1 of 3
1
Apples and Oranges
Posted: 24 April 2012 11:27 AM   [ Ignore ]
Jr. Member
Rank
Total Posts:  16
Joined  2012-04-24

I’ve seen a lot of Atheists trying to argue with Theists lately and their arguments tend to not really do much rather than to make both sides feel better about themselves, hate the fellow they’re talking to, and generally not get anything useful done. To explain my irritation, I’m going to tell a story about Ted and Bob. Ted and bob both live in Happyland. One day, Ted’s explaining to Bob Ted’s worldview.

—-

Ted: So there’s this invisible dragon that flies around, protects us from other evil invisible dragons, really likes oranges, and, if we’re don’t properly prepare our own oranges, eats us after we’re dead.

Bob: That’s… interesting. What’s this invisible dragon’s name?

Ted: His name’s Dragon.

Bob: I see. And how do you know about Dragon?

Ted: Well, there’s this ancient book that we have on Dragon. And it tells us all about how to prepare our oranges. You see, you have to peel the skin off and then there’s all sorts of ways you can cut up the insides.

Bob: Peeling skin off a fruit? Cutting a fruit? That’s inhumane; the only way I eat my apples is by biting it. If I cut my fruit, I could get hurt and that’s terrible.

Ted: Well, Dragon wants us to cut our oranges.

Bob: Uh huh, but I eat my apples every day without Dragon coming and doing anything to me. This Dragon thing is a load of bull, I can’t understand how anyone believes this stuff. How can you honestly say that you believe in this thing that would allow you to hurt yourself?

Ted: What do you mean. How else are you supposed to get to the inside of an orange? And Dragon tells us how to do that.

Bob: Well, you just aren’t thinking critically. I eat my apples just fine without worrying about Dragon.

Ted: Well, in the end, Dragon will judge you.

—-

2 questions: Does this make sense to anyone, and does it generally portray what a lot of people see in atheist/theist interaction?  (mainly that Ted’s talking about Oranges, Bob’s talking about Apples)

Profile
 
 
Posted: 24 April 2012 11:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  9283
Joined  2006-08-29

No, it doesn’t make sense to me. We are both discussing “oranges.” Either God exists or he doesn’t. The universe was either created by God or it wasn’t. We behave a certain way either because we were designed by a sentient being for a specific purpose or we behave the way we do for other reasons.

[ Edited: 24 April 2012 12:27 PM by George ]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 24 April 2012 12:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
Jr. Member
Rank
Total Posts:  16
Joined  2012-04-24

well, yeah, that’s the point though; both assume that they’re talking about the same thing in their arguments but a lot of the time they ignore the others premises and concentrate on the conclusions.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 24 April 2012 12:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  15305
Joined  2006-02-14

Well, what you say is true as far as it goes, but isn’t that the problem with any disagreement about anything? I mean, one person thinks Bach better than Beethoven, the other does not. One thinks team X better than team Y, the other does not. One believes in slavery the other does not. One believes that the earth goes round the sun, the other believes the sun goes round the earth. One believes the universe is six thousand years old, the other that it’s fifteen billion. One believes that anthropogenic global warming is happening, another believes its a scientific hoax. And so on.

In any of these interactions you can, and often do, get people who argue past one another, fail to accept evidence, ignore premises and/or concentrate on conclusions. There’s nothing special about atheism and theism here.

And to be fair, in many of these cases the error is on one side alone: one of the two sides IS open to new evidence, IS paying attention to premises and IS making a good (valid, sound, well-reasoned and evidentiary) argument, and the other is basically engaged in sophistry. In that sort of case to suggest, basically, “a pox on both their houses” is ill informed.

 Signature 

Doug

-:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:-

El sueño de la razón produce monstruos

Profile
 
 
Posted: 24 April 2012 12:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1191
Joined  2011-08-01

I sort of agree, in a roundabout way. In my personal experience (on both sides of the debate, having lived a previous life as a fundy Xian) it seems to me that the one thing that keeps getting talked past is the authority of the bible. The “oranges” start with the a priori assumption that the bible is true (to varying degrees, but all of them believe that it is at least true in it’s “spiritual essence”.) The “apples” have no such presupposition.

Many Xian apologists try to be more philosophical and bring in arguments other than the bible, but almost all of them eventually fall back on scripture when pressed. Because they all know, whether they admit it or not, that if one throws out the bible as an authority, there is virtually nothing left to stand on. I think this is why both sides work hard to either prove or refute it.

