God and non-God objects. Like, what’s the problem? A response to Justin Schieber

Posted on 12/28/12 66 Comments

The other day I listened to Justin Schieber’s lecture “The Problem of Non-God Objects.” You can listen to it here.

In his presentation Schieber argues that a perfect God could not create a universe. Since the universe exists, it follows that God doesn’t.

The Argument Briefly Summarized

What is the basis for this argument? It starts with the assumption that a perfect God would, of the necessity of his nature, actualize only a perfect possible world (where a possible world is a maximal state of affairs). However, only God is perfect while every created thing is a derivation from perfection. Consequently, the only perfect world is one in which God exists but no other thing exists. Since God would necessarily actualize this possible world by refraining from creating anything other than God, it follows that God doesn’t exist because something other than God does exist.

(Justin presents the argument in seven steps in his talk. You should listen to it there if you want the full meal deal.)

Two Responses to the Argument

I’ll give two responses, the first an indirect rebuttal and the second a direct rebuttal.

First, the indirect rebuttal. Here let me begin with an analogy. If you’re like most people you believe that human mental states like “I will raise my arm” have the ability to affect the material world (e.g. by causing one’s arm to rise). But what if you should hear an argument to the end that it is impossible for mental states to affect the physical world? (Perhaps the argument seeks to establish the truth of epiphenomenalism.) Do you think it would be more reasonable to accept the conclusion that mental states cannot affect the physical world? Or would it be more reasonable to conclude that there is likely something wrong with the argument? While there may be some people who would opt for the former (especially those who have already imbibed unholy amounts of materialist Kool-Aid), most people would stick with their commitment to the causal power of the mind on the natural world. And they’d be perfectly reasonable to do so, because it is more likely that there is something wrong with the argument (even if one is not sure what it is) than it is likely that the mind can’t really affect the physical world.

Similarly, many people believe that God is the creator of the world. And they likely have many reasons to believe this, including philosophical arguments and personal experiences. Would it be more reasonable to conclude, upon hearing this argument, that it is in fact impossible for God to create a non-God object? Or would it be more reasonable to continue to believe that he can and thus that there must be something wrong with this argument? Again, unless you’ve already imbibed unholy amounts of materialist Kool-Aid, surely the latter is the more reasonable response.

This means that Justin’s argument should only be persuasive to those who are already conditioned to accept its conclusion. Admittedly, if it were part of a much broader cumulative case argument it might have more force for theists. But as it stands it is fit only to persuade the convinced.

This leads me to the direct rebuttal. If I’m right in this criticism then the argument isn’t even good as part of a cumulative case.

Here I must say that I do not find the claim at all compelling that a possible world with God alone is greater than a possible world with God + non-God objects (i.e. a creation). To illustrate the reason for my skepticism, imagine two automobile museums devoted to the muscle car. Each museum has a perfect model of every muscle car ever built from the 1964 GTO straight up to the 2013 Shelby Mustang. However, the second muscle car museum also has an unrestored, rusty 1970 Camaro in the backlot. Which is the greater muscle car museum?

Frankly, my intuitions would suggest neither. Both museums are perfect and the addition of one unrestored, rusty 1970 Camaro on the backlot of one of those museums is not sufficient to change that.

In the analogy the first muscle car museum represents a possible world in which God alone exists. In the second analogy the museum represents the possible world in which God + creation exists. Both seem perfectly fine to me since each includes a perfect set of muscle cars.

(By the way, just so we’re clear on how the analogy is functioning, the muscle car museums each = a possible world, the perfect set of muscle cars in each museum = God, the rusty 1970 Camaro in the second museum = a non-God object.)

While this seems intuitively right, where exactly is it that Schieber’s argument goes askew? The problem, I would suggest, is in his chosen language of perfect possible worlds rather than fitting possible worlds. In other words, while God himself is perfect, as a perfect being he is free to actualize any possible world that is fitting where a fitting possible world is one in which either God exists or God + a creation that is on balance good exists.

And that means that God is able to create an infinite subset of the total set of logically possible worlds which are fitting, including the actual world.

 

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  • AdamHazzard

    I wonder what it means to “actualize” a world?

    You posit that God contains perfect knowledge (i.e., a perfectly complete description) of all possible worlds.

    If those possible universes are completely described in the mind of God, do they not already have the quality of existence? What does God add to the perfect description of those universe that makes them “actual?”

    And since a perfect description of all possible universes must include descriptions of the state of mind of all possible creatures within them at any given moment . . . how can we tell whether the universe we inhabit has been “actualized” or whether it remains a thought in the mind of God?

    If there is no answer to that question, may we assume that Christianity is a multiverse theory?

    • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

      For God to actualize a possible world means for him to bring it about that that world exists. The term possible world refers to a maximal way things could have been. Should the multiiverse theory turn out to be correct, it would follow that one possible world (i.e. a particular world which includes the multiverse) is in fact the actual world.

      • AdamHazzard

        For God to actualize a possible world means for him
        to bring it about that that world exists.

        I’m not making an arbitrary atheistic objection; I’m actually curious about the logic of this. Let me pose the question another way.

        If the Mind of God (which is omniscient) contains absolutely complete descriptions of all the universes God might create,
        what would the “actualization” of any such universe add to the
        description of it? If these descriptions exist in the mind of God, and if God exists, do these universes not in some sense already exist?

        Moreover, if the Mind of God contains absolutely complete descriptions of all the universes God might create, and if “theists typically understand God to create not out of need or necessity
        but rather freely out of the superabundance of his own being” — then wouldn’t it be strange (and anthropocentric) to assume that such a God actualized only one universe, i.e., ours? Would it not be more reasonable to assume that such a God either actualized no universe, or actualized all universes?

        • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

          “what would the “actualization” of any such universe add to the description of it?”

          The fact that it exists. Try this: write up a description of your perfect car. (For me it would be, perhaps a 1968 Shelby GT 500 convertible.) Write about thirty propositions and then end with an ellipsis meant to include every other possible proposition describing the vehicle. There you have a complete description (in principle) of a car that might exist. Here’s the downside: you can’t take a car that might exist for a winding journey down Hightway 1 on the California Coast (or the Sea to Sky Highway north of Vancouver). But a real car (Shelby or otherwise) can be driven. That’s a big difference. And that’s the difference between a perfect description of the reality and the reality itself.

          As for your final question, the scenario you describe is one possible world, i.e. a world in which God actualizes an infinite number of possible universes. But I see no reason to think God actualized such a possible world, and I don’t think you’ve provided one.

          • AdamHazzard

            I think my question was unclear.

            Any description I write about an imaginary car is not a “complete description,” because I am not omniscient. God is alleged to be omniscient. If God imagines a car, he knows literally everything about it, including every sensory detail of what it would be like for any conceivable entity to drive such a car down any conceivable road in any conceivable universe.

            So I guess my question is: what does the actualization of a universe add to God’s knowledge of it?

            • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

              Imagine an infinite set of propositions describing a car. Now imagine one more proposition: “The car described in this infinite set of propositions exists.” That’s the difference. And I’m not being trite. That really is the difference. Look, I can sit here and describe a particular red 1968 Alfa Romeo Duetto to you. It has a black leather interior, a cracked softtop, a pink flower decal on the gas cap, a cassette player, floor mats from Walmart, a California license plate, etc. I could go on in principle describing this car until we have a complete description. But that wouldn’t mean any car fitting that description really existed, so the fact that God now knows a full set of descriptions describing the car doesn’t mean it exists.

              • AdamHazzard

                I want to thank you for taking the time to respond. Obviously, you’re under no obligation to provide Theodicy 101 for curious atheists. For me, it’s a wonderful opportunity to ask questions of someone who is something of an authority in the field — much the way I felt when I had the chance to discuss the nature of time, over lunch, with a physicist associated with the Large Hadron Collider. “Probably a stupid question, but I’ve always wondered….”

                In this case I think you’re underestimating what constitutes a “perfect description” from the point of view of an omniscient being. We’re not talking about what you or I would call a “description” of a car — that is, a list of all the salient details about it, down to some acceptable level of approximation.

                If God is omniscient, God possesses knowledge of the car that is not in any sense approximate. It would include, for instance, the metallurgical nature of the piston rods, the configuration of the crystals in that metal, the quantum state of every particle constituting those crystals, the ongoing relationship between those particles and all other particles in the universe — which would require complete knowledge of the entire universe itself at all times and all physical levels. Okay, fine: that’s what omniscience means.

                So let’s forget the car and talk about the universe as a whole. If God is omniscient, he possesses all possible knowledge about all possible states of our universe, whether or not he “actualizes” it. (Tell me if I’m wrong!)

                This description of the universe, because it is perfect, must possess maximal computational efficiency. (That is, there can be no complete description of the universe that is more succinct or more computationally efficient than the one in the mind of God.) (Tell me if I’m wrong!)

                If that’s true, then our universe is either a perfect reflection of its description in the mind of God, or an imperfect reflection of its description in the mind of God.

