CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

 Jeff Lowder wrote an article attacking my criticisms of the use of Bayes theorem to plot the probability of God. "Is It a Crock to Use Bayes’ Theorem to Measure Evidence about God? Part 1
March 3, 2013." The point of my original article is that you can't apply scientific probably to something as basic and metahpysal as God, the ground of being, the basis of all reality. The nature of Bayes theorum is such that it only works where new information is obtainable. The sort of new information one can have about God is not available to scientific scrutiny and thus there is no new information. That means the "prior" (the prior probability that must be obtained tom make the theorem work) wont be accurate and thus the whole project is dubious. Lowder never actually comes to terms with this argument. Most of the arguments he makes are red herrings or white rabbits.
.... Lowder summarizes what he thinks I'm saying:

I think the point that Metacrock is trying to make is that, if we define “miracle” as an event which requires a supernatural explanation, then by definition a miracle is logically incompatible with metaphysical naturalism, which denies the existence of all supernatural beings, including God. So naturalists can’t remain naturalists and believe a miracle has occurred. The options seem to be: (1) give up naturalism, (2) deny the event took place at all, or (3) agree the event did take place, but deny it has a supernatural explanation.
That's part of what I'm saying but it's not the really crucial points that I made about Bayes.  It's not so much about supernatural as it is about metaphysics and scientific domain. I am not drawing upon the conventional misunderstanding of supernatural that pits a realm of magic against a realm of what atheist want to believe is "fact." Rather, the whole issue of epistemology and metaphysics is prior to scientific learning. Science requires epistemology and metaphysics to ground its assumptions. God is related to those aspects of reality, and thus not part of the scientific domain. In trying to make God an object of probability they have to reduce the concept of God to just another fact in the universe; something God clearly transcends. Lowder merely denied the circular reasoning but of cousre he would.It's not just a matter of bad reasoning, it's an ideological thing. Those are ho in throngs of ideological zeal can't step back from their ideology and critically evaluate their own thinking. They can critique all that is not the ideology but they can't criticize that. That was my point in talking about the circular reasoning naturalists employ in sweeping aside miracle claims: it is that they can't accept anomalies that would threaten the paradigm. Lowder quotes me in cautioning the skeptical attitude.

    So should we all be watchful not to believe too quickly because its easy to get caught up in private reasons and ignore reason itself. Thus has more than one intelligent person been taken by both scams and honest mistakes. By the the same token it is equally a danger that one will remain too long in the skeptical place and become overly committed to doubting everything. From that position the circular reasoning of the naturalist seems so reasonable. There’s never been any proof of miracles before so we can’t accept that there is any now. But that’s only because we keep making the same assumption and thus have always dismissed the evidence that was valid.
he adds: "I agree with everything Metacrock writes here, with two important exceptions. First, that metaphysical naturalists do, in fact, reason in the way he describes." That's becuase he reasons that way himself. He can see it's a mistake when called out but he can't see that his rejection of evidence for miracles is that kind of mistake.

 Second, that metaphysical naturalists rely upon “circular reasoning” to avoid the conclusion that a miracle has occurred. It is true, of course, that some individual metaphysical naturalists have made fallacious inferences about miracles. The same could be said about some individual theists. But so what? Metacrock presents absolutely no evidence to justify the assumption that such individuals are representative of the position they represent. Metacrock is attacking a straw man of his own creation.
....Presenting evidence would just be an obligatory task becuase we've all seen what they say about miracles and it's clearly ciruclar it's just that they don't step back from their ideolgoical assumptions to see themselves doing it. Look at Hume. "This does not happen enough." Well, we have lots of claims, when they are advanced the usual rejoinder is "this hasn't happened before, it just does not happen, we don't see it, so we have to assume this is not it (a miracle)." If you want to see this principle actions go to CARM and start arguing for the Resurrection. I've been doing this for 15 years and I've seen thousnds of such arguments iti's aburd to say they say that they say it all the time. Next he's going to tell me that they don't say "He must not understand this idea" when you disagree with them. That's another of their obsessions, if you really understood you would agree with me. He makes that very charge in this article. But then he tries to sweep it away by saying theists do the same thing. That's neither here nor there, the point is atheist arguments about miracles are circular reasoning. That's improtant to realize becuase the whole issue of trying to show the probability of God is based upon trying to treat God like another fact in the universe rather than the basis of reality. That's the root issue of the whole matter. When one understands God as the basis of reality one is apt to see the issues pertaining to God as much larger than just charting the probability of some particular item, just as the realities of miracles is more than just finding an anomaly.
....Now here's where he stops following my train of thought and starts interjecting a bunch of red herrings and a bait and switch or two. I brought up ECREE because given what I said above about about the fruits of skepticism I thought "this would be a good place where they might argue ECREE as a counter to the shortcoming of skepticism." Instead of dealing with that issue he goes off on a tangent defending ECREE when in fact I didn't say it was wrong. Here's a crucial point he misses. My position on ECREE is that it is dependent upon Bayes. As Bayes goes so goes ECREE. That means if Bayes is not suited to probability for God then ECREE is not a valid standard for God arguments. Rather than understanding this he tries to tie ECREE to Bayes even more tightly which would mean it's taken out if I can take out Bayes. It also tells me he's not really following my issues. let's look at what he says:

