Sunday, January 2, 2011

Movie lines

Best movie quotes. Not a bad list.

“It was the Dukes!” deserves a mention.

My favorite recent line is from The City of Your Final Destination (not a great film). Laura Linney plays the artist (Caroline):
Deirdre: It’s not my field but...some paintings I like very much. I’ve been hoping to talk -

Caroline: What kind of paintings do you like very much?

Deirdre: The Impressionists. Cézanne, Monet, van Gogh. Perhaps they weren’t all Impressionists... Or were they?

Caroline: [sips drink] As far as you need be concerned, they were.
Beautiful delivery.

What on earth are hospitals for?

Ophelia Benson has been posting tenaciously about this.

I don’t come at it wishing to debate (though I’m glad others do) abstruse and absurd Catholic dogma. I can’t for the life of me understand how they could seriously be putting this forward as a policy in the US in this century.

The purpose of hospitals is to reduce the suffering and save the lives of patients. It would be insane to license or insure a healthcare facility with an intentional danger or death policy. No facility, surely, could adopt this terrible policy, right? Catholic and other hospitals will of course come forward to say that they don’t have and have never had a policy to willfully refuse to save women's lives, right?


Saturday, January 1, 2011

It's 2011, and evidence for "god" is still not possible.

I was reluctant to return to this topic, but a recent post of PZ’s has raised it again, and some people have made comments that seem to express a sincere wish to engage with the position I’m advocating.*

Anri remarks:
And herein we have the problem of evidence for god again.

I'd like to ask, as an open question, anyone who is of the opinion that evidence for god is impossible:

If there is no state of the universe that could provide evidence for god, than how is the state of the universe relevant to the existence of god?

In other words, saying 'There is no state of the universe that could demonstrate god,' while also saying 'The observed universe does not demonstrate god, therefore do not believe' is incoherent. If the answer to Question A has no possible bearing on Postulate X, than answering Question A gives you no hint as to the truth of Postulate X, yes?

The argument that the state of the universe is a good reason not to believe in god must tacitly recognize that different states of the universe might provide more or less evidence for this concept.

Please let me know if I'm barking up the wrong tree here, and if so, howso?
I’m going to assume that Anri was referring to our arguments rather than other, different ones. If that assumption is correct, yes, (s)he’s barking up the wrong tree. The argument we’re making is prior to any consideration of evidence, and renders adducing evidence impossible.

A claimed entity has to be something. If someone is claiming that some concept X exists, there must be a concept X. Without an X, it makes no sense to talk about what would constitute evidence for the existence of X, or in fact to consider its possible existence at all. References to “god” or “this concept” assume an X, but no one has been able to produce the concept in any form for which evidence could conceivably be adduced.

So, again, the problem is prior to any evidence. The state of the universe doesn’t and can’t demonstrate anything with regard to gods, since no god-concept has been brought forth for which any empirical findings demonstrate anything. Of course, nothing that isn’t defined qualifies for belief. Existence and belief are simply meaningless with regard to these vague notions. (It’s difficult in English even to describe them: “vague” or “undefined entities” presumes an underlying concept, which doesn’t exist here.)

The problems multiply when people refer to alleged qualities or aspects of these nonconcepts (anticoncepts?). IanM suggests, in response to “A coherent, falsifiable definition would be a good start, as well,”
I find that an unreasonable condition. They are arguing for an omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent God and yet the attributes with which they describe God leaves God immeasurable and undefined.
But here’s the same problem. “[A]n omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent X” assumes an X, which hasn’t been defined. Nor can attributes constitute a definition. We understand what “knowing,” for example, means in terms of physical entities and processes. And “knowledge” and “love” can be abstracted from these. But what does “knowing” mean divorced entirely from them? Nothing. Again, English makes it difficult to express the meaninglessness of these ideas, since even the most “immaterial” terms we have – “free-floating” and so on - still presuppose a basis in real things and processes. (Not to mention that “They don’t define it so requiring a definition is unreasonable” does not an argument make.)

Until such time as a god-concept can be defined, it’s a nonsense syllable.

(This is an important topic, and I wish to do my best to be understood in the discussion, so I hope this helps, but I’m not going to publish any unduly hostile comments.)

* The criticism of PZ along the lines of “Well, PZ would exclude himself based on that chart given that he doesn’t admit any evidence for God” is rather silly. First, the chart is about Christians, but PZ refers in his post title to creationists, who are making incorrect claims about defined and evidenced facts and theories. Second, the underlying problem with god arguments comes, as I discuss again here, prior to evidence. Since any debate concerning the existence of any god-concepts requires these to be defined, and they haven’t been, they can’t possibly be debate topics in the first place. As mikerattlesnake points out, “I would add a rule (#1) that all terms in the topic of debate are clearly defined before even considering a debate.”