An Argument with my Logic Professor

floatingegg
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An Argument with my Logic Professor

Today my logic professor decided to talk about scientism as ideology. He mentioned an article that he sent to us over email titled A Free-for-All on Science and Religion by George Johnson. He characterized Dawkins's argument in a way that I found unacceptable, so we had an argument that took a good 30-40 minutes of class time.

I spent most of my time defending Dawkins's position. My professor talked a good deal about Wittgenstein and language. He thinks that Dawkins has taken a very narrow definition of faith (belief without evidence) and built his argument on that. In a round about way, he suggested that scientists also have faith. I brought up the role that evidence plays, but he challenged that on grounds that science doesn't hold a monopoly when it comes to truth and knowledge.

At some point another student interrupted us and suggested that years of personal experience with God amounts to evidence, but I didn't get a chance to reply because three students walked out in protest, disrupting the class momentarily. As the argument went on, I admit to feeling intimidated. This particular professor has taught at Oxford--if that means anything--and he reads Greek and Hebrew. His knowledge of theology and the Bible is considerable, and he does have a leg up on me in the philosophy department.

I can't really say if I got my points across very well because I'm more comfortable with writing than speaking, but I felt compelled to challenge his assertions about Dawkins. He really should have been arguing with Dawkins or Sam Harris instead of me, and I'm sure I was a poor substitute, but I tried my best. Looking back on the argument, we spent a lot of time talking about very little.

How would you deal with a situation like that? Would you have bothered challenging the professor? Since he asked, I sent him a link to Sam Harris’s The Atheist’s Manifesto and the videos from Beyond Belief 2006.


MattShizzle
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Wow, teaching logic he

Wow, teaching logic he should see just how illogical the Babble is. Good link. I like how Weinberg described religion as a crazy old Aunt - I agree with Richard Dawkins tough - I wouldn't miss her at all. And the comment someone posted that religion is really more like a drunk, abusive Uncle.

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Randalllord
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floatingegg wrote:I spent

floatingegg wrote:
I spent most of my time defending Dawkins's position. My professor talked a good deal about Wittgenstein and language. He thinks that Dawkins has taken a very narrow definition of faith (belief without evidence) and built his argument on that. In a round about way, he suggested that scientists also have faith. I brought up the role that evidence plays, but he challenged that on grounds that science doesn't hold a monopoly when it comes to truth and knowledge.

Science has never claimed this. This is a strawman fallicy and he should know this. Science is a testable, verifiable method of acquiring knowledge. Belief, personal experiences, authority are not testable methods.

floatingegg wrote:
At some point another student interrupted us and suggested that years of personal experience with God amounts to evidence,...

A personal experience is an ancedote. Lots of ancedotes is not data.!

floatingegg wrote:
This particular professor has taught at Oxford--if that means anything--and he reads Greek and Hebrew. His knowledge of theology and the Bible is considerable, and he does have a leg up on me in the philosophy department.

He uses his position over you to intimidate you. He does this because he knows his argument is actually weak. This is similar to how a homophobe behaves, he attacks viciously to compensate for his fear.

Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful. - Seneca


todangst
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floatingegg wrote:Today my

floatingegg wrote:
Today my logic professor decided to talk about scientism as ideology.

Sounds like some postmodern tripe is along the way here....

Quote:

He mentioned an article that he sent to us over email titled A Free-for-All on Science and Religion by George Johnson. He characterized Dawkins's argument in a way that I found unacceptable, so we had an argument that took a good 30-40 minutes of class time.

I spent most of my time defending Dawkins's position. My professor talked a good deal about Wittgenstein and language.

Prediction validated.

Quote:

He thinks that Dawkins has taken a very narrow definition of faith (belief without evidence) and built his argument on that.

Here, the word "narrow" actually means the correct definition for the given context. Because that is what the word 'faith' means in a theological context.

I haven't even read the rest of your post yet, but I can already tell you that your professor equivocated on the word 'faith' by bringing in colloquial usages (non theological uses) during a discussion of the theological intent of the word.

Right?

Quote:

In a round about way, he suggested that scientists also have faith.

Prediction validated. These hacks are both predictable and embarrassing. Scientists do not hold to claims on theistic faith. They do not hold to beliefs on desire. They do not hold to their conclusions dogmatically.

Your "professor" is confusing contingent uses of the the term 'faith' for the non contingent form of faith found in theology.

I cannot believe that this man is allowed to pollute the minds of students. He's an ignoramous parading around as a learned person. I say this because he's committing the very FIRST error in logical discourse: he's arguing over an issue for which he is fundamentally ignorant! He doesn't even grasp what 'faith' means in theological contexts nor does he grasp how colloquial usages are inappropriate:

1) Colloquial faith has to do with natural events, for which we do have experience. We cannot experience the supernatural by definition.

2) Colloquial faith involves beliefs in entities that do not violate what we already know of the world. I might have faith that my friend will show up even though he is late. But I wouldn't have faith that my friend will flap his arms and fly to meet me.

But theological faith is held in entities that violate naturalism...

3) Colloqiual, or non contingent faith is dropped in the face of negating evidence.

If you need more info on this, just ask. Your professor is an ignoramous.

Quote:

I brought up the role that evidence plays, but he challenged that on grounds that science doesn't hold a monopoly when it comes to truth and knowledge.

Sigh. Strawman. Science never claims to hold such a monopolopy.

Please tell me this isn't actually a professor... Please. Please.

Quote:

At some point another student interrupted us and suggested that years of personal experience with God amounts to evidence,

Then it follows that every schizophrenic really IS Napoleon, since they also have years of personal experience to call upon as proof for their claim.

In fact, it follows that everything that you believe in, strong enough, is true.

