Logic referee giving a yellow card

Discussion in 'Religion Archives' started by Pookums, Oct 27, 1999.

  1. Pookums Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    48
    Hey folks,

    A couple of points keep coming up on this site and it's really starting to annoy me. These have to do mostly with logic and the use of logic to 'prove' or 'disprove' the existance of a god.

    Occum's Razor: Occum's Razor has been used as a logical basis to both argue for and against the existance of a god. As mentioned by others on this site (I think it was Plato), Occum's Razor is a weak stance. First, this is not even a logical rule: it's simply a cute quote made to generalize about situations (similar to Murphy's 'law'). Granted, it is often true that the simple answer is often the most correct, but this does not mean that it is always true. Trust me, as a scientist, I wish things were simple. Further, even when/if Occum's Razor is used in a logical argument, usually more information is known regarding the answers from which one can choose. For example, many false conclusions in science have been made that seemed the 'simplest' answer at the time was later determined to be wrong when more data through experiments were gained. This is simply not the case in a debate over the existance of a god; we don't know which answer would be simpler-there are too many unknowns. It comes down (again) to what one wants to believe (faith), and this is a weak logical basis.

    God out of time: If a god is omnipotent, than by definition he/she/it can do whatever the heck they want, including having contact with a finite universe while being an infinite being. A god that is not omnipotent usually has nothing to do with current monotheist beliefs, therefore not a point of debate.

    Cyclic arguments: 'The reason to exist is to exist'. I don't think anything more needs to be said.

    Logical contradictions: Similar to 'god outta time', logical contradictions are bad, bad, bad. For example, the classic 'can god create a stone too great for him to lift'. This is a moot question as far as logic goes because it fails the basic requirements from the gates.

    The basic point is that the acceptance or denial of the existance of a god is belief-orientated choice, not a logic-orintated choice. These choices have little bearing on the 'truth' or other peoples opinions.

    -Whew-

    Now that I vented, let me say that this site is a great source of information as well as debate. I just think that the use and abuse of 'logic' sometimes wears thin.


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    Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please.
    -Mark Twain
     
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  3. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

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    Sorry, Pookums, but I must protest.

    Occam's Razor is, I agree, a weak principle to go forward with any argument, unless of course all factors--every single one, no exceptions--are accounted for.

    As for logical contradictions, of course they're bad. But logic, in the contemporary regard, is entirely subjective. God itself is an illogical concept, but that doesn't stop the most part of humanity from choosing one or another of the gods. So as long as the concept itself is illogical, I cannot see any possibility of logical processes prevailing.

    Cyclical arguments: I think you chose a bad example. Any reason we can invent to justify something so subjective as "existence" is fiction. Do we exist for profit? For god? For what? Existence is simply something we recognize; it is its own purpose. As to the presence of cyclical arguments ... well, we're arguing the nature of God. Is not God's existance as circular and assumptive an idea as we can find?

    I'm wondering, though, what a "logic-oriented choice" is? After all, we can ask "why" or "how" until we don't know the answer. Thus the knowledge we use to define the nature of what is logical becomes subjective. By that transition, it seems logic becomes illogical; it becomes its own contradiction, founded on principles it cannot, by its processes, justify.

    If I might throw in some unsolicited perspective .... I've seen a few people pick up the ball lately and declare they were running home because they didn't like the way we all play the game at this forum. There's also FyreStar, whose best response to difficult questions is to openly declare that he will ignore you. Sometimes we have to do that. After all, if we responded to every idiotic statement to come from whatever side of these multifaceted arguments, we'd forget what the questions are. I would daresay that there is plenty of meat at the table; just sharpen your knife and trim away the copious amounts of blubber. For the record, I'm quite happy you haven't declared your intent to leave this Wonderland forever.

    thx,
    Tiassa

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    "Let us not launch the boat until the ground is wet." (Khaavren of Castlerock)
     
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  5. FyreStar Faithless since 1980 Registered Senior Member

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    Pookums -
    Excellent post. Indeed, Occam's Razor is not only a simplistic tool, but a subjective one as well. What is simple to one person is complex to another. It always irks me when people apply "logic" only to suit their means, or completely on assumptions they cannot make. Personally, I think it would work better if people used logic not for debating faith, but rather events and happenings that are observable and explainable. We have very few answers, and must base any new ones off of the small base we have accumulated thus far. Tiassa raised a good point in stating that we must keep questions in sight to be able to answer them. Logic can not only help us to do that, but it also can help us find new questions.

    FyreStar
     
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  7. Boris Senior Member Registered Senior Member

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    I'm baa-ack! (miss me?

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    This is something I've been arguing all along. When it comes to religion, there really cannot be any "debate" in the first place -- it is <u>all</u> faith, and it has <u>no</u> logic about it whatsoever.