It’s impossible to have a rational debate when one side relies on what they take to be revealed, absolute truth from a book while the other side relies on observation, experimentation, and logical analysis. Both sides believe (or claim to believe) that their approach to truth is the proper way. Therefore, no amount of quoting scripture will ever convince an apple, and no amount of observation, experimentation, and logical analysis will ever convince an orange.

 Signature 

Free in Kentucky
—Humanist
“I am patient with stupidity but not with those who are proud of it.”—Edith Sitwell

Profile
 
 
Posted: 24 April 2012 01:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
Jr. Member
Rank
Total Posts:  16
Joined  2012-04-24
dougsmith - 24 April 2012 12:08 PM

And to be fair, in many of these cases the error is on one side alone: one of the two sides IS open to new evidence, IS paying attention to premises and IS making a good (valid, sound, well-reasoned and evidentiary) argument, and the other is basically engaged in sophistry. In that sort of case to suggest, basically, “a pox on both their houses” is ill informed.

FreeInKy - 24 April 2012 12:23 PM

I sort of agree, in a roundabout way. In my personal experience (on both sides of the debate, having lived a previous life as a fundy Xian) it seems to me that the one thing that keeps getting talked past is the authority of the bible. The “oranges” start with the a priori assumption that the bible is true (to varying degrees, but all of them believe that it is at least true in it’s “spiritual essence”.) The “apples” have no such presupposition.

The ancient book that Ted mentioned was supposed to be the bible; I guess I didn’t make that clear enough.  The apples/oranges distinction was supposed to be that Ted keeps talking about oranges, which are quite different in how they are eaten than Bob’s apples because you do have to peel the skin off first to eat them.  The point I was trying to make was that they don’t notice that they’re talking about how to eat two separate fruits and only talk about their rationale for eating their fruit the way that they do.

As far as sophistry is concerned, recall Plato’s Gorgias; in rhetoric, one doesn’t understand the nature of the question at hand.  When the pastry maker says that his treats are delicious, he’s correct in recognizing the correlation between his cooking and deliciousness, but fails in understanding the underlying nutritional components involved.  When an atheist points to science and tells the theist that religion is wrong, does the atheist know what it is about religion that is shown wrong or just that the results of the two do not seem compatible?  It seems the former to me, although perhaps you could help me understand what it is.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 24 April 2012 01:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  15305
Joined  2006-02-14
wtfbbq - 24 April 2012 01:04 PM

As far as sophistry is concerned, recall Plato’s Gorgias; in rhetoric, one doesn’t understand the nature of the question at hand.  When the pastry maker says that his treats are delicious, he’s correct in recognizing the correlation between his cooking and deliciousness, but fails in understanding the underlying nutritional components involved.  When an atheist points to science and tells the theist that religion is wrong, does the atheist know what it is about religion that is shown wrong or just that the results of the two do not seem compatible?  It seems the former to me, although perhaps you could help me understand what it is.

I’m not really following your point. “Religion” isn’t a truth-claim, so can’t be right or wrong, and anyhow there are atheistic religions like Buddhism. The atheist simply points to the assertion “There is a God” and claims it is wrong. Science may be part of the argument about why this assertion is wrong, but it can’t be the whole argument, since the assertion isn’t really scientific. (E.g. he may say that science—i.e. Darwinian evolution—shows that the argument from design is wrong).

 Signature 

Doug

-:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:-

El sueño de la razón produce monstruos

Profile
 
 
Posted: 24 April 2012 02:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
Jr. Member
Rank
Total Posts:  16
Joined  2012-04-24
dougsmith - 24 April 2012 01:48 PM

I’m not really following your point. “Religion” isn’t a truth-claim, so can’t be right or wrong, and anyhow there are atheistic religions like Buddhism. The atheist simply points to the assertion “There is a God” and claims it is wrong. Science may be part of the argument about why this assertion is wrong, but it can’t be the whole argument, since the assertion isn’t really scientific. (E.g. he may say that science—i.e. Darwinian evolution—shows that the argument from design is wrong).

I guess I put two points (what sophistry is and then do atheists use it too) in there so I’ll put them here again separately.

(1) What is sophistry: As far as sophistry is concerned, recall Plato’s Gorgias; in rhetoric, one doesn’t understand the nature of the question at hand.  When the pastry maker says that his treats are delicious, he’s correct in recognizing the correlation between his cooking and deliciousness, but fails in understanding the underlying nutritional components involved.  I think this is straightforward, although I can expand this.

