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Posted: 07 February 2009 07:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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wandering - 06 February 2009 08:56 PM
dougsmith - 06 February 2009 08:35 PM
wandering - 06 February 2009 08:31 PM

I think that the answer is generally yes.

And so ...?

And so, if it is true that the atheists are biased against the existence of god, it is likely that their arguments are biased and invalid, and the logic of the argument is good.

LOL

If that were a good argument, it would hold with theists as well. They are biased for the existence of god, so it is likely that their arguments are biased and invalid.

Indeed, it would hold with anyone who argued any claim X and believed that X was true. (Believing X is true = being biased in favor of X).

So for any claim X and anyone who believes X, it is likely that their arguments for X are biased and invalid.

This is about the silliest sort of argument I’ve ever heard.

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Posted: 07 February 2009 09:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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But there is also something true about the fact that the more biased a person is the less he should be trusted.

Absolutely. Which is why you should evaluate a claim based on its logic, not its provenance.

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Posted: 07 February 2009 09:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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wandering - 06 February 2009 06:47 PM

What do you think of the following argument

“The atheists are only atheists because they want to follow their hedonistic wishes and not do what god tells them to, so there is no reason why we should even listen to their claims”

from a logical point of view? Is there logic in this argument?

the argument is not internally logical because when you break it up into its disparate parts: 

a) “The atheists are only atheists because they want to follow their hedonistic wishes”  presupposes certain knowledge;

b)  “and not do what god tells them to” presupposes other certain knowledge;

c)  “so there is no reason why we should even listen to their claims” is based on two vague and unfounded assumptions.

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Posted: 07 February 2009 02:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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Quoting Wandering:

But wouldn’t you agree that when a company advertises a product, its claims should be treated more suspiciously than the claims of an objective party?

  Absolutely not.  ALL claims should be questioned and examined, not just those you don’t trust or those you don’t agree with.

As I see it, using your line of reasoning, the claims you make are irrelevant.  Rather, we must ask if they show the originator’s lack of rationality.

Occam

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Posted: 07 February 2009 06:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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wandering - 06 February 2009 07:39 PM

Do you agree that if a person is personally biased in favor of something, there is less chance that he will produce an objective, unbiased argument in favor of it?


What is the “thing” we are talking about?

Feynman noted that religion is based on faith and science is based on doubt.  I think you are confusing skepticism or doubt with “bias”.

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Posted: 11 February 2009 10:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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dougsmith - 07 February 2009 07:47 AM

LOL

If that were a good argument, it would hold with theists as well. They are biased for the existence of god, so it is likely that their arguments are biased and invalid.

Indeed, it would hold with anyone who argued any claim X and believed that X was true. (Believing X is true = being biased in favor of X).

So for any claim X and anyone who believes X, it is likely that their arguments for X are biased and invalid.

This is about the silliest sort of argument I’ve ever heard.

It is not true that believing X is true = being biased X is true.  For example, when a person goes to a psychic he is biased in favor of the psychic since he wants to talk with his dead relative. This is what I mean by a bias. It is different from just believing X is true.

Where I am driving at is the following:

It would be irrational to judge any part of an argument in favour of intelligent design, or argument from fine tuning on the basis that the arguer is a theist.

But in the case that you have a discussion with a pathological liar, it is reasonable not to trust him.

Why is one ad hominem, and the other not?

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Posted: 11 February 2009 10:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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Both arguments are ad hominem. An argument must stand or fall solely on its merits.

Of course, if you get nitwits who keep arguing a patently bankrupt case, it’s hard to resist taking some shots at their idiocy. But that’s independent from the consideration of the case itself.

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Posted: 11 February 2009 10:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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Chris Crawford - 11 February 2009 10:15 AM

Both arguments are ad hominem. An argument must stand or fall solely on its merits.

Of course, if you get nitwits who keep arguing a patently bankrupt case, it’s hard to resist taking some shots at their idiocy. But that’s independent from the consideration of the case itself.

Both???

No, doubting a pathological liar is not an ad hominem.

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Posted: 11 February 2009 10:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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The point is that we don’t apply doubt or skepticism to people, we apply them to arguments. I don’t care who expresses an idea.

Now, if you’re talking about a fact rather than an idea—a person providing testimony, say—then it is appropriate to take into consideration the trustworthiness of that person. But ideas are independent of the people who give voice to them. Keep your eye on the ball: the idea, not the pronouncer.

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Posted: 11 February 2009 10:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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wandering - 11 February 2009 10:09 AM

It is not true that believing X is true = being biased X is true.  For example, when a person goes to a psychic he is biased in favor of the psychic since he wants to talk with his dead relative. This is what I mean by a bias. It is different from just believing X is true.

I don’t understand the distinction you are trying to make. Your example doesn’t help, either. A person who goes to a psychic believes that the psychic can talk with his dead relative, so in that case, believing X is true = being biased that X is true.

Perhaps you mean to use the word “bias” only when you take the belief to be false? So we can believe that 1 + 1 = 2, but we have to be biased to believe that 1 + 1 = 4? If so, it’s really not a useful distinction.

wandering - 11 February 2009 10:09 AM

It would be irrational to judge any part of an argument in favour of intelligent design, or argument from fine tuning on the basis that the arguer is a theist.

But in the case that you have a discussion with a pathological liar, it is reasonable not to trust him.

Why is one ad hominem, and the other not?

