker if you would have just said this is what you thought. I thought you were agnostic, but I guess not.

    “So you believe the Christian narrative yields an accurate view of the spiritual.”

    What Christian doesn't? Really? You need to ask this? Are you shocked that a Christian writing on a Christian blog thinks the Christian narrative yields an accurate picture of the spiritual? No, I thought it was inaccurate and thus it made a lot of sense to believe in. Wow.

    “Now, think about how the Christian narrative comes to you, and what is entailed in believing that it is an accurate portrayal of the spiritual, and you will see clashes with science all over the shop. How did Jesus have knowledge of the spiritual, for example? If, because he was divine, that hardly accords with the scientific description of the human state. Did he rise for the dead? Again, an obvious and significant clash. Were the Apostles divinely inspired in their writing of the gospels? There's a clash. And so it goes on.”

    Right, on and on it goes. This is what a myriad or scientists, physicists, biologists, and so on also believe. So what? Your point? If you are saying, “well, but, this is all false.” then you are just begging the question. You have been telling us it is a clash with science to even get here. You told us there were no sources. I said there was. You said, okay, but how does the information “get in”? I said, well, we can read, we can talk to people, we can think. You said, “Oh, okay.” So now, you are just telling us what Burk or anyone other atheist could have. You just think the information to be false. Thanks for that.

    There is not a single clash with science in any of this–what are you talking about? None. Zero. You have shown nothing. There is certainly a clash with philosophical naturalism–I've never denied such. Is there a clash with science? Nope.

    This is like an elephant giving birth to a mouse. Is this all you have? There is no clash anywhere in all this with science–are you kidding? Care to still address my questions-or are we done:

    What? What in the world does that mean? Do you mean to say that if we read Shakespeare and we come to believe his take on jealousy is true, that “something” caused the source (Shakespeare) to read true? What does that even mean? What would cause something to “read true”? It is either true or not, right? We are doing the reading. We decide, through this holistic process I’ve been talking about, whether it is true or not. We may be right, we may be wrong, but it has nothing to do with a source “reading true” whatever that means.

    Look, if all you are saying by “read true” is that the information is false, then you are begging the question. Therefore, you still need to answer my question. We cannot move forward until you do; it would be pointless to have a conversation with anyone who could not agree to the reasonableness of what I am trying to see whether or not you can agree to.

    Putting aside your personal faith-based views as to whether or not the sources of information are reliable/true or not (which is another question entirely and question-begging if such is all you’ve been asserting all this time) you agree there are sources of information about the spiritual/God that we all have access to (the Bible, books about Christianity, history, people we can talk to) that do tell us about the qualities/nature of the spiritual/God (whether false information or not) that then gets into our brains (obviously-or we wouldn't be having this conversation) and upon which we can make further inferences and draw further conclusions, yes? Do we agree here or not?

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  3. Darrell says:

    Bernard,

    Regardless of your personal faith-based opinion: “…and you will see clashes with science all over the shop.”, which is the very point disputed, thus question-begging…

    Do you agree there are sources of information about the spiritual/God that we all have access to (the Bible, books about Christianity, history, people we can talk to) that do tell us about the qualities/nature of the spiritual/God (whether false information or not) that then gets into our brains (obviously-or we wouldn't be having this conversation) and upon which we can make further inferences and draw further conclusions, yes? Do we agree here or not?

    This is very simple. Do you agree or not?

    Like

  4. Darrell says:

    Bernard,

    Even if you are saying, “The Bible may be true, but if it is, it clashes with science” you are still begging the question–whether it does or not is the very issue disputed. You get that, right? That is the very question disputed. I don't believe it does. What we have been talking about is how we can even come to these beliefs–you wanted to know the sources and how it “gets in”. I have been answering those questions. If can't agree with me, fine. Maybe you think the Bible talks about everything but the spiritual and maybe you think we can't read it and get it into our brains, whether true or not. No reasonable person would believe that, but if you do, fine. If you cannot tell me whether or not you agree with the above (and no reasonable person would disagree) then we are done for now, but all my points then stand. Your choice.