With all due respect to Metacrock, this statement suggests he does not understand ECREE. As I have explained elsewhere, the best interpretation of ECREE is the Bayesian interpretation. According to BT, the final probability of a hypothesis is determined by two other values: the prior probability of a hypothesis and the hypothesis’s explanatory power. Now explanatory power is, by definition, a measure of how well a hypothesis “predicts” (i.e., make probable) the data.
 ....There it is, he disagrees with me, therefore, he doesn't understand. The problem is it's Jeff who doesn't undersatnd. He thinks I'm saying that ECREE is no good. He focuses here on two things that make Bayes work: (1) the "prior," and (2) and explanatory power. The problem there is my argument hinges on how both of those rule Bayes out as valid way to understand God. I think that's what he doesn't get. I show that you can't set the prior for God, no setting will work; all settings for prior probability of God have the same flaw as the overall project, no new info coming in. All the things we can know of god we know through either deductive reasoning or experience of the divine on the level of the numinous. That means scinece can't handle it. It's outside the domain of scinece. Any setting of  a prior for God will be fraught with ideological needs. Ne never deals with that issue. Rather he brings in red herrings. Moreover the same limitation would also go for explanatory power. God can't give the kind of explanation we expect from scientifically verifiable data. Now the explanatory power of apophatic theology is fine with me. The explanatory power of the Jesus prayer works for me it's not gonna work for an atheist. That means no Bayes on God, no ECREE in relation to God.
....I had said that using ECREE in the way they do would cause one to remain skeptical even when the evidence is good. In fact that's what happens when they think in the ideologically circular way that says "we never accepted this stuff before so we shouldn't accept it now." They create a false record, "there have never been any miracles," based upon circular assumptions. He says it would be ambiguous to talk about "good" miracle evidence. Then he explains two reasons why. But  this is one of many red herrings. regardless of the quality of miracle evidence, that must be discussed in another venue about evidence. My only point was that the assumptions they make about naturalism that enable them to explain away God with Bayes also drive them to assume that their basic ideological assumptions are explanatory. An ideological truth regime is not explanation  it's only a reduction of all phenomena to that which can be controlled and pressed into service for the ideology. Of course he winds up diverting our attention with guilt by association trying to link miracle belief to Mormonism. I'm not going to bother to refute the statements about good miracle evidence because that can only serve to take us off the path.
...At this point he returns to ECREE and he assumes my answer about the meaning of extraordinary (as in "extraordinary claims") are irrelevant. Nothing could be further from the truth. They are totally relevant. The point I was making was that atheists try to present "extraordinary" as though Belief in God is some wired thing, or as though the kind of extraordinary evidence we need is on a level of Moses and the red sea. The fact of it is the kind of claim that is extraordinary in the sense of a Bayes theorem would be extremely ordinary. A finding that one has cancer when one has never had it before is statistically extraordinary. At that rate any probabilistic God argument we can pull, or the 200 empirical studies on mystical experience, are extraordinary evidence. He gives us a white rabbit to chase in another direction.
Again, with all due respect to Metacrock, this statement shows that Metacrock doesn’t understand ECREE. We don’t determine whether a belief is extraordinary by measuring the percentage of people who hold that belief. Rather, ECREE is epistemic in nature; it has to do with what we would expect to be the case based upon our background knowledge.
He's actually made the argument for me. I never said anything about extraordinary being defined by a percentage of people that believe it. My point is you can't subject the reality of God to empirical proof in a scientific sense. To the extent that we can establish a co-determinate that can be so subjected, such as religious experience being measured by the M scale, we can measure aspects of belief without claiming to measure God. ECREE is not epistemic it's a betrayal of the epistemic. We can't put over "what we expect to be the case God wise" and translate that into standard mathematical terms for probability. how could we do that when God is beyond our understanding? No new info on God is going to come in becuase it can only come from sources that science cannot trust, such as 'the heart.' How can we attach number and data to that? Epistemic issues can't be resolved by scientific reductionism or inductive empiricism. They are more basic than that. They can only be resolved through either logic, experience, or remain open ended. What all of this comes to is we can do two things: (1) we can keep it on a philosophical level and not try to pretend we've solved it. Or, (2) we can find a co-determinate and make phenomenological observations about aspects of the issues around faith and use that to extrapolate assumptions on the more subjective issues, we should not try to pretend that we have some scinece magic that will resolve all belief and make God vanish in a puff of science.
....AT this point he brings up several observations I made about the history of ECREE and Bayes. I'm not going to bother to correct his disagreement except to point out that I documented by sources and I used some of the most recent historians to write on the issue. I am sure he knows more ins and outs of the history than I do, but none of the information he presents are really relivant to my basic argument about probability and God. He tries to claim that Bayes is not in doubt, rather than disproving the history I brought he ignores it completely. It has been in doubt time and time again, it is professors of mathematics who doubted it. I documented that with McGrayne and he has nothing to say about that.[1] that's probably the most authoritative history about the BT. None of the issues he brings up historically disprove the history I listed. He merely shows additional examples of people who have accepted the BT. That's ust begging the question, they made the same mistake he is. He took the history to mean that I think Bayes isn't useful for anything but to argue for atheism. I did actually read the McGrayne book. Obliviously her point is that BT keeps coming back because it's useful. My argument is not that it's not useful. I never said Bayes is no good we can't use for anything. That is a red herring. It's good but it can't be used to tell us about God becasue God is not amenable by such methods. God is the unified field its so basic you can't get a microscope and find it. It's too basic as the same time too big. Too fundamental to reality to be just another thing we can subject to empirical measures. Now uses those red herrings to take us down to the path to a point where can try to use Chrsitain apologists to argue against me.