Chris is right that both arguments are ad hominem. That is, the fact that X is a theist or that X is a pathological liar does not have any logical bearing on the truth or falsity of any particular claim or argument that X makes.

Nevertheless, as a pragmatic matter, clearly we can rationally discount the probability of statements made by pathological liars, especially if we have no independent means of verifying them, and end up having to take them on first-person authority. This is not a matter of deductive logic, but it is a matter of inductive logic. If X has been unreliable many times in the past with claims he’s made publicly, then there is a higher probability that this time X’s non-independently-verifiable claim will also be false.

An atheist will make the same sort of argument about the theist, when it comes to theological matters. He’s been wrong so many times in the past with these arguments, that as an a priori matter I’m just not going to take this one seriously, either. (Of course, the theist will do the very same move with the atheist).

But this is only an a priori move; it is something that one must do independent of the force of the particular argument or claim made. And then the force of the argument depends crucially on how much of it depends on taking X’s word as an authority. E.g., do I have to trust X’s claims of eye-witness experience with Jesus? Well, if I have independent reasons for thinking that those claims made by X are unreliable (because he tends to be overly credulous when it comes to seeing Jesus in buttered toast), then I can rationally discount them. However, if X’s argument is objective in the sense that it does not involve any claims that depend essentially on taking X’s authority on anything, (E.g., the Cosmological Argument for the existence of God is an objective argument in this sense), then the fact that X is unreliable is strictly speaking irrelevant to his argument being good or bad.

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Posted: 11 February 2009 10:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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I like the precision of your argument, Doug. I was too lazy to enunciate it that well.

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Posted: 13 February 2009 05:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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dougsmith - 11 February 2009 10:36 AM
wandering - 11 February 2009 10:09 AM

It is not true that believing X is true = being biased X is true.  For example, when a person goes to a psychic he is biased in favor of the psychic since he wants to talk with his dead relative. This is what I mean by a bias. It is different from just believing X is true.

I don’t understand the distinction you are trying to make. Your example doesn’t help, either. A person who goes to a psychic believes that the psychic can talk with his dead relative, so in that case, believing X is true = being biased that X is true.

Perhaps you mean to use the word “bias” only when you take the belief to be false? So we can believe that 1 + 1 = 2, but we have to be biased to believe that 1 + 1 = 4? If so, it’s really not a useful distinction.

Someone is biased for \ against X, when he has a very strong emotional urge to believe that X is true / false. In such cases, he is to be less trusted.

For example, if a person believs he knows who he was in his previous reincarnations - and it happens to be that he thinks his reincarnations were “Churchille”, “Napoleon”, “Alexander the great” - you can judge that he is biased, that it is most probable that his motives are a desire for grandeur, and so his arguments are not worth listening to, probably.

Or - imagine a person tells you that he saw a ghost of his relative. If you know that this person missed this relative a lot, and _wanted_ to see a ghost very much, that means he is less reliable.

There is some common sense in that if one is highly emotionally in favor of one option, then obe isnot an objective seeker of truth

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Posted: 13 February 2009 06:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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Wandering, I think you’re getting into the silly side. If somebody tells me that they’re the reincarnation of Alexander the Great, I can decide on its own merits the idea of reincarnation, so I really don’t need to worry about whatever biases that person brings to the picture. The statement itself is patently false. You seem to be arguing that, since the statement is patently false, we can conclude that the speaker is biased, and since the speaker is biased, we should reject their claim. But if we already know that the statement is patently false, why bother going through your unnecessary additional steps?

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Posted: 13 February 2009 06:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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Someone is biased for \ against X, when he has a very strong emotional urge to believe that X is true / false. In such cases, he is to be less trusted.

hmmmm, lets say \ = turning left to continue along the road, and X= going straight over a cliff. I would certainly turn left.

A person’s ‘biases’ have to be taken on their own merits. They may just know what they are talking about.

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Posted: 13 February 2009 07:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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wandering - 13 February 2009 05:44 PM

Someone is biased for \ against X, when he has a very strong emotional urge to believe that X is true / false. In such cases, he is to be less trusted.

For example, if a person believs he knows who he was in his previous reincarnations - and it happens to be that he thinks his reincarnations were “Churchille”, “Napoleon”, “Alexander the great” - you can judge that he is biased, that it is most probable that his motives are a desire for grandeur, and so his arguments are not worth listening to, probably.

Or - imagine a person tells you that he saw a ghost of his relative. If you know that this person missed this relative a lot, and _wanted_ to see a ghost very much, that means he is less reliable.

There is some common sense in that if one is highly emotionally in favor of one option, then obe isnot an objective seeker of truth

What Chris and asanta said. I’m very emotional about not driving over cliffs, after all, and generally I’m pretty good at spotting them.

Emotion becomes a problem when someone holds to a belief that we already deem to be false. E.g.: there is nothing problematic or unusual about someone becoming very emotional in arguing that the Holocaust really happened. But when someone becomes very emotional denying the Holocaust, then that’s a problem.

And NB: I believe this particular back-and-forth began with a claim about atheists. I certainly don’t think that atheists are any more emotional about their beliefs than theists or religious people are generally. Indeed, with the exception of headstrong folk like Dawkins and Myers, most atheists are pretty quiet and unemotional about their beliefs. After all, it’s sort of hard to get very emotional about the lack of a belief in something.

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