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  5. Hi Darrell

    I've asked, can the information get in without clashing with science. You say the information gets in because the bible is a reliable source of information about the spiritual world. And to this I am saying, from whence comes this reliability? The point being, the source of this reliability (say jesus is divine, and hence has knowledge of the spiritual world) will absolutely clash with science.

    Take the infant Jesus. Is his brain already full of all knowledge of the spiritual world? This would make it a very unusual infant's brain. it would be unusually wired. So unusual, in fact, that it would clash that all we know about neural development.

    Let's say, instead, he did not have this knowledge at birth, but it came to him as he developed. How did his neural pathways develop in this way? How did the information get into his developing brain? Any idea how you could do this without clashing with science?

    “Even if you are saying, “The Bible may be true, but if it is, it clashes with science” you are still begging the question–whether it does or not is the very issue disputed. You get that, right? That is the very question disputed.”

    Whether or not it clashes with science is indeed the question. And I'm not assuming the answer, so I'm not question begging. i'm saying, and have bene all along, that we know of no way within the bounds of science by which the brain can develop so as to encompass, or be consistently aligned with such knowledge.

    If we get our personal knowledge via the bible, which get sits take on the spiritual from the central character, then the problem simply shifts. You think Jesus' brain could develop to contain this information without any clash with science. Show us how that might happen. maybe you believe he turned water into wine too. How could that happen, within the bounds of science? Of course there are clashes. Most Christians acknowledge this, and say, this is a miracle, which is by definition a thing that steps outside the bounds of science.

    Bernard

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  6. Darrell says:

    Bernard,

    “I've asked, can the information get in without clashing with science. You say the information gets in because the bible is a reliable source of information about the spiritual world.”

    No, we are not there yet. I am saying the Bible is a source of information about the spiritual world, just like many other books are and as people we can talk to are as well. Whether it is reliable or not is disputed. Entirely different question. You agreed that information “gets in” whether reliable/false or not. So, I will ask one more time and if you choose not to answer then we are done for now:

    Do you agree there are sources of information about the spiritual/God that we all have access to (the Bible, books about Christianity, history, people we can talk to) that do tell us about the qualities/nature of the spiritual/God (whether false information or not) that then gets into our brains (obviously-or we wouldn't be having this conversation) and upon which we can make further inferences and draw further conclusions, yes? Do we agree here or not?

    Like

  7. Darrell says:

    “How could that happen, within the bounds of science? Of course there are clashes. Most Christians acknowledge this, and say, this is a miracle, which is by definition a thing that steps outside the bounds of science.”

    In the context of this conversation, that is simply not true. No serious Christian scholar/scientist or theologian/philosopher would put it that way. http://byzantinedream.blogspot.com/2015/09/friday-roundup.html

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  8. Hi Darrell

    “Whether it is reliable or not is disputed. Entirely different question. “

    I don't seek to resolve this dispute here. i am making a conditional argument. If it is reliable, there is a clash.

    “…that do tell us about the qualities/nature of the spiritual/God (whether false information or not)…”

    Note the contradiction. If they tell us about the nature of the spiritual, they are true. If false, they tell us about something quite different (the nature of a fictional spiritual.

    My answer must, hence, be conditional. If the information getting in is reliable, there is a clash with science. Your example shows this well. You claim the bible as your source. Well, if you believe you have access to knowledge about of the spiritual by this means, you believe your source is reliable. So our question becomes, how do we get this reliability without clashing with science?

    So, if Jesus is your guide, how does his physical brain come to hold/access this information, without asking us to believe the laws of science were suspended?

    So we have arrived at the nub of your case. Let's see if you can make this work. By what physical process did Jesus' brain arrive a this information. not, presumably, through reading the bible. So what did his brain use?

    Bernard

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  9. Darrell says:

    Bernard,

    “…You claim the bible as your source. Well, if you believe you have access to knowledge about of the spiritual by this means, you believe your source is reliable.”

    Nope, not yet. I am simply claiming the Bible is a source, reliable or not. Who would not agree to that? It is obviously a source.

    “I don't seek to resolve this dispute here. i am making a conditional argument. If it is reliable, there is a clash.”