(2) Is the atheist engaging in sophistry: When an atheist points to science and tells the theist that [theist’s] religion is wrong, does the atheist know what it is about [theist’s] religion that is shown wrong or just that the results of the two do not seem compatible?

Hopefully separating them like this helps the confusion.  I should have specified what I meant by religion in that context.  Your point about science is along the lines with what I’m trying to get at; a lot of this discourse talks about how what we take from science conflicts with what we take from religious texts, rather than understanding the nature of these things that cause us to believe them in the first place.

This clarify things or did I muck things up further?

Profile
 
 
Posted: 24 April 2012 02:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  15305
Joined  2006-02-14
wtfbbq - 24 April 2012 02:06 PM

(1) What is sophistry: As far as sophistry is concerned, recall Plato’s Gorgias; in rhetoric, one doesn’t understand the nature of the question at hand.  When the pastry maker says that his treats are delicious, he’s correct in recognizing the correlation between his cooking and deliciousness, but fails in understanding the underlying nutritional components involved.  I think this is straightforward, although I can expand this.

Let’s leave aside the technical issue of what Plato thought about sophistry. It’s not germane to this thread. All I mean by “sophistry” is the dictionary definition: “a fallacious argument”. (Either one that is clearly unsound or invalid).

wtfbbq - 24 April 2012 02:06 PM

(2) Is the atheist engaging in sophistry: When an atheist points to science and tells the theist that [theist’s] religion is wrong, does the atheist know what it is about [theist’s] religion that is shown wrong or just that the results of the two do not seem compatible?

Hopefully separating them like this helps the confusion.  I should have specified what I meant by religion in that context.  Your point about science is along the lines with what I’m trying to get at; a lot of this discourse talks about how what we take from science conflicts with what we take from religious texts, rather than understanding the nature of these things that cause us to believe them in the first place.

This still confuses me. The atheist need not say anything about the theist’s religion except that God does not exist. So bringing the entire religion into it just confuses things, especially since, as I say, a religion is not itself a truth-claim, anymore than a house or a football game is.

Claims made in religious texts may, and often do, conflict with science. But then it is the science that has the evidence on its side, not the religious texts. I’m not sure what you mean by talking about “the nature of these things that cause us to believe them in the first place”. One may have any number of different things that makes one believe something. Perhaps I believe that the earth is round because I dreamed it as a child. Nevertheless that belief is true (anyway to a high degree of approximation). One may have causes to believe something that aren’t relevant to their true justification. So long as one can come up with the justification when it counts, that’s all we really consider in arguments of this sort.

 Signature 

Doug

-:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:-

El sueño de la razón produce monstruos

Profile
 
 
Posted: 24 April 2012 02:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
Jr. Member
Rank
Total Posts:  16
Joined  2012-04-24
dougsmith - 24 April 2012 02:36 PM

  Let’s leave aside the technical issue of what Plato thought about sophistry. It’s not germane to this thread. All I mean by “sophistry” is the dictionary definition: “a fallacious argument”. (Either one that is clearly unsound or invalid).

Ah.  I can use your terms.  I would strongly suggest reading the older texts though (preferably in Greek if you have the time to learn it) because these terms have a long history.

dougsmith - 24 April 2012 02:36 PM

  This still confuses me. The atheist need not say anything about the theist’s religion except that God does not exist. So bringing the entire religion into it just confuses things, especially since, as I say, a religion is not itself a truth-claim, anymore than a house or a football game is

For the atheist to have his beliefs and not worry about whether or not he can explain them to the theist, it is certainly sufficient that he not say anything about the theist’s religion.  However, I’m concerned with trying to understand what it is that’s preventing the atheist and the theist from having a meaningful understanding of their disagreement.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 24 April 2012 03:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  15305
Joined  2006-02-14
wtfbbq - 24 April 2012 02:58 PM

Ah.  I can use your terms.  I would strongly suggest reading the older texts though (preferably in Greek if you have the time to learn it) because these terms have a long history.

I have read quite a number of them (I helped teach some of them in grad school), and have an opinion about Plato’s use of the term. But as I say, it’s irrelevant to this discussion. In general the history of terms is irrelevant to these kinds of discussions. All that’s relevant is how the terms are used now.

wtfbbq - 24 April 2012 02:58 PM

For the atheist to have his beliefs and not worry about whether or not he can explain them to the theist, it is certainly sufficient that he not say anything about the theist’s religion.

An atheist can get into exactly the same argle bargle with the theist simply by discussing the existence of God, without reference to religion per se. Religion is also irrelevant to this discussion, since as I say, atheists can be religious as well.

wtfbbq - 24 April 2012 02:58 PM

However, I’m concerned with trying to understand what it is that’s preventing the atheist and the theist from having a meaningful understanding of their disagreement.