To cite the most obvious counter-example, has Metacrock never heard of Richard Swinburne or read any of his numerous books which use BT to defend Christian theism? (See here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.) Or seen Tim and Lydia McGrew’s impressive use of BT to argue for the Resurrection in The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology? (See here.)
Obviously I have hard of them, I have to confess I don't read much of the apologists running around now days. I respect Swinburne. I probalby have missed lot by not following him. Most of the thinkers I use are those I read in Doctoral work when I studied history of science as Ph.D. candidate in history of ideas. Now Jeff sites apologists who argue for the resurrection using the BT. Arguing for the Resurrection is a different matter. That's not arguing for the probably of God. There might be tangible things to latch onto there. The resurrection is a physical event in space/time and it's not on par with God as the basis of reality. So it is anther fact in the universe. Thus it could be subject to empirical means. Natual theology also one can make the same point about that. then he says:

Metacrock is simply “barking up the wrong tree” on this one. I cannot think of any way to salvage his point.
I can think of a way. One might try to undersatnd what I'm real saying and deal with the one cogent point upon which the original article based: that God is not given in sense data, thus he cannot be subjected to numbers. The Bayes theorem can be used for other things, some of those serve belief in God. That doesn't mean that God himself can be subjected to it.




[1] Sharon Berstch McGrayne, The Theory that would not Die: How Bayes’ Rule Cracked the Enigma Code, Hunted Down Russian Submarines, and Emerged Triumphant from Two Centuries of Controversy. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011, 3.

10 comments:

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Hm. Several months ago I was originally going to do a series replying to Jeff's Bayesian argument series, and completed the prologue--which was an extended complaint about using the Bayes Theorem as a math operation in categorically invalid fashions, but which included numerous appreciations for how Jeff avoided those problems.