    Then you should have no problem agreeing with me. We are not speaking to it's truthfulness or reliability. We are simply agreeing it is a source of information about the spiritual. It may be wrong, it may be correct. That is not the point. So I will ask one final time:

    Do you agree there are sources of information about the spiritual/God that we all have access to (the Bible, books about Christianity, history, people we can talk to) that do tell us about the qualities/nature of the spiritual/God (whether false information or not) that then gets into our brains (obviously-or we wouldn't be having this conversation) and upon which we can make further inferences and draw further conclusions, yes? Do we agree here or not?

    Like

  10. Hi Darrell

    No, we don't agree here. False information can get in, no trouble. But if the information is true, then there must be some process that ensured its truthfulness, and that process will clash with science.

    The problem, as noted earlier, is that your question makes no sense. We can not speak of false information that tells us about the nature of the spiritual/God. If it is false, then by the very nature of its falseness, it does not tells about the nature of the spiritual.

    If I give you information about the color of my house (I tell you it is red) but you do not know if this information is true or false, then you know nothing more about the colour of my house than before I told you. In this sense, the information is, well uninformative.

    Now, if this is what you mean by your question, that we have sources of uninformative information about the nature of the spiritual world, then yes, I agree with your question.

    Now, I claim that no information that actually tells is anything about the nature of the spiritual world (i.e non-false information) can get in without this clash with scientific models.

    You, after much avoidance, have now signaled how you think you get your information about the spiritual world. You believe the bible to be a reliable source with regard to the spiritual. And, if I have you correctly, this will be because you think the central character, Jesus, had genuine information in his head regarding the spiritual reality. Now, how might that have got there? In the normal course of development, brain states are a function of the interaction between genetic inheritance and the physical environment, and this process appears to have no mechanism for knowledge of the spiritual world to get in.

    How, if Jesus had such information, did he get hold if it? And does this process accord with our current scientific models? I'd suggest there's a clash here. Show me I'm wrong. How did the information get there?

    Bernard

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  11. Darrell says:

    Hi Bernard,

    “Now, if this is what you mean by your question, that we have sources of uninformative information about the nature of the spiritual world, then yes, I agree with your question.”

    But you just told us you did not need to decide the issue of whether the information was reliable or false. That would be begging the question. And by the way, “uninformative” information is a logical contradiction—I don’t even know what that means unless you just really mean “false”. All information is informative (do I even need to point this out?!) but it may not be helpful or true, which again, are entirely different questions. How is this hard to see?

    What I mean by my question is clear from the question and context. Any person who has been following the conversation and of normal intelligence knows exactly what I mean by the question.

    But clearly you are not going to agree to the simple observation that the Bible purports to contain information regarding the spiritual. Whether it is “uninformative”, whatever that means, or false, or unreliable, is another question entirely. No reasonable person would disagree that the Bible purports to contain information regarding the spiritual. That you cannot agree even to this, and that the information (false or not) gets in our brains (which is obvious), is mind-boggling. Unbelievable. Even Burk or any atheist would agree here. This is an example of an intransigence that is radical. We are done here; please do not respond (unless you change your mind and join the ranks of the reasonable) to this comment.

    I will post further on this discussion-there is no point going further here in the comment section. Thanks for the conversation. Always interesting.

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  12. Hi Darrell

    “But clearly you are not going to agree to the simple observation that the Bible purports to contain information regarding the spiritual.”

    This expression I agree with. Certainly.

    And, I add, if it does indeed contain reliable information, information that brings us knowledge, then there is a clash with science.

    And, after all of this, you come out of the shadows and admit your information on the spiritual has a clear source, and when I question how it gets to be there. This is where we have ended up. How does the brain of Jesus end up configured the way it does, aligning with true knowledge of the spiritual world, without requiring a suspension of our best scientific models?

    That is where we have got to. Answer this, and we'll be all cleared up. Don't give up just at the point where we've finally arrived at the substantive issue.

    Bernard

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  13. Darrell says:

    First you tell us you disagree and now you tell us otherwise…wow. I said nothing nothing in my last response, I haven't asked you over and over if you agree with. Tracking? The only one still in the shadows is you. I've never been in the shadows. I've made my position very clear, while you answer no questions and disagree with something as reasonable as saying the sun is hot. Wow.