                Given that, what does it mean for God to “actualize” a perfect and complete description of the universe?

                That seems like an easy, obvious question. Why, he just causes it to exist! Ab nihilo. Where there was nothing, now there is something. Where there was an idea, there is now a thing. (I think this is the point of your analogy.) The description of the universe in the mind of God, in this view, is like a computer program: God knows exactly what results it would produce if he were to run it, where “running it” is equivalent to “actualization.”

                But that analogy doesn’t work. To run a program is to perform the operations it entails on some physical substrate. Is that what God’s doing with the universe?

                Logically, it can’t be. There is no substrate more basic than the Mind of God itself. What does the universe arise from? The Mind of God, which is eternal and arises from no other substrate. If God is enacting (actualizing) a perfect description of our universe, the substrate on which it is running can only be the Mind of God itself.

                The description of the universe, in this context, may be considered an idea in the Mind of God. But since the Mind of God is an irreducible immaterial substrate, all its contents may be characterized in the same way, as ideas. Which means we must ask: What distinguishes the idea that is a perfect description of our universe from the idea that is the actualization of our universe?

                It’s not enough to say that one is “real.” If the Mind of God exists, both are real. It’s no enough to say that one is “an idea;” both are ideas.

                That’s not true of finite beings like ourselves. My idea of knocking two rocks together is substantially different from having two rocks and actually knocking them together. But for God, “having two rocks” is just as much an idea as “knocking them together.”

                And if the perfect description of our universe entails the idea of its physical existence, we can only conclude that nothing distinguishes the perfect description of our universe in the Mind of God from the actualization of that universe in the Mind of God.

                If you’ve come this far with me, consider the implications:

                The contents of the Mind of God are eternal and necessarily existent. The universe as we experience it is part of the contents of the Mind of God. The universe is therefore eternal and necessarily existent. If the Mind of God and its contents are uncreated and eternal , the universe is uncreated and eternal. Since the Mind of God must contain equally perfect descriptions of all conceivable universes, these universes, too, are eternal and necessarily existent. The Mind of God is therefore a multiverse, and all possible universes and all possible states of all possible universes are therefore equally real.

                And if our universe (and all others) are uncreated, eternal and necessarily existent, there is no role for the will of God in their creation. In fact, the Mind of God need not be in any sense conscious. In fact, we can dispense with the notion of God altogether and simply posit an eternal, uncreated substrate containing perfect descriptions of all possible universes.

                (Sorry for the long post. No real need to respond to this outburst of amateur theodicy, unless it intrigues you. But I think the reasoning is sound.)

                • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

                  “If God is omniscient, God possesses knowledge of the car that is not in any sense approximate.”

                  I think there are a few confusions here. First, you need to clarify what you mean by knowledge. To know something entails a particular kind of cognitive relationship to a true proposition. For our discussion we can leave out the question of what it would mean for God to know p, which is undoubtedly quite different from the way we know p. (For one thing, if God is essentially omniscient then God always knows p.) Instead, we can focus on the content of p. In other words, what are the propositions that are true and which God knows?

                  In this discussion where we are talking about modal truths across possible worlds, God’s knowledge will be modally specified. For example, God would know (1) “It is possibly the case that a Duetto has a pink sticker on the gas cap” as well as (2) “It is actually the case that a Duetto has a pink sticker on the gas cap.” But note that (1) is a subjunctive statement, i.e. one that states what could have been (but is in fact not) the case. However, (2) is in the indicative mood and thus is a statement about what is in fact the case.

                  You’re denying that God could have any counterfactual or subjective knowledge and thus that God’s only knowledge is indicative. But there is no reason to think this.

                  In classical theism God knows three classes of facts: necessary knowledge (e.g. logical axioms), contingent (free) knowledge (i.e. all the contingent facts that God opted to actualize by creating the world) and counterfactual knowledge (i.e. knowledge of what God could have actualized but did not in fact actualize).

                  • AdamHazzard

                    Thanks, that’s actually helpful. I promise not to belabor this much further.

                    I’m proposing that the nature of omniscience has a counterintuitive implication about the nature of God and the universe. I don’t expect to convince you, and I won’t belabor the question further, but just to buttress my argument, let me derive the same conclusion by a completely different route – from classical theism.

                    We begin by granting the three classes of fact in the blockquote:

                    In classical theism God knows three classes of facts: necessary knowledge (e.g. logical axioms),contingent (free) knowledge (i.e. all the contingent facts that God opted to actualize by creating the world) and counterfactual knowledge (i.e. knowledge of what God could have actualized but did not in fact actualize).

                    Now consider a moment in time – let’s call it Right Now. Right Now, God has free knowledge of the complete state of the universe, and this knowledge is not counterfactual.

                    Now consider a different moment in time – say, June 10th, 1496. Call it Back Then. Back Then, God also has free knowledge of the complete state of the universe, and this knowledge is not counterfactual.

                    And consider one more moment in time – December 14th, 2234. Call it Not Yet. At that date, God also has free knowledge of the complete state of the universe, and this knowledge is not counterfactual.

                    Moreover, God does not learn this information. God occupies every point in spacetime equally. Right Now, he has fully free knowledge of both Back Then and Not Yet. He knew me as thoroughly in 1496 as he knows me now and as he will know me in 2234.

                    In fact there was never a time when God did not contain this fully free knowledge about the finite universe we inhabit,even before he created it.

                    That carries an odd and, as I said, counterintuitive implication. If God always possessed fully free knowledge of the universe we inhabit, he must have possessed it before he willed the universe into existence (unless the universe has always coexisted with God).

                    But before he willed the universe into existence – assuming he had any choice in the matter – this fully free knowledge would describe a universe God might actualize but has not in fact actualized.

                    Thus – surprisingly! – God’s omniscience means he can possess knowledge that is both entirely contingent (free) and
                    simultaneously counterfactual!

                    But if this is true, God’s knowledge of all conceivable universes prior to any act of creation must have been both entirely contingent and completely counterfactual. Moreover, no act of actualizing a universe can add anything to God’s already fully free knowledge of any state of that universe. Which means God’s interaction with all possible universes is fully real whether these universes are “actualized” or not!

                    Omniscience is a multiverse theory.

                    • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

                      “But before he willed the universe into existence – assuming he had any choice in the matter – this fully free knowledge would describe a universe God might actualize but has not in fact actualized.”

                      First of all, you’ve written as if God is temporal. I’m fine with this but other theologians would believe God is atemporal and thus that he timelessly knows all true propositions.

                      But assuming that God is temporal (or, in fact, sempiternal), your statement here is simply incorrect. God’s knowledge of his future free actions that will bring about future contingent states of affairs never constituted counterfactual knowledge. It is always contingent free knowledge of the future. To underscore the point as an omniscient being Gods knowledge of which propositions constitute the set of counterfactual knowledge and which constitute the set of free knowledge never changes. If they did then it would follow that God wasn’t omniscient.

                      So your argument is based on a confusion.

                    • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

                      There is, however, a legitimate distinction between contingency and accidental necessity. “Randal was born in 1973″ is a contingent fact prior to Randa’s being born in 1973. But subsequent to the event it becomes accidentially necessary. In THAT sense one can see change in the body of God’s knowledge if God is a sempiternal being. But not in the sense you’re proposing.

                    • AdamHazzard

                      I have different versions of this argument, depending on whether we assume god is temporal or atemporal. But let me just point out what I believe is a confusion in your response. You say,

                      “Randal was born in 1973″ is a contingent fact prior to Randal’s being born in 1973.

                      Yes, from a temporal point of view within our physical universe, that fact is contingent prior to 1973 and “accidentally necessary” after that. Quite true.

                      But that’s my point — from the view of an omniscient being, the fact of your birth was never contingent. For an omniscient being, there is no “now” within our physical universe — all “nows” are always equally known. (In other words, within our physical universe God is atemporally present.)

                      If what we experience as choice or contingency is real, then all alternatives must be equally well-known to an omniscient being. God occupies all points in spacetime, including (in this case) all the contingent spacetimes that represent alternative outcomes to undetermined or freely chosen events. And here we have an entrance to a different sort of multiverse theory — a Copenhagen interpretation of omniscience, if you like.

                      To underscore the point as an omniscient being Gods knowledge of which propositions constitute the set of counterfactual knowledge and which constitute the set of free knowledge never changes. If they did then it would follow that God wasn’t omniscient.

                      Yes, exactly! Now consider the implications, if that’s true.

                      Complete knowledge of our physical universe has been eternally present in the mind of God. Complete certainty that our physical universe would be actualized has been eternally present in the mind of God. There was never a possibility that God would not actualize the universe. Any choice in the matter is thus precluded. In fact it would be incorrect to say that God created the universe — it would be more precise to say that the universe is a finite bubble of spacetime within an eternal (or sempiternal or atemporal) substrate. No volition is needed; in fact the possibility is excluded by the fact of omniscience, as you aver.