Well, one reason may be that the theist doesn’t want to give up on the belief about God. So instead of taking the atheist’s arguments seriously, he avoids them by one means or another of sophistry, either consciously or unconsciously. That is one possible explanation. Doubtless there are an unbounded number of others.

Again, the same may be said about any disagreement. It is rare for rational argument to change minds among those who were committed to their positions before the argument.

 Signature 

Doug

-:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:-

El sueño de la razón produce monstruos

Profile
 
 
Posted: 24 April 2012 03:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
Jr. Member
Rank
Total Posts:  16
Joined  2012-04-24
dougsmith - 24 April 2012 03:23 PM

Again, the same may be said about any disagreement. It is rare for rational argument to change minds among those who were committed to their positions before the argument.

This begs the question: is there even such a rational argument to begin with?

Profile
 
 
Posted: 24 April 2012 06:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  15305
Joined  2006-02-14
wtfbbq - 24 April 2012 03:36 PM
dougsmith - 24 April 2012 03:23 PM

Again, the same may be said about any disagreement. It is rare for rational argument to change minds among those who were committed to their positions before the argument.

This begs the question: is there even such a rational argument to begin with?

What do you mean?

 Signature 

Doug

-:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:-

El sueño de la razón produce monstruos

Profile
 
 
Posted: 24 April 2012 06:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2588
Joined  2011-04-24

When you say, “one person is talking about apples, and the other is talking about oranges” do you imply -  “apples” = feelings, and “oranges” = evidence?        If so, then I kind of agree that’s what is happening.

 Signature 

Raise your glass if you’re wrong…. in all the right ways.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 24 April 2012 06:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
Jr. Member
Rank
Total Posts:  16
Joined  2012-04-24
dougsmith - 24 April 2012 06:20 PM
wtfbbq - 24 April 2012 03:36 PM

This begs the question: is there even such a rational argument to begin with?

What do you mean?

My original intention was to try to shed some light on the idea that both sides are potentially ignoring the other side’s basis for argumentation.  That isn’t to say that both sides are not employing valid arguments, but rather that their arguments seem to have some base premises that are vague and that haven’t been worked out.  Consider my original post; suppose instead of Ted and Bob actually stating that they were talking about apples and oranges, that they merely referred to fruit whenever an apple or orange was mentioned.  Both of their arguments in the dialogue would be pretty much the same, making it that much harder for them to realize that when Ted refers to fruit Ted means oranges, and when Bob refers to fruit Bob means apples.  Without sorting this apple/orange distinction out, both could argue endlessly about how to eat fruit because both would have valid points about their respective fruits that seem ridiculous to their partner.

So lets consider this further dialogue between the two:

—-
Ted: We need to cut the skin off of fruit to eat fruit.  Dragon’s book tells us how to do this.  You tell us not to.  I think I’ll put my trust in Dragon.

Bob: No, we can bite it.  I bite through fruit skin all the time.

Ted: That’s ridiculous.  It’s written right here in Dragon’s book that taking the skin off first makes it easier to eat and tastier.

Bob: No, THAT’s ridiculous.  The skin of fruit is thin and quite tasty.  Your book is wrong.
—-

Ted and Bob can each come up with their own set of arguments about fruit that, given their knowledge, are seemingly sound.  But the problem is, they fail to take into account the actual problem; what the other person is actually relating to that causes him to make his statements and conclusions in the first place.

You seem to want to say that the theist is just pig headed in his beliefs and that rational arguments just won’t sway him.  I can’t seem to think of any rational arguments to sway Ted to believing Bob (both arguing from conclusions drawn from their observations without figuring out that they aren’t talking about the same thing at the most basic level), or of the theist to believing the atheist.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 24 April 2012 06:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
Jr. Member
Rank
Total Posts:  16
Joined  2012-04-24
mid atlantic - 24 April 2012 06:34 PM

When you say, “one person is talking about apples, and the other is talking about oranges” do you imply -  “apples” = feelings, and “oranges” = evidence?        If so, then I kind of agree that’s what is happening.

No.  I’m not going at methods at all.  The question is, what is it at the base level that actually causes the theist to have their beliefs, because going at it from the other end (the conclusions) does not seem to work at all.  I think you meant the other way around btw, and close, but you’re still not at the fine enough level that I think we need to be looking at the problem at - still a little too coarse.

Profile
 
 
   
1 of 3
1