    Final chance:

    Do you agree there are sources of information about the spiritual/God that we all have access to (the Bible, books about Christianity, history, people we can talk to) that do tell us about the qualities/nature of the spiritual/God (whether false information or not) that then gets into our brains (obviously-or we wouldn't be having this conversation) and upon which we can make further inferences and draw further conclusions, yes? Do we agree here or not?

    Like

  14. Darrell says:

    By the way, this was from weeks ago:

    “Hi Bernard,

    Well, you know I am a Christian who believes in the Christian Trinitarian God and the Christian narrative, right? My beliefs about love and morality are intrinsic to those beliefs, right? You obviously are aware Christians claim to know something about the nature of the spiritual, right? Ever heard of Jesus? The Bible? The Nicene Creed? So if that was your claim all along, why didn't you, like Burk, simply say “I think those sources and the beliefs that flow from them clash with science.” You could have saved us a lot of time here. Where in the world did the “getting in” issue even come into any of this? Good grief. What in the world are you talking about?”

    What I believe and the sources might have been a clear give-away when reading a Christian blog written by a Christian, where every post has a spiritual or Christian element. Gee, whatever gave it away for you? Were the shadows just too dark for it to come across? Not for you, I guess. Nice job dragging me out of the shadows. Oh no, now everyone knows I'm a Christian and believe the (Shocking, cue gasps) the Bible. Give me a break. Wait–how am I even writing about this, I forgot, none of this can get in my brain…wow, my entire blog and life clashes with science.

    Sorry, I couldn't resist…but please, seriously? Track, please with the conversation.

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  15. Darrell says:

    This too was from weeks ago:

    “I have no idea what the spiritual world would be like, should it exist.”-Bernard

    You’ve never read the Bible or had it read to you? Or any other writings of that type? Even if you disagree with it, doesn’t it contain information? Of course you have and of course it contains information, so there goes that objection. Again, do you want to address the beliefs of Christians, which begin with God?-Darrell

    So either please answer my question (one way or another instead of saying first you don't agree and then you do) or quit wasting our time.

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  16. Hi Darrell

    I agree with the new formulation you offered, The problem with the prior version was simply that it was unintelligible, containing as it does a contradiction:

    “that do tell us about the qualities/nature of the spiritual/God (whether false information or not)”
    If false, they do not tell us about the nature of the spiritual. So, you seem to be asking two different things:

    Does information (if we include false information) get in? Yes, of course.
    Does any of this information tell us about the spiritual world? I don't know.

    The actual question I've been pursuing throughout, which you've avoided, is can we get knowledge (non-false information) without clashing with science. I'm saying no.

    Now, if you are indeed backing the idea that Jesus had divine knowledge, I'm claiming the means by which he got it will involve a mechanism not sanctioned by the current science. As such, to commit to this belief system, one must relax the assumption that science provides the best description of the physical world.

    So, over to you. Can we get such knowledge about the spiritual without a clash. The bible is apparently your source. How does it gain its accuracy on matters spiritual?

    Bernard

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  17. Darrell says:

    Hi Bernard,

    “The actual question I've been pursuing throughout, which you've avoided, is can we get knowledge (non-false information) without clashing with science. I'm saying no.”

    We can get information (whether false or true) into our brains, without any clash with science. That is obvious. It happens all the time. We are both making the same claim toward the other, right? I think you have it in your brain (you believe) that while God or the spiritual may exist, we could never know anything about them—nothing specific. I think that’s false information. You think I have false information in my brain. So what? I am stating the obvious. I’ve never avoided this question. I have told you about a billion times now that, regardless of whether we are right or wrong in our conclusions, what we each believe, we all have the same sources of information and the information gets into our brains in the same way for all of us. And there is no clash with science anywhere in any of this as to the process of coming to our beliefs, whether they are true beliefs or not. (I’m assuming now that you have agreed to this, right?)

    The only place a clash could come is when we look at conclusions, what it is we actually believe (the process of getting there isn’t the issue—why you have made it the issue is beyond me). In that case, what you will find is that there isn’t a clash with science but with philosophical naturalism—what I have said all along. That you confuse the two is your problem (it’s called scientism). There is definitely a clash between the Christian narrative and philosophical naturalism, but there is no clash with science or settled science. Is that what you really want to talk about? If so, then you need to concede these are philosophical differences and not ones of science. To keep asserting my beliefs clash with science is to simply beg the very question.