                      But what determines that our physical universe is the only one that arises from this voliltionless substrate of reality? No such limitation has been posited, nor does such a limitation emerge logically from the premises. It is equally possible, and I would argue more likely, that all conceivable physical universes exist in this volitionless substrate, and that all conceivable universes are therefore equally real.

  • Walter

    Can God duplicate himself and create another God? Classical theists would say that it is a logical impossibility for there to exist more than one ground-of-all-being who is the ultimate cause, therefore God is incapable of creating that which is perfect because true perfection can only be found in God himself…and God cannot create himself any more than he can create a square circle.

    If the above is true the question becomes: why would a perfect being desire to create a less-than-perfect universe? Why create the rusty Camaro? What possible purpose can the rusty Camaro serve?

    • Kerk

      Not, if creating a perfect world would necessarily involve the free will aspect. Supposedly the only way for God to build heaven is to get moral agents to willingly help him in it.

    • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

      If we understand the word “God” to refer to a necessarily existent being, and anything that is created cannot by definition be necessarily existent, then it follows that the act of making a necessarily existent being is contradictory.

      • Walter

        True enough.

        If it is correct that absolute perfection exists only within God himself, then this would mean that anything God creates would necessarily be a derivation of perfection. The question “Why create anything?” still remains. Was God bored or lonely? Does God possess human emotions? I am uncomfortable with the concept of an anthropopathic deity, so I am wondering if creation can be explained as a logical necessity rather than the result of a divine desire.

        • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

          A perfect being wouldn’t suffer any lack such as boredom or loneliness. Theists typically understand God to create not out of need or necessity but rather freely out of the superabundance of his own being. Imagine, by analogy, a perfectly happy married couple who decide to have a child not out of any need but simply out of the desire to offer the child that would be created the benefit of their parenting. This is certainly conceivable and thus provides a reasonable analogy for God’s grounds for creating.

  • http://angramainyusblog.blogspot.com/ Angra Mainyu

    A couple of issues:

    Similarly, many people believe that God is the creator of the world. And they
    likely have many reasons to believe this, including philosophical
    arguments and personal experiences. Would it be more reasonable to
    conclude, upon hearing this argument, that it is in fact impossible
    for God to create a non-God object? Or would it be more reasonable to
    continue to believe that he can and thus that there must be something
    wrong with this argument? Again, unless you’ve already imbibed
    unholy amounts of materialist Kool-Aid, surely the latter is the more
    reasonable response.

    1. The claim that the situations are similar (i.e., the ‘similarly’
    part) seems to be unfounded, since there may well be plenty of
    relevant dissimilarities, such as:

    a. Even if those people have many reasons to believe that God created
    the world, that does not mean that they have good
    reasons. Granted, you may claim otherwise, but many of us see no good
    reason to make that assumption.

    b. Even if some of those people have good reasons to believe that God
    created the world, that does not mean that their reasons are nearly
    as good as the reasons we have to believe that mental states affect
    the physical world (not sure what ‘physical’ means, but in this case,
    precision is not required).

    c. Generally, without actually assessing an argument, there seems to be
    little reason to conclude it will fail similarly to another argument,
    since the merits of the two arguments might be very different, so the
    claim of similarity still appear unwarranted. (Granted, there might
    be indirect reasons, like, say, if the person has already assessed
    many arguments against the existence of God and properly conclude
    that they fail. But most people aren’t in an epistemic position to
    assess most philosophical arguments for or against the existence of a
    perfect creator of all other beings (or at least concrete beings, if
    you consider abstracta as beings)).

    2. The claim that ‘unless you’ve already imbibed unholy amounts of materialist Kool-Aid, surely the latter is the more reasonable response.”,
    seems to suggest that people who do not have the belief that God is the creator of the world, have ‘already imbibed unholy amounts of materialist Kook-Aid’ (otherwise, there would be no link, given the previous points in that
    paragraph).

    However, most people who do not have the belief that a perfect being created
    the world are Hindus, or Buddhists, or they believe in some folk religion that either posits no creator or creators, or does not posit a perfect creator.
    So, that suggestion wouldn’t be true.

    Even if you restrict the scope to Westerners (who probably make up, after all, most of your readers, under any of the possible common interpretations ‘Westerner’), there are plenty of people who aren’t materialists, but do not hold that a perfect creator exists. That includes plausibly nearly all agnostics about whether such a creator exists, and some others (like me) who have difficulty with the definition of ‘materialism’ (and so do not endorse materialism, even if they agree with many of the beliefs commonly held by materialists), while believing that there is no perfect creator.

    This means that Justin’s argument should only be persuasive to those who
    are already conditioned to accept its conclusion. Admittedly, if it were part of a much broader cumulative case argument it might have more force for theists. But as it stands it is fit only to persuade the convinced.

    Let’s suppose Alice is agnostic about whether there is a perfect creator, and she’s never encounter Justin’s argument before. Why should she conclude that the argument likely fails, without assessing it?

    • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

      To respond to your a-c, your objections, caveats, qualifications all reduce to the observation that my indirect rebuttal would not necessarily apply to every theist. Sure. Neither would the parallel argument extend to every mind/body dualist. The point is that even if Schieber’s argument were successful as a self-contained argument, it doesn’t follow that it would provide sufficient justification to oblige a theist to surrender theism on pain of irrationality. I am quite sure that most theists will not have belief so shaky that a single argument of this sort could overturn it.

      Consider an analogy. Imagine that you hear a lecture by a fellow who argues that 9/11 was caused by the US Government. And he provides a powerful case for the conclusion which you are unable to refute. Would it be rational to conclude that the government in fact caused 9/11 based on that single lecture? It might. But for most people such a conspiracy theory would involve revising so many other beliefs, e.g. by adopting multiple levels of corruption and conspiracy in the government, that it would take much more than a single lecture to win one over.

      • http://angramainyusblog.blogspot.com/ Angra Mainyu

        To respond to your a-c, your objections, caveats, qualifications all
        reduce to the observation that my indirect rebuttal would not
        necessarily apply to every theist.

        How would you make that reduction?

        Your indirect rebuttal states “If you’re like most people you believe…” etc.; that indicates an argument aimed at “you” (i.e., any reader), not only theist readers, and then you say that similarly, ‘many people believe’, etc. (those people would be many theists, but the argument wasn’t apparently directed at them alone, but at convincing others about what theists should do while facing the argument).

        However, my point is (among others) that a reader may well not see any good reasons to believe that (for instance) all, most or even some theists have reasons to believe in the existence of a being such that no greater being can be conceived of that are nearly as good as the reasons she (i.e., the reader) or generally humans have to believe that minds are causally effective.

        Consider an analogy. Imagine that you hear a lecture by a fellow who argues that 9/11 was caused by the US Government. And he provides a powerful case for the conclusion which you are unable to refute. Would it be rational to conclude that the government in fact caused 9/11 based on that single lecture?

        First, that seems not analogous to me in a relevant sense,
        given that I do not see any good reasons to think that people who
        believe there is a being such that no greater being can be conceived of, have nearly as good a reason as we have reason to believe it wasn’t the US government.

        Second, why would I be unable to refute it?

        The evidence supporting Al-Qaeda’s responsibility (and not that of the US government) is beyond a reasonable doubt, and in order to refute an argument, I do not need to show logical impossibility, of course (clearly, there are logically possible conspiracy theories that blame the US government).

        If, after considering the evidence, arguments, etc., it turns out that
        the new evidence presented by this fellow actually shows, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the US government did it, then I would
        conclude that the US government did it (but beyond-a-reasonable-doubt evidence is difficult to overturn, and it wouldn’t be reasonable of me to hold a doubt based on that).

        If, on the other hand, the new evidence is not enough to reach that
        conclusion, but enough to undermine my belief that it wasn’t the US
        government, then I would become an agnostic on that matter, perhaps assigning greater probability to some theory or another.

        The point is that the matter does not hinge on the number of lectures, but on the strength of the argument.

        For example, mathematicians in the past regularly believed that naive set theory was consistent. As it turns out, it’s not, and a single argument showed it’s not.

        If you think that that’s not a good example, let’s consider ZFC set
        theory. It seems clear to me that the axioms are consistent, and an
        inconsistency would have been found by now. However, if someone showed me a proof from the axioms to a contradiction, after checking the proof, I would conclude that ZFC is inconsistent (that’s a counterpossible scenario since it’s consistent, but that doesn’t affect the point, which is about the strength of the argument).

        Another example, if you don’t like counterpossible scenarios: let’s say that someone believes that humans will never make flying machines, or at least flying machines heavier than air. Showing them a working airplane or helicopter (and, perhaps, the factory where it was built) should suffice to persuade them, regardless of what reasons they might have.

        Or let’s say that someone believes that, say, a certain guru has a power to manifest objects. Showing them sufficient evidence of a con should persuade them (well, they shouldn’t have come to believe that the guru had such powers in the first place, but that aside), and perhaps, it would persuade them; it depends on how much evidence is given.

