CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

[Note: the contents page for this series can be found here. The previous entry, the second for chapter 18, can be found here.]

[This entry continues chapter 18, "Atheism and the Justification of Non-Justification Ability". It also continues the fictional dialogue started in chp 17.]


(Picking up from the end of the previous part...)

Reed (the theist): You understand, of course, that you've thereby surrendered any claim of accuracy for "atheism" per se.

Chase (the atheist): What?! I've done no such thing! Atheism could still be the fact, or characteristic of ultimate reality.

R: But that in itself would not have had a necessary effect on how your belief came about.

C: As I said, whichever belief ends up as the most successful will very probably have been influenced by the actual state of reality; just as the most successful state of my belief about my bank account, will most probably have been influenced by my efficiency at detecting and responding to my actual bank account amount.

R: A relationship that seems rather more direct than the relationship between the actual status of ultimate reality and your beliefs about it.

C: But the actual status of that reality will be affecting my beliefs far more intimately. If God exists, you can chalk my atheism up to Him, in the end.

R: I have to say, you seem very much like someone covering his ears and squinting shut his eyes, yelling "YAH YAH YAH I REJECT MY ABILITY TO THINK BECAUSE IT EVIDENTLY LEADS TO A CONCLUSION THAT GOD IN SOME WAY EXISTS YAH YAH YAH WHETHER SOMETHING IS TRUE OR FALSE ISN'T MY CONCERN YAH YAH..."

C: I have to say that you were apparently conditioned to probably resort to such insults to try to carry your point.

R: So how did that expectation of probability arise?

C: ... Come again?

R: You talk a lot about "probabilities" and "chances being good" and such, especially since you started attributing your own mental behavior to utterly non-rational causation. You've apparently been conditioned to expect, for instance, that whichever "idea" survives the best in the "idea-species" philosophy conflict, will probably reflect the real condition of ultimate reality most accurately. Thus, since atheism seems (thanks to its currently efficient spread) to be "winning" the battle (or at least winning some battles), in your non-rational estimation, you are consequently assuaged, if not assured, that atheism is probably correct.

C: Cute. I acknowledge I would have been insulted earlier, had you described that as my "non-rational estimation". But yes, more or less.

R: For this comfort to be more than an illusion, though, your expectations of probability must also be usefully accurate.

C: To a certain degree. But that isn't a problem.

R: We'll see. After all, you've been conditioned to automatically expect that the mental behaviors we call "probability estimation" are usefully accurate at reflecting potentials.

C: You've been conditioned that way as well.

R: You're only saying that because you've been conditioned to say it.

C: Granted; but you're in the same boat.

R: Makes for a rather interesting "development" in our efficiency at reflecting reality, doesn't it? Your thesis leads, in terms of explanatory power, to an infinite regress with no useful conclusion!

C: Whatever. I have been conditioned to cut that type of useless knot and move on to more profitable endeavors rather than reflect on that.

R: Would a proposal from you, of how we developed a useful probability-estimation faculty, be profitable?

C: That might be capable of smoothing your efficient ability to reflect the actual state of reality.

R: I wonder how long you'll be talking like this after we're through...

C: You're the one who insists that I keep as far as possible from misleading metaphors concerning our state.

R: You mean concerning your conditioned perception of our state.

C: Whatever.

R: Please, continue with your description of the development of probability estimation, according to the "idea" you've been conditioned to accept that you currently perceive to be probably true whether it's true or not.

C: ... If you insist. I have been efficiently affected in my beliefs about the development of our probability estimation ability, and I will be... satisfied... to share with you an efficient explanation of this sort.

R: Fire away. Please begin by clearly stating the particular position you will be efficiently representing.

C: Our brains have come into existence by natural selection in favor of random non-directed mutational changes in our genetic codes, where those changes positively affect our abilities to assess probability and risk.

R: Into what type of range do these assessments fall?

C: The range that would be useful in human life.

R: Useful in every human's life?

C: Given the proper circumstances, yes.

R: So humans fifty thousand years ago found it useful to speculate abstractly about the probability that atheism may adequately reflect reality. Did we start out as twenty-first-century philosophers? We don't seem to have advanced very far...

C: Your feeble attempt at humor isn't helping. No, the applications of this ability were different then. Different applications don't necessarily indicate a different principle in operation, as you yourself have pointed out numerous times.

R: I would apologize for my feeble attempt at humor, except I have no reason to, my attempt being the type of automatic response I have been conditioned to exhibit under circumstances of this--

C: Fine, whatever.


Next up: the evolutionary development of instinctive probability estimation

2 comments:

Registering for comment tracking.

Fans of anti-theistic apologetics might be able to recognize where "Chase"'s line of explanation comes from; although when he gets to more details later it'll be more obvious. It's quite a famous, or infamous, example... {g}

JRP

I see what you're doing, Jason.

This is good stuff, thanks for posting
!

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