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  18. Hi Darrell

    Well, in your case, we can even pinpoint the area in which your clash occurs. You believe the bible brings you information about the spiritual world, and if you were ate mpg to show how this came about, you would find a clash with science.

    It's no more complicated than that. My position is not naturalism. Never has been.

    “I have told you about a billion times now that, regardless of whether we are right or wrong in our conclusions, what we each believe, we all have the same sources of information and the information gets into our brains in the same way for all of us.”

    Not quite. if the information is true, as opposed to false, then it flows to us from the spiritual world (how else would it achieve its accuracy) and so gets in to the system in quite a different way, and this is where the clash occurs.

    Bernard

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  19. Darrell says:

    Hi Bernard,

    “Not quite. if the information is true, as opposed to false, then it flows to us from the spiritual world (how else would it achieve its accuracy)…”

    So are you telling us that only true information flows to us from the spiritual world? This response makes no sense to me, given what you have been asserting.

    And I will repeat my prior response, because you did not respond to most of it:

    We can get information (whether false or otherwise) into our brains, without any clash with science. That is obvious. It happens all the time. We are both making the same claim toward the other, right? I think you have it in your brain (you believe) that while God or the spiritual may exist, we could never know anything about them—nothing specific. I think that’s false information. You think I have false information in my brain. So what? I’ve never avoided this question. I have told you about a billion times now that, regardless of whether we are right or wrong in our conclusions, what we each believe, we all have the same sources of information and the information gets into our brains in the same way for all of us. And there is no clash with science anywhere in any of this as to the process of coming to our beliefs, whether they are true beliefs or not. (I’m assuming now that you have agreed to this, right?)

    The only place a clash could come is when we look at conclusions, what it is we actually believe (the process of getting there isn’t the issue—why you have made it the issue is beyond me). In that case, what you will find is that there isn’t a clash with science but with philosophical naturalism—what I have said all along. That you confuse the two is your problem (it’s called scientism). There is definitely a clash between the Christian narrative and philosophical naturalism, but there is no clash with science or settled science. Is that what you really want to talk about? If so, then you need to concede these are philosophical differences and not ones of science. To keep asserting my beliefs clash with science is to simply beg the very question.

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  20. Darrell says:

    Also,

    “You believe the bible brings you information about the spiritual world…”

    Again, that is not even the issue. You have told us there is no way of knowing anything specific about the spiritual world (ever hear of begging the question?). Yes, there is. The Bible. The oral tradition. Talking to people. Reading. History. Introspection. Ever hear of any of those aspects of learning? I guess not. Whether or not it is truthful information is another discussion (how is this not obvious?). Is that the discussion you wanted to have? How hard is this? Look, decide on what you want to talk about–once you know, then you let us all know, Okay? In the mean time, quit wasting every one's time. Or is your argument really just one huge example of someone begging the question but who has nothing else to tell us? Good grief. Talk about torture.

    “You believe the bible brings you information about the spiritual world…”

    And you believe it doesn't. So what? How did that false information get into your brain? Were the laws of physics or evolution violated when you came to that faith-based philosophical view? Nope. Guess what–they are not violated even if we come to the opposite conclusion. Did you really want to just go in circles here, or did you want to make a case that didn't involve question-begging? Philosophy and logic 101 anyone? God help us if this is where the world is as to reflective thought…

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  21. Hi Darrell

    Sorry this is proving so tricky. Not sure how to be any plainer at this point.

    “So are you telling us that only true information flows to us from the spiritual world? This response makes no sense to me, given what you have been asserting.”

    Yes. Think what it means for a representation of the spiritual world to be true. So, for example, let's say there really is, in the spiritual world, a thing called objective moral truth, and that serving our fellows is righteous. Now, let's say you have a belief as to the above which lines up with that truth. Now, how could your belief come to line up so accurately, if no information is passing for the spiritual to you? Without such a flow, against what could we calibrate our beliefs about said world?