        That said, let me approach the matter from another direction:

        The ‘indirect’ argument you seemed to be making was aimed at readers in general, not at theists alone (see above), but if we go with the following point:

        The point is that even if Schieber’s argument were successful as a
        self-contained argument, it doesn’t follow that it would provide
        sufficient justification to oblige a theist to surrender theism on
        pain of irrationality.

        Then, the indirect objection in question would seem to be a general
        objection to any self-contined argument against theism. For that matter, an atheist (with respect to the concept of ‘God’ considered in this thread) might raise a mirror indirect objection against any self-contained argument for the existence of God. Moreover, a naturalist or a materialist (according to some of the definitions of those terms) might raise a mirror indirect objection against any argument against naturalism or materialism, and so on.

        If you want to argue that their objection would not be equally forceful, you would have to actually get into the specifics of the views in question (i.e., theism, atheism, naturalism, etc.), but that would actually move the matter beyond the ‘indirect argument’, understood as in the paragraph I quoted above.

        So, thus understood, your indirect objection would appear to be an
        instance of a general objection against self-contained arguments
        against some kind of beliefs (at least, those that would require a
        serious revision of many beliefs on the part of someone who
        previously disagrees and later accepts the argument).

        For the reasons I mentioned above (e.g., the examples of strong
        arguments), I do not agree that a general objection of the sort
        succeeds.

        Side note: I think that most people should refrain from accepting most (but not all) philosophical arguments in philosophy of religion because they don’t have the background knowledge that is required to understand them, and they have no reliable indirect means of assessing their strength. But that’s another matter.

        I am quite sure that most theists will not have belief so shaky that a single argument of this sort could overturn it.

        I’m quite sure of that as well. The same applies to most communists (regarding their communism), most Muslims, most Christians, most Muslims, most Hindus, most Umbanda believers, etc.

        In all cases, most people in one such category would not be persuaded to leave their beliefs by a single argument. In fact, I would say that most of them would not be persuaded by many arguments, over years, etc., and if they got persuaded, they may very well be by bad arguments, not by the arguments they should accept.

        • http://bilbos1.blogspot.com/ Bilbo

          Just in case anyone wanted to watch a lecture on 9/11 that I think would demonstrate that that it is not beyond reasonable doubt that the U.S. gov’t demolished the WTC buildings on 9/11, here’s one.

          Of course, I don’t expect this video to overturn one’s belief that the U.S. gov’t. wasn’t involved, but I expect it to demonstrate that it’s not beyond reasonable doubt.

          • http://angramainyusblog.blogspot.com/ Angra Mainyu

            Thanks, but I’m afraid I’ll have to pass; I’ve assessed that matter thoroughly enough, the video is one and a half hour, and we all need to prioritize since our time is limited.

            In any case, my points above don’t rely on the merits of any arguments for involvement of the US government in 9/11.

            • http://bilbos1.blogspot.com/ Bilbo

              If you still believe that it is beyond reasonable doubt that the U.S. gov’t. was involved in 9/11, then you have not assessed the matter thoroughly enough. But I agree that your points don’t rely on it. I’m just a shameless opportunist.

            • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

              Thanks for your comments. I’ll offer a response tomorrow.

              • http://angramainyusblog.blogspot.com/ Angra Mainyu

                Thanks.

          • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

            I used the 9/11 example precisely because I once saw a presentation of that type and was persuaded that the presenter seemed to present sophisticated reasons for the view he was defending. I simply lacked expertise in the relevant areas (e.g. structure demolition; pyrotechnics) to debunk the presentation. But it didn’t change my views.

            • http://bilbos1.blogspot.com/ Bilbo

              Are you saying that even if his science was correct, it wouldn’t change your views? Or are you saying that because you lacked the ability to determine if his science was correct, that your views didn’t change? And would you say that it is beyond reasonable doubt that the U.S. gov’t. was involved in 9/11?

              • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

                There are two problems. First, as I already noted, accepting the conspiracy claim would require I accept many more assumptions about the nature of government and conspiracy which are on the face of it enormously implausibe

                In addition, I am aware of equally intelligent experts who offer point by point rebuttals to the conspiracy interpretation. For example, they deny that the way the buildings collapsed suggests the use of explosives.

                Life is short, and I can’t research every case of disagerement among experts. So what I do, what seems reasonable to do, is side with the position that requires the least revisions in my noetic web as well as the position that is represented by the most experts in the relevant fields. In this case both factors are found on the non-conspiracy side.

                • http://bilbos1.blogspot.com/ Bilbo

                  Randal: “… what seems reasonable to do, is side with the position that requires the least revisions in my noetic web as well as the position that is represented by the most experts in the relevant fields. In this case both factors are found on the non-conspiracy side.

                  I agree that is a reasonable thing to do. However, I disagree that most experts are on the side you take. At least, not most informed experts. ae911truth.org has over 1750 architects and engineers petitioning for a new, independent investigation of 9/11, based on the evidence that they present. I think that most architects and engineers who accept the official version of 9/11 do so because they haven’t looked at the evidence against it, just as at one time most of the petitioners themselves hadn’t. (And of course, I would maintain that all the important rebuttals have been rebutted.)

                  Given this, I think it’s reasonable to ask how long must life be before one looks at the evidence a little more closely.

                  • http://angramainyusblog.blogspot.com/ Angra Mainyu

                    Regarding the view of the majority of experts,
                    this paper (in addition to accepting that the collapse happened without explosives), states “As generally accepted by the community of specialists in structural mechanics and structural engineering though not by a few outsiders claiming a conspiracy with planted explosives, the failure scenario was as follows:”

                    That paper was published in a respected peer-reviewed journal, the Journal of Engineering Mechanics.

                    I’ve seen no counterclaims in similarly respected journals, magazines, etc., regarding the claim about general acceptance in the community of specialists. Do you have evidence of any such counterclaims?

                    Also, as one can check here,
                    the paper in question was cited by other papers (some by the same authors, some not), and none of them rejects
                    the claims.

                    Yes, granted, those supporting the conspiracy theory can create their own journal (and some of them have), and others made a journal to debunk them (source: http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=5946 ), but when it comes to journals respected by the community of experts at large, I do not see any support at all for the conspiracy theory.

                    Given this, I think it’s reasonable to ask how long must life be before one looks at the evidence a little more closely.

                    What would you propose Randall do, in order to assess the evidence?
                    He’s not an expert in demolitions, but he can make an assessment about the general reliability of experts in the field (after all, demolitions usually do work as planned, buildings do so as well, etc., and accidents are usually explained), and also an assessment about what those experts think.

                    He has additional sources of evidence, such as all of the people who would have had to be in on the conspiracy (but who do not seem to be prone to that) in order for it to work, etc.

                    So, generally, how would you propose he should go about assessing the evidence (given that he’s not going to be doing the models himself)?

                    I would ask a similar question about me, on that note.

                    • http://bilbos1.blogspot.com/ Bilbo

                      Bazant’s latest paper was refuted by Bjorkman, in the same journal, here.

                      How are laypeople to assess the evidence? Not easily, I admit. But most of us laypeople know a little bit of physics, such as the rule that “for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction.” Bazant has smaller portions of the WTCs crush the larger portions of the buildings underneath them, before they themselves are crushed by the opposite and equal reaction of the lower portions. That defies Newtonian physics.

                      Most of us laypeople also know that when a moving object collides with a non-moving object, there will be a deceleration of the moving object, or a “jolt.” There was no such jolt in the collapse of the WTCs. In order for there to be no such jolt, the resistance of the non-moving object must be removed. One way of doing this is to demolish the non-moving object.

                      In WTC7 there was 2.5 seconds of actual free-fall acceleration. In order for this to happen there must be no resistance (other than air). In order for that to happen, all structural resistance must be removed simultaneously. One way to do this is by demolition. NIST has proposed anothe way, and claims to have a computer simulation that shows how. However, they refuse to release the computer data upon which their simulation is based, citing “public safety” issues. What, terrorists might try to bring down a building by starting office fires? And if anyone looks at the computer simulation, they will notice clear differences between it and the video we have of the actual collapse.

                      9/11 Truthers have published a peer-reviewed paper of an analysis of the red-gray chips, showing that they are a thermitic material, which shouldn’t have been in the building. A scientist tried to refute their claims by conducting similar experiments on the chips, but refused to replicate their actual experiments. That is bad science. Good science starts by attempting to replicate the acutal experiments. Then, if one wants, one can conduct additional experiments. So far, no one has tried to do that.

                      So right now, the science favors 9/11 Truth, which even a layperson should see. Of course, if it conflicts with one’s “noetic web” then one will refuse to see it. But then Jesus’s virgin birth and resurrection conflicts with many people’s noetic web. I think the physical evidence for 9/11 Truth is much stronger than the evidence for Jesus’s virgin birth and resurrection. If one believes that they should deny 9/11 Truth, then perhaps they should deny Jesus’s virgin birth and resurrection.

                    • http://angramainyusblog.blogspot.com/ Angra Mainyu

                      A few points:

                      a.

                      1. As I mentioned, the paper I linked to in my immediately previous reply to you makes a claim about what is generally accepted by the community of specialists. Do you know of any paper that challenges that claim about what is generally accepted?