    Logic crops up whenever people start listing the "obvious" signs of God, and the "evidence" for creation or any other religious myth. When you start talking about evidence, you inevitably come back to observations and deductions based on them. This is where logic comes in, and this is of course where (secular) science will always have the upper hand (and the further along we get, the less empirical ground will be left for religion to stand upon.)

    Occams razor is useful primarily when we consider the power, or the usefullness, of various explanations. If an "explanation" provides absolutely no new knowledge and manages to actually add to the pool of unknowns rather than subtract from it -- then it is not a good explanation. For example, take the explanation of existence through God. Such a pseudo-theory not only leaves unanswered all the questions about the nature of God and reality, and their modes of interaction -- but it embodies all the unanswered questions it purports to deal with as well, although this time elevated to a more obscure level of God. In other words, as a "theory", religion provides no new fundamental information, it clarifies nothing, and worse yet it also introduces a whole new array of smoke and mirrors. That's where Occam's razor comes in useful, and why many people (myself included) opt for reductionist approaches.

    It is self-evident that the true nature of existence is hidden from us. We can choose to adopt mythological explanations (be it in terms of Zeus, Jesus, or Heaven's Gate), in which case we may be somewhat superficially shielded from uncertainty, but our world views and minds are tied up with the fixed perspective. Or, we can choose to eschew all religion and admit ignorance, and proceed to pursue existence and its deep mysteries with a truly open mind.

    The reason I argue against faith is not because it lacks logic (which is obvious, but somewhat irrelevant.) Faith represents fixed and often very irrational mindsets, and from where I stand it turns you into the equivalent of Borg drones. In its more extreme forms, it kills curiosity and imagination. (In case you start citing the famous geniuses with religious background, I challenge you to prune from your list any more than a couple hundred years in the past, and include only the scripture literalists. Notice -- I did say "extreme forms", after all.) Faith mentally imprisons people within its confines. And I despise unnecessary encarceration.

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    I am; therefore I think.
     
  8. Pookums Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    48
    Hey folks,

    Thanks for the replies. I bow to all of the points made by you guys. However, I have a few more to add to the fray...

    Tiassa,
    I guess I'm delineating between logic as a 'common' tool and logic as a discipline. Your are correct that people make subjective use of logic all the time, but I would be extremely reluctant to say that the discipline of contemporary logic is subjective. Your also asked what a 'logical choice' is. I think the following example will answer both how logic does not have to be subjective and what a logical choice is:

    Premise 1: Pookums likes women who can intimidate him.

    Premise 2: Pookum's wife can intimidate him.

    Conclusion: Based on premise 1 and 2, it can be concluded that Pookums likes his wife.

    Now, as you can see, both premise 1 and 2 are quite subjective in nature. However, the conclusion is logically sound, since there is no way for the conclusion to be false while premise 1 and 2 are true.

    The other comments raised by you and the others are entirely my point. Logic cannot be used to debate the existance of a god or not. However, the finer points and tenets regarding the perception of theism, atheism and agnosticism can be based on a logical foundation, if carefully done. Perhaps it would be easier for people to accept that logic is almost completely useless in this forum as y'all suggested.

    Tiassa, regarding taking my toys and going home, that won't happen. The one thing I miss the most as an American living abroad is using my debating and dicussion skills. While most Germans have excellent English, they do not posses the subtle skills that one gets from a language being your mother-tongue. Further, my German is about the level of a 3rd-grader, so me debating in German is even more frustrating than trying to debate with a German in English. This forum fills a need.

    Besides, I said I was annoyed, not pissed. I think I'll probably stick around..



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    Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please.
    -Mark Twain
     
  9. Plato Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    366
    First of all I agree with the basic premise is a question of belief, there are no other arguments. I also agree with the second premise that an omnipotent god is a logical contradiction.
    Several questions come to mind, first : is the universe as we observe it in any way a logical contradiction ? As far as I'm aware, I don't think so. If it was then there would be no restrictions or bounds, we would have the ultimate freedom and be in effect gods. Since we are clearly not, I would suggest the universe is bound by logic.
    Here comes an other question : why then the need to bring in logical contradictions into the picture ? Is it some fundamental human longing to somehow escape the confines of logic ? Perhaps it is just a question of not wanting to grow up and accept the bounds of reality ?
    The strangest thing is that somehow this innate contradiction needed to be restrained, it is to dangerous on its own and a potential threat to society. This is where the rules and regulations come into play.
    Man is a very strange animal indeed, on one hand he craves for the ultimate freedom but on the other he subdues it as much as possible.

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    "If I have been able to see further, it was only because I stood on the shoulders of giants."
    Isaac Newton
     
  10. Pookums Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    48
    Plato,

    First, I didn't say that an omnipotent god is a logical contradiction, I said that assuming that a god is omnipotent, it is a logical contradiction to discuss limitations.

    Second, you served my point very well about the misuse and abuse of logic. You said:

    "is the universe as we observe it in any way a logical contradiction ? As far as I'm aware, I don't think so. If it was then there would be no restrictions or bounds, we would have the ultimate freedom and be in effect gods. Since we are clearly not, I would suggest the universe is bound by logic."