    Now, if the beliefs you hold are false, that is they bear no resemblance to the actual spiritual world, the question of how these beliefs lined up with falsehood doesn't require an information flow to answer it. In the absence of an information flow, we should expect our beliefs to be false almost all of the time (given the almost limitless permutations available to guess from).

    “Whether or not it is truthful information is another discussion (how is this not obvious?).” Because of the above points, it is not another discussion at all. Rather, it is the heart of this one. I started out not assuming you were of the 'because the bible tells me so' camp, and assumed you had some other way of reaching your spiritual conclusions, perhaps backing your moral intuition,f or example (as you have previously suggested). Not all Christians see the bible as a source in this way, and being self-labelled as a progressive, I assumed, wrongly, about the methodology you employed. My argument was simply, whatever method you use, you will come across the clash.

    Now that you are identifying as one who draws spiritual truths for the bible, we know precisely where to look for the clash. If the reason your beliefs line up with spiritual reality is that the bible can offer reliable information in this regard, we must ask, how did it become reliable (as we would have asked, had you plumped for moral intuition, say). And so this becomes the appropriate form of the question I have been putting all along.

    “Did you really want to just go in circles here, or did you want to make a case that didn't involve question-begging? Philosophy and logic 101 anyone? God help us if this is where the world is as to reflective thought…”
    A little generosity will prove more fruitful here. Do trust I understand full well what question begging entails. At no point in my argument do I assume the information is false. Rather, I offer a conditional claim: If the information is true, then the way it comes to be so will require some suspension of the laws of science (as a great many believers do indeed claim). I can't find any question begging in the conditional proposition I offer. Indeed the conditional form all but precludes this.

    So, how does reliable information on the nature of the spiritual get into your brain? You say via the bible. Good, so what makes the bible accurate in this regard? What was the process? That's where your clash resides.

    Bernard

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  22. Sorry, meant 'weren't of the 'because the bible…'

    Bernard

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  23. Darrell says:

    Hi Bernard,

    “Now, how could your belief come to line up so accurately, if no information is passing for the spiritual to you? Without such a flow, against what could we calibrate our beliefs about said world?”

    This completely misunderstands what Christians mean when they say the Bible contains truths. The information is not passing from the spiritual to us. We are simply reading words on a page and then considering their truthfulness. This is saying no more than when you read the same words and consider their truthfulness or falseness. If the information is false, then it still gets into your brain, if you read it, whether you finally conclude it true or false. And it works the same for me, and for everyone. The information gets in either way. Whether it is true or false information, is another conversation—the one you seem to really want to have.

    The only place a supposed clash would come into effect is regarding any conclusions. I claim in the conclusions there are no clashes with science, only philosophical naturalism. Any conclusions I come to are derivative of my belief in the Christian God and narrative, so one would have to show that “science” had proven God does not exist for there to be a clash with science.

    “I offer a conditional claim: If the information is true, then the way it comes to be so will require some suspension of the laws of science (as a great many believers do indeed claim).”

    This is the very question disputed. I claim what it will show is a clash with philosophical naturalism, not science. So, there is the both of our claims. Now what? And we still need to hear at some point how something can be true and still clash with science. Again, no serious Christian scientist, theologian, or philosopher claims their views clash with science.

    By the way, as I’ve pointed out several times now, the Bible is not the only source of information regarding God or the spiritual. I’ve noted over and over all the other aspects and sources that we take in and are available to all of us as we come to any final conclusions regarding what we eventually believe. A little generosity in not misstating my position would also be fruitful.

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  24. Darrell says:

    Also,

    “So, how does reliable information on the nature of the spiritual get into your brain?”

    The same way it gets into your brain, you read it. Whether it is reliable (whatever that means) information is another question entirely.

    “You say via the bible. Good…”

    So you agree then that there is information in the Bible that tells us specifics about the spiritual and God, good.

    “…so what makes the bible accurate in this regard? What was the process? That's where your clash resides.”

    Whether the Bible is “accurate” (whatever that might mean) or not is another question. So the process of getting the information into our brains (reading/listening) is not the issue. Whether the Bible is true (meaning “true” on its own terms) is another question.

    So, do you want to claim that reading and listening to others (and reflecting upon such) clashes with science or do you want to claim that Christian beliefs do?