                      The evidence I find keeps supporting that claim, and I don’t find any good evidence to the contrary. Yes, there are a few people who object, no doubt. But the claim of general acceptance seems to be true.

                      2. You bring up an interesting paper, entitled “What
                      Did and Did Not Cause Collapse of World Trade Center Twin Towers in New York?”

                      The abstract can be found here,
                      where one can also find replies to that paper, up to 2012.
                      You mention a reply by Bjorkman in the same journal.
                      The reply is part of the discussion of that paper, though,
                      and it seems it needn’t undergo the same process before publication.

                      3. The paper by Bazant you brought up (point 2. above) is from 2008. On 2011, Bazant published “Why the Observed Motion History of World Trade Center Towers Is Smooth.”

                      Source:
                      http://ascelibrary.org/doi/abs/10.1061/%28ASCE%29EM.1943-7889.0000198

                      4. There is another paper from 2008 by another author,
                      published in the same journal, also accepting a collapse as a result of the impact of the planes and its consequences (fire, etc.)

                      http://ascelibrary.org/doi/abs/10.1061/%28ASCE%290733-9399%282008%29134%3A2%28125%29

                      5. Another analysis (also, supporting the same basic theory), by scientists from Conicet (Argentina), was published in Engineering Structures and Science Direct.

                      You can find the paper on-line: http://hsrlab.gatech.edu/AUTODYN/papers/paper153.pdf

                      6. There is another paper (from 2012), that addresses some of the issues at hand, posted by another author, from
                      the University of Sao Paolo, Brazil.

                      http://ascelibrary.org/doi/abs/10.1061/%28ASCE%29EM.1943-7889.0000453

                      Unfortunately, the full paper in English is behind a paywall, but one can find the Portuguese version here.

                      No challenge to the version that the causes were impact plus its consequences (including fire, etc.).

                      b. This is already taking too long, but the point is that one can find a general consensus, and the discussions are about the specifics about how to model the collapse, not about a requirement for explosives in the towers.

                      c. Your claims about physics, etc., do not seem to be well supported, I’m afraid. You’re making such claims, but experts from different parts of the world continue to claim otherwise, and published peer-reviewed papers in respected journals, with a few but very few objections in the discussion, and that’s it.

                      d. You’re also suggesting that NIST is hiding something deliberately. But NIST is a lot of people, which would require a massive conspiracy, which would have lasted for 11 years now, without whistle blowers or anything. That alone would seem extremely implausible, and would not explain experts from universities elsewhere in the world also accepting the theory. Would they too be in on the conspiracy?

                      e. You say:

                      If you can look at a video of the collapse of WTC7 and deny that it is a controlled demolition, then even if you looked at a video of Jesus rising from the dead, you would deny that he did so.

                      Of course, a video of Jesus would be explained far better as special effects. We see resurrections in movies and TV with considerable frequency.

                      But regarding the video of the collapse of WTC7, the fact is that the vast majority of experts who saw it do not believe it was a controlled demolition.

                    • http://angramainyusblog.blogspot.com/ Angra Mainyu

                      I tried to post a reply, but didn’t get through; I suppose it might
                      have been caught in a spam filter, due to the number of links. I will try again, modifying it to avoid the problem (writing h*ttp, leaving spaces, etc., but the papers can still be found).

                      A few points:

                      a.

                      1. As I mentioned, the paper I linked to in my immediately previous reply to you makes a claim about what is generally accepted by the community of specialists. Do you know of any paper that challenges that claim about what is generally accepted?

                      The evidence I find overwhelmingly supports that claim, and I don’t find any good evidence to the contrary. Yes, there are a few people who object, no doubt. But the claim of general acceptance seems to be clearly true.

                      2. You bring up an interesting paper, entitled “What
                      Did and Did Not Cause Collapse of World Trade Center Twin Towers in New York?”

                      The abstract can be found at
                      h*ttp://ascelibrary. org/doi/abs/10.1061/%28ASCE%290733-9399%282008%29134%3A10%28892%29″,
                      where one can also find replies to that paper, up to 2012.

                      You mention a reply by Bjorkman in the same journal. The reply is part of the discussion of that paper, though, and it seems it needn’t undergo the same process before publication.

                      3. The paper by Bazant you brought up (point 2. above) is from 2008. On 2011, Bazant published “Why the Observed Motion History of World Trade Center Towers Is Smooth.”

                      Source:
                      h*ttp://ascelibrary. org/doi/abs/10.1061/%28ASCE%29EM.1943-7889.0000198

                      4. There is another paper from 2008 by another author,
                      published in the same journal, also accepting a collapse as a result of the impact of the planes and its consequences (fire, etc.)

                      h*ttp://ascelibrary. org /doi/abs/10.1061/%28ASCE%290733-9399%282008%29134%3A2%28125%29

                      5. Another analysis (also, not supporting any theory of controlled collapse, but accepting the general view), by scientists from Conicet (Argentina), was published in Engineering Structures and Science Direct.

                      You can find the paper on-line:
                      h*ttp://hsrlab. gatech. edu/AUTODYN/papers/paper153.pdf

                      6. There is another paper (from 2012), that addresses some of the issues at hand, posted by another author, from the University of Sao Paolo, Brazil.

                      h*ttp://ascelibrary. org/doi/abs /10.1061/%28ASCE%29EM.1943-7889.0000453

                      Unfortunately, the full paper in English is behind a paywall, but one can find the Portuguese version

                      h*ttp://www .teses.usp. br/teses/disponiveis/3/3152/tde-05082009-100852/pt-br.php.

                      No challenge to the version that the causes were impact plus its consequences (including fire, etc.).

                      7. More analyses:

                      h*ttp://dx. doi.or /10.1061/(ASCE)0733-9399(2005)131:6(654)
                      h*ttp://link.springer. com/article/10.1007%2Fs10694-012-0286-5

                      There, you can also find many more links and/or references to a lot of other published analysis, all of them agreeing on the conclusion that the impact by planes, fire, etc., caused the collapse. Following those links, you can find more links, etc.

                      8. I’ve not been able to find papers in respected peer-reviewed publications explaining the collapse of the towers as controlled demolitions.

                      Given evidence I found so far, there seems to be overwhelming support about the community of experts for the conclusion that no explosives were involved, and a few people making contrary claims, regularly being rejected. That’s what the paper I first mentioned claimed about the
                      community of specialists.

                      b. This is already taking too long, but the point is that one can find a general consensus, and the discussions are about the specifics about how to model the collapse, not about a requirement for explosives in the towers.

                      c. Your claims about physics, etc., do not seem to be supported, I’m afraid. You’re making such claims, but nearly all experts from different parts of the US and the world continue to claim otherwise, and publish peer-reviewed papers in respected journals, with a few but very few objections in the discussion, and that’s it.

                      d. You’re also suggesting that NIST is hiding something deliberately. But NIST is a lot of people, which would require a massive conspiracy, which would have lasted for 11 years now, without whistle blowers or anything. That alone would seem extremely implausible, and would not explain experts from universities elsewhere in the world, different institutes and organizations in the US, also accepting the theory, and accepting the report. Would they too be in on the conspiracy? That would require a massive, world-wide conspiracy of
                      people who seem to have no good reasons to participate in it, no whistle blowers, etc. It’s simply not credible, I’m afraid.

                      e. You say:

                      If you can look at a video of the collapse of WTC7 and deny that it is a controlled demolition, then even if you looked at a video of Jesus rising from the dead, you would deny that he did so.

                      Of course, a video of Jesus would be explained far better as special effects. We see resurrections of all sorts in movies and TV with considerable frequency.

                      But regarding the video of the collapse of WTC7, the fact is that the vast majority of experts who saw it do not believe it was a controlled demolition.

                      Furthermore, one can easily find plenty of papers in respected peer-reviewed journals that explain the collapse of WTC7 without involving a controlled explosion (purely for example, one can take a look at
                      h*ttp://link .springer .com/article/10.1007%2Fs10694-012-0286-5, and find plenty of references; more papers can be found in the other links), whereas I’ve not been able to find a single such paper explaining the collapse as a controlled demolition.

                      I’m afraid that the evidence remains overwhelming against the controlled demolition theory, as far as I can tell.

                    • http://bilbos1.blogspot.com/ Bilbo

                      Busy today, Angra. I’ll try to respond tomorrow.

                    • http://angramainyusblog.blogspot.com/ Angra Mainyu

                      Okay; I’m not sure I will continue this for long, though. As everyone else, I have to prioritize which debates I dedicate time to, and I’ve already dedicated a considerable amount to this one, even though it’s not personally my cup of tea. :)

                    • http://bilbos1.blogspot.com/ Bilbo

                      Angra,

                      Your links are screwed up (perhaps some Anonymous 9/11 Truther has sabotaged them — I say that seriously), so it’s difficult to find the referenced papers. However, I think you draw too much from their existence:

                      1) A peer-reviewed paper does not prove that the majority of experts within a given field accept the conclusions of that paper. For example, Richard Carrier has just published a peer-reviewed paper that argues that the references to Jesus in Josephus are not authentic. However, I would bet my bottom dollar that the majority of experts are not yet ready to accept his conclusions.