    Let's map this out in a logical equation..

    Assumption: Humans are restricted.

    Premise 1: An illogical universe would have no restrictions or bounds.

    Premise 2: In a universe without restrictions or bounds, humans would be unrestricted, thus gods.

    Conclusions: If assumption 1 is true, than Premise 1 and 2 must be false. Therefore, the universe is logical.

    You would get an 'F' for logic!!!

    The only way for this argument to work within a logical framwork is that the conclusion is true if and only if there is no way for premise 1 and 2 to be true, given the assumption. However, it is possible for an illogical universe to posses boundaries, but these boundaries might be illogical. Further, in an illogical universe (even without boundaries), there is no reason to assume that these freedoms would apply to humans (the universe is unbounded, not us). Further, since an illogical universe would be illogical, there would be no way to predict occurances with logic, since it would not follow the rules.

    I agree with your opinion that the universe is most likely logical. However, this is an opinion (or belief), NOT a logically provable point.



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    Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please.
    -Mark Twain
     
  11. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

    Messages:
    36,616
    Pookums ....

    I might be reading your last two sentences wrong, but I wanted to reiterate a part of my first post to this topic:

    "For the record, I'm quite happy you haven't declared your intent to leave this Wonderland forever."

    Actually, I had composed a fair-sized post to follow that reiteration, but as I switched back and forth between my notepad window and your post, I realized that all I was doing was rewriting your short conclusions into a longer one.

    But I would also like to throw out a comparison: Logical processes are much like the scientific process. You can throw any number of factors into the works and obtain a predictable, coherent result. The nature of the factors becomes important in this perspective. Thus we can "prove", logically, certain aspects of "God", per se. But the logical structure is incapable of paring away the veneer of faith required to accept the conclusion, rendering the conclusion--the whole effort--moot.

    thx,
    Tiassa


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    "Let us not launch the boat until the ground is wet." (Khaavren of Castlerock)
     
  12. Plato Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    366
    Pookums,

    Ok, the way you put it my logical reasoning was wrong but there are several aspects that you left out of the picture that might save the conclusion after all.
    For one humans are part of the universe and thus what applies to the universe applies to humans. Humans are only a part of the universe so we can't turn the reasoning around and say that what applies to humans also applies to the universe.
    There is however a very strong notion of continuity involved ! Turning from a logical consistend area into a logical inconsitent one would mean a drastic change, there is no way one can smoothly pass from one state to the other. Therefore I would assume that the rest of the universe follows the same logical consistencies as we are !
    I know this is not really based upon observed facts because we still can't claim that we have mapped the entire universe on both scale ranging from the infinitly small to the infinitly great. Still it would mean a whole new set of rules and reasons why areas of inconsistencies could exists and why they stay bound in their areas because any inconsistency means everything is possible so no bounds are possible.
    I'm being rather intuitively here so I guess you will give me an other F for logic

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    "If I have been able to see further, it was only because I stood on the shoulders of giants."
    Isaac Newton
     
  13. Pookums Registered Senior Member

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    Plato,

    Logic would dictate that an illogical universe would not follow the rules of logic. However, I bow to your intuition ; )

    Tiassa,

    I'm sorry, if the last two sentences of my post, you mean that I said I was annoyed, not pissed, I wasn't referring to you. Sorry if I was unclear on that point. I was simply referring to my annoyance at the misuse/abuse of logic. I think you and I are in general agreement on our points.



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    Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please.
    -Mark Twain
     
  14. Boris Senior Member Registered Senior Member

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    1,052
    If I may gleefully butt in once again...

    Continuity is an extremely powerful principle, and it has everything to do with logic. In fact, from a continuous (therefore predictable) self-existence, one can infer a continuous predictability for the rest of the observable universe. Continuity is the cornerstone of induction. Which also crowns it as the foundation of life, evolution, knowledge, and the very sentience that brings all these debates about. At least the local domain around us is strictly logical; otherwise we would not exist. To claim that the universe in general is illogical, therefore, is to presuppose existence of a transition zone from order to chaos. Which makes Plato's point a very powerful, and relevant, one.

    On the other hand, postulating an illogical undercurrent to reality implies claiming sheer chaos. After all, what is logic other than an enterprise of laying out laws and strictly following them? Logic is, in a sense, synonymous with order -- so I can't see how one could ever downplay logic's significance or relevance. I don't see how it could ever be "abused". Used in conjunction with inadequate premises -- maybe. But...abused?!

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    I am; therefore I think.
     
  15. Pookums Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    48
    Boris,

    Good points, but I think something is missing. Let me think on it...

    BTW, I don't support the idea that we live in an illogical universe, I was just pointing out that logic could not be used to predict outcomes in a universe that is not logical.

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    Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please.
    -Mark Twain
     

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