I got distracted on other projects before getting around to actually replying to Jeff's actual arguments, though, and didn't want to post my prologue until I had composed the other parts, so... (sorry, Jeff. {g})


Anyway, last time I checked Jeff's arguments, even though he seems to regard the inductive versions of Bayes's Theory as being mathematical formulae, in practice he wasn't trying to assign faux probability fractions to various elements and then multiplying and dividing and adding them together (or whatever); neither for the inductive form of Bayesian Theory nor for the inductive (non-mathematical) form of the Theorem of Total Probability (which is how he actually sets up his evidential arguments).

So he wasn't (last time I checked) actually applying scientific probability to the question of whether foundational reality has one or another set of characteristics (as though foundational reality was an event of variant-range randomly repetitive behavior).

Instead he was aiming for broadly obvious results (where those seem available) by setting up arguments where he expects new data to break an established neutrality of result. In other words, where the likelihoods of (H)ypothesis1 and (H)ypothesis2 seem roughly equal in regard to the (B)ackground evidence, new (E)vidence may shift he balance toward (H2).

That's perfectly acceptable Bayesian induction, in theory and in form. It doesn't even strictly matter (in principle) whether (E) is scientific evidence or conceptual evidence.

As I write at the end of my prologue (from which I've briefly pulled a few statements for this comment), "I commend Jeff on his foresight at working to avoid those problems, and I wish that apologists on my own side of the aisle had always been as careful!"


I still have some problems with his actual arguments in practice; but unless we shut down all reasoning about ultimate reality at all, then yes there can be new and current information obtainable about ultimate reality for us to infer expectations about the characteristics of ultimate reality.

JRP

there can be new information but does it come form sources and methods that result form empirical evidence and that can be used in a scientific sense?

Unless you to call speculation empirical.

Do Christian and theistic apologists use information that come from empirical sources and methods?

Of course we do. At the simplest level we make an observation, consider the implications of the observation, and then adjust or reinforce our idea of the implications according to the next set of observations. That's just inductive reasoning.

I'm as much against using BT as a math operation (using the theorem instead of the induction theory) for non-probabilistic evaluations in favor of God's existence or in favor of Christ's resurrection, as I'm against using it sceptically for that purpose, because that procedure is a huge category error regardless of the specific topic. But what Jeff was doing in his series wasn't actually that (or wasn't last time I checked), despite some initial language which seemed to point in that direction.

ECREE doesn't have to rely on the math theorem version of Bayesian theory, so taking down an illegitimate application of BTheorem (the math probability relationships) to a non-probability topic (like the Res or the characteristics of ultimate reality), doesn't necessarily take down ECREE.

And Jeff's EAN (Evidential Arguments for Naturalism), if I recall correctly, don't formally hang on requiring ECREE in theism's favor anyway over against less exceptional evidence in favor of (atheistic) naturalism. (One of my few small quibbles about the start of Jeff's attempt is that he standardly conflates atheism and naturalism, as has been usual in the field. But so far as I got through his series I didn't see any places the conflation of ideas into the term was a problem.)


Anyway, I'm a big fan of deductive metaphysics (see my 875ish page Sword to the Heart series posted here on the Cadre Journal!), but I don't think it's either historically or principally correct to say that "All the things we can know of God we know through either deductive reasoning or experience of the divine on the level of the numinous."

JRP

JRP: {{Of course we do. At the simplest level we make an observation, consider the implications of the observation, and then adjust or reinforce our idea of the implications according to the next set of observations. That's just inductive reasoning.}}

That's also how deductive reasoning works when testing whether a prior conclusion still follows when new data is considered, by the way. The primary difference is that deduction works from certainties to consequent certainties, while induction involves a more subjective expectation of likelihoods. This is why it's so tempting to start trying to express those expectations as percentages (representing factors of felt strength) and then to start mathing out those percentages.

Inductive BT usage would be more like saying I feel these two pieces of evidence weigh about equally for and against an idea, but I feel this third piece of evidence weighs solidly in favor of one idea so on the balance I believe that idea now. (i.e. it's more of a description of what actually happens in human induction than of what we ought to do.)