                      2) The discussion papers in the Journal of Engineering Mechanics are also peer-reviewed. So objections to Bazant’s papers are not just unreviewed pot-shots taken by individuals. They are serious problems that need addressing. Bazant is given the opportunity for closure, but this doesn’t mean that he necessarily refutes the objections.

                      3) There have been discussion papers to Bazant’s 2011 paper as well.

                      4) There have been discussion papers to Seffen’s paper, also.

                      5) I think the only way to know if a majority of experts accept the official version of the WTC collapses is by means of a survey. A fair survey would include asking the participants if they have seen the collapse of WTC7 and if they have seen the evidence presented by the 9/11 Truth movement.

                      6) To claim that the official version is beyond reasonable doubt when over 1750 architects and engineers are willing to risk their reputations to say that they doubt it reveals a level of arrogance that I would think that if you were honest would cause you some embarrassment.

                      7) Your comments about a video of Jesus rising from the dead pretty much make my point. Evidence that flies in the teeth of one’s “noetic web” isn’t seen as evidence.

                    • http://angramainyusblog.blogspot.com/ Angra Mainyu

                      Your links are screwed up (perhaps some
                      Anonymous 9/11 Truther has sabotaged them — I say that seriously), so it’s difficult to find the referenced papers. However, I think you draw too much from their existence:

                      As I mentioned in my post, I deliberately altered the links because my attempt to post them properly was caught in the spam filter (too many links). But the alterations I introduced are easily reversible, so you can find them if you decide to.

                      1. Regarding peer-reviewed papers in respected magazines, the point is that just by looking up papers, I found a lot of them that supported the view that it was the impacts
                      (+ fire, etc.), but not a single one to the contrary. If I were to
                      look up papers on the historicity of Jesus in respected magazines, then I would find a vast majority of them that accept a HJ, and with luck one or two that do not. Based on that, I should conclude that the vast majority of experts accept a HJ. Similarly, I concluded that the vast majority of experts accept the hypothesis of impact (+ fire and other consequences of impact).

                      2. I do not see any evidence that the discussions have to go through the same kind of peer-review process. Furthermore, the comments on those discussions only challenge specific points of specific theories of impact, but do not make
                      claims about explosives. But let’s say for the sake of the argument that they undergo just as much review and also that they make claims about explosives. Even then, the bomb hypothesis would still seem to me as unusual as the non-HJ hypothesis, given the number of papers found.

                      I think that the rest of the points don’t require further comment on my part, and frankly it’s taken too long already for this issue, from my perspective…but just to make a quick point: do you actually think that it would be reasonable for anyone, based on what we know about the world, to accept a video purportedly of Jesus’ rising from the dead as anything but special effects?

                    • http://bilbos1.blogspot.com/ Bilbo

                      As far as the peer-review process for discussion papers at JEM, and othefr peer-reviewed papers of 9/11 Truthers, go here.

                      Yes, most scholars accept the historicity of Jesus. Most scholars accept that Josephus referred to Jesus. So one paper doesn’t necessarily mean that most scholars reject either claim. Bazant first published a paper in JEM two days after 9/11/01. Curious how the peer-review process managed that feat. He’s stuck to his theory despite numerous objections ever since. A handful of additional papers doesn’t show that most experts accept the official version. And if they do, is it because they’ve examined all the evidence, or because — like you — they feel that it is a waste of time to examine contrary evidence? I suggest the latter. But I agree, it’s a waste of time to discuss this with someone who is obviously closed-minded.

                    • http://angramainyusblog.blogspot.com/ Angra Mainyu

                      It’s not a handful of additional papers. It’s a lot of them, with references to a lot more, versus not a single one positing explosives, etc. But no point in repeating points I made above, so I’ll leave it at that,

                    • http://bilbos1.blogspot.com/ Bilbo

                      How many is a “lot”? And how many architects and engineers agree with them? And how many architects and engineers have considered the counter-evidence? How many of them share your antipathy with considering the counter-evidence? Sorry, Angra, until you know the answer to those questions, you cannot reasonably conclude that the majority of architects and engineers have considered both sides of the question and concluded that the WTCs were not brought down by controlled demolitions. But continue living in the land of wish-fulfillment.

                    • http://angramainyusblog.blogspot.com/ Angra Mainyu

                      I didn’t count, but you may count them if you like: you just need to go to the pages I linked to, count the number of related papers that also support the same position, then if you want more follow those links and look at related papers as well, and so on.

                      The fact is that after spending a few hours searching, I found a lot of papers that accepted impact + fire, but zero that accepted or proposed demolition by bombs.

                      But again, I do not see the point in repeating my arguments here, or spending any significant amount of time on this matter beyond all of the time I already spent rebutting your previous posts, since this is matter that is not of great interest to me.

                      Incidentally, I don’t live in the land of wish-fulfillment. I do not have any particular wish that no one in the US government was involved. Why would I? I just went with the evidence.

                    • http://bilbos1.blogspot.com/ Bilbo

                      I’ll let you count the papers, since you insist that there are “lots” of them. You haven’t rebutted my arguments. You’ve ignored them completely.

                    • http://angramainyusblog.blogspot.com/ Angra Mainyu

                      Since I provided links, anyone can count them; I see no good reason to dedicate time and effort to do so, since I’m not going to persuade you anyway, most readers probably already disagree with conspiracy theories, and I’m not particularly interested in the subject, anyway.

                      As for whether I rebutted your arguments, I actually showed that they failed, in most cases, though I did not address every single obviously false claim. I see no good reason to.

                      But readers can take a look at the exchange and reach their own conclusions, if they’re interested (though I frankly doubt that many of them will).

                    • http://bilbos1.blogspot.com/ Bilbo

                      Then I’ll anyone count them, also. Meanwhile, I would just be happy if you tried supporting your wild statement that the official version of 9/11 is beyond reasonable doubt.

                    • http://angramainyusblog.blogspot.com/ Angra Mainyu

                      I’m afraid this is getting seriously tiring. I’ve already supported my claims more than I was interested in. For that matter, if I say that it’s beyond a reasonable doubt that the Moon Landing happened, I’m not going to spend weeks and months defending that claim. Anyone interested can check for themselves, and if they believe in conspiracy theories regardless, then such is life. Many people believe funny things.

                      As for the evidence and arguments presented by you versus those presented by me, again I’m satisfied with the exchange so far, and it’s all on record to readers can take a look if they so choose.

                      That said, I’m not sure what you’re trying to accomplish, but I’m not particularly interested in spending even more time on this. By the way, I came to this thread to talk about a reply to an argument against the existence of God, not about 9/11, and I suspect most people who read this post are also more interested in discussions pertaining religion and/or philosophy of religion than 9/11 conspiracy theories.

                    • http://bilbos1.blogspot.com/ Bilbo

                      If there were 1,750 experts on space travel who claimed that they doubted the moon landing actually happened, then I would take that as serious evidence and not make the claim that the moon landings were beyond doubt. You can stop discussing this issue anytime you wish. People can read or not read it anytime they wish. Just don’t pretend that you are being reasonable about it.

                    • http://angramainyusblog.blogspot.com/ Angra Mainyu

                      1750 experts on space travel would be a significant proportion of experts on space travel; moreover, surely they would produce a good number of papers in qualified peer-reviewed journals, if they were being reasonable.

                      But on the other hand, you claim that those 1750 persons are experts on the matters; I see no reason to believe they are, going by the papers I can found, all of which accept the theory that the cause of the fall of the towers was the impact + its consequences (including fire, of course), not demolition.

                      Also, I do not pretend that I’m being reasonable. I’m being reasonable, and you’re not. But now, you’re incurring another serious mistake: in addition to believing that I’m being unreasonable (a serious mistake on its own), now you claim that I’m pretending to be reasonable, which would require me to know that I’m being unreasonable (impossible since I’m not, but that aside), and deliberately claim to be reasonable.

                      You should reconsider your position on my intent as well. I can tell that you’re not being reasonable about 9/11, but I wouldn’t suggest that you pretend to be reasonable about it – rather, it’s far more probable that you mistakenly believe that you’re being reasonable about it, instead of knowing that you’re not being reasonable and pretending to be reasonable.

                    • http://bilbos1.blogspot.com/ Bilbo

                      I linked to the papers rebutting the official version. Given that the 1,750 architects and engineers are experts on the very questions of whether plane crashes and fires can account for the collapses of the WTCs, then we have a significant number of experts who reject the official version. To ignore what they have to say and then maintain that the official version is beyond reasonable doubt is an unreasonable move. To deny that it is unreasonable requires a significant denial of what counts as rationality. I would rather think you were pretending than that you are psychotic. But if you insist….

                    • http://angramainyusblog.blogspot.com/ Angra Mainyu

                      You didn’t link to papers published in any respected peer-reviewed journal and which maintain that it was a demolition, or even consider it a live option, nor could I found any such papers.