    If the first, then the conversation is over because I am not going to waste any more disputing something so ridiculous. If the second, I will counter that Christian beliefs do not clash with science but philosophical naturalism. Your choice.

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  25. Darrell says:

    Also,

    The holistic sources are available to all of us. The information “gets in” our brains the same way information gets in your brain, some of which, I’m sure you would even agree is probably false information. Have you ever had false information in your brain?

    We read. We talk to people. We listen to people. We think. Information gets in our brains. It may be true information; it may be false. It may be a little of both. Nowhere in this process is there a clash with science.

    You are basically claiming that if the Christian narrative is true, then the science is wrong or there is a clash. No. If the Christian narrative is true, then philosophical naturalism is wrong. The science, the facts, are what they are and they in no way clash with the Christian narrative and, in fact, have nothing to say either way. Science does not prove God, nor does it disprove God. Those questions are beyond its pay-grade.

    We say, as philosophers (which is what you are being in this conversation- as am I), as part of that world-wide community, what the facts mean and how the findings of science should be interpreted. And people disagree in those areas and that is okay. But when people disagree with you, it doesn’t mean they disagree with the science, it means they disagree with your philosophical interpretation of the science. It is the same sensibility we hear from those who claim if we disagree with them regarding what the Bible tells us, that we are disagreeing with the Bible. Nope. Just you.

    You need to learn this difference.

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  26. Hi Darrell

    For whatever reason, you are avoiding the key issue I'm interested in raising. it shows nicely here:

    “We read. We talk to people. We listen to people. We think. Information gets in our brains. It may be true information; it may be false. It may be a little of both. Nowhere in this process is there a clash with science.”

    The issue I am interested in is, if it is true, how is it the brain comes be aware of true, rather than false information? in other words, how does the process you use home in on true, rather than false representations of the spiritual? What is the mechanism that delivers up this tendency towards accuracy?

    You hint that it might be the bible that helps you get there, but then quickly pull away if pushed on the matter:
    “The information is not passing from the spiritual to us.”

    So, if the bible contains no information form the spiritual world, how can we use it to guide us, reliably, to the conclusion that acts of kindness are objectively good, for example?

    As always, a worked example would expose the flaw. and so you speak only in generalities. it may honestly be that you don't yet comprehend my case. But if so, just provide a worked example of how you reach any moral conclusion, and I'll show you clearly where your clash is. So here we are, me still asking my first question. This appears to be the issue you dare not touch.

    Bernard

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  27. Darrell says:

    Hi Bernard,

    “The issue I am interested in is, if it is true, how is it the brain comes be aware of true, rather than false information? in other words, how does the process you use home in on true, rather than false representations of the spiritual? What is the mechanism that delivers up this tendency towards accuracy?”

    How does your brain become aware of true rather than false information in the areas we are discussing- love, the spiritual, and ethics? Clearly science or empirical means did not settle those issues. I’m using the same process you use—that we all use. When you tell us that although the spiritual/God may exist, we can know nothing about either, what is the mechanism that delivers this up to you, which you clearly think is true information? Did it just come from your intuitions? Or did it come from books you’ve read, classes you took, people you’ve listened to? How did that information get in your brain? Maybe it was false information. I think a lot of it was. Are you suggesting that Christians have different “mechanisms”? If we all have the same “mechanisms” are you perplexed as to how then we arrive at different philosophical conclusions, or are you just suggesting Christians arrive at false ones? Are you suggesting that evolution has programmed us to arrive at your philosophical conclusions only?

    Again, did you want to talk about this same process you use, which would also then clash with science (according to you), or the conclusions/beliefs?

    P.S. This entire conversation is my example. And it would appear it is the one you dare not touch. Why not try and find the flaw in the primary conversation rather than a rabbit trail? This entire holistic process of how any of us come to inhabit the narratives we do is how any of us reach our moral conclusions. My example is your example–you just haven't figured that out yet.

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  28. Hi Darrell

    “How does your brain become aware of true rather than false information in the areas we are discussing- love, the spiritual, and ethics?”