If those feelings were expressed for convenience in percentage strengths, I could say I'm 75% sure this evidence points one way and 75% sure that evidence points the other way, so I can't figure out which way is right yet; but here's a new piece of evidence and, yeah, I feel like it's at least 55% in favor of the second way, so on the balance I expect the second way to be true. Maybe not a huge expectation, call it 60% strength.

Trying to describe that mathematically leads to hash; but what's happening isn't a math operation to begin with, so neither can it be critiqued as an invalid math operation (as if I should have multiplied .75 by .55 to arrive at .41!--when in fact what I actually 'did' was more like averaged .75 and .55. But not really that either, which is why I didn't say I felt 65% sure of the second way.)

JRP

Do Christian and theistic apologists use information that come from empirical sources and methods?

Of course we do.

but not direct empirical data on God himself. because there can't be any. If we had it we wouldn't probability arguments. If we had that there would be no question of God's existence.

At the simplest level we make an observation, consider the implications of the observation, and then adjust or reinforce our idea of the implications according to the next set of observations. That's just inductive reasoning.

It's not that simple. we don't make the kind of observations of God that do of other things. I don't have to convenience other people that my dog is real becuase I sense his presence. they can see him.

I have what I feel is direct empirical evidence of God when I feel his presence but I can't get others to agree to that.


I'm as much against using BT as a math operation (using the theorem instead of the induction theory) for non-probabilistic evaluations in favor of God's existence or in favor of Christ's resurrection, as I'm against using it sceptically for that purpose, because that procedure is a huge category error regardless of the specific topic. But what Jeff was doing in his series wasn't actually that (or wasn't last time I checked), despite some initial language which seemed to point in that direction.

the attack me made on my thing he's not very clear as what he's doing.

ECREE doesn't have to rely on the math theorem version of Bayesian theory, so taking down an illegitimate application of BTheorem (the math probability relationships) to a non-probability topic (like the Res or the characteristics of ultimate reality), doesn't necessarily take down ECREE.

ECREE is just wrong. If it doesn't rely on the math then it's just a mistaken in language. adequate evidence is proof. To label the mark "extraordinary" makes it sound like the parting of the red sea is required and that's silly when "adequate" is adequate."

the math version is silly because an extraordinary claim would be that you have cancer.


And Jeff's EAN (Evidential Arguments for Naturalism), if I recall correctly, don't formally hang on requiring ECREE in theism's favor anyway over against less exceptional evidence in favor of (atheistic) naturalism. (One of my few small quibbles about the start of Jeff's attempt is that he standardly conflates atheism and naturalism, as has been usual in the field. But so far as I got through his series I didn't see any places the conflation of ideas into the term was a problem.)

I am not require to answer arguments my opponent makes that have not been entered into the debate.

200 empirical studies published in academic peer review journals is extraordinary evidence. They make it sound like you need the parting of the red sea. then they would put up the smoke screen of labeling belief as "supernatural" when don't even know what that word means.

There's too much ideolgoical palaver going on in the such of such "technology" to allow some gimmick like this to determine belief.

Meta: {{[We don't use] direct empirical data on God himself. Because there can't be any. If we had it we wouldn't [bother with?] probability arguments. If we had that there would be no question of God's existence.}}

Have you given up appealing to mystical experience as empirical data about which we can draw inferences about the characteristics of that which produces the experiences?

Because that's the sort of thing I'm talking about, one of many sorts of thing, when I say we use information that comes from empirical sources and methods in Christian and theistic apologetics.

That doesn't give us some inherently special permission to use the inductive methodology to draw inferences about ultimate reality. Other people inductively or abductively reason to different expectations about what is true about ultimate reality (or even to what they think are properly deductive conclusions).

Whether or not they respect our attempts (much less our results), I believe we have an obligation to respect their attempts in principle.

Meta: {{We don't make the kind of observations of God that do of other things. I don't have to convince other people that my dog is real because I sense his presence. They can see him.}}

On the other hand, we often discover the existence and operations and characteristics of things we have not yet directly perceived by inferring their existence from characteristics of our environment. Arguably we do this in all knowledge, lacking actual direct perception of anything at all!--but I'm not directly perceiving you at the moment, or Jeff either. No one would ever, after considering the situation, try to say I've ever directly perceived either of you at all yet.