                      You linked to one replied in a serious journal that questioned one of the specific accounts of how the towers went down after impact + fire. There was no follow up, and no papers on that or any other respected journal that in any way changed the main view, even if there are discussions about the specific details, which models are better to explain such details, etc.

                      I’m being reasonable, and you’re not, but now you’re making another mistake: you’re assuming that either I’m pretending to be reasonable while knowing I’m not (impossible since I’m being reasonable, but anyway), or I’m psychotic. That too is a conclusion you should not reach, even if you believed that I’m being unreasonable.

                      For instance, I can tell that you’re being unreasonable about 9-11, but it would be unwarranted to conclude, based on that, that you either realize that you’re being unreasonable, or you’re psychotic; that’s a serious condition, while your lack of touch with reality is specific to some issues accepted in certain groups. That’s not nearly enough to indicate psychosis.

                      And by the way, what do you think about the fact that so many other people reject the conspiracy theory?
                      Do you think they’re all either pretending, or psychotic?

                    • http://bilbos1.blogspot.com/ Bilbo

                      Oops, my link was wrong. Try this

                      http://911debunkers.blogspot.com/2012/10/peer-reviewed-911-truth.html?m=1

                      If someone told me that 1,750 experts within a given field disagreed with the official version of a specific account, I would not make the claim that the official version was beyond reasonable doubt. That’s been my main contention in our discussion. When someone insists that the official version is beyond reasonable doubt, despite knowing that 1,750 experts doubt it, then it’s cleart that they are being unreasonable. When they deny that they are being unreasonable…well…I’m not sure what to say about them. Perhaps they’re not pretending. Perhaps they’re not psychotic. I’m just at a loss as to what category to place them in.

                      As to why other experts accept the official version: as I’ve asked before, how many have examined the counter-evidence? How many think it is a waste of time to do so, such as you do? How many also doubt the official version, but are afraid to admit it because of all the negative ramifications it would have on their lives and profession? When I first found the website, ae911truth.org, back in September of 2008, there were only 469 architects and engineers who had signed the petition. It has gradually grown since then. I expect that most of that growth was due to experts being exposed to counter-evidence and finding out that such an organization existed. I expect the number of experts who sign the petion to grow gradually in the future. Does that mean they are right? No. But it is strong evidence that the official version is not beyond reasonable doubt, which is all I’ve been arguing here.

                    • http://angramainyusblog.blogspot.com/ Angra Mainyu

                      1. If someone told me that 1750 experts disagree with that conclusion, I would first have to assess the claim that all those experts in the relevant field are making such claims, and whether there are reasons to suspect that those people (experts or not) aren’t being rational, etc.; but I’ve already explained my views enough.

                      2. I was talking about peer-reviewed papers in a respected publication, not in a publication created by those claiming it was a conspiracy, or one that claims to be peer-reviewed, but is rejected by mainstream experts.

                      I’ve already dedicated too much time to this, but for instance, following you link, I read “Another Peer Reviewed Paper Published in Scientific Journal – ‘Active Thermitic Material Discovered in Dust.’

                      So, I say ‘okay, let’s see where that was published,
                      and how’

                      As it tuns out, it was published in what’s called ‘The
                      Open Chemical Physics Journal”, which does not seem to be a respected peer-reviewed publication, though they claim to use peer-review.

                      Also, the publication of the article led to the resignation of the
                      magazine’s director, who left saying that it was a bad magazine (see http://videnskab.dk/teknologi/chefredaktor-skrider-efter-kontroversiel-artikel-om-911 )

                      Regarding the publications in the Journal of Engineering Mechanics, those are only comments in discussions in reply to peer-reviewed papers, even they do not claim that it was a demolition, and in any case, there are no peer-reviewed papers that follow them.

                      So, I do not see any significant change: lots of papers in respected peer-reviewed journals supporting the theory that it was the planes, etc., and no such paper supporting controlled demolition; the only difference is that I just spent another hour on this.

                      Also, by the way, my claim was that it was beyond a reasonable doubt that the US government wasn’t behind it,
                      and you claimed more than just that the official version wasn’t
                      beyond a reasonable doubt. You said, ” If you can look at a video of the collapse of WTC7 and deny that it is a controlled demolition, then even if you looked at a video of Jesus
                      rising from the dead, you would deny that he did so. In other words, your noetic web prevents you from looking at the evidence for either.”, suggesting that it’s somehow a mistake to deny that it’s a controlled demolition.

                      Anyway, specifics aside, I would say it’s beyond a reasonable doubt that it was not a controlled demolition. In addition to the papers, it just doesn’t make any sense. It would have been claimed by Al-Qaeda already, and the planes would have been superfluous, etc.; the conspiracy that would be needed to make it possible is just way too big and complicated to be real; whistle blowers would be all over the place by now.

                      Of course, that it’s beyond a reasonable doubt does not mean that no evidence can possibly debunk it, of course. It’s beyond a reasonable doubt that claims of alien abductions are false, but I can think of conceivable evidence that would change my mind on that, of course – it’s just that I can also tell beyond a reasonable doubt that that evidence will not be forthcoming. The same for 9/11.

                    • http://bilbos1.blogspot.com/ Bilbo

                      Angra,

                      You complain that you have devoted too much time to this and then devote more time to it. I’m willing to devote more time to it and reply to your points, if you wish. Or we can just agree to call each other irrational and move on. Which do you prefer?

                    • http://angramainyusblog.blogspot.com/ Angra Mainyu

                      I don’t want to spend more time, but I do not like the idea of agreeing to call each other “irrational” (no need for an agreement for that), so I’d rather leave it to you.

                    • http://bilbos1.blogspot.com/ Bilbo

                      Okay, then we can go at it hammer and tongs. But quit whining about spending too much time on it.

                    • http://angramainyusblog.blogspot.com/ Angra Mainyu

                      I’m afraid not. Your choice was to reply to my posts. I’m not making an agreement to further reply to yours. I might or might not do that.

                      Again, I have spent way too much time on them, and I’m not interested in further discussion (though I wasn’t interested in any discussion on this matter in the first place, as I’ve been saying).

                      Whether I will reply to some of the points you make depends on whether I prefer to leave your latest claims unchallenged, or spend more time on this. I obviously dislike both options, but I have to pick the one I dislike less.

                    • http://bilbos1.blogspot.com/ Bilbo

                      As you wish. I guess I’ll just have to put up with your whining about it.

                    • http://angramainyusblog.blogspot.com/ Angra Mainyu

                      It’s not whining, but just not being thrilled that I’ve putting up with your insistence on an issue I do not care about, while irrationally telling me I’m wrong and that I’m being irrational and/or psychotic, etc., and you keep at it, and when you appear to offer, you frame it in an acceptable manner, etc.

                      But I can’t convince you of any of that, so again, not thrilled.

                      Anyway, I might just choose not to reply much; it depends on what your replies will be, so I can’t tell in advance.

                    • http://bilbos1.blogspot.com/ Bilbo

                      It’s whining.

                • http://bilbos1.blogspot.com/ Bilbo
            • http://angramainyusblog.blogspot.com/ Angra Mainyu

              I see.

              Just to clarify my position, then: I wasn’t thinking of a debunking the claims using expertise on the matters, but actually relying on the expertise of others who actually were there and studied the collapse, plus considerations regarding how many other people would have to behave, as you point out in another post (e.g., too many lies by too many people. etc.)

              In other words, I’m counting expert testimony in this case (and other scientific matters) as part of the evidence to be considered, even by someone without such expertise.

              I think that that would be a lot more difficult in the case of most arguments in philosophy of religion, for a number of reasons, especially disagreement among experts and no reliable alternative way to decide (which I think is doable in a case like 9-11, but I don’t want to get into a potentially very long debate with Bilbo on the matter of 9/11 conspiracy theories).

        • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

          “my point is (among others) that a reader may well not see any good reasons to believe that (for instance) all, most or even some theists have reasons to believe in the existence of a being such that no greater being can be conceived of that are nearly as good as the reasons she (i.e., the reader) or generally humans have to believe that minds are causally effective.”

          I’m not talking about a reader’s belief about most theists. I’m talking about a particular Christian’s belief. The simple point was that a Christian could continue to believe that God created the world (which would not mean the Christian necessarily accepts the PBT definition of God) even if they can’t rebut Schieber just as a person could believe their mind is causally effective even if they can’t rebut David Chalmers.

          It is important that you don’t miss this because the two points are strictly parallel. You read Chalmers’ book “The Conscious Mind” in which he defends epiphenomenalism. You think: “Gee, I’m not sure how to rebut the arguments presented therein.” Nonetheless, you could still be reasonable to retain your belief in the causal efficacy of the mind.

          You then counter:

          “Then, the indirect objection in question would seem to be a general objection to any self-contined argument against theism. For that matter, an atheist (with respect to the concept of ‘God’ considered in this thread) might raise a mirror indirect objection against any self-contained argument for the existence of God.”