    Well, I'd argue we don't reach truths per se in these areas, but rather can eek out consistencies: that is, conclusions that are logically consistent with our starting assumptions. this is the nature of this type of philosophical discussion. We look for implications, contradictions, analogous and so forth. Here the tools of reason, established via their past effectiveness, become our mechanism for homing in on new implications and understandings.

    if all you mean by spiritual truth is that truth consistent with your prior spiritual assumptions, then this method will work for you too. if, however, you believe you are accessing objective truths, you need some other mechanism of calibration. In the sphere of the empirical, we use sense data for this feedback and calibration. What could one use for the spiritual? I can think of no method consistent with our science.

    Try working through the simplest example you can think of of a spiritual truth, and I'll use that to explain this further.

    Bernard

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  29. Darrell says:

    Hi Bernard,

    “Well, I'd argue we don't reach truths per se in these areas…”

    That is the disputed question. I think they are truths. You do not. I think that is false information you have in your brain. And how did that information, that argument, get in your brain? Gee, the same way it would get in anyone's brain.

    “…but rather can eek out consistencies: that is, conclusions that are logically consistent with our starting assumptions. this is the nature of this type of philosophical discussion. We look for implications, contradictions, analogous and so forth. Here the tools of reason, established via their past effectiveness, become our mechanism for homing in on new implications and understandings.”

    Yes, we are all using that same process, which is one aspect of that entire holistic process I've been talking about. We all have the same sources of information and we all use this same process of learning which leads to our inferences/conclusions. Are you telling us that Christians, people like Collins and Polkinghorne don’t use reason or this same process?

    “if all you mean by spiritual truth is that truth consistent with your prior spiritual assumptions, then this method will work for you too.”

    That is all any of us mean by truth in these areas, including you. As noted above, you don't believe these areas to be truths–that is your prior assumption.

    “…if, however, you believe you are accessing objective truths, you need some other mechanism of calibration.”

    No I do not. Believing God is an objective being (and thus the source of objective morals) isn’t something that can be “calibrated” by any “mechanism” like we would use in the sense of an objective physical object. This is a category mistake. Science has nothing to say in this area, so a method consistent with science isn’t even an issue, but that doesn’t mean belief in God or the spiritual clashes with science, nor that we can know something about either (although we may be wrong or we may be right, which again, are two different questions).

    So, we all have the same sources of information available to us and we all use the same holistic process of coming to any inferences or conclusions. So far, no clash with science. Did you want to get to conclusions finally?

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  30. Darrell says:

    Also,

    “Try working through the simplest example you can think of of a spiritual truth…”

    Please track. We are working through that right now, in this conversation. Our “simple” example is love, ethics, the spiritual. What in the world do you think we have been talking about? You do understand that all three are linked I hope? Further, if we were to believe you, we can't know anything about the spiritual or God. Your obsession here either means you don't understand what we are presently talking about, or, you do, and you want to change the subject. Either way, please track with the conversation. We are CURRENTLY working through examples/methods of how both us conclude what we do in these areas (love, ethics, spirit). Thank you. Anymore requests for examples will be ignored. I'm tired of explaining this to you.

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  31. Hi Darrell

    your explanation, tiring though you may find it, doesn't work through an example. you say your simple explanation is “love, ethics, the spiritual.” Well, let's unpack that. What is it that leads you to think that cruelty to children is unethical? How exactly does this process of reaching a conclusion about this work?

    You say something puzzling here – “That is all any of us mean by truth in these areas, including you.” That the true means only that which is consistent with prior assumptions. If this is what you mean by true, then no ethical stance can be exclusively true, or rather any ethical claim can be made true, simply by changing assumptions. Which would make you a relativist. is this what you intended?

    Bernard

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  32. Darrell says:

    Hi Bernard,

    We have been unpacking it, which I guess you just didn't get. What leads you to think that cruelty to children is unethical? I can assure you, whatever it is that leads you to any conclusion, either way, will come out of the same process and sources available to all of us. But clearly, you don't want to talk about that. I get it. I also notice you didn't respond to most of what I wrote. I think I get that too.

    This conversation has run its course as to this specific post. I have two more posts specific to these topics I will put up shortly and any conversation can continue there. Please do not respond here.

    Thanks–always interesting.

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