Anyway, those of us who are not granted direct empirical mystical evidence of God must do the best we can with what we do have, to reason to conclusions about what the characteristics of ultimate reality are (including whether there is any ultimate reality at all, although that's more of a conceptual exercise about principle coherency.)

Meta: {{the attack me made on my thing he's not very clear as what he's doing.}}

Maybe the problem was that you weren't very clear about what you were doing. That does happen sometimes. {s} But if he defends something his side is doing that you were attacking, he wasn't necessarily "attacking" you on your thing.

Meta: {{ECREE is just wrong. If it doesn't rely on the math then it's just a mistaken in language. adequate evidence is proof. To label the mark "extraordinary" makes it sound like the parting of the red sea is required and that's silly when "adequate" is adequate."}}

"Adequate" evidence begs the question; those who appeal to ECREE think adequate evidence for extraordinary claims means extraordinary evidence. It's a somewhat subjective question of how much "weight" any particular person requires to shift from one belief toward another belief.

I can't in fairness say ECREE is "just wrong", since considering my current epistemic position I would require more than a little evidence that something drastically different than trinitarian theism is true, or that the sun will rise in the west tomorrow, for me to change my beliefs accordingly. Why shouldn't I, in principle, respect the same difficulty in superlarge (typically worldview altering) shifts in belief for other people?

{{200 empirical studies published in academic peer review journals is extraordinary evidence.}}

For you, yes, in the sense required. For other people, not extraordinary enough.

{{I am not require to answer arguments my opponent makes that have not been entered into the debate.}}

I know; I was just reporting what I've found when I've bothered to go look at what Jeff actually does, and I've found he doesn't necessarily hang theistic belief on ECREE in practice.

JRP

Meta: {{[We don't use] direct empirical data on God himself. Because there can't be any. If we had it we wouldn't [bother with?] probability arguments. If we had that there would be no question of God's existence.}}

Have you given up appealing to mystical experience as empirical data about which we can draw inferences about the characteristics of that which produces the experiences?

no that comes under the heading of what I call "c0-determinte" see part 2 of my thing to Jeff.

Because that's the sort of thing I'm talking about, one of many sorts of thing, when I say we use information that comes from empirical sources and methods in Christian and theistic apologetics.

that's cool but it' snot directly data of God. It's alleged experience of God and for that reason it's understood as a co-determinate but not the same as Paterson Patty is a direct sighting of Big Foot. foot prints are the co-determinate. they are direct they are evidential sing of the phenomena--well supposedly. see?

That doesn't give us some inherently special permission to use the inductive methodology to draw inferences about ultimate reality. Other people inductively or abductively reason to different expectations about what is true about ultimate reality (or even to what they think are properly deductive conclusions).

right right right.

Whether or not they respect our attempts (much less our results), I believe we have an obligation to respect their attempts in principle.

Meta: {{We don't make the kind of observations of God that do of other things. I don't have to convince other people that my dog is real because I sense his presence. They can see him.}}

On the other hand, we often discover the existence and operations and characteristics of things we have not yet directly perceived by inferring their existence from characteristics of our environment. Arguably we do this in all knowledge, lacking actual direct perception of anything at all!--but I'm not directly perceiving you at the moment, or Jeff either. No one would ever, after considering the situation, try to say I've ever directly perceived either of you at all yet.

Anyway, those of us who are not granted direct empirical mystical evidence of God must do the best we can with what we do have, to reason to conclusions about what the characteristics of ultimate reality are (including whether there is any ultimate reality at all, although that's more of a conceptual exercise about principle coherency

I think we are saying the same things but I' using Metaspeak. ;-)

Meta: {{I think we are saying the same things but I' using Metaspeak. ;-)}}

I'm quite sure we're saying the same thing about not using math probability formulae to work out the probability occurrence of something that isn't systemically probabilistic. Which would include the characteristics of ultimate reality -- whether theists or atheists attempt it, makes no difference.

If someone uses a non-math version of BT as a means of describing their inductive or abductive reasoning about the characteristics of ultimate reality, though, I'm not going to complain about the attempt in principle: everyone on all sides of the aisle has the right (and maybe even the responsibility?) to do that. :)

JRP

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