          You’re right, there is a general point being made here which applies to anybody. The point is that developed worldviews are rarely falsified by a single philosophical argument just like scientific theories are rarely falsified by a single datum. The very nature of a worldview, like a scientific theory, is that it is a complex network of claims and it can be retained reasonably even when some prima facie disconfirming data is presented.

          But all this is really a sidebar. I’m much more interested in the direct rebuttal to Schieber’s argument. Hopefully he can marshall a response.

          • http://angramainyusblog.blogspot.com/ Angra Mainyu

            I’m not talking about a reader’s belief about most theists. I’m talking about a particular Christian’s belief. The simple point was that a Christian could continue to believe that God created the world (which would not mean the Christian necessarily accepts the PBT definition of God) even if they can’t rebut Schieber just as a person could believe their mind is causally effective even if they can’t rebut David Chalmers.

            Yes, I understand what you’re talking about. You seem to be missing my points, though; let me try to clarify.

            I’m talking about the people your indirect argument is
            directed at
            . The argument does not seem to be directed only at Christian readers, for the reasons I’ve been explaining. But if I’m mistaken and you only meant to persuade Christians, please let me know.

            As I see it, your indirect argument aimed at persuading readers (not only Christians) of the reasonableness of a Christian’s persistence in her Christian belief, upon reading Justin’s argument, (either before considering its content, or after being unable to refute it; or both; that’s not entirely clear to me), and also that the reasonable reply for someone (Christian or not), who hasn’t imbibed unholy amounts of materialistic Kool-Aid would be to assess that
            something likely is wrong with his argument.

            That seems to be the case given that (after the mind comparison) you say:

            Similarly, many people believe that God is the creator of the world. And they likely have many reasons to believe this, including philosophical arguments and personal experiences. Would it be more reasonable to conclude, upon hearing this argument, that it is in fact impossible for God to create a non-God object? Or would it be more reasonable to continue to believe that he can and thus that there must be something
            wrong with this argument? Again, unless you’ve already imbibed unholy amounts of materialist Kool-Aid, surely the latter is the more reasonable response.

            This means that Justin’s argument should only be persuasive to those who are already conditioned to accept its conclusion. Admittedly, if it were part of a much broader cumulative case argument it might have more force for theists. But as it stands it is fit only to persuade the convinced.

            There, you seem to be claiming that:

            C0: The case of the belief that God (as defined in the argument) created the world is relevantly similar to the belief that minds can affect the physical world.

            C1: Some, many, a general case, etc. (that part is
            unclear to me) people who believe that God created the universe, it would be more reasonable to conclude
            that believe that God exists and thus something is wrong with the argument, than concluding that God does not exist, even if they can’t figure out what’s wrong with the argument.

            C2: Moreover, any person who has not already imbibed unholy amounts of materialist Kool-Aid would be more reasonable in concluding that Justin’s argument is probably wrong than concluding that God, if he existed, would not
            possibly create a non-God object.

            As before, if those (or some of those) are not some of the claims you were defending, please let me know.

            If they are (or if some of them are) let’s say Alice is not a Christian. She’s not necessarily an atheist. She may be an agnostic, or a Buddhist, a Wiccan, etc. In particular, she’s not a materialist (whatever ‘materialist’ is).

            So, Alice reads your post, and in particular she reads your claim “If you’re like most people you believe that human mental states like “I will raise my arm” have the ability to affect the material world (e.g. by causing one’s arm to rise).”

            She agrees.

            She further reads: “But what if you should hear an argument to the end that it is impossible for mental states to affect the physical world? (Perhaps the argument seeks to establish the truth of epiphenomenalism.) Do you think it would be more reasonable to accept the conclusion that mental states cannot affect the physical world? Or would it be more reasonable to conclude that there is likely something wrong with the argument? While there may be some people who
            would opt for the former (especially those who have already imbibed unholy amounts of materialist Kool-Aid), most people would stick with their commitment to the causal power of the mind on the natural world. And they’d be perfectly reasonable to do so, because it is more likely that there is something wrong with the argument (even if one is not sure what it is) than it is likely that the mind can’t really affect the physical world.”

            Sure, she thinks the belief that minds affect the physical world is so well justified that it’s incredibly implausible that it might be false; moreover, if an argument to that effect is presented and is valid, then in order to defeat the belief that minds affect the physical world it would have to have premises such that each of those premises is better supported than the belief that minds can affect the physical world (I’m not sure about the definition of ‘physical world’, but I’m using it since we don’t need precision on this particular point here).

            So, Alice agrees with that too.

            But then, you’re going for an analogy, and Alice
            reads:

            Similarly, many people believe that God is the creator of the world. And they likely have many reasons to believe this, including philosophical arguments and personal experiences. Would it be more reasonable to conclude, upon hearing this argument, that it is in fact impossible for God to create a non-God object? Or would it be more reasonable to continue to believe that he can and thus that there must be something
            wrong with this argument? Again, unless you’ve already imbibed unholy amounts of materialist Kool-Aid, surely the latter is the more reasonable response.

            Alice agrees that many people believe that a perfect
            being (in the sense defined in the argument in question;
            she does not necessarily agree that they understand the concept, but that aside) is the creator of the world (well, maybe the universe, or whatever, but that’s a detail
            here).

            But that’s about as far as her agreement goes, since:

            1. Alice does not see any good reason for believing that said people (i.e., those theists; it’s unclear exactly who, though) have nearly as good a reason for their theistic belief as the
            reasons she has for the belief that minds can affect the physical world. Additionally, she does not see any evidence or arguments leading her to conclude that those many people (who? random believers?) who believe that God created the world are likely to have many reasons, including philosophical arguments and personal experiences, for their
            belief that God created the world. But whether they have few or many reasons, the main point here is that she sees no good reason to believe that they have good reasons for believing that God created the world – let alone reasons that are nearly as good as the reasons she has for believing
            that minds can affect the physical world.

            For that matter, Alice could have read similar arguments in which, instead of “believe that God is the creator of the world”, the argument might have read believe that Yahweh is the creator of the world (plus the other changes from ‘God’ to ‘Yahweh’), or ‘believe that Pangu is the creator of the world’, or ‘believe that naive set theory was coherent’, etc.,
            but she still wouldn’t have seen any good reasons to agree with the claim of similarity.

            2. Alice also assesses that even granting for the sake of the argument that a person (many? most?) who believes that God created the world would be more reasonable in concluding that something is wrong with the argument than she would be in changing her belief in God, there seems to be no good reason to think that all people who have not imbibed unholy amounts of materialist Kool-Aid but
            do not believe that God exists ought to also conclude that it’s more likely that Justin’s argument is wrong than not.

            3. Alice herself, who has not imbibed any materialist Kool-Aid (she just does not have the belief that God created the world) sees no good reason to accept beforehand that Justin’s argument is likely wrong, at least not based in any considerations you made.

            You’re right, there is a general point being made here which applies to anybody. The point is that developed worldviews are rarely falsified by a single philosophical argument just like scientific theories are rarely falsified by a single datum. The very nature of a worldview, like a scientific theory, is that it is a complex network of claims and it can be retained reasonably even when some prima facie disconfirming data is presented.

            Okay; a couple of brief points:

            – Unless we’re using ‘worldview’ differently, I don’t think it’s
            epistemically correct to have such thing as a worldview, at least for most people who have considered the matter, given our epistemic situation.

            – In any case, for the reasons I mentioned, in the case of a belief that God created the world (or any other) I’d say it’s the strength of the argument that matters, not whether it’s one or
            many.

            – You’re apparently implying that people who have a ‘worldview’ are being reasonable in retaining it in the presence of some prima facie disconfirming data, which seems to entail that they’re being reasonable in retaining it at all.

            But all this is really a sidebar. I’m much more interested in the direct rebuttal to Schieber’s argument. Hopefully he can marshall a response.

            Fair enough.

            Personally, I find the indirect reply more interesting, maybe because it applies to pretty much any argument one can muster (not just the argument you’re commenting on in this post), but different people find different things more interesting, so this isn’t an objection of course.

            In the case Justin’s argument and your direct rebuttal,
            I don’t think that in ‘great muscle car museum’ and ‘great person’ (for instance), the word ‘great’ is used to denote
            the same property, some kind of ‘ontological greatness’,
            and I’m not entirely sure (it might or might not be) that an
            assumption that there is such thing as ‘ontological greatness’,
            without understanding what that means but assuming that it’s related to power, goodness and knowledge (since those who believe in a GCB usually claim or accept that those are great-making properties), is precise enough for an adequate discussion of the matters at hand. But in order to discuss [much of] the main argument (and also your reply to it),
            it seems to me I would have to make assumptions like that, or similar ones (otherwise, I would be objecting on entirely different grounds, but that’s not the matter at hand), so that would complicate things for me. Maybe I’ll find a way around, or maybe not but at least or now I won’t get into the direct rebuttal.

  • Justin

    Thanks for responding to the argument. Hopefully, I will find time tomorrow to offer a defense. Take care,
    J

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