A rather sobering thought, even for a theist.... if they dare to consider it.

Quote:

As the argument went on, I admit to feeling intimidated.

Intimidation is the weak man's imitation of strength.

Quote:

This particular professor has taught at Oxford--if that means anything--and he reads Greek and Hebrew.

HOLY

FUCKING

SHIT.

LET ME REPEAT

HOLY

FUCKING

SHIT.

This guy ought to have flunked out of community college.

Quote:

His knowledge of theology and the Bible is considerable, and he does have a leg up on me in the philosophy department.

He'd flunk logic 101. Seriously. He doesn't seem to grasp even the basics here...

Quote:

How would you deal with a situation like that?

I'd rip him to shreds like I just did, and then seriously advise that he seek employment in another field.

I challenge him to a debate on these issues, anywhere, anytime. To be fair, I will drink a case of beer, do a tab of mesc, and hit my head with a hammer 25 times to even things out a bit....

"Hitler burned people like Anne Frank, for that we call him evil.
"God" burns Anne Frank eternally. For that, theists call him 'good.'


MattShizzle
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I don't think he's stupid,

I don't think he's stupid, especially assuming he's telling the truth. It sounds like he's purposely using bad logic because most people will fall for it.

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todangst
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MattShizzle wrote:I don't

MattShizzle wrote:
I don't think he's stupid, especially assuming he's telling the truth. It sounds like he's purposely using bad logic because most people will fall for it.

An oxford professor, supposedly learned on the subject matter of semantics, would not, could not, create a fallacy of equivocation on the term 'faith' unless he was secretely a oafish buffoon... or putting on a purposeful display of ignorance for the class. His error is too basic for a oxford grad to commit........ its really no different from trying to fix a flat tire with a jack of hearts, completing a meal with a slice of pie chart or trying to cash your paycheck at a river bank.

"Hitler burned people like Anne Frank, for that we call him evil.
"God" burns Anne Frank eternally. For that, theists call him 'good.'


MattShizzle
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Maybe there's a third-rate

Maybe there's a third-rate community college somewhere called Oxford? :ROTF:

This guy could be a subject for "crazy, ignorant or lying."

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Randalllord
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Floatingegg, Try this: Go in

Floatingegg,
Try this:
Go in to see your philosophy professor and say with a smile, "You remember that discussion he had in class the other day about science and religion? You really had me going there for a moment. I thought you actually believed what your were saying. That was funny. How many students do you think fell for it?"

Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful. - Seneca


todangst
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Randalllord

Randalllord wrote:
Floatingegg,
Try this:
Go in to see your philosophy professor and say with a smile, "You remember that discussion he had in class the other day about science and religion? You really had me going there for a moment. I thought you actually believed what your were saying. That was funny. How many students do you think fell for it?"

I'd add "and equivocating on the word 'faith', that was one of the dead giveaways......

"Hitler burned people like Anne Frank, for that we call him evil.
"God" burns Anne Frank eternally. For that, theists call him 'good.'


floatingegg
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Interesting posts guys, and

Interesting posts guys, and very useful, especially yours todangst. I posted about this on Richard Dawkins's forums as well because there's a different community there. You can read the responses here.

One of the forum members, UndercoverElephant, had this to say

Quote:
I think your logic professor may have a point. I have to write a dissertation on Wittgenstein over the next six weeks.

As for challenging your professors - that is what you are there for. If you've got a question or you think they've got something wrong, go for it every time. Most of the time, several other people are thinking the same thing but wouldn't open their mouths.

What do you think was wrong with what he said? Why was it wrong?

I replied with the following:

Quote:
The argument that transpired in class isn't exactly fresh in my mind at the moment, but there were a couple of things that I disagreed with.

1. His use of scientism as a pejorative to attack Dawkins's arguments, and his implication that problems of philosophy are not disposed to scientific inquiry. I mentioned Daniel C. Dennett's proposition that we should study religion and he replied with a plaintive "But why?!"

2. His suggestion that religion is no more dangerous than science, which he supported by drawing my attention to nuclear weapons and Einstein's fear. I tried to draw his attention to the implications of relying on a sacred text to differentiate religion from science, but he wouldn't have any of that.

3. His contention that fundamentalism is easily defeated in argument, giving me the impression that he's more interested in discussing "real religion" which is somehow more palatable to him. It occurred to me that he was distinguishing between fundamentalists and moderates, the implicit conclusion being that moderates have a more acceptable basis for their beliefs than fundamentalists do, something that I still can't get my head around.

Regarding Wittgenstein, my professor sent me an email with the following quote:

“A proof of God’s existence should really be something by which one could convince oneself of God’s existence. But I think that believers who have provided such proofs, have wanted to give their ‘belief’ an intellectual analysis and foundation, although they themselves would never have come to believe through such proofs. Perhaps one could ‘convince someone of God’s existence ‘ through a certain kind of upbringing, by shaping his life in such and such a way.

Life can educate one to a belief in God. And also experiences can do this; but not visions and other forms of sense experience which show us the ‘existence of this being’ -- but, e.g. sufferings of various kinds. These neither show us God in the way a sense impression shows us an object, nor do they give rise to conjectures about him. Experiences, thoughts, -- life can force this concept on us.”

Recently, my professor sent me a critique of naturalism by Alvin Plantinga. I looked him up, but I haven't been able to find anything written by an atheist that addresses Platinga's arguments. Are you guys familiar with him?


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There's reallly nothing to

There's reallly nothing to Plantinga's arguments from what I remember.... anyone who wishes to unseat naturalism has to do more than critique naturalism, they have to offer up a positive counter position.

"Hitler burned people like Anne Frank, for that we call him evil.
"God" burns Anne Frank eternally. For that, theists call him 'good.'